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Hayne Wins Third GP in Six Months!

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The letter M!att Sperling may have been unstoppable in the Swiss, but come the Top 8 it was Canadian folk hero Alexander Hayne who could do no wrong. Theros Standard had been evolving ever since the Pro Tour, and three decks had established themselves as the pillars of the format: Mono-Blue Devotion, Mono-Black Control, and Blue-White-based Control. They were never overwhelming; each tournament seemed to bring with it new designs and new innovations. Still, they were the Decks to Beat. That evolution seemed to reach its logical conclusion this weekend, when those three archetypes alone made up the entire Top 8.

First in was Mono-Black Control, thanks to Matt Sperling's incredible 13-0 run in the swiss. Then came three each of Blue-White and Mono-Blue. Sneaking in at 12-3 was Jon Stern, the other Mono-Black player. He and Sperling clashed in the quarters, and Stern emerged victorious, setting up an All-Canada Grudge Match against Hayne. On the other side of the bracket, Peter Sundholm was the only Mono-Blue player to escape the quarterfinals, and he repeated his victory over Blue-White in the semis. It started to look like he was destined to take home the trophy.

It was not to be. With all deliberate care, Alexander Hayne completed his sweep of the Top 8, dispatching Sundholm in straight games, and taking home his third Grand Prix title in just six months. Coming into this event Hayne was 18th in the Top 25 Player Rankings. Who knows how high he'll climb this season?

Congratulations to Alexander Hayne, Grand Prix Vancouver Champion!




Quarterfinals   Semifinals   Finals   Champion
1 Sperling, Matt   Stern, Jon, 2-0        
8 Stern, Jon   Hayne, Alexander, 2-0
       
4 Hwang, Eugene   Hayne, Alexander, 2-0   Hayne, Alexander, 2-0
5 Hayne, Alexander    
       
2 Ruprecht, Adam   Gillespie, Robert, 2-0
7 Gillespie, Robert   Sundholm, Peter, 2-1
       
3 Sundholm, Peter   Sundholm, Peter, 2-0
6 Vasovski, Mike    







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  Streaming video coverage of Grand Prix Vancouver provided by Marshall Sutcliffe, Pro Tour Hall of Famer Randy Buehler, Brian David-Marshall, Rashad Miller, and Garth Avery. For a complete playlist of all the matches, visit ggslive's YouTube page.


EVENT COVERAGE INFORMATION

  • by Josh Bennett
    Top 5 Cards

  • by Marc Caleraro
    Finals
    (18) Alexander Hayne (Azorius Control) vs. Peter Sundholm (Mono-Blue Devotion)

  • by Marc Calderaro
    Semifinals
    (18) Alexander Hayne (Azorius Control) vs. (25) Jon Stern (Mono-Black Devotion)

  • by Josh Bennett
    Semifinals
    Peter Sundholm vs. Robert Gillespie

  • by Josh Bennett
    Quarterfinals Round-Up

  • by Marc Calderaro
    Quarterfinals
    Matt Sperling (Mono-Black Devotion) vs. (25) Jon Stern (Mono-Black Devotion)

  • by Marc Calderaro
    Top 8 Profiles

  • by Marc Calderaro
    Top 8 Decklists

  • by Josh Bennett
    Quick Question #2
    Which Pro is going to have a big year, and break into the Top 25 Rankings

  • by Josh Bennett
    Quick Question #1
    What card are people playing in Standard that they shouldn't be?

  • by Josh Bennett
    Deck Spotlight
    Paul Dunn's Agent of Fates Aggro

  • by Josh Bennett
    Deck Spotlight
    John Torrez's Maze's End

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day 2 Blog
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day 1 Blog
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Fact Sheet
 1.  Alexander Hayne $4,000
 2.  Peter Sundholm $2,700
 3.  Robert Gillespie $1,500
 4.  Jon Stern $1,500
 5.  Matthew Sperling $1,000
 6.  Adam Ruprecht $1,000
 7.  Eugene Hwang $1,000
 8.  Mike Vasovski $1,000
Pairings Results Standings
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  • Deck Spotlight: John Torrez's Maze's End

    by Josh Bennett




  •  

  • Deck Spotlight: Paul Dunn's Agent of Fates Aggro

    by Josh Bennett

  • Paul Dunn's Agent of Fates Aggro
    Grand Prix Vancouver - Standard

    Main Deck

    60 cards

    Mutavault
    20  Swamp

    24 lands

    Agent of the Fates
    Gray Merchant of Asphodel
    Nighthowler
    Pack Rat
    Tormented Hero

    20 creatures

    Gift of Orzhova
    Hero's Downfall
    Thoughtseize
    Underworld Connections
    Wring Flesh

    16 other spells

    Sideboard
    Dark Betrayal
    Doom Blade
    Duress
    Pharika's Cure

    15 sideboard cards





     

  • Top 8 Decklists

    by Marc Calderaro

  • Matt Sperling – Mono-Black Devotion
    GP Vancouver Top 8


    Adam Ruprecht – Mono-Blue Devotion
    GP Vancouver Top 8


    Eugene Hwang – Mono-Blue Devotion
    GP Vancouver Top 8


    (18) Alexander Hayne – Azorius Control
    GP Vancouver Top 8


    Mike Vasovski – Azorius Control
    GP Vancouver Top 8



    Peter Sundholm – Mono-Blue Devotion
    GP Vancouver Top 8


    (25) John Stern – Mono-Black Devotion
    GP Vancouver Top 8




     

  • Top 8 Profiles

    by Marc Calderaro


  • Matt Sperling

    Age: 30
    Hometown: San Francisco, CA
    Occupation: Lawyer


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    GP San Jose ChampionGP Minneapolis FinalistPT Top 16 & 32s

    What deck did you play this weekend and why?
    Mono-Black. Paul Rietzl told me to. (0 matches tested by me, several dozen by him.

