Sunday, 10:55 p.m. – Drafting with Joel Larsson
by Tobi Henke
With three Grand Prix Top 8s in the last two years as well as making it to the Pro Tour finals just a couple of weeks ago, Sweden's Joel Larsson is currently on a run; a run he continued with a 10-0 performance yesterday, alongside teammates Elias Watsfeldt and Mikael Magnusson. Now it was time for him to prove himself in Team Booster Draft.
He opened a booster which held, among others, Devour Flesh, Hands of Binding, Kingpin's Pet, Arrows of Justice, and Wasteland Viper. Arrows, Viper, Hands, and Pet quickly made it to the front of the pack and he continuously shuffled through them while the clock was ticking down. The ten-second warning passed. The draft commando went over the speaker system, and finally Larsson made his decision: Wasteland Viper it was.
Next, he had the choice between Disciple of the Old Ways, Angelic Edict, Deathcult Rogue, and Crowned Ceratok, and took the latter. Soon, however, green started to dry up. Between Call of the Nightwing, Duskmantle Guildmage, Massive Raid, and Boros Elite Larsson only got a Disciple of the Old Ways. Yet more Dimir cards followed: Hands of Binding, Dimir Charm, and Deathcult Rogue, which he picked.
Pick five saw the return of green and a decision for Scab-Clan Charger over Adaptive Snapjaw. Next was Sapphire Drake, still passing strong Dimir in Death's Approach.
Pick seven was Hands of Binding over Simic Guildgate, followed by Scatter Arc, then Totally Lost. Larsson happily picked up a Prophetic Prism as his tenth pick, and that was it. His last four picks were: Slate Street Ruffian, Furious Resistance, Shattering Blow, and Structural Collapse.
One third through this draft, Larsson had the beginning of a Simic deck, with Sapphire Drake and Crowned Ceratok, but sadly without any evolvers. (Alexander Frey to his right was drafting Simic as well and had succesfully kept those from Larsson.)
Urban Evolution? Dinrova Horror? None of these options seemed to satisfy Larsson, so instead his first pick for booster two was Alms Beast, clearly a defensive draft motivated by not wanting to see the card in an opponent's deck. (But since he was passing to Frey drafting Simic, not of much consequence.)
Pick two could have been Lord of the Void or Death's Approach, but now Larsson needed to take something for his own deck for a change, and did so with Cloudfin Raptor. Next was Simic Charm over Shambleshark, an interesting choice considering Crowned Ceratok/Sapphire Drake. (In any case, Frey was happy to take the Crab.)
Pick four was Zhur-Taa Swine over Mugging, Way of the Thief, and Clinging Anemone, making the red splash already suggested by the earlier Disciple of the Old Ways more and more likely. Still, pick five was Cloudfin Raptor over Ground Assault.
After that, the boosters dried up once again. (Although Esra Bohlender to his left was drafting Orzhov.) The rest of this round of boosters gave Larsson, in this order: Wildwood Rebirth, Totally Lost, Devour Flesh, Mortus Strider, Way of the Thief, Dutiful Thrull, Prophetic Prism, Skygames, and Bioshift.
Experiment One over Drakewing Krasis opened the third and final round of boosters. Next was Ghor-Clan Rampager, then Greenside Watcher, then Crocanura, then Metropolis Sprite, all without much, or basically any, competition.
The draft continued to exhibit the same drop in card quality as before. (And this time, it was again Simic drafter Frey passing to Larsson.) Sixth pick was Armored Transport over Spell Rupture, followed by Gruul Guildgate over Last Thoughts seventh.
The last seven picks in this draft then were: Millenial Gargoyle, Clinging Anemones, Ember Beast, Alpha Authority, Beckon Apparition, Last Thoughts, and Bioshift.
Considering this was a team draft where hate drafting is common and where players will often actively hurt their neighbors' decks, Larsson's could have gone worse. But also better. Here's his final deck:
Grand Prix Utrecht 2013 - Team Booster Draft
Sunday, 12:55 p.m. – Do Unto Others...
by Tobi Henke
... as you would have them do to you. Well, that's the idea in regular draft, where cooperation with your neighbors improves their chances but also your own and where you might or might not play against them. In team drafts, however, every neighbor is automatically an enemy. Every player in the draft sits between two members of the opposing team.
