Grand-Prix Rotterdam: Day 1 Blogs

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EVENT COVERAGE

 

  • Saturday, 11:33 a.m. – One Plus Two Equals Six?
    by Tobias Henke
  • As you might have heard already, Wizards is discontinuing the tournament pack and, while at it, changing the Sealed Deck format as well. Starting with GP Rotterdam, every player receives six booster packs instead of the one tournament pack plus two boosters which have been given out up till now. We asked players how they felt about this change.

    “It certainly spices things up,” was one answer that was given a lot. “Sealed Decks are getting better. Before, one might have ended up without enough playables and needed to make compromises. Now you don’t have to do that anymore. Or not quite as often.”

    Another point that was made is the following: “The tournament pack made sure that certain commons do not show up in multiples. It definitely makes a big difference, whether you open one Oblivion Ring in each of your Shards of Alara packs for a total of three... or, for example, three Soul’s Graces.”

    Does that make the format more luck-based?

    “It might have. But the sixth pack somewhat alleviates the problem. Since the Sealed pool is growing by 20 percent, it’s rather unlikely you’ll ever receive one that is really bad.”

    How does the judging staff handle the new situation? Head judge Kevin Desprez was quite happy to inform us that there haven’t been any problems thus far. “There are no tournament packs to store the cards while performing the deck swap, so every player got one of our special GP deck boxes. I can’t say we’ll always be giving out those, but we’re well aware of the issue and make sure there are no problems.”

     

  • Saturday, 10:52 a.m. – Sealed Deck with Raphael Levy
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Conflux; kon.fluhks
    Noun
    1. a body of water formed by the flowing together of two or more streams, rivers, or the like.
    2. a crowd or throng; assemblage
    3. a coming together of people or things; concourse
    4. the second expansion of Alara block

    Raphael Levy - a Mythic player with Mythic rares
    All four definitions of the word Conflux are in evidence here in Rotterdam this weekend. Rotterdam is a port, itself at the point rivers meet. We have 1,227 eager Magic players in the building, which certainly constitutes a crowd or throng, and there’s also plenty of concourse (and discourse) - a coming together of ideas, strategies, and friendships. And why are we all here? Well that’s for the final definition – Conflux, the first expansion to Shards of Alara.

    And who should we get to give us a guide to this new Sealed Pool format? How about we ask a Pro? Better yet, how about we ask the Pro? I spent the deckbuilding period peering over the shoulder of French superstar Raphael Levy, and asked him to spare us a few minutes...

    So, the first thing that you saw when you opened this pack is that the red is a gift.

    Sure. I actually opened this pool to register, and as I started registering it the pool was so strong I wanted to get it back to play with – Sarkhan Vol, Godsire, loads of burn. Then I started to realise that the mana was pretty bad so was less excited. It turned out that I have it to play with, and it actually was very difficult to build. It’s not as good as I thought it was, but that’s pretty hard to say when I have so many good cards.

    No less than 5 rares, two of them Mythic rares.

    Yeah, but two of them are Cylian Sunsinger, just 2/2s for 1G. I’m not sure how good that is. But I have lots of removal, 8 or 9 I think – Path to Exile, Magma Spray, Dark TemperBranching Bolt, Soul’s Fire, Fiery Fall, Skeletonise, and Sarkhan Vol are in the deck. I actually have a second Soul’s Fire that I’m not playing with – I only have 12 creatures, including a Dragon Fodder, so I played the Dark Temper over it. I have a Skeletonise to make a black creature for Dark Temper as well. The last change I made was to cut a Valeron Outlander out because I don’t think I will have the right mana that early very often.

    That’s right – you’re playing all basic lands, no Panoramas, no Ancient Temples.

    Just seven Mountains, six Forests, and four Plains. I have an Armillary Sphere and a Naya Obelisk, but I’m not playing the Exploding Borders. I just don’t like it - I think need my white mana before turn 5 so I played the Obelisk instead.

    Overall I’m pretty happy with the deck. I don’t have many ways to win other than Godsire and Sarkhan Vol, but I have lots of removal. The black was actually good as well, Executioner’s Capsule, Drag Down, Sprouting Thrinax... but I didn’t have any mana fixing to play a fourth colour, and the white adds so much that I can’t do without. It’s not great, it could be better, but I think it will be good enough

    So, what do you think of Conflux? For Limited, for Standard? Do you like Path to Exile?

    I’m actually not a big fan of that card in Standard. I haven’t tested it much but I think most of the time I probably want Terror instead. It seems like early on it is hard to use Path to Exile on a little 2/2 without it giving your opponent a big help in his mana. You kind of have to hang onto it and wait for something big. In Extended it’s probably very good, though.

    Overall, I like Conflux a lot. It makes Alara block a lot more... I don’t know the way to say it... stable? It makes drafting much better, more flexible. I feel like it makes a lot more sense. But really the big change is the switch to extra cards in Sealed.

    Ah, I was about to ask about that. You like it?

    I love it. It’s a big change and nobody seems to have talked about it. The switch from tournament packs evens out some of the commons runs – you used to get some tournament packs that handed you a run of amazing removal, and then other packs would give you nothing. Yes there’s more chance of getting multiples of the same commons, but I think switching to boosters actually makes it more even because you’re less likely to get a terrible sealed deck, just a bad booster.

    And more cards is a lot better as well, it really suits a good player – more good cards for good players, more decisions to make, more room for players to make mistakes.

    And the fact that it’s three Conflux and three Shards boosters? Shards had 245 cards, Conflux is only 145 cards... but you get three boosters of each so players are almost twice as likely to have Fiery Fall as Resounding Thunder. Will that change how you play?

    Really? I hadn’t thought of that.

    *Raph sits back, a distant look in his eye that you might mistake for the Planeswalker’s spark which sets Pro players aside from us mere mortals, as he rapidly assimilates this information*

    Yes, that might make a difference to how you play, what you play around. Interesting. I’ll have to think about it.

    And finally... Kyoto?

