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The Professor's Field Journal

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Experience the draft from the perspective of pro player Craig Jones as he tries to draft, play, and write his way to the Top 8.



TABLE OF CONTENTS



  • 7:07 pm - Round 4 vs. Platzer/Mach


  • 5:30 pm - Round 3 vs. Sedik/Ornth


  • 3:18 pm - Deck Construction


  • 9:30 am - Player Registration, Party and Gunslinging


  • BLOG



     
  • Saturday, Mar 10: 9:30 a.m. - Player Registration, Party and Gunslinging


  • Welcome to the first European Grand Prix of 2007. This one is a bit special as it's been ten years since the first ever European Grand Prix. That tournament was held in Amsterdam all those years ago and we return to the vibrant Dutch capital for a watermark in Magic history.

    To mark this special occasion WotC have thrown a bit of a party for the players. Normally, while players can register at the venue the day before the tournament starts, the rest of the venue is kept off limits while the staff set it up. This tournament there's all kinds of stuff going on including music, free beer, a talk show with BDM, free beer and gunslinging against a veritable rogue's gallery of past Grand Prix winners. Oh, and free beer.

    I decided to head out a day early and arrived here in Amsterdam late on Thursday night. I'm staying with a group of friends who've rented out an apartment for a few days. The first thing I have to say to all the Dutch readers: what's with the stairs in your houses? I need pitons and mountaineering ropes just to get to my room. I suppose it's good exercise. Either that or my knees are going to give out half way through Saturday.

    Anyway, I arrived at the venue at just after four. There was a fairly large queue but as a former Grand Prix winner I got the VIP pass, which also included free entry. Nice!

    One of the cool things is that the floor has been decorated with gold stars, each bearing the name of a former winner. Unfortunately my win was so far back in the mists of time that it doesn't even show up in the past event coverage. No star for me, sob.

    Upstairs and it was time to join the rogue's gallery and take on all comers for gunslinging. About this time I realized I'd rather foolishly left all my constructed decks back at the apartment. Fortunately this didn't matter as they were also running a special promotion. For 5€ players could buy a sealed deck set of a starter and two boosters (one Time Spiral, one Planar Chaos) and then take on the past winners. If you beat a former winner you got to enter a raffle. I'm not exactly sure of the prizes but I have heard mention of beta boosters, which is something to get excited about.

    My sealed pool looked fairly strong. I had a nice shiny foil Akroma, Angel of Wrath and also had Firemaw Kavu with a bunch of nasty tricks including Momentary Blink and Tolarian Sentinel (thanks for that one Sam).

    Amiel Tenenbaum wanted to take me on, but couldn't be bothered to build a deck and instead shuffled his entire pool together. Geoffrey Siron wanted to challenge me with the cards I'd left in my sideboard. No respect I tell you. Absolutely no respect.

    Turned out they were probably right as I haemorrhaged raffle tickets over the next few hours mainly because I couldn't draw good hands for toffee.

    Oh well, all in a good cause and at least I get all of my bad draws out of the way before the tournament starts (if only basic probability worked that way).

    And I got a shiny Akroma. And free beers. Ahhhhh….

    Join me tomorrow for the main event. Thing is this is two-headed giant, a format that can go very long so I'm not sure how much time I'll have between rounds to keep things updated. It should be a lot of fun anyway, which is exactly what you want from an event to mark ten years of Grand Prix in Europe.



     
  • Saturday, Mar 10: 3:18 p.m. - Deck Construction


  • GP Amsterdam is a celebration of ten years of European Grand Prix so it was kind of ironic that it's also started off in homage to those dark old days of GP's when we didn't actually get to play the first round until one in the afternoon. To be fair these problems are kind of inevitable when you're dealing with a new format and have over 1300 players to organize. The superstitious amongst us might also want to crawl under the nearest hard surface and pull a duvet over their heads. Yes there are exactly 666 teams. I can hear whirling Iron Maiden guitars in my head. I imagine the tune will later change to "Two Minutes to Midnight" when we finally crawl to the ninth round.

    So it's deck construction time when everyone prays for Jedit, Dragons and Pyrohemia. I'm relying on my lucky charm Keith Spragg to cancel out my natural suckiness at getting sealed pools (Although I have to be careful, Pierre Canali is muttering something about Malmo and Glare of Subdual).

