GP Portland Top Moments

Posted in Event Coverage on November 20, 2017

By Meghan Wolff

Meghan is one half of the podcast Magic the Amateuring 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.

Dana Fischer Is Coming For Us All

Seven-year-old Dana Fischer has quickly become one of Magic's favorite mages. In the past year, Fischer has been a staple of west coast and midwestern Grand Prix, playing formats from Standard to Modern to Limited, often dressed as her favorite planeswalker, Nissa.

This weekend, Fischer came with an ambitious goal - to match her best GP finish of 5-4, which she'd previously accomplished in Modern. Playing Temur Energy, Fischer met that goal, and, in the process, secured a first-round bye for this season and the next. It's just one more step toward her even grander goal of becoming the youngest player to make Day 2. She still has a few years, but with her focus and dedication, she looks on track to accomplish.

She also stopped by on Day 2 to hop in the booth and give her take on a match in progress!

Pirates Drop Anchor

With the Portland Convention Center so close to the Willamette River, it was inevitable that some of Ixalan's most notorious denizens would make their way to the Grand Prix. While hydras, dragons, dinos, and more ran rampant on the battlefield, it was pirates who stalked the floor of the convention center hall.

Those pirates included Magic judges Zenaide Beckham and Brock Sprunger, from Eugene, Oregon. Beckham's cosplay even included small green lights just inside the collar of her jacket that gave her an eerie deep-ocean glow.

Admiral Beckett Brass (@AshlenRose) was there as well, and while the entire ensemble had fantastic nautical flair, that hat, in particular, everyone wanted to get their hands on.

Of course, these days, if pirates are around, that must mean Vraska is somewhere nearby. Sure enough, she could be found enjoying her morning tea before, we assume, starting a long day of searching for Orazca and tolerating Jace.

Corey Burkhart Works His Control Magic

Control enthusiast and member of Face to Face Games Corey Burkhart came to GP Portland ready to play well into the long game and out-value his opponents at every opportunity with a white-blue cycling deck featuring both Drake Haven and Abandoned Sarcophagus.

"Oh, it's the best. I've been joking the deck's broken, but in reality, the deck's just very low variance. A lot of the time you get to keep one- and two-landers in your control deck that wants to cast a Settle the Wreckage or a Fumigate on curve. When nearly half the cards in your deck have cycling, you find all the lands that you need."

Unlike many control decks of the most recent Standard seasons, WU Cycling doesn't spend its early turns on cheap counters or removal. Instead, it's focusing on setting up its graveyard for the turns ahead. This early game plan is also informed by the fact that the deck's card choices are limited.

"You spend the first couple of turns usually cycling, trying to find your lands, and if you're lucky enough you play a Search for Azcanta. The unfortunate thing with the deck is you can't really afford any cards that don't have the literal text 'cycling' on them because you're so reliant on your Drake Haven and Abandoned Sarcophagus to win the game. So you don't get to play things like Essence Scatter and Negate and Disallow. You don't get to play any of these normal interactive spells that control decks get to play, or the cheap interaction."

While the deck's midgame more closely matches that of traditional control, wiping the board with spells like Settle the Wreckage and Fumigate, in the late game is where it really breaks the mold.

"Eventually you find a Sarcophagus and your opponent is like 'what does that do?' and you're like, 'well, I just drew these eleven cards that are in my graveyard.'"

Between the Sarcophagus and Drake Havens, you're soon swimming in cards and creatures, while your opponent's resources have dwindled to nothing.

Corey Burkhart's White-Blue Cycling - GP Portland, 15th

Mono-Black Aggro Takes the Field By Surprise

While Burkhart went the route of control in an attempt to best Standard's mid-range menaces, Vancouver player Dean Paterson attacked the metagame from a different angle entirely. He opted for an aggressive mono-black deck that, with its best draws, could have four or five creatures in play by turn three.

"I think a lot of the midrange decks are coming to fight each other. They're trying to go over the top of each other with four-color and The Scarab God and that kind of stuff, so by playing a bad aggro deck, basically, and knowing the deck really well, I've won with a lot of good combat tricks today."

Paterson wasn't the only player to think of Mono-Black Aggro as a way to get an edge on increasingly big mid-range decks, though he was probably the only one playing a copy Skullduggery in his main deck. Around the hall, tales abounded of mono-black aggro players using Fatal Push on their own Dread Wanderers to drop two Bone Pickers on the table as early as turn three.

While he didn't make it to the Top 8, Paterson still finished in the Top 64, and impressive feat in an almost 1700-person tournament.

Dean Paterson's Mono-Black Aggro - GP Portland, 20th

Friends and Teammates at the Top

At the end of Saturday, five players remained undefeated. After another round on Sunday morning, only two were left with perfect records, and those two just happened to be friends and pseudo-teammates Corey Baumeister and Christoffer Larsen.

The two players are members of Genesis and Genesis's new off-shoot, Revelation. They even roomed together for this weekend's event! Baumeister's ten-round undefeated streak was a continuation of his incredible Standard run, in which he's made the Top 8 of his last four Standard Grand Prix.

Teammate Seth Manfield's poll just about summed up Baumeister's incredible Standard run.

Corey Baumeister's incredible streak of Grand Prix Top 8s ended this weekend, as the North Dakota player finished 39th. Larsen, however, went undefeated through round 13, then conceded to Shahar Shenhar before making the Top 8 with a draw in round 15.

The Finals: Brandon Goe (Ramunap Red) vs. Shahar Shenhar (Temur Energy)

Brandon Goe had quite the birthday weekend, going 6-0 on Day 2 of the Grand Prix to make his first GP Top 8. The Spokane, Washington player turned 23 on Friday, then proceeded to clear a path through the 1,700 players between him and the Top 8 with his take on Ramunap Red.

Goe played a particularly punishing version of the popular red deck, with two Harsh Mentor and four Rampaging Ferocidon in the main deck. It all added up to a lot of incidental damage for his opponents, and Goe was a clear communicator who diligently announced triggers and verbally confirmed damage with his opponent.

Shahar Shenhar stunned the Magic community in 2014, when he won the Magic World Championship for the second year in a row, the only player to have ever accomplished that particular feat. More recently, Shenhar placed 14th at Pro Tour Ixalan. Today, he played Temur Enegy, a deck he, and many others, believe to be the straightforward best deck in the format. According to Shenhar, it's "crazy to not play" Temur.

In game one, though Goe curved a Bomat Courier into an Earthshaker Khenra, then played a Harsh Mentor on turn three, Shenhar stabilized too quickly. Shenhar had his own solid draw of Longtusk Cub and Rogue Refiner into Whirler Virtuoso and a pair of Bristling Hydras.

In game two, a pair of Harsh Mentors and a Rampaging Ferocidon from Goe looked like a great way to keep Shenhar from using the Bristling Hydras and Servants of the Conduit that he had in play. Unfortunately, however, Goe only made three land drops, then found his hand crowded with cards he was having a hard time efficiently casting. Shenhar, in the meantime, steadily flooded his board with creatures, which eventually overwhelmed Goe's and ended the game.

Goe extended his hand, and the match was over. He may not have taken home the trophy, but his pack of friends crowded around the feature match area circled him in a giant hug and regaled him with "Happy Birthday."

Congratulation to Your GP Portland 2017 Winner, Shahar Shenhar!

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