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Coverage of Grand Prix Guadalajara Day 2

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  • Sunday, 10:15 a.m. – Sombrero Extravaganza Contest Winners

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Yesterday, we talked about the Sombrero Extravaganza that Saul Arreola, the Grand Prix Tournament Organizer for the weekend, had incorporated into the event. The goal for the extravaganza was to make it a little easier for local players to enter with the discounts offered to those who signed up wearing some decorative headgear.

    However, it was also done just because it is fun. For many in attendance, this is the only Grand Prix that they will be able to attend all year, with costs being too prohibitive for traveling out of the country to attend other Grand Prix tournaments in Latin America. So in good spirits, and in good fun, many came to the event with some very decorative pieces of headgear.

    And five of them were rewarded with Dragon's Maze booster packs. Check out the five people who won special prizes for their sombreros of choice this weekend!











    Congratulations to the winners!




     

  • Round 9 Feature Match #1 – Gonzalo Pedrera Irabien (Jund Midrange) vs. Ken Yukuhiro (Naya Zoo)

    by Nate Price

  • It might take him a few turns to get there, but when Domri Rade goes ultimate, his menagerie can be downright unstoppable.

    In both games of this match between undefeated players, Ken Yukuhiro of Japan took full advantage of Domri Rade's suite of abilities on his way to a 2-0 victory over Gonzalo Pedrera Irabien's Jund, the deck of the tournament thus far.


    Gonzalo Pedrera Irabien

    "Domri Rade is very important in this matchup," Yukuhiro admitted after sending Domri ultimate for the second consecutive game.

    Both games saw Yukuhiro hit Domri on the third turn of the game, and he never looked back. Even though he missed on just under half of his +1 activations, Yukuhiro was still able to draw a very significant seven cards over the course of the two games. Against a deck like Pedrera's Jund, which relies heavily one one-for-one trades and attrition, this kind of card advantage is exactly what's required to tip the scales.

    Pedrera's deck was not very accommodating when it came to stopping the Gruul Planeswalker, either. In the first game, the only early threat he was able to get on the table, a Vampire Nighthawk, never got to connect with Domri, as Yukuhiro used Mizzium Mortars to clear it away immediately. In the second, he was able to use Bonfire of the Damned to peel some counters away from a full-strength Domri, but it was nothing more than a delaying tactic. The Thragtusk that he played after the Bonfire was held at bay by a Boros Reckoner, and Domri continued to grow over the next three turns, going ultimate on the fourth.

    Domri's emblem is incredibly strong in this creature-centric incarnation of Standard. Giving all creatures double-strike and trample ensures that your creatures always come out on top in combat, often forcing through a ton of extra damage. This is especially true against Jund.

    "Hexproof and haste are very powerful against Jund," Yukuhiro told me.


    Ken Yukuhiro

    Considering that all of Jund's removal outside of an overloaded Mizzium Mortars and Bonfire is targeted, the hexproof is a death knell. The haste added to creatures ensures that they at least get one good attack in before these sorceries can even do their job. The combination is deadly, as Yukuhiro proved.

    Making matters worse for Pedrera was the fact that his draws both games were very good against any draw that Yukuhiro could have that didn't contain Domri. Liliana of the Veil, Tragic Slip, and Bonfire of the Damned were a potent suite of removal that was able to keep Yukuhiro's early team at bay. Yukuhiro's early draw wasn't the most aggressive, and the combination was able to keep him from keeping a creature around until after the Domri ultimate in the first game. His second draw ramped into a large Bonfire of the Damned, followed by Pillar of Flame for Voice of Resurgence and Barter in Blood. This left him with just a Boros Reckoner, which was unfortunately good enough to keep Pedrera's Thragtusk from stopping Domri.

    "Yesterday, I used Domri's ultimate four or five times. Today, I've already done it twice," Yukuhiro said with a smile.




