Grand Prix–Lyon: Day 1 Archive

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  • Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – Getting By(es) On Yesterday's Trials
    by Tobias Henke
  • I go to trials with a little help from my friends,
    mm, I get byes with a little help from my friends...

    Another work from the same source goes by the title of "Yesterday", and that is exactly where we're heading with this. Yesterday a total of 384 players took part in 12 Grand Prix Trials, the very last chance to secure the highly coveted byes for today's main event. All of the Trials were 32-player flights, single elimination, and awarded three byes to the one player who managed to go undefeated, 5-0.

    The format was Rise of the Eldrazi Sealed Deck, the same as is now being played in the Grand Prix itself; thus, not only the perfect training ground for the participants, but for us a terrific opportunity to gather some early insight into the inner workings of the brand-new limited environment. What does a succesful Sealed deck look like? What friends help (a little) with going 5-0? We have the answers right here because, ladies and gentleman, we have a winner! No wait, we have 12 winners!

    Jaime Villareal
    Winner, Grand Prix Trial #1

    Vladimir Komanicky
    Winner, Grand Prix Trial #8


  • Saturday, 9:20 a.m. – Crash Course in Advanced Card Interactions
    by Tobias Henke
  • To while away the time until the real action starts here at Grand Prix Lyon, we now proudly present the top three Rise of the Eldrazi card interactions you have (probably) never heard about. Three tricky rules questions the answers to which every player should know, but as a quick poll today showed, most don't. Yours truly truly didn't know all of these at the start of the day.

    #3) Echo Mage With Disaster Radius, Momentous Fall and Others

    When you copy one of these spells, the additional cost paid for the original is copied as well. So if, let's say, your opponent casts Disaster Radius, revealing Emrakul, the Aeons Torn to deal 15 damage to all of your creatures, and if you happen to control Echo Mage with two level-up counters, untapped, together with two untapped Islands, you can actually return the favor. Mass carnage.

    #2) Valakut Fireboar With Distortion Strike, Virulent Swipe and Others

    Switching power and toughness is always sort of tricky. Or is it? Turns out, Magic has a very simple rule to deal with these effects. It doesn't matter if the creature currently is 1/7 or 7/1; Virulent Swipe and Distortion Strike will always boost the 1. Not solely the numbers get exchanged, but really the toughness and power switch places for all regards. Likewise, a well-timed Fleeting Distraction might result in one very unhappy Boar.

    #1) Vendetta With Umbras

    Possibly the one interaction that will come up most this weekend is Vendetta on an Umbra-enchanted creature. Now here's the deal: Totem armor is a so-called "replacement effect", and replacement effects actually do take effect during the resolution of a spell. So first Vendetta destroys the creature, which is replaced by the Aura going to the bin. Then Vendetta makes its controller lose life equal to that creature's toughness. That is, the toughness without the bonus the Umbra might have previously granted. An example: Glory Seeker enchanted with Mammoth Umbra. Casting Vendetta on that 5/5 monster will destroy the enchantment at the bargain price of 2 life, not 5.

    Thanks to level-five judge Riccardo Tessitori for helping out with this list!


  • Podcast - The Rise Curtain Rises
    by Rich Hagon
  • Multi

    Rise of the Eldrazi is with us in a big way over the next month. Pro Tour: San Juan features both Block Constructed and Booster Draft. Grand Prix: Washington D.C. is all about Standard. Here at Grand Prix: Lyon, it's the chance for Europe's finest to display their Limited skill, with ten Rounds of Sealed Deck action taking us to Draft on Day Two. In our opening show, we get down to business with Bram Snepvangers, closing in on his 600th Pro Tour match in San Juan. Then it's time for tales of Super Friday Night Magic, as we get ready for over 8,000 boosters to be opened. That's a lot of Eldrazi folks.

    Download MP3


  • Saturday, 12:58 p.m. - Mysterious Deckbuilding
    by Tim Willoughby
  • What it is to be a wily pro in these days of high technology and big prizes (in French, quite literally 'Grand Prix'). Here in Lyon, we really wanted to cover the deck building process with you with a pro player, but were stuck with a knotty problem. In this age of iPhones and wifi, there is little to stop any player from checking out coverage at any time. The last thing we want to do is punish any player for helping us out, by making their decklist public while they are still playing.

    Our solution to this tricky problem is simplicity itself. We aren't going to tell you whose deck we are talking about now. All we will say about the player whose deck we are looking at is that he or she is better than the whole coverage team, even Tobi Henke, who beat Kai on the way to winning a GP many moons ago. The Magical Mystery Pro took us through their deck building process, in what was an interesting build.

    It's amazing what you can do with Photoshop these days

    Rise of the Eldrazi is a set with a lot of very powerful cards in, and these powerful cards shape every stage of sealed deck play. When building it is important to try to fit in what power one can, while having answers to the big monsters that opponents might play. When playing, removal must be carefully used on the right targets at the right time. This is not the place where you will often want to play Heat Ray for value early, to get in a little bit more damage.

    Magical Mystery Pro opened plenty in the way of power. With a foil rare in the mix, he was faced with the following seven rares from just six boosters.

