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Coverage of Grand Prix Manchester

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The letter P!lay on Day 2 of Grand Prix Manchester has commenced. Yesterday's been a great start into the event, full of exciting games, interesting decks, and close calls, and today should turn out to be even better! Through nine grueling rounds of Swiss, the original field of 1,403 players has been whittled down to just 151 who are now to play in six more rounds for cash prizes, pro points, as well as the fame and glory of the Top 8 and the title of Grand Prix champion.

Two weeks after Pro Tour Journey into Nyx had set the stage, Theros Block Constructed proved to still hold some surprises. So far, we've seen blowouts induced by Hour of Need, complete games turn around thanks to Dictate of Heliod, and armies literally swept away by Scourge of Fleets. Of course, we've also seen quite a number of Courser of Kruphix decks grind their way to the top, but there's always more space to explore, even within a card pool this small.

Only three players managed to escape yesterday's carnage with perfect records of 9-0: Valentin Mackl, Adam Bajerowicz, and Richard Grint. They have a head start today, but fierce competition isn't far behind, with former Grand Prix and Pro Tour champions Fabrizio Anteri, Florian Koch, Samuele Estratti, Martin Jůza, Kai Budde, Christian Seibold, Wenzel Krautmann, Patrick Dickmann, Antti Malin, Thomas Enevoldsen, Craig Jones, and Josh McClain all having made Day 2.

While the action heats up on the homestretch toward the Top 8, join us, as we bring you all the updates and news as well as all the stories and insights straight from the battlefield of Grand Prix Manchester!











 

  • Day 1 Undefeated Decklists

    by Event Coverage Staff






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  • Sunday, 10:17 a.m. – From Block to Standard in the fall

    by Frank Karsten

  • Block Constructed typically establishes the foundation for the future Standard, and there's no reason to believe that it will be the same this time around. Once Khans of Tarkir is released in the fall, Return to Ravnica Block and M14 will rotate out of Standard, and the Standard format that we will enter at that point will be largely comprised out of Theros Block cards.


    I sat down with several pro players and notable deck builders to ask them how the shape of this Block Constructed bodes for the fall Standard, what they expect the key building blocks to be, and what kind of cards they will be on the lookout for in M15 and Khans of Tarkir.

    Platinum pro Martin Juza: "I expect that the green/black core of Sylvan Caryatid, Courser of Kruphix, Thoughtseize, and Hero's Downfall will be one of the major building blocks for the fall Standard. You can add blue for Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and Prognostic Sphinx; add white for Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Fleecemane Lion; or add red for Stormbreath Dragon and Lightning Strike. But one way or another, green/black midrange will remain very powerful."

    Pro Tour Born of the Gods Top 8 competitor Patrick Dickmann: "Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid will have a big impact on the future Standard. Elspeth will remain extremely powerful as well. The best answers to the planeswalker are Thoughtseize and Dissolve, which would make up the building blocks for a good Esper control deck, but it is currently lacking a good sweeper. Finally, the Mono Black deck that is powerful in the current Standard will not remain in the format in the same way, as key cards like Underworld Connections will be gone."

    No. 18 ranked player Josh Mcclain: "The biggest question is whether or not M15 or Khans of Tarkir will contain a 4 or 5 mana sweeper. If they reprint Wrath of God, then everything changes as there would suddenly be a good way to stop the turn-2 Sylvan Caryatid / turn-3 Courser of Kruphix opening. If such a card will not be added to the format, then the concept behind the top Theros Block Constructed decks will carry over to the fall Standard."


    Grand Prix Strasbourg Top 8 competitor Michael Bonde: "Control decks have a hard time in Block Constructed currently, especially when compared to the current Standard. In Theros Block, there is no card advantage engine on par with Sphinx's Revelation or Jace, Architect of Thought, and no sweeper like Supreme Verdict. Without solid mass removal, you have to go big with Fated Retribution or go for a different strategy altogether. So, control players will really, really want Wrath of God. That said, midrange deck based around Fleecemane Lion are also going to be good in the next Standard, as the Lion is so hard to get rid of."

    Grand Prix Cape Town 2001 champion Ben Seck: "I would be looking for good mana fixing. Scry-lands and Mana Confluence are good, but new dual lands would be huge. One way or another, I expect that Courser of Kruphix and Elspeth, Sun's Champion will remain extremely powerful. The black cards are all great as well, so the suite of Hero's Downfall, Thoughtseize, and Herald of Torment is another important building block."

    Pro Tour Dragon's Maze Top 8 competitor Matej Zatlkaj: "If Elvish Mystic or any one-mana accelerant gets reprinted, then it will add an important new element to the Courser/Caryatid decks. Elvish Mystic would make Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and ramp strategies more prevalent and aggro strategies even worse. Besides that, all the planeswalkers and high-impact rares will remain good. So that's Elspeth, Sun's Champion; Ajani, Mentor of Heroes; Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver; Xenagos, the Reveler; Thoughtseize; Sylvan Caryatid; and Courser of Kruphix. We'll certainly keep on seeing those in the fall."




     

  • Sunday, 11:51 a.m. – Day 2 metagame breakdown

    by Frank Karsten

  • Day 2 of Grand Prix Manchester has begun, and we've got a metagame breakdown of what the field looks like here on Sunday.

