Sunday, December 18: 8:31 p.m. - Quarterfinals: Maximilian Bracht vs. Nicolas Labarre
The quarterfinals bear pit.
Okay, so because we're critically short of both laptops and reporters it looks like it's just me for the quarters. Rather than just concentrate on one I'm going to try and float between the other matches so we at least have a record of what happened. My brain might melt, but fortunately I've got a very good judging team to bale me out and maybe mop up cranial matter off the floor if they have to.
The match I'm going to pay the most attention to is between Maximilian Bracht and Nicolas Labarre. Bracht is a young German player worth keeping an eye on while Labarre was making PT top 8's way back in 1999. Bracht as one of the more interesting decks in the top 8 as it's a combo deck that uses Gamekeeper to fetch Auriok Salvagers. The Salvagers generate infinite mana with Lion's Eye Diamond and then that infinite mana is used to draw the deck through the use of Chromatic Sphere before killing an opponent with infinite Pyrite Spellbomb recursion.
The start of the quarter-final was delayed as an error was noticed on Labarre's deck registration street. It was ruled as a clerical error in the translation from French to English and Labarre escaped with just a warning.
When the game finally began Bracht opened with a Cabal Therapy and plucked a Counterspell from Labarre's hand. He cycled a Pyrite Spellbomb and dropped a Lion's Eye Diamond. Meanwhile Labarre cast Serum Visions and then started his clock with Quirion Dryad. The Frenchman was stuck on two land and used Ice in Bracht's upkeep to shut down a forest, growing the Dryad in the process.
Bracht had a second Cabal Therapy and a second Lion's Eye Diamond. He checked the way was clear with the Therapy and then cast Living Wish, sacrificing both Lion's Eye Diamonds. The Wish fetched Auriok Salvagers and Bracht was able to generate infinite mana with the Diamonds and kill Labarre with Spellbomb recursion.
Bracht 1-0 Labarre
In the second game Labarre failed to find the turn one Mongoose again and went for a Quirion Dryad on turn two. Bracht took the opportunity of Labarre being tapped out to Ritual out Tsunami to wreck Labarre's mana. Fortunately for the Frenchman he appeared to be a little mana glutted and was able to recover enough to Counterspell the Gamekeeper Bracht fetched from his sideboard.
A Mental Note and the Dryad was now at 3/3. It was joined by a Werebear to put Bracht under a very quick clock. Labarre was again tapped out and this time Bracht successfully managed to resolve a Gamekeeper. He also had the Lion's Eye Diamond but he didn't have the Therapy to sacrifice the Gamekeeper. For the moment it would suffice as a virtual Moat.
Labarre was having none of that and tapped it with Ice before crashing in for eight damage. Bracht drew a Pyrite Spellbomb and considered his options. He could sacrifice the Lions Eye Diamond, losing the Tsunami in his hand, and use the red mana to kill his own Gamekeeper and then get the combo rolling with a Savannah providing he hit Salvagers and providing Labarre had no disruption. Instead Bracht burnt the card and scooped when he didn't draw anything. At first I thought I must have missed something or misunderstood how the deck worked but Bracht admitted after the match he just hadn't seen it. I imagine he'd been solely focused on trying to find Cabal Therapy.
Bracht 1-1 Labarre
Maximilian Bracht, left, vs. Nicolas Labarre
In the deciding game Bracht mulliganed to five. Coming back would be tough although his five card hand was pretty solid. He had three land, a Tainted Pact and an Innocent Blood on hand to deal with Labarre's first creature. He drew into Gamekeeper and then used Tainted Pact to find a Night's Whisper. It seemed like he might recover fine from the double mulligan.
For the third time in a row Labarre had failed to make a Nimble Mongoose on turn one. However, for the third time he made a Quirion Dryad on turn two. He followed it up with a Nimble Mongoose as Bracht cast Night's Whisper and then dropped a Lion's Eye Diamond onto the table. With Gamekeeper and Innocent Blood in hand he was almost all set up. Assuming Labarre had no counter-magic of course. I didn't fancy Bracht's odds.
He cast Dark Ritual to avoid Daze and then went for Gamekeeper. Surprisingly it resolved. Bracht went for the Innocent Blood and Labarre responded with a lovely bit of play that used Submerge to bounce the Gamekeeper to the top of Bracht's library. Bracht was able to replay the Gamekeeper but was unable to find a way to sacrifice it before Labarre bashed him with his Dryad and another Mongoose
Nicolas Labarre beats Maximilian Bracht 2-1.
