Coverage of Grand Prix Manchester

Posted in Event Coverage on May 31, 2014

By Wizards of the Coast

It's been a great first day here at Grand Prix Manchester 2014, full of exciting games, interesting decks, and close calls. 1,403 players had started the event this morning, and through nine grueling rounds of Swiss the field has now been whittled down to just 151. These 151 went 7-2 or better, earning the right to return tomorrow and play for cash prizes, pro points, as well as the fame and glory of the Top 8 and the title of Grand Prix champion.

Two weeks after Pro Tour Journey into Nyx had set the stage, Theros Block Constructed proved to still hold some surprises. We've seen blowouts induced by Hour of Need, complete games turn around thanks to Dictate of Heliod, and armies literally swept away by Scourge of Fleets. Of course, we've also seen quite a number of Courser of Kruphix decks grind their way to the top, but there's always more space to explore, even within a card pool this small.

Overnight, three players lead the field with perfect records of 9-0: Valentin Mackl, Adam Bajerowicz, and Richard Grint. They may have a head start tomorrow, but fierce competition isn't far behind, with former Grand Prix and Pro Tour champions Fabrizio Anteri, Florian Koch, Samuele Estratti, Martin Jůza, Kai Budde, Christian Seibold, Wenzel Krautmann, Patrick Dickmann, and Antti Malin all returning to tomorrow.

Join us then, as we bring you all the updates and news, all the stories and insights, and all the action straight from the battlefield of Grand Prix Manchester. Until then, good night!


Saturday, 9:09 a.m. – It's a Conspiracy!

by Tobi Henke

Gordian Knot Games, who were running this Grand Prix, had organized three events free of charge, for people to watch and to take part in, to happen on Friday. As usual, there was Rich Hagon's Trivia Game Show; in preparation for the tournament itself, Frank Karsten held a seminar on the ins and outs of Theros Block Constructed; and then there was one thing on the agenda simply advertised as "a televised booster draft." Now, the idea to show a regular booster draft at a Block Constructed Grand Prix seemed rather odd. Surely, some strange scheme was afoot ...

As it turned out, it was a conspiracy. About Conspiracy, best described in the irreverent words of host Richard Hagon: "Now, as I understand it, Conspiracy is a 'multiplayer draft format.' Which is funny because I thought that's what draft was."

Tournament organizer Glen White and Wizards' European Community Manager Dan Barrett had conspired to bring about this showcase of the new set and invited eight players to sit down in the spotlight. Among them were coverage veteran Tim Willoughby, darling of the streaming community Jan van der Vegt, the weekend's head judge Kim Warren, and Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy.

The last few spots at the table were then filled with lucky people from the crowd and one person who had entered into Dan Barrett's Facebook contest, his name drawn live from a hat. "Well, this may look like an envelope but it is, in fact, a hat," Barrett insisted. He and Rich Hagon set the tone for the quite casual fun to follow. "While drafting, don't look at your neighbor. Don't look to your left or your right—just look at the big screen over here!" Hagon explained the rather loose rules.

And so it was. Friendly banter and frequent outbursts of laughter abounded, especially whenever cards like Cogwork Librarian and Agent of Acquisitions got involved, and much fun was had by all. More of it was caught on video by our indispensable cameraman Steven Leeming and will be shown throughout the weekend on the stream. You should definitely check it out. Until then, we'll leave you with a few impressions of the resulting decks:

Saturday, 9:55 a.m. – Grand Prix Trial Winners' Decklists

by Tobi Henke

While the action of the main event only begins on Saturday, the Friday before a Grand Prix routinely sees hundreds of players try their luck in one of the many Grand Prix Trials. These are five-round single-elimination tournaments offering, in addition to booster prizes, the last chance to earn two byes for the actual Grand Prix.

So all of the following decks' pilots managed to go 5-0, giving us an early glimpse of what to expect over the course of the weekend. Which seems to be, well in accordance with our expectations, a lot of copies of Courser of Kruphix. However, there were some surprises too, like the deck with Dictate of Kruphix, Master of Waves, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx-powered Scourge of Fleets. Didn't see that one coming, did you?

Jakob Olbrich

Bartlomiej Tomiczek

Mark Hollowell

Mark Warren

David Pope

Heimir Palmason

Edward Hughes

Connor Stewart

Sam Rolph

Adam Breeden

Saturday, 10:36 a.m. – Block Constructed Metagame Overview

by Frank Karsten

For those of you looking to get into Block Constructed for the first time, or interested in learning more about the big decks that will be running around the room this weekend, allow me to introduce you to the wondrous world of Theros Block.

I like to base these pieces on data, so I tallied up these Theros Block Constructed decks:

All decks from Pro Tour Journey into Nyx that had 6-4 or better records in the Block Constructed portion;

All decks from Magic Online Dailies that had 4-0 records in the week after the Pro Tour.

I added up all the numbers on how often each archetype was represented in this data set, which gave me a percentage for every major archetype. This metagame overview should give a reasonable forecast for what to expect here in Manchester today. But keep in mind that the percentages I will show are based merely on the above-described data set.

For the Top 10 archetypes, I also took the liberty of calculating the mathematically average decklist, with the numbers rounded to integers for readability. This yields a good sketch of what a each deck archetype looks like.

10. U/B Inspired (3%)

Turn one Springleaf Drum into turn two Pain Seer is a powerful combo. This deck also has the capability of stealing Stormbreath Dragon via Daring Thief or Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, and then activating its monstrosity via the Gold tokens of King Macar, the Gold-Cursed.

U/B Inspired – Average decklist

9. Reanimator (4%)

Dump Ashen Rider of Abhorrent Overlord into the graveyard with Satyr Wayfinder, and subsequently return it from the dead. Whip of Erebos is one of the best late-game engines in the format.

Reanimator – Average decklist

8. Mono Red Aggro (4%)

In 1998, red mages would play a Jackal Pup on turn one and an Incinerate on turn two. In 2014, red mages will play a Firedrinker Satyr on turn one and a Lightning Strike on turn two. So, not much has changed over the years... However, boosting Prophetic Flamespeaker with Mogis's Warhound and Titan's Strength is unique to Theros Block.

Mono Red Aggro – Average decklist

7. Junk Midrange (5%)

The first deck with Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix in this list, it additionally features all the best cards in black and white as well. This includes Hero's Downfall; Fleecemane Lion; and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Since this deck took the Pro Tour trophy, it seems reasonable to expect more than 5% of the players here in Manchester to sleeve up this deck.

Junk Midrange – Chapin’s PT winning decklist

6. W/U Heroic (6%)

Loading up Hero of Iroas with Ordeal of Thassa and Aqueous Form is an easy route to victory. Crucially, this deck contains Gods Willing to protect its heroes from removal spells.