Call him butter, because the big man is on a roll. Antonino De Rosa and his Monoblue control deck have once again come out on top of a star-studded Top 8 field, in fact this was what some are calling the best Grand Prix Top 8 ever. Fresh off his U.S. National Championship, De Rosa ran over Gabe Walls in the semifinals and had to get a bit lucky against the masterful Kenji Tsumura in the finals, plucking running counterspells off the top of his deck to seal Game 3. On the other side of the bracket Karl Briem and his Monoblack Aggro deck demolished Frank Karsten in the quarterfinals, and then won a real squeaker against amateur Mark Ioli in the semis to become a very unlikely finals opponent for the Italian Stallion.

In the finals, De Rosa was literally one threat away from death for most of the third game. Briem blew right through De Rosa in Game 1, using Wicked Akuba beatdown to kill the big man in no time flat. De Rosa struck back in Game 2, taking it relatively easily, but was under the gun in Game 3. He was facing an Akuba with Umezawa's Jitte attached and snatched a Threads of Disloyalty from the top of his deck at exactly the right time, using Briem's Nezumi Graverobber as a blocker to leave him threatless. Then De Rosa stumbled for a while, but all Briem could do was draw land turn after turn, giving De Rosa plenty of time to recover. Finally Briem found a threat, but Antonino had the foil, casting a second Keiga, the Tide Star to steal Ink-Eyes and a revived Azami, beating Briem into submission.

Congratulations to Antonino De Rosa, the Grand Prix-Salt Lake City Champ who proved once again that it's best to be both lucky and good.

top 8 bracket


(1) Kenji Tsumura

(8) Rogier Maaten

(4) Gabe Walls

(5) Antonino De Rosa

(2) Gadiel Szleifer

(7) Mark Ioli

(3) Karl Briem

(6) Frank Karsten


Kenji Tsumura, 2-1

Antonino De Rosa, 2-0

Mark Ioli, 2-1

Karl Briem, 2-1


Antonino De Rosa, 2-1

Karl Briem, 2-1


Antonino De Rosa, 2-1


  • Blog - 6:40 pm: Finals: Karl Briem vs Antonino De Rosa
    by Frank Karsten
  • Blog - 5:26 pm: Semifinals - Antonino De Rosa vs. Kenji Tsumura
    by Ted Knutson
  • Blog - 5:41 pm: Quarterfinals - Kenji Tsumura vs. Rogier Maaten
    by Julien Nuijten
  • Blog - 4:54 pm: Quarterfinals - Gabe Walls vs. Antonino De Rosa
    by Ted Knutson
  • Blog - 4:30 pm: The Top 8 Decklists
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Day 2 Blog Archive: Top Pro Play, The Top 8 Player Profiles, Artists on Site, International Flavor and Much More!
    by Ted Knutson
  • Day 1 Blog Archive: Catching up with Kanoot, The Cube, Metagame Report, Top Pro Play and Much More!
    by Ted Knutson
  • Info: Day 1 Player List
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Info: Fact Sheet
    by Event Coverage Staff


1. Antonino De Rosa $2,400
2. Karl Briem $1,700
3. Kenji Tsumura $1,200
4. Mark Ioli $1,000
5. Frank Karsten $800
6. Gadiel Szleifer $800
7. Gabe Walls $800
8. Rogier Maaten $800

pairings, results, standings


13 12 11 10 9 8

7 6 5 4 3 2 1


13 12 11 10 9 8

7 6 5 4 3 2 1


13 12 11 10 9 8

7 6 5 4 3 2 1


Sunday, August 28: 4:30 pm - The Top 8 Decklists

Kenji Tsumura

Download Arena Decklist

Gabe Walls

Download Arena Decklist

Antonio DeRosa

Download Arena Decklist

Karl Briem

Download Arena Decklist

Frank Karsten

Download Arena Decklist

Gadiel Szleifer

Download Arena Decklist

Rogier Maaten

Download Arena Decklist

Mark Ioli

Download Arena Decklist

Sunday, August 28: 4:54 pm - Quarterfinals - Gabe Walls vs. Antonino De Rosa

Antonino De Rosa

"Let's make a deal," offered De Rosa. "Whichever one of us that wins has to beat Kenji." Gabe just shook his head. "We have to beat him. He's such stains, right?" De Rosa was clearly kidding, but the Champ was none too interested in seeing another American Grand Prix title going back to Japan. "I don't like your attitude, Gabe. We can beat these guys." De Rosa then continued to heap minor beats on the Japanese, attempting to bolster his own confidence as well as Gabe's.

