Day 1 Coverage of Grand Prix Prague

Posted in Event Coverage on January 11, 2014

By Wizards of the Coast

Day One of Grand Prix Prague 2014 is in the books. It's been a great day of exciting Magic, with 1,396 players fighting through nine rounds of Modern play. Only 185 of them escaped the carnage with records of 7-2 or better and will return tomorrow, for an additional six rounds before the Top 8 play-offs.

Overnight, six players sit atop the standings with unblemished records of 9-0: Valentin Mackl, Bernhard Wurmitzer, Vjeran Horvat, Marcel Kachapow, Andrej Rutar, and Lukasz Szplit. But several big names are close behind: (15) Martin Jůza, Vincent Lemoin, Florian Pils, Joel Calafell, Alessandro Portaro, Lukas Blohon, Florian Koch, Pierre Dagen, Jan van der Vegt, and Emanuele Giusti are all 8-1 while, among others, (9) Jérémy Dezani and (10) Stanislav Cifka managed to squeeze into Day Two on 7-2.

Meanwhile Modern continues to impress with its variety of viable deck types. Blue-White-Red, Merfolk, Urzatron, Splinter Twin, and Jund with and without white all managed 9-0 records. Tomorrow, we'll have more insight into the format, more action, and more stories straight from the battlefield. Join us then. Good night!


Saturday, 9:55 a.m. – Grand Prix Trial Winners

by Tobi Henke
 

The weekend's main event may just be in its very early stages, with actual play having barely even begun, but already we have some winners to report. As usual the action started yesterday with a number of Grand Prix Trial tournaments, the last chance for players to earn two byes for this here Grand Prix, and the first chance for us to glean an idea of the frontrunners and the new developments in the format.

As it stands, Modern, more than anything else, continues to be a very diverse format. However, there are some news to come out of the Trials. For example, Junk, the green-black-white midrange deck, completely overshadowed Jund, and everything else for that matter, with one version taking at least three of the top spots here. That particular version is basically two-colored with just a hint of white for Lingering Souls and notable sideboard options like Stony Silence.

The second most succesful deck was Merfolk, which had constantly been climbing in popularity after Raphaël Lévy's memorable performance at Grand Prix Antwerp. Master of Waves brought the deck back to the forefront and apparently is a force to be reckoned with.

Suspiciously absent from this collection of winning decks is Birthing Pod and Jund, but clearly they're bound to show up rather sooner than later.

Timm Gerber

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Alan Geverini

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Florian Götz

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Petr Kralovic

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Florian Zarges

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Alexander Semkin

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Henrik Andersson

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Yann Blumer

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Ivo Dienelt

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Johannes Wagner

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Niv Shmuely

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Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – The A to Z of Modern

by Olle Rade
 

Modern is one of the largest formats currently played at Grand Prix and it is certainly a jungle to navigate through. A large card pool ensures a large number of playable decks and to get a grip on all of them is almost impossible. To give you a little help on the way, and maybe a few facts you didn't already know we have composed a summary of some of the key cards, expansions and archetypes in the format.

So, here is the only encyclopedia you will need this weekend. The A to Z of Modern.

A – Affinity, the old school name of the deck built around cheap artifact creatures, boosted by Cranial Plating, Arcbound Ravager, and Steel Overseer. Some people insist on calling it Robots, but regardless of the name it is certainly one of the most powerful decks of the format, sometimes killing as fast as turn two or three.

BBirthing Pod – The ultimate Johnny card in Modern. It does everything and a little more. Allowing to search for infinite creature combos like Melira, Sylvok Outcast, Viscera Seer, and Murderous Redcap, or Spike Feeder and Archangel of Thune. Or it can grind out games with value by sacrificing Kitchen Finks, getting Restoration Angel, gaining life, value, and a big frown on your opponent's face.

CCryptic Command – The best countermagic in Modern. Although the format doesn't have a lot of effective counterspells, this one certainly fits the bill. It was also the key card in Shahar Shenhar's Blue/White/Red deck that claimed the World Champion-title in Amsterdam last summer.

DDeathrite Shaman – Is it a mana creature? Is it an anti-graveyard card? Or is it simply the best one drop ever printed? No matter what, it is a creature that has really made a breakthrough in Modern. Whether in midrange Jund or Junk decks, multi-colored control strategies or in the five-color Zoo deck, this little fellow gets the job done. Whatever it is.

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

EEmrakul, the Aeons Torn – What better way to spend 15 mana? Emrakul, the Aeons Torn sees play both in decks built around the Urza lands to accelerate him into play and decks that cheat him into play with Through the Breach or Fist of the Suns. Extra turns and opponents sacrificing permanents. Good fun, and more often than not, Good Game.

