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Day 1 Coverage of Grand Prix Detroit

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The letter B!en Stark, Josh Utter-Leyton, Reid Duke, David Caplan, Adam Jansen, Daniel Cecchetti, and Jessie Butler and are your undefeated players of Day 1 of the largest Modern Grand Prix ever in North America! That's three of this year's Magic World Championship Top 4. And the only reason the fourth, Shahar Shenhar isn't there, is because he lost to Utter-Leyton in the last round to sink to 8-1 instead. Also among the top point-getters are Brian Kibler, Lucas Siow, Willy Edel, Owen Turtenwald, Alex Majlaton, Sam Pardee, Sam Black, Craig Wescoe, and Mark Herberholz. It's going to be an intense battle for supremacy all day tomorrow.

Today the Modern field has shown itself perfectly. The top decks have stabilized into familiar archetypes like Jund, Junk, RWU, Affinity, Tron and Kiki- and Melira-Pod. First, that's seven "best" archetypes, so there is plenty of variance to pick a deck that you enjoy. Secondly, there is stability in this free-for-all that is Modern. And anyway, there are still some roguish decks bubbling right below the surface as well. Esper Mill, Hexproof Boggles, Merfolk, Mono-White Vial, and Living End are all making appearances in the top tables. We'll see tomorrow which decks can make it to the Top 8.

Get some rest and we'll see you all tomorrow! Goodnight from Detroit.











 

  • Saturday, 1:50 p.m. – Updated Modern Glossary

    by Marc Calderaro

  • Modern is a veritable Wild Wild West, (complete with giant, metallic spider-like beasts, if you're partial to Will Smith movies). There are many different archetypes all vying for Tier 1 status, and many of them have important variations therein. To help navigate the mystifying maze that is Modern, below is a handy glossary to get you started. Beware, there are many decks not represented here (including a infinite Time Walk deck which may or may not feature Extraplanar Lens and 24 Snow-covered Islands), but this will provide a good base of the decks that will likely appear at a given tournament. Much credit goes to Mike Rosenberg's great glossary from Grand Prix Kansas City.

    Ad Nauseam – A mish-mash of colors, this combo deck uses Ad Nauseam to draw its entire deck with the help of either Angel's Grace or Phyrexian Unlife, which temporarily stave off death. Once it does that, it casts Lightning Storm and discards enough land to burn the opponent out in one fell swoop. It's important to note, this deck can win in the middle of the opponent's turn.

    Affinity - aka "Robots." This deck plays a large number of artifact creatures and cards that have strong synergies with them. Arcbound Ravager, Steel Overseer, and Cranial Plating all allow for quick kills out of nowhere, while lands such as Blinkmoth Nexus and Inkmoth Nexus give the deck staying power against mass creature removal like Pyroclasm. If your deck cannot stop this artifact deck, it will not be successful in Modern.

    Burn – Any red-based deck that aims to "combo" out by dealing 20 points of damage as fast as possible. Decks that run Lava Spike are classified as burn. These decks usually run burn-like creatures in the form of Vexing Devil, Grim Lavamancer, and Goblin Guide. In current Modern, these decks often play black for cards like Bump in the Night and Deathrite Shaman.

    Hatebears - aka "Modern Death & Taxes". Green-white decks that combine all of the best creatures that are the size of Grizzly Bears that also have back-breaking effects against some of the more "unfair" decks in the format. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Aven Mindcensor are all-stars in this deck.

    Hexproof – A green-white deck that casts a creature with Hexproof, nigh-unkillable for an opponent, then loads it up with Auras like Daybreak Coronet, Rancor, Unflinching Courage, and Ethereal Armor to march to victory. This deck often wins with creatures that had previously been considered unfit for Constructed, like Slippery Bogle and Gladecover Scout.

    Jund – Jund's usual form, a black-red-green midrange deck, has morphed into varying forms. These decks play powerful creatures (Deathrite Shaman, Tarmogoyf), removal (Lightning Bolt), and discard (Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek). Liliana of the Veil plays double-duty, providing repeatable removal and discard. There is a four-color version that adds white for cards like Lingering Souls and Ajani Vengeant, often referred to as "Ajundi." These are a little more controlling and more powerful. But even in Modern, a four-color manabase can be quite damaging.

    Junk – A green-black-white control deck that is similar in design to Jund, as it includes Liliana of the Veil and similar creatures and discard, but instead of just adding red, like the greedy four-color "Ajundi", it replaces the red with white. This allows for cards like Lingering Souls, and Path to Exile, and can sideboard Aven Mindcensor and Stony Silence.

    Kiki-Pod - A midrange deck that focuses around Birthing Pod, a powerful artifact that can assemble a combo kill if left unchecked. Kiki-Pod specifically focuses on winning games out of nowhere with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and either Deceiver Exarch or Restoration Angel, a combination that lets the Pod player create an absurd number of token creatures. Unlike the other deck that uses Birthing Pod, Melira-Pod, Kiki-Pod is much more focused on using the combo kill. Often if a player can untap with a Birthing Pod and a creature, it will find some way to win the game.

