Saturday, April 23: 9:23 am - Name Hunting: The Split
Now that's a lot of Magic players.
Since the tournament is separated in two different sets of pairings, we scoured the seating assignments trying to discover which of the two groups is - on paper - the toughest.
The system breaks down the bye players in half, so each side of the room gets the same amount of players with the fabled "three byes". Still, some of the players on the "three byes" are a little tougher than the others.
Names like Bernardo Cabral, Geoffrey Siron, Raphael Levy, Frederico Bastos, Pierre Canali, Anton Jonsson and the Ruel brothers are likely to scare any opponent in this hall. The split divided the Ruel brothers, leaving Antoine in the Blue side, along with Cabral, Siron and Canali. Across the room... Olivier Ruel, Levy, Jonsson and Bastos lead the Green machine.
Saturday, April 23: 10:41 am - Artist on Site: John "Land" Avon
Artist John Avon.
Well, it wouldn't really be a premier event without one of MtG's artists wearing his fingers away signing hundreds of cards. Today it was the land master himself, John Avon, who probably tricked more players into picking up red cards with his Mirage Mountains than all of Dan Paskins' masterful articles.
The highlights of John's Kamigawa work includes Gods' Eye, Gate to the Reikai, Untaidake, The Cloud Keeper, Lantern Kami and Honden of Infinite Rage but a quick look through the long line queuing to talk to him revealed a lot of Darksteel Citadels, Adarkar Wastes, Barbarian Ring, Pyroclasm, Millstone, Quiet Speculation and enough basic lands - including the panoramic Unhinged lands - to drown a small country. Oh... and a few fans had... City of Ass.
Saturday, April 23: 11:33 am - Round 4 Feature Match Round-Up
Portuguese Champion, Mauro Peleira against Pablo Martin.
Instead of focusing on a single feature match for round four we picked one table from each side of the room and decided to give you a brief glimpse of what happened.
Mauro Peleira, the current Portuguese champion, packing a White-Black deck fought in an Iberian battle against Pablo Martin's White-Black-Blue deck. In the end the Spanish player prevailed swamping his opponent with an overworked Orrin Hatchery in the second game.
Ramiao does his usual slouch as Paulo Oliveira shuffles.
On the second table two strong Portuguese players finally got to play some Magic after enjoying their three byes. South Side legendary slacker Ricardo Ramiao faced one third of the dreaded Lourinha team sealed titans, Paulo Oliveira. In the second game Ramiao cunningly walked his opponent into a 4-for-1 Hideous Laughter and then managed to keep Paulo's second wave back long enough to pull a very, very close Devouring Greed win.
Saturday, April 23: 12:45 pm - Feature Match Round Five: Kuniyoshi Ishii vs. Pierre Canali
Despite his Asian name Ishii is indeed a local. In fact, he's a former Portuguese National champion having won that particular tournament with a somewhat broken creature you might know: Psychatog. That was over two years ago, and he just restarted playing a few weeks ago. So far it's been good enough for a 4-0.
Even Canali's salsa moves can't keep him safe from Ishii's creatures.
Canali, besides being a salsa dancing machine, is also a Pro Tour Champion. He won that title also with a somewhat broken creature: Arcbound Ravager. Well, and also for cunningly figuring out that Aether Vial and Meddling Mage would help survive all the hate.
As we sat down the staff announced the winners of the "Free Trip" prize and Pierre found out he had won one of the consolation prizes: a free side event.
Pierre: "Well, now I can drop and play a side event!"
The first game started with a mulligan for the French. The first to blink was Ishii with a turn two Sensei Golden-Tail and Pierre could only smile and then grimace as he missed land drops and failed to draw playable creatures.
Finally on turn four he cast Sosuke, Son of Seshiro. By then Kuniyoshi had three White creatures on the table, including Nagao, Bound By Honor.
Naturally Ishii's army rushed in and the tapped out French threw his creature at Nagao. Kuniyoshi used Blessing of Leeches to seal Sosuke's faith. Pierre replaced it with Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro.
Kuniyoshi: "Snake deck?"
Pierre: "I wish."
The serious Ishii sending his crew in.
Again the Portuguese unleashed his army, and again Canali blocked to stem the bleeding keeping his creature this time. Ogre Marauder joined Sachi but at four Pierre Canali's chances looked as slim as most top models.
The writing was on the wall and Kuniyoshi Ishii sent his crew in to finish the job.
Kuniyoshi 1-0 Pierre.
This time Pierre Canali got some help from his deck. They both came out with turn two Skullsnatcher that they promptly traded. They had no plays for the next few turns until Ishii's Befoul ate up Canali's lone Swamp.
