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Lalague Monstrous in Mexico City

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The letter I!t's going to be one more week before we get to see how the best players in the world adapt to Born of the Gods at the Pro Tour, but we got a nice taste of what's to come here this weekend in Mexico City. All weekend long, Marc Lalague had been putting on a clinic of how to approach the format now that Born of the Gods is in the mix, and he continued his free lessons all the way to the Top 8. Once there, he managed to navigate an incredibly difficult draft and ended up with a deck that he was quite pleased with. It was easy to see why he was so pleased as he steamrolled his way to the title, only dropping one game on his way to capturing his second Grand Prix title.

One of the biggest winners of the weekend was the aggressive white/red deck that gained an immense boost from Born of the Gods. Finalist Marcelino Freeman championed the deck all weekend long, using it to both earn his spot in the Top 8 and his eventual spot in the Finals. Powered by new cards like Loyal Pegaus, Impetuous Sunchaser, and the common Nyxborn cycle, this deck is capable of putting out aggression that mirrors the fastest decks in Standard. It is a big reason that many of the players that made Top 8 listed Phalanx Leader as the card from Theros that improved the most, and it will certainly be a strategy to consider for the upcoming Pro Tour.

There is plenty still to learn about this format, and there will be plenty of time to learn it over the course of next weekend. For now, we can be happy with what we've learned and what we've been able to witness this weekend. We saw the return of one of the original Mexican Magic stars, Hugo Araisa. We saw Marcelino Freeman lock up invitations to three Pro Tours with his finals appearance. And we got to see Marc Lalague add a second Grand Prix Trophy to his wall.

Congratualtions once again to Marc Lalague, Grand Prix Mexico City champion!



Quarterfinals Semifinals Finals Champion
6 Marc Lalague Marc Lalague, 2-0
8 Derek Woloshyn Marc Lalague, 2-1
3 Emiliano Sanchez Ignacio Ibarra Del Rio, 2-0 Marc Lalague, 2-0
5 Ignacio Ibarra Del Rio
7 Miguel Ange Rodriguez Hugo Daniel Araiza, 2-1
2 Hugo Daniel Araiza Marcelino Freeman, 2-1
4 Marcelino Freeman Marcelino Freeman, 2-0
1 Mario Flores






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EVENT COVERAGE INFORMATION
 1.  Marc Lalague $4,000
 2.  Marcelino Freeman $2,700
 3.  Hugo Daniel Araiza $1,500
 4.  Ignaci Ibarra Del Rio $1,500
 5.  Mario Flores $1,000
 6.  Emiliano Sanchez $1,000
 7.  Miguel Rodriguez $1,000
 8.  Derek Woloshyn $1,000
Pairings Results Standings
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  • Top 8 Profiles

    by Mike Rosenberg


  • Mario Flores

    Age: 21
    Hometown: México D.F.
    Occupation: Student


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    7th Worlds 2010 (Team finish)2/2 Top 8 Grand Prix

    What was your record and best card from the Sealed Deck:
    7-0-1, Prognostic Sphinx

    What was your record and best card from the first draft pod:
    3-0, Phalanx Leader

    What was your record and best card from the second draft pod:
    1-0-2, Scholar of Athreos

    What is your favorite card from Born of the Gods for Limited and why?
    Fall of the Hammer. It’s good removal.

    What card from Theros has changed in value the most (better/worse) with the addition of Born of the Gods?
    Phalanx Leader




    Hugo Daniel Araiza Castro

    Age: 41
    Hometown: México D.F.
    Occupation: Poker Player


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    2nd place Mexico National Championship, winner GP Buenos Aires 2000, winner Argentina open

    What was your record and best card from the Sealed Deck:
    7-1, Hundred-Handed One

    What was your record and best card from the first draft pod:
    3-0, Firedrinker Satyr

    What was your record and best card from the second draft pod:
    1-2, most of my deck was bad, so I don’t have a favorite.

