Coverage of Grand Prix Guadalajara Day 1

Posted in Event Coverage on May 25, 2013


Saturday, 12:15 p.m. – Undefeated Grinder Decklists

by Event Coverage Staff

Aarón Aké Xacur

Fernando Dominguez Roldán

Mauricio Mendez

Axel Martinez

Saturday, 12:45 p.m. – Loco Local Headgear

by Mike Rosenberg


There's a lot of those to be found here this weekend, ranging from large sombreros, lucha libre wrestling masks, wizards caps, and more. But why?

Aside from just being fun and awesome to wear, the hats that players are wearing here at Grand Prix Guadalajara are part of a promotion going on here called the Sombrero Extravaganza. Saul Arreola, the tournament organizer for Grand Prix Guadalajara, wanted to run a promotion that was not only fun, but provided participating players with benefits that help make attending events like this a little easier for those that have a lighter wallet.

Players who sported a cowboy hat, sombrero, or pretty much any headpiece that could be deemed as crazy or decorative were rewarded with $100 pesos off their entry fee when signing up for the main event. This was a savings of 20% from the usual cost to enter the main event of $500 pesos.

Players who wear their hats all weekend also receive free snacks, "sombrero" matches where players with headgear who win the selected match receive Dragon's Maze booster packs, cumulative discounts on side events, and more. Players sporting the best or the craziest hats will also receive special prizes this weekend.

We went around to get a few shots of the crazy hats players are wearing. Check out a few of these loco local headpieces!

The winner of the Sombrero Extravaganza will be selected later this weekend, and we'll get a few words with Arreola about this contest and what the Magic scene is like in Latin America.

Oh, and the winner of the Grand Prix this weekend gets the sombrero that head judge Carlos Ho and the coverage staff sported earlier.

Saturday, 1:15 p.m. – Entering the Maze

by Nate Price

This most recent season of Standard has been one of the most volatile formats I can remember. It seemed as though the top dog would shift on a weekly basis, with decks falling in and out of favor with an alarming regularity. And as volatile as it was, it was a regular ebb and flow. As balanced as the format was, players were able to react on a weekly basis to the results of not only the previous week's major tournaments, but the shape of the Magic Online Standard metagame from the previous day. I've never seen a format evolve as fast as it did, and it made for some incredibly deep theorycrafting.


It all began with a simple statement: midrange is dead. With the printing of cards like Thundermaw Hellkite, Thragtusk, and Sphinx's Revelation, decks that relied on creature pressure in the midgame simply couldn't stand up to the lifegain, board-sweeping, and better creatures offered by the control decks. Bant Control became the deck to beat, and the core of the aforementioned cards along with Snapcaster Mage and Restoration Angel to reuse them became the bane of Standard for the early stages.

Soon, though, the aggressive decks found that they had a niche to abuse. BR Zombies absolutely exploded onto the scene, winning two consecutive Standard Grand Prix, and finishing in the finals in the next. Between the incredibly resilient Falkenrath Aristocrat, Geralf's Messenger, and Gravecrawler, the deck was able to survive through the most Supreme of Verdicts and Searing of Spears. The deck's hasty punch, bolstered by Thundermaw Hellkite and Hellrider, also gave it a way to close the gap between 20 and 0 before Sphinx's Revelation and Thragtusk could really become factors, with much of the damage flying over the dominant beast's head.

With the bookends of the format set, Standard set about reacting to itself. Control decks looked for threats that could trump the threats offered by the other control decks. Thus cards like Angel of Serenity became commonplace, representing the top of the hill for control cards. Aggressive decks, meanwhile, tried to get under the curve, eschewing the four and five drops that had become their finishing punch for a first-round knockout, often powered by the initially innocuous Burning-Tree Emissary. With the Emissary allowing players to unload their hands on turn two or three, players often found themselves in burn range before they could even afford their Supreme Verdicts or Thragtusks. You don't have to fight him if your opponents are dead. The big split between these decks was whether or not to play the Naya Humans version that charged their armies up with Champion of the Parish and Mayor of Avabruck, or to run straight Gruul, ignore any potential mana problems, and top out at a Hellrider finishing blow.

With things spreading towards the outside extremes of the format, all of a sudden, a hole opened up for the midrange decks once thought to be dead. Decks like Jund, Naya, and Naya Black started filling that hole with Huntmaster of the Fells and Olivia Voldaren, great against the new agro decks and the creatures of the control decks, as well as Rakdos's Return and Slaughter Games, perfect for that pesky Sphinx's Revelation. The window also allowed deckbuilders, who hadn't simply written the format off, to explore new space. Decks like Reanimator, which flashed in for a brief Grand Prix win before being hated out of existence, The Aristocrats, and Zoo with Domri Rade began to appear and perform well.

