Day 1 Coverage of Grand Prix Prague

Posted in Event Coverage on January 11, 2014

By Wizards of the Coast

Day One of Grand Prix Prague 2014 is in the books. It's been a great day of exciting Magic, with 1,396 players fighting through nine rounds of Modern play. Only 185 of them escaped the carnage with records of 7-2 or better and will return tomorrow, for an additional six rounds before the Top 8 play-offs.

Overnight, six players sit atop the standings with unblemished records of 9-0: Valentin Mackl, Bernhard Wurmitzer, Vjeran Horvat, Marcel Kachapow, Andrej Rutar, and Lukasz Szplit. But several big names are close behind: (15) Martin Jůza, Vincent Lemoin, Florian Pils, Joel Calafell, Alessandro Portaro, Lukas Blohon, Florian Koch, Pierre Dagen, Jan van der Vegt, and Emanuele Giusti are all 8-1 while, among others, (9) Jérémy Dezani and (10) Stanislav Cifka managed to squeeze into Day Two on 7-2.

Meanwhile Modern continues to impress with its variety of viable deck types. Blue-White-Red, Merfolk, Urzatron, Splinter Twin, and Jund with and without white all managed 9-0 records. Tomorrow, we'll have more insight into the format, more action, and more stories straight from the battlefield. Join us then. Good night!

Saturday, 9:55 a.m. – Grand Prix Trial Winners

by Tobi Henke

The weekend's main event may just be in its very early stages, with actual play having barely even begun, but already we have some winners to report. As usual the action started yesterday with a number of Grand Prix Trial tournaments, the last chance for players to earn two byes for this here Grand Prix, and the first chance for us to glean an idea of the frontrunners and the new developments in the format.

As it stands, Modern, more than anything else, continues to be a very diverse format. However, there are some news to come out of the Trials. For example, Junk, the green-black-white midrange deck, completely overshadowed Jund, and everything else for that matter, with one version taking at least three of the top spots here. That particular version is basically two-colored with just a hint of white for Lingering Souls and notable sideboard options like Stony Silence.

The second most succesful deck was Merfolk, which had constantly been climbing in popularity after Raphaël Lévy's memorable performance at Grand Prix Antwerp. Master of Waves brought the deck back to the forefront and apparently is a force to be reckoned with.

Suspiciously absent from this collection of winning decks is Birthing Pod and Jund, but clearly they're bound to show up rather sooner than later.

Timm Gerber

Alan Geverini

Florian Götz

Petr Kralovic

Florian Zarges

Alexander Semkin

Henrik Andersson

Yann Blumer

Ivo Dienelt

Johannes Wagner

Niv Shmuely

Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – The A to Z of Modern

by Olle Rade

Modern is one of the largest formats currently played at Grand Prix and it is certainly a jungle to navigate through. A large card pool ensures a large number of playable decks and to get a grip on all of them is almost impossible. To give you a little help on the way, and maybe a few facts you didn't already know we have composed a summary of some of the key cards, expansions and archetypes in the format.

So, here is the only encyclopedia you will need this weekend. The A to Z of Modern.

A – Affinity, the old school name of the deck built around cheap artifact creatures, boosted by Cranial Plating, Arcbound Ravager, and Steel Overseer. Some people insist on calling it Robots, but regardless of the name it is certainly one of the most powerful decks of the format, sometimes killing as fast as turn two or three.

BBirthing Pod – The ultimate Johnny card in Modern. It does everything and a little more. Allowing to search for infinite creature combos like Melira, Sylvok Outcast, Viscera Seer, and Murderous Redcap, or Spike Feeder and Archangel of Thune. Or it can grind out games with value by sacrificing Kitchen Finks, getting Restoration Angel, gaining life, value, and a big frown on your opponent's face.

CCryptic Command – The best countermagic in Modern. Although the format doesn't have a lot of effective counterspells, this one certainly fits the bill. It was also the key card in Shahar Shenhar's Blue/White/Red deck that claimed the World Champion-title in Amsterdam last summer.

DDeathrite Shaman – Is it a mana creature? Is it an anti-graveyard card? Or is it simply the best one drop ever printed? No matter what, it is a creature that has really made a breakthrough in Modern. Whether in midrange Jund or Junk decks, multi-colored control strategies or in the five-color Zoo deck, this little fellow gets the job done. Whatever it is.

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

EEmrakul, the Aeons Torn – What better way to spend 15 mana? Emrakul, the Aeons Torn sees play both in decks built around the Urza lands to accelerate him into play and decks that cheat him into play with Through the Breach or Fist of the Suns. Extra turns and opponents sacrificing permanents. Good fun, and more often than not, Good Game.

