Grand Prix Barcelona 2009
Calafell Cascades to Victory!
May 23-24, 2009
Grand Prix Barcelona 2009
Congratulations to Joel Calafell, Grand Prix Barcelona Champion!
When 1495 players descend on your home town with for the biggest Magic constructed event of all time, what do you do? Well, if you're Joel Calafell, you take the deck that you've been working on with Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, and smash everyone with it, claiming the title, and then go home to your own bed. When Calafell and Paulo met in the semi-final they agreed, whoever wins here needs to take the title, and Joel was good to his word, smashing Riccardo Neri in two games straight to lift the trophy.
We are now living in a world with a very different Standard metagame. Black white tokens performed, but there is a whole new deck in town to challenge it, and a concerning return of Faeries, which Sam Black took all the way to the top 4. What does this mean for Seattle? You'll have to wait a week to find out, but don't be surprised if you find that people are casting Captured Sunlight, and then just killing you.
From here though the story is over and it's one that's please a great many Spanish Magic fans. I hope that you've enjoyed it at home as much as we have here. Let the celebrations in Spain begin!
Top 8 bracket
(1) Hugo De Jong
(8) Samuel Black
(4) Ricardo Venancio
(5) Riccardo Neri
(2) Sean Og Murphy
(7) Joel Calafell
(3) George Paraskuopoulos
(6) Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa
Samuel Black, 2-0
Riccardo Neri, 2–1
Joel Calafell, 2-0
Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa, 2-0
Riccardo Neri, 2-1
Joel Calafell, 2–1
Joel Calafell, 2-0
by Hanno TerbuykenFinals:Joel Calafell (ESP) vs Riccardo Neri (ITA)
by David SutcliffeSemifinals:Riccardo Neri (ITA) vs Sam Black (USA)
by Tim WilloughbySemifinals: A flipping crazy endingPaulo Vitor Damo da Rosa vs Joel Calafel
by David SutcliffeQuarterfinals:Joel Calafell (ESP) vs Sean Murphy (IRE)
by Hanno TerbuykenQuarterfinals:Riccardo Neri (ITA) vs Ricardo Venancio (PRT)
by Tim WilloughbyQuarterfinals: Faeries? Are they still good?Sam Black vs Hugo de Jong
by Event Coverage StaffTop 8 Decklists
by Event Coverage StaffTop 8 Profiles
by Event Coverage StaffDay Two Blog: All of our fantastic coverage from day two of GP-Barcelona!
by Event Coverage StaffDay One Blog: All of our fantastic coverage from day one of GP-Barcelona!
by Event Coverage StaffInfo: Fact Sheet
|1. Joel Calafell||$3,500|
|2. Riccardo Neri||$2,300|
|3. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa||$1,500|
|4. Sam Black||$1,500|
|5. Hugo De Jong||$1,000|
|6. Sean Og Murphy||$1,000|
|7. Ricardo Venancio||$1,000|
|8. George Paraskuopoulos||$1,000|
pairings, results, standings
Top 8 Player profiles
(yes, you made it in, now tell us about yourself!)
Name: Hugo de Jong
Occupation: Consultant for online marketing
Other Magic Achievements: 2nd at Nationals, Day 2 GP Rotterdam
Best card this weekend: Captured Sunlight, but Anathemancer was close
Best Non-Magic achievement: Eating 5 Whoppers one after another and still be a vegetarian
If you were a Superhero what would your special power be? Mockery
Name: Sam Black
Hometown: Madison, WI
Other Magic Achievements: Top-8 GP Singapore, Worlds 2008 Team Champ, Won a car!
Best card this weekend: Jace Beleren
Best Non-Magic achievement: Top Dreamblade player
If you were a Superhero what would your special power be? Teleportation, but I don't think I'd use it to be much of a hero!
Name: Joel Calafell
Other Magic Achievements: PT Kuala Lumpur Top-8, three GP Top-8s
Best card this weekend: Reflecting Pool (thanks to TXEP)
Best Non-Magic achievement: I can stand two hours of Aniol's music!
If you were a Superhero what would your special power be? Time travelling, like Nakamura (not Shuuhei, but Hiro)
Name: Ricardo Miguel H. Vanancio
Hometown: Recoveiro-Sintria (Portugal)
Occupation: Marketing Assistant
Other Magic Achievements: A few awful national games
Best card this weekend: Spectral Procession
Best Non-Magic achievement: None to remember
If you were a Superhero what would your special power be? Something fast, because I'm very impatient
Name: George Paraskeuopoulos
Other Magic Achievements: I won in FNM 5
Best card this weekend: Ajani Goldmane
Best Non-Magic achievement: No!
If you were a Superhero what would your special power be? Read my opponent's mind
Name: Sean Og Murphy
Hometown: Dungarvan, County Waterford, Ireland
Occupation: PhD Student
Other Magic Achievements: Top-64 GP Birmingham 2008
Best card this weekend: Maelstrom Pulse
Best Non-Magic achievement: MSc
If you were a Superhero what would your special power be? Teleportation, to save on travel costs
Name: Riccardo Neri
Hometown: Modena, Italy
Occupation: Software Development
Other Magic Achievements: Few money finishes at GP
Best card this weekend: Obelisk of Alara
Best Non-Magic achievement: My business company
If you were a Superhero what would your special power be? I would avoid mana screw!
