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Grand Prix Paris Day 2

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  • Sunday, 9:40 a.m – Drafting with Kai

    by Tobi Henke
  • Kai Budde looking forward to start drafting.

    Lots of German could be heard in the first draft pod here at day two of the Grand Prix. Gerald Leitzinger from Austria is 10-0, as are the Germans Bastian von Beschwitz, Christian Hüttenberger, and of course the German Juggernaut himself, Kai Budde. But the friendly banter soon died down—it was time for business!

    “Players, open your booster labelled ‘A’ and count out 14 cards face-down ...”

    Kai opened a pack which contained lots of solid cards: Viridian Claw, Fangren Marauder, Divine Offering, Cryptoplasm, and Flesh-Eater Imp. He quickly made sure he wouldn’t be passing any other strong infect cards—the only ones left were Flensermite and Phyrexian Digester—and took the Imp.

    His second pick offered him no infect at all, but a choice of Phyrexian Rager or Viridian Claw if he wanted to stay in color, or of Spin Engine or Quicksilver Geyser if he wanted to stray. He decided this wasn’t really worth it and took the equipment.

    With his third pack, once again neither Serum Raker nor Metallic Mastery were enough to make Kai change his draft, although possible cards in his color(s) weren’t exactly overabundant. He left Flensermite and Unnatural Predation in the booster and took Piston Sledge.

    The next one, though, suggested Kai might be on a good way and included: Blightwidow, Plaguemaw Beast, Scourge Servant, and Morbid Plunder! He chose Blightwidow.

    Then, a similar booster offered another Blightwidow, another Scourge Servant, and another Morbid Plunder. Kai got, of course, his second Blightwidow. Next, he picked Morbid Plunder over Unnatural Predation, and Scourge Servant over yet another Morbid Plunder. The rest of the first pass provided him with Glissa’s Courier, Lead the Stampede, Flayer Husk, and Plaguemaw Beast among some off-color cards.

    Off to Scars of Mirrodin, Kai was faced with the choice between Infiltration Lens, Tel-Jilad Defiance, and Necrogen Scudder. Sadly, no infect creature and apparently Kai didn’t want to take his fourth piece of equipment. He opted for Necrogen Scudder.

    The next pack, though, had Tel-Jilad Fallen and Contagious Nim and he took the Nim. Then he picked Corpse Cur over Rust Tick, and after that a Plague Stinger without alternatives. Again no infect meant he had to contend with Palladium Myr, and then even with Ezuri’s Archers.

    Two Tel-Jilad Fallens, a Fume Spitter, Vector Asp, and Withstand Death rounded out the mediocre second pass.

    His third first pick was considerably better than the Necrogen Scudder out of pack two: Acid Web Spider was already stronger, but still no match for the Skinrender Kai took.

    A Slice in Twain came in as a second pick, and a Corpse Cur as third. Being low on infect creatures, the Cur certainly was a windfall for Kai, although he didn’t seem too happy about having to pass Arrest as well as Myrsmith. Gerald Leitzinger to his left was getting a pretty awesome white deck. He was happy, however, to pick up a Cystbearer fourth. Next he hate-drafted Tempered Steel over Tel-Jilad Fallen.

    The rest of the draft was a big disappointment. Kai’s picks: Etched Champion, Ezuri’s Archers, Stoic Rebuttal, Glint Hawk, Scrapdiver Serpent, Halt Order, Bonds of Quicksilver, Razorfield Thresher, Blunt the Assault.

    After the draft Kai said, “Well, the deck isn’t good. I guess it’s okay. Not really enough creatures, but with Corpse Cur and Morbid Plunder it might just work out.”



     
  • Sunday, 9:45 a.m. – Drafting With Gabriel Nassif

    by David Sutcliffe
  • Around the table from Kai Budde, another all-time legend of Magic, experienced veteran, multi-Pro Tour champion and Hall of Famer was also drafting away – Gabriel Nassif.

    Pack One
    Ichor Wellspring was chosen over a Blight Widow – it looked a really tough decision, seeing Nassif also passing a Spine of Ish Sah, Blisterclaw Shaman and a Mortarpod
    Ichor Wellspring #2 came from a pack that seemed to have all the same choices as the first.
    Strandwalker was the standout card from a pack that seemed to feature two Morbid Plunder.
    Dross Ripper was the only artifact left, and Nassif stayed clear of a color commitment by taking it
    Leonin Skyhunter, preferred over a second Dross Ripper
    Fangren Marauder

    The arrival of the Fangren Marauder at pick 6 was a pretty clear signal for Nassif that the big green strategy ‘Dinosaurs’ was open. Seizing it with both hands, Nassif finally had a direction for his draft.

    Viridian Emissary
    Phyrexian Revoker
    Morbid Plunder (chosen over a Plaguemaw Beast)
    Quilled Slagwurm
    Training Drone
    Frantic Salvage
    Shriekhorn
    Shriekhorn

    After the first pack Nassif’s draft seemed to be... well, it was ticking over. He had a lot of artifacts that he was sure to play, and a few big steps towards the Dinosaurs deck, but it seemed like he didn’t really have a clear direction for what would support it, and he was desperately short of Instants.

    Pack Two
    Horizon Spellbomb is a fine card, but it’s not what you want for a first pick. Nassif looked at a pair of red removal in Shatter and Arc Trail before shunning them for the Spellbomb.
    Acid Web Spider was chosen over a Genesis Wave or Myrsmith
    Wall of Tanglecord, preferred over a Leaden Myr and Fume Spitter
    Tel-Jilad Defiance – the best of a poor selection
    Fume Spitter, although Nassif seemed to toy with a blue switch for Trinket Mage
    Argentum Armor, taken over Carapace Forger and Chrome Steed, both good picks for his deck.

    Pick six was fast becoming the lucky slot for Gabriel Nassif – after a bunch of uninspiring draft picks he had been handed a genuine game winner. Sure the Armor is expensive, sure it costs a ton to equip as well, and sure there were probably good reasons why nobody else wanted it, but with Nassif’s deck low on anything you could consider a bomb he was happy to have such raw power at his disposal, whatever the cost.

    Bleak Coven Vampires
    Tel-Jilad Defiance #2
    Carapace Forger was a strong ninth pick
    Accorder’s Shield
    Assault Strobe
    Blunt the Assault
    Vault Skyward

    Well, that was more of the same for Nassif. Were his picks actually bad? No... but he seemed destined to always pass on better cards in other colors (Arc Trail, Myrsmith, Trinket Mage). There was a lot of work to do, and judging by the headshaking from Nassif he knew it.

    Pack Three
    Palladium Myr was the pick, but it was close and he passed over two other cards for his deck – a Perilious Myr and Instill Infection
    Painsmith, but again Nassif seemed doomed to pass on better cards – Razor Hippogryff and a Tempered Steel!
    Leaden Myr over a Rusted Relic
    Horizon Spellbomb
    Bellowing Tanglewurm

    The Tanglewurm was the first piece of good news for Nassif, but up next was his lucky sixth pick...

    Molder Beast

    It never fails, does it?

    Prototype Portal

    And that rounded out three picks that could well decide the fate of Nassif’s deck – two very strong green fatties at a playable spot in his mana curve, and a rare that fit perfectly into his artifact-heavy build. It was very late in the draft, but Nassif had been handed a ray of hope.

    Blistergrub
    Withstand Death
    Auriok Sunchaser
    Kuldotha Rebirth
    Exsanguinate at twelfth pick, could easily make his deck
    Flamebore Hellion
    Relic Putressence

    Building his deck, Nassif knew it wasn’t what he had wanted – a creature heavy deck with strong two drops and five drops, some card drawing in Wellsprings and Horizon Spellbombs, and a couple of potential game winners in an Argentum Armor and Prototype Portal. But those rares were hardly bombs and would need work to deliver a reward. More worryingly, the only thing that could pass as creature removal was a single Fume Spitter, and only the Acid Web Spider could block flyers. Nassif knew he had problems, and wasn’t happy...

