Saturday, 12:33 p.m. – Madrid's Magical Memories
by Tobi Henke
Madrid has a long history of playing host to Grand Prix, going all the way back to the second GP season ever in 1997. Sadly, much of the information from those early tournaments is now lost, in this case a measly list of the Top 64 finishers is all that survived in the coverage archive. But wait—actually, this list is quite the impressive one. None other than last year's Fall of Fame inductee Steve O'Mahoney-Schwartz took the title back then, while fellow Hall of Famers Jon Finkel and Randy Buehler came in 13th and 14th, respectively. Still not enough Fame? Why, look who ended up in ninth place: it's Raphaël Lévy who, of course, has also long been a member of this elite club.
The Grand Prix circuit returned to Madrid in January of 2000. This time, Carlos Barrado emerged victorious from a Top 8 that sported such talent as Alex Shvartsman and Olivier Ruel.
Next up, Grand Prix Madrid 2004 set a precedent in setting a new record for largest Magic tournament of all time. 1,353 players showed up to play Mirrodin/Darksteel Limited. Here, already on the brink of elimination after a rocky 3-2 start, Kai Budde proved once again why he's called the German Juggernaut by winning his next 13 matches to claim the title, on the way beating one Raphaël Lévy in the semifinals and Bernardo da Costa Cabral in the finals.
Two of the game's greatest players: Kai Budde, Raphaël Lévy
Flash forward to Grand Prix Madrid 2008. The format then was Shadowmoor/Eventide Limited and the champion was Denmark's Lasse Nørgaard who defeated Swiss pro Manuel Bucher in the semis.
Then there was Grand Prix Madrid 2010. This tournament once again broke the record for player number, a record that holds to this day. 2,227 players showed up to duke it out in the Legacy format. The winner of this massive event was Andreas Müller from Germany, who beat Richard Bland in the semifinals and David Do Anh in the finals who in turn had just dispatched Tomoharu Saito. And what finals those were! In a real nailbiter, it all came down to the resolution of an Ad Nauseam in game three of the match. 13 cards in, Do Anh still hadn't got what he needed to win, but was getting dangerously low on life. The 14th card killed him and gave the victory to Müller and his Reanimator deck.
And with that, we're back to the present for another great weekend of Magic…
Saturday, 1:10 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building with Raphaël Lévy
by Tobi Henke
Lévy started out by separating some artifacts from the rest of his cards, two equipment cards and a Manor Gargoyle. The Gargoyle was certain to end up in his deck, while Heavy Mattock and Avacyn's Collar would depend on the number of Humans.
Talking about Humans, the first color Levy took a closer look at was white, which offered a solid curve, highlighted by a couple of token producers in Gather the Townsfolk, Midnight Haunting, and Increasing Devotion. "Midnight Haunting is one of my favorite cards, and the rare is insane."
Red and green were soon relegated to the sidelines. "Nothing there." Levy pondered blue for a bit, but the first deck he put together and laid out on the table was black-white. "This guy is just so good," he commented, pointing at his two Falkenrath Torturers. "It's quite the combo with Unruly Mob … and Increasing Devotion," he added with a smile.
"Blue is fine, but it just doesn't add anything important," he said. Murder of Crows and a couple more fliers were set aside. "I like to have some removal, and the combos in black-white are just too strong to pass up." This included Avacyn's Collar, a card that was playing well into his token theme. Despite all this, Intangible Virtue quickly wound up in his sideboard. Lévy explained, "Four token producers aren't enough, especially since I don't really need it when I have Increasing Devotion."
"I'm sad I can't play these two," he said, indicating Snapcaster Mage and Reap the Seagraf. "But I don't want to play another color and Snapcaster Mage isn't even that great. I could use the two-drop, then again, as a splash, it's really not a two-drop at all." That his pool was lacking in mana fixing made the decision easier still, and he already had more than enough cards as it was. Among those that didn't make the cut was the Heavy Mattock, and he still had to get rid of one more card, a decision that boiled down to either Gravecrawler or Gravepurge. He was worried about his curve but also about the fact that he had just two Zombies to go along with his Gravecrawler. In the end, its inability to block got the Zombie its spot in Lévy's sideboard.
