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Day 1 Coverage of Grand Prix Buenos Aires 2014

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884 players has been whittled down to 128 here at Grand Prix Buenos Aires. Sergio Ramadan, Axel Rodriguez, Mateus Dos Anjos stand above the rest with 9-0 records, and are prime to make a showing in Day Two of competition.

However, not far behind them is Hall of Famer Paulo Vito Damo da Rosa, who is still going strong with an 8-1 record. No. 10 Ranked Player Willy Edel will also be making a showing in Day Two despite a loss in the ninth round, squeaking in at 117th place. Tomorrow will feature many clashes between Latin America's top players, much like we saw taking place today.

Who will be crowned the champion at Argentina's largest ever Grand Prix? Find out tomorrow as we bring you the latest updates from the tournament floor!











 

  • Grand Prix Buenos Aires 2014 Standard Trial-Winning Decklists

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • We are now six weeks into the release of Born of the Gods. How has the new set influenced the evotion of the Standard format? While we've gotten a picture of the new Standard thanks to Magic Online,as well as Grand Prix Melbourne and other large third party events, it's always good to see how the format has been evolving. Specifically, this paints an initial picture of what we can expect to see in Buenos Aires during the next two days.

    Luis Rioseco's Orzhov
    Standard - Grand Prix Buenos Aires 2014 Trial Winner


    Pedro de Diego's Orzhov
    Standard - Grand Prix Buenos Aires 2014 Trial Winner


    Julian Cingolani's Boros
    Standard - Grand Prix Buenos Aires 2014 Trial Winner



    Leronardo Labruna's Esper Control
    Standard - Grand Prix Buenos Aires 2014 Trial Winner


    Luis Silva Neto's Red Devotion
    Standard - Grand Prix Buenos Aires 2014 Trial Winner


    Sergio Ramadan's Selesnya Aggro
    Standard - Grand Prix Buenos Aires 2014 Trial Winner


    Jose Echeverria's Mono-Blue Devotion
    Standard - Grand Prix Buenos Aires 2014 Trial Winner




     

  • Saturday, 12:15 p.m. – Standard's Current Big Players

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • While the focus on Constructed in the last few weeks was primarily on Modern thanks in part to Pro Tour Born of the Gods back in February, a few major Standard events still took place that helped shape the current Standard metagame. Along with Magic Online results over the last few weeks, we have a fairly strong idea of what Standard looks like right now, as well as where it is headed.

    Community articles such as Nick Vigabool's The Standard Snapshot on gatheringmagic.com also help us identify what to expect going into this weekend. With that, let's take a look at some of the top decks, what they gained from Born of the Gods, and how this has affected their strength in the new Standard.


    In Melbourne, Ash Webster was able to reach the Semifinals with one of the top decks in Standard right now: Gruul Monsters. This archetype has picked up tremendously since the introduction of Born of the Gods, with two of its more powerful cards coming from the new set.

    One of these cards is Xenagos, God of Revels, a God that has already made a major splash in Standard. One of the primary reasons for this is its immediate impact on the board, allowing a creature you already control to get a huge bonus when it is attacking in the turn you cast Xenagos. However, your big monsters following the turn you drop Xenagos into play will also give you a massive advantage, since the God of Revels provides whatever creature it powers up at the start of your combat step haste as well.

    However, what may actually be one of the more important gains for Gruul Monsters from Born of the Gods is Courser of Kruphix. The 2/4 enchantment creature has already made an impact on Modern, giving Jund a powerful card-advantage engine and incremental life gain creature that also happens to survive Anger of the Gods. Its impact on Gruul Monsters in Standard is more of the same, with its "card drawing" aspect one of the more powerful effects to come out of the deck. Not only are you getting free lands with its effect when you get to play lands off the top of your deck, but it also greatly increases the chance that you are drawing spells on your draw step. Its interaction with the scry lands as well as Domri Rade put this creature over the top.

    Courser's impact on Gruul Monsters, alongside its powerful selection of devastating threats ranging from Domri Rade to Stormbreath Dragon, have made this one of the decks to keep an eye on at every Standard event.

    Zheng Jingwei
    Grand Prix Melbourne 2014 – Top 8 (Standard)


    Esper Control is our next deck to be on the lookout for. While this deck may not have picked up much with Born of the Gods with the exception of another scry land in Temple of Enlightenment, the archetype has made itself well known over the last year. After all, the color combination allowed for players to run some of the most powerful cards, ranging from Thoughtseize in the early game, Sphinx's Revelation in the late game, and a host of removal and planeswalkers in between. Esper is the format's best deck for grinding an opponent down on resources until there is nothing left, which gives the deck ample time to close out a game with Jace, Architect of Thought (as going ultimate and getting a threat from your opponent as well as a new Jace is usually enough to lock up a game), Elspeth, Sun's Champion, and in some cases even Ætherling.

    Nam Sung-Wook
    Grand Prix Melbourne 2014 – Top 8 (Standard)


    Not to be forgotten, but certainly not as prominent as it was prior to the release of Born of the Gods, is Mono-Black Devotion. This archetype leans heavily on the powerful black creatures and removal that the color provides, and is fueled into the late game thanks to Underworld Connections. Gray Merchant of Asphodel gives the deck a burst of life gain and damage, but it may not be the deck's most notorious creature. That honor belongs to Pack Rat, which allowed Mono-Black Devotion to outright end games when played on turn two after a first-turn Thoughtseize.

    That threat is still very much alive, and it is Pack Rat that helped propel Nam-Sung Wook to his win at Grand Prix Melbourne. That said, one of the key cards that this deck picked up to help minimize the threat of a Pack Rat death is Bile Blight, which does a fairly remarkable job of maintaining the rats, something that was a strength primarily only held by Esper and White-Blue Control thanks to Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere.


