Sunday, April 9: 11:22 a.m. - Draft 1, Pod 1: Helmut Summersberger
Helmut Summersberger was the first Grand Prix Champion this season, winning the Legacy-tournament in Lille. With a 8-1 record from the first day, he was trying to repeat this performance Yesterday, he had talked to quite a number of Spanish players, and it seemed they were all keen on drafting green. So when he found himself with two locals on his right and one on his left in this pod, he decided to try to take advantage of this by forcing black-blue-red.
The first booster offered a Peel from Reality as the only card fitting his colors, and he took it over Birds of Paradise, Shambling Shell, and Thundersong Trumpeter. He took three red cards after this, with Galvanic Arc, Viashino Fangtail, and Greater Forgeling, passing cards like Devouring Light and Civic Wayfinder in the process, as he was focusing on his plan. He also picked up Tattered Drake and Flow of Ideas from this round.
He told me after the draft that he had realized that Juan Santos on his right had drafted blue as well, but it was even worse than that, as Juan had the exact same color combination, which meant that Helmut wasn't likely to get any of the Izzet goodies in pack three.
In pack two, Helmut saw more good Dimir cards in the first booster than he had seen the entire first round, and he picked Dimir Guildmage over Drift of Phantasms, Dimir House Guard, and Snapping Drake. The second booster was worse, but at least there was a Helldozer that might win a game if he got the mana for it. He took his second Peel from booster three, and a Drift over the third Peel. He was very pleased when he got a fifth-pick Vedalken Dismisser, as this improved his bounce-spells enormously. A Golgari Signet and a Remand rounded off pack two.
In Guildpact, Helmut started with Ogre Savant, which would be the only great Izzet-card in his deck. The second booster presented a tough choice, with Train of Thought, Torch Drake, and Savage Twister, and Helmut reluctantly took the most powerful one, with the Twister, although it meant adding a fourth color. With a green splash, he couldn't let the Streetbreaker Wurm in his next booster pass. After that, the packs went dry pretty fast, although he managed to pick up a Torch Drake, a few karoos, and the Train of Thought from pack two.
GP Barcelona 2006 - Draft one, pod one
All in all, his deck suffered pretty badly from the fact that his right-hand neighbor played the same colors, and he was missing a few key pieces for his deck. Still, he had enough cards that could win the game, so he might be able to get six points from this pot, which would give him a good chance for a spot in the top eight.
Sunday, April 9: 11:50 a.m. - Feature Match Round 10: Olivier Ruel - Marcio Carvalho
We really had to feature Olivier today - not just because all the fanboys want to read about him, but also because this gives us a chance to promote his new column, which is usually hidden away in the local European section.
This match provided an excellent opportunity: We would see the finals eight rounds early! These two players had only met twice before, and each time the winner of the match ended up winning the Grand Prix.
Both players would get at least three points from this pod, as one player had been disqualified. The judges had found him peeking at another players cards during the draft, and there is no tolerance for cheating at a Grand Prix.
The first game was over before I finished these introductions, Olivier got a fast start with Skyknight Legionnaire and Wee Dragonauts, and Marcio only had Forests and nothing to use them for.
Game 2 saw Marcio draw a bit better - he had all four of his deck's colors in play by turn three, thanks to a Silhana Starfletcher. The Elf also worked part-time as a blocker, keeping Olivier's Skyknight Legionnaire away until Marcio found a Last Gasp for it. He had Carven Caryatid to hold Ordruun Commando away, and could attack in the air with Blind Hunter. Olivier cleared a path for the Commando with Devouring Light and an Izzet Chronarch, but his board position slowly got worse when he kept drawing lands, while Marcio added creature after creature to his army. Olivier cycled Repeal, but couldn't find anything that would keep Marcio's fliers away for long, so he had to hope for better luck in Game 3.
The last game quickly came to a standoff; Blind Hunter, Silhana Starfletcher and Torch Drake held the position on Marcio's side, and Mourning Thrull, Courier Hawk and Wee Dragonauts the other one. But then Marcio got Gleancrawler, which improved his attacking capabilities enormously, especially considering that he had a Shambling Shell among his walking creatures. Olivier tried to fight Marcio's card advantage with Train of Thought, Compulsive Research, and Izzet Chronarch. He found a Devouring Light to deal with the Blind Hunter permanently and without annoying haunting, and managed to get quite a few creatures into play. The turn before he died, he attacked with everything, and everyone, including Marcio, expected this to be either a desperation attack or Rally the Righteous, which Olivier had revealed in the game before. Marcio blocked half-heartedly, without any chance to survive a Rally. He was very surprised when the creature blocked by Gleancrawler got a Boros Fury-Shield. Had the Gleancrawler not blocked, Olivier would not have been able to deal lethal damage.