    Living End – A black-red-green deck, that has fun with the cascade mechanic's interaction with Living End. The early turns the deck just cycles away creatures like Jungle Weaver, Monstrous Carabid and Street Wraith. Then uses Demonic Dread or Violent Outburst to cascade into Living End (this happens because Living End is the only card in the deck that costs less than three mana), reanimating all the big beasts in the graveyard and pounding the opponent into submission.

    Melira-Pod - A midrange deck that focuses around Birthing Pod, a powerful artifact that can assemble a combo kill if left unchecked. The Melira-Pod archetype features a combo kill of Melira, Sylvok Outcast, Kitchen Finks/Murderous Redcap, and a sacrifice outlet such as Viscera Seer. Thanks to the persist mechanic and Melira's ability to prevent -1/-1 counters from being able to be put on creatures, this deck can gain an arbitrarily large amount of life, or deal a giant amount of damage by assembling its combo. Unlike the other Birthing Pod deck, Kiki-Pod, Melira-Pod's focus on creatures and addition of Gavony Township often allows the deck to win without ever assembling the combo, or even drawing Birthing Pod. This makes the deck slower than Kiki-Pod, but more resilient.

    Restore Balance – A red-white-blue deck that has fun with the cascade and suspend mechanics. Usually, Restore Balance requires six turns in suspension to cast. However, if your deck can cast Violent Outburst, and contains no spells that cost less than three mana (except for Restore Balance, of course), Violent Outburst will always cascade into Restore Balance. This deck repeatedly wipes the board with Restore Balance, and when it's ready, uses Greater Gargadon to sacrifice its own lands, creating a make-shift Armageddon when Restore Balance resolves. With both players landless, having a 9/7 beatstick with Haste usually wins you the game. There is another version that uses artifact mana like Wildfield Borderpost and Firewild Borderpost, then wins by casting March of the Machines to make all the artifacts 3/3 creatures.

    Rock – A straight green-black version of the Jund deck, Rock cuts out the red and overloads on discard and removal, then wins with whatever creature it feels like—usually Tarmogoyf. The Rock archetype has a strong lineage across many different formats; it is the classic "midrange" deck that can act as either the control deck, or the aggressive deck, depending on the situation.

    RWU - Though this started as a control deck, there are now three distinct forms of this "American" deck. It is a red-white-blue deck that's pure value and comes in aggro, midrange, and control versions. It also has efficient removal (Lightning Helix,Lightning Bolt, Electrolyze), efficient creatures (Snapcaster Mage, Restoration Angel), efficient counterspells (Spell Snare, Mana Leak, Remand) and card draw (Sphinx's Revelation). The aggressive versions play Geist of Saint Traft and eschew the higher-end spells like Sphinx's Revelation. While the most controlling versions play Snapcaster Mage as the only creature, maximize counterspells, and usually win with an unstoppable Celestial Colonnade or Gideon Jura.

    Scapeshift – A blue-red-green combo deck that gets a ton of lands into play, then casts Scapeshift searching for a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle or two and six Mountains. This deal lethal damage straight to the dome. There are two main versions of the deck: the straight-up control deck that just stalls the board and ramps until it can win, and the one packs a back-up plan of four Primeval Titans "Prime Time" (which also serve as a strong secondary way to ramp lands and fetch Valakut for extra damage).

    Soul Sisters – Usually mono-white, this midrange deck combines life-gain effects like Soul Warden and Martyr of Sands with a variety of powerful aggressive white cards such as Ajani's Pridemate and Spectral Procession, and looks to finish off the game with Serra Ascendant.

    Splinter Twin – A blue-red deck that, like Kiki-Pod, uses the Aura Splinter Twin, in concert with either Deceiver Exarch or Pestermite. After tapping the creature to use the ability Splinter Twin grants it, the new copy will untap the original creature, allowing it to make a second copy, ad nauseam (not the card Ad Nauseam, that's a different modern deck). This deck also run Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to double the amount of combo pieces.

    Storm - A blue-red archetype that aims to play a critical mass of card-drawing effects and rituals—like Desperate Ritual and Pyretic Ritual—in a single turn to power a game-ending spell with the storm mechanic, usually Grapeshot or Empty the Warrens. The two versions, which look remarkably similar, play either Pyromancer Ascension, or Pyromancer's Swath. Pyromancer Ascension is played early game, then cooked to a boil, doubling up every spell in the midgame. Pyromancer's Swath is only cast on a turn the deck intends to cast its bevy of rituals, and makes Grapeshot all-the-more backbreaking.

    Tron - A deck that plays the Urzatron lands (Urza's Power Plant, Urza's Tower, Urza's Mine) to play expensive colorless spells such as Karn Liberated and Wurmcoil Engine fast. There are three color combinations commonly played. The red-green version uses Ancient Stirrings and Sylvan Scrying to assemble Urzatron as quickly as possible; the mono-blue version uses counterspells to assemble the land combo at its leisure; and the blue-white form uses a mix of counterspells and board sweepers like Supreme Verdict to command the game, then cast its colorless finishers.

