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Braun-Duin is Leader of the Pack in Louisville

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Congratulations to Brian Braun-Duin, Grand Prix Louisville champion! Set on disrupting everyone he came across, Braun-Duin's devotion to a darker cause was rewarded with a shiny new trophy after a tense, three-game final match against Jon Stern's Gruul Monsters. Erebos, God of the Dead, was well represented in the Top 8, with Braun-Duin's teammates Todd Anderson and Brad Nelson also making it through to the elimination rounds with Monoblack Devotion, ushering in the era of Theros's newest favored deity.

One of the biggest cards to aid Braun-Duin on his path to the title was Pack Rat. Renowned for its power in Return to Ravnica Limited, Braun-Duin showed that Pack Rat is still a thing using it to overrun opponents in both the quarterfinals and finals. Underworld Connections provided the engine behind the deck, allowing Braun-Duin to maintain a constant stream of cards to feed his ever-growing army of Rats.

Standard isn't just about worshiping Gods and controlling opponents. Jon Stern's off-the-radar Gruul Beats deck brought powerful creatures and planeswalkers to battle, and he profited through to the finals. Both Polukranos, World Eater and Xenagos, The Reveler also appeared in the more popular Colossal Gruul deck, but Stern's version of Gruul eschewed devotion and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx for a more direct attack path. By including Mistcutter Hydra and Stormbreath Dragon, Stern consistently cut through all of the more popular decks.

With the results of Pro Tour Theros played out here at Grand Prix Louisville, Standard is anything but settled. With time until Grand Prix Santiago its up to the players to decide where the format goes next.



Quarterfinals   Semifinals   Finals   Champion
1 Sam Black   Alex Sittner, 2-0        
8 Alex Sittner   Brian Braun-Duin, 2-0
       
4 Brad Nelson   Brian Braun-Duin, 2-0   Brian Braun-Duin, 2-1
5 Brian Braun-Duin    
       
2 Jon Stern   Jon Stern, 2-0
7 William Jensen   Jon Stern, 2-1
       
3 Andrew Baeckstrom   Andrew Baeckstrom, 2-0
6 Todd Anderson    










  Streaming video coverage of Grand Prix Louisville provided by ggslive.com with Rashad Miller, Rich Hagon, Marshall Sutcliffe, and Jacob Van Lunen. See full video archives at ggslive's YouTube channel.



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EVENT COVERAGE INFORMATION

  • by Nate Price and Adam Styborski
    Top 5 Cards

  • by Nate Price
    Finals
    Jon Stern (Gruul Beats) vs. Brian Braun-Duin (Monoblack Devotion)

  • by Nate Price
    Semifinals
    Jon Stern (Gruul Beats) vs. Andrew Baeckstrom (Mono-Blue Devotion)

  • by Magic Coverage Team
    Video Semifinals
    Alex Sittner (Esper Control) vs. Brian Braun-Duin (Monoblack Devotion)

  • by Adam Styborski
    Quarterfinals
    Sam Black (Mono-Blue Devotion) vs. Alex Sittner (Esper Control)

  • by Nate Price
    Quarterfinals
    Brad Nelson vs. Brian Braun-Duin

  • by Nate Price
    Quarterfinals
    Todd Anderson (Monoblack Devotion) vs. Andrew Baeckstrom (Monoblue Devotion)

  • by Magic Coverage Team
    Video Quarterfinals
    William Jensen (Esper Control) vs. Jon Stern (Gruul Beats)

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 16 Decklists

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 8 Decklists

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 8 Profiles

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day 2 Blog
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day 1 Blog
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Fact Sheet
 1.  Brian Braun-Duin $3,500
 2.  Jon Stern $2,300
 3.  Andrew Baeckstrom $1,500
 4.  Alex Sittner $1,500
 5.  Sam Black $1,000
 6.  Brad Nelson $1,000
 7.  Todd Anderson $1,000
 8.  William Jensen $1,000
Pairings Results Standings
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  • Top 8 Profiles

    by Event Coverage Staff


  • Andrew Baeckstrom

    Age: 23
    Hometown: Chery Hill, New Jersey
    Occupation: Advertising Operations


    What deck did you play, and why?
    Mono-Blue Devotion because I'm smart enough to know how smart team StarCityGames it.

    Did you learn anything from last week's Pro Tour Theros that helped you this weekend?
    Mutavault and Rapid Hybridization are really good at dealing with Mistcutter Hydra.

    What was the most surprising thing that you played against all weekend?
    Round 2, Green-White Aggro beat me twice with Witchstalker and Unflinching Courage.

