Grand Prix Turin 2017 Day 1 Highlights

Posted in Event Coverage on September 2, 2017

By Tobi Henke

They came from near and far, from all corners of Europe and beyond: A total of 926 competitors braved the heat of Italy's late summer and made their way to Turin to do battle in Standard, to fight for fame and fortune, points and prizes.

This past year's Standard had suffered many trials and tribulations, including a number of bannings. But, by all accounts, the format was in a very good place finally and had been for several months now. It would be remembered fondly and this, the last Grand Prix to feature Battle for Zendikar, Oath of the Gatewatch, Shadows over Innistrad, and Eldritch Moon in Standard, was almost certainly going to end on a high note.

"Smart or Maybe Just Stubborn"

Before the Grand Prix I spoke with coverage colleague and Constructed crack Frank Karsten who detailed what he expected to see from the weekend with regards to decks:

"In the beginning we'll get a little bit of everything in the feature match area. Then toward the end of the day we'll start to see a lot of Temur Energy. The deck performed exceedingly well two weeks ago and is something of a favorite going into the tournament.

Hall of Famer Frank Karsten giving expert analysis from the coverage booth

"Maybe with the 9-0 decks already, but certainly on Day 2, I expect a lot of decks which beat Temur Energy, such as, for example, Approach of the Second Sun. Maybe go over the top of Temur Energy with some Torrential Gearhulk Control or Red-Green Ramp. God-Pharaoh's Gift can probably do that too.

"But at that point you'll also begin to see some people, whether smart or maybe just stubborn, with Ramunap Red, who'll prey on all the players trying to go over the top of Temur Energy. I would be surprised not to see at least one Ramunap Red make the Top 8, and actually, if I had to pick a deck to win the Grand Prix, this would be it."

"Prepare for Landing, We're Approaching Turin"

When boarding for my flight to Turin on Friday, I noticed two familiar faces in line with me: the Austrian/German duo of Helmut Summersberger and David Brucker. With a combined ten Grand Prix Top 8s including three wins, another Top 8 at the World Championship, and a European Championship title, these names might ring a bell, if not for the fact that most of these finishes date from the first half of the previous decade. Both of them had taken a break from Magic for some time, but like almost everybody had found their way back to the game in due time too.

It's of course always nice to see the old school representing and to reminisce about the glory days of yore. But the conversation soon turned to the upcoming event. So, I asked, what is one playing in Standard nowadays?

"Well, most everyone is playing Temur Energy. At least that's what I would expect the majority of pros to choose," Brucker replied, and Summersberger answered, "But we're playing Approach of the Second Sun. It's basically a deck that casts Fumigate, some more creature removal, and then Approach of the Second Sun. Twice, ideally."

"The main plan is to play an opponent who'll have something like twenty removal spells in his deck," Brucker joked. "Seriously though, you actually have a great game-one win rate against the field with the deck. Unfortunately, then comes the sideboarding ..."

When asked whether getting to finish three games with a slow control deck like this was even realistic, Summersberger and Brucker started with a chuckle. "This really isn't a slow deck," they explained. "There aren't even that many hard decisions and as for actual game moves— You just play a land and maybe one spell, every turn, for like ever. It's nothing compared to Temur Energy, for example, where every turn you cast this, add some energy, then activate that, subtract some energy, and so on."

"It's an almost embarrassingly simple deck," Summersberger laughed.

Helmut Summersberger, Mark Litvak, and David Brucker

Which isn't to say that Brucker and Summersberger, along with GP quarterfinalist Mark Litvak, hadn't come up with some tech. In fact, while they chose to play Approach of the Second Sun because of its good matchup against Temur Energy, they also came prepared for the mirror. Helmut Summersberger had the honor of winning one of those in his first round of the day, live on camera.

"Magnifying Glass is awesome in the mirror," said Litvak and explained that the additional resources, both mana and cards, were key to the matchup. Brucker added, "It's also just nice to be able to cast Fumigate on turn four. That's why my friends here are running a split of three Corrupted Grafstone and one Magnifying Glass. I have two of each."

David Brucker's Approach of the Second Sun

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"Back to the Level One Deck"

To get a vague idea on the merits of the above predictions, Frank Karsten's as well as the Austrian/German team-up's hope to face a lot of Temur Energy, I first took a look at what the pros were playing.

Of the fifteen players with three byes, four each were on Ramunap Red and Temur Energy, with the other six choosing Mono-Black Zombies, Jeskai God-Pharaoh's Gift, Approach of the Second Sun, Green-White Ramp, Mono-White Eldrazi, and a four-color Zombie emerge brew.

Notably, both Platinum pros in attendance had picked the mono-red deck, so when I got the chance I asked the world's current No. 6 Martin Jůza why a double-digit number of Mountains was a good idea this weekend.

Martin Jůza, ready with red

"It's just a great deck," said the Hall of Famer with a shrug. "Hazoret the Fervent is busted!"

But in time Jůza gave an answer which was less glib, went on to say that, yes, this was also a case of trying to outsmart the smart. "People are doing all kinds of stuff to beat Temur Energy at the moment only to lose to Ramunap Red. In a way, the metagame has come full circle; it's back to the level one deck now."

