Sunday, March 27: 7:13 pm - A (Very) Brief Who's Who of the Top 8
The top 8 of Grand Prix Leipzig has been decided. It features players of five nationalities and two amateurs.
Perhaps the most well known is the Belgian player Bernardo Da Costa Cabral. Da Costa Cabral has the best previous finish as he made the final of Grand Prix Madrid 2004, losing to Kai Budde in the final. Da Costa Cabral was recently seen in action on a team with Kai at PT Atlanta although it was not a successful tournament for them.
Niki Jedlicka, from Austria, has a quarter-final appearance from Grand Prix Birmingham 2004, where he lost to his older brother and eventual tournament winner Stefan Jedlicka.
Level two judge Rustam Bakirov proves wrong the old adage that judges can't play. This isn't new territory for him as he made the quarter-finals of GP Moscow back in 2001.
The remainder of the top 8 are unfamiliar names to me. Mateusz Dabkowski is from Poland. Sune Ellegaard is one of two amateurs in the top 8 and hails from Denmark.
The other amateur is Philip Fetzer, one of three German players in the top 8. He had a blazing run with a perfect record that was only broken in round 13 by Bakirov. The other two German players are Maximilian Bracht and Rosario Maij.
Sunday, March 27: 8:46 pm - Top 8 Draft: Bernardo Da Costa Cabral
Bernardo's draft started pretty well: The first card he saw was a Kabuto Moth, so he immediately knew he would get a nice first pick. It got even better when he got to see the rare: Kokusho, the Evening Star. It wasn't really a hard decision, and Bernardo passed the Moth along with a Pain Kami and a Painwrecker Oni. The next booster offered a choice between Nezumi Cutthroat, Order of the Sacred Bell and Consuming Vortex, and Bernardo chose to stay in color and took the Cutthroat. His third pack was very weak, and he took Kami of the Waning Moon over the only other interesting card, Honden of Life's Web. The next card was Nezumi Ronin, and in the sixth booster he needed a while to choose between Hankyu, Orochi Ranger and another Kami of the Waning Moon. He settled on the Hankyu. He avoided taking cards in another color until that point, but he was forced to take one when his only options were Feral Deceiver and Yamabushi's Storm. He took the Deceiver and followed it up with another green card, Orochi Ranger, over Night of Soul's Betrayal. He picked up another Hankyu, and then had a really tough time deciding between Painwrecker Kami, Matsu-Tribe Decoy and Soulless Revival. The other cards in the first round of boosters would all end up in his sideboard.
The Top 8 Draft.
Russian Rustam Bakirov on Bernardo's right side had also opened a rare bomb in Kumano, Master Yamabushi. He stayed in red and took some blue, so Bernardo would not have to fight for his colors with him. Philip Fetzer to his right stayed out of his colors, too, but his deck looked much worse then Bernardo's and Rustam's. He was drafting equal amounts of green, red and blue, and had only a few high-quality cards.
The second round started almost as good as the first one for Bernardo: He opened a Hideous Laughter he gladly took, although he didn't like passing Yamabushi's Flame, Cage of Hands and Blood Rites to Rustam. He Who Hungers also fit nicely, but Bernardo had to pass another Yamabushi's Flame. The third booster looked a lot like the first: Hideous Laughter, Yamabushi's Flame and Cage of Hands. The Laughter obviously would improve the deck further, but Bernardo was shaking his head when he passed the third Flame. He didn't even know that Rustam had opened a Flame for himself as well... The rest of the round didn't feature any real hard choices, and Bernardo was able to pick up Devouring Greed, Ashen-Skin Zubera, Waking Nightmare and Kami of the Hunt along with a few sideboard cards.
Rustams deck was getting out of hand with the four Flames, while Philip's deck seemed good enough for one round of top-eight-play only.
