Leading the undefeated records for today is Seth Manfield, who has been on a major tear this year. The two-time Grand Prix champion earned his second Top 8 finish of the year at Grand Prix Toronto last weekend after ending Day One with an undefeated record, and he's started off this weekend the same, this time with Blue-White Control. Joining him in the undefeated circle is Haibing Hu and Christopher Burris, who both earned their 9-0 records with Mono-Black Devotion.
But perhaps the biggest story of the weekend is No. 24 Ranked Player Christian Calcano. After dealing with multiple flight cancellations, he and travel buddy Joe Demestrio were able to leverage their three byes in order to make it to the venue before the sixth round began. Calcano was then able to win his next four matches, cementing his position into Day Two with a 7-2 record and keeping the dream of a Top 8 finish alive despite starting out with two losses in Day One.
Who will emerge victorious in this weekend's Standard action? Tune in today, as we bring you live coverage of the Grand Prix as everything unfolds!
Day 1 Undefeated Decklists
Round 10 Feature Match Haibing Hu (Mono-Black Devotion) vs. Seth Manfield (UW Control)
Seth Manfield is aiming for a repeat of Grand Prix Toronto. Last weekend, the Grand Prix Kansas City 2013 Champion also finished Day One with an undefeated record, and it was his solid record that propelled him into the Top 8. This weekend, he is playing Blue-White Control, a deck that only plays the black mana scry lands from Theros for their ability to smooth draws.
His opponent for the first round of Day Two is Haibing Hu, one of the two Mono-Black Devotion players to go 9-0 in Day One.
When asked about his thoughts on the matchup, Manfield was straight-forward about his chances. "I think it's a coin flip. I have to be able to stabilize the board, and if I do, then normally I'm in good shape," he said.
Unfortunately for Manfield, stabilizing the board was not an option, as a first-turn Thoughtseize robbed him of Supreme Verdict, and a second-turn Pack Rat from Hu was able to come down before Manfield's Essence Scatters were online. Manfield's draws also did not cooperate, as he took a chance on finding another blue source to turn on his two Dissolves, which he failed to find.
"I kept a hand where I had to hit a blue or white source. I didn't really hit it, so I was in a tough situation given that he had a Pack Rat," he said after the match.
The Pack Rats ultimately did their thing, and sent Manfield packing up his board for a second game.
However, the second game was more of the same. Duress on the first turn robbed Manfield of his Essence Scatter, which cleared the path for the second-turn Pack Rat once again. While Manfield had Detention Sphere, he held onto it for a turn in order to keep mana open for Dissolve for two turns. As a result, he took 7 damage over the course of two turns, first from the 1/1 rat, and then from two 3/3 rats when Hu played and activated a Mutavault.
Manfield pulled the trigger on his Detention Sphere on the next turn. Hu, without a board, led with Thoughtseize, seeing a hand of Dissolve, Last Breath, Ætherling, and Sphinx's Revelation. Hu discarded the Revelation, clearing the way for Desecration Demon while Manfield was tapped low.
The Demon attacked in for 6 on the next turn, and Thoughtseize met Dissolve, Manfield putting a card on the bottom. Erebos, God of the Dead from Hu followed, and Manfield found himself having to tap out for Ætherling. A Nightveil Specter off the top enabled Erebos to become a creature, and when Mutavault joined the attack, Manfield offered the handshake.
Hu 2 – Manfield 0
After the match, I asked Manfield about his choice of plays in the second game. "I had a chance where I could have simply used Detention Sphere on his Pack Rat on turn three, but I wanted to hold up Dissolve for Underworld Connections or Nightveil Specter," Manfield said. However, his draws ended up coming a turn too late in every situation, with Last Breath coming a turn too late to answer the Pack Rat, and then Ætherling coming too early when Manfield really needed some more answers to Hu's threats.