"I'm quoting you, Ant." I told De Rosa. "Next time you show up in Japan, they'll boo you. Remember, Worlds is on their turf."

"So. It takes twelve of them to beat me up," smiled De Rosa,

Once they got down to business, however, the chatter died down as both players were suddenly very intent on winning.

Walls won the die roll, but had to paris his first hand. Walls played Sensei's Divining Top on turn 3, and De Rosa matched with a Pithing Needle for it. Kodama's Reach from Walls ran into Hisoka's Defiance, and then De Rosa went on the offensive by casting Meloku on his turn. A few turns later, Keiga came down to help, and Walls failed to get an answer through De Rosa's wall of countermagic before he died.

De Rosa 1 - Walls 0

Gabe Walls

"You're not very good at this," quipped De Rosa, as Walls parised for the second game in a row. Walls led off with a Sakura-Tribe Elder that De Rosa answered with Jushi Apprentice. Gabe sacrificed his Elder at the end of his turn, earning a wry smile from De Rosa. "Apparently you haven't read Masashi Oiso's article. He says in this matchup you should never sac those." Walls cast an end of turn Gifts Ungiven on De Rosa's next turn grabbing four lands and a look of bewilderment from De Rosa. Pithing Needle shut down De Rosa's Apprentice, so the little wizard went into beatdown mode and was soon joined by another. Walls resolved another Gifts, getting Hana Kami and Soulless Revival in hand, while De Rosa put Meloku and Ink-Eyes in Gabe's 'yard.

Walls stalled for a while, eventually channeling away most of De Rosa's hand with a Ghost-Lit Stalker while he kept getting nugged by hot weenie wizard action. "10," said Walls, continuing to get smashed two points at a time. "Maaaan," poked De Rosa, "If you die to these guys." Meloku when Gabe was at 7 attempted to end this more quickly than a point at a time, but Walls had a Shoal primed for it. Unfortunately for Gabe, his deck wasn't in a giving mood and he fell to the Champ without putting a win on the board.

De Rosa 2 - Walls 0

Sunday, August 28: 5:41 pm - Quarterfinals - Kenji Tsumura vs. Rogier Maaten

Kenji Tsumura

Kenji Tsumaru is having a great season right now. He got second at Pro Tour--Philadelphia with a deck similar to the Gifts deck he's currently playing, made the Top 4 of the Team Pro Tour in Atlanta, and also has three GP Top 8 finishes this season. Rogier Maaten was the 2003 Dutch national champion, 2004 national team member, finished in the Top 8 of the team Pro Tour in Atlanta, and finished second at this year's Grand Prix--Eindhoven.

Both players played an almost identical Gifts maindeck list, but their sideboard plans were quite different. Kenji's maindeck was a bit better for the mirror than Rogier's, because he had a Cranial Extraction instead of the Exile into Darkness Rogier had, but both players agreed that Cranial Extraction isn't so good in the matchup unless you draw it; Kenji told that he almost never gets it with Gifts Ungiven.

Rogier used the Dutch sideboard plan: add the third and fourth Kokusho, a second Ink-Eyes, a Time of Need to get the legends and two more Goryo's Vengeance. Combined with 4 Kokusho, Goryo's Vengeance becomes very dangerous, and Ink-Eyes isn't bad with the Vengeance either.
Kenji used the Japanese boarding plan: Add Godo along with some equipment, and take the role of the beatdown player.

Game 1

Rogier played first and both players kept their hands. The first few turns both players were busy with the usual land-searchers, but only Kenji had a Divining Top. Rogier had some tempo advantage though, allowing him to resolve the first Gifts Ungiven. He searched for Sensei's Top, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Kodama's Reach and a Swamp, indicating that he had another Gifts or lot of other action spells in his hand. Kenji sent Kodama's Reach and Top to the graveyard, and Rogier made the Tribe Elder. Kenji did not have Gifts, and decided that he should be aggressive. He used Okina to knock out Rogier's copy, and played Meloku the Clouded Mirror. Meanwhile Rogier had another Top and a second Gifts. This Gifts Ungiven gave Rogier two lands and sent Myojin of Night's Reach and another land to the graveyard. Still in Kenji's end step, Rogier played Sickening Shoal removing Kagemaro on Meloku, and spliced Soulless Revival to get back his Myojin. He couldn't cast the Myojin yet though, and played Kokusho instead.

