Sunday, January 29: 7:37 a.m. - Marshalling the Troops
by Craig Jones
Jaap Brouwer marshalls the troops
Urgh, it's early. Normally I just crawl out of bed and arrive about five minutes before day two starts. It's not lazy, it's optimal.
However Hasselt is not the biggest of places and the Ethias Arena is at least a half an hour walk from the hotel. In this weather walking in seems like asking to come down with colds, pneumonia and possibly frostbite so I hitched a lift in with the judges.
A lot of work goes on behind the scenes of any big tournament. Players may gripe when a day one runs to midnight, but spare a thought for the "zebras". If the players have to wait until midnight, then the judges won't leave until one in the morning. And the next morning they have to be here an hour before the draft kicks off. So here we are, at seven in the moming, as head judge Jaap Brouwer briefs the troops.
Sleep is an over-rated commodity.
I'm just grouchy because the bar was shut when I got back to the hotel last night. Grrrr….
Sunday, January 29: 9:43 a.m. - Draft Coverage Table 1: Bram Snepvangers
by Jörn Martin Hajek
Both 9-0 players, Thomas Preyer and Tiago Chan, are seated at this table, and will play each other in round one. I will cover another undefeated player, Bram Snepvangers, who has 8 wins and a single draw on his record, and who is well-known for his often unconventional draft style. He is sitting to left of Olivier Ruel, and will pass to Andreas Jagereder, his most likely first-round opponent.
Bram Snepvangers, right, drafts against an all-star table
Brams first choice was between Stinkweed Imp and Golgari Rotwurm, as he didn't like to firstpick Boros. He figured that Andreas on his left would take whichever of the two was passed, so he took the Imp, hoping to go Dimir. He got a few cards that were good in the deck, but weaker than the rest of the pack, like two Drift of Phantoms in his first cards. Unfortunately for him, Olivier also went into blue-black, with Brainspoil and two Snapping Drakes. Bram chose to stick to his plan though, and continued to collect decent to mediocre cards, the highlight being a Sewerdreg.
In the second round, he firstpicked a Dimir Doppelganger. He then got his hands on a Cerulean Sphinx (though he was tempted to take the Dimir Guildmage instead,) but then the average cards kept piling up again: Tattered Drake, Roofstalker Wight and so on. Meanwhile, Olivier had found a Moroii in his pack, and followed it up with the Guildmage Bram passed to him. He also took a number of green cards, as it seemed to be underdrafted at the table. Because he had an incredible number of Signets from the first round, he would have no problems playing three colors.
In the final booster, Bram was confronted with the choice between Ribbons of Night and Szadek, Lord of Secrets. He chose the Ribbons. The next one was tough as well: Olivier had left him a Dark Confidant, a Psychic Drain (the first milling card he saw in the whole draft) and a Belltower Sphinx. Bram went for the Sphinx. The next booster had nothing interesting, and Bram got a Signet. Number four was filled with choices, and a Darkblast was added to the deck. Bram then managed to pick up Brainspoil and Netherborn Phalanx.
All in all, his deck didn't seem to be very impressive, however, the same was true for most of the other decks at the table. He expected to go either 2-1 or 1-2, depending on his opponents.
Sunday, January 29: 10:22 a.m. - Draft Coverage Table 1: Antoine Ruel
by Rogier Maaten
This is exciting stuff, honest
Hey, this is Rogier. Unfortunately I'll be doing coverage today, which means I did not make day two. Here is what happened in the draft:
Apparently Antoine likes the Dimir guild as he first-picked Vedalken Entrancer over Ursapine. This pick is quite unusual, since the other good cards in the booster were pretty much spread out over all four guilds. One thing you accomplish with this pick, is that you can be guaranteed that your neighbour will be drafting green.
In the second booster Antoine found Galvanic Arc, Drift of Phantasms, Elves of Deep Shadow, Woodwraith Corrupter and Bathe in Light. Now Antoine had a tough choice to make. By passing Ursapine he more or less limited himself to drafting either Dimir or Boros. Galvanic Arc is the best card in these two guilds from this pack, so that is what he chose. Antoine could have opted to stick with the UB plan by drafting Drift of Phantasms, but went for flexibility this time.
Pack three offered Transluminant, Rally the Righteous and Greater Mossdog. Clearly not the best pack around, and two of the best three cards are green. This doesn't really say a lot about the picks of the players before Antoine, as even these green cards are pretty mediocre. Rally the Righteous would be a safe pick here, Antoine took Transluminant.
