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Grand Prix Antwerp Day 1 Coverage

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The letter A! whopping 1600 players made the journey to Belgium's beautiful city of Antwerp, making this one of the largest Modern Grand Prix of all times. They had to fight through 9 rounds of Swiss today, with only 4 players remaining undefeated at the end of the day: Fabrizio Anteri, Ron Cadier, Alexandre Bonneau and Rasmus Björklund, sporting the established archetypes Tron, Jund and Living End (both Bonneau and Björklund).

Still, many other players that want to show that there's still room for innovation in the diverse Modern format that spans almost 10 years of Magic history are in hot pursuit. Among them France's Raphael Levy who is bringing the Merfolks to the table. Also still in competition are household names Shahar Shenhar, Louis Deltour, Michael Bonde, Arjan van Leeuwen as well as Lino Burgold, all sporting respectable 8 - 1 records. So things will definitely get interesting again tomorrow.

The other big story of the weekend is the newfound team spirit among the Belgian and UK communities. It's been a while since Belgium made bigger waves on the major event stage, but a new group has formed to tackle this problem. Players from the UK, on the other hand, seem to be one step already, having sent a well-prepared delegation of Brits over the English Channel to represent their country with pride.

Who will rise to the occasion tomorrow and make the second cut to the final 8? Which deck will ultimately leave the opposition behind and emerge victorious as the new champion of the Modern format? Make sure to check back tomorrow when we'll have all the answers to these questions and more in our live coverage of GP Antwerp!











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  • Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – GP Trial Winner Decklists

    by Tobi Henke & Oliver Gehrmann



  • Robert Wilbrand - RG Tron
    Grand Prix Trial Winner – Modern




    Martyn Benschop - BW Tokens
    Grand Prix Trial Winner – Modern


    Lennart Lindeman - Affinity
    Grand Prix Trial Winner – Modern


    Myrddin Hermans - Affinity
    Grand Prix Trial Winner – Modern





    Steven Noessens – Tron
    Grand Prix Trial Winner – Modern




     

  • Saturday, 10:30 a.m. – The Modern Compendium

    by Oliver Gehrmann

  • The current Modern format is one of the most exciting formats in Magic history. Many popular decks have been tweaked and tuned over the course of the past months, leaving us with a number of established archetypes that we expect to see again this weekend - among them the Jund, Junk, Melira- and Kiki-Pod and Affinity decks, just to name a few.

    It's quite a challenge to come prepared for such a diverse field and quite a few players that I spoke to yesterday had to admit that they don't know about the best ways to counter some of the many viable strategies. Fortunately for them, 4-time Pro Tour Top 8 player Marijn Lybaert prepared a presentation where he explained the strategies of 19 (!) of the more popular decks that will most likely show up this weekend. I took some notes so I could pass on what I learned.

    Jund

    Jund is of course the premier deck to disrupt opposing strategies. Cheap hand destruction like Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek help you strip your opponent from finding an answer to your Dark Confidant, which will then start to help you pull ahead, providing you with much-needed extra cards.

    If you want to go for an alternative strategy, follow up the disruption with a Tarmogoyf, which often happens to be a 3 / 4 as early as turn 2 (thanks to the synergy with your fetch lands and the hand destruction). That means it will even survive a Lightning Bolt, which - according to Reid Duke - happens to be "the best card in the format". While Marijn wasn't sure whether he wanted to go this far, he still admitted that Jund is a force to be reckoned with and that it's very hard to counter.

    Speaking of vulnerabilities, Marijn pointed out that extremely aggressive decks have quite a good shot since the deck often takes up to 10 damage from its own effects, putting it well within reach of most burn decks.


    Marijn's presentation helped players prepare for this weekend's event!

    Junk

    Instead of highlighting the inner workings of the Junk deck, Marijn cut this part of his presentation short, explaining that "Junk is basically Jund without Red". He then shared some insight knowledge regarding the Junk vs. Jund match, pointing out that "you should side in 4 cost cards so they can't get discarded by Inquisition of Kozilek". While this slows the deck down to some degree, you can still gain an edge in this close match-up.

    One of the cards that help you against Jund in particular are Lingering Souls, since they work great against Liliana of the Veil, one of the defining cards of both archetypes.

    Melira-Pod / Kiki-Pod

    Both of these decks want to end the game with a bang, going infinite in one of two possible ways; either they gain infinite life, making it impossible for their opponent to ever finish them off, or they deal infinite damage. Both of these combos revolve around Birthing Pod, which makes the deck somewhat vulnerable to Jund and Junk, being able to discard the most important combo piece from the Pod player's hand before things get messy.


    Marijn explained the inner workings of the most popular Modern decks.

    The explanation of the strategies of these decks gave Marijn a good excuse to talk a little about Kitchen Finks, one of the most important cards of the format. It can provide decks with a lot more reach, providing them with some much-needed extra life that can counteract the ill-effects of the dual lands and the many other effects that make you pay life.

    While the Kiki-Pod deck might appear like a 1 trick pony - not featuring an alternate win condition like Melira-Pod (Gavony Township) - it should still not be underestimated. All it needs is a 1 and a 2 drop, 4 mana and 8 life and that will be enough to win the game.

    Another big strength of these decks, the Kiki-Pod deck in particular, is the versatile sideboard with many 1 of's that can counter the other powerful decks and which are searchable through the tutors.

    Affinity

    "The Affinity Deck won 2 Modern Grand Prix' and it's still not receiving the respect it deserves from the players" - Marijn had my attention right after that opening statement. Apart from unprepared opponents, it also tends to do rather well against Jund and Junk, which can be expected to make up a large part of the field.

