by Tobi HenkeRound 15 Feature MatchChristophe Gregoir (UWR) vs. Samuele Estratti (Naya)
by Oliver GehrmannSunday, 3:30 p.m.What else can you do on Sunday?
by Oliver GehrmannSunday, 3:00 p.m.Samuel Black Shoots Back
by Oliver GehrmannSunday, 2:50 p.m.Talking Strategy with Martin Jůza
by Tobi HenkeSunday, 2:30 p.m.Day 2 Metagame Breakdown
by Oliver GehrmannRound 13 Feature MatchFrancesco Cippolleschi (Jund Midrange) vs.
Shahar Shenhar (Jund Midrange)
by Oliver GehrmannSunday, 12:00 p.m.Returning to the Game with Michael Durham
by Oliver GehrmannSunday, 11:30 a.m.Piling up Points with Shahar Shenhar
by Tobi HenkeSunday, 11:11 a.m.Quick Question: What deck should people absolutely NOT play at the moment?
by Oliver GehrmannRound 11 Feature MatchFeature Match Round 11: Francesco Cippolleschi (Jund Midrange) vs.
Shahar Shenhar (Jund Midrange)
by Tobi HenkeRound 10 Feature MatchStanislav Cifka vs. Shuhei Nakamura
by Oliver GehrmannSunday, 10:15 a.m.Putting Ukraine on the Map
by Oliver GehrmannSunday, 9:20 a.m.Day 1 Streaming Highlights
by Oliver GehrmannSunday, 8:30 a.m.Chinese Taipei's Globe Trotters
by Oliver GehrmannSunday, 8:00 a.m.Undefeated Decklists After Day 1
by Event Coverage StaffDay 1 Blog
by Event Coverage StaffInfo: Fact Sheet
Sunday, 8:00 a.m. – Undefeated Decklists After Day 1
Sunday, 8:30 a.m. – Chinese Taipei's Globe Trotters
A mere fortnight ago, we saw Tzu-Ching advancing all the way to the finals at Grand Prix Quebec City 2013. A few minutes ago, he went up against Raphael Levy in our Round 5 Feature Match. Therefore, it doesn't come as a surprise that he and Hao-Shan Huang have turned into 2 of the most recognizable faces on the Magic Pro Circuit, making waves all over the world.
Although both have tasted glory in their own right, they are best remembered for their outstanding performances in last year's World Magic Cup where they carried their team to victory to become the first ever World Magic Cup champions. Now they've made it their mission to conquer Magic events all over the world, maybe in the hope of making the team for this year's World Magic Cup again?
Tzu-Ching Kuo: "Apparently so. I want to lead the reigning World Magic Cup champions again this year, that's why I'm trying to participate in as many events as possible and accumulate points."
Hao-Shan Huang: "Tzu-Ching pursued me to come over and participate here. Originally, I wanted to fly from Tokyo back to Taipei, but I ended up in Verona instead."
What does it feel like to experience different cultures all the time?
Tzu-Ching Kuo: "By now, I have made friends all over the world and it's lots of fun meeting them in person time and again. The only downside to travelling that much is the ongoing jetlag, really; I now went as far as categorizing them. Some are much worse than others and I couldn't sleep the day before yesterday!"
Hao-Shan Huang: "It's not just the culture, it's also the temperatures! Add the language barrier, which makes it very hard for us to have a lot of conversations that aren't about Magic. Still, we enjoy experiencing the cultures in the various countries a lot."
What's the secret to your success at last year's World Magic Cup?
Tzu-Ching Kuo: "Our team wasn't that experienced, so we tried to make up for that by acting as a cohesive unit. Since I had the most experience, everyone was listening to me and I could tell them how I wanted us to prepare for the event.
"Other countries had like 3 Pro Players, but all of them followed different philosophies. Since we were all on the same page, we could make the most of our chances and leave many favorites behind."
Hao-Shan Huang: "Yeah, he acted like Obi Wan, teaching us the secrets of the Force!"
How will you prepare for this year's World Magic Cup:
Tzu-Ching Kuo: "I will just continue to enroll in every Grand Prix that I can afford going to."
Hao-Shan Huang: "Unlike Tzu-Ching, I'm not sure if I'll make the cut again. So for the time being, I'll try to catch up and gain more experience so we can then try to defend the title together."
Sunday, 9:20 a.m. – Day 1 Streaming Highlights
Unless you've been living under a rock, you're well aware that we're bringing you all the action live as it happens on Wizards of the Coast's official streaming channel. Since it can be rather time consuming to dig through almost 8 hours of video coverage, I sat together with our video reporters and asked them about their day 1 highlights!
Matej Zatlkaj: "In round 6, we saw Christian Calcano topdeck into a Searing Spear against Davide Ampollini - it was the perfect answer and brought him back in a seemingly unwinnable situation!"
Our expert commentators Marijn and Matej are breaking down the Feature Matches for you!
Marijn Lybaert: The last round match was really exciting. Joel Larsson had this transformational Side Board and he basically made a new Deck for both games 2 and 3 that allowed him to turn things around, win the match and advance to day 2! I highly recommend it!
