Event_Coverage

Arjan van Leeuwen Devours Paris!

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He has beaten 1,838 players. He has lost only two matches over 18 rounds. He has survived the biggest and toughest Magic tournament in history, and emerged on the far side covered only in glory, and the list of the players he has left trailing in his dust is as tall as a four-storey building, when laid end-to-end. He is Arjan Van Leeuwen, and he is the champion of a truly historic Grand Prix-Paris!

This has been, in every way, a unique event. From the beginning of round one it was the largest Magic tournament ever held, and very rapidly it became the most brutal and unforgiving. The list of big name players falling by the wayside grew rapidly as they failed to adapt to Shards of Alara, and Grand Prix-Paris. The cull to a Top-128 for Day Two saw only 15 or 16 players of note left standing. Two of those players were Olivier Ruel and Shuuhei Nakamura, matching each other blow for blow in the Player of the Year race, and Hall of Famer Raphael Levy. In the end, though, not one of the big names was able to mount an unbeaten run into the Top-8 on the second day.

That left the Top-8 wide open to a hungry new generation of players, and it was Arjan Van Leeuwen who was the hungriest. His Jund deck Devoured his own creatures and then the opposition in the pursuit of +1/+1 counters and victory.




Quarterfinals   Semifinals   Finals   Champion
1 Dolstra, Menno [NLD]   Menno Dolstra, 2-0        
8 Lisciandro, Romain [FRA]   Pierre Rensonnet, 2-1
       
4 Cnotalski, Artur [POL]   Pierre Rensonnet, 2-0   Arjan van Leeuwen, 2-1
5 Rensonnet, Pierre [BEL]    
       
2 Noorlander, Niels [NLD]   Simon Görtzen, 2-1
7 Görtzen, Simon M [DEU]   Arjan van Leeuwen, 2-1
       
3 De Coster, Jan [BEL]   Arjan van Leeuwen, 2-0
6 Van Leeuwen, Arjan [NLD]    

EVENT COVERAGE INFORMATION

  • Top 8 Decklists
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Blog: Sunday, 10:36 p.m.: A big man for a big game
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Podcast: Sunday, 10:45 p.m.: T.Hanks
    by Rich Hagon
  • Final: Arjan van Leeuwen (NLD) vs Pierre Rensonnet (BEL)
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Semi Final: Simon Goertzen (DEU) vs Arjan Van Leeuwen (NLD)
    by Ben Coleman
  • Semi Final: Menno Dolstra (NDL) vs Pierre Rensonnet (FRA)
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Quarter Finals: Niels Noorlander (NLD) vs Simon Görtzen (DEU)
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Quarter Finals: The ones that didn’t happen
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Blog: Saturday, 5.45p.m.: Top 8 Drafting with Simon Goertzen
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Quarter Finals: Arthur Cnotalski vs Pierre Rensonnet
    by Daniel Ullenius
  • Top 8 Player Profiles - Grand Prix-Paris
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Feature Match: Round 14: Kenny Öberg vs Simon Görtzen
    by Daniel Ullenius
  • Podcast: Sunday, 4:00 p.m.: 1831
    by Rich Hagon
  • Feature: Photo Essay
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Blog: Sunday, 3:26 p.m.: Side stories
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Blog: Sunday, 3:05 p.m.: Legacy in the basement
    by Daniel Ullenius
  • Blog: Sunday, 1:29 p.m.: Grizzly Grixis
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Feature Match: Round 13: Shuuhei Nakamura (JPN) vs Raphael Levy (FRA)
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Podcast: Sunday, 12:58 p.m.: If You Build It They Will Come
    by Rich Hagon
  • Blog: Sunday, 12:37 a.m.: Extended Musings
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Feature Match: Round 12: Christian Grünenwald (GER) vs Shuuhei Nakamura (JAP)
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Blog: Sunday, 11:25 a.m.: I kill you!
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Feature Match: Round 10: Simon Görtzen (GER) vs Menno Dolstra (NDL)
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Blog: Sunday, 10:21 p.m.: Ticks and shticks
    by Daniel Ullenius
  • Info: Day 2 Country Breakdown
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Info: Day 2 Player List
    by Event Coverage Staff

  • Info: Day 1 Blogs - Feature Matches, Duels of the Planeswalkers Unveiled, and more!
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Info: Day 1 Country Breakdown (Blue Bracket)
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Info: Day 1 Player List (Blue Bracket)
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Info: Day 1 Country Breakdown (Green Bracket)
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Info: Day 1 Player List (Green Bracket)
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Info: Fact Sheet
    by Event Coverage Staff
 1.  Van Leeuwen, Arjan [NLD] $3,500
 2.  Rensonnet, Pierre [BEL] $2,300
 3.  Dolstra, Menno [NLD] $1,500
 4.  Görtzen, Simon M [DEU] $1,500
 5.  Noorlander, Niels [NLD] $1,000
 6.  Lisciandro, Romain [FRA] $1,000
 7.  Cnotalski, Artur [POL] $1,000
 8.  De Coster, Jan [BEL] $1,000
Pairings Results Standings
Final

Day 2
15
14
13
12
11
10
15
14
13
12
11
10
15
14
13
12
11
10

Day 1 - Blue Bracket
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
Day 1 - Green Bracket
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1



 
  • Blog - Sunday, 10:21 p.m.: Ticks and shticks
    by Daniel Ullenius
  • One thing you notice on big tournaments like Grand Prix Paris, is that many players to things to get good luck. Sometimes it’s items, like a giant Beaver, a miniature figure of Fransesco Totti, a lucky shirt, or a pair of unwashed jeans,. Sometimes it’s more abstract, like shuffling in a special manner or a prayer. What do our Pros do to get that extra bit of luck? Here’s a choice collection of things the pros do – or don’t do. Bear in mind that some of these did not make day 2. Maybe they should change their lucky charms, right, Kenji Tsumura?

    Olivier Ruel
    Remi Fortier: “There is no luck, so I don’t do anything.”

    Kenny Öberg: “Yes, I shuffle in a special, fractal-based manner that not many other players do.”

    Shuuhei Nakamura: “A player needs skill and luck, but I don’t to anything to get extra luck.”

    Raphael Levy: “I don't have anything special that I do, but sometimes I sing a song in my head, to keep me focused.”

    Olivier Ruel: “If I win a game, I try to get to my table early and sit on the same side as I did the previous game. I think that you should not be very superstitious, but if you have something that makes you confident, you should do it, since the more confident you are, the better you play.”

    Kenji Tsumura: “I don’t do anything to get extra luck, unfortunately.”



     
  • Feature Match - Round 10: Simon Görtzen (GER) vs Menno Dolstra (NDL)
    by David Sutcliffe
  • For the opening round of Day Two, the feature match was obvious – you take two players who destroyed their half of the tournament on the first day, two players who escaped the first day unscathed, two players who were invincible. Menno Dolstra, of the Netherlands, had managed to not even lose a game on his way to a 9-0 record, while his opponent would be Simon Görtzen of Germany, similarly on 9-0. And it seemed the two players had a lot to talk about!

    “How did your draft go?” Dolstra asked

    “It was a bit... weird. Even though you are on the undefeated table a few weird things can happen, but yeah, it went well I think. I’m happy.”

    “Mine went not so well.”

    Oh really? Was this the masterful art of reverse psychology being put into play by Dolstra?

    “Well, I guess we’ll see. I didn’t do many drafts to practice, I did sealed. It paid off I guess”, replied Görtzen.

    “All my prereleases and PTQs were horrible for me, so I was surprised to do well in sealed”, Dolstra didn’t seem to have embraced the art of positive thinking.

    The two players continued to discuss the current plight of Dutch Magic, and it’s falling attendances. For those of you who won’t know, the Dutch, for so long a colossus of European and world Magic, have lost their ‘golden generation’ of players and there hasn’t been a second generation coming through.

    As soon the first land started, it was down to business
    The two players seemed happy and relaxed, still basking in the afterglow of their undefeated Saturday, but as soon as the first land hit play it was all business. Menno Dolstra led the way with his much-maligned Cylian Elf, only to find it immediately trumped by Görtzen’s 3/3 Wild Nacatl. Görtzen added a Drumhunter, while Dolstra played a Deft Duelist. On his own turn, Görtzen wasn’t finished building up his forces and summoned out a Mosstodon, drawing a card thanks to his Drumhunter. The Dutch player seemed to be down on options, as the next turn he threw both of his creatures into the Mosstodon to take it down, only for Görtzen to step up to the plate with a Jungle Weaver and draw another card!

    Dolstra played a Waveskimmer Aven to hold back the Wild Nacatl, but had to accept that the Jungle Weaver would get in, and dropped to 6 life, with Görtzen adding a second Mosstodon. Desperate to shore up his defences Dolstra played a Spearbreaker Gargantuan. That was now the biggest thin around, but it was too late, and Görtzen already had the 6 damage he needed on the board, with the Mosstodon gaining Trample to do the final point of damage over the Waveskimmer Aven as he alpha striked to victory.

