Saturday, November 19: 10:02 a.m. - The Replacement Reporter
Hello this is Craig Jones here. Do not adjust your mouse. There is nothing wrong with your Internet Browser. The original designated reporter, Rui Oliveira, was not able to make it this weekend (his remains are in an unmarked grave on the road to Santander, bwahahaha) and so I'll be taking control of this GP coverage.
My original plan was to play this Grand Prix. Recent successes on the Pro Tour had actually pushed my ranking high enough to give me three byes and Ryanair had a cheap flight (well to Santander anyway, which is sort of close if you consider a two hour coach ride close) and so I was all geared up to play my first Grand Prix in four years. I foolishly told everyone this plan and then just under two weeks ago I got the call up as Rui couldn't make it and they needed cover. So I'm afraid you readers out there will have to wait a little longer to see me tear up the Grand Prix fields like days of old (If you consider tearing up the field taking two early losses and then bitching about failing to make the cut on tiebreakers). Oh well, I'd have probably only gone X-0 on day one and failed to make top 8, … again.
On a serious note. The reason Rui isn't here is because his expectant wife had a scare. I'm sure you'll all join me in hoping it is nothing more than a scare and in sending out best wishes to Rui and his family.
(And Rui, if you're not here because you want to watch the Barca-Madrid match I will kick your ass from here to January).
Saturday, November 19: 11:17 a.m. - Late Start
A very long line of players.
I don't normally get to cover the Grand Prix around these parts. My only experience was playing at Grand Prix Porto a long long time ago. One of the features that characterize Grand Prix in both Spain and Portugal is the sheer level of support from the local player base. Over 480 players registered last night and as you can see from the picture there's a sizeable queue of players waiting to register this morning.
Even as I write this there are still players coming up to the scorekeeper's desk to try and register in time for the tournament. Magic is very healthy down in the Iberian Peninsula.
Saturday, November 19: 12:00 p.m. - 1200
The T-Rex Pit!
Well its 12:00 local time and they're just wrapping up the player's meeting.
As there's just under a thousand players here today the hall will be divided into half and the first day ran as two separate tournaments. The top 64 finishers from both "blue" and "green" will be combined at the end of the day and return to play tomorrow. This means we currently have two head judges and two scorekeepers.
The tournament is being held at the Bilbao Exhibition Centre, which despite looking like it's half-built from the outside, is suitably massive on the inside. We're in hall one and you could probably hide a jumbo jet in here. Standing up here makes me remember those massive caverns in computer games where you just know you're going to have to fight some massive boss at some point.
…and at 2pm we will be releasing two full-grown ravenous T. Rex on the unsuspecting players…
Saturday, November 19: 1:57 p.m. - Country Breakdown
Here's the combined Country Breakdown for day two. 730 is a very good showing from the host nation to further reinforce how popular Grand Prix are in this part of the world.
I must admit to some skepticism at the accuracy of these country codes. For instance, I'm fairly certain they are not 27 players here from Singapore.
Saturday, November 19: 4:04 p.m. - Local Names to watch (AKA the now cursed)
Roc Herms in action.
They thought they'd be safe. Craig Jones has never covered a Spanish Grand Prix. He won't know any of the names of the decent Spanish players. Ha, little did they know I've had some help from the local reporters (If you want to check out some alternate coverage in Spanish check this out) and so I can now give you the names to watch from the host nation.
Despite having a very large player base, Spain has yet to shine on the Pro Tour stage as brightly as other European Nations. This can be seen in the lists of lifetime Pro Points. The top 10 of that list combined would barely make dent in Kai Budde's total. On top of that the highest name on that list, Carlos Barrado, is currently serving out a two year ban.
Moving down that list we have Roc Herms and Omar Sagol in second and third place respectively. Herms has been playing a long time and chalked up a third place finish way back at Grand Prix Barcelona in 1999. Sagol is currently qualified for Worlds on ranking. Further down we have Alejandro Dominguez Ramos in 4th and Aniol Alcaraz in 6th. Dominguez Ramos top 8'ed Madrid 2000 while Alcaraz repeated the feat in the same city last year.