Sire of Insanity

From a format thought to be devoid of an entire tier of decks to one vibrant and full of variety, Standard certainly went through a spectrum of changes over the end of last year and leading up to the release of Dragon's Maze. Still, despite the format's health, there were a few problem cards identified by the R&D department, problems that had specific cards designed to deal with them. The biggest culprit of these was Sphinx's Revelation, the biggest reason for the lack of variety in the early stages of this Standard timeline. Dragon's Maze comes packed with cards like Notion Thief, Sire of Insanity, Council of the Absolute, and Voice of Resurgence aimed at keeping it from being too powerful. Voice of Resurgence also deals with Supreme Verdict nicely, as does Varolz, the Scar-Striped. Turn & Burn effectively kills Thragtusk, Falkenrath Aristocrat, and Boros Reckoner.

Dragon's Maze is just packed with cards that seem tailor-made to deal with the biggest perceived problems in Standard, and we're just now beginning to see their effects. Some decks, such as Bant and Esper Control, as well as Reanimator and Naya Blitz, decks that were major players, especially in the later stages of Standard, seem to have been replaced with other options in the same vein. Decks like Jund, that often found themselves struggling futilely against the tide of Standard, have found themselves riding the wave to the front of the pack. For a good look at the most recent successes in Standard, check out Jacob Van Lunen's great Standard compendium here.

This weekend represents the first premier-level event to feature Dragon's Maze, and it comes in the wake of Pro Tour Dragon's Maze, where we got to get a read on the relative power level of some of these new cards, albeit in an admittedly different format. Still, it will be interesting to see how Dragon's Maze continues to impact Standard, and whether the Pro Tour provided any insight for the deckbuilders of the world. It's already apparent that the Standard landscape is once again changing, and this weekend's play should help give you a much better of idea into what.

Saturday, 2:35 p.m. – Impact of Standard

by Mike Rosenberg

As we saw at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze last weekend, the last set in the Return to Ravnica Block shook things up, with brand new cards making big waves in that format. The same is taking place in Standard, and many of last week's big highlights from Dragon's Maze are expected to see similar play here in Grand Prix Guadalajara.

How do we know this? Well, for one, Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa made a call-out for four copies of Voice of Resurgence on Twitter last night, if that gives you any hint as to what you should expect.

Voice of Resurgence

Voice has been a hot card in trades this weekend, as players scramble to assemble their playset of what can be argued as the most powerful card from Dragon's Maze.

Aside from being a key card from Craig Wescoe's winning Block Constructed deck from last weekend's Pro Tour, Voice of Resurgence also slots in to a few old archetypes of Standard. For example, the Pro Tour Gatecrash winning deck "The Aristocrats" has seen a bit of a change from red to green. The reasons are more than simply for Voice, but it's hard to ignore that the innocuous looking two-mana creature's effectiveness in this deck:


This deck takes the basic game-plan from The Aristocrats, and instead opts out of Boros Reckoner and Falkenrath Aristocrat for brand new Dragon's Maze cards. Voice of Resurgence is unsurprisingly excellent since this archetype lets you control when it dies, but the deck also includes heavy-hitter Advent of the Wurm and the incredibly resilient Maze Runner Varolz, the Scar-Striped. Varolz does double-duty for this deck, providing another sacrifice outlet while also providing a very cheap and resilient threat. Even without any giant cheap creatures like Death's Shadow to scavenge, the legendary troll still puts in some major work.


The other major archetype to integrate Voice of Resurgence is Bant Auras. In this case, Voice not only acts as a cheap and efficient way to interact favorably with Gruul and Naya Blitz decks, but it also provides insurance when you start trying to slam auras onto your creatures. "Oh, did you want to destroy my creature before my aura resolves? Okay, I'll get a a token version of Scion of the Wild. Thanks!"

As a note, the top 20 tables in Round 4 includes five Bant Aura decks, with many of them claiming victory as I write this. Note that there were very few byes given out to players for this event, so a lot of these players have been battling it out since the first round. It shouldn't be too surprising if we see a lot more of this deck throughout the weekend.


Last but not least on the Voice of Resurgence watch-list is a deck archetype that won last weekend's Block Constructed Pro Tour. Yep, Selesnya Aggro is also a deck in Standard, as seen in the Magic Online Premiere Event results. This deck, however, emphasizes the populate mechanic. Not only does it include both Voice of Resurgence and Advent of the Wurm, but it also goes a step further with Scion of the Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree, a pretty sick follow-up to the ol' "make a 5/5 wurm at the end of your turn" play.

