Day Two Coverage of Grand Prix–Barcelona

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EVENT COVERAGE

  • by Tim Willoughby
    Round Fifteen Feature Match: That's the way to mulligan
    Sam Black vs Alexandre Aurejac

  • by Hanno Terbuyken
    Blog - Sunday, 3:17 p.m.
    Legacy news flash

  • by David Sutcliffe
    Round Fourteen Feature Match: Who needs cascade?
    Daniel Moura vs Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

  • by Hanno Terbuyken
    Blog - Sunday, 1:47 p.m.
    Food for thought and FNM

  • by Hanno Terbuyken
    Blog - Sunday, 1:10 p.m.
    With a side dish of Sealed

  • by David Sutcliffe
    Round Thirteen Feature Match:
    Sam Black (USA) vs Carlos Navarro Del Dujo (ESP)

  • by Tim Willoughby
    Deck Tech
    Man, Oh Mannequin

  • by Hanno Terbuyken
    Blog - Sunday, 12:23 p.m.
    Answer me these questions three

  • by Tim Willoughby
    Day 2 Metagame Breakdown

  • by Tim Willoughby
    Deck Tech:
    44 land for me, none for you!

  • by Tim Willoughby
    Round Twelve Feature Match:
    Evangelos Papatsarouchas vs Juan Perez Bastida

  • by David Sutcliffe
    Blog - Sunday, 11:28 a.m.
    Day One Undefeated Decklists

  • by David Sutcliffe
    Blog - Sunday, 10:57 a.m.
    Little Green Men

  • by Hanno Terbuyken
    Round Eleven Feature Match:
    Joel Calafell (ESP) vs Mateusz Kopec (POL)

  • by David Sutcliffe
    Round Ten Feature Match:
    Paulo Vitor Dama Da Rosa (BRA) vs Gunnar Radzom (DEU)

  • by Hanno Terbuyken
    Blog - Sunday, 8:45 a.m.
    Foggy dew

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Round 10 Player List
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day One Blog: All of our fantastic coverage from day one of GP-Barcelona!

 

  • Sunday, 8:45 a.m.: Foggy dew
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Eight o’clock in the morning is far out early to begin a day of playing high-level Magic, and it shows in the faces of many a competitor here. Looking across the tables, there’s plenty of yawns and tired faces, for example that of PV, who just slouched by to talk to LSV and GerryT about the Cascade Swans deck.

    But for most, the excitement of playing on a Sunday offsets the tiredness of an early start. Take the Germans, for example. Of the 50 participants, 15 made it into day two and all of them are stoked to be there. Fresh on the heels of Lino Burgold’s GP Hannover win, the crowd of young guns is spearheaded by Constantin Böhm, who blasted LSV in his last round of Saturday and picked up another win in his first Sunday match.

    Also with a win was Sam Black. When he sat down against Antoine Ruel, the Frenchman with the U/w Fog deck just assumed that Sam was playing Cascade Swans, like most of the Americans. However, when Sam played a Swamp on his second turn, activated Mutavault and attacked, Antoine was caught by surprise.

    “You’re playing Faeries?

    “Of course!”

    “Oh man, if I had known that, I wouldn’t even have shown up.”

    Antoine knew that his Fog deck had no match against the Fae, and sure enough, Sam Black was one of the first today to pick up three points. Antoine left the table with a good luck to Sam, and: “I hope you don’t play against my brother!”

    Those not in the race for Top 8 could sleep in this morning, but many of them will return to the site in search of different glory, be it in the PTQ for PT Austin or in the Legacy side-event. The bets are on if either of those will be bigger than the main event with 174 players. Either way, it’s going to be a long day for all involved.

     

  • Round Ten Feature Match: Paulo Vitor Dama Da Rosa (BRA) vs Gunnar Radzom (DEU)
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Only four players had managed 100% records on the first day, and two of them were in this feature match – leading Brazilian pro player Paulo Vitor Dama Da Rosa (PV to his friends, and coverage writers trying to avoid early onset of arthritis) had been blasting his opponents away under the devastating consistency of the Cascade version of the Seismic Swans deck that he had helped to develop. For a player who puts as many air miles into his Magic as Paulo, he has precious few Grand Prix Top-8s to his name, just two, and in fact he has a better record in Pro Tours, where he has managed four Top-8s. Gunnar Radzom was a player less well-used to the feature match spotlight, but any opponent who has managed to get to a 9-0 record in the largest Constructed tournament ever held should be able to provide a stiff test for his opponent.

    As it turned out, that assumption was false and Game 1 took just a couple of minutes to play out – PV mulliganed to 6 then quickly played land, a turn 3 Seismic Assault, and a turn 4 Swans of Bryn Argoll, drew his deck, and hurled lethal damage at Radzom’s head. The poor German had managed to play a Spectral Procession but nothing more before being swept away by the sudden tectonic thunderstorm!

    Paulo Vitor Dama Da Rosa 1 – 0 Gunnar Radzom

    That first game had been staggeringly one-sided, with not a hint of player interaction – Radzom’s draw had been unable to put the Brazilian under any pressure, and he has little disruption for a deck not playing any creatures at all.

    Radzom needed a faster attack in Game 2, and he seemed to get it with a Figure of Destiny, Burrenton Forge Tender, and Knight of Meadowgrain in his first few turns, racing his little Kithkin army into the red zone. For his part, PV simply played his third turn Seismic Assault, and a fourth turn Swans – would it be this easy again?

    No, Radzom aimed a Path to Exile at the Swans when the first land was discarded to Seismic Assault. In response PV discarded another land, and Radzom aimed a second Path to Exile. This triggered a third land to be discarded - and Radzom sacrificed his Burrenton Forge Tender in response to prevent al the damage the Seismic Assault would deal this turn, including to PV’s own Swans.

