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Innistrad in Italy Sees Ricci Run Rampant

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It was no horror show in Milan this weekend, as almost 1800 players delivered an epic two days of Innistrad battles. Pitchforks and Unruly Mobs abounded, hackles rose, and howls filled the air. And that was just the players.

The home team of Italy was well represented in the Top 8 after 16 rounds of Sealed Deck and Booster Draft action had seen 1,780 players fall by the wayside. While Davide Vergoni and Marco Ricci had dreams of making a name for themselves, both National Champion Marcello Calvetto and Pro Tour Philadelphia Champion Samuele Estratti had already proven themselves over and over against the best.

Opposing the four Italians were Michael Milis of Belgium, Germany's Jörg Unfried, and Alexandru Dimitriu from Romania, by our calculation becoming the first ever Top 8 representative from that country. Then there was the man on a mission, the French Hall of Famer Raphael Levy. Thirteen years since his first Grand Prix victory in Lyon, Levy was back in the Top 8 spotlight, after a barren spell of three years since his previous (and 16th) GP Top 8 in Manila back in 2008.

Estratti and Levy set up a mouthwatering semifinal clash, but the match was comfortable for the Frenchman. In the other half, Italy was guaranteed a finalist when Ricci and Vergoni went toe to toe, with Ricci emerging to tangle with the Hall of Famer in the final.

In the end, the Italians proved once again that they knew how to defend their home turf and Magic honor. It was Ricci who emerged triumphant, clenching his fists in triumph at the moment of victory, while Levy added yet another chapter to his storied career.

Innistrad proved a huge hit this weekend, with a powerful and deep Limited format eagerly explored. The new double-faced cards added an entertaining and strategic extra layer to draft calculations, while Sealed Deck saw classics such as curve, tempo, and bombs vying for the top slot. As for colors, green-white seemed very popular, with red splashes everywhere, fuelled by cards like Shimmering Grotto and Traveler's Amulet. Flyers also came out to party in a big way, giving a healthy uplift to fans of cards with wings.

Next stop in the global cavalcade of card carnage is Grand Prix Brisbane on the other side of the world, with the downhill run to worlds coming thick and fast. Santiago, Amsterdam, Hiroshima, San Diego...then it's the big one in San Francisco. For now, though, Marco Ricci is on top of the Magic world. Even in a world of horror, Good can triumph!

Congratulations to Marco Ricci, Grand Prix Milan 2011 Champion!


Quarterfinals Semifinals Finals Champion
4 Michael Milis Samuele Estratti, 2-0
7 Samuele Estratti Raphael Levy, 2-0
5 Raphael Levy Raphael Levy, 2-1 Marco Ricci, 2-0
1 Alexandru Dimitriu
6 Jörg Unfried Davide Vergoni, 2-0
8 Davide Vergoni Marco Ricci, 2-1
2 Marco Ricci Marco Ricci, 2-0
3 Marcello Calvetto




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EVENT COVERAGE TWITTER
  • by Tobi Henke
    Top 5 Cards of Grand Prix Milan 2011

  • by Tim Willoughby
    Final: When Townsfolk Attack
    Raphael Levy vs. Marco Ricci

  • by Tobi Henke
    Semifinal:
    Marco Ricci vs. Davide Vergoni

  • by Rich Hagon
    Semifinal:
    Samuele Estratti vs. Raphael Levy

  • by Tim Willoughby
    Quarterfinal: Unleash the Rage
    Raphael Levy vs. Alexandru Dimitriu

  • by Rich Hagon
    Quarterfinal:
    Samuele Estratti vs. Michael Milis

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 8: Decklists

  • by Tobi Henke
    Top 8: Player Profiles

  • by Tim Willoughby
    Top 8:
    Draft Round-Up

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day 2 Blog

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day 1 Blog

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Fact Sheet

INFORMATION
 1.  Marco Ricci $3,500
 2.  Raphael Levy $2,300
 3.  Samuele Estratti $1,500
 4.  Davide Vergoni $1,500
 5.  Alexandru Dimitriu $1,000
 6.  Marcello Calvetto $1,000
 7.  Michael Milis $1,000
 8.  Jörg Unfried $1,000
Pairings Results Standings
Final

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Blue Bracket
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  • Top 8 - Draft Round-Up

    by Tim Willoughby
  • From a field of 1,788 players there were only 8 left for the final draft of the day. The format hadn't changed, and each player had already shown themselves to be adept in this burgeoning new format. Would players stick with archetypes that had performed for them in the Swiss portion of the event, or would they strike out into new territory in the final push for the title of champion?

    Rather than follow any one player throughout the draft, I was watching the shape of the draft as a whole. What signals or picks pushed players into colours or archetypes, and immediately following the draft, were there any firm favourites, or hopeful underdogs?

    The first point to note from the draft was that for all three packs, the flip cards were underwhelming. Nobody was windmill slamming a first pick flip card into their pile, meaning that any signalling going on with flip cards was inevitably more subtle. Of the flip cards that came out, there were also noticeably fewer green werewolves than I've seen in most drafts, meaning that one archetype was sparsely populated.