    “My deck isn’t very good,” he summed up, “I think I made a lot of bad picks, like it probably went wrong on the first pick when I took a Wellspring over the Infect spider, and after that I should have had more commitment and stayed on the white”. He shrugged, unhappily, “I never saw any kind of signals as to what to play, so I was lost for most of the draft. I have no removal, but some big guys... we’ll see. I thought of splashing the Kuldotha Rebirth – it works with my Ichor Wellsprings and the Razorfen Marauder but in the end three 1/1s aren’t going to win me any games”.

    We’ll follow Gabriel right into his first match to see how his deck fares – a win could set up a dream feature match against the German Juggernaut, Kai Budde!



     
  • Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – Where's Rietzl?

    by David Sutcliffe
  • You’ve seen the ‘Where’s Waldo?’ books, right? Well here at Grand Prix Paris there’s a new version of that called ‘Where’s Rietzl?’ because as the first round was seated one face was missing, and it was his. It’s not often a player drafts but then doesn’t immediately go into a match (although I once recall a player who drafted a Grand Prix Top 8 then left to catch a train) but this time Paul Rietzl can be excused – he has a prior engagement... a Pro Tour Top 8 match against Pat Chapin.

    Having played his way into the Pro Tour Top 8 on Friday, Rietzl carried right on and tore it up in the Grand Prix on Saturday, finishing with a 9-1 record, just behind Kai Budde in the blue portion of the Grand Prix. That gave him a dilemma for the next morning as he had to be in two places at once.

    Fortunately, Rietzl had a solution. Having playtested his Pro Tour Quarter-Final matchup against Chapin’s deck he had branded it ‘unwinnable’ anyway. Given that he predicted a swift Pro Tour demise, Rietzl would draft for the Grand Prix then race away to the Pro Tour feature match area where Pat Chapin had promised “I’ll try to beat you quickly”. It was a Win-Win situation for Rietzl – if he won the Quarter-Final then he would drop from the Grand Prix, but if he lost he could come back and would be 9-2 and still able to play for a place in the Top8.

    The unwitting winner in all this was Felix Wiedemann, who sat down to play Round 11 of the Grand Prix against an empty chair, but whatever else may yet unfold, this Magic Weekend has been a great one for Paul Rietzl.



     
  • Feature Match – Round Eleven: Gabriel Nassif vs Joel Larsson

    by David Sutcliffe
  • “Good luck!”

    “You too, but not too much!”

    That was Gabriel Nassif and Swede Joel Larsson, his opponent, beginning their Sunday with a warm welcome in the feature match area. We would see here how Nassif’s flawed ‘Dinosaurs’ deck would hold together in a real match.

    Nassif won the dice roll and chose to start, leading out with a pretty steady opening of a Leaden Myr, Horizon Spellbomb and Wall of Tanglecord... nothing to really concern his opponent, until he added a Bellowing Tanglewurm. But the cool Swede, Joel Larsson, had it all under control. A Blisterclaw Shaman took care of the Leaden Myr, and the Bellowing Tanglewurm immediately fell sick, perishing under the joint attentions of a Skinrender and a Virulent Wound.

    Gabriel Nassif

    With his first gambit nullified, Nassif moved on Plan B – a Prototype Portal which he imprinted with a Phyrexian Revoker. TThe pressure was on Larsson now – he couldn’t allow Nassif to begin turning out an army of Revoker copies and had to go on the offensive. He attacked with his team – a Skinrender, Blisterclaw Shaman and Flensermite, adding a Goblin Gaveleer. Blocking with the Wall of Tanglecord Nassif dropped to 18 life – still a long way from death. The Frenchman added a Bleak Coven Vampires to the table but was content to sit and wait – the Portal would bring him eventual victory, all he had to do was let Larsson punch himself out. Putting a Phyrexian Revoker into play the hardest part for Nassif was choosing which card to shut out – none of Larsson’s cards in play had activated abilities so Nassif was shooting blind... after a brief pause he went for ‘Grafted Exoskeleton‘.

    Back to the Swede, and Larsson swung again with a Burn the Impure removing the Bleak Coven Vampires from the equation, but losing his Flensermite to a second Revoker copy. This was a tough uphill fight, and he could only getting Nassif down to 15 life. It got worse pretty quickly - Nassif had more bad news for the Swede – a Molder Beast.

    “Fives... it always starts at fives” bemoaned Larsson - the Molder Beast was the third hefty five-cost creature that he had been forced to contend with. All the Swede could do was to add more creatures to his side - a Phyrexian Rager, Contagious Nim and Phyrexian Digester – but he couldn’t force an attack so long as the Molder Beast stayed home to block and passed the turn. Back to the Frenchman, then, and Nassif added to his growing Phyrexian Revoker swarm then played a potential game-winner in the form of an Argentum Armor.

    With a wry smile Larsson played a Grafted Exoskeleton and immediately offered a big high-five to Nassif for his good call on the Phyrexian Revoker – the Exoskeleton was useless, and the game was up. Nassif equipped the Argentum to his Molder Beast and swung home with the now-enormous 11/9 Trampler! That was enough – Larsson drew his final card, shrugged, and swept up his cards for Game 2.

    Gabriel Nassif 1 – 0 Joel Larsson

    “My deck is really bad”, offered Larsson as the pair sideboarded.

    “I could tell you werent happy by the way you talked after the draft”, replied Nassif, “Im not sure about my deck either, though”.

    “Yeah - it was a weird draft,” the pair agreed.

    Joel Larsson

    Larsson began the second game in a more aggressive mood, with a Flensermite and Blistergrub, whole Nassif had a Viridian Emissary at his disposal, although he was forced to cycle away a Tel-Jilad Defiance in search of a fourth land before giving up and playing a Palladiujm Myr on the next turn. With the Frenchman stuck on three land the Palladium Myr had a huge target on it’s head, and of course attracted a Burn the Impure, and then Nassif’s Leaden Myr on the next turn was hit by an Instill Infection.

    Still on three mana, and with his lifetotal tumbling steadily at the hands of Larsson’s swampwalking Blistergrub, Nassif looked like a man who knew the game was lost. The one thing his deck couldn’t do was remove creatures but he faced with a creature he couldn’t block!

    Larsson switched tactics to accelerate his clock, adding first one, then two Grafted Exoskeletons to his Blistergrub to deal lethal Poison in just two attacks!

    In a murky black blur, the match was level.

    Gabriel Nassif 1 – Joel Larsson 1

    The decider then, and Gabriel Nassif spent a long time mulling over his decision to mull or not... he did, sighing as he shuffled down to six cards. A mulligan decision can make or a break a match, and Nassif seemed to have made a good decision as his deck moved smoothly through the gears in the early turns, bringing down a Horizon Spellbomb, Wall of Tanglecord and a Blistergrub. For his part, the Swede played a Flensermite again, this time equipping it with an Infiltration Lens and beginning to deliver the poison counters.

    “It’s so weird in this match”, observed Larsson, “all the way through yesterday it was bombs everywhere and all the best creatures in the format. And now it’s Flensermite against a Blistergrub. It’s totally different”.

    Larsson switched the Infiltration Lens over to a larger Phyrexian Devourer, but Nassif was waiting for the ploy – as the Devourer attacked a Nassif handed it Protection from Artifacts, stripping it of the Lens and allowing him to trade his Blistergrub for it.

