Coverage of Grand Prix Strasbourg Day 1

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  • Saturday, 9:39 a.m. – Grand Prix Trial Winners

    by Tobi Henke

  • As usual, Friday already saw a little bit of action. Players were gearing up for the main event and used their last chance to try and earn three byes by playing in one of the 25 Grand Prix Trials. Twenty-five? Well, "a little bit" may have been understating things.

    In fact, the hall was quickly packed with busy mages, and there was so much going on, we unfortunately didn't get all of the Trial winners' deck lists. But take a look at the following—a first glance of what's to be expected over the weekend. BUG, RUG, Blue-White Miracles, Merfolk, Stoneblade, Storm, Sneak & Show, Jund ... all the staples are present, but so are some rather unexpected decks, say Affinity or the long-missed Goblins! Legacy, as varied as ever.

    Pascal Seckinger
    GPT Winner - Legacy


  • Saturday, 11:57 a.m. – Being Taken to Really Old School

    by Tim Willoughby

  • Legacy is a format that lets you play with almost all the cards in Magic. There are just a few super-powerful or tournament unreasonable cards that aren't allowed. As I was making my way through the room here in Strasbourg, I was on the lookout for interesting retro decks, and happened upon the Swedes. After catching up with Joel Larsson about the deck he's playing (more on that one later), I asked briefly about Mikael Magnusson, who I know has been playing Magic for quite a while. Larsson simply laughed. "If you want to know about old school Magic, you need to talk to Mikael. Right now."

    Magnusson, who had looked into playing at the very first Pro Tour in New York, is something of a connoisseur of older Magic formats, and regularly plays one of the most bonkers throwback formats I think I've ever encountered – Vintage '93-'94. The idea of the format is simple, though the practicalities of getting the cards might have been a little easier a while ago. Every card that you play with has to be printed in 1993 or 1994. That means that the 'newest' set available to play with is The Dark, and in total you only have Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Arabian Nights, Legends and The Dark as your card pool. Ante cards are banned, and the restricted list is basically the same as Vintage (for those sets). Chaos Orb is allowed, more or less as a colourless Vindicate, and the rules are modern Magic rules (so the batch is not a thing, mulligans work, and tapped blockers do deal damage). There is also a gentlemen's agreement on shuffling. "We pretty much pile shuffle and cut a few times" remarked Magnusson, as he carefully laid out a deck that is at this point a piece of history.

    Control for simpler times.

    Magnusson's favourite deck for the format is a multi-colour control deck that wins with Fireball or maybe a Mishra's Factory, but really looks to maintain control with cards like Mind Twist or Insomnia, while building card advantage with Library of Alexandria. Other decks that have seen popularity include mono black ("Dark Ritual into Hypnotic Specter is still pretty good") and mono red ("There are a lot of decks that are just not ready for Blood Moon"). In spite of the pretty strict restrictions on what cards can be played, it is a format that has seen a fair amount of play in Sweden, and is apparently emerging in Toronto too. They even hold a 'world championships' – worth quite a bit in terms of bragging rights.

    Playing old formats can be a lot of fun, and just as Legacy allows us to take a step into the past and enjoy some of the older cards, Vintage '93-'94 harkens back to a simpler time, when Force of Will was not yet an answer, and Deathrite Shaman was 18 years away from his birth rite. Even if you can only play with proxies, it also forms quite the thought exercise. What deck would you play if you'd been on the bandwagon for Magic right at the start?


  • Saturday, 12:39 p.m. – Single Card Strategies #1

    by Tim Willoughby

  • When roaming the hall as coverage, we tend to play a little game between ourselves. We aren't allowed to just sit down and have a full match of Magic when we're meant to be working (boo...) but that doesn't mean we can't have a little fun. The game normally goes like this. Whoever spots the most unlikely card in play for the weekend wins. We're two rounds in, and I think I might have struck gold.

    Walking past the top tables, I passed a board with a number of noteworthy things going on. A Detention Sphere had exiled three copies of Lotus Petal. You don't see that every day. There was a Helm of Obedience in play. While this might not be a card that everyone is super familiar with, it is a powerhouse well understood in Legacy, for its ability to create a two-card combo with Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void, whereby one activation will get rid of a player's entire deck (because Helm of Obedience is looking for cards to hit the graveyard, and Leyline/Rest in Peace means it never gets to stop grinding, as no card ever makes it there).

