Coverage of Grand Prix Bilbao Day 1

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  • Saturday, 10:45 a.m. – Grand Prix Trials Winning Deck Lists

    by Tobi Henke

  • As is tradition, on Friday a number of Grand Prix Trials took place, offering players the very last chance to earn three byes for the weekend's main event—as well as a convenient opportunity to test their deck under actual tournament conditions. The following lists proved themselves; their pilots succesfully navigated five rounds of single elimination, now entering the Grand Prix with three wins already under their belt. What's more, they have the reassurance of having picked a real winner.

    So what decks were winning at the Trials? Well, things started with a couple of wins by Affinity (or "Robots") and the now infamous Aura deck, or at least these were the events that finished first. Later on they were joined by three Birthing Pod decks, two of the Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker/Restoration Angel variety, one with Melira, Sylvok Outcast. But in the end, aggressive creature decks did indeed rule the day. Two Zoo decks won, both with Deathrite Shaman/Noble Hierarch-accelerated Geist of Saint Traft and a lot of late-game staying power in Bloodbraid Elf and Lingering Souls, and yet more Slippery Bogles were enchanted with Ethereal Armors and Daybreak Coronets. Rounding out this selection of winners was one interesting Splinter Twin deck with Tarmogoyf beatdown as back-up as well as a blue-red Delver of Secrets aggrocontrol deck.

    Emil Andersen
    Grand Prix Trial Winner

    Staffan Enberg
    Grand Prix Trial Winner

    Augustín Martín Espada
    Grand Prix Trial Winner

    Victor Rubio
    Grand Prix Trial Winner

    Ignacio Herrero
    Grand Prix Trial Winner


  • Saturday, 1:44 p.m. – Talking Gatecrash with Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

    by Tobi Henke

  • What's the most exciting card in the new set? If you ask Platinum pro and Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, the first thing on his mind is Obzedat, Ghost Council. "It's very powerful. I don't know yet whether it will actually be good, whether there'll be a deck for it, but it definitely has potential.

    "Also, Duskmantle Seer," said Paulo. "If you look at it expecting a new Dark Confidant, you might be disappointed. It's not, it's a very different card, but a great finisher. Of course, then there's Boros Charm and Aurelia's Fury and a lot more cool stuff, too.

    "As for decks, well, everyone is going to be trying to build Boros Aggro or Gruul, the obvious decks, but there's probably a lot more than this. So many cards, so much potential, there's bound to be something unexpected.

    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

    "It's tough to say anything about Gatecrash Limited yet, because we haven't seen enough of the commons, and commons are what makes a Limited format." Venturing a guess, Paulo said, "It seems the bloodrush mechanic will be very important, and from the cards I've seen so far, I'd say Gruul is the strongest." More generally speaking, he added: "I believe most draft decks with Gatecrash will be two-color aggressive decks. Battalion and bloodrush demand it, and while evolve can go into the long game, it also seems more profitable early on."


  • Saturday, 2:30 p.m. – Grand Designs

    by Tim Willoughby

  • At the start of round two, I sat down to go through nearly a thousand deck-lists, looking to get a feel for the latest technology for Modern here in Bilbao Spain. I'd already spoken to the traders, and heard hushed whispering of sideboard plans ranging from the aura-busting Back to Nature to Rain of Gore; a very effective option for burn decks to ensure that their plan would be harder to fight. Meanwhile, the queue to get cards signed by Steve Argyle was very long indeed. He did the art for Deathrite Shaman, Liliana of the Veil, and even the promo version of Bloodbraid Elf. Would this be another weekend for Jund?

    From the first 250 decklists, it seemed clear that the power of Jund is one that has attracted many, but that there was still room for brewing. Talking to Tiago Chan, who had won a Grand Prix trial to be able to play this last GP before heading back to China from his native Portugal, he was keen to point out the number of different lines of attack in the format, making sideboard planning difficult. While Jund comes out on top, it doesn't look like Tiago was off the mark in his assessment.

