gpcin14

Boggemes Breaks Through in Bearcat Country

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The letter P!rior to the finals, Kyle Boggemes lamented his tournament life constantly winning "steak knives" as he called them—the joke prize he said everyone who finished second should receive. He joked—well, half joked—that he had won a lot of steak knives in his time.

This time Boggemes was skipping the knives and taking home the trophy.

Expertly maneuvering his Esper Control deck through a diverse field, Boggemes found his way into the finals against former Player of the Year and Standard Grand Prix Master Brad Nelson playing, you guessed it, Esper Control. After two relatively short games—for an Esper mirror, anyway—Boggemes bested Nelson and finally claimed his first crown.

Before moving on, we need to take a moment to appreciate what Nelson did here. It seems like every time there's a Standard Grand Prix in the United States, Nelson finds himself in the Top 8 playing a variety of different decks—from the most aggressive lists to, well, Esper Control. He's clearly demonstrated his mastery and devotion to the format.

Speaking of Devotion, the Blue and Black Devotion decks were everywhere this weekend, mixing with Esper and Jund Monsters to really define what Grand Prix Cincinnati was all about. It's another in a long line of evolutions of the format that, without a doubt, will adapt again to the results this weekend.

But right now the tournament belongs to Kyle Boggemes and Esper Control. Congratulations to Kyle, champion of Grand Prix Cincinnati!




Quarterfinals   Semifinals   Finals   Champion
1 Jared Boettcher   Jared Boettcher, 2-1        
8 Jacob Maynard   Brad Nelson, 2-0
       
4 Brad Nelson   Brad Nelson, 2-1   Kyle Boggemes, 2-0
5 Bradford Grant    
       
2 Jeffrey Pyka   Kyle Boggemes, 2-0
7 Kyle Boggemes   Kyle Boggemes, 2-0
       
3 Clyde Martin   Clyde Martin, 2-0
6 Auston Tramper    








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  Streaming video coverage of Grand Prix Cincinnati provided by Marshall Sutcliffe, Pro Tour Hall of Famer Randy Buehler, Jacob van Lunen, Rashad Miller, and Rusty Kubis. For a complete playlist of all the matches, visit ggslive's YouTube page.


EVENT COVERAGEINFORMATION
 1.  Kyle Boggemes$4,000
 2.  Brad Nelson$2,700
 3.  Jared Boettcher$1,500
 4.  Clyde Martin$1,500
 5.  Jeffrey Pyka$1,000
 6.  Bradford Grant$1,000
 7.  Auston Tramper$1,000
 8.  Jacob Maynard$1,000
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  • Top 16 Decklists

    by Corbin Hosler

  • Alexander Hayne
    Grand Prix Cincinnati 2014 – Standard - Top 16
    View a sample hand of this deck
    Download a .dek file for use in Magic Online



    Nick Seifert
    Grand Prix Cincinnati 2014 – Standard - Top 16
    View a sample hand of this deck
    Download a .dek file for use in Magic Online


    Preston Cordy
    Grand Prix Cincinnati 2014 – Standard - Top 16
    View a sample hand of this deck
    Download a .dek file for use in Magic Online


    Eric Froehlich
    Grand Prix Cincinnati 2014 – Standard - Top 16
    View a sample hand of this deck
    Download a .dek file for use in Magic Online


    Jadine Klomparens
    Grand Prix Cincinnati 2014 – Standard - Top 16
    View a sample hand of this deck
    Download a .dek file for use in Magic Online


    Ari Lax
    Grand Prix Cincinnati 2014 – Standard - Top 16
    View a sample hand of this deck
    Download a .dek file for use in Magic Online





     

  • Top 8 Decklists

    by Blake Rasmussen



  • Clyde Martin
    Grand Prix Cincinnati 2014 – Standard - Top 8
    View a sample hand of this deck
    Download a .dek file for use in Magic Online


    Jacob Maynard
    Grand Prix Cincinnati 2014 – Standard - Top 8
    View a sample hand of this deck
    Download a .dek file for use in Magic Online



    Brad Nelson
    Grand Prix Cincinnati 2014 – Standard - Top 8
    View a sample hand of this deck
    Download a .dek file for use in Magic Online






     

  • Top 8 Profiles

    by Corbin Hosler


  • Auston Tramper

    Hometown: Cherokee, NC
    Occupation: Entertainer at Deer Clan productions


    Previous Magic accomplishments:
    Professional Scrub

    What deck are you playing this weekend and why?
    B/W Midrange

    How did you prepare for this weekend?
    Testing with my team! Team DB4M! Clayton, Sauce Boss, and friends

    What card impressed you the most this weekend?
    Revoke Existence

    What is the best deck in Standard that you're not playing?
    Whatever decks shuffles up in front of me.




    Bradford Grant

    Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
    Occupation: Grad student at Ohio University in Athens


    Previous Magic accomplishments:
    None.

