ine rounds of Theros sealed have sorted the heroes from the monsters, and the most heroic have graduated to drafting on Sunday here in Valencia, Spain. Leading the pack are two Spaniards, Alvaro Sanchez Lopez and Alexis Cortes, along with Portuguese pro Frederico Bastos. With perfect records in the tournament thus far, they have set the pace for the format with a mix of deck archetypes.
Not far behind these three is are a whole mess of Grand Prix regulars keen to expunge the small number of losses they've incurred thus far with smart drafting and tight play. Nico Bohny, Tiago Chan, Florian Koch and Dmitry Butakov are just one win off the pace thus far.
For some the road was not as smooth as others. Hall of Famer Raph Levy snuck in with a win in the final round of the day, along with Pro Tour winner Samuele Estratti and Pro Tour top 8 finisher Eduardo Sajgalik. Levy at least seemed happy to be able to pick up with a new deck tomorrow, in the aggressive Theros draft format.
If you're excited to join us, we'll be back on video from 10am local time with Matej Zatlkaj, Simon Görtzen, Steven Leeming and Rich Hagon. On text we'll still be Tim Willoughby and Tobi Henke. For now, it's time for us to eat, sleep, and maybe play a cheeky game of Magic or two. We really hope you'll be able to join us tomorrow, right here at dailymtg.com.
Grand Prix Trial Winning Decklists
by Tim Willoughby
If you're looking for a leg up at a Grand Prix (and who isn't?) then you can do far worse than playing and winning a Grand Prix Trial. It nets you a couple of byes (free wins) at the start of the event, meaning you can spend a little more time on having a good breakfast while the masses work their way through those early games. While many here in Valencia had done this before they booked their travel, some did so at the site itself on Friday. What were their weapons of choice I hear you ask?
Ask and you shall receive...
First, the constructed decks. For those who fancied their chances with Standard, there were a number of constructed last chance trials, and there were a decent mix of decks that won them.
We also had a few sealed trials. If you are looking for a first look at what a winning sealed pool might look like for the weekend, this is you're a good start. There will be many more.
Saturday, 11:55 a.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise
by Tobi Henke
1,076 competitors have already built their decks, but to all of our readers at home, here's a card pool for you! We picked this one for two reasons: One, the player who had to work with these cards has multiple Pro Tour Top 8s to his name, so a comparison between his build and yours should prove particularly interesting. And secondly, his pool offered a lot of possibilities, with strong cards spread over all five colors and difficult choices to be made even within each color. It's quite a challenge—are you up for it?
We're not going to name the player just yet, so as to not spoil his fun by having the exact contents of his sealed pool spilled all over the internet for everyone to see. Later in the day, of course, we'll reveal both his identity and the 40 cards of his main deck.
Do you pick the same colors and choose the same strategy? Or can you build something even better? Fire up our Sealed Deck Builder and try it!
Saturday, 2:00 p.m. – Not So Quick Questions
by Tim Willoughby
It sounds like an easy question – "Which cards have gone up or down in your estimation between when Theros came out and now?"
As it turns out though, this reporter's vain attempt to get you some nifty little soundbites took me down a much deeper rabbithole than I'd ever expected.
I started somewhere fairly safe. World Champion and number 4 ranked player Shahar Shenhar is here this weekend with every potential to break into the top 3 ranks, given that everyone ahead of him is American and hasn't made the flight to Valencia this weekend.
Shahar's basic answer was one that wasn't too great a surprise to me. Hopeful Eidolon, and bestow creatures in general, have only gone up in the estimation of just about everyone. While some bestow costs may seem a little high at times, all the bestow creatures represent great examples of exactly what you're looking for in limited Magic – cards that are good in the early game, but not dead draws later on when you have a more developed board to work with. The eidolon is cheap enough to come online early, and plays into the very powerful 'build your own Baneslayer' plan of turn three Wingsteed Rider, turn four bestow.
On the flip side of things, Shenhar was a little down on the more expensive removal spells in the format. Normally removal spells aren't exactly the bread of a format, but they can certainly be the butter – the thing that holds your deck together. The likes of Rage of Purphoros and Lash of the Whip don't quite perform as Shenhar and many others have hoped in the format though. In some cases they simply don't do enough damage (Nessian Asp, we're looking at you), and even when they do, they can be a little slow. With bestow in the mix, killing a creature doesn't even necessarily leave the board emptier than it began.