Sire of Insanity

Up next on our list of new cards that are shaking up Standard is among one of the most hyped cards out of Dragon's Maze. That card is Sire of Insanity, a powerful new tool that has given Jund decks a brand new way to topple Sphinx's Revelation archetypes. The Sire doesn't care how many cards someone draws, so long as it gets its controller to the end step.

The best part about Sire is not only its ability to even out a game or simply end one if it is played early off of multiple forms of mana acceleration. It's the ability for this creature to effectively blank future Sphinx's Revelations. What if your opponent draws one? Well, they better have at least two plays off of it if they want to see any value from the card outside of a little life gain. Sire also provides a fast clock for these decks, forcing players scramble for answers.


While Sire is usually included as a one or two-of in most of the Jund decks going around, its role is certainly important, and its ability to be cast off of Cavern of Souls is one of biggest reasons for why Jund is taking off once again. And, seeing as how there are seven Jund decks in the top 20 tables going into Round 4, Jund is a deck you should be ready to see this weekend.

Advent of the Wurm

The new wurm maker from Dragon's Maze is another key card to keep in mind when building your Standard deck. Advent of the Wurm is not only a critical tool for aggressive decks looking to interact favorably on an opponent's turn. It's also letting control decks ambush creatures or threaten control decks to tap out in the same style as Restoration Angel.

Advent of the Wurm first started making waves the very first weekend Dragon's Maze was legal for Standard in the hands of Matt Costa at a Star City Games Open Series event, where Costa added the Wurm into Bant Control. The Wurm maker not only provides another ambush effect against aggro, but also provides a very fast clock. Ever cast an Advent of the Wurm on turn three after using Farseek the previous turn? It feels nice...

...of course, what doesn't feel nice is losing your "creature" to a Sin Collector before you can cast your Advent. The Orzhov creature has made a small splash in a couple of decks in Standard's premiere events, including "Borzhov" (black-white-red) style decks as well as the familiar Junk Reanimator decks that still continue to put up good finishes.

Sin Collector serves multiple purposes, whether it's removing key Sphinx's Revelations out of control player's hands, knocking out painful removal spells from Jund's hand, or exiling critical copies of Unburial Rites in the mirror match. Pair that up with Restoration Angel's effect, with the possibility of curving these plays back-to-back, and you have a solid role-player that has picked up steam as Standard continues to evolve.

And finally, the blue-white-red flash decks can't be overlooked simply because some of the newest cards are a beating against these deck's old forms. Warleader's Helix adds a new dimension to these archetypes, giving the deck an aggressive path to victory while also being key in races where the 4 life gained is critical.

Warleader's Helix also deals a key amount of damage, perfect for taking out Loxodon Smiters, Restoration Angels, or the dreaded Sire of Insanity at instant speed. There are some blue-white-red decks floating around here this weekend, and we'll keep an eye on them to see if this new burn spell has made its way into those archetypes.

Pro Tour Dragon's Maze and its final results set a precedence for what to expect out of Standard in the coming months, but this weekend, it looks like some of the Pro Tour's key cards are already starting to catch on.

Round 4 Feature Match - Joel De Santos Jasso vs Will Edel

by Nate Price

When Marshall Sutcliffe and I previewed Assemble the Legion, we mused on its impact on Limited, noting the fact that it was likely a Sealed Deck bomb (it is), though it would likely prove too slow to be effective in Draft (it wasn't). We only loosely talked about its impact on Constructed, but we definitely made note of how strong it could be against the Control decks covering the room. Apparently, Willy Edel was listening.

While the first game was certainly a product of a mulligan and a bad draw from De Santos Jasso, Will Edel managed to ride Assemble the Legion to a very close victory over the Guadalajara native in Game 2, winning his first match of Grand Prix Guadalajara.

Joel De Santos Jasso

"I just can't beat that card if it hits play," De Santos Jasso said with a shake of the head after the match. He and Edel were comparing sideboarding decisions and discussion De Santos Jasso's inclusion of Negate when the topic came up. Edel didn't think that he should have sided in the Negates against his own virtually all-creature deck.

"All I have really are a couple of removal spells and Domri," Edel said in defense of his position. "I don't think Negate is very good here."

When De Santos Jasso pointed at the Assemble the Legion sitting in Edel's sideboarded pile, Edel seemed to nod his head in appreciation of the argument.

