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Grand Prix London Day 1 - Complete Coverage

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EVENT COVERAGE

 

  • Saturday, 11:48 a.m. – Building with... uh... with who?

    by David Sutcliffe
  • The players had been handed their fates, each now held the sealed pool they would have have to build a deck from for Day One of the Grand Prix. We quietly tapped on the shoulders of two of the best European players and pulled them to one side so we could watch them build their deck. But we're going to play a game of guess who during the day, so for now the names have been changed to protect the innocent-until-proven-guilty.

    The first of our mystery competitors, let's call him 'Player A', wasted little time in his build - immediately fanning out every card in his pool so that he could see exactly what he had available to him. From that vantage point it was easy to see what was on offer, and Player A wasted little time in coming to a conclusion:

    "I think it's pretty bad"

    From having 84 cards in front of him, Player A began to whittle away at the cards he wasn't interested in. Like a master sculptor faced with a lump of marble, he chipped away at the pieces that wouldn't form part of his final work. It was a brutal culling that saw away with most of the red cards, and all of the blue. What was left was still a large number of cards, though, but the trouble was the pool was being pulled in three different directions at once. Stacking cards together, Player A found himself with a choice between Green-Black Infect, the beginnings of a heft Green 'Dinosaurs' deck, and although his red cards were weak there was plenty of fight in the white – a pair of Leonin Skyhunters, a Glint Hawk, and Indominatable Archangel offered some flying offense.

    This prompted a revision in his fortunes, with an upgrade from 'pretty bad' to...

    "It's going to be very bad. Very bad. You know, I don't think I got all the cards – something his to be missing!"

    It was a vain hope that something was missing, and a quick check confirmed that Player A was playing from a full deck.

    While Player A was left agonising over which options were 'least worst' Player B was having no such concerns, and was already fine-tuning the details of an aggressive red-white deck that had seemingly built itself.


    Phantom Phrexian

    "It looks good", Player B told me, "I mean I have five rares in my deck, including two Mythics – the Sword of Body and Mind, and Hero of Bladehold. Then a Thopter Assembly, a Cerebral Eruption... it's good. I think the only hard decision I have to make is that I need to cut a card!"

    It was hard to argue with that assessment, and with such raw power available in his red and white cards Player B hadn't really had any reason to spend long looking at his other options.

    The good fortune for Player B was rubbing salt into the wounds for Player A. After spending ten minutes poring over the chances of his white-red flyers deck, the decision had been made to scrap that plan entirely, and for Player A it was a case of seeing how far the Infect plan would take him. Cards like Blight Mamba, Cystbearer, and a Phyrexian Vatmother meant that the poison creatures were there for Player A, but there was little back them up.

    "I think if I play Green-Black I have to play some Infect, but also some non-Infect", he told me, "just all the good cards really. And I only have like one removal spell in the whole pool. It's better than the red-white, but it's still not good."

    After a last hopeful look at his red-white pool, Player A stacked up his Infect cards with Forests and Swamps and took a big sigh:

    "It's gonna be a long day."


    Mystery Mirran

    For Player B, though, it seemed like the day could fly past.

    "This is really good, like I should definitely make day two with it. Plus I have like 9 cards that I can realistically bring in from my sideboard – a Darksteel Axe didn't make the cut!" he shrugged, "I just don't know what I would take out from the main deck..."

    For these two players it felt like the day couldn't have started more differently – Player B could hopefully look forward to crushing the dreams of his opponents, while Player A was already clinging to shreds of hope that he could fight his way through to the second day.

    We'll follow the progress of these mystery players through the day and see if they manage to throw up any surprises – had the fate of Player A been sealed so early in the day? What was certain was that if any player would be able to fashion victory from impending defeat it was Player A!


     

  • Podcast – Simply Capital

    by Rich Hagon
  • It's a privilege and honor, or even honour, to welcome you to my home capital city, the wonderful London, for the latest leg in the 2011 Player of the Year Race. More than seven hundred players have set themselves the task of finding the optimal forty card deck from three Scars of Mirrodin boosters, and three Mirrodin Besieged boosters. We go into the trenches during deckbuilding, and talk with many of the best players as they try to find the winning combination. The Tower of London is just outside the window, but for whom will this weekend be a Tower of Calamities? All the early news, as Grand Prix London gets going.

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  • Feature Match Round 4 – Humberto Patarca vs. The Phantom Phyrexian

    by David Sutcliffe
  • Round four, and that meant it was time to discover if the first of our mystery contestants was going to rise to glory or fall to ignominy. We had left Player A (aka. 'the Phantom Phyrexian') during the Sealed Deck building portion, as he seemed to come to a final decision over which of his two possible decks – Green-Black Infect or White-Red aggro – was the best. Across the table the lone Venezuelan, Humberto Patarca, was apparently undaunted to be playing against a faceless mana symbol.

    Game 1

    As the game began it seemed like the Phantom Phyrexian had thrown us all for a loop, instead of the expected Green Infect deck that he had prepared, he opened with a Plains and a Darksteel Axe! Handing the Axe to his Leonin Skyhunter, the Phantom Phyrexian went onto the aerial offensive, following up with a Pierce Strider. For the Venezuelan, it was essential that he prepare his defenses quickly – an Auriok Edgewright and Snapsail Glider could only watch as the Leonin Skyhunter passed overhead, but when Patarca added a Skinwing and Copper Carapace the Glider gained Metalcraft and took to the air.