If we want to consider players in more recent form then there is Ricard Tudori's top 8 appearance at Nottingham a few months back. The current National team should also be considered as they'll be in action again in a couple of weeks time at Yokohama. Omar Rohner is the current National Champion and while I couldn't find 2nd and 3rd place finishers Raul Perez and Rual Mestre on the player list, 4th place finisher David Garcia Copete is playing today. Rounding out the Spanish delegation to Yokohama are ratings qualifiers Javier Dominguez and Juan Carlos Adebo Diaz (also a top 8'er from this year's nationals.
Undoubtably I've probably just cursed them, but these are some of the Spanish players to watch out for this weekend.
Saturday, November 19: 5:19 p.m. - Round 4: Julien Nuijten vs. Omar Rohner
World Champion Julien Nuijten
Round 4 and finally in come the three bye players. This looked to be a potentially interesting clash. Julien Nuijten is the World Champion (for a few more weeks at least) and has already racked up a win in this format after taking GP Copenhagen two weeks ago. His opponent, Omar Rohner, is the current Spanish National Champion.
Nuijten is playing virtually the same deck as Copenhagen, a Psychatog deck splashing green for Pernicious Deed and Life from the Loam. Rohner is piloting a more interesting Rock variant that splashes white for Loxodon Hierach and blue for Gifts Ungiven. The deck is not totally random as Gerado Godinez Estrada came within one match of top 8 with a similar deck at Los Angeles.
Nuijten led off with a tapped Watery Grave allowing Rohner to safely get off a Duress on his own turn with no fear of Force Spike. Nuijten revealed a tasty hand of Tog, Logic, Gifts, Deed and Life from the Loam. The Gifts went to the bin and the one weakness of the hand became apparent as his deck skipped third and fifth turn land drops.
Meanwhile Rohner kept hitting Nuijten's hand with a second and then a third Duress. Putrefy was on hand to answer a Psychatog and then Cabal Therapy defused Meloku before it could hit play. When Rohner sacrificed a Genesis to flashback the Therapy and rip two Pernicious Deed from Nuijten's hand that was pretty much it for the World Champion. He was left with a Life from the Loam he didn't have green mana to cast and facing down a Ravenous Baloth. Genesis came back and Nuijten picked up his cards.
This is irony, I think.
Rohner 1-0 Nuijten
Rohner mulliganed at the start of Game 2 and failed to lead off with any 1 mana hand destruction. In fact he failed to lead off with much of anything and didn't even cast a spell until a Loxodon Hierarch appeared on turn 4. Without facing any early pressure Nuijten was easily able to counter.
Nuijten's hand had completely failed to pan out again though. This time he'd drawn way too much land and not a lot else. His 'Tog fell to Smother and he had no counter-magic to stop Haunting Echoes ripping away all the remaining Psychatogs and Counterspells left in his deck.
The World Champion was in a bad way, but then managed to find one of his few remaining win condition as Meloku entered play. As win conditions go you can't really ask a lot better than Meloku. It was still fairly bad for the World Champion. Rohner cast Gifts Ungiven to fetch Witness, Deed, Living Wish and Putrefy, with the immediate removal spells going straight to the graveyard.
A Mana Leak was enough to tap out Rohner and allow a Force Spike to bite to fight off the first attempt to take down the powerful legend.
Rohner's second attempt was far more devastating. He used Living Wish to fetch Llawan,, Cephalid Empress from his board to send Meloku and his army away. It was fittingly ironic as Nuijten had used the same card to such devastating effect in Copenhagen.
Nuijten refused to lie down and die. Gifts Ungiven fetched Stinkweed Imp, Coffin Purge and his cycling engine. The Imp could hold Rohner off while Nuijten could cycle like a madman for the Pernicious Deed.
The big question was: Did the World Champion have enough cards left in his library to win the game?
It was looking doubtful. Dredging back the Imp after it was Smothered lost one deed. A Fact or Fiction found the remaining one though, and Nuijten was happy to take it out of a pile of one. Damage was now no longer relevant. The Dutchman was down to three cards. He needed Genesis to not be the bottom card and of course that was exactly where it was.
The one consolation for the World Champion is that his draws could only get better from this point.
Omar Rohner beats Julien Nuijten 2-0.
Saturday, November 19: 5:52 p.m. - Round 5: Raphael Levy vs. Stuart Wright
Raphael Levy is one of France's top players and has been playing since around the dawn of time. He's currently running close to the same aggro rock deck he opened the season with in Pro Tour LA. The main alteration is the presence of Withered Wretch in the main deck. Stuart Wright is arguably the best English Magic player around at the moment but despite some consistent finishes his best is just a quarter-final appearance in the now defunct European Championships. He's running Dredge-a-tog so this could be a very tricky matchup for him.
