Day 2 Coverage of Grand Prix Prague

Posted in Event Coverage on January 12, 2014

By Wizards of the Coast

Play on Day Two of Grand Prix Prague has commenced. 1,396 players entered the tournament yesterday; only 185 of them managed to achieve a record of 7-2 or better to make it back today, for an additional six rounds before the Top 8 play-offs.

Starting the day, 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.

Modern, of course, 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 yesterday. Today, we'll have more insight into the format, more action, more decks, and more stories straight from the battlefield. Follow us as we follow some of the best players on their way to the Top 8, and join us when a new champion is crowned ...

Day 1 Undefeated Decklists

by Tobi Henke

Six players escaped yesterday's rounds with perfect records of 9-0 and they used six distinctly different decks to achieve that feat, another testatment to the diversity of the format. Here we have Urzatron, Merfolk, Splinter Twin, Jund, Blue-White-Red, and Jund with a dash of white—a nice cross section of what's going on in Modern at the moment.

Berhnhard Wurmitzer (9-0)

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Lukasz Szplit (9-0)

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Marcel Kachapow (9-0)

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Valentin Mackl (9-0)

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Andrej Rutar (9-0)

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Vjeran Horvat (9-0)

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Round 10 Feature Match – (15) Martin Juza vs. Joel Calafell

by Olle Rade

Nothing like the smell of feature matches in the morning. As the players show up for the first round of Sunday the smell of coffee was still in the air and red eyed players shuffled up to continue their fight for a top finish.

For round 10, (15) Martin Juza, with more merits to his name than anyone in the room was up against Spaniard Joel Calafell, with three lifetime Grand Prix top 8's, including a win in Barcelona in 2009. Both players had finished day one with a record of 8-1 and as both are heading to Valencia for the Modern Pro Tour in a few weeks. So a good finish this weekend would set winds in their sails heading to Spain.

(15) Martin Juza vs. Joel Calafell

Whereas how the decks matched up it was a battle of Juza's traditional Jund deck, and Calafell's Scapeshift deck. A deck that some people have dismissed, but a few of the top players still cling on to.

The key to unlocking the match would be whether Calafell could cast enough ramp spells to get seven lands into play and casting Scapeshift before Juza could deal lethal damage, while disrupting Calafell's hand with discard.

Sometimes it's just not in the cards though, which became very obvious when Joel Calafell couldn't find his key one – Scapeshift even after casting several spells like Izzet Charm and Peer Through Depth's to look for it.

"Whatever, you win," he exclaimed as he threw in the towel for game one, and reached for his sideboard, where 2 Urban Evolution, 2 Inferno Titan and 4 Obstinate Baloths hopefully would aid him for game two and three.

Martin Juza disrupting Joel Calafell's hand.

However, Martin Juza and his Jund deck had other plans, continued doing what Jund does best. Filling his own hand with Dark Confidant, while discarding Calafell's key cards. Game two looked to be a repeat of the first one, but a pair of Spanish Títan infernal claimed it for Calafell.

With only seven and a half minute remaining for the decider, both people picked up their paste significantly. Calafell even apologising for his paste in the previous game. "I thought we had more time," he said.

The end looked to come as quick as the players paste, when a lack of mana accelerants from the Spaniard looked like he would be unable to deal with Juza's start which was as quick as his paste of play.

Things got confusing when Calafell drew, and cast an Obstinate Baloth, without playing a second green source, which was realized during Juza's turn, judges were called in and confusion followed.

GP Prague judge sorting out the confusion.

"How do I never notice these things?," shrugged Juza, throwing out his arms in exasperation.

The issue was finally resolved, when the head judge showed up, but time was called shortly after. Extra turns followed, where and Juza managed to deal lethal damage to win a match that had been slow and well played, but ended up in confusion.

"I feel like that matchup is really good for my deck, and unless Martin gets a very aggressive start I can most likely trump him in the late game with control elements," Calafell summed up the match, somewhat surprised by his defeat.

Sunday, 12:00 p.m. – Let's talk about Jund, Mackl

by Olle Rade

If the Modern format was a Charles Dickens story, the ghost of the formats present, past and future would surely be named Jund. For the last year it has been claiming Pro Tour and Grand Prix top 8's alike and not even the banning of Bloodbraid Elf has been able to keep it from being a constant force in the format. We caught up with Austrian Valentin Mackl, who went 9-0 the first day here in Prague and takes pride in being a disciple of Jund.