    Simon Görtzen 1 – 0 Menno Dolstra

    Well that didn’t take long to end Dolstra’s undefeated streak! Menno Dolstra had gone nine rounds without losing a single game on Saturday, but here lost his first game in a little under five minutes.

    “I don’t think I’ve ever won a feature match in my life”, the Dutchman bemoaned his fate, and his opponent agreed.

    “I know, you can be on 8-0, and then they come to watch you and you just sit there and do nothing!”

    “It’s awful. When I have great decks, and I play against Kai Budde... do I get feature matches? No, never! When I have a crummy deck... feature matches!”

    Sorry, Menno.

    Karma makes Menno Dolstra a victim of his own success
    “You know, this is probably karma evening out”, Dolstra continued, shuffling busily, “My deck yesterday was ridiculous. One of my opponents made back to back Vein Drinker, Battlegrace Angel,and Sharding Sphinx and he still didn’t win!”

    Yikes!

    Dolstra’s start in the second game was a little brighter, with a Courier’s Capsule and a Kathari Screecher, although Görtzen’s Court Archers immediately stopped the Kathari from going on the offense. Stalling on land, Dolstra played a Cancel on Görtzen’s Steward of Valeron, then activated his Courier’s Capsule to dig for land. That showed him a Sanctum Gargoyle, which returned the Courier’s Capsule. The early lead definitely seemed to be going Dolstra’s way with card synergies like that.

    Görtzen played a Drumhunter but immediately found that siphoned away by an Oblivion Ring. Görtzen’s Wild Nacatl stuck around, however, while Dolstra’s Courier’s Capsule was used for a second time, finally sending the Dutch player a Forest to complete his Bant shard. Green mana online, Dolstra added a Naya Battlemage. The life scores were 10 apiece after the Nacatl had taken a couple of bites as 4/4, thanks to the Court Archer’s Exalted status, but that Battlemage threatened to tap the cat warriors down and tip the balance finally in Dolstra’s favour.

    Görtzen had other ideas, unfortunately for Dolstra. He aimed a Branching Bolt at the Battlemage to ensure that his Wild Nacatl would be able to attack. Dolstra responded with a Hindering Light to counter that and draw a card. That was a setback to Görtzen, but only briefly as the Hindering Light had tapped Dolstra out of white mana and de-activated he Battlemage anyway! The Wild Nacatl dropped Dolstra to 6 life as he chose not to block, and that was the play Görtzen had been waiting for. Tapping out all his lands, using the lone swamp in his Naya deck, he to cycled away his Resounding Thunder to deal 6 damage direct to Dolstra’s head and seal the match!

    Simon Görtzen 2 – 0 Menno Dolstra



     
  • Blog - Sunday, 11:25 a.m.: I kill you!
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Walking through the aisles in round 11, Maxime Costa and Maxime Lemaitre could be seen piling up one of those maximally complicated board positions the format loves to generate. Both players had between 12 and 20 power on the table, almost 40 combined power. Of course, both players were firmly entrenched in the Naya shard. Though the format can be very fast, if both players manage to get their big guns out, it will stall out. Game winners like any planeswalker, an Ultimatum, Soul’s Fire or cycling Resounding Thunder are very expensive, but they are in fact the best way to break through such a Naya stalemate.

    Meanwhile, Antoine Ruel and Alexander Strakhov had picked up eleven extra minutes of time. Strakhov had received a warning for a deck/decklist mismatch, and figuring that out took quite a bit of time. However, Antoine did not intend to use all that extra time. He pushed hard against Strakhov’s slowly developing board, with Cylian Elf, Rip-Clan Crasher and Thorn-Thrash Viashino.

    All Strakhov could bring to the fight was Vithian Stinger, and on 7 life, he looked almost certainly dead. When he made enough blockers to essentially stay alive for a moment, Antoine put down the law and Savage Hunger on Undead Leotau. The now 4/4 acquired three more points of power, and thanks to trample, Antoine could kill Strakhov in one stroke.

    Two Maximes fighting a long-drawn ground battle, while in the background, Antoine Ruel finishes Alexander Starkhov under the watchful eyes of the spectators.



     
  • Feature Match - Round 12: Christian Grünenwald (GER) vs Shuuhei Nakamura (JAP)
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Game 1:

    Shuuhei won the die roll and chose to play. Already, the draft format is shaping up to be pretty fast, and Shuuhei has embraced this fully with a deck full of quick and nimble creatures. He kicked off the game with Jhessian Lookout and Vithian Stinger, then Sharding Sphinx, while Christian had precisely nothing but mana and a Cylian Elf. Shuuhei’s little army danced a quickstep on Christian’s life total, and within five minutes, there was blood on the dance floor and Christian was dead.

    Christian Grünenwald 0 – 1 Shuuhei Nakamura

    Game 2:

    This time, Christian chose to call the tune. He got off on the right foot this time, killing Shuuhei’s Jhessian Lookout with Blister Beetle. Shuuhei waltzed two Esper Battlemages on to the parquet of the feature match table. They immediately fell to a death metal encore from Infest. Shuuhei rebuilt with Katari Screecher to fly over Christian’s Drumhunter and was ahead in the damage race, having stepped on Christian’s toes enough to take him to 12 life.

    But now Christian’s heavy steps picked up speed. Volcanic Submersion took out Shuuhei’s single Island and left the Japanese with just two Swamp and a Mountain. Shuuhei’s Viscera Dragger died to well-timed removal, and Christian also had Dragon Fodder.

    A Resounding Thunder from the German took out Shuuhei’s only left-over creature, Rockslide Elemental. Shuuhei had no choice but to moonwalk Viscera Dragger from his graveyard for a quick three damage, but without enough mana and with no back-up, he had to admit defeat.

    Christian Grünenwald 1 – 1 Shuuhei Nakamura

    Shuuhei Nakamura feigning disappointment for the camera: He is still well in contention for top 8.
    Game 3:

    Both players chose their initial seven dancing partners carefully and kept each of them along for the final waltz of this match. Again, Shuuhei was set up to tango with Esper Battlemage and Fatestitcher. But Christian decided on death metal again, cleared up with Infest and invited Cavern Thoctar for a trip across the mosh pit.

    Rockslide Elemental and Esper Battlemage wouldn’t stand a chance against the big guy letting his hair down, especially not with Drumhunter joining him. Resounding Thunder from Shuuhei busted Drumhunter’s eardrums. But while Christian had no fat lady singing for him yet, he had big men trouncing across the dancehall: Rakeclaw Gargantuan and Cavern Thoctar.

    Shuuhei was in danger of falling out of step. But he regained composure, used Resounding Wave to gain ground and attacked Christian to seven. Alas, his puny men, flying or no, were no match for Christian’s, especially when two Viscera Draggers proved that they can headbang with the best of them.

    In the face of Christian’s black metal death squad, the Japanese leader in the Player of the Year race had no choice but to dance the hemp fandango.

    Christian Grünenwald 2 – 1 Shuuhei Nakamura



     
  • Blog - Sunday, 12:37 p.m.: Extended Musings
    by David Sutcliffe
  • ‘Go and find out about Extended’, they said. ‘Pro Tour-Berlin is next week, it’s a new format, find out what people are playing’, they said.

    Ok then, I will!

    It turns out that wasn’t as easy as it sounds, because lips are sealed. My first port of call was with Olivier Ruel – chasing Shuuhei in the Player of the Year race he has as much to gain in Berlin as anybody. So, what is he playing?

    “Ssh! It’s top secret, I can’t talk about my deck!”

    Oh.

    “And don’t ask any of these guys either”, he names the people who are numbers two and three on my list, “I’m working with them so I know that they can’t talk about it either”.

    Great.

    “Sorry”.

    Hmm. Ok, let’s try somebody else.

    Robert Van Medevoort (NLD)

    Robert Van Medevoort - Testing
    Have you done a lot of testing

    Yes.

    What do you think people are going to play?

    A lot of Zoo versions, Desire, Swans, Affinity. Aggro and combo decks – I don’t know a good control deck. If you play something like Doran you can beat anything, but you can lose to anything, it’s not consistent.

    Do you know what your deck will be?

    No. I’m setting up with Frank Karsten and some other Dutch players to test. We’ll compare our decklists to test, I’m not sure I’m testing the optimal decklists at the moment.

    Marijn Lybaert (BEL)

    Marijn Lybaert - Schooling
    Have you done a lot of testing

    Not really, I’m busy with school. I’ve been mailing with Zack Hill.

    What do you think people are going to play?

    Combo. Storm, Zoo, Affinity.

    Do you know what your deck will be?

    I have an idea what I want to play, but I want to keep it secret. I have two options really.

    Do you like this new Extended?

    No, I hate Extended - there are too many possibilities. I’m a terrible deckbuilder and I really need a good gauntlet to test, but with Extended the possibilities are too many.

    Quentin Martin (ENG)

    Quentin Martin - Thinking
    Have you done a lot of testing?

    No, but I’ve done a lot of thinking. My company launched online recently so I’ve been busy to actually play a lot.

    What do you think people are going to play?