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. – Day 2 Metagame Breakdown
I’m going to cut to the chase. I know a lot of you out there are big into what decks are making a splash here at the Grand Prix, and I’m here to give you what you want. First up, we have a detailed breakdown of the 128 decks that survived to play on Day 2.
|Day 2 Numbers Overall|
|Mostly Black Golgari Devotion||4|
|Mostly Red Boros Devotion||4|
|Mostly White Boros Aggro||4|
|Mostly White Orzhov Aggro||4|
|Mostly Red Gruul Devotion||2|
|Mostly Red Boros Burn||1|
|Mostly Blue Azorius Devotion||1|
|Mostly Blue Dimir Devotion||1|
|Mostly Green Simic Devotion||1|
|Mostly White Selesnya Aggro||1|
This breakdown includes individual tallies for all of the different variants seen in the field. Still, there might be a bit of confusion as to what makes something "Mostly Blue Dimir Devotion" instead of just "Monoblue Devotion." These variations fall under the same general umbrella (Monoblue Devotion), but the splashes definitely make them distinct decks.
Beginning with the Monoblue Devotion variants, we have the Azorius and Dimir Devotion variants. These decks splash black and white respectively, dipping into those colors for some of the more powerful spells they offer. The Dimir version of the deck is touching blue for Thoughtseize and Heroic Downfall, while the Azorius version is going for Sphinx's Revelation and Supreme Verdict out of the sideboard.
Next up is the Monoblack Devotion variant touching green for Abrupt Decay and Golgari Charm out of the sideboard. These cards give the deck a bit more play against the mirror match, as well as serving an excellent role against the big threat Monoblue Devotion poses right now. Abrupt Decay is great at dealing with early creatures, such as Nightveil Specter and Pack Rat, while also being flexible enough to deal with cards like Underworld Connections. Golgari Charm has a small amount of utility as enchantment removal, but serves a major role in controlling the aggressive white decks in the field, effectively working as a Shrivel with upside.
Monogreen Devotion decks are among the most varied of all of the major umbrellas, extending to include the Colossal Gruul deck (it almost always keys off of green mana rather than red), as well as an interesting variant splashing blue for cards like Prophet of Kruphix, Prime Speaker Zegana, and Cyclonic Rift. We've seen blue splashes in this deck before, but this Simic version of the deck goes a bit deeper into blue than the simple Cyclonic Rift we've seen previously. This blue splash also allows for more variation in the sideboard, providing access to cards like Ætherling, Gainsay, and even Bident of Thassa. You know what, I like this list enough I'm just going to put it up for you guys.
It may not be the best of the Monogreen Devotion variants, but it excites me more than the others do.
Next up are the many Monowhite Aggro variants. There are three major players in this category, and which is the best has been hotly debated over the past weeks. First, you have the "pure" version, eschewing a splash. Then, you've got the Boros versions. Boros Charm is a great way to get around Supreme Verdict, as well as providing some reach, and cards like Lightning Strike and Chained to the Rocks give the deck a bit of additional removal, ensuring that Precinct Captain strikes true. The Orzhov versions of the deck opt for a very light splash, usually touching black only for the versatile Orzhov Charm. Acting as either removal or a one-drop creature, the Charm is never a dead card.
This is a good point to offer a bit of distinction between these white-based aggro decks and the Selesnya Aggro decks listed above. The Selesnya decks feature green much more prominently, running cards like Experiment One, Voice of Resurgence, and Advent of the Wurm. In fact, these lists look incredibly similar to the deck Craig Wescoe used to win Pro Tour Dragon's Maze a few months ago. This is a far cry from the very light splashes shown by these white-based decks, which is why I chose to separate the archetypes.
There are a couple of different Monored decks in the field, as well. In addition to the traditional Monored Devotion deck, featuring nothing but actual red spells, there is a version similar to the one championed by Team Channelfireball at Pro Tour Theros, dipping into green for Domri Rade. There are also versions of the deck that opt to touch white for additional safety, using cards like Boros Charm and Chained to the Rocks in the same manner as described above.
Finally, there are two distinct classes of blue/white-based control decks. The first, and more established of the two, is the Esper Control deck. We've seen variations on this theme since Return to Ravnica. Based around the blue/white pillars of Sphinx's Revelation and Supreme Verdict, the Esper deck dips into black for, what many players were calling the defining cards of Standard, Thoughtseize and black removal spells like Doom Blade. While Doom Blade has fallen out of favor thanks to the rise of Monoblack Devotion and cards like Nightveil Specter, the principle still applies. Ultimate Price, Hero's Downfall, and Devour Flesh have stepped up to fill the role once assumed by Doom Blade, lending more variety and utility to the black removal of Esper. On the other side, the recent emergence of UW Control has been nothing except meteoric. Coming from virtually nowhere to assuming a portion of the field equaling Esper, and even putting up stronger results, the straight UW version eschews this black toolbox, opting for a stronger permission suite and adopting Last Breath as the removal spell of choice, ideal for dealing with pesky Nightveil Specters. Seth Manfield's 9-0 list is a perfect example of what this deck is trying to do.
