||Follow coverage of Grand Prix–Brussels in German at planetmtg.de.
Saturday, 12:16 p.m. – You've Got to Flight for Your Right to Party
by Event Coverage team
European Grand Prix being what they are, there is a very real chance that one will find oneself having to battle through an inordinate number of rounds to make it into the prizes. While Grand Prix Brussels has tipped the scales at a mere 1,667 players (still the biggest Standard tournament ever) having 3 byes is something that most would aspire to, even if few achieve it.
The pros are rightly resting n the laurels of past successes for the first 3 rounds today, as are those who were able to win through in a Grand Prix Trial. The last of these trials came in 20 flights on Friday. These tournaments would be a last chance to hone decks, and win a few precious byes in the event.
Many might have predicted such a string of tournaments would be a bit of a Jundfest. While there were plenty of copies of the deck being played, only 6 scored the byes. In fact the metagame of winners is stunningly diverse. If you are looking for some fun decks to play in standard, you could do a lot worse than scrolling down right now.
Stijn van Gethem
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 1
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 2
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 3
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 4
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 5
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 6
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 7
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 8
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 9
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 10
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 11
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 12
Christian Von Kalkstein
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 13
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 14
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 15
Johan Van Der Beek
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 16
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 17
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 18
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 19
Don Mysterioso's Decklist
Grand Prix Brussels 2010 Trials - Flight 20
*this is the same Don Mysterioso as featured by Josh Bennett on previous occasions. A shadowy figure, we now know him to have mysterious handwriting, in addition to being a rather well travelled Magic player.
Podcast - Friday on Saturday
by Rich Hagon
Here's what you normally do on a Euro Grand Prix Friday: Fly to host country. Travel to venue. Register. Eat. Go to bed. Here's what you do at GP Brussels 2010 on Friday: Fly to host country. Travel to venue. Play a GP Trial. Have lunch. Play in up to four more out of twenty GP Trials. Have some food. Register. Eat. Play in Super Friday Night Magic. Win stuff. Realize just how much you love this game. Go to bed...Tall tales from Super FNM and the juicy goodness of twenty Trial-winning decklists kick off our monster weekend of Standard shenanigans.
Saturday, 1:00 p.m. – The morning after the night before
by David Sutcliffe
I have a confession to make.
I had never played Friday Night Magic before last night.
There. It's out now. The world knows. I had never played Friday Night Magic. It's not that I've been avoiding them, don't get me wrong. I love the idea of Friday Night Magic, but I've just never found myself in a games store on a Friday night with a Magic deck and ready to play. But at Grand Prix Brussels that was about to change. For the first time in Europe the Grand Prix hall was open the day (and night) before the Grand Prix began and while dozens of Grand Prix Trial flights were running on one side of the room, the other side of the room was going to be dedicated to a "Super Friday Night Magic" tournament.
So. I was here. It was a Friday night. It was a Magic tournament. Oh, but I still did't have a deck with me.
What's that? It's a Sealed Deck FNM?
Well... it looked like I was out of excuses then, didn't it?
I handed over my DCI number and took my seat. The boosters were handed out and I hurriedly tore open the first one, instantly flicking past all the commons and uncommons to see what rare I had got... Day of Judgment. I smiled. I was going to like FNM.
It wasn't hard to spot the standout cards in this pool...
LOOK AT THOSE RARES! Woooooo!
I would need a very compelling reason not to play a blue-white deck after that. In white I had a slew of good removal cards that were pretty much too good to ignore - Day of Judgment was obviously the highlight but there was also Pitfall Trap, Journey to Nowhere, Arrow Volley Trap, and Iona's Judgment, and also some of the best creatures in my pool with Shepherd of the Lost and the great utility of Kor Sanctifiers - a card I would almost always be happy to see during a game. Outside of Sphinx of Jwar Isle and Jace, the Mind Sculptor my blue cards weren't too thrilling, but they still offered some good cheap creatures like Sejiri Merfolk, Welkin Tern, and Wind Zendikon. Hardly the most exciting bunch of cards, but could I really ignore Jace and the Sphinx?
Looking at the black cards I could see that I had a few good removal cards, like Gatekeeper of Malakir, Tomb Hex, and Heartstabber Mosquito and with a few solid creatures like Ruthless Cullblade and Crypt Ripper - it was a viable option but didn't offer anything of the power level of blue, or the depth of good cards in white. The red cards were similar, with a couple of nice removal spells and a couple of decent creatures , and the green was... well... there were some green cards.
Settling on blue-white I pulled the deck together, but a problem was immediately apparent. After Sphinx of Jwar Isle and Shepherd of the Losts my next best creature was.... Battle Hurda? And after that... Sejiri Merfolk? And as well as not having a lot of good creatures I didn't have a lot of creatures, period, and I was having to play some blue counterspells just to make the deck up to 40 cards. I was struggling to see how I could win a game if I somehow lost the Sphinx and the Shepherd so decided at the last minute to include a black splash for one spell - Grim Recovery. Having a Raise Dead in my deck would mean that my Sphinx could return for revenge should something happen to him first time round.
I guess I could always use Jace's ultimate ability to win a game though. Yeah... right.
Friday Night Magic
I ran around showing off my rare haul to, basically, anybody who walked within 5 yards of me... but I knew that the rest of the deck had a lot of work to do if my Super Friday Night Magic experience wasn't going to be a brief and painful one.
In my first match I was paired off against Mark Van Der Linden, a Dutch player from Rotterdam and a name that I recognised from a few other Grand Prix. Unlike me, Mark is a regular FNM player, usually flinging his spells at Gamers of the West in Rotterdam. He was playing an aggressive black deck that started out from the first turn with a Vampire Lacerator and Ruthless Cullblade. My Sejiri Merfolk quickly put a halt to his offence, with their First Strike and Lifelink, but then he asked a question I'm never happy to hear from a black deck.
"How many cards do you have?"
"Let's make that none", and Mark tapped seven mana for a Bloodhusk Ritualist that he multikickered four times! Outrageous!
