Day 1 Highlights of Grand Prix Barcelona 2018

Posted in Event Coverage on June 30, 2018

By Tobi Henke

For Europe, this was the first Modern Grand Prix in more than three months, and players from all over the continent flocked to Barcelona for the opportunity. Modern proved as popular as ever, with a whopping 1,547 in attendance.

Among them one could find many household names. Most of current Europe's best came to play, including the usual suspects (5) Márcio Carvalho, (9) Javier Dominguez, (11) Grzegorz Kowalski, (14) Martin Jůza, Lukas Blohon, Jean-Emmanuel Depraz, Ivan Floch, Simon Nielsen, Mattia Rizzi, and Petr Sochůrek. They were all looking for yet another GP trophy to add to their collection. Looking for another GP Top 8 finish, meanwhile, were Pro Tour quarterfinalists Piotr Głogowski, Marc Tobiasch, and Christian Hauck, Pro Tour finalists Pierre Dagen and Gonçalo Pinto, as well as Steve Hatto, Niels Molle, Matteo Moure, and Peter Vieren.

What we also got was an impressive line-up of unusual suspects! All in all, five members of the Hall of Fame signed up for the event, including some who rarely play GPs these days. In addition to Jůza, we got Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, we got Frank Karsten, we got Gabriel Nassif, and we got Kai Budde, who's still tied for most GP wins ever!

And these were just the Hall of Famers, the Gold and Platinum pros in attendance, so the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Or the shark's fin. These really were dangerous waters here.

The Three-Bye Metagame

Now you may wonder, what decks did the above bring? Well, wonder no more but take a look for yourself!

Archetype #
W/U/(x) Control 5
Krark-Clan Ironworks 4
Humans 3
Mono-Green Tron 3
Death's Shadow 3
Mardu Pyromancer 2
Affinity 1
B/G The Rock 1
Blue-Red Breach 1

Humans, Tron, and Krark-Clan Ironworks were a known quantity going into the tournament. Specifically, their quantity was expected. 14th-ranked Martin Jůza told me on Friday: "There's going to be a bunch of Humans. Basically everyone I know is playing either Humans or KCI. I expect a decent amount of Tron too—there were six Tron decks in the Top 16 of GP Vegas."

Kai Budde mentioned similar on Saturday. "I went out to dinner last night with a bunch of players, and our group seemed to be split evenly between Humans and Ironworks."

When Budde learned about the surprising number of players on white-blue-based control though, he mused that that couldn't be good news for the Krark-Clan. Possibly a reaction to the latter's rise? What was certain was that Teferi, Hero of Dominaria had something to do with it. Teferi now even rivaled Jace, the Mind Sculptor for the most played planeswalker in the archetype.

Most of the control decks were straight two colors, while two added a bit of red for Bolts. One Death's Shadow followed the Grixis groove, one was Jund with a minor blue splash, and the third was a curious crossover between the two: Traverse the Ulvenwald and Tarmogoyf but also Thought Scour and Snapcaster Mage!

Happy 25th Birthday!

Magic: The Gathering was originally released in the summer of 1993 and was now looking back on 25 magical years. Like many major events this summer, Grand Prix Barcelona was part of the anniversary festivities.

To celebrate, players could for example enter qualifier tournaments throughout the weekend to earn a spot in Sunday night's Unlimited Draft. Competition was tough though. One of the first people to secure a berth in this exclusive event was 2015–16 Draft Master Márcio Carvalho ...

In addition, Sunday would have a panel with Senior Magic Designer Gavin Verhey and all weekend long there was a very open, that is public, beta for Magic Arena ...

Gavin Verhey himself was roaming the halls in perfect Jace Beleren costume but was outdone by the more professional cosplayers. For the game's birthday celebrations, some had stepped up their game and reached whole new levels yet!

Magic cosplay had undeniably made a big leap in recent months. These wings certainly looked like they could take one off the ground! Even the most cynical observer would have to agree that the dedication and craftsmanship that went into such a piece elevated cosplay to an art form in its own right.

The same was true for Karn. Karn had started turning heads a few GPs back and had quickly become a mainstay of the European tournament circuit. He was almost considered part of the scenery now. Someone even posted pairings on the planeswalker at some point ...

Shown for scale in the above photo: Kai Budde. The Silver Golem even dwarfed the silver-haired German Juggernaut in comparison!

Budde and Frank Karsten and a few other Hall of Famers also did their part to make this Grand Prix special. Channel Fireball had invited them to Barcelona and then put a bounty on their heads. It was quite the party!

Speaking of party ... Magic players are a hungry bunch. At some GPs in the past, the on-site concession stands ran out of sandwiches, so someone obviously thought: "Well, if they don't have bread, let them eat cake!"

These cupcakes? They weren't only delicious and free; they were restocked continuously! So in addition to the Unlimited Draft we also had unlimited cake.

What's more, Barcelona even held a huge, colorful parade for us, right in front of the convention center which housed this weekend's Grand Prix!

Okay, fine. This last one wasn't part of Magic's birthday celebrations but rather part of Barcelona's concurrent Pride festivities. Still it provided a nice backdrop and an interesting vista when players leaving the venue started to mix with the revelers crowding the street. Several of them were cosplaying Enthralling Victor, albeit, I suspect, by accident. Either way, Shalai, Voice of Plenty would have fit right in.

Finally, no awesome party could indeed be awesome without people to keep their eyes on the smooth running of things. So here's a big photo of and big thank you to the judges of Grand Prix Barcelona!

Happy 30th Top 8!

Wizards dedicated a lot of effort to the celebration of the 25-year milestone, so it felt natural to spend a few minutes on another. Two weeks prior, at GP Las Vegas, Martin Jůza had become the first player in the history of the game to reach 30 Grand Prix Top 8s. This was his victory lap.

When I talked to Jůza, he wasn't really fazed by this. Rather, it simply was the logical consequence of what he'd been doing, and doing well, for years. "Every time I'm home on a weekend, I end up watching coverage anyway and wondering why I'm not there. My first Top 8 was nine years ago, so I guess that's a good rate. Though I think I might have played 200 GPs by now. I know Shuhei has."

So another milestone? We checked. Indeed this was Jůza's 215th Grand Prix already, a number only rivaled by Shuhei Nakamura who attended 229 in total (and made the Top 8 at 29).

About his chances to clinch a 31st Top 8 this weekend, Jůza said, "I'm running back Humans and I don't think it's actually that great. It's a high-variance deck; you really want to win the die roll, draw the right hate creatures, et cetera. I actually played it twice, in Vegas and one time before at a Team GP, where I went 5-9 with it."

He explained, "There are just games—like when Affinity wins the die roll and plays turn one Steel Overseer—that you can't win, whereas normal decks with a Lightning Bolt would have a decent game. Also drawing the wrong creatures in the wrong matchups ... Good luck beating Scapeshift or White-Blue Control with Reflector Mages.

"It is a good proactive deck though, if that's your thing, possibly the best one at that. But I know what I'm signing up for."

Happy 8-0 Players

Ten players managed to remain undefeated throughout Saturday's rounds: Abel Molto, Nick Waugh, Pedro Soler, (9) Javier Dominguez, Mattia Rizzi, Pierluigi Calvanese, Raul Vallejo, Juan Mi Sierra, Louis Deltour, and Jarcque Henning (pictured below, left to right).

Their decks? White-Blue Control, Jeskai Control, Krark-Clan Ironworks, and Dredge as well as three copies of Humans and three copies of Burn.

So Burn, huh? Well, it was a scorching hot day here in Barcelona, after all. Apparently, it would be another one tomorrow. Until then, good night!

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