Day One Highlights of Grand Prix Bologna

Posted in Event Coverage on April 28, 2018

By Olle Rade

Exploring Dominaria For the First Time

If you played the pre-release last weekend and managed to get a few drafts in on Magic Online, chances are that you have as much experience with Dominaria limited as most of the teams in Bologna this weekend. With a set this fresh from release it's always extra interesting to see how far the limited experts and top pro players have gotten with exploring the format. I took the time to sit down with a few of them and ask what they thought about the format so far.

Italian home turf hero, (11) Andrea Mengucci was the first ranked pro that I ran into and he explained his first impressions.

"I like the format a lot. Every color combination looks viable and you can pretty much do whatever you want. I only wish there was more mana fixing because it is hard to splash, for example when you first pick a good two-colored legend in draft and end up only playing one of the colors", he said.

Italian pro Andrea Mengucci is famous not only for his Magic skills, but also for his love of food, often posting his latest creations on Twitter.

When asked for a favorite archetype, Mengucci said he liked the Green-Black saproling based deck the best. With cards like Spore Swarm fuelling up Thallid Omnivore. And even though the format is quite new, he had gotten enough practice in to be considered an expert among his friends who turned to him for advice the week before the Grand Prix.

"Many people asked me if they should test draft or sealed deck for this event. I told them to test draft, because the decks in team sealed are more similar to draft decks than regular sealed decks. For example I've played a lot of Green-Black, so I know how to build that deck and my teammate Mattia Rizzi drafts a lot of Blue-Red, so we both ended up playing those color combinations today."

Another limited expert in attendance was Sweden's Joel Larsson, who had quite a different view on viable strategies, and hoped to build something completely different in draft.

"It's a complex format with a lot of subtle synergies. There are some obvious archetypes, but the format is a lot deeper than one might think. The obvious once are stuff like kicker spells with cards that favor them, or Blue-White with a lot of synergies with historic cards. But there are a lot of ways to build the archetypes. Some decks remind me of the Spider Spawning archetype in Innistrad. I had a deck with two copies of The [autocard]Mirari Conjecture[/autocard], which allowed me to copy spells like Soul Savage and reuse the Saga with Sentinel of the Pearl Trident. Add a Phyrexian Scriptures to the mix and things got really interesting", he said.

Joel Larsson summarized Dominaria limited as "very complex with many subtle synergies".

In general Larsson said he dislikes small creatures, like 2/2:s for two mana, since a lot of the creatures in the format has three toughness. He explained how that makes it hard to get through for damage with ground creatures without evasion. When asked for specific colors or cards he liked more than others, the Swedish pro didn't hestitate.

"I like Blue a lot, and I'm not a big fan of Green. I think the counterspells of the format are underrated, and I would gladly play several of them in my deck."

The third limited aficionado was last seasons Pro Tour draft master, portugese Marcio Carvalho, who admitted being quite new to the format and was sure he'd be wrong about a lot of things with his early predictions.

Last seasons draft master Marcio Carvalho usually favors aggressive archetypes in draft, and so far he's been doing well with them in Dominaria as well.

"In sealed deck I think you should always draw first. In draft people say that two drops are bad, but I don't agree. I've drafted a lot on Magic Online and I win a lot of games by going second turn two drop into third turn Dub and just keep attacking. The format seems to be slow, but mostly so in sealed deck."

A card that had changed a lot in Carvalho's evaluation was the equipment Short Sword.

"At first I thought it was bad, but it's actually quite good and makes the small creatures more viable. But it's still early in the format, so maybe I am wrong.", he said.

He also favored a completely different color than both Mengucci and Larsson.

"I think white is by far the best color and not even close to the others. Red might be the worst because it has no good creatures and the only red common that I really like is Shivan Fire. But if you look at the other cards your two drops are 2/2:s without abilities and Fiery Intervention is a quite clunky removal spell. White also has the best removal in Blessed Light, which can remove any creature or Saga at instant speed. All the creatures in White are good, and pretty much all the uncommons and rares if you are fortunate enough to open one in draft."

A Giant Walking the Halls

I might as well say it - I'm usually not the biggest fan of cosplay, but when someone takes the time and effort to do something spectacular I'll lift my hat to you. With that said my mind was completely blown when I saw a giant Silver Golem tour the site of the Grand Prix here in Bologna. It turned out to be cosplayer Atlas Craft, who had spent weeks making the spectacular costume for the occasion.

