Top 5 Moments

Posted in Event Coverage on August 14, 2016

By Frank Karsten

There were plenty of great moments, decks, players, cards, and stories over the course of the weekend here in Rimini. Here are our picks for five things to remember from the Grand Prix.

5. The Rise of Blue-Red Fevered Burn

Last weekend at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon in Sydney, Pedro "_megafone_" Carvalho unveiled his creation and took it to a 9-1 record in Standard. Exploiting cards like Thermo-Alchemist and Fevered Visions, it was a great foil to the many Emrakul, the Promised End decks. While only a single player played it at the Pro Tour, it was the clear breakout deck at Grand Prix Rimini, at 14.9% of the Day Two metagame.

The Top 8 featured No. 3 Lukas Blohon and Simon Enckels with their takes on the deck. Both of them had Stormchaser Mage instead of Thing in the Ice, and Blohon made several small updates on top of that.

As far as numbers are concerned—yes, I did the math—Blue-Red Fevered Burn had a 79% (26-7) win percentage versus assorted Emrakul decks in Day Two. That's incredibly high, and it's the main reason for its success. But not every matchup is positive. For instance, it posted a below-average 47% (37-39) against Bant Company over the course of Day Two. "The matchup is good for Bant Company," Lukas Blohon told me after his quarterfinal loss. "If they play perfectly, it's really hard. And on the draw, Visions doesn't do anything. So I don't think blue-red is the thing to save Standard from the Bant menace."

4. The Dominance of Bant Company

Bant Company made up 31.8% of the Day Two metagame and put six players in the Top 8. One of them was three-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Jaroslav Boucek, who had been playing at Table 1 as the sole undefeated player for most of the day. But no matter who was holding the cards, Reflector Mage and Sylvan Advocate were all over the top tables.

It's not that there were no other decks around. The aforementioned Blue-Red Fevered Burn was doing well, and there were still several copies of Emrakul decks, White-Black Control decks, Black-Green Delirium decks, and various brews in the Top 32. (Among Emrakul decks, by the way, Red-Green Ramp had more Top 32 conversions than Temur Emerge and Jund Delirium.) But on the whole, all of these decks underperformed, and none of them other than Jund Delirium posted a positive record against Bant Company in Day Two. (And even Jund Delirium didn't cement itself as a true Bant slayer, as it only went 52% [15-14] in that matchup.)

3. The Unveiling of Techy Card Choices

A possible reason for the relatively poor showing of Emrakul in Rimini, even though the card spawned plenty of sweet stories, was that players were ready with sideboard tech. There are plenty of ways to improve against Emrakul, the Promised End, such as upping the Summary Dismissal count in your sideboard. But the sweetest piece of tech I saw this weekend was Learn from the Past (e.g., in the sideboard of No. 12 Andrea Mengucci's Bant Company deck). You have to go deep to attack graveyards in the current Standard, but the tools exist.

Other brilliant card choices came from visionaries who foresaw the rise of Blue-Red Fevered Burn and wanted to come prepared. In the Top 32 lists, you'll be able to find Peace of Mind and Orbs of Warding, which are perfect against Fevered Visions and Thermo-Alchemist, respectively.

2. The Stunning Performance by the World Championship Competitors

Among the field of 881 competitors, there were three players who were also on the invitation list for the 2016 World Championship: (3) Lukas Blohon, (11) Shota Yasooka, and (12) Andrea Mengucci. Blohon was on Blue-Red Fevered Burn as already mentioned, Yasooka picked Bant Company because he was tired after spending several days sightseeing in nearby Venice, and Mengucci registered Bant Company because that's what he always does.

They not only took some time off of their World Championship preparation to play in this Grand Prix, but they all had stunning performances: Blohon and Yasooka made the Top 8—their seventh and 20th of their respective carreers—and Mengucci finished 11th because, well, he lost to Yasooka along the way.

All in all, the excellence showcased by this trio should bode well for the World Championship, the most exclusive event of the year to be held in just under three weeks.

1. The Mastery Shown by Arne Huschenbeth

In the end, only one player could claim the winner's trophy, and here in Rimini that was Arne Huschenbeth, a 19-year-old Magic grinder from Hamburg, Germany. Having finished in the Top 8 of Grand Prix Paris earlier this year, the rising star was quickly making a name for himself.

The final game of the tournament was, fittingly, the most memorable. Facing Platinum pro Petr Sochůrek in a Bant Company mirror match, Arne had a slow start, where his first spell of the game, a turn-four Collected Company, was Spell Quellered. He fell to 1 life shortly after, and it seemed like Sochůrek would take the game easily. But Huschenbeth didn't give up. He recovered his foothold by hitting Reflector Mage with Collected Company and started a lengthy uphill climb after that. Over the course of the next half hour or so, Huschenbeth expertly navigated the complicated board positions in a quest for board supremacy, while trying to play around some of Sochůrek's potential outs. Many, many turns later (still at 1 life!) Huschenbeth had managed to come out on top and attacked for lethal.

Congratulations to Arne Huschenbeth, champion of Grand Prix Rimini 2016!

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