Day one of German Nationals is in the virtual books. Only one player stands undefeated after four rounds of Standard and three rounds of M11 draft. Sebastian Knörr, after finishing in 20th place in Grand Prix-Madrid this year, is the one 21-point player to start day two with an unblemished record. Close behind is Carsten Schäfer. Jörg Unfried, the last remaining member of Team Germany at the infamous 2006 World Championfails, also stands up there with six others on 18 points.
Even more interesting than the top pod tomorrow morning will be draft table number two. With Florian Pils, Tobias Gräfensteiner, Denis Sinner and Dennis Johannsen making up one half of that pod, we will keep a close eye on that pod come Saturday.
With UK and US Nationals also happening this weekend, the metagame comparisons are particularly interesting. Jund topped the German charts, making up 17 percent of the field, followed by U/W Control and Naya decks, the vast majority of them with the ubiqitous Fauna Shaman. The UK turned affairs around, putting Naya in the top spot and Jund in third.
Also making waves in Germany are three fairly new decks. The first is a list deck that Zvi Mowshowitz shipped across the Atlantic to good effect for a handful of players here. The second deck is based around Pyromancer Ascension with a new twist: With a sideboard that lets the deck switch to Polymorph combo, it adds Spawning Breath for extra oomph. And the third deck is a Fauna Shaman-enabled DredgeVine deck, creatures only and quite, quite fun.
Join us tomorrow when we continue our coverage from German Nationals 2010 in Aschaffenburg! Meanwhile, enjoy the coverage of US Nationals, providing a continuous stream of coverage due to the time zone difference.
Feature Match Round 1 – Simon Görtzen vs Klaus Jöns
by Hanno Terbuyken
When the pairings for round one were announced, a cry of surprise was heard among the players when they heard the feature match. Simon Görtzen is Germany's most recent Pro Tour Winner, Klaus Jöns a Nationals mainstay who has had his time on the Grand Prix circuit and is a well-known figure in Germany's Magic scene.
Both players knew exactly what their opponents played, as they had discussed their respective decks just the previous night. Görtzen had brought Valakut Ramp to the table and was able to recite Jöns' list card by card as the players shuffled up for game one. It was a Bant-colored deck centered on the duo of Fauna Shaman and Vengevine, a list that Klaus Jöns had received from Zvi Mowshowitz who is playing the same deck in US Nationals, happening this weekend, too.
Jöns decided to keep a one-land hand on the play, knowing that Görtzen would not be able to disrupt him significantly. He lead off with Noble Hierarch, Fauna Shaman and Birds of Paradise, holding Mana Leak at the ready to ward off Görtzen's first attempt at mana acceleration.
With three Mana Leaks in his deck, Jöns decided to counter Görtzen's Explore, but assuming that Görtzen held Harrow back. Knight of the Reliquary joined Jön's side of the battlefield, while Görtzen had nothing but a fourth land in his fourth turn. Judging by the cards on the table, the momentum was on Jön's side, but the former motormouth fell quiet as he very well knew that Görtzen's Ramp deck could explode at any minute.
Jöns studied Görtzen's six cards in hand. "Double Harrow would be very broken", Jöns quipped. He activated Fauna Shaman, discarding Admonition Angel, searching for Primeval Titan and playing the mighty green monster. On 16 life, he considered that Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle from Görtzen could nearly kill him. The anticipated double Harrow from Görtzen did indeed happen at end of turn as foretold.
But then Görtzen untapped... and all he did was Avengers of Zendikar. Jöns knew he had to finish Görtzen now or never. Eldrazi Conscription on Knight of the Reliquary who gained protection from green through Sejiri Steppe, and together with the rest of Jön's army that was plenty of damage to kill Simon Görtzen.
The two friends bantered as Görtzen threatened Jöns with Pyroclasm. "You can't afford that one-land hand with Pyroclasm", said Görtzen – and kicked off game two with a mulligan. "That is mighty indeed", he commented as he went to five cards. Two times in a row he had not found green mana in his opener. And with all the mana acceleration in his deck relying on Forests, he would not risk a hand without trees.
However, his first land drop turned out to be Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Then Forest, but Explore without a land to go with it signalled a dearth of actual lands in Simon's hand. Rampant Growth helped matters along, but as Jöns was developing with Lotus Cobra, Noble Hierarch and Fauna Shaman, Görtzen needed to get his wiggle on. Missing his fourth land drop altogether didn't help the mana-cled PT champion at all. Jöns activated Fauna Shaman to get Sovereigns of Lost Alara in his hand and to play the Ghost. Lotus Cobra attacked, received Eldrazi Conscription and Simon Görtzen went to three.
