Blog - 9:09 pm: Top 8 draft: Olivier Ruel and David Brucker
by Stan van der Velden
Blog - 7:56 pm: Round 14 - Andrej Rutar vs Marco Castellano
by Stan van der Velden
Blog - 7:40 pm: Feature Match Round 14: Giulio Barra vs Mario Girolami
by Craig Jones
Blog - 6:27 pm: Vintage Renaissance
by Craig Jones
Blog - 5:59 pm: Round 13 Olivier Ruel vs Leonard Barbou
by Stan van der Velden
Blog - 5:14 pm: Feature Match Round 12: David Brucker vs Ziga Fritz
by Craig Jones
Blog - 4:31 pm: Draft 2 With Quentin Martin
by Stan van der Velden
Blog - 3:17 pm: What are the odds on that...?
by Craig Jones
Blog - 2:09 pm: Feature Match Round 11: Vasilis Fatouros vs Tomas Klimes
by Craig Jones
Blog - 1:22 pm: Round 10: Mark Dictus vs Frank Karsten
by Stan van der Velden
Blog - 12:07 am: Feature Match Round 9: Andrea Agostani vs Simone Benedetti
by Craig Jones
Blog - 11:18 am: Draft 1 With Olivier Ruel
by Stan van der Velden
Sunday, June 12: 11:18 am - Draft 1 With Olivier Ruel
The Draft Table
It's 8 o'clock in the morning on a beautiful Sunday and where do you think Olivier Ruel would like to be most? At a draft table, of course. The Frenchie goes by many names, from clown prince to best player in the world, but there's no denying the man loves to game. Fortunately, the best player in the world moniker might well be true as Olivier is the only player to join young Dutch World Champion Julien Nuijten at level 6, meaning he'll get $500 to just show up at a Grand Prix. It's a privilege Olivier is definitely taking advantage of and the running joke at the Wizards office is that he is going to bankrupt them by just showing up at every Grand Prix. Beneath all the joking around though he is, first and foremost, a brilliant Magic player and he's once again sitting pretty at 7-1 going into today, drafting at table 1.
The first pack of the day offered Olivier a Honden of Infinite Rage and some slightly inferior cards in Moss Kami and Mystic Restraints as the only playables. Ruel was quick to snatch up the Honden but took some more time for his second pick. It was going to be a blue card but which one wasn't entirely clear yet. On one hand there was the powerful but slow Sire of the Storm and on the other there was the slightly less powerful but faster Soratami Mirror Guard. Most pro's I've spoken to would pick the Mirror Guard here because although its effect is less flashy it's still about as good as Sire's ability to draw cards and the difference between four and six mana is huge. Oli had other ideas though and took the Sire. Unfortunately Tomas Klimes on his right followed up his first pick Befoul with a second pick Blue honden, denying Olivier to team up what's considered to be the best Honden by most with the second best he already had. He had to make do with a Frostwielder.
Meanwhile Tomas showed a remarkable attachment to his first two picks as he decided to ship Kabuto Moth for a third pick Soratami Cloudskater. Olivier obviously pounced on the Moth and got himself another Frostwielder from the next pack. His sixth pick posed another question to the Frenchman. White or blue? Harsh Deceiver or River Kaijin? Olivier went with the cheaper 1/4 but when he had to choose between Brutal Deceiver and Hundred Talon Kami he passed the card in the color he was firmly entrenched in and went with the soulshifting flier. All this bouncing around didn't really hurt the quality of his cards though as he managed to pick up a Kami of Old Stone, a Brothers Yamazaki and a Call to Glory before getting the Harsh Deceiver he passed for the River Kaijin back as a 14th pick.
After pack one Ruel's deck seemed to be mostly white and red with a small option on blue while Tomas on his right was dedicated to his blue and black cards, not even looking at anything else.
Betrayers started out strong for Olivier as he managed to snag Torrent of Stone and Waxmane Baku from fairly weak packs but the good picks dried up real fast. He had to make do with two Goblin Cohorts and an Indebted Samurai before he got a gift Neko-Te in pack six to go with his team of Frostwielders. That's where the packs completely abandoned him though and he didn't get another playable from Betrayers after that.
Saviors wasn't much better either as every pack had only one good card at most, making the rest of his draft rather unexciting. The Frenchman did manage to pick up two Akki Drillmasters to make his Frostwielders even better and a Soratami Cloud Chariot gave him some extra late game potential to support his Goblin Cohort fueled beatdown plan.
In the end, Olivier ended up with a very solid deck with the potential for some very quick starts and great utility in his two Frostwielders and the Kabuto Moth. The only thing he lacked was a real late game plan with Ronin Cavekeeper as the biggest creature in his deck. The combination of red Honden, Frostwielders and a very solid creature base makes this a very consistent deck though and I predict Ruel will manage at least a 2-1 with this.
