Sunday, November 20: 5:14 p.m. - Decklist: The Top 8 Decks
Olivier Ruel - CAL
GP Bilbao 05 Top 8 Deck
Geoffrey Siron - Aggro Rock
GP Bilbao 05 Top 8 Deck
Jacob Arias Garcia - Boros Deck Wins
GP Bilbao 05 Top 8 Deck
Marcio Carvalho - Boros Deck Wins
GP Bilbao 05 Top 8 Deck
Gonzalo Domingo - Aggro Rock
GP Bilbao 05 Top 8 Deck
Sergi Herrero - Affinity
GP Bilbao 05 Top 8 Deck
Jonathan Rispal - Burning Psychatog
GP Bilbao 05 Top 8 Deck
Rogier Maaten - Affinity
GP Bilbao 05 Top 8 Deck
Sunday, November 20: 6:26 p.m. - Quarterfinals: Olivier Ruel vs. Sergi Herrero
Hmm, the Pro Player of the year race is getting very interesting. Apologies to Kenji Tsumura and Masashi Oiso, but the crazy Frenchman has made yet another top 8. A win for Olivier Ruel here would see him draw dead level with Kenji. Ruel has switched from the Affinity deck he played a few weeks back and picked up the crazy Solitary Confinement - Seismic Assault - Life from the Loam ('CAL') deck that debuted in the top 8 of GP Kitakyuushuu a few weeks back. He's made a few alterations, most specifically the addition of Bob Confidant.
Standing in his way is Sergi Herrero, one of three Spaniards to make the top 8 here. The Affinity dragon has not quite been slain and now Ruel finds himself on the receiving end of the deck he's played since the start of the season.
Ruel won the die roll (all four of them) and led off with a Duress that netted nothing more than a Chromatic Sphere. Herrero's hand was solid rather than explosive: 3 land, Enforcer, Scale and Worker. Ruel blocked the Worker with a Tribe Elder and fetched a Mountain. Herrero saved the Worker with the Scale and then his draw did get explosive as a Frogmite enabled a two mana Enforcer.
A second Elder 'fogged' an Enforcer and found a second Mountain. Fearing Seismic Assault, Herrero dropped a Needle on it. Ruel found Life from the Loam and cycling cards and started drawing cards. He needed some answers as he was facing down 8 power worth of monsters with nothing more than some basic land. An attack dropped him to 8 and left him facing lethal damage.
The Frenchman made a Top and dug for an answer.
He deliberated for a long time before casting Burning Wish to fetch Shatterstom …. no, that doesn't appear to be in this format. Instead he had to be content with a Hull Breach. He used it to kill the Enforcer and sat back nervously.
A lot of cards would kill Ruel at this point. Ravager….Cranial Plating…..
An attack dropped Ruel to 4. He cast Witness and fetched back the Hull Breach to remove the Pithing Needle.
He had to pass another turn and wait to see if Herrero could kill him. The tension wracked up as Herrero cast a Thoughtcast. Even Pyrite Spellbomb would spell game at this point. Still nothing. Herrero's attack dropped Ruel to a slender two life. The Spaniard dropped a second Frogmite and Enforcer.
Now Ruel could fight back. Seismic Assault hit the table and Herrero's board disintegrated under a hail of land. He still had outs if he could just draw one of his 3 Pyrite Spellbomb. He didn't and Ruel kept casting and dredging back Life from the Loam until he had enough land in hand to pitch them all at Herrero.
Ruel 1-0 Herrero
Herrero had to mulligan the first hand and ended up with a hand that contained very little pressure. His opened with Blinkmoth Nexus and could only cast a Plating on turn two. Ruel's Duress revealed there were two Frogmites and a Jitte waiting to arrive, although a Thoughcast was sent packing.
Herrero finally exploded on turn three as he turned both his Nexi into artifacts, laid a Vault and then busted out both Frogmite. Ruel simply burnt them away with a Pyroclasm. Herrero got in for three with a Plated up Nexus but on the next attack the Plating was Putrefied. Herrero's hand was looking dangerously slow this game as a Burning Wish fetch Life from the Loam and kick-started Ruel's cycling engine.
