Podcast - Sunday Is Draft Day
by Rich Hagon
...In case you didn't know. 111 players have come back for another crack at M10, but this time they won't be at the mercy of six random boosters. Instead, groups of eight will fight over twenty-four sets of Commons, Uncommons, Rares, and maybe a Mythic Rare or two, as Grand Prix Brighton enters Phase Two. Four players come into Sunday with perfect records, including the Netherlands Champion Kevin Grove. We go inside the draft with Czech Pro Martin Juza, and bring you highlights from the opening skirmishes. It's M10 all the way, as we get down to the serious business of finding a GP Champion.
Sunday, 11:16 a.m. - Drafting with Tomoharu Saito
by Tim Willoughby
Going into day 2 of this GP, I found myself focused very much on draft archetypes. There is plenty to be learned from watching the best in the world make evaluations about the best way to win in M10, and I knew that I wanted to be in the front row, taking note of what wins, what doesn’t, and those crucial later picks that solidify particular strategies.
Talking with Tomoharu Saito, I knew that I’d get to see an extreme strategy at work in Brighton. M10 seems to be a format that requires more commitment to a plan than some other sets, due in large fact to the lack of mana fixing. Changing direction later in draft is possible, but not as straightforward as for example Alara block draft, where one could quite easily have fair amounts of nifty lands to help out.
Saito’s plan for M10 is to play black. Of all the colours, it is the one that most heavily rewards trying to be mono-colour, and virtually requires all of a drafters attention if it is going to be a primary colour. Cards like Tendrils of Corruption, Consume Spirit and Looming Shade travel from reasonable to thoroughly unfair based wholly on the number of Swamps you are playing. While most black decks don’t end up completely mono coloured, the second colour will tend to be a splash dependent on whatever bomb happens to slide on over during the draft.
At Saito’s pod for the first draft of the day were a pretty scary assortment of Pros. Steve Sadin was in one corner, and Saito found himself in a sandwich between Marijn Lybaert and Raphael Levy. Not a table with a lot of free wins.
With the very first pick Saito was put to a decision, with Lightning Bolt, Pacifism and Doom Blade all viable options. For Saito it might have been an easy pick of Doom Blade, but this is definitely one where individual player preference would step in. Pick two saw a disciplined pick of Sign in Blood over White Knight and Lightning Bolt. Pick three was Assassinate over White Knight and Prodigal Pyromancer.
In those first three picks, Saito could have been a quality red, white or black deck. By taking Sign in Blood second, he sent very strong signals to Levy, which he continued throughout the draft. Taking the black card when possible meant that there would be no way that Levy was in black, which in turn would keep things nice and friendly in pack two. The red cards he was loathe to pass, but his reasoning made a lot of sense.
“Red has a not a lot of good commons. It is a good splash colour but not so good for the main colour. I need to 3-0 this draft, and so I wanted to have a deck I was comfortable with.”
The prophecy of red drying up came true fairly quickly, with a notable lack of quality red picks for much of the rest of pack one. What there was as a fourth pick for Saito though was a Hypnotic Specter
. In a format without a great deal of card advantage, having a big discard engine was exactly what Saito was looking for. With a Zombie Goliath
and a Looming Shade
in the pack, he seemed pleased to have put himself in a good position for the table.
Wind Drake was the first non-black pick for Saito as pick five, where nothing in black stood out. He had reasonable options in all the other colours, with a Centaur Courser, Celestial Purge and Dragon Whelp all fine picks. Green and blue were the colours he’d passed the least goodies on, so it was possibly unsurprising that Saito elected to drift in that direction.
As the picks waned toward the end of pack 1, Saito didn’t get a great deal back, with a pair of Zombie Goliaths being about as good as it got. The Dreg Reaver re-imagined is not exciting in Shards of Alara, but performs solid work in M10, and if Saito got the removal heavy deck he hoped for, it would beat just fine.
In pack 2, Saito began with Sign in Blood over Pyroclasm, and followed with his first Tendrils of Corruption, over Mind Control. Mind Control is a very powerful card, but with Tendrils one of the reasons for him to be heavily black, it was a clear pick for Saito.
solidified the notion of a blue splash for Saito’s deck, and soon a second Tendrils of Corruption
joined his pile. Mind Rot
added to the discard plan, and a few fairly mediocre creatures, including Relentless Rats
were also good enough to be picked by the former Player of the Year. Saito’s deck was quite short on creatures, but his spells looked very solid. A late Sanguine Bond
got picked by Saito, just in case he got really lucky with Tendrils and Child of Night
in pack 3.
Pack 3 saw Saito get pretty lucky with spells, but still wasn’t that exciting for him creature-wise. There was a third pick Bog Wraith, which was the only pick in the first four not to be a Doom Blade. A little confused about how it was still there, Saito took a Lightning Bolt fifth, and a Consume Spirit sixth. He rounded out much of the later picks with rare drafts, confident in leaning on the power of his removal, even if it might be a slow process killing anyone.
Ultimately, Saito’s deck had 9 creatures, but he remained very happy with it. “I once had a black deck in M10 with 4 creatures, and I 3-0’d” he smiled. “I will cast Hypnotic Specter, and kill all their blockers... GG”.