    This isn't to say that there weren't some powerful opens though. Liliana of the Veil was a clear first pick for Alexandrou Dimitriu, who gradually moved into green black to support his planeswalker. For Marco Ricci, it was Angelic Overseer, which was soon followed by Gavony Township that cemented him in green/white humans.

    A Divine Reckoning for Michael Milis of Belgium seemed a nice one, but the black/white deck he found himself with at the end of the draft did not seem abundantly powerful. For Marcello Calvetto, a Blue/Green concoction sporting a Mindshrieker and some Forbidden Alchemy seemed potentially powerful, though it was rather heavy on the three drop.

    Raphael Levy had a difficult decision around a rare in pack three. Already firmly in Red Blue, and quite aggressive, he had to choose between Silver-Inlaid Dagger and Balefire Dragon. The rare is a lot slower and more expensive than the dagger, and with many good humans to give the dagger, it was a tough choice for him. He picked the rare, but this remained the pick he was least sure about in the whole draft.

    Samuele Estratti's deck looked... a little complicated. An esper deck that for a long time in deck construction had three copies of Curse of the Bloody Tome in the mix, it was the one I was least able to get a firm grasp on while watching the draft pan out. I am, it must be said though, not a Pro Tour champion, so I could have been missing something.

    Jorg Unfried was more to the point, and he certainly had some power. With Angelic Overseer and Elder of Laurels among others, his deck certainly had some power to work with.

    Finally we have David Vergoni. His deck was more notable for its ticks than its creatures. Triple Spidery Grasp, plus some Travel Preparations could lead to difficult board states to deal with, perhaps making his deck a dark horse for the final three rounds of competition.

     
  • Top 8 - Player Profiles

    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Name: Alexandru-Nicolae Dimitriu
    Nickname: Dimi
    Hometown: Ploieti, Romania
    Age: 24
    Occupation: Student / software engineer

    Previous Magic achievements:
    PT Paris 2011 & PT Philadelphia attendance

    What colors did you play in Sealed Deck? What was your score?
    W/U/b, 9-1

    What colors did you play in the first draft? What was your score?
    W/U, 2-1

    What colors did you play in the second draft? What was your score?
    U/B/r, 3-0

    What is your favorite color combination in this format? What is your favorite tribe?
    U/B control; Humans

    What is the highest number of times you transformed any one card in a game this weekend?
    Once

    Name: Marco Ricci
    Hometown: Pescara, Italy
    Age: 23
    Occupation: Student

    Previous Magic achievements:
    I have beaten Pierluigi Aceto in a Prerelease. Once.

    What colors did you play in Sealed Deck? What was your score?
    W/U/B, 8-2

    What colors did you play in the first draft? What was your score?
    B/G Morbid with red splash, 3-0

    What colors did you play in the second draft? What was your score?
    U/R flashback, 3-0

    What is your favorite color combination in this format? What is your favorite tribe?
    U/R flashback; Homunculus

    What is the highest number of times you transformed any one card in a game this weekend?
    Three times

    Name: Marcello Calvetto
    Nickname: Bomb
    Hometown: Ivrea, Italy
    Age: 19
    Occupation: Students

    Previous Magic achievements:
    Three GP Top 8s, 4th at Italian Nationals 2009, 1st at Italian Nationals 2011

    What colors did you play in Sealed Deck? What was your score?
    W/U, 9-1

    What colors did you play in the first draft? What was your score?
    R/W, 3-0

    What colors did you play in the second draft? What was your score?
    W/U, 1-0-2

    What is your favorite color combination in this format? What is your favorite tribe?
    G/W bombs; Devils

    What is the highest number of times you transformed any one card in a game this weekend?
    Once

    Name: Michael Milis
    Hometown: Tienen, Belgium
    Age: 28
    Occupation: Company owner

    Previous Magic achievements:
    9th at Nationals

    What colors did you play in Sealed Deck? What was your score?
    W/U/r, 10-0

    What colors did you play in the first draft? What was your score?
    W/B, 2-1

    What colors did you play in the second draft? What was your score?
    R/G, 1-0-2

    What is your favorite color combination in this format? What is your favorite tribe?
    Mono-white; Humans

    What is the highest number of times you transformed any one card in a game this weekend?
    Twice

    Name: Raphael Lévy
    Nickname: @hahamoud
    Hometown: Toulouse, France
    Age: 30
    Occupation: Freelance consultant

    Previous Magic achievements:
    Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame

    What colors did you play in Sealed Deck? What was your score?
    W/U, 9-1

    What colors did you play in the first draft? What was your score?
    U/B/r, 3-0

    What colors did you play in the second draft? What was your score?
    U/B, 1-0-2

    What is your favorite color combination in this format? What is your favorite tribe?
    U/B; Human and Zombie

    Name: Jörg Unfried
    Nickname: Jundfried
    Hometown: Algishofen, Germany
    Age: 31
    Occupation: Lumberjack

    Previous Magic achievements:
    Two times National team

    What colors did you play in Sealed Deck? What was your score?
    R/W, 8-2

    What colors did you play in the first draft? What was your score?
    G/W, 3-0

    What colors did you play in the second draft? What was your score?
    B/G, 2-0-1

    What is your favorite color combination in this format? What is your favorite tribe?
    No preferences

    What is the highest number of times you transformed any one card in a game this weekend?
    Six times!