    What is your favorite card from Born of the Gods for Limited and why?
    I don’t know if I have a favorite, but if I had to pick one, I’d say the red Dragon from the prerelease (Forgestoker Dragon)

    What card from Theros has changed in value the most (better/worse) with the addition of Born of the Gods?
    Phalanx Leader




    Emiliano Sánchez González

    Age: 26
    Hometown: México D.F.
    Occupation: Psychology student/bodybuilder


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    Top 8 Grand Prix Guadalajara 2013

    What was your record and best card from the Sealed Deck:
    6-1-1

    What was your record and best card from the first draft pod:
    3-0, Aerie Worshipper

    What was your record and best card from the second draft pod:
    2-1, Akroan Conscriptor

    What is your favorite card from Born of the Gods for Limited and why?
    Mogis, God of Slaughter

    What card from Theros has changed in value the most (better/worse) with the addition of Born of the Gods?
    I don’t know. But I really want to thank my teammates Miguel Gatica, Cesar “Shaq”, Jesus “Chuy”, and my friends, Marlon, Luis “Lic”, etc… Cerberus Battle Center




    Marcelino Freeman

    Age: 26
    Hometown: Puebla
    Occupation: Transfer Pricing Manger


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    Won some FNMs and some PTQs…oh, and a Nationals and Top 8 GP Detroit

    What was your record and best card from the Sealed Deck:
    6-1-1. Hammer of Purphoros

    What was your record and best card from the first draft pod:
    3-0, Medomai the Ageless

    What was your record and best card from the second draft pod:
    2-0-1, Ember Swallower

    What is your favorite card from Born of the Gods for Limited and why?
    Akroan Skyguard. It lets me have more aggro.

    What card from Theros has changed in value the most (better/worse) with the addition of Born of the Gods?
    Xenagos, the Reveler and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion




    Ignacio Ibarra del Rio

    Age: 26
    Hometown: Culiacan, Sinaloc
    Occupation: Chef for the governor


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    FNM

    What was your record and best card from the Sealed Deck:
    7-1, Fall of the Hammer

    What was your record and best card from the first draft pod:
    2-1, Archetype of Imagination

    What was your record and best card from the second draft pod:
    2-0-1, Fanatic of Xenagos

    What is your favorite card from Born of the Gods for Limited and why?
    Fall of the Hammer. It’s a cheap instant that can kill anything when combined with the red giants.

    What card from Theros has changed in value the most (better/worse) with the addition of Born of the Gods?
    I don’t know.




    Marc Lalague

    Age: 26
    Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
    Occupation: MTGDeals.com/Team TCGPlayer.com


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    GP Anaheim 2012 Champion, GP Houston 2013 Semifinals

    What was your record and best card from the Sealed Deck:
    7-1, Phalanx Leader (W/R)

    What was your record and best card from the first draft pod:
    2-1, Gild (G/b)

    What was your record and best card from the second draft pod:
    2-0-1, Prognostic Sphinx (B/U)

    What is your favorite card from Born of the Gods for Limited and why?
    Gild? I’ve opened two in a row now…

    What card from Theros has changed in value the most (better/worse) with the addition of Born of the Gods?
    Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Monoblack is much harder to draft now.




    Miguel Angel Rodriguez

    Age: 27
    Hometown: Cuernavaca, Morales
    Occupation: Finance


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    PTQGP Albequerque Top 32GP Mexico City 2013 Top 32

    What was your record and best card from the Sealed Deck:
    7-0-1, Tymaret, the Murder King

    What was your record and best card from the first draft pod:
    2-0-1, Sea God’s Revenge

    What was your record and best card from the second draft pod:
    2-0-1, Sea God’s Revenge

    What is your favorite card from Born of the Gods for Limited and why?
    Kiora’s Follower. It’s a cheap creature with a good body that accelerates your curve. In long games, it can effectively give a big creature vigilance.

    What card from Theros has changed in value the most (better/worse) with the addition of Born of the Gods?
    Purphoros, God of the Forge




    Derek Woloshyn

    Age: 30
    Hometown: Chicago, IL
    Occupation: Category Analyst


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    Gatecrash Prerelease Top 8… so none.

    What was your record and best card from the Sealed Deck:
    6-2, Agent of the Fates. The card just wins games.

    What was your record and best card from the first draft pod:
    3-0. Spiteful Returned. Bestow on a creature with intimidate is awesome.

    What was your record and best card from the second draft pod:
    2-0-1. Wingsteed Rider. Gets out of control very quickly.

    What is your favorite card from Born of the Gods for Limited and why?
    Hunter’s Prowess. Drawing cards in green feels really good.

    What card from Theros has changed in value the most (better/worse) with the addition of Born of the Gods?
    Voyage’s End has gotten more important because there is less bounce with Born of the Gods.