    But was it too late, two hits from the Skyhunter, and the life lost to the Pierce Strider, had already put Patarca in the danger zone with ust 9 life remaining. It got worse on the next turn, when the Phantom Phyrexian's Pierce Strider went unblocked – Patarca clearly fearing a combat trick from his experienced opponent. That put the Venezuelan on 6 life, and Player A followed up with a second Skyhunter and a Heavy Arbalest!

    Humberto Patarca

    Patarca struck back, heaving his Copper Carapace onto the Auriok Edgewright. That meant there was 8 Double-Strike damage in the red zone, and put Player A down to 10 life. This just seemed to be a race to deal each other a knockout blow.

    The Phantom sent his forces into the red zone, and Patarca blocked madly – trading his Skinwing and Glider to take down the pair of Skyhunters but taking another 3 damage from the Pierce Strider. With no other plays, the Phantom passed the turn – but it seemed like he had been playing possum and dropped a Darksteel Sentinel in the way of Patarca's onrushing Auriok Edgewright.

    The Colossus turned the game decisively in the Phyrexian's favor. Patarca stonewalled for a turn with Auriok Replica then conceded defeat.

    Humberto Patarca 0 –1 The Phantom Phyrexian

    Game 2

    Surprise after surprise – in the second game the Phantom Phyrexian returned to his infectious roots and led the way with Forest and a Swamp. The old 'switcheroo' had been played and Player A was now backing the Green-Black Infect guys to get the job done. An early game of Mortarpod and Wall of Tanglecord hardly signalled a rapid poison offense from the Phantom, however, and that meant the initiative was with Patarca.

    The Venezuelan's initial offense of Origin Spellbomb and a Skinwing hardly made the Phantom tremble, but as his faceless opponent stalled on three lands Patarca raced ahead. A Snapsail Glider, a second Glider, a Myrsmith, a Ghalma's Warden... Patarca's forces doubled and redoubled in strength, while all the Phantom could do was stack equipment onto his Wall of Tanglecord – a Viridian Claw and a Mortarpod.

    Go for the Throat accounted for Patarca's Warden, and the Wall could at least block some of Patarca's flyers, but it was all one-way traffic that was only acclerated by the Venezuelan playing a Razor Hippogryff. The Phantom Phyrexian finally found lands on top of his deck, but had simply fallen too far behind on tempo – his two creatures faced down eight across the table – and that was long before Patarca revealed a Galvanic Blast from hand that was enough to level the match.

    Humberto Patarca 1 – 1 The Phantom Phyrexian

    The Phantom Phyrexian

    Game 3

    This was now a mindgames minefield – would the Phantom Phyrexian revert back to his winning Red-White deck or stick with the Infect mix that had just lost him a game?

    In the end, he kept faith with the Infect, although so far there hadn't been much evidence of Poison counters from the deck. That continued to be the case in the deciding game, with the Phantom leading a Leaden Myr into a Pierce Strider and Melira's Keepers. Across the table, Humberto Patarca was assembling his mechanical forces – a Leonin Skyhunter was joined by a pair of Myr tokens, and then a Myr Galvaniser and Copper Carapace. Blowing the Melira's Keeper's out of the way with his Galvanic Blast Patarca swept onto the offensive, bashing the Phantom down to 10 life.

    On his next turn the Phantom Phyrexian left all six mana open, clearly signalling the presence of the Darksteel Colossus and that was enough to persuade Patarca to only send his Skyhunter into the red zone. It was a brief respite that handed the Phantom a foothold in the match, one that he was determined to exploit to the fullest, and he followed with a Viridian Corruptor, removing the threat from Patarca's Copper Carapace, then a Heavy Arbalest. Given time, and mana, the Phantom Phyrexian could yet shoot his way out of trouble with the Arbalest.

    A further attack from Patarca's Skyhunter, now joined in the air by a Skinwing, sent the Phantom down to 4 life. He frantically fought for survival, but Patarca's lead was too large. In among the Venezuelan player's array of creatures was a Brass Squire. The 1/3 creature had been useless so far, but suddenly became key in the final plays of the game, flipping his Skinwing onto the Myr Galvaniser to create a 4/4 flyer at instant speed and seal the match.

    Humberto Patarca 2 – 1 The Phantom Phyrexian


     

  • Saturday, 12:49 p.m. – Send him to the Tower!

    by Tim Willoughby
  • We're here in London for the Grand Prix, and one of the things that makes this site particularly cool (aside from being within stumbling distance from my house) is that we are right in the heart of London, such that sightseeing can begin just by looking out of the window. For now people's eyes are firmly on their cards, but as we go through the weekend, there is plenty of opportunity for those who have come from out of town to check out the best that London has to offer, and for the locals, there is a whole new crew of people to go out with.

    The venue itself is located just by monument, designed by Christopher Wren and built to commemorate the great fire of London in 1666 – a calamity which completely changed the landscape of the city. Following the fire all the buildings became stone ones, and thatched rooves were outlawed to stop such a thing ever happening again. Now there is just one building in London with a thatched roof – the reconstructed Globe Theatre, just down the road, which shows traditional Shakespeare plays in a building accurately recreated from Tudor times. The Queen herself gave special dispensation for the rules to be broken for that one building, in the interest of keeping history alive.

