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Grand Prix London Day 2 - Complete Coverage

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  • Podcast – Inside the Draft

    by Rich Hagon
  • GP Sunday in London dawned bright and clear. 90 players qualified for Day Two, knowing that even a moderate record in Draft would secure them both Pro Points and hard cash - good deal! We join the leading contenders as they build their first decks of the morning.

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  • Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – Drafting at the Top

    by David Sutcliffe
  • As the two halves of Grand Prix London merged seamlessly into a single tournament, leaving just 90 players to battle it out for a place in the Top 8, we got our first look at the combined standings and the tournament leaders.

    Heading the top draft table was the German, Raul Porojan – he had despatched Stuart Wright in their Round 6 feature match before continuing to win, win, and win again. That put Porojan on 9-0 after the first day, a record he shared with three other players, fellow German Florian Koch, Louis Deltour of France, and home team champion Nicholas Taylor of the UK. Rounding out the top draft pod were a pair of Swedes, Kenny Oberg and Martin Kristensson, Jonas Kostler of Germany, and the Slovakian Dalibor Szegbo.

    Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon

    Porojan had spoken to us about his love of white cards, but from the start of the draft he had committed himself to Infect, and that was a strategy that paid off in spades when it came to the rares in his deck as Porojan could call on both a Hand of the Praetors and the much-feared Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon. If neither of those cards did the job, he might have to fall back on equipping his Flensermite with a Strata Scythe and doing things the hard way. Suffice to say, Porojan liked his chances.

    To Porojan's left, Szegbo was less happy – he had picked up the white cards that Porojan had passed over and counted a pair of Victory's Heralds at the top end of his deck. He knew his weakness though, "I'm removal-light, but by my own choice because I took other cards over the removal. I like my deck but I think I needed another mana Myr – I only have one. I think I'm maybe one or two cards away from a great deck".

    Downstream from these two happy campers was our first sad face. Jonas Kostler was not happy with the White-Blue deck he had built, particularly as he was really only playing the blue for a Vedalken Anatomist. "I think my deck is bad, he explained, but it felt like the quality of the boosters was quite low so hopefully everyone else has bad decks too".

    Thrun, the Last Troll

    Fellow German, Florian Koch, was next in line and he was more upbeat – even if he couldn't quite work out what deck he had. "It's not Dinosaurs, but it's sort of green creatures anyway" among his rares was Thrun, the Last Troll, which Koch could call to the battlefield with his Green Sun's Zenith. "I've never played with Thrun, but I think he's going to be good. I hope so, anyway!"

    Louis Deltour was happier again, he seemed to have the typical Red/White beatdown deck. All the cards were in evidence, such as Glint Hawks, Darksteel Axes and Razor Hippogryffs, and he seemed to have picked up most of the removal that Szegbo had left in the pool.

    Wheeling all the way around to Kenny Oberg, the Swede had found there was plenty of Infect going around the table after Porojan had taken his share, and Oberg also had a Green/Black deck. Unlike Porojan, Oberg couldn't count on so many powerful rares but he did have everything he needed to win "I could maybe used a couple more Infect creatures", he offered, "but all the ingredients of a good Infect deck are here. So yes, I want more – but then I always want more!"

    Brit Nicholas Taylor had obviously found it hard to grab any red spells, with Deltour picking up any loose removal for his RW deck. Sticking to his guns, Taylor made up the third Red/White deck at the table, but his was almost entirely white, although he was confident that his deck would be ready to rumble.

    Geth, Lord of the Vault

    And that left Martin Kristensson as the final player standing – he was settled in Blue/Black control, and he felt he had the tools he needed to eke out wins, with removal and card advantage, and in the shape of Geth, Lord of the Vault he also had a stone cold game-winning bomb.

    That was the Draft Pod one at the start of the second day of Grand Prix London. The stage was set for one of these players to emerge 3-0 at the end of the day. The smart money said that Porojan's rares would be too good for the competition, but in Magic the smart money is often wrong and there were several powerful decks at the table, such as Louis Deltour's RW beats, or Kenny Oberg's own Infect deck, that would be waiting to pounce if Porojan's deck misfired.

    Would Porojan turn 9-0 into 12-0?

     

  • Podcast – Commander

    by Rich Hagon
  • This Summer, Wizards of the Coast is releasing a new multi-player product, showcasing the awesomeness that is the Commander format. We talk all about 100 card decks with Gavin Duggan of Canada, a man who knows a thing or two about this great way of playing Magic.

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  • Sunday, 10:30 a.m. – Drafting With Chris

    by Tim Willoughby
  • The first draft of day two of a Grand Prix is a moment unlike most others in the event. Relief at making day two merges with a growing sense of how far there still is to go. While the field is much smaller on day 2, it is still perfectly large enough to finish with nothing at all. Pro players are now that much more visible throughout the room, and inevitably there are a few empty seats at draft tables; a result of a few people perhaps going a little too far with their celebrations at a good finish on Saturday.

    Chris Pikula

    Once that first pack is cracked though, all of this evaporates. Chris Pikula knows what this feels like. He's been here before, and considers limited to be his area of strength. Chris had snuck into day two with two losses, meaning that he had little in the way of buffer for losses on Sunday. The first pack was a little underwhelming. Chris took a Divine Offering, without many other good options. When he took a Steel Sabotage second pick, it looked that the draft would lead him in a similar direction to his sealed deck on Saturday, namely blue/white. Steel Sabotage is typically better in sealed deck than it is in draft, but given little in the way of other options, Chris seemed happy to take it.

    Chris' table had just seven players on it, by virtue of there not being a nice neat multiple of 8 players in day two. That would have a small impact on card quality, but would also mean that someone would get a bye each round. While the bye would be an exciting prospect (especially in round one of the draft), a less attractive proposition would be playing the player feeding Chris in the draft – Robert Jurkovic. Jurkovic was likely the strongest other player in the pod, but luckily for Chris, was drafting quite a different strategy to the Invitational winner, having opened a Phyrexian Crusader. With an infect drafter on his right, Chris saw little of infect coming through, but did get a very strong signal in Burn the Impure third pick, in a pack also containing Into the Core. Time to get into red.

    An Ogre Resister followed, and a Kuldotha Ringleader. While Pikula did take a 7th pick Master's Call, it seemed that red and blue were flowing a little more freely in pack one. Pack two saw Turn to Slag, Sky-Eel School and a third pick Arc Trail for Pikula, clearly happy to be in red, while those around him were not. He was gradually building towards a deck that could blank the early plays of opponents, before winning with big creatures (like the 14th pick Gnathosaur that Jurkovic had sent his way as a clear signal), or flyers like Sky-Eel School. Wall of Tanglecord helped with the defence plan here, and while Blade-Tribe Berserkers is not a premium pick, a pair of them would threaten to bet busy in the red zone.

