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Sommen Rides Knights to Victory

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Grand Prix Amsterdam has closed, with 1,878 players whittled down to just one – Pierre Sommen of France!

The Legacy format has delivered another knockout Grand Prix, with a huge variety of decks on display, from creatureless combo decks like Ad Nauseum that abused all the most powerful mana producing cards in Magic history to Dredge decks that couldn't generate a single point of mana at all! In between there was every flavour of deck you could imagine, and many of Magic's greatest hits on display such as Counterbalance, Brainstorm, Hive Mind, Intuition, Hymn to Tourach and of course the ever-present Force of Will.

As well as the cards of Magic past there has been plenty of room for cards of Magic present here in Amsterdam, with Snapcaster Mage and Delver of Secrets leading the charge of Innistrad cards into the Legacy format, ably supported by Past in Flames, Purify The Grave, and even the odd appearance of a Sundial of the Infinite.

In a Top 8 packed by Legacy specialists, Pierre Sommen scrapped his way through three tense matches to emerge as a deserving (if exhausted) champion. The Frenchman's "BatterskullBant" aggro deck simply proved too much for Ciro Bonaventura's Canadian Threshold deck in the final, and before that Sommen had come from the very brink of defeat to edge past Christof Kovacs' Hive Mind combo in his semi-final, and Fabian Gorzgen in a mammoth quarter final. This Frenchman earned his trophy in a gruelling Top 8.

Grand Prix Amsterdam marks the end of the 2011 Grand Prix calendar in Europe, and the focus shifts to Japan and Grand Prix Hiroshima and the latest standard environment, but even before then you should skip over to catch the Top 8 of what is sure to be a thrilling Grand Prix in Santiago.




Quarterfinals   Semifinals   Finals   Champion
1 Görzgen, Fabian   Pierre Sommen, 2-1        
8 Sommen, Pierre   Pierre Sommen, 2-1
       
4 Pavesi, Paolo   Christof Kovacs, 2-0   Pierre Sommen, 2-1
5 Kovacs, Christof    
       
2 Pasek, Maciej   Ciro Bonaventura, 2-1
7 Bonaventura, Ciro   Ciro Bonaventura, 2-1
       
3 Grymer, Kim   Elie Pichon, 2-0
6 Pichon, Elie    

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EVENT COVERAGE TWITTER

INFORMATION
  1.   Pierre Sommen $3,500
  2.   Ciro Bonaventura $2,300
  3.   Elie Pichon $1,500
  4.   Christof Kovacs $1,500
  5.   Fabian Görzgen $1,000
  6.   Maciej Pasek $1,000
  7.   Kim Grymer $1,000
  8.   Paolo Pavesi $1,000
Pairings Results Standings
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Blue Bracket
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  • Top 8 - Decklists
    by Event Coverage Staff





  • Ciro Bonaventura
    2011 Amsterdam Top 8 - Legacy









    Christof Kovacs
    2011 Amsterdam Top 8 - Legacy







     

  • Top 8 Profiles
    by Tim Willoughby

  • Name: Fabian Görzgen
    Hometown: Bochum, Germany
    Age: 29
    Occupation: Student

    Previous Magic achievements:
    Top 8, German Nationals 2011

    How often do you play Legacy?
    1-3 days per month



    Where do you regularly play?
    Suenland, Dortmund, Herlohner Championships

    What deck did you play this weekend?
    Maverick with Punishing Fire

    Day 1 record:
    8-1

    Day 2 record:
    4-1-2

    What is your best matchup?
    BUG, Canadian Threshold with Delver of Secrets

    What is your worst matchup?
    Hive Mind

    What has been the best card for you this weekend?
    Punishing Fire

    Name: Maciej Pasek
    Hometown: Warsaw, Poland
    Age: 28
    Occupation: Warsaw Mobilization Grinder

    Previous Magic achievements:
    35th at Pro Tour Berlin, some Grand Prix day 2’s and Polish Nationals top 8

    How often do you play Legacy?
    Once a week



    Where do you regularly play?
    In my home town

    What deck did you play this weekend?
    Zenith Bant

    Day 1 record:
    9-0

    Day 2 record:
    4-1-2

    What is your best matchup?
    Dredge it seems – I won against it 3 times this weekend

    What is your worst matchup?
    Maverick

    What has been the best card for you this weekend?
    Knight of the Reliquary, Dryad Arbor and Jace, the Mind Sculptor

    Name:Kim Grymer
    Hometown: Frederikssund, Denmark
    Age: 22
    Occupation: Carpenter

    Previous Magic achievements:
    Went 4-1-1 playing Legacy last Tuesday

    How often do you play Legacy?
    Once a week



    Where do you regularly play?
    Copenhagen at Faraos Cigar

    What deck did you play this weekend?
    Imperial Painter

    Day 1 record:
    9-0

    Day 2 record:
    4-1-2

    What is your best matchup?
    Blue decks with dual lands (that don’t have Emrakul!)

    What is your worst matchup?
    Burn / Sneak attack

    What has been the best card for you this weekend?
    BLOOD MOON!