As a result, drafters are much more likely to actively try and hurt the people around them, visciously picking cards they have no intention of putting into their deck. So do unto others as you would expect them to do to you?
Clearly, this strategy, if taken too far, sometimes leads to really bad decks. Whereas yesterday's sealed portion featured decks much stronger than regular draft decks, often almost comically so, some of today's actual draft decks look funny in a completely different way.
Take for example Martin Jůza's deck from the first draft. "I have about 19 playables," he complained afterwards. "The guy to my right must have about 12."
Grand Prix Utrecht 2013 - Team Booster Draft
Another funny deck was put together by two-time Pro Tour Top 8er Andre Müller. To everyone's amusement, it was black and white and even blue, but then also included Clan Defiance, castable via Boros Guildgate and three Prophetic Prisms!
Grand Prix Utrecht 2013 - Team Booster Draft
Round 12 Feature Match – Watsfeldt/Magnusson/Larsson vs. Bohlender/Biela/Frey
by Tim Willoughby
With just two teams undefeated on day one, it was kind of a no brainer as to which matchup we'd be covering to start day two at Grand Prix Utrecht. The powerhouse Swedish team of Elias Watsfeldt, Mikael Magnusson and Joel Larsson received a lot of the limelight on Saturday, but there was one other team that navigated day one without a defeat; that of Marius Biela, Alexander Frey and Esra Bohlender.
The draft itself had seemed to favour the Swedes. A number of powerful rares made it into the collective piles of Team Sweden, but one was a particular source of contention. Aurelia, the Warleader, had been opened and passed to Elias Watsfeldt. He, in Dimir, was not about to touch the mythic rare in pack 3, and passed it on again. While normally in draft, taking cards to deny them to opponents is not a great idea (as you are harming your own deck too) there may have been an argument to take the rare there. As it was, somehow Aurelia, the Warleader was not picked until it got around to Mikael Magnusson, who while predominantly Gruul, was happy to pick it up, and find a way to play with it thanks to Prophetic Prism and some appropriate guildgates.
The four person team of Mikael Magnusson, Aurelia T Warleader, Joel Larsson, and Elias Watsfeldt.
The first set of matches between these two teams ended in fairly blistering fashion, with the Swedes rolling over their opponents with straightforward 2-0 victories that quickly that Elias Watsfeldt barely got one game in, let alone two, before the big game of musical chairs to determine round 2 matches. Here is where things got interesting. Because each team needs to play the team it drafted against twice, there was ample opportunity for a team that had drafted well to cement a substantial lead, while a close pair of sets that end up being split 1-1 would not really help either team in the quest for top eight. Would the first round win of the Swedes ultimately be gutsy or glorious?
For the second round it was Mikael Magnusson with Naya against Maries Biela with Boros, Joel Larsson against Alexander Frey in a Simic mirror, and Elias Watsfeldt against Esra Bohlender, where the decks were Dimir vs Orzhov. No pressure.
In the middle, Joel Larsson was in a Simic mirror, but as the one who was struggling to keep creatures on the board, he picked up a swift loss in his first game. His keep in the second game was... interesting. A Sapphire Drake, Prophetic Prism, and a whole mess of lands, including a Gruul Guildgate, and a Prophetic Prism was his keep, and it seemed to be working out for him, as he soon amassed additional flyers in Cloudfin Raptor and Millenial Gargoyle. It would be a crazy race between the Simic decks, as on the other side of the board, the likes of Deathcult Rogue and Drakewing Krasis were clear and present threats. Way of the Thief is a great card for a race, and Larsson merrily played it on an Armored Transport, which he rumbled in with each turn, while waiting back with the rest of his team to block.
Diluvian Primordial off the top on the other side of the table ended the match in the middle though, taking Totally Lost to clear a path for decisive final attacks making Larsson first to fall in this second set of games between the teams who had gone undefeated on day one.