Scatter the Seeds was the best card in the next booster, it came along with Clinging Darkness, Seed Spark and Shambling Shell. Taking Entrancer over Ursapine proved to be costly, as Antoine could do little else than move into green from here.
Fifth and sixth pick again changed Antoine's perspective as he took Skynight Legionnaire and then Lightning Helix. After that a Boros Swiftblade, Nightguard Patrol, Frenzied Goblin and a late Drift of Phantasms followed. With six Boros cards after one booster, Antoine is still in quite a good shape, even though some unfortunate things happened early on. It seems like there is only one other Boros drafter at this table, and that player cannot be close to Antoine. The 10th pick Drift of Phantasms represented a lack of Dimir players, but for Antoine to move into this guild was a little late at this point. The first few picks in the second booster were going to be crucial to see whether Antoine is in the right colours at this point.
Ruel opened Dimir House Guard, Faith's Fetters, Last Gasp, Compulsive Research, Vedalken Entrancer and Fist of Ironwood. Basically this pack has great cards in every guild. Faith Fetters seemed like a logical pick here, as the A-plan should now definitely be Boros. Antoine didn't surprise me this time.
Pack two featured a Brainspoil as the best card, along with Greater Mossdog and Sell-Sword Brute. The Brute is not the greatest second pick, Antoine took Brainspoil just to keep his B-plan open. Next up: Civic Wayfinder. Things are clearly not going Antoine's way. The next best card in this booster was Flight of Fancy, which is also not a card I would be happy with as a fourth pick.
The next packs were a little better for Antoine. Cleansing Beam came 5th, Rally the Righteous 6th, then Seeds of Strength over another Beam and a fortunate Skynight Legionnaire 8th. Considering the fact that Ruel got the Lightning Helix 6th in pack one, not all is lost at this point. Some quality Boros cards are expected to arrive in pack three. This is what Antoine got out of it: Transluminant (first over Ribbons of Night and Plague Boiler), Pollenbright Wings, back to back Sunhome Enforcers, Trumpeteer, Selesnya Signet, Viashino Fangtail, Sparkmage Apprentice, Boros Garrison and Goblin Spelunkers. This, again, is a disappointing booster, and I do not think I like Antoine's chances in this pod.
Sunday, January 29: 10:41 a.m. - Round 10: Sam Gomersall vs. Antoine Ruel
by Rogier Maaten
You can read about the draft from Antoine's side above. I think Sam was the only player drafting blue cards, and his deck turned out to be quite effective. Highlights were 11th pick Compulsive Research and multiple Vedalken Dismissers combined with Peel from Reality.
Antoine mulliganned once in Game 1, played a Forest and a Mountain and not much else until a Transluminant arrived. Sam's draw was easily good enough to take the lead. He played turn 3 Research, turn 4 Bramble Elemental and turn 5 Vedalken Dismisser.
Antoine, playing first, was forced to mulligan twice, and ended up with a hand that lacked white mana sources yet again. Two of his three Forests were present in this grip, which isn't really a good thing. He only managed to play two spells in this game, making a total of four spells and five lands in the match, while Sam was doing the same thing again. Draw some cards, play a Dismisser (that was actually better than a Time Walk in this scenario), then Belltower Sphinx, Dimir Guildmage and Peel from Reality.
Sam, who has the better deck, wins within ten minutes.
Sam 2 - Antoine 0
Sunday, January 29: 12:30 p.m. - Drafting Drakes with Raphael Levy
by Craig Jones
Raphael Levy and his new best friends
One of the comments I've heard a couple times this weekend is "you should watch Levy draft." On the surface the rules for Ravnica draft seem fairly straight-forward, you pick a guild and run with it. However one of the characteristics of good players is they know when those rules should be broken.
Levy's strategy revolves around a little blue common by the name of Drake Familiar. The blue-red strategy around the Drake with Galvanic Arc (The Drake has a "drawback" where the controller has to return an enchantment to hand when the Drake come into play. Now which enchantment should I return, let me see…) was touted when Ravnica first came out, but as Galvanic Arc seldom goes later than second pick it's not always easy to put the deck together. Levy's attitude is that there are enough good aura's with CiP effect the deck can function without the Arcs. Strands of Undeath, Flight of Fancy and Fists of Ironwood are all useful and together with the Drakes and other Auras like Mark of Eviction the deck can generate crazy amounts of card advantage. It's also not too hard to pick up those auras as other draft strategies value them as lower picks. After the auras and drakes the other high picks are mana fixers to support the diverse colors.