    London has not had a calamity quite like that of the fire ever since. It is not a coincidence that the oldest pub in London opened in late 1666. There are a few buildings that are older than the fire, but not all that many. One of them is the Tower of London, which looks like a castle, but was in fact a prison until the middle of last century. This is where dignitaries would be send prior to being beheaded, and the phrase 'send him to the tower!' was one that was rightly terrifying when uttered by a monarch. These days the Queen is fairly chilled out about such things, and the Royal Wedding saw her with a little smile on her face, so we are probably safe.



    The tower that we have at the GP itself is Tower of Calamities. A few players find themselves with this rare in their pool, including one Richard Bland of England, who is having a great year, including a top 8 at GP Barcelona. While this tower is one that is very powerful indeed when active, he didn't seem particularly happy about running it, as it is certainly a slow card that can find itself languishing unused if games come to a swift conclusion. It was clear to Richard that the tower would be a calamity for someone – he was just hoping that it wasn't him. We'll have to keep watching to find out the answer to that one, all the while under the shadow of The Tower of London – the original, and the best tower in town.


     

  • Podcast – Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go

    by Rich Hagon
  • It can take a while for the big attractions to make their entrance, especially at a Sealed Grand Prix. Here in Round Four, the Pros come to town for the first time. See how Martin Juza, Olivier Ruel and Vincent Lemoine start their campaigns, while there's a tremendous match full of twists and turns between England's Quentin Martin and the Belgian Peter Vieren.

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  • Feature Match Round 5 – Shuhei Nakamura vs. the Mystery Mirran

    by Tim Willoughby
  • Round 5 sees level 8 pro Shuhei Nakamura up against… well… a mystery hero of Mirran. If you want to know about his deck, you need do little but check the coverage, for we were there for his build. To see his play, simply read on.

    Game 1

    Nakamura was on the draw, and had a Ratchet Bomb, which he began ticking up earnestly. The Japanese pro looked unlikely to let it stop at two counters though, as a pair of copies of Ichor Wellspring followed a Copper Myr from the Mirran. A Hero of Bladehold and a Kuldotha Flamefiend showed that the power of Mirran was truly strong. It was mere seconds before Nakamura scooped up his cards.

    Shuhei Nakamura 0 – 1 Mystery Mirran

    Game 2

    The second game could surely not be as fast as the first. Nakamura, rattled by the start from the Mystery Mirran in game one, looked on as first Perilous Myr, and then Rust Tick came from the Mirran. The Japanese player was missing a third land, but a Copper Myr meant that he did still have access to red and green mana. The Mirran was not going to slow his pace. He had a turn four Hero of Bladehold, and wasn't afraid to use it. Nakamura had a Wall of Tanglecord, followed by Blightwidow as blockers, but was still in slightly rough shape.

    The Mirran Rust Tick kept Nakamura's Copper Myr tapped down, hoping to reinforce the mana issues being faced by the Japanese team, and a Ghalma's Warden joined the Mirran team. While Nakamura didn't draw a much needed land, he did find a Plague Myr on top of his deck, which would do something to help his mana. That Ghalma's Warden got big the very next turn thanks to a Leaden Myr, and the Mirran continued the mana denial plan with a Shatter on Plague Myr.

    A Gnathosaur meant that the Mirran Perilous Myr was able to stop a dangerous double block on Hero of Bladehold, who did shrink to being a 1/2 when damaged by Blightwidow. Nakamura had a Ratchet Bomb, which would be able to deal with some Soldier tokens, but a well timed tap from Rust Tick meant it could only deal with the two in play, rather than being able to take out all four during combat.

    Nakamura needed something special to fight back with. He found it in Precursor Golem, with Sherlock Holmes business cards to use as tokens. They would be good at finding answers to the Mirran threat. The Mirran team had a Darksteel Sentinel ambush to hold off some attacks from Nakamura, still very much on the back foot in spite of his golem force, and a Tangle Angler that followed. The Mirran deck was strong, and pressed its advantage with a Sword of Body and Mind. When equipped to Gnathosaur, it was enough to force all three golems to block. Nakamura was on just three, and scrapping for answers. He used an Acid-Web Spider to destroy Sword of Body and Mind, and cast a Fangren Marauder in the hope of gaining some life back. A Cerebral Eruption from the Mirran nearly killed him, and did kill off his mana myr, something that Nakamura didn't spot for his Fangren Marauder.

    Nakamura cast first Gnathosaur on one turn, and Strata Scythe (boosted by many many mountains in play) the next. His attack with an equipped Tangle Angler forced a block from Darksteel Sentinel, who perished immediately, crucially gaining Nakamura 5 life. The Mirran was now the one scrambling to find a way to end the game, as that Angler could easily swing for lethal in one go thanks to Strata Scythe, and Nakamura had a veritable lifegain engine with his Gnathosaur and Marauder plan.

    It took only one more swing from Nakamura, who was using his Angler to kill off the whole Mirran team simply by forcing blocks, before the Mirran conceded.

    Shuhei Nakamura 1 – 1 The Mystery Mirran

    Game 3

    Nakamura's fight back was going well, and he started the third game strongly, with Copper Myr into Tangle Angler. The Mirran also had a Copper Myr, but his Ghalma's Warden was rather less impressive, especially after being forced to block the 1/5. Nakamura followed up with a Blightwidow, and just nodded on as the Mirran dug for answers using Ichor Wellspring. The best answer that immediately came along was Koth's Courier, which might have been a good racer, but for the fact that Nakamura was able to force it to block just once, making it a 1/2 creature. The Japanese player followed up with Heavy Arbalest and passed.