    Is there anything that you think would have improved your deck or sideboard for this event?
    More sideboard slots for Esper Control. The deck was everywhere.

    Which of the Theros Gods has your devotion, and why?
    Thassa, who else




    Alex Sittner

    Age: 26
    Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah
    Occupation: Owner, Oasis Games


    What deck did you play, and why?
    Esper Control. It's better than what I played last week.

    Did you learn anything from last week's Pro Tour Theros that helped you this weekend?
    Don't play the same deck.

    What was the most surprising thing that you played against all weekend?
    Two mono-white decks out of the draw bracket!

    Which of the Theros Gods has your devotion, and why?
    I'm only devoted to drawing cards.




    Brian Braun-Duin

    Age: 27
    Hometown: Roanoke, Virginia
    Occupation: Content Producer and Warehouse Associate at StarCityGames


    What deck did you play, and why?
    Mono-Black Devotion. 50 Shades of Gray Merchant. O also didn't lose a match on Magic Online with it for a few days.

    Did you learn anything from last week's Pro Tour Theros that helped you this weekend?
    Thoughtseize and Hero's Downfall are amazing.

    What was the most surprising thing that you played against all weekend?
    Nothing really.

    Is there anything that you think would have improved your deck or sideboard for this event?
    Second Pithing Needle in the sideboard over the fourth Pack Rat or third Duress.

    Which of the Theros Gods has your devotion, and why?
    Erebos for obvious reasons!




    William Jensen

    Age: 31
    Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
    Occupation: Gamer


    What deck did you play, and why?
    Esper Control, because Reid Duke said to.

    Did you learn anything from last week's Pro Tour Theros that helped you this weekend?
    Learned a lot about the format as a whole.

    What was the most surprising thing that you played against all weekend?
    Nothing.

    Is there anything that you think would have improved your deck or sideboard for this event?
    More Æthering.

    Which of the Theros Gods has your devotion, and why?
    Thassa, because I've always favored blue decks.




    Jon Stern

    Age: 35
    Hometown: Montreal, Quebec
    Occupation:Magic?


    What deck did you play, and why?
    Red-Green Beats. I had lots of practice with it before the Pro Tour.

    Did you learn anything from last week's Pro Tour Theros that helped you this weekend?
    General experience with the format, and how to play against Thassa, God of the Sea.

    What was the most surprising thing that you played against all weekend?
    Black-Red in round nine, and Banisher Priest in Blue-White Control.

    Is there anything that you think would have improved your deck or sideboard for this event?
    Not really.

    Which of the Theros Gods has your devotion, and why?
    Thassa. The card is much better than I thought.




    Sam Black

    Age: 31
    Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin
    Occupation: Writer


    What deck did you play, and why?
    Mono-Blue Devotion. I had the cards, and also I thought Huey Jensen and Owen Turtenwald were playing it.

    Did you learn anything from last week's Pro Tour Theros that helped you this weekend?
    I learned how to play my deck.

    What was the most surprising thing that you played against all weekend?
    Dark Betrayal

    Is there anything that you think would have improved your deck or sideboard for this event?
    No.

    Which of the Theros Gods has your devotion, and why?
    Thassa, obviously.




    Todd Anderson

    Age: 27
    Hometown: Roanoke, Virginia
    Occupation: Writer, Content Producer at StarCityGames


    What deck did you play, and why?
    Mono-Black Devotion is the actual factual.

    Did you learn anything from last week's Pro Tour Theros that helped you this weekend?
    Blue was insane so I needed to have a solid plan.

    What was the most surprising thing that you played against all weekend?
    Nothing. Played against mostly expected cards.

    Is there anything that you think would have improved your deck or sideboard for this event?
    More Dark Betrayal.

    Which of the Theros Gods has your devotion, and why?
    Erebos because Hades is the nut.




    Brad Nelson

    Age: 27
    Hometown: Manan, North Dakota
    Occupation: StarCityGames Content Provider


    What deck did you play, and why?
    Mono-Black Devotion because it's the best deck in a field of Thoughtseizes.

    Did you learn anything from last week's Pro Tour Theros that helped you this weekend?
    The Thoughtseize is the best card in the format. Also, Flesh & Blood is a close second. Trading Post third.

    What was the most surprising thing that you played against all weekend?
    Not a single thing. Was spot on for the metagame.

    Is there anything that you think would have improved your deck or sideboard for this event?
    No clue. Will decompress after this event and write about it next week.

    Which of the Theros Gods has your devotion, and why?
    Heliod. I like an underdog story.