FFulminator Mage – In a format defined not only by a variety of dual lands, but also man lands ranging from Inkmoth Nexus to Celestial Colonnade, the Fulminator Mage has a lot of job to do. It's also well suited for blowing up Urza lands, and the deck that utilizes the Elemental Shaman the most is probably the deck built around Living End, recurring them along with a bunch of other creatures to destroy even more lands.

G – "Greatness at any cost", the flavour text on the oh so powerful Dark Confidant. Originally designed by Bob Maher as his prize for winning an Invitational, the card was also reprinted last summer and will be out in numbers this weekend in Prague. The question is how many we will see in total? I'd put the under/over line at 1500.

H – Hexproof – The keyword that doesn't only appear on creatures like Geist of Saint Traft, it also spawned it's own archetype. The green white deck is based upon untargetable creatures like Slippery Bogle and Gladecover Scout and wins by enchanting them with auras like Rancor, Hyena Umbra and ultimately Day Break Coronet. Although somewhat of a fringe deck, pro played Duke Reid found it good enough to pilot in the World Championships last year, taking him all the way to second place.

I – Infect – Another mechanic that for a while had a deck of it's own in Modern. For the moment it seems to have disappeared, but there was a time where one of the most powerful starts in the format included casting a Glistener Elf on turn one and on the second turn casting pump spells enough to grant it 10 power for the win.

J – Jund – Originally one of the five shards of Alara, the deck that was a force to be reckoned with in standard back then is now very much so also in Modern. The Red, Green, Black combination built around mana efficient discard, removal, planeswalkers and the best creatures mana can offer has for a long time been the deck everyone is gunning to beat. Will it remain on top? Or is the letter namesake Junk (Green/Black/White), the new deck to beat? This weekend might decide!

Karn Liberated

KKarn Liberated – A big moment in lore history was when Venser, the Sojourner used his last mana to give life to Karn Liberated, releasing him from Phyrexian tyranny, free to roam as he wanted. Little did he know that he would end up in a deck built around Urza's Powerplant, Urza's Tower and Urza's Mine, making him castable already on turn three. Lore aside, the "Tron deck" is one of the staples in the Modern format, and noone should leave for a tournament without preparing for it. In Prague vendors have already sold out on one of the key cards to defeating it, Sowing Salt, so time will tell if Karn Liberated is sent back to his prison, or if his unholy alliance with his creator's lands keep him free to dominate the format.

LLiliana of the Veil – Without contest the most played planeswalker in Modern. With Jace, the Mind Sculptor still on the ban list the black discard machine will probably remain her throne for quite some time.

MModern Masters – Last summers expansion released to give the Modern format a boost. Good old staples were reprinted, and green mythic dragons were upsetting limited players everywhere. If they only had all been Tarmogoyfs.

NNoble Hierarch – One of Brian Kiblers favorite cards of the format. Utilized in any green deck it both serves as mana acceleration and boosting attackers. The Hierarch pops up both in Birthing Pod based decks and more straight-forward green white creature decks, like Kiblers hate bear deck.

OOlivia Voldaren – The legendary vampire is one of the more successful attempts at replacing the, now banned, Bloodbraid Elf in the Jund archetype. Featured at least in the sideboard of many of it's reincarnations.

P – Philadelphia, the city where the Modern format had it's debut at a Pro Tour in 2011. Although several sets have been added since then, and a lot of changes have been made to the ban list, some people still have fond memories from Philadelphia. Good times were had with second turn wins either through Storm combo or Inkmoth Nexus and Blazing Shoal.

QQasali Pridemage – So far the only card beginning with the letter Q that sees play in Modern. Although it might be a doubtful accomplishment, the card still makes the list.

RReturn to Ravnica – The last set that had a huge impact on Modern. Not only did it feature a reprint of the Shock dual lands that originally appeared in the Ravnica block. It also added Deathrite Shaman, Abrupt Decay and Sphinx's Revelation which all have seen heavy play.

SSplinter Twin – An enchantment that is based for another *drumroll* exciting combo deck. Whether enchanting a Deceiver Exarch, Pestermite or a Restoration Angel with it, it allows for an infinite amount of token creatures, a scenario only really losable on Magic Online where you might run out of time clicking through the triggers.


TTarmogoyf – whether a meager 2/3, a decent 3/4 or a huge 5/6, the two mana creature from Future Sight is one of the most iconic cards in Modern, and it's reprint in Modern Masters only added to it's popularity. Whether a green mage to start with, or just splashing for it, this Lhurgoyf is one of, if not the best creature in the format.

