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Thrinaxes Sprout for Giusti in Brussels

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Emanuele Giusti, your Grand Prix–Brussels champion!

Jund remains the dominant force in Standard, and with his second Grand Prix win, Italian Emanuele Giusti has to be considered one of the powerhouses of Italian Magic. In what was the biggest Standard tournament of all time, 1,667 came but only one could conquer, and with over 30% of the field being Jund in Day Two, there always seemed a real chance that the winning deck of Pro Tour–San Diego would again prevail. In the Top 8, over half were packing Bloodbraid Elf and Sprouting Thrinax. The last line of defence was the Mythic deck that had brought two Hungarian friends into the Top 8, and one to the final.

What does this mean for the future? With Nationals qualifiers season starting up, there are still some decks that have put up good numbers, including the Naya Allies deck that took Jeroen Aga to a 12-0 start before dropping a match. Blue-white saw a similar fate to San Diego, with big names including Remi Fortier, Sebastian Thaler and Matej Zatlkaj just missing the elimination rounds using the powerful control deck.

With a metagame already starting to quake at the heavy steps of the Eldrazi soon on the rise, Brussels has given the world some things to think about for Standard. There are quite a few decks out there that can battle, but to hit the very top, they need an aid against cascade.

Congratulations again to Emanuele Giusti, the Grand Prix–Brussels 2010 champion!



Quarterfinals   Semifinals   Finals   Champion
1 Emanuele Giusti [ITA]   Emanuele Giusti (2-1)        
8 Ludvig J Londos [SWE]   Emanuele Giusti (2-1)
       
4 Steve Bernstein [ENG]   Steve Bernstein (2-1)   Emanuele Giusti (2-0)
5 Nicolas Lambach [FRA]    
       
2 Tamas Nagy [HUN]   Tamas Nagy (2-0)
7 Francesco Cipolleschi [ITA]   Zoltan Szoke (2-0)
       
3 Zoltan Szoke [HUN]   Zoltan Szoke (2-1)
6 Christophe Gregoir [BEL]    

Follow coverage of Grand Prix–Brussels in German at planetmtg.de.

EVENT COVERAGE TWITTER

  • by David Sutcliffe
    Final:
    Zoltan Szoke vs. Emanuele Giusti

  • by Tim Willoughby
    Semi Final:
    Tamas Nagy vs. Zoltan Szoke

  • by David Sutcliffe
    Quarter Final:
    Ludvig Londos vs. Emanuele Giusti

  • by Tobias Henke
    Quarter Final:
    Tamas Nagy vs. Francesco Cipolleschi

  • by Rich Hagon
    Quarter Final:
    Christophe Gregoir vs. Zoltan Szoke

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 8: Player Profiles

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 8: Decklists


  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Day 2 Coverage Archive
    Feature Matches, Podcasts and more...


  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Day 1 Undefeated Decks

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Day 1 Coverage Archive
    Feature Matches, Podcasts and more...

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Day 1 Blue Country Breakdown

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Day 1 Blue Playerlist

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    Info: Day 1 Green Country Breakdown

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    Info: Day 1 Green Playerlist

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Fact Sheet


INFORMATION
  1.   Emanuele Giusti $3,500
  2.   Zoltan Szoke $2,300
  3.   Tamas Nagy $1,500
  4.   Steve Bernstein $1,500
  5.   Nicolas Lambach $1,000
  6.   Christophe Gregoir $1,000
  7.   Francesco Cipolleschi $1,000
  8.   Ludvig Londos $1,000
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  • Quarter Final – Christophe Gregoir vs. Zoltan Szoke
    by Rich Hagon
  • Christophe Gregoir (Left) and Zoltan Szoke (Right)

    Crowd Favorites is, apparently, a Magic card. It’s also an unofficial game we like to play each time the Top 8 rolls around. Who will win the favor of the watching fans? Here at Grand Prix Brussels, that isn’t much of a problem. Of the eight players left in the tournament, one is from Belgium. That alone would be enough for a partisan crowd, but the one is the highly popular Christophe Gregoir. A much-respected part of the travelling Belgium circle of Pros, Gregoir rose to prominence with his breakout performance in Pro Tour Honolulu last year, where he lost in the Top 8 to eventual winner, Kzauya Mitamura of Japan.