Bernardo took a Takenuma Bleeder out of the first pack and put it on top of his pile, but quickly took the card back when he realized the otherwise weaker Lifespinner would be able to fetch Kokusho for him. The next cards he took were Unchecked Growth and Budoka Pupil, but after that the Betrayers packs weren't very nice to him, although he got some playables like Child of Thorns, Matsu-Tribe Sniper and Skullsnatcher.
Overall Bernardo's deck looked very solid, although he didn't really have a way to get rid of larger creatures, as his removal consisted of two Hankyus and two Hideous Laughters. He should have no problems with the weaker decks at the table, but it seemed unlikely that he would be able to beat the stronger decks, like Rustam's.
Sunday, March 27: 9:25 pm - The Top 8 Decklists
GP Leipzig 05 Top 8 Deck
GP Leipzig 05 Top 8 Deck
GP Leipzig 05 Top 8 Deck
GP Leipzig 05 Top 8 Deck
GP Leipzig 05 Top 8 Deck
GP Leipzig 05 Top 8 Deck
GP Leipzig 05 Top 8 Deck
Bernardo Da Costa Cabral
GP Leipzig 05 Top 8 Deck
Sunday, March 27: 9:33 pm - My Top 8 Predictions
Or more correctly described as putting the mockers on, the cursing or other such words indicating doom, gloom and shattered hopes. Predicting the outcome of top 8's is a largely fruitless activity as we never ever get it right and this time it's even worse as it's just me and my … ahem … fantastic limited prowess.
So here we go for what it's worth.
The judges go over the decklists.
Mateus Dabkowski and Rosario Maij both drafted black-white. Dabkowski's curve looks a little high though with three Silverstorm Samurai. Maij's deck has double Moth, Hideous Laughter and some fat Demons. I think he'll shade this.
Niki Jedlicka managed to draft the snake clan with Seshiro, two Sachi and Sosuke, as well as Summons and a lot of other snakes. His spells aren't quite as exciting with Glacial Ray being pretty much his only removal. He's also splashing for a blue honden.
Bernardo Da Costa Cabral is playing black-green and is also short of point removal. However he does have double Hideous Laughter and Kokusho. I think this will be close but the snakes will pull it through.
Rustam Bakirov managed draft a blue-red deck featuring 4 Yamabushi's Flame and Kumano the master to go with it. His curve is also really nice. Sune Elleegaard doesn't have a deck. Bakirov wins.
Philip Fetzer has a lighting fast green-red that isn't going to be happy with the three Hideous Laughter on the table. Maximilian Bracht has a three color abomination and is unlikely to hold together in the face of Fetzer's rapid beats.
Jedlicka and his snakes might be enough to overwhelm Maij's black-white deck. Could be tough though.
Bakirov will block enough of Fetzer's early beats with annoying critters like Floating-Dream Zubera to hold on for Kumano to machine gun the board.
Snakes get crispy fried and Bakirov emerges victorious.
There we go. Now you can laugh at me when my predictions prove hopelessly inept.
Sunday, March 27: 9:57 pm - Quarterfinals: Niki Jedlicka vs. Bernardo Da Costa Cabral
This quarter-final features two of the more experienced players in this top 8. Bernardo Da Costa Cabral made the final in GP Madrid last year while Jedlicka was dumped out of the quarter-finals of GP Birmingham by his elder brother. Da Costa Cabral has a good black-green deck with Kokusho while Jedlicka is running a snake special with most of the family.
Da Costa Cabral started and didn't have a play until a Nezumi Ronin came out on the third turn. Jedlicka had plays for the first three turns: Leafcaller, Child of Thorns and an Orochi Eggwatcher. In contrast Da Costa Cabral's deck appeared to be stuttering as the fourth turn went with no play.
Jedlicka's deck went explosive as he dropped Sachi and then tapped his other two snake shamen to summon a Springcaller. Either Da Costa Cabral had nothing or was shaping up for a Hideous laughter. Sachi made that plan awkward as it was only likely to net a Child of Thorns and Leafcaller. Still it turn 5 and all he had on the table was the solitary Ronin.
