Sunday, May 20: 6:00 p.m. - The Top 8 Profiles
by Hanno Terbuyken
Shouta Yasooka (Japan)
3 Byes, Pro
39 points, 1st after Swiss
His only losses: Tiago Chan (round 5), Benoit Verwaerde (round 7)
Christoph Huber (Austria)
2 Byes, Pro
38 points, 2nd after Swiss
His only losses: William Cavaglieri (round 10), ID in rounds 14 and 15
Klaus Jöns (Germany)
3 Byes, Pro
38 points, 3rd after Swiss
His only losses: Dimitri Reindermann (round 4), Draw against Gabriel Nassif (round 10), ID in round 15
Petr Martinek (Czech Republic)
1 Bye, Amateur
38 points, 4th after Swiss
His only losses: Erik Schaffernicht (round 5), ID in rounds 14 and 15
Tomoharu Saitou (Japan)
3 Byes, Pro
37 points, 5th after Swiss
His only losses: Stefan Heigerer (round 7), Raul Porojan (round 9), ID in round 15
Raul Porojan (Germany)
3 Byes, Amateur
37 points, 6th after Swiss
His only losses: Ruud Warmenhoven (round 4), Florian Pils (round 12), ID in round 15
Florian Pils (Germany)
3 Byes, Pro
37 points, 7th after Swiss
His only losses: Ivan Floch (round 4), Christoph Huber (round 13), ID in round 15
Stefan Heigerer (Austria)
1 Bye, Amateur
37 points, 8th after Swiss
His only losses: Christoph Huber (round 8), Draw against Yann Massicard (round 9), Bojan Unko (round 10)
Sunday, May 20: 6:44 p.m. - Decklists: The Top 8 Decks
Shouta Yasooka – U/B/w
GP Strasbourg Top 8
Christoph Huber – U/G Shifter
GP Strasbourg Top 8
Klaus Jöns – R/g Beats
GP Strasbourg Top 8
Petr Martinek – R/G Big Mana
GP Strasbourg Top 8
Tomoharu Saito – Mono Red
GP Strasbourg Top 8
Raul Porojan – U/G/r Shifter
GP Strasbourg Top 8
Florian Pils – R/G/u Big Mana
GP Strasbourg Top 8
Stefan Heigerer – Mono Red
GP Strasbourg Top 8
Sunday, May 20: 7:18 p.m. - Quarterfinals: Florian Pils vs. Christoph Huber
by Hanno Terbuyken
The top 8 started pretty early in the day, with the six rounds of Swiss on Sunday going very smooth. Florian Pils from Germany has fought his way to the Top 8 with a green-red-blue big mana deck, similar to the one Sebastian Thaler Top 8'ed in Yokohama. On the other side of the table, Christoph Huber has brought the same colors, only in different emphasis. He is playing U/G Shifter, only with added Stormbind goodness.
I sense the force is strong in you... but I am stronger still, young knight!
Both players kept their initial hand and had mana-rich openings. Florian brought double Search for Tomorrows, Christoph had Wall of Roots. Morph from Christoph took a counter off the Wall, leaving one Island untapped for the Austrian. Almost like a mirror, Florian played a morph of his own, only he used up all his lands. Christoph attacked with the morph and used the window of opportunity to Mwonvuli- Acid-Moss away Florian's only Forest. Search for Tomorrows went to get an replacement, but the German was still behind. Christoph had a second morph.
The first mystery was revealed when Florian declared his Morph to be a Vesuvan Shapeshifter, copying the Wall of Roots on Christoph's side because he need the mana for Harmonize. Christoph unmophed end-of-turn Thelonite Hermit, gaining a sizeable attack force. If his second morph would also be Hermit, the Saprolings would be nigh unstoppable. And it was a Vesuvan Shapeshifter, copying the Hermit, so Florian went down to 7. Christoph then had Stormbind, and against three cards in hand Florian conceded.
Florian Pils 0 - 1 Christoph Huber
Florian brought in 2 Dead // Gone, 1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter, 1 Spell Burst and took out 2 Avalanche Riders, 1 Aeon Chronicler, 1 Weatherseed Totem.
Christoph brought in 3 Utopia Vow, taking out his 3 Stormbind.
Christoph on the draw was faced with a mulligan, but his next six looked good. Openings identical to the last game, with Search and Wall of Roots respectively, promised no mana shortage in this game. Where Florian had Harmonize, Christoph had Mwonvuli Acid-Moss. Florian threatened first, suspending Aeon Chronicler, but when that came into play, Christoph had a timely Mystic Snake that Florian stopped with his single Spell Burst off his only Island. He came in for the full 7 off the Chronicler, taking Christoph to 13.