However, before the match ended, Klaus decided to give up the match in Simon's favor. Why? Jöns explained: "It is always a pain to get paired against a testing partner and friend in the first round of Nationals. I do not need Pro Points this year, and Simon is trying for Pro Level 8 this year." Also, Klaus explained that he had not drafted a single set of M11 yet, and he did not see a chance for him to make Top 4 and win a trip to Worlds in Chiba.
Simon Görtzen 2 – 0 Klaus Jöns
Friday, 12:30 p.m. – Yesterday's Winners
by Tobias Henke
As always, Thursday saw the so-called „grinders", the Last Chance Qualifiers. In each, 32 players entered and played five rounds of single elimination, with the winner receiving the coveted prize of a last-minute Nationals invite.
Emanuel Sutor & Michael Filler
Below are the eight deck lists, which won nine of those tournaments. Wait? Eight? Nine? There is actually a pretty sweet story behind the first list. In the final of the first grinder, Emanuel Sutor beat Michael Filler. Then Filler took Stutor's deck, joined the next grinder and then actually won that tournament!
Emanuel Sutor & Michael Filler
German Nationals 2010 - Grinder #1 & Grinder #12
German Nationals 2010 - Grinder #4
German Nationals 2010 - Grinder #5
German Nationals 2010 - Grinder #7
German Nationals 2010 - Grinder #8
German Nationals 2010 - Grinder #9
German Nationals 2010 - Grinder #11
Feature Match Round 2 – Daniel Gräfensteiner vs. Florian Koch
German Nationals 2010 - Grinder #15
by Tobias Henke
Florian Koch won Grand Prix–Lyon this year, Daniel Gräfensteiner was last seen on the big stage in Rome last year, making Top 8 at Pro Tour–San Diego. They are certainly no strangers to the feature match area, though this may well be the last chance this weekend for one of them as both started with a disappointing first-round loss.
Not much happened for a couple of turns: Gräfensteiner had Preordain to go along with his Islands and Mountains, Koch had Rampant Growth with Mountains and Forests. On turn four Gräfensteiner cast Foresee and found Pyromancer Ascension, while Koch accelerated up to seven mana with Cultivate and another Rampant Growth.
Gräfensteiner cast Ponder, his Pyromancer Ascension, and then Ponder, to put the first counter on the enchantment. Koch summoned Avenger of Zendikar, made seven Plant tokens, played a Mountain, and passed the turn. End of turn Gräfensteiner hit Koch for two with Burst Lightning. A second Burst Lightning on his turn rather took down a token, after Gräfensteiner figured he would not be able to cast Time Warp just yet.
Still, his Ascension was now fully leveled and his deck was positively on fire. See Beyond was copied, then Lightning Bolt to shoot down the Avenger. All Koch was left with were six 1/2 Plant tokens. Not to sneer at, those Plants took Gräfensteiner down to 14 life. Then Koch laid Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and cast Cultivate. Gräfensteiner fell to 11.
But certainly, at least now Gräfensteiner would have the Time Warp to seal the deal, wouldn't he? Apparently not. He went looking with a copied Preordain, but again no Time Warp. Next up, Ponder, once again copied by the Ascension... "Uh-oh." Gräfensteiner had no Warp and also not the three Lightning Bolts he needed to kill Koch right away. Furthermore, he was now out of blue mana, so he couldn't really interfere as Valakut worked its Magic. Another attack and one Harrow later the score stood at...
Daniel Gräfensteiner 0 – 1 Florian Koch
The second game went much quicker and also in a different direction. Gräfensteiner had Mana Leak for Koch's Rampant Growth and then Khalni Garden on turn three.
"Oh no, not the Polymorph morph sideboard!", Koch wailed.
"Well, who knows...", responded Gräfensteiner, trying to conceal what was all too apparent.
And sure enough, on his next turn Gräfensteiner had Polymorph, which resolved uncontested and quickly found Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Koch sighed and conceded.
Daniel Gräfensteiner 1 – 1 Florian Koch
The final game began with a mulligan for Gräfensteiner and in completely different fashion from the previous two games. Both players played lands for the first four turns. Just lands. No Ponder, no Rampant Growth, nothing. But while Koch simply had a bad draw, Gräfensteiner was actually up to something. At the end of Koch's turn he cast Spawning Breath, then on his turn cast Polymorph with Dispel as back-up.