    The two sides beefed up – Nassif playing a Fangren Marauder and Carapace Forger, while Larsson added a Grafted Exoskeleton to his punt Flensermite. The Flensermite was proving a real problem – now a 3/3, with Nassif up to 6 poison, it was a threat that couldn’t be ignored... but at the same time the Lifelink was helping Larsson to pull clear of Nassif’s attempt to race him. Despite the best efforts of Nassif’s men, Larsson was still on 17 life. Nassif had a more pressing problem though – the nine lands in play told a tale, and the other half of that tale was the one card left in hand, as Nassif was suffering a brutal flood of mana, with no spells to use that mana on.

    Larsson added a second Flensermite, then a turn later a Skinrender arrived to remove the Forger and allow another block. With few options available Nassif chose not to block and give Larsson two additional cards - that put Nassif on 9 Poison, and Larsson revealed a Virulent Wound from hand to seal the match.

    Gabriel Nassif 1 – 2 Joel Larsson

    “Such a bad deck!”, laughed Larsson, shaking his head that he had managed to win the match. Tight-lipped, Nassif looked badly frustrated that his deck had misfired and given him so many lands at the vital moment. Losing to Flensermites has it’s own bitter taste.



     
  • Sunday, 10:50 a.m. – Lazy Sunday Mornings

    by David Sutcliffe
  • 08:00 Arrive for Grand Prix
    08:15 Draft for Grand Prix
    08:35 Deckbuild
    08:55 Hand Grand Prix Decklist in to judge
    09:00 Begin ‘unwinnable’ Pro Tour Quarter-Final
    09:01 Game Loss for Tardiness in the Grand Prix
    09:05 Match Loss for Tardiness in the Grand Prix
    10:10 Win your ‘unwinnable’ Pro Tour Quarter-Final 3-0 to go 12-0 in the Pro Tour
    10:12 Begin Round Twelve of Grand Prix (on a 9-2 record)
    10:40 Win Round Twelve of Grand Prix 2-0

    If your Sunday morning looks like this then congratulations because you are Paul Rietzl, and you are fast becoming the story of Magic Weekend Paris 2011!



     
  • Feature Match: Round 12 – Kai Budde vs. Gerald Leitzinger

    by Tobi Henke
  • While shuffling the players talked about the draft. “I hope the decks at our table aren’t very good overall,” Budde said, clearly unhappy after his round-eleven loss. “Yeah, there was some weird stuff going on,” Leitzinger admitted. Budde complained, “My first pick in the second booster was pure insolence.”

    Game 1

    Budde started with Contagious Nim, while Leitzinger had Tine Shrike as his first play, which blocked the Nim. Budde cast Flesh-Eater Imp, commenting, “Here comes my first pick.”

    Kai Budde

    “And here goes my first pick ...” Leitzinger was eager to cast Arrest on the Imp, but Budde stopped him, and put it into his graveyard rather than to have it stuck under Arrest for the rest of the game. Budde summoned Blightwidow, Leitzinger took control of it with Volition Reins. Corpse Cur for Budde brought back his Flesh-Eater Imp, while Leitzinger summoned Rusted Slasher and Budde replayed his Imp.

    “Okay, now the kiddie combination”, Leitzinger announced and put Spine of Ish Sah next to his Rusted Slasher, killing the Imp in the process. The stolen Blightwidow attacked and was blocked by Budde’s Corpse Cur. Budde untapped and cast Morbid Plunder on Cur and Imp, replaying the latter.

    Spine of Ish Sah was sacrificed to Rusted Slasher and recast to re-destroy the Imp. Budde made Skinrender to stop the Slasher from further interaction with the Spine. Budde got his Skinrender killed by Darksteel Sentinel, then recruited Cystbearer and Corpse Cur. Next turn his Cystbearer was blocked by the 3/3 and his Corpse Cur destroyed by Divine Offering. Budde cast another Blightwidow.

    On his next turn he pumped the spider to 3/5 with Flayer Husk and attacked. The now 1/1 Darksteel Sentinel blocked the Blightwidow and Leitzinger cast Quicksilver Geyser to return it as well as his Spine of Ish Sah. He drew Myrsmith from the top, and replayed Darksteel Sentinel, making one token to chump-block the spider. Budde summoned Scourge Servant, which died to Spine of Ish Sah.

    Leitzinger’s Myrsmith was now working in full gear, with Trigon of Thought making yet another token. With the ground increasingly crowded, Budde soon was forced to look for another avenue of attack. He found Corpse Cur—wich retrieved Corpse Cur which retrieved Flesh Eater Imp.

    The Imp got equipped and attacked succesfully for 3. Next turn, Budde made Viridian Claw and equipped his Imp with that as well, but when he also sacrificed a creature, Leitzinger cast Dispense Justice. Budde was out of gas and soon shuffled it up.

    Kai Budde 0-1 Gerald Leitzinger

    Game 2

    This time Leitzinger had a fast start with Origin Spellbomb followed by Glint Hawk Idol, making a token on his third, then arresting Budde’s first creature, Tel-Jilad Fallen.

    Gerald Leitzinger

    Meanwhile, the German had made a Viridian Claw and now attached it to his freshly-summoned Flesh-Eater Imp. This put a stop to Leitzinger’s offensive, at least for now. When the Imp attacked, though, it was dealt with by means of Dispense Justice. But Kai had already proven his creatures never stayed dead for long. Morbid Plunder took care of that and soon the Imp was back on board.

    Leitzinger was forced to cast Volition Reins on the Imp which was sacrificed to its own ability in response. All Budde was left with were his Ezuri’s Archers. Leitzinger on the other hand was still going strong, activated his Glint Hawk Idol, and made a 7/7 copy of it with Quicksilver Gargantuan.

    A judge was called to verify that the Gargantuan would actually be 7/7 and the ruling at the time was that indeed it would be a noncreature artifact with the ability (via Glint Hawk Idol) to turn into a 7/7 flying creature. This monster took Budde down in two attacks.

    Kai Budde 0-2 Gerald Leitzinger

    Only after the match had concluded, it was discovered that this ruling was in fact wrong. In fact, the Gargantuan would have been an exact copy of Glint Hawk Idol except for the power and toughness (which in it natural state it doesn’t have at all). But: As soon as the Idol/Gargantuan turned into a creature this would then be 2/2, because the new power/toughness-setting ability overrides the Gargantuan’s old. Unfortunately, neither the players nor the judge caught the error in time. When the judge apologized to Budde afterwards, he didn’t take it badly. “Mistakes happen,” he said. “And it didn’t really matter. I would have probably lost the game anyway. This way it just didn’t take so long.”



     
  • Feature Match: Round 13 – Dominic Martz vs. Paul Rietzl (Draft)

    by Marc Calderaro
  • “Ok, which deck am I playing?” Rietzl asked as he sat down. He’s the current success story of the inaugural, Grand Prix / Pro Tour combo. He won his Quarterfinals match in the Pro Tour, and while waiting for the Semis to start, he decided he continue his 10-2 romp of the Grand Prix. He sat across from Switzerland’s Paul Martz, also with a 10-2 record, and also with a mediocre to bad infect deck.

    Game 1

    After Swamps faced one another, Rietzl used his second turn to cycle a Nihil Spellbomb, while turn three brought a Phyrexian Crusader. Another Phyrexian creation, the Phyrexian Digester, was Martz’ reply. Rietzl cast a Blackcleave Goblin and sent in his black infectors. Martz chose to trade the 2/1s, and go to two poison.

    Contagion Clasp slowed the Crusader’s infection rate, though the first-striker still took Martz up to three. Rietzl tripled up his creature count with a Plauge Myr and a Cystbearer, though the Myr died to a Viridian Corruptor the next turn.

