GP Vegas 2017 Modern Day One Highlights

Posted in Event Coverage on June 17, 2017

By Meghan Wolff

Meghan is one half of the Good Luck High Five podcast and an adjunct professor at Tolarian Community College. She loves Limited, likes Modern, and dips her toes into each Standard season. She's decidedly blue and is the #1 hater of Siege Rhino in the Multiverse.

Day three of Grand Prix Vegas began at nine this morning, and with it, the tournament's final main event – Modern. Yesterday, the first of three trophies was hoisted by Andrew Calderon in the Legacy tournament. Today, 3,264 players begin their quest for the Modern trophy, though many trials stood, and still stand, between them and their goal.

While Death's Shadow has emerged as the deck to beat in recent months of Modern, the field remains populated with Modern classics and new brews attempted to break into this powerful format. Today, nine rounds of play whittled these decks down, and tomorrow only those with 18 points or more will be allowed to return to strive for a place in the Top 8.

Tomorrow is the final day of this incredible four-day Grand Prix journey. Be sure to tune in to to catch the conclusion of the Grand Prix Vegas adventure!

The Main Event (and More!)

The One Percent Metagame

Pro players with three byes made up about one percent of the field in the Modern GP. While their deck choices reflect a stronger inclination than the larger Modern field to chase the best deck in the format, they still illustrate the swath of decks possible in the format.

Below is the breakdown of decks registered by three-bye players in the Modern portion of GP Vegas.

Deck # of Players
Abzan 3
Affinity 2
Bant Eldrazi 1
Blue-Black Faeries 2
Breach Titan 1
Counters Company 1
Dredge 3
Eldrazi Tron 5
Esper Goryo's Vengeance 1
Four-Color Death's Shadow 1
Green-White Hatebears 1
Grixis Control 1
Grixis Death's Shadow 10
Living End 1
Titanshift 1
White-Black Eldrazi 1

Pro players showed a strong inclination for Grixis Death's Shadow, a deck considered by many to be the best in the format. There was still a smattering of Modern classics like Abzan, Affinity, and Valakut decks, plus less common but still beloved strategies like Living End and Dredge. Classic Tron lists have been usurped by Eldrazi Tron, an increasingly popular choice amongst the Modern crowd.

There's also room for innovation, experimentation, and combo-based fun, like the Esper Goryo's Vengeance decks or the innovation of Grand Architect Aggro (or "Blue Steel"), both of which are profiled farther down.

Poise Under Pressure

Yesterday, we caught up with one of our favorite Planeswalkers, Dana Fischer, as she navigated the Limited Grand Prix. Today, she's taking an army of Black-Green Elves into the Modern tournament. Dana marked a milestone today when she took down her very first feature match in Round 1 of Modern. She handily defeated Burn two games to zero with her Elves deck, draining her opponent for 12 life with two Shaman of the Pack off a single Collected Company.

The following round, Dana's place in the feature match area was taken by a player at least six times her size, as Seattle Seahawks linebacker Cassius Marsh took a seat under the cameras with his Blue Moon deck.

Anything But Your Average Limited

Elsewhere in the hall, players enjoyed the slate of side events offered, including a number of unconventional ways to enjoy Limited.

A Chaos Sealed event offered event attendees the opportunity to build a Sealed deck out of six different boosters pulled from 24 different sets throughout Magic's history. Sealed deck is difficult enough when a set is fresh and players are familiar with all the cards, and Chaos Sealed had participants boring over card text and acquainting (or reacquainting) themselves with Magic's past spells and mechanics.

The event also included "bounty" players, like Graham Stark of LoadingReadyRun who, if beaten, hand out additional prize tickets to their victorious opponents.

There was also full-box Sealed, which challenged players to build their best 40-card deck from an entire box of Amonkhet boosters. The piles of cards resulting from those boosters were substantial, and the decisions of what to play and what to cut were as difficult as the resulting decks were powerful.

"I'm just going to play every rare," one player said, fanning out all 36 of them.

Of course, there's plenty of constructed Magic excitement happening in the hall as well. Paper Vintage tournaments can be hard to find, but Grand Prix Vegas offered a scheduled Vintage event every day. Of course, Vintage aficionados like Vintage Super League creator Randy Buehler were quick to take advantage of the opportunity.

Day 1 Deck Spotlights

Yesterday, we caught up with one of our favorite Planeswalkers, Dana Fischer,

"Blue Steel" with Zac Elsik

The man who once took Lantern Control all the way to the winner's circle at Grand Prix Oklahoma City 2015 is back to piloting an artifact-laden deck with a much different game plan.

"The deck is similar to taking Affinity and merging it with Modern Death and Taxes, and then you make that deck mono-blue," Elsik said. "That's what it feels like. You have tax elements like your one-drops and Lodestone Golem. About half your deck is artifacts, and you're playing them cheaper than normal, so it feels like Affinity, and you can aggro people out."