Rich is making sure you won't grow tired of the streaming coverage, switching cameras left and right!
Richard Hagon: "Martin Jůza! I've watched Martin Jůza play a ton of Magic and there's a casual indifference to him when he's playing at his very best, which is terrifying. Yesterday, in many matches in the feature match area, he's had this casual indifference. He's so on top of his game that even his mistakes don't cost him - that's the impression he's giving and it seems like he's well on track to win another Grand Prix title this weekend!"
Steven is responsible for all of the more exciting camera angles!
Steven Leeming: "We did a two part feature on the top ten decks. It's coming up on the stream after round 4 and after round 5. We've received a lot of positive feedback about it, so I can definitely recommend it!"
Sunday, 10:15 a.m. – Putting Ukraine on the Map
Magic: The Gathering has long turned into a worldwide phenomenon. Everyone's familiar with the Jon Finkels, Martin Jůzas and Shuhei Nakamuras that have taken down some of the largest tournaments in Magic history. Then there are also players that are mostly known in their respective region for performing well above expectations. One of these players is Oleksandr Onosov who's trying to put Ukraine on the map.
Oleksandr Onosov advanced to Day 2 again this weekend!
What's the Magic community in the Ukraine like?
"We don't have such a large community, but it's growing. We're currently trying to open new clubs in Kiev, our capitol. My friends and I are now trying to attend more Grand Prix' so we can get used to the higher competition and then teach our friends who can't make the trips. So overall, the community is growing both in size and skill and we're on our way to making more appearances at the top tables."
What is it like to be a role model for other Ukrainian players?
"It's a great honor if other players from my country are rooting for me. They have high expectations and I try hard not to disappoint them. So I won't give up, even if things aren't going my way right away. Unfortunately, I'm often doing pretty well on the first day of competition, only to throw it away on the second day. I definitely need to work on that."
Which aspect of attending the larger events do you like the most?
"I enjoy seeing new cities and getting to know famous players. It's also great to try new food and get familiar with the local cuisine. Meeting players from all these different countries is also a unique opportunity and something I enjoy greatly."
Oleksandr Onosov tries to put Ukraine on the map!
What are your thoughts on the current Standard environment?
"It seems pretty diverse and I like the openness. You need to be prepared for a large number of decks and that turns it into a big challenge. I try to take a very analytical approach and come up with strategies that work well against many different decks.
"My deck features the combo Boros Reckoner and Harvest Pyre, allowing me to win regardless of what my oppnoent is doing. This is a big advantage as I don't need to pay as much attention to what's happening on the other side of the field as long as I can pull off my combo. It's definitely the right choice for the weekend, however, you have to focus a lot and not make any mistakes."
Generally speaking, do you prefer more aggressive or defensive strategies?
"I prefer aggressive decks. The rounds won't last forever and you get a longer break in between rounds, allowing you to be more focused the next round. Then again, if you want to compete at the top level, I think it's better to pick a more controlish deck. They can adapt better to what your opponent's bringing to the table while aggressive decks are somewhat limited regarding the number of options they are offering to you.
"Many games, ultimately, are decided by card advantage and that's where the controlish decks really shine."
Round 10 Feature Match – Stanislav Cifka vs. Shuhei Nakamura
First thing when the two Platinum pros sat down in the feature match area was Shuhei Nakamura handing out the "I played a Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame Member" button. Stanislav Cifka was suitably excited: "Yay! Another one!"
Both players were running almost identical green-white-black Reanimator decks featuring Craterhoof Behemoth, a deck originally built by Brad Nelson and played to a first-place finish at Grand Prix Bochum last year by Martin Jůza. It also was Jůza who recently rediscovered the deck and convinced quite a number of his pro friends of its continued viability. Viability is actually quite the understatement, seeing as Jůza, Cifka, and Nakamura all ended day one with eight wins.
Next Nakamura summoned Borderland Ranger, then Angel of Serenity; all the while Cifka went without play. The Angel started to beat down, and Cifka tried to fight back with Thragtusk, then another Thragtusk. Sever the Bloodline flashback got rid of both, but two 3/3s remained and now Cifka had Vault of the Archangel, turning the damage race well into his favor, subtracting 6 from Nakamura's lifetotal and adding 6 to his own.
In a sudden turn of events, however, Nakamura drew Vault of the Archangel himself and hit back with all of his creatures (Arbor Elf, Arbor Elf, Borderland Ranger, Angel of Serenity) for 9. Vault against Vault? This promised to get interesting ...
Alas, it was not to be. Craterhoof Behemoth came down on Cifka's side and an attack for the full 20 ended the game.
Stanislav Cifka 1-0 Shuhei Nakamura
On turn four, Nakamura summoned Obzedat, Ghost Council, while Cifka went without play and held back with Thragtusk to block the opposing 5/5—or at least to keep it from attacking. And indeed Obzedat didn't, but rather went into exile after Nakamura had cast a Thragtusk of his own. Cifka's much faster start into this game was now rendered completely irrelevant.
