Grand Prix Montreal 2011

All weekend long you could hear people whispering. "How's Hoaen doing?" "Did Richie win that match?""I can't believe how badly Rich beat that guy."

1,054 players descended upon Montreal to play in the final major Magic 2012 Limited event before Innistrad hits the scene. After nine rounds of Sealed and six rounds of Draft that field was culled to just 8 players.

German pro Lino Burgold made his intercontinental trip a success, Alex West finally broke his Top 8 curse, Magic Online superstars Reid Duke and Matt Costa continued to prove that practice pays off as they each posted their second Grand Prix Top 8s of the season. Michael Holden and Canadians Andrew Noworaj and Alex Hayne rounded out the Top 8.

After beating Limited standout Matt Costa in the Quarterfinals, Hoaen steamrolled past Lino Burgold before defeating his "archnemesis" Alex Hayne in the Finals.

Congratulations to Rich Hoaen, your Grand Prix Montreal Champion!



(1) Lino Burgold

(8) Reid Duke

(4) Matthew Costa

(5) Richard Hoaen

(2) Alexander West

(7) Andrew Noworaj

(3) Alexander Hayne

(6) Michael Holden


Lino Burgold 2-1

Richard Hoaen 2-0

Andrew Noworaj 2-1

Alexander Hayne 2-1


Richard Hoaen 2-0

Alex Hayne 2-1


Richard Hoaen 2-0


pairings, results, standings


15 14 13 12 11 10


15 14 13 12 11 10


15 14 13 12 11 10

Elspeth Bracket


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Sorin Bracket


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

What is your favorite Magic 2012 archetype and why?
Phantasmal Bear Aggro is a ton of fun. Black-Red is also very good, but highly contested.
Where do you most often play Friday Night Magic?
Wizard's Tower Barrhaven in Ottawa
How and with whom did you prepare for this event?
With the Ottawa, Montreal & Toronto players prior to (and after) Canadian Nationals. Thanks to everyone for me making me work for my wins!
Magic 2012 is generally considered an aggressive format. From what you've seen so far, do you think Innistrad will be more aggressive or less aggressive than Magic 2012?
Hopefully less aggressive, the transform cards look interesting.
Face to Face Games.
How and with whom did you prepare for this event?
Team Mana Deprived, and other good Canadian players.
Magic 2012 is generally considered an aggressive format. From what you've seen so far, do you think Innistrad will be more aggressive or less aggressive than Magic 2012?
Less aggressive since there aren't: cards like Tormented Soul, and Goblin Fireslinger that ping away, or the bloodthirst mechanic.

Matthew Costa

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Reid Duke

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Alexander Hayne

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Sorcery (2)
1 Ponder 1 Overrun
Instant (4)
1 Cancel 1 Frost Breath 1 Negate 1 Unsummon
Enchantment (2)
1 Mind Control 1 Arachnus Web
Land (17)
9 Forest 8 Island
Other (1)
1 Aether Adept
40 Cards

Rich Hoaen

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Michael Holden

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Lino Burgold

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Andrew Noworaj

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Alexander West

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Quarterfinal - Alexander Hayne vs. Michael Holden

by Bill Stark
Michael Holden an Alexander Hayne try to stay alive in Montreal.

The Top 8 of Grand Prix Montreal featured a number of names coverage followers might recognize: Richard Hoaen, Alex West, Lino Burgold. Two players who were looking to make their names for themselves? Alex Hayne and Mike Holden, who naturally found themselves paired against one another.

Game One

Alex started the match off with a mulligan but was able to accelerate early with a Birds of Paradise. His opponent had Garruk's Companion and wasted no time in turning it sideways before following up with a second copy of the 3/2. Unfortunately for Mike, that was all he had on his third turn; there was no third land for the Ohio resident and he was banking on Companion beatdown.

That was good news for Alex Hayne, who cast Giant Spider and looked to stabilize on the ground. He added Aven Fleetwing, but Mike managed to draw into some land and traded Titanic Growth, Stave Off, and a Garruk's Companion for both of his opponent's creatures and an Unsummon. That put him ahead on the battlefield, but an Arachnus Web nullified his last 3/2 trampler.