For his second match, Mikael Magnusson was up against Boros with Naya, and still had good answers to his opponent's plans in Mugging and Ground Assault for his first couple of creatures. He was stuck on just Gruul lands, but a Prophetic Prism left Magnusson with options in all his colours.
A Cinder Elemental on the opposite side of the board gave Magnusson pause, but ultimately was not deemed the biggest threat, with a Towering Thunderfist being the designated target for a Homing Lightning from the Swede. Wrecking Ogre was the next threat to come down for Magnusson, but was quick to vanish thanks to an Angelic Edict.
The pivotal point in the game for Magnusson came when he had a Boros Charm to keep all his creatures alive through some hefty blocks, and a Skarrg Goliath to follow up with. Shortly thereafter the players were shuffling up for game two.
In Magnusson's second game, he was initially straight Boros, and soon found a number of green cards stuck in his hand, building up until he was able to open a floodgate of threats. Fortunately alongside this he had a few early plays in the form of Massive Raid and Wojek Halbardiers.
There was an inevitable groan from Magnusson's opponent as his mana woes sorted themselves out, and Aurelia, the Warleader came to town. "I passed that" he declared with a shake of the head. Life totals dwindle with startling alacrity when you face two attack steps per turn, and while Marius Biela had been in fair shape before the mythic rare came to town, that did not last long. Magnusson won the game and the match, putting everything down to the result of the final game between Watsfeldt and Bohlender.
Elias Watsfeldt was on Dimir, and while he hadn't been able to finish his first match (Joel and Mikael had won too quickly) he was quick to get on the offensive against the Orzhov deck on the other side of the board, with Basilica Screecher and Duskmantle Guildmage getting stuck right in. Kingpin's Pet and Basilica Guards meant that Watsfeldt would be fighting an uphill battle against an extort chain, but with a Deathcult Rogue and a Dinrova Horror, Watsfeldt was slowly but surely building a powerful attacking force capable of powering through. It seemed those draws were just a touch too slow in total though. Bohlender had built up enough of an extortion squad that his removal spells kept Watsfeldt off being able to profitably attack, while dinging his life total too. When Assault Griffin started swinging in, that was enough to end things.
For game two, Watsfeldt was the one with extort going, between Syndicate Enforcer and Thrull Parasite, but a Zarichi Tiger would do much to keep the Orzhov deck in the game, and when Angelic Edict took out the Enforcer, it left Watsfeldt's board looking a little thin. He was playing and replaying a Mortus Strider wherever he could, but most of Watsfeldt's plays left him in a holding pattern, and saw his attention more focused on the match next to him, concerned perhaps that his best chance in the match would be for his teammates to pull through. Mortus Strider plus extort kept him in the game for long enough to start to mount a small offence, and gradually the young Swede started to pull ahead. Just as Mikael Magnusson won his match, Watsfeldt was squaring up his, ready for the big deciding game.
In game three, a turn two Basilica Screecher from Watsfeldt matched up poorly against a turn three Kingpin's Pet on the other side of the board, and when Watsfeldt didn't have a third land for his third turn, the best he could muster was a Duskmantle Guildmage. He had a brief reprieve as there wasn't a fourth land on the other side of the board, but there was a second Kingpin's Pet. Eek!
Esra Bohlender, Alexander Frey, and Marius Biela.
Hands of Binding let Watsfeldt lock down both copies of Kingpin's Pet for a turn, and swing in to get ahead on life, but soon that Screecher fell to a double extorted Executioner's Swing after combat. Watsfeldt was not out of gas, having a Nightveil Specter, but looked likely to have a little trouble getting stuck in with it, as a third flyer showed up the very next turn on the other side of the board, in Assault Griffin.
