Grand Prix Rotterdam 2009

Grand Prix Rotterdam has come to an end and the winner is... Arjan van Leeuwen, the very same player that already won last year's GP Paris. Winning back-to-back Grand Prix puts him in one league with the likes of Raphael Levy and Luis Scott-Vargas.

With his Esper draft deck he first beat Reinhold Kohl of Germany to then sit down opposite of 2008's Player of the Year Shuuhei Nakamura, the one player many had picked as a favorite to win this event. But van Leeuwen proved his grasp on the Shards of Alara limited format once again and smashed him in two quick games.

That left Robert van Meedevort standing in his way in an all-Dutch final. But van Leeuwen was not to be denied. One more time the Esper air force went in quickly and left after a clean 2-0 sweep.

Congratulations to Arjan van Leeuwen, winner of Grand Prix Rotterdam 2009!


top 8 bracket

Quaterfinals

(1) Aaron Brackmann [DEU]

(5) Shuuhei Nakamura [JPN]

(8) Reinhold Kohl [DEU]

(6) Arjan van Leeuwen [NLD]

(3) Robert van Medevoort [NLD]

(4) Tomas Langer [CZE]

(7) Alex Fanghaenel [DEU]

(2) Michal Hebky [CZE]

Semi-finals

Shuuhei Nakamura 2-1

Arjan van Leeuwen 2-1

Robert van de Medevoort 2-0

Alex Fanghaenel 2-1

Finals

Arjan van Leeuwen 2-0

Robert van Medevoort 2-1

Champion

Arjan van Leeuwen 2-0

EVENT COVERAGE

1. Arjan van Leeuwen $3,500
2. Robert van Medevoort $2,300
3. Shuuhei Nakamura $1,500
4. Alex Fanghaenel $1,500
5. Aaron Brackmann $1,000
6. Michal Hebky $1,000
7. Tomas Langer $1,000
8. Reinhold Kohl $1,000

Pairings, Results and Standings

Day 2

Pairings

15 14 13 12 11 10

Results

15 14 13 12 11 10

Standings

15 14 13 12 11 10

Day 1

Blue Bracket

Pairings

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Results

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Standings

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Green Bracket

Pairings

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Results

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Standings

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Sunday, 10:07 a.m. – The One Where Shuuhei Drafts Esper

by David Sutcliffe

Pro Drafter Shuuhei NakamuraI think I know what to expect from a Shuuhei Nakamura draft – in Paris he built a devastatingly aggressive Esper deck that left Raphael Levy in ruins during one feature match, and yesterday in the sealed the Japanese pro showed his continued love of the twisted metal workings of Esper to make it into the undefeated bracket (with a little help from a Meglonoth, mind). So heading into the first draft pod of Day Two of Grand Prix-Rotterdam, I'm expecting to see him grab Esper strongly once again.

The first pack offered Shuuhei perhaps the signature card of the entire Esper archetype, a Sanctum Gargoyle. In this one card you have the essence of the Esper deck and it's strengths – it's an artifact, it's a flying creature, and it generates card advantage by recurring other Esper cards. If Shuuhei ever had doubts over his course through the draft he never showed it, and quickly selected the Gargoyle as his pick.

The next pack offered up another signature card – if the Sanctum Gargoyle can return artifacts from your graveyard you want a nice artifact to return. So how about an Executioner's Capsule? That was an easy choice for an Esper player, ahead of other great removal in Bant and Naya like Resounding Silence, Resounding Thunder.

And then the third pick? The Force is strong with Shuuhei and he was passed the ultimate Esper kicker card – the Planeswalker, Tezzeret, the Seeker. Now firmly set in Esper, Shuuhei's first booster played out smoothly:

 

Angelic Benediction
Esper Obelisk out of booster four, ahead of a Welkin Guide
Angelic Benediction out of a weak booster for Esper cards
Cloudheath Drake was taken over Fleshbag Marauder or Guardians of Akrasa
Kathari Screecher was taken ahead of a Glaze Fiend
Skeletal Kathari added another flyer from pack eight.
Protomatter Powder
Dregscape Zombie
Call To Heel
Sphinx's Herald
Dragon's Herald

That first booster had gone well, and Shuuhei had plenty of flyers, but there was no doubt that while his cards were fine they had quickly stopped being the key essentials an Esper player wants to see. A second Sanctum Gargoyle? No. A Tower Gargoyle? No. A Executioner's Capsule ? No. There was still work to be done.

Empyrial Archangel stared out at Shuuhei from the first pick of the second booster, but he resisted her call to include a little green mana, barely giving her a second glance. Instead, Shuuhei was focussed on the tough choice between two of the best removal spells he could ask for – Oblivion Ring and Agony Warp. At the last minute he pulled Oblivion Ring up, and took Agony Warp instead, but it was a tight call

 

Tower Gargoyle
Tower Gargoyle outmuscled a Sanctum Gargoyle in booster two.
Courier's Capsule was favoured, slightly, over Covenant of Minds.
Sanctum Gargoyle #2 in booster four.
Grixis Battlemage over Resounding Wave
Guardians of Akrasa over a second Call to Hell or Dregscape Zombie
Naya Obelisk from a seventh booster with little to give.
Tidehollow Strix was a gift at eighth pick, however.
Welkin Guide over Vectis Silencers
Angelsong
Coma Veil over Filigree Sages
Spell Snip
Filigree Sages

That booster had certainly helped Shuuhei out no end in filling in the gaps – once again the top few picks had all been core cards for his archetype, and the lower picks had all been fine creatures and spells that could be included if he had to. And that checklist out of booster one? A second Sanctum Gargoyle? Check. A Tower Gargoyle? Check. A Courier's Capsule? Check. That was a clean sweep, now what would Conflux offer?

Unstable Frontier was hardly the best pick Shuuhei could have asked for, but it was much-needed mana fixing. I was slightly surprised that he took this over the Scornful Æther-Lich, which seemed in-colour, and in-theme for his deck. But the Unstable Frontier was the first mana fixing Shuuhei had seen outside of an Obelisk and he made that a priority.

 

Rupture Spire
Mana was also the priority he sealed with a second pick Rupture Spire that he took ahead of a Sedraxis Alchemist or Faerie Machinist.
Sedraxis Alchemist was in third pick, a tough choice ahead of a Sludge Strider and a Faerie Machinist.
Brackwater Elemental was chosen over Gleam of Resistance
Aven Squire edged out a Frontline Sage for the Exalted role, but then Shuuhei could expect the Sage to table and get it next time round.
Aven Squre #2 edged out Brackwater Elemental #2
Vedalken Outlander in booster seven marked a point where Shuuhei had definitely been picking up quicker, cheaper, creatures.
Filigree Fracture was hate drafted
Frontline Sage was picked up
Vedalken Outlander #2 was taken ahead of Vectis Agents, another mark that Shuuhei was taking speed ahead of evasion or power.
Faerie Machinist taken late
Court Homunculus may make the deck
Worldy Counsel rounded out his picks.

There was little doubt what Conflux had added to Shuuhei's arsenal. Speed. He now had a pair of 1/1 Exalted Flyers for 1W, a pair of 2/2 Protection from Red creatures for UW, more tempo removal in Sedraxis Alchemist, and even more artifact synergy with a Faerie Machinist. He had repeatedly resisted taking a powerful four or five casting cost card with an activated evasion ability, like Scornful Æther-Lich or Vectis Agents, to take something small and speedy.

As he built his deck it was clear why. Ignoring his slower cards Shuuhei threw in all his cheaper creatures, including the Court Homunculus, and ignoring things like the Brackwater Elemental and Frontline Sage that offered the deck a late game plan to survive and draw cards. With so many flyers arriving on turn 4 and 5 Shuuhei would only need to get a little damage through in the early turns, which his Exalted should allow, to mean he could wrap up games quickly. As he selected his land mix it was clear that Shuuhei was very happy with his build, giving it a big thumbs up.

Shuuhei had no less than 11 flyers, a bunch of removal and tempo removal in cards like Executioner's Capsule and Call to Heel, and some card advantage and artifact interaction in his Faerie Machinist and Sanctum Gargoyles. Oh. And he had Tezzeret. Going into the first round of the draft, Shuuhei looked in good shape!

