Day 1 Highlights of Grand Prix Memphis 2018

Posted in Event Coverage on February 25, 2018

By Chapman Sim

Welcome to Memphis, the largest city in Tennessee! Between Elvis lore, barbeque cookouts, and picturesque world-class attractions, Memphis also hosted the 2008 World Championships almost a decade ago.

Today, 1082 explorers have brought their new Standard decks to the Memphis Cook Convention Center, ready to contest for a Grand Prix title. Grand Prix Memphis 2018 was also the first Premier Event to utilize Rivals of Ixalan Standard, so let's take a quick look at the most important snippets of the day.

Standard Made Great!

Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic were ousted from Standard in June 2011, a move to rejuvenate the stagnant and unhealthy metagame. Since then, no cards received the banhammer until 2017. Over the last twelve months or so, a total seven cards were banned in Standard.

These decisions were not taken lightly. All we wanted was to create a better world, a more balanced world. With the weakening of overly-dominant archetypes which were previously suppressing all others, we witnessed a surge in diversity today.

There were 15 distinct archetypes from among the 25 decks which won Grand Prix Trials yesterday, all of which were competitive enough to beat four opponents in a row. You still had to be sure that you could take down the big boys such as Mono-Red Aggro and Blue-Black Control, but the beauty was that you could now compete on the same level with at least ten other deck choices!

While we do not know what decks will make the Top 8 tomorrow, we are seeing a lot of exciting decks doing a bunch of beautiful things. Don't just take our word for it! Former World Champion and 15th-ranked Brian Braun-Duin played a different deck each round, and countless other players from all around the world would agree that Standard was now greater than before.

The Pro Metagame

During the early rounds, it was difficult to determine how to metagame felt like. To gain a little perspective, we decided to handpick twenty players from the floor. From a select pool of Pro Tour Hall of Famers, Platinum pros, Gold pros, and the most distinguished players, we took a look at what they were playing – collectively.

  • (1) Seth Manfield
  • (14) Marcio Carvalho
  • (15) Brian Brun-Duin
  • (16) Brad Nelson
  • (17) Samuel Pardee
  • (22) Matt Severa
  • (23) Corey Baumeister
  • Samuel Black
  • Steven Rubin
  • Eric Froehlich
  • Paul Dean
  • Ari Lax
  • Thiago Saporito
  • Benjamin Weitz
  • Andrew Cuneo
  • Marcelino Freeman
  • Scott Lipp
  • Jon Stern
  • Samuel Ihlenfeldt
  • Alex Majlaton
Deck Count
Blue-Black Control 4
Blue-Black Midrange 4
Mono-Red 4
Naya Monsters 3
White-Black City's Blessing 2
Abzan Tokens 1
Red-Green Monsters 1

We can't spill the beans right now, and you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see some of these fantastic decklists in their entirety. Blue-Black decks were among the most popular choices among the pro players, while there were also plenty of aggro decks attempting to run them over before The Scarab God could dominate.

Mono-Red remained a strong contender even with the lack of Rampaging Ferocidon and Ramunap Ruins (imagine if they still had those cards, shudders), while the relatively-new Monsters and White-Black City's Blessing decks add fascinating facets to our diverse Standard metagame.

Many of these pros will return tomorrow, and we will be able to shed more light on their deck choices.

Showcasing the Iconic Lands of Ixalan

The double-face cards in Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan had been a centric theme in Standard as soon as they entered the format. These unique and flavorful cards encouraged explorers to accomplish a quest before transforming into an inordinately-powerful land! In fact, many had abilities that were so powerful that players built entire decks around them.

  • Search for Azcanta
  • Legion's Landing
  • Arguel's Blood Fast
  • Treasure Map
  • Thaumatic Compass

Search for Azcanta quickly found a home in Blue-based control decks, while Legion's Landing saw heavy play in Vampires decks as well as token decks with Anointed Procession. Arguel's Blood Fast and Treasure Maps add value to any deck which desires it. Yesterday, we even saw a Bant Approach deck take down a Grand Prix Trial with Thaumatic Compass!

Thaumatic Compass in Bant Approach

Larson's deck had no problem reaching seven lands thanks to ramp spells such as Spring // Mind and Hour of Promise. Thaumatic Compass can get you a couple of basic lands if you can spare the time, but it becomes truly terrific when transformed. Spires of Orazca is a nonlegendary Maze of Ith, meaning you can control multiples and negate the most significant threats on your opponent's board.

Aaron Larson's Bant Approach

Grand Prix Memphis 2018 – Trial Winner
Sideboard (15)
3 Regal Caracal 4 Negate 1 Jace's Defeat 2 Desert's Hold 1 Nezahal Primal Tide 1 Crook of Condemnation 3 Carnage Tyrant

Seven double-face cards were added to the mix with the release of Rivals of Ixalan.

There was a cycle of five enemy-colored enchantments, and despite their color restrictions, they saw a respectable amount of play. Some of them were incorporated into existing archetypes, while others spawned new strategies!

Hadana's Climb in Blue-Green Pummeler

Electrostatic Pummeler combo decks had existed from time to time, but Dixon gave it an additional nudge with Hadana's Climb.