    Day 1 Record:
    9-0

    Day 2 Record:
    4-1-1

    What was the most important sideboard card this weekend?
    Dark Betrayal, got sick of losing to Specters it.

    Would you change anything in the main deck or sideboard if you could?
    Maybe get an Erebos main.

    What Born of the Gods card are you most excited about?
    Tribute cards in Limited. The new card frame (jk).




    Jon Stern

    Age: 35
    Hometown: Montreal
    Occupation: Gamer


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    Win GP Atlantic City2nd GP LouisvilleTop 8 GP TorontoTop 16 PT Gatecrash

    What deck did you play this weekend and why?
    Mono black. One of the best decks and I worked on it a fair bit.

    Day 1 Record:
    8-1

    Day 2 Record:
    4-2

    What was the most important sideboard card this weekend?
    Erebos, God of the Dead

    Would you change anything in the main deck or sideboard if you could?
    Not really.

    What Born of the Gods card are you most excited about?
    Infest & Scry 1




    Eugene Hwang

    Age: 28
    Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
    Occupation: Business Analyst


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    13th at GP Providence

    What deck did you play this weekend and why?
    Mono Blue Devotion, because my teammate Andrew Brown told me to and I didn't have time to figure out for myself.

    Day 1 Record:
    8-1

    Day 2 Record:
    4-1-1

    What was the most important sideboard card this weekend?
    Domestication

    Would you change anything in the main deck or sideboard if you could?
    No.

    What Born of the Gods card are you most excited about?
    Brimaz, King of Oreskos




    Adam Ruprecht

    Age: 33
    Hometown: Seattle, WA
    Occupation: Programmer


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    Top 16 GP VancouverFinals SCG Open Portland

    What deck did you play this weekend and why?
    Mono blue. Don't like the mono black matchup UW but love islands.

    Day 1 Record:
    8-1

    Day 2 Record:
    5-0-1

    What was the most important sideboard card this weekend?
    Bident of Thassa

    Would you change anything in the main deck or sideboard if you could?
    No.

    What Born of the Gods card are you most excited about?
    UW Temple




    Mike Vasovski

    Age: 30
    Hometown: Windsor, Ontario
    Occupation: Pharmacist


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    2nd place 2007 Canadian NationalsMultiple GP Top 64s

    What deck did you play this weekend and why?
    UW Control

    Day 1 Record:
    7-2

    Day 2 Record:
    5-0-1

    What was the most important sideboard card this weekend?
    Archangel of Thune

    Would you change anything in the main deck or sideboard if you could?
    Try to find room for a 3rd Archangel.

    What Born of the Gods card are you most excited about?
    UW Scry land.




    Robert Gillespie

    Age: 24
    Hometown: Ottawa
    Occupation: Software Developer


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    FNM, Pre-release, Release Events 1st place.

    What deck did you play this weekend and why?
    UW Control

    Day 1 Record:
    7-2-0

    Day 2 Record:
    5-0-1

    What was the most important sideboard card this weekend?
    Jace, Memory Adept

    Would you change anything in the main deck or sideboard if you could?
    Archangel of Thune in the sideboard x3

    What Born of the Gods card are you most excited about?
    UW Scry land




    Peter Sundholm

    Age: 43
    Hometown: Lacey, WA
    Occupation: Programmer for the State of Washington


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    Arena Test League Winner in '94

    What deck did you play this weekend and why?
    Mono Blue Devotion, because Thassa and Master rule!!

    Day 1 Record:
    7-2

    Day 2 Record:
    6-0

    What was the most important sideboard card this weekend?
    Domestications #3 and #4

    Would you change anything in the main deck or sideboard if you could?
    I would LOVE to find a spot for Curse of the Swine in the sideboard.

    What Born of the Gods card are you most excited about?
    The Dimir God.




    Alexander Hayne

    Age: 25
    Hometown: Montreal, Canada
    Occupation: MTG Pro


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    PT Avacyn Restored ChampionRookie of the Year 2011-12GP Calgary ChampionGP Kyoto Champion2nd GP Montreal, 3rd GP Strasbourg

    What deck did you play this weekend and why?
    Saito UW Control. I owned most of the cards.

    Day 1 Record:
    8-1

    Day 2 Record:
    4-1-1

    What was the most important sideboard card this weekend?
    Archangel of Thune. It makes the mono-U matchup much better.

    Would you change anything in the main deck or sideboard if you could?
    I would add a land.

    What Born of the Gods card are you most excited about?
    Brimaz, the Legendary Cat.