     

  • Round 9 Feature Match #2 – Elias Watsfeldt (Wolf Run Bant) vs. Juan Castillo Mata (The Aristocrats)

    by Nate Price

  • Befitting of its moniker, The Aristocrats is capable of some of the most elegant plays in Standard.

    After dropping Game 1 to Watsfeldt's massive 31 points of lifegain, Castillo rebounded back with some of the best Blood Artistry I've had the pleasure of watching, winning his final game with less than ten seconds remaining on the clock.

    Castillo's meticulous use of Blood Artist and his many sacrificial outlets provided him with exactly enough damage to finish Watsfeldt off in the final two games of the match, but the match wasn't always so close. He started out Game 1 in a dominating position thanks to an aggressive start, but Watsfeldt took incredibly firm control of the game about halfway in and never looked back.


    Elias Watsfeldt

    Elias Watsfeldt came in to this event with a fairly unorthodox deck choice: Wolf Run Bant. Thought dead by most people after the release of Dragon's Maze, Watsfeldt had done a good job of disproving the non-believers, as he ran through five different archetypes on his way to a 7-1 showing on Day 1. His first game showed the power of Sphinx's Revelation, and why it has been feared as the specter of Standard. Over the course of five turns, Watsfeldt was able to cast three Sphinx's Revelations, gaining four, five, and seven, keeping his life total afloat against Castillo's massive Spirit army. When he landed a Jace, Architect of Thought, Castillo's army of Lingering Souls tokens was stopped cold. When Garruk, Primal Hunter, joined the fray right after him, Watsfeldt set about building the bestial army that he eventually used to win the match. Between a trio of Thragtusks and Sphinx's Revelations, Watsfeldt had gained 31 life, ending the game with the exact same 20 life he began with.

    After getting decimated by Sphinx's Revelation in Game 1, Castillo was able to break out one of Dragon Maze's newest all-stars to help even things up. Sin Collector has been pointed to by many as the biggest threat to control decks in Standard, bigger even than the clearly absurd Voice of Resurgence. Castillo proved why on Turn 3, as he managed to snipe a Sphinx's Revelation over a Supreme Verdict, a decision that would ultimately decide the game. While he left Watsfeldt a Verdict to clear his board, Castillo prevented the Swedish Pro from abusing his massive mana advantage. Watsfeldt cleared the board with Verdict, but Castillo was able to just rebuild.

    At this point, things got interesting. Watsfeldt ripped Thragtusk and Centaur Healer from the top of his deck to provide himself some needed life and offense. Castillo had a Spirit token from a Doomed Traveler alongside a Blood Artist and Boros Reckoner. On only three lands, Castillo found himself unable to block profitably after tapping out for Boros Reckoner. This gave Watsfeldt a chance to attack with his Thragtusk, putting him ahead 13-22. Castillo ripped the fourth land he needed for his Falkenrath Aristocrats, and the race was on. As his life dipped lower each turn, Castillo used Blood Artist and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, to slow the bleeding. The tide of tokens was able to provide both blockers and lifegain, as Castillo crept ahead. Watsfeldt had nothing to do with his extra mana, so he was never able to increase the momentary advantage he held.

    The final game came down to one incredible final turn. Watsfeldt had stumbled early on mana, missing his third land drop for a couple of turns as he cycled through three Azorius Charms hunting for it. Eventually catching up, he was able to tap out for a Thragtusk that would bring him up to 11 life and allow him to stabilize.


    Juan Castillo Mata

    With the lifegain trigger on the stack, Castillo made his move. He had a Cartel Aristocrat, two Doomed Travelers, and a Blood Artist in play. He was able to sacrifice both of his Travelers to trigger the Blood Artist twice.

    20-4

    Then he aimed a morbid Tragic Slip at the Thragtusk, who was waiting patiently for its ability to resolve.

    21-3

    The two Spirits and the Blood Artist followed immediately after that, giving Castillo exactly the correct amount of damage to kill Watsfeldt, all while the Thragtusk's lifegain was still on the stack. An elegant finish to a very back-and-forth match.




