Day 2 Coverage of Grand Prix Richmond

Posted in Event Coverage on March 9, 2014

By Wizards of the Coast

Daylight Savings Time isn't going to stop us—we can run on little sleep. We were up late last night, and we'll be up early this morning. It ain't no thing. Richmond Virginia may be quiet on this Sunday morning, but the convention center is not. It's been bustling with judges, players, staff, and just about every Magic-oriented person within a couple hundred miles. The sun is just bristling over the horizon, and spells are already being slung.

There are quite a few undefeated players remaining: Ben Friedman, Andrew Calderon, Noah Walker, Zach Jesse, Jonathon Chappell, Patrick Dickmann, Daryl Ayers, Ian Ayal, Mario Martinez, Jeff Folinus, and William Aitken are all 9-0. Though only a few of these names are household, there are many pros lurking in the wings, still crushing dreams and aiming for that Top 8.

Eric Froehlich, Zvi Moshowitz, Christian Calcano, Josh Utter-Leyton, David Ochoa, Luis Scott-Vargas, and tons of others are all here. Players were able to avoid many of the pros during the first day because the top players were split among three different flights. But now all the pros have collapsed into the same pool and will likely shake up the standings as the day goes on. But only the rounds will tell the tales.

We've got lots of rounds of Modern Magic to play before the Top 8. Good morning from Virginia and let's do this.

Day 1 Undefeated Decklists

by Adam Styborski

Andrew Calderon - Scapeshift

Patrick Dickmann - Tarmo-Twin

Mario Martinez - GB Obliterator Rock

William Aitken - Merfolk

Noah Walker - Melira Pod

Ian Ayal - Merfolk

Zach Jesse - Storm

Ben Friedman - Melira Pod

Daryl Ayers - Scapeshift

Jeff Folinus - Melira Pod

Jonathon Chappell - Jund

Round 10 Feature Match - Ian Ayal (Merfolk) vs. Zach Jesse (Storm)

by Marc Calderaro

Two of the undefeated players from the first day were Ian Ayal and Zach Jesse. Ayal hails from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, while Jesse is from "a few blocks away." The two chatted casually, despite the stress of being under the cameras and both hoping to keep their perfect records. They were both 9-0.

"Do you play a lot?" Ayal asked.

"I mean, as much as I can. I am in law school ... and I am also married." Jesse smiled.

Ayal nodded. He understood perfectly.

The matchup is an interesting one. Though Storm can usually win a straight-up race, a one-turn stumble from the Storm deck can allow the Merfolk to crash through with the big beats. And sometimes, the deck can aid in that stumble. Ayal calls Cursecatcher his favorite card in the match-up. And starting as early as turn one, or uncounterable thanks to Æther Vial on turn two, the lowly 1/1 can give Merfolk the one extra turn it needs. The Storm deck can be very tight on mana early on; one mana more can make all the difference.

Then again, Storm could just combo off on the third turn regardless. Storm; I tell ya.

Game One

Zach Jesse started the party with a first-turn Faithless Looting, discarding Pyretic Ritual and Grapeshot. This pretty much revealed him as Storm to his opponent, if he didn't know already. Ian Ayal had practiced the Storm matchup, and knew what to expect.

Pyromancer Ascension

But when a second-turn Master of the Pearl Trident came down from Ayal, Jesse said, "Whaaaa?" He, on the other hand, had not practiced against Merfolk. He puzzled for a second, then whisked the Master away with a Lightning Bolt before untapping and laying the deck's marquee card, Pyromancer Ascension.

Ayal resolved a few blue dudes over the next couple turns: Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, Merrow Reejerey, and Cosi's Trickster. Due to various pains, Jesse was already on 13 (with Ayal still at an unscathed 20). However, this was still a far cry from the 0 where Ayal would like Jesse to be, and Storm can combo at a moment's notice.

After laying a second Pyromancer Ascension and adding a counter on his third turn, Jesse started the machine on his fourth turn, and "a moment's notice" happened. After adding the second counter to both Ascensions, he started to "go off" and began rifling through his deck. A few cards down, he initiated a little combo loop that amused Ayal greatly.