    The power cards in the deck? Cranial Plating, Arcbound Ravager and Etched Champion. It's biggest vulnerability? According to Marijn, that would be, in many cases, the pilot of the deck. He shared that he's seen plenty of players coming close, but messing up the maths, which ultimately meant that their oppoent would get to live with 2 health and turn the game around in the following turns. "Do the maths one turn before you want to go all in!", Marijn recommended. That is, in his opinion, the best way to make sure you'll end up dealing lethal rather than coming short.

    Scapeshift

    While Scapeshift can be considered a combo deck, it can play like a control deck until it hits 7 lands. At that point, all you need to do is cast Scapeshift, which will often be enough to deal lethal damage. This is one of the big advantages of the deck: The set-up is increadibly easy, you don't need a lot of cards to pull off your big combo.


    Marijn always had a decklist at hand to go over the most important cards of each deck.

    The "Plan B" of the deck is casting a Primeval Titan that is incredibly hard to deal with. The third power card apart from Primeval Titan and the namesake Scapeshift is Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle.

    RG Tron

    This deck wants to assemble the Urza lands as fast as possible so it can then bring out a Karn Liberated as early as turn 3. There are different variations of the deck, sometimes the pilot prefers a more controlish approach where he relies on counterspells while assembling the Urza engine, but the general strategy always involves big colorless creatures like Karn or a Wurmcoil Engine.

    One of the big advantages of the deck is the fact that it tends to have more mana than the control decks, making it easy for it to deal with many of the troublesome cards. Two of the important cards that help it dismantle opposing strategies are Relic of Progenitus and Pyroclasm.

    Naya Midrange

    This deck has several things going for it, most notably the fact that it tends to do pretty well against Jund and Junk decks. While people are usually very fast to talk about Knight of the Reliquary, Noble Hierarch and Domri Rade, Marijn instead wanted to put the spotlight on Loxodon Smiter, a card that is a crucial piece in the puzzle that is Naya. "It won't get discarded and it survives Lightning Bolt - that's huge in this format!"


    Considering that Knight of the Reliquary is no longer as good as it used to be, courtesy of Deathrite Shaman and Scavenging Ooze, Marijn shared that he would instead play Woolly Thoctar over it. "It's a 5/4 for 3, it doesn't get much better than that."

    Considering that the card isn't dependant on the number of lands in your graveyard, it might be a much better choice for the weekend.

    WG Midrange

    This deck is very hard to answer, thanks to the resilient Mirran Crusader that serves as a great answer for Tarmogoyf. Other key cards in this deck's strategy are Leonin Arbiter and Baneslayer Angel that can't get discarded.

    An important 1 of in many lists is Crucible of Worlds that can counter disruptive opposing strategies.

    Mono Red Burn

    This deck aims for a somewhat simplistic approach: Smash face as fast as possible. Some players discard it quickly because of the simple game plan, but it is a real competitor in a format where most decks deal between 4 and 10 points of damage to themselves, shortening the race that the burn player wants to win dramatically.

    Marijn didn't have to think long when asked about a reason why he would want to play this deck: "It plays 4 Goblin Guide! 4 Goblin Guide?! That's reason enough!", he explained. The other important cards in the deck are Lava Spike and Flames of the Blood Hand, providing the deck with enough reach to come out successful in close games.

    Marijn then went a little faster over Through the Breach, Splinter Twin and UWR Control before settling a little longer on

    Infect

    The strategy of this deck is as straightforward as it gets - it plays 1/1s and 2/2s with Infect. The one thing it has going for it is that it's the only deck in the format that can kill on turn 2 and for that reason alone, it shouldn't be underestimated.


    Infect

    The big problem of the deck is that it's not very well-positioned against Jund and Junk, which know plenty of ways to deal with the early aggression. The 3 most important cards for this deck are Glistener Elf, Vines of Vastwood and Might of Old Krosa.

    BW Tokens

    After repeatedly delving on the fact that there are many decks in the format that rely on 1 for 1 spot removal, Marijn answered the question that seemed to be on everybody's mind: Which deck can do well against these strategies? BW Tokens is the obvious answer, a deck that tries to swarm the field with plenty of smaller creatures to dish out as much damage as possible from early on.

    Add some effects to strip your opponent's hand from its best answers and you might just have a winning strategy here, so make sure to come prepared against Lingering Souls, Honor of the Pure, Auriok Champion and Spectral Procession.

    The deck is very resilient and even though it's never been considered to be a combo deck, it has strong synergies with the many token generating effects together with some impressive pumps.

    The rest of the field

    Even though he was quick to point out that there are even more decks that could see play this weekend, Marijn also highlighted the strategies of the Martyr of Sands, Hexproof, UR Storm and Amulet of Vigor archetypes. Some of the listeners felt a little overwhelmed at that point, especially since Marijn dropped some deeper strategic insight every now and then, but everyone agreed that this had been one of the most helpful features they've come across lately.

    That's why they extended their thanks to http://tournamentcenter.eu that sponsored the presentation as well as the host Marijn Lybaert.

    I hope you were also able to take something away from this article and you're looking forward to your upcoming Modern events!




     

  • Saturday, 1:00 p.m. – Theros Makes a Splash in Modern

    by Tobi Henke

  • Magic's newest set had been legal for all but a week when the last Modern Grand Prix in Brisbane took place at the beginning of the month. This relatively short time frame, coupled with the size of the Modern card pool, meant that we didn't get to see many Theros cards in action then.

    In the meantime, however, Pro Tour Theros showcased what the new cards are capable of, if only in Standard, and this weekend we'll surely see more of that. One team, for example, has even been working on Mono-Blue Devotion, trying to port the Pro Tour-winning deck over into Modern. The larger card pool clearly offers some sweet additions. For instance, Thistledown Liege adds three to a player's devotion, boosts all creatures, and turns even the lowly Judge's Familiar into a veritable 3/3. In a fight with the almighty Tarmogoyf, several players also bet on Tidebinder Mage, and Kira, Great Glass-Spinner grants much-needed protection. Lord of Atlantis is another solid two-drop in this strategy, pumping the aforementioned Tidebinder as well as Master of Waves.


