ay one started with 1,505 players and ended with just 204 making the cut after nine grueling rounds of Sealed Deck play. Atop the standings overnight with unblemished records of 9-0 were Konrad Sokolowski, Alessandro Portaro, Maximilian Reichl, Tamas Horvath, Benjamin Paulmaier, and perennial Czech super-pro Martin Jůza. But the competition today is going to be fierce. Can they keep the lead or will others rise to the top?
204 players will take part in two booster drafts of M14 today, with three rounds each, and after that, eight of them will be invited back for one final draft in the Top 8. Follow us, both on text and live video, as we follow some of the world's best players navigate today's drafts. We'll be here when Magic history is made and when a new champion is crowned. Join us!
Sunday, 10:15 a.m. — Drafting with Nicolai Herzog
by Olle Råde
orweigan Pro Tour Hall of Famer Nicolai Herzog has not only one, but two limited Pro Tour victories under his belt. After ending up day 1 with an 8-1 record he started day two with a good chance of making the top 8. Although he's been away from the game for a few years he happily picked up his cards earlier this year and have done a fair amount of practice drafts on Magic Online.
The first pack saw Herzog dive into blue with a first pick Opportunity, second pick Divination and third pick Disperse. Basically the dream of anyone hoping to assemble the best deck of the table. The big decision in the first pack was which color Nico to add to the Blue. Deciding between a Mark of the Vampire and a Giant Growth he took a long time before settling on the aura.
"I'm not a big fan of Blue/Black, and it actually felt like I was getting cut from Black, but in the end the Blue was so deep that I don't think it mattered," said Herzog.
Luckily for him the Blue seemed to be flooding. Pack two added staples like Scroll Thief, Messenger Drake, Water Servant and a Cancel along with some solid Black cards like Gnawing Zombie and a Sengir Vampire.
Third pack yielded first and third picks Claustrophobia, where Herzog took the second one over a Liturgy of Blood, explaining that unless he has multiple Archaeomancers he prefers the aura. A second pick Clone over a Divination was the pick that gave him the most headache after the draft.
"I think that might have been a mistake, I haven't really played a lot with Clone so it's hard to judge, I think I would have been happier with a second Divination," he said.
All in all his deck ended up very solid, and the Hall of Famer said he'd expect at least a 2-1 record. Let's see if he seizes the Opportunity to make another Grand Prix top 8!
Grand Prix Prague 2013
Sunday, 10:55 a.m. — Quick Question: What's the Best Color (Combination) in M14 Draft?
by Tobi Henke
Martin Jůza: Blue!
Wenzel Krautmann: Blue-x, with the exclusion of White and a heavy focus on Blue. I like mono-Black as well, but only if people are passing Corrupts.
Sam Black: Uhm, Blue... with... whatever, really.
Thomas Holzinger: Blue-Black Control just always looks amazing. Sweet stuff really.
Sunday, 11:30 a.m. — Blue is the Color...
by Olle Råde
ot since the days of Urza's Saga limited has there been such a consensus among the top players that one color is strictly better than others in limited. In those days Zvi Mowshowitz came up with a draft theory defined as The Rule, that says that there is a certain strategy that you should aim for in every draft format. The rule in Urza's Saga draft? Draft Black unless everyone else knows The Rule. This very much seems to apply to Magic 2014 , where the rule would be to draft Blue, unless everyone else knows The Rule.
"Blue is my favorite color, but it might also be over drafted, so my deck didn't end up as strong as I had hoped for," explained Alessandro Portaro, who drafted Blue/Red in the first draft today after a second pick a Trained Condor and a third pick Domestication.
It's definitely a very strong color in sealed deck. And all six of the undefeated decks from day one played Blue. But is it as good in draft as in sealed? Czech pro Martin Jůza thinks so.
"Yes! It is by far the best color also in draft and it has almost twice as many playables as the other colors," he exclaims. (Also drafting Blue today after opening an Air Servant and getting a Water Servant seventh).
