gpmal12

Grand Prix Malmo
Day 2 Coverage

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  • Round 10 Feature Match - Melissa DeTora vs. Andreas Ganz
    by Tobi Henke

  • Both players finished day 1 with only one loss, albeit one draw as well. Melissa DeTora from the U.S. had just drafted an aggressive white-red deck, whereas Swiss national champion Andreas Ganz brought a green-red midrange concoction to battle.

    Game 1

    Ganz won the die-roll, but DeTora started the actual action with Cathedral Sanctifier and Falkenrath Exterminator. Meanwhile, Ganz did nothing but play lands on his first three turns, notably two Forests and one Mountain. When DeTora attacked, Ganz natuarlly had the seemingly ubiquitous Wolfir Avenger and killed the Falkenrath Exterminator, but lost his Wolf to Righteous Blow as well. Post-combat DeTora summoned another Falkenrath Exterminator to replace its fallen comrade.

    Melissa DeTora

    Ganz cast Borderland Ranger and Guise of Fire to kill the new Exterminator too. DeTora was out of gas, just had another Cathedral Sanctifier, whereas Ganz made Druid's Familiar, paired it with Borderland Ranger, and started to get in for some damage of his own.

    Emancipation Angel for DeTora tried to block Druid's Familiar alongside one Cathedral Sanctifier, but was shot down by Thunderous Wrath. So DeTora had just lost all of her creatures except for one lonely Cathedral Sanctifier, whereas Ganz now controlled Druid's Familiar and Borderland Ranger, both 4/4, as well as a Hanweir Lancer. She put Call to Serve on the 1/1, cast Somberwald Vigilante, and Bladed Bracers, but despite all this she still didn't have any particularly good blocks. She basically traded off everything for Druid's Familiar, went to 1 life, then conceded when Ganz revealed Scalding Devil from his hand.

    Melissa DeTora 0-1 Andreas Ganz

    Game 2

    After one mulligan on each side, DeTora had a Falkenrath Exterminator on turn two, but that almost instantly died to Guise of Fire, and afterwards she got stuck on three Mountains with no Plains in sight.

    In the meantime Ganz had cast Gloomwidow and Raging Poltergeist, and when DeTora finally got a Plains all she could do with it was summon a Cathedral Sanctifier and a Thraben Valiant. This at least deterred the Raging Poltergiest from venturing any attacks, but not the Gloomwidow. Thraben Valiant blocked the 3/3 and was boosted up with Zealous Strike. Ganz had Terrifying Presence, though, and got a two-for-one trade instead.

    Once again DeTora was left with just one Cathedral Sanctifier on the battlefield. And lands, of course, the last of which happended to be Slayers' Stronghold That prompted Ganz to lay off the attacks for now.

    Andreas Ganz wins in 2 games.

    DeTora cast Midvast Protector and put Call to Serve on it, creating, at 3/5, a decent-sized blocker. Ganz immediately killed it with Thunderous Wrath and, now that Slayers' Stronghold was tapped, got in another attack with Gloomwidow, bringing DeTora down to 11.

    She put a Falkenrath Exterminator beside her Cathedral Sanctifier, only to lose both to Aggravate! In combat she went to 2 life. Neither her hand nor the top of her deck proffered any solutions, and that was the end.

    Melissa DeTora 0-2 Andreas Ganz




     

  • Sunday, 11:38 a.m. - Quick Beats
    by Tobi Henke

  • Magic players like to share bad beat stories. Walking around at a Grand Prix one simply can't help but overhear lots and lots of tales of woe and sorrow, though admittedly some of them are quite funny. Here is a tiny selection of the things that happened to a few rather unlucky players over the weekend so far, ten short stories, sorted from the more mundane to the more interesting.

    Don't let the same happen to you. For preference, try to be the opponent in these stories instead.

    10.) Boarding out all your Thunderbolts when playing against a red-green deck, then getting beaten by Archwing Dragon.

    9.) Having no answer when your opponent pairs Mist Raven with Deadeye Navigator.

    8.) Getting beaten senseless with Wild Defiance plus Blessings of Nature.

    7.) Watching helplessly as your opponent pairs Nightshade Peddler and Dread Slaver, then enchants the latter with Lightning Prowess.