     

  • Top 8 Decklists

    by Event Coverage Team

  • Sam Black - Mono-Blue Devotion
    Grand Prix Louisville - Top 8 Standard


    Brad Nelson - Mono-Black Devotion
    Grand Prix Louisville - Top 8 Standard


    Brian Braun-Duin - Mono-Black Devotion
    Grand Prix Louisville - Top 8 Standard


    Jon Stern - Red-Green Beats
    Grand Prix Louisville - Top 8 Standard


    Alex Sittner - Esper Control
    Grand Prix Louisville - Top 8 Standard


    William Jensen - Esper Control
    Grand Prix Louisville - Top 8 Standard


    Todd Anderson - Mono-Black Devotion
    Grand Prix Louisville - Top 8 Standard


    Andrew Baeckstrom - Mono-Blue Devotion
    Grand Prix Louisville - Top 8 Standard




     

  • Top 16 Decklists (9-16)

    by Event Coverage Staff





  • Gaudenis Vidugiris
    Grand Prix Louisville - Top 16 Standard







     

  • Video Quarterfinals: William Jensen (Esper Control) vs. Jon Stern (Gruul Beats)

    by Magic Coverage Team

  • Just one week after being inducted into the Hall of Fame, William Jensen is proving why he warranted that induction, making the Top 8 of Grand Prix Louisville in this incredibly skill-testing Standard format. Making the audible from Monoblue Devotion, Jensen opted for the Esper Control deck that so many of the top players in the room decided was the best deck for the tournament. His opponent in the quarterfinals was Canada's Jon Stern. Stern is a Pro Tour stalwart who took down the title at Grand Prix Atlantic City last season, also a Standard event. He came into this event with an unorthodox Gruul Beats deck akin to Olle Råde's deck from the Pro Tour. Considering that virtually every player with green and red had been playing Makihito Mihara's Colossal Gruul deck, with its heavy devotion component, seeing Stern Top 8 with a deck devoid of those elements was a treat.


    To see the match in its entirety, check out the video here!





     

  • Quarterfinals: Todd Anderson (Monoblack Devotion) vs. Andrew Baeckstrom (Monoblue Devotion)

    by Nate Price

  • There is a lot to be said about having the right cards at the right time.

    Coming into this match, Todd Anderson had to be feeling fairly good about himself. Understandably wary about the possibility of him drawing and not being able to make it into the Top 8 on tiebreakers, he waited nervously alongside his teammate Brad Nelson until his name was announced. When the pairings came down, he had to feel even better. The matchup against Monoblue Devotion tends to favor the Monoblack Devotion deck, as the spot removal and Thoughtseizes in Anderson's deck are incredibly powerful at disrupting the Devotion strategy. Andrew Baeckstrom, on the other hand, was incredibly happy simply to be seated where he was sitting. Playing for a seat in his first Pro Tour, Baeckstrom was all smiles. Interestingly, this was the first time all weekend that he had played against the Monoblack Devotion deck.

    "Yeah, I haven't played this matchup before," he admitted. "I have, however, played against that Gruul deck five or six times."

    The Games

    Things started incredibly well for Baeckstrom, as he stormed out of the gates with a slew of efficient creatures. Double Judge's Familiar, Frostburn Weird, and an Omenspeaker rounded out Baeckstrom's early offense. Of all of those, easily the most important to the match was the innocuous Omenspeaker. Seeing Island and Bident of Thassa on the top of his deck, Baeckstrom set it up so that he would be able to draw the Bident on turn four, cast it, and attack for a massive number of cards. Matchups like the one against Monoblack Devotion are the rare occurrences when Bident is a better use of four mana than Jace, Architect of Thought. Baeckstrom was ecstatic to see the powerful art-chantment on top of his deck, and it paid him dividends.

    Baeckstrom

    Combined with those same four creatures, Bident was able to draw Baeckstrom twelve cards over three turns, allowing him to completely fill his hand and his board. Even better, because it came to him via a scry setup, it was able to dodge the Thoughtseize that Anderson fired off on turn three, leaving Anderson caught unaware.

    "Yeah, ok. That was..." Anderson struggled to find the words.

    "A good topdeck," Baeckstrom offered?

    "Yeah," Anderson glumly replied. "I'm really sad that I looked at the list now and saw that there was only one."

    Baeckstrom's Bident kept him flush with sacrificial bodies to keep Anderson's Desecration Demon at bay, leaving him plenty of room to swarm Anderson to death.

    For the second game, it was Baeckstrom's turn to mulligan, repaying the favor Anderson had done him in the first game.

    "I might have been able to keep that hand," Baeckstrom admitted, "But if you had turn one Thoughtseize, all of a sudden it wouldn't look so hot."

