elcome to day 2 of Grand Prix Valencia!
We're back here in Valencia Spain, ready for a day of triple Theros draft. On Saturday we had nearly 1,100 players. As the field shortened for day two, we now have just 136 players left in the running. The next goal, to navigate the stormy waters of two Theros drafts, looking to put together a record to qualify for the top eight. One more draft will take determine our champion, and we have plenty of heroes with here with their eyes on that prize.
The overnight leaders, Frederico Bastos, Alexis Cortez and Alvaro Sanchez Lopez are all undefeated at present, but at the same draft pod, that will not be the case for long. Behind them is a pack of hungry pros eager to rack up a few more wins and overtake them in the race to the trophy.
For all the details on the latest developments here in Valencia, Spain, stay tuned. We have video coverage from Matej Zatlkaj, Simon Görtzen, Steven Leeming and the inimitable Rich Hagon, while on text Tim Willoughby and Tobi Henke will be bringing you updates all day. We hope you'll stay with us as we move from 136 to 1 - our Grand Prix Champion.
Day 1 Undefeated Decklists
by Tim Willoughby
What does it take to go undefeated on day one of a Grand Prix with over a thousand players? Well, realistically it probably takes a little bit of good fortune, and a lot of skill. On top of that though, it needs a deck. Below you'll see the weapons that our winningest players were working with before switching to draft today.
You'll see the full pools that these players opened, sideboards and all. There are certainly a few final cuts that I'm not sure I'd have made the same way. Would you have built these pools like this? Have a look and make your mind up.
Frederico Bastos 9-0
Grand Prix Valencia 2013 – Sealed Deck
Alexis Cortes 9-0
Grand Prix Valencia 2013 – Sealed Deck
Alvaro Sanchez Lopez 9-0
Grand Prix Valencia 2013 – Sealed Deck
Round 10 Feature Match – Nico Bohny vs. Fabrizio Anteri
by Tim Willoughby
Nico Bohny had been already firmly in blue/white heroic for his first draft of day two here at Grand Prix Valencia when he opened pack two. Anax and Cymede might be a little bit of a stretch on colours, but with such a powerful heroic effect, he just couldn't say no. Little did he know that the legend would be part of a rather unusual play to decide his first feature match of the day.
The first act of this three part story moved briskly enough. Setessan Battle Priest went through first an Ordeal of Heliod, and then one of Thassa. Having grown through its hardships, it was plenty strong enough to take game one with little incident, leaving Fabrizio Anteri a stunned observer, his blue/black/green deck doing little more than giving him information for future games thanks to Disciple of Phenax. He saw Anax and Cymede and Sea God's Revenge in that game, but it would be later that these two powerful cards would be truly decisive.
Anteri's thumb is up for now - would it be by the end of the match?
Game two was a little more in favour of the Italian. Here his blue/black deck was able to apply enough pressure to force a defensive Sea God's Revenge from Bohny, delaying the inevitable. When a Disciple of Phenax sniped Mnemonic Wall from Bohny's hand, it meant that he was able to re-assemble his team of Sealock Monster flanked by two copies of Blood-Toll Harpy to square the match.
Game three looked in Anteri's favour early as he was the one with creatures aplenty, but this soon changed as Bohny worked on a voltron Triton Fortune Hunter, with both Chosen by Heliod and Ordeal of Thassa enchanting it. All those extra card draws found Bohny Master of Waves, the superstar mythic that dominated Pro Tour Theros. Anteri's draw was a good one. He found Shipwreck Singer, which would be a good answer to Master of Waves at least. He had a Gainsay to stop Sea God's Revenge, and with a Blood-Toll Harpy enchanted with Cavern Lampad, he was able to chunk in for consistent damage in spite of Bohny's now rather fuller board.
Nico Bohny wishes on a star to have a great starting hand.