    Of course.

    Playing?

    I don’t know. I haven’t played any Standard yet, though I’ve been talking to a lot of people. I’m flying over on Monday and then, when you’re at the tour, that’s when it all happens. Players test for months before a Pro Tour, and that’s useful of course, but at a Pro Tour there will be four days where everyone is in the hotel together. Decks evolve so quickly in those last four days. I’m not saying it’s pointless to test for months for a Pro Tour, because it’s not, but things change quickly in the last few days and I will be choosing my deck then.

    Thanks for chatting, and good luck!

    Thanks.

     

  • Saturday, 12:52 p.m. – Quick Questions
    by Tobias Henke
  • Martin Juza

    Play or draw?

    Draw.

    What’s Conflux’s influence on the Limited format?

    It’s not that big. You still have the same three-color archetypes. You do have more mana fixing now, though.

    How do you feel about your chances? Do you have a good deck?

    A good aggressive deck. It’s Naya. Of course, it’s Naya.



    Shuuhei Nakamura

    Play or draw?

    Draw first. Definitely.

    What’s Conflux’s influence on the Limited format?

    It is faster. Also, Naya and Jund go down, while Esper is getting much better.

    How do you feel about your chances? Do you have a good deck?

    I seriously don’t know. I just hope.



    Sebastian Thaler

    Play or draw?

    I’ll play first.

    What’s Conflux’s influence on the Limited format?

    Esper is much, much stronger now. Five-color decks are worse.

    How do you feel about your chances? Do you have a good deck?

    I’m happy. I got an aggressive Esper deck.

     

  • Saturday, 1:13 p.m. – Carnaval!
    by David Sutcliffe
  • It turns out that Grand Prix Rotterdam falls on the weekend of a very long-standing and traditional holiday here in southern Holland – the tradition of Carnaval. The origins of Carnaval seem lost to the mists of time; it could be medieval, it could be early Christianity, or could be even earlier. But what seems to matter most is that it involves music, drinking, dancing, and costumes. And this year, the Carnaval has come to Magic!

    Captain Jack Sparrow - Legendary Human Pirate
    We’re already into the second round here, and some players will have already found themselves shuffling up to play against characters such as The Pink Pimp, Jim Morrison of The Doors, Mel Gibson as Braveheart, or Captain Jack Sparrow. Stood off to one side, barely recognisable under his mask, one well-known Magic: The Gathering pro – not from the Netherlands himself but throwing himself manfully into the party, told me a little about Carnaval.

    “It’s basically an excuse to drink for days on end. You come along and everyone is out in costumes, and there’s traditional brass bands on virtually every street corner blasting out the traditional Dutch music, and they’re all dancing round and round, drinking, singing, and having a great time. The first time you see it you just walk through it all just wondering what it going on, it’s like everyone has gone mad. Then after a few hours it’s all seems completely normal and you can’t help but join in.”

    And so that’s why you came to the Grand Prix dressed as an obscure British cartoon superhero?

    Bananaman is real! But who is this masked pro?
    “I’m Bananaman, of course! Although anybody who isn’t English has no idea who I’m dressed as, which is great!”

    And who is Bananaman’s secret alter-ego? I’m not going to tell you just yet, so you have a couple of hours see if you can guess which pro player has spent his byes handing out Limited Information from under the mask of Bananaman before the big reveal.

    I’ll be back later to unmask our hero!

     

  • Podcast – Four Figures Of Fun
    by Rich Hagon
  • The European Grand Prix circuit gets underway in Rotterdam this weekend, with the player list well over 1200. Amongst them are plenty of Pros, content to watch from the sidelines through the first three rounds of action. Join your host Rich Hagon as we chat to multiple Pro Tour winners, a Superhero (yes, really), and a live contender for Shuuhei Nakamura's Player of the Year crown. Plus all the details of this first GP of the European season.

    Click Here to Download
     

  • Feature Match: Round Three – Simon Görtzen vs. Tom van Lamoen
    by Tobias Henke
  • Simon Görtzen
    Simon Görtzen of Germany finished last year’s GP Paris in fourth place, while Tom van Lamoen is the reigning Dutch National champion. One wouldn’t exactly expect those players to meet in round three...

    “So how come you only have two byes?”

    “Worlds,” said Görtzen, nodding sadly. “I lost most of my rating there.” “Yeah, me too,” Van Lamoen commiserated.

    Van Lamoen started with mana fixing in the form of Grixis Panorama and Obelisk of Bant, then played Aerie Mystics. Görtzen had to resort to Armillary Sphere, which initially is slower, but gets the job done. He had Visceral Dragger as his first creature and dropped Fusion Elemental on turn five.

    Van Lamoen smoothly put Zombie Outlander in its way. Meanwhile he was getting in damage with his Aerie Mystics, drew some cards with Courier’s Capsule, and got his mana completely set up with the help of both Rupture Spire and an Armillary Sphere of his own.

    Görtzen played Oblivion Ring took Zombie Outlander and simply smashed for 11 damage.

    With lifetotals at 14 to six in the German’s favor, Van Lamoen had to consider his next move. He went for Meglonoth and dropped Görtzen down to 12 with his flier. When Görtzen killed the Meglonoth with Executioner’s Capsule, he shrugged and conceded.

    Simon Görtzen 1 – 0 Tom van Lamoen

    Tom van Lamoen
    Van Lamoen chose to draw first, but Görtzen’s five-color deck was not at all hampered by the lack of extra cards. By turn two he already had Naya Panorama and Armillary Sphere on the board, while Van Lamoen went about his business with a Panorama and Unstable Frontiers. Dragonsoul Knight came down for the Dutch, followed by Matca Rioters.

    Görtzen on the other hand had all colors of mana available, but not a single non-land permanent. He did have Dark Temper, though, to get rid of Van Lamoen’s Matca Rioters before their size grew out of reach.

    Görtzen put down Blood Tyrant. The Dutch player meanwhile had Rupture Spire and another Dragonsoul Knight. Two power with first strike is rather good even without the option of turning it into a dragon, but Van Lamoen only needed one more land to do just that.