    Unfortunately Radzom hadn’t fully understood the rules about damage prevention – his Forge Tender had set up two similar damage prevention shields over the Swans. One of those shields prevented the damage and one prevented the damage but allowed PV to draw cards, and as PV owned the Swans of Bryn Argoll he would get to choose which of those shields he used. Naturally he used the one that allowed him to draw, and in response to the Path to Exiles he drew through his deck. The Brazilian wouldn’t be able to win the game this turn as the Swans would inevitably go away, and all the Seismic Assault damage for the turn would be prevented, but he was able to give himself the perfect set up to win on his next turn.

    As Radzom tried to attack, his struggle now looking futile, the Brazilian pro hurled a few lands down from his hand, removing Radzom’s men from the game, then played a Swans again on his next turn, drew through his deck, and hurled another torrent of molten magma death at the German. It briefly looked as though PV would run out of enough land to do the lethal damage, having spent a lot of it the turn earlier in setting himself up, but a Primal Command put the lands back into his deck to go round again, and Radzom offered a handshake.

    Paulo Vitor Dama Da Rosa 2– 0 Gunnar Radzom

    “My friend I drove down with is playing the Swans combo”, said Radzom, “so I think I was kind of prepared, Oblivion Ring maindeck.”

    Well if that’s what Swans does to a player who knows it’s coming, I’d hate to see what it does to an unwary opponent!

     

  • Round Eleven Feature Match: Joel Calafell (ESP) vs Mateusz Kopec (POL)
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • These two regulars may not be the biggest names in the room, but they are well worth watching on any Sunday they happen to meet. Mateusz Kopec won GP Vienna 2008, while Joel Calafell is Spain’s top pro, having collected more Pro Points than any other player in his country in the 2008 season.

    Game 1

    Kopec mulliganed, Calafell opened with Vivid Crag. Kopec had Windbrisk Heights, which pointed to one of the Spectral-Procession-based decks. It didn’t look like Calafell cared much about the Procession Kopec had right on curve, though, as the Spanish player’s Seismic Assault signalled his intention to not let this game go long.

    Kopec had a second Procession, which left him just a single mana open to deal with Calafell’s new Swans of Bryn Argoll. Kopec had a Path to Exile which he used after Calafell threw a single land at his Swans. However, with Path on the stack, Calafell proceeded to draw card after card off the Swans’ ability by discarding lands to his Seismic Assault. More than half of his deck is lands, so he soon had enough to burn Kopec out by channeling lands through the Seismic Assault at the Pole’s head, dealing twenty to Kopec in one go.

    Joel Calafell 1 – 0 Mateusz Kopec

    Game 2

    Kopec chose to be on the play, as the only way to stop Calafell’s deck would be the disruption that the B/W Token deck could bring in, and to have it before Calafell could go off. In the first game, Calafell had not used a Cascade spell once, not needing the quasi-tutor ability as he found his combo pieces the hard way – or the easy one, depending on how you look at it.

    Kopec once again seemed dissatisfied with his opening hand, and yes, he shipped it in favor of six new cards. Those weren’t much better, judging from Kopec’s look, but he kept them probably because of the Tidehollow Sculler that was his turn two play. He saw double Bloodbraid Elf, Swans of Bryn Argoll, Primal Command and three lands, taking away one of the Cascade creatures. A turn later, Kopec followed it up with Thoughtseize, eliminating the second Bloodbraid Elf and keeping Calafell from Cascading into Seismic Assault on his next turn.

    Calafell decided on Treetop Village and nothing else. Kopec bolstered his game with Windbrisk Heights, but had no other play to augment his lonely Tidehollow Sculler, rendering the land useless for the time being. Calafell decided he needed to do more, and tapped out for Primal Command to return a Bloodbraid Elf. Cascade action next... and third card down was the Seismic Assault that meant serious trouble for Kopec. Identity Crisis took out Calafell’s hand, including two Swans, but attacking with Treetop Villages and Bloodbraid Elf brought Kopec to four. Calafell had the game when he showed another Swans of Bryn Argoll, but it wouldn’t have mattered much, as he was able to push enough damage through anyway.

    Kopec had kept a disruption-heavy hand that was Sculler, Thoughtseize and nothing else. He wasn’t able to generate enough pressure against Calafell from there, failing to proactively shut off the combo deck after his initial bout of disruption.

    Joel Calafell 2 – 0 Mateusz Kopec

    Calafell (right) took a fast one from Mateusz Kopec
     

  • Sunday, 10.57a.m.: Little Green Men
    by David Sutcliffe
  • These are the voyages of the Starship ‘Coverage’. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new decks and new win conditions. To boldly blog where no one has blogged before.

    Captain’s Log: Stardate 3471.2 The ‘Coverage’ has been called to investigate a strange anomaly on a planet near the Neutral Zone – reports suggest that a race of ‘little green men’ have been seen, multiplying with terrifying speed and terrorising nearby systems. I have sent an away team to the surface to investigate...

    One of the most unusual decks played in the whole of Grand Prix Barcelona is the Elf Combo deck that has managed to make the long and arduous trek from Extended to Standard in time for the Grand Prix and Nationals season. Two players have piloted the little green men into Day Two, and we featured Kenny Oberg’s win on the bubble in the last round of Day One, so that seems like a natural place to start in looking at this deck.

    Ok, so there are the cards, but what does the deck actually do? In these modern times there is a great pressure on car manufacturers to produce eco-friendly cars, and the Elf Combo deck is a wonderful exemplar – shunning the gold theme of Conflux and Alara Reborn to create an engine that is entirely green. Al Gore would undoubtedly approve!

