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Grand Prix Atlantic City
Day 2 Coverage

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Sunday, 11:14 p.m. - Rounds 7-10 Top Table Metagame Breakdown

by Steve Sadin

Round 7

Round 7 Metagame Breakdown

After 2 consecutive rounds at the top, Jund fell – replaced by red splash black aggressive decks. Note that while these red splash black decks have a lot of cards in common with Black Red Zombies - they tend to have a nearly mono-red base splashing for only Knight of Infamy and/or Falkenrath Aristocrat (whereas the Zombie decks tend to be heavy black, often to the point where they're able to run Geralf's Messenger).

The second most popular deck this round? Bant Aggro!

Round 8

Round 9 Metagame Breakdown

Round 8 saw a number of decks emerge, or re-emerge from the rubble.

In round 6, there wasn't a single Naya deck (with or without a black splash) at the top 10 tables. A mere two rounds later, in round 8, Naya became the most heavily represented deck at the top with 4 pilots.

And seemingly out of nowhere, 2 Human Reanimator decks (which fill up their graveyards with Chronic Floodings, Mulches, and Tracker's Instincts in an effort to set up an Unburial Rites for an Angel of Glory's Rise) could be found at the top.

Round 9

Round 9 Metagame Breakdown

Naya held strong at the top this round, and the Human Reanimator decks continued to Chronic Flooding their ways to victory. However, the Esper control decks (which had been holding strong all day long) were nowhere to be seen this round.

Round 10

Round 10 Metagame Breakdown

After a pair of rounds at the top, Naya began to stumble. In its place? A three way tie between Jund, Mono Red, and Bant Aggro.

While I was cautiously optimistic about Bant Aggro's ability to succeed this weekend – through the first 9 rounds of play its pilots have been demonstrating that this deck is a force to be reckoned with...

But will they be able to keep up their winning ways through Sunday?

Round 7-10 Top Table Complete Charts

Round 7
4 Red splash black aggro
3 Bant Aggro
2 Blue Red White Control
2 Black Red Zombies
2 Jund
2 G/B Aggro
1 Naya
1 4-Color Reanimator
1 G/W Aggro
1 Esper Control
1 White Blue Humans
0 Bant Control
0 Human Reanimator
0 Blue White Flash
0 Mono Red
Round 8
4 Naya
3 Black Red Zombies
3 Bant Aggro
2 Esper Control
2 Mono Red
1 Blue Red White Control
1 Jund
1 G/W Aggro
1 G/B Aggro
1 Red splash black aggro
1 White Blue Humans
0 Bant Control
0 4-Color Reanimator
0 Human Reanimator
0 Blue White Flas


Round 9
4 Naya
2 Blue Red White Control
2 Black Red Zombies
2 Jund
2 Bant Aggro
2 Human Reanimator
1 Bant Control
1 4-Color Reanimator
1 G/B Aggro
1 Red splash black aggro
1 Blue White Flash
1 Mono Red
0 G/W Aggro
0 Esper Control
0 White Blue Human
Round 10
3 Jund
3 Bant Aggro
3 Mono Red
2 4-Color Reanimator
2 Esper Control
2 Red splash black aggro
1 Blue Red White Control
1 Naya
1 Black Red Zombies
1 Human Reanimator
1 G/B Aggro
0 Bant Control
0 G/W Aggro
0 Blue White Flash
0 White Blue Human



 

Round 12 Feature Match - Zac Hill vs. Ari Lax

by Adam Styborski

Ari Lax has been battling Magic for a long time. With his recent heartbreaking finish of ninth at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica, you'd believe he'd have more than the three Grand Prix Top 8s to his name – the most recent 2011's stop in Atlanta. Several more close finishes during the 2012 Grand Prix season left his hungry to deliver this year.

Zac Hill's last competitive event put him into the Top 8 of Pro Tour Honolulu, and into the halls of Magic R&D. A regular commentator for video coverage at 2012 Pro Tours, and style uniquely his, anyone who meets Zac Hill leaves impressed. His passion, knowledge, and pure excitement for the game leave little to the imagination.

When the two players at a feature match can't contain their smiles, you know you're in for something special.