     

  • Quarterfinals: Matt Sperling (Mono-Black Devotion) vs. (25) Jon Stern (Mono-Black Devotion)

    by Marc Calderaro

  • Despite being the only two Mono-Black Devotion decks in the Top 8, No. 25 Jon Stern and Matt Sperling they managed to pair against each other in the Quarterfinals—ensuring that only one would advance to the Semifinals.

    It was an old-school battle of America vs. Canada (I'm talking 1812 Old School). American Sperling had been running incredibly hot all weekend and didn't look to stop. However, don't sell Canadian Stern short, who squeaked into the Top 8 on breakers. This man knows what he's doing.

    This Mono-Black Devotion mirror match would be all about card advantage, and sometimes, rat advantage.

    Game One

    Matt Sperling opened with a Thoughtseize (after a mulligan) and saw Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Underworld Connections, Desecration Demon, Mutavault, and Thoughtseize. He took the Underworld Connections to minimize the cards Jon Stern would see. Stern Thoughtseize'd back and took a Hero's Downfall; and Sperling really didn't have much else. The mulligan had hit him hard.

    Underworld Connections turn three from Sperling could hopefully gain back the cards lost to the mulligan, but it would also have to combat Stern's turn–two Pack Rat. It was the third turn and Sperling was already on the back foot.


    Matt Sperling

    A few turns later, the American landed a Desecration Demon that was more than large enough to deal with the amount of Pack Rats so far (although there was a total of four, counting two Mutavault, which is getting a bit scary), and Sperling had the card-advantage engine online. If he could get some stellar pulls, he could maybe win this one.

    Jon Stern was on the Rat plan. He made his third proper vermin before untapping for his turn, and when Sperling began using cards like Hero's Downfall on the tokens, Stern would just discard something from his hand to replace them. You see, that way he wouldn't have to move tokens around so much. Instead of picking up the token and putting it in the graveyard, he just made a new one. Well done, Stern. I approve.

    Sperling's Desecration Demon was lonely. Every turn he was relegated to defense duty, and at any given time he could fail at that duty for the low cost of a creature sacrifice. The life totals were 11-18 in Stern's favor, and though Sperling final got his own Pack Rat, he was behind in the rat race. And the 6/6 demon couldn't single-handedly turn the tides.

    Stern's huge attack came in with five 5/5 Pack Rats. This was not including the three Mutavaults and the mana to activate them. Sperling had five potential blockers after activating his Mutavault and discarding a Nightveil Specter to make another rat, but his own rats would not survive against Stern's superior rat numbers.

    Ultimately, Sperling used the Mutavault, one token, and a Desecration Demon to block and cast a Hero's Downfall on one of the unblocked rats. Stern activated another rat, took away all of Sperling's blockers and sunk the American to 2. Sperling took himself to one to find an answer with an Underworld Connections, but was unable to. Really, he needed a card that would replace his mediocre draw with a good one.

    Jon Stern 1 – 0 Matt Sperling



    Game Two

    Sperling had to mulligan again in the second game, and Stern quickly fired off a Duress, netting an Underworld Connections for his troubles. Next turn a Thoughtseize took Sperling's only non-land card, Dark Betrayal. And again, the American was left with no gas in his hand at all.

    Stern followed his hand-based assault with a Nightveil Specter. Sperling drew a Pack Rat off the top, so he could at least participate in the damage game, while simultaneously turning on all the lands in his hand.


    John Stern

    But the card advantage from Nightveil Specter was undeniable. Two Devour Flesh sat removed under the specter after the first two attacks, while Stern used a Dark Betrayal from his hand to take out the Pack Rat before it started making trouble. Sperling was back to square one.

    Here was the irony: Sperling had been attacking for four damage per turn thanks to the Mutavaults this whole time so he was well ahead on the life-total front. After the Specter fell to a removal spell, all those virtual cards for Stern were gone. So even though Sperling's card quality and amount were minimal, the score was 18-5 when Sperling resolved a Gray Merchant of Asphodel. It was much closer than the previous game.

    Though Stern had a Desecration Demon and four cards in his hand, all but one were land. He had six damage planning to smash at him on the next turn, what was the best line for him to survive?

    Well, drawing a Pack Rat off an Underworld Connections seemed a good enough start. Though Sperling drew his own the next turn, the American's hand was empty, while the Canadian had a seemingly endless supply of land to munch on. With all the blockers he could want, and wit ha new Gray Merchant of Asphodel to basically swap the life totals, Stern was able to draw the Gray Merchant right on time and sweep the rug out from under Sperling's potential comeback. Having about infinite black mana symbols on the board negated all the work those Mutavaults and done, and Stern took the game.

    Jon Stern 2 – 0 Matt Sperling

    Jon Stern advances to the semi-finals!




     

  • Quarterfinals Round-Up

    by Josh Bennet

  • By a strange twist of fate, three of the four quarterfinal matches are the same matchup: Blue-White Control against Mono-Blue Devotion. Here's a brief rundown of how they went.

    Alexander Hayne vs. Eugene Hwang


    Eugene Hwang

    In the first game, Hwang had Hayne under early pressure, but Hayne managed to keep up with a string of answers. He resolved a small Sphinx's Revelation, but was still down to 7 life facing Thassa and Mutavaults. The Revelation was a good one. Detention Sphere stopped Thassa, and Jace, Architect of Thought took the sting out of the Mutavaults. Next up was Elspeth, Sun's Champion to provide a string of blockers and take over combat. Hwang's last gasp came a turn or two later with an overloaded Cyclonic Rift, but Hayne was ready with Dissolve. His soldier tokens marched to victory.

