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Grand Prix Portland
Day 1 Coverage

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  • Saturday, 2:36 p.m. – Maze's Modern Impact

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • The release of Dragon's Maze, the third and final set of the Return to Ravnica Block, brought two major changes to the Modern format:

    -It added 156 new cards to Modern, including some potentially powerful options to the larger formats such as Beck & Call and Voice of Resurgence

    -It brought changes to the Banned & Restricted list, as Second Sunrise received the cut and Eggs has been left scrambled as a deck choice for Modern

    With Eggs taking over the last Modern Grand Prix in San Diego, the format has shifted with the departure of one of the deck's key cards. The Grand Prix in San Diego also spotlighted some interesting new tech choices for the various green-black base decks, and also sported long-time contenders and combos.

    Given the diversity in the last Modern Grand Prix, the Modern format should see some interesting new evolutions this weekend. Let's take a closer look at the remaining (legal) decks that were seen at the last event, and we'll also take a look at one deck that has recently been discussed as a potentially new option for the format.


    Eric Froehlich and other players from his team sported some unique evolutions to the typical Jund deck with their choice from the last Grand Prix, known as Ajanimaw. This deck sports the familiar powerhouses of Jund, such as Deathrite Shaman, Liliana of the Veil, and Dark Confidant, but also includes a higher curve with Thundermaw Hellkite and the white mana to support Lingering Souls and – more notably – Ajani Vengeant.

    The red-white planeswalker did some real work in GP San Diego, locking down key permanents, threatening opponents from another non-creature angle, and sometimes just aiming a loyalty-charged Lightning Helix to the dome. The planeswalker proved itself to be a versatile and powerful new addition to Jund, and it wouldn't be surprising to see more of Ajani in the near future.

    With its collection of very powerful, pro-active spells, the Jund, Junk, and other variations on these base archetypes still remain major contenders in Modern.


    Not to be outdone by Jund's dominance in Modern, Sammy Tukeman was blasting Deathrite Shamans away all weekend with his white-blue-red control deck, which the San Diego native piloted all the way to the finals in March. The deck includes counterspells, Sphinx's Revelation, Snapcaster Mage, and an assortment of burn spells such as Lightning Bolt and the super-efficient Electrolyze which it can use to not only deal with planeswalkers, but also players as the game gets longer.

    Did the deck pick up anything new in Dragon's Maze? Possibly, although it's difficult to be sure. Renounce the Guilds offers the deck a new answer to things like Geist of Saint Traft, while also being good against planeswalkers like Ajani Vengeant and Domri Rade. However, the deck also gained new troubles, with Notion Thief being a potentially powerful sideboard option if a new deck is able to take advantage of blue-black creature this weekend.


    With one combo deck making a potential exit from Modern due to the new Banned & Restricted list updates, players cannot forget about the other major threat still on the loose: Scapeshift. David Sharfman has been playing the Scapeshift combo deck for a while now, and has seen success with the archetype, most recently his Top 4 finish at GP San Diego. The deck aims to assemble a critical mass of lands before casting its namesake card, Scapeshift, to find a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle or two and a grip of Mountains. The resulting "eruption" from Valakut triggers is usually enough to end the game.

    While Dragon's Maze introduced some new cards for the color combination that Valakut supports, it's hard to say whether they will be included. While Ral Zarek can ramp up a player's mana with its +1 ability, Scapeshift seeks to add that extra mana into play with land searching, and not untapping trickery. We'll see in time whether anything new is adopted into the archetype.

    Bryan De La Torre
    Grand Prix San Diego


    Never a deck to be forgotten, Robots has had a way of reminding players far and wide that artifact creatures and Cranial Plating are still, in fact, a combination that can beat players quickly. Who knew?

    The deck is simple in its plan, but powerful in its execution. Play artifact creatures, use powerful effects that work better with lots of artifact, and beat the opponent down. There are variations in how this is done, ranging from Steel Overseer beats with Memnites and Ornithopters, Cranial Plating fueled attacks, or even the occasional "surprise, you're infected!' kills that result from an Inkmoth Nexus and an equipped Cranial Plating.

