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Grand Prix Turin
Day 1 Blog

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  • Saturday, 10:05 a.m. – Early Frontrunners
    by Tobi Henke
  • This is not about making predictions. The people listed below had literally already won the first three rounds of the tournament when they sat down for the player meeting this morning. In fact, they had won them yesterday, by going undefeated in one of the GPTs which traditionally form the prelude to every Grand Prix event.

    So what decks escaped Friday's grind with perfect records? The following sample gives a good impression of what's been doing well at the Trials. Among the winning decks there was green-red Tron, Life from the Loam/Seismic Assault, Splinter Twin, and a Melira-Pod. But the archetype with the strongest showing overall was aggrocontrol based in blue and white. Delver of Secrets teamed up with Lingering Souls, Snapcaster Mage flashed back many a copy of Path to Exile, and even a very familiar Bird once again picked up his trusted Sword of Feast and Famine. As one judge put it, "I'd expect a lot of Squadron Hawks this weekend."

    Interesting for very different reasons is Adrian Buser's trial-winning deck, which you can find at the end of this piece. Take a look!









    OK, now this last deck obviously didn't win a GPT in the Modern format, if only for the fact that it only has 40 cards. But did you know that GPTs are no longer exclusively played in the format of the corresponding GP? Don't have your deck ready on Friday? Or simply want to mix things up? Then come join a Trial anyway!


     

  • Saturday, 11:33 a.m. – On Streak
    by Tobi Henke
  • Christian von Kalkstein may not be a name many people will recognize. The German Grand Prix regular has been playing GPs for ten years, and from 2006 to 2008 qualified three times for the Pro Tour, but his best finish to date came just a few weeks ago at Grand Prix Madrid, where he ended up in fifth place. What's more, he started that tournament without byes, got his first loss in round one and his second loss in round three.


    So how does one re-focus after a 1-2 start? What were his thoughts at that point?

    "I thought, now I'm obviously going to make day two," Christian joked. "No seriously, I actually didn't feel too bad about it. The worst had already happened and the pressure was off. I was basically playing for fun. Then I kept winning ..."

    And that he did. 12 wins in a row put him in the Top 8 where he sadly took an immediate loss in the quarterfinal. "It was kind of the same effect, only in reverse. Suddenly the pressure was back on," explained Christian. "I figured I gotta win this match to qualify for the Pro Tour. And then, naturally, that didn't happen."

    "I'm still happy about my performance, though" he said. "Super happy!"

    "This weekend I have three byes. Also I just got a taste of Top 8, and I would really like to qualify for the Tour again. So I'm feeling some pressure," he mused. "But nowadays I mostly play for fun and, more than anything else, I have every intention to have fun this weekend."




     

  • Saturday, 12:06 p.m. – Catching up with Modern
    by Tim Willoughby

  • Here at Grand Prix Turin, we see the Modern format as it has blossomed over a full PTQ season, following its debut at Pro tour Philadelphia, and subsequent ebbs and flows since, where bannings and metagame shifts have shown that, matching with the predictions of many pundits, this is a wide open format with a whole host of viable decks.

    In the beginning, we had Pro Tour Philadelphia, and it was good. There, combo decks were ferocious, with Splinter Twin in the hands of Samuele Estratti of Italy taking it all down, and the best options to fight combo decks were very aggressive builds such as the Affinity deck of Chikara Nakajima, or the innovative Zoo deck sporting a smattering of countermagic, that placed Josh Utter-Leyton in the finals.

    This was a format where infect could kill a player as early as turn two with a bit of help from Blazing Shoal, and Emrakul could find itself in play terrifyingly early thanks to the likes of Cloudpost and Through the Breach. Aggro was almost synonymous with 'Zoo' as casting Wild Nacatl on turn one and swinging for 3 on turn two was a real gold standard for aggression. While the format was good, it had room to get better.

    Since some bannings in the early days, things have opened right up, and a rip-roaring PTQ season shows that there is a huge amount of room for innovation in the newest format (albeit not the one only sporting new cards). Arguably the biggest winner from the development of the format is control; now that the combo decks have marginally fewer card drawing spells, and the aggro decks don't have Wild Nacatl, the format affords players the turns to establish control of the game and leverage countermagic into a dominating late game position.

    Any of you who are regular followers of Mike Flores' Top Decks will know that there are competitive decks in the format now to scratch the itch of just about every type of player. On our CoverItLive stream this weekend, Rich Hagon is running a full 32 deck March Madness-esque bracket of competitive decks in the format. With so many cards to play with, it seems inevitable that there will be quite a few good decks, but this really is madness;

    Naya Zoo
    Death and Taxes
    Merfolk
    5-color Zoo
    Affinity
    Red Deck Wins
    Red / Black Burn
    Summoning Trap
    Black / White Tokens
    Hive Mind
    Pyromancer’s Ascension
    Past in Flames Storm
    Ad Nauseam
    Splinter Twin
    Eggs (Second Sunrise)
    Esper tokens / Polymorph
    Through the Breach
    Living End
    Seismic Swans
    Delver Control
    Mystical Teachings
    Gifts Control
    Caw-Blade
    Blue / White Tron
    Red / Green Tron
    Faeries
    Jund
    Melira
    Death-Cloud
    Dredge-vine
    Martyr of Sands
    Aggro Loam

    Some of these decks are more likely to take down the prize than others, but each and every one of them has game, and we're pretty sure that there are great decks not even on this list!