    So who is charged with the task of sending the crowd away unhappy? Hungary’s Zoltan Szoke, who arrived here with the exact same seventy five cards as his travelling companion, Tamas Nagy, who also made the Top 8. Zvi Mowshowitz’s Mythic deck is the weapon of choice for Szoke, who was part of the Hungarian National Team at Worlds in Paris 2006. Now he would look to defeat the Jund menace.

    Off a Mulligan to six, Birds of Paradise was a nice opening for Szoke, with Gregoir quickly cancelling the acceleration via Lightning Bolt. Putrid Leech was turn two for Gregoir, with Szoke bringing Rafiq of the Many one turn later than he would have liked. Bloodbraid Elf Cascaded into Blightning, which I’ve heard is quite good. A second Rafiq, and a Baneslayer Angel, hit the bin. With five damage piling across, Szoke was down to twelve.

    Sejiri Steppe was irrelevant, but Szoke still crashed with Rafiq for eight damage, squaring the tie at twelve each. Rhox War Monk ended the Hungarian turn. Then it was back to Cascade mode, with Bituminous Blast on the Rhox War Monk granting a free Blightning. Now Szoke was at just four. Powerful stuff.

    In came Rafiq, and again it was all square. However, on the face of it, the Bloodbraid Elf and Putrid Leech would be lethal on the backswing. On the face of it, and in reality, moments later.

    Christophe Gregoir 1 – 0 Zoltan Szoke

    Stirring Wildwood meant no acceleration on turn one for Szoke, who had Birds of Paradise on turn two. Deathmark was the one mana answer from Gregoir. Unlike Lightning Bolt, Deathmark could deal with Rhox War Monk, which was up next from the Hungarian, and a second copy of the efficient Black Sorcery took out the lifegainer. Szoke had no turn four play, allowing Gregoir to take the initiative with Sprouting Thrinax, which Szoke promptly stole with Vapor Snare.

    Gregoir had missed his fourth land drop, and despite laying a replacement Thrinax, missed again. A second Vapor Snare left Gregoir defenceless, now facing six power of guys of his own making. And then he missed a fourth land for a third successive turn. The only possible saving grace for Gregoir was that Szoke was now picking up two land a turn. He still had enough to activate Stirring Wildwood, but the Belgian did at least have Terminate mana up. Can you guess what was up next from Gregoir? What’s that you say? No fourth land, and a Sprouting Thrinax? Right you are, and he was still in the game despite a really rough ride.

    Szoke attacked with both ‘his’ Sprouting Thrinax, their white sleeves denoting their true allegiance to the Gregoir camp. Two Birds of Paradise, and a replayed second land, ended the turn, with Gregoir now at five, unwilling to block. While he didn’t have a fourth land, that meant his hand was all awesome, and with Szoke voluntarily returning himself towards no land in play, Gregoir could definitely turn things around. His three mana created an un-Kicked Goblin Ruinblaster, and Szoke had no land as his Vapor Snares continued to cost him.

    In came the two Thrinaxes once again, and the Goblin Ruinblaster ensured Gregoir would fall to just three, allowing him to maintain his own Thrinax defense. A fourth land finally arrived, but, typically, it was a Verdant Catacombs, which would cost him one of his precious three life. With Szoke now unable to pay, a pair of Lightning Bolts taking out the Birds of Paradise meant one of the Thrinaxes returning to the Belgian.

    It didn’t matter. Of the many, many lands in hand, Szoke had Sejiri Steppe, and granting Protection to the remaining Thrinax on his side of the board dealt the final blow. The fourth land had come to late, and now we were down to a Game 3 shootout.

