Day 1 Highlights of Grand Prix Beijing 2018

Posted in Event Coverage on May 5, 2018

By Chapman Sim

Today, 909 Dominarians gathered in Beijing for their shot at earning a champion title. Together with Grand Prix Dallas, these were the first individual Premier Events to feature Dominaria Sealed Deck. If you'd like to embrace the entirety of Dominaria's past and present, you might want to spend a few minutes with us to catch up on the most important moments of the day!

Blast from the Past

"Magic began its existence 25 years ago on a plane named Dominaria. Most early Magic sets explored this plane and its diverse array of cultures and locations. Whether names like Benalia, Tolaria, Urbog, Shiv, and Llanowar are new, merely familiar, or particularly beloved to you, return to Dominaria with us to watch this plane flourish after years of upheaval."

- Dave Humpherys, principal designer.

Indeed, familiarity, nostalgia, and reminiscence are some reasons why Dominaria had been so well-received. It's great to see the Weatherlight transform into a vehicle, and the fact that you can use Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, Tiana, Ship's Caretaker, and even Squee, the Immortal to crew it is just amazing.

  • Weatherlight
  • Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain
  • Tiana, Ship's Caretaker
  • Squee, the Immortal
  • Karn, Scion of Urza
  • Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar
  • Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

With a lot of iconic characters and cards returning to this highly-anticipated expansion (whether in the exact form or as a spinoff), coupled with dazzling storylines and rich lore, it's no wonder that the entire Magic community is buzzing with enthusiasm.

With some help from the Japanese coverage team (Atsushi Ito, in particular), we check in with a handful of grizzled veterans who have played Magic for the majority of the game's 25-year history and have them share some memories about their favorite cards in Dominaria. Every card has its own story, and every story is worth sharing!

Takuma Morifuji, who made the Top 8 at Grand Prix Beijing 2017 last year, is a current Silver pro. His fondest reprint from Dominaria was Juggernaut, and for good reason.

"Back in those days, four mana for a 5/3 was considered to be oversized and had to be given drawbacks. Even cards like Derelor saw high-level tournament play. Today, Juggernaut feels very balanced in the current environment. I've glad to be able to play with Juggernaut again."

As for three-time Grand Prix Champion Yuta Takahashi, Dread Shade reminded him of Nantuko Shade, a card which dominated Odyssey Block Constructed and Standard from over a decade ago. "Both creatures pump up for one black mana, and it was mighty both in the early and late game. I like cards which provide me options and both shades do exactly just that!"

Silver pro Yoshihiko Ikawa placed 17th at Pro Tour Ixalan and named Siege-Gang Commander as his most memorable card.

"Bitterblossom, Nantuko Husk, Greater Gargadon and Fatal Frenzy were all great with Siege-Gang Commander, a key combo card. My friends and I attended a Grand Prix together with this special token deck over ten years ago. I'm delighted to see this Goblin return to Dominaria, and I hope to play with him again in Standard once more. Also, Mahamoti Djinn is also a very iconic card, and I'm happy to see it return as Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp. Blue decks used Mahamoti Djinn as their finisher back in those days."

5th-ranked Yuuya Watanabe loves to Fight with Fire because it reminded him of Urza's Rage. "It was true love," Watanabe said. "Both these cards are very similar, and they are both extremely powerful."

Then, 5th-ranked Shota Yasooka said that The History of Benalia was his favorite card. Being the spike that he is, he did not appreciate the weak creatures from the past, "such as Benalish Knight". Instead of getting a single 2/2 for the same cost, we end up with two creatures and a pump spell with this unique Saga!

Last but not least, Tomoharu Saito, being the beatdown player that he is, loved seeing Skizzik and "Kavu Titan" return. "Back in those days, these cards were so powerful that they were rares. Today, they are balanced enough to be printed as uncommons, and this allows us more opportunities to enjoy these memories again!"

After hearing from these esteemed Japanese pros, what is your favorite card from Dominaria and which card from the past does it remind you of?

Master Wizard Watanabe

The original Tolaria was a tropical island where the artificer Urza built his wizard school, the Tolarian Academy. Despite being destroyed during the Phyrexian Invasion, Tolarian teachings lived on as young wizards and artificers continued to tinker with artifice and magic.

Today, Pro Tour Hall of Famer (5) Yuuya Watanabe shared a few moments of his time, carefully reviewing the key artifacts we were most likely to encounter in Dominaria Sealed. Listen up, guys, "Master Wizard Watanabe's" class is about to begin!