I was down to playing from the top of my deck, and now taking damage from a Corrupted Zendikon that was too big for my Sejiri Merfolk. Fortunately my next two plays with a Battle Hurda and Basilisk Collar which put me back into the game, but just when I thought I had weathered the storm Mark had another big play up his sleeve - an Eldrazi Monument. His creatures flew. My creatures didn't. Game over!
It was time for a fightback. In the second game I played Jace on turn 4 and immediately set about building up his loyalty by looking at the top of Mark's deck an sabotaging his draws. Mark spent a turn battering through my creatures before turning his attention to Jace, but by then I had an Arrow Volley Trap in hand that sent three of his attackers to the graveyard! Up to nine loyalty now and I could tell that Jace was starting to have an effect on Mark - he had been stuck on four land and I had already sent three Swamps to the bottom of his library. Another turn... another Swamp sent to the bottom, another turn when Mark couldn't mount any offence. And then another turn... and another Swamp!
It was time - removing 12 loyalty from Jace to activate his ultimate ability I exiled Mark's entire library and left him with just the one card in his hand left to draw... it was over. I was trying hard not to make Mark feel bad, but having just activated my first ever (EVER) Planeswalker ultimate ability... inside I was grinning from ear to ear!
Unfortunately that was as good as it got... in the deciding game Mark found his Bloodhusk Ritualist again, multikickered it four times again and forcing me to discard Sphinx of Jwar Isle, Shepherd of the Lost, Day of Judgment and Pitfall Trap... and that was the end of me.
But that was my first ever Friday Night Magic experience, and I'd already won a game through a way I'd never managed before!
To get to Grand Prix Brussels I'd travelled from Manchester, a distance of over 500km. Coming from Rotterdam, Mark Van Der Linden had travelled 120km. My second round opponent, Carl Devos, had come just 7km from the other side of Brussels. In actual fact he'd bicycled across town, and still managed to get a flat tyre on the way!
As we chatted before the match Carl revealed that he wasn't actually going to be playing in the Grand Prix at all! Carl is a Type One player at heart and was setting his sights on the big €2,000 (~$2,700 US) Legacy event that will be running the Sunday of the Grand Prix, side eventing his way through Saturday. After the immense Madrid Grand Prix last month it was clear that Legacy is big news at the moment and here was proof that the €2,000 event was drawing players in.
Despite having a slow deck I quickly laid down an assault from the air that Carl struggled to halt. He played a Seer's Sundial and began drawing a whole slew of cards, finally stopping my assault when he was on only 2 life! But with lots of cards in hand it was now his turn to fight back, and I was forced to finally call down my Day of Judgment to stay in the game, before I found my Islandwalking Enclave Elites and they snuck in past his defences to deal the final damage.
Unfortunately for Carl the second game was very similar, with my aerial offensive of Wind Zendikon, Windrider Eel, and Welkin Tern coming out too quickly for him to fight back. As we shuffled up and continued chatting I got Carl to reveal his secret plans for Sunday - he was playing Survival of the Fittest in the Legacy event, and we found that we shared a love of that particular green enchantment from yesteryear.
Two games of Friday Night Magic. One win, one loss, two good times!
"Oh no, not you!" exclaimed my opponent as he got to the table, "Day of Judgment... Jacea>..."
This was Robin Steinborn, and he had been sat next to me as we built our sealed pools. He knew all about my good fortune. Unfortunately for me it turned out that he had nothing to fear, and this FNM regular, who plays in FNMs pretty much every week at Der Andere Spieleladen in Berlin, swept past me in two games where my lands refused to co-operate with my plans for world domination. Six plains, two swamps... six blue spells in hand. It happens.
So, for honor, if not for glory, I would face Pascal Costanza, a German by birth but now living in Brussels. Like Carl Devos, Pascal would not be playing in the main Grand Prix tomorrow either saying that he felt he wasn't ready for that yet as he'd only been playing for a couple of years. Fortunately for Pascal there will be plenty for him to do on the two days of the Grand Prix anyway. It feels like something that we say at every Grand Prix, but we say it because it's true, there really IS something here for everyone. The Grand Prix may be the headline act but there are literally dozens and dozens of side events that run all through the weekend. Grand Prix are more than just a tournament, they're a festival for the game... and this time a festival starting a day early with this FNM!
Into the match and the first game was a tight affair, with Pascal putting me on the back foot very quickly before a Day of Judgment halted the rot with me on 4 life, and then a Basilisk Collar and Shepherd of the Lost began undoing that damage - 18, 15, 12, 9, 6, 3, 0 - that was Pascal's lifetotal as my Shepherd single handedly won the game for me.
And unfortunately for Pascal the second game was over in a blur as I found my Windrider Eel and enough lands to keep it attacking as a 4/4 past his 2/4 Lightkeeper of Emeria
As I picked up my prizes from the Super Friday Night Magic (going 2-2 earned me a booster and a foil Kitchen Finks!) I had to sum up my experiences. I played four hours of Magic, and enjoyed pretty much all of them, including some great close games and winning with Jace's ultimate ability. I'd come away with a bunch of good rares including Jace, a couple of promotional FNM foils, and my prizes! Not a bad haul for a Friday night... and I will definitely be finding myself at the FNM near me (cheap plug for Fanboy 3 in Manchester, UK) more often!
Saturday, 1:36 p.m. – And I Would Planeswalk 500 Miles, and I Would Planeswalk 500 More...
by Tim Willoughby
Travel is a big part of Magic. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have visited a great many places thanks to Magic that I might never have made it to but for my love of attacking for two. As a coverage reporter, my passport has seen plenty of love, but that is nothing compared to what many of the Pros have managed in recent years.
Looking at the country breakdown here in Brussels, there are clearly a lot of Europeans, but on top of that, plenty have come from further afield. Check it out.
|Serbia and Montenegro||7|
|United Arab Emirates||1|
Now, of the players on this list who have come from further afield, it is reasonable to assume that some are either on holiday (conveniently timed) or foreign nationals living a little closer than the country breakdown might suggest. However, this is not true of all. There is a special class of 'Road Warriors' who have found themselves battling at Grand Prix all over the globe in the space of the last month.
