Grand Prix Rio de Janeiro 2013 Day 2 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on March 10, 2013

By Wizards of the Coast


Sunday, 10:30 a.m. – Undefeated Day 1 Decklists

by Nate Price

Guido Quintana: Jund Aggro

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Andres Monsalve: Junk Reanimator

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Sunday, 10:45 a.m. – Catching Up with 2012 WMC Qualifiers

by Blake Rasmussen

Last year in advance of the first ever World Magic Cup, I was fortunate enough to travel to Grand Prix Sao Paolo where I was first introduced to many of the players who would go on to represent their respective Latin American region countries.

Every last one of them was excited for the opportunity not only to represent their country, but to travel internationally to play the game they love. With only a handful of PTQs available in the region, it was an opportunity to experience the professional circuit, learn, and travel.

This year, we haven't yet reached qualifying season, but already you can tell players are ready to earn their tickets to this year's tournament of nations. A large group of last year's qualifiers made the trip to Rio de Janeiro, so we sat down with four who made Day 2 to discuss their decks, their experiences last year, and whether or not they would try to qualify again this year (spoiler alert: they will).

Leonardo Siqueira

Leonardo Siqueira — Brazil

Record this weekend: 7-3

What deck are you playing? Midrange Naya

Do you like your deck? Why?

Yes. I had zero byes but started 7-0 anyway.

Are you going to try to qualify again this year?

Yes, and I also plan to travel to some Grand Prixs. I intend to go to Santiago and maybe Las Vegas.

What was your favorite memory from the WMC?

It was my first time to travel to the U.S., and I also enjoyed playing with Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

What did you learn playing in the WMC?

I learned a lot. My play really improved playing against great players.

Martin Castillo

Martin Castillo — Uruguay

Record this weekend: 8-2

What deck are you playing? Dark Naya

Do you like your deck? Why?

Yes, I like it a lot. I've done well with it.

Are you going to try to qualify again this year?

Yes. If I can get one more Pro point here I'll qualify as the top Pro from Uruguay because the other player who has a Pro point didn't make the trip. I really want to. The experience is very big for our community.

What was your favorite memory from the WMC?

All of it. It was an experience I'll never forget.

What did you learn playing in the WMC?

I learned a lot from playing against the best. I played against Brian Kibler and I'll never forget our match. I really enjoyed playing against him, because I enjoy how he plays Magic, and I learned so much.

Victor Fernando Silva

Victor Fernando Silva — Brazil

Note: Victor Fernando Silva qualified for the World Magic Cup, but was unable to make the trip.

Record this weekend: 9-1

What deck are you playing? UWR Flash

Do you like your deck? Why? Yes, it has a lot of unexpected cards. I'm playing 61 cards, Aurelia, the Warleader , Angel of Serenity and no Boros Reckoner s.

Are you going to try to qualify again this year?

Yes. I'm probably going to go to all three qualifiers until I win one.

Elton Carneiro

Elton Carneiro — Brazil

Record this weekend: 8-2

What deck are you playing? Jund

Do you like your deck? Why?

I like it a lot. It doesn't have any good or bad matchups. It has game against everything and it makes the match all about the player.

Are you going to try to qualify again this year?

Yes, I plan to travel to all of the qualifiers.

What was your favorite memory?

Pretty much everything.

What did you learn playing in the WMC?

Oh yes, I learned a lot. I was in contact with many of the American players, like Luis Scott-Vargas, and I learned a lot from them.

Round 10 Feature Match – Andres Monsalve vs. Guido Quintana

by Nate Price

Only two players managed to make it through the sweltering conditions of Day 1 with perfect 9-0 records. Argentina's Andres Monsalve and Guido Quintana are teammates who managed to use two completely different decks to carve their way through the crowds yesterday. Monsalves, battering the field on his way to a potential second Grand Prix Top 8, decided to put his faith in Junk Reanimator, a seemingly good choice in a field of Midrange decks. Quintana had chosen the more aggressive route to victory, ramming Jund Aggro down his opponents' throats. While Quintana had earned three byes to Grand Prix Rio de Janeiro, Monsalves had to earn his wins the hard way, coming in with only a single bye.

In Quintana's final game yesterday, he was forced to mulligan to four cards on his way to defeating Guilherme Machado, who had to mulligan to three. His advantage apparently carried over to Day 2, as Monsalve was forced to throw back a hand with two copies of Craterhoof Behemoth and not much else. Finding his second much more to his liking, he let Quintana begin his turn.

Game 1

He began the game with a first-turn Rakdos Cackler . It was joined by a Strangleroot Geist on the following turn, giving Quintana an attack for 4. Monsalve tried to recoup some of his lost advantage with a Mulch , finding a single land and placing an Angel of Serenity and Thragtusk into his graveyard. Quintana was already applying a massive amount of pressure to the already-behind Monsalve. When he tried to cast a Vexing Devil on his third turn, the Devil more than lived up to his name.

Guido Quintana

Monsalve smiled as he leaned forward to survey the board. As he tapped out some math on the table, he shook his head with a laugh and said, "ok," indicating he would take the damage. When Quintana made a second hasty Strangleroot Geist , enabling an attack for six, Monsalve laughed and shook his head. He had taken half of his starting life total in a single turn, dropping him to 6. At least he was losing to a friend and teammate. He scooped up his cards and prepared for the second game.