    Zoo, Affinity, Desire. The obvious. I think Swans could be good.

    Do you know what your deck will be?

    I want to play Tron but I’ve no idea if it’s good - it’s probably not good enough. I need to playtest a bit, but with Extended I think you should pick a deck early and just playtest and tune it. I mean, you can do anything because the cards are there, just so long as you tune it right. I think Tron may depend on if Chalice of the Void is good. In Pro Tour Valencia, last year, it was the best card in the format... now a lot of the good 1cc cards are gone that it was good against, like Duress. It’s amazing on 1 against Zoo, but against other decks I’m not sure. If not Tron, probably Zoo because I know it well.



     
  • Podcast - Sunday, 12:58 p.m.: If You Build It They Will Come
    by Rich Hagon
  • From around the world, thousands of kids have come to Disneyland this week to fulfill their dreams and lifelong ambitions. Now only 128 remain to Draft triple Shards Of Alara and try to secure a seat at the final table. We watch Shuuhei Nakamura put himself in pole position for a fairytale ending to his year with a really, really good first deck. Who else is making a move on Sunday morning? Click to find out.

    Click Here to Download



     
  • Feature Match - Round 13: Shuuhei Nakamura (JPN) vs Raphael Levy (FRA)
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Two of the great heavyweights of the Magic world collide in their Round 13 Feature Match. For Raphael Levy and Shuuhei Nakamura it has been a long fight back into contention from early defeats, knowing that a further loss at any stage would end their tournament. Do these two players require introduction after all these years? I doubt it, but for the sake of tradition here goes!

    Raphael Levy has been playing professional Magic since May 1964, when President Kennedy introduced him the game, and is best remembered for being the first Magic player to win a duel in zero-gravity - during his time aboard the Apollo XIII mission to the moon, beating Tom Hanks 2-1 in extra turns. Meanwhile, Shuuhei Nakamura is a retired Vulcanologist, having for years been a leading expert on Vulcans and their Romulan cousins. Shuuhei also has two heads, making him a uniquely dangerous opponent at Two-Headed Dragon tournaments.

    Not all the above may be true, but what happened below most certainly is. It was Thunderdome time - the two men entered the feature match circle, but only one would leave.

    Shuuhei Nakamura has been loyal to the Japanese love of gadgets and technology, and drafted the Esper deck of artifacts. When that deck is good, it’s very very good, and he certainly began in grand style, winning the dice roll and starting out with a Glaze Fiend and Master of Etherium before Levy could even play a spell. Turn four was a Tower Gargoyle, the gathered masses gasped, while Raphael Levy sighed and shook his head at the slick draw he was facing.

    Levy spent a long time on his turn to decide his correct play, before laying a land and passing control back to the master artificer. Nakamura played a Tidehollow Strix and attacked, and Levy offered his hand in concession. It had been a devastatingly quick and synergistic draw from Shuuhei Nakamura and Levy had been as much of a spectator as the crowd gathered around the feature match area!

    Shuuhei Nakamura 1 – 0 Raphael Levy

    Shuuhei Nakamura - Master of Etherium
    The second game began entirely differently, with Raphael Levy to play first and Shuuhei Nakamura missing his early Glaze Fiend drop. The first creature to hit play was Levy’s Manaplasm, and then the following turn he cast a Branching Bolt to smash down Shuuhei’s Esper Battlemage and attack with his deadly ooze for 4. It was definitely the Frenchman’s time to push for the quick win and on the next turn he played an Exuberant Firestoker and Dispeller’s Capsule before attacking with his Manaplasm for 5, and doing another 2 damage with the Firestoker. It was Nakamura’s turn to feel the beatdown, and he was on 9 life without reply!

    Nakamura stripped away more of Levy’s gas with an Esper Charm and played a Sanctum Gargoyle. If Levy drew land that Manaplasm would be no threat at all. But it wasn’t to be - Levy drew and cast a Druid of Anima, which was good enough to make his Manaplasm a 3/3 that could attack past the Sanctum Gargoyle, and Nakamura was down to 6. The Dispeller’s Capsule accounted for the Sanctum Gargoyle on the next turn, a Cylian Elf off the top of his library bloated the Manaplasm to 3/3 and Levy sent all his creatures into the red zone, levelling the match!

    Shuuhei Nakamura 1 – 1 Raphael Levy

    Raph Levy - a picture that's worth a thousand words
    You could not have dreamt of two games so clearly different to one another than those. From a first game where Raphael Levy had been a bystander, to a second game where his Manaplasm had almost single-handedly destroyed his opponent - the deciding game would be... well... decisive!

    Things took a familiar turn with a turn two Glaze Fiend of Shuuhei Nakamura’s. That was joined by another Glaze Fiend the next turn – the sort of draw that can very rapidly end a game if he keeps pulling artifacts! Levy managed an Exuberant Firestoker, but Nakamura’s pressure kept building and he cast a Tower Gargoyle before attacking with his two Glaze Fiends, reducing the Frenchman to 14 life.

    Levy managed a Rakeclaw Gargantuan, but Nakamura’s next turn was two further artifact creatures – a Strix and a Metallurgeon. The Glaze Fiends became 4/5 and joined the Tower Gargoyle in the red zone - Levy was down to 2 life before his fifth turn!

    What was Levy’s ‘out’ from here? Removing the Tower Gargoyle and Tidehollow Strix, and hoping that Shuuhei never drew another artifact for his Glaze Fiends? That seemed Levy’s only hope - he played a Court Archers for the Strix, and Soul’s Fire took care of the Tower Gargoyle. Now for that part about Shuuhei never drawing another artif... oh... Nakamura looked almost reluctant to be the bearer of bad news as he sheepishly cast an Etherium Sculptor, and his Glaze Fiends completed the job they had started scant minutes earlier.

    Shuuhei Nakamura 2 – 1 Raphael Levy



     
  • Blog - Sunday, 1:29 p.m.: Grizzly Grixis
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • On 30 points, Antoine Ruel was one of the 26 players at a 10-2 record after round 12. At that point, only two more wins and a draw would be able to reach the Top 8, and maybe not even that. But when you are that close to grasping your chance to a final 8 appearance, you didn’t want to be in Antoine’s draft pod. While the big names were scarce on day two here in Paris, there were enough of them to fill draft pod #3. Fellow reporter Ben Coleman called it “probably the best possible Top 8 you could get out of this tournament”.

    Antoine looks happy, but his second draft deck is probably not the reason.
    The monster pod:
    1 Raphael Levy
    2 Tom van Lamoen
    3 Marijn Lybaert
    4 Shuuhei Nakamura
    5 Gaetan Lefebvre
    6 Manuel Godineau
    7 Arjan van Leeuwen
    8 Antoine Ruel

    So how did Antoine fare, sitting between Arjan van Leeuwen and Raphael Levy? His first pick was Soul’s Fire, out of a selection that could possibly have lead down a very different route. Between Rhox War Monk, Feral Hydra, Corpse Connoisseur and Jund Battlemage, the Fire is probably a legitimate pick. Of course, Feral Hydra leads a green path that could have, at least judging from Antoine’s seat, been the better choice.

    Grixis Charm over Viscera Dragger, Elvish Visionary, Tezzeret the Seeker and Bant Panorama sealed Antoine’s fate as Grixis drafter, and he wouldn’t stray from that path. He also wouldn’t go far on that path. A third-pick Courier’s Capsule over Esper Battlemage, then Jund Panorama out of a fourth booster with nothing else gave him not much to work with at all. The first pack would continue on that grizzly path.

    Out of the first round of boosters, Antoine picked Windwright Mage, Court Archers, two Obelisks of Grixis in a row, then Spell Snip. Really, the deck did not assume a proper shape of any kind after the first pack.

    Sedraxis Specter as first pick remedied some, but it was no win condition either. It won Antoine’s pick over Tidehollow Strix, Viscera Dragger, Jhessian Infiltrator and Drumhunter. Had Antoine gone with Feral Hydra and some of the bigger guys from white who flowed through his hands earlier, maybe the Drumhunter had been an option. Antoine saw that he needed more to salvage his deck, and he found it in his second pick where he picked Infest, passing an Executioner’s Capsule along the way.

    Fatestitcher, Blister Beetle, Grixis Panorama, and a second Grixis Charm, then Naya Panorama, Cloudheath Drake... Antoine did neither get the removal he wanted, and neither any creatures he’d really want. While he stumbled through an amputated Grixis draft, someone on the other side of the table must have assembled a really good deck, as even the other cards Antoine saw promised nothing else, although the pros seemed to shun actual Naya decks, with a couple of beaters passing through Antoine. Then again, he only saw third-tier Naya cards anyway. Maybe someone scooped up all the Resounding spells and good 5/5 critters, just like Shuuhei Nakamura scooped up everything Esper he could find.

    Antoine’s saving grace came in booster three, where he opened and windmill-slammed Caldera Hellion into his pile. But again, anything Grixis-compatible dried out again. Tidehollow Strix, Dragon Fodder, a fourth-pick gift in Blightning. But despite Dreg Reaver and Undead Leotau to at least mount some kind of offense, Antoine’s deck was five cards short of good.