Specifically he mentioned that the matchup against Approach of the Second Sun wasn't as bad as one might imagine, "especially with Warping Wail out of the sideboard. For example when you get to counter a crucial Fumigate."

Jůza admitted that he himself was playing quite horribly today, but pointed out: "The deck has a lot of play to it, the way you sequence your spells, your attacks. Like, you don't have to attack into Blessed Alliance; sometimes it can even be correct not to attack at all."

The 2015–16 Draft Master set great store by the deck's aggressiveness as well. "It's straightforward, it's proactive. You don't have answers which can be bad. Your answers are Shock and Incendiary Flow and when your opponent's at 5 these cards just kill them. Being proactive like that has such a fundamental advantage. Plus, the mulligan scry favors the aggressive deck so much more, because you make your choice based on your own game plan and not based on your opponent's."

Martin Jůza's Ramunap Red

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"Driven // Despair for Five. Twice."

For something completely different, far from the familiar fare of Ramunap Red, Temur Energy, and Approach of the Second Sun, one could always rely on Marc Tobiasch. The Pro Tour Amonkhet quarterfinalist and Gold pro had built a deck quite unlike any other: recurring Zombies! Emerging Eldrazi! Delirium! A veritable amalgam of all the great things which would be leaving Standard with the upcoming rotation.

"I already played a version of this at PT Hour of Devastation, and worked a little on it this past week," said Tobiasch. "For instance, back at the Pro Tour, all of the more fun cards, like the aftermath spells, weren't in the deck because every other deck was mono-red."

Just these aftermath spells were what put Tobiasch on my radar in the first place, when Matej Zatlkaj told me he had seen Tobiasch do crazy stuff with Driven // Despair.

Marc Tobiasch, driving people to despair since 2017

"Last round, I played Driven // Despair for five. Twice. I once cast both halves, drew five, and actually made my opponent discard five as well," Tobiasch recounted with a smile. "Then, in the next game, it was turn six and I activated Haunted Dead during my opponent's upkeep and emerged Elder Deep-Fiend. My opponent cast Torrential Gearhulk to flash back a counterspell. But he was tapped out all the same and I still got back multiple Prized Amalgam at end of turn. In my turn, I bounced the Gearhulk with Consign // Oblivion and used the aftermath of Driven // Despair to make him discard his whole hand, including the Gearhulk."

Tobiasch was quick to admit that Consign // Oblivion was mostly used for its blue half, but argued that Oblivion was a fine card too. "In grindy matchups you do get to make them discard. And Consign is quite important actually, for getting rid of basically anything, Hazoret the Fervent or The Scarab God most of all."

He said that his deck's mono-red matchup was about fifty-fifty. "Everything else is really good. If people don't have enough graveyard hate, there isn't really much they can do. And they hardly ever have more than one card. Crook of Condemnation is annoying; Scavenger Grounds, however, almost doesn't count. What are they going to do? Keep three lands untapped forever to wait for the one turn when I make my move?"

Marc Tobiasch's Four-Color Zomb-Emerge

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"The Indomitable"

As always, we wrap things up with the indomitable, the invincible, the inimitable 9-0 players! Only four of the original 926 competitors sported a spotless record after the first day's nine rounds. They would lead the field, cut down to 304, into the second day. Learn more about them, their decks, and their day below!

Name: Bart van Etten

Age: 22

Occupation: Factory worker/Magic Online grinder

Hometown: Tilburg, the Netherlands

Byes: 2

Previous Magic accomplishments:

Grand Prix Brussels Top 8, three Grand Prix Top 16s, a couple of Top 32s and Top 64s.

What deck did you choose to play and why?

Ramunap Red. Won an RPTQ with it and only played this deck the whole season.

Which was the most exciting/close/cool game you played today? What happened?

Played a close mirror where I had my one-of Chandra's Defeat.

Name: Alessandro Aristei

Age: 29

Occupation: Employee

Hometown: Bastia Umbra, Italy

Byes: 2

Previous Magic accomplishments:

Top 32 at Grand Prix Bologna 2017 and other Top 64 finishes at GPs.

What deck did you choose to play and why?

Mono-Red, because I like aggro decks in all their shapes.

Which was the most exciting/close/cool game you played today? What happened?

My Round 8 against Javier Dominguez, because he is a great player and it was a difficult game.

Name: Alain Bardini

Age: 33

Occupation: Magic

Hometown: Toulouse, France

Byes: 2

Previous Magic accomplishments:

One PT, semifinals of the last MOCS playoff, two Grand Prix Top 32s.

What deck did you choose to play and why?

Red-White Vehicles. Because I had some good results with it on Magic Online, and I think it's well positioned right now.

Which was the most exciting/close/cool game you played today? What happened?

In Round 8 I played a Black-Green opponent and I really think the matchup is unfavorable. I win 2-1 after losing the first game, but only after some very complicated combat step.

Name: Andrea Sonzogni

Age: 27

Occupation: Plumber

Hometown: Vercelli, Italy

Byes: 1

Previous Magic accomplishments:

[This space intentionally left blank.]

What deck did you choose to play and why?

I chose White-Blue Approach because I have tested it and it has a great matchup versus Temur and other energy decks.

Which was the most exciting/close/cool game you played today? What happened?

The last match when my opponent tapped two mana in response to my last Approach of the Second Sun and bluffed a Negate.

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