Jesse cast Manamorphose, copying it twice thanks to the enchantment. He resolved the two copies, drawing two cards and making four mana (two blue, two red), then, with the original spell still on the stack, he cast Remand. The Ascension copied it twice. With the first copy, he countered the original Manamorphose and returned it to his hand (and drawing a card), and then with the second copy, he countered the original Remand, returning that to his hand and drawing him a card for his trouble. He was now four cards deeper, two mana richer, and had both spells back in his grip.

"I can draw out my whole deck this way," Jesse said, trying to goad the concession out of his opponent. "I mean, I can go through it if you want." Though Ayal had practiced the match, he had not seen this interaction before. He was impressed, verified that everything was legit, and scooped up his cards.

Zach Jesse 1 – 0 Ian Ayal

Zach Jesse

Though Jesse had one the first game, he was still flummoxed. "I can't fathom what the matchup is like; I actually have no idea," Jesse said as he leafed through his sideboard trying to figure out what to play. He put his elbow on the table and his hand to his forehead as he went over his potential options. He sideboarded in Empty the Warrens and kept in his Remands, but he was unsure of his decision. "Have fun and good luck," he said to Ayal.

"Hope for a great game three?" Ayal posited.

"Well, hopefully not."

"Two Ascensions..." Ayal muttered with a smile on his face. He drew his cards for the second game. He was hoping it wouldn't be the last.

Game Two

On the play, it was Ayal's turn to set the pace. Æther Vial, Lord of Atlantis, Cursecatcher, and Kira, Great Glass-Spinner were Ayal's opening plays. Before he got the turn back for his fourth, he activated Æther Vial.

"Activate Vial?"

"Sure." Jesse said.

"Ok, I got nothing. Hey, gotta do it, right?" Ayal untapped for his turn and Jesse erupted in laughter.

"I love it!" Jesse clapped his hands together in amusement.

Æther Vial
Lord of Atlantis

"Not everybody does." With the Mutavault for the extra gets, Ayal quickly evaporated Jesse's life total—first to 15, and then, thanks to a mid-combat Merrow Reejerey, he hit for twelve the following combat to bring Jesse to 3. These Merfolk could bring the beats.

With his opponent threatening to do very-much lethal the following turn, Jesse was forced to go off, whether he actually could or not. At the end of his opponent's turn, he sacrificed a Scalding Tarn to go to 2, then cast a Manamorphose to get one deeper and draw into something that could help him win.

He untapped, drew, and saw he had no way out. He had a Pyromancer Ascension with no counters, and no way to activate it and go off in the same turn. He sat with all four Remands in his hand. This made him greatly question his sideboarding choices. He used a cycler in GitaxZach Probe to try, but it was to no avail.

But rather than let the Merfolk gut him, Jesse was going to go out on his own terms. He made is land drop for the turn, Steam Vents, then declared, "I'll put it into play, untapped!" This stole the final two life from Jesse, and he scooped up his cards laughing. The act of seppuku did not go unnoticed and the crowd all enjoyed a laugh.

"All right. The exciting game three I was hoping for," Ayal smiled.

Zach Jesse 1 – Ian Ayal 1

Ian Ayal

Game Three

This time Jesse was on the play again. Like game one, he cast a first-turn Faithless Looting and a second-turn Pyromancer Ascension. On his third turn he flashed back the one-mana sorcery and sculpted his hand more. Because Ayal had cast a Relic of Progenitus, activating the Ascension was going to be difficult, so Jesse hoped to audible. He discarded the Past in Flames to the second Looting, then planned to go for the Empty the Warrens kill with the storm card sitting in his hand. This would be difficult as Merfolk had a great ability to clog the ground.

Ayal had a slower start (in part because of casting the Relic), but he put up some reasonable pressure. His first-turn Æther Vial helped him make Cursecatcher, Silvergill Adept, and Master of the Pearl Trident in addition to the Relic.