Sunday, June 12: 12:07 am - Feature Match Round 9: Andrea Agostani vs Simone Benedetti
Draft 1: GP Bologna 2005
Both these amateur players managed 8-0 records yesterday to leave themselves at the top of the standings. In this case these were real 8-0 performances as neither player had any byes. Agostani has what looks like a mono green deck while Benedetti is running red-black.
Agostani led off and laid forests without doing anything for the first three turns. Benedetti was first out of the gates with a Shinka Gatekeeper. Agostani's first creature, a Matsu-Tribe Birdstalker entered play on the fourth turn while Benedetti managed a Frostwielder.
The Gatekeeper charged in again and Agostani threw a Fiddlehead Kami in the way. Hired Muscle showed up for Benedetti. Agostani had shown only forests so far, so the fear ability looked like it would come in useful later.
A Shinen of Fury's Fire and Soulless Revival allowed the Hired Muscle to flip into Scarmaker as Agostani made another Fiddlehead Kami, and then followed with Ayumi, the Last Visitor.
Scarmaker gave the Shinen fear and Benedetti snuck it through Agostani's defences and then Ninjitsued out an Okiba-Gang Shinobi to empty Agostani's hand. The Frostwielder was giving Benedetti a slight edge in life totals as Ayumi and Scarmaker battled each other to mutual death in the red zone.
At this point the life totals were 15 to 11 in Benedetti's favor and he was two cards up in hand. He sent in both the Shinobi and Shinen and summoned a Gatekeeper to keep up the pressure after Agostani threw the Birdstalker in the way of the Shinobi.
Fiddlehead Kami took care of the Gatekeeper, but now Agostani was down to zero monsters against Benedetti's Frostwielder and Shinen. A Skullsnatcher was added and then Agostani scooped when he drew nothing more than a useless Honden of Life's Web.
Benedetti 1-0 Agostani
Agostani again didn't have a play until turn four when he summoned Sacchi, Daughter of Seshiro. Benedetti couldn't fully take advantage as his first turn Frostling was not supported until a Frostwielder appeared on his fourth turn. With Sacchi out it was safe to make a Sniper. The Sniper looked less safe when a Cliffrider showed up on Benedetti's side. Agostani summoned a Fiddlehead Kami and waited for the avalanche to come his way. The Cliffrider came through and Benedetti attempted to finish off the Sniper with the Frostwielder. Agostani had a Serpent Skin, forcing Benedetti to use the Frostling. Once the dust settled Agostani's Sacchi was staring across the table from Benedetti's Frostwielder.
The momentum seemed to be more with Agostani as he now had time to crank out the fatties. A fear inducing Kami of the Waning Moon seemed like it could be dangerous, but Benedetti would need something else if he was to race against Agostani's Scaled Hulk. Patron of the Akki seemed to be that something else. He followed it with a Kami of Lunacy. Benedetti had a Devouring Green in hand, but never needed to use it as Agostani scooped in the face of Benedetti's superior forces.
Simone Benedetti beats Andrea Agostani 2-0.
Sunday, June 12: 1:22 pm - Round 10: Mark Dictus vs Frank Karsten
Now this is a match that just had to be covered. Frank Karsten, of Pro Tour fame, managed to draft the most defensive white-black deck ever, featuring not one, not two but four Split-Tail Miko's. Mark Dictus on the other hand drafted a rather less usual archetype. His deck looks like it could be a constructed deck and features another four-of but they're Ires of Kaminari, usually not the hottest card on the block. In his deck however they're excellent as he supports them with Glacial Ray, two Barrel Down Sokenzans, a Spiraling Embers and various other burn spells. He even has a bit of card drawing with two Sift Through Sands and a Peer Through Depths, although he's a bit low on creatures.
Fortunately for him, Frank's deck has exactly one creature that can actually attack. It's a good one though, but while Ink-Eyes hits hard, she's still just one card. That'll give Mark a lot of time to set up his huge Ire of Kaminari's that will hopefully get around any preventing shenanigans.
Frank, considering the nature of both decks, chose to draw. Mark led off with a mulligan and a Dreamcatcher, then summoned a Soratami Cloudskater and used its ability on turn 3. He caught up on his land drops later on though and a Sift Through Sands allowed the chumping Dreamcatcher to take one for the team and dig deeper into his deck. Frank, meanwhile, wasn't doing much of anything, as he passed on turn four and five after making a Hand of Honor and Kami of the Waning Moon on turn two and three.