A Prowler's Helm on Master of Waves looked like it wouldn't be good enough, but Bohny was just setting up for the following turn. He had Lagonna-Band Elder to stay alive through Anteri's attacks, and the following turn had a very nifty play. First Anax and Cymede came down, then Bohny cast Curse of the Swine on his own Anax and Cymede, as well as Anteri's Shipwreck Singer. Heroic triggered, making Bohny's team suddenly far bigger. The curse resolved, turning both the harpy and Bohny's own hero into pigs. Bohny didn't mind though. His hero had been part of bigger and better things, which allowed him to swing in with a lethal attack.
Nico Bohny defeats Fabrizio Anteri 2 games to 1
Round 11 Freature Match - Alexis Cortes vs. Feyyaz Melih Akcakaya
by Tim Willoughby
There are few starts as aggressive in Theros limited as Akroan Crusader on turn one, with Titan's Strength on turn two. That is what Alexis Cortes was working with though, and when Feyyaz Melih Akcakaya had his first play on turn five in a Sedge Scorpion that was hit by Lightning Strike, he really wasn't playing the same game at all. Before other matches had finished resolving all their mulligans, Alexis Cortes was already a game up.
Guardians of Meletis stood firm on defence for Akcakaya in game two, but gain Cortes was a relentless aggressor, with successive copies of Minotaur Skullcleaver following another early assault from Akroan Crusader. A Feral Invocation made the wall a fine blocker, and Lagonna-Band Elder gained Akcakaya some much needed life, but his deck had still not really shown a way of winning the game, as Cortes' blisteringly fast starts hadn't really given it a chance to.
More copies of Guardian of Meletis meant that Cortes had to go big if he was going to prevail. He did so in Titan of Eternal Fire, with a human on board in Akroan Crusader. Now the question was, could Cortes gun down Akcakaya before a fresh Wingsteed Rider on the other side of the board squared things? Tymaret, the Murder King seemed to suggest that yes, he could. When Grey Merchant of Asphodel joined the party, the infernal machine that Cortes had been assembling looked almost complete. He just needed one more turn of burn to finish the match. However, that Wingsteed Rider had been attacking in each turn. Cortes was not so far off death himself. When Helios's Emissary came down bestowed on the rider, that was enough to force a rubber game.
The deciding game saw Tymaret, the Murder King again take command, but this time from far earlier in the game. Akcakaya had a little lifegain engine going, with Setessan Battle Priest becoming enchanted by Hopeful Eidolon. Lifegain is not the friend of the red/black deck, but it seemed that Cortes had the tools to fight back. Grey Merchant of Asphodel got to drain for a little bit, and Mogis's Marauder allowed for more unopposed swings. Having nickel and dimed for a few points here and there, Cortes dropped the hammer blow once he got to seven mana.
"End of turn, sacrifice Mogis's Marauder to Tymaret? Cast Journey into the Underworld sacrificing Grey Merchant of Asphodel to get back Mogis's Marauder?"
That's two damage from Tymaret. Then when the creatures came back from the underworld, another four point life drain. Mogis's Marauder gave Cortes's team intimidate, allowing for attacks for six, and there was still mana available for Cortes to sacrifice his team again, taking the overall damage total up to 16 since the end of Akcakaya's turn. That is how red/black does it.
Alexis Cortes wins 2 – 1 over Feyyaz Melih Akcakaya
Sunday, 2:40 p.m. – Drafting with Florian Koch
by Tim Willoughby
Late on Saturday I was talking to Florian Koch, who was in fine form. "I hadn't really been winning all that much in Theros limited recently. Then last weekend I made the final of a PTQ, and this weekend I'm 8-1 at the Grand Prix."
The reason for this sudden shift of fortune was not so simple as one key strategy or card – were that so I'd be stuck in a difficult journalistic quandary of whether to take the scoop, or simply to start dominating Theros limited myself. It was a more gradual realisation as to the overall speed of the format (potentially quite fast, with the likes of Ordeals leading to some very aggressive starts) as well as a humble acknowledgement of those areas where taking particular lines of play was simply not working out.
Most decks in Theros draft have a habit of looking fairly good, as the overall card quality is quite high, but those that are able to go the extra distance tend to be those that have the best ability to build on synergies in the format. Koch wasn't about to say that he was forcing any type of deck going into the draft, but seemed confident that there were many options he'd be comfortable moving into.