"It's Jund, what is there to talk about that hasn't already been said?," he started by asking, throwing a small laugh at the questions that he has indeed heard before.

Valentin Mackl with some of the best cards in the format.

How long have you been playing Jund?

– For this Grand Prix, and the one in Modern before this one. And before the last Modern Pro Tour. So I guess for as long as I've played Modern basically. It is always the safe bet, and if you end up playing Jund at a tournament you know that you've done at least something right.

How did you end up playing it?

– Playing the obvious deck in a format is pretty much always good, and I like playing decks that have already proven themselves and I play mono Blue devotion in standard for the same reason.

How strong is the archetype today?

– Not as strong as before they banned Blood Braid Elf obviously, but I still think it's very strong and one of the best decks. I play two Huntmaster of the Fells, which I think is both a good and fun card.

What makes Jund so strong?

– First of all it plays the best cards in the format, which are Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, Deathrite Shaman and probably Liliana of the Veil. But it also has a very high spell count, as the man lands also function as spells.

How did you tweak your deck for this tournament?

– At the last Modern Grand Prix I lost my win and in against Living End, and then also the match for top 16 against Living End, so I added more graveyard hate in the form of Jund Charm and Rakdos Charm to the sideboard. Although I still don't feel over confident in the matchup, but at least it's better.

The ghost of the format it sure is, as we keep seeing Jund at both the top tables and the feature match tables here in Prague. The end of the day will show if it is will claim the throne, or at least how many copies of the deck makes the prestigious top 8.

Valentin Mackl's Jund

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Valentin Mackl's Jund

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Sunday, 1:11 p.m. – Day Two Metagame Breakdown

by Tobi Henke

185 deck lists have all been checked, and here are the results. To give a more accurate picture of the day-two field, the following table lists decks according to rather broad categories. Of course there are differences between Black-Green Rock, Jund, Junk, and the Jund/Junk hybrids, for example, but it somehow feels wrong to have them spread out over the lower half of the list when, combined, these decks take up the biggest share of the metagame.

You can find further differentiation below, here's the overview:

Deck Archetype Number
Black/Green/X* 33
Splinter Twin 20
Affinity 19
Blue-White-Red 17
Birthing Pod 16
Merfolk 15
Urzatron** 11
Scapeshift 9
Burn 6
Hatebears*** 7
Living End 6
Blue/Red/X Delver**** 5
Hexproof/Auras 3
Goryo's Vengeance***** 3
Zoo 3
Gifts Ungiven 2
Infect 2
Storm 2
Bant 1
Discard 1
Green Devotion 1
Red Devotion 1
Red-Black-White 1
Soul Sisters 1
Total: 185

*Black/Green/X: This category includes 13 Jund decks, 13 "Junk/d" decks (that is, with red and white), five Junk decks, and two decks with just black and green.

**Urzatron: 10 of the usual green-red Tron decks plus one mono-blue version.

***Hatebears: Six of these are green and white and verge on real beatdown territory, but one is a version of "Death & Taxes"—mono-white with more disruptive creatures and Æther Vial.

****Blue/Red/X Delver of Secrets: Actually just one splashing green for Tarmogoyf, the rest all two-colored with Young Pyromancer.

*****Goryo's Vengeance: One "Tin Fists" played by Jan van der Vegt, who complements Goryo's Vengeance with Fist of Suns, plus two versions which instead employ Necrotic Ooze to make use of a discarded Griselbrand.

Round 13 Feature Match - Martin van der Vaart vs. Bernhard Wurmitzer

by Tobi Henke

With just two more rounds to go, both players entered the fray with records of 11-1, still in good shape for a potential Top 8 berth. The winner of this match would maybe even be able to secure a spot early, while the loser wouldn't be eliminated from Top 8 contention either.

Austrian Bernhard Wurmitzer got this far with a stock version of the green-red Urzatron deck, while the Netherlands' Martin van der Vaart was playing a rather unusual deck, blue and red, built around Delver of Secrets and Young Pyromancer. In this match-up, he would be the aggressor trying to out-tempo Wurmitzer before Urza's Tower and Co. pump out big threats like Wurmcoil Engine and Karn Liberated.