In addition to Grand Architect, which was once the deck's namesake card, the other Vedalkens like Chief Engineer and Etherium Sculptor are the decks key cards, as they help convoke artifacts or cast them for less than their usual mana cost. The deck's best starts also include a one-drop like Mausoleum Wanderer or Judge's Familiar, to tax opponent's spells and to add to the creature count for convoke spells during the next handful of turns.

"There are a lot of really cool synergies, especially with some of the newer cards like Smuggler's Copter and Walking Ballista," Elsik said. "Similar to how Affinity has a lot of flying creatures, this deck also has flying creatures. Copter is unique in that it can become a 4/4 with Grand Architect, and that makes it immune to Lightning Bolt."

Smuggler's Copter and Walking Ballista aren't the deck's only inclusions from recent sets.

"Throne of the God-Pharaoh is probably the spiciest card in there, but when you think about it, an aggro deck that can play Throne has a faster clock," Elsik said. "You also have the option to tap your creatures for mana, or to use them to crew Copter to tap them, and deal damage that way. It's really cool in that regard."

While it's a unique take on the Modern format, Elsik thinks the deck has enough to recommend itself to players looking for a new way to attack the format.

"It's unique, it's fast, it's fun, and it's really cool."

Zac Elsik's Grand Architect Aggro – GP Vegas Modern

Download Arena Decklist

Esper Goryo's Vengeance with Marc Tobiasch

Team EUreka member Marc Tobiasch has a completely different approach to Modern than Elsik. He brought Esper Goryo's Vengeance, a deck that relies on one-for-one resource trades, card advantage, and a combo-esque finish to the Modern portion of Grand Prix Vegas.

"I like that there are so many little interactions that go into the deck," Tobiasch said. "Everything in the deck fits together very well. I think right now the metagame's in a place where everybody wants to trade cards, especially the Death's Shadow decks. They want to actively trade cards with you and draw out the game and then win with a big creature. But I have a lot of removal, so we trade, and at some point I'm going to get a Griselbrand or an Obzedat into play, and they just can't beat that."

While the deck's namesake card is obviously key to getting creatures out of the graveyard, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy also plays an important role. It puts giant creatures into the graveyard, and it flashes back Goryo's Vengeance, while itself being a good target for the arcane instant.

"What happens a lot is that you play a turn two Jace, and they kill it, because they have to," Tobiasch said. "And then the next turn you can Goryo's Vengeance it back, and it gains haste so you can flip it, while discarding an Obzedat or a Griselbrand, then flash back the Goryo's Vengeance with the same Jace."

In addition to the package of Goryo's Vengeance and creatures to target with it, the deck runs a lot of solid removal, discard spells, and, of course, Lilianas.

"My cards are just good cards," Tobiasch said. "I'm not playing bad cards, and together they're onto something better."

According to Tobiasch, Esper Goryo's Vengeance is good against any fair decks that try to win by attacking with creatures, because the deck's real strength is trading resources one-for-one with opponents, then drawing seven or fourteen cards off a Griselbrand.

Decks like Dredge or Scapeshift, on the other hand, can be tough, because while Tobiasch can still interact via Liliana or Thoughtseize, there's less one-for-one trading, which means that the influx of cards from Griselbrand isn't enough by itself to effectively finish the opponent off. But for those looking to eke out an advantage in resource-intensive games, Esper Goryo's Vengeance just might be the demon-driven deck they need.

Marc Tobiasch's Esper Goryo's Vengeance – GP Vegas Modern

Download Arena Decklist

Green-White Hexproof with Maria Bartholdi

Green-White Hexproof, other times known as Bogles, doesn't always get a lot of love, but Maria Bartholdi is aiming to change that.

"I love playing Bogles," she said. "It's a very silly deck that loads up a silly little creature with a lot of silly enchantments and then smashes face. So it's equal parts silly and soul-crushing."

Bartholdi has spent a lot of time in the past months tuning her list, adapting it to fit the shifting Modern landscape. The deck's core of hexproof creatures and auras to put on them remains the same, as does the deck's marquee card, Daybreak Coronet.

"I think it's perfectly fine in this meta," she said. "It's got life gain, you have access to Leyline of Sanctity, which is really important versus a lot of the decks like Death's Shadow, and a lot of great sideboard cards."

"I'm running four Leyland of Sanctity in the main, which is unusual, but I did it because there's so much discard running around out there. I'm also running two Cartouche of Solidarity, which gives you protection against sacrifice effects. I've got two Silhana Ledgewalkers and only one Kor Spiritdancer, which is very unusual. I have the Ledgewalkers in there because if you have two hexproof creatures in your opening hand against a discard deck, they can't rip one away and ruin your whole game plan."

And as silly as she calls it, she still think the deck has plenty to recommend itself to players interesting in picking up Modern.

"The deck mulligans very well," she said. "I went down to five in the first game of round two and it was totally fine because Bogles does well if you have a hexproof creature and enchantments."

Besides: "It's just the best deck of all time, what can I say?"

Maria Bartholdi's Green-White Hexproof – GP Vegas Modern

Download Arena Decklist

Day 1 Undefeated Players

At the end of the Modern Grand Prix's first day, only thirteen players still held the perfect records with which they began the tournament. They lead the field as GP Vegas heads into its last six rounds of Swiss, and its final Top 8.

