The Top 8 of Grand Prix Charlotte was set, and the field was a picture-perfect example of Modern’s diversity. With seven distinct archetypes spread among the field’s final eight players and the Splinter Twin players squaring off in the first round, it was guaranteed that there would be plenty of intriguing matchups on the way to crowning a champion.
Michael Malone (Elves) vs. Donald Smith (Naya Burn)
If Elves in Magic are known for anything, it’s making mana. A lot of it. And that’s exactly what Malone did in the first game, playing an Elvish Mystic on the first turn and passing to Smith.
“Bolt the bird!” Smith knew the old adage, and did that exactly that on the first turn.
It turns out Malone’s deck is full of his own version of Birds of Paradise, and a pair of mana Elves replaced the lost one. Their Archdruid followed, and the suddenly-impressive army sent Malone to victory.
The next game switched the roles, and Smith was able to become the aggressor, and his array of red spells quickly sent the pair into the final game.
And in what was a lightning-fast quarterfinal round across the Top 8, it was unexpectedly the Elves-Burn matchup that slowed down. Grim Lavamancer for Smith began to methodically eat its way through Malone’s army, working double-time to take out Kitchen Finks before moving onto the Elves.
It took three Ezuri, Renegade Leader and a well-timed Chord of Calling for Spellskite to save the final one, but finally Malone was able to untap with Ezuri and activate its second ability to send his team trampling in for more than enough damage to advance to the semifinals.
Samuel Pardee (Blue-Red Twin) vs. Wesley See (Blue-Red Twin)
Samuel Pardee looks over his opening hand shortly before playing a Vendilion Clique that would put him into the early lead.
Both Pardee and See played the weekend’s most prominent combo deck in Splinter Twin, and both cruised through Day 2 before meeting on a collision course in the quarterfinals.
It wouldn’t have been a surprise to see the two blue decks stall out against each other behind an army of countermagic, but See instead stole the first game when Pardee was caught with his defenses down, assembling his combo despite being under pressure from Vendilion Clique.
Game 2 went the same way, with Pardee applying pressure early before See resolved the matchup’s most important trump: Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. With the legendary Wizard in play Pardee was powerless to stop See from completing his combo and taking the match.
Ian Bosley (Abzan Company) vs. Andrew Wagoner (Affinity)
In the fastest-paced match of the quarterfinals, Wagoner got out of the gates early with Signal Pest and Arcbound Ravager. A pair of Birds of Paradise allowed Bosley to ramp into Chord of Calling for Linvala, Keeper of Silence. The Angel was a great answer for the Ravager, but double Galvanic Blast sent Game 1 into Wagoner’s favor anyway.
Andrew Wagoner examines his opponent’s cards, creatures that couldn’t stand up to the Robot army.
Bosley fought back in Game 2, with Kataki, War’s Wage constraining Wagoner’s mana enough to take the game and send the pair into the decider.
And in that decider it was Wagoner’s flying army that took control, sailing over the heads of Bosley’s company and sending the Affinity player — along with Darien Elderfield, the other quarterfinal winner — into the semis.