Top Moments of Grand Prix Toronto Day 1

Posted in Event Coverage on February 11, 2018

By Corbin Hosler

More than 1,600 braved the snowy weather to make it to Grand Prix Toronto, and the Modern format didn't disappoint. Coming on the heels of a Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan in which seven different decks made the Top 8, players and viewers alike were excited to see where things landed after Luis Salvatto took down the entire field with Lantern Control.

That brought us to Toronto, and there’s no telling what will happen here – but here are the moments that stood out from Saturday.

Modern Continues to Evolve

It was a concern that a Pro Tour format would stress the format to the point that the best deck or decks became established, and nothing could surprise. But with seven decks advancing to Sunday competition last weekend, things were as wide-open as ever entering Toronto.

One fear was that Lantern Control would run dominant. Salvatto displayed the crushing efficiency of the deck on his Top 8 run in Bilbao, but could the deck hold up in a field ready for it?

The results from Toronto were mixed. While former World Champion Brian Braun-Duin – a vocal advocate of the deck – finished 7-1, other Lantern players didn’t fare so well, including the mastermind of the archetype Zac Elsik. Of the 10 undefeated players, none were playing the new control menace. As players came armed with their artifact hate, the deck proved beatable in a wide field.

Meanwhile, rogue brews found success. Todd Stevens cruised through Saturday completion with his trademark Green-White Valuetown deck full of value creatures ranging from Azusa, Lost but Seeking to Ramunap Excavator and Tireless Tracker, all tied together by Collected Company. Meanwhile, we saw decks like Taking Turns to White-Black Zombies finish at 7-1 or better.

And the diversity shone through at the top. 10 players finished the day perfect, and 10 archetypes were represented.

Ward Proves the Value of a Bogle

Dan Ward isn’t afraid to go against the grain. While there are certainly more than a fair share of detractors for the deck he chose to battle with – Green-White Hexproof, or Bogles – Ward proved the doubters wrong with his perfect 8-0 finish to the tournament.

And it didn’t come easy. He started his tournament off with a trio of tough matchups for the deck of 1/1s – Eldrazi Tron, Ad Nauseum and 8-Rack. For a deck looking to load up one small creature with enchantments like Rancor and Daybreak Coronet, the decks that could rip apart Ward’s hand or sweep his board with Ugin, the Spirit Dragon were not what he was looking to compete against.

And yet he made the most of it. Sporting main deck Leyline of Sanctity, Ward made the correct call that Bogles was a good choice for the weekend, and after struggling through the tough matchups early cruised through the tournament in the latter half of the day. It sets him up perfectly for a strong Sunday run with a possible Top 8 at the end of the road.

Diversity – and Rogue Decks – Rule the Day

Ten players finished Day 1 undefeated – with 10 different decks.

That’s an incredible amount of diversity, and yet it only cracked the surface. Just below the top tables were decks far outside the norm. If there is such a thing as a top tier in Modern, it is a wide net, and all forms of decks were represented at the top tables. From combo decks like Esper Goryo’s Vengeance to hardcore control decks like Emeria, the Sky Ruin control to wacky decks like the 63-card Taking Turns brew, all of Modern was represented.

And nothing demonstrated that better than the decks from the undefeated players.

Ten at the Top

With more than 1,600 players in attendance, Grand Prix Toronto was a monster of a tournament, and when the dust settled there were 10 players who stood atop the standings.

Jonathan Zhang, Matt West, Luke Purcell, Marcel Zafra, Riccardo Pileggi, Dan Ward, Walter Burdzy, Erik Traikov, Justin Murphy and Lucas Siow were those 10 competitors, playing these decks, respectively.

  • Grishoalbrand
  • Esper Goryo’s Vengeance
  • Jeskai Control
  • Grixis Death’s Shadow
  • Burn
  • Bogles
  • Five-Color Humans
  • Affinity
  • Black-Red Hollow One
  • Black-Green Midrange

Perhaps most impressive? Only two of those 10 archetypes are decks that made the Top 8 at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan last weekend.

And with that, we head into Day 2 of Grand Prix Toronto. It’s been a wild ride so far, and things will only get better from here.

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