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Grand Prix Manchester
Day 2 Coverage

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  • Day One Undefeated Decklists
    by Frank Karsten

  • Four players went 9-0 in Grand Prix Manchester, Day 1. The common thread amongst the 9-0 sealed decks was their aggressive nature; all of them tried to close out the game quickly and decisively. Marijn Lybaert had an aggressive Green-White deck splashing for Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and Falkenrath Noble. Tommi Lindgren built an aggressive Red-Black deck featuring the impressive game-winning combo of Falkenrath Noble and Blasphemous Act. Further, Alexandre Darras played a fast Red-White deck with a pretty low curve. Rounding out the 9-0 group was Matej Zatlkaj and his Green/White deck sporting many beefy 5-drops such as Geist-Honored Monk and Kessig Cagebreakers.



     

  • Sunday, 8:07 a.m. – Killer Sealed Deck Pool Building with Martin Juza and Ben Stark
    by Frank Karsten

  • Yesterday, the Killer Pool of Doom went up: an exercise sealed deck pool that contains the best rares and uncommons available in the Innistrad / Dark Ascension Limited format. Many viewers at home have already shared their builds on the forums, but I met up with Limited masters Martin Juza and Ben Stark to get their joint view on this pool.

    A selection of their exclamations after a quick scan through the cards:

    "There is not a single unplayable card!"

    "Why are they making us choose between Lingering Souls and Huntmaster of the Fells? Wait... Daybreak Ranger and Garruk Relentless as well? This is ridiculous!"

    "They should just DQ pools like this!"

    Before you read on, if you haven't tried to build the pool yourself, be sure to give it a try first to see how your build compares to the one of Juza and Stark.

    Juza and Stark quickly figured that the best way to build this pool is to get as many broken rares into the deck as possible. They briefly considered a White-Black deck, but they eventually decided to go for Green-White with a Red splash (and a Swamp for Lingering Souls). They simply felt this color combination gave them the highest number of amazing cards. This was their final build:

    Although 17 lands together with Mulch, Dawntreader Elk, and Avacyn's Pilgrim might appear to be too many mana sources for a deck with curve as low as this one, Juza and Stark mentioned that they could not risk getting mana screwed in a deck with all broken cards. They also warned against being too greedy: "Although it might be tempting to add Bloodline Keeper etcetera as well, you should not make an unnecessary splash since the sealed pool is already so good. When you have all broken cards, consistent mana is very important."

    Juza and Stark spent a few extra minutes on fleshing out the final two cards of the deck, looking at cards such as Mulch, Elite Inquisitor, Butcher's Cleaver, and Gather the Townsfolk. Mulch and Gather the Townsfolk eventually got the nod. "Mulch has nice synergy with the insane flashback cards", Juza mentioned. Stark advocated Gather the Townsfolk: "The only way you could lose with this deck is if the opponent has a super-aggressive start on the play; Gather the Townsfolk helps against that." Elite Inquisitor did not make it in because it's too tough on the mana, and Butcher's Cleaver did not make it in because it's too slow.

    After finishing with the Sealed pool, Ben and Martin reflected back on the Innistrad/Dark Ascension Limited format. Interestingly, their opinions differed greatly. "I'm not a fan of this format", Ben mentioned. "The rares just trump everything else, and there are no viable control decks. I love a format where you can play all kinds of control decks and where games last long enough. Games in this format are just over way too quickly. I'm always beating slow Spider Spawning decks or control decks by drafting Red/Green or Blue/White Aggro!" Juza had a different opinion. "I actually enjoyed the format quite a bit; I really like how they brought flashback back, and the games are usually fun!"

    How did you feel about this Limited format in retrospect? And do you agree with the way how Ben Stark and Martin Juza built the deck, or did you go with a different build? Head on over to the forums to share your thoughts!



     

  • Sunday, 10:36 a.m. – How did the first draft go for the pros?
    by Frank Karsten

  • I checked in with several of pro players that made it to Day 2, in order to get their thoughts on their first draft. How did it go and do they like their decks?



    Craig Wescoe

    "Hold on...I'm just doing some test-draws with my deck to see whether I should play 17 or 18 lands before handing in my decklist. I'm actually quite happy with the deck; I'm running Plains again! It's a typical White-Green deck, with Mayor of Avabruck and Briarpack Alpha."









    Jackie Lee

    "I think my deck is OK. I have a Blue-Black tempo deck with a low curve. I even made the choice to go with 16 lands."












    Bram Snepvangers

    "I'm definitely happy with my deck. It's Blue-Black Zombies with 2 Diregraf Captain."













    Ben Stark

    "My deck is pretty mediocre. My draft started fine with a Tragic Slip and Fires of Undeath, but in the end it seemed like the person to my right was in black-red as well, despite me passing the Fires of Undeath. My deck is aggressive, which I like, but I'm not too happy with it."









    Martin Juza

    "My deck is quite weak. I opened Briarpack Alpha and followed it up with a 2nd pick Increasing Savagery and a 3rd poick Immerwolf, but the red didn't keep on flowing. When I opened Geist-Honored Monk in the third pack, I took it switched out of red. But white didn't seem to be open in the end... All in all, I have some good rares, but I was probably in the wrong colors and my curve is too high."