Sam Black has played in Kuala Lumpur, Yokohama and now Brussels in successive weekends. The lure of pro points, along with having some good travel companions has made for a round the world trip which has proven quite profitable for him thus far. With 13 points in the season so far, Sam's race around the world keeps him in striking distance of the top 5 players in the world on points this season.
One of the other Americans who has made it across to Europe with startling frequency is Gaudenis Vidugiris. Now working in New York as a lawyer, Gau is positioned conveniently close an international hub, and is more than happy to make the most of it. For both Madrid and now Brussels, he has been able to get on a plane straight from work, and make it across to battle by the time that his byes have expired.
The traveller whose story is the most impressive for this even though is Ben Stark. Ben is currently sitting at 23 points, which is a precarious place to be. At Grand Prix Oakland he found himself playing against Brian Kowal, knowing that the winner would get to the threshold to level up and be qualified for the rest of the season. In that match, it was Brian who was the victor, beginning an impressive array of travels for Stark, chasing the points he needs.
Stark, a Florida native, has already used his 'free' invite based on his level. He is now in a position where winning two more points from a GP prior to San Juan gets him qualified for the rest of the year – a pretty hefty bonus, and one that's worth travelling for.
In Yokohama, with Thopter Depths, Stark missed out on day 2. When he got back to America, he was quick to start looking at flights to Europe. Now that he's here, he has also won himself 3 byes in a trial, and is ready to make a run at it.
"I feel like a true grinder. It took me five trials, but I have my byes now. I play Standard every week at FNM [at Coolstuff in South Florida], which has a good number of good players, and I play Magic Online all the time, so I feel ready here."
Facing off against some of the best of the world in the biggest Standard event of all time, including such other world travellers as Tomoharu Saito and Shuhei Nakamura, he has a lot of magic to play in order to get close enough to the hoop for those two points.
Ballin Ben Stark is shooting for two points.
Saturday, 2:08 p.m. – Not the Rise of the Eldrazi product section
by David Sutcliffe
Grand Prix's aren't just about playing, they're the place to come if you want to indulge in your hobby a little more than normal, with every type of Magic under the sun- from the oldest of the old booster packs or sought-after single cards available from the traders to the shinest, foiliest, and newest of cards straight from their boxes and shrink-wrap fresh. Is there really anything like the smell of a freshly opened booster pack? I know I love it!
Did I just share too much?
Anyway, right here for you to feast your eyes on are some of the things you can get for your Magic...
All new Worldwake - selling fast
Intro packs are the ideal starting point for exploring Zendikar
Changing the rules in multiplayer games are the unique Planechase cards
Classic rivalries from Magic's past are at your fingertips with the Versus decks
Broaden your mind and delve into the history of the greatest Planeswalkers
Yo dawg, I heard you like Magic so I got you some Magic to put your Magic in so you can Magic while you Magic
And of course, the big green sofa for the Duels of the Planeswalkers on XBox is never empty
Saturday, 2:42 p.m. – Talking shop
by David Sutcliffe
At every Grand Prix you'll also find the traders and they're a great barometer of last minute metagame changes - they're one of the first people that the coverage team check in with whenever we arrive at a big tournament, and with good reason. So once the main tournament was underway, and the mad rush for crucial cards had passed, I caught up with Nigel, the proprietor of Troll & Toad, to survey the damage that had been done to his card stocks.
Star Trek IX - The Search For Jace
"We've sold a lot of stuff - Legacy and Standard, but obviously mostly Standard because that's what the Grand Prix is", he told me. "We've actually had a lot of the commons and uncommons sell out... pretty much anything that goes in Jund, or goes in sideboards against Jund, so things like Dragon's Claw and Kor Firewalker have been selling really well."
And rares too?
"Yes, we've seen a lot of Master of the Wild Hunt and Siege-Gang Commanders go. We sold out of Talus Paladin very quickly... we could have sold loads of those, we just didn't have loads to sell unfortunately."
How about the Legacy cards? Any big sales?
"Not really - we sold a Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. Since Legacy has been pushed and is taking off we're seeing those cards in demand and gaining in value a lot. We sold lots of the original dual lands. I'm really sorry that I missed out on being in Madrid for the largest ever Magic tournament because we had loads of Legacy cards, but at least that means we still have loads of Legacy cards available now!"
Any other business?
"Yes. Anything with the artwork done by Veronique" (that's the new Magic artist who is signing here in Brussels for the first time, her artwork including the Zendikar lands and the extended art Lightning Bolt) "basically any card that she painted sold really well - we probably could have sold twice as many!"
These were made before some of you were born.
And that's definitely true. There are very few events where the queue for any Magic artist can rival that for the veteran land supremo Rob Alexander, but with the beautiful Zendikar lands and the marquee textless Lightning Bolt under her belt the youngster Veronique is giving Rob a run for his money here in Brussels. We'll make sure we sit down with her later to see what she makes of this, her first ever Magic tournament!
Podcast - Pro Expo at GP Brussels
by Rich Hagon
Here at Brussels Expo, the GP has found a home for the second time in three years. In Round Four, all those twenty Trial winners have run out of Byes, and so have all the Pros. That means pretty much everyone in the building is in head to head action, including reigning Pro Tour Champion Simon Goertzen, Worlds Finalist David Reitbauer, Pro Tour Valencia Champion Remi Fortier, and the Brits Matteo Orsini-Jones and Craig Stevenson. All the Feature Match action, between your ears, on magicthegathering.com
Feature Match Round 4 - Jace Off: Jan Doise vs. Remi Fortier
by Tim Willoughby
As the pairings went up for round 4, we saw a whole host of Pros champing at the bit to get in the game. With 3 byes having been used up, they were all in good shape, but in a 1,667 player tournament, there was still a long way to go. The match we chose to cover this round saw Remi Fortier, the winner of GP Valencia, up against one of the contingent of local Belgian pro players. Jan Doise had, like Remi, found his most success in extended with his top 8 of Pro Tour Berlin.
