||Follow coverage of Grand Prix–Brussels in German at planetmtg.de.
Sunday, 8:53 a.m. – Round Ten. At Eight.
by David Sutcliffe
Returning to action at a startlingly early 8am on Sunday morning were the valiant 200+ players who had made the cut to the second day of this, the biggest Standard tournament of all time. The move to Summer Time (the clocks moved forward an hour during the night, so 2am became 3am and everybody got an hour less sleep than they should have done) didn’t seem to have slowed our players down and many of the matches were finished in short order. On table two the English player Steve Bernstein narrowly avoided being dropped from the tournament entirely for arriving late for the player meeting - despite the many warnings that the clocks were going to change. Luckily for Steve he recovered to wrap up a win over Geert Bosch to move onto a 10-0 record.
The top table, between Matti Kuisma and France Cipolleschi was a tighter affair. In the deciding game Kuisma’s ‘Tapout’ control deck appeared to have handled Cipolleschi’s Jund assault but when a Grim Discovery returned a Goblin Ruinblaster and Raging Ravine to the Italian’s hand the flow of the game was reversed, and he added a Putrid Leech. Now it was Kuisma in trouble and he was forced to punt a Mind Spring for four cards - that found a Day of Judgment to remove the two creatures but he couldn’t find an answer to the Raging Ravine and bowed to his first defeat of the Grand Prix.
The REAL action was on table 9, where Niels Noorlander and Antoine Maugard were in an immense Jund standoff in their deciding game. Both players had loaded boards with a dozen or more creatures each. It was M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction) and both players knew that they couldn’t dare attack because the other player would arrange the blocks favorably and strike back to win the game. As the Jund arms race continued, and the table began to creak ominously under the weight of cardboard that was accumulating in it’s centre.
It was Noorlander who finally found a card to break the stalemate. He drew a Siege-Gang Commander and set about hurling his Goblin tokens and Goblin Ruinblaster at Maugard’s head. Fighting back, Maugard had a Bituminous Blast aimed at the Siege-Gang Commander but the cascade didn’t reveal anything that could help, and in response to the Blast Noorlander was able to fling the last of his Goblins and win the game!
As 9am approached, the more civilised parts of the world had yet to rise for breakfast, but Grand Prix Brussels had already seen it’s first winners and losers.
Now where’s my breakfast?
Feature Match: Round 11 – Tom Van Lamoen (NDL) vs Sebastian Thaler (GER)
by David Sutcliffe
After a successful trip into the feature match area at the end of the first day, defeating Olivier Ruel comprehensively, the German pro Sebastian Thaler returned to the ring for the second round of the Sunday morning. This secod time his opponent was the 2008 Dutch National Champion Tom Van Lamoen. The two were playing very similar versions of the Blue-White ‘Tapout’ control deck and this would make an excellent opportunity to watch a tight mirror match being played by two of the best players in the world.
Unfortunately for Van Lamoen the idea that this was to be a tight contest very rapidly unravelled. He was forced to mulligan away his first hand, and kept his second hand with only two Plains. Those remained his only lands while Thaler used a Borderpost and Knight of the White Orchid to find mana for a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and then as Thaler began using Jace’s ability to fateseal Van Lamoen to ensure he wouldn’t draw the land he needed - happy to hand his opponent a Mind Spring.
“Looking good!” laughed the Dutchman, as he saw what Thaler had allowed him to draw. Fateseal has rarely seemed to aptly named.
Thaler followed his Planeswalker a turn later with a Baneslayer Angel and that was enough for Van Lamoen, he conceded defeat and moved onto a Game 2 that could only possibly get better.
“I should have conceded before you saw the Mind Spring”, joked Van Lamoen “that way you would have thought I was playing white weenie!”
Tom Van Lamoen 0 - 1 Sebastian Thaler
Opening with a pair of Celestial Colonnades, Van Lamoen made certain he wouldn’t be trapped without mana for a second time, and followed that with an Overflowing Chalice and Luminarch Ascension on his third turn. Thaler responded with a Knight of the White Orchid and Overflowing Chalice of his own. The Knight would be able to prevent his Luminarch Ascension from ever gaining Quest counters so Lamoen sealed it’s exile with an Oblivion Ring. Unflustered, Thaler played a Baneslayer Angel and Van Lamoen smiled wryly - the Oblivion Ring on the Knight of the White Orchid suddenly didn’t seem like such an optimal play.
Divination gave Van Lamoen a couple of extra options but his best response was only a second Luminarch Ascension. Angels-a-gogo, Sebastian Thaler added a second Baneslayer Angel to his side of the board. Thaler’s problem was that he only had white mana - his side of the table was four Plains and an Overflowing Chalice. But looking at the positives for the German - at least he had two 5/5 Flying Lifelink angels of vengeance at his command... much better than Van Lamoen had been able to manage with just two Plains in the first game.
Ordinarily playing two Baneslayers against the ‘Tapout’ deck is an invitation for your opponent to play Day of Judgement, but after sideboarding there was a good chance that they were no longer anywhere in Van Lamoen’s deck! Desperately, the former Dutch champion punted a Mind Spring to draw four cards but found nothing that could help him hold off the furious angelic legion, and this mirror match was ended in extra quick time - Thaler’s draws had simply floored Van Lamoen each time.