One of the stronger Blue/Black decks in the first draft today was in the hands of Swede Mats Törnros, who made top 8 at Grand Prix Gothenburg and, unsurprisingly, also favors Blue in Magic 2014 . "More people might be drafting Blue, so I wouldn't force it in draft. If you first pick a Messenger Drake and don't see more Blue you have to switch. But if I open an Opportunity or a Water Servant I will go for it," he said. His first pick today? Even better with a in Jace, Memory Adept.
Will the Blue mages succeed? And will The Rule be what people remember from the Magic 2014 draft format? As Grand Prix Prague continues towards a second draft and eventually a top 8 we will soon know.
Round 10 Feature Match — Tamas Horvath vs. Martin Jůza
by Tobi Henke
n Friday evening, Czech superstar Martin Jůza claimed, "I'm going to win this GP. I'm telling you." He was very adamant about it. Seen in the light of day, for most people the idea of calling a Grand Prix before even the first round of play would appear outrageous, a joke at best. But Martin Jůza clearly is not most people. With a whopping sixteen Top 8s and four GP wins, adding another trophy to his collection seemed entirely reasonable, and then ... Then he actually managed to win every single round on Saturday. What started as a joke was ever closer to becoming a prophecy. In his way to continue this undefeated streak now stood Hungary's Tamas Horvath.
Horvath had drafted a solid green-black deck, while Jůza again went with his trusted blue to build a control deck, though this time, instead of the more popular black, he had drafted white, lots of Angelic Walls and Celestial Flares. How that would work out was yet to be seen.
In game one, Horvath's deck didn't miss a beat, curving out with Kalonian Tusker and Undead Minotaur, followed by Predatory Sliver and Sporemound, whereas, after a pair of Islands, Jůza missed several land drops and discarded Charging Griffin. He fought valiantly and almost clawed his way back into the game with Claustrophobia, Water Servant, and Angelic Wall, but Horvath's Mark of the Vampire and Saproling tokens sealed the deal.
In the second game, Jůza's Angelic Wall wasn't really a good answer to either Deadly Recluse or Rootwalla, however Sensory Deprivation and Banisher Priest, respectively, were. Next, Jůza took to the air with Air Servant, and fought back Horvath's creatures, including a newly summoned Sporemound and Minotaur Abomination, with a couple of Celestial Flares and Archaeomancer. Jůza made good use of Celestial Flare by first blocking a token dead, then casting the spell at end of combat to kill a more valuable target, much to Horvath's dismay.
For a while it looked as if Air Servant would go all the way, but then Horvath cast an enormous Woodborn Behemoth and turned the tables. Jůza couldn't race the 8/8 trampler and neither could he chump it. In the end, he had to trade away Air Servant, Charging Griffin, and Banisher Priest, returning Rootwalla. The game was over in all but name at this point, and when Horvath added Nightwing Shade to his team post-combat, it was over for real.
Tamas Horvath had now broken Martin Jůza's winning streak and continued his own, advancing to 10-0. Still: "I made some mistakes," Horvath admitted after the match. "I was just lucky they didn't end up costing me."
Round 11 Feature Match — Raphaël Lévy vs. Roman Katriner
by Olle Råde
s the draft progresses and players come closer to the money, tension rises at every Grand Prix. Two very serious looking gentlemen took a seat in round 11 when French Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy took on Roman Katriner of Switzerland. A win here would let the winner advance to the draft pod final, needing just a few more wins to secure a money finish. (Raphael's recond so far was 9-1 and Roman's 8-1-1)
Roman Katriner of Switzerland
Roman Katriner was sporting a Green/Black deck with big monsters en masse, mana accelerants in form of Elvish Mystic and black removal to clear way for his creatures. Whereas Raphaël Lévy was on Green/White with three copies of Pacifism, a handful of white fliers and two copies of his personal favorite Soul Mender. "I love the Green/White archetype, but I think I may be lacking a few 2-drops," he commented on his deck.
And as the match featured something as rare as two non-Blue drafters it was interesting to see what it had in store.
Game one looked to be a classic rout of quick white fliers against big green ground creatures as Lévy was first on the board with a Griffin Sentinel, followed by a Charging Griffin and a Suntail Hawk. Katriner displayed why Black removal suits up so well with Green when he Doom Bladed the Griffin and took over the game with large beasts. In the end Raphael could only reveal his hand of lands as the green beasts (2 Rumbling Baloth, Witchstalker and Briarpack Alpha) pushed through for more than lethal.