    UR Delver – A blue-red deck that can look like an RWU deck, but plays rather differently. Using the creature suite of Delver of Secrets, Snapcaster Mage, Spellstutter Sprite and Vendilion Clique, the deck uses these fast, evasive creatures to start dealing damage early. Then it uses "tempo" to continue the assault before the opponent can gain a proper footing in the game. Spells like Remand are usually used merely to delay the opponent, but when you are dealing a lot of damage each turn "delay" can easily turn into "destroy". There is also a version of this deck, RUG Delver, that adds green for Tarmogoyf.

    Vengeance - A deck that aims to get a powerful legendary creature, most often Griselbrand, into the graveyard so that it can be brought back by the deck's namesake spell, Goryo's Vengeance. Once that giant legendary creature is back in play, the game usually ends quite quickly.




     

  • Saturday, 2:10 p.m. – Decks to Expect in Modern

    by Adam Styborski

  • Decks to Expect in Modern

    What makes Modern so compelling as a format is the same as what can make it daunting: the cornucopia of decks you can find for it. With a myriad of choices to make, seeing what goes into the most common decks in the format can help make sense of the diversity on display this weekend.

    Red-White-Blue (RWU)

    While RWU was the deck behind Shahar Shenhar's incredible finish as the 2013 World Champion, his specific flavor was just one of three.


    Shenhar's choice is a mix of controlling and aggressive strategies, holding opponents off their options even as the RWU players casts their own threats in Vendilion Clique and Restoration Angel. Four copies of Lightning Bolt serve as both utility removal and unexpected reach against opponents' life totals.

    Players who want to quickly end games can lean on a more aggressive build that features Geist of Saint Traft and more removal to keep the path clear.


    Moving in the opposite direction is a Modern take on the classic Draw-Go control archetype. Slowing the game down with more countermagic, this version of URW relies heavily on cards like Celestial Colonnade to close games out without leaving room for an opponent to act.


    Rock (Redless Jund)

    Another old school deck that's made a new school splash is a green-black deck best known as Rock. It's power was on display in Josh Utter-Leyton's hands during the 2013 World Championship, putting him into the Top 4.

    Rock - Josh Utter-Leyton, 2013 World Championship
    Modern


    Filled with ways to stymie opponents via discard, destruction, and graveyard exile, Utter-Leyton's deck can dismantle many decks before they even start. With efficient creatures like Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze, opponents often don't have the additional time they need to recover.

    Jund

    There's one deck that's often synonymous with Modern as a format: the black-red-green deck better known as Jund.


    Similar to Utter-Leyton's Rock deck, Jund can disrupt opponents' plans while providing pressure with efficient creatures. While it no longer packs the explosive punch of Bloodbraid Elf, cards like Olivia Voldaren and Raging Ravine let Jund go over the top as the game goes on.

    Birthing Pod

    If there's one deck that could be argued to be the best in the format, it would be one of the two flavors of Birthing Pod decks: Melira-Pod.


    Melira-Pod is a deck that gets the best of both worlds. It's flashy side is an iterative combo using Melira, Sylvok Outcast, with a sacrifice outlet such as Viscera Seer, and either Kitchen Finks (for an arbitrary amount of life gain) or Murderous Redcap (for an arbitrary amount of damage). Getting either combo off will simply end games, but as opponents worry about instant doom the Melira Pod deck also plays efficient creatures and disruption. Even without the combo it's hard for opponents to keep up against it.

    Another take on Birthing Pod decks is a hybrid with the Splinter Twin combo deck: Kiki-Pod.


    While Lax's deck lacks the disruption of the Melira version, Kiki-Pod is filled with even more efficient creatures and toolbox options. Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker can win the game on the spot with Restoration Angel or Zealous Conscripts, and the ability to tutor up either thanks to Birthing Pod makes it deadly efficient.

    Splinter Twin

    The traditional take on creating "infinite Faeries" is Splinter Twin, and its core has remained relatively unchanged from its debut at Pro Tour Philadelphia.

    Splinter Twin - Robert Berni, Top 8 Grand Prix Kansas City
    Modern


    Kiki Jiki's combination with Pestermite and Deceiver Exarch is more redundant with Splinter Twin. While it's suite of card filtering spells may not seem, the ease it can get its combo off means it doesn't take much to push it over the edge.

    Tron

    Tron is another staple archetype that was around at Modern's Pro Tour start, and it's been tweaked repeatedly as the metagame developed.


    Using card draw and land tutoring to quick assemble the trio of Urza's Power Plant, Urza's Mine, and Urza's Tower with delaying opponents thanks to Pyroclasm, Tron decks aim to go over the top of everything the opposition offers thanks to both Wurmcoil Engine and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

    Scapeshift

    Scapeshift decks have been around as long as Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle has, though the core version has changed over time.