The Assemble was certainly a key part of Edel's win in the second and deciding game of the match. Up a game, De Santos Jasso and his UWR Flash deck began on the defensive before suddenly switching gears and taking the game to Edel. De Santos Jasso has proven to be very observant about when he has hit that inflection point, having piloted a similar version of this deck for a few years, resulting in a Grand Prix Top 8 in San Antonio near the end of last year.

Will Edel

This time around, he noticed that the Brazilian National Team Captain had taken a significant six damage from his own lands, which opened the door for De Santos Jasso to burn him out. He had managed to survive thus far with a Supreme Verdict on Turn 4 that cleared away a Loxodon Smiter, Restoration Angel, and Avacyn's Pilgrim. Following that, he managed to Detention Sphere a pair of Loxodon Smiters, leaving Edel with no board. Edel replaced the recently incarcerated pachyderms with an Assemble the Legion, and the race was on. The combined efforts of a Boros Charm, Snapcaster Mage, and Restoration Angel in his hand represented a seemingly lethal series of plays, and De Santos Jasso pulled the trigger.

At the end of Edel's turn, De Santos Jasso sent the first Charm at Edel's head, putting him ahead 12-10. Edel messed up the math a bit when he tried to play an Oblivion Ring, forcing De Santos Jasso to cast the Snapcaster Mage and return an earlier cast Dissipate to keep the Smiters locked up. Edel pressed again, adding a Thundermaw Hellkite to his team and sending. This dropped De Santos Jasso to 7. At the end of the turn, De Santos Jasso made a Restoration Angel to flicker the Snapcaster Mage, giving him another Boros Charm. He was out of cards.

With no cards in hand, De Santos Jasso drew his card and set about his turn. He attacked for three with his Angel, putting Edel to 3 one turn before he would likely die himself. After combat, he surveyed the board a while before passing the turn back.

"I'm not dead?" A surprised Edel asked.

"Unfortunately for me, no."

Edel covered his bases with a second Thundermaw Hellkite and then thought hard about his attacks. It seemed like there was very little that De Santos Jasso could do, especially in the face of two Hellkites. When he conceded and revealed Turn & Burn, Edel realized how close he had actually come.

Thundermaw Hellkite

"If I attack with everything there, I don't think I can lose," Edel told me after the match. "If I don't, I don't know."

If he had decided to hold one of his Hellkites back for any reason, Turn & Burn would have cleared the way for the Angel to finish him off.

De Santos Jasso had a reasonable number of outs going into that final card, as well.

"I could have drawn Searing Spear, another Boros Charm... If I had drawn Revelation on my turn, I would have just cast it looking for one of those."

In the end, it came down to a Dissipate and a Detention Sphere that went to targets other than Assemble the Legion that allowed the powerful enchantment to land. Without the disperse threat it represented, Turn & Burn would have been enough to mop up that attack step, even in the face of the pair of Thundermaws. Edel had placed De Santos Jasso under enough early pressure to force him to deal with other threats, allowing him to cleanly resolve the Assemble once he hit five lands. As such, it was able to generate six tokens that eventually became the basis of the hasty army he would use to defeat De Santos Jasso.

Round 5 Feature Match

by Mike Rosenberg

Round 5 featured a match between two veterans of Mexico's Magic scene. Both qualified for Pro Tour Theros thanks to local Pro Tour Qualifiers, but only one moved on to remain undefeated after their Round 5 match. Marcelino Freeman's brutally fast Gruul Blitz deck defeated Jorge Ernesto Padilla Chinas's Jund deck 2-1.

At first, it looked as though Freeman would have his back against the wall in the match. In the first game, he was stuck on two land. Normally this is fine for a Gruul Blitz player, since it means that their hand is most likely full of relevant plays, and your start was a turn one Stromkirk Noble and a Flinthoof Boar.

However, it's a lot less fine when your opponent has a turn four Thragtusk, which was the deciding play from Padilla Chinas in this game. While Freeman aimed back-to-back Pillar of Flames at Padilla Chinas in previous turns without any creatures to cast, meaning the Thragtusk only got the Jund player up to 14 life, Freeman had his follow-up plays promptly stopped cold by Liliana of the Veil. When Freeman reloaded on creatures again, Bonfire of the Damned for 3 out of Padilla Chinas's hand swept away Freeman's board, and Kessig Wolf Run on one of Padilla Chinas's attacker sent Freeman looking through his sideboard.

Jorge Ernesto Padilla Chinas

Padilla Chinas, who had been playing the game since Urza's Destiny, knew a thing or two about playing his cards correctly. He was planning to attend Grand Prix Las Vegas next month, and was already set to go to Pro Tour Theros.