    However, Mono-Black Devotion isn't the only deck taking advantage of cards like Hero's Downfall, Underworld Connections, and Desecration Demon. Variations of Orzhov have seem play over the past few months and have also earned some success, even prior to the release of Born of the Gods when Marlon Gutierrez locked up a victory at Grand Prix Dallas-Fort Worth last year. This deck, unlike Mono-Black Devotion, is not devoted to effects like Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and instead gains the Orzhovian five-mana creatures Obzedat, Ghost Council and Blood Baron of Vizkopa (the latter being more popular over time due to its ability to utterly crush single-color decks reliant on black or white spells).

    This is one of those decks that we will be keeping an eye on this weekend, as it saw some serious play in the Grand Prix trials and earned two players their three byes for today's main event.

    Luke McGlaughlin
    Grand Prix Melbourne 2014 – Top 8 (Standard)


    Finally, there is the old boogeyman of Pro Tour Theros, Mono-Blue Devotion. This deck's devotion to blue is rewarded with the powerful Thassa, God of the Seas as well as Master of Waves, a card capable of ending the game outright if left in play for a turn. This deck did not pick up much from Born of the Gods, although Ephara, God of the Polis has certainly given players some desire to test the blue devotion strategies with a touch of white for the powerful multi-colored God.

    The format holds a couple of other decks that have seen relatively good results at one point or another over the weeks, but these are the notable archetypes to keep in mind for the weekend. We'll see if Standard's big options make huge waves here by the end of the weekend, or if a new major player will emerge instead.




     

  • Saturday, 2:01 p.m. – Campo de Batalla

    by Nate Price

  • While the 884 players may be a far cry from the 4,303 from last weekend's Grand Prix Richmond, or even the concurrently-running Grand Prix Montreal's 1,622, it still stands as a record for Latin American Grand Prix. Prior to this event, the largest Grand Prix in Latin America took place in 2011 in Santiago, Chile, which boasted an attendance of 737. The help demonstrate the growth of Magic in Latin America, the last tournament in Buenos Aires, in 2008, was only 580 players, making this a 50% increase in attendance!

    Travel around Latin America can prove prohibitive, which often poses a barrier to entry to many of the Grand Prix in the region. As such, the fields of these Grand Prix tend to be overwhelmingly composed of hometown players. Still, in recent years especially, many of the larger Latin American Magic communities have begun to organize their travel and participation outside of their local Grand Prix. In addition, the increase in the number of Grand Prix that has exploded in recent years has had a massive impact on Latin America. Once upon a time, Latin American Grand Prix were a rarity, only occurring once every couple of years. This past year alone, there were multiple Grand Prix in Brazil, one in Chile, and two in Mexico. There are even more slated in the future. Magic Grand Prix have even begun to expand to countries which hadn't yet hosted a Grand Prix, such as Costa Rica's Grand Prix San José in 2012. It's an exciting time for Latin American Magic, and players have really stepped up to make it a true battleground.

    Historically, Brazil has been the powerhouse of Latin America. They have produced a Hall of Famer (Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa), a World Champion (Carlos Romão), 11 Grand Prix wins, and two Pro Tour wins. No other Latin American country comes close to the pedigree that Brazil can boast, and they have brought some of their best to Buenos Aires. In addition to the aforementioned Hall of Famer Damo da Rosa, the current top Brazilian player in the world, 10th-ranked Willy Edel, has come to try pad his Pro Point total.

    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

    Jose Francisco Da Silva, winner of GP Rio de Janeiro, has also made the trip, giving Brazil one of the strongest presences in the room. Considering that Brazilian Francisco Braga was the victor of the last Grand Prix Buenos Aires, and that Argentinean Andres Monsalve was defeated by Brazilian Daniel Almeida Alves in the finals of Grand Prix São Paulo the following year, Brazil seems to have Argentina's number.

    No. 10 Ranked Player Willy Edel

    But Buenos Aires is well-defended this year. Leading the pack is Monsalve, the captain of last year's Argentinean World Magic Cup team. In addition to his finals appearance back in 2009's Grand Prix Rio, Monsalve fought through a difficult field in Rio de Janeiro early last year to make his second Grand Prix Top 8, proving that he is more than up to the task of taking the top Brazilian players on. He is joined by all three members of his WMC team, Sergio Ramadan, Fernando David Gonzales, and Javier Vassalo.

    Andres Monsalve

    Also in the mix are two strong players from the Top 8 of last November's Grand Prix Santiago: Matias Soler and Nicolas De Nicola. De Nicola is of particular interest thanks to his performance at last month's Pro Tour Born of the Gods, where his 82nd place performance put him atop any of the players in this event, Edel and Damo da Rosa included.

    Nicolas De Nicola

    In addition to the strong hometown crowd, another country has offered up a challenge to Brazil's Latin American dominance: Chile. Coming in with a team that is over a dozen strong, the Chileans are represented by one of the strongest new performers on the Pro Tour: 2013 Rookie of the Year Felipe Tapia Becerra. Becerra is a phenom, boasting a 63% match win percentage on the Pro Tour going into Pro Tour Born of the Gods, which he accrued over his four Pro Tours last year. Known affectionately by his countrymen as "Captain Rookie," Becerra has also proven adept at navigating the larger Grand Prix events, finishing in the Top 8 twice, including a finals appearance in Grand Prix Warsaw last year.

