Day 1 Coverage of Grand Prix Brisbane 2013

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The letter B!risbane: 466 players stepped up this morning to be considered for the title of Grand Prix Brisbane Champion, but now only 80 remain, the rest will have to console themselves with the awesome public events available here tomorrow instead. That's a record-breaking attendance for a constructed Grand Prix in Australia, too, breaking the previous constructed Grand Prix attendance record we set last time we were in Brisbane.

Undefeated at 8-0 are Dillon Kikkawa, Daniel Ball, and Wilfy Horig, and while I'd love to show you their decklists now – there's a Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur in there – it wouldn't be fair to give that info to the players right behind them in the standings, including Jake Hart, Garry Wong, Justin Cheung, Zen Takahashi, Jack Ding, Daniel Bretherton, Henry Moore, and Dan Unwin. Also playing on day two of note are Simon Harnden, Robert Liu, Luke Mulcahy, Thomas Rafferty, Dylan Brown, Matthew Anderson, Ross Schafer, Robert Jackway, and Andrew Vance.

Join us tomorrow as we dig into the Grand Prix Brisbane day two Modern metagame, and see who has what it takes to fight through to the Top 8. We'll even bring you the top 16 decklists!


  • Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – GP Trial Winning Decklists

    by Pip Foweraker

  • Jin Kiat Poon
    Grand Prix Brisbane Modern Trial #2 Winner

    Ben Fleming
    Grand Prix Brisbane Modern Trial #3 Winner

    Darren Middleton
    Grand Prix Brisbane Standard Trial #1 Winner


  • Saturday, 10:15 a.m. – Living in a Modern World

    by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw

  • Modern is a curious beast, as formats go. It's broad enough that the introduction of newer cards is less likely to shake it up as much as other formats, but RnD's willingness to ban cards that dare to step out of line even a little bit does manage to keep things interesting.

    Defined first and foremost by the availability of great mana, Modern is a format where players are free to play 3 or 4 colors easily, thanks to lands like Verdant Catacombs and Stomping Ground. After that, the Combo decks establish the speed of the format, looking to do a variety of weird and wonderful things in the pursuit of ending the game by turn 4 or 5, like:

    Everything else needs to abide by the clock set by the combo decks in whatever way they see fit. Midrange decks, usually based in Green for Tarmogoyf, often pair with Black for targeted discard like Thoughtseize and Duress to deny the combo decks their key pieces.

    Blue/White decks and Blue/Red can also fit in this category, disrupting their opponents with Vendilion Cliques and Mana Leaks. Traditionally, any deck based in Blue would have been a control deck, but between Blue having access to good aggressive creatures, and the fact that giving combo decks as long as they like to try and win is just a very bad idea, these decks are more often considered Aggro Control decks instead.

    Aggressive decks try to outrace the combo decks by amassing a huge amount of power on the table in one way or another. Artifact-based Aggro decks attack with small creatures with large Cranial Platings, while Infect decks aim to deliver 10 poison counters as quickly as possible with the help of Rancor and Groundswell. Even the Green/Black Midrange decks can get aggressive if need be, with giant Tarmogoyfs, Scavenging Oozes, and Deathrite Shaman's digging up the killing blows from the graveyard.

    With such a wide range of decks available, it seems that players are largely free to choose a play style that best suits them. Last month in Detroit, 6 of the Top 8 were Green/Black Midrange decks that tasted vaguely of Jund, while the other 2 were a MeliraPod deck and an Artifact Aggro deck. Close behind them in the Top 16 were Scapeshift, Blue/Red Splinter Twin, Blue/Red/White Splinter Twin, Naya Midrange, and a few more Jund decks. How closely will our Top 16 resemble that? Follow along with us this weekend while we find out!


  • Round 3 Feature Match - Isaac Egan vs. Gene Brumby

    by Pip Foweraker

  • Gene Brumby and Isaac Egan were both off to good starts to the weekend, Egan piloting a U/W/R deck packed with high-powered instants, Brumby running a Jund list stuffed to the gills with removal and utility creatures.

    Brumby led the game off with a Deathrite Shaman and a Dark Confidant, and then took a peek at Egan's arsenal with a Thoughtseize. Seeing a hand jam-packed with medium-range creatures and a little utility, Brumby nabbed a Snapcaster Mage. Brumby's Confidant fed him a Liliana of the Veil, which partnered with a Pillar of Flame to clear out Egan's creatures as fast as he could summon them.

    Egan stumbled on land, and Brumby mounted more pressure with a Maelstrom Pulse before sealing the first game with a Lightning Bolt, a classic example of what happens when a Jund deck's plan comes together.