Name: Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa
Hometown: Porto Allegre
Other Magic Achievements: I top-24ed 14 GPs in a row
Best card this weekend: Seismic Assault
Best Non-Magic achievement: I was part of the Brazilian junior Bridge team
If you were a Superhero what would your special power be? Flying
Top 8 Decklists
Quarterfinals: Faeries? Are they still good? - Sam Black vs Hugo de Jong
“Let's have a good match man.” Hugo de Jong, a Nationals finalist and member of the Dutch National team was laid back, but a little wowed by the 20 roll from Sam Black (who had represented the USA at Worlds). Hugo had played Swans (albeit a very different build) back at those nationals. His birds had won him plenty of money already, and he was keen for them to win him some more.
“I think I've lost a maximum of two rolls all weekend” declared a proud Sam Black.
Whether having mana up for counters and Bitterblossom early had been a big part in his making top 8 would be something for Sam to think about later. He had a quick keep.
“Bitterblossom makes it extra easy” remarked Sam as he dropped the enchantment into play on turn two.
A Bloodbraid Elf from Hugo revealed Seismic Assault as the sixth card. The enchantment got hit by Broken Ambitions, and a Peppersmoke came for Bloodbraid Elf which then traded with a token. Effectively the Peppersmoke had been cycled in order to get Sam the cards he needed.
Sam had a Mistbind Clique in upkeep, and revealed a second one ready for the next turn.
“That's a pretty sick draw...”
Hugo scooped up his cards.
Sam Black 1 – 0 Hugo de Jong
Each player quietly sideboarded, looking for the best avenue of attack for the remainder of the match. With the benefit of having seen each others decklists prior to the beginning of the match, this would be more well informed than it could have been at any other point in the tournament. Hugo had some fighting back to do, but quite the deck to do it with.
This game, Hugo was on the play, which would put a little more pressure on Sam's counterspells. Both players kept, and Hugo led off with the customary Vivid Grove. In this game Sam couldn't afford to be playing Bitterblossom on turn two, as it was imperative for him to be able to stop Seismic Assault. Sam had an end of turn Spellstutter Sprite, but nothing to stop beats coming in from Treetop Village.
The race seemed decidedly lop-sided in Hugo's favour, as he had both Mutavault and Treetop Village for beats. Mutavault came in, and got tricked by Mistbind Clique, who championed Spellstutter Sprite and blocked. Now with a 4/4, Sam could properly beat down. Mutavault and the Clique ran in for Sam. Black had 3 land up, meaning that he could still Spellstutter SpriteSeismic Assault.
Anathemancer was the next play for Hugo, to Shock and block for Hugo. Kitchen Finks came next, but hit a Cryptic Command to counter and bounce the Anathemancer. Hugo extended his hand. Sam had won it in very short order.
Sam Black 2 – 0 Hugo de Jong
Quarterfinals: Riccardo Neri (ITA) vs Ricardo Venancio (PRT)
Both of these players fought their way through the biggest Constructed tournament in history, and one of them would find his match in this quarterfinal. It would be a match not only featuring these two players, but also one of the defining decks of the Standard metagame, B/W Tokens, against one of the defining characters of Magic: Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. Riccardo Neri had enlisted the help of the powerful dragon in his 5-color Control deck. Would the power-hungry planeswalker lend his might to the Italian, or desert him for his own motives? Only one way to find out...
Venancio kicked off the game with Windbrisk Heights, then Tidehollow Sculler, but ran the Sculler into Broken Ambitions. His follow-up were Kitchen Finks, stopped by Cryptic Command, then Murderous Redcap, likewise countered by Cryptic Command.
The roles were clear from the very start, but Neri certainly had the higher ground: His Ajani Vengeant promised to offset Venancio's Bitterblossom very nicely. Glorious Anthem from Venancio drew another Broken Ambitions out of Neri's hand. The Italian then drew Obelisk of Alara, quite a potent weapon against the beginnings of Venancio's token army by virtue of Spectral Procession. He didn't need it. Volcanic Fallout was far better.
Neri, now down to one card in hand, had already eight counters on his Ajani Vengeant. Venancio smelled danger and proposed Ajani Goldmane to destroy Neri's weapon. But Broken Ambitions stopped that, and it revealed on the clash that Neri had Cryptic Command on top of his library!
Venancio could not stop Ajani's Ultimate land destruction ability from resolving, and Obelisk of Alara kept his Faerie token population at a minimum. After the Planeswalker's Ultimate resolved, Venancio was down to just Bitterblossom on his board. He did have Path to Exile for Neri's Plumeveil, though, but the Obelisk and Ajani Vengeant prevented Venancio's Bitterblossom from being relevant – apart from killing Venancio in due course of time, of course.