Kenji was in a tight spot now; he was facing a Kokusho with nothing but a Top and lands on his board, and he knew that he would lose his hand to the Myojin next turn. He replayed his Top (which he used a few turns ago to draw Meloku), and played Hana Kami. He had another Shoal for the Kokusho, but the top of his deck didn't help him a lot, revealing two very small Kagemaro and a land. He got back Kodama's Reach with the Hana Kami, and played the 1/1 Kagemaro.
Kenji removed the Myojin with his Kagemaro, and shuffled his deck with the Reach, but Rogier had a lot more action with a third Gifts, this time getting Hana Kami and Death Denied in his hand to join the Soulless Revival that he already spliced before, and Ink-Eyes and Goryo's Vengeance in the graveyard. When Rogier replays his Myojin, Kenji had seen enough and moved on to his sideboard.


Kenji - +1 Mountain, +2 Godo, Bandit Warlord, +1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror, +1 Goryo's Vengeance, +1 Tatsumasa, the Dragon's Fang, +1 Umezawa's Jitte.
- 4 Kagemaro, First to Suffer, -1 Wear Away, -1 Rending Vines, -1 Cranial Extraction.

Rogier: +2 Kokusho, +1 Ink-Eyes, +2 Goryo's Vengeance, +1 Time of Need, +1 Hero's Demise
-1 Myojin of Night's Reach, -1 Ghost-Lit Stalker, -1 Hideous Laughter, -1 Exile into Darkness, -2 Kagemaro, First to Suffer, -1 Sickening Shoal

Death Denied

The sideboarding of both players indicated how tempo-related the Gifts mirror is after sideboarding. They both passed on their Cranial Extraction, and put in a lot more creatures. Rogier even took out his Ghost-Lit Stalker and Myojin, because they would be too slow for Kenji's Godo plan.

Game 2

Kenji chose to play first, but had to mulligan his first thirteen cards. His third hand wasn't much better either: Jitte, Meloku, Kokusho, Sakura-Tribe Elder and Mountain. He passed on this one as well. His fourth hand was better than all of his other hands: Island, Tendo Ice Bridge, Sensei's Top and Tribe Elder. Rogier was happy with his opening seven.
Kenji played his Top and Tribe Elder, and used his Top whenever he could. He found some more land search and an Okina to get rid of Rogier's one. Rogier had a Hana Kami and a Time of Need for Kagemaro. Kenji used a cool stack trick with his Top on the next turn: Look at the top three cards on the stack, in response sacrifice his Tribe Elder, in response drawing a card with the Top. This trick drew him the Kodama's Reach that was on top, and allowed him to rearrange the top three cards after the land from the Tribe Elder got into play. Despite his mulligan to four, Kenji played an early Godo, and got Tatsumasa with it. In the meanwhie, Rogier took the role of the control player, taking six damage from Godo and playing Gifts Ungiven. Rogier's fourth Gifts of the match gave him Swamp and Goryo's Vengeance, and Sickening Shoal and Hero's Demise in the graveyard.

Again things were looking good for Rogier, he was up 4-0 in Gifts Ungiven, and down 0-3 in mulligans. Kenji was forced to play very aggressively, knowing that he would lose in the long game because Rogier had a lot more cards to play with. Kagemaro cleared the board, and Kenji played Meloku and a Top. Rogier just had a Tribe Elder on his turn, but Kenji already knew that Rogier had a Goryo's Vengeance to rebuy his Kagemaro and clear the board again. Kenji keeps the pressure on though, as he played another Meloku. Rogier had Kodama's Reach and Kokusho, but Kenji's next turn was to be a lot more exciting. His Top gave him a seventh land and Ghost-Lit Stalker to take out Rogier's hand.

Not all was lost for Rogier though. He still had a Kokusho in play and a lot of lands to play with. With so many Goryo's Vengeance and Kokusho's in his deck, he could easily topdeck his way out of the situation. He would have to do it quickly though, as Kenji had Meloku, equipped with Tatsumasa, and Rogier was already down to seven life.