“I thought you wouldn’t have Baneslayers, which is why I played Oblivion Ring on the knight”, explained Tom, as the two players collected their cards, “I thought maybe you boarded them out. I boarded mine out.”
“I boarded a couple out”, replied Thaler, “I don’t like Luminarch Ascension though - I have too many things that can stop it; Oblivion Ring, Knight, Angel, Elspeth..”
“Yeah but if I play it turn 2, and I have Oblivion Ring in hand for your first card. I mean, I have no counterspells, no Jace - it’s the way I have to go” summed up Van Lamoen.
Tom Van Lamoen 0 - 2 Sebastian Thaler
Podcast - The Pro Show
by Rich Hagon
Pascal Vieren. David Reitbauer. Niels Noorlander. Sebastian Thaler. Remi Fortier. Sam Black. Want to hear what they've got to say? Thought so.
Feature Match: Round 12 – Jeroen Aga vs Francesco Cipolleschi
by Tim Willoughby
Grand Prix are the places where many players story’s begin. Frank Karsten never won a PTQ to get onto the Pro Tour. He earned his invite playing in Grand Prix, and once he got a taste of the tour, he played his way to a Hall of Fame berth. As recently as last year the Rookie of the Year race came down to players whose first taste of the top level was in Grand Prix success. Jeroen Aga did not have to travel far to get to GP Brussels. This is his home town. He had no byes. This did not stop him rattling off 12 wins in a row with the innovative and explosive Naya allies deck, that has been catching opponents off guard all tournament.
The roll of snake eyes from Aga came mere seconds later, drawing a small chuckle from the Belgian, even as he watched his opponent roll double five to secure his right to be on the play.
Turn one from Cipolleschi saw a Raging Ravine, while Aga led with Ancient Ziggurat and Hada Freeblade. The one drop, which remained a very efficient Squire on turn two, got stuck in, as Cipolleschi simply developed his Jund mana base.
The first spell from Cipolleschi was Vampire Nighthawk on his turn three. This was one of the more distinctive additions that the Italian had made to Jund, and gave Aga pause. For his turn he played an Akoum Battlesinger, and got stuck in with a 3/3 Hada Freeblade.
Cipolleschi played Bloodbraid Elf, and found a Lightning Bolt early enough to be able to off Hada Freeblade before it became too scary. His attacks then won back a small amount of the life that he had lost on early attacks, thanks to Vampire Nighthawk’s lifelink.
Aga was not without plays though. He first found another Hada Freeblade, and then followed up with a kicked Goblin Bushwhacker, allowing him to attack Cipolleschi down to 9. This match was turning into a race, and Cipolleschi had to make a decisive move. He played a Blightning, which knocked a Talus Paladin and a Ranger of Eos from Aga’s hand, and left him with a single card remaining. Vampire Nighthawk then got stuck in, to take the life totals to 11 to 10 in Cipolleschi’s favour.
The card that had remained in Aga’s hand was a Bloodbraid Elf, and he cascaded like a champion, finding a second Akoum Battlesinger. This dramatically shortened the clock on Cipolleschi, with the subsequent attacks putting the Italian on just 1 life. A Maelstrom Pulse killed off both Akoum Battlesingers, and Blightning knocked an Oran-Rief Survivalist from Aga’s hand. Aga was on 7 to the 1 life of his opponent, who was relying on the lifelink of Vampire Nighthawk to keep him in the game.
Aga was living off the top of his deck. The Nighthawk traded with Aga’s Bloodbraid Elf, just leaving him alive. From here Aga was living off the top of his deck. A third Akoum Battlesinger looked good enough, but a Lightning Bolt killed it. Cipolleschi got stuck in with a Bloodbraid Elf, and then backed it up with a Raging Ravine. When Aga drew land, that was it. Jund had taken game 1.
Jeroen Aga 0 – 1 Francesco Cipolleschi
After a little thought, Aga led off with Harabaz Druid on turn two of the second game. The Druid occupies a strange place in the allies deck. If it gets played on turn two, and hangs around, it can set up some of the most degenerate starts the deck can manage, but much later than turn two, it is frequently just another ally trigger.
Cipolleschi was wary of fast starts. He pointed a Lightning Bolt at the 0/1 ally, and looked on with something resembling relief as the following turn his decision was shown to be a good one. Hada Freeblade and Akoum Battlesinger were the plays from Aga on turn 3, while turn 4 saw Talus Paladin.
The Paladin turned Hada Freeblade into a 4/4 lifelinker, which traded with a Putrid Leech from Cipolleschi. The Italian didn’t seem too worried. A Bloodbraid Elf found him a Terminate for the Paladin, and chose to sit back on blocks rather than risk another explosion of creatures from Aga.
The Belgian had a little think, before playing first an Akoum Battlesinger, then an Oran-Rief Survivalist. Cipolleschi had again made the right decision. Each of those Battlesingers came in with 5 power, and he was very happy to be able to trade, and only go down to 10 life.