    Kuldotha Flamefiend, sacrificing Ichor Wellspring, was a great play, but not enough to kill off Tangle Angler – the best the Mirran could kill was Blightwidow. He could only look on as Hellkite Igniter came from Nakamura, who now tasted blood in the water and was moving in for the kill. The Mirran had to try and race, but was not able to do so well with his team, each of which was gradually shrinking following fights with Tangle Angler.

    Cerebral Eruption from the Mirran revealed a land on the top of Nakamura's deck. A Pierce Strider took the Japanese player to 14. Knowing that another Cerebral Eruption was coming, Nakamura was careful about how much he put onto the board, attacking for nine with his dragon, and equipping Tangle Angler with Heavy Arbalest. The inevitable Eruption was enough to kill Nakamura's myr, but not any of the rest of his team. It was elementary for Nakamura's dragon to finish things off.

    Shuhei Nakamura defeats the Mystery Mirran 2-1!


     

  • Saturday, 4:24 p.m. – Catching up with the Meddling Mage

    by Tim Willoughby
  • Chris Pikula is a rare sight these days at Magic events, but the 1999 Invitational winner is here this weekend in London, and ready to play. While a busy work schedule and a young family keep him from attending as many events as he might like, Chris, the original Pro Tour storyteller, is still a dab hand with magical cards.

    "These days I pretty much play limited online. I have also been playing Vintage, which is fun because I can keep the same deck from month to month, and it reminds me of the old days."

    Chris is just moving to Philadelphia at the moment, and with the Pro Tour coming to town, he suddenly found himself with a reason to start travelling to events again.

    "I think I would play any American Pro Tour I was qualified for, and probably any European one too. The travel might be a bit much for Asia, but I know my wife would like to come to Europe, and it would be nice to take a week in Europe, of which a few days involve me playing cards."

    Chris Pikula, the Meddling Mage

    For Pro Tour Philadelphia, it is the qualification element that has Pikula travelling. Getting to events on Saturdays is tough when there are family commitments too, but the lure of the 16 slots available here in London was too much for him to resist.

    "I don't need to win this Grand Prix. I will take 16th. With a little over 700 players here, this is the best PTQ I could hope for."

    Pikula won a full three byes playing in grinders on Friday, and had enjoyed them visiting Borough market nearby for a leisurely meal with another old school pro, (The) Ben Seck. Borough market is home to some of the finest food in the city, and with a full stomach and his byes completed, Chris was ready to play.

    "My deck has some powerful cards, but its average cards are well below average. I guess I'll just have to draw the good ones."

    Could London be the start at the next run on the Pro Tour, and even the Hall of Fame from Chris Pikula? Stay tuned and we'll keep you up to date on everything that is going down here at Grand Prix London.


     

  • Feature Match Round 6 – Stuart Wright vs. Raul Porojan

    by David Sutcliffe
  • "Is this an actual feature match?", Raul Porojan wants to know, "because if it is then I want it to go in that Stuart is responsible for my first Top 8"

    "I made his deck"

    "And he;s going to be responsible for my second Top 8 as well, because when he loses I'm going to be 6-0!"

    Those were strong words from the German, particularly as Stuart Wright has proven himself no stranger to the winner's bracket. Porojan began his attack with a Sunspear Shikari, but even though the German added a Trigon of Rage his early assault was immediately held up by the Englishman's Vulshok Heartstoker. Upping the ante, Porojan produced an Ogre Resister although Stuart Wright met this with a Burn the Impure. Undaunted, Porojan turned to a Bladed Sentinel, but after Wright had removed the Trigon from play with Revoke Existence it seemed like the German offense had stalled.

    Stuart Wright stepped onto the front foot, dropping a Loxodon Partisan and his rare bomb - Strata Scythe. With a Plains imprinted onto the Scythe it was dishing out an impressive +8/+8 bonus!

    Porojan backpedalled madly, flinging his creatures in front of the 10/10 Vulshok Heartstoker to stay in the game. Porojan's plan was a long shot – to stall on the ground while hitting back at Wright with Glint Hawk Idols – and when Wright played a Copper Carapace and boosted up a second creature it seemed to disappear even further into the distance.

    Raul Porojan

    But Porojan had an out, and as the window of opportunity closed, he drew it. Into the Core.

    Exiling both of Wright's equipment neutered the Englishman's threats, and without them Wright's creatures could only watch as a paid of Glint Hawk Idols swooped in for the kill.

    Stuart Wright 0 – 1 Raul Porojan

    The second game began strongly for the German once again – a Myrsmith and a Livewire Lash, then a Leonin Relic-Warder that grabbed Wright's Rust Tick from the battlefield.

    Wright dropped a surprise card – the Phyrexian Digester, an Infect creature. That traded with Porojan's Myrsmith on the next attack, but it didn't matter - Porojan was on a roll. A Bladed Sentinel joined his forces, and then a Kuldotha Firefiend swept away Wright's defenses and wrapped up a staggeringly quick win.

    Stuart Wright 0 – 2 Raul Porojan


     

  • Podcast – Se7en

    by Rich Hagon
  • It's that time again when Pros make their move, and every round sees the numbers reduce at dizzying speed. While Daniel Mulato of Italy, Arnaud Villan of France, and Brit players Charlie Grover and Dave Grant look to guarantee Day Two with a win, four more players will look to avoid slipping to 5-2. Can Martin Juza, Robert Jurkovic, Daniel Royde, and Shuuhei Nakamura, maintain momentum, or will they be looking down the barrel with two rounds to go?

