Highlights of Grand Prix Hartford 2018

Posted in Event Coverage on April 16, 2018

By Corbin Hosler

It was a sold-out event in Hartford this weekend, as 1,800 players turned out to battle in Modern. One of Magic's most popular formats – largely for the huge diversity of viable deck archetypes – the format has been a huge draw to the northeast, and the tournament didn’t disappoint.

Big names came to game this weekend, and though most of them fell off by the end of Sunday, there was plenty of excitement to go around. With old decks coming with new technology and new brews finding success, there was something for everyone in Connecticut. From the packed house to a wild finals matchup, it a thrilling event from start to finish – here are the highlights that stood out to us.

Diversity for Days

Nothing sums it up better than this: 15 distinct archetypes in the Top 16.

Deck diversity is what players love about the Modern format, and it’s exactly what they got this weekend. Of the nearly 350 players who made it to Day 2, there were 65 distinct archetypes represented. The only repeat was Bogles, which put two players into the Top 8, though both fell before the finals.

This is what the top of the Day 2 metagame looked like.

I promised the full breakdown, so let’s start at the top. While many of these decks will straddle multiple categories – I’ll let you decide whether Bogles is an aggro or combo deck – here is what the metagame looked like in broad strokes.

Midrange: 121 decks

Aggro: 113 decks

Combo: 72 decks

Control: 40 decks

And, as promised, the full breakdown:

Archetype # %
Affinity 33 0.095
Five-Color Humans 27 0.078
Hollow One 21 0.061
Jund 20 0.058
Mardu Pyromancer 19 0.055
Burn 16 0.046
Jeskai Control 15 0.043
Bogles 12 0.035
Mono-Green Tron 12 0.035
Elves 11 0.032
Blue Moon 9 0.026
Eldrazi Tron 9 0.026
Green-White Company 8 0.023
Grixis Shadow 8 0.023
Storm 8 0.023
Ponza 7 0.02
Bant Knightfall 6 0.017
Red-Green Eldrazi 6 0.017
Titan Shift 6 0.017
White-Blue Control 6 0.017
Ad Nauseam 5 0.015
Amulet Titan 5 0.015
Bant Company 5 0.015
Abzan Company 4 0.012
Jeskai Breach 4 0.012
Merfolk 4 0.012
Bant Spirits 3 0.009
Grishoalbrand 3 0.009
Lantern Control 3 0.009
Blue-Red Kiki-Jiki 2 0.006
Bring to Light Scapeshift 2 0.006
Cheerios 2 0.006
Death and Taxes 2 0.006
Esper Control 2 0.006
Infect 2 0.006
Ironworks Combo 2 0.006
Jeskai CopyCat 2 0.006
Naya Evolution 2 0.006
Naya Zoo 2 0.006
Red-Green Tron 2 0.006
Temur Control 2 0.006
Traverse Shadow 2 0.006
Taking Turns 2 0.006
Eldrazi and Taxes 2 0.006
8-Rack 1 0.003
Abzan 1 0.003
Bant Eldrazi 1 0.003
Black-Green Tron 1 0.003
Bring to Light Kiki-Jiki 1 0.003
Colorless Eldrazi 1 0.003
Dredge 1 0.003
Eldrazi Moon 1 0.003
Enduring Ideal 1 0.003
Five-Color Zoo 1 0.003
Green-White Tron 1 0.003
Grixis Control 1 0.003
Living End 1 0.003
Martyr Proc 1 0.003
Mono-Black Zombies 1 0.003
Monument Sisters 1 0.003
Skred Red 1 0.003
Temur Kiki-Jiki 1 0.003
Madcap Moon 1 0.003
Blue-Red Thing in the Ice 1 0.003
White-Blue Midrange 1 0.003

Magic players love stats, so go wild – and here are a few of the spicier Day 2 lists that stood out.

Cedric Westcott’s Martyr Proc

Ben Reilly’s Sram “Cheerios”

Daniel Wong’s Blue-Black Taking Turns

Lucas O’Keefe-Sommer’s Monument Sisters

The Rise of Hollow One

Hollow One began as a quirky fringe deck back when it was printed in Hour of Devastation. It presented players with an intriguing puzzle: just how much could they discount the card’s casting cost? And while it started out slowly, with players toying around with Vengevine and so on, the deck has turned into a real monster, as cards like Goblin Lore have been adopted to push the archetype over the top.

Ken Yukuhiro made the Top 8 of Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan with the deck, and it has only improved since as players learn to navigate the tricky deck capable of truly absurd starts, as demonstrated by Mike Sigrist on Saturday afternoon.

The newest innovating is splashing white for Lingering Souls, a card that absolutely turns around many of the deck’s close matchups against decks like Humans and other decks that go wide with creatures, while adding yet another card that plays well out of the graveyard and helps to grind out the lategame.

“It’s just so explosive, and it’s probably the best deck in the format," explained former Player of the Year Mike Sigrist, who piloted the deck deep into Day 2. “It’s also the hardest Modern deck I’ve ever played – the games change every time based on the texture of your hand and the matchup. There are so many small decisions that can make a huge difference."

Many of the pros in the room said they considered Hollow One the best deck in Modern right now. But the format still proved resistant to solving – only Max McVety was able to take the deck to the Top 16.

Nass Seals the Deal

It all came down to Matt Nass and Michael Mapson, and both were on noteworthy decks. Despite Affinity, Hollow One and Humans dominating the field after Day 1, it was two rogue decks that met in the finals. Nass was making his second straight Modern Grand Prix Top 8 appearance with the newly resurgent Krark-Clan Ironworks combo – you can read the full details of how the complex deck wins here – while Mapson was also on another older, formerly dominant deck: Amulet Titan.

With Summer Bloom banned from the format, many players assumed the deck was long gone. But just as Modern refuses to be solved, the deck slotted in Sakura-Tribe Scout and just kept on chugging. While it seemed many forgot about the power of fetching any land you want with Primeval Titan and untapping it immediately – see Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion – a dedicated contingent has kept the faith.

Mapson was one of those. He’s been playing the deck for nine months straight, and after a bunch of success with the deck on Magic Online he felt compelled to bring it to the GP.

That decision paid off huge for Mapson, who was able to play a turn-three Primeval Titan with haste and dispatch Nass quickly in the first game of the finals. Nass fought back with a lightning-fast combo in the second game, and sent things into a decider.

For two decks focused on winning the game as quickly as possible without much interaction, the final match featured plenty of it. Mapson had Relic of Progenitus to try and mess up Nass’ graveyard loops, while the ChannelFireball pro fired off a pair of Nature's Claim to take out two Amulet of Vigor. But it was the Engineered Explosives that followed – taking out the Relic plus a third Amulet – that really pulled Nass ahead in the game. But Mapson wasn’t done – he transmuted Tolaria West for Pact of Negation, preventing Nass from going for a combo kill on the next turn.

Nass settled for attacking with a pair of Scrap Trawler and Myr Retriever, actually threatening Mapson’s life total by knocking him to 10. But Mapson had a bomb ready on the next turn: Ruric Thar, the Unbowed.

That was enough to hold off Nass from comboing, but an unfortunate quirk of the card is that Ruric Thar must attack each turn if able. That meant Mapson had no choice but to run it into a pair of waiting Scrap Trawler, creating a trade that gave Nass plenty of gas back into his hand. From there it was elementary, and not even the Pact of Negation was enough to stop Nass from closing it out with the combo. A few loops and Scrapyard Trawler later and Mapson extended his hand.

Congrats to Matt Nass, the winner of Grand Prix Hartford!

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