The Austrian fought back. Unmorphing Fathom Seer gave him extra cards, he suspended a Chronicler of his own for a turn and most importantly had Utopia Vow to incapacitate Florian's own Chronicler. Florian answered with brute force, hardcasting Bogardan Hellkite (thanks Utopia Vow for the eighth mana!) and doming Christoph for 5. Down to 8, Christoph cracked back with his Aeon Chronicler, taking Florian to 14, and had yet another Utopia Vow for the Hellkite! Bereft of Threats, Florian gunned down Christoph's only Island with Mwonvuli Acid-Moss and still had enough mana left to plunk down Spectral Force.
Christoph bounced it back to Florian's hand with Riftwing Cloudskate, but again Florian pulled out a big gun: Disintegrate, aimed at Christoph's head, ended the game in the German's favor.
Florian Pils 1 - 1 Christoph Huber
Christoph was fast to announce "keep" on the play, but Florian had to go pack one step and reshuffle, as he preferred random six to his opening seven. Christoph opened with Wall of Roots again, and so did Florian, but where Christoph had just Search for Tomorrows, Florian went for Harmonize.
Huh... what now? I might just lose.
Riftwing Cloudskate from Christoph set Florian back a turn, bouncing an Island, but it didn't get to do any damage as it ate the Dead half of Dead // Gone. Florian suspended Aeon Chronicler for a turn and an extra card,Christoph just kept making mana. Chronicler took him to 12, and he needed a solution of some kind, especially as Florian put Intet, the Dreamer next to the Chronicler.
Christoph made a morph, Fathom Seer, and drew cards just to find something. He went to 5 on the next attack, countered Spectral Force with Mystic Snake, but it was just not enough. When he saw his next draw, Christoph gave up a futile fight.
Florian Pils 2 - 1 Christoph Huber
Sunday, May 20: 7:33 p.m. - Quarterfinals: Tomoharu Saito vs. Petr Martinek
by Sebastian Abresch
Finally, after 15 rounds of Swiss, the spirit - along with the temperature - got tense on site. We were off to the quarterfinal between Level 6 pro player Tomoharu Saito facing Czech Petr Martinek. Saito brought a greenless version of his Yokohama Top 8 'Pizza Stompy' deck, Timbermare and Stormbind made room for Disintegrate, Browbeat and even more lands (25!) - quite the 'in your face' build. Martinek played a classic R/G Mana Ramp, combining clunky monsters like Bogardan Hellkite, Akroma, Angel of Fury and Spectral Force (along with his girlfriend, Scryb Ranger) with Radha, Heir to Keld, Stormbind and Lotus Bloom as additional acceleration.
As both players shuffled up for Game 1, Saito did some gym and traditionally japanese face-slapping. That made him awake enough to win the die roll and choosing to play, keeping his opening seven. Petr Martinek, by contrast, went down to six before being happy with his opener.
The Japanese started by suspending Greater Gargadon, perhaps the key spell of his deck - Petr just had Mountain. Saito brought up some pressure by suspending Rift Bolt on turn two, which got to eat Martinek's freshly played Radha on turn three. Tomoharu tried to go for some damage with Browbeat - or did he want the cards? Either way seemed to be okay, Petr decided to give the pro player the possibility to draw more damage.
Petr just cast Wall of Roots and a land, building up his mana for the big guys. Saito drew his card, thought for a long time, slapped his face a bit and decided to play Browbeat number two, again getting three more cards out of it. Saito seemed to be happy with this, playing a mountain and suspending another 9/7 beast. After that, Petr reached his fifth mana - Spectral Force, anyone? No, just Stormbind, go.
Saito went for another slap (these Japanese must love the pain), drew, cast a little Magus of the Scroll and shipped the turn. Funnily enough, the Czech just had another Forest and no further plays. Saito, in return, wanted some action. Hitting his sixth Mountain, he chose to burn away the 0/5 Wall with Disintegrate and went for first blood of the match! Brave little Magus hit Petr for one crucial damage. Martinek tried to accelerate his mana even more by pointing Mwonvuli Acid-Moss on one of Saito's Mountains - but of course the land brought his older Gargadon closer to becoming reality.
Saito seemed to want to end the game in the next two turns as he disintegrated Petr for five, sacrificing two lands into Greater Gargadon, munching another 9 lifepoints out of the Czech, who drew no answer to the beast next turn and scooped up as Saito attacked for lethal damage.
Tomoharu Saito 1 - 0 Petr Martinek
Saito chose to get rid of his brave little Magi of the Scroll by replacing them with three Word of Seizing and one Dead // Gone, both being more efficient answers to Martinek's win conditions. The amateur took out his Acid-Mosses and sided in Akroma, Angel of Fury and three Avalanche Riders.