    Pack three netted Pikula a Galvanic Blast, Oxidda Scrapmelter and a second Sky-Eel School in short order. Having a couple of copies of the flyer would both mean that he had a good strike force that would not be vulnerable to Shatter, and that he could run more lands, without having to worry so much about mana-flood. Unfortunately, from there the quality of picks again dropped off fast. Pikula remained philosophical about this at the end of the draft though – everyone was working with the same packs after all.

    As he shuffled up and walked to the pairings board, Pikula smiled. "I might even get a bye!"

    He did, and with it he got a plenty of time for a good breakfast.

     

  • Feature Match: Round 10 – Nick Taylor vs Louis Deltour

    by Tim Willoughby
  • For round ten there were just four undefeated players at Grand Prix London. By round 11, there would be two, setting up for an epic showdown. In the feature match area we joined Nick Taylor, representing England, and Louis Deltour of France.

    Both these undefeated players have more going on with Magic than just playing well. Nick owns a card shop (Xtreme Trades) in Colchester England, and Louis is part of a group of French players making Magic videos under the name WatchtheMatch, both on YouTube and on their own website.

    Deltour de France

    While Nick did win the roll and was on the play, he was not the first with a spell, looking on as a Vector Asp came out from Deltour on turn one, from a Mountain. Was this infect? He cast an Auriok Sunchaser and passed. It turned out that Deltour was definitely not infect, when he laid a Plains and cast Kuldotha Rebirth on turn two, after getting in for 1. He made more tokens with a Master's Call soon after, being very aggressive in his plays. Nick fought back with Abuna Acolyte and Ghalma's Warden, which gave him some blockers, but it was only briefly that these two stayed around, with Burn the Impure and Galvanic Blast from Delfour.

    Taylor was quickly on 13, and looked on as an Embersmith joined the French side of the board. He played a Bladed Sentinel and a Chrome Steed, but could not get metalcraft fast enough to save his Auriok Sunchaser from a fiery death at the hands of Embersmith when Deltour cast a Darksteel Axe.

    Darksteel Axe was not long for this world, as Taylor had a Revoke Existence. He was in the single digits on life though, and while Bladed Sentinel was able to attack in, he wasn't winning the race. A Vulshok Replica pinged Taylor on the way in thanks to Embersmith, and threatened to do more on the way out. Taylor capitalised on Deltour being tapped low, and dropped an Arrest on the replica, shutting off that line of attack. Deltour shrugged, played a Myrsmith and passed.

    A Glint Hawk Idol gave Taylor metalcraft for the first time in the match, making Chrome Steed a fine attacker. That metalcraft did not last long though, as Leonin Relic-Warder took out Bladed Sentinel, and allowed some big attacks, which put Nick to four. Further attacks the following turn put Taylor to one. Could the Englishman draw anything to keep in the game? His draw step said no, and Taylor was quick to look to his sideboard for the second game.

    Louis Deltour 1 – 0 Nick Taylor

    The starts in game two were not quite as explosive as those in the first game, with the first spell being an Auriok Replica from Taylor on turn three. When Deltour passed on turn three with three lands, but no spell, it smacked of a Master's Call which duly arrived. Nick then cast a Barbed Battlegear, and had to look on as he lost his replica to Leonin Relic Warder, before the two tokens got turned into four thanks to a Kuldotha Rebirth.

    He ain't lazy - he's Nick Taylor

    Nick was again on the back foot, having to cast a Razor Hippogriff with nothing to return. He lost it to a Galvanic Blast when he blocked a token, and then lost 3 more life to a Pierce Strider from Deltour. The attacks from a mass of tokens took Taylor to 7, and while there was an Arrest on Pierce Strider, it didn't last long, as Deltour had a Glint Hawk to return his Pierce Strider, getting a second shot in with it when he replayed it. Taylor's deck did not seem well equipped to deal with what appeared to be something of a monster aggressive build from Deltour. He had a sideboarded Soul Parry to stay in the game for another turn, but it was simply not enough, and Deltour's rampaging tokens took it.

    Louis Deltour wins, going to 10-0!

     

  • Podcast – Four Features

    by Rich Hagon
  • I should probably mention that there are three other matches too. Florian Koch faces Nick Taylor of England, with the winner moving to 10-1. Also looking to hit double figures are Dalibor Szegho and Kenny Oberg. Louis Deltour of France and Raul Porojan of Germany are already there, and one of them will head the field at 11-0. But for Shuuhei Nakamura and Olivier Ruel, both at 7-3, this is the last chance to make a run at the Top 8.

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  • Feature Match: Round 11 – Shuuhei Nakamura vs Olivier Ruel

    by David Sutcliffe
  • Away from the top tables, the pairings threw together two of the biggest names in Magic history. Both on 7-3, the route to the Top 8 was rapidly vanishing for both Shuuhei Nakamura and Olivier Ruel. As the two met in the feature match area it wasn't certain that either of these players could make it into the Top 8, but it was dead certain that a loss here would rule you out of contention.

    Yesterday, Olivier Ruel had accounted for Bram Snepvangers under a hail of angry red men, and it soon became clear that the Frenchman had a similar plan for the draft – Olivier led the charge with a Mortarpod and a pair of Vulshok Heartstokkers, although his Golem Artisan was swiftly accounted for by Nakamura's Revoke Existence.

    Olivier Ruel

    Undaunted, Ruel played a Myr Galvaniser then immediately shattered into a thousand pieces to cast Kuldotha Rebirth, spawning three Goblins in it's place. Olivier kept pressing, with an Arrest for the Nakamura's Priest of Nurn that had threatened to actually block some creatures, and then there was another attack, knocking Shuuhei down to 8 life.

    Suddenly the match was interrupted by some tinny music – Olivier's phone was ringing! Ruel picked it up.

    "It's Antoine," Oliver explained to Shuuhei, "and it's for you...", and the Frenchman passed his phone across the table to his opponent.

    "Hello? Antoine? This is Shuuhei! We play a feature match... uhuh... I don't know. He's winning but I think he has too much land, but I need one more land as well".

    With the brotherly update completed, the two players got back to the game, with Shuuhei again failing to draw a land and finding himself with eight cards in hand.

    "Discard... "

    "If you say Sunblast Angel I'm going to worry!", Ruel intejected

    "…discard Sunblast Angel" finished the Japanese legend, dropping the angel into his graveyard.

    "It's ok," Olivier told the crowd, "he has two!"

    But on the next turn Shuuhei finally found some gas – a Sky-Eel School drew him into a sixth land, and thus followed a Sunblast Angel and a Corrupted Conscience that finally wrecked Ruel's hopes. The Frenchman only had one thing he wanted to know:

    "How did you lose round one?!?"

