Top Moments of Grand Prix Washington D.C. 2018

Posted in Event Coverage on May 28, 2018

By Meghan Wolff

Meghan is one half of the podcast Magic the Amateuring and an adjunct professor at Tolarian Community College. She loves Limited, likes Modern, and dips her toes into each Standard season. She's decidedly blue and is the #1 hater of Siege Rhino in the Multiverse.

Of our original 539 teams, 69 returned on Day 2 to build another trio of Dominaria Team Sealed decks and battle through six more rounds, vying for a place in the Top 4. Across the hall, another set of teams queue up for the Team Limited PTQ. GP DC is the final weekend in which players can qualify for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, whether that's via the main event or the PTQ, and teams are eager for a chance at an invite.

At the start of the day, familiar names dotted the top of the GP standings, with two undefeated teams - Tiu/Shenhar/Stráský and Nelson/Braun-Duin/Müller - leading the pack, and a suite of passionate and skilled competitors are hot on their heels.

The feature matches reflected the depth of talent and skill in the room at GP DC, as pairings like Cox/Scott-Vargas/Baeckstrom versus Damo Da Rosa/Froehlich/Stark and Rubin/Hayne/Sigrist versus Kassis/Soorani/Walker hit the feature match area.

As the day progressed, players jockeyed for position, with other talented teams like Jůza/Nakamura/Burkhart, finalists of last years Grand Prix Cleveland, Saito/Lévy/Dezani, Cox/Scott-Vargas/Baeckstrom, and Turtenwald/Jensen/Duke holding place at the top of the standings.

The Top Four

In the end, however, only four teams could move on to the Team Draft. Those teams, packed with pro players, were Oliver Tiu, Shahar Shenhar, and Ondřej Stráský, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Eric Froehlich, and Ben Stark, Brad Nelson, Brian Braun-Duin, and Martin Müller, and Andrew Tenjum, Petr Sochůrek, and Peter Ingram.

Tenjum, Sochůrek, and Ingram were a surprise team amongst a Top 4 of consistent friends and teammates. Though they're all individually accomplished players, they didn't exactly plan on being a team in DC.

The team's origin story was in a handful of tweets bringing together the three players, since they were all without team heading into the tournament. Sochůrek walked into the hall on Saturday morning and started asking if people knew what Tenjum and Ingram looked like, since he didn't know. But that didn't keep them from the Top 4.

It was a tight semifinals match between Tiu/Shenhar/Stráský and Damo da Rosa/Froehlich/Stark. Stráský's team was on the back foot and the end of the second game between him and Stark was looming when Stráský squeaked out a win with, of all things, Healing Grace.

His team was still down a match, however, Froehlich having quickly dispatched Shenhar, and Stráský's win only tied him with Stark. Ultimately, Damo da Rosa/Froehlich/Stark defeated Tiu/Froehlich/Stark in two matches to one.

On the other side of the feature match area, Brad Nelson, Brian Braun-Duin, and Martin Müller faced Andrew Tenjum, Petr Sochůrek, and Peter Ingram.

With Martin Müller already down a match, Nelson had to win his to keep the team's chance at the finals alive. Across the table, Tenjum had a board full of non-legendary Torgaars, thanks to Helm of the Host, and leaving Nelson having to hit Tenjum for 10 exactly to kill him, since Torgaar could otherwise continue to reset Tenjum's life total.

With Nelson's match in hand, it came down to the match between Petr Sochůrek and Brian Braun-Duin. While Braun-Duin took game one, Sochůrek evened the score in game two. In game three, Sochůrek generated a seemingly endless stream of value with a pair of Ghitu Chroniclers and a Soul Salvage, but he finished the game with a more flair.

With that, it was on to the finals for Tenjum/Sochůrek/Ingram and Damo da Rosa/Froehlich/Stark.

In the B seat, Helm of the Host headlined Froehlich's deck, which faced off against a hyper-aggressive build from Sochůrek. Game one came down to a race between the two, with attacks that threatened to finish one another off in a turn or two.

But Sochůrek got his revenge in a game three that looked incredibly similar to the first.

It was Peter Ingram, however, who closed out the finals for his team. It was his turn to kick a Josu Vess and overwhelm Ben Stark's board.

Congratulations to new friends and new Grand Prix Washington DC champions Andrew Tenjum, Petr Sochůrek, and Peter Ingram!

Building with Kassis/Soorani/Walker

Eli Kassis, Shaheen Soorani, and Noah Walker placed ninth at GP Columbus one month ago, and today placed sixth at GP DC. Clearly, they're doing something right, even as the understandings of Dominaria Limited have shifted and changed in the month between the two events.

