570 players arrived from all over the region for their chance to be crowned the Champion of Grand Prix Porto Alegre. After nine rounds of Standard, only 175 players will return tomorrow for Day 2.
While players were crewing Heart of Kirans, making infinite copies of Felidar Guardians and cranking out Ulamogs via Aetherworks Marvel, I was roaming around the spacious halls of Centro de Eventos Fiergs in order to hunt down some of the interesting stories of the day.
While this is a Standard event, you'll realize that a Grand Prix so much more than that!
"Mountainous" Road Trip
One of the earliest stories to spread like wildfire was this one player who registered 60 Mountains for the main event. Judges were perplexed but somewhat happy that the deck check only required approximately five seconds.
It's so puzzling that even Tezzeret's wondering.
The reason was plain and simple. It was the only legal deck that he could cough up. Jean Hubner considers himself exclusively a Legacy and Modern player at heart and doesn't actually own any Standard cards.
Jean Hubner, he who doesn't want to miss out on a Premier Event.
As a fan of Eternal formats, he did participate in the previous Grand Prix Porto Alegre when the format was Modern Constructed. Despite not being able to play with his favorite Red-Green Tron deck this weekend, he wasn't about to miss out on a Premier Event, especially one that is so near from home.
And when I mean near, I mean a six-hour, three hundred mile drive away.
Hubner really wanted to be here no matter what, just to revel in the Magic atmosphere. After all, it was a great opportunity to connect with friends and fellow hobbyists around the vast nation. Together with four other friends, they drove down from Santa Catarina.
"I registered as VIP in the main event but my real plan was to play in side events all weekend. My friends think I'm being funny but all I wanted to be a participant of this Grand Prix, even if it is for just one round," which is also why he actually played in Round 1 of Grand Prix Porto Alegre 2017.
This picture is totally "not" staged.
Naturally, the Empty City Ruse didn't last long and he got smashed really quickly, dropped, and then dashed off for the "Power Legacy" with his entirely foiled out Omnitell deck!
The key takeaway is that regardless of what format a Grand Prix features, there is always a good reason to be here and the biggest reason of all is to simply immerse in the Magic festivities and enjoy the entire gaming experience around.
No matter what happens this weekend at Porto Alegre, Hubner and company goes home with promo Progenitus(es?), commemorative playmats, as well as a road trip of a lifetime that they'll remember forever.
When Energetic Whales Attack
Kaladesh is a bizarre world where inventors are constantly trying generate and abuse energy among other things.
Who can resist the allure of Woodweaver's Puzzleknot and the power that's inside, or the value granted by Attune with Aether, Whirler Virtuoso or Rogue Refiner? There's also Harnessed Lightning, Glimmer of Genius and Aether Hub fueling Dynavolt Tower and Aetherworks Marvel.
While the common consensus is that the format is already pretty solved, this actually opens up a window of opportunity for you to attack. For example, World Magic Cup Top 8 competitor Gabriel Fehr – who also made the Top 8 at the previous Grand Prix Porto Alegre in 2015 – felt that the metagame was gravitating slightly towards Four-Color Copycat and Black-Green variants. To outwit the slower field, he showed up with Temur Aetherworks Marvel because it couldn't be a better window to try and go over the top.
And then, there are some who're just interested to stay alive long enough to attack with whales.
Entering the battlefield, Aethertide Whale creates sufficient energy for one Aetherworks Marvel activation while dodging removal almost as elegantly as Bristling Hydra. Most importantly, if you're trying to find Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger but unfortunately fail, netting Aethertide Whale isn't so bad either because you're instantly gaining back six energy, allowing you to try again next turn!
Aethertide Whale spotted on the loose!
One tip though.
Part of the "skill" of playing this deck is that you don't really want to draw too many copies of Ulamog.
Black-Red Eldrazi with Pedro Carvalho
In the sea of Mardu Vehicles, Four-Color Copycat, Black-Green variants and resurgent Aetherworks Marvel concoctions, Gold pro Pedro Carvalho had different ideas. Battling out in the Feature Match area as soon as he entered the fray, his take on the Standard format was comparatively unorthodox.