    Scapeshift - Scott Hoppe, Top 8 Grand Prix Kansas City
    Modern


    Scott Hoppe's take on Scapeshift includes the namesake combo, but backs it up with the raw power of an early Primeval Titan, thanks for Search for Tomorrow and Sakura-Tribe Elder. The ability to threaten a powerful combo while attacking with a fatty is the same type of pressure Melira Pod decks deliver.

    Burn

    Burn decks can take many forms, from a monored variety of every type of Lightning Bolt printed to multicolor concoctions like that took Greg Ogreenc to the Top 8 of Grand Prix Kansas City.


    Ogreenc's deck and others like it aim to deliver the most efficient way to reduce opponents' life totals to 0. But don't let the simplicity fool you: cards like Grim Lavamancer, Bump in the Night, and Rakdos Charm from the sideboard give it efficiency and reach where opponents may not be expecting it.

    Hexproof

    It doesn't boggle the mind to understand why a hexproof deck is in Modern: Reid Duke's dominating performance with it at the 2013 World Championship put it squarely on everyone's radar:

    GW Hexproof - Reid Duke, Top 4 2013 World Championship
    Modern


    Hexproof decks are a class of their own, using cards found nowhere else (Kor Spiritdancer, Daybreak Coronet, and Slippery Bogle) to "combo" out onto the battlefield with an impossible creature. To quote Frank Karsten from his coverage of Duke's World Championship semifinal match against Josh Utter-Leyton: "This match featured one of the most impressive creatures that I had ever seen: a 23 power creature with vigilance, lifelink, first strike, trample, and hexproof."

    Affinity (Robots)

    While the affinity mechanic in its namesake is mostly on Modern's banned list, a combination of powerful artifact creatures that explosively cover the battlefield has a hard time shaking its Mirrodin-era name.

    Affinity - Alex Majlaton, Top 8 Grand Prix Chicago
    Modern


    Alex Majlaton found great success with Affinity last year, including two Grand Prix Top 8 appearances. Arcbound Ravager is still as powerful as before, and Cranial Plating turns humble Ornithopters into flying death machines for opponents. Though the sideboard carries some disruption like the Splinter Twin deck, Affinity's primary plan is to always outrun anything an opponent tries.

    Living End

    One deck that's sure to make a splash again is the graveyard combo deck built around Living End, piloted by Joe Hemmann to second place at Grand Prix Kansas City:

    Living End - Joe Hemmann, Runner Up Grand Prix Kansas City
    Modern


    Like Hexproof, there's plenty of cards unique to Living End's game plan: cycling creatures like Monstrous Carabid and Deadshot Minotaur and Violent Outburst, a cascade card to fire Living End without fail. Resolving Living End is often game over for opponents without a well-stocked graveyard.




     

  • Saturday, 4:15 p.m. – Grand Prix Trial Winning Decklists

    by Marc Calderaro


  • Brandon M Burton – Affinity
    Modern








     

  • Saturday, 4:30 p.m. – Quick Hits: What Are You Playing?

    by Adam Styborski

  • Shahar Shenhar - Jund: I was testing with Huey Jensen, Owen Turtenwald, and Reid Duke in Las Vegas. We're all playing the same type of Jund deck, but it's a secret why until tomorrow.
    Alexander Hayne - UR Delver: There's so many decks in Modern I didn't like. Blue-red Faeries with Delver of Secrets is closest to a deck I felt comfortable playing, and it's fun.
    Patrick Sullivan and Craig Wescoe - Boros: We're playing different Boros decks," Patrick said. "I worked on Burn for awhile, but it fell apart against so many different cards. I wanted to play more creatures to resist and provide resistance against other decks. I was leaning towards Burn but the deck got better by adding white creatures," Wescoe said. "You mean to tell me my deck gets better by playing white creatures? That's all it took.
    Alex Majlaton - Affinity: I think experience with a deck matters more in Modern than the deck itself. I was testing Tron this week and I just didn't know all the tricks. I do with Affinity, so I decided to play it anyway.
    Ben Stark - Jund: I felt Scapeshift was really good, but with Counterflux and Slaughter Games it means that it can't beat certain decks. I picked Jund because I couldn't mess the list up too much.



     

  • Saturday, 5:00 p.m. – Blood Moon - It's Not Just Difficult for Your Opponents

    by Marc Calderaro

  • There's a funny thing that happens in Eternal formats (formats where sets don't rotate out for being too old). Certain cards that fall out of use and disappear can pop right back up again. When Modern started becoming as popular as it is now, a certain enchantment, original printed in The Dark (reprinted in Eighth Edition and Ninth Edition) reared its ugly head: Blood Moon. A powerful hoser in any format that survives on complex manabases, Blood Moon is used in aggressive and combo decks to either delay or outright cripple the opponents long enough to gain a powerful upperhand. There are great stories of turn-one Blood Moons earning a concession from the other side of the table. When this was in Standard, almost a decade ago, everyone became familiar with the deck, but now with Modern people are becoming reacquainted with this painful card.

