Wow was it a wild ride! Wow, wow, wow. I know that might not make for the best start to an article, but who cares?! Grand Prix Denver, the Top 8, and Hour of Devastation Standard have made for a weekend that will go into the annals of Magic Grand Prix-dom. The Top 8 will be one of the most remembered Grand Prix Top 8s in history!
But, you know what, there was plenty that happened before we all got to the incredible elimination rounds.
Here's what went down at Grand Prix Denver:
Standard is Great Again
After fits and starts (and some more fits) Standard is back on track. It's out of the pit area and roaring down the track once more—hopefully full throttle all the way through the checkered flag.
Though the Pro Tour Hour of Devastation–dominating Ramunap Red seemed to be unbeatable, and maybe only by the Zombies deck which is almost tuned to beat it—tons of decks have begun to show both those decks the door.
Red and Black were still in pole position as the most-converting decks at the Grand Prix, but they are not without some fierce competition.
Day 2 Metagame – Decks Starting 7-2 or better
|Archetype||7-2 or better||% of ≥7-2 field|
|Temur Energy (w/ Scarab God)||10||7.0%|
|Jeskai God-Pharaoh's Gift||6||4.2%|
|White-Blue God-Pharaoh's Gift||5||3.5%|
So there were already some changes at the top tables. Mardu Vehicles of all decks put up strong numbers, as did a re-formed God-Pharaoh's Gift deck. This iteration played the standout cards from Red like Insolent Neonate and Cathartic Reunion that seemed to give the deck the push it needed. But even the older White-Blue version also had some good representation as well.
Things start to look even clearer when we collapse the archetypes down a bit.
|Collapsed Archetypes||7-2 or better||% of ≥7-2 field|
|Temur Energy All||19||13.3%|
|God-Pharaoh's Gift decks||11||7.7%|
|Approach of the Second Sun decks||7||4.9%|
|Blue-Red Control All||7||4.9%|
|Ulamog Ramp decks||7||4.9%|
And if you collapsed all the Approach the Second Sun control decks with the Blue-Red Control, they make up almost 10% of the field.
Though proactive, linear, creature-based decks still hoover up over 40% of the field, there's ton of variety within that 60%.
"All the top decks are beatable," said Denver Finalist and World Champion Brian Braun-Duin, "and that's exactly where you want a format to be."
I mean, check out a snapshot of the match-ups from Round 13. These were all the match-ups that were still live for Top 8 at the time.
|Deck #1||Deck #2|
|Temur Energy (Scarab God)||Ramunap Red|
|Temur Energy||Green-White Ramp|
|Temur Energy||Ramunap Red|
|Temur Energy||Blue-Red Control|
|Ramunap Red||Blue-Red Control (BOLAS!)|
|Jeskai God-Pharaoh's Gift||Mardu Vehicles|
|Mardu Vehicles||White-Black Tokens|
|Temur Energy||Ramunap Red|
|Temur Energy||Temur Energy (Scarab)|
|Jeskai God-Pharaoh's Gift||Ramunap Red|
|Ramunap Red||Blue-Red Control|
|Black-Green Constrictor||White-Blue Monument|
|Ramunap Red||Jund Energy|
Not too shabby. And was that a White-Black Tokens in there?! Yes it was. It was played by Alex Sittner, and it's published in the Top 32 decklists article .
And for reference, before we move on, here's the "OTHER" breakdown.
Breaking Down the OTHER
|Archetype||7-2 or better||% of ≥7-2 field|
|Blue-Red Control with Bolas||2||1.4%|
|Temur Eldrazi Ramp||1||0.7%|
Throughout the weekend people stayed engaged on social media, often on Twitter with the hashtag #GPDEN. There were a couple worth highlighting
(9) Seth Manfield's Regret
In some of the best side-by-side tweets, former World Champion ninth-ranked Seth Manfield showed us hubris, and then the crash to reality.
Friends: "You are crazy for playing Ramunap Red in this field" Me: Bring it! #GPDEN— Seth Manfield (@SethManfield) August 19, 2017
Friends must be right lost to horses #GPDEN— Seth Manfield (@SethManfield) August 19, 2017
The "Horses" Manfield's referring to is the White-Black Crested Sunmare deck that people have affectionately been calling "Horse Tribal." The deck completely slaughters Ramunap Red, burying it in lifegain, but has trouble against most of the other decks.
Manfield's read on the format was that the red hate would have died down, but sadly it was only his creatures that died, with his tournament along with them.
Pro Tour Hour of Devastation Semifinalist Yam Wing Chun Knows Your Pain
Much to the chagrin of Hong Kong's Yam Wing Chun, it will be a long time before we forget the misplay that cost him a Pro Tour finals appearance. "Yammy" had a fantastic weekend in Kyoto, but it came crashing down when he was about to win an unwinnable game.
But now that the tough emotions are behind him, he can laugh about the whole thing, as he did when he saw someone at the next table making his same mistake fateful misplay.
It's great to know Yam has a good head about all this stuff.
The Kiefer Call-Out from the Bash Bros.
At this point most Grand Prix regulars know the Kiefers. A trio of amazing brothers who grind the circuit, with their fantastic mother in tow—who loves it when her kids are doing pretty well, but turns into a nervous wreck when they do really well. (It's very sweet, actually.)