    Let's start with a telling graphical overview:


    So, Courser of Kruphix is holding up strong as the defining card of the format. Nevertheless, there are still a ton of different archetypes that are being played today. The Courser decks come in many flavors, and there is even more variety between the non-Courser decks.

    Here are the raw numbers:

    Deck Number of players Percentage
    RGW Midrange 38 25,9
    BWG Midrange 30 20,4
    BUG 14 9,5
    BGW Constellation 10 6,8
    RW Heroic 9 6,1
    Mono-Black Aggro 6 4,1
    UW Heroic 6 4,1
    GBR Midrange 3 2
    GWU Midrange 3 2
    Mono-Black Midrange 3 2
    Reanimator 3 2
    Strength from the Fallen 3 2
    BUG splash Elspeth 2 1,4
    GB Constellation 2 1,4
    Mono-Red Aggro 2 1,4
    RG Aggro 2 1,4
    UB Inspired 2 1,4
    WUB Control 2 1,4
    Chromanticore 1 0,7
    Mono-Blue Aggro 1 0,7
    Mono-Green Aggro 1 0,7
    RGU Midrange 1 0,7
    RWB Midrange 1 0,7
    Scourge the Fleet 1 0,7
    WB Control 1 0,7



     

  • Quick Question #3 - Best Deck in the Format?

    by Tobi Henke

  • Raphaël Lévy: GTA [Grand Theft Ashiok], my blue black inspired deck.
    Martin Jůza: I don't think there is one best deck. But I like the blue-black deck Lévy played at the Pro Tour, with its untapped lands and stable mana base. I chose more of a high-variance deck just because Top 16 is all that matters to me for this tournament."

    Fabrizio Anteri: Easy. BUG Control.
    Florian Koch: Chapin-style Black-Green-White. It's hard to argue with his dominance at the Pro Tour.



     

  • Sunday, 12:49 a.m. – Strength from the Fallen in Theros Block Constructed

    by Frank Karsten

  • Strength from the Fallen is a great card to overpower midrange strategies in the late game. It takes a while to set up with Satyr Wayfinder and Commune with the Gods (which makes this strategy a little weak to fast aggro decks) but in a field filled with Courser of Kruphix decks, Strength from the Fallen is a well-positioned card.


    Three players made it to the Sunday competition with innovative decks built around the green enchantment. Here are their decklists:

    Robert Ferguson, GBW Strength from the Fallen
    Grand Prix Manchester 2014 – Theros Block


    Alan Warnock, GW Strength from the Fallen
    Grand Prix Manchester 2014 – Theros Block


    Marcin Sciesinski, GW Strength from the Fallen
    Grand Prix Manchester 2014 – Theros Block


    Besides the usual green suite of Sylvan Caryatid, Courser of Kruphix, Eidolon of Blossoms, Commune with the Gods, and Satyr Wayfinder, these three decks have a key element in common: Nylea, God of the Hunt. After all, making a humongous creature with Strength from the Fallen won't get you anywhere if they just get chumpblocked by Soldier tokens, so the trample ability granted by Nylea is a big deal for this deck. Alan Warnock even had Humbler of Mortals in his sideboard to give all of his creatures trample!

    If you've been looking for a good way to trample over your opponents, then give any of these decks a spin!




     

  • Round 11 Feature Match – Florian Koch vs. Kai Budde

    by Tobi Henke

  • In the second round of the day, two old buddies from Germany met in the feature match area. "We haven't really played a lot, have we?" Kai Budde asked. "Well, back in the day in the local store we did. But not at this level," Florian Koch replied. That was before Budde became famous by winning, in total, seven Pro Tours, seven Grand Prix, one World Championship, and four Player of the Year titles. While no slouch either with his two Grand Prix Top 8s and one win, Koch's résumé couldn't quite compare to that. Since both players had already picked up two losses, this match would eliminate one of them from Top 8 contention.

    To avoid such a fate, Koch had worked a little on updating Patrick Chapin's black-green-white PT-winning deck, whereas Budde relied on the power of BUG Control. The decks were sharing two colors and many key cards (Sylvan Caryatid, Courser of Kruphix, Thoughtseize, Hero's Downfall, Silence the Believers), but veered off into completely different directions with their respective third color. Koch's white brought further threats in Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Elspeth, Sun's Champion, while Budde's blue added Prognostic Sphinx, Dissolve, as well as planeswalkers Kiora, the Crashing Wave and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver.

    Game 1

    Koch led with Sylvan Caryatid, Budde had Thoughtseize on turn two. "Just the best," Koch commented on his hand, revealing Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Reaper of the Wilds, Hero's Downfall and lands. "It's not that good actually, since, really, you only have lands and Downfall left," said Budde, casting a second Thoughtseize.

    Kai Budde

    Hero's Downfall took care of Budde's Courser of Kruphix, but the Hall of Famer was unimpressed, replaced it with Kiora, the Crashing Wave, and drew some extra cards anyway. A seven-mana monstrous Fleecemane Lion entered the battlefield for Koch but was easily trumped by Budde's Reaper of the Wilds, followed by Prognostic Sphinx.

    Koch needed a big threat of his own; he only had Courser of Kruphix, but at least that revealed Elspeth, Sun's Champion on top of his deck. Budde scried, cast his own Courser of Kruphix, and revealed a second Sphinx on top of his library. Elspeth died to Sphinx attacks and her tokens died to Bile Blight and, with that, Budde had established almost total dominion over the game.