    Martijn Lybaert

    "Bleeehh! I opened a pack with an excellent white card, but the drafter next to me immediately slammed Loyal Cathar first-pick within three seconds. So, I took Wild Hunger instead, and now I have an awkward Green-Red deck. I have some funky synergies, though. What do you think about double Traitorous Blood with Demonmail Hauberk? And look at this: Charmbreaker Devils with Wild Hunger. That's 18 points of trampling damage! 18!!!"





    Lukas Jaklovsky

    "I have an excellent Green-White deck. I actually opened my fourth Garruk Relentless in a row. (So lucky!) My mana is a bit awkward though; I'll have to figure out whether I'd want to play Forest or Plains on turn 1, as my deck includes both Spectral Rider and Strangleroot Geist."







    At this point, Lukas was sitting at a table together with Ben Stark and Martin Juza while waiting for the Round 10 pairings to be posted. The group chatted about the upcoming World Magic Cup Qualifiers (WMCQ). Martin expressed his ambivalence at the way the qualification system is currently set up: "It basically forces me not to root for my friend and compatriot Lucas. I would like Lukas to win the Grand Prix, but I don't want him to overtake me in the Pro Point race and steal my invite for the World Magic Cup." Still, Lukas' deck seems excellent, and Martin will probably feel happy if Lukas does well in the end.



     

  • Sunday, 10:40 a.m. – Drafting with Matez Zatlkaj
    by Tobi Henke

  • Matej Zatlkaj is no stranger to the spotlight, with a Pro Tour final appearance to his name, from Berlin in 2008, but in recent years he wasn't seen at the top tables as much. Now he's back at the very top, going 9-0 yesterday and looking to continue that streak today. Let's find out whether his draft would help him with that.

    His double-faced card from the very first pack was Ravenous Demon, the people to his right opened (and revealed) two Hinterland Hermits. The rest of his booster had no lack of options, though, with Wild Hunger, Kessig Recluse, Fires of Undeath, and Hellrider. He would be passing a lot of red and green (he also took note of the Young Wolf in the pack for wheeling purposes) no matter what, but with two decent red Werewolves coming up, he easily decided on the Hellrider.


    The second pack included a possible signal in Increasing Confusion and another fine blue card in Stormbound Geist, but Zatlkaj wasn't willing to switch just yet. He did indeed go for the Hinterland Hermit. Then he grimaced at the sight of Drogskol Captain and Drogskol Reaver in the next booster. But there also was an Immerwolf, which he took instead. Next up was a disappointing Hunger of the Howlpack (over Gather the Townsfolk, Highborn Ghoul, and another Stormbound Geist).

    Zatlkaj's fifth pick was Curse of Bloodletting, the sixth pack was once again very blue with Nephalia Seakite and Geralf's Mindcrusher. Zatlkaj shook his head and went with Dawntreader Elk.


    The rest of the the first round of drafting provided another Russet Wolves, a Faithless Looting, and the Young Wolf did indeed table. So now Zatlkaj had Hellrider, Hinterland Hermit, Immerwolf, Hunger of the Howlpack, Dawntreader Elk, Russet Wolbes, Faithless Looting, and Young Wolf. Not as impressive as blue might have been but a solid eight cards nonetheless.

    Off to the first pack of Innistrad: Unfortunately, here the best options in red or green were Grizzled Outcasts or Festerhide Boar, while black had Skirsdag High Priest, blue had Claustrophobia, and white offered Slayer of the Wicked, which in the end Zatlkaj took. He followed it up with Village Ironsmith and Riot Devils out of weak boosters, but it didn't get better from there, with a fourth pick Harvest Pyre, followed by Festerhide Boar, Caravan Vigil, Tormented Pariah, Lumberknot, Moonmist, and another Tormented Pariah. At the end of this round of drafting, Zatlkaj had grown very unhappy indeed, noticeably so.

    And the last booster didn't magically save him either. His picks (in order) were: Rage Thrower, Grizzled Outcasts, Darkthicket Wolf, Grizzled Outcasts, Somberwald Spider, Ranger's Guile, Moonmist, Riot Devils, Feral Ridgewolf, Sensory Deprivation, Naturalize, Forbidden Alchemy, Make a Wish, and Bramblecrush. Uh-uh.



     

  • Round 10 Feature Match - Matej Zatlkaj vs. Alexandre Darras
    by Tobi Henke

  • "Did you write anything interesting about my draft?" was Matej Zatlkaj's greeting when I made my way to the feature match area. "Like how much I was shaking my head and sighing?"

    "So you're not happy about your deck?" Alexandre Darras asked his opponent.

    "No, the draft was very weird. You like your deck?"

    "It has some upsides and some downsides. And yes, the draft was weird."

    Zatlkaj won the die-roll and started with Darkthicket Wolf followed by Village Ironsmith, while Darras, after a mulligan, had to wait till turn three for his first play: a Markov Patrician which didn't make a very good blocker for Zatlkaj's creatures. He attacked with both and just pumped his Wolf, to transform his Ironsmith into Ironfang.