That situation obviously favored Mark and the Belgian continued to amass a rather saucy graveyard with his Cloudskater. He also played a Callow Jushi that could cause problems for Frank, who was holding nothing but lands and Ink-Eyes. He did manage to get the Rat Ninja in play just before the Jushi flipped though, but Mark wasn't too worried yet as a Psychic Puppetry did overtime keeping the Ninja at bay. A Peer Through Depths found him a Barrel Down Sokenzan too, ensuring more splicing goodness and an even more stocked graveyard. A Rushing-Tide Zubera provided a nice blocker for Ink-Eyes too and put Frank in a very precarious position. He could never attack again and not win or just swing into it and let the Belgian draw three cards. He chose for the latter option but the Ancestral effect really got Mark's engine started as Vortex bounced Ink-Eyes and a first Ire went to the dome for five, putting the Dutchman at 10. Frank looked at his freshly summoned Split-Tail Miko and shook his head. "Show me two more and I'll concede." Mark obliged and they were on to the next game.
Frank made Mark play first again and the Belgian stumbled on lands for a second time. Fortunately for him, he found a Sift Through Sands to sac his chumping Dreamcatcher, power up his Callow Jushi and draw him out of the screw all at once. A Shimmering Glasskite then flipped the annoying wizard. The Jushi could really hurt Frank as all his win conditions cost at least five mana and he looked to be a bit tight on lands this game.
The game soon turned into a staring contest as Frank continued to develop his board a bit, fetching himself a Cage of Hands and a Kagemaro's Clutch with his Tallowisp. Mark still hadn't draw a mountain and went digging with a Peer Through Depths to hopefully get him another Sift Through Sands or a burn spell to deal with the Miko's. He found his Mountain but the Miko's were still there and threatening to put quite a dent in his strategy. Strangely enough despite the healers' presence Mark had already put Frank at 11 with creatures. He then Consuming Vortexed one Miko and spliced a Puppetry on another and hit Frank with an Ire for... 3. "Well, that's a bit ominous." It pretty much telegraphed that the Belgian had at least one more Ire in hand and was looking to finish Frank off before the Dutchman could find a creature that could actually attack for more than 1 and start putting pressure on him. Surely enough, the Psychic Puppetry managed to shut down the Miko without summoning sickness at end of turn. Then Mark untapped, used Barrel Down Sokenzan to get rid of Frank's Kami of the Waning Moon and put the 6th arcane spell in the graveyard, swung with his Glasskite and pointed a second Ire at Frank's noggin for the game.
Mark Dictus 2 - Frank Karsten 0
Sunday, June 12: 2:09 pm - Feature Match Round 11: Vasilis Fatouros vs Tomas Klimes
Vasilis Fatouros from Greece has put in a good showing already in Champions limited with a quarter-final appearance in PT Nagoya earlier this year. His opponent, Tomas Klimes, ran out yesterday with a perfect 8-0 record and hasn't looked back. Currently he is running away at the top of the rankings with 30 points.
I came into this match just after it started and it seemed like Klimes was having real problems with his mana. He had four islands on the table and a bunch of black cards in hand. He was forced to stunt his mana development with a Soratami Cloudskater in an attempt to dig for a swamp, but that didn't work and we were swiftly onto Game 2.
Fatouros 1-0 Klimes
Game 2 and it was Fatouros's turn to run into problems. This one was a fairly horrific flood. The only spell he cast was a Genju of the Cedars. The land it enchanted was bounced with Eye of Nowhere and it was onto the decider, or hopefully the first real game depending on how you look at it.
"Not much to report", as Klimes said, "Two games of nothing".
Fatouros 1-1 Klimes
Fatouros opened again with the turn one Genju, this time after a mulligan. Klimes matched it with his own. Fatouros followed with a Promised Kannushi and Klimes brought out an Ashen-Skin Zubera.
Then the game went into total surreal mode. Klimes passed turn three without laying a land and it looked like the match would be decided by another non-event. Except Fatouros didn't have a third land either. The game continued like this for several turns and I got up to snap some pictures as both players did nothing but shake their heads and discard, cursing the gods of mana screw.
A Cloudskater allowed Klimes to pull out faster while a hapless Fatouros didn't actually lay a third land on the table until what seemed like around turn 20. By this time Klimes had a couple of Ogres on the table and, more importantly, a Honden of Seeing Winds.
Fatouros tried to put up a fight, but it's fairly hard when your opponent has a personal Howling Mine. Kodama of the South Tree was swiftly dispatched with Kagemaro's Clutch and Fatouros succumbed to the flying blue Genju a few turns later.
Tomas Klimes beats Vasilis Fatouros 2-1 or half a game to two non-events depending on how you look at it.
This puts Klimes clear at the top of the rankings with a perfect 11-0 records and should probably make the second draft a formality for the Czech player.
Sunday, June 12: 3:17 pm - What are the odds on that...?
I had a very odd conversation with a player just before the eleventh round. It went something like this:
"Where do I go to make a complaint."
"What was wrong"
"Our table opened four Ink-Eyes."
It did made me think about the odds of pulling four of the same rare from eight boosters, of course assuming the distribution of rares is completely random. I worked it out to around 0.04% or around 1 in 2500.* Kind of long odds but not entirely impossible given the amount of drafts that are running at any one time. Of course if that rare is a bomb like Ink-Eyes then you tend to notice it more.
