Day 1 Highlights of Grand Prix Santiago 2018

Posted in Event Coverage on March 11, 2018

By Chapman Sim

The first day of Grand Prix Santiago 2018 came and gone. While the players in Madrid were playing Standard, Modern, and Legacy, the competitors here in Chile were competing in Ixalan Block Team Sealed.

A total of 262 teams - 786 brave explorers - showed up at Hotel Gran Palace Convention Center. Situated in the heart of Santiago and just a five minutes walk from the La Moneda Palace (the seat of the President of Chile), it was an excellent setting for a Premier Event.

Trios On Our Watchlist

As with any Latin American Grand Prix, we first seek out the most notable player in the region. It's a little game I like to call “Where's Paulo?".

Guilherme Merjam, Carlos Romão, and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

As a pillar of the community, (1) Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa was not only the winningest player on the entire continent but also a Pro Tour Hall of Famer and a double Pro Tour Champion. Teaming up with Carlos Romão and Guilherme Merjam, that was pretty much a winning recipe.

A World Champion himself, Romão also had 10 Grand Prix Top 8s with five wins, as well as over two decades of high-level gaming experience. Merjam was also one of the most prominent players in Brazil and also won Grand Prix Sao Paulo 2014. Coincidentally, Merjam also made the Top 8 of the previous Grand Prix Santiago in 2017! Could he do a back-to-back this weekend?

Good chance! The trio finished 7-1 and remained in contention for the Top 4 tomorrow.

Sebastian Pozzo, Luis Salvatto, and Lucas Esper Berthoud

After lightning the way in Bilbao, (3) Luis Salvatto was now a household name. Winning Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan a month ago, he teamed up with Pro Tour Aether Revolt Champion Lucas Esper Berthoud and 2016-2017 Standard Master Sebastian Pozzo. The three stalwarts of the community have been friendly foes for years, and they joined forces this weekend as teammates of Hareruya Latin. Their congregation resulted in the creation of one of the biggest powerhouse teams in the hall today.

Sneaking into Day 2 at 6-2, they can still make it through to the playoffs if they win out tomorrow!

Willy Edel, Juliano Souza, and Thiago Saporito

Last but not least, we'd also like you to meet Pro Tour Hall of Famer Willy Edel, Juliano Souza, and Platinum Pro Thiago Saporito.

Edel might have taken a break from competitive Magic to focus on his business and his family, but he wasn't about to pass up a chance to team with his old friends Souza and Saporito. After all, team events are just so much fun! The first (and previous) time the trio teamed together was at Grand Prix San Jose 2012.

Saporito, whose most recent achievement was winning Grand Prix Las Vegas 2017 (Limited), was also fresh off an 11th place finish at the 2017 Magic Online Championship! As for Souza, he was a team member of Team Brazil at the 2012 World Magic Cup and a very well-respected player of the Brazilian community. That same season also saw his best Grand Prix finish, 9th on tiebreakers at Grand Prix Sao Paulo. Hopefully, he will find a breakthrough this weekend!

An Overview of Ixalan Block Team Sealed

Previously, we used 12 Ixalan Boosters for Team Sealed events. This weekend, players were given 8 Rivals of Ixalan Boosters and 4 Ixalan Boosters instead. While a lot of things have stayed a same, a lot of things have also changed.

For example, Team Sealed remained a fast-paced format. The average Team Sealed deck tended to be more potent than the average Booster Draft deck, and this format was no exception. With your team harnessing cards from 12 boosters, the power level can be quite high, and most Team Sealed decks can execute their game plan more efficiently than in other Limited formats.

Tribes still played a significant role and players continued to craft their decks around them. Blue-Green Merfolk, White-Black Vampires, as well as Blue, Black, and Red Pirates and White, Red, and Green Dinosaurs were still the centric theme of the block. Appropriating tribal synergy can be rewarding if your card pool presented the critical payoff cards for playing that particular tribe.

For example, while you're not likely to get four copies of River Heralds' Boon anymore, you might find Merfolk Mistbinder, Forerunner of the Heralds, or even Kumena, Tyrant of Orzaca which might convince you to build a Blue-Green deck. Similarly, if you manage to get a couple of Anointed Deacons from your 4 Ixalan Boosters, that might nudge you towards the Vampire deck!

Although, with the inclusion of Rivals of Ixalan, many players will jokingly argue that the best tribe was the Chupacabra! It is a ridiculous card!

Ravenous Chupacabra by Daarken

Mana fixing improved significantly, and it was now easier to splash a third color. With Evolving Wilds, Traveler's Amulet, Treasure tokens, and uncommon dual lands, a light touch for a third color to house a treasured bomb was made possible.

For example, Angrath, the Flame-Chained, Tendershoot Dryad, and Profane Procession were cards that you did not want to leave in your sideboard, at least not in this format. Those cards can single-handedly win you games if left unchecked for a couple of turns!

It was also universal consensus that lower-costed cards were higher in value, owing to the pace of the format. Either you needed to charge to the finish line as fast as you could, or have sufficient cheaply-costed plays to prevent yourself from getting run over.

Pro Tour Hall of Famer Willy Edel expanded upon this notion and provided a little more insight. “In general, the cards that are good in Booster Draft are also good in Team Sealed. That's why a low mana cost and a good curve are important for many decks. However, there are still some differences and exceptions."