    But this veers off into another direction. Apparently, lots of people are running not a dedicated devotion deck but rather a pretty straightforward Merfolk deck with a few choice dabs of devotion in Thassa, God of the Sea and Master of Waves.

    Meanwhile, one card in particular made its way into any number of sideboards, whether it's Jund or Blue-White-Red Control. Players were full of praise for Anger of the Gods. "The card is totally awesome against Pod decks," said GP Miami Top 8er Valentin Mackl, "All their persist creatures are gone for good. It's also sweet against Affinity, and fine against Slippery Bogle and stuff." Grand Prix Lyon finalist Emanuel Sutor added: "Don't forget Voice of Resurgence, which doesn't leave a token behind. And even if you don't care about exiling anything, Anger of the Gods is just better than Pyroclasm because of the additional point of damage."

    Another new sideboard star is Swan Song. Splinter Twin decks which create an infinite amount of Deceiver Exarch or Pestermite tokens don't care about one 2/2 on the opponent's side. All they care about is protecting their combo and Swan Song does that, no questions asked, for the bargain price of just one mana.


    Steam Augury found its place in some Scapeshift decks and several minor additions to various decks round out the Theros update to Modern. Except they are all dwarfed by a new mono-green deck prominently featuring four copies of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. It's theoretically possible, if somewhat unlikely, for the deck to entwine Tooth and Nail on the second turn; casting Primeval Titan on turn two, however, is something that it's actually done before. And yes, we'll definitely be checking this deck out later in the day.




     

  • Saturday, 1:30 p.m. – Shop Talk

    by Oliver Gehrmann

  • Round 3 is well underway and I made use of the time to head over to our official vendors, asking them about the most popular cards. There's a good chance this will be a strong indication of the decks that will surface this weekend.

    Twiddle's Keep

    "We sold quite a few copies of Stony Silence, Pyromancer Ascension, Sowing Salt, Peek, Torpor Orb, Chandra, Pyromaster, Shatterstorm, Pillar of Flame and Nightveil Specter. Those were definitely the big cards this weekend.


    The Team of Twiddle's Keep was happy to be in Antwerp.

    Was there any card that caught your interest more than any other?

    "I think we have to go with Wrench Mind here, even though we don't know for sure where it fits in existing builds."

    What were the best selling Theros cards?

    "Anger of the Gods, Bident of Thassa, Firedrinker Satyr, Hammer of Purphoros, Master of Waves and Hero's Downfall have been requested a couple of times."

    Seems like business has been going strong at the booth of Twiddle's Keep. Let's head over to Cartapapa from France.

    The team there was quick to point out that their top sellers included Shatterstorm, Master of Waves and Inferno Titan.

    As usual, they were also selling a lot of sideboard cards, so it's hard for them to tell the metagame of this event. They can only guess by analyzing what people are teching against.


    The team of Cartapapa, one of France's biggest vendors.

    They pointed out, however, that there might be a new mono black deck that could be making some waves. Also, quite a few players tried to make a Merfolk deck work where they took the core parts of existing deck that's mostly been seen in other formats before adapting it to Modern. Whether we'll come across that deck this weekend remains to be seen, but we'll certainly be on the lookout.

    I asked the guys whether they had a special discount this weekend and they made one up on the spot! The "better late than never" deal starts this evening at 8 pm and for the rest of the weekend, they'll give a 10 % discount for all purchases on site. So make sure to show up again later if you have some more cards you want to get your hands on!

    Next in line was the booth of Magicbazar.fr.


    The team of Magicbazar.fr.

    Their top sellers matched with some of the cards that would continue to keep popping up: Fracturing Gust, Shatterstorm and Sowing Salt. Other cards that sold well were Back to Nature and Spellskite.

    Asked about Theros cards, they mentioned Stormbreath Dragon, Anger of the Gods and Hero's Downfall.


    Next weekend, the Bazaar of Moxen will take place.

    Their special shout-out was to a big event that is going to take place next weekend, so be sure to have a look at the official website at www.Bazaar-of-Moxen.com.

    One of our newer vendors is MTGZap.com, previously known as JK Entertainment. They also named Shatterstorm, Fracturing Gust and, "naturally", Tarmogoyf and fetch lands. More cards that haven't been mentioned before were Hallowed Burial, Chandra, Pyromaster and Fulminator Mage.


    Familiar faces with a new name, the team of MTGZap.com.

    So that seemed like a good mix of main deck and sideboard cards that they were selling. Theros cards that sold well were Bow of Nylea and Thoughtseize, which they added with a smirk.

    Also, Temple of Triumph and Temple of Silence were in higher demand, but not necessarily because of this weekend's event.

    They also offered a special deal: They were handing out 5 % vouchers for their online store to promote their re-branded website. All of these codes can only be used once, so hurry up and be the first to redeem this one.


    Be the first to redeem this coupon and you save 5 %.

    Last, but certainly not least, we have the Outpost Game Center from Belgium, so these guys had the shortest trip today.

    Their top sellers also included Shatterstorm, Sowing Salt and Peek. They also got rid of quite a few Urza lands as well as Spellskite, Hallowed Burial, Fracturing Gust and Treetop Village.


    Our vendors from Belgium had the hometown advantage going for them.

    Asked about Theros, they said that there weren't any cards in particular that were outselling everything else. It seemed more like most players appreciated the fact that they offered a variety of Theros cards all in one spot.

    Any other card that you didn't expect to sell a lot? "Voice of Resurgence tokens."

    As you can see, our vendors are full of surprises. Nex time when you don't know what to expect and you're looking for that extra piece of information, make sure to head over to the vendor booths on site. They might just provide you with all the answers to your questions.