Andres Monsalve 0 – Guido Quintana 1

"The Vexing Devil s have been either very good or very bad," Quintana told me while sideboarding for the second game. "Against Jund Midrange and other decks with a lot of removal or bigger creatures, it came out every single time. They just don't care about it. Against decks like Junk Reanimator, Esper, or Bant , though, it always lets me have great turns, like hitting for 10 on turn three like that last game."

Vexing Devil

Game 2

Monsalve wasted no time setting himself up for big turns, taking two from a Temple Garden to play a first-turn Avacyn's Pilgrim . This enabled a second-turn Lingering Souls . Quintana was not so fortunate. Keeping a high-powered, one-land hand, he found himself forced to discard a Falkenrath Aristocrat without playing a second land. This gave Monsalve one more turn of freedom to press his advantage, flashing back the Lingering Souls and filling up his hand and graveyard with Mulch .

Quintana managed to find himself a second land on his next turn, only stumbling for the one, but it was interestingly far too late for him. As the deck that is used to pressuring players who misstep, being under the gun like that was not a usual place for the Jund Aggro player. He was merely able to play an Experiment One and pass the turn. This let Monsalve attack for 5 with his Pilgrim and four Spirits, dropping Quintana to 13. Facing four fliers and unable to directly affect Monsalve's team, Quintana scooped up his card, completing the second of two very one-sided games.

Andres Monsalve 1 – Guido Quintana 1

Game 3

There was clearly a hope that the third game, at least, would provide an interesting matchup between these two decks. Neither player mulliganned, and it seemed that this might be the case. Monsalve was on the draw, but he was the first on the board, adding a Deathrite Shaman to his team. Mostly useful as a source of lifegain in this matchup and a way to stop Strangleroot Geist s, the Shaman was occasionally able to work as a mana accelerant thanks to Grisly Salvage . Quintana had a slightly slower draw, forced to cast a second-turn Experiment One and then being unable to evolve it on the third turn. Monslave, meanwhile, pressed ahead, adding the very powerful Lotleth Troll to his board alongside the Shaman. The Troll served double duty as an incredibly effective fighter as well as a discard outlet to enable a quick reanimation if necessary. Still, when given the first opportunity to attack, Monsalve opted to respect the haste in Quintana's deck and simply defend.

Andres Monsalve

Quintana did find some haste on his turn, going over the top with a Falkenrath Aristocrat , but a Tragic Slip dispatched it immediately. Quintana couldn't even sacrifice his Experient to save it since the sacrifice would turn on the morbid trigger and destroy it anyway. With Quintana's fledgling offense nullified, Monsalve pressed, adding a Thragtusk to his team and beginning to attack. Quintana tried to defend, adding a Strangleroot Geist to his team, but it only got to block once before being removed by the Shaman. In response to the lifegain, Quintana used a Skullcrack to keep Monsalve at a still-overpowering 19 life.

Quintana refused to yield. A Falkenrath Aristocrat gave him an impressive attacker, but Monsalve used Abrupt Decay in response to the Aristocrat to remove the Experiment One . Quintana attacked, but a Thragtusk on the following turn put Monsalve back up to 20 and added just one more threat that Quintana couldn't deal with. He shook his head in frustration, but soon cracked a little smile as he gave Monsalve an emphatic handshake and a massive bear hug.

Andres Monsalve 2 – Guido Quitnana 1

Sunday, 12:10 p.m. - Placement Exams: Choosing Junk Reanimator with Andres Monsalve

by Nate Price

One of the best and worst things about Standard right now is the sheer variety of decks that are not only playable, but are capable of being successful at any given tournament. It is the most wide-open and balanced format that I've seen in quite some time. That is great news for fans of variety and balanced Magic, but it can cause some problems when it comes time to decide on a deck. As they say, restriction breeds creativity, and the sheer number of decks in Standard right now can be mind-numbing.

Currently, there are two major Reanimator archetypes in Standard: Angel of Glory's Rise Humanimator and Junk Reanimator. The two decks operate on a completely different axis. Humanimator is more of a combo strategy, relying on a recursion loop between Angel of Glory's Rise and a select group of Humans to achieve victory. The Junk Reanimator deck is more of a straightforward midrange deck that comes equipped with Mulch and Grisly Salvage for consistency, as well as an outlet to fuel Unburial Rites . In the former, Rites is the path to victory, setting the combo in motion. In the latter, Rites can function in a similar manner, setting up a Craterhoof Behemoth combo, but more often than not it simply provides value, getting that extra Thragtusk or Angel of Serenity into play.

Craterhoof Behemoth

At the time I began writing this feature, only one player had emerged through Grand Prix Rio de Janeiro with a perfect 10-0 record. Andres Monsalve, eager to improve on his finals appearance at Grand Prix São Paulo in 2009, came into this tournament with a few options in mind. He was looking at both Jund Aggro and Midrange, as well as Junk Reanimator, as potential decks for the tournament.