So that was it: black-white with a bit of removal, a couple of bombs, and a strong token theme. Lévy was done with time to spare and eager to see how his deck would perform in actual games.
Saturday, 2:43 p.m. – Deck Building with Dictus
by Tim Willoughby
So you show up to a limited Grand Prix in Europe with high hopes of money, fame and an invitation to the Pro Tour? You’re not the only one. Sealed deck is a format where many players focus on bombs, or on mana fixing to get the job done. When I asked Martin Juza what he was looking for in a sealed deck, he just smiled at me and said ‘Day Two’.
With this in mind, I decided to enlist a little help in finding out how to build a sealed deck to get through to that magical mystical place known as Sunday while still being live. Mark Dictus from Belgium is here hoping to be the first Belgian player to win a Grand Prix. A Pro Tour regular, and the manager of games store Outpost, he knows a thing or two when it comes to magical cards, and was happy to help me with my sealed pool.
Before we even opened any boosters, Mark pointed out that he is never really looking to open specific cards so much as a deck that has a strong set of themes to work with, and a plan for winning the game. It isn’t worth it worrying about opening any one card, as there are plenty of ways to win. Ideally he would want some good removal, perhaps some evasion (creatures with flying typically, though in a pinch intimidate can be good too), and any kind of synergy that he could exploit.
At a Grand Prix, you receive a pool that is already sorted, having registered a pool for someone else before a big deck swap. As such separating out cards by colour is not a big challenge. Mark started by looking at the artifacts and lands, as they are the cards most likely to be easily played regardless of anything else.
With a couple of copies of Evolving Wilds, and a pair of copies of Traveler’s Amulet, the three colour deck looked to have the colour support it needed. But would the colours split out that way? As soon as Mark saw that there were two copies of Drogskol Captain in the pool (the only gold cards), he was quick to move to blue and white for a spirit count. Moon Heron, Mindshrieker and a Voiceless Spirit all looked like strong additions, and with a pair of copies of Mausoleum Guard to go along with a Doomed Traveler, there was definite potential to make a flying air-force. We’d seen the power of multiple copies of Drogskol Captain at the Pro Tour in constructed, so in limited it seemed churlish to push the spirits to one side.
Green has spirits too, and given the ease of making a potential splash, Mark was quick to do a check through. Just Strangleroot Geist and Kindercatch didn’t seem like the best of splashes, though while looking through Dictus did see a Mayor of Avabruck and Travel Preparations – a much more reasonably costed set of cards to consider including.
Before worrying about splashing though, Dictus was fast to start constructing a mana curve, separating out spells and creatures, so that he could see the shape of a blue/white deck. Things looked very promising indeed. Gather the Townsfolk sat in the creatures part of the deck, seeing as it is a spell that creates them, and Dictus seemed very pleased to see a Thraben Doomsayer and Havengul Runebinder as additional ways of making creatures.
"We have lots of good ways of stalling the ground while we attack with the air – this is going to be a very good deck."
A Mentor of the Meek was the next card to attract Dictus’ attention. "Almost all the creatures in our deck trigger our Mentor, meaning we can draw a lot of cards, and with Thraben Doomsayer and Havengul Runebinder, we have a card drawing engine on our hands."
A Skaab Ruinator at the 3 drop was not quite as exciting for Dictus. "I think that this card might just stay stuck in my hand a lot of the time. It is very powerful, but there are a lot of other powerful cards, and I just want to always be able to cast my spells. We might not be able to cast this without many ways to fill the graveyard."
Once the Ruinator got cut, so too did Screeching Skaab, who would no longer be doing enough. The deck was shaping up to have nothing that cost more than 4, but Mark was still adamant 17 was the right number of lands. "I don’t think we are splashing, and our deck is powerful enough that I don’t ever want to miss on lands in the early game. If we didn’t have the Drogskol Captains then maybe we would find a way to fit green in, but as it is we just want to be consistent."
Mark had skimmed through black and red, but barring a Dead Weight here and a Harvest Pyre there, it offered little to compare to the blue and white.