"I wanted to play something other than Mardu Vehicles because I didn't like it very much so I decided to try out Black-Red Eldrazi. I got the list from Shota Takao and Toru Inoue who both played it at Grand Prix Barcelona. Inoue came in 20th place, which is a great result."
Naturally, Carvalho being Carvalho (and also _megafone_) took things into the virtual world of Magic Online and crunched tens of games with the archetype. Eventually, he decided to swap out Matter Reshaper for Glint-Sleeve Siphoner.
"Well, most decks can ignore Matter Reshaper but they cannot ignore Glint-Sleeve Siphoner. At some point, they'll have to expend a removal to kill it. And then, when Thought-Knot Seer rips away the best card from their hand, they're likely left defenseless against Reality Smasher."
Carvalho also shared that it feels like a Mardu Vehicles deck, except that it had a different late game. He further emphasizes that the late game is different, not necessarily better.
"Both decks play a lot of overlapping cards, for example Heart of Kiran, Walking Ballista and Scrapheap Scrounger, but the other threats make the deck very different. The removal in the format are not very well-positioned to deal with Eldrazis, if you get what I mean."
Magic Online veteran and Gold Pro Pedro Carvalho battles it out in the Feature Match area.
For example, while Shock is a common inclusion to take down Toolcraft Exemplar, Veteran Motorist and Saheeli Rai, it does nothing against hardier Eldrazis and the same is somewhat true for Fatal Push. That's saying a lot considering these cards are the premium one-mana removal spells of the format.
Carvalho also praises the stable mana base and compared it against that of Mardu Vehicles. He explained that there are some games where you draw all your colors quickly and you're able to close the game quickly but some other games you just get color screwed and fold. Perhaps the most interesting land of all is Ruins of Oran-Rief
It has synergy with Scrapheap Scrounger since it will return to the battlefield sometime and making it into a 4/3 allows it to get past Felidar Sovereign. You can also summon a 2/2 Walking Ballista on turn three, and Carvalho also mentions that he's ever made a 3/3 Walking Ballista on turn four. It is also possible to grow Heart of Kiran into a 5/5, but he explains that it is less common. As a matter of fact, Heart of Kiran is a worse card in this shell compared to Mardu Vehicles.
"Sometimes you don't want to lose Thought-Knot Seer so you crew with it instead of attacking with it, but you never, ever want Reality Smasher crewing Heart of Kiran. It's just a bad driver and it would rather just smash face."
Olivia, Mobilized for War also enables some subtle strategies. It allows you to put an additional +1/+1 counter on Walking Ballista and give it haste. You can also discard Scrapheap Scrounger and then return it onto the battlefield. Most importantly, some artifacts make way for Olivia's entrance when players are sideboarding in Release the Gremlins to deal with your vehicles.
Black-Red Eldrazi is an interesting deck with a plausible premise. Whether or not it will rise to the occasion and serve its pilot remains to be seen. Carvalho barely managed to squeak into Day 2 and will be back to battle it out. If he manages to win out tomorrow, he might still have a shot at the Top 8!
One Lady, Many Cupcakes, One Sorin Markov
Emilia Aratanha is a dazzling personality that brings joy to any Magic tournament she attends. Before we get on with this story, let's have her introduce herself.
“I've been playing Magic since Ice Age and I also have an older brother who plays. Together, we grew up around strong gaming culture and Magic is one of the best experiences I have. When I was a little girl, he brought me to our first Grand Prix at Rio de Janeiro, although I forgot whether it was the one in 1998 or 2001 (the third Grand Prix Rio de Janerio was in 2013). All I remembered that I got a Wrath of God autographed and I believe I met Mark Rosewater, although I was probably still too young to know any better!”
Meet Emilia Aratanha and her Aether Cupcake!
These were the earliest Magic-related memories of Aratanha and since that it has blossomed into a lifetime of love. Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Aratanha moved to Sao Paulo and was faced with a disposition that is not unlike what someone from out of town would face. Despite her seemingly outgoing facade, Aratanha is still human and occasionally faces social anxiety.