Good games indeed Saito, good games indeed.
Feature Match - Round 10: Steve Sadin (USA) vs Tomoharu Saito (JPN)
by David Sutcliffe
“We got fish and chips together last night”, Steve Sadin told me, as the two players shuffled up.
Steve Sadin. Before.
This has been a feature of Grand Prix Brighton. Here, on the coast of England, the quintessentially English combination of a perfectly good fish being ruined by the application of cardiac-inducing batter and soggy fried potato slices has been an unlikely attraction for the travelling Pro Players of the world eager to find out what the fuss is about.
“How was it?” I asked, always ready for a good laugh.
“The fish was good, the chips... not so good.”
“The fish wasn’t salty”, Saito chipped in, “not good for me”.
“Yeah, he was just pouring salt onto his fish endlessly”, Steve summed up.
So there you go – American, Brit, and Japanese – three nations spread as far and wide across the globe as it’s possible to get, and all brought together by Magic: The Gathering then united in their utter apathy when faced with a plate of Fish & Chips.
Culinary concerns aside, this would be an intriguing matchup between the two fellow Pro travellers as their decks were almost complete opposites. As you’ve heard from Tim, Tomoharu Saito had drafted the Black deck full of removal, including 4 Doom Blades, while Sadin’s deck was built around a core of solid blue and white creatures and hoping to exploit Armored Ascension for the win.
Things didn’t start too well for Sadin and he had to mulligan before losing his Negate to Saito’s opening turn Duress, and Saito pressed his card advantage with a second turn Sign in Blood, and then a Divination to further extend his lead in cards. For his own part, the only offense that the American had been able to make stick was a lone Griffin Sentinel – and after Saito had played a second Sign In Blood it seemed that the main threat to the Japanese Pro’s lifetotal was himself!
Saito attempted a Mind Rot to further cripple his opponent, but this was Negated. Sadin stuck an Armored Ascension onto his Griffin but this attracted a Doom Blade and he fell even further behind in cards.
Stepping onto the front foot, Saito played a Warpath Ghoul but it soon found itself in Harm’s Way and Steve Sadin made another bid to get into the attack with a Djinn of Wishes.
No Doom Blade. Apparently Soul Warden wasn’t such a pressing threat as a Serra Angel was.
No Doom Blade. Hmm.
Despite playing off the top of his library, Sadin was still swinging! Had Saito finally run out of removal?
Armored Ascension on my Soul Warden?
Tomoharu Saito, likes his fish salty and Blades Doomy
Tendril of Corrupt
ion for 9. Ouch, clearly Saito had a bit more removal to come. Saito reset his life total, but his own Snapping Drake
was hit by an Essence Scatter
. Incredibly, although Saito had drawn so many more cards than Sadin, and been able to generate 2-for-1 trades against Armored Ascension
, the two players were level on cards in hand. The extra cards he had drawn had only given Saito 11 lands in play compared to Sadin’s 8 and this was far from over.
Griffin Sentinel from Sadin
Hypnotic Spectre from Saito... but now the clock seemed to be Saito’s library, which was running low – only 8 cards left. He needed some muscle and he needed it soon.
Zombie Goliath - as a 4/3, that could do the job.
Wall of Faith – Sadin dropped back onto the defensive, but the Wall was immediately nailed by Saito’s FOURTH Doom Blade, to Sadin’s disbelief, and a Clone doubled up as a second Zombie Goliath.
Sadin found a White Knight – the perfect riposte to Saito’s deck of black spells, but it was too late. The White Knight could only defend against one Zombie Goliath but not it’s clone at the same time, and a turn later it was over.
Steve Sadin (USA) 0 - 1 Tomoharu Saito (JPN)
What was incredible in that game was that despite putting himself at +6 card advantage due Sadin’s mulligan, to a Divination, two Sign In Blood, and two tradeups for Armored Ascension, Saito had struggled to actually put Sadin down. For his part, Sadin knew that victory would come only if he could present more threats than Saito could answer so he sideboarded out his Ascensions and Soul Wardens, adding in more 2/2 bodies like Silvercoat Lion and Coral Merfolk that would actually cause Saito to spread his removal more thinly. His hope would be to simply play too many creatures for Saito to kill them all.
And Sadin drew his sideboard, running with a second turn Coral Merfolk, followed with a Silvercoat Lion.
Steve Sadin. After.
“Good sideboard” smiled Saito, reaching out with a Doom Blade
for the Lion and blocking the Coral Merfolk
with his Warpath Ghoul
Sadin followed up with a White Knight. Now this would prove a challenge – did Saito have any good answers for a Protection from Black creature played so early in the game? His response was to force the White Knight onto the defensive with a Zombie Goliath and Dread Warlock. Sadin played his Undead Slayer, knowing it would be enough to draw out another removal spell, and sure enough it was immediately hit by a Tendrils of Corruption.
