GP Santiago 2017 Day 1 Highlights

Posted in Event Coverage on May 20, 2017

By Frank Karsten

718 players started things off for Day 1 in the Grand Prix Santiago main event. After nine rounds of Standard action, only 226 players will return tomorrow for Day 2.

While players were cranking out Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger via Aetherworks Marvel or flashing back Glimmer of Genius with Torrential Gearhulk, I was scouring the tournament hall to hunt down some of the more interesting stories of the day. Let's dive into Day One in a nutshell.

A global game

Here is the country breakdown of the players who participated in the main event.

Country Number of competitors
Chile 458
Argentina 111
Brazil 58
Peru 30
Uruguay 13
United States 13
Bolivia 12
Czech Republic 5
Panama 5
Other 13

The vibrant Chilean Magic community came out in droves, and large groups from other South American countries showed up as well. For them, the Grand Prix was one of the biggest Magic parties in the year, and it brought people from all various countries together.

"It's huge," Felipe Valdivia told me. As the member of the 2016 Chilean World Magic Cup team explained, there are typically only three GPs in South America per year, two of which are usually held in Brazil. Due to language barriers, Brazil forms one community, and then the rest of South America forms another, closely-knit one. "I have a lot of friends from Argentina and Peru, and I get to see them here at the Grand Prix."

As a first-time traveler to Chile myself, I felt welcomed. Although not every player was fluent in English, the ones that were kindly shared recommendations about the city of Santiago, and it was great to see the competitive passion exhibited by some of the Chilean players. Walter Witt, for instance, used an impressive spreadsheet-based approaches to deck selection.

Globetrotting pros

This year, the local Chilean players faced some extra stiff competition from Platinum pros, Hall of Famers, and Top 25 members who decided to travel to Chile after last week's Pro Tour in Nashville. You might have already spotted Czech Republic in the country breakdown, and the "other" category contains well-known players from the Netherlands, Japan, France, Poland, and various other countries outside of South America.

How did so many European players end up in Chile? Well, I’ll take responsibility for that, as I found a rather cheap flight from Amsterdam to both Nashville and Santiago. I told several people about it, and the news spread from there.

From left to right - Mattia Rizzi, Ondřej Stráský, Grzegorz Kowalski, Niels Noorlander, Petr Sochůrek

This group of European pros arrived from Nashville on Tuesday. They spent some time preparing on Magic Online, but they also got to sample the local food and culture and got to do some sightseeing. In the picture above, they're on top of Cerro San Cristóbal, enjoying a sweeping view over Santiago. “I had never been to Chile before," Platinum pro Ondřej Stráský said. "It's exciting that Magic takes me to places I wouldn't have been able to see otherwise."

Martin Hrycej, Martin Jůza, Jan Ksandr

These three Czech players made their trip even more special by visiting Easter Island just before the Grand Prix. Sitting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it is one of the most isolated islands on Earth, and the only realistic way to get there is by taking one of the daily flights from Santiago. Given that they don't get to visit Santiago every day, the Czech trio didn't want to miss the opportunity.

The island is most famous for its large statues called moai, which were carved out of volcanic rock centuries ago by the Polynesian settlers. Although their initially thriving society collapsed (likely because of ecological overshoot due to deforestation) the statues were left behind. "It's the most unbelievable place I've ever been to. The statues are super mysterious, and there are like a thousand on the island!" No. 14 Martin Jůza excitedly said before dashing to his Round 4 match.

Temur Aetherworks Marvel and Blue-Red Control were popular choices

Among pros with three byes at Grand Prix Santiago, Temur Aetherworks Marvel was the most popular choice, but Blue-Red Control wasn't far behind. The choices of notable two-bye players (including some of the best players from Chile and abroad) echoed this, as did the picks of the people in this Twitter poll.

So why did players opt for Temur Aetherworks Marvel, and what versions did they choose?