    No, the card on this board that takes the proverbial cake is Mindshrieker. Even in Innistrad draft Mindshrieker was far from a solid gold hit, though it certainly won games on occasion here and there. What was this bird up to in Legacy? Well, it turns out that Mindshrieker fits very neatly into Sneak and Show, offering a whole mess of possibilities. Just from watching one game we began to see the possibilities;

    Mindshrieker playing nice with Sensei's Divining Top to get rid of cards from the top of the player's deck, so they wouldn't have to be drawn.

    Mindshrieker rendering Enlightened Tutor useless, by immediately getting rid of the card searched for.

    Mindshrieker making opponent's Brainstorms into a weird guessing game when figuring out what to put back on top.

    Mindshrieker attacking for 16 (!) thanks to timely hits on Emrakul (set up with Top or Brainstorm)

    Mindshrieker breaking up a Sensei's Divining Top/Counterbalance lock by virtue of the Mindshrieker player being able to render the Top useless from having much more mana to sink into Mindshrieker than the other did to keep control of the top of his deck with Sensei's Divining Top.

    Sneak and Show has gotten a whole lot sneakier with the addition of Mindshrieker. Yet another innovation in Legacy that just keeps the format with the old cards feeling fresh and new.


  • Saturday, 1:44 p.m. – A Glossary of Decks

    by Tobi Henke

  • Legacy: the Eternal struggle. This weekend's format features cards from all twenty years of Magic's existence, from Alpha all the way to Gatecrash. This huge amount of cards leads to an incredible variety of strategies. The number of viable decks is truly astonishing and can seem almost intimidating. Throughout the tournament, you may read, for example, about mavericks, belchers, and bugs (well, BUG really) and happen to find yourself quite lost.

    To avoid any such predicament, let's things off with a list of the many deck archetypes commonly seen at Legacy events, shall we? In no particular order ...

    RUG (Red-Blue-Green), sometimes called "RUG Delver" or "Canadian Threshold," is one of the oldest archetypes of the Legacy format, though it evolved quite a bit to arrive at its current, now very stable form. An aggrocontrol deck, it mixes efficient beatdown creatures (Delver of Secrets, Nimble Mongoose, Tarmogoyf) with countermagic (Force of Will, Daze, often Spell Pierce), mana denial (Stifle and Wasteland for the ubiquitous fetch- and dual lands, respectively), and a little burn (Lightning Bolt). Only one card in here costs more than one mana, so the deck runs on 18 lands (four of them Wasteland, which are hardly ever used for mana production) with low-cost library manipulation (Brainstorm, Ponder) to fuel Nimble Mongoose and Tarmogoyf, to turn Delver into Insectile Aberration, and to just generally increase consistency.

    BUG, sometimes known as "Team America," the black version of RUG, does a few things differently. Brainstorm, Ponder, Wasteland, Force of Will, Daze, Delver of Secrets, and Tarmogoyf are all part of the mix, but instead of Nimble Mongoose there's Deathrite Shaman, a veritable powerhouse in a format where everyone fills their graveyard with fetchlands, Brainstorms, and suchlike. Tombstalker joins the team as another big threat. The deck foregoes Stifle because black openes up another way to disrupt the opponent through discard, usually Hymn to Tourach. Black also adds Abrupt Decay which finds lots of targets and is especially helpful against Counterbalance. Some versions run planeswalkers (Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Liliana of the Veil), and one in particular skimps on the countermagic to cascade Shardless Agent into Ancestral Vision.

    Esper Stoneblade, in theory also one of the aggrocontrol decks, is much less aggressive than the others and takes things slower/further up the mana curve (including Jace, the Mind Sculptor). Swords to Plowshares and sometimes even Supreme Verdict take care of opposing creatures, discard in the form of Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek, usually supplemented by only three copies of Force of Will, takes care of opposing spells, and Stoneforge Mystic (with Batterskull and Umezawa's Jitte) along with Snapcaster Mage, and Lingering Souls takes care of the opponent.

    Blue-White Miracles, the one true control deck of the format, employs Brainstorm, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and most importantly Sensei's Divining Top to get full value out of Counterbalance and a significant discount on Terminus and Entreat the Angels. The soft lock of Top/Counterbalance took a significant hit with the printing of Abrupt Decay, but the deck is still doing fine, for example winning a Grand Prix Trial yesterday.