Ah, the life of a sideboard writer is always busy. I arrived at this match a few turns in and it appeared that Levy was in a spot of trouble. His Dark Confident and Troll Ascetic had both fallen to Force Spike. Currently the Frenchman had just two Forest, a Bird of Paradise and a Sword of Fire and Ice. Wright cast Gifts to set up his Dredge engine and find Darkblast and it looked as though Levy would struggle to win this game.
It became very obvious why Levy had kept his hand as when he finally found two sources of black mana he cast three Withered Wretch in succession. Unfortunately for him Wright countered all three of them in succession with Circular Logic.
Dark Confident was Smothered and then a Darkblast-cycling land combo finished off a Wild Mongrel to prompt a concession from Levy.
Apparently he'd gone first with a one land, one Bird hand and then failed to find a second land. This had meant he'd been unable to pay for the Force Spikes and what had seemed like a game-winning hand had collapsed.
Wright 1-0 Levy
The second game and Levy got off to a good start as his Duress paved the way for Dark Confidant to enter play. A Call of the Herd was countered and then Wright fetched a black source to Smother the Confidant. Tapping out left the way clear for Levy to make a backup.Confidant.
He went fishing with a Cabal Therapy and whiffed. It revealed Wright was holding Mana Leak and Counterspell. Levy started work on baiting them out. Wild Mongrel bit the Mana Leak.
Wright restocked his hand with a Cephalid Coliseum, figuring that replacing Wonder with any card was an improvement.
The game got very interesting as Wright summoned a Psychatog. A couple of Mental Notes and the Coliseum had pumped up the Englishman's graveyard considerably while dual lands and Dark Confidant had depleted Levy's life total.
The Frenchman had to think really hard here. The 'tog could quite possibly be lethal and was effectively unblockable because of the Wonder. Wright could also have Logic to counter any attempts to kill it.
Levy didn't even have a removal spell for the 'tog and so his only option was a very risky play that involved casting and then equipping Dark Confidant with a Sword of Fire and Ice. An attack dropped Wright to 6 life and effectively shrunk the 'tog by one as Wright had to remove two cards from his graveyard to save it from the Sword's ping effect. Wright was now facing lethal damage from the Confidant in the next turn.
"So you think my tog isn't lethal," Wright said.
"I don't know. I make it out to do 12, unless you've drawn something good."
Wright hadn't and the most the 'tog could do was 12. This was one point less than Levy's 13 life.
"Hold on, yes. Do 12," Wright said. He'd remembered Levy had a Confidant and sent the 'tog all-in.
Now the game boiled down to the top card of Levy's library. If it was a land the Frenchman would win. If it wasn't, he'd die to his own Dark Confidant.
It was a Putrefy.
"I came dangerously close to conceding that game," Wright said afterwards.
Stuart Wright beats Raphael Levy 2-0
Saturday, November 19: 7:20 p.m. - Round 7: Olivier Ruel vs. Bernardo Da Costa Cabral
Bernardo Da Costa Cabral
Round 7 and we have an interesting clash near the top of "Blue". I've been waiting for a chance to see Olivier Ruel's deck in action since the start of the tournament. He's playing an updated version of the 'CAL' (confinement, Assault, Life from the Loam) deck that debuted in the top 8 of GP Kitakyuushuu two weeks ago. Bernardo Da Costa Cabral is running the Aggro Rock deck that has picked up a few backers amongst the pro community this weekend.
Olivier Ruel led off with a Bloodstained Mire, but he wanted to use it to bring in one of the new duals without losing any life. As a result Da Costal Cabral was able to hit with a Duress and take away Ruel's Divining Top. Ruel busted out Dark Confidant, a card that is starting to crop up in a lot of decks, and Da Costa Cabral matched with a Withered Wretch. Ruel would need to deal with that fairly swiftly as his deck relied on a Life from the Loam cycling land engine.
