Top Stories of Grand Prix Copenhagen 2017

Posted in Event Coverage on May 28, 2017

By Tobi Henke

With 1,815 competitors in total, Grand Prix Copenhagen was a big show and a number of big stories came out of the weekend too. This was the first weekend of Amonkhet being played in Modern at the Grand Prix level, so naturally all eyes were on the changes Magic's latest release brought to the format ...

Death's ShadowStill on Top?

Yes, but only barely. Particularly the version hailed by many as the consensus best deck, Jund with some white cards in the sideboard, didn't post a Top 8 finish this weekend, neither here in Copenhagen nor at Grand Prix Kobe. The playoffs of both events featured one Grixis version each, while Gunnar Geißler reached the quarterfinals with an old-school variant: Death's Shadow Zoo, employing Wild Nacatl, Monastery Swiftspear, Lightning Bolt, and Mutagenic Growth!

Gunnar Geißler

Geißler dispensed with the discard package usually found in Death's Shadow lists nowadays and took a decidedly different route. "It's fast," he said about his build, and when asked about the best card in his main deck he replied with: "Tribal Flames. 5 out of nowhere!"

In the end, Death's Shadow still cast a long shadow on the format, but that was likely because the sun shining on it had passed its zenith.

As Foretold, Vizier of Remedies the Big News

As Foretold, the card, was big news on Day 1 and two-time World Champion Shahar Shenhar did end up in 40th place with it. But as many had foretold, the actual biggest influence to come out of Amonkhet turned out to be Vizier of Remedies. Quarterfinalist Michael Steinecke had a full four in his Collected Company deck and there were more just a little further down in the standings.

(13) Martin Jůza even ran a solitary Vizier of Remedies in the Elves deck he reached the Top 16 with, alongside four Devoted Druid. He explained, "Devoted Druid is something you don't mind playing anyway, it's a great lightning rod at least, and two Druids make for an infinite combo with Ezuri, Renegade Leader as well."

Michael Steinecke

Speaking of which, when I talked to Michael Steinecke about his Collected Company deck, he agreed that Ezuri, Renegade Leader might have been a better pick. He was instead relying on Rhonas the Indomitable to convert the infinite amounts of green mana into victory, but said, "I never considered Ezuri. I'll have to think about that. Originally, I had one Walking Ballista in the deck. Until I hit it with Collected Company."

In any case Counters Company did some impressive things this weekend, among other things allowing Steinecke to win an on-camera game on turn three! Yet, in all likelihood, the optimal configuration hadn't even been found.

Modern Wide Open as Always

Probably more so. Not only did eight different archetypes end up in the Top 8 in Copenhagen; the same was true for Grand Prix Kobe and, between the two events this weekend, one would find fourteen different strategies making the playoffs!

Not to mention all the crazy stuff which didn't quite reach the higher echelons of either tournament, but proved viable anyway. For just a small taste, check out the following lists:

Duncan Tang's Splinter Twin, 11-3-1

Download Arena Decklist

Björn Andreasson's Four-Color Copycat, 11-3-1

Download Arena Decklist

Thoralf Severin's Esper Shadow, 11-3-1

Download Arena Decklist

Rasmus Mellanen's Madcap Experiment, 11-4

Download Arena Decklist

Michal Szwebs's Spirits, 11-4

Download Arena Decklist

Marc Tobiasch's Esper Goryo's Vengeance Control, 11-4

Download Arena Decklist


Points Accumulating

It was that time of the year again. The Professional Season drawing to its close. When players could be found hunting for those elusive final Pro Points to secure certain levels in the Pro Players Club, jockeying for positions in the various races for World Championship and World Magic Cup invites.

(13) Martin Jůza celebrated "the extra point I needed for Platinum," while fellow Czech and fellow Pro Tour Aether Revolt quarterfinalist Jan Ksandr lamented another near miss. "This is the third Grand Prix in a row where I finish X-5. X-4 would have given me the one point I'm missing to make Gold."

(17) Martin Müller

(17) Martin Müller, meanwhile, earned five points and went to 43, which did a lot for keeping the hope for another year at Platinum alive. Finally, Mattia Rizzi increased his season total by seven points, securing Gold status and jumping two places in the Italian race for the World Magic Cup captaincy where he was now trailing the leader by just two points.

Stranded with the Wrong Card, and the Wrong Matchup

If one only looked at the Top 8 decklists, one might reasonably wonder why Mattia Rizzi was running four Flooded Strand and zero Scalding Tarn in his Grixis deck ...

"What can I say? I slept for one hour, submitted my decklist at 8 o'clock yesterday morning," Rizzi explained his error with a sheepish grin on his face. "At least I didn't get a game loss."

It wasn't the only disadvantage Rizzi had to overcome on his way to victory. By all accounts, his opponent in the finals Cristian Ortiz Ros was heavily favored. As expert commentator and Pro Tour champion Simon Görtzen put it: "One of the reasons to play Living End is its good matchup versus Death's Shadow."

Mattia Rizzi

Rizzi himself said, "It's probably the worst matchup for me—in all of Modern. Dredge is fine because I have Surgical Extraction, but here it doesn't work. I mean, if he draws Living End and I can make him discard it, then Extraction is great. I have one Nihil Spellbomb and Stubborn Denial, but well, I guess I'll just have to win because this is my tournament, right?"

Against All Odds

In the first game of the finals, Rizzi used discard spells and Stubborn Denial to delay the inevitable. Meanwhile, he cycled two Street Wraith and hit two Snapcaster Mage with Thought Scour. He even managed to get one hit in with Death's Shadow to put Cristian Ortiz Ros at 9, and shoved his own creature into the graveyard with Fatal Push when Living End finally struck.

This meant Rizzi had five creatures on the battlefield afterward, not much worse than Ortiz Ros's six, and Street Wraith's swampwalk allowed Rizzi to take the lead.

The second game began with Leyline of the Void from Ortiz Ros, which disabled huge swaths of Rizzi's strategy. However, Ortiz Ros drew one Living End, another Leyline, Ricochet Trap, too many lands and cascade spells ... and found himself with way too few cyclers to follow his deck's usual script.

Eventually, under attack from a pair of Snapcaster Mages, Ortiz Ros had to use up his third Living End just to stay alive. He almost managed to turn the game around anyway, casting creatures from his hand. Ortiz Ros was at 4 life, facing another Snapcaster Mage and making progress with one large specimen, when he summoned the mighty Simian Spirit Guide as a crucial blocker. Rizzi drew for what would be the final turn of the tournament—and slammed Collective Brutality, getting rid of the blocker and of another 2 points of life in one fell swoop. And that was that.

Congratulations to Mattia Rizzi, champion of Grand Prix Copenhagen 2017!

"Here you had two streamlined decks, turned into these bumbling brawlers, but in a really fun way," Tim Willoughby commentated that final game. "Suddenly it was 2/1 flash creatures on one side versus mediocre draft commons on the other."

"If you were to explain the decks Living End and Grixis Death's Shadow to someone, it certainly wouldn't sound anything like this."

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