1,818 players had entered the tournament in the morning. After nine grueling rounds of Modern in the scorching heat of the French summer, but six of them remained with a perfect record of 9-0 still intact.
The first one to cross the finish line was none other than gold-level pro player Thomas Hendriks. The 24-year-old from Leiden in the Netherlands was playing Death's Shadow Aggro and beat fellow Dutchman Kevin Grove.
"It's the first time I went 9-0 at a Grand Prix," said Hendriks. "I only have one Grand Prix Top 8 too. Now I'm going for a second!"
A few minutes later, Alessandro Casamenti joined Hendriks in the elite 9-0 club. When asked for his previous Magic accomplishments, the 20-year-old from Forlì, Italy answered, "I won a World Magic Cup Qualifier this year. In Modern. Playing the same deck."
That he described as just a regular Ad Nauseam deck, no special tech or anything. It did work well for him in any case, at times spectacularly so. Casamenti shared one story of casting Spoils of the Vault and not losing a single life to it.
The match at Table 3 was an all-German clash between Artie Heinrich and Manuel Menges. Menges was running a conventional Affinity list while Heinrich was running a very unconventional red-green land destruction brew. Remember what Mwonvuli Acid-Moss does? Anyone?
This time, conventional won out as the robots ruthlessly crushed Heinrich 2-1. In game one Heinrich failed to reach 6 mana with Wurmcoil Engine and Inferno Titan in hand. For the following games it looked like his sideboard might be a trump as Creeping Corrosion blew up Menges's world to tie the match. It looked like the third game would go the same way as a flurry of Sudden Shocks and Ancient Grudges turned Menges first couple of robots to scrap. But then Heinrich drew a few too many lands and a third Arcbound Ravager stayed operative long enough to send Menges into Day 2 undefeated.
Similarly, Table 5 was an all-Danish battle. It was even more local than that as Michael Bonde and Troels Munk both hail from the same town and play at the same game store. Bonde is the more accomplished of the two with two previous Grand Prix Top 8s and it was his Jund deck that emerged victorious over Munk's Grixis Control deck.
The first game saw Bonde grind his way through Munk's Cryptic Commands with Liliana of the Veil and Dark Confidant. Games two and three were affected by mulligans as Bonde went to five and was buried under card advantage in game two, while the same thing happened to Munk in the decider. His Grixis Control deck did go down fighting, but a Raging Ravine had done too much damage and a Dark Confidant followed up to secure Bonde his undefeated 9-0 record.
Meanwhile, Thomas van der Paelt and his Elves had defeated Piet Gerecke's Jund. When asked for his previous Magic accomplishments van der Paelt smiled and replied, "Top 8 at the last GP Lille …"
So he was coming back for seconds? The 29-year-old from Ghent, Belgium, didn't want to jinx anything, saying he would continue to take the tournament "one match at a time." Although there was a lot on the line for van der Paelt. "I'm part of a team with lots of more accomplished Belgian players, like Pascal Vieren for example. We haven't decided on a name yet, but we have a little competition going. The first person who makes another GP Top 8 gets to pick the name."
Finally, Mike Boulinguiez also went 9-0. Impressively, the 23-year-old from nearby Paris had actually never lost a match at a Grand Prix so far, as this was his first. But Boulinguiez clearly knew what he was doing.
"My deck is a mix of Scapeshift and Through the Breach which was a good fit for the metagame," he explained. He also recounted a sweet game play story about casting Lightning Bolt on his opponent's Reality Smasher, responding with Summoner's Pact, and finding Obstinate Baloth!
We certainly would be seeing more of these six players tomorrow. Congratulations!