    Brumby contemplates Egan's creatures' fiery demise.

    Brumby opened the second game with an Inquisition of Kozilek, following up with a Thoughtseize to nab Egan's freshly-drawn Cryptic Command. When he tried a Liliana of the Veil, Egan had drawn another Command, keeping the Planeswalker at bay and digging for more answers.

    Egan's Engineered Explosives finished off a Tarmogoyf, but Brumby recovered with a Dark Confidant and a Deathrite Shaman, pushing for aggressive card advantage against Egan's tempo-tastic brew. Egan, keeping in the race, baited out some removal with a Celestial Colonnade before laying another.

    With his life perilously low, Egan had to point a Lightning Helix at one of Brumby's men, calculating whether to risk Brumby drawing out with the Confidant or gaining an edge off a Shaman. The point proved moot, as Brumby was able to unleash a flurry of burn to seal the final game.

    "The games went about as well as I could hope", said Brumby after the match. He'd sideboarded out his higher-end spells for more aggressive cards, Egan unable to keep pace with the diverse threats the Jund deck presented.

    Gene Brumby 2 - Isaac Egan 0


  • Round 5 Feature Match- John-Paul Kelly vs. Daniel Unwin

    by Pip Foweraker

  • Kelly and Unwin sat down to a 73-card mirror, having tested against each other on Magic Online for the event. "We'd checked out Theros carefully for cards that might disrupt the format", Unwin said, "And we didn't see anything that scared us too badly." Both were playing Junk decks, running a powerful G/B frame and splashing White for some utility and pinpoint removal, aiming to grind opposing decks out through relentless card advantage and powerful, undercosted creatures. This is exactly what happened in both games, victory being clinched by accumulative margins as opposed to the blow-outs so feared in Modern matchups.

    Kelly started the match with a Thoughtseize, stripping a Tarmogoyf out of Unwin's hand, but letting him return fire with an Inquisition of Kozilek. Kelly fanned his hand, grinned, and welcomed Unwin to "Tank Town".

    Unwin surveyed a hand stacked with goodies, peering over Abrupt Decay, Tarmogoyf, 2x Dark Confidant and a Phyrexian Arena. Kelly had kept a risky one-lander packed with goodness, but it seemed like it might pay off as Kelly drew a Deathrite Shaman. Unwin had one of his own, Kelly one turn ahead in summoning a Dark Confidant. Unwin had a Lingering Souls to lay some flying beats, while Kelly drew into another land and summoned a Tarmogoyf.

    Unwin pulled ahead by flashing back his Lingering Souls. Both players took out the others' Tarmogoyfs, but Unwin's army crashing through the air put him firmly at an advantage. Stymied for land, Kelly's hand was clogged with powerful 2-drops - none of whom were able to deal with Unwin's array of fliers.

    Unwin plots how to edge ahead of Kelly in his mirror-match.

    Unwin powered out of the gates with a Deathrite Shaman and a Liliana of the Veil, while Kelly had an early Phyrexian Arena. Unwin unloaded a Tarmogoyf and a Dark Confidant. Kelly killed the Confidant with an Abrupt Decay and summoned a Tarmogoyf of his own. Unwin Dismembered Kelly's Tarmogoyf and attacked with his team, eager to apply pressure.

    Kelly cast and flashed back Lingering Souls in a single turn, building an army against Unwin's 3/4 Tarmogoyf. When Kelly quad-blocked the next attack, Unwin flashed another Dismember to take out one of the Spirits, then summoned a Thrun, the Last Troll. Kelly had another round of Lingering Souls, but Unwin was having none of it, piling on more attacks until Kelly scooped up his cards.

    After the game, both players discussed their sideboarding strategies, comparing the relative benefits of leaving Liliana of the Veil in against decks with Lingering Souls. Kelly had sided his out for more creatures, unwilling to potentially feed Unwin's graveyard with useful cards. Unwin preferred the raw power of the Planeswalker, and she had stood him in good stead in the final game.

    Daniel Unwin 2 - John-Paul Kelly 0


  • Saturday, 11:25 a.m. – Quick Questions: What is your favorite Theros card?

    by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw and Pip Foweraker

  • Dan Unwin - "Boon Satyr.”
    Jason Chung – "Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver."
    Matt Rogers – “Stormbreath Dragon.”
    Anthony Purdom - "Magma Jet.”
    Dylan Brown – "Heliod, God of the Sun."
    Dave Crewe – “Hundred-Handed One.”


  • Quick Question:
    Now that the Top 25 Rankings have been announced, which Top 25 player would you most like to see win Pro Tour Theros next weekend in Dublin?