    Hayne 1 - Hwang 0


    Alexander Hayne

    Hwang resolved a turn-three Nightveil Specter on the play and Hayne didn't have an immediate answer on two lands and a guildgate. The Specter stole a Dissolve from Hayne's deck, but that was no good against Supreme Verdict. Hwang tried to build up a base of devotion in play but each time Hayne would be ready with another Supreme Verdict. Hwang kept the pressure up, but soon Elspeth was hitting the field and Hwang couldn't get past her.

    Alexander Hayne defeats Eugene Hwang 2-0



    Robert Gillespie vs. Adam Ruprecht


    Robert Gillespie

    Ruprecht's draw in game one was long on land and short on threats. He could only stare forlornly at his two Bidents of Thassa, one in hand, one in play, and a big stack of island. Gillespie meanwhile was resolving a big Sphinx's Revelation and then Elspeth, Sun's Champion.

    Gillespie 1 - Ruprecht 0


    Adam Ruprecht

    In the second game, Judge's Familiar got thassa on board past Essence Scatter, but Ruprecht just couldn't keep any creatures on the board to go with her. Frostburn Weird fell to Last Breath. Syncopate stopped Bident of Thassa. Not even an anemic Master of Waves for two was allowed to stay in play. And then the dynamic duo showed up: Jace, Architect of Thought and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Ruprect played it out to the bitter end, and then congratulated Gillespie on advancing to the semifinals.

    Robert Gillespie defeats Adam Ruprecht 2-0



    Peter Sundholm vs. Mike Vasovski


    Mike Vasovski

    Vasovski's Blue-White was a little slow, so as it matched answers to Sundholm's threats, he was also taking a lot of damage. He finally managed to Detention Sphere away Thassa and then Supreme Verdict a turn later. However, he was very low on life, and Sundholm had Mutavaults, stealing the game before a big Sphinx's Revelation could turn the tide.

    Sundholm 1 - Vasovski 0

    Sundholm mulliganed to six and started slowly with just a third-turn Thassa and then a Frostburn Weird without a fourth land. Vasovski went for Jace, Architect of Thought and plussed it, but Sundholm had Tidebinder Mage in hand. Thassa and the Weird attacked, and with a pump Jace was in the graveyard.


    Peter Sundholm

    Vasovski played a second Jace and this one served up cards, but crucially, no Supreme Verdict. Sundholm's team dispatched the second Jace and dealt damage to Vasovski. Again no Wrath for Vasovski, but Archangel of Thune. Sundholm swung all out. The Archangel stepped in front of the Weird, and Sundholm fully pumped it to trade. Thassa was turned off, for the time being. A turn later Sundholm dropped Frostburn Weird and hit with Thassa, then lost a counter war over Azorius Charm. Unfortunately for Vasovski, he had no way to stop her hitting play again, and though Elspeth, Sun's Champion could provide board control, Thassa would let Mutavaults slip through for lethal. He soon conceded.

    Peter Sundholm 2-0 over Mike Vasovski




     

  • Semifinals: Peter Sundholm vs. Robert Gillespie

    by Josh Bennett

  • The Preamble

    The Quarterfinals featured the same matchup three times: Blue-White Control versus Mono-Blue Devotion. Peter Sundholm was the only Mono-Blue player to escape. Now he has to repeat his performance against Robert Gillespie.

    The Match

    Sundholm got on the board quickly with Cloudfin Raptor and Frostburn Weird. He tried a third-turn Nightveil Specter but was stopped by Essence Scatter. Gillespie played his third land tapped and passed it back. Sundholm played a Mutavault and was happy to simply attack for five rather than play into a possible Supreme Verdict.

    Gillespie played another tapped land and removed the Weird with Detention Sphere. Sundholm had a replacement, evolving his Raptor. He hit for four. Gillespie was already down to just eight. He untapped, played a fifth land, but wasn't finding what he needed. Last Breath took care of the Weird. Sundholm hit for another four and added Tidebinder Mage. Gillespie managed to stave off a lethal attack one turn with Sphinx's Revelation, but still couldn't find anything to help his situation. He soon succumbed.

    Sundholm 1 - Gillespie 0


    Peter Sundholm

    After sideboarding, Gillespie almost packed away his Soldier tokens along with his sideboard before catching himself. "Those might be relevant," he said with a smile. Sundholm laughed. "I hope not!"

    Gillespie had to take a moment to consider his opening seven. He kept, and they were off. Sundholm led with Judge's Familiar and Frostburn Weird, but lost both to Last Breaths. Unfortunately for Gillespie, he was stuck on just two land.

    "I'm good. Well... I'm not good, but I'm done."

    He had to watch as Sundholm resolved Thassa, God of the Sea. His draw step was another spell. Sundholm cast Cloudfin Raptor, then Nightveil Specter. Gillespie stopped it with Gainsay. Still his deck spurned him. Sundholm added Judge's Familiar to his squad and Negated Gillespie's attempt to Last Breath the Raptor.