He used these two cards to illustrate a commonly-overlooked point. Impale is usually a better card than Luminous Bonds (by the way, Cleansing Ray was one of the essential sideboard cards in the format). Nevertheless, Edel would pick Luminous Bonds in Booster Draft over Impale due to mana requirements.

“You may not always play Black if you pick Impale, and you may not always play White if you pick Luminous Bonds. But in Team Sealed, you want Impale over Luminous Bonds in general, because you're guaranteed to play the card in one of your three decks."

The mana curve is also too precious to be ignored and letting your guard down even for a turn can spell doom. With the action starting as quickly as the first turn, things could spiral out of control if you don't have sufficient low drops. For example, Curious Obsession can soon get out of hand with Mist-Cloaked Herald, and you still have one spare mana to cast Dive Down if you manage to assemble the combo on your second turn.

Not to worry though! There are also plenty of cards you can rely on to play catch up. Vampire's Zeal, Skulduggery, Slash of Talons, Sheltering Light, Sea Legs, Reckless Rage, Moment of Triumph, and Mutiny are all quick ways to regain that tempo you desperately need. And that's only the one mana cards! There were now plenty of common removal spells such as Bombard and Waterknot which keep the powerful bomb rares in check!

As the possibility of creating hyper-aggressive decks increased, so did the probability of forming a midrange or control deck. This was primarily due to the mechanic, Ascend.

If both of your teammates decide to build two aggressive decks and you're a Sailor of Means fanatic, you can acquire the “leftovers” for a slower but more powerful deck. The defensive White cards and the defensive Blue cards pair perfectly! This was also why the trio of Pozzo, Salvatto, and Berthoud split up White and Blue into two decks, forgoing Red altogether.

“We have a Blue-Green Merfolk deck and a White-Black Vampires deck. Instead of a Red Dinosaurs or Pirates deck, we decided to build a Blue-White Ascend deck." The deck consisted triple Squire's Devotion, triple Slippery Scoundrel, as well as Snubhorn Sentry, Resplendent Griffon and Secrets of the Golden City!

Pro Tour Champion Luis Salvatto's White-Blue Ascend deck.

With aggro, midrange, and control decks made viable; the environment was undoubtedly full of thrilling twists and turns!

Building a Winning Team

There is an ancient adage that goes - "if you want to travel fast, go alone. But if you want to travel far, go together"!

What resonates when I hear this, is that to experience continued success in Magic or life, we need to recognize the influence of teamwork and camaraderie. The value of building team spirit is particularly critical in team tournaments such as Grand Prix Santiago and Grand Prix Madrid this weekend.

To build a winning team, it is crucial to create a suitable environment for it. Not only should a unit be provided with all the tangible things to be successful, such as awesome Magic cards and killer decks, but members should also aim to cultivate a culture where all team members have well-defined roles and are encouraged to communicate honestly with each other.

Grand Prix Santiago 2017 Champion, Mauro Sasso (right), assists his teammate between shuffling time.

Leading by example. Being a good role model for others. Handling conflict in times of crisis. Working amidst time pressure. These are all issues which competitors face in this weekend's tournament. However, a problem shared is a problem solved, if everybody is in it together.

Developing a sense of team spirit increases tournament experience and satisfaction, and can even improve motivation and productivity!

Two-time Chile Team Captain Patricia Roman (center) supports his teammate at a crucial juncture.

Not only are the skills as mentioned earlier crucial, but trust is also another integral factor within teams. Renowned novelist Ernest Hemingway also once said that “the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them." Regardless of how long you've known each other, showing up at the tournament site together for a team tournament is a sign of commitment.

It is also tricky in traditional sports for every team member to have the honor of scoring the winning goal. However, in Magic, teams win (or lose) together. There is no need to accept any degree of a personal loss for the team to gain. As long as you do your best, you won't have to worry about letting your beloved friends down. If you try your best to win a match, but you don't, you can still revel in the fact that your two teammates won theirs!

"Teamwork makes the dream work."

Building a competent winning team is never an accident. It's always the by-product of excellent planning, enthusiasm, and a shared vision. This weekend, we celebrate solidarity as well as unity in diversity through Magic. Regardless of the eventual results, the Magic community had become more closely-knitted than before.

One Team At The Top

After eight rounds of Team Sealed, the field of 262 teams was whittled away to just 34 teams of three!

However, who was returning tomorrow at the top of the pack?

Well, only one team achieved the perfect 8-0 record, and they were none other than Willy Edel, Juliano Souza, and Thiago Saporito! The trio stuck to one another, trudged on, and successfully entered Day 2 alone at the top of the standings. Since we introduced them earlier, let's just take a look at their 8-0 decklists before calling it a day!

The only 8-0 team at Grand Prix Santiago 2018!

Willy Edel's Red-White

Grand Prix Santiago 2018 - Day 1
Download Arena Decklist

Juliano Souza's Blue-Red

Grand Prix Santiago 2018 - Day 1
Download Arena Decklist

Thiago Saporito's Black-Green

Grand Prix Santiago 2018 - Day 1
Download Arena Decklist

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