*Any nerdy emails with the exact amount will result in the sender being hunted down and painfully eviscerated by my personal army of highly-trained rat ninjas.
Sunday, June 12: 4:31 pm - Draft 2 With Quentin Martin
Half of the draft table
Quentin Martin is England's last best hope for Magical success. With John Ormerod retired, Craig Jones doing coverage and Sam Gomersall becoming an alcoholic Quentin is left to carry the torch of the British Magic scene. To his credit, he's done that admirably with quite a bit of top 16's over the last couple of Grand Prix but a top 8 has eluded him as yet. Today that might change though as he's at 9-1-1 and although he's known for a tendency to self-destruct after cruising to the top of the standings it does seem like he knows what he's doing in CHK block limited. On his left at draft table 1 is David Brucker whose name you might not even recognize if you missed the European Championship in 2002. He's a very low profile but highly talented player from Germany who somehow always manages to evade the spotlight and quietly puts up consistent finish after consistent finish. He's at 10-1, within striking distance of the top 8.
The draft started off well enough for the Englishman when he saw Teller of Tales, Frostwielder and Gibbering Kami staring back at him from pack one. Quentin picked the consensus best card in the blue flier. Brucker opened a similar booster to his left with a Sire of the Storm, a Befoul and an Order of the Sacred Bell and he took the big flier too, setting up what might be a dangerous conflict. Soratami Mirror-Guard was next for Quentin, although he had to think long and hard whether or not Innocence Kami was worth committing to white for. In the end he shipped it to David who had picked Frostwielder out of Martin's first pack.
And the other half
Quentin showed that he really wanted to be the blue mage at his part of the table with his third pick of Sift Through Sands over Harsh Deceiver, Cursed Ronin and Burr Grafter, which seemed very questionable considering the Sift would go sixth at the highest and really wouldn't mess up his signals. David passed on the Innocence Kami too and took Swallowing Plague instead. When the fourth pick came along it seemed Quentin and David weren't going to go to war after all as Quentin picked up his first off-color card when he chose Samurai of the Pale Curtain over Orochi Sustainer and Sakura Tribe Elder. David, meanwhile, seemed to want to go for black as he took the Cursed Ronin.
The rest of the pack was fairly uneventful but did explain Quentin's odd pick of Sift Through Sands. The Englishman is known for drafting the wackiest things and the one time it worked out was when he invented the Dampen Thought deck. He's since become very attached to that archetype and, being a sucker for good stories, was secretly hoping to pull it off again playing for top 8.
Brucker had smartly abandoned his first pick Sire of the Storm by the end of pack one but it was unclear what colors he would end up playing. Both Quentin and David showed an extreme dislike for green cards this draft as they passed quality creature after quality creature for clunky beaters. In the end David just had to take some of the green monsters though and he ended up with an equal mix of green, black and red cards. Quentin's color situation was the complete opposite as he was basically mono blue with a Samurai of the Pale Curtain and still needed some clue as to what color to pair his Dampen engine with.
Enter Patron of the Kitsune. Well, that wasn't too hard. David opened a Horobi's Whisper for himself and didn't take long to make a decision either. From there the picks dried up real fast with Quentin receiving a Waxmane Baku and a couple of fillers and David actually took a Shinka Gatekeeper third and followed it up with hits like Frost Ogre and Skullmane Baku. Both drafters still didn't even consider picking up green although it was now officially flowing in from both directions. When Loam Dweller came round 12th and Child of Thorns showed up equally late Brucker ended up with some extra reasons to go green but not even Arashi, the Sky Asunder could persuade him to actually play the color when he opened the legendary spirit in pack three.
Instead he opted to take Death Denied, following it with two Spiraling Embers before his cards once again dried up. He did cave in again towards the end of the draft and got a Nightsoil Kami 7th and an Okiba Nightwatch 8th. The end result was a mediocre black/red/green deck with a bad mana base backed up by two Spiraling Embers and two Death Denieds. David only needs one win in the first two rounds though and if he gets a good land draw, it seems feasible he might get it even with his deck.
Quentin did a lot better in Saviors as he passed on a first pick Kitsune Loreweaver in favor of Hand of Honor and then got passed a replacement. The real fun only started at his third pick though as he managed to pick up Orobi Envoy, Shinen of Flight's Wings and Reverence next before finishing up with an Oppressive Will and a Soratami Cloud Chariot to round out what turned out to be a quite powerful white/blue deck.
Draft 2: GP Bologna 2005
Sunday, June 12: 5:14 pm - Feature Match Round 12: David Brucker vs Ziga Fritz
Draft 2: GP Bologna 2005
Both of these players have managed titles in the far distant past. Ziga Fritz won Grand Prix Milan waaay back in 1999 and David Brucker was European Champion back when there still was a European Championship back in 2002. Both players have battled their way up to the top draft pod and now are three rounds away from squeezing into the top 8.