    What deck are you playing this weekend and why?
    Esper Control. I'm playing this deck because it's all that I own in Standard.

    How did you prepare for this weekend?
    I ran through my sideboard plan. Then I played legacy for a few hours!

    What card impressed you the most this weekend?
    Blind Obedience. It won three matches for me, two against Boros Burn and one against White-Red-Green Monsters.

    What is the best deck in Standard that you're not playing?
    Mono Black splashing white or red or blue or green.




    Jacob Maynard

    Hometown: Independence, Kentucky
    Occupation: Student


    Previous Magic accomplishments:
    Winner, Grand Prix Columbus 2012; undefeated record in Day 2s.

    What deck are you playing this weekend and why?
    Naya Hexproof (Auras) because it's the Standard Affinity deck.

    How did you prepare for this weekend?
    Borrowed the deck from Travis Hall Friday and decided I liked it a lot.

    What card impressed you the most this weekend?
    Boros Charm.

    What is the best deck in Standard that you're not playing?
    Esper Control?




    Jeffrey Pyka

    Hometown: Rochester, NY
    Occupation: Student


    Previous Magic accomplishments:
    There's always a first

    What deck are you playing this weekend and why?
    UW Devotion, just felt the most comfortable with it.

    How did you prepare for this weekend?
    I didn't, just had the deck from PTQ season.

    What card impressed you the most this weekend?
    Jace, Memory Adept

    What is the best deck in Standard that you're not playing?
    Esper




    Brad Nelson

    Hometown: Mandan, North Dakota
    Occupation: StarCityGames.com premium content provider


    Previous Magic accomplishments:
    Pied Evan Erwin right in the face!

    What deck are you playing this weekend and why?
    Esper Control. Not only is it the best deck, but also one of the easiest to play.

    How did you prepare for this weekend?
    Grinded Magic Online all week playing Brave Naya, but was too cowardly to commit to it.

    What card impressed you the most this weekend?
    Thoughtseize

    What is the best deck in Standard that you're not playing?
    White Weenie Devotion




    Clyde Martin

    Hometown: North Vernon, Indiana
    Occupation: Training department at Cummins


    Previous Magic accomplishments:
    Won some FNM; Top 8 one Grand Prix Trial; just started back after a long break that started in Ice Age.

    What deck are you playing this weekend and why?
    Mono-Black Aggro to take advantage of the current slow control environment.

    How did you prepare for this weekend?
    FNM, deck test with my friends and my sons.

    What card impressed you the most this weekend?
    Herald of Torment.

    What is the best deck in Standard that you're not playing?
    White-Black midrange




    Jared Boettcher

    Hometown: Rensselaer, New York
    Occupation:Magic


    Previous Magic accomplishments:
    9th, Pro Tour Valencia 2014; 2nd, Grand Prix Washington DC 2013.

    What deck are you playing this weekend and why?
    Black with a white splash. It has the best overall win percentage in the format, and no matchup is really out of reach.

    How did you prepare for this weekend?
    Created the deck on my drive down, had been testing black with red before.

    What card impressed you the most this weekend?
    Sin Collector.

    What is the best deck in Standard that you're not playing?
    Quite possibly the Green-Black deck Ari Lax was playing, if not that then White-Blue splash black.




    Kyle Boggemes

    Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Occupation: Student


    Previous Magic accomplishments:
    2nd place, Pro Tour San Diego 2010; 4th place, Grand Prix Washington DC 2010

    What deck are you playing this weekend and why?
    Esper Control. I wanted to play a deck that was fun if I was losing.

    How did you prepare for this weekend?
    Tested for a couple of hours.

    What card impressed you the most this weekend?
    Nightveil Specter in the sideboard. It came in 12 of my 14 rounds.

    What is the best deck in Standard that you're not playing?
    Mutavaults #3 and #4.




     

  • Quarterfinals - Jared Boettcher vs. Jacob Maynard

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • If the name Jared Boettcher sounds just a little bit familiar, if it tickles the back of your mind and makes you think "I know that name," that just because you absolutely should know him. Boettcher finished 9th at Pro Tour Born of the Gods with Ad Nauseam, and now he's following that up with a Top 8 in a 1,734-person GP. So it's safe to say he's good.

    It's pretty safe to say the same thing about his opponent Jacob Maynard, who already has a Grand Prix title to his name and is eager to produce a second today.

    By now, their decks are pretty familiar. Boettcher is on the Black Devotion deck splashing white for Blood Baron of Vizkopa and a pretty spicy main deck Revoke Existence.

    Maynard, on the other hand, was one of just two holdouts in the Top 8 not playing black, instead opting for the blazing speed of Naya Hexproof. His creatures were naturally resistant to the removal at the core of Bottcher's deck, and a card like Witchstalker could be devastating.


    Jacob Maynard

    Speaking of which...

    The games

    "I'm going to be taking the Witchstalker. I don't think that's a surprise."

