Grand Prix Utrecht 2013
Day 1 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on March 16, 2013

By Wizards of the Coast


Saturday, 1:11 p.m. – Grand Prix Trial Winners

by Tobi Henke

Most of yesterday's Trials were run in single-player formats. Teams were able to earn two byes for the main event if any of their three members won one of those tournaments, so many chose to try that. A few, however, really wanted one last chance to test the format of the Grand Prix.

To give us all a quick first impression of how decks in the Team Sealed format need to look like to make it to the top, here are six lists used by two teams to win their respective Trial. You'll notice, decks tend to be somewhat stronger and especially much more focused and streamlined than in regular Sealed Deck or even Booster Draft!

Jeroen Kanis

Download Arena Decklist

Wouter Noordzij

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Ziming Chen

Download Arena Decklist

Mikael Linden

Download Arena Decklist

Björn Arnö

Download Arena Decklist

Joakim Almelund

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Saturday, 1:39 p.m. – Deckbuilding with Black/Lévy/Wiegersma

by Tobi Henke

With three of the most accomplished players here this weekend, the combination of deckbuilding genius Sam Black with Hall of Famers Raphaël Lévy and Jelger Wiegersma is easily one of the most interesting teams at this Grand Prix. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when they build their decks ...

Well, let's do just that, shall we?

One of the first things to materialize when the players laid out their cards was a Gruul deck, thanks to a Guildmage, two red-green rares, and two Zhur-Taa Swines. The blue and black cards were laid out on their own, possibly to try and avoid Dimir. "I don't think we wanna split green, so Simic's out," Sam Black declared. And the Boros cards, what little there were, were also set aside rather quickly. "We could build Orzhov and Dimir," Black suggested, and Lévy agreed, "I think this Dimir may be really good actually," as he started putting cards together, "but it can't be control because there's no removal. This is aggro." And indeed, with two one-drops and five two-drops, an aggressive Dimir deck was quickly taking shape.

Meanwhile, Black focused on the white cards for an Orzhov deck, looting Lévy's Dimir for some of the more controllish cards that didn't really fit in there, splashing blue off two Prophetic Prisms. "You know we have to build three decks, right?" Lévy complained when Black took too much of the Dimir. Especially, where their one Grisly Spectacle should go was a highly contested issue. Still, Lévy agreed that Sepulchral Primordial and Lord of the Void were probably better in Orzhov than in this particular Dimir build.

Decision on the Orzhov/Dimir front postponed, the players turned their attention to the Gruul deck for additional tweaks. They discussed the possibility of running extra Guildgates, Simic and Boros, for Greenside Watcher, and cut Scorchwalker, Wildwood Rebirth, Rust Scarab, and one more. "Well, we can't cut any of these," Wiegersma said, pointing at his five removal spells. Scab-Clan Charger couldn't go either, so Bomber Corps had to, although all three of them were reluctant to lose the two-drop.

Back on the Orzhov/Dimir side the blue splash left the Orzhov deck and Grisly Spectacle joined it. "Without it, I don't have any removal!" Lévy whined. Black pointed to Agoraphobia, Totally Lost, and Hands of Binding. "You have these." Wiegersma was not impressed and even suggested to cut Totally Lost entirely. Breeding Pool and Simic Guildgate offered a potential splash of Fathom Mage, Frilled Oculus, Nimbus Swimmer, and/or Urban Evolution for the Dimir deck. This didn't fit its aggressive set-up and didn't meet Lévy's approval. No splashes here.

Assault Griffin

"Do you want 17 or 18 lands in this deck?" Black wondered. "It does have a lot of extort." But that wasn't the only issue left with the Orzhov deck. "I like Assault Griffin," Lévy pointed out. Three Griffins soon found their way into the deck, at the expense of one Syndicate Enforcer which moved to Lévy's Dimir temporarily before being relegated to the sideboard for good.

"By the way, who's playing which deck?" Black asked.

Wiegersma was fine with Gruul and Lévy wanted to keep his Dimir, having been the most involved in its construction and apparently grown quite attached to it. "Well this is absolutely not my style of deck," Black said about the Orzhov build, however, which had evolved into a more and more aggressive version. "This is beatdown. I like control."

"Wait a second," Black interrupted himself. "If this is our Orzhov, isn't it just a worse Boros deck? Wouldn't it be better to simply run Boros then?" Boros was quickly assembled but between its own failings and the need to raid the Gruul deck for some two-drops, the result seemed less than optimal. "I liked Orzhov better," said Wiegersma. But Black didn't give up yet. Next, he tried a mostly white build with four red cards and six black. With three Assault Griffins and two Skyknight Legionnaires the deck was more focused on fliers, and still retained most of its extortion racket. "We don't want to take the ground attackers from Gruul, and this deck doesn't want to attack on the ground anyway," Black explained and collected various Guildgates. Pointing at Prophetic Prism, Black admitted, "The deck might have to play this on turn two sometimes, but apart from that the mana is really solid. Something like 10-9-8!"

And with that, the team had finally settled on their three decks: one Gruul , one aggressive Dimir , and one Boros/Orzhov.

"So do you like this deck then?" asked Lévy. "I don't hate it," Black replied.

Final tweaks to the Orzhov/Boros deck included adding Urbis Protector and cutting Aerial Maneuver. Said Black, "The creatures, at least the attackers, all already fly anyway." The Gruul deck meanwhile lost Greenside Watcher. "The deck has at least one too many low-impact two-drops," Black argued.