    "I don't know what I could even draw at this point," Koch thought aloud. "There can't be much," a happy Budde agreed. Koch did some more futile scrying, then picked up his cards to try his luck in the second game.

    Florian Koch 0-1 Kai Budde

    Game 2

    After much deliberation, Koch kept an opening hand of Forest, Mana Confluence, Silence the Believers, Read the Bones, Hero's Downfall, Elspeth, and Courser of Kruphix—reasonable considering he was up against possibly the slowest deck in the format.

    Florian Koch

    While Koch drew one more Plains, neither Read the Bones nor Courser of Kruphix came up with anymore lands and when he finally had his fourth, Budde already had Kiora, the Crashing Wave and Prognostic Sphinx online, a dim proposition for Koch.

    However, one more interesting scene developed when Koch cast Ajani, Mentor of Heroes and gave two +1/+1 counters to his Courser of Kruphix, one to his Fleecemane Lion and attacked Kiora, the Crashing Wave with both, while Budde just had untapped Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix for blockers. Budde chumped the 4/6 Courser with Caryatid, destroyed Fleecemane Lion with Hero's Downfall, then, on the backswing, killed Ajani and targeted Courser of Kruphix with Kiora's +1 ability. Once again, he had disarmed all of Koch's threats and he never really recovered.

    Florian Koch 0-2 Kai Budde

    "I really don't like Read the Bones anymore," Budde stated after the match. "We had it in our Pro Tour deck, but I'm no longer running it. It's so great when you draw it on, like, turn eight, but as a turn-three play it's just the worst."

    "I could have led with Courser of Kruphix instead," Koch mused, "but I wanted to increase the chances of getting some lands quickly." Budde was in favor of playing the creature. "Then I couldn't have made my Kiora play," he said, referring to his turn-three planeswalker which he had used to draw a card and play an extra land right away and which had shaped the game from start to finish. "Yeah, that would've been better, I guess," Koch sighed.




     

  • Quick Questions #4 – Who'll Win the Soccer World Cup?

    by Tobi Henke

  • Raphaël Lévy: Costa Rica! Apparently, their odds are deemed to be 3000 to one!
    Martin Jůza: Well, not the Czech team because we didn't qualify. So I guess, Brazil or Spain. I like Brazil.

    Fabrizio Anteri: I'm rooting for Argentina! When you're from Venezuela, you basically have to look for allies in neighboring countries.
    Florian Koch: I hope for Germany. Spain really can't do it again.



     

  • Dech Tech - Chromanticore with Craig Jones

    by Frank Karsten

  • Most players at Grand Prix Manchester opted for more traditional strategies, but Pro Tour Honolulu 2006 finalist and Lightning Helix afficionado Craig Jones brought a crazy concoction to the tournament: Chromanticore!

    For reference, here's his list:


    Although Craig is originally from England, he currently lives in Curacao for work, and it was actually a surprise to see him here at this Grand Prix. "The last time I played a GP was almost 2 years ago," Craig told me. "I usually come back once a year to see my family, and I discovered that my trip happened to coincide with this Grand Prix. That made it a good opportunity to meet some friends that I hadn't seen in a long time. I didn't expect too much from my deck, but I managed to make it to Day 2 and I am currently 9-3!"

    To learn more about the deck, I sat down with Craig and asked him to explain what makes the deck tick.

    What is the game plan of this deck?

    "An ideal draw might start with a Sylvan Caryatid on turn 2 and Courser of Kruphix on turn 3. Then, against aggro, you want to play Bassara Tower Archer, Gild something, and bestow Chromanticore. Against control, you might try to grind them out with Eidolon of Blossoms and little bits of card advantage, but you might also beat them with Chromanticore if they don't see it coming. So, it's the same shell as any other Caryatid/Courser deck, but the end game is brutal."

    How was the deck conceived and built?

    "It is based on a Chromanticore deck that a friend of mine found online. It looked kind of fun, so I built it on Magic Online, tested it, and discovered that it actually performed reasonably well."

    What are some interesting plays that we might not see right away picking up this deck?

    "Bestowing Chromanticore on a hexproof creature is the key, and you got to be patient. You have to know what mana is untapped and what removal your opponent might have available. You never want to put Chromaticore on one of your non-hexproof guys because of Silence the Believers, and you don't want to just play Chromanticore without bestow because of Hero's Downfall.

    You also have to wait until the opponent plays Elspeth, Sun's Champion before going all-in on Chromanticore. You can kill Elspeth by bestowing Chromanticore and flying over, but you don't want to give the opponent an opening to kill your flying, first strike, vigilance, trample, lifelink creature via Elspeth.

    Another tip is to let Courser of Kruphix and Eidolon of Blossoms absorb enchantment removal. Cards like Unravel the Æther are the best answers to Chromaticore, so draw out the those cards with your other enchantments first.

    Finally, you have to know when to make Fleecemane Lion early or when to make it as a 7-drop. But people so far haven't seen the Chromanticore coming, so they have unnecessarily given me openings to make Lion monstrous."

    What are the good and bad matchups for the deck?

    "Aggro is difficult. If they have Gods Willing, you're dead, and you can't beat their god draws. However, Mono Black and BUG are good matchups because their black removal spells don't match up well against all of my hexproof cards."

    Can your mana base support a 5-color card?