     

  • Sunday, 11:45 a.m. – Jund's Resurgence

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Jund has been a deck that has shifted from spotlight to the back tables since the the start of the 2012-2013 season. It's hard to argue with what it's trying to do. The deck plays efficient removal, and has plenty of amazing creatures like Olivia Voldaren and Huntmaster of the Fells to cast on turn three if it hits its powerful second-turn Farseek.

    Oh, and I guess Thragtusk too. That creature is kind of a big deal.

    Jund has also gained new cards with each new set to be released last season, and makes good use of some of the format's most destructive planeswalkers, such as Liliana of the Veil and Garruk, Primal Hunter.

    So why was it considered to be a sideline deck for the last few months? And why is it performing well now, with one of its players, Gonzalo Pedrera, piloting the deck to an undefeated result at the end of Day One?

    The main element to Jund is how it is placed in the format. While the deck can be adjusted for minor changes in the format, Jund has always excelled at killing creatures. But it also had little ways of gaining any ground if their opponent happened to resolve a card like this.


    Jund simply wasn't capable of competing against that kind of card advantage. On top of that, with the printing of Boros Reckoner, Jund was limited on the type of removal it could use to answer creatures on that power level. Mizzium Mortars, Pillar of Flame, and Searing Spear get a lot more awkward when fighting a creature like that.

    But what if you take out cards like that to fight Reckoner? You leave yourself open to other decks running over you, such as Gruul Blitz. Sure, your Murders and your Abrupt Decays may seem okay, but your mana starts to get awkward when your removal jumps all over the place in casting costs. Jund's answers, and its draws, start to get a lot weaker.

    Then there was Esper, a deck that could win via Nephalia Drownyard, overwhelm Jund with card advantage from Sphinx's Revelation, and offer up no relevant creatures if it so desired, effectively blanking a large majority of Jund's cards.

    Jund also had to worry about what the Reanimator decks were doing, as they operated on a very different level of play. While Olivia Voldaren did some heavy lifting in that matchup, a timely Angel of Serenity – or worse, looping Angels that can grind through every form of removal Jund has – could cause Jund fits.

    There were simply too many different threats that Jund had to battle against from too many different angles.

    However, Dragon's Maze dealt a powerful blow to Sphinx's Revelation decks, and offered up a card that gave Jund a trump in these types of matchups.

    Voice of Resurgence, despite being relevant at times against Jund, was a card that Jund could still fight. Sphinx's Revelation decks, on the other hand, have some real issues fighting against the powerful new mythic from Dragon's Maze. This shifts the format around aggressive and midrange decks that can utilize Voice, decks that have synergies based around Voice or new cards, and pushes a couple of archetypes out of contention.

    On top of that, Sire of Insanity, one of the newest creatures to come out of the last set in the Return to Ravnica Block, gave Jund a way to battle against those decks. While it is often only seen as a one or a two-of in Jund's main deck, it still helps Jund players Mind Twist their opponents at inopportune times, and Jund is a deck that can operate very well off the top of its deck. Some of its lands can close games out, its creatures take over games if left unchecked, and its spells are all just plain good. Other decks, however, namely decks like Reanimator or even the Sphinx's Revelation decks, rely a lot more on setting up a game state, gaining control, and keeping that control with its card draw.

    Because the format is so centralized on attacking with creatures, Jund has once again become a relevant deck choice. And with cards like Ground Seal, which take up so few live slots in your deck since it replaces itself, Jund has the tools to operate against creatures while also being able to have a way to favorably put a stop of Reanimator shenanigans.

    When you need to kill creatures and play bigger, more threatening creatures than your opponent, there is no deck that offers you nearly as much flexibility in that department as Jund does. And that's why it is starting to see a resurgence.




     

  • Sunday, 1:00 p.m. – Playing and Maintaining Platinum

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • In case you haven't seen the Pro Players Club breakdown, let me tell you: Platinum is a big game.

    Hitting Platinum status in a season awards a player with the opportunity to play the game and see the world. The cash benefits that come from this level make Pro Tours a very lucrative event, and it makes traveling to a Grand Prix or ten a lot easier on your pocketbook.

