Grand Prix Madrid 2018 Highlights

Posted in Event Coverage on March 11, 2018

By Craig Jones

Grand Prix Madrid has concluded. A grand total of 1,062 players showed up at the Feria de Madrid on a wet March weekend to battle it out. Or more accurately, 354 teams as Grand Prix Madrid is the second Grand Prix this year (after Grand Prix Santa Clara in January) to showcase the Team Trios format. Team Trios pits teams of three against each other in Standard, Modern, and Legacy. There are no additional deck building restrictions, so teams can bring their best deck in each format, ideally piloted by the player most comfortable with that format.

A 6-2 record was required to progress to Day 2 and that chopped the field down to 45 teams, of which none had perfect 8-0 records, but three were unbeaten on 7-0-1.

DEATH'S SHADOW... IN LEGACY?

So you've just sat down to play Legacy. Your opponent opens with Polluted Delta into not Underground Sea but Watery Grave. What do you think?

Underground Seas, being reserved list dual lands, are scarce and not easy to get hold of. Watery Grave sort of does the same thing. Sure, you ding yourself for 2 when you need to play them untapped, but sometimes you gotta make do with what you have.

What if I told you there were circumstance where you'd want to play Watery Grave over Underground Sea?

Experienced players can probably guess where this is going, and it's this card:

Death's Shadow has been a staple of Modern for a while, but Legacy...

Carsten Linden brought this spicy little concoction to the Legacy seat.

Carsten Linden's Death's Shadow

Linden's team had an excellent Day 1, being one of the three teams to finish with an unbeaten 7-0-1 record. I caught up with him after Round 10 to talk about his deck.

Linden is a Legacy specialist. He's been playing Legacy “forever” in his words and plays about “200 matches a week on MTGO”.

He loves playing the aggressive Tempo decks that open with cheap, efficient creatures and defend against whatever the opponent tries to do with Force of Will, Daze and Stifle. His deck of choice used to be Canadian Threshold (an Aggro-Control deck with Nimble Mongoose as the signature card). That became worse when Deathrite Shaman started to be widely adopted and he switched to 4-color Delver decks.

One of the problems he has with the conventional Delver decks is he doesn't like the 5 removal spells main deck. Legacy breaks into fair and unfair decks and you really don't want to be stuck with Fatal Push versus Lands, or Storm, or Belcher. As a result, the Delver decks turned back to Lightning Bolt for greater versatility.

Lightning Bolt is a good removal spell... against creatures with 3 toughness or less.

What Lightning Bolt isn't good against... 8/8 Death's Shadows and 5/5 Gurmag Anglers.

Marc Tobiasch, also on a similar deck, mentioned similar things to my colleague Tobi Henke. The Brainstorm/Force of Will shell is very strong and consistent, but the creatures can be vulnerable. A Lands deck with the Grove of the Burnwillows/Punishing Fire combo can wipe out most of the smaller threats in a Delver list. Gurmag Angler and Death's Shadow have comparable mana costs, but much bigger bodies.

Berserk is also a nice card that gets around the dead-removal problem. The obvious mode is to smash for 20 with a pumped Death's Shadow. Berserk also has a sneaky removal option in that you can play it on your opponent's attacking creatures and have them die at end of turn. As we've already established, versatility is very important in a format as varied as Legacy.

However, while Gurmag Anglers and Death's Shadows shrug off Lightning Bolts and Fatal Pushes, they still die to Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile. Jasper Grimmer's Jeskai Stoneblade deck was not a matchup Linden wanted to see in Round 10.

Still, the deck looks interesting and—as it is less reliant on the original dual lands—might make a more accessible route into Legacy for some players.

DAY 2 METAGAME BREAKDOWN

As mentioned earlier, Team Trios doesn't have any special deckbuilding restrictions. Players can play their favorite Standard, Modern, or Legacy deck. This means that the metagame we saw this weekend would be indicative of a typical Standard, Modern, or Legacy metagame. Except we have all three of them... in a single weekend.

Commence number crunching! (thanks to Tobi Henke for this.)

Archetype Number of Decks
Blue-Black Control 9
Blue-Black Midrange 9
Grixis Energy 8
Red Aggro 6
Sultai Constrictor 4
Red-Green Monsters 3
Others 6

The "Other" category was made up of Mardu Vehicles, God-Pharaoh's Gift, Abzan Tokens, White-Blue Tokens, New Perspectives, and White-Black Vampires.

