Live Coverage of Grand
Prix London Day 1

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  • Saturday, 10:20 a.m. – Grand Prix Trial Winners (Standard)

    by Tobi Henke

  • As is tradition, the Friday was reserved for lots and lots of Grand Prix Trial tournaments, 32-player affairs which are single elimination and award three byes for the main event to the last one standing, to the brave soul who manages to win every last round, going 5-0.

    Now, this weekend's main focus is of course on Gatecrash Limited. The Grand Prix has just begun with 1,970 players each building their own Gatecrash Sealed Deck, and tomorrow there will be Gatecrash Booster Draft. For the Trials, however, players had the option between Sealed and Standard. The majority decided to stick with 40 cards, but a few brought their 60-card decks. A new Limited environment is definitely exciting, but so is a new Constructed environment, even more so when that's what's being played at the Pro Tour just next week. Reason enough to take a look at the winning Standard decks, of which there were seven.

    The influence of Gatecrash was all-encompassing, if only because of the new shocklands. While old favorites like Jund and Zombies continued to perform well, some very new creations showed promise too. For example, Thomas McVeigh combined Simic's Zameck Guildmage with Strangleroot Geist and Young Wolf for a never-ending stream of creatures (and extra cards), whereas Jimmy Wild splashed Geist of Saint Traft into an essentially mono-red deck. Curving out with Rakdos Cackler, Ash Zealot, and Geist seems downright unfair, especially when followed up by Boros Charm (and Snapcaster Mage on Boros Charm). And Alexandre Aurejac apparently found a home for Obzedat, Ghost Council. Check out there decks here!

    Sean McNally
    Grand Prix Trial Winner (Standard)


  • Saturday, 10:20 a.m. – Grand Prix Trial Winners (Sealed)

    by Tobi Henke

  • Now, let's take a look at some sealed decks, shall we? All of the following decks remained undefeated throughout yesterday's Trials, achieving records of 5-0. So what does it take to have a succesful sealed deck? What does one have to be on the lookout for?

    In general, the format appears to be very aggressive, much more so than Return to Ravnica. Multicolor environments often tend toward the opposite, so it's rather refreshing to see the blisteringly fast openings some of these decks were capable of. Trial winner Tatu Junkkari for example included the whopping number of four one-drops in his deck! In combination with lots and lots of bloodthirst and Act of Treason, he hardly needed any removal or big rare bombs. Likewise, most of the winners stayed away from adventurous splashes; half of the following decks are straight-up two colors, which is quite impressive considering the setting of Ravnica.


  • Saturday, 12:44 p.m. – Talking Sealed with Nico Bohny

    by Tobi Henke

  • Yesterday, when I got the first list of the early Grand Prix Trial winners, one name immediately caught my eye. Nico Bohny, the Grand Prix champion and two-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor from Switzerland, had apparently made good use of his Friday. He tried to get in some additional experience with the new set and in the process earned himself three byes. So how did he approach the Gatecrash Sealed Deck format?

    Nico Bohny

    "I'm by no means an expert. I wasn't sure about a lot of the cards," Bohny admitted. "For example, do you want to include Smite in a somewhat aggressive deck with bloodrush? How good is Towering Thunderfist? Or Ruination Wurm? I ended up with one Wurm, one Thunderfist, and one Smite in my deck and another one of each in my sideboard.

    "Basically, I tried to steer clear of anything too extreme. Some sealed pools allow for rather narrow aggro strategies, or sometimes players will try to go big. I wanted to stay in the middle of the road and build a more, let's call it, 'well-rounded' deck, a typical sealed deck really, instead of something splashy and potentially spectacular."

    Nevertheless, his deck did include some nifty combos. "Poor me, I never actually drew Biomass Mutation when I had Assemble the Legion," Bohny joked, "but a couple of times I managed to make all of my creatures indestructible with Frontline Medic which really improved all those Pit Fights!"

    With a 3-0 start into the tournament already secured, we might hear more from Bohny later on, although he didn't like his deck for the main event quite as much. "Awkward three-color mana base and more filler cards than I'm happy with. It's good that I have these byes, I guess. I really need them," he said.


  • Saturday, 2:04 p.m. – The Gatecrash Mystery Pool Challenge

    by David Sutcliffe

  • One of the most interesting things you get to do in coverage at a Grand Prix is test your deckbuilding skills against those of some of the best players in the world. Would you have made the same decisions, given the same cards?

    This is a sealed Gatecrash pool that has fallen into the hands of a veteran European pro player, and former Grand Prix champion. We're not going to tell you who that is right now – we'll catch up with him later and let him tell you how he built his pool – but in the meantime there's a game that you can all play along with at home.

    So here's your challenge: given these six boosters, what's your guild? Do you have a splash? Is it good? Are you going to make Day Two with this deck?

    Let us know how you build it on Twitter at @magicprotour with the #gplondon tag.


  • Saturday, 4:20 p.m. – Preparing for the Pro Tour

    by Tobi Henke

  • Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa is a busy man, playing a Grand Prix this weekend, a Pro Tour next weekend, with testing in between. Fortunately, he has quite a bit of help from his teammates at ChannelFireball.

    "The other guys already met, basically everyone but Martin [Jůza] and me. They're doing a lot of drafts over in the U.S., we're doing a lot of drafts here, and on Monday we're meeting in Montreal for lots and lots of Constructed testing," said Paulo. "It is a little pressed on time which isn't ideal, but Martin and I wanted to play this event here, so what can you do."

    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

    "I haven't done any Constructed testing so far," Paulo admitted. "Right now nothing's narrowed down yet, Standard's still wide open."

