Day 1 Highlights of Grand Prix Amsterdam 2018

Posted in Event Coverage on March 31, 2018

By Tobi Henke

Team Limited has always been a fan favorite. For one thing, constructing the optimal three 40-card decks from twelve booster packs poses a unique puzzle to solve, and Magic players do love a challenge. Better yet, people don't have to fend for themselves at this, or even have to battle their friends; instead they can ride into battle alongside two of their best buddies. A problem shared is a problem halved, or split into thirds as may be the case, whereas a shared victory is quite possibly more than three times as enjoyable.

Historically, team tournaments have also always allowed the best to rise to the top, are famous for it in fact. The coverage archives are full of photos featuring famous trios hoisting winner trophies. Byes might be earned via pro status at other GPs, but at team events are wholly unnecessary. If every single member of a team has positive odds of winning their match, then the team's chance of winning a round is compounded into something even greater, after all.

A unique challenge. Bonding with friends. Quality carrying the day. With all of these features, it was no surprise to look at Grand Prix Amsterdam's player list and find a huge number of powerhouse teams in attendance:

Felipe Archangelo, Lucas Esper Berthoud, Walter Perez

Lukas Blohon, Christoffer Larsen, Martin Müller

Nico Bohny, Florian Krauer, Christoph Huber

Michael Bonde, (11) Andrea Mengucci, Thomas Enevoldsen

Lino Burgold, Simon Leigh, Florian Pils

Aaron Burns Lees, Mattia Rizzi, George Worsnop

Henry Channing, Kayure Patel, George Channing

Carmine D'Aniello, Matteo Moure, Adriano Moscato

Pierre Dagen, Gregory Cassini, Elie Pichon

Tina Dahl, Martin Dang, Alexander Pasgaard

Pedro De Diego, Francisco Sifuentes, Christian Calcano

Antonino De Rosa, Luca Casadei, Alessandro Portaro

(5) Javier Dominguez, (17) Márcio Carvalho, Marc Tobiasch

Mats Ellingsen, Florian Koch, Andreas Ganz

Ivan Floch, Thomas Hendriks, Frank Karsten

Montserrat Garcia Ayensa, Jan-Moritz Merkel, Jan Stadler

Tobias Gräfensteiner, Daniel Gräfensteiner, Christian Seibold

Kevin Grove, Niels Molle, Jan Ksandr

Julien Henry, Eliott Boussaud, Samuel Vuillot

Marcus Hensing, Kasper Nielsen, Anders Frederiksen

Arne Huschenbeth, Thoralf Severin, Jasper Grimmer

Christian Hüttenberger, Raphael Bender, Lars Rosengren

Elias Klocker, Carsten Linden, Immanuel Gerschenson

Rene Kraft, Tobias Radloff, Martin Zimmermann

Nikolas Labahn, Simon Görtzen, Dominik Görtzen

Antoine Lagarde, Louis Deltour, Remi Fortier

(23) Liu Yuchen, Zhang Yi, Qi Wentao

Marijn Lybaert, Christophe Gregoir, Thomas van der Paelt

Philip Messow, Fabien Li, Fabio Reinhardt

Gabriel Nassif, Amiel Tenenbaum, Raphaël Lévy

Branco Neirynck, Pascal Vieren, Peter Vieren

Raul Porojan, David Brucker, Helmut Summersberger

Johan Prinzell, Marcus Angelin, Elias Watsfeldt

Max Pritsch, Andreas Schraut, Fabian Thiele

Dominic Sanders, Ben Jones, Charles Eliatamby

Thiago Saporito, Thiago Rodrigues, Mateus Martins

Karl Sarap, Hannes Kerem, Viktors Kazanskis

Ryan Saxe, Zac Hill, Gaudenis Vidugiris

Leo Schulhof, Jeremy Berthoux, Pierre Sommen

Geoffrey Siron, Vincent Lemoine, Davy Loeb

Petr Sochůrek, (12) Martin Jůza, (24) Grzegorz Kowalski

Laurent Stihle, Julien Stihle, Loïc Le Briand

Peter Ward, Tom Martell, Sam Rolph

Sarah Zyla, (25) Alexander Hayne, Ondřej Stráský

These 44 teams alone included 43 different Grand Prix champions, eleven Pro Tour champions, four members of the Hall of Fame, and at least four Team World Champions. Combined, their career stats came to 78 PT Top 8s and 352 GP Top 8s, and there was a good chance the latter number would increase before the weekend was done.

The list could go on and on; I didn't even get to check all the van de Veens, van den Boogards, van der Vegts, van der Lindens, van Medevoorts, and so on. Neither was it a surprise that the full player list did indeed go on and on. To have a whopping 522 teams in the running, 1,566 players, was but another testament to the popularity of Team Limited.

