Saturday, June 11: 3:01 pm - Sealed Deck 101 with Frank Karsten
A new set means new cards and new ideas. I tracked down Frank Karsten to see what he made of his card pool. Karsten is one of the top Dutch players and finally broke through the bubble to earn a quarter-final finish at Pro Tour Nagoya earlier this year.
Players register a card pool and then pass it to the player opposite, who then checks the deck has been registered correctly. Frank got to check a deck that had some very strong red including double Earthquake in the form of Ryusei and Jiwari, the Earth Aflame. Usually the player gets to keep the deck after the swap, but not in this case as a third swap was carried out and this juicy set of cards was whisked away from the Dutchman.
What came back was one of those complicated puzzles sealed deck sometimes throws up. All colors looked about equal in power level and there were no big bombs to offer any hints. This is the card pool if you want to have a go at home:
Kami of the Painted Road
Samurai of the Pale Curtain
Aura of Dominion
Cut the Tethers
Field of Reality
Hisoka, Minamo Sensei
Kami of Twisted Reflection
Petals of Insight
Sift Through Sands
Walker of Secret Ways
Cut the Earthly Bond
Dance of Shadows
Call for Blood
Footsteps of the Goryo
Kami of Empty-Graves
Ben-Ben, Akki Hermit
Soul of Magma
Crack the Earth
Child of Thorns
For anybody wanting tips on how to build sealed decks it is worth following an approach similar to Frank's. First he went through the cards and laid out all the playables in each color. Then he divided those further into the good cards and the filler. In this case Karsten was clearly lumbered with an awkward sealed deck. The best rare was Reverence and that could hardly be classed as a bomb.
Karsten likes consistency so his aim was to try and find a two colour deck. With his pool this was difficult as each colour was barely reaching nine playables. He went back into the reject pile to try and scrape up some more possibilities. It's never a good sign when Stone Rain crawls into consideration.
Karsten decided to ditch the red as aside from a Sokenzan Spellblade, Yamabushi's Flame and Houndmaster there wasn't a lot going on.
He took the remaining four colours and lined up the creatures by mana cost to see if the curve would help. In this case the curve looked reasonable in all colours. Again not much help.
He tried building blue-white.
"I have to play white if I want to go two colour, it has 12 playables," Frank decided.
He tried out green and black before moving back to blue. This seemed to be the most synergistic combination. The blue added fliers and a good curve as well as the Petals for card drawing that would allow him to best use cards like the Kitsune Bonesetter. This combination would give him a fairly good blue-white control deck with fliers and some useful combat tricks.
The last card to deliberate over was Nine-Ringed Bo or Oppressive Will. He looked over the Saviors decklist to see if the artifact would be better or worse with the addition of the new set. Although he considered the Nine-Ringed Bo more of a sideboard card he was worried that fliers like Teller of Tales might cause him problems, whereas with the pinger he could at least trade equally with one of his two power fliers. In the end he opted for the more general use card and took the Oppressive Will.
He felt the deck was underpowered, but would hopefully be consistent enough to give him the 3-2 record he needs to advance to tomorrow.
GP Bologna 2005 Sealed Deck
Saturday, June 11: 5:22 pm - Feature Match Round 4: Julien Nuijten vs. Jelger Wiegersma
Sometimes it can be a struggle to pick interesting feature matches in the early rounds. Today was sort of the same problem, but for different reasons. This all Dutch clash between the current world champion Julien Nuijten and GP juggernaut Jelger Wiegersma seems an obvious one. On the other feature match table there is an exciting all Belgian clash between Geoffrey Siron and Bernado Da Costa Cabral, while in the mass British Pro Sam Gomersall is up against Wilco Pinkster, winner of the largest GP ever in Paris last year.
Nuijten, left, vs. Wiegersma
Nuijten shipped back his first purely because of his outrageous mana base playing up. He kept the next six and busted out first an Elder Pine of Jukai and then an Ember Fist Zubera and a Frostling. Wiegersma curved out a Cruel Deceiver and then Kabuto Moth. His fourth turn brought in a Honden of Night's Reach and a sigh from Nuijten.
Nuijten equipped the Zubera with a Manriki-Gusari and charged in. Once the dust settled Nuijten had shifted the Moth for the loss of his Zubera and Frostling. He discarded a forest in Wiegersma's upkeep.
Wiegersma's deck appeared to have hit a big stall as he skipped a couple of turns without a play. Meanwhile Nuijten stepped up the offence with a Skyfire Kirin.