U – Urza, master artificer, Mishra's brother and one of the first characters in the storyline of Magic. 20 years later, and his Mine, Power Plant and Tower, originally from Antiquities still allows for some unfair turn three plays. Although this time neither Triskelion on Tetravus makes the cut.

VValakut, the Molten Pinnacle – The most recent card unbanned in Modern. Originally Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle was banned, being considered too powerful in combination with Prismatic Omen and Scapeshift to allow for a one turn combo kill. Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle was kept on the banned list until the end of 2012. Since then the Scapeshift combo deck has reappeared and claimed a few top 8 performances. Although not quite being over the top insanely unstoppable.

WWalk the Aeons – A key card in a somewhat obscure combo deck based around card drawers like Howling Mine and Jace Beleren. It goes off by chaining Time Walk effects each turn, drawing an awful amount of cards and finally winning by casting Laboratory Maniac with an empty library.

X – Xpedition Map – Ok, the spelling is a bit liberal, but there really aren't any cards that begin with X that are played in Modern. Xenagos, the Reveler might make it one day, but until then, the Expedition Map will have to represent the letter X.

Y –Yuuya Watanabe – Japanese pro player and multiple Player of the Year winner. He was also one of the sculptors of the Modern Jund deck, that he also won the 2012 Player's Championship with.

ZZendikar, the expansion that brought us the fetchlands that provide half of the mana bases in Modern. The demand for these has skyrocketed in the last year and a lot of people are keeping their fingers crossed for a reprint.

Did we miss something obvious? Or did you enjoy reading the article? What cards or phenomenon would you put in an encyclopedia of Modern. Let us know on Twitter with the #GPPrague hashtag!

Saturday, 1:55 p.m. – Metagame of the Three-and-a-Half Percent

by Tobi Henke

With roughly 1,400 players in the tournament, we can't possibly give you a complete rundown of what deck archetypes are being played today. However, we checked with 49 of the more well-known players in the tournament and now know what each and every one of them is playing. For reference, here's the player list:

Fabrizio Anteri
Frederico Bastos
Rasmus Bjorklund
Ondrej Baudys
Lukas Blohon
Michael Bonde
Petr Brozek
Joel Calafell
Stanislav Cifka
Marco Cammilluzzi
Pierre Dagen
Fabian Dickmann
Patrick Dickmann
Jérémy Dezani
Mark Dictus
Thomas Enevoldsen
Samuele Estratti
Daniel Fior
Ivan Floch
Emanuele Giusti
Tobias Grafensteiner
Steve Hatto
Thomas Holzinger
Martin Jůza
Lukas Jaklovsky
Robert Jurkovic
Gabor Kocsis
Florian Koch
Jonas Köstler
Adorjan Korbl
Wenzel Krautmann
Raphaël Lévy
Vincent Lemoine
Andre Müller
Valentin Mackl
Robbert Menten
Tamas Nagy
Elie Pichon
Florian Pils
Alessandro Portaro
Niv Shmuely
Max Sjoblom
Marcin Staciwa
Robin Steinborn
Petr Sochurek
Shahar Shenhar
Jan van der Vegt
Arjan van Leeuwen
Matej Zatlkaj

To not spoil their fun, we won't publish the info on everyone's deck at this point. However, here's a breakdown of this 49-person metagame:

8 Affinity
7 Birthing Pod
7 Splinter Twin
5 Jund
4 Junk
4 Merfolk
4 Scapeshift
2 Green-White
2 Urzatron
1 Storm
1 Burn
1 Brozek Deck Wins
1 "Tin Fists" (check coverage later)
1 Jund/Junk hybrid
1 Blue-White-Red

Round 4 Feature Match - Jan van der Vegt vs. Roberto Taroni

by Olle Rade

As the first three rounds have finished here in Prague the tension rises. The people with 3 byes have entered the tournament, and the ones with two byes and a win, like Jan van der Vegt are fighting for their fourth. Being the online personality he is, before the start of the match he asked his Bologna opponent if it was okay to film the match for a video project. "No problem," answered the Italian as he shuffled up for his first ever feature match.

The Decks

Jan van der Vegt's deck has already sparked quite some interest, winning through spectacular fashion by casting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn at the discount prize of 5 mana using Fist of Suns. Roberto's deck is green white, filled with "hate bears", focusing on shutting down his opponents resources and making their spells more expensive to cast by summoning Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. The good news for Taroni is that his deck suits up well against Jan's, the bad is that van der Vegt beat a deck just like it in the previous round.