Game 1

The first game was marred by van der Vaart severe mana screw. While Wurmitzer wasn't particularly lucky either—his first five lands being Urza's Mine, Grove of the Burnwillows, Urza's Tower, Ghost Quarter, and Eye of Ugin—van der Vaart never even found a second land after fetching Steam Vents. He got Wurmitzer down to about 10 with Grim Lavamancer and Lightning Bolts, but then lost his Grim Lavamancer as well as a freshly-summoned Delver of Secrets to Pyroclasm.

Martin van der Vaart

"Kind of a lame game," Wurmitzer commented, and van der Vaart agreed, "I've seen better." Wurmitzer's draw step changed things, however. "That definitely is better," said Wurmitzer as he dropped the missing Urza's Power Plant, followed by Urza's planeswalker Karn Liberated. Van der Vaart was reduced to zero lands and conceded.

Game 2

Here, van der Vaart opened better, on Delver of Secrets and Serum Visions. Insectile Aberration and Lightning Bolt quickly started the process of reducing Wurmitzer's life, who himself was once again struggling with his lands. After cycling various Chromatic Stars, Spheres, and Relics, Sylvan Scrying met van der Vaart's Mana Leak.

Another Lightning Bolt and another attack already brought Wurmitzer to 4 when his Pyroclasm was met by Negate. One more attack, and Snapcaster Mage evened the score at one apiece.

"Now, let's have one good game for a change," Wurmitzer suggested while shuffling. Van der Vaart reminded him, "Your draw in the second was way better than mine in the first, though."

Bernhard Wurmitzer

Game 3

The early turns were all about van der Vaart's impressive array of counterspells: Spell Snare stopped Sylvan Scrying, Spell Pierce stopped Ancient Stirrings, Negate stopped another Ancient Stirrings, and another Negate stopped Pyroclasm. Meanwhile, nothing stopped van der Vaart's turn-two Delver of Secrets and it surely looked as if Insectile Aberration would go all the way.

Then came the all-deciding turn: With Wurmitzer at 8, van der Vaart tapped out for Snapcaster Mage to flashback Negate, countering a second Pyroclasm. However, after that, Wurmitzer had another land drop—the missing Tron piece which allowed him to cast Karn Liberated.

Karn Liberated took out Insectile Aberration and died to Lightning Bolt, but now Wurmitzer's mana engine was active. Soon his Wurmcoil Engine was active as well, and while van der Vaart put up much more of a fight than anyone would have expected at this point, he didn't have a real answer to the lifelink monster. Two Young Pyromancers and another Lightning Bolt could only make the game a close one, not close the game itself. Instead, a second and later a third Karn Liberated decided the game in Wurmitzer's favor.

"Good game," Wurmitzer concluded, after accepting the handshake, as he slumped back in his chair exhausted. Van der Vaart agreed. "A close one."

Sunday, 3:00 p.m. – Decks Out of the Ordinary

by Olley Rade

Several interesting decks have stood out among the usual suspects here in Prague. One of them was in the hands of Spaniard Pere Llimos, currently living in Copenhagen, where he and Dane Michael Fromberg fine tuned a deck built around not only Goryo's Vengeance and Griselbrand, but also Necrotic Ooze, who can mimic the Griselbrand if there is one in the Graveyard, allowing for some crazy turns.

"When you cast Necrotic Ooze with a Griselbrand in the graveyard you instantly win, by drawing cards, and setting up a kill with multiple Soul Spikes," Llimos explains.

The deck has a Jund-ish shell that allows it to play a control role against decks like Affinity, that aren't that well suited for the late game. Against those kind of decks the combo isn't even always necessary, according to Peres Llimos.

Spaniard Pere Llimos

"The deck runs eight removal spells in Lightning Axe and Soul Spike, which allows you both to take care of opposing Deathrite Shamans and being able to control the board against aggro decks," he says.

Another giant Legendary Creature also stands out in his decklist – Borborygmos Enraged.

"What the story with Borborygmos is? Well, he was in the deck we found and tuned, and he often acts as both a Wrath of God-effect on your opponent's board, as well as drawing you a few lands when you put him into play with Goryo's Vengeance. Also it allows you to win by discarding lands you draw from Griselbrand's effect," explains Llimos.