Riccardo Neri 1 – 0 Ricardo Venancio
The two players sideboarded like this:
Venancio made the obvious choice of playing first, as his tokens would have to come out fast and hit hard for him to overwhelm the control deck's defense. Neri aided that goal by taking a mulligan. He picked up his six and slumped, but did not ship this hand back. While Neri struggled, Venancio had a turn-three Spectral Procession, followed by a Glorious Anthem that Neri could do nothing about. The Italian did have Plumeveil to block one token, but a hand light on permission favored his opponent.
To make up for it, Neri tapped out for Jace Beleren. Venancio further curbed his hopes with Thoughtseize, seeing Tidings, Negate, Pithing Needle, Plumeveil, and Path to Exile. He removed the removal spell and had one of his own to destroy Plumeveil, pushing four damage through. Tidings refilled the Italian's hand, though he already was at a precarious 10 life.
Until this point, Venancio had been able to put some pressure on, but now his lack of mana came back to haunt him, with just four lands in play. A Tidehollow Sculler to take a second Wrath of God from Neri's hand was good, but not big on power. Murderous Redcap was better, taking the Italian to 7. Venancio's second Sculler prompted Cryptic Command to stop the little spell-stealer, and Neri went to 4 from Venancio's next attack. The Italian had refused to block Venancio's 3/3 Redcap with Plumeveil, a decision that seemed sketchy, as the damage from the Redcap's persist ability would have happened anyway at some time in the match, and Venancio had no second Anthem or other pump yet. Zealous Persecution could potentially have killed the Plumeveil, but another Anthem from Venancio would have meant certain death for the Plumeveil anyway.
Then Ajani Goldmane came from the top of Venancio's deck, threatening potentially lethal damage. It was obvious that Neri could not let Ajani resolve. Cryptic Command took care of it, but instead of bouncing the Sculler, Neri drew a card off the command. That enabled Venancio to attack with more than one creature, and Neri finally threw his Plumeveil into the fray. It was not enough. With the Sculler dealing two damage and the Redcap triggering via persist after dying to Plumeveil for another three damage, Neri was dead.
Riccardo Neri 1 – 1 Ricardo Venancio
Both players figured that a mulligan seemed like a good idea, Venancio – on the draw – even did it twice.
Still, he kicked off with Thoughtseize, seeing Jace, Fallout and only lands in Neri's hand! Following the Thoughtseize with two Windbrisk Heights in a row and a Glorious Anthem set him up really well, but he'd need some pressure at some point. Another Thoughtseize showed him Obelisk of Alara, Wrath of God and Fallout. He took the Obelisk... and removed both sweepers with Identity Crisis.
Venancio rapped the top of his deck... and found Kitchen Finks. Tidehollow Sculler and Path to Exile were next. It was a dream draw for the Portugese, as Neri had nothing but Plumeveil in response to the Sculler, and that promptly found a Path to Exile. Venancio now attacked for seven a turn, taking Neri to 9, then 2. But Neri had Jace Beleren, and the cards he drew off the Planeswalker might yet make a difference. Might.
That gave Neri six tokens and reduced Venancio's offense to Kitchen Finks, albeit with two Glorious Anthems in play. Neri had bought himself a lot of time, even countering a Path to Exile on one of his four remaining tokens with Cryptic Command. He started counter-attacking, bringing Venancio to 16. A Path of his own took care of Venancio's second, new Finks. Keeping the attackers low was Neri's goal now, since any creature coming through would be instantly lethal.
Neri attacked with all three tokens, taking Venancio to 12, and leaving no blockers behind. Venancio had Thoughtseize, in response to which Neri Pathed away Venancio's remaining Finks. The Portugese was down to an empty board and saw: Fallout, Wrath of God, Wrath of God, Broken Ambitions in Neri's hand. He took the counter but went to 5 from Neri's tokens, then to 3, and now the pressure was palpable.
Venancio topdecked Spectral Procession.
Neri had Broken Ambitions.
And he had broken Venancio's ambitions thoroughly, having mastered a comeback that he himself hadn't really believed in after that Identity Crisis.
Riccardo Neri 2 – 1 Ricardo Venancio
Quarterfinals: Joel Calafell (ESP) vs Sean Murphy (IRE)
Joel Calafell and Sean Murphy are two players who have taken very different routes into the Top-8. For Calafell, resident of Barcelona and perhaps Spain's most high-profile player, his Seismic Swan combo deck represented possibly the height of current deckbuilding technology – pushing the new Cascade mechanic right to the bleeding edge. For Sean Murphy, his no-frills green/black deck nearly defied classification – was it an Elf deck? Was it a ramp deck? It seemed to have elements of either of those strategies while also adding the breakout rare of Alara Reborn, Maelstrom Pulse.
Before the match the two players were shown each other's decklist, and it seemed Calafell wasn't entirely sure if he should be happy or not with his matchup against this non-standard opponent.
“You played against this deck before?” he asked the Irishman
“You beat it?”
Sean grinned, “It's ok” and with a handshake, the game got underway.