    Spirit Jund 10%
    Jund 9%
    Burn (mono red with Bump in the Night) 8%
    UWR Restoration Angel control 8%
    Robots (Affinity in disguise) 6%
    Splinter Twin 5%
    Scapeshift 5%
    Kiki-Jiki Pod 4%
    Red/green Urzatron 4%
    Infect 4%
    Past in Flames storm combo 4%
    UW Midrange 4%
    Zoo 3%
    Boom/Bust Zoo 3%

    Of the decks that clocked in at 2% or less we had Auras, the deck of a moment or two ago it would seem, Melira Pod (the second best Birthing Pod deck?), Black/White Tokens, and various Gifts Ungiven decks amongst others.

    Of anything, as a bit of a deck brewer, it was some of these outlier decks that brought the most joy to me. Not necessarily the winningest of lists overall perhaps, but these were the ones that provided me with the most inspiration to start brewing myself. I don't want to give away who is playing what at this point, as it's no fun to be playing with a nice little brew, only for your opponent to know the list because they like reading the latest scoop from Tim Willoughby, but here are some anonymous (and awesome) lists that caught my eye.


  • Round 4 Feature Match – Thomas Holzinger (Infect) vs. Frederico Bastos (Scapeshift)

    by Tobi Henke

  • Austrian Thomas Holzinger had his breakthrough performance just last year, when he finished in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, whereas Portugal's Frederico Bastos took care of that a long time ago with two Pro Tour Top 8s more than ten years previously.

    Game 1

    Bastos won the die-roll and put Sakura-Tribe Elder in the way of Holzinger's first-turn Glistener Elf. Against most 1/1 blockers, Glistener Elf might have received a power-and-toughness boost to survive, but in this case Holzinger decided to simply: "Pass priority." Likewise, with most attackers Bastos would have sacrificed the Elder to get a land, but here he was happy to get rid of the Elf.

    Holzinger had a replacement, though, in Blighted Agent, but that died to Pyroclasm. However, Holzinger was by no means short on creatures, in fact he had further reinforcements in Inkmoth Nexus, Glistener Elf, and Plague Stinger.

    Frederico Bastos

    On his turn four, Bastos summoned another Sakura-Tribe Elder and passed with one blue and one red mana up. Holzinger played a land, then cast Might of Old Krosa on his Plague Stinger. Bastos had no response. Now that Plague Stinger, a 5/5 flier until end of turn, was safe from potential Lightning Bolts, Holzinger tapped down further and attacked with all of his creatures including Inkmoth Nexus. Bastos took six poison counters and sacrificed Sakura-Tribe Elder after blocking Glistener Elf.

    This gave Bastos six lands on his turn, enough to cast Primeval Titan and shoot down Plague Stinger via Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. All to no avail, though, as Holzinger just activated his Inkmoth Nexus once more and kicked Vines of Vastwood for a lethal dose of poison.

    Thomas Holzinger 1-0 Frederico Bastos

    Game 2

    After Bastos had led with Misty Rainforest, a turn-one Thoughtseize from Holzinger revealed a hand of Izzet Charm, two Primeval Titans, Repeal, Sudden Shock, and a Mountain. When Holzinger took the Sudden Shock, Bastos complained, "No, not the sideboard tech!" half in jest, but Holzinger had to agree: "That is like the best card against my deck. Ever."

    Thomas Holzinger

    Without Sudden Shock, Bastos couldn't quite kill Holzinger's Glistener Elf because of his Pendelhaven, but he did bounce it via Repeal. Lacking lands, Bastos chose to dig for some with his Izzet Charm, discarding one Primeval Titan and a Scapeshift.

    The comeback of Glistener Elf was cut short by a second Sudden Shock, but a Blighted Agent stuck. So far this game, Holzinger had had no opportunity to apply a single pump spell. So when Bastos tapped out for Primeval Titan/Valakut to kill the Agent, Holzinger not only had enough left to keep Blighted Agent alive—on his turn, he boosted it up to lethal size and just took the game in one massive hit!

    Thomas Holzinger 2-0 Frederico Bastos


  • Round 5 Feature Match – Karim Bauer vs. Raphael Levy

    by Tim Willoughby

  • Coming into round five, Hall of Famer Raph Levy was quietly satisfied with his performance thus far. With his three byes, Levy had only played a single match going into round five, but that was sufficient to keep him on a perfect record.