    The core of the deck is the interaction between Heritage Druid and two or more Nettle Sentinels. The Heritage Druid allows you to tap three Elves for GGG, the Nettle Sentinels happen to be Elves that can untap when you play a green spell, and that GGG allows you to play green spells. Three Nettle Sentinels in play is the ultimate version of this combination, but having only two Sentinels in play is usually enough to let the deck ‘go off’ as so many of it’s green spells also happen to be Elves which it can then tap for GGG in lieu of a third Nettle Sentinel.

    Once you’ve established this engine in play the deck can play pretty much any card in it’s deck, building mana as it does so. Each time the deck taps Nettle Sentinels for GGG and only uses G of that on a spell that untaps the Nettle Sentinels, it is able to put some green mana aside for the future. The only real challenge then is drawing enough cards to take advantage of all that mana, which is where the Regal Force comes into play. The Combo Elves player drops a number of cheap Elves into play from hand, then plays a Regal Force to draw a whole new hand and begin the process again. In a single turn, as early as turn 4 but more reliably on turn 5, the Elves deck is able to cast every single card in it’s deck and drop dozens of creatures into play!

    Unfortunately, as Concordant Crossroads has long since left Standard, these green creatures don’t have Haste so the Elves player has to pass the turn before he kills his opponent. But before he does so he is able to play Primal Command 7 or 8 times to put all the opponent’s lands on top of his library and ensure that nothing untoward happens to the Elves before they can attack. Primal Command not only puts land back on top but can be used to shuffle the earlier Primal Commands back into your deck, to then be drawn with an Elvish Visionary and recast – when mana is no object, the only limit is how many Visionaries you play. You don’t go infinite, but you get enough of them to ensure your opponent is helpless.

    The rest of the deck, outside the core combo, is more mana acceleration like Llanowar Elves and Devoted Druid, and some powerful search options to pull the combo together in the form of Commune with Nature, Primal Command, and the deck’s clear MVP - Ranger of Eos.

    I asked Kenny to talk me through the deck a little.

    “It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also very competitive. It’s really good versus creature decks because you’re usually faster than them, and they have very few ways of really disrupting what you want to do. Black-White Tokens got a bit harder when Zealous Persecution was printed but I’ve tested that matchup dozens of times and it’s still about 60/40 in my favour. But Green-White Tokens or Kithkin is very easy – those are the decks I want to meet. Turbofog is a good match as well, so I beat the popular decks, and the decks that beat the popular decks.

    The hard matches are the decks with counters and sweepers. Sweepers alone aren’t enough, and point removal is useless against me. That means 5c Control is a bad matchup, and also the Swans Control deck. Swans Combo isn’t so bad – we are both about as quick as each other, but I have Thoughtseize and Primal Command to disrupt them. With Devoted Druid I can play Primal Command turn 3, and very often that’s enough to win the game on it’s own.”

    And with all those creatures, do you get to beat people up instead of combo-killing them?

    “Actually no, but what does happen is that you force people to defend against the aggro rush and that gives you the chance to combo kill them. Yesterday my opponent was forced to make Kitchen Finks to try and stabilise, and that tapped him out and let me go off. You rarely actually attack them down to 0, but the threat that you can do this pretty quickly... and with Primal Command hitting their land to buy you tempo... it makes them play in a way that lets you win.”

    But Kenny was clear about one thing:

    “The deck just doesn’t work without Ranger of Eos – being able to tutor for two of your combo pieces at once is so good. That’s the reason the deck works. So many times you Primal Command to find Ranger of Eos, then use the Ranger to find a Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinels, or two Nettle Sentinels. Any time they play a Wrath to sweep your board you just play Ranger of Eos and start again.”

    The sideboard packs in more creatures that Kenny can search out with his Primal Commands and Commune with Natures – Mycoloth for the red decks, Shriekmaw for Meddling Mage.

    Looking back on the deck I’m most impressed by how robust it’s search options are – with Primal Command and Ranger of Eos it’s surprisingly resistant to point removal and disruption. But I’m also struck by how elegantly the Primal Command fulfils multiple roles in the deck – it’s a Demonic Tutor, but it’s also a key part of the kill, as well as buying you life and time against aggressive decks, providing tempo disruption in early turns against control, and cycling all your key cards back into your deck should they get removed. All four options of Primal Command have a role to play in this deck and I like to see a card used to it’s full potential like that.
    This deck is cheap to make, fun to play, and has plenty of good matchups – expect to see it cropping up at FNMs and Regional Qualifiers near you!

     

  • Sunday, 11.28 a.m.: Day One Undefeated Decklists
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Olivier Ruel, 8-0-1 Day 1, GP Barcelona
    Turbofog

    Hugo De Jong, 8-0-1 Day 1, GP Barcelona
    Cascade Swans

     

  • Round Twelve Feature Match – Evangelos Papatsarouchas vs Juan Perez Bastida
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Head judge Adam Cetnerowski joked it might be possible to give coverage staff warnings after I put Evangelos Papatsarouchas into the feature match area this round, forcing him to make the announcement. I simply asked him how to spell his name.

    As it turns out I know Van (as everyone calls him), as though this two time Greek national team member currently resides in Greece, he had lived in England for a number of years, and taught me a thing or two about magical cards. Known for playing his own decks, this time Van has shown up with an interesting 4 colour cascade deck, which has taken him to 9-2 thus far.

    Van won the roll, but started out slow, taking beats from a Figure of Destiny, before starting to rebuild with a Kitchen Finks. Hellspark Elemental came along, and Van traded a persist token for Figure, while taking his beats otherwise. Another Finks came from Van, who got hit by the unearth, but little more from Juan, who seemed a little stuck on action.