    Anyway, this was our pool:

    Card Pool
    Land
    1 Forest (foil)
    1 Calciform Pools

    Artifact
    1 Feldon's Cane
    1 Lotus Bloom
    1 Paradise Plume
    1 Serrated Arrows

    Gold
    1 Nicol Bolos

    White
    2 Poultice Sliver
    1 Sinew Sliver
    1 Whitemane Lion
    1 Flickering Spirit
    1 Castle Raptors
    1 Pentarch Paladin
    1 Children of Korlis
    1 Plated Pegasus
    1 Outrider en-Kor
    1 Aven Riftwatcher
    1 Pentarch Ward
    2 Ivory Giant

    Blue
    1 Frozen AEther
    1 Riptide Pilferer
    1 Timebender
    1 Spellshift
    1 Paradox Haze
    1 Ophidian Eye
    1 Drifter il-Dal
    1 Reality Acid
    1 Magus of the Bazaar
    1 Coral Trickster
    1 Dream Stalker
    1 Fool's Demise
    1 Wistful Thinking
    1 Aquamorph Entity
    1 Snapback
    2 Gossamer Phantasm
    1 Shadow Sliver
    1 Viscerid Deepwalker
    1 Dismal Failure
    1 Dreamscape Artist
    1 Errant Ephemeron
    1 Mystical Teachings
    1 Pongify
    1 Riftwing Cloudskate
    1 Serendib Sorceror
    1 Shaper Parasite
    1 Slipstream Serpent
    1 Telekinetic Sliver

    Black
    1 Waning Wurm
    2 Dash Hopes
    1 Circle of Affliction
    1 Mindlash Sliver
    1 Sangrophage
    1 Brain Gorgers
    1 Deadly Grub
    1 Gorgon Recluse
    1 Vampiric Link
    1 Ridged Kusite
    1 Deathspore Thallid
    1 Midnight Charm
    1 Cradle to Grave
    1 Dark Withering
    1 Endrek Sahr
    1 Haunting Hymn
    1 Mindstab
    1 Twisted Abomination
    1 Viscid Lemures

    Red
    2 Simian Spirit Guide
    1 Lavacore Elemental
    1 Ground Rift
    1 Ghitu Firebreathing
    1 Undying Rage
    1 Keldon Halberdier
    1 Thick-Skinned Goblin
    1 Viashino Bladescout
    1 Subterranean Shambler
    1 Flowstone Channeler
    1 Rift Bolt
    1 Bonesplitter Sliver
    1 Battering Sliver
    2 Dead/Gone
    1 Grapeshot
    1 Prodigal Pyromancer

    Green
    1 Vitaspore Thallid
    1 Ashcoat Bear
    1 Molder
    1 Chameleon Blur
    1 Thrill of the Hunt
    1 Wild Pair
    1 Yavimaya Dryad
    1 Nantuko Shaman
    1 Thelonite Hermit
    1 Essence Warden
    2 Reflex Sliver
    1 Might Sliver
    1 Seal of Primordium
    2 Citanul Woodreaders
    1 Havenwood Wurm

    I'm a big fan of just going for total power in this format, although the life total change to 30 life has opened up the risk to being taken to pieces by a fast aggro start if you're not careful. This kind of makes me nervous, but for the moment I'm going to stick to the tried and trusted plan of card advantage and bombs.

    The first thing I do is look at the slivers and ditch them if nothing busted materializes. Playing a random Spinnaret Sliver can backfire horribly and give them a way to take down your entire flying force if you're not careful. On this occasion we opened both Muscle Sliver and Telekinetic so it's slivers ahoy. I imagine things could get tricky if we run into opponents with the same plan, but we've got a fairly good sliver squad so they get the nod.

    We have a dragon, but it's Nicol Bolas. On the one hand it's bigger than all the other dragons and immune to most of the removal, but on the other it's a nightmare to cast. I wanted to run him anyway but I think he'll prove to be a good test of how much the format has speeded up with the reduction in life totals.

    Our colour fixing is not the best, but as we have a Dreamscape Artist it makes sense to make one deck heavy blue with two other colours. As we also have Nicol Bolas then it makes sense for that deck to be blue-black-red.

    In fact the colour combinations are fairly easy to work out for this pool. Thrill of the Hunt is most effective in a green-white deck and we also have Wild Pair and Whitemane Lion that really want to team up together.

    The biggest problem was trying to make everything fit. As usual the two colour deck has a few filler cards while the three colour deck hovers around 30 playables. This took us a long time to sort out and in the end red got most of the chop. I was most unsure about leaving a Rift Bolt and Dead/Gone in the board. My reasoning was that I wanted to cut the red back to a small splash, although I appreciate this could be a mistake. The other risk was to shunt out a couple of the green-white filler cards to squeeze in the two red slivers. I can easily fetch them with Wild Pair if required, but I may end up feeling very silly if I get stuck on two plains and a mountain with the Pentarch Paladin in hand.