A Killing Glare came from Watsfeldt, asking a question of his opponent in attacking into Kingpin's Pet. The extorting 2/2 was important enough not to block, meaning that Elias Watsfeldt was able to nab a Plains from the top of his opponent's deck. No mana worries any time soon then. That land proved exactly what Watsfeldt needed the very next turn, meaning he was able to cast a Dinrova Horror, bouncing a Kingpin's Pet and forcing a Court Street Denizen discard from the other side of the board. It soon became clear why that 2/2 hadn't been played the turn before, as an Executioner's Swing was awaiting the Nightveil Specter. A Zarichi Tiger soon followed. It was dispatched by Grizzly Spectacle. Watsfeldt's attacks took his opponent to just one life. The very next turn he had lethal thanks to combining the two abilities on Duskmantle Guildmage to brutal effect. No attack step needed, and the Swedish team of Elias Watsfeldt, Mikael Magnusson and Joel Larsson continue their unbeaten streak.
Watsfeldt, Magnusson, and Larsson defeat Bohlender, Biela, and Frey for the second time in their draft set, advancing to 12-0 on the weekend.
Round 12 Feature Match – Versari/Estratti/Lippi vs. Van Gelder/Slooten/Dekker
by Tim Willoughby
While the undefeated Swedish team was playing just one table across on camera, the strong Italian team of Samuele Estratti, Matteo Versari and Alessandro Lippi were not far away from them either geographically or in points. They had just one loss and a draw from day one, and had swept their first draft, putting them in good position for the day. Up against Mark Van Gelder, Ferdinand Slooten and Koen Dekker, they would be keen to keep their winning ways going as long as they could – much of Saturday had been spent with one loss and one draw, so they were well used to playing with their tournament life on the line.
Match 1 – Matteo Versari vs Alessandro Lippi
Matteo Versari's match against Mark van Gelder had been delayed due to a deck check, which had resulted in a game loss for deck registration errors for van Gelder, meaning that ultimately it could be the first to finish. Versari's Boros deck started out strong, but soon saw a large amount of removal come along to spoil his day. Armored Transport got One Thousand Lashes. Bomber Corps found itself with Agoraphobia. Skyknight Legionnaire fell to Death's Approach. When Scorchwalker came along, Agorophobia got switched across to it and Van Gelder also had Sage's Row Denizen as a fine blocker for Bomber Corps. Versari tried to use Martial Glory to win that fight, but a Grisly Spectacle ended that plan.
Mark van Gelden, Ferdinand Slooten, and Koen Dekker are ready to play.
Van Gelder didn't look to be winning the game fast, but he was certainly winning, with One Thousand Lashes applying the death of a thousand cuts to Versari, who couldn't get an offence going. With a lot of lands, Sunhome Guildmage looked to be exactly the draw Versari would have bene hoping for. It allowed him to trade off profitably against a Leyline Phantom, and then start churning out tokens. He was soon down to just two from One Thousand Lashes and some extortion from the other side of the board, but in a position to win if he could get one more turn in of attacking. He crossed his fingers hoping for no more spells from his opponent that could extort him out, and his prayers were rewarded. Sunhome Guildmage won him a difficult game, which was ultimately the match.
Samuele Estratti's game one against Ferdinand Slooten was plagued by mulligans on both sides, but each had fair starts; Estratti with Disciple of the Old Ways, Burning Tree Emissary and Ghor-Clan Rampager, while Slooten had an early Gutter Skulk alongside a pair of copies of Assault Griffin. Madcap Skills made Burning Tree Emissary a lot scarier in a fight, and a bloodrushed Scab Clan Charger ensured it got through a double block just fine.
The race was still well and truly on though. The Assault Griffins took Estratti to 9 on attacks, after which he swung right back, looking to deal 10 damage. A Rubblehulk in hand ensured he did just that. Samuele Estratti won his first game.
Game two saw more mulligans, and this time Estratti's start had that Burning Tree Emissary again, but a Scorchwalker to go with it rather than a 4/4 trampler. He was up against an early Assualt Griffin and Slate Street Ruffian, the latter of which he ambushed with Burst of Strength, before finally losing his Emissary to Devour Flesh. It seemed that Estratti was up against stiffer competition in game two, without quite as much of an explosive draw to power through the aggressive Orzhov deck of Ferdinand Slooten. This time his Assualt Griffins were good enough, meaning another match would go to a final game.