     

  • Top 8 Decklists

    by Event Coverage Staff


  • Grand Prix Mexico City 2014 - Miguel Angel Rodriguez, Top 8
    Born of the Gods / Theros Draft




    Grand Prix Mexico City 2014 - Marc Lalague, Top 8
    Born of the Gods / Theros Draft


    Grand Prix Mexico City 2014 - Mario Flores, Top 8
    Born of the Gods / Theros Draft


    Grand Prix Mexico City 2014 - Ignacio Ibarra del Rio, Top 8
    Born of the Gods / Theros Draft






     

  • Sunday, 9:19 p.m. – Draft Feature – Marc Lalague

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Marc Lalague, Pro Tour Anaheim 2012 champion and one of two players from the United States hoping to take a trophy home with them today, started off with the day 7-1 but found himself on the cusp of elimination going into the last round, only able to secure a spot in the Top 8 when he and his opponent, Ignacio Ibarra Del Rio, were able to draw in during the final round once Ben Yu, one of the only threats that remained who could leap-frog them in the final standings, was eliminated.

    With his spot in the Top 8 secured, you'd think a lot of the pressure would be off. Everyone would sit down, they'd draft pretty powerful decks, and then it would be up to who could outmaneuver who that would determine the champion of Grand Prix Mexico City.

    Well, about that...

    Marc Lalague

    Picture a train, off of its rails but still blasting through ground at an out of control pace, careening towards a huge cliff that would lead the train and everyone on it to certain doom. The conductor, or in this case Marc Lalague, tries everything in his power to stop that train from plummeting off the cliff and into nothing but rocks. Meanwhile, a helpless and rather useless stowaway, in this case your faithful text reporter, is screaming at the top of his lungs. "WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO, LALAGUE?!" WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO?!" As if the stowaway can actually help in any way.

    After all, it is the conductor's job, and the conductor's skills, which can save this royal train wreck from taking place.

    And in this case, it could just be the text reporter being a little over dramatic, given that despite the openness of Lalague's color combination in this draft to the left of him, he knew that his right neighbor, Grand Prix Buenos Aires 2001 Champion Hugo Araisa, was cutting him off of both blue and red cards in a draft that also looked uncertain for him.

    How did Lalague deal with this circumstance? What were his options at the end of the first pack? Let's find out.

    The draft started off well, with Lalague picking up the powerful Fall of the Hammer, and then nabbing a Searing Blood for a second pick. Retraction Helix, a solid blue spell out of Born of the Gods shortly followed, along with Flitterstep Eidolon. Pharagax Giant followed, and it appeared clear that both blue and red would be Lalague's colors.

    That is, at least, until things started drying up. While Lalague was able to pick up an on-color scry land thanks to Temple of Enlightenment, the pickings for red and blue were slim. Unbeknownst to him, his right neighbor, Hugo Araiza, was dabbling in both colors as a potential splash to go with his base green deck.

    Marc Lalague

    With the threat of a train wreck draft looming, what was our conductor, Marc Lalaque, to do?

    In this case, he tried to find a way. He had enough white by the end of Pack One to consider jumping ship from red should he open a Wingsteed Rider in the second pack. It would sting, but there was a backup plan available. Temple of Mystery in the first pick of the second pack wasn't what he was looking for, but there was still hope.

    "I had about seven playable cards with blue-white...so I did consider switching if I opened something like a Wingsteed Rider in Pack Two," Lalague said.

    And then, when Lalague opened a Lightning Strike, it became clear that red was his other color.

    "Thankfully I opened Lightning Strike so I was just able to stay blue-red."


    A second Lightning Strike in his third pick ensured it, and a criminally late Griptide and Voyage's End proved that Lalague was on the right colors. They were certainly available on the left side of him.

    They just weren't quite available on the right.

    Lalague did what he could, picking up another Temple of Mystery to give him some filtering power, and in the third pack he was able to add an Omenspeaker, second Ill-Tempered Cyclops, and a Spearpoint Oread to his pool, but things once again got slim after that.

    Despite a rough first and third pack, the second pack rewarded him with a number of cards that would make it into his main deck.

    "I feel really good considering how that draft went," Lalague said as he finished up his deck and began registration. "That was a weird draft. It feels like I navigated it pretty well, but I guess we'll see."

    "Something weird was going on," he noted, referring to what I was able to see to his right. "He may have switched colors in pack two," referring to Araiza, who was indeed struggling to stick to a second color.

    "There was maybe one pick where, if I knew I was getting a second Temple of Mystery, I could have taken Horizon Chimera..." he thought aloud, referring to the first pick third pack Omenspeaker he took over the blue-green creature.


    "...but then again, I probably would have just taken the Omenspeaker since I needed more two mana plays."

    While he tried to navigate a tough draft as best as he could, Lalague still had some battles ahead of him. If his side of the table was unusually mixed up, he'd have a tough ride ahead of him. Would it be clear, after three rounds, if Lalague, the conductor, was able to navigate away from a disastrous train wreck?