The draft pod itself looked a tough one. To his right, Nico Bohny would not be giving him an easy ride, but at least the signals he passed would likely be quite clear. Elsewhere on the table, a variety of European Grand Prix regulars. There would be few free wins at this table.
The first pick of the draft for Koch was between Fabled Hero and Keepsake Gorgon. While the gorgon is very powerful, as a creature with a removal spell built in, Fabled Hero can end games before the gorgon can even hit play. Koch took the rare, hoping to do something heroic in Valencia. A Nessian Asp came second, and Favored Hoplite third, but by pick five green was simply not showing up in boosters at all, and white was looking a little thin. A switch was required, and Spearpoint Oread was the best of the bunch. Dragon Mantle came next, and while Koch had the option on a couple of copies of Akroan Crusader, Koch chose to take Leonin Snarecaster and Cavalry Pegasus over them.
Little did Koch know that to his immediate right, Nico Bohny was in blue/white heroic, and a seat further down was yet another white drafter. The bunfight over white was not doing any of the three any great favours, and Koch had to hope to do well out of pack two, as pack three might again prove shallow.
Somewhat surprisingly, pack two was stronger for Koch for red than white. He had an interesting choice in Anger of the Gods or Dragon Mantle second pick. The Dragon Mantle is a very solid addition, and would play nicely with heroic, while Anger of the Gods would likely kill off much of Koch's own team. Prudence pushed Koch to the enchantment rather than the mass removal – a pick which he would later come to question. Red kept on coming with Ember Swallower soon joining Koch's draft pile, along with Arena Athlete and Akroan Hoplite.
Bohny was, as had become traditional at this point, scuppering various plans that Koch might have had, having opened Anax and Cymede in pack two, which he took as a very reasonable card to splash. This didn't lead to his taking many more red cards, but was a coffin nail that Koch could have lived without.
By pack three the fix was in. While Koch snagged a first pick Lightning Strike, he soon found himself picking up cards like Borderland Minotaur in otherwise unexciting packs. When he came to describe his deck to me after the draft, the term 'too many four drops' summed it up very well. The prevailing wisdom at present on appropriate draft strategy for red white is that it needs to be hyper aggressive, and that tends to mean a curve where if something costs four or more, you are talking about bestow costs only. The quality of the four drops and above (Ember Swallower excepted) is not typically high enough that having to play more lands is worth it.
Stuck in a position of having to go a little bigger/slower, Koch was a little disappointed in his deck. For the hyper aggressive red/white plan, we would have to look elsewhere.
Round 12 Feature Match - Florian Koch vs. Toni Ramis Pascual
by Tobi Henke
With records of 9-2 going into this round, both players would need at least three straight wins to clinch another Top 8 berth. It wouldn't be the first for either one of them though. Spain's Toni Ramis Pascual made the Top 8 this year at Grand Prix Verona as well as the finals of Grand Prix Barcelona two years ago; Florian Koch of Germany has a Top 8 at Grand Prix Madrid 2012 and a first-place finish at Grand Prix Lyon 2010 to his name.
The draft rounds so far had went so-so for the players, with each boosting a 1-1 record. Koch had drafted a red and white deck, Ramis Pascual entered the fray with green and black cards. In this match-up, Ramis Pascual would clearly be playing defense to Koch's aggression, even though Koch's deck didn't turn out as focused on the early game as red-white often does, or as Koch put it, "... as it probably should. But there was nothing I could do about it during the draft."
The first game was a real monster. Both players cast a few creatures which were largely irrelevant and quickly got outclassed by the real stars of this show. Ramis Pascual had an Insatiable Harpy to begin the race, Koch had a Stoneshock Giant and bestowed upon it Hopeful Eidolon, then Observant Alseid, then turned it monstrous to bypass Ramis Pascual's freshly-summoned Keepsake Gorgon. Next, he bestowed Spearpoint Oread, again leaving the Gorgon unable to block and forcing Ramis Pascual to chumpblock.
