Saturday, March 25: 10:40 am - Tuck Boxes for Cardiff
Now this is what I'm talking about
Hello, it's intrepid Sideboard Reporter and occasional player Craig Jones here. My nefarious plan to kidnap all the other reporters so they send me off to exotic climes like Manila has backfired. As there's no one else available I also have to cover slightly less exotic locations like … urm Cardiff. Oh well maybe I should have left some food for Hanno and Jörn before I flew off to the Philippines last week.
On the subject of food, one of the things that's different for this tournament is that the judging crew and staff have all been given a rather nice snack box to keep them going for the weekend. This should keep me going for a couple of hours anyway.
Saturday, March 25: 12:55 pm - Turnouts past and present
The British are legendarily known for not traveling to Magic tournaments. Hold a tournament in London and the guys from the North don't travel down. Hold a tournament outside London and the London guys don't travel to it. Given the exorbitant cost of our public transport, this isn't exactly surprising and the British Grand Prix are traditionally the next smallest after the Scandinavian tournaments.
370 is actually very low by European standards. Does this mark a malaise in British magic? I went rooting through the past country breakdowns to check the numbers.
This is what it looked like at deck registration
GP Cardiff 2006
GP Nottingham 2005
GP Birmingham 2004
GP London 2003
With the exception of the bumper turnout at Birmingham the British attendance has been fairly constant.
GP London 2003
GP Birmingham 2004
GP Nottingham 2005
GP Cardiff 2006
Could it be that the French have been driven off by the English limited prowess (Oh dear it appears that my patriotic circuits have just been blown by my reality processor)
Saturday, March 25: 2:09 pm - Hard to Get Byes
Grand Prix Byes aren't as easy to get as they used to be. A quick scan of the round one pairings saw a few names I wouldn't have expected to see in action this early. Richard Edbury is still probably the most famous Welsh player, despite making London his home now. Back in the day Edbury was part of the Palace crew that caused such a stir in constructed a few years back. Also in action from the Palace (and the guy who gave it the name as he lives in one) is Ben Ronaldson. Ronaldson was once named the best player never to make a PT top 8 by Scott Johns. But the Palace guys have been out of circulation for a while now and will find themselves scrapping it out right from the start off. Ben told me that they tend not to play much constructed nowadays, but he has drafted a lot recently. Maybe this weekend we'll see them make a comeback.
Saturday, March 25: 2:47 pm - Local players to watch
Welsh National Team Captain - Madog Wiliams
Welcome, welcome. It's that time of the day when I turn the spotlight on the local names to watch. As it's a British Grand Prix I would be talking about the usual names such as David Grant, Stuart Wright, Quentin Martin and fellows (But not Sam Gomersall - I'm guessing he's off to the team GP in Madison).
But as we're in Cardiff I think it's only fair I actually focus on the Welsh section of the British player base.
First off I have to mention Richard Edbury. Edbury is probably the most successful Welsh player there's ever been. While he doesn't play so much nowadays (the reason he doesn't have any byes for this tournament) Edbury managed to rack up 45 pro points from the 12 Pro Tours he played in.
Also a worth a mention is last year's Welsh National team captain Madog Williams (if he doesn't get nobbled by Jules Jardine on another mammoth drinking session). Simon Cox was also a member of the same team that traveled to Japan.
I'll round off my picks with a couple of names that have been familiar faces on the PTQ circuit for the past few years: Martin Lawrence and Roy Williams. If there's any new up-and-coming Welshman I've passed over, I apologize. Go prove me wrong and win this tournament.
Saturday, March 25: 3:34 pm - Vote For Fan Favourite
Since there's been some voting irregularities (translation: Swap busted the system) the vote for the Invitational Fan Favorite is back online.
Anyone wishing to place their vote for their favorite player should head off over here.
I am of course supposed to remain impartial in all of this and couldn't possibly mention my choice. (I'm sorry Geoffrey, please put the gun away).
Actually, if you're unsure, personally I'd probably recommend Pierre Canali, Shu Komuro, Gadiel Szleifer or Geoffrey Siron as all of these guys won a Pro Tour last year and aren't currently going. But then again this is the fan favorite, so just vote for the guy you think will contribute the most to the Invitational.