Cipolleschi’s follow up was a strong one in Siege-Gang Commander, and not to be outdone, Aga played a Bloodbraid Elf, finding Oran-Rief Survivalist. Bloodbraid Elf and a 4/3 Survivalist rocked into the red zone. After a little thought, Cipolleschi threw his team of goblins in the way, leaving only their leader remaining. On his turn he had Maelstrom Pulse for the two Survivalists, and a Vampire Nighthawk to keep back on defence.
Path to Exile from Aga cleared the vampire out of the way, before Kazandu Blademaster came down to join Akoum Battlesinger on Aga’s side of the board. Cipolleschi attacked Aga down to 16 with Raging Ravine, and played Sprouting Thrinax.
Aga’s draws did not seem the best in this game, and when Deathmark took out his Blademaster, Aga complimented the draws of his opponent. Aga’s deck seemed well out of gas, and it was just a few short attacks before Aga picked up his first loss of the tournament. Not too shabby for it to come in round 12.
Francesco Cipolleschi wins 2-0
Sunday, 12:16 p.m. – Analysing An Allies Influx
by Tim Willoughby
It all began with a rumour. The rumour came way back at Grand Prix Oakland. Apparently a lot of Japanese players were buying up a lot of ally cards. Prior to Pro Tour San Diego, there were concerns that the Japanese had found a breakout ally build that the rest of the world had missed.
When the Pro Tour rolled around, allies were not a big part of it, at least not in constructed. Perhaps the rumours were false. Regardless, there were plenty of people looking to build a good ally deck.
This week on Magic online, something surfaced. A few players, including undergroundriverboa, lord_ra and Karstas began doing well in premier events with a Naya deck sporting quite a few allies, including the explosive Akoum Battlesinger. Some of these decks used Violent Outburst alongside Bloodbraid Elf to get maximum explosiveness from cascades, while others had Ancient Ziggurat, and more consistent mana. One way or another, the deck began to gain a little momentum, no doubt helped by the fact that it is comparatively cheap to construct online.
Upon arriving at GP Brussels, one copy of the deck had won three byes in a last minute trial. Was this the Japanese list that had remained hidden for so long? I tracked down Shuhei Nakamura, who seemed confident that wherever the list had come from, it wasn’t the deck that had existed as a fear in American minds prior to San Diego.
Flash forward to round 12. I got a chance to cover local boy Jeroen Aga, who picked up his first loss of the tournament with the deck, having come in without a single bye. Aga’s list, he will freely admit, was lifted from looking at the results on Magic Online, but it s not as if he has no experience with allies.
“I had been working on a green white ally deck for a month or so, and hadn’t been able to get it quite right. I had added Bloodbraid Elf, and even the Akoum Battlesinger, but I just couldn’t get the mana right. When I saw the list with Ancient Ziggurat, I knew that this was the key to making the deck function. By this point I had only a few days before the tournament, so I had to work with the list from online.”
That plan is working just fine for Aga so far, and the cheery Belgian, who had the luxury of being able to sleep in his own bed last night remained very positive about how his deck stacks up against the field.
“Game 1 against Jund is virtually a bye. You are fast enough to be able to get most of the damage you need in, and Kabira Evangel is huge in the matchup, helping you finish things off.”
The second and third games against Jund can be a little dicier, but even if they bring in a lot of removal, to make the game closer to a coin flip, assuming that Game 1 has gone well, a coin flipping contest is not the worst proposition.
Against blue/white, the key tends to be the amount haste power that the deck can deploy. Between Akoum Battlesinger, Bloodbraid Elf and a singleton Goblin Bushwhacker that can be fetched with Ranger of Eos, there is a lot of potential to rebuild very fast post Day of Judgment, while if Judgment Day does not come, it is tough for blue/white to keep up.
If you are looking for a deck to play online, or in Nationals qualifiers, the Naya ally nation could be a good choice. Stay tuned, it might even be the choice of champions.
Sunday, 12:26 p.m. – Metagame Breakdown
Jeroen Aga - Naya Allies
Grand Prix Brussels 2010
by Event Coverage Team
Speaking to Sam Black and Gaudenis Vidugiris between rounds, they each remarked that while they had played a few Jund decks, they had played less than they might have expected, and that in each round that wasn’t Jund, they hadn’t played the same deck twice. It seems that the metagame is fragmented at the moment, as people jockey for position trying to find the deck that can reliably perform against Jund, while still giving other decks in the format a hard time.
Here is the full breakdown, which certainly suggests that little is for certain beyond the power of green/black/red.
|Open the Vaults
|Boros (including one Koros)
|Green mana ramp land destruction
Blue white has a lot of supporters here including pros from both sides of the Atlantic, with Sam Black and Martin Juza each choosing to stick with the choice they made in Kuala Lumpur. Black had suggested at the start of the tournament that Mythic would be a good choice, and it seems he was right. One thing that must be said though is that with so many deck types in day two, picking what is a good choice seems to be a more open choice than many might have predicted.
Podcast - The Round Twelve Show
by Rich Hagon
It's time for the battle to find the last undefeated deck in the tournament. Could it really be a RGW Allies deck? There's an all-American clash too, with Sam Black and Ben Stark going at it, while Matej Zatlkaj and Christian von Kalkstein have a great time, whatever's happening in the match. That leaves Michal Hebky up against Stijn van Goethem, rounding out our quartet.
