Saturday, December 17: 10:31 a.m. - Round One Action
Sure, it doesn't *look* cold, but trust me.
Well it's damn cold here. Yesterday the judging team was wrapped up in parkas as they registered players and apparently it was snowing earlier this morning. I generally refuse to crawl out of bed until there's at least daylight and so I missed it. However, I did foolishly forget to put my coat on when I went outside to take an external shot of the venue. Thankfully I managed to get back inside before frostbite or rampaging polar bears finished me off.
Despite the large turnout about half of the players registered last night and so we managed to kick off here nice and early at around 10am. It was good to walk around the tables and see cards in play I haven't seen gracing tournaments for around 7 to 8 years.
If you look at the picture you might spot what looks like miniature suns floating around the venue. As part of the decorations there are a number of large helium balloons emblazoned with the Magic: the Gathering logo and lit up with a lamp. If anyone tries to steal these we'll probably spot them as they go sailing off into the stratosphere.
That's a lot of chipmunk voices waiting to happen.
Saturday, December 17: 11:42 a.m. - Traders like Legacy
Traders get festive!
If you're a trader then the Legacy format equals good times as it means you finally get a chance to get rid of those dusty old cards from the dim reaches of history. All three of the trade stands were doing brisk business both yesterday and at the start of the day. As I know very little about the Legacy format I wandered over to see which cards players had made a run on. Tormod's Crypt seems to be much in demand. Back in the day the graveyard was not as much of a resource as it is now and so this brutal hoser was probably thought to be fairly costed at all of 0 mana. Also selling well were Goblin Lackey's, Nimble Mongoose and Pyrokinesis as well as old favorites such as Mishra's Factory. The untargetability of Nimble Mongoose is much stronger in any format where Swords to Plowshares, possibly the strongest creature removal spell ever printed, is legal.
Saturday, December 17: 12:29 p.m. - Round 3: Frederic Courtois vs. Mats Clays
Frederic Cortois - and no he isn't shuffling between games
Three byes isn't as easy to come by as it used to be. A former World Champion, Tom van der Logt, is in action this round. I picked the match between Frederic Courtois, a solid French player who's been kicking around the GP circuit for a while, and a former Belgian National Champion, Mats Clays.
Clays is running the Black/White Pikula deck while Courtois is running … well I'll let you guys try and figure it out.
When I arrived at the table it looked like I might have missed the first game completely. Clays, playing second, had only managed to put a Cursed Scroll into play. On his second turn Courtois cast two Glimpse of Nature and then followed with two "free" creatures, Shield Sphere and Phyrexian, drawing 2 cards for each. The draws fizzled out and the Frenchman could do nothing more than cast Cabal Therapy off a Chrome Mox. He whiffed on Hymn to Tourach but Clays revealed a hand of triple Vindicate. The Belgian could only shake his head as the Therapy stripped them out on the return.
Despite having next to no hand Clays ended up winning without having to actually do anything as Courtois's combo deck completely suicided. He halved his life total with Cruel Bargain and then halved it again with Infernal Contract. He ended up missing completely and the mana burn from a Culling the Weak dropped him down to 1 life. Another fruitless draw step and the first game was given to a rather surprised Clays.
Clays 1-0 Courtois.
Courtois's deck imploded savagely in the second game as well although this time Clays got to help it along. A first turn Culling the Weak on an Ornithopter followed by Infernal Contract ended up with nothing more exciting than a Cabal Therapy on Dark Ritual (a miss).
Courtois only had one land and that was swiftly swallowed up in a Sinkhole. Courtois found a Chrome Mox only to fall foul of Clays's sideboard tech as Kataki came into play on turn 4. The Frenchman was pretty much permanentless and facing down a Nantuko Shade and Withered Wretch. He didn't take long to extend his hand.
I think the deck is supposed to generate mana with an assortment of varied Dark Rituals, draw cards with Infernal Contract, Cruel Bargain and Glimpse of Nature before finally killing with Tendrils of Agony. It can kill on turn one. Unfortunately, when a combo deck decides to bomb, it really does bomb.
