More than 1,500 players showed up to Washington D.C. to see off Standard. With Battle for Zendikar and Shadows Over Innistrad blocks set to rotate later this month as Ixalan enters the format, it was an open question what that format would look like as we played through one more event.
Outside of the cards, there were plenty of storylines running through the Grand Prix. From the incredible run that brothers Brad Nelson and Corey Baumeister had going – back-to-back Top 8 appearances alongside each other – all eyes were on the pair. They didn't disappoint, and neither did the Grand Prix. Here are the stories that stood out from the weekend.
More Than a Tournament
Magic Grand Prix are about than just the main event, and the rise of cosplay in the last few years highlights that the game is more than just a series of wins and losses to so many who make their way out to the event.
Is all of that just an excuse to show off some of the awesome cosplay on display at Grand Prix Washington D.C.? Maybe, but that’s not going to stop me!
The Sibling Story Continues
I may eventually get tired of writing about how entertaining and genuinely wholesome watching the story of Nelson and Baumeister’s combined hot streak unfold has been, but when you’re watching history you just have to let it happen. Not only was the duo’s run to the Top 4 of Grand Prix Denver – along with Brian Braun-Duin – with the three players all on the same 75 unprecedented in Grand Prix history, it was a joy to watch.
To say it’s been a good run for the brothers would be an understatement.
But even that was just another of many parts of this streak, which stretches back to Nelson winning a Star City Games Open without losing a match three months ago. He followed that up with another perfect run on his way to the Grand Prix Omaha title the next week. Just a few weeks later he and Baumeister joined the Magic pantheon of "siblings making the same Top 8," rare territory in itself.
Then came Denver, when they did it again. Then came this weekend at Grand Prix Washington D.C., where this basically sums it up.
Well I finished 8-1 at #GPDC, and somehow not the better brother on the day.— Brad Nelson (@fffreakmtg) September 2, 2017
And yet, somehow, this story gets even better. Nelson fell off midway through Day 2, but Baumeister – who entered the weekend just behind his brother at the top of the Player of the Year race – made an improbable run all the way to the semifinals of the tournament, his third straight Standard Grand Prix Top 8.
“I just can’t believe it," it all he could say as he rushed to give Nelson a hug upon locking up his Top 8 berth.
One thing I’ve learned: the Magic world is theirs right now. The rest of us are just living in it.
Standard is More Diverse than Ever
It’s almost a pity this Standard format that arrived with Hour of Devastation will be gone when Ixalan drops in a few weeks, because it’s been a blast to play and watch. Nothing made that more clear than the perfect endcap to the format here in D.C.
I can already tell I'm going to miss this Standard. 7 decks in Top 8 & all of them unique. Flashback MTGO Standard in 5 years will be fun!— Corbin Hosler (@Chosler88) September 3, 2017
(You can find the Top 8 decklists here).
Seven different decks in the Top 8. Moreover, each is a distinct archetype with highly different strategies, from all-out aggro in Ramunap Red to the midrange powerhouse that is Mardu Vehicles, to the turbo ramp strategy of Green-White Ramp, to whatever it is you call Mono-White Eldrazi, the deck that took Baumeister to his third straight Top 8, just two weeks after seemingly unleashing the power of Temur Energy on the format. From the pure gameending power of Archangel Avacyn to the “combo” of Eldrazi Displacer and… well, just about anything, but specifically Thought-Knot Seer blinks in an opponent’s draw step, the deck can operate on a variety of angles. It was the breakout deck of the weekend, and is a fitting exit for the Eldrazi of Oath of the Gatewatch.
But that wasn’t all. Green-White Ramp entered the fray this weekend, with players ramping to Approach of the Second Sun, while Blue-Red Control dipped into black in order to take advantage of the new finisher of choice: The Scarab God. Perhaps nothing illustrates this point better than the fact that of the 14 decks that won trials on Friday of the Grand Prix, there were 11 distinct archetypes among the winners. And none of that includes the Blue-Black Control deck that took down Grand Prix Turin earlier in the weekend.
“Standard hasn’t been this wide open in a very long time," explained Dan Ward. “Right now, Standard is like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: you know what’s coming – you’re going to see Snoopy and mono-red – you just don’t know when it’s coming."
The Magic Online Flashback Standard queue a few years down the road is going to be a fun one.
Single Card Spotlight: Hour of Promise
The Eldrazi, as they do, exploded onto the scene last year with the release of Oath of the Gatewatch. And while the set will always be remembered for its immediate and format-defining impact on Modern, many of the otherworldly behemoths of the set were largely passed over in Standard, save for a brief period where Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger was allowed to team up with Aetherworks Marvel and six energy.
But an unassuming sorcery from Hour of Devastation changed all that. Enter Hour of Promise.
It’s nothing to turn your head at on first glance. Five mana for two lands? It’s not often you want to ramp with your five-mana spell, so why would anyone expect the card to make a splash?
But Hour of Promise does something we’re not used to seeing from ramp – it allows its caster to get any two lands out of their deck. That means Shrine of the Forsaken Gods is fair game, and just so happens to curve perfectly into Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger on the following turn – often with a pair of Zombies left behind by the Hour of Promise.
It was the centerpiece of one of Standard’s newest decks – Green-White Ramp. Collins Mullen finished the swiss tied atop the standings with the strategy, and it certainly served him well in the Top 8, as he tore through the midrange decks it was designed to beat – not to mention a Round 15 victory over the “fun check” deck of the format in Ramunap Red.
Severa Does it Again
Matt Severa is no stranger to playing Mardu Vehicles. After all, as he wrote in his Top 8 profile, it’s the only deck he’s been playing for the past nine months. And it’s certainly served him well in that time, including launching him to a Grand Prix title in Denver last year.
Matt Severa already has one Grand Prix title under his belt with Mardu Vehicles, and was looking to run it back in DC.
Another thing he wrote on that profile, when asked what this Top 8 means to him? That it was “Pro Points and $$$." But the truth is there was much more riding on this weekend. It was, after all, his wife’s birthday.
We should all be so lucky.
With his wife’s support, nothing could stop Severa. He picked up a loss early but steamrolled his way to the Top 8, piloting an expertly built version of the Mardu Vehicles deck that saw a resurgence this weekend. He knocked off Bolun Zhang in the Top 8 before taking out Yuxuan Zhu in the semifinals.
That set up a finals match against Collins Mullen, who was battling with the Green-White Deck that is a newcomer to Standard and had dispatched many a midrange deck on the weekend. But after dropping the opener, Severa won an extended and exiting game two before ending things with a flourish: a turn four kill in the decider to win it all.
Congrats to Matt Severa, the Grand Prix Washington D.C. champion!