    Name: Paolo Pavesi
    Hometown: Cremona, Italy
    Age: 21
    Occupation: Grinder, Student

    Previous Magic achievements:
    Qualified for Italian Nationals twice on DCI rating, playing only Legacy

    How often do you play Legacy?
    Once a week



    Where do you regularly play?
    Romolo, Games Academy Cremona

    What deck did you play this weekend?
    Bant Counterbalance/Top

    Day 1 record:
    7-1-1 (having started 1-1-1)

    Day 2 record:
    6-1-0

    What is your best matchup?
    ANT

    What is your worst matchup?
    Merfolk

    What has been the best card for you this weekend?
    Counterbalance (and Repeal)

    Name: Christof Kovacs
    Hometown: Suhl, Germany
    Age: 22
    Occupation: Banker

    Previous Magic achievements:
    17th place at Germany Nationals

    How often do you play Legacy?
    One hour a day, one big tournament every three months



    Where do you regularly play?
    Suhl!

    What deck did you play this weekend?
    Hive Mind

    Day 1 record:
    8-1

    Day 2 record:
    5-1-1

    What is your best matchup?
    GW Maverick without Angels Grace and Sundial of the Infinite

    What is your worst matchup?
    Team America (and Solidarity, but nobody plays it)

    What has been the best card for you this weekend?
    Brainstorm

    Name: Elie Pichon
    Hometown: Toulouse, France
    Age: 23
    Occupation: Toulouse, France

    Previous Magic achievements:
    Top 8, German Nationals 2011

    How often do you play Legacy?
    Some local tournaments 2 times a month



    Where do you regularly play?
    Magic online, and at a local Magic club

    What deck did you play this weekend?
    ANT with Past in Flames

    Day 1 record:
    8-1

    Day 2 record:
    5-1-1

    What is your best matchup?
    Every non-blue deck

    What is your worst matchup?
    Team America / Reanimator

    What has been the best card for you this weekend?
    Tendrils of Agony

    Name: Ciro Bonaventura
    Hometown: Pescara, Italy
    Age: 30
    Occupation: Business agent

    Previous Magic achievements:
    Top 32 GP Rimini. I have won against Pierluigi Aceto and Marco Ricci in a team draft

    How often do you play Legacy?
    Pescara


    What deck did you play this weekend?
    Canadian Threshold

    Day 1 record:
    8-1

    Day 2 record:
    5-1-1

    What is your best matchup?
    Combo

    What is your worst matchup?
    Maverick

    What has been the best card for you this weekend?
    Fire // Ice

    Name: Pierre Sommen
    Hometown: Paris, France
    Age: 23
    Occupation: Student

    Previous Magic achievements:
    Winning the Legacy FNM at the Café Jeu Pontoise

    How often do you play Legacy?
    Every day on Magic Online



    Where do you regularly play?
    In front of my computer screen

    What deck did you play this weekend?
    Stoneforge Mystic Bant

    Day 1 record:
    7-1-1

    Day 2 record:
    6-1

    What is your best matchup?
    Cyril Tenoy

    What is your worst matchup?
    Decks with red for Grim Lavamancers I guess

    What has been the best card for you this weekend?
    Daze



     

  • Quarterfinal - Elie Pichon vs. Kim Grymer
    by Rich Hagon

  • Of the top 8 here at GP Amsterdam, only Elie Pichon has top 8 experience at the highest level. He finished 3rd at Pro Tour Nagoya earlier this year behind eventual champion and Player of the Year hopeful David Sharfman. The Frenchman Pichon has piloted ANT - Ad Nauseam Tendrils - to numerous wins, but now any malfunction could result in the end of the road.

    On the other side of the table sits Denmark's Kim Grymer. With zero byes, Grymer advanced to 10-0 on the back of numerous Blood Moon effects and the deliciously nasty combo of Grindstone and Painter's Servant. Together, these spell doom for the opposition, milling the deck away at a single stroke.

    Elie Pichon

    Grymer won the roll and elected to play. With the possibility of turn one Blood Moon, that was no surprise. Pichon mulliganed to six, and then saw Grymer open up with City of Traitors, Chrome Mox, and Magus of the Moon! Polluted Delta from Pichon - that'll be a Mountain then.

    Misty Rainforest - that'll be a Mountain too. Swamp - that'll be a Mou..oh wait, that'll be a Swamp. Blood Moon backup from Grymer, and a clock-shortening Simian Spirit Guide, with another Simian Spirit Guide the following turn, meant Pichon had yet to cast a spell.

    Finally he did so, naming Lightning Bolt with Cabal Therapy, and seeing another Blood Moon alongside a pair of lands. Not that it mattered. Probably.

    Pichon began what had to be his last turn with Lion's Eye Diamond. He used his Swamp for Dark Ritual, and then Cabal Ritual. Then he cast a second Cabal Ritual. One red and one black netted him Infernal Tutor, which he responded to by sacrificing his Lion's Eye Diamond. The Tutor found him Past in Flames. That got Cabal Ritual, Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor, all newly with Flashback - thanks, Innistrad!

    The Infernal Tutor provided the coup de grace, and Tendrils of Agony (a card any dentist would love) took it on home to mama.

    Pichon 1 - 0 Grymer

    This time it was Grymer to begin with six. Would there be another exotic turn one? Not until he dropped to five there wouldn't, and then four. At that point, an exotic turn one would be a land and pass the turn...

    Kim Grymer

    City of Traitors - Phyrexian Revoker, name Lion's Eye Diamond. Well ok then, that was quite an exotic turn one after all. The Revoker attacked for two, and Grymer followed up with a turn two Grindstone, opposite land for Pichon, who discarded on turn two without a second land in sight. He sacrificed Bad River on turn three, laying Lotus Petal, casting Cabal Ritual into a second Cabal Ritual, which took him to Ad Nauseam mana.