Jesse made a Goblin Electromancer then tapped out to cast Pyretic Ritual. Ayal took the bait and sacrificed his Cursecatcher to make the instant cost one more. Jesse let that resolve and passed the turn. Cursecatcher did its job perfectly.

After Ayal's attacks he passed the turn back to Jesse with a 8-20 life standing. Thanks to a post-combat Lord of Atlantis, it looked like again Jesse was given his final turn before he was ready. But he was going to try.

With the Electromancer on the battlefield, he had some play left. Manamorphose made a mana and cycled; Serum Visions helped sculpt the top of the library; Desperate Ritual made some mana. Around this time Ayal removed Jesse's graveyard, denying him of any hopes of activating the Ascension.

Now with three red mana and a Desperate Ritual alone in his graveyard, Jesse audibled again. It looked like an Empty the Warrens would really do the trick, but he had found Anger of the Gods and wiped the board clean. He replaced his Electromancer that he'd just subjected to God's anger, then passed.

Serum Visions
Anger of the Gods

Though Ayal had to start from scratch, he had a full grip and an Æther Vial. Ayal used Vial to make a Merrow Reejerey, cast Lord of Atlantis (untapping a land, thanks, Reejerey!), then used Vapor Snag to return the Goblin Electromancer back to Jesse's hand. It was now Jesse's turn to start from scratch.

But it was not to be. Game Two saw Jesse question his Remand sideboarding, and Game Three made him question the Empty the Warrens. Ian Ayal shows yet again the value of playing a deck that people haven't seen before.

Ian Ayal 2 – 1 Zach Jesse

Ian Ayal advances to 10-0!

Quick Hits – What is Your Best Sideboard Card?

by Marc Calderaro
Eric Froehlich : Thoughtseize. It’s the most useful card against the most decks. You side it in against all control and all combo ... and a couple against some mid-range strategies.
Gaudenis Vidugiris: Empty the Warrens. Because people are really bad at playing around it. Last round someone set Meddling Mage on Grapeshot, then I untapped and cast Empty the Warrens for 12.
Zvi Moshowitz : Spellskite. So many decks, when they do their thing, need to target something. Boggles just folds ... and Twin can’t go off either if it’s in play.
Josh Utter-Leyton : Thoughtseize. It’s universally good versus combo ... it forces uninteractive decks to interact with you.
Josh Ravitz: Fulminator Mage. It’s used in the most matches; and even some places where you wouldn’t think. I side them in against both Living End and Affinity.
Jamie Parke: Dispel #4 and Flame Slash #4. It's boring, but the extra copies are important. Flame Slash takes out Tarmogoyf even when Lightning Bolt doesn't ... and the extra one-mana counterspell is key against all the control decks.

Sunday, 12:30 p.m. – Day 2 Metagame Breakdown

by Adam Styborski

Classifying 443 decks takes some time, but I'm sure you think it was worth it.

Making Day 2 of the largest Constructed Grand Prix in history was no easy feat. Each of the three flights was as large as many Grand Prix themselves, and the diversity of facing anything means getting to the magic two losses or less line was a fight from start to finish. At the start od today this is what the field looked like:

Archetype % of Field
Affinity 13.54%
Melira Pod 10.38%
Storm 5.64%
Jund 5.19%
Merfolk 4.74%
WUR Control 4.29%
GB Obliterator Rock 4.06%
UR Twin 4.06%
Tarmo-Twin 4.06%
WUR Midrange 3.61%
Hexproof Auras 3.39%
Big Zoo 3.16%
GB Rock 3.16%
Burn 2.93%
RG Tron 2.93%
Kiki Pod 2.26%
WUR Twin 2.26%
Ad Nauseam 2.03%
Living End 2.03%
Little Zoo 1.81%
Scapeshift 1.58%
8 Rax 1.35%
Infect 1.35%
WB Tokens 1.13%
4-Color Gifts 0.90%
UB Faeries 0.90%
Death and Taxes 0.68%
Soul Sisters 0.68%
UR Delver 0.68%
WG Aggro 0.68%
Blue Moon 0.45%
Junk 0.45%
Mono-Black 0.90%
Tin Fins (Reanimator) 0.45%
4-Color Zoo 0.23%
Dedgevine 0.23%
Domain Zoo 0.23%
Egg-Tron 0.23%
Elves 0.23%
Esper Mill 0.23%
Goblins 0.23%
Grixis Control 0.23%
Mono-Red Control 0.23%
WUR Delver 0.23%