Of course, Petr chose to play, Saito answered with some more face slapping action. The Czech opening seven were quite strange: Three Mountains, three Avalanche Riders, one Hellkite. Definetely a non-keeper, being complete defenseless. But his next six had other problems: too few lands. Although there was lots of acceleration with Radha and Lotus Bloom, the lone Mountain was under. But in spite of going down to five, Petr chose to keep, played his only land and suspended Lotus Bloom. Saito matched with Mountain and Gargadon - and Martinek ripped the badly needed Forest off the top! Radha immediately saw play... just to get killed by the Dead half of Dead // Gone next turn. A suspended Rift Bolt indicated that another Radha wouldn't live long also.
Petr drew his third land (Pendelhaven) and cast Wall of Roots as a solid defender. So, seeing no other targets, Saito's Rift Bolt hit his face, burning him to 17. As the Japanese tried a Browbeat, Martinek decided to take five this time, goind down to twelve. His Wall enabled him an end of turn Scryb Ranger, Lotus Bloom resolved in upkeep, Harmonize drew him 3 cards (which Saito didn't like). Ranger attacked and got in some damage, Tomoharu answered with Blood Knight, Scryb Ranger slapped for some more Pendelhaven powered beats. Next turn, Blood Knight walked right into Wall of Roots, so that it died off the end of turn Bogadan Hellkite from the Czech - too much -0/-1 counters out there. Dragon burned Saito for five, bringing him to twelve life. On his turn, Martinek wanted to hit for a massive seven, but Tomoharu bought himself more time by bouncing Hellkite back wih Gone. Spectral Fore saw play after combat - the game was getting very tight now.
Saito just pointed a Disintegrate for two at Scryb Ranger, stealing good ol' Spectral Force's best friend. Petr just got seven lands out and attacked with the green monster, bringing Saito, who chose not to block, to a huffy two life, knowing that Petr didn't play any cheap burn. Martinek reinforced his defence with a fresh Wall of Roots. But end of turn, Saito brought in Sulfur Elemental, his last hand card. Either he would win now or getting stomped by Bogardan Hellkite next turn.
Guess what happened.
The Japanese Pro Player ripped Disintegrate off the top, burned away Wall of Roots, sacrificed four lands into Greater Gargadon and attacked with his red force for more than lethal damage.
Tomoharu Saito 2 - 0 Petr Martinek
Sunday, May 20: 7:51 p.m. - Quarterfinals: Klaus Jöns vs. Raul Porojan
by Tobias Henke
Level 3 pro Klaus Jöns from Germany made his second GP-Top8 in as many weeks, his third lifetime. Though he might have been the favorite against relative unknown German player Raul Pojoran, his red aggro deck with the usual green splash for Timbermare and Stormbind was about to experience a hard time against Raul's U/G-Shifter, splashing Stormbind as well.
Klaus won the die-roll, chose to play first, and kept his opening seven, as was his opponent. He came out fast and furious, and by turn three Klaus' side of the table was getting crowded with Goblin tokens due to two Mogg War Marshals and one suspended Greater Gargadon. By now Raul commented bitterly on his opponent's "perfect draw".
But luck was about to swing back, as Klaus had no play, neither for turn 4 nor turn 5. Meanwhile, Raul acclerated with Wall of Roots into Harmonize, then put his massive hand size to good use by playing Stormbind. While Klaus still had no drop, Raul played a Morph. The initial offense came to an immediate stop, as Klaus had no way to kill it. Instead he played still more land, visibly frustrated.
At one point Greater Gargadon entered the game, but Raul had the Snapback ready... and his Vesuvan Shapeshifter as well. So instead of Klaus, now he controlled the fearsome 9/7 beatstick, which did exactly that on Raul's next turn. Klaus went down to eleven. Starting to chumpblock at this point could only result in a slow defeat, whereas the risky play might have given him the option to turn the table with a little help from Timbermare.
As it was, taking nine damage from "the Greater Gargadon formerly known as Morph", turned out to be just a shortcut towards the inevitable, as Klaus' next draw steps provided no answer. Raul's Stormbind took care of the last points of damage.
Raul Porojan 1 - 0 Klaus Jöns
Raul's sideboarding: -1 Mystic Snake, -2 Spectral Force, -4 Riftwing Cloudskate
+2 Serrated Arrows, + 4 Spike Feeder, +1 Aeon Chronicler
Klaus' sideboarding: -1 Stormbind, -1 Dead // Gone, -2 Sulfur Elemental
+3 Avalanche Riders, +1 Word of Seizing
Klaus lamented that he had hoped to at least win before sideboarding, but his mood soon changed, when his opponent took two mulligans.
Raul kept a five-card hand with one land. He found his second land in turn three, when his first turn Search for Tomorrow left the suspend zone, and his draw step gave him another one.