    A veritable festival of card advantage ensued. Pichon's life total fell and fell, and there was a moment when it looked as if he might run out, needing three to ultimately cast Grim Tutor. Down came Lotus Petal, two Lion's Eye Diamonds, Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual

    - the Storm count was now at ten - before Grim Tutor dropped Pichon to one life. He fetched out Tendrils of Agony, and it was game over.

    Elie Pichon 2 - 0 Kim Grymer



     

  • Quarterfinal - Christof Kovacs vs. Paolo Pavesi
    by Rich Hagon

  • The last time we saw Christof Kovacs he was on the receiving end of a large slice of luck in his round 15 feature match against Bas Melis, the former Dutch national champion. That win had earned Kovacs the right to ID his final round against Fabian Gorzgen in the final round and both Germans advanced into the Top 8. Kovacs' Show and Tell deck would have to work hard to find an opening against the defensive powers of Paolo Pavesi's Counterbalance/Sensei's Divining Top deck – a synergetic combination of powerful cards that could see Pavesi lock his opponent off the board entirely.

    Winning the dice roll, Paolo Pavesi wasted little time in establishing a presence on the board by playing a Tarmogoyf – the little Lhurgoyf hit the table as a humble 0/1, but quickly swelled to a 2/3 as Kovacs sacrificed his Misty Rainforest to find an Island for Brainstorm, then a 3/4 as the German played a Ponder to dig deeper into his combo. Back on his next turn Pavesi attacked with his Tarmogoyf before deploying his trusty Divining Top and passing the turn – Kovacs taking more pain from his sacrifice lands and dropping to 14 before playing a Grim Monolith.

    Giving the German that much mana was not a wise move for Pavesi, and the Italian went into the tank to find an answer, spinning his Divining Top to find a Force of Will, pitching Jace from hand to play his counter for free. Pavesi untapped and immediately sent his Tarmogoyf into the red zone, knocking Kovacs down to 10 life, and then the Italian added his Counterbalance to the table. The German passed his turn quickly back to Pavesi but had a Force of Will ready for the Italian when he attempted to recast the Sensei's Divining Top. Another attack from the Tarmogoyf put Kovacs down to 4 life, but the German was unnaturally calm about things...

    "Show and Tell, Hive Mind, Pact of the Titan"

    Kovacs showed exactly why the Hive Mind deck is so lethal as he stole the win out from under Paolo Pavesi. All the while that Kovacs had been taking a Tarmogoyf beating he had been quietly pulling together the key parts of his combo, and without the Sensei's Divining Top to reorder his library, Pavesi's Counterbalance was only a quarter of the card it could be.

    Christof Kovacs

    Christof Kovacs 1 – 0 Paolo Pavesi

    That first defeat had quietened the crowd around this Quarterfinal, which was predominantly Italian. If the pressure was getting to Paolo Pavesi it wasn't immediately apparent, although across the table Christof Kovacs continued to look supernaturally calm, despite the dire straits he had been in.

    There was no Tarmogoyf for the Italian in this second game, but Pavesi found pressure in the form of a Vendilion Cliqueat the end of Kovac's third turn. The German's hand showed countermagic, but no sign of the dreaded combo just yet:

    City of Traitors, Tropical Island, Force of Will, Force of Will, Pact of Negation, Show and Tell, Misty Rainforest

    Sending away the Show and Tell, Pavesi moved into beatdown mode on his next turn by attacking with his Faerie folk and putting Kovacs to 16. The German played a Brainstorm, but found his Ponders stripped from the deck by a Surgical Extraction. The Extraction revealed Kovacs' hand for a second time, and Pavesi noted that a Hive Mind had been added to it. With an Ancient Tomb in play, Kovacs was close to casting the Hive Mind directly, but the only Pact the German had was a Pact of Negation that Pavesi could almost afford to pay the cost of anyway!

    Pavesi spent his next turn attacking again with the Vendilion Clique, before Kovacs made his move... playing a City of Traitors to ramp his mana even further, Kovacs dropped the Hive Mind.

    "Is it ok?"

    "Sure"

    "Pact of the Titan, respond to the Hive Mind trigger with Pact of Negation on my Pact of the Titan, then respond to that Hive Mind trigger with a second Pact of Negation on my Pact of the Titan"

    It made for complicated timing, and Paolo Pavesi checked exactly when the spells were going to resolve before he made his response; playing a Snapcaster Mage to cast Brainstorm from his graveyard, then a Flusterstorm targeting one of his own copies of Pact of Negation, with Kovacs getting a single Flusterstorm of his own that targeted Pavesi's Flusterstorm.

    With everyone's spells ready to go, the stack began to collapse:

    QF Paolo Pavesi

    Kovacs' Flusterstorm copy countered Pavesi's original Flusterstorm.
    All the copies of Flusterstorm that Pavesi had stormed into play countered Pavesi's first copy of Pact of Negation.
    Kovac's second Pact of Negation countered his own Pact of the Titan
    Pavesi's second Pact of Negation copy countered Kovac's first Pact of Negation – the only spell on the stack he could target.

    That left just one trigger on the stack, the Hive Mind trigger from Kovac's original Pact of the Titan. Pavesi resolved it, putting his Pact of the Titan copy onto the stack. If the Italian could counter that Pact of the Titan then he would have seen off Kovac's deadly flurry of plays, if not he would find himself having to pay an impossible 4R in his upkeep to avoid defeat. What made matters worse was that Pavesi needed to find a counter for the Pact that could somehow survive being countered itself when the Hive Mind gave Kovacs a copy of whatever Pavesi played.