Jedlicka thought for a while before sending in the lone Springcaller. Da Costa Cabral blocked and Jedlicka might have thought he'd forgotten about the extra toughness. He hadn't, and all that happened was Jedlicka threw an extra creature away to the Hideous Laughter that followed.
Da Costa Cabral was hardly out of the woods. He brought out a Lifespinner to slow down. A Sosuke / Decoy tag team killed that with a basilisk effect when it was forced to block.
It didn't look like Da Costa Cabral was coming back from this one. He made a rather insignificant Hankyu. He did have a second Hideous Laughter to buy him a turn though. That turn bought him the devastating … Kami of Waning Moon. The decoy forced the Kami to block only to find it suddenly grown gigantic with Unchecked Growth. Jedlicka was down to just Sachi and Sosuke now as Da Costa Cabral summoned a Feral Deceiver. Da Costa Cabral was holding on with 9 life. The Feral Deceiver found a land and took down Sosuke.
Jedlicka still gas. He summoned a Sniper and then dug an Order of the Sacred Bell from his deck with Commune with Nature. Da Costa Cabral drew yet another land and it was time for Game 2.
Jedlicka 1-0 Da Costa Cabral
Da Costa Cabral's turn two Distress found a very easy target at the beginning of the second game as he plucked Seshiro from Jedlicka's hand. The Nezumi Ronin put in an appearance and was traded with Gnarled Mass. Da Costa Cabral followed with a Budoka Pupil. Jedlicka tried to bluff a pump spell when he charged in with the Leafcaller. Da Costa Cabral was having nothing of it though and the Leafcaller needlessly committed suicide.
Jedlicka dropped a Honden of Seeing Winds which spelt real trouble for Da Costa Cabral if he let that get going. The Belgian put a Hankyu on a Ranger and then flung in the Pupil. Jedlicka blocked it with a Humble Budoka and got smashed in the face when Da Costa Cabral pumped it with Unchecked Growth and spliced on Soulless Revival to get back Nezumi Ronin.
Jedlicka had the two cards a turn put it was Da Costa Cabral creating the problems. Six mana was tapped a the Evening Star flew onto the board. Jedlicka's Orbweaver Kumo needed to get bigger. The Pupil was flipped to become Ichigo.
Jedlicka randomly threw a Glacial Ray at Da Costa Cabral's head and then followed up with Sachi. The Kumo forestwalked through for 3. It was difficult to work out who had the personal howling mine as Da Costa Cabral attacked with his black dragon and the Pupil and then followed with Kami of Waning Moon and Nezumi Ronin.
Jedlicka went for the Genju and started to bust through. It wasn't stopping Kokusho though, and Jedlicka conceded when he realized the situation was hopeless.
Bernardo Da Costa Cabral.
The Austrian player thought for a while as he examined his sideboard.
Jedlicka 1-1 Da Costa Cabral.
Da Costa Cabral started with a snake of his own, a Ranger, and then made it a pair. Jedlicka summoned a Gnarled Mass and crashed in. Da Costa Cabral chose to throw a Ranger in the way to keep the Gnarled Mass in play. It seemed like a strange play unless Da Costa Cabral was purely buying time before wiping the board with Hideous Laughter. He needed another swamp for that though, and he needed it sharpish as Jedlicka had got Sosuke's Summons going.
Da Costa Cabral failed to find it or any other land. He passed the turn with no play. Jedlicka had an untapped Gnarled Mass, four snake tokens and another couple of snakes. He tapped six mana and dropped Seshiro onto the table. Da Costa Cabral had no answer and could only offer his hand showing him a hand with Distress and Hideous Laughter that was just crying out for a second swamp.