Martin Juza had similar answers in tone, even if he mentioned different cards. Sedge Scorpion was his pick for an over-performer compared to his expectations. Another one drop that does things in the later game, the little deathtouch creature that could is a fine answer to any number of heroes and monsters, getting trodden on but ultimately stinging creatures in theier Achilles heel while on the way out. Start slapping bestow creatures on a scorpion and even that initial stomping looks a worse idea.
Martin's pick for a card that's gone down in value was Journey Into the Underworld. This is a card that shows up on an awful lot of different lists, including many people's pick for flavour win in the whole of Theros. However, while very cool, it is very slow as well. The fact that the creatures come back on your upkeep, and have to wait a whole extra turn cycle to attack means that you need some fairly specific synergies before it becomes a card to be excited about including in your deck. Without lots of Grey Merchant of Asphodel tricks, it's easy to stop believing in the journey.
So so far the underrated cards at the start of the format are both one drops. Thoralf Severin had a fairly clear idea of one of the starts that he most often finds problematic in the format (especially in draft). Turn one, one cost creature. Turn two – Ordeal. All five of the Ordeal cycle of auras are just brutal when they come down on time and let a creature start growing before much defence can be mounted. While ordeals can be slightly ropier draws on a busy board, they interact very favourably with the heroic green and white creatures, with the likes of Staunch-Hearted Warrior being well set up to complete any ordeal in just a single attack.
A final card that had really outperformed initial expectations came from Mikael Magnusson of Sweden. Stymied Hopes is a card still divides opinion from many top players, but Magnusson was pretty confident that much of the time it would get something good in many stages of the game. While this is a format that rewards players for playing a lot of land, it is also one where tempo is a big enough deal that players don't have the luxury of playing around the cheeky little counterspell, giving it plenty of potential to create blowouts, especially if they are relying on the more expensive removal spells to get their work done. Potentially particularly relevant in sealed where most opponents will have something expensive and powerful to stop, this little counter gets the nod from many pro.
Where is the Theros limited format going overall? Well, as a high synergy format, it is one where there were inevitably some sleeper hits. While it rewards playing a lot of lands, tempo cannot be ignored, and at least having the potential to do something devastating in the early game is of real value. The fact that there is still difference of opinion around some of the nuances of deck building (I've already seen Shahar Shenhar rebuilding about 6 different decks for people today) means that there is still ample potential for innovation. Hopefully we'll see more of this throughout the weekend – I'm sure there are still a few tricks left up various sleeves that will be needed to win Grand Prix Valencia.
Round 4 Feature Match - Marijn Lybaert vs. Marcos Yustas
by Tobi henke
Marijn Lybaert certainly is no stranger to the feature match area. At recent Grand Prix, the Belgian could often be seen as an expert doing commentary for our live video coverage and, as a player, Lybaert has a whopping four Pro Tour Top 8s to his name. Marcos Yustas from Spain doesn't have anything close to such a résumé, but he did manage to achieve the same result in the tournament so far. Both players had had two byes and won their respective round-three matches., both with aggressive decks, green-red for Yustas, red-black for Lybaert.
After intial trade-offs early on, the first game was all about Yustas's Centaur Battlemaster. Boon Satyr turned it into an already quite unreasonably large 10/8 creature, Time to Feed made that 13/11, and, incidentally, also killed Lybaert's at this point sole remaining blocker ...
The second game was a pure damage race. Lybaert entered with a couple of 2/1s, while Yustas had an Akroan Crusader. Leafcrown Dryad and Boon of Erebos traded, and then Akroan Crusader received the boon of Boon Satyr and put Lybaert at 10. Lybaert weighed his options. After some deliberation, he redoubled his efforts, bestowing Erebos's Emissary on his Satyr Rambler and bringing Yustas down to 7. However, Destructive Revelry destroyed Erebos's Emissary and with it all hope for Lybaert to win this race. A second Akroan Crusader and Warriors' Lesson on both Crusaders generated enough attackers to seal the deal.