    Boettcher had opened on Thoughtseize and quickly seized on grabbing the Hexproof 3/3. He followed that up with a Pack Rat, but quickly found it chained to some rocks and harassed by a Knight token that quickly became a 6/6 thanks to Ajani and Ethereal Armor.

    A second Rat gave Boettcher some defense, but Ajani could very quickly send the Knight up and over and defenses for a quick win. The Naya Hexproof deck could be devastatingly fast, and Maynard was threatening to end the game quite quickly. He got in one hit and sent Boettcher's life tumbling to seven, and then a pair of Boros Charms did the rest.

    "You drew insane in that game," Boettcher said, sounding like he wasn't really mad, just impressed.

    Maynard kept up the impressive play to start game 2, immediately chaining a Pack Rat to some rocks and resolving a Witchstalker.

    But this was a sideboard game, so Boettcher wasn't without options. Revoke Existence freed the Rat and allowed him to start making more rats. A few discard spells even made Witchstalker less imposing, especially when Unflinching Courage went straight to the graveyard.


    Jared Boettcher

    Boettcher kept making rats and emptying Maynard's hand, but a Madcap Skills put him down to just two life on the Witchstalker. He had rats aplenty, but any number of spells could make blocking poorly end his tournament.

    Pack Rat

    Or, ya know, Pack Rats could do their thing.

    Maynard attacked all in, but it proved to be a costly attack. Boettcher made another rat, activated Mutavault, and was able to trade off just one 5/5 rat in exchange for Maynard's entire board. Now with no creatures and no hand, Maynard could do nothing but watch as a horde of Pack Rats ran over to eat his life total.

    The beats, unfortunately, didn't stop coming for Maynard, as his sometimes temperamental deck sent him down to just five cards to start.

    But he still started strong, even with only two lands. Gladecover Scout and a Knight token started getting in there, but they were eventually stymied by a certain rack and the pack he brought with him.

    For the rest of the game, Boettcher did little more than make Pack Rat and gum up the board. A few turns and many activations later and a horde of 7/7s sent Boettcher to the semifinals.




     

  • Quarterfinals - Kyle Boggemes vs. Jeffrey Pyka

    by Corbin Hosler

  • Kyle Boggemes is no stranger to competitive Magic. With a Pro Tour Top 8 to his name (at San Diego in 2010), he knows what it takes to compete at the highest level of the game.

    That's not what he expected to happen this weekend.

    "I expected to get my butt kicked," he said. "I work and go to school and consult and do research, so I don't really have weekends free and I haven't really played much Magic lately. But the Esper deck draws a lot of cards, so I figured I'd at least have fun when I'm losing."

    Except he didn't. Lose, that is. At least not much.

    Boggemes stormed to the Top 8 of Grand Prix Cincinnati, a tournament he attended on a whim when he found out he had a break from school and the tournament wasn't too far away.

    In the quarterfinals he squared off against Jeffrey Pyka, the No. 2 seed in the Top 8, who was equally as surprised that he made the elimination rounds.

    "I didn't play the tightest this weekend, but my deck really loved me," he told Boggemes before they drew their opening hands.

    If making the Top 8 was a surprise, then making the semifinals of the nearly-1,800 player tournament would be even more so. And one of these players would.

    The decks

    Pyka was playing the Mono-Blue Devotion deck with a white splash for Detention Sphere and some sideboard options. It's a variation that has brought the deck that first premiered at Pro Tour Theros back to the forefront of the Standard format. The combination of an aggressive curve and counterspells to back those cards up gives the deck game against anything.

    On the other side was Esper Control, a deck that Boggemes hadn't tested at all but said fit his style and allowed him to compete with anything in the room.

    The games

    Things started off rough for Pyka, who seemed like he may have finally run out of luck with his deck after a mulligan to five cards in the first game.

    Still, he presented an aggressive start that Boggemes struggled to contain. A growing Cloudfin Raptor backed up by a pair of Mutavaults put the game within reach and made it look like he could overcome starting a pair of cards down.

    Archangel of Thune

    Boggemes fell to six life and Pyka summoned a Master of Waves to reload the board, but a timely Doom Blade and a Mutavault of his own cleared the board for Boggemes, who then chained a pair of Sphinx's Revelations that prompted Pyka to concede the game.

    Game Two played out similarly, with Boggemes taking some hits early before landing one of the premier haymakers in the matchup in Archangel of Thune. The angel stopped Pyka's Master of Waves before it could ever reach the beach, and a follow-up Blood Baron of Vizkopa a few turns later sealed the deal and propelled Boggemes to the semifinals.




     

  • Quarterfinals - Clyde Martin vs. Auston Tramper

    by Corbin Hosler

  • Clyde Martin and Auston Tramper have met before. Specifically, in Round 11 on Grand Prix Cincinnati, when Martin took the match in three tight games. The pair wished each other good luck and that they hoped to see the other in the Top 8, the usual niceties exchanged after a match.

    Except in this case it actually happened.