Name: Daniel Wong

Hometown: Berkeley, CA

Occupation: Software Developer

What deck did you choose, and why?

Blue-Black Turns. It's been a pet deck of mine for a while, and it's a blast to play.

What was the most exciting, close, or interesting game you played today?

Playing against Naya Burn, one of my toughest match-ups. I kept a one-land hand in game 3 and didn't play my second land for several turns, but still managed to sneak in a win.

Name: Chloe Beadell

Hometown: Bognor regis

Occupation: Student

What deck did you choose, and why?

Abzan Midrange, it was the deck I was most comfortable with and it felt fairly well-positioned.

What was the most exciting, close, or interesting game you played today?

Round 8 versus Grixis Shadow, we had a very tight game 3 and unfortunately for him he missed lethal.

Name: Kevin Kingsley

Hometown: Denver

Occupation: Barrista

What deck did you choose, and why?

Grixis Death's Shadow. I think it is the best deck. I love Storm, but I wasn't too excited about the Grixis match-up.

What was the most exciting, close, or interesting game you played today?

Round 3 versus Eldrazi Tron, I needed to take an aggressive line and hope my opponent missed on a land to cast Reality Smasher and kill me. He missed, but it was a sweat.

Name: Sam Rolph

Hometown: Cardiff

Occupation: full-time degenerate

What deck did you choose, and why?

Abzan Company, Aaron Boynan had the cards.

What was the most exciting, close, or interesting game you played today?

Walking Ballista to kill Magus of the Moon when I was playing with only mountains.

Name: Theau Mery

Hometown: Paris

Occupation: Student

What deck did you choose, and why?

Mono-White Hatebears, because it seems well-positioned in this meta, and because of Craig Wescoe.

What was the most exciting, close, or interesting game you played today?

The last round by far. All the games were really close and really interactive.

Name: Craig Wescoe

Hometown: The Mirran side of Mirrodin

Occupation: Crusader

What deck did you choose, and why?

Green-White Hatebears because I'm Craig Wescoe.

What was the most exciting, close, or interesting game you played today?

Resolved Collected Company finding two copies of Mirran Crusader

Name: Robert Smith

Hometown: Calgary

Occupation: Applied Mathematician

What deck did you choose, and why?

Burn. I hadn't tested Modern because Legacy Elves is hard.

What was the most exciting, close, or interesting game you played today?

You have to topdeck with Burn a lot, and today I did.

Name: Mani Davoudi

Hometown: Vancouver, BC

Occupation: Bookkeeper

What deck did you choose, and why?

Affinity, it is the deck I have the most experience with.

What was the most exciting, close, or interesting game you played today?

I played against 8-Rack Round 7. Our game 3 came down to him destroying most of my resources, and I managed to deal the final points of poison with my Inkmoth Nexus before his Shrieking Affliction killed me.

Name: Mason Linne

Hometown: Madison, WI

Occupation: Mechanical Engineer

What deck did you choose, and why?

Affinity, because I've been playing with it for about 4 years and apparently it's still good.

What was the most exciting, close, or interesting game you played today?

I won a game against Elves where they played turn 2 Stony Silence, turn 4 Collected Company into Kataki, War's Wage. I have now won 3 games against Kataki lifetime.

Name: Hannu Vallin

Hometown: Vantaa, Finland

Occupation: game store co-owner

What deck did you choose, and why?

Naya Burn, I always play Burn.

What was the most exciting, close, or interesting game you played today?

I played Burn, all games are close and non-exciting.

Name: Jody Keith

Hometown: New Orleans

Occupation: Good Squad Captain, Legacy Lands Master

What deck did you choose, and why?

Played Jeskai, because it's all the cards I love to play.

What was the most exciting, close, or interesting game you played today?

All my cards do the same thing, so most of the matches played out the same. I just reacted and didn't see any curveballs.

Name: Brian Braun-Duin

Hometown: Roanoke, VA

Occupation: content producer and MTG "Pro"

What deck did you choose, and why?

Grixis Death's Shadow. It's powerful and the only deck I brought this weekend.

What was the most exciting, close, or interesting game you played today?

Round 9, game 2. I committed a game rule violation, had to argue the judge on my opponent's behalf, and then punted repeatedly to lose.

Congratulations to the Day 1 undefeated players of the GP Vegas Modern event, and best of luck to everyone returning to play tomorrow!

Latest Event Coverage Articles

December 4, 2021

Innistrad Championship Top 8 Decklists by, Adam Styborski

The Innistrad Championship has its Top 8 players! Congratulations to Christian Hauck, Toru Saito, Yuuki Ichikawa, Zachary Kiihne, Simon Görtzen, Yuta Takahashi, Riku Kumagai, and Yo Akaik...

Learn More

November 29, 2021

Historic at the Innistrad Championship by, Mani Davoudi

Throughout the last competitive season, we watched as Standard and Historic took the spotlight, being featured throughout the League Weekends and Championships. The formats evolved with e...

Learn More



Event Coverage Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All