Grand Prix Mexico City 2014 Day 1 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on February 15, 2014

By Wizards of the Coast

It has been an incredibly interesting day here at Grand Prix Mexico City, as we slowly whittled the 704 initial players down to a svelte 111. Leading this pack are a trio of 8-0 players: Ramon Vasquez, Juan Acosta Portilla, and Charlie Rinehart. These players take a large advantage into the final rounds of play, a nice edge in this as-of-yet untested Booster Draft format.

This was our first chance to see Born of the Gods in Sealed Deck, and it did not disappoint. The addition of a trio of new red removal cards led to a surge in the number of players playing what was once considered the most maligned color in Theros Limited, as red decks could be seen dominating the top tables all day long. While the rise of red may have been the story of the day, black would have the Last Laugh, making up two of the undefeated decks despite an otherwise poor showing in the Sealed Deck portion of the tournament.

Tomorrow, players switch gears as they come prepared to test Born of the Gods in Booster Draft. With new cards and new mechanics to figure out, the 111 players returning tomorrow have their work cut out for them, and they don't have long to figure things out. Only two drafts and six rounds of play remain before our cut to Top 8, and they are sure to be action-packed and full of insight that can be carried over to next week's Pro Tour Born of the Gods.

Check back with us in the morning as we delve headfirst into this brand new Born of the Gods/Theros Booster Draft format!

Undefeated Grinder Sealed Deck Builders

by Nate Price

Believe it or not, the action at Grand Prix begins earlier than Saturday morning. In addition to Friday Night Magic, most Grand Prix offer a series of Last Chance Qualifiers, colloquially known as Grinders. The winners of these single-elimination tournaments receives three byes for the impending Grand Prix, byes that will help immensely on their quest for Top 8 and the eventual title.

Here in Mexico City, four of the Grinders that were run featured the brand new Theros/Born of the Gods Sealed Deck format with which we were going to become intimately acquainted over the course of the weekend. As such, they provided a great glimpse into what we can expect to see as the rounds of Saturday go on.

Usually, we'd simply post the Decklists up here for you at home to check out and leave it at that. Personally, I don't think that's very fun, and you certainly don't learn a whole lot. Since this format hasn't yet seen the light of high-level play, I figured an even better way to get a grasp of it was to try your own hand at it. Below are the Sealed Deck pools from the four Grinder winners. Open the Sealed Deck Builder, take a crack at their pools, and then click the links below to see what they actually built so that you can compare it to your own!

GP Mexico City 2014 - Grinder Sealed Pool #1

Sealed Deck Builder - Try it yourself!

Winning Decklist - Adam Sowell

Grand Prix Mexico City 2014 Sealed Grinder - Adam Sowell

Download Arena Decklist

GP Mexico City 2014 - Grinder Sealed Pool #2

Sealed Deck Builder - Try it yourself!

Winning Decklist - Jorge Salazar

Grand Prix Mexico City 2014 Sealed Grinder - Jorge Salazar

Download Arena Decklist

GP Mexico City 2014 - Grinder Sealed Pool #3

Sealed Deck Builder - Try it yourself!

Winning Decklist - Axel Martinez

Grand Prix Mexico City 2014 Sealed Grinder - Axel Martinez

Download Arena Decklist

GP Mexico City 2014 - Grinder Sealed Pool #4

Sealed Deck Builder - Try it yourself!

Winning Decklist - Luis Armando Morales Vera

Grand Prix Mexico City 2014 Sealed Grinder - Luis Armando Morales Vera

Download Arena Decklist

Saturday, 12:23 p.m. – Mexico City's Sights

by Mike Rosenberg

Play the game, see the world.

It was the slogan that gave birth to Pro Tour aspirations, where players earn the opportunity to play Magic: The Gathering at the highest level for a chance at a huge prize purse while also being able to visit some of the world's finest cities and sights. It's no shock that players and staff alike have taken advantage of some of the great locations for Pro Tours as well as Grand Prix events.

Mexico City, however, is something very special.

While there have been some incredible destinations for Magic events over the last twelve months, Mexico City has an incredibly rich history and a very diverse population, making this one of the finest destinations for Magic globetrotters who are looking for a little more to explore than just the weekend's Limited format.

Mexico City's architecture includes maintained examples of 16th century colonial buildings, as well as examples of Aztec architecture from before the colonization period of Mexico's history.