Herrero dropped the Jitte but would need to get very busy, very quickly. Ruel was down to eleven, but was drawing a lot of cards. A Cabal Therapy suddenly gave Herrero hope. He hit two Solitary Confinement and then flashed it back for the Eternal Witness. An attack dropped Ruel to 6 life. Now the Frenchman needed to get busy.
Herrero threw a big spanner, or rather needle, into the workers as Two Needle shut down Ruel's green and red cycling lands. Nexus-Plating threatened a win on the following turn.
Ruel used Burning Wish to fetch Hull Breach to deal with the immediate threat of the Plating. An Eternal Witness fetched back the Hull Breach and freed up the cycling engine.
Ruel took a couple of pecks from the 1/1 Nexus to drop to four. Herrero would need an Echoing Truth to do any further damage as Ruel made Solitary Confinement. Herrero found a third Pithing Needle and tried to slow down or stop the engine completely.
It got worse for Herrero as Ruel flipped the top and put Seismic Assault into play. With red and green cycling lands shut down, Ruel had to let the Solitary confinement go. He tried to find a black land but in the end he didn't need it as he was able to cast two Life from the Loam and go up to the required 11 land needed to burn Herrero out.
And that ties Ruel in first place with Kenji Tsumura for the Pro Player of the year race.
Oliver Ruel beats Sergi Herrero 2-0.
Sunday, November 20: 6:41 p.m. - Quarterfinals: Rogier Maaten vs. Marcio Carvalho
Rogier (from the Netherlands) is playing Affinity and Marcio (from Portugal) is playing Boros Deck Wins. This is Marcio's second GP top 8 this year and it is Rogier's third GP top 8 this year, so these guys are no newcomers to the playoffs.
Most players think that this matchup heavily favours the Boros Deck Wins, but Rogier disagrees. He had already beaten three Boros Deck Wins this tournament and thinks that the matchup is around 50-50; "if Boros Deck Wins cannot keep Kataki on the table, my Atogs, fat Ravagers and Platings should allow me to win the game." We shall see.
Marcio won the important die roll and got to play first. However, he did not get off to a fast start. He kept a hand with lands and burn spells and simply played some saclands on his first two turns.
Rogier played Seat of the Synod, Sulphurous Springs, Terrarion, Atog and Ornithopter over the course of his first two turns. A Lightning Helix was flung at Atog end of turn, but it ate Terrarion to stay alive, netting Rogier a card in the process.
Marcio topdecked Silver Knight, which was a nice foil to the red Atog. Rogiers affinity machine powered out a bunch of spells on the third turn: Arcbound Worker, Arcbound Ravager, Blinkmoth Nexus and 2 Frogmites. Rogier did not have the game in the bag yet, but he definitely had more permanents on the board.
Marcio used Pillage to destroy the Ravager. Rogier put the modular counter on Frogmite, which attacked on the following turn. Marcio blocked it with the first striking Silver Knight and he traded a Lava Dart plus a Mountain for the 3/3 Frogmite and an Arcbound Worker modular counter.
Marcio destroyed an attacking Blinkmoth Nexus with Lightning Helix and drew into Savannah Lions and Goblin Legionnaire, whose activated abilities were shut down by Pithing Needle.
Marcio then tried to break the creature stall and attacked with Silver Knight. Rogier took 2 and attacked with Atog on his turn. Marcio, probably realizing that this was not going to work, chumped it with Savannah Lions and proceeded to leave Silver Knight on defence.
The next couple turns featured a couple uninteresting one-for-one-trades: Myr Enforcer was destroyed by Char and a land was killed by Molten Rain.
Then Rogier topdecked Cranial Plating and eagerly rubbed his hands. "I was waiting for that one", he said, pointing at the two Ornithopters in play.