Daniel Gräfensteiner 2 – 1 Florian Koch
Adrian Rosada has won the largest Limited tournament of all time, Grand Prix–Paris last year, while Reinhold Kohl had a similarly busy year 2009, getting into the Top 8 of two Grand Prix, in Rotterdam and Brighton. Rosada is playing Raphael Levy's red-green token-aggro concoction from French Nationals, Kohl is sporting the new crazy, four-colored "Neo-Dredge" with Hedron Crab, Merfolk Looter, Sedraxis Specter, and Extractor Demon to go along with the ubiquitous Fauna Shaman and Vengevine. Enough with the introductions, off to some Magic!
The game began with Fauna Shaman for Kohl and Khalni Garden plus Nest Invader for Rosada. On turn three, a second Nest Invader invaded the battlefield on Rosada's side. Meanwhile, Kohl did nothing but discard Vengevine, searching for another one. On turn four, Kohl was still stuck in prep work, summoning Noble Hierarch and playing Terramorphic Expanse. Rosada, however, was ready for the big move: He cast Hellspark Elemental and followed it up with a kicked Goblin Bushwhacker. Seven creatures attacked for a total of 15 damage, three of which were valiantly fended off by Fauna Shaman. Nevertheless, 12 damage got through, leaving Kohl at precarious 5 life. At least the Shaman had discarded the second Vengevine.
Now it was Kohl's turn to bring some fat: Bloodbraid Elf cascaded into Birds of Paradise, which resurrected two Vengevines. One of the Vines attacked for five, due to Noble Hierarch's exalted.
The theme of big swings continued: Rosada sacrificed one Eldrazi Spawn to have six mana, unearthed his Hellspark Elemental, and cast Sarkhan Vol. The subsequent attack brought Kohl to 2. Kohl killed the Planeswalker in combat and summoned Merfolk Looter as well as Aether Adept, thanks to his Ancient Ziggurat.
He was well ahead on the board now, but that didn't really matter anymore as Rosada just flashed Hell's Thunder to end the game.
Adrian Rosada 1 – 0 Reinhold Kohl
Kohl started with Noble Hierarch off Ancient Ziggurat. This time, he had the mana, he had the speed, and by turn three he had also cast Merfolk Looter plus Fauna Shaman. Rosada had a comparatively meager start with Nest Invader followed by Goblin Bushwhacker. Kohl summoned Baneslayer Angel, Rosada just had the almost aptly named Dragon Fodder. 5/5 flying, first strike, lifelink trumps a bunch of 1/1 tokens, and even Sarkhan Vol couldn't change that...
Adrian Rosada 1 – 1 Reinhold Kohl
Rosada mulliganed into a quick hand: Goblin Guide, Dragon Fodder, Nest Invader, Khalni Garden. Kohl had Birds of Paradise and Fauna Shaman, and, when the attacking Goblin Guide revealed Caldera Hellion on top of Kohl's deck, Kohl simply traded away his Shaman for Rosada's Guide. Two turns later Caldera Hellion came down as a 5/5 and cleared the battlefield, mainly of Rosada's token shenanigans. Rosada's only follow-up was one lonely Nest Invader, while the Hellion started to beat down. Kohl added Obstinate Baloth to his team, and clinched victory one turn later with a Bloodbraid Elf, which returned the earlier discarded Vengevine.
Adrian Rosada 1 – 2 Reinhold Kohl
Friday, 2:10 p.m. – Can't touch this – yet
by Hanno Terbuyken
We are not allowed to touch it yet, but the Wizards people on hand are demonstrating it: The next edition of the popular Duel Decks. This time, it is Elspeth vs Tezzeret who have been chosen to fight an epic duel in the Blind Eternities. Surrounded by a crowd of eager spectators, the two planeswalkers went at it with the furor that marks every duel between the powerful beings.
Enlisting the help of quick and nimble soldiers among Humans, Kor and Kithkin, Elspeth Tirel must work hard to defeat the robot armies that Tezzeret the Seeker amasses, summoned to the battlefield from the planes of Mirrodin. Pentavus, Triskelion, Razormane Masticore and similar Juggernauts come to the aid of the powerful planeswalker. A rolling wall of steel, fresh from Mishra's Factory and spurred on by Steel Overseer and Master of Etherium, takes aim to overwhelm Elspeth's army.
But on her side, Elspeth Tirel commands a Crusade of able-bodied swift attackers, backed up by powerful assistance. Angel of Salvation will come to her aid in times of need and help the honorable Planeswalker to beat the opposing Swords to Plowshares. Her followers wield Sunlances and provide a formidable challenge to Tezzeret's metal machinarium.