    England’s Robert Stanjer sat across from Antoine as the French built his deck. “I can’t believe he managed to draft such a bad deck,” Stanjer commented as he saw Antoine’s 23 cards spread out. Quentin Martin had similar condolences to offer. Antoine himself said: “The deck is almost ok. If I play against a deck with lots of 2/2 bears, I can win with the two wraths (Infest and Caldera Hellion). If I play against control, I’m dead. And if I play against removal, I am also dead.”

    That gives him one out of three. In round 13, Antoine has already picked up a win to keep himself in contention for Top 8. We’ll see if he does see that through, with a deck that would probably falter in lesser hands.



     
  • Blog - Sunday, 3:05 p.m.: Legacy in the basement
    by Daniel Ullenius
  • With the GP still going on upstairs, 108 players decided to spend the day in the basement below. Why? To win fame, honor and an iPod, of course. You could actually feel that many players really had put their hearts into their decks; the mood was very serious, and if the tournament had not shared area with the Drafters and the whooping 320 Two-Headed Giant-players, you probably could have heard a pin drop.

    A successful kill with Goblin Belcher. Thanks, Taiga!
    With the recent addition of Shards of Alara’s Ad Nauseam, combo decks in Legacy had really drawn a winning number. It became instantly clear when you had a good look at the tables. 26 players, that’s a fourth of the entire tournament, had chosen one of many different types of combo, including, but not limited to, The Epic Storm, High Tide, Dredge, and some manner of Survival of the Fittest decks.

    The control decks, however, were still representing strong, with 37 decks represented in the tournament. The problem with this format is that basically every deck that is not a combination deck plays with Force of Will, Stifle, Daze et al. On top of that, you can put whatever pile of cards you like, ranging from Slivers to Tarmogoyf to Faeries. This strategy might overall be the most popular, but every player has his own defense for their choices.

    We were really surprised by the lack of Threshold decks in the tournament. If this is because of a rising amount of hate, the probably hypothetical fact that the deck is not good anymore, or pure coincidence, remained unclear, though.

    Of course, a good number of players went rogue. At least one Stasis deck and one old-school Kai-Budde-style Wildfire deck were present, and who doesn’t love Wildfire?

    And least but not last were the aggro-decks. Legacy is a fast format, and these decks really show why; many of them are more consistent than combo-decks, and they can easily punish a bad draw or a deck light on creature-disruption. 45 players had the love for the red zone in their hearts. The most popular aggro-decks were Aggro-Loam, Affinity, Goblins, Monored Burn, and White Weenie, which all had some advantage to the field: consistency, speed and answers to almost any threat out there, even if it be just by killing the opponent fast.

    But what is a tournament without lots and lots of great, interesting, smart and funny plays? Of course a Legacy tournament of this size has its fair share of them, and here are our favourites:

    Player A taps out to have double Hellbent Rakdos Pit Dragon in play. Player B answers with double Swords to Plowshares at the end of turn.

    Player A plays Ravages of War, which cuts down the board to Mox Diamond for player A and Chrome Mox for player B. Player B draws his card, which turns out to be Flagstones of Trokair, and plays not one, but two Mother of Runes. He then added Mask of Memory to the board, proceeded to draw a bunch of cards and staged an impressive comeback.

    And, last but not least, my favorite play:

    Player A attacks with two Skyshroud Cutters. Before damage, he plays False Cure. Then he plays Invigorate, and after combat, down come two Reverent Silence -- for a total of 24 damage. Who says Legacy is not a fun format?



     
  • Blog - Sunday, 3:26 p.m.: Side stories
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • A GP has such a lot of things going on that you can’t see everything, and many of them aren’t even long enough for a blog entry. Here are a few bits and pieces that happened on the sidelines:

    * André Müller figured out that small creature strategies are pretty good, and you shouldn’t even be drafting five colors. Then, he figured out that five-color control is actually pretty good, especially against the small creatures. So he drafted five-color control... but couldn’t beat the simple, regular draft deck everyone stuck on step one is still playing.

    Rich Hagon
    * If you listen to the coverage podcast, you are much aware of the energetic re-tellings that Rich Hagon does so brilliantly. Well, his voice kind of carries, and he sits here on the stage while he does that. After one of his vocal reenactments, the small crowd at the feature match table applauded, as they had just been treated to Rich Hagon live, and they enjoyed it very much. Rich just smiled, shook his head and muttered “oh dear”.

    * His suboptimal Grixis deck lost Antoine Ruel another match and put him out of contention for Top 8.

    * Antoine Menard did some premature Extended testing for PT Berlin in his draft: His deck contained sevenWild Nacatls. The card is expected to show up in spades in two weeks at Berlin.

    * 153 two-man teams are playing Two-Headed Giant downstairs, next to the 108 Legacy players and a plethora of analog 8-man queues. You don’t have to do well in the main event to play a ton of Magic on a GP weekend!



     
  • Feature - Photo Essay
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Your grand entrance to Grand Prix-Paris

    Some nice Esper-styled lighting

    Judges comparing notes.

    Duels of the Planeswalkers.

    The new Extended. Morph will be big, apparently.

    Oh yeah, a TRADING Card game

    With the pressure off, Quentin Martin enjoys some Cube

    With the pressure on, Standings are up for Round 14.

    Artist Wayne England - wrists of steel and still signing.

    Shuuhei battles for a Top-8 place.



     
  • Podcast - Sunday, 4:00 p.m.: 1831
    by Rich Hagon
  • Not sure what happened in 1831, but that's the number of players who can't now win Grand Prix Paris. Eight can, and you can hear how the closing rounds panned out, before joining us in the Top 8 showdown show, when the champion of the largest tournament ever will be crowned. See you then.

    Click Here to Download



     
  • Round 14: Kenny Öberg vs Simon Görtzen
    by Daniel Ullenius
  • Kenny Öberg
    Both players knew that it was high time to win, since whoever lost would be out of the race for champion of the biggest DCI-sanctioned tournament ever. The players discussed their chances and what the best road to top 8 was while shuffling, with Kenny advising Simon to play and not draw if he won.

    Game 1:

    Simon started of with double Goblin Deathraiders against Kenny’s lands. Kenny however played Deft Duelist, which both players agreed was a good answer. Seeing that his opponent did not play a fourth land, Kenny took the advantage to gain advantage with an Excommunicate on Simon’s Kathari Screecher.

    A third Deathraiders came down for Simon, and Kenny laughed at the situation and commented that it would be a lot of damage if it came through. Sharuum the Hegemon entered on Kenny's side of the board, and thing looked a little better for the Swede.

    When Simon played Executioner’s Capsule, Kenny got into thinking mode and finally played Metallurgeon. The players commented each other plays a lot, while also keeping careful track of things such as their opponents hand-sizes, life totals, and more.

    Things took a turn for the unexpected when Simon charged with everything he had, and it sure looked like he had a trick up his sleeve. Of course he did, and Agony Warp came down after blockers to make Sharuum a lot smaller. With damage on the stack, Kenny Called his Sharuum the Hegemon to Heel, which sure made the board a little less aggressive for Simon. Kenny replayed his 5/5 flier, remarked that Simon still had a lot of damage left on the board, and passed.

    Rounds came and was shipped, until Simon out of nowhere made a blowout with a 13/13 Thunder-Trash Elder. Kenny charged with Sharuum the Hegemon and passed. Simon Unearted a Corpse Connoisseur to find Viscera Dragger, which got reanimated as well. Kenny blocked the giant Thunder-Thrash Elder with Deft Duelist and went to 7. On his turn, Kenny not flinch and calmly untapped, drew, and played Coma Veil, to put the Elder out for the rest of the game. Yoked Plowbeast ensured that no damage from Simon would go through ever again, and commented on the amount of fat in this game, especially since neither of them were playing Naya. Simon did not find an answer.

    Kenny Öberg 1 – 0 Simon Görtzen

    Game 2:

    Simon Görtzen
    The second game started off with some small attackers and blockers on both sides of the table. When Simon played Dragon Fodder twice, Kenny might have feared Thunder-Trash Elder, but if he did, he did not show it.

    The players battled to and forth with small creatures, bounce, Cancels, and more. The board did certainly look better for Simon, who had managed to collect 12 power worth of creatures, while Kenny only had a Windwright Mage. Simon tapped three and played “just” a 10/10 Thunder-Trash Elder.

    When Simon attacked for 15, Kenny only cycled Resounding Wave, returning Simon’s 10/10 Elder and a Viscera Dragger, and played an Undead Leotau. Kenny was not out of it yet though, and played Sphinx Sovereign. Simon was however too far ahead, and his last attack managed to make Kenny scoop up the cards.

    Kenny Öberg 1 – 1 Simon Görtzen

    Game 3:

    Things were getting exiting now, and you could tell that both players felt the pressure. They had replaced their friendly chatting with silence and shuffled a lot faster, a sign of nervousness perhaps?