Game One

Hill led with Swamp into Diregraf Ghoul, matched by Lax's Mountain into Stromkirk Noble. Hill and Lax traded attacks next turn, with Lax casting an unleashed Rakdos Cackler and Pillar of Flame for Hill's Diregraf Ghoul. Upping the Noble to 3/3 on the next attack put Hill into a moment of thought.

Ari Lax

Hellrider flew from Hill's hand into combat, which left him open to take six on the attack back from Lax, Pyreheart Wolf appearing thereafter. 9 life isn't comfortable against a monored deck, but Hill calculated some of the math out loud. With four cards and four mana, Hill needed blockers or removal, or a lot of damage.

The lattermost is where Hill settled, and Thundermaw Hellkite joined the fray. But before getting to attack and trigger the Hellrider, Lax applied Searing Spear to the Demon. Unable to block, and without enough damage to kill Lax, Hill fell on the next strike.

Hill 0 – Lax 1

Between games, Hill and Lax shared stories and thoughts. Familiar faces to each throughout years past, their exuberance to just play was infectious. The other feature, between Morgan Chan and Pro Tour Hall of Famer Zvi Mowshowitz, joined in too despite that they were in the middle of their own game.

The fast conversation led everywhere. Even sleeves came up.

"Do they still make these?" Lax asked, pointing to the Black Lotus-backed sleeves available to Magic R&D members.

Zac Hill

"I dunno. It's a limited edition. I guess they might make more," Hill said. "They are pretty sweet."

"I had to switch mine," Lax continued, lamenting the color he liked wasn't available. The minutiae of sleeves transitioned seamlessly into deck discussion. The utility of blocking with Ash Zealots, the potency of Sever the Bloodline, and the reach provided by Thundermaw Hellkite; Hill and Lax made Magic sound easy, cool, and fun.

They delivered in demonstrating just that.

Game Two

Hill began the second game the same as before – Swamp and Diregraf Ghoul – and Lax had Mountain to cast a Pillar of Flame on the Zombie. The Magic 2013 Limited staple Crimson Muckwader made Lax read a card, to the chuckles of both players, but Lax's more common to competition Ash Zealot struck against Hill first.

With three mana, Hill doubled up on the Muckwader alongside Gravecrawler He'd need those blockers facing Lax's new Pyreheart Wolf, but it's clear his plan was to do the opposite. Hill's Ultimate Price dealt with Ash Zealot, and the attack from Lax sent Pyreheart Wolf through an undying cycle.

The next attack from Hill, with his Muckwaders and Gravecrawler, found the Wolf blocking again. This time Lax had Brimstone Volley when Hill paid to regenerate a Lizard. On cue, the aforementioned Dragon reached out.

Thundermaw Hellkite on Lax's next turn dropped Hill down to 11, and he seemed unfazed taking Hill's counterattack to fall to 4 life.

"Give me a second," Lax said. Looking through his hand you could feel him counting. "Eleven life, right? Okay."

He played an unleashed Rakdos Cackler with a follow up Lightning Mauler to attack for 11 exactly.


Without hesitation Hill counted the damage. "You did it!" he shared cheerfully.

"I sided out lands and drew infinite of them. This match up probably bad for me," Hill began, launching into a discussion over what he and Lax had sideboarded. In the face of defeat nothing changed in how Hill handled himself.

When you love the game that much it doesn't matter the match is over in just 15 minutes.

Hill 0 – Lax 2




 

Sunday, 12:32 p.m. - Day 1 Undefeated Decklists

by Event Coverage Staff

Brian Haak - Rakdos Aggro
Grand Prix Atlantic City 2013 - Day One Undefeated


Jon Stern - Bant Aggro
Grand Prix Atlantic City 2013 - Day One Undefeated





 

Sunday, 1:51 p.m. - Putting Your Name on the Line

by Steve Sadin

When you go to a Grand Prix you have the opportunity to win an invitation to a Pro Tour, a free flight, Pro Points, thousands of dollars, and if you manage to withstand everything that the opposition has for you – a trophy and the right to call yourself a Grand Prix Champion...

Josh Utter-Leyton, and Josh Cho play for more than that. They play for their name.

"At the start of the weekend, we're both 'Josh'– then whoever has the better record during (and after) the event gets to keep their first name." explained Josh Utter-Leyton.

Unfortunately for Cho, Josh Utter-Leyton is a strikingly consistent player – particularly when his name is on the line.