    "All I need to do is win the tournament. We'll see!" he said.




     

  • Quarterfinals Roundup – Marc Lalague vs. Derek Woloshyn and Miguel Rodriguez vs. Hugo Daniel Araiza

    by Nate Price

  • Marc Lalague (U/R) vs. Derek Woloshyn (R/G)

    Woloshyn curved out nicely in the first game, stringing a Bronze Sable, Nessian Courser, and Pheres-Band Tromper together on three consecutive turns. On the other side of the table, Lalague had strung together an equally impressive defense, adding Omenspeaker, Fanatic of Mogis, and Sealock Monster to keep Woloshyn's creatures at bay. Lalague tried in vain to kill the Tromper once Woloshyn enchanted it with Fearsome Temper, trading his Fall of the Hammer for a Titan's Strength from Woloshyn's hand. Still, Lalague's very large creatures were enough to deter Woloshyn from making an attack. Rather than use the Temper to force through some damage, Woloshyn opted to continue to build his board, adding the potentially dangerous Anthousa, Setessan Hero, to his side.

    This game of constantly rising stakes continued for a few turns, with each player adding yet another impressive body to their respective squads. The first truly game-changing moment came soon after Lalague played a Horizon Scholar. With his array of creatures protection his life total, he decided it was time to finally attack, sending the Scholar over to deal the first attack damage of the game. In retaliation, Woloshyn added a Purphoros's Emissary to his already 6/6 Tromper, though he decided not to attack.

    Derek Woloshyn

    Lalague continued his aerial assault, dropping Woloshyn to 2 over the next few turns. With one turn to go, Woloshyn finally pulled the trigger. Lalague was still sitting pretty at 20 life, so it looked like he would manage to escape alive. After denying Lalague the ability to block with his two largest creatures, Woloshyn was able to sneak through almost enough damage to get the job done. Unfortunately, he could only drop Lalague to 3, and it took all of his mana to do so. Understanding that he was out of luck, Woloshyn conceded.

    "That was a really good game, man," he said to Lalague after the game. "That board got so complicated that I don't know if either of us knew what the right attack was for a while there."

    Lalague laughed, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure that not attacking was definitely the right call."

    The second game started much faster for Woloshyn, turning Hero of Leina Tower and a Titan's Strength into a five-point swing on the second turn of the game. Lalague was able to stem the bleeding with Stymied Hopes and Dissolve, stopping consecutive casts from Woloshyn, but it wasn't until he played Sealock Monster that he was truly able to feel a bit safe about his position. Woloshyn had cut his life total in half, but his offense was stopped cold by the 5/5 Octopus. It was stopped even colder when Lalague added a Pillar of War to his side.

    Marc Lalague

    At least it was stopped cold until the Sealock Monster had a little change of heart. After dispatching of the Pillar with a Destructive Revelry, Woloshyn tapped out to cast Portent of Betrayal on Lalague's lone Sealock Monster. Combined with a Bronze Sable and Nylea's Emissary, the Monster represented lethal damage. Lalague had a Voyage's End to send the Emissary back to Woloshyn's hand, dropping to 3 in the process. Keeping his Monster in play allowed him the freedom to cast a Horizon Scholar on his turn, finding a source of offense to try and end things before Woloshyn found a way to deal those final points of damage. Woloshyn was scrambling, unable to kill the Sphinx as it ground him down. The final toll came when Lalague aimed a Retraction Helix to push the lone blocker out of the way, allowing his monstrous Sealock Monster to deal the final blow.

    "Great games," Woloshyn said, shaking Lalague's hand. "The better player won."

    "Don't sell yourself short," Lalague said. "You had to play really well to get this point, so you're obviously a good player, too. Those were very good games."

    "That match just qualified me for three Pro Tours," Lalague continued ecstatically. "I get into Atlanta. I get Silver, so there's another. And now I'm Silver for next year."

    Miguel Rodriguez (B/U/G) vs. Hugo Daniel Araiza (R/G)

    Rodriguez had a fair amount of control against Araiza's deck as the turns climbed. Araiza was unable to mount much of an early offense, giving Rodriguez plenty of time to string together an impressive array of enchantments on his Triton Fortune Hunter, netting a trio of cards to go along with a sizeable 5/6 creature. Still, Araiza managed to deal with it thanks to his own string of heroic triggers. The combined efforts of Labyrinth Champion, Savage Surge, and Rise to the Challenge enabled enough triggers and power to make sure that the Fortunet Hunter bit the dust.