    Merfolk is another aggrocontrol deck, this time, however, mono-blue and of the tribal persuasion. Lord of Atlantis, Master of the Pearl Trident, Merrow Reejerey, and Coralhelm Commander let members of their tribe quickly grow to lethal proportions, while Wasteland plus a little countermagic disrupt the opponent just long enough to get there. Æther Vial and Cavern of Souls stop the opponent from interfering.

    Jund, the black-red-green midrange strategy known from old Standard and recent Modern events, has finally arrived in Legacy with the addition of Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay. Basically, the deck is nothing more than an assortment of all the best cards in its colors, but who can argue with these cards: Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, Bloodbraid Elf, Thoughtseize, Liliana of the Veil, Hymn to Tourach, Punishing Fire plus Grove of the Burnwillows, offering removal, discard, some serious beatdown, planeswalkers, and lots and lots of card advantage.

    Maverick, a green-white beatdown deck, traditionally consists of a little mana acceleration (Noble Hierarch, Green Sun's Zenith for zero to search out Dryad Arbor), a few heavy hitters (Tarmogoyf, Knight of the Reliquary), some protection (Mother of Runes), a little removal, and a small but powerful toolbox section (Green Sun's Zenith getting Qasali Pridemage or a singleton Gaddock Teeg, for example, or Knight of the Reliquary getting Karakas). Sometimes, one can find other disruptive creatures like Aven Mindcensor, equipment (with Stoneforge Mystic), or planeswalkers. Recently, the deck has fallen out of favor because of an increase in the number of combo decks.

    Storm, when talking about combo decks, comes to mind first. An array of mana artifacts (Lotus Petal, Lion's Eye Diamond) and rituals (Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, in some versions Rite of Flame) is followed by Ad Nauseam or followed by Infernal Tutor or Burning Wish searching up something like Past in Flames, Ill-Gotten Gains, or even Diminishing Returns to allow the player to continue casting spells, finally ending in lethal Tendrils of Agony as the tenth+ spell of the turn. Brainstorm and Ponder (sometimes Gitaxian Probe) help to set things up, Thoughtseize and Cabal Therapy (sometimes Silence) prevent any indue interference by the opponent.

    Reanimator decks use Entomb or Careful Study to first get Griselbrand into the graveyard, then Reanimate or Exhume to get it out of there, often as early as turn two. Once on the battlefield, the 7/7 lifelink demon quickly takes over the game and provides enough extra cards (including discard and Force of Will) as to make it impossible for an opponent to get back into the game.

    Tin Fins is the name of a storm combo deck which uses Entomb plus Goryo's Vengeance/Shallow Grave to put Griselbrand into place as a draw engine. Lots of extra cards means mana rituals followed by Tendrils of Agony for the usual kill.

    High Tide, a mono-blue deck, puts a completely different spin on storm combo. Instead of rituals and mana artifacts, here it's the deck's namesake card which generates lots of extra mana in combination with spells that untap lands (most notably Time Spiral) to cast more and more spells and end things with a massive Brain Freeze.

    Dredge, based on the eponymous ability, aims to convert the library into the graveyard as quickly as possible with the help of Golgari Grave-Troll and its ilk, Lion's Eye Diamond, Breakthrough, Faithless Looting, and Cephalid Coliseum. Ichorids and Narcomoebas return from the grave and are sacrificed to Cabal Therapy and Dread Return which in turn triggers Bridge from Below (often multiples) for a massive army of Zombie tokens. And when Dread Return gets Flame-Kin Zealot, the shambling masses can develop a surprising speed.

    Belcher, named after Goblin Charbelcher, normally includes just a single land (Taiga) which can be searched for with Land Grant. The deck runs every alternative mana source (Chrome Mox, Lotus Petal, Elvish Spirit Guide, Simian Spirit Guide), zero-cost cantrips (Gitaxian Probe, Street Wraith), and various red rituals (Rite of Flame, Desperate Ritual, Pyretic Ritual) to get to seven mana in order to cast and activate Goblin Charbelecher for one lethal blow. As an alternative means of opponent disposal, Empty the Warrens suggests Goblins. Since the deck is completely independent of land drops, all of this happens, if it happens at all, on the first turn of the game.

    Show and Tell is the key card in a number of decks. Usually blue and red, these decks aim to search up the sorcery with Brainstorm, Ponder, and Intuition and force it through opposing countermagic with their own. Then something big gets put onto the battlefield, like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Griselbrand, or even Omniscience followed by Griselbrand or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Sneak & Show adds Sneak Attack to the mix, another way to get the fatties out early and into the opponent's face.