Frederic Courtois's deck beats Frederic Courtois 2-0.
Saturday, December 17: 12:40 p.m. - Combined Country Breakdown
Saturday, December 17: 2:07 p.m. - Round 4: Sylvain Lauriol vs. Manuel Bevand
The magical round 4, when everyone has to start playing, and I picked a match between two old French warhorses. Sylvain Lauriol was the French National Champion a while back and Manual Bevand has had some intermittent successes over the years. Both of these players have a slight advantage in that they're old enough to have played with most of these cards the first time round.
Hmm, I thought Bevand would be playing something weird and wacky but it quickly became apparent he was running what looked like an old school draw-go deck. A turn one Nimble Mongoose was Force Spiked and then Bevand made a Powder Keg. I looked over at the other feature match table and wondered if I could run off over there without anyone noticing.
The Keg blew up a turn two Werebear and then both players cycled through their decks with a variety of cantrips. Nothing much exciting happened for a few turns. Occasionally an attempted Werebear would be met with counter-magic from Bevand. Other than that Lauriol's Threshold deck wasn't doing anything more exciting than cast a seemingly endless stream of Serum Visions. Bevand got some extra security down in the form of Nevinyrral's Disk.
The Disk was used to take down a Nimble Mongoose, but Bevand hadn't really hit the card drawing engine that Draw-go needs to stay ahead of its opponent. A second Accumulated Knowledge gave him some gas and he followed it up with another Powder Keg.
Lauriol meanwhile had accumulated a large grip of cards. With the Keg set to one, Bevand let down a Nimble Mongoose. It got interesting when he attempted to pop the Keg as Lauriol was waiting with Stifle. Bevand made sure the Mongoose stayed dead with Counterspell and still had a Forbid waiting for the Werebear that followed.
Bevand untapped and went for the jugular as a Morphling finally entered play with a Mana Leak to force it past Lauriol's Counterspell. Lauriol saw this as an opportunity to bust out a Fledgling Dragon. Bevand emptied his hand to Force of Will it only for Lauriol to Force back after finding it with Brainstorm.
Now the race was on between the two big fliers. Lauriol's baby dragon was now fully grown because of threshold and gave him a significant advantage. He used Counterspell on Bevand's Fact or Fiction to retain that advantage.
Bevand attacked and the scores stood at 8-5 in Bevand's favor. The Dragon was lethal now and so "superman" was called back and the resulting battle sent both monsters to the graveyard.
Lauriol's deck was still kicking. He followed up with Werebear. Bevand cast a third Accumulated Knowledge to try and find answers. Then he went for a main phase Fact or Fiction. The Werebear hit to knock him down to 4 but the digging had helped as a second Morphling appeared with a Powder Keg for backup. That was enough as the first "best finisher in Magic ever" took the game for Bevand.
Bevand 1-0 Lauriol
Lauriol got stuck with a one land hand. He got to resolve a Nimble Mongoose on turn 2 and used a Force of Will, pitching a second, to prevent a Powder Keg from answering it. Mental Note and Opt quickly turned the 'goose into a 3/3 beater.
Bevand attempted an Accumulated Knowledge only to run into another card from prehistory. Burnout (bet you can't remember what it does either) countered the Knowledge and netted Lauriol a card at the beginning of the next turn.
A second Knowledge was countered but then Bevand got to resolve some nasty sideboard tech of his own as Back to Basics entered play. Lauriol had a basic Island, but all his other land was relegated to "one use only". He tried to bust the deadly enchantment with Pyroblast, but Bevand was waiting with Force of Will.
Lauriol still had the Mongoose, but even that plan went down in flames as Bevand topdecked Morphling. Sometimes old school just works.
Manuel Bevand beats Sylvain Lauriol 2-0.
Saturday, December 17: 5:24 p.m. - Round 5 Roundup
Vasilis Fatouros, left, vs. Nicolas Labarre.