There are a total of 29 artifacts in Dominaria. Since they are all colorless, you could play all of them in your Sealed Deck. However, that's not something you want to do. Each strategy had a different focus, and we need to be somewhat selective of the artifacts we wished to include.

Even though you could trigger historic with them, many artifacts won't see play this weekend. For instance, Damping Sphere lives up to its name, "doing absolutely nothing" in sideboards, while Thran Temporal Gateway is probably not good enough to warrant a spot either. Juggernaut and Jhoira's Familiar are both fine on their own while providing a little synergy as icing on the cake.

Watanabe started off his "tutorial" by saying that Skittering Surveyor was a "mythic common" and that Icy Manipulator was a "mythic uncommon". Now that that's established, let's move on to a few other cards which could be challenging to evaluate.

"Jousting Lance and Short Sword are both okay in a beatdown deck, but Jousting Lance is better than Short Sword. I won't play either of these cards in a midrange or control deck. Sorcerer's Wand is also a good fit in Wizards-based aggro decks, but I will need to have a minimum of five Wizards. Aesthir Glider is bad, but I'm playing it today because I am running a White-Blue flyer deck with zero rares in my deck. I'm in huge trouble today!"

Watanabe mentioned that Dominaria Sealed was a "bomb format" and deckbuilding decisions often revolved around how many powerful uncommons or rares you had.

"I would only play Navigator's Compass or Howling Golem if I had five bombs or more because my cards with big impact will make up for the card loss and Howling Golem helps me find my bombs more easily. The same goes for Urza's Tome, it's excellent in a deck with many high impact cards, but hardly playable in an aggro deck."

  • Jousting Lance
  • Short Sword
  • Sorcerer's Wand
  • Aesthir Glider
  • Navigator's Compass
  • Howling Golem
  • Urza's Tome
  • Powerstone Shard
  • Bloodtallow Candle

Last but not least, Watanabe drew attention to Powerstone Shard. "If you have many five-costed cards and you want to jump the curve, playing one copy is fine. But, never two copies. If you can make up for the card disadvantage, it's a decent card to help smooth your mana," Watanabe said as he fanned through his sideboard showing me Dark Bargain and Soul Salvage. "Oh yes, the first copy of Bloodtallow Candle will make my main deck most of the time, but I'm unsure about a second copy."

With that, we've come to the end of this wizarding class. We hope you've learned more about the format and that Master Wizard Watanabe's tips and tricks will help you out the next time!

Sagas Tell The Story

There are a total of 14 Sagas in Dominaria, highlighting the most epic moments of Dominaria's history. Each of these unique enchantments tells a story worthy of remembrance and most of them are great in the Limited environment due to the significant impact they have on the game.

There are three white Sagas, three blue Sagas, four black Sagas, two red Sagas, and two green Sagas, and all of them provide potent effects over a few turns. Since these iconic enchantments play a major role in Dominaria Sealed, we've checked in with three players from around the region to discuss their favorite Sagas.

Tay Jun Hao is a Singapore player with two Grand Prix Top 8s to his name and is a member of Team Grey Ogre Games. Not only has he locked up Silver for the season, but he's also qualified for Pro Tour Dominaria and Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. He shared that his favorite Saga to have in Sealed Deck was Phyrexian Scriptures.

"Giving a creature +1/+1 can help you push a key attacker past a blocker. For example, turning Serra Angel into a 5/5 will help you get past Mammoth Spider. Then, the second chapter will destroy most, if not all, of your opponent's creatures while allowing you to keep at least one. It slows your opponent down because he is not going to cast a nonartifact creature knowing that it's going to die."

Tay also especially liked the interaction between Phyrexian Scriptures and Guardians of Koilos. Not only is the Construct an artifact creature which will survive the second round of Phyrexian Scriptures, but it also makes the remainder of the game very difficult for your opponent.

He also cited Time of Ice as an extremely potent card, especially in an environment which is slow. "Imagine if your opponent casts a three-drop and then a four-drop and you tap both of them down and return them to your opponent's hand. That is a massive setback."

Gold Pro and Grand Prix Taipei 2014 Champion Huang Hao-Shan echoed the sentiment that Dominaria Sealed deck was slow and having access to card advantage was important in long-drawn games.