Sadin steadily built up his forces, with an Elite Vanguard, Snapping Drake and Griffin Sentinel, while Saito nibbled away with his unblockable Dread Warlock, before the Japanese star through down yet another removal spell – this time an Assassinate – onto Sadin’s Snapping Drake before playing his own version of the 3/2 flyer.
This match was now going only one way. Out of cards and playing from the top of his deck, Sadin had no answer to the beatdown he was receiving from the Dread Warlock and Snapping Drake. Just to be sure, Saito added a Hypnotic Spectre to the offensive but it wasn’t needed and Sadin offered his hand in concession.
Steve Sadin (USA) 0 - 2 Tomoharu Saito (JPN)
Gerry Thompson came over to pick over the bones of Sadin’s defeat, but as Gabriel Nassif flicked his way through Saito deck and his eyebrows seemed to edge ever-higher it was clear that Steve Sadin had been fighting against the odds in this one. Saito’s deck is one to watch!
Feature Match - Round 11: Matej Zatlkaj vs Gerry Thompson
by Tim Willoughby
“So how’d the last round go?”
“A Coral Merfolk met an Oakenform and got me good.”
GerryT was hoping for a better round against Matej than he’d had in round 10, and had a fair start, with a Hypnotic Specter that got to bash in, hitting a Gravedigger. There was then a Mind Rot which hit Lava Axe and Consume Spirit.
A Fireball killed off the Specter, but the damage had already been done. Gerry followed up with a Zombie Goliath, and when Matej had a Dragon Whelp, he showed a Bog Wraith, for his own form of unblockable attacks.
from Matej traded with Gerry’s but Thompson was still ahead, with a second Mind Rot
that this time hit Nightmare
and Tendrils of Corruption
to clear out Matej’s hand.
“You took all my mono black cards!”
“You lost to a bunch of Sage Owls?”
“Look man, I’m not happy about it...”
Matej found a Gorgon Flail for his Dragon Whelp, but was drawing cold when Gerry found a seventh land, to play Gravedigger and Hypnotic Specter in one turn.
As Matej pondered what he could draw to get out of the situation he found himself in, Gerry hoped aloud that there was nothing. Gerry got what he wanted, and it was on to game 2.
Matej Zatlkaj 0 – 1 Gerry Thompson
Gerry led with a Dread Warlock on turn 3, while Zatlkaj had a Viashino Spearhunter with which to race. A Weakness from Gerry kept him ahead on the board, and Matej had no follow up the next turn, while Gerry had a second Dread Warlock. All that intimidation did nothing to Zombie Goliath from Zatlkaj, which forced a new plan for Gerry. Howling Banshee took the fight to the air, and made the life totals 17 to 13 in Thompson’s favour.
A Fireball from Matej killed off Gerry’s pair of 2/2s, and the Banshee then traded with Zombie Goliath. Gerry had a Gravedigger to get back his Banshee. Zatlkaj used Rise from the Grave to get back his Zombie, but looked dismayed to have to discard a Mountain and a Lava Axe to Mind Rot, leaving him with just one card in hand.
The life totals dropped to 10 each with the re-emergeance of Howling Banshee, but Zatlkaj had a plan, and attacked Gerry down to 3 with the help of Act of Treason on the Howling Banshee.
From this point, Zatlkaj was drawing very much live, needing to deal a small amount of damage to finish things. When creatures met removal spells from Thompson, Zatlkaj just went to the dome with a Consume Spirit, and it was on to game 3.
Matej Zatlkaj 1 – 1
It was Zatlkaj that had the aggressive start in game 3, with a turn two Child of Night
, and a turn 3 Fiery Hellhound
. This traded with Warpath Ghoul
, but Child of Night
just kept rumbling in. A Hypnotic Specter
from Thompson was hit by Weakness
, before Gerry finally started hitting action.
First Thompson killed off Child of Night with Consume Spirit, then he had a Gravedigger to get back his Hypnotic Specter. Zatlkaj cleared the board with Pyroclasm, but Gerry had a Canyon Minotaur to rebuild.
Gravedigger for Firey Hellhound came from Zatlkaj, who was nicely ahead on life thanks to that Child of Night in the early game. Matej played out a Dragon Whelp, and after Thompson made a Zombie Goliath, he used Act of Treason on it, to bash Gerry down to five. Dragon Whelp on its own threatened lethal damage for Gerry at this point, and he used a Tendrils of Corruption to both kill it, and get back up to 10, just a point behind Matej.
“I almost thought I had the upper hand there” remarked Zatlkaj, who suddenly found himself fighting to find a way to not screw things up, in a much worse position than he was before.
“This is so hard!”
“You played elves for an entire Pro Tour and this is hard?”
“Elves is easy, you just play a bunch of spells and then you win” remarked Zatlkaj of his Pro Tour Berlin top 8. He cast Rise From the Grave on Gerry’s Gravedigger, getting back Dragon Whelp with its ability.
The tanking from Zatlkaj wasn’t going to help though. The very next turn attacks plus Fireball ended things.
“I thought I was in that game. It turns out I was wrong...”
Gerry Thompson wins 2 – 1!
Sunday, 12:04 p.m. - Maid of Dishonour
by David Sutcliffe
Room Servi... oh god, my eyes!!!