    Austria's Platinum pro Thomas Holzinger has his Pro Tour testing all planned out, apparently. "We figured, it's going to be awfully cold in Montreal, so we're going to spend a lot of time indoors. Basically, we're all set then, aren't we?" he joked. More seriously he mentioned that he's testing with almost almost all the Austrians and Germans, including Grand Prix Moscow finalist Wenzel Krautmann, three-time GP Top 8er Klaus Jöns, and Worlds runner-up David Reitbauer.

    Thomas Holzinger

    "We've already tested some, but there are still a number of crazy ideas for Standard decks floating around." Pressed for specifics, Holzinger was hesitant not to reveal too much, of course, but decided he could safely disclose the following: "For example, I just learned yesterday of the rather realistic possibility of infinite life in Standard. Boros Reckoner, in combination with either Boros Charm or Frontline Medic for indestructibility and either Nearheath Pilgrim or Swift Justice for lifelink, only needs to get some damage to then repeatedly damage itself, gaining arbitrary amounts of life in the process."


  • Round 4 Feature Match – David Reitbauer vs. Christian Calcano

    by David Sutcliffe

  • Christian Calcano was part of a small but elite contingent of players who had travelled across the Atlantic to play in Grand Prix London, before flying straight back for Pro Tour Montreal. The travelling gunslinger has landed tough opposition in the fourth round here in London, however, facing off against the Austrian David Reitbauer – runner up in the 2009 World Championships

    Winning the dice roll, Calcano declared his guild affiliation with an Orzhov Guildgate before playing Pristmatic Prism, while Reitbauer began the evolution of his Simic forces with a Gyre Sage, although the Elf Druid didn't gain a +1/+1 counter from the arrival of a Metropolis Sprite on the Austrian's next turn. Calcano played a Knight of Obligation, then after Reitbauer passed the turn the American revealed a tricky Dimir splash to his deck – a Call of the Nightwing that resolved, then was imprinted onto the Knight of Obligation before an attack.

    Christian Calcano

    Two flying horrors sprang to Calcano's side, Reitbauer deployed a Leyline Phantom as a deterrent but on his next turn Calcano played a Holy Mantle onto his Knight of Obligation, even finding time to pay for Extort! The Knight of Obligation had become a one-man army – a 4/6 creature with Vigiliance, Extort, Protection from Creatures, and the Ciphered ability to spawn more batwinged terrors with every unblockable attack!

    Reitbauer threw down dudes as fast as he could – a Drakewing Krasis and Ooze Flux joined his team alongside the Metropolis Sprite, Leyline Phantom and 3/4 Gyre Sage, but Simic's creature-based strategy was poorly matched against Holy Mantle. Calcano wasted little time in pressing the advantage, sending the Knight of Obligation and a swarm of tokens at the Austrian – that put the scores at 5 life to 21, and Calcano could then pay to Extort the copy of Call of the Nightwing, and a Death's Approach, swinging the life totals even further in his favor.

    3 life now played 23, and Reitbauer needed his next card to be something that could kill Knight of Obligation before he could swing again. It wasn't, and Christian Calcano wrapped up a dominant first game win.

    David Reitbauer 0 – 1 Christian Calcano

    On the play in the second game, Reitbauer made a quicker start with Zameck Guildmage and Drakewing Krasis putting Calcano on his heels. The American responded with Kingpin's Pet but opted not to trade, dropping to 13 life on the next attack before hitting back with Basilica Guards, paying to Extort, then swinging the Pet back at Reitbauer.

    The stage was set – Reitbauer was going to attempt to blow Calcano out of the water, and Calcano was intending to race back with the help of his Orzhov extortionists!

    The Austrian swung again, the Zameck Guildmage bouncing off Calcano's Basilica Guards but dealing 3 with Drakewing Krasis, then added the tricky threat of a Simic Manipulator. Calcano took time out to read the Manipulator and absorb it's impact on his plan before attacking once again with Kingpin's Pet and adding a third Extort creature – a Crypt Ghast.

    The Extort was starting to work in Calcano's favour, and despite the offense Reitbauer was barely ahead on life at 14-12. The Austrian now displayed his big play to steal the game – a Clinging Anemones that Evolved the Simic Manipulator, then used Rapid Hybridisation to immediately turn the Anemones into a bizarre 3/3 Frog Lizard, adding another +1/+1 to the Manipulator. Ending his turn by stealing Calcano's Crypt Ghast with Simic Manipulator, Reitbauer looked in good shape.

    Calcano replied with a Vizkopa Confessor, paying 1 life to remove the last card from Reitbauer's hand – a chunky Sylvan Primordial. This was even more Extort on the American's side of the table, but while his creatures were keeping the American in the game they were all potential victims of the Simic Manipulator.

    Calcano did have a handy creature waiting in the wings, though – an Undercity Informer that was more than happy to sacrifice any creature the Simic Manipulator wanted to take. The Informer saw immediate use on Reitbauer's next turn, sending the Basilica Guards to meet their maker as Reitbauer played a Stolen Identity to create another 3/3 Frog Lizard. The Vizkopa Confessor suffered the same fate a turn later, and while the Simic Manipulator was not stealing Calcano's creature it was still able to ensure their sacrifice. The Manipulator meant that Reitbauer edged further and further ahead, adding a 3/4 Gyre Sage thanks to a double activation of Zameck Guildmage.

    Calcano was on his knees – hurling Undercity Informer at an attacker meant his remaining Gutter Skulk was no match for the army of Simic spawn at Reitbauer's command. Drawing a final card, the American scooped up what few cards he had left in play and we were into a decisive third game.