The Portuguese pounded his deck but still couldn't find a way to play a creature. The French pounded his deck a little bit harder and was rewarded with a lowly Child of Thorns. Ishii's deck came right back with a big answer: it coughed up Gutwrencher Oni.
The Oni started working on Canali's life totals and along the way Kitsune Blademaster came in to help. Pierre was stuck with all Green mana and even when he managed to drop another creature Ishii made sure it didn't stick long enough to slow him down. All the Pro Tour champion could do was shake his hand and smile.
Kuniyoshi 2-0 Pierre.
Negrin and Jonsson early in their first game.
Meanwhile, in the other Feature Match table, Pro Tour Megastar Anton Jonsson (White-Blue-Red) played against Spain's Jaime Negrin (Black-Red). Jaime took the first game with a very timely Lava Spike. Jonsson snatched the second game and the third game was very cool.
The Swede survived a brutal early Onslaught and worked his Genju of the Fields to survive a few extra turns. With the life totals dangerously low Negrin alpha striked Jonsson to a single life point and again showed him Lava Spike. Eagerly Anton replied with Hisoka's Defiance. Unable to survive Jonsson's next attack the Spaniard extended his hand.
Saturday, April 23: 2:06 pm - Feature Match Round Six: Tiago Barbosa vs. Marcio Carvalho
Marcio Carvalho's deck is just... too much for words.
Barbosa got here the hard way: a 5-0 result with no byes. Even Marcio was quick to acknowledge that clearly indicated how good his deck probably was. But the big story here is Marcio's deck. One of the first thing anyone tells me when they talk to me is "Have you seen Marcio's deck?"
Marcio started the day with three byes and his deck easily carried him through the last two rounds. Let's see if his Jitte-led monstrosity gives him yet another win.
Carvalho came out screaming with Isamaru, Hound of Konda, Nezumi Graverobber and Kabuto Moth while Barbosa showed his colors with three different lands. His Blue-White-Black deck started pouring out creatures.
Then Marcio Carvalho dropped the elbow. Turn four: Umezawa's Jitte.
Tiago Barbosa trying to survive the dreaded Jitte lock.
He tried to work his way out of the problem but he found no answer. He surveyed the table one last time…
Tiago: "I can't stop that."
Carvalho smiled when he saw his hand for the second game. This time his first play was turn two Jitte.
Marcio: "I still need a creature."
He found one the following turn and despite Barbosa's great start a Jitte-wielding Bloodthirsty Ogre was soon taking care of business. Tiago worked Marcio down to eight life and eventually managed to send the Ogre away.
Carvalho fell to five on the next swing and used Final Judgement to wipe Tiago Barbosa's side of the table.
Marcio: "And it's a foil."
Nieto and Levy quietly going through their business.
A turn later he dropped Isamaru, Hound of Konda. The legendary mutt picked up Jitte and dealt with Tiago's attempts to climb back into the game.
On the other table, with a much, much quieter crowd, Spain's Oscar Nieto played against France's Raphael Levy in a White-Black mirror match. By the time Barbosa walked away shaking his head to tell the tale of Carvalho's deck… Levy and Nieto were still in their first game.
- update -
If you read the feature matches so far you surely came across Marcio Carvalho's round six ten-minute bloodbath. His rare-filled deck, topped with Umezawa's WMD… sorry… Jitte, has been the talk of the tournament since he loudly - as usual - showed it to friends after deck construction.
Well, we sneaked by the checklist judge team and got a hold of his deck. Here is Marcio's wonder deck. No one on the Green side of the tournament seems eager to play against it and one of the spectators commented he couldn't think of any pre-constructed deck that would stand a chance against it. Exaggeration? Perhaps, but he sure seems on the right path for a 9-0 first day.
Saturday, April 23: 4:32 pm - Feature Match Round Seven: Joao Martins vs. Frederico Bastos
Frederico Bastos' deck has a built-in Stasis lock.
The round started with Bastos, the two time Pro Tour Top8er, explaining how he had "Stasis" locked one of his opponent with a complicated scheme involving several creatures. Frankly, he lost me somewhere along the way. It involves Yosei, The Morning Star, Lifespinner and something else.
Bastos had to mulligan and challenged his opponent to mulligan as well, without even looking at the cards first. Martins smiled and kept his hand. Frederico came out with two White creatures but soon found himself saying "go" while Joao Martins increased his Black army.
Eventualy Kentaro started striking back and a fifth land brought forth Kami of the Painted Road. Still locked at three lands, Joao Martins dropped No-Dachi. His mana problems gave Bastos a chance to climb back into the game's driving seat.