    6.) Boosting up an already great creature with Angelic Armaments, so it's finally a legal target to be Eaten by Spiders.

    5.) Having your Bruna, Light of Alabaster stolen by Zealous Conscripts and then, during the attack, having your own Spectral Prison moved to Bruna.

    4.) Wondering why your opponent only played permanent cards in the first game, then watching him go to ten mana and cast Primal Surge.

    3.) Feeling relieved when your opponent discards Griselbrand to Mad Prophet, but feeling different about the following Defy Death.

    2.) Having your up-till-then useless Falkenrath Exterminator exiled by the Dark Impostor of an opponent who just so happens to have red mana available.

    1.) Struggling against the opponent's three pairs of soulbonded creatures, with Wolfir Silverheart among them, then watching in despair as he turns all of them into 12/12s via Infinite Reflection.




     

  • Round 11 Feature Match - Michael Bonde vs. Samuele Estratti
    by Tim Willoughby

  • The first words that Samuele Estratti said to me upon my enquiring look in his direction after the first draft of day 2 of GP Malmo were "I do not understand what was going on at that table."

    "My deck is quite horrible, but I don't really know why. The colours at this table were a little strange."

    Game 1

    His opponent, Michael Bonde was all smiles. The smiles continued as he saw a first turn Cathedral Sanctifier from Estratti.

    "Nice."

    Bonde shuffles up and is ready to play.

    "I told you, this is the worst deck ever!"

    This little exchange was made all the more interesting by the fact that Estratti's undefeated day one deck had included two copies of the little one drop that could.

    Estratti had a turn two Wandering Wolf to follow up, while the first play from Bonde was a Borderland Ranger, meaning that on turn four he could play a Falkenrath Exterminator in his naya coloured deck.

    When Trusted Forcemage made Wandering Wolf bigger, Bonde was forced to take some damage, and when Angel of Jubilation joined the team, that amount became a lot bigger.

    "That's not a bad deck, it's like my sealed deck!" exclaimed Bonde. He went down to 8 on Estratti's swings, before using a Thunderbolt in his turn to take down Jubilation Angel. A Kruin Striker followed, and immediately chump blocked the attacks coming from the other side of the table. Estratti added a Wildwood Geist to the board, and with Bonde on just 5 life, he was unable to mount a defence.

    Michael Bonde 0 – 1 Samuele Estratti

    "If you have a bad deck, you drew from the good end..."

    "Yeah, absolutely."

    It wasn't entirely clear if Estratti was playing mind games with his opponent, with talk of his bad deck. In game one there hadn't been much opportunity for Bonde to play differently, but there was still at least one game to go, and Pro Tour winner Estratti was happy to play his edges where he could.

    In game 2, Estratti led with Abundant Growth, and was soon drawing more cards by using Scroll of Avacyn. These drew him into a turn 3 Wandering Wolf, while Bonde's first play was Seraph of Dawn.

    The Seraph is Frank Karsten's pick for top common in the set for its ability to shut down aggressive starts like no other. In this case though it wasn't able to get that done so well, as Angel of Jubilation was able to pump Wandering Wolf and make it unblockable by the angel.

    Bonde had Cathars' Crusade on his turn, but was in rough shape, and chose to block Jubilation Angel with his angel. A Zealous Strike took it down, and while Bonde had a Midvast Protector, it didn't look to be enough to stop team Italy from rumbling in. Thunderbolt on Angel of Jubilation was stopped by Sheltering Word, which seemed likely to be the death knell for Bonde.

    All was not over though. Goldnight Redeemer was a welcome addition to the board, and brought him some much needed life. Estratti had Pathbreaker Wurm, and then Holy Justiciar, but was still unable to punch much through in the way of damage.

    Mad Prophet came from Bonde, with the goal of netting him the cards he needed to start getting stuck in.

    Bonde started to chuckle to himself, but it didn't seem that this meant he was out of the hole he was in. He cast Heirs of Stromkirk and passed. Estratti used a second Scroll of Avacyn to gain some life and draw another card. He tapped down Bonde's only flyer, and attacked to leave Bonde at just 2 life.