    Finally, a third land for Gillespie, and a Temple of Triumph to boot. He checked his top card, and let it stay. Despite having Thassa in play, Sundholm's draw hadn't developed. He could only hit for two and pass with two cards in his hand. Gillespie took two damage to cast Supreme Verdict and get rid of Sundholm's clock. Sundholm scryed, then passed a blank turn on four land.

    Now Sundholm's wealth of spells was coming into play. He fought off Jace, Memory Adept with Dissolve, then resolved a Sphinx's Revelation for two. He forced Jace, Architect of Thought past Sundholm's Gainsay with one of his own. Jace started to serve up cards, including Detention Sphere for Thassa. Elspeth soon followed, and the result was never in doubt.

    Sundholm 1 - Gillespie 1


    Robert Gillespie

    Sundholm's Judge's Familiar was a turn late, but it still got to protect Nightveil Specter from Syncopate for one. Gillespie untapped and played Last Breath, wiping it off the table. Sundholm dropped Mutavault and a Bident of Thassa. Gillespie was ready with Detention Sphere for the latter. He played an Elixir of Immortality and passed.

    Sundholm was out of threats, so he animated his Mutavault and attacked. He played out Ratchet Bomb and passed. Gillespie was content to play the waiting game. He took another hit from the Mutavault and stopped Tidebinder Mage with Gainsay. However, he was stuck on five lands, and Sundholm now had two Mutavaults coming his way. Soon he was down to nine and then cracking his Elixir to go back up to fourteen. But still nothing to stop the Mutavault assault.

    Sundholm's Ratchet Bomb had hit three counters by this point, and he used it to free his Bident from the Detention Sphere. Gillespie had Disperse to rescue it for a second use, but it still meant that Sundholm would draw two cards off his Mutavault attack. Gillespie's attempt at a Sphinx's Revelation for two was stopped by Sundholm's Gainsay, and the Mutavaults charged in.

    Gillespie replayed the Sphere, exiling the Bident and passed with three open, but was unable to stop Thassa, God of the Sea. He fell to six, then untapped and played a Sphinx's Revelation for three. Looking at his new cards he let out a heavy sigh. "Awesome." Sundholm hit for another four and dropped him to five, then added Tidebinder Mage. Gillespie could do nothing but play Elspeth, Sun's Champion and make soldiers, crossing his fingers.

    "You're tapped out?"

    "I am."

    "You're at five life?"

    "Yep."

    Sundholm tapped two for Frostburn Weird, animating Thassa. She became unblockable and swung in. Gillespie extended the hand.

    Peter Sundholm defeats Robert Gillespie 2-1



    The Postgame

    It was a tough way to go out, but Gillespie was gracious in defeat. After the initial disappointment wore off, he was all smiles. "My goal this weekend was to Day 2. Top 4 is a big step up."

    Meanwhile Sundholm was being congratulated by his friends and trying to wrap his head around what was to come, the biggest match of his Magic career.




     

  • Semifinals: (18) Alexander Hayne (Azorius Control) vs. (25) Jon Stern (Mono-Black Devotion)

    by Marc Calderaro

  • As No. 18 Alexander Hayne walked into the feature match area, No. 25 Jon Stern held his hand up for the high five and yelled "Free flight to Atlanta!" Hayne smiled wide and slapped his friend's hand. These two friends, both representing Face to Face Games here.

    Both these players currently have the leaf of Canada up on the world Magic leaderboard, and are likely going to further inch up after these great performances. Though only one of them can make it to the final, both of them seemed fine if it were the other. They just wanted to play some good games.

    Game One

    Though Jon Stern's turn-two Pack Rat hit a Syncopate from Alex Hayne, Stern was able to land a third-turn Underworld Connections. This was a huge win for the Mono-Black Devotion deck. The deck had to go card-for-card with the Azorius Control deck, which was a hard thing to do when the other deck plays four copies of Sphinx's Revelation and you do not.

    Potential fist-pump number two came when a Thoughtseize bagged an Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Though Hayne was eventually able to use Detention Sphere to take out two concurrent Underworld Connections, it was not before Stern was out-drawing Hayne at least 2-to-1. This was an abysmal game-one match-up for Stern, but he was holding his own.


    Alexander Hayne and Jon Stern

    Stern's damage engine was a Whip of Erebos and two Mutavault. This made things difficult for Hayne, and also explained how the totals could be 10-20 in Stern's favor, even though he was constantly damaging himself to draw cards and the like.

    Hayne was down to one card—the mulligan had hurt him greatly. On the turn he needed to, he resolved his first Sphinx's Revelation to make the totals 10-24 and drew five fresh new cards. But the Mutavaults were relentless, and Hayne didn't seem to have a way to stop them. Pretty soon it was 6-27, then 2-29.

    But then the big-daddy Sphinx's Revelation happened. Once X on the card was bigger than "6" it becomes really hard to stop Azorius Control, despite the actual life totals. Hayne resolved an Elspeth, Sun's Champion, made three blockers, and Hayne was sitting much better. You know a control player is doing well when he says this phrase: "Move to my discard phase."

    Jon Stern went into the tank. He cast a pre-combat Desecration Demon, the eventually sent both Mutavaults in. It was 8-27, but the game would quickly spiral upwards, out of his control. The tokens took out a Mutavault and maintained Hayne's life total at 8—that giant demon loomed large in the background.