    Felipe Tapia Becerra

    One of the other strong Chilean players to watch out for is Luis Navas, who is well on his way to becoming Silver, as well, thanks to his win at Grand Prix Santiago this last year, besting 730 other players.

    Luis Navas

    There are many more countries represented, as well, with Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay each sending members of their respective World Magic Cup teams, as well as many more players with Grand Prix Top 8 experience. It will be interesting to see how this weekend plays out. Will Chile take home its second straight South American Grand Prix? Will Brazil take yet another title in Buenos Aires? Or will one of the stalwart Argentineans rise to the top to defend their turf? It'll take fifteen rounds of Swiss and three elimination rounds before we have an answer.




     

  • Round 4 Feature Match – Mattias Leveratto (W/U Control) vs. Andres Monsalve (Blue Devotion)

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • As Mattias Leveratto approached the feature match area, Grand Prix Santiago 2009 Finalist Andres Monsalve shook his head.

    "We always play against each other in every event," said Monsalve about this match-up. It does not matter how large or small the event is; these two happen to get paired against each other a lot.

    The two gave each other a heartfelt handshake before the match quickly got underway.

    The Decks

    This match-up is not one that you will be unfamiliar with if you've been following Standard prior to Born of the Gods. Leveratto was sporting a traditional White-Blue Control deck, with all of the recognizable cards such as Sphinx's Revelation and Jace, Architect of Thought. Monsalve's Blue Devotion deck was more the white-blue variety, sporting Detention Spheres as a catch-all for anything that troubles him.

    The Games

    Monsalve led off early with Judge's Familiar, while Leveratto started slow with his Temple of Enlightenment. Monsalve matched scry lands with his own Temple of Enlightenment before attacking in for 1. An attack before any lands or action on the next turn though elicited a decision for Monsalve: before damage was dealt, Leveratto attempted to draw a card with Azorius Charm. Monsalve thought for a moment before sacrificing his bird to counter Leveratto's draw, following this up with Thassa, God of the Sea. Another Judge's Familiar came down on the next turn, and Monsalve kept the pressure up with an attack from Mutavault.

    Andres Monsalve

    This was enough pressure to warrant Jace, Architect of Thought from Leveratto, but the planeswalker was quickly dispatched with Detention Sphere. Leveratto had no follow up on the next turn, while Monsalve added a third Mutavault to his board. He spent his turn waking two of them up, sending them in along with Judge's Familiar. This prompted Leveratto to trade one of his Mutavaults away, replacing it with another on the next turn in a game that emphasized the lands more than the actual spells. The same thing happened on the next turn, with Leveratto now out of Mutavaults compared to Monsalve's one.

    That second Mutavault was also when Leveratto stopped playing hands, as he was now stuck on four mana. When Rapid Hybridization from Monsalve on his own Judge's Familiar prompted Dissolve from Leveratto, who was struggling to stay afloat, a Nightveil Specter on the next turn sealed the deck, as Monsalve attacked in with Judge's Familiar as well as his now-active Thassa.

    Tidebinder Mage was the first attempted play of the second game from Monsalve, and it was met with Essence Scatter. Thassa, God of the Sea ran into Leveratto's Gainsay on the next turn, leaving Monsalve to maintain offense with only a Mutavault attack on the turn following that. However, Leveratto stopped drawing lands, giving Monsalve some breathing room. The two Mutavaults crashed in while Leveratto was missing land drops, forcing him to pop a Sphinx's Revelation for a card. Jace, Architect of Thought came after he played his fifth land, opening up a window for Monsalve to resolve Jace, Memory Adept, which quickly got to work on Leveratto's deck.

    While Leveratto had Detention Sphere to keep from having his deck plunged into his graveyard, Monsalve had a trump with Revoke Existence to free his five-mana Jace from detention, and it got to work once again. Leveratto dug for an answer with his Jace, but only found three lands as he took the two-card pile. He had Detention Sphere at the ready regardless, and also had Gainsay ready to stop Monsalve's copy of the counterspell. Pithing Needle came down naming Mutavault, and suddenly Monsalve went from a dominating position to struggling.

    Mattias Leveratto

    Supreme Verdict shut down Monsalve's only mustered offense in the form of Frostburn Weird. A Thassa from Monsalve ran straight into an Essence Scatter, and with eight lands in play and enough cards in his deck, Leveratto's chances continued to improve. Elspeth, Sun's Champion met its fate to a Dissolve from Monsalve, and play passed back, who took the opportunity to resolve Judge's Familiar and Bident of Thassa with his opponent's mana tapped too low. Leveratto reloaded with Sphinx's Revelation, while Monsalve attempted to mount more offense with Rapid Hybridization on his Judge's Familiar, giving him a creature large enough to punch through Jace's plus one activation.

    When Monsalve drew after his attack, Glare of Heresy was found and quickly used to dispose of the Detention Sphere locking away his Jace, Memory Adept. An activation sent Leveratto down to only four cards left in his deck.

    Despite Leveratto having another Detention Sphere for Jace, Leveratto tapping out for Elspeth, Sun's Champion cleared the path for Monsalve to show the Memory Adept waiting in his hand, giving him the game and the match.

    Leveratto 0 – Monsalve 2




     

  • Saturday, 3:21 a.m. – A Glance around the Room

    by Nate Price

  • With Round 4 underway, and all of the players with three byes thrown into the mix, it was time to check around the room to see what people were playing, and, more importantly, what was doing well.

    Starting at Table 1 and wandering around, a few things became clear. First, Monoblack Devotion is nowhere near as thoroughly played as it has been and continues to be online. It is still likely one of the top five decks being played this weekend, but it is riding the bottom of that list rather than sitting pretty at number one or two. Monoblue Devotion is in the same boat, and it appears that many of the players who have opted to display their devotion to Thassa have also decided to show Ephara, God of the Polis, a little love, running the version of the deck that splashes for white.