"I didn't make a decision until late Friday night," he told me after locking up his 10-0 record. "I came ready to play either this or one of the Jund decks. After looking at the decks people were playing in the Trials, I decided that I wanted to play Reanimator."

There were a number of factors that went into Monsalve's decision to not only play Reanimator, but this version of Reanimator.

"I knew that I didn't want to play the Humanimator deck because it is a very difficult deck, and I hadn't done much testing with it," he admitted. "Plus I think that this deck has more game against the many decks I'm sure to face. The other deck is more reliant on being able to reanimate its creatures, where I can actually cast them."

Like most of the top players in the world, his decision was based on a great deal of research.

"Standard is so open right now that players can play any deck and compete," Monsalve explained to me. "Since players can play anything, they can adapt to what has come before very quickly, so the picture of Standard is always changing. I kept up with all of the Magic Online results from the past weeks, as well as the decks that were winning tournaments and what people were playing. Still, I didn't decide what I was playing until late Friday night. I played this deck in a Trial, though with a few poor card choices, liked what I saw, and finally decided to play the deck."

One of the things he noticed that made him feel that his deck was well placed for this event.

"I saw a bunch of midrange decks like Jund, Bant, and Naya. Those are very good matchups for this deck. They don't put too much pressure on you early, and you have better late game threats with Angel of Serenity and Craterhoof Behemoth ."

Centaur Healer

Looking at his decklist, there are a few deviations from the typically accepted numbers for Junk Reanimator, all nods to the heavy presence of those midrange decks. First off, he is not playing the full complement of Mulch es, opting to cut one. He is also playing one less copy of Lingering Souls than the maximum. The final major cut is in the number of Centaur Healer s maindeck. These cuts have allowed him to increase the copies of cards that are great in a slower metagame. Additional copies of Angel of Serenity , Gavony Township , and an Acidic Slime all found room in Monsalve's maindeck, giving him a leg up in the slower matches.

"The Acidic Slime s have been particularly great this weekend," Monsalve said with a grin. "Most of the decks are playing three or four colors with extremely greedy mana bases. Getting to destroy a land and potentially shut them off of a color, or even slow them down when I'm on the play has been amazing."

Monsalve admitted that it isn't a perfect deck. There are always going to be matchups that are less than stellar, especially in a format with as many viable decks as the current Standard.

"Very aggressive decks can be difficult for this deck to handle," he admitted. "There is a good amount of lifegain in Thragtusk , Centaur Healer , and Restoration Angel , but it is often too slow to keep you safe. Because of this, I have a bunch of removal in my sideboard. Abrupt Decay and Tragic Slip are very good at cheaply surviving the early turns to buy enough time or your lifegain and creatures to do their job."

Another all-star in his sideboard has been Deathrite Shaman . One of the few decks capable of actually abusing the Shaman, Monsalve has a trio in his sideboard to help out with two completely different matchups.

"First, it's obviously good against other Reanimator decks, particularly the Humanimator deck. If you can get it into play early, you can keep them from being able to combo you out. It's also part of the package I bring in to survive Jund Aggro. In addition to giving me a bit more space with the lifegain, it is able to deal with Strangleroot Geist , which can be a problem for all of my one-shot removal spells. If it weren't that dual purpose, I wouldn't bring it in. For example, I don't bring it in against Naya Blitz because it isn't enough to just gain life, and it isn't a relevant blocker in that match. I just bring in Tragic Slip s and Abrupt Decay s and try and survive until I can play a Healer or Thragtusk ."

Monsalve's Round 9 Victory

After speaking with Monsalve about his deck, it's apparent yet again both how much work and studying goes into selecting the proper deck for a tournament and how much that can pay off. Selecting a well-placed deck requires an understanding of the current trends in Magic as a whole, as well as the texture of the local environment. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a particular deck will allow you to keep your options open and select the deck that possesses the correct strengths for what you see at a tournament. Understanding what each card in your deck is supposed to do allows you to rearrange the list to make it stronger against the exact field you are facing. There is something to be said for having the right deck at the right time, but Monsalve is proving that you don't simply "have" the right deck.

You build it.

Round 12 Feature Match - Guilherme Machado vs. Daniel Ferraresso

by Blake Rasmussen

Guilherme Machado was on a roll. He had started out 8-0 and was vying to be one of only two players to reach 9-0 on Day 1 before slightly stumbling in the last round to pick up his first loss.

He has, however, picked himself right back up and continued his winning ways with The Aristocrats deck that has been pretty popular with a group of strong players here this weekend.

Ferraresso's Jund Zombies deck certainly had fewer copies on Day 2, but the relentless beatings he was putting on opposing players was more than making up for it. Like Machado he entered the round at 9-2 with a strong line to a Top 8 appearance. Also like Machado, that meant this match, and every one from here on out, was absolutely critical.

Game 1

Both players started with their ideal one-drops, Ferraresso on Gravecrawler and Machado taking two damage to play a Champion of the Parish .

Ferraresso's second turn, however, was potentially troublesome for his White-wielding opponent, as a Knight of Infamy entered the battlefield to both hold of Champion of the Parish and let the Gravecrawler attack for three damage.

