GP Utrecht 2017 Day One Summary

Posted in Event Coverage on February 25, 2017

By Frank Karsten

1,232 players started things off for Day One in the Grand Prix Utrecht main event, and after nine rounds of Standard action, only 398 players remain. I've been scouring the tournament hall and talking to players for insights and the latest tech for the current Standard format. Let's dive into Day One in a nutshell.

The Big Stories

Utrecht had a couple of stories that take center stage this evening.

The Cat-Vroom-Snek trio was still present, but plenty of sweet brews arrived

In recent weeks, a Rock-Paper-Scissors metagame appeared to have formed, with Jeskai Saheeli as Rock, Mardu Vehicles as Paper, and Green/Black Constrictor as Scissors.

And indeed, if one looked at the decks that won the Grand Prix Trials yesterday, then 12 out of 14 winners were one of these "Big Three".

Out of the Big Three, many competitors expected Black-Green Constrictor to be the most popular and strongest option for this weekend. Indeed, when I put up a Twitter poll earlier today with the question of "Which of these four decks would you expect to put the most players in the Top 8?" we got the following answers.

% Deck
45% Black-Green Constrictor
24% Mardu Vehicles
13% 4-color Saheeli
18% Paradox EngineStorm

But, as already indicated by the inclusion of Paradox Engine Storm in this poll, diligent deck builders had been looking for new ways to tackle the format, and a bunch of sweet brews were unveiled today.

All of these cards were played in the feature match at some point throughout the day. The variety of stuff was staggering, and what's more, many of these rogue decks were successful or piloted by experienced Platinum pros or Hall of Famers.

At the bottom of this article, we have as many as nine deck spotlights, showing that there are still plenty of avenues to be explored in Standard. And that's not even counting the Mardu variation featuring Walking Ballista that two of the 9-0 undefeated players ran.

A lot of awesome games were shown on stream today

Over 10 hours of content was shown on the channel. An overview of all of the main video feature matches can be found below. (Not included in the list below are the secondary matches that were shown after the main ones ended.) Click on any round number to be taken to the approximate start of that round in the archived livestream.

Round 1: Jan van der Vegt (Paradoxical Colossus) vs. Sandra Weis (B/G Constrictor)

Round 2: Dominik Görtzen (Paradox Engine Storm) vs. Julien Verstappen (U/W Spirits)

Round 3: Don van Ravenzwaaij (Mardu Vehicles) vs. Thoralf Severin (Temur Dynavolt Tower)

Round 4: Grzegorz Kowalski (Mardu Vehicles) vs. Joel Larsson (Temur Dynavolt Tower)

Round 5: Lukas Blohon (B/G Constrictor) vs. Petr Sochůrek (Temur Dynavolt Tower)

Round 6: Martin Jůza (Mardu Vehicles) vs. Robin Dolar (U/R Dynavolt Tower)

Round 7: Lars Rosengren (Abzan Stockpile) vs. Alexandre Habert (Mardu Vehicles)

Round 8: Nikolas Labahn (Paradox Engine Storm) vs. Alexey Shashov (4-color Saheeli)

Round 9: Joao Choca (Mardu Vehicles) vs. Yu Pan Jacky Chan (Jund Aggro)

I asked color commentator Matej Zatlkaj for his favorite games of the day, and he offered two:

  • Round 2, Game 1. In this game, Dominik Görtzen went off with Paradox Engine as early as turn 5, showcasing what his deck was capable of. Funnily enough, his opponent had Revolutionary Rebuff in hand, which was essentially a mulligan against the nearly all-artifact deck of Görtzen. "Those are the risks you run in a wide metagame," Zatlkaj remarked.
  • Round 7, Game 2. At some point, Alexandre Habert (who was playing Mardu Vehicles) had Oath of Chandra, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Nahiri, the Harbinger, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in play. He had even revealed Ob Nixilis Reignited earlier. After boarding out many of his aggressive creatures, his deck transformed into something that looked closer to Mardu Superfriends! "I liked the innovation and the range of Mardu showcased in that game," Zatlkaj said.

When you're in Utrecht, why not stay at a house boat on a canal?

Doing well at the main event is obviously great, but there are plenty of ways to make a Grand Prix weekend a success. For example, a play group from Uden, the Netherlands and around spiced up their Grand Prix trip by renting a house boat.

From left to right, Jan van Rooij, Teun Verstraten, Bram Kok, Rob Lamers, Niels van der Sande, Brent Vos, and Thijs van der Meer.