Marijn Lybaert 0-2 Marcos Yustas
Saturday, 4:00 p.m. – Good Form
by Tim Willoughby
One kind of nifty card that still hasn't necessarily seen lots of exposure for Theros limited is Artisan of Forms. As a rare it doesn't come up in sealed or draft quite so often, and especially in a draft context, it can be a little rough to evaluate exactly how good or not it is while you are making your picks.
Walking around the room here at Grand Prix Valencia though, I've already seen enough cool Artisan of Forms interactions to warrant giving the card a second look.
Let's start with some easy ones. Bestow is fairly impressive when combined with the Artisan's ability. As soon as you target the Artisan with a bestow creature, you get to copy whichever creature you want (for example the biggest creature on the board), and then effectively you have a slightly bigger version of the biggest creature on the board, thanks to the extra power and toughness granted by bestow. There are a few things to this to bear in mind though. You can't copy any creatures that are bestowed on other creatures (as at that point they aren't creatures).
In a similar vein you can't copy gods that don't have the necessary devotion (as they aren't creatures). If you copy a god but don't have the devotion yourself to keep it a creature, then you will have a legendary enchantment with the ability to get heroic and copy things. The reason that I know that last one is that I saw a player choosing to do exactly that in order to dodge a removal spell on his own Artisan of Forms. Seems like kind of an awesome play, right? Well, the issue is that once you have that god, if you can't get devotion easily, it can be kind of tricky to then target your Artisan of Forms to turn it into something else.
The final rules interaction around Artisan of Forms relates to the monstrousity. You can copy a monster with Artisan of Forms, and while you've copied a monster, you can choose to go monstrous if you like. You'll get your +1/+1 counters and whatever sweet ability may come with. Those +1/+1 counters will even hang around if your Artisan later finds something better to copy. However, no matter how many times Artisan gets a new set of clothes, it can, like any other monster, only go monstrous once.
In speaking to a few players, it looks like Artisan of Forms is at its best in blue/green, as it can become massive with little real effort, but assuming you're playing a few targeted effects, Artisan of Forms is frequently a big threat regardless of what colour combination you use it in. Give him a try!
Round 5 Feature Match - Jose David Cid Lores vs. Samuele Estratti
by Tobi Henke
With a Pro Tour victory as well as four Grand Prix Top 8s, Italian pro Samuele Estratti hardly needs any introduction. Facing him this round, after a 4-0 start into the Grand Prix, was Jose David Cid Lores from Spain. Cid Lores had built a green-blue deck, while Estratti came to this battle with a mostly green ramp deck, featuring some red and white.
In the first game, Estratti really didn't miss a beat, casting Sylvan Caryatid, Nylea's Disciple, Nessian Asp, and Bow of Nylea all on curve, or, more accurately, before curve. Cid Lores, meanwhile, made his first play on turn five, and neither his Nessian Asp nor the Griptide or Horizon Scholar which followed could stop Estratti.
The second game went along at a much more sedate pace. Estratti's Observant Alseid was bestowed with Hopeful Eidolon, then died to the combination of Cid Lores's Staunch-Hearted Warrior and Time to Feed. Estratti cast a couple of creatures but none were a match for said Warrior which grew to 8/8 via Feral Invocation. Cid Lores added yet more pressure in Sealock Monster and Nimbus Naiad, but Estratti's Elspeth, Sun's Champion took care of all the fatties. And his Bow of Nylea almost took care of the flier, if it hadn't been for Cid Lores's Nylea's Emissary. As it was, the 5/5 Nimbus Naiad took the game in a close race, even bypassing Estratti's Nessian Asp with the help of Aqueous Form.
In the third game, the many-colored nature of Estratti's deck led to a mulligan, and a start of Plains plus Mountain. Would this game and match decided by Estratti's deck malfunctioning? As it turned out, it would not. The Italian not only had a Forest for turn three but an Opaline Unicorn as well. Meanwhile Cid Lores had no land on turn three and discarded Breaching Hippocamp. His Agent of Horizons met Lightning Strike, and when Cid Lores made his next play in Nessian Asp, Estratti already had Nylea's Disciple, Lagonna-Band Elder, and once again Bow of Nylea on the battlefield. The deathtouching attackers soon delivered lethal damage.