    How on earth did we get here, into this land of confusion, where there is plenty of love to go around to every type of deck? Well, let me take you back to Worlds. Here the post-Philadelphia bannings were in full-force, and we had a format where we started to see sparks of the innovation that would become the hallmark of the format.

    With Modern in effect being 'all of the cards with modern card borders' (yes, I know that Future Sight borders, reprintings, Commander deck specific cards and promos make it a little complicated, but work with me here), the starting point for a lot of innovation came with people taking their favourite decks from formats past, and jamming them in to see how they could compete.

    Zoo was hugely popular at Worlds, at about 28% of the field, probably because consistent aggro decks are a good idea in an undefined format. Coupled with the fact that it was one of the best decks in Philadelphia it was a bit of a no-brainer that it would still be a force to reckon with. The Philadelphia all-star of Splinter Twin was also popular, as even with its claws clipped, it could still end the game in decisive fashion.

    Melira combo, the latest in Project X type decks in green/white/black who go infinite in a variety of ways, only really got going at Worlds, being a complex deck to get just right. Here is the list from Andrew Cuneo, who was having a great tournament all around that weekend;

    This list looks to abuse the relationship between Melira, Sylvok Outcast and persist on Murderous Redcap and Kitchen Finks to (with the help of a sacrifice outlet like Viscera Seer) generate infinite life or infinite damage. With so many ways to search for key creatures, it has a lot of flexibility, and a powerful endgame. It was one of the first decks to truly come out as a 'modern' deck rather than something we might have seen before; requiring as it did a mix of cards from blocks that hadn't interacted before.

    Successful control decks became a reality too, check out the following Gifts Ungiven deck run by the eventual champion Jun'ya Iyanaga;

    Following Worlds, that's when the real floodgates opened. The format better understood, control worked its way into the public conscious more thoroughly. It seemed inevitable that Caw-Blade would get there eventually, making the likes of Marco Orsini-Jones very happy (it got him many a PTQ top 8)

    Of course, with Innistrad and Dark Ascension in the mix, things were likely to change up too. One of the coolest decks I've seen all season for that has to be the following PTQ top 8 list that shows off how old and new can come together to make something rather special – just look at how much value one can get out of a Burning Vengeance in this build.

    This deck, I feel was the spiritual parent of the following Grand Prix winning list from Bronson Magnan in Lincoln Nebraska.

    Now here is a deck that really likes to be using retrace for fun and profit. Evolutions of this deck included the addition of a Worm Harvest to the mix from many players, and it has shown itself to be quite the force in Modern ever since. The other deck which proved very popular in Lincoln was blue/white Tron, plying a set of Urza lands into some big and scary spells. Here is the list that Luis Scott-Vargas played into the top 8 there;

    That is not where the story of our format ends though. Between Lincoln and now, technology in deck design for the format has continued to advance, with Charles Gindy winning an online PTQ with what is in some respects the child of the two lists above, taking the power of being able to Ancient Grudge and Pyroclasm your way to a solid board position from Magnan's list, and putting that into the formidable Tron shell with the following results;

    In spite of a terrifyingly low 18 lands, this deck can go from zero to hero fast, powering out its Mindslavers and Karns as early as turn 3 given a good draw, and with a slew of card drawing/mana fixing spells it gets to feel like a much slimmer deck than it in fact is in doing so.

    Going into Grand Prix Turin it is already clear that the metagame hasn't finished shifting yet. A talk to the dealers at the start of the day revealed that while Ancient Stirrings is well and truly sold out, there has also been a run on copies of Sowing Salt as a potential answer to the menace that is Urzatron.

    Will we see a new evolution here in Turin? Knowing how Modern works, it seems likely that we will see something new. As and when we do, we'll be bringing it to you... it seems that Modern is appropriately named, as every week there is something fresh.




     

  • Saturday, 2:32 p.m. – Making Gold
    by Tobi Henke

  • Reaching the Gold level in the Pro Players Club, among other benefits, qualifies for all Pro Tours. With Pro Tour Avacyn Restored fast approaching—between now and the Tour, Grand Prix Manchester is the only event to award further Pro Points—many players came to Turin this weekend in search of those last elusive points. 25, that's the Gold standard.

    Thomas Holzinger of Austria, Joel Larsson of Sweden, and Germany's Bernd Brendemühl had nothing to worry about, though. With 24, 23, and 22 points respectively, and a qualification to Pro Tour Avacyn Restored (worth at least three points) already secured through different means, they're save. Slovak Robert Jurkovic, however, started this weekend at 21 points and Switzerland's Nico Bohny at 20. Even with their PT qualification, they'd still be short one point and two points, respectively.

    Nico Bohny

    "I'm going to Manchester next month, so I still have this event, GP Manchester, and of course the Pro Tour to get two additional Pro Points," said Nico Bohny. "Between those three, I think things will work out just fine for me. I'm optimistic about my chances, and now I just won my round four. I think I have a sweet deck."