    Zoltan Szoke 1 – 1 Christophe Gregoir

    Zoltan Szoke

    The mana issues continued for Gregoir as Game 3 began, while Szoke was happy to await the start with at least one card more than the Belgian. Six cards it was for Gregoir, who opened on Savage Lands. Verdant Catacombs became a Forest for Szoke, with removal fodder coming in the shape of Birds of Paradise. Gregoir had killed the accelarator in games one and two, but left the Birds untouched in Game 3. That led to turn two Knight of the Reliquary for Szoke. A triple Savage Lands opening for Gregoir was fine, allowing him to Terminate the Knight without any harm to his curve. Raging Ravine was next, and out came the first Sprouting Thrinax of the game. Now all he wanted was to keep it on his side of the table...

    For the first time in the match, Dauntless Escort joined the Hungarian team, but it didn’t last long. Bloodbraid Elf Cascaded into Maelstrom Pulse, with Szoke sacrificing it in response to allow him to block with a now-Indestructible Birds of Paradise. At six mana, Zoltan plonked down the mighty Sphinx of Jwar Isle, which is apparently quite a problem when you can’t Terminate it. In came the flyer, dropping Gregoir to fifteen. Vapor Snare was up next, but a timely Terminate from Gregoir allowed him to get three tokens in response.

    The 5/5 flyer was an issue, no doubt, but Gregoir had firepower of his own. In came Bloodbraid Elf and three Saprolings, and Szoke was down to nine. A second Raging Ravine for Gregoir meant he could activate one of them the following turn, adding to the pressure. Deathmark killed the Bird of Paradise, leaving the Sphinx of Jwar Isle as Szoke’s only monster. Lotus Cobra added some defense, and then began adding mana when a Misty Rainforest apppeared. Down came Thornling. Now he’s quite big. In came the Sphinx. Now he’s quite big, too. Gregoir fell to ten.

    Lavaclaw Reaches was the only play for Gregoir, who passed back. Finest Hour banged down, but there was one more potential twist in the tale. Bituminous Blast reached out and ended the Lotus Cobra, and if Maelstrom Pulse was the Cascade card, Gregoir could bin the Finest Hour. Lightning Bolt isn’t Maelstrom Pulse, and it wasn’t enough. Punching the air in delight, the Hungarian was through to the Semi-Finals.

    Christophe Gregoir 1 – 2 Zoltan Szoke

     

  • Quarter Final – Tamas Nagy vs. Francesco Cipolleschi
    by Tobias Henke
  • Hungarian Tamas Nagy is playing Mythic Bant, Francesco Cipolleschi came all the way from Italy with Jund. The latter brought Vampire Nighthawk as his tech of choice, while Nagy has Thornling as well as Sphinx of Jwar Isle, both of them serious threats, capable of utterly destroying Jund.

    Francesco Cipolleschi

    Cipolleschi won the die-roll and led with Rootbound Crag, followed by Dragonskull Summit, whereas Nagy had Noble Hierarch into Lotus Cobra, a fearsome start which would allow him to cast just about anything on turn three. Not Knight of the Reliquary or Rhox War Monk, though, since those two had to be discarded to Cipolleschi’s Blightning. Another Knight of the Reliquary fell victim to Maelstrom Pulse, then Nagy had the potentially devastating trump card that is Sphinx of Jwar Isle. Bloodbraid Elf into Terminate didn’t even matter anymore, as Nagy had Finest Hour to simply end the game there and then.

    Tamas Nagy 1 – 0 Francesco Cipolleschi

    Once again, Nagy started with Noble Hierarch, then Lotus Cobra, but this time around his turn-two plays also included Rhox War Monk. Vampire Nighthawk made a cameo appearance and took down the Monk, but Nagy curved out nicely with turn-three Thornling and green mana up. Cipolleschi could only cast Blightning, and take the damage, as Lotus Cobra and a 5/3 Thornling rolled across the red zone.

    Tamas Nagy

    Siege-Gang Commander made an attempt to change the math a bit, but Thornling was not to be denied. Between trample, indestructibility, and Noble Hierarch‘s exalted, there was just no good block for Cipolleschi. It was all downhill for him: he had no follow-up play at all, while Nagy added Knight of the Reliquary to his team. Next turn, Nagy sacrificed a land to Knight of the Reliquary, searched up Sejiri Steppe to grant his Thornling protection from red, and cast Finest Hour. As seen before, the evasive fattie charged into battle (twice) and delivered lethal damage.