At this point Klaus already had Thick-Skinned Goblin and Mogg War Marshal in play, and Avalanche Riders followed. The synergy between the first Goblin and the two Echo- creatures might be noteworthy. But the synergy between mana screw on one side of the table and land destruction on the other probably was more important in this game.
Raul never got out of it. He finally found another land in Terramorphic Expanse, which only got a frown, but no mana. Although he was not technically out of options he conceded in disgust soon after.
Raul Porojan 1 - 1 Klaus Jöns
Klaus started with Greater Gargadon, Blood Knight and Jaya Ballard, Task Mage in the first three turns. Many would have been impressed, especially by the red legend, which cannot always be handeled in time by a deck that's mainly blue and green. But Raul calmly dropped Wall of Roots, Spike Feeder, and Serrated Arrows on his first four turns, thus stopping Klaus' offense right in ist tracks.
Next up was a suspended Aeon Chronicler and a Call of the Herd from Klaus. (He boarded his Avalanche Riders out before the third game. He later told me, he always puts the elephants in when going second.) Chronicler entered play, the red zone, and the elite circle of creatures with seven power, when a freshly summoned Morph turned out to be Fathom Seer.
The extra cards included Vesuvan Shapeshifter, which went on to become yet another Fathom Seer (over and over again). Klaus was clearly in losing position by now. So he made one last attempt to get some damage in by removing the last counter from his suspended Gargadon. But no, Snapback was already waiting...
With the combo-ish triangle of Aeon Chronicler, Fathom Seer, and Vesuvan Shapeshifter firmly in place, Klaus conceded.
Raul Porojan 2 - 1 Klaus Jöns
Sunday, May 20: 8:02 p.m. - Quarterfinals: Stefan Heigerer vs. Shouta Yazooka
by Simon Görtzen
Both competitors start by taking a good look at each others decks, with Stefan, who is playing Mono Red, even laying out Shouta's U/B/r Herberholz-style deck. The match-up these two are about to play is one of the more interesting ones, as Stefan can't really afford to let Urborg-powered Tendrils of Corruptions resolve - the main reason to play Greater Gargadon. Shouta wins the die roll and obviously elects to play first. The Japanese is happy with his first 7, while Stefan takes a bit longer to decide, shuffling his starting hand thoughtfully.
The aggressive deck both wants early drops and a way to win against Damnation and/or Tendrils, which makes for some hard decisions. Finally Stefan decides to mulligan, and keeps a mediocre hand of lands, 2 Thick-Skinned Goblin and the uncounterable Sulfur Elemental. Shouta uses Terramorphic Expanse to fetch out an Island, dropping Prismatic Lens on turn 2. Stefan plays out his first Goblin, after which Shouta has another Lens, Urborg and Sudden Death, killing the Austrians first attacker. Stefan's second Goblin gets joined by Magus of the Scroll, which isn't much of a threat with Shouta on healthy 18.
After an end-of-turn Fiery Temper his life is down to 15, but Stefan has to hope his remaining three cards are not very good. The japanese pro has only played 2 Lenses and Sudden Death this far, but finally shows some action with the all-important Mystical Teachings, getting Sudden Death #2. Stefan makes a Sulfur Elemental and attacks with Thick-Skinned Goblin and the 3/2, only for the mana-accelerated Shouta to make a Factory token, blocking the Elemental. A Mogg War Marshal from Heigerer is the only creature on his side after a flashed out Teferi blocks Stefan's Goblin. Shouta is in no hurry, and with Teferi in play, passes his turn.
Stefan is rather surprised when his maindeck Avalanche Riders resolve, and takes a long time deciding on which land to destroy - Factory or Urborg? He settles for the Factory, maybe hoping to strand multiple Tombs of Yawgmoth's in Yasooka's hand. Shouta shows more Teachings, playing one to get another, which means we will most likely a Tendrils from the Japanese player to seal the game, if necessary. After some more reckless attacks from Stefan Shouta plays another Teachings and suspends a Chronicler at end of turn, not only taking complete control of the game but also putting a clock on Stefan.
A freshly cast Blood Knight gets hit by Tendrils for 8, putting Shouta at a very healthy 12 life against Stefan's 1/1 creatures. At this point he has to start blocking the Chronicler to stay alive, and Shouta even feels safe enough to play out the Dralnu in his deck, not fearing anything the Mono Red deck could do with these blue powerhouses on the table. In a last-ditch effort Stefan tries to play a Sulfur Elemental end of turn, only to be reminded by his opponent that Teferi does not only have flash. One turn later Shouta leads the match 1-0. It's interesting to note that Shouta didn't even have to counter a single spell to take control of the game, mostly due to the power of Mystical Teachings and his few creatures.