    Name: Samuele Estratti
    Nickname: Sam
    Hometown: Pistoia, Italy
    Age: 25
    Occupation: Student

    Previous Magic achievements:
    Top 4 at Nationals 2008 and 2009, PT Philadelphia winner

    What colors did you play in Sealed Deck? What was your score?
    U/B/R/W, 8-2

    What colors did you play in the first draft? What was your score?
    B/R/G, 3-0

    What colors did you play in the second draft? What was your score?
    W/B, 2-0-1

    What is your favorite color combination in this format? What is your favorite tribe?
    U/x; Zombies

    What is the highest number of times you transformed any one card in a game this weekend?
    Five times

    Name: Davide Vergoni
    Nickname: Verga
    Hometown: Perugia, Italy
    Age: 26
    Occupation: Student

    Previous Magic achievements:
    Some GP Day 2s and PTQ Top 8s

    What colors did you play in Sealed Deck? What was your score?
    B/G, splashing red for Wrath

    What colors did you play in the first draft? What was your score?
    G/W/b, 3-0

    What colors did you play in the second draft? What was your score?
    U/B, 2-0-1

    What is your favorite color combination in this format? What is your favorite tribe?
    W/U and G/W; 100% Humans

    What is the highest number of times you transformed any one card in a game this weekend?
    1478036 times, I mean ... really dunno.



     
  • Top 8 - Decklists

    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Alexandru-Nicolae Dimitriu, Top 8 Draft
    Grand Prix Milan 2011





    Marcello Calvetto, Top 8 Draft
    Grand Prix Milan 2011













     
  • Quarterfinal - Samuele Estratti vs. Michael Milis

    by Rich Hagon
  • Philadelphia, USA. 2011. Pro Tour. Winner: Samuele Estratti.

    Milan, Italy. 2011. Grand Prix. Winner: Samuele Estratti???

    Standing in the path of a historic double is the Belgian player Michael Milis. That much is certain. It's also possible that standing in the way is Estratti's own deck. It's certainly among the more interesting concoctions we've seen this weekend, featuring no fewer than three copies of Curse of the Bloody Tome. Maybe Milis is going to die while he doesn't die at all...

    Game One

    Milis began the match with a Swamp, while Estratti had the excellent turn one of Typhoid Rats, the 1/1 Deathtouch. Plains were added on both sides, before Village Cannibals arrived for Milis. Right on schedule on turn three, Estratti cast Curse of the Bloody Tome, and the milling commenced. Abattoir Ghoul was next for Milis, which promptly found Sensory Deprivation making it no threat at all.

    Estratti landed Screeching Bat, which could be an offensive threat, but was just as likely to be buying himself additional turns to mill Milis out. Bonds of Faith put a kink in that plan, with Milis having lost six cards so far to the blue Curse.

    After a spot of judicious trading, Morkrut Banshee gave the Screeching Bat -4-4, leaving the board clear on Estratti's side. He cast Traveler's Amulet, but had nothing more meaningful. In came the Banshee, with Estratti ready with Rebuke. How dare the 4/4 attack?!?

    Moan of the Unhallowed netted the Italian a pair of 2/2 Zombies, while the Curse continued to do its cursely (new word) work.

    Milis cast Vampire Interloper, but was down to 13, Geistcatcher's Rig immediately killing the Interloper for a nice play for Estratti. The Pro Tour Champion smashed for 8 damage, putting Milis to just five, and moments later it was 1-0 to the Italian.

    Samuele Estratti 1 - 0 Michael Milis

    Michael Milis

    Game Two

    Although the players would see their opponent's decklists once we reached the semi finals (to avoid an unfair advantage to whichever quarter finalists finished first), at this stage there was no such blanket information, and Curse of the Bloody Tome had allowed Estratti to cover his scorepad in notes about Milis' deck.

    The Belgian led off the second game of a possible three with the marginally good news that Estratti had taken a mulligan to six.

    Traveler's Amulet was the first play for Estratti, while a turn two Doomed Traveler from Milis indicated what he had just drawn. The Traveler's Amulet found Estratti an Island, and we were back to Milis, who dealt the first damage with Doomed Traveler. He must have been hoping that he wasn't a Doomed Traveler himself when Estratti once again landed Curse of the Bloody Tome - well, he did have three of them...

    Thraben Sentry joined the board for Milis, Estratti casting and using a second Traveler's Amulet, once again finding blue mana, white and black already being available. Dead Weight completed the Italian's turn, killing the Thraben Sentry before it could become Thraben Militia. Morkrut Banshee appeared for Milis, with no Morbid bonus.