    "Three colors!" Zatlkaj exclaimed when Darras added an Island to his two Plains and one Swamp. No blue cards yet, though, only a Falkenrath Torturer. Markov Patrician attacked for 3 damage and 3 life, then it was back to Zatlkaj, who held back with his Ironfang, but got in again with his Darkthicket Wolf before casting a 3/3 Festerhide Boar.

    Darras summoned Ravenous Demon, Zatlkaj summoned Dawntreader Elk. Darras cast Loyal Cathar and Rotting Fensnake, and for the time being, the board was sufficiently clogged up that no player attempted any attacks. This changed after Zatlkaj had added a Hellrider, a Feral Ridgewolf, and a Lumberknot to his team. The Hellrider died to Death's Caress but was replaced with Rage Thrower.

    "You probably have infinite tricks in your hand," Zatlkaj lamented. Still he attacked with all of his creatures except for the Rage Thrower. These were the blocks:

    The Board State

    As it turned out, Darras didn't have any tricks after all. In fact, only Zatlkaj had one: Moonmist! The end result of this attack was some combat damage and a lot of Rage Thrower triggers, the final tally of which revealed Darras was dead.

    Matej Zatlkaj 1 – 0 Alexandre Darras

    Once again, Zatlkaj had Darkthicket Wolf on turn two, while Darras had to content himself with a turn-three Falkenrath Torturer. Zatlkaj attacked and made a Dawntreader Elk, Darras started a counterattack and put Bonds of Faith on Zatlkaj's Wolf. Zatlkaj smoothly replaced it with Hellrider and swung in for a total of 7.

    The attacks stopped once more, though, when Darras first cast Ravenous Demon, then Bloodgift Demon. All Zatlkaj had to work with were Tormented Pariah, Grizzled Outcast, and Russet Wolves.

    Matej Zatlkaj

    Two rares weren't enough yet, so Darras, for a change, tried a mythic: Drogskol Reaver. On the first attack of the Reaver, however, Moonmist prevented all combat damage and all card drawing and also transformed two Werewolves. Darras cast Disciple of Griselbrand and Selfless Cathar post-combat to transform them right back. Now Zatlkaj was definitely falling behind and needed to come up with something. He made a Lumberknot which allowed him to attack somewhat profitably. Then, Rage Thrower even threatened to tip the game in his favor and forced Darras to sacrifice both his Drogskol Reaver and his Bloodgift Demon to stay alive.

    But at the same time these attacks had exhausted almost all of Zatlkaj's resources. So when Darras replenished his with Unburial Rites, Zatlkaj didn't stand chance.

    Matej Zatlkaj 1 – 1 Alexandre Darras

    For game three, Zatlkaj was stuck without green mana, but had Feral Ridgewolf (which traded with Markov Patrician), Russet Wolves, and Hinterland Hermit (which soon turned into Hinterland Scourge).

    Alexandre Darras

    Darras tapped five mana. Said Zatlkaj, "Definitely a demon, but which one?" It was Bloodgift Demon, which over the following turns pumped out a steady stream of spells for Darras: Bonds of Faith and Village Cannibals, then Falkenrath Torturer and Fiend Hunter, the last three of which even form a sweet combo, as Darras sacrificed Fiend Hunter in response to its own triggered ability to have his opponent's creature stuck in exile forever. Unburial Rites to repeat this process wasn't really necessary anymore, but certainly speeded things up.

    Matej Zatlkaj 1 – 2 Alexandre Darras



     

  • Round 12 Feature Match: Raphael Levy vs. Ben Stark
    by Frank Karsten

  • With 9-2 records, both Hall of Famer Raphael Levy and Limited Master Ben Stark still have their sights set on another Grand Prix Top 8, but in order to make the cut they're (likely) going to need to go undefeated from this point forward.

    Game 1

    Both players dumped a bunch of creatures on the table in the early turns. On Stark's turn 5, the board situation looked like this:

    Ben Stark: Markov Patrician, Ashmouth Hound, and Bloodcrazed Neonate.

    Raphael Levy: Two Elder Cathar and Thraben Sentry.

    After some deliberation, Stark decided to turn all of his creatures sideways. Levy took his time to think about the blocks, trying to maximize his Elder Cathar triggers while trying to sidestep any removal Stark might have. Eventually, Levy decided to block Bloodcrazed Neonate with Elder Cathar.

    "Stack, stack, stack," Levy said while pointing at his various triggers. In response to the trigger of the dying Elder Cathar that was attempting to put two +1/+1 counters on the live Elder Cathar, Stark used Harvest Pyre to shoot it down in response. The second Elder Cathar then put its counters on Thraben Sentry, which promptly became Thraben Militia. Hurrah for the stack!

    After that exchange, both players were with one creature each: a 7/6 Thraben Militia on Raph's side of the board versus a mere 2/1 Ashmouth Hound for Ben. Ben quickly flipped the game around, though, by playing Wrack with Madness to deal with Thraben Militia and by upping the pressure by adding Night Revelers to his board.