Round 5 is usually when hungry sideboard writer gets to eat after covering a mammoth round 4 feature match. But this was not good enough for Ruud Warmenhoven. Oh no.
The Dutchman didn't want to have a "fake" feature match. He wanted someone there covering it. Sideboard writer would have to go hungry oh yes.
Well, oh no, actually. But after I'd stuffed my face with Croque Monsieur (a toasted cheese and ham sandwich as far as I can work out) I followed both feature matches at a distance.
From the blue half Nicolas Labarre, another of the French dinosaurs, was paired against Vasilis Fatouros, an up-and-coming player from Greece. Labarre is running a threshold deck, a popular choice today, while Fatouros was armed with the other popular choice: Goblins.
Game 1 Fatouros wrecked Labarre's mana base with a combination of Wastelands and Ports. In Game 2 it looked like the Greek player had the game and match sewn up. He had Warchief, Siege-Gang Commander and a horde of goblins while Labarre was grimly holding on with a wall of four Nimble Mongoose at threshold. It seemed like it would be a matter of time before the goblins boiled over for the win. It wasn't to be though as a Ringleader netted only a Mogg Fanatic. Attempts to pick Labarre off with the Siege-Gang Commander were thwarted by a Fire. Labarre finally dropped a hammer blow as a Pyroclasm turned into a one-sided Wrath of God that wiped out Fatouros's goblin army and left the way clear for a lethal strike with the Mongoose army.
Pyroclasm put in a timely appearance in the second game as well as it took out a Lackey and Warchief just when Fatouros was shaping up to boil over. Counter-magic kept the Goblin threat to a minimum and Labarre was finally able to administer the coup-de-grace with two Nimble Mongoose and a Werebear. At threshold all were two big for Fatouros's little red men to handle.
Nicolas Labarre beats Vasilis Fatouros 2-1.
In the other match Ruud Warmenhoven was paired against Andre Mueller of Germany. Mueller made the top 8 at PT Philadelphia earlier this year. When I saw what Warmenhoven was playing I derided his choice of Affinity as boring. That deck is like a cockroach that refuses to go away. As I was covering from long range I couldn't really tell if Mueller was running some kind of threshold deck or a blue-green-white control deck.
Ruud Warmenhoven, left, vs. Andre Mueller.
Before boarding it looked like threshold as Warmenhoven's quick Frogmite start was stalled by a Mongoose at threshold. Eventually he found an Ornithopter and Ravager and was able to bust through.
The Affinity dragon has led a fairly charmed life in extended but now we're into real man's Magic and Mueller broke its back over his knee with an Energy Flux in Game 2. Warmenhoven came close to dribbling away Mueller's last few precious life points with a Disciple of the Vault, but then the little cleric ran into Wing Shards and that was game.
Game 3 and I came back to see a complex situation where Warmenhoven had a Mishra's Factory with around 7 +1/+1 counters on it but couldn't attack as he was fairly certain his opponent had Wing Shards. Mueller did have the Shards, but he couldn't do much either as he needed to keep the mana open. Eventually he looked to gain control with an Energy Flux and then Troll Ascetics. It came too late though, as Mueller ran out of time to finish Warmenhoven off, especially as he had to use a Swords to Plowshares on the monstrous Factory.
Ruud Warmenhoven 1-1 Andre Mueller.
Saturday, December 17: 7:13 p.m. - Round 6: Gabriel Nassif vs. Yann Hamon
Gabriel Nassif, left, vs. Yann Hamon.
After a long year of Magic Gabriel Nassif finally had to relinquish his Pro Player of Year title at Worlds a couple of weeks ago. Last year was fairly mixed for the French star. He finally got to win his first Pro Tour as Team Nova in Atlanta, but other than that he's been fairly muted. Yann Hamon is another long time French player who came back from a quiet period to storm some of the biggest Grand Prix in history. Since then he's gone quiet again.
I had some doubts about covering this match as Nassif is running a Solitary Confinement that only really wins if his opponent gets bored and decides to pack it in. If his deck kicks in we could be here for some time.