    The last game began as the other two had, with lots of tiny creatures from both players. Kenny kept playing small guys to block Simon’s small guys, and by the fifth round, the board was nothing but a couple of tokens and some 2/2s. Simon kept picking with an islandwalking Shore Snapper. Not only was this game drawing quite the crowd, but time was ticking away as well. Kenny missed playing a Sighted-Caste Sorcerer before combat, and his opponent did not let that slip unpunished: Simon played a possibly gamebreaking Fatestitcher.

    Kenny had a Sphinx Sovereign. Undead Leotau threatened to make short work of Kenny’s life total of 5, but his favorite Sphinx Sovereign made him regain health. Both players went into their respective think tanks often, and the air was so thick with tension you could cut it.

    Yet again, the Thunder-Trash Elder came down, this time as a 4/4. Kenny however showed everyone the meaning of the word topdeck, when his deck gave him Sharuum the Hegemon into Sharding Sphinx. Simon sighed and it was time. Simon’s time was however not up, and he played a Corpse Connoisseur into another Fatestitcher. Simon attacked and before blockers, the double Fatestitcher did their thing and Kenny offered his hand.

    Simon Görtzen wins 2-1!




     
  • Top- 8 Player Profile - Grand Prix-Paris
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Name: Menno Dolstra

    Age: 27

    Occupation: Fishing for King Crab in the Bering Sea

    Tournament Record this weekend: 13-1-1

    What has been your best card this weekend: Oblivion Ring

    Do you have a draft strategy: Try to avoid committing to a shard for as long as possible.

    Other Magic achievements: Top-8 GP Amsterdam, Top-4 GP-Turin

    What’s your favourite Disney movie/character? Wall-E


    Name: Jan De Coster

    Age: 23

    Occupation: Student

    Tournament Record this weekend: 7-1-1, 2-1, 3-0

    What has been your best card this weekend: Elspeth

    Do you have a draft strategy: RB or Exalted (Naya or Bant)

    Other Magic achievements: Ranked #1 in Belgium for Limited

    What’s your favourite Disney movie/character? Bambi


    Name: Artur Cnotalski

    Age: 21

    Occupation: Student / Computer Game Translator

    Tournament Record this weekend: 12-1-2

    What has been your best card this weekend: Vein Drinker in Sealed, Sprouting Thrinax in draft

    Do you have a draft strategy: Jund/Grixis

    Other Magic achievements: Played at Pro Tour Geneva

    What’s your favourite Disney movie/character? Donald Duck


    Name: Simon Goertzen

    Age: 24

    Occupation: Mathematician

    Tournament Record this weekend: 13-2-1

    What has been your best card this weekend: Corpse Connoisseur

    Do you have a draft strategy: Not really!

    Other Magic achievements: 5th at Pro Tour Charleston, and some PT and GP money finishes.

    What’s your favourite Disney movie/character? Pluto. I’ve met him once!



    Name: Niels Noorlander

    Age: 20

    Occupation: Student

    Tournament Record this weekend: 13-1-1

    What has been your best card this weekend: Courier’s Capsule

    Do you have a draft strategy: I take the best card

    Other Magic achievements: Top-8 Dutch Nationals, played at PT Columbus

    What’s your favourite Disney movie/character? Bambi


    Name: Arjan Van Leeuwen

    Age: 39

    Occupation: IT

    Tournament Record this weekend: 13-2

    What has been your best card this weekend: Ooze Garden

    Do you have a draft strategy: No, I take what comes

    Other Magic achievements: Won the 2HG Pre-release for Shards

    What’s your favourite Disney movie/character? Mickey Mouse


    Name: Pierre Rensonnet

    Age: 23

    Occupation: Consultant

    Tournament Record this weekend: 12-2-1

    What has been your best card this weekend: Where The Ancients Tread

    Do you have a draft strategy: RB Aggro, or Naya

    Other Magic achievements: -

    What’s your favourite Disney movie/character? Snow White


    Name: Romain Lisciandro

    Age: 33

    Occupation: People Management Trainer, in Aux-En-Provence

    Tournament Record this weekend: 12-2-1

    What has been your best card this weekend: Hellkite Overlord!

    Do you have a draft strategy: No, but I’ve practiced a lot.

    Other Magic achievements: -

    What’s your favourite Disney movie/character? Minnie Mouse




     
  • Quarter Finals: Arthur Cnotalski vs Pierre Rensonnet
    by Daniel Ullenius
  • This is it, the Top 8 of the biggest Grand Prix ever. Arthur Cnotalski were facing off against France’s Pierre Rensonnet. Neither of the players had been in the Top 8 of a Grand Prix before, and since neither of them had thought that they’ll made it this far, they both agreed that the Top 8 was just gravy on a fantastic weekend.

    Game 1

    Arthur Cnotalski
    The players both praised each other’s decks, but Pierre had to lead off with a mulligan to 6.

    The Frenchman drew the first blood with his Dragon Fodder tokens, and proceeded to add a Goblin Assault to his team. The pressure was on from the beginning, but at least Arthur tried to slow it down with a Blister Beetle. Unfortunately for Arthur, Pierre had steady beats with those three tokens a turn, and Goblin Assault providing more, and when Rakeclaw Gargantuan came down Arthur was quick to scoop up.

    Game 2

    Arthur chose to play first. Even if his deck was slower and more controlling, he apparently rather skip the first draw than to let his opponents remarkably aggressive deck go first again.

    Game 2 started off a lot slower than game 1. Arthur had to use Esper Charm mainphase to try to draw him a fourth land. It didn’t, so a turn 4 Mosstodon from Pierre was really a bomb. Arthur sighed when his next draw gave him a tapped Seaside Citadel.

    Call to Heel from Arthur took temporary care of Mosstodon, and a Waveskimmer Aven lightened his mood. It was too bad for him that Pierre had a Cavern Thoctar, which however ended up on the bottom of his library thanks to Bant Charm. The next turn, Arthur tried to the same thing to Pierre’s Mosstodon, but in response came a Soul’s Fire, and that put Arthur out of the tournament and Pierre into the semi finals.

    Pierre Rensonnet wins 2-0



     
  • Saturday, 5.45p.m.: Top 8 Drafting with Simon Goertzen
    by David Sutcliffe
  • In an unusual Top-8 packed with relative newcomers to the spotlight, one of the most experienced players left standing is Germany’s Simon Goertzen. He’s already proven himself with a Top-8 finish at a team Pro Tour, in Charleston, and has picked up money several times at other Grand Prix. It was natural that drafting spotlight would fall on his (brightly-camouflaged) shoulders for this Top-8... which turned out to be a very interesting draft indeed!

    Pack One

    Goertzen has a strong Esper deck. But what's that on top of his sideboard?
    Goertzen’s draft began with a real mindbender of a first pack, that offered every direction you could want – Mosstodon, Jund Charm, Waveskimmer Aven, Wild Nacatl, Windwright Mage. Quite bizarrely, of all those options Goertzen chose to take the Wild Nacatl! It wasn’t a direction he ever looked to again during the draft, though. His second pick was a Scourglass ahead of aggressive options like Rakeclaw Gargantuan, and it became clear that Goertzen had wanted control all along.

    Resounding Silence at third pick over a Corpse Connoisseur
    Jungle Shrine over Jund Panorama/Carrion Thrash
    Agony Warp over Rakeclaw Gargantuan/Spearbreaker Gargantuan/Jund Obelisk
    Sanctum Gargoyle at pick six.
    Obelisk of Naya
    Aven Guide
    Windwright Mage had tabled to be taken at ninth pick.
    Etherium Sculptor had also gone round the table, a strong signal that Esper was wide open. Goertzen took the Sculptor and never looked back, adding Jhessian Lookout and a second Sculptor before the end of pack one.

    At the first draft review, then, it was very clear that Simon had a strong call on the Esper cards if he chose to go that route. He had consistently passed over strong Naya or Jund cards and honed in on the control route of blue and black. The most bizarre choice was his first – the Wild Nacatl – as it was neither in his deck nor, on the face of it, as big of a threat to face as the Mosstodon or Waveskimmer Aven that he could have taken.

    Pack Two
    When you’re the lone player in a shard on the table, the cards that you want suddenly come thick and fast, and deep, and Simon Goertzen felt that edge keenly in the second pack.

    And that's what you're NOT playing with?
    A Tower Gargoyle was a gift, ahead of an Agony Warp.
    Tidehollow Strix was chosen ahead of a bunch of mana fixers.
    Esper Battlemage over Metallurgeon
    Sanctum Gargoyle over an Executioners Capsule/Esper Charm
    Dispeller’s Capsule over Fleshbag Marauder
    Tidehollow Sculler over Bone Splinters
    And at seven? Surely it couldn’t be... CRUEL ULTIMATUM! At seven? Goertzen dallied long and hard over taking the bonkers Sorcery, eventually taking it for what must have been a mix of reasons. But did nobody play Grixis on the table?

    Goertzen took a gift of a third Sanctum Gargoyle at eighth pick.
    Cloudheath Drake at ninth
    Esper Panorama tenth
    Metallurgeon tabled all the way around for an eleventh pick. And then at thirteenth pick, the warm 4/5 body of a Steelclad Serpent.

