Top Stories of Grand Prix Barcelona 2018

Posted in Event Coverage on July 1, 2018

By Tobi Henke

With 1,547 players on Day 1 and 300 on Day 2 and birthday celebrations to boot, a number of interesting stories came out of the event. Here are the big ones ...

Cake and Cosplay

There was cake and cosplay, there were Hall of Famers and Arena demos, there even was a parade. If you didn't yet, you definitely should check out Saturday's highlights!

In addition, Sunday offered a panel featuring two of Wizards' own: art director Taylor Ingvarsson and designer Gavin "]Jace Beleren" Verhey. They talked about their own personal history with the game, how they got into it and later got a job at Wizards. It wasn't just about the past though; they also talked about the future of Magic, and they fielded questions from the crowd, enlisting the help of a Spanish translator throughout.

Finally, it was time for one of the most highly anticipated moments of the weekend: the cutting of the cake. While Shalai and Karn stood watch, Jace began the battle against Nicol Bolas. In the past, this had gone badly, but this time he had scores of hungry planeswalkers to aid him. Bolas didn't stand a chance and was devoured in no time.

A Metagame on the Move

I didn't get to all of the Day 2 decklists. Too few people submitted theirs online, too many in Spanish. To give you a rough idea of the current Modern metagame though, here's the data from the the 200 decklists that I did get to, essentially all the lists players submitted online. Resident mathemagician Frank Karsten assured me that such information was still relevant.

Archetype Metagame Share
Tron 12%
Humans 11%
White-Blue Control 8.5%
Jeskai Control 6.5%
Counters Company 6%
Krark-Clan Ironworks 6%
Mardu Pyromancer 5.5%
Burn 4.5%
Dredge 4.5%
Hollow One 4.5%
Grixis Shadow 4.5%
Traverse Shadow 3.5%
Bogles 2.5%
Affinity 2%
Eldrazi and Taxes 2%
Infect 2%
Elves 1.5%
Storm 1.5%
Abzan Midrange 1%
Black-Green Midrange 1%
Blue-Red Breach 1%
Eldrazi Tron 1%
Jeskai Tempo 1%
Martyr of Sands 1%
Ponza 1%
Titan Shift 1%
Others 3.5%

Modern was once again teeming with variety. Only Tron and Humans broke the ten-percent threshold. Although, if one were to add up the numbers for White-Blue Control and the closely related Jeskai Control, they'd surpass all others.

It really was Teferi's tournament. Four decks featuring the Hero of Dominaria made the Top 8, including seven copies in total. Even the mighty, formerly banned Jace, the Mind Sculptor only made it to eight!

Fun in the Feature Match Area

I didn't get to watch a lot of games, but thousands upon thousands of them were indeed played. Highlights included two Pro Tour champions teaming up to speed up a Krark-Clan Ironworks combo turn ...

... and a very tricky rules question when Gold pro Matteo Moure met Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif. The latter attacked with Celestial Colonnade, the former wanted to know what would happen to the creature/land if he were to bounce Nassif's Detention Sphere which had exiled Blood Moon.

Well, several judges gave several answers before head judge Alfonso Bueno stepped in and delved deep into the layer system. He explained that the Celestial Colonnade would remain an attacking creature. Whether or not it still had flying, though, was quite another puzzle. Thankfully, Moure didn't need an answer. "Nevermind, actually. I'm not going to chump block anyway."

South African Success Story

Grand Prix Barcelona didn't draw a lot of players from outside Europe. Several countries held their nationals this weekend after all. However, one group of eight reminded us that Magic's very much a global game.

Theuns Prinsloo, Darren Fox, Sarvesh Balkaran, Jarcque Henning, Jonathan Ogden, Wesley Ward, Siveshen Chetty (pictured above, left to right), and Keraan Chetty (not pictured) boarded a twelve-hour flight to come all the way from South Africa!

For most of them, this was their first Grand Prix, including Jarcque Henning who went 8-0 on Day 1 and Sarvesh Balkaran who finished the main event in tenth place! Only one of them was already playing at the turn of the century and had attended GP Cape Town. They all agreed on two things. A) They had a great time at this event, and they'd certainly travel to more GPs in the future. B) It was about time South Africa got another GP itself.

Dominguez Does It Again

Traveling from GP to GP, what I tend to use as scrap paper are most often last event's standings, decklists, and profiles. One page in particular came in handy: (9) Javier Dominguez's Top 8 questionnaire from Grand Prix Copenhagen three week's earlier.

Dominguez had a good laugh when I asked him just to update it. Back-to-back Top 8s was an impressive achievement, as was his 14-0-1 run through Barcelona's Swiss. Also impressive: The look of "Oops, I did it again" he had down pat.

A Top 8 Turnaround

The playoffs featured four control decks based in white and blue. At the same time, some of the mainstays of the format were nowhere to be found. For instance, not a single Tron deck even made it to the Top 16 of the tournament, whereas the previous Modern GP had six of them!

The unexpected developments continued within the Top 8 too. Somehow, both Louis Deltour on Ironworks and Matti Kuisma on Dredge made it past the many copies of Rest in Peace and Stony Silence. When the Top 8 was announced, most had assumed we'd be in for a long night. Instead, these two met in the finals for a very quick match.

In the first game, Deltour wasn't able to find Krark-Clan Ironworks in something like the top 25 cards of his library. In the second, he drew nine lands, while Kuisma had Ancient Grudge in his opening hand and dredged into another before long.

Once again, Deltour had to contend himself with the runner-up plaque, his third now. He was the first to congratulate Matti Kuisma on his victory, but many followed.

Unlimited Limited

By the time the final match was in progress, the other end of the feature match area was already taken over by the final chapter of this weekend's birthday celebrations: the Unlimited Rochester Draft, which drew a huge crowd of spectators.

Players could qualify through eight Dominaria Limited tournaments held over the course of the weekend. These drew many big names. The first one was won by (5) Márcio Carvalho, who then went on to make the Top 16 of the main event. Meanwhile, Hall of Famer Kai Budde, famous for winning most of his Top 8s, narrowly missed his chance, finishing in ninth place in the final qualifier.

The appeal of Unlimited was palpable. After all, Magic's very first Un-set included several hilarious cards. One prime example, Illusionary Mask, did make an appearance, but it was hardly the most hilarious card one could open. I heard there's even a card in the set which gives its controller a free one-shot boost of three mana! Worthy of an Un-set, no doubt.

As more and more of the 25-year-old packs were cracked, the crowd grew increasingly restless. Even the opening of Shivan Dragon was met with excitement similar to that which the Dragon elicited back in the day.

The boosters went by one by one, no piece of power in sight. Soon it was time for the very last pack to be opened ...

There it was! A shiny new Mox Jet, fresh from the booster. Smiles all around. Applause. The end.

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