We know that there are fantastic prizes to be won at any Grand Prix, but one poor player has found himself running afoul of his friends and taking the booby prize. Booby prize may in fact be the most appropriate description for what befell Paul Harris, of England, yesterday. Having travelled along the south coast of England from Torquay with his friends, the group settled on a wager... a little something personal to make the Grand Prix more interesting.
Whoever did worst out of the group would spend the second day of the GP in a French maid’s outfit.... and the shortest straw was drawn by Paul. The gods of sealed pools did not smile upon him. The divinations of the DCI Reporter threw him unfavourable matchups. The deck he created betrayed him with no topdecks. All told, saturday was simply not Paul’s day and he clocked up just two match wins in nine rounds. Finishing in a pretty dismal 620th place at the end of the first day his fate was sealed.
Day two has rolled around, the side events have started, and out has come that little black dress...
Some things, once seen, can never be unseen.
Feature Match - Round 12: Martin Juza (CZE) vs Kevin Grove (NDL)
by David Sutcliffe
Dutch national champion Kevin Grove stepped into the final match of this draft pod defending the Grand Prix’s last undefeated record. Firmly entrenched at the sharp end of the tournament, another win for Grove would mean he could afford to rare-draft his way through the second draft pod and still make Top-8. Martin Juza, meanwhile, had made waves with his aggressive mono-white build and looked confident that he could be the one to knock Grove off his unbeaten perch.
Juza won the toss but lost the chair
The two players began by arguing who would get to sit in the lucky chair in the feature match area, and settled on the fact that whoever won the coin toss would choose to play or draw, and the other would choose where they sat.
Juza called heads, head it was – he would play first, but Grove would have the lucky seat! Which would prove more crucial in deciding the outcome of the match?
The pace was frenetic as these two players launched into their match. Kevin Grove’s third turn play was a Goblin Artillery which threatened to blow a hole in Juza’s strategy so the Czech player was forced into attacking with his Blinding Mage, dummying Grove into a block so that he could sweep away the Goblin Artillery with a Divine Verdict. Grove replaced the Artillery with a Zombie Golilath, but that was quickly pacified. A turn later it seemed like the Pacifism had been played a little early as Grove played a Dragon Whelp, and after a few brief strikes from the 5/3 firebreather it was all over. Brutal!
Going First 0 – 1 Lucky Chair
“Pretty good!” remarked Juza as he collected his permanents.
“Yeah, Pretty good”, Grove could only agree – the first game had taken maybe three minutes to complete.
“I should have kept the Pacifism”
“Yeah, probably. It’s quite funny because after the draft I thought my deck wasn’t that good!” said the man on 11-0.
Juza opted to play first again in the second game, but his deck again struggled to make much immediate headway against the Dutch champion and the Goblin Artillery and a Canyon Minotaur immediately shut down Juza’s attacks. When Grove added a Zombie Goliath to his forces and began to attack, Juza seemed resigned to his fate and could only stare unhappily across the table at the Artillerymen that were so excellently destroying his entire plan. As a final throw of the dice Juza threw his Captain of the Watch into play, only to have it immediately swallowed up by a Pyroclasm and a supporting volley from the Goblin Artillery. Seismic Strike took down the white player’s Griffin Sentinel and Grove went onto the attack, sending his big men across the table.
Sitting comfortably, Kevin Grove proves Indestructible
Juza attempted to stabilise, playing a Blinding Mage
and giving his Siege Mastodon
a Safe Passage
through the combat phase and taking out a Zombie Goliath
in the process, but Grove barely blinked before putting his Dragon Whelp
down for a second game. The Blinding Mage
tied up Grove’s Whelp, but only the once as the Goblin Artillery
immediately set his sights on the Mage and blew it away.
With the Dragon Whelp now free to attack, Grove roared his red men into the red zone, pumping them with red mana, and Martin Juza dropped to 3 life.
On his next turn Grove attacked again with the Dragon Whelp but it was met by a Divine Verdict. Undeterred he simple turned his MVP – the Goblin Artillery – onto his opponent, dropping Martin Juza to 1 life, then cast a Sign In Blood targeting his opponent.
Juza drew two cards, lost two life, and was out of the match to a Sign In Blood played as direct damage!
Going First 0 – 2 Lucky Chair
“I really didn’t think my deck was that good”, Grove protested – looking surprised to find himself on 12-0, although he didn’t find many people prepared to agree with his summation after they’d seen his cards. With three rounds to go, Kevin Groves became the first player guaranteed of a place in the Top-8 of Grand Prix Brighton!
Podcast - Easy Draft Come, Easy Draft Go
by Rich Hagon
Three rounds have gone by here on Day Two, and the 40 card decks that have held the hopes and dreams of the 111 players are now consigned to history. The bombs, the removal, the mis-picks...all gone, and now they have to start again from scratch, not knowing what that precious first booster will hold. Only one player goes into the second draft with a perfect record - find out who in our second show of the day.