    Just as in the first game, Baeckstrom used an Omenspeaker to set up a turn four Bident, and once again, the card advantage proved overwhelming. Anderson had his own source of card advantage in an Underworld Connections, but the cards that each player drew off of them made all of the difference. Rather than removal to lessen the impact of Bident, Anderson drew Desecration Demons, which are utterly weak against the card advantage offered by the Bident. A second Desecration Demon did manage to slow the game up some, but not before Anderson had fallen to 7 life.

    Anderson

    At this point, I was given the chance to type words that I never thought I would ever type: Baeckstrom activated his Bident of Thassa, prodding Anderson to evacuate his defenses and attack the still-healthy Baeckstrom with all of his creatures. Anderson had a single Mutavault able to dodge the Bident's call, but was forced to send the rest of his creatures. Baeckstrom had the extra creature around to force the larger of Anderson's Demons to ineffectively tap, and he still had enough creatures left behind to attack for the win on the following turn.

    Andrew Baeckstrom defeats Todd Anderson 2-0!




     

  • Quarterfinals: Brad Nelson vs. Brian Braun-Duin

    by Nate Price

  • To be a black mage, you have to put yourself first. You have to do whatever is necessary to win. You have to stop at nothing, ready to defeat anyone who stands in your way, even your own friends.

    Both Brad Nelson and Brian Braun-Duin know this, yet it doesn't make it any easier that their paths to the title had to cross so early in the Top 8. Currently hailing from Roanoake, Virginia, the team from StarCityGames, featuring both Braun-Duin, Nelson, and Todd Anderson, took over this event, painting the Top 8 black. From a fringe deck, to an Internet darling, to nearly half of the Top 8 of the following Grand Prix, Monoblack Devotion has had an incredible arc over the past week, and all because of Kentarou Yamamoto's Top 8 in Dublin.

    Brian Braun-Duin

    In this mirror match, there are a few cards that matter more than others. Erebos, God of the Dead, ensures that opposing Gray Merchants of Asphodel and Whips of Erebos don't pad life totals. Underworld Connections ensures a steady stream of cards. Doom Blade...well, Doom Blade can kill Mutavault, I suppose.

    But the king of them all, the biggest card in this matchup, is the lowly, little Rat.

    The Games

    Nelson started things off with a Thoughtseize, stripping Braun-Duin of his Nightveil Specter, another important card in the mirror match. Since both players are playing virtually the same deck, Nightveil Specter is basically a Thieving Magpie, allowing players to draw an essential extra card a turn. Beyond that, the middle part of the game passed with little fanfare until the fifth turn. Both players had gotten Whip of Erebos into play, but they didn't yet have much to abuse it. On Braun-Duin's fifth turn, he added the first real threat on the table: Pack Rat. Making sure he didn't cast it until he could also activate it, Braun-Duin ensured that he would have a never-ending army of Rats, ready to run Nelson over.

    Brad Nelson

    Seriously, that's all it took. First he made one Rat, then he made two Rats. The newly minted 4/4s just kept growing and growing, rapidly outpacing anything that Nelson could do. Even a Gray Merchant of Asphodel wasn't enough to stem the bleeding, and Nelson quickly conceded, lamenting the fact that he

    In the second game, it looked like Nelson would have that exact chance, as a first-turn Thoughtseize revealed the following hand:

    [Pack Rat, Dark Betrayal, Underworld Connections, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Swamp, Swamp, Mutavault]

    It was a very good hand, with two essential cards in the matchup. Considering how much hype was placed on Pack Rat being crucial to the matchup, it was strange to see Nelson select the Underworld Connections over it. When Braun-Duin drew his card, the decision made more sense, though it also would prove fateful.

    "This draw was pretty good," Braun-Duin said, revealing a Thoughtseize.

    Nelson held a Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Devour Flesh, Mutavault, and two Swamps. He had made his decision looking to bait Braun-Duin into dropping his Pack Rat so that he could Devour Flesh it, but the Thoughtseize ripped that plan apart, as it tends to do. Without his removal spell, Nelson was doomed. He did manage to draw a second Devour Flesh, but not before Braun-Duin had a Mutavault in play to sacrifice in its stead. Each passing turn brought bigger Rats, and Nelson was forced to concede.

    "You had to draw the Pack Rat," Nelson said after the match. "Good luck, BBD."

    "I drew really well that match," Braun-Duin said. "Thanks man. It feels good to be going to Valencia!"