    Estratti cast Sensory Deprivation, once again massively neutering the threat, and Curse of the Bloody Tome went about its business.

    Screeching Bat was next for the Italian, who found it exiled, at least temporarily, when Milis cast Fiend Hunter. Stitcher's Apprentice was Estratti's choice to replace the powerful 2/2 transform creature, before Milis attempted to apply more pressure in the red zone. Fiend Hunter, Doomed Traveler both attacked, the Doom Traveler getting a 1/1 Spirit, and Milis' freshly-laid Thraben Sentry instantly becoming the

    5/4 Trampling Thraben Militia. Estratti's answer? Geistcatcher's Rig, killing the Spirit token and potentially providing an excellent foil for the Thraben Militia. Potentially, because Milis had Bonds of Faith at the ready. In came the team, Milis casting Moment of Heroism to swing the combat his way.

    Samuele Estratti

    Makeshift Mauler arrived for Estratti, who was happy to trade it with the Militia the following turn. Brain Weevil joined the Milis side of the battlefield, while the lowly Typhoid Rats was next for Estratti.

    Still Milis continued to pile in, and still Curse of the Bloody Tome continued to destroy Milis' library, which currently stood at ten cards. Estratti, meanwhile, was down to four life. He cast Armored Skaab, which sent Moan of the Unhallowed from the library into his graveyard. Milis checked the Flashback cost as being seven, one away for Estratti, and proceeded to mill two more cards during his upkeep.

    Now he had seven cards left. Brain Weevil met Typhoid Rats in battle, and then Estratti delivered his finishing stroke - Dream Twist. Three mana was enough to cast it and use Flashback, sending six more cards to the graveyard, and ensuring Milis would die to milling on his next draw step.

    Samuele Estratti 2 - 0 Michael Milis

    Game Three

    Within moments of his defeat, Milis was explaining why one of the leading names in Belgian Magic, Mark Dictus, had failed to make the trip to Milan. In recent years, Dictus has been a fixture on the European GP circuit, making the top 8 at GP Brighton in 2009, and always at the forefront of the Belgian community. Apparently it takes surgery to make Dictus miss a European GP, and it was typical of the way Milis, and the other Belgians, play the game that his first thought after the match was to pass on messages of goodwill towards Dictus.

    On behalf of all of us who enjoy his company at Magic events around the globe, get well soon Mark, and we'll look forward to seeing you in the feature match area again very soon.

     
  • Quarterfinal: Unleash the Rage - Raphael Levy vs. Alexandru Dimitriu

    by Tim Willoughby
  • "It has really been 3 years since my last GP top 8?" Hall of Famer Raphael Levy seemed a little stunned as he waited to hear the official top 8 announcement. A quick internet search confirmed this to be the case. Miraculously, in spite of having made far more top 8's in limited events, Raph's three GP wins all come in constructed. This is something he hoped to change over the next three rounds.

    While in the swiss portion of the event, Levy had drafted blue/black, an archetype championed by Martin Juza as the best plan for the format, in the final draft of the day he found himself red/blue and quite aggressive. His opponent, Alexandru Dimitriu of Romania, was a slightly slower green/black build, with plenty of power, topping out at Liliana of the Veil – the first pick that had sent him firmly into black as a colour.

    Game One

    Dimitriu was on the play, but it was Raph who started things out, first with a Delver of Secrets, and then with a Village Ironsmith. The green/black control deck of Dimitriu was slower, but managed to put the breaks on Levy's start with a Grave Bramble. Levy had a little chuckle. He didn't have a play for the turn, and when an Abattoir Ghoul came out, things looked even worse for the Frenchman.

    Levy had to do something to keep his aggression up, as green black seemed likely to be able to power out sizeable threats given appropriate time. He used a Brimstone Volley on Abbatoir Ghoul, and then combined an Ironfang attack with Geistflame to take down Grave Bramble.

    Onto an empty board Dimitriu played Hollowhenge Scavenger. That would hold off the ground pounders, but do little against a freshly cast Murder of Crows from Levy. A Lumberknot was the play from Dimitriu. If Levy was going to filter through his deck every time a creature died, Dimitriu was going to get a hefty monster.

    Levy was not about to let his creatures die yet though. He attacked in the air unimpeded with his crows, and then cast a Moon Heron, continuing his bird themed beatdown plan. Dimitriu cast an Ulvenwald Mystics, which flipped at the first opportunity when Raph simply attacked with his flyers and passed. Dimitriu was on just 8 to Levy's 20, and the Frenchman did not seem worried. He had 7 points of damage in play and a Geistflame in the graveyard. The Geistflame took Dimitriu to seven, but a Victim of Night on Murder of Crows bought Dimitriu a little more time.

    Levy could have drawn a spell on any turn after turn one and his Delver of Secrets would have flipped to give him the game. The spell did not come though, and Levy was forced to sweat it out, attacking with Moon Heron to gradually whittle his opponent down. The whittling worked though, and Levy took game one.