Stefan Heigerer 0 - Shouta Yazooka 1
Shouta brings in 2 Willbender, 2 Brine Elemental, 2 Vesuvan Shapeshifter and a Temporal Isolation, taking out his expensive and/or not very useful silver bullets in his maindeck, namely Draining Whelk, Teferi, Dismal Failure, Extirpate, Dralnu and Phyrexian Totem.
Stefan brings in 1 Dead // Gone against the Morphs he is expecting, Vesuva, 2 Suq'Ata Lancer and 2 Jaya Ballard for 4 Mogg War Marshals, Brute Force and a Mountain.
Stefan is happy to go first in game 2, and both players instantly keep their hands. A turn 2 Blood Knight is followed by another turn two Lens from Shouta. Heigerer piles on the pressure by playing his Suq'Ata-Lancer, attacking for 4. Shouta plays Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth but neither Tendrils nor Damnation. Instead he shows Cancel to prevent Avalanche Riders from destroying his Urborg. After going down to 12 he hardcasts a 4/4 Aeon Chronicler with the help of a Swamp called Terramorphic Expanse. Heigerer plays out Magus of the Scroll before pondering whether to attack, deciding to swing with his 2/2s, the Lancer getting blocked to death in the progress.
Shouta plays out a morph, but doesn't play another land, probably to keep his Chronicler 4/4. An end-of-turn Sulfur Elemental is too scared to attack though, only Blood Knight attacks. A block with the Chronicler prompts an activation of the walking Cursed Scroll, but a Willbender foils that plan. Heigerers second Sulfur Elemental doesn't look too impressive compared to another morph from Shouta, which turns out to be a Vesuvan Shapeshifter, which copies Aeon Chronicler. Looks like Shouta prefers big creatures over morph-trigger-shenanigans. Stefan plays his fourth creature in another Blood Knight, but Shouta just attacks with his creatures to follow up with Damnation. At that point Stefan is playing from the top of his deck, which coughs up two Greater Gargadon in a row, obviously not the card you want to draw in this situation.
Shoutas Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir doesn't improve the situation. Careful Consideration and Mystical Teachings for Willbender make sure Heigerer won't ever get rid of Teferi. Gargadon #3 of the top just adds insult to injury, but Shouta is not interested in playing much longer, suspending Aeon Chronicler for 1 at end of turn. This is enough for Stefan, who doesn't have any nonland permanents in play at this time.
Stefan Heigerer 0 - 2 Shouta Yazooka
Sunday, May 20: 8:47 p.m. - Semifinals: Raul Porojan vs. Florian Pils
by Ben Coleman
With this being the Top 8 stage, both players got a chance to look through their opponents' deck. Raul motions to the singleton Intet, the Dreamer and Weatherseed Totem: "These main?" - "Yeah." - "What a random deck!"
Both players spent a lot of time thinking about their opponents' sideboard options, as well as problematic threats and the tricks that they needed to play around. Raul was be making sure to watch out for Florian's three Disintegrates, and some judge discussion was involved in the interaction between the Totem and Vesuvan Shapeshifter (it does not become a 5/3, as that is an effect which is not copied).
A thorough shuffle and we were off in this GP Semi Final.
Florian to start, and Raul was forced to mulligan to 6. Porojan made a turn two Wall of Roots, which is simply acceleration in this match-up, as unlike in the last round, there is not a whole lot for it to block! Pils made his own wall, which is unexciting, but Raul's Stormbind the following turn certainly was, as he had burned his quarterfinal opponent out with it. However, he looked to be short of mana to do the same this time, as Florian hammered him with double Mwonvuli Acid-Moss for the next two turns.
Wall of Roots and Prismatic Lens meant Raul still had enough to Harmonize his way back into the game, and in fact it provided him with the first threat of the semi through an Aeon Chronicler suspended for one. It resolved and in it came for 6 - smashy, smashy!
Florian pulled a Bogardan Hellkite off the top, and although it is beloved of Standard players everywhere, the Chronicler dwarfs it. Disintegrating Raul's face for 7 made the Hellkite favourite in the damage race, though, which was clearly what Florian was aiming for, as that damage could have taken out the threatening Aeon Chronicler. He obviously felt that it can't be much of a threat if his opponent is dead!
Porojan made a morph after bashing Pils to 6 with the big blue Avatar, and it Shape-shifted into his very own hHellkite to block Florian's incoming monster. An extra Island and he could have played it face up to shoot the Dragon from the sky, alas, now he could simply trade. The tricksy morph sacrifice was for naught, though, as a second huge Disintegrate gave Pils the win.