    Raphael Levy and Ben Stark

    Raph had run now out of creatures. A "topdecked" Demonmail Hauberk, which he had described as the best card in his deck earlier today, didn't seem as good anymore without any creatures to profitably sacrifice to it. It only took two more attacks of Ben's red creatures to convince Raph to move on to the second game.

    Ben Stark 1 – Raphael Levy 0

    While shuffling, the French Hall of Famer and American Pro Tour winner were chatting amiably about their blocking decisions during their games. I think it's nice to see that even excellent players like Ben Stark and Raphael Levy are always trying to second-guess their own plays and try to improve themselves continually.

    Game 2

    In game 2, creatures were entering the battlefield almost as fast as they left the battlefield again. That is, creatures were dying in combat and to removal spells left and right. At least this ensured that the game would not half down to a creature stall.

    ON Levy's turn 6, the board state was as follows:

    The board state in game 2

    Raphael Levy: Elder Cathar, Niblis of the Mist, and Avacynian Priest.

    Ben Stark: Torch Fiend and Hinterland Hermit.

    Levy's hand at this point contained Demonmail Hauberk and lands. He chose to keep the equipment in his hand rather than play it, as he didn't want to lose it to Torch Fiend and there was no reason to show it to Stark yet; Levy he was hoping for a better moment to surprise Stark with 4 additional points of power.

    Unfortunately for Levy, again the issue of lacking a creature to feed to the equipment played up, as Harvest Pyre and a flashbacked Fires of Undeath allowed Stark to deal with most of Levy's creatures. The game eventually turned into a damage race; Ben's newly added Bloodcrazed Neonate appeared to be able to race Raph's Niblis of the Mist comfortably.

    A couple turns later, facing lethal damage on Stark's next attack, Raph looked at his board of Niblis of the Mist (with a +1/+1 counter due to Elder Cathar) and Demonmail Hauberk, then looked the random creature that he just drew, and finally compared this to Ben's 7 life points. Indeed: exactly 7, while Raph could only force through 6 points through the air.

    "So close! Did I make a mistake this game?" Raph asked.

    "I don't think you missed a point; I think you put me as low as you could." Ben answered. "And I still have a removal spell in my hand, so don't beat yourself up over it."

    Raph extended his hand in defeat.

    Ben Stark 2 – Raphael Levy 0

    Ben Stark was very happy go to 2-1 with a weak Bloodcrazed Neonate, Stromkirk Patrol, Bump in the Night concoction. Raphael Levy loses the match, but still leads over Ben in the Pro point race with 36 points to Ben's 32.



     

  • Sunday, 1:23 p.m. - On the Way to the World Magic Cup
    by Tobi Henke

  • The title actually is a little misleading, because there are two ways people can qualify for the World Magic Cup. Each country sends a team of four players; three get their invite by winning a qualifier tournament, one gets his invite by being the top-ranked player on Pro Points after Pro Tour Avacyn Restored next month. These days the World Magic Cup Qualifiers, played in the Standard format, are just getting started. Marco Orsini Jones won the first in Great Britain, while Marijn Lybaert won the first one in Belgium with—to no one's big surprise—Delver of Secrets, which he says is the best deck in Standard right now. When asked how he felt about representing his country at the World Magic Cup, Lybaert clearly was stoked: "After ten years ... finally!" Lybaert has made it to the Top 8 of the Pro Tour a whopping four times in his career, but in all that time making the National team somehow always eluded him.

    Marijn Lybaert

    Meanwhile, the battle for Pro Points continues this weekend in Manchester. Joel Larsson from Sweden is three points behind Kenny Öberg, but while Öberg isn't here, Larsson is 10-1, sitting in ninth place. Andreas Nordahl of Norway still has a one-point lead over Sveinung Bjørnerud, but with the latter on 9-2 in 16th place that may not be true very much longer. Most of these races will be decided in Barcelona, but not all of them. Adam Katz, for example, came all the way from South Africa, and neither he nor his compatriots are qualified for the Pro Tour. He needs to make the final here to close up to current front-runner James Combrink, but with a score so far of 10-1 that's a definite possibility.

    The lesson: Every point—and every Grand Prix—counts. This was true for the Player of the Year race of the past, and it's still true now that we have one of those per country.



     

  • Sunday, 2:04 p.m. - The Path to the Finals: Rounds 10-12
    by Frank Karsten

  • At the end of Day 1, Simon Fox became our "Highlander" to follow, because he had defeated Roy Raftery, who had beaten Daniel Antoniou, who had bested Matteo Orsini Jones, who had vanquished Lucas Gilis, who had slayed Quentin Martin (whom we started with). Whew.

    When I met up with Simon Fox this morning, he mentioned that he had spent quite some time discussing draft strategies with his friends last night. Still, he was able to go to sleep at around midnight. He woke up at 5 am, however, because all the advice of his friends kept buzzing through his head. When he woke up, his mind screamed "draft Lingering Souls!!!"