    But Blood Moon is not just a pain because it's powerful, it's also a pain because it's tricky. Though the text is simple ("Nonbasic lands are Mountains"), this can cause rules nightmares. For example, what happens if you cast a Blood Moon with an animated Blinkmoth Nexus on the table? How about with a Prismatic Omen on the battlefield? These aren't hypothetical situations, but frequent interactions of commonly used cards in the Modern format. However, you know who thrives on rules nightmares? Judges. In fact, "Rules Nightmare" is Grand Prix Detroit head-judge, Jared Sylva's middle name. OK, it's actually not his middle name at all. I talked to him and Level 5 judge Jason Lemahieu about this particularly tricky card and how the judges approach its effects on a 1,400-person tournament.


    Jared Sylva

    Lemahieu said that five minutes into the first round, there were already questions concerning the enchantment. And the judge staff is acutely aware of the possible problematic interactions going into big tournaments. As such, there are many judge blogs that discuss these sort of issues. On the Magic Judge official blog, they often publish articles to help judges and players alike navigate these waters. An article was published just last week concerning common Blood Moon interactions, called "Blood Moon in a Modern Environment". The article discusses interactions with shock lands (like Sacred Foundry), artifact lands (like Darksteel Citadel), and even oddball lands like Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and the other Headache In A Can, Dryad Arbor.


    Jason Lemahieu

    For example, Dryad Arbor taps for red mana, but is still green. And Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth interacts completely differently than Prismatic Omen. These are the type of interactions judges live for.

    If you are looking for more information about tricky rules in Modern, or other formats, in addition to the blogs, the Judge Wiki has articles on each format and various issues with commonly played decks. It's available here, and it's a life-saver.

    Though there are plenty of other tricky cards and interactions in Modern, to Lemahieu, nothing comes close to Blood Moon. "Oh, except one other card." "Which one?" I asked.

    "Magus of the Moon." Well, that doesn't count.




     

  • Saturday, 5:05 p.m. – Top Tables Metagame

    by Adam Styborski

  • It's just over halfway through Day 1 at Grand Prix Detroit, but the winners are beginning to pull ahead of the pack. With so many decks available in the format it's no surprise to see this diversity among the top twenty-five pairings in Round 5:


    Current Top Decks - Round 5

    All of the usual suspects are present, including Birthing Pod, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker , and plenty of Jund decks with Deathrite Shaman. What's hidden beneath this summary are some more interesting bits of data. There are eight Birthing Pod decks in total, and nine leveraging Kiki-Jiki combos. Together (with the Kiki-Pod overlap) these two strategies account for twelve decks, almost a quarter of the top pairings.

    If other decks are going to move up into the spotlight they're going to have to deal with these two potent combo strategies, and it might be possible considering the colors being played:


    Current Top Colors - Round 5

    While green is a core in many Modern decks - from Jund to Tron, Scapeshift, and more - it's red that takes the cake early. Lightning Bolt or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker (or both) appear in almost half the decks. Modern might be a multicolor wonderland, but it's red that glues it all together.

    Seeing how these colors change over the next few rounds will tell us how stable this breakdown really is.

    (Thanks to @MrVigabool for his handy metagame tool to help break this down. We'll be using all weekend!)




     

  • Saturday, 5:45 p.m. – Quick Hits: What's Exciting in Theros?

    by Adam Styborski

  • Brian Kibler - The Gods of Theros: The Gods looks really cool. They require a different type of card evaluation than we're used to.
    Pascal Maynard - Soldier of the Pantheon: When I started playing, Savannah Lion was a really good card in Standard. I how things have changed. It's even a Human!
    Reid Duke - Erebos, God of the Dead and Read the Bones: Monoblack has traditionally been a strong strategy, and when Erebos isn't a creature it's ability is still really potent. Read the Bones seems to really smooth your draws when you need them most.
    Huey Jensen - Xenagos, the Reveler: His 0 loyalty ability is powerful since he's able to protect himself, and his +1 ability will probably have some use somewhere. Planeswalkers are typically powerful, and Xenagos seems stronger than Garruk Relentless.
    Owen Turtenwald - Spear of Heliod: It's a Glorious Anthem for Standard. White decks have been good, and they will get even better.



     

  • Saturday, 6:30 p.m. – Band of Commander

    by Marc Calderaro

  • Did you just 0-2 drop the main event? Did you just run cold against your opponents' "terrible deck"? Did you come to Detroit with your friends, but can't pony up the Grand Prix entry fee? Or maybe you just forget your deck in Ohio? If you have any of these problems, Nick Pawlik has the solution for you.


    Nick Pawlik

    Hailing from Kitchener, Ontario, and proudly representing Forbes Hobbies in Cambridge, Pawlik started working the event early, waiving his giant banner that just says in large letters, "COMMANDER." I asked him what, exactly, he was doing.

