480 teams and a total of 1,440 players took the opportunity to play the first Grand Prix with Dominaria limited in Bologna. An incredible amount of games was played, over 1,800 decks were built and yet it was only the beginning of a great limited season to come. Here are some of the highlights from Grand Prix Bologna.
A Fast Final that Turned the Trend
The talk of the tournament had been how aggressive strategies just aren't viable in Dominaria limited. In the finals though, it was quite the opposite. It started already in the draft, where Antonio Pinto managed to put together an aggressive Red-Green deck with several Llanowar Elves and haste creatures like Skizzik and Grand Warlord Radha. His deck ended up looking like a text book example on how to prove the naysayers wrong and he ran over his opponent Matthew Foulkes in two quick games.
Antonio Pinto couldn't have been more happy with his aggressive Red-Green deck and kept turning his creatures sideways for a quick victory.
Meanwhile in the middle seat Davide Miani defeated Fabrizio Anteri by casting multiple cheap Black and White creatures, including multiple copies of Rat Colony and an equipped Jousting Lance to get by any blockers.
It did look like Peter Ward and his Green-Black Saproling deck was winning against Usama Sajjad's Blue-Red tempo deck, but it was all in wane as both his teammates lost their matches before he got a chance to finish his. In the end Pinto, Miani, and Sajjad took home the trophy with their aggressive approach, going against the stream, winning the finals 2-0.
Antonio Pinto, Davide Miani and Usama Sajjad, winners of Grand Prix Bologna 2018.
Guess Who's Back?
Grand Prix Madrid last winter marked the comeback of one Fabrizio Anteri to the European tournament circuit. His here in Bologna means he is now also qualified for the Pro Tour again and will bring his teammates Mattew Foulkes and Peter Ward to Pro Tour 25th Anniversary in Minneapolis in August.
For Anteri personally, qualifying for the Pro Tour again meant a lot.
"It feels good, and will be fun to bring my teammates to their first Pro Tour. The only problem is that now I have to learn Legacy," he said with a smile.
Second place finishers Fabrizio Anteri, Matthew Foulkes and Peter Ward.
Amazing Black-White Decks in the Semi-Finals
It was a long weekend with decklists of all colours and flavours, but if you are only going to look at a few of them, the two Black-White decks drafted in each of the semi-finals by Usama Sajjad and Matthew Foulkes. They were both something quite out of the ordinary and showcased some sweet new synergies from Dominaria with both legendary creatures and strange Sagas. Take a look at these and try and decide for yourself who drafted the better one:
(Yes, they were in two different drafts, but they were so spectacular, so I decided to write about them regardless)
Karn Walks and Talks in Bologna
One of the big, like literally big, stories from Bologna was the presence of a 7 feet tall cosplay version of Karn, Silver Golem. People were swarming the legendary Planeswalker for pictures and it went as far as Rich Hagon actually doing an interview with Karn at the very end of the stream on Day One.
He did have a little trouble making Karn actually say something. So we pulled the mask off from the giant silver metal guy and took a chat with the cosplayer behind the creation.
Dom Atlas didn't catch quite as much attention when he wasn't wearing the 7 feet tall Karn costume he made for this weekend. He did bring a copy of the card though.
As it turns out, the man behind the silver mask was 29-year-old Swiss Magic player Dom Atlas, who gladly took time to tell us a bit about his costume and how he ended up putting a smile on almost everyone's face in Bologna this weekend.
"I'm a huge fan of artifacts in general and love the look and the story of Karn, and I've wanted to do a cosplay with him for a long time, but I was looking for a reason to do it. With Dominaria just released and Karn being back as a Planeswalker I had the chance to do it on time for this Grand Prix and hopefully enrich the experience for the players this weekend," he said.
And he sure did, the pictures of his cosplay and people's reactions were all over social media during the weekend, and the reactions in the hall didn't dissapoint Dom Atlas, who said he put more than 60 hours into making the giant costume.
"Some people actually seemed a little scared and some were surprised when I was suddenly standing behind them. But everyone was incredubly sweet and kind and were very cautious to ask for pictures. Luckily they were also careful when approaching me, since if someone tackles me or if I fall down when in the costume I'm down for good."
Players of all ages seemed to be happy to get their pictures taken with the Silver Legend. And both pro players and amateurs enjoyed the spectacular show. But the sweetest moment was probably when a little girl after several attempts dared to approach the giant cosplayer.
GP Bologna simply amazing ❤️ Karn is so sweet! #magiclizardteam #mtgaddicts #mtg #mtgang #mtgelite #wizards #wizardsofthecoast #magicthegathering #mtg9 #magic #cardsgame #cards #game #play #standard #follow4follow #fnm #picoftheday #wotc #followforfollow #fnm #players #modern #life #commander #like #standard #karn #gpbologna #gp #bologna
"She came up to me three times that day but always seemed a little too scared. But the third time she held my finger and smiled which was sweet and certainly warmed my Iron Giant Heart," said Dom Atlas.
As for his own performance, he was in the end happy how the costume turned out after all the hours of work he put into it.
"While I was building it I had some issues with the hands, and that some things didn't fit properly which made it hard to move. But I wanted to do it right or not do it at all, so in the end I took the matierals that I knew were ideal for the suit, and even though I was worried that the color might be a bit off when I looked at the pictures from Saturday I'm really glad about the way it worked out."
