Top Stories of Grand Prix Memphis 2018

Posted in Event Coverage on February 26, 2018

By Chapman Sim

With Standard all shook up, 1082 players arrived at the Memphis Cook Convention Center for a weekend of Standard. Only 217 made it through to Day 2, and only one stood tall at the very end. Let's take a look at the top stories of Grand Prix Memphis and relive the weekend in a matter of minutes.

Day 2 Metagame Breakdown

217 players made Day 2 of Grand Prix Memphis, and it was clear that the Standard metagame was incredibly diverse, allaying concerns resulting from the recent bans. With the overly-dominant decks nerfed, the playing field was leveled for other archetypes to emerge. There were over 30 strategies represented, and most of them had distinct game plans.

Archetype Quantity Percentage
Mono-Red 40 18.43%
Blue-Black Control 28 12.90%
Black-Red Aggro 23 10.60%
Grixis Energy 21 9.68%
Blue-Black Midrange 15 6.91%
Mardu Vehicles 15 6.91%
White-Black Tokens 9 4.15%
Black-Green Constrictor 7 3.23%
Red-Green Monsters 7 3.23%
White-Black City's Blessing 6 2.76%
Grixis Control 5 2.30%
Mastermind Ramp 4 1.84%
Sultai Midrange 4 1.84%
White-Blue Approach 4 1.84%
Blue-Green Pummeler 3 1.38%
Naya Monsters 3 1.38%
White-Black Vampires 3 1.38%
White-Green Aggro 3 1.38%
Bant Approach 2 0.92%
Jund 2 0.92%
Mono-White Vampires 2 0.92%
White-Blue Auras 2 0.92%
Abzan Tokens 1 0.46%
Blue-Red Artificers 1 0.46%
Esper Approach 1 0.46%
Esper Control 1 0.46%
Esper God-Pharaoh's Gift 1 0.46%
Mono-Black Aggro 1 0.46%
Red-White Aggro 1 0.46%
White-Blue Cycling 1 0.46%
White-Blue God-Pharaoh's Gift 1 0.46%
  217 100.00%

First things first, there were a lot of Hazoret the Fervents and The Scarab Gods out there. Players looking to attack the metagame will need to have a plan for these key cards. Vraska's Contempt was one card that was very well-positioned, as was Ixalan's Binding. Mono-Red aggro was the most dominant deck in Day 2 by far. There were also 23 Black-Red Aggro decks, some of them merely splashing for Scrapheap Scroungers and Unlicensed Disintegrations, while others had Hour of Glory, Dread Wanderer, and Bone Picker. Even if we grouped these decks, that's still less than 30% of the entire metagame.

As for the Blue-Black players, there are two easy ways to tell them apart. They're either playing with a lot of counterspells and removal or eschewing those for more threats. Grixis Energy was the next most popular archetype. Since players weren't allowed to pair Whirler Virtuoso with Rogue Refiner, they decided to hold hands with Glint-Sleeve Siphoner instead.

Moving down the list, we see a refreshing blend of old and new. Mardu Vehicles, Grixis Control, Pummeller, and Vampires were not unfamiliar archetypes, but Monsters and White-Black City's Blessing were fresh, and only made possible with numerous cards from Rivals of Ixalan. Then, there was also a cluster of Ramp decks featuring Mastermind's Acquisition, to go over the top. Isn't having such a diverse Standard metagame beyond your Wildest Dreams?

Cool Decks, Cool Plays

Now that we've showcased the wide variety of Standard decks let's take a closer look at some of the more unique ones. All these players might be wielding unorthodox weapons, but they were all potent enough to make it through to Day 2.

Chris Botelho calls himself a “deck building enthusiast," and he continued to delight us with his masterpiece. There were other versions of Mastermind Ramp, but his version aimed to win with Approach of the Second Sun instead. If you're trying to ramp your way into big spells, you might as well have a copy of The Immortal Sun or Torment of Hailfire in your sideboard.

Or, Zacama, Primal Calamity.

Chris Botelho's Mastermind Ramp

Grand Prix Memphis 2018
Download Arena Decklist

Zhou Zirui was fresh off a team Grand Prix win at Indianapolis and continued his chase for Pro Points here in Memphis. Showing up with something genuinely unconventional, he surprised everyone with his tribal deck.

The plane of Ixalan was populated by Merfolk, Pirates, Dinosaurs, and Vampires, so the Artificers of Kaladesh was not a tribe which was on anyone's radar. Perhaps that was why he was able to shock and awe.

