Sunday, Mar 11: 11:32 a.m. - It's Draft, Jim, But Not as we Know it!
Imagine a draft format where colours don't really exist. I'm not referring to Mirrodin block. This is a format with a list of cards that say 'Do Not Pass' on them that is, frustratingly, somewhat longer than can be easily adhered to. This is a format of extremes, where having a plan and sticking to your guns can pay off in a huge way.
This is Two-Headed Giant draft.
Going into today's 64 team draft day, there were some teams with more of a plan than others. Unlike in regular draft, 2HG sees teams taking 2 cards from each pack they see, in pods of 4 teams. Each team opens 6 packs total (one at a time, 4 Time Spiral, 2 Planar Chaos) and is looking to build 2 decks in total from their picks.
After this, all bets are off.
The clear leader in terms of draft plans is the storm plan. With two players both working towards it, achieving a large storm count is relatively straightforward, which turns cards like Empty the Warrens and Volcanic Awakening from fair inclusions to some of the tastiest morsels in Time Spiral. Realistically, something a little odd needs to be going on for a storm card to get shipped on. As a consequence of this Trickbind has also become a 'Do Not Pass', for it's ability to snatch victory from the jaws of a stormy defeat. Subterranean Shambler may be more important than ever. As the format progresses, it seems likely that the only read that you can get from receiving something like Volcanic Awakening even passed on from one team will be that the pack had something simply incredible in it before. A pack just such as this came along for Rogier Maaten and Shuhei Nakamura ('Liefde') in draft one. They were forced to pass a Volcanic Awakening (of which they already had one) due to the fact that they also opened Empty the Warrens and Ixidron.
Ixidron is one of the best answers to another of the big decks archetypes in the format. The natural issues with sliver decks in solo draft involve getting a strong colour base, and support spells. This hasn't stopped the likes of BDM, Mark Herberholz and Sam Gomersall wrecking assorted drafts with them, but it can occasionally make for sad faces. In 2HG, getting the mana right is pretty straightforward, and achieving critical mass of good slivers on the board becomes much more achievable.
As was evidenced yesterday in the sealed decks, 2HG tends to be a format with a fair proportion of bombs. While picking these up in draft is clearly a high priority, many of the best answers have also become 'Do Not Pass' cards. Cancel has never been more popular. If you don't open a Haunting Hymn, you cannot realistically hope to ever see one.
What is kind of interesting though is that even within this funny little metagame there is a lot of wiggle room for individual ideas, which if pursued aggressively can be very powerful. Quentin Martin and Ruud Warmenhoven have been testing the format a great deal, and raving about such nutty inclusions as five Wistful Thinking between two decks, as situational Mind Rots, but also a means of decking an opponent. Back in Ravnica block, the milling strategy was an obviously attractive one, but even in the more aggressive 30 life games occurring now, it is still a viable possibility.
One thing's for sure - this format is going to take some figuring out. Pro Tour San Diego is going to be very interesting.
Sunday, Mar 11: 12:44 p.m. - Bramsterdam
It is hard to think of Magic in the Netherlands and not think of Bram Snepvangers. Long the face of Dutch Magic, Bram estimates that he has played in close to 60 Pro Tours and nearly 75 Grand Prix tournaments all over the world, is in the Top 3 players in the DCI database in terms of most matches played, and organizes a year-end Dutch Invitational tournament that is both fun and a showcase for the Netherlands many talented players.
The first step of Bram's long and storied Pro career was across the threshold of the very first Grand Prix, here in Amsterdam, one decade ago.
"I had been playing for a few years but had just started playing in tournaments," explained Bram, who took some time to sit down with me and discuss his memories of that event. "I was not as competitive as I am now. I remember I played quite a strange deck which was not that bad but I was more or less not prepared for the mono-red sligh decks that were quite good."
The format for that first GP was Standard as it was played at the first Pro Tour New York, which meant players had to use at least five cards from each legal expansion in the Standard format.
"I played white-green-blue control deck with Enlightened Tutor for a lot of silver bullets," said Bram. "One of which was COP:Red of course which did not seem fast enough at the time."
The deck that dominated that tournament was a Noah Boeken-designed mono-red deck with burn, land destruction, and cheap efficient creatures. While such decks are staples now - although these days they tend to be Boros instead of mono-red - at the time of that first GP the deck took Bram by surprise.