Another turn passed with no play from Wiegersma as he stared at a hand full of blue spells and no island. He wasn't completely defenseless, a Horobi's Whisper with a Soulless Revival tacked buried the Kirin while simultaneously fetching back the Kabuto Moth. When he followed up with an Island and then a River Kaijin to stall up the ground it looked like he might take control of the game.
Nuijten was still up for scrapping. His Elder Pine was drawing a succession of lands to feed the black Honden and a Pull Under removed the annoying Kaijin. Nuijten attacked to put Wiegersma to 3 life. Then he summoned a Hearth Kami and wasn't too chuffed to see a Strength of Cedars go by as the Elder Pine fetched another land for him.
Wiegersma was back on the defensive, summoning a Soratami Cloudskater and leaving his troops at home.
Nuijten had to stay home also, and was now down to zero cards from the Honden. Wiegersma nibbled through the air with the Cloudskater and then added a bit more bite with a Mirror-Guard.
Nuijten sent it an equipped Promised Kannushi on a suicide run that enabled him to soulshift back the Skyfire Kirin. The situation looked dangerous for Wiegersma if Nuijten ever topdecked an expensive arcane or spirit spell. Wiegersman added to his forces with a Soratami Savant to leave the game poised.
Both players stared carefully at the life totals. Nuijten sent in the equipped Skyfire Kirin. Wiegersma double blocked, but only ended up losing aMirror-Guard for nothing as Nuijten could save his legendary spirit with an Eiganjo Castle. There wasn't really a lot Wiegersma could do about it with his life total so low.
Nuijten kept up the pressure as he summoned a Tori Watchward. Wiegersma cycled a land through the Cloudskater and found the Befoul he needed for the Kirin.
The Watchward was sent in and Wiegersma was forced to block with Deceiver and Savant. The Moth saved the Savant. But this left it open for Nuijten to kill it with Barrel Down Sokenzan and then kill Wiegersma on the next turn with the Kirin he soulshifted back with the Watchward.
Nuijten 1-0 Wiegersma.
Nuijten got off to a flier in the second game. He followed a Petalmane Baku with an Elder Pine and then used the Baku to cast a Kabuto Moth. Wiegersma stopped the land drawing with a Befoul as he started his offence with a Thief of Hope.
Barrel Down Sokenzan with Soulless Revival took out the Thief of Hope and fetched back the Elder Pine. Wiegersma had a beefy reply in the form of Yukora the Prisoner.
Nuijten's deck was going berserk. He had Hana Kami now. Combined with Soulless Revival and Barrel and Elder Pine meant there were far too much abusiveness for Wiegersma to break up, even with a black Honden
Nuijten 2-0 Wiegersma
Saturday, June 11: 5:43 pm - Feature Match Round 5: Geoffrey Siron vs Vincent Lemoine
Two members of the last Belgian National Team face each other in far away Bologna to replay the finals of their country's championship. After they made the team and ended up second at Worlds they've both found more success in the Magical world and now they're off to see who can make the most out of his byes and hopefully "level up" at this Grand Prix.
Both had a one drop to start the game. Vincent dropped the card that seems to be everywhere: Sensei's Divining Top, while Geoffrey led with the rather less format defining Hankyu. Vincent one upped Geoffrey again on turn 2 when his Hand of Cruelty got matched by a Kami of the Ancient Law. A Nezumi Cutthroat and a Konda's Hatamato rounded out his team while Geoffrey began setting up his Hankyu. He spent the next two turns equipping the clunky bow and shooting the Cutthroat while Vincent actually made monsters and Geoffrey seemed to be lagging behind way too far to catch up.
Then he played Freed from the Real on his Kami. For those of you who were around when Hermetic Study and Horseshoe Crab, that ain't pretty. A Gutwrencher Oni gave Siron pause but once he took some time to think and figured out he could use his Plains to move the Hankyu back and forth and then supercharge it with the creature enchantment, Vincent scooped up and moved on to the next game.
After Geoffrey rebuilt his deck for game 2 they started the next duel. Vincent declared he was playing first and promptly mulliganed a one land, Sensei's Divining Top hand. That's a lesson for you kids at home. The land never comes, children. Don't gamble! Unfortunately for Lemoine the plains felt so bad they didn't give the swamps room to play too and Vincent was stuck with two uncastable creatures. Geoffrey had none of those problems and came out of the gates blazing with a Devoted Retainer, a Nagao and a Razorjaw Oni. The Nagao got killed though and both players matched Scuttling Deaths with the Oni ensuring the game wouldn't turn into a stalemate.