Nassif led off with Exploration to really accelerate his mana and then started going nuts with Life from the Loam. His dredging was not really obliging as all he got to return for a while was a single Windswept Heath.
I still wasn't really sure what Hamon was playing. His deck stalled on two land. A Therapy missed on Force of Will, but then a second picked out the two Intuition in Nassif's hand. A Chrome Mox provided a third mana source for Hamon and enabled him to use Thirst for Knowledge to discard some superfluous Ghastly Demise.
Nassif finally hit gold with his dredging as a Cephalid Coliseum, Secluded Steppe and then a Wasteland gave him plenty of options. The Wasteland added to Hamon's mana woes and chopped off an Underground Sea.
Hamon cast Living Wish and finally gave some clue to what he was playing as he fetched a Gamekeeper.
I wasn't sure how Hamon could come out of this. Nassif's deck was now in full swing. He was cycling lands, fetching them back and picking off Hamon's non-basic lands at will with Wasteland. Now all he needed to do was find some way of actually winning the game.
Hamon put out a City of Traitors to cast Intuition. It was a vain hope, Nassif's hand was brimming with power and Counterspell nipped that in the bud.
Nassif continued to dredge and cycle. He was down to about six cards but that didn't really matter as he had Solitary Confinement in play. He summoned the win condition they'd added that morning, Grave Shell Scarab.
Hamon cast Dark Ritual and went for the Gamekeeper. Inevitably he lost the counterspell war. The indestructible beetle came in again and Hamon was down to 8.
Hamon cast a Living Wish and went for a Stern Procter. That didn't make it into play either and finally Hamon decided he'd had enough.
Nassif 1-0 Hamon
Nassif's start was a little slower in the second game. A Tranquil thicket was his first land and once that untapped he couldn't really fully accelerate with Exploration as he only had two other land in his hand. One of them was a Wasteland and so Hamon was careful to keep his sac lands un sac'ed until absolutely necessary.
He finally popped them to Intution for Gamkeepers. Nassif immediately took out a land with his Wasteland. A Force of Will prevented it coming back through Life from the Loam and still kept enough mana open for Hamon to Intuition for Cabal Therapy. A Gamekeeper was sac'ed to a flashback Therapy and we finally got to see what Hamon's deck was doing as the Gamekeeper upgraded to a Cognivore. A couple of big hits later and it was onto a decider.
Nassif 1-1 Hamon
With just over ten minutes remaining the match went to a third game.
Nassif dropped a Life from the Loam into the graveyard on his second turn. A Duress netted a Brainstorm from his hand but then Nassif hit a Wasteland to keep Hamon stuck on only two land.
A Therapy took out Forbid before it became impossible to deal with and then Hamon used Living Wish to fetch Gamekeeper. Nassif could Wasteland one of Hamon's lands every turn, but he didn't have an Exploration and so consequentially couldn't develop his own mana base. If Hamon found a Dark Ritual or City of Traitors he might be able to drop the Gamekeeper and power out a Cognivore or other similar game ending monstrosity.
He didn't have it and suddenly the window looked like it was closing rapidly. Nassif cycled into an Exploration and dropped that and the other one he was hold in hand to suddenly accelerate from two to five land.
Hamon got down a Bayou and attempted to protect it from Wastelands by Force of Willing a Life from the Loam. The window just wouldn't open though as he couldn't find the fourth mana source for the Gamekeeper in hand. Life from the Loam fetched back Wasteland and the Bayou went to the 'yard.
Time was called and Hamon had just an island and Chrome Mox. He motioned to the score sheet to indicate he was ready to mark it as a draw. Nassif wouldn't have it. Had he brought something in from the sideboard that could win him the game in the next few turns?
Nassif considered his options before deciding he didn't have anything and the game ended in a draw.
Gabriel Nassif draws 1-1 with Yann Hamon.
Saturday, December 17: 7:13 p.m. - Round 8: Bas Postema vs. Raphael Levy
Bas Postema, left, vs. Raphael Levy
Well we're into elimination territory. Both Bas Postema and Raphael Levy have picked up two losses already. Another loss and their tournament life is over.