    On the play, Levy took a mulligan, briskly mixing in his seven, and looking for a better six. He started on a Serum Visions from a basic Island. Just a turn in, his opponent had to be wondering if he was up against a control deck, or one of the variety of fast combo options available in Modern. A turn one Thoughtseize made things a little clearer. Cascade Bluffs, Island, Serum Visions, Snapcaster Mage and Deceiver Exarch sat in Levy's hand. Bauer chose to take the Deceiver Exarch – one half of Levy's combo. With the Exarch and either Splinter Twin or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, the Frenchman would be able to make as many copies of the Exarch as he wanted, for a one-shot kill. This would be something Bauer would be understandably keen to avoid.

    Raph Levy

    A Tarmogoyf on turn two from Bauer gave Levy pause. He had only played Serum Visions for his second turn, and used Snapcaster Mage on his third to cast that same copy of Serum Visions again. With an explosive combo, most of the 'action' from Levy's deck would be in his hand rather than on the board, which meant that Bauer could not afford to hang around. Never knowing how close the game was to over, he would have to look to race where he could.

    Tarmogoyf hit in for three, before playing Liliana of the Veil and using the planeswalker to force a discard from Levy. Persistant attacks on Levy's hand were just as important as those on the Frenchman's life total, and it took the Hall of Famer a moment to work out what he was going to consign to the graveyard. He eventually elected to throw away a copy of Splinter Twin. By discarding a combo piece, Levy telegraphed that his hand must contain something pretty good. It seemed that Liliana had been a timely addition to Bauer's team.

    Levy didn't attack Liliana with Snapcaster Mage, instead choosing to go for Bauer, who was on 14 life from fetchland and painland damage. His chances of racing looked bleak though, as Bauer forced Levy to discard a Lightning Bolt with Liliana, then cast Bloodbraid Elf into Deathrite Shaman. A Cryptic Command allowed Levy to counter the Shaman and bounce Tarmogoyf, but he still found himself taking a lump from the hasty Bloodbraid Elf itself.

    Levy cast Splinter Twin on his Snapcaster Mage, and played a Scalding Tarn to find a Mountain. He hoped to be able to get double value from his graveyard by making copies of the wizard, but these hopes were as short lived as the mage itself, which soon fell to an Abrupt Decay. Levy was in a rouch spot, and digging for answers with first Serum Visions, and then Sleight of Hand. His one mana sorceries didn't appear to be finding him what he needed though, and soon he was at four life from Tarmogoyf attacks, and facing down a lethal squad the following turn. Levy tried for an end of turn Pestermite, hoping to topdeck the other half of his combo, but even in this he was thwarted, with a Lightning Bolt killing the flyer before he could try (and as it turns out fail) to rip the answer he needed.

    Karim Bauer 1 – 0 Raphael Levy

    Levy seemed happy with his seven for the second game, and started out with Misty Rainforest into Island, so that he could cast a first turn Sleight of Hand. Treetop Village came from Bauer, who was content to watch on as a Serum Visions came from Levy on his second turn.

    In spite of all that digging, Levy didn't have a third land on turn three, though he was not exactly being punished for it, as Bauer hadn't played a threat for the first couple of turns, and Levy had the Remand to stop Liliana of the Veil. That remand found him a third land, enabling Levy to cast a very powerful sideboard card against Bauer. Blood Moon meant that Bauer's Jund deck would have to function as a mono-red deck – not something it could effectively do. This enchantment bought Levy plenty of time to draw the cards he needed to go off with his combo, though it didn't seem he needed many, with a Deceiver Exarch on standby the following turn. What Levy was really lacking looked to be land. He added a Pestermite to the board too, but was still at just three lands – not enough to start casting Splinter Twin or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. A Sleight of Hand found Levy another Island. Would Bauer have more than a turn to get out of this one?

    Time he had, but not mana. Soon enough he was scooping up his cards. Not to the combo of Splinter Twin and Pestermite, but simply to regular Pestermite attacks.

    Karim Bauer 1 – 1 Raphael Levy

    For the deciding game, Levy was on the draw for the first time, and happy to see that in spite of a turn one Blackcleave Cliffs from Bauer, there was not any further play, like Thoughtseize or Deathrite Shaman. A turn one Serum Visions came from Levy, while Bauer's first play was a 2/3 Tarmogoyf. More Serum Visions came from Levy, whose deck simply needed to carry out its one big turn. For the second time, the sorcery put two cards on the bottom of Levy's deck. Whatever the Frenchman was looking for, he hadn't found it yet.