    Shuuhei Nakamura 1 – 0 Olivier Ruel

    Into the second game, and once again Olivier Ruel only had one plan for winning – sending red men into the red zone. He played a Goblin Wardriver then followed that up with a Spin Engine.

    BASH! BASH! Nakamura down to 12 life.

    Turns like this had accounted for Snepvangers yesterday, but Nakamura wasn't going to lie down and die – he played an Auriok Replica and Serum Raker, although Olivier was still able to spin up his Spin Engine and attack for another 3 damage

    BASH! Nakamura down to 9.

    A Revoke Existence dealt with the Spin Engine, but Olivier immediately replaced that with his Golem Artisan, while Nakamura had again fallen foul of his lands and had only four mana available, but still managed to play a Neurok Replica.

    So long as Shuuhei was stuck on four lands, Ruel had a chance to win, but the Japanese Hall of Famer was clinging on to life, returning the Golem Artisan to hand with Steel Sabotage on Olivier's next attack, then playing a Sunspear Shikari. Olivier replayed his Artisan, but Nakamura's Neurok Replica returned the Artisan to hand for a second time! As hard as Ruel huffed and puffed, he was making very little progress!

    Shuuhei Nakamura

    Nakamura found a fifth land, edging closer to his Sunblast Angels, but the only play he made was to equip a Strider Harness to his Sunspear Shikari. That booster the Shikari, but critically gave it Lifelink, and Shuuhei was able to fight back for another turn. That bought the Japanese player another turn, and that brought down a Corrupted Conscience, gaining control of Ruel's Golem Artisan.

    But it was too late, Ruel was able to fashion another attack, and then a Kuldotha Rebirth spawned enough Goblins that the Frenchman could afford to feed them all to the Mortarpod and win the game. But as the two players shuffled up for the deciding game, Olivier hit the nail on the head when he summed up

    Shuuhei Nakamura 1 – 1 Olivier Ruel

    "And that's what it takes for me to win a game?" Ruel knew that if Shuuhei could ever manage to draw lands it would be one-way traffic.

    And so it proved – the final game was a swift blowout. After a mulligan Olivier Ruel drew into only two lands, while Shuuhei accelerated smoothly through the gears. Spotting the impending apocalypse coming, and know that he simply couldn't compete with Shuuhei Nakamura's cards if the Japanese pro could actually play them, Ruel called an early end to the match and conceded.

    Shuuhei Nakamura 2 – 1 Olivier Ruel

     

  • Sunday, 12:34 p.m. – Photo Essay

    by David Sutcliffe
  • The Venue
    Tower Bridge
    HMS Belfast
    Quiz!
    Hats!
    Best of Brits
     

  • Feature Match: Round 12 – Chris Pikula vs Fabien Bosler

    by Tim Willoughby
  • "So I take it you're pretty good, because I'm not."

    "I'm not really any good any more, I don't play all that much now though" Chris Pikula remarked. His dream was still alive. He had three losses, which would mean that top 8 was an outside shot, but given that Chris' main goal from the tournament was Pro Tour qualification, he would be more than happy with anything in the top 16.

    Chris won the roll, but started short on lands, compared to an abundance of mana from Bosler, who had a Forest for three turns straight, along with Leaden Myr and a Horizon Spellbomb. Chris had to discard, but was ready for the Tangle Hulk that came from Bosler with a Burn the Impure.

    Chris chuckled to himself as he continued to miss land drops, while his opponent dropped an Alpha Tyrannax. An Arc Trail killed off Leaden Myr for Chris, who was still well off ever hitting a third land. When Alpha Tyrannax started coming in, the game was not a long one.

    Fabien Bosler 1 – 0 Chris Pikula

    "I'm sorry about that. It sucks when games end that way."

    "It happens" remarked Pikula, shuffling his deck with newfound purpose.

    Bosler was not familiar with Pikula as a player, but had had a little experience with America, having lived and played in San Diego for a year, at a store called Artifact – rather appropriate to the current block.

    Chris Pikula with a 2 land special.

    Game two Pikula had a welcome three lands, and a Wall of Tanglecord to hold off opening attacks. An Ezuri's Archers from Bosler was followed by Moriok Replica, though there was no trace of a Swamp on Bosler's side of the board to threaten any card draw. This game would stall out a little further, as Chris played a Blade-Tribe Berserkers to gum the board, and Bosler landed a Tumble Magnet to attempt the reverse. Pikula had an Oxidda Scrapmelter to clear out Moriok Replica, and then he was the one with the dinosaurs, landing a Gnathosaur while Bosler was still stuck on four lands.

    A Neurok Replica was responded to with a Burn the Impure on Oxidda Scrapmelter. Bosler's Tumble Magnet was soon out of juice, and it seemed that Bosler might be out of luck. He finally hit five lands, and played Turn to Slag targeting Gnathosaur, prompting Neurok Replica to bounce it.

    When the Gnathosaur came back down, it would not last long. Kuldotha Flamefiend killed off the dinosaur, and would hold off Blade-Tribe Berserkers. Pikula would now have to go to the air. He played Sky-Eel School and a Gust Skimmer. The school fell to a second Turn to Slag, but the Gust Skimmer's jumping was enough to squeeze in the final points.

    Fabian Bosler 1 – 1 Chris Pikula

    "Well, that was more of a game" remarked Bosler

    "Just about… I guess we'll see for game three" smiled Pikula

    "That Gust-Skimmer seemed pretty nice"

    "I was playing a lot of them yesterday, but they were the first Skimmers I've ever cast."

    Bosler was on the play for the rubber game, and led with a Nihil Spellbomb. Each player had a mana myr for turn two, and Bosler used his to accelerate out a Rusted Slasher, which gave Pikula pause. He did not have a third land drop again, and simply played a Gust-Skimmer before passing.

    Bosler was all in on artifacts, following up with a Tangle Hulk. Pikula stopped and thought, before casting an Arc Trail to deal 2 damage to Tangle Hulk, and 1 to Silver Myr. A Galvanic Blast finished off the hulk. This left just Rusted Slasher left for Bosler, who soon followed up with Koth's Courier, and Ezuri's Archers. That Bosler had no more artifacts meant that Neurok Replica could trade with the 4/1, but Chris was in very rough shape, still stuck on two lands.

    "I'm really sorry dude" remarked Bosler as he pointed an Arc Trail at Pikula's precious Iron Myr. A Turn Aside stopped that though. Chris was not dead yet.

    A draw finally brought another land, letting Pikula cast Oxidda Scrapmelter to destroy Bosler's freshly cast Copper Myr.

    "I'd been holding that all game!" laughed Pikula.

