There were tons of matches going off all over the hall, but around the top tables (and the Feature Match area) were the players who just couldn’t seem to lose today. There were eight players without a loss going into the final round. I took a scope around the tables to see what was going on underneath, and some of the players who had gotten themselves this far in the first day.
In the first match, four-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Pascal Maynard was up against Alex Edingfield and his robot allies. Edingfield had a bunch of Signal Pests against a bunch of Goblin Guides early in the first game. It was an aggro-player’s paradise. These Guides are quickly becoming the hallmark of Maynard’s hyper-aggressive Blue-Red Delver deck. Pascal’s last year in Magic “hasn’t been the greatest” as he put it, but all that seem behind him since his Top 8 at Grand Prix Ottawa. Now he’s re-qualified for the Pro Tour and looks to be back in full swing. He didn’t think 2014 was his year, perhaps 2015 will be quite different.
Though the Canadian lost the first game in that aggro frenzy, he was able to find his single copy of Hurkyl's Recall in both games two and three and stole the match out from under an unsuspecting Edingfield. He finished the day 9-0, and one of Pascal Maynard’s first Grand Prix of 2015 started off as perfectly as it could.
Just a few tables down, Houston native Randall Gay—coming off a recent Top 8 in San Antonio—was piloting a very midrange-y Abzan deck. In Round 9 he was up against the Blue-Red Delver of Minnesotan Mark Hinsz. Hinsz has been a local Minnesota staple for years, but this was his first time making the second day of a Grand Prix. He was pretty nonchalant about it, but I could tell he was happy.
Just as nonchalantly as Hinsz’s demeanor, Gay nonchalantly took the games handily. His removal-heavy Abzan deck matched up well against the threat-light Delver deck. This is now the second time in about a month that Randall Gay has finished 9-0 after the first day. Last time he converted it to a Top 8 finish. Only tomorrow will tell if he can run back a similar result.
Over in the feature match area, Scott Lipp was against Jeremy Vogt. Scott Lipp was playing a pretty saucy deck indeed. Coming from Kansas City, where he owns a card shop (named after his nickname, Spanky), he’s playing a Red-Green Scapeshift–Through The Breach build. Sometimes it’s referred to online as Red-Green Makeshift, but I think it’s better as Red-Green BreachScape.
Lipp said he saw it floating around when looking for a great build that featured Chalice of the Void, and just went to town. Many people have been looking for the optimal Chalice of the Void deck, as it’s undoubtedly powerful in the format, and it’s possible this one is it. Or perhaps it’s the surprise factor that helped give it the oomph.
Jeremy Vogt was on the burn plan. Like Maynard, Vogt has been living for turn-one Goblin Guides and the last round was no different. Vogt is the only local player, having moved here a couple years ago. About a month ago he won a Grand Prix Trial, and decided to practice up for his first Grand Prix and immediately found himself 8-0. Unfortunately for him, his deck’s plan didn’t match-up very well against super-early Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and in two quick games, Scott Lipp earned himself a strong 9-0 finish. Lipp would start his Day 2 perfectly.
The last undefeated match, and the second in the feature match area, Ian Farnung Two-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor was facing off against Grand Prix Detroit winner and Iowa man Josh McClain in a Pod mirror match. Unlike most people here, McClain was still playing his Chord of Calling. “I just really like the versatility,” he said. The man’s already won a Grand Prix with the deck; he’s certainly one of the go-to people on the deck; and he’s undefeated—perhaps he’s on to something. In fact, when talking to Farnung about his build, he referenced McClain and his impressive winning streak with it.
Farnung has been a strong believer in the deck since its first appearance, and like McClain, really thinks its one of the best decks in the format. “When things break down in a game, Pod’s back-up plan is very strong.” Farnung’s maindeck has one Courser of Kruphix, and he’s surprised more people don’t play with it. “It really helps some aspects of the deck.” He continued that he could see a three-drop split of “two Kitchen Finks, one Spike Feeder, and one Courser.” This match-up was unsurprisingly the last one to finish.
It was a back-and-forth, but in the third game, McClain was able to grab the mirror-match-breaking Spellskite early on, and then assembled the gain-7,000,000-life combo (that was the number he chose) to take the last game. And one of Pod’s most recognizable names was 9-0 with his tried-and-true deck.
At the end of Day 1 Pascal Maynard, Randall Gay, Scott Lipp, and Josh McClain are all 9-0. Congratulations to them! And best wishes to converting that great Day 1 into a Top 8 finish tomorrow.