Then it was time to divide the sideboard cards. ("That can take a lot more time than you might think.") Who would be most likely to sideboard the Simic cards? "Aint gonna happen here," Lévy announced, and Wiegersma scooped them up for his Gruul sideboard. The question where to put Sepulchral Primordial and Lord of the Void generated a lot more debate. "I want Orzhov to have the option to go big," said Wiegersma, and Black agreed. In the end, a compromise put the Primordial in the Orzhov/Boros sideboard and the Lord in the Dimir sideboard. Skyblinder Staffs were divided between Lévy's and Black's deck, and Wiegersma got most of the remaining red.

The clock was already ticking down to its last minutes and soon the players were busy, hurrying to register their decks in time.

Any final words? I asked. Happy with the decks?

Shrugs all around, with the apparent consensus being: "Yep, they're fine."

Saturday, 2:25 a.m. – Team Sealed Revealed

by Tim Willoughby

"Team sealed is like the best of both sealed deck and draft. You have all the synergies of draft, with the power level of good sealed decks"

Sam Black, the only player on his team not to have a Hall of Fame ring, was just shuffling up his sealed deck to practice against teammate Jelger Wiegersma, as their third man Raphael Levy looked on. Wiegersma, a native Netherlander who had not had to travel far for the event, had plenty of practice at team sealed from back in the day – he was one of team Von Dutch who won Pro Tour Seattle in team limited in 2004. While the rest of his team scoffed as he compared the quality of team sealed decks to something between good draft decks and block constructed decks, Jelger had a point. Looking around the room, the potential quality of decks in the team sealed format has the potential to be through the roof.

With 12 packs being opened between three players, there is more potential to open powerful commons, uncommons and rares, as well as a greater chance of being able to ensure that the powerful spells get played, between three teammates.

Joel Larsson, fresh off his second place finish at Pro Tour Gatecrash, had teamed up with countrymen Elias Watsfeldt and Mikael Magnussen for the event, and was pretty happy with the quality of their collective decks.

"We found ourselves with a split of Boros, Simic and Orzhov/Dimir, which we think is a fairly common way for the guilds to be split between three players" remarked Watsfeldt, eagerly showing off the three decks with which the players would battle over the course of day one. "White is normally the easiest colour to split, as it has some cards that are more clearly suited to either Boros or Orzhov, whereas if we were trying to split a colour like black, we would have had a fight on our hands."

The reason for the Boros deck being a common one to encounter soon became clear as I was walking around the room – a lot of the powerful cards in a Boros deck are gold commons and uncommons that do not split out well. When you open 12 packs, it is easy to find yourself with four copies of Skyknight Legionnaire, or even as I saw in one case five copies of Wojek Halberdiers. In limited formats you can play with more than four copies of a card if you have opened or drafted them, and I'm pretty sure that from the smiling face of the player building, all five copies of that powerful two drop were going to see play. When the best cards in your deck are gold, that likely means the guild will not get split.

Once Boros is in the mix, the allure of having a Simic deck increases – it's not going to get in any fights with Boros for cards, and has every opportunity to build the ideal evolution curve to be able to power out seemingly unstoppable starts.

Stopping the rush is certainly something that played on many players minds during deckbuilding. Jan van der Vegt, who is jetting off to Boston to play in the Magic Online Championship Series on Monday, had taken the short trip to Utrecht to play with some friends, and based on his practice, he was very keen to ensure that he had a plan against the inevitable Boros deck.

Larsson, Watsfeldt, and Magnussen - they've all been on the Pro Tour, but when Magnussen was there, Watsfeldt may have been a foetus.

"You can start thinking about matchups specifically in this format, and when we were building, we knew that there would be some cards that we'd want specifically for some matchups" remarked the well liked Dutch streamer best know to his online fans as Dzyl. He showed off a few key defensive cards aimed at beating an early rush, such that he would be able to get his big late game threats online and dealing damage.

Martin Juza, playing with Lukas Jaklovsky and Shuhei Nakamura, took things one step further, talking about how the power level of decks in the format would impact on the way that he'd be playing games themselves.

"In a normal draft, you won't worry too much about specific rares, because you probably won't have seen them in the draft, and the likelihood of someone having the rare that gets you is pretty low. Once you start looking at team sealed, people have 12 packs to work with, and the likelihood of any particular rare coming into play increases a lot. It means that there is more room to do well by playing around specific threats."

It was Nakamura on this international power-team that had the most thinking to do, with a highly synergistic Dimir deck that Juza dubbed the most powerful of their three. "We're all playing to our strengths in our team" joked Juza. "Shuhei is playing a complicated control deck, Lukas has a lot of math to do with his Orzhov deck, and I'm just smashing face with Boros."

Getting the right mix of players on a team is definitely an important feature, and a number of players mentioned that this wasn't simply a matter of simple play skill. Van der Vegt, who was playing with friends who hadn't perhaps quite as much experience playing with Gatecrash, was happy to be able to get a chance to spend the weekend with friends by his side the entire time, sharing in victories and defeats. Stanislav Cifka and Ivan Floch had taken the opportunity to juice up their team with a friend who hadn't necessarily played with Gatecrash a lot, but who would be in a great position to compete with a little help from his friends. Lukas Blohon would have a couple of byes in which to get up to speed on the format, at which point he rounded out the Slovak team very well indeed.