Remi won the die roll, having looked on as Doise rolled an unimpressive 1 on a twenty sided dice. He led with a Halimar Depths, signalling that he might well be playing blue white control of some ilk. Doise started with an Isalnd, which could mean the same.
If it weren't abundantly clear what Fortier was up to from his first play, Treasure Hunt on turn two, finding Plains and Day of Judgment said it all. It seemed that Doise was on a different plan. He played a second Island, and cast Howling Mine, which is most typically seen in turbo-fog decks, that look to hold up the attack phase and deck their opponents.
Fortier had a quick Oblivion Ring for Howling Mine, and used a Tectonic Edge to destroy a Glacial Fortress from Doise, keeping him off white mana. With a second Oblivion Ring to take a Font of Mythos out of the equation, Fortier looked well out in front.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor came from Fortier, who used the Planeswalker's first ability to look at the top card of Doise's deck. He declared it to be 'too strong', and sent it packing. The following turn he did so again, getting Jace up to 7 counters, and followed up with a Martial Coup to make 2 tokens. Without much defence it seemed that Jace was going to end the game faster than the tokens could hope to.
Doise was barely in the game, only drawing the cards that Jace would allow, and not casting any spells. An inauspicious start for the Belgian, whose defence of home territory seemed limp at best. A pair of Time Warps from Doise effectively just cycled, and Doise only got to make a Howling Mine before passing things back.
Jace went up to 13 counters, before Elspeth, Knight-Errant entered the battlefield for Fortier, whose vice-like grip on the game was tightening with each passing turn. When Fortier went for Jace's ultimate ability, that was enough for Doise to scoop up his cards.
Jan Doise 0 – 1 Remi Fortier
The second game saw Doise on the play, and while Fortier had the first play of the game in an Everflowing Chalice (kicked once), it was Doise who got the first Jace down, in Jace Beleren.
Fortier was happy to ramp up his chalices, following the first with Everflowing Chalice kicked twice. This allowed a well accelerated Martial Coup for five Soldier tokens. There were no creatures to destroy, but it didn't matter – Fortier now had a clock.
Doise ramped up his Jace by causing each player to draw, and then got to do so again, with Time Warp. A second Time Warp meant that Jace rapidly approached his ultimate ability, and when Doise eventually elected to give Fortier a turn, he did so with a full grip of cards, and all his lands untapped.
Fortier cast Elspeth, pumped one soldier, and tried to attack Jace, only to find Angelsong waiting. He played a second Tectonic Edge, and in Doise's upkeep used both to take out a pair of copies of Glacial Fortress.
Doise used Jace's ultimate ability to mill Fortier for 20 cards. There were still plenty left in Fortier's library, but in killing off his first Jace, Doise had enabled himself to play one of the other copies of Jace Beleren he had drawn. Each player drew a card from the Planeswalker, and Doise passed it back.
Remi was now working his Soldiers, using Elspeth to shorten the clock as he swung in. He first took down the new Jace, and then went for Doise. The Belgian was not about to go down without a fight though. An Archive Trap at the end of turn put Fortier's library down to just 8 cards. Safe Passage staved off an attack.
Fortier knocked Doise to 4. A Day of Judgement came from Doise to buy a little more time. He would only need a little. With just a few cards left in his deck, Fortier played a Celestial Colonnade. This was a creature unafraid of Judgement Day. Doise had every reason to be afraid though, as one swing would be enough to end it.
Fortier looked a little hopeful as he sent in the 4/4 flyer. Doise made him sweat for just a moment though, as he disconsolately scooped up his cards. The attack would do exactly enough.
Remi Fortier wins 2-0!
Podcast - The Best of British
by Rich Hagon
Whisper it quietly, but when it comes to Magic, a group of talented players are just starting to put the Great back into Britain. We meet the next generation, who are trying to live up to the successes of Craig Jones and Warren Marsh, both Pro Tour Finalists. Can one of these do better? Meet some of the Best of British.
Feature Match Round 6:Vincent Lemoine vs. Robert Van Medevoort
by David Sutcliffe
Robert Van Medevoort is a stalwart of Dutch Magic, and of European Magic at that, and on his day is one of the few players in the world who can watch play and feel that he is simply playing the game on a wholly different level to us mere mortals. The question was... would this be his day? He was facing off against the Belgian veteran Vincent Lemoine, playing the Esper control "Open The Vaults" deck that Niels Viaene had piloted to the Top 8 of Pro Tour San Diego. At the Pro Tour Viaene had lost his quarter final to the Jund deck of Simon Goertzen, but only due to mana screw blighting his chances. Could Lemoine do better against Van Medevoort's Jund in Brussels?
Van Medevoort began the game in earnest on his third turn, with a Sprouting Thrinax, while Lemoine responded with Architects of Will. The Architects were quickly Lightning Bolted out of the way, and a Blightning did further damage after Van Medevoort's Sprouting Thrinax had attacked. That Blightning forced a Filigree Angel and a second Overflowing Chalice from Lemoine's hand but the danger for Van Medevoort was that Lemoine perhaps actually WANTED his Filigree in the graveyard! Lemoine could only play a land and pass the turn, inviting another blow from Van Medevoort and the Dutchman was quick to take up the invitation, activating a Raging Ravine alongside his Thrinax and dropping Lemoine to 5 life!
Vincent Lemoine was poised to crush all opposition
But that was only temporary, and Open The Vaults repaired much of the damage that Van Medevoort had done, returning the Filgree Angel and Architects to play and gaining the Belgian veteran 12 life, right back up to 17!
Van Medevoort's best offense was simply to pile straight into his opponent - a second Blightning stripped away the last two cards of Lemoine's hand, and a second Sprouting Thrinax entered the battlefield. A turn later Robert's Raging Ravine rolled right into the red zone alongside his spiny Thrinax buddies. Lemoine blocked them down but took 5 damage from the Ravine and simply converted the Thrinax' into six harder to block 1/1 tokens.