    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw and Pip Foweraker

  • Allen Zhang - "#5 Reid Duke.”
    Justin Cheung – "...why can't I pick me?"
    Isaac Egan – “#2 Ben Stark.”
    Matt Rogers - "#3 Shahar Shenhar.”
    Dan Unwin – "#12 Martin Juza."
    Matthew “Wedges” Hare - “#25 Sam Black. He’s very, very well prepared.”


  • Saturday, 5:00 p.m. – I Need a Hero!

    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw

  • I need a hero!
    I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night.
    He's gotta be strong and he's gotta be fast,
    And he's gotta be fresh from the (Pro Tour) fight.

    There's no shortage of Heroes on Theros* and there's no shortage of Heroes here in Brisbane, either.

    (*or is there a shortage? I don't actually know.)

    And these ain't no regular cape-wearing regular wannabe Heroes, oh no. These local Heroes have no shortage of Pro Tour experience under their spandex underpants. You know, the ones they (presumably) wear over their trousers in their spare time? No?

    Andrew Brewer – Competed at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica in Seattle, and will compete at Pro Tour Theros in Dublin next weekend.

    Simon Harnden – Competed at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored in Barcelona, and Pro Tour Dark Ascension in Honolulu.

    Jason Chung – Competed Pro Tour Philadelphia, Pro Tour Avacyn Restored in Barcelona, Pro Tour Dark Ascension, and represented New Zealand at the 2013 World Magic Cup in Amsterdam, the 2012 World Magic Cup in Indianapolis, and the 2011 World Championships in San Francisco.

    Sasha Markovic – Competed at Pro Tour Dark Ascension, Pro Tour Gatecrash in Montreal, and will also compete at Pro Tour Theros next weekend, and has represented Australia at the 2013 World Magic Cup in Amsterdam.

    From left to right: Andrew Brewer (Batman), Simon Harnden (The Green Lantern), Jason Chung (The Flash), and Sasha Markovic (Wonder Woman).


  • Saturday, 5:15 p.m. – Five Minutes with Raymond Swanland

    by Event Coverage Staff

  • Raymond Swanland is an artist whom many fans are increasingly paying attention to, admiring his powerful, active style and unerring ability to land amazing cards to paint. Notable amongst them are Wurmcoil Engine, Vengevine and Arid Mesa, as well as perennial casual and Commander favourites like Thraximundar and Banefire.

    When we caught up with him he was busy sketching a Tony Tiger - of Frosty Flakes fame - onto a playmat for a grinning fan. He was kind enough to spare us a few words.

    Let's start with a toughie - what's your favourite Magic illustration?

    It'd have to be Wolfir Silverheart - it's a great piece of artwork. It came out a little less aggressive, less bestial, while still showing a tremendous amount of strength and power. It's a nice composition, with a good balance between detail and busyness.

    Do you play Magic yourself?

    I used to when I was younger, but not so much these days - I've got so many projects on the go!

    Your professional career started by you working on the Oddworld series. How did you transition from there to working on Magic cards?

    I started doing some work for Wizards with their Forgotten Realms line, doing illustrations and book covers for those. After I'd worked with them a while, Art Director Jeremy Jarvis approached me about doing some illustrations for Magic, and things kind of went from there.

    Raymond Swanland

    What do you like about doing artwork for Magic?

    I really love the creative freedom. Wizards' art department, and Jeremy in particular, are great at managing artists - giving us exactly the right amount of direction, as well as a hefty amount of freedom. It's inspiring to work for a company where the quality of artwork is so high - there's a lot of friendly competition between artists at Wizards to lift our games and produce work that really shines.

    Thanks for your time!

    No worries.


  • Round 6 Feature Match - Simon Harnden vs. Andrew Brewer

    by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw

  • Simon Harnden and Andrew Brewer both hail from my home town of Christchurch in New Zealand, and they've both definitely gotten better at Magic since I used to live there*. Brewer will be competing at Pro Tour Theros next weekend in Dublin and played at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica in Seattle last year, while Harnden competed at Pro Tours Dark Ascension and Avacyn Restored early last year.

    (*I'm sure there is no correlation)

    "There's only four of us playing this exact 75," Harnden quipped as they shuffled.

    "And we definitely didn't practice the mirror match," Brewer replied with a laugh.

    Both playing a 4 color Blue/White/Red/Black Aggro Control deck, Brewer kept a 2 land hand with an Inquisition of Kozilek and went sniffing about Harnden's hand. Harnden had 5 land and a pair of Cryptic Commands. Brewer failed to draw a third land and it didn't take Harnden long to put him down.