    What Levy had done was to consistently make his land drops, meaning that when he passed on turn three with three mana up, Bauer had to know he could be walking into something. He attacked with his Tarmogoyf, but left his mana open without playing anything more – just in case.

    Again Levy played a land and passed. He took his hit down to 13 from Tarmogoyf and looked on as Dark Confidant was played Bauer. Levy had a Pestermite in response, which fell to a Lightning Bolt. However, this tapped Bauer low enough that the Frenchman could successfully RemandDark Confidant, gaining Levy a card, and denying Bauer the powerful 2/1 for at least one turn.

    Karim Bauer

    Levy used Snapcaster Mage to get a second chance at Serum Visions, drawing a Splinter Twin, and seeing another copy on top of his deck. He kept that one there, wary that his Jund opponent could easily have some removal to stymie the first copy of his combo spell. Attacks from Tarmogoyf put Levy to nine life. He had sufficient lands to go for it with his combo, but with Bauer holding a couple of lands up, he had to be wary of some sort of a response.

    Pestermite came down for Levy, and he tried for Splinter Twin, but not on the Pestermite itself, instead on Snapcaster Mage. Bauer had the perfect trump though, in Golgari Charm. The -1/-1 mode on the Return to Ravnica instant killed off both Snapcaster Mage and Pestermite. While it also killed Dark Confidant, Bauer didn't seem to mind. From there it was just a matter of Tarmogoyf mopping things up, as Levy picked up his first loss of the day.

    Karim Bauer wins 2-1!


  • Saturday, 4:44 p.m. – Talking to the Traders

    by Tobi Henke

  • Cards, lots and lots of Magic cards. The traders have them, the players need them, and a lot can be learned from the cards in particular which switched ownership at the last minute this morning. With the tournament well under way and things finally quieted down, I took a moment to talk to some of the traders about just that.

    As always, it appears sideboards were completed last, with the best-selling card being Back to Nature, evidence that the best days may be over for Daybreak Coronet-wearing Slippery Bogles everywhere. However, Back to Nature was quickly sold out, and some players had to settle for Tempest of Light instead. Meanwhile, Daybreak Coronet itself clearly failed to generate the interest some of the traders had anticipated.

    The sideboard theme continued with Spellskite. Powerful against the aura deck, it supposedly moonlights as a miracle worker against infect decks, although that may quickly become its main occupation in the face of dwindling aura numbers. A lot of Blood Moons and quite a few copies of Rain of Gore indicated a possible comeback for red decks, and Rule of Law was yet another dedicated sideboard card making the bestseller list, so Storm and Eggs players beware!

    Of course, some of the staples of the format were their usual popular self as well: the rare lands from Return to Ravnica and Zendikar, Liliana of the Veil, and especially Deathrite Shaman.


  • Saturday, 6:55 p.m. – Scapeshift with Helmut Summersberger

    by Tobi Henke

  • Austrian Helmut Summersberger has been playing Magic on and off again for ages, with quite a number of finishes to show for it: four Grand Prix Top 8 appearances including wins in 2005 and 2006, as well as a World Championship Top 8 in 2000. He's also 58th on the list of all-time Pro Point leaders.

    He recently got back into the game, once again, and immediately began working his way back to the Pro Tour. In his case, that meant a trip from Salzburg to Dortmund (just short of 500 miles) to take part in the very first Pro Tour Qualifier of the current season, on December 22. There he used a red-blue-green Scapeshift deck to finish first of 125 players, beating one Pro Tour champion, Simon Görtzen, in the semifinal and then defeating Pro Tour finalist Andre Müller for the win.

    This weekend, Summersberger again brought Scapeshift, and I took the opportunity to ask him some questions about it. "I was originally drawn to the deck because it looks so nice," Summersberger shrugged. "It really is a beautiful control deck and it runs very smoothly. But when I won the PTQ, there was a lot more combo around, things like Storm and Splinter Twin. The main difference between then and now is that it seems as if there's even more Jund, and Jund is not actually such a good matchup.

    He doesn't always play Magic, but when he does... he's really serious about it.