    His next draw step didn’t provide him with one, so he had to help matters along with Courier’s Capsule. Still, that gave Görtzen one turn, where his 5/5 vampire turned into a 7/7 and attacked. The one big flying monster was then joined by another one: Extractor Demon.

    But Van Lamoen was not to bedefated that easily, and he did have another trick up his sleeve: Martial Coup! Suddenly, the game was a complete turnaround. While Görtzen didn’t have a play on his next turn, Van Lamoen complimented his five power worth of tokens with another five power: this time from Sharum the Hegemon. Pretty rare-heavy, these decks.

    Görtzen bought another two turns with Sylvan Bounty. But it was unclear what he was hoping to draw, surely there wasn’t anything in his deck to come back from this board position, was there?

    Simon Görtzen 1 – 1 Tom van Lamoen

    Görtzen chose to draw first for the deciding game, as much for fear of mana screw, as to have an edge in the late game, where the one extra card is always welcome. Both players had Island, Plains, and Forest out on turn three, but while Van Lamoen had Matca Rioters and followed it up with a Mountain for serious 4/4 beats, Görtzen only had Esper Battlemage. And that even died to Branching Bolt.

    He went for Esper Cormorants next, then Aven Trailblazer, which on his side of the board still was a lowly 2/3. He was in trouble when his opponent played Dragonsoul Knight, and even more so one turn later when Meglonoth joined the Dutch team. Görtzen’s next draw once again didn’t reveal a land, and he quickly shuffled up his cards.

    Simon Görtzen 1 – 2 Tom van Lamoen

    This round’s entertainment wasn’t finished with the end of the match though! Van Lamoen revealed the one rare, we didn’t see yet: Cruel Ultimatum! A little daring perhaps, but his mana base sure can accommodate a lot of crazy casting costs.

    Görtzen casually flipped the one card, that would have still won him the second game: Jund Charm! After all, he still had his Extractor Demon in the grave, ready to be unearthed, while Van Lamoen controlled five tokens and had been drawing some extra cards.

     

  • Podcast – Three in Four
    by Rich Hagon
  • Shuuhei Nakamura, Frank Karsten and Martin Juza begin their campaigns in the Feature Match area. With a supporting cast that includes first-time GP man Martin Baum of Germany, Belgium's Pierre Rensonnet and Grand Prix Madrid winner Lasse Norgaard, this is a cut-throat start to the Pro event. Join is in the heat of the action.

    Click Here to Download
     

  • Feature Match: Round 4 – Arjan Van Leeuwen (NDL) vs Rogier Maaten (NDL)
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Arjan Van Leeuwen
    It’s a Dutch Grand Prix, and so it’s fitting that our feature match for the fourth round should feature Dutch players. However this is more than just a high-profile clash between two top Dutch players, this feature match is the first time that the reigning Emperor of Alara takes to the battlefield. Arjan Van Leeuwen laid waste to over 1,800 players at Grand Prix-Paris last year, claiming the prize at probably the most ruthless and merciless Magic tournament ever held, and it would be some challenge for Rogier Maaten to knock the juggernaut off his stride. But then Maaten himself is a former Dutch champion, and has been in his own fair share of Pro Tour and Grand Prix Top-8s

    Undaunted by the task ahead Maaten wasted little time in taking to the offensive with a Nacatl Savage and Aven Trailblazer, while Van Leeuwen stacked up on trinkets – Kaleidostone, Armillary Sphere, and finally an Executioner’s Capsule that sentenced the Aven to an early grave. Unfortunately for the reigning champ, the bird soldier was immediately replaced by a Mosstodon as Maaten continued to press on.

    Van Leeuwen erased the angry elephant with an Oblivion Ring, only to have Maaten replace it with another! That was immediate evidence of the importance of the move to boosters over tournament packs – multiple Mosstodon would have been impossible otherwise. But Van Leeuwen wasn’t done casting powerful cards either; his Sanctum Gargoyle arrived in play and brought another Executioner’s Capsule with him, although it couldn’t remove the Mosstodon immediately.

    Which was a shame because it meant that when Maaten attacked on the next turn, casting two Might of Alara to give his Mosstodon +8/+8, and dealing 15 damage in one crushing blow, all Van Leeuwen could do was wince and pick up his cards.

    BASH!

    Arjan Van Leeuwen 0 –1 Rogier Maaten

    Rogier Maaten
    An interesting aspect of Shards sealed deck is that many players believe it is better to have given your opponent the first turn because the extra card you draw from playing second is a larger advantage. It’s an accepted ‘good thing to do’ among most pro players, but considering how rapidly Van Leeuwen had been mauled in the first game it was a brave choice to hand the initiative back to Maaten for the second game as well. But interestingly the second game began as though Maaten had changed decks entirely...no Forests, no cheap creatures, no offense, instead he began with a pair of Arcane Sanctums and a Mountain!

    Van Leeuwen was clearly puzzled, moreso when the first creature Maaten summoned was a Rhox Meditant, an unspectacular 2/4 for 3W without a green permanent around. Van Leeuwen answered with a Sludge Strider, which would hold the Rhox back. Maaten had other ideas though, playing a Sigil of Distinction for five, and immediately equipping it to the Rhox and attacking with his shiny new 6/8 rhino! Van Leeuwen reeled from the blow but had his answer already prepared and stripped the Meditant of it’s Sigil with an Oblivion Ring. With Maaten’s offense now stopped by the Sludge Strider, Van Leeuwen powered through an Armillary Sphere and Kaleidostone and began pulling cards into hand.

    It was now clear that both players had full Domain plans, but it was also clear that Van Leeuwen was crucially a turn ahead in finding his Domain thanks to the Armillary Sphere. Maaten played a Paragon of the Amesha, but Van Leeuwen countered with a Fleshformer and he already had all 5 basic land types in play! Maaten cycled Gleam of Resistance to find his missing Forest but couldn’t spring the Paragon into it’s Angel form that turn, and instead added a Drumhunter.