Brucker opened with an Orochi Leafcaller and then passed the next couple of turns. At this point he seemed like a black-green deck. This is not the case and became apparent when he ran two green through the Leafcaller and converted it to red to cast a Frostwielder.
Meanwhile Fritz had opened up with a Diviner, Araba Mothrider and Descendant of Kiyomara. He got in some damage before a Spiralling Embers got rid of the Descendant.
Fritz didn't seem to have a lot of action. He returned all his swamps for a Sink into Takenuma that emptied Brucker's hand but put Fritz back to only two plains. Brucker kept nibbling with the Frostwielder and Leafcaller before a Feral Deceiver and Shinka Gatekeeper arrived to boost the offence.
Fritz was nowhere near as helpless as his position looked. Kagemaro appeared and annihilated the board. Brucker bounced straight back with a Ranger and Brutal Deceiver only for Fritz to splice a Soulless Revival and fetch back the walking Mutilate.
The situation went from bad to far worse as Fritz summoned a Raving Oni-Slave and Takenuma Bleeder. Brucker went to zero creatures and then picked up his cards.
Fritz 1-0 Brucker
Brucker zipped out with Houndmaster on turn 3 and then followed it with Feral Deceiver and then a Frost Ogre. Meanwhile Fritz was struggling as his deck skipped the third land drop.
A channeled Shinen of Star's Light enabled a Descendant of Kiyomaro to punch through the Frost Ogre. Brucker had less cards in hand and so his Okina Nightwatch was used to trade for the rampant Descendant.
The fat hit the table on either side. Fritz's Scourge of Numai was matched by Brucker's Nightsoil Kami. Fritz had the tricks though and a Mending Hands ensured his demon survived the head-to-head.
Just as Fritz loked to have cleared the board in his favor Brucker came back with a second Nightsoil Kami and followed it with a Frost Ogre. Fritz had lost his Ogre and needed to get busy with the Scourge before it killed him.
A Sink into Takenuma emptied Brucker's hand. He found a First Volley and used it at end of turn to get rid of a Kitsune Diviner and free up the Nightsoil Kami.
Brucker had a slight edge on creatures, but was a long way away on hand size. He left the Frost Ogre behind on defense and swung with the Kami and Deceiver. Fritz thought for a while before sacrificing the Kami of False Hope to fog out the attack.
The board cleared a little and it seemed like the advantage now lay with Fritz as he had Kagemaro and Kuro's Taken. A massive Death Denied retrieved virtually every creature in Brucker's graveyard and all of sudden the game was back in his favor. Fritz tried to hold back the tide but he couldn't cope with having to kill Brucker's army all over again.
Fritz 1-1 Brucker
Brucker missed his third land drop in the deciding game but was able to Psychic Spear a Kagemaro out Fritz's hand. Fritz's deck had an abundance of fat meaty black monsters. A First Volley took down a Horobi, Death's Wail, only for Fritz to replace it with Yukora.
Bruckman methodically went after the problems. Swallowing Plague took care of one of Fritz's white creatures and then, when a Frost Ogre blocked Yukora, the board went clear.
Fritz immediately cranked up the pressure again with a Scourge of Numai. Brucker came back at him with a Kemmuri-Onna and then a large Okina Nightwatch in reply to Fritz's Bleeder and Kuro's Taken, The board had gone from empty to crowded again in a couple of turns. Fritz must have been the only black drafter on his table, or had some very good boosters, as a second Horobi entered play.
Brucker burnt Horobi out of the Sky with Spiralling Embers and nipped off the Taken with a First Volley. Both players vied for an edge in the deciding game as Fritz dropped a Honden of Night's Reach to peg back Brucker's hand size.
A Ronin Cavekeeper gave Brucker a slight edge in fatties and when Fritz fell slightly behind the former European champion was able to force through enough damage for the win.
David Brucker beats Ziga Fritz 2-1
Sunday, June 12: 5:59 pm - Round 13 Olivier Ruel vs Leonard Barbou
Olivier Ruel. There's not much left to tell about him so I'll just let him do the talking:
"Visit laboiteacartes.com for all your gaming needs! They're great and fantastic!" Well, there you go. The guy who gets $500 for just showing up at Grand Prix also has a sponsor. Some people get all the luck. Except, apparently, against Leonard Barbou, the first seed after the sealed rounds yesterday. The youngster has a 2-0 record in Grand Prix against Olivier already with one of the wins coming from just one draft ago. If he manages to make it three times now he'll be able to draw into the top 8. Of course the same goes for Olivier so the pressure is on for this match.
Ruel, playing blue/green, kicked off the first game with an Oboro Breezecaller and a Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch that didn't do much to hold Barbou's Takenuma Bleeder at bay. A Deathmask Nezumi and a Skullmane Baku had to wait for the annoying wall to be removed though.