Sunday, 1:32 p.m. – Four tables, Four Formats
by David Sutcliffe
A quick tour of the Grand Prix hall will reveal every facet of the Magic The Gathering universe - an Extended PTQ, a Legacy event with a €2,000 prize, Gunslinging with the Pros, and oh yes, the small matter of a Grand Prix still to settle. Let’s take that tour!
The extended metagame appears very healthy if this PTQ is any indication, and you have to go a long way down the field to find two decks that are alike - finally I find a second player who is running a Zoo deck taking advantage of all the cheap creatures like Kird Apes and Wild Nacatls and ramping up to Bloodbraid Elf at the top end of the deck. But between those zoo decks I found Faeries facing off against Blood Moon, a Skred red deck, Ornithopters and other artifacts in Affinity, Soltari Priests and Stoneforge Mystics in a white weenie deck, and our old friend Teferi still happily befuddling the masses while he waited for his Ancestral Vision to reveal itself.
Going back even further into Magic’s past is the Legacy event, and the variety of decks increased by another magnitude. Walking down the tables was like the police line-up from The Usual Suspects - there’s a bulging Dredge graveyard; there’s a Counterbalance sat next to a Sensei’s Diving Top, there’s Tarmogoyf, there’s Ad Nauseam being cast nauseatingly early thanks to Dark Ritual and Lotus Petal.
In the middle of the swirling mass of powerful cards which have been banned at one time or another sat Pro Tour Champion Guillaime Wafo-Tapa. Wafo-Tapa was playing a traditional blue control deck that harnessed the power of Force of Will alongside cards like Engineered Explosives. Unfortunately for Wafo-Tapo the variety of Legacy had meant he was now sat opposite Marina Kitlase, who was playing an Argothian Enchantress-fuelled enchantment deck. With powerful search engines like Enlightened Tutor at her disposal Marina was able to play some powerful one-ofs like Blood Moon, Replenish, and City of Solitude. Not even a Force of Will will counter a spell when City of Solitude is in play (Opponent cannot play spells or abilities on your turn) and that was the predicament that Wafo-Tapa found himself in.
At the opposite end of the room, Shuuhei Nakamura was having better luck that Guillaime Wafo-Tapa. In the gunslinging area he managed to dispatch another hopeful young contender with the Jund deck that had misfired for Shuuhei during the first day of the Grand Prix - by round 8 he had been watching feature matches instead of playing in them. As his opponent took the beating from Shuuhei with good humour, I stopped to find out his Grand Prix story.
His name was Marcel Trollman, from Dueren in Germany, and he told me about his day
“I played Jund, just like I did against Shuuhei then. And I lost, I went 4-3 drop. Since then I’ve done some drafting and some sleeping, played a bit of Standard. I was hoping to get into the Extended PTQ but I just couldn’t get up in time, I was too tired”.
And after playing Shuuhei... was that his first game against a big name player?
“No, I played against Nico (Bohny) at Grand Prix Vienna - I lost there too. But yeah, it’s maybe only the second or third time I’ve had the chance to play against a big player. I don’t get to many Grand Prix, although I’m going to go to Bochum later this year.”
And what’s next?
“Well I’m going to gunsling against Nico again, as he’s here, then go and register for some Constructed side events. I’m going to be here all day!”
And finally, coming full circle back to the Grand Prix, the feature match area played host to Xu Wei of China. The Chinese stunned the world when they won the Team World Championship at the end of last year, and there is a very real upswelling of talent coming out of China. Xu Wei hasn’t travelled over here specifically for the Grand Prix - he’s living in London currently - but it augurs well for Chinese magic that whenever a Chinese player attends a Grand Prix they seem to find their way into feature matches.
Feature Match: Round 14 – Martin Juza vs Elmer van Eeghen
by by Tim Willoughby
“Are you playing Jund? I don’t think you’re playing Jund.”
Martin Juza sat down in round 14 knowing that this was the point that he needed to bring his tournament back on track. Having lost 2 rounds on the bounce against Jund, he had gone from a very solid 11-1, to 11-3, which left him with his back against the wall if he was shooting for a top 8 slot.
On the draw, Juza had to take a mulligan, while van Eeghen was happy with his seven.
“Why me?” remarked Juza to the crowd as he saw a turn two Verdant Catacombs leading to a Putrid Leech. The Czech player worked on ramping up his mana with increasingly large copies of Everflowing Chalice, and looked on with interest as van Eeghen played an Ancient Ziggurat and Sedraxis Specter. It seemed that van Eeghen had tech, which would be good both in the mirror, and against blue/white.
Juza played Elspeth, Knight Errant, and made a token. Now van Eeghen would have choices as to his attacks. A Tectonic Edge took out a Raging Ravine on van Eeghen’s side of the board, effectively hampering the amount of mana available for spells, with Ancient Ziggurat’s drawback seeming suddenly relevant.
Both Sedraxis Specter and Putrid Leech went for Juza, who threw a soldier in the way of the Leech, and consigned an Arid Mesa to the grumper as a result of Sedraxis Specter’s ability. Juza continued to make tokens with Elspeth, but they didn’t last long in the face of Putrid Leech. Celestial Colonnade died to Terminate when Juza tried to block the Specter with it. Juza’s final hope was Baneslayer Angel. When that was met with a Maelstrom Pulse, it was enough to leave him picking up his cards for game 2. There had been a Day of Judgment in his hand, but the unearth on the spectre meant that one dose of judgment would not be enough.