Since Utrecht, like Amsterdam, is filled with canals, they could literally row to the Grand Prix venue!

Since I had never stayed at a house boat before and it seemed like quite the experience, I asked them if any of them got seasick. "No we didn't, but we were kept all night by the geese. Quack quack," they told me. "And if you laugh too hard, then the whole boat wiggles."

Laughing too hard is a good problem to have. And many laughs were had, for instance when they were discussing if they should name their accommodation the Treasure Cruise or the Consulate Dreadnought. Their group even posted reasonable success on Day 1, with Brent Vos at 8-1 having the best record of them all.

Day One's 9-0 Players

Five players reached the end of Day One with undefeated, pristine 9-0 records.

Left to right: Yu Pan Jacky Chan, Ondřej Stráský, Danny de Rooij, Samuel Vuillot, Fabrizio Campanino.

Up first on the list is Fabrizio Campanino, a 27-year-old player from Perugia, Italy who works as sales manager at game retailer Dal Tenda. He found his success with a Mardu Vehicles variant featuring Walking Ballista and Scrap Trawler instead of Inventor's Apprentice and Veteran Motorist. "It makes the mana base more solid, and Walking Ballista gives me an edge in the mirror match." Notably, Campanino made the Top 8 at the last European Grand Prix, held in Prague, so he's fighting to go back-to-back.

Next up is Danny de Rooij, a 27-year-old player from Eindhoven, the Netherlands who works as a business intelligence consultant for Maneros. He chose Jeskai Saheeli, mainly because he expected everyone to be playing Black-Green Constrictor. Over the course of the day, he only lost a single game, despite being paired against Mardu Vehicles, his bad matchup, three times. A key addition to his deck was Whirler Virtuoso. "The card is really, really strong. It's like Catacomb Sifter, but better. It provides so much value, buys time, and it offers an energy sink."

The biggest name to go undefeated was Platinum pro Ondřej Stráský, currently ranked 19th in the global Top 25. The 21-year-old from Prague went 9-0 with Temur Dynavolt Tower, a deck originally constructed by Hall of Famer Shota Yasooka. "It's just really good in this metagame," Stráský said. A short spotlight on the deck can be found in the bottom section of this article.

Also undefeated was Samuel Vuillot, a 27-year-old from Paris, France. He played Mardu Ballista today, a new take on Mardu Vehicles. "In the mirror and against Saheeli, Walking Ballista is way better than Veteran Motorist", Vuillot told me. "Also, it's a mana sink in the late game, can kill planeswalkers, and it's an artifact for Spire of Industry." His highlight of the day came from Round 8. "I won my third game on the play after keeping a five-card hand with zero lands. I believe it was Fatal Push, Thraben Inspector, Oath of Liliana, Oath of Chandra, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. At some point, I had one land and my opponent had five, but he flooded out and I miraculously won that game. That has never happened to me before and probably never will, but it was great!"

The final undefeated player was Yu Pan Jacky Chan. Then again, of course Jacky Chan was undefeated, because no one defeats Jacky Chan! The 24-year-old was born in Hong Kong and adopted Jacky as his Western name, but he currently lives in Dublin, Ireland. He found success today with Jund Aggro, a tweaked version (for example, with maindeck Skysovereign, Consul Flagship) of Martin Jůza's Top 8 deck from Pro Tour Aether Revolt. "The deck is similar to Black-Green Constrictor, but each creature is stronger individually. The power of the synergistic creatures of Black-Green plummets too much against removal spells. And Unlicensed Disintegration is so good!"

Congratulations to all five 9-0 players! They have a head start going into tomorrow, but hot on their heels are a lot of players at 8-1 records including (25) Joel Larsson and (1) Márcio Carvalho.

Day One Deck Spotlights

Spotlight #1: Paradoxical Colossus with Jan van der Vegt​

One of the highlights in the early rounds was seeing popular streamer Jan van der Vegt's concoction in action. He showed up with a deck that was half Storm combo (with Paradox Engine and eventually Aetherflux Reservoir) and half Metalwork Colossus (with Inventor's Fair and Sanctum of Ugin to find more 10/10s).

Van der Vegt was originally inspired by a deck shown on Neal Oliver's stream. Out of all cards in that deck, he felt Paradox Engine was pretty powerful, so he looked to see what he could do with the card. The end result was a sweet brew that could boast a particularly good matchup against Black-Green Constrictor, but things didn't work out for van der Vegt, as he failed to make Day 2.