     

  • Quarterfinals: Sam Black (Mono-Blue Devotion) vs. Alex Sittner (Esper Control)

    by Adam Styborski

  • Formats constantly change, but sometimes more of the same is what matters.

    Coming off a Top 8 finish at Pro Tour Theros with a rise to 13th in the Top 25 player rankings, you might be surprised to learn Sam Black didn't intend to play the same deck this weekend. Those that opted into Esper Control were his teammates, including fellow Grand Prix Louisville Top 8 competitor and Pro Tour Hall of Fame player William Jensen. They didn't tell Black until it was too late for him.

    Whether you think its fate or skill (The statistics say it's likely the latter.), Black ran his deck back for another Top 8 appearance. The blue mana symbol pin bestowed upon him by Pro Tour Historian Brian David-Marshall fit Black well.

    Across from the ranked player sat Alex Sittner, who played on and off the Pro Tour for years. After a few close calls he made Top 8 at 2012's Grand Prix Anaheim. With his second Top 8 today, Sittner is showing what years of effort reward a player that pushes along.

    Game 1

    Black had played out the final round of Swiss to ensure he could take priority in his games. Going first for the Mono-Blue Devotion deck can lead to third turn Thassa, God of the Sea and other explosive pressure. It was a solid plan that Black knew inside and out.

    However Black's early threats are each met by an answer: Azorius Charm for Nightveil Specter; Hero's Downfall for Jace, Architect of Thought; Supreme Verdict for another Nightveil Specter; Doom Blade for Master of Waves. It seemed impossible for Black to keep something on the battlefield.

    It also meant Black had run out of threats before Sittner could start drawing extra cards from Jace, Architect of Thought and Sphinx's Revelation. Indeed, after emptying out his own hand and watching Sittner refill his own Black conceded.

    "I'm ready for the next game. Everyone has somewhere to be," Black offered

    Sam Black 0 - Alex Sittner 1

    Despite his deck being uncooperative, Sam Black's devotion to blue never wavered.

    Game 2

    Unlike the first game, Black's threats spent a little more time on the battlefield. Baked up by a Mutavault, Black aggressively ate into Sittner's life total as he replaced each threat Sittner killed off. It wasn't until Elspeth, Sun's Champion presented a wall of tokens that things slowed down. Without Thassa, God of the Sea appearing, Black's obvious way around with Nightveil Specter drew Supreme Verdict before Elspeth reloaded the battlefield.

    Alex Sittner always had the answer he needed to stop the rising tide of blue.

    After Black brew yet another land he didn't need, Sittner's swarm of tokens overtook the last life in the match.

    "I don't think there's a lot I could have done there," Black said as be shrugged over his ten or so lands on the battlefield.

    "Not with that many lands," Sittner agreed.

    Sam Black 0 - Alex Sittner 2




     

  • Video Semifinals: Alex Sittner (Esper Control) vs. Brian Braun-Duin (Monoblack Devotion)

    by Magic Coverage Team

  • Alex Sittner and Brian Braun-Duin

    Alex Sittner managed to defeat 13th ranked Sam Black and his Monoblue Devotion deck in the quarterfinals, a feat made even more impressive by the fact that Black was fresh off of a semifinals appearance at the Pro Tour playing the same deck just last week! This round, however, he would be facing off against a deck of a different color—Monoblack Devotion. Brian Braun-Duin had just been forced to knock his friend and teammate Brad Nelson, also playing Monoblack, out of the tournament, yet was feeling very good about having secured his seat at the Pro Tour in true black mage fashion. This match between Esper Control and Monoblack Devotion tends to favor Monoblack, as it interestingly has a better late game than the Sphinx's Revelation deck. As Nelson himself proved earlier, as long as the Devotion deck is able to get some of its board online before the Sphinx's Revelations start, the Monoblack Deck should come out on top.

    For all of the action of this thrilling semifinal match, check out the video here:





     

  • Semifinals: Jon Stern (Gruul Beats) vs. Andrew Baeckstrom (Mono-Blue Devotion)

    by Adam Styborski

  • Jon Stern was closer to his chance at a second Grand Prix victory in 2013. After crashing through his quarterfinal match against Pro Tour Hall of Fame player William Jensen, Stern's Mistcutter Hydras and Boon Satyr now faced the deck they were meant to defeat: Mono-Blue Devotion in Andrew Baeckstrom's hands.

    It was Baeckstrom's second Grand Prix ever, and his first Top 8. Having defeated Todd Anderson's Mono-Black deck in the quarterfinals, Baeckstrom was pleased to have advanced to the semifinals and earn a Pro Tour qualification.