Vincent, behind on life and still stuck on one swamp had to come up with a plan but it wasn't forthcoming as the top of his deck yielded nothing but a Blessing of Leeches, which isn't too hot in the best of situations let alone now. He made a game out of it with his second foil Scuttling Death and looked like he might be able to turn the tide of the race in his favor, with the Blessed Hatamoto ensuring one of Geoffrey's beaters would only deal one each turn. After a long visit to the think tank Siron apparently came up with a plan of his own. Out of his team of Kami of the Waning Moon, Scuttling Death and Razorjaw Oni he chose to only serve with the little flier. The impotent black giants could only watch the next turn as Vincent rumbled through and took the lead in the life race for the first time this game, 9-8. Geoffrey usurped that lead immediately when he found an Ashen Skin Zubera to give his Oni fear and the flier and the ogre put Vincent at 3. That left Siron with only black creatures on defense and thanks to his traitorous Oni they couldn't protect their master so the double Death team made sure this match would go to a final game.
Geoffrey seemed to agree with Vincent and his decision to play first. A choice that goes against conventional wisdom in this format but appeared to serve these two's decks just fine. Siron was the first on the board with a Takenuma Bleeder to which Vincent could only respond with a slightly underwhelming turn 3 Silent Chant Zubera. It chumped and Geoffrey kept curving out with the Oni that cost him the game just a few moments ago. This time it didn't look like it would backfire though, as Vincent's empty board didn't look too threatening. A Cage of Hands minimized the damage though and Lemoine's top turned into a Kitsune Diviner, stabilizing his board position somewhat. When Siron only had a Kami of the Waning Moon as a rejoinder Vincent looked like he could get back in the game but the jolly Belgian didn't have a play of his own either.
A Hankyu didn't really liven up the game either and Vincent spinned his Top looking for a way to take advantage of Geoffrey's lack of gas. A Kagemoro's Clutch didn't give him a beater but it completely halted Siron's offense and let Vincent get in for his first two points with a freshly summoned Hand of Cruelty. A Cutthroat and a Kitsune Loreweaver added to his squad but they were slightly outclassed as Geoffrey found his sixth land, Hankyu'd the Diviner and dropped Yosei, the Morning After. Vincent calculated furiously to find out if he could find enough creatures to get around the big Dragon in the extra turns that were left to him. His Cage of Hands jumped off the Oni and onto Yosei allowing his three two power creatures to put Siron at a very precarious 2 life points.
Geoffrey answered with a Hankyu on the Loreweaver and a Moonwing Moth to chump the Blademaster but a Silent Chant Zubera snuck past to deal one and when Vincent played three extra creatures Geoffrey was reduced to one out for a draw. A way to kill his own Yosei and tap Vincent out in the last extra turn. It wasn't there and Vincent won a very hard fought match and left Geoffrey waiting for another time to avenge his loss for the Belgian Championship.
Match to Vincent Lemoine.
Saturday, June 11: 6:19 pm - Traffic Jams and Side Events
Usually Side Events don't really start to get active until players start dropping out of the main tournament. This time Side Events got started earlier as a number of players failed to make registration in time because of a horrendous traffic jam. Tournament attendance is lower than expected today and although this cannot be solely ascribed to traffic problems I did have an image of around three hundred frustrated Magic players stuck in gridlock and playing across the roofs of their cars.
Saturday, June 11: 6:51 pm - Feature Match Round 6: Stephan Meyer vs. Wilco Pinkster
Wilco Pilkster, from The Netherlands, has the distinction of winning the largest ever Grand Prix when he emerged triumphant in Paris last year. Stephan Meyer, from Germany, also made the last eight at that tournament. Before then he won GP Vienna way back in 2001.
Pinkster started with a mulligan and had to watch as Meyer got off to a flier. A Sustainer ramped up to four mana for Nagao on turn three. Pinkster had the perfect answer in Kami of Ancient Stone, only for Meyer to trump it with an even bigger monster on turn 4: Okina Nightwatch.
Pinkster had the answer again, this time an Innocence Kami. Meyer was putting him under a lot of pressure though. He dropped a Silverstorm Samurai and then a Genju of the Cedars to try and batter through Pinkster's defences.
Reciprocate dealt with Nagao and Meyer replaced it with a Gnarled Mass. Another crunching attack was neutralized by a Candle's Glow. Pinkster was still at 5 life, with an Innocence Kami, Kami of Ancient Stone, Nezumi Ronin and Wicked Akuba to Meyer's Nightwatch, Gnarled Mass and Genju. Pinkster felt safe enough to attack back with the Ronin and Akuba before shoring up with an Indebted Samurai.