    This is how Pros open boosters

    Clearly, any one of these rares would be a fine addition to many decks. Gideon is a good answer to just about any monster you would care to mention, while Ulamog is one of the few creatures resistant to Gideon. Guul Draz Assassin is the bane of leveling decks, picking off members of the team again and again if not dealt with quickly. Building this deck would require discipline.

    Looking beyond the rares, some of the gooders at other rarities included a pair of copies of Flame Slash, along with Forked Bolt and Staggershock. Suddenly those Magmaws looked a lot more likely to make the cut. The main build to come from Magical Mystery Pro leaned heavily on red cards, paired up with black. What? No Gideon? No Ulamog? Without appropriate acceleration, the big Eldrazi was not something that looked so castable, so he sat on the bench, alongside a rather baffled Gideon Jura. What the black red build has is mana consistency, along with a solid plan for most matchups. With reasonable creatures up the curve, he has a solid game against levelers, and between Traitorous Instinct and Magmaw, there was a cute way of really punishing opposing Eldrazi. A pair of copies of Bloodrite Invoker looked a little easier to get going thanks to Nirkana Revenant, and Perish the Thought was another potential way to take down Eldrazi before they posed a problem.

    Of course, Gideon couldn't possibly stay unplayed for ever. Build number two takes Gideon on board, along with such hits as Guard Duty and Dawnglare Invoker, making for the build with the best plan against a quick Eldrazi, albeit with very slightly shakier mana.

    Finally, there was a build splashing red, but keeping on black alongside green. This was the build with the best curve, and the potential to get Ulamog into play. While the mythic Eldrazi still languished on the sidelines, this build was the first realistic one rejected by Magical Mystery Pro, who liked the curve, but was less than satisfied with the power of the deck in that configuration.

    The final question was land. There has been a lot of discussion as to what is the correct number of lands to play in the format. Magical Mystery Pro settled on 17 land, with a Dreamstone Hedron in the mix, and a Prophetic Prism that would mean that on the draw (MMP's preference), hitting land drops shouldn't prove too problematic.

    One of the strengths of the Rise of the Eldrazi sealed format is that there are lots of options. This makes it hard to find the right build, but there are plenty of rewards for doing so. Is it right not to be running Gideon Jura in the main if possible? That is a question I don't feel qualified to answer. Our Magical Mystery Pro thinks that in this case it is not. At the end of the day, we shall see.


  • Saturday, 2:20 p.m. – Mysterious Deckbuilding #2
    by Tobias Henke
  • Maybe no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, however, what pros have already come to expect at these events are the inquiring minds of the coverage. Obviously, no player is happy about the prospect of having the exact contents of his deck spilled all over the internet while the Sealed Deck portion of the tournament is still in progress. But luckily, there's an easy solution to that dilemma. Instead of not telling you a lot about the pool and deck, we simply don't tell you the name of the player. Just assume this mystery pro knows what he's doing.

    With that out of the way, here's the full pool:

    "Blue and red were out soon," our mysterious friend recounted the first minutes of his deckbuilding process. "White was even worse, but possibly splash-worthy. Fortunately, black and green turned out to be extremely deep, so I had my main colors right there."

    "However, the first rough draft of a black / green deck with a small splash for white left me with about 33 playables, none of them too shabby," said the unnamed pro. "I certainly don't want to complain, but cutting down from there to 22 was really, really hard. For example, I had to get rid of Cadaver Imp, which is a fine card, but at 1/1 just too weak. Also the duo of Bloodthrone Vampire and Pawn of Ulamog had to go. And not a single Eldrazi made the cut." Surprisingly, Escaped Null did earn a spot in the final 40. "It's not nearly as bad as you'd expect a 1/2 creature for four mana to be. Especially nifty with Umbras. Even if you only plop down a Snake Umbra on it, your opponent is in a bad situation, caught between two rather unpleasant choices." On the topic of Umbras: "I like them a lot! It's a little sad I can't run more cheap creatures to go along with them, but they're still good. And if I ever get Snake Umbra on my Pestilence Demon, I can draw an insane amount of cards," he joked.

    Happy with the deck? "Yes. The mana is so solid, I'm mostly splashing white because I can. I didn't get quite as many removal spells as I had hoped for, but the three I have are good. Also, I don't think I will ever be overrun by some aggressive weenie strategy, not with two Growth Spasms accelerating into two Pelakka Wurms. That card's just evil."

    And here's the list:


  • Podcast - Six of the Best
    by Rich Hagon
  • Multi

    We know that Rise of the Eldrazi is a very different kind of animal. Players are running eight, nine, ten, twelve casting cost men in search of Eldrazi powerhouse action. But what do the early turns of a game look like? We check in on the start of games during Round three, and see how far games progress in the first six turns. How much mana acceleration is out there? And how much does it produce? 10/9 on turn six? Listen in to find out. Then we'll tell you which top players are on the start line, ready to compete for $30,000 in prize money, and the oh-so-important ten Pro Points to the winner.