A Llanowar Elves for Mike allowed him to cast Greater Basilisk, and he followed that up with Benalish Cavalry. Hayne was looking to be in bad shape with only four lands and a Birds of Paradise on the table and facing the horde of threats headed his way, he decided to concede after seeing the next card on top of his library.

Michael Holden 1, Alexander Hayne 0

Game Two

Mimicking Japanese pro Tomoharu Saito, Alex Hayne tried to refocus his concentration with some slaps to his own face in between games. The trick worked, at least in forcing his opponent to open on a mulligan after he'd had to start down a card the game prior. Hayne wasted no time coming out of the gates with a Phantasmal Bear on his first turn, then an Azure Mage the turn after. His opponent played a Plains...and then nothing, drawing and passing on the second turn.

Alex's pace of play picked up just slightly, indicating excitement at his opponent's mana screwed condition, but after casting a Ponder he revealed he too was light on land. He failed to play a third, and had to pass after attacking for 4. His opponent found a second source of mana and used Mighty Leap to kill the illusionary Bear, but a Merfolk Looter for Hayne promised to put him far ahead if given the time to go active.

Both players continued struggling with mana and Hayne actually started attacking with the Looter. He then cast an Aven Fleetwing with his opponent on 7 and still stuck on two lands and that put him over the top; Holden conceded without ever having drawn a third land.

Michael Holden 1, Alexander Hayne 1

Game Three

"Wow," Alex said about the second game while preparing for the third.

Both players had lands in the second game and Michael used a Gideon's Lawkeeper to trade with Azure Mage from his Opponent. He followed up with Cudgel Troll to begin attacking while Hayne had Giant Spider and Æther Adept. Benalish Cavalry for Michael wasn't enough to scare his opponent into not attacking and we had a real battle of the red zone.

Acidic Slime took out Michael Holden's lone source of white mana, stranding two cards in his hand. It also put him down to just three total lands on the battlefield, all Forests, and stranded two more cards. He used a Rampant Growth to call forth a replacement Plains but opted to keep his Cudgel Troll home rather than send it to the red zone. His Cavalry? That did get in, dealing 3 as Alex opted not to block with his Slime.

A second Æther Adept from Hayne cost his opponent his Troll and really hurt Michael's board position. He had to waste a turn re-casting the 4/3 while his opponent cast a Greater Basilisk and continued being able to put pressure on. That put the scores at 13-7 in Hayne's favor, but he was done casting attackers for the moment.

Using a brief reprieve to catch back up, Michael Holden cast Acidic Slime to take out a Forest. When Alex drew the following turn, however, he nearly hopped out of his seat. His topdeck? Overrun. He revealed it and Michael nodded.

"Nice game," he said, conceding.

Alex Hayne 2, Michael Holden 1

Quarterfinal - Lino Burgold vs. Reid Duke

by Bill Stark
American Reid Duke (L) faces German Lino Burgold.

Lino Burgold is a former Rookie of the Year and one of a handful of European players who came to Grand Prix Montreal after a long trip that included stops in Pittsburgh for a Grand Prix, Philadelphia for a Pro Tour, and finally Montreal. Across the table from him sat Reid Duke, a former Magic Online Championship Series competitor who was looking to make his name on the international competition circuits.

Game One

Reid had the first spell of the match in the form of a Blood Seeker while Lino accelerated his mana using Manalith. He used the extra mana to cast Amphin Cutthroat, slowing his opponent's assault slightly. A Phantasmal Dragon for the American, Duke, was destroyed after being targeted by Unsummon from his opponent. Burgold followed up his "removal" spell with a Chasm Drake, but each creature he cast cost him a life as his opponent was laser accurate with the Blood Seeker triggers. Ice Cage shut off the Drake and Reid cast Child of Night.

The two players worked on building up an advantage on the battlefield, Reid casting a Rusted Sentinel while his opponent cast Crown of Empires. The artifact allowed Lino to free his own Chasm Drake from the confines of the Ice Cage, and he went to the skies with both the Drake and his Amphin Cutthroat, giving the 2/4 flying each time it attacked.