    Fabien Bosler

    Bosler laid a Molder Beast but it soon died to Turn to Slag. With a Saberclaw Golem for Pikula as well, it seemed that the momentum may have shifted. Bosler still didn't have a second green source, or a sixth land, so his dinos were yet to be online. When Bosler tried for a Tumble Magnet, a Steel Sabotage could not have come faster from Pikula, who was suddenly more animated than he had been at any point in the match.

    An Ogre Resister came from Pikula, then a Sky-Eel School. Pikula was still at just six, and had to respect that if a sixth land came from Bosler, then he could be in a world of trouble. He attacked into Perilous Myr with Saberclaw Golem, perhaps feeling it better to trade with it than a Kuldotha Flamefiend ending him. He cast a second one, and continued to rumble in.

    Soon Bosler was at 7, while Pikula remained at six. Finally, Bosler found a Forest, and cast an Alpha Tyrannax. He had a second Ezuri's Archers, ensuring that Sky-Eel School would not be getting stuck in any time soon. A Wall of Tanglecord came out as a blocker for Pikula, but in the face of the Tyrannax, it was Ogre Resister and Iron Myr who blocked. A Go for the Throat meant that there would be no trade though. Chris was going to have to work for those final points.

    A Gnathosaur came from Chris. Now both players had a dino. Bosler had more on the board though, with a Moriok Replica too, and Leaden Myr to activate it. He traded off dinosaurs before casting Tangle Hulk, leaving enough mana up for regeneration. Chris cast a Vulshok Replica. That was 3 more points right there, but unfortunately for him, Bosler was still on 4. The replica was quick to block Tangle Hulk, and drop Bosler to 1 with its ability.

    Pikula couldn't attack, and had to pass the turn back, with two cards in hand. On six, he was faced down by an attacking Tangle Hulk and Moriok Replica from Bosler, forcing some kind of block.

    Chris rested his head on the table to think. He had a look at his graveyard. Could he afford to drop to one? He decided to do just that, and a Kuldotha Flamefiend ended the game for him.

    Fabian Bosler wins 2 - 1

     

  • Sunday, 1:25 p.m. – Impending Phyrexian Impact

    by Tim Willoughby
  • While we are busy drafting with Scars of Mirrodin and Mirrodin Besieged at the moment, we really aren't far away from the release of New Phyrexia, and with it some potentially large shake-ups to the limited format. With each new set we would expect there to be some new archetypes to emerge, that is part of the fun of the new cards after all, and above and beyond that existing archetypes will have to adapt to survive.

    Porcelain Legionnaire

    One of the big archetypes thus far in the block has been red/white metalcraft. Even with the victory of Phyrexia in the third set of the block, there are cards that will add to or adjust this plan. Porcelain Legionnaire looks like an ideal addition, having impressive stats and the ability to come out swinging fast, while also boosting metalcraft. The other interesting thing about Porcelain Legionnaire, and indeed all the new Phyrexian mana spells, is that if picked early in draft (and remember that New Phyrexia will be the first pack opened in draft), it does not leave one tied to a colour in quite the same way as other white picks might. The Splicer creatures, like Sensor Splicer will all likely be solid additions too, bringing a good sized creature for metalcraft, and an extra body on top (playing particularly nicely with battle-cry from Mirrodin Besieged).

    The version of metalcraft that is currently proving powerful in London with lots of tokens from Master's Call and Kuldotha Rebirth is perhaps going to take a slight hit with the addition of Marrow Shards. In the same way that any deck can splash Porcelain Legionnaire, realistically any deck could choose to answer tokens now at the low low cost of two life. Suffice to say, the impact of Phyrexian mana alone will be a big deal.

    One of the more interesting elements of this is around infect. Infect's gradual spread from black and green is complete (compleat?), with creatures in all five colours now having infect. That doesn't necessarily mean that every infect deck will be a big mix of colours, but it does offer more options for the wily infect drafter. One potential danger that the infect player faces now in a way that they haven't before is that Phyrexian mana cards are very good against a dedicated infect plan. If life isn't what is being attacked, then it becomes a resource that can be very safely spent on Phyrexian mana cards. In terms of sideboarding, this could be huge, and just another reason that cards with Phyrexian mana costs will likely be at a premium in terms of picks for the one pack in draft in which they are available.

    Other archetypes will perhaps have less complicated changes. It seems unlikely that dinosaurs will be extinct in this block, with a pack of Alpha Tyrannax disappearing, but the likes of Flameborn Viron and Thundering Tanadon entering the fray. My pick for dinosaurs is the addition of Geosurge to the mix. Maybe it's a pipe dream, but I love the idea of casting my giant beasts a few turns early, and getting into the red zone with them before my opponents know what has hit them.

    The rise of Phyrexia is looking an exciting finale to what has been a block whose draft format has been unlike any we have seen before.

     

  • Podcast – Choosing your Legacy Weapon

    by Rich Hagon
  • Matt Light - good player. Good trader. Good-looking. Single. If I didn't like him so much, he could be really irritating. In this show, we concentrate on the Legacy format. If you've never played Legacy before, Matt takes us through some of the basics of the format, giving us an Aggro, a Combo, a Control, and a Mid-Range deck to take into battle. It's a huge world out there, but it just got a bit more manageable.

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  • Sunday, 2:34 p.m. – Putting On a Brave Face

    by Tim Willoughby
  • While there has been plenty for the competitive player here at Grand Prix London, you can’t spell player without play, and there have been plenty enjoying getting back to their inner child by enjoying the wonder that is the Pro Tour London face-painting stand. Sometimes you have an article that is defined not by its words, but by its pictures. Check it out.

    This aint no haircut.
    On the head sun.
    Tournament Manager Glen White combines Phyrexian mana and Blue mana for an evil look.
    One of these guys can do whatever a spider can.
    Raph Levy represents for South Africa.
    Nico Glik is ready to pass judgement on your face paint.
    Blue white and valakut - the faces of Standard.

     

  • Sunday, 2:45 p.m. – Charlie Taylor, Aged 10

    by David Sutcliffe
  • Charlie Taylor is 10 years old, he has been playing Magic since October last year, and yesterday he played nine rounds of a Grand Prix and finished the day with 3 Wins.

    Charlie has autism.

    Yesterday evening, after the Grand Prix, I met with Charlie, his mother Sarah-Jayne, and François Hauchard, the owner of Charlie's local shop, Axion Comics and Cards. François' role has grown to become the family's local judge, tournament organiser, and now special mentor to Charlie's development through Magic. The four of us chatted about what the game had done for Charlie.