With all of this in mind, here's a condensed version of the metagame breakdown, consolidating each of these variants into the broader archetype to which they actually belong.
Sunday, 2:15 p.m. – Tricky Travels
Some called them obsessed. Many called them crazy. But by the end of Saturday, No. 24 Ranked Player Christian Calcano and Joe Demestrio were also being called in for Day Two, their tournament life in Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth still alive and kicking.
As many of you may have seen or heard, either through social media following the #GPDFW hashtag or in our coverage, a brutal storm moved through Texas early on Friday. The result left the Dallas and Fort Worth areas recovering from an ice storm. The roads for Friday and Saturday were iced over, the asphalt turned into something more suited for ice skates than automobiles, which made driving to the venue a dangerous proposition.
Sunday's icy roads were in rough shape, but it was even worse the previous two days.
It also left many airplanes without an opportunity to land safely at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport, the airport that most had to land at in order to make it to the Grand Prix. Calcano and Demestrio, who were both leaving from New York, were one of the many unfortunate travelers whose plans were hampered by the weather.
"We both were flying out Friday evening from New York City, and both of our flights got canceled," Calcano explained. "Delta re-booked us on a flight to Detroit from New York City. We were both on the same Detroit to Dallas flight, which was supposed to land at 12:15pm. We figured there was a good chance that we'd get here on time even after hearing how bad the roads were."
With a plan of action now available, Calcano and Demestrio took the route to Detroit, hoping it would get them into Dallas on Saturday. They were hoping to make it to the venue before Round 4 of Day One began, as their three byes in the early rounds combined with their sleep-in specials would buy them precious hours in order to arrive before they'd have to start playing.
But then, their flight got delayed, and their plan began to hang in jeopardy. The flight was also taking longer because their plane was flying against the wind, causing them to land at 3:30pm Dallas time instead. Suddenly, all of their travels may had been for nothing.
"Luckily, we had a player I know from Maine pick us up. He just drove like a master on the road because he is used to that [weather], and we got here just in time for Round 6."
Both No. 24 Ranked Player Christian Calcano and Joe Demestrio barely made it to the Grand Prix in time, thanks in part to some travel plans that finally cooperated with their desire to be here.
Thanks to a little luck and some quick navigation of some frighteningly rough roads from a friend, both Calcano and Demestrio were able to arrive with minutes to spare before the pairings for Round 6 were posted.
And from there, both Calcano and Demestrio were able to make their way into Day Two. While Calcano remained in contention when the day started thanks to a 7-2 record, meaning that he won the four matches he was actually able to play yesterday, Demestrio was able to make it in on tiebreakers with a 6-3 record in hopes of playing for a Top 16 finish.
Regardless of their finish, both of these players have perhaps one of the craziest travel stories of the weekend, outdoing Sam Black's late arrival to Grand Prix Albuquerque by sacrificing another round loss and braving some serious weather and travel nightmares in order to get here.
Round 14 Feature Match Philip Marschall (Mono-Blue Devotion) vs. Orrin Beasley (White-Orzhov Aggro)
Two years ago, in the neighboring polis of Dallas, a slightly younger Orrin Beasley found himself playing in the finals of Grand Prix Dallas, looking for a title. Two years later, he finds himself with an outside shot at making a repeat Top 8 performance. Sitting at 10-3, Beasley and his Orzhov Aggro deck were perched with a live, albeit slim chance of making it to another Top 8. Standing in his way, also looking for that outside shot at Top 8, were Philip Marschall and the ubiquitous Mono-Blue Devotion.
