Day 1 Highlights of Grand Prix Toronto 2018 (Teams)

Posted in Event Coverage on May 19, 2018

By Meghan Wolff

Meghan is one half of the Good Luck High Five podcast and an adjunct professor at Tolarian Community College. She loves Limited, likes Modern, and dips her toes into each Standard season. She's decidedly blue and is the #1 hater of Siege Rhino in the Multiverse.

Three hundred eighty-nine teams gathered in Toronto's Enercare Centre on this grey Saturday to play Team Trios Constructed. While it rained outside, inside it was a storm of Standard, Modern, and Legacy as teammates battled side by side, striving for the 6-2 or better record that would allow them to return tomorrow to play for a chance at the Top 4.

This is one of only a handful of Grand Prix whose formats match that of Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, and teams finishing well enough in Toronto will qualify for that PT. But here, sitting down across from one pro player often means sitting down across from three, as daunting teams like Damo Da Rosa/Stark/Froehlich, Jensen/Turtenwald/Duke, Larsen/Floch/Hendriks, Sigrist/Rubin/Hayne, and Wescoe/Sajgalik/Dezani dot the field.

At the end of Day 1, only one team remained undefeated – locals Morgan McLaughlin, Chris Harabas, and Lucas Siow. With the Standard format still in flux from week to week and cards from Dominaria shaking up even Modern, it's sure to be a weekend full of exciting innovation and play. Join us again tomorrow for the conclusion!

An Intro to Team Trios Constructed

In Team Trios Constructed, three players form a team comprised of one Standard, one Modern, and one Legacy player. When teams play each other, the team with two match wins across the three pairings wins.

Team Trios Constructed draws a competitive crowd, since players have the opportunity to play their favorite or best format alongside teammates whose format skills compliment their own. Unlike a format like Team Unified Modern, where decks can't overlap by any cards, Team Trios Constructed allows players to bring their favorite deck in the format.

Or, you know, the deck they recently used to win a Grand Prix.

And while you might expect that allowance for decks to have the same cards in them to come into play between Modern and Legacy decks, this weekend featured a surprising amount of overlap between Standard and Modern, as Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Karn, Scion of Urza found their way into new Standard decks and established Modern archetypes.

Dominaria’s Historic Planeswalkers Make Waves

This weekend, multiple white-blue control decks sported Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, across both Modern and Standard. While its inclusion in Standard control lists seemed like any obvious move to many players, the swap from Jace, the Mind Sculptor to Teferi in Modern took a lot of people by surprise.

Though, of course, Shaheen Soorani called it weeks ago, as evidenced by this clip from GP Columbus.

While, at the outset, Teferi’s five-mana casting cost made him seem like an unlikely replacement for Jace, it was days rather than weeks before players pointed out that Teferi’s +1 ability made his casting cost more like three mana than five.

Sample White-Blue Control - GP Toronto

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In Standard, Teferi took White-Blue Control from an archetype that had seemingly lost its way, split between cycling, Approach of the Second Sun, and Torrential Gerhulk-focused decks, to one of the top competitors of the format.

Sample White-Blue Control - GP Toronto

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Karn, Scion of Urza is also a crossover hit. Four copies of the legendary (in lots of ways) planeswalker can be found in both Black-Red and White-Black Vehicles decks that topped last weekend’s tournaments. This weekend, in addition to making an appearance in those decks, Urza’s creation popped up in Affinity lists, where his -2 ability often makes an incredibly large construct.

Sample Affinity - GP Toronto

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Standard Innovation and Evolution

Last weekend, the Standard format coalesced around three prominent decks – White-Blue Control, White-Black Vehicles, and, of course, Black-Red Vehicles, which made up six of the top 8 decks at GP Birmingham. Even amongst these three popular archetypes, there’s yet to be a consensus on the best way to build them, and other decks like Mono-Green Stompy aren’t far behind these leaders, with other strategies are still trying to find their way in the format.

Notable aggro aficionado Craig Wescoe showed up in Toronto with what he’s called his “boat brew," because it has, well, boats. Specifically, the deck includes Skysovereign, Consul Flagship.