    With the combination of synergistic creatures, one of the most powerful aggressive cards of the format with Cranial Plating, and a whopping eight lands that can become artifact creatures, Robots attacks from a variety of angles and is never a deck that players should forget about when preparing for a Modern tournament.


    Despite some of the elephants in the room, such as Jund, Robots, and Scapeshift, there is still room to build new decks based on what the expected metagame will look like. Hall of Famer Brian Kibler proved this to be a powerful plan, where he piloted his Domri Rade Naya deck to a Top 8 at Grand Prix San Diego two months ago. Domri in particular is a monster against opposing creature decks, giving Kibler a three-mana card advantage and removal machine, much like the role Liliana of the Veil serves for the Jund and Junk decks of the format. Its ultimate, by the way, is nearly unbeatable in the decks Domri is built around.

    That said, designing decks to perform strongly against a certain sub-set of archetypes leaves you vulnerable in other matchups. Take, for example, Kibler's matchup against Holiday's Eggs deck, where Kibler performed a real-life "F6", referencing the feature in Magic Online, by going to the restroom while his opponent combo'd off. While losses against combos won't necessarily take that long with the departure of Eggs, it doesn't change the fact that Kibler's Naya deck has a weaker matchup against combos than many.

    That said, the green-white base archetypes also gained new tools in Dragon's Maze. Will Voice of Resurgence be a creature that makes its way into Kibler's archetype, or will the archetype itself simply not be seen this weekend?

    Luis Scott-Vargas's Modern Elves
    Unified Modern – Magic Online Community Cup 2011


    And last, but not least, we'd like to highlight an old deck that has been getting some talk on making a comeback thanks to Dragon's Maze. While the Elves combo deck from years past may be missing some of its key cards, such as Glimpse of Nature and Green Sun's Zenith, the archetype recently received a potential boon with the printing of Beck & Call. The split card does a mighty fine impression of the no-longer-legal Glimpse of Nature, giving the Elves deck a potential source of renewable card draw that the deck runs so efficiently off of.


    The additional mana, and color, may be rough, but the deck has gotten some talk about coming to life once again, or at least received enough interest for people to begin developing new decklists on an old favorite.

    With 979 players here this weekend, innovation is bound to happen with the recent additions to Modern. Which archetype will make its way to the front here in Portland? Check back throughout the weekend to find out!




     

  • Round 4 Feature Match - Gerry Thompson vs. Carlos Pal

    by Steve Sadin

  • Pro Tour Gatecrash Top 8 alum Gerry Thompson came into this weekend with 38 Pro Points for the season.

    While Thompson would need to put up an exceptionally good performance at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze in order to secure an invitation to the World Championship – Thompson currently has his eyes set on an attainable (but still difficult) goal. Acquiring the 7 additional Pro Points that he needs to lock up Platinum level in the Pro Player's Club for next year.

    Thompson is guaranteed 3 Pro Points just for showing up at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze – but he still needs to pick up 4 additional points between this event, and the Pro Tour next weekend to propel himself to the highest level in the Pro Player's Club.

    Thompson's opponent this round, Costa Rican Magic Online enthusiast Carlos Pal, is yet to achieve the Gold level in the Pro Player's Club that he would need to guarantee himself invitations to every Pro Tour. But given Pal's proficiency for winning Pro Tour Qualifiers (both in his home country, and on Magic Online), and the fact that he's now working closely with the increasingly successful Team ManaDeprived – it shouldn't be long before Pal becomes a Pro Tour mainstay.

    Game One

    Thompson won the roll and played a Celestial Colonnade on his first turn – while Pal spent his first turn playing an Inquisition of Kozilek taking an Expedition Map, and leaving Thompson with Ghost Quarter. Azorius Signet, Gifts Ungiven, Unburial Rites, and an Urza's Power Plant.


    Had Thompson solely been interested in assembling the trifecta of Urza's lands as quickly as possible - which is what most Tron decks aim to do - then he could have played Urza's Power Plant, plus Expedition Map on the first turn. However, Thompson was actually interested in maximizing his ability to play Gifts Ungiven on turn three. (After the match, Thompson explained that he thought that Pal had made a mistake by taking the Expedition Map instead of the Azorius Signet with Inquisition of Kozilek)

    Pal got on the board with a Dark Confidant and a Tarmogoyf – but a Gifts Ungiven for Academy Ruins, and Crucible of Worlds (which Thompson was allowed to put into his hand) plus Expedition Map, and Path to Exile put Thompson in a good spot.