    Van Leeuwen’s Fleshformer devoured the Paragon hungrily on his next turn, and the Drumhunter a turn after that. Just as the storyline of the Shards converging had claimed, the Grixis wizard was feeding hungrily on the fresh meat of Bant and Naya, and Maaten’s lifetotal was in freefall at the same time - down to 4 inside a couple of turns. Maaten looked done for, but a Sylvan Bounty bought him time, and time bought him allies in the form of a Wild Leotau and Mosstodon.

    Slowed, but not defeated, Van Leeuwen played a Sedraxis Alchemist and Sanctum Gargoyle to build his own forces for a final strike. Crucially, the Gargoyle returned his Armillary Sphere and Van Leeuwen dug out two more lands, reached the WWUUBBRRGG mana that allowed his Fleshformer to activate twice in a turn, and Maaten conceded defeat.

    Arjan Van Leeuwen 1 –1 Rogier Maaten

    WUBRG, WUBRG.... I had to look twice to check that you could even play the Fleshformer‘s ability twice in a turn – I mean when were you ever likely to get the mana to do it twice? Well Van Leeuwen did, and it made me imagine the sight of a Paragon of the Amesha as an 8/8 flying double-Lifelinked Angel. Yowser!

    Beginning the deciding game, Rogier Maaten’s Rupture Spire fed him directly into a third turn Woolly Thoctar, which he played with a grin... although both Thoctar and grin disappeared under Van Leeuwen’s third Oblivion Ring of the match. That Oblivion Ring had also made the Drumhunter which Maaten next played a little less exciting, although a turn later he added a Rhox Meditant, trying to pick up some momentum.

    For his part, Van Leeuwen had very quietly and calmly been building his Domain up again, before playing a Sprouting Thrinax and the lethal Fleshformer – hungry once more and ready to strike. But Maaten was ready for the Fleshformer this time, and a Soul’s Fire struck him down where he stood.

    With both player’s first big hitters out of the game things developed quite cagily for the Dutch pair. Van Leeuwen buried the Drumhunter with a Fiery Fall, then added a Darklit Gargoyle, while Maaten could only manage a Nacatl Savage. Van Leeuwen found a Sanctum Gargoyle, the Gargoyle dredged up his Kaleidostone, and the Kaleidostone drew him into an Armillary Sphere. It all seemed exciting, with lots going on, but in truth had only served to put land into Van Leeuwen’s hand. Maaten hit back with a Soul’s Fire to remove the Darklit Gargoyle, and a Wild Leotau, but found that his lifetotal was being gradually whittled down from the air.

    Van Leeuwen’s next card sealed the game. It was a Covenant of Minds which revealed three sizeable creatures, and forced Maaten to choose that his opponent drew 5 additional cards instead. Now with a second wind in his sails, the Alaran champion’s march to victory would be unstoppable, and as Van Leeuwen deployed his new army Rogier Maaten offered his hand in congratulations.

    Arjan Van Leeuwen 2 – 1 Rogier Maaten

     

  • Feature Match: Round Five – Jan Ruess vs. Jos Schreurs
    by Tobias Henke
  • Jan Ruess
    Jan Ruess of Germany started the game and got his four different basic lands by turn four, without any fixing to help matters along. His first play, however, was Knight of the Skyward Eye, likewise on turn four.

    Meanwhile Jos Screurs, playing on home soil, went without a second land drop, but when he drew one on turn three, had Armillary Sphere ready. He fired Magma Spray at the opposing creature, but the Knight survived due to Ruess’s Resounding Roar.

    The German had Aerie Mystics next, then a Naya Battlemage. Meanwhile Schreurs had Wall of Reverence, then Fusion Elemental. The combo of both immediately put him back to well over 20 life.

    Ruess dropped Charnelhoard Wurm, Schreurs Elvish Visionary and Manaforge Mace. Even so no player was making much progress. That changed when Nacatl Hunt-Pride joined the German side of the battle. One turn later that allowed Ruess to attack with all of his team, except for the Naya Battlemage.

    As soon as Schreurs declared his blockers it became abundantly obvious that there was some kind of mass removal in the Dutch player’s hand. He willingly let his Wall of Reverence die in combat, untapped and proceeded to first clear the table with Martial Coup and then to repopulate it with his Soldier tokens.

    Ruess, however, had Suicidal Charge, which got rid of the 1/1s. Next up, both players had a 5/5 creature, Ruess’s was Yoked Plowbeast, Schreurs’s, a little bit cheaper, Matca Rioters. He also had Drag Down for the beast, and activated Manaforge Mace to pump the Rioters up to 10/10.

    Ruess’s deck did cough up a few more blockers, but all were killed, first with Fiery Fall, then Ban Charm.

    Jos Schreurs took the lead.

    Jos Schreurs

    For the second game both players had Armillary Sphere on turn two, so let’s skip to turn four: There Schreurs made four 1/1 saprolings via Spore Burst, while Ruess didn’t have a play.

    Turn five saw Schreurs play Matca Rioters once again, this time as a 4/4. Ruess had Suicidal Charge. He waited to activate the black and red enchantment on the Dutch player’s turn and that backfired horribly when Schreurs revealed to be holding... Gleam of Resistance!

    Without anything in play, with a lifetotal that wasn’t as much falling as it was plummeting, and faced with a reasonably sized fatty as well as a flock of saprolings... Ruess conceded soon after.

    Jos Schreurs defeats Jan Ruess 2-0 and remains undefeated.

     

  • Feature Match: Round Six – Raphael Levy vs. Arnost Zidek
    by Tobias Henke
  • These players are still undefeated and certainly want to stay that way. Both had shard mana available on turn three, Grixis for Zidek, Naya for Levy. Then the action began: Zidek’s Kathari Screecher was dealt with by Levy’s Magma Spray. He followed it up with Canyon Minotaur and Rhox Bodyguard, while Zidek went for Faerie Mechanist into Faerie Mechanist.

