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Grand Prix Barcelona - Complete Day 1 Coverage

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EVENT COVERAGE

 

  • Saturday, 9:44 a.m. – Winning Decklists from Friday's Trials

    by Tobi Henke
  • The main tournament has only just begun, but already we have a couple winners to announce. Eighteen of them, to be specific. The following 18 players each joined one of the single-elimination Grand Prix Trials on Friday, went 5-0, and earned three byes for today's big show. Congratulations!

    And here are the decklists they used to defeat all opposition and clinch the much-coveted prize.

    Sergio Florez
    Winner, Grand Prix Barcelona Trial


    Kaarle Tukia
    Winner, Grand Prix Barcelona Trial


    Rubén Rocher
    Winner, Grand Prix Barcelona Trial


    Frederiak Forslund
    Winner, Grand Prix Barcelona Trial




    Khellif Fethi
    Winner, Grand Prix Barcelona Trial


    Mario Santopadre
    Winner, Grand Prix Barcelona Trial


    Pol Urós
    Winner, Grand Prix Barcelona Trial




    Jordi Brusca
    Winner, Grand Prix Barcelona Trial


    Antonio Santos
    Winner, Grand Prix Barcelona Trial



    Ruslan Delmukhametov
    Winner, Grand Prix Barcelona Trial



    Tiago Correia
    Winner, Grand Prix Barcelona Trial

    Main Deck

    60 cards

    Arid Mesa
    12  Mountain
    Scalding Tarn
    Teetering Peaks

    24 lands

    Ember Hauler
    Goblin Guide
    Spikeshot Elder

    12 creatures

    Arc Trail
    Burst Lightning
    Koth of the Hammer
    Lightning Bolt
    Searing Blaze
    Staggershock

    24 other spells

    Sideboard
    Goblin Ruinblaster
    Manic Vandal
    Mark of Mutiny
    Ratchet Bomb
    Tectonic Edge

    15 sideboard cards




     

  • Saturday, 11:06 a.m. – 20/20 Vision (Part One)

    by Tobi Henke
  • Let's take a look at a work in progress. At the beginning of every Constructed event, lots and lots of different decks enter the tournament, a variety which seldomly gets to be featured in the coverage. Then each round more and more crazy ideas are winnowed out, and in the end only the cream of the crop remains.

    Today, we decided to show you the full picture. Throughout the day, we will periodically take a look at the decks that are played at the top ten tables of tournament. Here's the original input from round one:

    3 Mono Red Aggro
    3 Vampires
    2 Valakut
    2 Red-Blue-Green
    2 Elves
    1 Kuldotha Red
    1 Naya
    1 Boros
    1 U/W Caw-Blade
    1 Pyromancer Ascension w/ Archive Trap
    1 G/B Infect
    1 Mono Blue Control
    1 Myr Tribal Deck

    These are 13 different archetypes across 20 players! How many will there be next time we check?


     
  • Podcast – Will Calafell Reign in Spain?

    by Rich Hagon
  • With 1,201 players entering the fray, it's a huge task before Joel Calafell, winner of the previous GP Barcelona in 2009, with his amazing Seismic Swans deck. We take you throught the big names playing this weekend, and then take a look at the state of Dutch Magic. With multiple famous players in the Hall of Fame, and any number of global titles, who are the next generation, waiting to take over from Frank Karsten, Kamiel Cornelissen, Jelger Wiegersma, and Bram Snepvangers? We talk with Kevin Grove and Robert van Medevoort to find out.

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    Download Podcast – Will Calafell Reign in Spain? (16.0 MB)

     

  • Saturday, 1:13 p.m. – Talking to the Traders

    by Tobi Henke
  • This (i.e. talking to the traders) has always proved to be a worthwhile enterprise. Seeing which cards are in high demand at the beginning of a Grand Prix can provide valuable insight as to what specific decks can be expected to show up in large quantities or more generally what strategies might make up a sizeable portion of the field. Especially sideboards are notorious for being build—and bought—at the last minute, so a rush on cards may not only indicate what people are playing, but also what they expect to play against.


    This time, the very first card that was mentioned by the traders was Arc Trail. The card which can kill a Squadron Hawk and a Stoneforge Mystic in one swift strike seemed to be at the top of many a player's list. Another one was Inferno Titan which can do the same, though in this case over and over again. Hero of Oxid Ridge battles the ubiquitous Caw-Blade deck on a completely different level, as does Manic Vandal on yet another level. Both the Common and the Mythic Rare were also among the most sought-after cards here in Barcelona. As was Slagstorm, the fifth red card on this list. Apparently, red was the color of choice for this Grand Prix.

    A few of the standards made it onto the bestseller's list as well, like Gideon Jura and Stoneforge Mystic, of course. And half a year ago, probably nobody would have thought, this card would ever be among the most sold singles at a GP, but Tumble Magnet did it.