"I'll always have Pro Tour Avacyn Restored – but most of the time I'm just Cho."

Josh Utter-Leyton (left) and Cho (right) put their names on the line every time they compete.

After 14 rounds of play here in Atlantic City, Josh Utter-Leyton is 12-2, while Cho is 10-3-1. So while Cho has a chance of regaining his name this weekend, he'll need everything to go his way in the last two rounds for that to happen.




 

Sunday, 2:21 p.m. - Teams for Pro Tour Gatecrash

by Adam Styborski

Let's be clear: Pro Tour Gatecrash is not a team-based event. Competitors battle as individuals, each looking to add their name to the distinguished list of Pro Tour winners. Preparing for such an event, however, isn't done alone.

Players working together, testing decks and new cards, have a long history of producing results. While names like Potato Nation, Your Move Games, and Team Antarctica are relegated to Magic's past, there are plenty groups holding premier status today.

Team Channel Fireball

Perhaps the most renowned team today is Channel Fireball. The multiple Pro Tour Hall of Fame group has been a fearsome crew over the past few years, consistently delivering top results across Grand Prix and Pro Tour events alike.

Luis Scott-Vargas, Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa, Josh Utter-Leyton, David Ochoa, Martin Juza, Ben Stark, Eric Froehlich, Shuhei Nakamura, Conley Woods, and Brian Kibler are among the most elite players one could assemble. One change to the mix for Pro Tour Gatecrash is the addition of Gerry Thompson, a top player in his own right and former member of another notable team, StarCityGames Blue.

Brian Kibler

"These are really good players with really good results from playtesting," Brian Kibler explained. "We have guys like Josh Utter-Leyton who can tune the best decks in the format really well. It's hard to go wrong with the best players in the game."

Team StarCityGames Black

The story of team StarCityGames Black is straightforward: "There had to be another team," Pro Tour Hall of Fame member Zvi Mowshowitz explained. "We wanted to emulate the best of Channel Fireball without the bad."

Zvi Mowshowitz

Nominally evolved from Zvi's previous New York-based Team Mythic, StarCityGames Black emerged to be an equal, or better, team to face down the dominate Channel Fireball. Sam Black, Jon Finkel, Tom Martell, Andrew Cuneo, Gabriel Nassif, Gaudenis Vidugiris, Paul Reitzl, Matt Sperling, Owen Turtenwald, Matthew Costa, Reid Duke and Ben Seck represent not just another team of powerhouse players with Top 8 and membership in the Pro Tour Hall of Fame, but faces new and old spanning the entire breadth of competitive Magic history.

"Channel Fireball really focuses on stock decks," Zvi said, "and developing them further. You can almost predict what they will play just by looking at the format. We have a lot of different players who find a lot of different things. The goal is to bring something unique, something more than what you'd expect."

Team Panik

Not all teams start with dominate players from across the game. When you're 19, 18, or just 17 years old, your team may look more like you: Young but terrific players working to become those next best pros.

Matthew Nass and Jesse Hampton are two of the members of team Panik, built from a shifting crew of Midwest and West Coast players who demonstrated their coordination at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored. Shahar Shenhar, Matthias Hunt, Andrejs Prost, Michael Hetrick, Jackie Lee, Sam Pardee, Jacob Wilson, Jia Wu, Christian Calcano, and David Gleicher are names you've seen before. Known for recent breakthroughs and skill on Magic Online, the group for Gatecrash feel prepared.

Matthew Nass and Jesse Hampton

"We had the best Limited portion records at the last two Pro Tours," Jesse Hampton said. "Andrejs [Prost] is one of the best in Limited, up there with the likes of Ben Stark."

"He's really good at evaluating cards and draft formats," Matthew Nass reiterated.

"We're all really young, too," Hampton continued, "but we work well together. One of us will win the next Pro Tour."

Team There Is No Name

Not all teams are built with a cool title or sponsorship. Ari Lax shared that he's working with an excellent cadre of players, including Craig Wescoe, Alexander West, Harry Corvese, and Emanuel Sutor – the second place finisher at 2012's Grand Prix Lyon.

Ari Lax

There are even more players working together because, as Ari explained, "it's really important for everyone to have someone to play games against. We all pulled in people we trust as a group we wanted to work with."