But then again, Freeman was no slouch himself. He won the Mexico National Championship back in 2010, and was part of Mexico's team at last year's World Magic Cup. He was also planning to hit up Grand Prix Las Vegas, and was also set to play in Pro Tour Theros.

"I have been playing most of the decks [in Standard] with my team. I chose Jund because it was the most stable one,' said Padilla Chinas in regards to his choice of Jund for this tournament. "You don't have a great match against anything but you don't have a bad match against anything either."

However, in the second game, the Jund player was anything but in control, having to mulligan his first hand in the second game all while dealing with a start from Freeman that gave way to the deck name of Gruul Blitz.

Marcelino Freeman

Freeman opened up with a first-turn Stromkirk Noble and promptly followed with Burning-Tree Emissary into a Lightning Mauler. The two mana creatures bonded souls and sent Padilla Chinas to 15 on the second turn. While the Jund player had Pillar of Flame for Stromkirk Noble, another Burning-Tree Emissary off the top from Freeman and Firefist Striker put Padilla Chinas on the back foot, as he quickly found himself scooping up his cards to the incredibly fast start.

In the third game, it was Padilla Chinas's deck that left him without any way out of the match undefeated. A mulligan to five was a rough start, but when Padilla Chinas's deck refused to cough up a second land in time, Freeman's start of first-turn Rakdos Cackler into second-turn Lightning Mauler was more than enough to set the scene for the game. Tragic Slip disposed of the Mauler, but Stromkirk Noble and Rakdos Cackler on the third turn quickly put things out of reach when Padilla Chinas had no further plays off of his lands.

Freeman pulled out ahead, remaining undefeated and setting himself up for a good start to the 2013-2014 season if he could keep this up.

Round 5 Feature Match #2

by Mike Rosenberg

Stanislav Cifka, Pro Tour Return to Ravnica champion and Platinum pro, moved on to 5-0 after a quick 2-0 victory with Bant Auras against Jovanny Cruz and his Naya Midrange deck.

Stanislav Cifka

The first game had Cifka ahead quickly, with Geist of Saint Traft picking up both Unflinching Courage and Ethereal Armor. The resulting life swings were too much for Cruz to handle, and Voice of Resurgence left Cruz with few ways to interact meaningfully in the first game.

In the second game, the pace of play slowed down immensely. While Cifka's deck seemed ahead, with Increasing Savagery boosting Geist of Saint Traft to a 7/7, Cruz had some plays that kept him in the game. Acidic Slime did away with any auras that Cifka's creatures picked up, and gave him a meaningful way to deal with the Geist if Cifka sent in his creatures.

Jovanny Cruz

However, Cifka's line of play made things much more hairy. A flashback of Increasing Savagery made a freshly played Fencing Ace into an 11/11 double strike. A turn later, Cifka had found Unflinching Courage, pushing the two mana creature over the top with +2/+2 and trample, sealing up the match for the Platinum pro.

"Where were you?" Cruz asked, flipping through his deck to find Angel of Serenity, one of the cards he could have drawn to significantly slow down Cifka's potentially lethal draws.

After the match, Cifka talked about his reasons for playing Bant Auras in Standard. "I think the deck is really well positioned," he explained. "Liliana of the Veil isn't very popular which is the biggest threat against this deck. The field is so wide that if you build a control deck, it's really difficult to get ready for everything."

The other value to the deck is that its game plan stays the same in each match. "The deck is playing your own game," he said. "You don't need to be ready for opponents."

Cifka made his way to a few Grand Prix events during the 2012-2013 season, but with the new season now upon us, he will be making a larger effort to attend and do well at Grand Prix tournaments this season. ""In the second half of the last season, I wasn't motivated to go to GPs for Pro Points," he said. A month ago, he decided to book his flight for Grand Prix Guadalajara, cementing his choice to start things off for the 2013-2014 season well. "I wanted to start as good as possible for the new season."

Saturday, 4:22 p.m. – A View from the Top - Early Rounds

by Nate Price

From the view of this humble sideline reporter, one of the most interesting things about this recent year of Standard has been watching it rapidly evolve as players take results into account and adjust their plans accordingly. This has been especially apparent to me as I cover back-to-back Standard events and get to watch how things one week have a direct impact on what I see the next week.

One of my favorite ways to track this is by watching the complexion of the top tables as the event goes on. It's an interesting method of separating the "strongest" decks in a field from those that are simply the most played. At the beginning of the day, you get a fairly solid representation of the metagame for any event, a little slice of the ratios of decks to one another. As the day progresses, though, trends begin to emerge. Certain decks, better equipped for the field, begin to become a greater percentage of the top tables, while others flounder and dwindle.