    But Hayne had stabilized. This could be short-lived, however. The over thirty life for Stern meant he could just keep drawing cards until the cows came home. He could do exactly what he wanted to do in this match-up—go card-for-card.

    Peeking at his hand for all the cards he had drawn, a lot of them were land. In fact, Stern had drawn seventeen of his twenty-six land. And when a Dissolve took out Stern's Pack Rat, he was left with only Swamps in his hand. Countering that Pack Rat was very important for Hayne. He had no way of knowing how many Gray Merchant of Asphodel were in Stern's hand. And with the Whip of Erebos in play, there were some odd shenanigans that could ensue, discarding to the Pack Rat than reanimating.

    It was about this time Hayne got an Elspeth, Sun's Champion ultimate emblem. I think an emblem like that should stick with you your whole life, not just the remainder of the game.


    A few turns later, when Thoughtseize revealed three Supreme Verdicts, an Ætherling, a Last Breath, and a Syncopate, Stern had to assess his line of plays that could win this game. There weren't many. Although Hayne drawing twenty land in a row could be one of them. With a hand like that, nothing really scared Hayne; he had weathered all four Underworld Connections, he'd stopped the Whip of Erebos reanimating, and Stern had no cards in his hand.

    "Now all I have to do is kill you," Hayne joked.

    "It shouldn't be hard," Stern said.

    "Yeah, but it's going to be long," Hayne opined.

    Eventually, after a bunch of turns, Stern packed it in. "Give me back my Underworld Connections." He continued, "It's funny; if that were a Swiss match I would have conceded 40 minutes ago."

    Thanks, Jon. Thanks. Forty-five minutes into the match:

    Alexander Hayne 1 – 0 Jon Stern

    While Stern was in the bathroom, Hayne said to me, "I really hope for another game like that. Jon's too old to handle it." Hayne laughed at his dagger.

    Game Two

    When Jon Stern started off with a Lifebane Zombie and Nightveil Specter, Hayne quipped, "Going aggro." Of course, the aggressive streak was not long for this world, as a Syncopate hit the Zombie, and a Dark Betrayal took out next turn's Nightveil Specter. However, Alex Hayne did not answer Jon Stern's turn-five Pack Rat, and with the aid of a discard and a Mutavault, it took out a Jace, Architect of Thought and stung Hayne for three.

    Hayne calmly untapped and made an Elspeth, Sun's Champion with three accompanying tokens. The totals at 13-18, it was a pretty comfortable score for the six-cost 'walker. On the next defense, Hayne conservatively only used one Soldier token to block, anticipating a Hero's Downfall to kill Elspeth. His supposition was right. After sinking to 10 in combat, Stern sent the Elspeth packing. Hayne had no plays his next turn, and used his remaining tokens to chump block two of the 4/4 Pack Rats. Hayne went to 4.

    A Sphinx's Revelation at the end of the turn made the totals 8-17, and gave Hayne four extra chances to pull himself out of this. Aside from the three Pack Rats, there were two Mutavault, and the ever-present threat of Gray Merchant of Asphodel, so even a Supreme Verdict on its own wasn't completely sufficient. The wrath variant did in fact come down and he killed both Mutavaults on the next combat with a creature land of his own and a Last Breath. Hayne staved off death for now.

    As far as I'm concerned, the turn the Hayne pulled ahead for good was when he activated his Jace, Architect of Thought and flipped over Sphinx's Revelation, Sphinx's Revelation, and Dissolve. Both Hayne and Stern actually chuckled a little to themselves. Hayne took both Revelations. It was a good turn. Neither player had a board, but Stern had two cards and Hayne had nine. All things considered, I would've been pretty happy to be in Hayne's shoes.

    You know, there's an inevitable time when Azorius Control is winning. It's the time when the life totals leader swaps. The whole game Azorius is behind, and then magically, it isn't anymore. Somewhere around the time Hayne cast a Sphinx's Revelation for six cards and an Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Hayne went to 19 life and Stern was at 17. That generally signals the end.

    This time was no different.

    Alex Hayne 2 – 0 Jon Stern

    After two long games, Alex Hayne beat Jon Stern to advance to the finals of Grand Prix Vancouver!




     

  • Finals: (18) Alexander Hayne (Azorius Control) vs. Peter Sundholm (Mono-Blue Devotion)

    by Marc Calderaro

  • Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Peter Sundholm re-picked up Magic in May, after 15 years off. He stopped playing during Black Summer (when Necropotence reigned supreme), as he was a blue player and he was so disheartened to see so many black mana symbols. He played the game so long ago, "I used to mana burn!" He laughed. He was extremely happy coming back to the game and seeing that blue mana was indeed a viable strategy.

    No. 18 Alex Hayne was sporting Tomoharu Saito's Azorius Control deck. He was also sporting the fact that he'd taken down two Grand Prix in the last year, and a win here would make it three for seven. In fact, a win here would make it three Grand Prix wins in six months. This Montreal resident is a crazy pants.

    Though the Azorius Control deck has a tough time post-board against Mono-Blue Devotion, Hayne believes that his Archangel of Thune tech turns the battle "from a bad match-up into a good one." We'll see how true that proves.