    Tamas Nagy 2 – 0 Francesco Cipolleschi

    If everyone is supposed to get 15 minutes of fame, Francesco Cipolleschi was seriously short-changed in this Top 8. Game 1 ended on Nagy’s turn five, Game 2 on his turn six, and the whole match took 12 minutes at best.

     

  • Quarter Final – Ludvig Londos vs. Emanuele Giusti
    by David Sutcliffe
  • Simply by making it as far as the Top-8, Ludvig Londos is having the tournament of his life - he’s already qualified for the Pro Tour as a virtue of his performance here. By contrast Emanuele Giusti, champion of Grand Prix Rimini in 2008, is the most successful player in the Top8, benefitting from the rash if big name players who exited early. Giusti was the last player to book his place in the Top8 but did so in dramatic fashion - winning his last game in just a few turns despite a double mulligan down to just five cards.

    Londos opened the match with a Raging Ravine, but it was Giusti who hit the ground running with a Putrid Leech on his second turn. Londos aimed a Blightning at the Italian, forcing him to discard a Raging Ravine and a Lightning Bolt, but Giusti was undeterred and played a Sprouting Thrinax to add to his offensive. Londos hit back with a second Blightning, reducing Giusti to a single card in hand, but Giusti hit right back with a Blightning of his own, and an attack for 7 damage. Taking four damage on turn 3, and 10 damage on turn 4 - Londos was down to 6 life and facing defeat. He could only pass the turn, and then a Bloodbraid Elf from Giusti cascaded into another Blightning... Londos was trampled into the dirt in just five turns!

    That was exactly the sort of speed and brutality that had sealed Giusti his place in the Top8. If he could continue that form then he was only a few minutes away from another semi-final, and possibly just a few more games away from being the first ever Italian repeat champion.

    Ludvig Londos 0-1 Emanuele Giusti

    Emanuele Giusti

    The second game was a completely different animal.

    In fact it was a Sprouting Thrinax - five of them! Three from Londos, and two for Giusti, with a Lightning Bolt and Putrid Leech ensuring that Londos had the advantage on the board. Wasting little time the Swede began to exert his influence on Giusti’s life total. A Lightning Bolt from Giusti cut down the Putrid Leech before it could do any damage but the Italian still found himself with two 1/1 Saprolings facing down a pair of adult Thrinax. Ludwig Londos followed that by making the Grim Discovery that his Thrinax could return from the dead and Giusti was forced to concede defeat in the second game as quickly as he had claimed victory in the first!

    Ludvig Londos 1-1 Emanuele Giusti

    For the second game in a row Emanuele Giusti found himself having to mulligan while Londos was happy with his original seven cards. Giusti would be fighting uphill in the decider, but that hadn’t deterred him in the final round the Swiss.

    Londos was the first to play a creature, with a Putrid Leech, but Giusti had a Terminate ready for it and followed up with a Sprouting Thrinax and Garruk Wildspeaker. The Swede now needed to find a foothold in the game quickly, before Garruk would be able to cause too much havoc, and he played a Bloodbraid Elf. The cascade from the Elf finally hit a Blightning, taking two Lightning Bolts from Giusti’s hand and three loyalty from Garruk, but not before it had sent a lot of Londos’ best cards to bottom of his deck - a pair of Bloodbraid Elves, a Broodmate Dragon, and a Master of the Wild Hunt.

    Ludvig Londos

    Giusti hit back with his Sprouting Thrinax, but the mulligan and Blightning had put him a long way behind on cards, particularly as he had taken the first turn and missed a draw - he had only two cards in hand against Londos’ four. Despite being ahead on cards Ludwig Londos couldn’t ignore that he was still taking damage from Giusti’s Thrinax and at the next opportunity his Bloodbraid Elf blocked the angry Thrinax down. But that wasn’t the end of it, and a Grim Discovery returned his dead Bloodbraid Elf to hand, and this time the cascade hit a Maelstrom Pulse than neatly removed all of the Saprolings that the Thrinax had just produced. A Sprouting Thrinax followed from Londos’ hand, but Giusti had a Terminate ready. After two blowout games the decider of this quarter final was balancing on a knifeedge - Londos was ahead on cards, and creatures in play, but had only 6 life left!