     

  • Saturday, 2:45 p.m. – Artists on Site

    by Oliver Gehrmann

  • Randy "rk" Post is a highly popular illustrator of a wide range of fantasy publications, but he's probably best known for his yearlong work on Magic: the Gathering. Need some proof? Easy - google his name and among the very first results, you should see the search result for the Gatherer with cards that he illustrated. Here's a direct link for your convenience: Magic cards illustrated by rk post.


    rk post was in high demand all weekend, with players queuing up to get their favorite cards signed by the artist!

    There are quite a few people that think that once you have your own Wikipedia page, you've "made it". That statement also rings true for rk Post. Lately, he's been on the road quite a bit with him going as far as calling it the "rk post Hates His Bed on a Saturday Night" Tour. Apart from a couple of Magic events, he's also in high demand for popular fairs like the ComicCons in Conway or Lima.

    Our second artist on site is Svetlin Velinov from Bulgaria who's been responsible for stunning artworks like Abrupt Decay, Hellrider and Thundermaw Hellkite among many others. You can see the cards he's been involved with here: Magic cards drawn by Svetlin Velinov.

    How did you first get into drawing?

    I started drawing when I was just a child. My mother told me that I drew a perfect apple on the wall and that marked the starting point of my career, so to speak. I continued to practice a lot as I decided soon that I wanted to pursue this as a career. After I graduated high school, I went into it full time; there was never a period in my life when I earned my living with something else. It's like a dream come true for me, but it was a lot of hard work.

    Any advice for other upcoming artists?

    That's a very tough question. I'm often getting asked how I became this good and how I got involved with Magic. Like I said before, it's a lot of hard work. You'll get turned down, often frequently. It's important to not give up because one day, someone will spot you and give you a commission and you then need to take that positive experience and use it as motivation to further follow this path.


    Svetlin Velinov creating a token for a dedicated fan.

    I saw quite a few Goblins among the cards you drew. It seems like you're the go to artist for these creatures?

    Yes, they are among my favorites! My wife also loves them, so I'm having some extra motivation to produce stunning pieces whenever I'm getting asked to come up with a Goblin drawing.

    Do you have a single favorite card?

    Thundermaw Hellkite - this is the card that helped me to have a real breakthrough. I even got nominated for the artwork, so it also acts as a door opener for future commission work. Being nominated was a great accomplishment for me, even though I didn't end up winning the award.

    What's the best part of working on Magic?

    It gives you a lot of freedom to dream up things and turn them into something that feels very real. While there are certain guidelines that we need to stick to, we still have plenty of options to get creative and produce something that becomes a part of this very rich world. It's basically a dream job and I couldn't be much happier with it.

    Do you enjoy travelling to events like the Grand Prix in Antwerp?

    Yes, as long as they are on the same continent. Travelling to Argentina wasn't so fun because it took quite a while, but Antwerp has been really great so far. I enjoy meeting new people and getting exposed to new cultures. It's also enjoyable to talk to the players and listen to their opinions of my work.

    Thank you for the short interview!




     

  • Round 4 Feature Match - Kenny Öberg vs. (14) Martin Jůza

    by Tobi Henke

  • When the two players sat down in the feature match area they were exchanging battle stories from Pro Tour Theros, where Kenny Öberg had finished in 31st place just two weeks ago. The longtime pro players both have a number of high finishes to their name, going all the way back to 2008 when, at the Pro Tour in Berlin, both made their first Top 8. Admittedly, since then, Jůza had put up a lot more big results than Öberg; in fact, he went into the weekend ranked 14th in the world.

    "Do you have something sweet? Tezzeret maybe?" Jůza asked what his opponent was playing, alluding to Öberg's previous success with an innovative deck build around Tezzeret the Seeker. Alas, Öberg didn't. He was playing a Birthing Pod deck with the Restoration Angel/Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker combo as its main route to victory. Actually, it was Jůza who had brought a sweet new brew to the table, a white and red deck trying to combine Village Bell-Ringer or Restoration Angel with either Splinter Twin or Kiki-Jiki.


    Kenny Öberg

    Öberg started on Noble Hierarch, Spellskite, and Restoration Angel, whereas Jůza just had lands and a Village Bell-Ringer. Öberg cast Birthing Pod and turned his Spellskite into a Deceiver Exarch and attempted to complete his combo by sacrificing Restoration Angel. Jůza responded to the Pod activation with Path to Exile on Deceiver Exarch. Öberg thought for a bit, then took Zealous Conscripts from his library. Next turn, he copied the Conscripts with Phantasmal Image to steal Village Bell-Ringer to which Jůza again responded with Path to Exile, this time exiling his own creature.

    However, Öberg's Birthing Pod still had more to offer: His Noble Hierarch turned into Wall of Roots, next turn the Wall became Deceiver Exarch, which untapped the Pod and became Restoration Angel, which then flickered Zealous Conscripts to again untap the Pod and was subsequently sacrificed to Birthing Pod to search for Kiki-Jiki. Jůza once again had Path to Exile, his third, to stop the combo. His Wall of Omens and Restoration Angel took care of Öberg's ground offensive and soon it was Jůza who, with the help of yet another Restoration Angel, went on the offense. Öberg tried to stop the bleeding by searching for Archangel of Thune via Chord of Calling, but Jůza's third Restoration Angel sealed the deal.

    Jůza was impressed with Öberg's deck. "I figured the whole combo was gone but then you went for it like three more times. I had three Path to Exile in my hand, so I thought, 'What could possibly go wrong?'", said Jůza after the game. "I didn't expect you to steal one of my creatures though. I probably messed up badly there." Then he looked over and corrected himself, "Don't write that. Write that I played perfectly."

    Martin Jůza played perfectly.