With so many permutations of cards and combinations, there is a lot to think about in the team sealed format. One area where some teams had chosen not to go in for mind games too much was around seating positions. In principle, matchups are very important in the team sealed format, but trying to predict which seat would have which deck proved a task most didn't want to get too worried about. There were arguments that the best player should be in the middle to provide support to both teammates, and that that player should have the more complicated deck, or that they should have the fast Boros deck, to get their game out of the way, to be able to help others. Some felt the weakest player should be in the middle, to get advice from either shoulder. Some teams, like the Swedes, simply felt that advice in game should more or less start and end with mulligan advice unless something really strange came up, simply because keeping ones head in more than one game at a time seemed too much to achieve.

One way or another, as the byes ticked down, the pros did not seem to mind only having 2 byes rather than the normal three. One of the beauties of team sealed deck is that you are always playing alongside friends, and always have a pretty solid deck. No matter how much tournament experience you have, that is a recipe for a great day's Magic, and it was clear that here in Utrecht, everyone was excited to play.

Round 3 Feature Match – Lippi/Estratti/Versari vs. Tenenbaum/Nassif/Bonomo

by Tobi Henke

In team tournaments no one has more than two byes, so the pros entered the fray for round three already. And what pros met here! A Grand Prix champion (Matteo Versari), a Pro Tour champion (Samuele Estratti), a Hall of Famer (Gabriel Nassif), a Pro Tour finalist (Amiel Tenenbaum), and a Grand Prix semifinalist (Alessandro Lippi).

Alessandro Lippi (Boros) vs. Amiel Tenenbaum (Simic)

Sunhome Guildmage, Daring Skyjek, and Warmind Infantry were an impressive start for Lippi, while Tenenbaum had to make do with Shambleshark and Crocanura, and lost the latter to Skinbrand Goblin. But Agoraphobia bought him enough time to come back into the game with a couple of Scab-Clan Chargers. The race was on. Lippi almost got there with an all-out attack and Massive Raid, but Tenenbaum had Spell Rupture and took game one on the back swing.

Now it was Tenenbaum's turn to come out of the gate fast: Wasteland Viper, Greenside Watcher, Incursion Specialist, Ivy Lane Denizen, and Slaughterhorn put a lot of pressure on Lippi, who had a pair of Wojek Halberdiers, Warmind Infantry, and Glaring Spotlight. He got Tenenbaum down to 14 but no further since he couldn't risk losing any of his creatures. His fourth one met Spell Rupture, and only when his fifth creature resolved, did he use Glaring Spotlight to attack unimpeded to bring Tenenbaum to 4. Next turn, Massive Raid would kill Tenenbaum, but the Frenchman smoothly cast Scab-Clan Charger to trigger Ivy Lane Denizen as well as Burst of Strength to trigger Incursion Specialist, attacking for exactly lethal damage, exactly at the last possible moment.

Alessandro Lippi 0-2 Amiel Tenenbaum

Matteo Versari (Orzhov) vs. Justin Bonomo (Orzhov)

In the Orzhov mirror match between Versari and Bonomo a lot of life was being drained, but mostly just back and forth. Progress was only made when Versari developed an advantage in flyers (Basilica Screecher, Kingpin's Pet, Balustrade Spy). Unfortunately, he couldn't sustain that advantage through Bonomo's removal and soon hit a patch of lands, while Bonomo's deck kept going. In the end, the game was decided on spell advantage compounded by extort.

While the first one at least had its ups and downs and took a while, game two quickly turned into a non-event. Versari was stuck on Swamps with two Arrows of Justice, Kingpin's Pet, and Alms Beast in hand. He didn't draw Plains in time.

Matteo Versari 0-2 Justin Bonomo

Samuele Estratti (Simic/Gruul) vs. Gabriel Nassif (Boros)

Nassif took an early lead with Wojek Halberdiers and Madcap Skills, but lost both against Disciple of the Old Ways and Pit Fight. With the early rush over, Estratti's deck could really shine now. A team of creatures which were simply larger, led by Ghor-Clan Rampager, took game one.

On turn four of game two, Skinbrand Goblin, Warmind Infantry, and Daring Skyjek faced off against Disciple of the Old Ways, Slaughterhorn, and a 1/3 Crocanura. One turn later, Nassif had killed the Crocanura with Massive Raid, then swung with all of his creatures, losing Warmind Infantry to Slaughterhorn, and getting in the first 5 damage. Nassif took to the air with Assault Griffin and Skyknight Legionnaire joining Daring Skyjek. But Estratti fought back with Rapid Hybridization and Rust Scarab. Soon he was getting in some damage of his own, 12 to be precise, thanks to a bloodrushed Skarrg Goliath. In a sudden turn of events, Nassif was now actually forced to speed things up. He tried to cast Madcap Skills on Skyknight Legionnaire, only to lose both cards to Pit Fight in response. He went to three creatures, then to 4 life, then had to trade two of his creatures for Rust Scarab. Another Disciple of the Old Ways and a Frilled Oculus for Estratti ended things not much later.

Samuele Estratti 2-0 Gabriel Nassif

Lippi/Estratti/Versari 1-2 Tenenbaum/Nassif/Bonomo

Round 4 Feature Match – Plagge/Koch/Lantin vs. Pichon/Dagan/Dazani

by Tim Willoughby

For round four, an alliance of impressive French players found themselves against a German team headed up by Florian Koch. Normally Koch would be enough to secure a feature match on his own, as a consistently high performing German player on the Grand Prix circuit, but while the team of Plagge/Koch/Lantin looked good, it could not match the recent performances of Elie Pichon, Pierre Dagan and Jeremy Dazani, who have been part of a renaissance of French Magic in the last year or so.