    As it turned out, Simon drafted a Blue-White deck filled with Spirits such as Gallows Warden. He was pretty happy with his deck. "It went better than expected; it's a solid Blue-White aggressive flyer deck", Simon explained.

    In round 10, he was paired down against Norway's Sveinung Bjørnerud, who had a lot of Urgent Exorcisms from his sideboard. "You've got them all!" Simon exclaimed after getting his Gallows Warden destroyed by Sveinung's third (!) Urgent Exorcism in the game. Shortly after, Sveinung took the match, and the honor of being our player-to-follow with it.

    Simon Fox loses his Highlander status to Sveinung Bjørnerud in Round 10

    Interestingly, Sveinung is not undefeated: he has one loss. Although we expected to follow undefeated players exclusively all tournament long with this feature, draws and down-pairings got us down to a player at X-1. Nevertheless, we should still be able to track our way to the finals.

    Sveinung remarked that his draft went well. "It's a synergistic Black-White human deck; I have interactions with Avacyn's Collar and Skirsdag Flayer, and a bunch of Humans. But I'm a couple of playables short, so I have to play Brain Weevil and stuff."

    In round 11, however, Sveinung immediately fell at the hands of Belgium's Marijn Lybaert and his 15/5 trampler. Wait ... a 15/5 trampling creature? How? Well, Marijn had a big turn with Charmbreaker Devils: he first used Traiterous Blood to turn it into an 8/4, and topped it off with Wild Hunger for an impressive +7/+1. Astonishing!

    Marijn Lybaert's dreams of a big Charmbreaker Devil came true

    In round 12, Marijn won again. "I had turn 1 Reckless Waif, turn 2 Ironfang, turn 3 Immerwolf. My opponent didn't play any spell on turn 2 or turn 3, and I killed him on turn 5!"

    Stay tuned for more on Marijn's draft and approach to draft deck building later!



     

  • Sunday, 2:22 p.m. – Facing the Double-Faced, One Last Time
    by Tobi Henke

  • Admittedly there is still one more draft to go in this tournament, in the Top 8, but for most players the second draft today may have been the last time they interacted with double-faced cards in real life. I watched pod number one to see how these cards affected the proceedings. At the table sat (in order):

    Marijn Lybaert

    Mario Pascoli

    Ciro Bonaventura

    Tom Harle

    Lasse Nørgaard

    Johan Svensson

    Simon Fox

    Alexandre Darras

    And these were the cards from Dark Ascension they revealed at the beginning of the draft (in the same order):









    Not the best cards and the first picks went by without any double-faced cards being taken. First to go were the Loyal Cathars, as Svensson's second pick and Lybaert's third pick. Svensson had good reason to try and publicly establish himself as a white drafter, considering his first pick of Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, but Fox to his left had taken Lingering Souls first and was willing to fight. While the others squabbled over white, Darras was able to show everyone his color, red, when he took Hinterland Hermit fifth and another eighth. The third Hinterland Hermit was scooped up, also as a fifth pick, across the table by Harle. Meanwhile, the Scorned Villager ended up in Pascoli's draft pile. The rest of the double-faced cards went very late and gave no indication of any person's colors.

    The first eight of the two-faced Innistrad cards were Screeching Bat, Hanweir Watchkeep, Thraben Sentry, Village Ironsmith, Kruin Outlaw, and a total of three Gatstaf Shepherds. If anyone hadn't noticed so far, Darras made it absolutely clear he was drafting red with his first pick of Kruin Outlaw. Apparently, the table did take notice and he was rewarded with a late Hanweir Watchkeep. Meanwhile, the Shepherds went rather late as well, to Pascioli who certainly didn't complain and to Svensson who noticed a drop in black and white as Fox was cutting him off.

    Double-Faced cards anyone?

    The second round of Innistrad booster contained: Village Ironsmith, Hanweir Watchkeep, Ulvenwald Mystic, two Tormented Pariahs, and three Grizzled Outcasts. Really not the most exciting of cards. This time, Darras only got a Tormented Pariah and a Village Ironsmith. Pascioli got Ulvenwald Mystic, and Lybaert who was cut off from white by Svensson and Fox frowned a little when he took one Grizzled Outcasts 11th and another 12th. Could it be only Pascioli was in green, and almost everyone else in white?



     

  • Sunday, 3:30 p.m. – Quick Questions Extravaganza
    by Frank Karsten

  • So here we are, the last time we open these packs at a Grand Prix. I checked in with several pro players to get their perspective on the format as a whole and on the upcoming Avacyn Restored set.



    Shuuhei Nakamura

    What card really exemplified the format for you, i.e., what card will come to your mind when you would think back of Innistrad / Dark Ascension Limited in a few years from now?
    Falkenrath Torturer, because this was really a format where sacrificing your own creatures played a big role.


    Looking ahead to Avacyn Restored, which of the spoiled cards are you excited about and what do you think about the new Miracle and Soulbound mechanics?
    I like Soulbound a lot. The Japanese people say "it's like marriage; you can only split by death".