    "I tried every possible sideboard card, but Jund just can't be hated," he explained. "They have way too many different angles of attack: early pressure, hand disruption, especially Liliana of the Veil, and Deathrite Shaman which allows Lili to come down on turn two and then blanks your Snapcaster Mages. If you don't have a Bolt for that, well, you better have a Bolt for it.

    "I nearly switched decks, and maybe I should have," Summersberger complained. "Last round I played against someone who cast a turn-two Blood Moon. In game one."

    To be fair, though, Summersberger won the match despite said Blood Moon and was still in contention for day two when I spoke to him.

    Helmut Summersberger, Scapeshift
    Grand Prix Bilbao 2013 – Modern


  • Round 7 Feature Match – Mike Hofmann (Auras) vs. Jeremy Dezani (Jund)

    by Tobi Henke

  • The last time France's Jeremy Dezani has played in a Modern Grand Prix, last year in Lyon, he and his trusty Jund deck won the whole show. Facing him this round was Mike Hofmann, an up-and-coming player from Germany, with a couple of PTQ wins under his belt, still looking for a major finish.

    Game 1

    Hofmann won the die-roll but, even after a mulligan, had no one-drop. He led with Misty Rainforest, and searched up Dryad Arbor after Dezani had summoned a Deathrite Shaman. On his second turn, he put both Spider Umbra and Ethereal Armor on it.

    Jeremy Dezani

    Dezani cast Tarmogoyf and Thoughtseize, seeing two Daybreak Coronets and discarding one. The other pumped up Hofmann's Dryad Arbor to 8/8 and Dezani fell to 10 already. He checked the wording on Spider Umbra, then cast Liliana of the Veil and made Hofmann sacrifice his only creature. The Tarmogoyf started working on Hofmann's lifetotal, and when Hofmann could finally deploy another creature, a Gladecover Scout, Liliana was back to three counters to take care of it. Tarmogoyf ended the game soon after.

    Mike Hofmann 0-1 Jeremy Dezani

    Game 2

    This time around both players kept their seven, and Hofmann opened on Forest, Slippery Bogle. Dezani opened on Verdant Catacombs for Godless Shrine (17) and Inquisition of Kozilek. He saw Misty Rainforest, Keen Sense, Rancor, Noble Hierarch, and an Ethereal Armor which he took.

    Hofmann fetched Temple Garden, cast Noble Hierarch and Keen Sense, and attacked Dezani for 2 (15). Dezani had Stomping Ground (13) and Spellskite.

    Without Path to Exile for the Spellskite (or Daybreak Coronet), Hofmann couldn't cast any auras that wouldn't be redirected, so instead he cycled a Horizon Canopy and summoned a Gladecover Scout. Dezani had Lingering Souls off Verdant Catacombs (12).

    Hofmann summoned Kor Spiritdancer and tried Rancor on his Slippery Bogle, drawing a card. Dezani redirected that to his Spellskite (10). He then made Liliana of the Veil and had both players discard.

    But thanks to Hofmann's Kor Spiritdancer, the cards kept coming. Another Rancor was redirected to Spellskite (8), then Dezani tried to put a stop to the incoming enchantments via Blightning. Hofmann kept one card which, when Dezani tried to get rid of it with Liliana, turned out to be Path to Exile. That was cast in response, took out Spellskite, and brought two Rancors back to Hofmann's hand. One of them was discarded but the other was chained into another Rancor and Ethereal Armor, all put on Kor Spiritdancer. The resulting 15-power (with trample) were enough to kill Dezani.

    Mike Hofmann 1-1 Jeremy Dezani

    Game 3

    Dezani led with Deathrite Shaman, Hofmann had Gladecover Scout. On turn two Dezani made Spellskite, and again Hofmann had no immediate answer, just played a Slippery Bogle and passed the turn back to Dezani.

    Mike Hofmann

    Another Deathrite Shaman for Dezani didn't exactly provide a clock, but his Raging Ravine did. Two attacks brought Hofmann, who had seen some Temple Garden action earlier, into the single digits, and two Lightning Bolts along with two activations of Deathrite Shaman's second ability ended the game and match.