    Martin and Tramper sat down across from each other again the quarterfinals of the tournament, the brackets breaking so that one of them would end their tournament in the rematch.

    The decks

    Tramper's deck, White-Black midrange, was one of the best decks of the weekend, putting more than a dozen players into Day 2. Featuring Blood Baron of Vizkopa and often Obzedat, Ghost Council, it's a deck that many expected to fall out of favor in Cincinnati as more players began to play Lifebane Zombie in their maindecks.

    If Tramper's deck was unlikely, Martin's was downright rogue. He was far from the only mono-black deck Day 2, but he was certainly the only one casting Tormented Hero and Pain Seer.

    Tormented Hero

    "It's a good choice because Mono-Black Devotion is its best matchup," Martin explained. "And you can take advantage of the slow format."

    While Tramper's deck is very similar to Mono-Black Devotion, the white splash allows it to play haymakers that Martin only had limited answers to in the Protection-from-black Blood Baron.

    The games

    Tramper was happy to see exactly that card in his opening hand in Game 1, even happier to see the second copy.

    But he was missing something important: the land to cast those Blood Barons. While he did have the removal to eat several of Martin's early threats and stop the aggro player from earning an Inspired trigger from his Pain Seer, the removal spells eventually dwindled while the land count stayed the same.

    Tramper played himself into a spot where he could live long enough to cast Blood Baron if he could find another land, but when a Thoughtseize revealed a hand of double Hero's Downfall for Martin he scooped up his cards while both Blood Barons lay stranded in his hand.

    Worried about the Herald of Torment that he saw in Game 1 and the Erebos, God of the Deck he knew Martin would bring in, Tramper boarded out some of his slower cards to bring in a second Revoke Existence.

    Revoke Existence

    But those removal spells would be his downfall, as Martin avoided drawing Herald of Torment and Tramper drew both copies of Revoke Existence. It looked like Tramper may be able to pull out of the tight spot when he drew a Bile Blight to deal with Martin's double Tormented Hero, but a Devour Flesh by Martin to sacrifice his own creature in response so that one would live sealed the deal for Martin and propelled him into the Top 4.




     

  • Quarterfinals - Bradford Grant vs. Brad Nelson

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • "Brad, I'm Brad."

    "This game is going to go very Brad."

    No, those quips didn't come from Brad Nelson, despite his proclivity for the pun "playing Bradly." They came from his opponent, Bradford Grant, the Cincinnati native and grad student who apparently loves Brad puns just as much as his opponent.

    Grant didn't have any previous high finishes of note prior to this weekend, but the other Brad, the former Player of the Year, certainly did. In the past few years he's become known as something of a Standard master, Top 8ing multiple Standard Grand Prix and other major tournaments. It doesn't get much bigger than getting paired against Nelson in the Top 8 of a Standard Grand Prix.

    Especially when you're playing the exact same deck.

    On one hand, Nelson has a knack for picking the best deck for any given tournament, no matter what that deck is. He's played breakneck aggro and glacially slow control without reservation. So it's got to feel pretty good to pick the same deck.

    On the other hand, the Esper mirror wasn't exactly known for moving quickly.

    "Yes, we'll play at a reasonable pace, but it'll still probably take two hours," Nelson said as the judges gave the "reasonable pace" speech.

    Two hours wasn't far off. Go grab a drink, stop in the bathroom, maybe even call your mom. Because this one isn't finishing any time soon.

    The Games

    Little happened over the first many turns, as Esper Mirrors are wont to do, with Nelson experiencing the first hiccup, discarding due to hand size when he missed a land drop.

    He was, however, the first to resolve a Jace, Architect of Thought thanks to Thoughtseize clearing the way. That let him start hitting land drops and pressing Grant to make his own Jace.

    Thus began the Jace game, with Nelson working to keep his in play and Grant cashing his in at the first opportunity in order to Detention Sphere Nelson's Jace.

    The move backfired slightly as Nelson was able to make use of the otherwise dead Jace in his hand.

    Now with plenty of mana and plenty of cards, both players settled in to the patient game of back and forth and hitting land drops that control mirrors usually became. Both had plenty of dead cards, but they each could throw some haymakers—or counter them—as well.


    This picture of Bradford Grant was taken approximately 14 years ago, during the middle of game one. All times approximate.

    The game largely revolved around Jaces, Detention Spheres, Sphinx's Revelations and Dissolves at this point. Nelson attempted to throw the biggest punch with an Elspeth, Sun's Champion, but Negate ended any aspirations he had in that arena.

    Nelson seemed to be slowly falling behind as Grant's pair of Thoughtseize and Negate were giving him a slight edge, where Nelson had dead cards. Grant even resolved an Elspeth before losing it to Detention Sphere. He even lost the tokens to Supreme Verdict.

    And just when things seemed to be slowing down into an attrition matchup where no one could get a lead, Nelson found a hole to resolve Sphinx's Revelation for nine.