    David Reitbauer 1 – 1 Christian Calcano

    Reitbauer's victory in the second game had been just as assured as Calcano's sweep of the first and both players clearly had decks capable of imposing themselves on the opponent. This third game began more tentatively, though, with Calcano slow to start before using Devour Flesh to kill Zameck Guildmage. A Drakewing Krasis took Reitbauer's fight to the air, while Calcano turned to Crypt Ghast.

    A Keymaster Rogue replaced the Drakewing Krasis on the Austrian's next turn, but that seemed to be a stumbled tempo play for the Simic deck's beatdown, and Reitbauer had to brace for the impact of what Calcano could do with all the mana he would gain from the Crypt Ghast.

    First out of Calcano's hand was a Vizkopa Confessor with the American bravely paying 5 life to look at Reitbauer's entire hand, taking Hands of Binding from a choice of Drakewing Krasis, Metropolis Sprite, Elusive Krasis and Island. Reitbauer threw down his Elusive Krasis and Metropolis Sprite, but with Calcano now having two Extort creatures the offensive was slow going, and a Deathcult Rogue arrived with double-Extort from the Crypt Ghast and Vizkopa Confessor.

    Calcano's defences remained far from watertight, and it was starting to look as though his decision to pay 5 life with Vizkopa Confessor had fallen on the wrong side of 'brave' as his opponent's foot remained glued to the accelerator. An Experiment One and Drakewing Krasis joined the fray, adding a second +1/+1 counter to the Elusive Krasis. Between the Krasis and the Keymaster Rogue Reitbauer now had 5 power of unblockable creatures, with the Metropolis Spirite joining the fight to swing for 7 damage.

    After taking that beating on the chin Calcano was 17-5 down on life and needed some big Extort action to fend off the coming onslaught. A Balustrade Spy offered some flying defense and an opportunity for extortion, before Gift of Orzhova added some crucial Lifelink to the Deathcult Rogue – attacking for 3 with his Rogue, Calcano had managed to swing the lifetotals to a more respectable 12-10 in a single turn!

    David Reitbauer

    Reitbauer was unphased, though – he drew a card, paused for a brief piece of combat math, then delivered a strike with all his creatures. Calcano could have no answer to the Elusive Krasis or Keymaster Rogue but hurled the Balustrade Spy in front of Drakewing Krasis, leaving Metropolis Sprite unblocked.

    It was enough for the American to survive another turn... or so it seemed! Before damage was dealt David Reitbauer revealed one final trick – a Bloodrushed's Scab-Clan Charger gave +2/+4 to his Metropolis Sprite, and he then transferred two of that Toughness to Power with the Sprite's ability. A 5/4 Sprite, 2/6 Elusive Krasis and 3/2 Keymaster Rogue meant 10 unblocked damage, and that was the match!

    David Reitbauer 2 – 1 Christian Calcano


  • Round 5 Feature Match – Samuele Estratti vs. Stanislav Cifka

    by Tobi Henke

  • Nearly halfway through day one, neither of the players had picked up any losses so far, but the hardest part was yet to come, beginning with this match right here. Pro Tour Philadelphia champion Samuele Estratti had built an aggressive Boros deck, while Pro Tour Return to Ravnica champion Stanislav Cifka brought a blue-red-green deck with a splash of white.

    Game 1

    Estratti won the die-roll and opened on Daring Skyjek and Court Street Denizen, while Cifka cast a pair of Disciple of the Old Ways (without red mana). On turn four, Estratti summoned Skyknight Legionnaire, tapped one of the opposing 2/2s, thought a while about his attack, then attacked with just the Legionnaire.

    Samuele Estratti

    Cifka made Verdant Harvest and Skarrg Guildmage, Estratti exiled the latter with Angelic Edict and got in for another 2. Cifka cast Prophetic Prism and Zameck Guildmage and passed the turn back to Estratti, who attacked for 2 more damage and added Warmind Infantry to his team.

    Cifka summoned Ruination Wurm, his first real threat since Gruul Guildmage. Estratti drew his sixth land and had a better six-drop in Urbis Protector. The two white creatures allowed Court Street Denizen to tap most of Cifka's defense, and Warmind Infantry, Skyknight Legionnaire, and Daring Skyjek attacked for 9. Cifka had no answer for Estratti's fliers and that was that.

    Samuele Estratti 1-0 Stanislav Cifka

    Game 2

    Cifka started with Cloudfin Raptor followed by Ember Beast, Estratti had Skinbrand Goblin followed by Bomber Corps. Estratti had a third creature in Viashino Shanktail, Cifka summoned Zameck Guildmage growing his Cloudfin Raptor to 2/3.

    This kept Estratti's Skyknight Legionnaire, played post combat, from attacking, but not his Viashino Shanktail, which brought Cifka to 13. Cifka passed the turn without play. Estratti feared a trap and held back, cast an Assault Griffin and passed himself. At end of turn, Cifka drew a card off Zameck Guildmage, removing one counter from Cloudfin Raptor, then cast Shambleshark and on his turn Ruination Wurm, turning Cloudfin Raptor into a 3/4.

    Estratti's Assault Griffin and Skyknight Legionnaire attacked, and his Arrows of Justice killed the Raptor. Afterwards, he played Boros Elite and was looking to be in very good position, ahead on life and creatures. However, Cifka turned all of his creatures (Ember Beast, Zameck Guildmage, 3/2 Shambleshark, and Ruination Wurm) sideways and ended the game on the spot with a bloodrushed Skarrg Goliath!