"Levy always has this deck" - Just about every Pro I talked to.
The first draft went even more to plan for Levy as he got early Galvanic Arcs and was able to ignore green completely and put together a straight blue-red deck with a black splash for the Strands of Undeath. While the deck is light on creatures Levy does have a plan B in the form of Mindleech Mass to administer the killing blow.
This is his first draft deck. At the time of writing he'd taken his first two matches including a very cheeky win off the back of using Copy Enchantment on an opponent's Faith's Fetter to generate 12 life over the course of the game.
Paradoxically the arrival of Guildpact hinders rather than helps the strategy. Guildpact does provide better mana fixers for red and blue in the form of the Izzet lands and signet, but crucially it's one less booster of Drakes and CiP auras with nothing to replace. While an interesting strategy this tournament might mark its swansong (although MTGO players still have a few more weeks to confound and confuse their opponents with it).
First Draft GP Hasselt 2006
Sunday, January 29: 1:51 p.m. - Demonstration Area
by Craig Jones
Magic taught here
One of the nice things about having help at this GP is it frees up my time to wander around the Grand Prix and write coverage on some of the background events taking place at the tournament. Along with the rather cosy VIP / Press area there is a demonstration area at the back of the room.
As part of the marketing drive to push Magic into the mainstream there have been a few competitions in various newspapers and magazine to give people the chance to get immersed in the Grand Prix experience. A team of demonstrators is on hand to show them the game and the players go home with some nice goodie bags.
Sunday, January 29: 2:25 p.m. - Brisk Business at the side event area
by Craig Jones
No rest for the side-event judges
As you may or may not be aware there is a brand new set that will arriving at the shops shortly. Guildpact is incoming and it brings with it three brand new guilds: Izzet, Orzhov and Gruul. This weekend is the store release weekend and as part of that players can enter prerelease flights to get a chance to play with the new cards. Each tournament is a 32 player flight of 4 rounds with prizes going to any player managing a 9 points or better. Yesterday they ran 6 flights.
I went over to the side event area to find out how successful today had been. After dodging the hail of boosters, boxes, old typewriters and an even an old asthmatic thrull named Stan the harassed staff threw at me I managed to determine they were currently registering for the ninth flight. Throw in another 32 side events and the fact it's only two in the afternoon and we have the makings of a successful GP.
The weird thing is it still feels empty despite having about a thousand magic players around because the venue is so fast. I think according to European Events Manager Danny Brosens this might actually be the largest venue ever used for a Grand Prix.
Now you'll have to excuse me while I go brain Stan with a Tensa Barrier.
Sunday, January 29: 2:48 p.m. - Drafting with Geoffrey Siron and Gabriel Nassif
by Rogier Maaten
Draft two gets underway, and we will be focussing on pod number 2. It features a lot of talented players in Sam Gomersall, Antoine Ruel, Julien Goron, Geoffrey Siron and Gabriel Nassif. In this report I will check out how Geoffrey and Gabriel (Geoffrey is on Nassif's right) are handling this Ravnica format.
Geoffrey Siron, left, and Gabriel Nassif, center, look through their cards
After we talked about Antoine's firstpick Vedalken Entrancer over Ursapine, the draft starts with Gabriel opening Ursapine. He does not say no to the approximately 5th best card in this format. Geoffrey opens a pack with Lightning Helix, Trumpeteer, Gather Courage and Vedalken Entrancer. As most good players prefer Dimir over Boros essentially, the Entrancer is an easy pick for Siron. Nassif picks up the Gather Courage, just to avoid his neighbour from picking any green cards early on. Normally Lightning Helix is a superior card, and even though it does not quite fit into a deck with Ursapine, I think I would have opted for the burn spell.
Siron's second pick is Civic Wayfinder, over Viashino Fangtail. This makes perfect sense, especially since he already shipped two good Boros cards to his left. Gabriel picks up the Fangtail, which was clearly the best card left in the pack. Geoffrey's next picks are two Fist of Ironwood, Transluminant and Strands of Undeath. He was on his way to a good Selesnya deck, but this all changed when the late picks in the first booster gave him two Drake Familiars, Cloudstone Curio and a Peel from Reality. This is what happened at Gabe's side: after the Fangtail he picked up Scatter the Seeds, Greater Mossdog, Elves of Deep Shadow and Golgari Rot Farm, leaning to the Golgari archetype.
It does not need to be a problem that Gabriel and Geoffrey are both looking for green cards, since the decks they are trying to draft have very different requirements in general, it may become an issue as both Siron's and Nassif's neighbours are drafting green as well.