    Undeterred, Rodriguez took control of the board once more, this time using Kraken of the Straits to get large and keep Araiza's team under lock and key. To make matters worse, an Artisan of Forms became a second Kraken, making one gigantic, lethal attack, dropping Araiza from twelve to well below zero.

    Miguel Rodriguez

    In the second game, Araiza was in complete control of the game from the fourth turn on. Once Rodriguez tried to cast an Ordeal of Thassa on his Triton Fortune Hunter, a Lightning Strike from Araiza put him leagues ahead. This combined with back-to-back massive creatures, including a Nessian Wilds Ravager. It came down on an empty board for Rodriguez, so it didn't get to fight anything, but that hardly mattered. Rodriguez was unable to protect the Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, that he was trying to get going, and his own life soon followed in a very quick Game 2.

    The final game was played on two fronts. The more obvious road was taken by Araiza, sending his troops across the ground at Rodriguez, who decided on the sneakier route. Artisan of Forms, back from his first-game performance, combined with Aqueous Form and Ordeal of Nylea, went for the rapidly increasing unblockable damage. To add to that, his Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, hit the table when Araiza was less well-equipped to deal with it, and it began to take care of the top of Araiza's deck.

    Hugo Daniel Araiza

    Araiza managed a fairly big swing when he cast a Nylea's Disciple for a whopping 7 life, turning things in his favor. His ensuing attack dropped Rodriguez to 7, prompting him to halt his own attacks. This gave Araiza the opportunity he needed to try and end things, using Portent of Betrayal to steal the very large Artisan of Forms on the opposite side of the table. Thanks to a clutch Horizon Chimera, Rodriguez was able to survive the attack at a paltry one life. The Labyrinth Champion that Araiza played later seemed like it might finish the job.

    It was a terrifying race. At 1 life, Rodriguez needed to find a way to kill Araiza before he could trigger the Champion. He began by cashing in most of Ashiok's counters for an Archetype of Endurance. This gave him a better template for his Artisan of Forms, which smashed Rodriguez down from 17 to 8. All Rodriguez needed was one more turn of safety, one slight reprieve, and he'd be able to steal a game that looked all but put away. Not one to slowroll his friend, Araiza shook his head and revealed the curtain call: Rise to the Challenge. An appropriate way to trigger the Labyrinth Champion to do the final points of damage in this incredibly exciting final game. It took longer than all of the other Quarterfinal matches to finish, but Hugo Daniel Araiza managed to eke out a close victory to advance to the Semifinals.




     

  • Semifinal – Ignacio Ibarra Del Rio vs. Marc Lalague

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Ignacio Ibarra Del Rio and Marc Lalague had a chance to meet earlier in the final swiss round of the Grand Prix. However, their match never concluded, as both players preferred drawing in when one of the threats that could leap-frog one of them in the standings lost their match.

    Now, the two get the chance to resolve their games. Who would win after their third – and final – match of the day? Would it be Ibarra Del Rio's white-red aggressive deck, or Lalague's removal-fueled blue-red strategy?

    The Games

    Admittedly, it's pretty hard to call the first game, by all rights, "a game." This is primarily due to Ibarra Del Rio getting more than enough creatures on board to finish off Lalague before he could draw a second land, a result of a rough keep on a mulligan to six.

    Ignacio Ibarra Del Rio

    The second game didn't start out any better as both players shipped their seven back. "I've still yet to see a hand with more than one land!" Lalague exclaimed. This time, however, it was Ibarra Del Rio's turn to mulligan into oblivion, as he went to five while Lalague kept a plaable hand. "I keep," Ibarra Del Rio said with a shake of the head. His frustration was revealed when he missed a second land, but found one on the third turn to Last Breath Lalague's Crackling Triton.

    The third game got off to an even start from both players, with Ibarra Del Rio leading with Calvary Pegasus into Spearpoint Oread, and Lalague sifting through cards with scry lands and Omenspeaker. Lightning Strike kept Lalague from falling behind to an Ill-Tempered Cyclops, and Fanatic of Mogis gave Ibarra Del Rio a reason to keep his Spearpoint Oread back on defense.

    Marc Lalague

    A second Lightning Strike on Heliod's Emissary when Ibanna Del Rio cast the 3/3 was thwarted by Favor of the Gods, allowing him to keep his 3/3 on the offense. However, despite the Emissary's power, Lalague kept coming out with bigger creatures. While Ibanna Del Rio had a few draw steps to out-match Lalague's plays, three lands in three draw steps left him without any outs.