    One of the biggest decks in the room, especially at the top tables, is Esper Control.

    Scenes like this are fairly common around the room. Well, maybe not quite like this...

    Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa summed up my feelings on the deck nicely, complaining that he could never beat the deck when playing against it but never win when he himself played it. There is just something about the deck, and there has been since Pro Tour Gatecrash. It has access to some of the most powerful cards in the format, but it just can't seem to put it together in a consistent manner. Still, that hasn't deterred players from making it likely the most-played deck in Grand Prix Buenos Aires. Surprisingly, the deck gained very little from Born of the Gods. Other than Temple of Enlightenment and the occasional Fated Retribution, the deck is virtually identical to the version that players brought to Pro Tour Theros in October.


    Right behind Esper appears to be RG Monsters. This is another deck that has been seeing a resurgence as of late. With the addition of Xenagos, God of Revels, and Courser of Kruphix, RG Monsters gains a new source of card advantage, as well as a new set of hasty threats to combat the rich slurry of removal that permeates the format.


    While there are a few players around the room who opted to just leave Domri Rade and Xenagos to their own devices, far more appear to have opted to add the hilariously aggressively-costed Reaper of the Wilds and a few more black cards in the newest incarnation of Standard Jund. This is clearly the more popular version of the deck in the field here in Buenos Aires, even if it hasn't really put up particularly impressive numbers on Magic Online recently.

    Courser of Kruphix and Reaper of the Wilds are sure to be staples of Standard moving forward.

    Rounding out the prospective top five decks of the early part of Grand Prix Buenos Aires is Monored Devotion. This one is easily the biggest surprise of the event for me thus far. After a disappointing showing at Pro Tour Theros, many people had written the deck off. Yet here in Buenos Aires, Boros Reckoner, Hammer of Purphoros, and Fanatic of Mogis are out in force. Even more surprising, the deck appears to be winning, as there are far more copies of the deck in the higher tables than in the lower.

    Boros Reckoner?! What year is this, 2013?!

    It'll be interesting to see the metagame breakdown on Day 2 to see if this is merely an optical illusion, or if Monored Devotion truly is making a comeback in Latin America.




     

  • Round 5 Feature Match – Luis Navas (Boros Burn) vs. Sebastian Pozzo (Uw Devotion)

    by Nate Price

  • Round 5 featured a perfect opportunity to display both the old and the new in Latin American Magic. Well, relatively speaking. Back in 2008, when Sebastian Pozzo made the Top 8 of the last Grand Prix Buenos Aires, he was an eighteen-year old Argentinean student. Now, six years later, I don't know that I'd call him old, but his big accomplishment comes far less recently than his opponent, Chilean Luis Navas. Navas comes into this event fresh off an appearance at Pro Tour Born of the Gods, which he earned an invitation to by taking down Grand Prix Santiago last year. He is one of the most exciting Latin American players in the game right now, looking to extend his run of success here in Argentina.

    Navas's deck of choice for this tournament is Boros Burn, which he felt was a good choice against many of the control decks in the room. Pozzo, on the other hand, is playing one of the newest variations on an old Standard: Uw Devotion. This version of Monoblue Devotion, the breakout deck of Pro Tour Theros, takes advantage of a white splash to cast Detention Sphere and the new Born of the Gods deity Ephara, God of the Polis.

    "Since I have no byes, and I haven't really had the chance to practice or assemble the cards I really want to play, I decided to play Uw Devotion," Pozzo explained. "I feel that it's stronger against an unknown metagame than my other choice, which was Monoblack Devotion. If I had the time to practice it, I would have loved to play UW Control splashing black."

    Sebastian Pozzo is looking for his second straight Buenos Aires Top 8.

    Game 1 was all Navas early, as he utterly refused to let Pozzo get off the ground in the first game of the match. Searing Blood, Chained to the Rocks, and Lightning Strike not only turned Thassa's followers into tempura, they also did a great job of dropping Pozzo into dangerous territory. Still, one of the downsides to playing a nearly monocolored deck reared its ugly head when Pozzo recruited a Master of Waves to his side of the table. It was only able to make a single Elemental, but the protection from red made it a very real threat to end the game before Navas could deal the final few points of damage. When a second joined on the following turn, Navas looked to be in dire straits. Without Chained to the Rocks to remove the attackers, and Pozzo at 4, he was drawing to one of his three remaining Boros Charms to win the game. When he didn't just immediately slam the top card of his deck, it was clear that he hadn't drawn the winner. On Pozzo's next attack, Navas died.

    Grand Prix Santiago winner Luis Navas is but one of an army of invading Chilean players.

    Following that disappointing loss, Navas appeared a little depressed to have to throw his first two hands of the second game back. He still managed to get out a great source of consistent damage with a Chandra's Phoenix, but things quickly turned south. Pozzo was able to assemble, and keep in play, Thassa, God of the Sea, and Frostburn Weird over the early turns of the game. This was good enough for four Elementals from his Master of Waves. Fortunately for Navas, one of the three cards he held was a Chained to the Rocks, narrowly allowing him to avoid the same fate as the last game. Down to two cards, however, it was a fate he would be hard pressed to avoid twice. A second Master of Waves and its five Elemental tokens set Navas to thinking. Eventually, he realized that he was out of options, burned by his own deck's mulligans and an impressive draw from Pozzo.