Yet more mulligans came from Estratti, who ultimately found himself facing down a pair of copies of Basilica Guards, along with an attack force of Basilica Screecher and Darking Skyjek. Estratti's deck was a little weak to flyers, and he had to try to race – potentially tricky against all that extort.
Syndicate Enforcer added to Estratti's extort woes, and he played a desperation Scorchwalker. It was not enough. Estratti couldn't stop extort from getting him. It would all be down to Lippi.
Alessandro Lippi found his Esper deck facing down a quick Simic start from first Cloudfin Raptor and then a Greenside Watcher. He had a Vizkopa Guildmage to fight back with, but not any early removal for Cloudfin Raptor, which was soon a 2/3 coming in in the air, thanks to a third turn Drakewing Krasis. Lippi traded his Guildmage for the Watcher, turning on Death's Approach to kill Drakewing Krasis, but saw plenty of follow up from Dekker, in Frilled Oculus and Experiment One. When Dekker had a counter for Lippi's next creature, that was enough to put away game one.
Game two started with a slightly more sedate pace, which ideally suited Lippi's slower control deck. His early Bane Alley Broker served as a hefty blocker that could draw him some cards, and he had removal for first a Frilled Oculus, and then a Fathom Seer. Greenside Watcher was the next play from Slooten, but Lippi seemed unconcerned – he had a Nightveil Specter and Daring Skyjek with which to start attacking, and plenty of card options thanks to his active Bane Alley Broker.
This turn it was Lippi's time for a quick win, and he was able to power through in the air with his team quickly enough to square up his match with little incident.
The deciding game of Lippi's match saw an unfortunate draw for the Italian. With just four copies of Plains for his initial lands, all he could muster in the early game was a Syndic of Tithes, while his opponent had Cloudfin Raptor, Frilled Oculus and a Greenside Watcher. The Watcher traded with Syndic of Tithes, leaving Lippi in a rough position.
Finally a Swamp came, allowing for an Executioner's Swing to off Cloudfin Raptor before it got bigger than 2/3, but at this point Lippi was on just 7 life, and facing down a number of threats from the other side of the board. Would he be able to come back? A Killing Glare was soon followed by a Soul Ransom from Lippi, meaning he would have the only creature on the board in Scab Clan Charger.
A Drakewing Krasis got One Thousand Lashes, while Fathom Mage fell to Orzhov Charm, putting Lippi on just four life. At this point the whole Italian team was watching Lippi's play, giving him plenty of comment at every moment of the game in rattling staccato bursts. A Nightveil Specter from Lippi was answered well by Crocanura, but Lippi was able to go over the top with an Angelic Edict on the crocodile Frog before it could get busy blocking. Nightveil Specter pilfered a Forest from the top of Koen Dekker's deck, which netted a quick 'grazie' from Samuele Estratti, happy to see that Lippi would not miss any land drops. Lippi had a Dimir Keyrune, but was still building up mana to be able to use it effectively, and every land would help.
The Italians, Alessandro Lippi, Samuele Estratti, and Matteo Versari show off their model poses for the camera.
The next turn, Nightveil Specter found Frilled Oculus. Lippi had some blue land, meaning that he was able to cast it, and did exactly that after resolving a Basilica Guards to allow him to extort.
There was a devastating play for the Italians at the end of turn. Totally Lost put One Thousand Lashes on the top of Lippi's deck. Lippi now had to deal with the 3/1 flyer on the other side of the board, and if there was any kind of pump spell coming, it could be the end of the match. The flyer only got in for three though. Lippi was alive.
Lippi activated Dimir Keyrune. Its unblockability would be key in his attempts to get through just four more damage. Dekker must have trick of some kind though, and the Italians went deep into the tank to try to figure out what it was. Ultimately, they just decided to go for it. Before attacks, Dekker discarded two cards to get back his Scab Clan Charger. That would not trouble either Nightveil Specter or Dimir Keyrune. The Keyrune and 2/3 flyer came in, and Dekker showed his trick. A Burst of Strength untapped his Drakewing Krasis such that it could block Nightveil Specter. Dekker went to two on attacks. That One Thousand Lashes was able to end things though, as it came down with extort, and there was nothing that Dekker could do to stop it from winning the game for the Italians.
