For many players this weekend, Orlando is a short drive away. Or at least a short flight. Not so for our two players battling it out here in round four. Belgium's Marijn Lybaert is combining the Grand Prix with vacation time with his wife Kelly. Lybaert divides his Magic time between playing in as many Grand Prix as possible, and being part of the European Event Coverage video team, where he uses his expertise to share his love of the game, a love that has taken him to four Pro Tour Top 8s. For the Czech Republic's Stanislav Cifka, Orlando is a natural precursor to the Pro Tour in Honolulu next week. Already a Pro Tour Champion from Pro Tour Return to Ravnica in 2012 in Seattle, Cifka has established a reputation as one of the most formidable Pros on the circuit, and a player with a fearsome work ethic when it comes to deckbuilding.
Speaking of decks, neither player seemed especially happy with their weapons of choice. For Lybaert, his base green-white deck, with both black and red splashes, had already been tested, with a round 3 victory. For Cifka, his three color Temur concoction was freshly sleeved, following his full three rounds of byes.
Lybaert's early game involved developing a board of flyers, with both Highspire Mantis and Alabaster Kirin coming in unopposed, plus the fabled Mystery Morph, hanging out ready for a starring role later. Alpine Grizzly did the bulk of the early work for Cifka, with Crippling Chill also allowing him to maintain at least some semblance of parity in what looked to be a race. The unexceptional Whirlwind Adept meant a pair of 4/2s on the Czech side. It wasn't surprising that Cifka was struggling, though – he had opened on just five cards.
Not exactly at their best when blocking, Cifka's creatures continued to press, but trading Alpine Grizzly for Smoke Teller is a fine example of exactly why Alpine Grizzly isn't stellar. Lybaert pulled the trigger on turning his morph face-up, converting a puny 2/2 into a piledriving 6/7 Woolly Loxodon.
The key moment came when Cifka attempted to use Force Away, sending Highspire Mantis back to Lybaert's hand, triggering Prowess on the Whirlwind Adept, allowing Cifka to trade with the Alabaster Kirin. Right from the start of Prerelease weekend, it has been clear that Feat of Resistance is an excellent card to have sleeved up and ready to go. In hand from early in the game, Lybaert used it to excellent effect, prompting Cifka to sweep up his permanents.
Lybaert 1 – 0 Cifka
With an early Wooded Foothills, Cifka revealed what we had long suspected – that game one had seen him one color short. Now with red, green, and blue online, perhaps he could put up more of a fight. This game two was categorized by big monsters. Having used Smite the Monstrous to kill off an early Alpine Grizzly, Lybaert might have been disappointed to see a better target in Tusked Colossodon. He wasn't concerned, though, as he appeared to have drawn all his removal – Savage Punch and Bring Low kept Cifka's board empty, while, as Lybaert himself said, 'It's turtle time' – the new official code for Meandering Towershell.
Monsters are great, but Planeswalkers are frequently even better. Rarely short of a joke, Lybaert was happy to see a Solemn Visitor in the form of Sorin. Indeed, 'Turtle Time' was the theme, with a second Meandering Towershell for Lybaert prompting the scoop. As Lybaert commiserated with the Czech Pro Tour Champion, Cifka revealed a turtle of his own. Worried that the turtle can't attack every turn? Just have two of them in play!
Lybaert was happy enough with the win, but confirmed, 'I'm 2-0 after my two byes, but I haven't played a lot of meaningful Magic so far. Mulligans and floods for both my opponents have certainly helped me get to 4-0.' For Cifka, there was little he could do other than to accept this opening loss, and move on.
Marijn Lybaert 2 – 0 Stanislav Cifka.