Sunday, 10:55 a.m. – Draft 1: Setting Up for Some Beatdown

by Daniel Ullenius

The first draft of the day I was watching Marcio Carvalho, who's a Portuguese national champion and Worlds top 8er, as well as a Grand Prix devil with no less than four Top 8s. What is his plan? Go aggressive and take every good piece of cardboard in sight or be more submissive and take what is passed his way? Is this draft format one where forcing certain strategies is more viable? Will everyone draft Naya? Read on to find out the answers to these questions, and more.

 

Qasali Ambusher
The first pack offered little excitement other than a Qasali Ambusher, a Druid of the Anima, and Savage Lands. The Ambusher became the first pick of choice, arguably being the best card in the pack. The second pick had some of Grixis goodies with Fire-Field Ogre and Sedris, the Traitor King, but Carvalho decided that instead removal was king and acquired a Soul's Fire.

The third pick was a tough decision between Knight of the Skyward Eye, Rakeclaw Gargantuan and a versatile Jund Battlemage, but it seemed Carvalho's plan was a fast, aggressive deck with lots of bears, so the Knight of the Skyward Eye joined his team. Pick number four did not exactly diminish his plan as it offered a Vithian Stinger, which Carvalho gladly took over a Stoic Angel. The Naya-streak continued with an Akrasan Squire (over the somewhat more powerful, but more hard-to-cast Knight of the White Orchid); the next two picks, Druid of the Anima followed by Wild Nacatl, just added to the goodies as well as reassuring Carvalho that his shard of choice was the correct pick.

As the number of cards in the packs started to dwindle as did the card quality, Carvalho still managed to pick up a Welkin Guide, a Sigil Blessing, Guardians of Akrasa and a very late Druid of the Anima as his last picks, before the usual Heralds and Resounding Screams rounded off pack one.

Looking at the signals he had passed, it seemed that Carvalho wasn't set up too well for pack two, with his left hand neighbour being Bant (having snatched up the Stoic Angel among others). Carvalho probably would not be getting a lot of white/green action in the second booster. His neighbour on the right was Esper, though, so he was probably going to recoup that in the last pack.

Carvalho kicked into high gear very early in pack two with Naya Battlemage into Wild Nacatl into some nice fixing in Seaside Citadel. Unfortunately, the next four picks offered very little action, but Carvalho managed to scramble together a Jungle Weaver, a second Welkin Guide, an Excommunicate and a Volcanic Submersion. (If the player on his right was still in Esper, he probably was pleased to be passed a Tidehollow Sculler, an Esper Charm, a Master of Etherium and a Sanctum Gargoyle.)

It seemed that the prediction about getting bad cards in pack two was correct, as the only two reasonable picks in the last seven cards were Rip-Clan Crasher and an Excommunicate, and Carvalho sighed silently at the sight of one after another pack of unplayables. The deck was looking good, however, with early beats, some evasion and tricks, but not much removal.

 

Path to Exile
The first pick of the Conflux pack gave Carvalho his second true removal of the day in a Path to Exile, followed by some high-rate red in Fiery Fall. Carvalho was obviously rating removal a bit higher than other cards as he passed, among others, an Aven Squire, an Ancient Ziggurat and a Rhox Bodyguard. The third pick left him with the choice between color-fixing/combat trick in Gleam of Resistance and amazing beatdown in Wild Leotau. Carvalho opted for the 5/4 cat, which is almost certainly the correct pick, considering that he has double Druid of the Anima, who will not only serve as fixing, but will also enable nice starts like Wild Nacatl into Druid of the Anima into Wild Leotau.

Apparently content with his combat tricks, fixing and removal, Carvalho started to look for more fat. His fourth pick was a difficult choice between Matca Rioters and Rhox Bodyguard, but in the end, the Rioters got the invite to his draft pile. The following two packs gave Carvalho's deck a little evasion as well with Aven Squire and Aerie Mystics.

The seventh pick carried a lot of fat in Vagrant Plowbeasts, Beacon Behemoth and a Rhox Bodyguard. Carvalho went for Rhox Bodyguard. Now his deck started to get a nice exalted theme too, and things were shaping up really well for the last booster. This was once again confirmed, when the last five picks did not only contain another Aerie Mystics and Nacatl Hunt-Pride, but two additional Rhox Bodyguards.

As the last pack was coming to an end, Carvalho was content with his Naya deck, featuring good early beats and efficient evasion to come through in the mid-game triumphantly.

Feature Match: Round 10 – Arjan van Leeuwen vs Tom van Lamoen

by Tobias Henke

Arjan van LeeuwenThis is the clash of Dutch titans here. Arjan van Leeuwen is the champion of the biggest tournament in Magic‘s history, having won last year's GP Paris, which incidentally was Shards of Alara Limited too. Tom van Lamoen on the other hand is the reigning Dutch National champion. You can probably just imagine this match drawing a crowd.

The game started with a mulligan for van Lamoen and a Puppet Conjurer for van Leeuwen. Van Lamoen did have a token producer of his own, though, in the form of a turn-three Goblin Assault.

Next up, the players traded Windwright Mage for Dark Temper, then Sludge Strider for Branching Bolt.

Then van Leeuwen summoned Faerie Mechanist, while van Lamoen lost all of his goblin tokens due to a suicidal attack and went without play. Van Leeuwen got back Sludge Strider via Sanctum Gargoyle. He was getting further and further ahead, while van Lamoen accumulated more and more lands. Soon it was over.

Arjan van Leeuwen 1 – 0 Tom van Lamoen

Tom van LamoenThe early phase of Game 2 was characterized by the small card-advantage two-drops from Shards of Alara: Dragon Fodder and Elvish Visionary for van Lamoen, Blister Beetle for van Leeuwen. When Algae Gharial joined van Lamoen's team, the table was nicely set for the hungry crocodile.

Down came Sludge Strider for the Esper deck and on the other side Hellkite Hatchling, which devoured a goblin token. Van Leeuwen followed it up with Windwright Mage, but van Lamoen topped this with his Bloodpyre Elemental. When the smoke cleared the board was: Hellkite Hatchling and a 5/5 Algae Gharial against one lonely Windwright Mage.

Things were certainly looking dim for the Esper deck, but then its engine started to come into gear: Sanctum Gargoyle to retrieve the Sludge Strider, Puppet Conjurer to block Algae Gharial for all of eternity and to set up a nice combo with the Sludge Strider. Van Lamoen did have Goblin Assault and Dregscape Zombie, but when Leeuwen also managed to get his opponent's Dark Temper with Hindering Light, the Jund deck's offensive ground to a halt.

Now Esper was on the attack. Agony Warp took care of the Hellkite Hatchling and the skies were clear for Windwright Mage to deliver his four-point life swings (two plus, two minus) and later Cloudheath Drake joined in the fun while all the time the Sludge Strider / Puppet Conjurer combo was taking jabs at van Lamoen's lifetotal, too.

The game did not end any minute too soon, though. When van Lamoen received lethal damage, he revealed the one card left in his hand: Violent Ultimatum! He frowned and pointed out the three Mountains, two Forests, one Swamp... and the one Jund Panorama, he had just drawn instead of the much-needed second Swamp.

Arjan van Leeuwen 2 – 0 Tom van Lamoen

Feature Match: Round 11 – Armin Birner vs Antone Ruel

by David Sutcliffe

Antoine Ruel had a secret to share at the beginning of this match – he was sitting in his lucky seat. In the final match of last night he was in a feature match, in this feature match area, in that chair, and he won. And in the first round of this morning he was in a feature match, in this feature match area, and in that chair, and he won. He was shooting for a hat trick of wins from this seat, but in his way was seasoned Austrian pro Armin Birner.

“How do you feel about Ranger of Eos being the best card in standard?” asked Armin, of the Duellist Invitational winner whose face smiles out from the Ranger card he helped to design.

“Pretty good, it's a nice feeling,” Ruel replied, “They changed it a bit though, originally it was green – 2G for a 2/2, but I think it would have been too good in Elves”

Armin BirnerAntoine Ruel wasted little time in taking to the offensive, racing out with 4 creatures in the first four turns – Wild Nacatl, Valeron Outlander, Akrasan Squire and Sighted Caste Sorceror. Birner, for his part, was playing the defensive hiding behind a Brackwater Elemental and lashing out with an Agony Warp to slay the Nacatl as it attacked, then trading the Brackwater Elemental for Ruel's Akrasan Squire a turn later. Antoine was now free to attack, but only for 3 a turn, while Birner turned to a Shard Convergence to pull four basic lands into his hand.

Ruel added a Sanctum Gargoyle while Birner slipped the Frenchman's Valeron Outlander under a Coma Veil.