Niki Jedlicka beats Bernardo Da Costa Cabral 2-1
Sunday, March 27: 10:20 pm - Quarterfinals: Quarterfinals: Rustam Bakirov vs. Sune Ellegaard
This was Rustam's second Grand Prix top eight - he also played in the quarterfinals at GP Moscow. His deck looked very good, with lots of early aggression, no less than four Yamabushi's Flames and a Kumano, Master Yamabushi to top things off. Sune is an amateur from Denmark, and he was surprised and happy he qualified for PT London. Together with at least xxx$ in amateur prizes as well as the money for top eight, this turned out to be a very successful weekend for him, no matter how this game would turn out.
Rustam Bakirov, left, vs. Sune Ellegaard.
Both players kept their hands, and the race was on. Rustam played Floating-Dream Zubera and Ronin Houndmaster on the first three turns, and it looked a bit better than Sune plays of Hearth Kami and Counsel of the Soratami. When Rustam got a Soratami Savant into play as well, his board position was so much better than Sune's that it looked like Sune wouldn't stand a chance. A Lantern Kami on his side didn't really improve his position that much. Rustam then started to use the Savant to counter everything Sune cast, and it ended quickly after that.
Rustam 1 - Sune 0
Rustam sideboarded a Nine-Ringed Bo in to help against Sune's spirits, while Sune opted not to sideboard. He had a Sokenzan Bruiser, but it was too slow against this fast deck, and would probably just die to a Yamabushi's Flame anyway.
Sune opened with Cloudcrest Lake and Kami of False Hope, which Rustam answered with Battle-Mad Ronin. Sune then showed his nervousness by attacking into the Ronin, hoping to win the fight with the help of a Hundred-Talon Strike. As the Ronin became 3/3, the Kami died anyway. Rustam quickly got control of the game, with far more creatures than Sune, and when he used his Flames to clear a path for his attackers, it became clear how this match was going to end. Sune fought hard, using and reusing a Glacial Ray (getting rid of that pesky Battle-Mad Ronin in the process,) but Rustam could end the game with yet another Yamabushi's Flame.
Rustam wins, 2-0
Sunday, March 27: 10:41 pm - Semifinals: Rustam Bakirov vs. Maximilian Bracht
Rustam Bakirov has a previous top 8 finish from GP Moscow way back in 2001. He's already bettered that here and has a chance of doing better as his blue-red deck is very strong, featuring Kumano and four Yamabushi's Flames. In contrast Bracht's draft did not go so well and he has a three color blue-white-black.
Bakirov went first. His second turn Zubera was followed by a Cohort. Bakirov didn't have a fourth turn monster and used the Cohort to trade with a Villanous Ogre. The first flame put in an appearance as a Mothrider Samurai went down in flames.
The Russian appeared to be heavily mana flooded as all he seemed to do on his turns was drop a mountain and attack with the Zubera. Bracht wasn't doing much either until he finally found a Rainshaper to race with.
The game got a little more interesting when Bakirov summoned a Soratami Savant. Both players had more than enough lands to feed their moonfolk for a considerable time. Bracht dropped Phantom Wings on the Savant with the aim of bouncing it at some point.
A second Floating-Dream Zubera joined Bakirov's offense. "Play your Laughter," Bakirov said. It seemed like this game was going to be death by pecks from tiny blue creatures rather than the assault of fat monsters usually seen.
Bracht blew the Phantom Wings to put the Savant back in hand so he could play out his own. He needed to wash his solitary island through the Rainshaper. This bizarrely turned out to be relevant as Bakirov went to clear his opponents board with a Torrent of Stone spliced onto a First Volley. The Rainshaper was not a legal target so play had to back up.
Bakirov merely repeated the play on his turn when the Rainshaper was a legal target. An Ashen Monstrosity came out of nowhere to end the game in favor of the Russian a few turns later.
Bakirov 1-0 Bracht
Both players kept their hand and it was time to begin. Bracht cast a turn two Distress.