    "Were you Q'd?" Baeckstrom asked, regardng Stern's status for Pro Tour Born of the Gods coming into the weekend.

    "I was already qualified. I get a flight now for this," Stern said.

    "Really?"

    "Yeah, you're all set now too." Stern said. Baeckstrom continued to beam.

    This semifinal match was good news for Stern too. He was pleased to have a match up against Baeckstrom's Mono-Blue Devotion rather than the forces of Erebos, God of the Dead in Mono-Black Devotion.

    "I'm glad you're not Mono-Black," Stern admitted. "It's not a good match up." But the conversation turned.

    Game 1

    Baeckstrom presented a quick Frostburn Weird to wall off Stern's second turn Kalonian Tusker, but the end of turn Boon Satyr looked more promising. After trading a Tidebinder Mage for Boon Satyr, Baeckstrom played two more one mana flying creatures: Cloudfin Raptor and a Judge's Familiar to evolve it.

    But Baestrom was stuck on two mana.

    Andrew Baeckstrom's lonely islands weren't ready for the Boon of Jon Stern's deck.

    Stern made a 3/3 Mistcutter Hydra to join a second Boon Satyr, which put pressure on Baeckstrom to answer. Thassa, God of the Sea was strong, but Stern's Domri Rade let Boon Satyr eat Frostburn Weird, taking out Baeckstrom's devotion and leaving him open for a lethal attack.

    Jon Stern 1 - Andrew Baeckstrom 0

    "You know what's killing me about your sideboard?" Baekstom said as he looked over Stern's decklist. "You didn't include just 4 of this one hateful card. It's a bunch of things, all of which I'll have to play around."

    "I wanted some options," Stern said.

    Game 2

    On the play this time, Baeckstrom tried to keep pace with Stern's monsters. Tidebinder Mage tied up a Kalonian Tusker, but Stern had another along with Mizzium Mortars to take down Nightveil Specter. Throughout the exchange, each player attacked the other: Baeckstrom activating Mutavault whenever the way was clear; Stern making every body count A second Tidebinder for Baeckstrom locked away most of Stern's offense, but Stormbreath Dragon changed the math again.

    When it seemed all was lost for Baeckstrom, an overloaded Cyclonic Rift upended Stern's world. Without any army at all, Stern took lethal damage the next turn.

    Jon Stern 1 - Andrew Baeckstrom 1

    "Did they say who won the other game?" Baeckstrom asked. The table judge answered Brian Braun-Duin had. If Jon Stern had any feeling about moving on to face Braun-Duin's Mono-Black Devotion anyway he didn't show it.

    Game 3

    Stern rolled out with a swift army of Kalonian Tuskers and Boon Satyrs, against which Baeckstrom put his Mutavaults in the way to trade. While he slowed Stern's advance and diminished the green army, a 4/4 Mistcutter Hydra was the turning point.

    Baeckstrom had run out of Mutavaults to defend himself with. But he was still having fun trying anyway.

    When Baeckstrom snuck in an attack with Nightveil Specter, Stern was playful with the flop. "Let's see what you get."

    It was a second Mistcutter Hydra, to Baekstom's relief even if it wasn't what he really wanted. "Here's where I'd like to get a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx from the red-green combo decks."

    "You're not going to find that here," Stern said.

    Jon Stern's mean green forces were undaunted by the creatures of the sea.

    Baeckstrom had enough blockers to survive for several combat steps, but Stern found the critical sixth land just in time to overload Mizzium Mortars. It empted Baeckstrom's side of the Battlefield. Back to back Master of Waves weren't enough against Stern's Polukranos, World Eater (which promptly ate one delicious Merfolk). With 7 life left Baeckstrom blocked as best he could with a Master of Waves and Elemental token, but Stern's green horde stormed through thanks to a bestowed Boon Satyr on an unblocked Elvish Mystic.

    "It could have gone a lot better for you," Stern said. "With those two Master of Waves it would have been tough for me to get through."

    "Yeah," Baeckstrom said. "They just come too late."

    "A third turn Thassa, God of the Sea would have been hard too," Stern admitted too. "With that you could have raced me pretty well."

    Jon Stern 2 - Andrew Baeckstrom 1




     

  • Finals: Jon Stern (Gruul Beats) vs. Brian Braun-Duin (Monoblack Devotion)

    by Nate Price

  • After a Pro Tour Top 8 littered with Monoblue Decks, it was refreshing to see these two non-blue decks meet in the finals of Grand Prix Louisville. Jon Stern, looking for his second Grand Prix title, brought the same Gruul Beats deck that he played in last week's Pro Tour to this event, and is putting on a clinic, proving that you don't have to play Mihara's Colossal Gruul deck to succeed in this Standard environment. Standing in his way is the Packmaster himself, Brian Braun-Duin, wielding one of the big stories of the tournament: Monoblack Devotion. For most of the tournament, Monoblack seemed like it might be the big thing this event, but it unexpectedly disappeared before surging to put three players in the Top 8.