    Navas 0 – Pozzo 2




     

  • Saturday, 4:27 p.m. – El Goleador del Torneo

    by Nate Price

  • A couple of weeks ago, at Pro Tour Born of the Gods, we started doing something incredibly cool with the feature match area. We reserved one of the four matches on the big stage for the player sitting at the top of the standings, ensuring that the player that was leading the tournament would always have a seat under the lights. Upon seeing how well it worked at the Pro Tour, I was eager to see how it would transition to the Grand Prix level, and Buenos Aires gave me my first crack at it.

    At the Pro Tour, we were calling this Feature Match the King of the Hill feature match. Now, "King of the Hill" doesn't exactly translate perfectly into Spanish. Here in Buenos Aires, there is no "King of the Hill." There is instead El Goleador del Torneo, which those of you that are fans of soccer (which is what us stupid Americans call football), you might recognize it as the Spanish term for the top scorer on a team. It's also generally used to describe the best player. I wasn't the one that chose it, but it sounds like a fairly good approximation of the idea to me.

    Enter our Goleador.

    Beginning with Fernando Calvo in Round 4, the player that sits atop the standings will be featured in the Feature Match area at a specially designated table. From that point, it is up to them whether or not they get to stay there, or whether they return to the pool of players vying for the spot. It's possible that one player could make multiple appearances at the table, as Michael Hetrick did in Valencia. It's possible that each round will feature a new Goleador. All that is certain is that the only way to stay atop the standings, thus keep the coveted position, is to keep winning. So far, Calvo has proven up to the task, but competition for the top spot, which will eventually guarantee admission into the Top 8, is fierce, and the fates are fickle. One bad matchup or bad round and he will be El Goleador no more.




     

  • Round 7 Feature Match – Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (Esper Control) vs. Mattias Urban (Mono-Blue Devotion)

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • When it was announced that 2012 Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa would be at the feature match area, it did not take long for a small crowd to begin flooding around the table. Players lined up in semi-circles around Damo da Rosa and Mattias Urban, his opponent for this round.

    The Decks

    Damo da Rosa went with what he knows best: blue spells. Esper was his choice for the weekend. "I think all the decks are at a very similar power level, and this is the one that I played the most by far," he said.

    Urban was also casting blue spells, but the difference between he and Damo da Rosa in deck choice is that his blue cards were creatures. His choice was instead Mono-Blue Devotion, the deck made famous for its success at Pro Tour Theros.

    The Games

    Urban began to grimace as he looked at his seven, but ultimately decided to keep. Damo da Rosa led off with Temple of Enlightenment, while Urban had an Island. Under no pressure, Damo da Rosa was content to play his lands tapped, scrying with Temples and taking no damage from shock lands. Syncopate quickly disposed of Urban's third-turn Thassa, God of the Sea, and a Thoughtseize from Damo da Rosa on the next turn revealed what he was up against: a Mutavault, Bident of Thassa, Thassa, God of the Sea, and three Islands. The Bident immediately hit the graveyard.

    Urban played his Mutavault and Thassa on the next turn, while Damo da Rosa took the time to deploy Jace, Architect of Thought, moving it immediately up to five loyalty. A Mutavault attack sent Damo da Rosa to 17, and Tidebinder Mage came down after that. When Damo da Rosa removed two loyalty from Jace, Urban was then pinned with a brutal decision.

    Question: how do you split a pile of Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Dissolve, and Mutavault?

    Mattias Urban

    Urban decided that splitting the powerful land and counterspell away from the planeswalker was the only solution. Damo da Rosa now had a choice: which pile would he take?

    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

    He ultimately settled on taking more cards, pushing Elspeth to the bottom. The Mutavault came into play, but despite having it as a potential blocker, Urban was able to force through his own Mutavault and the Tidebinder Mage to finish off Jace thanks to Thassa's activated power.

    When a Frostburn Weird threatened to come down and make Thassa a creature on the next turn, Damo da Rosa hesitated but allowed it to resolve. He took 7 from attacks, but healed back up 4 of that with Sphinx's Revelation at the end of turn, drawing four cards. Supreme Verdict, unsurprisingly, came down and swept away two creatures and four of Urban's devotion.

    However, Urban wasn't without options, his two Mutavaults at the ready. He woke up both and sent in his two lands after Damo da Rosa spent Dissolve on Judge's Familiar. Nightveil Specter followed, and PB quickly untapped to play two cards: Detention Sphere on Thassa, and Elspeth, Sun's Champion which immediately made three tokens. Damo da Rosa was far ahead in cards, despite being a little low on life. While he had fallen to 4 from Nightveil Specter attacks, Sphinx's Revelation for seven made that 11 and all but ensured his lead in cards. Urban took the opportunity at his end step with Damo da Rosa tapped out to overload Cyclonic Rift, ensuring he was not immediately dead.

    However, that was the problem. Death was not immediate. It only seemed inevitable. When Damo da Rosa used Revoke Existence on the Thassa that returned to play after Cyclonic Rift, following that up with Detention Sphere on Nightveil Specter and Elspeth, Sun's Champion, the game appeared over. Urban attempted to fight back with a second Thassa, but another Detention Sphere left him without options.

    Urban was first to act in the second game with Tidebinder Mage. It attacked in on the next turn, and Urban passed back with open mana. However, when he repeated this on the fourth and fifth turns, it became clearer that Urban's hand was rather reactive. He used Rapid Hybridization on his creature at the end of Damo da Rosa's fifth turn, with the Brazilian Hall of Famer content on just playing lands.