    While the first two games were decided by a glut of spells over lands, this game ultimately ended due to a glut of lands over spells. With no spells left, Ibanna Del Rio offered the handshake.

    Ibanna Del Rio 1 – Lalague 2




     

  • Semifinal – Hugo Araiza vs. Marcelino Freeman

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Both Hugo Araiza and Marcelino Freeman, despite being on opposite ends of the table, cobbled together some interesting decks due to the results of the draft. While Araiza's green-red deck had some powerful mid-game cards and some unlikely spells (Boulderfall, anyone?), Freeman's red-white deck had some aggressive early plays as well as a touch of green to cast Polis Crusher and Xenagos, the Reveler. Oh, and that's not including the fact that Freeman also has on-color threats like Ember Swallower.

    The Games

    Priest of Iroas began its beats for Araiza on the first turn, with Arena Athlete from Freeman not being a very effective blocker. Araiza however had nothing but Mountains, while Freeman had both of his colors, along with a third-turn Burnished Hart. Araiza found Forests eventually however, both his plays while sputtering on colors left him behind to Freeman's Borderland Minotaur and other creatures.

    And when Araiza finally had access to lots of green, plays like Setessan Starbreaker were not going to get him back in the game. Savage Surge during a block from Araiza was met with Battlewise Valor from Freeman, maintaining his lead. Araiza struggled to get back into the game, with Nylea's Disciple padding the damage he had been taking, getting back up to 13 life.

    Portent of Betrayal on Nylea's Disciple kept the pressure up, and a Titan's Strength on one of Freeman's unblocked creatures left Araiza at 1, but with more creatures than Freeman at the end of his turn. And with that, Araiza was hanging on by a thread.

    Marcelino Freeman

    Which, after a slurry of trick-packed turns and some blocks, led to a sick play you don't normally see in Booster Draft: Boulderfall while Satyr Firedancer was in play. Dome you, kill your creatures. Yes, that happened.

    With Freeman's diminishing board now squandered, he succumbed to Araiza's follow-ups to that big turn.

    Freeman opened the second game with Oreskos Sun Guide into Burnished Hart, while Araiza matched second and third turn plays with Satyr Hedonist and Agent of Horizons. However, Freeman threatened to go way over the top on Araiza when his fourth land was the Mountain needed for him to cast Anax and Cymede. Araiza had an answer, but it wasn't a pretty one, as Time to Feed let him trade his Agent of Horizons for the powerful legendary.

    Freeman had no follow-up on the next turn, passing with four mana open. When Araiza sent in his Hedonist, it was blocked by the Burnished Hart, which netted Freeman a Forest and a Mountain. Staunch-Hearted Warrior came down next and he passed back to Freeman, who unloaded with a monstrous threat: Ember Swallower. The Oreskos Sun Guide traded with the Staunch-Hearted Warrior when it attacked in, and Freeman passed back. Araiza only had Nylea's Presence, digging a card deeper, as well as Anvilwrought Raptor. He passed back, bracing for impact from the Swallower.

    However, when no blocks came from Araiza, Freeman elected not to make his creature monstrous. He instead added Arena Athlete to his board and passed back to Araiza, who promptly played a land and passed back with all seven lands untapped. Smelling something big looming, Freeman attacked with just his Ember Swallower before playing another Arena Athlete. Araiza again had another land and passed back.

    Hugo Araiza

    Fall of the Hammer on the Raptor forced a Savage Surge from Araiza, but nonetheless allowed him to use his Arena Athlete to keep the Hedonist from blocking the Swallower. The 4/5 creature dropped Araiza to 9, and Polis Crusher got a chuckle out of Araiza, who picked up and read the card.

    One draw step later, and with a smile, Araiza picked up his cards for a third game.

    The Priest of Iroas came down on the first turn for Araiza, allowed him to beat for 1. However, it was not quite matched with Voyaging Satyr. Freeman, however, could not black the Satyr fast enough with his second-turn Arena Athlete when it attacked in with the Priest of Iroas. Agent of Horizons replaced it, and that was promptly blocked by Freeman's third-turn Oreskos Sun Guide.

    However, the creatures quickly changed in sizes when Araiza's Labyrinth Champion was out-matched by Ember Swallower. The 4/5 attacked in on the next turn and was joined by Borderland Minotaur, but Araiza quickly won the biggest creature contest with Nessian Wilds Ravager, which quickly became a 12/12 when Araiza gestured at the Ember Swallower, hoping for a fight. Tributes could not be paid fast enough.