What We Will Miss About Ixalan Block

Ixalan Block had given us some memorial battles, including the most epic clash of them all: Pirates versus Dinosaurs. Alas, all things come to an end, and Grand Prix Amsterdam was the block's farewell party, the final premier event to feature it in Limited. I asked around what about Ixalan people would miss ...

Antonino De Rosa

Antonino De Rosa, champion of four GPs and one U.S. Nationals, said he was a big fan of explore. "I just think it's a great Limited mechanic. It allows you to run a little fewer lands and improves game play in general. I always like abilities that let you fiddle with your draw."

Two-time GP semifinalist Thoralf Severin said he was going to miss Sailor of Means and Sun-Crested Pterodon most of all. "Especially with Rivals, there definitely were some tricky things to figure out. For example, it wasn't immediately apparent just how important Sailor of Means would be, and when I first said I liked the 2/5 flier, people laughed at me.

Thoralf "Toffel" Severin

"I will also miss those crazy Treasure decks that feature all five mana symbols," Severin continued. "The moment when you realize that Zacama, Primal Calamity can actually be a good card ... Discoveries like that are just awesome. For me that moment came a little too late, actually, and then I never got another chance to draft Zacama again. That would be my biggest miss—missing out on casting Zacama."

2014 World Magic Cup winner Martin Müller, meanwhile, was only half serious when he said, "I'm so going to miss Jade Guardian plus One With the Wind. That was great—at least when I had it."

Teammates Martin Müller, Christoffer Larsen, and Lukas Blohon

At this point one of his teammates this weekend, eight-time GP Top 8er Christoffer Larsen, cut in with: "I will miss all the people whining about Ixalan Limited. I drafted the format more than most, and I don't think it was bad."

"It definitely improved a lot with Rivals of Ixalan," Müller admitted, and their third, Pro Tour Eldritch Moon champion Lukas Blohon, agreed that it certainly was better than some people claimed.

Henry Guille added an all-too-rarely appreciated judge's perspective: "Ascend gave us an interesting problem to think about with regards to how we handle public information. The crux is: It's possible for a player to have the City's Blessing and not realize it, and then they might be 'lying' without actually lying."

Henry Guille

(In fact, the exact thing that Guille mentioned did become the subject of a minor judge investigation later in the day, in Round 8, when Pro Tour M15 champion Ivan Floch was fighting for a perfect record with France's Kevin Demange. Floch had overlooked a pair of Luminous Bonds which were under his control but on Demange's side of the battlefield. "So I said I didn't have the City's Blessing when I thought I didn't but did in fact have it," Floch explained. Luckily, it was discovered early enough, and the judges were able to sort everything out with no relevant penalty.)

When I asked Immanuel Gerschenson, the two-time GP winner chuckled. "I'm kinda going to miss Tetzimoc, Primal Death. I had the card in all of my Sealed Decks until today, and I never encountered it on the opponent's side.

"And it might not even be as unfair as people think it is. At Grand Prix London, I kept a record of it, and I would have won more of my games if I had drawn Golden Demise instead. Of course, my deck back then had Golden Demise as well," Gerschenson added wistfully, his eyes lightning up with the memory.

Immanuel Gerschenson showing off his favorite sequence of plays

Gerschenson clearly had a thing for big Dinosaurs. "I hope I'm not going to miss my chance to cast a turn-three Ghalta, Primal Hunger today." He tried to make me guess how that might even be possible, before he revealed his deck's Kinjalli's Caller and double Wayward Swordtooth. "I had Ghalta out by turn four already, but I really want to get there on turn three. If you hear a big commotion later in the day, you'll know I succeeded."

Jasper Grimmer, veteran of three Grand Prix Top 8s so far, admitted to being a big fan of Merfolk. "I'm one of those inveterate aggro drafters who actually loved to draft the degenerate tribal decks: Vampires and particularly Merfolk.

Jasper Grimmer

"I miss the days of triple-Ixalan draft, when it was so much easier to get River Heralds' Boon. My Sealed Deck today is something like a Best-of-Merfolk, though," Grimmer said with the broadest of smiles and showed off not only River Heralds' Boon but Hadana's Climb and Herald of Secret Streams too!

Another Kind of Dinosaur

Team tournaments had always been famous for bringing out semi-retired old-school players, often from far-away places too, and Grand Prix Amsterdam was no different. For instance, I was surprised to find one Tom Martell from the United States on the player list. Martell had won three GPs and one Pro Tour between 2012 and 2015, but hadn't been very active for a while now.

