There were plenty of great moments, decks, players, cards, and stories over the course of the weekend here in Santiago. The following are my top picks for things to remember from this Grand Prix.
Temur Aetherworks Marvel established itself as the deck to beat
At the Pro Tour last weekend, Temur Aetherworks Marvel decks had the best overall Standard records. Guided by that information, a lot of players entered the Grand Prix armed with the hope of hitting a turn-four Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Near the end of the weekend, the top tables were dominated by the archetype.
Ultimately, Temur Aetherworks Marvel put three players in the Top 8 and fifteen players in the Top 32. Here's the full breakdown.
|Deck archetype||Number in the Top 32|
|Temur Aetherworks Marvel||15|
Red-Green Energy attacked the format
Yesterday, Gold pro Pedro Carvalho showed up with an interesting Red-Green energy deck that, as he claimed, had a good matchup against Temur Aetherworks Marvel. Carvalho put up a lackluster, yet winning record, but Chile's Ignacio Saez played a similar deck to a performance deserving of Rhonas' favors.
Piloting one of the most unique decks in the Top 8, Saez had crushed Aetherworks Marvel decks all weekend, and he told me that the deck is a big favorite in that matchup. Given that he had been playing Electrostatic Pummeler decks before Amonkhet, his judgment was backed up by a lot of relevant experience.
Over the weekend, Saez went 5-2 against Marvel opponents, only losing to turn-four Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hungers. He highlighted the speed of the deck, the pressure that Rhonas the Indomitable provides, and the addition of Glorybringer. It's all based on a simple, yet effective idea: if your creatures are bigger than Rogue Refiner and Whirler Virtuoso, are difficult to block, and can survive sweepers or targeted removal, then you should be able to defeat Marvel decks unless they draw perfectly.
Could this archetype be the way to attack the Standard metagame from this weekend? It surely has all the right tools!
Two Sweet Plays
A lot of cool games took place over the weekend. I could tell you about breathtaking topdecks and the excitement of hard-casting multiple Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hungers, but I decided to highlight two plays that stood out because they used cards in unorthodox ways.
In the last round of the Swiss, 2016 Magic Online Champion Niels Noorlander went for a bizarre play to secure his Top 8 berth: He countered his own spells…twice! He was looking for a way to transform Thing in the Ice—a powerful sideboard card in his Blue-Red Control deck—and he saw that he transform them by Dispelling his own Negate, then Dispelling his Dispel. A little weird, but the 7/8 Horrors won him the deciding game!
In his quarterfinals against Javier Luna, Guillherme Merjam showed the key behind Zombies: making sure that they can keep coming back from the dead. When Luna activated his Nahiri, the Harbinger to exile Relentless Dead, Merjam used Fatal Push to destroy his own creature. It was a clever play that allowed him to continue his reanimation engine, and that was enough take him to the semifinals.
Thiago Saporito made up for missing Mother's Day
Platinum Pro Thiago Saporito from Brazil missed Mother's Day because he was competing at Pro Tour Amonkhet in Nashville. But he made up for it by taking her on a trip to Santiago!
While she went to visit the city with some newly made friends from the Grand Prix, Thiago posted a very respectable 12th-place finish. It was a good weekend for the family!
A Three-Day Celebration of the Game
Grand Prix events offer something for everyone. In the Day 1 Highlights, we already put a spotlight on some of the international travelers, cosplayers, and artists that attended the event, but thanks to videographer Jonathan Barría Arjel, you can also get a feel for the event in video form. Take a look!
(A Sunday summary video will be posted on Monday.)
Mauro Sasso reigns supreme
The Top 8 featured a mix between relative newcomers and veteran pros from five different countries.
After several hard-fought matches, the finals featured a Temur Aetherworks mirror between Polish Gold level pro Grzegorz Kowalski and Argentina's Mauro Sasso in his first Grand Prix Top 8.
To reach the finals, Kowalski had to reschedule his flight home, and he had bested Daniel Vega in a marathon semifinals by hitting a one-outer: Rogue Refiner into Aetherworks Marvel into Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Sasso, meanwhile, had triumphed over Guillherme Merjam's Mono-Black Zombies in his semifinal match, and he was cheered on by a large group of countrymen who were watching from the sidelines.
In the first game of the finals, both players had a bunch of energy generators (Woodweaver's Puzzleknot for Kowalski; Rogue Refiner and Whirler Virtuoso for Sasso) but only one of two players had the Aetherworks Marvel to use all that energy. Sasso spun the wheel, found Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in his top six cards, and that was good enough to take the first game.
In the second game, the first couple of turns saw a seemingly never-ending exchange of resources. Creatures traded for creatures and removal spells; Aetherworks Marvel traded for Dissenter's Deliverance; Negate countered a Glimmer of Genius, and no player appeared to be getting an edge. But what did accumulate were energy counters—both players got into the double digits. When Sasso found Whirler Virtuoso as an energy sink, he made five Thopters and started attacking. Kowalski didn't have a good answer to deal with that aerial assault, and when Woodweaver's Puzzleknot brought two more Thopters, Kowalski extended his hand in defeat.
Congratulations again to Mauro Sasso, your Grand Prix Santiago 2017 champion!