Thragtusks traded and Nakamura thwarted an attempt at Unburial Rites with Purify the Grave. This left Cifka without reasonable blocks for Obzedat and the 5/5 brought Cifka to 12 before leaving the battlefield yet again. Cifka cast Angel of Serenity but that was killed by Sever the Bloodline, and Obzedat brought Cifka to 5 and exiled itself.
Finally, Cifka had an Obzedat, Ghost Council of his own and not a moment too soon. During Nakamura's upkeep the two legends died, and without it Nakamura appeared to be fully out of gas, whereas Cifka still had Unburial Rites. Now he was ahead in Obzedats but still far behind in life, with his 7 to Nakamura's 27.
But Obzedat doesn't take long to turn such a score around. A couple more cards (smaller creatures, Abrupt Decays, one more Thragtusk, one more Sever the Bloodline) traded, but in the end it all came down to Nakamura's inability to deal with Obzedat. His removal couldn't touch it and his mana elves were no match in combat either.
For a moment there, close to the end, it looked as if Nakamura's Gavony Township might be able to turn things around yet again, but once more Craterhoof Behemoth made an appearance on Cifka's side, and that was that.
Stanislav Cifka 2-0 Shuhei Nakamura
Round 11 Feature Match – Francesco Cippolleschi (Jund Midrange) vs. Shahar Shenhar (Jund Midrange)
We invited Francesco Cippolleschi, an up and coming Italian player to our Feature Match table and he now needs to best Shahar Shenhar, who is still in competition for his third Grand Prix title. Both players relied on Jund Midrange decks, so this game depended on making less mistakes and drawing more of the useful cards.
Cippolleschi won the die roll, but it was Shenhar who only took a brief glance at his hand before putting it away again, indicating that he would not be taking a mulligan. Cippolleschi sent his opening 7 back and just as predicted, Shenhar announced that he'd keep.
Cippolleschi performed the first action with a Farseek on his second turn, while Shenhar simply added another Land.
A token card caused Cippolleschi to search his deck box for a Huntmaster of the Fells, he added a wolf and passed play.
Shenhar didn't perform any actions, causing the Huntmaster of the Fells to transform. Abrupt Decay dealt with it the following turn when it declared an attack, while the wolf token left Shenhar on 16. Liliana of the Veil entered play, Cippolleschi used her first effect, causing Shenhar to discard Stomping Ground and that concluded the turn.
Once again, Cippolleschi activated the effect of Liliana, with Shenhar losing Bonfire of the Damned. The Italian was left with 1 card in hand while Shenhar now drew into his third card, at the same time transforming Huntmaster of the Fells.
"2 to you, 4 to Liliana!", Shenhar announced. That worked and Cippoleschi was left without a field and 20 life!
A new Liliana of the Veil replaced the old one and it dealt with the Wolf.
Shenhar had turned things around!
A Thragtusk from the top seemed like a strong topdeck for Cippolleschi. Liliana dealt with Thragtusk, attacks followed, Dreadbore dealt with the token and Shenhar added Arbor Elf. The following turn, Huntmaster of the Fells transformed, while Cippolleschi found a Huntmaster of the Fells of his own.
This didn't seem like Shenhar could still lose this!
Shenhar now had all the answers. When he declared attacks, Cippolleschi was forced to block with his Huntmaster of the Fells to not fall behind too much, Shenhar then added Garruk, Primal Hunter and that certainly made it seem like there was no possible comeback for the Italian.
He drew for his turn and came to the same conclusion.
Shahar Shenhar 1 - 0 Francesco Cippolleschi
Once again, Cippolleschi opted to go searching for a better opening hand, while Shenhar, after giving it some thought, decided he was happy with his opening 7 yet again.
The Italian scratched his head when he scouted the 6 cards his deck provided him with. He clearly didn't seem too happy and Shenhar could tell, studying his opponent's face. Ultimately, Cippolleschi opted to go down to 5.
Cippolleschi drew and he didn't waste a second, shipping it right back. Huge advantage for Shenhar!
Shenhar was already way ahead before the first card was played!
Cippoleschi had a third land, so far not indicating that he was receiving a lot of punishment for his mulligan decision. Shenhar didn't feel like giving him any more time to recuperate, though, adding Olivia Voldaren to his field.
Shenhar was now clearly in the driver's seat!
Cippolleschi used Underworld Connections and play was back to Shenhar. He added Arbor Elf to his field, used Olivia Voldaren's effect for the second time and he even had to discard a card during his end phase. He couldn't be much more ahead.
Cippolleschi tried to fight back with Farseek, but that wouldn't stop Shenhar from sending in creatures once again.
Cippolleschi tried to buy himself another turn.
Shahar Shenhar beats Francesco Cippolleschi 2 - 0!
"Sorry," Shenhar immediately admitted after the match. He knew that this couldn't have been much more one-sided, but he wished his opponent the best of luck for the remaining rounds regardless.
Sunday, 11:11 a.m. – Quick Question: What deck should people absolutely NOT play at the moment?