"You got him," Bakirov said, revealing a hand that contained Kumano.
Bracht wrote down the hand and surprisingly took a Yamabushi's Flame rather than the red Masticore. Bakirov dropped an Akki Raider while Bracht took to the skies with a Rainshaper. The Russian's third turn play was a Callous Deceiver. The Rainshaper flew over and ninjitsued into a Okina-Gang Shinobi, netting a Battle-Mad Ronin and Initiate of Blood from Bakirov's hand. A Yambushi's Flame fried the impertinent rats and Bakirov got in for another three points of damage.
Kami of Ancient Stone put a brick wall in place of any offense while Bracht attacked through the air with the returning Rainshaper.
Finally Bakirov got the second mountain he needed for Kumano. He had to assume Bracht had had an answer to it, otherwise why not take it with the Distress. This was not the case as Bakirov started machine-gunning Bracht and his Rainshaper. Kami of the Painted Road showed up to give Bracht some offense. A Kami of Twisted Reflection looked to give some protection for Kumano. Bracht drew a Rend Flesh and was able to first Rend the Kami and then Rend Kumano.
The game now looked quite even poised. Both players were around ten life. Bakirov had Battle-Mad Ronin, Akki Raider, Callous Deceiver and Houndmaster. Bracht had Kami of Old Stone, Kami of the Painted Road and a Villanous Ogre.
Bakirov gave the Deceiver flying and zipped over to get three points through. Bracht attacked back for three. Bakirov revealed the same land again and got another three points through. Bracht was down to three, within range of Flame. Bakirov went for the Flame, thinking that was it.
"Trap," Bracht said, revealing his sideboard tech of Minamo's Meddling.
Now the game was really interesting. Bracht had only one Kami of Old Stone to block with and Bakirov had enough damage. But the tricky German player had a card in hand. If it was an answer to one of his creatures then Bakirov was completely to exposed to a counter-attack that would take away all of his remaining four points of life.
He played it safe, attacking with only two creatures. A Floating-Dream Zubera gave him more security. Bracht was holding only land though and when he drew another he made a half-hearted attack before offering his hand.
Rustam Bakirov beats Maximilian Bracht 2-0 and advances to the finals.
Sunday, March 27: 11:00 pm - Final: Rosario Maij vs. Rustam Bakirov
This is it, one more game to go to decide the winner of Grand Prix Leipzig. Both draft decks are extremely strong. Rustam Bakirov, from Russia, has a blue-red deck with four Yamibusha's Flames and Kumano. Rosario Maij drafted a very solid black-white deck with a couple of fat demons at the top end of the curve.
Maij won the die roll and elected to go first. He opened with an inauspicious mulligan. Maij looked at the next six cards and wasn't happy with them either. Five cards going first in the final is never the start you want.
Except it wasn't five. Those weren't good enough either. Maij had to start Game 1 with only four cards. The German had to start with a significant handicap.
Rosario Maij put up an excellent fight.
But wait, now Bakirov had to mulligan. He stopped at six cards though. Maij laid a couple of plains while Bakirov started beating with a Cohort. He curved up with a Battle-Mad Ronin and then a Floating Dream Zubera, although he skipped his third turn land drop.
Meanwhile Maij was having no problems, land four arrived and he summoned a Mothrider Samurai. Bakirov found land number three and then suicided the Zubera into the Samurai to draw a card. Not much was happening as he passed turn three with no play. This wasn't the case. He was waiting for a juicier target. Cruel Deceiver wasn't, so the Mothrider went down in flames.
Bakirov dropped a fourth land and summoned an Initiate of Blood. A Hundred-Talon Strike took care of the Battle-Mad Ronin and then Maij found his first Kabuto Moth. Bakirov hit the magical five mana and plopped Kumano onto the table.
No answer from Maij and Bakirov clubbed him over the head with Tenzo, Godo's Maul on the next turn.