Rogier attacked with the equipped Ornithopter, leaving the unequipped one at home. Marcio destroyed the attacking one with Lightning Helix and then Rogier looked at the double Sulphurous Springs he had in play. "Nice play, why didn't I attack with the other one as well?!" He shook his head and moved on. Two turns later, Marcio found a Lava Dart to get rid of the other Ornithopter. But he was down to 7 life now.
Rogier drew into a fourth creature and attacked with all of his men on the following turn. Marcio had only three creatures, so Rogier equipped Cranial Plating to the unblocked one to make it lethal.
Rogier 1 - Marcio 0
Marcio played first again and had the first creature in Goblin Legionnaire. Rogier made two Great Furnaces, Chromatic Sphere, two Arcbound Workers and an Ornithopter on his first two turns. Not the most impressive start.
Marcio then went for the land destruction plan as he Pillaged two lands. Rogier, in the meantime, made a new land every turn, played Toughtcast and summoned Atog.
Marcio's turn again. He drew his card and said "Pff, finally!" Of course, it was Kataki, War's Wage.
Rogier then went into the think tank in his upkeep, thinking about which artifacts he wanted to keep. He had two Great Furnace, two Arcbound Worker, Ornithopter and Atog in play. Rogier decided to pay for a Great Furnace and pumped his Atog 4 times. The 9/10 Atog attacked and Marcio chumped it with Goblin Legionnaire.
Firebolt took care of the Atog next turn and now Rogier was left with only one artifact land in play. A couple turns later, he was at 8 life and still hadn't found an answer to Kataki. Marcio started to throw burn to the head and Rogier simply scooped up his cards.
Rogier 1 - Marcio 1
At the start of this game, Rogier put out some threats and Marcio dealt with them. A turn one Arcbound Worker was destroyed by Lava Dart. Purge took care of Arcbound Ravager and a second Purge killed another Ravager.
Marcio then proceeded to dump his hand, full of creatures, on the table: Isamaru Hound of Konda, Grim Lavamancer and 2 Silver Knights. Rogier had a Darkblast for the Lavamancer and played Atog. But in the face of two Silver Knights, the red creature was quite unimpressive.
The pro-red Knights slowly dwindled away Rogier's life points. Rogier tried to put up a fight with a second Atog and Myr Enforcer, but Marcio had a Pillage ready for the Myr Enforcer and kept the pressure on with his Silver Knights. Eventually the Dutchman's life total was down to 3, so a burn spell finished the job.
Marcio: "Silver Knight saved the day!"
Rogier 1 - Marcio 2
Sunday, November 20: 7:55 p.m. - Semfinals: Geoffrey Siron vs. Marcio Carvalho
Both of these players have had pretty good years. Marcio Carvalho kicked off the year with a win in Grand Prix Lisbon at the start of the year. Since then the Portuguese player has clocked up 22 Pro points to give him level 3 or higher for the whole of next year. Geoffrey Siron has been around the Pro scene for a while and finally made the big time with a win in Pro Tour London earlier this year.
Geoffrey Siron is running the aggressive Rock deck that has quietly done well at this Grand Prix while Carvalho was one of two players to squeak into top 8 with Boros Deck Wins. I suspect this might be fairly tough for Siron as Carvalho has plenty of burn to wipe out his offence. Troll Ascetics combined with either Jitte or Sword of Fire and Ice could pose a lot of potential problems for Carvalho though.
Siron led off with a Birds of Paradise after a mulligan and it was immediately shot down in flames by a Firebolt. Siron came back with a Duress to nab Pillage and then summoned that crucial Troll Ascetic we were just talking about. Carvalho managed to nip in with one sneaky Kataki attack but then Siron untapped and shields were up. I wondered why the Troll was staying at home and then saw a sneaky Shinka hiding amongst Carvalho's lands. It's amazing how useful those one-of legendary lands can be sometimes,
A Wild Mongrel appeared and then promptly disappeared to Lightning Helix. Carvalho burnt a Pillage on Siron's Overgrown Tomb. That seemed a little wasteful as any of Siron's equipment on the Troll could cause serious problems.