Matteo Versari, Samuele Estratti, and Alessandro Lippi win two matches to one, advancing to 11-1-1.
Sunday, 2:45 p.m. – Haters gonna hate
by Tim Willoughby
'Hate drafting' (sometimes otherwise known as 'daggering', 'cacking' or very occasionally 'pick pilfering') is the act of taking cards in draft not because you want to play with them yourself, but to deny those cards from anyone else at the table. As a strategy, this is something that doesn't tend to be a great idea in straightforward drafts that you might do online or at your local shop. The reason is simple – you probably wouldn't play against that card anyway. Cards taken as 'hate drafts' are typically assumed to have been taken from those sat directly next to you, and the earliest you'll play against someone sat next to you is in the finals of a draft, at which point you'd much rather just have a 'real' pick for your deck, to get you there in the first place.
This changes a little in team draft. Suddenly, there is a good chance that you or your team will have to play against any particular card you've passed. That means that there are occasions where it does make sense to make your own deck a little worse, in order to make your team's matchups much better.
The easiest way to do this is with something called 'hooking'. This is where there are two cards for the same deck in your first pack that stand out as the best card in the pack. You take one, and pass one downstream to your left, hoping to get the person to your left into a deck where they will find themselves taking the 2nd best card for much of the draft, as you then cut off the good cards that might fit that deck. The strength of this plan is that you aren't weakening your deck too much by doing so, compared to the damage you are dealing, though it can certainly mean that pack two (where you are being passed to by the person you have 'hooked') might be a little on the thin side for picks.
The other plan is to take careful aim at particular cards that you know have a high impact on games, and make sure that even if you can't play them, you don't let anyone else have them. This can be a little dangerous, as you are relying on being able to have a better deck than the person to your left in doing so, and you cannot account for how the cards passed to them in the opposite direction might work out.
The best examples of hate drafting like this tend to be surgical strikes on key cards, rather than a sustained offensive. Never hate drafting can mean that while you end up with a fantastic deck, you might be setting up the person to your left to have a great deck too (not ideal when they are playing against your team), while the alternative can get very messy. Speaking to some players it seems that there is a school of thought around very aggressively trying to ensure that the player to your left has a worse deck by sabotaging their picks a great deal. If an entire team does it, then you can find yourself with some very odd looking drafts.
From looking at drafts so far in the room, hate drafting seems a slightly under-appreciated skill for some teams. The Swedish team of Watsfeldt, Magnusson and Larsson benefitted from far more powerful rares than they felt they should have seen, due to a lack of daggers from their opponents. While it doesn't make sense to spend all your time taking cards away from opponents, there is definitely a time and a place for it, and a 3rd pick Aurelia, the Warleader should likely never get around to 4th.
Sunday, 2:49 p.m. – Drafting with Samuele Estratti
by Tobi Henke
The Italian superteam of Samuele Estratti, Matteo Versari, and Alessandro Lippi entered the second draft of the day with a score of 10-1-1, just one loss and one draw off a perfect record and still well on their way to a possible Top 4 berth. Time to watch another draft!
Estratti swiftly flipped through all the cards in his booster, shortlisting Simic Charm and Skarrg Guildmage. The decision between the two, however, took almost until time ran out. Simic Charm it was.
The next booster had absolutely no Simic whatsoever, instead offering a rich selection of Urbis Protector, Boros Elite, Ember Beast, Skinbrand Goblin, and Syndic of Tithes. Nothing he could do about that; Estratti quickly resigned himself to his new fate and picked Syndic of Tithes.
But now the next booster had no white or Boros but Slaughterhorn! Estratti simply shrugged and returned to green. A fourth-pick Disciple of the Old Ways and a fifth-pick Zhur-Taa Swine put Estratti well on his way into Gruul territory, and the following picks were Adapative Snapjaw, Armored Transport, Gruul Guildgate, as well as Prophetic Prism as his ninth pick.
The first round of this draft ended with Scatter Arc, Simic Guildgate, Slate Street Ruffian, Shadow Alley Denizen, and Structural Collapse.