    Gerry Thompson needs a good finish this weekend and/or next weekend to ascend to the Platinum level in the Pro Player's Club

    Lightning Bolt, and Inquistion of Kozilek didn't do much to increase Pal's clock, or to disrupt Thompson – a fact that was made extremely clear when a second Gifts Ungiven gave Thompson all of the pieces that he needed to set up a Mindslaver lock.

    A Thoughtseize, taking a Mindslaver, gave Pal a short window to put Thompson away – however a Repeal kept things just out of reach, allowing Thompson to set up his Mindslaver/Academy Ruins lock.

    Gerry Thompson 1 – Carlos Pal 0

    Game Two

    Pal's Jund deck made its presence felt early as he opened with a Dark Confidant, an Inquisition of Kozilek, and a Rakdos Charm that destroyed Thompson's Azorius Signet. Thompson, already back pedaling, played a Timely Reinforcements that he hoped would buy him the time that he needed for his deck to kick into gear.

    Liliana of the Veil, and Deathrite Shaman gave Pal even more pressure - while Thompson tried to kick his deck into first gear by playing a Gifts Ungiven... but an Aven Mindcensor made that Gifts Ungiven less than Inspirational.

    After that point, Thompson was unable to make any significant plays – spending his remaining turns trying to combat Pal's Planeswalkers while his life total slowly whittled away.

    Costa Rican pro Carlos Pal.

    Thompson noticed that the clock in the round was rapidly dwindling, and instead of clinging to the hope that he could pull out the game – he conceded with the intent of leaving himself enough time to (comfortably) complete the third game.

    Gerry Thompson 1 – Carlos Pal 1

    Game Three

    After opening with an Expedition Map (which eventually fetched a Celestial Colonnade), Thompson was able to stay one step ahead of Pal through the early turns thanks to Remand, Azorius Signet, and Repeal.

    By the time that Pal was able to resolve his Liliana of the Veil, Thompson had enough lands to activate and attack with his Celestial Colonnade – making short work of his opponent's Planeswalker.

    With his early offenses blunted, Pal attempted to go over the top of his foe by playing a Thundermaw Hellkite which knocked Thompson down to 15.

    A Celestial Colonnade attack dropped Pal down to 11 – and in response to an Inquisition of Kozilek Thompson cast a Repeal to bounce his opponent's Thundermaw Hellkite.

    The Inquisition of Kozilek revealed a hand of two lands – giving Pal a clear path to victory. In order to set himself up for the kill, Pal had to sacrifice an Arid Mesa to fetch an untapped shock land (falling to 8 in the process) – before playing and attacking with Thundermaw Hellkite.

    Thompson's next Celestial Colonnade attack dropped Pal to a mere 4 life.

    Another Thundermaw Hellkite made its way into play, paving the way for Pal to send in a lethal alpha strike...


    However, Thompson had just drawn a Path to Exile which allowed him to survive the assault, and fly over victory a turn later.

    Gerry Thompson 2 – Carlos Pal 1




     

  • Round 5 Feature Match - William Jensen vs. Matthew Nass

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • William Jensen and Matthew Nass are no strangers to the feature match area, with Jensen sporting four Pro Tour Top 8s including a win back in 2003, and Nass with two Grand Prix Top 8s and a win in the 2010 Oakland Grand Prix.

    While Jensen is sporting a fairly standard Jund deck, Nass is running Melira-Pod, which includes a a notable addition from Dragon's Maze in Voice of Resurgence. Will it be able to battle through Jund's discard and removal?

    Game 1

    Nass led off with Birds of Paradise, while Jensen only had an un-cracked Marsh Flats on the first turn. Nass added another Bird and Viscera Seer, while Jensen found a Blood Crypt, untapped, and cast Dark Confidant. The Seer attacked in, dropping Jensen to 18, as Nass played a second land, Cartel Aristocrat, and Deathrite Shaman before passing.