Coma Veil?” asked Antoine

“My deck's bad. Can you tell?”

Ruel played a Welkin Guide and attacked again, putting Birner to 9, and on the next turn played cagily around a possible Resounding Silence by only attacking with a single creature, and wisely so – Birner had the cycler ready in hand but was forced to use it to remove only one creature.

Ruel added Manaplasm, and attacked to put Birner on 6 life. Birner replied with Kederekt Creeper, then used a Gather Specimens to steal Ruel's Ember Weaver. But for Birner the Gather Specimens was only the first of a trio of rares, and his big turn was about to come.

Where Ancients Tread. Really? Apparently so. And an Extractor Demon, which now dealt 5 damage as it entered play, although Ruel kept his Sanctum Gargoyle alive with a Might of Alara. Then on his next turn Ruel used a Sigil Blessing to boost his creatures yet again and overpower Birner's Extractor Demon before adding some Sacellum Archers. Unfortunately for Ruel, that only put the Extractor Demon where it could be Unearthed and that meant it could deal another 5 damage to remove another of his creatures.

As expected, the Extractor Demon returned and did more damage, then a turn later it was time for a Fusion Elemental from Birner to eat further into Ruel's livestock. Birner followed that with a Courier's Capsule that drew him into a Kranioceros, and another 5 damage. Ruel fought back with a Sanctum Gargoyle, picking up a second Sanctum Gargoyle, but could only throw them under the feet of Birner's rampant behemoths to buy a turn before bowing out.

Armin Birner (AUT) 1 – 0 Antoine Ruel (FRA)

Antoine Ruel“I haven't lost a game with this yet!” exclaimed Armin Birner, and he seemed as surprised as anybody this his collection of bad rares like Shard Convergence, Gather Specimens, and Where Ancient's Tread was actually a deck. A game down, Ruel needed to feel the power of the chair flow through him if he was to fight back.

Ruel began in similar aggressive fashion with a Wild Nacatl, Akrasan Squire, Valeron Outlander and Aven Squire, while Birner developed four basic land types and played a Spore Burst to put up defenses. Then when Ruel tried to plow forwards through the fungal defenders an Agony Warp traded 2-for-1, to which Ruel could only sigh, and a turn later the remaining Thallids ate the Valeron Outlander.

Birner played a Carrion Thrash – quite legitimately now the king of the board – and looked in good shape. He had plenty of mana, and the biggest creature in town.... and he followed that with an Esper Charm and Shard Convergence to ensure he also had massive card advantage as well. His only weak point was his lifetotal, which had been whittled down in the early turns to 8 points

Ruel's one hope could be to bring some aerial offense, and he played a Sanctum Gargoyle and Welkin Guide, pushing on for the final damage, and putting Birner to 4 life. Birner put the Sanctum Gargoyle to sleep with a Coma Veil, but Ruel was relentless and cast a second Welkin Guide, only to have Birner Cancel it. Nevertheless Ruel sent over his lone surviving flyer, a Welkin Guide exalted to 3/3, and put Birner to just 1 life.

Birner pulled up his card, but it wasn't an answer to a flying creature, and from a position of seeming strength the Austrian had been undone by Ruel's sudden switch to an airborne assault. Was the Chair strong with this one?

Armin Birner (AUT) 1 – 1 Antoine Ruel (FRA)

Time was now a pressing concern – the first game had dragged until Birner managed to turn it around with Where Ancients Tread, and the players only had a few minutes to seal a decider. That seemed to play into the hands of Antoine Ruel's aggressive build and he began with another creature rush – Wild Nacatal and Sacellum Archers this time, adding a Sanctum Gargoyle when Birner's desperate Spore Burst traded Thallids for the Nacatl.

All Ruel's early work was undone, however, as Birner played a Carrion Thrash to stall the ground war, then got to 6 lands and played a Kiss of the Amesha to rebuild his lifetotal and hand, before using a Wretched Banquet to pin back Ruel's offense and playing his Where Ancients Tread.

As the clock ticked down to just three minutes to play Ruel pressed on doggedly, an Excommunicate took the Carrion Thrash out of the blocking equation and opened up a route for his creatures to attack, and also meant Birner would go another draw step without seeing a 5 power creature. Ruel hit home, Birner to 13... to 9... Ruel punched through the replayed Carrion Thrash with a Might of Alara and kept going, while Birner drew cards with an Esper Charm, digging for answers and finding nothing... to 3 life... and finally to 0.

Armin Birner (AUT) 1 – 2 Antoine Ruel (FRA)

Lucky chair or no, it's another victory for the Ranger of Eos. Collecting his cards Antoine Ruel left the feature match area as victor once again followed, as ever, by his faithful hunting hound and pet eagle. I don't know where the artists get their inspiration for Magic card artwork, sometimes, I really don't.

Feature Match: Round 11 – Jens Thorén vs Martin Juza

by Daniel Ullenius

Round 11 gave us a very interesting match, with Martin Juza, who has been in Worlds team Top-8 three times, facing off against Swedish former superstar, Mr Solemn Simulacrum, Jens Thorén. Juza played a Naya deck focused on accelerating big monsters, while Thorén had chosen a Grixis deck full of removal and evasion.

Jens ThorenBoth players led with with “land, go” during the initial turns, but it seemed that both player had aggressive deck as Thorén began with Goblin Deathraiders, which was matched by Vithian Stinger from Juza. Thorén did only have one play during the first five turns, and it seems that he should have mulliganed. A Skeletonize took out the Stinger however, and Juza had to get the Stinger to shoot itself in response to prevent a regenerating skeleton from being a hassle.

On his turn, Thorén showed why he had initially been quiet, as both a second Deathraiders and a Dreadwing came down. Juza's team was a tad bigger however, with Aven Trailblazer, Rhox Meditant and a Drumhunter. Thorén played Scavenger Drake and proceeded to Bone Splinters his Goblin Deathraiders, killing off his opponents Drumhunter and making the Drake bigger. On his turn, Juza charged and played a Rhox Bodyguard. When Thorén retaliated with Scavanger Drake, life was set at 17 for Juza and 11 for Thorén.

Juza decided to race and charged with his team, which made the Drake a 5/5 after blocks from two Dragon Fodder tokens. The fat just kept pouring out on Juza's side however as he added a Nacatl Hunt-Pride to his side of the board. Thorén did have an answer though in Sedris, the Traitor King. Juza took a beating from Sedris, but proceeded to beat back with everything he had. After Nacatl Hunt-Pride had pacified the Scavenger Drake, the only thing that could save Thorén was a removal, which unfortunately he did not have. It was on to Game 2.

Jens Thorén 0 – Martin Juza 1

During the shuffling, the players smalltalked, and Thorén confirmed that he is not coming back to Magic unless he qualifies for a Pro Tour or similar.

Thorén mulliganed to five on the play, but managed to play and break an Armillary Sphere for some nice mana-fixing into a Vithan Stinger. Juza nodded and made himself a Wooly Thoctar.

Martin JuzaThoréns mulligan to five was however quite good as he had a threat of his own in Sedraxis Specter. Paleoloth from Juza did, however, make Thorén look a little worried, but it seemed that was just for show as he proceeded to kill off the Thoctar with Bone Splinters (sacrificing Vithian Stinger) and then the Paleoloth with a Dark Temper! After the slaughter, both players played some small fries, but nothing that could get though without dying. Thorén did, however, send the team in and Sedraxis Specter traded with Aven Trailblazer. Thorén then proceeded to play a Skeletal Kathari, which Juza decided to match with Vagrant Plowbeasts. Thoréns next attack took Juza to six, or did it?

A judge came by and pointed out that the players had two different life totals written down (Thorén had Juza at four while Juza had himelf at six). Tracing back the steps, the judge and both players decided that Thorén was right, and that meant that Thorén's next attack phase took Juza to 0 not 2. Even though the circumstances were a little unusual, it was still a good recovery for Thorén.

Jens Thorén 1 – Martin Juza 1

The 3rd match started out, as these matchups usually do, with both players playing small creatures and trying to dish out some damage. Thorén was the first to draw blood with Goblin Deathraiders, but Juza had mana acceleration on his side and gave Thorén a kick in the gut with huge monster Paleoloth. Although enormous, the Paleoloth died in this game too, thanks to the concerted effort of Paleoloth blocking Goblin Deathraider plus four damage from Bloodpyre Elemental.