Again Van Medevoort attacked, and this time Lemoine's Celestial Colonnade joined the fight and sacrificed itself along with the Filigree Angel simply to buy time, but the Belgian couldn't avoid taking yet more damage from the 1/1 tokens at Ven Medevoort's command - Sprouting Thrinax continuing to do damage from the graveyard.
If ever there was a time that Vincent Lemoine had needed a big card, it seemed to be here and now. And he found it - pulling a Sharuum the Hegemon from the top of his deck and returning the Filgree Angel back to play, gaining another 12 life and setting himself back to 15.
Undaunted, Van Medevoort went straight back on the offensive, attacking with his tokens and the Raging Ravine. Sharuum the Hegemon traded with the Raging Ravine, but Lemoine took another six points of damage. Unflustered, a second Open The Vaults returned Lemoine's Sharuum to play along with the Architects of Will, and after an attack from the Filigree Angel Van Medevoort was down to 10 life.
Suddenly the game had turned about 360 degrees! From being on the offensive Robert Van Medevoort found himself one turn away from being crushed by Lemoine's artifact airforce! All the Dutchman had to his name were six little Saproling tokens, and however hard he tried, Van Medevoort couldn't magic the cards in his hand into anything that could rescue him from this predicament. One futile attack later it was game over, and Lemoine had taken a deserved lead in the match!
Vincent Lemoine 1 - 0 Robert Van Medevoort
Looking pensive, Van Medevoort was low on options
Both players were forced to Mulligan at the beginning of the second game, but it was Vincent Lemoine who seemed to have been dealt the kindest of cuts with his second chance, opening with a Spreading Seas and Overflowing Chalice. Van Medevoort managed to get Garruk Wildspeaker into play on his next turn before a second Spreading Seas flooded his other Lavaskull Summit and left him with only two Forests and two Islands in play!
Van Medevoort tried to put those Forests to good use with an Acidic Slime, and after Lemoine used an Oblivion Ring to remove the threat of Garruk, the Dutchman added a Master of the Wild Hunt to the battlefield. When life deals you lemons you make lemonade - in this case Van Medevoort had been dealt Forests and made green spells!
Unfortunately the Master of the Wild Hunt was a step too far - the classic overextension that control decks love to punish, and Day of Judgement did just that by clearing them all away. Van Medevoort followed up with a second Master of the Wild Hunt, but by now Lemoine's deck was beginning to work and he was facing off against a Glassdust Hulk and Architects of Will after the Belgian had chosen to Open The Vaults, and then a second Day of Judgement cleared the board again before the Master of the Wild Hunt could summon too many Wolves to his aid.
Attempting a new route back into the match, Van Medevoort aimed a Maelstrom Pulse at the Oblivion Ring that had trapped Garruk, but a Flashfreeze ensured the Planeswalker remained locked away where he couldn't do any harm.
Lemoine checks the lifetotals before making a final strike
Lemoine followed that with a Sphinx of Lost Truths, while Van Medevoort tried his luck with a third Master of the Wild Hunt. Lemoine played a Journey to Nowhere, but Van Medevoort cannily aimed a Lightning Bolt at his own creature to leave Lemoine's Sphinx as the only target the Journey to Nowhere could remove.
It was a cute play, but the simple truth was that Robert Van Medevoort had not made much headway into Lemoine's life total - the two playes stood at 14 life each - and that now Lemoine had plenty of mana available and the game had reached a point where the Belgian was simply able to generate too much card advantage.
Another Open The Vaults, and the Glassdust Hulk and Architects of Will returned to play for a second time. Van Medevoort fought back with Lightning Bolt for the Architects, and found a Raging Ravine but even before he could start to pose a threat with his Ravine it was swallowed by another Spreading Seas. The Dutchman played a Goblin Ruinsblaster, but as the Glassdust Hulk was granted unblockability by a second Hulk it couldn't even form a speed bump on Lemoine's way to sealing a convincing 2-0 victory.
Vincent Lemoine 2 - 0 Robert Van Medevoort
"Its why I play this deck actually", said Lemoine as the players collected their permanents, "I want to beat Jund". And after setting the record straight from Viaene's defeat in San Diego it seemed that his Esper deck was in good shape for this Grand Prix!
Saturday, 2:42 p.m. - The More Things Change...
by David Sutcliffe
Not every card can be unique. Not every card can be special. Not every card can have a mechanic that has never been seen before, like a Bloodbraid Elf or Iona, Shield of Emeria. Somebody has to be the Grizzly Bears for the set. But cards are rarely carbon copies of what has gone before, and I believe that a lot of the genius of the Magic The Gathering R&D team is how often they manage to return to old mechanics and old cards but in a new way. And along the way a card or combination that was once innocuous could become tournament playable, with only a few small changes.
Played at San Diego, and appearing in the sideboard of the "Boss Naya" decks is the potent creature-killing combination of Cunning Sparkmage and Basilisk Collar. It's a simple combo - you find a creature that says "deal 1 damage to target creature" and you give it Deathtouch so that anything it damages will die, regardless of if it's a the lowliest Goblin or mightiest Dragon. And it can do that not just once, but every turn. It's timeless.
So timeless, in fact, that my brother was beating me with it fifteen years ago on our kitchen table, only back then Cunning Sparkmage was called Prodigal Sorcerer, and Basilisk Collar was called Venomous Fangs.
The difference between kitchen table and Pro Tour is very small. If you look at Cunning Sparkmage the only thing it really gains over Prodigal Sorcerer is that it has Haste (as well as being red, and all REAL Magic players know that being red is much better than being blue. Trust me.) That's a small change, but it's a key one, because it means that when used in combination with Basilisk Collar you can pretty much guarantee than your Sparkmage will be able to kill at least one creature before your opponent can untap and do something nasty to him.