Sunday, 1:45 p.m. - Drafting with Martin Juza
by Tim Willoughby
After having watched mono-black drafting for the last pod here at Grand Prix Brighton, I was looking for something a little different for draft number two. Scouting first picks, one interesting decision that came up was for Martin Juza of the Czech Republic. Sat on just two losses, Juza is in good shape to make top 8, assuming that he can keep the wheels on for the last few rounds. Surprisingly, Juza has never made top 8 of a GP, in spite of many top 16s, so he was hungry to get there this time.
When Juza opened his pack, he saw two realistic choices staring back at him. One was Lightning Bolt
, and the other, Bogardan Hellkite
. It sounds like a no brainer, right? The mythic rare over the common? Well, while Juza did go for the dragon, it is not quite that simple. By committing to a double red card pick one, he was signing up to potentially having a train wreck of a draft, as red is not a deep colour, and double red is a tough splash.
While Martin managed a Lightning Bolt second pick, that was virtually the last red card he took from pack one, instead choosing to lean heavily on the powerful mana fixing capabilities of green. A pair of Borderland Rangers which came 4th and 6th were joined by Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves, making sure that casting red spells would not be a problem, even if he only had the two of them, and a small complement of Mountains.
Of course pack two started with an Earthquake, giving Juza more mass removal than most decks can dream of for the M10 format. For pick two, Juza snapped up a Doom Blade. In the third he had the choice of on colour Elvish Visionary, Elvish Piper, or the largely off colour Gravedigger. While the green cards were tempting, Gravedigger does have the potential to make bad things happen for opponents when you start talking about casting Bogardan Hellkite more than once. Another Doom Blade came next, making Juza a solid Jund drafter, whose mana looked pretty good. With a late Terramorphic Expanse, casting all these spells did not look problematic, and the quality of is cards was excellent. Juza also picked up some beefy green monsters in the middle of the pack, which would surely play nice with his impressive suite of removal to end games.
Going into pack 3, Juza didn’t have much to do. About the only thing his deck was seriously lacking in were early creatures, but his late game and removal were good enough that he could likely survive regardless. He first picked a Gravedigger
over Rampant Growth
(a tricky pick), and followed up with Howl of the Night Pack
. Sparkmage Apprentice
picked third was a nod towards shoring up those early turns, and Juza seemed well pleased with a 5th and 6th pick Lightning Bolt
. Those would keep people honest until he could be dropping bombs!
Most accurately, Juza’s deck is a green deck with some incredible splashes. With green being the only colour in M10 to really have mana fixing, it allows bolder splashes in a way that the other colours don’t, and Juza had certainly reaped the rewards from the fact in this draft. Another good example of this would be Steve Sadin’s deck, that is mono green, but for a Levitation, supported by a pair of Islands, 3 Borderland Ranger and a Rampant Growth.
Green. It’s not all about massive monsters, but the massive monsters definitely help.
Feature Match - Round 13: Stephen Pashley (ENG) vs Raphael Levy (FRA)
by David Sutcliffe
One of the few remaining Brits still going in this Grand Prix, Stephen Pashley found his route to a Top-8 appearance blocked by the impressive obstacle of French legend Raphael Levy. Running a win behind his compatriots Gabriel Nassif and Olivier Ruel, Levy had been very quietly making his way through the field without attracting the attention of the feature match spotlight but still had a very slim chance of making the cut. Unwittingly, Raphael Levy had seated himself in the famed ‘Lucky Seat’ in the feature match area – the very seat that Kevin Grove had fought over with Martin Juza in the last round now belonged to Levy. This didn’t bode well for Pashley’s chances...
Both players mulliganed, but it seemed that fortune had most favored the Brit, and he roared off the start line with a Silvercoat Lion
, a Lightning Bolt
for Levy’s Veteran Armorsmith
, and a Stone Giant
. Levy’s deck was clearly about control and he moved to slow up the Englishman’s advance with a Palace Guard
and Blinding Mage
, while a Merfolk Looter
would gradually accrue Levy the edge in the matchup if he could stay alive.
Pashley’s Stone Giant was Excommunicated, but returned immediately with some Berserkers of Blood Ridge for company. He pacified Levy’s Palace Guard and continued his offensive with a Fiery Hellhound and Gorgon Flail, bashing through Levy’s Sage Owls and reducing the Frenchman to 10 life.
Levy’s Sage Owl had allowed him to dredge a Serra Angel out of his deck, but with a resigned expression Levy found himself forced to use his Angel in a trade against the Berserkers of Blood Ridge and dropped to 6 life, with Pashley adding a second Stone Giant to keep up the punishing assault on his opponent.
Merfolk Looter and a Divination gave Levy cards, but no immediate answers. Levy needed a respite from Pashley’s great draws – three turns on the row the Engllishman had found hefty threats on top of his library and it was that which had worn Levy down.
“More stuff?” Levy appealed, as Pashley began tapping his lands again, “Come on... no more stuff!”
Pashley looked sheepish, clutching the card he had just drawn to his chest.
“You’re going to Fireball me?”
“Yep, Fireball you” and it was GG.
