Day 1 Highlights of Grand Prix Copenhagen 2018

Posted in Event Coverage on June 9, 2018

By Frank Karsten

Last weekend, Goblin Chainwhirler dominated Pro Tour Dominaria . Seven of the Top 8 decks all played four copies, and the one deck without Goblin Chainwhirler faced a quick defeat in the quarterfinals. This weekend, the 753 main event competitors in Copenhagen faced the challenge of attacking the current Standard metagame. Earlier today, I went around the event hall and asked several Standard veterans the most important question of the weekend: How to beat the Goblin Chainwhirler decks?

What Did the Pros Do?

From the starting field of 753 players, 17 were Gold or Platinum members of the Pro Players Club or members of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. Out of these 17 three-bye players, 5 played triple-red cards themselves, either in a mono-red or a black-red shell.

One of them was Simon Nielsen, who had won Grand Prix Birmingham just a few weeks ago with R/B Chainwhirler. When asked for the reason behind the recent dominance of the red decks, he highlighted their flexibility: "You have so many good options that can play both defense and offense up the curve. Chainwhirler was the final missing piece for a red shell that was already really good but lacking good three-drops and a way to enable Heart of Kiran."

Meanwhile, the vast majority of the three-bye pros were trying to beat the Goblin Chainwhirler decks. Yet the deck choices of these 12 players were varied: There were 3 W/U Control players, 2 Esper Control players, 2 Steel Leaf Stompy players, and a bunch of brews. Based on the diversity in their deck choices, it appeared that there was no one obvious deck that could squash the red menace. Instead, it seemed like there were a bunch of viable options, and it was perhaps more important to tweak your creature base or removal suite with the metagame in mind.

Avoid One-Toughness Creatures

  • Llanowar Elves
  • Bomat Courier
  • Toolcraft Exemplar
  • Earthshaker Khenra
  • Glint-Sleeve Siphoner

One-toughness creatures are a liability when a large part of the field is packing 4 Goblin Chainwhirler. As a result, players were adjusting their decks and strategies in three different ways.

First, several players cut one-toughness creatures from their deck. Grand Prix Turn 2017 finalist Leon van der Linden, for example, cut Toolcraft Exemplar from his W/B Benalia deck because he didn't want to lose it against an opposing Chainwhirler. And Grand Prix Rimini 2016 champion Arne Huschenbeth opted for Scrapheap Scrounger over Earthshaker Khenra in his red aggro deck.

Second, players who still had one-toughness creatures in their main deck would often board them out against Goblin Chainwhirler decks. The most common example was Bomat Courier. It's still nice to have it in your 75 because it's pretty good against control decks, but red players would usually board it out in the mirror match. One exception to this rule is Llanowar Elves: according to No. 17 Martin Juza, Steel Leaf Stompy players shouldn't board out Llanowar Elves even against Goblin Chainwhirler decks. As he explained, if you can tap it for two mana before Goblin Chainwhirler comes down, then that mana boost is still worthwhile, and red opponents lack an early Goblin Chainwhirler about 50% of the time.

The third and final way that players were adjusting in a Goblin Chainwhirler world was to sometimes delay their one-toughness creatures. "Don't play Glint-Sleeve Siphoner on turn 2," was the recommendation of Grand Prix regular Bram Meulders. "When your opponent starts with a Mountain, hold it until turn 4."

Bring Good Blockers

  • Thrashing Brontodon
  • Ripjaw Raptor
  • Steel Leaf Champion
  • Shalai, Voice of Plenty
  • Lyra Dawnbringer

When the Deck to Beat features cards like Abrade, Goblin Chainwhirler, and Scrapheap Scrounger, creatures with 4 or more toughness rise in value. The best ones can be found in green and white, and we saw several players try their luck with white Angels or green Dinosaurs.

"Ripjaw Raptor is pretty good against Goblin Chainwhirler," Gold pro Pierre Dagen told me. Indeed, enrage is a sweet way to turn the tables. When Goblin Chainwhirler gives free cards to the opposing player, it suddenly doesn't look as appealing anymore.