And he would definitely need the Knight's help. Machado, with a bit of a smile and a shrug, played two Champion of the Parish on his second turn, much to both player's amusement.

Ferraresso didn't care, it turned out, because his Gravecrawler was still able to attack freely. Machado traded his 2/2 Champion for the Zombie, but a second Gravecrawler let Ferraresso bring the first one back from the dead (to the undead?).

Guilherme Machado was one of the last remaining undefeated players, but had stumbled twice in the meantime.

Machado, however, kept building up his board, growing his Champions with a Cartel Aristocrat , but he could only smile again as Ferraresso played his third Gravecrawler , matching boards of signature one drops against one another. Things were becoming cluttered, even as Ferraresso missed on his third land for multiple turns.

That lack of lands would prove to be Ferraresso's undoing. Machado cast and was able to activate a Skirsdag High Priest , followed by a Falkenrath Aristocrat s, while all Ferraresso could manage was to suicide his Gravecrawler s before growing them back.

A Demon token an attack and a Boros Reckoner later and Ferraresso was more than ready to move on to a second game, still missing his third land.

Machado 1 – Ferraresso 0

Game 2

Machado was forced to mulligan to just five cards to start the second game, but still managed to throw up some early defenses. His Doomed Traveler made a perfectly serviceable blocker for Gravecrawler , though he declined to do so when initially given the opportunity. Did he have plans for the littlest traveler?

Machado plowed ahead anyway, casting Vampire Nighthawk and playing a Cavern of Souls on, curiously, Human, certainly an unexpected choice out of Jund Zombies.

The answer became apparent soon, however, as Ferraresso played Huntmaster of the Fells to threaten to turn the game into a route. Machado was already low on resources—despite a freshly cast Lingering Souls —and having to play the Werewolf game might prove tricky. (Spoiler alert: it did)

Falkenrath Aristocrat s did, however, give Machado the cover he needed to attack with two Spirit tokens, getting in his first attack of the game. It looked, for at least a second, that he might be able to turn the game around.

For a moment anyway.

Chances are pretty good this man is holding a Brimstone Volley in his hand or near the top of his deck. Get ready to take five damage.

The Falkenrath Aristocrat took a Tragic Slip on Ferraresso's next turn, while a second Vampire Nighthawk buttressed his own air force.

For his trouble, Machado could "only" manage a Boros Reckoner . A roadblock, sure, but not much use against a pair of Vampire Nighthawk s, despite Machado's access to a plethora of Spirit tokens.

Two of the tokens traded with a Vampire Nighthawk on the next attack and the final token was cleared out when Huntmaster of the Fells turned into a very angry Ravager of the Fells .

That dead Spirit set off a chain of events. Tragic Slip killed Vampire Nighthawk , and then Abrupt Decay killed off Boros Reckoner . When Machado was forced to chump block the following turn, a Morbid Brimstone Volley took his last few life points and evened up the match.

Machado 1- Ferraresso 1

Game 3

It was Machado who got off to the fast start for the final game, curving Champion of the Parish into two Cartel Aristocrat s. It was a dangerously aggressive start...

Knight of Infamy

...that was promptly stopped cold by Knight of Infamy . Protection is a heck of an ability.

Ferraresso tried to put the game out of reach with a pair of Vampire Nighthawk s, but was stymied at each turn. The first one died quickly to Orzhov Charm , while the second one survived long enough to get boosted by a second copy of Night of Infamy for exactly one turn.

Then, apparently, someone committed some kind of Blasphemous Act that left none standing save a lone, cruel Cartel Aristocrat . That Aristocrat was soon joined by an identical copy as well as a Silverblade Paladin that turned the level of trouble up to approximately double.

Ferraresso started rebuilding as well. Geralf's Messenger and Falkenrath Aristocrat put some pressure on Machado, knocking him to just five life while Ferraresso was still on 16. All of the early damage Machado had taken was becoming an issue even after he cleared the board.

16 became 10 on Machado's next attack, and a Falkenrath Aristocrat offered him protection from Feraresso's copy of the Mythic vampire. Still, on just five life, he had little room for error.

Another Geralf's Messenger dropped that to three and then just one after it was sacrificed. Forget little room for error—Machado was now officially working without a net.

And for all of Machado's double-striking power, he was still one point short of killing Ferraresso. A human or a removal spell—though Orzhov Charm was effectively a blank at this point—could give him the win. But without either, he was forced to pass the turn back and risk any kind of burn spell or haste creature.

When Ferraresso saw the top card of his deck, it was all he could do to spill it onto the battlefield for the final points of a tightly contested match.

Brimstone Volley

Machado 1 – Ferraresso 2

Sunday, 1:13 p.m. - UWR Flash with Victor Fernando Silva

by Blake Rasmussen

Victor Fernando Silva isn't afraid to go against the grain, especially not when it comes to his interesting take on UWR Flash. At 10-1 so far this weekend, not many people are going to argue.

His list certainly raises some eyebrows at first glance. It's 61 cards, for one thing, but we'll circle back around to that. Instead, just look at some of the inclusions in his main deck:

Who needs Boros Reckoner anyway?