"My favorite Saga is The Eldest Reborn. It's basically "drawing three cards" for five mana and you Chapter III even allows you to reanimate an opponent's creature or planeswalker from his graveyard. It's very versatile and also easy to splash."

For the same reason, he felt that The Mirari Conjecture filled a similar role, even though it was a little more difficult to take full advantage of. "A mix of six to seven instants and sorceries will usually do the trick, and you can further support the card by including Opt and Divination. Even if you don't have both an instant and sorcery in your graveyard, I believe picking up a removal spell and then copying it, later on, is sufficient to win you the game."

Lastly, we checked in with three-time Grand Prix Champion Yuta Takahashi. Despite having History of Benalia in his card pool, he decided not to play white to support it.

"A lot of players like History of Benalia and I feel that it is okay, but it feels like an uncommon rather than a rare. On the other hand, The Eldest Reborn and Song of Freyalise feel more like rares than uncommons."

Sharing the same opinion as Huang, Takahashi said that the best Saga was The Eldest Reborn and that it is always worth a splash. Also, he will play Song of Freyalise in any green deck.

"Song of Freyalise is crazy. It ramps your mana and also fixes your colors. Since the format is low on color fixing, a single Song of Freyalise can help you summon all the powerful cards in your hand. Later on, when Chapter III happens, you attack with your whole team of legends!"

The 8-0 Players

When the dust had settled, a total of four 9-0 players were born from among 909 competitors! Let's take a moment to get to know them and have them recap their exciting day.

Wu Kon Fai from Hong Kong, who made the finals at Grand Prix Guangzhou 2016, was the first player to secure the pristine 9-0 record. He did so with a Black-Red deck laden with removal, ranging from Vicious Offering, Shivan Fire, Fiery Intervention and two The Eldest Reborn.

"That Saga is ridiculous. It's just too good, and it's my MVP of the day. In particular, my deck is weak against Saproling decks, so I even main decked Radiating Lightning to push the final damage. The most interesting choice is probably Howling Golem. I figured that if I don't mana screw, I will be able to stabilize and win in the late game."

Wu Kon Fai

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Wang Hao Kang from Shenzhen was the second 9-0 player who made it through with a Black-Green deck splashing White for Lyra Dawnbringer, using Skittering Surveyor, Song of Freyalise, and Llanowar Envoy. This was not his first time achieving the perfect run in Day 1, having done so at Grand Prix Prague last year.

"I've never played on the Pro Tour, and I was a game short on several occasions. I hope to earn my first qualification tomorrow. Together with some friends, I practiced on Magic Online and built about six Sealed Decks to get familiar with the format. They've all helped me a lot, and I thank them for their support!"

Wang Haokang

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The third 9-0 player was 18th-ranked Ken Yukuhiro, who rode a pair of Skittering Surveyors to success. His four-color deck included bombs such as Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp, Karn, Scion of Urza, Icy Manipulator, and In Bolas's Clutches, which he was happy to show off.

As soon as he clinched his match, the Japanese contingent rushed in to congratulate him with an assortment of well wishes, ranging from sincere pats on the back for a job well done to well-natured quips such as "why did you bring a Constructed deck to a Limited Grand Prix" as well as "so lucky, so lucky!" Judging from his monster of a decklist, everybody was correct to a certain extent!

Ken Yukuhiro

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As for the final 9-0 player, Liu Tianyu from Changchun managed to eke out two wins against Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar finalist Ryoichi Tamada, sealing the deal just as time was about to run out. He started out with a Black-Green Saproling deck, but he attributed today's success to his transformational sideboard.

"I had expected players to board in cards like Radiating Lightning to deal with my tokens, so I boarded green out and sided in white instead. Players are also unlikely to bring in Pierce the Sky against me, which makes my On Serra's Wings, Aven Sentry, and two copies of Pegasus Courser more effective." Deftly maneuvering the sideboarded games, Liu was able to propel himself to victory.

And of course, two copies of Phyrexian Scriptures doesn't hurt either! This was Liu's first taste of success at the Premier Event level, but he felt that he "might do poorly tomorrow".

Liu Tianyu

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"I did not practice much at Booster Draft, and I'm not feeling very confident. Drafting at the top tables will be difficult, but I will still try my very best," Liu humbly professed.

Regardless, we'd like to congratulate these four players for running the tables today. Currently ahead of the pack, these players headed back for a well-deserved rest, knowing that their toughest battles would take place tomorrow.

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