    When Damo da Rosa fell to 11 after that attack, he was ready to expend a Supreme Verdict, passing with two open. Thassa, God of the Sea came down for Urban, but it was immediately exiled by Damo da Rosa on the next turn with Revoke Existence. Lacking options, Urban sent in his Mutavault, trading it with one of Damo da Rosa's own. However, Urban still had a second available to him, and it pressed on without its friend on the next turn, while Nightveil Specter ran into Dissolve. Urban continued pressing with his Mutavault on the next turn, dropping Damo da Rosa to 7, and Tidebinder Mage gave him a creature that actually made it into play.

    When Damo da Rosa went for Sphinx's Revelation, Gainsay shut that down. Worried of losing his other in-hand card draw mythic to a second counter, Damo da Rosa instead led with Ætherling, which bit the dust to Rapid Hybridization and was replaced with a 3/3 frog lizard. The token was big enough though to hold back Urban's creatures, and Urban was now top-decking. Not a particularly good spot to be in when your opponent's next play is Elspeth, Sun's Champion.

    A few activations and turns later, and Damo da Rosa had earned the handshake.

    Damo da Rosa 2 – Urban 0

    After the match, I asked Urban what his keep was in the first game, as his hesitation implied a difficult decision. "My hand was two Mutavault, two Thassa, Bident of Thassa, and two Islands," he said. The reason for his keep was due to the hand's power in match-ups like Esper, where it is powerful to have access to the Mutavaults with Bident of Thassa, and it is also a good follow-up in other matches if they stop an early rush of creatures.

    In this case, however, no real action came along with these cards, giving Damo da Rosa more than enough time to find what he needed to win that game.




     

  • Saturday, 6:54 p.m. – Choose Your Weapon…

    by Nate Price

  • Proper deck selection is key to success in any Constructed format, yet is consistently one of the hardest tasks in Magic. As the variety in a format increases, deck selection somehow manages to get both harder and easier. Obviously, more options leads to more opportunities to make mistakes, hence why too many options can be paralyzing. However, the more viable options there are, the less likelihood that there is an actual "best deck" for a tournament. In situations like this, where there are a number of excellent choices for a tournament, the correct decision is often to go with what you know.

    After Round 7, I had a chance to sit down with three of the players we have been watching, each of whom is playing a different deck. First up was the top-rated player in the hosting Argentina, Andres Monsalve.

    Andres Monsalve's choice of Uw Devotion is particularly appropriate to represent Argentina.

    "I am playing Uw Devotion. It's the version of Monoblue Devotion running white for Detention Sphere and Ephara, God of the Polis. The thing that made me pick this deck is that Detention Sphere is good against all of the tricks that other decks try to use to beat Monoblue, like Pack Rat and Desolation Demon—those are the two big ones. Detention Sphere also gives you an edge in mirror matches, against Chained to the Rocks, against Elspeth... The match against Esper and WU Control are made way better because you can actually deal with their threats while still smashing with your creatures. I played the deck without the white in the last PTQ and ended up in 3rd, and I felt good about the deck, so I decided to go with that feeling, update it to include the white, and bring it here.

    We weren't quite sure what to expect when we came here because everything is viable. I wanted to play a deck that would be good against random decks and have a good sideboard plan against decks like Esper, Monoblack Devotion, and WU Control—the big decks. WU Control is the absolute matchup, but I think I've gotten it to where it's about 50/50. That's why I wanted to play this deck."

    Second on my list was the Captain Rookie himself, Chile's Rookie of the Year Felipe Tapia Becerra.

    Felipe Tapia Becerra has opted for a more aggressive version of Esper featuring El Rey.

    "I am playing Esper Midrange, not Humans. I played this deck because it would let me play Brimaz, King of Oreskos. I love Brimaz. I also play Ephara, God of the Polis, Obzedat, Ghost Council... Obzedat, Brimaz, and Ephara are the main reasons to play the deck.

    I know all of the decks in the format, but I've played more of this deck. On paper, this deck is very strong, but it's very difficult to play it. Even here, I haven't played the deck 100% perfectly, and I have lost three times because of that. It's a very good deck, just difficult to play. Just like with Esper Control, you always have options and difficult decisions. Sometimes, you need to play Obzadat. Others, you need to play Blood Baron of Vizkopa. Still others, you need to play two small creatures. It can be difficult to know which of them is the right call without enough time playing the deck.

    So many of the decks in this format are powerful, even if they don't necessarily play the same. For example, in this tournament, Boros Burn would have been a very good choice, and it is one of the more straightforward decks to play. Esper is incredibly difficult to play but is still a very good deck. In Standard right now, it is often best to just play the deck that you know the best. I really like decks like this, so I played it. I get too impatient and jittery playing control. I need to have something to attack with, and this deck is perfect for that."

    The final player I wanted to check in with was the tenth-ranked player in the world, Brazilian superstar Willy Edel.

    Willy Edel chose to play with fire, but he might get burned...

    "For this tournament, I chose to play Boros Burn. I think the deck is kind of well-positioned right now. The only really bad matchup is the RG Monsters deck, but people have started to splash now, either for white or black, and, if they splash it's better for you. The deck has great matchups against all of the UW decks.

    Now, when I say that the deck is really well-positioned, I admit that this was like two weeks ago. The deck is very popular on Magic Online right now, so people have started to use sideboard cards like Fiendslayer Paladin, Archangel of Thune, cards that people hadn't played for a while but have come back for this tournament. So it may not be a good choice for this specific tournament, but it is supposed to be really well-positioned right now.

    There are a lot of Hallowed Fountains in the field this weekend, which is very good for me, but, for example, I just lost to a deck with Fiendslayer Paladin, Archangel of Thune, and Last Breath. Two weeks ago, people were not playing Last Breath. They'd just play Ultimate Price. Now that players are coming back to cards like Last Breath, which are really bad for this deck, it may be a worse choice."