     

  • Saturday, 2:38 p.m. – Around the world in 80 plays

    by Tim Willoughby

  • The Magic tournament year is a marathon, not a sprint, and while for many a trip to a Grand Prix is an occasional event, for those eying up Pro Points and Players Club levels, the lure of a Grand Prix is plenty enough motivation to jump on a plane and see a new country.

    Last year Christian Calcano came within just a few points of securing the title of Rookie of the Year, in spite of his points run coming in the final third of the year. Had he earned a few points early in the season, he could have had things all locked up. In 2011, he recognises the importance of getting points on the board early. Having travelled across to Spain with long time Grand Prix traveller Sam Black, he was absent-mindedly singing to himself at the start of round one "Just want to win the tournament!"

    "I'd take the same or better than last time in Barcelona" remarked Sam with a smile, thinking back to his second place finish.

    The pair had arrived in Barcelona on Wednesday to avoid jetlag for the event, and get in a little sightseeing. Calcano seemed settled and ready to game by the time I spoke to him on Saturday morning. "When I saw the schedule at the start of the year, I thought to myself – I've not been to Spain. I speak a bit of the language. This one could work"


    Both Sam and Christian are intending on making it to all the American GPs, and when I asked them about what happened when the schedule for the 2011 season came out, they each smiled. "Yeah, we start planning trips pretty much straight away" pointed out Sam. "I did a lot of travel last year. This year I'm picking Grand Prix in places that I have a special reason to want to visit, or where I can string a few together for a good run".

    "I'd really like to do the October run" chimed in Calcano. Milan, Brisbane, Amsterdam or Santiago, followed by Hiroshima is an impressive lap of the world. Without quite as much travel under his belt so far, Christian was more keen to try for such an audacious tour. Sam was perhaps a little wary of a whole month of back-to-back play, but had clearly enjoyed that sort of tour in 2010. "Playing every weekend for a month and travelling in between is hard, especially when the formats are different. There isn't a lot of time to practice in that month." It does get a lot of stamps in the passport though. Sam showed off a passport that is rapidly approaching needing more pages, aided in big part by Magic.

    With most of the season still to go, there is a lot of time to play with, but to get the most points from that play, it looks like Christian's travel plans will put him in good shape for the season.

    It is interesting that a lot of the players toward the top of the player of the year race have not come across to Barcelona. While Christian at the moment has 9 points (joint 17th), he has a good shot at gaining ground at this event, given that of those above him in the race, only Vincent Lemoine, the runner up from Paris, and Martin Juza have made the trip. A win could put him in equal third in the race.

    With this thought, Calcano smiled, and went back to his little ditty. "Just want to win the tournament..."


     

  • Saturday, 2:43 p.m. – Getting Into the Caw

    by Tim Willoughby
  • It seems that if there is one deck that is shaping the way that everyone is approaching Standard right now it is Caw-Blade, the breakout deck from Pro Tour Paris, which best showed everyone just how powerful the interaction between Squadron Hawk, Stoneforge Mystic and Sword of Feast and Famine can be.

    Since Ben Stark's win in the French capital, things have moved on quite a bit in design of the deck. Through the Starcitygames.com open series, we have seen the deck evolve week on week, with successful versions now showing a number of key variations.

    'Classic' Caw-Blade is straight blue/white, with a mana base stable enough for Tectonic Edge. This was more or less what was seen in Paris, and continues to do well in the hands of players such as Edgar Flores. The amount that it has changed since Paris is minimal, though many have switched up their equipment to simply be two copies of Sword of Feast and Famine, eschewing Sylvok Lifestaff and even Sword of Body and Mind. Some blue/white builds also sport some amount of Sun Titan and Baneslayer Angel if they want to 'go big'. The Titan is an interesting addition, in that it reinforces the Tectonic Edge plan, and can even be backed up by Spreading Seas, making some amount of mana denial a very real option.

    Mana denial becomes particularly relevant when one starts looking at the alternative builds of Caw-Blade. They all keep the blue/white shell, with countermagic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor to back up Stoneforge Mystic and Squadron Hawk, but from there, an extra colour is often in evidence.

    The red version of Caw-Blade gains a number of powerful removal options. Lightning Bolt is something of a classic, but it is Cunning Sparkmage and in some cases Inferno Titan that reinforce this build as being the one that can best kill of the sort of little creatures that might at some point look to wield a sword. The big concession in doing this comes with the mana base. Adding red means that Tectonic Edge can't really stay in, and opens up more potential to have clunky mana draws. Additionally, the version of Caw-Blade with red does give up some edge against Valakut in order to make its match against other Squadron Hawk decks better.

    The black version of Caw-Blade (sometimes, fantastically, referred to as Darkwing Duck), takes a different route on attacking the metagame. Again its mana base is a little shakier, but the build with black does get another man-land, in the shape of Creeping Tar Pit. This addition alone is quite exciting, as it means that there is a way of getting guaranteed hits in with a sword, (bringing guaranteed untaps etc.) and of combatting enemy planeswalkers. The black spells are principally removal, but also discard spells. Inquisition of Kozilek is a powerful tool in the mirror, where getting an early Stoneforge Mystic is one of the easier ways to pull ahead. Either Inquisition will take the Stoneforge Mystic itself, or can wait on the Mystic being played, and simply take the sword. Either way, the discard plan is a solid one.