That last one is a number that certainly catches people's attention right off the bat. Boros Reckoner has been a virtually undisputed staple of UWR Flash since Gatecrash was released. It was a key card for both Gerry Thompson and Joel Larsson on the way to their Pro Tour Gatecrash Top 8s, and it really has gone unchallenged as a staple in the deck for as long as it's been legal.

Until now.

Victor Fernando Silva has shown his mastery of UWR Flash so far this weekend.

Silva explained.

"I want a mana base that can support Desolate Lighthouse and more Blue sources. I don't want to lose because I don't have the second Blue for Counterflux , Rewind , or to snap back an Azorius Charm ."

Those counterspells—a whopping six of them in the main deck, three times as many as is typical—are key to Silva's deck's success. With a room full of midrange decks, they're almost always good as gold, especially Essence Scatter .

"I only played four before, but Essence Scatter is a great card for the field. It's a fast answer to creatures, and there aren't a lot of Cavern of Souls . It's easier to flash back with Snapcaster Mage and you can play Essence Scatter and removal in the same turn much easier," he said.

Generally speaking, Silva likes having access to more counterspells. It gives him an innate advantage against other controlling decks, and with a plethora of cheap removal— Searing Spear , Pillar of Flame s and Azorius Charm —he can afford to have the counterspells in his main deck, even against aggressive decks.

Several other interesting choices fan out from these early decisions on the deck. No Boros Reckoner (for Harvest Pyre ) and no Runechanter's Pike means Thought Scour is far less useful and gets mostly replaced by Think Twice .

Silva said he doesn't like Mizzium Mortars either. He wants his deck to operate at almost entirely instant speed—another reason to dodge Boros Reckoner —and has eschewed the powerful Overload spell for that very reason.

Which brings us to the creature base. Restoration Angel , Snapcaster Mage and Augur of Bolas are all pretty obvious (in fact, Silva didn't even bother talking about Angel...he just said "Angel, of course" and moved on.), but the two Mythic Angels offer quite a bit of spice.

"I like having them, they let the deck become suddenly explosive, and Angel of Serenity can be like a wrath effect," they said.

Aurelia, the WarleaderAngel of Serenity
They may be one-ofs in Victor Fernando Silva's deck, but these unique angels offer unique angles that have thrown opponents off all weekend long.

Aurelia, the Warleader , can especially catch opponents by surprise. A flashed in Restoration Angel followed by an Aurelia, the Warleader is 12 damage seemingly out of nowhere. Silva said he's caught more than a few opponents by surprise that way, and it's the main reason he has one in the sideboard s well.

As for additional spice, Silva has gone back to the Moorland Haunt that was previously standard (another casualty of the Boros Reckoner revolution) and the far less than standard Desolate Lighthouse .

"Even when I resolve Revelation , sometimes I have extra lands—I'm playing 26—or dead cards. It lets me cycle dead cards late and find more threats or removal," Silva explained while I nodded vigorously. As an Izzet mage myself, I look for just about any opportunity to play Desolate Lighthouse . Silva has clearly found a way.

Silva said his good matchups were pretty much anything aggressive or anything red based. He was admittedly very soft to Reanimator—his first loss of the tournament was to Unburial Rites and he has no graveyard hate anywhere in his 75—but said he didn't expect to see much of it in Rio and mostly hoped to just dodge it.

"I'll leave that up to fate," he said.

Fate did stand up and bite him a bit, as Silva's first loss of the tournament was to Junk Reanimator. Otherwise, he fairly easily handled all kinds of decks across a wide spectrum. Really, he said, there wasn't any other deck he was afraid of.

Oh, and about that 61st card? Silva knew he wanted to run Desolate Lighthouse as a 26th land, locking him in on that front, but couldn't bring himself to cut any of the singletons or either Pillar of Flame s or Think Twice , the most expendable slots. In the end, he felt comfortable with 61.

So far, it seems to be working out just fine.

UWR control by Victor Fernando Silva

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Sunday, 2:34 p.m. - Day 2 Metagame Breakdown

by Nate Price

The cut to Day 2 is an important milestone over the course of a Grand Prix. After what was almost certainly an exhausting Day 1, roughly 90% of the players that began the tournament will be mathematically eliminated from the Top 8. For Day 2, only the players that survived the meat grinder of Day 1 in a position to strike for Top 8 are invited back to play. This creates an exclusive feel to Day 2, giving players something to really strive for.

For our purposes, it also makes it much easier to sift through the decks to do a metagame breakdown! Not only does it make it easier, it is far more relevant information. While the Day 2 glance may not provide the best view of the makeup of the field as the tournament started, it provides details as to what decks are winning, which is what you should care about if you are trying to win the tournament.

As I'm sure you are tired of hearing us say, Standard is laughably balanced right now. There is no clear "best deck", leaving players able to one of dozens of viable decks in the format. As such, the tide of Standard is far more variable than it has been in as long as I can remember. Thanks to the tide of information available on Magic Online, players are able to track what is doing well in a given week and select one of many decks that plays well against that strategy. As that deck succeeds, players move onto a deck that defeats it and so on.