     

  • Saturday, 6:55 p.m. – Round 8 Top-Table Run-Down

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • We're just getting underway with Round 8 as I write this, and before we move into our bubble-matches for Round 9, this feels like a good time to give you a glimpse at what the top tables are playing. Below is the metagame breakdown of the Top 10 tables here at Grand Prix Buenos Aires:


    Mono-Blue Devotion: 5
    Esper Control: 4
    U/w Devotion: 2
    Selesnya Aggro: 2
    Jund Monsters: 1
    Red Devotion: 1
    Bant Control (w/ Kiora): 1
    B/R Control: 1
    U/B Control: 1
    Boros Burn: 1
    W/U Control: 1

    From this small snippet into the top tables of the day going into Round 8, it is Mono-Blue Devotion that stands above the rest, with five players out of the twenty who are battling in the Top 10 tables representing Thassa, God of the Sea and her minions.

    However, that number actually extends a bit into what is tied for the third most played archetype: Blue-white Devotion, a deck that is primarily the same Blue Devotion deck as the others but with a touch of white for cards like Detention Sphere and Ephara, God of the Polis.

    Esper reigns in at the second most represented deck at the top tables, with many players happily putting scry lands into play tapped and winning the game off of big planeswalkers and even bigger numbers for the X in Sphinx's Revelation's mana cost.

    The deck tied with Blue-white Devotion for the third most represented in the Top 10 tables is Selesnya Aggro, both of which have similar shells and picked up some extra mana fixing thanks to Temple of Plenty.

    After that, the top tables break down into a variety of one-of sights, including a Bant Control list rocking Kiora, the Crashing Wave and a Black-Red Control list that bares resemblance to some of the lists we saw in the video coverage during Pro Tour Theros.

    Check back soon for a round-up of the key bubble-matches being played here in Round 9, as well as a run-down from Nate Price on our King-of-the-Hill Feature Matches, which began in Round 4 and has continued throughout the day.




     

  • Saturday, 9:00 p.m. – El Cuento del Goleador del Torneo

    by Nate Price

  • El Goleador del Torneo.

    The King of the Hill.

    The top name on the standings sheet. It's the most coveted position on the first day of the tournament, as it gives players the best chance of making it through to the Top 8. Over the course of the day, we only had two players earn the title of Goleador. The first took the role at the beginning of Round 4: Fernando Calvo. Calvo's Boros Aggro deck made mincemeat of opponents all day long. It was an unexpected deck archetype to occupy the top spot, but it didn't appear to have many weaknesses. First, Calvo defeated Ezequiel Antal's Monoblack Devotion deck. Then, he made short work of an incredibly cool Naya Control deck piloted by German Vendler. Finally, he came up against Emiliano Esperidioni and his Monoblack Devotion deck. This time, fate was not on Calvo's side, as he fell from his perch atop the standings.

    La Primera Goleador del Torneo, Fernando Calvo vs. Emiliano Esperidioni

    Yet things would stay close to home, literally, as the newest Goleador turned out to be Axel Rodriguez, a friend of Calvo's that hailed from the same town about 400 meters from Buenos Aires. Small world! Taking the mantle from his friend, Rodriguez proceeded to defend his position from opponents until the closing bell. First, he took revenge on the Monoblack Devotion menace, dispatching Pedro Laplaza in Round 7. Rodriguez was running another unorthodox choice for the field, opting for an aggressive Esper deck featuring Lyev Skyknight, Precinct Captain, and Brimaz, King of Oreskos. The aggressive build trumped the Esper Control build in the next round, as Rodriguez was able to defeat Cristian Segula to move within one match of ending the first day of play undefeated.

    After picking up the torch from his friend, Axel Rodriguez battled against Cristian Segula

    The last round was a tense affair. Only five players managed to escape to the final round of play without a scratch, and Rodriguez was one of them. He found himself the lone undefeated player paired down in the final round, facing off against Christian Alicio and his Esper Control deck. It took a full three games, but Rodriguez's Brimaz and Precinct Captain proved too aggressive and too powerful for Alicio, knocking him to 7-2, yet still into Day 2. That made Axel Rodriguez one of the three undefeated players at the end of the day, joining Sergio Ramadan and Mateus Dos Anjos at a perfect 9-0. Even better, despite getting paired down in the final round, Rodriguez's path to the top was difficult enough to keep him at the top of the standings, ensuring that he will remain El Goleador del Torneo to begin the day tomorrow, where he will have to defend his title six more times on the way to the Top 8 cutoff!




     

  • Round 9 Feature Match – Alejandro Betschart (Mono-Black Devotion) vs. (10) Willy Edel (Boros Burn)

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • The final round of Day One of a Grand Prix has a tendency to show some pretty insane bubble-matches, also known as players on the cusp of elimination from a tournament. In this case, it was two 18-point players of very notable fame who were going into Round 9 with their tournament lives at risk.

    Alejandro Betschart is a player well known to the Latin American Magic scene. After all, he has won the Uruguay National Championship not once, not twice, but three times, his last victory taking place in 2010 with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle.

    Willy Edel, No. 10 Ranked Player and a player who is a very strong candidate for the Magic Hall of Fame in this year's voting, has been representing Brazil well for a very long time. His credentials also include a National Championship title, thanks to his win last year, but it also includes four Pro Tour Top 8 finishes and six Grand Prix Top 8 finishes, including a win at Grand Prix Toronto 2012.

    Both long-time players knew what was at stake, and it's certainly not a situation that either were unfamiliar with, as they silently shuffled and prepared for the start of match.