And like an alien from the movie "Mars Attacks!" he walked the aisles and people were both impressed and a little intimidated by the 7 feet high Silver Golem. Many were also quick to pick up their phones and get their pictures taken with the friendly legend.

Some were even lucky enough to get one taken with both Karn and Grand Prix regular and excellent cosplayer Nissa_cosplay:

Pro Tours Winners from Past and Present

Nothing brings together old friends from Magic's rich history like team limited events. Even players who hasn't played for quite some time seem to seize the opportunity to enjoy both the Italian weather and a chance to battle as equals on the first weekend with a premier event with Dominaria. Among the 480 teams that showed up, no less than six had Pro Tour winners in them. Dating all the way back to Sweden's Mattias Jorstedts win in Yokohama in 2003. He showed up this weekend to battle with long time friends and Pro Tour competitors Mattias Kettil and Mats Neumann, who explained that team events was the only way to get the Swedish Pro Tour winner out of retirement.

"It's the only reason he even plays again, that we can travel together and play these events as a team. We played in Rotterdam and Nice last year and Bologna marks the third time we're playing team limited together," he said.

Mats Neumann, Mattias Jorstedt and Mattias Kettil, formed a team that even veteran pro Martin Jůza was excited to see in Bologna.

And even though it's been 15 years since Jorstedt won his Pro Tour, his love for the game is as big as ever.

"I'm still loving it. I only wish I had more time to devote to it. With a wife and two children it's rare that I even get a weekend on my own, but it's great to be here and playing and winning as a team is an unbeatable feeling," he explained.

Another familar old face that took time to visit Italy and get a peek at the new format was two time Pro Tour winner Nicolai Herzog. He claimed both his trophies in limited events and was impressed with how Magic has stayed strong through the years and enjoyed revisiting both the Grand Prix scene and Dominaria.

"We got together in Hungary to do a trip together and as it turned out this Grand Prix was happening we drove down to both play and experience some good food and good company," he said .

Tamas Glied, Tamas Nagy and Nicolai Herzog, good friends and familiar old time faces from both Pro Tours and the European Grand Prix circuit.

His teammate, eight time Hungarian national champion Tamas Nagy was quick to give his thoughts on the new Dominaria limited format.

"For me it's been really fun to see the old cards, I laughed in surprise when I opened a Squee, the Immortal since I hadn't had a chance to look through the set list and did not know what to expect. Seeing some of the old cards almost make me feel younger", he said.

"Not me though. I'm just ancient", Herzog was quick to reply.

Fast forward a decade and you find Samuele Estratti, who won the very first Modern Pro Tour in Philadelphia in 2011. He's no stranger to limited though and teamed up with fellow Italians Alessandro Lippi and Matteo Versari in Bologna.

Pro Tour winners in attendance in Bologna:

  • Olle Råde* (1996)
  • Mattias Jorstedt (2003)
  • Nicolai Herzog (Two wins in 2004)
  • Remi Fortier (2007)
  • Samuel Estratti (2011)
  • Joel Larsson (2015)
  • Ivan Floch (2015)

* On coverage duty

Undefeated teams

At the end of the day no team managed to clinch a perfect 8-0 record. However four teams ended the day undefeated with seven wins and a draw.

David Besso/Matteo Cirigliano/Giovanni Gesiot and Panagiotis Papadopoulos/Aleksa Telarov/Stjepan Sučić (pictured above, left to right in the back) as well as Sveinung Bjørnerud/Andreas Nordahl/Espen Nordahl and Enrico Russo/Francesco Giorgio/James Allingham (left to right in front).

Here are the decklists of the undefeated players:

Undefeated decklists Grand Prix Bologna

Pangiotis Papadopoulos (A)

Download Arena Decklist

Aleksa Telarov (B)

Download Arena Decklist

Stjepan Sucic (C)

Download Arena Decklist

Enrico Russo (A)

Download Arena Decklist

Francesco Giorgio(B)

Download Arena Decklist

James Allingham (C)

Download Arena Decklist

Sveinung Bjørnerud (A)

Download Arena Decklist

Andreas Nordahl (B)

Download Arena Decklist

Espen Nordahl (C)

Download Arena Decklist

David Besso (A)

Download Arena Decklist

Matteo Cirigliano (B)

Download Arena Decklist

Giovanni Gesiot (C)

Download Arena Decklist

And finally... pizza!

When in Italy:

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