    Jensen revealed a Terminate to his Dark Confidant before drawing for the turn. He debated over his options before deploying Liliana of the Veil, which went down to 1 loyalty to make Nass sacrifice Birds of Paradise. Nass then untapped and played his Birthing Pod, immediately using it to trade Cartel Aristocrat into Kitchen Finks. He passed after that, while Dark Confidant drew Jensen a Thoughtseize. Life totals were Nass at 17 and Jensen at 14. Jensen upped his Liliana, discarding a land while Nass pitched Melira, Sylvok Outcast. Jensen then played an untapped Overgrown Tomb, going to 12, and passed with four open.

    William Jensen

    Nass drew and attempted to bait removal with a Viscera Seer. Jensen did not respond. Nass then used Pod to upgrade Birds of Paradise into Melira, Sylvok Outcast, and again, Jensen had no response. Nass passed, and left Jensen with decisions. At the end of the turn, Jensen attempted to Terminate a Viscera Seer, forcing Nass into action.

    Nass sacrificed Kitchen Finks in response to the Terminate, but Jensen then responded with Abrupt Decay on Melira. Nass then responded to that with Chord of Calling for 2, and before it resolved, he sacrificed Melira to Viscera Seer, scrying and then resolving Chord to search for... a Spellskite.


    Turns out, Nass only had two Meliras in his deck. Whoops!

    The stack slowly resolved, with Jensen safely not staring down an opponent with 1000000000 life from his Melira-Finks-Seer combo, and Nass left in a crippling position against Dark Confidant and Liliana.

    Jensen added Kitchen Finks and Deathrite Shaman to his field, as Liliana ticked up again. Nass was able to use Birthing Pod to turn the persisted Kitchen Finks from the previous turn into Murderous Redcap, which combined with Viscera Seer to shoot down Jensen's Shaman and Confidant.

    Jensen, seemingly safe after stopping the combo once, was suddenly under pressure, as Spellskite and Murderous Redcap threatened to leave him without any outs against combo attempt #2. Jensen played out his hand, but with a four mana creature and Birthing Pod in play, Nass was able to untap and trade Murderous Redcap for Reveilark.


    Viscera Seer sacrificed the five mana creature, allowing him to return Melira and Redcap to play. And suddenly, rather than threatening to gain millions of life, Nass had the ability to deal millions of damage with the Redcap coming back without -1/-1 counters when it's sacrificed.

    Jensen nodded to the combo, and picked up his cards for the second game.

    Jensen 0 - Nass 1

    Game 2

    Jensen led with Deathrite Shaman, while Nass started off with Birds of Paradise. Jensen had Verdant Catacombs to let his Shaman produce mana on the second turn, and he used it to accelerate out Liliana of the Veil, which promptly forced Nass to sacrifice his mana producer.

    Nass used a fetch land and fell to 15 in order to aim an Abrupt Decay at Jensen's Deathrite Shaman. He passed, and when Liliana went up to 2 loyalty, Nass pitched Lingering Souls. Grim Lavamancer gave Jensen a way to fight through all of Nass's creatures, as he passed back.

    Nass fell to 12 with another fetch land into shock land, flashing back Lingering Souls and casting Viscera Seer. He passed, and Grim Lavamancer immediately shot down Viscera Seer, prompting Nass to sacrifice it for a scry trigger. Liliana ticked up, with Jensen discarding Tarmogoyf and Nass discarding Reveillark. Maelstrom Pulse left Nass without a field as Jensen passed with no cards in hand but in a commanding position.

    Matt Nass

    Nass untapped and played Murderous Redcap to dispose of Jensen's Grim Lavamancer. Jensen drew and aimed Lightning Bolt at the Redcap, which persisted back and aimed a point at Liliana. Treetop Village was animated and went into Nass, putting him to 9. He passed, and grimaced when Nass drew and activated Gavony Township. The now normal-sized Redcap sent Liliana to 1 loyalty, and put Nass back into the game.

    With the Redcap now active for more than one persist, Nass and Jensen both played a game of draw-go as they hoped for action. Jensen found Tarmogoyf, but Dark Confidant warranted Abrupt Decay from Nass.