Sunday, 11:30 a.m. – Piling up Points with Shahar Shenhar
In case you didn't hear about Shahar Shenhar before, you're in for a treat. This gifted Israelian player has turned the circuit upside down, advancing to the Top 8 of a Grand Prix three times and coming out successful twice. He also advanced to the Top 8 of a team GP in San Jose.
Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise to you that he might be well on his way to claim a ticket for the 2013 Magic World Championship (formerly known as the Magic Players Championship). Let's hear from him!
Shahar, can you tell us what the Magic community in Israel is like?
"Well, it's like it doesn't really exist. I lived in California for 10 years and that's where I learned everything about the game. I'm currently in Israel and I'm getting a sponsorship from an Israeli online store, but I won't be there much longer.
"I'm really looking forward to going back to the US as I'll attend some more Grand Prix' there and spend around 2 months there!"
Shahar Shenhar just overcame Francesco Cippolleschi in our round 11 Feature Match!
You've won 2 Grand Prix in Northern America; what's it like when compared to the European events that you're visiting these days?
"It's really not that different to be honest. I think it's cheaper in America, while the language barrier over here in Europe can be a little awkward, but in terms of competition, it's really similar. While there are more ChannelFireball players in the US, you got a lot of talented players over here as well and it's almost impossible to tell what's harder.
"I prefer playing in the US, though, as long as I'm not travelling from Israel there. For me, they are more fun as they feel more like "home". Mostly, I know people there and I can stay at there places, we hang out together and all of that is very enjoyable and it happens rarely over here."
Are there certain formats that are more challenging in one place or another?
"I don't think so. Maybe European players are a little less experienced when it comes to drafting, which might give you an edge in sealed events, but other than that, it's pretty much the same."
You're currently tied with Martin Jůza for the most Pro Points a player amassed in the European region. What do you think you have to do to win that race?
"Well, it's definitely looking like we're both attending the same number of Grand Prix. So in the end, it will come down to one of us doing better at the GPs than the other. The only other big difference maker might be the Pro Tour - if one of us will advance to the Top 25 there, it will give him a huge swing with 10 additional points. I wouldn't say it's all about the Pro Tour, but it's playing a very big role.
"The competition is very intense and I do enjoy it to some degree, but it's also somewhat stressful. Then again, if we don't make it via the European ranking, we can still make the cut with the Pro Points overall.
"Also, we're friends. We're staying together at a couple of these events, try to come up with deck ideas and strategies together and it's not like we're on each others throats or anything like that."
I can come up with a number of players that would enjoy a friendly competition of this sort. What do you think about Shahar Shenhar's approach? Where do you agree and disagree? Let us know on Twitter with hash tag #GPVerona!
Sunday, 12:00 a.m. – Returning to the Game with Michael Durham
I've been made aware of a player tearing up the field that we haven't seen in quite a while. I sat down with Michael Durham to learn what it was like for him to return to the game that he played a long, long time ago and how he's been doing this weekend so far.
Michael, tell us a little more about the start of your Magic career.
"I started playing around Ice Age and then tried to become more competitive when Urza's Legacy was released.
I tried to make it to a few Grand Prix and Pro Tours in the world; my best result was at GP Florence where I ended up on 11th place."
Michael Durham is getting ready for round 11!
"After that, I took a hiatus around 2002 and I stopped playing for a couple of years because of my family. I restarted, only to stop a year after again. Once again, my family kept me from getting more involved, but I was rewarded with 2 beautiful daughters that I wouldn't trade for all the Magic cards in the world!
"They'll soon be in the age to learn the game themselves, so last summer, I felt it was time to get more involved myself as well. As I had troubles understanding all the different decks, I decided to rely on aggro decks as I could master them much faster. There's definitely a pattern there; back in Florence, I was also playing aggro."
Are you already on top of your game again?
"I advanced to the Top 8 at a PTQ in Prague last week, nearly made the Top 8 a week before in Brno and so it seemed like I'm more or less on track again. I'm getting a lot of help from my teammates that tell me how to sideboard, so it's mostly about executing a plan that others came up with.
How's your weekend going so far and are you having a good time?
"I've only taken 2 losses this weekend; 1 against Bant control that could gain too much life, the other was against a Jund deck with Assemble the Legion.
"I'm still enjoying myself here a lot! I'm a little slow, but playing aggro decks helps me to compensate for that at this point."
"Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses is crucial to your success!" - Michael Durham
How important is that aspect of the game, knowing your own strenghts and weaknesses?
"Well, I learned this lesson many, many years ago. I played a control mirror against another player and we were both a little slow. We ended up going to time in the first game!"
Which format do you generally prefer to play?
"I'm more of a limited player, really. Therefore, I'm really looking forward to Grand Prix Prague a little later this year where I'll definitely show up again!"
Is there anything you want to pass on to other players that are currently on hiatus?
"The last couple of expansions are really cool. I like the direction the game has taken; the Constructed format seems rather diverse and I enjoy it a lot. There are few decks that I don't like to play against, but then again, I'm an aggro player. I wouldn't enjoy playing these decks to be honest, but fortunately, there are many other options available."