Vengeful Pharaoh entered the battlefield for Burgold and things started looking very bad for his opponent. Reid used Unsummon to send the Pharaoh back to its owner's hand, but lost his Child of Night to a Wring Flesh. He did find a Drifting Shade to start pushing in the sky or playing defense against his opponent's attackers, but Lino was able to get a Harbor Serpent on the battlefield to help play defense.

Rusted Sentinel and Sorin's Thirst traded for the 5/5 Serpent, and Reid's team had managed to stabilize a bit against his opponent's. The life totals were tied at 10-10, and each player had two cards in hand. Unfortunately for the American, he didn't have an answer to the Chasm Drake and its flying abilities were causing a lot of stress for his life total. His Drifting Shade was locked down by Crown of Empires and when the Drake took to the skies alongside a re-cast Vengeful Pharaoh, Reid conceded.

Lino Burgold 1, Reid Duke 0

Game Two

Child of Night led the way for Reid Duke in the second as he looked to even the match and stay alive in the tournament. He didn't have a play for the third turn but his opponent did, casting Warpath Ghoul. The two creatures traded and while Burgold accelerated his mana with Manalith his opponent cast Zombie Goliath and Aven Fleetwing.

A Drifting Shade for the German player gave him a potential blocker against his opponent's Fleetwing, but it forced him to tap out and left the creature at 1/1 with no possibility of being pumped. That meant Reid Duke's Wring Flesh was enough to take the creature out and he followed up with Phantasmal Dragon after sending his team in for 6. The Dragon was a big threat, but anything that could target it was enough to take it out; did Lino have something for the 5/5?

He did, casting Crown of Empires and "tapping" the Dragon to the graveyard. But that didn't mean he was in the clear. His opponent, after all, still had the Zombie Goliath and Aven Fleetwing plus a Phantasmal Image that had copied the Fleetwing. That put Lino in a very tight spot, and he cast Mind Rot. That forced his opponent to discard the final card in his hand, but on 4 life Burgold was simply fishing for information. He conceded after his opponent revealed the card and they headed to the third game.

Lino Burgold 1, Reid Duke 1

Game Three

After agonizing over his hand, Reid Duke opted to take a mulligan though it seemed to physically pain him to do so. He kept his six-card hand, but began missing land drops early after a Blood Seeker while his opponent once again accelerated with Manalith. Lino used his bounty of mana to cast a Divination and when his opponent was ready with Negate the German pro had more than enough to Mana Leak back, forcing his sorcery through and drawing two.

Finally hitting a third source of mana Reid undid the damage from his opponent's spell by casting Mind Rot. He still only had the Blood Seeker for creatures, however, and the 1/1 was quickly outclassed by a Harbor Serpent. He locked the 5/5 down with an Ice Cage and continued attacking, adding Phantasmal Bear to his team.

Merfolk Looter and Crown of Empires were the followups Lino was able to make, the artifact able to free his Serpent of its Ice Cage. He fell to 12 from an attack out of his opponent, however, and wasn't out of the woods despite having more than double the mana his opponent did. He used his Merfolk Looter to dig for action with which to spend his mana on but mustered up a mere Warpath Ghoul for the turn.

Down but not out, Reid Duke's focus remained incredibly sharp as he worked on figuring out a plan to come out from under his mana screw. He hit every Blood Seeker trigger without hesitation and cast a Drifting Shade, but each time he cast something his opponent cast something that seemed bigger. To answer the Shade Lino had Devouring Swarm, but lost his Serpent to a combination of Unsummon and Distress from Duke.

Crown of Empires locked down Drifting Shade and Lino continued working the red zone. Despite losing his Serpent, he was able to work the score to 10-7 in his favor. That allowed him to attack for 6 dropping Reid to 1. It looked like Duke would just barely survive the turn, but his opponent had other plans. He revealed a Consume Spirit for exactly 1 and Reid knew his run was at an end.

"Good luck for the rest," the American said, extending his hand in defeat.