After Brad Nelson and Corey Baumeister became the first brothers in this history of Magic to both Top 8 consecutive Grand Prix, Baumeister called out the Kiefer brothers in his Top 8 Profile, and Nelson did the same on Twitter.
I'm just going to say it, those Keifer bros got some big shoes to fill. #GPDen— Brad Nelson (@fffreakmtg) August 20, 2017
Top 8 for the Ages
Ok, let's get to it already. Check out this Top 8:
Though I could talk about John Rolf running back his Grand Prix Cleveland Top 4 with Team Fire Squad; or talk about how Sam Pardee just got his thirteenth Grand Prix Top 8; or about Zach Kiihne killing it for Team Cardhoarder.
But no. History will not remember those things. I mean, I and Brian David-Marshall will, but there were two matches that consumed the collective Magic universe for a few hours, and will be looked back on for a lifetime. Those were why this was a Top 8 for the ages.
Prologue: The List
Before we get to the matches themselves, let's talk about the trio in the middle of that picture above: (7) Brad Nelson, Brian Braun-Duin, and Corey Baumeister.
Just a few days ago, Nelson was in the dumps about this whole tournament because he didn't know what to play.
Who wants to hear about how I have no clue what to play at #GPDEN, and wish I wasn't going anymore?— Brad Nelson (@fffreakmtg) August 18, 2017
His partner in format-breaking, World Champion Braun-Duin gave Nelson,and his brother Baumeister the Temur Energy list that got them all in the Top 8.
It wasn't teched out like Magic Online had been doing in the last week—splashing for The Scarab God. It was a solid, interactive, value-laden masterpiece.
They were the only three on that exact version, and the finishes with it were 1st, 2nd, and 4th. The deck was so good, The only deck it lost to in the entirety of the Top 8 was itself.
Let that one sink in for a minute.
Andrew Boncher on Twitter even called us out—joking that we must have made a mistake when we typed up the lists:
Seems to be a mistake, you've listed the same deck for 3 different players.— Andrew Boncher (@ABoncher) August 20, 2017
We sure didn't.
From these three lists and players, the Top 8 brought out two moments that will go down in Magic history. And the second best was the Finals.
(7) Brad Nelson vs. Brian Braun-Duin
This weekend was especially important for Braun-Duin ("BBD"), as he's been running cold for the better part of a year, and had been getting frustrated with his play and his demeanor. Just like Brad wasn't going to play in Denver because he didn't have a deck, Brian wasn't going to play because the flights were expensive and he was down in the dumps.
Just like BBD got Brad here by getting him a list, Brad got BBD here by finding better travel options and picking him up and dusting him off. "I'm the reason he's here, and he's the reason I'm on this deck," Brad said.
They sat down in the finals, both in disbelief that they were the last two people playing, at a tournament almost neither attended.
Brad took down the match and hoisted the trophy, but it really didn't matter at that point. Brad and BBD both left smiling from ear to ear. These two have been dear friends for years, making for one of the happiest finals ever.
The Bash Brothers' Semifinals – Brad Nelson vs. Corey Baumeister
A long time ago, Brad Nelson said how much he loved the "Top Moments" piece at each Grand Prix, but disliked how the last bit was always about the finals and the winner hoisting a trophy. He thought there were sometimes moments at tournaments way better than the Finals, and we should acknowledge them.
Here we are two years later, and for the first time, the ultimate Top Moment will have nothing to do with the finals—and coincidentally it has to do with Nelson.
It was when Nelson faced off against his brother Corey Baumeister in the semifinals. This moment had been building for years.
Corey Baumeister, Planeswalker
Anyone who knows Brad has heard him gush for ages about his brother who's "much better at Magic than he is"—"his intuitive grasp being off the charts"—but he just doesn't play the game as much. When Corey Baumeister started concentrarting on the game, and began putting up results, people got just a glimpse of truth in what Nelson was saying.
Then came Grand Prix Minneapolis two weeks ago, where they both Top 8'ed.
Corey Baumeister and Brad Nelson happy as clams
They were, for the first time in the eyes of the fans, starting to become part of the same unit—the same team. On the same level—what Nelson had been shouting from the rooftops for as long as any of us could remember.
But they didn't get to play each other, and neither of them won—Baumeister lost in the Finals. Grand Prix Minneapolis just whet their and our appetites to see the brothers both succeed, then have nothing left to do but clash.
That's what made Grand Prix Denver so special. Not only was it the first time siblings had both made it to the Top 8 of consecutive Grand Prix events, but in the semifinals, Corey and Brad actually got to face off.
Just like the Finals match, the actual games of Magic were unremarkable. But that didn't matter, we were transfixed. And the brothers were elated to a level they could barely comprehend.
Brad Nelson is rarely at a loss for words. But after this tournament, he walked silently and stoically, holding his trophy by his side. "I really don't know how to process any of this right now," he said softly.
But the second his brother showed up and hugged the living hell out of him, his face lit up—and that was all the processing he needed.
After he left the tournament hall, heading back to his hotel, Brad tweeted this:
Today was a good day. #GPDen— Brad Nelson (@fffreakmtg) August 21, 2017
That was the Top Moment of the weekend—and it had nothing to do with the Finals.