    Samule Estratti gets intense.

    Archangel came from Bonde, now with more flying blockers, and a team that was simply colossal thanks to Cathar's Crusade. Angelic Wall came from Estratti. At some point Bonde would start attacking, and even though Estratti was very high on life, it wouldn't take many swings to change that.

    The biggest issue was that just one swing from Estratti would be enough to end things. Bonde would have to pick his spot carefully, and find a way to deal with the Justiciar such that Estratti couldn't set up a big alpha strike.

    As much as Mad Prophet let Bonde dig, this was a race Samuele Estratti was set up to win – as soon as he had a clear creature numbers advantage on the board, Bonde saw the writing on the wall, and extended his hand.

    Samuele Estratti wins 2-0, going to 10-1




     

  • Sunday, 11:44 a.m. - Back in Black with Andre Mueller
    by Tim Willoughby

  • Andre Mueller has had quite a bit of success on the Pro Tour over the years. He has made top eight twice, going out in the quarter-finals in Philadelphia in 2005, and losing in the finals to Remi Fortier at Pro Tour Valencia.

    Andre Mueller during the draft

    While he has a recent Grand Prix top 8, Mueller was not qualified for Pro Tour Avacyn Restored last weekend, and had an uncharacteristic weekend off from Magic at the highest level. Some people might have rather enjoyed this little break. Not Andre.

    Keen to get back to the Pro Tour, he's here this weekend, playing well and gunning for the top spot. Having finished 8-1 on Saturday, he sat down at the top table to draft in day 2, ready to bring his best.

    Avacyn Restored draft is a challenging proposition, where there are some very powerful cards, but a few notable traps that can be fallen into. Not having adequate defence against the aggressive decks in the format can be a death knell, and two drops are often at a premium. Additionally, as the power levels within colours can vary fairly substantially, it is not a format where you typically want to be sharing colours with direct neighbours – as it hurts the quality of both your decks.

    With all this in mind, Mueller sat down and eyed up his opposition, which featured four players at 9-0 including Pro Tour Philadelphia champion Samuele Estratti.


    The first pack showed Andre the way. There was only ever one pick, and it was Dark Impostor. The vampire assassin, given a little time, would dominate most boards and as a source of re-usable removal was a clear winner. The slightly tricky issue with the pack was that the next best card was likely Evernight Shade, which also requires a heavy commitment to black. Mueller would have to hope that the mixed signals he was sending wouldn't cause trouble for him later.

    Pick two saw a pack with many green options, and a lone Undead Executioner for black. If he was going to defend his first pick, it was going to be by choosing Undead Executioner – far from a bad addition. Borderland Ranger and friends continued their way around the table, and two picks in, Andre had a groove going. The beats kept on coming as another Undead Executioner joined his pile for pick 3, followed shortly thereafter by Human Frailty. Crypt Creeper, Grave Exchange and Maalfeld Twins kept Mueller very clearly on point. The rewards for this would hopefully come in pack two, where those downstream of him in the draft would be unlikely to also be in black, meaning that he could scoop up some winners.

    The first non-black cards that Andre went for were Narstad Scrapper and Haunted Guardian; the latter a concession to the fact that two drop attackers can be a problem to deal with in this format. By the end of the first pack, there was no sign of Mueller moving out of his colour at all. This isn't quite the same as forcing a colour; Mueller fully intended to pick a second colour at some point, but wanted to establish a strong signal first, and only swerve into a second colour when there was something powerful enough to warrant it. That time had not yet come.

    The decision became a little forced at the start of pack 2. Both first and second picks for Mueller were white (Defang and Banishing Stroke), due to a baffling lack of anything in his colours. When the best card for him pick 3 was Ghoulflesh, Mueller had to think that some kind of fix was in. Then came pick 4. The iconic riff kicked in. Angus Hammond took a deep breath and launched into his incendiary vocal.

    Back in black!

    I hit the sack

    I've been too long, I'm glad to be back!

    That's what was going on in my head anyway. In reality, Mueller was looking at the option of his third Undead Executioner, or his first Bone Splinters. An embarrassment of riches after the preceding wasteland of black cards. The Bone Splinters was a welcome addition. Synergising well with the Executioners from pack 1, it would do good things for the German. While the second pack was not as dark as the first, it certainly helped Mueller fill out his curve a little, with a Driver of the Dead, and a few other reasonable inclusions to make sure he wasn't run over by an early rush.