Raphaël Lévy was using pictures of himself as tokens.
"How many cards in hand?"
The conversation was kept at a minimum during game two. Always a sign of a lot being on stake. After trading both blows and creatures with Hunt the Weak the crucial turn came when Raphaël Lévy had set up a near lethal Fortify with a few sliver tokens, a Griffin Sentinel and Siege Mastodon. Katriner however made smart blocks and had both an instant removal for one of the tokens followed up with a Mark of the Vampire on his lone surviving Rumbling Baloth.
He promptly attacked back for 6, gaining life in the process and played ...
... a Voracious Wurm, coming into play with 6 counters from the lifegain. Raphaël Lévy drew his card, and conceded.
"I couln't beat that with my draw," summarized Lévy.
"I think my deck is very good, and it has good synergy with 2 Mark of the Vampire, a Witchstalker and 2 Sengir Vampire," was Roman Katriner's response.
Result: Roman Katriner beats Raphaël Lévy 2-0
Sunday, 2:14 p.m. — Quick Question: What are your first impressions of the cards that have been spoiled from Theros?
by Olle Råde
Wenzel Krautmann: I really like that Thoughtseize is back. I think it will be amazing for standard. Imagine a Green/Back "Rock" deck with Scavenging Ooze, Thoughtseize, Abrupt Decay and Putrefy, that should be a good start. The gods are also interesting. Boros Reckoner should be really good with them, so it will be interesting to see what the Red and White gods look like.
Michael Bonde: I really like Ember Swallower, the 4/5 for RR2 that for 7 mana can force both players to sacrifice 3 lands and get +3/+3. What Red lacks is a good lategame, and this guy let's you use all of your mana even on turn 13. I also really like the flavor of the god enchantments.
Frank Karsten: Gift of Immortality is cool. Combine it with Archaeomancer, Blood Bairn and Time Warp and you get infinite turns. Although it is kind of sad that a horrible 4-card-combo is the first thing that comes to mind. The devotion mechanic also seems very interesting.
Raphaël Lévy: There are some very powerful cards! I like Read the Bones. It's almost as good a Foresee, but cheaper to cast. I also like thee green 6/6 for 4 mana (Nylea, God of the Hunt). That seems really good with cards like Predator Ooze. What I don't like are 6 casting costs planeswalkers.
Sunday, 3:25 p.m. — A different Take on Blue with Jérémy Dezani
by Olle Råde
érémy Dezani is no stranger to playing for top 8 in the last rounds of a Grand Prix. He made top 8 in Warzaw a few weeks ago and in Verona last spring. After going 3-0 in the first draft today his record was 10-2 going into the second draft. "I drafted a White/Black combo deck in the first draft with Angelic Accord and two Bubbling Cauldron, which also is my favorite archetype in Magic 2014 ," he said.
In the second draft he ended up with a deck that to about 80 per cent looks like a regular Blue/White deck. Lots of fliers, a few defensive creatures like Wall of Frost and Wall of Swords and the usual assortment of blue spells. But what really makes his deck stand out are the last few cards he chose to include: two(!) copies of Traumatize, a Millstone, two Tome Scour along with two Archaeomancer to go with them. "I had the choice between playing with a couple of not so good cards or play these combo cards and I chose combo," said the Frenchman.
His strategy going into the first match was clear. Make sure to win the die roll to give him time to cast his slower defensive creatures, while setting up the win either in the air or through decking his opponent. If he doesn't end up winning, at least he hopes he gets to see a lot of cards from his opponents deck, and adapt his deck accordingly after sideboarding. "My deck can still win with fliers, even if I don't deck my opponent, so I might sideboard into that," he said.
When approached about how he came up with this strategy and whether he had ever drafted this archetype before the answer was immediate. "Never," said Jérémy Dezani with a laugh.
Sunday, 3:55 p.m. — Take a Look!
by Tobi Henke
tanding close to a group of players who have just completed their draft, one always hears some variation of the following sentence: "Dude, look at my deck. It's totally awesome!" Well, I took some looks, as well as some photos, and now I'd like to share a few of the more interesting ones.