Do you have a shoutout?
"Congratz to Mattias Jorstedt for winning the Gatecrash Pre Release in Gothenburg! It would be very nice to see you again at one of the upcoming Pro Tours to catch up!"
It's very nice to see how many things can change in the life of a player, but he'll still try and return to Magic whenever his other commitments allow him to. Hit us up at one of the upcoming tournaments if you have a similar story to share!
Round 13 Feature Match – Toni Ramis Pascual (Human Reanimator) vs. Max Schultze (UWR Reckoner)
"So it's my duty to defeat the undefeated?" Schultze asked. Ramis Pascual simply smiled, trying not to lose his focus. He was sitting in a pretty good position and he knew it. So far, his UWR Reckoner deck didn't let him down while Schultze had only lost once this weekend.
Max Schultze now had to try where 12 other players failed!
At the end of the turn, Ramis Pascual sacrified Burning-Tree Emissary to start adding cards to his graveyard.
The following turn, he cast Huntmaster of the Fells, adding it and a Wolf creature token to his field.
Schultze attacked with Boros Reckoner and ended. That made it 16 on him and 17 on Ramis Pascual. That changed the following turn when Huntmaster of the Fells transformed into Ravager of the Fells. Ramis Pascual attacked with both Wolves before Flashbacking Faithless Looting. He took 2 after dropping Blood Crypt and he used Mulch to conclude the turn.
Schultze went digging with Izzet Charm and Thought Scour before he entered his own turn. He untapped, Huntmaster of the Fells transformed and brought another Wolf with it, Schultze then declared an attack with Boros Reckoner and a Wolf stopped it. Before the attack concluded, Ramis Pascual used Undercity Informer to sacrifice the defender, adding yet more cards to his graveyard that now counted roughly 20 cards.
Ravager of the Fells was supposed to be stopped by Azzorius Charm and Ramis Pascual had to give this some thought. Eventually, he responded with Undercity Informer again. The remaining attacks dropped Schultze to 2. Unburial Rites was supposed to bring back Angel of Glory's Rise, but Schultze was able to foil that plan with Counterflux!
Counterflux bought Schultze another turn!
Still, things didn't look great for the German. He attacked with Boros Reckoner, dropping Ramis Pascual to 14, and ended.
The Italian went in again, to which Schultze responded with Restoration Angel, targeting his own Boros Reckoner. This gave him 2 defenders that were more than capable of dealing with the attackers. Ramis Pascual sacrificed both of his creatures for the effect of Undercity Informer before the attacks concluded, adding yet more cards to his graveyard.
Once again, he then attempted to Flashback an Unburial Rites to bring back Angel of Glory's Rise. It brought back an army:
Schultze was now staring down a very strong opposition!
Shortly after, Ramis Pascual ended his turn. Schultze went digging once again, this time with Izzet Charm, discarding Steam Vents and Searing Spear. He drew into his second card and activated an Azorius Charm right away. Still not what he needed, so he then shuffled up.
Toni Ramis Pascual 1 - 0 Max Schultze
Schultze checked a few of the top cards of his deck and he rolled his eyes. "The next card would have helped!", he admitted. He didn't lose his smile, though; he knew he could still turn things around.
Toni Ramis Pascual is on a roll this weekend!
Schultze kept his opening 7 while Ramis Pascual shuffled them back in. He kept his second hand.
He sent it in on his following turn, added Boros Reckoner and that seemed like a strong opening already. Ramis Pascual kept watching, not performing any plays.
Ramis Pascual cast Burning-Tree Emissary, he followed it up with Faithless Looting and he Flashbacked the Instant. Restoration Angel came down, bouncing Augur of Bolas, but Schultze missed for its effect.
He didn't seem like he needed the card, though and he attacked with everything the following turn. Burning-Tree Emissary blocked Boros Reckoner, meaning Ramis Pascual had to take another 4, dropping to 9. Schultze cast Rest in Peace, trying to tie things up already!
On his following turn, his flying Restoration Angel went in, Augur of Bolas allowed him to add another Azorius Charm to his hand and that concluded the turn. Only 4 more life remaining for Ramis Pascual.
Max Schultze ties the score against Toni Ramis Pascual
Both players exchanged pleasantries and words of encouragement prior to the deciding game. Ramis Pascual then decided to mulligan while Schultze kept.
It didn't take Ramis Pascual long to get right back to shuffling; he'd start this game with 5 cards max. He then kept and dropped a Land.
Schultze added Boros Reckoner, but Fiend Hunter dealt with it on the following turn. Ramis Pascual had dropped 4 Lands by now, so it didn't seem like his mulligan decision punished him too hard so far.
Schultze tried to apply more pressure, adding another Boros Reckoner. He went in with his creatures on his following turn as Ramis Pascual passed without performing any actions. Schultze dropped Restoration Angel at the end of his opponent's turn, adding yet another Instant to his hand thanks to Augur of Bolas.