Game 1

Dimir (Plagge) vs. Simic (Pichon)

A Devour Flesh took out an early Shambleshark, but it was soon followed by both Cloudfin Raptor and Frilled Oculus from the French side of the table. These fell to another Devour Flesh and Death's Approach, after which a Wight of Precinct Six was easily big enough to hold off Ivy Lane Denizen.

Elie Pichon was not dissuaded though. He had Burning-Tree Emissary into Crocanura. A Leyline Phantom let him evolve a little, and when a second Crocanura was followed by Hands of Binding to lock down a hefty Wight of Precinct Six, it left poor blocking options on the Dimir side of the board. While one swing was eminently take-able, the second was able to end it in the French team's favour.

Plagge 0 – 1 Pichon

Dazani, Dagen, and Pichon

Simic (Koch) vs. Boros (Dagen)

The middle table saw Florian Koch playing his team's Simic deck, with an early Elusive Krasis facing down a couple of copies of Wojek Halbardiers, Ember Beast and Syndic of Tithes from Pierre Dagen. When Skyknight Legionnaire joined the Boros side of the board it was enough to overpower Koch before his game could really get going at all – a lightning fast win for the French team.

Koch 0 – 1 Dagen

Boros (Lantin) vs. Esper (Dazani)

The German Boros deck found itself against an Esper deck that was well prepared. Dazani had Devour Flesh to take out a Sunhome Guildmage, and a Corpse Blockade to stem the early beatdown from the other side of the board.

While the Boros deck had beautiful Mirage block lands, it had rather more of them than it might have liked, and was soon in trouble to a Balustrade Spy and a Crypt Ghast. With Lantin drawing little to answer, it was another quick game one.

Lantin 0 – 1 Dazani

After three games, the French team was winning in all three matches – a great spot to be in as all six players shuffled up for their next games.

Game 2

Dimir, or is that Orzhov? (Plagge) vs. Simic (Pichon)

Obzedat, Ghost Council

For game two, it became clear that the 'Dimir' deck had undergone a bit of a transformation, leading with a Swamp and a Plains. Gutter Skulk was able to hit the red zone for successive turns, as a pair of copies of Devour Flesh cleared a path. Following that a foil copy of Obzedat, Ghost Council came down, piling on the aggression.

On the French side of the board, Ivy Lane Denizen was joined by Leyline Phantom, which seemed ok, at least until Ogre Slumlord came along, adding to the powerful rares sat just on the Orzhov side of things.

Mystic Genesis was able to deal with a Dinrova Horror, but Pichon was still on the back foot. Alms Beast further added to Pichon's woes, and with Obzedat doing its thing, he was on a short clock. When Balustrade Spy came down, rather than showing his opponent any more of his deck, Pichon scooped up his cards.

Plagge 1 – 1 Pichon

Boros (Lantin) vs. Esper (Dazani)

Game two here also looked worse from the French side of the table. Spark Trooper was on the stack and had some friends to get into the red zone with. While the Dazani had a Grizzly Spectacle to keep the Boros side of the board from getting too hectic, Skyknight Legionnaire, Ember Beast, Spark Trooper is a pretty big swing to take even once. Soon that game too was to go on to a decider.

Lantin 1 – 1 Dazani

Simic (Koch) vs. Boros (Dagen)

After a quick judge call to confirm that some sleeves were okay the Simic vs. Boros match started in earnest. Madcap Skills on a Syndic of Tithes looked to be a powerful play, with little removal typically seen from a Simic deck. Totally Lost did the trick though, and meanwhile Koch was able to build a nice little board, with Elusive Krasis, Cloudfin Raptor and Rust Scarab all being awkward creatures to try and block. While Dagen wasn't immediately dead to such a start, it wasn't one he was able to comfortably race, and in time Koch was able to muscle past with this nigh unblockable team to square things in the team matchup at 3-3 in games, a strong fight back.

Koch 1 – 1 Dagen

Game 3

Games one and two had seen sweeps from either side of the table, making the match neck and neck, though in all three the French team would be going first in the decider. The decisive final games all started almost simultaneously.

Orzhov (Plagge) vs. Simic (Pichon)

Mystic Genesis

For the deciding game, in spite of being on the draw, Plagge's deck was on the offensive, with Basilica Screecher and Wight of Precinct Six to start, while Pichon's Simic deck accelerated out an Urban Evolution with Simic Keyrune. For another game the Esper deck had running copies of Devour Flesh to keep the French side of the board clear, but this time a Mystic Genesis would mean that at least the second would be unsuccessful.

The counters kept on coming, with Spell Rupture stopping Obzedat, Ghost Council from hitting the board – a key play in keeping Pichon in his match.

Gift of Orzhova on Wight of Precinct Six was a huge play, making the Wight a 4/4 flying lifelinker, to which Pichon had no immediate answer. While a Crocanura gave Pichon an eventual blocker for the Wight, the damage had already been done, and extort was enough to end the match.

Plagge 2 – 1 Pichon

Boros (Lantin) vs. Esper (Dazani)

Game three of this match again showed the power of control against aggro, with Corpse Blockade and Soul Ransom showing their power against an aggressive start. Basilica Guards, Basilica Screecher and One-Thousand Lashes all gave the French side of the board a tactical advantage, both blunting the offence of the Boros Legion, and allowing some little nibbles into opposing life totals.

