Day 1 Highlights of GP Brussels 2018

Posted in Event Coverage on August 11, 2018

By Frank Karsten

Earlier this morning, 1,109 main event competitors arrived at the Brussels Expo to test their mettle in Standard. After eight rounds of Swiss, 240 players made the cut for Day 2, including eight players at 8-0.

Turbo Fog Was Reasonably Popular

Last weekend at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary , Goblin Chainwhirler and Steel Leaf Champion were among the most-played cards in Standard, but the breakout Standard deck with the highest team-wide win percentage was Turbo Fog. Its game plan is to stick an early Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, protect it with Root Snare or Haze of Pollen, and eventually take all the turns via Nexus of Fate. This game plan is particularly well-suited against red or green creature decks whose main game plan is attacking and who pack very little disruption. For decklists and sideboard plans, check out David Williams' tweet or Raphaël Lévy's article.

This weekend here in Brussels, Turbo Fog was reasonably popular, at least among players with three byes: 19% of them sleeved up Nexus of Fate. The full metagame breakdown of all 27 players who got three byes as either a Gold or Platinum member of the Pro Players Club or a member of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame can be found below.

Archetype Number of Players
R/B Chainwhirler 9
Esper Control 6
Turbo Fog 5
Grixis Midrange 2
Grixis Chainwhirler 2
Mono-Red Aggro 1
Mono-Blue Storm 1
W/U Control 1

The Metagame Adapted to Turbo Fog

Whereas last weekend the Turbo Fog deck was new and full of surprises, this weekend the competition was ready. Nearly everyone had adapted to the turbolent metagame development.

Two of the most popular sideboard cards that players added to improve their matchup against Turbo Fog were Insult // Injury and Sorcerous Spyglass. Insult // Injury stops the Fog effects from preventing combat damage, and Sorcerous Spyglass can shut down the deck's key card draw engine by naming Teferi, Hero of Dominaria (while additionally being a reasonable sideboard card against other decks).

Other players specifically chose a deck with a good matchup against Turbo Fog. Since direct damage effects aren't stopped by Root Snare or Haze of Pollen, Mono-Red Flame with Wizard's Lightning or Mono-Blue Storm with Aetherflux Reservoir appeared to be well positioned. We saw plenty of those decks in the feature match area throughout the day, and two Mono-Red Flame players made it to the 7-0 tables. Both of their pilots mentioned their matchup against Turbo Fog as a key reason for their deck choice.

Finally, countermagic is an efficient way to stop expensive spells like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or Nexus of Fate. While decks like Esper control naturally have access to these cards, there were a notably high number of Steel Leaf Stompy players who brought back the blue splash. Some players even went as far as splashing blue in their red-black decks, ending up with a deck that we dubbed Grixis Chainwhirler for lack of a better name.

So how much did these sideboard adaptations and the loss of the surprise value change things? On that question, Turbo Fog players were split. Some of them feared that their deck wouldn't as well-positioned anymore. Others told me that the deck was "still broken" and that the addition of one or two Insult // Injury wouldn't be enough to swing the matchup, especially when new additions like Uncomfortable Chill, Settle the Wreckage, and/or Lyra Dawnbringer could help dodge Insult // Injury. At the end of the day, one of the eight 8-0 players was on Turbo Fog.

A New Era of Belgian Magic

Brussels, the location for this weekend's Grand Prix, is the capital of Belgium—a country which has found a lot of Magic success over the years.

A decade ago, there were multiple Belgian players at every Pro Tour. Among them were Christophe Gregoir, the Pro Tour Honolulu 2009 Top 8 competitor, and Marijn Lybaert, who reached the Top 8 of a Pro Tour once every year from 2007 till 2010. But eventually they departed the competitive scene and left behind a bit of a void. For several years, there wasn't even a single Gold player in Belgium, and their top player in 2014 reached no more than nine Pro Points. (Gold level in the Pro Players Club requires 35 Pro Points and comes with a qualification for all Pro Tours.)

But after Belgium finished second in the 2016 World Magic Cup, it all changed. The finish acted as a major motivational boost, and by now three members of that 2016 National Team had reached Gold: Peter Vieren, Pascal Vieren, and Branco Neirynck. While Peter Vieren did not have a great season, Pascal Vieren made the semifinals of Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan earlier this year, and Branco Neirynck was coming off a Top 4 finish at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary.

The triumphant team of Thomas van der Paelt, Christophe Gregoir, and Branco Neirynck (pictured above, left to right) had an amazing run at last weekend's Pro Tour, despite starting with an inauspicious 0-2 record. As they told me, they won 2-1 pretty much every round, so they were lucky to spread their losses perfectly. A particularly memorable moment for them was winning a Humans mirror from 1 life in a horrible spot with their singleton Riders of Gavony from the sideboard. It exemplified how close all of their matches were, and all things considered it was an "insane weekend" and an "amazing experience."

This weekend, the three friends were back in action in their home-country Grand Prix, now joined by honorary team member Noah van der Paelt. As his father Thomas told me, the only thing he regretted from the Pro Tour weekend was that he didn't thank his girlfriend Sophie during his Top 4 interview. "It's not always easy to combine family life with competitive Magic. Without her support, it wouldn't have been possible."

Noah actually wasn't the only kid to explore the Grand Prix venue this weekend: All-time Belgian Pro Point leader Marijn Lybaert brought along his son Jasper on Friday, and he was quickly adopted by his colleagues from the European coverage team.

2018 has already marked a new era of Belgian Pro Tour success, but as the next wave of Magic talent is growing up, we can expect great things in the future.

Standard Still Filled with Unique Interactions

Many of the interactions in Standard are pretty well-explored by now, but players were still discovering new ones.

One stands out in particular. In a control mirror shown on the twitch.tv/magic channel today, Jérémy Dezani seemed to have the game essentially locked up with Chromium, the Mutable. Control decks generally have no good answer to the Elder Dragon: they can't counter it, they have no creatures to block it, and they can't profitably target it. But as Julian Felix Flury showed, you can still name it with Gideon's Intervention and snag victory from the claws of defeat.

Eight 8-0 Players in the Lead

Eight players reached the end of Day 1 with undefeated 8-0 records. Congratulations to Craig Barnes, Pascal Vieren, Socrates Rozakeas, Oliver Suters, Thijs van Maaren, Thomas Mechin, Marios Angelopoulos, and Alexander Gordon-Brown (pictured above, left to right)!

Day One's undefeated decks include four R/B Chainwhirler decks and four singleton deck choices: Mono-Red Aggro, Mono-Red Flame, Sultai Midrange, and Turbo Fog. Their full decklists will be posted in a separate Day 2 coverage article at the start of Round 15.

Check back tomorrow as we continue to bring the live action from Brussels. The twitch.tv/magic stream starts at 9 a.m. local time (i.e., 3 a.m. ET or midnight PT). As always, we'll open with Good Morning Magic to showcase the most interesting decks in Day Two.

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