The following turn, Schultze attacked with everything and Fiend Hunter tried to block, but Azorius Charm returned it to Ramis Pascual's deck. It came down the following turn again, but when Schultze flashed a Searing Spear in his hand, Ramis Pascual immediately extended the hand!
Max Schultze is the first to overcome Toni Ramis Pascual!
Bad luck for Toni Ramis Pascual who couldn't put up a fight against Max Schultze in the all deciding third game. He was well on track to advancing to the final 8, though, so we might hear from him again a little later!
Schultze gave away that he was also holding on to Rest in Peace in the last game, so even if Toni Ramis Pascual wouldn't have gone down to 5, he might have wrapped things up in spectacular fashion.
Sunday, 2:30 a.m. – Day 2 Metagame Breakdown
177 players made it into day two and here are the decks they used to do so:
1) Jund – 41 players
The midrange version of Jund landed in first place with a comfortable lead. No other deck even came close. The combination of mana acceleration (Farseek, Arbor Elf), removal (Abrupt Decay, Dreadbore, Bonfire of the Damned, Mizzium Mortars, Murder), discard (Rakdos's Return), planeswalkers (Liliana of the Veil, Garruk, Primal Hunter), and heavy hitters with built-in card advantage (Huntmaster of the Fells, Thragtusk) is famous precisely for its extreme versatility, making Jund a difficult target to gear for. The ultimate allround talent.
2) Blue-White-Red – 20 players
A selection of Augur of Bolas, Snapcaster Mage, Boros Reckoner, and Restoration Angel combined with lots and lots of tempo spells, sometimes more burn, sometimes more controlling cards like Supreme Verdict and Sphinx's Revelation took the runner-up spot here in Verona. But only barely and far below the numbers put up by Jund.
3) Human Reanimator – 19 players
36 copies of Angel of Glory's Rise made it into day two, apparently quite a lot more than most people expected. Two weeks after Tzu-Ching Kuo made it to the finals of Grand Prix Québec there's still not enough graveyard removal in sideboards to keep the Humans down.
4) Jund Aggro – 16 players
Following up Rakdos Cackler with Burning-Tree Emissary and Mogg Flunkies, then Dreg Mangler? No other deck except for Naya Blitz can start a game as aggressively as this one which really has only its colors in common with the midrange version of Jund.
4) Naya Blitz – 16 players
And as it so happens, the possibly most aggressive deck in the format shared fourth place with the second most aggressive deck in the format. It also shares quite a lot of its cards, from Experiment One to Flinthoof Boar. Some of the Naya players, however, have adopted a more conservative approach, cut some Lightning Maulers, added Avacyn's Pilgrim as well as a couple of Silverblade Paladins.
6) Naya Midrange – 13 players
The aggro version of Jund is not the only deck to have a counterpart in Naya (with white replacing black). This midrange deck once again uses many of the same cards (from Bonfire of the Damned to Huntmaster of the Fells and Thragtusk) but also adds Restoration Angel and often Loxodon Smiter.
7) Green-White-Black Reanimator – 11 players
According to Martin Jůza "the other Reanimator deck" is positioned extremely well in the current Standard metagame, and results so far certainly back him up on that claim. Dodging specific graveyard hate by simply being able to win without ever casting Unburial Rites or using Angel of Serenity, the deck retains some of the power of the more popular Human Reanimator without most of the vulnerabilities.
8) Zombies – eight players
Three of these were black and red, one black and green, the rest Jund. Potentially fueled by recent success on Magic Online, Zombies enjoy a resurgence in popularity. Or one could say, they're back from the grave. Again.
9) The Aristocrats – seven players
Despite deck creator Sam Black saying that the deck is not as good anymore (and himself playing Reanimator) seven people made it to day two with the black-red-white creatures, although several made significant changes. Obzedat, Ghost Council moved to the maindeck in many of the lists and Gloom Surgeon replaced Cartel Aristocrat in a few.
10) Esper Control – six players
While Bant Control got all the talk, Esper walked the walk, and put six players into the second day of competition.
11) Orzhov – five players
Two weeks ago, Maxime Choquette finished in sixteenth place at Grand Prix Québec with a black-white creature deck running Geralf's Messenger, Gravecrawler, Diregraf Ghoul, Lingering Souls, Sublime Archangel, and Obzedat, Ghost Council. Apparently, the deck is not a fluke.
12) Green-Red Aggro – four players
13) Wolf Run Bant – three players
Copies of Melissa DeTora's Pro Tour Top 8 deck from Montreal aren't doing quite as well anymore.
The rest includes things like Mono-Green Aggro (with Predator Ooze!), straight-up Blue-White Control, Mono-Red, Bant Auras, and Green-White Beatdown.
Sunday, 2:50 a.m. – Talking Strategy with Martin Jůza
I sat down with Martin Jůza to learn a little more about his tweaking process prior to this event. Turns out all you need to do is have him take a seat next to you and you're in for lots of in-depth information about Magic. So much, in fact, that it starts to scare you when he can still throw interesting details at you 5 minutes in the conversation. I tried to break it down for you regardless...
Martin, how's it going this weekend?