    The final pack gave Andre an Evernight Shade to begin, and he picked up more Bone Splinters and a Barter in Blood to deepen the removal suite available to him. Andre never found himself in a position of needing to be heavily in a second colour, and the Evernight Shade would surely not mind hogging the mana.

    The final build that Mueller was rocking looked a fair contender for the format. Andre's goal was to stay in the first pod for the second draft, to have the best chance at making top 8, and in turn taking a step or two further, locking his slot up back on the Pro Tour.

    Here's how his final deck turned out;




     

  • Sunday, 12:05 p.m. - An Abundance of Riches
    by Tim Willoughby

  • Frank Karsten is not someone I normally consider to be a giggling child, but that is what Nico Bohny's deck has done to him. It is a thing of beauty that simply has to be shared with the world.

    Nico Bohny
    Grand Prix Malmo 2012 - Draft

    At the start of the day we knew that we wanted to talk about multi-colour green decks, which start with some powerful fixing in Borderland Ranger and Abundant Growth, and finish with powerful spells. We didn't realise quite how powerful a version of this we would see in the very first draft.

    Nico Bohny has a mana base that in spite of including four colours, is almost certainly more solid than most two colour decks can boast. With seventeen lands, five spells that incidentally draw a card, a few more that either search his deck (Borderland Ranger) or draw many cards (Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, Soul of the Harvest and Triumph of Ferocity), Nico has a deck that is terrifyingly consistent, and can present game ending threats.


    Angelic Wall works hard in this deck, buying time to set things up; and then the hits just keep coming in terms of knocking things down. Sigarda, Host of Herons is simply a big beefy game-winner, as is Craterhoof Behemoth (though even bigger and beefier). Some decks might not be able to manage the splash for Death Wind, but Nico functionally has seven black mana sources in his deck between Swamp, two Borderland Ranger and those four copies of Abundant Growth.

    Right now, Frank and I are suddenly very keen to draft indeed. Borderland Ranger and Abundant Growth might not seem like they should be top cards to draft around, but the powerful cards in this format are so powerful, that the flexibility of almost always being to pick them, regardless of colour, is just too tempting to ignore. I see this being a strategy that we will see plenty more of in the weeks to come, and Bohny seems to be having a ball playing his deck – it will be interesting to see if he tries 5 colour green again in the second draft of the day.




     

  • Sunday, 12:49 p.m. - Common Pick Orders for Avacyn Restored Draft
    by Frank Karsten

  • For a brand new Limited format like the one we are seeing in Malmo this weekend, I always find it very valuable to take a look at all the commons and rank them in order, from high to low. The reason for doing that is not to mindlessly follow that list and pick the highest-ranked card in each booster for the entire duration of the draft. That would be silly, as card valuations change continually as you pick more cards. Synergies and mana curve considerations obviously play a big role in making your draft picks.

    Nevertheless, a ranking can be a useful guideline for the first pick of the first pack. Furthermore, the process of building up a pick order list is a great way to structure your thoughts and to aid discussions about the overall quality of the various cards. After all, just saying "Mad Prophet is a good card" doesn't give a lot of useful information. But posing the question "Would you pick Mad Prophet over Wandering Wolf or Amass the Components?" puts things into a more concrete context that can spawn interesting discussions.

    This weekend, I've talked to Platinum-level pros Raphael Levy, Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa, and Shuuhei Nakamura to get their views on the common pick orders. Based on discussions with them and hearing about their experiences with certain cards, some of my own views on the quality of those cards changed a bit. But some disagreements remained. For example, Paulo Vitor would put Mist Raven as the best common, while I remain in awe of Seraph of Dawn. Some of us liked Mad Prophet better than others. And so on.

    But of course this disagreement illustrates the depth of the game -- the complexities and the fun of figuring out a new format are part of what makes Magic such an amazing game.