    Rietzl attacked into the twisted Shaman with the 1/1 Crusader and the Cystbearer. Martz blocked the green creature to maximize Contagion Clasp proliferation, and Rietzl cast a Tangle Hulk post-combat.

    The next attack, Rietzl had an opposing Cystbearer and Copper Capaace to worry about but he still ardently took his opponent down to 15 life and up to 5 poison counters before Martz proliferated the two wounded infectors out of the game.

    Rietzl switched from infection to all-out damage mode, attacking again with the Hulk and a new Dross Ripper, before emptying his hand with a second Ripper and Viridian Emissary. The Swiss had three cards in his hard, and Rietzl figured, unless that’s two blockers and an Untamed Might, I’m going to win.

    Paul Rietzl

    Rietzl was at four poison and his opponent at five (and merely 7 life), when Martz dropped a Necropede and a Plaguemaw Beast to attempt stalemate the board. On the next attack, Dross Ripper pumped up to kill the beast, and Martz sunk to four.

    But Martz had a secret in his one card. Since Rietzl had tapped himself out of blockers, the touted Untamed Might on Martz’ Copper Carapace-suited Cystbearer was more than enough to finish the game.

    Dominic Martz 1, Paul Rietzl 0

    Game 2

    More infector for the first few turns. Vector Asp traded poison past Necropede and vice versa, but Rietzl changed the tenor with a third-turn Necrogen Scudder. Martz had the Viridian Corruptor again, which gained a -1/-1 counter when it destroyed the mechanical millipede. The scores were tied at 17 and 1 poison before Rietzl continued his Scudder-based assault.

    Martz used a Sylvok Replica to take out Rietzl’s new Dross Ripper blocker and even though an Instill Infection finished off the Corrupter, Rietzl still jumped to 4 poison before casting his Phyrexian Crusader and Plague Myr. Martz fearlessly attacked into the two infectors and when the Crusader hopped in the way, Martz used his last-game-winning Untamed Might to take out the rare infector.

    Rietzl was at 5 poison after casting an Ichor Rats and Martz was at 8 life. The Scudder just kept coming and coming. Rietzl counted up in his brain, paused for a moment, and swung with everything he had – Cystbearer, Ichor Rats, Plaue Myr and Scudder. Martz blocked with his Asp and a new Plaguemaw Beast (that demurred to a 2/1) and he followed up with a Necropede.

    Rietzl confidently cast an end-of-turn Carrion Call. He was splitting up his infect and non-infect damage pretty evenly throughout the game, though Martz was much closer to dying due to life total (5), than he was poison counters (3). Rietzl left his Cystbearer at home for the enxt wave of attacks, and Martz used Plaguemaw Beast shenanigans in concert with the Necropede to get the turn back at 4 life, 5 poison and face down a 1/1 Scudder.

    Rietzl again just left back the Cystbearer, and again the Beast shenanigan-ed around. Both players now had 7 poison counters, and Martz’ life was still at 4.

    Next turn, Martz board finally died completely, but not before proliferating Rietzl up to 8 poison, while he sat at 9. After drawing for the turn, he cast and sacrificed a Moriok Replica, went to 2 life, and then conceded.

    Dominic Martz 1, Paul Rietzl 1

    The two players both bemoaned their sub-par infect decks.
    “Two Vector Asps – awful.” Martz sighed.
    They figured out there were four infect drafters at the table, which severely weakened all the decks overall.

    Game 3

    Martz led with an Asp off a Forest.
    “He’s not even an infect guy!” Martz laughed. But it worked well enough once he laid down the Swamp. A Necropede came down third turn and for the second time, Rietzl had the Phyrexian Crusader right on time.

    Dominic Martz

    It was promptly the target of a Contagion Clasp, but it still hung around – what a trooper.

    “How many cards in your hand?” Rietzl asked.
    “Three. I functionally mulliganed.” Martz pointed to the Vector Asp. The Swiss player was clearly not confident about his Asp. Play it proudly, Dominic! Kai Budde played it in Standard and he knows what he’s doing.

    Carapace Forger, Ichorclaw Myr and Tangle Hulk held down Rietzl’s fort after the Crusader died to proliferation. With that Clasp activation, the American also ticked up to 4 poison. Rietzl sat back and let out a large groan. “How am I going to get out of this mess?” Martz was some how in control with a Necropede and a Vector Asp, so much for functionally mulliganing. Rietzl couldn’t attack with anything he wanted as the -1/-1 counters would decimate (not literally – as we all learned from Decimator Web), his board.

    It was then Martz’ turn to groan when Rietzl tapped out for Phyrexian Juggernaut. It was just about as big as every other creature on the board combined. With that hooved monstrosity, the Forger got metalcrafted, but Rietzl had to watch his Juggernaut sink to a 3/3, after getting Necro-fed and proliferated. A Sylvok Replica took out the Tangle Hulk and the board state continued to shift.

    4 poison to 3 poison. Vector Asp, Contagion Clasp and a new Cystbearer against Ichorclaw Myr, Plague Myr and a Phyrexian Juggernaut with two -1/-1 counters on it. The wounded Juggernaut went in with the Ichorclaw, and Martz’ Cystbearer gained protection from artifacts via Tel-Jilad Defiance before it blocked the Juggernaut, while the Vector Asp leaked an end-of-turn death out the temporarily pumped Myr.

    The two continued to trade without much progress, especially from Rietzl who had been drawing nothing but land. After a few turns it was Rietzl’s poison against Martz’ 4. And the Cystbearer was all alone. It appeared Martz was flooded as well. However, Martz plugged his leak quicker, and once he found a Bellowing Slagwurm, Rietzl had run out of time.

    Looks like Rietzl might have to be content with a Top 32, possibly Top 16 finish to go with his Pro Tour Top 8.

    Dominic Martz 2, Paul Rietzl 1



     
  • Sunday, 2:45 p.m. – Drafting with Shuuhei Nakamura

    by David Sutcliffe
  • “Are you sure you want to cover me? Maybe you want to change? I am down in 33rd place”

    This was Shuuhei Nakamura, as self-effacing as always. But he had a point – he’s only a multiple Grand Prix Champion and Hall of Fame inductee, and he’s only balanced right on the bubble at 10-2 and needing to win his next three games to make the Top8, and he’s only sat to the left of American pro David Sharfman who himself is still alive after his Feature Match loss of Yuuya Watanabe yesterday. And on a personal note he’s only one of the nicest and most polite and honorable players in the world. But other than all that, what possible reason could we have for wanting to watch him draft?

    Shuuhei Nakamura

    Pack One
    Mirran Crusader
    Blisterstick Shaman – though Shuuhei looked at Creeping Corrosion for a while
    Priests of Norn – taken over Fangren Marauder or Copper Carapace
    Kuldotha Flamefiend
    Accorder Paladin – preferred to a Concussive Blast
    Myr Sire – passing Fangren Marauder #2

    Watching from the corner of my eye, I saw David Sharfman happily scooping up the green cards that Shuuhei was passing downwind, while Shuuhei was focused on red and white.

    Ogre Resistor – some vanilla beatdown taken over Darksteel Plate
    Spin Engine
    Virulent Wound – this first black card taken over Crush or Metallic Mastery, an odd call?
    Silverskin Armor
    Spiraling Duelist
    Turn the Tide
    Oculus

    After the first pack Shuuhei was determined to try and avoid his white cards, and looked focused on the red. I wondered if there were some picks in there which would come back to haunt the Japanese Pro, though – Virulent Wound didn’t seem to either fit his deck, or be important enough to have hate-drafted over a removal card like Crush or Metallic Mastery. David Sharfman, meanwhile, was already on his way to a chunky green deck.