    Levy’s team already was bigger, but grew considerably with Goblin Razerunners, while Zidek went without play or land. Levy followed it up with Scourge Devil, and there were certain visual cues that this game wouldn’t be taking much longer. Zidek frowned, shook his head, and made a little sound best described as: “Phhwwww.”

    And indeed, one turn later it was all over.

    Raphael Levy 1 – 0 Arnost Zidek

    For the second game Zidek played first, but Levy had the first play in Nacatl Savage, followed by Woolly Thoctar. Meanwhile Zidek set up his mana with Naya Panorama, Obelisk of Grixis, and Armillary Sphere, then summoned Kederekt Creeper to stop the bleeding.

    Levy had Branching Bolt, though, and when Zidek played Aerie Mystics he burned that one, too, this time with Skeletonize. “Your draw is pretty good,” Zidek commented on the chain of beats and removal. “Yes,” Levy agreed happily. “And yes, my deck is also pretty good.”

    Zidek went down to four. He shrugged and played Controlled Instincts on Woolly Thoctar, then Sarkhan Vol, setting the planeswalker’s loyalty to five immediately. Levy thought a bit about attacking Sarkhan Vol, but in the end decided to bring his opponent down to one.

    “Do you have an out?”
    “Yes, I do.”
    “Oh really? Which one?”
    “I’ll show you after the match.”

    As it turned out, “after the match” was one draw step later. Zidek revealed Spore Burst from his deck and explained, that with the five saprolings he could have survived the next attack and by then Sarkhan Vol would have been up to six counters. The two players discussed, if Levy should have attacked the planeswalker instead, but both agreed that it was correctly played.

    Raphael Levy 1 – 1 Arnost Zidek

     

  • Saturday, 5.27p.m.: Here I Rule
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Elise models the Magic fleece and novel for us
    These days a Grand Prix is about far more than just playing in a Magic tournament – they’re a portal into the world of Magic: The Gathering that you get to glimpse through the cards you play with. That’s something that is more evident than ever here in Rotterdam, with the launch of the 2009 Planeswalkers Challenges.

    The Planeswalker Challenge requires you to undertake a number of challenges – of which playing in the Grand Prix is only one - with the chance to win some cool Magic prizes for those who complete them. Complete three of the following challenges to get entry into the prize draws:
    • Meet Magic artist Randy Gallegos or Alan Pollack
    • Get your Planeswalkers Picture taken at the photo booth (yes, we have an official Magic photo booth!)
    • Take on a Pro Player in the Champions Challenge event
    • Take part in Open Duelling
    • Play in a side event
    Enter in the main tournament


    And a Bag and Free Draft, prizes for having fun!
    That’s something for everyone- even if you weren’t in the main event you could get your cards signed by Magic art legend Randy Gallegos, take on a Pro player head to head, then play a side event and stand to win a prize for doing so! And what do you win? How about a whole host of goodies, all of which are modelled for us here by our very own Elise, such as:
    • A voucher for a free side event draft
    • The new Magic novel ‘Agents of Artifice’ (which is really good, btw)
    • An official Magic: The Gathering fleece
    An official ‘Here I Rule’ Magic laptop bag

    There’s a least a few things there I’d want to get my hands on, and that you get the chance to win great things simply for enjoying the weekend and doing things you’d want to do anyway! It’s all the more reason to get out to a Grand Prix when one comes by your neck of the woods because they’re truly more than just a Magic tournament - they’re DOZENS of Magic Tournaments, and Magic artists, and Magic celebrities, and Magic fun and games. In fact, they’re almost entirely Magic!

     

  • Saturday, 6:30 p.m. – Picture this!
    by Tobias Henke
  • It’s a new year and Wizards of the Coast brought a brand-new design to the GP site. The first group of Planeswalkers from Lorwyn started to appear on banners and stuff in 2008, and now the new ones follow suit.

    Elspeth, Knight-Errant guards the perimeter of the Feature Match area, Ajani Vengeant bares his fangs on the pairings board.

    Talking about art, two fantastic artists are here in Rotterdam this weekend to sign Magic cards. They also brought high-quality art prints and other assorted goodies. When you ever go to a GP, make sure to look up the artists in attendance before, and bring lots of cards.

    If it is any indication, there’ll be lots of Bant decks in tomorrow’s Extended PTQ, as Randy Gallegos has been signing quite a few sets of Bant Charm today.

    Each player in the GP received a special foil alternate art Chrome Mox. That is free. The original piece of art is not, but it still is for sale from artist Allan Pollack!

    I leave you with a painting of quite a different sort. It has been mentioned before that there’s the carnival in town... Braveheart face painting!

     

  • Podcast – Grinding It Out
    by Rich Hagon
  • There's no doubt that stamina comes into play at these Grand Prix, especially when it comes to Limited play. Players made their deck choices many hours before these middle rounds of the day, yet now is when those choices are just starting to come home to roost. In the middle part of the day, nobody qualifies for Day Two, but hundreds fall by the wayside. The trick? Making sure you're still standing when the business gets done. And that means winning. Winning quick, winning slow, winning pretty, winning ugly. It's all about the winning.

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  • Saturday, 7:52 p.m. – Blowing Up Stuff Is Fun
    by Tobias Henke
  • We already have witnessed some amazing plays in the Feature Match area today. But also away from the spotlight crazy stuff is happening.

    Like the game where Martial Coup did not win the game. That’s pretty extraordinary, as the white sorcery usually does win. Well, in this one game even twoMartial Coups couldn’t win: Player A was beating down with some flying creatures, when his opponent cast Martial Coup for ten soldiers. On his next turn player A played a Martial Coup of his own. Still, player B was not tired of blowing up all creatures on the board yet... and did so once again with Volcanic Fallout!

    In the end player A won by decking his opponent with the help of Extractor Demon.