    "Has Erebos been worth the slot for you," Stern asked before the match began?

    "I think so," Braun-Duin replied. "I've gotten more use out of him than Brad or Todd did."

    The Games

    After blowing up some early mana critters, Braun-Duin set out to show just how good Erebos, God of the Dead, could be for him, summoning the deity on turn four.

    Brian Braun-Duin

    "He might be good this game," Stern noted. With nothing else on the board for either player, Erebos might give Braun-Duin the push he needed, especially combined with his next play—Pack Rat.

    Braun-Duin had used Pack Rat to utterly outclass Brad Nelson in the quarterfinals, providing him a resilient army of threats. Since each Rat is a copy of Pack Rat, they even count towards devotion, helping Erebos materialize and begin attacking.

    Stern tried to change his fortunes with a Xenagos, the Reveler, but it fell prey to a Hero's Downfall. A secon d copy of the Planeswalker stuck, but its 2/2 Satyr tokens were significantly outclassed by the Pack Rat tokens Braun-Duin was creating. Stern valiantly built his board with a Polukranos, World Eater, and a Boon Satyr, but the green monsters paled in comparison to the rampaging Rat horde. When Stern lined his creatures up to block, hoping to survive even one more turn, Braun-Duin took advantage of his three Mutavaults to make each of his five Rats 8/8s, annihilating Stern's board and dropping him to 3. Stern drew his card, looking for a miracle that didn't exist, and conceded.

    Stern had a great opening draw for his second game, with a pair of Domri Rades, a Sylvan Caryatid, and a few lands. This also proved very resilient to the disruption Braun-Duin was packing, as a Thoughtseize still left Stern able to cast one copy of Domri Rade, which he did at his first opportunity.

    Jon Stern

    Stern was guaranteed to get at least one peek with Domri, and he immediately set to work drawing cards, first hitting a Kalonian Tusker. His next hit gave him a second. Domri Rade and his Planeswalker brethren provide the biggest thorn in the side of the Monoblack decks. Other than Hero's Downfall, they are fairly light on ways to remove a Planeswalker once they hit play. Considering how much of the Monoblack deck's plan is to one-for-one all of the threats it can, having a constant source of card advantage like Domri Rade or Garruk, Caller of Beasts, can break the matchup wide open.

    Stormbreath Dragon, battle for four. Desecration Demon came down to block the sky, but the Stormbreath Dragon simply went monstrous and fought the Demon, leaving the skies clear for two massive attacks. In a flash, Jon Stern had evened up the match, sending it to a deciding Game 3.

    In the final game, Braun-Duin had a key couple of early turns. First, he had the Devour Flesh on his second turn to clear out Stern's Elvish Mystic. Then, he had the third-turn Underworld Connections to begin to bolster his hand. Having a source of card advantage to keep feeding him one-for-ones was crucial to dealing with Stern's threats. Stern did have some gas, though, dropping an end-of-turn Boon Satyr into play and attacking. When Braun-Duin tried to Devour Flesh it, Stern had another Boon Satyr to protect it.

    Braun-Duin kept the removal coming, killing the Satyr after one hit with an Ultimate Price. Stern tried reloading with a Scavenging Ooze, but Braun-Duin had an Ultimate Price to handle it, as well. Meanwhile, Braun-Duin was searching for goods out of Stern's deck with a Nightveil Specter and adding a clock of his own. He had to take a slight detour to remove a Domri Rade, but the attacks kept coming. And so did the removal. His Connections gave him removal spell after removal spell, allowing him to Devour Flesh Stern's Polukranos, World Eater. Braun-Duin also had a Lifebane Zombie to strip a Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, from Stern's hand. He did see that Stern held another Domri Rade, Arbor Colossus, and Stormbreath Dragon in his hand, but he was so chock full of removal that he didn't really care.

    Stern kept playing threats, and Braun-Duin kept removing them. Arbor Colossus met Hero's Downfall. Stormbreath Dragon met Thoughtseize. Domri Rade died to creatures. With each turn, Stern's chances at a second Grand Prix title slipped further and further away. Braun-Duin turned his creatures on Stern and began to push for the end. Stern took one last glance at the top of his deck, didn't like what he saw, and conceded with a smile, congratulating Brian Braun-Duin on his victory.