    Pack Two
    Kuldotha Phoenix – yes please!
    Razor Hippogriff, taken over solid artifacts like a Rust Tick or Sylvok Replica
    Volition Reins, not Saberclaw Golem

    Whuh? Volition Reins? I would have to ask about that later.

    Shatter
    Accorder’s Shield > Auriok Edgewright
    Kemba’s Skyguard
    Furnace Celebration
    Bladed Pinions
    Ghalma’s Warden
    Goblin Gaveleer
    Ogre Geargrabber
    Goblin Gaveleer #2
    Corrupted Harvester
    Blistergrub

    Well. That didn’t go well. Aside from the Kuldotha Phoenix, Shatter and Razor Hippogryff you would be hard-pressed to point to a top class card. David Sharfman was much happier – the cards he fanned out showed an impressive green/red beatdown deck that was already pretty well stocked with removal and angry green men. Despite picking up Razor Hippogriff, Auriok Edgewright and Kemba’s Skyguard in the booster Shuuhei was still trying to make a mono-red deck, cutting them from his selection as he reviewed his pool, cutting to just red cards and artifacts.

    Pack 3
    Snapsail Glider – not a great first pick, certainly no Kuldotha Phoenix
    Darksteel Axe
    Glint Hawk
    Darksteel Myr – preferred to a second Ghalma’s Warden
    Embersmith says “Bonjour!”
    Embersmith #2 says “Bonjour aussi!”
    Accorder’s Shield #2
    Barrage Ogre

    Wow. Is it just me or did Shuuhei’s deck just get loads better?

    Goblin Gaveleer #3
    Necrogen Censer
    Carapace Forger
    Goblin Gaveleer #4
    Echo Circlet
    Relic Putrescence

    As the players moved away to complete deckbuilding I saw that Shuuhei had built a deck that was almost mono-red, with only four plains for the smallest white splash possible. That meant a bunch of his powerful cards and high picks – like a Mirran Crusader and Razor Hippogriff hadn’t made his deck. Shuuhei had important questions to answer, but one of them was the most pressing...

    So, just how good was that last booster?

    Oh, the third pack was very good. Very good. I was so glad to see it, see those Embersmiths. But the second pack, that was the worst for me. Awful.

    What about that Volition Reins – surely you didn’t think you were going to play it?

    No, but to make it to the Top 8 I have to win 3-0, and I have to take away any cards from other people that I probably cannot beat.

    You have Mirran Crusader, Razor Hippogryff, Auriok Edgewright and Ogre Geargrabber sat in the sideboard, and you are playing Goblin Gaveleers over them – not many people would make that choice. Is it right?

    I think so. For this deck. I need to be fast – I want to play a Goblin Gaveleer and give it an Accorder’s Shield, or Bladed Pinions, or Darksteel Axe, and just start attacking quickly. My deck is very aggressive – to put those white cards in would cause me mana problems and that is so important. I have to be consistent.

    These cards are a good option – I may sideboard them in sometimes if I want to make my deck slower – but I think it is better for me to be fast.

    Finally - you need 3-0 to Top 8. Are you going to do it with this deck?

    I hope so! I don’t think so, but I hope!



     

  • Sunday, 3:10 p.m. – Drafting with Christian Hüttenberger

    by Tobi Henke
  • Christian Hüttenberger started 13-0 into the tournament. This means a) that he only needs to win one more round, which kind of makes watching his draft less interesting. On the other hand, it proves b) that he really knows what he’s doing in the Mirrodin Besieged / Scars of Mirrodin limited format, which of course makes his draft all the more interesting.

    Anyway, let’s take a look!

    The pack he opened had a couple of solid creatures in Leonin Skyhunter and Kuldotha Ringleader, but he quickly skipped ahead to take a long, hard look at the booster’s infect options. He considered Inkmoth Nexus and Blightwidow, but apparently didn’t like the prospect of picking one and passing the other. In the end he settled for Pierce Strider.

    Second pick came down to a choice between Divine Offering, Fangren Marauder, Rot Wolf, and Corrupted Conscience—which turned out to be no choice at all, as Hüttenberger quickly swooped up blue enchantment.

    The next pack held two infect creatures, Scourge Servant and Phyrexian Digester, but after all he had passed before, Hüttenberger was again looking for something else: Skinwing in this case.

    For his fourth pick, finally, more blue cards arrived: Vivisection, Gust-Skimmer, and a Treasure Mage which he took. His next picks were Serum Raker, Piston Sledge, Ichor Wellspring, and Steel Sabotage. A late Virulent Wound suggested an opening in black, but the rest was again purely blue with two late Vivisections and another Treasure Mage. Up till now, Hüttenberger was still missing something to search up with Treasure Mage, clearly hoping for the Scars of Mirrodin packs yet to come.

    And here we go with another first pick: Grasp of Darkness might have gone well with his Virulent Wound, Necropede and Perilous Myr might have done wonders to improve his Vivisections, but in the end there was just no other option for Hüttenberger than to go with Argent Sphinx.

    Glimmerpoint Stag got the nod over Necrogen Scudder as his second pick, and then Sylvok Lifestaff and Soliton followed to make for rather disappointing picks third and fourth, respectively.

    But blue wasn’t exactly drying up. The next booster contained not only Sky-Eel School, Silver Myr, and Neurok Replica, but Disperse, Twisted Image, and Flight Spellbomb as well. Hüttenberger flipped back and forth between Sky-Eel School and Silver Myr, and when time was up, picked the Myr.

    The rest of the second pass gave him Plated Seastrider, Sunspear Shikari, Darksteel Myr, Loxodon Wayfarer, Twisted Image, and some other stuff that immediately went to the back of his pile, when Hüttenberger reviewed his cards.

    For his third first pick, Hüttenberger again passed Sky-Eel School, rather taking Myrsmith. Rust Tick was second, another Silver Myr third. Then he chose Nim Deathmantle instead of Perilous Myr, and afterwards had to decide between Chrome Steed and Neurok Replica, and took the latter.

    He got Sky-Eel School as sixth pick, Sunspear Shikari as seventh, and another Sky-Eel School eighth. The rest of draft was filled with Halt Order Screeching Silcaw, Plated Seastrider, and off-color cards. And off he went to build his deck. We’ll check back with him later on how that turned out.


     

  • Sunday, 4:30 p.m. – Magic Weekend Extends its Reach

    by Marc Calderaro
  • Adding to the endless events going on here at Magic Weekend, I think it's time we headed into some new territory. How about a 200-person Extended PTQ smack dab in the middle of the convention center – right between the Grand Prix and the Pro Tour? Sounds good to me. The Extended Pro Tour Qualifiers are already here, and it was time for a nice walk around the top tables to get a sense of what was working for some PTQ grinders.

    Chikara Nakajima

    The first thing I noticed was the Mirrodin Besieged card we all knew was a auto-include, Go For the Throat. By the looks of it, most Faeries decks have adopted it whole-heartedly and they were more numerous at the top tables in Round 5 of this eight-round tournament than any other archetype. A few of those UB sprite-casters were also sleeving up another Besieged card, Sword of Feast and Famine. I personally watched it dismantle a WU control deck, with both of the two triggered abilities being extremely relevant. However, Australian John-Paul Kelly, who had a great run in Grand Prix Oakland last year, is a little skeptical about the new Sword. He told me, "Three mana in your main phase is just so much." It's hard to disagree, but that whole "untapping lands" thingy attached to the Equipment could make that three mana virtually less.

    Another card in consideration for existing archetypes is Green's Sun Zenith. You know, that card that can impact any format it wants. I saw a few copies in a Necrotic Ooze deck floating around the top. Granted it can't fetch the deck's namesake, but it can be a Fauna Shaman, Devoted Druid, Quillspike, Wickerbough Elder, or Kitchen Finks out of the board just to name a few. Yeah, that's good.


