While only a few European players made the trip here this weekend, one group of Swedes did. Ramquist made the trip together with Susanne Bornelöv and a few other friends from Uppsala, and three of them are still playing on Day Two.
Ramquist made Top 8 at Grand Prix Warsaw earlier this year, proving his standard prowess. He's also piloted the Blue devotion deck he's running this weekend to the Top 4 of a 200-player standard championship in Sweden two weeks ago.
His opponent, Vladimir Lesnik, proved his knowledge of the format by winning a Grand Prix Trial on Friday night. He's running the same Jund Monsters list in the actual Grand Prix, which has a little twist to it featuring two copies of Reaper of the Wilds.
In a matchup tested thoroughly by both players, odds were that Ramquist would be favored in the first game, but Lesnik might have the upper hand in games two and three. This is because the Jund deck sideboards a ton of removal spells, along with Mistcutter Hydra, a problematic card for the Mono-blue deck.
Unfortunately for the Swede, his advantage in the first game was diminished by being forced to mulligan to five cards, seeing no lands in his first two tries. He finally settled for a hand of Island, Island, Island, Mutavault, Cloudfin Raptor, hoping that his first few draw steps would fuel up his Island fed forces. "Mulligans are unfortunate, but that's Magic, " he calmly commented his mulligans.
Lesnik started out things with a tapped Stomping Ground. Followed by Mutavault and a Scavenging Ooze. Niklas summoned his Cloudfin Raptor, but with no play on turn two he was unable to evolve it, and it looked lonely, watching Lesnik's creatures from above. Lesnik attacked with his Ooze and Mutavault, dropping Ramquist to 16. A good route for the Jund deck when it is unable to find its crucial mana accelerators Elvish Mystic or Sylvan Caryatid.
On his third turn Ramquist revealed why he had kept playing Islands, rather than the Mutavault in his opener, when he summoned Nightveil Spectre, making his Raptor a 1/2, attacked Lesnik to 19 and crossed his fingers as hard as he could for his Spectre to live.
Lesnik calmly took two damage to play an Overgrown Tomb untapped, took out Nightveil Spectre with Mizzium Mortars and attacked Ramquist to 12 with his Ooze and Mutavault. Ramquist drew another land and did nothing on his turn but send in the lonely Raptor, barely scratching Lesnik, still at 16.
Lesnik couldn't find a fifth land for the two copies of Stormbreath Dragon in his had, but had a good alternative in Reaper of the Wilds, while attacking with just his Scavenging Ooze, Ramquist now at 10.
Ramquist draw of a Judge's Familiar clearly wasn't what he was hoping for, but he cast it and probably began planning for Game Two already.
Lesnik attacked with Scavenging Ooze and Reaper of the Wild, dropping Ramquist to four, and after combat cast not one, but two Sylvan Caryatid. This enabled him to cast Stormbreath Dragon next turn, in case Ramquist could come up with something crazy.
He didn't, however, and the Stormbreath Dragon joined an already unbeatable board position, and Ramquist packed up his cards. "I only needed two more lands, and I would be able to have 10 in play," Niklas joked, not taking the game too hard, and realizing that with only five cards his chances had been slim to begin with.
Both players sideboarded confidently, proving their knowledge of both their opponent's decks, and how to prepare for it in sideboarding. Niklas opted to take out four Judge's Familiar and Jace, Architect of Thought, bringing in Dissolve, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, Cyclonic Rift and an extra Rapid Hybridization. Vladimir took out his Xenagos, the Reveler, a Domri Rade and two Stormbreath Dragons, perhaps taunted by not being able to cast them on time in Game One. He brought in removal like Doom Blade and Golgari Charm along with Nylea's Disciple. He also opted to leave his three Mistcutter Hydra in the sideboard, explaining after the match that he only think they are good on the play. "I'm actually gonna keep", Niklas said to start things off in the second game.
His Island, go, was met by Overgrown Tomb and Elvish Mystic from Lesnik. Ramquist did have a good answer though in (a Russian) Tidebinder Mage, locking down the Elf.
Lesnik had more gas though, in Sylvan Caryatid, threatening to start casting his huge creatures sooner than Ramquist and his Tidebinder were hoping for. The Swede added Thassa, God of the Sea.
Once again Lesnik seemed to be the man with all the answers, casting Dreadbore on the Tidebinder Mage.
Ramquist, who seemed to be playing with a lot of Russian cards for someone from Sweden, played another Tidebinder, once again locking down Elvish Mystic. Lesnik answered with a large creature in Ghor-Clan Rampager, while improving his next draw with a Temple of Abandon.
On his turn Ramquist set the pressure gauge to maximum when he cast Nightveil Spectre, adding enough devotion to turning on Thassa, God of the Sea, made his Tidebinder Mage unblockable and attacked with both that and Thassa, dropping Lesnik to 9.
Lesnik's response? An overloaded Mizzium Mortars, taking out Ramquist's creatures and devotion count. This turned Thassa off and left the Swede, once again, in a tough position.
Ramquist drew for his turn, cast a Frostburn Weird, and debated for a while whether to cast a Hall of Triumph or keep his mana up to be able to Dissolve a removal spell or another threat from Lesnik if he had either. He cast his Hall of Triumph, figuring it'd be better to be able to block the Ghor-Clan Rampager, even though he was at a healthy 16 life.
As it turned out it wouldn't have mattered though, as Lesnik had both a Dreadbore for the Weird, and a Polukranos, World Eater, to cement his board position, already halfway to signing the result slip with a victory.
Niklas Ramquist saw the writing on the wall, and shortly after on the result slip as well. There really wasn't much he could do in either of the games to stop Vladimir Lesnik and his Jund Monsters.
"Maybe I shouldn't have cast that Hall of Triumph, but it didn't really matter if he had more gas," he contemplated his previous play.
"Yeah, I had perfect starts and perfect draws," Lesnik humbly replied.
Vladimir Lesnik beats Niklas Ramquist 2–0