Yesterday I talked about Temur Energy being replaced by Grixis Energy and then slowly morphing into straight blue-black lists, and this was reflected in the Day 2 metagame. Black is king, especially when paired with blue, and this is likely because of this card:

The Scarab God is likely the defining card of Standard at the moment. It is a monstrous threat, capable of beating an opponent's deck almost single-handed. It is also a resilient threat, being difficult to remove. Because of The Scarab God and similar hard-to-kill powerhouses Hazoret, the Fervent and Rekindling Phoenix, decks are forced to run Vraska's Contempt as the best, clean answer. Hence a lot of Swamps, Drowned Catacombs and Fetid Pools.

Archetype Number of Decks
Jund 10
Tron 6
Red-Black Hollow One 4
Burn 3
Red-Green Eldrazi 3
Humans 2
Mardu Pyromancer 2
Living End 2
Lantern Control 2
Mono-White Hatebears 2
Dredge 2
Others 7

Only single copies of Titan Shift, Ad Nauseam, Traverse Shadow and Grixis Shadow, and even Affinity made it to the second day.

Jace is back... and in the hospital A & E room following a brutal assault from a gang of Bloodbraid Elves. The powerful planeswalker might have attracted the most attention during the recent Modern unbannings, but it's Bloodbraid Elf that has made the most impact. Jund is back in a big way.

Tron also continues to be a solid choice for Modern, although I suspect a nasty surprise is waiting for it in Dominaria...

Archetype Number of Decks
Grixis Delver 7
Red Prison 4
Storm 4
Stoneblade 3
BUG Delver 3
Threshold 3
Four-Color Control 3
Miracles 2
Turbo Depths 2
Reanimator 2
Eldrazi 2
Grixis Control 2
Others 8

The "Other" category included single copies of decks such as Elves, Lands, Shardless BUG, and Steel Stompy.

Legacy was dominated by... Haha, don't be stupid. It's Legacy.

Brainstorm/Force of Will shells are probably the strongest archetype, but there is a lot of wriggle room on what you can fit inside that shell. Grixis colors and Delver of Secrets appear to be the most popular choice, but Stoneforge Mystic is also an option as well as cards like Leovold, Emissary of Trest.

And if you don't like or have dual lands, you can always lock them up with Blood Moon...

SOMETIMES THE STAKES ARE SMALL...

Okay, this is mini-moment rather than a full-fledged story, but it tickled me as I was wandering around the tournament area and saw this all-Scottish clash.

Gary Campbell is a regular fixture on the Grand Prix circuit. He travels to most of the European Grand Prix. This weekend he teamed up with Drew Martin and Anand Alagappan. Spread between Dundee and Aberdeen, they nominally represent Highlander Games.

Sitting opposite them were Lindsat Conway, Alex Riley, and Daniel Wren. From Edinburgh and with Team Vault T-shirts, I'm guessing these guys are from Edinburgh's Murphy's Vault.

On the first round of the day both teams had been sitting next to each other and had joked they'd probably end up playing against each other at some point. Two rounds later it happened, but unfortunately, as we only have 45 teams left in competition, table 22 represents rock bottom.

Still, we've got pride and local bragging rights on the line.

Murphy's Vault took that one.

Martin had a good weekend overall though, going 12-2 with blue-black midrange in Standard.

...AND SOMETIMES THEY'RE HIGH...

On Saturday the big story was of the super team of Mengucci, Calcano, and Dominguez clawing their way back from the abyss after a very shaky 1-2 start. They needed to win out every match to stay live for Day 2. They did this and then continued to win throughout the day, climbing all the way up to the top tables.

Four straight wins later and they were in the feature match area and playing the British team of Christoph Green, Ben Jones, and Charles Eliatamby for what would likely be the right to intentionally draw into the Top 4.

That match was exactly what you'd expect for a likely Top 4 decider. It all came down to the deciding game in the Grixis Energy mirror between Mengucci and Green.

No pressure, Christoph Green. You just have to beat a guy with three Sunday appearances on the Pro Tour stage.

Thanks to a deck check, this was the last match to finish in Round 13 and it was Green who was able to hold his nerve and emerge victorious against his much more illustrious opponent.