"I remember that two of the Dutch red decks made the semifinals but they both lost - Wessel Oomens and Sven Djit. I was not that involved with the different decks at that time and it was not as it is now with the internet being popular. Not everybody had a good grip on what was being played. That is really different now."
Since that first tournament Bram eventually qualified for the Pro Tour via a Nationals invite to Worlds in 1997. He qualified for the first three Pro Tours after that at PTQs before a money finish qualified him for the next one. His first Grand Prix Top 8 - at the second Grand Prix Amsterdam during the 98-99 season - qualified him one more time and with the exception of one missed event he has never looked back.
His Top 4 finish at Nice 2002 followed by a Top 8 in Chicago the following season seemed like it was the pinnacle of his career as no real strong finishes followed in the next few years. The surge in Dutch Magic over the past couple of years seems to have reinvigorated him and Top 8s at Grand Prix in Torino and Cardiff came last season as well as his Top 8 at Pro Tour Kobe.
"There have always been some players qualified by way of qualifiers but those players were mostly satisfied by qualifying. They already felt like they had won something instead of trying to go and win something," Bram explained. The Dutch Magic community was much less evolved than it is now. There were no Dutch Pro players or anything. Our first Top 8 by a Dutch player was Jeroen Weyden in New York 1997. After that we waited quite some time for good finishes. I was for quite some time the only Dutch player on the gravy train until Noah Boeken came along."
One of the things that Bram does each year to give back to the community that has supported him for so long is to run an event that in called The Bramvitational. This year he announced that the event will offer more opportunities for players to qualify than past events. It will take place over two days with some players receiving automatic berths to Day Two while eight of the sixteen berths would be up for grabs on Day One.
Bram Snepvangers' Career Top 8 Finishes
GP Amsterdam 98-99: 5th Place
GP Cannes 00-01: 2nd Place
GP Florence 00-01: 2nd Place
GP Turin 00-01: 3rd Place
GP London 02-03: 3rd Place
GP Cardiff 06: 6th Place
GP Tonrino 06: 3rd Place
Pro Tour Nice 02: 2nd Place
Pro Tour Chicago 03: 7th Place
Pro Tour Kobe 06: 6th Place
Sunday, Mar 11: 1:28 p.m. - Round 8: Team within a Team vs. Bastien's Trousers - Christian Hüttenberger and Rüdiger Klings vs. Vasilis Fatouros and Georgios Kapalas
Team Within a Team
Two international experienced teams were facing of each other here. The Greeks have a couple of Top 8s at GPs and a PT Top 8 in Nagoya for Vasilis on their resumee. On the German team Christian managed to finish in the Top 4 in Prague 2006.
While with the format changes there is more potential for quick tempo based wins, this was not the match to see them. Both teams were building up large forces of small or medium-sized creatures with no bombs to be seen. No side was able to get a clear edge over the other. Christian drew a lot of cards, and Vasilis was short on mana for a while, but there was no clear edge. At one point the Greeks got a warning for slowplay and two additional extra turns were given as a result.
Finally, after aeons had passed, the official time was called and the reporter had had a good, long nap, it finally looked like something was about to happen. The Germans had managed to pull ahead in the air, using a pair of Imp's Mischiefs to redirect key spells of their opponents. With one attack they put their opponents down to 10 and threatened to finish the game next turn.
So the pressure was on the Greeks. They had but one final round to turn the game around - and their opponents still had a very high lifetotal close to the starting 30. They turned all their critters sideways - 13 in total - and sent them in. After the Germans used all their possible defenders, five guys came through unblocked. Fortify tried to enhance the attacking team, a Cancel prevented that. But Bastien's Trousers still had a trump up their sleeve. A Strength in Numbers, copied by Mirari, turned the attack into a lethal one again. The Germans had no answer to that and had to extend their hands.
When asking Rüdiger and Christian about their international successes despite Christians Top 4 after the game, Rüdiger looked at me and calmly said "We are the best two-headed-giant-players in the world." Did I mention they just lost?
Georgios and Vasilis win!