"We even have a nice set of bounce spells with Silent Departure, Griptide and Grasp of Phantoms, so that we can get through for the final points, or use the Griptide or the Grasp to keep people stuck on mana if they have a slow start. This is a deck that I’d be very happy to open at a GP."
The toughest cut for Dictus when getting down to 23 spells and 17 lands was Bone to Ash. "This card is fantastic in general for limited, and particularly in sealed deck, where a lot of the best bomb cards are creatures. The problem for it in this deck is that we really want to be tapping out much of the time playing threats. I can definitely see sideboarding it in though, if we face an Olivia Voldaren or maybe – something that our bounce spells and Claustrophobia aren’t well placed to fight."
Bone to Ash came out, and the lone artifact that made it in for Dictus was Geistcatcher’s Rig – another potential answer to a bomb on the other side of the board, and the only spell in the deck to cost more than four mana.
Dictus tries to steal the limelight from what is an awesome deck
Mark, satisfied that his job was done, recommended to me that I should wait until round 6 or so to start playing people with my new sealed deck, and play against the people with a good record. "I wish I’d opened this one – it has some real fight in it, with a great long game plan and an aggressive curve. Exactly what you want for a Grand Prix."
But really all we care about is the deck itself
If you fancy getting a bit of deck building practice in, try building this one, with our interactive Sealed Pool builder.
Saturday, 2:56 p.m. – Talking Magic
by Tobi Henke
Andre Müller from Germany is no stranger to the spotlight. He has two Grand Prix Top 8s to his name, as well as two Top 8 appearances at the Pro Tour, including a second place in 2007, when the Pro Tour last visited Spain, at Valencia. After a short work-related absence from the game, he'd clawed back his way to the Pro Tour the hard way, qualifying for Philadelphia at Grand Prix Prague last year and winning a PTQ for Honolulu. He did not do well in that tournament's Limited rounds—something which he vowed to improve this weekend—but he did make the news when he went 4-1 in the first Standard portion with a deck originally built by Hall of Famer Alan Comer.
Pro Tour Dark Ascension, Standard Constructed
Looking at the upcoming Standard Grand Prix in Lille next week, is this still a good deck choice?
"Sure!" said Andre. "It probably needs a couple of Corrosive Gales in the sideboard, but overall the Pro Tour didn't change the format that much from this deck's perspective." After further deliberation, he continued, "Also, the Geistcatcher's Rig is even sweeter now. The Delver player faces a dilemma: if he summons two Drogskol Captains, he walks right into Corrosive Gale; if he summons just one, he loses it to Geistcatcher's Rig.
Switching to this weekend's topic, how's the tournament so far?
"I built a white-blue deck with lots of fliers, some tricks, Dungeon Geists, and Geist-Honored Monk. I did a few test games against a friend of mine, though mostly I got crushed by his two Drogskol Captains," Andre told me. "Apparently, blue-white is quite the popular archetype in this Sealed format."
"I only have two byes at the moment, but I won round three by simply having more fliers than my opponent. Though I had to fight a bit to make that happen. In game one, I killed an attacking Fiend Hunter with Rebuke, got back my Soul Seizer which then blocked the also attacking Vampire Interloper and, on my turn, transformed into Ghastly Haunting for maximum value," Andre recounted. "That was fun!"
Round 4 Feature Match - Louis Deltour vs. Matuesz Kopec
by Tim Willoughby
With round four, any players who had earned themselves byes was thrown into the fray here at Grand Prix Madrid. Among them were both Louis Deltour of France, and Mateusz Kopec of Poland. Kopec, a previous Grand Prix winner, was practically bouncing to his seat, excited to have a chance to play with what appeared to be a very potent humans deck.
Kopec kept on the play and led off with Champion of the Parish, who soon grew thanks to Thraben Heretic. While the Frenchman had a Hinterland Hermit, it was soon too small to block the Champion and live, as Loyal Cathar joined the Polish squad of humans.