    What a booster that was – Esper spells as deep as thirteenth pick, and a Cruel Ultimatum. The only thing Goertzen may come to regret was leaving an Executioner’s Capsule for a Sanctum Gargoyle early in the pack, now that he had seen a third Gargoyle.

    Pack Three
    It was obvious that Goertzen also felt the lack of removal, and his first and second picks were an Agony Warp and Executioner’s Capsule. Then, at third pick... oh dear lord, a second Cruel Ultimatum. Surely Goertzen had to be thinking about splashing red with a second Ultimatum?

    Esper Panorama at fourth
    Resounding Silence
    Esper Obelisk over Filigree Sages
    Naturalize, counterdrafted at seven
    Steelclad Serpent #2
    Windwright Mage #2
    Guardians of Akrasa.
    Jhessian Lookout

    More removal, more mana fixing, more powerful artifact creatures, and more Cruel Ultimatums. Blimey!

    Construction
    From pick two of the first booster things just got better and better for Simon Goertzen in this draft. I watched him constructing his deck, and the only question that there could be was ‘Cruel Ultimatum or No?’. Would he play Mountains?

    “No, no. It’s just really greedy. I think my deck is good enough in three colours. I’m playing a load of ‘bad’ cards, like Etherium Sculptor and Steelclad Serpent, but they work with each other so I guess they will be ok. I don’t really think I have any tough choices making this deck. I think other people would want to play the Aven but I’m thinking that I already have three 2/3 Flying Sanctum Gargoyles, and two Windwright Mages – the Aven is just a bad version of those cards.”

    I noticed that he was playing the Naya Obelisk, despite not having any red or green spells.

    “Oh yes, I definitely want this. It’s going to let me cycle the Resounding Thunders. In my release event I played lots of Obelisks outside my shard, just to cycle things. It’s important, I think”.

    But still, I think it’s amazing to see a draft deck with two sideboarded Cruel Ultimatums. Cruel Ultimatum – just not good enough for limited.

    “Oh no, I wouldn’t say that!”, laughed Simon, “It’s good enough for draft, just... not this time. If the Etherium Sculptors turn out to be rubbish I may have to change things, but we’ll see.”



     
  • Quarterfinals: The ones that didn’t happen
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • That's all we have from that particular quarterfinal.
    Yes, the title is misleading: The quarterfinal between Jan de Coster (BEL) and Arjan von Leeuwen (NLD) did happen, but you won’t find it here in the text coverage. To enjoy the two Benelux players duke it out, you have to turn to Rich Hagon’s and Ben Coleman’s audio coverage which you will also find here in the coverage once the Top 8 is over. For informational purposes, I will spoil the result for you: Arjan van Leeuwen won outright with 2-0 games.

    On the other hand, the quarterfinal between Menno Dolstra (NLD) and Romain Lisciandro (FRA) did not happen. Menno Dolstra got a free 2-0 win served on a silver platter, because Romain had to leave after the draft. With work next day and his last train leaving before the quarterfinals, he simply couldn’t stay. But had he dropped before the Top 8, that would have ended him in 9th place and with $400 less in the bank.



     
  • Quarterfinal: Niels Noorlander (NLD) vs Simon Görtzen (DEU)
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Simon Görtzen, one of Germany's many Limited experts, is not one of the big names of international Magic. But he was the most well-known player in this top 8. His confident manner reflected his draft, which went quite well. But Niels had no slouch deck either; he had an insanely high number of removal spells, and looked secure in the knowledge that he had an even chance at least.

    Game 1:

    Niels won the die roll, but it was Simon who had the first threat, with Windwright Mage. That got hit by Magma Spray, then Niels had Skeletonize for Metallurgeon. Simon just made Sanctum Gargoyle to get it back, playing on the synergies of his Esper deck. But Resounding Thunder from Niels but the Metallurgeon back where it belonged according to the Dutchman: In Simon's graveyard.

    Simon was left with Sanctum Gargoyle, Niels had a Skeletonize token and Necrogenesis. That promptly got rid of Metallurgeon for good when Simon attempted a return with his second Sanctum Gargoyle. The German had a really good-looking board, by the way, as he had made the effort to get only Esper-themed basic lands.

    Niels made the graveyard even more relevant to his game with Algae Gharial. Simon replied with Tower Gargoyle, trying to win through aerial beatdown. But Niels' supply of removal was nearly endless. Bone Splinters removed Tower Gargoyle, and the token sacrifice was balanced by a first counter on the Gharial.

    Niels was at 12 and free to attack Simon down to 14. Niels added Undead Leotau, and Simon rapped the top of his deck. With just the two 2/3 Sanctum Gargoyles, he wouldn't be winning the damage race despite taking Niels to 8.

    The Dutch attacked with everything but Necrogenesis, choosing to pump his Undead Leotau. That was a death sentence for the black guy, as Simon had Agony Warp to dispatch it and keep himself at a precarious nine life. Niels' next attack would have been lethal had Simon not been able to cycle Resounding Silence. The confidence with which Simon was accepting the attack should have signaled something to Niels, but this way, he simply ran his two best creatures into the Silence. Bereft of a defense, he dropped dead.

    Niels Noorlander 0 - 1 Simon Görtzen

    Game 2:

    Niels chose to be on the draw, an interesting choice given the fact that Simon was quite capable of a fast Esper draw. "So I'll play first?" Simon confirmed after shuffling. Of course, if you are the man with all the removal, playing second should hurt less.

    In fact, Simon did have the fast draw with Tidehollow Strix on the second turn. But Niels also had Magma Spray for that and Executioner's Capsule for any follow-up, so Simon spent his third turn erecting an Obelisk.

    Then again, Executioner's Capsule is useless against Tower Gargoyle, which happens to also be immune to all the three-damage removal in the format. Niels laid land after land while his life total went down in chunks of four. 16, 12, 8 - Niels needed to find an answer soon. Even the powerful combo of Corpse Connoisseur into Corpse Connoisseur didn't do much.

    Niels looked distressed. On seven mana, cycling Resounding Thunder was not an option yet. Instead, he tried to race, Unearthing his second Corpse Connoisseur to put Undead Leotau into his graveyard. Simon killed the race plan and one Connoisseur with Agony Warp. But Niels finally had an answer to Tower Gargoyle, sacrificing his unearthed Connoisseur to Bone Splinters. That left both players with an Executioner's Capsule and nothing else.

    Simon was still on 20, Niels on 8. Simon's plan was clear: Put out one threat at a time, and let Niels deal with it only to play yet another.

    ***Threat analysis***: Steelclad Serpent
    ***Method of execution***: Executioner's Capsule

    ***Threat analysis***: Windwright Mage
    ***Method of execution***: Skeletonize

    "I can't kill anything," Simon complained - and took out Niels' Viscera Dragger with Resounding Silence. By now, the German was at 10 from a number of small creatures, but still had Niels at 4. Unearthing Viscera Dragger took Simon to 7.

    Then the German had Sanctum Gargoyle to return his Tower Gargoyle - or wanted to. With the Gargoyle's ability on the stack, Niels killed both the Gargoyle and Etherium Sculptor with Branching Bolt, and removed Simon's graveyard with Jund Charm. That enabled him to get in for one with his Skeletonize token, taking Simon to 6.

    ***Threat analysis***: Simon Görtzen
    ***Method of execution***: Resounding Thunder (cycled)

    Niels Noorlander 1 - 1 Simon Görtzen

    Game 3:

    More of the same, as Simon had his Tidehollow Strix destroyed by Magma Spray. But Niels was stuck on four lands and had to discard. Niels: "That sucks." Simon: "Didn't you do this in the Swiss against me - and then won?" Indeed Niels had done that, but here, he was relegated to cycle cards away to find more land.

    Meanwhile, Simon Görtzen had two Steelclad Serpents ready to bite the Dutchman hard. One of them had already taken Niels from 18 to 14, so now he dropped to 6. His board was Algae Gharial, and that was it. With Executioner's Capsule waiting, Simon looked to seal the deal and nail Niel's coffin shut once and for all.

    But the Dutchman struggled to stay alive. Branching Bolt killed Kathari Screecher and damaged Serpent #1, Magma Spray finished it off, and Bone Splinters razed both sides of the board to take away Simon's Serpent #2.

    The German Unearthed Kathari Screecher, taking Niels to 4. Still on a comfortable 20, he could afford to wait for a threat. Two turns later, Tower Gargoyle promised to be just that. Again, Niels had Bone Splinters, taking out his Carrion Thrash. Algae Gharial returned from the graveyard.

    Simon tried again. Tidehollow Sculler revealed Mosstodon and Ridge Rannet, Jund Charm, Resounding Thunder and Skeletonize in Niels' hand. Simon banished the Charm, then played Sanctum Gargoyle, returned and played Tower Gargoyle. To overcome Niels' barrage of removal, putting out multiple guys at once would allow him to push the last points of damage through. Niels agreed, unhappily, and extended his hand.