Frederico: "Any time you want to draw that fourth land, go right ahead."
Accepting the invitation, Joao bounced back with two straight lands, the last one being a Forest. That brought out Kami of the Hunt. Bastos answered with Kodama's Reach and attacked once again.
Martins drew and asked Frederico how many cards he had in his hand. Satisfied he unleashed one of his rares: Ryusei, The Falling Star.
Frederico: "That's a bomb."
Joao: "You already had two rares in play."
Joao Martins doing his Keanu Reeves impersonation.
That certainly stopped the veteran. He announced the game was looking a lot simpler a few moments ago. Ryusei dove into the Red Zone and brought Frederico to thirteen. Joao Martins unloaded several ground creatures, hoping to clog up the floor while his Dragon Spirit flew over for the win.
Although Bastos made him work for it, and the things got very tricky, the plan held for long enough.
Joao 1-0 Frederico.
Bastos opened with style with turn two Time of Need for Yosei, The Morning Star while Martins settled for the much less flashy "play small creatures and send them in every time you can" plan.
It worked for a few turns and, despite Bastos attempts to slow things down, Frederico was soon at three, even after Ninjutsuing out Okiba-Gang Shinobi. Bastos unloaded Sakura-Tribe Elder and Waxmane Baku to even things out.
Unfazed Joao Martins sent his crew in. When the dust settled he had one creature out… and Bastos had none. He had no creatures but the Elder had gotten him the last land to power out Yosei, The Morning Star.
Martins brought out his own dragon: Ryusei, the Falling Star. But by now Bastos was at full speed. He dropped Lifespinner - another piece of his strange lock - and Martins sent it away with Torrent of Stone. Bastos got it back with Soulless Revival.
Luis Sousa and Bruno Ferreira.
Martins dropped Gibbering Kami and sent everyone in. The dragons traded and Joao Martins showed Bastos the Serpent Skin for Kami. That dealt exactly the three remaining points.
Joao 2-0 Frederico.
On the other table Luis Sousa and Bruno Ferreira were locked on what could only be described as a "battle of hair". Sousa was packing a Blue-Black deck and Ferreira had a White-Black deck.
Saturday, April 23: 6:14 pm - Feature Match Round Eight: Alberto Munoz vs. Olivier Ruel
Alberto Munoz, quietly blowing creatures out of the way.
It wouldn't be a European Grand Prix without Olivier Ruel. Once crowned the Clown Prince of Magic, he has constantly done well in Grand Prix. He would probably especially enjoy winning in Grand Prix in Portugal because he once lost a GP final here… to his brother.
Munoz sneaked a peek at Ruel's hand with turn one Psychic Spear getting Torrent of Fire and the game quickly settled into a pattern: Olivier would play a blue creature and send his crew in while Alberto would play a black creature and return the favour.
On turn four Olivier missed his land drop and settled for Cage of Hands. On the next turn he again missed his land drop and even Soratami Cloudskater couldn't bail him out.
Seizing his chance Alberto Munoz went ballistic. He sent his Black-Red deck into Olivier's army, getting rid of every single creature. The French kept dropping creatures only to watch them get swept away by Munoz... until Soratami Seer stuck.
Suddenly Alberto Munoz was out of gas, sputtering away with Cruel Deceiver and a locked Takenuma Bleeder. Ruel dropped Callous Deceiver and Munoz again went mad. When the dust settled the Spaniard had three creatures and Olivier Ruel had… six lands.
Munoz sent his two unlocked creatures in… walking right into Blind With Anger. Begging for help Olivier Ruel stared at his deck. He drew, cursed and flashed me his hand. His deck was giving him no help at all.
Alberto 1-0 Olivier.
Again the French came out with a blur of Blue flyers before Munoz could even blink. The Spaniard stuck to the always sure path of "play red dorks, blow dudes out of the way" but this time Olivier Ruel was in no mood to slow down.
Olivier Ruel, the master of the Blue-White Beats decks.
Ruel fought back with his own removal, in the shaky shape of First Volley, and his three flyers looked like a very good plan until Alberto Munoz dropped Frostwielder.
The Blue Air Force dove in and Munoz found himself at an unhealthy eight. He tried to shoot one of the birds down but Olivier's Soratami Rainshaper protected it. The Spanish player dropped to three. The Frostwielder took another shot at the Rainshaper this time getting it. The rest of Munoz crew attacked back, leaving Olivier at a mere four.
It all came down to the decisive turn. Ruel sent his crew in and Alberto Munoz showed him First Volley. The French smiled and showed him Hisoka's Defiance. That saved his flyer, allowing him to take the game.