    Sarah-Jayne began the story by explaining a little about how autism had affected Charlie:

    "What autism means for Charlie is that he struggles to understand the world around him, finds concentrating hard, and he has trouble with his social skills, often misinterpreting people. It's a cognitive disorder which affects behaviour, so he can be very challenging, and it means his moods can swing a lot – when he's focused and engaged, he's on fire, but when he's anxious or distressed he finds it very hard to deal with rationally and gets very upset and angry. In school he always had friendship problems and suffered bullying. His participation in after-school activities was limited and stressful. In the end, Charlie was out of school for the best part of a year due to the impact of this on his mental health. Thankfully, he started at a great specialist Unit for children with autism in September."

    During the Grand Prix I had stopped by to watch Charlie a few times but I had seen none of that, and to learn that he had autism had come as a total surprise – he hadn't seemed any more overwhelmed by his surroundings than any other 10 year-old thrust into a Grand Prix, less so in fact.

    Charlie Taylor

    "Magic has been very good for Charlie", Sarah told me. "He's not been playing long but he's already good at it, and he's going to get better. But it's more than that - coming here is so great for his confidence, and it's good for his social skills to meet all these people."

    What I also didn't realise, but Sarah explained to me, is that the DCI Floor Rules contain all sorts of guidelines to help people with disabilities enjoy playing in tournaments.

    "The tournament organisers have been really helpful. It's details like the fact that we can sit at the same table every round so that Charlie isn't stuck right in the middle, surrounded by people he doesn't know. That also means that I can sit with him and be there for support. And also the way that he's spoken to by the judges, the way they explain things – just these little things make such a difference for him."

    How did the other players treat Charlie once they discovered he was autistic?

    "The majority of players are very nice, very patient, very helpful", Sarah said, "a small minority really want to win, though, and once they realise that Charlie has some buttons they can press which will mean that he loses concentration, they'll push them. It can be hard to watch sometimes because I can see what's happening. We went to Paris earlier this year and afterwards I realised that I needed to learn some of the rules of Magic as well, so I would know if anybody was cheating against him. But in London that hasn't happened really."

    "It's not just the players though", Sarah continued, "the judges have been good as well. I don't think all the judges knew that Charlie had autism, so sometimes they might speak to him as though he was a normal adult player, and Charlie did get upset once when he almost got a Game Loss. But we sorted that out, and afterwards the judge came and thanked me for helping, and showing him how to communicate with somebody like Charlie."

    So how did Charlie find Magic?

    "Well Charlie collected Pokemon cards for a long time – he was a huge collector, but he never played. The next step was Magic, and as soon as he starting going to the Magic club... well, he just took to it straight away. François can probably tell you this part better than I can, though."

    With that Sarah turned to Charlie's Magic mentor, François:

    "To see the change in Charlie since he started coming to the club... it's impossible to describe. When he first came to us in October Charlie didn't even dare to walk into the room. You can imagine that it's our weekly Magic club and there are twenty players in there and they're busy playing and talking amongst themselves. It was very difficult for Charlie - he couldn't really engage with the others so he would stay outside, or would keep going back out to his mother".

    Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

    That was a description of Charlie that I simply couldn't recognise. The reclusive Charlie that François and Sarah knew just a few months ago seemed a world away from the mature and confident boy who had earlier walked up to me during the Grand Prix and asked me to bring a deck along that evening so that I could play against him. Was the socially-awkward Charlie they described really the same boy who was now sat across the table from me in the hotel bar, confidently and skilfully piloting his favourite Eldrazi deck? And could this transformation in Charlie really be down to 'a card game about Goblins and Elves'?

    Sarah-Jayne, a teacher herself, was in no doubt:

    "There is something that isn't being picked up on by the education system, but that he's getting here from playing Magic," she explained, "It's very easy for Charlie to lose his focus and in school that meant that he got marked out as 'a naughty child'. We struggled a lot for a few years, and it wasn't until he was 8 that he was recognised as having autism. By then I had read so many books on parenting while trying to work out what was going wrong for Charlie without really finding an answer, and it was only when I finally came to read about autism that I realised I recognised it all - they were talking about my child!"

    "Even though Charlie has made so much progress since he started playing Magic we still meet some resistance from his school about the fact that he plays", Sarah-Jayne told me, "I've spoken to them about it several times to explain how it benefits him, but I don't think they really understand. When we went to the Grand Prix in Paris it meant that we had to take Charlie out of school for a day, and when he goes to the Magic club it often means that he will stay up until 9.30, which can affect him in school the next day. I believe so strongly in the way that Magic is helping Charlie that I will fight to let him play, though. If it's affecting his schooling then we'll deal with that, but as far as I'm concerned the benefits are...well they're enormous".

    "Of course", François chimes in, "the benefits for Charlie are so much that it has to be worth the price. I really believe that any child has a fantastic potential, all you have to do is find the way to unlock it. You can see that in Charlie – he has been playing for just over six months, and already he has nearly qualified for the UK national championships!"

    So why was Magic so good for Charlie?

    "For autistic children the fact that everything is so visual is a real help. Charlie won't remember a card name, and in school when he was learning something abstract like his multiplication tables it just went in and out of his head. But with a Magic card the artwork of the card is something that sticks with him - the picture helps to explain what the card does and he can hold onto that."

    Charlie and his Magic mentor, Francois

    And François agreed:

    "In Maths for instance – at Charlie's level they are trying to teach the Two Times Table, and then maybe the Three Times Table. That's the level that the school is aiming for, and Charlie struggles with that in school. But then you bring him here, where everything is maths, and he is fine. Better than fine, he's very good! He knows all the cards and he works it all out... +2/+0 on this, -3/-3 on that, trample 4 damage, Proliferate this and that...".

    "I didn't learn anything at my old school," adds Charlie, "Not really."

    But Charlie has clearly learnt Magic, one of the most complicated mental sports on the face of the planet, in double-quick time. I had been duelling against him as we chatted, but the game had long since passed the point of being a contest and Charlie had progressed to slow-rolling me - after promising his mother that we would only play one game Charlie was determined to spin it out.

    Carnifex Demon

    "Would you like to see my deck from the Grand Prix?", Charlie asked, and passed me his deck for inspection It was a Blue-Black deck with a splash of Green, and it was clear that Charlie had built a powerful controlling Infect deck that had some complex interactions with Proliferate, featuring cards like Carnifex Demon , Fuel for the Cause , and Corrupted Conscience .

    "It only took me six minutes to make my deck", Charlie explained, as excited and animated as he always is when talking about Magic, "I wanted to play Blue-Black even though some people told me that it wasn't good, but I could see that my deck had everything. I could control, and I could give poison counters, then I could Proliferate the poison counters and counterspell my opponent's cards. It all worked like a chain reaction!"

    I began to explain to Charlie that the word for what he meant is 'synergy' but as I did so I could see him beginning to lose focus. I realised then that it's not important to Charlie to know that there is a specific word for what he is talking about, it's only important to him to understand that these 'chain reactions' exist.