Although not at the top of the standings, both Llimos and Fromberg made day two with the deck, and looking back he doesn't regret his choice of deck. "It is very good, especially since very few people tend to play with Rest in Peace now, which is a card I've lost to today. The only change I would make to the deck is to add a Zombie Infestation, to be able to do more with the cards you get to draw from Griselbrand".

Pierre Llimos, Necrotic Ooze / Griselbrand

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Red Blue Delver

Another sweet deck was Martijn van der Vaart's Red Blue Delver, which had him battling at the top tables almost until the end of the day.

Red Blue Delver

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Finally one that surely raised a few eyebrows on unsuspecting opponents was German Richard Berze's Green/Blue deck built around Howling Mine and Time Walk-effects. Although he lost his last round on Day One, barely missing Day Two, we thought we'd honor his creation by showing his innovative decklist.

Time Walks, by Richard Berze

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Round 14 Feature Match - (9) Jeremy Dezani vs. Stefano Meoni

by Olle Rade

After two more rounds eight players will stand taller than the 1388 others that started Grand Prix Prague. Until then, they must focus their minds on the tasks ahead. Coming into round 14 both Jeremy Dezani and Stefano Meoni had records of 11-2, needing to win both this round and the next to secure a spot in the top 8. Greeting each other in both Italian and English, a friendly atmosphere entered as they shuffled up their decks.

Dezanis Junk deck had been serving him well today, still undefeated after picking up two losses early yesterday, whereas Italian Stefano Meoni had his bets on Splinter Twin to be the best deck of the day.

The match played out almost as thoughtful and methodical as a World Championship match of chess, minus Magnus Carlsens personality to lighten things up a bit. Both players very very careful not to make any mistakes and opting for optimal openers.

(9) Jeremy Dezani vs. Stefano Meoni

The card Ponder might not be legal in Modern, but Meoni's deck has a lot of cards making him ponder his decision. Serum Visions, Serum Visions, Peek made sure that the game progressed slowly even though taking place only over a few turns. Stuck for a long time on only two Islands for mana his deck was unable to power out either his flying combo creatures or get rid of any of Dezanis before a Liliana of the Veil ticked up to it's ultimate ability forcing the Italian to concede the first game.

Meoni chose an odd path when sideboarding, opting for 3 Molten Rains along with 2 Threads of Disloyalty, perhaps aiming to cripple Dezanis manabase the same way as his own deck had crippled his in the first game.

The second game played out just as carefully as the first, but Dezani found himself on the backfoot as two Snapcaster Mages acted Ambush Vipers before a Pestermite joined in for more damage. Somehow the tempo attacking game of his deck seems to be the best way to battle.

A Grim Lavamancer joined his team, a Molten Rain blew up a land and got all the way down to 6 life before he was able to remove the last of Meoni's creatures. Meoni however, was holding a Lightning Bolt in his hand, needing just another or a Snapcaster Mage to finish Dezani off before succumbing himself to Tarmogoyf and a team of spirit tokens.

Meoni drew his card for the turn.

"Bolt me?," asked Dezani?

"No, not yet," answered Meoni.

"Upkeep, bolt me?," Dezani asked again.

But it was only a Pestermite, buying another turn for Meoni. And his next draw was...

... nothing, giving Dezani the match 2 games to 0.

Sunday, 3:44 p.m – More Interesting Decks

by Tobi Henke

While browsing all day-two deck lists for the metagame breakdown, I came across a number of interesting ideas. Some of them may not be good enough to ever make it to a Top 8, some may have been piloted by players who simply got unlucky pairings or draws, and some may be able to be improved, but all of them were definitely good enough to make it to the second day.

For example, look at the deck of one Jan Miller who was still playing for Top 8 in round 13!

Jan Miller

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Planeswalker (4)
4 Liliana of the Veil
Creature (4)
4 Dark Confidant
Instant (5)
2 Funeral Charm 3 Victim of Night
Artifact (5)
1 Scepter of Fugue 4 The Rack
Enchantment (3)
3 Shrieking Affliction
60 Cards

Or Michele Bernardi's deck—playing for Top 8 till the very last round of Swiss:

Michele Bernardi

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Planeswalker (9)
4 Liliana of the Veil 3 Ajani Vengeant