    Can you give an example of a rare that is horrible in Innistrad / Dark Ascension Limited, but excellent in Constructed? So a card that you'd open with a sigh, but that immediately slots into your Standard deck at home?
    There are not too many of those. A good rare is a good rare, both for Constructed and Limited.






    Lukas Jaklovsky

    What card really exemplified the format for you, i.e., what card will come to your mind when you would think back of Innistrad / Dark Ascension Limited in a few years from now?
    Loyal Cathar, because it's a great 2-drop in a really fast format. Also, it's a flip card, and that was also a very important aspect of this Limited format.


    Looking ahead to Avacyn Restored, which of the spoiled cards are you excited about and what do you think about the new Miracle and Soulbound mechanics?
    I hope the new blue Planeswalker (Tamiyo, the Moon Sage) will be good. As for miracle, I don't really like it because there's almost nothing you can do with the top of your deck in Standard. I like Soulbound though, because it leads to interesting situations where you have to play around removal to avoid blowouts.


    Can you give an example of a rare that is horrible in Innistrad / Dark Ascension Limited, but excellent in Constructed? So a card that you'd open with a sigh, but that immediately slots into your Standard deck at home?
    I can't really think of any right now. Nowadays, most rares have good raw power, not just synergy, so most of them are really good in Limited as well.






    Marijn Lybaert

    What card really exemplified the format for you, i.e., what card will come to your mind when you would think back of Innistrad / Dark Ascension Limited in a few years from now?
    Lingering Souls, because it's simply the best uncommon ever printed for Limited. It's even better than Flametongue Kavu!


    Looking ahead to Avacyn Restored, which of the spoiled cards are you excited about and what do you think about the new Miracle and Soulbound mechanics?
    Cavern of Souls seems excellent! I think the uncounterable clause won't be as bad as some people have proclaimed. After all, in older formats, you have Wasteland to deal with it. But I'm happy about the additional mana fixing offered by Cavern of Souls, which gives more options for Constructed.


    Can you give an example of a rare that is horrible in Innistrad / Dark Ascension Limited, but excellent in Constructed? So a card that you'd open with a sigh, but that immediately slots into your Standard deck at home?
    Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or Grafdigger's Cage.






    Martin Juza

    What card really exemplified the format for you, i.e., what card will come to your mind when you would think back of Innistrad / Dark Ascension Limited in a few years from now?
    Wild Hunger, because the format is so fast and it's still a bit underrated. (To which Ben Stark quickly replied "It's not underrated; it's the stone nuts!")


    Looking ahead to Avacyn Restored, which of the spoiled cards are you excited about and what do you think about the new Miracle and Soulbound mechanics?
    I like Miracle because people are probably going to overvalue it.


    Can you give an example of a rare that is horrible in Innistrad / Dark Ascension Limited, but excellent in Constructed? So a card that you'd open with a sigh, but that immediately slots into your Standard deck at home?
    I can't think of any right now. Heartless Summoning perhaps, but that's also not very good in Constructed. (Ben Stark also chimed in at this point: "Can I say Faithless Looting? It's a mulligan in Limited, but a centerpiece in Constructed.")






    Raphael Levy

    What card really exemplified the format for you, i.e., what card will come to your mind when you would think back of Innistrad / Dark Ascension Limited in a few years from now?
    A random 2/2 for 2, say Loyal Cathar. It's what you need to do on turn 2 in this format.


    Looking ahead to Avacyn Restored, which of the spoiled cards are you excited about and what do you think about the new Miracle and Soulbound mechanics?
    I'm hoping Miracle is not as broken as I expect it to be in Limited.


    Can you give an example of a rare that is horrible in Innistrad / Dark Ascension Limited, but excellent in Constructed? So a card that you'd open with a sigh, but that immediately slots into your Standard deck at home?
    Are there any?






    Bram Snepvangers

    What card really exemplified the format for you, i.e., what card will come to your mind when you would think back of Innistrad / Dark Ascension Limited in a few years from now?
    Huntmaster of the Fells, because the double-faced cards affected the drafts greatly. The double-faced cards allowed you to see what the others were picking. If you take Huntmaster of the Fells first, everyone knows your colors – that never happened before in another Limited format.


    Looking ahead to Avacyn Restored, which of the spoiled cards are you excited about and what do you think about the new Miracle and Soulbound mechanics?
    I don't think Miracle is much worse than a regular topdeck. Actually, I think it can be fun! And in my local store, many casual players were very excited about the new mechanic.


    Can you give an example of a rare that is horrible in Innistrad / Dark Ascension Limited, but excellent in Constructed? So a card that you'd open with a sigh, but that immediately slots into your Standard deck at home?
    Liliana of the Veil. It's not as good in Limited as in Constructed.



     

  • Sunday, 4:33 p.m. – Photo essay: Timeline for a Draft Build with Marijn Lybaert
    by Frank Karsten

  • Marijn Lybaert from Belgium is no newcomer to the spotlight, having multiple Pro Tour Top 8s to his name. He is currently our "Highlander" player to follow. For his draft, I decided to focus not only on the drafting itself but also on the deck building process. How does a pro player build his draft deck at a Grand Prix tournament? What does he do first, and in what sequence does he do the required steps to build and register his deck? To answer that, let me present a small photo essay illustrating what Marijn physically did during deck building.