Murphy was forced to mulligan, and the hand he drew into seemed light on any pressure – he managed a pair of Llanowar Elves and a Treetop Village before Calafell cast his Seismic Assault, and immediately the Spaniard threw down two lands to remove the Llanowars. Murphy seemed entirely defenceless – his only play on the third turn was another Treetop Village, and this allowed Calafell to play his Swans of Bryn Argoll as well.
Calafell could have won game one with his eyes closed
In no hurry to kill, Calafell passed the turn. Knowing it was virtually entirely futile Murphy aimed a Maelstrom Pulse at the Seismic Assault, but in response Calafell began to throw lands at his Swans. Each land he discarded drew two cards, almost certainly replacing the land discarded, and so Calafell quickly drew through his entire deck until he had the full clutch of ten spare lands to throw at his opponent.
“Sometimes it takes a while”, the Spaniard apologised to the audience as he seemed to dig endlessly into his deck, this time until he had only one card remaining,
Finally, Calafell laid out a spread of ten lands aimed at the Irishman's head, and Murphy was buried under an avalanche of molten rock.
Joel Calafell (ESP) 1 – 0 Sean Murphy (IRE)
Murphy made a more convincing start to the second game, opening with a Llanowar Elves to a Wren's Run Vanquisher, then ramping up a Mutavault to strike for 6 damage on his third turn, playing a Treetop Village as he did so. Calafell's third turn wasn't the Seismic Assault this time, but a Treetop Village – Murphy calculated that he could hurt the Spaniard's draw and stepped back from a full-on assault, using his manlands and Llanowar Elves to cast a Primal Command, returning a Spinerock Knoll to the top of Calafell's deck, then attacking with his Vanquishers to put his opponent to 10 life.
10 life left, two lands in play, Calafell's only play was a Reflecting Pool to bring himself back up to three lands, but still without the RRR he needed for Seismic Assault. And the Spaniard would be offered no mercy – the orang-utans swung down from their Treetop Village into the red zone... Murphy attacked for 7, dropping Calafell to just 3 life remaining.
Calafell was rocking against the ropes, but he began to fight back with a Captured Sunlight. That began a Cascade which ran into a Maelstrom Pulse. The Pulse destroyed Murphy's Wren Run Vanquishers, and the lifegain from Captured Sunlight put Calafell back to a critical 7 life. Between Llanowar Elf, Treetop Village, and Mutavault, Murphy could only attack for 6 – he did just that, but it left Calafell on 1 life and gave the Swans deck another turn.
Calafell used that turn to cling onto life even harder with a Primal Command - healing himself up to 8 and putting the Treetop Village back onto Murphy's library, thus buying yet another turn. Murphy had been a turn away from victory for three turns now but it seemed he simply couldn't press his advantage home. The Irishman ramped up his Mutavault to attack for 2, bringing Calafell to 6 life, and played a Kitchen Finks... but was his window of opportunity closing even as he fought to keep it open?
On his next turn Calafell played the Bloodbraid Elf and another Cascade began, this one ending in a Seismic Assault. With 5 cards in hand that potentially gave Calafell a crucial lifeline against Murphy's creatures, and the Irishman winced as the killer enchantment was revealed from the Cascade.
Against the Seismic Assault, Murphy didn't dare send his manlands into the fray and he chose instead to play a Wilt Leaf Liege, before attacking with his Kitchen Finks and Llanowar Elves. The Bloodbraid Elves blocked Finks, and Seismic Assault took care of the Elves. Once again Calafell had held off the Irish threat, once again he got to untap and take another turn, and once again Murphy's chances of success slipped even further into the distance.
Murphy fought hard, but came up 1 damage short
Calafell had his Swans ready in hand, and down they came to nest on the Seismic Assault. Quickly Calafell drew through his library to find a full grip of cards, but once again he was in no hurry to actually push the kill home while Murphy had 1B available for Nameless Inversion. Calafell could afford to wait and untap his lands, and he passed the turn back to Murphy.
Murphy valiantly sent his men into the red zone in a last ditch attempt to win. Calafell shot down the Wilt Leaf Liege and Treetop Village, but when he tried to target his Swans of Bryn Argoll to reload his hand Murphy had the Nameless Inversion waiting to give the birds +3/-3.
But once again Calafell had the answer, and he drew more cards in response to the Nameless Inversion, only allowing it to resolve when he had drawn far into his deck to see the next set of Swans, and he set them down to replace the pair he had lost to the Nameless Inversion.
All Murphy could do was fill his side of the table with creatures for another assault a turn later, but it was a futile effort. Although the Spaniard had been forced to expend a lot of his land ammunition to stay in the game, a Primal Command to shuffle his graveyard into his library meant that he was nowhere close to running out of bullets, and despite his best efforts, despite taking Calafell to 1 life, and despite being a single attack away from victory for five consecutive turns, Sean Og Murphy bowed out of Grand Prix Barcelona.
Joel Calafell (ESP) 2 – 0 Sean Murphy (IRE)
Semifinals: A flipping crazy ending - Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa vs Joel Calafell
Pay attention to this matchup – it is one that you will be likely to see again in Standard in the coming weeks unless something happens to adjust the format. Here we have the pure Cascade Swans mirror. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa was one of the originators of the deck, and if the deck hadn't got out to Regionals, he would likely have had a little more time before having to work out this 50:50 matchup.