Postema won the all-important coin flip and led off with Mountain, AEther Vial. Levy couldn't allow that artifact to hit play and was on hand with a Force of Will. Levy cast Sleight of Hand in his turn. From what I've seen these threshold decks seem to play about a billion cantrips, four Nimble Mongoose and not a lot else. Postema went for a Piledriver and Levy didn't have or wasn't willing to use a second Force of Will. The ubiquitous Mongoose entered play as a puny 1/1 and then Levy used Daze to keep a Goblin Matron from hitting the table.
A Swords to Ploughshares kept Postema's side empty. Postema replied back with a Prospector and then cycled an Incinerator to take down a Werebear.
Levy then showed how prepared he was for this matchup as the protection from red Galina's Knight entered play. This picked up a "nice" from Postema although I'm sure what he really meant is probably unprintable on our nice family-friendly site.
A Matron found a Warchief, which was immediately targeted with a second Swords. The game then headed into that quirky standoff where Goblins tries to find a route around untargettable defences before the threshold deck finds a big fatty to end the game.
Levy increased his defences with a second Knight while Postema started to boil up against the wall with a Goblin Ringleader. A Force of Will on a Warchief kept the goblin forces simmering below danger level for the moment. A second Ringleader looked ominous, but found only a second Piledriver. This could at least find a way through the Nimble Mongoose, but a Counterspell kept it from resolving.
Meanwhile Levy was sitting dejectedly on three land with one of those aforementioned fatties, a Mystic Enforcer, in hand. A Wasteland tightened the screw and then a second Piledriver finally entered play. Postema followed it with a Goblin Pyromancer and Levy scooped just as the Goblins finally boiled over his defences. He showed the two Mystic Enforcer that had been sitting in his hand.
Postema 1-0 Levy.
Facing down a pro-red knight does not make good times.
Time to hit the sideboards and those brutal hosers R & D won't let us play with any more. Although to be fair, I for one am very glad not to be seeing Chill and other such nastiness floating around in the extended or standard formats (I wouldn't mind seeing Shatterstorm in Extended again though).
Postema mulliganed to 6 but this time he got his AEther Vial to resolve. That's not really the card Levy wants to see as it completely invalidates all his counter-magic. He cast Brainstorm to find a Force and missed. The Vial was in play. Postema followed up with a second. He only had a mountain but who needs land when you have two AEther Vial in play.
"This deck is so complicated," Levy said on his turn. He cast Serum Visions and then used a Windswept Heath to dig out a Tropical Island to cast Galina's Knight. It was a good time to see it as Postema Vialed out Goblin Lackey at end of turn.
Postema Vialed out Warchief and Piledriver but Levy was looking more like the aggro player with a Werebear and Mongoose, both at threshold. Feeling the need to get going Postema tried to cast Ringleader, only to run into Daze.
When Levy dropped Mystic Enforcer it looked like this game was over for the Dutchman.
It got far worse on the next turn when Levy powered out a second Enforcer and third (!) Nimble Mongoose.
Okay so maybe these threshold decks are a bit more than a billion cantrip spells and four Nimble Mongoose.
Postema 1-1 Levy
Well, one game to decide who stays in the tournament. Most importantly, Postema got to lead off. He didn't seem too chuffed with his hand and thought for a while before keeping.
"You're slow-rolling me," Levy said.
But it seemed like it was a thinker as Postema passed turn one without playing either Lackey or Vial. The rest of his hand must be pretty good to not ship those cards back considering how important turn one is in this format.
Eugene Levy examines his choices.
I looked at it and it seemed a bit shifty, but he did have a Wasteland and two Ports. His intention seemed to be to try and screw out Levy's mana base as the threshold deck does tend to cheat on land. Levy had land though and was able to ride through the Wasteland and drop a Galina's Knight on turn 3. Postema got to resolve a Goblin Warchief, but a Swords to Ploughshares ensured it's stay on the table was fleeting.