Lino Burgold 2, Reid Duke 1

Quarterfinal - Alex West vs. Andrew Noworaj

by Steve Sadin

If you can think of a way that a player could reasonably miss Top 8 at a Grand Prix despite going into the last round with an X-2 record, then you've probably just thought up a scenario that's broken Alex West's heart. West has missed the Top 8 on tiebreakers, gotten paired down and lost when he only needed a draw to lock up his spot, chosen to play and lost when he could have gotten in with.

Alex West no doubt started having nightmarish flashbacks when he was forced to play out his final round against Rookie of the Year contender Matthias hunt – the players split the first two games, but a quick uncontested Inferno Titan in game three allowed West to finally break his Top 8 curse.

Alex West's Top 8 curse is broken!

Former Canadian Nationals Top 8 competitor Andrew Noworaj didn't have to sweat as much as West did, as he was at the top of the standings almost all weekend – going 9-0 on Day One, and losing only a single draft match today.


Game One

West had a fairly aggressive start with Tormented Soul, and a Coral Merfolk, but it was Noworaj who got off to an early lead with Stormfront Pegasus, and a Benalish Veteran.

Cancel stopped Noworaj's Devouring Swarm, and a Doom Blade took out the Stormfront Pegasus – but Noworaj was able to replace his pegasus with a Peregrine Griffin, and a Tormented Soul.

Play slowed down for a while after that, but West was never able to find a permanent answer to Noworaj's evasion creatures, and eventually got pecked to death by them.

Noworaj 1 – West 0


Game Two

West opened with a Tormented Soul what he described as a "very timely" turn three Phantasmal Bear, and a bloodthirsted Bloodrage Vampire on turn four.

Noworaj had a turn three Griffin Sentinel, and that along with a Mighty Leap allowed him to take down West's 4/2 Bloodrage Vampire – but a Gravedigger brought it right back to West's hand.

Onyx Mage looked like it might make a good blocker for Noworaj, but when his Peregrine Griffin got countered by Mana Leak, he could only sit and watch as Frost Breath allowed West to even the match up at one game a piece.

Noworaj 1 – West 1


Game Three

West again had an aggressive start with Phantasmal Bear, and Duskhunter Bat, while Noworaj mulliganed and had a Stormfront Pegasus, and a Celestial Purge to deal with his opponent's flier, but no third land.

No third land? No problem!

Mighty Leap took out the Phantasmal Bear, and West spent his turn cycle casting a Tormented Soul, and using a Mana Leak to counter Griffin Sentinel.

West looked at the two Cancels in his hand, but chose to cast Coral Merfolk figuring that he was unlikely to win if he didn't apply some immediate pressure on his opponent.

Noworaj took advantage of the fact that his opponent was tapped out, and used Dark Favor to make his Stormfront Pegasus into a 5/2. Three attacks later, West was dead.

Andrew Noworaj 2 – Alex West 1

Andrew Noworaj advances to the Semifinals where he will face fellow Canadian Alex Hayne.

Quarterfinal - Rich Hoaen vs. Matt Costa

by Steve Sadin

During 2005-2007, Canadian legend Rich Hoaen was on the short list of players who would get mentioned when discussing the best limited player in the world. Some time has passed since Hoaen has made his living as a professional Magic player, but this weekend he's proven that he is still a force to be reckoned with at any tournament he chooses to attend.

While he might not be a household name yet, 19 year old Matt Costa is a member of a new generation of limited experts who have honed their skills by drafting constantly on Magic Online. Costa has posted Top 8 finishes at the last two North American limited Grand Prixs, and given how well he's been playing recently, you shouldn't be surprised if he's also in the Top 8 of the next two limited Grand Prixs that he plays in.


Game One

Costa went first and opened on Elite Vanguard, Grand Abolisher, and Goblin Piker. Hoaen's turn three Blood Ogre blocked, Grand Abolisher but Stave Off saved it and the rest of the attack left Hoaen on 10.

Fireball took out Elite Vanguard, and Goblin Piker, and Costa's bloodthirsted Gorehorn Minotaurs died to a Doom Blade. Warpath Ghoul blocked a hasty Crimson Mage, but Hoaen still fell to 6 from his opponent's Grand Abolisher.