A pair of Tidebinder Mages actually found some work to do against Beasley's Mostly White Orzhov Aggro deck. His pair of early Dryad Militants found themselves locked under Marschall's Mages for the early part of the game, significantly slowing him down. Beasley managed to pare the board down some, trading some of his early creatures for Marschall's, but he still wasn't able to attack. At least not until he drew a Spear of Heliod. In this spot, his Spear was much better than Marschall's Bident of Thassa, as Beasley held the early advantage on the board. With his newly enhanced creatures, Beasley began to attack. MArschall was only drawing Islands to defend himself, preventing him from actually getting to take advantage of his Bident. As his life fell away, he lamented that his incredible early start had floundered so badly. Only one more attack was needed to close things out.
"Your start was insane, but you flooded out pretty bad there," Beasley said after the game. After seeing his second creature tapped down under a Tidebinder Mage, he knew he was in a tight spot.
"Yeah, that was unfortunate," Marschall sighed with a smile.
"With double Tidebinder Mage, I was dead if you had literally anything else there," Beasley admitted.
"That's what I figured, but I guess it just didn't come," Marschall responded. "I just needed something."
Marschall's opening draw in the second game was a little worse than his first, but it was still a good start against Beasley's aggressive deck. Frostburn Weird and Master of Waves provided a strong defensive front against the pair of Precinct Captains that Beasley opened with. Unfortunately for Marschall, the black splash that Beasley's deck dipped for included Doom Blade, allowing him a one shot way to deal with the Master and his seaponies.
Both players slowed up immensely after Marschall added a Nightveil Specter to his team. The 2/3 prevented Beasley from having any good attacks, and Marschall didn't have enough support to begin attacking. From here, the players concentrated on building their boards while looking for an opportunity to begin attacks, something that seemed like it would favor Marschall in the long run.
Marschall felt comfortable enough to begin his attacks after adding a second Frostburn Weird to his team. The Plains he stole from Beasley was good enough to allow him to cast most of the cards he might steal in the future. Beasley found his own offense in the form of a Soldier of the Pantheon, but he was still progressing at a much slower rate than he would have obviously liked. He was able to clear away the Specter with an Orzhov Charm, alleviating the pressure, but he was still not in any position to attack. He even lost his ability to attack with the Solider because Marschall used a Rapid Hybridization on his Specter before it died, getting himself a monocolored creature.
The biggest shift in the game came when Marschall landed a Jace, Architect of Thought. Over a few consecutive turns, he shrunk Beasley's growing army. He followed that haymaker up with another: an overloaded Cyclonic Rift. That reset the nine creatures on Beasley's side, especially relevant because of his meager three lands in play. This cleared Marschall to drop Beasley to 6. Even worse, he had a Master of Waves in hand off of a Jace activation, ensuring that he would have a massive addition to the board, something Beasley would have to deal with. In addition to presenting lethal damage on the following attack, the Master made the immediate attack lethal thanks to enhancing Marschall's Mutavault. Beasley was forced to block. When Thassa, God of the Sea, made an appearance off of a Jace activation, Beasley wouldn't even have that option on the following turn, falling to unblockable, lethal damage.
The final game opened incredibly well for Beasley. On the play, he managed to resolve back-to-back Precinct Captains, a portent of a massive army on the horizon. Matters were complicated by Marschall's lack of Frostburn Weirds, giving him no defense for the Captains. In place of the Weirds, Maraschall had a pair of Tidebinder Mages, much worse against the first-striking Captains. Things did change in his favor when he added a Jace, Architect of Though to his side of the table, neutering not only the Captains, but their Soldiers as well. Still, all of the creatures smashed into Jace, dropping him to two loyalty.
With Jace on two, and facing an army of creatures, Marschall made an aggressive decision, trading his Jace in for a look at some cards. This decision came after a good deal of musing about whether or not Beasley had Profit // Loss in his hand. If he did, parting with the Jace for a card was potentially the correct decision. If not, it could prove disastrous. He took a Domestication over a Nightveil Specter and Island. He then filled up his board with a Master of Waves for six seaponies. This defense was derailed almost immediately by a Banisher Priest, sending the Master of Waves away. From here, Beasley was far enough ahead that his creatures were able to swarm over for the win.
"I did have it, by the way," Beasley said, revealing the Profit // Loss in his hand.
"I was pretty sure you did," Marschall said, nodding his head. "There wasn't much I could do there, though."