When Levy used Hydroblast to counter a Matron Postema looked to be in real trouble. The remaining goblins in his hand were Sharpshooter, Pyromancer and Siege-Gang Commander. That's a fairly clumsy hand with which to try and fight against a threshold deck.
Levy showed him exactly how clumsy when the Commander was countered with Daze. The Frenchman (currently relocated to Sweden) smashed face with the Knight and a 4/4 Werebear. Another 4/4 Werebear and an untargetable 3/3 Nimble Mongoose and Postema's lone Sharpshooter wasn't really going to cut it.
Raphael Levy beats Bas Postema 2-1 and keeps his tournament hopes alive.
Saturday, December 17: 8:41 p.m. - Round 9 Roundup
Don't let the table number fool you - these are the top tables from the blue.
Well, we're just entering the last round of day one and the top tables of both "green" and "blue" are engulfed in a sea of Goblins and Threshold decks. There's a few Pikula style black decks and some rogues like Affinity and the odd control deck, but by and large if you wanted to make day two of Lille then you came with Goblins or Threshold. Legacy is definitely the land of Nimble Mongoose and Goblin Lackey.
Of interest is the amount of variation present in the threshold decks. The core appears to be Nimble Mongoose, Werebear, Force of Will and more Cantrips than a Battle of Wits deck (actually that might not be possible but I have seen an awful lot of Serum Visions, Opts and Brainstorms cast today). Beyond that core there seems to be a lot of variation. Some players are running white for cards like Meddling Mage, Galina's Knight and the non-dragon dragon Mystic Enforcer. Others are running red for cards like Fire/Ice, Lightning Bolt and Fledgling Dragon.
Saturday, December 17: 9:00 p.m. - Round 9 Feature Matches
Marco Prete, left, vs. Nicolas Labarre
Hi, this is Craig2. While Craig1 is taking pictures and looking at the top tables I'm covering both of the feature matches. The feature matches this round are between players hoping to run out day one with perfect 9-0 records.
On the top table of "blue" Nicolas Labarre faced off against Marco Prete of Italy. Somehow Prete had managed to dance through a nightmare field packed with aggro-control to get to 8-0 with a Charbelcher combo deck. However his luck ran out against Labarre's threshold deck. Prete went for it on turn two. He took 16 damage from a Spoils of the Vault and then fizzled and mana burned for two more. Labarre simply Fired him in his turn to score a turn two kill.
Game 2 was closer. Labarre Force of Willed a Land Grant and then Prete had a choice of putting hand disruption or mana acceleration under a Chrome Mox. He chucked a Ritual and then took Labarre's hand to pieces with discard. This gave him a window to cast Goblin Charbelcher but he failed to find the mana to do it before Labarre replenished his hand with cantrips and battered his opponent with a Nimble Mongoose.
Nicolas Labarre beats Marco Prete 2-0 and goes 9-0.
The other feature match saw two German players in action. I was very surprised to walk over and see an Isochron Sceptre in play. On the other side of the table an Eternal Dragon was in the graveyard. What was going on here?
Alexander Rikeit, left, vs. Martin Brenner
It wasn't as surprising as it first looked. Martin Brenner was running red-white Slide while his opponent, Alexander Rikeit, was actually playing Threshold, despite having an Isochron Sceptre in play with a Fire/Ice. I came back later to see the usual suspects of Nimble Mongoose (that little guy gets every where) and Werebear on the table.
Unfortunately for Rikeit, Brenner had Humility (formerly known as "the judge's biggest headache, ever") in hand. Once that hit play backed up with a massive cycled Decree the first game went to Brenner.
The second game was decided by Brenner pushing through a Boil with the help of Pyroblast. He then cycled Decree of Justice for 6 soldiers with the support of three Swords to Ploughshares in hand. With one land, and 0 Nimble Mongoose Rikeit had no way of holding back the army.
Martin Brenner beats Alexander Rikeit 2-0 and goes 9-0.