Star City Stars

Posted in GRAND PRIX LONDON 2015 on August 16, 2015

By Craig Jones

StarCityGames was the Tournament Organizer for this weekend and they also brought along some of their star players from their popular Open Series. Brad Nelson, Todd Anderson, Tom Ross, Brian Braun-Duin, and Chris Vanmeter all made the trip across the pond to shake up Grand Prix London. They were busy the Friday before the tournament with a meet'n'greet signing session followed by a packed seminar discussing the Standard format.

In the main event itself, Vanmeter was the unlucky one left with sightseeing for Sunday while the other four all battled their way into Day 2. (Brian Braun-Duin even came back from a precarious 2-2 start to do so.) (7) Brad Nelson, in particular, had a storming weekend aided by the fearsome double Dragon team of Thunderbreak Regent and Stormbreath Dragon.

I caught up with them on Day 2 to get their thoughts on coming over to Grand Prix London for the weekend.

Todd Anderson

I asked if this was Todd Anderson's first European Grand Prix. "I've been over for Pro Tours, but didn't stay for the Grand Prix. It costs a lot to fly unless you can chain them together."

While the others are here primarily for the Grand Prix only, Anderson came over last Tuesday and would be staying a couple of days extra to see the sights of London.

Todd Anderson

I asked him how the additional events had gone on Friday—the meet'n'greet and the seminar. "Everyone was super-friendly and very excited to meet us," he said. "It was kinda weird. I'm not used to that. At the seminar, we had around 200 people. All the seats filled. It seemed to go well."

About the difference between a Grand Prix and an Open Series event, Anderson said, "At the Grand Prix the pros come. You have tons of European Gold- and Platinum-level pros that are really good. The players on the Open circuit are also really solid. The average strength varies from format to format. In the US, Modern tournaments are stronger. Maybe Legacy also, but not so much over the past year. It's also popular in Europe as well."

Brad Nelson

Brad Nelson had arrived closer to the start of the tournament and mentioned the problem with that. "Jetlag is an issue. We're all getting up super-early."

He also mentioned he was enjoying the tournament and the opposition. "I've always loved the Europeans. I've become good friends with almost all of the European pros I've encountered. There's no negative energy. Much nicer."

Brad Nelson

He said the Q & A session had been good, but could have gone better. He said it was something he needed to think about, to try and work out the best way to get his insight and thoughts on Standard across. I could see how Nelson had earned his reputation as a master of Standard. The best are never satisfied and are always looking for improvements. His excellent read of the Standard metagame saw him tear through the first day of Grand Prix London undefeated with Red-Green Dragons. As he said, "There's not much you can complain about when sitting at 10-0."

Brian Braun-Duin

This was also Brian Braun-Duin's first trip over for a European Grand Prix. He too had been suffering with jetlag. "Yeah, didn't sleep at all."

Unfortunately I grabbed him after a Round 12 loss to Martin Jůza had knocked him down to an X-3 record and likely out of Top 8 contention. As he said, it was something that was likely to happen at some point as an iffy 2-2 start had left him out of spare lives way back in Round 5.

Brian Braun-Duin

I asked him what he thought of the tournament and standard overall in comparison to the Open Series. "Grand Prix are a little harder. They're a lot bigger tournaments. A better record is required to make the Top 8."

I asked him how the seminar had gone. "It went well. There was a rocky start—an issue with the microphones. After that it had gone fine. We discussed Standard and talked through which cards we expected to have an impact this weekend."

Which cards?

Braun-Duin mentioned the "Anafenza in my deck." Anafenza, the Foremost and Stormbreath Dragon had been two of the defining cards of the weekend, so I reckon he called that one correctly …

Tom Ross

I caught up with Tom Ross after Round 13. He'd just won to put himself in a good shot for Top 8 with an 11-2 record. He was playing the same Bant Heroic deck that goes to green for Dromoka's Command as Todd Anderson. It seemed a good choice for the tournament as both were 11-2 at the time I spoke to him.

Ross said he came up with the deck. "Built it in the car on the way to an Open."

Tom Ross

It's a deck he said he'd been developing for the past three months. The main Magic Origins addition was the ubiquitous Hangarback Walker. "Good against Mono-Red. Good against Abzan Rally. Also good in the mirror as you can't Gods Willing through a Hangarback Walker."

He talked a little about how the metagame had developed. The Abzan Rally deck had come out of the Open series a week before the Pro Tour. He said the deck could have been more of a deal for that Pro Tour, but everyone had been aware of it. Todd Anderson had lost in the finals to it in one of the SCG tournaments—the interaction between the new Liliana and Fleshbag Marauder was not a good one for the Heroic deck. Magic Origin's all-star Hangarback Walker was once again a solution.

He also confirmed they had talked about the deck the Friday before the tournament at the seminar. At the time of writing, he and Anderson were still in the running for Top 8 berths, but really no-one can say they weren't warned.