Sunday, December 18: 8:48 p.m. - Quarterfinals: Nicolas Francois vs. Helmut Summersberger
Nicolas Francois, left, vs. Helmut Summersberger
Nicolas Francois managed to sneak into the top 8 as the only player with three losses. By contrast Helmut Summersberger led the tournament for much of the way and was comfortable into the top 8 with rounds to spare. Summersberger is running the Threshold deck that has dominated this tournament in various forms while Francois has a deck that is somewhere between Landstill and blue-white control.
The first game was an anticlimax as Francois couldn't get past land number two. A Standstill was Forced and Summersberger compounded the French player's misery with a Meddling Mage set to Brainstorm. A Werebear and Nimble Mongoose at threshold swiftly administered last rites.
Summersberger 1-0 Francois
Game 2 saw a savage land destruction start as Summersberger demolished Francois's mana base with three successive Wastelands. Francois tried to pull back but eventually a Counterspell stopped his morphed Exalted Angel from entering play while Werebear finished him off.
Helmut Summersberger beats Nicolas Francois 2-0
Sunday, December 18: 8:57 p.m. - Quarterfinals: Luca Verdiani vs. Loïc Le Briand
Despite Goblins popularity Loïc Le Briand was the only player to take the little red men into the top 8. His opponent, Luca Verdiani of Italy is playing a much more unconventional Survival of the Fittest deck.
Game 1 was all about managing the Goblin offensive and preventing it from boiling over. A turn one Llanowar Elf provided an answer to Goblin Lackey and Therapy ripped out War-Chief from Le Briand's hand. Verdiani was able to prevent Le Briand from building up enough pressure. A Ravenous Baloth appeared to discourage any attacking. A Bone-Shredder took down a Ringleader to keep the Goblin Numbers down and Verdiani finally put a nail in the coffin with a Triskelion.
Verdiani 1-0 Le Briand
Loic Le Briand
In Game 2 Verdiani was again able to successfully manage Le Briand's Goblins. An early Sphere of Law completely nullified the Goblin army and left Verdiani free to take control of the board position with a Sword of Fire and Ice on a Bird of Paradise.
Le Briand had found two Pithing Needles and was able to lock down both Survival and Perncious Deed. But they weren't really relevant and eventually Verdiani Putrefied the Needle on survival and used the powerful enchantment to fetch a Triskelion for the win.
Luca Verdiani beats Loïc Le Briand 2-0.
Sunday, December 18: 9:14 p.m. - Quarterfinals: Daniel Krutil vs. Martin Johannes Brenner
Okay so I couldn't do all of the quarters. This one was typed up by table judge Eelco van Ruth after I ran off and cowered in a little ball behind the trade stands.
By Eelco van Ruth
Daniel Krutil, left, vs. Martin Johannes Brenner
The first game is decided pretty fast as Daniel quickly develops his board into Werebear, Werebear, Galina's Knight and Nimble Mongoose with the help of 3 Serum Visions in turns 1 to 3.
Martin tries to keep up with cycling a Renewed Faith and a Swords to Plowshares, but the extra life gained is not sufficient and the Swords gets Force of Will'ed.
At 9 life a Decree of Justice holds off the army for one more turn, but the Akroma's Vengeance Martin tries later is countered, again with Force of Will.
Krutil 1-0 Brenner
Game 2 is a little more exciting because Daniel's threats are kept at bay with Pyroclasms, Swords to Plowshares, Akroma's Vengeance and a hard-casted Slice and Dice. Martin seems in control of the match in turn 13 when he tries an Eternal Dragon with 1 mana open, but Daniel has two Dazes for the 5/5 flier.
A blatant topdeck for Daniel in his own turn 13 means a major setback for Martin: Armageddon. Recurring Dragons seem far away now and when a Mystic Enforcer enters play with Martin on 12 life, the clock starts ticking…
The Enforcer puts Martin to 6, but a topdeck from Martin gets him Humility; the curse for judges this weekend. Luckily for both judges involved and Daniel the only 2 cards in hand for the owner of the Mystic Enforcer are a random blue card and a Force of Will.
The 6\6 flier ends the match in turn 20 of game 2. The Armageddon for Daniel may very well be the MVP in this match.
Daniel Krutil beats Martin Brenner 2-0
Sunday, December 18: 9:47 p.m. - Semifinals: Nicolas Labarre vs. Daniel Krutil
Okay so I'm covering both semi-finals and taking the pictures. Some might find this a little troublesome.
Daniel Krutil, left, vs. Nicolas Lebarre
This is a Threshold mirror (it had to happen - there are three in the top 4) between the experienced French player Nicolas Labarre and Daniel Krutil. This is Krutil's first top 8 but he's come as close as 9th before.