Weighing the value of a card like Skysovereign is difficult right now, because it certainly comes with a lot of upside. It gets rid of Flamewake Phoenix without having to spend two spells on the pesky bird. In a land of 4/4 Heart of Kirans and 3/5 Aethersphere Harvesters, it rules the roadways of the sky. The format is full of creatures that die to its three damage and planeswalkers that need to be answered one way or another.

On the other hand, it costs a five mana, and that’s a hefty price to pay when the two-mana answer Abrade is a popular inclusion in many decks.

Wescoe describes the deck as a stack of value cards and hard-to-remove creatures.

“It’s mostly built to beat white-blue decks," Wescoe said. “You have a lot of cards that are resistant to removal. So Adanto Vanguard and Rekindling Phoenix get around Fumigate, Shalai shuts down Settle the Wreckage, and History of Benalia gains you card advantage and forces them to answer your creatures, and they can’t Seal Away the tokens. History of Benalia is really sweet. It’s my favorite card from the new set."

Craig Wescoe's Red-White Midrange

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Canadian player Mani Davoudi, not satisfied with picking just one of Dominaria's standout planeswalkers, opted for a White-Blue Control build that let him play both Karn and Teferi as well as, of all things, a pair of Oath of Teferi. It also includes History of Benalia, a prime target for Oath of Teferi.

  • Oath of Teferi
  • Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
  • Karn, Scion of Urza
  • History of Benalia
  • Blink of an Eye

"Please ask him about Oath of Teferi," Davoudi’s teammate Carolyn Kavanagh said when I mentioned asking Davoudi about his deck choice. “It was a 2am text message and I was too tired to convince him not to."

Davoudi had been playing a white-blue "superfriends” deck a few weeks, based on a list from Gabriel Nassif, but wasn’t quite happy enough with it.

“I felt like it was lacking in a few different places, but wasn’t sure what the issue was," Davoudi said. “But I liked the History of Benalias, I liked the Oaths, I liked the Karns."

Then, last weekend, the white-blue deck in the GP Birmingham Top 8 had four copies of Blink of an Eye, and that inspired him to try the card out in his own build.

“Now it’s able to answer threats for cheap and also protect its planeswalkers. So it’s mostly theory that these two decks have really good ideas, but I think each of them has some issues in different match-ups, so how can I combine these into one decklist? And this was the result."

Mani Davoudi’s White-Blue Superfriends - GP Toronto

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White-Black Vehicles was one of the most popular archetypes, and uncommon saga The Eldest Reborn was seen floating around more than one of these lists. Come back tomorrow for a look at the most popular Standard decks that made Day 2!

From the Floor

Of course, a tournament can’t be seen in decklists alone, so below are a few of our favorite moments captured on the floor at GP Toronto.

In this game of Modern, Judge Rob McKenzie’s unusual Ponza configuration, which included a pair of Platinum Emperions and Madcap Skills in the main deck, turned what could’ve been a straightforward game into an ever-growing math puzzle.

McKenzie conceded that game, since drawing cards off Tireless Tracker meant he would be the first of the two players to deck, but then went on to win games two and three. And when I called his Ponza build unusual, I really meant it.

Eduardo Sajgalik, who was playing Modern on a team that included Craig Wescoe on Standard and Jeremy Dezani on Legacy, used tokens for his Elves deck that really made me reconsider all my previous uses of the phrase “attacking his opponent." If your tokens don’t have your face on them, are you ever truly the one attacking the opponent?

In Round 6, an unnamed Standard player with a mono-black brew featuring Cabal Stronghold and a host of spells ranging from expected (Ravenous Chupacabra) to downright shocking (Twilight Prophet) nearly died to their own Ruin Raider.

Undefeated Team

From a field of 389, only a single team emerged unscathed after Day 1. Morgan McLaughlin, Chris Harabas, and Lucas Siow, who jokingly called themselves “Team Lucas’s Basement," are Toronto-area players who managed to pull together a team out of a twelve-person group chat.

It’s not entirely clear who’s to blame for this team that pulled together a perfect Day 1 record, since Siow claimed that Harabas and McLaughlin dragged him out of retirement, while both Siow and McLaughlin joked that Harabas was the Modern player that they were able to find for their team. There did seem to be one common thread, however, in the group’s success.

“See, this is what happens when you both play real decks!" Siow said as the three packed up.

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