    "I'm recruiting." At about 10:00am he had just started, and already he had ensnared Alaynna from Middletown, Ohio. They were currently looking for a few more. Even though it can be tough to find players willing to drop the Grand Prix within the first couple rounds to play an extremely casual format, Pawlik was resolute. He says he does this at each big event he attends.

    Commander is a 100-card, singleton format that limits your colors to those of your Commander, which is a Legendary creature you chose who sits in its own game zone and can be repeatedly cast as if it were in your hand. The format has been a casual standout for years and is so fun, it's even been attracting strong tournament players, who sometimes show up to an event with their deck in tow to unwind after a long day of tournament Magic. It's the type of format that has judges staying up long nights in hotel lobbies yelling and gesticulating wildly.

    I asked what Commanders they were bringing to the table today. Alaynna was sporting a Prime Speaker Zegana deck which can make 30/30s a little faster than one can handle, while all Pawlik would say was: "Maraxus of Keld. Because his muscles' muscles have muscles."


    Pawlik insists that Commander is the only format played at Forbes Hobbies, and when the degenerate Commander decks show up—those that try to win extremely quickly, or lock other players out of the game—Pawlik tries to teach them a multiplayer politics and etiquette lesson in style. When someone showed up with a deck that took 30-minute turns and searched its library multiple times a turn (let me guess, is it blue-green?), Pawlik showed up the next week with the same style deck, just amped up a notch.

    "I'd build an [Azusa, Lost but Seeking] or [Oona, Queen of the Fae] deck that took just as long to take turns and won on like turn three or something. I played against him just to show him how unfun his deck was for everyone else at the table." The etiquette of casual is quite different from the win-to-be-the-best style of tournament Magic. You can still prove yourself and your prowess, but if you make a deck that doesn't allow other players to do play their deck as well, you might soon find yourself and your Commander deck alone together. It's an incredible format which if you haven't explored, it's a great time; and most Commander diehards will carry around an extra deck for a new entrant into the fray.

    As the day wears on and the Grand Prix claims some of its inevitable victims, more and more people wander over to the public events station to play more Magic, often finding some Commander pick-up games. But by the middle of Round 1, Pawlik and Alaynna had already found a group of dedicated Commander diehards, and were ready to settle in for a long day of multiplayer.




     

  • Saturday, 7:00 p.m. – Quick Hits: What Are You Playing?

    by Adam Styborski

  • Willy Edel - Rock (Redless Jund): I think it's really good. I expected a lot of Tron and RWU this weekend. Tectonic Edge effects, like Ghost Quarter and Encroaching Wastes, are really important against those decks and straight green-black could play them.
    Luis Scott-Vargas - RWU Control: I like playing the deck. I wasn't going to play Jund, and I like it's matchup against creature decks.
    Christian Calcano - Ajundi (Jund with Ajani Vengeant): I looked at decks doing well on Magic Online, and it's a style of play I like. I don't think the Doran, the Siege Tower deck I usually play is good right now.
    Matthew Nass - Melira-Pod: It's what I've been playing, both in Kansas City and to Top 8 in Portland. I was scared of Scavenging Ooze, so I added Archangel of Thune and Spike Feeder since that combo doesn't use the graveyard.
    David Ochoa - Junk : I like the matchups against Jund, RWU, and green decks in general. Alongside Gavony Township and Lingering Souls there a great selection of white creatures to customize the deck.
    Cedric Phillips - Tron: It's the most powerful deck in the format, and it does the most broken things. It's very consistent.



     

  • Round 6 – Shahar Shenhar (Jund) vs. Brian Kibler (Naya)

    by Marc Calderaro

  • Though it was still relatively early in the first day, each player, Brian Kibler, Pro Tour Hall of Famer and Shahar Shenhar, current reigning World Champion, jostled for the top positions in the top tables. The archetypes have been as the rounds solidifying and each player's deck is tailored to a predicted Modern metagame. Shahar Shenhar's Jund deck proved itself, taking down Brian Kibler's Naya handily. The rising star shows no signs of slowing his ascent.

    The match was about the difference in card advantage. "[Kibler's build] just doesn't have black," Shenhar remarked. He said this build particular emphasizes the color combination's strengths over creature-based decks lacking black. Dark Confidant and Liliana of the Veil, he said were two of the main holes with the Naya build. "And Path to Exile really isn't good in this format . . . The land is huge; Terminate so much better."


    Brian Kibler

    Kibler's now-trademark Knight of Reliquary, Domri Rade plus 52 other cards, offered bigger threats earlier, like Loxodon Smiter. And it made hits like Obstinate Baloth, Blood Moon, and Linvala, Keeper of Silence out of the sideboard. However, the match showed that as the game goes longer, Shenhar's deck just outreaches Naya.

    Shenhar's deck, playtested with Huey Jensen, Owen Turtenwald, and Reid Duke looks like the real deal. And though Sharhar's hush-hush about what makes it so special, this Jund shell will certainly be cracked as the weekend goes on.