This is just one piece of the many sculptures, displays, and fine displays of architecture that emcompasses the historical district of Mexico City. This particular display is only a short 10 minute walk away from the Grand Prix venue.

The venue for this weekend's Grand Prix is within walking distance to many of the historical district's finest buildings and statues, such as the National Palace and the Angel of Independence monument, as well as some of the city's renowned and world-famous museums such as the National Museum of Anthropology.

However, if you're in the region, why not take a bit of a trek out of the main city in order to see some history that dates the colonial period?

That's what a group of judges and staff did on Thursday when they got in. Level 2 judge and Sao Paulo resident Leonardo Martins, artist Lucas Graciano, and a slew of other staff members and members chose to explore, as the group may a trip out to Teotihuacan, one of the most famous pre-colonial cities from the Americas history, dating back to the early AD period.

Photo credit: Level 2 Judge Leonardo Martins

"I have a friend who's local, so I'll be staying a few days extra," said Martins when I talked to him about his trip. While he has no set itinerary for his extra time in town, he is hoping to sample some of the cuisine from the region.

"The experience was surreal," said Lucas Graciano, who went along with the group of players and staff to check out the Teotihuacan pyramids. Graciano also had a chance to visit the National Museum of Anthropology as well as the Museum of the Great Temple, one of the primary temples of the Aztec capital city before Mexico City became what it is today.

The Grand Prix Mexico City Teotihuacan tour group all together on the bus.

Whether you're a player or a judge, finding the time to see the cities that you visit when competing on the Magic Grand Prix circuit can open your eyes up to some brilliant wonders. Many here, including myself, have barely scratched the surface in what there is to see and do in town, and it gives Magic globetrotters all the more reason to return.

Saturday, 2:19 p.m. – New Gods on the Block

by Nate Price

New Gods on the Block

Nate Price

This is going to be the first Professional Level event to exclusively feature the newest addition to the pantheon: Born of the Gods. This new set features 249 cards designed to enhance strategies already inherent to Theros Limited, as well as enable some new ones.

Many of the things that made Theros Limited tick return. There are two new cycles of bestow creatures to enhance your armies. The common cycle is a more extensive foray into the realm "non-square" statistics, something R&D tried to avoid in Theros.

The uncommon cycle is another series of cards that grant a hallmark ability from each color.

Flitterstep Eidolon

Just as in Theros, all of these bestow cards are bound to be fairly powerful, even the innocuous looking commons. Scry, heroic, and devotion are all back, as well, each doing more or less the same thing they could be found doing in Theros Limited.

Perhaps the most notable exclusion from Born of the Gods is the monstrosity mechanic. In its place is the new tribute mechanic. Tribute pays homage to the Greek mythological trope of paying some sort of tribute to appease an angry God. Often, the tribute that was paid came at a terrible cost, like the sacrifice of someone's invariably beautiful daughter (gigantic sea monsters have needs, too). Born of the Gods's tribute puts players at a similar impasse. When a creature with tribute comes into play, they may either pay the tribute, keeping the beast appeased, or ignore its demands for beautiful women and suffer its now much larger wrath. Is it easier for you to deal with a single 5/5 flier, or would you rather face a 3/3 flier and two 1/1 fliers? Would you rather have an 8/8 rampaging on the other side of the field, or would it be easier to handle a 5/5 hasty one? Tribute asks the kinds of questions that leave players feeling terrible no matter which choice they make, unless you're the one asking them!

Siren of the Fanged Coast

The other new mechanic is, well, an inspired one. Creatures with inspired have abilities that trigger when they untap, such as drawing a card or generating a token. This is especially potent in Limited, where attacking is the name of the game. In addition to attacking, Born of the Gods offers a few enablers to really help the inspiration start to flow. Cards like Karametra's Favor and Evanescent Intellect offer ways to tap your creatures without attacking, as well as providing a way to trigger heroic. Inspired also has an impact on the power level of some of Theros's cards. Breaching Hippocamp, Triton Tactics, and Savage Surge might see a change in their value now that inspired is a thing.

Satyr Nyx-Smith

This weekend presents the first chance to really dig deep into how these new cards and mechanics will alter the landscape of Theros Block Limited. The information gleaned from this weekend will prove to be incredibly important in just one week, when Born of the Gods/Theros Booster Draft takes center stage at Pro Tour Born of the Gods. So keep an eye out, make sure you do your homework, and make an effort to sift through this mountain of new information with us and the over 700 players here at Grand Prix Mexico City!