    Samuele Estratti 1-1 Stanislav Cifka

    Stanislav Cifka

    Game 3

    Estratti took mulligans down to five and wasn't able to mount much of an early offense. Or defense. He was still stuck on two lands (and one Boros Elite), when Cifka had already cast Metropolis Sprite, Crocanura, Disciple of the Old Ways, Ember Beast and Zameck Guildmage (in that order). A Martial Glory and a Skinbrand Goblin came way too late to make a difference and a third land never showed.

    Samuele Estratti 1-2 Stanislav Cifka


  • Round 5 Feature Match – Samuele Estratti vs. Stanislav Cifka

    by David Sutcliffe

  • With the hard graft of Sealed pool building behind them the attention of many players turned towards the Magic dealers here at Grand Prix London. With nearly 2,000 players in attendance it's a good job there are no less than four dealer stands on hand to sate their cardboard desires.

    The dealers are also a great source of information on what is or isn't selling from a new set, even if they're only occasionally the breaking news themselves (I'm thinking of times like the great Hunted Wumpus rush). After checking in with the other stores I pulled aside our semi-regular card hype consultant, Nigel from Twiddles Keep, for some of the low down.

    "The card people are asking for most is the Boros Reckoner, and then the new lands of course. There are a lot of Boros cards going out, so as well as the Reckoner there's Frontline Medic, Legion Loyalist, then Aurelia, the Warleader and Aurelia's Fury. Not as many Aurelia's Fury as I expected, though. We've noticed that it's Uncommons that people are chasing at the moment, not just rares, so the Keyrunes are really popular, as well as Cartel Aristocrat and Ghor-Clan Rampager."

    "The set is so new, I think people are waiting for it all to settle down so they can see what cards are good. That happens a lot when a set is very new and with the Pro Tour coming up people are looking for what cards are used there before they buy cards. That's normal – we saw a few years ago that when Brian Kibler won the Pro Tour it changed what cards were popular, and cards that people thought were really average before the Pro Tour became massively popular."
    (I imagine he means Pro Tour Honolulu, and cards like Huntmaster of the Fells – Dave)

    Away from Twiddles Keep the other traders all recounted similar stories, with Boros Reckoner and shock lands the first things on everybody's list, although there were a few variations. At Magic Madhouse they had seen a lot of interest in 'the new Dark Confidant': Duskmantle Seer, while both the Madhouse and JK Entertainment were struggling to keep Obzedat, Ghost Council in stock, with JK claiming "we're buying him in as often as we can, but they always sell within five minutes".

    What the dealers could all agree on was that Gatecrash was an extremely popular set, with boosters flying off the shelves. Ahead of Pro Tour Gatecrash there are some firm fan favourites already established, but all eyes will be on what surprises the best minds in the game can throw up in Montreal. The best card in Gatecrash may, even now, be lurking unseen and unloved... waiting for the chance to shine.


  • Round 7 Feature Match – Gregor Strubelj vs. Raphaël Lévy

    by David Sutcliffe

  • Raphaël Lévy is a freak of Magic evolution – he's the Pro Player design that was so good it has managed to survive every change of environment thrown at it. And Lévy doesn't just survive: more often than not, he thrives. New sets, new players, new rules, the Frenchman just adapts and survives at the top of the game when all of his contemporaries have been and gone. Lévy admits that he can't dedicate the hours to learning constructed formats and be as competitive as he would like, but given a brand new Sealed format his lifetime of experience makes him one of the fastest learners, and one of the most dangerous opponents. The veteran of veterans was proving that fact once again in London, taking a 6-0 record into his feature match against his Slovenian opponent, Gregor Strubelj

    Strubelj opened with an unfortunate mulligan but still took the front foot, laying a Gutter Skulk, Basilica Guards and Syndicate Enforcer unopposed, while Lévy laid only a trio of Swamps and an Island before playing his first creature – a Balustrade Spy. The Spy blocked the incoming Syndicate Enforcer but Strubelj simply replaced his lost Enforcer with a Crypt Ghast, trading one Extort creature for another. Lévy dropped a Death's Approach onto the Crypt Ghast, but only gave it -1/-1: leaving open 1UB it seemed like Lévy was telegraphing a Psychic Strike, but if so then Gregor Strubelj hadn't got the message and he sank all his mana into casting a big Sapphire Drake with double Extort. Lévy hadn't been bluffing the Psychic Strike and the Slovenian ran headlong into. That meant the Sapphire Drake was countered, which was a second creature into his graveyard, and in turn that meant Death's Approach finally accounted for his Crypt Ghast into the bargain.

    Gregor Strubelj

    That 2-for-1 swap was a painful loss of tempo for the Slovenian, but Strubelj was undaunted and played down his final two cards – a High priest of Penance and a Smog Elemental. Lévy was down to 10 life after the early offense, but now stabilised behind a Mindeye Drake and Corpse Blockade, before adding a Sapphire Drake of his own, and then his own Crypt Ghast! With the immediate threat blunted a second Death's Approach accounted for Strubelj's Smog Elemental and the game rapidly turned on its head – it was now Lévy in beatdown mode, and Lévy using Extort to rebuild his lifetotal.

    Strubelj was rocking and could do nothing in the face of Lévy's onslaught, finally feeling that loss of a card to his early mulligan. The French veteran imprinted his Mindeye Drake with Last Thoughts, sucking up more cards to trigger Extort. It was over, and Gregor Strubelj collected his cards.