Bakirov 1-0 Maij
Both players decided it was more advisable to play with seven cards this game. Maij's turn one play was trumped by Bakirov's Frostling. Maij then failed to find any action while Bakirov curved up with Hearth Kami and Houndmaster. A Mothrider Samurai provided a speed bump to take care of the Houndmaster. Bakirov dropped a Cohort and then Akki Raider.
Maij passed his following turn with no play and it looked like Bakirov had horribly overextended into a Hideous Laughter. This wasn't the case as Maij summoned a Cursed Ronin to slow down the beats. Bakirov gave the Raider Godo's Maul and kept coming at him. Then a Cruel Deceiver entered play and Bakirov had to think.
He switched the Maul to the Cohort and, after summoning an Initiate of Blood, sent in the disposable Goblin with an equally disposable Kami of Twisted Reflection. Maij was at seven life and couldn't really continue to take this mauling. He pumped the Ronin big enough to care of the disposable Cohort and took two from the Kami. At five life Maij was a precarious two Flames away from defeat.
The German summoned a Riftwalker and then a Kabuto Moth as the board snarled up. Time was his enemy though, unless Maij got busy Bakirov could simply sit back and burn him out at his leisure.
The Cursed Ronin charged in and Bakirov happily threw the Zubera in the way to dig deeper into his deck. A Nine-Ringed Bo cam out to go to work on Maij's spirits.
Maij attacked again with the Cursed Ronin and this time Bakirov was happy to take four damage. The Initiate and Bo went after the Moth forcing it to tap to save itself. The Bo activated in Bakirov's turn to clear the Deceiver out the way. With only a Riftwalker on defence Maij looked ripe for the taking.
Bakirov sent in all his men…only to find himself on the receiving end of an ambush. Call to Glory untapped the Moth and Ronin and left them available to block. Otherworldly Journey took care of the overlapping Kami while a spliced Hundred-Talon Strike gave the Ronin first strike.
It was a bloody massacre. Bakirov was able to sac the Kami to save the Initiate, but everything else died without a single loss to Maij's forces. The Initiate returned and picked up the Maul. The initiative had gone to Maij now though. The Ronin swung in for another four damage and he added a Painwracker Oni onto the board. Maij needed a quick kill. Bakirov hadn't yet played a Yamabushi's Flame. Maij had to assume he'd picked one up by now and had to end the game before he found a second.
Maij was tapped out. A First Volley was aimed at the exposed Ronin, inviting Maij to save it with the Moth. This would leave it open to the Bo and Initiate, although this didn't cause the Initiate to flip because of the Bo removing the spirit from the game. Sure enough, this was what happened, the Cursed Ronin was too important to lose.
The Oni had to sacrifice to itself on the following upkeep but with seven swamps Maij's Cursed Ronin put Bakirov into chumpblock mode. A Frost Ogre went, then the Initiate, then a topdecked Battle-Mad Ronin before Bakirov ran out of creatures and it was time to go to a decider.
Bakirov 1-1 Maij
Rustam Bakirov prevails!
One more game to go and unfortunately it looked like mulliganing would play a part again as Maij had to send back his first hand. Maij stayed with six cards as Bakirov came out of the gates fast with Cohort and then Hearth Kami. Callous Deceiver followed and Maij still had no play. He was missing plains. Thankfully for the German Bakirov played no threats on turn four and could only attack with the Hearth Kami and Deceiver.
Maij finally made his first play on turn four as a Kabuto Moth cam into play. This game Bakirov had drawn one of his many Flames and he shot the Moth out of the sky at end of turn.
The Russian untapped, dropped his fifth land and then summoned Kumano, Master Yambushi. He didn't need to attack as Maij was already extending his hand in concession. Bakirov's draw in the deciding game had been just perfect. Maij had not been given the slightest glimmer of a chance.
Rustam Bakirov beats Rosario Maij 2-1 and is champion of Grand Prix Leipzig!