Matt Costa enjoying his second consecutive limited Grand Prix Top 8

With his back against the wall, Hoaen cast a Bonebreaker Giant to attempt to stabilize. And stabilize it did.

After a blazing fast start, Costa had ran out of gas, and had to pass his turn with no play. Hoaen attacked with his Bonebreaker Giant, and then cast a 4/4 Vampire Outcasts.

Costa again passed his turn with no play, and put his Grand Abolisher in front of Vampire Outcasts. Hoaen further built up his board with a 5/5 Gorehorn Minotaur, and even though Costa had the Incinerate to deal with Hoaen's vampire – he could do nothing to stop the 5/5 Gorehorn Minotaur.

A couple of attacks steps later, and the players were off to game two before the rest of the Top 8 had resolved their mulligans.

Hoaen 1 – Costa 0

Game Two

Hoaen playing in his sixth Grand Prix Top 8

Costa's turn two Stormfront Pegasus was matched by Hoaen's Blood Seeker. Costa had no turn three play, but Hoaen missed his third land drop, and attempted to Doom Blade the Stormfront Pegasus. Costa used Stave Off to save his 2/1 flier, but had no other creatures to take advantage of the fact that his opponent was missing land drops.

Hoaen started drawing lands before Costa started drawing spells, and Shocked away his opponent's Stormfront Pegasus, before summoning a bloodthirsted Gorehorn Minotaurs a turn later.

Costa passed another turn with no play, giving Hoaen an opportunity to hit him for 6 damage. Respecting the possibility that Costa was holding a Day of Judgment, Hoaen decided not to cast any more creatures and passed the turn to the spell light Costa.

With no better options, Costa used a Shock, and an Incinerate to deal with Hoaen's 5/5 – but a Warpath Ghoul, and a Goblin Fireslinger put Costa under a lot of pressure.

Serra Angel looked like it might give Costa some breathing room, but Lightning Elemental and an attack with his team later and Costa was on a mere 4 life.

A couple of Goblin Fireslingers, and a Shock later and Hoaen had advanced to the Semifinals!

Rich Hoaen 2 – Matt Costa 0

Rich Hoaen advances to the Semifinals!

Semifinal - Richard Hoaen vs. Lino Burgold

by Bill Stark

Considered by many to be one of the top Limited players of all time, Richard Hoaen had shaken off a bit of rust to find himself in the Top 8 of Grand Prix Montreal. It was his home country and he found himself playing against a German opponent in the Semifinals. That man? Lino Burgold, a former Rookie of the Year who had dispatched Reid Duke in the Quarterfinals.

Lino Burgold (L) tries to steal the title from Canadian Richard Hoaen.

Game One

"What, no one-drop?" Lino teased his opponent as they got the first game underway. His opponent's deck was rumored to be aggressive but you couldn't tell from the first four turns as Rich failed to cast a single spell. His opponent had Crown of Empires and Child of Night but he lost them in turn to Manic Vandal and Shock. Apparently that was all Rich needed to explode onto the battlefield dropping Bonebreaker Giant, Goblin Fireslinger, and Blood Ogre to the table but the Canadian was unable to attack into Harbor Serpent and Phantasmal Bear from his opponent.

With the game stalled, Hoaen worked on his opponent's life total outside the red zone using Goblin Fireslinger to drop Burgold to 18, then a Lava Axe to make it 13. It became 12 from Fireslinger a turn later, but a Fireball for 5 with one extra target allowed Rich to remove both of his opponent's creatures and attack for 5. That put Lino to 7 and he was dead one draw step later with a wealth of lands on the battlefield.

Richard Hoaen 1, Lino Burgold 0

Game Two

A Tormented Soul out of the gates for Hoaen in the second was promptly removed with Wring Flesh while Shock took out Lino Burgold's Merfolk Looter. Rich had a Goblin Fireslinger and his opponent cast Devouring Swarm, the two going tit for tat with spells. The Fireslinger allowed a bloodthirsty Stormblood Berserker to enter the battlefield and Lino had to use Consume Spirit to take it out.