    Download MP3


  • Feature Match Round 4 - Arjan van Leeuwen vs. Olivier Ruel
    by Tobias Henke
  • Arjan van Leeuwen

    What a great start to kick off today's feature-match coverage! Arjan van Leeuwen from the Netherlands has three GP Top 8s to his name, with two wins, and Olivier Ruel might easily be the most accomplished pro player in the room, with among other things, a whopping five GP wins out of 26 Top 8s. And there's another well-known name in the match, as both players run black, red, and green, also known as Jund.

    Not much happened for the first couple of turns, as both players struggled on their green mana. Arjan's Zulaport Enforcer died to Olivier's Last Kiss, and that was it. By turn seven Olivier still had no fifth land, but now the action started on van Leeuwen's side. His deck gave him Cadaver Imp to recast Zulaport Enforcer, and a Forest to summon Joraga Treespeaker. All Olivier could muster was a Soulsurge Elemental, which was not particularly awe-inspiring at 1/1, and even less so, when on his next turn Arjan cast Bala Ged Scorpion. Olivier finally found a fifth land which led to Dread Drone, but when Arjan added Wildheart Invoker to his even now more impressive line-up, Olivier quickly shuffled it up. Five minutes into the round the score stood at...

    Arjan van Leeuwen 1 – 0 Olivier Ruel

    Olivier Ruel

    This time around Olivier had the first creature, first two even, in Nest Invader with his little Eldrazi-Spawn companion. Arjan killed the 2/2 with Vendetta, then had Growth Spasm and Awakening Zone. His Wildheart Invoker, however, was killed by Last Kiss together with Spawning Breath, which allowed Olivier to summon Hand of Emrakul. Arjan used Surreal Memoir to get back Vendetta and dealt with the 7/7. Olivier had no hand anymore- no Hand of Emrakul, but also no more business to speak of in his grip. He drew land after land, and the only spell he was holding turned out to be Consuming Vapors...

    Meanwhile Arjan commanded a growing number of Eldrazi Spawns but couldn't muster any offense. When that changed, it did so good and proper with an enormous Bramblesnap first, followed by Ulamog's Crusher. Olivier soon extended his hand in concession.

    Arjan van Leeuwen 2 – 0 Olivier Ruel


  • Saturday, 4:50 p.m. – Shock vs. Slash
    by Tobias Henke
  • I just overheard a heated discussion about which is the stronger card: Staggershock or Flame Slash? So naturally, I went around and asked some pros for their opinion. The actual decision between the two might not come up very often, but on an abstract level it tells a lot about the format:

    Olivier Ruel:

    "Flame Slash. Often your opponent doesn't even have two creatures you could kill with Staggershock. Also the small ones aren't that important to kill anyway."

    Olivier Ruel
    Tomoharu Saito

    Tomoharu Saito:

    "At first I thought Staggershock was better, but after playing some more I now think it really is Flame Slash. So many times 2 damage is just not enough. But it is close."

    Florian Pils:

    "Wow, now that's very, very close. It really depends on the match-up. Against green decks with a lot of fat you simply want to go: 1 mana — kill your guy. But against aggressive level-up decks Staggershock can be such a blowout. In that sense, as it has the potential to completely turn a game, I'd say Staggershock is the stronger card."

    Florian Pils

  • Saturday, 5:30 p.m. – The Quest for Emrakul
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Let us be in no doubt – fifteen mana is a lot. In this format, as in most sealed deck formats, 17 or 18 land is about right. You need almost all of them if you want to cast Emrakul without some other help. This is a set that provides quite a lot more help if you are lucky enough to open it, but fifteen mana is still a lot.

    At the start of the weekend, Rich Hagon turned to me and asked if I'd ever seen Emrakul cast in limited. I have seen 15 mana spent in Rise of the Eldrazi sealed, but it was on Gelatinous Genesis, which made seven 7/7 creatures. This was pretty good, but it wasn't the 15/15 flying, uncounterable, extra-turn giving, sextuple permanent annihilating, graveyard shuffling legendary mythic response that Rich was looking for.

    "At this tournament, someone is going to cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. We need to find that person."

    It seemed like a tall order. Tobi quickly consigned it to the realms of fantasy, along with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and England ever having a Pro Tour winner. Thinking of the recent performances from Matteo Orsini-Jones and Dan Gardner, along with the fact that Santa Claus definitely brought me presents, I was still well up for the hunt.

    The deck check team were my allies in this task. While busily looking for mistakes in registration, they looked out for the biggest baddest monster in town, and let me know where he might be hiding. How hard could it be to find the largest creature in the room?

    I would love to be able to say ‘not hard at all', but after walking from table to table, checking out games where there was the potential for Emrakulitude, I was left with little more than sore feet. By the time I was looking in round four, some of the small number of players running the legendary monster had already dropped. Of those that were left, some of the records were moribund to say the least, with the 15/15 languishing in hands that were unable to give him a place in the sun.

    There was one player, whose deck seemed to be set up in such a fashion as to get the fatty in and swinging. With double Overgrown Battlement and Awakening Zone, along with Joraga Treespeaker and some other elves, it seemed just about possible. I watched on as a quick red/black deck took down the blue/green offering with a powerful top end to its curve. It wasn't to be though. Not only did he not get up to 15 mana, he never even drew the legend he needed.

    My list of players running Emrakul is dwindling. With nearly 1,500 players it has to happen though. England, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny demand it.

