What were the biggest cards of the weekend? Then read on to learn more about Grand Prix Oakland's Top 5 Cards!
5. Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury
They said playing four of this dragon was crazy. But clearly it wasn't at all. There is nothing that pushes through the final damage and can steal a game from out of nowhere quite like Kolaghan. Dan Ward — the driving force behind the Black-Red Dragons deck that took Justin Nguyen to the Top 8 — has been pushing for playing as many Kolaghans as possible, and that was advice competitors took to heart in Oakland. Both black-red decks in the Top 8 played Kolaghan, and the archetype took many in the Grand Prix field by surprise. If this event is any indication, that won't be the case any more.
Nothing but a sideboard card? Maybe once upon a time. These days Duress is one of the premier early-game plays in Standard, and it's no longer relegated to the sideboard. From nabbing Dig Through Time from the control decks, Rally the Ancestors from the combo deck, or even Become Immense from the red decks, Duress has rarely been better. Every Top 8 deck that played black played Duress between their main deck and sideboard.
3. Painful Truths
A slow arrival to Standard, Painful Truths has nonetheless found itself a home among the most powerful cards at Grand Prix Oakland. In a format that is often about controlling the board and doesn't feature very much to-the-face burn, paying life for cards is an acceptable cost.
And nothing is better at that role than Painful Truths. With the ability to be cast for as little as one color in a pinch to three when in need of the most cards possible, the flexibility of the spell has proven key for multiple archetypes, from Dark Jeskai to Black-Red Dragons to Abzan variants. In a format where finding the most colors and the most cards possible, Painful Truths is king at making that happen.
2. Stubborn Denial
Though there will always be a marquee Abzan card on this list (we don't count Painful Truths), this time that honor goes to a card not typically seen in Abzan lists by virtue of, well, being a blue card. But in a deck full of four-power creatures, Stubborn Denial is actually an all-star in the right deck, and this weekend that deck was Ben Rubin's Blue Abzan deck that took him all the way to the finals of the tournament.
It proved its worth in Rubin's win-and-in for the Top 8, countering a critical Abzan Charm from his opponent in the final game. The unexpected counter allowed the hall of famer to push through the final points of damage and punch his first Grand Prix Top 8 ticket since 2004.
1. Rally the Ancestors
It's not often that combo decks pop up in Standard, but Rally the Ancestors is pretty close. While the deck can function as a midrange value deck — Collected Company is pretty good at that — without its namesake card, Rally is what really pushes it over the top. Using Sidisi's Faithful and Nantuko Husk to get around Rally's built-in drawback, the deck generates crazy amounts of value with Catacomb Sifter, Grim Haruspex and Zulaport Cutthroat, often ending the game without a single attack step.
Rally the Ancestors was the most represented archetype in the Top 8, with three players — including the eventual winner — bringing the quirky deck into the elimination rounds. With its first Grand Prix victory in the hands of your new Grand Prix Master points leader Reid Duke, it's clear that Rally the Ancestors is here to stay.