    However, the Goyf and the Treetop Village threatened Nass's very low life total, and when they crashed in, Nass fell to 2 after blocking the lethal Tarmogoyf. The Redcap came back and aimed its trigger at the Goyf, and in response, Nass used Township. In response to that, Jensen had Terminate to kill off the Redcap for good. Despite having an Obstinate Baloth when Jensen upped his Liliana of the Veil's loyalty, he was dead to Jensen's Tarmogoyf and Treetop Village on the next turn. Not seeing a way out, Nass started shuffling for the third game.

    Jensen 1 - Nass 1

    Game 3

    Jensen was first to act on the draw with an Inquisition of Kozilek, seeing three Kitchen Finks, Abrupt Decay, Razorverge Thicket, and Gavony Township. "Uh, I'll take a Kitchen Finks," Jensen said, as Nass discarded one of the three copies in his hand.

    Ouch

    At the end of Jensen's turn, Nass used his Misty Rainforest to find an Overgrown Tomb. He then untapped and played the Deathrite Shaman he found waiting on top of his deck on the next turn.

    Jensen thought for a moment before playing a Marsh Flats for a Swamp and a Dark Confidant, aware of Nass's Abrupt Decay but not wanting Nass to play a Finks. Nass did just that however after attacking for 1 with Deathrite Shaman. Confidant found Grim Lavamancer for Jensen, who fell to 15, and Inquisition of Kozilek quickly disposed Nass of his Abrupt Decay. Jensen then...passed, stuck on two lands.

    Nass added another Kitchen Finks after swinging in, pushing Jensen to 12. He played another Finks and passed with a Swamp open for his Deathrite Shaman, while Jensen went to 11 for revealing a Deathrite Shaman to his Dark Confidant. Nass played land #5, then sent in the team. Jensen blocked Kitchen Finks with Dark Confidant and went to 5, and a Gavony Township activation after that grew his team and brought his persisted Finks back to normal.


    While Jensen fought for a long as he could, his land stall was just too rough to recover from in the face of Gavony Township and a Kitchen Finks army. A few turns later, and Jensen offered the handshake.

    Jensen 1 - Nass 2




     

  • Round 6 Feature Match - Martin Juza vs. Thomas Holzinger

    by Steve Sadin

  • While the 2012-2013 Pro Tour season will come to a close next weekend at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze, there are still quite a few players who are hot on the hunt for Pro Points.

    "Professional tourist" Martin Juza has 44 Pro Points coming into this weekend. At this point, all that he has to do to lock up Platinum is to show up for round 1 at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze. However, if he's going to qualify for the 16 player World Championship, either by surpassing Shahar Shenhar for the European slot, or by securing one of the at large bids – he's going to need to do well this weekend, and next weekend.

    Austrian pro Thomas Holzinger currently has 26 Pro Points. And while a lot would need to go right for him to reach Platinum – he still needs to find an extra Pro Point (on top of the 3 minimum points that he's set to receive at the Pro Tour next weekend) between this Grand Prix, and Pro Tour Dragon's Maze in order to reach Gold.

    Game One

    The first game ended a mere minute or two after it started. Holzinger won the roll and opened with a Glistener Elf that he quickly enchanted with two Rancors. A second turn Qasali Pridemage gave Juza a blocker – but a pump spell was enough for Holzinger to trample over and win on turn 3.

    Thomas Holzinger

    Thomas Holzinger 1 – Martin Juza 0

    Game Two

    Juza's first turn Thoughtseize stripped away a Noble Hierarch and left Holzinger with a hand of Vines of the Vastwood, Plague Stinger, Inkmoth Nexus, and lands.

    On his second turn, Juza accelerated his mana with a Birds of Paradise, and a Deathrite Shaman – while Holzinger hoped that he would get the opportunity to put things away quickly with his Inkmoth Nexus and his Plague Stinger.

    Martin Juza

    It was clear that something was up when Juza passed his third turn without playing any spells – but with a hand full of pump spells, there was nothing that Holzinger could do other than attack and hope for the best.

    As soon as Holzinger attacked with his Inkmoth Nexus and his Plague Stinger, Juza cast a Chord of Calling for Melira, Sylvok Outcast – simultaneously giving himself a key combo piece, and protecting himself from his opponent's infect army.


    Kitchen Finks, and a Chord of Calling for Viscera Seer allowed Juza to gain a million life, and scry until he had a Chord of Calling on top of his deck.