A Call of the Nightwing gave Jeremy Dezani a potentially limitless supply of 1/1 creatures, but when Act of Treason came from Lantin, it gave him just enough of a swing to get a 1/1 flying blocker of his own thanks to the cipher spell.

The game looked to be stalling, which ultimately favoured the Esper deck. Land after land came down on both sides, but neither player seemed apt to take advantage of them in a big way in the short term. This all changed though when Dezani cast an 11 point Mind Grind, with a pump of the fist, squaring things and leaving the entire match down to the central game between Koch and Pierre Dagen.

Lantin 1 – 2 Dazani

Plagge, Koch, and Lantin

Simic vs. Boros

Both players had pretty fantastic starts in the game, not even realising that it would ultimately be the one to decide the whole match. Koch began with Cloudfin Raptor and a Shambleshark, while on the other side of the board there was a Wojek Halbardiers, Mugging for the Raptor and a Knight of Obligation. Again Elusive Krasis came along for Koch, and soon evolved thanks to Frilled Oculus and Sage's Row Denizen.

Suddenly this matchup was a race. Elusive Krasis, as a 2/6, and ultimately a 3/7, was a significant clock that the Boros deck was in poor shape to be able to remove. Could Pierre Dagan find a way to end the game, and the match before the unblockable monster did so? Florian Koch had a few tricks up his sleeve to stop that plan. While he was soon at low life to an Ember Beast and some sneaky extorts from his opponent, a timely Totally Lost to put Daring Skyjek on the top of Dagen's deck looked likely to buy enough time to win the game.

When Koch showed a second copy the very next turn, his team totally won, and the other team, well, you get the idea.

Florian Koch 2 – 1 Pierre Dagan

Plagge/Koch/Lantin win the set – two matches to one.

Saturday, 5:45 a.m. – Deck Building Exercise

by Tobi Henke

You up for a challenge? Well, have we got a challenge for you!

Here are the contents of twelve booster packs Gatecrash. This morning, three well-known players sat down and built their three decks from it. We're not going to tell you their names because having their full card pool shown on the net might spoil their fun throughout the rest of the day. But later today, we'll not only reveal their identity but also show you their decks.

In the meantime, why don't you try and come up with three decks of yourself? Are you going with the most popular combination of Simic/Boros/Orzhov? Or is there a Gruul deck in here? Dimir? Lots of potential, lots of possibilities. Are you up for the challenge? Fire up our Sealed Deck Builder and find out!

Round 6 Feature Match – Brendemühl/Al-Bacha/Müller vs. Peerdeman/De Jong/Ruiterkamp

by Tobi Henke

Both teams entered this round on perfect scores of 5-0, eager to make that 6-0. Also, both had built decks in the same, and apparently most popular, color combinations of Boros, Orzhov, and Simic, and now Boros would face Simic twice, with an Orzhov mirror match in the middle.

Bernd Brendemühl (Boros) vs. Bart Peerdeman (Simic)

Brendemühl lost a quick first game against Peerdeman's Zameck Guildmage, Crocanura, and Metropolis Sprite. The Sprite, 2/3 thanks to the mage, but quite versatile due to its ability, won the race with the help of a little bloodrush.

The second game was equally fast. Here, Brendemühl had his battalion complete by turn three thanks to Boros Elite and Skyknight Legionnaire.

Game three, Metropolis Sprite was once again on the receiving end of a +1/+1 counter, this time through Burst of Strength. Normal creatures grow by 1 point of power, with a little expense of blue mana, the power-shifting Sprite however grows by up to 2. Peerdeman succesfully rode it to victory.

Bernd Brendemühl 0-2 Bart Peerdeman

Wesimo Al-Bacha (Orzhov) vs. Jasper De Jong (Orzhov splashing Blue)

This Orzhov versus Orzhov match was a real mirror. Both players summoned a couple extorters, each lost one to their opponent's removal (Smite and Executioner's Swing), then both cast a Guardian of the Gateless. But when the board got overcrowded on De Jong's side, Al-Bacha revealed a key difference: Merciless Eviction. That generated enough card advantage for him to win the game.

The second game saw no such devastation. Instead the table was quickly filled with lots and lots of 4-toughness creatures and Dutiful Thrulls and 2/3 fliers, and except for the perfunctory extortion not much was going on. All that changed when, Al-Bacha presented his Deathcult Rogue with a Gift of Orzhova. The resulting 3/3 was the only flying Rogue and soon lifetotals began tilting in Al-Bacha's favor. Still, it took a while and the game dragged on, so much so that now Al-Bacha's Undercity Informer was even more of a threat. De Jong tried to steal it with Soul Ransom, tapping out for extort in anticipation of it being sacrificed in response. But Al-Bacha did no such thing. After making sure De Jong had already played a land this turn, Al-Bacha let him have his creature, then stole it back to subtract two cards from De Jong's library for free. That was enough to win with Undercity Informer.

Wesimo Al-Bacha 2-0 Jasper De Jong

Andre Müller (Simic) vs. Gerwin Ruiterkamp (Boros)

After a mulligan, Müller started with Greenside Watcher, Crocanura, and Ivy Lane Denizen, while his opponent had kept a hand with lots of Mountains but no Plains. His turn-three Ember Beast, turn-four Scorchwalker seemed rather underwhelming but still kept Müller from attacking. Müller added Scab-Clan Charger to his team, 3/5 thanks to Ivy Lane Denizen, while Ruiterkamp again had no Plains. Müller cast Agoraphobia on Ember Beast and attacked with his team, losing Crocanura but also killing Ruiterkamp's only non-Ember Beast creature. He didn't have another, or a Plains, and quickly succumbed to the green team.