    Raphael Levy 1 – 0 Alexandru Dimitriu

    Alexandru Dimitriu

    Game Two

    Dimitriu chose to go first in game two, and this time he had a one drop in the form of Typhoid Rats. He followed up with Walking Corpse, very much the beatdown for game two. At the end of Dimitriu's second turn, Raph used Think Twice, setting up for a Lantern Spirit on turn three. Dimitriu was stuck on two lands, but had more to fight with, having an end of turn Ambush Viper that Levy seemed fine with trading with.

    After a little thought on his turn, Levy cast a Galvanic Juggernaut. It seemed a risky proposition in the face of Typhoid Rats, that could easily trade with it. Dimitriu, meanwhile had found his third land, and then cast Caravan Vigil to bring it up to four.

    Levy cast a Murder of Crows before attacking with Galvanic Juggernaut. Now if the rats blocked he'd get to draw and discard twice. The rats did there part, and then Levy did his. He had to think pretty hard about what to discard.

    "I only have good things!" he lamented, discarding a Moon Heron, before drawing for a second time, this time discarding Island.

    A Lumberknot from Dimitriu would need some time to become large, while Murder of Crows was big enough to put a dent in Dimitriu's life total from the very beginning. It swung in, beginning to make up for the early beatdown Dimitriu had achieved. The Romanian was still able to attack Levy to eight, and when he tried to keep the pressure up with an Abattoir Ghoul, he was thwarted by a Lost in the Mist which also bounced his 2/2 zombie.

    Raph tried for the deathblow, in casting Balefire Dragon, but it was swiftly despatched by a Victim of the Night. He was on 6 to his opponent's 12, and had to content himself with getting stuck in for just four before casting an Invisible Stalker. The life totals were 6 to 8. This would be close.

    Dimitriu rumbled in for four, and Levy did not block with his Invisible Stalker. A Spidery Grasp was just enough to get the Hall of Famer, and forced a deciding third game. A small, but enthusiastic, Romanian crowd went wild.

    Raphael Levy 1 – 1 Alexandru Dimitriu

    Raphael Levy

    Game Three

    Levy was on the play for the rubber game, and looked around to see that his was the last quarterfinal going. While his games had been fairly fast, it seemed that everyone else's had been even faster.

    There was a small raise of the eyebrows from Levy as he drew his opening hand. This was a keeper. He didn't have a creature for the first couple of turns, but did have a Think Twice ready for the end of Dimitriu's second turn, which had only seen a Cobbled Wings. Dimitriu had a Grave Bramble but no offence, while Raph seemed content to flash back his Think Twice and see what his opponent could bring.

    An Abattoir Ghoul gave Levy pause. He killed it at the end of turn with Brimstone Volley, and continued to pass on his own turn, potentially representing countermagic. A second Grave Bramble was not about to be stopped by Levy, who simply had more copies of Think Twice to cast, and then flash back. Levy's first creature of the game was a Rage Thrower, and while he was tapped out Dimitriu cast both a Darkthicket Wolf and a Caravan Vigil.

    Raph paused for thought. He cast a Sellhof Occultist and passed, with two islands and a mountain untapped. Dimitriu gave his wolf Cobbled Wings and swung in for four. At end of turn Levy cast a Cackling Counterpart to make a copy of his Rage Thrower. He then cast Balefire Dragon, and while it died immediately to Victim of the Night, at least those Rage Throwers got to avenge it in part, to the tune of four damage. Levy took four from that flying wolf again, but made sure that would be the last time, casting Into the Maw of Hell on the wolf, and blowing up a Swamp into the bargain. Dimitriu took 4 from Rage Throwers, and then took another 4 when his walls blocked and killed Sellhoff Occultist. Levy cast Delver of Secrets and passed. Ulvenwald Mystics came from Dimitriu, who couldn't have been happy to see the Delver flip at the first opportunity. It swung in, and while it was blocked, in dying, it still dealt 4 to Dimitriu via Rage Thrower.

    Raph had four points of damage left to deal, and he wasn't about to go to the red zone to do it. He cast Village Blacksmith, and immediately killed it with his own Geistflame to secure the remaining points he needed to make the semi-finals.

    Raphael Levy wins 2-1, advancing to the semi-finals!

     
  • Semifinal - Samuele Estratti vs. Raphael Levy

    by Rich Hagon
  • Now this is a clash to get excited about. In one corner, a Frenchman with a gargantuan history in the game. A Hall of Fame ring. Multiple Grand Prix titles spanning the globe. Three Pro Tour top 8s. In the other, the reigning Pro Tour Champion, on home soil, looking to keep the title right here.

    Game One

    After a mulligan for Estratti, Levy began with an Island, adding a Mountain on turn two. The first play of the game also belonged to the Frenchman, but not until turn four, a Galvanic Juggernaut. Bonds of Faith prevented a stern kicking from the Juggernaut, Levy 'replacing' the Juggernaut with Moon Heron, the 3/2 flyer. Moan of the Unhallowed created two 2/2 Zombies for Estratti, with Lev ending the turn with Think Twice.