FFulminator Mage – In a format defined not only by a variety of dual lands, but also man lands ranging from Inkmoth Nexus to Celestial Colonnade, the Fulminator Mage has a lot of job to do. It's also well suited for blowing up Urza lands, and the deck that utilizes the Elemental Shaman the most is probably the deck built around Living End, recurring them along with a bunch of other creatures to destroy even more lands.

G – "Greatness at any cost", the flavour text on the oh so powerful Dark Confidant. Originally designed by Bob Maher as his prize for winning an Invitational, the card was also reprinted last summer and will be out in numbers this weekend in Prague. The question is how many we will see in total? I'd put the under/over line at 1500.

H – Hexproof – The keyword that doesn't only appear on creatures like Geist of Saint Traft, it also spawned it's own archetype. The green white deck is based upon untargetable creatures like Slippery Bogle and Gladecover Scout and wins by enchanting them with auras like Rancor, Hyena Umbra and ultimately Day Break Coronet. Although somewhat of a fringe deck, pro played Duke Reid found it good enough to pilot in the World Championships last year, taking him all the way to second place.

I – Infect – Another mechanic that for a while had a deck of it's own in Modern. For the moment it seems to have disappeared, but there was a time where one of the most powerful starts in the format included casting a Glistener Elf on turn one and on the second turn casting pump spells enough to grant it 10 power for the win.

J – Jund – Originally one of the five shards of Alara, the deck that was a force to be reckoned with in standard back then is now very much so also in Modern. The Red, Green, Black combination built around mana efficient discard, removal, planeswalkers and the best creatures mana can offer has for a long time been the deck everyone is gunning to beat. Will it remain on top? Or is the letter namesake Junk (Green/Black/White), the new deck to beat? This weekend might decide!

Karn Liberated

KKarn Liberated – A big moment in lore history was when Venser, the Sojourner used his last mana to give life to Karn Liberated, releasing him from Phyrexian tyranny, free to roam as he wanted. Little did he know that he would end up in a deck built around Urza's Powerplant, Urza's Tower and Urza's Mine, making him castable already on turn three. Lore aside, the "Tron deck" is one of the staples in the Modern format, and noone should leave for a tournament without preparing for it. In Prague vendors have already sold out on one of the key cards to defeating it, Sowing Salt, so time will tell if Karn Liberated is sent back to his prison, or if his unholy alliance with his creator's lands keep him free to dominate the format.

LLiliana of the Veil – Without contest the most played planeswalker in Modern. With Jace, the Mind Sculptor still on the ban list the black discard machine will probably remain her throne for quite some time.

MModern Masters – Last summers expansion released to give the Modern format a boost. Good old staples were reprinted, and green mythic dragons were upsetting limited players everywhere. If they only had all been Tarmogoyfs.

NNoble Hierarch – One of Brian Kiblers favorite cards of the format. Utilized in any green deck it both serves as mana acceleration and boosting attackers. The Hierarch pops up both in Birthing Pod based decks and more straight-forward green white creature decks, like Kiblers hate bear deck.

OOlivia Voldaren – The legendary vampire is one of the more successful attempts at replacing the, now banned, Bloodbraid Elf in the Jund archetype. Featured at least in the sideboard of many of it's reincarnations.

P – Philadelphia, the city where the Modern format had it's debut at a Pro Tour in 2011. Although several sets have been added since then, and a lot of changes have been made to the ban list, some people still have fond memories from Philadelphia. Good times were had with second turn wins either through Storm combo or Inkmoth Nexus and Blazing Shoal.

QQasali Pridemage – So far the only card beginning with the letter Q that sees play in Modern. Although it might be a doubtful accomplishment, the card still makes the list.

RReturn to Ravnica – The last set that had a huge impact on Modern. Not only did it feature a reprint of the Shock dual lands that originally appeared in the Ravnica block. It also added Deathrite Shaman, Abrupt Decay and Sphinx's Revelation which all have seen heavy play.

SSplinter Twin – An enchantment that is based for another *drumroll* exciting combo deck. Whether enchanting a Deceiver Exarch, Pestermite or a Restoration Angel with it, it allows for an infinite amount of token creatures, a scenario only really losable on Magic Online where you might run out of time clicking through the triggers.

Tarmogoyf

TTarmogoyf – whether a meager 2/3, a decent 3/4 or a huge 5/6, the two mana creature from Future Sight is one of the most iconic cards in Modern, and it's reprint in Modern Masters only added to it's popularity. Whether a green mage to start with, or just splashing for it, this Lhurgoyf is one of, if not the best creature in the format.