    "It's mainly just a green/black with some other colors thrown in. There's 12 temples, 4 Sylvan Caryatid, 4 Nylea's Presence, 4 Gild, and 1 Mana Confluence to fix all of the other colors. As I am essentially just a two-color deck that can go for Chromanticore in the late game, I was able to cut down on the Mana Confluences and take less damage from my lands. The collection of fixers in my deck are enough to bestow Chromanticore in the late game."

    Can you explain your sideboarding strategy?

    "The sideboard contains lots of one-ofs and two-ofs with situational benefits, like Deicide and Feast of Dreams. Elspeth comes in against Naya; Worst Fears against decks with Prognostic Sphinx; and Agent of Erebos against Reanimator. The only three-of is Drown in Sorrow, although I board in all three copies only against R/W Heroic. Against U/W Heroic or Mono Black Aggro, I only board in 1 or 2 Drown in Sorrow, as they have too many bestow cards that can get their creatures out of range.

    The cards I typically take out are Voyaging Satyr and Eidolon of Countless Battles. These cards are replaceable placeholders against every matchup. Additionally, I sometimes board out some Hero's Downfall (which is less efficient than most of the removal spells in the sideboard) and some Bassara Tower Archer (especially when playing against Doomwake Giant)."


    Well, if you've been looking for a fun and powerful deck that does something different in Theros Block Constructed, then be sure to give this deck a spin!




     

  • Sunday, 1:55 p.m. – On the Hunt for Pro Points

    by Tobi Henke

  • The 2013–2014 Pro Season has hit its home stretch. Just seven Grand Prix and one Pro Tour remain, leaving players with but a few opportunities to pick up additional pro points. Mainly, those points are necessary to reach one of the exclusive levels in the Pro Players Club, but the position of National team captain, for example, is also awarded to the player with the most pro points from each country.

    Brian David-Marshall just wrote a detailed piece on the Players Club (http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/twtw/301), but in a nutshell: 20 points are needed for the Silver level which qualifies for the next Pro Tour of the current and following season, 35 for Gold which qualifies for all Pro Tours of the current and following season, and 45 for Platinum which adds a lot of appearance fees and free flights to the deal.

    However, this season, for the first time, the thresholds for the different levels have been calculated with a cap on Grand Prix finishes in mind. Only the best five of a player's GP results count toward their 2013–2014 season total. Much to the dismay of one Valentin Mackl who may just be the person with the most money finishes this season.

    An unhappy Valentin Mackl

    "Even just counting GP Top 8s and Top 16s, I have four and seven respectively," the Austrian Grand Prix grinder complained. "If I'd had the same results last season I would have been Platinum with points to spare!" Mackl is currently at 32 points, and with his Silver invite to the Pro Tour already used up, finds himself without qualification for the upcoming Pro Tour Magic 2015 in Portland. "The only thing that can even add points to my record at this point is another Top 8, but that comes with a PT invite anyway. So, yeah, that's my goal for this tournament." Going 9-0 yesterday, certainly helped with that.

    "Players [like Mackl] really cannot complain," opined Hall of Famer Kai Budde. "If someone can't make it to Gold because of the Grand Prix cap, they simply didn't do well enough on the Pro Tour." The oldschool pro was also on the hunt for points this weekend. After a long time of only traveling to events sporadically, Budde had entered the race in earnest this season with the express goal of becoming the German team captain for the World Magic Cup.

    A poker-faced Kai Budde

    With his 31 pro points, all of them earned at the Pro Tour, however, he could only claim the runner-up spot so far. "It's funny," he said. "Last year, the national team captain had what? 18 points?" (Actually 22, but we get the point.) "So I thought, 'Well, I can do better than that.' And I did. But suddenly, there are all these new players who make a run. Wenzel Krautmann currently has 27, Chistian Seibold has 31, and Patrick Dickmann is at 38. It's crazy."

    For Patrick Dickmann it's all about reaching Platinum at this point. "I have 38 points at the moment, I get three free points from the final Pro Tour of the season, so I need just four more. And those 38 points only include four GP finishes, one of them a Top 64," Dickmann explained.

    A happy Patrick Dickmann

    "So yeah, there's a lot of room left to flesh out my five Grand Prix results," said Dickmann. "I'm rather confident about my chances, though I have my work cut out for me. I'll definitely be traveling to Grand Prix Milan and Boston, and will potentially make some last-minute trips if none of these work out. Wish me luck!"




     

  • Sunday, 2:48 p.m. – Unusual color combinations

    by Frank Karsten

  • At Pro Tour Journey into Nyx, we've seen BUG decks, RGW decks, GBW decks, GWU decks, and UWB decks. We've also seen Mono-Black decks, Mono-Red decks, Mono-White decks, RW decks, GB decks, UB decks, RG decks, and UW decks. But there are also plenty of color combinations that we didn't see in the spotlights.

    Some of those less-appreciated color combinations are seeing play today in Manchester. Here is a selection:

    Jared Laverick-stovin, RWB Midrange
    Grand Prix Manchester 2014 – Theros Block Constructed


    This is what you get when you combine the best cards that red, black, and white have to offer. Jared is currently at a 7-5 record.

    Juan Gonzalez, GBR Midrange
    Grand Prix Manchester 2014 – Theros Block Constructed


    And this is what you get when you combine the best cards that red, black, and green have to offer. Juan is currently at an 8-4 record.