    In that situation the possible outs for Paolo Pavesi were, basically, nil. The Italian looked at the cards in his hand, before he congratulated Christof Kovacs on the win and the German advanced into the semi-finals via a brain-twisting spell on the stack!

    Christof Kovacs 2 – 0 Paolo Pavesi

     
  • Semifinal - Elie Pichon vs. Ciro Bonaventura

    by Tim Willoughby
  • Elie Pichon, the only player in the top 8 with experience on this sort of Sunday stage before, earlier in the year at Pro Tour Nagoya, sat down and began to shuffle briskly. His deck this time, Ad Nauseam Tendrils, sporting the new addition of Past in Flames from Innistrad had served him well, but could not have been more different from the Tempered Steel deck that he had brought to Japan. The young Frenchman's opponent was Ciro Bonaventura from Italy. His best finish had been a top 32 at Grand Prix Rimini, the aggressive red/blue/green tempo control deck.

    Pichon won the roll, and was quick to choose to play. His combo deck could conceivably win as early as the first turn, and it would be much easier to play around things like Bonaventura's Stifles if the Italian hadn't yet played a land.

    After a little thought, Pichon chose to keep his opener, and studied his opponent as he came to the same conclusion. A Gitaxian Probe was his first play of the game, which saw Nimble Mongoose, Dismember, Fire//Ice, Delver of Secrets, Force of Will, Volcanic Island and Wooded Foothills. For Pichon, this had to be quite good news – the only card for him to be really worried about there was Force of Will, while Dismember was a virtual mulligan. He used a fetchland to find a basic Island, and cast Ponder, choosing to shuffle his deck up and chance one from the top.

    Ciro led with Wooded Foothills for Tropical Island, and cast his Delver of Secrets. Unless he'd drawn a blue card, this would mean that there was only one option for Force of Will if he wanted to play it for the pitch cost; Fire//Ice.

    Pichon used a Brainstorm, and soon followed it up with a fetchland activation to find a basic Swamp. Between fetchlands and Gitaxian Probe, he started the game at just 16 life, before Bonaventura had had a chance to attack. A Cabal Therapy showed that fetching a basic had been a good move. It got rid of Force of Will, and revealed that Bonaventura had drawn a Wasteland.

    A Dismember on top of Bonaventura's deck flipped Delver of Secrets into Insectile Aberration, but wasn't exactly a saucy draw for the Italian. He attacked and passed the turn, using Ice on Pichon's upkeep to stop much action from the Frenchman either.

    Soon Pichon was on just 10 life from attacks, and Bonaventura had a Ponder next to keep him in action. He nervously asked how many cards Pichon had to work with. Five came the reply. Would Pichon be going off any time soon?

    Elie Pichon

    There didn't seem to be a strong reason to, and Pichon was quick to draw, play a land, and pass the turn. He may have dropped to 7 on attacks, but was not dead yet. A Nimble Mongoose came down as a 1/1. Would Pichon have to go for it? He had three uncracked fetchlands, which wouldn't do much if Insectile Aberration got even one more hit in. Nonetheless, Pichon passed. He dropped to three on attacks before he went for it.

    A Duress saw two Dismember, two Stifle and Spell Snare. The Snare hit the bin, but those Stifles could prove problematic if Pichon was to either be able to crack fetchlands, or indeed storm up a win. Pichon cracked a fetchland, going to 2. It resolved and found Underground Sea. He cracked another, dropping to 1, and giving Bonaventura pause to think. He used a Stifle on it. Pichon played an Underground Sea, then Dark Ritual, and two copies of Lion's Eye Diamond. He cast Infernal Tutor, and cracked both his Diamonds in response, one for Black and one for Red.

    Pichon searched his deck, and looked dismayed. He checked his deck again, and called a judge. Somehow the Frenchman had failed to de-sideboard properly. Clearly rocked, he accepted his game loss quietly. In principle he could have fetched Past in Flames, to flash back Cabal Therapy on the Stifles and then go off, but the mistake in pre-match procedure had cost him.

    Ciro Bonaventura 1 – 0 Elie Pichon

    Both players seemed a little rocked by the end to game one – Bonaventura knowing he had been a little lucky, and Pichon dismayed to have missed out on what could have been a crucial game win in a semi-final match.

    Both players kept their hands, and again Pichon had the turn one Gitaxian Probe. He saw Scalding Tarn, a pair of copies of Lightning Bolt, Force of Will, Spell Snare, Ponder and Tarmogoyf. A Polluted Delta found a basic Swamp, prompting Bonaventura to ask 'Cabal Therapy?'.

    Pichon was quick to play the black sorcery, and used it to snag Ponder, leaving Bonaventura without a first turn play beyond his land. Pichon used Ponder, deciding that the cards on top of his deck were good enough to mean shuffling wasn't a priority.

    Bonaventura, looked a little glum as he drew on his second turn. He cracked his fetchland for Volcanic Island to cast Delver of Secrets, and played a Wasteland that did not have any good targets. Pichon had another Cabal Therapy, which took force of Will and showed Wasteland, Tarmogoyf and those two copies of Lightning Bolt.

    Knowing the coast was clear, Pichon cast a pair of copies of Cabal Therapy. He then went for it with Ad Nauseam, floating one black mana.

    Here's what he flipped.

    After all that he was still well alive, and able to chain Dark Ritual in to some copies of Lion's Eye Diamond, which in turn made his Infernal Tutor able to fetch the Tendrils of Agony that he needed to end the game.