    Two of the players competing here this weekend are two new Platinum pros from last season: Willy Edel, and Stanislav Cifka. While Edel qualified for Platinum on the incredible number of Professional Points that he accumulated in 2012-2013 season, while Cifka locked up his status early on by winning Pro Tour Return to Ravnica.

    For Edel, however, while Platinum benefits are certainly nice, they are not the defining reason for his travel. "Grand Prix events don't change my lifestyle," he said. "I play them because I like them, because it's good for my business, because I plan vacations around the locations, or because it's convenient [such as the weekend before or after a Pro Tour]."

    For Edel, a store owner who has a steady income coming in, going to a Grand Prix wasn't much of a second thought. "I always went to a lot of Grand Prix events, so being Platinum doesn't change much for me," he said. Indeed, despite not being Platinum, Edel still attended a good deal of tournaments last year, traveling because he wanted to, some involving trips to the US. When planning for a Grand Prix, it's a question or whether he'd like to vacation there with his wife, or if he just wants to play.

    With the change in Professional Points structure and how a Grand Prix counts for the events, Edel's plans won't change. He'll continue to go to the same number of tournaments. Platinum is a benefit, but not the driving force for Edel wanting to travel.

    For Cifka, attending Grand Prix Guadalajara was a change in his approach. Last year, the grand chessmaster and Pro Tour Return to Ravnica champion had no incentive to attend Grand Prix after Grand Prix. "In the second half of the last season, I wasn't motivated to go to GPs for Pro Points," he said.

    For Guadalajara, he booked his flight a month before the event, following Pro Tour Dragon's Maze in San Diego. "I wanted to start off as good as possible for the new season," he explained, hoping to pick up a solid finish in Guadalajara so that he can aim to maintain Platinum status.

    For new Platinum pro players, motivations for maintaining Platinum can come in different ways. For Edel, Platinum is a benefit to something he was already planning to do. For Cifka, the extra help that comes with Platinum is a driving force for going to more Grand Prix events in the new season.

    One thing for sure that applies to long-time players such as these though, is the motivation to keep playing at the top level of the game. The money's nice, but the drive to just play Magic at the top level is a real factor for players, whether they are new Platinum pros or not.




     

  • Sunday, 1:20 p.m. – Day 2 Metagame Breakdown

    by Nate Price

  • Before I get into breaking this down, here are the decks that made Day 2:

    Jund Midrange – 13
    Gruul Blitz – 12
    Junk Reanimator – 11
    Bant Auras – 9
    The Aristocrats – 4
    Naya Zoo – 5
    Naya Blitz – 4
    Golgari Control – 3
    Mono-Red Aggro – 2
    Esper Control – 2
    Wolf Run Bant – 2
    Rakdos Aggro – 2
    UWR Flash – 2
    Orzhov Midrange – 1
    Orzhov Aggro – 1
    Mimic Reanimator – 1
    Junk Tokens – 1
    Jund Aggro – 1
    Naya Midrange – 1
    Junk Aristocrats – 1
    Four-Color Value Rites – 1
    Esper Tokens – 1
    Séance Reanimator – 1
    Borzhov Midrange – 1

    As you can see, there are four decks that stand apart from the rest: Jund Midrange, Gruul Blitz, Junk Reanimator, and Bant Auras. All throughout yesterday, it was clear from the picture painted by the top tables that these were going to be the decks to beat in this tournament. It is a little surprising to see that Gruul Blitz is the second most played deck on Day 2 considering its performance yesterday. While it was certainly one of the major players, its consistency led to it constantly rotating in and out of the top slots.

    Aggro Decks

    The biggest of the group, as we've discussed, is Gruul Blitz. Relatively unchanged from pre-Dragon's Maze Standard, Gruul is the beneficiary of a changing of the guards. Now that creature combat is more important to Standard, Gruul's ability to play 3/3s from Turn 1 (I'm counting Experiment One) gives it a major advantage over the other aggressive decks in the field. It is also packed with the explosiveness of Burning-Tree Emissary and many hasty creatures, allowing it to simply overwhelm many of the midrange decks in the field.