In pack two Gabriel start with Disembowel, then Golgari Guildmage, and a third pick Hex. From there he picks up Dimir Guildmage and two Dimir Signets. Geoffrey just drafts essential cards in this pack: two Civic Wayfinders, Vedalken Dismisser, Elves of Deep Shadow, Drift of Phantasms and another Cloudstone Curio. Unfortunately there are no further enchantments to complement Siron's deck at this moment.
Now that both players have settled in their colours: Nassif is in Golgari, Siron plays green-black-blue.
The first booster in pack three gives Siron Keening Banshee, which is quite nice with his Curio's and Peel from Reality. After that Disembowel, Fist of Ironwood, Compulsive Research, Scatter the Seeds and a crucial Bramble Elemental follow. Geoffrey's deck looks awesome, all his cards have good interactions. I think he may be able to get the two wins that he needs in the next two rounds. Siron does not really have any creatures other than tokens and Wayfinders, so he may have a problem when his tokens are just not good (for example versus Wojek Embermage).
Gabriel finished his deck with Shambling Shell, Disembowel, Golgari Signet, Transluminant and Strands of Undeath. His deck is just solid overall, the fact that so many players were drafting green around him hurt his chances more than they did Siron though.
Sunday, January 29: 3:34 p.m. - Drafting with Antoine Ruel and Sam Gomersall
by Jörn Martin Hajek
Sam Gomersall, left, and Antoine Ruel are both accustomed to winning
Most of the people in this draft needed a score of 2-0-1, which probably means that two people will advance from this pot. The competition was fierce, though: Antoine Ruel, Sam Gomersall, Geoffrey Siron and Gabriel Nassif - and that was just half the pot.
Both Ruel and Gomersall started off quite well - Ruel took the Selesnya Guildmage over Faith's Fetters, and Gomersall got Vedalken Dismisser, a card many of the top players like to build their Dimir-decks around. The problem for Ruel was of course that the Fetters would make it very likely that Julien Goron to his left also would play white. Gomersall passed Selesnya Evangel, which Ruel happily took as his second pick. Gomersall went on drafting beat-down Dimir cards, with Snapping Drake, Tattered Drake etc. He also made sure too pick up a bit of bounce for his Dismisser. Ruel didn't get too much in this round, but stayed in the Selesnya colors.
In booster two, Ruel opened a Moldervine Cloak, which he was quite happy about. Gomersall got himself a Vedalken Entrancer as pretty much the only option, which led to him taking more of the milling cards. Ruel took a couple of Courier Hawks over some better cards, as he needed more small creatures - and the Hawks really like to get cloak'ed up. The card quality wasn't very high for him though, probably because of the Fetters he sent to his left in booster one. Gomersall got a Disembowel, but the Entrancer pulled him in the milling direction, which meant that some of his earlier picks lost in value.
He ended up with two more Entrancers, but the shift in strategy was pretty expensive. In booster three, he had to take a Tidewater Minion as a first pick, a card he could have gotten very late in booster one instead - but he didn't need it at that point. He got some other important cards for his deck in Stinkweed Imp and Drift of Phantoms. His deck certainly looks reasonable, but the synergies between some of the cards aren't that impressive.
Meanwhile, Ruel got another potential winner in his first pick Plague Boiler. He really gained a lot from that third booster, a few fatties, and lots of token generators, like Scatter the Seed (which he took over Bramble Elemental) and Vitu-Ghaz, the City-Tree.
All in all, both players probably still can get to the needed 7 points, although Ruel's chances look a bit better.
GP Hasselt Draft 2
GP Hasselt Draft2
Sunday, January 29: 4:12 p.m. - Drafting Simic
by Craig Jones
Yes, you did read correctly and no I haven't just come back from a time machine trip a few months into the future. I'm talking about another unusual draft strategy that shows the versatility of Ravnica. I'm talking about drafting a guild combination that isn't supposed to arrive until Dissension. I'm talking about drafting blue-green.
First some deck lists:
1st Draft GP Hasselt 2006
2nd Draft GP Hasselt 2006
2nd Draft GP Hasselt 2006
Like Raphael Levy's deck from the first round both Siron's and Martin's decks make heavy use of Drake Familiar to generate card advantage. Martin has Flight of Fancy, Siron has Strands of Undeath and both have multiple copies of Fists of Ironwood. Siron's deck is especially nasty as he has Cloudstone Curio and can make a number of abusive plays with Drakes, Fists and even Civic Wayfinder.