It turns out Green-Jones-Eliatamby had also been skirting the edge of the abyss for most of the tournament as well. Their second loss had come in Round 4, so—like Mengucci and co.—they'd needed to win out.

But they'd successfully run the gauntlet. Next round they'd be able to ID into the Top 4.

...AND SOMETIMES YOU STILL DON'T GET THERE...

Or maybe not. That plan fell apart when they were paired against the Danish team of Michael Bonde, Thomas Enevoldsen, and Andreas Petersen on table one.

The Danes had been crushing all tournament. They were one of the three undefeated teams of Day 1. Since then they still hadn't lost and were sitting 4 pts clear of the rest of the field going into the final round.

Win, lose, or draw, the Danes had a Top 4 slot and first seed position already locked up. So rather than ID or scoop their opponents in, they elected to play dream-crusher to try and open up a slot in the Top 4 for Joel Larsson's or even Mengucci's team.

This meant the English team had to dig in and win another round to earn a place in the Top 4.

And it was a round too far. The Danish team of Bonde-Petersen-Enevoldsen had crushed the tournament so far and weren't about to stop now. They smashed the Brits to finish with a fantastic 13-0-1 record.

That was that for the plucky British team. Or was it…?

...BUT NOT THIS TIME

Grand Prix Madrid still had plenty of twists and turns.

Bonde-Petersen-Enevoldsen were in as top seed for sure. Green-Jones-Eliatamby still had hope, but after starting 2-2, their tiebreakers looked vulnerable, with a heart-breaking 5th place finish the likely outcome.

Then the table three match of Huschenbeth-Severin-Grimmer versus Polz-Vignane-Arneuve, ostensibly a win-and-in, timed out in an unintentional draw. This threw everything up in the air. Even Mengucci-Calcano-Dominguez were back in contention.

When the dust settled it was Green-Jones-Eliatamby and the Italian team of Moscato-D'Aniello-Lippi that snaffled the last two slots in the Top 4. Mengucci-Calcano-Dominguez, despite heroically righting the ship from a 1-2 start, were left out in the cold by the slenderest of tiebreaker margins.

Which brought us to...

THE TOP 4

Well it could only go one way. After the Danish team's attempts to dream-crush the British team in Round 14, there were scores that needed to be settled.

Green, Jones, and Eliatamby were certainly hungry for revenge. They breezed past the Swedish team of Elias Watsfeldt, Joel Larsson and Per Nystrom 2-0 with Green not even required to finish his match.

In contrast, the Danes, who'd been in formidable form all weekend, had a hard-fought match against the Italian team of Adriano Moscato, Carmine D'Aniello, and Alessandro Lippi. It came down to the deciding game between Bonde's blue-black control and Moscato's mono-red deck. Bonde weathered the early damage and then ground his way back to victory thanks to... no surprises here... The Scarab God.

THE FINAL

The final was a reverse of their Round 14 battle. In that match Bonde had won the Standard clash, Petersen in Modern, and Eliatamby had the consolation of a win in Legacy.

In the final the Brits took an early lead as Green got a Scarab God to stick against Bonde and Jones took the first game in the Modern clash.

In the Legacy match, Eliatamby's Eldrazi got off to a fast start against Enevoldsen's 4-color control (“Czech pile”) deck, but then he drew a glut of land that enabled to Enevoldsen to claw his way from a precarious 1 life thanks to Jace, the Mind Sculptor and a flock of Baleful Strix.

On the middle table Jones was able to get his life down low enough for a Death's Shadow to survive a tussle with a Primeval Titan. Unfortunately, it also put his life down low enough for Petersen to simply play a Stomping Ground and send two Valakut triggers at his head.

Already 1-0 up, Green got the dream start of double Glint-Sleeve Siphoner versus Bonde's control deck. From there he was always on top and when Bonde's Scarab God was countered, the Dane extended the hand to give the British team a 1-0 lead.

Back on the middle table and Petersen was in trouble. His draw hadn't panned out and Jones was pressing hard with a Death's Shadow. Petersen needed to find something to stave off the lethal Shadow next turn. A land wasn't it and that was it for the final. Eliatamby didn't even have to start his second game.

Revenge was achieved, but more importantly the British team earned themselves the title of Champions of Grand Prix Madrid 2018. The Danish team, despite a phenomenal run which saw this as their only loss on the weekend, would have to settle for the runner-up prize.

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