Saturday, 3:51 p.m. – Last-Chance Prep with Team TCGPlayer

by Mike Rosenberg

With Pro Tour Born of the Gods taking place on the other side of the pond next weekend, and with a Grand Prix also taking place relatively close to the Pro Tour this weekend, it was expected that Grand Prix Mexico City would not have a huge turnout of Top 25 players. When prepping for the Pro Tour, being efficient with your time is essential, and many players found more benefit in flying to Europe early, adjust to jet lag, and prepping in between rounds at the Legacy event going on in France than attending an event that, for many pro players, actually makes their trek to Valencia much longer.

However, a few recognizable faces from the Grand Prix and the Pro Tour circuit made the trip down. What do four of them have in common? Well, they share a team that has been preparing for the Pro Tour next weekend.

No. 23 Ranked Player Craig Wescoe was accompanied down to Mexico City with teammates Chris Fennel, Seth Manfield, and Mark Lalague, all of whom were juggling the idea of attending the event anyway.

From left to right: Seth Manfield, No. 23 Ranked Player Craig Wescoe, Chris Fennell, Mark Lalague

There were a lot of reasons for these players to make the trek down. It gives them field training for figuring out how Born of the Gods impacts the Limited format. It's a Limited Grand Prix, which to players like Manfield and Fennell is certainly a bonus given their preference for 40-card decks. And, for players like Wescoe, it was a chance to return for another shot at taking a trophy up north.

"I made Top 4 at the last Grand Prix [in Mexico City]," Wescoe said. "I really enjoyed the people and the atmosphere, and so I was looking forward to coming back." For Wescoe, Mexico City offered him a chance to improve upon his performance in 2012, where he made it to the Semifinals in that year's Innistrad block Limited event. "I pretty much convinced everyone else to come," he said.

In the case of Fennell, that was certainly correct, as Wescoe assisted in travel costs to bring the experienced Limited mind down with him to make the most of any lessons that could be learned in two days of Limited with the new cards.

But for Manfield, there was very little need to convince him to make the trip. "I was already thinking about it," he said. "I was able to get my flight for the Pro Tour booked out of Mexico City, so my flight down here was less expensive. Since a lot of the other pros weren't going to be here this weekend, and Paris is going to be a lot larger..."

Fennell was happy to finish Manfield's answer. "It's Pro Tour testing. It's Limited, and a lot of the top players are preoccupied with the Pro Tour this weekend."

Each player has a seasoned record in Magic, and some with Limited especially. How will the representatives for Team TCGPlayer do here in Mexico City this weekend? Check back regularly to find out!

Quick Questions #1 – What common/uncommon/rare or mythic from do you want to open most in Sealed Pack?

by Mike Rosenberg
Chris Fennell: "I think the best common is Fall of the Hammer. For uncommon, probably Ornitharch. And then for rare/mythic, I think Forgestoker Dragon is the best rare."
Seth Manfield: "For common, Bolt of Keranos. Raised by Wolves is the best uncommon. I also like WU Heroic so I think Ephara, God of the Polis is the best rare you can open."
Grand Prix Detroit 2013 Quarterfinalist Marcelino Freeman: "For common I think I'd really like to open Bolt of Keranos, or maybe Akroan Skyguard. For rare/mythic, I would most want to open either Xenagos, God of Revels or Forgestoker Dragon."
Grand Prix Dallas 2013 Champion Marlon Avila Gutierrez: "For rare, it is Brimaz, King of Oreskos. I think it is my top pick. For uncommon, it is Glimpse the Sun God. For common, it is Snake of the Garden Grove."

Round 6 Feature Match – Marlon Avila Gutierrez vs. Armando Mexicano

by Mike Rosenberg

Marlon Avila Gutierrez has gained quite a reputation thanks to his win at Grand Prix Dallas-Fort Worth last December, where he dispatched Hall of Famers in both his Semifinal and Final matches in order to take home the trophy. The Mexico City resident was sporting the play mat from that event in stylish fashion.

His opponent, Armando Mexicano, had one appearance on the Pro Tour when he qualified for Amsterdam back in 2010 via a PTQ. With a 6-0 start, he's looking to make an appearance on the Tour once again.

The Decks

While Gutierrez was sporting a red-black deck with multiple bestow creatures, Fall of the Hammers, and a copy of Hythonia the Cruel for good measure, Mexicano's green-blue deck was packed with plenty of instant-speed tricks. Most of those tricks also happened to be creatures, such as Boon Satyr.