“I remember I was very shy to go to the local games stores initially because I was much younger then. There is also the notion that these environments tended to be male-dominated and that I would somehow be out of place. However, when I plucked up the courage to give it a go, everyone I met made me feel so welcome. Let me remind you that this was also a period of time where I had moved out of my hometown into a new city so being able to make new friends and feel like home was a huge, huge deal for a 'gamer girl' like myself.”
After a few months, Aratanha eventually became a regular and came out of her shell. She learned how to play Magic better and learned new ways to play Magic.
Most importantly, she felt like she had found family.
This was when she decided she would start baking cupcakes for everyone.
“I'm a history teacher by profession, not a baker. However, I wanted to thank my friends for welcoming into their community so I learned how to. Since Prerelease events occur every quarter, I would bake cupcakes every three months and distribute them out as we played in the tournament. I'm really glad they liked it. Some of my friends loved it so much they asked me whether I accepted orders for them. The store owner also offered me store credit and even free entry to the next Prerelease tournament in exchange for more cupcakes but I always politely declined. This soon became 'a thing' for my friends and nowadays I would bake them for Grand Prix as well. This weekend, my friends are calling them the 'Aether Cupcakes'.”
However, life isn't always a bed of roses. A few years back, Aratanha had a brush with death. Several brain aneurysms were discovered to have taken a turn for the worse and she was forced to undergo a life-threatening “Surgical Extraction”.
“After the operation, I was lying in the hospital during the Zendikar Prerelease, with a bloody gash across the top of my forehead. Surgery makes you lethargic and I was encouraged to maintain brain activity if I wanted to recover. However, when you've got tubes stuck up your veins and pharmaceutical drugs pumped into your body as you lie in a hospital bed, you just want to go back to sleep and not think about anything else.”
Her friends from the store she most regularly frequents did something really sweet, perhaps sweeter than any of the cupcakes she had ever baked for them. That's saying a lot because she admitted to putting quite a fair bit of sugar in them.
Her friends attended the Battle for Zendikar prerelease, saved up all their Battle for Zendikar boosters which they won as prizes and showed up at the hospital later in the evening. There, they had their very own little prerelease right by Aratanha's bedside. This was truly a slice of paradise.
“There were around five or six players at that time and it was such a touching moment for me. Not only did we have a wonderful time, it made me forget about the pain and the suffering. It gave me a lot of things to think about, for example, were cards were good in Battle for Zendikar and which cards were not. It also gave me hope, peace and inner calm. This process really aided in my recovery.”
However, the most integral part of the story revolved around one particular Sorin Markov. As a throwback to the old Zendikar Block, one of Aratanha's buddies Juca Bartolini, he pulled out a copy of Sorin Markov from his binder.
Before leaving the ward, Bartolini said to Aratanha, “I'm going to give this Sorin Markov to you and you're going think about how to use it to build a deck to beat me. Your brain is going to be fine and you're going to be fine and then you'll step out of the hospital healthy and happy. And, you're going to beat me in a game with this very Sorin Markov.”
These powerful words of affirmation were a vital force in empowering Aratanha's will to rehabilitate. Eventually, she succeeded in walking out of the cold, white building and succeed in winning her match against her friend.
A little cupcake goes a long way and who would have known that her habits of baking them four times a year would forge a bunch of close-knitted lifelong friends who so very much treated each and every Prerelease event as a family reunion.
“The Battle for Zendikar prerelease saved my life, and so did my friends and family, and that Sorin Markov. Without these sources of motivation and strength, I might not even have lived to see Oath of the Gatewatch get released.”
This weekend at Grand Prix Porto Alegre, she teamed up up with her cousin, Augusto Huyer, and went undefeated at the Two-Headed Giant Sealed Deck public event. Emilia Aratanha is back... distributing cupcakes, spending quality time with friends and family, and of course, playing Magic.
An Unexpected Journey
While the attendance of Grand Prix Porto Alegre might be a little less than before, tournament organizers report that the tournament hall had actually been fully utilized. With a playing space that accommodates nearly a thousand players, that means that more than a third of the players were here for the plethora of public events.
In particular, there is one activity that is literally causing quite a bit of commotion, in a healthy, orderly way though. A free-to-join event jointly organized by the close-knitted YouTubing community and game stores, there is a rather interesting "quest-styled" event that challenges its participants to embark on a journey.