Who will snatch victory when Elspeth's sense of duty and honor clash with Tezzeret's powerful secrets? Who will discover the first Shards of Mirrodin in his arsenal? You can find out for yourself when "Duel Decks: Elspeth vs Tezzeret" comes to a Magic store near you on September 3rd, 2010.
Friday, 5:25 p.m. – Drafting with Jan Schmidt
by Hanno Terbuyken
Jan Schmidt had his breakout performance at last year's Grand Prix in Prague, where he took home the trophy. At German Nationals, he kicked off to an undefeated 4-0 start in the Standard portion of the tournament. But watching him build his first draft deck, the Limited champion of GP Prague was shaking his head in disgust. The first draft of Nationals, with the brand new suite of cards that Magic 2011 brought, did not go his way at all.
Schmidt had opened the first booster to a promising start, quickly putting Doomblade into his pile, with Chandra's Outrage and Armored Ascension as the only viable alternatives. Little did he know that the black would shrivel up pretty soon. After Schmidt quickly shuffled the green and red cards in his second pick to the back and looked briefly at Jace's Ingenuity, he chose Diabolic Tutor. Pick three had nothing to follow up, and Schmidt moved into white with Assault Griffin and Armored Ascension (over Black Knight).
Steel Overseer in pick five remained the highlight of the first booster, as Schmidt had nothing of real value to come, with Mystifying Maze, Nether Horror, Vulshok Berserker and two Act of Treason.
Schmidt knew that his draft had gone awry as he looked through his initial pile of 14 cards. The deck he wanted, or even any deck, didn't look as if it came together. For the second booster Schmidt knew what he wanted, as he explained after the draft: "You can always get red, nobody wants it. Red-white is always my fallback plan."
With Triskelion, Condemn (over Blinding Mage), Wild Griffin and double Mighty Leap (where he briefly considered Deathmark and Terramorphic Expanse instead), some white made his way into Schmidt's pile. Picks six to 14, though, remained uneventful, giving Schmidt highlights like double Thunder Strike and Volcanic Strength.
"I have far too much pump", Schmidt would say afterwards, looking back at his draft, with two Mighty Leap, two Thunder Strike, a Volcanic Strength and an Armored Ascension in his pool.
And the lackluster draft continued in pack three. Brittle Effigy gave him another rare, but the rest of the third round of choices consisted of Vulshok Berserkers, Arc Runners and the like.
"I would have liked black better, but that didn't work out," Schmidt said. The packs that went through his hands seemed empty to him, "but I really don't know if the boosters really were as weak as they seemed to me." Little could he know that a Grave Titan in his vicinity had cut off all the black, and his side of the table had another aggressive white drafter.
"I have a few good combos, like Steel Overseer and Triskelion. I just need to draw the cards that I need when I need them." On the other hand, Schmidt knew: "I have comparatively many high-variance cards." He estimated the deck to be capable of at least a 1-2, maybe a 2-1 performance:
"At least one game I will win in some fashion or other."
Friday, 5:30 p.m. – Talking to the Trader
by Tobias Henke
At events as important as Nationals, one should imagine that players come well-prepared and equipped with their decks ready to play. Apparently, not so. Even pros like the Gräfensteiner brothers were buying all available Spawning Breaths yesterday. And we've already seen this card in action today in the feature match area in their innovative Pyromancer Ascension deck, or rather, in the respective sideboard, which features a switch to Polymorph.
So what other cards were in high demand?
"Most of all – Cunning Sparkmage! We are all sold out on this one," said Jens Kessel from behind his booth, "and we brought a lot! Also, we sold quite a few Vengevines and Gather Specimens. Not so many Primeval Titans, though."
One of the more interesting cards to go over the counter in large quantities yesterday was Telemin Performance. Pro Tour–Berlin Top 8 competitor Denis Sinner, for example, bought some for his sideboard. And today, he killed four times with it, milling his opponents' decks three times and once getting an unexpected Emrakul, the Aeons Torn from one of those Ascension / Polymorph decks.
Feature Match Round 6: Jan Schmidt vs. Sebastian Knörr
by Hanno Terbuyken
"At least I did win the first one!" Jan Schmidt, who had set his eyes on a 1-2 or maybe a 2-1 record in draft with his mediocre deck, seemed happy enough to already have a win under his belt in the first draft round after coming undefeated out of the Standard rounds. His opponent, Sebastian Knörr, was in the same situation. For either one of these, round 6 would bring the first loss of the tournament.