    Tapping out to do so meant Grant could safely resolve a Revelation of his own. And, just like that, we were back to everyone having everything.

    More trading, more things dying, being countered, etc.

    That, again, resulted in a game state where both players wore each other down to just a few cards in hand. Fortunately for Grant, one of the few cards he had was an Ætherling—and it resolved!

    Of course, as the ebb and flow of the game dictated, Nelson promptly resolved his own Ætherling, setting off the race and the odd Ætherling fog game that always resulted with extraneous removal in these situations.

    Nelson, however, took the initiative by leaving a Doom Blade on top, letting him fog for one key turn and grab the lead for good. Another Ætherling activation ever and Nelson had won an incredibly long, trying...game one.

    On to game two!

    "I love how the Doom Blade I scryed to the bottom was the Doom Blade I scryed for the win at the end," Nelson said of an early scry trigger.

    Grant took the early lead in the second game with a Sin Collector that collected the wages of a Gainsay, and followed it up with a Thoughtseize to strip Ætherling.

    Down cards, Nelson didn't even pretend to try and protect a Jace, Architect of Thought, grabbing two cards off the split and leaving it wide open to Sin Collector.

    Then, Nelson tried to set up an Elspeth with a small end of turn Sphinx's Revelation, but Grant wasn't done with the disruption. Notion Thief stole the draws and Nelson missed on land to even attempt Elspeth.

    Notion Thief

    So the disruption kept coming. Thoughtseize stole the Elspeth before it could happen and Grant's disruptive force just kept coming. Nelson resolved several Jaces, but lost each one to attacks from Grant's motley crew. Unable to cast Sphinx's Revelation and unable to find an answer through his Jace's, Nelson put up very little resistance in a much faster second game.

    This time it was Nelson's turn to start disrupting Grant's plans, stripping a Thoughtseize from a hand of expensive Planeswalkers and little else. Even with a mulligan, Nelson found himself quickly pulling ahead thanks to two timely land draws and a Gainsay to deny Grant a Divination.

    On four mana, both players resolved a Jace, and with lands plentiful again it looked like we were settling in for another back and forth match much like the first game. Jaces resolved, Sin Collector felt a Dark Betrayal, and long pauses interspersed brief flurries of action.


    Nelson might have been bruised and bullied out of game two, but his parade of Jace, Architect of Thoughts put him in the driver's seat midway through the crucial third game.

    Thanks to a parade of Jace, Architect of Thoughts, Nelson emerged from this early scrum slightly ahead, getting in with Mutavault every turn to put pressure on Grant to make a move at some point. All the while Nelson sat on several reactive spells that would allow him to respond accordingly should the situation call for it.

    But it was Nelson, finally, who made the first move, casting Elspeth, Sun's Champion into Grant's five cards and six open mana. When the dust—and four counterspells—settled, Nelson had his very own Elspeth.

    So Grant simply untapped and made one as well.

    But when everyone has Elspeth, the first often wins.

    And when the owner of the first Elsepth also happens to resolve a Sphinx's Revelation (again, through countermagic), that win percentage must go way, way up.

    From there, it was academic, as Thoughtseize ate a Dissolve, another Sphinx's Revelation put seven cards in Nelson's hand, and Grant, unable to parry any more moves, extended the hand




     

  • Semifinals - Brad Nelson vs. Jared Boettcher

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • After the quarterfinals Brad Nelson just went through, you can't really blame him for needing a smoke. Heck, I don't smoke and I could use one.

    But having battled through an Esper Mirror, facing Jared Boettcher's Black White Devotion deck in the semifinals must feel like a treat, even if the matchup was still a tricky one.

    With Pro Tour invitations secured, Boettcher and Nelson were playing not just for a trophy, but for their legacies and reputations. Boettcher is smack in the middle of the Rookie of the Year race, and following up a 9th place finish at Pro Tour Born of the Gods with this performance was cementing his reputation in the eyes of a lot of people.

    Boettcher's white splash even gave him a leg up on Mono Black versions of this deck, as Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Revoke Existence, both main, would prove troublesome for Nelson. Boettcher also had some bothersome sideboard cards as well, with a pair of Duress catching Nelson's eye early on.

    "Only two!" he said, excitedly.

    "Isn't Sin Collector better against you anyway?" Boettcher asked.

    Brad's face fell a bit. He hadn't noticed the Sin Collectors.

    But we should all know not to count out Nelson in a Standard GP at this point. He has proved countless times that, no matter the odds, he's a pretty strong bet to come out on top.

    The games

    An early Thoughtseize gave Boettcher all of the information he needed while stripping Nelson of a key Jace, but his follow-up of attacking with two Mutavaults revealed a weak hand, a weakness Nelson looked to exploit when he promptly drew a second Jace.

    That Jace offered up yet a third Jace, which Nelson was happy to snap up and start defending on the following turn. Everything was turning up Nelson.