Affinity, clocking in at sixty players, was a somewhat surprising find but the uptick in Melira Pod and Storm and the surge of Tarmo-Splinter Twin after their high-profile finishes at Pro Tour Born of the Gods was a reassuring reflection. Shaun McLaren's victory with WUR Control may have influenced adopters of it's more aggressive WUR Midrange flavor, and combined the two WUR decks represent 8% of the metagame, a firm fourth overall.

Splinter Twin

What was third? The combined forces of all flavors of Splinter Twin decks – Tarmo-Splinter Twin, WUR Splinter Twin, and UR Splinter Twin – equaled Melira Pod alone. For Pod, tacking Kiki Pod onto Melira Pod yielded 12.6% of Day 2 and still just shy of Affinity.

Phyrexian Obliterator
Inquisition of Kozilek

The two flavors of GB Rock – the one with and the one without Phyrexian Obliterator – combined for fifth overall at 7.2%. Rounding out the top ten archetypes were Storm at sixth edging out Jund, Zoo (all flavors combined), Merfolk, and Hexproof Auras.

Top 10 Archytpes  
Affinity 13.54%
Pod 12.64%
Twin 10.38%
WUR 7.90%
GB Rock 7.22%
Storm 5.64%
Jund 5.19%
Zoo 5.19%
Merfolk 4.74%
Hexproof Auras 3.39%
Gifts Ungiven

After those ten groups the percentages start to get too small to really look at, but as a cross-section of diversity for an Eternal format it works well. "Classical" strategies like Burn to more modern inventions like Living End, Scapeshift, RG Tron, WB Tokens, and Gifts Ungiven decks all made it to Day 2. There was even two non-Merfolk tribal decks – Goblins and Elves – on the roster.

Undefeated Day 1 Decks

Looking at the Day 1 undefeated decks with respect to the metagame breakdown reveals some interesting twists. Two Scapeshift players went perfect, but there were only seven total to make it to Day 2. One Kiki Pod players was also perfect, but just ten managed to return today.

Day 1 Undefeated    
Archetype Undefeated Day 2 Total
Melira Pod 3 46
Merfolk 2 21
Scapeshift 2 7
Jund 1 23
Kiki Pod 1 10
Tarmo-Twin 1 17
Storm 1 25
GB Obliterator Rock 1 18

From this angle it looks like Scapeshift was well-positioned against the field, but more data would be needed to know for certain. (Both Scapeshift and Merfolk were the last undefeated decks going into Round 13.) Something else that's interesting is the most represented deck in Day 2 – Affinity – isn't among the undefeated. There was at least one vying for that right in Round 9.

It's still an open field for Top 8 contention, and three more rounds are needed until the dust settles.

Sunday, 1:30 p.m. – Deck Tech – Mono-Red Control with Davis Merced

by Marc Calderaro

It's not often you do a deck tech with someone who just earned their third loss; but's it's also not often that you run into Mono-Red Control in Modern. Chicago native Davis Merced lost in Round 13 to Luis Scott-Vargas. And LSV conceded that it was a pretty close match. Though this deck might not have been perfect for this particular Modern field, its stellar Day 1 record and ability to finish near the top of the standings at a 4,300-person tournament merits accolades.