    Later in the weekend, we'll start talking about key plays, and ways that players are looking to fight back against the plan of Sword plus Hawk. Hopefully by the end of the weekend, we'll have all you need to either fight with a sword, or against it.


     

  • Feature Match: Round 4 - Martin Juza vs. Petr Brozek

    by Tim Willoughby
  • "This is crazy. We flew here on the same flight, and were sharing lists the whole way over. I spent a fair amount of time on the flight trying to convince Petr to play Koth of the Hammer in his new red deck, because it's really good against decks like mine – the dark version of Caw-Blade. I kind of hope he was stubborn enough not to listen to me."

    Martin Juza, one of the top pros to have made it to the event, was happy to see that he didn't have too much in the way of American pro players to worry about at this event, but a little sad to have to play a friend in the very first round.

    "I think that it's harder for American's coming to Europe than the other way around, as the jetlag going in that direction is tougher. Also there are still a few people who caught a nasty illness at Pro Tour Paris, who are a bit wary of travelling with it" he remarked as he shuffled up.

    Having already spoken to Christian Calcano about his travel plans for the year, I was keen to see how a level 8 mage viewed all the travel. Juza has been going to every event handing out pro points for the last 2 years, and rather than getting tired of it, he seemed more enthusiastic about travel than ever.

    "You get to know how to do things better. How to book flights that let you travel on from one event to the next. The air miles don't hurt either. I know that Shuhei (Nakamura, level 8 mage and traveller extraordinaire) booked flights here and flights to GP London using air miles. It's nice to be able to make the most of the flying to get some upgrades here and there."

    The other side that gets better with more travel is the networking. There's a good chance that when GP London happens, I'll be hanging out with Martin and Shuhei for a day or two before as it's my home town. Likewise, when players go to GP Prague, Martin will be the one showing people around a bit. "It is nice to have one event at home this year. I do love the travel, but it will make a change to be at home for a week or two in the middle of the season."

    Martin Juza

    Martin kept his opener, but Brozek was forced to mulligan first once, then again to five on the play.

    A turn one Mountain, go from Brozek was not an exciting start from the red mage, and his start was made worse by a Duress from Juza. It saw Teetering Peaks, Devastating Summons and two copies of Lightning Bolt. Juza took the Summons, and looked on as Brozek just played a land for his next turn.

    Juza had a Stoneforge Mystic, to find Sword of Body and Mind, and while the creature was soon offed by one of those copies of Lightning Bolt, it had still done a good job of keeping Juza ahead. Brozek was already in rough shape to take Game 1, and looked on as Juza cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and used it to Brainstorm.

    That Juza had not upped the loyalty of his planeswalker in the face of the Lightning Bolt he knew was in Brozek's hand suggested that he had a second copy. The bolt did take down Jace, and Brozek followed up with Elemental Appeal to get some damage in. That plan wouldn't work twice, as Juza's follow-up was Gideon Jura, who immediately went up to 8 loyalty.

    Brozek was taking things slow, simply drawing and passing. Juza, meanwhile, had a big swing with Gideon, who picked up a Sword of Feast and Famine. When another Jace, the Mind Sculptor came to join the planeswalker party, and commenced fatesealing Brozek, the burninator soon packed it in.

    Martin Juza 1, Petr Brozek 0

    In the second game, Juza had the first play, with a Sylvok Lifestaff that was soon joined by Stoneforge Mystic (that fetched Mortarpod). This Mortarpod looked exciting in the face of Brozek's first play of Plated Geopede.

    Searing Blaze cleared a path for the Geopede which swung in for just three, with Brozek keeping back a Scalding Tarn uncracked, to protect the landfall creature. Juza did not even cast the Mortarpod initially, instead choosing to go for a Squadron Hawk, fetching two more copies to bring his hand size to seven.

    That hawk soon died blocking Plated Geopede, and Brozek sat back now with a pair of fetchlands ready to go. Juza had just a land for his turn, and looked on as Brozek played a Goblin Guide, which soon got large thanks to Teetering Peaks. The Guide didn't give Juza the land that he wanted, and he looked a little pained as he had to use a Go For the Throat on Plated Geopede.

    Petr Brozek

    An Inquisition of Kozilek from Juza saw Goblin Bushwhacker, Evolving Wilds and Lightning Bolt. The burn spell was consigned to the grumper, before a Preordain found a second copy of Inquisition of Kozilek to leave Brozek with no action. While Juza was on 8 after attacks, he seemed fairly unconcerned. He used a Celestial Purge to off a Cunning Sparkmage before it could get more than 1 ping in, then cast Squadron Hawk. If he could get his Sylvok Lifestaff going, then that life total he was on would not be so much of a problem.