Olivier's first real creature was an Okina Nightwatch that could grow large at his command thanks to the enormously useful ability of the Breezecaller. When Leonard just passed the turn back to him with five mana untapped Olivier figured something was up. He just didn't know what. Any removal would've been cast during the last turn when Ruel was still tapped out and white combat tricks wouldn't be good enough to take the Nightwatch down. A chump by the Deathmask Nezumi finally cleared it up as Leonard offered the rat to cast its Patron and used his Skullmane Baku to kill the Breezecaller with the resulting token. Suddenly Olivier's position looked a whole lot worse and Leonard quickly put Ruel at seven.
When Olivier got a chance to attack again he sent his Nightwatch and newly summoned Shinen of Flight's Wings in and this time the Patron stepped in front of the big green man, leaving the flier to take Leonard down to 10.
That's where all the aggression ended though as Olivier stopped attacking with his Shinen and Leonard's Plow Through Reito wasn't very effective with only one plains on the board. Barbou was the first to get the upper hand with a Scourge of Numai and Olivier succumbed to the next attack flashing a Kabuto Moth and a Moonlit Strider as he scooped up his cards.
1 - 0 Leonard Barbou
Olivier mulliganed into a nice hand with all three colors, Kami of the Hunt and Shinen of Flight's Wings. Unfortunately for him Leonard systematically destroyed every chance Ruel had to win the game by curving out and two-for-one-ing him three turns in a row with combat tricks. Four cards down Olivier knew what was up and shook Leonard's hand.
Match and a top 8 berth for Leonard Barbou
Sunday, June 12: 6:27 pm - Vintage Renaissance
A huge line for the Vintage tourney
Vintage is undergoing what seems to be a little bit of a renaissance in recent times. A major tournament in Paris had nearly 400 competitors a few weeks back and the renewed interest has sent the power cards rocketing in price over the last year or so. A few years back it might have been a struggle to run a type one side event at a GP let alone a full tournament.
A Type 1 tournament was on offer today and proved very popular. I walked around watching players proudly displaying folders packed with moxes and other gems. While some might argue the prohibitive price of these cards is a barrier to playing this format a 124 players were eager to break out the jewelry and give it a twirl, or rather shuffle. The tournament was scheduled for seven rounds of straight swiss. I wouldn't like to guess the combined value of all the cards in the tournament but I imagine it might be enough to purchase a small African Island or two.
I'm not bitter about selling my power cards a few years ago when the price was rock bottom. No, not bitter at all. I'm just going to set off the fire alarms so I can swipe a few decks in the confusion.
Sunday, June 12: 7:40 pm - Feature Match Round 14: Giulio Barra vs Mario Girolami
Now we're right down to the bubble. One more match to decide who gets to draft again and who goes home. This is an all-Italian clash between two names who might not be that familiar but have managed a couple of decent finishes on the Pro Tour. Giulio Barra picked up an 11th place finish back at PT San Diego when Odyssey was the block and Rochester draft was still a format. Mario Girolami's finish was more recent as he managed 18th at Philadelphia a few weeks back.
The early game saw a Frostling trade for an Orochi Ranger and then Barra upped the stakes with a Razorjaw Oni. Girolami's Descendant of Sorimaro was not quite as hefty, but had a nifty ability. Barra cracked in with the Oni and followed up with a Sakura Springcaller. Girolami summoned an Emberfist Zubera and rearranged the top of his library in search of something useful. Something useful was defined as Ben-Ben.
Barra: "What is this."
Girolami: "Nothing, he's a 1/1 for 4 mana".
Ben-Ben would certainly have to work overtime as Barra was smashing face with a Scaled Hulk and the Oni. It got worse as the Oni turned into a Throatslitter, although Girolami had a Veil of Secrecy to make sure the Descendant kept its throat intact.
Girolami summoned another Emberfist Zubera and passed the turn with 4 mountains left untapped.
Barra dropped a Child of Thorns and Razorjaw Oni to make the Scaled Hulk massive and then swung with his entire team of Hulk, Springcaller, Throatslitter and a Nezumi Ronin. Ben-Ben couldn't exactly trap them all.
Emberfist took it for the team and threw itself in the way of the Hulk and the Descendant tackled the Throatslitter. Once the dust had settled Barra had lost both the rats and a Child of Thorns, killing the Zubera and smacking Girolami down to 3 life in the process. A Hand of Cruelty and Sacchi was added to the offence.
Ben-Ben really needed to work overtime and a Teardrop Kami allowed him to do just that. On the next attack both the Razorjaw Oni and Hulk vanished into the hermit's traps. Girolami was down to 2 life, but with the addition of a Teller of Tales he might just be able to stabilize and retrieve the game.
Barra wasn't too keen on that happening and gave the Hand Tatsumasa before charging the Samurai in. The Descendant had stuck around for a long time, but it was finally its turn to take it for the team.