Tom Martell flanked by teammates Peter Ward (on Martell's right) and Sam Rolph (on his left)

In the morning, Martell tweeted, "Let's see if I remember how to do this..." Evidently he did, at least well enough for his team to qualify for Day 2 early, winning six of their first seven rounds.

Meanwhile, the Round 6 feature match had multiple members of the old guard on either side ...

Ryan Saxe, Zac Hill, and Gaudenis Vidugiris vs. Geoffrey Siron, Vincent Lemoine, and Davy Loeb

Zac Hill, for instance, could boast a Pro Tour Top 8 from 2009, while Gaudenis Vidugiris had reached Top 8s at the Pro Tour in 2011 and 2012. However, the team from the United States lost a close battle against Geoffrey Siron, a PT champion in 2005, and Vincent Lemoine, a PT semifinalist in 2011.

The Undefeated

After eight rounds, the original field of 522 was reduced to a mere 72. Leading the charge into the second day were two teams with a pristine records of 8-0. Learn more about them, their decks, and their day below!

Manu Dewulf, Bram Meulders, and Jérôme Bastogne (left to right)

Name: Manu (Emmanuel) Dewulf

Age: 27

Occupation: Doctor

Hometown: Antwerp, Belgium

Previous Magic accomplishments:

Not giving up. I usually make Day, but never get there.

What was the best card in your Sealed Deck and what was your individual record?

Warkite Marauder. 2-5 with one unfinished. I played an average White-Blue Fliers deck.

What was the most exciting/close/cool game you played today? What happened?

The two matches I won both ended up mattering. The one against Javier Dominguez was the closes, where he put me at 1 and I could just swing for lethal.

Manu Dewulf's White-Blue (A)

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Name: Bram Meulders

Age: 29

Occupation: Call center

Hometown: Leuven, Belgium

Previous Magic accomplishments:

13-2, ninth place at Grand Prix Kyoto.

What was the best card in your Sealed Deck and what was your individual record?

Angrath, the Flame-Chained, although he had some competition ...

What was the most exciting/close/cool game you played today? What happened?

My deck was stacked. Turn four Angrath on the play is pretty nice.

Bram Meulders's Blue-Black-Red (B)

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Name: Jérôme Bastogne (De la suerte)

Age: 26

Occupation: Consultant

Hometown: Waterloo, Belgium

Previous Magic accomplishments:

2016 World Magic Cup finals.

What was the best card in your Sealed Deck and what was your individual record?

Legion Conquistador.

What was the most exciting/close/cool game you played today? What happened?

Turn five Zetalpa, Primal Dawn on the play, when my opponent was stuck on two lands!

Jérôme Bastogne's Red-Green-White (C)

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Ivan Floch, Thomas Hendriks, and Frank Karsten (left to right)

Name: Ivan Floch

Age: 32

Occupation: Professional tourist

Hometown: Bratislava, Slovakia

Previous Magic accomplishments:

Becoming friends with Ondřej Stráský.

What was the best card in your Sealed Deck and what was your individual record?

No best card, it was a Vampire team effort.

What was the most exciting/close/cool game you played today? What happened?

When I was down a game and Zacama, Primal Calamity was making a quick work of my creatures and my teammates informed me they both won.

Ivan Floch's White-Black (A)

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Name: Thomas Hendriks

Age: 25

Occupation: Student

Hometown: Leiden, the Netherlands

Previous Magic accomplishments:

One PT Top 8, three GP Top 8s, having a brother that looks like Ondřej Stráský.

What was the best card in your Sealed Deck and what was your individual record?

Sunbird's Invocation! Many cards out of one card is good. 5-3 maybe?

What was the most exciting/close/cool game you played today? What happened?

Games I won were usually exciting because I locked the ground and won with value—Sunbird's Invocation or big Dinos like Trapjaw Tyranr with Forerunner of the Empire. Games I lost, I just died.

Thomas Hendriks's Red-White (B)

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Name: Frank Karsten

Age: 33

Occupation: Mathematician, writer for Channel Fireball

Hometown: Eindhoven, the Netherlands

Previous Magic accomplishments:

Taking Ondřej Stráský to Easter Island.

What was the best card in your Sealed Deck and what was your individual record?

Dreamcaller Siren in Green-Blue Ixalan Zoo. I believe I was 8-0 but individual records don't really matter.

What was the most exciting/close/cool game you played today? What happened?

I didn't play any particularly close games—most were just close damage races—but I do remember how Thomas pointed out relevant interactions non-stop throughout the day. Couldn't have done it without him!

Frank Karsten's Green-Blue (C)

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