PV considers his mulligans - as do the crowd
Joel won the roll, which seemed likely to be very important in game 1, where things were pretty much a straight up race. Both players had mulligans. It was of vital importance to get to that Seismic Assault. The Swans would also have to be managed very carefully – given that either player could target Swans with Seismic Assault with the same effect, those golden birds would need to only hit play when either player was very confident of winning.
Joel had the turn 3 Seismic Assault. The game was well and truly on. PV could not match it.
“Am I dead?” remarked PV, looking little concerned as he played Vivid Crag on turn 3.
Joel had a Captured Sunlight on his fourth turn, and cascaded past one Swans of Bryn Argoll to get to a second Seismic Assault. There was also a Captured Sunlight from PV, which went past 2 Swans before finding the only 3 cost card in his deck.
Joel had a second Captured Sunlight. The life gain in this matchup is pretty relevant, and PV worked to counteract it by running in with Treetop Village. All that Calafell had in terms of man-lands was Ghitu Encampment, and that was tapped, so he had to take the 3.
“So lucky” remarked Calafell as he surveyed the size of PV's hand compared to his own. Both players would now be able to go for it, but whoever blinked first had the potential to just lose, assuming that the Swans got played.
Joel did choose to play the Swans, and had the first land to ditch. PV had a little think, carefully calculating the lands left in his deck.
“What do I do?” asked PV despairingly.
“Go on... just try” asked Calafell. There was just one more card in Joel's hand, so it seemed that PV had to go for it, lest he lose the game right there. The problem was the life totals. With both player over 20 life, there was a lot of work to do.
Calafell plays the role of hometown hero
Paulo dug dug dug. He discarded lands to shoot those Swans again and again, drawing more, and slowly but surely building the size of his hand. Soon, there were just 3 cards left for PV to draw. At this point he let Joel have his turn at making things happen. Joel rocketed through his deck too, drawing every last card. Unlike PV, Joel drew enough lands to finish the job. Paulo had hoped that with 14 lands put on the bottom of the deck, Joel might fizzle in his attempts to go off. It was not to be though. It was on to game 2.
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 0 – 1 Joel Calafell
On the play in game 2, again PV had to mulligan. This is a matchup defined by a very small number of cards, and having them naturally (i.e. not through cascade) could make all the difference. PV shipped back his 6 as well. The big Brazilian's hope was fast draining away as he was forced to go down lower and lower.
Joel had a full 7 to start, but obviously there would be no early spells in this game. Both players played lands for the first 3, though in the case of PV, these lands did include Treetop Village.
Joel felt pretty safe about playing Swans of Bryn Argoll. There couldn't be a Seismic Assault from PV, and it gave him the biggest creature on the board, more or less as a bonus. PV did get up on lands such that he could cast Seismic Assault. The Assault was not in his hand though. Instead there was a Bloodbraid Elf. This found the Assault, and PV had the mana to get it into play.
The question now was, could PV get the kill before Aura of Silence sealed away his enchantment. In Joel's upkeep PV went for it. Aura got cracked, but PV had the second land to keep going off.
It seemed that PV's face went through the seven stages of loss as he gradually cycled through his deck. From the expressions he pulled it seemed impossible that he could be drawing into enough lands to finish things. The impossible happened though. After drawing enough of his deck, PV threw a fistful of lands on the table, and with Seismic Assault forced the match to its rubber game.
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 1 – 1 Joel Calafell
This is what happens when there is a Spaniard in a top 4 matchIn the deciding game it would be Calafell to start. With Aura of Silence as one of the main hate cards, it seemed that getting ahead on mana was a noble goal. PV slightly changed his sideboarding for the last game, which in turn caused Joel to take a second look. Eventually both players settled on a configuration they liked, and shuffled up.
Joel kept his hand, and, after a little grimace, PV chose to do the same. There was a turn one Spinerock Knoll from Joel, and a Vivid Crag for PV. Lands that come into play tapped are a big part of this match, and each had another for turn two. What Joel had for turn 3 though, was Aura of Silence. PV was ready. A Maelstrom Pulse flew out of the Brazilian's hand on his turn to stop it. Joel had a second.
Joel ran out a Bloodbraid Elf. It hit Seismic Assault, and gave Joel an attacker to be reckoned with. PV had a Seismic Assault of his own, but given that Aura of Silence was sat on the board, it seemed likely that his would be worse than his opponent's. The Assault did allow Bloodbraid Elf to be dealt with, but soon after Wickerbough Elder came down, forcing two more cards from PV's hand just to trade with the treefolk shaman.
PV swung in again with Ghitu Encampment. This was not going well for him. Primal Command came down, targeting Treetop Village, and to allow Joel to search. PV was ready for this though. He activated his Treetop Village to make the spell have no valid targets. Countered on resolution, Joel was rocked.