This is my first live experience with post-Dragon's Maze Standard, and I have been looking forward to see both what people expect to see in the field, as well as what is actually successful.

Here are the numbers from Round 4, which we will use as the baseline for our metagame. All of the players with three byes have joined the event, so there won't be a jarring introduction of new decks at the top tables in a future round.

Round 4
Jund Midrange – 7
Junk Reanimator – 6
Gruul Blitz – 5
Bant Auras – 5
Bant Control – 3
Naya Blitz – 3
UWR Flash – 2
Junk Tokens – 2
Naya Midrange – 2
UW Flash – 1
Esper Aggro – 1
Rakdos Aggro – 1
Grixis Control – 1
The Aristocrats – 1

As you can see, things are fairly varied at this point in the day. Jund is a clear frontrunner, which makes sense given the deck's strong performance on Magic Onlineand through the PTQ season so far. It's interesting that it's doing so well considering how unimpressive it was prior to Dragon's Maze. Following it are Junk Reanimator and Bant Auras. Both of these decks are a surprise to see in such large numbers. Junk Reanimator is a deck that has been failing to perform up to par over the past few weeks, something notable considering the stranglehold it held on Standard just a month before. As for Bant Auras, it was seemingly a flash in the pan when Jon Stern rolled through Atlantic City with it earlier this year. Since then, it has been a fringe deck at best. Emboldened by the release of Unflinching Courage and Voice of Resurgence, it appears more players are willing to sleeve it up and give it another shot.

One other interesting note from the early rounds of the tournament is the relative lack of UWR Flash. Seemingly the strongest deck over the last month, even heralded as the "New king of Standard" by Jake Van Lunen in his May Standard Compendium, it seems to be taking a week off, making up a fairly small portion of the field. As play progresses, the strength of the deck may see more versions of it consolidating near the top, but for now, its absence is very conspicuous.

Round 5
Bant Auras – 8
Jund Midrange – 6
Gruul Blitz – 5
Junk Reanimator – 4
UWR Flash – 3
Naya Zoo – 3
Naya Midrange – 1
Esper Aggro - 1
Naya Midrange – 1
Esper Tokens – 1
Jund Blitz – 1
Naya Blitz – 1
Bant Control – 1
Orzhov Midrange – 1
Monored Aggro – 1
Four-Color Control – 1
The Aristocrats – 1
Round 6
Bant Auras – 8
Jund Midrange – 6
Junk Reanimator – 6
Gruul Blitz – 4
Naya Zoo – 3
UWR Flash – 2
Naya Midrange – 2
The Aristocrats – 2
Bant Control – 1
Four-Color Control – 1
Esper Tokens – 1
Monored Aggro – 1
Golgari Aggro – 1
Naya Blitz – 1
Junk Tokens – 1

By the end of Round 6, it's clear what the best decks in the field are. While it was certainly one of the most played decks in the room, Bant Auras has jumped out to a lead here at Grand Prix Guadalajara. Following on its heels are Jund Midrange, which hasn't lost a step, and Junk Reanimator. Due to the presence of the midrange decks in the field, the Blitz decks have taken a bit of a hit, most notably the Naya Humans version. The majority of the Naya players seem to have put their hopes with Domri Rade and his menagerie.

Other than these major decks, the rest of the field seems fairly static. Gruul Blitz certainly has a presence as the best performing Blitz deck, but it is beginning to wane. Hallowed Fountain doesn't seem to be having a good weekend, as Bant Control has started to fall off, and UWR Flash hasn't begun to take over the way it was touted to. Decks keep floating into and out of the top tables, and it has yet to really settle down other than for the top decks. There are still two rounds of play, however, and much can still change. Once Day One is over, I'll do a final rundown of how things shaped up and make a provisional prediction about the composition of the Top 8.

Saturday, 6:30 p.m. – Quick Questions: Which maze runner do you think is going to win the race?

by Nate Price
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa: Teysa. She's the only one that I know really well. I've read all of the other books and found myself rooting for her. Based just on abilities, she's probably the best, too. If you put her in a room with all of the others, I think she's the one that comes out. I mean, protection from creatures? There are probably a bunch of creatures in the maze…
Daniel Hernandez Martinez : Teysa.
Fernando Domingues Roldan : Yeah, I've gotta go with Teysa, too.
Joel De Santos Jasso : Either Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch, or Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker. Exava has the speed of red and the cunning of black. Miro is Dimir, so he may already have set up who's going to win.
Ken Yukuhiro : I like Varolz, the Scar-Striped! He's the most powerful creature. There are so many synergies with him!
Gaudenis Vidugiris: I guess I'd pick Melek, Izzet Paragon. Izzet has the best legendary creature in Niv-Mizzet, and it's his maze. I bet they've got something set up so that the Izzet runner wins.