The real improvement is on Venomous Fangs becoming Basilisk Collar, though, because you're no longer risking losing two cards to a single Terror, Terminate, or Path To Exile. That was always the problem with Creature Enchantments - they're great until something goes wrong, and then they're rubbish. You're left with half-cooked egg all over your face. By turning a Creature Enchantment into Equipment, you're ensuring that you'll only lose half your combo at once, and that removes a lot of the risk. Oh, and it has Lifelink as well, which is just gravy.
So from a combination where you played Prodigal Sorcerer, hoped your opponent wouldn't kill it, then played Venomous Fangs, and risked losing two cards at once, you now have a combination with half the risk and twice the speed. Small changes, big difference.
But it's not just combos that change and improve. With it's illusions blue has always been able to turn lands into Islands, going right back to Phantasmal Terrain. And occasionally... just verrrrry occasionally... you might actually want to play with Phantasmal Terrain to turn your opponent's lands into Islands - for instance if you wanted to attack with your Sea Serpent or some Islandwalking Merfolk. But it's safe to assume that Phantasmal Terrain has never worried the scorers in the Top 8 of a Pro Tour or Grand Prix.
But Spreading Seas, on the other hand, has immediately found a home in blue-white control decks of various types. But what has changed? All it does is turn lands into Islands - what's so great about that? Well, the first thing that has changed is that Spreading Seas only costs 1U instead of UU, making it easier to play in a multicolored deck. More importantly, Spreading Seas is also now a cantrip - meaning you get to draw a card when you play it, so it doesn't cost you a card from your hand, just mana to play the spell. That's a big improvement and over the years a lot of cards have gone from zero to hero simply for having 'Draw a card' tacked onto them somewhere.
In Spreading Seas case the biggest change has actually happened off the card completely. Spreading Seas turns lands into Islands. Just Islands. Plain, common, garden variety Islands. Which means that when your land is an Island it isn't being a Raging Ravine or Celestial Colonnade and you've effectively 'killed' a creature that is often hard to kill with typical removal spells. But when you look at decks like Jund that are so dependent on getting mana of three colors so you can play your cards and get onto the front foot... even losing a single turn because your Savage Lands is now an Island instead could be the difference between winning and losing.
And if you needed more proof just look at Lightning Bolt. Fifteen years ago this little spell was considered to be one of the best and most efficient damage dealers around, doing three damage for just a single red mana. But today Lightning Bolt has been completely replaced by... uuh... oh... no, players everywhere are still using Lightning Bolt.
Oh well, I guess that just goes to show that sometimes the original didn't need to be improved on at all. Like The Matrix. But not like Battlestar Galactica. But just remember that when you next see a card in a new set and think, "Oh, isn't it just the same as that card which already exists?" It might be worth stopping to think how it's different, and whether it's different enough... because the distance between Kitchen Table and Pro Tour is sometimes almost no distance at all.
Feature Match Round 8: Chasing a Dream - Sebastian Thaler vs Olivier Ruel
by Tim Willoughby
Olivier Ruel (Left) and Sebastian Thaler (Right)
Going into round 8, we find ourselves with perennial Grand Prix high roller and Hall of Famer Olivier Ruel in the feature match area against former Rookie of the Year Sebastian Thaler of Germany. This weekend has the potential to be a big one for Ruel. While any weekend at a Grand Prix has the potential to be good for Oli, at this event he needs to get into the points in order to take the number one spot for lifetime Pro Points, which has been held by Kai Budde for just as long as anyone has been counting.
Both players led with a Plains, but Olivier was the one with a Steppe Lynx to be able to start attacking, while Thaler was accelerating with Everflowing Chalice. A Terramorphic Expanse fetched a Forest for the Frenchman, who attacked for four, but his attacking plan was swiftly set back by Thaler. A Jace, the Mind Sculptor to bounce the cat bought a little time to set up his blue white control game plan.
Olivier's deck is one of the more innovative in the room. With a white weenie shell, which has proven very effective against Jund, Olivier has a green splash in order to give him some more game against blue/white decks like Thaler's. Dauntless Escort in particular is a fine addition to a deck that is frequently left cold to Day of Judgement.
It was not Day of Judgement that was proving difficult for Ruel in Game 1 though. Jace was soon joined by Baneslayer Angel, causing the Hall of Famer to slump disconsolately in his seat. Before long Ruel was scooping up his cards, remarking, "I don't want to play Magic" as he found himself in an unwinnable position.
Sebastian Thaler 1 – 0 Olivier Ruel
The second game began much as the first, with Steppe Lynx facing off against an Everflowing Chalice from Thaler. There was no follow up play from the Frenchman, who just looked on as a Planeswalker came out for his opponent. This time Olivier was playing against Elspeth, Knight-Errant. Elspeth made a soldier token, which Olivier chose to ignore, along with the Planeswalker, by attacking directly. Ruel then followed up with a kicked Kor Sanctifiers to destroy Everflowing Chalice.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor boosted up Thaler's hand and served to make the board seem even more lop-sided in favour of the German. While Thaler had yet to cause even a point of damage, he was building a terrifying position. Olivier attacked Jace with both his creatures, which only succeeded in killing off two of Thaler's Soldier tokens from Elspeth. Ruel followed up with Baneslayer Angel.
When it got to Thaler's turn, Ruel poked and prodded at Baneslayer Angel and the top card of his deck, trying to work out which Jace would go for. In point of fact, Jace bounced Steppe Lynx, as there was an Oblivion Ring in his Angel's future.
Ruel simply recast the Lynx and showed that he had another Kor Sanctifiers to get rid of Oblivion Ring, passing the turn with a hope of still being in the game. Whatever hope Ruel had seemed all but lost as Martial Coup for five made for a thoroughly lopsided board. Ruel drew for another turn, but was shortly extending his hand in defeat.