    Another Cunning Sparkmage came from Brozek, which prompted that Mortarpod to get the trade. Squadron Hawk #3 was then safe to come down. It didn't stay safe for long, dying in a tussle with Goblin Guide, but at least in doing so, it did keep Martin alive.

    Juza finally got his fifth land, allowing a Baneslayer Angel to join the party. A second soon followed, quickly turning around board. Brozek did not have enough burn left to kill even one of the angels, and was soon extending his hand.

    Martin Juza wins 2 – 0!


     
  • Podcast – All-Pro, All the Time

    by Rich Hagon
  • Round Four brings us four outstanding matches. While not many may yet know Tomas Horvath, he's part of a new wave of Hungarian players that are starting to make people like me sit up and take notice. He opens with a tough assignment against Shuhei Nakamura, the former Player of the Year. Fresh from his Player of the Year Playoff against Brad Nelson, Guillaume Matignon faces Tine Rus, in a Control mirror. Then there's the Valakut of Marcello Calvetto from Italy, trying to get by the Boros of Vincent Lemoine of Belgium, while the battle of the Czech Republic sees Martin Juza face Petr Brozek. Will Brozek's Red Deck Wins deliver a knockout blow? Featuring great play, and winner interviews.

    Multi

    Download Podcast – All-Pro, All the Time (17.5 MB)

     

  • Feature Match: Round 5 - Love Janse vs. Lukas Blohon

    by Tobi Henke
  • Up to this point, both players were undefeated and naturally eager to keep it this way. Lukas Blohon obviously would like to add a second Grand Prix Top 8 to his résumé, while Love Janse could use another Top 8 to go along with his fourth place from last year's World Championships. The match-up here was U/W/b Caw-Blade for Blohon and Valakut for Janse.

    Both players decided quickly on one mulligan each and were equally fast to declare their approval of their respective six-card hands. Blohon led with Creeping Tar Pit followed by Plains and Inquisition of Kozilek. This removed Janse's Khalni Heart Expedition and left him with Harrow, Oracle of Mul Daya, Primeval Titan, and lands. Janse drew Green Sun's Zenith and immediately used it to search up a Joraga Treespeaker. Blohon had another Inquisition of Kozilek, discarding Harrow, and then Go for the Throat, when Janse tried to activate his Treespeaker.

    Lukas Blohon

    Oracle of Mul Daya was Janse's next threat and that too was immediately dealt with. Mana Leak took care of that and now it was Blohon's turn to start his offensive. Two Squadron Hawks and a Sword of Body and Mind provided a fast clock.

    Janse had another Green Sun's Zenith for Overgrown Battlement, but was still missing his sixth mana. He could only watch helplessly, while the Hawks and an increasing number of bears wrapped up the first game.

    Lukas Blohon 1-0 Love Janse

    Both players had some shuffling to do on turn two, each for his own 1/2 creature. Janse's Zenith once again brought out Joraga Treespeaker, Blohon's Stoneforge Mystic searched for Sword of Feast and Famine. The Treespeaker was joined by Overgrown Battlement, but despite having seven mana available on his fourth turn, Janse just passed back to Blohon, who used his Mystic to put Sword of Feast and Famine onto the battlefield. The Sword started to work on Janse's hand, who was not too concerned about discarding a useless Misty Rainforest. His trouble was more that he even drew this many lands.

    Love Janse

    He tried for Summoning Trap, but got it Flashfreezed. Now even Blohon's Inquisition of Kozilek missed as Janse only had more lands. And Memoricide, removing all of his Primeval Titans, certainly didn't increase his chances either. Soon, Jace, the Mind Sculptor turned up to fateseal the deal.

    Lukas Blohon 2-0 Love Janse


     

  • Saturday, 3:52 p.m. – 20/20 Vision (Part Two)

    by Tobi Henke
  • Last time we looked, in round one, we saw 13 different archetypes being played at the top ten tables. At the beginning of round four this number was down to 12, with some additional overlap between three:

    3 Valakut
    3 Mono Red Aggro
    2 Caw-Blade (one with red, one with black)
    2 U/B Control
    2 Kuldotha Red
    2 Boros
    1 Vampires
    1 R/G Eldrazi Ramp
    1 U/B/r Tezzeret
    1 G/W Quest for the Holy Relic*
    1 G/W No-Quest*
    1 G/W/u Dredgevine*

    *These three all included the package of Fauna Shaman, Vengevine, Squadron Hawk, Stoneforge Mystic, and assorted equipment. One complemented this with the rather ordinary Quest for the Holy Relic alongside Ornithopter and Memnite; one had Planeswalkers and more general good stuff; the third ran Hedron Crab to get even faster Vengevines and even bigger Bonehoards.

    Compared to the round-one "metagame", we lost Infect, Mono Blue Control, Ascension, Naya, and the Myr deck, as well as all of the Elves, all of the Red-Blue-Green, and some of the Vampires. Mono Red kept its numbers, Boros, Kuldotha Red, Valakut, and Caw Blade went up, and U/B Control made a surprising comeback. So far at least—we'll check back later to see how the field at the top tables develops.