While Joel had a land to ditch to kill Ghitu Encampment, he still took beats from Treetop Village. A Captured Sunlight came from him which helped out on the life front, and got him a second Seismic Assault. Attacks from PV knocked Joel down to 14.
The deciding game saw Treetop Villages swinging in on both sides. With Seismic Assault and Treetop Village attacks from Calafell, suddenly Spinerock Knoll was live. Joel activated it and showed Ad Nauseam. He needed to hit 7 lands before he took enough damage to die to his own spell. By the time that Joel was at 6 lands off the Ad Nauseam, he was on just 3 life. Any spell and he was dead. Any land and he was in the final of GP Barcelona.
“If this is a spell, then the fail will be epic”
Joel flipped the top card of his deck. It was a land, and the crowd went wild.
Joel Calafell wins 2 – 1 putting a Spaniard in the final of GP Barcelona!
Semifinals: Riccardo Neri (ITA) vs Sam Black (USA)
This was a black on black mirror match for a place in the final of Grand Prix Barcelona - Sam Black against Riccardo Neri... Neri being the Italian for black! That brought a host of Rolling Stones songs to my mind – not only was this semi final painted entirely black, but it seemed that time was on the side of Sam Black, whose Faeries deck was almost entirely untouched by the troubles of Alara. Aside from Agony Warp and a solitary Soul Manipulation his deck was all Lorwyn/Shadowmoor.
Sam Black took the first steps into the match with a Spellstutter Sprite, ensuring the five color control deck would have at least something to think about, then aiming a Terror at Neri's Plumeveil when it tried to intervene. Aiming for the long game from the outset, Neri turned to Jace Beleren, but could only pull two cards off Jace before the Spellstutter Sprite took him from the game. The problem for Neri was that he was caught on four lands, and even after he played a second Jace Beleren and began drawing more cards, he still couldn't find the land he needed.
Sam Black's Faeries posed the questionsNeri began to stock this second Jace with counters by having both players draw cards, keeping him safe from Black's Spellstutter Sprite, but Black had other ideas. He attacked the blue Planeswalker, and after Neri had declared no blockers the American added a Scion of Oona to boost the Spellstutter... Neri attempted to Path to Exile the Scion away, but Sam had a second Scion in hand and that interrupted the Italian's plan! Jace went away, and the game was now entirely in Sam Black's hands as he had 8 power of untargetable flyers on the table!
The Faeries attacked, Neri dropped a Plumeveil in, Negating another Terror to ensure his wall was able to block, but again Sam Black had the answer he needed – playing a Mistbind Clique to Champion his blocked Scion of Oona! Whatever Neri tried to do to pull himself back level in the match, Black had been able to sidestep and retain momentum – on 6 life it was the last chance saloon for the Italian.
His bid to stay in the game was a good one – Obelisk of Alara. Black played a Cryptic Command to return the Obelisk to hand and tap down the Plumeveil, but Neri had the answer – Negate. Regardless, Black pushed home his assault, dropping Neri to 3 life.
In the Italian's upkeep Black tried once again to seal the win, playing a Mistbind Clique but now it was Neri with the answers, and he had a Cryptic Command for the Clique, then a Wrath of God to sweep away the rest of the American's Faeries. The Wrath of God returned the Scion of Oona to play and Black attacked, putting Neri to 2 life, but now Neri had the Obelisk in play and added a Jace Beleren to begin drawing cards – it seemed the Italian had pulled out of his tailspin just in time!
The Obelisk of Alara began repairing Neri's lifetotal and would destroy any creatures Black tried to play, and Jace Beleren would give Neri all the cards he needed to win, and despite having looked the likeliest winner Sam Black scooped up permanents and turned to his sideboard for help.
Riccardo Neri (ITA) 1 - 0 Sam Black (USA)
Sam Black began his attempt to recover this setback with the Faerie player's biggest weapon – a turn two Bitterblossom. His winged pests began to multiply and nibble at Neri's lifetotal. On the fourth turn Black went for a Thoughtseize and in response the Italian played a Volcanic Fallout. That swept away the few Faeries the American had accrued to date, but it also meant that between his two Underground Rivers, Bitterblossom, Thoughtseize, and now the fallout, Black was already down to 10 life!
At this rate Neri need only watch while his opponent committed suicide, and as Black took further points of damage to cast Jace Beleren, dropping to 8 life, things continued to look tight.
6 life... Bitterblossom upkeep, attacking put Neri to 8.
4 life... a final Bitterblossom upkeep, Black held back his lands and attacked, Neri to 1.
3 life... and the game. Neri had clearly drawn nothing of use once the beats set in, unable to even force Sam Black into taking damage from his own lands by playing things that needed countering.
Riccardo Neri (ITA) 1 - 1 Sam Black (USA)
Jace Beleren was the key card at the beginning of the third game – Sam Black decided to risk getting the Planeswalker into play on his third turn, only to have it Negated, then Neri immediately untapped and played his own Jace, drawing a card. But Black had a plan, and on his next turn played a Thoughtseize, taking away Neri's Vendilion Clique from hand, then his own Jace. Even a Planeswalker can't be in two places at once, and both copes of Jace were destroyed. Neri grimaced – that seemed like it had hurt.