Girolami attacked with the Teller and ninjitsued out a Ninja of the Deep Hours. Unfortunately he tapped two islands to do so and couldn't bring the Teller back. Without enough blockers his slender hold on the game was finally broken.
Barra 1-0 Girolami
Barra started aggressively with a Raving Oni-Slave and then skipped a few land drops. This allowed Girolami to ninjitsu out a Ninja of the Deep Hours and take an early lead through a pair of Floodbringers. Barra finally picked up enough land to kill a Teller of Tales with Kagemaro's Clutch. He even found another land to take down a Patron of the Akki with a Throatslitter. The initial creatures were still pecking at his life total and then a pair of Emberfist Zubera made the situation hopeless.
Barra 1-1 Girolami
Now it's all down to one game to decide who stays to draft in the top 8.
Barra had the initial disadvantage with a mulligan. His start was aggressive enough as he whipped out a Skullsnatcher and followed it with a Nezumi Ronin. Girolami had yet to play a spell and was danger of being steamrollered as Barra added a Raving Oni-Slave and O-Naginata to his attack force.
A Sift Through Sands at the end of turn brought laughter from the crowd. Girolami summoned an Emberfist Zubera. Although, not seeming much of a defense it did restrict Barra to only attacking with the Oni-Slave to avoid being 2-for-1'ed. Instead Barra only lost the Ronin to the Zubera's dying shot. Barra was looking solidly in control here though as he summoned a Razorjaw Oni.
Girolami still had plenty of tricks a second Zubera appeared to deal with the Skullsnatcher and a Consuming Vortex on an equipped Oni-Slave negated another attack.
Could Girolami keep fending off Barra's monsters? He summoned a Frostling and Teardrop Kami. A Veil of Secrecy forced Barra to spend another two mana to give the Oni the O-Naginata instead of its slave. Not much difference, the attack still whacked Girolami down to 1 life. His life in this tournament was on the critical list.
He snuck through the Teardrop to ninjitsu out a Ninja of the Deep Hours and then replayed it to buy himself another turn. It was looking desperate though. He looked to his library for another answer and this time his luck had run out.
Giulio Barra beats Mario Girolami 2-1 and secures a place in the top 8.
Sunday, June 12: 7:56 pm - Round 14 - Andrej Rutar vs Marco Castellano
The last round of the Grand Prix is underway and these two rookies are looking for their first taste of glory and the first premier event top 8 for their resume. Marco is definitely the hometown favorite in this matchup with at least ten people standing and sitting at close as possible to cheer on their friend, whom they all describe as the worst player in Italy. The visibly nervous Andrej tried not to feel too intimidated by the crowd and called upon some of his own friends to support him. With both players' cheerleaders in position the win-and-you're-in match got underway.
Marco won the die roll with a clean 20 and got to claim the first victim when his Shinen of Life's Roar took down Andrej's Kuro's Taken with a little help from Roar of Jukai. He got further ahead when he answered Andrej's Warclub with a sneaky Okiba-Gang Shinobi and forced the Slovenian to discard two of his creatures. When Andrej used Rend Flesh to get rid of the ninja though, all Marco had was the Shinen of Life's roar to replace it with.
Rutar used the breathing space started working on a recovery and a Kami of the Empty Graves met up with the Warclub to form a quite formidable attacker. A Wear Away killed the Kami though and they were back to square one. Both of them missed a creature until Marco found a Throat Slitter. Andrej did him one better with an Infernal Kirin and a Scuttling Death that forced the Italian to discard Strength of Cedars and revealing an uncastable Cage of Hands as his only card. When Thief of Hope stole that too, Marco was completely out of the game and on to the next game.
Marco led with four forests and seemed screwed with only a Gnarled Mass to show for it while Andrej curved out with Akki Underling, Akki Drillmaster and a Cursed Ronin. Castellano then showed up an impressive ability to draw the correct lands as he drew his first swamp to cast Okina Nightwatch, his second swamp to cast Wicked Akuba and a plains to Cage of Hands the Cursed Ronin. With Andrej slightly screwed, Marco drew another land and took the game right there with Strength of Cedars leaving Andrej to wonder where on earth his top 8 berth had gone.
