With 1,032 players on Day 1, about 220 on Day 2, and a new Limited format to boot, a number of interesting stories came out of the event. Here are the big ones ...
Players on M19 Draft
I talked to a couple of notable players about their take on M19 Booster Draft. Platinum pro and current No. 8 Andrea Mengucci said, "I very much like blue. There is very little to mitigate mana flood, and blue is the best at it, with cantrips and deck manipulation and so on. I drafted blue twice and my Sealed Deck was blue as well. All three decks also had Arcane Encyclopedia."
(8) Andrea Mengucci
Mengucci also specifically called out Sift and Tormenting Voice as important tools to stem the flood. Gold pro Simon Nielsen echoed the sentiment regarding blue and credited Lee Shi Tian with getting him on the blue bandwagon.
There was little disagreement too when it came to the top common in each color. Luminous Bonds and Lich's Caress were universal picks, for example. In addition, Nielsen listed Essence Scatter, Electrify, and Rabid Bite. "You can sense a theme here? What wins games are big creatures, but they're more replaceable."
Four-time GP Top 8er, one-time winner Florian Koch agreed with Bonds, Caress, and Electrify, although he briefly flirted with the idea of ranking Angel of the Dawn above the removal spell. For blue's top common, Koch decided on Dwindle, essentially for the same reason that others chose Essence Scatter. Only in green did he go with a creature, with Druid of the Cowl.
"Although I don't actually carry a list of my draft pick order around," Koch pointed out. "In this format, I'm rarely tempted to first pick a common anyway, and later on in the draft it's much more important to identify what your deck is missing."
Mengucci, meanwhile, went with Rabid Bite, Luminous Bonds, Essence Scatter, Lich's Caress and ... Boggart Brute. No Electrify? "No, I believe Boggart Brute is better than Shock, although that's close. Shock, however, is better than Electrify," Mengucci opined. "Aggro with Boggart Brute and Goblin Motivator is probably the best archetype aside from the blue decks."
Data on M19 Draft
Mengucci may have been on to something here. In total, the 3-0 decks from the first draft in Turin included 14 copies of Boggart Brute, 16 of Shock, but only nine Electrify. Mountain also led the charge as the most represented basic land, with 116 copies, followed by Swamp at 95 and Plains at 91. Curiously, Forest and Island lagged behind massively, with 67 copies each.
Green-blue was the only color combination that no one drafted to a 3-0 record. Just one black-green deck went undefeated and two white-blue decks. Other than that, every color pair provided at least three players with a 3-0, blue-black, black-red, and red green even four.
It's almost a moot point to make: Draft decks always tend toward the more aggressive, the more streamlined, the less colorful. But the extent to which this proved true for M19 left me baffled. The average converted mana cost of creatures in these undefeated lists came in at 3.3! Eight copies alone of Rustwing Falcon, seven Goblin Motivator! A bunch of Novice Knight, Leonin Vanguard, and Diregraf Ghoul too.
Where were all the Colossal Dreadmaws? (A scant four copies.) Someone even left a Volcanic Dragon in their sideboard, admittedly in a very special deck featuring five copies each of Cavalry Drillmaster and Shock.
Of course, there's been anecdotal evidence of decks with, say, four copies of Viashino Pyromancer doing well before. Without proper data, though, I didn't want to believe. After all, every color got a common 2-drop that renders a 2/1 all but useless: Daybreak Chaplain, Omenspeaker, Doomed Dissenter, Goblin Instigator, Druid of the Cowl. Nevertheless, a total of 12 Child of Night and 9 Viashino Pyromancer went undefeated through Turin's first draft.
One of the most successful uncommons, meanwhile, turned out to be Volley Veteran, with a whopping 11 copies. At peak power, three Veterans found themselves in a deck with three Goblin Instigator and three other Goblins.