    Burn is basically just that: lots and lots of burn. Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, Lava Spike, Fireblast, Price of Progress, as well as burn spells disguised as creatures such as Goblin Guide, Keldon Marauders, Vexing Devil, and Grim Lavamancer.

    Zoo, the most aggressive straight beatdown deck of the format, combines undercosted creatures (Wild Nacatl, Kird Ape, Tarmogoyf) with burn (Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix), another tried and trusted strategy as old as time, but recently not seen very often because of its limited ability to interact and/or race the format's combo decks.

    Goblins: Opening on Æther Vial or Goblin Lackey, this tribal deck starts out reasonably fast and can kill quickly with Goblin Warchief and Goblin Piledriver, but the truly amazing thing about it is its ability to really never run out of more and more Goblins, with Mogg War Marshal, Goblin Matron, and especially Goblin Ringleader. Relying on Wasteland and Rishadan Port as its sole means of disrupting the opponent, Goblins have largely lost their appeal in the face of growing numbers of combo decks.

    Elves is another tribal deck, but this time of the combo variety. With Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinel on the battlefield, further mana elves generate more mana than they cost (or the same with Birchlore Rangers instead of Heritage Druid), and Glimpse of Nature provides the cards to keep on casting more and more Elves. Gaea's Cradle provides yet more mana and Craterhoof Behemoth ends the game.

    And with that we're done here. Legacy still has more decks, of course. There's Affinity, there's a deck based on Aluren, and another revolving around Metalworker and Kuldotha Forgemaster. Life from the Loam plays a central role in "Lands.dec" and "AggroLoam", Stifle counters Phyrexian Dreadnought's enter-the-battlefield ability, and Enchantress's Presence is certainly also present somewhere in today's 1,365 player event. At least where deck diversity is concerned, Legacy never fails to amaze.


  • Round 4 Feature Match – Tomoharu Saito vs. Dennis Holstein

    by Tim Willoughby

  • It's been a little while since we last saw him at a European Grand Prix, but Tomoharu Saito has a bit of a history with Strasbourg. He was the champion of the last Grand Prix Strasbourg, back when it was Time Spiral block constructed. Not quite as powerful a format, but still one where there was Tarmogoyf, one of the premium threats in this format too.

    Saito's opponent, Dennis Holstein of Germany, had played the Japanese star on Friday in a Grand Prix trial, and seemed a little wary up against him for a second time on the weekend. On the draw with a double mulligan, that was fair enough.

    Saito led with Tropical Island and a Ponder with a shuffle, while Holstein had a Gitaxian Probe (seeing Wasteland, Tarmogoyf, Tarmogoyf, Dismember, Delver of Secrets and Spell Pierce), followed by a Ponder of his own, off a Gemstone Mine.

    Tomoharu Saito just flew in – looks like his arms are tired.

    That mine was soon hit by a Wasteland from Saito, who had that Delver of Secrets to follow up. A fresh Gemstone Mine allowed for a Duress, taking Spell Pierce, but revealing that a second had come to Saito as he drew for his turn.

    Still more copies of Gemstone Mine came from Holstein's deck, but little else, while Saito was able to flip a copy of Delver of Secrets thanks to a Force of Will on top of his deck. It appeared that Holstein was on a combo deck of some description, and facing a rough matchup in red/blue/green delver, even though Saito, after playing a Tropical Island, had not found any more lands than that one Wasteland. At the start of the tournament Saito had said that he was expecting a lot of combo decks, hence his choice for the weekend. Would he be able to power through this one?

    Holstein cast a Brainstorm, and had to use Dark Ritual to get it past a Spell Pierce. He did then find a third land though, in Underground Sea, and had just the mana to cast Infernal Tutor to get a second copy of Rite of Flame.

    Saito's attacks soon had Holstein on the ropes. On five life, he was facing down Insectile Aberration and a pair of copies of Nimble Mongoose. Time to go for it.

    Lotus Petal, Rite of Flame, Silence (which met a Force of Will), Rite of Flame, Chrome Mox. With imprint on the stack, Ad Nauseam. Ad Nauseam is not the most exciting when you have five life, and Holstein would have to get lucky to find what he needed early in his deck. In short, this wasn't Holstein's lucky day. Just a few spells in he had lost all his remaining life, putting Saito up a game.