Saturday, 6:40 p.m. – A View from the Top - Rounding Out Day One

by Nate Price

With two rounds to play, it appeared that things had begun to settle down some amongst the top tables. Jund, Bant Auras, and Junk Reanimator seemed to be not only the most played decks, but the strongest, as they continued to dominate the top of the standings. We saw the fall of Blitz decks become pronounced, as Naya Blitz hit a brick wall, while Gruul Blitz began a slow decline. We noted the relative lack of control decks in the field, likely due to the rampant Jund seeded throughout the room.

Well, that didn't last long. Here are the numbers from Round 7, the penultimate round of Day 1:

Round 7
Jund Midrange – 6
Junk Reanimator – 5
Bant Auras – 4
Gruul Blitz – 4
UWR Flash – 3
Naya Midrange – 3
Naya Blitz – 3
Esper Tokens – 2
The Aristocrats – 2
Naya Zoo – 2
Jund Aggro – 1
Monored Aggro – 1
Bant Control – 1
Orzhov Midrange – 1
Selesnya Aggro – 1
Four-Color Control – 1

Round 7 saw a significant drop in the number of Bant Auras decks appearing at the top tables, while Naya Blitz came storming back. Jund Midrange and Junk Reanimator remained strong atop the standings. Beyond the two big movers, things remained fairly static going into the last round.

Round 8
Jund Midrange – 8
Junk Reanimator – 6
Gruul Blitz – 6
Naya Zoo – 4
Bant Auras – 3
Naya Blitz – 2
Esper Tokens – 2
Naya Midrange – 2
The Aristocrats – 1
Rakdos Aggro – 1
UWR Flash – 1
Golgari Control – 1
Monored Aggro – 1
Four Color Control – 1
Junk Aristocrats – 1

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Just a few rounds ago, Bant Auras had been catapulted to the top of the standings on the back of its explosive draws and ability to play Magic on a completely different plane of interaction than the rest of the field. Unfortunately, explosions always have the potential to backfire, as they certainly seemed to as the day wound down. While this exercise has certainly illustrated the streakiness inherent in Bant Auras, it has also shown the dominating consistency we have come to expect from Junk Reanimator and every deck bearing the "Jund" moniker.

Voice of Resurgence

This latest Jund has seemingly come out of nowhere to utterly take over Standard. Once a fringe deck that many players, from Willy Edel to Reid Duke, had tried to make work over last season to no avail, Jund has become one of the strongest options in Standard, and a major reason why control is not currently en vogue. Sire of Insanity is not only an incredible clock, he also has a thing or two to say about Sphinx's Revelation, a format-defining card in its own right.

The other major pillar of the anti-control movement in Standard is represented in the newest incarnation of Junk Reanimator: Voice of Resurgence. Finding a home in virtually every deck that plays both white and green mana, the Voice of Resurgence is a nightmare for control decks and aggro decks alike, throwing the former off of its standard game plan while acting as a pair of roadblocks to slow the latter down. All of this is combined in a ridiculously efficient two-drop.

Another thing I learned today is that the aggressive deck to go to in this format appears to be Gruul Blitz. Despite gaining no new cards from Dragon's Maze, the deck gained immensely from the shift in the format. No control means less Sphinx's Revelations to fight through, which were just nightmares for this deck to deal with. Unless you got the fastest of draws, it was very tough to finish them off before they Verdicted your board and gained a billion life. Now, they are fighting through a field of creatures thanks to the prevalence of midrange decks like Jund, which the Gruul deck, and it's larger than average creatures, doesn't mind.

Based on what I've seen occurring around the room today, I think I can make a reasonably good prediction about what the Top 8 is going to look like. I've had relatively good success with this in the past, usually hitting seven of the decks that eventually make it.

Sphinx's Revelation

First, it's clear that Jund and Junk are going to make up around half of the Top 8 decks. Considering their relative stability over the course of the day, I'm willing to say that there are going to be three Jund Midrange decks and two Junk Reanimator decks. The instability of the Gruul Blitz deck, regardless of its late push, is going to probably drop its numbers down so that only one deck makes the Top 8. The same can be said of the potent, yet inconsistent Bant Auras deck. That leaves one final slot to be filled by the rest of the field. Right now, I'm leaning to Naya Midrange to fill that slot, as it matches up well with Jund, but Elias Watsfeldt's Four Color Control deck and the pair of Esper Tokens decks that seem to be doing very well are intriguing me as well.