    Now, without further ado, let me give you my own pick orders (while I discussed it with others, what I'm showing here is solely my own opinion) of the top commons in Avacyn Restored. Feel free to discuss them with others! For reference, the idea is that if I would be presented with a booster containing Seraph of Dawn, Mist Raven, Trusted Forcemage, Death Wind, Pillar of Flame, Borderland Ranger, Gryff Vanguard, Wingcrafter, Timberland Guide, and no notheworthy uncommons or rares (which is in fact an incredible booster, as you'd be guaranteed to get a great card back on the wheel), then I would pick Seraph of Dawn. Take out the 2/4 flyer, and I'd pick Mist Raven. And so on.

    Happy drafting!

    Common Pick Orders

    (Left to Right and then Top to Bottom)
















     

  • Sunday, 1:25 p.m. - Staying Alone in Avacyn Restored Draft
    by Frank Karsten

  • One of the more interesting options in Avacyn Restored Limited is going for the "Loner" angle. The idea is to make sure you keep only one creature on the battlefield, which allows you to take advantage of enchantments that give you bonuses if you only control a single creature. Amongst the players who tried to go that route today is Jasper Bongaards, a Dutch player who has experience playing the Pro Tour and World Championships.

    I sat down with Jasper to get his thoughts on Loners as a draft strategy. "I first picked Terminus and then got Homicidal Seclusion as my second pick," Jasper began. "I consider it to be one of the best cards in the set, and I believe people are still undervaluing it. During the draft, black appeared to be open, and I even got another Homicidal Seclusion. Overall, I ended up with a great deck."

    When asked how his deck performed for him, Jasper explained that he went 2-1 with his deck. "I lost one round to Lone Revenant, as I was sitting with two Bone Splinters in my hand, unable to deal with it. But I won most of my games on the back of Homicidal Seclusion."

    For reference, this is Jasper's main deck.

    Jasper Bongaards B/W Loner
    Grand Prix Malmo 2012 - Draft

    "Well, Bone Splinters and Corpse Traders allow me to get rid of my own creatures if necessary, so I took those pretty highly in the draft," Jasper explained. "It is not necessary to go for a deck filled with all spells and only a few creatures if you have Homicidal Seclusion, as long as you play carefully. For example, if you see Homocidal Seclusion in your opening hand, you simply don't play any creature beyond the first one. And when your first creature dies, you make your opponent deal with the next, all one-at-a-time."

    Sounds like a sound strategy. Staying alone has never been so much fun, and I can't wait to try out to draft this type of deck the next time I get passed Homicidal Seclusion.

    Right now, Jasper is sitting at 9-2-1, and he needs to go 3-0 in his second draft to make the Top 8. While the previous Grand Prix Malmo (held in 2006) was a Dutch avalanche, with four Dutch players in the Top 8, we won't see a repeat of that today. But Jasper is the Dutch hope for this tournament. Can he draft another strong Loner deck in his second draft? Stay tuned to find out!




     

  • Round 13 Feature Match - There Will Be Blood: Michal Gajewski vs. Nico Bohny
    by Tim Willoughby

  • Nico Bohny walked into the feature match area looking fairly pleased with himself, and he had every reason to be. The Swiss pro's first draft of the day had been a very successful one, doing big things with rares of every colour, and a huge amount of mana fixing. That put him in good shape to make a run at top eight, assuming that his second draft gave him a winning record.

    Game 1

    While it was Gajewski on the play, it was Bohny with the first spell of the game in Butcher Ghoul, who was soon paired with Tandem Lookout to become a card drawing machine. The first play from Gajewski was Heirs of Stromkirk, which would potentially offer quite a clock, with intimidate functioning well against Bohny's deck.

    Bohny attacked with his team, and the heirs traded off with Tandem Lookout, cutting off Bohny's access to more cards. Bohny soon replaced the lookout with Latch Seeker. Gajewski had Marrow Bats with which to begin an offence, but was already on 14 life, and not presenting a particularly competitive clock. He tried to change this with a Maalfeld Twins, but Bohny had a strong plan for racing. A Ghoulflesh offed Marrow Bats, and Exquisite Blood would mean his Latch Seeker was a lifelinker on attacks.

