Grand Prix Denver Day 1 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on February 19, 2011

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Saturday, 9:00 a.m. - Friday Night Magic

by Nate Price

Welcome to Denver! Home to the Great American Beer Festival, the Flobots, and Carmelo Anthony (at least for the time being), the Mile High City boasts a bevy of sweet things to see and do. Nature lovers can check out the endless string of mountains and national parks. Entertainment lovers can cruise through downtown or out to Red Rocks to catch a show. And Magic players, we've got the Grand Prix.

Two glorious days of Scars of Mirrodin Limited nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. What could be better? If a glance around the event hall is any indication, the answer is "not much." Players from all over the world have come together in Denver to compete for the Grand Prix. Some of the faces in the crowd I last saw sitting at a numbered table in Paris just last weekend. Top 8 competitor Patrick Chapin and eventual winner Ben Stark proved their dedication, making the trip to Denver even after having spent four grueling days at Magic Weekend Paris. Drafting at the same table as Stark were Luis Scott-Vargas, Eric Froehlich, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa...a veritable murderer's row of high profile players.

All night long, players hit the tables, looking to get those elusive three byes to tomorrow's tournament. Interestingly enough, I saw a few players dotting the Grinder tables that I did not expect to see. Shuhei Nakamura, the seasoned Japanese pro, made the jump from Paris to Denver and spent his night looking for a little extra experience. AJ Sacher was there, too, trying hard to grasp things himself. He had no experience with Mirrodin Beseiged, and the Grinders offered him one last chance to get some experience before he had to sleeve cards up for the real deal. Even Brad Nelson, who took over Player of the Year duties (like waving to crowds from on top of floats) from Yuuya Watanabe just this last weekend after an incredible series against Guillaume Matignon at Magic Weekend Paris. "I really want to win this," he said. "All of the Player of the Year stuff got to me a little and kind of hurt my concentration in other events. This time, I am focused and ready to win."

One especially surprising face in the crowd was belonged to Paul Cheon. There had been rumblings that the former US National Champion and Colorado native was going to make an appearance at the event, and it was good to see that they held the truth. It's been a little while since we've seen Cheon sleeve up Magical cards to make a run at a title. Work has kept him pretty busy, but a Grand Prix on what he once called home turf proved too much to resist. While Cheon had two byes already, having a third could only help.

For those not interested in trying for byes, Friday night at a Grand Prix could only mean one thing: SUPER Friday Night Magic! Over a hundred players signed up for an evening of Scars of Mirrodin Sealed Deck, with seven packs of Mirrodin Besieged and a playset of shiny Spellstutter Sprites waiting for any players skilled enough to pilot their Sealed Deck to a perfect 4-0 record. In addition to the cool schwag, all participants get that extra little bit of experience they might need to put them over the top in tomorrow's competition. Considering all of the faces in the crowd, players are going to need every edge they can get if they want to be the champion here at Grand Prix Denver!


Saturday, 10:00 a.m. - A Look Back at Denvers Past

by Bill Stark

Grand Prix Denver is the second stop on the North American Grand Prix circuit in 2011 after Atlanta. However, this weekend is not the first time the Mile High City has hosted a professional level Magic event. In fact, Denver is playing host to a Grand Prix for the third time. Let's take a look at the previous events...

Turn the time machine knobs back all the way to 2001. The month is August, and 402 players have shown up to Colorado to battle using the Invasion Block Constructed format. Future Hall of Famer Darwin Kastle manages to sneak into the Top 8 as well as his Your Move Games teammate Danny Mandel. The day will be ruled, however, by a young Brett Shears. At the age of 17 and after a 24 hour bus ride from Los Angeles, Shears managed to take the event down using a blue, black, and green tempo style deck inspired by legendary deckbuilder Brian Kowal.

(Read full coverage of the event here.)

The second stop in Denver wouldn't come for another seven years, almost to the day. In August of 2008 the Grand Prix train rolled into the Mile High City for the second time, with 620 players once again playing Block Constructed. This time, however, the format was Lorwyn Block. Brushing off an early retirement, Antonino De Rosa managed to battle his way into the single elimination rounds. There he was joined by fellow pro and friend Gerry Thompson. They managed to hold on and turn back a tide of surging Pro Tour up-and-comers at the event with Thompson eventually hoisting the championship trophy.

(Read full coverage of that event here.)

How will this weekend's story turn out? You'll have to watch as it unfolds live here at DailyMTG.com!


Saturday, 12:30 p.m. - Lessons from the Grinders

by Nate Price

Winning a Grand Prix is hard work, just ask anyone who's won one. Two days of playing, more than a dozen rounds of play...these things can really start to grind on a player. One thing that makes them go considerably easier is the presence of byes. Awarded to players based on their DCI ratings, byes can also be awarded through Grand Prix trials held around the country on a near-constant basis. These byes allow players to sit back and relax for a few rounds before being forced to enter the fray. Players frequently use these rounds to work on their decks, gain some familiarity with them, and even decide on mistakes they've made and changes that may need to be made in later rounds. Some get themselves some food or a little more sleep. Regardless of how a player chooses to use their byes, the evidence of their effect is undeniable. Players with a three-bye head start have a significant advantage over the other players in the tournament, even those with only one less bye.

What happens if you show up to the Grand Prix without them? Don't worry, for virtually all of Friday, the event organizers run small flights known as Grinders. These 32-man, single elimination tournaments give one last chance to earn those byes for the upcoming tournament. They're extremely popular amongst both players looking for byes and players who already have them that are just looking for a little more play experience. The experience may seem trivial, but this Grand Prix's Grinder results prove why a little extra experience never hurt anyone.

One of the biggest observations from the pre-Mirrodin Besieged format was the dominance of certain deck types. RW aggressive decks and BG infect decks seemed to run rampant over the field, dominating the Sealed portion of the event as well as the Draft. The reason was fairly simple. The format was fast, and those color combinations offer the best mix of speed, aggression, and removal. With the addition of Mirrodin Besieged, and consequently the removal of some of the Scars of Mirrodin, the format has slowed some. This opens up players' options a little more. While you still see some of the same decks running around and winning, Besieged has made many more strategies viable. Look at Andrew Huska's winning UG deck and Ryan Carpenter's winning BW infect deck. Neither of these strategies existed in the previous format.

White and red still appear to be the kings of Sealed, but their grip is slipping, and their look is slightly altered. RW decks won five of the eleven Grinders run yesterday, and red and white appeared in all but two of the other decks. They still offer the best removal in the format (though black is close), as well as some serious bombs to finish things off. The decks have skewed away from the metalcraft dominance of the previous incarnation of the format to one that is less reliant on the presence of artifacts. Cards like Golem Artisan, while absolute studs in the metalcraft deck, are still powerful enough to make an impact in this new breed of RW. The addition of Mirrodin Besieged appears to have added new, more consistent cards to replace the metalcraft cards that filled the older decks. The result is a deck that still has a decent artifact base, but isn't anywhere near as reliant on them.

One last thing of note was the decreased appearance of infect decks in the winner's circle. Considering that many players feel that infect is stronger and richer in the Scars Draft format, it was quite surprising that less players piloted the Phyrexian deck of choice to three byes. Perhaps the answer simply lies in the Sealed pools opened by the players in the event. Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see the results of the Sealed portion of the Grand Prix to see if the same observations still hold true.


Saturday, 12:30 p.m. - Grinder Decklists

by Event Coverage Staff

CJ Lederman

Download Arena Decklist

Tyler Lyttle

Download Arena Decklist

Gavin Verhey

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Paul Cheon

Download Arena Decklist

Michael Clark

Download Arena Decklist