    Bloodbraid Elf for Van hit Maelstrom Pulse, but without good targets, he elected not to play his free spell, simply beating Juan down to 10. A Naya Charm despatched Boggart Ram-Gang from Juan, and Van beat in for 8. The very next turn the concession came.

    Evangelos Papatsarouchas 1 – 0 Juan Perez Bastida

    While there are quite a lot of Jund cascade decks in the room, making the most of the power of Bituminous Blast and Bloodbraid Elf, Van’s deck, sporting a few Naya goodies is actually less of an adaptation of that as it is the five colour cascade deck originally written about by Pat Chapin, with a colour removed. On Saturday Van had taken some powerful scalps with his innovative mix of spells, including Manuel Bucher. Playing the fog deck, Bucher was cold to the combination of Primal Command and Naya Charm, which served to stymie the milling plan quite completely.

    Between Primal Command, Naya Charm and Jund Charm, Van has a lot of options against the field, be it removing Reveillark’s graveyard, tapping down tokens’ creatures or putting counters on a persisted Kitchen Finks.

    Juan had a turn two Hellspark Elemental as the first action of game 2, but Van was quick to hit back with Putrid Leech. While the pump of the leech would be painful, the fact that it could survive a lot of removal, and block a lot of guys made it worth having around. The Leech beat up an unearthed Hellspark Elemental, then beat in the following turn, after which Van played out Kitchen Finks.

    On attacks, Juan had a Volcanic Fallout, which the Leech survived, and the Finks persisted through. Van played another Kitchen Finks, apologising with a small smile. Not what the red decks want to see.

    Van kept cracking in, and saw an Incinerate take down his persisted Kitchen Finks before Volcanic Fallout killed off Putrid Leech. Juan was still on just 9 though, which made things a little precarious. Juan played Demigod of Revenge, and cracked in, but Van had an end of turn Naya Charm to get back Kitchen Finks, meaning he had an awful lot of life-gain to wok with. Demigod was going to have to hold back, and even doing so, Juan went to 3 on attacks. Van was also sat there with a busty hand, while Juan seemed close to out of gas.

    After a little thought, Juan knocked Van down to 11 with Demigod of Revenge. Van simply drew for his turn and discarded Pyroclasm. He couldn’t attack for the win in the face of a Boggart Ram Gang and Ghitu Encampment from Juan, and was also in trouble with lands, having used all his vivid counters. Another attack knocked Van low.

    A Maelstrom Pulse did in Demigod of Revenge, but the damage was already done. When Hellspark Elemental came down, Van didn’t have enough to stop all that was coming through.

    Evangelos Papatsarouchas 1 – 1 Juan Perez Bastida

    For the deciding game, both players kept Juan led off with a Mogg Fanatic. While Papatsarouchas was still in Vivid territory, Juan was running in with Hellspark Elemental. Van had a Kitchen Finks on turn 3, but a Magma Spray stopped it from working to well for Van, who got hit by unearth.

    Van had to use a Jund Charm to kill off just Mogg Fanatic, and had a Maelstrom Pulse for an Ashenmoor Gorger that replaced it. What Van did not have though, was lands. He took a hit from Hellspark Elemental, and then from its unearth. There was a Naya Charm from Van to kill a Ghitu Encampment, but as long as he kept failing to draw land he was in trouble.

    That fourth land came for Van but he wasn’t out of the woods. He had a lot of sorcery speed removal, but that wasn’t what he needed in the face of Hellspark Elementals and such. An end of turn Flame Javelin took Van to 3, and one of those Hellspark Elementals finished things. Ouch

    Juan Perez Bastida wins 2 – 1!

     

  • Deck Tech – 44 land for me, none for you!
    by Tim Willoughby
  • The secret is now out. Cascade Swans is a powerhouse. First shown to the world in BDM’s article this week, at the time of writing Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa is still undefeated with the deck.

    The principle is fairly simple. With enough land, Swans of Bryn Argoll and Seismic Assault I a lethal combo. This particular deck does not mess around risking not having enough land – it runs over 40. The new innovation is using cascade spells to effectively thin the deck to the point that it feels like it runs many more copies of all your key combo cards.

    The version of the deck I really want to talk about is one being played by Player of the Year contender Luis Scott-Vargas and Gerry Thompson (yes, it would seem that if your name is commonly turned into a series of letters, PV, LSV, GerryT, then you like the deck). It looks pretty similar, due in no small part to the fact that it is running the same basic plan. However some of the detailing is subtly different.

    The US version isn’t playing Ad Nauseum. This was pretty straightforward – basically there was not enough life to play with that LSV was ever very happy casting it, and he didn’t really like Captured Sunlight anyway.

    More importantly, the US version of the deck is running Deny Reality rather than Bituminous Blast. This sounds a little bullish in the face of so many aggro decks, and clearly it eliminates the possibility of shooting one’s own Swans of Bryn Argoll. Why is it worth doing then?

    Well, firstly, Deny Reality is a slightly better answer to any main-deck disruption than Bituminous Blast. Whether it be Runed Halo, Pithing Needle or any other permanent, the Deny Reality will hit it. There is also the neat little trick that LSV ran in round 10. With a Seismic Assault in play, and a fair idea of what was left in his deck through previous cascades, Luis needed to go off. He had no land in hand though, so he played Deny Reality on his own land, which gave him the land in hand and the Swans that he needed to win in a clutch position.