    My quest continues...


  • Podcast - On The Way To Halfway
    by Rich Hagon
  • Multi

    Round five, and if you're intending to win the Grand Prix with no Byes, you're almost a quarter of the way there. Nine Rounds of Swiss, then the 7-2 or better cutoff, then one last late night Round of Sealed Deck action, and then back for up to nine Rounds of Draft tomorrow. Most of our players in Feature Match action in Round five are only just beginning their journeys, including Antoine Ruel, Florian Pils, Marijn Lybaert, and Robert Jurkovic. See how they get on in our first live foray into Eldrazi action.

    Download MP3


  • Feature Match Round 6 - Bram Snepvangers vs. Adam Koska
    by Tobias Henke
  • Bram Snepvangers

    Magic by numbers: 2 players with 40 cards each met in round 6 at table 5, drew 7 cards and were ready to go.

    Grotag Siege-Runner started the business for Koska on turn two, followed by Kiln Fiend on three. Snepvangers had Sporecap Spider to try and stop the bleeding, but Koska wouldn't let go. Vendetta killed the 1/5 and boosted Kiln Fiend by three to serve a whopping 6 damage. Snepvangers went down to 12 and had no play on his next turn. Koska attacked again and Snepvangers killed Grotag Siege-Runner with the help of Heat Ray, dealing 3 points of damage to play around possible Prey's Vengeance or Might of the Masses.

    Down to 11. Koska added Emrakul's Hatcher with its assorted Spawn retinue to his team. Again no play for Snepvangers, but rather 4 damage during Koska's next attack. Snepvangers tapped out for Dreamstone Hedron and promptly died to Koska's Heat Ray pumping Kiln Fiend.

    Bram Snepvangers 0 – 1 Adam Koska

    A pair of Grotag Siege-Runners kicked things off on Koska's side, while Snepvangers made his first move on turn five. This format is undeniably slow, but certainly not this slow. Or is it? When he cast his Emrakul's Hatcher, Snepvangers was already at 14, and when Vendetta took it down, he fell to 10.

    But Koska was stuck on three lands. Now with six lands and three Eldrazi Spawns in play on Snepvangers side, it was Koska who looked a little worried. "Something huge?" he asked. Snepvangers just laughed and denied. He cast Dreamstone Hedron with the help of two of his Spawns, followed by yet another Emrakul's Hatcher. While certainly not qualifying as huge, the 3/3 creature was able to halt Koska's offense, who summoned a 3/3 of his own, Lagac Lizard, and passed the turn back.

    Time for something huge! Ulamog's Crusher made a brief cameo appearance on the battlefield, ate Koska's board and evened the score.

    Bram Snepvangers 1 – 1 Adam Koska

    Adam Koska

    Just off a severe mana screw in the last game, Koska thought especially hard on his opening seven for game three and eventually decided to not risk it. Well enough, his six-card hand rewarded him with a much better class of two-drop: Beastbreaker of Bala Ged, which smashed for 4 damage one turn later. In the meantime Snepvangers had not been lazy either, having cast Bramble Snap and Brimstone Mage. As a consequence, Koska, holding two Grotag Siege-Runners, could do nothing but take his Beastbreaker of Bala Ged up another level and take his opponent down another 4 points. Snepvangers continued his unexpected curve draw with Wildheart Invoker. The Beastbreaker traded with the Invoker and was replaced by Stomper Cub.

    Snepvangers didn't have a fifth land and was now forced to choose between summoning Goblin Arsonist and leveling up Brimstone Mage. He went with the Goblin, then blocked and killed Stomper Cub with his Bramblesnap. Koska made Emrakul's Hatcher, Snepvangers went without land once again and could only put a level counter on his Mage. Still, Goblin Arsonist and Brimstone Mage would be able to take down his 3/3, so Koska just cast Kozilek's Predator and passed the turn. Snepvangers finally got a land and made an Emrakul's Hatcher as well. This time around Koska attacked with both of his 3/3 creatures. The two Hatchers traded, and as expected, Goblin Arsonist dealt a total of 2 damage to the Predator. Brimstone Mage tried to make that 3, but Koska had Prey's Vengeance.

    Snepvangers used one of his tokens to cast Dreamstone Hedron and another one to chumpblock Koska's Predator. Koska finally found something to spend his Spawns on, casting Artisan of Kozilek, returning Stomper Cub. Snepvangers laid a sixth land and then smoothly tapped nine mana to play Gelatinous Genesis 4 4 4/4 tokens. Koska thought long about his options, but couldn't find anything better than simply attacking with the 5/3 and the 10/9 creature. Three of Snepvangers's 4/4 Oozes blocked Artisan of Kozilek, one blocked the Stomper Cub.

    Koska was thoroughly out of gas now. Snepvangers's deck on the other hand just started to get going. Two Pelakka Wurms later the score stood at...