    'I didn't side it out' remarked Pichon with a smile, as the game went on to its decider.

    Ciro Bonaventura 1 – 1 Elie Pichon

    For the first time in the match, there was a mulligan, and it came from Bonaventura, who was on the play. Pichon had a bit of thought before doing the same. Bonaventura slumped a little in his chair as he had to go to five, while Pichon, a trace of a smile edging across his face, kept his six.

    Bonaventura led with a fetchland into Volcanic Island, which allowed a Ponder to begin to rebuild his broken hand. He had a Daze for the turn one Ponder from Pichon, and a Delver of Secrets soon after.

    Ciro Bonaventura

    A Duress revealed that all that was left was Spell Pierce, Spell Snare and Ponder. Not a bad five card hand he'd kept then! The Spell Pierce was consigned to the grumper, and the next turn Bonaventura revealed that he'd drawn another Spell Snare, in order to flip his 1/1 wizard into a much scarier brundlefly.

    Pichon's early turns had been fairly quiet, but that was far from a sign of weakness from his ANT deck. There was no reason for him to try to do things faster than he had to given what he knew of his opponent's hand. Bonaventura had finally hit his second land, but it was not going to help against the Lotus Petal, Lotus Petal, Lotus Petal, Ad Nauseam play from Pichon. Bonaventura simply clapped, eager to see what would come off the top.

    At this point Pichon was on 3 life. He'd be facing an attack for three the next turn. He had to keep going.

    Now Pichon was on one. Could he win with what he had, or would he be forced to dig further, hoping for something more. He knew that there was still a Spell Snare active for Bonaventura, and had to play around it.

    After much thought, Pichon stopped. It was like a Magic: the Puzzling from an old issue of Duelist. Could you win from there? He knew one more thing that his opponent – the lone remaining card in his hand. Would it be relevant?

    Pichon laid Volcanic Island and cast Brainstorm. It didn't show him the cards he needed though, and he simply extended his hand. The quiet 'You win' from Pichon was drowned out by a roar from the Italian contingent in the crowd. Bonaventura was going all the way to the final.

    Ciro Bonaventura wins 2-1.wins 2-1.

     
  • Semifinal - Pierre Sommen vs. Christof Kovacs

    by David Sutcliffe
  • Christof Kovacs had cut a quiet and composed figure all through the Sunday of this Grand Prix as he closed in a Top 8 spot, and then simply and straight-forwardly despatched his Quarter-final opponent Paolo Pavesi. Kovacs' Hive Mind deck has proven capable of pulling sudden victories from almost any position, stealing wins from the jaws of defeat time and again. In the Semi-final the German was faced by Frenchman Pierre Sommen, whose Bant beatdown deck had narrowly edged past Fabian Gorzgen in a mammoth quarter-final. Would Sommen be able to end the run of another German, or would Kovacs' mastery of the Hive Mind combo continue?

    Game One

    With only limited countermagic in his maindeck, Sommen knew the importance of making an aggressive start, playing a Stoneforge Mystic on his second turn and searching for a Sword of Feast and Famine. Christof Kovacs scented blood in the water, though, and played an Ancient Tombs to cast Show and Tell... Sommen had a Force of Will, but so did Kovacs and the Show and Tell resolved, with Kovacs playing a Hive Mind while Sommen revealed a Knight of the Reliquary alongside his Stoneforge Mystic.

    Unfortunately for the Frenchman, the Knight was just a target for Kovacs' Slaughter Pact. What was worse was that Sommen found himself the proud owner of a copy of the Slaughter Pact courtesy of Hive Mind and Sommen had no way of paying the 2B that his copy of the Slaughter Pact required in his upkeep! Sommen he scooped up his cards, and it had taken just a couple of minutes for Kovacs to take a lead in the match!

    Pierre Sommen 0 – 1 Christof Kovacs

    Christof Kovacs

    Game Two

    Shuffling away his opening hand of seven, Pierre Sommen kept six cards although a brief twitch of the lips suggested the Frenchman wasn't entirely happy with what he saw. Nevertheless, Sommen was quick to deploy his sideboard cards in his comeback game and played a Meddling Mage on his second turn, although Kovacs was ready to counter the pesky Mage with Force of Will. Hitting back, the German cast a Thoughtseize to let him see Sommen's remaining hand – three land! The crowd groaned at Sommen's bad luck, and the way now seemed open to Kovacs sealing a swift end to this match.

    Unfortunately for Christof Kovacs the German had mana problems of his own – a shortage of mana, in fact – he had only three land in play, with no sign of a Grim Monolith or Show and Tell that might help him profit from Sommen's bad luck. With each passing turn the window of opportunity closed further for Kovacs, and Sommen came closer and closer to taking hold of the game.

    After a few turns, Pierre Sommen felt brave enough to take to the front foot and cast a Surgical Extraction aimed at Kovacs' Force of Will. The German protected his countermagic with a second Force of Will, but Sommen wasn't done playing threats and followed with a Knight of the Reliquary. That was destroyed by a Slaughter Pact but immediately replaced by a Meddling Mage, with Sommen naming "Show and Tell".

    From a disastrous opening hand, Sommen had been allowed to get a firm foothold in the match and he began to apply pressure with his Meddling Mage. For his part Christof Kovacs had now found his mana, with a Misty Rainforest and City of Traitors ramping the German up to six mana...