    Bant Auras is the second most populous deck, though it could be argued that this is more of a combo deck than a true aggressive deck. Still, it aims to win through attacking, and it tries to do so without four or five drops, making an aggro deck in my book. Plagued by problems of inconsistency, "coin-flipping" as Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa called it, Auras showed equal moments of brilliance and misery. Still, there is no deck in the format capable of as explosive a turn as Auras is, so players able to string those together stand a good chance of making it all the way.

    Naya Blitz, Mono-Red Aggro, Rakdos Aggro, and Jund Aggro are more-or-less variations on the Gruul Blitz deck's theme. The Blitz moniker is assigned to decks featuring Burning-Tree Emissary, while the non-Blitz decks tend towards more one-drops, like Gravecrawler, Rakdos Cackler, and Stromkirk Noble. These decks tend to have the same relative speed as Gruul Blitz, but they lack the same relative size offered by the green. Still, they each have their advantages. Naya has Champion of the Parish and Battlefront Medic, both incredibly strong in matchups involving combat. Mono-Red has the best reach of the group, complementing the aggression with more burn than the other decks. Rakdos has the best creature, and importantly Planeswalker, removal in Dreadbore, as well as the ability to sideboard the important Slaughter Games. Jund Aggro gets many of these advantages in smaller increments, but it gets a very large advantage in synergies involving Lotleth Troll and Varolz, the Scar-Striped.

    There is an argument that I should include The Aristocrats decks here as well, as they focus on primarily one-and two-drops to set up their offense. While I agree that this affords them some incredibly aggressive starts, the deck really deserves its own slot due to its versatility. I'll get to it later.

    Midrange Decks

    Jund is clearly the deck of the tournament, making up the largest percentage of the field, as well as having one of the best performances on Day One. Like Gruul Blitz, Jund is the beneficiary of Control's weakened position, though Jund does far more to proactively create this condition. Sire of Insanity is a wonderful answer to the suite of instant-speed spells in the various Control decks, especially Sphinx's Revelation. As it relies heavily on attrition to win its games, Jund gains when Revelation loses. It also improves drastically in a creature-based environment like the one we are seeing now. It is able to run the best creature removal spells and all but a few of the best creatures in the format. Combined with the seemingly comfortable feeling playing Swamps, Forests, and Mountains gives people, it's no surprise to see Jund topping this list.

    Naya decks are probably the most improved midrange decks from before Dragon's Maze. Gaining arguably the best card in the set, Voice of Resurgence, Naya comes in sporting the strongest creature base in Standard, again, very important given the format's current state. In addition to this, Naya possesses the best card-advantage engine in the format, given the absence of Sphinx's Revelation: Domri Rade. The trump card against Jund, Domri allows a near-constant stream of cards to keep ahead of the inherent disadvantage imposed by Jund. Also able to constantly tick up against the large number of midrange decks in the field, Domri has seen his ultimate fire far more than once this weekend, which is a virtually unbeatable event.

    Orzhov Midrange and the Four-Color Value Rites decks are fairly interesting decks in their own right. Orzhov gets to play Sin Collector, which many players believe to be the biggest threat to Sphinx's Revelation. Good against every deck in the field, Sin Collector is one of those cards that will simply get you value every time it is cast, ideal for a midrange deck. Topping out at Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Orzhov can run over or through every commonly-seen creature except Thragtusk, and can back that up with a very strong removal package, adept at killing creatures and planeswalkers alike. The Rites deck is reminiscent of the Conley Woods brew from Grand Prix San Antonio. Playing the best creatures across every color but blue, Value Rites looks to gain an incremental advantage from every card it plays, from Huntmaster of the Fells and Restoration Angel to Sin Collector and Olivia Voldaren. While the deck has Unburial Rites and Mulch, it isn't a Reanimator deck per se. Rather Rites is used to simply get repeat value out of its already advantageous creatures.