    Bram Snepvangers 2 – 1 Adam Koska


  • Feature Match Round 7: Two Sides of the Story - Dan Gardner vs. Matthias Künzler
    podcast by Rich Hagon
    text by Tim Willoughby

  • Multi

    As the saying goes, there's two sides to every story. In Round seven, Tim Willoughby sat behind Dan Gardner, and you can check out his side of the story in the text coverage. Meanwhile, I got to see Matthias Kunzler of Switzerland from the other side of the table, and you can hear that side of the story in audio form. Then, we check in with Ben Stark, the American looking to reach Level 4 and book himself a place at Pro Tour: San Juan.

    Download MP3

    For round 7 I found myself sat behind Dan Gardner, the current Great Britain National Champion, and an up and coming player on the Pro Tour. Across from him, Matthias Künzler, the well respected Swiss player, and that dastardly rogue Richard Hagon, who was keeping an eye on Künzler's hand just as keenly as I was Gardner's.

    Gardner kept a hand of Island, Swamp, Swamp, Narcolepsy, Deprive, Zof Shade and Warmonger's Chariot on the play.

    On turn two, the Chariot came down for Gardner, whose hand hadn't improved much, while all Künzler had was a Mountain and a Swamp. Dan drew another Zof Shade but had no answer to a Brimstone Mage from his opponent. He cast the first one and passed.

    A Staggershock took out Zof Shade, and allowed Brimstone Mage to attack. Dan had to hold back the second shade, as that Staggershock would only get it as well. Valakut Fireboar was stopped by Deprive, with the Deprive soon being returned to Dan's hand by Mnemonic Wall. This left Dan tapped out, and Künzler had to think about what to play while he had a window of opportunity before counterspell mana was again available.

    Battle-Rattle Shaman allowed Brimstone Mage to keep running in, in spite of Dan's wall. Dan untapped and drew Drake Umbra. He had drawn a Null Champion the turn before, but was happier to equip his wall and pass than to play more spells. This kept up counter mana, and meant that attacks from Künzler would not be so sharp. Künzler elected to level up his mage and pass.

    Dan Gardner

    Künzler's new plan was the slow burn, while Dan got his second Zof Shade in, such that he would soon be able to start attacking. All the while Gardner held up Deprive mana, making the best play for Künzler to level up. When Brimstone Mage hit level 3, Dan had a problem. The Narcolepsy in his hand would do little to stop a bolt coming his way each turn.

    Dan was on six lands – one too few to be able to cast Null Champion and Drake Umbra. After a little thought he ran out just the Champion with some frustration. Would Künzler kill the 1/1, or respect a trick that Gardner simply did not have? Künzler was in no hurry to off Null Champion, instead aiming for Dan's head turn after turn with his Brimstone Mage, while facing anaemic beatdown at best from the Englishman. That there was a Deprive from Dan was immaterial – the big threat was already on the board, and there was little that Gardner could do about it before it burned him out.

    Garnder levelled up his Null Champion and cast a Jwari Scuttler. He simply couldn't afford to sit on Deprive any more. As it turns out though, he couldn't afford not to sit on his counterspell either though. Conquering Manticore made the most of the Englishman being tapped out, and from nowhere stole sufficient attacking power to allow for a lethal attack.

    Dan Gardner 0 – 1 Matthias Künzler

    Dan's hand on the play in game two was four Swamps, Gloomhunter, Zof Shade and Skywatcher Adept. This was soon attacked by an Inquisition of Kozilek from Künzler, which took the Gloomhunter. Dan was quick to draw an Island to turn on his Skywatcher Adept. The merfolk flew in the very next turn, getting over a Grotag Siege-Runner from Künzler.

    Matthias Künzler

    A Gloomhunter came from Künzler, which Dan was happy to trade with. He played his Zof Shade, which would be quite a threat on the board, which already had four lands, and would be bolstered by more that sat in Dan's hand. A second Gloomhunter came from Künzler, but was stopped by Narcolepsy from Dan. He was now trading blows with justa Grotag Siege-Runner – a race he could life with.

    Künzler was still on just four lands to Gardner's six. This didn't stop him playing spells though. A Flame Jab took down Zof Shade, and Null Champion entered the fray too. Gardner seemed frustrated as he next lost a Hada Spy Patrol to Staggershock. Was there an end to Künzler's removal? An Arrogant Bloodlord from Gardner stuck, but he was in a very tight race. Gardner played a Jwari Scuttler to block Grotag Siege-Runner, while rumbling in with his 4/4.

    The Bloodlord died to a Heat Ray, and after Dan drew a Drake Umbra, he attacked with Jwari Scuttler. A Last Kiss in Gardner's hand meant that he could afford to race a little The problem was that Künzler was still not out of removal. The Scuttler fell to Corpsehatch. All Dan needed was a creature, and he'd be able to totem it up and swing for the win. He finally drew an Enclave Cryptologist, and looked to be in a position to pull things back. The Drake Umbra though, was never going to resolve. A Last Kiss from Künzler left Gardner without answers, or the time to find them.

    Matthias Künzler defeats Daniel Gardner 2-0!


  • Saturday, 7:30 p.m. – The Quest Continues
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are skipping on rainbows. While England is still working on winning a Pro Tour, Emrakul was spotted in play as early as turn seven in a sealed deck game right here at Grand Prix Lyon.

    In other news, Tobias Henke was so incorrect in his previous assertions about Emrakul that his title has been adjusted from coverage writer to coverage wronger for the duration of the weekend.