    "Hive Mind"

    "Spell Pierce"

    "Force of Will"

    "Spell Pierce"

    The Hive Mind was countered and Sommen could continue to apply his Meddling Mage offense. With the players now holding two cards apiece in hand and level on six lands in play the Meddling Mage was only the difference between the two. Kovacs attempted to drop a Pact of the Titan in front of the Mage but Sommen had more countermagic on hand, protecting his creature with a Force of Will that actually cost the legitimate 3UU mana.

    Kovacs lifetotal was ticking down steadily under the attentions of the Mage, and the German was now down to 7 life – he needed an answer soon, and fortunately he found one – a second Pact of the Titan that blocked the Meddling Mage on its next attack. Swinging back, the Giant immediately sallied forth into the red zone, dropping Sommen from 16 life to 12.

    7-12

    Sommen played a Knight of the Reliquary that was a match for the 4/4 Giant token, but Kovacs had a Pact of Negation to counter it.

    7-8

    Pierre Sommen played a second Knight of the Reliquary, to appreciative murmurs from the crowd around the feature match area. The Knight was a 4/4, and could grow to a 5/5 at any time.

    Kovacs' rush to victory was halted, and the German was again forced back onto the defensive – forced to play his final Force of Will to counter a Vendilion Clique. That bought Kovacs a little time, but as Sommen's Knight of the Reliquary happily munched through land it swelled in size, and Kovacs was forced to throw his Giant under the Knight's sword to buy another turn. Sommen swung again for the lethal blow, and a second Pact of the Titan bought Kovacs one more turn and one more draw.

    The German was on the ropes. He needed something heroic, something massive. Something game-ending. He cast a Thoughtseize to see Sommen's hand, stripping away a Spell Pierce to leave two lands, and it seemed like another last-ditch victory could be on the cards – Show and Tell into Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn, perhaps?

    But no, Kovacs' resistance was over and the Thoughtseize was his last play. Sommen drew a card, sent his labouring Knight of the Reliquary into the red zone for one last time and Kovacs was all out of answers.

    We were into a third game.

    Pierre Sommen 1 – 1 Christof Kovacs

    Pierre Sommen

    Game Three

    For the first time today, Christof Kovacs looked rattled and tired, while Pierre Sommen sat forward in his chair looking more bright and alert than he had all match. It was a marked reversal in body language that perhaps signalled the fortunes of the two players in the match.

    Sommen began the deciding game with a series of Brainstorms and Ponders before casting a Noble Hierarch, Wastelanding an Underground Sea and putting his Meddling Mage into play naming "Show and Tell". That was a strong opening, and all Kovacs had been able to do was watch and wait – the German attempted to cast an Intuition at the end of Sommen's turn but Spell Pierce countered his search spell and the Frenchman continued to look in the stronger position.

    Sommen's offense would be a slow one, giving Kovacs plenty of time to recover, though, or so it seemed until the Frenchman equipped his Meddling Mage with a Sword of Feast and Famine! Boosted to a 5/5 by the Sword and the Exalted ability of his Noble Hierarch, Sommen's Meddling Mage marched boldy into the red zone. In other matches this would have been the signal for a Slaughter Pact from Kovacs, but this time the German had no answer and he dropped to 14 life, discarding a card when the Sword struck home.

    Playing a Brainstorm and Grim Monolith on his next turn, Kovacs prepared for a big turn but had to accept another big beating, dropping to 8 life.

    It was do or die or Kovacs. Tapping his Grim Monolith to play Hive Mind he cast a Pact of the Titan, holding back three mana. This was classic Christof Kovacs, as the German looked to steal another win from nowhere.

    But Sommen wasn't finished, and he had one card in hand. Spell Pierce. With three mana untapped he couldn't counter Kovacs' Hive Mind or Pact of the Titan, but he COULD counter his own copy of the Pact and avoid having to pay the lethal 4R. Spell Pierce went onto the stack.

    That was Sommen's last card, but Kovacs had one last card of his own in hand. Pact of Negation. Casting the Pact of Negation, Kovacs countered Sommen's Spell Pierce but his desperate play was undone by his own Hive Mind, which handed Sommen a copy of the Pact of Negation!

    Pact of Negation countered Pact of Negation, Spell Pierce countered Pact of the Titan, and Pierre Sommen had dodged a last lethal bullet! The Frenchman was able to untap without fear of paying the 4R upkeep cost, and although Kovacs had a 4/4 token that could block Sommen's Meddling Mage, it no longer mattered – it was now Kovacs who would die in his own upkeep, unable to pay the 4R of the Pact.

    It was a bitter twist of irony, but at the last Christof Kovacs had been betrayed by his own cards – killed by his own Hive Mind and Pact of the Titan!

    Pierre Sommen 2 – 1 Christof Kovacs

    Christof Kovacs' charge to the title was ended, and Pierre Sommen had earnt himself a seat at the final table with his never-say-die attitude.

     
  • Final - Pierre Sommen vs. Ciro Bonaventura

    by Rich Hagon
  • It's only two weeks since an Italian winner of an Italian Grand Prix, and now Ciro Bonaventura will look to achieve the same feat on Dutch soil with his Canadian Threshold deck. Standing in his way is Frenchman Pierre Sommen, who relies on trusty stalwarts like Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor to get the job done.

    Game One

    Bonaventura opened with Delver of Secrets, while Sommen also had a turn one play with Noble Hierarch. There was no sign of an Insectile Aberration on turn two. That left the Delver of Secrets to attack for one, followed by Ponder for the Italian. Sommen aimed for Umezawa's Jitte, which resolved, before adding a second Noble Hierarch to the board. A little too late, Bonaventura thought to reveal his drawn card to flip Delver of Secrets, but he still had an excellent turn ahead. Fire/Ice dealt one damage to each of two Noble Hierarchs, and Wasteland took out Tropical Island.