Off to the second booster. Starting with the commons, Estratti first saw Mugging and seemed fine with it; then he saw Ground Assault for a little more excitement; then he reached Clan Defiance and couldn't help but smile. Of course, the rare made its way into his draft pile, as did the Rubblehulk he was passed next. This sure was a nice start!
Next, he chose Drakewing Krasis over Wasteland Viper, possibly going for a Gruul/Simic hybrid. After all, so far, he wouldn't really need any red mana early in the game and already had a Simic Guildgate too. For the potential Simic/Gruul deck he then took Urban Evolution from a booster that had Frilled Oculus as well as Simic Fluxmage but no Gruul cards.
Pick five was Scab-Clan Charger over Zhur-Taa Swine, still keeping the option to minimize the red. For his sixth pick, however, there was no way around Firefist Striker. Next came Disciple of the Old Ways, then Naturalize, then Simic Keyrune, then another Scab-Clan Charger. Even his last four contained possible main deck inclusions: Verdant Haven, Wildwood Rebirth, and another Verdant Haven, followed by Shattering Blow.
So what was it going to be? Red or blue or maybe both? This booster gave Estratti a choice between the two in Drakewing Krasis or Scorchwalker, which, of course, wasn't much of a choice at all. He took the Krasis, but then he was faced with a pack full to the brim with Gruul: Madcap Skills, Ivy Lane Denizen, Burning-Tree Emissary, Sylvan Primordial, and Greenside Watcher. Estratti considered all of them, some longer some shorter, then decided on Madcap Skills. Next, he took Ghor-Clan Rampager over Pit Fight and Scab-Clan Charger, so red it was.
Or was it? Pick four was Urban Evolution, followed by Armored Transport and a surprisingly late Skarrg Guildmage. Estratti's seventh pick was Scorchwalker; then the Gruul booster returned and still contained Sylvan Primordial, Ivy Lane Denizen, and Burning-Tree Emissary which he took. Miming Slime, Burst of Strength, Boros Guildgate, Riot Gear, and Skyblinder Staff rounded out the draft.
In the end, Estratti build a red-green deck splashing blue off Prophetic Prism, Simic Keyrune, Simic Guildgate, and one Island for Simic Charm and one each of his two Urban Evolutions and Drakewing Krasis.
Round 14 Feature Match – Watsfeldt/Magnusson/Larsson vs. Westling/Bergström/Carlsson
by Tobi Henke
One round ago, the Swedish superteam of Joel Larsson, Elias Watsfeldt, and Mikael Magnusson had still been undefeated at 12-0 but after one match against fellow Swedes Fredrik Carlsson, Tomas Westling, and Jonathan Bergström both teams were now at 12-1. Who would win this rematch? Well, in any case, the Swedish would.
Jonathan Bergström (Gruul) vs. Joel Larsson (Orzhov)
Larsson quickly found himself on the backfoot against Bergström's aggressive Gruul deck. When Larsson missed land-drop number three again and again, it was soon time to shuffle up for game two.
Here, Larsson took an early lead with Basilica Screecher, Basilica Guards, and Kingpin's Pet, stealing points of life through the air and through extort. Larsson didn't let his guard down and his Basilica Guards didn't let him down. A second copy of the 1/4 staved off Bergström's offense long enough for the extorters to finish their business.
In the deciding game, Bomber Corps and Ember Beast faced off against Thrull Parasite and Basilica Screecher. Larsson managed to keep Bergström off of three creatures for a quite a while with the help of Grisly Spectacle and Orzhov Charm, and then had Alms Beast when Bergström finally got one Warmind Infantry to stick around.
In the following attack, Larsson lost his Thrull Parasite to Bomber Corps, while Bergström lost his Bomber Corps to Alms Beast and replaced it with Ruination Wurm. On Bergström's next turn, the 6/6 and the 7/6 traded, and whereas Bergström had another Warmind Infantry, Larsson had too many lands.