    The Decks

    While the Temple of Deceits may throw you off, Betschart is piloting a fairly stock Mono-Black Devotion list, with all the usual key cards such as Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Nightveil Specter, Thoughtseize, Hero's Downfall, Desecration Demon, and of course, Pack Rat.

    Edel, meanwhile, has turned in his Naya deck in favor of Boros Burn for this event. The match-up represents an awkward showdown between burn spells and a powerful life drain effect, and it can get worse for Edel if Betschart has a hand with Devour Flesh to go with Gray Merchant, as the Diabolic Edict effect can be turned on himself for some life gain in a pinch.

    The Games

    Edel led off with Boros Guildgate, his hand not blistering after a mulligan to six, while Betschart had a second-turn Pack Rat. Chandra's Phoenix was Edel's first play of the game, attacking Betschart down to 18. A second Chandra's Phoenix made the clock 4 damage a turn, but Betschart's Mutavaults and a second Pack Rat made on the third turn threatened to end the game a lot faster than what Edel could handle.

    With a second Mutavault dropped onto the table on the fourth turn, Edel was forced to hold back his two Phoenixes in order to prevent an immediate end to the game, with Betschart representing a potential 18 damage if his creatures got in unblocked. Betschart animated a Mutavault and sent it in along with three rats.

    Edel's Phoenixes made his blocks: one in front of Mutavault, the other in front of a rat. Boros Charm gave the one blocking Mutavault double strike. That left Betschart with one damaged rat after the combat, which Searing Blood disposed of, recurring Edel's dead Phoenix.

    Alejandro Betschart

    However, no miracles were getting Edel out of a Pack Rat infestation, and he quickly moved to the second game.

    Edel led off in the second game with a much more stocked hand, but had no early action or Chandra's Phoenix. When Betschart's second-turn Duress left him without a Skullcrack over two Shocks, Lightning Strike, Searing Blood, and Chandra, Pyromaster, it became clear that Betschart had some Gray Merchants at the ready. Nightveil Specter from Betschart ate a Lightning Strike, and Betschart's fourth-turn Desecration Demon was Chained to the Rocks.

    However, Edel did not have a land on the fourth turn, and while he found one on turn five, he needed to use his removal on the Desecration Demon. This left him susceptible to Thoughtseize, which robbed him on his in-hand Chandra, Pyromaster.

    Fortunately for Edel, during two turns of draw-go between the two players, he found another one. Unfortunately for him, it yielded no cards and immediately succumbed to Hero's Downfall. Betschart's Gray Merchant of Asphodel came down on the next turn, as Edel worked to mitigate its damage with Spark Trooper. Things got worse for the No. 10 Ranked player when he attempted to shoot down a Desecration Demon with two Shocks and a Searing Blood though, as Betschart had Devour Flesh to not only fizzle the Searing Blood's effect, but also to gain 6 life.

    Edel pressed on regardless, waking up two Mutavaults to attack in with the Chandra's Phoenix on the following turn. The Gray Merchant, which was held back to keep Edel's Mutavaults at bay, blocked one, and Hero's Downfall disposed of the other. Magma Jet from Edel let him clear out the Gray Merchant, and despite a rough few turns, he was fighting back.

    While Betschart re-built a board with Nightveil Specter (which immediately got Chained to the Rocks), followed by a Desecration Demon and another Nightveil Specter. However, it was not a fast enough clock. Edel chump-blocked the Demon with his Phoenix on one turn, then aimed a Warleader's Helix to Betschart, getting the Phoenix back.

    No. 10 Ranked Player Willy Edel

    A turn later, Edel drew and then passed. On Betschart's upkeep, Edel aimed a Skullcrack at him. It resolved. A second Skullcrack wrapped things up, and the two players moved to a third game.

    Betschart led off in the deciding game with Duress, revealing two Mountains, Tower of Triumph, Sacred Foundry, two Magma Jets, and Skullcrack. The Skullcrack immediately ended up in the graveyard, and Betschart passed back with no action after Edel led with a top-decked Mutavault. Edel held back on the second turn, then did the same on the third turn, always keeping Magma Jet open. The Temple of Triumph that Edel played on the third turn immediately had him leaving the card from his scry on top, telegraphing Chandra's Phoenix.

    The Phoenix made its appearance on the next turn, and was immediately removed from the battlefield by Betschart's Devour Flesh. Betschart, who had four lands untapped in his next turn, tapped out for Desecration Demon. Edel re-bought his Chandra's Phoenix with a Magma Jet, and the Phoenix once again found itself in play. Betschart's Demon attacked in, dropping Edel to 16, before Betschart added Nightveil Specter to his board.

    Edel held back the Phoenix on the next turn, but lost it to Hero's Downfall before combat. Betschart sent in his flying creatures, losing his Specter to two Magma Jets. Two Lightning Strikes disposed of the Desecration Demon on the next turn, putting Edel very low on cards, with his opponent still barely damaged.

    That Phoenix, by the way? It would never leave the graveyard for the rest of the game.

    Barely damaged became starting life total when Betschart followed up the dead Demon with Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Edel bought time and brought down that life total a bit with Spark Trooper, which caused a 12 point life swing. When Betschart sent in one of his two Mutavaults on the next turn, Edel woke up his and traded it. Warleader's Helix bought Edel a reprieve against Betschart's follow-up Nightveil Specter, the Chandra's Phoenix sitting helplessly in the graveyard.

    Eventually, however, Betschart found a Pack Rat which, after making a rat token, all but ensured the game. Edel held on as long as he could, but when lethal was represented, he offered the handshake.

    Betschart 2 – Edel 1




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