    Sundholm had a higher seed going into the Top 8, so he elected to go first. "Is that ok?" He asked his opponent.

    "Yeah, that's ok. Most of my opponents have been choosing that this weekend, and most of them have lost." Hayne laughed playfully. Out of another player's mouth that could have come off differently, but Hayne is so jovial, the line worked well.


    Alexander Hayne vs. Peter Sundholm

    Game One

    Sundholm started with three Island, Master of Waves, Domestication, Frostburn Weird, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx in his hand. He led with two Frostburn Weird, which were promptly removed with a Detention Sphere from Alex Hayne. Kids, we call that card advantage. For another example of card advantage, see Hayne casting a Jace, Architect of Thought the subsequent turn.

    Buttressed by a Supreme Verdict, Hayne was able to fire off the Jace to net multiple cards and also cast an Elspeth, Sun's Champion basically unimpeded. The scores were still 19-20 and Hayne had two planeswalkers plussing themselves to high heaven. Sundholm was in some trouble real quick.

    Hayne made Soldier tokens at will, and kept doing so until Master of Waves made the token counts even. Hayne was having none of that and cast a Supreme Verdict to start fresh again. And by "start fresh" I mean, Hayne had two active planeswalkers and four cards in his hand, and Sundholm had nothing on his bored and two cards in his grip.

    It really wasn't fair.

    And just like that, Hayne was one step away from his third Grand Prix in six months.

    Alex Hayne 1 – 0 Peter Sundholm



    Game Two

    "Let's try that 'on-the-play' plan again, Alexander." Sundholm wasn't going to make it easy for Hayne. It's a funny thing about being in between someone and history—the person standing there doesn't really care about you achieving your goal all that much.

    "It's been working out for me so far," Hayne replied, echoing his earlier sentiments.

    The second was a game of questions and answers. Sundholm kept posing questions, and Hayne kept providing answers. Hayne was like Batman to Sundholm's Riddler. Tidebinder Mage? Last Breath! Thassa, God of the Sea? Detention Sphere! What has yellow skin and writes? A ball-point banana!


    Peter Sundholm

    Hayne went for the windmill slam of Elspeth, Sun's Champion, but this time it was the Riddler providing the answer. Sundholm cast Negate. Sundholm's Frostburn Weird had taken Hayne to 12 life, and when Sundholm cast Domestication on Hayne's Archangel of Thune, he had to think he was sitting pretty. Until Hayne activated Jace, Architect of Thought and found two Detention Sphere and another Archangel. Sundholm laughed. His sitting/pretty went out the window.

    After that, the Batman came back. Sundholm had a second Domestication, but Hayne cast his second Detention Sphere. In response, Sundholm tried a Rapid Hybridization, but Hayne had the Gainsay.

    But surprise! Aha! Sundholm then played a third Domestication!

    "You had one-two-three Detention Sphere; it was only fair that I one-two-three Domestication. Oh, kill your Jace." Sundholm attacked with Frostburn Weird to remove the final Jace loyalty counter.

    Sundholm knew that the Archangels were coming in and he planned accordingly. Sundholm was an incredible foil to Hayne.

    Hayne had enough of these shenanigans and decided it was time for a reset. Supreme Verdict cleared both sides. But then the Riddler unleashed his super-secret weapon: Jace, Memory Adept. Immediately ten cards from Hayne's library hit the bin. Big Jace was a huge trump in this match-up, and with Hayne out three Detention Spheres, finding a real solution could be an issue—especially since the second millstravaganza took out the last Detention Sphere.

    Hayne had 15 cards left in his library.

    Two Archangel of Thune and a Jace, Architect of Thought was good, but the Memory Adept was a true threat. Sundholm's life was so high, upwards of 30, Hayne was going to have to kick it into high gear if he was going to outrace the Jace.

    Hayne attacked Sundholm with one of the Angels (one was summoning sick). He couldn't kill the Jace this turn anyway, so might as well hit Sundholm and grow his dudes in the process. On Sundholm's turn ten more cards hit Hayne's yard. It was getting scary for the eighteenth-ranked player.

    The Angels both took out the Jace, Memory Adept and the life totals were 25-25. Hayne had about five cards left to burn in his library. Unlike other Azorius Control decks, Hayne did not play an Elixir of Immortality for situations like this one. But I guess that's why there're dual Archangel of Thunes—for the situation when you need to deal 25 damage in a hurry, instead of shuffling your library back in.

    Then, a small rules hiccup ensued. Though you might intuitively think that when both Archangels attack, each Archangel only triggers once, Head Judge Toby Elliott verified that Comprehensive Rule 118.9 states thusly: multiple sources of life gain will produce multiple life-gain events, even though all the life is gained simultaneously. Make sense? It's weird, and don't worry about it if you don't want to. Just know that both creatures shot up to six +1/+1 counters after the rules kerfuffle, and threatened to hit for nine damage a piece next turn. That would outrace the library depletion by about two turns.


    Alexander Hayne

    The last gambit Sundholm had up his sleeve was finding another Jace, Memory Adept. He had about one more turn to do so. A Jace, Architect of Thought was there to help him find it. One mill activation from big-daddy Jace would be more than enough to take out the remaining four cards for Hayne, and Sundholm would have his day.