Saturday, March 25: 5:47 pm - Sealed Deck Construction with Frank Karsten
Frank Karsten builds his deck
Okay so technically Frank built this about four hours ago. That's one of the problems with local Grand Prix, so many people to chat to, so many Lightning Helix to sign (actually I'm lying about the latter part, but I can dream okay. *sob*).
When it comes to deck construction I always go to my own personal Resident Genius, Mr Frank Karsten, to shine a light on the intricacies of sealed deck construction. Karsten is one of the top Dutch pro's and known for having very methodical methods for tackling Limited.
I walked over and as you can see from the photo Frank had already arranged his cards into the grid system that allows him to easily spot the interactions between his guild cards.
I've remarked before that Ravnica-Guildpact sealed deck is fantastically difficult to build. On this occasion Karsten's deck looked remarkably straightforward. Red (with a Flame Fusillade), green and blue looked the strongest colors. Black had a couple of nice removal in Last Gasp and Douse in Gloom and in the end Karsten splashed for it. White was easy to discard as the only good mono-white card was Oathsworn Giant and the other good white cards were in white-black, a color that wasn't much stronger than a splash.
The only card that raised an eyebrow for me was the Barbarian Riftcutter. Karsten explained that it could have been Transluminant or Flash Conscription, but neither are that exciting without white. As the Karoo lands have risen in importance in the eyes of most players nowadays maybe this also raises the value of land destruction.
Late Edit - I just got to see Karsten pump the fist as his Riftcutter took out an Orzhov Basilica in a round 7 feature match.
Karsten again had his calculator on hand to work out the optimal mana base. He explained that he counted the number of mana symbols and then tweaked the number of sources so that the ratios for all the colors are roughly equal. Of course some common sense also has to be applied as 11 green sources for the following deck is a little excessive.
GP Cardiff 2006 Sealed Deck Day 1
Saturday, March 25: 6:22 pm - Round 2: Jonny Chapman vs. Richard Edburry
Both players are from the United Kingdom, Richard is said to be the best Welsh player, Jonny is definitely one of the best players in England.
Jonny is playing WGR today with Brightflame, Sunforger, Faiths Fetters, Argus Kos and some fliers. Richard Edburry is playing RGUB with Living Inferno, Ursapine and decent removal (but he switches to RGBW after sideboarding). Jonny had to mulligan to 6 and first thing he put into play is Sunforger. Richard had to discard on turn three, but then managed to draw the third land and put Wayfinder into play, that brought him 4th land. Jonny was stuck on three mana, nothing more except the Sunforger.
Richard added Viashino Fangtail and after that, Jonny managed to draw the 4th mana and started with Absorber Thrull. Richard played Scatter the Seeds at end of Jonny's turn and attacked with everything on his own turn. Absorber Thrull blocked Wayfinder but Richard had Gaze of Gorgon ready.
Next turn Jonny played Argus Kos that one token on the next combat, but Jonny was already down to 2. Richard managed to play two more creatures during his turn - Silhana Starfletcher and Wee Dragonauts. Now he has Dragonauts, Wayfinder, Fangtail, Starfletcher and two tokens in play, whereas Jonny has only Argus Kos and Sunforger. This does not look very good… He needs second white mana for Brightflame he has, but it is, unfortunately, not on the top of his library. Jonny can't find a way out and scoops.
Edbury 1-0 Chapman
As a side note, both players did not have any byes, since both players have not played for some time.
Jonny wants to play first in the second game. Both players kept their hands and both started with the karoo lands, though Richard has to discard since he went second. Jonny started with Gristleback and Richard answered by Golgari Brownscale. Next two turns, Jonny only played Izzet Signet, whereas Richard played Fangtail and next turn Scatter the Seeds.
Jonny stabilized the situation with his own Scatter and a Screeching Griffin. Not for long, because Richard send his Gruul Nodorog to the "battlefield". Additonally, Fangtail started to "work on" Jonny's tokens, or we should say Jonny's Pros.
Next turn Richard attacked with Nodorog and his tokens. Jonny blocked the Nodorog with his Griffin and Gristleback, but before damage, he played Devouring Light. Richard Responded with Gaze of Gorgon and thus still managed to kill both blockers. The table at Jonny side is clear now.