    The most compelling reason for Deny Reality though is the sideboard plan that was developed by Rashad Miller and GerryT. While the more widel known build of Cascade Swans has a sideboard sporting a host of answers to various disruption, and a brace of Countryside Crushers, this version includes both Fulminator Mage and Rain of Tears. With all that cascade in the deck, it plays like it has critical mass of land destruction without actually having to add too many cards. Between Primal Command, Deny Reality, Rain of Tears and Fulminator Mage, this build can put the hurt on five colour control, and dominates the mirror match. LSV chuckled that it was nice to be in a position where he could happily side out lands for more sideboard cards.

    Who’d have thought that a deck with so singular a plan can have such variation going on? It turns out it was the pros. Those wily pros.

     

  • Day 2 Metagame Breakdown
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Day 1 had a lot of decklists. We actually have the largest day 2 of any GP ever (apparently close to the theoretical limit), but the metagame breakdown was certainly more straightforward than on day one.

    The long story short? There are still a lot of tokens out there. There is a little more detail to it than that though. Here’s the full breakdown (missing 3 errant decklists).

    Black White Tokens - 46 (27%)
    Cascade Swans - 15 (9%)
    Green Black Elves - 13 (8%)
    Boat Brew - 11 (6%)
    Bant - 8 (5%)
    Faeries - 8 (5%)
    Jund cascade - 7 (4%)
    Kithkin - 7 (4%)
    Green White Tokens - 7 (4%)
    Black Red Aggro - 6 (4%)
    5 Colour Control - 6 (4%)
    Blue White Reveillark - 6 (4%)
    5 Colour Cascade – 5 (3%)
    Black White Kithkin – 4 (2%)
    Sanity Grinding – 3 (2%)
    Dark Bant – 3 (2%)
    Fog – 2 (1%)
    Sphinxes – 2 (1%)
    Elf Combo – 2 (1%)
    Doran – 2 (1%)
    Planeswalkers – 1 (1%)
    Mono Red Aggro – 1 (1%)
    Esper Lark – 1 (1%)
    Elementals – 1 (1%)
    Naya Jund Cascade – 1 (1%)
    Red Green Aggro – 1 (1%)
    Blue Black Control – 1 (1%)
    Quillspike – 1 (1%)

    Black white tokens has improved its percentage on the field, but not by as much as various other decks in day one. Cascade Swans appears to be having a great weekend. On top of the name pros beating with the deck, there are plenty of others catching opponents unprepared for their combo, which is actually surprisingly resilient.

    Boat Brew has shrugged off some of its detractors, and posted better numbers on the second day than green white tokens, including an impressive 9-0 on day one. You will notice that tokens are something of a theme, even if the intricacies of which token deck they are move in and out.

    5 colour cascade is a tricky deck to classify. It can go from being quite controlling to very aggressive. Bloodbraid Elf and Bituminous Blast are in both it and Jund Cascade, but the principle difference seems to be in what happens at the higher end. Cryptic Command and Cruel Ultimatum one way, more efficient threats the other.

    At the bottom of the metagame list, are quite a few decks you might not recognise. Making day 2 in a field this big is no mean feat, and in the coming rounds we’ll be covering as many of these new strategies as possible. If it doesn’t make sense now, don’t worry, it will.

     

  • Sunday, 12:23 p.m.: Answer me these questions three
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • There are all but 13 Sphinx in Magic, the vast majority of them recently printed. It is no beloved creature type, it does not stand up there with the iconic Goblins of red, the Angels of White or the Zombies of black. Sphinx find their company among the Elephants, Rhinos, and Fungi of Magic.

    But they grabbed their spot in the limelight today, using their cunning and wit to riddle their opponents with holes. Two players brought a Sphinx deck to the tournament, and both made day two – a conversion rate of 100 %, and a source of surprise for the opponents that found themselves dead in one swing from a winning position.

    Sascha Thomsen and Marcel Bauche from Germany are those who paid attention in their Care of Magical Creatures classes, learning the secret of the Sphinx and finally falling for their allure.

    The deck, dubbed Sphinx Control in our metagame breakdown:

    Colorwise, the deck is a straight-up Esper deck, although with the all too common manabase of Vivid lands + Reflecting Pools, anything seems possible these days. Originally, the deck started out as a 5-color Control deck, says Marcel Bauche. “But 5-color Control has only two or three win conditions, which we didn’t like much, so we put in twelve win conditions instead.”

    One of these, and in fact the one that comes up in “about 2 of 3 games”, says Thomsen, is Magister Sphinx. Hiding behind Plumeveil, Finks, Wrath and counters, the deck can take its time and set up a turn where Magister Sphinx takes the opponent to ten and then swings for lethal with whatever else is on the board. The Magister Sphinx is also an excellent recovery tool. But usually, it is the ultimate win condition in that deck, and also a surprise weapon against any deck that bumps its life total: “Especially with the lifegain from Finks and Ajani, people feel safe when they aren’t.”

    Another huge advantage this deck has over something more well-known is its rogue factor. “Opponents don’t know how to play against this deck. Path is good against it, and against Sower of Temptation we look really bad,” Marcel and Sascha explain. But their opponents have been Pathing Plumeveils and Kitchen Finks all day, not even the Sphinx Summoner that is the engine of Sphinx Control. The Summoners not only find the big guns, like the singleton “Akroma Sphinx” (of the Steel Wind), but also each other. Once you start recurring Summoners with Sharuum, the game is essentially over: “You always win the long game.”

    Marcel Bauche (left) and Sascha Thomsen with their steel clad Sphinx cohort.

    So the rest of the deck is designed to get you there. The two players had Kithkin, Blightning, and Boat Brew (R/W Reveillark) pegged as the decks to beat. Those match-ups are “really good”, against G/W and B/W Token the Germans see their chances as “pretty good”. The most troublesome card is Bitterblossom, for which they have the Wispmares in the sideboard.