    That left Sommen with just one Forest in play, but he had Tundra ready to allow him to try for Stoneforge Mystic. Daze from Bonaventura ensured that wouldn't happen. This time, Bonaventura remembered his Delver trigger, and it was Insectile Aberration that crashed in for three damage, leaving Sommen at thirteen. A 4/5 Tarmogoyf joined the Italian board position, which was looking very strong.

    Sommen cast the first Brainstorm of the final, followed by more digging with Ponder. That led to Noble Hierarch, but since that was Sommen's last mana, Bonaventura's Daze would be an excellent counter. The Italian sent his team into the red zone, dropping Sommen to six, then adding Nimble Mongoose. Brainstorm found nothing good for the Frenchman, and we were off to game two.

    Sommen 0 - 1 Bonaventura

    Game Two

    With both players starting at seven cards, Sommen laid Windswept Heath with no apparent need to crack it immediately. Misty Rainforest went away for the Italian, who ended with Volcanic Island in play. That led to Delver of Secrets, just as he had done in game one. Sommen continued to leave his Windswept Heath alone, adding Tundra before aiming Swords to Plowshares at the Delver of Secrets. There was no argument from Bonaventura, who went back to twenty life.

    The Italian had another Delver of Secrets ready, and used Wasteland to take out Savannah. Sommen did at least get some use out of it, casting Path to Exile on the Delver of Secrets. A Wasteland of his own left both players with just one land in play. Bonaventura used his Tropical Island to cast Ponder. Sommen simply laid Karakas, and passed the turn. Another Italian Wasteland took out Sommen's Tundra, and this time Sommen couldn't add to his land in play. Bonaventura could, turning Polluted Delta into Volcanic Island.

    Sommen slumped in his chair as another turn passed without land. Bonaventura searched for more pressure with Brainstorm, finding Wooded Foothills to play. Plains from Sommen saw the Italian shrug with something close to studied contempt - it was about as unexciting a land as Sommen could have drawn. Wooded Foothills became a second Volcanic Island, and now a third Delver of Secrets of the game appeared for Bonaventura. Like the first two, this was destined to go nowhere fast, Swords to Plowshares seeing it exit stage left.

    Pierre Sommen

    With Tropical Island arriving, Sommen was able to cast Noble Hierarch, potentially solving all his color and mana issues in one turn. The Italian allowed the Hierarch, but spent the end of turn killing it with Lightning Bolt. Stoneforge Mystic met an Italian Spell Snare, Bonaventura still holding three cards. Knight of the Reliquary? Force of Will pitching Stifle looked to say no. This time Sommen was ready with his own Force of Will, pitching Daze. The Knight of the Reliquary arrived on the battlefield with four land in Sommen's graveyard.

    A third Wasteland from Bonaventura once again reduced Sommen to just white mana, at the cost of making Knight of the Reliquary a rather fearsome 7/7. In it came, dropping Bonaventura to eleven, facing a two turn clock. He cast Engineered Explosives with Sunburst three, which conveniently is the converted mana cost of Knight of the Reliquary...

    Windswept Heath from Sommen became Tropical Island, once again (at least temporarily) solving his color problems. The Knight attacked for eight more, leaving Bonaventura at just three. Whatever his plans, they definitely involved blowing his Engineered Explosives. At end of turn Sommen cast Brainstorm, with Bonaventura using Fire/Ice to tap Sommen's Tropical Island, and draw a card. Since this was upkeep, it seemed there was little for Sommen to usefully float mana for. The Frenchman attacked with the Knight, and to the surprise of precisely nobody, the Engineered Explosives smeared Knight sauce all over the battlefield.

    Sommen started again with Stoneforge Mystic, fetching the mighty Batterskull. The final Wasteland from the Italian sent Sommen back to being mono-white yet again. Sommen didn't care - his plans only needed white mana at this point. Stoneforge Mystic put Batterskull into play, and that was the cue for Bonaventura to sweep up his permanents.

    Sommen 1 - 1 Bonaventura

    Game Three

    Advantage Italy, as Sommen took a mulligan to open the decider. The Italian opened with Ponder, although he accidentally put a Spell Snare instead into his graveyard - quickly recovering, but not before Sommen noticed. Misty Rainforest became Tundra for the Frenchman, who passed. Bonaventura landed Tarmogoyf on turn two, while Sommen attempted Stoneforge Mystic, which got Dazed. Sommen had Daze at the ready too, but Bonaventura had a second Daze to win the counterspell war.

    Tarmogoyf attacked as a 4/5 - Land, Instant, Sorcery, Creature in the graveyards - and Bonaventura replayed his first land. In the Italian's next upkeep, Sommen used Path to Exile to remove the Tarmogoyf permanently from the equation. Bonaventura replied with Nimble Mongoose, while Wasteland from Sommen took out Volcanic Island. He cast Stoneforge Mystic, and quickly sought out Batterskull.

    Without Threshold, the Nimble Mongoose couldn't attack into Stoneforge Mystic, but Bonaventura didn't plan on the Mystic sticking around for long, using Lightning Bolt to stem the threat. Brainstorm resolved for Sommen. His Windswept Heath left play, but that was the cue for Bonaventura to at least play some mind games with the threat of Stifle. In any case, the trigger went un-Stifled, and Tropical Island appeared on the scene. Sommen continued to quest through his deck, this time with Ponder.