    Also needing a total of five more points were Marcello Calvetto and Alessandro Portaro of Italy, Finn Markku Rikola, England's Daniel Royde, and Sweden's Elias Watsfeldt. All of them came here hoping to close the gap and it'd be interesting to see where they ended up come Sunday.




     

  • Round 4 Feature Match – Emanuele Giusti vs. Elias Watsfeldt
    by Tim Willoughby

  • Emanuele Giusti is one of the Italian players who represents a particularly formidable opponent on the Grand Prix circuit. Having won two of them (Rimini in 2008 and Brussels in 2010, both constructed events), he is in an elite club of Italian players, and defending his home turf here in Turin, came to the feature match area looking confident. His opponent, Elias Watsfeldt of Sweden is among the youngest players regularly on the Pro Tour, and currently sat on 20 Pro Points, he is well in the race to be the Swedish team leader in what is a hotly contested race to the title, at present led by Kenny Oberg.

    Elias Watsfeldt has finished with his 3 byes and is ready to play.

    Elias was on the play and started with a Delver of Secrets off Darkslick Shores. This was nothing to Giusti's start though. Even though the Italian had taken a mulligan, he had Blinkmoth Nexus, Memnite, Memnite, Springleaf Drum and Signal Pest on his first turn. A second turn Thoughtseize took a Vault Skirge, and Elias followed that up with a second Delver of Secrets.

    Giusti foiund a second Blinkmoth Nexus on top of his deck, and played it rather than the Plains he'd revealed to Thoughtseize. He got stuck in, trading Memnite for Delver of Secrets, and knocking down his opponent's life total just a bit. Watsfeldt found a spell on top of his deck to flip Delver of Secrets into Insectile Aberration, and played a Creeping Tar Pit, keeping up mana for a Remand that was used on Steel Overseer. While Giusti had the mana to recast the artifact lord, it at least slowed him down a notch, something which could prove pivotal if Watsfeldt was to take control.

    Giusti, in all-out attack mode, activated both copies of Blinkmoth Nexus, and pumped his team before running in for 7, putting Watsfeldt on 7 life. That 7 became 6 as he activated a Marsh Flats to find Godless Shrine. Watsfeldt was not working with a lot of time, and would have to find an answer to Giusti's clockwork army fast. None was coming though, and even after his mulligan Giusti took the first game with little incident.

    Emanuele Giusti 1 – 0 Elias Watsfeldt

    Watsfeldt had a wealth of options open to his Esper control deck in terms of sideboarding for the second game, and spent a little time finding the right configuration as he tried to bounce back. He would have the play for the second game in a row, but as we had seen in game one, going first would not necessarily mean he would be ahead for long.

    When it came to the damage race, Elias was well behind, as a first turn fetchland found Watery Grave to cast Thoughtseize. Five points of damage on turn one gave him the chance to take Arcbound Ravager from a double mulligan hand of Memnite, Arcbound Ravager, Blinkmoth Nexus, Inkmoth Nexus, Inkmoth Nexus.

    While Giusti was effectively starting with a hand of just 4 cards, he was still able to put up quite the fight. A Mox Opal meant that he would have more mana available, and he used it to animate his team early and often, soon swinging his opponent down on life. Smother took out an Inkmoth Nexus, and Snapcaster Mage let it take out the other one, before trading for a Memnite.

    Watsfeldt was speedy in his use of Cryptic Command on Etched Champion, wary of the fact that the 2/2 would be immune to most of his answers thanks to its metalcraft ability. He had a Timely Reinforcements to build up a team, and gain him some life – making clearer why Inkmoth Nexus was more of a priority for him to kill than its Blinkmoth cousin.

    Whipflare from Giusti was soon able to deal with tokens, but it looked to have come a little early, when Watsfeldt fired out Sorin, Lord of Innistrad to create replacements. Giusti had Vault Skirge and Blinkmoth Nexus to get at Sorin with, but as Watsfeldt had already used Threads of Disloyalty on an Ornithopter, he had blockers enough to keep his Planeswalker around if needed.

    The last hope for Giusti, before Sorin could take over the game was a Tempered Steel. When Watsfeldt used Snapcaster Mage to flash back Cryptic Command, he was quick to scoop up his cards.

    Emanuele Giusti 1 – 1 Elias Watsfeldt

    For the rubber game, Giusti had yet another mulligan – his fourth of the match. He sighed and kept his six card hand, leading with just Glimmervoid into Signal Pest. Starting on a Glimmervoid and just one artifact was a dangerous gambit – if Watsfeldt could remove the artifact, he would snag the land as a freebie, putting Giusti in very rough shape. Fortunately for the Italian, all that came on turn one was a Seachrome Coast and Serum Visions, meaning he was able to play a Mox Opal backup artifact.

    A turn two Delver of Secrets from Watsfeldt met a Galvanic Blast, and when Giusti tried for an Ornithopter (which would turn on his Mox Opal), Watsfeldt had a response of his own, in Path to Exile on Signal Pest.