A Therapy missed but revealed Da Costa Cabral's mulligan hand was very weak. He had only a Putrefy and three land. The Putrefy took down Dark Confidant and then Da Costa Cabral went to work on Ruel's graveyard with the Wretch. He drew another Therapy and that plucked a Burning Wish from Ruel's hand. Ruel summoned a replacement Dark Confidant and Sakura Tribe Elder.
With his graveyard being torn up Ruel went for beats with his Confidant and Eternal Witness. The two power monsters traded blows and the life totals dropped to 10-8 in Ruel's favor. The Frenchman added a second Eternal Witness and then dropped Solitary Confinement to buy a turn.
Bob revealed Seismic Assault and although it cost Ruel three life (putting him to 7) it spelled the end for Da Costa Cabral as every land in the Frenchman's hand turned into shock. Ruel pitched two to remove Da Costa Cabral's freshly summoned Confidant and Wretch and then Ruel's two-power monsters took care of his opponent.
Ruel 1-0 Da Costa Cabral
The Belgian got a ripping start in Game 2 - Bird of Paradise, Dark Confidant and Bird of Paradise, Troll Ascetic - only to see it go down in flames to Ruel's Pyroclasm. Ruel immediately seized the game by the scruff of the neck as he got the cycling land Dredge engine going while Da Costa Cabral had stalled on two lands.
It looked like Da Costa Cabral wasn't going to have to suffer in misery for too long as Ruel busted out a Loxodon Hierarch. The Belgian's deck belatedly coughed up a third land and allowed him to put Pernicious Deed into play. Even if he did manage to hit the fourth land to kill the Hierarch there was still the small matter of Ruel drawing about 6 cards a turn off cycing lands. I suppose he could always hope Ruel decked himself.
Loxodon Hierarch was joined by a Eternal Witness as Da Costa Cabral tried to hold the ground with a Call of the Herd token.
Olivier Ruel is so damn....
Ruel's deck had just straight up muscled him into the ground with sheer raw power though. Burning Wish for Hull Breach and Burning Wish for Chainer's Edict took care of both Deed and Elephant token. The Edict was especially brutal as it meant Da Costa Cabral would be unable to keep a creature alive to block the lethal damage coming his way on the following turn.
The CAL deck looks like a lot of fun from where I'm sitting, although it helps when your opponent's draws are less than optimal.
Olivier Ruel beats Bernardo Da Costa Cabral 2-0.
Saturday, November 19: 8:37 p.m. - Round 8: Olivier Ruel vs. Rogier Maaten
Can anyone stop Olivier Ruel? It seems like Ruel claims all the tournaments on this side of the globe while Kenji Tsumura covers the other part. Kenji actually wanted to take the 20-hour flight to this GP, but he didn't want to go there himself; no other Japanese were as ambitious as Kenji.
Rogier said he hasn't made any money in the last four events, and thought it was time for a change. So far it looked pretty good for him; he brought an Affinity deck and piloted it to a 7-0 record. He was now facing Olivier's build of the Seismic Assault deck from the Japanese GP two weeks ago, so this matchup will be all about whether or not Oli can find Solitary Confinement.
Rogier played first and had a quick start with Terrarion, Cranial Plating and Frogmite. Sakura-Tribe Elder chumped the Frogmite for a turn, but Rogier kept the pressure on with Ravager and Myr Enforcer. Oli tried to find Solitary Confinement with a Top, but he had to settle on Seismic Assault instead.
Things weren't looking too good for Oli, he tried to make the crowd laugh with a stupid joke but only 10% laughed.
"10% laughed, which is pretty good for that joke", Oli said.
Rogier put the Plating on Myr Enforcer but Oli shot it twice. He re-equipped the Plating with the help of Terrarion to the Ravager, and Oli shot the Frogmite. Ravager came in for 8 and Rogier played Ornithopter. Oli's next draw didn't give him the Confinement, and Ravager finished the job.
Oli's sideboarding: -2 Sensei's Divining Top, - 2 Cabal Therapy, -1 Dark Confidant
+3 Loxodon Hierarch, +2 Putrefy
Rogier: -2 Terrarion, -2 Myr Enforcer, +2 Genesis Chamber, +2 Pentad Prism
After the sideboarding changes, Rogier still doesn't have a solution to Solitary Confinement/Life from the Loam, so he'll be all-in from the start on. Oli played first and both players had fast starts: Olivier had Birds of Paradise and Sakura-Tribe Elder, while Rogier had Chromatic Sphere, Genesis Chamber, Ornithopter and two Frogmites, producing three tokens in the process. There was some mumbo-jumbo about whose player cards to use, Rogier made two Antoines and Olivier, and Oli summoned Bob Confidant and Julien Nuijten along side of it.