Seeing the momentum shifting away Meyer summoned a Hundred-Talon Kami and passed the turn. The game was looking interesting. Pinkster snuck the Ronin through to drop Meyer to 11 life.
Meyer summoned a Moonlit Strider and flew over to drop Pinkster to 3. This time Pinkster couldn't afford to attack. The Innocence Kami also had to switch its attentions from the Nightwatch to the flying Kami. A second flier, a Mothrider Samurai, appeared for Meyer.
Pinkster needed an answer. He didn't draw one. The Moonlit Strider prevented the Innoncence Kami from tapping down a flier and the both were enough to take the first game in favour of the German.
Meyer 1-0 Pinkster
Meyer managed to find a second turn Sustainer for the fourth time in a row. He had nothing to take advantage of it this time and so attacked for one before summoning a Matsu-Tribe Sniper.
Pinkster got a few hits in with a Wicked Akuba and then blocked up the ground with a Kami of Ancient Stone. A Kitsune Dawnblade allowed Meyer to bypass the Kami of Ancient Stone, but only for a meager two damage. The big green dragon he followed it with was a lot more scary for the Dutchman. Again his deck seemed to have the answer as Innocence Kami appeared again.
Meyer again tried to overwhelm with an avalanche of fat as a Gnarled Mass was followed by a green Genju. Pinkster had another answer, a permanent one to the Genju as he Reciprocated the enchanted forest. He was taking damage each time though.
Hold the Line was a much more permanent solution, sending both the Gnarled Mass and Dawnblade to the graveyard for no loss.
"So many tricks", Meyer said.
The German's deck seemed to be all about pressure. He summoned Nagao. Pinkster answered with a Silverstorm Samurai and the game headed into another stall.
Meyer again looked to be the one to bust through as he summoned a Waxmane Baku and then a Burr Grafter.
There was a pause as Meyer asked a judge over for the exact wording on Candle's Glow. He was worried Pinkster might have the card in hand. Meyer tapped the Innocence Kami with Waxmane Baku at end of turn to leave the way open to swing with the dragon. The life totals were Pinkster 6 to Meyer 14. The Dutchman was toast if he didn't have the Candle's Glow to save him. Even with Candle's Glow it looked tricky as Meyer summoned Moonlit Strider and then Gnarled Mass to put two counters on the Waxmane Baku. The German turned his men sideways and tapped two of Pinkster's blockers before blocking for the win…
But oh no. He ended up alpha striking straight into a train wreck. Pinkster did indeed have Candle's Glow. He also had two Blessed Breath and was able to prevent both his defenders from being tapped. Meyer's attack was nullified with heavy casualties.
It got worse. On his turn Pinkster played Dance of Shadows and alpha-striked back to win an excellent topsy-turvy game and take the match to a decider.
Meyer 1-1 Pinkster
Meyer didn't have the second turn Sustainer this game. Worse, he was forced to mulligan.
Meyer opened with a pair of snakes, Ranger and Decoy. Pinkster summoned Riftwalker and then started swinging with a Nikko-Onna that was virtually untouchable with the number of instant arcane tricks in Pinkster's deck.
Meyer just seemed to be taking it from the Nikko-Onna as his deck didn't appear to being doing anything. Then he hit six mana and summoned first Jugan and then a Moss Kami. Pinkster's Moonring Mirror didn't seem quite in the same league. He did have a Reciprocate for the dragon however, and then Innocence Kami put in the same timely appearance it had made all match.
Meyer tried to fight with a Waxmane Baku, but he looked to be under the cosh here, trying to stabilize against Pinkster's aggression. Another attack saw 6 life hacked off Meyer's total while the Mirror steadily accumulated cards.
With time called Meyer found a Genju of the Cedars and threw everything into a desperate attack. It was not enough as Pinkster had yet another trick in his hand, this time Ethereal Haze, to take the match.
Wilco Pinkster beats Stephan Meyer 2-1
Saturday, June 11: 8:33 pm - Feature Match Round 7: Sebastien Roux vs. Frank Karsten
After covering Frank Karsten's deck constructing earlier I got a chance to see the deck in action in round 7 as the Dutchman faced off against Sebastien Roux from France.
The last card Karsten really wanted to see with his blue-white deck was a Ghost-Lit Raider. With both players stuck on three land it seemed like his best, if meager, hope was to try and overwhelm the pinger. A Consuming Vortex put Roux back a turn but it wasn't enough to stop the Raider wreaking havoc on Karsten's forces. Blademaster, Loreweaver and Samurai of the Pale Curtain were all shot to pieces before a Harsh Deceiver stuck.