Psychic Spear kicked off the decisive game and stole Marco's Elder Pine of Jukai but a Promished Kannushi lurked in the Italian's hand to make sure it would come back if needed. They further developed their board until Andrej added a Frostwielder and Marco attacked with his Kannushi. Andrej, thinking it was one last point before it would be removed let it through, only to get hit by a Shinobi and losing Death Denied and Pull Under. Despite getting tricked there, his Frostwielder looked like it was going to help him keep the board stable. Marco would have none of that though and sent his Gnarled Mass and Shinobi, threatening Throat Slitter. Andrej called his bluff and only blocked the rat ninja taking three when he found out he was correct. Okina Nightwatch came down to make his life miserable. The Slovenian hoped to trade his Burning-Eye Zubera for the Nightwatch but Marco wasn't attacking just to trade with the hill giant. Strength of Cedars saved his beater and Andrej's board was collapsing fast. A Cursed Ronin couldn't really rumble with the 7/6 for lack of swamps and after Marco also added a Matsu-Tribe Decoy Andrej was in quite the bind. His deck came to his rescue as he drew a Rend Flesh just before the Nightwatch would force his Ronin to chump. Suddenly the cursed samurai was the biggest creature on the board and quite capable of defending it's master and his precious four life points. Nobody can block when in a Cage though and a Bile Urchin of all things finished the Slovenian off. The crowd erupted as Marco Castellano advanced to his first ever top 8 and his friends will have to come up with a better nickname than worst player in Italy.
Sunday, June 12: 9:09 pm - Top 8 draft: Olivier Ruel and David Brucker
The top 8 of Grand Prix Bologna is a nice mix of experience and young blood and the table setup reflected that nicely. Accomplished pros Quentin Martin, David Brucker and Olivier Ruel sat side by side facing off against the onslaught of new talent, although to be fair, Quentin was actually in his first top 8 as well. Despite the presence of the Englishman and the German and the eagerness of the top 8 virgins Olivier Ruel has to be considered the favorite to win this tournament, especially considering the enormous amount of success he's had recently. Unfortunately the two drafts he did here were his fourth and fifth drafts in this format so we're just going to have to wait and see if the Frenchman can pull this one out.
Pick one went as well as picks can go with a Yamabushi's Flame, a Mothrider Samurai and a Honden of Cleansing Fire left after Olivier first picked Kiku, Night's Flower. Passing those cards would give off some beautiful signals and allowed him to try and force black. Brucker to his right played it safe taking Tatsumasa, Dragon Fang over both Hideous Laughter and Rend Flesh. Olivier obviously welcomed them with open arms although his signals would be slightly polluted by passing a good black card. Nevertheless, Laughter was too good to pass up. Over the next few picks Ruel established his black base with a Cruel Deceiver, a Cursed Ronin and a Wicked Akuba in addition to a stray Rootrunner that he picked up for lack of something else. Brucker settled nicely into a green deck with a Strength of Cedars, two Sakura Tribe Elders, a Burr Grafter and a Lure.
But then disaster struck for the Frenchman as David got passed a seventh pick Scuttling Death that was way too juicy to pass up. A black Honden and an Ashen-Skin Zubera followed and what was worse for Olivier there were good black cards trickling through. The Frenchman rounded out his first pack with a Nezumi Ronin, a Waking Nightmare and a Moonring Mirror for a very respectable monoblack deck with an option on Rootrunner. Brucker, meanwhile, looked firmly entrenched in Black/Green. So far so good but if Olivier got too attached to his Rootrunner and would decide that he was Black/Green as well things could end up very badly for the both of them.
Pick one of Betrayers looked like it might be able to fix all that as Brucker opened up Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens and Olivier got a nice Throat Slitter, passing nothing else of interest. The average pack actually caused David to goofgrab on his second pick and he was awarded with a nice Frost Ogre. Olivier was a bit cooler and got the discard ninja to go with his assassin. A Takenuma Bleeder joined his stack before a new question was posed by the packs: what was his second color? Pick four had no black cards and featured Ninja of the Deep Hours and Unchecked Growth as the best other options. After taking every second of the allotted time Ruel finally settled on the Growth, with the Rootrunner undoubtedly in the back of his mind. A Matsu-Tribe Sniper put him into green more firmly before he got a gift sixth pick Patron of the Nezumi. Lifespinner was up next, allowing him to tutor up his new found Rat lord and the rest of Betrayers was fairly uneventful with a Skullsnatcher being the only other playable he ended up with.
David, possibly under the influence of his goofgrab, was all over the place. He took a Waxmane Baku
third, then a Scaled Hulk
, then a Ninja of the Deep Hours
, then another Hulk and two more blue ninja. His deck had a lot of quality but was split between four colors and his main color, green, didn't look too strong. If he could pick up some Elder Pines of Jukai though, he'd be fine and his willingness to splash might end up being worth a lot more than a bit of damage to his mana base.
Alas, it was not to be. Saviors was extremely weak for both players offering Ruel little more but a Mariki-Gusari and three Kuro's Takens along with a Hand of Cruelty. Brucker didn't get much either with a Kagemaro's Clutch, two Death Denied and a Hand of Cruelty rounding out his deck.
In the end Ruel seemed to have gotten the better end of the deal with a very solid if not too exciting nearly mono black deck, splashing for a few green cards. David's deck wasn't as colorful as it could've been as he ended up with green monsters backed up with black for a couple of Death Denied and a couple of creatures. Oyobi and Waxmane Baku rounded out his deck, which looked surprisingly solid.