Sebastian Thaler wins 2-0
Podcast - Seven is the Magic Number
by Rich Hagon
Nobody ever gets to win a Grand Prix on Day One, but plenty get to lose it, and, to avoid being in that group looking to play in a PTQ or Legacy event on Sunday, you need 21 points, or seven wins. Or, as the Head Judge obligingly points out every GP, six wins and three draws. You know, because that happens a lot...Anyway, here in Round Seven the battle to cross the Day Two threshold intensifies, with Olivier Ruel against Robert Jurkovic taking center stage.
Saturday, 9:03 p.m. - Round Nine. Round Up.
by David Sutcliffe
As the feature match focus turns to the big names left battling for a place in the second day of this, the largest Standard tournament ever held (have we mentioned that yet?) I want to shift the focus onto some of the players who are already sitting pretty at the top of tournament.
In the science of astronomy, researchers are often able to identify the existence of a stellar body long before they actually SEE that body by watching the way it affects the motion of objects around them - the force gravity. On table two, Robert Jurkovic, the Slovakian pro player, was facing Antonis Fyssas. I missed the end of his first game but by the way that his lifetotal had gone up in chunks of five, while his opponent's had gone down in chunks of five, I was able to identify the presence of a Baneslayer Angel in much the same way.
Game 2 went very quickly the other way, with Putrid Leech and two Goblin Ruinblasters from Fyssas that pinned Jurkovic back onto 3 lands for far too long, but in the deciding game Jurkovic was able to get Elspeth into play after a slow start from the Jund deck and then followed it with a Baneslayer Angel. Elspeth's ultimate ability resolved, a Day of Judgment swept away Fyssas' troops but left Jurkovic's soldiers and Angel in play and he secured a 2-1 win.
On the table next to him Geert Bosch secured a comfortable 2-0 win over fellow Dutchman Ruben Snijdewind in a very good-natured match between two players who had already achieved what they came to achieve. On the other side Niels Noorlander faced a much sterner test from Finn Matti Kuisma and his 'Tapout' control deck. Noorlander found almost no offense in the first game with his Jund deck and fell victim to an excruciating death at the hand of Jace, the Mind Sculptor's ultimate ability.
Noorlander's second game was a complete transformation. Bloodbraid Elf into Lightning Bolt, attack you. Bloodbraid Elf into Goblin Ruinsblaster, then Garruk Wildspeaker, untap two lands, and Bloodbraid Elf into Blightning. Oh, you're on 3 health? Blightning you again. Unfortunately for the Dutchman he lost his way in the final game of the day - his offense of two Putrid Leeches and a Broodmate Dragon was cut down to size by a Day of Judgement and Matti Kuisma was able to put Elspeth onto the battlefield and create a Soldier which he then made a 4/4 flyer for three unanswered turns, and victory, as a Flashfreeze countered a Maelstrom Pulse that threatened to take the Planeswalker away.
With Stijn Van Goethem securing 4th place in a straight sets victory over Sjors Thielen it was left to Martin Juza to battle it out on against Robby Bisschop of Belgium. He'd lost his first game in just six minutes, an Acidic Slime from Van Goethem's Elf deck reducing Juza's three-land opening hand to just a two-land opening hand, and that was enough to win the game. Fighting back with a turn four Jace and turn five Baneslayer Angel Juza stormed back to level the match in a complete reversal of fortunes, and then in the deciding game of the match the Elf deck again failed to produce any significant pressure and Juza was able to secure another win off the back of Jace's ultimate mind-sculpting ability.
And that was the story from the top tables. I a lot of Jund. A lot of 'Tapout' control - exactly what we would have expected. Which of these two titan decks will claim the prize at the largest Standard tournament ever? Or will be something else entirely? Tune in tomorrow at the same Bat-time and the same Bat-channel to find out!
Feature Match Round 9: - Tomoharu Saito vs Manuel Bucher
by Tim Willoughby
These days on Grand Prix it is very straightforward to work out if you are making day 2 or not. Tiebreakers are not a factor, you simply need to accumulate the right number of points. For Tomoharu Saito and Manuel Bucher here in Brussels, the final round of the day was one that they had to win in order to advance. When you have a high stakes match to play there’s nothing quite like having to play one of the best players in the world.
Both of these Magic heavyweights (true in every sense but the literal, especially for Bucher) had chosen to play Jund here, with Bucher having tuned his build quite a bit, including many more token producers than is typical. Each player began with Raging Ravine, with the first divergence between the way they designed their decks coming on turn two, with Bucher playing a Trace of Abundance. The Trace is a great way of fixing and accelerating mana, and also has the added benefit of allowing one to make lands like Raging Ravine have shroud – a key play against control decks.
Sprouting Thrinax is one of the key cards in the Jund mirror, and both players had one right on time in Game 1. While Saito followed up his with Putrid Leech, right on time, Bucher had one of his other innovations to come next. Master of the Wild Hunt has seen some play in Jund, but with the rise of decks like White Weenie, it is now better than ever before – good enough for Bucher to run four of in the main.
A Lightning Bolt from Saito killed Master of the Wild Hunt, and then Sprouting Thrinax died on each side in a very even fight. Saito followed up with a second Thrinax, while Bucher found Siege-Gang Commander next, clogging up his side of the board quite effectively.
Saito went to the tank, looking for the best play, while Bucher calmly sat back. A Maelstrom Pulse killed off all of the Goblin tokens that came from Siege-Gang Commander, and upon the following attacks, Bucher lost much of the rest of his board in order to trade with Putrid Leech.
While it looked that Saito was marginally ahead, Bucher continued to have token generators, in a second Siege-Gang Commander. Saito attacked in with Sprouting Thrinax to take Bucher to just 9, while he himself stayed ahead on 15. Bucher’s deck seemed loaded with cards that could gain him substantial board position on their own. He cast Chandra Nalaar, and used her ability to off a Saproling token that Saito was holding back. Saito’s deck wasn’t being nearly as clever as Bucher’s, but it still seemed to be delivering the goods, as the Japanese pro played out a Broodmate Dragon.