When I looked over at this game after the end of the first game in the other semi Krutil appeared to be in trouble. He'd managed to Swords a Dryad before it got dangerous but his basic problem was that Labarre had Threshold and he didn't. This meant his Mongoose and Werebear were significantly worse than his opponents'. He was forced to chump with a Galina's Knight to try and get the magical seven cards in his graveyard. The game then did a complete 360 as Krutil managed to resolve his main deck Worship. He already had a Mongoose in play and as Labarre had no way of removing either he had to concede because eventually he'd run out of cards first.
Krutil 1-0 Labarre
In Game 2 Krutil stuck on three land and tried to take his Mongoose to threshold the hard way by discarding at the end of each turn. Labarre took the better route and started winning the race. A submerge made sure he stayed in front.
Krutil 1-1 Labarre
After the other Semi had finished I caught the end of Game 3 and it looked like Krutil was again in a bad way. His sole Mongoose was slightly out-classed by the two on Labarre's side. But again the Worship showed up and Labarre had to scoop as he had no way in either main or board of dealing with the Worship/untargettable monster combo.
Daniel Krutil beats Nicolas Labarre 2-1.
Sunday, December 18: 10:22 p.m. - Semifinals: Helmut Summersberger vs. Luca Verdiani
Luca Verdiani of Italy is the only remaining amateur in the format. He's also the only player left not playing the Threshold deck. Instead he's playing a Survival of the Fittest deck that looks also looks a little like Rock. So far he's been munching through Threshold decks just fine, which might spell problems for his opponent Helmut Summersberger.
Luca Verdiani, left, vs. Helmut Summersberger
Verdiani's first turn Birds of Paradise was swiftly sent on its way with a Fire. A Cabal Therapy on Force of Will missed, but did reveal a Daze. Verdiani continued to pick at Summersberger's hand with Therapies and Duress, but it was the board state that was more of a concern as Summersberger was beating down with a Meddling Mage (set on Swords to Ploughshares) and then a Nimble Mongoose.
After losing two Birds Verdiani was a little screwed for mana. He had to go for a Viridian Shaman as a blocker even though he knew Summersberger was waiting with Daze. Still stuck on three land he then attempted Eternal Witness. Summersberger was waiting with a second Daze. The Austrian attacked again for five and then finished off his hapless opponent with a Lightning Bolt.
Summersberger 1-0 Verdiani.
Hostilities commenced early. A Duress plucked a Force of Will and Summersberger returned fire with a Lightning Bolt on a Bird of Paradise. No screw this time as Verdiani summoned a second bird.
Summersberger aimed to cause problems for Verdiani. He summoned a Meddling Mage and set it to Swords to Ploughshares and then followed up with a Pithing Needle to shut down Survival of the Fittest. A Wall of Roots at least would slow down the damage from the Mage and at least give Verdiani some time to find answers to Summersberger's niggling threats.
Ice kept the Wall out of blocking commission and then the Italian player was very irritated when Summersberger countered first a Solemn Simulacrum and then a Ravenous Baloth. He finally got a Triskelion to stick although its only role was to kill the Meddling Mage in response to it being Naturalized.
The game had sort of got to an even state except Verdiani suddenly seemed to have hit a massive glut of land. Summersberger was clearly coming out the better. The Wall of Roots held off a Nimble Mongoose for a while, but the Summersberger finished it off with a Lightning Bolt. Verdiani continued to draw land. A Pithing Needle gave the Austrian insurance against a topdecked Pernicious Deed. He then laid a second Meddling Mage and set it to Cabal Therapy to protect the counter-magic in his hand. When Verdiani finally found a non-land spell Summersberger was waiting with yet another Counterspell.
Helmut Summersberger beats Luca Verdiani 2-0.
Sunday, December 18: 11:19 p.m. - Finals: Daniel Krutil vs. Helmut Summersberger
Hurrah, finally we're down to the point where I only have to cover one match at a time. This is it, the last match to decide the winner of Grand Prix Lille. Fortress France has taken a beating as the final is being fought out between an Austrian, Helmut Summersberger, and the up and coming Czech player Daniel Krutil.
The stage was set. There could be only one.
It's a Threshold mirror match so you'd better turn away animal lovers as some furs going to fly in the red zone as little furry animals (and big furry Werebears) are going to be ripping chunks out of each other. Krutil is splashing white and his main deck Worships served him very well in the semi's. Summersberger's Threshold deck is looking for the best of both worlds as he's splashing both red and white.