    My first thought when I saw this deck was "Oh sweet, you can put Herald of Torment on Polis Crusher and destroy opposing enchantments more easily!" My second thought was "Wait, Polis Crusher has protection from Herald of Torment..." I guess you can't have everything.


    The main attractions found in this color combination are Prophet of Kruphix and Keranos, God of Storms---powerful five-drops that can turn a game around, and dropping a surprise creature at instant speed to turn on a God sounds quite appealing. Alexander is currently at an 8-4 record.

    Fernando Valverde, Mono-Green Devotion
    Grand Prix Manchester 2014 – Theros Block Constructed


    Technically not Mono-Green, as the deck contains Prophet of Kruphix in the maindeck and Worst Fears in the sideboard---hurrah for Sylvan Caryatid---but with Aspect of Hydra and Reverent Hunter pushing the devotion theme, this is as close to Mono-Green as it gets. Fernando is currently at an 8-4 record.

    Although none of these players are in contention for the Top 8, their lists are certainly innovative!




     

  • Sunday, 14:15 – A Conspiracy of Cubes

    by Tom Reeve

  • Over 1400 players may have signed up to do battle in the Block Constructed main event here at Grand Prix Manchester, but a Grand Prix is more than just a single tournament. Many more have come for the packed side event schedule, while for some, the chance to catch up with old friends, and play some more casual Magic, is the biggest attraction. A number of casual formats have come in and out of fashion during Magic's long and storied history, with real oddballs like Rainbow Stairwell falling by the wayside over the years, while more iconic formats like Commander go from strength to strength. One such evergreen format is perfectly suited for battling it out with old friends and new at a Grand Prix; Cube drafting.

    The origins of Cube drafting are shrouded in the mists of time (the earliest reference I've found so far was all the way back in 2002), but the core of the format has remained the same; a custom set, assembled and curated by one player, built for Booster Draft. Cubes are as varied as their creators: some use their Cubes as a showcase for Magic's most powerful and iconic cards, some stick to cards of a certain rarity or format, while others build their Cube around some other theme. The Magic Online Cube has proved hugely popular, with the special Holiday version cranking the power level up to 11 with powerful cards like Ancestral Recall, Black Lotus, and the Moxen.

    Cube drafting is always popular at big events like Grand Prix, and Grand Prix Manchester has already seen the world's first public Conspiracy draft, with its draft-disrupting Constructs and card-changing Conspiracies. It's a set that has a lot of potential to shake up Cube drafting, so what better time to find out about some of the cooler Cubes seeing play here, and get their owners' first impressions of some of the new cards?


    Louis Mackie lives in London, and has been playing since Zendikar. He didn't play in the main event, and he's here for the social side of the Grand Prix. His Cube is a bit of a departure from the norm, as he's eschewed the 'all the powerful cards' template in favor of just commons and uncommons. Of course, that doesn't mean his Cube doesn't get a lot of love – most rarity restricted cubes don't contain a Judge promo Wasteland, From the Vaults Maze of Ith, or Force of Will! And, particularly unusual, an Orcish Oriflamme from Alpha, intended to be played with its misprinted casting cost of 1R.

    What are your thoughts on the Conspiracy previews so far?

    "I'll definitely be adding some of the cards that can change things up while you're drafting, like Cogwork Librarian and Agent of Acquisitions. I think I'll just be adding them into the mix with the rest of the cards, rather than having a dedicated slot in every pack. My cube is around 360 cards, so having ten cards to mix things up seems like it could be a lot of fun."


    Paul Lim plays Magic in Bath, and he's something of a Cube connoisseur. While most players don't have a Cube, and most that do have one that they devote all of their attention to, Paul maintains no fewer than ten!

    "I hate the idea that so many of my cards don't get tournament play, so a friend and I design all kinds of different Cubes to show off different aspects of the game. I have a 'normal' powered Cube, fairly similar to the Magic Online Holiday cube. I have a 1995 Cube – it's great for nostalgia, a Cube as it would have been built then, with old cards and all their crazy wording. I also have a Myr Servitor Cube! Personally, my favorite Cube decks tend to involve some reanimation and tutoring, with cards like Gifts Ungiven and Genesis."

    What are your thoughts on the Conspiracy previews so far?

    "I quite like the idea of all the cards that alter the actual drafting, like Cogwork Librarian, and it feeds all those stories about drafts; 'oh, if only I could take this whole pack!' 'if only I could have two first picks!'. I've been playing Magic for nearly 20 years, and Cube is a social thing for me, so cards like this that get people interacting during the draft are great. The Conspiracies themselves have a Vanguard feel – I don't know if we'll draft them before regular cards, or as part of the packs. We'll have to test to see what's the most fun way to include them, but I'm sure we'll find a way, as everyone loves the idea of them!"



    Stephen Colly and Eamonn Jones are from Dublin, Ireland, and while they didn't manage to make Day 2 of the main event, both agree that Cube is a great way to unwind from a hard day's competition. The two share a collection, and after they bought a booster box of Modern Masters, they were inspired to put together a Cube to squeeze as much fun as possible out of the cards they owned! They lean towards very different strategies, with Stephen aiming to draft unusual control decks that mix up powerful spells and creatures, and Eamonn dedicated to the Boros Legion's special brand of smashing face with aggressive white-red decks. This helps them keep their Cube balanced to ensure that both strategies are viable, and make sure that as many different strategies as possible can win. Their Cube also doesn't include any artifact mana, both to make green's ramp and color-fixing more special, and to encourage more focused decks. Their Cube also includes a number of cards altered by their friend Rob, including a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben inspired by the movie Kill Bill.