The back and forth pace of the game was lightning fast, a Shock taking out Devouring Swarm and Fireslinger enabling a Gorehorn Minotaurs. Lino cleared his opponent's hand of cards with Mind Rot but was taking 6 each turn with little time to find a solution. It was all too much for Burgold who, try as he might, couldn't come up with an answer to his opponent's powerfully quick creatures and succumbed before the other Semifinal had finished their first game.

Richard Hoaen 2, Lino Burgold 0

Semifinal - Alexander Hayne vs. Andrew Noworaj

by Bill Stark

In the history of Grand Prix events in Canada a good number of them have been won by non-Canadians. As we sat down to the Semifinals of Grand Prix Montreal 2011, that looked increasingly unlikely to be the case this time. After all, both Alex Haynes and Andrew Noworaj (pronounced Nov-oh-rye) were Canadians, and the match next to them was 50% Canadian leaving only Lino Burgold, the German, hoping to steal the title.

Two Canadians entered, but only one of Alex Hayne (L) and Andrew Noworaj would leave.

Game One

Azure Mage led the way for Alex Hayne in the first, answered by a Devouring Swarm from his opponent. A second Mage hit for Hayne's blue-green deck while his opponent had Assault Griffin. Noworaj was hoping to dominate the skies while his opponent was busy on the ground, but an Arachnus Web put the damper on his Assault Griffin's attacking.

Royal Assassin from Andrew changed the pace of the game and proved to be a serious problem for Alex, who lacked direct removal due to his color-combination choice. He did have a Primeval Titan, however, netting himself two free lands and giving his opponent's Royal Assassin a specific role to play. Noworaj gave no indication he was impressed by the 6/6, seeming to calculate a new plan as soon as it hit the battlefield.

Mighty Leap for Andrew allowed him to get his Assault Griffin out from under the Arachnus Web and he had a Thran Golem to boot. That meant he was dominating the sky, holding the ground with his Assassin, and still casting more creatures. Alex Hayne hadn't made the Top 8 for no reason, however, as he untapped and revealed an Overrun for his team. He sent all of them sideways, losing Primeval Titan to Royal Assassin but forcing his opponent to chump with both the Golem and Assassin and dropping Andrew to 9.

Gravedigger undid the loss of the Assassin, but Noworaj could no longer afford to attack with his flyers and had to keep them home. That meant Alex could shift gears on Azure Mage in order to start drawing cards. Unable to get through, Andrew was soon overwhelmed by the massive amount of card advantage and the two headed to the second game with Alex's blue-green in the lead.

Alex Hayne 1, Andrew Noworaj 0

Game Two

The second game started a bit slower than the first as Alex used a Ponder to set up his draw steps then cast an Æther Adept. His opponent had Auramancer and Tormented Soul, but when Andrew tried for a Benalish Veteran it was countered by Cancel. In the first game of the match, Andrew had controlled the skies but in the second his opponent took a stab at it casting Aven Fleetwing. The 2/2 traded in short order for an Assault Griffin while Alex took beats from Thran Golem and Tormented Soul.

A second Assault Griffin joined Andrew Noworaj's team, and after drawing and saying go for back-to-back turns it looked like his opponent was suffering from some manascrew, missing the green lands he needed to cast most of his spells. When Alex finally found the missing Forest he used it to cast Mind Control on the Golem but had the enchantment destroyed with Demystify. He worked to stabilize with Giant Spider but it was too late; his opponent's horde of creatures proved too much and he fell to the attacks before properly stabilizing.

The game that had started off slowly ended quickly, occupying all of six minutes.

Alexander Hayne 1, Andrew Noworaj 1

Game Three

Elite Vanguard for Andrew allowed him to post an aggressive start, but his opponent was close behind with Azure Mage. Alex forced through attacks with his 2/1, already a key role player in his win in the first game, by casting an Arachnus Web on his opponent's Griffin Sentinel. A Demystify spoiled that Web plan, however, and Alex was forced to use a Frost Breath to keep his Azure Mage alive.