When Ramis Pascual finally drew the mana to activate monstrosity on his Gorgon, he did so during Koch's upkeep to play around Gods Willing. Unfortunately for him, bestow works in such a way that all the auras-turned-creatures can immediately attack when their target dies. Ramis Pascual didn't realize that and took another hefty blow. He fell to 2, Koch went to 47.
But the game was far from over. An attack with Insatiable Harpy made that 45 to 4, a Gray Merchant of Asphodel turned it into 39 to 10, and when Ramis Pascual put a Sedge Scorpion next to his 3/6 Keepsake Gorgon, Koch was unable to attack for the first time in a very long time.
Over the next several turns, each player added further creatures to his board, but while Ramis Pascual's Insatiable Harpy continued to attack unimpeded and was soon joined by another one, none of Koch's creatures could really tangle with the opposing Keepsake Gorgon. Spearpoint Oread with Dragon Mantle was finally able to do that, but Ramis Pascual had Sip of Hemlock for that. Koch meanwhile had no answer to either Insatiable Harpy and the two slowly drained away all of his life.
After this ordeal the second game was a much more straightforward affair. Again Ramis Pascual had Insatiable Harpy, and this time he even had Ordeal of Erebos to really show how insatiable that Harpy can be. With ever-larger chunks of Koch's lifetotal transferred to Ramis Pascual's side, Koch's last hope was Fabled Hero. The Hero fought and killed blocking Pheres-Band Centaurs with the help of Battlewise Valor, but it was doubtful whether it'd be able to race the Harpy. Then Ramis Pascual had Sip of Hemlock and sealed the deal. The 5/5 Harpy took the game and match.
"The Harpies were simply too strong," Koch summed up the match. "In the first game, I drew a lot more land than he did, and he found his seventh mana for Keepsake Gorgon just in time, but in the end it really was all about the Harpies."
Florian Koch 0-2 Toni Ramis Pascual
Sunday, 4:35 p.m. – Deck Tech - Red With Aggro
by Tim Willoughby
All I was looking for going into the second draft of Grand Prix Valencia was the much fabled red/white aggro deck. Pioneered by Pro Tour storyteller and all around good man Gerard Fabaino, the red white deck has a hyper aggressive curve, and as a consequence a lower land count than just about any other in the format. Would anyone be drafting it at Grand Prix Valencia? I scoured the deck build tables to find out.
Ok, I lied slightly. The more efficient way that I scoured the tables was to scour the deck-check area, looking just at the top left corner of the list, for a low land count. Did I find one? Well, the following list has just 16 lands, and is certainly a step in the right direction.
Grand Prix Valencia 2013 – Draft Deck
This deck is a good start for the red/white deck plan. It leans fairly heavily on red over white (even including Fabled Hero and Cavalry Pegasus in the sideboard!) and still has a few four drops in the form of Borderland Minotaur, Ill-Tempered Cyclops and Labyrinth Champion, meaning it can't drop down less than 16 lands. Did anyone else manage to push it even further? You bet your sweet bippy they did. Check out this tasty little mover.
Grand Prix Valencia 2013 – Draft Deck
Fifteen lands! Now we're talking. Still a couple of four drops in there, but now we're looking at a deck with lots of nice heroic interactions and the potential for absurdly aggressive starts. You don't need three copies of Wingsteed Rider, but it certainly helps.
So how does this deck work/win? It can get away with playing what appears to be a pretty criminally low amount of lands because of a very low curve, but can then play like a much 'bigger' deck thanks to favourable heroic interactions, being able to pump out a lot of aggression even with a really low land count. If anything, even with this build I'd have been tempted to trade out an Ill-Tempered Cyclops for another Gods Willing, and potentially even a Hundred-Handed One for a Spark Jolt, simply to keep the curve low and the amount of scry up. Many of the red/white scry cards cost just one mana, and let this aggressive deck play a touch fast and loose on lands because, while triggering heroic, they are also ensuring that you find the lands when you need them.
As much as I'd heard rumours of 14 or even 13 card red/white decks, I was not able to find them in Valencia. Once your curve stops at three, you can start being a whole different kind of monstrous in Theros limited.