Stephen Pashley (ENG) 1 - 0 Raphael Levy (FRA)
It was cut and thrust from the beginning in the second game. Raphael Levy led with a Blinding Mage, but it was immediately Lightning Bolted, then his Veteran Swordsmith was Excommunicated, before Levy returned the favour by Excommunicating Pashley’s Palace Guard. But as Pashley replayed his Guards, and bolstered with with a Silvercoat Lion and Gorgon Flail, Levy’s problems became clear – he still had three lands, and all of them were Plains
“Come ooooon!” Levy turned his eyes skywards and begged the gods of mana for their blessing.
Another Plains. Not what Levy wanted, but it allowed to play a Wall of Faith to buy time with, but with the Gorgon Flail attached to Pashley’s Lion the Wall’s stay in the game was shortlived, and Levy was down to 14 life.
Levy pulled an Island from the top of his library, and that made the sixth land he required to play a Captain of the Watch. That had got Levy a foothold in the game, but he still had to find a solution for the Deathtouch Lion and he took another 3 damage, dropping to 1, and Stephen Pashley added Berserkers of Blood Ridge to Levy’s list of woes.
Levy played a Sage Owl to take a look at the future, and didn’t seem to like what he saw there, but played an Unsummon to put the Berserkers back into Pashley’s hand then swept in with his vigilant soldiers and their Captain of the Watch, levelling the scores at 11-11.
Pashley tapped the top of his deck, drew, and smiled.
“You got it? What you wanted?” Levy asked.
“Yeah”, replied Pashley
Pashley sent his Lion into battle, and this time Levy’s soldier tokens leapt to his defence and the beast was slain, but the Englishmen immediately replaced it with a Stone Giant
. On his own turn, Levy played a Ponder
to shuffle away the future that the Sage Owl
had shown him, before playing a Divination
and Merfolk Looter
. Just as in the first game, Levy was setting up to gain crucial card advantage if the game dragged on - it was up to Pashley to stop him.
The Stone Giant ran in and Levy traded away his Captain of the Watch to kill it, but Pashley wasn’t done.
“More stuff?” Levy asked, already knowing the answer.
Berserkers of Blood Ridge and a Silvercoat Lion. The onslaught was relentless.
Levy responded with a Merfolk Looter and token that traded away the Silvercoat Lion, and a Divine Verdict for the Berserkers. 9 – 9 on life.
“Please, no more stuff!”
Stone Giant. But it seemed now as though Levy had finally turned the corner – he looted into a Pacifism for the Stone Giant and hit back with his Sage Owl. 8-9
But no, Pashley was continuing to draw gas – a Sparkmage Apprentice killed the Merfolk Looter, and a Fiery Hellhound joined it on the battlefield, while the Englishman simply transferred the Gorgon Flail onto his Palace Guard and sent them into the red zone. 8-7
Levy brought a Silvercoat Lion to his defence, and that killed the Fiery Hellhound, but Levy took another 2 from the Palace Guard. 8-5
“Do you ever draw land?”
Stephen Pashley (ENG) 2 - 0 Raphael Levy (FRA)
Stephen Pashley’s slim chances of a Top-8 berth remained open, but for Levy the fight was over.
Saturday, 15.09p.m.: Laptop of Champions
by David Sutcliffe
A quick update... if you were reading yesterday (of course you were) you’ll have seen the blog about all the amazing prizes to be won at www.bragster.com/magic. Well I just wanted to update you on one of those prizes.
One of the artists here in Brighton is none other than Magic uber-master Mark Tedin, who has had a hand in pretty much every set in the game’s history. And he has now put his hand to improving the iPod and Laptop available as the prize in the bragster challenge.
It now looks... like THIS...
As if you needed any more incentive to show just how YOU rule at Magic: The Gathering!
Podcast - Shifting Sands
by Rich Hagon
Outside, beside the seaside, beside the sea, it's cool and calm. Inside, it's blazing heat, as the Grand Prix clicks into overdrive. We spend the penultimate round in the company of such gaming heavyweights as Olivier Ruel, Martin Juza, Marijn Lybaert, Gerry Thompson, and a host of talented opponents determined to secure a spot in the Top 8. In a magicthegathering.com first, we wake up Antoine Ruel live on air to find out about his Hall of Fame feelings, and Matt Light completes one of the most spectacular trading challenges. Ever.
Round 14 Feature Match: Hellpipes
Marijn Lybaert vs Martin Juza
by Tim Willoughby
Juza won the coin flip and merrily announced that Lybaert would be going first.
Sad Face Martin
“Damn! That was my plan.”
While Czech pro Martin Juza has a very powerful deck, he had heard rumours that his opponent, Marijn Lybaert had a much weaker 40 cards. He was quite happy to have a consistent draw, and not risk losing a good matchup to mana issues. With just one more win, he would be secure for his first Grand Prix top 8 in over 40 GPs. He had just missed on many occasions, making this moment all the more electric for him.
Marijn started on a mulligan, but still had a Soul Warden, followed by Veteran Armorsmith to begin, while Juza was taking it slow for the first couple of turns. The first play from Juza was a Giant Spider, which was hit by Pacifism. Juza had lands, but not monsters, while Marijn was stuck on just two Plains.