Roberto Taroni

The Games

The match started off in a friendly fashion, with the hat wearing Italian summoning a Noble Hierarch and a Voice of Resurgence in his first two turns. Jan van der Vegt answered by Lightning Bolting the Hierarch and cast Thoughtseize, revealing another Noble Hierarch, a second Voice of Resurgence and two copies of Wilt Leaf Liege.

"Not gonna take those," joked Jan, getting a smile from his opponent as he discarded his Noble Hierarch, hoping to strand him on mana.

His own face wasn't as happy when Taroni promptly played two lands from the top of his deck the following two turns and summoned the second voice along with a Wilt Leaf Liege to quickly put Jan out of the game.

Game two however, was all van der Vegt's show. Casting Izzet Charm on his second turn, discarding the Cube all-star Griselbrand and on turn three he put it into play with Goryo's Vengeance. This allowed him to draw 14 cards and attack for seven before summoning a Sylvan Caryatid and next turn following it up with an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, also animated by Goryo's Vengeance.

For the third game Roberto Taroni reached for his sideboard, realizing he might have underestimated Jan's deck, and added Scavenging Oozes to try and fight the reanimation strategy.

"Is your deck all colors?," asked Roberto before the start of the final game. Claiming he was familiar with the archetype, but hadn't seen the Fist of Suns one on Magic Online.

Jan van der Vegt

Jan was off to a quick start game three as well, when a Simian Spirit Guide allowed a turn one Sylvan Caryatid, somewhat nullifying Robertos Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. A second Caryatid followed, before van der Vegt cast his decks namesake card Fist of Suns, crossing his fingers looking down at the Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in his hand.

Unfortunately for him, Taroni summoned a Qasali Pridemage on his turn, threatening to destroy the Fist of Suns. However, as Taroni calmly passed the turn, van der Vegt, not as calmly, slammed down another land and cast the Emrakul, the Aeons Torn from his hand. Taking his extra turn, he could attack with a Creeping Tar Pit to deal lethal damage in addition to his opponent having to sacrifice six permanents.

"You should have probably blown up the Fist with that Pridemage," Jan hinted at his opponent after the game, as surprised as anyone watching.


Jan van der Vegt (NLD) beats Roberto Taroni (ITA) 2–1

Deck tech: Jan van der Vegt, Tin Fists

by Olle Rade

Dutch streamer, Magic Online grinder and Cube expert Jan van der Vegt is playing one of the most exciting decks this weekend. Dubbed Tin Fists, as a spin on the Legacy deck Tin Fins, it is built around getting Griselbrand or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, the Aeons into play through either Fist of the Suns, Goryo's Vengeance or Through the Breach. "Goryo's Vengeance is such a powerful card, so my goal was to break it. I don't think I got there completely, but the deck is pretty good," he says.

The deck very much has the feeling of it's Legacy counterpart, or other similar combo decks from the more heavy combo format of Legacy. Jan van der Vegt also compares in to the Sneak and Show deck. "Fist of the Sun is sort of like Show and tell and Through the Breach acts as a one time Sneak Attack," he explains.

Jan van der Vegt

The dream opener for the deck involves casting Fist of the Sun as early as turn 2 or 3 and following it up by casting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn for 5 different mana the next turn. Getting the Time Walk-effect, and being able to attack for 15, wiping out your opponent's board in the process.

"With Fist in play and 5 mana out you have all five colors roughly 90 per cent of the time, so you can actually cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, rather than having to sacrifice him at the end of turn," says Jan with a smile.

Will the deck be good enough to put him in day 2? Or is it just a fun deck that has too many weaknesses that can be exploited? The followers of Dzyl's (as van der Vegt calls himself online) stream probably already know, the rest of us will find out during the weekend.

Jan van der Vegt, Tin Fists

Saturday, 3:55 p.m. – Making It Count

by Tobi Henke

The 2013–2014 Pro Points season is nearing its halfway point. For most of the European players, this Grand Prix and the one in Barcelona next month are the last remaining events before Pro Tour Born of the Gods which concludes the first half of the season. I talked to two players who have already made some news on the Grand Prix scene and are now on the hunt for additional pro points to reach the Gold and possibly even the Platinum level.

Valentin Mackl

Valentin Mackl of Austria currently sits at 24 points, with most of the points coming from his three Top 4 results at Grand Prix and his Top 75 finish at Pro Tour Theros (each of which is worth five points). "My goal is definitely Platinum, for which I need to get to 45 points," said Mackl. "However, Gold is the minimum of what I expect to finish the season with. If I don't get there with this start—that would be extremely frustrating."