     

  • Feature Match: Round 7 – Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa (BRA) vs Lasse Norgaard (DNK)
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Da Rosa - he's got a plane to catch!
    This feature match pitched two long-standing heavyweights of the game against each other. Da Rosa, from Brazil, is travelling so much to play Magic in this next month that he actually will be ‘living’ in London airports – that’s where he will return to each time before immediately flying out on his next trip. From Rotterdam he returns to London to fly to Kyoto for the Pro Tour. Then he flies back from Kyoto to London to fly on to Grand Prix-Chicago, before returning to London to fly to Grand Prix-Hanover, before flying to Grand Prix-Singapore via, you guessed it, London. Putting in fewer air miles is Lasse Norgaard, who has only had to travel down the coast of northern Europe from his native Denmark.

    As though in a rush to catch his next flight a Rip Clan Crasher, and Jund Battlemage were immediate declarations of intent from Da Rosa and he began the match with beatdown in mind, but Norgaard swept both away with an Infest. Undaunted, Da Rosa threw in a Wild Leotau, then used his own Jund Charm to sweep up Norgaard’s Knight-Captain of Eos and his minions, before the giant cat swung in.

    Norgaard dropped a Grixis Slavedriver to trade with the Leotau, but Da Rose played his exalted Court Archers and attacked anyway, forcing Norgaard to use the Slavedriver as a roadblock for a turn instead of simply killing the Leotau outright. The next turn Norgaard finally slew the Leotau with Drag Down, but Da Rosa added a Scarland Thrinax and then a Rip Clan Crasher and continued the merciless offensive, putting the Dane to 6 life.

    Norgaard hit back immediately with a Magister Sphinx, cutting Da Rosa’s life total in half, then attacking with an Esper Cormorant to drop the Brazilian to 7. From 20 to 7 in one turn and one play – the tables had swung dramatically back in favor of Norgaard! At the end of the Dane’s turn, however, Da Rosa cycled away a Fiery Fall to find a Mountain, his sixth land. Facing down a 5/5 flyer and being prepared to cycle Fiery Fall could only mean one thing ... and predictably the Brazilian revealed his second Fiery Fall to kill the Magister Sphinx, but couldn’t press home a killing blow.

    Hitting back, Norgaard Unearthed the Grixis Slavedriver and went onto the offensive knowing the Da Rosa had to sacrifice some creatures as blockers while he would be certain of getting another zombie from the Slavedriver to block with next turn. Both the Rip Clan Crasher and Court Archers flung themselves to Da Rosa’s aid, dying but swelling the Scarland Thrinax to a 4/4 as they did so.

    Da Rosa attacked the Thrinax, and the zombie saved the day for Norgaard. Da Rosa added a Sprouting Thrinax – that had great synergy with the Scarland Thrinax and in response Norgaard had to send the Scarland back to Da Rosa’s hand with a Resounding Wave. Norgaard struck back in the air with his Cormorants, and added a second Cormorant! It was 4 life to 6 now, and Norgaard had the flyers he needed to push through past Da Rosa’s ground troops, where the Brazilian had seemingly hit a brick wall, or at least an irritating number of zombie roadblocks. Da Rosa pulled a card, it didn’t help to push the damoge he needed through, and with that Norgaard was a game up.

    “That was TOO close” exclaimed the Dane. Too close indeed, he seemed destined to lose for the longest time!

    Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa (BRA) 0 – 1 Lasse Norgaard (DNK)

    Lasse Norgaard - playing possum FTW?

    There was no hint of the frantic aggressive rush that Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa had begun the first game with at the start of the second, and indeed it was Norgaard who was first to make meaningful strides forward, with an Esper Cormorants, while Da Rosa had to satisfy himself with trading away and killing Norgaard’s Brackwater Elemental and Fatestitcher. Worse yet, the Brazilian had to cycle a Fiery Fall away for a Swamp to cast a Fleshbag Marauder that then forced Norgaard to sacrifice the Cormorant clearing the board of creatures for both men.

    Norgaard spent his next turn Unearthing the Brackwater Elemental to attack for 4, but the signs were suddenly there that the Dane was out of options. Da Rosa began adding his own forces to the board now – Elvish Visionary, Scarland Thrinax, Rip Clan Crasher. Norgaard used more Unearth tricks to return the Fatestitcher and bounce Da Rosa’s Thrinax with a Sedraxis Alchemist, but all this trickery was just taking the Dane round in circles and postponing the inevitable.

    Scenting that his opponent was vulnerable Da Rosa added a second Rip Clan Crasher and pushed on, into the red zone, and in for the kill, dropping Norgaard to 12 life.

    MARTIAL COUP FROM NORGAARD! MARTIAL COUP!!!

    In a single game-changing moment the tables swung entirely - just as they had with Norgaard’s Magister Sphinx in the first game. From a position of power, Da Rosa’s suite of aggressive Jund creatures was swept away. From a position of vulnerability, Norgaard’s army sprang into being and marched across the board. Da Rosa was batterered, he was demoralised, and he was defeated.

    Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa (BRA) 0 – 1 Lasse Norgaard (DNK)

     

  • Saturday, 8.45p.m.: I’m the Bananaman!
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Bananaman is unmasked, at last!
    The Bananaman is still alive, here at Grand Prix-Rotterdam. It’s been a rocky road for the fruit-inspired superhero from Britain, but with a 6-2 record after eight rounds another win will seal his place in Day Two. In the eighth round things appeared to be going badly wrong but then, at the last, it appeared Bananaman had been in quiet control the entire time as he drew a sixth land, played a Predator Dragon and swept in for a sudden kill!

    It turns out that Bananaman is playing a very unusual deck which does that sort of thing a lot. With a ton of direct damage like three copies of Absorb Vis, Onyx Goblet, and the ability to lash out suddenly with hasty creatures like a Bull Cerodon and Predator Dragon, Bananaman explained his plan...