Jose David Cid Lores 1-2 Samuele Estratti
Round 7 Feature Match - Tiago Chan vs. Jack Amy
by Tobi Henke
Tiago Chan, the two-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor and former Invitational champion from Portugal, was facing Englishman Jack Amy this round. Both had piloted their sealed decks to a pristine record of 6-0 so far, green-black in Chan's case, red-white in Amy's case. Of course, only one of them would remain undefeated after this round ...
Chan won the die-roll and started quickly, with Voyaging Satyr, Nessian Courser, and a bestowed Leafcrown Dryad, all before Amy had even made his first play. Amy had Ray of Dissolution for the Dryad but, unfortunately, never found a fourth land. Chan's 4/4 Reverent Hunter soon sealed the deal.
In the second game, Amy made the first move in Traveling Philosopher, enchanted it with Dragon Mantle, and followed it up with Purphoros's Emissary. Meanwhile, Chan had summoned Nessian Courser and an Insatiable Harpy which died to Magma Jet immediately. Next, thanks to Chan's Anthousa, Setessan Hero, the game entered a rather slow phase, with both players building up their respective armies. This suited Chan just fine because, whereas his opponent had an Ill-Tempered Cyclops and turned it monstrous, he himself had Nylea, God of the Hunt, already active thanks to Nylea's Presence. Hopeful Eidolon was bestowed upon the 6/6 Cyclops and it attacked. Chan blocked with Anthousa and Nessian Courser, Amy turned his monster 10/8 via Titan's Strength, and Chan saved Anthousa with Boon of Erebos. The end result of this massive combat was: Amy back up at 21, Chan at 9, and his Nylea, God of the Hunt no longer a creature.
Voyaging Satyr turned Nylea back into a creature and Amy went to 15. Then, he cast Spear of Heliod and attacked with all of his creatures: Hopeful Eidolon, Purphoros's Emissary, and Traveling Philosopher wrapped into Dragon Mantle. Anthousa blocked the latter and was saved by Feral Invocation. Amy went to 17, Chan fell to 3. On his turn, Chan smoothly cast his second Boon of Erebos on Anthousa and attacked with the now 8/7 Setessan Hero itself, the 6/6 God, Voyaging Satyr, and three 2/2 lands—well in excess of lethal damage. Amy extended his hand in concession.
Tiago Chan 2-0 Jack Amy
Saturday, 8:12 p.m. – Heroic Feats
by Tobi Henke
Heroic, more than any other of the mechanics in Theros, can lead to some spectacular lines of play. For example, in his round-four feature match against Marijn Lybaert, Marcos Yustas created a 13/11 creature in three simple steps: step one, cast Centaur Battlemaster, step two, bestow Boon Satyr on it, step three, cast Time to Feed.
But this is mere peanuts compared to the story which an excited Valentin Mackl, a Grand Prix Miami Top 8 competitor, has been telling basically everyone. In his fourth round today, he actually managed to have a combined power of 16 on the battlefield by turn four! "Turn two I cast Phalanx Leader, turn three Fabled Hero," Mackl explained, "and then on turn four, I cast another two-drop, Setessan Battle Priest or something, and had two copies of Coordinated Assault." Did we mention that said 16 power included an 8/6 double striker? "My opponent even blocked with Erebos's Emissary and discarded two creatures in his vain attempt to get rid of the Fabled Hero," said a happy Mackl. "That was awesome!"
However, Heroic doesn't only lead to straightforward, and somewhat simplistic, blowouts. The following story comes courtesy of Steve Hatto, Luxembourg's foremost pro player, and tells of a remarkable turnaround thanks to Heroic. Hatto was facing a newly-monstrous 8/8 Sealock Monster, a 5/5 Thassa, God of the Sea, as well as a Benthic Giant and Prescient Chimera, all attacking, and only had a tapped 4/4 Battlewise Hoplite and a 1/1 Phalanx Leader on the battlefield himself. Hatto was at 5, his opponent at 9.
Obviously he won that game, or else he wouldn't have lived to tell the tale, but can you guess how he managed to do that? Well, he cast Breaching Hippocamp to untap his 4/4 Hoplite, then blocked Sealock Monster with Phalanx Leader and Benthic Giant with Battlewise Hoplite. Then he cast Last Breath on his very own Phalanx Leader to go to 9 and turn his Hippocamp 4/3, his Hoplite 5/5. He survived at 1 life and now had exactly enough damage to kill his opponent on the backswing.
