Nine rounds, no byes: That's the march to become undefeated in Team Limited on Day 1 of a Grand Prix. Massaging mana, managing morphs, and making all the right calls – including whether you listen to your teammates or not – is a challenge few can follow through on.
Going into the ultimate round of Day 1 at Grand Prix Nashville just three teams were fighting for that glory:
- With the only 8-0 record as a team, the trio of Matthew Sommerhalter, Dewitt Kane, and Riley Curran
- Bob Baker, Brian Kowal, and Mike Heup at 7-0-1
- And also at 7-0-1 Brent Gregath, Matthew Boccio, and Tillman Bragg
While two of these teams sat atop the standings for a showdown, it's at Table 2 that an interesting story unfolded.
Table 2: The Heist
Gregath, Boccio, and Bragg, in their fight for undefeated, were paired down to a few players you may already know: Pro Tour Gatecrash winner and 18th-ranked Tom Martell, Pro Tour Hall of Fame member Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, and 2013 World Champion and 20th-ranked Shahar Shenhar. With plenty of Pro Tour and Grand Prix performances (And wins!) under their belts, the trio was in a position to steal away the undefeated spotlight from the underdogs.
Martell and Gregath clashed in a Mardu mirror. In two quick games, Martell took over the battlefield and put his Sealed powerhouse Butcher of the Horde to work claiming the victory.
In the middle seats, Damo da Rosa and Boccio had longer games. The Brazilian Hall of Famer had planted a Jeskai deck, but it bore no fruit against Boccio's Temur deck: In two games Boccio outmaneuvered the all star, using a Barrage of Boulders to pummel the smaller creatures Damo da Rosa had cast to claim the win.
The final seats found Shenhar and a powerful Temur deck packing Clever Impersonator and Savage Knuckleblade facing off against Tillman Bragg with an Abzan deck loaded up by Wingmate Roc and Abzan Ascendency. The first game was claimed by Shenhar who managed to fight his way through the Wingmate Roc and trample the remaining opposition with his powerful rares. The second game fell Bragg's way after Shenhar declared an unfavorable blocker order on his double-blocked Snowhorn Rider, giving Bragg an opening to swing back through.
The decisive third game wasn't a miracle moment however, as Shenhar curved Jeskai Elder, Glacial Stalker, and Bear's Companion – with removal as needed throughout – to demolish every creature Bragg played. It was an unfortunate end to an exciting run at becoming undefeated.
At the highest table sat the other two teams attempting to claim the throne. Matthew Sommerhalter played a red-green deck with just a hint of blue. While Temur cards were available in his sideboard, it was the decidedly monocolor cards that he used to great effect. Bob Baker had a more typical Mardu deck, spread across the colors evenly to support casting two copies of Mardu Roughrider and a Mardu Charm.
The first game looked like it was about to fall Sommerhalter's way when he cast a late Crater's Claw for lethal apparent: 7 damage to Baker's 6 life. Coolly, Baker unmorphed a Watcher of the Roost to put himself up to 9 life. From there, Baker methodically clawed back into things and flew to the win.
The second game quickly found a similar situation, but without the Watcher of the Roost slide for Baker to survive. The third game found Baker on the offensive delivery, chipping away at Sommerhalter until he drew what he needed to get back into the game: Arc Lightning to wipe away the rest of Baker's battlefield.
"I drew it exactly when I needed it," Sommerhalter said after finishing off Baker. They laughed and shook hands. "But it's that Watcher of the Roost for the Crater's Claw that was awesome."
Baker beamed back.
The middle seat was a curt affair between Dewitt Kane and Brian Kowal. Kane's focused four-color deck – featuring two Abzan Guide, an Abomination of Gudul, Duneblast, Sagu Mauler, Sultai Charm, and Sultai Soothsayer – relied on Ghostfire Blade to power up morphs until they could be unmorphed. While Kowal had eight nonbasic lands to Kane's five, Kowal stumbled in both of his games in trying to get his own four-color plan going. Missing crucial mana and cards when he needed them, Kowal caved into two games to Kane.
The third seats featured a near white-black mirror match. Riley Carron eschewed every other color of mana to make the most of Warriors and his two copies of Chief of the Scales. Grim Haruspex and Herald of Anafenza didn't hurt either. Mike Heup was mostly white-black as well, but added the flair of green to cast Abzan Charm, Armament Corps, and two copies of Duneblast.
"He recovered well from the Duneblast," Kowal quipped about Carron to his teammate after the first fired in the second game. It looked like Carron would make the comeback, but the second Duneblast was just was Heup needed.
Congratulations to Matthew Sommerhalter, Dewitt Kane, and Riley Curran, your Day 1 undefeated team from Grand Prix Nashville!