Modern is an open format; you can basically do anything. When I sat down with Davis the first thing I asked was why he played this particular deck. And his response echoed what we've been saying about Modern this whole season: "Play what you know." Merced smiled and shrugged after he said it. Merced loves playing Mountains, and he does so consistently. In Standard he plays Mono-Red Devotion, and in Legacy he plays Mono-Red Sneak Attack. "Also, I didn't feel like racing against Zoo and Affinity all day."

Davis Merced

Davis explained the origin of this particular build: "Last season I played a more aggressive version of this with Figure of Destiny and Kargan Dragonlord ... then about a month ago I saw Caleb Durward's Modern brew contest video and he played a version of this deck." Davis swapped around some cards, played more to his own strengths, then voila! Mono-Red Control is a competitor.

"Blood Moon.dec is my favorite deck," he said, so why not play six of them? (He plays a couple Magus of the Moon as well.) The deck ends up playing like the Blue Moon deck from Pro Tour Born of the Gods, but with a much faster finish. "Koth of the Hammer, Thundermaw Hellkite, and Boros Reckoner end the game real quick." You might question how the 3/3 actually ends a game, but as Davis extolled, one or two Skred pointed at the Reckoner can often deal all the damage to an opponent you need (after you redirect the damage, of course).

Koth of the Hammer
Thundermaw Hellkite

As you may have guessed after reading Skred, the deck has a very simple mana base: 21 Snow-Covered Mountains and 2 Scrying Sheets. That's the first time I've seen Scrying Sheets break into Modern. Much like Blue Moon, it keeps its land simple so that it doesn't manascrew itself with a Blood Moon. "Sometimes Blood Moon just gets concessions. I played a turn-one Magus of the Moon against Infect, and, well, that was the game." Merced shrugged and chuckled. Though that hand required both Simian Spirit Guides, he said he's still looking for cuts to fit the last two.

For the particular match-ups, the aggro decks are in your favor. With tons of removal, main deck Pyroclasm and Volcanic Fallout, and sideboard Blasphemous Act and Anger of the Gods it's generally a blow out. And with the Fallout, "you can do some funny things in combat with a Boros Reckoner in play."

The control match has some good play too because you have a higher threat density, and your threats are bigger and faster than theirs. "Scrying Sheets is really good against control." With the land and the Chandra, Pyromaster creating some much-needed card advantage for the red deck, it can still go toe-to-toe against the blue players.

Davis Merced

As far as combo decks go, most of the matches are good. "Main deck Relic of Progenitus makes a big difference ... and Combust really helps against Splinter Twin." The artifact is also assistance against Pod decks, ensuring that Murderous Redcap and Kitchen Finks don't return. He admits that the big weakness of the deck is Storm—which is not a great deck to be stone-cold to in the current metagame. "The matchups like 80/20, in their favor." But he continued that the Relics mean you aren't just dead game one; you just have to run a little hot. But he beat Storm today, and with flourishing style: "I just Skredded him out." Near the end of the day here, Storm has been dying out a bit, so we'll see what lasting metagame impact it maintains.

One of my favorite aspects of the deck is the speed of the end game. Maybe your Blood Moon doesn't do great (like against straight blue-red versions of Splinter Twin), but if Plan A doesn't work, Plan B of attacking with giant, hasty monsters can still get you out of jams. Where Blue Moon closes games out in inches, this deck does it in miles.

About any potential changes he would've made in the deck, Davis said, "I would've liked to sneak in some more Anger of the Gods ... and Batterskull has done basically nothing," (although he admitted a Zoo deck just scooped to it when a Goblin Guide revealed it on the top of Merced's library). Other than those choices, he's really happy with how the deck played, and would play it again in a heartbeat.

"I get to play all of my favorite cards, Koths & Bolts!"

If you're looking for a great, inexpensive deck that will take your FNM by surprise, look no further than this. And if you're looking for a deck name, I think you can do worse than "Koths & Bolts."

Davis Merced – Mono Red Control

Planeswalker (4)
4 Koth of the Hammer
Sorcery (2)
2 Pyroclasm
Enchantment (4)
4 Blood Moon
60 Cards
Sideboard (15)
1 Relic of Progenitus 1