    Gregor Strubelj 0 – 1 Raphaël Lévy

    After a glacial start in the first game Raphaël Lévy was quicker off the mark in the second – his Wight of Precinct Six might only have been a 1/1 to begin with but rapidly got Tarmogoyf-sized with the help of Devour Flesh and a Balustrade Spy that dug six cards into Strubelj's library, leaving the Wight a 3/3. The rot was setting in quickly and Strubelj needed defences, which he found with the combination of Basilica Guards and afflicting Lévy's Wight with Agoraphobia. In time, the Wight would get strong enough to no longer fear leaving the house, but it bought valuable time.

    Lévy turned to aerial offense from his Balustrade Spy, adding a Deathcult Rogue that would also prove tough to block. Strubelj had a Crypt Ghast but that could only watch helplessly as Lévy's creatures slipped past into the red zone, to be joined by Smog Elemental on Lévy's next turn.

    A Mindeye Drake was the first sign of real defense from Strubelj, but the Slovenian was still haemorrhaghing life with each passing turn and dropped to 11 life, with Lévy adding a second Balustrade Spy to the assault. A Sapphire Drake finally became a flying blocker too many for Lévy, but that simply sent the veteran onto his next attack route and he played Last Thoughts, imprinting it onto his Deathcult Rogue with Cipher before slipping in for another 2 damage and another card draw.

    Raphaël Lévy

    With most of the creatures on the table involved in a tense standoff the game moved into a new phase – Lévy could attack with Deathcult Rogue and draw cards, while Strubelj had three Extort creatures on the table. If he could keep a steady supply of spells to cast, there was a chance that Strubelj could battle his way out of the situation. As well as his draw step, Gregor Strubelj had one card he could rely on being able to cast: Agoraphobia, but when Lévy played Corpse Blockade even that option went out the window as the French pro sacrificed his Wight of Precinct Six before Strubelj could return the aura to hand!

    Drawing an extra card each turn with Last Thoughts ensured that Lévy had all the answers – Death's Approach removed the troublesome Sapphire Drake and cleared the way for another aerial assault. Taking 8 damage in one turn, Strubelj was battered down to 5 life... a triple-Extort while playing a second Basilica Guards hauled him back up to 8 but when a second Death's Approach destroyed his Mindeye Drake Strubelj was left completely was defenceless, and Lévy's flyers wrapped up the match.

    Gregor Strubelj 0 – 2 Raphaël Lévy


  • Saturday, 8:22 p.m. – Quick Question: Favorite Guild in Sealed Deck

    by Tobi Henke

  • Elias Watsfeldt: Orzhov. I played four Sealeds and I've been Orzhov every single time. I also played against three Orzhov decks so far today.
    Denniz Rachid: For Sealed, I like something defensive, and I don't mind splashing. At the prerelease I played Orzhov splashing for double red cards, for example. So yeah, Orzhov with double-red splash, that's my favorite "guild."
    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa: Orzhov, I think. Or Gruul maybe. I really like both.
    Raphaël Lévy: Dimir. I'm playing Dimir today, and so far it's been amazing.


  • Saturday, 9:45 p.m. – Mystery Sealed Pool: The Final Deck Revealed

    by David Sutcliffe

  • Earlier in the day we shared a Mystery Sealed Pool with you and asked you what deck you would make with that pool. The pool was one that had been given to a mystery Pro and Grand Prix Champion, and we can now reveal that the deck belonged to super-Swede Kenny Oberg.

    Now comes the fun part – seeing how Kenny's picks from this pool differed from your own.

    I don't know what you did with Kenny's pool, but the Swedish pro homed in on Gruul extremely quickly, quickly laying down the Green and Red cards from his pool, with a smaller pooler off to the side with some Boros splash cards to consider. The Gruul guild contained plenty of powerful cards, such as Ruination Wurm, Zhur-Taa Swine and the all-star Clan Defiance, but it also had a problem – the mana curve was all wrong, with only a clutch handful of cards he could play on the second turn. It was a cause for concern and Oberg ran back and forth through his options, only Boros appeared to offer a realistic option.

    Extracting the green cards, Kenny dropped down his white ensemble in their place to see what a Boros option would look like, but it took just a few seconds for him to decide that Zarichi Tiger and Dutiful Thrull were no replacement for Skarrg Guildmage and Ghor-Clan Rampager. The green went back in, and with a sole white splash for Foundry Champion, Kenny Oberg was done with his deck and reached for his card sleeves.

    I steered Kenny away for a quiet chat, and first on the list was what he thought of his deck?

    "I think I have a lot of cards that are below the average power level, but I have a lot of big creatures and that tends to win games of Sealed. My big weakness is that my mana curve isn't very good – I really needed a couple more two drops, or some more Muggings. The pool I registered then gave away had four Muggings in – I could have done with some of that!"

    That didn't sound too promising, but Oberg saw lots of potential in his deck.

    Kenny Oberg

    "I have the Gruul Keyrune and Gyre Sage and they could be really helpful in my deck, to get to my big creatures early. The Gyre Sage in particular can be really good, and I have two Ivy Lane Denizen to help me put more counters on the Sage. When he has +2/+2 he's really good, and when he has +3/+3 he's insane, and combos really well with Skargg Goliath. I think Gyre Sage may be the best card in my deck, because it plays all the roles I want it to play - even with just +1/+1 it's a good blocker with three toughness."

    Gyre Sage and Skarrg Goliath was an all-rare combo, but Kenny had praise for the combination of two commons in his deck as well.

    "I really like Madcap Skills on an Armored Transport, that's a great combo. If they don't block the Transport they're dead really quickly, and if they do block it... it's like a double chump!"