    Brian Braun-Duin defeated Jon Stern 2-1 to become the 2013 Grand Prix Louisville champion!




     

  • Top 5 Cards

    by Nate Price and Adam Styborski



  • 5.) Soldier of the Pantheon

    Soldier of the Pantheon is a great card, and that isn't an overstatement. Orzhov Midrange decks played it at Pro Tour Theros to provide a tougher-to-kill early creature that could prey upon control decks in the early turns. In turn, Esper Control added it to its repertoire this weekend with the same goal of sliding in plenty of early damage against slower decks. But the icing on Soldier's cake is how it headlined the white aggressive decks that were just under the radar throughout Day 2. In a heartbreaking twist of tiebreakers, one of these decks missed the Top 8. Will another deck recruit the plentiful power of Soldier of the Pantheon next?





    4.) Bident of Thassa

    It's funny that this card would make it into the Top 5 cards of the weekend exactly one week after most of the Pro players described it as "strictly worse than Jace." In the type of field presented at the Top tables here, at least, that no longer appears to be true.

    One of the biggest problems with Monoblue is the glut of cards that it wants to play at the four-drop slot. Between Master of Waves, Bident of Thassa, and Jace, Architect of Thought, there are a potential twelve cards that need to fit into about eight slots. Previously, since it is so good in the mirror, Jace has gotten the nod. That said, in formats with heavy control elements, like the Top 8 here in Louisville, the Bident might take the cake. The constant stream of cards, enabling Monoblue Devotion to overcome the trades it is forced to make with the black-based decks, really turns the tide in those matchups. It was utterly essential in Andrew Baeckstrom's quarterfinals win over Todd Anderson's Monoblack Devotion deck. Each time he cast it, he was able to draw upwards of six cards, well outpacing Jace's potential contribution. He used these extra cards to play extra creatures, staying one step ahead of Anderson's Desecration Demons and removal.



    3.) Boon Satyr

    When you looked at Pro Tour Theros "the red-green" deck meant Makihito Mihara's Colossal Gruul, which saw plenty of play this weekend. Jon Stern had another plan, and it was a boon for him. While Polukranos, World Eater and Xenagos, The Reveler might look like Mihara's plan there wasn't any Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to be found. Boon Satyr is exactly what Stern's deck was meant to do, both putting unexpected pressure on opponents as an efficient beater and also serving as an incredible combat trick that stuck around. Thanks to an unblocked Elvish Mystic, Boon Satyr bestowed a Game 3 victory for Stern in his semifinal match.





    2.) Thoughtseize

    It should be no surprise by now that Thoughtseize is going to be a major player for the next year of Standard. Considering how much of the format hinges on having certain combinations of cards, Thoughtseize has its work cut out for it, disrupting other control decks, gutting the capabilities of the Devotion decks, and giving black one of its best answers to Planeswalkers. It does an incredible amount, and all for a measly one mana.

    Thoughtseize is one of the main reasons for the massive resurgence of black-based control decks. Combined with Hero's Downfall and Doom Blade, this core of cards forms the nucleus of three of the biggest decks in Standard right now: Monoblack Devotion, Esper Control, and Orzhov Midrange. These decks rely on Thoughtseize both to provide information about how best to use their other removal spells, but it greatly helps hedge against some of the more resilient threats in the format. They say "Doom Blade kills it," but Thoughtseize has the ability to kill it before it even sees the light of day. Disruption and information have always been a central strategy for many decks Magic's history, and you can count on them being important in the future as well.



    1.) Pack Rat

    I promise, this is a Standard tournament in 2013, not some Return to Ravnica Sealed Deck event from 2012. Yes, Pack Rat has won a Standard Grand Prix. The powerhouse rare has never really been able to find a good home in Standard, but the new devotion mechanic has provided a powerful new shell into which the Rat easily slides. Allowing Monoblack Devotion to assume an aggressive posture, Pack Rat can quickly take over a game, especially when combined with a steady stream of cards from Underworld Connections, even outpacing the large creatures Gruul offers. In the mirror matchup, Pack Rat is an essential card, providing a body that is resilient to most forms of removal, and a clock that ends games before Gray Merchant of Asphodel tricks can really get online.

    In the Top 8, Brian Braun-Duin used the Pack Rat to great effect in both his quarterfinals, where it obliterated Brad Nelson in the mirror matchup, and the finals, where he swarmed over Jon Stern's Gruul deck. If the Monoblue Devotion decks weren't a big enough reason to force people to start gunning for board sweepers, Pack Rat will certainly change the game in weeks to come.




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