Raul Porojan 0 - 1 Florian Pils
Both players were happy with their opening seven and we were off, with Porojan needing a win to stay alive. Raul's early morph was hit by a bargain Spell Burst for a single blue, leaving him crying to the ceiling, "I knew it!"
The ceiling didn't seem to care, though, and the Fathom Seer went into the bin. Florian had his own morph, but when he tried for the apparently "random" Weatherseed Totem, it was met with Mystic Snake.
A new morph for Raul got into play safely, as did big daddy Spectral Force the following turn. Both players' morphs traded after this when they both decided to become Spectral Forces (Forci?) Both Vesuvan Shapeshifters ended up dead, but that's what you get for being a shape shifting copycat!
The real Force came in for Raul, but Florian made it "Gone" in order to buy a turn. No answer was forthcoming, though, as it came down again the following turn, along with Harmonize to refill the grip. Florian was continuously drawing land, which wasn't brilliant, but that sure comes in handy when you have to Disintegrate an 8/8 to clear the board.
Raul's next card off the top was Stormbind, however, and that plus plenty of mana plus a Harmonize stocked hand equals good game. Who would have thought it.
Raul Porojan 1 - 1 Florian Pils
We saw early Wall action from both players, with Pils using his to bust out a turn 3 Acid-Moss. Raul wasn't worried, though, his turn three consisting of Prismatic Lens, Wall of Roots and suspending Search for Tomorrow. It looked exciting when compared with Florian's Spectral Force that came crashing down the next turn. Raul had the Snapback ready, but in his own words: "Its always the Spell Burst!" With Buyback this time, Raul!
Porojan was forced to "Bust" to prevent more Spell Burst shenanigans, which wasn't brilliant considering he was facing down an angry, 8-power green giant. He took 8 on the chin, but found a Force of his own to go on D (that's defence, non-sports fans!) before it could come in again. They traded and we were back to a fairly empty board, Raul having the post Bust edge due to the two Prismatic Lenses on his side.
Stormbind off the top again for Porojan looked really bad for Pils, and Aeon Chronicler suspended for 4 did provide the enchantment with plenty of ammunition to fling at the opponents head. Florian was now so far behind in this one that it was amazing he could still see the table!
Disintegrate for 2 dropped Porojan to 2 life, and had him worried about a second. Next turn Florian revealed that it already was in his hand, and it would be fatal. Fatal that is, unless Mystic Snake came to the rescue. Chronicler beats moved Pils into Stormbind range, and Stormbind moved Raul Porojan into the finals of GP Strasbourg.
Raul Porojan 2 - 1 Florian Pils
Sunday, May 20: 8:47 p.m. - Semifinals: Shouta Yasooka vs. Tomoharu Saito
by Simon Görtzen
Hello and welcome back to another Mono Red vs. U/B match-up. Tomoharu, who made Top 8 in Yokohama with his Red-Green deck that splashes Stormbind and Timbermare for additional damage potential, is back to playing Mono Red again. Tomoharu's only sources of non-red mana are Pendelhaven and Molten Slagheap to power out big Disintegrates. Shouta easily won against his Mono Red quarterfinal opponent, but will he manage the same feat with Tomoharu Saito opposing him? After some shuffling and, in Saito's case, some more self-slapping, both players were ready to start.
Saito won the die roll and chose to go first. He was not happy about his starting hand though, as Magus of the Scroll and two Gargadons just didn't put up much pressure. The 9/7 is great to counter Tendrils of Corruption, but you are usually happy if you just draw one. Saito's next six were much better, as multiple Mogg War Marshals should allow him to put on some quick pressure while getting backup Goblin tokens in case of Damnation. To keep things fair, Shouta mulliganed, too, but had to go down to 5.
Tomoharu started the action with Mogg War Marshal and a miniature pig Goblin token, while Shouta had Prismatic Lens turn two for the third time in a row. Saito didn't pay Echo and just played out another Marshal to fill the board with creatures, taking advantage of Shouta's mulligan. His third land was Pendelhaven for one extra damage. Shouta just passed the turn with neither action nor Urborg. Saito, who was clearly in the driver's seat this game, payed the upkeep cost for his second Marshal, suspended a Gargadon, and attacked for 5 damage, which got reduced to 3 thanks to Sudden Death on Mogg War Marshal.
A Damnation from Shouta cleared the board, but the Gargadon was down to 5 time counters in Tomoharu's turn. Another Gargadon didn't look too threatening, but a third War-Marshal meant that Shouta had to take 9 from a hasty Gargadon. He just drew his card and conceded in face of the giant beast.
Shouta Yakooza 0 - Tomaharu Saito 1
Shouta: 2 Willbender, 2 Vesuvan Shapeshifter and Brine Elemental for Draining Whelk, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, Extirpate, Dralnu and Phyrexian Totem
Tomoharu: 1 Dead // Gone, 3 Word of Seizing and 4 Avalanche Riders for 4 Browbeats and 4 Rift Bolts.