    From low beginnings, Kenny now seemed to be talking his deck up as a potential champ, so the Swede was sure to recognise the weaknesses as well and level the playing field.

    "I have to be careful against quick decks, because I don't have those two drops - I nearly played the 1/1 red Denizen just as a sacrificial blocker. And I think an aggro deck with flyers could cause me real problems"

    Moving away from the deck in hand, what practice had Kenny done for the Grand Prix?

    "Not much – I'm concentrating on the Pro Tour next week! I played in a couple of Prerelease tournaments and I've done a few drafts as practice for the Pro Tour, but I haven't done any specific Sealed testing. The prerelease was really helpful in learning the cards, but with the Guild boosters it was almost like having two additional boosters to build from, so it's not too useful as practice. I played Orzhov and Simic in my prereleases so this is my first time with Gruul, although I did get the Gyre Sage and Skarrg Goliath combo in my Simic deck so I know how powerful that can be"

    Who have you been practicing with for the Pro Tour?

    "I've been working with all the Swedish guys who have qualified, like Denniz Rachid and Elias Watsfeldt – we've been sharing some ideas with the Finnish players as well. But really we plan to do most of the work once we get to Montreal – as always everything happens in the last week before a Pro Tour."

    Without giving too much away, was Gatecrash going to have a big impact on Standard at the Pro Tour?

    "Oh definitely! I don't think the impact is going to come in new decks, but there will be lots of improvements to existing decks. Just having those five extra shocklands gives players many more options for deckbuilding. The shocklands favour aggro decks though, so we'll have to see how that plays out"

    Kenny shared all those thoughts with me over six hours ago, when the deck was still fresh in his hands. How had he fared in the trials of combat?

    After having such faith in his deck Kenny took a hit to his confidence when he found himself thrust straight into the live stream feature match in round 4, losing a tight match. Another narrow defeat followed in the next round, leaving the Swede on 3-2. But Oberg always believed his deck was better than that performance suggested and he charged back with three straight wins to head into Round 8 on a 5-2 record. Two more wins would carry Oberg into Day Two, but unfortunately a bad mana draw against a Boros deck with bad intentions saw Oberg blown away in Round Eight.

    Catching Oberg on his exit from the tournament, what would he have changed?

    "I've asked a lot of other players and they would have built the deck pretty much the same way, so I think I made it about as well as I could. The only thing I've sideboarded regularly is that I had a Towering Thunderfist, and because I've been playing against Boros and Orzhov a lot they struggle to deal with it profitably. It's matchup-dependant, but maybe that would have been better than my Adaptive Snapjaw in the maindeck. But the games I lost were either really close, or in that last round he got the perfect cards against me – such as actually being able to counter Clan Defiance with Field Medic in the first game, which pretty much never happens. That's Magic!"

    With a philosophical air, Kenny Oberg bowed out of GP London... no doubt already thinking of Pro Tour Gatecrash next weekend.


  • Round 8 Feature Match – Shahar Shenhar vs. Nathalie Verly

    by Tobi Henke

  • Both players were 6-1 so far, needing one more win to make it to the second day. Two-time Grand Prix champion Shahar Shenhar was on Orzhov, while Nathalie Verly had built a red-green-white deck.

    Game 1

    Verly played first and started strong on Burning-Tree Emissary and Skyknight Legionnaire. Unfortunately, she had no immediate follow-up, while Shenhar summoned Deathcult Rogue, Basilica Guards, and Court Street Denizen. Her Rust Scarab fell victim to Angelic Edict, and though both players had a creature the other couldn't block, Shenhar was pulling ahead in the damage race through Basilica Guards' extortion racket.

    The small incremental advantage proved all but irrelevant, however, when Verly dropped the proverbial bomb: Aurelia, the Warleader turned the damage race around, or rather the notion of any race at all on its head. Shenhar had no answer, and it didn't take long for Aurelia to end things.

    Shahar Shenhar 0-1 Nathalie Verly

    Game 2

    Both had slow starts, with just one creature until turn five: Skyknight Legionnaire for Verly, Gutter Skulk for Shenhar. Skyknight Legionnaire met Devour Flesh and was replaced with Warmind Infantry. Shenhar played a Deathcult Rogue, then a second Gutter Skulk. Verly once again had Aurelia, the Warleader which, together with Warmind Infantry, brought Shenhar in one sweep from 16 to 6. This time, however, Shenhar had Angelic Edict for the Angel.

    Shahar Shenhar

    Verly's Warmind Infantry traded with one of the Gutter Skulks, but Knight Watch and Rust Scarab gave her plenty reinforcements. An attack plus Massive Raid brought Shenhar to 1, but he recovered and slowly gained the upperhand. Syndic of Tithes and One Thousand Lashes took care of the last 2/2 token and Rust Scarab, respectively, and soon Shenhar's Deathcult Rogue was back on offense, with an encoded Undercity Plague to boot!

    Verly's Assemble the Legion came too late and didn't assemble or accomplish much of anything. Deathcult Rogue took the game.

    Shahar Shenhar 1-1 Nathalie Verly

    Game 3

    To start things off, Greenside Watcher and Gutter Skulk traded. Next, Verly had Warmind Infantry, then Ember Beast, but was left with no attackers, when the Infantry got stuck under One Thousand Lashes. Boros Keyrune and Sunhome Guildmage, however, showed that Verly really was at no risk to run out of creatures.

    Her Massive Raid killed a freshly-summoned Guardian of the Guildless, and her Guildmage and Ember Beast got in for 5. Shenhar summoned two Basilica Guards. Verly swung in regardless, boosting her Guildmage to 4/2 to trade it off for one of the 1/4s.