    In Game 1, Kibler started by taking off his headphones, looking at Shenhar and saying, "Boom! You get one of these!"He laid an "I played a Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Fame Member" pin in front of Shenhar. Sadly that was the last occasion he had to smile.

    Kibler's first flourish was strong. He had two Voice of Resurgences, which are important to negate some of Jund's one-for-one removal. But because Kibler was drawing land after land, it was his first impression that needed to be his best impression. And it wasn't good enough. He got ahead early on the life total, and Shenhar went down to 6, but that was the turn that Shenhar flipped the script.

    When Shenhar was able to sweep both Voice of Resurgences and the tokens they created (thanks to Maelstrom Pulse), Kibler was left with a lone Loxodon Smiter, and hoped to draw something other than land. After that turn, Shenhar was able to breathe comfortably and start gaining life and growing his Scavenging Ooze, aided by a Deathrite Shaman. Liliana of the Veil off the top, killing Kibler's 4/4 was just icing on the cake. That was the turn the life leader swapped, and Shenhar kept it that way.


    Shahar Shenhar

    Though Kibler drew lots of land, Shenhar did too, but his Dark Confidant engine allowed him the extra cards to draw himself out of potential trouble. This is exactly what Shenhar said gave his deck the reach and the advantage in the match-up.

    Game Two showcased some of the standouts sideboard and maindeck that appears to give Jund the advantage. The flurry of on-board effects allow such an efficient use of cards and mana that Kibler's deck just couldn't overcome it. As if Grim Lavamancer, Chandra, Pyromaster, Deathrite Shaman, and Liliana of the Veil weren't enough, the removal suite of actually using cards in hand, like Terminate, Maelstrom Pulse and Abrupt Decay allowed Shenhar to repeatedly sweep Kibler's board, while maintaining a strong presence himself.

    Kibler was admittedly stuck on three land for a while, and was itching to cast his Linvala. He said after the match, "It's really weird to lose to a Grim Lavamancer when you have a Linvala in your opening grip." But Shenhar had been saving his Terminate for just such an occasion. And casting it earlier would not have likely led to a different result.

    The Grim Lavamancer shined in this matchup, burning opposing Deathrites and Voices of Resurgences right off the board. And it worked with Shenhar's own Deathrite to keep the graveyard clean and manageable against any opposing Tarmogoyf's.

    At one point, Shenhar's board was Olivia Voldaren, Dark Confidant, Chandra, Pyromaster, Grim Lavamancer, Deathrite Shaman, and Treetop Village and Kibler had nothing. It was gross.

    These two are giant figures in the game right. One is Hall of Fame already, and the other is, though early in his career, seeming Hall-bound. Shenhar advanced to 6-0 and continued his ascent.





     

  • Saturday, 7:45 p.m. – Top Tables Metagame - Round 7

    by Adam Styborski

  • How have two rounds evolved the state of the metagame among the top tables? After looking over the Top 25 pairing, this is how the breakdown looks:


    Current Top Decks - Round 7

    Jund, and its redless partner green-black Rock, have raced to the pack. If you take them together, over 40% of the decks in the top pairs are a Jund-like deck. Among the players headlining the Jund angle are Reid Duke and Shahar Shenhar, though neither are playing the version splashing white. (We'll get back to that in a minute.)

    Compared to Round 5, Birthing Pod decks have fallen out of favor. While Sam Black is continuing to win with his Melira-Pod deck, he's joined by about half the total Pod players as before. In fact, all of the decks have shifted significantly, leading to a significant shift in colors represented.

    Right?


    Current Top Colors - Round 7

    Nope. The weight in black ticked up thanks to Jund and Rock picking up steam, but interestingly green overtook red's top spot. Netting from both from more Jund and Rock and Birthing Pod decks, this seems in line with the green that underpins many of the top decks. What isn't clear is how powerful sideboard cards in the less-represented colors, such as Stony Silence, will affect the shape of things to come.

    Will white continue to make the difference among the top matches? There's two more rounds today to find out.




     

  • Round 8 Feature Match - Marcelino Freeman (Rock) vs. Alex Majlaton (Affinity)

    by Marc Calderaro

  • The Latin American Magic scene has been growing strongly recently. Since Grand Prixes have become more frequent in the area—Mexico City, San Jose, Guadalajara, etc.—many great players have gained the ability to play Magic on a level that was extremely difficult before. Today, both Marcelino Freeman and Miguel Gatica, two of the best Latin American players, are in attendance. And where both 7-0 and already locked for Day 2.

    Freeman is one of the Mexican players who's made a big upswing in his career in the last year, but it's still difficult. "It's funny. People think I should travel to Santiago in November, but for me, that ticket is as expensive as flying to Vienna!" But in the last year, Freeman's been able to attend more events than the year previous, and that number looks to be climbing next year. "Give me more Dallas Grand Prixes," he laughed.