    Michal Havlik, one half of the Grand Prix Amsterdam winning 2HG team, is my new hero. The Slovakian had opened what can only be described as an unusual card pool, and had an up and down time of it in deck-building. He found both Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, and Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn, and was all ready to deem them unplayably expensive. He did have some acceleration in green though. Three copies of Growth Spasm, a pair of copies of Nest Invader, Kozilek's Predator, Awakening Zone and Ondu Giant you say? It's good, maybe good enough for Ulamog, but Emrakul demands a little more.

    Big Z, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and Michal Hebky - what a team!

    In black came a trio of copies of Dread Drone. Red brought Spawning Breath and Brood Birthing. There was also a Dreamstone Hedron. Could this be enough? Havlik chose to run it.

    With just one bye, Havlik spent some time showing off his deck to friends, and generally chilling out. He might have got a little too relaxed in that time though, as he lost his whole deck! If it weren't for good friend Matej Zatlkaj, who found many of the cards for him to replace it before round 2 began, he could have been up a creek without his fatties. Big Z came through though, and set up what might be the most electric sealed deck game in Grand Prix history.

    Things began innocuously enough, with a Forest. Turn two saw a Mountain from Havlik. A Heat Ray killed off a 1/1, but that was merely incidental in this story. Growth Spasm on turn three put the land count at four, and added an Eldrazi Spawn to Havlik's side of the board. On turn five, Dread Drone made the token count three, and on turn five, a Brood Birthing made it six.

    Havlik looked on as Sphinx of Magosi came out for an opponent who had to feel pretty good about his position. The Sphinx even got to attack in as Havlik simply drew, played a land and passed on his turn six. At end of turn, Havlik cast Spawning Breath to take his token count to seven.

    Turn seven brought the eighth land for Havlik, who suddenly had enough mana available to him to cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Well and truly trumped, his opponent did not last long.

    Havlik was naturally all smiles as he related his story. As we walked away, Rich casually asked if Havlik had won that match.

    "Yeah. In game two I only cast Ulamog. But it was good enough…"


  • Feature Match Round 9 - Matthias Künzler vs. Simon Görtzen
    by Tobias Henke
  • Simon Görtzen

    Both players have scores of 7-1, both took a mulligan to six, and both players started with Swamps and a Null Champion. That's where the similarities ended, however, as Künzler's Null Champion came earlier and started his massive 4-point swings right away, while Görtzen's Champion never even made it to level one. Instead it attacked for 1 and was joined on the board by Kozilek's Predator and retinue. The Predator died to Vendetta and Görtzen went down to eight.

    Künzler also summoned Brimstone Mage, so it was about time for Görtzen's Spawn tokens to make themselves useful. It doesn't get much better than a turn-five Pelakka Wurm, and that's exactly what entered the battlefield on Görtzen's side.

    Quick recap: Görtzen now had a zero-level Null Champion, a Pelakka Wurm, and was back at 15 life. Künzler had a zero-level Brimstone Mage, a 4/2 Null Champion, and 16 life.

    Görtzen enchanted his Wurm with Snake Umbra, attacked, and cast Arrogant Bloodlord. The future sure looked bright for Görtzen at this point. But not for long... On Künzler's turn the 8/8 Wurm attacked again! Only now it attacked its master and was in fact 10/8. Yes, that's actually just paraphrasing Traitorous Instinct.

    The Wurm attacked on Görtzen's turn and then yet again on Künzler's turn, this time, for a change, with a little help from Conquering Manticore! In total the Pelakka Wurm had just dealt 34 points of damage and taken the first game. Good job!

    Matthias Künzler 1 – 0 Simon Görtzen

    Matthias Künzler

    Görtzen went first, but Künzler had the first creature: the already infamous Kiln Fiend. Görtzen half-heartedly cast Dawnglare Invoker, but was already expecting the inevitable: "Staggershock, right?"

    Right. The Fiend grinned fiendishly and delivered 4 damage. Next, Görtzen summoned Kozilek's Predator to his aid. Künzler's Staggershock rebound took out one Spawn, then Heat Ray burned the 3/3, all the while boosting up Kiln Fiend to power 7! Görtzen raised an eye-brow and chose to chump with his one remaining Spawn token.

    Görtzen had Wildheart Invoker, which simply traded with the Kiln Fiend, thanks to/despite Night Haze. "How lucky, I didn't draw any Swamps", Görtzen commented sardonically. Künzler had another threat in Battle-Rattle Shaman, while Görtzen stayed color-screwed for a while. When he finally found a Swamp and cast Escaped Null, it just fell victim to another removal spell, Last Kiss.

    Pelakka Wurm was summoned but again it didn't do Görtzen any good. Conquering Manticore took the Wurm, game, and match.

    Matthias Künzler 2 – 0 Simon Görtzen


  • Feature Match Round 9 - Yuuya Watanabe vs Lucas Florent
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Yuuya Watanabe is the current Player of the Year, following in the footsteps of countrymen Shuhei Nakamura and Tomoharu Saito, who are also here this weekend, along with Kazuya Mitamura. These four represent a pretty scary Japanese raiding party on a European Grand Prix, but by and large their performance in Rise of the Eldrazi sealed has not been super impressive. Mitamura and Nakamura bowed out quickly, and even Saito was battling in round nine to make day 2. It was only Watanabe who was in good shape, with just a single loss at this point in the day – safe for day 2.