Title: Jan van der Vegt's Paradoxical Colossus – Grand Prix Utrecht 2017

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Spotlight #2: Paradox Engine Storm with a group of German players

From left to right, Carsten Linden, Nicolas Labahn, Florian Koch, Julian Plagge, Dominik Görtzen

Although van der Vegt's original brew failed, his stream did inspire a group of German players (several of whom are pictured above) to pick up his deck, improve on it, and bring it to the Grand Prix as well.

"We felt the most important thing was casting Paradox Engine on turn 4," Dominik Görtzen told me. "So we added Magnifying Glass. From there on, we realized that Walking Ballista solved all of our problems. It is a cheap artifact, it helps against Saheeli combo, it can trigger Sanctum of Ugin, and it's a win condition. Once we added Walking Ballista, we started believing in the deck."

Their deck is capable of generating infinite mana if it has a Metalwork Colossus, Magnifying Glass, Paradox Engine, and a lot of mana rocks on the battlefield along with a second Metalwork Colossus in the graveyard. Basically, you can start looping Colossi by sacrificing one Colossus and a clue from Magnifying Glass every time. With enough mana rocks and Paradox Engine, that's infinite mana, and then Walking Ballista can finish the game. "We kill on turn five 80% of the time," Carsten Linden claimed.

Not all of them played the exact same list—Florian Koch has an "extra greedy but extra sweet" green splash for Traverse the Ulvenwald, for instance—but several of them made it to Day 2 with the deck. Florian Koch had the best record at 7-2.

Florian Koch's Paradox Engine Storm – Grand Prix Utrecht 2017

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Spotlight #3: Temur Dynavolt Tower with (19) Ondřej Stráský

Another breakout deck was Temur Dynavolt Tower, the choice of several Platinum pros this weekend. "It should enter the Big 3; it should be the Big 4 now," No. 19 Ondřej Stráský told me.

"It's basically Shota Yasooka's decklist," he explained. "He went 5-0 in a Magic Online league, and when I saw his list, I was immediately impressed. It's a controlling deck with a lot of card advantage spells, but when you win, you win big. For example, you could have two Dynavolt Towers and every spell you play gives a free Lightning Bolt. It's hard for Saheeli decks to combo through that. And Attune with Aether is bonkers in the deck; it's the best card by far."

Stráský played eight Magic Online leagues with the deck and went 5-0 four times. Sometimes he lost to Green-Black opponents who would had a good draw of Winding Constrictor into Rishkar, Peema Renegade, but he was still sold. He told a lot of his friends about the deck, and some, including No. 25 Joel Larsson and Platinum pro Petr Sochurek, registered the deck as well for this Grand Prix.

He went 9-0, so the deck is absolutely for real.

Ondrej Strasky's Temur Dynavolt Tower – Grand Prix Utrecht 2017

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Spotlight #4: 4-color Dynavolt Tower with Raphaël Lévy and Jérémy Dezani

Raphaël Lévy and Jérémy Dezani took things even further by adding white to the Temur deck.

"We had a Jeskai Control deck at first that Jeremy liked, but I couldn't win with it," Lévy told me. That deck, with white removal spells like Fumigate and Stasis Snare as well as Fevered Visions for card draw, was good against Green-Black Constrictor, but Levy wasn't happy enough with it. "We then tried Shota Yasooka's Temur deck, but it was a little weak against Green-Black. So we just decided to take the best of both decks!"

The end result, after some tweaking and tuning, was a essentially a Temur deck with a white splash. "The four-color mana base was better than I expected," Dezani said.

At the end of the day, Dezani was 8-1 and Lévy finished 7-1-1, both of which are very respectable records.

Raphael Levy's Four-Color Dynavolt Tower – Grand Prix Utrecht 2017

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Spotlight #5: TurboFog with Roy van den Oever

"I play Martyr of Sands in Modern, and this is the Martyr deck of Standard," Roy van den Oever told me with a smile after he won his Round 6 match to move to 6-0. "Turbo Fog decks need a combination of card draw spells, Fogs, and a win condition. In this deck, Fevered Visions is both the card draw engine and the win condition—that's ideal, and the card is super important in the deck."