    A Vendilion Clique in draw step met a Galvanic Blast before seeing an Arcbound Ravager, Steel Overseer and Blinkmoth Nexus. Watsfeldt sent the Overseer to the bottom, and could only nod sagely as he saw the Ravager enter the battlefield soon after.

    Watsfeldt had a fairly healthy life total, and cast a Lingering Souls to create a couple of tokens, threatening to flash the sorcery back the following turn. This left him tapped out and unable to stop Etched Champion from Giusti, a particularly huge threat with Arcbound Ravager about to potentially pump it.

    Whipflare from Giusti was just the answer to take out both the original two Spirit tokens, along with the flashback pair, and a bonus Delver of Secrets. He also had a follow-up Arcbound Ravager, further adding to the clock faced by Watsfeldt.

    Emanuele Giusti doesn't always make day two of a GP, but when he does, he wins it.

    Another draw step Vendilion Clique came, this time seeing that Giusti's lone card was Springleaf Drum. The young Swede just gave a thumbs up – that one could stay where it was. Even as a one mana artifact, it still represented an extra counter on Arcbound Ravager, so Giusti was quick to play the drum, before swinging with his team, moving counters across to Etched Champion when his Ravager traded with the 3/1 flyer.

    Smother took down Ravager #2, and more counters ended up on Etched Champion, making it a 5/5. When another Etched Champion came down from Giusti a turn later, Watsfeldt was quick to extend his hand in concession. A small 'whoop' came from the Italian crowd watching the match. Score one for the home team!

    Emanuele Giusti wins 2-1!

    Emanuele Giusti
    GP Turin 2012 - Modern




     

  • Saturday, 3:24 p.m. – The Pro Metagame
    by Tobi Henke

  • Pro Tour Statistician is not just a fancy title for my colleague Rich Hagon. He really does know each and every player who's ever made Top 8 at a Grand Prix or had a high Pro Tour finish or was awesome in some other way. Looking through the player list with Rich is always an education, or possibly two.

    Here's the list of notable names from GP Turin:

    Pierluigi Aceto
    Frederico Bastos
    Richard Bland
    Lukas Blohon
    Nico Bohny
    Lino Burgold
    Marcello Calvetto
    Marco Cammiluzzi
    Daniele Canavesi
    Allan Christensen
    Stanislav Cifka
    Antonino De Rosa
    Mark Dictus
    Samuele Estratti
    Andreas Ganz
    Andrea Giarola
    Thomas Holzinger
    Lukas Jaklovsky
    Robert Jurkovic
    Martin Juza
    Florian Koch
    Mateusz Kopec
    Adam Koska
    Jonas Köstler
    Benjamin Leitner
    Raphael Levy
    Andre Müller
    Riccardo Neri
    Kenny Öberg
    Carrie Oliver
    Marco Orsini Jones
    Elie Pichon
    Markku Rikola
    Daniel Royde
    Martin Scheinin
    Niv Shmuely
    Helmut Summersberger
    Jörg Unfried
    Christian von Kalkstein
    Tom Valkeneers
    Elias Watsfeldt

    Now, we actually could tell you what deck every single person on this list chose to play. But we're not going to do that. After all, it would be rather unfair if people here could simply look up their opponent's deck on the internet before starting their match.

    No, but what we will give you is the combined numbers, the breakdown of the pro metagame, if you will.

    Metagame Breakdown

    There are some clear favorites here, but what's really astonishing is the diversity among even this small segment of the player base. 16 different archetypes! If you factor in that some of these players are part of teams who test together and often play the same decks, this number is truly amazing.




     

  • Saturday, 3:29 p.m. – Just a Minute with Giusti
    by Tim Willoughby

  • Just a minute with Emanuele Giusti

    After covering him in the feature match area, I was keen to see how Italian player Giusti was doing – he's a pretty regular player on the Pro Tour, and with a Grand Prix fairly close to home, he seemed in fine spirits having won his very first round.

    "I took a lot of mulligans there, but it all kind of worked out. When I had to go down to 5, my 6 card hand was a mess – three Mox Opal, two Darksteel Citadel and a Tempered Steel..."

    It has not been since Pro Tour Philadeplhia, where his countryman and testing teammate Samule Estratti won the whole thing, that Giusti played on the tour. While he made top 50 there, the student was not able to travel to Hawaii for Pro Tour Dark Ascension. This does leave him a little far behind in the points race this season, but it's something he seemed ok with; with Estratti's Pro Tour win, it seemed unlikely that any other Italian would be leading Team Italy at the Magic World Cup.

    When it comes to Grand Prix, Giusti has had a bit of a rollercoaster ride. He won Rimini in 2008 aged just 17, back in Lorwyn block constructed with Kithkin, and then Brussels in 2010 with Jund. It seems that aggressive constructed decks are something of a favourite for him, with Affinity being his choice for Turin. The funny thing for Emanuele though is that beyond his two Grand Prix wins, he has never made Sunday play – whenever he has made day 2, he has gone on to take down the whole shebang. He felt pretty good about his chances in Turin, with a deck that he feels matches up well with the metagame as a whole.

    Italian Magic is a having quite the renaissance, with Estratti's win having buoyed a continuing push to succeed on the international stage. Pro Tour qualifiers are regularly over 300 attendees, and between regular testing online with the likes of Calvetto and the Pro Tour champion, and face to face qualifiers that are "harder than ever", the student from Tuscany feels he is playing some of his best Magic.