    Mike Hofmann 1-2 Jeremy Dezani


  • Quick Questions – What is the card you’re most looking forward to from Gatecrash?

    by Tim Willoughby

  • Denniz Rachid: Boros Charm.
    Elie Pichon: Over. Stomping Ground!
    Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa: Duskmantle Seer.
    Ivan Floch: I haven’t seen the previews yet.
    Shahar Shenhar: Obzedat, Ghost Council.
    Ivan Floch (upon hearing what Obzedat does): Wow! That card! Obzedat!


  • Round 7 Feature Match – Mike Hofmann (Auras) vs. Jeremy Dezani (Jund)

    by Tobi Henke

  • Shahar Shenhar is doing it the hard way when it comes to getting over jet-lag. Having just moved to Israel from California, and more or less figured out his body clock, he is now in Spain for this Grand Prix in Bilbao, and he'll soon be in Montreal for Pro Tour Gatecrash. He certainly hasn't been caught napping so far at this Grand Prix though, with just a single loss so far on the tournament, putting him in fine position to make day two and potentially quite a bit more. Joao Baptista of Portugal had had a far more straightforward trip. Having hired a bus with a number of friends, it was just a fairly short drive to Bilbao, where his tournament was also going well.

    A turn one Birds of Paradise came from Baptista, but soon fell to a Lightning Helix, cast off a Temple Garden and a Steam Vents. This would not be a Jund mirror. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben was the next threat from Baptista, which Shenhar matched with the Geist of Saint Traft. A Loxodon Smiter soon followed from Baptista, but Shenhar had answers for each, with a Lightning Bolt for Thalia, and Path to Exile for the Smiter. That let the Geist swing in, taking Baptista to just 10 life. Joao was dealing himself damage with Horizon Canopy with worrying consistency, and the threats he was deploying seemed prone to removal from Shenhar. Baptista tried to fix this trend with a Mirran Crusader (hard to kill) and Noble Hierarch (less painful a source of mana).

    Baptista was soon down to just five life as Shenhar attacked in in spite of these two new creatures. He didn't mind that Geist of Saint Traft was killed off by Mirran Crusader, as he had a second one ready, and just needed to deal damage.

    The next turn, the new one attacked, angling for the win. A Path to Exile stopped the Angel token though, and Mirran Crusader stopped the Geist. Shenhar was just beginning to get low on gas, but with only five more damage to deal, his Deathrite Shaman potentially threatened to do enough.

    Another Path to Exile stopped the Shaman, and Mirran Crusader got on the offensive. With two exalted triggers, and a Wilt-Leaf Liege, it would only take two swings to finish off Shenhar. After the first, Shahar cast a Bloodbraid Elf, hoping for some help from the top of his deck. Deathrite Shaman would not do it.

    Joao Baptista 1 – 0 Shahar Shenhar

    Game two saw Shenhar on the play, and he had a turn one Deathrite Shaman. Turn two saw another Shaman, but no land. Turn three was the same. Fortunately for Shenhar, even though he was very light on lands, Baptista was light on threats, his first coming on turn three in Loxodon Smiter.

    Shenhar finally found a second land and cast Geist of Saint Traft thanks to the one fetchland in the graveyard; his own from turn one. By this point though, Joao had a second copy of Loxodon Smiter, putting a bit of pressure on Shenhar. Two copies of Path to Exile were his answer. It turned out that Baptista had just the one basic left over, and took 8 on attacks, now having just Birds of Paradise left to block with.

    Shahar Shenhar

    Baptista had a nice answer to a suddenly complicated board position, with Lingering Souls, and its flashback. He was at nine though, and sighed as a Tribal Flames dropped him to just four life. Now those copies of Deathrite Shaman looked pretty spicy. Baptista used Path to Exile on one of them, with Shenhar using it to take Joao to just two life in response.

    A Sword of Fire and Ice allowed Baptista to kill off one of the remaining two copies of Deathrite Shaman. Path to Exile killed another. Baptista had nearly stabilised. The only thing he could not stop though, was Lightning Bolt. It worked in Alpha, and the three point burn spell worked for Shenhar to square up the match.

    Joao Baptista 1 – 1 Shahar Shenhar

    For the rubber game, Shenhar had a quick keep, while the same could not be said for his opponent. In spite of this, on the play Baptista had Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, ready to hamper some mana. Shenhar was a little slow to play any spells, possibly because of the Avacyn Restored legend. Loxodon Smiter was next for the Portuguese player, while Shenhar's first threat was Geist of Saint Traft.

