Top Stories of Grand Prix Montreal

Posted in Event Coverage on May 21, 2017

By Meghan Wolff

Meghan is one half of the Good Luck High Five podcast and an adjunct professor at Tolarian Community College. She loves Limited, likes Modern, and dips her toes into each Standard season. She's decidedly blue and is the #1 hater of Siege Rhino in the Multiverse.

850 players gathered in Montreal this weekend, eager to compete in a Standard format still gaining definition, and to take their shot at garnering the top prize. At the end of day one only 276 remained to return on day two. After fifteen skill-testing rounds, eight players faced off in a Top 8 that represented the possibilities of Standard after Amonkhet.

The Day Two Decks

Pros and casual players alike showed a preference for the powerful Temur Marvel deck coming into the Grand Prix. Aetherworks Marvel's lead over the field was, however, slowly whittled down over the course of the Swiss rounds. While more than half of the players with three byes at GP Montreal made Temur Marvel their deck of choice, only three copies of the deck made their way into the Top 8.

Mardu Vehicles bounced back after flying under the radar for the entirety of Pro Tour Amonkhet, and many players took the opportunity presented by a fresh Standard format to bring fresh decks built to attack the forming metagame.

Below are the decks that entered Day Two with 19 or more points and a shot at making the Top 8.

Deck # of Players
Temur Marvel 60
Mardu Vehicles 15
Mono-Black Zombies 13
BGx Aggro 11
Blue-Red Control 10
Other Marvel 6
White-Blue 4
White-Black Zombies 3
Blue-Black Control 3
Jeskai Control 2
BGx Delirium 2
BRx Aggro 2
Mardu Planeswalkers 1
Esper Planeswalkers 1
Black-Red Control 1

Canada Defends Their Home Turf

Players from across Canada made the journey to Grand Prix Montreal, and, not content with merely making sure that Canada was represented, made their presence known in the tournament standings.

Team Badgers members Branden Nadeau and Jennifer Crotts, from Calgary, made multiple appearances in the feature match area on Saturday. Day One's undefeated players included three Candians – Shaun McLaren from Edmonton, Paul Dean from Toronto, and Maxime Auger from Quebec City.

Round 14 saw four players from Toronto, including Daniel Fournier, Massimo Gordillo, Liam Kane Meilleur, and Paul Dean, battling for a place in the Top 8. Two rounds later, five Canadian players pushed through to the GP Montreal Top 8.

Week Two: A Time to Test Control

Blue-Red Control remained just out of the limelight at Pro Tour Amonkhet, putting up a respectable 8-2 record in the Standard rounds but failing to break into the PT Top 8. It was enough of a finish, however, to inspire players at GP Montreal to either pick up a copy of the deck, or to sit down and brew up innovative control lists of their own.

Control decks can be difficult to build in the early phases of a Standard metagame. While a format's prevailing strategies are unknown, control decks are left to guess at the types of answers they'll need to their opponents' threats. But with a few weeks between the introduction of Amonkhet and GP Montreal, control enthusiasts were ready to bring their skills to bear on Standard.

Noted control aficionado Shaheen Soorani brought Blue-Black Control, a list built to make the best use of the powerful Liliana, the Last Hope. With Liliana, Yahenni's Expertise, and targeted removal like Grasp of Darkness, Soorani felt as though the decks match-up against Zombies was nearly perfect. Countermagic was his answer to Temur Marvel decks, a match-up he felt was close to even.

Shaheen Soorani's Blue-Black Control – GP Montreal

Download Arena Decklist

Soorani finished the tournament with a record of 11-4, in 36th place.

Jonathan Lebeau took a different tack, piloting a Black-Red Control deck relying on removal and Planeswalkers, rather than countermagic, to help him maintain control of the game.

Jonathan Lebeau's Black-Red Control – GP Montreal

Download Arena Decklist

Lebeau also went 11-4 and ended the tournament in 33rd.

Just Scraping By

Grand Prix Montreal had its fair share of players who survived through precarious board states – or precarious travel plans – and prevailed in tense situations.

On day one, Pat Cox, piloting Blue-Red Control, won through an opponent's resolved Ulamog by casting Disallow on the Ulamog's attack triggers to save his library and throwing his Wandering Fumaroles in front of the attacking titan to preserve his life total. He then won with a Dragonmaster Outcast and the accompanying fleet of flying 5/5s.

Bradley Robinson, who ended the first day undefeated, with a record of 8-0-1, was similarly cornered by an Ulamog on day one, though his particular Ulamog was one of his own that Robinson's opponent turned against him with a Confiscation Coup. With another Ulamog in hand, Robinson drew a tenth land and was able to cast the titan, exile the treacherous Ulamog, and go on to win the match.

GP Minneapolis Top 8 competitor Max McVety almost didn't make it to GP Montreal after missing his flight from Ann Arbor. Determined to play in the tournament, he hopped in the car on Friday and drove nine and a half hours to Montreal, arriving at 4am on Saturday. With a only a few hours of sleep, Mcvety still managed to end day one with a record of 8-1. He returned on day two and, more well-rested than the day before, fought his way to a remarkable 4th place finish.

Kevin Jones Wins it All!

As the semifinals began, one thing became clear – with two Canadians on one side of the bracket and two Americans on the other, the finals would set up an American-Canadian conflict to rival the Seven Years' War, or La guerre de la Conquete.

Kevin Jones, from Kingston, New York, was the first to close out his semifinal match. Paul Dean, from Toronto, followed suit not too long after. Dean, who went undefeated on day one, picked up only a single loss in the course of the second day and entered the Top 8 as the top seeded player. Jones found himself at 5-2 partway through day one, but didn't lose a match between there are the finals.

Both Jones and Dean were playing in their first GP Top 8, though Jones was a member of Team USA at the World Magic Cup last year, and Dean has a Pro Tour Top 8.

While the players hail from different sides of the Canada-US border, they have common ground in their choice of Temur Marvel, and, of course, in their love of Magic. Both players also went 8-0 in mirror matches throughout the course of the weekend.

"Are you looking at my list and wondering how I got this far?" Jones asked as the two players glanced over one another's decklists before the match began.

In game one, after taking a mulligan, Dean found a hand with a single Spirebluff Canal, an Attune with Aether, a few creatures, and an Aetherworks Marvel too tempting to resist. He failed to hit his second land drop over the next three turns, however.

Jones took quick advantage of his opponent's stumble, and rather than waiting for an Aetherwork's Marvel to make best use of his energy, he made thopters with a Whirler Virtuoso and made quick work of Dean's life total.

Dean took another mulligan at the start of game two. "Not like this!" he said as he looked at his six-card hand. He bowed his head over the cards, thought for a moment, and sent the hand back.

"Can I Harnessed Lightning that?" he asked despondently when Jones cast a Glimmer of Genius on turn four.

Jones once again got aggressive with his creatures, and pressured the land-light Dean enough so that, even when the Canadian was able to start casting spells, he was much to far behind to catch up.

Kevin Jones took the match 2-0, adding a Grand Prix win to his first Grand Prix Top 8!

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