    The best Boettcher could do while Nelson was racing through his deck was a Pack Rat, far from the most frightening card against Esper. And even less frightening when Nelson can throw down Elspeth in front of the rats.


    Jared Boettcher

    When the rats appeared unable to break through at any point, Boettcher tried a new path and slapped a Blood Baron of Vizkopa onto the table, giving Nelson some pause. He had an Elspeth in play that could easily handle the Blood Baron, but only at the cost of not making soldiers to block Pack Rat.

    Nelson did eventually chose to kill the Blood Baron that way and handle Pack Rat with Detention Sphere, but called himself an idiot repeatedly when his Jace—activated after the flurry of removal—turned up a Supreme Verdict that would have done the job all by itself.

    Consequently, Nelson lost his Jace to to Mutavault attacks and his Elspeth to the same following a Bile Blight. Because he had casually expended his resources in a game he was far ahead, Nelson had suddenly come crashing back down to earth.

    Until, you know, second Elspeth.

    After fighting through Nelson's commanding board position and spotting two Revelations and an Ætherling still waiting in Nelson's hand—thanks to Thoughtseize—Boettcher chose to concede a game that hadn't been much in his favor at any point.

    "I drew the wrong half of my deck that game," Boettcher mused, furrowing his brow while scanning his sideboard.

    It turned out Boettcher had kept a hand of four Swamp, two Mutavault and, predictably, hadn't gotten very far with it. He simply didn't think he'd get a better five card hand.

    The second game started much better for Boettcher, as early disruption gave way to an unmolested Pack Rat that started spawning copies almost immediately. He followed them up with a Blood Baron of Vizkopa, threatening to run away with the game. Nelson, unfortunately for him, was already down two Supreme Verdicts and badly in need of another.

    Instead he had Elsepth, Sun's Champion. The Planeswalker may not have been long for this world since nothing in play could stop the Baron, but it did buy a few precious turns for Nelson to fire off Sphinx's Revelation for four.

    The draw spell didn't turn up any help, and neither did the Jace that followed. No Verdict, no Detention Sphere—no help of any kind. He would be dead very, very quickly without some kind of major help.

    Erebos, God of the Dead

    Boettcher, smelling blood (like his Baron, I suppose), made another rat and called upon Erebos for some divine intervention.

    But it was Nelson who found reprieve, as Supreme Verdict leapt from the top of his deck to his hand and, ultimately, to the battlefield. Suddenly Nelson had new life.

    Nelson still had a long way to fight back, though. Erebos started drawing Boettcher cards, and he had ample life to continue drawing cards with the God.

    Down, out, and empty handed, Nelson needed a ton of help from Jace if he was going to survive.

    What he got was a miracle.

    Jace revealed Sphinx's Revelation, Revoke Existence and Elspeth—and Nelson roared with appreciation as he scooped up the two white cards. He suddenly had a threat, a defensive play, AND a way to remove Erebos.

    Just like that, Nelson, so far behind for so very, very long, was in full command of the game. Jace had turned up exactly the cards Nelson wanted at exactly the moment Nelson needed them. A few turns later, just as Nelson was about to put the game away, Jace revealed three winners again—two Detention Sphere and an Azorius Charm. Nelson rocked back and clapped his hands one last time.

    "I can't seem to catch a break," Boettcher said, surveying a game that had somehow found a way to slip away from him.


    The intensity you see here is a big part of brought Brad Nelson success at the Grand Prix level. Brad pities zero fools.



     

  • Semifinals - Clyde Martin vs. Kyle Boggemes

    by Corbin Hosler

  • To say there was a difference in experience in Sunday's semifinal would be quite the understatement. On one side sat Kyle Boggemes, who has a Pro Tour Top 8 to his name, while on the other side was Clyde Martin, who came to Cincinnati with his son in the hopes of having a fun weekend and nothing more after having not attended a Grand Prix in nearly two decades.

    Martin did much more than that, steamrolling his way into the Top 8 and cruising through his quarterfinals match without dropping a game.

    No matter who won the match, the Grand Prix would have an unexpected finalist. Would it be Boggemes, the former pro who came to Cincinnati on a whim because he had a weekend off, or Martin, the underdog from Indiana who was looking to create a little March madness of his own?

    The decks

    Martin's Mono-Black Aggro deck has been the biggest surprise of the weekend, utilizing aggressive, evasive creatures to race his opponents while taking apart their hand with discard spells.

    Boggemes hasn't played Magic competitively recently, but he picked up the popular Esper Control deck because he was drawn to Sphinx's Revelation. After defeating another aggressive deck (Mono-Blue Devotion) in the quarterfinals, he faced the same conundrum against Martin, except Martin also had the ability to attack Boggemes' hand thanks to Thoughtseize, Lifebane Zombie and Duress after sideboarding.


    Clyde Martin recently returned to Magic for the first time since Ice Age. Yes, that's nearly 20 years ago.