The number of points needed for Gold level is 35, so with 24 under his belt with hardly half the season over, Mackl appears to be in astonishingly good shape. "But nowadays only the best five Grand Prix results count toward your season total, which is especially sad from my perspective. I think I already have like three Grand Prix finishes that are simply gone from the record, and I need a Top 32 to even get any additional points at all," Mackl complained.

Of course, this makes the Pro Tour all the more important. "A Top 16, I believe, would lock me in for Platinum, but my minimum goal for Pro Tour Born of the Gods is to place in the Top 75. That way I'd be on schedule for Gold," said Mackl. He then spotted fellow Silver-level pro Wenzel Krautmann and added: "Actually, I don't care too much, just as long as I finish the season with more points than Wenzel!"

Wenzel Krautmann

Wenzel Krautmann's story is a similar one. The GP Warsaw champion began the weekend at 21 points, missing 14 for Gold, 24 for Platinum. Like Mackl, he too got most of his points through Grand Prix and was concerned for the nigh-impossibility of getting any more that way. "I love traveling to Grand Prix, but the current system really disincentivizes such behavior," said Krautmann. "I'll probably still go to a lot of Grand Prix, simply because they're such great fun, but I feel like there should be some reward point-wise for doing so too. Maybe even a ranking-based rather than point-based level system would be better," he mused.

As for his goals regarding the near future, he said, "I want to finish in the Top 25 in one of the next two Pro Tours to be safe for Gold. I have a good team and will be doing a lot of testing. Gold will then qualify me for the all-important fourth Pro Tour. Apart from that, I intend to have as much fun as I can possibly have. I'm pretty optimistic about that, at least."

Round 5 Feature Match - Patrick Dickmann vs. Mikaël Rabie

by Tobi Henke

Back in October, Patrick Dickmann won Grand Prix Antwerp, the most recent Modern GP, playing Splinter Twin, and this weekend he again picked up his Pestermites and Deceiver Exarchs. So far he managed a 4-0 start into the tournament, but so did his opponent, Frenchman Mikaël Rabie, playing a Birthing Pod deck of the Melira, Sylvok Outcast variety.

While nominally two combo strategies, both of these decks have an amazing ability to kill without their respective combination, especially when facing heavy disruption. The Birthing Pod deck is chock-full of creatures anyway, and Dickmann's Splinter Twin version in particular, with its Vendilion Cliques and Grim Lavamancers, can go the beatdown route as well.

Patrick Dickmann

Game 1

Here, the two decks delivered on their promise, as there was no fast combo kill but instead a long and slow grind. On one side, Dickmann's Grim Lavamancer was working overtime, killing, alongside Lightning Bolts and Electrolyze, Birds of Paradise as well as Voice of Resurgence and its token. On the other side, however, Rabie's defense mechanisms proved quite a problem for Dickmann's creature control. When Grim Lavamancer tried to kill Melira, Sylvok Outcast, for example, Restoration Angel intervened, and when Dickmann tried to off the Angel, Chord of Calling intervened by getting Spellskite.

Slowly, Rabie was eking out an advantage on the board, and cemented it when Birthing Pod searched up Orzhov Pontiff to destroy Dickmann's Grim Lavamancer plus Pestermite. Meanwhile, Dickmann had lost a lot of life to his lands and to incidental attacks, and needed to make a move. In a last-ditch effort, he attempted Splinter Twin on his Deceiver Exarch with neither any preparation nor back-up. Rabie's Abrupt Decay then ended the game.

Game 2

The second game began in similar fashion. Rabie's Shriekmaw killed a turn-three Pestermite, and various Lightning Bolts, Electrolyze, and Grim Lavamancer activations proceeded to kill, among others, Voice of Resurgence, Viscera Seer, and Melira, Sylvok Outcast.

But when Rabie drew a fourth land, Linvala, Keeper of Silence proved a problem for Dickmann's strategy. Unable to use his Grim Lavamancer or his combo, Dickmann was soon digging for answers. Anger of the Gods plus Lightning Bolt finally dealt with Linvala, but at that point Dickmann was already down to 5 life.

Mikaël Rabie

Both players' resources were very much depleted at this point, and when Dickmann tried to pull ahead with Splinter Twin on Snapcaster Mage, Rabie had Abrupt Decay at the ready. In fact, as he later revealed, Dickmann had hoped to draw out Abrupt Decay this way: With Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker still in hand and eight lands on the battlefield, a topdecked Pestermite may have still gotten him the win then. Alas, no Pestermite showed up before Kitchen Finks and Murderous Redcap had reduced his life to zero.