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  • Feature Match Round 7 – The Phantom Phyrexian vs. The Mystery Mirran

    by Tim Willoughby
  • We've already seen each of them during their deck build, and now they meet in the feature match area. We know that they both have powerful decks, but we don't know who they are… stay tuned to the rest of this match for the big reveal.

    Game 1

    The Phyrexian had the stronger the beginning, watching with a small smile as his opponent took a mulligan. The Mirran was on the draw, so not down a card, and even had acceleration in the form of a Copper Myr on turn two. The Phyrexian led with Sunspear Shikari, followed by Myrsmith. Each of these creatures rumbled in, with the Myrsmith and Copper Myr trading.

    Rober.. er..! Mystery Mirran!

    A Rust Tick from the Mirran briefly mounted a good defence, but it was soon left wanting as Indomitable Archangel from Juza upped the ante. The Mirran used Cerebral Eruption, which found a Leonin Skyhunter. Not good enough to kill that Angel, but enough to off Sunspear Shikari. The Mirran was on the defensive, using a Shatter on his own Ichor Wellspring just for the card. At this, the Phyrexian played his first artifact of the match in Strandwalker. There was no defence left from the Mirran, who scooped up his cards.

    The Phantom Phyrexian 1 – 1 The Mystery Mirran

    Game 2

    The two players chatted to one another in Czech as they prepared for game two. Was there some indication coming of who they might be? Perhaps… if I just could speak Czech.

    As the Phyrexian drew his hand for the second game, Marijn Lybaert from the bleachers threw a cuddly rat across as a mascot. "You'll need this!". The Phyrexian looked at his hand and smiled devilishly. "See!" smirked Marijn.

    The Phantom Phyrexian!

    There were a pair of copies of Glissa's Courier from the Phyrexian, very powerful against those mountains on the other side of the board. A sneaky trick from the Phyrexian meant that the true colours of the deck were shining through. Now black/green, there was a Viridian Corrupter to destroy a Mirran Sword of Body and Mind, meaning that those Couriers were still the best clock on the board. While the Mirran had a motley assortment of creatures, including Plague Myr, Rust Tick and Leaden Myr, they weren't achieving a great deal.

    An Ichor Wellspring helped the Mirran dig, but it was unclear what he could find to get back in the game. Those Couriers knocked the Mirran to just two. The top of his deck had nothing to help, and he was soon extending his hand.

    Phyrexia beats Mirran, 2-0!

    Revelation

    And with this the mirage was lifted. Those two players we've been keeping hidden all day (so that we could feature their deck build without letting everyone know what they were playing) were in fact the dangerous Czech duo of Martin Juza (Phyrexia) and Robert Jurkovic (Mirran). With Juza now at 6-1, he had just a little more to do to lock up day two. Jurkovic on the other hand, was now against the wall, and would have to win out to be secure for a day's drafting on Sunday.

    Martin Juza, left (Phyrexia) and Robert Jurkovic, right (Mirran)

     

  • Saturday, 7:28 p.m. – An Irishman, a Scotsman and a Welshman...

    by David Sutcliffe
  • An Irishman, a Scotsman and a Welshman... it might sound like the beginning of a joke but when the Grand Prix train arrives in Great Britain that’s actually more like what you’d expect to see in the Top 8. While my coverage co-conspirator Tim Willoughby is talking to some of the top English players I sat down with some of the players from elsewhere in these sceptered and emerald isles, and find out who some of these players were, and how Magic was getting on near them...

    Name: Dara De Buitlear
    Country: Ireland

    Firstly – how are you doing?
    I’m 0-2, unfortunately. I lost the final of a Grand Prix Trial last night, and I’m just under the ratings bracket for a bye as well, so I’m feeling a bit unlucky. Ironically I think I would have had a bye on ranking after the Grand Prix Trial, but obviously that’s too late. Still, I’ve made day two before by winning out from 0-2 so it’s not over yet.

    So, obviously Ireland isn’t in Great Britain, what was the Irish take on the royal wedding?
    You know, I think a lot of people back home will have watched it – they just won’t admit that they did! We’re a bit more interested in the Queen’s visit to Dublin that is coming up, to be honest, it’s going to be the first royal visit since Ireland achieved independence and that’s a big deal – it’s causing a bit of controversy.

    You’re a comedian by trade...
    Semi-professionally – I get paid to do comedy, although I have day job as well. But as well as doing my own shows I teach comedy classes, and I used to run a comedy club in Dublin. The club was deliberately not profit-making – whatever I made every night went back to the performers. It wasn;t about making money, but about giving young comedians a chance to step up. It can be really hard to get a paid comedy gig if you haven’t already had a paid comedy gig... but then who will give you that first paid gig? I set out to be that person and get some acts onto the ladder. I’ve had a couple of guys I helped out go on to work at the Edinburgh festival.

    Dara De Buitlear

    Laughter and Magic – where do they meet?
    Haha, I think you definitely need a sense of humor to play! I always have to tell people that I’m travelling around to a GP or PTQ to, basically, play with Goblins and Elves. There’s a whole other side to it, of course, with professional leagues, the huge judge program and so, but you can’t take a game of Goblins and Elves too seriously, you know?