    While Leonin Snarecaster let him get around the 12/12 for a turn, dropping Araiza even lower with attacks after a chump-block from the Priest of Iroas, he did not have a permanent answer to the massive hydra. The Labyrinth Champion picked up Epiphany Storm, allowing Araiza to dig as well. The Snarecaster was offered up as fodder when it attacked in on the next turn, and quickly it became clear that Freeman would only win if he could out-race the hydra before he ran out of creatures to block with. He attacked in, then dropped Polis Crusher and Everflame Eidolon onto the table before passing back. Forced to hold the hydra back, he passed with both it and the Labyrinth Champion untapped.

    Xenagos, the Reveler made things even worse for Araiza, as Freeman was quickly pulling ahead to a point where not even a 12/12 could end things. Lightning Strike disposed of the planeswalker, but Freeman was not done, drawing and casting Wingsteed Rider to give him an evasive way to end the game. After thinking about it for a while, Araiza passed back, and the Wingsteed Rider sent Araiza to 6. Meanwhile, Araiza continued to filter through his deck with his Labyrinth Champion courtesy of Epiphany Storm.


    When Araiza activated at the end of this turn though, Freeman responded by making his Ember Swallower monstrous. It left Araiza tied down on lands, but it did not stop him from finding Time to Feed for the monstrous creature, bringing Araiza back up to 9. Freeman thought about it for a while, and ultimately decided to send in his team: Polis Crusher, Borderland Minotaur, Everflame Eidolon, the 2/2 satyr token, and the Wingsteed Rider. Araiza fell to 2 after chump blocking with his Labyrinth Champion and 'haumph'ing the attacking Polis Crusher with the Ravager.

    When Araiza found nothing waiting on top, he extended the hand to Freeman, who would go on to the finals as the last remaining player from Mexico.

    Araiza 1 – Freeman 2




     

  • Finals – Marcelino Freeman (W/R/g) vs. Marc Lalague (U/R)

    by Nate Price

  • "This has been a pretty cool day," Marcelino Freeman beamed as he sat down across from Marc Lalague, his Finals opponent.

    "I completely agree," Lalague replied.

    Both of these players came in looking to get a little more experience with the Born of the Gods/Theros Limited format before heading to the Pro Tour next week. What they ended up with was invitations to three additional Pro Tours. Combined with the points they will get for simply attending the Pro Tour next weekend, both Freeman and Lalague have locked themselves up Silver Pro Player Club status, giving them a Pro Tour invite this year, as well as next, and they also get the qualification for Pro Tour Journey to Nyx for making Top 4. It was quite a haul, and both players were more than ecstatic.

    With most of the pressure off, there was a friendly vibe as the match began. The early game was filled with posturing for both players, something that would greatly benefit Lalague's slower U/R deck. Freeman's aggressive W/R/g deck didn't quite have the insane assortment of one-drops that his previous draft deck did, but it did share one thing in common with it: Ember Swallower. Freeman didn't even need to think when asked what his best card on the weekend was, and its aid continued into the Top 8. When it hit the table on turn 4, it dominated the board. When Xenagos, the Reveler, followed, it looked like Freeman was in great shape to take the first game.

    Marcelino Freeman

    Lalague wasn't without his defenses, though. The threat of a monstrous Ill-Tempered Cyclops kept Freeman's creatures at bay for a turn. After making it monstrous on Freeman's end step, Lalague attacked Xenagos. Freeman's Swallower jumped in the way and tried to Rise to the Challenge, but a Fall of the Hammer took it out, allowing Lalague to assign the trample damage straight through to Xenagos, netting himself a three-for-one. Now incredibly far ahead, Lalague tried to take advantage while he could, but things quickly slipped back into parity. Divine Verdict killed the larger of Lalague's creatures, and Polis Crusher gave Freeman a large monster of his own, slowing the game to a crawl.

    Freeman tried to break the game out of the stalemate with a huge Portent of Betrayal, but Lalague was ready with a timely Dissolve. He thought for quite some time about keeping the card, eventually deciding that it was something he wanted, which is something you never want to see as an opponent in this spot. When Lalague dropped a Horizon Scholar onto his side of the table, the game finally found some offense. It found a lethal dose two turns later when Lalague's Kraken of the Straits took to the skies via a Nimbus Naiad, bringing an abrupt end to the game.

    Marc Lalague

    Down a game and with his back against the wall, fate appeared to be conspiring against Freeman, as he sent his first two hands back to the well. He shrugged glumly at his five card hand, knowing he couldn't go any lower. It was at least good enough to give him a Reckless Revelers, but Pillar of War and Ill-Tempered Cyclops put a quick and to any attacks. When a Sealock Monster appeared the turn after, the game was effectively over.