    That raised another question. I understand next to nothing about autism, but from what little I thought I knew a familiar routine was important, but in Sealed Deck everything is new every time – wasn't that the exact opposite?

    "Routine is important", Sarah-Jayne agreed, "and that's partly why it was so good for Charlie that we were able to sit at the same table every round. As for the Sealed Deck thing, why don't we ask Charlie?"

    Charlie stopped to think for a few seconds - this was obviously a question that he wanted to answer correctly, and I was struck by how serious and thoughtful he becomes when posed a question (usually about Magic) that holds his interest. Why does he like Sealed Deck? Charlie wanted to know the answer as much as anyone.

    "I think Sealed is the most fun part of the whole thing," he answered, considering his words carefully, "I really enjoy building decks, although I don't like having to register the cards before that, I find that very difficult and Mum has to help me with that. But building decks is the best part - it makes the deck feel special. It feels like it's my deck, because I made it".

    As Charlie was answering I glance across to Sarah-Jayne, and it's impossible to mistake just how proud she is of her son.

    "He's fearless, really", Sarah-Jayne explained, ruffling her son's hair, "He doesn't want to do things the easy way, so he wasn't going to play a different deck just because somebody told him that it might be better. He believed that he was right and he stuck with it".

    Tainted Strike

    "And a lot of the advice was wrong, as well." Charlie chips in, his voice firm with conviction. "One man told me that I was wrong to play with Corrupted Harvester in my deck because I was Infect and it didn't do poison damage. But I knew that I had Tainted Strike so that I could give it +1/+0 and Infect, and I won a game with it! But I didn't like it when all these men were crowding around and telling me that I was doing things wrong", and he frowned unhappily.

    As much as Sarah-Jayne appreciates the role that Magic has played in transforming her son, she was never slow to pay tribute to the tremendous influence that François has had, and the amount of personal involvement that the quiet Frenchman has taken in her son's life. The trio come as a unit, and have done ever since Charlie walked into François' shop.

    "I owe so much to François", she admits, "he has been incredible. He has spent so much time with Charlie and really persevered with him. I think that if it had been just me on my own I wouldn't have recognised that Magic was something Charlie was good at, and we would have just moved on, but François could see it – he came and told me that Charlie had a talent for the game and offered to help mentor him."

    "But more than that, we wouldn't have been able to go to Paris without François, or come here today to the Grand Prix. And then the practical things, like the special treatment we get for Charlie from the judges – it just wouldn't have even occurred to me that such a thing existed to ask for it. But because François is a judge he knew what was possible. All of this is down to François".

    Charlie and Sarah-Jayne

    And there's no mistaking the love for her son, or her gratitude to François and the others at Axion Comics & Cards, when Sarah-Jayne sums up what Magic has done for Charlie...

    "When Charlie walked into the Magic club it was like, for the first time, he was being seen for the child inside. They saw the child that I saw, and they accepted him", and, tired after a long day of being a mom, she smiles.


     

  • Sunday, 3:05 p.m. – Drafting with Raul '12-0' Porojan

    by David Sutcliffe
  • London is host to a new German Juggernaut this weekend – Raul Porojan has rampaged his way to a 12-0 record so the drafting spotlight would fall onto the shoulders of a man for whom the dream of the perfect 'X-0' Grand Prix is still alive. I'm pretty certain that no player has ever gone through an entire draft undefeated, but that target was very firmly in Porojan's sights as he took his place at the top draft pod for a second time. In the first pod he had made a habit of opening bomb rares... would his luck hold?

    Pack One

    P1 Massacre Wurm

    So that's a 'yes', then.

    P2 Divine Offering, preferred to an Ichor Wellspring or Leonin Skyhunter
    P3 Dross Ripper - unexciting but given the nod over a Flayer Husk
    P4 Phyrexian Rager
    P5 Divine Offering #2, taken ahead of Phyrexian Rager #2
    P6 Ichor Wellspring
    P7 Accorder Paladin
    P8 Dross Ripper #2
    P9 Bladed Sentinel
    P10 Dross Ripper #3!
    P11 Flensermite
    P12 Mirrorworks
    P13 Shriekhorn
    P14 Flensermite

    With one booster down, Porojan looked committed to a Black/White deck, and already had a solid chunk of creatures and removal to call upon. Next up was another First Pick, though, which is when Porojan seems to never fail to open busted rares.

    Pack Two

    P1 Myr Battlesphere

    Oh, lordy.

    P2 Abuna Acolyte – perhaps the least-exciting P2 ever
    P3 Trigon of Corruption
    P4 Grasp of Darkness
    P5 Origin Spellbomb
    P6 Blistergrub
    P7 Abuna Acolyte
    P8 Blistergrub #2
    P9 Fume Spitter
    P10 Nihil Spellbomb
    P11 Nihil Spellbomb
    P12 Vector Asp
    P13 Vault Skyward
    P14 Copperhorn Scout (the card that P14 was invented for)

    Pack Three

    P1 Perilous Myr, preferred to Glimmerpoint Stag

    What, no Carnifex Demon? But in truth this third booster began a number of tough card choices

    P2 Moriok Replica, not Sunspear Shikari
    P3 Revoke Existence, not Palladium Myr
    P4 Mox Opal, not Copper Myr
    P5 Kuldotha Forgemaster
    P6 Silver Myr
    P7 Blistergrub #3
    P8 Loxodon Wayfarer
    P9 Exsanguinate
    P10 Viridian Revel
    P11 Golem Heart
    P12 Golden Urn
    P13 Ferrovore
    P14 Copperhorn Scout. Obv.

    By sheer chance, the seating pairings for the deck construction element placed Raul Porojan – the player who was doing so well in the tournament that he didn't need to win – opposite Olivier Ruel, who was now one of the lowest-ranked players in the tournament for whom winning was futile. With little on the line, the two briefly discussed the merit's of the X-0 position.

    "I don't need to win now, which is nice. I mean if I had to play a friend I would concede to them, but I think I want to go 15-0. But it was crazy being able to draft cards for money on the top table – I took a Mox Opal just because it was worth money".

    Raul '12-0' Porojan

    "Money drafting on the top draft pod is crazy", agreed Olivier, "The hardest part of this going to be your opponents. The games won't matter to you because you're already in the Top 8 no matter what, but they are going to be desperate to avoid losing to you".

    Mirrorworks

    "Yeah, I will need a heart of stone", admitted Porojan, "Fortunately – I have one!"

    Turning his thoughts to his deck, Porojan couldn't complain – for obvious reasons.

    "My deck is crazy. Again. And it looks like it's going to be fun, playing lots of artifacts, sacrificing them to get my Battlesphere with the Forgemaster..." and then he picks up one card in particular... "I can't believe that I got a Mirrorworks like 12th pick or something. Nobody wanted it, but it's going to be like the third-best card in my deck!"