Giving one's last breath (or Last Breath) for the greater glory of one's master? It doesn't get much more heroic than that!
Saturday, 8:55 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise: Conclusion
by Tobi Henke
Earlier today, we posted a Sealed Deck pool for everyone at home to try their hands on. Did you take a look and build your own 40-card deck? If not, do so—the material here made for an interesting deck-building process and was capable of turning into an awesome deck as well.
At least according to Tiago Chan. The two-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor and former Invitational champion took some time deciding on his two colors. Even before he took a first look at his cards, he stated he would prefer blue and/or green. "Those are the two strongest colors in my opinion, with black and white being the worst," he said. He also mentioned that the format was very tempo-based and that he wasn't looking to play many, or preferably, any six- or seven-drops.
Then, of course, he opened Abhorrent Overlord ... The black was better than he had imagined it would be, but so was the green, despite his high expectations there. He tinkered with various options for a while, building blue-black and blue-green decks. Finally, though, he settled for green-black, a deck that would allow him to include all six of his rares, although he ended up cutting Thoughtseize.
Grand Prix Valencia 2013 – Sealed Deck
When I asked him whether he was happy with the deck, Chan just smiled and pointed to his undefeated record. A minor quibble, however, remained. "I believe I chose 39 of the 40 cards correctly. Now I usually sideboard out one Scourgemark for one Nylea's Presence. Scourgemark is a great card in this deck," said Chan, pointing to his Centaur Battlemaster, Anthousa, Setessan Hero, and Insatiable Harpy, "but Nylea's Presence helps with the double casting cost spells, and adds more devotion for Nylea, God of the Hunt and Reverent Hunter."
Just then I got to watch Chan's round-seven feature match, and there Nylea's Presence did actually play a crucial role in providing a fifth green mana symbol for Nylea, God of the Hunt. Differently put, Nylea's Presence was crucial in enabling Nylea's actual presence on the battlefield.
Round 8 Feature Match - Piero Lombardi vs. Raphael Levy (18)
by Tim Willoughby
Raphael Levy led France to World Magic Cup victory, which was the beginning of the revolution. Team Revolution, of which Levy is a member, placed Jeremy Dazani and Pierre Dagen in the finals of Pro Tour Theros. Levy, one of the original Hall of Fame class, has just about more Magic experience than anyone, and is currently ranked 18 in the Pro Rankings, but that doesn't mean that he won't have a shaky draw here or there.
Piero Lombardi's red blue deck came out of the gates fast with double Vaporkin, while Levy found himself missing on mana, such that a Voyaging Satyr didn't do as much accelerating as he might have hoped for. Soon enough, Levy was using Voyage's End more to draw him into lands than to hold off an airbourne assault from Lombardi. Aqueous Form kept the scrying coming, but Levy was short on lands for rather too long, while ultimately Lombardi drew into a Voyage's end of his own to get rid of a Centaur Courser that was aiding Levy's scrying cause.
Piero Lombardi is looking for a trophy.
With Griptide Levy began to claw things back, buying the time to get down Nessian Asp. A bestowed Leafcrown Dryad followed, blunting Lombardi's attack. As first the Asp and then a Nemesis of Mortals showed their monstrous sides, the tide of the game seemed to be turning. Time to Feed killed off a Sealock Monster. While Lombardi had a foil Stormbreath Dragon, but it looked puny in the face of Levy's Nessian Asp, which was rendering flying attacks ineffective.
In a game of gods and monsters, it seemed that Levy going to be able to ride his bigger monsters to victory. Those dreams got washed away though as Griptide sent Nessian Asp to the top of the Frenchman's deck, and Aqueous Form from Lombardi meant his force was able to attack above and around the board the Hall of Famer had worked so hard to construct.