After a mulligan to six by Shouta the match began. Shouta just played Dreadship Reef and Islands for a couple of turns while Saito had a good start with turn 1 Gargadon, turn 2 Mogg War Marshal. The Echo cost was payed and the Goblins took Shouta to 18. Shouta passed the turn with 4-5 mana open, factoring in his two Reef counters.
Tomoharu thought a long time about his turn 4 play, having the choice between Avalanche Riders right now or a Sulfur Elemental at Shoutas end-of-turn, maybe not giving his opponent a chance to use his mana this turn. Saito decided on the Riders, which resulted in a Dismal Failure and a discarded Disintegrate -- Saito had another one of these in hand though. Saito kept attacking for two but decided not to play anything the next turn, instead waiting for the aforementioned Sulfur Elemental, which unsurprisingly entered play unopposed.
Shouta, who had three cards in hand, now had to worry about the creatures on the board, the Gargadon, which was once again down to 5 counters, and the remaining cards in Saitos hand. Disintegrate was one of them, but the Japanese superstar also drew another Avalanche Riders. As Shouta didn't even have an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, there was no need to destroy a land and Saito attacked for 5, basically asking Shouta if he had Teferi to block or not. Indeed, Teferi flashed into play and blocked the Sulfur Elemental, but the Goblins took Shouta down to 12. Saito also played a postcombat Avalanche Riders, taking out Dreadship Reef, which could have enabled Damnation.
Saito was very interested in keeping Teferi alive, as a Word of Seizing on Teferi makes Greater Gargadon so much scarier. Interestingly he payed Echo for his Avalanche Riders, but also didn't have the fifth land needed for the Split Second Ray of Command. Shouta used the time this gave him to suspend Aeon Chronicler at end of turn, which drew him a card and would give him another blocker, even in case of Word of Seizing. Saito knew that and tried to Disintegrate the 3/3 Chronicler, but got Dismal Failured. Blood Knight hit the bin.
Shouta meanwhile had found a Swamp to go with his Prismatic Lens to produce double black mana for Damnation, but he was in a tough position. Even if he had it he wouldn't want the Teferi to leave play, because that would enable Saito's Gargadon. Said Gargadon had two counters and Saito needed to draw a land to play Word of Seizing. After drawing a Mountain he took control of Teferi and proceeded to attack with Greater Gargadon, two Goblins, Avalanche Riders and Teferi. Aeon Chronicler had to chump block the Gargadon and Shouta took 7 damage.
In the following turn he attacked with Teferi and played the life-saving Damnation, killing off pig tokens and Gargadon alike. Another Mogg War Marshal meant Saito could still deal damage with his creatures, but a Vesuvan Shapeshifter, copying Mogg War-Marshal, and the token that comes with it, were planning to stop that. Dead took out the token, though, and Tomoharu's attack took his opponent down to 2. After Careful Consideration from Shouta didn't find him the cards he needed, a Word of Seizing on his lonely Goblin sealed the game.
Shouta Yakooza 0 - Tomoharu Saito 2
Sunday, May 20: 9:22 p.m. - Finals: Tomoharu Saito vs. Raul Porojan
by Hanno Terbuyken
The Finals was closely watched by the crowd and headjudge Frank Wareman.
It came down to this. The Japanese road warrior, here on the benefits of the player's club, against the German amateur, here by the grace of a GP Trial win, facing off in the feature match circle. A good 100 spectators stayed to watch the two players reach for the title.
Saito's pre-game ceremony is well worth watching if you have never seen it. Countless shuffles, ceremonial looks to the ceiling, the traditional face-slap and the loud and clear announcement of the die roll results, it's all there. The two players had faced off in the last round of day 1 already, where Porojan had won. Saito of course remembered this and considered the final a nightmare matchup.
Saito won the roll and opened hard and fast, suspending a Greater Gargadon and dropping Mogg War Marshal on turn two. He didn't pay the echo cost, so his traditional plastic piglets representing 1/1 Goblins stood staring across the red zone, waiting for action. Raul was content to play Prismatic Lens and took the first pig beats calmly. Saito suspended Rift Bolt. On his turn, Raul joined the fun by suspending an Aeon Chronicler for a turn.
The Rift Bolt went to Raul's head, Saito's arms described a wide circle in his usual manner. The goblin piglets took Raul to 11 and Saito refilled by Browbeating himself. Raul's Chronicler came into play and took Saito to 14. A morph joined Raul's side, while Saito's Gargadon was just five turns away from regularly ticking into play. A loud "snap" filled the air - Saito had just slapped himself, and even though that tick is well known by now, most of the onlookers involuntarily smiled bemusedly.