Everyone loves the Black-Red sacrifice theme, of course...
...while mono-Red is considerably more rare.
As is the equally rare mono-Green.
Did someone say, "rare"? We have rares!
Sunday, 4:55 p.m. — Drafting with Martin Jůza
by Tobi Henke
ith just one loss after twelve rounds, going into the second draft, Martin Jůza definitely didn't have any second thoughts about his professed plan of winning this Grand Prix. Another good deck, another two wins would be all he needed to clinch a Top 8 berth.
The pack he opened included Pacifism, Doom Blade, and Liturgy of Blood as the top three cards, and while Jůza was clearly unhappy about taking a black card and passing another, he also wasn't going to pass on Doom Blade. The booster he was passed then offered a choice of Bubbling Cauldron, Enlarge, Deadly Recluse, Archaeomancer, and Flames of the Firebrand. After some deliberation—wistful looks at Archaeomancer possibly—he took the Flames. Next came Shock, again passing solid blue (Divination, Scroll Thief, Seacoast Drake), green (Rumbling Baloth), and white (Pacifism). Sticking to his colors was rewarded with a fourth-pick Quag Sickness, but for his fifth pick, Jůza drew a blank. The only black and red cards in the pack were Dragon Hatchling, Wild Guess, and Altar's Reap, so he took Kalonian Tusker instead.
Following that, his next pick proved particularly difficult: Deathgaze Cockatrice or Howl of the Night Pack? He flipped the cards back and forth, back and forth, almost until time ran out, then decided on the Cockatrice. Next up was Nightwing Shade (passing Giant Growth), then Cyclops Tyrant (passing Sporemound). Pack one ended with picks of Lay of the Land, Trollhide, Millstone, Wring Flesh, Wild Guess, and Shadowborn Apostle.
First pick out of his second pack was Pitchburn Devils over Rise of the Dark Realms and Child of Night, followed by Marauding Maulhorn over Tenacious Dead and Deathgaze Cockatrice. Pick three was a Sengir Vampire to which no other card in the booster even came close, pick four was Chandra's Phoenix. Next came Vampire Warlord over Festering Newt, then Wild Guess and Blood Bairn, both basically without any competition. Curiously, for his eighth pick, Jůza could decide between Divination, Messenger Drake, and, well, Canyon Minotaur as the sole card in his colors. He took the 3/3—but not happily so.
Thoughts whether blue was the color he should have been in were quickly dispeled though, when Child of Night tabled and he got Tenacious Dead tenth. Millstone, Accorder's Shield, and two Tome Scours wrapped up pack two.
Pack three, pick one came down to Shock, Gnawing Zombie, Act of Treason, or Goblin Diplomats. Jůza spent some time considering the Diplomats but in the end decided to go with Act of Treason. Then he stared at the Kalonian Hydra he was passed, and passed it on as well, in favor of Chandra's Outrage.
Pick three was a disappointing Altar's Reap, followed by Festering Newt and Fleshpulper Giant. Just when it seemed as if black was drying up, though, his sixth pick came along and could have been either Deathgaze Cockatrice or Liturgy of Blood and was in fact Blood Bairn. However, that was apparently not a trend but a fluke: Jůza's seventh pick was Shiv's Embrace, eighth was Cancel, and ninth was Negate. The final cards he picked up then were Vampire Warlord, Lava Axe, Canyon Minotaur, Gladecover Scout, and Groundshake Sliver.
Round 13 Feature Match — Jérémy Dezani vs. Wenzel Krautmann
by Tobi Henke
ithin the past year, both of these players had won a Grand Prix and placed in the Top 8 of two more... and now they were at it again. Well, at least with another couple of wins. Scores of 10-2 so far into the tournament meant they were playing with their backs against the wall, as one more loss could spell elimination from Top 8 contention.
Krautmann, echoing his win at Grand Prix Warsaw with an aggressive red-green deck in Standard, had drafted an aggressive red-green deck. (Echoing, see?) Jérémy Dezani, meanwhile, had brewed a curious mill deck in blue and white.