The game was heading into a staring match. Two Dark Confidants fell to burn, with a Withered Wretch falling soon after. Carvalho decided to make a move, summoning first a Goblin Legionnaire and then two Savannah Lions. Siron brought out a second Ascetic and Carvalho decided to make a move. He swung with all of his creatures. Siron thought for a while and put both Trolls in the way of Kataki. 7 damage (1 from a painland to regenerate a Troll) for the Kataki seemed like a fair deal to Carvalho.
Siron's problem was that he couldn't muster any offence. He could only sit behind the Troll's for so long and unless he found something to break through with Carvalho would eventually pick him off. That was exactly what happened as Carvalho found a Grim Lavamancer and eventually pushed through enough damage with his creatures and Lavamancer.
Carvalho 1-0 Siron.
Siron kept his hand this time and led off with a tapped Overgrown Tomb. Carvalho's opening was the slightly less than optimal Grim Lavamancer. A Withered Wretch could potentially staunch the flow of food to the Lavamancer.
Who am I kidding. It's a 2/2 bear against a red deck and as the such has the life expectancy of a picoturn, which is measured as roughly twice the life expectancy of a Birds of Paradise against a red deck (not usually measurably by current scientific techniques).
In fact virtually none of the creatures had any kind of life expectancy as a hail of burn was replied to with a Smother and Putrefy. A Pillage hurt as it meant Siron had to chuck a Troll Ascetic under a Chrome Mox. Call of Herd is usually pretty good against Red Decks but Carvalho fried both elephant tokens without breaking a sweat.
Carvalho then took firm control as he followed a Goblin Legionnaire with Umezawa's Jitte. From then on Siron was always on the back foot. Carvalho's draw was insane. It seemed as though his deck had decided that it had reached an optimal amount of land and was never going to draw any more.
Siron had a Putrefy in hand but never had the breathing space to use it on the Jitte. The Legionnaire got through for one hit and took a six point chunk out of Siron's life total. That force him to use the Putrefy on the Legionnaire. Carvalho simply picked it up with Isamuru and kept swinging. Siron had to block with the Troll without regeneration mana simply to stay alive and then he extended his hand as his library couldn't keep pace with Carvalho's scorching draw.
Marcio Carvalho beats Geoffrey Siron 2-0
Sunday, November 20: 8:47 p.m. - Semifinals: Olivier Ruel vs. Jacob Arias Garcia
Jacob Arias Garcia
Olivier Ruel plays a Life from the Loam/Solitary Confinement/Seismic Assault deck, similar to the deck that finished in the top 8 of the latest Japanese Grand Prix. Jacob Arias Garcia plays Boros Deck Wins. Interesting fact: he has a 15 card sideboard against Affinity.
Olivier should be able to win game 1 and has to hope Jacob does not draw his sideboard Suppression Fields. But overall, the Frenchman seems to hold the advantage.
Olivier won the die roll and led with Sakura-Tribe Elder. Jacob had a reasonably fast start with Isamaru and Silver Knight, while Olivier played Seismic Assault with 4 lands left in his hand.
Isamaru was killed by Bloodstained Mire (strange but true) and Jacob replaced it with another copy. A second Silver Knight also came down, which was quite annoying for Olivier, who relied on a red Seismic Assault to kill guys.
Olivier, at 14 life, then found Burning Wish and used it to fetch Life from the Loam.
Jacob attacked with 2 Silver Knights and Isamaru. Now, you'd expect that Olivier (with Life from the Loam and lands in his hand) would shoot down Isamaru in order to preserve his life total, right? Surprisingly, he did not do so. Did he forget it? Did he make a mistake?
This was a big, important game for both players.
No, Olivier simply did the math. Jacob was down to 13 thanks to his lands, and Olivier simply threw 4 lands at the head, got three back with Life from the Loam and discarded them for the final 6 damage.
Olivier 1 - Jacob 0
Olivier boarded out a mix of Dark Confidant, Sensei's Divining Top and Solitary Confinement. He put in life gain: Loxodon Hierarch and Overgrown Estate. Jacob took out land destruction to put in Disenchant and Suppression Field, which is a wrecking ball against Olivier's deck.