Martin Juza 0 – 1 Elmer van Eeghen
Elmer van Eehen shuffles up having won game one
On the play for Game 2, Juza led with Halimar Depths. This would let him plan out his next few turns, and after a little thought, Martin organised his top 3 cards and passed confidently. Treasure Hunt then replaced itself with another, and a land.
Wary of the effect that Sedraxis Specter could have on the game, Juza chose to Essence Scatter the unearth monster, before untapping into Jace, the Mind Sculptor, who gained two loyalty to fateseal a card to the bottom of van Eeghen’s deck. That extra loyalty didn’t help against Maelstrom Pulse, and again the board was clear.
The board actually got a little emptier the following turn. Juza used one Tectonic Edge in response to another, to leave van Eeghen with just a Mountain and a Forest, while he had Celestial Colonnade, Plains and Halimar Depths. While a Misty Rainforest fixed van Eeghen for blue mana, he was still cut off from black.
Van Eeghen got back up to four mana and cast Bloodbraid Elf into Goblin Ruinblaster. He couldn’t blow up a land, but he could attack for a hasty five.
Juza didn’t have an immediate answer, but did have a second Everflowing Chalice, giving him a pair of them, each set on two. He also found a Celestial Purge using a Treasure Hunt. Van Eeghen’s turns weren’t tricksy, but they were effective, as he swung Juza down to 10, and played Putrid Leech.
When big attacks came from van Eeghen, Juza had a plan. He animated his Celestial Colonnade, to block Bloodbraid Elf, used Celestial Purge to get a Raging Ravine, and then a Path to Exile on Putrid Leech after it had tried to pump. Juza was on 8 after attacks, and untapped into Spreading Seas on a Swamp, and a Mind Spring for seven cards.
Following the Spring, things got brutal fast. When van Eeghen found the best he could do was a Putrid Leech, Juza cast Spreading Seas #2, Baneslayer Angel and Elspeth, who made a token. Next up came Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Juza’s angel was turning the game around one swing at a time, and when a Cancel stopped a Maelstrom Pulse on it, that was enough to force a Game 3.
Martin Juza 1 – 1 Elmer van Eeghen
Juzas Everflowing Chalices are always well over half full
On the play in Game 3, van Eeghen looked to have good mana early, with a Raging Ravine and an Ancient Ziggurat. Spreading Seas on the Ravine was soon followed by another on a Forest though, leaving him in tricky shape. Van Eeghen managed an unkicked Goblin Ruinblaster, but by this point, Juza had Elspeth, in what looked like it may be a quick decider.
Treasure Hunt found a third Spreading Seas, keeping van Eeghen off any spells at all. Juza’s cheeky Tectonic Edge mocked van Eeghen’s lands, just waiting for a fourth to arrive. It took out a Crumbling Necropolis at the first opportunity, and Juza just kept ramping up mana and Elspeth until he could begin attacking with Celestial Colonnade. It didn’t take much of this to end the game
Martin Juza wins 2-1
Sunday, 2:24 p.m. – Father to a Magic Family
by David Sutcliffe
There is a fair chance that you are unfamiliar with the Kelterbaums - father Richard, and his daughters Morgane, and Catherine - unless you are yourself a regular of the European Grand Prix circuit. They rarely make the top tables, rarely even make it to the second day of a Grand Prix, but neverthless they are a popular and welcome sight wherever the Kelterbaum family bus stops on the Grand Prix circuit.
A young Morgane claims a Toblerone bigger than her at Pro Tour Geneva '07
Daughter Morgane is perhaps the most successful of the family - a former JSS champion - but as Richard has been making waves this weekend it seemed like a perfect time to catch five minutes with the modern Magic family man but I found him in an unfamiliar place - the feature match area!
So how did it go?
Ah, I lost to Gaudenis Vidugiris - a mirror match.
I saw Morgane was here with you yesterday, what’s she doing now - is she in the legacy?
No, no! It’s actually my mother’s birthday today so they both had to go back home. It’s only me here today - that’s the story, I’m missing a birthday to be here.
You missed your own mother’s birthday for the Grand Prix? Is she happy with you?
Ha ha. You know... we never make day two of a Grand Prix, so we thought ‘yeah sure we’ll come along to the Grand Prix then go back home on the Sunday for her birthday’. There was a small risk... just small... that one of us would make it to Sunday, and it was me - my first ever day two. I spoke to my mother, and she’s fine with it.
So it seems like we see the Kelterbaums everywhere, do you go to every Grand Prix?
Oh no, but maybe three or four every year. We always try to go to the French one, of course, and then usually there is one in Belgium or the Netherlands, and then maybe the German one. But we sometimes travel further - we went to Krakow, Barcelona, and we were down in Madrid last month.
How did you do in Madrid?
Ha! I lost... I always lose! [big smile] Except this time. I went undefeated in the FNM yesterday, undefeated all through yesterday. Today I’m losing, though. I don’t think I’ll make Top8 but it’s the best I’ve ever done at a Grand Prix.