    Verly had yet more creatures, theoretically an infinite number even, in Assemble the Legion, but only got one token before Shenhar exiled the enchantment with Angelic Edict. Next, Shenhar cast Gutter Skulk, Verly cast Knight of Obligation. Things weren't exactly looking good for Shenhar, and now Verly added another two creatures to her team with Knight Watch.

    Nathalie Verly

    At this point the board was: lands on both sides, two 2/2 tokens, one 1/1 token, Knight of Obligation, Ember Beast, and Boros Keyrune for Verly, a measly Gutter Skulk and Basilica Guards for Shenhar.

    On her next turn, Verly swung with all of her creatures including Boros Keyrune. She lost Knight of Obligation to Grisly Spectacle and her 1/1 token to blocks but brought Shenhar to 2. He cast Smog Elemental and extorted to go to 3, then blocked so that he would survive on 1 life exactly ... barring unforeseen circumstances, of course, like Verly's Slaughterhorn, for example, bloodrushing to victory and to day two.

    Shahar Shenhar 1-2 Nathalie Verly


  • Saturday, 10:29 p.m. – Quick Question: Pick Your Common

    by Tobi Henke

  • Let's say you could choose any one common from Gatecrash and have five copies of it in your next sealed pool. Which one would you pick?

    Elias Watsfeldt: Tough. I'm going to go with Basilica Guards, but that's a personal preference. I'm sure it's not actually the best.
    Denniz Rachid: Slaughterhorn. It's a Giant Growth that's also a creature. It depends a little on the number of one- and two-drops you have, but what more can you wish for? I believe this may in fact be the correct answer here.
    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa: We actually discussed that question yesterday! It's a tough one. We couldn't come to an agreement, but I think I'd pick Grisly Spectacle.
    Raphaël Lévy: Death's Approach. People hate it, but come on, it's a one mana removal spell!


  • Round 9 Feature Match – Thomas Enevoldsen vs. Martin Jůza

    by David Sutcliffe

  • "My deck's really not very good", Martin Jůza shared with me, on his first visit to the feature match area here in London, "I went to 5-0 then met a couple of good decks and dropped to 5-2. I'm just happy to be here!"

    That at least explained why we had seen little of Jůza so far in this Grand Prix but his opponent, Thomas Enevoldsen, was also an unknown quantity. Always one to fish for information before a match, Jůza asked his opponent if he liked his deck.

    "I don't think it's very good," Enevoldsen confided, after a pause to consider his words "unless I draw from the good half!"

    "So that's something, at least"

    The two players were 'on the bubble' with 6-2 records. A win would keep them alive for the last round, while a defeat would send them crashing out of the Grand Prix.

    Martin Jůza

    Jůza won the dice roll but agonised over his mulligan option, before sending his original seven cards away, banking on having six that were better. The Czech star seemed to get his wish, with a Simic draw that rolled out with Zameck Guildmage and an Elusive Krasis, although Jůza was reluctant to send his Guildmage into the red zone to trade with Enevoldsen's Daring Skyjek. A Truefire Paladin joined the Skyjek and Jůza was forced onto the defense – a Slaughterhorn added a +1/+1 counter to Jůza's Elusive Krasis, but all of his creatures remained home on defense.

    Enevoldsen played an Ordrunn Veteran, threatening to build a fearsome Battalion of flyers and First and Double strikers, while Jůza missed his fourth land drop for a second turn and passed his turn.

    The Dane wasted little time in sending his Battalion into the red zone – this would now be a test of the two player's combat tricks. Jůza's Elusive Krasis blocked the Ordrunn Veteran, trading the two creatures away, before Enevoldsen replaced his minotaur with a Warmind Infantry. Jůza summoned a Disciple of the Old Ways to his defense, but Enevoldsen simply attacked again with his three creatures. This time the Disciple of the Old Ways offered to trade First Strike damage with the Truefire Paladin, and the Slaughterhorn to trade with the Warmind Infantry. Revealing Martial Glory, Enevoldsen ensured that his Truefire Paladin would survive with +0/+3, and that his Daring Skyjek would push through six damage with +3/+0.

    The Czech star as battered down to 6 life, and while Enevoldsen had a steady supply of creatures to rebuild his Battalion and attack again, Jůza simply couldn't find a fourth land to fight back, and the Dane took to the first game with his next large assault.

    Thomas Enevoldsen 1 – 0 Martin Jůza

    Was that the good half of Enevoldsen's deck, or had Jůza simply been dreadfully unlucky with his land draws? At the start of the second game the Czech pro's body language suggested he was much happier with his hand, and this time it was the Dane's turn to think long and hard before mulliganing down to six.

    Forest from Jůza's Gruul deck.

    Island from Enevoldsen's... Boros deck? Wait, what?

    Forest again, then Forest and Verdant Haven from Jůza, while Enevoldsen played a second Island, a Forest and a Crocanura!

    "How did I not notice that you changed decks?!?" Jůza asked, grinning at Enevoldsen's trick "this deck is better?"

    "I've spent all day switching between the two", the Dane explained

    Jůza found a fourth turn Zhur-Taa Swine to begin the offense, while across the table Enevoldsen added a Crowned Ceratok to his surprise green team. Agoraphobia kept the Ceratok at home when the Zhur-Taa Swine came calling, and Jůza followed up with an Elusive Krasis, although the Krasis found itself Mugged after blocked Enevoldsen's 2/4 Crocanura.