When it comes to deck selection, you'll often hear top level players talk about "leveling." At any given tournament, there are three basic levels. The first level is the decks that have been successful leading up to the event. Coming into Grand Prix Rio, this would be the aggressive Naya Blitz and Jund Aggro decks that performed well at Grand Prix Quebec City. Level two is the decks that are good against those decks. This is often the largest segment of a given event. Here in Rio, this is the large swath of the field represented by the Jund Midrange decks. The third level is occupied by decks that play well against those on the second level. For this tournament, the biggest of those decks is Junk Reanimator. It doesn't have the best matchup against the aggro decks on level one, but players who brought it were counting on the large numbers of midrange decks to keep it at bay.

Levels have become very important with this shifting tide within Standard. Looking at the Day 2 metagame breakdown really provides a great view at how the levels break down.

First, here's the list of decks from Day 2:

As you can see, there are 23 distinct deck types for 78 players. There is a nice distribution curve as well, with the top two slots going to Jund Midrange, the most popular deck in the tournament, and Junk Reanimator, the weapon of choice to beat it. It's unsurprising to see Jund Midrange out in such a force. With the rise of the heavily aggressive decks in Quebec City, there was a massive backlash on Magic Online, leading to a surge of Midrange decks taking over the Magic Online queues. Since Junk Reanimator has better late-game threats and enough time to get them online, it is an exceptional choice to run against a field of Jund Midrange, explaining the higher than average number of player in Day 2. Ten decks isn't representative of its actual percentage of the Day 1 field, but the fact that it concentrated from a smaller number of players to capture the second spot is an indicator of its strength in this particular type of metagame.

Since seeing the large number of Aristocrats decks that won Trials on Friday, I have been doing a bit of thinking. The deck is ridiculously intricate and can be incredibly tough to even decide which hands to keep, let alone play. As such, I found it surprising that the deck was so highly played, and to such success. Still, the deck is far more than just the sum of a series of favorable interactions, as it might appear at first. The deck has some of the most powerful cards available in Standard at its disposal, and it can often simply overpower opponents. In addition, the threats it presents aren't as vulnerable to the removal that is effective against the rest of the field. This, combined with the fact that the deck can either operate as the aggressor or the defender as the situation dictates, makes it an incredibly good deck against a varied field. Just make sure you put in your reps with it, or you'll be in for a very frustrating weekend of Magic.

One other very interesting thing of note is the relative disappearance of control decks. While this decline began in Quebec City a couple of weeks ago, it is far more pronounced here in Rio de Janeiro. Esper Control, the closest to true control in the format, only had a single copy of the deck sneak through to Day 2. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa was playing the deck on Day 1, but ran into a series of problems and failed to advance.

"It is strange because I'm not sure what is going wrong," he told me. "I mean, I know why I lost the games I lost, but I'm not sure if these things keep happening because of variance, or if the deck just has problems. Ben Stark went 9-1 at the Pro Tour, but the rest of us did poorly."

Considering the results from the past couple of weeks, it looks mainly like there simply isn't a good place in the current metagame for the current builds of Esper. While the deck seemingly has the tools to take out any deck, it has run afoul of some very poor matchups that comprise heavy parts of the field, mostly the Reanimator decks of late. The deck simply can't win Game 1 against Reanimator, and, as you can see, it is a heavy part of Day 2 here in Rio de Janeiro.

Snapcaster MageRestoration Angel

Right now, the current control crown goes to UWR, the steadiest of all of the blue-based control decks. If Esper lies on one extreme of a spectrum of the importance of creatures, and Bant lies on the other side, UWR lies straight in the middle. Most decks run some combination of Boros Reckoner , Geist of Saint Traft , Augur of Bolas , Snapcaster Mage , and Restoration Angel to supplement a deck full of card drawing, removal, and a few permission spells. Interestingly, there has been a reasonable version of the deck being piloted by Victor Fernando Silva this weekend that eschews Boros Reckoner and many of the more aggressive cards, such as Boros Charm , for a far more controlling build. Seeing this deck thrive where Esper has not should give players something to consider as they look for a control deck in weeks to come.

Rounding out the majority of the decklists are the various creature-heavy decks, like Zoo variants and Naya Blitz. These decks are very creature heavy, looking to take advantage of Domri Rade as a source of both constant card advantage and removal. The decks tend to have a schism, either going with the beefy top end of Thragtusk and Thundermaw Hellkite , or sticking with the blazing speed of Burning-Tree Emissary and Lightning Mauler , but some have been cropping up that bridge the gap. While Naya Zoo akin to that Eric Froehlich used to Top 8 Pro Tour Gatecrash seems to be the longest-lasting and most popular of the archetypes, Gruul and Blitz variants can still be found littering the tables. Unfortunately, for all of the explosive speed Burning-Tree Emissary provides these decks, it is one of the highest-variance cards in Standard right now, and it can be hard to fully abuse it over the course of a long tournament.

Thundermaw HellkiteBurning-Tree Emissary

I hope this glimpse into the fabric of Day 2 of Grand Prix Rio de Janeiro has given you a little more data to mine in your preparations for any upcoming tournaments you may be attending. Remember, there is no such thing as too much information in Standard right now. The right deck is out there for you to find. You just have to do a little work first.