It was not all rosy for the Frenchman and Karsten managed to "kill" a Moss Kami and Callous Deceiver as the mana-screwed Roux had to discard at end of turn.
A fourth land brought out a Shimmering Glasskite for Roux as Karsten chipped him down to 11 with the Deceiver and Lantern Kami.
The Lantern Kami went the way of the rest of Karsten's forces. A Kami of the Painted Road was big enough to stick around though. At this point the Frenchman hadn't summoned anything more threatening than a blue and red Zubera, but the Shimmering Glasskite was steadily pecking away for two points a turn.
Roux went for a Soratami Savant to accelerate the damage. Karsten met it with Overwhelming Intellect, suddenly giving him an extra four cards with which to find a way back into the game.
Again looking to overwhelm Karsten summoned both a Moonwing Moth and Soratami Savant. The Raider could shoot them both down, but it would require time and Karsten was hoping not to give him any. Karsten couldn't afford to, I peeked at Roux's hand and thought I saw a Kumano lurking in there.
Karsten went for a Shimmering Glasskite of his own, only for Roux to counter it with Thoughtbind. The Dutchman swung with everything, trying to keep Roux rocking back. The attack dropped Roux to 5 and cost him his Shimmering Glasskite when Karsten pumped up the Moth with a Hundred-Talon Strike.
It was time for the big bombs as Kumano entered the fray. Roux had the look of someone who can't quite understand how they could be losing this game. A single spirit or arcane would do it now for Karsten. He didn't have one and so could only attack for two with the Moth. A Reciprocate had dealt with the Raider but now Roux was about to untap with Kumano, Master Yamabushi in play. Would it be enough? With four plains open the Moth was virtually unkillable and that was doing the damage.
Roux was at 3. Karsten went for the jugular, summoning a Mirror-Guard and sending in an unblockable Deceiver for the final point of damage. It wasn't quite enough. Karsten had enough plains to stop Kumano shooting the Moth, but not enough for the Glacial Ray Roux ended with.
Roux was at two life, Karsten at 10. Roux made a Pinecrest Ridge and swung with the Zubera and Kumano. Karsten didn't block and died to a splashed Kodama's Might from nowhere.
The game had looked like it should have been over on turn three. Karsten had managed to drag it out for much longer, but the result had been the same and now he only had 13 minutes to rescue the match.
Roux 1-0 Karsten
The dreaded Ghost-Lit Raider again put in an appearance on turn three. Karsten had a Moonwing Moth and that was it. He kept swinging while Roux pulled ahead in the race through the help of two Zubera's. A Goblin Cohort appeared and then Roux had to watch helplessly as Karsten completely nullified his attack force with Reverence.
Again short of mana Roux tried to shut down the Moth with Mystic Restraints, only for it to be countered with Blessed Breath. The Moth chipped off another two points of life to leave Roux at 8. Roux finally found a sort of an answer as a Callous Deceiver took to the skies to block. The land on top of the library allowed a Brutal Deceiver to grow big enough to attack through Reverence. Another land on top allowed Roux the possibility of the same play.
Karsten had an answer. He killed the Raider with a Nine-Ringed Bo and then summoned a Blademaster now the way was clear. Roux dropped an enormous Moss Kami to leave the game finely poised with both players on 6 life. Karsten summoned a Samurai of the Pale Curtain and passed the turn.
The Moss Kami ploughed in on the next turn. The Frenchman had some anxious moments when Karsten blocked with both. Roux had a Glacial Ray, but would Karsten have a trick. He couldn't save the samurai but did have a Reciprocate to deal with the Moss Kami. Time was called and it was Moonwing Moth or bust for Karsten. Could he push it through for the last couple of attacks. He had enough turns, but Roux had found a land on top of his library. It's not often a land on top of the library is good at this stage of the game but as it allowed him to attack Karsten down to 1 with the Brutal Deceiver and block Karsten's Moth it was absolutely crucial. Karsten now had only one turn in which to do 4 damage. He emptied his hand dropping a Harsh Deceiver to hold the ground against the Brutal Deceiver and a Savant to the damage if Roux didn't have another land.
Roux had better as he summoned his own Savant. Karsten didn't draw a way to remove it and the Frenchman was able to hold on for the win.
Sebastien Roux beats Frank Karsten 1-0
Saturday, June 11: 9:17 pm - The 8-0 Decklists
GP Bologna 2005: 8-0 Sealed Deck
GP Bologna 2005: 8-0 Sealed Deck
GP Bologna 2005: 8-0 Sealed Deck
GP Bologna 2005: 8-0 Sealed Deck