Earthquake solved all of Juza’s problems, and put Lybaert in quite the sticky situation. He used a second Pacifism on Craw Wurm, and drew a third land just soon enough to Time Walk with an Excommunicate on Enormous Baloth.
Marijn started to find lands, and put a Rhox Pikemaster into play, but was by now far behind with the Enormous Baloth back, and joined by Berserkers of Blood Ridge. A shot from Sparkmage Apprentice knocked Marijn, whose hopes now rested on a Wall of Faith, down to 7. Soon this was just 3 – enough for a Lightning Bolt to end the game.
Marijn Lybaert 0 – 1 Martin Juza
Marijn was on the draw in game 2, and led with Veteran Armorsmith
. Looming Shade
came next, looking fairly unimpressive with but a single Swamp in play for the Belgian.
Juza killed the shade with a Lightning Bolt, before slamming down an Elvish Piper on his turn.
“I sided it in! You can cast Pacifism on it if you like!”
From here on, Marijn was living in fear of a piped in Bogardan Hellkite, that he knew could come at any time. The piper put in first a Stampeding Rhino, before finding that Dragon and wreaking havoc on Marijn’s board.
A pair of Doom Blade
s from Marijn killed off both Elvish Piper
and Bogardan Hellkite
, but with Stampeding Rhino
still in, Juza still had a clock. When he drew a Swamp to cast Gravedigger
, getting back Bogardan Hellkite
, it was all over.
Martin Juza wins 2 – 0!
by Tim Willoughby
A lot of people come to Grand Prix with more on their mind than playing Magic. There are those who are looking to get their cards signed by artists, and then there are those who are just looking to get the cards to finish their decks.
Some of the card hunters will be perfectly happy to go to one of the big card dealers, who show up at events with examples of virtually every card you could possibly imagine. For some though, part of the fun of a trading card game is to do exactly that – to trade cards.
At the start of the weekend, fellow coverage reporter Rich Hagon laid down a challenge to plucky Brit Matt Light. Starting with just a One With Nothing, he had to see what he could get. Matt was allowed to use the One With Nothing as a throw in to a bigger trade, for something specific, but regardless, it needed to be a clear swap.
Within 20 minutes, that One With Nothing had become Garruk Wildspeaker
. The full list of trades involved in getting it there were quite impressive – not least because they didn’t particularly involve leaving anyone with a ‘bad trade’.
The important thing to remember with trading is that each person will naturally value cards differently depending on what it is that they want. What Matt cited as the big technique that helped him trade up, was that he got a good feel for what individuals really wanted. If the first guy he spoke to collects angels, when he was trading with the next guy, he’d look to see if there were any angels to trade for, as he would know that they would move on just fine.
20 minutes for a Garruk is pretty impressive. But what happens if you open a booster, and get a Garruk, but really want to be able to play Friday Night Magic? That one card alone won’t help you much.
And so the real challenge was born. Taking the following decklist from Jacob Van Lunen’s Building on a Budget Column, we challenged Matt to turn that lone planeswalker into a whole 60 card deck.
Here’s the list he needed to track down...
4 Warp World
4 Bogardan Hellkite
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Farhaven Elf
4 Bloodbraid Elf
1 Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund
1 Keeper of Progenitus
4 Kitchen Finks
2 Regal Force
2 Siege-Gang Commander
1 Wort, the Raidmother
4 Fertile Ground
3 Trace of Abundance
Sounds like a tall order? Well, it was. Not many people have commons for trade with them, and finding someone with a Karrthus or a Wort for trade proved tricky. The basic lands were also a little problematic, as Matt forced himself to trade for them too. No sneaking to the basic land station for him. He actually ended up subbing out some Fire-Lit Thicket and Rootbound Crag for some of the basics, as they were easier to trade for, and many of the rest were either foil or foreign.
After a World of Trades
Along the way, Matt found himself making trades that took him around the hall many times over. He chatted to some Spanish players, and made a trade for a Spanish Tezzeret, the Seeker. From there he rushed over to the area with Vintage players, where he found someone who really liked having decks with all foreign cards, and got to gradually build up his trade bait.
As the deck came together, Matt also found himself getting a little more enthused about the final product he might come out of this exercise with. “I was walking around the PTQ and saw someone at 4-1 with the deck, which seems pretty soild” he remarked, in spite of having been dubious when he first saw the list.
What Matt finished up with though was far more than a stack of 60 cards though. He had turned Nothing into something really quite special, and earned the title of GP Brighton (Trading) Champion!
Feature Match Round 15: Olivier Ruel (FRA) vs Kevin Grove (NDL)
by David Sutcliffe
There was unexpected drama in the last round of the Swiss. The pairings computer had made a clean Top-8 cut possible with a round remaining - the top four matches contained players who could all afford to draw and get onto 37 points or more - one more than any of the chasing pack on 33 could get to. It seemed as though the Top-8 was all locked in, and the best anybody else could hope for was 9th place.