    What are your thoughts on the Conspiracy previews so far?

    Eamonn: "We're going to be picking up a booster box to draft, definitely, and once we've gotten a feel for the new cards we're going to build an expansion pack for the Cube that contains some of the new cards. I really like the idea of Worldknit; there's a certain type of player who is going to absolutely love that card, but I might not be doing it myself!"

    Stephen: "I really like some of the Conspiracies – the one that gives you two opening hands to choose from, or the ones that upgrade a specific card in your deck. I want to give Griselbrand haste!"


    Nuno Cunha is from Portugal, and finished his final exam of a Physics degree at Imperial College in London only yesterday! Looking for something to do over the weekend, he came across Grand Prix Manchester, and why sit at home and watch the coverage when you come along? Nuno has been playing for around 12 years in total, but took a break between Lorwyn and Return to Ravnica. He's thrown himself into the game since he came back, and recently passed his Level 1 Judge test. His Cube is the most unusual so far, in that it contains only two creature cards, and both of them are Biovisionary!

    Nuno: "I have a lot of spell-based strategies, like Storm, milling, burn, and some creature token based strategies. I tried poison for a while, but it didn't really work out. I drafted a deck once that people didn't appreciate so much, everyone who played against me only resolved a single spell per game! The milling cards are often passed around late, so if one person is scooping them all up, that deck can be really powerful. If you can get a Brain Freeze, you can also combine Storm and milling to good effect. It's not like I'm going to put Eldrazi in the Cube to stop them! The one thing I have to be careful of is balancing the power level a bit. Otherwise you can have situations where one person gets all the cards of one type, and is just unbeatable."

    What are your thoughts on the Conspiracy previews so far?

    "It has been my procrastination from exam revision! Conspiracy looks super cool! I'm torn, because I need to think of ways to incorporate the creatures that mess around with the draft, maybe I'll give them defender to let them see play without changing the theme of the Cube too much. I'm really interested in Worldknit and Backup Plan, either to have the craziest five-color deck full of good cards, or make your deck as consistent as possible. Sometimes you draft a deck that really wants to draw a specific card, something like Birthing Pod in a normal Cube, and Backup Plan will help a lot with that kind of deck. I'm also excited for some of the reprints, it'll be great to be able to get hold of cards like Exploration and Misdirection! "




     

  • Round 13 Feature Match - Martin Juza (UW Heroic) vs Toni Ramis Pascual

    by Frank Karsten

  • Eighteen-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Martin Juza is in the hunt for Pro Points. Coming in at 30 points into this Grand Prix, he needs a few more to get to the 35 points that are required at the end of the season to lock up Gold---the status in the pro player club that would qualify him for every Pro Tour in the next season. As he will get at least 3 points in Pro Tour Portland and his best five Grand Prix finishes this season include a Top 32, he needs a Top 8 finish at this Grand Prix (which gives out 2 more points than a Top 32 finish) to lock up Gold. Yup, lots of math going on behind the scenes while players are scrounging for points.

    He came to battle with UW Heroic, a brave metagame call that has worked out for him so far. "Everything that I thought was going to happen, did happen," Martin said. "People did over-prepare against decks with Courser of Kruphix and Hero's Downfall by playing more expensive cards like Ajani, Mentor of Heroes; Dictate of Heliod; Arbor Colossus; Reaper of the Wilds; and so on. All those cards are 4 or 5 mana, which makes them too slow against aggro, and people did cut a little bit on the removal, which bodes well for my deck."

    Standing in Martin's way was Grand Prix Verona 2013 Top 8 competitor Toni Ramis Pascual, who had sleeved up a version of BGW Midrange---basically Patrick Chapin's Pro Tour Journey into Nyx winning deck, but with some of the adjustments that Martin had mentioned. Toni was indeed playing multiple copies of Reaper of the Wilds; Ajani, Mentor of Heroes; and Arbor Colossus.

    Game 1

    Martin had a Battlewise Hoplite on turn 2 and then had a choice to make on turn 3. With Aqueous Form, Stratus Walk, and Fabled Hero in hand, he had two main options: suit up the Hoplite right away with both enchantments in the hope that Toni would not have a removal spell, or play Fabled Hero and hope that it draws out a removal spell.

    Martin Juza

    Martin went with the second option, and it worked out: Toni spent Hero's Downfall on Fabled Hero, and was then left without a removal spell to deal with Martin's auras. Martin was careful not to make his creatures too large (as creatures with four or more power can be destroyed by Elspeth, Sun's Champion) and caught Toni without an answer to his unblockable heroic creatures.

    Martin Juza 1 – Toni Ramis Pascual 0

    Game 2

    Toni had two Thoughtseize on his early turns of the game, which would normally be a great card as it can just strip Martin of good creatures. Unfortunately, Martin's hand was filled with too many good creatures, so Toni's discard spells were not actually able to halt Martin's development.

    Toni Ramis Pascual

    Brimaz, King of Oreskos came out quickly, flanked by a swarm of white heroic creatures, and Toni was unable to claw back into the game.