He was not out of gas though, and Nacatl Hunt-Pride came down instead, and it certainly looked like Juzas monsters had the edge over Thoréns removal and evasion. Thorén did not want Juza to get ahead to much on the board and made himself a Leotau of the undead kind. This did not stop Juza from smashing face with his Hunt Pride, but Thorén fought back hard by playing Sedraxis Specter and Vithian Stinger. Juza decided that his current force was not enough, and added the biggest creature of the match yet to his team, Godsire. On the next turn, Juza also summoned a Scourge devil and the following attack made Thorén scoop up his cards.

Jens Thorén 1 – Martin Juza 2

Sunday, 1:33 p.m. – So What Is the Best Draft Archetype?

by Tobias Henke

So what is it? We already know Shuuhei Nakamura is inclined to draft Esper everyday, but what do others think? I asked a few players and here is what they said:

Tom van Lamoen:

“It almost certainly is not Jund. I lost so much with it. I'd say, it still is Naya, although the deck changed a lot with Conflux. Before you got more fatties, now you get more evasion and you want to be more aggressive. Fatties aren't quite as good anymore, too, because of the protection creatures, especially Zombie Outlander. The white fliers from Conflux, however, are amazing, and Branching Bolt got even better. All of that in one deck is best.”

 

Antoine Ruel:

“Esper or five-color is best. Basically, if you have bombs, you'll end up playing five-color most of the time. If not then Esper is the way to go. You can go for blue-white with a splash of black or blue-black with a splash of white or even heavy three-color; you can even build a great Esper control deck. But I prefer to simply play with the best cards. I prefer five-color.”

 

Marijn Lybaert:

“Blue-white. Straight blue-white without any splashes, that is. If you want to include Vedalken Outlander (and you really should) then you don't want to have any trouble playing it turn two. Admittedly, I have not drafted much with Conflux yet, but this aggressive strategy was the one thing that worked best for me.”

 

Helmut Summersberger:

“Green-white exalted, either splashing for red or for blue. Esper surely is good, but everyone is picking cards like Darklit Gargoyle so early, you cannot rely on the much-needed early drops anymore. Green-white, however, does still profit from the white fliers: Aven Squire, Aven Trailblazer, and Aerie Mystics. Evasion and exalted in one deck, that's awesome. Also, Gleam of Resistance is the very best of the new landcycling cards and it's amazing in the deck! Of course, when I open a bomb in the first pack, I'll go with that, but everything else being equal, I prefer the exalted archetype.”

Podcast – Into Draft Mode

by Rich Hagon

The Sealed decks have been put away, and now attention turns to the Shards-Shards-Conflux Draft format. 147 players have been welcomed back to high-level play here on Day Two, and now face six more rounds of competition to determine the Top 8. In our first show we go inside the first three rounds of the day, bringing you Feature Match action featuring Shuuhei Nakamura and the Ruel brothers, Sebastian Thaler and more.

Click Here to Download

 

Sunday, 2:24 p.m. – Drafting with the Last Man Standing

by Tobias Henke

 

Oblivion Ring
Aaron Brackmann of Germany was, at the beginning of the second draft, the one and only player left in the tournament without a defeat to his name. He did have one draw, but in round twelve he just beat Shuuhei Nakamura, then the leader of the field; a temporary title Aaron now took for himself.

His first booster was totally insane. It does happen from time to time, that there's a pack you just want to take all of. Yes, this was one of these. It contained Vein Drinker, Agony Warp, Tower Gargoyle, Corpse Connoisseur, and Fleshbag Marauder. Well, and Oblivion Ring, which Aaron took after some deliberation, shipping all the mostly black stuff to his neighbour to presumably set him up in a color that Aaron would stay away from.

The next one had Topan Ascetic, Resounding Silence, and Branching Bolt, the last one of which he took. With two removal spells already in, and looking to possibly draft Naya or control, he was not going to take Hissing Igunara next, opting for Jund Panorama instead.

Something controllish and rather multi-colored became a real possibility, when he snatched Empyrial Archangel from a pack that also held Druid of the Anima. The next two packs contained Dragon Fodder, Corpse Connoisseur as well as Necrogenesis, but Aaron stuck to his guns with Obelisk of Bant and Steelclad Serpent.

 

Knight of the Skyward Eye
Up next was Elvish Visonary, then Waveskimmer Aven. Then the booster he had opened returned and there still was Glaze Fiend, Corpse Connoisseur, and Carrion Thrash in it. Pretty good, isn't it, for a ninth pick? He took another Steelclad Serpent. The rest of the first round went rather uneventful, giving him an Outrider of Jhess, and another Obelisk of Bant.

Off to the second booster: Naya Charm or Knight of the Skyward Eye? He went with the Knight, and was passed Tower Gargoyle, Covenant of Minds, Branching Bolt, and Crumbling Necropolis, of which he took the latter, worried more about his mana than his card quality.

Steward of Valeron over Woolly Thoctar was following and then he took Resounding Silence out of a pack which still held Skeletonize. Persevering on his route to Bant, he picked Rhox War Monk over Magma Spray next.

 

Obelisk of Alara
Now, rather early, the Bant cards dried up. He still got another Crumbling Necropolis, Naturalize, Elvish Visionary, and Court Archers out of this round, but that was it.

Off to Conflux! He first-picked Obelisk of Alara over Path to Exile, then was passed a miserably empty pack, out of which he took Might of Alara. Next was Aven Trailblazer over Aerie Mystics, followed by Beacon Behemoth.

Scattershot Archer, Kaleidostone, and Fleshformer joined his draft pile over the next couple of packs, and then he was surprised to be passed Manaforge Mace so late into the booster. The rest of Conflux did not give him anything worth mentioning, but Aaron nevertheless seemed happy with his deck.

Update: Even more happy he was, of course, after winning his match in round 13, possibly already securing a top 8 berth with two rounds more to go.