It was obvious that Kenji was a lot more confident now. His Meloku forced Kokusho to chump block, and he'd drawn Gifts Ungiven and Hana Kami. Kenji's first Gifts of the match gave him Soulless Revival and Ink-Eyes in his hand, and Myojin of Night's Reach and Death Denied in the graveyard. Soulless Revival got back the Myojin, and in Kenji's attack step, Rogier had to figure out his hand. He'd drawn Sickening Shoal and two Goryo's Vengeance, not a bad series of draws. He played the Shoal on an Illusion token, removing a Goryo's Vengeance while splicing two Vengeance, getting back two Kokushos. He then played his Vengeance getting back Kokusho again, and blocked the 7/9 Meloku with it. Kenji made a Dragon out of his sword before damage, causing Meloku to die in combat, and Kokusho got removed from the Vengeance.
Rogier was again forced to topdeck, but this time he failed and Kenji finished him off, winning the game at only three life.

Despite his triple mulligan, Kenji pulled it off, not an easy job to do. He went all-in on the beatdown plan, and Rogier's control game wasn't fast enough to stop the beatings.

Additional sideboarding:

Rogier: +2 Pithing Needle, -1 Wear Away,-1 Kagemaro, First to Suffer
Kenji: No changes

Rogier Maaten

Game 3

Both players kept their hands, and started building up their mana base with several Tribe Elders and Reaches. The first action spell was Kenji's turn four Kokusho, but Rogier took it out with his own copy. The roles were reversed now: Rogier was the beatdown player with another Kokusho, and Kenji was setting up a control game with a Gifts Ungiven. The Gifts gave him Hana Kami and Myojin in his hand, and Soulless Revival and Death Denied in the graveyard. Kenji played and activated his Myojin on his turn, getting a great grip from Rogier: Kokusho, Ink-Eyes, and a Goryo's Vengeance. Rogier was again in topdeck mode. He had a Kokusho in play and a lot of lands to go with it. This time he had a Divining Top though, making it a lot easier to draw his way out.

This time, things were looking very good for the Japanese player. He had Hana Kami-recursion going on, and also drew Goryo's Vengeance to take out Rogier's Kokusho. He also had another Gifts, and finished him off on the next turn.

Tsumura 2 - Maaten 1

Sunday, August 28: 5:26 pm - Semifinals - Antonino De Rosa vs. Kenji Tsumura

Kokusho, the Evening Star

De Rosa won the die roll and mulliganned before playing a turn 2 Jushi Apprentice. Tsumura cast a turn 2 Sakura-Tribe Elder and followed that up with Kodama's Reach. De Rosa countered a Tsumura's Top with Disrupting Shoal, but that left him open to Gifts Ungiven from Tsumura, giving Kenji Sickening Shoal and Kagemaro in hand and Meloku and Ink-Eyes in the yard. The Shoal whacked the weenie wizard, and Sakura-Tribe Elder got in there for another point of damage. Kenji tried to take De Rosa's legs out on the next turn, channeling a Ghost-lit Stalker to leave him all but handless (he kept Azami around), and then Kagemaro killed Azami, clearing the board. Another Jushi Apprentice from De Rosa met an untimely demise to another Kagemaro, and then it was Tsumura's turn to go aggressive, casting Kokusho, the Evening Star.

Ant fought back, casting Meloku but the Clouded Mirror was not enough to save him. His hand bereft of countermagic, he was unable to stop Tsumura from casting Kodama's Reach splicing Goryo's Vengeance and getting Kagemaro to wipe De Rosa's board. Keiga then had to trade straight up with Kokusho and a second inky dragon on the next turn spelled d-e-m-i-s-e for De Rosa.

Tsumura 1 - De Rosa 0

De Rosa started game 2 on the right foot with a Pithing Needle naming Sensei's Divining Top. Mana was ramped, spells were countered, and things were quiet until Kenji cast Meloku, which De Rosa could not deny. Luckily for the Champ, he drew a Pithing Needle to stop the illusionary army before it started. Keiga, the Tide Star made her first appearance of the match and began to swing, dropping Tsumura to ten before he was able to Rending Vines the Meluko Needle. Azami, Lady of Scrolls let Antonino draw two more cards on his turn, refilling his hand with Meloku and a Hinder, and now it was Tsumura's turn ponder his options. He eventually attacked with an illusion, ninjaing in Ink-Eyes to steal an Apprentice.