Champion of the Champions of the Parish - Mateusz Kopec
Reap the Seagraf gave FR a blocker, but the aggression from Kopec just kept on coming. He had Thraben Sentry, and attacks that pummelled FR down to just 8 life when he declined to block. FR tried to mount a defence with Chosen of Markov, but was in rough shape. Champion of the Parish got equipped with Avacyn’s Collar, and came in accompanied by Loyal Cathar and Thraben Heretic. While FR was able to trade a little, he still dropped to two on the attack. A Bonds of Faith the next turn cleared the way for Kopec to decisively take the first game.
Mateusz Kopec 1 – 0
Deltour led off on turn one with Traveler’s Amulet off a mountain, and had a turn two Hinterland Hermit. Being on the play meant that he had some brief respite from early Kopec attacks, as Champion of the Parish did come down on turn one again, but was this time not able to outgrow blockers before being hit by Fires of Undeath. Kopec had to settle on the death of his champion allowing his Unruly Mob to get just a little bit more unruly.
Kopec did not have a play on his third turn, leaving Unruly Mob to be forced to block a hefty flipped Hinterland Hermit. Kopec tried a Spare from Evil to keep his mob around. Deltour fired back with a Fires of Undeath (his second). Kopec went big with Faith’s Shield to keep his lone creature around, but again didn’t have a play for his own turn.
Deltour was far more aggressive with his red/black deck in game two, aware that Kopec was stuck on just three lands, without plays. He played out a Markov Patrician, then Crossway Vampires, and got stuck in with each. The first flashed back Fires of Undeath was enough to wipe Kopec’s side of the board, to which Kopec played a Gravepurge to get back his squad.
Recurring threats looked unlikely to be enough to get Kopec there though. Deltour had both a Dead Weight and a Tribute to Hunger to get well ahead on the board. Kopec had to do something fast to get in the game. He cast a Bonds of Faith on Deltour’s Crossway Vampire, and Tragic Slip on Markov Patrician. With Deltour nearly out of cards, it seemed possible it would be enough.
Deltour ripped Bloodgift Demon. It was swiftly despatched by Fiend Hunter. Deltour shot back with Stromkirk Captain, but could only look on as Kopec drew out of his mana shortages. He responded to an Avacyn’s Collar equip by flashing back Fires of Undeath on Avacynian Priest. Kopec drew further ahead with a Farbog Boneflinger to off Stromkirk Captain and an Increasing Devotion to create a huge team.
Deltour seemed despondent. He had knocked Kopec to 5 life, but now saw his own slipping away as additional lands afforded the Polish player with threat after threat. Requiem Angel threatened to turn his humans into spirits upon death, while Slayer of the Wicked did a fine job of working on Deltour’s team, which soon included a Nearheath Stalker and a Pyreheart Wolf.
The man with the monsters - Louis Deltour
Attacks from Kopec rapidly brought the life totals to five each – a fateful hour indeed. Deltour cast a foil copy of Grimgrin, Corpse-Born, but it seemed likely that the powerful zombie would be too late. He used Grimgrin to sacrifice his Crossway Vampire under Bonds of Faith, and then cast Wakedancer, getting a zombie token thanks to the morbid trigger.
Deltour’s deck seemed to be a monster, but in the face of a flying assault from the humans and angels, the monsters were not about to prevail. Mateusz Kopec attacked in and secured the victory before Grimgrin was able to get anything going for the Frenchman.
Mateusz Kopec wins 2 – 0!
Pro Challenge 1 - Speed Deck Building
by Tim Willoughby
Saturday, 5:57 p.m. - Building with Bombs
by Tim Willoughby
In sealed deck, there are plenty of ways to go when it comes to building your chosen 40. We’ve covered a few different alternatives already (and a very special video will be coming soon showing another way of building a deck).
One of the happy decisions that a few players have to make though relates to bombs – those cards that are so powerful that they can single-handedly turn a game around. When your deck is in one set of colours, your bomb might not be. Depending on the overall power level of your deck, sometimes it is right to splash, while on other occasions it is a little riskier.
Below are just a few of the tricky decisions that a few players have faced, in the ongoing battle between power and consistency.