"Usually, I'd say, the match-up is rather even," said Dickmann after the match. "But in both games, he simply stopped drawing lands after his fifth, even without any library manipulation, whereas I went to eight and nine. There was nothing to be done there."

Patrick Dickmann 0-2 Mikaël Rabie

Round 6 Feature Match - Stanislav Cifka vs. Jonas Koestler

by Olle Rade

With both players at undefeated 5-0 records, the winner of this match will almost for sure secure their spot for tomorrow. Not that every round doesn't count, but both players would surely like to draw the victorious sigh of relief in this match.

The players

If the reigning champion of Modern format is the latest Pro Tour winner of the format, it is Stanislav Cifka. He won Pro Tour Return to Ravnica in 2012 with a deck so powerful that one of it's key cards, Second Sunrise, ended up being banned. His opponent, german Jonas Koestler, once famous for wearing a guy Fawkes-mask to tournaments, but admits that he stopped doing so when he started traveling to the US, where it has been adopted by the Occupy-movement.

Stanislav Cifka vs. Jonas Koestler

The Decks

Stanislav Cifka, is running the artifact deck notoriously known as Affinity. After pondering all the decks in the format, he and fellow teammate Ivan Floch decided that it was the best. "We both agreed that affinity is very powerful, and we wanted to try it," says Cifka, whose tech of the tournament is four main deck copies of Welding Jar.

Jonas Koestler on the other hand is running a Birthing Pod based deck that wins with Kiki-Jiki, the Mirror Breaker, copying either Restoration Angel or Pestermite, and then blinking or untapping the Kiki-Jiki, to be able to do it as many times as he pleases, creating an infinite number of creatures, winning in a single attack.

Cifka's increasing board state.

The Games

In a matchup between two of the most powerful decks in the format, the action sure wasn't disappointing. Key plays stared from the very first turns from both players. Koestler's Birds of Paradise into Wall of Roots and a second bird was met by both first and second turn Steel Overseers by Cifka. However, Cifka's lack of cards to interact other than through creatures proved a critical weakness as Koestler cast a Birthing Pod, followed by a Pestermite and a sequence he has been doing all day:

Sacrifice Birds of Paradise, searching up Phantasmal Image, cloning Pestermite, untapping Birthing Pod, sacrificing the cloned Pestermite, getting Restoration Angel, blinking Pestermite, untapping Birthing Pod, sacrificing Restoration Angel, getting Kiki-Jiki Mirror Breaker and creating an infinite amount of copies of Restoration Angel.

In a game between two silent players, it was clear that the important round had them focused on the outcome of the game rather than making small talk. Game two followed in fast manners as Koestler again had the opening of Birds of Paradise into Wall of Roots and a second Birds of Paradise. This time followed by a Spellskite, that threatened becoming a Pestermite if Koestler held a Birthing Pod.

"Thinking," Cifka exclaimed, realizing he might be facing the lethal combo again if Koestler held a Birthing Pod. He took a few minutes thinking before laying out his plan. The plan? Turned out to be an Arcbound Ravager and activating his Steel Overseer to pump his team crossing his fingers that Koestler didn't have the Birthing Pod. He did however, but seemed to have sideboarded out one of his combo pieces, so Cifka got another turn to try and find something.

The Pod combo

When he didn't though, Koestler let out a sigh of relief, untapped and exclaimed, "That should be game", once again setting up his chain of infinite creatures, forcing Cifka to extend his hand in concession. "I sideboarded the Phantasmal Image out, since it's rare to win against Affinity the the Birthing Pod chain as it costs both a lot of life and a lot of mana," Koestler explained after the game.

"Cifka would have won the first game if he had started,", Koestler added graciously, now at 6-0 and with big toe into making day 2, whereas Stanislav Cifka can only afford one more loss in the coming three rounds.


Jonas Koestler (GER) beats Stanislav Cifka (CZE) 2–0

Saturday, 6:45 p.m. – The Modern Travelers

by Olle Rade

With only six weeks until Pro Tour Born of the Gods in Valencia, the top European players are on a tight schedule. Since the format is modern there as well, a few of them have opted to warm up by participating here in Prague. 9th ranked Jeremy Dezani, winner of Pro Tour Theros admits that his testing for Valencia hasn't really started, but his travel plans have been set.

"Since I live in Paris I will play the Legacy Grand Prix there the weekend before the Pro Tour, and our entire team is meeting up in Paris a few days before it and we fly to Valencia the Monday after to continue testing," he says.