His opponent cast Oblivion Ring to nullify the Azure Mage but when his opponent cast an Acidic Slime a turn later Hayne opted, surprisingly, not to blow the enchantment up. The reason? He was able to take out Andrew's only Swamp and set him back to just two lands. That meant an Arachnus Spinner from Hayne was able to put a serious hurt on Andrew, forcing him to use Pacifism to slow the 5/7 down.

Alex just continued pressing on, casting a second Azure Mage and Aven Fleetwing, then used the Mage to start drawing extra cards. Noworaj remained color screwed but found a third Plains to get to three mana. It didn't look like it was going to be enough, however, as his opponent found Birds of Paradise and seemed in firm control of the match.

Andrew pressed on anyway, finding a Swamp for his fourth mana and casting Assault Griffin. The 3/2 gave him the possibility of attacking his way out of the situation alongside his Tormented Soul, but Alex promptly Æther Adept'ed his own Arachnus Spinner, then re-cast the 5/7. Attacking with Assault Griffin? Not likely.

After a turn of blank-drawing, Noworaj watched his opponent send in a team of creatures including Arachnus Spinner, Æther Adept, Merfolk Looter, and Aven Fleetwing. Out of tricks and short on mana Noworaj reached for a piece of paper and scribbled a note on it. The crowd leaned in to see what he had written. Alex hesitated, afraid to read it. When he did, a grin spread across his face and he extended his hand. His friend had conceded.

Alex Hayne 2, Andrew Noworaj 1

Final - Richard Hoaen vs. Alex Hayne

by Bill Stark

Grand Prix Montreal was down to one final match and it was certain to be won by a Canadian. On one side was Rich Hoaen, arguably one of the world's top Limited minds. A Pro Tour veteran with Top 8s and a string of money performances at Limited Pro Tours, Hoaen was one of the last people you wanted to face with 40 cards in your hands. Unless, of course, you were Alex Hayne. The young upstart was, by Hoaen's own admission, the pro's "arch nemesis." The reason? He had beaten Rich a few weekends prior in the Semifinals of a Pro Tour Qualifier, beaten Rich again in the Swiss rounds of Montreal, and even "hooked" Rich in a draft by shipping him an Overrun before cutting him off from all other green cards.

In an all Canada Finals, Alex Hayne (L) tried to live up to his title of arch nemesis of Richard Hoaen.

Game One

"I'll mulligan," Alex said, an inauspicious way to start off his final match of the weekend. His opponent was happy to keep his hand, a bad sign considering the very aggressive nature of Hoaen's red-black deck. The entirety of his matches throughout the Top 8 combined to a whopping 15 minutes. He was able to keep on six but was immediately under the gun. His opponent opened on Goblin Fireslinger, then Tormented Soul and Goblin Arsonist.

Arachnus Web turned off the Fireslinger, but Rich just replaced it with Blood Ogre. Giant Spider looked like a momentary reprieve for Alex's blue-green deck, but his opponent was ready with Doom Blade. Hayne fired back with Greater Basilisk but his opponent upped the ante with Bloodlord of Vasgoth which entered the battlefield as a 6/6.

"Nice little draw I've got here," Rich said, grinning devilishly at his huge lead on the table.

Alex was in trouble but he wasn't dead. He cast a Primeval Titan and passed, his 6/6 and 3/5 looking good against his opponent's cluttered side of the battlefield. Rich turned his Bloodlord and Soul sideways, and his opponent fell to 4 from being unable to block. Hayne fired back with his own attack out of Primeval Titan and used Unsummon to buy some time against the Bloodlord.

It wasn't enough time, however, as he was forced to concede the following turn for lack of a permanent solution to the flying 6/6.

Rich Hoaen 1, Alex Hayne 0

Game Two

After a chiding for taking too long to shuffle in between games from judge Charlotte Sable, Rich and Alex each picked up a warning for slow play. They exchanged decks and began shuffling with Alex declaring he'd be on the play.

It was Hoaen's turn to take a trip to mulligan town as he shipped his opening hand of seven back for one fewer. Both players missed their one-drops, but Rich topdecked one a turn later with Goblin Fireslinger. That allowed him to cast a Stormblood Berserker as a 3/3 the following turn while his opponent found Merfolk Looter, then followed it up with Giant Spider.