    Holzinger drew a Dismember – and added it to his hand which already contained Vines of Vastwood, Mutagenic Growth, and Mutagenic Growth.

    That along with Holzinger's board of: Overgrown Tomb, Overgrown Tomb, Misty Rainforest, Inkmoth Nexus, and Plague Stinger meant that he had exactly enough resources to kill off his opponent's Melira, Sylvok Outcast and deal 9 points of infect damage...

    Instead of dealing a non-lethal amount of poison damage (and surely dying on Juza's next turn) – Holzinger simply said go.

    A couple of turns later, Juza had found the Murderous Redcap and the second Chord of Calling that he needed to take the first game in spite of Holzinger's Dismember.

    Thomas Holzinger 1 – Martin Juza 1

    Game Three

    Both players mulliganed to start the third game – and while Holzinger went down to 5, Juza kept his 6 card hand.

    Holzinger opened with a Noble Hierarch – but without an infect creature to go with it, he could only watch as Juza pulled way ahead with Birds of Paradise, Kitchen Finks, Eternal Witness, and a Birthing Pod.

    By the time Holzinger drew a Blighted Agent, it was too late – as Juza was able to set up a Murderous Redcap loop that killed off both of Holzinger's creatures - and then killed Holzinger a turn later.

    Thomas Holzinger 1 – Martin Juza 2




     

  • Saturday, 6:33 p.m. - The Last Leg of the Race

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Grand Prix Portland marks the second to last event of the 2012-2013 season, and for many pro players here this weekend, it is one of their last chances to earn pro points in pursuit of a coveted slot in the 2013 World Championship.

    Of course, four players don't have to worry about their invitations to the 2013 World Championship this summer. Stanislav Cifka, Tom Martell, and Dmitry Butakov have all locked up one of the sixteen slots available for this invitation-only event with their wins at the Pro Tour and the Magic Online Championship. Yuuya Watanabe is also locked in due to his win at last year's Magic Players Championship. Willy Edel is also virtually locked up as the top pro point earner of Latin America, as the next competitor trails by over 20 pro points.

    With one slot going to the top pro point finisher in each region, another slot going to the 2012-2013 player of the year, another slot going to the winner of Pro Tour Dragon's Maze next weekend, and either six or seven more at-large invitations going to top pro point finishers (thanks to Yuuya Watanabe earning the top spot for Japan and potentially the 2012-2013 player of the year slot), it's still anyone's guess as to who else will wind up going to Amsterdam for the World Championship.

    The US invitation, which goes to the top pro-point finisher from the United States, has numerous top players vying for the spot. Surprisingly, they are all on the same team with ChannelFireball. Ben Stark is leading the charge with 56 pro points, but Josh Utter-Leyton and Eric Froehlich aren't far behind with 53 and 50 points respectively. David Ochoa and Owen Turtenwald also have a shot at the top US slot with 49 and 45 points. All of these players are here this weekend and are competing for the last few pro points remaining before the final event of the season.

    David Ochoa is just one of many US players here this weekend racing for pro points in the final stretch of the 2012-2013 season.

    The Europe invitation is still up for grabs, with Shahar Shenhar of Israel leading the race with 50 points. The next eligible player for this slot, Martin Juza, is up next with 44 points. Both are here this weekend in hopes of earning more points, but a swing finish at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze could see one of these players earning the slot and the other falling just a bit short.

    Shahar Shenhar currently leads the race for the top pro point leader of Europe with 50 pro points.

    And finally, the race for the World Championship slot that goes to the pro point leader of Asia Pacific is neck and neck. Both Shi Tian Lee and Tzh-Ching Kuo are tied at 39 points each, and are vying for more points at Grand Prix Beijing this weekend.

    It's worth noting, however, that many of these players both stand to qualify for one of the at-large invitations, assuming there are no major upsets at next weekend's Pro Tour event. This is especially the case for Ben Stark, Josh Utter-Leyon, Eric Froehlich, and Shahar Shenhar, all of who are above the 50 pro point mark. And with Yuuya Watanabe leading the pack in pro points for this season, the invitation to the top pro point earner of Japan will mostly become another at-large slot if Shuhei Nakamura doesn't pull off a big finish next weekend, and it's possible that the player of the year slot can become another at-large slot as well.