Richard Kelterbaum. Smiling. He does that a lot.
So what does Magic and the Grand Prixs mean to the Kelterbaum family?
Oh well, it’s really educational. I wanted my children to know that learning English is important, they’ll need it, need to understand it. And I think that Magic is competitive, and that being competitive and learning how to compete for things is really important. I mean Morgane was only 8 or 9 years old in our first Grand Prix. Our first one was here actually, in Brussels in 2004, this is where it started. And when you have a young girl like Morgane was then, and she’s learning to compete - that’s really good for her.
Originally my son played as well, so there were four of us travelling to all the Grand Prix, a real family outing. And of course, four is a better number for playtesting as well... [he grins] but he doesn’t play any more, he’s always playing football instead so it’s just the three of us for Magic.
And your wife?
Oh no - no, no, no.
You never tried to teach her?
Oh, we tried. We tried everything! But she was really resistant. It just wasn’t for her.
And one last thing. I’ve been taking photos of you during the day - it’s pretty hard to find one where you’re not smiling.
Haha, I like to smile. This is for fun after all. I mean, I want to win, I always try to compete - I never just turn up to lose. But it’s a game so enjoy it. I mean I would have played Jund today but I think it’s not such an interesting deck, it’s no fun, so I’m playing Mythic instead.
And can I get a photo now?
Sure... you want me to smile?
Podcast - The Art Show
by Rich Hagon
It's always an honor and a privilege to spend time in the company of one of the many tremendous artists who bring our game to life, and Rob Alexander is one of the absolute greats. In a special Art Draft feature, eight of his most famous cards go head to head, with Rob bringing us his unique insights into how they were crafted, what he likes about them, and what bit of Bloodstained Mire is missing. See Magic art through the eyes of the artist, and then join Rich at the end of the day for commentary on the Final of Grand Prix Brussels 2010, sometime later tonight!
Sunday, 3:30 p.m. – Why Belgium is great
by Tim Willoughby
I’ve been bothering all the coverage staff all weekend with periodic exclamations along the lines of ‘Belgium is awesome’. It isn’t a coincidence that I chose this as one of the Grand Prix as one of the ones to cover in 2010. Over the course of the weekend, I’ve been keeping a list of reasons that I like it over here, and now that we’re getting to top 8 time, I thought I’d share it with you.
1. Eurostar goes there.
I fly a lot to Grand Prix, Pro Tours, even on the occasional holiday. While there is nothing quite like the moment when you are no longer connected with the ground, all of the sundry waiting in lines, to check in/board/take off/land/go through security/pick up bags does gradually wear me down. For this Grand Prix, which I was travelling to from London, I got on a train after work, played some computer games on the train, watched a little TV, then found myself a short taxi ride from the venue. There are parts of England that would be harder for me to get to.
2. Belgian beer is the best beer in the world
In Belgium, beer is not just alcohol, it is a cultural experience. Whether your tastes lean toward the fruity or the bitter, there is almost certainly a beer that will suit your tastes. The standards over here are very high when it comes to what is on offer even in fast food joints compared to many other parts of the world, and as someone who is rather partial to such things, I have to say that this is a factor.
My fact of the weekend to anyone who will listen has been that it was actually Belgium that invented fries, and that the French bit is, if anything, just baffling misdirection. Uncomplicated but delicious, a plate of frites is the ideal complement to the second item on my list.
Belgian fast food is like a good combo deck. All the parts do something, and then when you put them together you feel like a real winner. Belgian mayonnaise doesn’t sound like it should be anything special. However, the Belgians seem well practiced at putting it on things, and somewhere along the line they’ve got the recipe just right. With a little more bite than I’ve found in mayonnaise elsewhere, this is a welcome addition to the list.
I probably wouldn’t have these with mayo, but one way or another I want to make it abundantly clear that while Belgian food might not have the storied history or international renown, it is definitely worth travelling for. Speaking of which...
For a lot of people, I’m sure that this would be higher on the list, but I guess that this says a lot both about me and the fact that my sweet tooth is not as honed as many. Suffice to say, the reputation that Belgium has for chocolate is entirely justified. Normal chocolate here is good, which means that the good stuff... well... let’s just say that I am not going to get away with not bringing some back to my office.
Even if you don’t speak the various official Belgian languages, communication here is easy, and people are friendly. While the weather might not make it a super exciting holiday destination, for a break away, I’ve enjoyed Belgium just fine.
Feature Match: Round 15 – Hannes Kerem Juza vs Sebastian Thaler
by by Rich Hagon
With both players at 11-3, there could be no guarantee that even back to back wins would get them into the Top 8. That wouldn’t prevent either of these modern stalwarts giving their all. Sebastian Thaler has been on the Pro scene for five years now. The 2006 Rookie of the Year remains a feared adversary at any Pro Tour, while his opponent, Hannes Kerem of Estonia, came to prominence when he made the Top 8 of Worlds 2008.