    In the second game, despite Wall of Omens and scrying with Temple of Triumph, Jůza was unable to find a fourth land, and soon even had to discard at end of turn. His mana problems were compounded by Öberg's Deceiver Exarch and two Restoration Angels, allowing him to tap a land during Jůza upkeep multiple times. But Jůza finally did hit lands and cast Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Unfortunately, he had to tap out to do so, and Öberg used the window of opportunity to summon his own Kiki-Jiki, ending the game and setting the score at one win each.

    In the third game, Jůza drew quite a number of his sideboard cards: two Grafdigger's Cages and one Stony Silence. Too many, in fact, and he had those instead of lands. He tried to go for some beatdown with two Blade Splicers but the Golems didn't make much headway against Öberg's Wall of Roots. Öberg, meanwhile lined up several creatures, including Zealous Conscripts and Glen Elendra Archmage for protection. When Öberg finally found the missing combo piece, Jůza could just nod as Öberg proceded to produce an infinite number of Zealous Conscripts via Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.


    Martin Jůza

    "I only have two Cages, one Stony Silence," Jůza complained after the match. Öberg commiserated. "Aww, that's bad." For Jůza, the key play of the match, however, had been in the second game when he tapped out to summon Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. "I think I needed to cast Kiki-Jiki to start drawing two cards a turn with Wall of Omens. I can't just pass, pass, pass until you kill me."

    This time taking the risk hadn't paid off, and now Jůza was 3-1, whereas Öberg advanced to 4-0.




     

  • Round 5 Feature Match - Marco Cammilluzzi vs. Jérémy Dezani

    by Oliver Gehrmann

  • Both of the players facing each other in round 4 are no strangers to the top tables. Marco Cammilluzzi advanced to the Top 8 of a Grand Prix 3 times before, while Jeremy Dezani one-upped him in 3 different ways; not only did he make day 2 at 4 Grand Prix, he also won 1 of them and he's of course the winner of Pro Tour Theros that took place just two weeks ago. So it comes as no surprise that he's ranked 11th in the Top 25 Pro Rankings.


    Jeremy Dezani came straight from a Pro Tour win!

    Dezani brought Scapeshift to the table while Cammilluzzi felt confident with his choice of Naya with quite a few cards in his main deck that usually pop up in the sideboard, but more on that momentarily.

    Game 1

    Dezani went down to 6 cards, which didn't seem to affect him too much. When asked about it, he announced that he went down to 4 earlier, so he's somewhat used to taking mulligans.

    The early game was dominated by Cammilluzzi's Deathrite Shaman that started to pluck cards from Dezani's graveyard. He followed it up with Boom // Bust, further disrupting the Pro Tour winner's strategy, while he continued to assemble his mana base with the help of some fetch lands.

    The first big bang of the game was a turn 4 Blood Moon from Cammilluzzi, much to the surprise of Dezani. When the Italian added Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Dezani asked, seemingly shocked: "You main decked this AND this?" (pointing at the respective cards).

    "Nah, I had them in my sideboard", Cammilluzzi responded jokingly.


    Cammilluzzi found another threat in Loxodon Smiter.

    Dezani then found a Pyroclasm to deal with the Angel, but Cammilluzzi replaced it with Loxodon Smiter. Dezani went searching and tried to buy himself some time with Sakura-Tribe Elder, but Cammilluzzi's Lightning Bolt cleared the path for his aggressors, causing the French player to access his sideboard a turn later.

    Game 2

    No player went for the mulligan in game 2. Once again, the game felt like a race between Dezani trying to muster up enough mana and Cammilluzzi attempting to foil that plan and applying enough aggression before Dezani could pull off some great plays.


    Marco Cammilluzzi's strategy of main decking certain tech cards paid of big time so far!

    Cammilluzzi tried to pull ahead with Birds of Paradise, but Dezani had an answer for it. Boom // Bust then again foiled with Dezani's plans and when Cammilluzi found Loxodon Smiter, it appeared like time was running out for Dezani once again.

    Things didn't improve when the Italian added a second copy of Loxodon Smiter, but Dezani made it to Wurmcoil Engine nonetheless with just a few life remaining. Cammilluzzi had a removal for it and the following attacks resulted in Dezani losing the Lifelink token and Cammilluzzi going down to 1 copy of Loxodon Smiter.


    Dezani's tokens bought him another turn!

    Dezani then found a second copy of the Wurmcoil Engine that helped him to turn the game around. Cammilluzzi tried to fight back with Woolly Thoctar, but Dezani had 2 copies of Remand to buy himself enough time to pull ahead with the 6 mana creature. When Cammilluzzi didn't find an answer after chump blocking it, we went to an all-deciding game 3.

    Game 3 - score: 1 - 1

    This time, Dezani found no answer for Cammilluzzi's Birds of Paradise. That allowed the Italian to advance into a Woolly Thoctar on his second turn!

    Cammilluzzi slowed down his opponent with Blood Moon while adding a Loxodon Smiter shortly after.


    Dezani's tokens bought him another turn!

    Wurmcoil Engine was supposed to be Dezani's answer, but an Ancient Grudge dealt with both it and the Lifelink token, clearing the path for game-deciding attacks.

    "He sideboarded prior to the game!", Dezani complained about the Blood Moon once again after he had shuffled up his cards. It certainly seemed like the deciding factor in the 2 games that Cammilluzzi won, something the Italian agreed with too.

    "I finished 24th in Seattle playing this Deck. It's really good against Jund, Tron, BW Control and Scapeshift and that's why I'm sticking with it", Cammilluzzi explained.

    Asked about the second game, he had to admit that the second Wurmcoil Engine was a little too much. "If I would have drawn another land, I would have been able to cast Bonfire of the Damned after chump blocking with both Loxodon Smiter and Woolly Thoctar, but I guess you can't have it all and there's little reason to complain", he admitted. That seemed pretty impossible to argue.