Sample Temur Aetherworks Marvel list

Download Arena Decklist

Temur Aetherworks Marvel was one of the big decks coming out of Pro Tour Amonkhet last weekend. As indicated by the Day 2 metagame breakdown and the win percentage analysis from that event, Temur Aetherworks Marvel versions with either Glimmer of Genius (as Yuuya Watanabe played) or Chandra, Flamecaller (as Martin Müller played) had the best performance overall.

This weekend, many players opted for a hybrid between the Watanabe's list and Muller's list. Combining the best aspects from both versions, they got access to not only Chandra, Flamecaller as a great sweeper against Zombies and a legitimate Aetherworks Marvel hit by herself but also Glimmer of Genius, which improves the deck's consistency and its ability to play at instant speed. The above sample list was taken from a recent article by World Champion Brian Braun-Duin; although he was not here in Santiago, many of the players who were in attendance opted for similar card choices.

“I think it’s the best version of the best deck in Standard," Ondřej Stráský claimed. “We have sweepers against Zombies, Servant of the Conduit for acceleration, and Glimmer of Genius to draw cards. And I LOVE the Marvel."

Pro Tour Kaladesh finalist Carlos Romão had a similar opinion: "Marvel is such a good deck, and Glimmer is great in the mirror match. If I could go back in the past and choose again for the Pro Tour, I would choose Marvel instead of Blue-Red Control."

Sample Blue-Red Control list

Download Arena Decklist

At the Pro Tour last weekend, Blue-Red Control pilots did not fare well, with the exception of Peter Vieren. He went 8-2 with the above list, featuring 4 Hieroglyphic Illumination in the maindeck to increase spell density and 4 Thing in the Ice in the sideboard for when opponents board out their removal. Vieren also had 3 Sweltering Suns maindeck and 3 Dynavolt Tower in the sideboard—important cards against Zombies.

According to some of the control aficionados here in Santiago, little changes like these can make all the difference, and many of them cited Vieren's version as an inspiration. "I think many players at the Pro Tour played a bad version," Petr Sochůrek explained. "They played too many lands and too many Anticipates. I think the list I'm playing today has a favorable matchup against Aetherworks Marvel and Zombie decks. Also, I just like to play control."

Martin Jůza expanded: "It’s hard to play a control deck in an unknown metagame because you’re running the risk of having the wrong answers if you misjudge the metagame." Indeed, now that the Pro Tour has set the stage, it's easier to find the right answers that perfectly line up against the main threats in the metagame, and that's the time when control decks can shine.

Deck Tech: Red-Green Energy by Pedro Carvalho

Although the metagame in Santiago was largely dominated by Temur Aetherworks Marvel and Blue-Red Control, new ideas emerged as well. Case in point: Pedro Carvalho, who had a very simple plan to attack Aetherworks Marvel decks: "Play guys, attack, and pump them."

Pedro Carvalho

"That's really all there is to it. This is probably the dumbest deck I have ever played," he laughed. "I have seven pump spells, one random Harnessed Lightning, and the rest is all guys."

Pedro Carvalho's Red-Green Energy – Grand Prix Santiago 2017

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At the Pro Tour last weekend, Carvalho played Mardu Vehicles, but he abandoned the deck because he was unable to beat Whirler Virtuoso from Aetherworks Marvel decks. "So I started searching for something else."

He saw sai_2011's red-green deck in the Top 8 of a Magic Online Pro Tour Qualifier, started testing it a bit, and eventually settled a version he liked. "The version from Magic Online had a lot of Magma Sprays, but after playing with the deck a little bit, I decided that the best way to deal with creatures was by just trampling over them."

  • Lathnu Hellion
  • Khenra Charioteer
  • Rhonas the Indomitable
  • Blossoming Defense
  • Invigorated Rampage

Rhonas the Indomitable is a key card in his deck. Carvalho's list has as many as 14 creatures that are huge by themselves—Electrostatic Pummeler did not make the cut for that reason—which allows Rhonas to reliably enter combat. Pump spells also help turn on Rhonas. "Blossoming Defense main phase happens more than you think."

Khenra Charioteer, an uncommon that many scoffed at for Constructed play, was almost tailer-made for the deck. "The 3/3 is super good. Look at the size of my guys!" According to Carvalho, it was important to have enough ways to give his creatures trample. In particular, Rhonas got much better with trample.