Heading for a perfect record, Grove refused to budge
But Kevin Grove had other ideas. The runaway leader on 14-0, he wanted to finish with the perfect 15-0 record and was prepared to force Olivier Ruel to play his way into the Top-8. Instead of being able to relax for an hour before the Top-8, Ruel found himself having to fight one more intense round agaisnt the man who had gone undefeated throughout the whole Grand Prix.
The spectators huddled close to watch this decisive game, and Ruel made his best efforts to sweep to victory with a rapid horde of red creatures that he flooded onto the board - Jackal Familiar, Viashino Spearhunter, Fiery Hellhound, Dragon Whelp. Grove hit back with a Veteran Armorsmith, Canyon Minotaur and Magma Phoenix, but with a Panic Attack to prevent Grove from blocking, and a great broad sweep of his mountains to pump his Fiery Hellhound into a 7/2 creature, Ruel blasted his way into a brutally quick lead.
Olivier Ruel (FRA) 1 - 0 Kevin Grove (NDL)
Olivier Ruel has faced one of the toughest routes into the Top-8, right from his opening match in round 4 of yesterday against the world champion Antti Malin, and he seemed determined to cross the finish line. Once again he came out swinging with his red deck - Jackal Familiar, Fiery Hellhound, while Kevin Grove defended himself with a Stormfront Pegasus that removed the Hellhound, and then a Canyon Minotaur while Ruel’s Jackal Familiar looked a little lost without a companion.
Dragon Whelp from Ruel, Magma Phoenix from Grove. The two red players matched each other spell for spell. Ruel pushed his Dragon Whelp into the red zone and Grove took the damage, 17-13 Ruel led.
On Grove’s turn he hit straight back, 11-13 the score, before he added a Siege Mastodon. Ruel punched home with the 5/3 Whelp a second time, his Jackal Familiar finally being devoured by Grove’s Mastodon. 11-8 on life, then Ruel aimed a Lighting Bolt at the Magma Phoneix which cleaned the board of creatures and dealt 3 damage to each player as it left play. 8-5
The table was clear, now it was time for Kevin Grove to take the offense, and he played his own
Dragon Whelp... Ruel had no answer and two turns later it was over as the Whelp sealed the game for Groves.
Olivier Ruel (FRA) 1 - 1 Kevin Grove (NDL)
This was high stakes Magic played at a furious pace, but the Dutch champion Groves was a match for Hall of Famer every step of the way.
Jackal Familiar and Fiery Hellhound again from Ruel, this time Grove had Soul Warden and an Excommuniate that not only returned the Fiery Hellhound to Ruel’s library but also prevented the Jackal Familiar from joining the fight.
Wall of Faith for Grove, refusing to capitulate.
Lightning Elemental, Bog Wraith. A Lightning Bolt from Ruel shocked the life from Grove’s Rhox Pikemaster as it entered play, but in return a Righteousness filled the Soul Warden and it smashed down Ruel’s Lighting Elemental as the Hall of Famer attacked.
Blow. For. Blow.
Top-8 on the line, Ruel fought for his life
The life scores were 20-18 - Grove’s Soul Warden
had been doing a lot to rebuild his lifetotal from a little early damage, and while Ruel found a pair of Fiery Hellhound
s and a Child of the Night on top of his library those 2/2 bodies were all being held back by a single Razorfoot Griffin
Lightning Elemental from Ruel, and the scores were back to 20-20, but the Frenchman thrust his men into the red zone - Lightning Elemental, Fiery Hellhound, Fiery Hellhound, Bog wraith, Child of Night, Jackal Familiar. They all turned sideways and Grove blocked away with his Wall of Faith, Soul Warden, and Razorfoot Griffin, but the scores went to 22-13. Ruel seemed to have the muscle on board now, he could lose a creature here or there but make it across the line and get the win regardless. Or so it seemed, but Kevin Grove had other ideas.
Planar Cleansing from the Dutch champion swept away everything Ruel had - the two players now had to look to the top of their libraries for help.
Serra Angel for Kevin Grove - that would be tough to beat.
Jackal Familiar for Olivier Ruel - not quite on a par with Grove’s Serra.
Canyon Minotaur - Grove had another hefty creature
Berserkers of Blood Ridge for Olivier, but Grove wasn’t done and had a Pacifism ready for Ruel’s men, then played a Vetern Armorsmith. Ruel was crushed by the torrent of quality cards from Grove’s library, and bowed to the inevitable defeat.
Olivier Ruel (FRA) 1 - 2 Kevin Grove (NDL)
That win had put Kevin Grove was on 15-0. That’s a fantastic achievement for the Dutch champion but he now faces the curse of the X-0 in the Top-8. Not many players in Grand Prix and Pro Tour history have ever achieved the perfect X-0 record, and they all went on to lose in the Quarter Final.
But for Olivier Ruel, his Grand Prix was almost certainly over. That put him down on 36 points, only one players would make it through with 36 points and he now needed three or four players to all lose their final round matches or one of them would edge ahead of him in the standings.
“I hope you make it in”, Grove confided, as they collected their cards.
“I wont. I know I won’t” Ruel replied, looking despondent to have come so close - he still had a chance, but it was somewhere between slim and none.