    Ciro Bonaventura

    The Tropical Island got hit by an Italian Wasteland, leaving Bonaventura to cast a Brainstorm of his own, the tension noticeably increasing as the jockeying for position continued. Now the Nimble Mongoose had Threshold, and Sommen was down to ten. His reply? Knight of the Reliquary, with four land in the graveyard. Bonaventura cast Delver of Secrets, and it seemed as if neither player had any countermagic worthy of the name. Either that, or there was some very impressive body language performance going on.

    Brainstorm again, this time for France. Swords to Plowshares sent Delver of Secrets away, only to be replaced by another. The Knight of the Reliquary dominated the board, however, stopping even a Threshold Nimble Mongoose in its tracks. The Frenchman still had a Wasteland to aim at the heart of Bonaventura, who only had two mana to work with. When Sommen went to crack Misty Rainforest, Bonaventura again went through the Stifle routine, culminating in the land working as intended. Now Sommen was up to four mana, then five, and that meant Batterskull.

    This was a huge moment....and Bonaventura was ready for it, with Spell Pierce preventing the living weapon from entering the fray.

    Now his Delver of Secrets became Insectile Aberration, and the game was on once again. He faced an 8/8 Knight of the Reliquary, but had a 3/2 flyer, which he sent in. Sommen used his Knight to find Maze of Ith, creating a peaceful no-fly zone around his life total. Finally Sommen went to Wasteland Bonaventura's Volcanic Island, but this time the Italian both had and used a Stifle to keep his land safe.

    As the second hour of the final began, Sommen cast Scavenging Ooze. His Knight was now into double figures as a 10/10, and it virtually sawed the Italian life total in half at a single stroke, from twenty one down to eleven. Insectile Aberration sent Sommen to six life. Could Bonaventura burn the Frenchman out to claim the title?

    The Italian had Dismember for Scavenging Ooze, paying four life to fall to seven. That didn't stop Sommen from targeting another creature, which allowed Sommen to gain another life back. Now the Frenchman led eight life to seven. Over one hundred spectators looked on as thousands of matches across two days came down to these last few turns. Sommen used a new Wasteland to finally destroy Volcanic Island. Bonaventura was down to one mana, and Sommen pressed his advantage, casting Stoneforge Mystic and fetching Umezawa's Jitte, a card that had been ending games for years and years.

    Now it ended this one.

    Pierre Sommen 2 - 1 Ciro Bonaventura

    Congratulations to Pierre Sommen, Champion of Grand Prix Amsterdam 2011!

     
  • Top 5 Cards of Grand Prix Amsterdam 2011

    by Tim Willoughby
  • It has been quite a weekend here at Grand Prix Amsterdam, and with 1,210 cards legal in the Legacy format, it seems a little hopeful to try to sum up everything that has gone on here with just five of them. Nevertheless though, we will try.

    Delver of Secrets

    It wasn't really any great surprise when Snapcaster Mage was all over the room here in Amsterdam, but this little wizard is one who hadn't received quite the same amount of buzz (do you see what I did there?) before the event. Insectile Aberration turns out to be exactly the kind of mana efficient threat that Canadian Threshold decks need to be able to both attack and disrupt an opponent's game plan at the same time. As one player said to me this weekend "Brainstorm is the best card in Legacy, and Delver of Secrets is a natural combo with it, it was always going to see play." – perhaps it was no surprise at all that it made it to the finals.

    Aven Mindcensor

    Maverick is not one of the most overtly powerful decks in the Legacy format, but it is one that performed admirably nonetheless, combining a good level of disruption with a fast clock. One part of this package was Aven Mindcensor, whose ability to make search effects worse plays very well against virtually the entire format, whether decks be using Natural Order, Intuition, or simply fetchlands to make their manabase do its thing. All the while the Mindcensor can attack and hold a sword as well as much of the format, something that the Maverick deck frequently asks of it.

    Green Sun's Zenith

    While we're talking about searching, it would be highly remiss to avoid talking about the Zenith of Mirrodin's newest sun. Fetching out everything from Dryad Arbor to Gaddock Teeg to Regal Force and more, the versatile sorcery means that green decks can now have an answer to most things available at a moment's notice.

    Force of Will

    There have been plenty of new cards and exciting things that have gone on throughout this Grand Prix, but given that this is a Legacy event, it would be wrong to forget the format's roots, which are firmly planted by Force of Will. Keeping decks honest since the mid 1990's, the powerful instant is just as good now as it ever has been, and remains one of the allures of playing blue in general. Don't forget, as one of Marijn Lybaert's opponents did this weekend, that sometimes it can even be cast for 3UU if absolutely necessary. He'd thought that not having blue cards in hand would leave him safe, but sometimes, FoW is simply a really expensive Counterspell.

    Surgical Extraction

    Now that everything is fair game for flashback thanks to Snapcaster Mage, the value of Surgical Extraction, already a fine sideboard answer to many of the graveyard based decks in the format like Reanimator, has increased quite a bit. We've seen it used as a version of Peek, to help decks know what is coming. We've seen it used as a Cabal Therapy of sorts. We've seen it stop Reanimate spells as they try to get back a fatty, and as a nice way of stopping flashback. If switcheroo sideboard plans are in effect, they will not be a surprise with Surgical Extraction around while the spell itself can be a surprise, as thanks to Phyrexian mana, any deck can cast it.

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