    Raphael Levy

    Delver of Secrets was next for the Frenchman, whose Moon Heron inflicted the first damage of the match. Estratti's Zombies attacked, before Sever the Bloodline offed the flyer. Levy turned his Delver of Secrets into Insectile Aberration when he revealed Into the Maw of Hell in his upkeep, following it with Balefire Dragon. Rebuke looked to kill the Dragon, Levy ready with Cackling Counterpart to at least get some value from his big flyer.

    Estratti cast and used Traveler's Amulet, still facing a ton of trouble. Sensory Deprivation would help a little, but this was a far cry from the quarter final when Estratti had remained firmly in control. One more turn, and Levy was ahead.

    Samuele Estratti 0 - 1 Raphael Levy

    Game Two

    Levy began game two, Estratti opting for the extra card. Village Ironsmith opened for Levy, which quickly transformed into Ironfang.

    Curse of the Bloody Tome met Dissipate, and already Levy was in the driving seat. Selhoff Occultist was next for Levy, while Estratti used Moan of the Unhallowed to generate some much-needed board presence.

    Ironfang attacked again for a further three damage, sending Estratti spiralling down to 11.

    The Italian finally made a solid contribution to the battlefield with Murder of Crows, and it lived for less time than it took to type, Into the Maw of Hell taking out both the creature and an Island. Estratti cast Makeshift Mauler, trying to establish himself in this must-win game two. Dream Twist milled Levy for three, whose Ironfang was back to the much more manageable Village Ironsmith. A second Village Ironsmith joined his colleague. Harvest Pyre for six took out the Makeshift Mauler, with Levy intriguingly choosing himself for the mill effect from Selhoff Occultist.

    Estratti gets to the point

    Stromkirk Patrol from Estratti met Lost in the Mist, a massive strike against the Pro Tour Champion. Stormgeist arrived as a 3/3, but Levy once again had his transformers primed as Ironfang, and they had First Strike. The Frenchman attacked relentlessly, dropping Estratti to just three life. Geistflame finished off the Stormgeist which had taken two from Levy's Selhoff Occultist, and it looked like we were nearly done.

    Sensory Deprivation effectively neutered one Ironfang, Estratti adding the 1/4 Armored Skaab to the board. Think Twice from Levy led to a second helping, and then Delver of Secrets. You don't become Pro Tour Champion by lying down, and Estratti continued his rearguard action.

    Claustrophobia dealt with Delver of Secrets, but Levy was ready with another, and a Balefire Dragon to go with it. Dead Weight was never going to be enough, and the Balefire Dragon crashed in for the win.

    Samuele Estratti 0 - 2 Raphael Levy

     
  • Semifinal: Marco Ricci vs. Davide Vergoni

    by Tobi Henke
  • The all-Italian semifinal ensured that at least one finalist would be playing on home turf, battling to keep the trophy and title within the country. Both players had drafted base-G/W decks. Marco Ricci used his to dispatch fellow Italian Marcello Calvetto in the quarters, while Davide Vergoni's beat Förg Unfried.

    Game One

    Ricci had to take two mulligans, while Vergoni was happy with his six-card hand. Ricci summoned Champion of the Parish as his first spell, albeit rather late: on turn four. Meanwhile, Vergoni had cast Midnight Haunting, and now added Thraben Sentry to his side of the board. At end of turn, Ricci summoned Village Bell-Ringer and put a counter on his Champion of the Parish. He followed it up with Mausoleum Guard.

    Vergoni attacked with one of his Spirit tokens and kept back the other as well as Thraben Sentry on defense. Ricci was missing a Forest, but that didn't stop him. He cast Doomed Traveler and Unruly Mob, so now Vergoni was faced with a 5/5 Champion of the Parish. Still, Ricci was wary of some trick and, since he already had Gavony Township, preferred to wait. He only attacked with Mausoleum Guard, which was chump-blocked by a Spirit token, transforming Vergoni's Thraben Sentry.

    Avacynian Priest for Vergoni looked rather disappointing in the face of Ricci's all-Human draw. Ricci was done waiting and decided to attack with his Champion of the Parish. He promptly lost it to Spidery Grasp. Ricci summoned Chapel Geist and passed the turn.

    Geistcatcher's Rig took down Chapel Geist and it seemed as if the game was turning in Vergoni's favor. But now, finally, Ricci topdecked a Forest and Gavony Township began to work its magic. Three turns later even Thraben Militia could only trade against Doomed Traveler. Clearly an unfair fight.

    Marco Ricci 1 – 0 Davide Vergoni

    Marco Ricci

    Game Two

    Both players started with Forest on their first turn, but Vergoni had Avacyn's Pilgrim to go along with it, casting Thraben Sentry on turn three. Meanwhile, Ricci once again had Champion of the Parish, and followed it up with Hamlet Captain.