     

  • Saturday, 3:57 p.m. – Single Card Strategies in Spain

    by Tim Willoughby
  • Going around the room there are a few cards that weren't high on my radar that are doing good work this weekend. In what seems like a fairly well defined metagame before the last set of the block comes out, there is still room for innovation, and with the big challenges in the format now clear, the innovators know what they need to do.

    Mystifying Maze

    Mystifying Maze is never going to be the standout card of a deck, but it is one of the reasons that some blue/white Caw-Blade players list that version as being the superior build. A control deck always wants to have plenty of land, and with Mystifying Maze it can also have a spell of sorts, which is great at holding off attacks from birds carrying weapons.

    Guard Gomazoa

    Another way of achieving something similar that has been seen in the hands of a *very* good player this weekend is Guard Gomazoa. This defender can be a brick wall that some decks just cannot get through, sometimes forcing Jace to unprofitably bounce the 1/3 flyer, and others forcing over-commitment that powers up mass removal.

    Venser the Sojourner

    Venser the Sojourner has not really seen as much play as makes sense given his impressive roster of abilities. He has managed to flex his muscles a little this weekend though, with his flicker ability doing all sorts of things, including allowing Stoneforge Mystic to do more searching, Contagion Clasp to do more clasping, and even simply allowing a cheeky untap of a creature after combat. The unblockability he provides can be key in planeswalker fights, or simply in allowing a beatdown plan to happen. Finally, his ultimate, which is easy enough to reach given his +2 ability, has a nasty habit of ending games in decisive fashion.


     
  • Podcast – Valakut and Esper-Blade Explained

    by Rich Hagon
  • We know that not everyone knows everything about every deck. We know that new players are joining us all the time. So, for those of you who want to sort out your Valakut from your Vedalken Orrery or your Sword of Feast and Famine from your Sirocco, we've enlisted Germany's Lino Burgold to take us inside the Valakut deck, and rising Dutch player Bas Melis to give us the ins and outs of Esper-Blade. Be honest, we've all got something to learn, and this is a good place to start.

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    Download Podcast – Valakut and Esper-Blade Explained (9.8 MB)

     

  • Saturday, 6:44 p.m. – 20/20 Vision (Part Three)

    by Tobi Henke
  • Now the tables have turned. In round seven, the following twenty decks were played at the top ten tables of the tournament:

    11 Caw-Blade (six with black, two with red)
    4 Valakut
    1 Boros (Vincent Lemoine himself)
    1 Red-Blue-Green
    1 G/W Quest
    1 Eldrazi Ramp
    1 Dredgevine

    Almost all of the unusual decks have disappeared, with the notable exception of Dredgevine. Red-Blue-Green and Eldrazi Ramp are back in the Top 20, G/W Quest and Boros could at least sustain one pilot each, but the rest is Valakut and Caw-Blade. Especially, the latter appears to be as dominant as ever.


     
  • Podcast – As Soon As Possible

    by Rich Hagon
  • Taking things one match at a time is always good advice, but when the earliest you can possibly qualify for Day Two is when you've been in the building for about ten hours, it's REALLY good advice. Here in Round Seven, we focus on three matches where the winner will be among the first to get their name on a seat for Sunday action. Which of Richard Bland, Fraskito Morales, Bas Melis, Marcos Faustino, Lucas Blohon, and Matteo Falconetti will hit the 7-0 mark? Plus, bonus coverage of the all-German clash between Lino Burgold and Sebastian Potyka.

    Multi

    Download Podcast – As Soon As Possible (17.5 MB)

     

  • Feature Match: Round 7 – Richard Bland vs. Francisco Moreno Morales

    by Tim Willoughby
  • Going into round seven places in day two were still not guaranteed for anyone. Even those who had started out undefeated could still in theory fall. This match between Englishman Richard Bland and the Spaniard Francisco Moreno Morales would lock up a day two slot for one of them, and each shuffled briskly before the game began, eager to get that sense of security which would come with one more win.

    Bland won the roll and led with Copperline Gorge, while Morales had a turn one Valakut, making clear what his plan was. A turn two Misty Rainforest for Island and Lotus Cobra clearly signified that Bland was playing RUG. An Explore came from Morales, while Bland had a second Lotus Cobra. One way or another both players would be accelerating their mana in this first game.

    Francisco Moreno Morales

    Bland had previously stated that he felt that RUG is a great choice for this Standard format, but one that requires a great deal of practice, as there are a lot of decisions to be made with the deck. It didn't take him long to decide to Mana Leak a Cultivate from Morales, or indeed to simply swing and pass for his turn, as he was a little light on land. What Bland was not short on was copies of Mana Leak. He used a second to counter a Harrow, setting Morales back on land slightly, which mitigated against some of the pain he was feeling from only having three himself.

    Finally Morales resolved a Harrow, but not before he was on 9 from fetchlands and Lotus Cobra attacks. He soon cast another, and was getting painfully close to having his Valakut be active. Would he get there? Bland hoped not, playing an end of turn Lightning Bolt to put Morales on 6. He then drew and cast Ponder, desperately looking for a land. He found Misty Rainforest, and quickly played and cracked it, suddenly rocketing ahead on mana. All that mana allowed for an Inferno Titan, to move things on to Game 2.

