Day 1 Highlights of Grand Prix Turin 2018

Posted in Event Coverage on July 28, 2018

By Tobi Henke

Grand Prix Turin 2018 marked the first time players this side of the Atlantic and this side of the Urals got the chance to play Core Set 2019 Limited at the GP level. Many made use of the opportunity. In total, 1,032 flocked to Italy to enjoy the sun, the food, and the new Sealed Deck format ...

I wanted to find out more about the ins and outs of M19 Limited. So the first thing I did was take another look at ...

The Trial Winners' Sealed Decklists

It simply was the biggest pile of data available to me in the morning, and analysis yielded at least some interesting results: Most everyone ran 17 lands, 23 spells. Only three of 25 players who had successfully navigated the Trial rounds went with 16, only two used 18. One player splashed Chromium, the Mutable into his base blue-red deck. Other than that, decks were split evenly between straight two colors and two main colors plus a splash of a third.

Another notable data point was that, among the twelve two-color decks, a full eight featured white. This might suggest that white was a very deep color in M19, or it might suggest that white was doing better within the framework of a more aggressive, less splash-happy deck. Weirdly though, white also proved by far the most common splash color, followed by black and red, while no one splashed blue and only one player splashed Hungering Hydra

As for main colors, white, blue, and black all played a major part in eleven decks. Red was a main color in nine and green in eight decks. Not a huge difference, rather a testament to a fine color balance. Overall, this made for 18 decks using at least some white cards, 14 featuring black, 12 red, 11 blue, and 9 green.

The most common, so to say, rares in these winning decks were: Sigiled Sword of Valeron, obviously at an advantage because of its lack of color requirements; but also Dismissive Pyromancer, Windreader Sphinx, and the vicious Djinn of Wishes.

The obvious next step was to ...

Find the Experts

Not entirely unexpected, many of Europe's greatest players couldn't be found at all but had already left the continent. They had long departed for Minneapolis, where there was another GP this weekend and Pro Tour 25th Anniversary the week after.

I found/put some in the feature match area. Pictured here, left to right: Matteo Moure and (8) Andrea Mengucci

Nevertheless a bunch of Gold and Platinum pros remained, including stars of the game such as (6) Javier Dominguez and (8) Andrea Mengucci. Especially the Italians were out in full force: In addition to Mengucci, Gold pros Federico del Basso, Matteo Moure, and Mattia Rizzi all wanted to make use of the home turf advantage.

The Real Star: Core Set 2019

Of course, the real star of the tournament was M19. Some voiced their unhappiness with playing a somewhat simpler base set at a Grand Prix. But the overarching theme when I talked to people was that things weren't as bad, or rather not bad at all. Recent GP finalist Louis Deltour wasn't the only one who rated the set above average.

Gold pro Simon Nielsen

GP champ Simon Nielsen said, "The best thing about the format is that it's simple! In Dominaria, at the last Pro Tour, I went 2-4 and I believe I was lucky to do so. I feel much better about my chances here, especially since I started to follow the advice of Lee Shi Tian to always play blue. The thing is, card quality in M19 isn't high, so a lot of games come down to screw or flood. Blue is best at avoiding either, thanks to scry and card draw. Case in point: I just won a game where I drew 15 lands."

"It's fine. Definitely better than what I remember from other core sets!" said 6th-ranked Javier Dominguez. Though he admitted that this was his first time playing M19, what with being busy testing three Constructed formats for the upcoming Pro Tour. "But I spent some time reading articles and listening to people, which I think is underrated. You can learn a lot that way."

Andreas Reling

No one, however, was quite as fond of the Limited environment, or as vocal about it, as Andreas Reling. Reling, who had made the Top 8 at the most recent GP Stockholm, also compared the set favorably to previous core sets. "And I for one have always liked core set Limited, even in the past! M19's not be as complex as regular sets maybe, but still plenty challenging. I kind of think of it as Dominaria lite."

He said, "I've played some of my favorite games in this format, and this weekend in particular. So many games where I draw my entire deck. For example, the feature match just now [in Round 3]. Seven turns before the game ended, I stopped drawing cards with Arcane Encyclopedia, and if I hadn't I would have lost. That's something you don't see in a lot of formats, a skill which isn't relevant often."

The game in question

Reling admitted to a certain preference for long games and colorful decks. "I'm happy whenever aggro decks are bad. Then I don't have to play crappy 2-drops. My experience in yesterday's Trials was similar and similarly great too. In my first Trial, I opened three Elder Dragons, all in the first three packs. I had Nicol Bolas, the Ravager; Chromium, the Mutable; and Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner. I knew then that I'd be playing Five-Color Dragons, no matter what else I'd open. Thankfully, I got a Manalith and a Gift of Paradise from the other boosters."

Despite all this talk of splashy bombs, Reling was quick to point out that M19 Limited was not ruled by them. "All the Dragons, for example, are excellent designs. Even something like Chromium, the Mutable is hard to play against but is definitely beatable. The trick is to play a removal spell when it's already been blocked. Even Electrify or Strangling Spores can do the trick then, but there's also Plummet which everyone should have in their main deck and which most everyone does."

And Now for Something Completely Different ...

No one knew why, or even how, but especially not why. In one of the most Monty Python-esque GP moments ever, someone brought a huge inflatable rubber duck and sneakily left it sitting next to the feature match area. At least as sneakily as possible when carrying a horse-sized duck, that is. (It later moved closer to the bathrooms. Despite no actual bathtub, one wonders, a more natural habitat?)

Maybe it was to make a point regarding that meme? You know, the one that asks: Would you rather fight a hundred duck-sized horses or, indeed, one horse-sized duck? Maybe it was supposed to be some kind of cosplay inspired by the card Inflation Station. Alternatively, I'm Rubber, You're Glue.

Whatever the reason for its being, and its being here, the big duck quickly became a big topic of discussion, the ultimate conversation piece. Well, it's officially one of the highlights of the tournament now. And it even joined a team, apparently, or was claimed as a member, although it was hard to argue with such color affiliation.

Axion, with its newest teammate. Sadly, none of the humans followed my suggestion of ... "Duck face?"

Later on, the duck also passed its judge test ...

At least one duck face here! Two, I mean.

It was a busy day for duck. At the end, the poor thing felt somewhat ... deflated, one could say. (Although there was heavy debate (and pained groans) over whether or not one should say so.)

The 9-0 Players

What had begun with 1,032 in the morning ended with 221 players still in the running in Round 9. (Immediately before, everyone with less than 18 points, a record of 6-2 or 5-0-3, had been cut from the tournament.) Of them, eight were playing for the elusive, the pristine, the immaculate record of 9-0.

All matches yielded a winner, and so four were left to stand tall, above all others, leading the charge into Day 2: Michael Kundegraber, Henry Channing, Sebastien Gerardin, as well as two-time PT Top 8er and champion of GP Athens Sebastian Thaler (pictured below, left to right).

Congratulations, see you tomorrow, good night!

Their decks:

Michael Kundegraber, 9-0

Download Arena Decklist

Henry Channing, 9-0

Download Arena Decklist

Sebastian Thaler, 9-0

Download Arena Decklist

(Thaler always cut Macabre Waltz and brought in Lava Axe during sideboarding.)

Sebastian Gerardin, 9-0

Download Arena Decklist

(At least, that was what Gerardin registered. By his own estimation, he sideboarded into the following in about 50% of his matches.)

Sebastian Gerardin's Second Deck

Download Arena Decklist

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