With Tsumura at ten life and De Rosa with some reasonable protection, Ant decided to start drawing cards. Lots of them. So many that he had to discard before the next life change, as the two cagey masters jabbed back and forth looking for an opening for the knockout blow. Tsumura may have thought he found it when he cast Death Denied at the end of his turn to return two spirits and then drew a card with his Jushi Apprentice, flipping it into Tomaya the Revealer. De Rosa's eyebrows shot up, indicating he may not have considered this plan of attack while drawing five cards a turn before reconsidering, saying, "He's not running me out of cards." Looking at the board, this was certainly likely to be true - at the moment Kenji didn't have two blue mana available to activate Tomaya even once.

Tsumura cast Meloku on his turn only to have it countered by Minamo's Meddling, revealing four dead Tops in Kenji's hand plus garbage and a single other threat: Kagemaro. Hisoka's Defiance countered Kagemaro and Tsumura packed it in, eager to move to game 3.

Tsumura 1 - De Rosa 1

Game 3 was all about jockeying in the first five turns. De Rosa countered Kenji's mana acceleration, but then saw Pithing Needle hit the board naming his own Journeyer's Kite. Kenji then resolved a Ghost-Lit Stalker only to see its first activation Squelched before being bounced back to Tsumura's hand. The Stalker was countered on the way back down, but Kenji used Soulless Revival to bring it back and it resolved the second time. The next activation from the Stalker was also Squelched, and De Rosa went for the kill the turn after, putting Keiga on the board and daring Kenji to deal with it. Big blue hit once before Ant sacrificed it to steal the Stalker, casting a second Keiga on the next turn. Tsumura hardcast Ink-Eyes while Ant was tapped out, and the two legends traded on the next turn, as the momentum meter quivered precisely in the center of the table, unmoved after the colossal blows.

De Rosa then topdecked a third Keiga and put her into play, while Kenji cast Death Denied, returning all of the creatures in his graveyard to hand while De Rosa was tapped out with only two spells in hand. A channeled Stalker made those disappear, but Keiga beat Tsumura to ten on De Rosa's attack. Now came the moment of truth for Tsumura - De Rosa had one card in hand, but Kenji was running out of time. He clearly needed to resolve an answer to Keiga - did Antonino have a counter? It turns out he did, as Kagemaro ran headlong into Hisoka's Defiance. Tsumura tried again on the next turn, casting Meloku as a superior out, but again De Rosa had drawn a counterspell, this time in the form of Hinder. Once again Tsumura was not done, casting Gifts Ungiven directly after Meloku for Sickening Shoal, Kagemaro, Meloku, and Goryo's Vengeance. De Rosa gave Kenji the Vengeance and Meloku and the little Japanese master had no choice but to extend his hand, admitting defeat. De Rosa hit running counterspells on back to back draws to deny Tsumura and do exactly what he promised in the quarterfinals - make sure that the title to this U.S. Grand Prix stayed on home soil. He would now meet amateur Karl Briem in the finals

De Rosa 2 - Tsumura 1

Sunday, August 28: 6:40 pm - Finals: Karl Briem vs Antonino De Rosa

Karl Briem

This final matchup surprised everyone. There were a grand total 6 Gifts deck in the Top 8, but somehow the two other decks made it to the finals! Karl Briem, who was an amateur going into this GP and one of two that made it into this star-studded Top 8, is playing his version of Mono Black Aggro, with lots of two-drops and discard spells. He was the first person to clinch a spot on the Top 8, though he worried that he wasn't a lock in the final round and played it out against Gadiel Szleifer, losing in 2 games. Antonino de Rosa, fresh off of his U.S. Nationals victory, has returned to another finals. This weekend he is playing a Mono Blue Control deck, which seems to be his style lately.

