For many players, making the cut from Day 1 to Day 2 of a Grand Prix is an accomplishment in of itself. But there's a step further that a few claim every event: Remaining undefeated through the first half. While going 9-0 or 8-0-1, for 27 or 25 points respectively, isn't a guarantee of a Top 8 slot by any means it is one of the stones that can be laid down in the groundwork of a Grand Prix victory.
Going into the round there were seven players playing for a possible 8-0-1 record. Three emerged to claim it: Hugo Terra playing an aggressive four-color deck, Kit Chinlund playing a strictly two-color white-green machine, and Magic Online Community Cup contender Tom Ross with his double Ghostfire Blade four-color deck. With less than half the undefeated decks represented, it's clear there's a stunning diversity in what makes a good deck great enough for a lossless day of Sealed.
In the battles to achieve a truly astonishing 9-0 Day 1 finish, five emerged from the smoldering battlefield: all three of Gabriel Rogasner, Jason Southworth, and Dominic Ceresani rallying the Mardu to their cause; Ian Farnung outlasting with the Abzan; and Daniel Reyes with an aggressive Jeskai crew.
All three of these decks – Ceresani's, Reyes', and Southworth's – relied on tempo and removal to force their way through. Unlike some of the decks sitting at 8-0-1, which played four or more colors to great effect by casting the most colorful and powerful spell they could, these undefeated decks represented the potential for aggression to be rewarded. One defeated player, in falling to 8-1, revealed both Butcher of the Horde and Wingmate Roc.
"I can't beat either of those cards." Sounded awfully hollow from the winner's side of the table.
One of the matches on camera – Sol Malka in his eventual loss to Gabriel Rogasner – went to a very long three games, as Abzan-focused decks are apt to do. While Malka was able to push Rogasner all the way down to 1 life in the third game, he stalled out on pressure by drawing too many lands. It opened up the opportunity for the humble Kheru Bloodsucker to convert copies of Disowned Ancestor and Shambling Attendants into enough life to draw into removal.
That all led to the penultimate turn where Malka attacked for lethal into an apparently defenseless Rogasner only to find a freshly drawn Throttle waiting. While it wasn't enough to kill Malka's Sage-Eye Harrier, it also meant Rogasner's 5/5 Kheru Bloodsucker was now lethal on the attack back.
Digging valiantly Malka found nothing to help him, and Rogasner's friends watching erupted in cheer.
"What life were you at?"
"One." Rogasner could barely contain a grin at coming from behind to claim perfection.
When you're riding high, that's the feeling and privilege so few ever get to experience. If squeaking in at 7-2 and feels good, image how Rogasner must feel heading for the night.