Sunday, Mar 11: 1:51 p.m. - Round 9: Lychee Jelly vs Turd Ferguson - Olivier Ruel and Antoine Ruel vs Johan Sadeghpour and Julien Nujiten
This was the feature match that nearly didn't happen. Olivier masterfully managed to lose his deck between rounds, and could be seen frantically scrambling to get together a replacement copy as the round was paired. Of course there was a deck check immediately after, and the Ruels had to go away to confer with some judges. When the Frenchies got back to the table, they went to shake Julien and Johan's hands. It wasn't all over before it had started, and in fact the shakes turned into waggled fingers and tongue pointing.
Eventually things kicked off, and when Antoine won the coin flip, the Frenchies elected to play. They shook each other's hands, and Antoine wished Olivier good luck. The response? 'Pas de tout!' As it turns out both of the Ruels had to mulligan, while the collective powers of Turd Ferguson were happy with their openers.
Julien led with Essence Warden, while Olivier had a Thallid Shell-Dweller to hold it off. Antoine laid a Goblin Skycutter, and the Ruels passed. There were quite a few beatdown creatures in early, with Radha, Heir to Keld joining for Julien the following turn. With more focused decks possible through draft than sealed, the beatdown option with 30 life seemed eminently more achievable in this format. As long as the Essence Warden was around, the beatdown plan seemed a lot stronger against the Ruels than for them. Julien added a Yavimaya Dryad to his board, while Johan had a morph from his blue/black deck.
The Ruels had Vampiric Sliver and a suspended Nantuko Shaman, but nothing that could stop the Yavimaya Dryad. It seemed likely that little in play could fully deal with the Giant Dustwasp that followed either - though Goblin Skycutter could cut it down to size somewhat.
Olivier's fresh Nantuko Shaman came running in, only to be blocked and traded with by Shaper Parasite, who flipped to kill Goblin Skycutter. This triggered a retaliatory strike on Giant Dustwasp, and an instant speed Sulfurous Blast. Finally, a Pongify on the Nantuko Shaman meant that the Ruels were left with an Ape, Vampiric Sliver and their Thallid wall, to an empty board opposite them. This didn't stay empty for long, as Urborg Syphon-Mage and Empty the Warrens quickly repopulated for Turd Ferguson.
The Ruels had an end of turn Crookclaw Transmuter, and swung in for six with it and some friends. They had a second Vampiric Sliver to follow, along with a Thallid Germinator, who with the number of tokens the Shell-Dweller had accumulated, became an on-board trick.
Johan played an Erratic Mutation on the new Fungus, hitting for three to kill it, then the attacks came - taking Oliver and Antoine to 21, compared with 25 for Turd Ferguson. Then came a madness Big Game Hunter to kill one sliver, and Volcanic Awakening to take out all of Olivier's lands bar a single Swamp.
Soon after, the Syphon-Mage made life totals 17 - 23 against the Frenchies, whose biggest threat - a Verdeloth the Ancient, was quickly dispatched by a madness Dark Withering in the process. Attacks with Strength in Numbers backup made things even tighter. The Ruels swung back, but were in a losing race, at least until Olivier played a Spike Tiller. Cue the next Big Game Hunter from Johan. One of Antoine's Swamps became a 3/3 and the Ruel turn was over.
The swings back ended up being pretty eventful. Johan and Julien contemplated draining before attacks, but were concerned that there might be an Assassinate on the way from Antoine. After making blocks, a Kor Dirge forced the drain a little early, leaving the Ruels at 5.
'You're at 5?'
'I guess we'll slow roll things a little…'
Julien and Johan had just a single card each in hand, but a comfortable life buffer with which to work. How long this would last against Giant Dustwasp, Crookclaw Transmuter, a 3/3 Swamp and Vampiric Sliver was a little bit of a concern though.
Johan had a pretty big play. His Smallpox hit a Squall Line in Olivier's hand, and a Bog Serpent in Antoines, along with killing 2 opposing three power monsters, and destroying much needed lands for Antoine.
The following draw step met a clap from Olivier. Some quick attacks came from the Frenchies before Deathwood Treefolk came out, bringing back Spike Tiller for the following turn. The life totals were 3 to 7 in Turd Ferguson's favour, but the game was suddenly very close.
Julien had a couple of Rift Bolts in his deck that left some small hope, but it seemed the Ruels had successfully fought back. A Tendrils of Corruption pushed things out of reach, and the swings from the Ruels seemed to be enough. A Dead//Gone shaved a few points off, but a pump spell put them right back on again.