More angels with more backup, including the greediest Vorapede in the land
and now my personal favourite, in part due to the awkward #flavordraft issues, double Mikaeus
Saturday, 5:58 p.m. - From Russia With Love
by Tim Willoughby
Grand Prix are a global affair, something that I for one am hugely grateful for, as I love the opportunity to travel to interesting places while covering the game I love. At Pro Tour Dark Ascension we saw the announcement of the rest of the year’s Grand Prix and Pro Tour, and it was one that included quite a few exciting stops. Here at Madrid, we have 44 different countries of players represented, showing that plenty of people love to have the opportunity to travel.
For some players, when the new list emerges, they are happy to see the opportunity to travel to an interesting new place. For example, I’ve never been to Seattle, and am stoked at the prospect of being able to go there for the Pro Tour. For many, one of the most enticing prospects on the new event calendar though is Grand Prix Moscow.
Russia has only had one Grand Prix before, and the growing throng of Russian players were (in what must have been the early hours of the morning) very excited to see as announced by BDM and Rich on the video webcast, that they would be getting a second.
Here at Grand Prix Madrid, we have a contingent of Russian players sporting some rather fancy t-shirts showing just how pumped about the event they are. I caught up with Maria Artamova, who filled me in on some of the details.
Wait a minute - which GP are we at again
"We’d waited for 11 years for another Grand Prix, so we were super super super excited to get one. For Russian Magic players, this is like when it was announced that we’d be hosting the football World Cup in 2018. It’s a really big deal. Everyone here wants to make sure that the event goes as well as it possibly can."
This doesn’t just mean making sure that every Russian player comes out of the woodwork and joins in the party – it is ensuring that everyone feels welcome and as excited about playing who might have to travel from further afield. Maria, who is currently working as a translator in France and travels to quite a few GPs herself, knows that travel can be tricky.
"Lots of us travel to a great many European GPs, and we know that for a lot of people Moscow is the sort of place where people might think ‘Wow, I really want to go, but it is too far away and too expensive’. What we’ve done is to put together a few different websites where we are going to post information and travel tips, easy tickets hotel, so that the European and US guys will see that it’s not that far away or that expensive to come and visit us. The Iron Curtain is now very much open, and we’re just the neighbours next door."
Communism may not be what Russia is all about now, but there is still a strong sense of community and sharing. All the Russian players here in Madrid are sporting the same GP Moscow T-Shirt, and Maria even had extras for me and Rich, which were gratefully received, and helpfully include links to some of the sites she mentioned.
As a playing community, high profile results are starting to come for Russia too. In January, Butakov of Russia won the first MOCS event of the year, and one of the Magic Online PTQs was also taken down by a Russian player. The Russians are coming to you on the Pro Tour level – will you be coming to them for GP Moscow?
Round 6 Feature Match - Raphaël Lévy vs. Alfonso Díaz
by Tobi Henke
We've already seen Raphaël Lévy's black-white tokens during deck construction, now it's time to play!
Both players kept their opening seven. Lévy led with Avacyn's Collar, while Díaz had his first play in Deranged Assistant. That died to Lévy's Tribute to Hunger and was replaced by Screeching Skaab. That in turn died on Díaz's attack at the hands of Lévy's surprise Village Bell-Ringer.
Lévy made a Falkenrath Torturer and equipped his Bell-Ringer, while Díaz was stuck with a measly three lands and a newly-summoned Thraben Heretic.
Díaz had Stormbound Geist, but that was soon outclassed: Lévy sacrificed his Bell-Ringer to put a Spirit token onto the battlefield and a +1/+1 counter on his Vampire, and followed this up with Gather the Townsfolk, equipping and sacrificing both Human tokens as well. In the end he had a 5/4 Falkenrath Torturer and three Spirit tokens. Díaz chumped with Stormbound Geist, then took a couple of hits.
He finally found an answer in Smite the Monstrous, leaving Lévy with just the three tokens. But when Thraben Heretic attacked, Lévy cast Gravepurge on Village Bell-Ringer and Falkenrath Torturer, and summoned the aforementioned Bell-Ringer to have it block alongside a Spirit token.