And just as teams emerge and change, they can fall away too. The breakout players of Pro Tour Avacyn Restored surprised everyone as the relative newcomers in StarCityGames Blue. Former Player of the Year Brad Nelson, Gerry Thompson, former US National Champion Ali Aintrazi, and Joshua Cho were the core.

Josh Cho

Cho, who made Top 4 at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, shared their team "wasn't so much about getting superpowered humans, but close friends all qualified for Pro Tours Avacyn Restored and Return to Ravnica. We wanted to try our best to do well, and it really worked will in Barcelona. It didn't in Seattle."

However, StarCityGames Blue isn't testing for Pro Tour Gatecrash: Only Gerry Thompson is qualified. "The threshold to stay on the Pro Tour is really high," Cho said. "It's not stopping me from playing in anything else. If there's anything we can all do we'll do it. We're all still friends."

The Test

And these aren't nearly all the teams preparing for Pro Tour Gatecrash. Alexander Hyane and Pascal Maynard, winner of Pro Tour Avacyn Restored and continuous top finisher at Grand Prix events respectively, are just two members of a strong Canada-based team. If Magic is played in the world there will players qualified for the Pro Tour, and teams will flourish.

Just like the decks they bring, these teams fighting to be the best they can be are diverse. Whether it's all-stars looking to continue their reign atop the game, or bands of Magic friends who believe they can steal the show, it will only be at Pro Tour Gatecrash that we can find out. Complete coverage and streaming will begin on Friday, February 15 and continue throughout the weekend.

Do you have your favorite players to follow?




 

Sunday, 2:48 p.m. - Deck Tech: Bant Auras! with David Ochoa

by Jacob Van Lunen


David Ochoa is one of the most feared players on the Pro Tour. His accomplishments are many and include a top 8 performance at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica. This weekend, David and his good friend, Josh Utter-Leyton, decided to play an innovative Bant Aura deck. I sat down with David Ochoa shortly after he lost his win-and-in for top 8 at Grand Prix Atlantic City to talk about this exciting new Standard archetype.

David Ochoa just missed top 8.

JVL: "How did you find this deck? Did you change anything about the list?"

David Ochoa: "I saw that it went 4-0 in a Magic Online Daily Event. Josh and I changed the sideboard a lot and reworked the mana so we could more reliably cast our non-creature spells."

JVL: "Why do you feel this deck is well-positioned right now?"

David Ochoa: "It's good right now because most people aren't playing the cards they need to interact with it."

JVL: "What are the deck's weaknesses?"


David Ochoa: "The mana is pretty bad for an aggro deck. We play a lot of Sunpetal Groves and Hinterland Harbors that often lead to slow starts. The deck is also forced to mulligan aggressively because it's essentially a combo deck. Supreme Verdict is a problem, as is Bonfire if the opponent is on the play with a Farseek or hits the miracle at the right time. There are cards like Tribute to Hunger that aren't being played right now, but the deck can play around those by playing extra creatures before it starts to play out its enchantments."

JVL: "What would you change about the deck if you were going to play it again?"

David Ochoa: "I would play Breeding Pool! (Laughs) Seriously, though, I would play a second Feeling of Dread in the main. Josh played two copies of Curiosity where I played one Curiosity and one Feeling of Dread. I feel like I would have rather had the second copy of Feeling of Dread."


David Ochoa may not be in the top 8, but his teammate managed to break through and secure his top 8 berth. Keep an eye out for this exciting new archetype, it's sure to make some waves on Magic Online and on FNM tables around the world!




 

Sunday, 8:09 p.m. -Day 2 Top Table Metagame Breakdown

by Steve Sadin and Jacob Van Lunen

Round 11

Round 11 Metagame Breakdown

At the start of Day Two Jund continued to shine with 25% of the players at the top 10 tables playing decks that were capable of playing a turn three Olivia Voldaren off of a Farseek.

Aggressive red decks also saw their greatest numbers (at least up until this point) of the event with 7 players at the top tables piloting decks filled with burn spells, and one drops.

Round 12

Round 12 Metagame Breakdown

Jund took a big hit this round, falling from 5 pilots down to 2 – but aggressive red decks (of all different flavors) continued to hold strong.