Info – Round 13 Pods

by Event Coverage Staff
Pod Seat Player Points
1 01 Kohl, Reinhold 33
  02 Nakamura, Shuuhei 33
  03 Cnossen, Anne 33
  04 Brackmann, Aaron 34
  05 Van Der Vaart, Martijn 31
  06 Fanghaenel, Alex 33
  07 Prost, Andrejs 33
  08 Van Leeuwen, Arjan 33
2 01 Ruel, Antoine 30
  02 Juza, Martin 30
  03 Boeken, Noah P 30
  04 Estratti, Samuele 30
  05 De Sio, Jakub 30
  06 De Graat, Julien 30
  07 Hebky, Michal 30
  08 Snijdewind, Ruben 30
3 01 Maij, Rosario 30
  02 Görtzen, Simon M 30
  03 Van Medevoort, Robert J 30
  04 Thaler, Sebastian 30
  05 Winter, Sascha 30
  06 Borba, Rodrigo 30
  07 Pascoli, Mario 30
  08 Fletcher, Geoff L 30
4 01 Stelder, Sacha 30
  02 Mauger, Guillaume 30
  03 Zhang, Yin 30
  04 Langer, Tomas 30
  05 Hofmann, Mike 30
  06 Boudaoud, Hakim M 30
  07 Berthoux, Jeremy 30
  08 Pedersen, Kristian 30
5 01 Carvalho, Marcio A 28
  02 Zatlkaj, Matej 27
  03 Karsten, Frank 28
  04 Lemoine, Vincent 28
  05 Frilund, Michael 28
  06 De Rooij, Danny 28
  07 Eberhard, Michi 28
  08 Musial, Lukasz 28
6 01 Ruel, Olivier 27
  02 Van Der Ploeg, Tobie 27
  03 Lippi, Alessandro 27
  04 Nørgaard, Lasse 27
  05 Vieren, Peter 27
  06 Horváth, Tamás 27
  07 Thorén, Jens 27
  08 Maaten, Rogier 27
7 01 Summersberger, Helmut J 27
  02 Zimmermann, Martin 27
  03 Brodzak, Jan 27
  04 Younes, Youssef 27
  05 Nahodil, Petr 27
  06 Wigge, Mathias 27
  07 Feenstra, Rens 27
  08 Melis, Bas 27
8 01 Birner, Armin 27
  02 Papatsarouchas, Evangelos 27
  03 Schreurs, Jos 27
  04 Drobny, Radoslav 27
  05 Disconzi, Romolo 27
  06 Kuben, Petr 27
  07 Ruess, Jan H 27
  08 Knoerr, Sebastian 27
9 01 De Marelle, Anthony 27
  02 Luca, Mondani 27
  03 Birth, Michael 27
  04 Ohlhof, Frank 27
  05 Spruyt, Braam 27
  06 De Haan, Floris 27
  07 Cabezas Munoz, Jose 27
  08 Dang, Martin P 27
10 01 Hollmann, Marc 27
  02 Lindroos, Jani 27
  03 Dobis, David 27
  04 Saiyasely, Liking 27
  05 Engleitner, Herbert 27
  06 Matignon, Guillaume 27
  07 Douda, Ondrej 27
  08 Van Zutphen, Ronald 27
11 01 Boning, Matthias 27
  02 Frederiksen, Anders 27
  03 Kowalczyk, Romain 27
  04 Willefert, Malo 27
  05 Baglin, Arnaud 25
  06 Andersen, Rune Martens 27
  07 Korsell, Samuel 27
  08 Van Noordenburg, Douwe 27
12 01 Burtscher, Emanuel 25
  02 Van Lamoen, Tom 24
  03 Dijt, Sven 25
  04 Dooms, Bram 25
  05 Geißler, Gunnar 25
  06 Van Roy, Thomas 25
  07 Cardoso, Ricardo 25
  08 Kirilov, Kaloyan T 25
13 01 Caffier, Aurelien 24
  02 Doropoulos, Nick 24
  03 Doise, Jan 24
  04 Tran, Minh 24
  05 De Jong, Hugo 24
  06 Dubuisson, Aurelien 24
  07 Baert, Jiri 24
  08 Roelofs, Frank 24
14 01 Holm, Malte 24
  02 De Kler, Tijs 24
  03 Schwass, Mark 24
  04 Jensen, David 24
  05 Dolstra, Menno 24
  06 De Bruijn, Vincent 24
  07 Van De Veen, Steffen 24
  08 Levy, Raphael 24
15 01 Walter, Daniel 24
  02 Van Der Made, Allard 24
  03 Perpete, Fabrice 24
  04 Burgold, Lino 24
  05 Fatouros, Vasilis N 24
  06 V.d.brink, Henri 24
  07 Mezhoud, Hakim 24
  08 Ströh, Kim 24
16 01 Doropoulos, Marios-isidoros 24
  02 Martin, Quentin 24
  03 Magdalena Aguin, Eduardo Alb 24
  04 Vanrie, Wim 24
  05 Nouchi, Jonathan 24
  06 Rosenberger, Alexander 24
  07 Benz, Alistair 24
  08 Midtun, Walter 24
17 01 Lorenz, Jan 24
  02 Illig, Jerome 24
  03 Thomson, Nicholas R 24
  04 Helmich, Arnout 24
  05 Topel, Frank 24
  06 Picciafuochi, Riccardo 24
  07 Van Der Beek, Johan 24
  08 Brueggemann, Julian A 24
18 01 Le Montagner, Mathieu 21
  02 Nouzovsky, Zdenko 21
  03 Lüthje, Benjamin 21
  04 Vilgo, Kristjan 24
  05 Wollaert, Kjell 21
  06 Ecker, Florian F 21
  07 González Hidalgo, Francisco 21
  08 Hof Van/der, Nick 24

Feature Match: Round 13 – Arjan Van Leeuwen (NDL) vs. Andrejs Prost (USA)

by David Sutcliffe

Andrejs Prost plays his cards close to chest Still very much alive and kicking in Grand Prix-Rotterdam is the reigning emperor of Alara, Arjan Van Leeuwen of the Netherlands. He was in the top draft pod and is continuing his fight for a back-to-back Grand Prix win in a match against the American Andrejs Prost. However marked his success at Paris and here in Rotterdam, nobody is more surprised and bemused by it than Van Leeuwen himself.

“I'm just playing”, he admitted, “nothing special, nothing different, same as always, but this time I'm winning”. I'm sure that he was being modest because to beat over 3,000 players between two Grand Prix is the mother of all lucky streaks if it really IS luck, but regardless, the fight in Rotterdam was not yet over.

Van Leeuwen had drafted a quick Bant deck, but there was little sign of the small exalted men, instead he was muscling his way through with a Matca Riotersand Rhox Charger. In return, Prost spent his early turns finding land with an Armillary Sphere before trading a Kranioceros for Van Leeuwen's Matca Rioters. Van Leeuwen followed up with a Rhox war Monk, then aimed an Unsummon at Prost's Thornling and added a Court Archers before attacking to leave the American on 7 life. Had that Unsummon given Arjan Van Leeuwen the tempo advantage he needed to beat Prost to the punch?

Van Leeuwen's War Monk couldn't get past Prost's Thornling once it returned to play, and his attempt to fly over with Aerie Mystics was stopped by a Skeletonize. But the Dutch offensive barely slowed and he played a Sigiled Paladin and Sanctum Gargoyle while Prost added a Mostodon. It seemed as though the ground route had been stopped by the American now - no matter how Exalted his creatures got they couldn't beat an indestructible Thornling - but three Exalted creatures certainly made the Sanctum Gargoyle a threat, and two turns later Prost succumbed to the 5/6 flyer for 3W, although not before casting a Blightning to give himself some extra knowledge of Van Leeuwen's deck for the second game.

Arjan Van Leeuwen (NDL) 1 – 0 Andrejs Prost (USA)

Andrejs Prost was determined not to go down in a second game without putting up more a fight, and he began with a Goblin Deathraiders, although they only managed to trade with a blocking Wild Nacatl of Van Leeuwen's. It seemed the tables were completely reversed this time, with Van Leeuwen taking time out from playing threats to find land with Armillary Sphere, while Prost pulled up a Necrogenesis.

Necrogenesis is a card that is sometimes maligned by average players but it's a source of tremendous card advantage in long games, and Prost began to show why. As Van Leeuwen played a Rhox Charger Prost simply churned out a Saproling and sacrificed it to Bone Splinters to off the Rhox. The American went on to add a Carrion Thrash and take to the offensive, while Van Leeuwen played Ember Weaver and Aerie Mystics.

But Van Leeuwen commands a Bant armyWhen the Dutchman came to attack, however, Prost had more Necrogenesis tricks up his sleeve and created a Saproling that he sacrificed to a Gluttonous Ooze he flashed into play, devouring the Ember Weaver mid-combat. Van Leeuwen's solution was sheer numbers – Sigiled Paladin, Court Archers, Rhox War Monk all arrived to swell his Bant army while Prost could only add a couple more 1/1 Saprolings. And attacking with a 5/6 Rhox War Monk had done healthy things to the Dutchman's lifetotal as well, and he was ahead 15-12 on life.

Prost hit back with his creatures, and used a Fiery Fall after Van Leeuwen had declared two blockers for his Carrion Thrash, but in response the vicious Viashino was Unsummoned. Van Leeuwen struck again, Prost absorbing some damage with Saprolings but the lifetotals were now 15-9, and a turn later 20-9. He needed to find some way to break up the synergy of Van Leeuwen's Bant men, especially they were joined by a Sanctum Gargoyle and Yoked Plowbeast.

Finally, Prost revealed some power of his own – a Predator Dragon consumed a Saproling to become 6/6 and it was clearly a good job that the American had been forced to use his other tokens to stay alive lest that Dragon would have ended the game in one strike! As it was, the Dragon was sat back on defense and simply not as large as Van Leeuwen's triple-exalted 8/8 Yoked Plowbeast, so Prost was again playing to stay in the game with Necrogenesis tokens, adding a Carrion Thrash that was still dwarfed by Van Leeuwen's forces, then adding a Scourge Devil the next turn. But as Van Leeuwen wound up to strike again, Prost responded with a Jund Charm that removed two of Van Leeuwen's creatures – and crucially two of his Exalted bonuses as well. As only a 6/6 the Yoked Plowbeast would run into the Carrion Thrash and Scourge Devil and be killed.

The offensive was finally stopped, and it was seemingly Prost in control now, adding two tokens with Necrogenesis, then Devouring them with a Thunder-Thrash Elder to make it 7/7, while Van Leeuwen could only play more creatures that wouldn't help him break through – a Rhox War Monk and Waveskimmer Aven. At 17-9 down Prost had to be careful about when he could attack, but the tide seemed to be turning his way. But perhaps he wouldn't need to attack at all, as after double Armillary Sphere, Gift of the Gargantuan, and Panoramas, Van Leeuwen was down to only 8 cards in his deck!