    Faeries and Cascade Swans, on the other hand, are throwaway matches. “We don’t even have to play those,” says Thomsen, “we can’t win.” On day one, the two Sphinx players didn’t meet many of those, but Sunday saw them posting two losses each to Swans, Swans, Faeries and B/W Tokens. After round 12, the deck has posted a combined record of 17-7, with four losses coming from Sunday. In the current metagame, it probably needs to be updated, but the two Germans haven’t spent much time thinking about that yet. And however the future looks, Sphinx Control has already done a lot for Marcel Bauche: He qualified with the deck for PT Austin at a PTQ last week.

    When he did, noone took the deck seriously. Which only goes to show that sometimes, a rogue idea can get you a long way ahead of the competition.

     

  • Deck Tech – Man, Oh Mannequin
    by Tim Willoughby
  • There are a few Faeries decks in day two of this grand prix. It is to be expected that one of the best decks of recent Standard gets a few people in, even if its day in the sun might now be past. One deck that struck my attention though for being blue/black and not containing a single copy of Bitterblossom, Spellstutter Sprite or Mistbind Clique. It was like looking back into a bygone era.

    Where Victor Gimmenez found himself 3 days ago was in an awkward spot. He’d played a lot of Faeries, and found it wanting in the format. He liked the counterspells, and found himself siding in Puppeteer Clique a lot, but the general operations of the deck didn’t seem good enough for him to take to a Grand Prix.

    So, quite simply, Victor looked to get more out of those coming into play effects. Makeshift Mannequin has been doing good things pretty much since its inception when working with evoke creatures, and Gimmenez has taken this plan to heart. With Soul Manipulation and Countersquall, Gimmenez has got plenty in the way on upgrades to his countermagic, and between Profane Command, Makeshift Mannequin and persist creatures, he gets an awful lot of bang from those select creatures deemed good enough to make the cut.

    If you like countering spells, but feel a little bit dirty about casting Bitterblossom, try out this list – it currently has Victor on a 10-3 record, with two rounds to go.

    Victor Gimmenez

     

  • Round Thirteen Feature Match: Sam Black (USA) vs Carlos Navarro Del Dujo (ESP)
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Whack! Black attack!
    “It’s taken three attempts”, said Sam Black, as I sat his feature match area, “three times I’ve been in the feature match area without actually getting onto the coverage”

    With four feature match areas there’s always somebody who doesn’t make it onto the coverage, but try to get to everyone eventually!

    Sam Black has travelled over with a large number of Americans – flights to Barcelona were cheap, apparently – and he has brought with him the deck that common wisdom has it is dead in the water - Faeries. Sam has spent the whole of the Grand Prix proving that common wisdom wrong and the latest opponent he was preparing to re-educate was Carlos Navarro Del Dujo, one of the Spanish contingent still going strong in their home Grand Prix.

    There was no hiding Sam’s plan of attack once the game was underway, however – a Faerie Conclave and Bitterblossom on his first two turns, then a second Bitterblossom turn three told his opponent exactly what to expect. Navarro Del Dujo looked a little surprised to be facing off against Faeries, but not unduly concerned by the development – he had a pair of Windbrisk Heights and a Spectral Procession. The Spaniard added a Glorious Anthem, but a pair of Agony Warps from Black left him with a lone spirit in play while the Faeries continued to multiply with each passing turn.

    A Cloudgoat Ranger was countered with a Cryptic Command, drawing Sam another card, and then on the American’s next turn it was time to go on the offensive, with Black powering up the Faerie Conclave and sending his troops over. The Spaniard blocked the Conclave down and sank to 11 life, but was able to cast a Wrath of God on his next turn, resetting the board.

    Sam Black’s upkeep on Bitterblossom dropped him to 11 life as well, but Mistbind Clique stole away a Bitterblossom and denied his opponent a turn woth mana, and a Spellstutter Sprite countered the Path to Exile which then attempted to remove the Clique. Incredibly, just a turn after the Wrath of God had cleared away all threats, Sam Black had rebuilt his forces stronger than ever before and attacked for 7, dropping Navarro Del Dujo to 4. The Spaniard mustered a Cloudgoat Ranger for defense, but even though that took down the Mistbind Clique a turn later, the little 1/1 Faerie tokens nipped around to deal the lethal four damage required to win Game 1.

    All Navarro Del Dujo could do was discard

    Sam Black (USA) 1 – 0 Carlos Navarro Del Dujo (ESP)

    Things went rapidly wrong for the Spaniard in Game 2 – both players were forced to mulligan, but while Sam Black had drawn into a turn two Bitterblossom, Navarro Del Dujo spent the entire game looking for a third land, or any black mana source at all. A second Bitterblossom for Black on turn 4 accelerated the inevitable and the American swept to an unopposed victory.

    Sam Black (USA) 2 – 0 Carlos Navarro Del Dujo (ESP)

    As Navarro Del Dujo revealed his hand it was clear that he hadn’t been playing a mono-white Kithkin deck at all, but Black-White tokens – he had simply not draw a single black mana source in either game! No black against Sam Black!

    The second game was one of those horrific misfires that any player can suffer, but the first game was a perfect reminder of why Faeries dominated Standard so much for so long. Not a single card in Sam’s draw had come from either Conflux or Alara Reborn – indeed in his entire decklist he only one Soul Manipulation from either of those expansions - but despite it he had left Navarro Del Dujo trailing in the dust and scrambling to get any of his spells to count. In the hands of a good player, who understood the complex balance between aggression and control that the Faeries deck walks like a tightrope, it remained a powerhouse.