"This is probably the best run Grand Prix I've played in. Ever. We were getting started at 09:30 AM yesterday and we finished around 08:00 PM. This is really amazing; the volunteers are doing a great job!
"I just lost to a match-up that I thought is bad. After sidedecking, it's actually pretty good thanks to Deathrite Shaman, but we both didn't really draw into the cards that we needed and I ended up on the lower end."
Can you tell us how you ended up with the deck you're playing this weekend?
"I thought I was going to play Jund or Blue White Red. I played on Magic Online and there, Michael B. Segal beat me with a Human Reanimator Deck. It caught my attention and I started asking him about the deck. Turns out he won the 10k that took place on the GP Charlotte weekend on Day 2.
"For some reason, no one really knew about the deck. There was so much going on in Charlotte that it was falling through the cracks, buried somewhere in the coverage. He then went on and told me that he also won 2 other 5k tournaments with it."
Martin Jůza made a strong case for the Human Reanimator deck he's playing this weekend!
What happened after that, what did the tuning process look like?
Martin (laughing): "He asked me if I wanted to have some sideboard advice. I replied that I had won a Grand Prix with a similar deck, so I felt rather confident I could come up with a few ideas. When I started to pay closer attention to his deck, I realized I had been a little too lazy figuring out the mana base after some recent changes. The more I tested it, the more confident I became to give it a try this weekend.
"Shuhei was staying at my place and he watched animes while I continued to try the deck. At some point two or three days prior to the event, I just decided I would stick with it. It's been the first time in years that I've settled on a deck more than a few hours prior to the event.
"I discussed this with my friends, but no one wanted to reply right away. The next day, I announced that I would need a couple cards to make it work and they then told me that, in the meantime, they had also been giving it a try and everyone came to the same conclusion that this is the right deck for this weekend.
"In the end, I made it my mission to convince as many of my friends as possible to play this deck and there are now 4 of us that are piloting it this weekend. Between us, we only got like 6 losses, so this is pretty insane considering that we're in round 12 now!"
What's your favorite sideboard card?
"Obzedat, Ghost Council turned out to be super good. Many of my opponent's can't quite deal with it and it's won me a couple games this weekend."
You mentioned you applied a few changes after Bochum?
"Lingering Souls is not really that good anymore as most of the creatures are 3/3s and therefore they are simply too big. So you can't really apply any aggression with them and they'll just serve as blockers. That's not enough to earn a spot in a deck; they are only really good with Craterhoof Behemoth.
"Generally speaking, the deck now feels more like a Junk Reanimator. You're playing more grinding games and that's also working in your favor. Sometimes, though, you can cheat your Angel into play turn 3 or turn 4 and then you can win games very fast.
It seems like the deck adapted a lot to the expected metagame. Did you see other players not adapting to the ever changing metagame?
"I don't understand why people play Counterspells. Both finalists in Quebec were playing 4 Cavern of Souls. So Counterspells are really not that good at the moment, but players are still holding on to it.
"The thing with this deck is, it's always like a 2 week cycle. This deck is good this weekend, but it's not going to be good next week because everyone will be prepared for it. The week after, no one expects to see it as it didn't pop up the week before, so it will then be amazing again."
How do you feel about the fact that a lot of the other named players listened to you and decided to stick with the same deck?
"I'm really happy about it. They all wanted to go for Jund or Esper and I told them that they shouldn't as opponents are prepared for these decks. I'm a little sad that I couldn't convince Paul and Gerry, but maybe they'll listen to me next time."
Alright, thank you so much for all the advice you've shared! Any shoutouts?
Shoutout to Stanislav Cifka as he was the only person that worked with me on the deck while some other guys were busy watching animes!
Sunday, 3:00 a.m. – Samuel Black Shoots Back
Sometimes, that's all it takes to have us take a closer look at another deck. In this very special situation, it seemed extremely fitting as you might remember Martin Juza dropping that "Lingering Souls aren't that good any more."
Turns out Sam Black is playing a full playset in his main deck, so let's hear why!
"Basically, we each get a good card; I get Lingering Souls while he gets Restoration Angel. We both then need to adapt the rest of the deck – he needs to play cards that are worth bouncing with Restoration Angel while I need cards that work well with Lingering Souls."
Why do you prefer your build to Martin's?
"My deck is much more focused on the graveyard plan. With Lotleth Troll, I can discard the high mana cards to later reanimate them. Between being able to draw Unburial Rights and simply send it to your graveyard with Mulch, there are way too many chances of that happening."
Samuel Black is a fan of Lotleth Troll!
So you're very happy with the inclusion of Lotleth Troll?
"In a nutshell, Lotleth Troll is a great enabler to set up my combos!
"Additionally, it's really good against the aggro decks. They can't attack as they need to fear you discarding a card, pumping it."
How crucial is this aspect in your opinion, being able to fight super aggressive strategies?
"Both of us have a plan against the aggro decks. He has Centaur Healer to heal back while I can use Lotleth Troll to stop them. Lingering Souls doesn't do too much against the aggressive decks as they tend to have high toughness.