    Richard Bland 1, Francisco Moreno Morales 0

    For Game 2, it would be Francisco Moreno Morales going first, and with Bland taking a mulligan, it seemed likely that he would be in better shape in the second game than he was in the first. Bland's mulligan was soon mitigated by a Preordain, and he was able to match a Lotus Cobra that came from his opponent. When offered the trade in cobras, he took it, and it was probably just as well he did, for Morales followed up with another Lotus Cobra, before a pair of copies of Explore, putting the Andalucian well ahead.

    It seemed that Bland too had a second Cobra. He played a Scalding Tarn, and used it to power out an Explore of his own. This allowed him to play another Scalding Tarn, which got him up to enough mana to cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

    "Aren't cobras fun?" asked a cheerful Bland with little chuckle to himself.

    Jace bounced Morales' Lotus Cobra, which was soon replayed. Morales then started chaining copies of Harrow, which allowed him to get Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle active, offing both Lotus Cobra and Jace.

    Richard Bland

    For his turn, Bland simply killed Lotus Cobra with a Lightning Bolt. It suddenly seemed that each player was running low on gas. Morales cast yet another Harrow, which did allow him to hit Bland for a little, but he was then all out of cards in hand. Bland wasn't out of cards, but didn't have much in the way of plays.

    Morales then drew, and drew well, finding a Green Sun's Zenith. This in turn fetched out a Primeval Titan. While Bland had a Jace to Brainstorm with, he couldn't fight back from that.

    Richard Bland 1, Francisco Moreno Morales 1

    Game 3 was again about the Lotus Cobra show, with a turn two Cobra from Bland, and the same from Morales. Who would be able to get the most value out of theirs? With the first shot at doing good things, Bland played and cracked a Misty Rainforest, to play Explore. This let him play a Scalding Tarn, and get down Inferno Titan. The Titan made sure that Morales would not be able to have such a good turn, with the Spaniard simply playing a land and passing.

    Bland, with more fetchlands, was able to Preordain, activate Raging Ravine, and swing to drop Morales to 1. A Lightning Bolt finished off a turn four kill.

    Richard Bland wins 2-1, locking up his slot in day two.


     

  • Saturday, 8:33 p.m. – Leeds, the Stampede

    by Tim Willoughby

  • When it comes to Magic exports, Britain is pretty good for writers. Dan Paskins was awesome. Tony Boydell. Mark Wraith turned in a mean feature match. There have been a few since. We have one of the top scorekeepers in the world, and a whole host of fantastic judging staff. Our performances at the gaming tables have been a little thin on the ground though. A Brit has never won a Pro Tour. We've designed the best decks (John Ormerod sort of won Pro Tour Tokyo for Zvi Moshowitz), but somehow never quite been able to convert that into wins ourselves.

    Since the golden age of John Ormerod, Tony Dobson and Warren Marsh, the Pro Tour has been largely untroubled by Brits at the very top tables. Quentin Martin got a top 8 in Prague, and Matteo Orsini-Jones got one in Kyoto. Craig Jones had one of the most famous topdecks of all time in Honolulu, only to then lose in the finals. Nick Lovett even made the top 4 of Worlds in Paris. He didn't lift the trophy though.

    That hasn't dampened our good old British pluck though. When it comes to pluck, we have it. The hard work seems to be paying off too. GP Barcelona has a solid turnout of British players, and deep into day one, things are still going well. At the time of writing, Richard Bland (Blando Calrissian) is striking back for the empire at 7-0, and a number of members of Team Leeds are doing great things with their Lead the Stampede fuelled Naya deck. With Andrew Edwards and Andy Devine on 6-1, and Rob Wagner and Rob Cutton (that's right, we ration first names in England) on 5-2, the deck seems worth a second look, and that's exactly what it will be getting on the second day of this event, where we start unleashing decklists.

    Going in to Grand Prix London, the next European Grand Prix, there is plenty for British Magic to sing about. As unbiased as coverage is meant to be, Rich and I are rooting for the home team, and for once that's not just because we like rooting for the underdogs.

    As Del Amitri sung to the Scottish football team when they finally qualified for the World Cup in 1998, don't come home too soon boys. Don't come home too soon.


     

  • Feature Match: Round 8 - Shuhei Nakamura vs. Herbert Engleitner

    by Tobi Henke
  • Japanese super-star Shuhei Nakamura won the die-roll and, after both players had kept their seven-card hands, played Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. His opponent from Austria, Herbert Engleitner, opened with Mountain and Goblin Guide. On the Goblin's second attack, it received a Japanese Lightning Bolt and was replaced by Engleitner's Plated Geopede. Nakamura killed that as well, with Slagstorm, and now the Austrian was out of creatures. However, he was definitely not out of firepower. Over the next two turns he cast three Lightning Bolts and one Burst Lightning on Nakamura, to put him at 7.