    Marijn drafts his deck

    The first step, of course, is still actually drafting the deck. Marijn started by opening 2 Mythics: Elbrus, the Binding Blade and Archangel's Light. But Marijn didn't take a second look at them and chose Tragic Slip for his first pick. He followed it up with a 2nd pick Farbog Boneflinger (over Stromkirk Captain), a 3rd pick Loyal Cathar (over nothing relevant), and a 4th pick Fires of Undeath (over Falkenrath Torturer). The red did not keep flowing, however, and Marijn was solidly in Black-White after the first pack.

    In pack 2, he faced a difficult decision between Slayer of the Wicked and Skirsdag High Priest; he eventually went for the white card. Still, he found another Skirsdag High Priest in pack 3 after all.

    When Marijn arrived at the deck construction table, I asked him how his draft went. "The draft went okay, but I'm a few playables short," Marijn said. "I will probably have to run a couple Manor Skeletons to get enough playables. In hindsight, I wish I would've taken Falkenrath Torturer over Fires of Undeath, since the 2/1 creature would've been really good in my deck, but the red card was still the correct pick at the time."

    Marijn lays out his deck on curve

    Once the judges started the clock for deck construction, Marijn started by laying out his deck. He arranged his cards on mana curve to get a good idea of what his deck looked like.

    "I probably need to go 1-1-1 to make Top 8. I should be able to win a game with Skirsdag High Priest, and another one with Unburial Rites in combination with Slayer of the Wicked, Morkrut Banshee, or Farbog Boneflinger. Yeah, if I would just draw all those cards, then I should be good."

    Marijn is imagining how he will draw his best cards

    Next up, Marijn tried to figure which card to select as his 23rd card. He was doubting between Manor Skeleton and Break of Day. Apart from a possible red splash for Fires of Undeath, there wasn't really any other reasonable card left in his sideboard. While Manor Skeleton would help him get to the late game where he could take over with his bombs, he eventually chose Break of Day after all because ... well, Manor Skeleton is even worse, and he had plenty of creatures to go with the pump spell.

    Marijn considers what he should put as a 23rd card

    Once Marijn had decided on his maindeck, he started registering his 23 cards on the registration sheet.

    Marijn starts to register his main deck on the sheet

    After finishing the registration of his maindeck, he looked at his mana base. For that, he visually divided his cards by color, and placed Diregraf Ghoul and Loyal Cathar, which would both be heavy on the mana, in a separate pile to give him an easy overview.

    Marijn counts mana symbols to figure out his land base

    Marijn eventually went for 9 Swamp and 8 Plains, because he had more black cards than white cards, but he still couldn't go below 8 Plains due to Loyal Cathar.

    With that out of the way, Marijn registered his sideboard and got the required lands from the land station. "Always get a collection of lands with the same picture", Marijn advised.

    Marijn registers his sideboard

    So now we were done? Not quite! As any judge would be happy to tell you, always check your deck to see whether you registered it correctly! Marijn did just that and discovered that he only had 22 playables. Oops! Actually, he didn't misregister his deck – he just miscounted the number of cards in his main deck when he had laid it out on the table. "Okay, then I guess I'll go with the 2nd Manor Skeleton after all."

    Marijn then double-checked everything again, handed in his list to a judge, sleeved his deck, and got ready to battle.

    Marijn sleeves his deck

    For reference, here's his eventual list:



     

  • Round 14 Feature Match - Helmut Summersberger vs. Joel Larsson
    by Tobi Henke

  • Austrian Helmut Summersberger has a couple of Top 8s from back in the day, including one at the 2000 World Championships, as well as wins at Grand Prix Lille 2005 and Grand Prix Barcelona 2006. Joel Larsson from Sweden only started last year, with Top 8s at GP Prague and GP Pittsburgh. With both players at 11-2, they need to win this round to add another to their résumé. Summersberger entered the fray with his blue-white deck, Larsson came equipped with green-white. Both players's deck included a splash of black.

    "Good luck," Larsson wished, "but you know, not too much." It seemed as if the comment had backfired when Summersberger opened on Invisible Stalker and Butcher's Cleaver. Larsson only had Orchard Spirit and an Elgaud Inquisitor. It all changed, however, with his third play of the game: Demonmail Hauberk turned Elgaud Inquisitor into a 6/4 lifelinked monster. His Prey Upon on Summersberger's Silverchase Fox netted him another 6 life, and soon Larsson was back to well over 20.

    Helmut Summersberger

    Summersberger had a Makeshift Mauler, but Larsson had a Slayer of the Wicked. He also had Lingering Souls, Skirsdag Flayer, and Wolfbitten Captive, while all Summersberger could muster was a Nephalia Seakite. It didn't take long.

    Helmut Summersberger 0 – 1 Joel Larsson

    "Good luck," said Larsson.

    "Not too much," Summersberger quipped.