But Neri's unconventional deck had the answers After that duel of the planeswalkers, neither player had much to do but lay land for a while – Black keeping his eye in by nipping in with Mutavault each turn, eventually drawing a Path to Exile out of Neri's hand. Undeterred, Black had a backup Mutavault and simply went back to that plan, dropping his opponent to 14. On Black's next turn the Mutavault triggered the first counterwar of the third game, with Neri forcefully insisting that the Mutavault take a Path to Exile – his Broken Ambitions and Cryptic Command fending off Black's Spellstutter Sprite and Countersquall.
Even after the threat of the Mutavault had gone away Neri's body language was not that of a man who seemed confident and he was slumped back in his chair. He drew a Vendilion Clique, and used a Negate to push it past Black's Soul Manipulation. The Vendilion Clique let the Italian see Black's hand and he revealed... 3 Mistbind Clique! With no Faeries those were virtually worthless, even so one of them went to the bottom of Black's deck.
At the sight of his opponent's hand Neri suddenly sat up in his chair and came alive, playing a Jace Beleren and beginning to draw extra cards. Black was forced to play his two Mistbind Clique, championing one of them with the other. It was a canny trick, but one immediately answered by Neri's Plumeveil. Black sent his Clique over to attack Jace Beleren... the Plumeveil blocked but Black again had tricks, playing a Scion of Oona and pumping his Clique to 5/5! The Plumeveil died, but Neri wasn't done and played a Volcanic Fallout, sweeping away the damaged Mistbind Clique and the Scion of Oona – his Jace was safe!
Pulling up extra cards from his Planeswalker ally, Neri roared into a critical card advantage lead and found his Obelisk of Alara. Sam Black retaliated with a Bitterblossom but there was little chance that even this could change the fate of this match now the Obelisk was in play, and a turn later Black offered his hand in defeat – to a mighty roar from the dozens of Italians who had been silently willing their man on.
Riccardo Neri (ITA) 2 - 1 Sam Black (USA)
Neri's deck, a unique take on 5c Control, with Obelisk of Alara at it's heart, will fight it out in the final of Grand Prix Barcelona! The Faeries came close, they came mighty close, but not quite close enough.
Finals: Joel Calafell (ESP) vs Riccardo Neri (ITA)
Under the eagerly watchful eyes of a big local crowd, Joel Calafell had the opportunity to become a GP champion in his home town. This was the big match, the culmination of two days of Magic. The two players were the last men standing. They surpassed 1,493 others to be there at this table, at this time. Only one of them could claim the trophy and become the only player ever to triumph over 1,494 players in a Constructed event.
Let the games begin.
And the final match is underway!
Calafell won the die roll. For three turns, the players did nothing but laying lands. Then Calafell tapped his four lands, played Bloodbraid Elf and cascaded into Seismic Assault. Calmly, Neri paid for Broken Ambition to counter the Assault, and Calafell just got to attack for 3. Calafell's deck presented two varied angles of attack. One would be the combo of Seismic Assault and Swans of Bryn Argoll, the other one was much simpler: attack.
Calafell had just the Bloodbraid Elf to do so, though, and that meant Neri could potentially sculpt a perfect hand, aided by the Jace he played. The extremely high land count in Calafell's deck meant that Neri was by default drawing more relevant cards; a long game would favor the Italian.
Calafell tapped four lands, untapped them again, fiddled with his mana. Four lands, five lands: Captured Sunlight, with one red mana floating and a land drop still to make. Neri let the Sunlight go. Two Bloodbraid Elves, two Swans of Bryn Argoll, Ad Nauseaum and a boatload of lands got cascaded to the bottom of Calafell's library until the the Spanish found Seismic Assault. Neri stopped it with Cryptic Command, tapping out to do so, and tapping Calafell's Elf to boot.
Remember that floating red mana? With the missing land drop, that added up to three red mana and Calafell could play another Seismic Assault, this one from his hand. Neri clearly didn't like this, but what could he do? Even the Obelisk of Alara he played became a futile exercise when Calafell had Swans of Bryn Argoll into Neri's tapped out board. Pointing land at the Swans became an academic exercise once Calafel hit the glut of land he had cascaded away earlier, and the local hero took Game 1.
A big cascade into Seismic Assault - more or less sums up the tournament
The crowd erupted. (I might need ear protection if he actually wins the match.)
Joel Calafell 1 – 0 Riccardo Neri
The two players sideboarded.
Out: 1 Tidings, 1 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, 2 Wrath of God, 3 Fallout, 1 Negate, 1 Broken Ambitions, 1 Path to Exile;
In: 3 Vendilion Clique, 3 Meddling Mage, 1 Thought Hermorrhage, 1 Plumeveil, 2 Pithing Needle.
Out: 1 Ghitu Encampment, 2 Spinerock Knoll, 2 Battlefield Forge, 2 Captured Sunlight, 1 Primal Command, 2 Swans of Bryn Argoll;
In: 2 Vexing Shusher, 2 Wickerbough Elder, 4 Countryside Crusher, 2 Maelstrom Pulse.