    Eddie Mucha

    Irishman Eddie Mucha, who LCQ-ed for the Pro Tour this weekend, won a Standard Event for a foil set prize, and is currently sitting at 5-0 in the PTQ, has some thoughts on the Zenith, and on the format in general. "I'm playing R/G Valakut; it's definitely the best deck right now." He says most of the match-ups are 45%-55% win ratios, and that's good enough as long as you've got a good sideboard and play tightly.

    Eddie thought the Zenith sounded good for the Necrotic Ooze deck, but he was skeptical about people trying to smush it into Valakut. "In most situations, Primal Command's just better." Rather, he's suited up a different Besieged card for his Valakut deck. "I've got Thrun, the Last Troll in my sideboard. It's so good." He continued about how although it might not be the exactly silver bullet that Great Sable Stag is against Faeries, it has broader implications, the glorified deer just doesn't possess. "Having an untargetable 4/4 on turn three is relevant against so many decks," Eddie continued.


    John-Paul Kelly

    There are plenty of other 60-card stacks performing well. I watched a ridiculous Hideaway face-off between an undefeated Black-White Tokens deck and an undefeated Zvi's Hideaway Emrakul. The Tokens player thought he was sitting pretty – he had just attacked with Cloudgoat Ranger tokens to activate two Windbrisk Heights both hiding more Cloudgoat Rangers. But his opponent, Japan's Chikara Nakajima, who recently finished 83rd at Worlds, had different plans. He untapped, attacked with two Birds of Paradise and a Mutavault to activate his Hideaway land hiding an Emrakul. This turned his Mosswort Bridge on, which was hiding a Primeval Titan. The Titan searched out two more Windbrisk Heights and on his extra Emrakul turn, he activated one of those Heights revealing, that's right, another Emrakul. He had to sacrifice the first one, but his opponent had already taken fifteen and sacrificed six permanents, so Nakajima didn't mind.

    Extended looks like a fairly open format right now, whatever your play style, there's something that fits you just right. And it's probably good enough. So run out there and sling some spells, dudes.


     

  • Sunday, 4:35 p.m. – The Shuuhei Shuffle

    by David Sutcliffe
  • We all know how drafts work. You sat at a table, you take the best cards you're passed, and by the time you leave the table you pretty much know what your deck is. The actual deckbuilding time you're given to finish your deck is pretty much a formality – all you do is write down your pool, mark the cards you're playing, and then it's off to find your friends and swap tales of how the draft went - "I can't believe I got passed this pick 6", and "I mispicked my second pick" or "I got totally cut out of black, sad face".

    That sounds familiar, right?

    Well that's not how it works for Shuuhei Nakamura – and what he does instead is so blindingly obvious, so simple yet utterly better, that it's amazing we don't all do it. Shuuhei drafts his cards, he builds his deck, but then he doesn't hand his decklist in. Not right away. There are fifteen minutes left in deck construction... he could change his deck if he wanted, he still has the decklist, it's not too late. So what does he do instead? He practices.


    Shuuhei Nakamura

    Shuffle shuffle shuffle... draw seven cards, see how the first five or six turns pan out.

    Scoop up the cards.

    Shuffle shuffle shuffle... draw seven cards, see how the first five or six turns pan out.

    Scoop up the cards.

    Shuffle shuffle shuffle...

    Time and again, Shuuhei tests his deck's draws. A dozen times. More. Was the mana ratio right? Can he afford to cut a land? Does he want to change a card? Shuuhei doesn't trust it all to his understanding of what he thinks is going to happen – to cold logic and theory - he wants to see it in action. It gives him time to find mistakes he made, assumptions that aren't working out for him... and it gives him more knowledge about the deck he is about to play before it's too late to change things.

    Here at Grand Prix Paris I watched Shuuhei go through this process again and again. Did he get Goblin Gaveleer early or late? How often did he have equipment for it? How often did he get Metalcraft? Could he always cast his cards? Test, test, test... then he did something odd – he took out a Mountain and put in an Island.

    Shuffle shuffle shuffle... draw seven cards, see how the first five or six turns pan out.

    Shuffle shuffle shuffle... draw seven cards, see how the first five or six turns pan out.

    Shuffle shuffle shuffle...

    Had I missed something, did he have a blue activation cost somewhere – what was the Island for?

    "With the Island I was testing two things" he told me "first, I test if dropping a mountain will mean I cannot cast things like Kuldotha Phoenix – do I need the red mana. But if I put another Plains in then how do I know the Plains I drew was the Plains that I put in, it could have been another Plains that was always there. If I draw the Island then I know what I changed made a difference"

    Makes sense...

    "The other thing that I was testing was, 17 land or 16... maybe the Island could be the Ogre Geargrabber, or a third Goblin Gaveleer. When I drew it I could decide which it was best to be."

    So there you have it – a simple thing that we could all be doing, and which would almost certainly make all our draft decks that little bit better... so why aren't we doing it? I know that I will from now on, and that I'll be taking an Island with me from the land station no matter what colors I draft...


     

  • Feature Match: Round 14 – Christian Hüttenberger vs. William Lowry

    by Tobi Henke
  • Feature Match: Round 14 – Christian Hüttenberger vs. William Lowry

    by Tobi Henke

    So as a follow-up to our draft coverage, let's see how Christian Hüttenberger's white-blue deck performs under the lights of the feature match arena. Here he's facing William Lowry from the US and his red-white equipment deck.

    Game 1

    Lowry started with Copper Carapace followed by Gust-Skimmer, while Hüttenberger had Myrsmith into Sylvok Lifestaff. He made a token and equipped it. Lowry equipped as well and smashed in with his 4/3. Hüttenberger returned the favor, attacked for 4 himself, and summoned Argent Sphinx.

    Lowry went for another attack, but had no fourth land and had to contend with Perilous Myr. That kept Hüttenberger's creatures at bay, except for the Sphinx, of course, which gladly took over the attacking duties, but not before it had been equipped with Piston Sledge. Lifetotals stood at 12 to 9 in Hüttenberger's favor.

    Lowry summoned Auriok Sunchaser to chump-block the 7/4 flyer, then cast Skinwing to chump-block again. In the meantime Hüttenberger added Loxodon Wayfarer and Sunspear Shikari to his team. After Lowry had cast Mimic Vat he was left with Perilous Myr as his only blocker. Hüttenberger made Neurok Replica and a token, bounced his opponent's Perilous Myr, and equipped Sunspear Shikari with Sylvok Lifestaff and Loxodon Wayfarer with Piston Sledge. That left him with a 2/1, a 4/3, a 4/5, a 1/1 and a 3/2 attacker …

    Christian Hüttenberger 1-0 William Lowry

    Hüttenberger sideboarded out one of his Vivisections for a Darsksteel Myr.

    Game 2

    Lowry started with Perilous Myr, Bladed Pinions and Silverskin Armor, but had no third land. Meanwhile Hüttenberger chained Sunspear Shikari into Silver Myr into Sky-Eel School. By the time Lowry's Perilous Myr was fully equipped and ready to battle (2/2 flying, first strike), Hüttenberger already had Nim Deathmantle and four mana up. But tip-toeing around Perilous Myr, Hüttenberger had not actually dealt a lot of damage so far, and Lowry even recouped some of that with Divine Offering for the Nim Deathmatle. Finally, his lands arrived too, and he was getting back into the game. His Perilous Myr traded with Sky-Eel School and Hüttenberger replaced it with Serum Raker.

