After eight rounds of Standard at Grand Prix Memphis, 50 plays headed into the last round with records of 7-1 or better and a Day 2 berth already secure. The top tables showed off the diversity the format has on offer, with multiple flavors of aggro, midrange, control (and even combo) well-positioned to make a deep run at the Top 8 on Sunday.
A Red-White versus Jeskai battle, one of the more common sights at the top tables of Grand Prix Memphis.
Many of the formats key pillars continued to perform, as Red-Green Devotion, Abzan Midrange, White-Red and Jeskai builds had each propelled multiple pilots to the singe-digit tables. In mirrors and pseudo-mirrors between varying combinations of White-Red and Jeskai decks, players sought an edge with efficient removal spells like Wild Slash, and durable threats such as Brimaz, King of Oreskos.
Abzan strategies of all varieties flourished as well. Aggressive builds featuring Warden of the First Tree and Rakshasa Deathdealer had clawed their way to the top. On the other end of the spectrum, controlling strategies that marched as high up the curve as Ugin, the Spirit Dragon had also made their presence known, carrying multiple pilots into Day 2 with 8-1 or better records.
Control strategies also made their presence felt at the top of the standings. Blue and black were the colors of choice, as control mages have set aside their Plains and copies of End Hostilities in favor of Fate Reforged's Crux of Fate. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver was a popular choice as well. While some have opted to trim the 3-mana Planeswalker, Ashiok's ability to present an early must-answer threat and steal opposing creatures had proven effective here in Memphis.
Daniel Tu casts yet another card-draw spell in search of a lethal Retraction Helix.
The Jeskai Ascendancy combo deck that first burst onto the scene at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir showed that it still had the potential to catch opponents unprepared and chalk up an impressive number of free wins. At Table 10, Daniel Tu won a prolonged third game against Scott Lipp, churning through his deck with multiple copies of Dig Through Time, Dragon's Mantle and, of course, Jeskai Ascendancy, before at long last finding a Retraction Helix. Using the combination of Helix and Sylvan Caryatid, Tu was able to bounce and replay the 0-mana Briber's Purse as often as he wanted, before finally looting his way to a lethal Twinflame.
Tomaharu Saito's all-black creatures get into the red zone, as they have all day.
The most surprising deck to make an impact in Memphis, however, was likely Tomaharu Saito's Mono-Black Aggro deck. Saito convoked the power of Obelisk of Urd to enlarge his army of cheap Humans. Such seldom-seen threats as Bloodsoaked Champion, Ruthless Ripper and Pain Seer were able to chip away at opponent's life total while generating card advantage for Saito, who reinforced these creatures with format staples such as Thoughtseize and Hero's Downfall. While he lost a close three-game match to Wenzel Krautmann, who took the decider on the back of a hasty Stormbreath Dragon, Saito, at 7-1-1, will look to give his Swamps some more time in the sun tomorrow.