Berserker turned sideways and Alex attempted to double block with both his Spider and Looter. Rich was ready for that play using Doom Blade to get a 2-for-1 though Alex did remember to loot before damage. Greater Basilisk was his followup, but he needed two creatures to block the Berserker and when it managed to get through Hayne was dismayed to see his opponent drop Bloodlord of Vasgoth for the second game in a row.

The 6/6 flyer was a huge problem for Alex but he used a Frost Breath to buy himself some time and began attacking with his Basilisk. A second Goblin Fireslinger joined Rich's team while Alex cast Giant Spider #2 and a Phantasmal Bear. With Rich's hand filled in part by land it looked like Alex might have a shot.

Hoaen used Lava Axe to drop Alex to just 8 life, but the Frost Breath had effectively Fogged him for two turns and Hayne had been busy during that time. He continued attacking with his Basilisk and Giant Spider and dropped Rich to 9. "Do you have a Fog?" Hoaen asked his opponent. His creatures about to untap for the first time since the Frost Breath, he was representing lethal on the battlefield while Hayne only had four Forests untapped.

It wasn't Fog but Plummet, which Hayne used to knock the Bloodlord from the skies. The removal spell wasn't good enough, however, as the Stormblood Berserker connected. Rich revealed his topdecked Fireball and Alex extended his hand.

Rich Hoaen is the 2011 Grand Prix Montreal champion!

Richard Hoaen 2, Alex Hayne 0

Top 5 Cards

Goblin Fireslinger

1) Goblin Fireslinger

Magic 2012 is known as an aggressive Limited format, but it should go down in history as the format that empowered the 1-powered creature. Triggering bloodthirst and turning a first turn into an explosive second, third, and fourth Goblin Fireslinger is the cream of the one-drop crop. But it could just as easily be Tormented Soul or Goblin Arsonist, all as equally important for turning on Stormblood Berserkers, Blood Ogres, and Gorehorn Minotaurs. In a world defined by aggression, these cards were the first sign of the impending beating to come and for players in the know the defining characteristics of the most successful Limited decks.

Gorehorn Minotaurs

2) Gorehorn Minotaurs

If not for the necessity of the cards of #1, Gorehorn Minotaurs might very well be the top card on the weekend. A 5/5 for four mana was once a mystical proportion, but the Minotaurs brawl in a more serious way than most cards of similar stats to come before them. Their existence changed in its entirety the combat step, forcing players to think twice before allowing a lowly Llanowar Elf or Goblin Arsonist to get in; after all, that simple 1 point of damage could soon be a chunky 5/5 for the low price of just four mana. In both Sealed and Draft, players throughout the event recognized that power and relied on it to yield them their victories.

Æther Adept

3) Æther Adept

Rich Hoaen needed to go 2-0-1, or 3-0 in his second draft pod to advance to the Top 8. After three uneventful packs, Hoaen wound up with a decent Blue-White beatdown deck. Over the course of the next couple of rounds he demonstrated why Æther Adept is more than "just another good card" as he used the Human Wizard to bounce key blockers, get his Merfolk Looters out from under Arachnus Webs, and provide him with that extra attacker that he needed to kill his opponents before they could bury him with their "better decks."

Stave Off

4) Stave Off

The prevalence of auras like Mind Control, Pacifism, Arachnus Web, Ice Cage, and Spirit Mantle makes Stave Off even better than it would be in other formats where you would need to have it on hand when your creature were locked in combat, or about to die to a removal spell in order for it to have an effect. Is Stave Off amazing? Not quite – but they are a more than welcome addition to any white deck.

Dark Favor

5) Dark Favor

Creature enhancing auras need to have a lot of upside for you to even consider playing them, since putting them in your deck makes you susceptible to two for ones from any opponent who is ready with a removal spell. But sometimes, you can find different unexpected uses for your auras. Throughout the weekend players reached to their sideboards and found Dark Favors to melt Ice Cages, untangle Arachnus Webs, and if that didn't happen – they could still make Tormented Souls into unblockable 4/2s that they used to make short work of their opponents.