    Do you find much comedy in Magic, does it provide you with good material?
    At a Grand Prix I’ve come here to play properly, but even then I try to read my opponent’s body language – if he’s relaxed and having fun then I’ll have fun back. But sometimes players just want to play. I did a standup show before Irish Nationals a few years ago, and I managed to fit a few Magic jokes into that – I actually really like what Evan Irwin does on The Magic Show, he finds ways to talk about Magic but make it funny and that’s great. I’d like to give something like that a try in the future, or maybe do caricatures of the famous pro players – animations or maybe costumes - there’s definitely something in that idea.

    So finish us off with something funny about Magic
    Well, I do know that on two separate occasions Irish players have qualified for Day Two of a Grand Prix and then woken up late and missed it. They went to bed and set their alarms, but had forgotten that they were in a different time zone and slept right through the first round! That it happened once is unlucky, but to happen twice?!?

    Name: Guy Southcott
    Country: Scotland

    You’ve attended 7 Pro Tours, but describe yourself as semi-retired. What does that mean?
    Well, maybe I used to be retired, that could be better. I really needed to focus on my career for a while so I took time out of Magic, but since March I’ve been back playing and PTQing quite hard.

    How’s Scottish Magic? It seems in rude health!
    Yeah, things are going well, we seem to have picked up a lot of new players from the universities recently – like they’ve played Magic for a long time but they haven’t been playing in tournaments, and now they’re getting competitive. It’s come at a good time because a lot of the older Scottish players have dropped out of the game, so it’s like there’s a whole new generation of players coming through.

    Guy Southcott

    I also think that the quality of Scottish players is probably higher than it is in England, like... strength in depth. The attendance at Scottish tournaments may not be huge, but even if our PTQ only has five rounds it often feels like four of those rounds are as hard as an English PTQ Top 8, there’s no easy matches. We also seem to draft a lot more than the English players so I think we’re better at drafts.

    The Scottish players are a really tight-knit unit and we help each other out, and I think that helps us to punch above our weight a bit. The problem for us when we get to the big international tournaments is that we don’t really have any deckbuilders who can add something special – and that’s for the whole of the UK, not just Scotland – if we don’t have somebody like Stuart Wright or the Orsini-Jones’ put in a whole load of work on a deck then we struggle on the big stage.

    And finally, the current Great Britain national champion is Scottish...
    Joe Jackson, yeah. I think Joe isn’t actually playing at the moment, which is a shame, but we’ve just got Brad Barclay back on form and he’s playing really well – I think he’s by far our best player and it’s good to have him back. Andy Morrison is playing well too, so there’s some really good players in Scotland at the moment.

    Name: Nick Lovett
    Country: Wales

    As I found you working on one of the Magic dealers, I guess today isn;t going well?
    No, I’m done. I had the Dinosaurs deck, and it was fine but I just didn’t have much removal so I had no way to deal with my opponent’s bombs. So I lost to Glissa twice, Skithiryx twice, and then a Hoard-Smelter Dragon. And I don’t even really have a curve, so as soon as my oppponent’s big bomb turns up I lose.

    How is Welsh Magic?
    I live in London now – I came here originally to study, and then moved down here to work two years ago – but I think the scene in Wales is resetting a bit. For a while it was in the doldrums but it’s coming back again. I come from Cardiff and the games shop there closed down, but out of that two new shops sprung up.

    Nick Lovett

    Good stuff, so are there any Welsh players we should be looking out for?
    I think there’s a couple of guys here doing well – Simon Cox, and I think Tan Tai Nguyen is unbeaten. Tan won the last PTQ for Nagoya so he’s going to be flying out there, and he’s on a roll here. In fact, I’m going to go and check up on him now!


     

  • Feature Match Round 8 – Olivier Ruel vs. Bram Snepvangers

    by David Sutcliffe
  • A Grand Prix can be a merciless tournament, where even the best of the best can struggle to make it through the grinder mill into Day Two. On the bubble here in London were two of the most successful players in Magic history – fellow Hall of Famers Olivier Ruel and Bram Snepvangers. One of these legends would win and head towards a place in Day Two, while one of would lose and be heading home.

    Game 1

    Olivier Ruel's red deck came roaring out of the gates in the first game, with a Flayer Husk, Oxidda Daredevil, and a Blisterstick Shaman that accounted for Snepvanger's Tel-Jilad Fallen. Ruel followed up with a Kuldotha Rebirth and a Glint Hawk Idol. The game was only four turns in and Ruel had six creatures to Snepvangers' empty board. A Tangle Magnet was little defense for the experienced Dutch pro...

    BASH! BASH! BASH!

    Ruel swung his whole team across the board, and rushed to a sudden lead in the match!

    Olivier Ruel 1 – 0 Bram Snepvangers

    Olivier Ruel

    Game 2

    "Sideboarding that much?", observed Ruel, as Snepvangers continued to switch card after card ahead of the second game.

    "Ha!, Bram replied Your deck is very different to the average deck, so my deck has to be very different too."

    "You're going to play first?", enquired Ruel with a cheeky smile.

    "Against you? I think I will play!"

    The changes Bram had made to his deck were immediately evident as the second game began, as a Wall of Tanglecord pulled Ruel up short. The Wall of Tanglecord would prove essential against the rapid offense of Ruel's deck.

    The rapid offense of Ruel's deck...

    The rapid...

    Where WERE Olivier's creatures anyway?!?