Inventor's Goggles can be tapped to help cast Metallic Rebuke and Maverick Thopterist before jumping onto any of his Artificers, and he even had the combo of Decoction Module and Whirler Virtuoso for potentially an infinite amount of Thopters. He didn't need that many though. Saheeli Rai copying Maverick Thopterist was sweet enough to seal the deal!

Zhou Zirui's Blue-Red Artificers

Grand Prix Memphis 2018
Download Arena Decklist

And if you're in the mood for some “Hexproof Auras” shenanigans we occasionally see in Modern, how about Matthew Watts' White-Blue Auras? Curious Obsession on Adanto Vanguard creates a formidable threat which attacks relentlessly, while Sram's Expertise and Legion's Landing helps Slippery Scoundrel gain the City's Blessing to slip past opponent's defenses.

Watts was at a respectable 8-2 record by the end of Round 10 but picked up his third loss in Round 11. We won't be seeing this beauty in the Top 8, but we'd sure like all of you to see this!

  • Sacred Cat
  • Sram, Senior Edificer
  • Cartouche of Solidarity
  • Cartouche of Knowledge
  • Curious Obsession
  • Slippery Scoundrel

Matthew Watts' White-Blue Auras

Grand Prix Memphis 2018
Download Arena Decklist

Last but not least, we'd like to highlight Sam Black's White-Black City's Blessing deck. Snubhorn Sentry was not a card we expected to see in Standard, but a potential 3/3 for one mana was too good to pass up (see Wild Nacatl). Building around Pride of Conquerors, he was asked why his tokens deck did not run Radiant Destiny.

“Well, Radiant Destiny gives +1/+1 for the rest of the game and Pride of Conquerors gives +2/+2 for the rest of the game."

Right. Well-played!

Sam Black's White-Black City's Blessing

Grand Prix Memphis 2018
Download Arena Decklist

20 Archetypes in the Top 32

After fifteen rounds had ended, we further analyzed the Top 32 results, while also posting all these Top 32 Decklists for your perusal. The first observation was the unprecedented number of archetypes in the Top 32. Five archetypes made the Top 8, but fifteen other archetypes made Top 32! That makes a total of twenty unique strategies, which were not only viable but also competitive. As we close our curtains in Memphis, it's worth noting that this picture of Standard is a welcome sight, and it seems that even a month into this new format, diversity is here to stay.

Position Name Deck
9th Jonathan Penick Grixis Control
10th John Rolf Mono-Red
11th Corey Baumeister Blue-Black Midrange
12th Ari Lax Naya Monsters
13th Matthew Lewis Black-Red Aggro
14th Kohei Yoshino 4-Color Energy
15th Noah Walker Sultai Midrange
16th Cameron Sullivan Blue-Black Control
17th John Farrow White-Blue Cycling
18th Craig Rocco Jund
19th Sam Pardee Abzan Tokens
20th Todd Anderson Blue-Black Midrange
21st Adam Fiffles Blue-Black Control
22nd Derik Wood Mono-Red
23rd Luke Goodwin Grixis Energy
24th Nathanael Perigo Mono-Red
25th Dustin Lamb Black-Red Aggro
26th Brad Nelson Blue-Black Midrange
27th Matt Severa Mono-Red
28th Jack Kiefer White-Black City's Blessing
29th Sam Berkenbile Red-Green Monsters
30th Daniel Weiser Black-Red Aggro
31st Christopher McMahon Mono-Black Aggro
32nd Timothy Harris Mono-Red

The Grand Prix was the ultimate test that even hundreds of Magic Online leagues can't provide, and the Standard format delivered in spades here in Memphis. Mono-Red was considered one of the top archetypes entering the event, but it seems players came ready and prepared to answer Hazoret the Fervent. From Ixalan's Binding to Sunscourge Champion to even Hour of Glory, the dominance of the red deck failed to materialize in Tennessee.

Tyler Schroeder Planeswalked to Victory

  • Earthshaker Khenra
  • Glorybringer
  • Jadelight Ranger
  • Merfolk Branchwalker

    After fifteen rounds of Rivals of Ixalan Standard, the field of 1082 was reduced to just one. Cruising through the Swiss Rounds and steamrolling through the Top 8, it was Tyler Schroeder who towered above all with his Red-Green Monsters deck.

    Overruning Aaron Barich in the finals with a horde of resilient beaters, he also dispatched Matthew Kling in the semifinals, and even had to get past Pro Tour Hall of Famer Eric Froehlich in the quarterfinals.

    Congratulations once again to Tyler Schroeder for winning Grand Prix Memphis 2018!

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