Sunday, 5:00 p.m. – Drafting with (18) Raphaël Lévy
by Tobi Henke
Ranked 18th in the world, the French Hall of Famer and member of this year's World Magic Cup winning team Raphaël Lévy hardly needs an introduction. Going into the second draft, he was 10-2, needing at least two more wins to clinch another, his 20th, Grand Prix Top 8.
Got any sweet draft tech? "No. Nothing fancy," Lévy admitted. And with that, it was time to crack some packs.
It all began with a first pick of Nylea's Disciple over Voyage's End and Sea God's Revenge. His second pick, however, was the blue Vaporkin, followed by Prescient Chimera third and Meletis Charlatan fourth. With his fifth pick, Lévy moved into white and picked up a Hopeful Eidolon.
His next picks then were Satyr Hedonist, Aqueous Form, and Evangel of Heliod—clearly Lévy was trying to stay as open as possible. The rest of pack one gave him Last Breath, Flamecast Wheel, Bronze Sable, Unknown Shares, Thassa's Bounty, and March of the Returned.
In pack two, his rather open-minded approach rewarded him with, well, with another tough decision, this time between Nessian Asp and Battlewise Hoplite. He took the latter and later said, "I'm pretty sure that was the correct choice. I believe the guy next to me was green. I didn't see any more green cards and that Hopeful Eidolon came pretty late."
But there was still a lot to be decided, for instance how aggressive his deck would turn out. His next two picks were Akroan Horse and Shipbreaker Kraken, followed by Chosen by Heliod. For his fifth pick he took Prophet of Kruphix, clearly the strongest card in the booster and a possible reason to either splash or move back into green after all. Sixth was Griptide and then he picked up a couple of Opaline Unicorns, making a multicolored deck a real possibility. The rest of the pack gave him Ray of Dissolution, Coastline Chimera, Artisan's Sorrow, and Dark Betrayal.
(18) Raphaël Lévy's draft deck.
However, his first pick in the final pack, despite previous green adventures and despite the presence of Boon Satyr, was another Battlewise Hoplite. His second pick was Hopeful Eidolon over Favored Hoplite, then came Vaporkin over Battlewise Valor, then Divine Verdict over Breaching Hippocamp.
So far Lévy was a little shy on spells with which to target his heroes, but a couple of Fate Foretold provided some remedy in that regard. He also got a Soldier of the Pantheon and one Battlewise Valor made it all the way around the table to end up as his ninth pick. Leonin Snarecaster, Traveling Philosopher, two Breaching Hippocamps, and another Bronze Sable rounded out the draft.
During deck construction Lévy decided to forego the splash of Prophet of Kruphix. "I could build a version that's less aggro, more control here, but the aggressive deck just looks better," Lévy explained. About his chances he said, "The deck is fine. It certainly can get there."
Round 13 Feature Match – Valentin Mackl vs. Frederico Bastos
by Tim Willoughby
"So I've heard your deck is pretty good"
"You told me. Well... you told me your deck is bad, so I guess that it is good."
"Your deck is good?"
"The best... not!!!"
Suffice to say that in his match to lock up top eight, Valentin Mackl had a deck of indeterminate quality. His opponent Frederico Bastos, well, he'd find out how good or bad a little later. Mackl had taken the controversial view that Dauntless Onslaught is the card to take above Wingsteed Rider in order to make his aggressive white/black concoction work. With three copies of it, he certainly had the power to make the combat step messy, but quite how his deck would work in total was still something of a question mark.
The match began as the battle of the three power monsters. For Mackl, that was Heliod's Emissary and Lagonna-Band Elder. On Bastos side of the board, there were simply a pair of copies of Nessian Courser backed up by Sedge Scorpion. Soon both players had their life totals closer to 10, and still a parity board. The first effort at making this a little less stable came from Mackl, with an Evangel of Heliod. This soon traded with a trick from Bastos, leaving behind a couple of soldiers. Mackl then played Dauntless Onslaught and Battlewise Valor to get ahead in the race with his next attacks, dropping Bastos to three. The following turn, Mackl had another Dauntless Onslaught to get through the final points in the air with a Cavalry Pegasus.