The game evolved, Jonny played his own Fangtail, later Sunforger and equipped the Fangtail. Richard played Living Inferno and used it next turn to kill the equipped Fangtail. On the same turn, he attacked with the Fengtail and the Brownscale and after that played Wayfinder and Harrier Griffin. Jonny needs something very good, since he has no creatures right now while Richard has four. The life totals are 7 to 18 in Richard's favor.
Jonny played Belfry spirit and Silhana Ledgewalker, who got equipped with the Sunforger. Richard, on his turn, taps Belfry spirit, shoots one token with the Fangtail, Darkblasted the other token and attacks for 5. Jonny is down to 2 again and scoops the next turn.
2-0 for Richard
Saturday, March 25: 6:58 pm - Round 4: Raphael Levy vs. Maximilian Bracht
Into round 4 and I have around 10 good matches to pick from the first fifteen. A lot of this comes from being able to recognize so many names amongst the local player base. In the end I picked a truly international match between experienced French Pro Raphael Levy and rising German star Maximilian Bracht.
Bracht won the die roll and elected to kick off. Unfortunately it was a bit of a stumble as he mulliganed. The six card hand found him a Signet and then a Transluminant and one of those ever-popular guild lands. Levy opened with a Wild Cantor and a Transluminant of his own, although he had white mana to give him an advantage in a straight scrap.
Bracht laid his own plains and zipped in with the Transluminant, happy to trade them both in for spirits. Unfortunately he brought in his token a little prematurely, and after a long discussion between the judges it was ruled that by going to put his token on the table Bracht had declared his intention to go to the end step.
Remember everyone, the Transluminant token doesn't come in until the end of turn. You might end up time-walking yourself otherwise.
Bracht had to put the Sandsower he wanted to cast back into his hand. I'm not sure if it had much of an effect on the game as the German player looked a little flooded. He didn't have anything that followed the Sandsower, while Levy started to beat him down with a Civic Wayfinder and Vaishino Fangtail. Bracht reduced some of the effectiveness of the Fangtail with a Pillory of the Sleepless. Levy bettered that with Faith's Fetters on Bracht's only blocker.
Levy 1-0 Bracht
Game 2 and this time it was Levy with the mulligan. He found a Selesnya Evangel, but no creatures to kickstart the Saproling Engine. Instead he played a Galvanic Arc on Bracht's Trophy Hunter to shock it out of existence. Bracht didn't seem to have anything to follow his Transluminant. Levy didn't have another creature to go with his Evangel. He brought out a Scab-Clan Mauler as a puny 1/1 only for Bracht to kill the Evangel with Last Gasp.
Bracht had managed to knock Levy down to 8, but the non-performance of his deck was giving the Frenchman a way back. Streetbreaker Wurm appeared, and was then followed by a Faith's Fetters on the Transluminant to claw Levy back into the game.
Bracht's Shrieking Grotesque only managed to net a land before Levy shot it down with Pyromatics. A Sandsower gave Bracht hope of dealing with the massive Wurm, if he could find another creature. He did manage to find a Vedalkan Dismisser. That bought him a turn and then a Compulsive Research. That found the German some gas as he made Nullmage Shepherd and Orzhov Guildmage.
The Streetbreaker Wurm had dropped Bracht to 4 and a Scorched Rusalka took him to 3, but with the Guildmage Bracht was now finally pulling his way back into ascendancy. Two turns later the combination of Sandsower and Guildmage was enough to level for Bracht.
Levy 1-1 Bracht
Levy went first and it meant he didn't have to discard off his second turn guild land. He found the first creature, a Civic Wayfinder, but that just gave Bracht a target for Pillory of the Sleepless. Levy continued the offence with a Screeching Griffin and then ran into a mjor obstacle in the race as Bracht summoned a Streetbreaker Wurm. A Faith's Fetters kept the Frenchman in the driving seat and put him up to 21 compared to Bracht's 15.
A Nullmage Shepherd from Bracht would make the Fetters only a temporary restraint, but it seemed unlikely he'd have time to remove it as Levy increased the pressure with a Greater Mossdog. Bracht went digging for answers with Compulsive Research and a Galvanic Arc shot the Griffin from the sky.