    Undercosted black creatures facing off against counterspells and board wipes? It's a matchup taken straight from the last time Martin played competitive Magic.

    Which was in Ice Age. That's 1995, for those of you scoring at home.

    The games

    A turn two Pain Seer did its best Dark Confidant impression for Martin, giving him a free card (a land, of course) on the third turn. A follow-up Thoughtseize revealed four lands and a Supreme Verdict from Boggemes, which Martin quickly tossed aside before laying a Desecration Demon.

    It looked like the game may end quickly, but Boggemes found another Verdict waiting on the top of his deck to end the threat. That was when Martin demonstrated the rebuilding power of Mono-Black Aggro, unleashing Rakdos Cackler and laying a Mogis Marauder to give both haste and continue the beats.

    Hero's Downfall traded for Jace, Architect of Thought on the next turn and set up the game's defining moment: Should Martin activate Mutavault and attack or cast the Thoughtseize in his hand to try and snag one of Boggemes' final two cards?

    Maximizing his mana for the turn, Martin chose the former, a plan that quickly backfired when Boggemes untapped and slammed Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Several turns and tokens and an ultimate later, her soldiers were flying through the air to send the pair off to Game 2.


    Kyle Boggemes, playing in his first Grand Prix Top 8 in four years, consults his sideboard against Clyde Martin.

    When Boggemes looked at his opening seven for the second game, he admitted after the match it was tough to contain his excitement.

    Three scrylands. Last Breath. Jace, Architect of Thought. Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Supreme Verdict.

    As he put it after the match, "pretty much the best seven I could draw."

    That opening hand, coupled with the fact that Martin couldn't find a discard spell and whiffed with both of his Lifebane Zombies, made for a quick second game that ended with an Archangel of Thune granting counters to a board full of Elspeth tokens.

    A handshake later and Boggemes, who said he expected to do poorly this weekend, suddenly found himself one match away from winning his first Grand Prix.




     

  • Finals - Brad Nelson vs. Kyle Boggemes

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • So, I hear this Esper deck is good?

    So far in this Top 8 Esper has only lost to Esper, as Brad Nelson endured one mirror match in the quarterfinals. Beyond that, both players have devoured the competition, winning because, well, I'll let Nelson tell you.

    "It's the best deck in the format. I've played so terribly this weekend," said the player now shuffling up in the finals of a Grand Prix.

    It might have been hyperbole to say Nelson had played terribly this weekend—after all, a bevy of other Esper players had already fallen by the wayside—but his deck had pulled him out of several tight spots already.

    Unfortunately for him, his opponent, Kyle Boggemes, was playing 59 of 60 cards the same in the main deck. Almost as unfortunate, Boggemes had a creature-based sideboard that Nelson felt would give Boggemes a leg up.

    "I think I'm slightly disadvantaged because of it," Nelson said.

    But at several points in this Top 8, Nelson has found himself in position to be more than a little disadvantaged and has always found himself on top. Now he just needed a little more Magic for one last round.

    Boggemes, however, was looking for a little magic himself. Long resigned to "winning steak knives"—Boggemes code for getting second place—you could tell he really wanted this one. You could tell he didn't want any steak knives this time around.

    The games

    Boggemes jumped out to what amounts to a blisteringly fast lead in the Esper mirror, Thoughtseizing away a Dissolve to clear the way for Jace, Architect of Thought and, after the first was Detention Sphered, a second Jace.

    Behind from pretty much turn one, Nelson couldn't afford to putter around, so he went right for the throat on turn six, resolving Elspeth.

    So, clearly, that left Boggemes to resolve an Elspeth of his own. Because mirror match.

    With both players committed to tapping out on their own turns in order to resolve crucial spells, each player started throwing haymakers back and forth. Sphinx's Revelation begat another which begat an Ætherling on Boggemes side of the board. Far from an uneasy detente with untapped mana and itchy trigger fingers, these two were quickly headed toward a nuclear apocalypse.


    Brad Nelson sat just inches from yet another Grand Prix trophy in Standard. His mastery of the format is never in doubt, but his ability to grab the Cincinnati championship hung precipitously in the air throughout the course of the finals.

    As in, bombs.

    Nelson actually managed to dispatch with Ætherling through a pair of removal spells, and the two started jostling to get the upper hand in the Elspeth fight. Both planeswalkers climbed into range of their ultimates, but there were so few soldiers on the table it hardly mattered.

    "Please have nothing," Nelson pleaded.

    What he had was a second Elsepth, enabling him to emblem-up ahead of schedule. Nelson followed suit in what was quickly becoming an absurd game.

    "I need one too," Nelson said, motioning to an Elspeth emblem. Quietly, the judge restocked a third emblem token. Just in case.


    Because this happens all the time.

    Boggemes finally, long after the first bombs were launched, gained an upper hand in the Elspeth war, slaying Nelson's Elspeth on an attack thanks to a timely Doom Blade. When Nelson was unable to resolve Sphinx's Revelation to find a better answer, he conceded and moved quickly to his sideboard.

