The Undefeated – Grand Prix Providence

Posted in Event Coverage on October 22, 2016

By Corbin Hosler

More than 1,100 players showed up to Grand Prix Providence with their sights set on the Top 8, and hopefully an undefeated finish on Day 1 on the way there. But when nine rounds of play concluded in Rhode Island, only five players emerged from the first day of competition without a loss.

The final round on Saturday featured five pros squaring off against five relatively unknown competitors. And, at least on this day, experience paid off as four of the five picked up Round 9 wins, with just Zach Kiihne pulling off the upset by defeating Jon Stern.

Zach Kiihne

Standing amongst a crowd of pro players well used to taking the undefeated photo, Kiihne was the lone amateur, and he was the one at the very top of the standings.

But Kiihne is no stranger to the top level of competition. The Concord, Massachusetts native finished Grand Prix Montreal at 8-1 earlier this year before going 3-3 in draft, and rattled off a string of victories at Grand Prix New York to finish at 40th in that tournament. A sixth-place finish at the last Regional Pro Tour Qualifier left Kiihne just a game away from qualifying for the Pro Tour, and he hopes to finally break through this weekend in Providence.

Seth Manfield

Another Grand Prix, another 9-0 for the 2015 World Champion. Seth Manfield has made a habit of putting up undefeated Day 1s across the past year, and he added another to the bank in Providence, running Black-Green Delirium to a perfect record.

"I played Aetherworks Marvel last week, and it didn't do very well," Manfield explained. "I didn't think people were going to play the deck this weekend, so I played its best matchup. Black-Green is good against the rest of the field so I thought it was a good metagame call."

Craig Wescoe

While nearly everyone in the room is playing some form of an established deck, Wescoe went his own way in Rhode Island, piloting White-Black Aggro to an 8-0-1 finish. The singular deck to make use of Stitcher's Graft and vigilance creatures and Always Watching, Wescoe was unafraid to post his list publicly before the tournament. That confidence paid off on Saturday, and the tournament's most prolific caster of white creatures ended the day without a loss.

"No one else here is playing the deck I am, but that's familiar territory for me," he laughed as he wrapped up his final round. "I think the deck is really good, and I've been happy with it today."

Andrew Cuneo

Andrew Cuneo won't claim there's any pressure, but he's got a history with the 9-0 Day 1 run. Four times in his career has Cuneo finished Saturday perfect but missed advancing to the Top 8 on Sunday. After accomplishing the feat in Providence with White-Blue Flash — the deck he said he should have played at the Pro Tour last week — Cuneo will try to finish things off this time around.

"It's not enough to play well on one day of a tournament," he said. "You have to play well both days."

Ari Lax

Lax spent plenty of time prepping for last week's Pro Tour, testing his deck meticulously before the tournament.

That wasn't the case this weekend.

"Everyone said the deck was good, it looked good so I played it," Lax explained of his choice to play Mardu Vehicles. "My opponents have mulliganned a lot today, so that helps. The deck is powerful and it's been winning a lot, so I just went with it."

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