The Games

Gutierrez started off with a mulligan to six on the draw, but regardless was first onto the board with a Burnished Hart on the third turn, with Mexicano's Nessian Courser showing up a turn late on the fourth turn. An attack from the Courser on the next turn got a block and a sacrificed Hart from Gutierrez, and Mexicano followed that attack up with Chorus of the Tides. Searing Blood from Gutierrez quickly roasted the flying creature, and Opaline Unicorn gave Gutierrez a creature to add to his empty board.

Winner of Grand Prix Dallas-Fort Worth 2013 - Marlon Avila Gutierrez

Mexicano, however, had a brutal follow-up with Nemesis of Mortals. Gutierrez had a lack of ways to answer the gargantuan creature, and Archetype of Imagination ensured that his team could fly over Gutierrez's Unicorn, regardless of it being bestowed with Erebos's Emissary. Gutierrez looked for an out, bestowing Nyxborn Eidolon on his Unicorn before passing with his now 6/6 creature untapped and two mana open.

Mexicano took the opportunity to cast Fate Foretold on his Nemesis of Mortals, drawing a card. He sent in his team with six mana open, two short to go monstrous. When Gutierrez had Fall of the Hammer on the Archetype before blocks, Mexicano's green monster proceeded to fall headfirst into a 6/6 Opaline Unicorn, giving the Grand Prix Dallas champion a chance, despite being at 6 life.

A bestowed Nimbus Naiad from Mexicano forced another Fall of the Hammer from Gutierrez, stopping the Nessian Courser from getting its enchanted wings. The Unicorn started attacking in as Gutierrez looked to race the flying creature. Ember Swallower gave him another massive threat, and the race was on. Mexicano sent in his flying creature, dropping Gutierrez to 4. Gutierrez sent his two behemoths in, going monstrous with Ember Swallower.

When nothing was waiting for Mexicano on top of his deck, he picked up his cards for the second game.

Armando Mexicano

Gutierrez led off the second game again with a mulligan. This time around, Mexicano had a third-turn play after Gutierrez cast Opaline Unicorn with a Boon Satyr on the fourth turn. The 4/2 creature bashed in, and Mexicano again passed with all of his mana open. Weight of the Underworld disposed of Mexicano's Satyr, but Gutierrez lost his attacking Unicorn to a surprise Horizon Chimera when Mexicano went to block. Arbor Colossus made the game look arbitrary after it came down, and Voyage's End for Hythonia the Cruel sent both players shuffling up for the third game.

Gutierrez was first onto the board with a third-turn Ashiok's Adept, which attacked in unimpeded. Spearpoint Oreid was Gutierrez's follow-up, and Mexicano revealed why he did not expose his Boon Satyr to a potential combat trick when he cast Feral Invocation, swinging in for 6. That Satyr received Stratus Walk on the turn after, allowing it to attack in through the air.

However, Fall of the Hammer, aided by a previously cast Ember Swallower, disposed of Mexicano's aerial assault. Nemesis of Mortals, however, created a road block that Gutierrez could not hurdle past. Erebos's Emissary gave him a potential way to attack through, while Mexicano, relatively safe, took the time to refuel with Divination. Gutierrez sent his team in on the next turn, and Rise to the Challenge shut down Mexicano's blocking Nemesis of Mortals. When Ill-Tempered Cyclops joined Gutierrez's overwhelming board, Mexicano offered the handshake on the next turn.

Gutierrez 2 – Mexicano 1

Saturday, 5:06 p.m. – Looking at the Top Tables: Born of the Gods Sealed Deck at Grand Prix Mexico City

by Nate Price

One of the best ways to get a picture of what's going on at a Grand Prix is to keep an eye on the top tables. The decks that are doing well, the new cards that are making an impact, and the players that are sure to be central to the weekend's story...they're all found setting up camp at the top tables. This technique works especially well for Constructed tournaments, where the trends tell a rich story about the rise and fall of decks, and often the reasons behind them.