Schmidt kicked off with a first-turn Elite Vanguard, but then was hit by Duress and revealed Triskelion, Fire Servant and two Mountains. Knörr knew he could buy plenty of time with Deathmark on the Vanguard. Removal was his game, as he also had Doomblade for Schmidt's fresh Steel Overseer.
Knörr summoned Cudgel Troll to the battlefield, sending Schmidt to 16 as the GP Prague champion declined to block with Fire Servant. Greater Basilisk from Knörr increased the pressure, because Knörr knew what Schmidt would do next: Play Triskelion and kill the Troll.
The two players matched play for play. Child of Night from Knörr supplanted Greater Basilisk as the reptile (are Basilisks reptiles, anyway?) fell victim to Brittle Effigy. Child of Night died in combat but Schmidt failed to dispatch Knörr's Frost Titan and died in three swings.
Jan Schmidt 0 – 1 Jörg Knörr
Schmidt started once again with a one-drop, Brittle Effigy, and even followed up with a two-drop: Goblin-Lanzenträger. Knörr's two-drop was better: Child of Night promised to win the race. The game developed like a typical Limited match: Both players played creatures, and eventually one would have the upper hand.
Schmidt added Blinding Mage, but Knörr once again showed superior card quality, as Schmidt's weak draft came back to haunt him. Howling Banshee and Gargoyle Sentinel joined Knörr's board, while Schmidt Demolished Knörr's only Forest with his sideboard tech. "Don't ask me if that's correct," said Schmidt as he slumped in his chair.
Knörr had a spare Forest, Quag Sickness for Schmidt's Blinding Mage and the hunch that he would be able to take home this match, judging by his demeanour. Diminish made combat favourable for Knörr. Schmidt eventually used Brittle Effigy on Knörr's Howling Banshee, but again, Knörr had an adequate replacement – this time, with Cudgel Troll.
Lava Axe from Schmidt spoke volumes about the card quality in his deck as it took Knörr to 12 life. Schmidt, himself at 11 life, could do nothing more but throw his Goblin Piker in the way of Knörr's onslaught. Seven damage took him to 4 life, and Vulshok Berserker as a fresh emergency blocker was never enough to save Schmidt.
Jan Schmidt 0 – 2 Jörg Knörr
"That was not knocking him out by drawing random combos," Schmidt observed afterwards. Still, one loss only left him in a good position for a successful run to a Sunday spot.
Feature Match Round 7 – Florian Pils vs. Lukas Roth
by Tobias Henke
Florian Pils was last seen in the limelight, when he made Top 8 at last years World Championships. Thus far in the tournament, he was still undefeated... OK, admittedly, he had two unintentional draws and was sitting at 4-0-2. His opponent, Lukas Roth, is still looking to make a name for himself, though he had one more point than the pro, with a record of 5-1.
Pils lost the die-roll, but had the first play in Silvercoat Lion. That met Mana Leak. Another Silvercoat Lion was introduced to Ice Cage, and Roth had yet another Ice Cage, when Azure Drake showed up. Meanwhile, Roth was stuck on three lands (all Islands). However, Pils couldn't really capitalize with Infantry Veteran and Palace Guard.
When Pils summoned Water Servant, Roth finally found a land and cast Foresee. The Elemental smashed in, was pumped to 4/5 with a little help from Infantry Veteran and then to 8/1 by virtue of its own ability.
Roth had a fifth land and revealed to be playing blue-white as well. Down came Blinding Mage and Aether Adept, returning Water Servant to Pils's hand. Pils rebuilt his team with White Knight and by replaying the Servant. Roth could stall the inevitable for one turn with Safe Passage, but then he had to admit defat.
Florian Pils 1 – 0 Lukas Roth
The second game started much more placidly. For the first three turns both players only played lands and did a little bit of scyring, Pils with Preordain, Roth with Augury Owl. Then came the big ones. This time, Roth had Water Servant, Pils had Serra Angel. Both were first returned to the top of their respective owners' libraries with Excommunicate, then to their hands with one Unsummon each. Yes, we were apparently looking at a very close mirror here.
Pils added two Silvercoat Lions and a second Serra Angel to his team. Both players had Scroll Thief, but Pils was still up one fatty. Roth tried to change that with a belligerent Harbor Serpent, but when Pils took the Serpent with Mind Control it was almost over. Roth found Blinding Mage to shut down his own traitorous Serpent, blocked the Angel one last time with a grave-bound Augury Owl and then... no more.
Florian Pils 2 – 0 Lukas Roth
Friday, 8:30 p.m. - Standard Metagame Breakdown
by Tobias Henke
|Eldrazi Green (Splash Blue)