Olivier wins the game 2-1, and will go on to win the Grand Prix (well, most likely, anyway.)
Sunday, April 9: 1:07 p.m. - Round 11 feature match: Wurms to the Siege
Jose Barbero brings a blue-based deck with red, white and a Sunforger to the table. Frank Karsten is going for Gruul beats with a little white splash, with Ravnica's only official phoenix Skarrgan Firebird sitting on top of his curve.
Karsten choses to play and takes a trip to Paris, but the six he keeps do not stop him from starting out strong with Lands, Signets and a 1/1 Scion of the Wild. "Any 1/1", Karsten comments, "any 2/2" Barbero replies, playing a Screeching Griffin. Bramble Elemental from Karsten meets Ogre Savant and Vedalken Dismisser from Barbero. On his next turn, the Argentinian makes a Sunforger and has Mark of Eviction on his own Dismisser, and Karsten only shakes his head in disgust. One frown later and the Dutchman scoops up his cards.
"I was holding a Siege Wurm", he said, "so I figured I'd just use the Scion for convoke… but that didn't work out."
Jose Barbero 1 - 0 Frank Karsten
The players shuffle up for Game 2 in silence until Frank announces he'll play first and confidently keeps his first hand. Both players have a creature as their one-drop, Elvish Skysweeper on Karsten's side and Drowning Rusalka for Barbero, who follows it up with Surveilling Sprite while Karsten has Gruul Scrapper. Karsten's attempt at a Siege Wurm is Runeboggled and Barbero forges a Sunforger.
We will see what the equipment can do against the Skarrgan Firebird Karsten has gotten online and bloodthirsted. Barbero equips the Rusalka and passes the turn. He looks annoyed at having to deal with the Firebird and knocks heavily on the top of his deck, hoping for an out. Karsten adds a Scion of the Wild to his side after taking Barbero to 13 life. The Argentinian has nothing more than a Sparkmage Apprentice which Karsten greets with a smile and a shrug, knowing that it doesn't do anything right now except wearing a Sunforger.
Barbero's attack takes Karsten to ten and the Dutchman strikes back with everything he has: Skarrgan Firebird, a 3/3 Scion of the Wild, and Gruul Scrapper. Barbero is tapped out except for one Island and the Sparkmage Apprentice equipped with the Sunforger. He blocks the Scrapper and both creatures die, while the Apprentice performs a last duty for Barbero's Drowning Rusalka. He discards Shattering Spree, making Frank Karsten laugh a little. It looks like the Dutchman has wrapped up this game, with the life totals at 10 to 4 in his favor.
"Stop slowrolling me", smiles the Dutchman as Barbero keeps thinking what to do. He equips Sunforger but he does look stressed, jaw muscles working and shuffling his hand of cards restlessly. It's Karsten's turn to attack, and Barbero staves off imminent death one time with Schismotivate putting him at two life and then scoops.
Jose Barbero 1 - 1 Frank Karsten
After this game, Barbero recounts the damage he could have done without blocking and striking back with all his might after Karsten's all-in attack, but comes up short one point in the recount.
Time left on the clock is 21 minutes and Barbero opts to start the final game of this match. No mulligans ensue and Frank Karsten has the honor of the first play - a Transluminant. Drift of Phantasms from Barbero looks like the start of a defensive game. Karsten makes Fists of Ironwood for his Transluminant. Barbero settles in with Screeching Griffin which he promptly loses to a Gather Courage in the next attack.
Greater Forgeling makes an appearance on Barbero's side, making Frank comment: "Must be real nice to be you." Barbero follows up with Vedalken Dismisser and Frank has only Siege Wurm to pit against it. If Barbero draws his Mark of Eviction, this game is likely over. But for now, he just attacks with the Greater Forgeling. Siege Wurm blocks and gets another Gather Courage from Karsten, making Barbero curse. He replaces his lost Forgeling with Ordruun Commando while Karsten summons a Viashino Fangtail that currently lacks targets on the board.