    Marcelino Freeman

    But going to 8-0 was going to be tough for Freeman. He was facing down Alex Majlaton and his Affinity deck—a deck Freeman admit is his green-black Rock deck's worst matchup. Though taking less damage from your lands and having a more consistent manabase has its advantages, you have fewer matchups where you are actually advantaged. Like the Rock decks of old, the deck seems 45% to win against every deck in the field. Though a good pilot can make up that 5%, you have to work for it. And specifically "Affinity and Tron are pretty bad Game 1." He dedicated lots of sideboard hate to the match-ups, like Creeping Corrosion, but it's still an uphill battle.

    Majlaton echoed Freeman's thoughts, saying that Jund without red is just an easier matchup for him and his artifacts. "The cards I'm most afraid of, Lightning Bolt and Olivia Voldaren, green-black just doesn't have." Majlaton should know the ins and outs of his deck well. Of his five Grand Prix Top 8s, three of them were piloting the big bad robots. The man has been around the Mirrodin block. Though he admits that Affinity isn't the clear "best deck," he says, "there are six or seven 'best decks' in the format." He said that with the amount of complex play decisions, the best deck is the deck you know best.

    These particular games came down to early discard spells and information they provided. In each game, the true pivotal turn was either turn one or two. Which is likely to happen with a deck as explosive as Affinity against as deck as reactive as the Rock. Hard-to-answer cards like Cranial Plating or Etched Champion, or Cranial Plating on Etched Champion are facepalm situations. In the first game, the information was too dire, in the second game the information was comforting, and the third game came down to hidden and unhidden information.

    In Game 1, Freeman led with an Inquisition of Kozilek; what it revealed made Freeman slump—two Cranial Platings. One is fine, but without an Abrupt Decay or a second discard spell, it was likely to take over the game. And it did. Affinity did its thing 6 damage, then 8, then death in short order. Freeman sided in, and had to keep a hand that didn't just have creature removal and discard, but specifically artifact removal. When Affinity has the goods, one discard spell is not enough.


    Alex Majlaton

    In the second game, again, turn one Freeman launched an Inquisition of Kozilek. This time, the information was comforting. Majlaton's hand was: ThoughtcastGlimmervoid, Vault Skirge, Steel Overseer, Welding Jar, and Thoughtseize. With multiple creature removal in-hand, Freeman grabbed the Thoughtseize. Which made Majlaton muse, "Must have something good in his hand."

    He did. Multiple Tarmogoyfs (which get large thanks to discard and removal) and a Scavenging Ooze doing its Tarmogoyf impression were more than enough to put away the game and make it one game each. But without that first-turn Inquisition, Thoughtseize would have taken the removal to kill Steel Overseer, and Majlaton could have matched creature wits and it would have been a whole different situation.

    In the rubber game, it was dueling discards and a future discard that decided the match. Majlaton led with an Ornithopter and Springleaf Drum into a Thoughtseize. His hand had a Cranial Plating, Steel Overseer, and an Etched Champion. Majlaton was happy to pluck an Inquisition of Kozilek from Freeman's hand. Leaving the Mexican with just Abrupt Decay, Dismember, and land. Majlaton said, if he could get Freeman to use the Dismember on a growing Overseer, the Etched Champion could prove the difference.

    But, just like the rest of the match was defined by discard, Freeman plucked an Inquisition from the top of his library. He saw Majlaton's plan, played accordingly (he took the Etched Champion, planning to Decay the Plating), and won because of it.

    Once Freeman made it to four mana at 15 life, he was in the clear. He just cast Sever the Bloodline on two Ornithopters, and he was left facing only a land a Springleaf Drum. Freeman admitted, though, that he was helped because Majlaton "just kept drawing Springleaf Drums."

    Majlaton agreed and chuckled. "Yeah, that's like my equivalent of land flood."

    Marcelino Freeman cleaned up the game from there and advanced to 8-0. And in other Latin American news, Costa Rican Miguel Gatica also advanced to 8-0. Which means that out 1,460 in attendance, of the last nine undefeated players, two of them are Latin American.





     

  • Saturday, 10:00 p.m. – Top Tables Metagame - Round 9

    by Adam Styborski

  • Going into the end of Day 1, everyone at the Top 25 pairings were set to make Day 2. But the race was far from over, with everyone fighting to avoid an early loss. If you're making the run to Top 8, any early loss is something to avoid.

    This is the cluster of decks that battled to stay on top:


    Current Top Decks - Round 9

    Jund and Rock has begun to give way to more space among the top decks. Junk is now appearing in full force, with RWU and Affinity continuing to hold their numbers. What's interesting is that of the two types of Birthing Pod deck, only Melira-Pod has a showing in the Top 25 parings.


    Current Top Colors - Round 9

    With Junk growing the colors shifted: white is up and now it's a dead tie between red and green. It's take significant change to really shake up the make up from here, and we'll take a closer look with a complete Day 2 metagame breakdown tomorrow, setting the stage for a new race to the Top 8.




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