    Niels Noorlander 1 - 2 Simon Görtzen



     
  • Semi Final – Menno Dolstra (NDL) vs Pierre Rensonnet (FRA)
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Menno Dolstra got handed a free pass into the Semi Finals...
    Pierre Rensonnet began by explaining just how his opponent had found himself entered directly into the Semi-Finals of this Grand Prix, without having played a Quarterfinal. Menno Dolstra had been scheduled to face Romain Lisciandro, who had featured in our very first feature match of the Grand Prix yesterday morning. But Lisciandro was no longer in the building because after the Top-8 draft was done he had dropped out of the tournament.

    “Romain had to get home,” Pierre was explaining, “There was no other train for him, he had work in the morning... he just had to go. If he’d dropped out before the Top-8 started he would have finished ninth, and lost out.”

    That’s rough. Can you imagine that? Making it to the Top-8 of the largest Magic tournament ever, then having to go home after the draft, knowing that you could have won it? Deary me, that would haunt me for the rest of my life!

    Menno Dolstra wasted little time in laying into Rensonnet with his untested deck as the Semi-Final began, leading with an Akrasan Squire, Deft Duelist, and then a Waveskimmer Aven from his Bant deck. Across the table, Rensonnet began the slow process of limbering up his Gargantuan Naya deck with a Rakeclaw Gargantuan and a Mosstodon. Unfortunately their size was their weakness as well as their strength, and he was already down to 9 life by they time they began attacking.

    But Dolstra was in no mood for blocking either, and took all the damage he was dealt, himself going from 20 to 5 in just two attack phases. Both players were now facing down lethal damage, and it would be about what they could do to stop the rot. It was Rensonnet that seemed to have the answer, first destroying two of Dolstra’s men with a Branching Bolt, then tapping them down with a Naya Charm to ensure Dolstra could neither attack not block, and sealing the game.

    Menno Dolstra 0 – 1 Pierre Rensonnet

    As easy as you like, it had taken only three Naya spells to scythe through everything that Dolstra had – the Branching Bolt had served a purpose, but quite frankly had only existed to draw out a counterspell ahead of the Naya Charm. From seeming on the verge of victory, Menno Dolstra had just been trampled underhoof. His start to the second game also seemed to be going badly wrong – having given Rensonnet the chance to play first, Dolstra was forced to mulligan.

    Rensonnet took full advantage, leading the way with a Steward of Valeron that unlocked an early Incurable Ogre. The Ogre was killed by a Waveskimmer Aven as it attacked, but the Frenchman followed up his Ogre’s assault with a Goblin Assault. Dolstra played a second Waveskimmer Aven, and that managed to trade away with both the Steward of Valeron and a Branching Bolt. Those two Aven had accounted for three of Rensonnet’s strongest plays and left him reliant on the Goblins his enchantment was spewing out for an offense.

    Dolstra seized his opportunity, making a Cavern Thoctar and Yoked Plowbeast and heading onto the offensive – two Gargantuans that made the Guardians of Akrasa that Rensonnet had drawn seem insignificant by comparison! Just to be sure, a Jungle Weaver threatened to flip the table end-on-end, so great was the difference in size between the two player’s creatures, and the match was only going one way... into a third game!

    Menno Dolstra 1 – 1 Pierre Rensonnet

    Menno Dolstra got handed a free pass into the Semi Finals...
    That began with Rensonnet mulliganning his way down to 6 cards, while Dolstra also had to think long and hard before choosing to keep his opening hand of 7. For Rensonnet it was obvious what the problem was – he stalled on two land, and was fortunate to be able to escape the trap he had set for himself with a Steward of Valeron and then an Obelisk of Naya.

    All that had given Dolstra time to set up an offense without being distracted by blocking, and he had an Akrasan Sire, Deft Duelist, and Sigiled Paladin online. That made for a lot of Exalted!

    Rensonnet, now with mana to burn, hit back with a Woolly Thoctar. Dolstra attempted to further bolster his Exalted men with a Waveskimmer Aven but it was removed by a Bloodpyre Elemental. Undaunted he pressed on, his Sigiled Paladin attacking as a 4/4 to reduce Rensonnet to 9 life.

    Pierre Rensonnnet hit straight back, playing a Rakeclaw Gargantuan and throwing his Woolly Thoctar into the red zone, reducing Dolstra to 10 life! Both players were racing hard, and it was a dangerous game... particularly for Dolstra as it was a game he had already lost once to a Naya Charm!

    And it was the Charm again. For a second time, a second set of tapped creatures, and a second Nayan surge across the table that wiped Dolstra off the map. Naya Charm, GG!

    Menno Dolstra 1 – 2 Pierre Rensonnet



     
  • Semi-Final: Simon Goertzen (DEU) vs Arjan Van Leeuwen (NLD)
    by Ben Coleman
  • Van Leeuwen was on the play in the least exciting opening of any match this weekend. It began; Forest, Island, Swamp, Swamp, Mountain, Island, Mountain, Swamp, Swamp, Swamp and then, on Simon Goertzen's fifth turn of the game, he taps some mana and used it to cast...

    (wait for it)

    Etherium Sculptor.

    That's right, a two mana guy who makes your artifacts cheaper.

    Simon Goertzen's had his eye on winning this Grand Prix
    "You should kill him" commented Goertzen. "He is awesome, much better than squire!"

    Van Leeuwen didn't bite, and why would he? This being the worst bluff in Magic history. Instead, turn six brought the Dutchman his own first play and it was hardly game breaking either. Obelisk of Jund coming down to sit alongside his six lands. Steelclad Serpent joined the German side of the board, after the sculptor nipped in for a cheeky one.

    "I can finally play something," exclaimed Van Leeuwen, and what a play it was. The 5/5, indestructible Spearbreaker Behemoth. Very nice indeed. Rather outclassing the German's 1/2 and 4/5.

    Over the next couple of turns Goertzen added a Windwright Mage to the table, but again Van Leeuwen displayed a better selection of creatures in Skeletal Kathari and the mythic legend, Kresh the Bloodbraided. That was a whole lot of potential power compared with the 2/2 Lifelinked mage. The Dutch team plowed in, and Goertzen hastily cast an Agony Warp, dropping the skeletal flier from the sky and neutering the Behemoth for the turn.

    'Nom, nom' said Kresh, as the Kathari hit the graveyard - pumping himself up to a 6/6 and now he was able to receive indestructibility from the Spearbreaker Behemoth. Adding insult to injury, a Blightning from Van Leeuwen stripped a Scourglass from Goertzen's hand - not that it would do much with the Spearbreaker Behemoth on the table of course!

    Windwright Mage tried to swing back and build some life back for Goertzen, but Jund Charm flashed out and swept away the German force. 'Nom, nom, nom' said Kresh, again - now 9/9 and still looking for love. Goertzen played a Sanctum Gargoyle and reclaimed the Mage from the Graveyard, and the Gargoyle also provided a potential blocker for Kresh. In came the big legend, but all that was heard throughout the Top-8 area was a Resounding Silence as he headed over to the removed from game zone.
    'Boooo' said Kresh, unhappily (and silently).

    While Kresh had gone, Van Leeuwen wasn't out of threats, and a Gift of the Gargantuan found a backup creature in Carrion Thresh. That's a great creature, but somehow didn't fill the 9/9 gap that Kresh has left.

    The Spearbreaker Behemoth found itself joining Kresh for some quiet time in the RFG zone the following turn, thanks to a second Resounding Silence from the German! Had he have turned it round? Sadly not, as a cavalcade of Dutch removal was a precursor to a mighty 7/7 Thunder Thrash Elder coming down! Van Leeuwen's deck was clearly packing some serious beef, and the 7/7 battered in repeatedly and unmercifully. Although Esper Battlemage was able to prevent some of the damage before finally throwing itself in the huge Viashino's path, it was a brave but futile gesture! The Elder had devoured Arjan Van Leeuwen token's before dining out on Goertzen and earning a Game 1 win.

    Simon Goertzen 0 - 1 Arjan Van Leeuwen

    Simon Goertzen's had his eye on winning this Grand Prix
    In the second game the Dutchman once again got his side of raw beef on - a monstrous 7/7 Thunder-Thrash Elder and 5/5 Kresh the Bloodbraided dropping Goertzen down to 10 in rapid order. It seemed as though Goertzen was going to head for an early exit from the Semi-Final, but that all changed when a Tidehollow Strix fluttered down on defence for the German. That Deathtouch bird was an uninviting trade for such huge creatures, and it also meant Goertzen was able to hold open mana for a possible Resounding Silence.

    For four turns in a row the two fatties sat there, frightened to attack the mechanical owl, while Goertzen's Windwright Mage flipped the life totals from 20-10 in Van Leeuwen's favour, to 21-9 the other way. Rarely had a 2/1 Flyer done so much to turn a game around!

    Eventually, possibly out of sheer embarrassment, the Thunder-Thrash Elder did something. It went to the graveyard. Sacrificed to a Bone Splinters to kill the annoying Windwright Mage as she flew overhead.

