Highlights from Day One at Grand Prix Prague 2018

Posted in Event Coverage on August 25, 2018

By Olle Rade

Almost 2,000 players brought their best Modern decks to the tables in Prague today. Here are some of the stories that stood out in the toughest and certainly hottest competition this weekend.

A Happy PTQ Winner

Ever had the dilemma of having to choose between playing in Day Two at a Grand Prix or try your luck in the Sunday Pro Tour Qualifier? Your agonizing might be over, since recent Grand Prix have run a qualifier on the Friday leading up to the main event. Prague was no exception and over 500 players registered for six rounds of single elimination on Friday afternoon. At the end of the day four of them remained, among them German Mike Hoffman who was a mainstay at the Pro Tour a few years ago. Since the tournament was a combined PTQ and last chance qualifier all the top 4 players were also awarded two byes for the Grand Prix. So they could play the semifinals and final on Saturday morning as the first rounds of the Grand Prix were going on in the background. In the end however it was a newcomer who took the blue envelope and an invitation to Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica. Frankfurter Edris Bakhtari said he had been close to making it to the Pro Tour many times, but had fell short every time. This time his Black-Red Hollow One deck took him over the final hurdle as he defeated Naya Burn in the finals. His list might look traditional, but one card stands out from the decklist - Grafted Wargear.

German Edris Bakhtari took his Grafted Wargear all the way to Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica, despite this coverage reporter's lack of focus.

"It's actually my pet card and I put it in every deck. It feels great to finally qualify because playing at the Pro Tour is the achievment that everyone wants to do and this means that I finally get to do it", said the German.

The rest of the deck? Well of course:

Edris Bakhtari, PTQ Winner at Grand Prix Prague 2018

Download Arena Decklist

Salvatto's Race for Player of the Year

Surely no one has missed the close race for the Player of the Year title this season. After Pro Tour 25th Anniversary Seth Manfield was in the lead for the title, but two other players trailed him by only a few points. Coming into this weekend in Prague, this is the standing for the race of becoming the 2017/2018 Player of the Year:

Rank Name Points
1 Seth Manfield 79
2 Reid Duke 78
3 Luis Salvatto 77

Argentinian Luis Salvatto might be in third place, but since he has only a few points from Grand Prix finishes, where your best 6 count, he has a unique chance to take the lead if he manages a 12-3 record or better in Prague, Richmond, Detroit or Stockholm in the last tournaments of the season. That is of course, unless Seth Manfield or Reid Duke gets extra points for top finishes in one of them as well. Overly complicated? Perhaps, but Luis Salvatto knew the stakes coming in.

Luis Salvatto has been seen at pretty much every Grand Prix the last few weeks to fight for the Player of the year title.

"Winning the player of the year title is one of the biggest things you can accomplish in Magic. Besides winning a Pro Tour or the World Championship it's the greatest, and I've already won a Pro Tour", he said. When I asked him if he was stressed about the race being so close and decided in the very last weeks of the season, the 29-year-old calmly smiled before he answered. "If you had asked me three weeks ago when I had no flights or hotels booked I would say I was in a state of panic. But now it's actually just exciting. I only managed to go 10-5 at the last two Grand Prix, but they were in Standard and now it's Modern both here and in Detroit, so I really like my chances", he said. He surprisingly credited Dane Michael Bonde for taking some of the stress away. "I spent a couple of days in Denmark at Michael's place which was super nice. He even cooked for me and I got a lot of games in with my deck and felt both relaxed and prepared because of it. Michael is great, and Denmark is great." And their preparations did look great:

Old Decks...

With almost 2,000 players it's hard to get an exact picture of the entire metagame. But the usual suspects were out in full force. After browsing the tournament tables for 8 rounds if I had to give a guess I would say that Five-color Humans, Tron and Blue-White Control were the most common decks. Naya Burn also seemed to have fixed seating at the top tables, and Hardened Scaled Affinity decks were making quite a showing as well. Some of the top players hade also tried to improve the archtype by splashing additional colors, like Ben Seck, who opted for a Black splash or Marco Carvalho who was running Blue. With a format as diverse as Modern any selection of deck lists gives a grasp of what to expect in any given field. So the GPT winners from Friday can serve as a sampler of the field here in Prague. We do however hope to do a full metagame breakdown of the decks that makes Day Two.