While Díaz made Abbey Griffin, Lévy played his first Falkenrath Torturer for the second time and a second Falkenrath Torturer for the first time. Gather the Townsfolk for Díaz provided five tokens which meant that Lévy probably needed to get in the last points of damage exclusively through the air. Díaz attacked with Stormbound Geist. One of Levy's tokens picked up the Avacyn's Collar and attacked. Díaz blocked with Abbey Griffin, losing one of his two flyers.
On his next turn, Lévy turned one of his Falkenrath Torturers into a 4/2 flying monster, cast Faith's Shield to prevent blocks, and attacked with everything. Díaz simply nodded and shuffled up his cards for game two.
Raphaël Lévy 1 – Alfonso Díaz 0
Once again Lévy had Avacyn's Collar and a removal spell for his opponent's Deranged Assistant. His Avacynian Priest, however, was exiled by a Fiend Hunter. Díaz also had a Hollowhenge Spirit, pulling further ahead.
Lévy had Niblis of the Mist, equipped it, and traded it away for Díaz's Hollowhenge Spirit. This left Fiend Hunter exposed to Tribute to Hunger and Lévy did indeed have it. Díaz lost his creature, while Lévy got his back and, to make matters worse, cast Wakedancer. Earlier this turn, the board had been Díaz's Fiend Hunter against Lévy's nothing, now it was nothing for Díaz against Avacynian Priest, Wakedancer, and a Zombie token on Lévy's side. Quite the turn of events!
Díaz's Gallows Warden proved rather ineffective against the tapper, and his Beguiler of Wills arrived too late to make any difference.
Raphaël Lévy 2 – Alfonso Díaz 0
Round 7: Feature Match - Oliver Bungard vs Oliver Polak-Rottmann
by Tim Willoughby
Two Olivers, both alike in match records, in fairest Madrid, where we lay our scene. No Ancient Grudges but to new feature matches, where one will make one's record not pristine. From forth the decks of these two foes, will come attacks on twenty life. What misadventures and mana woes could easily bring on tournament strife?
Alright, I'm not going to write the whole flaming feature match in iambic pentameter, but I'm sure you get the idea. They are both called Oliver, and right now they are both undefeated here at Grand Prix Madrid. Onto the games!
Bungard was the early aggressor in the match, with a turn two Strangleroot Geist, which was able to get stuck in unimpeded for the first few turns, and soon given a Blazing Torch, should attacking prove unwise later.
For Polak-Rottmann, things began somewhat slower. A Silver-Inlaid Dagger did not initially have a bearer, and it was only with a fourth land (a Moorland Haunt) that the blue/white allowed both Olivers a creature, a Tower Geist. The spirit soon blocked Strangleroot Geist, giving Polak-Rottmann the fuel for a Stitched Drake to replace it.
The drake was right on time, but perhaps not the right answer. A Sturmgeist from Bungard was a potentially sizeable threat, and it soon picked up Blazing Torch, such that it couldn't be blocked by zombies, and ran in.
As it turns out, that Sturmgeist only got in one hit before falling to Smite the Monstrous. Bungard had a Bone to Ash to stop Niblis of the Urn, and a follow up Predator Ooze which could soon get out of hand.
Polak-Rottmann had not achieved a single point of damage when he finally attacked, and was on just 7 life in the face of Bungard's team. After his 5 point attack, he cast an Abbey Griffin, and passed with just enough mana up to be able to activate his Moorland Haunt.
Bungard used Griptide to clear out the Abbey Griffin, and swung in with his team. While Moorland Haunt made one creature to block with, he Polak-Rottman still dropped to 5 on the swings. There were not to be any hasty attacks now, as at fateful hour life, Polak-Rottmann needed all the blockers he could get, casting Abbey Griffin and Heavy Matlock before passing.
When Claustrophobia came down for Bungard, that was enough to ensure that he could run in unimpeded with his team even with Stitched Drake back to block, and in the battle of the Olivers, Bungard took an early lead.