"I think after the first Grand Prix we figured some stuff out," Soorani said. "We used to think white-black was a mandatory build deck. I think coming in, white-black was a preconceived archetype, and now, I don't think it is."

"So far we've been forcing blue-red, and we like it," Kassis added. "And the blue-red decks have been very different, like the cards are all differently, but they still play very similarly."

"The mainstay of the blue-red decks has been Ghitu Chronicler at two mana and then the 4/3 at four," Walker said. "And then whatever other cards we have."

"The blue-red deck from yesterday and from today, there's probably a fifteen card difference, and that's a lot," said Kassis.

"And then the third deck has been a wildcard deck every time," Walker added. "We currently have a blue-white evasion deck. Before, we had a red-white aggro deck.

"I think that there's a white Dub deck," Kassis said, looking for the through line in the team's white-based decks.

"White, and the cards you have to play with it," Walker offered.

When building, the team looks for each deck to have what Kassis called "a win strategy, and a not-lose strategy."

"I think those are the two most important things," he continued. "Have protection, and then have something to go over the top."

"I always look for like, hexproof turtle and On Serra's Wings," Soorani countered. "I like the gimmicky stuff too, the synergistic stuff. Saproling synergies, hexproof synergies. I want to put like, three equipment on that card."

Evolving Archetypes

Grand Prix Columbus, exactly one month ago, was also a Dominaria Team Limited event. There's often only one of these for any given set, but leading up to Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, more team events are on the docket, and, because of that, there's an unusual opportunity to look at how the deck building process has evolved.

In Columbus, white-blue decks focusing on fliers backed up by key removal or tempo spells and black-red decks heavy on removal were prominent at the top tables. Notably, blue-red and black-green decks were in attendance, but not as common as other, more popular color pairs.

You can read more about that event here.

At Grand Prix Dallas-Fort Worth, we saw a slew of White-Black decks go undefeated both in Sealed and Draft, capitalizing on those colors' suite of removal spells plus powerful rares and uncommons like Serra Angel and Arvad the Cursed. Two of the five undefeated players on Day 1 played white-black (with the others more inclined to play three-color Sealed decks). Of the eight draft decks of the four undefeated drafters, five were white-black.

You can read more about that event here.

So, in the intervening weeks, how has the Dominaria Sealed format evolved?

For one, almost every team had a blue-red deck of some kind, whether it focused on getting back instants and sorceries with Ghitu Chronicler, casting efficient 4/3 creatures for four mana, kicking Fight with Fire, or taking advantage of wizard synergies.

One of the clear winners from the shifting takes on Dominaria is Cold-Water Snapper. In the removal-heavy world of Team Sealed, this weekend the sizable turtle was a favorite pick for players looking to establish a dominant board presence in the late game. It also wears Dominaria's many quality auras and equipments well. For some, that means getting fancy with On Serra's Wings, but other times, it's a simple Arcane Flight that gets the job done.

Taking a look at the Day 2 Sealed decks from six of the top eight teams, Blue-Red was the deck of choice, with four copies out of eighteen total decks. White-Blue and Green-White followed, with three copies each. Red-White and Green-Blue were completely absent, while Black-Red was present only in the Grixis deck Luis Scott-Vargas played.

More Dominaria Sealed lies ahead, at Grand Prix Las Vegas, where we'll discover if the format has shifted yet again, or if the roomful of pros at GP DC cracked the format.

Out on the floor, we asked pro players Ari Lax and Corey Burkhart about their favorite color pairs in Dominaria, and they were willing to give some credit to the ones left out of these top eight decklists.

Video Highlights

If for no other reason, watch these clips to see some pro players cast cards that you've probably been told to never put in your Dominaria Limited decks.

In Round 10, Ben Stark looked to be losing a game to Noah Walker, as Walker made a swing for lethal, but in an instant Stark was able to stem the bleeding, at least for the moment.

Round 12, Reid Duke redefined "curving out" in Limited, causing Marshall to wonder "is this real??"

Unrelated, Duke later told the story of saving a bird.

"The bird is safe and sound and living a happy life with all of his bird friends."

Daniel Grafensteiner and William Jensen were locked in a tense game one, with Grafensteiner drawing multiple counterspells from Jensen as he tried to land a threat that would close the game. Finally, that threat resolved – one of Dominaria's lesser-seen rares.

In Round 14 Luis Scott-Vargas cast a Precognition Field. That's all. Presumably he did it more than once, but this is the one he can't deny because it is on camera.

That's only a fraction of the action from the floor of Grand Prix Washington DC. Catch the full replay at twitch.tv/magic, and join us live for more events in the future!

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