    “Basically I try to get a few point of damage in, like get my opponent to 12 or 15, then try to pull enough direct damage together to win. My deck doesn’t really care about card advantage, or establishing a good board position, or any of that stuff which most decks are obsessed with. I just kill people instead. And it’s been working – I mulliganed down to five a couple of times, and those were the matches I lost, but other than that it’s been very good”

    So, Bananaman, are you taking this event seriously, then?

    “Oh yes, I would like to do well, and I’m going to win my next round and get into day two. This is probably going to be my last Magic tournament for a while so I want to go out well. Besides,” he adds with a subtle grin, “I have a new girlfriend to impress!”

    So it’s time for the big reveal, have you guessed who our hero is?

    To be honest the Limited Information clue that I slipped in earlier today may have been all you needed to make the leap that our hero is none other than former magicthegathering.com Limited Expert himself, Quentin Martin of the UK! We’ll keep track of his progress in the final round, and hope that there’s room for at least one costumed clown in Day Two of Grand Prix-Rotterdam.

     

  • Feature Match: Round Eight – Noah Boeken vs. Reinhold Kohl
    by Tobias Henke
  • Noah Boeken

    If the name Boeken rings a bell, chances are you’ve been playing Magic for a long time. Dutch player Noah Boeken certainly has. Between 1999 and 2002 he made the final eight of a Grand Prix seven times, won two... and I gather he’s pretty famous for playing Poker, too. Reinhold Kohl from Germany does not have any big stats to his name... yet. This weekend he’s looking to change that.

    The game started with Druid of the Anima from Kohl and Hissing Iguanar on Boeken’s side. Next up was Kohl’s Feral Hydra, a 4/4 on turn four, thanks to Druid of the Anima. Boeken had a powerful creature as well, alas it wasn’t as tough: Incurable Ogre. Kohl summoned Vithian Stinger, threatening to kill all of Boeken’s creatures, if it was not dealt with, and possibly killing one anyway (barring Magma Spray).

    Looking for answers, Boeken cycled Molten Frame. He only got Topan Ascetic and attacked with his Incurable Ogre, which traded against Druid of the Anima.

    The Hydra grew another head when it went in unblocked, but apart from this (and shooting down Hissing Iguanar) Kohl didn’t have any plays. Boeken, however, had Vein Drinker, which might have brought him back into the game, if it hadn’t been for Kohl’s Resounding Thunder. With a little help from Vithian Stinger the Thunder stopped impending vampirism dead (or undead, for that matter).

    Boeken tried again with Nacatl Outlander and Goblin Razerunners, of which the Outlander immediately had to throw itself in front of the potentially lethal Feral Hydra. After that Kohl played Carrion Thrash and passed the turn.back to Boeken, who played Pestilent Kathari. Kohl shot the Kathari at end of turn with Vithian Stinger, but Boeken responded by casting Dark Temper and kill the Hydra.

    Subsequently, Boeken chump-blocked Carrion Thrash with Topan Ascetic, and Kohl lost his Vithian Stinger, when he cumped Goblin Razerunners. Chump-blocking all around! This way, the table was clear except for one creature on each side: Carrion Thrash vs. Goblin Razerunners.

    That changed when Kohl got Nacatl Hunt-Pride. Still with only one creature, Boeken couldn’t block at all and quickly shuffled it up for Game 2.

    Noah Boeken 0 – 1 Reinhold Kohl

    Reinhold Kohl
    Once again Kohl was on the offense in Game 2. His Naya Battlemage and Feral Hydra (this time Hill Giant-sized) trumped Boeken’s Matca Rioters (2/2) and Goblin Razerunners.

    On turn five Boeken joined the damage race and sacrficed two lands to his Razerunners. After all Kohl just had white mana available...

    Turns out Celestial Purge is perfectly viable removal for red creatures and is indeed white. As soon as Kohl revealed the card, Boeken offered his hand in concession.

    Noah Boeken 0 – 2 Reinhold Kohl

     

  • Saturday, 10:25 p.m. – Undefeated Players' Decks
    by Tobias Henke
  • Those players managed to stay on top through nine grueling rounds of Swiss play. Perfect 9-0 records on all of them. So these are the decks you apparently want to open in a Sealed tournament:

    And last but very certainly not least: Shuuhei Nakamura

    Here is the deck he originally built and noted down on his deck list: But whenever he saw his opponent sideboard many cards (Naturalize and its brethren, one can assume), he did a bit of sideboarding himself. Then, to his opponents' dismay, his deck looked like this:  

  • Feature Match: Round 9 – Shuuhei Nakamura (JPN) vs Marcio Carvalho (PRT)
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Shuuhei Nakamura wins at Magic. As statements go that not only has the ring of truth it’s statistically likely to be correct at any given game or tournament you want to mention. The Japanese superstar secured Player of the Year in 2008 by an impressive margin – a win built on his impressive performances at Grand Prix around the world, and it seems like nothing is changing for 2009. With a round to play Shuuhei found himself on 8-0 and playing to complete the day undefeated. His opponent, however, was the tenacious young Portugese player Marcio Carvalho, and he was not going to be giving up his own undefeated record easily.

    Shuuhei’s deck was the Esper design, with just a hint of green spells, and that puts him firmly on the control side of the metagame and he began Game 1 in that fashion, with a Courier’s Capsule, Esper Battlemage, and the Skyward Eye Prophets threatening to give him tremendous card advantage. That threat was too much for Carvalho to tolerate and he used Ignite Disorder to kill the Prophets before building a Naya army for an assault. The Portugese player rapidly played a Naya Battlemage, Topan Ascetic, and Rhox Bodyguard.

    Responding in kind, Shuuhei played out a Tidehollow Strix, Parasitic Strix, and then the kicker card – Master of Etherium. Marcio attempted to attack but had forgotten about the +1/+1 that the Master Of Etherium had given all of Shuuhei’s creatures and couldn’t get through, only trading a Might of Alara Shuuhei’s Parastic Strix. Carvalho removed the Esper Battlemage after combat with an Oblivion Ring, but when Nakamura went on to play a Skeletal Kathari and Frontline Sage it seemed the Nayan offense may be in danger of stalling.