Round 14 Feature Match - Daniel Ferraresso vs. Willy Edel

by Blake Rasmussen

For these two players, this was it. Two rounds to go, no room for error. At 10-3, both Daniel Ferraresso and All-World pro Willy Edel had outside shots at the Top 8.

If they fall to 10-4? Not so much.

Edel came to game this weekend with an update to Naya Zoo, the deck that Eric Froehlich used to reach the Top 8 of Pro Tour Gatecrash. As he does, Edel had tweaked the numbers to suit his style, and said earlier that he likes his deck very much, though doesn't feel he's particularly favored in any matchups. Likewise, he wasn't really an underdog at any point either.

Ferraresso was pretty happy with his Jund Zombies deck as well, one of the few in the room. Many people had abandoned the deck when faster, more consistent decks emerged to challenge it, but in a room packed to the gills with Midrange lists, it was proving to be an excellent choice.

Game 1

Edel mulled to four right off the bat, a disadvantage exacerbated when his Domri Rade missed on its first and second attempts to pluck a creature from his deck.


Not that things were going much better for Ferraresso, who was stuck on just two lands early.

It wasn't pretty, but it was Magic. Sort of.

Two Gravecrawler s traded with two mana creatures from Edel as both players struggled with their respective disadvantages. Lotleth Troll was something, but he would need more gas to function.

Edel finally found a creature with Domri Rade , drawing and immediately playing a Loxodon Smiter . The game was picking up steam despite its hindered start.

When Edel went to fight his Smite r and Lotleth Troll the following turn via Domri Rade , Ferraresso discarded a whopping four creatures to let Lotleth Troll survive the fight. A turn later it was rejoined by the pair of Gravecralwers.

But all was not lost for Edel, as Domri Rade continued to pull him out of his mulligan. A pair of Boros Reckoner s effectively stopped all of Ferraresso's aggression for the moment, and Ferraresso's lack of Red mana stranded a Brimstone Volley in his hand for the time being.

He started slow, but Daniel Ferraresso picked up steam quickly in Game 1, as Jund Zombies is wont to do.

Eventually, Ferraresso made a move, sending in his Lotleth Troll . Edel took the hit and dropped to five life— Brimstone Volley range—then settled in to try and hide behind his Reckoners again.

But with yet another discard, the Lotleth Troll was too big for even two Boros Reckoner s to handle, and trample put Edel to two life and Ferraresso to 14. Edel reloaded with a pair of creatures on the next turn, but by that point Ferraresso had drawn his Red mana and immediately pointed the Brimstone Volley at Edel's life total.

Ferraresso 1 – Edel 0

Game 2

No mulligans this time, but we did see a return of the Lotleth Troll that was so problematic the previous game. This time, however, Edel learned his lesson and hit it with Mizzium Mortars immediately. Ferraresso declined to discard four creatures to save it.

Instead, both players loaded up their boards with some signature three drops. Edel made a 4/4 Loxodon Smiter while Ferraresso took to the air with both a Vampire Nighthawk and Falkenrath Aristocrat . Only the Aristocrat attacked, and Ferraresso traded his Nighthawk for the Smite r on the next attack.

That, however, just opened the door for Edel to Pillar of Flame s the offending 4/1, followed by a Flinthoof Boar and Thragtusk .

Will Edel was already miles ahead in the race to represent Latin America at the Player's Championship. Could he build on his total with another Grand Prix Top 8?

The Boar and 'Tusk were matched by Lotleth Troll , Knight of Infamy and Gravecrawler as the two began to build up their respective boards now that the pace of the match had slowed.

Slowed, but not stopped. Edel's creatures were considerably larger, and he attacked with his two Green monsters the following turn, getting in for three damage, then solidifying his lead with a Restoration Angel to blink this Thragtusk .

Ferraresso made a game of it with a Brimstone Volley and some key blocks plus a second Lotleth Troll and a Huntmaster of the Fells , but with no way to pressure Edel and no way to kill Restoration Angel , it was only a matter of time before Domri Rade and Restoration Angel gave Edel enough of an advantage in the air and on the ground to force the concession.

Ferraresso 1 – Edel 1

Game 3

Both players took a moment to collect themselves before starting what amounted to an elimination game at this point. Ferraresso stretched and wiped his brow before taking his first mulligan, while Edel cracked his back and furrowed his brow before finally keeping his hand after some consideration.

Ferraresso's second look was acceptable—though it lacked green mana—and he started with a Gravecrawler right off the bat before following up with a Geralf's Messenger .

Then, ya know, Boros Reckoner .

Boros Reckoner
Because, you know, Boros Reckoner .

But Ferraresso hadn't gotten this far by being stymied by the Minotaur. Falkenrath Aristocrat s—as well as some much needed Green mana—put Ferraresso well ahead on board.

A Boros Reckoner attack and four open mana signaled Restoration Angel loud and clear, but Ferraresso didn't take the bait, attacking with only the Aristocrat. That let Ferraresso trade the front half of Geralf's Messenger for Edel's Angel. Ferraresso finished off the turn buttressing his position with Huntmaster of the Fells .