Krautmann started off fast, putting four creatures onto the battlefield by turn three, thanks to the combination of Young Pyromancer and Molten Birth. Molten Birth returned to his hand once and provided further tokens, while Dezani's Tome Scour and Millstone appeared to be in no position to race this. He tried to at least slow down the onslaught with Sensory Deprivation and Wall of Frost, but Krautmann's Academy Raider with Lightning Talons spelled more trouble. When Dezani's Disperse was countered by Krautmann's Ranger's Guile, game one was decided.
In game two, Krautmann opened with Scavenging Ooze, Rootwalla, and another Rootwalla, while Dezani cast Soulmender, Sentinel Sliver, and Warden of Evos Isle. A simple comparison of those creatures might already suggest that Dezani was in dire straits here, and it certainly didn't help that he only drew his third land on turn four ... and lost it a turn later to Krautmann's sideboarded Demolish ... and that Dezani never drew another. As long as he had it, Dezani did put his land to good use though, summoning Seraph of the Sword (at discount thanks to Waden of Evos Isle) which kept Krautmann's creatures at bay. Unfortunately, Plummet destroyed the Angel and with it all hope for Dezani.
When Dezani extended his hand in concession, Krautmann apologized. "In the first game, his draw matched up horribly with mine, especially with all of my tokens," Krautmann explained. "And the second game was worse even! He had terrible luck while I was insanely lucky to draw both Demolish and Plummet. I think I would have won with either of those cards; having both was overkill, really."
Round 14 Feature Match — Mats Törnros vs. Simon Ritzka
by Olle Råde
ith only two more rounds left the players could almost smell the fresh air of the top 8. Round 14 saw a match between Mats Törnros, second place finisher at Grand Prix Gothenburg in June against Simon Ritzka, a self proclaimed bad die-roller from Germany. With two losses to their names, both players needed to win this match and the next to reach the top 8 and the final draft.
Törnros was on Blue/White with five(!) copies of Pacifism, but was really lacking in the good creature department. Ritzka was on Blue/Red, with red removal like Chandra's Outrage and two silver bullets in Ogre Battledriver and Awaken the Ancient.
"I think I have to keep this", exclaimed Ritzka after mulliganing to 6 in game one. His first play of the game was a Dragon Egg while he ironically exclaimed "Let's get aggressive".
Mats on the other hand curved Phantom Warrior into Dawnstride Paladin.
Irony wasn't the only thing the German had in store however as he cast his Ogre Battledriver, which Mats wasted no time in taking out with a Pacifism.
Törnros then showed the strength of his deck with an end of turn Opportunity, and the weakness of it with a main phase Suntail Hawk.
"Some of your cards are very, very good, but some ... not as good. But I'm not judging you," laughed Ritzka.
Törnros's Pacifisms were all over the battlefield.
The Phantom Warrior attacked for about 8 turns, was joined by an Air Servant and Ritzka was in trouble. "I guess I need a miracle", he said as he cast a Quicken when facing lethal from Törnros. Unfortunately there was none on top of his deck and they were off to game two.
After a pair of mulligans in game two Mats was quickly dispatched by Goblin Shortcutter, Seacoast Drake and the Battledriver.
"Let's hope for a game three without either of us getting screwed," said Ritzka hopefully.
And he got what he asked for. The decider turned out to be quite a grind. Creature enchantments were hitting creatures like never before and even a Merfolk Spy was taken out by Törnros Pacifism. Card drawing was matched eye for an eye and when the smoke cleared it was a race between Törnros's Pillarfield Ox and Siege Mastodon versus Ritzka's mountain enchanted with Awaken the Ancient and Cyclops Tyrant.
Törnros added a Capashen Knight to his board, threatening lethal the next turn. Ritzka quickly drew for his turn, attacked with everything and prompted Mats that he had to block. The attack however was only for 11, but Mats was at 14. A fatal mistake by the German? A miscount or a bluff?
If Mats just took it, he could attack back for the win.
"Is it a bluff?" asked Törnros. Finally deciding that it seemed like a miscount by Ritzka and chose not to block.
"Suddenly I can't count, I just don't deserve to win when I play like this", said Simon Ritzka sadly, extended his hand and wished Mats good luck in the last round for a win and in to the top 8.