At Limited Grand Prix, however, things get a bit muddier. Anyone who tells you that it doesn't matter what you open in a Sealed Deck is spoon-feeding you lies. Yes, there is a high degree of skill in properly building a Sealed Deck. Yes, play skill is obviously important. But these things are primarily important when you don't open a busted set of cards. I mean, you aren't going to tell me that opening Brimaz, King of Oreskos, and every other utterly broken white card in the block isn't going to paint a pretty clear picture of what to build. You also can't tell me that it's particularly difficult to figure out how to cast Brimaz and attack a few times. Great cards make all of the decisions that go along with Sealed Deck easier.

While it may make building and playing easier, it actually adds a level of difficulty to diagnosing the state of a Limited format by looking at the top tables. People are going to play their good cards and their bombs, and you don't really need me to tell you that a bomb is good and that you should play it. Still, you can glean a few things if you're willing to look a little deeper.

First, it is incredibly clear from how things have been panning out the last couple of rounds that black is highly underrepresented among the winningest decks. Over the course of three rounds, there were half as many decks playing black as blue, which was the next least-played color. This isn't something completely unexpected. Many of the players that I've been chatting with in preparation for the Pro Tour next weekend have expressed their displeasure with black in Born of the Gods, and it goes deeper than "there are less Gray Merchants."

"Their guys just don't really do anything," Chris Fennell said with a shrug when I questioned him.

So perhaps this regression from the top tables lends some credence to this theory of black's relative weakness. It also seemed that those were willing to play black were only really willing to under certain circumstances. Two-thirds of the decks playing black paired it with red, and most of the others paired it with blue. White/black and black/green were virtually nonexistent.

On the other side of things, red appeared to have a clear advantage. More played than green and white by a reasonable margin, one of the biggest attractions to red was the new suite of removal spells Born of the Gods gives to red. Cards like Bolt of Keranos, Searing Blood, and Fall of the Hammer are excellent removal spells, much better than the weaker breed of removal that we've played with for the past few months. Red's most common partner was green, where red's incredible removal and early aggression could be supported by the mid- and late-game power that green's creatures supply.

Speaking of late-game power, it seemed to be the way of the weekend, as far as creatures went. Other than white/red and black/red, most of the decks at the top seemed to favor the top end of the curve. 3/3s and 4/4s were scattered absolutely everywhere, and many people seemed to be making concessions for that. There were a number of splashed removal spells and bounce spells that would have seemed out of place before Born of the Gods, even in a removal-hungry format like Sealed Deck. I'm talking splashing blue for Retraction Helix or black for Necrobite.

There were definitely bombs seen strewn around the top tables. Every color had something stupidly powerful representing it at the top tables, but it was the rest of the cards that made up the decks that told the tale I cared about. White was the color that had the least bombs on the top tables, but that didn't really hurt its appearance there. This leads me to believe that white has one of the deepest card pools in the format, especially when it comes to creatures to fill out a curve. And it seemed to accomplish this goal for aggressive decks like white/red, as well as the slower, more midrange-y decks like white/green.

In the end, it became clear that to succeed in this Limited format you really need to keep in mind the following things:

Red appears to be really good, especially if you pair it with green...

...or go aggressive with white.

If you want to play black, your best bet seems to be to build an aggressive black/red deck...

...Well, that or open a bomb or two.

Planeswalkers are still incredibly powerful...

But in the end, this is still Sealed Deck. Stick to the basics, build yourself the best deck you can, and you'll be alright.

Just keep a close eye on your red cards.

Sealed Deck Building Exercise – The Pool

by Nate Price

Here's another Sealed Deck pool to take a look at, one that's a bit more difficult than the ones you've had a chance to look through so far. To reward you for dealing with such a difficult pool, we'll be having one of the top Pros in the room take us through how they would build the deck to give you some insight into how they tackle something like this.

Anyway, click here to see the pool!

Sealed Deck Building Exercise – Chris Fennell’s Build

by Nate Price

I was admittedly a bit surprised when I walked into the event site last night and saw Chris Fennell keeping rk Post company on the far side of the room. With a Pro Tour on the horizon, I imagined that he would be sitting in Paris with the rest of Team TCGPlayer to prepare. Instead, it turned out that he and a small contingent of teammates felt that this Grand Prix represented the perfect chance for them to get some practice with this brand new Limited format before they have to do it for the big bucks in Valencia.

"This may be the worst Sealed Deck I've ever had," Fennell said as he wandered by after building his own deck for the Grand Prix.

When I jokingly offered him the Sealed Deck that I had opened for this exercise, he just laughed.

"I would trade for that deck in the dark in a heartbeat," he said with a shake of the head. "It has to be better than mine."