Again, the Dutchman is the more composed player. Barbero frets and thinks long and hard before finally attacking with the Commando only to get it chumped by a Saproling. Replicating Train of Thought once, he digs for more gas as he wants to keep the momentum going. A Siege Wurm attack from Karsten makes the life totals 17 (Karsten) to 9 (Barbero). Elvish Skysweeper for Frank means that he can shoot down the Drift of Phantasms if he peels another land off the top.
Barbero takes time and time to consider his play only to bring a Skyknight Legionnaire to play. A ping from Karsten's Viashino Fangtail takes out the Ordruun Commando, essentially making Barbero trade the Commando for the Legionnaire as that took his white mana. Karsten dares the alpha strike, going all in and after blocks, Barbero has only the Legionnaire left and 4 life to Karsten's board of Fangtail, Root-Kin Ally, Siege Wurm and Elvish Skysweeper.
Barbero casts the last three cards in his hand (Sparkmage Apprentice, Drowning Rusalka and Sunforger), and sits empty-handed as Frank Karsten moves in for the kill with a hasty Gruul Scrapper added to his side.
Jose Barbero 1 - 2 Frank Karsten
Sunday, April 9: 2:13 p.m. - Round 11 feature match: Wurms to the Siege
Long lines of players want to push each other off the astral planes in Magic duels
The main event is calm, concentrated, with a dense, competitive atmosphere filling the rows where the top players at this Grand Prix register their decks from the second draft. But if you want buzz, action, and all the Magic you can play, then the side events area is right for you!
"We have more than 45 side events on our slate and counting," says side event head judge Aaron Moshiashwili from the USA. Most pick-up events are draft tournaments, but everything from Vintage and Legacy to Two-Headed Giant is happening at the far end of the hall.
"We're very busy, busier than I anticipated," relates Aaron as he calls for more judges. The way things are run here in Barcelona, the judges have been able to reduce the possibility of cheating even further by keeping a closer watch on the small 8-man tournaments. You won't have to worry about being cheated out of a win: The judges are watching, anywhere, anytime, any place.
Sunday, April 9: 3:20 p.m. - Round 13 feature match: Johan Sadeghpour [SWE] vs. Maximilian Bracht [DEU]
Johan Sadeghpour ran the Swiss in the green half yesterday, posting a perfect 9-0 record. He has drafted a blue-black-white deck with multiple Vedalken Dismissers, seeking to control his opponent's board and eventually winning through damage or milling. He also has Hour of Reckoning to help him out if need be. Johan has 30 points going into this round and needs at least 7 points to make it safely into the Top 8.
Maximilian Bracht, Germany's rising star, has drafted Gruul Aggro with a black splash and brings multiple Streetbreaker Wurms as his main offense, supported by Golgari Rotwurm and black removal.
No mulligan, and the players are off to the race. Maximilian Bracht, pen-flipper extra-ordinaire, is playing first and develops his mana with a Farseek, as the Swede beats down with Drowning Rusalka and adds Spectral Searchlight to the board. Bracht holds the fort with Streetbreaker Wurm, mentioning that there were many of them in the draft. Johan makes a Petrahydrox and Bracht has a Shambling Shell to make this game interesting, then playing Sell-Sword Brute. He counts Johan's mana and says "one mana missing for the Dismisser", just in the very same moment that Johan lays down an Island and said Vedalken Dismisser comes down on Maximilian's Streetbreaker Wurm.
Nightguard Patrol for Johan gives him enough leeway to throw Petrahydrox and Dismisser in front of the Siege Wurm. Bracht bounces the Petrahydrox with his Shambling Shell and Dismisser hits the bin. Bracht has a second Streetbreaker Wurm but Johan has a second Dismisser to match.
11 to 13 life as seen from Johan's side of the table mark an as yet undecided game. Johan refills with Compulsive Research, and the talkative Bracht replies "nice topdeck", calls Johan's Benevolent Ancestor a "nice play", while replaying his second Streetbreaker Wurm.
Wurm, Wurm and Sell-Sword Brute from Bracht enter combat and before blockers, he Disembowels Johan's Nightguard Patrol. Johan dispatches a Wurm with Devouring Light and Dismisser blocks the Brute, leaving Searchlight, Benevolent Ancestor and a replayed Petrahydrox for Johan and one Streetbreaker Wurm for Maximilian.