    Carvalho added a Wild Leotau but that was instantly trumped by Shuuhei’s next card – a Zombie Outlander with Protection from Green – everything the Portugese player had was green, and he smiled wryly when he saw Shuuhei play his 2/2 nemesis. Carvalho pressed on regardless, managing to get another 6 damage in and reducing Nakamura to 5 life,but with the Japanese pro’s next card the game swung even further out of reach – Shuuhei played a Faerie Machinist, that in turn put a Tower Gargoyle into play... another 6 power of flyers!

    That was the tipping point. From here there was no route forward for Carvalho against the amount of muscle Shuuhei Nakamura now controlled, and as they all flew he had no defenses either, and we were soon into Game 2.

    Shuuhei Nakamura (JPN) 1 – 0 Marcio Carvalho (PRT)

    Five cards isn’t many, but it’s the number with which Shuuhei began the second game. It didn’t seem to have hindered him much though has he raced out with a Frontline Sage and Master of Etherium, and when he added an Armillary Sphere he had even managed to replace the cards that he had lost through his Mulligans. Meanwhile, Carvalho had been able to do nothing but lay land for 6 turns, before finally summoning... a Sacellum Godspeaker? That didn’t seem too threatening.

    Shuuhei played a Grixis Battlemage and continued to nibble away at Carvalho’s lifetotal, bringing him to 13, before the Naya deck finally came to life and Carvalho played a Topan Ascetic and Cliffrunner Behemoth – albeit a Behemoth with neither haste nor lifelink. The arms race continued, with Shuuhei stacking up a Tower Gargoyle and the dreaded protection from green Zombie Outlander. But this time Carvalho had an answer and the Outlander disappeared under an Oblivion Ring. Now Lifelinked by the white Oblivion Ring, the Cliffrunner Behemoth roared into the red zone along with the Topan Ascetic. Shuuhei hurled his Grixis Battlemage and Master Of Etherium (still a 2/2) under it’s hooves only for Carvalho to bloat it with Might of Alara! Shuuhei lost two creatures, and Carvalho was back to 21 life in one attack.

    On the next pass Shuuhei was able to kill the Cliffrunner with his Tower Gargoyle, but by then it was too late and Carvalho continued to add creature after creature – Paragon of the Amesha, Rhox Bodyguard, Valeron Outlander all swelled the ranks of the Nayan mage. This time Shuuhei’s Faerie Machinist only found him a Darklit Gargoyle instead of a Tower Gargoyle. Carvalho hit out again, and then added a Naya Battlemage and Hellfire Hatchling, although only as a 2/2 ground creature – but it didn’t matter, bodies were bodies and they threatened to bury Shuuhei by sheer numbers. The two players hurled their forces at each other and virtually everything died. As the fog of war cleared with was Carvalho ahead by a Wild Leotau and Naya Battlemage to Shuuhei’s lonely Frontline Sage, and in two attack phases of teeth and claws the match was levelled with only four minutes left to play!

    Shuuhei Nakamura (JPN) 1 – 1 Marcio Carvalho (PRT)

    Shuuhei began the final game of Day One with a Viashino Slaughtermaster. Wait, a Viashino Slaughtermaster? Was this really Shuuhei’s deck? And a Goblin Outlander to follow it? Where had this red come from? The Japanese player had spent almost no time sideboarding between games, and yet his deck seemed completely transformed! But if it confused Carvalho, he didn’t show it, and the young Portugese player set about his tried and tested green creatures strategy, with a Secellum Godspeaker bringing forth a meaty Wild Leotau.

    Both players raced to get the third game completed before time ran out – hurling creatures and burn at each other in a mad rush that Carvalho seemed to be winning. Both played Matca Rioters, both hurled fiery red burn at each other and raced frantically across the table into the red zone, but with that Wild Leotau remaining the largest creature in town it seemed Shuuhei was doomed, besides which he was still yet to draw any blue mana and was surely unable to cast any of the Esper cards that must have been in his hand.

    Then with a dramatic sweep of his, Shuuhei Nakamura cartwheeled a Meglonoth into play and the feature area almost visibly rocked. The crowd hissed in a cumulative intake of breath and Carvalho’s lifetotal plummeted like a stone inside a couple of turns to just 4 points as the Meglonoth devoured his creatures and life points on both offense and defense, doing double duty before Carvalho was finally able to bring the beast to it’s knees, leaving both players out of creatures.

    Like an old style gunfight in the west, the clock ticked down toward zero as the two players stared across the dust at each other, Carvalho on 4 life, Shuuhei on 6. Could either player find the damage to win?

    Shuuhei was the first to reach for his gun, playing a Naya Battlemage.

    Not to be outdone, Carvalho answered with a 2/2 of his own, ready to defend himself.

    Shuuhei drew a card, paused half a second,and activated the Naya Battlemage to give itself +2/+0 before aiming a Soul’s Fire directly at Carvalho’s head for the final four points of damage! GG!

    Shuuhei Nakamura (JPN) 2 – 1 Marcio Carvalho (PRT)

    What a match, what a game, and what a play! Shuuhei Nakamura is deservedly udefeated going into Day Two. And his deck? Where did all the red come from? He sheepishly revealed that he had built two decks from his one sealed pool! He hadn’t taken any time sideboarding because he had a whole other deck already sleeved up and ready to go - all he had to do was switch over the 5 cards that were shared between the two decks!

    The perfect antidote to an opponent who sideboards in a lot of artifact destruction against your Esper deck? How about switch decks and smash them into the ground inside three minutes. It’s perfect. It’s genius. And it’s just another reason why Shuuhei is the current king of Magic.

     

  • Podcast – Grinding It Out
    by Rich Hagon
  • Traditionally, we spend the dying moments of Day One analysing all the hard-luck stories of the players who managed seven wins and still didn't make it in. That's not a problem any more, as seven wins guarantees six more rounds on the morrow. We wade through some serious Feature Matches in round eight, and then bring you all the news as we head for Sunday action.

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