... And New

Whenever a coverage reporter has to read more than one card at the top tables you know someone has been going out of their way to come up with something new and innovative. When I saw Camillo Lukesch on table 4 in round 5 I had to do exactly that. In fact, I even had to Google for cards like Astral Cornucopia, Surge Node, Filigree Sages and Coretapper.

It turns out his deck was built exactly around those cards. As this plan was to play Astral Cornucopia, add enough counters on it with either Surge Node or Coretapper to be able to generate infinite mana with Filigree Sages and kill his opponent with Walking Ballista. Add some defense in the form of Ensnaring Bridge and ways to find the combo pieces like Ancient Stirrings, Whir of Invention and Inventor's Fair and you have a pretty sweet deck. We will make sure to publish his entire decklist later this weekend. HIs record on Day One? 7-1. I ran into a smaller innovation in the hands of Englishman Pete Ward, who brought a straight Blue-Black Death's Shadow deck to the table. He explained that he had gotten the deck from Welshman Ben Jones, who's known as one of the trophy leaders in the Modern leagues on Magic Online under the nickname __BMJ__. "Ben's reasoning was that in the current metagame the Red splash is reduntant. So you get to play more of the good Blue and Black cards when you cut cards like Temur Battle Rage and Kolaghan's command", Ward explained. For anyone who want's to try that list at their local Modern Mondays or a league on Magic Online. Make sure to check out Ben's list.

An Unlikely Outcome

(Courtesy of Frank Karsten)

In his Round 7 feature match, Ben Seck found himself in a tough spot against Laurent Calligaro's TitanShift deck. With Seck at 18 life and no board presence of note, he cast Thoughtseize (a card he was splashing in his Hardened Scales deck to shore up some weaknesses against the field) and saw Primeval Titan and Scapeshift.

Given that Calligaro had six lands on the battlefield at that point, Seck discarded Primeval Titan, but he knew that his odds of winning the game were extremely low. After all, a land off the top would allow Calligaro to cast Scapeshift, search out Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and six Mountains, and win the game. A mana ramp spell would be lethal just as well. And Primeval Titan would pretty much lock up the game too.

But Calligaro drew a card and passed the turn. And again. "What could he have?" Seck thought to himself as he developed his board and attacked with his creatures. "Pretty much every draw in his deck is lethal, and if he had drawn a removal spell he surely would've used it."

Eventually, after three consecutive turns of "draw-go" from Calligaro, Seck combined Arcbound Ravager and Walking Ballista for a lethal attack, and Calligaro revealed his hand in defeat, heartily laughing at the absurdity of it all.

So what are actually the odds? Well, given that Calligaro started this whole ordeal with 47 cards in his library, the probability of drawing three consecutive Scapeshifts was 0.0062%. If every other draw would indeed have won him the game, he essentially lost a game that he was over 99.99% to win.

To put that into perspective: Drawing three consecutive Scapeshift from that spot would happen once per 16,215 games on average—a likelihood similar to Matt Nass's quadruple Hollow One:

Magic is filled with unlikely situations, and this is one that both players will remember for a long time.

The Undefeated

After eight gruesome rounds in the 30 degrees heat in the halls of Grand Prix Prague 13 players stood undefeated. Among them names like (9) Javier Dominguez and (10) Grzegorz Kowalski and a player that when I ran into him yesterday I concluded couldn't look any more French, Louis-Samuel Deltour.

12 of the 13 undefeated players on Day One.

Without giving away too much info about who plays what deck, these were the 13 undefeated decks of Day One here in Prague:

  • Dredgevine
  • Naya Burn
  • Tron
  • U/R Blue Moon / Through the Breach
  • Blue-White Spirits
  • Blue-White Control
  • Blue-White Spirits
  • Bant Spirits
  • Blue-White Control
  • Hardened Scales Affinity
  • Jeskai Control
  • Naya Burn
  • Krark Clan Ironworks Combo

Oh, and before signing off. Is it just me that hear inner voices from the Star Trek species Ferengi every time I hear someone saying that they played against Humaaaaans in a Magic tournament? I sure hope I'm not the only one who has gotten this crazy obsession on my mind.

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