    Thunderous Wrath from Gajewski killed off the Latch Seeker, but with just one creature to his opponent's team, he was still not in great shape. Wing Shaper came for Bohny, and paired up with Narstad Scrapper. A Gryff Vanguard soon followed, along with a second copy of Exquisite Blood, which was making the prospect of racing a miserable one.

    Michal Gajewski

    Marrow Bats from Gajewski would be little more than a brief road bump, as Gajewski did not have the life to regenerate his 4/1. The same could not be said of Bohny, who was able to send in his team with little fear. Harvester of Souls changed all that. Suddenly Bohny was not ready to swing in, as he couldn't get through the final points just yet, and he would be offering his opponent many extra cards.

    Instead, Bohny was content to bide his time, using the life buffer he'd built up. Gajewski capitalised with a board gradually filling with threats. Of note though was that very few of these flew. Once Into the Void had resolved, Gajewski did not have a single flyer, and that proved his downfall, as Bohny was able to swing for the final points.

    While it was not the card that killed Michal Gajewski, Exquisite Blood is certainly a card that Nico, known for sometimes having unconventional card valuations, leveraged for quite a substantial effect in this game. With his deck full of evasive creatures, it makes traditional racing a nightmare for opponents, justifying its slot, especially with the likes of Latch Seeker around. Certainly a card to watch out for in the future.

    Michal Gajewski 0 – 1 Nico Bohny

    Game 2

    For game two, Gajewski, whose red/black deck had not been firing on all cylinders until too late in game one, chose to play, but was forced to take a mulligan. That mulligan left Gajewski with two lands, but a little slow on finding the third. Meanwhile, Bohny was not doing a great deal himself, beyond casting a turn three Butcher Ghoul and getting stuck in.

    Gajewski found a spell he could cast, Crypt Creeper, but would probably have rather found a land. He looked on as Bohny cast a Gryff Vanguard, drawing further ahead. There was a Thunderbolt from Gajewski, but soon enough Bohny had a fine replacement in Mist Raven, and a Wingcrafter to join it. While the Wingcrafter died to Ghoulflesh, Gajewski was gradually dying to attacks from his opponent. On 14 life he found a third land and cast Vessel of Endless Rest. Would he now be able to get some traction in the match?

    Nico Bohny

    Gajewski recast his Crypt Creeper, but soon lost it to Ghoulflesh. In some respects he was lucky that Bohny appeared mana flooded, but that may well have come as cold comfort. A Demonic Taskmaster from Gajewski seemed a solid addition, but it never resolved with a Geist Snatch to stop it. Latch Seeker joined Bohny's team, and the Swiss pro had another Ghoulflesh ready when Marrow Bats came down from his opponent.

    In short order, Bohny had despatched another opponent, advancing now to 11-2 on the day.

    Nico Bohny wins 2-0!




     

  • Sunday, 3:21 p.m. - It's Lonely at the Top: A G/B take on Loner
    by Tim Willoughby

  • While Soulbond is a mechanic that has quickly gained a lot of traction in the Avacyn Restored limited format, there is a counterpoint to such a plan which can also be very powerful. It is not so much a keyword as a theme, and one that can take the right pilot a long way.

    'Loner' decks are most typically black, and sacrifice having a board chock full of creatures for having just one creature in play which is able to truly dominate the board. One of the hallmark cards of this sort of deck is Homicidal Seclusion. When you have many creatures on the battlefield, it does absolutely nothing. However, when you have exactly one, that creature goes from zero to hero, gaining lifelink and a hefty power boost.

    One of the tricky things with the loner deck though is that it won't always be playing lone wolf (or zombie or spirit). Sometimes it will just be playing like a normal deck, then want to get to the point that it is all in on one creature. That is where spells like Barter in Blood can really shine – suddenly shaping the board to the right position where you have one terrifying monster, and your opponent has something less exciting.

    The build that I rather liked came from Italian Matteo Versari, pushing for a top eight slot, Versari's loner deck is heavy on some of the power top end cards for loner, like Demonlord of Ashmouth and Homicidal Seclusion, but can also parlay its draws into something more regular, building up a squad with the likes of Moonsilver Spear and Maalfeld Twins. As such, opponents can be left in a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't position, which can be rough to come back from.