    With a final effort Emanuele Giusti played a Siege Gang Commander but that was his last card - he was all out of gas and had to hope that with Londos on 6 life it could prove to be enough! Sensing the evident weakness Ludwig Londos activated his Raging Ravine and sent it into the red zone, then Terminated the Siege Gang Commander before it could do any real damage.

    Giusti was back on the ropes and playing from the top of his deck, but the top card of his deck was...a second Siege-Gang Commander! He was turn away from victory again!

    Did Londos have a second answer? He had a Master of the Wild Hunt, but nothing that could hurt either the Siege-Gang Commander, or Giusti himself. With a cheer from the seemingly ever-present Italian crowd Emanuele Giusti untapped to hurl lethal Goblins at Londos and win the match!

    Ludvig Londos 1- 2 Emanuele Giusti

    Giusti marches on in Brussels... now just two rounds away from making history as the first Italian player to win two Grand Prix.

     

  • Semi Final – Tamas Nagy vs. Zoltan Szoke
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Zoltan Szoke

    The match began with a high five between these two friends, clearly over the moon to be able to meet for the first time in the tournament at this late stage. The full 75 card mirror would be something they could talk about on the way home, as regardless of the outcome, they would be travelling together.

    Play started with manlands on both sides. Szoke had the first creature of the game, in Lotus Cobra, and revelled in being on the play, by following up with a fetchland into Baneslayer Angel before Nagy even got to three lands.

    Nagy played a land and passed, and was soon left reeling as Rafiq of the Many came down for Szoke, allowing a swing for 12 in the air. He drew for the turn and scooped up his cards. The game had taken less time than the shuffling.

    Zoltan Szoke 1 – 0 Tamas Nagy

    As rigorous shuffling commenced, there was some good natured banter between Tamas and Zoltan, and indeed many of the crowd, all in Hungarian. Clearly everyone was excited at the prospect of one of these two Mythic decks in the final, ready to face down Jund from the other half of the bracket.

    For Game 2, Nagy led with Stirring Wildwood, while Szoke had a turn one Noble Hierarch thanks to a fetchland. Nagy got his first spell of the match in, casting a Qasali Pridemage that declined to block Noble Hierarch when a second came to bolster its exalted attack.

    Tamas Nagy

    Nagy got stuck in with his cat, before playing Knight of the Reliquary, one of the most recent contenders in ‘best creature’ contests due to its amazing synergy with various of Zendikar‘s landfall additions.

    Szoke played a Thornling and passed. This could be a very handy blocker, and he held it back initially, without the mana to play its abilities. The next turn, this was remedied, and he swung into take Nagy to 8. On 13 himself, with blockers in place, Szoke had to feel good about his chances.

    The pace of things was changed when a Vapor Snare hit the board, taking Thornling over to Nagy’s side of the board. Nagy had just two Noble Hierarchs, and a Birds of Paradise, and 8 damage to do.

    As it turns out, even with Thornling deserting him, Szoke could do it. Finest Hour meant the 0/1 birds could first attack for 3, and then for 6, sending Nagy out of the competition, and Szoke all the way to the final, and a potentially Mythic champion.

    Zoltan Szoke wins 2-0!

     

  • Final – Zoltan Szoke vs. Emanuele Giusti
    by David Sutcliffe
  • All eyes are on the final match

    Emanuele Giusti entered the final round after his exhausting Semi-final victory to find Zoltan Szoke already waiting for him - the Hungarian’s defeat of Tamas Nagy had ended almost a full hour earlier. But with a big handshake, and a big yawn, the young Italian took his seat - had that semi-final been too draining, was Szoke going to be too fresh after his break? This match would decide more than just the winner of Grand Prix Brussels - no mean prize in and of itself - but the champion would be walking away victorious from the biggest Standard tournament ever held. In Giusti’s case he would also become the only Italian player to have won two Grand Prix, while Szoke would be the first ever Hungarian winner. History awaited both men.