Lychee Jelly wins!
At the end of the match, Julien and Johan looked back on things, and couldn't help but feel that if they'd play it a touch differently, they could have pulled it out. They had passed the Kor Dirge that swung the game, and felt that that set of attacks could have been handled differently. 'Time to slow it down, and win lots.'
Sunday, Mar 11: 3:13 p.m. - Matthieu's Mirror Universe
I have been trying to catch up with various people at this event who had Top 8 finishes in early European Grand Prix events and are still active today. Matthieu Poujade probably has the most unusual path from the first season of Grand Prix events to this tenth season. His journey began in Barcelona, saw him rise to become a Level 3 judge and DCI Manager of France, had him qualify for Worlds last year as a member of the Irish National team, only to pass on the invite to take a staff job with Wizards' European office.
Armed with his insider's view of what goes into a Grand Prix and the value of what comes out of it, Matthieu could scarcely believe his naiveté on the eve of attending the Grand Prix second to be held in Europe.
"The first Grand Prix I went to… the words "grand prix" did not mean anything to me," he laughed. "It was just a big tournament. I was from Toulouse and Grand Prix Barcelona was only a four hour ride. We figured we were doing pretty well with my testing team - which included a guy you may have heard of named Raphael Levy - and we thought maybe there was a chance we could do as well as we did on the local scene. I was only sixteen so we piled into a card with an older friend and did not really expect much."
The format for that event was Mirage/Visions sealed deck. Back in those days players had their records zeroed out from one day to the next. Matt and Raph both made the best of their clean slate; Matt ended up in the Top 8 and Raph in the top 16. The only problem for Matthieu was that he had no idea what making the Top 8 meant.
Matt continued his tale: "The funnest thing was the head Judge was Marc Hernandez - who would also go on to become DCI Manager in France -- and I came to him at the end when I heard about the standings and said to him: 'This is great I am on the top of the standings and it is a really big tournament. How many boosters do I win?'"
"Obviously he laughed and he explained that there were no boosters to win. I couldn't understand why I had done all of this for nothing."
"He said, 'No you are going to play in the Top 8 and there is money to win.'"
"Money for playing Magic? What was that? Plus he told me, 'You have already won a slot for the next Pro Tour.'"
"Believe it or not I asked, 'What is that? Where is it?'"
It turns out that the Pro Tour event sixteen year old Matthieu had just qualified for was New York City.
"Then I stopped breathing. But it was brilliant I went to my supervisor at school the next week and explained that I would not be able to attend class because I was going to New York to play cards."
Matthieu did not expect to have much of a chance but found himself sitting at 5-0 going into the last round of Day One in New York. He had not recognized any of his opponents but when he looked up his name on the pairing board for round six the name Alexander Blumke - former World Champion - must have loomed six feet high.
"I was paired against him and just assumed he was going to destroy me," admitted Matt. "He offered me the draw and I obviously said 'okay'. We played for fun and he destroyed me."
Matthieu was so overwhelmed by the idea that he had made Day Two of a Pro Tour he had never set his mind on what would happen should he pass through or what would happen if he spent the evening 'celebrating' the fact that he had made the cut. The celebrating was due to the fact that coming into the tournament he had far different goals than the other participants.
"At the time with Raphael we were friends but mostly rivals. He had already gone to Pro Tour Paris and failed to make Day Two so being the first of us to make Day Two was important - to take the lead," he smiled. "As you know he has taken the lead. He recently passed 300 Pro Points while I am sitting on 9."
Sunday, Mar 11: 3:38 p.m. - Quick Hits
From zipping around the tables today there are a few different takes on how to (or how not to) go about the complicated business of winning at 2HG draft. Here are a few thoughts to conjure with
Both Molten Firebird and Null Profusion are not overly hot in this format. Cards that cause a player to skip their draw step effectively cause the whole draw step to be skipped for both players. This ruling came to a head a few times this weekend, including one notable incident today, where a team had rather misunderstood how things worked. At the point I walked over, the rather dejected team concerned was looking at the second Null Profusion in hand with a little collective sigh.