    Giusti left me with a smile, hoping to make day 2, and then take things as they come. It has worked out well that way when he's done it before.




     

  • Round 6 Feature Match - Lukas Blohon vs. Bertil Elfgren
    by Tobi Henke

  • Lukas Blohon may be the second most famous Czech player on the Tour today, right after Martin Jůza. Among other things, he's fresh off a Top 8 at Pro Tour Dark Ascension in Honolulu. His opponent, Sweden's Bertil Elfgren has his own Pro Tour career, though no Top 8 so far, thanks to LSV who beat him in the last round of his legendary 16-0 run at Pro Tour San Diego 2010.

    Blohon brought Splinter Twin, Elfgren came equipped with an Ad Nauseam combo deck, which tries to pair the namesake instant with either Angel's Grace or Phyrexian Unlife.

    Lukas Blohon

    Elfgren started with a tapped Watery Grave and Marsh Flats, Blohon with a tapped Halimar Depths and Scalding Tarn. The actual action, however, started on Elfgren's third turn, when he cast Phyrexian Unlife. Blohon took a close look, then let it resolve. His own turn-three play was Spellskite, and after both players didn't do anything on their fourth turns, Blohon succesfully summoned a Pestermite in the upkeep of Elfgren's fifth turn. Elfgren just nodded and sadly tapped one of his three lands. He missed yet another land drop and passed the turn to Blohon who cast. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker for Blohon. Phyrexian Unlife meant the offspring of Pestermite and Kiki-Jiki took two turns to kill Elfgren, but kill him it did.

    Lukas Blohon 1 – Bertil Elfgren 0

    This time both players had spells on their first turns, Serum Visions for Elfgren, Sleight of Hand for Blohon. On his second turn, Elfgren suspended Lotus Bloom and went into the tank: he had no second land and pondered the merits of casting an Orzhov Signet off Simian Spirit Guide. In the end, he went for it, but Blohon had Ancient Grudge at the ready.

    A Thoughtseize from Elfgren, however, revealed that Blohon himself was also nowhere near his combo, although his topdecked Vendilion Clique provided at least some sort of clock. Lotus Bloom came out of suspension and was shattered by Blohon's Ancient Grudge flashback. Elfgren suspended another and, now he had another land, also cast a second Orzhov Signet.

    Meanwhile, Blohon's Clique got in a couple of swings, but it was clear that Elfgren would be able to go for his combo soon enough. He waited till the Vendilion Clique had brought him to 3. Then on his turn, with Island, Swamp, Watery Grave, Lotus Bloom, Orzhov Signet, and Phyrexian Unlife on the battlefield, Elfgren started things with Thoughtseize. Blohon had Negate. Elfgren tried Ad Nauseam. Blohon had Spell Pierce, Elfgren had Pact of Negation. Blohon responded with Echoing Truth on Phyrexian Unlife, but Elfgren had Angel's Grace. He proceeded to draw his entire deck and killed Blohon with a Lightning Storm off a trio of Simian Spirit Guides.

    Lukas Blohon 1 – Bertil Elfgren 1

    For the final game, Elfgren had no trouble with his mana. At least, he did have enough; he might have had too much, as a quick peek at his hand revealed. He had kept a hand with two Lotus Blooms, Slaughter Pact, and lands. To be fair, one of those lands was Tolaria West. Blohon's first play was a Deceiver Exarch, which died to the Pact.

    Bertil Elfgren had plenty of mana in the third game to start off.

    By turn four, Elfgren had two Lotuses in play as well as the Boseiju, Who Shelters All he had tutored up with Tolaria West. But when Blohon summoned a Pestermite at the end of the turn, and cast Splinter Twin on his, all Elfgren could do was to save himself with Angel's Grace. He didn't topdeck and died to the combo on the next attack.

    Lukas Blohon 2 – Bertil Elfgren 1




     

  • Saturday, 6:15 p.m.
    by Tobi Henke

  • Among the players in attendance today, only three had already locked up Platinum status for the 2012-2013 season before this Grand Prix. Italy's own Samuele Estratti, thanks in part to his win at Pro Tour Philadelphia last year, has a whopping 49 Pro Points to his name, overfulfilling the requirement by nine. Likewise, Martin Jůza is sitting comfortably at 45. Englishman Richard Bland only has 37, but can look to Pro Tour Avacyn Restored for another three guaranteed.

    Lukas Jaklovsky of the Czech Republic, however, is at 36, short one extra point between now and May 13. Similarly, French Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy needs another two. "I'm kind of feeling desperate by now," Lévy admitted. "Take GP Mexico for example. In my last draft pod there, one win would give me a point. And I went 0-3. Things like this can really get you down."

    Raphael Levy

    "Right now I'm X-2 and I'm afraid this tournament will be yet another failure. Then there's only Manchester and Barcelona left. I'm definitely worried," he said, but added: "I still think my chances are fine, but it's not like a sure thing. I don't want to sound pessimistic. In fact, I'm being realistic!"