    As brightly colored as they are, Birds of Paradise have always made excellent targets for shooting practice, attracting Lightning Bolts and Terrors for over 15 years. Szoke’s opening gambit was no exception, with Giusti immediately Terminating it. A second turn Lotus Cobra went the same way, frazzled by a Lightning Bolt before it could so much as hiss.

    With Szoke’s early mana deployment disrupted Giusti took to the offensive, playing a Sprouting Thrinax and following that with a Blightning, although that could only claim two Forests from the Hungarian player’s hand.

    Szoke responded with a Lotus Cobra, playing a Misty Rainforest that he sacrificed immediately for a land. Thanks to his Lotus Cobra that gave Szoke the mana he needed to play a Finest Hour, but Giusti hit back with a Bloodbraid Elf... the crowd murmuring in appreciation as the Elf cascaded into a Maelstrom Pulse that stripped Szoke of his Finest Hour. With another Maelstrom Pulse from his hand to remove Szoke’s only available blocker Giusti’s Bloodbraid Elf and Sprouting Thrinax tore into the red zone and sealed the first game in his favour.

    Zoltan Szoke 0 - 1 Emanuele Giusti

    An expectant Hungary watches as Szoke battles in the finals

    That was an expert lesson in why the Jund deck is so powerful - every single play that Szoke made was nullified immediately, and the Jund deck was able to generate offensive momentum at the same time, ensuring that Szoke had no time to recover from the initial strikes and find a second wind.

    The second game began in a similar vein to the first. Despite having to mulligan his original seven cards Emanuele Giusti still had enough ammunition in hand to Deathmark a Lotus Cobra, Lightning Bolt a Noble Hierarch, and Terminate a Rhox War Monk. With that done, Giusti played a Putrid Leech and then as Szoke played a second war Monk Giusti played Bloodbraid Elf which cascaded into a Deathmark and the second War Monk headed towards to the graveyard having barely set a single hoof on the battlefield. The Italians in the crowd became increasingly excited, sensing victory for their champion.

    But Zoltan Szoke wasn’t ready to capitulate just yet - a Mind Control convinced Giusti’s Putrid Leech to switch sides, but Giusti just played a second Bloodbraid Elf. If the cascade from this found a Maelstrom Pulse to destroy the Mind Control then this match would be all over. Every Italian in the room held their breath as the top cards of Giusti’s deck were revealed - but it found only a second Putrid Leech. That was the first kind break that Szoke received from the minute Giusti had arrived, and it marked his first moment of respite in the final. Neverthelss, the Hungarian was down to 7 life and still in perilous shape.

    Emanuele Giusti is all business as the final game plays out.

    Szoke seized the opportunity to reinforce his side of the table with a Knight of the Reliquary and Noble Hierarch, but in return yet more removal flew from the fingers of Emanuele Giusti and a Terminate removed the Knight. That opened the way for his Putrid Leech and pair of Bloodbraid Elves to attack and they swept into the red zone. Blocking as best he could, Szoke traded his stolen Putrid Leech for a Bloodbraid Elf and hurled his Noble Hierarch under Giusti’s other Leech but now he was down to 4 life.

    Szoke needed a big turn but he had nothing at all that could help and a turn later Giusti claimed victory to immense hoots, hollers, and hugs from his countrymen in the crowd.

    Zoltan Szoke 0 - 2 Emanuele Giusti

    If you want a way to describe Giusti’s path to glory, and to becoming the first repeat Italian champion then there are really only two words that can do it justice.

    Simply. Devastating.

    At times when he faltered, when he had to mulligan, when he faced an opponent who tested his deck, or when victory seemed to be slipping away, he invariably responded in the same way - by drawing the cards he needed to win, and winning with them.

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