    Martin Juza 2 – Toni Ramis Pascual 0

    "I've been boarding in Brimaz in pretty much every matchup today, and it has been great,"Martin said after the game. "A lot of time, opponents show Bile Blight or Feast of Dreams and just die to Brimaz."

    Martin Juza moves to 11-2 and keeps his dream of making Top 8 alive, while Toni Ramis Pascual falls to 10-3 and has his work cut out for him.




     

  • Deck Tech - UW Heroic with Martin Juza

    by Frank Karsten

  • Martin Juza is one of the brave souls who chose to sleeve up a deck without Courser of Kruphix. Blue/White Heroic is the deck that he is competing with. Here is his list:


    "This is the best Game 1 deck in the format. It's basically hexproof without hexproof," Juza said. "It gets worse after sideboard since everyone boards in more removal, but I was hoping that most players will focus their sideboards on the midrange decks and neglect the aggro decks. On Magic Online, everyone was trying to one-up themselves by adding more and more cards that are good against Green/Black decks, like Ajani, Mentor of Heroes and Archetype of Endurance. But that comes at the expense of anti-aggro cards like Feast of Dreams."

    So, Juza is taking the gamble that everyone is tuning their decks against Naya, Junk, and BUG, and he hopes to slide under the radar with a powerful aggro deck that can use Stratus Walk and Aqueous Form to push its creatures past blockers like Courser of Kruphix. It's a gamble, but so far it has paid off for him.

    I then asked Juza about some of his specific card choices.

    You're playing more three-drops than most other UW Heroic decks. How did you come to that decision?

    "I like to have more creatures in my deck. You don't want to go all-in on a guy early on because that just loses to Hero's Downfall. I want to go guy, guy, guy and make my opponent run out of removal. Only then will I start playing enchantments. Fabled Hero and Brimaz, King of Oreskos fit that game plan well, so I'm playing 4 and 1 in the maindeck, respectively. The extra copies of Brimaz in the sideboard have also been great."

    How about Mortal Obstinacy?

    "It's a good way to target your heroic creatures, and there are plenty of good enchantments to destroy: Courser of Kruphix, Banishing Light, Brain Maggot, etcetera."

    What's up with the Swan Song in the maindeck?

    "I expect that Hero's Downfall and Silence the Believers will see a lot of play, and this is a good counter for those spells. Besides that, the card is quite flexible. I have countered Courser of Kruphix, for example, and I sometimes even counter my own spell just to get a chump blocker."

    Why did you go with the configuration of 2 Voyage's End and 0 Banishing Light in your sideboard?

    "I don't want to have too many 3-mana cards, and Voyage's End is possibly even better in the mirror match. Beating Daring Thief is more difficult with Voyage's End than with Banishing Light, so I might as well scoop to that card, but I didn't expect too many Daring Thief in this tournament."

    Would you make any changes?

    "I'm really happy with the version. The only change that I could see making is playing adding the fourth Stratus Walk instead of an Ordeal of Heliod. This might make the deck worse against aggro decks, but better against GBx decks, and that appears to be more important in this metagame."


    If you've been working on a UW Heroic deck yourself, Juza's build is a great place to look for ideas!




     

  • Sunday, 4:11 p.m. – Interesting ways to get around hexproof

    by Frank Karsten

  • With the prevalence of the amazingly efficient Hero's Downfall and Silence the Believers in the Theros Block Constructed format, there has been an uptick in the number of hexproof creatures that are seeing play in Manchester this weekend. Indeed, cards like Fleecemane Lion, Prognostic Sphinx, and Reaper of the Wilds have become an important fixture of the format. Craig Jones was even sporting Bassara Tower Archer in his Chromanticore-based deck!

    But Magic players always try to stay one step ahead. Let me highlight a couple of the interesting answers to hexproof that people have brought to the Grand Prix.


    Destroys all relevant hexproof creatures without complaints.


    Same deal, and you get to take out planeswalkers, too.


    It takes a while for it to go monstrous, but it does the job eventually.


    If you flash this in at the right time (when chumpblocking, say) then you can even slay an indestructible Fleecemane Lion!


    Blocks Fleecemane Lion and Reaper of the Wilds all day. Alternatively, combine it with Revel of the Fallen God and you can just go for a damage race against any hexproof creature.


    Affectionately known as the Arche-Pig, this card has hexproof hate written all over it. Craig Jones called it "surprisingly hard to beat."




     

  • Sunday, 4:36 p.m. – A spotlight on the intersection of England, Magic, and football

    by Frank Karsten

  • A tradition that has been going on for over a decade in England is the Magic football match.

    "The day before any big Magic tournament in the UK, everyone meets up," Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Top 8 competitor Eduardo Sajgalik from England explained. "Whenever there's a tournament that draws people from all over the country, we book a pitch and play a football match."

    "It's fun, it's casual, there's no stress, and it's nice to run around for a while before playing Magic all weekend. Everyone decides whether he wants to compete for the North or South (of the country) and we just play a match with a crowd of Magic players cheering everyone on."

    "This time, there were over 15 players per team, so there were lots of substitutions. While traditionally it turns into a tight game, this time it was a massacre. The North attacked a lot more, and Richard Coates managed to score four goals! The final score was North 7 - South 1."

    "The atmosphere was friendly, and everyone had a lot of fun. It turns the Grand Prix into an experience. It's not just about the Magic tournament, but about meeting up with friends and doing other fun stuff together as well."