    Sat behind three Plains Olivier Ruel was gasping lifelessly for red mana. All he could do was throw down a string of useless artifacts – Panic Spellbomb, Ichor Wellspring, Sylvok Lifestaff, Flayer Husk. That all meant that he could boost his Gust Skimmer to a mighty 4/2... and watch it bounce off Snepvanger's Wall of Tanglecord.

    The saving grace for Ruel was that Snepvangers was also stuck on three land – all Forests - although the Dutch pro pulled a fourth in time to summona Blightwidow. That persuaded Ruel's Skinwing that it wasn't worth attacking, and then Bram's Green Sun's Zenith delivered a second Spider to his defenses.

    All Ruel could do was throw down more creatures, with Kuldotha Rebirth, but the two players just sat and stared at each other... Ruel unable to attack, and Bram unwilling to.

    Bram Snepvangers

    "At some point we're going to have to try and come up with a plan to win!" teased Olivier

    "You think so?"

    "Uhuh, I'm pretty sure"

    "Hmm... well how about I just destroy all your creatures instead?" offered the Dutchman, revealing a Slagstorm that did exactly that.

    With the way clear, Snepvanger's spiders skittered across the table to deliver poison counters to Ruel, then exploded messily inside a Mortarpod to finish off the game.

    Olivier Ruel 1 – 1 Bram Snepvangers

    Game 3

    Which deck would Ruel be bringing to the table for the deciding game – the explosively lethal red goblins that deck he played in the first game, or the misfiring pile of artifact junk that he drew in the second?

    The answer was neither, but certainly closer to the first – Ruel took to the air with a Glint Hawk and Glint Hawk Idol. A Blisterstick Shaman joined the table on the next turn, and Ruel swung onto the attack...

    BASH BASH! Snepvangers was down to 14 life.

    Ichorclaw Myr was the Dutchman's defense, but Ruel responded with a Divine Offering then swung his team...

    BASH! BASH! BASH!! Snepvangers to 8.

    Peace Strider, that at least repaired the Dutchman's lifetotal to 11, but Ruel was not in the mood to compromise – he played a Vulshok Heartstoker and sent his team back into the red zone.

    BASH! BASH! Snepvangerrs to 3 lifel, and clinging on.

    A Blightwidow was a good play for the Dutchman, but one creature it wasn't enough to stop the whole of Ruel's horde and the Frenchman wrapped it up in next attack.

    Olivier Ruel 2 – 1 Bram Snepvangers


     

  • Saturday, 7:30 p.m. – Art Quiz

    by Tim Willoughby
  • Normally we like to do a little feature of some sort about the artists at Grand Prix because, well, their art is simply awesome. For Grand Prix London, we've decided to do something just a little different.

    When artists are given their initial art briefs for cards, often the card names are not yet locked in, and might either be the playtest names for cards, or simply unrefined versions of whatever they will finally be called. Sometimes a piece of art will be commissioned for one card, and end up going on to represent something different.

    See if you can work out what each of the card names below actually refer to. To give you a clue, they were all drawn by Magic artist Daren Bader, who is here with Mark Tedin doing signings all weekend.

    Card #1 – "Lockjaw Effigy"


    The name for this card has only changed a small amount, so it’s kind of a warm-up. The next few will be harder.

    (Click to reveal the artwork)

    (Click to reveal the actual printed card)



    Card #2 – Feather Stab"

    (Click to reveal the artwork)

    This instant is one whose name is wholly new, but from the artwork, I don’t think it is wholly unguessable.

    (Click to reveal the actual printed card)



    Card #3 – "Tarrendyd Boxer"

    I’ll give you a clue on this one. "Tarrendyd" was a word that got changed into "Flamekin" by the time this card came out.

    (Click to reveal the artwork)

    (Click to reveal the actual printed card)



    Card #4 – "Spell Eater"

    I’d be very surprised if anyone guesses this one. Even with a full spoiler of Daren Bader’s cards, I will be impressed if you work this one out. No prizes, but I will be impressed.

    (Click to reveal the artwork)

    (Click to reveal the actual printed card)



     

  • Podcast – End Game

    by Rich Hagon
  • Six wins, two losses. Seven wins, one loss. Eight wins, no losses. It doesn't matter what your score is when you enter the Feature Match area. What counts is your score when you leave. Olivier Ruel and Stuart Wright are among those needing a win to reach Day Two. Daniel Royde and Nico Bohny are looking to reach 8-1, while Dalibor Zhegho and Raul Porojan compete to complete the day with a perfect record. The last Round, as it happens.

    Multi
    Download this podcast in MP3 format (15.6 MB)
     

  • Sarturday, 8:21 p.m. – Meet the English!

    by Tim Willoughby
  • Dave Sutcliffe has already introduced you to many of the great and the good from Scotland, Ireland and Wales. It is up to me to show you some of the hometown heroes from right here in England, attempting to keep the Grand Prix London trophy from travelling off English soil.

    Quentin Martin

    England, while it hasn't lifted a great many Pro Tour trophies (ok, actually none), still has some good players. Of the Hall of Fame eligible Englishmen, this tournament has two playing. Quentin Martin and Stuart Wright have each had their fair share of success at the Pro Tour level, and are local enough that there was no chance of their missing so big a tournament on home soil. The excuses for those eligible who didn't make it are fair enough – Sam Gomersall and Craig Jones are both sunning themselves on an island on the other side of the planet.