    When you run hot, you run hot, and Porojan is practically burning a hole through the floor of the tournament right now. With this deck in hand only a fool would bet against him extending that run to 15-0 before the Top 8.


     

  • Feature Match Round 13 – Raul Porojan vs. Louis Deltour

    by David Sutcliffe
  • Twelve rounds into the Grand Prix, six rounds after he demolished Stuart Wright, and Raul Porojan has still yet to lose a match. In his second draft of the day, the German could afford to take it easy, and it was time for 'Dreamcrusher' Porojan to crush his first dream. His opponent was once again Louis Deltour of France, in a rematch of an earlier feature match. In fact that defeat to Porojan had been Deltour's only loss in the entire tournament - could Deltour level the tie, or would he face the bitter double-blow of being taken out of the tournament twice by the same man?

    Raul Porojan

    Game 1

    Game one was over in the blink of an eye – Deltour's opening hard was land-heavy and Darksteel Colossus was his best hope of staying in the game. When the Colossus was exiled from the game by a Revoke Existence the way was clear for Porojan to stomp his authority on the match, and his troops – led by a Kuldotha Forgemaster – made short work of the struggling Frenchman.

    Raul Porojan 1-0 Louis Deltour

    Game 2

    The second game began as a more even affair, with the players trading blocks through the early turns – a pair of Myr killed each other, and Deltour's Rot Wolf accounted for Porojan's Phyrexian Rager. Emerging into the midgame on an even footing, it was time to see what these two player's

    decks could do. For Deltour that meant taking to the air with a Sky-Eel School, and setting up a Tumble Magnet to protect himself, while Porojan deployed a range of artifacts – a Perilous Myr, Origin Spellbomb, Kuldotha Forgemaster and Bladed Sentinel.

    Deltour added a Copper Myr to the battlefiend, but the time was right for Porojan to strike. At the end of Deltour's turn he aimed a Divine Offering at the Frenchman's Tu,mble Magnet. Deltour tapped it to shut down the German's Forgemaster, and in response Porojan sacrificed his three artifacts to the Forgemaster and searched through his deck for Myr Battlesphere!

    Louis Deltour

    Deltour took the first hit from the Battlesphere on the chin, but had the perfect response – a Bonds of Quicksilver tied the Battlesphere up, and then Quicksilver Gargantuan arrived on the next turn to copy the Battlesphere! A quick rules check meant that Deltour got to trigger the Battles[here's coming into play ability with his Gargantuan, and spawn seven 1/1 Myr.

    Unfortunately for the Frenchman, his killer play had only set him up perfectly for Porojan's next card.

    Massacre Wurm.

    All the creatures that Deltour had just spawned were dead, and they had all dealt the Frenchman 2 damage as they left play.

    We were done.

    Raul Porojan 2 – 0 Louis Deltour


     

  • Feature Match Round 14 – Andreas Nordahl vs. Kenny Oberg

    by Tim Willoughby
  • With just two rounds to go, top 8 was now in sight for just a few, but locked up for even fewer. No pressure then.

    "I have won four PTQs in his home country!" laughed Kenny Oberg as he sat down across from Norwegian Andreas Nordahl. The little Swede seemed relaxed even given the stakes of the match, where the winner would be a virtual lock for top 8.

    Game 1

    Oberg was on the play in spite of having lost the roll, and had an early Plague Stinger, which fell to Galvanic Blast. It was replaced by a Rot Wolf, before a Corpse Cur returned the flyer from the graveyard to Oberg's hand. Nordahl had a Vulshok Replica and Tangle Mantis, but wasn't able to profitably attack in in the face of Oberg's start. Corpse Cur ran into a Tangle Mantis brick wall, making the 3/4 a much more manageable 1/2, after which Kenny kept the infect train rolling with a Core Prowler. Suddenly it became clear why he was so happy to start throwing counters around.

    A Strandwalker from Nordahl meant that Kenny was less keen to commit Plague Stinger to the board. Instead, Kenny cast first a Painsmith, then a Horizon Spellbomb. By pumping his Rot Wolf, he presented an awkward decision for Nordahl. Either he could let through the wolf, taking 4 poison, or give Kenny an extra card by blocking and trading. After a little thought he blocked the wolf, keeping the poison offence in check where he could.

    Andreas Nordahl - Who passed all those corpse curs? Raise your hand!

    Nordahl played out a Palladium Myr, while Oberg had a Sylvok Replica to pump Core Prowler, and destroy his opponent's Strandwalker.

    "Come on Kenny!" came the cry from a vocal Marijn Lybaert in the crowd watching the match. He seemed happy with that line of play, and the Plague Stinger that followed.

    Nordahl used his Palladium Myr to power out an Alpha Tyrannax, but looked in deep trouble as a new Corpse Cur recurred the first, and pumped Core Prowler to boot. Kenny did lose his Plague Stinger to Burn the Impure, but was still in fine shape, with just 2 poison left to deal. Andreas had a Plaguemaw Beast to proliferate up to 9 poison. Nordahl cast a Sylvok Replica, which looked fair in what was now a topdeck war. It got hit by Instill Infection, such that it couldn't attack for any damage. An Engulfing Slagwurm soon followed, but did not look like nearly as good a topdeck as a third Corpse Cur, which returned a Corpse Cur, only for that Corpse Cur to return another Corpse Cur. Filthy.

    From there, just a Mirran Metal was required to finish things in savage fashion.

    Kenny Oberg 1 – 0

    Game 2

    Game two saw another quick start from Oberg, with Flayer Husk into Plague Stinger into Contagious Nim. A Culling Dais and an equip followed.

    "It's to play around your Burn the Impure" remarked Kenny, after a quizzical look from his opponent. Given the speed of his start, it was entirely possible that Kenny would be able to get there even in the face of such threats.

    Kenny Oberg

    A Glissa's Courier joined the team for Nordahl, prompting a shift around of equipment so that Contagious Nim could attack. Attack it did, only adding to Nordahl's poison woes. It seemed that Nordahl was stuck with a slow draw, and this is exactly the sort of draw that would just not stand up to what seemed to be the poster child of infect decks. Oberg's deck was not going to let games drag out, and a Mirran Mettle soon finished things.

    Kenny Oberg wins 2-0!

    After the match, a jubilant Oberg showed me a few more details of his infect deck. With a whopping four copies of Corpse Cur, he referred to it as a metalcraft infect deck. His first two picks had been Plague Myr, leaving a lot of strategies open, and the infect option had just kept coming. A pair of copies of Painsmith were particularly powerful in his deck, along with two copies of Mirran Mettle, which had the potential to end games from nowhere.