Piero Lombardi 1 – 0 Raphael Levy
Game 2 Levy's lands were no longer hiding from him. He curved out fairly neatly in the early game, soon getting down a 3/3 Mistcutter Hydra which he hoped would prove very effective against the red blue deck from Lombardi. Nessian Asp soon joined the party for Levy, who was in an old fashioned race against Vaporkin and friends from his opponent. Voyage's End from Lombardi allowed him to keep swinging, and Titan's Strength even ensured that when Nessian Asp finally did block, that it would die too.
For the second game in a row though, it proved decisive that Lombardi's force was able to attack in the air, while much of Levy's was far more respectful of the regular laws of gravity. As a 3/3, Mistcutter Hydra wasn't racing quite fast enough, and when Titan's Strength allowed a Vaporkin to trade with Nessian Asp, Levy was all out of reach creatures, leaving Spellheart Chimera a lethal attacker.
As Levy shuffled his deck up after the match, he shook his head, reconstructing each turn to try to work out if there was any way he could have played differently to have got the win. Had he played Mistcutter Hydra at any other time, he'd have had a big hole in his mana curve. Had he cast Time to Feed at a different time in game one he'd have lost to an alpha strike from Lombardi. Now on two losses with one round to go for day one at Grand Prix Valencia, Levy steeled himself. While Lombardi was now safe for a spot in day 2, Levy would be playing for his tournament life in the very next round.
Piero Lombardi 2 – 0 Raphael Levy (18)
Round 9 Feature Match - Michael Milis vs. Jorge Brea
by Tim Willoughby
Michael Milis walked into the feature match area with a smile that belied the fact he was playing for his tournament life. The Belgian pro was proudly displaying the colours of a new movement in Belgian Magic – one that has reinvigorated an already active and formidable contingent of Belgian players. Belgic Magic is a collection of Belgian Magic players who have got together to promote Magic in Belgium, to play together, to travel together and to generally have a great time with the game. Where possible, they stream games in the evenings online as well as motivating each other to test and do their best at events on the international stage. With the World Magic Cup now a hotly anticipated fixture on the Magic calendar, national pride is alive and well, and depicted for the Belgians in bright colours wherever they go.
Milis wasn't unhappy to see a Read the Bones as the first play from his opponent, with an aggressive red black deck that can was designed to get in damage quickly, he certainly wouldn't say no to a little self-harm from Brea. Deathmark Minotaur came down, and wouldn't have stopped attacking even if it had been able to.
All this changed on turn five when Celestial Archon came down for Jorge Brea, the local Spanish player perilously close to a day two berth. The first credible threat from his side was enough to take a lot of the edge off Milis's attacks, and was soon joined by Returned Phalanx. While Milis's deck was all about entering the red zone, Brea was happy to sit back. Disciple of Phenax saw some fine cards lurking in Brea's hand, but was not able to get a good look at the Grey Merchant of Asphodel or Abhorrent Overlord that were the reason Brea was happy to take his time.
The Grey Merchant came first, offering to take some of Milis's life off his hands. Already Milis was worried. He had Labyrinth Champion, and did some work on Brea's dome with successive Dragon's Breath, Titan's Strength and then a Grey Merchant of Asphodel of his own. Now Brea was on just three life. He had the mana for Abhorrent Overlord though. Brea had easily lethal on the board, but on so low a life total, he had every cause to worry.
Milis had to end the game that very turn, and did so with Cavern Lampad bestowed on his Labyrinth Champion. Its heroic ability killed off Opaline Unicorn, and its newfound intimidating status allowed it to attack for enough to win game one.
Michael Milis 1 – 0 Jorge Brea
While Brea was able to mount the early offence in game two, off a mulligan, that start was not to continue. He stumbled on lands, and was soon facing down a Foundry Champion with Ordeal of Purphoros. Even when Brea found a Griptide for the rare hero, there was another one in the form of Agent of the Fates.
In the face of such forces, a defensive Sea God's Revenge came from Brea that was far from impressive, but entirely required. It was only delaying the inevitable though, and when the one two punch of Labyrinth Champion and Cavern Lampad again struck home, Milis soon had Brea on the ropes.
It finished with a kiss – Viper's Kiss on Milis's own Labyrinth Champion in order to do the final points required. With that Michael Milis locked up his slot in day two, where his aggressive sealed deck would be replaced by a whole new 40 card deck – this time the result of a draft.
Michael Milis wins 2 – 0 over Jorge Brea