    Check out the list




     

  • Sunday, 3:44 p.m. - Looking at Some Draft Decks
    by Tobi Henke

  • Deck construction is a sweet time to take a peek at draft decks spread out on the table in all their glory (or lack thereof). When walking around while players were building their decks, three in particular made me take a second, closer look ... and this time I took pictures.

    Adrian Rosada's Draft Deck

    Grand Prix Paris 2009 champion Adrian Rosada had drafted this interesting red-green deck. A little light on noncreature spells perhaps, but his creature base really was solid. Among that were a whopping 15 Humans, including three Kessig Malcontents! Sifting through his deck with the help of two Mad Prophets and Soul of the Harvest, Rosada might be able to reliably cast more than one and kill opponents simply with the Malcontents' ability.

    Nicolai Herzog's Draft Deck

    Meanwhile, Hall of Famer Nicolai Herzog found himself with a curious problem. Notice the three copies of Barter in Blood here? Well, in some black decks this card is an amazing inclusion and a highly-prized early pick. But with his low curve of cheap and aggressive creatures, that wasn't quite as clear here. In the end, all three found their way into his maindeck, to interact with his three Butcher Ghouls, the Blood Artist, the Havengul Vampire, and others.

    Till Riffert's Draft Deck

    Up-and-coming German player Till Riffert is someone whose name you might want to remember. For Pro Tour Avacyn Restored he racked up so many PTQ Top 8s that he got a Sponsor's Exemption invitation from Wizards of the Coast, and for Pro Tour Return to Ravnica he already won a PTQ. While his performance here in Malmo wasn't quite as interesting, he did manage to draft a sweet blue-white deck, splashing red for Gisela, Blade of Goldnight and Bonfire of the Damned, pretty much the best splashes imaginable, along with the combo of Lightning Prowess and Galvanic Alchemist.




     

  • Round 14 Feature Match - Jon Westberg vs. Patrik Thor
    by Tobi Henke

  • We usually pick feature matches because they involve players who already are famous in the world of high-level tournament Magic. But as the Swisss rounds are drawing to a close, with the Top 8 looming on the horizon, it's time to shift our focus to some of the players who currently are in the process of possibly becoming famous. For example, by making their first GP Top 8. Jon Westberg and Patrik Thor, both from Sweden, are 11-2 so far, and might be able to clinch a Top 8 berth early by winning this round.

    Game 1

    Westberg started with Falkenrath Exterminator, which went unopposed because Thor was color-screwed on three Forests. The Vampire only got one counter though, before Thor drew a Mountain and shot it down with Pillar of Flame.

    Patrick Thor

    Westberg continued the beatdown, however, with Angel's Tomb, Goldnight Commander, and Moonlight Geist, while all Thor cast was a Flowering Lumberknot with no soulbound creature in sight and a Wandering Wolf. When Westberg cast Thatcher Revolt, Thor quickly picked up his cards.

    Jon Westberg 1-0 Patrik Thor

    Game 2

    This time, it was Thor who brought the early beats. Stonewright teamed-up with Wandering Wolf, making the latter extremely hard to block, if only Thor had enough red mana. He didn't, but simply killed Westberg's prospective blockers: Kessig Malcontents died to Pillar of Flame, Seraph of Dawn to Thunderbolt.

    Westberg tried to make a comeback with Voice of the Provinces, but in the meantime Thor had drawn some Mountains and was able to ride the Stonewright/Wandering Wolf combo to victory.

    Jon Westberg 1-1 Patrik Thor

    Game 3

    Thor once again had Wandering Wolf and also Tormentor's Trident to go along with it, but this time Westberg killed it right away with Righteous Blow. Meanwhile, he himself had cast Farbog Explorer and equipped it with Bladed Bracers. All Thor had left for the time being was a lonely Stonewright.

    Westberg cast Midvast Protector and continued to attack. However, now Thor had Heirs of Stromkirk and paired the evasion creature with Stonewright, so Westberg needed to keep up the pressure. And he did. He added Call to Serve to the Farbog Explorer that was already equipped with Bladed Bracers, resulting in a flying and vigilant 4/6 monster, and also added Angel's Tomb to his team.