Edel attacked in again with the Reckoner, despite his disadvantage. Ferraresso blocked with a Wolf token, then made what could have been a costly error. He blocked with his 2/2 Wolf token and could have sacrificed it to Falkenrath Aristocrat , but instead let damage resolve. The trigger from Reckoner let Edel then kill off Gravecrawler . Edel then cast Domri Rade , used the fight ability to trade Reckoner for both Geralf's Messenger and Huntmaster of the Fells .

Falkenrath AristocratDomri Rade

Just like that, all Ferraresso had was a very lonely, but still very potent Falkenrath Aristocrat s. With Edel at 8 life, that meant quite a bit.

Realizing victory was at hand, Ferraresso quickly attacked, then played and sacrificed Geralf's Messenger to deal the full 8 to Edel before giving him another turn to try and wiggle out.

With that win, Ferraresso stays alive for the Top 8, while Edel is effectively eliminated.

Ferraresso 2 – Edel 1

Sunday, 4:36 p.m. - Final Round Roundup

by Nate Price

Once the pairings went up for the final round of Swiss, it was clear that the top two tables were in the clear to draw, leaving four matches in the running for the remaining four slots in the Top 8. As I am not the Flash (Barry, Wally, Adobe...choose your flavor), I was only able to make it around the top two of them to check in on their final struggle before Top 8.

Luciano Melotta

First up was Wellington Cordeiro and Luciano Melotta, playing Gruul Zoo and Humanimator respectively. Their first game appeared to be progressing towards a close at a fast clip, with Cordeiro getting a fairly quick start with a Stromkirk Noble , Burning-Tree Emissary , and Hellrider . The damage added up quickly, but some deft use of Fiend Hunter allowed Melotta to keep himself alive temporarily. After trading Emissaries, Melotta used Fiend Hunter to reset the 4/4 Noble. After letting the Hunter die to the Hellrider , Melotta used Unburial Rites to bring it back, this time stealing the Hellrider .

Unable to block the Noble, the Hunter had to watch idly as the Vampire continued to attack. Cordeiro was unable to find a green mana source for his Ghor-Clan Rampager to allow his creatures to finish the game immediately, forcing him to simply attack with his Noble and attack. While he was stalled, Melotta used another Unburial Rites to add an Undercity Informer to his side. After adding a Lightning Mauler to his team, Cordeiro was finally able to find a Burning-Tree Emissary to generate the green needed to cast the Rampager. He paired it with his Mauler and sent his team.

Unfortunately, this was where the wheels fell off for Melotta. He ended up blocking the Rampager with his Hunter and the Mauler with his Informer, staying alive, but when he sacrificed the Hunter to his Informer to try and set up a next-turn combo, that allowed the Rampager to trample over to kill him. Clearly distraught, Melotta picked up his cards for Game 2.

Wellington Cordeiro

In the second game, Cordeiro simply overran Melotta with a pair of Lightning Mauler s, a Burning-Tree Emissary , and a Flinthoof Boar . Melotta hadn't even gotten a fourth land into play and he was dead.

Wellington Cordeiro defeated Luciano Melotta 2-0

Just next door, Matias Arvigo and Carlos Dos Santos were embroiled in a very long, complicated match fraught with a number of missteps involving triggers. Arvigo was playing Jund Midrange against Dos Santos's Junk Reanimator. Game 1 was fairly lopsided, as the extent of Arvigo's offense was a Garruk, Primal Hunter . When Dos Santos cast Unburial Rites to return Angel of Serenity , Arvigo didn't have an answer. A couple of turns later, he was dead.

Carlos Dos Santos

The second game was only a little more interactive. Arvigo got on the board with an Olivia Voldaren , which was apparently all the offense he needed. Dos Santos tried to defend with Lingering Souls , but all it did was serve up a string of counters for the Olivia Voldaren . Arvigo had enough red sources to finish off Olivia's snack over three turns, killing Dos Santos in only three swings. Take 5, take 7, take 9. You're dead.

Big Olivia

The final game was fraught with controversy. After starting out fairly standardly, with a Lotleth Troll for Dos Santos and an Olivia Voldaren for Arvigo, things began to get complicated. Dos Santos made an Obzedat, Ghost Council , which he immediately exiled. Next turn, he passed his turn without announcing his Obzedat trigger, and his opponent called a judge. After an appeal, it was ruled that Dos Santos had forgotten the trigger and it had to stay in play. That left it in play to be Murder ed on Arvigo's turn. Unburial Rites returned it to play, and Dos Santos certainly remembered the trigger on that turn.

Matias Arvigo

Unfortunately, matters took an unfortunate turn as he cast Unburial Rites on his Craterhoof Behemoth on the following turn, attempting for a lethal attack. After placing the Craterhoof Behemoth in play, he appeared to declare his attack, prompting a look of surprise from his opponent, who gestured at the Behemoth. Dos Santos cried, "Trigger," which resulted in one more judge visit. After a few discussions with both the table judge and the head judge, Head Judge Alejandro Raggio ruled that Dos Santos had told a conflicting story of the situation to a judge, resulting in a disqualification from the event. An unfortunate way to determine the Top 8, but it serves as a reminder of how important tight play is when big things are on the line.

Matias Arvigo advanced to the Top 8

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