For the second game, Müller openend on Cloudfin Raptor, Shambleshark, Cloudfin Raptor, Crocanura, Scab-Clan Charger, and Drakewing Krasis (on turns one to six), whereas Ruiterkamp had his first play, Wojek Halberdiers, on turn three, followed by a Truefire Paladin that was immediately traded away for Shambleshark. His turn-five play of Burning-Tree Emissary into Firemane Avenger was quite good, however, and for a moment it looked as if he might be able to turn this game around. Alas, he ran out of creatures after just one Avenger attack, while Müller's Simic was stillc hurning out more and more.

Andre Müller 2-0 Gerwin Ruiterkamp

Brendemühl/Al-Bacha/Müller 2-1 Peerdeman/De Jong/Ruiterkamp

Saturday, 8:30 p.m. – Going Crazy

Cloudfin Raptor

Earlier today I wrote that decks in the Team Sealed format were better than decks in regular Sealed Deck and possibly even Booster Draft. Well, scratch that. The decks here are in fact so very much better, some of them might win in Standard!

Take for example the following opening: Cloudfin Raptor on turn one; another Cloudfin Raptor followed by Experiment One on turn two; Burning-Tree Emissary followed by Slaughterhorn on turn three. That's two 3/4 fliers, a 3/3 regenerator, plus a 2/2 and a 3/2 creature. Or put differently, that's 14 power by turn three! And decks here actually do that. It's happened.

In another game, a single creature attacked for 24 points of damage in one turn. How did it do that? Wrecking Ogre for +3/+3 and double the damage, Aurelia, the Warleader for quads!

And then there was this turn-five Gruul Ragebeast which turned the Gyre Sage which was responsible for it into a 4/5 creature...

Gatecrash seems to be one of the best sets ever for Team Sealed play, not least for all the craziness that's possible, especially with evolve. If you ever have the chance, and like ridiculously high-powered Limited decks, you should definitely try it!

Round 8 Feature Match - Lasse Hansen/Kenneth Brandt/ Tina Dahl vs. Elias Watsfeldt/Mikael Magnusson/Joel Larsson

by Tim Willoughby

Going into Round 8 we have a team of Danes up against the might of Sweden. Lasse Hansen, Kenneth Brandt and Tina Dahl find themselves against a team with a number of players on quite the run of form. While Magnusson of Sweden hasn’t played on the Pro Tour for a while, the Swedes on either side of him are regulars there. Elias Watsfeldt has had a number of deep finishes in the last season on the Grand Prix circuit, and Joel Larsson (Swedish Kibler) finished second at Pro Tour Gatecrash.

Game 1

Gruul vs Simic

A lightning fast draw from Dahl’s Gruul deck was ample to take down Larsson in game one, as he took a mulligan into a hand still low on land. Nothing to see here.

1 – 0 to Denmark

Orzhov vs Boros

Magnusson in the centre had a powerful opener with his Boros deck, following up early beatdown with an Assemble the Legion. Unfortunately for him though, Kenneth Brandt had one of his own, creating a slightly messy board. The early damage proved crucial though, and Magnusson’s hasty soldiers were ultimately able to punch through thanks to the early lead that the Swede was able to gain with a battalion prior to his powerful enchantment.

1 – 0 to Sweden

Team Sweden: Watsfeldt, Magnusson, and Larsson

Dimir vs Esper

At the other end of the table, Lasse Hansen had exactly the removal he needed to be aggressive with his Dimir deck. A Shadow Slice on Balustrade Spy was enough to quickly knock Elias Watsfeldt down to just two life before he found an answer in One Thousand Lashes. With more creatures to follow up, and a Hands of Binding on the one blocker that Watsfeldt could deploy, it the Swede did not last long though.

1 – 0 to Denmark

Game 2

Gruul vs Simic

Game two of the match between Dahl and Larsson saw the Dane with the initial mana issues, lacking a Mountain until her fifth turn. When it came though, it brought Ghor-Clan Rampager, and some evolution for both Experiment One and Crocanura. Throw in an Ivy Lane Denizen, and it looked like a pretty good start.

On Larsson’s side of the board, Zameck Guildmage was joined by Frilled Oculus, Slaughterhorn, Crocanura and Metropolis Sprite. Dahl was the one with the bigger creatures, and thanks to Ivy Lane Denizen, those creatures did not stop growing. Larsson soon found himself in the position of double and triple blocking – not something that works too well against Gruul decks normally. A Tower Defense trumped some bloodrush from Dahl, but Larsson was still vefry much on the back foot.

Many multiple blocks from Larsson later, and somehow he found himself stable, and Dahl running low on cards in hand. She had to play out a Wrecking Ogre rather than waiting to bloodrush it, as she was soon without creatures in play, and still without double red mana. Meanwhile, Larsson was slowly but surely building a board. Prime Speaker Zegana from Larsson was the nail in the coffin, forcing a game three.

Denmark 1 – 1 Sweden

Orzhov vs Boros

Knowing what he was facing in game two seemed enough to give Kenneth Brandt a little more of a boost following sideboarding in game two. While Magnusson again had Assemble the Legion, this time it did not prove decisive, as Brandt’s combination of removal and aggressive creatures was able to square up the game.