Bring the Right Removal

  • Magma Spray
  • Sweltering Suns
  • Vraska's Contempt
  • The Eldest Reborn
  • Hour of Devastation

To succeed in the current Standard, you need the right answers against the key threats. Magma Spray is excellent against Scrapheap Scrounger; Sweltering Suns is the best possible sweeper against a red player who curves out; and Hour of Devastation is an underplayed sweeper. As a result, we saw a rise in red control decks, and a few Goblin Chainwhirler players even included Hour of Devastation in their sideboard to bring in for the mirror match on the draw.

But the removal spell that Grand Prix competitors praised the most for the current metagame was Vraska's Contempt. It doesn't matter whether it's Hazoret the Fervent, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, or Rekindling Phoenix—all of red four-drops are answered cleanly by Vraska's Contempt, and it gets even better with Torrential Gearhulk. "Vraska's Contempt is the best card, and Torrential Gearhulk catches you right up," streamer Matthew Foulkes said at the beginning of the day. "If people become more midrangy, then this deck is insane." It sounded good in theory, and a bunch of Esper Control players made Day Two, but Foulkes himself went 0-3 drop. We'll reserve judgment on his Esper Control list for now.

Beat Them With Their Own Hazoret

Thoralf Severin was retelling the story of Nicol Bolas' death and resurrection.

One of the sweetest decks to come out of Day One here in Copenhagen revolved all around The Eldest Reborn. For three-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Thoralf Severin, it was clear that he wanted to play 4 copies in his main deck: "I think it's just an insane card. It removes, it kills, it's a win condition. And nothing feels better than getting their Hazoret the Fervent or Teferi, Hero of Dominaria."

He included the card in a red-black control shell that looked unlike anything else in the format. His list had access to Magma Spray and Vraska's Contempt to ensure his opponent couldn't just sacrifice Scrapheap Scrounger to The Eldest Reborn, and he surprised many opponents with his card choices and win conditions. "The deck doesn't even play many win conditions because you just win with their creatures." His off-the-wall deck choice worked out well for him, as Severin went 7-1 today.

Thoralf Severin's B/R Control – Grand Prix Copenhagen 2018

Download Arena Decklist
Sideboard (15)
1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury 1 Doomfall 2 Arguel's Blood Fast // Temple of Aclazotz 3 Chandra's Defeat 3 Duress 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner 1 Sorcerous Spyglass

Ignore Their Board and Combo Off

Gold pro and Pro Tour Ixalan Top 8 competitor Marc Tobiasch is one of the best deck builders in the game right now.

Marc Tobiasch never disappoints when it comes to sweet brews. He played Mono-Red Flame at the Pro Tour, and this weekend his deck was even crazier: He registered a combo deck that aimed to exploit a bunch of zero-mana artifacts, including Dominaria's Mox Amber, with Paradoxical Outcome and Inspiring Statuary. Eventually, he would win the game with Aetherflux Reservoir.

He told me that even though the strategy was already legal a year ago, the metagame was finally right for it. "First, the metagame was hostile with Saheeli Rai combos. Then, Rampaging Ferocidon made it impossible to play the deck. But right now, there is a lot of creature removal being played, the aggro decks aren't as fast right now—Toolcraft Exemplar isn't played anymore because of Goblin Chainwhirler—and everyone who tries to beat the Chainwhirler decks are byes."

Tobiasch previously found success with this strategy in the Magic Online Championship Series, and today he went 6-2. On top of all that, "it's just fun to play."

Marc Tobiasch's Paradoxical Storm – Grand Prix Copenhagen 2018

Download Arena Decklist

Go Undefeated

Although we've seen several ways to attack the Goblin Chainwhirler decks, the best strategy is simply to win every single match. At the end of the day, 7 players reached the finish line with undefeated 8-0 records. Congratulations to Jakob Kirkebjerg, Christian Aahlstroem, Love Rask, (10) Javier Dominguez, Markku Anttila, Lukas Blohon (pictured above, left to right) as well as Tobias Maurer (not pictured)!

Day One's undefeated decks include four Goblin Chainwhirler decks (three red-black and one mono-red) and three blue decks (W/U Control, Esper Control, and U/B Midrange). 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 the Copenhagen Bella Center. The 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. Some of them were already highlighted in this article, but they're only scratching the surface.

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