Tentatively, Prost dipped his toes into the red zone, sending over his Thunder-Thrash Elder which Van Leeuwen double-blocked, losing his Yoked Plowbeast at last. Having made no impact on his opponent's lifetotal Prost continued to build up with Saproling Tokens and a Mosstodon, Van Leeuwen building up his own side with a Mosstodon of his own and a Sigiled Paladin. But could Van Leeuwen find a way to before he ran out of cards?

Finally, into the red zone with one card remaining, Van Leeuwen struck with his two flyers – a Waveskimmer Aven and a Sanctum Gargoyle. Prost's Predator Dragon could only block one of them - did Van Leeuwen have anything that would turn 2 damage into the 9 he needed to win?

Van Leeuwen cycled a Resounding Roar and the unblocked Sanctum Gargoyle grew to 8/8,but that wasn't enough... then the cycle effect drew Van Leeuwen his last card, which he knew HAD to be a Sigil Blessing! The Gargoyle grew again, this time to 11/11, and Van Leeuwen had won yet another match – this time by using every single card in his deck!

Arjan Van Leeuwen (NDL) 2 – 0 Andrejs Prost (USA)

The Emperor of Alara marched on, and was now almost certainly into his second successive Grand Prix Top-8!

Sunday, 3.40p.m.: Announcement - Player Disqualified Without Prize

by David Sutcliffe

This is never the news that we want to have to bring from these events, but unfortunately in this instance we have to announce that Marcio Carvalho, of Portugal was disqualified without prize following the second draft of Sunday here at Grand Prix-Rotterdam.

Head Judge, Kevin Desprez, explained what had happened:
“As with all top level events the judge team is extremely vigilant and looking for behaviour during the tournament that we would consider suspicious, including during the draft. In this case a player was seen acting in a suspicious way and the attention of this was brought to the Head Judge. The same behaviour was independently witnessed by three judges, including two senior judges, and as a result we felt we had no option but to disqualify the player from the tournament without prizes.”

And Kevin had advice for players worried that they might fall foul of the DCI in a future draft:
“The best way to avoid this happening to you is to stay focussed and concentrate on your draft, even between your picks. Make sure you only look at your own cards and your attention doesn't wander. And also make sure that your cards are only visible to yourself so that other players cannot be distracted by them. If you feel that the player next to you is holding his cards in a way that is letting you see them even though you don't want to, you should call a judge and he will let that player know to change his behaviour.”

Feature Match: Round 14 – Sebastian Thaler vs. Robert van Meedevort

by Tobias Henke

Robert van MeedevortBoth players possibly don't need any introduction, as they are no stranger to top 8 play. This time, though, they are playing for yet another top 8 appearance.

Game 1 began with a mulligan, a Cylian Elf, a Nacatl Outlander, and Dragon Fodder, all on van Meedevort's side. Meanwhile Thaler just cycled Jungle Weaver and finally on turn four summoned his first creature in the form of a 2/2 Aven Trailblazer. That died to Soul's Fire and more beatings commenced.

Thaler restocked with Aerie Mystics, but Quenchable Fire and another attack brought him down to one life. His next draw didn't offer any solutions, and that was it.

Sebastian Thaler 0 – 1 Robert van Meedevort

This time around Thaler had an early drop with Aven Squire, but van Meedevort was on the offense right from the beginning with Wild Nacatl. He didn't have a two-drop, though, but had to wait for turn three to cast Ember Weaver. Thaler had nothing either but on turn four summoned Fatestitcher. That one got dealt with by Magma Spray and replaced by Court Archers, which was also killed, this time by van Meedevort Soul's Fire. All the while van Meedevort was beating down with the Nacatl and 2/3 Ember Weaver. Finally, Thaler was forced to leave his Aven Squire and a newly-cast Welkin Guide back on defense; not the best defense mind you, but it still kept van Meedevort from attacking, opting to play Scattershot Archer instead.

Another Welkin Guide came down for Thaler, but he lost both his Welkin Guides, when they double-blocked Wild Nacatl and van Meedevort flashed Resounding Roar. Thaler drew more lands, and then it was all over.

Sebastian Thaler 0 – 2 Robert van Meedevort

Sunday, 4:22 p.m. – Drafting with Top 8 Competitor Alex Fanghaenel

by Tobias Henke

Alex FanghaenelAlex Fanghaenel just agreed on an intentional draw with fellow German player Aaron Brackmann to land both of them in the top 8. Time to take a look at the decks he has drafted today:

“In the first draft I opened Sigil of Distinction and took it over Magma Spray and Resounding Thunder. After that I was rather certain I wouldn't be taking any red. Luckily, not much of that was passed anyway,” said a happy Fanghaenel about the beginning of draft one. “Then I got Sigiled Paladin as my seventh pick, and my second Kathari Screecher as eigth.”

This was his deck from rounds 10 through 12:

Alex Fanghaenel

 
 
 
 
 

For the second draft of the day he took a seat at draft pod number one, directly opposite Shuuhei Nakamura...

“I first-picked Tower Gargoyle, not so much because I wanted to try and force Esper, but rather because I think Tower Gargyole is possibly the strongest uncommon in the set,” explained Fanghaenel. “Of course, a multi-colored first pick must be much stronger than any pick that leaves allows for more options further on... But Tower Gargoyle just is that much stronger.”

“Next, I took Deft Duelist out of an otherwise rather empty booster. And third pick... there was my second Tower Gargoyle,” he said, smiling. “ Afterwards, the main task simply was to figure out which we're going to be my main colors.”

“The third booster was ridiculous,” he told me and pointed out his Conflux cards. “I'm playing 13 of my 14 Conflux cards. I even got my fourth Darklit Gargoyle as the last but one card!”

Two Esperzoas as well? “Yes, I passed the first one I saw, because at that point I didn't have a lot of synergies. But I hoped it would come back, and I drafted two Kaleidostones to combo with it. Then I got one Esperzoa and the first one did come back, too! I was so lucky.”

And here it is, the lucky man's deck:

Podcast – Crunch Time

by Rich Hagon

147 made it to Day Two, which means that the crunch for Top 8 is tougher than ever. We meet with one of the lucky ones who have spared themselves final round heart failure with the luxury of an Intentional Draw, and another who needs to just keep on winning. The final Draft with Arjan van Leeuwen and Shuuhei Nakamura and lots more here on magicthegathering.com

Click Here to Download

 

Sunday, 4:55 p.m. – A Look on the Side Lines

by Daniel Ullenius

Robert WilbrandAs we all know, we are in the middle of the Extended PTQ season, and players from all over the world are fighting to get their spot on the Pro Tour. We also all know that Faeries, Elves, Zoo, and the Tezzerator are good decks, but here in Rotterdam two decks are currently doing well that don't quite fit in among that group.

Plasma Swans - Robert Wilbrand

 
 
 
 
 

If we turn our attention towards Robert Wilbrand's list, we see something slightly out of the ordinary. While Swans of Bryn Argoll and Chain of Plasma might not be an entirely unknown combo, this take on it is something we haven't seen before. The deck focuses on getting Swans into play as fast as possible, to be able to play Chain of Plasma targetting Swans, drawing the entire deck, and then play Chrome Moxes and removing Simian Spirit Guides into.... Lightning Storm?

According to the designer and pilot Robert Wilbrand, the deck has very good matchup against Zoo, Affinity and All-in Red. It seems that the matchups get worse the less creatures the opponent plays as the bad matchups are “regular” Storm decks and Tezzerator. Elves are good post sideboard, where Wilbrand has main Firespout, as well as sideboarded Leyline of Singularity.

Simon Englundh - Death Cloud

 
 
 
 
 

A list currently at 5-1 is Simon Englundhs Death Cloud-deck. If you recognize the list, it's because it is an exact copy of Asaf Shomer's 5-0 list from Worlds. The deck has many different game plans, from going aggro with Garruk Wildspeaker and Tarmogoyf, to controlling the board with various removal spells, to blowing up the board with Death Cloud while you have Kitchen Finks or Garruk still in play.

Those are two of the decks currently played here in Rotterdam. Some will see top 8 play, some wont. As the PTQ is only in its sixth round so far, much can still happen!

Feature Match: Round 15 – Michal Hebky (CZE) vs Antoine Ruel (FRA)

by David Sutcliffe

Michal Hebky Since we left Antoine Ruel in the early rounds of this morning he had continued to win, including wrapping up a tight match against Martin Juza of the Czech Republic in the last round, bolstered by sitting in his lucky chair in the feature match area. He was back again for the final round of the day to decide his slot in the Top-8, and with his French posterior once again resting on the lucky chair, and once again he was facing a Czech opponent – this time Michal Hebky. Was he going to make it 5 wins out of 5 for the chair, and 2 out of 2 against Czech opponents?