I just shrugged and told him we'd see about that before letting him meander past me to go play some decidedly miserable practice games against teammates Seth Manfield, Craig Wescoe, and Marc Lalague. A few rounds later, Fennell hadn't lost a match and found himself without about thirty minutes left in the round after a blazingly fast win. I offered him the deck that he said he would "snap take" earlier and told him to give it a whirl.

Team TCGPlayer's Chris Fennell takes a crack at a difficult Sealed Deck pool

"Yeah, this deck is way better," he said, thumbing through the first couple of cards, including the Chained to the Rocks. As he began to get a little deeper, the thumbing slowed down significantly.

"Hmm...well," he began, "maybe it's not that great." Near the back of the pile, he found himself shuffling around cards from the front. "Yeah, this is actually really hard."

With that established, he began to set the cards out on the table, removing the unplayables as he did so. Holding the Theros green cards in his hand, he joked, "I hope the rest of the green is just as bad so I can just throw this all away and make things easier." It only took a few seconds of looking through the Born of the Gods green before that whole slice of the color pie hit the sideboard. This prompted him to laugh a little as he thumbed through the gold cards.

"Oh," he laughed. "So that's where they good green cards are."

After hunting through for his best cards, he quickly began to lay out a skeleton for a white-based deck. Brimaz, King of Oreskos, draws the eye, to say the least, especially when he's flanked by Chained to the Rocks and pair of Hopeful Eidolons. He also quickly took note of the trio of Pharika's Cures in his pool, and the relative lack of red removal.

"I'm pretty sure that you have to go red/white with this pool," he said after glancing through everything as he laid it out before him. "The green is abysmal outside of those gold cards. You don't have enough blue cards to play blue/white, and the mana is miserable for the black/white deck. It does have removal, though, so...I don't know. Maybe I should give it a look."

Time to give the blue/black a look

He proceeded to lay out the black cards on top of the white cards, realizing that his black cards were actually much better with the blue cards that he had. Asking to be able to reliably cast Brimaz and Pharika's Cure was a little too much, and having the Returned Phalanxes without more blue mana than a lone Temple of Enlightnment was a waste of cards. He then took the white cards away and thumbed through the blue cards he had, adding them to the piles of black cards. The Born of the Gods cards were actually pretty reasonable. It was just the Theros cards that were holding him back. He mentioned a few sleepers that would prove to be far more powerful than I would have given them credit for.

"This card is actually pretty good in this deck," he said indicating Claim of Erebos. "You've got so many defenders to stick this guy on, and you've got the Aerie Worshippers, too. It's definitely going to be a key card in this deck."

This is especially true considering he mused aloud, "how am I going to win with this deck," as he was first laying it out.

"This deck isn't better than the white/red deck," he admitted, "but there are going to be decks out there that just simply can't beat it. The same goes for the red/white deck. It'll be worse against the decks that this one is going to be good against, but if I play against a deck with a really good late game, I want to be able to kill them before they get to play Magic."

He thought for a minute more about which of the decks he liked the best before finally coming to a decision.

The final decision

"You definitely want to play your best cards," he said, putting the black/blue deck away. "The red/white deck is better in Game 1 against a random deck, so I'm going to go with it. There are going to be a lot of decks that just can't beat a Brimaz. If I need to, I can switch to the blue/black deck for the next game. These decks are a little better than I gave them credit for, but they're still not great."

When I asked him if he'd still be willing to trade his deck for these, he laughed.

"In a heartbeat."

Here's his list:

Chris Fennell – Sealed Deck Building Exercise

Download Arena Decklist

Round 8 Feature Match – Fernando Aguilar vs. Chris Fennell

by Nate Price

Sometimes, you just simply get overpowered.

Chris Fennell is renowned as an expert Limited player, and he can be an intimidating player to sit across the table from. His opponent, Fernando Aguilar, was relatively quiet as he sat at the table, choosing instead to let his cards speak for him.

Neither player was able to gain much of an early advantage in the first game of the match. For example, when Fennell was able to get a Sphinx's Disciple into play, Aguilar made one to match it. When Aguilar enchanted his with a Nyxborn Triton, Fennell matched that with an Erebos's Emissary. They even held the same life total going into the crucial turns of the game, each having dropped the other to a dangerous 9 life.