     

  • Sunday, 1:10 p.m.: With a side dish of Sealed
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Doesn't everybody love building a Sealed deck?
    While the main event narrows down to the final rounds, it is dwarved by the PTQ that hangs around in the back of the hall. 315 players are competing for a single invitation to Pro Tour Austin, mostly slugging it out with the same decks they failed to make day two with. Compared to the 174 players in the main event, that is quite a number. And yet, the tournament hall that was buzzing with 1500 people yesterday seems almost deserted, even though there are also a couple of draft queues, a 100-player Alara Block Sealed deck tournament and a Legacy event with 163 players going on. I guess when you’re used to 1500 people in the room, half of that seems smallish.

    However, it is not. For the judges and public events staff on the ground, the challenge of juggling three big tournaments and pick-up drafts at the same time makes for a totally different experience than in the main event. Where the players are tense, eager, and nervous because there is a lot at stake, the Legacy players especially enjoy themselves more for the fun of it than for the seriousness of the competition. Not to say that they aren’t serious! But the back half of the hall feels a lot more casual than the rows of tables where prize money, pro points and a permanent place in Magic’s storied GP history are on the line.

     

  • Sunday, 1:47 p.m.: Food for thought and FNM
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • When fellow coverage minion Tim Willoughby buried himself in piles of paper and emerged with the day two metagame breakdown, he scratched a couple of metaphorical opal flakes from the bottom of the pile. They may be a little rough, but somewhere in there is a gem waiting to be polished and ready to shine. These decks made a Sunday appearance, but didn't fare too well, so take these ideas and run them through your brain, your playgroup and your FNM.

     

  • Round Fourteen Feature Match -- Who needs cascade? Daniel Moura vs Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
    by Tim Willoughby
  • With two rounds to go, the field is swiftly narrowing for those who can still make top 8. While Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa had started on a terrifying 10 straight match wins, a few losses on Sunday left him battling to make it into top 8. His opponent, Moura, had not started out on such a high, and was fighting uphill to claw his way in. Given the Portugal vs Brazil match this round, there was plenty of rough-housing and banter from the crowd. None of this was lost to either of the two players, but I confess, to this writer the only message received was that this would be a big game...

    PV won the roll, and led off with a Vivid Grove. He had another Vivid land to follow, and on turn 3 a Fire-Lit Thicket allowed a natural turn three Seismic Assault. Turn four Swans of Bryn Argoll sent PV off to the races, discarding lands to draw two cards, until eventually he had sufficient to kill Moura, who had only played a single Spectra Procession for the first game. That is how to do it.

    Daniel Moura 0 – 1 Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

    The sideboarding and shuffling for game 2 took significantly longer than game 1 had, but there seemed little danger of running out of time for this match. Having been playing this Swans deck for longer than anyone, PV now rattled through the motions with consummate ease.

    In Game 2, there was a better start from Moura, who had a Windbrisk Heights prior to Spectral Procession. There was still a natural turn 3 Seismic Assault from Paulo though, and he used the enchantment to keep Windbrisk Heights from doing its thing for a turn.

    For the second game in a row Paulo had the turn four Swans. This time there was a Path to Exile for the Swans, but Paulo had extra land in hand to try to go off in response. Paulo briskly started pitching lands to draw two more cards. As his deck started to get thinner, he slowed down a little. Would it all work out that he could do enough damage? Had he sided out too many lands? Moura had played a Kitchen Finks on turn 3, that effectively required one more land from PV. His deck ran lots of them, but still, it looked closer than game 1.

    Eventually, the Swans were removed from the game. PV didn’t have enough to kill, but he did pitch sufficient lands as to kill off the team on the other side of the board, before discarding such that he had 7 cards in hand, and 3 cards in his deck left. It felt like there would be some Primal Command action very soon.

    Moura played a Kitchen Finks for his turn, and passed. PV cast Primal Command to put a land on top of his opponent’s deck, and shuffle in his graveyard. Moura had a Glorious Anthem and swung, but was not in great shape for PV to combo off a second time.

    Swans came down again for PV, and he started cycling through his deck a second time. He finished his turn by discarding a Wrath of God. Time was on PV’s side, as he simply took beats from Kitchen Finks, and nodded to a Spectral Procession. PV drew his entire deck, threw 7 lands at his opponent, and cast Primal Command to again get another shot at his graveyard. There was enough land in his hand to draw into even more land, securing the kill.

    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa wins 2 – 0!

     

  • Sunday 3:17 p.m.: Legacy news flash
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Judge David Lyford-Smith reported from the Legacy event that in round 6 of 8, Red-Green Aggro and Top Control resided at the top tables. Top Control looks to be a likely candidate to take home the iPod that’s up for the winner. Some Threshold decks have adopted Lorescale Coatl from Alara Reborn as a natural fit, and there is at least one High Tide deck on the top tables. We now return to your regular scheduled program.

     

  • Round Fifteen Feature Match -- That's the way to mulligan: Sam Black vs Alexandre Aurejac
    by Tim Willoughby
  • In the final round before top 8, things look surprisingly clean in terms of who can make top 8. There are effectively 4 matches to decide the final 4 slots that haven’t been locked up. Paired up, Sam Black holds the key to what points make it. He has to win to have a shot. Playing Faeries, he has not taken the traditional route through this tournament, but with a huge amount of experience with Faeries, that hasn’t been a problem.

    His opponent, Frenchman Alexandre Aurejac, has more points going into the match but still needs at least one more, and with black white tokens, the popular choice of the event, he seemed confident. This confidence was shaken a little by a double mulligan on his part. While he had Windbrisk Heights on turn one, there was not any follow up, and a Bitterblossom from Sam soon put the hurt on.