    Over the next couple of turns Hüttenberger cast Darksteel Myr and Myrsmith, but when Lowry got Bladed Pinions on a freshly-summoned Vulshok Replica, Hüttenberger could no longer attack profitably. A second Sunspear Shikari didn't help Hüttenberger, but a Skinwing, a Mimic Vat, and Blade-Tribe Berserkers certainly helped Lowry. By alternating his Bladed Pionions between Vulshok Replica and Blade-Tribe Berserkers he even managed to get some damage in, and a couple of turns later, during which Hüttenberger mostly did nothing, a Kuldotha Flamefiend from Lowry destroyed Hüttenberger's defense and it was soon over.

    Christian Hüttenberger 1-1 William Lowry

    William Lowry

    Game 3

    Hüttenberger chose to play first, took a mulligan, and reluctantly kept his six-card hand. A turn-three Vivisection somewhat offset his disadvantage though. Meanwhile, on the other side of the long, long feature match table Lowry had assembled a number of small creatures, Plague Myr, Perilous Myr and Sunspear Shikari. All proved no real threat to Hüttenberger who hid behind Neurok Replica and countered Lowry's Barbed Battlegear with Steel Sabotage. However, Lowry still had Bladed Pinions which resolved.

    Hüttenberger summoned Sky-Eel School, Lowry cast and equipped Training Drone; Hüttenberger made Myrsmith, then had Halt Order for Lowry's Silverskin Armor.

    The Training Drone still attacked, but now Hüttenberger had Rust Tick and Nim Deathmantle. Once again the Mantle fell victim to Divine Offering, while Rust Tick took care of the Training Drone. But Lowry had another do-it-yourself monster, made from Sunspear Shikari and Copper Carapace. Hüttenberger used Skinwing to chump-block, then equipped Neurok Replica, turning it into a 3/6 blocker. It still died thanks to Lowry's Galvanic Blast.

    Lowry's Shatter got rid of the equipment once and for all. His 4/4 attacked a couple more times

    Christian Hüttenberger 1-2 William Lowry



     

  • Sunday, 4:40p.m. – Photo Blog

    by David Sutcliffe







  •  

  • Feature Match: Round 15 – David Sharfman vs. Shuuhei Nakamura

    by David Sutcliffe
  • This was the showdown between the two biggest names in their draft pod – and both players knew that the bubble was rapidly forming under them. In a normal Grand Prix a record of 13-2 would be enough to mean you could ID the last round and guarantee a Top-8 spot, but with so many players the competition for players was very tough. That meant that a win didn't necessarily put you in, but both players knew that a loss would most definitely put them out... it was elimination Magic.

    Sharfman's terrifying Red-Green deck wasted no time in applying the beatdown – A Viridian Emissary into a Tangle Angler into a Fangren Marauder, pausing along the way to destroy Shuuhei Nakamur'as Spin Cycle and Silverskin amror with a Turn to Slag. Shuuhei's defences were struggling to cope – he had plenty of guys but none of them were the size of Sharfman's Fangren Marauder, and when Barrage Ogres are reduced to speed bumps the game is only heading one way. A second Fangren Marauder joined the first on the table, and with a Slice in Twain the American made sure they wouldn't have to wait much longer. Shuuhei had been manhandled in minutes, and was simply crushed by the power of Sharfman's men.

    David Sharfman 1 – 0 Shuuhei Nakamura

    Shuuhei Nakamura

    Shuuhei opted to give Sharfman the first turn in his comeback game, but it was the Japanese Hall of Famer who made the first play, with an Embersmith. A couple of turns later Sharfman played his first creature, a Tangle Angler, and followed it with a Strandwalker after Shuuhei had added an Ogre Resistor to his side of the board. The ground war was a stalemate so Shuuhei took the fight to the air, sending his Kuldotha Phoenix on the attack. That was the sort of threat that demanded a response from Sharfman, and he had one – a Turn to Slag. The Phoenix may return to the battlefield at some point, but as Shuuhei currently had no artifacts in play the American didn't need to worry about it right now.

    Shuuhei added more to his growing army, with a Glint Hawk and Ghalma's Warden, but they were immediately overshadowed by Sharfman's play – a Hoard-Smelter Dragon! That was a huge threat, and Shuuhei had to ensure he kept momentum. He played his Mirran Crusader, in from the sideboard, and used it to continue attacking, throwing extra damage at Sharfman's head with his Embersmith. After the battering from the Phoenix earlier, Sharfman suddenly found himself down to 4 life and fighting for survival – Dragon or not.

    The position the American was in was tenuous – the Dragon was the only creature that could block Shuhuhei's Mirran Crusader, but that meant it couldn't also block the Glint Hawk. He managed to solve the Embersmith by running a Tangle Angler into it, but it was going to be close.

    David Sharfman

    Shuuhei attacked with his Glint hawk and Crusader – the Dragon munched on the Crusader hungrily but Sharfman dropped to 2 life, and then a Blisterclaw Shaman landed to deal a fatal point of damage to Sharfman's Hoard-Smelter. On 2 life, the Glint Hawk would get there on the next turn unless the American could do something to stop it... and he couldn't. Nakamura was still alive!

    David Sharfman 1 – 1 Shuuhei Nakamura

    Ogre Resistor and Blisterclaw Shaman – Shuuhei's opening in the deciding game was low on brains but big on muscle. The pair barged past Sharfman's Tangle Angler but then stopped up short at the sight of a Bellowing Tanglewurm. Taking time out to expand his army, Shuuhei played a Mirran Crusader and Ogre Geargrabber, while Sharfman attempted to win the arms race with a Turn to Slag and Fangren Marauder. If this match was going to be decided by muscle then it was Shartfman who had been seemingly pumping the steroids.

    A second Fangren Marauder for Sharfman, and with a Sylvok Replica to block with and a Bellowing Tanglewurm to ensure that Shuuhei couldn't defend himself from the American's big angry green men the result was in no doubt. Big angry green men?


    HULK


    SMASH!

    It wasn't pretty but it got results, and David Sharfman snapped Shuuhei's resistance like a twig, ensuring that the American was still alive going into the final round of the Grand Prix, and playing for a Top 8 slot.

    David Sharfman 2 – 1 Shuuhei Nakamura


     

  • Feature Match: Round 16 – Marijn Lybaert vs. Paul Rietzl

    by Josh Bennett
  • "You're not getting past THIS Belgian!" - Marijn Lybaert

    Paul Rietzl had just won the semifinals of the Pro Tour against Belgian pro Vincent Lemoine, but before he could face Ben Stark, he had to play the Battle to Make Top 32. That meant dealing with Lybaert.

    Rietzl started with mountain, forest and Leaden Myr. After Lybaert made a Riddlesmith, he powered out Tangle Mantis. Lybaert played his third land type and a Sylvok Replica, looting away a mountain.

    Rietzl attacked for three and played Melira's Keepers. Lybaert looted away Serum Raker with Gust-Skimmer, then played an Oculus, ready to soak up some damage. Rietzl attacked with Mantis and Keepers, and the Oculus chumped. Rietzl continued up the chain with Alpha Tyrranax.

    "This is old school. I've got Durkwood Boars, War Mammoth and Craw Wurm." - Paul Rietzl

    Lybaert tried to shore up his defenses with Darkslick Drake and passed the turn. Contagion Clasp took care of his Riddlesmith, and all Rietzl's green creatures charged in.

    "... not looking too good." - Marijn Lybaert

    Lybaert put the Replica in front of the Tyrranax and double-blocked the Keepers. Before damage he sacrificed the Replica to kill the Leaden Myr. Rietzl put the hammer down with Shatter on Gust-Skimmer. Lybaert played out Viridian Emissary and Trigon of Rage, letting him kill the Alpha Tyrranax on Rietzl's next attack. Reitzl replaced it with Glissa's Courier. Lybaert threw down Acid-Web Spider and Vedalken Anatomist, trying to stay alive, but Rietzl had Bellowing Tanglewurm for the kill.