    "Can you believe they got the third Elspeth emblem, just in case," Nelson mused between games.

    The second game settled more into the draw-go fashion we all come to expect in these types of matchups. Boggemes stripped a Sphinx's Revelation with Thoughtseize early, but, otherwise, things were mostly quiet as the pair built their mana bases and sculpted the tops of their decks with scry.

    It was Boggemes who fired the first shot once the pair had settled in, with a Sphinx's Revelation for two. That netted him a Thoughtseize and a second Revelation, and set off a counter war over the Thoughtseize.


    It took a long time to get here, but with another trophy in sight, Kyle Boggemes finally claimed a title all his own.

    Thoughtseize met Dissolve met Negate met Sphinx's Revelation met Negate. And when Nelson's follow-up Thoughtseize was Dissolved, the StarCityGames writer found himself unable to do anything about the Ætherling that followed.

    Nelson drew, saw nothing, and congratulated Kyle Boggemes on winning Grand Prix Cincinnati. And not a single steak knife in sight.




     

  • Top 5 Cards

    by Corbin Holser


  • Witchstalker

    5. Witchstalker

    As powerful as the black-based decks were in Cincinnati, Top 8 competitor Jacob Maynard found a way around them: play cards that don't interact.

    That was the basis of his Naya Auras deck, which utilized Hexproof creatures like Witchstalker to blank most of the opponent's removal spells. Slap an Unflinching Courage onto the Wolf and you've suddenly got a threat that not many decks can answer.

    The deck provided a different angle to attack the format, and one that Maynard used to confound the control decks for most of the weekend.




    Mogis's Marauder

    4. Mogis's Marauder

    Marauder is card that you can find easily in the leftovers of a draft, showing you how much players usually value it in their Constructed decks. It's by no means the flashiest card in the Mono-Black Aggro deck that Clyde Martin took to the semifinals of the tournament.

    But it is one that the deck couldn't exist without.

    The card allows the deck to function well into the late game rather than falling off like most aggro decks. Not only does it provide the deck unexpected explosiveness by giving itself and usually some of its friends haste after a Supreme Verdict, but it also provides a way to punch through otherwise-scary blockers like Archangel of Thune or Elspeth tokens by virtue of granting Intimidate.




    Stormbreath Dragon

    3. Stormbreath Dragon

    Stormbreath Dragon didn't Top 8. The only copies that found their way into the Top 16 did so in the sideboard of Jason Ascalon's White-Blue-Red Control deck rather than the Jund Monsters deck where it typically resides.

    But that doesn't mean it didn't leave a mark on Cincinnati.

    Esper Control was the deck of the tournament, putting the most pilots into Day 2 and two of them in Brad Nelson and eventual champion Kyle Boggemes into the finals.

    The reason why so many players chose to battle with Esper? So they could handle Stormbreath. With Protection from white built in, the only way for the traditional White-Blue Control decks to handle the dragon is during their mainphase with either Supreme Verdict or Elspeth, Sun's Champion. That means Stormbreath is guaranteed to hit. Esper solves that problem by adding black removal spells specifically to deal with the hasty Dragon.

    And don't be fooled by the final standings: Stormbreath was well-represented on Sunday. When a card is good enough to warp the format around it, you know it belongs in the top five.




    Detention Sphere

    2. Detention Sphere

    Look. We all know how good Oblivion Ring is. Did anyone really expect that the newest twist on the classic effect could fall out of favor for long?

    Detention Sphere dipped out of the metagame briefly, but it's made a striking comeback and featured heavily in several of the decks that made the elimination rounds, not to mention playing a key role in Kyle Boggemes' Top 8 run by taking care of pretty much whatever he needed it to, from creatures and gods to opposing Planeswalkers.

    The other deck that makes great use of the enchantment is Uw Devotion, a new twist on the Mono-Blue Devotion deck that's been dominant since Pro Tour Theros. It not only eliminates problem permanents, it also helps contribute to the Devotion count needed for Thassa, God of the Sea and Ephara, God of the Polis. That's easily enough to push it to elite status in Standard.




    Thoughtseize

    1. Thoughtseize

    These days it's easier to ask what deck isn't playing Thoughtseize. It does whatever you want it to do, and the ubiquitous sorcery defined nearly every match it was played in, which was pretty much every match played.

    There's simply no mistaking the power of stripping an opponent's best threat before they even get a chance to cast it. And it gives you perfect knowledge of your opponent's hand. And it's flexible enough to handle creatures or removal spells. And with so many control decks floating around the room, it's not a bad draw even late.

    Like I said, what doesn't it do?

    It showed exactly why the format revolves around it in the final match of the tournament. When Kyle Boggemes cast it against Brad Nelson, it set off a flurry of counterspells and draw spells (along with a bevy of spells on the stack) before Boggemes eventually won that battle and emerged on top of Grand Prix Cincinnati thanks to it.






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