Posted in GRAND PRIX STOCKHOLM 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on October 25, 2014

By Tobi Henke

Niklas Ramquist has one previous Grand Prix Top 8 finish under his belt, Valentin Mackl has four. Both were obviously looking to add another to their résumé this weekend, and did very well so far, going 6-0. Even more obviously, only one would be able to continue in that same fashion and clinch a Day 2 berth early.

Ramquist came equipped with Temur Aggro as popularized by none other than Hall of Famer Brian Kibler who played the deck to a Top 16 finish at last week's Grand Prix in Los Angeles, where, as luck would have it, he beat one Valentin Mackl. Meanwhile Mackl had switched decks since last week and was now playing a rather controlling Jeskai build with a few card choices that, depending on who you ask, could be described as either weird or techy (let's say "unorthodox").

Niklas Ramquist

Game 1

Ramquist opened strong with Elvish Mystic on turn one, Elvish Mystic plus Rattleclaw Mystic on turn two, and Ashcloud Phoenix plus Heir of the Wilds on turn three.

"Damn you, Kibler!" Mackl shook his fist in anger.

Mackl's Seeker of the Way and Jeskai Charm tried to get rid of Heir of the Wilds and Ashcloud Phoenix, respectively. However, Temur Charm stopped Jeskai Charm. With his Seeker gone, Mackl needed to cast Mantis Rider to at least stop Ramquist's smaller creatures from joining the fray. Ramquist simply cast another big creature in Savage Knuckleblade. In the face of such an onslaught, Mackl simply conceded.

"I blame Kibler," Mackl said again. "You can't say that often enough."

Niklas Ramquist 1-0 Valentin Mackl

Game 2

This began at a much more sedate pace. Ramquist's first play of Heir of the Wilds met Nullify, and then Mackl managed to stick the first creature in Mantis Rider. Ramquist fought back with Boon Satyr, and kept it around via Stubborn Denial, while Mackl lost his Mantis Rider to Crater's Claws. He then added Polukranos, World Eater to his team, but lost both his creatures to Mackl's End Hostilities.

The earlier attacks and his own lands had already brought Ramquist to 8 at this point, and a second Mantis Rider made that 5. Ramquist lost another point to his mana base, then lost the final 4 life to Stoke the Flames.

Niklas Ramquist 1-1 Valentin Mackl

Game 3

The final game began with a mulligan for Ramquist. It continued with another mulligan for Ramquist. He looked at his five cards—Elvish Mystic, Ashcloud Phoenix, Crater's Claws, Stubborn Denial, Mountain—and went to four.

Valentin Mackl

"Well, that's Magic," muttered Ramquist through clenched teeth. While his facial expression was technically something of a grin, the emotion displayed was more like chagrin. "I should have kept the seven," he chided himself. "They were bad, but at least there were lands and spells there."

Ramquist's draw wasn't actually that bad, though. Boon Satyr and a hasty Savage Knuckleblade were both dealt with, but only after one attack. A second Savage Knuckleblade delivered further beatings until it was shot down with two Magma Jets. A third Savage Knuckleblade brought Mackl to 3.

Meanwhile, a pair of Mana Confluences and some Mantis Rider attacks had brought Ramquist into the single-digit life total range too

Ramquist fired a deadly Crater's Claws at his opponent. Mackl had Dissipate, then Dig Through Time. "If you don't find 6 points of burn with that ..." But Mackl did. He revealed two Lightning Strikes, elicting a concession from Ramquist, while advancing to 7-0.

Niklas Ramquist 1-2 Valentin Mackl

"I nearly won. With four cards!"

"I hate this match-up."