    Stuart Wright

    Once we get past the Hall of Fame, there are plenty of others who are flying the flag for England today, as one might expect. Neil Rigby's most recent success was as part of the English raiding party of Grand Prix Toronto, on which coverage luminaries Rich Hagon and Dave Sutcliffe joined him in smashing their way through the field to each put up creditable finishes. Johnny Chapman is also here, reminiscing about his finish in Odyssey block with 'Pirates!' his Ichorid deck that was attacking with 3/1 creatures far before it was all cool and dredgy.

    Johnny Chapman and Neil Rigby

    Finally, we have the man who has been known as The Great White Hype, 'The Juice' and to some simply as Granty. Dave Grant, at the time of writing, is dancing a merry little jig at having locked up his spot in day two here in London. Is this part of the much fabled Dave Grant comeback tour that has been suggested as being on the cards for the last decade or so? We on the coverage team certainly hope so. For the dancing if nothing else.

    Dave Grant


     

  • Feature Match Round-Up - Round 9

    by David Sutcliffe
  • We began the day, many many hours ago, talking to our 'Mystery Mirran' and 'Phantom Phyrexian' – Robert Jurkovic and Martin Juza. When we left them after the deckbuild it seemed like they were heading in opposite directions, with Juza split between two decks he didn't like and Jurkovic bouncingly happy with his rare-heavy red deck.

    Seven rounds later the two met, and Juza proved the better, but in the final rounds the two were sat alongside each other once again – they were both balanced on 'the bubble', and while a win would carry them into the Top 8 a loss would send them home. Joining them in this precarious position was the Belgian pro Vincent Lemoine.

    Lemoine's first game began with the Belgian in swift retreat under the assault of the Hungarian, Zsolt Tokoli, whose Red/White deck put Lemoine under immediate pressure. Unfortunately for Tokoli his had contained pretty much nothing but lands, and once Lemoine had weathered the initial attacks there was no second wave. Steadying the ship with a Darksteel Colossus, Lemoine hit back and ground out a lead in the match.

    Martin Juza (right) faces Ben Flounders (left) in one of several tense round 9 matches

    While Lemoine was winning his first game, Martin Juza was losing his. The Czech pro had a Heavy Arbalest in play but couldn't get any of his creatures to stick around – his opponent was the Brit, Ben Flounders, and was wasting little time in pressing his advantage by beating down hard with his troops and wrapped up the game before Juza could find a way back. Juza's consolation was that, once again, he would be able to switch away from the Red/White deck he didn't like and would be playing his preferred Green/Black deck in the next two games.

    Precursor Golem

    For Jurkovic, things had also gone badly – he had drawn his power cards but each one was immediately removed by Glenn Goldsworthy. A Sword of Mind and Body was trashed by Goldsworthy's Viridian Corrupter, and the Thopter Assemly disassembled by a Spread the Sickness. As each of Jurkovic's best cards came and went, the Slovakian player could only shake his head. Clinging on without his generals, Jurkovic fell back on his grunts to get the job done – the two players exchanged blows and creatures in an increasingly weary fashion, pulling cards from the top of their libraries and straight into play. In the end Jurkovic was a turn away from winning with his Pierce Strider when Goldsworthy got a final lethal strike in from a Flesh-Eater Imp.

    While Jurkovic was struggling to survive Vincent Lemoine was already into Day Two – his second game had seen the Belgian player drop a Precursor Golem – with a Crush and a Galvanic Blast to turn off Szolt's Rusted Relic the trio of Golems dealt 18 damage to the Hungarian opponent before Lemoine delivered the coup de grace with a pair of Blisterstick Shaman. GG!

    Myr Turbine

    A game away from leaving the Grand Prix, Martin Juza was back in his favored Green/Black deck but playing from only 6 swamps, with Green cards in hand. The kicker to that situation was that Flounder's big card was Nim Deathmantle, and a Viridian Corrupter was sat useless in Juza's hand. The one thing keeping the Czech pro alive was his Myr Turbine, which was holding the Nim Deathmantle at bay, and proved to be enough – the Forests finally arrived and with the Deathmantle destroyed Juza came alive. His Heavy Arbalest skipped rapidly between 1/1 Myr tokens to remove Flounder's creatures and send the players into a third game.

    While Juza was winning one game, Jurkovic was winning two. His second game against Glenn Goldsworthy had dragged on long but was finally won by the combination of Sword of Body and Mind, and his opponent only having green creatures. The deciding game was mercifully swift, and Jurkovic deployed a pair of Koth's Couriers and Forestwalked to a rapid win, wrapping up his place in Day Two.

    Koth's Courier

    That left Martin Juza vs. Ben Flounders. While Juza chose to mulligan his hand, Flounders made a gutsy call and held onto his opening hand of six lands and a Revoke Existence, The Englishman's hope was that Juza had mulliganed into a hand light on land, and when Juza played a Copper Myr Flounders took a deep breath and chose to cast the only spell in his hand – the Revoke Existence – and kill it. If Juza was on a two-land hand it could be decisive, but the Czech pro immediately followed up with a swamp and a Phyrexian Crusader. From that point on, Flounders was playing catchup. The Brit put up a valiant defense, playing from the top of his deck to repeatedly fend off Juza's offense, but eventually drew land for a couple of turns and was overwhelmed.

    We began the day with Jurkovic and Juza, and fittingly we end the day watching both these players ease their way into Day Two. We'll be back tomorrow, as will they, and we'll see who makes it to the sprint finish of a Top 8 place.


     

  • Decklists – Day 1 Undefeated Decks

    by Event Coverage Staff
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