Oh, and as an honourable cosplay mention, Nissa Cosplay did an excellent job with her Liliana costume. Especially as a globetrotter Planeswalker.
Cosplay@GPBologna (@NissaCosplay) April 29, 2018
Common Knowledge About Dominaria Limited
With any new format it's interesting to examine card preferences of the players who have managed to get more time into playing the format than others, and use their years of expertise to adapt to new cards and new strategies. One of the classic questions for new sets is which commons are the best, and to start forming draft and sealed deck strategies from there. In the end individual games might be won by fancy rares and that nifty two card combination. But it's really the common cards that lays the foundation for any deck in limited. So I asked a few players for their favourite commons in the set.
First up was Spanish Pro Javier Dominguez, who true to the rumours of Spaniards loving their burn spells chose a red one mana spell as his pick.
True to his country's colours, Dominguez chose a red card as the best common of the set.
"Shivan Fire is the best common in my opinion. Either that or Eviscerate, but I think Shivan Fire is better as it's the only card that trades up in tempo. You can both cast that to kill or finish off a blocker and keep developing your board since it only costs one mana. So yeah, Shivan Fire is my pick," he said.
Ok, I admit it. I chose the topic slightly to be able to use the catchy headline. Regardless, Dominaria is really a new format, and it truly was exciting to hear what the players thought of it. Martin Jůza, currently ranked 12th among the top 25 players is always a good name to turn to for advice in new formats, and Dominaria proved no different. He had spent the entire week before the Grand Prix practicing team sealed with his teammates and was probably the most experienced Dominaria player in the room when the tournament started.
Martin Jůza, probably the player with most experience with Dominaria limited in the room.
"The format is different from previous ones mostly because it's slower. Games go long which makes it important to have some good rares in team sealed. If a game goes for 20 turns there's a high chance you will end up drawing it too. There' also a lot of removal in the format, but you need to know when to use it and when to save it for a potential bomb rare in the late game."
Like many other players Juza said he disliked 2/2 creatures for two mana, since they have a hard time attacking through a 1/3 or a 2/3, unless you have equipments or cards like Song of Freyalise to help boost their power.
"In terms of colours I think white is definitely the deepest and has a lot of playable cards. I don't know if it's the best, but in team sealed we've often ended up splitting white between two decks. Like one Green-White deck based on tokens and cards like, and a Blue-White deck with fliers, winning in the air. Red on the other hand seems weak, as it has a lot of creatures with bad stats, or that cares about either having other goblins or wizards in play to gain an upside."
At the middle of Day Two a British team of Matthew Foulkes, Peter Ward and Fabrizio Anteri found themselves at the top of the standings, so I asked for their take on the best commons in the format.
Anteri and Foulkes favoured an innocent looking 1/2 for three mana.
"Skittering Surveyor is the best common," both Anteri and Foulkes quickly agreed.
"It just makes every deck, and allows you to do so much, not only splashing. In this format you don't want to be aggressive on turn two or three anyway, so you just cast this guy and you're already up a card. It's the first card I look for in a sealed pool, and I wouldn't be surprised to first pick it in draft either."
"Sure, people might look at removal like Eviscerate and say it's the best common, but I really think the card advantage from Skittering Surveyor and the mana fixing, which is rare in the format, makes it the best common.
"Haphazard Bombardment is the Red Armageddon"
If there's anyone who has an eye for nifty combos or unexpected card interactions, it's coverage's own Frank Karsten. When he isn't doing probability calculations on cards like The Antiquities War or enlightening us with commentary on stream he occasionally also has time to casually watch other matches. And he had seen plenty of Sweet plays in Bologna.
"The first play that stands out is casting Haphazard Bombardment and then target four of your opponent's lands. I've seen it happen twice already and it can be useful to keep your opponent either off a colour, or shorten their mana entirely if they are already struggling with lands. It's also worth to notice that if you cast the same Haphazard Bombardment again, using something like Blink of an Eye the second one will destroy the full four permanents. It's certainly a strong card and you should pick it highly in draft," he said.
The red Armageddon?
Top 4 competitor Matthew Foulkes also gave a special thanks to Haphazard Bombardment carrying him all weekend. He named it as the best card in his deck on Day One, which was Blue-White, but splashed for the powerful enchantment. The deck also included two copies of Blink of the Eye. His Day Two deck was Blue-Red, but again featuring Haphazard Bombardment.
"In one game I got to bounce the Bombardment three times and kill like thirteen of my opponents permanents," he explained.
Another unintuitive play he wanted to highlight included the card Invoke the Divine, well two copies of it actually. But not in the way you might think.
"In one of the last rounds of Day One, Ondřej Stráský with teammates Thomas Hendriks and Ivan Floch were playing with their backs against the wall and had to win every round to make Day Two. And for Stráský a deciding game came down to a very odd conclusion. His opponent was facing lethal damage but chose to cast Invoke the Divine on an equipment on his own side of the table to survive for one more turn. A play you might not see every time, but what was even more unusual was that Stráský had a copy of his own, which allowed him to destroy the equipment, denying his opponent the lifegain and winning the game and the match."
As always - turn to Frank Karsten for interesting and odd moments in any limited format.