Ruel began his struggle to theTop-8 with 1/1 creatures – a Deathgreeter and some Dragon Fodder, while Hebky had 2/2s in mind in the shape of the vanilla Cylian Elf that traded with the Fodder tokens, and a Jund Battlemage. That gave him a slight edge as he generated Saproling tokens, but when Ruel summoned forth his Voracious Dragon the value of those 1/1 Saprolings was suddenly somewhat diminished.

Not to be outdone, Hebky brought his own Dragon to the table – a FlameBlast Dragon, that was a 5/5 to Ruel's 4/4, and firmly re-established control for Hebky. He followed that with a Branching BoltAntione Ruel and a blast from the FlameBlast Dragon to sweep away everything Antoine had aside from his Voracious Dragon. Which Antoine responded to by playing his own FlameBlast Dragon!

But it was too late, Hebky's FlameBlast had primacy - it's fiery breath dealt with Antoine's FlameBlast before it could block, and Ruel scooped up his permanents

Michal Hebky (CZE) 1 – 0 Antoine Ruel (FRA)

Four swamps seemed like a pretty poor start for Antoine Ruel, while Hebky had no such problems curving out a Cylian Elf and a pair of Sprouting Thrinax. In a blur the second game was over – Ruel was quite literally swamped in six turns, unable to cast a single spell with his suddenly mono-black mana base, and was out of Grand Prix Rotterdam.

The lucky chair had done Ruel well during the day, but had betrayed him at the last, and was Michal Hebky of the Czech Republic who would be in the Top-8 draft.

Michal Hebky (CZE) 2 – 0 Antoine Ruel (FRA)

Feature Match: Round 15 – Robert van Medevoort vs. Geoff Fletcher

by Daniel Ullenius

Michal Hebky The players were very calm and friendly, talking about van Medevoort's broken foot and how it occurred, even though much was at stake: the winner of this match would be preparing for some Top 8 play.

On the table, however, van Medevoort started out extremely aggressive with Wild Nacatl followed by Dragon Fodder. It soon became apparent that both players were Naya and that both players wanted to get the best of their opponents life totals before a stalemate could occur. Unfortunately for Fletcher, van Meedevoort was the only one who got damage in with his two 3/3 Wild Nacatls, and when Soul's Fire took out Fletcher's Naya Battlemage, leaving him with Worldheart Phoenix only, he quickly scooped up.

Robert van Medevoort 1 - 0 Geoff Fletcher

Michal HebkyThe second match started out a little slower than the first, as both players failed to find lands beyond the first two. Fletcher was first with land number three, which gave him a Naya Battlemage and a Vithian Stinger. Van Medevoort had Wild Nacatl and double Ember Weaver, but could not manage to give them first strike with a red creature. Even though he could not find a Mountain to turn his team into an army, constant beating still managed to take Fletcher to precious four life.

Fletcher played a Wild Leotau, the biggest creature on the board yet, but van Medevoort decided to start an arms race with a 8/8 Mycoloth. Fletcher fought back valiantly, but a topdecked Mountain from van Medevoort into Soul's Fire for eight was to much for Fletcher.

Robert Van Medevoort 2 - 0 Geoff Fletcher

Sunday, 6:22 p.m. – Top 8 Profiles

by Daniel Ullenius

Aaron Brackmann

Age: 24

Occupation: Poker Player

Tournament record this weekend, draft and Sealed:

Sealed: 8-0-1

Draft: 4 wins 2 IDs

What's been your best card?

Obelisk of Alara

Do you have a plan for the draft?

Having fun, draft what is open

Other Magic achievements:

2nd at Pro Tour Prague, Top 8 at GP Athens, Top 16 Pro Tour Yokohama

It's the Oscars tonight – what was your favorite movie of 2008?

Batman – The Dark Knight

Michal Hebky

Age: 21

Occupation: Student

Tournament Record this weekend, draft and Sealed:

Sealed: 9-0

Draft: 1-2, 3-0

What's been your best card?

Bull Cerodon

Do you have a plan for the draft?

Force 5C/Esper

Other Magic achievements:

2008 Czech nationals team
I taught Martin Juza how to play :-)

It's the Oscars tonight – what was your favorite movie of 2008?

I don't know.

Robert van Medevoort

Age: 22

Occupation: Student

Tournament record this weekend, draft and Sealed:

Sealed: 7-2

Draft: 6-0

What's been your best card?

First draft: Necrogenesis
Second draft: Wild Nacatl

Do you have a plan for the draft?

To pick the best card in the pack.

Other Magic achievements:

Team World Champion
2 GP Top 8 last year

It's the Oscars tonight – what was your favorite movie of 2008?

Wanted

Tomas Langer

Age: 32

Occupation: IT consultant

Tournament record this weekend, draft and Sealed:

Sealed: 8-1

Draft: 5-1

What's been your best card?

5/5 Indestructible [Spearbreaker Behemoth]

Do you have a plan for the draft?

To win:)

Other Magic achievements:

National champion 2007

It's the Oscars tonight – what was your favorite movie of 2008?

Batman – The Dark Knight

Shuuhei Nakamura

Age: 27

Occupation: Pilgrim?

Tournament record this weekend, draft and Sealed:

Sealed: 9-0

Draft: 2-1, 1-0-2

What's been your best card?

Armillary Sphere, Tower Gargoyle

Do you have a plan for the draft?

I'd like to play Planeswalkers.

Other Magic achievements:

Made 0-3 at Worlds 08, 1st draft

It's the Oscars tonight – what was your favorite movie of 2008?

Dark Knight

Arjan van Leeuwen

Age: 40

Occupation: IT

Tournament record this weekend, draft and Sealed:

Sealed: 8-1

Draft: 4-0-2

What's been your best card?

The 2/2 red flier that becomes 4/4 if played from the graveyard. [Worldheart Phoenix]

Do you have a plan for the draft?

Take the best cards.

Other Magic achievements:

Won GP Paris 2008.

It's the Oscars tonight – what was your favorite movie of 2008?

Dark Knight

Alexander Fanghaenel

Age: 28

Occupation: PhD Student

Tournament record this weekend, draft and Sealed:

Sealed: 8-1

Draft: 4-0 plus 2 Intentional Draws

What's been your best card?

Esperzoa (plus Kaleidostone)

Do you have a plan for the draft?

Being open for signals

Other Magic achievements:

Been to some Pro Tours, lots of fun.

It's the Oscars tonight – what was your favorite movie of 2008?

Didn't see them all, but those I've seen are all very good.

Reinhold Kohl

Age: 29

Occupation: Student

Tournament record this weekend, draft and Sealed:

Sealed: 8-1

Draft: 4-1-1

What's been your best card?

Jund Charm

Do you have a plan for the draft?

Having fun, going for quality in the first two boosters.

Other Magic achievements:

several PTQ Top8s (with my own mono-black Braids deck in Extended)
several German Nationals

It's the Oscars tonight – what was your favorite movie of 2008?

Batman – Dark Knight

Sunday, 7.07p.m.: The One Where Shuuhei Drafts Bant

by David Sutcliffe

 

Battlegrace Angel
After smooth sailing through two drafts I returned to watch Shuuhei Nakamura, the wandering Japanese pilgrim of Magic, to see how he fared in the Top-8 booster draft. He found himself seated to the left of both reigning Grand Prix champion Arjan Van Leeuwen, and Robert Van Medevoort of the Netherlands. That was a tough spot for Shuuhei to be in, having such seasoned players feeding him cards, but it was a challenge he was sure to rise to.

The first pack, first pick - so often a tough call for drafters – was in fact a simple task for Shuuhei as there was a Battlegrace Angel in the booster. She was comfortably better than any of the other cards, and also didn't force Shuuhei into any particular shard or combination of colours – from Naya to Esper he would want to play the Angel.

The second pick, however, was a decisive one. It was a straight decision between an Esper Battlemage, and a Knight of the Skyward Eye. That choice would decide whether leant towards Esper or Bant/Naya and 45 seconds can never be enough to make a decision of that magnitude. The two cards flicked back and forth in Shuuhei's hands until he settled, finally, hesitatingly, on the Knight of the Skyward Eye. That path seemed set, now where would it lead?