Jeremy Dezani

The team he is talking about is Team Revolution, made up by a French players like Pierre Dagan and 20th ranked Raphael Levy, along with American top players like Melissa deTora. "Me, Melissa and Raphael are also playing the team Grand Prix in Barcelona the weekend after the Pro Tour," Dezani explains.

Winning the Pro Tour in Dublin in October granted Dezani Platinum Pro status for the duration of this season and the next, but he still has his eyes on one race and aims to play a few more Grand Prix to win it. "I really want to be the Player of the Year. Right now I am in the lead over Sam Black by one point, but I hope to make top 8 in at least one more Grand Prix this season to make sure I stay ahead," he says.

The current Player of the Year, 4th ranked Shahar Shenhar, also has a substantial travel plan the weeks leading up to Pro Tour Born of the Gods. After this weekends Grand Prix he's headed to Sacramento for a Theros limited Grand Prix, after that to Vancouver for one in standard before he heads back to Prague. "We're gathering the entire Team Channel Fireball in Prague to test the week before the Pro Tour," he says, admitting that he unfortunately will skip the Grand Prix in Paris to have more time to test.

With that much traveling, and already Platinum Pro level status for this season and the next, one can't help but wonder, where does he find the fire to motivate him to play in all these events?

Shahar Shenhar

"Well, it's more than just traveling, it's amazing to get to see friends from all around the world, and when I get back to Israel in between events it's nice to be back home and relax preparing for the next one," says Shenhar.

And even though there hasn't been any large tournaments during the holidays, don't think that he hasn't been busy playing the game he loves. "Since the holiday cube was available on Magic Online I played about a 40 of those," he says.

What other top players are fine tuning their travel arrangements for the next six weeks, and what weird teams will form for the Pro Tour? Come Grand Prix Paris in February and we will for sure have more interesting tales to tell.

Quick Question #1: What Are the Top Decks in Modern?

by Tobi Henke
Matej Zatlkaj: The decks you absolutely need to be prepared for are: Affinity, Black-Green-X, and Splinter Twin. If you can't beat two out of these three consistently after sideboarding, you're in a bad spot.
Shahar Shenhar: The green-based decks like Jund, Junk, or Black-Green; Blue-White-Red; and Splinter Twin. I don't consider Birthing Pod to be one of the top decks.
Patrick Dickmann: Jund, Splinter Twin, and Birthing Pod. Oh, and possibly Affinity.
Martin Jůza: Jund, Splinter Twin, Affinity

Round 7 Feature Match - Josef Marsicek vs. (4) Shahar Shenhar

by Tobi Henke

With one loss and one draw, these players entered the fray this round on the brink of an early elimination. Czech Josef Marsicek, playing for the host country, could certainly feel at home here in Prague, world-traveling and incidentlly world-championing Shahar Shenhar, playing for Israel, it would seem, pretty much feels at home everywhere.

Currently ranked 4th in the world, Shenhar was clearly the favorite here and his deck was too. Shenhar's Affinity was poised to do battle against Marsicek's Merfolk, a match-up Marsicek tentatively described as "terrible."

Josef Marsicek

Game 1

Shenhar led with Mox Opal, Inkmoth Nexus, Vault Skirge, and Ornithopteron turn one, followed by Thoughtcast on turn two and another Mox, Springleaf Drum, and Cranial Plating on turn three. Meanwhile, Marsicek, looking glum, had only summoned one Lord of Atlantis. A second Plating on turn four would have almost killed Marsicek who barely survived thanks to Dismember. Survive for one more turn, that is.

No one expected Marsicek to win before sideboarding, least of all Marsicek himself. He boarded a whopping nine cards (including multiple copies of Steel Sabotage, Hurkyl's Recall, Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, and Spell Pierce) and then the players were off to game two.

Game 2

Blinkmoth Nexus, Mox Opal, Springleaf Drum, Ornithopter, and Steel Overseer was Shenhar's opening, but this time Marsicek was prepared, pinpointing Steel Sabotage at the Overseer. Shenhar's Master of Etherium then met Dismember, and for a moment it appeared as if he could actually prevent the World Champion from sticking a real thread. Meanwhile, Marsicek himself had summoned Coralhelm Commander and Lord of Atlantis and was beginning to get in some damage of his own.

Next, Shenhar cast Etched Champion, while Marsicek added Phantasmal Image to his team, coyping Lord of Atlantis. However, when he attacked, Shenhar killed one Lord with Galvanic Blast and blocked the other dead with Etched Champion. From Marsicek's perspective the game had taken a definite turn for the worse.

Shahar Shenhar

Left with just a lonely Coralhelm Commander, Marsicek couldn't race Shenhar's robot army which in the end included two Memnites, Etched Champion, Vault Skirge, Ornithopter, and three copies of Blinkmoth Nexus.