You don't necessarily need to wait for three turns to give a single creature three +1/+1 counters because many of the creatures in the deck already can gain +1/+1 counters on their own. For example, if you have a 4/4 Longtusk Cub, you can put a third +1/+1 counter on it, transforming Hadana's Climb into Winged Temple of Orzaca. Flying Bristling Hydras and gigantic Electrostatic Pummelers are no joke!

Richard Dixon's Blue-Green Pummeler

Grand Prix Memphis 2018 – Trial Winner
Sideboard (15)
1 Greenbelt Rampager 3 Deathgorge Scavenger 2 Trashing Brontodon 1 Negate 3 Spell Pierce 2 Confiscation Coup 1 Shaper's Sanctuary 2 Silent Gravestone

Path of Mettle in White-Red Aggro

Last week, Ryuumei splashed White in a Mono-Red Aggro deck to give it a “value” boost. Adding three copies of Path of Mettle in the main deck and four copies of Ixalan's Binding in the sideboard, he was able to go 5-0 at a Magic Online Competitive Standard Constructed League.

Since the creature base already contained so many creatures with the required abilities to transform Path of Mettle, it felt like a justifiable splash. The enter-the-battlefield trigger was also excellent against opposing tokens, Toolcraft Exemplars, and Glint-Sleeve Siphoners, and tiny Walking Ballistas. Metzali, Tower of Triumph provided the aggro player inevitability in the long game.

Ryuumei's White-Red Aggro

Magic Online - Competitive Standard Constructed League (5-0)

Journey to Eternity in Black-Green Journey

Pro Tour Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa also wrote an article on Journey of Eternity three weeks ago. Atzal, Cave of Eternity provides a potent effect, and while it is not great against speedy aggro decks, it could be a potential trump in grindy midrange mirrors.

PVDDR's Black-Green Journey

Profane Procession in White-Black Tokens

Profane Procession is a perfect addition to any White-Black deck, whether you were trying to attack with a bunch of Vampires or generate a horde of tokens with Anointed Procession.

Profane Procession shines in slower matchups and provides an obscene amount of advantage when left unchecked. Yamakiller took this list to the semifinals of a Pro Tour Qualifier on Magic Online, with a deck that also contained Arguel's Blood Fast and Legion's Landing!

Yamakiller's White-Black Tokens

Magic Online – Standard Pro Tour Qualifier (3rd place)

Azor's Gateway in White-Red Approach

Last but not least, we'd like to highlight Rizier's White-Red Approach with the full playset of Azor's Gateway!

Not only will you be able to discard unwanted cards to seek useful ones, but you can also use the mana from Sanctum of the Sun to cast your game-winning Approach of the Second Sun. Throw in Sunbird's Invocation for extra style points!

Rizier's Red-White Approach

Magic Online - Competitive Standard Constructed League (5-0)

Now, will someone break Storm the Vaults already? Is Tolarian Academy not worth the effort? Regardless, we were thrilled to see a ton of transformations on coverage this weekend, and we expect these cards to play a pivotal role in upcoming months.

In the meantime, let's continue to immerse ourselves in the rich world of Ixalan, filled with dangerous beasts, magnificent ruins, and lost treasures waiting to be discovered.

The 8-0 Players

When the dust had settled, a total of seven 8-0 players were born from among 1082 competitors, namely Matthew Kling, (22) Matt Severa, (23) Corey Baumeister, Aaron Barich, Ethan Dasher, Peter Ingram, and Charles Porges!

With the knowledge that their path to the Top 8 was slightly more comfortable than the rest of the field, these players headed back for a well-deserved rest, for their battles would continue tomorrow.

(from left to right) Matthew Kling, Matt Severa, Corey Baumeister, Aaron Barich, Ethan Dasher, Peter Ingram, Charles Porges

Matthew Kling's Grixis Energy

Grand Prix Memphis 2018

Matt Severa's Mono-Red

Grand Prix Memphis 2018

Corey Baumeister's Blue-Black Midrange

Grand Prix Memphis 2018
Sideboard (15)
1 Commit // Memory 2 Arguel's Blood Fast // Temple of Aclazotz 1 Confiscation Coup 2 Duress 1 Glimmer of Genius 1 Golden Demise 2 Lost Legacy 2 Moment of Craving 2 Negate 1 Sorcerous Spyglass

Aaron Barich's Sultai Constrictor

Grand Prix Memphis 2018

Ethan Dasher's Mono-Red

Grand Prix Memphis 2018

Peter Ingram's Blue-Black Midrange

Grand Prix Memphis 2018
Sideboard (15)
2 Arguel's Blood Fast // Temple of Aclazotz 1 Confiscation Coup 2 Duress 1 Glimmer of Genius 2 Golden Demise 2 Lost Legacy 2 Moment of Craving 2 Negate 1 Sorcerous Spyglass

Charles Porges's Black-Green Constrictor

Grand Prix Memphis 2018

Be back tomorrow as we continue bringing you the live action from the Memphis Cook Convention Center! Standard is looking great, so you should not miss the live streaming video coverage on twitch.tv/magic!

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