    Yuuya was out of the gates quick with a Skywatcher Adept, followed up by See Beyond to keep his hand juiced up. Florent, meanwhile had a Joraga Treespeaker a turn late, and an untapped Mountain that left Watanabe thinking about if he really wanted to level up.

    After a short ponder, Watanabe took Skywatcher Adept to level 1, and flew in. Florent levelled up his Elf, played Aura Gnarlid and passed. Aura Gnarlid had the potential to get in for plenty of damage due to its conditional unblockability against a blue/white deck like Watanabe's, even if the board was light on enchantments. Florent played Emrakul's Hatcher to follow up from some attacks and passed. While Florent was short on lands, his elf and Eldrazi Spawn meant that he was able to do plenty with the cards in his hand.

    Watanabe's plan remained about the blue levellers when he cast Enclave Cryptologist. The Cryptologist soon let him trade an Ikiral Outrider for something more exciting, and, Watanabe followed up with Halimar Wavewatch, which would prove a fine wall once levelled.

    Before Yuuya could level, Florent was busy swinging in though. Emrakul's Hatcher would kill it, and it could not block Aura Gnarlid. Watanabe seemed unphased though. He put the 0/3 in front of Emrakul's Hatcher, and used Smite to kill the 3/3. Now it was Florent's time to be unconcerned. He simply played another Hatcher, loading up on tokens.

    Yuuya Watanabe

    A Totem-Guide Hartbeast came from Watanabe, fetching Drake Umbra, but it seemed not to be enough compared with the Ogre's Cleaver that came from Florent. Giving Aura Gnarlid an extra five power would make any sort of race from Watanabe very tough. While his 2/2 flying Skywatcher Adept had been getting busy, the race no longer looked good for the Player of the Year. He had to do something. Narcolepsy was the plan.

    Now it was up to Florent to do something decisive. He was in the game thanks to Eldrazi Spawn and Joraga Treespeaker. Without them he was very light on mana, with just a pair of Forests and a Mounain. The Frenchman finally hit four land, with a second Mountain. He cast Brood Birthing, and then used some Eldrazi Spawn to equip his 3/3 and swing. Watanabe blocked with Totem-Guide Hartbeast, and had Eel Umbra to come out of the combat well ahead. The flash totem had done its job, and the follow up Drake Umbra on his turn allowed Watanabe to attack Florent to 4.

    His back against the wall, Florent pondered his situation on his turn. There had to be some way to do it. After a little thought he smiled and made his play. Conquering Manticore untapped his own Aura Gnarlid, that had been stuck under Narcolepsy for much of the game. He then used his remaining mana to equip Ogre's Cleaver to the Gnarlid, which was 4/4 due to the two enchantments in play. This made the beast exactly 9 power, which is what he needed to finish off Watanabe, in unblockable style. It was a neat play that met a smile and a nod from Watanabe as he scooped up his cards for game two.

    Yuuya Watanabe 0 – 1 Lucas Florent

    On the play, Watanabe led with Enclave Cryptologist, while Florent had a first turn Zulaport Enforcer. This one drop highlighted the full extent of the mana issues that Florent had seen in game one – Watanabe had not expected black cards. Yuuya was not too thrown though. He played a Dawnglare Invoker, and didn't even look too sad when his Cryptologist died to a Last Kis from Florent. A Makindi Griffin helped the Japanese air force, while Florent was playing the ground leveller game, with a Null Champion to follow up his Enforcer.

    Florent levelled up his Champion, and thought a little prior to attacking. Eventually he swung in, which Watanabe elected to take. An island came from Florent. How much had his deck changed? Watanabe's draw was aggressive enough not to care. He continued to attack in the air, and played a Totem-Guide Hartbeast for the ground, which found a Guard Duty.

    Florent dug with Sea Gate Oracle, before levelling up his Null Champion. Watanabe stayed aggressive with Drake Umbra on his Hartbeast, which swung alongside Dawnglare Invoker. Watanabe had Florent on the ropes, and didn't want to risk anything by swinging with Makindi Griffin too.

    Florent thought for a little on his turn, before picking up his cards in a hurry. He didn't have the weapons to win this fight, but had one more game to win the match with.

    Lucas Florent

    Yuuya Watanabe 1 – 1 Lucas Florent

    In game three, Watanae ha the shields up early with a Halimar Wavewatch, while Florent led with Pawn of Ulamog, before Tuktuk the Explorer and Skywatcher Adept. When Florent tried to level up his Adept, a Heat Ray (Watanabe's first red card of the match) killed it off, granting Florent an Eldrazi Spawn token thanks to the Pawn of Ulamog. Florent followed up with Zulaport Enforcer, which he soon levelled up.

    Florent was very much on the offensive, but Watanabe seemed to be in the race, and was relieved to hit a Plains after a worrying turn without a land earlier in the game. Makindi Griffin would prove a fine blocker for Watanabe's team, but Florent seemed happy to just grow his team to get around that problem. He played back to back Sea Gate Oracles, sculpting a better hand with which to fight.