The premise is that you're a planeswalker and you're roaming the world while unlocking achievements, gathering companions, seeking treasures and unraveling the mysteries of the universe.
There are a list of "quests" and some of them are listed on the above "quest board". Some of these tasks are rather simple while some other tasks are rather impossible, unless you get a little creative.
Let's start with the easy ones. For example, there is a gunslinging area where you need to challenge the "guardians" to a match of Magic. Defenders of booster packs, if you will, because winners walk away with an assortment of freebies. The format is chosen by the respective guardian and it ranges from Standard to Modern to Legacy, all the way to Commander or even Pauper.
Seriously, PAUPER? For one, I would never have thought to "casually" pack my Pauper deck along, making it an incredibly annoying quest giver to satisfy.
There's also a mission that sends players around the venue to hunt for sights and sounds. Using their phones and cameras, they'll be required to take certain photographs or videos and share them onto social media channels as part of a community-building effort.
You'll need to hunt down and take a photo with Carolina Moraes, the Community Manager of Brazil. While this seems like a challenge of dexterity and agility, it's more of a puzzle. Firstly, you could walk past Moraes and not even recognize her. You'll have to ask the judges for clues or the tournament staff for pointers. Even if you've got all that figured out, it won't be that easy because she's constantly on her feet and on the move.
You'll also need to grab hold of Hall of Famer Willy Edel, who is working behind the scenes producing this weekend's live video coverage. Finding a minute to take a selfie with him isn't entirely difficult since he is a household name in Brazil, even though production times might meddle with his availability.
Or... he could simply be hiding from you.
You can't see me.
You'll also need to take a photo with a cosplayer, which is something that is not possible unless you bended the rules a little. Since we're not in Japan, unlike Frank Karsten, there aren't so many people cosplaying around here. Creative gamers proceeded to game the system by loading a picture on their tablets, putting it next to their face and then taking a selfie with their own camera phone.
Whatever works, I guess.
Also, there's also a hunt for certain items. For example, adventurers are asked to find two other players with playmats which are all illustrated by the same artist. This proved to be a real stumper, until someone figured it out that it was actually a trick question and you could actually just find two other people with this weekend's playmat and pose for a group photo. Hey! Nobody said the playmats had to be different, they just had to be illustrated by the same artist! You also needed to find certain cards and emulate the poses as illustrated on the card.
Perhaps the most interesting facet of the event is how you're actually
forced encouraged to interact with other people to actually complete some of these quests. Working together, these newfound friends were able to complete the challenge faster than anyone else!
All in all, the event was extremely well-received and participants received prizes regardless of how many boxes they managed to check off. In addition to complete Commander decks, deck boxes, card sleeves and a bunch of promos, everyone who joined in had a ton of fun, which makes everyone a winner already.
Day 1's 9-0 Players
Alexandre Cunha De Oliveira (left) and Sebastian Pozzo (right) zoom to the top!
At the top of the standings are Sebastian Pozzo and Alexandre Cunha De Oliveira, who remain the only two 9-0's left in the tournament. Both Brazilian players have chosen to show up with Mardu Vehicles, which is widely accepted as one of, if not the best, decks in the format.
Pozza's and Cunha De Oliveira's decklists differ by just a few cards and they had varying opinions on how many Walking Ballistas and Veteran Motorists should be had, but as long as they were crewing up Heart of Kirans and then transforming into a "planeswalker control" deck, it felt like a recipe for success.
However, several big names are on their tails, including Grand Prix Porto Alegre 2015 finalist Vagner William Casatti and Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad Top 8 competitor Luis Salvatto who are at 8-1 records. Standing at 7-2, there are also Pro Tour Aether Revolt Champion Lucas Esper Berthoud, Grand Prix Porto Alegre 2015 Champion Marcos Paulo De Jesus Freitas, and Grand Prix Sao Paulo Champion Guilherme Merjam!
Check back with us tomorrow as Rich Hagon and Pro Tour Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa will be in the booth all weekend delivering the most exciting moments of Porto Alegre!