Jacob had a very good draw. Turn 1 Isamaru, turn 2 Suppression Field, turn 3 Silver Knight and Savannah Lions. Olivier put up a fight with Loxodon Hierarch, but a block and Lightning Helix took it down.
Olivier then played Solitary Confinement, and Jacob picked it up to read it. "What is this?" "This is my card to kill you!"
The problem was that Olivier did not yet have a Life from the Loam for the lock, so he just used the Confinement as a double Fog; after two turns, he declined to pay the upkeep.
Eternal Witness got back Loxodon Hierarch to give Olivier some more time.
Olivier was at 8 life and Jacob studied the board. He had three 2-power guys against Olivier's Eternal Witness, Loxodon Hierarch and Sakura-Tribe Elder. Jacob rightfully decided he could not attack and passed the turn. Olivier was not doing impressive things either. For example, he cycled for three mana due to Suppression Field.
Eventually Oli decided that the game was getting boring and that something needed to happen. Therefore, he attacked with Loxodon Hierarch, leaving 2 Sakura-Tribe Elder, Birds of Paradise and Eternal Witness on defence against Silver Knight, Isamaru and Savannah Lions. Jacob did not block and swung with all of his guys on his turn. Lions traded with Elder and Isamaru traded with Witness. Jacob played a new Ismaru and Silver Knight after that.
Because Jacob had suddenly added 2 creatures to the board, Olivier felt that his beatdown plan was no longer viable, so he kept his Loxodon Hierarch on defence. Then both players played draw-go for a couple turns, until Olivier drew into Burning Wish and got himself a Life from the Loam.
But it was to no avail, as Jacob drew Char to get rid of Loxodon Hierarch and sent his three 2-power guys into the red zone. Olivier, whose lands cost three mana to cycle, could not draw into an answer quickly enough and succumbed to the white weenies.
Olivier 1 - Jacob 1
Oliviers opening hand looked very promising, judging from the first three cards he saw: land, Sakura-Tribe Elder and Loxodon Hierarch. But his next four cards did not include another land, so he had to mulligan that one-lander. Olivier then looked at 2 lands, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Solitary Confinement, Loxodon Hierarch, Overgrown Estate. He pumped the fist and happily kept it.
The Frenchman started with a turn 2 Sakura-Tribe Elder, which Jacob answered with Suppression Field. "In response, sac my Elder. Gotcha!", Oli said. Jacob kept a serious face, untouched by Oliviers antics.
The Frenchman played Loxodon Hierarch, but Lightning Helix and Lava Dart got rid of it.
Olivier then used Life from the Loam to get back a sacland. Unimpressive, but it did allow him to dredge a couple times, finding more lands in the process. A cycling land drew him into Overgrown Estate.
Jacob made a Goblin Legionnaire and steadily started attacking for two. However, a damage clock of two per turn, against an opponent at 16 life with a Life from the Loam-Overgrown Estate Engine, is quite unimpressive.
A Duress revealed Char, Lightning Helix, Firebolt and Olivier took the 4 damage spell. The next couple turns looked very similar. Olivier, at 16-ish life, would play Eternal Witness (getting back another Witness), sacrifice lands to Overgrown Estate and play Life from the Loam. Jacob would burn the Witness and attack with Goblin Legionnaire.
That sequence of plays repeated itself for a while, until Olivier dredged into Burning Wish and got it back with Eternal Witness. He took Hull Breach out of his sideboard and destroyed the Suppression Field. Now that his lands only cost 1 mana to cycle and 0 mana to sacrifice to Overgrown Estate, he could go berserk.
Olivier cycled and dredged, cycled some more and found Burning Wish. He got Cranial Extraction out of his sideboard. He removed his opponent's Disenchants and played Solitary Confinement for the lock. Thanks to the Extraction, Jacob did not have any outs left. Jacob could not win anymore and conceded.