Game 1

Karl won the die roll and both players kept their opening hands. Antonino played a turn 1 Pithing Needle, naming Umezawa's Jitte. After all, Karl's deck doesn't have other good targets. Right? Well, except for Wicked Akuba. And due to a bad twist of fate, Karl's draw featured not 1, not 2 but 3 Wicked Akubas! So Karl played turn 2 Wicked Akuba, turn 3 Hand of Cruelty and 2 more Wicked Akubas on turn 4. Antonino found a seemingly good answer in Threads of Disloyalty. He took control of Hand of Cruelty, which can block a Wicked Akuba and live. But it wasn't good enough. Karl did the math and swung with all of his men. Antonino blocked one out of three Wicked Akuba's, but the other came through and Karl spent all of his mana on Akuba activations. That attack took Antonino to 8. Next turn Karl played his 6th land and swung with both of his Akubas once more. Antonino had no Consuming Vortex, so one of them dealt damage to Antonino and Karl activated that Akuba 6 times for lethal damage.

Briem 1 - De Rosa 0

Antonino: "I guess I picked the wrong card with Pithing Needle. I mean, how can I know you have three Wicked Akubas?"

Game 2

Wicked Akuba

Antonino played first and Karl had to take a mulligan. Antonino had a turn 2 Jushi Apprentice. Karl played turn 2 Distress and saw 2 Keiga, Azumi, Threads of Disloyalty, Consuming Vortex. Without much thought, he chose to get rid of the Threads of Disloyalty. Antonino didn't draw a land in his next draw step, so he just attacked with his Jushi. Karl played Wicked Akuba on his turn and Antonino bounced it right away with Consuming Vortex in order to gain some tempo advantage. Antonino's next draw step gave him his third land. Karl then tried to resolve some spells. An Umezawa's Jitte was Hindered, but two Wicked Akuba's resolved. Unfortunately for Karl, Antonino managed to draw into 2 Threads of Disloyalty with his Jushi Apprentice and he stole both Wicked Akubas. The game didn't last long after that. Karl did manage to resolve and Ink-Eyes, but Antonino had more than enough chump blockers for it. The only play Antonino had to think about was whether to tap out for Keiga, the Tide Star or not. Eventually he put it down, taking the risk of Karl having Eradicate in his hand. He didn't have it, so all Antonino had to do was to attack a couple times with his Dragon Legend and ride his Jushi Apprentice to victory in the meantime.

Briem 1 - De Rosa 1

Game 3

Karls turn one Psychic Spear revealed 2 Island, River Kajin, Azami Lady of Scrolls, 2 Meloku the Clouded Mirror and Consuming Vortex. He took the bounce card. His next plays were turn 2 Wicked Akuba and turn 3 Jitte. Because Antonino's hard counters start at three mana, there was nothing he could do about that.

Antonino cast River Kajin on turn 3, but it was hardly an answer to Wicked Akuba equipped with Umezawa's Jitte. Karl attacked, River Kajin blocked, and Karl killed it right away with Umezawa's Jitte counters. He then followed up his attack with Nezumi Graverobber and passed the turn. Antonino's topdecked a Threads of Disloyalty to get him right back in the game. The two black creatures traded and Karl didn't have any creatures left after that. Sure, he had an Umezawa's Jitte in play, but that was looking pretty sad without creatures to complement it. All he could muster was a Pithing Needle naming Meloku. Karl stumbled upon a land clump, while Antonino was stuck on 4 lands for some time. After a couple turns he finally found his 5th land and cast Meloku, the Clouded Mirror. Karl immediately Eradicated it. He got to peek at Antonino's hand in the process and saw 2 Keiga and 2 Azami. By the look of his face, you could tell he didn't like his chances at that point.

A handshake signifies victory for Antonino De Rosa

Antonino played Azami and started to draw cards like a madman. 2 Jushi Apprentice joined, allowing Antonino to draw 4 cards per turn. Nevertheless, Antonino didn't find any counters, allowing Karl to resolve an Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni. Antonino thought he had a nice answer to the 5/4 legend in Keiga, but Karl had a Shizo to get past that. But soon enough, Antonino drew into a second Keiga. That triggered the legend rule, allowing Antonino to gain control of Ink-Eyes. After that, the writing was on the wall. Karl was facing a Wizard card drawing machine and his own Ink-Eyes. A couple attacks later, Karl extended his hand, congratulating Antonino on his win.

Antonino de Rosa is the Grand Prix Salt Lake City champion!

De Rosa 2 - Briem 1