U – Urza, master artificer, Mishra's brother and one of the first characters in the storyline of Magic. 20 years later, and his Mine, Power Plant and Tower, originally from Antiquities still allows for some unfair turn three plays. Although this time neither Triskelion on Tetravus makes the cut.

VValakut, the Molten Pinnacle – The most recent card unbanned in Modern. Originally Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle was banned, being considered too powerful in combination with Prismatic Omen and Scapeshift to allow for a one turn combo kill. Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle was kept on the banned list until the end of 2012. Since then the Scapeshift combo deck has reappeared and claimed a few top 8 performances. Although not quite being over the top insanely unstoppable.

WWalk the Aeons – A key card in a somewhat obscure combo deck based around card drawers like Howling Mine and Jace Beleren. It goes off by chaining Time Walk effects each turn, drawing an awful amount of cards and finally winning by casting Laboratory Maniac with an empty library.

X – Xpedition Map – Ok, the spelling is a bit liberal, but there really aren't any cards that begin with X that are played in Modern. Xenagos, the Reveler might make it one day, but until then, the Expedition Map will have to represent the letter X.

Y –Yuuya Watanabe – Japanese pro player and multiple Player of the Year winner. He was also one of the sculptors of the Modern Jund deck, that he also won the 2012 Player's Championship with.

ZZendikar, the expansion that brought us the fetchlands that provide half of the mana bases in Modern. The demand for these has skyrocketed in the last year and a lot of people are keeping their fingers crossed for a reprint.

Did we miss something obvious? Or did you enjoy reading the article? What cards or phenomenon would you put in an encyclopedia of Modern. Let us know on Twitter with the #GPPrague hashtag!


Saturday, 1:55 p.m. – Metagame of the Three-and-a-Half Percent

by Tobi Henke
 

With roughly 1,400 players in the tournament, we can't possibly give you a complete rundown of what deck archetypes are being played today. However, we checked with 49 of the more well-known players in the tournament and now know what each and every one of them is playing. For reference, here's the player list:

Fabrizio Anteri
Frederico Bastos
Rasmus Bjorklund
Ondrej Baudys
Lukas Blohon
Michael Bonde
Petr Brozek
Joel Calafell
Stanislav Cifka
Marco Cammilluzzi
Pierre Dagen
Fabian Dickmann
Patrick Dickmann
Jérémy Dezani
Mark Dictus
Thomas Enevoldsen
Samuele Estratti
Daniel Fior
Ivan Floch
Emanuele Giusti
Tobias Grafensteiner
Steve Hatto
Thomas Holzinger
Martin Jůza
Lukas Jaklovsky
Robert Jurkovic
Gabor Kocsis
Florian Koch
Jonas Köstler
Adorjan Korbl
Wenzel Krautmann
Raphaël Lévy
Vincent Lemoine
Andre Müller
Valentin Mackl
Robbert Menten
Tamas Nagy
Elie Pichon
Florian Pils
Alessandro Portaro
Niv Shmuely
Max Sjoblom
Marcin Staciwa
Robin Steinborn
Petr Sochurek
Shahar Shenhar
Jan van der Vegt
Arjan van Leeuwen
Matej Zatlkaj

To not spoil their fun, we won't publish the info on everyone's deck at this point. However, here's a breakdown of this 49-person metagame:

8 Affinity
7 Birthing Pod
7 Splinter Twin
5 Jund
4 Junk
4 Merfolk
4 Scapeshift
2 Green-White
2 Urzatron
1 Storm
1 Burn
1 Brozek Deck Wins
1 "Tin Fists" (check coverage later)
1 Jund/Junk hybrid
1 Blue-White-Red

Round 4 Feature Match - Jan van der Vegt vs. Roberto Taroni

by Olle Rade
 

As the first three rounds have finished here in Prague the tension rises. The people with 3 byes have entered the tournament, and the ones with two byes and a win, like Jan van der Vegt are fighting for their fourth. Being the online personality he is, before the start of the match he asked his Bologna opponent if it was okay to film the match for a video project. "No problem," answered the Italian as he shuffled up for his first ever feature match.

The Decks

Jan van der Vegt's deck has already sparked quite some interest, winning through spectacular fashion by casting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn at the discount prize of 5 mana using Fist of Suns. Roberto's deck is green white, filled with "hate bears", focusing on shutting down his opponents resources and making their spells more expensive to cast by summoning Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. The good news for Taroni is that his deck suits up well against Jan's, the bad is that van der Vegt beat a deck just like it in the previous round.