    Here are the decks.



    The A deck is creature heavy with a sliver theme. Whitemane Lion is ridiculous with Wild Pair as I can just fetch out most of the slivers in my deck. We put this deck in seat A as we want to be going first in this format and this deck is more robust to starting a card down.

    Keith gets the blue-black-red deck and his role will be to support my creatures and take care of theirs. One of the interesting decisions was to cut the Rift Bolt and a Dead/Gone (and consequentially the red requirements) in favour of the heavy discard spells Haunting Hymn and Mindstab. In theory discard is powerful as it lets you effectively take one player out of the game by ripping out their hand. Of course if the theory has changed and decks are more aggressive then we may be in trouble.

    Overall I think our decks are good but I think they might not be strong enough to manage the 5-2 record (we have two byes) or better required to make the cut to day two.



     
  • Saturday, Mar 10: 5:30 p.m. - Round 3 vs Sedik/Ornth


  • Yay, it's 5 o'clock and finally we get to play.

    Then we get beat, boo.

    I was very concerned whether I'd actually get time to do the player blog as Two-Headed Giant does have a habit of running to time (100+ games in the first two rounds according to Rich Hagon). This time we got bashed with twenty minutes remaining.

    Me (after making Essence Warden, Sinew Sliver and Poultice Sliver): 'Hmm, they've only made a Blood Knight, maybe they're sand bagging some mass…

    Them (after making just a single Blood Knight in the first three turns): 'Sulfurous Blast.'

    Still, it wasn't too bad. Keith was still able to fix his mana with Dreamscape Artist and Twisted Abomination and followed with Prodigal Pyromancer and Shaper Parasite. We were even able to kill a Torchling with red mana open. Keith threw a Cradle to Grave at it and I wasn't too displeased to see their freshly cast Saffi take that bullet. This tapped them out of red and Dark Withering finished the job.

    Unfortunately you may have noticed that I haven't mentioned much about what I was doing. This was because I was stuck on four land and a hand full of spells I couldn't cast, including two red monsters and the combo of Wild Pair and Whitemane Lion.

    In Two-Headed Giant you can't win when it's two heads against one.

    0-1, 0-1.



     
  • Saturday, Mar 10: 7:07 p.m. - Round 4 vs. Platzer/Mach


  • This one started really good. We managed to kill their Shaper Parasite before it unmorphed with Dead/Gone while our own was lying in wait. They seemed to start very slowly as the black/green deck made Gaea's Anthem, but no monsters. Meanwhile I got off to a flier as Reflex Sliver was followed by Might Sliver. Keith turned the screw with Serrated Arrows.

    They tried to switch off the Arrows and ended up with slightly wounded Voidstone Gargoyle in response. This set up a very good turn as we were able to unmorph Shaper Parasite to kill the Gargoyle, which switched the Serrated Arrows back on to kill a freshly summoned Viscid Lemures after combat.

    From here the game state started to unravel. An unsuspending Mindstab ripped out Keith's hand and Big Game Hunter took down our Might Sliver. I had Wild Pair in hand, but an awkward selection of monsters meant I couldn't find anything just yet.

    Meanwhile their board position was strengthening with Durkwood Baloth and Jodah's Avenger. I managed to draw the Whitemane Lion, but had only two sources of White mana.

    While fiddling with his hand an opponent accidentally revealed Sudden Spoiling. That was very generous of them as it probably would have wrecked us had I not known.

    It turned out not to matter, while we were able to draw it out by offering up a Shaper Parasite in a double block on the Baloth, the Jodah's Avenger was starting to take big chunks out of our life total. With less life to play with Keith was forced to Pongify the Avenger rather than a face down morph I was very afraid of.

    I finally got the Whitemane Lion going with Wild Pair to rip out every 2/2 sliver in the deck. My plan was to make the Battering Sliver in hand and then alpha strike with everything. It was a very risky play, but Keith had hit a glut of land and we were on a dangerously low five life and I was worried another trick would take the opportunity away from us.

    So all my assorted slivers charged madly across the red zone in an all or nothing attack. Unfortunately the morph was a Weathered Bodyguards. It took the thirty or so points of damage right on the chin and then they counter attacked for the win.

    Oh well. C'est la vie.

    I'm afraid we get a very short player blog this weekend.

    Thank god Yokohama is constructed.

    I'm off to drown my sorrows in Amsterdam's bars and will be back for PT Yokohama.

    0-1, 0-2 and a ghastly demise.


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