Hannes Kerem Juza vs Sebastian Thaler
Standard right now is quickly defined by the early turns, and we soon knew the battle ahead. Thaler opened on Island into Fieldmist Borderpost, while Kerem had Savage Lands. That’ll be Blue-White against Jund then. But, as podcast listeners will know, Thaler has his own unique take on the Blue-White archetype, with a bucketload of Planeswalkers ready to cause havoc. In fact, he has a full suite of both Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
It was Elspeth who arrived first, with Kerem trying to reach the Planeswalker with Putrid Leech, but running afoul of her Soldier token. The Planeswalker pressure continued, as Thaler landed Jace, the Mind Sculptor, although that was soon the only one in play, with Kerem using Maelstrom Pulse to deal with Elspeth.
Having bounced the Putrid Leech, Jace went back to four loyalty when Thaler took a look at the top of Kerem’s library. Apparently, giving him Siege-Gang Commander next turn wasn’t a problem. Mind Spring for three completed Thaler’s turn. The Putrid Leech returned for Kerem, but with only three land in play, there was no danger of him casting the Siege-Gang Commander any time soon. Another Elspeth joined the fray, plus a Knight of the White Orchid, and with Thaler sending a Swamp to the bottom, prompting a grin from Kerem, he was seemingly in complete control.
A land off the top helped Kerem somewhat, with Bloodbraid Elf cascading into Sprouting Thrinax. Even so, both Planeswalkers were in operation, and Baneslayer Angel wouldn’t exactly help the Estonian’s cause. Blightning left Thaler with one card in hand, and Jace took the hit, with his loyalty falling to two.
A bounce effect from Jace, and in came Baneslayer, a flying Soldier token, Celestial Colonnade, and Knight of the White Orchid. If that sounds like a lot of damage, it is, and although Kerem wasn’t technically dead, he wasted no time trying to defend his one life, and headed for his Sideboard.
Hannes Kerem 0 – Sebastian Thaler 1.
Manlands opened Game 2 for both players, with Raging Ravine for Kerem, while Thaler had the 4/4 Flying and Vigilance Celestial Colonnade. Kerem played Explore on turn two, but didn’t do anything much with it. With no early action, there was nothing but eight lands on the board.
That changed when Kerem bust out his own idea of Planeswalker goodness, Garruk Wildspeaker, with a 3/3 Beast not far behind. Thaler went Mythic with Baneslayer Angel, but Magic is no respecter of rarity, and Deathmark killed the M10 super-flyer. Blightning wouldn’t inconvenience Thaler too much – he still held four cards – but he would take three damage. A second Beast joined the team, moments before Thaler tried to make another Baneslayer Angel stick.
It couldn’t, with Maelstrom Pulse doing the deed, and another six damage piling through. Great Sable Stag joined the team, but Thaler had reached seven mana. As all children know (well, the ones who can count), two plus five equals seven, and that means five Soldier tokens off a Martial Coup. (To be fair, that last bit of information isn’t something that all children know. Though they clearly should.)
Kerem didn’t care, instantly rebuilding with another Beast, a Siege-Gang Commander, and three Goblins, presumably his, er, Siege-Gang. Thaler ran out his third Baneslayer Angel of the game, and this time more than three seconds elapsed between Kerem untapping and making his play, suggesting that he might be out of ammo. Garruk untapping two land allowed Kerem to reach six mana, and the three Goblins ate the Baneslayer, with Kerem ending his turn by sending his Beast on a suicide mission into the waiting arms of many Soldiers.
Thaler took to the air with Celestial Colonnade, finally ending Garruk’s participation. When the Siege-Gang Commander traded with the last two Soldiers, the board was clear. Not for long, though. Kerem cast Great Sable Stag, and went for Sprouting Thrinax. While the Stag couldn’t be countered, Thaler wasted no time sending the Thrinax away with Essence Scatter. The German had triple Celestial Colonnade, while Kerem had double Raging Ravine. Mind Spring turned one card into five cards, and an excellent turn for Thaler ended with Knight of the White Orchid.
In came the Stag, and the Knight bit the dust. Another Explore from Kerem once again did little, while Thaler used the breathing room to cast Day of Judgment on the Stag (effectively) and adding Elspeth to the board. That was good, but Kerem was better, with Broodmate Dragon, leaving Thaler grimacing at the Day of Judgment he’d just ‘wasted’. Still, that’s why you run Martial Coup as well, this time for eight Soldiers.
Could Kerem reload? He could, with a second pair of 4/4 flyers. Thaler spent some time on a tricky math problem, before dropping Kerem to fifteen. Two Broodmates piled in, with one trading for Celestial Colonnade, Thaler now down at just four. Maelstrom Pulse gave all the Soldiers an enforced return to barracks, and Kerem banged Sprouting Thrinax into play. Elspeth sat at eight loyalty, but would that be enough for Thaler?
Bloodbraid Elf Cascaded into Goblin Ruinblaster, and the Kicker, paid with alacrity by Kerem, put Celestial Colonnade in the bin. With only one Colonnade and a lonely Soldier back on defense, the two Haste men were enough to overload, and Kerem had drawn level.
Hannes Kerem 1 – Sebastian Thaler 1.
In the early turns of the decider, Spreading Seas put in a first appearance of the match, rendering Raging Ravine running rampant relatively remote. Sorry, couldn’t resist. A second arrived for Kerem, with Thaler making the first monster move, a Knight of the White Orchid. Elspeth arrived for about the five seconds it took for Kerem to tap three mana, using Maelstrom Pulse. Replacing Elspeth was Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Thaler took some time deciding whether to give Kerem the Siege-Gang Commander that was on top of his library, eventually allowing it.