    Tomoharu Saito 1 – 0 Dennis Holstein

    Holstein would be on the play for game two, and this time had a hand of seven that he felt comfortable starting with. It was Saito's turn to mulligan this time, though just to six. Saito had the first play of the game, in Delver of Secrets, and a Gitaxian Probe soon showed the rest of his hand to be Force of Will, Daze, Tarmogoyf, Ponder and a Wasteland.

    "Good hand, eh?" smiled Saito.

    Cabal Therapy soon took that Force of Will, but with Delver flipping at the first opportunity (revealing Pyroblast), Saito didn't seem to mind. A Ponder from Saito found him looking at two copies of Spell Snare and a Delver of Secrets on top of his deck. After a little thought, he kept them there, happy to play Wasteland as his land for the turn, taking out a City of Brass from Holstein.

    When they played on Friday, Dennis Holstein couldn't quite get past Saito – maybe now is his time.

    Gemstone Mine and Brainstorm from Holstein kept his train a-rollin' as he looked to sculpt a hand capable of winning against the countermagic that he knew Saito had at the ready. A Chrome Mox resolved, imprinted with Infernal Tutor. Rite of Flame also got through, and Dark Ritual too. Empty the Warrens made 10 Goblin tokens, and threatened to make the race one that favoured the combo deck. Saito's second Delver of Secrets was his only play, and he had to block where he could to stay alive. One set of attacks put him on 12, the next just 5 life.

    For the second game in a row, Saito had only had a Tropical Island and a Wasteland as lands. This time though, he was not able to squeak out the win. This match would come down to the rubber game.

    Tomoharu Saito 1 – 1 Dennis Holstein

    For the third game, Holstein was again on a mulligan, and had a first turn Gitaxian Probe. He saw

    Daze, Spell Pierce, Force of Will, Tarmogoyf, Wasteland and Flooded Strand. With Saito having played a turn one Polluted Delta, Holstein didn't fancy trying too much more, simply playing a City of Brass and passing the turn.

    After cracking a couple of fetchlands, Saito had a Tarmogoyf for his turn. Holstein struck back with Lotus Petal and a Brainstorm, wary to do more in the face of the free countermagic he knew about. Wasteland from Saito dealt with City of Brass, and he had Daze for a Lotus Petal. Chrome Mox resolved, imprinting a blue card, but Ponder did not, falling to Flusterstorm.

    Holstein was stuck on mana, and Tarmogoyf meant he was tight on time too. Saito's deck had amply punished a patchy draw, and a Gitaxian Probe showed he had two copies of Force of Will at the ready, just in case. Attacks soon took Holstein to two, and he had to go for it. Lotus Petal, followed by Brainstorm. That was enough to elicit the Force of Will from Saito, which in turn met a handshake from his opponent.

    Tomoharu Saito defeats Dennis Holstein two games to one.


  • Round 5 Feature Match – Thomas Enevoldsen vs. Helmut Summersberger

    by Tobi Henke

  • Austrian old-school pro Helmut Summersberger brought a version of RUG Delver, one of the more common decks in the current Legacy format, whereas Denmark's Thomas Enevoldsen chose "Death & Taxes," a deck conspicuously missing from our compendium of the most popular decks posted earlier today.

    In one sentence: This mono-white deck is based on the disruptive powers of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Aven Mindcensor, as well as the combination of Mangara of Corondor and Karakas, beating down with Mirran Crusader and Stoneforge Mystic's Batterskull/Umezawa's Jitte, meanwhile attacking the opponent's mana with Wasteland and Rishadan Port, all helped and held together by Æther Vial. Done.

    Game 1

    Enevoldsen won the die-roll and chose to play first. Both players kept their opening seven.

    Enevoldsen had Karakas on turn one, Summersberger led with Volcanic Island and Ponder. Turn two, Enevoldsen summoned Stoneforge Mystic and searched for Umezawa's Jitte. Summersberger shot the Mystic with Lightning Bolt, played a Tropical Island, and passed the turn.

    Thomas Enevoldsen

    Enevoldsen had a second Stoneforge Mystic, Summersberger had Snapcaster Mage for a re-run of Lightning Bolt. Umezawa's Jitte and Mother of Runes came down on the Danish side, while Summersberger just cast more cantrips. At the end of his next turn, Enevoldsen tried Aven Mindcensor, but Summersberger stopped it with Counterspell.