Neri had the choice of going first and firmly embraced it, playing a first-turn Pithing Needle naming Wickerbough Elder. His second turn play: Meddling Mage, naming Seismic Assault. Meddling Mage attacked for two, Jace gave Neri an extra card, and the Italian shipped the turn.
Calafell didn't like the Planeswalker there and killed it with Treetop Village. Neri's Plumeveil came a turn too late to save the Jace, but Neri had a second one, again directly drawing a card at the cost of a third of his planeswalker's loyalty.
Neri was tapped out, so Calafell had no trouble pointing Bituminous Blast at Meddling Mage. The first card he flipped was Countryside Crusher, quite a good sideboard plan in a deck that plans to put a lot of lands lands into its graveyard. Neri let both players draw a card to regrow Jace, and at the end of turn, Calafell aimed another Bituminous Blast at Plumeveil, getting first Bloodbraid Elf and then Seismic Assault off his Cascade. Neri didn't want the Assault and had Broken Ambitions for it, and Cryptic Command for the Bituminous Blast.
The Command also bounced Countryside Crusher, but the Bloodbraid Elf resolved. It was a powerful exchange of spells and effects at the end of Neri's turn, and it crucially left Neri tapped out. Calafell used the opening to replay Countryside Crusher and, more importantly, playing Seismic Assault from his hand. Two discarded lands killed Plumeveil and grew Countryside Crusher to 5/5, and Bloodbraid Elf killed Jace to keep Neri as much out of options as possible.
The Italian looked slightly dejected. The Ajani Vengeant he had was not strong enough to kill the Countryside Crusher, so it went for Bloodbraid Elf instead. But the Crusher was growing, and Neri had boarded out a lot of his creature removal. Calafell drew Bloodbraid Elf #2 and cascaded immediately into Seismic Assault #2, more of a back-up than anything else. The creatures went for Ajani Vengeant – even though Ajani's Ultimate ability would have made Countryside Crusher quite, quite happy... I kid. You don't want that to go off against you.
Calafell did not reveal many lands with his Crusher, but even a 6/6 Crusher and a 3/2 Elf would do a good chunk against Neri's 23 life. Elf attacked Neri, Crusher attacked Neri's fresh Jace that the Italian chose to save with Plumeveil. Wickerbough Elder from Calafell added 3 power to the offense, though his ability had been rendered useless by Pithing Needle.
Calafell didn't need it, really. All he wanted was to push through damage. For the moment, Cryptic Command prevented that and tapped Calafell's team. Treetop Village still wanted to kill Jace, but Neri had a surprise Vendilion Clique that saw Maelstrom Pulse, two Vexing Shusher, another Wickerbough Elder, Ad Nauseam and a land. Not what Neri had expected to see... and a discarded land from Calafell got rid of Jace, and now the crowd became restless. They wanted their boy to win!
Neri already had pulled out a seemingly unwinnable game in the quarterfinals. Would he be able to pull this one as well? The Wrath of God he drew certainly looked like an option, and at 20 life, Neri still had room to maneuver with a clear board. (Calafell was at 16.) Thought Hermorrhage from Neri named Ad Nauseam, taking all two of them away from the Spanish player. But Calafell's deck remained a ticking bomb. With Neri tapped out again, Calafell brought Wickerbough Elder and Vexing Shusher into play, again aiming for the aggro route, even against Neri's Obelisk of Alara.
And suddenly, the Pithing Needle became relevant, as Calafell tried to use Wickerbough Elder to kill the Obelisk and couldn't. But he could play Bloodbraid Elf and cascade into Countryside Crusher! Neri fell to 15 from the attack, killing Bloodbraid Elf with Obelisk of Alara in the process. Neri had a second Obelisk! Now Calafell's aggro plan was threatened, though flipping up four lands for Countryside Crusher certainly helped – massively so – to combat the Obelisk threat.
Calafell attacked with a 7/7 Crusher, Treetop Village, Vexing Shusher and Wickerbough Elder. Neri was at 15, and the attack would have been lethal if not for the Obelisks. Neri wanted to put combat damage on the stack, but “not yet” said Calafell and threw a land at Neri's life total. The Italian fell to 2, kept alive by one Obelisk activation.
Neri knocked the top of his deck. He desperately needed something. His Obelisks alone wouldn't keep him going, so he tried to find something with the blue ability of his powerful artifacts. He drew a card... discarded Negate. He drew another one... discarded Plumeveil.
Neri passed the turn, and Calafell flipped up two lands for his Crushers, drawing Swans of Bryn Argoll in the process. Calafell announced his attack, Neri played Cryptic Command to tap the team and draw a card. Treetop Village could still attack, though, but Neri had Path to Exile for that. Still on two life, the Italian was running out of options fast.
“Go,” said Calafell.
Neri tapped an Obelisk to draw and discard. Nothing. Second Obelisk... flipped a land on the table, and the crowd went bonkers for their local hero, GP Barcelona 2009 champion Joel Calafell!
Joel Calafell 2 – 0 Riccardo Neri