Saito had to take some action, plunked down a land and a Mogg War Marshal. Three piglets now in play for the Japanese, almost a little herd. Raul attacked with a Chronicler and the Shapeshifter that was imitating it, threatening 10 damage to the Japanese at 14 life. One 1/1 piglet and the mother sow War Marshal stood in front of it, and the Gargadon happily gobbled them up. Raul had a second morph to the one already in play. If they all were Shapeshifters, he'd have a mighty army…
Raul Porojan was behind from every turn one.
And he'd need it against the Greater Gargadon about to come into play in two turns or less. Raul was tapped out, not able to reveal a Shapeshifter to block an incoming Gargadon. If Saito sacrificed two permanents, he could come in for 7 and 3. The first morph, also a Shapeshifter, fell to Dead of Dead // Gone fame, the second morph blocked the Gargadon. It was Fathom Seer, setting Raul back on lands but fueling his Chronicler and the copied twin. Raul took four from piglet beats, going to 7, and Saito had two Blood Knights left to block any possible attacks.
Raul saw his chance in Chronicler beatdown and suspended yet another one for a turn. Saito pressed in with everything, Raul blocked to stay alive, but Saito had Rift Bolt and nailed Raul to the flames.
Tomoharu Saito 1 - 0 Raul Porojan
Raul took out 4 Riftwing, 2 Spectral Force, 1 Mystic Snake, and brought in 4 Spike Feeder, 2 Serrated Arrows, 1 Aeon Chronicler.
Sideboarding proceeded, and again, the Saito gymnastics and the reverential look to the sky, or the hall's ceiling, as it were, came into play. Saito took out 4 Browbeat and brought in 1 Dead // Gone and 3 Word of Seizing.
Look, a herd of tapped piglets!
All that praying apparently helped, because Saito opened with Mountain into Greater Gargadon for the sixth time in a row in this Top 8. And the goodness continued with another Gargadon and triple Magus of the Scroll. Raul had Wall of Roots and Spike Feeder to stave off the first wave of attacks, soon joined by a morph, but was clearly not amused. "Slap" made Saito's hands on his cheeks, and slap made Mogg War Marshal, mother sow to a little silver 1/1 plastic pig for Saito. Raul kept his arms akimbo and his face impassive. Saito would start Scrolling him soon, but first added a third pig from a second War Marshal to his army. His two Gargadons would soon be feasting on roast piglet, then, as Raul had nothing but Stormbind to combat them. Any pig he'd fry would end up as Gargadon fodder.
Saito had maneuvered Raul into a very difficult situation. Even under the assumption that the morph he had was a Vesuvan Shapeshifter, two Gargadons backed by one left-over Magus of the Scroll would make mincemeat of him. Raul was on 24 life, owing to the trusty Spike Feeder, but Saito suspended two Rift Bolts. A collective sigh went through the audience. Raul was the underdog, crowd favorite, and even his second morph wouldn't save him - especially since Saito aimed a Rift Bolt at it (Fathom Seer).
The second Rift Bolt tried to fry the second morph, but that one was a Shapeshifter and took on the form of Wall of Roots. Still, Saito had a chance to kill it: Magus of the Scroll, naming Sulfur Elemental. The Scrolling hit, taking away the Shapeshifter, and now Greater Gargadon #1 came into play. Raul went to 12. He had to kill the Magus, and discarded Fathom Seer randomly to his Stormbind to do so. But his position nobody would envy.
Saito wanted to clear a way for his second Gargadon, still suspended, and Rift Bolted Wall of Roots. Raul's board was empty save for Stormbind. Discarding Mystic Snake, he killed a 1/1 piglet before Saito's combat phase. The Japanese player sacrificed two Mountains to his suspended Gargadon, shoved everything into the red zone and seconds later, he could call himself GP Strasbourg winner and current leader in the Player of the Year race!
Tomoharu Saito 2 - 0 Raul Porojan
After the match, both players agreed that the match-up was in favor of Raul, but Saito's extraordinary luck carried him through to the title. Tomoharu Saito is the GP Strasbourg champion and the current leader in the Player of the Year race!
Sunday, May 20: 9:37 p.m. - Podcast: The Final Showdown
by Rich Hagon
A mammoth GP has come to a close, and great plays from a great player have combined to see a champion crowned with a LONG journey home ahead of him. Find out how the West was won, as we bring you exclusive commentary on every turn of the winner's journey from quarter final, to semi, to final, and to the undisputed winner of GP Strasbourg 2007. As ever, thanks for your company, and I'll speak to you soon from the rampant carnage that will be Pro Tour San Diego. Until then, play hard and play fair. Bye.
Click here for the Podcast!