Rogier played Arcbound Ravager, this time putting Masashi into play, and attacked with the team. Julien and Tribe-Elder traded with two Antoines, adding two counters to the Ravager. Oli drew a land off Bob and cycled it, and passed the turn with Putrefy in his hand.
Rogier Maaten, right, halts Ruel's charge
On the next turn, Rogier goes into think tank-mode, and Oli offered him a side bet.
"I'll bet you 5 euros that you won't be able to sacrifice the Ravager in the next twelve seconds".
The judge wouldn't allow this though, and Rogier just sent his men in.
Ravager got blocked, and when Rogier put its counters on the Ornithopter, Oli played Putrefy. Rogier had a Shrapnel Blast though, and Oli fell to three. "Confinement Confinement! Not off Bob though!", was Oli's response. He didn't find the Confinement but he did have Burning Wish for Pyroclasm to clear both sides of the board. A Duress missed Rogier's Ravager, and on the next turn Rogier played the Ravager and Arcbound Worker. Oli had one more draw step, but couldn't find a solution.
End result: Rogier Maaten beat Olivier Ruel 2-0.
Saturday, November 19: 9:15 p.m. - A Dutch Disaster
The more astute amongst you might noticed Julien Nuijten's name on the last feature match report. Yep, that does mean that the current World Champion and the winner of the last European Grand Prix in this very tournament will not be returning to play tomorrow. It's been a rough time for former winners of this format. Antoine Ruel, who seems to have been doubly hit with misfortune as he's currently hobbling around on crutches after a gym accident, managed to win just 1 game before dropping today.
What was most amusing were the stories of the low points. Julien told me earlier about how he lost to a rogue deck with Lightning Rift, Darksteel Ingot and Obliterate. Two rounds later and Frank Karsten comes up to the desk and asks if I need help with coverage.
Julien: "You 1-3 too?"
Frank: "Yeah, I just lost to a deck with Obliterate and Lightning Rift."
Julien: "And Darksteel Ingot..."
This is a general warning to all Dutch players. There is an assassin out there and he's armed with an Obliterate.
Saturday, November 19: 9:57 p.m. - Last Round Action
Jonathan Rispal, left. vs. David Luis Sevilla
The last round of day one is usually where I like to float around and pick key moments from some of the relevant matches. Well I kind of did, but wasn't exactly on the ball this time round.
One of the more interesting facts is that because we're cutting to top 128 the guillotine isn't as harsh as it usually is. Karsten and Nuijten might have even been a little premature in dropping as there's a chance a few players will actually squeak through on 3 losses. For this reason it's not exactly easy to define exactly which are the bubble matches. (Either that or I'm so tired and my logic processor has melted). Gabriel Nassif is one of those players hoping to squeak in with 3 losses.
In "Green" it looks like the Pro's took a beating. Going into the last round the only names I recognize on any of the top tables are Arnost Zidek on table 8 and Franck Canu on table 10. Current Spanish champion Omar Rohner seems to have shrugged of the sideboard reporter curse and is battling on table 5. The top table saw a clash between David Luis Sevilla's Scepter-Chant deck against Jonathan Rispal's very unorthodox 'tog build that splashes red rather than green. Rispal won that battle.
Marcio Carvalho, left, vs. Rogier Maaten
In "Blue" it was a much more familiar set of names. Bernardo Da Costal Cabral was in action on table two while England's Stuart Wright found Olivier Ruel's wacky 'CAL' deck too much too handle on table four. On the top table Rogier Maaten squared off against Marcio Carvalho, winner of the Grand Prix in Lisbon earlier this year, and somehow managed to pull off the impossible and beat Boros Deck Wins with Affinity.
While I'm writing this a judge has come up to tell me there will be slight delay the end of the round while they wait for the end of a match. It's the fifth turn of extra turns and a Mind's Desire deck is attempting to go off …. against Battle of Wits!
Saturday, November 19: 10:08 p.m. - Decklists: The 9-0 Decks
9-0 Decklist GP Bilboa 2005
9-0 Decklist GP Bilboa 2005