Tomorrow, we'll see if the unstable aggressive decks are able to dig in and begin putting together consistent finishes, or if they'll continue to flash in and out of the standings.

Round 8 Feature Match

by Mike Rosenberg

Hall of Famer Shuhei Nakamura locked up Platinum and a spot in the 2013 World Championship last season thanks to his performance at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze, but this weekend, he's starting off the the new season with a bit of a tumble. He succumbed to Alfonso Ramirez, hat-wearer and a local player who recently returned to the game, in two quick games.

Yes, hat-wearer. He sported a pretty sweet paper mache dragon hat, which got him a prize in the last round thanks to Grand Prix Guadalajara's Sombrero Extravaganza.

Nakamura's Domri Naya deck was capable of some powerful plays, but ultimately, Ramirez's Bhorov (black-white-red) deck was chock full of equally powerful cards, including many which were simply harder to answer.

Shuhei Nakamura

There was little action from either player in the first game, with Ramirez being the first with a creature in play despite Nakamura going first. Ramirez's third-turn Boros Reckoner was met by Nakamura's fourth-turn Huntmaster of the Fells. Ramirez sent the Rackoner in, then cast Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and made a 1/1 vampire. Nakamura, not wanting the planeswalker to get out of hand, sent his Huntmaster and wolf into Sorin. He passed, which transformed the Huntmaster and let him finish off Sorin.

Ramirez simply shrugged it off and cast Obzedat, Ghost Council. Before it went into exile for a turn, Nakamura cast Restoration Angel to reset his Huntmaster.

Nakamura, facing down a dangerous clock, made the very unconventional play of casting Thundermaw Hellkite and then only attacking with his 3/4 flier. He passed, and the Hellkite immediately blocked Obdezat when Ramirez sent it in. Ramirez replaced his dead legendary spirit with another copy of the Obdezet, while Nakamura mirrored the last turn by casting Hellkite again, attacking with his angel, and passing.

However, when Ramirez sent in Obzedat a second time, Nakamura blocked with Huntmaster of the Fells and two wolves. Tragic Slip on Thundermaw Hellkite and Lingering Souls followed.

Nakamura struggled on his next play, ultimately settling on Domri Rade to have Restoration Angel and Boros Reckoner fight. Reckoner finished off the Angel, and Voice of Resurgence from Nakamura came down next, and he passed.

Alfonso Ramirez

Unfortunately for Nakamura, who still had two cards in hand, Ramirez then found his sixth land for Sire of Insanity. While Ramirez discarded Lingering Souls and Unburial Rites, Nakamura lost Huntmaster of the Fells and a back-breaking Mizzium Mortars. When Ramirez's top card yielded Angel of Serenity, which hit the bin on the next turn, Nakamura scooped them up for the second game when Unburial Rites brought it back the turn after.

The second game fared even worse for the Japanese Hall of Fame player. While he came out with big creatures like turn three Loxodon Smiter into Boros Reckoner into Loxodon Smiter, he was also stranded on three lands, with a variety of four mana spells trapped in his hand. Despite digging for lands with two Ground Seals, he couldn't find the fourth land before Ramirez's Lingering Souls tokens and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad did him in.

For Ramirez, this was a big return to the game for him. He had been playing Magic for seventeen years, but quit six years ago. His friend, who was kind enough to translate, asked him my question: "What brought you back into the game?"

The answer? Ravnica.

Saturday, 6:40 p.m. – Quick Questions – What is the best card in Standard right now?

by Nate Price
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa: Voice of Resurgence. It is just good against everything. You get the obvious protection from instant-speed and mass removal against control, and against agro, you get to trade it off with something and have another creature left behind. All of that for only two mana.
Fernando Domingues Roldan: Sin Collector. It can block against aggro and helps you to beat the control decks.
Daniel Hernandez Martinez : Voice. It changes the format in many ways. The control decks have to play spells on their turn, and it's good against aggro.
Joel De Santos Jasso : Sire of Insanity is really good right now. It's a target card for Sphinx's Revelation, and it's one of the big reasons that control is in such bad shape right now.
Elias Watsfeldt: Warleader's Helix. I think the card is very well positioned right now. It kills almost every creature, and it can also kill most of the planeswalkers. It kills Garruk, Liliana, Domri Rade, and Sorin, all while gaining life. Four-mana, four-damage burn spells aren't usually this good, but when they kill the most important cards in the format and give a bonus as well, they become very powerful.
Shuhei Nakamura: I have to say Voice. It has too many good things. Getting a 2/2 for two is already good enough, but the other two effects are both very important in Standard right now. He is good against every deck.

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