Magus of the Tabernacle + Boom//Bust has the potential to allow for a flawless victory. Technically this is possible in regular draft too, but given the slightly slower 2HG format, really shines in events like this weekend's. The plan is, play your Magus, follow up with the new Armageddon, then finish by playing a land, so that you can cover the upkeep of your own Magus. Your opponents, unless they have a Totem of some description, will then have to sacrifice all their creatures in their upkeep, leading to a position to do a Streetfighter Perfect finish with the opposing team on zero permanents. This is possibly the most Bastien's Trousers of any play seen all weekend.
Many of the Pros have adopted the '2 best cards, but no white' plan for todays drafting, and have had mixed results. The white cards in this block seem to have the least immediate breakability of those available, given the slightly changed environment, but as with any draft, there is a lot of wiggle room for zigging while everyone else zags. Shuhei Nakamura and Rogier Maaten have had quite a lot of success with their Blue/White and Red/Green concoctions thus far.
There may or may not be a 'Best Card in the Format'. Jeroen Remie may or may not know what it is.
Sunday, Mar 11: 5:06 p.m. - A Mountain of Memories
Sven Djit and Wessell Oomens
As you are well aware at this point, the first Grand Prix ever held took place in Amsterdam ten years ago. What does not seem to be clear is what format the event was. While I had gotten the impression from multiple players that the format was Pro Tour New York Standard -- also known as Home-dicapped - a little poking around the newsgroups reveals that is was actually something completely different.
While the Type II format had rotated in December of 1996 Grand Prix Amsterdam was to be run under the previous iteration of the format known as Nov96 Type II complete with a restricted list and everything. The most popular decks at the time were blue-white-green prison decks, Counterpost, and good ol' Ernham-geddon but there was this new mono-red deck looming on the horizon…
Wessel Oomens and Sven Djit Boeken Burn -- 3rd and 4th Place
Grand Prix Amsterdam 1997
I sat down with the two semifinal players from that far off event. They provided me with their decklist - as close as they could recall - and talked about their preparation leading up to the original Grand Prix.
"It was a long time ago but we were teamed with Noah Boeken and a couple of other guys," said Sven Djit, who is currently running a Dutch strategy site and online card shop called manamaze.com. "Noah came up with the idea that Balduvian Hordes is actually good."
"I seriously doubt that Balduvian Hordes is actually any good now that I think about it," laughed Wessel. "I guess in a land destruction deck you need big finishers and Balduvian Hordes suits that purpose. Everybody ran four Sword to Plowshares though…"
"That's why we ran Wildfire Emissary…" Sven chuckled. "Four out of five players playing it qualified."
"I believe it was the best deck I have ever played," Wessel confessed while leaving some room for the nostalgia clouding his Judgment. "At least in my memory it was but maybe it was just that much better in relation to the field."
"Maybe we were just better than the rest," suggested Sven. "We tested regularly in a café in Amsterdam I remember."
"And I went to Noah's house a lot back in the day," added Wessel who acknowledged that they may just have been more prepared than most other players at that time. "We had actual testing sessions. I went to school with Noah and Alexander Witt. We were all in the same class. We just kept pushing each other."
"I remember people everyone was playing Prison," said Wessel as they reconstructed their list. "Back then you could tap your Winter Orb with Icy Manipulator and all your lands would untap - that was why we played our own Icy Manipulators although obviously they also work well with land destruction."
The deck carried both players as far as the semifinals before Wessel ran afoul of eventual winner Emmanuel Vernay who was playing a virtually identical deck except that it featured four Uthden Troll in place of four unknown cards from the Boeken Burn list.
"I lost to a prison deck that brought in fifteen creatures after sideboarding and nobody told me," said Sven. "He brought in Ernham Djinn and Phildagriff - I still don't know what that card does."
Community and continuity are two themes that recur every time I have discussed the early days of Dutch Magic this weekend and my conversation with the Amsterdam semifinalists only reinforced that notion.
"There was a tournament that was run in Amsterdam every Monday that is still being run," Sven pointed out.
That tournament, which provided early experience for Sven, Wessel, Noah, and Alexander, has served as an entry level event for a new wave of Dutch superstars as Wessel explained:
"Years later with Julian Nuijten at the Monday draft. I said, 'Julian come play with the good players.' A half a year later he was the World Champion. Rogier Maaten and I immediately took him into our team because we recognized his skill. It really helped him a lot … of course it helped us as well."
Wessel plans on attending all the Pro Tours this year but don't expect to see him hitting every GP on the planet as has become fashionable in recent seasons.
