Action was all over the arena the first day of Grand Prix Indianapolis. Hour of Devastation love hasn't waned, as players can’t get enough of the Limited wonderland on Amonkhet. From the first round, to the final bell, today was great day to be indoors.
The Final Minutes of Hour of Devastation
Something funny happened on the way to Amonkhet. When players saw the cards, they thought the draft would be heaven on Earth, or at least a parallel Earth-like plane which had an Egyptian-influenced analogue. But when people started playing the Limited format, though it was a very good set, some things just didn’t click perfectly.
But then Hour of Devastation landed like a motorcycle from the sky, ridden by some really gnarly-looking biker, or something like a wizard with a big moustache.
What was the worst time for the denizens of Amonkhet was the best time for Magic players. Everything we hoped from Amonkhet and more was available in this new variant of the Limited format.
This weekend marks the last time it will be played at the Grand Prix level, and nary a person had anything but compliments for the nearly bygone Limited.
Alex Majlaton said simply: “Best Limited format in years!" Even the sometimes curmudgeonly Andrew Cuneo remarked, “I like this format a lot," and that he was sad to see it go. He opened his eyes wide saying it—he meant it. It was a more wistful Cuneo than many of us are used to hearing—the old salt adding, “Maybe the next one will be even better ..." but then finished "... I doubt it though."
There’s that Cuneo we love so much!
Shaheen Soorani, when reached for comment said a bunch of things, but really, to paraphrase, he said: “Format’s great. It’s going away though. Sad!" Thanks, Shaheen.
But what makes it so great?
David Ochoa explained "Hour of Devastation has fewer two-drops [than Amonkhet], which really slowed Sealed down." He continued, ““I like Sealed where you cards can do cool stuff," and with blocking being a bit easier now, cool stuff abounds.
Ochoa took a sip from his third caffeinated beverage of the morning and qualified, “Blocking still isn’t easy, but it’s easier... and let’s just say I prefer Time Spiral to Zendikar." Ochoa compared two formats famous for their speeds: Time Spiral for it’s intricate, tricky, sometimes grinding gameplay; while Zendikar was blisteringly fast.
Team Cardhoarder’s Zachary Kiihne said, “There are so many sweepers you can almost draft around them." He explained, “If you’re drafting Five-Color deck, you can draft as if you’re going to find one—even if it’s the worst one." That means a lot to the mental deck construction that goes on while sitting at the drafting table.
Sigh. Hour of Devastation, you were a gift from the Gods—and not like the gifts they bestow on your after completing those Trials ... the good kind of gift.
Limited Stock Prices
Another aspect that made the Limited format so good, was how much variation Hour added to Amonkhet. Though the good cards were still good, there were plenty whose values in Limited rose and fell like stocks—which outline the overall changes to the format.
Andrew Cuneo’s first though was that Rhonas’s Stalwart’s stock went way down from his feelings at the beginning of the format. As two-drops were so good in Amonkhet, it was assumed that such quality two-drops like the Stalwart would be similarly valued. But as the dilution of two-drops slowed the format down, the Stalwart’s worth tanked like your favorite band’s terrible second album.
Cuneo added that a card like Painful Lesson saw its stock rise considerably as the format slowed.
It was with this slowing in mind that Mike Sigrist brought up Gustwalker. The “Mythic Common” was a card you couldn’t get enough of in triple Amonkhet. After Hour of Devastation you actually can’t get enough of them. So though they are still very good, they are quite as amazing as they felt before.
The slowing down of the format, as Ochoa had alluded to, allowed all the great cycling synergies, and cool -1/-1 counter interactions, and the like to truly shine. It was interactive, fun, and diverse.
Jon Stern’s Goods
Canada’s Jon Stern’s day ended with a very disappointing 6-3, but the early rounds he dominated in the feature match area. He was just a beast.
After registering a deck he truly loved, he set out a simple mission: “Don’t run out of time; don’t miss triggers." He felt that if he could just play good, his deck would deliver. With cards like this, it’s hard to disagree.
Either way, Stern was enjoying himself plenty. “I love Limited Grand Prix. I don’t have to keep refining a sideboard and retesting again and again. I get my drafts in, they play. I feels more like a vacation than anything," he chuckled.
Though he was more reserved about the format, he added, “The cycling lands make a huge difference. You can play high land counts, and not flood out ... even without the desert synergies, they are still great."
He explained, “Sealed matches end in one of two ways: (1) They hit their bombs that you can’t answer, or (2) You flood out. The lands can help you find answers to their bombs when you need them, and can ensure you don’t flood out."
But Stern did have some Stern-style glowing praise of the format: “Usually I get to the point [in a Limited format] where I say, ‘OK this is really annoying,' but I’ve never found anything like that here."