    Joao Baptista

    More Loxodon Smiter action on the other side of the board left Shenhar with a tough path ahead of him. He went to seven life to use a fetchland, finding a Mountain so as not to take even more damage. This let him cast Bloodbraid Elf, though Thalia meant that the Lightning Bolt the elf revealed could not be cast.

    Attacks from Baptista put Shenhar to just one life, and Lingering Souls mean there was an insurmountable board advantage to overcome. Shenhar drew, thought, and attacked with Geist of Saint Traft. Baptista chose to double block the legend with spirit tokens, losing his tokens and going to 12 life. A Bloodbraid Elf then got Shenhar another Geist. All this was not enough though, with just enough creatures on Baptista's side of the board to seal the deal even in the face of the pair of blockers from Shenhar.

    Joao Baptista wins 2-1, going to 7-1 and locking up his spot in day two of Grand Prix Bilbao.


  • Quick Questions – What guild are you planning to play at the Gatecrash prerelease?

    by Tim Willoughby

  • Daniel Royde: Gruul.
    Lukas Jaklovsky: Dimir.
    Vincent Lemoine: Simic.
    Denniz Rachid: Orzhov.
    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa: I’m going to play two, and I’m going to play Dimir and Gruul, so I get to try out as many colours as possible.


  • Round 9 Feature Match – Kenny Öberg (Storm) vs. Nikolai Skoropulov (Jund)

    by Tobi Henke

  • Both players went 6-2 in the first eight rounds today, both needed another to keep playing tomorrow.

    Game 1

    Both players opened with tapped lands on turn one. Skoropulov had Dark Confidant on turn two, Öberg had Pyromancer Ascension. Skoropulov cast Liliana of the Veil and discarded a land, Öberg discarded Desperate Ravings.

    Öberg tried to go for it. He played a third land, cast Goblin Electromancer, Pyretic Ritual, Manamorphose, Pyretic Ritual (first counter on Pyromancer Ascension), and Sleight of Hand. At this point he was left without blue mana, with just another land, another Sleight of Hand, and another Pyromancer Ascension in hand. He cast the latter and passed his turn.

    Skoropulov shot Goblin Electromancer with Lightning Bolt and Liliana of the Veil took the land out of Öberg's hand. Skoropulov also added some pressure with Tarmogoyf and Deathrite Shaman.

    Kenny Öberg

    Öberg, with the second Sleight of Hand in hand, and two Pyromancer Ascensions on the table, was still looking in good shape. On his turn he managed to get both Ascensions to two counters, and passed the turn with Desperate Ravings in hand and two untapped lands.

    Skoropulov summoned Bloodbraid Elf, but would have needed to cascade into Lightning Bolt to kill Öberg. He "only" got Inquisition of Kozilek, to which Öberg responded with Desperate Ravings, copied twice. After all the card drawing and discarding (including Liliana's ability) was done, Öberg was left with just another land and a Gitaxian Probe in hand.

    "This is definitely the hardest I ever had to fight with two active Ascensions," said Öberg. Luckily, he found Serum Visions on top of his deck. The first two copies of that didn't go too lucky (four cards scryed to the bottom of his library), but the third one found Manamorphose, and after that his combo really couldn't fail anymore. While Öberg was still casting spells, Skoropulov already packed in his cards.

    Kenny Öberg 1-0 Nikolai Skoropulov

    Game 2

    Skoropulov played first, but Öberg was the first to put something onto the battlefield: a Leyline of Sanctity which would stop all of his opponent's discard spells. Unfortunately, he didn't have a second land after his Misty Rainforest. To make matters worse, Skoropulov had his own sideboard card on turn two: a Chalice of the Void to henceforth counter all spells with a converted mana cost of one. Öberg frowned and discarded Serum Visions at the end of his turn.

    When he finally found a third land, he was already facing lethal damage next turn, and without the help of his one-mana cantrips wasn't able to piece his combo together.

    Kenny Öberg 1-1 Nikolai Skoropulov

    Game 3

    This time Öberg started with Leyline of Sanctity as well as lands, with Sleight of Hand on turn one, Pyromancer Ascension on turn two, and Skoropulov had no Chalice of the Void. He did have a Deathrite Shaman and a Dark Confidant, but his turn-three Bloodbraid Elf only hit a useless Thoughtseize. Well, it also hit Öberg, along with Dark Confidant to put him at 12.