    'Nom, nom, nom!' said Kresh - and flexed his muscles as a 14/14 (but still running scared of the clockwork owl)

    "Fair trade" remarked a deadpan Goertzen. But then he knew it wasn't a real trade, as he played a Sanctum Gargoyle and returned the Mage to hand. With no other answers for flyers forthcoming, Van Leeuwen scooped up his board.

    'Boooooo!', said Kresh - shaking a fist at the Tidehollow Strix as he was shuffled back into Van Leeuwen's library for Game 3.

    Simon Goertzen 1 - 1 Arjan Van Leeuwen

    One game remained to see who got into the final of the biggest tournament in Magic history. Disappointingly for Simon Goertzen, it started with a land-light hand depriving him of black mana for way too long. Before the German had got into match a Vithian Stinger and Mosstodon had left him at 4 life!

    Finally, a Panorama found him a swamp, and that meant an Agony Warp could take down the Mosstodon.

    Starting to stabilise, Goertzen's Windwright Mage brought the life total back to a slightly better 7 -17 but the Mage didn't go far enough and was brought down to earth by the Vithian Stinger. It was at the cost of devouring it with a Thunder Thrash Elder and unearthing it though, so a valuable pinger was expended on the play, although replaced by a 4/4 Viashino.

    The inevitable Sanctum Gargoyle reclaimed the Windwright Mage, but it was soon back in the graveyard, this time trading with the dreaded 'vanilla bear' Cylian Elf, while the Gargoyle also hit the scrap heap after chump blocking the 4/4 Elder. Another Sanctum Gargoyle was found by Goertzen, and that plus a second Agony Warp took out the Thunder Thrash Elder. It wasn't missed for long, though as Gift of the Gargantuan revealed a Spearbreaker Behemoth for Van Leeuwen.

    While initially terrifying it proved that Metallurgeon was an effective answer to the evasionless Behemoth, and Goertzen had assembled a team of double Sanctum Gargoyle and Esper Battlemage to go with his little regenerator. The German started racing to the kill through the air, hoping to do something before his red opponent found some burn to polish off his precarious 4 final lifepoints.

    Simon Goertzen's had his eye on winning this Grand Prix
    The race was on! 4 to 15... 4 to 11... 4 to 7... but now Van Leeuwen found a flier of his own in Skeletal Kathari... but he chose not to block, and now it was 4-3! Had Goertzen pulled it out of the bag?

    Noooo! Van Leeuwen sent his Kathari into the redzone. Goertzen's Esper Battlemage prevented two of that, but it was still 3-3 in life!

    What next? A Hissing Iguanar for Van Leeuwen, and a Blister Beetle... but the Blister Beetle targeted... itself? The Iguanar hissed as the Beetle died, and it was 2-3.

    "Sacrifice my Spearbreaker Behemoth to regenerate the Skeletal Kathari", said Van Leeuwen. The Iguanar hissed again. 1-3 on life.

    "Sacrifice my Kathari to itself", the Iguanar hissed a final time. 0-3, and what a great way to seal your place in a Grand Prix-Final!

    Simon Goertzen 1 - 2 Arjan Van Leeuwen

    Van Leeuwen was victorious, but what an epic comeback from Goertzen. Was it more painful for the German because he came close? It didn't matter, as he was out, and Arjan Van Leeuwen was off to the final after a thoroughly nail biting finish.



     
  • GP Paris Final: Arjan van Leeuwen (NLD) vs Pierre Rensonnet (BEL)
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Game 1:

    A deliberate Arjan van Leeuwen had all that it took to rise to the crest of a 1,839-player wave.
    Arjan won the die roll, and both players opened up on Forest. But where Arjan spent his second turn on Dregscape Zombies, Pierre decided to crack his Panorama instead, helping himself to an Obelisk. While now both players were on equal footing for mana, Arjan had the advantage of a creature, and another one in Carrion Thrash.

    Pierre matched Arjan's offense with Rakeclaw Gargantuan and Woolly Thoctar. The clash of the titans was on when Arjan presented a 5/5 Feral Hydra. Now the race was whoever would find either removal first, or more fatties. And Pierre was on a good way to that when Gifts of the Gargantuan gave him - quite fittingly - Rakeclaw Gargantuan, and a Panorama to boot. The Dragon Fodder he also played served as just two 1/1 footnotes on a board filled with giants.

    The giant offense wouldn't end. Arjan had Kresh the Bloodbraided to take maximum advantage of his guys. Unfortunately, Oblivion Ring does not trigger Kresh, so Pierre was free to take Feral Hydra out of the equation.

    Arjan went to 15, then threw Carrion Thrash in front of the attacking Woolly Thoctar, taking five more damage in the process from Incurable Ogre. Arjan was on 10 now, and even though his Kresh had acquired four counters from the Thrash, Pierre was equipped with four 5-power monsters. They promptly came bashing, and Arjan had to pack it in for Game 1.

    Size matters, indeed.

    Arjan van Leeuwen 0 - 1 Pierre Rensonnet

    Game 2:

    Pierre Rensonnet did his best, but in the end stumbled on luck.
    With one game down, Arjan must have been glad to see his opponent mulligan to six. He planned on capitalizing on even that slight advantage, as it meant that Pierre would have fewer options to deal with his 4/4 Thunder-Thrash Elder, beefed up by Dregscape Zombie. Unearth proved its worth as a pretty effective ability across the board.

    It also brought back the Zombie for another spin, taking Pierre to 12 even before me made his first play: Incurable Ogre on the fourth turn. Arjan had the perfect answer with Blister Beetle, and now Pierre was on the spot to react.

    He spotted his option and tried Rakeclaw Gargantuan, but that didn't hang around. Arjan's Blister Beetle did double duty as Bone Splinters fodder, and the Thunder-Thrash Elder took Pierre to a mere 4 life. Cavern Thoctar died trying to save Pierre, but Arjan boosted his Elder with Jund Charm and Pierre was done in a flash.

    Apparently, speed matters, too.

    Arjan van Leeuwen 1 - 1 Pierre Rensonnet

    Game 3:

    Finalist Pierre Rensonnet (left) and winner Arjan van Leeuwen point out where you can find them in the complete final standings of the biggest Magic tournament ever: Grand Prix Paris 2008.
    So this was it! The champion of the biggest tournament in Magic history would be crowned roughly 36 hours after the first card of the weekend had been played. A Pro Tour invitation, $3.500, and a spot in Magic's history would go to whoever took home this clash of giant white, red, green, blue and black things.

    This time, Pierre had the first offense with an early Dragon Fodder and a third-turn Goblin Assault. But it was a bitter-sweet opening, because he did it off a double mulligan! So he did what he could, but starting at a disadvantage this high seemed no good omen for the final of a Grand Prix. Arjan had just the thing to contain Pierre's start: Vithian Stinger. Before taking care of any Goblin, though, the Stinger shot down Incurable Ogre. It happens if you play that glass-chin creature! Meanwhile, Arjan got in constant attacks, as Pierre could not keep back any blockers due to his Goblin Assault.

    Pierre had blown most of his steam on the early Goblin plan, while Arjan had blockers simply bigger than the little guys. Bloodpyre Elemental from Pierre dealt with Arjan's Feral Hydra before it could become a problem, but Arjan looked set up pretty well. He had the Stinger to keep the Goblins in check, boosted his Dregscape Zombie with Jund Charm and attacked Pierre down to 4 already. The Belgian's Goblins had to attack, leaving him blockerless, and with a final attack, Arjan van Leeuwen became the GP Paris champion!

    Arjan van Leeuwen 2 - 1 Pierre Rensonnet



     
  • Podcast - Sunday, 10:45 p.m.: T.Hanks
    by Rich Hagon
  • Big plusses for those of you who spotted the movie reference to a film starring Mr.T (no, not that Mr.T) after a weekend of relentless Shards Of Alara action. In this final show we bring you coverage of the Top 8, a group short on bigtime spotlight experience, but long on determination and skill. Join us as the champion is crowned and another outstanding European Grand Prix season comes to a close. So T.Hanks to all the players. T.Hanks to all the judges. And a special T.Hanks to Danny Brosens, the European Event Manager for Wizards of the Coast, who is moving on to pastures new. A Big Man for a Big Job at the Biggest Tournament of all. Farewell to you all, and make no mistake - GP Paris was BIG.
    Click Here to Download



     
  • Sunday, 10:36 p.m.: A big man for a big game
    by Hanno Terbuyken
  • Carrying European Grand Prix on his broad shoulders: Danny Brosens says good-bye!
    At the end of each Grand Prix is a sad sight. The hall that has been teeming with life, stories and Magic all day is empty. Only the guys and gals who deconstruct the decoration are there. Empty booster wrappers blow across the floor like a thorn bush through a western frontier town.

    Grand Prix Paris had another sad story at its end. It was the last Grand Prix under the reign of Danny Brosens, European Event Manager. He was the one person bearing most of the responsibility at every GP on the continent, and he did it with never-ending enthusiasm. We coverage reporters owe him thanks for every time he endured our complaints, cared about our issues and provided us with food and drink... and internet. Especially internet!

    So Danny, thanks for the successful years and all the best in your new job!

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