Olivier 2 - Jacob 1
Sunday, November 20: 9:33 p.m. - Finals: Olivier Ruel vs. Marcio Carvalho
There was a slight delay at the start of the final as Olivier Ruel attempted to ring Kenji Tsumura to tell him he'd just overtaken him in the player of the year race. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately for Kenji. I have no idea what time it currently is in Japan, but it probably isn't sociable) he couldn't remember the country code.
So this is it. One more game to go. In one corner we have Olivier Ruel, current leader of the Pro player of the year race (since about five minutes ago) and a one man Grand Prix wrecking ball. In this final he will be gunning for an incredible third Grand Prix title for this year alone. This kind of form hasn't been seen since Kai Budde hit his first peak in 1999.
Ruel's opponent, Marcio Carvalho of Portugal, is no slouch either. If he wins this will be his second Grand Prix title of the year after winning Lisbon back in April.
Carvalho is running close to a fairly standard Boros Deck Wins while Olivier Ruel has the deeply unconventional CAL (Solitary Confinement, Seismic Assault, Life from the Loam) deck. This will be tough for Carvalho. Ruel managed to get past another Boris Deck Wins in the semi's that could board both Disenchant and Suppression field and Carvalho doesn't have anywhere near that level of hate.
Carvalho won the die roll and kicked off.
Carvalho managed the standard "sac land to fetch Foundry and start on 17 life" Boros start but his first turn critter was a Lavamancer rather than a Hound or Lion. Carvalho followed up with Silver Knight and then a Molten Rain on Ruel's Overgrown Tomb.
It was a good start but Ruel had been able to nullify both the attack and Pillage with a Sakura Tribe Elder. Life from the Loam fetched him as much land as he needed and when Ruel dropped Solitary Confinement on the table Carvalho responded with an immediate concession.
Ruel 1-0 Carvalho.
Ruel sideboarded out 3 Dark Confidant, 2 Cabal Therapy, 2 Divining Top and Solitary Confinement. He replaced them with 2 Overgrown Estate, 3 Loxodon Hierarch, 2 Putrefy and a Duress.
Carvalho decided he wanted to start on 17 life again and this time he did have the first turn Hound of Konda. Ruel only took 1 point off his sac land to fetch a Forest and put a Birds of Paradise into play.
It died. The bird always dies. Although it did delay the arrival of a Goblin Legionnaire for a turn.
Ruel made a second bird. It also died. Ruel decided to play a mana source where dying is actually the desired result and Sakura Tribe Elder entered play. Ruel seemed to be a little screwed as a result of mulliganing and was actually laying his cycling lands rather than cycling them.
Carvalho added a Silver Knight and Ruel got an opportunity to Putrefy the Legionnaire for no damage when Carvalho went hunting for his third land. The Portuguese player was looking fairly good at this point. A Lavamancer joined the assault and a Pillage took out Ruel's plains. Although I couldn't see Ruel's hand I suspected that really hurt as the possibility of casting Hierarch had been taken away.
Oliver drew and laughed before showing me a Seismic Assault. He'd been making cycling lands and had no red sources in play.
"Not what I needed at this point".
But then things picked up as he found a Wooded Foothills. That fetched him Sacred Foundry, which then allowed him to cast Loxodon Hierarch. Carvalho attacked into it, throwing away a creature to force damage through.
Olivier Ruel is the 2005 Grand Prix Bilbao Champion!
Ruel was down to a slender 4 life. A second Loxodon Heirarch took him up to a more comfortable 8. Carvalho's attack was stalling against the elephants but Ruel's life total was still within reaching distance.
In the next turn Ruel attacked with both Hierarch, which confused the hell out of me. Surely he was on way too low life to risk racing. But then it all made sense as he dropped Overgrown Estate. With five lands in play that was an extra 15 life. Suddenly Carvalho was facing down two 4/4's with only a 2/2 and a Grim Lavamancer with no prospect of racing. As his life was just 3 the game had suddenly gone from advantageous to unwinnable in a blink of an eye.
The match was so fast I never even got a chance to take photo's (As you may have noticed).
Olivier Ruel beats Marcio Carvalho 2-0 and takes home an incredible third Grand Prix title for the year.