    A Frostwind Invoker joined Team Watanabe, which was helpless to fight Zulaport Enforcer when it finally hit level 3. Watanabe looked to his deck, and found a temporary solution in Regress. Now he would just have to knock down Florent from 19 before he lost his last 10 life points. An attack from Makindi Griffin was a start. Florent struck back with all his creatures, sneaking in two points of damage. A Mortician Beetle and Emrakul's Hatcher followed. Finally Zulaport Enforcer came back. When four Eldrazi Spawn tokens sacrificed themselves to level up the Enforcer, they also did the Beetle a power of good, and gave Watanabe a problem to wrestle with.

    After much thought, Watanabe played a Drake Umbra on his Frostwind Invoker and attacked. This took Florent to 9, but not enough to end things. Conquering Manticore from Florent was more than enough to make the return swing enough to be lethal.

    Lucas Florent wins 2 – 1

    There is slightly more drama to this match though. Remember that smile and nod from Watanabe at the end of game one? In game three, it turned to a frown, as Watanabe picked up Conquering Manticore again. Unlike many ‘Threaten' effects it can only target opponents' creatures. This means that the play from game one was illegal. Unfortunately, it was too late to reverse what had happened a full two games ago, and Watanabe chastised himself for not having read the cards properly, even as Florent apologized for not having done so himself.

    A message from the reigning Player of the Year – "Read the cards. It will help you win more."


  • Podcast - Going the Extra Mile
    by Rich Hagon
  • Multi

    Once upon a time, round nine was the last match of Day One. Then the gamers of Europe worked out that Magic Grand Prix were amazing ways to spend the weekend, and here we are, with Round nine only the penultimate offering, with hundreds of players still in the running. Eight players featured here are already through to Day Two, but Marcello Calvetto and Sebastian Thaler are vying for the perfect 9-0. Among the 7-1 brigade sit Player of the Year Yuuya Watanabe, Hall of Famer Olivier Ruel, and Pro Tour: San Diego Champion Simon Goertzen. Stand by for some amazing action, including a startling finish.

    Download MP3


  • Deck Lists - Day 1 Undefeated Decks
    by Event Coverage Staff

  • Podcast - Who's Left?
    by Rich Hagon
  • Multi

    Five minutes of audio are all that remain between us and bedtime here on Day One of Grand Prix: Lyon. A whopping great 170 players have made it to Day Two, but only three survive with a perfect record. David Garcia Lorenzo, Vladimir Komanicky, and Marcello Calvetto all took their Sealed Decks all the way. Join us tomorrow to see if any of them can survive six rounds of Draft to claim their spot in the Top 8.

    Download MP3


  • Feature Matches Round 10 - Three Tables On the Brink of Elimination
    by Tobias Henke
  • While a score of 7-2 does secure a spot in tomorrow's draft rounds, losing today's tenth round effectively eliminates from top 8 contention. Three pro players fighting to avoid this fate were conveniently seated right next to each other, at table 514, 515, and 516.

    Florian Pils, Nico Bohny, Michal Hebky (L-R)

    At 514, Michal Hebky won the first game against Gianluca Bevere with an impressive line-up of creatures, including Wildheart Invoker, Broodwarden, as well as two 6/6 tokens from his Deavastating Summons.

    Who needs lands, when you can have 6/6 tokens?

    In the second game, however, Bevere went off to an amazing start: turn three Aura Gnarlid, turn four Boar Umbra. Only, Hebky smoothly cast Vendetta on the attacking Gnarlid (losing two life), then blocked it dead with his Rage Nimbus.

    Meanwhile at 515, Nico Bohny was down one game already when his opponent, Camille Brassem, summoned Deathless Angel. Uh-uh. Bohny's green / red / white deck didn't have an answer. It did cough up Guard Duty, though, but that hardly dealt with the Angel. It just delayed the inevitable; admittedly, for a long, long time. Nevertheless he lost 0-2.

    Not quite...

    On 516, Florian Pils had just succumbed to Marc Fontaine's Gideon Jura in the second game. 1-1 here.

    Back to 514: Hebky agonized a long time over one particular play. In the end he went for it, cast Devastating Summons, sacrificed all of his lands, and then... lost when his opponent cast Kozilek, Butcher of Truth. 1-1 here as well.

    Again 516: The board was clogged with lots of tough, but not so much powerful creatures. Who was going to draw the first relevant threat? Fontaine had Makindi Griffin, Pils had Pestilence Demon. Well, we can all imagine how that went. 2-1.

    The third game at table 514 was a rather sad affair. Bevere simply drew the bigger creatures, more removal. Even Hebky's Mul Daya Channelers didn't work for him, when they revealed the top card of his library to be neither land nor creature but Prophetic Prism. Pelakka Wurm, along with the nifty combo of Emrakul's Hatcher and Broodwarden finished things in short order.

    Michal Hebky. Not entirely happy.

    Final scores: 2-1 for Gianluca Bevere against Michal Hebky; 2-0 for Camille Brassem against Nico Bohny; 2-1 for Florian Pils against Marc Fontaine.

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