"I also like Lotleth Troll as a threat for the removal-heavy decks that are forced to play Supreme Verdict as they can't afford it hitting them over and over again! There's more to it than what first meets the eye."
Quite the retort from Samuel Black. Who are you siding with, Martin Juza or Samuel Black?
Sunday, 3:30 a.m. – What else can you do on Sunday?
There's much more happening than just the main event on a Grand Prix weekend. I checked with our Side Event scorekeeper Jürgen Baert to learn a little more about all that's being going in the other half of the venue today.
"Our biggest event is the Super Sunday Special. It's now run at every Grand Prix in the world. It's basically 2 events combined; one of them being a Sealed tournament and the other one Constructed. The Top 4 of each event then enroll in a draft to decide on the overall winner."
What's in there for the champion?
"He can win a trip to Seattle to participate in a 20.000 $ invitational, so it seems like a pretty good gig!
"The players are really enthusiastic about the event; we had about 300 in total for both events combined."
What else is there?
"There are also many, many smaller events: Chaos Drafts, regular Booster Drafts, Two-Headed Giant Sealed Decks, Team Trio Sealed Decks (the same format as Utrecht - giving players a great chance to practice quite a bit), we run a Modern Championship, a Legacy Championship and well, that's about it!"
If your deck keeps letting you down, you can also try your luck as a judge!
How many players enrolled in the Side Events?
"I'd guess there are around 600 players that showed up for the Side Events alone today. We're very happy with the acceptance."
Round 15 Feature Match – Christophe Gregoir (UWR) vs. Samuele Estratti (Naya)
Both players entered this penultimate round of Swiss with two losses on their record. One more could spell elimination from Top 8 contention, whereas the winner here could find himself in arm's reach of the quarterfinal. (Perhaps even literally, as he might be able to shake hands with his next-round opponent for an intentional draw into the Top 8.)
Estratti, on the draw, mulliganed into a start of Cavern of Souls, Champion of the Parish, Stomping Ground, Lightning Mauler, Sunpetal Grove, Boros Elite, and Flinthoof Boar (played in that order over the first three turns).
But Gregoir immediately shot Searing Spear at Champion of the Parish and his turn-three Boros Reckoner meant Estratti couldn't really attack. His Frontline Medic was killed by another Searing Spear and his Mayor of Avabruck was burned alive (or rather dead) on a Harvest Pyre.
When Gregoir summoned a second Boros Reckoner and attacked with the first, Estratti cast a second Flinthoof Boar and attacked with Boar, Boar, and Boros Elite. He lost one of the Boars to Boros Reckoner which got first strike.
Gregoir had yet another Boros Reckoner, allowing him to attack with two of his 3/3s, while Estratti had a less than impressive Champion of the Parish. It didn't take long for the Reckoners to finish the game.
Christophe Gregoir 1-0 Samuele Estratti
Once again, Estratti opened on Champion of the Parish, but this time it lived and attacked for 3 on turn two thanks to Mayor of Avabruck. Gregoir, who had cast Thought Scour off Steam Vents, went to 15 already! At least, now he had Pillar of Flame for the Mayor.
On his turn, Gregoir summoned Boros Reckoner but it was quite unclear whether that would be able to put a stop or even a dent into Estratti's offense. Estratti cast Champion of the Parish and attacked with his 6/6 Champion, 4/4 Boros Elite, and Mayor of Avabruck. Boros Reckoner blocked Boros Elite and dealt 4 damage to Mayor of Avabruck, killing both it and and the Elite. Still, Gregoir fell to 3, with no creatures, facing two Champions, and died the next turn.
Christophe Gregoir 1-1 Samuele Estratti
Another game, another turn-one Champion of the Parish, this time followed by Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Similarly, Gregoir did of course have his Boros Reckoner on turn three, which stopped Estratti's advances into the red zone almost before they had even started. For the time being, Estratti added a Flinthoof Boar and a Boros Elite to his team (and a second counter to his Champion of the Parish) and passed the turn.
A second Boros Reckoner for Gregoir didn't make attacking any easier for Estratti, though at least Gregoir had to pass without mana to activate either Reckoner. Estratti summoned a second Champion of the Parish, then attacked with everything. Reckoners blocked Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and the 4/4 Champion of the Parish. Estratti saved his creatures with Boros Charm. The end result was one dead Reckoner and both players taking 6 to go to 10.
On his turn, Gregoir attacked with Boros Reckoner to put Estratti at 7, then cleared the table with Supreme Verdict. Estratti recovered astonishingly well from the blowout, however, with Frontline Medic on one turn, followed by Lightning Mauler plus Mayor of Avabruck on the next.
Gregoir fell to 2 and went back to 4 with Sphinx's Revelation, then cleared the board yet again with another Supreme Verdict. This time the battlefield, or at least Estratti's side of it, did stay empty. Gregoir, on the other hand, soon found an Augur of Bolas and a Restoration Angel. With all of his resources depleted by the Supreme Verdicts, Estratti didn't put up much of a fight.
Christophe Gregoir 2-1 Samuele Estratti