    As this season winds down, where will players end up? This weekend's Grand Prix events and Pro Tour Dragon's Maze are all that's left, as players compete for those coveted slots to the most prestigious event of the year!




     

  • Saturday, 7:10 p.m. - Quick Hits: What’s the best Combo Deck in Modern?

    by Steve Sadin

  • Paul Rietzl - "Affinity. There’s no one card that the deck needs to get off to an absolutely explosive start.”
    Patrick Chapin – "I guess I’ll go with Melira Pod because I know more people playing that than any other combo deck, but I’m not sure."
    Ben Stark - "Scapeshift. It’s really hard to disrupt, and it gets to play a lot of interactive cards.”
    David Caplan – "Splinter Twin. It has the tools to beat every deck, and it’s really difficult for opponents to interact with it."



     

  • Round 8 Feature Match - Alexander Hayne vs. Cedric Phillips

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Pro Tour Avacyn Restored champion Alexander Hayne has proven that his Pro Tour win was no fluke. He has locked up gold for the next season, and has also proven himself to be an outgoing and friendly player even in the most intense matches.

    His opponent, Stream Team member and Star City Game content coordinator Cedric Phillips, is also known for his outgoing and friendly demeanor. The two wasted no time in enjoying some friendly banter as the two sat down for their eighth round. The winner would lock themselves into Day Two competition tomorrow. Would Hayne's Robots come out on top, or would Phillips liberate Hayne of any chances of winning with the help of Karn?

    Game 1

    Hayne and Phillips both led off with mulligans, but while Phillips's second hand was acceptable, Hayne's was not, as he was forced to work with a five card hand. Hayne started with Springleaf Drum, while Phillips began with Ghost Quarter and a Chromatic Sphere. A second Springleaf Drum hit play for Hayne, while Phillips played Urza's Power Plant, filtered colorless for green by cracking the sphere, and played Sylvan Scrying for Uuza's Mine.

    Cedric Phillips

    Hayne made the best of his five card hand and played Ornithopter, using it and a drum to cast Arcbound Ravager. An Expedition Map from Phillips got him the third and final piece of the Urza lands, and play quickly passed back to Hayne. The Team ManaDeprived player dropped Steel Overseer. Arcbound Ravager was fed Ornithopter and Springleaf Drum, letting the two mana creature attack for 3, as Hayne passed.

    "Make them go away," Phillips said when he untapped, revealing the third Urza land and an Oblivion Stone. The activation of the sweeper left Hayne without much of a board, and the Karn Liberated that followed had Hayne packing it up two turns later.

    Hayne 0 - Phillips 1

    Game 2

    Hayne debated on his opening hand, as Phillips looked on. "I'll try it," Hayne said. Phillips immediately responded with "Let's play Magic."

    Hayne led with Blinkmoth Nexus and Inkmoth Nexus into Arcbound Ravager and Ornithopter in the first two turns, while Phillips did some digging with Chromatic Star and Acient Stirrings to find his lands. Chromatic Sphere gave him another way to produce colored mana, and he passed back. A second Blinkmoth Nexus joined Hayne's powerful land base, casting a second Arcbound Ravager and Vault Skirge. Ornithopter and one of the Ravagers went to the graveyard to feed the one that could attack, and it quickly crashed in for 4.

    Phillips popped the Chromatic Sphere for green and used Ancient Stirrings to dig for another land. A second Urza's Mine hit play for him as Phillips played Chromatic Star, passing back to Hayne, who woke up two Blinkmoth Nexuses and went to combat, sending Phillips to 9.

    Phillips filtered the Chromatic Star for red and cast Pyroclasm. Hayne sacrificed the Vault Skirge to his Arcbound Ravager, but lost the two mana artifact creature to Nature's Claim afterward, although Phillips had to Ghost Quarter his own freshly played Eye of Ugin for a Forest in order to do so. Two copies of Blinkmoth Nexus were animated and attacked Phillips to 7, as Hayne added a third copy of the land and Memnite to the board.