Josef Marsicek 0-2 (4) Shahar Shenhar

"That Galvanic Blast ..." Marsicek wondered aloud, "I probably shouldn't have attacked there."

"I'm not so sure," Shenhar replied. "Then you can't attack at all. Basically, then you can't ever get in any damage at all, which is a losing proposition just the same." In the end, it appears, the Merfolk-versus-Affinity match-up was just too lopsided and even Marsicek's massive sideboarding couldn't alleviate the problem.

Quick Question #2: GP Antwerp's Impact On Your Metagame Prediction for Prague?

by Tobi Henke
Matej Zatlkaj: No significant changes due to GP Antwerp. I knew Mono-Green Devotion was a deck and I expected more Merfolk here after its good showing in Antwerp.
Shahar Shenhar: Metagame predictions are weird anyway. I played against Merfolk, Mono-Red, and Red-White Splinter Twin. I could use almost nothing of the detailed sideboarding guide Frank Karsten gave me!
Patrick Dickmann: I expected more of (my) Splinter Twin deck and more people to be prepared for the match-up. Unfortunately, true.
Martin Jůza: Not a big impact. I guess the blue-red decks, either the all-out combo versions of Splinter Twin or the ones like Antwerp's winning deck, are more popular now.

Quick Question #3: Most Surprising Card/Deck You Saw So Far?

by Tobi Henke
Matej Zatlkaj: Bow of Nylea!
Shahar Shenhar: Ghost Quarter out of Affinity. Almost killed me in the mirror match!
Patrick Dickmann: Nothing really. Maybe that's a good sign, the metagame somewhat stabilizing.
Martin Jůza: I played against Living End with Architects of Will. Not unusual as such, just unexpected.

Round 9 Bubble-Match Round-Up

by Olle Rade

The ninth and final round of Day One here at Grand Prix Prague featured quite a few familiar faces battling it out in bubble matches. With a 6-2 record these players all entered the last round with their tournament lives at stake. What decks did they battle with? How did they do? We took a look at a few of the tables struggling to continue their tournament life on Sunday.

Patrick Dickmann (Splinter Twin) vs. Petr Semrad (Affinity)

Ancient Grudge

Recent Grand Prix winner Patrick Dickmann, with his beloved Splinter Twin deck had surprisingly already picked up two losses in the tournament. The old faithful however delivered swiftly to a 2-0 victory against his Czech opponent. Dickmann summed up Affinity as one of his best matchups, but admitted to being a bit lucky after staring down a lethal 6/6 Inkmoth Nexus only to dig with Izzet Charm, finding an Ancient Grudge.

Robert Jurkovic (Affinity) vs. Pavlos Fafalios (Merfolk)

Master of Etherium

Slovak Robert Jurkovic found himself of the fortunate end of a very good matchup in the last round. Probably smiling inside when it turned out his opponent was on Merfolks he had no problems picking up a 2-0 win. Not even a mulligan to 4 in the second game could stop him, as he came back with Whipflare getting rid of his opponent's board of three merfolks and following it up with Steel Overseer and Master of Etherium.

Frederico Bastos (Scapeshift) vs. Matthias Langner (Tron)

Karn Liberated

Grand Prix grinder Frederico Bastos had his back against the wall with his Scapeshift deck in the last round. Things looked good when he took the second game of the match with Sowing Salt, a strong card against his Urzatron opponent. The third game however had nothing but salt in the wounds as he ended up staring down into the eyes of both Karn Liberated and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn for a 1-2 loss.

Max Sjöblom (Melira Pod) vs. Sylvain Martins (Blue/White/Red)

Baneslayer Angel

Finnish Sjöblom, who made top 8 in the very first Modern Pro Tour in 2011, and recently won a qualifier for the next one in Valencia was hoping to get a weekend of practice and hopefully a few Pro Points with him on his way to Spain. His French opponent however wanted something else and took down the match 2-1, sealing the deal in the final game with Stoney Silence, shutting down any Birthing Pod attempts by Sjöblom, and eventually winning in the air with Vendillion Clique and Baneslayer Angel.

Tomas Holzinger (Kiki-Jiki Pod) vs. Mateusz Myslicki (Affinity)

Birthing Pod

Austrian youngster Tomas Holzinger might have been playing a Birthing Pod deck, but it was Izzet Staticaster that was the MVP in his last round 2-0 defeat of an unsuspecting Polish Affinity player. Not even Etched Champion could win the race, and Holzinger makes day here at Grand Prix Prague.