     

  • Podcast – The Wire

    by Rich Hagon
  • While 'The Wire' may be one of the most compelling stories ever committed to celluloid, our version is high on drama too. In the penultimate round of Day Two, eight players entered the Feature Match arena knowing that a win will take them to 12-2, and possible entry into the record books as a member of the Top 8. Among them are three Brits - Nick Taylor, Daniel Royde, and Andy Mather. Can any of them carry home hopes to victory?

    Multi
    Download this podcast in MP3 format (16.6 MB)
     

  • Sunday, 3:50 p.m. – Dopplegangers

    by Tim Willoughby
  • I bumped into level 8 pro Martin Juza this round, only to find out that he has spent all weekend telling people that there was someone in the room who looked just like Chris Pikula playing at this GP. No, really. Really really like Chris Pikula. They could be brothers or something!

    Oh Martin, had you just read the coverage, you might have spared yourself some blushes. It wasn't until he walked over to the feature match area that Juza realised the folly of his statements. Sometimes, when you think you've seen a Pikula, you really have seen a Pikula...

    Martin Juza

     

  • Feature Match Round-Up – Round 15

    by David Sutcliffe
  • Round 15 - The Cruellest Cut

    By David Sutcliffe

    Sometimes it's easy to see who makes the Top 8, but here at Grand Prix London it was carnage at the top of the field as the players headed into the final round. At the head of the field, Raul Porajan was playing for his 15-0 clean sweep of the Swiss and that meant that he wasn't going to accept a draw from his opponent, Daniel Royde. The implications of that cascaded down the field, opening up a potential Top 8 slot. That slot would probably go to a player on 36 points, and suddenly a bunch of matches that might have been Intentionally Drawn became live, and had to be played.

    Four pairs of players were taken into the Feature Match area, but anywhere between two or five of them could make it into the Top 8.

    Raphael Levy vs. Thoralf Severin

    First up was Raphael Levy, the seasoned French Hall of Famer had been skulking his way quietly through the field. In the final round he was facing off against the German, Thoralf Severin, but Levy made short work of his opponent. The first game was a demolition job, with Levy fielding a trio of 2/2 flyers that Severin simply couldn't block. The second game was similar, but for a short while it looked as though Severin might be able to race back on the ground, with Ezuri's Brigade and a Tangle Hulk. It wasn't to be, though, and Levy found the blockers to hold Severin's big men off long enough for another Mirran air force to claim the win.

    Raphael Levy 2 – 0 Thoralf Severin

    Shuuhei Nakamura vs. Patrizio Golia

    It was a win that put Levy onto 36 points, but the Frenchmen was pretty certain that the Top 8 was out of his reach, regardless

    Another famous face battling his way towards 36 points was Shuuhei Nakamura. After defeating Olivier Ruel earlier that day, Shuuhei had won, and won, and won again. Shuuhei was the opponent of a very unfortunate Patrizio Golia, who could make it to 37 points and a certain place in the Top 8. So long as he could manage the small matter of defeating one of the greatest players of all time. In the first game the two players seemed locked into a Metalcraft battle, but it was one that Shuuhei incrementally crept ahead in – the wily Japanese pro taking best possible value from all his plays.

    Shuuhei Nakamura vs. Patrizio Golia
    Deep into the late game, Shuuhei sealed a win. The second game was more straight-forward, with Golia making a play that ultimately cost him the game. Facing down Shuuhei's Consecrated Sphinx, Golia felt that he had to draw cards and cast a Vivisection. Unfortunately for Golia, he misunderstood how Consecrated Sphinx worked when your opponent was drawing more than one card. Shuuhei drew 4 of the 6 that Vivisection allowed him, deciding that he didn't need any more cards to win. And he was right – a torrent of reinforcements joined his Sphinx on the battlefield, and Shuuhei advanced to 36 points.

    Shuuhei Nakamura 2 – 0 Patrizio Golia

    Daniele Canavesi vs. Andrea La Placa

    Like Levy, Shuuhei was unlikely to make the Top 8 cut, but by defeating Golia he had opened up yet more opportunities for a player on 36 to win in.

    While Golia was out of the Top 8, two Italians were playing another match to ensure that Italy had at least one representative in the draft. Andrea La Placa was already on 36 points, and could afford to draw, but his opponent was Daniele Canavesi, who was only on 34 and had to play and win. In the opening game Andrea La Placa was immediately on the back foot, as his Goblin Gaveleer was bludgeoned aside by Canavesi's lumbering big men, handing Canavesi the lead. Fighting back in the second, Canavesi looked to be in control, with a Bloodshot Trainee and Scrapmelter in play, but those were immediately trumped by La Placa's Precursor Golem! Back on the defensive, La Placa blocked madly to remove the Golems but was finally able to pair his Bloodshot Trainee up with a Copper Carapace and begin target practice. With nothing hanging around in play, Canavesi accepted defeat and the pair entered a third game.

    Daniele Canavesi vs. Andrea La Placa

    The decider was a classic example of close, but not close enough. Canavesi's early offense topped off with a Precursor Golem... the Italian smashed his forces into his opponent, but only succeeded in dropping La Placa to 3 life. Drawing a ton of gas, La Placa stablised the board with Skinrender, Darksteel Myr, and then the kicker – Skithiryx. The Blight Dragon was angry, and ended the game three turns later, sending La Place into the Top 8.

    Daniele Canavesi 1 – 2 Andrea La Placa

    Raul Porajan vs. Daniel Royde

    That only left Raul Porajan, proudly fighting for his 15-0 record against the valiant Englishman, Daniel Royde. By all rights, Royde had earnt the chance to ID the final round and secure a Top 8 slot, but Porajan was still in 'dreamcrusher' mode and wanted to play. But for the first time in the tournament, Porajan was met on even terms – the German played his bomb rares, Myr Battlesphere and Massacre Wurm, but Royde saw both of them off with a Divine Offering and Flameborn Hellion. Unfortunately for Royde that simply sent Porajan into Plan B – which was to pump his Dross Rippers up and maul Royde anyway. Unable to answer the flow of 6/6 Dross Rippers, Royde went a game down.

    Raul Porajan vs. Daniel Royde

    The second game went in a similar way. Once again Raul Porajan deployed his rares, and once again Royde dealt with them – albeit at huge cost. Unfortunately for Royde, what also happened was that once again Porajan turned to huge Dross Rippers. But this time things were different – Royde had been able to get some damage onto Porajan early, and after a final effort he was able to get Porajan within range of the direct damage from a Vulshok Replica, levelling the match.

    Raul Porajan began shuffling for the third game, determined to finish 15-0, but then had second thoughts. With only ten minutes on the round, the German decided he would rather take a break before the Top 8 than play hard into extra turns. Agreeing to a draw, the two players signed off the sheet and both would advance into the Top 8!

    Raul Porajan 1 – 1 Daniel Royde

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