The Undefeated

Posted in Event Coverage on December 3, 2016

By Marc Calderaro and Hallie Santo

Five players finished Day 1 at Grand Prix Denver with perfect records, and no one encapsulated the feeling of going 9-0 better than Kris Hopkins. “I feel really good,” he said after a deep exhale. The Portland native confessed that this was his first time winning more than four rounds at a Grand Prix, but he’s been pushing himself to travel more and play tighter over the course of the year.

Hopkins piloted R/G Aetherworks, the breakout deck of the tournament. He thought the deck would be popular, but still felt comfortable bringing it to Denver. “I really like to play midrange decks, and this one happens to have a turn four Emrakul combo,” he said with a grin.

Sixth-ranked pro Steve Rubin also brought an Aetherworks Marvel deck this weekend. As we discussed earlier today, Rubin believes the Marvel deck will cement itself as the third pillar of the format after this weekend. His version of the deck included a blue splash for Whirler Virtuoso, which helps keep aggressive opponents at bay. Rubin was victorious against W/U Flash after a long final round, and he seems confident that he can continue his streak tomorrow.

The big two decks have endured, however, as one B/G Delirium player and one W/U Flash pilot made it through the day unscathed. The former, Nebraska native Tyler Heule, still believes that B/G Delirium is the best deck in the format and puts all his trust in Ishkanah, Grafwidow. While his travel buddies opted to play with Reflector Mage and Archangel Avacyn, Heule stuck to his guns and brought the deck he’d been playing for over a month.

The W/U Flash player, Rob Pisano, was confident in his choice for the weekend as well. “W/U is a deck that really rewards good play,” he said. “There’s never a game where you feel like you’re totally out of it.” Pisano’s spotless record against a variety of decks is a testament to his tight play today, particularly in a tough ninth-round match against U/R Control.

This is the Grand Prix Indianapolis finalist’s first 9-0 Day 1 finish, and he admits he had a good feeling about this tournament. “I’m staying with Dan Ward this weekend, and I told him that I was going to 9-0,” he admitted.

Oh, and third-ranked Seth Manfield is 9-0? What a shocker. The last time Manfield went undefeated after the first day, he was asked how many that made for him. He said, “I have no idea.” The man had literally lost countbeforethis time—he’s lost count +1, at least! Now he just looks like he’s going for style points, coasting with Ben Weitz’s wacky Panharmonicon build.

“You just have so much card advantage. You’re going to win the late game,” the unstoppable machine said. “You can fight through multiple Emrakuls, whatever.”

Though the last round against Arthur Peck was a barn-burner—with “multiple Archangel Avacyn’s flipping, multiple Westvale Abbeys flipping ... I’m pretty sure he drew all four Avacyns,” Manfield said—the win-waker took his rightful place at 9-0, yet again, and is ready to close tomorrow.

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