The German simply attacks with his Wurm and Johan throws the Petrahydrox in front of it, to which Bracht replies with Wildsize on the Wurm. It tramples over and takes Johan to a very precarious 1 life to Bracht's 11, a position from which the Swede looks unlikely to recover. Bracht kills Johan's Mourning Thrull and lays yet another Streetbreaker Wurm in the hope to finish the game.
But no! Johan has the timely Hour of Reckoning, and after the Hour Johan puts down Drift of Phantasms, Benevolent Ancestor, Mourning Thrull in short order while Bracht has lost his momentum and slowly tries to rebuild with Shambling Shell and Sell-Sword Brute. Crystal Seer from Johan puts the final straw to Bracht, who scoops in short order, having spent his offense before the Hour came.
Johan Sadeghpour 1 - 0 Maximilian Bracht
The German plays first again, with Thoughtpicker Witch against Mourning Thrull and Nightguard Patrol, the usual early drops from a blue-black-white deck like Johan has. Unfortunately, Johan's monsters are smaller and Torch Drake can't hold up a torch to Streetbreaker Wurm... unless supported by Devouring Light. Johan has Vedalken Entrancer, Bracht has Golgari Rotwurm but is behind in life as the German has 10 to the Swede's 16.
Bracht makes a Feral Animist, a card that can turn life totals in short order and which Johan has to actually read. Bracht's six lands don't make the Animist deadly yet, but he also has Skarrg, the Rage Pits, which is a perfect fit for a deck like his. Although he is on defense with 5 life left, Bracht decides to smash face with the Animist and the Rotwurm, leaving only Thoughtpicker Witch behind. Johan double blocks the Animist with Nightguard Patrol and Vedalken Entrancer, knowing how dangerous the little Shaman can be.
Wildsize from Bracht changes the combat math but the Animist dies anyway after trampling over for three. Johan takes five damage and the counterattack takes Bracht to a low two life. He needs to get rid of Johan's flying Mourning Thrull or die. Bracht goes for an attack bringing Johan to 5 but has no defense on the board, leaving lots of mana open to feign a trick. Johan doesn't bite and attacks for the win!
Johan Sadeghpour 2 - 0 Maximilian Bracht
Sunday, April 9: 3:47 p.m. - Meet and beat!
Benjamin Caumes enjoys himself in a casual atmosphere. Tiago Chan and Arnost Zidek are with him at the gunslinging table.
Gunslinging is definitely a spectator sport. Seeing level 3 players playing in a tournament is always interesting, but seeing them in a more relaxed atmosphere is even better! Gunslinging at this event are Tiago Chan (Portugal), Arnost Zidek (Czech Republic) and Benjamin Caumes (France). Says Tiago: "When you don't make day two on a Pro Tour, there are plenty of people to draft with. Here at the GP, with 128 players in day two, there is almost no one left, and we have plenty of time."
It's the second time since GP Dortmund that Tiago is gunslinging, and he says he does enjoy it. How does it work? Easy, you just come up to the table and ask to play. You get a free booster for playing and if you win, your gunslinging Pro will give you another one! That's right, match your skills with the pros in a casual way, with nothing on the line except for a booster back. If you ever wanted to meet your favorite pro, here's your chance - as long as he did not make day 2 of the Grand Prix.
Sunday, April 9: 4:19 p.m. - Draft 2, Pod 1: Raphael Levy
Pod one in the first draft featured five local players. For the second draft, their number had decreased significantly, and only Aniol Alcarez and David Garcia Copete were defending their home turf. The rest of the table was invaded by foreign pros: Jelger Wiegersma, Raphael Levy, Olivier Ruel, Frank Karsten, Johan Sadeghpour and Maximilian Bracht make a very tough table for the Spanish to overcome.
I will be featuring Levy's draft. He had 33 points going into the draft, and would make the final table with three or maybe four points.