     

  • Round 7 Feature Match - Daniel Royde vs. Richard Bland
    by Tim Willoughby

  • For round 7 we have something of a mirror match, as Bland had given his list to Royde a few days prior. With each on red/green tron, it would be a race to have well fixed mana, and keep their opponent off it. The two Englishmen exchanged plenty of friendly banter as they took their respective mulligans (cards like All is Dust and Pyroclasm do nothing in the match), but underneath it all, this was serious business; these two are the current leaders in the Pro Point standings for the England, and fiercely competing for the right to lead the English team at the World Magic cup. While Bland is currently in a commanding lead following a top 8 at Worlds, he would certainly want to keep it that way.

    Richard Bland

    Urza's Tower into Chromatic Star was followed by Sylvan Scrying for the third tron piece for Bland. While Royde had an Urza's Mine and Chromatic Sphere to do the same thing, he was on the draw, which meant he was in a world of trouble – a Karn Liberated on turn three meant that Royde was losing lands as fast as he could play them.

    A jubilant Bland watched on Royde played Grove of the Burnwillows and Explore, such that he could get Urza's Tower into play, and cast an Expedition Map, again threatening to build up a full Urzatron. Bland used Chromatic Star for another Sylvan Scrying, this time finding Eye of Ugin, before playing Expedition Map and an Urza's Mine, and adding loyalty to Karn, meaning he'd be able to blow up more lands later if needed.

    Given sufficient time, Bland would be able to search up more copies of Karn with his Eye of Ugin, or just end things with a big Eldrazi.

    "This feels so pointless" remarked a rueful Royde. Even if he built up his tron, he'd not have much chance to do anything with it before it got broken up, and even with an Eye of Ugin in hand to Wasteland his opponent's it didn't really seem good enough.

    Richard Bland 1 – 0 Daniel Royde

    On the play, Royde had a turn one Grove of the Burnwillows into Ancient Stirrings. No Tron before turn four for him then. Bland went with Urza's Mine into Chromatic Sphere. Not to be wholly outdone, Royde's second turn did see a tron land, and two copies of Expedition Map.

    Bland was still keen to break serve though, and found an Urza's Power Plant, and used his Chromatic Sphere to get the green mana for Sylvan Scrying, ensuring Tron for turn three. This was the point where Royde would have been wishing that Stone Rain was in his sideboard. He had to use Expedition Map to find Ghost Quarter. He used a dice to select which of Mine and Power Plant to destroy, and the fates told him Power Plant. We would see soon enough who the fates favoured.

    An Expedition Map once again threatened tron from Bland. He used it without delay, showing that he would have access to a boatload of mana the following turn unless Royde could answer. Royde was shaking his head as he played a Grove of the Burnwillows for his turn, and Explore let him do so twice.

    Daniel Royde.

    The head shake turned into a groan as he saw Karn Liberated from Bland, who at the one tron piece that Royde had to work with. Bland was well in control, and used Karn to exile a card in Royde's hand (an Ancient Grudge), before playing and activating Mindslaver. He took Royde's turn, where he used Royde's groves to gain some life before casting Ancient Stirrings.

    "No land or artifacts? How unlucky!" remarked Bland, now with a wide smile, as he 'failed to find' anything .

    For his own turn, Bland got himself an Eye of Ugin, which was enough to lock up the match, fetching out Emrakul. Royde smiled and extended his hand.

    Richard Bland wins 2-0!

    As Royde de-sideboarded his deck prior to heading off, he discussed his nefarious scheme for making it onto the Magic World Cup team. While Bland has things virtually locked up for his position, he is still allowed to play in MWC qualifiers. If he wins one, then the invite gets passed down to the next highest Pro Points competitor, which happens to be Royde. Bizarrely, Royde has determined that there is so much value in having a player of Bland's calibre at the Magic World Cup qualifiers in England, that he's ready to make sure that Bland has travel and a place to stay, just in case.

    And just to finish, we have the following photo, almost entirely for Rich Hagon and LSV's benefit. If your name is Josh Bennett, the article ends here. I refuse to take responsibility for the effect on your health of the caption below.

    Bland, Royde, android





     

  • Saturday, 7:06 p.m. - A bit on the side
    by Tim Willoughby

  • With so diverse a format as Modern, choosing the right deck to play can be tricky, but over and above that preparing for a large number of different decks can be downright fiendish. Talking with pro innovator and deckbuilder Kenny Oberg, he was quick to say that it was one of the more challenging elements of the format.

    Here are just a few of the allstars that we are seeing quite a bit of as efficient answers to potential decks in the field.


    Ancient Grudge – not just a great card against Affinity, the grudge is potentially an option against Tron decks, Tezzeret decks, and even against various other options too as a trump to the likes of various other sideboard cards you'll be seeing on this list. Being able to flash it back is what pushes Ancient Grudge to the top of the pile in terms of artifact removal, though for the likes of the burn decks in the room, Smash to Smithereens is also a good choice.


    Beast Within – if you are looking for a catch-all answer to problematic permanents, Beast Within is a fairly solid choice. The versatility of this instant is its key strength. While you are giving opponents a 3/3, that is typically better than having to face down the nightmare card out of the sideboard. For a red/green tron deck, being safe from planeswalkers, Blood Moon, awkward lands and problem creatures all in one card is just gravy – 3/3 Beasts are much less of a concern.