Game 1 failed to see any early Mongoose on Mongoose action, which I'm sure will be a disappointment to all of you small furry animal fetishists out there. Instead it was Summersberger who got the early offence in with a Meddling Mage set on Swords to Ploughshares. He followed it with a second. This one wasn't going to allow any Galina's Knights to enter play.
Krutil finally found a Mongoose but was a long way from Threshold with only a few cards in the graveyard. So at the moment his Mongoose was small, furry and rather harmless to Summersberger's Mages. Any moment though and it might suddenly turn into a savage throat-ripping beast.
Not quite yet though. Krutil added a Werebear but was still a card off threshold. Summersberger still held a slight advantage with his two 2/2's but that would change the moment another card entered Krutil's graveyard. Summersberger tried to force the issue with a Lightning Bolt only for Krutil to sort of counter it with a Daze. Summersberger could pay, but it didn't matter as now the Werebear was a fully fledged 4/4 monster and could shrug off Lightning Bolts as a slight bit of static.
Krutil went for a second Werebear in his turn. Summersberger had a Counterspell for that. He also had a Force of Will for the Nimble Mongoose that followed, but Krutil wanted his savage furry beater to resolve and Forced back. The game was slipping from Summersberger at this point. He'd found none of his threshold monsters and his 2/2's were now considerable smaller than Krutil's 3/3's and 4/4. A gang block with the Mages took down one of the Mongooses, but this freed up the Swords in Krutil's hand to take out the other.
Summersberger finally found his threshold monsters much too late. A Nimble Mongoose had to throw itself in the way of a Werebear and when his own Werebear showed up it wasn't enough as the Mongoose could still get through.
Krutil 1-0 Summersberger.
The format's signature card was again absent on the first turns and it was Summersberger who again summoned the first creature as a Meddling Mage appeared with a ban on Swords of Ploughshares. No farmers allowed to this bloodbath!
Summersberger tried to follow with a Werebear, but a Force of Will said no to that. Krutil got to resolve his own bear and Summersberger doubled his offence with a Meddling Mage on Galina's Knight. However neither Mage was 4/4 and Krutil's Werebear was as he had the magical seven cards in his graveyard. A Pithing Needle on Tormod's Crypt meant they'd be staying there as well.
Krutil summoned his own Meddling Mage and then tried to think of a card. He came up with Red Elemental Blast as a safe bet. I think he'd have like one of those himself at the moment. He had three Sword to Ploughshares in his hand and couldn't cast any because of the annoying Mage.
Summersberger found a Werebear of his own and the red zone ended up being splattered with blood as the two bears ripped each other apart. And there was me thinking bear baiting was illegal.
Fire took down Krutil's sole Mage and now the Austrian was firmly in control. He countered first a Serum Visions and then had a second Counterspell to stop a Nimble Mongoose as Krutil succumbed to quick Mage beats.
Afterwards the Czech player showed the four Swords to Ploughshares he'd unfortunately drawn.
Krutil 1-1 Summersberger.
Summersberger had to mulligan for the deciding game, but it obviously wasn't good enough as he quickly found himself deficient in the Mongoose corps department. Krutil came racing out as he followed with a second turn Werebear. This could be fairly brutal. Providing Krutil actually managed to get seven cards in his graveyard of course. His two damage a turn wasn't exactly awe-inspiring at the moment.
The Austrian player was either feigning mana screw or wanted better options as to which land to lay as he allowed Krutil to blow a Daze on a main phase Brainstorm. His deck really wasn't doing anything exciting as he cast a second Serum Visions and failed to find a third land. He did manage to take down the Werebear with Fire before it mutated into a monster. A Tormod's Crypt meant Krutil would have to work for Threshold again, is he ever reached it the first time round. Summersberger could really do with some men at this point. Sometimes the Threshold deck flattens players with fast efficient monsters back up with counter-magic. Other times it just faffs about casting cantrips.
Krutil hit four land and went for the jugular with a Mystic Enforcer. Summersberger Dazed. Krutil Forced back, pitching a Predict. Summersberger Dazed again.
Sensing he'd exhausted his opponent's defences Summersberger finally started to make his move. He came out slugging with Nimble Mongoose and a Werebear. With the threat of Tormod's Crypt to take away threshold at any moment Krutil couldn't safely block. It looked very bad for the Czech player.
A Brainstom hit gas for Krutil though. He found a Stifle and a Force of Will to protect it. He could at least deal with the Mongoose. But there was still the Werebear to deal with and that was a problem he never found an answer to.
Helmut Summersberger beats Daniel Krutil 2-1 and is champion of Grand Prix Lille.