Jonathan Bergström 2-1 Joel Larsson
Tomas Westling (Boros) vs. Elias Watsfeldt (Dimir)
Watsfeldt's Dimir deck was too fast and had too many tricks in its sleeves for Westling's somewhat clunky Boros deck splashing both green and black. First Hands of Binding on Mindeye Drake, then Call of the Nightwing on Incursion Specialist gave Watsfeldt plenty advantage, enough to win the game.
In game two, Watsfeldt again took an early lead with Cloudfin Raptor into Basilica Screecher, but Westling got back into the game with Frontline Medic, Balustrade Spy, and Skyknight Legionnaire, so Watsfeldt simply switched gears, took a more controlling approach with two Mindeye Drakes, and flew to victory later.
Tomas Westling 0-2 Elias Watsfeldt
Fredrik Carlsson (Simic) vs. Mikael Magnusson (Boros)
The first game appeared to be decided purely on size, and Carlsson's Simic creatures were simply larger than what Magnusson's Boros Legion had to offer. Foundry Street Denizen, Viashino Shanktail, and Ordruun Veteran were no match for Frilled Oculus, Crocanura, and Crowned Ceratok, especially not once it was Carlsson who was attacking. Two bloodrushed Slaughterhorns finished the game in quick fashion.
For game two, Magnusson opened on Foundry Street Denizen and Truefire Paladin, while Carlsson summoned Cloudfin Raptor and Zameck Guildmage. Magnusson had no land on turn three, but without turn-three play Carlsson couldn't capitalize on Magnusson's mana screw. Turn four, Magnusson cast Warmind Infantry and Carlsson again passed without play. Magnusson then refused to walk into Ætherize—which Carlsson really did have in hand—and that was basically it. When Carlsson tapped out for a blocker, Magnusson only got another attacker via Act of Treason.
So it all came down to the final game of the final match. Unfortunately, fate didn't care about the narrative and provided quite the anticlimax: Magnusson had no plays for the first two turns of the game, whereas Carlsson had Cloudfin Raptors on each of them. Turn three, Magnusson had no third land but at least cast Truefire Paladin. Meanwhile, Carlsson summoned Zameck Guildmage, then Drakewing Krasis. Three 3-power fliers were way too much for Magnusson who was still stuck on land.
Fredrik Carlsson 2-1 Mikael Magnusson
Westling/Bergström/Carlsson beat Watsfeldt/Magnusson/Larsson 2-1 for the second time in this two-game set, advancing to 13-1 with the possibility of "drawing" (splitting their next two rounds intentionally) to make it into the Top 4.
Sunday, 5:27 p.m. – Discussing Draft Strategies
by Tobi Henke
So, how did your team prepare for the draft? Did you discuss specific plans how to divide the guilds between the three of you? Did you and your teammates set up any system of who would draft what?
Joel Larsson: "No. We did talk about preferences, of course, but nothing set in stone. Obviously it helps if you know your teammates very well. For example, I knew that Elias [Watsfeldt] is a big fan of Dimir, which allowed me to pass a lot of great Dimir cards in the first draft today, like one pack with both Duskmantle Guildmage and Call of the Nightwing. Naturally, Elias got both."
Andre Müller: "Assigning guilds before the draft is crazy. It leaves way too little room for improvising. But we found that assigning single colors works just fine: one player drafts black, one green, one red. Black can then never end up in the same guild as one of the others, and the others will only ever share a guild if both end up in Gruul. And that doesn't happen very often because naturally red is more inclined to go Boros, while green tends to be Simic. Also, green has a little additional mana fixing, another reason why sharing Gruul is not as bad. If one of us opened a bomb completely outside our color, we would of course have to take it anway, but wouldn't switch out of our assigned color. In fact, I rather splashed Clan Defiance into my Dimir/Esper deck today [editor's note: deck list posted earlier]. Unfortunately, both of my teammates went 0-2 in that draft, but that deck was undefeated."
Martin Jůza: "Not really. Our draft strategy was basically, 'Don't pass any bombs,' even if you're not playing them. But as far as color combinations go, you really have to see what's coming. There's not much sense in splitting up the guilds beforehand. If two of us end up in Boros because no one from the other team is drafting it, I'm fine with that."