Levy's attack stalled and Bracht pushed back with a Grave-Shell Scarab. Not to be outdone Levy called on the Gruul head honcho himself and Borborygmos entered play. A Sandsower would keep the Giant Cyclops occupied, but Bracht was down on creatures. A second Streetbreaker Wurm, this time on the other side of the table, increased the pressure on the German.
The Scarab traded for the Wurm, but dredged a Ghost Council on it's return.
Levy had enough of an overlap to throw one of his team away on another assault. Bracht could tie up Borborygmos, but at the cost of leaving his defences undermanned. He was at a precarious 2 life while Levy was still at a fairly unassailable 15.
Then a Faith's Fetters appeared on the Cyclops to hand Bracht a lifeline.
Levy cashed in a Transluminant for a flier to break the deadlock while his Evangel extended his overlap. Time was called with Bracht hanging on precariously. In the end it took all of one extra turn as Levy used Incite Hysteria to prevent Bracht from blocking and swept in for the win.
Raphael Levy 2-1 Maximilian Bracht.
Saturday, March 25: 7:17 pm - Round 6: Stuart Wright vs. Geoffrey Siron
Geoffrey Siron won a Pro Tour last year, so it was rather amusing for the judge to ask which player was which when putting up the name labels in the feature match area. Buy better press rep Geoffrey.
Stuart Wright is one of the top English players, although he's probably better known for his deck building skills than limited play. The Sealed Deck gods have gifted him a fairly juicy deck today though.
Wright won the die roll and elected to make Siron kick off. Unfortunately for the Englishman he then found that advantage negated as a Karoo land meant he had to discard an excess Forest at the end of turn two.
Siron overcame the card disadvantage of going first by Consulting the Necrosages to fill his hand right up. His opening plays were all Dimir, an Infiltrator and then a House Guard. Wright threw a Stinkweed Imp in the way of the House Guard and Siron decided his House Guard was more important than a Drift of Phantasms.
A Loxodon Hierarch undid all of the early Infiltrator damage so Siron decided to continue to fight the card advantage wars. He plucked two cards from Wright's hand with a Strands of Undeath.
Wright had opened some fairly nice rares though as a Skeletal Vampire swooped into play with Julien Nuijten and Masashi Oiso in tow. Siron's Lore Broker was not quite as impressive.
It was getting fairly ugly as Wright cast a Civic Wayfinder and followed up with a Blind Hunter. The life totals now stood 21 - 13 in favor of the Englishman.
A Flight of Fancy took the House Guard to the skies and netted Siron more cards. The Belgian was drawing plenty of cards, but they didn't seem to be as good as Wright's. A Last Gasp on the House Guard only reinforced that.
Wright - "My deck is pretty ridiculous".
Wright 1-0 Siron.
Siron made Wright go first and the Englishmen got in an early offensive with a pair of Imps. Siron slowed down the bleeding with Drift of Phantasms and then pulled off the best use of Lurking Informant ever as he hit a Skeletal Vampire. It didn't require much thought as to whether to throw that bad boy away!
A Tattered Drake for Siron made attacking for Wright a difficult proposition. Fortunately a Selesnya Evangel appeared to give Wright a solid plan B. He even had a Voyager Staff to save it should Siron had removal.
The game looked interesting at this point. Siron had the air and ground defended with his Drift and Tattered Drake. Wright had an Evangel to try and build up an army to get round it. He would have to make use of the cards in play as the Informant was now active, giving Siron some control over his opponent's draw.
Unfortunately for Siron, while his Informant prevented Wright from drawing Last Gasp, the next card was a Mausoleum Turnkey to fetch back the Vampire.
Siron's response was absolutely devastating. He Repealed the Staff and then completely demolished Wright's side of the board with a Savage Twister that didn't kill a single one of his creatures.
Wright didn't have the second Swamp he needed for the Skeletal Vampire. His Ostiary Thrull tied up the Tattered Drake for a turn before Siron bashed it with Twisted Justice. Wright was still looking for that second Swamp. Unfortunately for him Siron found a Chronarch. That fetched a Consult the Necrosages, which was enough to empty Wright's hand and crucially take away the Skeletal Vampire. With nothing on board and in hand it was time to take the match to a decider.