    Freeman glumly shook Lalague's hand as cheers erupted from Lalague's teammates.

    "Sorry about that last game," Lalague offered.

    "It's ok," Freeman responded. "See you next week."

    Congratulations to Marc Lalague, Grand Prix Mexico City 2014 champion!




     

  • Grand Prix Mexico City 2014 - Top 5 Cards

    by Nate Price and Mike Rosenberg



  • 5. Floodtide Serpent

    In the immortal word of Marshall Sutcliffe: value. Floodtide Serpent epitomizes the word. It may not look it at first glance, but the second you see it combined with cards like Fate Foretold, Dragon Mantle, or Nylea's Presence, your eyes will begin to grow with thoughts of the possibilities. The combination is reminiscent of the Wall of Blossoms/Stampeding Wildebeests combo of the old Stupid Green deck. You get a beneficial effect, an extra card each turn, and a big creature to boot.

    It even works wonders with cheap bestow creatures. Feel free to drop you Flitterstep Eidolon on the second turn and get some damage in before returning it with the Serpent and putting it on a bigger beater. Get that Baleful Eidolon into play to deter attackers before picking it up and finding a better home. There are an immense number of things that the Floodtide Serpent can enable, and it's highly likely that many more will come to light at next weekend's Pro Tour.





    4. Kiora's Follower

    Voyaging Satyr was already considered one of the top green commons that you'd want in Theros Limited for its ability to ramp you into your monsters before your opponent has a chance to get going. Kiora's Follower, while more constrained in where it can be played due to its multicolor status, does all of this and more.

    Aside from being the size of a Grizzly Bear, making it an effective attacker when you have nothing to ramp into, Kiora's Follower can also mess with your opponent's combat step. Once you already have a big creature in play, the Follower allows your massive creatures to play defensive as well. It also combos very nicely with Retraction Helix, allowing you to bounce two of your opponent's creatures instead of just one when you target another creature to go with Kiora's Follower. We saw this brutal play in the final round of Sealed yesterday, when Chris Fennell succumbed to this combo when Fernando Aguilar assembled it in their first game.





    3. Nyxborn Shieldmate

    This is more of a nod to the bestow creatures in Born of the Gods overall, but Nyxborn Shieldmate is the stand-out from that common cycle. The Nyxborn Shieldmate may not have a cheaper bestow cost than Nyxborn Rollicker, but it has a very relevant additional toughness that it provides to whichever creature it is bestowed upon. When it is bestowed on-curve onto a 2/2, this gives that creature the ability to attack through the important 3/3 creatures that oftentimes hold back the aggressive red and white decks that have picked up in play thanks to Born of the Gods. Attacking through Nessian Coursers and Ill-Tempered Cyclops has never felt better!

    The Shieldmate also allows the heroic decks of this draft format to pick up more creatures that are also cheap heroic enablers, and cheap bestow effects are among the best of ways to trigger heroic. The Shieldmate is a fine example of why cards like Phalanx Leader have dramatically gone up in value with the addition of Born of the Gods.





    2. Ill-Tempered Cyclops

    What was already considered an underrated card in Theros Booster Draft has now become one of the top commons to be on the lookout for with the addition of Born of the Gods. The Cyclops serves its purpose well: it is a fine 3/3, stats that can hold back many of the aggressive two mana creatures in the format. It has monstrosity, one of the more flexible and powerful ways to take advantage of potential mana flood. It's also in red, a color that has been given quite a boon with the new set in Limited.

    The Cyclops saw play in many decks through yesterday's Sealed rounds as well as Sunday's drafts. Players in red were scooping up Ill-Tempered Cyclops as their creature of choice in red once the Theros packs were opened, including Grand Prix Mexico City 2014 Champion Mark Lalague, who took advantage of both of his creatures in his Top 8 matches.





    1. Fall of the Hammer

    In a format full of monstrosity triggers, heroic effects, and auras, instant-speed removal reigns supreme. Fall of the Hammer is one of the cards that has pushed red into the spotlight as one of the most popular colors to draft this weekend. Unlike Lightning Strike which, despite still being a top tier card to take, Fall of the Hammer has the capability of taking out creatures much larger than three toughness. It also has the ability to trigger your own heroic effects, ensuring that this card is capable of doing double duty if you draft the right deck.

    The instant speed effectiveness of Fall of the Hammer as a premiere trick was seen in the final match, where Marc Lalague used it to effectively take out three of Marcelino Freeman's cards for one removal spell in their first game.






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