    The Ceratok blocked the Zhur-Taa Swine on the next pass, and now it was the Swine vs Crocanura, before Enevoldsen dropped a hefty 6/6 Rubblehulk! That gave Jůza a long pause before he said 'ok' to allow the Rubblehulk to resolve, then immediately sent the 'hulk to the top of Enevoldsen's library with Totally Lost. The Swine attacked again and Enevoldsen took it on the chin, dropping to 10 life, then Jůza added a Slaughterhorn to his army.

    Enevoldsen replayed his Rubblehulk, then followed it up a turn later with an even bigger bomb – Prime-Speaker Zagana arrived in play with six +1/+1 counters, and Enevoldsen sucked up a whole new hand! If a 6/6 Rubblehulk and 7/7 Prime-Speaker weren't enough of a problem, their arrival had also swelled the Crocanura to an incredible 6/8!

    The game had become incredibly one-sided, with the once-mighty Zhur-Taa Swine now completely outgunned. Jůza pondered briefly before sending the Swine into the attack – it was a suicide mission for the poor Zhur-Taa Swine, but the sheer audacity of the play made Enevoldsen think twice: what tricks did Jůza have up his sleeve – was it safe it block, or was it suicide to let the Swine through?

    In the end, Enevoldsen decided to leave nothing to chance and both the Rubblehulk and Prime-Speaker Zegana blocked the Zhur-Taa Swine. The Swine exploded into fragments, but Jůza then played his own rare – a Diluvian Primordial that cast the Mugging from Enevoldsen's graveyard to finish Rubblehulk off. Jůza's Swine hadn't died in vain, but the fight was still heading against the Czech star, and Enevoldsen swelled his ranks with a Nightveil Spectre and Disciple of the Old Ways.

    Attack was Jůza's only form of defence, and this time he sent both the Slaughterhorn and Diluvian Primordial into the fray. Enevoldsen sent his Crocanura to swat down the Primordial, and his Disciple of the Old Ways to slay Slaughterhorn. Jůza threw a Bloodrush Skarrg Goliath onto his Diluvian Primordial, dealing 7 Trample damage over the Crocanura – that put Enevoldsen down to the 3 life, but when the Dane played a 6/6 Nimbus Swimmer as a flying blocker, it seemed like the game was up.

    Jůza played a Deathcult Rogue that would prove little help against Enevoldsen's creatures then sat back, head in his hands in a picture of defeat as Enevoldsen swung in for the kill, with the Dane playing a Bloodrush Scab-Clan Charger to ensure his victo... Ætherise! Ætherise! Ætherise!

    Jůza's slumped body language had been a trick to convince Enevoldsen to come in with everything, and the Dane had taken the bait! Enevoldsen pulled his creatures back to hand, and now that three mana spent on Scab-Clan Charger seemed particularly painful as it meant he didn't have mana to replay his creatures!

    A Duskmantle Seer chump-blocked Jůza's Primordial Seer to buy a turn, but despite replaying his Prime-Speaker Zegana to draw even more cards Enevoldsen couldn't find anything to stop Jůza's Deathcult Rogue from finishing the job.

    Thomas Enevoldsen 1 – 1 Martin Jůza

    What a game! Enevoldsen had suckered Jůza with his switch into Simic, only to be suckered himself by the hail mary Ætherise! To be fair, the Dane had hinted that his deck came in two halves... that early piece of mind games now seemed surprisingly honest.

    The question now: would Enevoldsen go back to Boros or remain with his bomb-heavy Simic deck in the third game?

    Thomas Enevoldsen

    The answer was immediately obvious as the Dane flew out of the blocks with a Daring Skyjek, aiming a Mugging at Jůza's Slaughterhorn then despatching a Zhur-Taa Swine with Aerial Maneuver to make his Daring Skyjeck a 4/2 First Striker. Missing plays for a couple of turns put Jůza onto the ropes against the lone Skyjek and all the Czech star could do was throw down a second Zhur-Taa Swine as it appeared on top of his library.

    That was a blocker, but Enevoldsen had the answer already in hand – he enchanted a land with Debtor's Pulpit, and ensured that the penniless Swine was tapped down while his Skyjek finished the job. After an epic back-and-forth second game, the match was decided in a blowout third game, as the Dane returned to his Boros roots.

    Thomas Enevoldsen 2 – 1 Martin Jůza


  • Saturday, 11:35 p.m. – Quick Question: Pick Your Rare

    by Tobi Henke

  • Which rare or mythic from Gatecrash would you most want to have in your next sealed pool?

    Elias Watsfeldt: Mythics, too? Well, in that case ... I'm still going to go with Clan Defiance.
    Denniz Rachid: Molten Primordial, also known as "the bus." It's big, it picks people up, and then ... you just win, generally on the same turn when you cast it.
    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa: The most amazing cards are all gold, so there's a good chance they end up in your sideboard. But assuming you can play it, it's Clan Defiance. Though not by much. A lot of the rares are very close in their powerlevel, which is nice.
    Raphaël Lévy: Consuming Aberration. I like that guy, he's really, really strong.


  • Saturday, 11:44 p.m. – Undefeated Decks

    by Event Coverage Staff

  • Here we got all the decks that made it through the first nine rounds without a single loss. At the very top, the format appeared to be split between rather streamlined Boros decks and more multicolor-oriented green decks, with Gruul somewhere inbetween. The best example of an extremely aggressive Boros deck was piloted by Pierre Pigeon, while on the other end of the spectrum Fabrizio Anteri ran the tables with an honest-to-goodness Golgari deck. No kidding.

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