Viscera Dragger

Viscera Dragger was preferred to a Bant Obelisk
Topan Ascetic was chosen over a Cavern Thoctar or an Excommunicate
Sigiled Paladin was a perfect fit ahead of Resounding Roar and Resounding Silence fifth pick.
Naturalise came out of a weak sixth booster
Steward of Valeron at seven
Sunseed Nurturer was unexciting
Welkin Guide was a bit better
Yoked Plowbeast
Steelclad Serpent
Coma Veil
Deathgreeter

Well, after that booster everything seemed to be quickly a bit pear-shaped for Shuuhei. As he reviewed his choices there were only 6 cards he was happy to play with, and there would need to be a real change in fortunes for the second booster.

Resounding Roar was chosen ahead of a Bull Cerodon from the first pick of the second booster. Resounding Roar is a great combat trickbut hardly what you want to see as the best card for you in a booster.

 

Knight of the Skyward Eye
The second booster held a real shock for Shuuhei. Sharuum, The Hegemon. Shuuhei wanted to take the giant Mythic sphinx so badly and that choice in the first booster, between Knight of the Skyward Eye and Esper Battlemage, now seemed to be even more critical. As much as he wanted to, Shuuhei couldn't justify taking the sphinx and had to settle for a Qasali Ambusher – not a bad card by any means, but not a replacement for the enormous flying beatstick.

Sigil Blessing would help, though, from the third pack.
Excommunicate was taken over an Elvish Visionary at four
Rhox War Monk over a Rakeclaw Gargantuan
Steward of Valeron over a Courier's Capsule
Grixis Obelisk
Bant Battlemage over a third Steward of Valeron
Gift of the Gargantuan
Dispeller's Capsule
Sangrite Surge
Hindering Light was the last useful card he picked up

After two boosters things were looking better, with a solid seven or eight additions to Shuuhei's deck, but passing up Sharuum was obviously painful, a disappointment Shuuhei would have to put aside before he began the third booster.

Soul's Might, the powerful green draw spell, was an obvious pick to soothe Shuuhei's fears, and he took that ahead of a Rhox Meditant.
Might of Alara was the second pick, this time over a Rhox Bodyguard and Matca Rioters
Aerie Mystics were preferred to Aven Squire
Valeron Outlander over a second Aven Squire
Frontline Sage was taken at fifth pick, from a booster with no white or green for Shuuhei.
Parasitic Strix, again no white or green
Jhessian Balmgiver was another step into blue
Rhox Meditant was chosen ahead of Sacellum Archers, the first time in a while Shuuhei had a real choice to make
Rhox Meditant #2 arrived on the next booster
Manaforce Mace rounded out the useful picks for Shuuhei

Again, Shuuhei had been given enough solid picks in his colours to create a deck with, but had found himself with very few optimal picks, or even choices between optimal and suboptimal picks – instead he had been forced to hoover up anything that came past in his colours, and was also forced to pick up some blue spells along the way.

As I watched Shuuhei build his deck – a quick, if modest, GW deck with a splash of blue in that could well be able to punch through an unwary opponent – he seemed relatively unhappy. The first thing he said to me, tellingly, was “I should have taken the Esper Battlemage”. Considering the quality Esper cards that he wound up passing downfield through the course of the draft, it's hard to argue with that assessment. Right from the second pick Shuuhei found himself on a path through the draft that consistently offered him enough decent picks to keep him from changing strategy, but rarely the killer cards that he would have been hoping to see.

Sunday, 6.23p.m.: Extended PTQ – Top-8 Decklists

by David Sutcliffe

As well as the main event of Grand Prix-Rotterdam we have had a huge Extended format PTQ on Sunday. Knowing how many players are out there practicing and preparing for their own PTQs it seemed like a good idea to let you know what's winning, so here for you are the decks that have made it through the Swiss portion and into the Top-8.

Rogier Ysley

 
 
 
 
 

Gerwin Ruiterkamp

 
 
 
 
 

Riccardo Sacchi

 
 
 
 
 

Oyvind Harding

 
 
 
 
 

Alexander Klutz

 
 
 
 
 

Benjamin Vliegenthat

 
 
 
 
 

Ailadst Zidek

 
 
 
 
 

Quarter Finals – Aaron Brackmann vs. Shuuhei Nakamura

by Tobias Henke

Shuuhei Nakamura Of all the quarter finalists these two have the best pedigree, both with Pro Tour top 8 appearances to their name. Shuuhei Nakamura, the reigning Player of the Year, certainly has more of those than his opponent from Germany, Aaron Brackmann, and is the favorite to win this match and possibly even the event. On the other hand, talk has been his deck didn't turn out very well.

Brackmann won the die roll and led with Rip-Clan Crasher, followed by Hissing Iguanar, while Nakamura had a pair of Steward of Valeron. Brackmann didn't want to risk his Hissing Iguanar and the Japanese didn't want to block the Rip-Clan Crasher. The resulting damage race left lifetotals at 12 to 16 in Brackmann's favor, when his newly-summoned Nacatl Outlander traded against one of the Stewards (two more points of damage dealt to Nakamura, courtesy of Hissing Iguanar).

The Japanese went for Gift of the Gargantuan, whereas Brackmann did have more in the way of furthering his offenses. Sigil of Distinction for five boosted his Rip-Clan Crasher up to 6/6 and one turn later, his Hissing Iguanar turned 6/1 by means of Lightning Talons. Savage Beatdown ensued.

Aaron Brackmann 1 – 0 Shuuhei Nakamura

Both players sideboarded one card each. Nakamura brought in one Naturalize, while Brackmann replaced the possibly useless Molten Frame with Drumhunter.

Aaron BrackmannThe second game started with a mulligan for Brackmann, who once again started off things with Rip-Clan Crasher. This time, however, the Crasher experienced a temporaray setback at the hands of Nakamura's Excommunicate, and when it returned to play its advance was stopped rather more permanently by Nakamura's Qasali Ambusher.

Now Nakamura had the time to get his slower deck rolling with Gift of the Gargantuan. Brackmann on the other hand stumbled on lands and played Druid of the Anima. Then Nakamura dropped the bomb: his Battlegrace Angel.

It still took a few turns to end this game, and more creatures entered the board on both sides, Drumhunter for the German, Jhessian Balmgiver for the Japanese. But ultimately all of them seemed pretty pointless, as the Angel flew over to even the score.

Aaron Brackmann 1 – 1 Shuuhei Nakamura

Both players had their respective Conflux two-drop on turn two. Nacatl Outlander and Valeron Outlander. On turn three Brackmann went for Wild Nacatl, while Nakamura went without any play at all. The Outlanders traded and Brackmann laid Quietus Spike. Nakamura had Rhox War Monk, Brackmann Druid of the Anima.

Rhox Meditant joined Nakamura's Rhox band, whereas Brackman stumbled on lands and really needed his Druid of the Anima to cast Kranioceros next.

Shuuhei Nakamura

To make matters even worse for him, Nakamura cast Gift of the Gargantuan and revealed Battlegrace Angel to presumably make an appearance on the very next turn. (For a more dramatic experience, please imagine the murmur going through the crowd at this point.) He also played Jhessian Balmgiver and passed the turn back to Brackmann, who thought long and hard about a way to get out of this rather unfortunate situation.

He equipped Wild Nacatl with Quietus Spike and attacked with that and Kranioceros. Nakamura smoothly blocked the artifact-enhanced cat warrior, fell to 17, and got his Balmgiver shot down with Dark Temper.

Down came Battlegrace Angel and into the red zone went Rhox War Monk, dealing four points of damage and gaining eight points of life to set totals at 25 to 10. Brackmann had his Druid of the Anima carry the Quietus Spike, attacked with that as well as his Kranioceros, and brought Nakamura to nine. He produced a potential chump-blocker in the form of Thunder-Trash Elder (a lowly 1/1) and passed the turn, completely tapped out.

Nakamura didn't hesitate long to reveal Might of Alara and Resounding Roar. Battlegrace Angel, sized 11/11 now, was gracefully applying lethal damage.

Shuuhei Nakamura defeated Aaron Brackmann 2-1 and advanced to the semi finals.

Sunday, 9:13p.m.: Top-8 Decklists

by David Sutcliffe

Aaron Brackmann

 
 
 
 
 

Robert van Medevoort

 
 
 
 
 

Shuhei Nakamura

 
 
 
 
 

Alex Fanghänel

 
 
 
 
 

Michal Hebky