    Control Decks

    This is not a good environment for control. Voice of Resurgence, Sin Collector, and Sire of Insanity have neutered the main control threat, Sphinx's Revelation, leaving the decks hunting for advantageous ways to use their mana. Still, control strategies have many other tools at their disposal, and they always find a way to adapt.

    Wolf Run Bant and Esper Control each have two pilots on Day 2. While Wolf Run Bant is functionally unchanged from pre-Dragon's Maze Standard, Esper Control has adapted to survive in the new environment. Discarding their reliance on the now much-less powerful Sphinx's Revelation, Esper decks have picked up other methods of gaining a constant advantage over opponents. Now turning more heavily to planeswalkers like Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, and Jace, Architect of Thought, modern Esper decks appear to blend the Esper Control and Esper Tokens archetypes seen around Pro Tour Gatecrash. This gives them the ability to keep up with Jund, as well as returning the focus of their play to their own turn, skirting Voice's triggered ability.

    I've decided to include UWR Flash in this category, understanding fully well that the deck is considerably more aggressive than any of the other decks listed here. While UWR is certainly more of a tempo deck, it still plays the typical control role until it decides to flip the switch and begin to try and win. After that, all of those removal spells start heading to the face, and the game ends quite quickly. While it was touted as the new "King of Standard," it barely made an appearance here in Guadalajara, and those that decided to brave it didn't post the best results.

    Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle in Standard control is the innovation of Golgari Control, a deck very reminiscent of the old Rock decks of Standard. Relying on cards like Mutilate and Gaze of Granite to keep the board clear, Golgari has some of the most versatile removal spells in the format. Between Abrupt Decay, Gaze of Granite, and Vraska the Unseen, Golgari can kill permanents with very little restriction. Following that up with incredibly resilient creatures, like Thragtusk and Geralf's Messenger, Golgari is able to gain a tremendous advantage as the game drags on.

    The Others

    Junk Reanimator was already arguably the strongest Standard deck before Dragon's Maze, and it clearly gained the most with the release of the set. Getting to add both Voice of Resurgence and Sin Collector to an already powerful shell improved every matchup the deck had. Obviously good against control matchups, and buying a significant amount of time against aggressive decks, the duo gains extra value with Unburial Rites and Angel of Serenity, potentially giving the Reanimator player additional uses of the abilities.

    Variations on this strategy have yielded a couple of interesting new Reanimator archetypes as well. Both the Mimic and Séance Reanimator decks rely in the very powerful creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers available in Standard to provide a constant stream of effects. From Acidic Slime, which wreaks havoc on the stressed mana bases of Standard, to the aforementioned Sin Collector and Thragtusk, getting to resolve these effects more than once usually results in a win.

    Lastly, it's time to talk about The Aristocrats. Possibly the most versatile deck in the format, The Aristocrats is able to begin in an offensive posture against the midrange decks or a defensive front against the Blitz decks. In either situation, the deck is capable of immediately flipping the switch as the situation warrants. The new Act 2 version also places a higher priority on Blasphemous Act, a crucial move considering the abundance of creatures rampaging through Standard. One player managed to make it through to Day 2 with the Junk version of the deck, which eschews the red cards for cards like Maw of Obzedat, Young Wolf, and Varolz, the Scar-Striped. This version relies more on its sacrificial combos than the traditional build does, but it boasts even more resilience and combat power than the already powerful traditional build.




     

  • Sunday, 2:00 p.m. – Day One Undefeated Decklists

    by Event Coverage Staff

  • Ken Yukihiro's Domri Naya
    Standard – Grand Prix Guadalajara



    Juan Carlos Castillo Mata's Aristocrats
    Standard – Grand Prix Guadalajara




     

  • Sunday, 2:14 p.m. – The Fate of Control with Elias Watsfeldt

    by Nate Price

  • Decks come, and decks go. In this modern age of information, the reflex time of Standard is unreasonably fast. Players assimilate the data from events virtually as soon as they happen, adapting strategies, altering pictures of the metagame, and fine-tuning decisions on a daily basis. As such, seeing a deck go from dominant to an afterthought is not an unheard of development in this modern world of Standard.