"I don't care enough about being Level 6. I want to have the rest of my life - school, girlfriend, and work - if I can be Level 3 I am happy. The traveling is really nice - seeing all your friends - you make a lot of friends. Now the Japanese players are staying at my house…it is just so much fun. I don't even care that I didn't make Day Two."
Of course not everyone is fortunate enough to have a local community like the one these players came up through with Monday night drafts that spit out World Champions but Sven is looking to remedy that. His website will regularly feature "Drafting with the Dutch Pros" in English.
Sunday, Mar 11: 5:57 p.m. - Round 12: France France Revolution vs Team Within a Team - Gabriel Nassif and Amiel Tenenbaum vs Christian Hüttenberger and Kling
Christian Hüttenberger and Kling
After 11 rounds of 2HG play, this would be the most important. While France France Revolution are one of only 3 teams on 30 points, there are enough chasing with 28 that they cannot be completely safe into the top four of GP Amsterdam until they win this one round, which would allow a draw in the last round. Paired up were Team Within a Team, featuring Pro Tour Prague top eight member Christian Hüttenberger who really need to win out to be sure of a spot. One way or another, the result of this match will drastically affect the chances of various other teams on 28 points in the final round of the day.
Gabriel rolled the die for the first time of the entire weekend. It was not a high roll, and he got a disparaging look from his teammate.
The German team managed to get away without any mulligans beyond a single 'free' one, but the same could not be said of the French, who after a brief conversation, involving some shrugging and gesturing decided that Amiel had to go down to 6.
The Germans had both a Mire Boa and a Looter il-Kor on turn two, threatening a beatdown start. The Looter got it's card advantage after a fashion, as it was hit by a Lightning Axe, with Amiel soon having one of his own.
Both sides gradually built up their board with morphs, and evasive little beaters, playing the small game to start, rather than leading with any bombs. In this fight France France Revolution seemed favoured, as a Flowstone Channeler could happily kill Mire Boa, given the chance. Faced with a bevy of good targets, Hüttenberger elected to kill Amiel's Looter rather than the Channeler with his Shaper Parasite, while Kling had a suspended Nantuko Shaman and a Search for Tomorrow, all ready for the next couple of turns.
The French got stuck in to take the life totals to 24-25 to Team Within a Team, before Amiel played Primal Plasma as a defender, and Gabriel brought out Urborg Syphon-Mage.
The following turn the Team Within A Team had an Uktabi Drake and some big swings to knock their opponents down to 18, along with Dream Stalker to refresh Shaper Parasite.
'You have a combo! Nice…' remarked Amiel with a deadpan expression.
After a little discussion with a judge to ascertain exactly what their options were, Amiel and Gab made their play. Flowstone Channeler killed Mire Boa, with the help of a discarded Blood Knight, Tenenbaum played a Wall of Roots, and the French pair passed, holding up quite a bit of mana.
Gabriel Nassif and Amiel Tenenbaum
When Uktabi Drake attacked, Amiel played a Crookclaw Transmuter to block and kill the Drake with. Hüttenberger didn't bit, and let the Drake die, instead using his Shaper Parasite at the end of turn to kill Urborg Syphon-Mage.
The following turn, Amiel floated mana and flipped up a Fathom Seer. He seemed pretty happy with what he found - the legend Jedit, which was followed up by Bust from Nassif. The Forestwalker would not be Forestwalking, but France France Revolution didn't seem to mind. With a chuckle Amiel replayed an Island and passed. A Snapback dealt with Jedit, but it couldn't help against the Crookclaw Transmuter going at it in the air.
Soon Amiel had 3 lands in play to zero from any other player. To add insult to injury he had a Wall of Roots. The Germans drew land before Nassif, but were fast succumbing to Amiel's air force, which was bolstered by a Giant Dustwasp. While it took a few turns to play out, the result was suddenly inevitable. France France Revolution had done it again.
Gabriel Nassif and Amiel Tenenbaum win!
Sunday, Mar 11: 7:23 p.m. - Round 13: Shake 'N' Bake vs 100 Cents - Jeroen Remie and Victor Van den Broek vs Michael Havlik and Richard Hornansky
Shake 'N' Bake
Coming into the final round there is one Dutch team still in the running for top eight. Jeroen Remie has remained in the public eye since falling off the Gravy Train thanks to his popular StarCityGames.com column, and for the weekend he is joined by old schooler Victor Van den Broek - who bashfully admitted that his surname translates to 'From the Pants' at the start of the match.