The Worlds' Pro Players. Possibly
It was the middle of summer which meant it wasn't just the weather that was heating up. Also entering the homestretch were the various Pro Point races for levels, World Magic Cup qualifications, and, indeed, the biggest show of them all, the World Championship. This year, Worlds would take place at the end of September in Las Vegas. Two presumptive participants had also come to Turin.
Looking forward to Worlds? I asked current No. 6 and last year's finalist Javier Dominguez. "Yes, absolutely!"
(6) Javier Dominguez
Worried about jinxing it, Dominguez added, "Although I shouldn't speak to loudly. The math is tricky this year because of the upcoming Team Pro Tour. If people who're within reach win that thing, for example, it's three players instead of one who jump ahead."
No. 8 Andrea Mengucci, trailing Dominguez by two points going into the weekend, said, "Honestly, I thought I was already locked. I'm well beyond the point threshold that was needed the last time I made it. Looking forward to it very much too. I've never been to Vegas. My father is coming with me. It's going to be fun."
"Do the Goreclaw!"
It was Heroic Reinforcements versus Colossal Dreadmaws. The finals featured the classic battle between a go-wide strategy and one best described as go big. One of these players would go on to pose for a winner photo, holding a shiny new trophy, while the other would go home in defeat.
Michael Kundegraber started off fast into Game 1 with Goblin Instigator, Knight's Pledge, and Hostile Minotaur, whereas all Joao Choca cast in the meantime was Elvish Rejuvenator. Then, however, the Elf blocked, took down a 3/3 attacker, and found another land—all thanks to Abnormal Endurance. And Choca made optimal use of his six lands, summoning Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma and Bristling Boar. All of a sudden, he was the one winning the race!
Kundegraber tried to catch his second wind, and actually drew into Angel of the Dawn and Heroic Reinforcements with Tormenting Voice, but didn't have enough mana afterward to cast any of them just yet. He passed the turn back to Choca, who summoned Vigilant Baloth and attacked for 10. Kundegraber attempted a block plus Mighty Leap. Choca smoothly thwarted such plans with bloody Murder. This left Kundegraber nowhere to go. Other than move to Game 2.
Here, the Austrian began weak with Rustwing Falcon on turn three as his first play. A bird in the hand certainly wasn't worth two in the bush. Some Heroic Reinforcements arrived a turn later, at least. In the meantime, Choca had summoned Centaur Courser, and now Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma once again joined the fray to spread fear and legendary verbiage everywhere.
Soon, Choca was at 14 life and controlled tapped Goreclaw and Centaur Courser, along with a fresh Colossal Dreadmaw. Kundegraber was at 9 and commanded Rustwing Falcon, a 1/1 token, and Angel of the Dawn. He considered his move, did some calculations ...
Just looking at the board state, I didn't see much to calculate though. The math of 13 or 15 power on one side compared to 5 power on the other seemed to lead to a painfully obvious conclusion. Then I peaked at Kundegraber's hand and had to stop my eyes from widening. He held Mighty Leap and Act of Treason!
This would allow him to attack for, uh, 13 points of damage. With Choca at 14, now I understood what was going on, Kundegraber doing the math again and again, willing it to add up to 14. It didn't. The head judge nudged Kundegraber to make a decision. He sighed and settled for an attack with his Angel and cast Hostile Minotaur post combat.
Choca attacked with all of his creatures. Kundegraber declared blocks that would leave him at 2 after figuring in all trampling and Goreclaw bonuses. Choca cast Abnormal Endurance to seal the deal.
This was a victory a long time in the making. A frequent guest to the feature match area of European GPs for years, it was getting kind of embarrassing that commentators could never list any big results. Choca, Joao. Known for: multiple Top 16 finishes. But mostly just generally known.
Now: Joao Choca, champion of Grand Prix Turin 2018, posing for the final photo of the weekend, while his Axion teammates chant, "Do the Goreclaw! Do the Goreclaw!"
"I'm not 'doing the Goreclaw.'"