    Turn three, Öberg tried to go off, chaining Pyretic Ritual into Seething Song into Manamorphose into Gitaxian Probe. Then he paused. "Uhmm," Öberg commented and made an entirely unhappy face at his hand. He pondered his options for a bit, then decided. "I guess this is my best shot," he said and cast Past in Flames. He hadn't played a land so far this turn and would need one off the Gitaxian Probe flashback to continue his turn. He got it and was able to recast almost all the cards in his graveyard. But his Pyromancer Ascension still hadn't got a single counter a all he could muster was a Grapeshot with twelve copies. Not enough to kill Skoropulov, but enough to kill all of his creatures and to put him at 11.

    Skoropulov regrouped with Tarmogoyf and Raging Ravine.

    Nikolai Skoropulov

    Öberg bought himself another turn with Echoing Truth on Tarmogoyf, but then it was his final turn. He had to go off now, and he certainly tried, even though his deck proved extremely resistant. He cast a couple of draw spells to put two counters on Pyromancer Ascension, then copied Manamorphose, and continued with even more cantrips. He soon had drawn/scryed through well more than half of his library, but still he couldn't find a single mana ritual. The usually very calm Öberg was beginning to get rather frustrated. Down to two mana in his pool, he finally got Desperate Ritual at the last possible moment.

    This and its copy gave him six mana. He needed seven to flashback Past in Flames and Grapeshot. A lengthy discussion followed, wherein everyone tried to figure out whether Öberg had already played a land this turn. With the help of several spectators and judges, it was determined that he did. Öberg pondered possible alternatives, of which there were none. Then he extended his hand and congratulated Skoropulov on making day two.

    Kenny Öberg 1-2 Nikolai Skoropulov

    But Öberg wasn't quite satisfied with this. He sat in his seat for another five minutes, stared at his cards, and replayed the game's previous turns in his mind. When he emerged, he too concluded that, yes, he did in fact play a land. Smiling despite the loss, he added: "I feel much better now that I'm sure of that."


  • Saturday, 10:30 p.m. – Getting Ready For Gatecrash

    by Tim Willoughby

  • Different people get ready for a new set in different ways. It is an exciting time for every player, as preview season moves along, with each card bringing a wealth of possibilities. For me, I'm looking forward to getting in some drafts, and getting together the cards I'm looking for to make some fun FNM decks. For the likes of some of the pros in the room though, there is the whole concern of Pro Tour Gatecrash in Montreal, which is really not far away. I spoke to a few people around the room about how they were looking at preparations, as we get close to knowing more about the set.

    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa clearly loves preview season. Before I even sat down he was discussing the merits of various cards and colours he likes, and with a little grin he admitted that he was quick to look at which cards had been previewed each day to get an idea of what he'd be working with in Canada. While he wasn't particularly looking at building decks or comparing guilds for draft, he was certainly not short of an opinion or two of what he liked and what he didn't. Paulo will be in London for the Grand Prix, before flying out to Montreal the Monday before, meaning that he won't meet up with the ChannelFireball team until that week, though various of them will be testing together in Las Vegas before that point.

    Some of the Slovacs are perhaps a little more laid back. Lukas Jaklovsky and Ivan Floch had not seen much in the way of previews thus far, preferring to hold the cards in their hands to evaluate them. Floch laughed that his prerelease would be 'a surprise', though surely after that point he would be a quick study to get something ready for the Pro Tour.

    Other teams, like the Swedes, have already started looking at colour combinations that they like and cards from older sets that might synergise well with previewed cards from Gatecrash. Denniz Rachid mentioned a liking for Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, alongside Lingering Souls which would mean that, once the whole set was out, he would be keen to figure out if there is a place for an Orzhov deck.

    While there is still a little time before Pro Tour Gatecrash, anticipation for the new set is already running high, and it is clear that prereleases will not just be packed with newer players; everyone is looking forward to playing with the new set. In just a few days the full card list will be available and even now you should be scouting out where to go for your local prerelease. If the interest here in Bilbao is anything to go by, it will be quite the party.

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