Melvin the Muppet
Though Melvin is one of the smaller Magic streamers, he’s part of the Rogues Gallery, and has built a consistent audience. Melvin doesn’t often go to Grand Prix, but being from Chicago, Indianapolis was a short trip, even for his short legs. Melvin also as blue skin.
You see, Melvin is a puppet.
But don’t close your mind to him; open your heart! He certainly did—meeting all the amazing Magic personalities around the Grand Prix hall.
And though he was unsuccessful in stealing Jim Davis’s food,
Today was a rousing good time. He even played in the feature match area against Reid Duke!
Ok, that last part’s not true, but look at his tiny hat! And that’s just one of the many tiny hats Melvin wears on #TinyHatThursday on his Twitch stream: twitch.tv/melvinthemuppet. Since Melvin’s birth at an FAO Schwartz “Build a Muppet” event, Melvin has been teaching himself the game, and provides tips, tricks, and felt twice each week for everyone to enjoy. He was a hoot here, that’s for sure.
Lastly, but not leastly, the players who fought through the gauntlet, and came out the other side unscathed—not even a tie to their names.
Tulsa Oklahoma’s Andrew Funkhouser was unscathed in the truest sense of the word. “I got no game losses, and I only went under 10 life twice." The high school math teacher was ecstatic after he built his pool, as he thought it was great. But with that greatness comes a cost. “I’ve never been more nervous the whole time at a tournament. I just kept thinking ‘Don’t screw this up.’”
Though he was thankful for some very good rares, he said the unsung heroes were his three Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs. “After Game 1, everyone would chose to play because they thought I was some grindy deck. And though it is, I would play Wall, Wall on turns two and three and ping them for 8 – 10 life."
He didn’t, and will be returning tomorrow at the top of the heap. Though only some of his students know his weekend hobbies, he’ll have something to talk about on Monday for sure, regardless of how his Sunday ends up.
After going 8-0 Madison’s Aaron Lewis said to me, “I really hope this ends up like Vegas and not Orlando." In the first Las Vegas, Aaron took the trophy home after finishing undefeated the first day. But conversely in Orlando, after a great 8-0 start, he quickly plummeted out of the tournament losing six straight matches in heart-breaking style.
He already reversed part of that trend by starting 1-0 over Orlando to end the day. That will certainly keep his spirits high going into tomorrow.
Aaron had taken some time off from the game after an unfortunate accident, and some schedules just misaligning. “But I’m ready to get back into the swing of things," he said. And this weekend seems the perfect opportunity. “I really want to get back on the Pro Tour. My last one was Milwaukee 2015." Up until that point, Lewis had played five Pro Tour in a row, and he knows he can be like Sister Act 2 and get back in the habit again.
As the Team Puzzle Quest member had said earlier, he really likes this Limited format, and this weekend it’s showing. Though Cuneo is no stranger to the 9-0 photo sessions, he was eager to talk shop about what was so enjoyable about Hour of Devastation.
“It’s got a lot of variety in the gameplay," he said, “and cycling makes for interesting decisions every game." He expounded, “The choice to cycle or not can be difficult, and those kind of decisions come up often."
Cuneo’s thoughtfulness about those decisions paid dividends, giving him a leg up into tomorrow.
Coming from Chicago, Ruby “just came with some friends” to have a good time. Though he’s been on the Pro Tour before, and would like to get there again, having a great weekend was first and foremost in his mind. But now on top of that, he’s likely having a mini-celebratory 9-0 dinner right now.
“You know, at Las Vegas, after going 2-2, I ended the day 5-0. So that makes me 14-0 in Limited Grand Prix right now." That is no easy task. Although it does get a little easier when you can add Insult // Injury. Mark credits many of his wins today to that amazing red double-Sorcery.
He really hopes he can add to his win streak just a bit more to get into the Top 8.
“I would love to be back on the Pro Tour again ... even though I scrubbed out [in Sydney], being there is just awesome."
Only a few more rounds to go, Mark!
This loudmouthed Kansas City native is always a pleasure to be around. His swaggering, low-key style stands sometimes in stark relief from the other players in the feature match. But don’t let the Massdrop Team member fool you, he took down Grand Prix Sydney like it was nothing, and gets down to business exactly when he needs to.
He leaned back in his chair when we talked, and said simply, “The day was great." He added, “I had a few good rares, but the deck wasn’t a slam dunk at all." He was really glad to have pulled out the Day-One sweep.
And not to be outdone by Mark Ruby, he said, “Now, I don’t know if I’ve played Limited since Sydney [last year]. I honestly don’t remember. But if I didn’t, I’m still on that Grand Prix Limited win streak!"
We’ll have to fact-check him on that later. But for right now, let’s allow him to bask in the glory.
Those were your five Grand Prix Indianapolis 9-0s. And that was the day! Congrats to everyone, and we’ll see you tomorrow!