    So Hayne had to do some math. If he attacked smaller Jace with one Angel, could he still make it in time? He decided yes, and swung in. Hayne put four more counters on each Archangel and sent the Jace to the graveyard.

    It was Sundholm's last turn. The Riddler's last chance to pull the rug out from under Batman. Without the planewalker, he would have to draw Big Jace right off the top. Sundholm untapped . . . and drew . . .

    No help. Peter Sundholm extended his hand to Alex Hayne. For fun, Sundholm flipped over the top three cards to see if Jace would have found what he needed. The third card down was Jace, Memory Adept. Sundholm smiled.

    The game was over. Alex Hayne had done it. His third Grand Prix win in six months. Congratulations to Alex Hayne!

    Alex Hayne 2 – 0 Peter Sundholm




     

  • Top 5 Cards

    by Josh Bennett



  • 5. Forest

    Poor forest. It just seems like it can't find a home. With the Big Three Decks representing plains, islands and swamps, and red seeing play in both Devotion and Young Pyromancers builds, the only place green can find success of late is in Green-Red Monsters. That deck was a minor factor in Day 2. Colin Millar was a match win away from putting Mountains in the Top 8, but Forests didn't even get that close.

    It had great aspirations in Makihito Mihara's Colossal Gruul at the beginning of the season—casting powerhouses like Polukranos, World Eater and Garruk, Caller of Beasts. Travis Boese, who was 9-0 after Day 1, played the Colossal Gruul build which he thought was positioned particularly well to clean up. But alas, the Forest fell short yet again. Perhaps Young Pyromancer, or Fanatic of Mogis, or Stormbreath Dragon should really be in this fifth spot. But no, we're giving it to the Forest. Poor, poor Forest.





    4. Nightveil Specter

    Appearing in both Mono-Blue and Mono-Black, the Little Specter that Could is a card-advantage machine. Until Theros was released, this card was sadly ignored. But when the devotion mechanic became a viable strategy, every deck that could afford to play the Specter would do so. Not only does it add three devotion to either of the Dimir colors, but all the while it flies over the heads of opponents snatching cards from their library and acting like a Treasure Trove that you don't have to pay for.

    Even Control decks would side into this beast to get the card edge when other decks would side out their removal. Have you ever stolen another player's Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx? I have, and it's gross. The popularity of Last Breath has put a dent in its dominance, but he was still winning games all weekend, and I have a feeling he won't stop doing so after Born of the Gods is released.





    3. Elspeth, Sun's Champion

    Elspeth grew up, and she got mean. She is the finisher of choice in Blue-White Control because she is so versatile. Her swarm of soldiers provides roadblocks against aggressive strategies. With her in play, the control deck has the luxury of casting Supreme Verdict and being immediately ahead on the board. She also kills remarkably quickly, so that even as the last card in hand, Elspeth can steal games. In a pinch, her minus ability deals with two very important cards: Desecration Demon and Stormbreath Dragon.

    She is so powerful that the Black decks that had been splashing white for Blood Baron of Vizkopa have started playing her as well. In fact, many pundits think that the Black Control deck with those two white creatures is just superior to the Mono-Black Gray Merchant of Asphodel build. I mean, you can still play your Pack Rat? So why not play the better game-closer?





    2. Thassa, God of the Sea

    Thassa does a lot for a little mana. If you hit the devotion threshold, she is a superpowered killing machine. Her scry ability smooths out your draws, the better to execute an efficient game plan. She can make your creatures unblockable, meaning your opponent cannot stave you off with creatures. The Mono-Blue deck makes good use of all these abilities, and in particular, the fact that both Thassa and Mutavault are immune to Supreme Verdict. This means that Mono-Blue can often close out games against a control deck by sneaking through the last few points of unblockable damage. This was how Peter Sundholm won his clutch second game in the quarterfinals just before Vasovski could take control.

    In fact, Thassa is so good, Ryan Bemrose, who was 9-0 after Day 1, played her in a deck that could barely turn her into a creature and barely played any creatures worth making unblockable. He was playing an odd little brew of Azorius Control, and had two copies of this card, that 90% of the time just scryed for one every upkeep. Oh so long ago, Brian David-Marshall suggested that a mere Think Tank—Thassa without the creature attached—could be good enough given the right circumstances. Bemrose's deck, and this environment, finally proved him right.





    1. Archangel of Thune

    Grand Prix Vancouver all came down to this card—a small bit of tech out of the Azorius Control sideboard. The dealers noted that the card was selling all weekend, but couldn't quite pinpoint why. According to eventual winner Alex Hayne, the "why" is because it takes the Mono-Blue Devotion match for Azorius Control from "bad" to "good."

    In the final game of the weekend, two copies of Archangel of Thune dealt over 30 damage in a few precious turns and ripped the game right from the jaws of finalist Peter Sundholm. With four toughness, Archangel stops almost every blue attacker in its tracks, and when combined with the Soldier tokens from Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Azorius Control can stop an entire Elemental Army from Master of Waves with nary a Supreme Verdict or Detention Sphere in sight.

    The best part about the Archangel is that it shows how refined this Theros Standard format is. Seven Grand Prix in, and the finals are decided on a huge, swingy piece of tech that completely changes the nature of the match-up between two of the decks that have been around since the beginning of the format. The format was evolving up to the final crowning moment.






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