The other card that seems to make these decks is Vedalken Dismisser. Originally the six mana cost was derided as being far too expensive. With more experience of the format the general consensus is it's bang on the money with many pro's citing it as their favourite common. Gomersall drafted three copies and his deck also features Mark of Eviction to provide a very annoying lock. While Siron doesn't have the pesky 1 mana enchantment he can also get a similar effect from the Cloudstone Curio.
Sunday, January 29: 4:40 p.m. - The most vicious feature match of all…
by Craig Jones
Frank Karsten demonstrates how he'll be getting home
Okay, so you're going into the second draft. There's no chance of making top 32, let alone top 8. So what do you? Well draft all the rares that's what.
Both Ruud Warmenhoven and Frank Karsten found themselves entering the second draft with absolutely nothing to play for. So to make things interesting they decided to try and see who could draft the most rares. Whoever got the most would take all the rares. In the end it ended as a tie as both netted a fantastic twelve rares apiece. This left them with a quandary. Honor must be upheld. A winner must be decided. To this end only a straight slug out between the two decks would decide it.
Would Frank's double Grozoth / Quickchange / Hunted Horror special prevail over Ruud's Phytohydra and Tolsimir Wolfsblood (hey, no fair - that guy's actually good) concoction.
Well in Game 1 Frank drew Quickchanges and Hunted Horror … but in the wrong order. Unfortunately for him Ruud was cheating as he'd actually found playable cards in the form of Selesnya Evangel.
Ruud Warmenhoven is a snappy dresser
Frank came straight back in the second as a Junktroller / Tunnel Vision combo smashed up Ruud's library.
He went for the blind Tunnel Vision is Game 3, but only managed to hit five cards. Multiple Quickchanges left Tolismir very confused as to which was friend or foe but eventually Ruud won out.
The last laugh belonged to Frank. As a generous gesture Frank got to keep two of the rares at random. Amongst the 24 assorted Nullstone Gargoyles and Grozoths was one shining Temple Garden. Guess which rare ended up in Frank's pile of two …
Sunday, January 29: 6:22 p.m. - Unfeatured Decisions
by Craig Jones
Francois Moreau and Andreas Haedler cap a long table of players
Before the last round, four people were sure to make the top 8: Helge Nelson from Germany, Dimitri Reinderman from The Netherlands, Julien Goron from France and Sam Gomersall from England. The other four slots were played for in four different games, so for these guys it was the 1/8-finals. We featured Maurice Palijama versus Hans Joachim Höh. The other ones were:
Francois Moreau - Andreas Haedler:
The first game was a long, complex game, that Moreau should have won on the stregth of his Mortivore / Gaze of the Gorgon - and Woebringer Demon / lots of tokens - combos, but he underpayed for Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree three times during the game and was awarded a game loss. However, he easily won the next games against Haedler's Selesnya deck, and advanced to the top 8.
Ziga Fritz - Mathias Wigge:
Wigge was playing a three-color deck, with the popular combination of black, white, and green. Ziga had a Dimir deck that couldn't decide whether it was the milling kind or the evasive kind, but it didn't matter, as Ziga won both games - the first by milling his opponent, the other by evading Wigge's creatures.
Florian Grund - Quentin Martin:
Florian was an amateur before this Grand Prix, so he could be certain of a nice pay-out with hi Boros deck. Quentin was playing an untraditional blue-green deck with a splash of white, that took advantage of all the auras in the format. Grund won Game 1 with Sunforger and a Greater Forgeling, but Martin's flyers could race his Sunforger-equipped Boros Swiftblade in Game 2. Grund was close to winning Game 3, but three Selesnya Evangels locked up the ground until Martin got his first blue mana. Shortly after, time was called, and both players had to make up their minds about conceding. In the end, Martin was more persuasive, and Grund conceded the game, settling for the amateur prize.
Sunday, January 29: 6:40 p.m. - Art for Kika
by Craig Jones
Randy Gallegos donated some of his artwork to help Kika's cause
Yesterday I mentioned Dutch Children's Cancer charity Kika or Children Cancerfree. They are here at the Grand Prix collecting unwanted Magic cards. This campaign has generated a lot of interest in the Netherlands and some of the cards donated include Moxes and other old powerful cards. You can find out more information here.
Manning the artists stands this weekend are Randy Gallegos and Jon Foster. At the end of the weekend they made their own donations. Jon Foster donated an original sketch he drew overnight while Randy donated some of his prints. Many thanks guys!