The first pick was tough, with Selesnya Guildmage, Dimir Guildmage and Faith's Fetters. Picking something else then the Dimir Guildmage might set Jelger Wiegersma on Raphael's left into white as well, which would require sharing the color. Of course, this was Ravnica block, so he would most likely end up sharing colors with his neighbor anyway. Picking the Fetter's would leave his options open, as he could always splash it if he was cut of off white. But the Selesnya Guildmage was the strongest card of the three, and in the end that was what Raphael went for. This decision paid off during the draft, as it seemed that Selesnya and green in particular were quite underdrafted. The rest of the booster didn't offer to many hard decisions, Raphael got some Selesnya stables like Bramble Elemental, Siege Wurm, Greater Mossdog, and Benevolent Ancestor. The only decision he had to make was his splash, and he picked up a few red and black cards along the way.
He made that decision in booster two, when he picked Sunhome Enforcer over Golgari Rotwurm and Brainspoil. He was rewarded with a Lightning Helix as his second and a Boros Guildmage as his third pick, and then proceeded to draft more of the solid Selesnya stuff, with a 6th pick Selesnya Evangel as the highlight.
Guildpact was also kind to Raphael. Although Maximilian Bracht was green as well (after a first pick Ursapine) and took all the Streetbreaker Wurms he saw, Raphael managed to get a long streak of solid picks, with two Belfry Spirit, Silhana Starfletcher, Druid Sophisticate, Gruul Turf and other goodies.
In the end, he had a lot of quality cards that fit together well. He was a little light on removal and could have used more mana-fixers, but he should have enough to gather the points he needs.
GP Barcelona 2006 - Draft 2, Pod 1
Sunday, April 9: 4:37 p.m. - John Avon
Artist John Avon
Being one of the most popular of the Magic artists is a tough job. Not so much because of the painting, but more because of all the traveling you have to do just to get to write your name on a few thousand cards. John Avon still likes it, though. As a professional artist specializing in fantasy pictures, it is rare that you get to meet so many fans. John has been doing Magic since Mirage, and he is very grateful for the opportunities this has given him. Before that, he has had many high-profile clients in the business, including some top-level advertising, and illustrating novels for authors like Stephen King, but it is hard to generate a steady income with these kinds of jobs, and even harder to get any recognition from outside the business. Now, Magic is giving him both, and he spends most of his working hours with it. In the future, he might be doing some work for the movies, but he is very reluctant about leaving his wife and his two sons behind for a longer period.
If you want to read more about him, or see some of his art, you can visit his new website.
Sunday, April 9: 5:15 p.m. - Feature Match round 15: Johan Sadeghpour - Frank Karsten
These players were in single elimination mode already. They each had 34 points, and as 37 would be the magic number, only the winner would make it to the top eight.
Frank started very offensive with his pure Boros deck, getting out Sell-Sword Brute, Sabertooth Alley Cat and Ghost Warden, which seemed pretty strong against Mourning Thrull and Surveilling Sprite. This lasted only until Johan convoked Hour of Reckoning, which left Frank with some support spells like Master Warcraft and Boros Fury-Shield but no creatures. He still had a Char for Johan's Oathsworn Giant, so Johan didn't really put any pressure on Frank either. They then both got a creature, Petrahydrox for Johan, and Auratouched Mage for Frank, and started racing. Johan was chanceless in this, as Franks still had the two cards from earlier, and also drew his second Char, which went straight to Johan's face.
Frank had double Thundersong Trumpeter in the beginning of Game 2, but Johan kept them from attacking with Benevolent Ancestor and Surveilling Sprite. Nonetheless, they proved very useful when Frank added an Ordruun Commando to his troops. Johan got to stabilize again, with Vedalken Entrancer, Tidewater Minion, and Vedalken Dismisser. The two Vedalken fellows worked together to get rid of the Commando, and after a few trades, Frank only had one Trumpeter left. Johan showed Twisted Justice, and got three for one. When Frank then even misplayed by blocking Petrahydrox with Bloodscale Prowler while Johan had a Tidewater Minion untapped, Johan got too much card advantage for Frank to overcome, and they agreed to go on with Game 3.
Again, Frank opened strong with Ghost Warden and a bloodthirsty Bloodscale Prowler, as well as a Char on Johan's first blocker, but Faith's Fetters on the Viashino left Frank out of gas. He then even lost the Ghost Warden to Twisted Justice, and kept drawing land after land, while Johan finally played some creatures. Frank tried to fight back, using Master Warcraft as Fog and a Flash Conscription to gain some life, but in the end he could only congratulate Johan to his first GP top 8.
Johan Sadeghpour defeats Frank Karsten, 2-1, and advances to the top eight