Roberto Taroni

The Games

The match started off in a friendly fashion, with the hat wearing Italian summoning a Noble Hierarch and a Voice of Resurgence in his first two turns. Jan van der Vegt answered by Lightning Bolting the Hierarch and cast Thoughtseize, revealing another Noble Hierarch, a second Voice of Resurgence and two copies of Wilt Leaf Liege.

"Not gonna take those," joked Jan, getting a smile from his opponent as he discarded his Noble Hierarch, hoping to strand him on mana.

His own face wasn't as happy when Taroni promptly played two lands from the top of his deck the following two turns and summoned the second voice along with a Wilt Leaf Liege to quickly put Jan out of the game.

Game two however, was all van der Vegt's show. Casting Izzet Charm on his second turn, discarding the Cube all-star Griselbrand and on turn three he put it into play with Goryo's Vengeance. This allowed him to draw 14 cards and attack for seven before summoning a Sylvan Caryatid and next turn following it up with an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, also animated by Goryo's Vengeance.

For the third game Roberto Taroni reached for his sideboard, realizing he might have underestimated Jan's deck, and added Scavenging Oozes to try and fight the reanimation strategy.

"Is your deck all colors?," asked Roberto before the start of the final game. Claiming he was familiar with the archetype, but hadn't seen the Fist of Suns one on Magic Online.


Jan van der Vegt

Jan was off to a quick start game three as well, when a Simian Spirit Guide allowed a turn one Sylvan Caryatid, somewhat nullifying Robertos Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. A second Caryatid followed, before van der Vegt cast his decks namesake card Fist of Suns, crossing his fingers looking down at the Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in his hand.

Unfortunately for him, Taroni summoned a Qasali Pridemage on his turn, threatening to destroy the Fist of Suns. However, as Taroni calmly passed the turn, van der Vegt, not as calmly, slammed down another land and cast the Emrakul, the Aeons Torn from his hand. Taking his extra turn, he could attack with a Creeping Tar Pit to deal lethal damage in addition to his opponent having to sacrifice six permanents.

"You should have probably blown up the Fist with that Pridemage," Jan hinted at his opponent after the game, as surprised as anyone watching.

Conclusion

Jan van der Vegt (NLD) beats Roberto Taroni (ITA) 2–1


Deck tech: Jan van der Vegt, Tin Fists

by Olle Rade
 

Dutch streamer, Magic Online grinder and Cube expert Jan van der Vegt is playing one of the most exciting decks this weekend. Dubbed Tin Fists, as a spin on the Legacy deck Tin Fins, it is built around getting Griselbrand or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, the Aeons into play through either Fist of the Suns, Goryo's Vengeance or Through the Breach. "Goryo's Vengeance is such a powerful card, so my goal was to break it. I don't think I got there completely, but the deck is pretty good," he says.


The deck very much has the feeling of it's Legacy counterpart, or other similar combo decks from the more heavy combo format of Legacy. Jan van der Vegt also compares in to the Sneak and Show deck. "Fist of the Sun is sort of like Show and tell and Through the Breach acts as a one time Sneak Attack," he explains.


Jan van der Vegt

The dream opener for the deck involves casting Fist of the Sun as early as turn 2 or 3 and following it up by casting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn for 5 different mana the next turn. Getting the Time Walk-effect, and being able to attack for 15, wiping out your opponent's board in the process.

"With Fist in play and 5 mana out you have all five colors roughly 90 per cent of the time, so you can actually cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, rather than having to sacrifice him at the end of turn," says Jan with a smile.

Will the deck be good enough to put him in day 2? Or is it just a fun deck that has too many weaknesses that can be exploited? The followers of Dzyl's (as van der Vegt calls himself online) stream probably already know, the rest of us will find out during the weekend.

Jan van der Vegt, Tin Fists

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Saturday, 3:55 p.m. – Making It Count

by Tobi Henke
 

The 2013–2014 Pro Points season is nearing its halfway point. For most of the European players, this Grand Prix and the one in Barcelona next month are the last remaining events before Pro Tour Born of the Gods which concludes the first half of the season. I talked to two players who have already made some news on the Grand Prix scene and are now on the hunt for additional pro points to reach the Gold and possibly even the Platinum level.


Valentin Mackl

Valentin Mackl of Austria currently sits at 24 points, with most of the points coming from his three Top 4 results at Grand Prix and his Top 75 finish at Pro Tour Theros (each of which is worth five points). "My goal is definitely Platinum, for which I n