Game 2 looked to be all about the heroes, as Mackl landed Phalanx Leader and Setessan Battle Priest, while Bastos was able to bestow Nylea's Emissary on Staunch-Hearted Warrior to make a formidable attacker. The warrior was such an imposing threat that it met a triple block from Mackl, using his entire board of Phalanx Leader, Setessan Battle Priest and Anvilwrought Raptor. A Gods Willing kept two of his creatures alive, but facing down a great many attackers, Mackl was still in bad shape. Just one turn later, Mackl was scooping up his cards. He had finished off the hero, but could not defeat Bastos' army.
Both players looked likely to have sterling mana for the deciding game of the match, with a pair of copies of Voyaging Satyr for Bastos, and Burnished Hart for Mackl. Bastos's acceleration allowed for an early Nessian Asp, while Mackl, not to be outdone had... Silent Artisan.
A second Nessian Asp from Bastos meant his creatures were dominant, but it was Mackl who got the first big attack in after Bastos elected to avoid losing an Asp to a combat trick for at least a turn. Mackl's Silent Artisan became something more of a threat thanks to a bestow of Cavern Lampad on it, letting it swing for more damage, with fewer concerns about blockers. The swing back from a monstrous Asp took Mackl to 10. This was a game of hammer blows, but while Bastos had big monsters, Mackl had just enough blockers to jump in the way, and had the persistent threat of five damage coming in each turn. The decisive moment in the game came when Mackl attacked and played a Keepsake Gorgon. Now he had a blocker to effectively trade with one of Bastos's massive monsters. When a pump spell came the very next turn, Mackl was able to snatch victory from the fangs of defeat, advancing to a record that would almost assuredly put him in the top 8 of Grand Prix Valencia.
Valentin Mackl defeats Frederico Bastos 2-1.
Round 14 Feature Match - Mariano Cartechini vs. (18) Raphaël Lévy
by Tobi Henke
Simply going by résumé, this was a real battle David versus Goliath: Raphaël Lévy, a member of the Hall of Fame and currently ranked 18th in the world, against Mariano Cartechini, still looking to make a name for himself. And neither this nor the potential Top 8 on the line here was lost on underdog Cartechini. "How many GP Top 8s do you have?" asked Cartechini. "Nineteen—I need one more," said Lévy, half joking. But only half.
You can read all about Lévy's draft in our earlier coverage. He ended up with an aggressive blue-white deck, while Cartechini had brought a somewhat midrange-oriented blue-green.
Lévy's curve of Battlewise Hoplite, Fate Foretold, Leonin Snarecaster plus Bronze Sable, and Hopeful Eidolon (bestowed on the Hoplite) quickly overwhelmed Cartechini in the first game. Cartechini did have Bow of Nylea and Voyage's End though and he might have found a way to come back into the game, but when Lévy added insult to injury and Shipbreaker Kraken to his team, Cartechini picked up his cards for game two.
Here, Lévy again started fast, with Vaporkin and Leonin Snarecaster and killed Cartechini's Coastline Chimera with Last Breath. However, Lévy couldn't really add any more pressure and Cartechini summoned two Pheres-Band Centaurs. Lévy tried Shipbreaker Kraken, but Cartechini had Gainsay. A couple of turns later the battlefield then looked like this: Lévy had two Battlewise Hoplites without counters or Auras and one Vaporkin, while Cartechini had two Centaurs and a Wavecrash Triton. Lévy was at 11, Cartechini at 8.
Cartechini cast Feral Invocation on Wavecrash Triton, tapping down one Hoplite, and swung with the whole of his team. Lévy pondered for a while, made various calculations, then let everything through, going to 2. During his upkeep he cast Battlewise Valor on his untapped Battlewise Hoplite. This gave him a total of 7 power and the ability to twice scry 1 before drawing his card for the turn. He needed something more ... First card went to the bottom ... and then there was Hopeful Eidolon, bestowed on Battlewise Hoplite, making it a 7/7! Together with Vaporkin that was lethal damage.
Mariano Cartechini 0-2 Raphaël Lévy