    Aurejac sat with a Windbrisk Heights, Swamp and Plains in play. While Sam didn’t have the mana up for Cryptic Command, he was drawing, attacking and passing with 4 lands up in such a fashion as to suggest strength. A Glorious Anthem resolved just fine for Aurejac, but there were no creatures to go with it, while Sam slowly amassed an army of tokens, and had Mutavaults to join them.

    As Aurejac finally found a third white source, he went for Spectral Procession, only to see Broken Ambitions. The next attempt from Aurejac was Bitterblossom, but this met Spellstutter Sprite. When the token deck can’t get a single creature in play, it really doesn’t have anything, and it was not long before Sam’s army of flying 1/1 tokens finished things.

    Sam Black 1 – 0 Alexandre Aurejac

    Each player sideboarded in silence, with Black shuffling in his entire sideboard to conceal how many cards he might have changed. He had come into the tournament knowing that there would be a lot of his opponent’s deck in the field, so it seemed likely that he was better prepared for this matchup than his opponent.

    A game down, Aurejac was on the play. He watched on as this time Sam had to mulligan down to five.

    “Fair I suppose” remarked Sam, not sounding convinced by his own words.

    Game 2 began with a Thoughtseize from Aurejac on turn 2. It revealed a good five, Bitterblossom, Spellstutter Sprite, Infest, Broken Ambitions and Mutavault. With a Secluded Glen in play it was a very impressive mulligan, all things considered. Not having Bitterblossom hury, but Aurejac wasn’t piling on the pressure, with only a Knight of the White Orchid attacking in.

    Sam was quickly up to four lands, with Aurejac being careful to play around what he knew of Sam’s hand. With 3 lands untapped, he played Bitterblossom, hoping to be safe from Broken Ambitions. That counter didn’t come, but Cryptic Command did, keeping Sam safe for the time being.

    Knight of the White Orchid dropped Sam to 14 on attacks, and he used Spellstutter Sprite to stop Thoughtseize. This new faerie and Mutavault attacked, to keep the damage race interesting.

    Murderous Redcap was hit by another Cryptic Command. From a mulligan to 5, Sam’s draws had been stellar. He cast Jace Beleren, and drew a card with the Planeswalker before passing (always with 4 mana up). Jace got attacked by Knight of the White Orchid, only to be protected by Spellstutter Sprite. Murderous Redcap was stopped by Broken Ambitions, and an Infest cleared Aurejac’s side of the board.

    Would Aurejac ever resolve a spell? He cast Knight of the White Orchid, into Spellstutter Sprite + Mutavault. Path to Exile took out the land, finally allowing a threat for the Frenchman. A Kitchen Finks soon followed.

    Jace Beleren allowed both players to draw a card, and after a little thought Sam passed the turn without a play. Aurejac attacked Jace with both of his creatures. This led Sam to cast Peppersmoke on Knight of the White Orchid, and then do it again. The second Peppersmoke met Zealous Persecution. Sam animated a Faerie Conclave such that he could still draw a card from his spell, and blocked Kitchen Finks, such that Jace would live.

    Sam again forced another card to be drawn by both players, played Mutavault and passed. For a second turn Aurejac attacked Jace with his team. An Agony Warp killed off the Finks, and allowed Mutavault to kill the knight without incident. Aurejac just played another Finks and passed.

    Sam was still happy to play draw, draw extra cards with Jace, go. He had a Mutavault to block Kitchen Finks with, and a counter to stop Zealous Persecution, such that Jace was somehow still alive.

    Cryptic Command kept Jace around for even longer, and Sam’s card drawing game continued. What wasn’t forthcoming was any pressure from Sam to win the game. He had a Spellstutter Sprite and Mutavault to trade with Aurejac’s creatures, but nothing to stop Spectral Procession making 3 more. Glorious Anthem met Broken Ambitions, but revealed that there was another Spectral Procession on the way, which it was unclear how Sam could fight. Aurejac seemed confident that Sam must be out of counters. Indeed he was, but he did have a Mistbind Clique to ambush one of Aurejac’s tokens, and effectively Time Walk. The 4/4 couldn’t attack in, but did continue to block like a trooper, taking down Aurejac’s team, which was now swinging to the face.

    Spectral Procession was countered by Sam’s final Cryptic Command. There was another though, making the French side of the board rather fuller. Peppersmoke killed off one of them, but with a Windbrisk Heights on the board, leaving 3 creatures around didn’t seem like to great a plan.

    Ajani Goldmane met a frown from Sam, who did nothing to stop it. The planeswalker made those Spirit tokens bigger, and Aurejac tried for Zealous Persecution from under Windbrisk Heights. Soul Manipulation found Spellstutter Sprite though, which stopped the big spell.

    Sam was quick to kill Ajani with Mistbind Clique, but still in rough shape. He played a Mistbind Clique during Aurejac’s upkeep. Aurejac didn’t have an answer, but drew it in Path to Exile, allowing attacks to take Sam to 3. An Infest killed Aurejac’s team, and Sam attacked in. He now had another Mistbind Clique to champion the first, and Time Walk. Sam attacked Aurejac down to 13.

    In upkeep, another Mistbind Clique came. Now Sam was on the offensive. He had a Puppeteer Clique to get Kitchen Finks, ultimately attacking Aurejac down to 2. There were no more upkeep effects. It didn’t matter though. Nothing from Aurejac could stop Sam’s air force.

    As unlikely as it might seem, Sam Black wins the game and the match, racking up another Faeries top 8!

     

  • Top 8 Decklists
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Hugo De Jong, GP Barcelona 2009 Top 8
    Cascade Swans

    Riccardo Neri, GP Barcelona 2009 Top 8
    5-color Control

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