Denmark 1 – 1 Sweden

Team Denmark: Dahl, Brandt, and Hansen

Dimir vs Orzhov

Game two went a little more in Watsfeldt’s favour. With creatures aplenty (and many of them having extort) he was able to blunt the early offence from the Dimir deck on the other side of the table, and buy the time to play some powerful late game bombs. A Luminate Primordial finally cleared a path to swing for the win, as Hansen found himself drawing lands when he really needed spells.

Denmark 1 – 1 Sweden

Game 3

Gruul vs Simic

For game three, Gyre Sage came down for Dahl, but was only ever on the offensive, evolving thanks to Crocanura and Slaughterhorn. Larsson seemed to have a slow start, and soon found himself on low life thanks to relentless attacks from the Dane. Game three ended terrifyingly fast, as Wrecking Ogre finally ended things.

Denmark 2 – 1 Sweden

Dimir vs Esper

Elias Watsfeldt held a commanding position from the start in game three against the Dimir deck of Lasse Hansen, with a Bane Alley Broker active, and a pair of Basilica Screechers to plink through damage either by attacking or with extort. When Luminate Primordial joined the team, Watsfeldt was able to end things pretty quickly, meaning that the entire match would come down to one deciding game in the centre of the three matches.

Sweden 2 – 1 Denmark

Orzhov vs Boros

“You have it every game!” declared Brandt disconsolately as he saw Assemble the Legion for the third successive game against Magnusson’s Boros deck. With Massive Raid to help clear out blockers, and an unfettered Assault Griffin coming in in the air, it seemed that Magnusson must prevail, but Brandt was not about to make it easy on him. He had a couple of turns of careful blocking to keep his life total remotely healthy, but as the assembling legion’s ranks swelled, the Dane’s chances in the game dwindled. Finally, six soldiers swung in, aided by a Bomber Corps, and that was enough to cause Kenneth Brandt to extend his hand to Mikael Magnusson in defeat.

Sweden 2 – 1

After the dust had settled, the powerhouse team of Watsfeldt, Magnusson and Larsson had come out victorious once more, advancing to 8-0 and ensuring their place on Sunday to play Gatecrash team draft. The Danes picked up their first loss, and vowed to bounce back the very next round in order to lock up their Sunday berth.

Saturday, 10:44 p.m. – Deckbuilding Exercise: The Decks

by Tobi Henke

Have you seen the Deck Building Exercise earlier? If not, check it out, try to come up with three decks of your own, and come back afterwards.

Done? Great. So now, let's see how your results compare to those of international superteam Shuhei Nakamura, Martin Jůza, and Lukas Jaklovsky. Did you built an Orzhov deck, a Dimir deck, and a heavy-red Boros deck with a complete Gruul deck in the sideboard?

Yeah, me neither. Hall of Famer Nakamura and his Czech teammates did, however, and it's hard to argue with their expertise.

Shuhei Nakamura

Download Arena Decklist

Martin Jùza

Download Arena Decklist

Lukas Jaklovsky

Download Arena Decklist

Saturday, 10:55 p.m. – Quick Questions About Color Combinations

by Tobi Henke

So what's the best combination of colors for the three decks in this Team Sealed format? What are you running? And have you seen any unusual combination so far?

Jan-Moritz Merkel: Simic, Orzhov, Boros is hands down the best, and that's what we are running too. We've played against Gruul plus Esper, though. But everyone has a Boros deck.
Samuele Estratti: Simic splashing red, Orzhov, and Boros is the best. We have that too, or rather a Simic/Gruul hybrid. And no, I've not seen much else. No Dimir, no nothing.
Arjan van Leeuwen: Most pools turn out one control deck, Dimir or Orzhov, a Simic deck, and a Boros. We actually have a five-color deck, with all the leftovers, and that's a good option too. .
Martin Jůza: There always is a good extort deck, and then mostly there's Simic plus Boros, but sometimes Gruul plus Dimir. Interestingly enough, we have Boros, Orzhov, and Dimir. Everything is basically just that. One out of every five pools allows for a five-color deck, but if you can go for two colors you should.
Emanuel Sutor: Simic, Orzhov, and Boros is what you simply have to build most of the time. The guild structure doesn't leave a lot of room for improvisation, whereas in other formats you'd have ten possible two-color pairings. Here, Boros takes a lot of the red, so Gruul's out, and Dimir is just worse than Orzhov.

Saturday, 11:30 p.m. – Judge!

by Tim Willoughby

Normally our judge piece at Grand Prix is pretty dry. We’ll talk about how some rules interaction has caused a bit of confusion somewhere, or perhaps that someone has been disqualified for being naughty in some way shape or form.

For this Grand Prix, we have something a little more fun with the judges in mind. As it turns out, the allure of playing team sealed along with friends isn’t something that just appeals to the regular Grand Prix attendees – there are a number of teams of judges playing here in Utrecht!

Finding a judge at a Grand Prix is normally pretty easy. You put your hand up, shout judge, and various black shirted rulesmongers will spring forth from parts unknown. However, when they are playing they look just like everyone else. Finding the first team required me looking out for a few different telltale signs.

Like these playmats.

One judge team, the German trio of Sebastian Reinfeldt, Michael Wiese and Martin Kohler had the common decency to signal their judgedom by virtual of the very snappy judge playmats. To find other judge teams I had to be sneakier though.

Sebastian Reinfeldt, Michael Wiese and Martin Kohler

Remembering that I was in the Netherlands, I suddenly realised that there was another way to find judges of the Dutch variety. I looked up, and there were none other than the Judge Emeritus duo of Jaap Brouwer and Gis Hoogendijk. Playing alongside Bram Heijting, they formed a cunning judge trio who currently don’t hold any judge levels (apart from Emeritus status), but who collectively have had 12 levels in total. Very sneaky.