     

  • Saturday, 5:00 p.m. – Putting Belgium Back on the Map

    by Oliver Gehrmann

  • Our video commentator Marijn Lybaert pointed out that we should really talk to Chris Van den Wouwer since, according to Marijn, he's spearheading a new effort to put Belgium back on the map of the great Magic countries. Chris, however, immediately retorted that it's not him alone; there are 5 Belgian players that, in a combined effort, attempt to unite Belgium and increase the popularity of the game.

    Marijn, Michael Milis, Jan Van Nieuwenhoven, Thomas Van der Paelt and he started a group a few weeks back with the goal of improving communication between the Belgian Magic players. While most of them are well familiar with local tournaments and deck testing sessions, few are willing to go one step further and travel to bigger events to represent their country. "Back in Dublin 2 weeks ago, there were next to no Belgian players and we really felt ashamed of that."

    That's what they want to change. Their first step was creating a facebook page that is free to join, so more people can get involved. They are now aiming at putting up their own website and apart from that, they are also streaming on twitch to provide entertainment and yet another platform for other players to get involved.

    "All 5 of us started streaming regularly during the weeks leading up to GP Antwerp to promote our common goal", Chris said. They have reached around 250 players that are now following them on twitch and interacting with them, but Chris and his friends are far from being done.

    I asked him whether this was a "Belgians only" thing, to which he quickly replied that they don't draw the line at the border. They think that it's in the interest of a larger group of players, one that involves those from neighboring countries, to have a better communication. This will then give them the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other, so everyone can take something away from participating.

    "It's not just about getting better, it's also about enjoying the game a bit more."


    These Belgian players want to put their country back on the map!

    To draw more people in, they produced T-Shirts for the Grand Prix so they could promote their goal. They already have a name for the group ("belgic magic") as well as a logo, so it really looks like they're serious and up to something.

    Their latest project involved creating a twitch channel for the whole group where they take turns streaming. They also started a twitter account to further improve communication.

    "At the end of the day, we want to give the Belgian Magic community a platform to communicate with each other and grow closer together. We welcome new members and ideas, so if this sounds like something for you, definitely stay in touch and hit us up on twitch or facebook!", Chris said.

    Let's see if their effort will motivate more players to improve communication between their local playgroup and the cities close by. I for one think that it's a great way to enjoy playing Magic even more and improving your knowledge about the game.




     

  • Saturday, 6:00 p.m. – Playing Commander with Ron Foster

    by Oliver Gehrmann

  • Wizards of the Coast is known as a company that doesn't mind interacting with their consumers (more commonly referred to as "players"). Ron Foster, WotC's Grand Prix Organizer Manager, came all the way from Seattle to put that claim to the test.

    The reason for his long trip in his own words: "I wanted to become more familiar with the way Grand Prix events works in Europe so we can adapt some of the winning strategies in other territories. Also, there's a chance we might be able to help Dazzle events (our TO for the weekend) and on top of that, I also want to have some fun! At the end of the day, that's what we're all here for!"


    You never know what to expect in a game of Commander!

    Ron told me that he has been involved in the design of the new cards for the Commander 2013 edition (you can see the 51 new cards on Daily MTG). Since all of the new cards have already been revealed, this allows him to show his opponents first hand what it feels like to play with (or in this case: against) them.

    What were your goals during the design process?

    "We pursued several goals, but our main goal has always been to create something appealing for both existing Commander players as well as those who have never tried out the format. We wanted to make sure they would play well against each other, so they are all very evenly matched. They serve as a starting point to get into the format and you can then start to improve them by adding a few cards at a time and trying them out."

    "We are aware that there are cards in the set that will play well in the other formats. We were also able to put in a large number of Portal Three Kingdoms cards which tend to be hard to find. We also reprinted some of the older favorites, so we are certain we can satisfy a large variety of players with different preferences."

    What was the feedback like so far?

    "Commander is a social format, so meeting new people and chatting with them is always fun."

    I felt it was time to ask Ron's opponents what they thought at that point since we might get a less diplomatic answer from them: "So far it's looking good, but I think he's up to something and then it could quickly go downhill. Still, it's a very fun experience and we enjoy it a lot!"

    What's the strangest question you've been asked this weekend?

    "No one's asked me a difficult question. The funniest question that people kept asking me repeatedly was: 'You really flew out all the way from Seattle JUST for the Grand Prix?!'"


    Ron Foster had a great time showcasing some of the brand new cards!

    Even though playing against Ron is free, he's dropping some prizes. Here's a quick explanation:"I'm giving away Theros booster packs when players defeat me. I also tend to give away some booster packs when players accomplish special missions that I make up on the spot, like "whenever you kill someone with Infect, I'm giving you an extra booster pack."

    What do you think about the Commander format overall?

    "One of the beauties of Commander is that it really showcases that there are endless possibilities in Magic. While it's certainly true that there are a number of "archetypes", everyone has his own unique trick. Some players also enjoy expressing themselves to some degree with the choices they're making; so some might only play signed cards while others are only relying on foil cards, and so on. Everyone has his own and unique style and it's great to see that the format is bringing together so many people with different backgrounds and all of them are having a great time together."

    Thank you for the quick interview!




     

  • Saturday, 8:00 p.m. – Nykthos Green

    by Tobi Henke

  • One of the more fascinating new decks in the field today is a green devotion build, using Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to pump out some expensive threats like Primeval Titan and Tooth and Nail early in the game. In fact, it can cast either of those as early as turn two. This, of course, immediately drew our attention.


    Sebastian Knörr

    Sebastian Knörr, who came up with the deck, had played it to a 3-2 record when I talked to him. "The deck is far from perfect," Knörr admitted. "I didn't have enough time to finetune. But there's definitely some potential here."