    Lybaert laughed. "You're running so good!"

    Rietzl had to agree. "Yep, running pretty hot."

    Rietzl 1 - Lybaert 0



    Lybaert put Rietzl on the play. He was first on the board with Riddlesmith, and Vedalken Anatomist while Rietzl had to wait for a turn-four Tangle Mantis. Lybaert played Wizard Replica and looted away Disperse, playing a third forest. Rietzl played Bellowing Tanglewurm.

    Lybaert was happy to take the long view. He played Viridian Emissary and passed. When Rietzl went to attack, Lybaert declined to tap anything. That caught Rietzl off-guard, and he had to re-consdier his plan.

    "I thought for sure you were going to tap something. Now I don't know what to do." - Paul Rietzl

    He chose to attack with both creatures. Lybaert blocked the Tanglewurm with Emissary and Wizard Replica, losing the Replica, but finishing off the Tanglewurm with the Anatomist after Rietzl played his Alpha Tyrranax. Lybaert thought for a minute, then played island and passed the turn. He locked down the Alpha Tyrranax and then double-blocked the Mantis.



    "Damage?" he asked

    "No."

    "That's unfortunate."

    Rietzl tapped seven for a big Untamed Might, killing both creatures and putting Lybaert to ten. Lybaert searched out a mountain. Unfortunatley for him, he still had no play. Rietzl played Contagion Clasp, hoping to get rid of the Anatomist, but Lybaert had Steel Sabotage. Rietzl hit for three and passed. Burn the Impure from Lybaert finished off the now-smaller dinosaur. Lybaert played Darkslick Drake and passed.

    Rietzl was out of gas. He dug with Panic Spellbomb but found nothing. Lybaert hit for two and passed. Finally, Rietzl drew Galvanic Blast for the Anatomist, his Mantis safe at 1/2. Lybaert was at seven, and couldn't afford to attack. Rietzl drew and played Glissa's Courier, putting Lybaert on a short clock. Lybaert hit for two in the air and played out Acid-Web Spider.

    Rietzl mountainwalked Lybaert to five and played Blight Mamba. Lybaert hit back with Drake and played Sylvok Replica. Viridian Corruptor took care of the Replica and the Courier took Lybaert to three. Lybaert had another Replica but no way to stop the mountainwalker. In two attacks the game was over.

    Paul Rietzl defeats Marijn Lybaert 2-0


     

  • Feature Match: Round 16 – Kai Budde vs. Joel Larsson (Draft)

    by Marc Calderaro
  • Kai Budde sits currently at 39 points and he's up against a 39-pointed Joel Larsson. Neither of them could afforded to draw, so they're playing for a spot in the Top 8. They've been playing like mad all weekend, but these last rounds are where it really shows your mettle (perhaps your Mirran Mettle). Kai's been on a tear in the last few days and we'll see if he can extend it just a bit more, because we know he's got the mettle (both Mirran and non-).

    Game 1

    Larsson had to go to mulligan-town (I'm sick of the "Paris" joke), but started with a first turn-one Darksteel Axe. He cast a Divine Offering on Budde's turn-three Phyrexian Digester, then immediately put an Arrest in the German Juggernaut's Tangle Angler. Kai didn't mind, he followed up with a Scourge Servant, a Plague Stinger and another Digester. And like that Larsson had his first 3, then 5 poison counters. Why does it always feel like Budde's winning?

    Larsson's Necrogen Scudder came in and attacked while he played a Vector Asp and equipped the Darksteel Axe for defense. But Kai had a veritable litany of infectors and an end-of-turn Instill Infection for the Asp. He also had a Mortarpod. As they say in England, that's that then.

    Kai Budde 1, Joel Larsson 0

    Game 2

    Larsson led with a Swamp that Kai matched. The Swede followed with a Contagious Nim to Kai's Painsmith. The Mortarpod came down again, pumping the Painsmith in the process. While on the other side of the table, Larsson had an Ichor Rats ("Not the best card for the mirror match," he joked) and brought Budde to 3 poison counters on his attack.

    When Kai passed his fourth turn without a play, Larsson took the opportunity to play a Necropede. Which was good because Kai wasted his two other creatures with a Mortarpod launch and a Grasp of Darkness. Kai followed with a Trigon of Infestation. Infector token producers seem pretty good with Mortarpod. Then again, so do most things.

    The Necropede went to the graveyard, taking the Painsmith with it in its spindly legs, and Larsson refueled with a Morbid Plunder. He soon recast the Necropede, but an Instill Infection made short work of it. Kai then made a token, untapped, and Spread the Sickness to another infectious Rat, Septic Rats. The score became even at 3 poison a piece.

    While Kai made more tokens, Larsson re-gassed with an old Contagious Nim and a new Accorder Paladin (his first white spell of the game). Budde sent his two tokens at the new creatures and when Larsson immediately blocked, Budde had to think. He decided it best to keep the Mirran Mettle in his hand and let everything resolve, killing the Nim with a Mortarpod sacrifice.

    A Sickness Spreader from Larsson killed Kai's new Tangle Angler, but Kai had an endless stream of infectors, adding a Scourge Servant and Phyrexian Digester to the table, because again, Kai's always winning. But what Larsson had, was cats. And lots of them.

    A White's Sun Zenith made four 2/2 cats at the end of Kai's turn, and Larsson untapped, cast Arrest on the Scourge Servant, and swung in. Kai went down to 14 with the cat swing, but then swung back. The Digester with a Mortarpod was unblocked and Kai thought to try a Metalcrafted Mirran Mettle. Larsson was prepared however, and used Divine Offering to take +2/+2 off the Mettle. Kai went to 8 life and 4 poison, with Larsson at 8 poison.

    "You're at 4 poison?" Larsson asked as he cast a Grafted Exoskeleton. Weren't you listening to me, Joel?

    "Yeah," Kai said as he went up to 8 poison.

    "Did you draw a guy?" Larsson knew with a Mortarpod on the table, Kai just needed a second dude to sacrifice to add the poison required (because the Arrested Servant was no help).

    Kai flashed a Phyrexian Digester with the necessary mana, and Larsson extended his hand. Kai Budde had made the Top 8, and Joel Larsson would have to wait for the 'breakers.

    By the way, that makes 15 Grand Prix Top 8s for Kai.

    Kai Budde 2, Joel Larsson 0


     

  • Sunday, 5:30 p.m. – The Last Round

    by Tobi Henke
  • We got a couple of interesting matches to watch this round …

    At table one, Christian Hüttenberger defeated Lewis McLeod, which put the former at 45 and the latter at 40 points, but both of them might still make it in. At table two Gerald Leitzinger drew with William Lowry, which put Leitzinger at 41 and Lowry at 40. So there's not much to tell here. Kai Budde's match at table three, however, was quite a story and was featured in depth by Marc.

    Let's take a look at table five instead, where Sveinung Bjørnerud of Norway faced off against Korey Mcduffie from the US. Both had 39 points and a win would guarantee one of them a spot in the Top 8. Mcduffie took one game with Spin Engines and Infiltration Lens, which meant he only had creatures Bjørnerud either couldn't or didn't want to block. But in the end Bjørnerud's Lumengrid Gargoyle and double Kemba's Skyguard took the win.

    Meanwhile at table six David Sharfman had to fight Jeremy Dezani for his right to enter the Top 8. Dezani started extremely strong with Glint Hawk Idol, Perilous Myr, and Rusted Relic, but only a couple of turns later, Sharfman's Piston Sledge-equipped Molder Beast was attacking, while his Sylvok Replica destroyed another of Dezani's artifacts...

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