    Still, it is rare to see a decline as steep as the big trio of Sphinx's Revelation decks have experienced since the release of Dragon's Maze. Initially the dominant decks in Standard, decks with Hallowed Fountain never completely disappeared, even when they were at their worst. Esper Control was one of the most played and most successful decks at Pro Tour Gatecrash. UWR Flash was putting up incredible numbers as recently as last week.

    Here? Nothing. Only two each of Wolf Run Bant, Esper Control, and UWR Flash even made it to Day 2, compared to the thirteen players piloting Jund and the twelve on Gruul Blitz. Not making it to Day 2 is one thing, but, as yesterday revealed, only a handful of players even resigned themselves to sleeving up a control deck for this field.

    What has happened?

    "Sin Collector."

    This simple statement from Elias Watsfeldt, the Swedish professional player, summed up a common view on the fate of control.

    While there were a handful of cards in Dragon's Maze aimed at slowing the hallmark card of Standard Control decks, Voice of Resurgence has certainly gotten more press than any other card. Considering its stats and abilities, it's no wonder that people have focused on it as the poster boy for Revelation hate.

    Yet Watsfeldt pointed to another card, the considerably more innocuous Sin Collector.

    "It is able to take the strongest card in your hand, often a Sphinx's Revelation or Supreme Verdict, exiles it, and provides a 2/1 body in the process," he explained. "The creature damage isn't irrelevant, and the exiling is always incredibly relevant."

    Much of the reasoning behind this comes down to the way that Control decks have been constructed in the past year. The advantages gained by most decks come in small increments. Thragtusk gains life and generates an additional creature. Restoration Angel just doubles the benefits gained by another creature. Snapcaster gives a spell a second life. These advantages add up over the course of a game, but they are slow and grinding. The other decks in this format generated the same kinds of advantages with their cards, with Liliana of the Veil and Domri Rade providing a constant stream of incremental advantage.

    Sphinx's Revelation was the great unequalizer. It broke the parity. It allowed players to gain a tremendous advantage for a single-shot expenditure. No other card could take you from the brink of defeat to an overwhelming advantage the way that Revelation could.

    True, the player has to have Revelation in hand when the Collector is played for it to actually remove it. But the advantage gained is still very relevant. First, if they don't have the Revelation, they don't have the Revelation. They still have to draw it for it to be relevant at all. Second, you are often going to be able to hit a card that would have otherwise allowed them to stall until they managed to draw into it, such as a removal spell or Supreme Verdict. Finally, as Watsfeldt pointed out, when you combine these two facts with a clock, the situation becomes incredibly potent.

    Still, Watsfeldt felt that Wolf Run Bant was an acceptable choice for this weekend.

    "I feel like I can beat most decks in the field," he told me. "I have played six different decks now, and only picked up two losses."

    Most of the players in the tournament are running Jund Midrange, Junk Reanimator, Bant Auras, or Gruul Blitz. Only one of those decks has Sin Collector in it, which is a big point for Watsfeldt.


    Elias Watsfeldt

    "This deck is much worse if there are too many Sin Collectors running around. I don't mind Sire of Insanity as much in my deck since I have Warleader's Helix to kill it. Voice of Resurgence is still a little problem, but it is more beatable."

    To deal with the fact that Sphinx's Revelation has weakened some, Watsfeldt has made a change that many other players have started to make to keep their decks working: planeswalkers. Planeswalkers ride this terribly thin line right now. On one hand, they provide a permanent, sorcery-speed method of gaining advantage, very good against Voice of Resurgence and Sin Collector. On the other, they are vulnerable to creature decks, which happen to be the flavor of the moment in Standard. Still, Jace, Architect of Thought, and Garruk, Primal Hunter, do a good job of mimicking the bursty advantage gained by Sphinx's Revelation.