    Herbert Engleitner

    In the meantime, the Japanese had accumulated two Overgrown Battlements and two Khalni Heart Expeditions as well as six lands, but without Primeval Titan or another Valakut, he was in no position to threaten Engleitner. Engleitner dealt 3 more with Searing Blaze, 2 more with Burst Lightning, untapped and dealt the final 2 damage with Arc Trail.

    Now that was blisteringly fast. The whole game had taken but five minutes.

    Shuhei Nakamura 0-1 Herbert Engleitner

    Shuhei Nakamura

    Once again Engleitner cast Goblin Guide on turn one, this time off a mulligan, though. Nakamura had Lightning Bolt, but Engleitner had Spikeshot Goblin as back-up. Nakamura, meanwhile, was still missing his green mana, and tried to stop the bleeding with Wall of Tanglecord. When Engleitner cast a second creature in Plated Geopede, Nakamura killed both with Pyroclasm.

    But the Austrian had even more creatures, first summoned Ember Hauler, then Goblin Guide, and once again commenced the beatdown. Furthermore, his Goblin Guide still didn't reveal a green source of mana on top of Nakamura's library. A couple of burn spells ended the game before Nakamura could draw out of his color screw.

    Shuhei Nakamura 0-2 Herbert Engleitner

    When I asked him after the match, Nakamura said he kept a hand of two Mountains, three Overgrown Battlements, Lightning Bolt, and Green Sun's Zenith for Game 2. With a Forest, this draw could have been absolutely amazing, but it certainly was a risky decision. As always, the Japanese took his misfortune without complaint and didn't seem too unhappy with the loss either. Engleitner wished him "Definitely more luck in the next match."


     

  • Saturday, 8:15 p.m. – The Little Things

    by Tobi Henke
  • You've seen Caw-Blade in all its numerous incarnations, Valakut is still the same old deck, and it seems like there's nothing new to this Standard format? Well, nothing's further from the truth. Magic deck builders apparently never sleep and development is constant. My colleague Tim Willoughby has already spotted a couple of brand-new brews, all about which he will tell you tomorrow, but it's also worthwile to pay attention to the little things. Even small changes to the traditional powerhouse decks can often go a long way in getting this extra edge which makes all the difference.

    One recent trend in Valakut decks is to go all-out on six mana. Numbers of Green Sun's Zenith have dwindled, Summoning Trap is back as a full four-of, and Inferno Titan is seeing more and more play, complementing its green titanic counterpart. The tech team of Lino Burgold and Raul Porojan made some changes to their Valakut list that reflect these changes and take them even further. "Growth Spasm is easily the best ramp spell right now. It takes you to six mana on turn four on its own, so you don't have to worry about your Overgrown Battlement getting killed or your Khalni Heart Expedition being stuck at two counters," Burgold explained. "Also, the Spawn token can be quite relevant, especially its lack of color. I have blocked a couple of Stoneforge Mystics equipped with Sword of Feast and Famine/Sword of Body and Mind today."

    Growth Spasm
    Sphere of the Suns

    Even more impressive I found another idea of theirs: Sphere of the Sun! "With Valakut, one has to mulligan so many opening hands because they don't have a source of green mana. Sphere of the Sun is obviously not the best ramp spell—that is Growth Spasm—but extra green sources without the need to run more Forests is actually a good thing," said Burgold.

    On a completely different note: Probably the most interesting sideboard card of the whole tournament was cast by one Tezzeret player (who had a score of 5-1 at that point) in a match against his Valakut opponent ...

    Knowledge Pool

    That's right. All the big spells from the Valakut deck went into the Pool and were then cast for the rather low coast of, let's say, one Mox Opal. Seriously, this actually looked surprisingly strong.


     
  • Podcast – Inside The Game

    by Rich Hagon
  • It's not often that you get to replay a game card for card, seeing exactly what choices the winning player is making. But that's what we do here, as Richard Bland moves to 8-0 piloting his RUG deck, relying on a bunch of skill and some good fortune at the right time. Better lucky than good? Both seems preferable.

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    Download Podcast – Inside The Game (4.5 MB)

     

  • Saturday, 10:06 p.m. – It's tough at the top

    by Tim Willoughby
  • For the last round of day one, I decided to cover all four of the top tables, so that we might be able to get a better idea of how the people sitting at the top of the standings tomorrow morning got there. Also, because I rather like a challenge.

    Sat at 8-0, Richard Bland of England was up against Pedro Dores from Portugal. The matchup was RUG against classic blue/white Caw-Blade.

    Game 1 saw each deck doing what it is supposed to in the early game, with a Stoneforge Mystic finding a sword for Dores, while Bland had a Lotus Cobra to power out a fast Jace, the Mind Sculptor. From there, the wheels rather came off for Dores, who found himself stuck on three lands, while Bland was able to power an Inferno Titan out through Mana Leak, thanks to a leak of his own. This was easily enough to take Game 1.