    Ricci was contend to sit and wait and grow his Champion. He cast Mausoleum Guard, and passed the turn back to Vergoni, who cast Midnight Haunting and then, on his turn, Ulvenwald Mystics.

    Ricci attacked with Champion of the Parish (3/3) and Mausoleum Guard. Fearing a trick, Vergoni just chump-blocked with Avacyn's Pilgrim to transform his Thraben Sentry.

    Vergoni's (newly transformed) Ulvenwald Primordials attacked along with his two Spirits, and Ricci had Village Bell-Ringer, which allowed him to put another +1/+1 counter on Champion of the Parish and to block Ulvenwald Primordials with his Mausoleum Guard, netting him two Spirit tokens of his own.

    Ricci attacked with Hamlet Captain, Champion of the Parish (permanently 4/4, temporarily 5/5 thanks to Hamlet Captain) and his fliers. Now it was Vergoni's turn to untap a creature for a surprise block: he cast Spidery Grasp on his Ulvenwald Primordials and blocked Champion of the Parish dead for good.

    After this exchange, Ricci was out of gas, and Ulvenwald Primordials finished the game in short order.

    Marco Ricci 1 – 1 Davide Vergoni

    Davide Vergoni

    Game Three

    Ricci began with Silver-Inlaid Dagger, Mask of Avacyn, and Village Bell-Ringer. But when he used Mask of Avacyn to boost it up to 2/7 Vergoni had his own Village Bell-Ringer. Vergoni summoned Thraben Sentry, Ricci equipped his Bell-Ringer with Silver-Inlaid Dagger as well (now 5/7) and attacked. Vergoni used Travel Preparations to turn his Village Bell-Ringer and Thraben Sentry into 3/6 and 4/4 creatures, respectively. When he wanted to attack though, Ricci tapped both of them with Feeling of Dread.

    On his turn, he came over for another 5 points of damage, then cast Unruly Mob and equipped that with Silver-Inlaid Dagger. Vergoni attacked with both of his creatures, and when the 4/1 Unruly Mob blocked the 4/4 Thraben Sentry, used Ranger's Guile to save his creature.

    Ricci played Gavony Township and Mausoleum Guard, and equipped the latter with Silver-Inlaid Dagger. For the time being, neither player seemed interested to get any more attacks in. Vergoni deployed Grizzled Outcats, Ricci cast Avacyn's Pilgrim.

    Vergoni attacked and with the help of Spidery Grasp managed to kill Ricci's Mausoleum Guard without losing any of his creatures. Another Spidery Grasp from Vergoni took out one of the freshly-created Spirit tokens and his Geistcatcher's Rig took care of the other. Post-combat Ricci summoned Angelic Overseer.

    Being at 10 life, this put the clock on Vergoni: if he ever stopped to put pressure on his opponent, the Angel would simply kill him. But for now, Ricci needed it as a blocker. Vergoni smashed in with all of his creatures again and was able to keep all of them thanks to Spidery Grasp number three. Angelic Overseer got its first +1/+1 counter from Gavony Township.

    Vergoni's next attack (with 3/6 Village Bell-Ringer, 4/4 Thraben Sentry, 7/7 Krallenhorde Wantons, and Geistcatcher's Rig) was nearly enough to kill Ricci. Vergoni had nothing to turn "nearly" into "surely", though, and Angelic Overseer received a second +1/+1 counter. On Ricci's turn, the Angel picked up Silver-Inlaid Dagger and Mask of Avacyn and flew to victory.

    Marco Ricci defeated Davide Vergoni 2-1 and advanced to the final, where he would meet Raphael Levy.

     
  • Final: When Townsfolk Attack - Raphael Levy vs. Marco Ricci

    by Tim Willoughby
  • Before the finals began, Raph Levy was pacing around the feature match area like a prize fighter. His semifinal match had finished fast, and he was clearly hungry for the opportunity to play more with his aggressive red/blue deck, and fight for his fourth Grand Prix title.

    Marco Ricci's match had been a more drawn out affair, meaning that he was perhaps not quite as well rested as Levy prior to this finals match. He could also realistically not have been as used to the atmosphere of playing in the deciding match of a Grand Prix. While Ricci hails from Italy and could be called the local boy, in the feature match area he was playing in Hall of Famer Raphael Levy's house. He would have to hope that his green/white (splash red) tokens deck would have what it takes to bring home the trophy.

    Ricci won the die roll, and elected to play first. He had a mulligan, but in his six there was Avacyn's Pilgrim, to help the Italian to accelerate out something. Levy also had a one drop, in the form of Delver of Secrets. He looked on as an Unruly Mob came from Ricci, and had no reply for his own turn two. Mausoleum Guard came down on Ricci's turn three, and when Gavony Township arrived on turn four, it allowed for some fairly devastating team-pumping.

    Raph was very much on the back foot, but retained a calm exterior, casting Silver-Inlaid Dagger and passing with two Islands and a Mountain up. He didn't have anything to stop himself taking some substantial beats from Ricci's team, and Ricci had little incentive to play more spells while Levy was representing countermagic.