Given that we've been referring to much of the best bits of this weekend as Bastien's Trousers all weekend, talk of pants is just fine.
Victor describes much of the weekends drafting like 'watching Jeroen on Magic Online'. Remie would suggest a pick, then he would offer an alternative. One way or another they would come to a consensus, then smash people. For this draft, the first two cards that made it into the playables pile were Verdeloth the Ancient and Thelonite Hermit for the Dutch pair. In this draft they even passed a Cancel. Remie was clearly ready to do whatever necessary to get back to the top.
Play started with a Search for Tomorrow on turn one from Jeroen, which allowed for Island, Plains and Forest to be in play for him by turn three. Sacrifiicng a Chromatic Star for green meant that there was an accelerated Mwonvoli Acid Moss From Remie to accelerate even further, and push back Richard by destroying the only Forest on the other side of the board.
For turn four, Victor had a Nightshade Assassin revealing 3 quality black cards to kill the Aquamorph Entity on the other side of the board. Remie just shrugged and played Verdeloth the Ancient.
'We are little kiddies!' declared Victor with a smile.
Strangling Soot took down the only creature on 100 Cent's side of the board, allowing for big swings, followed up by a Clockwork Hydra from Remie. All the other side of the board had was a Scryb Ranger in reply, which require a cracking Chromatic Star to get there.
Assassinate from Richard killed Verdeloth, and Fury Charm offed the Hydra. The board now pretty clear 100 Cent suspended a Veiling Oddity.
The Dutch looked to rebuild with Corpulent Corpse, Saltfield Recluse and a Thallid Shell-Dweller. 100 Cent meanwhile, restocked in a different way, with Michael playing Careful Consideration targeting his teammate. Not content with the cards he had, Richard then suspended a Nantuko Shaman.
The Dutchies swung with everyone. Even Saltfield Recluse. 100 Cent went down to 16, smelling a trick and not wanting to block. Nothing was forthcoming though, as in his second main phase Remie simply played Essence Warden before passing.
100 Cent had their first fatty of the game in the form of Vorosh the Hunter. With Veiling Oddity 2 turns off coming out, this Dragon's swings could really hurt. Shake 'N' Bake gained 1, but weren't looking too happy. They swung with Corpulent Corpse, who was blocked and killed by Vorosh, then played a main phase Sulfurous Blast. Vorosh got bounced by Snapback, and the board was cleared of everything but Thallid Shell-Dweller.
Fortunately for Shake 'N' Bake, they only had 10 damage left to do now. Unfortunately, they had to get past a dragon legend to do so. 100 Cent built back up with a Penumbra Spider and Urborg Syphon-Mage on their turn, looking to have a swifter recovery than their opponents. Jodah's Avenger only compounded the trouble that the Dutchies appeared to be in. At the end of turn, Victor VDB went straight for the Avenger with Cradle To Grave, which served to deal with all the abilities the shapeshifter might have.
Victor played Magus of the Arena, which had to be read by both of 100 Cent. It was joined by a Sporesower Thallid. 100 Cent's reply was to let their Oddity come off suspension, and adding an Uktabi Drake to the fray, who was the lone attacker, to take Shake 'N' Bake to 24. At the end of turn, Remie removed the counters from Thallid Shell-Dweller to make a Saproling, represented by a Jeroen Remie Player Card that came from the big man's wallet.
At this point things looked pretty good for the Dutchies. This was not to continue. A flashed back Strangling Soot targeting Urborg Syphon-Mage got hit by Draining Whelk. This meant that the Syphon-Mage could continue doing it's best to level up the life totals. The Whelk then came in and put 100 Cent up in the race. It dodged Assasinate thanks to a Wipe Away, and 100 Cent struck back again with Sudden Death to take down Magus of the Arena. At this point Vorosh came back, and it was clear that killing him would be very tough - as Draining Whelk was now all about keeping the dragon safe.
Jeroen and Victor drew and looked disheartened - the game had quickly turned against them. Vorosh's first swing made him big. The second was enough to finish things.
Michael Havlik and Richard Hornansky win the game, and advance to the top 8 of Grand Prix Amsterdam!