Oliver Bungard 1 – 0 Oliver Polak-Rottmann
For game 2, Polak-Rottmann was on the play, and started far faster than in game one, leading with Silver-Inlaid Dagger and Loyal Cathar. When equipped (on turn 3), this meant 5 damage coming in with vigilance. Bungard had to grimace and take it, having to that point only deployed a Deranged Assistant.
Villagers of Estwald and Blazing Torch came on turn three from Bungard, which was a reasonably good stabilisation, and enough to draw the trade with Loyal Cathar. Polak-Rottmann had a fair follow-up in Niblis of the Urn, giving him a creature that could attack over Bungard's team. Bungard's plan was a little simpler, revolving around substantial ground creatures. First a Hollowhenge Beast, then a Galvanic Juggernaut entered the fray for Bungard.
The Niblis got hit by Blazing Torch, ensuring it would not prove a thorn in the side of Bungard's Galvanic Juggernaut, and Polak-Rottmann used a Saving Grasp to reset his Loyal Cathar, and equipped it with Silver-Inlaid Dagger, so as to have a creature that could trade with a 5/5. That the Grasp would allow Polak-Rottman to repeat his trick with Loyal Cathar again at some point thanks to flashback meant that his blue/white deck had quite the stream of creatures available to it.
The life totals were 8 to 9 in Polak-Rottmann's favour. He had been chipping in where he could, and while he'd taken a couple of big hits, his Loyal Cathar seemed to be doing great things for him, due to a stubborn refusal to stay in the graveyard. Other creatures were less useful in this regard. A Thraben Sentry could not get past a Bone to Ash.
When Loyal Cathar finally fell (trading with a Deranged Assistant while in Zombie form), Polak-Rottman looked a little sad. He looked worse when Strangleroot Geist Came on board for Bungard. Soon the life totals were 8 to 5 in Bungard's favour. Could he get back in it?
Polak-Rottmann had a great answer in Invisible Stalker, who was soon equipped with Avacyn's Collar and Heavy Matlock, with a Silver-Inlaid Dagger ready for the next turn. That would be enough to do the full eight points.
What was Bungard to do against such a threat? Well, he needed to win before it became relevant. For much of the match, Bungard had had an impotent Kessig Wolf Run on the table, but never a red mana. The Mountain finally arrived at Bungard's darkest hour, allowing him the trample and power pumping he needed to power through a well laden Invisible Stalker.
Oliver Bungard defeats Oliver Polak-Rottman 2-0, advancing to 7-0 on the day and locking up his very first Grand Prix day two!
Saturday, 7:55 p.m. – Made in Taiwan
by Tobi Henke
Tzu Ching Kuo may not be a familiar name to most people but possibly should be. 132 pro points lifetime put him at #128 on the all-time leaderboard, and he got 29 of those just last year which qualified him for all Pro Tours in 2012. In the new Pro Players Club he already has secured gold level as well, and he's currently the runner-up for the spot as his country's team captain in the World Magic Cup.
"I came to Europe for this Grand Prix and the one next weekend. Hao-Shan Huang, who's in first place now, doesn't travel to as many GPs. So I'm confident I'm going to pass him," Kuo said about his chances for the World Magic Cup. "He's only ahead by two points."
"I'm looking forward to the Cup. I think it's going to be a great event. But I'm also a little sad that there's not going to be a National champion this year. The World Magic Cup Qualifiers are more like giant PTQs, whereas Nationals was always something special."
Obviously, Taiwan is a long way from Europe—as it is from the United States. Why did he chose to come here instead of going to the Grand Prix in America? "Because after the tournament I can go sightseeing," he said. "I think Europe is more beautiful than the U.S. I like it better."
Round 8: Feature Match - Marco Frantuma vs. Chuy Hwee Heng
by Tobi Henke
At the beginning of this round, Marco Frantuma from Italy and Chuy Hwee Heng from Singapore both still sported a pristine record, the perfect 7-0. Only one player would remain undefeated however. Heng brought an aggressive red-white deck, whereas Frantuma had built a blue-white deck with a splash of red.