Aguilar finally broke the parity with a Polis Crusher, giving him a chance at the largest creature on the table, as well as a way to bring Fennell's flier back down to size. When Aguilar made his move to attack, Fennel had a Sudden Storm to not only stop the brunt of the attack, but potentially buy himself the turn needed to close the game out. The one thorn in his side was the Kiora's Follower that Aguilar had made himself on the second turn of the game. The Follower's ability applies to any permanent, forcing Fennell to use one part of the Storm on him rather than the Sphinx's Follower. Fennell dropped to three, but he still had hope. With two creatures in hand, his Erebos's Emissary-enchanted Sphinx's Disciple threatened a lethal 9 points of damage. Unfortunately, it was not to be, as a bestowed Leafcrown Dryad allowed Aguilar to use his Wavecrash Triton to tap it down the one turn he needed for his team to recover, giving him the game.

Chris Fennell

"If you didn't have that Dryad, I think I would have won that game," Fennell said after the game.

Between games, Fennell made a bold move, switching from his blue/green deck into a red/black deck.

Based on my experience, I was expecting a blistering start from Fennell in Game 2, but things were far more subdued. After doing nothing for the first three turns, he played a Nyxborn Rollicker and enchanted it with a Claim of Erebos, raising more than a few eyebrows around the table. From there, Aguilar's life began to fall away. Fennell managed to keep the pressure on with a Borderland Minotaur enchanted with Erebos's Emissary, going bigger than Aguilar's biggest attempts to stabilize. In the end, the Minotaur would take to the skies thanks to Herald of Torment to get up and over Aguilar's defensive front, taking the second game in short order.

"Can you please not draw that untap guy," Fennell pleaded with a smile before the final game?

Apparently the answer was no, as Aguilar calmly slid the Kiora's Follower into play for the third consecutive game. To his credit, Fennell had his own spice for the board, adding the Herald of Torment to his side on the third turn. It didn't stay there for long, as Aguilar used his Kiora's Follower for a cool interaction with Retraction Helix, returning two of Fennell's creatures and leaving him with just an Asphodel Wanderer in play.

Fernando Aguilar

To add injury to insult, Aguilar followed that nifty play up with a Xenagos, the Reveler. Enticing a 2/2 Satyr to join his team, Aguilar had an impressive force against the nearly defenseless Fennell. When Aguilar smiled after his next draw step, Fennell sighed.

"Do you really need something better than this draw to beat me," he asked?

Apparently the answer was yes, as Aguilar added an Arbiter of the Ideal to his side. With that, Fennell had seen enough. He picked up the laughably overpowered cards he had in play and shook Aguilar's hand.

"There is absolutely nothing I could have done," Fennell said after the match. "Every card you played was better than every card in my deck. I started out 5-0, but then the real world caught up with me."

Round 8 Bubble-Match Roundup

by Mike Rosenberg

Aside from Chris Fennell's match again Fernarndo Aguilar, which you can read about above courtesy of Nate Price, the final round for Day One of Grand Prix Mexico City featured three distinct 5-2 record matches that we wanted to bring you. The winners of these matches advance into Day Two of competition, but those who emerge from this round with a 5-3 record will be eliminated from the main event.

One of these bubble-matches has been covered in full by Nate Price. You can read up on what transpired during those games in the Round 8 Feature Match. Here are some quick notes on the other two bubble-matches that we were eying.

Luis Eduardo Garcia vs. Andres Martinez

Our first bubble-match featured Grand Prix Guadalajara 2013 Champion Andres Martinez facing off against Luis Eduardo Garcia. Martinez has had quite the battle ahead of him today. Starting off with no byes, his red-black deck featuring some big hitters such as Flame-Wreathed Phoenix kept him afloat today.

Flame-Wreathed Phoenix

However, that run for Day Two came to an abrupt halt when Garcia's green-red monsters stomped their way onto the table. One of these monsters was Arbor Colossus, a creature that tends to match up quite well against mythic phoenixes. A timely Fall of the Hammer and a couple of thunderous combat steps later, and Martinez's attempt at a second Grand Prix trophy from Mexico came to a close, with Garcia advancing into Day Two after his 2-1 win in the eighth round.

Marco Gomec Marmolejo vs. No. 23 Ranked Player Craig Wescoe

Both Craig Wescoe and his opponent, Marco Gomec Marmolejo, were running red-green Sealed decks.

However, in both games, it was Marmolejo's creatures that came out on top, leaving the No. 23 Ranked Player at 5-3 and short of wins needed to make it into Day Two.

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