    Blood Moon – One of the strengths of modern is that mana bases can allow for crazy things to happen. Given that temptation, crazy things are more common than not. For the decks that can profitably run it, Blood Moon is a good way to stop all of that nonsense. Affinity and various of the red/blue combo decks can run Blood Moon without substantial loss of traction, which immediately launches them up in their viability within the format, as the likes of Jund and Tron decks could easily find themselves put well back by the powerful enchantment.


    Torpor Orb – As an artifact, this one is a very straightforward answer to Splinter Twin and Melira. Each deck relies on coming into play abilities to get things going, and that is exactly what the Orb stops. I must admit to being a little salty about this one, as it also stops my fun allies deck from doing much too. I guess you win some, you lose some.


    Relic of Progenitus – Another powerful artifact, this one has such value against some strategies that it is being played main-deck by many (including as a four of in some red/green tron lists). It is very powerful against Pyromancer's Ascension, Melira, Dredgevine and Aggro Loam, while being a solid card against the likes of Tarmogoyf. Given that it can be 'cycled' to draw a card if needed, the relic is a card that few players are would be loathe to draw even in the games where it does less – a handy trait for the sideboard cards pushing for maindeck inclusion.


    Gifts Ungiven – wait, isn't this one a deck in itself? Well, normally yes. Gifts Ungiven is a card that has spawned many a deck in its time, but for some, it represents an interesting sideboard card also. Assuming your deck can handle having a few unusual dual lands (hint – a lot of decks in this format can, thanks to fetch-lands), having a gifts package of Unburial Rites and Iona, Shield of Emeria or Elesh Norn is not the worst plan. My favourite place for this is in a build of storm with Past in Flames, where the Gifts can be maindeck, and set up big Past In Flames some of the time, and an alternate plan when the likes of Ethersworn Canonist or Leyline of Sanctity might otherwise spoil things.


    Leyline of Sanctity – my final card for this segment, I like this as another combo trump. Great both for and against Pyromancer Ascension decks, this one can buy you time against Melira too, as with it out, the best they can do is gain a tonne of life. Given that there are breeds of Ascension decks that are winning with Thought Scour milling rather than your common or garden damage, this is kind of a nifty trick.




     

  • Round 8 Feature Match - Christian von Kalkstein vs. Adam Koska
    by Tobi Henke

  • Adam Koska of the Czech Republic has never broken into the Top 8 of a Grand Prix or Pro Tour, but he does have two ninth-place finishes to his name, at Pro Tour Kyoto 2009 and Worlds 2009. Germany's Christian von Kalkstein, on the other hand, is fresh off his first Top 8, at Grand Prix Madrid little more than a month ago.

    Von Kalkstein won the die-roll and started things off with Serum Visions, while Koska made a Noble Hierarch. Next, Koska's Wall of Roots met Remand. Come turn three, his Wall of Roots stuck, as did a second, as did Viscera Seer. End of turn, von Kalkstein summoned Vendilion Clique and took a peek at Koska's hand. Phantasmal Image and Reveillark stayed put, but a Birthing Pod was quickly replaced with a mystery card from the top of Koska's library.

    Adam Koska

    The mystery card turned out to be, obviously, another Birthing Pod. Koska played it on his next turn, after von Kalkstein had cast a Spellskite, but it met a second Remand, which left Koska with just enough mana to cast Phantasmal Image as a copy of Vendilion Clique. Both Cliques died as per legendary specifications and Koska saw two lands, Splinter Twin and a Pestermite in his opponent's hand. "I'm definitely taking one of those," said Koska.

    After a moment of deliberation he took Pestermite, a happy choice when von Kalkstein's next turn included the casting of none other than Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Now Koska cast Birthing Pod succesfully, turned one of his Wall of Roots into Eternal Witness, and retrieved and re-cast his Phantasmal Image, unsurprisingly in the image of Kiki-Jiki.

    Von Kalkstein, still holding Splinter Twin, used Sleight of Hand to find a replacement Kiki-Jiki. "Not bad, mind you, but not exactly what I was hoping for," said von Kalkstein.

    Koska summoned Ranger of Eos and sacrificed it to Birthing Pod to go get Reveillark. Reveillark was sacrificed to Viscera Seer and returned Eternal Witness and Phantasmal Image to the battlefield. This killed Kiki-Jiki once again, and when Koska searched up Glen Elendra Archmage on his next turn and played Melira, Sylvok Outcast, von Kalkstein was basically locked out of the game. Koska's creatures took a while to actually finish him, but the end was inevitable.

    Christian von Kalkstein 0 – 1 Adam Koska

    The game started with Serum Visions for von Kalkstein.

    "So you put one on the bottom, one on the top?" Koska asked.

    "No, I put both on top!"

    "Ow, that's good."

    "It is!" said a happy von Kalkstein.

    Christian von Kalkstein

    Koska's start wasn't bad either, though, with Birds of Paradise and a Qasali Pridemage.Von Kalkstein had a Deceiver Exarch, but Koska had Putrefy. On the next attack, a surprise Vendilion Clique managed to trade with Qasali Pridemage and also cycled an excess Splinter Twin from von Kalkstein's hand. Koska made Kitchen Finks and Wall of Roots.