    Jon Westberg

    Thunderbolt shot down Angel's Tomb when it turned into a creature because of a freshly-cast Haunted Guardian, but the 4/6 flier continued to beat down. Now that Westberg even had an artifact blocker to chump-block Heirs of Stromkirk, Thor simply couldn't race the flier.

    Jon Westberg 2-1 Patrik Thor




     

  • Sunday, 4:03 p.m. - Looking at More Draft Decks
    by Tobi Henke

  • Yesterday, my colleague Frank Karsten already wrote a piece about Infinite Reflection. As fate would have it, none other than Czech Platinum-level pro Lukas Jaklovsky drafted a deck that took full advantage of the two copies of the enchantment he got:

    With two each of Mist Raven, Alchemist's Apprentice, and Crippling Chill Jaklovsky could usually expect to be alive by the time he got to six mana. Sometimes that would even be the case on turn five thanks to Vessel of Endless Rest, and definitely on turn six thanks to all his card drawing and Borderland Ranger. Then there were any number of creatures he might want to enchant with Infinite Reflection: for example his two Mist Ravens or two Gryff Vanguards. Especially the second packs a punch, but more than that, all of them fly, and sending in all of one's creatures through the air can be a beating in and of itself. Still more though, both of these fliers have enter-the-battlefield abilities which would be shared by any creatures cast afterwards. And all of this is without even looking at the other side of the table: Obviously, Jaklovsky could always just pick the best creature his opponent controlled and enchant that with Infinite Reflection. Endless possibilities, infinite options ...

    Meanwhile, Belgium's Mark Dictus took a more straightforward approach. His black-red turned out to be one of the most aggressive decks I've seen so far. But it isn't lacking in combos, mostly based around Thatcher Revolt:

    Whether it's Blood Artist, Bloodflow Connoisseur, Riot Ringleader, or Vigilante Justice, Dictus could always find something to get additional value out of three hasty Humans. If his opponent wasn't dead when Dictus hit six mana, Thatcher Revolt could even boost Kessig Malcontents.




     

  • Sunday, 4:47 p.m. - Combo Spotlights
    by Frank Karsten

  • Avacyn Restored Limited features plenty of cards that are not impressive by themselves, but that suddenly become downright amazing when combined with certain other cards.

    There are various 2-card combos based on commons only. Flowering Lumberknot plus Diregraf Escort comes to mind. Another example is the soulbond team of Hanweir Lancer plus Nightshade Peddler. Or Ghostly Flicker plus Gryff Vanguard. And how about Thatcher Revolt and Kruin Striker? All of these work excellently when paired together. However, so far I've only talked about combos between common cards only, and as a result of that, the interactions are bound to come up quite frequently.

    Of course, there are also a lot of combolicious uncommons, rares, and mythics. As a result of the rarity, the combos in question will come up less frequently and, in addition, some of the combos are quite subtle. So let's go over a few of the 2-card combos available featuring at least one uncommon, rare, or mythic!

    Malignus plus Rush of Blood: Deal 20 damage to your opponent in a single attack.

    Wandering Wolf plus Stonewright: give massive power to your Wolf, making it unblockable.

    Mad Prophet plus Defy Death: Discard Avacyn, Angel of Hope or Gisela, Blade of Goldnight and get them down as early as turn 5!

    Havengul Vampire plus Call to Serve: Vampires, as we all know, like to fly over and taste the opponent's blood.

    Falkenrath Exterminator plus Timberland Guide: It is not always necessary to deal damage to your opponent first in order to start shooting down his board!

    Bone Splinters plus Dual Casting: When you copy a spell, you don’t have to pay the (additional) costs again. shooting down his board!

    Treacherous Pit-Dweller plus Treacherous Pit-Dweller: when the Undying creature comes back from the dead, you can flicker it with the enters-the-battlefield trigger on the stack, resetting it to a fresh 4/3!

    Conjurer’s Closet plus Mist Raven: your opponent might want to reach over the table and try to strangle you as his creatures are getting bounced. Every. Single. Turn.

    Of course, this is not the final, conclusive list – there are plenty of little combos, synergies, and interactions left to explore in the depths of Avacyn Restored Limited. Who knows what the Top 8 competitors might come up with later today?




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