    Apparently, the very explosive starts, usually helped by multiple copies of Burning-Tree Emissary, don't happen that often, although Knörr once did cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn on turn four this weekend as well as Primeval Titan on turn two. As is, his deck is rather build for consistency than maximum speed. Knörr stressed the importance of the eight cantrips in the deck. "You absolutely need the additional cards to reach critical mass for Nykthos. Abundant Growth turned out to be better than more Birds of Paradise and Carven Caryatid is great to cycle through the deck. The list maybe doesn't look that way, but the deck is actually pretty light on threats," Knörr explained.

    Sebastian Knörr – Nykthos Green
    Grand Prix Antwerp 2013 – Modern


    "One of the problems of the deck is, you really, really need Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which allows you to make the jump from the early plays to Titan and stuff. Then there are the usual inconsistency issues with ramp strategies. Still, the deck is very good against creature decks, good against Jund and Tron, but the more interactive decks like Splinter Twin are terrible matchups," said Knörr. "Unfortunately I played against Twin twice," he added with a sigh and a frown.


    Sebastian Knörr

    "Currently the deck lacks in options to close the game. It happens too often that you cast Primeval Titan on turn three and don't win. Maybe the Titan/Inkmoth Nexus/Wolf Run combination isn't such a good idea after all," Knörr mused. "I don't know. Maybe someone else will figure it out. There's still a lot of area to explore, room for experimentation and improvement."

    So if you're looking for a fun and new Modern deck, maybe try this one! Once you've seen Nykthos in action you cannot deny that the concept shows some promise.




     

  • Round 7 Feature Match - (4) Shahar Shenhar vs. Carsten Jung

    by Tobi Henke

  • Both players entered the fray this round with pristine records of 6-0. Shahar Shenhar, reigning World Champion and number four in the Top 25 Rankings, was used to such a run, whereas relatively unknown Carsten Jung surely wasn't. Still, the German was unfazed, actually glad to have the opportunity. Said Jung, "It's great I get to play against so many pros. I played Stanislav Cifka already and now you."

    However, he didn't welcome the matchup. Shenhar was playing his trusted Blue-White-Red, the aggrocontrol deck he had already used to win the World Championship, while Jung brought Affinity, a deck capable of extremely aggressive starts but somewhat fragile and susceptible to removal. Jung wasn't feeling very optimistic about his chances here.


    Carsten Jung

    Game 1

    Nevertheless he had an impressive opening into the match, with Darksteel Citadel, Springleaf Drum, Ornithopter, Mox Opal, and Cranial Plating, all on turn one. He even had a Spell Pierce for Shenhar's Path to Exile when he went to attack on turn two. However, two more copies of Path to Exile and a Lightning Bolt took care of all his creatures, before finally an Arcbound Ravager managed to stick around. Faced with a blocking 3/3 Golem, courtesy of Blade Splicer, the Ravager grew to 7/4, leaving Jung with just Cranial Plating, Darksteel Citadel, and said Arcbound Ravager for artifacts.

    His two Galvanic Blasts killed the Blade Splicer as well as, later, a Vendilion Clique, always in response to the abilities of Shenhar's two Restoration Angels. The Angels started to hit back even though Shenhar couldn't win the resulting damage race. Now came the crucial turning point: the two Restoration Angels blocked Arcbound Ravager, by now 8/4. Jung sacrificed another three artifacts including his only other creature, then lost his Ravager to Electrolyze. Shenhar's Celestial Colonnade beatdown ended the game before Jung could mount another offense

    Game 2

    Jung started somewhat slower with Signal Pest, Spellskite, Blinkmoth Nexus, and another Signal Pest. Shenhar's Blade Splicer didn't do much to halt Jung's unblockable force and Cranial Plating only made matters worse. Electrolyze bought a lot of time, when it killed the Signal Pests but there was still this pesky Nexus to take care of. Jung played a fourth land, before he attacked for lethal damage with his equipped Blinkmoth Nexus, which allowed Shenhar to dispatch it with Tectonic Edge.


    (4) Shahar Shenhar

    Meanwhile, Jung's Etched Champion was kept at bay by Blade Splicer's Golem token, but not for long. Jung played Blood Moon to draw a counter or make any further countering impossible, then on his next turn killed the Golem token with Galvanic Blast, equipped his Etched Champion and swung in for the win.

    Game 3

    Jung's opening of Darksteel Citadel, Springleaf Drum, Ornithopter, and Signal Pest was smoothly answered by Shenhar's Engineered Explosives for one. Cranial Plating resolved, but the 6/2 Ornithopter met its doom at the hands of Lightning Bolt. After Shenhar had activated Engineered Explosives, Jung was left with just two Darksteel Citadels and one Cranial Plating. Over the next couple of turns, Shenhar just drew cards and played lands, while Jung cast nonthreatening spells like Springleaf Drum, a second Cranial Plating, and Blood Moon. Restoration Angel started to beat down, Wear & Tear killed both the Moon and one Cranial Plating, Snapcaster Mage allowed Shenhar to Tear down the Plating, and things were lokking grim for Jung. He regrouped with Arcbound Ravager, Blinkmoth Nexus, and Signal Pest, but he was already way behind in the damage race.

    At this point, time was called and five additional turns followed. On the first, Shenhar attacked with Restoration Angel and Snapcaster Mage to bring Jung to 7, then summoned Blade Splicer. On the second extra turn, Jung attacked with Blinkmoth Nexus and cast a second Etched Champion, losing 1 life to City of Brass in the process. At end of turn, Shenhar cast Lightning Bolt to put Jung at 3, then flew in with Restoration Angel to clinch victory.