    Another Aven Mindcensor met Force of Will, and now Enevoldsen was attacking Summersberger's mana, both with two Wastelands as well as two Rishadan Ports. Nothing much moved on the board: unequipped Mother of Runes was still staring down a single Snapcaster Mage. Tarmogoyf tried to join the party, but was excluded by Enevoldsen's Swords to Plowshares. Enevoldsen equipped Mother of Runes, but took it slow. Next turn, he resolved Stoneforge Mystic, his third, which finally stuck around and put Batterskull onto the battlefield. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben sealed the deal.

    Thomas Enevoldsen 1-0 Helmut Summersberger

    Game 2

    This time, things started much faster—and better for Summersberger who had Delver of Secrets on turn one, Insectile Aberration on turn two, while Enevoldsen's first play was Thalia, Guardian of Thraben on turn two. He didn't have an answer for Summersberger's Grim Lavamancer but at least he posed a difficult question when he cast Stoneforge Mystic: Which creature should Summersberger kill? Summersberger simply decided to kill both with the help of Forked Bolt.

    Enevoldsen regrouped with Umezawa's Jitte and another Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Summersberger was stuck on two Volcanic Islands as his only lands and left with just one card in his graveyard, unable to use his Grim Lavamancer. He shrugged, suggesting that Lightning Bolt would have to take care of that then, wouldn't it? And it did.

    Enevoldsen cast Mirran Crusader, played a second Wasteland and used both to cut off all of Summersberger's mana supply. The Austrian, however, drew Polluted Delta from the top of his library and shot the Crusader with his Lavamancer. "That would have been a very good Mirran Crusader," Enevoldsen complained, looking wistfully at his Umezawa's Jitte.

    Meanwhile, Insectile Aberration had brought Enevoldsen to 4. He finally found removal for Grim Lavamancer, then cast Ethersworn Canonist. Insectile Aberration brought him to 1. Ethersworn Canonist picked up Umezawa's Jitte which subsequently picked up two counters. Was this the turning point?

    Nope. Back to two lands again, Summersberger summoned Snapcaster Mage at end of turn, which gave him exactly enough power to win on his next attack.

    Thomas Enevoldsen 1-1 Helmut Summersberger

    Game 3

    Once again, Enevoldsen had no play on turn one, once again Summersberger had Delver of Secrets. This time, however, Enevoldsen simply killed it with Sunlance, a card that raised an eyebrow or two from Summersberger and several spectators.

    Now the game entered a phase during which both players were battling over Summersberger's mana: Enevoldsen had two Rishadan Ports, Summersberger fought back by simply refusing to use his fetchlands. As you can imagine, not much else happened for a while, bar some cantrips from Summersberger.

    Helmut Summersberger

    In fact, the next nonland card to enter the battlefield was Enevoldsen's Æther Vial. Neither player had any threats, and time was running out. Summersberger finally, triumphantly found a Nimble Mongoose with about a minute left. A little back and forth between Enevoldsen's creatures and Summersberger's burn spells took up some time too, and when the last extra turn had been played, it wasn't even clear who would have won this game in the long run.

    Final result:

    Thomas Enevoldsen 1-1 Helmut Summersberger, both still undefeated.


  • Saturday, 6:39 p.m. – Decktech: RUG Burn with Valentin Mackl

    by Tobi Henke

  • Valentin Mackl is an up-and-coming player from Austria with the uncanny ability to make it to the second day of virtually every Grand Prix he attends. He routinely makes it onto Rich Hagon's list of players to watch, which is a very good reason to do just that. So I did. Specifically, I watched him play an interesting take on RUG. Played, that is, to a 6-0 start into the tournament so far.

    Valentin Mackl

    "I don't have the usual Stifles, Wastelands, and Dazes, but instead a lot more burn. I never really liked that part of the deck, because it can be somewhat inconsistent. Once your opponent draws out of his mana screw, many of these cards essentially turn into blanks," Mackl explained. "However, I did like the agressiveness of the deck, so I decided to increase that."

    A development that took place over many smaller bi-weekly tournaments in Mackl's hometown store, the "Spielraum" in Vienna, saw him adding more and more burn spells. His deck now has four Chain Lightnings in addition to Lightning Bolt, and even a singleton Price of Progress, with more in the sideboard.

    "Price of Progress is awesome, especially once opponents realize I really don't attack their mana at all. Against normal RUG, players will often try to fetch some basic lands to not be punished by Wasteland, whereas here they can go all-out on dual lands," said Mackl. "Of course, they still get punished for it—not less, just later and differently."