    Simon Harnden puts the hurt on fellow Hero, Andrew Brewer.

    "I figured that was a fine hand to keep in the mirror," Harnden explained.

    The second game saw a flurry of Lingering Souls on both sides of the table, but Harnden had the last say, milking some value out of his graveyard with Snapcaster Mage to continue pressuring Brewer, eventually taking the mirror match 2-0.


  • Saturday, 6:45 p.m. – Quick Questions: Monsters or Heroes?

    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw and Pip Foweraker

  • Simon Harnden - "Actually? Monsters.”
    Jack Ding – "Heroes"
    Jason Chung – “Monsters, obviously.”
    Ross Schafer - "I’m bipartisan!”
    Justin Cheung – "Monsters, Heroes are boring."
    Aaron Nicoll – “Definitely Monsters!”


  • Round 8 Feature Match - Robert Jackway vs. Dave Crewe

    by Pip Foweraker

  • Crewe led off with a Noble Hierarch, while Jackway passed after searching up a Blood Crypt. A Lightning Bolt finished off Crewe's Hierarch, while an Inquisition of Kozilek took care of a Kitchen Finks, leaving Crewe with a Deathrite Shaman, Archangel of Thune and a Path to Exile to work with.

    Crewe summoned a pair of Deathrite Shamen, who were both Maelstrom Pulsed to oblivion. Jackway was comfortably ahead on cards as he summoned a Tarmogoyf and zapped Crewe's fresh Birds of Paradise with a Lightning Bolt. A Dark Confidant from Jackway put him even further ahead on cards. Crewe sent the Tarmogoyf on a Path to Exile, and Jackway summoned a Liliana of the Veil, forcing Crewe to discard his Archangel.

    Jackway tried another Inquisition of Kozilek, only to see Crewe with a Reveillark and a Murderous Redcap stranded in hand, hampered by an un-cooperative manabase. Jackway mounted pressure with a Raging Ravine, and Crewe, unable to muster a defence, moved to his sideboard.

    Game 2

    Crewe led off with a Birds of Paradise, while Jackway had a Deathrite Shaman. Crewe powered up with a Birthing Pod. Jackway tried an Inquisition of Kozilek but whiffed, Crewe proudly showing a pile of non-targets. Jackway followed up with a Thoughtseize to get rid of a Garruk Relentless, letting Crewe enter his third turn with a Pod and Birds on the board.

    Robert Jackway

    Crewe activated his Birthing Pod, trading his Birds of Paradise up for a Voice of Resurgence. Jackway got his own funky 2-drop in the form of a Dark Confidant, while Crewe traded up his Voice of Resurgence for a Kitchen Finks, and then a Thrun, the Last Troll, Jackway keeping pace with a Tarmogoyf and a Scavenging Ooze, stopping Crewe's graveyard shenanigans from getting out of hand.

    Crewe decided to head through the air instead, summoning a Reveillark and swinging, knocking Jackway down to a perilous life total. Crewe then upgraded his Thrun to an Archangel of Thune before summoning a Spike Feeder. Jackway Terminated the Archangel, then passed with a couple of mana open. Crewe cast and flashed back a Lingering Souls, making his Voice of Resurgence token impressively large. A swing for lethal loomed, and both players shuffled up for the decider.

    Game 3

    Crewe's exploratory Birds of Paradise was quickly zapped by a Lightning Bolt. Jackway summoned a pair of Deathrite Shamen to get the party started, following up with a Scavenging Ooze. Crewe cast a Lingering Souls, which Jackway removed before he could flash back.

    Crewe summoned Thrun, the Last Troll. "Darn it," Jackway exclaimed, "I was thinking anything but Thrun!". Crewe laughed and passed, Jackway furrowing his brow at the troublesome legend. Jackway summoned a second Scavenging Ooze, but otherwise couldn't get past Thrun, passing with no action. Crewe passed back. At the end of Crewe's turn, Jackway Lightning Bolted him to 5 life, threatening trouble.

    After another turn of nothing from Jackway, Crewe cast a Chord of Calling for 4, searching up a Linvala, Keeper of Silence. Jackway used a Terminate to off the troublesome Angel, and, with the Deathrite Shamen threatening to clear out the graveyard for lethal, Crewe scooped, wishing Jackway good luck in Day 2.

    A few minutes after packing up post-match, Crewe pondered whether he had conceded too hastily. Re-checking the math, it turns out Crewe may have been able to use the lifegain from a Scavenging Ooze's ability to squeeze in another turn or two - but, as he wryly pointed out, the line of play wasn't obvious at the time, highlighting the complexities of this wide-open, highly interactive format.

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