Heng started fast with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Elder Cathar, while Frantuma was contend to take the defensive role with Avacynian Priest and Burning Oil, which killed Thalia. Heng simply played a Blazing Torch and passed the turn with three mana up.
Frantuma had no fourth land (and as of yet no Island) and attacked with his Priest. Heng tried to ambush the Priest with two tokens off Midnight Haunting, but one died after blockers to Frantuma's Fires of Undeath.
Heng finally did kill the Priest with Blazing Torch and made an Afflicted Deserter, Frantuma unmade it with Brimstone Volley. Heng was not out of gas by any means, though, but neither was Frantuma. Heng's Erdwal Ripper drew blood before Frantuma traded it for two tokens courtesy of Gather the Townsfolk. Heng took to the air with Chapel Geist, Frantuma summoned a second Avacynian Priest.
But when Frantuma found an Island, deployed a Makeshift Mauler, and followed it up with Galvanic Juggernaut, while all Heng could muster was a Stromkirk Noble, the game was definitely turning in the Italian's favor. Soon he was starting some attacks of his own, taking large chunks out of Heng's lifetotal thanks to his more sizeable creatures. Even though his Galvanic Juggernaut died to Heng's own Burning Oil, Frantuma kept up the pressure with first Stormbound Geist, then Silver-Inlaid Dagger. Frantuma was at six life, but short of Devil's Play outright killing him almost nothing could stop his offense now. Heng had no such play, and quickly succumbed to the beatings.
Marco Frantuma 1 – Chuy Hwee Heng 0
In a strange departure from the previous game's proceedings, Frantuma started with Island and Delver of Secrets, followed by Avacynian Priest, Voiceless Spirit, and Drogskol Captain. Frantuma, whose Delver had transformed into Insectile Aberration on turn three, applied massive flying beatdown, which Heng appeared ill-equipped to deal with.
He needed to race, and did so with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Village Ironsmith, Loyal Cathar, and Erdwal Ripper. Those took Frantuma to 10 and might have gotten there, with a little help from the Moment of Heroism and Faith's Shield in Heng's hand ...
... if it hadn't been for Frantuma's meddling Gather the Townsfolk! Two tokens on defense, along with Avacynian Priest, made sure that the Italian air force proved victorious.
Marco Frantuma 2 – Chuy Hwee Heng 0
Saturday, 9:40 p.m.: Ascent into Darkness
by Tobi Henke
What changes has the introduction of Dark Ascension brought about to the Limited and specifically the Sealed Deck format? I got myself two proven Limited experts to answer a couple of short questions.
Arjan van Leeuwen has two Limited Grand Prix wins to his name, including a win at the then largest tournament ever, Grand Prix Paris 2008, where he bested 1,838 players. When asked about the best color in Dark Ascension/Innistrad Sealed, he said: "Well, I don't think there is a clear best color. Cheap creatures and cards in general are very important, but all colors have their fair share of that. You need to have a good curve."
At Grand Prix Kobe last weekend, players were asked what Dark Ascension card they most want to open in Sealed . Obviously, the turnout tended heavily towards the rare or mythic rare department. But what is the best common from the new set? According to Arjan van Leeuwen, it's none other than Tragic Slip or possibly Fires of Undeath. The best uncommon is Lingering Souls.
What's the single biggest change to the Sealed format with Dark Ascension in the mix? "In my experience, green was a lot better in Innistrad only. It's not as dominant now," Arjan said.
The second person on this Limited expert panel is Adrian Rosada. He won the Grand Prix in Paris in 2009, playing Zendikar Sealed and Booster Draft, which was the new largest tournament at the time, with a total of 1,961 players. His opinion on best color for Sealed Deck with Dark Ascension: "I think it's still white. It simply has the best creatures on average. Creatures and a solid mana curve are very important in this format. And when determining best color, the average is quite important too, of course."
Best common: "Fires of Undeath."
Best uncommon: "Briarpack Alpha."
"The biggest change to the Limited format, in my opinion, is that green-white is not as dominant as it used to be," said Adrian. "Before, you could have insane, virtually unbeatable green-white decks. With Dark Ascension, I've not seen the same level of quality and aggressiveness."