  • Round 7 Feature Match – Anton Karlinski vs. Samuele Estratti

    by Tobi Henke

  • Samuele Estratti, the Pro Tour Philadelphia champion, really needs no introduction. His opponent Anton Karlinski was part of the German World Cup team last year, but going into this weekend didn't have any major finishes to his name yet. Time to change that? The matchup here was Storm (Karlinski) versus RUG (Estratti).

    Game 1

    Estratti went first and summoned Delver of Secrets, Karlinski began his turn with Gitaxian Probe (seeing Flooded Strand, Wasteland, Lightning Bolt, Daze, Force of Will) before playing Underground Sea and passing the turn. On his turn, Estratti transformed the Delver revealing Spell Snare, played a land, and watched as Karlinski cast Brainstorm at end of turn.

    Anton Karlinski

    Over the next couple of turns, Estratti had two Wastelands for Karlinski's lands, but with the help of two more Brainstorms, Karlinski wasn't really in trouble mana-wise. When Insectile Aberration had him down to 1 life, he began his turn with three lands and a full grip of cards. First, Karlinski cast Duress on Estratti, who took a confident look at his hand and decided to let Karlinski take a peek too (as well as a card). Karlinski didn't even finish resolving his Duress. One look was enough and he packed up his cards in concession to proceed to game two.

    Anton Karlinski 0-1 Samuele Estratti

    Game 2

    After a mulligan, Karlinski opened on Ponder and Estratti again had the infamous turn-one Delver of Secrets. Karlinski decided to risk another peek at Estratti's hand, seeing Force of Will, Nimble Mongoose, Stifle, Wasteland, and two more Delver of Secrets. "Interesting," he commented, before taking Force of Will with Cabal Therapy.

    Samuele Estratti

    A second Delver of Secrets made it to the battlefield, and Karlinski's only land was destroyed by Wasteland. Karlinski didn't have a replacement immediately and when he did, Estratti had a second Wasteland. Delvers turned into Insectile Aberrations and soon it was all over.

    Anton Karlinski 0-2 Samuele Estratti


  • Saturday, 8:36 p.m. – Single Card Strategies #2

    by Tim Willoughby

  • There was a time in Magic's history where booster packs from non-core sets had a little symbol on them reading 'Expert'. This was to let new players know that there was the potential for slightly more complicated cards to be in the boosters. Ultimately these days, careful templating and hard work from R&D ensures that such signage isn't really necessary any more – while Magic games can get complicated, the idea is that most of the time, most cards don't cause too much of a headache.

    Prophecy – for experts only.

    This has not always been the case. Speaking to Jared Sylva, one of the Head Judges here at Grand Prix Strasbourg, he let me know that he'd already had a ruling about one of the more complicated cards in Magic's long and storied history – Chains of Mephistopheles. Chains is a very cool card, which is actually rather well positioned to deal with a lot of the powerful cards in the format, but if I were to pick out cards that require a good understanding of the rules, it would certainly be one of them. To make life more fun, the text on the card is pretty small, and not exactly perfect for helping you understand what happens when one or more copies are in play. For that, I enlisted the help of Daniel Kitachewsky. First I'll explain how it works, then why it is good.

    Chains of Mephistopheles affects every card drawn, except for the first each player draws in their draw step. So if you are playing fair, only drawing your one card on your turn, Chains of Mephistopheles does nothing, Legacy isn't a format where a lot of people play fair though, which is where the fun starts.

    For any cards apart from that first card draw, there is a replacement effect. If you would draw you have to replace 'draw a card' with 'discard a card, then draw a card'. Suddenly that card draw doesn't look so hot right? If you can't discard a card, you don't get to draw a card, and instead you put a card from the top of your deck into your graveyard.

    Now you're in a spot where Brainstorm effectively lets you discard and draw three times, then put two cards back on top of your deck. If you have no cards in hand, it's even worse. Given how good Brainstorm is in the format, that's pretty exciting.

    Where things can get a little more confusing is with two copies of Chains of Mephistopheles in play. With two copies in play, both replacement effects will try to happen one by one. That means that if you had a bunch of cards in hand, you'd have to discard two cards before you could draw one with Think Twice. The most that you can ever be milled by Chains of Mephistopheles is once per attempted draw though. If multiple copies of the replacement effect try to happen, as soon as you hit a point of not having any cards in hand, 'draw a card' is replaced with 'mill one' meaning that from there on out, no more replacement effects need to happen.