How did he feel about his matchups against the top decks in Standard? "I think Marvel is a good matchup for me because their creatures don't block well against my trample guys. Their deck is pretty bad against you except for Ulamog on turn 4, and I went 17-2 in testing against Marvel yesterday!"

Even though he wasn't quite sure about all the numbers in his decklist, Carvalho might have picked up a deck that can challenge Aetherworks Marvel. He ended the day at 6-3 today, still with a chance make a run for Top 8 tomorrow.

Nicol Bolas Planeswalked to Santiago

In the midst of all this Standard action, I caught up with cosplayer Fauna.

Hailing from Santiago, she got into cosplay about five year ago. "Not many cosplayers from Chile do Magic, but I love the art. The artwork in Magic is amazing."

Last year, she attended Grand Prix Santiago as Avacyn and Nahiri. Today, she was cosplaying as Nicol Bolas: "the most badass planeswalkers in all of Magic's history!"

"I am looking forward to the next set, Hour of Devastation. Nicol Bolas is one of the best characters in Magic's history; he has to come back!"

When I asked her what she liked best about cosplay, she had a clear answer: "The crafting. Making the costume, and working with the tools, is the best part. Sometimes I even make costumes that I never wear!"

But everyone was glad that she did end up wearing her stunning Nicol Bolas costume today. If you want to see more from Fauna, then check out her Facebook page.

Art by RK Post Confirmed Earthquake-Proof

Grand Prix have something in store for everyone. As usual, there were a number of artists present as well: Jason Felix, Josu Hernaiz, and RK Post.

"People are interested in different things. Here, people really enjoy tokens," RK Post told me when I asked him which pieces had been most popular. And you could see exactly what people were playing from the ones that were in highest demand.

In case you, like RK, were wondering who needed all of those 5/5 Dragons: these tokens were sought out by Blue-Red Control players with Dragonmaster Outcast in their sideboard. Good to know.

But the story that stood out to me the most was behind a special card that RK got to sign.

"It was beat to hell," RK laughed. Apparently, this Avatar of Woe was lying in the owner's room when the 2010 earthquake happened. His bathroom flooded due to the earthquake, with the water running through the house and taking several cards with it. "He was able to save a few cards; this was one of them." The player then held on to the card for seven years before RK could sign it.

"I have probably signed cards in a worse condition, but that one probably had the best story. There was a global event involved in it!"

Two undefeated players

Two players reached the end of Day One with undefeated, pristine 9-0 records.

Left to right: Javier Luna and Rodrigo Trujillo.

The first undefeated player was Rodrigo Trujillo from Brazil. He found his success with a Temur Aetherworks Marvel deck, which he chose "because I have played with this deck all season, since Kaladesh." His deck contained a flashy surprise for many of his opponents: Samut, Voice of Dissent. "It performed very well. It's great because it has flash, and it acts an alternative win condition."

The second undefeated player was Argentina's Javier Luna, a veteran with a lot of Grand Prix Top 16s and Pro Tour attendances to his name. To clinch 9-0, he defeated Luis Navas in Round 9 in a Mardu Vehicles mirror match where all the control elements, ranging from Fumigate to Chandra, Flamecaller came into play. "I was testing Blue-Red Control for the last ten days, but last Monday, all Marvel decks were beating me with Negate and Dispel, so I gave up and played Mardu. I also thought people would be prepared for Marvel, not for Mardu." His metagame choice surely paid off for him, as he defeated six Marvel decks today.

Congratulations to both 9-0 players! They have a head start going into tomorrow, but hot on their heels are a lot of strong players at 8-1 records including Luis Salvatto, Niels Noorlander, Grzegorz Kowalski, and Martin Juza.

Rodrigo Trujillo's Temur Aetherworks Marvel – 9-0 at Grand Prix Santiago 2017

Download Arena Decklist

Javier Luna's Mardu Vehicles – 9-0 at Grand Prix Santiago 2017

Download Arena Decklist

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