Bram Heijting, Gis Hoogendijk, Jaap Brouwer

The most cunning judges hiding in plain sight though were Kim Warren, Daniel Kitachewsky and Claire Dupré. It has been suggested by some that judges aren’t necessarily the sharpest of players, as they tend not to actually play quite so much. Starting out at 4-0 they were virtually indistinguishable from the other victorious trios in the Grand Prix crowd. Virtually indistinguishable is not enough to hide from this coverage reporter though. Bagged, tagged and into this article they went.

Kim Warren, Daniel Kitachewsky and Claire Dupré

For those that were wondering, judges don’t naturally hold up fingers in photographs. That was my way of remembering the judge levels that everybody holds. It’s not all about levels and rules though – it’s also about getting together with your friends and having a good time, which is exactly what these judges succeeded in doing today at Grand Prix Utrecht.

Round 10 Feature Match - Lukas Jaklovsky/Martin Juza/Shuhei Nakamura vs Stijn Baltussen/Geert Bosch/Wout Kenbeek

by Tim Willoughby

The powerhouse team of Lukas Jaklovsky, Martin Juza and Shuhei Nakamura looked unbeatable on paper at the start of day one of Grand Prix Utrecht, but with two losses they found themselves with their backs against the wall for the final round of day one. With their tournament lives to play for, they were eager to put away this final match of the day, in order to be able to get on to the serious business of drafting on Sunday.

Game 1

Orzhov vs Gruul

Jaklovsky, with the team’s Orzhov deck, found himself in hot water early on as his opponent led with Experiment One and a number of creatures to pump it up. He had to burn a few copies of Smite to stabilise the board, after which Basilica Guards, Kingpin’s Pet and Syndicate Enforcer became quite the extortion squad. Assault Griffin rounded out an air force that took down game one neatly.

Orzhov 1 – 0 Gruul

Boros vs Dimir

Juza had declared his Boros deck the simple one of the three, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t powerful. An early Madcap Skills looked likely to be powerful against a Simic deck likely light on removal, and it turned out to be exactly that. While the other two game ones were just getting started, he was able to close out his first game thanks to some hat tricks that were anything if sane.

Boros 1 – 0 Dimir

Dimir vs Boros

Nakamura, with Dimir against Boros, was on the defensive early, but had the creatures to do it. His Sage’s Row Denizen and Incursion Specialist were fine blockers early on, and bought him time to cast a Consuming Aberration, which hit play as a 5/5, and was only going to get bigger. A Deathcult Rogue triggered the Aberration, and soon it’s power was in the double digits; tough for a Boros deck to deal with. Across the other side of the board, Ordruun Veteran and Court Street Denizen were joined by a Skyknight Legionnaire, but Nakamura didn’t seem too worried. His life total was high enough that he could maintain a modicum of control; something that it would be hard for his opponent to do in the face of a monster. As that monster roundly lambasted his opponent’s face, Nakamura got to mark up his first win of the round.

Dimir 1 – 0 Boros

Baltussen, Bosch, and Kenbeek

Game 2

Game two saw Juza trading blows merrily with his opponent’s Dimir deck, deploying entirely fair threats and attacking here and there. That didn’t seem to be ending the game quite as quickly as he might have liked though, so after seeing a little removal on the other side of the board, he upped the ante with Boros Reckoner. The minotaur wizard was soon joined by an Ember Beast, which represented quite the strike force. Dimir Charm plus Call of the Nightwing afforded some blockers on the other side of the board, but that didn’t seem to slow down Juza a great deal. He continued to head into the red zone, and followed up with Viashino Fangtail. Bosch dropped his hand on the table. It had a lot of land, and not a great deal else. “I’ve not beaten Boros all day” he lamented, with Juza agreeing that matchups were critical in the format. One match up, the Czech pro was quick to look on at the action on either side of him.

Juza’s Boros deck wins 2-0

Nakamura started game two in awkward fashion, with a mulligan and a one land keep. He did have Cloudfin Raptor, but it soon fell to a Mugging from his opponent. Fortunately for Nakamura, the lands came soon enough, and he was able to ambush a Court Street Denizen by using Rapid Hybridization on his own Wight of Precinct Six. When he followed up with Balustrade Spy soon after, he had suddenly put together the biggest creatures on the board. The Spy turned on his Death’s Approach, and his highly synergistic Dimir deck suddenly seemed to be in full swing. Balustrade Spy got encoded with Call of the Nightwing, signalling that Nakamura was willing to ignore a lot of his opponent’s ground game, happy to be in command of the air. Hands of Binding meant that Nakamura was able to tap down much of the ground pounding Boros attack force, while doing a fair amount of pounding in the air.

Juza, Jaklovsky, and a tired but happy Nakamura.

Soul Ransom from Nakamura took a Firefist Striker, and he had a copy of Devour Flesh in his hand to ensure that even if his opponent tried to get it back, it would not work well. Juza leaned in. “Shuhei is 7-0 today” he whispered. We have the most losses as a team that we could to still be in the tournament. Looking at Nakamura’s board, it seemed entirely possible that it would become eight. It seemed that Stijn Baltussen agreed. Just one draw step later, Baltussen was scooping up his cards, and wishing the power team of Juza, Jaklovsky and Nakamura the best of luck the next day in draft.

Juza, Jaklovsky and Nakamura win two matches, and as such the set, finishing the day on 8-2.

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