    The game went off in a much more sedate pace with Silverchase Fox for Summersberger, Somberwald Dryad for Larsson, and no plays on their respective third turns. Or so it seemed. Summersberger had Forbidden Alchemy at end of turn, Larsson had Ambush Viper. Meanwhile, Summersberger had cast Tower Geist, and when Larsson attacked with both of his creatures, Summersberger traded them all away to leave the board completely empty except for lands. Larsson made a Mausoleum Guard, Summersberger cast Sturmgeist. Larsson had a good play with his five mana too: Lingering Souls and ... flashback Lingering Souls.

    "A good card," Summersberger commented.

    "Especially if, for some reason, you get it second pick," said Larsson.

    "That's just wrong," both agreed.

    Larsson chumpblocked with one token, while Summersberger summoned a Soul Seizer. Larsson cast Skirsdag Flayer to provide a more permanent answer.

    Summersberger attacked with his Soul Seizer and his 4/4 Sturmgeist, Larsson blocked with one token each and used Moment of Heroism to kill the Soul Seizer.

    Joel Larsson

    Summersberger cast a measly Silverchase Fox and passed the turn, but first Larsson got to put three +1/+1 counters on one of his remaining Spirit tokens via Hunger of the Howlpack. Then he attacked with all of his creatures except for Skirsdag Flayer. Summersberger had Nephalia Seakite, but that died to Skirsdag Flayer's ability before it could do any blocking. Larsson got two new Spirits from sacrificing Mausoleum Guard, summoned Wolfbitten Captive and passed the turn.

    Summersberger did put up a fight, but he was already too far behind. Larsson had more (and better) creatures, and an active Skirsdag Flayer quashed all hope for an Austrian comeback.

    Helmut Summersberger 0 – 2 Joel Larsson



     

  • Sunday, 5:25 p.m. - Grave Mistakes
    by Tobi Henke

  • Everybody makes mistakes. And from time to time, it's a good thing to be reminded that even the pros sometimes simply screw up.

    Take as an example the feature match of round five yesterday (). There, Ben Stark, by all accounts one of the best Limited players of all time, missed a line of play which involved first using his Niblis of the Breath to tap an opposing blocker, then sacrificing it to untap his Grimgrin, Corpse-Born. (Instead he sacrificed another creature.) While in the end it all came down to this misplay, it should probably be said that the actual situation involved five other attackers on his side, four other blockers on the opponent's, including an untapping Galvanic Juggernaut, as well as relentlessly ticking clock threatening to end the game in a draw.

    And in round ten today (), Alexandre Darras completely missed the potential interaction between his Drogskol Reaver and his Disciple of Griselbrand. "Whenever you gain life," no matter how you do that, "draw a card," says the Reaver. Only when fellow Belgian Marijn Lybaert, watching from the sidelines, pointed it out after the match did Darras notice the combo.


    Another interesting misplay I saw this weekend, involved a player who controlled an active Mikaeus, the Lunarch (3/3), a Drogskol Captain, and a Battleground Geist, which he used to block his opponent's Headless Skaab. Then the active player cast Geistcatcher's Rig and shot down Drogskol Captain. The non-active player let that resolve, put his Captain in the grave, and only realized that his Battleground Geist was dead too, when his opponent said so. At this point it was of course a too late to still activate Mikaeus to save the Geist. Oops.

    So, everybody makes mistakes, even at the highest level, even when the format is by no means new. The difference between the best and the rest is the way people handle mistakes, the ability to endure the teasing of one's friends, to pick oneself up, dust oneself off, and continue playing. And winning. Which is exactly what Ben Stark did yesterday.



     

  • Sunday, 5:25 p.m. - The Path to the Finals: Rounds 13-15
    by Frank Karsten

  • At the start of the second draft, Marijn Lybaert was our "Highlander" to follow. Check out his draft deck and his approach to deck building in the separate feature!

    Marijn won his Round 13 match, mostly on the back of Skirsdag High Priest. In round 14, he took an intentional draw (ID) with fellow Belgian Alexandre Darras, and was secured a spot in the Top 8.

    Marijn Lybaert is very excited to have just drawn into the Top 8

    So, by the rules imposed, we switched our view to Alexandre Darras, who promptly took an ID with Lasse Nørgaard in the very last round.

    Alexandre Darras and Lasse Norgaard ID in the last round

    So, we can now track the winner of the winner of the winner of Lasse Nørgaard's quarterfinal: this person will be our Grand Prix Manchester champion!

    Before leaving to cover the Top 8 in detail, let me give you the final update on all the players that we saw over the course of the weekend. How did they fare?

    Quentin Martin: 238th place.

    Lucas Gilis:190th place.

    Matteo Orsini Jones: 215th place.

    Daniel Antoniou: 39th place.

    Roy Raftery: 111th place.

    Simon Fox: 66th place. Not bad for his first Grand Prix!

    Sveinung Bjørnerud: 35th place.

    Marijn Lybaert: Top 8!

    Alexandre Darras: Top 8!

    Lasse Nørgaard: Top 8!



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