    So what does Chains of Mephistopheles achieve in play in Legacy? Well, it makes a lot of unfair decks quite a bit fairer. For those control or combo decks that rely on a lot of extra card draw to make things work, be that with Jace, Brainstorm or Griselbrand, the Legends enchantment is a fairly major road-block. If you build with it in mind, you can even sneakily turn things around by either using effects like Dark Confidant to get extra cards in hand without falling afoul of the enchantment, or back it up with even a little discard to make the effect more punishing.

    One word of advice though. It doesn't work as well with Sylvan Library as one player had hoped. Don't play them in the same deck – that was the judge call for Jared Sylva that started out this entire crazy charade.


  • Round 8 Feature Match – Jean-Mary Accart vs. Valentin Mackl

    by Tobi Henke

  • You may have read about Valentin Mackl's RUG burn deck earlier in the coverage. One more round has passed since then, and one more round of course means one more win. With both players at 7-0 and already safe in day two, now it was up to Jean-Mary Accart and his Show and Tell/Omniscience deck to put a stop to Mackl's winning streak.

    Game 1

    Mackl went first and made the first (nonland) play at the end of Accart's second turn, Brainstorming, sacrificing Scalding Tarn, and casting Thought Scour. By then, Accart already had enough mana to cast Cunning Wish off his Island and City of Traitors and got a Pact of Negation from his sideboard.

    Valentin Mackl

    On turn three, Accart played a second City of Traitors with mana from the first in pool, then cast Show and Tell. Mackl responded with Thought Scour followed by Force of Will. Pact of Negation took care of the Force and Show and Tell resolved. Accart put Omniscience onto the battlefield, Mackl Snapcaster Mage targeting Brainstorm.

    Accart proceeded to Enter the Infinite. Mackl responded with Brainstorm. Accart thought about it for a bit: clearly, Mackl didn't have another counterspell at the moment, and with three cards in hand, he might get two out of Brainstorm. Accart cast another Pact of Negation to prevent that.

    Enter the Infinite resolved, as did the following Cunning Wish for ... Release the Ants. Mackl had to read the card (as did you, didn't you? Be honest!) and was quite amused, even as he picked up his cards for game two.

    Jean-Mary Accart 1-0 Valentin Mackl

    Game 2

    Neither player had a play on his first turn. Mackl had no land on his second but did summon Delver of Secrets, while Accart cast Ponder. On turn three, Delver turned into Insectile Aberration thanks to the Brainstorm Mackl found on top of his library. He cast the Brainstorm and, although Accart responded with his own Brainstorm, resolved it.

    Unfortunately, the top three cards of his library didn't include any lands either. Accart continued with Preordain, Mackl continued to dig for land with Thought Scour. No land was forthcoming, and now Accart resolved Defense Grid.

    Another main-phase Brainstorm finally provided Mackl with a Tropical Island and, subsequently, a Nimble Mongoose. Accart had the perfect set-up for his combo, but apparently was missing the actual combo itself. By now down to 10 life, he cast Cunning Wish to get Noxious Revival and passed back to Mackl. Another turn later, and it was all over.

    "I didn't expect me to win this one!"

    "Neither did I."

    Jean-Mary Accart 1-1 Valentin Mackl

    Game 3

    Accart played Island, Ponder, City of Traitors, and Preordain on his first two turns, while Mackl had Volcanic Island, Thought Scour, Tropical Island, and Ponder.

    The real action, then, began on turn three, when Accart tapped and sacrificed his City of Traitors and cast Defense Grid. Mackl slumped in his chair; Defense Grid resolved. Time to put some pressure on Accart, and Mackl did, with Nimble Mongoose.

    Jean-Mary Accart

    Back down to two Islands, Accart seemed to have mana trouble when he couldn't find a third land despite a pair of Preordains. But lands showed up soon enough, as did Omniscience and Enter the Infinite. All was lined up perfectly for Accart, except for the missing Show and Tell.

    Now it was a race both against the clock of Nimble Mongoose as well as the actual clock showing the time limit. Mackl first lost against the latter, when he could only get Accart down to 7 on extra turn number four. And on the fifth and final extra turn, Mackl proceeded to also lose against Accart. Here was a second Defense Grid (just in case), there was Show and Tell, here came Omniscience and Enter the Infinite. Mackl extended his hand in concession, "Great match. Awesome deck."

    Jean-Mary Accart 2-1 Valentin Mackl

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