     

  • Round 8 Feature Match - (18) Raphael Levy vs. Matt Light

    by Oliver Gehrmann

  • Raphael Levy has made 19 appearances in the Top 8 of a Grand Prix before, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that he's currently sporting a solid 6 - 1 record. He's the No. 18-ranked player in the Top 25 Ranking and he now has to go up against Matt Light from the UK, who boasts slightly less experience at the top tables.

    Then again, the UK has been on a role as of late and Light does match Levy's record after all, so the French veteran might be in for a challenge.

    While Levy brought the Merfolk deck to the table, Light was trying his luck with the GW Hatebears.


    (18) Raphael Levy was running the blue Merfolk deck this weekend!

    In the first match, it seemed like Light was pulling ahead with some early aggression, courtesy of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Loxodon Smiter. Levy indicated quickly that he was playing the Merfolk deck when he cast Silvergill Adept, but it wasn't enough to stem the bleeding from Light's forces.


    Matt Light was putting Levy on a clock!

    Levy bounced Loxodon Smiter and a Spreading Seas made sure Light couldn't cast it right away again. He then tried to gain more ground with Master of the Pearl Trident and Lord of Atlantis, which made it seem like Levy could turn things around, however, a timely Path to Exile made sure Light would continue to stay ahead.

    Levy's life was down to single-digits, but a much-needed Coralhelm Commander then finally turned things around, with Light finding no answer to the Planeswalker when Levy added a second Lord of Atlantis.

    Game 2 - score: 1 - 0 Levy

    Once again, it was Light acting as the aggressor early on, once again putting his money on Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Loxodon Smiter. Levy seemingly had a good answer with Coralhelm Commander on his second turn already, but Light dealt with it a turn later with Path to Exile after Levy had given up his turn adding more counters.


    The powerful Loxodon Smiter was staring the Plainswalker dead in the eye!

    Levy, who was down to 12, had to do some maths. He proceeded to buy himself some more time with Dismember, but Light simply replaced his Loxodon Smiter with a fresh copy.

    Master of Waves was met with a second Path to Exile, while a second Dismember once again dealt with the threat that was Loxodon Smiter. However, Levy was now left with only 2 life, casting Kira, Great Glass-Spinner and Thassa, God of the Sea in a desperate effort.

    A third (!) Path to Exile meant that Light still had a shot. "It's getting a little old!", Levy complained, to which Light just replied "yeah".


    Matt Light was hanging on thanks to his 3 Path to Exile!

    Scavenging Ooze then gave Light something big to threaten Levy, who found his second Master of Waves. "Pretty good!", Light commented, but he quickly added: "I can't complain either." Levy certainly agreed with that assessment.

    For the first time in the game after the very first turn, Light didn't attack. That was the point when Levy realized that he might have won this game after all, he later admitted.


    A second Master of Waves turned the game around!

    Levy added yet another Silvergill Adept and when a Lord of Atlantis also came down, he started to do some maths. Light was still up on 17 life, but Master of Waves and Thassa changed that momentarily, leaving him on 9.

    The following turn, a Noble Hierarch came down and Light sent in Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Levy blocked with just 1 creature, asking: "Am I dead?", but Light didn't have another instant, extending the hand.

    Raphael Levy wins 2 - 0




     

  • Saturday, 9:00 p.m. – UK's Newfound Strength in Numbers

    by Oliver Gehrmann

  • One thing we noticed over the course of the past month was the ever increasing number of participants from the UK at the European Grand Prix. I sat down with 2 of their most successful representatives in competition today, Neil Rigby and Matt Light, who we've both seen at the Feature Match tables earlier today.

    Neil, what do you think is the reason why we're seeing more and more players from the UK making the trips to the European Grand Prix?

    "I think it's mostly because we're talking much more to each other. It's an additional motivation to know that your friends are going."

    Matt added this: "Thanks to social media, it's much easier to stay in touch with your friends and that can make a big difference. I only decided to come on Wednesday after I heard that 15 of my friends would be making the trip.

    "It's also that people are only learning now how easy it can be to travel to events. We drove here and it only took us 3,5 hours to get to a ferry and after the ferry ride, which was quite pleasant, we just had to drive for another 3 hours. That's very manageable."

    Are there any other benefits that come with you working closer together than ever?

    Matt: "Since there are more of us travelling, we can now reduce costs for staying much easier by renting out larger apartments, which means that the individual cost will be much lower."

    Neil: "Moreover, since we're now closer in touch, it's easier than ever to get your deck together. We all have different preferences in terms of deck choices and formats and we all trust each other. So for most of us it's totally normal to lend out 30 cards for an event and expecting nothing in return except for a 'thank you mate'."

    Matt: "It also helps that the coverage of the GP is always improving. There's a lot more focus on these events these days compared to a few years back, which means that more people will notice when you're attending a Grand Prix. This will then cause them to join you for the trip."


    Neil Rigby and Matt Light are representing the UK with pride this weekend!

    Matt, you mentioned that it feels like the UK is catching up?

    Matt: "Yes, that's what it feels like to me. Whenever I asked someone where he was from and who he was here with, he could name several people in the blink of an eye, while that has never been the case for many of us from the UK. Now, after our community has grown much more together, it feels like we're finally up on par with the rest of Europe since we're also benefitting from the "strength in numbers" concept now.

    How happy are you with your deck choices this weekend?

    Neil: "Matt picked the decks for us; he is playing GW Hatebears while I've been handed Jund - it's a lot of powerful cards and I know how to play Magic, so that turned out rather well so far." (Neil is currently sitting on a 7 - 1 record)

    Matt, who just lost back to back feature matches, was still feeling confident in his choice. "If I would have drawn some of my sideboard cards, I would have been able to win both of those games."

    Let's see if he can recover, but with a 6 - 2 record, he could still go all the way.

    It appears like the UK community has already accomplished what the Belgian community is currently aiming for. Make sure to keep an eye on these players since they're bound to make more appearances in the future.




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