    Phillips drew and played Ancient Stirrings, digging for his lands. Instead he found an Oblivion Stone, which he took. Expedition Map and Spellskite came after that, and play shifted back to Hayne, who attacked Phillips down to 5 before casting Signal Pest, threatening to put Phillips away with his attacking Blinkmoths.

    Phillips cracked his Expedition Map to find Urza's Power Plant, which he played alongside his three Urza's Mines. A fourth Blinkmoth Nexus was added to Hayne's board, and while the Signal Pest ate a Nature's Claim, the three animated copies of Blinkmoth Nexus pt Phillips to 2. Phillips played his fourth Ancient Stirrings, and he chuckled. "This one's just as bad!" he exclaimed, finding nothing of value. When Hayne went to attack with his three Blinkmoths, Phillips blocked Memnite with his Spellskite and bought a turn with Nature's Claim on his own creature.

    Phillips drew. "You're a little late," he said in regards to his draw, as he moved to the third game.

    Hayne 1 - Phillips 1

    Game 3

    Phillips kept his seven card hand, while Hayne was quick to ship his back. The second hand was no better, as Hayne had no lands. "I may have the nuts five," Hayne said, shuffling up for a third try.


    Phillips led with Urza's Mine and an Expedition Map, while Hayne had Darksteel Citadel and Springleaf Drum. Phillips played Grove of the Burnwillows and used Sylvan Scrying to find Urza's Power Plant. "This game's not looking too good for our hero," Hayne said as he drew for his second turn.

    A second Darksteel Citadel came down followed by Ornithopter and Steel Overseer. Phillips was quick to Pyroclasm the creatures away after playing his Power Plant, while Hayne unloaded the rest of his hand with Cranial Plating, Ornithopter, and an equip to the 0/2 creature.

    Alexander Hayne

    Phillips tapped his two colorless lands to pop the Expedition Map, finding Urza's Tower. He played it, then floated two colorless and used the Grove to cast Sylvan Scrying for Ghost Quarter. Hayne played Mox Opal and attacked in with what was now a 6/2 Ornithopter thanks to the Cranial Plating. However, Hayne's non-land permanents were not long for the world, as Phillip played and popped Oblivion Stone.

    Ancient Stirrings found Wurmcoil Engine a turn later, which Phillips quickly played, and the game was quickly slipping out of Hayne's grip. Wurmcoil Engine attacked in, and Sylvan Scrying found Eye of Ugin. Spellskite time two earned the handshake from Hayne.

    Hayne 1 - Phillips 2

    A Bird's Eye View of Round 9

    by Steve Sadin

    The top ten tables in the final round of Day One featured nine different deck archetypes showcasing a wide range of play styles. Some were beating down with aggro decks or Robots, while others were comboing off with Scapeshift and Melira-Pod. Blue-white-red control strategies have also proven that they're here to stay, with one player even representing that color combination with the Planeswalker crushing Lightning Angel.




     

  • Saturday, 9:22 p.m. - A Bird’s Eye View of Round 9

    by Steve Sadin

  • The top ten tables in the final round of Day One featured nine different deck archetypes showcasing a wide range of play styles. Some were beating down with aggro decks or Robots, while others were comboing off with Scapeshift and Melira-Pod. Blue-white-red control strategies have also proven that they're here to stay, with one player even representing that color combination with the Planeswalker crushing Lightning Angel.

    Round 9 Top 10 Tables Breakdown
    5 Blue White Red
    4 Melira Pod
    4 Green White Black Junk
    2 Gruul Aggro
    1 Living End
    1 White Black Soul Sisters
    1 Robots
    1 Red Blue Green Scapeshift
    1 Blue White Merfolk

    Modern is a constantly evolving format where players have access to very good mana. Consequently, players are able to tune their decks to take advantage of the strongest synergies that they can think of (across any of the five colors) without worrying too much about whether or not they will be able to find the colored mana they need for their spells.


    A few months ago, Jund and Blue White Flash were two of the most popular decks in Modern. Flash forward to today, and the top performing Green Black decks have largely abandoned red in favor of white – while the successful Blue White control decks from today all have fairly heavy red splashes.

    So if you're building a Modern deck, and you think of a card that you really want to have access to... only it isn't in your colors... then you should take a step back and figure out exactly what it would take for you to splash it. Odds are, you can find a way to make it work.




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