Down came the Goblin, plus three. It was clear why Thaler had decided to let Kerem have the Siege-Gang. It wasn’t going to live through Martial Coup, which Thaler cast for six, thanks to Everflowing Chalice. Back came Kerem, creating an eight power airforce with Broodmate Dragon. Jace could bounce the token if Thaler desired, but instead he left the loyalty at five and used the Brainstorm ability. He sent in the team, before another Martial Coup bolstered his team once more.
Kerem killed Celestial Colonnade with Goblin Ruinblaster, and added Putrid Leech, but, as he had appeared in both the first two games, Thaler was ahead. Kerem was down to eight, and Thaler’s Knight of the White Orchid allowed him to fetch another land. Baneslayer Angel completed the turn, and it looked like it might complete the match. Moments later, that amazingly prescient prediction came true, and Thaler advanced to 12-3, with one Round of Swiss action still to go.
Hannes Kerem 1 – Sebastian Thaler 2.
Sunday, 4:19 p.m. – ID. I Don’t.
by David Sutcliffe
The final round, and as always the calculators came out at the top of the tournament as players try to work out if a draw will guarantee their place in the Top-8, or if they have to play and win. It’s a fine art, and often players take a gamble in an ID that gives them a shot at Top-8 but doesn’t guarantee it. That’s what happened here in Brussels - all the top four tables chose not to play, but to draw. That put two players onto 41 points - Hungarians Tamas Nagy and Zoltan Szoke, and six players a step behind them on 40 points - Ludvig Londos, Francesco Cipolleschi, Christophe Gregoire, Andrej Rutar, Nicholas Lambach, and Steve Bernstein.
On the face of it that seemed to seal the Top8 right there, but there were two matches to be played where the winner would get to 40 points or more and could gatecrash a place in the Top-8.
Manuel Godineau, of France, was facing the sizeable obstacle of Marco Camillus - one of the best Italian players. The Frenchman quickly put himself 1-0 up against the Jund deck with his ‘Tapout’ control, but in the second game his lifetotal was in freefall despite him drawing a slew of his sideboard cards... Celestial Purge, Flashfreeze, a pair of Kor Firewalkers all hit the graveyard in quick succession before he was finally able to halt the rot with only 3 life left. The Cammilluzzi played a card that seemed certain to win the game for him, with the control deck on only 3 life a Manabarbs was a crippling threat.
Or was it? Using a Borderpost to play a Borderpost, and the two Borderposts to play a Knight of the White Orchid and Kor Firewalker, Godineau simply ignored the Manabarbs and began a beatdown of his own. Needing only a Lightning Bolt, or Blightning, or... well... anything really, Cammilluzzi drew dead for turn after turn, only finding the Lightning Bolt he needed a turn after Godineau had played the Kor Firewalker. From a position of seeming victory, it was snatched away and Godineau was on 40 points, and in contention for a Top8 slot.
The other game for a Top-8 slot featured Lucas Blohon against the Grand Prix Rimini champion Emmanuele Giusti, and another rematch of the Jund/Tapout matchup that had defined this Grand Prix. On the Jund side of the equation, Giusti roared into a 1-0 lead despite Blohon playing Jace and Elspeth in a single turn when the board had been wiped clean of threats. Fighting back, Blohon levelled the match in a game that see-sawed backwards and forwards. It seemed as though Giusti would be buried by Celestial Colonnades before he topdecked a Broodmate Dragon a turn away from death, then as his Broodmate came within a turn of victory it was removed by a huge Martial Coup and the soldier tokens made it 1-1.
The final game, and a Top8 slot on the line. Giusti drew 7 cards. Frowned. Mulliganed. Drew 6 cards. Frowned. Mulliganed. Drew 5 cards and proceeded to win the game inside 6 turns. Putrid Leech, Putrid Leech, Raging Ravine... with Blohon’s hand full of counters like Flashfreeze and Essence Scatter, but nothing that could handle a creature that was already in play, he was defenseless and with a whoop from Giusti, and a loud cheer from the many Italians watching the match, Giusti leapfrogged everyone to finish on 42 points with a guaranteed Top8 berth.
That left ten players on 40 points or more, and two of those would face an agonisingly cruel cut on tiebreakers. It was Godineau, of France, who fell into 10th place - his defeat of Camilluzzi had only served to knock both the players out of contention - and in 9th place was the Slovenian, Andrej Rutar. He had opted to ID against the Belgian favourite Christophe Gregoir and paid the ultimate price because it was a draw too far.
We have a Top-8. Let’s meet them!
Podcast - The Three And A Half Minute Show
by Rich Hagon
The Final, between Emanuele Giusti of Italy and Zoltan Szoke of Hungary, didn't last three and a half minutes. It lasted a good deal longer. However, the vocal cords of your coverage reporter have a life expectancy of approximately four minutes. Guess how long the highlights show is then....As always, a big thanks to you all for listening in. It's been yet another record-breaking event, and there's still nine months of the season to go. See you all very soon.