    Pedro Dores vs. Richard Bland

    For the second game, things were a little better for Dores, who was not stuck on lands, but he still found himself on the wrong side of a Jace thanks to Lotus Cobra, while his own planeswalkers, both Jace and Gideon, fell to Mana Leak. Dores looked to stabilise when he used a Jace of his own to clear the board of planeswalkers, but again Inferno Titan came out to play, and made life a little tricky. While this time Dores had Tumble Magnet to slow things down, and eventually a Condemn to take down Inferno Titan, a couple of copies of Acidic Slime were able to eke through the final points for Bland.

    Richard Bland wins 2-0!

    Lucas Blohon

    The other players with unblemished records were Lucas Blohon of the Czech Republic and Bas Melin from the Netherlands. In a Darkwing Duck (Caw-Blade with black) mirror, they each knew that the match could be a grind, where a quick Stoneforge Mystic could be decisive, but otherwise the match had the potential to run long.

    For the first game, both players had an early Stoneforge Mystic, but it was Blohon who had the edge, as his deck contained Sword of Body and Mind, which provided the extra wolves he needed to get through for the win.

    Bas Melis

    The second game saw game Bas make his comeback, with a quick Mystic, shortly followed by a substantial number of copies of Squadron Hawk. While Gideon Jura held off Melis' team for a while, it was only delaying the inevitable, and the Dutch player forced a third game.

    The third game saw good draws from both players, but Bas was constantly on the back foot, as a pair of Tumble Magnets held off a Stoneforge Mystic with Sword of Body and Mind. While a Kor Sanctifiers (Kor!) eventually destroyed the sword, Blohon was eventually able to assemble Squadron Hawk (Caw!) with Sword of Feast and Famine to successfully race the Sanctifiers and Creeping Tar Pit.

    Lucas Blohon wins 2-1!

    Lola Gil

    The next match in the feature match area was a Valakut mirror between Spaniards Lola Gil and Pau Pors Harrera. Here we saw the relative power of different pieces of acceleration in Valakut, as Lola's Lotus Cobras may have looked good initially, but were not enough to do anything about an end of turn Summoning Trap for Primeval Titan for Pau, which was more than enough to get Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle online.

    Game 2 was rather more dramatic, as Lola chained together Explore, Harrow and another Explore to get Primeval Titan going. Pau, not to be outdone, used a Harrow to trigger Khalni Heart Exploration, which meant he could play his own Primeval Titan. Valakut triggers meant he briefly had Titan advantage, until Lola simply played more lands to be able to leave the board empty of 6/6 monsters. She then drew into Green Sun's Zenith to get the third Primeval Titan of the game.

    Pau Pons Herrera

    It looked likely that the match would be forced into a third game, until Pau played Traiterous Instinct on Primeval Titan. This allowed for Pau to find more copies of Valakut, and when combined with a Cultivate, that was enough to take the match.

    Pau Pons Herrera wins 2-0!

    Petr Sochurek

    Finally we had another Czech player in the feature match area. Petr Sochurek was up against Toni Ramis Pascual of Spain. He had Darkwing Duck against Valakut, and made quick use of the black splash to take a Lotus Cobra from Toni's hand with Inquisition of Kozilek on the very first turn of the match. He was then able to assemble Sword of Body and Mind on Stoneforge Mystic, and seemed to be well ahead. It seemed nobody had informed Toni of this though, as he cast back to back copies of Inferno Titan, and used them to power through any defence that Sochurek could muster.

    Game 2 went better for the young Czech, whose turn two Stoneforge Mystic trumped Lotus Cobra, as a timely Memoricide took out Primeval Titan just before Toni was able to play it from his hand. While Toni did find an Acidic Slime for Sword of Feast and Famine, Socherek's follow up was a good one. First he had Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and then a Sword of Body and Mind to equip to Creeping Tar Pit, for some unblockable beatings.

    Toni Ramis Pascual.

    The decider was nearly over very fast, as Lotus Cobra and Khalni Heart Exploration let Toni cast a very fast Primeval Titan. Sochurek had a Flashfreeze for that though, and a Jace, the Mind Sculptor to follow up. What is Jace not very good at dealing with though? That's right, Inferno Titan. The 6/6 swiftly dealt first with the planeswalker, and then its owner.

    Toni Ramis Pascual wins 2-1!

    There we have it. Four tables, in which all the colours were being played between them. What have I learned? Inferno Titan is very powerful against Caw Blade in all its incarnations, especially when accelerated, and that getting the first Primeval Titan out is far from being game. All these players will be back tomorrow, but it is only Richard Bland and Lucas Blohon who can do so with a perfect record from this side of the tournament.


     
  • Podcast – Late Night Round Up

    by Rich Hagon
  • For those of you who can't read, or who just love to hear the velvety-smooth voice of Magical loveliness that is Rich Hagon, here's the scores on the doors as Day One comes to a close. One hundred and thirty eight come back for Day Two, so make sure you do too!

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    Download Podcast – Late Night Round Up (1.3 MB)

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