    Nothing much happened during the next couple of turns except for the playing of altogether too many lands on both sides, and the beatdown provided by Kitchen Finks. At 4 life von Kalkstein cast Spellskite to stop the bleeding, but was disappointed when an at-end-turn Chord of Calling for Koska searched up Eternal Witness which not only added lethal power to Koska's offense, but also returned Putrefy to reduce von Kalkstein defense to naught.

    Christian von Kalkstein 0 – 2 Adam Koska

    Christian von Kalkstein
    Grand Prix Turin 2012 - Modern




     

  • Saturday, 7:27 p.m. - Deck Tech – Pyromancer Dark Ascension
    by Tim Willoughby

  • Cast my spell, copy it, storm up a storm, win.


    Pyromancer Ascension decks have been around for a while, but with the addition of Dark Ascension, some players in the room are being a little bit more cunning with how they do things. Storm is certainly a powerful mechanic, and Grapeshot a reasonable way of winning the game, but with the likes of Melira decks knocking about, dealing 20 to 30 damage with Grapeshot simply might not be good enough.

    What if you could go infinite?

    Some players in the room are doing exactly that, thanks to a rather more complicated win, facilitated in part by Thought Scour. Thought Scour is pretty good in Pyromancer Ascension anyway, as it puts cards in your graveyard such that it is easier to trigger the enchantment that the deck is named after, while drawing you a card. For the 'regular' versions of the deck casting a large amount of ritual effects and Past in Flames, it is a solid addition. Faithless Looting serves quite a similar purpose. What makes the Thought Scour really exciting though is the fact that, if you cast it enough times, you get to deck your opponent too.

    How can that work out? Well, it does rely on having an active Pyromancer Ascension, but after that it is surprisingly easy. Your endgame sees each of your spells being doubled up. If you cast Manamorphose for 2 mana, you get 4 mana and draw 2 cards. With the card draw on the stack, you can cast Noxious Revival, targeting a different copy of Manamorphose, and a different copy of Noxious Revival on top of your deck. Doing that means you are effectively gaining one mana of any colour again and again and again. Once you have a lot of mana (for safety's sake let's say a million each of blue, red and green), you can start replacing Manamorphose with Thought Scour. Now, you are still drawing the cards you need to keep the loop going, but instead of gaining mana, you will be milling your opponent out, two cards at a time.

    The Thought Scour version of the deck does not need ritual effects, as it doesn't actually need all that much mana to go off. It can use Thought Scour as a virtual tutor with Noxious Revival, and is great at setting up your graveyard to have the cards you need to be in there in place on time.

    This is one of those decks that doesn't work so well online, but is going great guns here at Grand Prix Turin, with a couple of big name pro's making it their weapon of choice this weekend.

    For those of you wanting a list to work with, here's one for your consideration – though in the interests of protecting players from too much in the way of scouting, I'm not going to tell you whose.



    Pyromancer Ascension




     

  • Saturday, 7:47 p.m. - Making it to the World Magic Cup
    by Tobi Henke

  • This summer, players from more than 50 countries will come together for the first ever World Magic Cup. The team event is the pinnacle of international Magic competition and its schedule is grueling. It features Standard and Booster Draft in individual play, then Team Sealed Deck, then team play in Modern, Standard and Block Constructed, and after each portion of the tournament people will be cut from the competition.

    There are two ways to qualify. Each participating country sends a team of four players. Three of those win their slot at one of three WMCQs per country. All you need to know about those you can find here: "Getting Ready for World Magic Cup Qualifiers".

    However, the fourth spot on the national team, or rather the first since this is the position of team leader, is awarded based on Pro Points. In each country the player with the most Pro Points by May 13 gets the invite.

    Kenny Oberg

    The last couple of months saw the emergence of a clear frontrunner in most of the European countries. For example, Belgium's Vincent Lemoine is 12 points ahead of his competition, as are Thomas Holzinger in Austria and Allan Christensen in Denmark; in France the imminent champion is Raphaël Lévy, in Britain it's Richard Bland, and nothing short of a Pro Tour Top 8 can change that.

    But there are a couple of countries, where the race is still too close to call, in particular Sweden and Switzerland. In Switzerland, Nico Bohny is currently in third place with 20 points, with Matthias Künzler and Andreas Ganz ahead by one and two points, respectively. Nico told me: "This is more important to me even than the Gold status in the Pro Players Club." Sweden's Kenny Öberg shared the sentiment: "I really want to make it to the World Magic Cup. I'm currently two points ahead of Joel Larsson and five points ahead of everyone else. I figure if I can go into PT Barcelona with a five-point lead, I'm in pretty good shape. That's why I'm here."

    How he got this far is an interesting story as well. "When the new system was announced I looked up the number of Pro Points I had made so far in the season and was shocked to see it was seven," Kenny recounted. "Then I finished eleventh at Pro Tour Honolulu and went to 22. Now I'm at 25, again qualified for almost everything, and I feel like I'm back from the dead."



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