     

  • Round 14 Feature Match - Tamas Glied vs. Daniel Entwisle

    by Tobi Henke

  • We finally got to feature the mono-blue deck in action on text! Talk of a strange brew concocted by an English team had been making the rounds as early as Friday evening. Apparently, there was Dictate of Kruphix and Dakra Mystic there, with Whelming Wave and Scourge of Fleets to break their symmetry. An interesting deck to be sure, and one of the few completely new builds to come out of the tournament. Check out yesterday's deck tech piece http://www.wizards.com/magic/magazine/article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/eventcoverage/gpman14/day1#9 for even more information.

    While everyone else's ship had sailed, Daniel Entwistle was the last member of the British armada still in contention for a Top 8 berth now. He and his mono-blue deck only needed to overcome Hungarian Tamas Glied and his red-green-white midrange deck now.

    Game 1

    Glied led with Voyaging Satyr and Courser of Kruphix, while Entwistle cast two copies of Dictate of Kruphix, only to have both destroyed by back-to-back copies of Destructive Revelry. He managed to clog up the board with Prognostic Sphinxes and Thassa, God of the Sea, but early attacks, combined with the incidental direct damage from Revelries and Lightning Strike had already brought Entwistle to 6 at that point.

    Tamas Glied

    The threat of Stormbreath Dragon also meant he hardly could attack. That is, until Scourge of Fleets made its appearance. Meanwhile, Elspeth, Sun's Champion managed to create some tokens and sneak in another point.

    Finally, Entwistle used Hubris on his own Scourge of Fleets, recast it, and managed to clear the board of all of Glied's creatures and planeswalkers, threatening to take over the game and even to deliver lethal damage in the near future.

    Before that, however, Glied peeled Magma Jet from the top of his library and scried into Lightning Strike to deliver the last points of damage and steal the game. He had summarily lost the battle for board domination but won nevertheless.

    Tamas Glied 1-0 Daniel Entwisle

    Game 2

    Again, Entwistle opened the game on two copies of Dictate of Kruphix and this time both survived. Glied, meanwhile, had mulliganed to five and made his first play in Xenagos, the Reveler on turn four. Still, now that the cards were flowing, he could recover remarkably. On turn five, Glied cast Sylvan Caryatid and Voyaging Satyr to generate more mana with Xenagos, cast more creatures ... Let's just say things got out of hand rather quickly.

    Daniel Entwisle

    Despite drawing three cards a turn, Entwistle was unable to find Scourge of Fleets or anything else that could help him out of the increasingly desperate situation. Eventually, it was Glied who put him out of his misery. Purphoros, God of the Forge was followed by Revel of the Fallen God and that was that.

    Tamas Glied 2-0 Daniel Entwisle

    "To be honest, this time Dictate of Kruphix really backfired," said Glied. "After my mulligans, I don't think I could've won without that help."




     

  • Sunday, 4:59 p.m. - Conspiracy Draft Photo Feature

    by Tom Reeve

  • The world's first ever public Conspiracy draft was streamed from right here at Grand Prix Manchester on Friday, and eight lucky players are about to get together for the second!

    Sean Thompson, Rob White, Scott Moorhouse, Alfred Bellinger, Tom Putt, Glenn Goldsworthy, Christopher Annells and Joshua Tovell are our drafters, and true to the spirit of Conspiracy, gaining entry to this event was not just a matter of putting your name on a sign-up sheet. Two players received "golden tickets" in the form of Worldwake boosters taped to the bottom of their chairs during player seating for the Grand Prix main event, two more were randomly selected by the Tournament Organizer, and the rest reported to the side event stage when a call went out for players for a mysterious "casual event." EU Community Manager Dan Barrett was the one to kick things off, handing out the coveted new booster packs, and we were off!

    I've got a golden ticket!

    Warning: this product contains fun.

    Conspirators assemble!

    Dack Fayden and a foil rare? If only there were some way...

    I think this means Agent of Acquisitions is the greatest thief in the Multiverse!

    ...and your life total!

    How many cards do you dare to grind away?

    For Sale: One Sulfuric Vortex, Never Played, One Very Careful Owner

    Sold! To the Spymaster of Trest!

    What charges harder than one Rhino?

    The decks start to take shape.

    I think by the third Tragic Slip, it's more of a Comedic Slip.




     

  • Sunday, 5:00 p.m. – More innovative decklists

    by Frank Karsten

  • We heard you like decklists, so here are some more from the Sunday competition.

    Alastair Rees, RW Aggro
    Grand Prix Manchester 2014 – Theros Block


    Akroan Crusader and the like are easily brickwalled by Carven Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix. Alastair added Cavalry Pegasus and Anax and Cymede to his deck to get around that. Nice!


    Ramping into Worst Fears via Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is a sweet play, especially when you can discard your entire opponent's hand to their Prognostic Sphinx.

    Daniel Antoniou, Bant Midrange
    Grand Prix Manchester 2014 – Theros Block


    The best cards in green, blue, and white, with Hour of Need as a standout card. It can break board stalls, destroy opposing creatures in combination with Elspeth, and effectively counter a strived Silence the Believers.

    Travis Woo, W/B Control
    Grand Prix Manchester 2014 – Theros Block


    Controlling the game and going over the top with Fated Retribution is what this deck can do, and master brewer Travis Woo showed how to build it.




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