Chandra killed of Saito’s Dragon token, and Bucher passed with mana up, and a Siege-Gang Commander active. He traded two tokens for the dragon, but seemed pained to find that Saito had drawn a second copy. A Bloodbraid Elf found Putrid Leech. Chandra pinged a Dragon token with her last point of loyalty, before Lightning Bolt finished it off. At every turn Bucher’s deck seemed to be doing the right things, only to be hampered by the aggressive draws of Saito.
After a little thought, the Japanese pro played Bituminous Blast to kill off Siege-Gang Commander, and cascaded into his third Sprouting Thrinax of the game. Now it was Saito’s turn to look steely calm. He was out of cards in hand, but had sufficient threats on the board that it did not matter.
Saito swung Bucher down to five and passed. Bucher drew, and scooped up his cards. It was on to Game 2.
Tomoharu Saito 1 – 0 Manuel Bucher
Saito wins the roll - a big factor in the mirror
There are a few schools of thought on how best to sideboard for the mirror. Saito’s changes were minimal, with a Broodmate Dragon and Siege-Gang Commander coming in. Buchers changes were more radical, including removing Lightning Bolt and Master of the Wild Hunt.
Bucher led with a Putrid Leech on turn two – a play that Saito could not mirror, due to leading with a Swamp and a Mountain. What this did allow was a Terminate to maintain parity. Bucher soon replaced Putrid Leech with a second, and played Oran-Rief, the Vastwood.
Thanks to a fetchland Saito succeeded in getting all of his colours of mana using basic lands, and cast a Sprouting Thrinax right on time, on turn three. A Thrinax came from Bucher as well, and with Oran Rief, it was able to go one larger than Saito could manage.
It was Thrinaxes all around, as both players found a second Sprouting Thrinax each. Saito followed up with Blightning, knocking a Blightning and a Verdant Catacombs from Bucher’s hand. The one remaining card was Bloodbraid Elf. When that hit a Goblin Ruinblaster, the only consolation that Saito had as he looked at a busy red zone was that Bucher wasn’t able to use the kicker on his goblin. Those attacks still knocked Saito down to just two though, and on a healthy 11 life, Bucher had to feel that he would be able to force a rubber game.
Saito just drew and passed for his turn. Bucher drew, played a land and attacked with both of his 4/4 Sprouting Thrinaxes. When one was killed off, Bucher interestingly did not pump the three Saproling tokens that he got, but it didn’t matter. The next turn he had a Goblin Ruinblaster, but it wasn’t the land destruction that was important, simply the fact that he had one more attacker than Saito, whose hand was clogged with lands, could deal with.
Tomoharu Saito 1 – 1 Manuel Bucher
As he shuffled for what might be his final game of the tournament, Saito turned his head to the sky, as if seeking divine inspiration. He calmly declared ‘I start’ for the final game, and gave his face a short, sharp slap as he moved to pick up his opening hand of seven.
Saito’s seven cards were good enough, but Bucher had to shuffle his back in. If he was mentally pumping the fist, no sign of it showed on his face.
Each player began on Savage Lands, and it was Bucher that had the first creature of the game, in Putrid Leech. For the second game in a row, it was met with a Terminate. Saito was playing faster now, as if acceleration of action could race him into day two. On successive turns he found a pair of copies of Sprouting Thrinax, and seemed to shrug off a Goblin Ruinblaster destroying his Raging Ravine as if it hadn’t happened.
A similar fate faced Saito’s Lavaclaw Reaches, but by now Saito was not worried about lands. He cast a Bloodbraid Elf into Blightning, and couldn’t get into the red zone fast enough. While Bucher had a Siege-Gang Commander to soak up some of the damage, he remained a little behind, and Saito got ahead on the Saproling count.
Bloodbraid Elf found Bucher his third Goblin Ruinblaster, who when kicked left Saito with just three lands, a Forest, a Mountain and a Swamp. Bucher was on just 7 to Saito’s 15, and had to get busy blocking, lest he get busy dying. Putrid Leech from Bucher died swiftly to a Terminate, and shortly after, Bucher himself succumbed to a lethal attack.
Tomoharu Saito wins 2-1, advancing to day 2.
Saturday, 9:49 p.m. - Magical Art in Brussels
by Tim Willoughby
Here at Grand Prix Brussels, we have two artists in place, doing signings and sketches for seemingly unending queues of visitors. Rob Alexander is a veteran of such things, happily adding his well practiced signature to a massive variety of cards, primarily the powerful lands that he has made a name for himself working on. Our other artist is at her first Magic event, and has drawn plenty of interest.
Veronique Meignaud became part of Magic last year with her full art basic lands, and along with a select few cards in Worldwake, including the popular Lavaclaw Reaches, she has already shown that she can create unique visions of the landscapes of the planes.
Meignaud, who lives and works in Paris as a freelance illustrator, came to Magic having built up a portfolio of concept work for various big players in the video games industry. Primarily working digitally, she is one of the artists who still revels in occasional forays into physical artwork, be it sketching, acrylics or watercolour. In addition to her work for a whole host of companies, she is gradually building up a sketchbook for release in the next few years, and regularly blogs her new visions of the world.
Much of the non-Magic work that Veronique produced is strongly figure based, with a dreamlike quality to it that renders all of it magical in its own way. With a small smile she confessed that working on characters in future Magic sets was something she hoped to have a chance to do moving forward, though she was clearly very happy with the reception that she had received for her distinctive lands.
Looking more generally at the experience of being at such a large Magic event, Veronique admitted that she was unused to doing as much signing as this in one day, but that did not stop her from working through the piles of cards delivered by each person in the queue, periodically adding alterations in small, deft strokes of gold and silver. Judging by the fact that the card traders are now largely sold out of Veronique Meignaud cards, there is a good chance that she’ll be signing for a while yet.
Podcast - Day One Wrap
by Rich Hagon
It's a good job it isn't the Day One Rap, because then it would have to rhyme. Instead, we talk through some of the 206 players left in the main event. Big name casualties abound, new names make their claim on Magical glory, and we reconvene to do it all again tomorrow. Join us then.