Blue Red White Control decks also saw a bit of a resurgence this round. While it still came short of getting back to its round 4 numbers when it had 5 pilots at the top - it has still been able to hold its own against the field (unlike, say, Bant Control which is nowhere to be seen)...

Round 13

Round 13 Metagame Breakdown

Well, so much for Blue Red White Control decks picking up steam. Despite putting up good numbers going into Round 12, only 1 player managed to hold his spot in the top 10 tables with a Restoration Angel, Snapcaster Mage, Searing Spear deck.

In their place, a pair of players piloting Junk (green white black) Reanimator decks have managed to carve a place for themselves at the top by powering out quick Angel of Serenity(s), and Craterhoof Behemoth(s).

Round 14

Round 14 Metagame Breakdown

Despite the fact that it only a handful of people showed up to the event with Aggressive Bant decks, several players with Invisible Stalkers, and Ethereal Armors have continued to hold steady at the top.

After seeing their numbers grow for much of the event, it finally got to the point where the red decks had to cannibalize one another in order to continue advancing. Consequently, their numbers wound up shrinking for the second round in a row.

Round 15

Round 15 Metagame Breakdown

In round 15 Jund (one of the most popular decks at the event), and Bant Aggro (one of the least represented decks) were the only 2 decks with more than 2 pilots at the top 10 tables.

The only other decks that had more than one pilot were Blue White Red Control (which has not performed particularly well this weekend given how heavily played it was), Black Red Zombies, and Mono Red (which has become far more viable as the number of Thragtusks and Centaur Healers that people play have dwindled).

Round 16

Round 16 Metagame Breakdown

  • Despite all the hate, Mono Red emerged as the most successful pure aggressive deck.
  • Despite seeing significant play on Saturday, control decks wound up being almost non-existent on Day 2.
  • The field was full of Jund and Rakdos coming into day 2.
  • Jund had a very good Day 2 retention rate, but its success on Day 2 waned as the rounds progressed as it was preyed upon by the Bant Aura decks that started to rise to the top of the field.
  • Jund was still one of the best performing decks from this tournament, but the likely rise of Bant Aura strategies in the future may pose some problems for the format staple.
  • The Bant Aura deck wound up outperforming every other strategy by a significant margin here in Atlantic City. No one was prepared for gigantic Hexproof creatures and the best Bant Aura pilots were rewarded with incredibly strong finishes.

Round 11
1 Blue Red White Control
2 Naya
3 Black Red Zombies
1 Bant Control
5 Jund
1 4-Color Reanimator
1 Bant Aggro
1 Esper Control
1 G/B Aggro
1 Red splash black aggro
3 Mono Red
Round 12
3 Blue Red White Control
2 Naya
3 Black Red Zombies
2 Jund
1 4-Color Reanimator
2 Bant Aggro
1 Esper Control
1 G/B Aggro
3 Red splash black aggro
1 Mono Red
1 Staticaster Jund
Round 13
1 Blue Red White Control
2 Naya
4 Black Red Zombies
4 Jund
2 Bant Aggro
1 Esper Control
1 Staticaster Jund
1 G/B Aggro
1 Mono Red
2 Junk Reanimator
1 Green White Ramp


Round 14
2 Blue Red White Control
0 Naya
3 Black Red Zombies
4 Jund
0 4-Color Reanimator
3 Bant Aggro
1 Esper Control
1 Staticaster Jund
2 G/B Aggro
0 Red splash black aggro
1 Mono Red
1 Junk Reanimator
1 Green White Ramp
1 Bant Control
Round 15
2 Blue Red White Control
1 Naya
2 Black Red Zombies
5 Jund
0 4-Color Reanimator
3 Bant Aggro
1 Esper Control
1 Staticaster Jund
1 G/B Aggro
0 Red splash black aggro
2 Mono Red
1 Junk Reanimator
0 Green White Ramp
1 Bant Control
Round 16
2 Blue Red White Control
2 Naya
2 Black Red Zombies
6 Jund
0 4-Color Reanimator
2 Bant Aggro
1 Esper Control
1 Staticaster Jund
1 G/B Aggro
0 Red splash black aggro
2 Mono Red
1 Junk Reanimator
0 Green White Ramp
0 Bant Control
Round 11-16 Complete Top Table Data



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