Wright 1-1 Siron.
Again Wright chose to draw, although this was almost immediately cancelled out with a mulligan. Siron opened again with Infiltrator and Drift of Phantasms. Wright also had a nice start as a Skysweeper was followed by Transluminant and then Ostiary Thrull.
Wright laid a second swamp to give him that critical 6 mana. Siron sighed with relief when the Vampire didn't put in an appearance. His Tidewater Minion was now active to negate the Ostiary Thrull.
Despite the nice start Wright's hand looked to have completely collapsed into a puddle of smelly goo. After the Thrull his only play had been a less than riveting Voyager Staff. A Strands of Undeath on the Tidewater Minion revealed Wright was fairly badly flooded as he threw away yet more land. Siron kept hitting for three a turn with his unblockable House Guard and Infiltrator.
Wright found a Stinkweed Imp but it was too late as Siron Charred him to the face end of turn and then in his turn he fetched the Char back with a Chronarch, untapped his mountain with the Minion and Charred Wright again for the win.
Geoffrey Siron beats Stuart Wright 2-1
Saturday, March 25: 8:55 pm - Round 8: Ben Ronaldson vs. Bernardo da Costa Cabral
Here's on interesting match between old and new. Ben used to be called the best player without a Pro Tour top 8. Right now Bernardo might be entitled to be called as such now.Both players have a 5-1-1 record which most probably makes this an elimination match.
Ben won the die roll and quite rightly elected Bernardo to go first as he had to mulligan. His second hand seemed much better though as he played a turn 3 Compulsive Research, a turn 4 Moroii and a turn 5 Screeching Griffin. Ben on the other hand is trying to stay alive with an enhanced Shrieking Grotesque and a Sewerdreg.
Bernardo totally seemed to take control of the game when he played a Ostiary Thrull until Ben literally drops the bomb: a freshly topdecked Glare of Subdual. Along with the Vitu Ghazi land Ben has the game locked.
Ben Ronaldson 1-0
Still a bit shocked Bernardo decided Ben can go first this time. It soons becomed apparent why Bernardo had to think long and hard about keeping his opening hand as he only managed to make 2 signets and a Skyknight Legionaire. Ben is curving nicely and forced Bernardo to trade his Legionaire with a Civic Wayfinder to buy him ome time.
After Bernardo drew about 5 lands and a Signet he finally played a good spell; a Moroii. Ironically he was on 2 life and Ben just simply turned all his man sideways.
Old beats new 2-0 and Ben Ronaldson advances to day 2. Bernardo has to hope for a miracle that there will be one player with a 5-2-1 record advancing to day 2.
Saturday, March 25: 9:20 pm - On the Bubble
Well we're going into the last round and this is where I sum up the state of play.
Last round action!
After a shaky start (he picked up a match loss for two deck registration errors and then an early draw) Olivier Ruel was facing elimination matches all the way. So of course he'll be returning to draft tomorrow.
Also facing elimination matches for most of the first day was South American Invitational slot winner Jose Barbero. At 0-2 Barbero pulled out the next three matches to come back tomorrow. One of his scalps was Julien Goron. Goron had managed back-to-back 2nd places from the past two Grand Prix, but he'll be sitting in the sidelines for tomorrow. Portuguese Pro and Honolulu semi-finalist Tiago Chan also pulled off a similar escape act, defeating last years runner-up at the English Nationals Mark Knight.
The pick of the bubble matches was between two players who have both held the moniker of best player never to make a PT top 8 at some point. Ben Ronaldson struck for old-school and knocked out Bernardo Da Costa Cabral in a feature match covered in more detail by Wessel Oomens.
It actually marked the end of a fairly good day for the British as one of the top Scottish players, Julian Jardine, overcame Finnish pro Antti Malin.
On the top table we actually had two Englishmen, Martin "four byes" Dingler vs Quentin Martin. Personally I'd have recommended them drawing. 8-0 and English, don't they know what happens afterwards on day two. Quentin had no fear of the curse and won out. Will he survive it tomorrow?
Saturday, March 25: 9:40 pm - 8-0 Decks
GP Cardiff 2006 8-0 deck day one
GP Cardiff 2006 8-0 deck day one