    "I needed some card to make the deck work when Revelation isn't an option," Watsfeldt said to explain the Jace. "It was either him or Urban Evolution."

    It's possible that this provides a good template for how to adapt control to survive in a world fraught with targeted hate cards. As of right now, Control seems to be in a bad spot. If more people find ways to adapt, we may yet see another of the big shifts we've seen from Standard, bringing the decks like Esper Control and Wolf Run Bant back from the dead.




     

  • Round 13 Feature Match - Fernando Dominguez (Jund) vs. Alfonso Ramirez (Bhorzhov)

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Liliana of the Veil clocked in overtime for Alfonso Ramirez in his Round 13 feature match against Fernando Dominguez, as Ramirez and his Bhorzhov Midrange deck quickly cut its way through Dominguez's Jund deck 2-0.

    Both games came down to the key card of the match, Liliana of the Veil, which came down on turn three in both games.


    Fernando Dominguez

    Liliana immediately went to work in the first game, with Ramirez upping her loyalty to make both plays discard their hands away.

    Unfortunately for Dominguez, most of what Ramirez was discarding worked with his deck, or was simply unneeded. Sire of Insanity hit the graveyard for Ramirez first, followed by a Tragic Slip that was doing nothing, and then Lingering Souls after that. Dominguez, meanwhile, had to pitch Mizzium Mortars, Sever the Bloodline, and then Kessig Wolf Run.

    Sorin, Lord of Innistrad rubbed salt into the wound, as the Jund player had no reasonable targets for the removal rotting in his hand. Sorin continued to make tokens while Liliana worked up to six loyalty. Olivia Voldaren forced Ramirez to use Lilina's minus two loyalty effect, and Boros Reckoner grew Ramirez's board after both players whittled their hands down.

    Bonfire of the Damned off the top after that turn looked to buy Dominguez time, taking out Ramirez's creatures and Liliana, but Ramirez simply reloaded with Obzedat, Ghost Council while Sorin went up to seven loyalty. Obzedat vanished, and when Dominguez tapped out for Sire of Insanity, an ultimate Sorin cleared the way for Obzedat to come back and finish things up.


    Alfonso Ramirez

    In the second game, Liliana came down on turn three again, slowly eating away at both player's hands. Ramirez, however, had a key first discard in Aurelia, the Warleader.

    When Dominguez aimed Rakdos's Return for three at Liliana, Ramirez discarded three cards, including an Unburial Rites. When Ramirez found a fourth land on the next turn, after stalling on his land drop for a few turns, he flashed back the reanimation spell, and Aurelia, the Warleader came into play and crashed in with some Lingering Souls tokens that were made the previous turn, dropping Dominguez from 20 to 10.

    Unfortunately for Dominguez, his situation never improved. While he had Sever the Bloodline to dispose of the legendary Boros guild leader, the Lingering Souls tokens went the discance, and were soon joined by Boros Reckoner. In a few turns, Dominguez offered the concession.




     

  • Sunday, 2:52 p.m. – Quick Questions: What Standard Deck Changed the Most in Power Level with the Addition of Dragon's Maze?

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Ken Yukuhiro: All Green-White decks. [thanks to Voice of Resurgence]
    Willy Edel: Any deck with Voice of Resurgence like Bant Auras, Domri Naya, maybe even Naya Blitz. It's by far the best card in the set.
    Andres Martinez: Jund. It has very good average starting hands, and good matchups with all of the different decks.
    Marcelino Freeman: Junk, mainly for Voice of Resurgence.
    Stanislav Cifka: Lots of decks gained new cards from Dragon's Maze, but Voice of Resurgence changes the metagame. It's probably Bant Hexproof or Naya that gained the most.
    Andres Cravioto: I think Bant Auras because of the introduction of Voice of Resurgence. Voice gives the deck a lot of resilience, especially against sacrifice effects like Liliana of the Veil and Devour Flesh.



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