Olivier: "That was… close. Very close."
Alberto 1-1 Olivier.
For the third time Ruel came out smoking, dropping first and second turn creatures while Alberto held back to open with Nagao, Bound by Honor. It turns out Nagao was so bound by honor he found himself locked in a Cage of Hands.
Frostwielder came out to replace him and Ruel answered with Hikari, Twilight Guardian. That legend didn't last any long either. Torrent of Fire took it away.
Meanwhile the Frostwielder had reduced Ruel's early horde to rubble. The French switched to a bigger threat with Samurai Enforcers and fought over Yamabushi's Flame to send a Nezumi Graverobber away before it could get out of hand.
With the pace of the game stuck in "lightning fast" they fought over board control like maniacs, with the Frostwielder trying to play catch-up with Olivier's early swings and the Samurai Enforcers' bites. Soon Alberto Munoz found himself at one, forced to throw creatures at the huge incoming Enforcers.
Anton Jonnson playing against Bruno Ferreira.
Ruel found another flyer - Shimmering Glasskite - to breakthrough for that last precious point of damage. Munoz had one turn to solve that puzzle. He tried to trick Olivier with an attack but the seasoned pro quickly settled for the right solution. Munoz extended his hand.
Olivier 2-1 Alberto.
On the other table the Portuguese Bruno Ferreira, with a White-Black deck, was facing the Swedish Superstar Anton Jonsson with a Blue-White-Red deck.
Saturday, April 23: 7:37 pm - Feature Match Round Nine: Anton Jonsson vs. David Jensen
David Jensen surveys his army.
On the Green side there are still four players with no losses. Swede Anton Jonsson, Denmark's David Jensen and Portuguese Marcio Carvalho are 8-0, while Olivier Ruel is 7-0-1. We decided to check out the match between the two Nordic players. The winner will come back tomorrow to draft with a 9-0 head start.
The game ground down to a near halt as early as the fourth turn. Since both players came with healthy starts, by the fourth turn they were both checking how many cards their opponents had in hand and triple checking their attacks. At six mana David unleashed Tomorrow, Azami's Familiar.
Anton: "Good card."
David: "It's the best."
Jonsson got it out of the way by pointing Phantom Wings at it and they went back to trading careful blows. Tomorrow came back and Jensen's army slowly started to outnumber Jonsson's. Ishi-Ishi, Akki Crackshot joined the Danish party and with the game clearly slipping away from his grasp Anton tried to slow things down.
For lack of a better play he started using his Genju of the Fields as a super-Spirit Link gaining ten life in each swing. Although not bad, that was certainly not what he hoped to be doing as Jensen's army grew each turn.
Ninja of the Deep Hours showed up to give Tomorrow extra chances to shine.
Nobody smirks like Anton Jonsson.
Anton: "You are having way too much fun."
The Genju struck again, bringing David to six and Jonsson unloaded two blockers. A turn later he finally found a Mountain. When Jensen's team came over for one more free swing he used Glacial Ray and Silverstorm Samurai to even things out.
That Samurai got in for a free swing leaving Jensen at a mere three while David rebuilt his army. First Volley with Glacial Ray got rid of the Samurai and the table once again belonged to David Jensen's army and Jonsson's Genju of the Fields.
Finally David Jensen's flyers found enough time to slowly and carefully chew up Jonsson's life total.
David 1-0 Anton.
David: "I think I made a couple of mistakes in this game."
Anton: "Yes, I guess so. I think you gave me a chance, if I could draw extremely well."
This time Jensen opened with his red dorks.
Anton: "Hey, no turn two Ninja!"
David: "Yes, sadly."
Jonsson answered with his amazing Genju of the Fields and Jensen fixed that with Phantom Wings.
Anton: "That works."
Then Ninja of the Deep Hours tag teamed with one of David's attackers.
Two Spanish players fighting for the bragging rights of the Blue side of the room.
Anton: "Here comes the Ninja…"
The Swede battled hard to stop the beats but David Jensen was in a hurry. At six he played Ryusei, the Falling Star. Although Jonsson still fought on, the game was just about over.
David 2-0 Anton.
David: "My deck was just better than yours."
Anton: "Yes, but on the first game I drew way too many lands."
On the other table two Spanish players - Demetrio Gutierrez and Jorge Luengo - are fighting to be the last undefeated player in the Blue side. Jorge Luengo won the round before we even finished the first game.
Saturday, April 23: 8:01 pm - Day 1 Undefeated Decklists
Day 1 9-0 Deck
Day 1 9-0 Deck
Day 1 9-0 Deck