    The first game was a short affair, in which Levy was never really able to compete. Ricci, took it down in a few short swings.

    Marco Ricci 1 – 0 Raphael Levy

    Raphael Levy

    Levy chose to play first in the second game. For the first game of the best of three match his deck had not really shown what it could do, and in the second he had to mulligan. That Ricci was also going down to six was some consolation, though he had got off to a flyer from six cards in game one...

    In the second game Ricci again had a one drop, but this time it was a Doomed Traveler. An Mask of Avacyn followed, while for Levy each turn was simply Mountain, go. On the third turn Levy had nothing, while Ricci showed a Village Bell-Ringer, and followed with a Chapel Geist that was swiftly despatched by a Brimstone Volley. On turn five Levy finally found an Island, but was already staring down that Gavony Township, presumably hoping that Ricci would not get to a Forest that would allow him to activate it

    Levy cast a Lantern Spirit, and had one leftover mana up to GeistflameDoomed Traveler in response to a Travel Preparations. The flashback soon came, making Ricci's team fairly hefty in spite of the only green mana available to the Italian coming from a Shimmering Grotto.

    Levy attacked with his 2/1 and cast both Delver of Secrets and Galvanic Juggernaut. An attack and a Rage Igniter came from Ricci. Levy had used a Rage Igniter of his own to good effect in the quarter-finals, and didn't seem too happy to see one on the other side of the board, even if it did mean that his opponent was out of cards in hand.

    Marco Ricci

    Levy had to attack with Galvanic Juggernaut, it was just a question if any of the rest of his team was coming in. He elected to also let the Lantern Spirit do some damage, making the life totals 11 each. With six lands, Gavony Township was now active, and Ricci thought a little about what to do for his turn. He elected to equip his Spirit token, making it a 3/4 and swung. He then moved Mask of Avacyn to Rage Thrower, before passing and watching Raph flash back Think Twice, looking for something to turn the game around. Raph attacked for two before bouncing and recasting his Lantern Spirit. An expensive form of vigilance, but in this case an effective one.

    Ricci played and used a Traveler's Amulet finding a Forest to play, meaning his Gavony Township was still active, and his deck was a little thinner. An attack from Rage Thrower, Village Bell-Ringer and the Spirit Token looked pretty strong, and would force a block from Levy. Given the amount of damage Rage Thrower represented from creatures dying, and the creatures themselves represented if left unblocked, Raph was in a very rough spot, and looked for a while for the best block, while counting up in French.

    Eventually he settled on blocking Village Bell-Ringer with Lantern Spirit and Rage Thrower with Delver of Secrets. The Sprite was bounced before damage, and Ricci used his Township. Raph ended the attack on just three life, and had to find something pretty amazing with a flashed back Think Twice. He didn't find what he needed, and had to extend his hand.

    As Ricci took it, he won the game, and the match, to be Grand Prix Milan 2011 Champion!

     
  • Top 5 Cards of Grand Prix Milan 2011

    by Tobi Henke
  • Grand Prix Milan 2011 is in the books, but the cards that defined the tournament will stay with us. Whenever there's Innistrad Sealed Deck or a Booster Draft going on, the lessons learned this weekend will be worthwile to keep in mind. Milan was the first premiere event to showcase Innistrad, many others will follow. These are some of the key cards that shaped the tournament:

    Shimmering Grotto

    The land appeared on a number of pros' lists of most important commons. And for good reason: between off-color flashback costs and removal spells with low color requirements, most people like to splash. More so in Sealed than in Draft, but the card made it into three of the Top 8 draft decks as well.



    Burning Vengeance

    Among a number of build-around-me cards, Burning Vengeance proved to be the one with the most devastating effect. Point in case: on his way to the Top 8, eventual champion Marco Ricci used it as the centerpiece of a draft deck with which he went 3-0. Even relatively harmless flashback spells, like Feeling of Dread or Nightbird's Clutches, become very good cards, if only you have enough copies of Burning Vengeance. (The highest number we ever saw on the battlefield at any one time was three.)



    Travel Preparations

    Two-drop, three-drop, and on turn four Travel Preparations and Travel Preparations flashback ... Many a game this weekend was quickly lost to this start. One of the fans of the aggressive green-white archetype is road warrior Shuhei Nakamura. He's done his travel preparations.



    Villagers of Estwald // Howlpack of Estwald

    The most basic of all the Werewolves appears on this list as a testament to the importance of double-faced cards in general. The flavorful representation of familiar horror tropes just works so much better on two sides than on one. Also, transforming Werewolves adds an interesting strategic element to games via spellcount.



    Gavony Township

    +1/+1 on all of your creatures? How about +2/+2 or +3/+3? Admittedly, it takes some time and mana, but if you have enough of both and at least some creatures, Gavony Township will turn even the lowliest Human or Spirit token into a powerful fighter on par with the largest monster. As witnessed in the Top 8: the card was instrumental in getting Marco Ricci to the finals and then helped him to clinch victory.

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