His teammate Andy Cooman brewed up the deck, and they worked in a group of 6-8 players to improve it in preparation for this Grand Prix. Five players were competing with the deck today, and they felt it is well-positioned in today's metagame. According to van den Oever, Black-Green Constrictor is the best matchup, Temur Energy is good as well, Mardu Vehicles is fine, and Saheeli is tough. "But I have Harnessed Lightning to stop the combo, and I can deal with their planeswalkers by pinging them with Dynavolt Tower or redirecting the damage from Fevered Visions."

"A lot of my opponents had to read my cards today," van den Oever laughed as he had to leave for his next round. "Especially Consulate Surveillance, Commencement of Festivities, and Encircling Fissure. No one expected to face those cards today."

Roy van den Oever's TurboFog – Grand Prix Utrecht 2017

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Spotlight #6: Blue-Black Metalwork Colossus with Aleksa Telarov

Gold level pro Aleksa Telarov didn't bother with Paradox Engine, but he did try to win with "huge monsters of metal." His deck is trying to play Metalwork Colossus, preferably as many copies as possible on the same turn thanks to Sanctum of Ugin. "Turn 5 is the most common turn to play them, but sometimes on turn 4." To survive up to that point, he relies on Fatal Push and Metallic Rebuke.

Why did he choose the deck? First up, he claimed it was very fun to play. But beside that, he hoped to crush Green-Black Constrictor and control decks. "I do get crushed by Mardu Vehicles and Saheeli decks, so I'm hoping to avoid them."

Aleksa Telarov's Blue-Black Metalwork Colossus – Grand Prix Utrecht 2017

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Spotlight #7: Blue-Red Emerge with Thomas Hendriks

Dutch Gold level pro Thomas Hendriks tested a bunch of league on Magic Online and eventually settled on Blue-Red Emerge. "Many of my friends are playing Temur Dynavolt Tower today, but I couldn't do better than 3-2 with it in any league. With this Blue-Red Emerge deck, I never went worse than 4-1 over the course of nine leagues."

He got the list from team Face to Face Games, and the game plan revolves around two cards that are very powerful in his deck: Fevered Visions and Prized Amalgam. "These two cards make what the deck hopefully does every game—discarding and returning Stitchwing Skaab or Advanced Stitchwing—so much better," Hendriks said. To close out the game, the deck can emerge Elder Deep-Fiend, flash back Kozilek's Return, and win from there.

Hendriks felt the deck had decent matchups against the field. "It's very good against Green-Black Constrictor, not bad against Mardu Vehicles, and fine against Saheeli combo. The most difficult matchup is probably the Temur Dynavolt Tower deck."

Thomas Hendriks' Blue-Red Emerge – Grand Prix Utrecht 2017

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Spotlight #8: Abzan Stockpile with Lars Rosengren

Lars Rosengren finished second at the previous Grand Prix in Utrecht (the Modern Master 2015 one) and this weekend he's trying to make another run for it. He ended the day at 7-2, so he's still in the running, and he did so with one of the sweetest decks in the room.

"Hidden Stockpile is nearly Bitterblossom," Lars Rosengren said about the key card of his deck. He described himself as more of a Limited player—he streams the format (in German) every Monday—and his inspiration for the deck came from there. "In Aether Revolt Limited, Hidden Stockpile is one of the best cards, so me and a friend tried to build the best deck around it."

"We started with an Esper deck that could support the Metallic Rebuke, but that card didn't perform that well," he explained. "But Hidden Stockpile was very good. Because of natural synergy between Hidden Stockpile and Evolving Wilds, we found Tireless Tracker. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Catacomb Sifter can also trigger revolt, and when you have a lot of token cards, Westvale Abbey is a logical next step. So the deck plays like an Abzan tokens deck.

Lars Rosengren's Abzan – Grand Prix Utrecht 2017

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Spotlight #9: Marvel Invention with Stefan Günter

The final deck I wanted to put a spotlight on is Stefan Günter's Aetherworks Marvel deck. His deck, like most Aetherworks Marvel decks, is capable of casting Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger on turn four, but what stands out are the four copies of Whir of Invention.

"I have 8 Marvels; that's all you always wanted!" he told me. Thanks to Implements, Renegade Maps, and Puzzleknots, Whir of Invention is pretty cheap to cast. "The deck is resilient, and I can even beat Mardu Vehicles." Günter's ended the day at 8-1, joining the large group of players who found success with rogue archetypes on this day.

Stefan Günter's Marvel Invention – Grand Prix Utrecht 2017

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