he Gods have spoken and the field of over 900 players has been reduced to just 128. Today, six more rounds of Standard will ensue before we make the final cut to the Top 8. Players are shuffling up as we speak and we can't wait for all the action to begin.
With so many talented players making it through to Day 2, stay tuned as we deliver to you the latest updates from the source, along with live streaming video coverage!
Sunday, 9:30 a.m. - The Metagame at the Top Tables
by Chapman Sim
Players are shuffling up for Day Two and I took the liberty of taking a walk through the top tables to get a bird's eye view of the top half of the field.
No. of Players
It is evident that Esper Control remains the most popular deck today, the only deck in the format that is able to support hand disruption, card advantage, countermagic and a removal suite (complete with quality spot removal and board sweepers). Talk about being greedy! Some players who love their Sphinx's Revelations as much as their stable manabases have opted to eschew Thoughtseize and Doom Blade, opting for a more consistent Azorius Control build.
25% of the top half of the field love their Sphinx's Revelations!
Black Control decks continue to dominate and it is a close call whether or not white should be splashed to support game-enders like Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Obzedat Ghost Council. Regardless of their choice, expect to be on the receiving end of a pack of Pack Rats at the very least.
Teaming up for free wins since October 2013.
Blue Devotion decks are also seen to be evolving to support white mana and Thassa, God of the Sea is now being played alongside newfound friend Ephara, God of the Polis. It seems like the introduction of Temple of Enlightenment is also a considerable push factor that nudged Mono-Blue Devotion players towards Blue-White.
Best Friends Forever!
Rounding off the rest of the field include less conventional decks like Selesnya Aggro and Rakdos Aggro and rogue brews like BG "Dredge" and Kiora Control!
Round 10 Feature Match - Luke Mulcahy (Mono-U) vs. Matt Rogers (B/W)
by Pip Foweraker
It's 9:00, the kookaburras are singing (well, technically), and the sun is shining: it's the first round of Sunday, and Luke Mulcahy and Matt Rogers have blinked their way through the morning Australian sun to just where every Magic player wants to start their Day 2 run to the Top 8: the feature match table. Both players are X-1, looking to conserve their lead over the rest of the pack and inch closer to the final slots. Mulcahy is running a standard Mono-Blue, while Rogers pilots a B/W list.
Mulcahy opened with a Judge's Familiar, who was happy enough to let Roger's Thoughtseize resolve. Rogers nabbed a Nightveil Spectre over a Tidebinder Mage and a Frostburn Weird. Mulcahy's Familiar started nibbling at Roger's life total while he deployed the remaining men from his hand. Rogers had no action on his third Bile Blight took care of the Frostburn Weird, and Mulcahy followed up with a Thassa, God of the Sea.
Rogers measures the amount of removal spells he needs in scientific notation.
Thassa's Existence quickly got Revoked, and a Hero's Downfall went to take out Mulcahy's Tidebinder Mage, but it got upgraded instead through a Rapid Hybridization. Another Downfall took out the massive Frog, and Mulcahy followed with a Master of Waves. Rogers, stuck on 3 land for the last few turns, was running out of answers to Mulchay's deploying army.
Rogers tried a Pack Rat, but Mulcahy had a Cyclonic Rift, and Rogers shifted to his sideboard. "When I walked in this morning, I was saying 'Just pair me against anything but mono-blue'", rued Rogers, regretting saying such fateful words aloud before the pairings had been posted.
Luke Mulcahy 1 - Matt Rogers 0
The second game was destined to play out much like the first. Mulcahy opened with some early creatures, while Rogers - drawing a bit more mana this time - did what he could to kill, exile, devour, bring about the downfall of, and generally be unpleasant to said creatures.
Mulcahy regrets passing up the opportunity to quote Clint Eastwood.
Mulcahy's opening was bolstered by a pair of Mutavaults, who, alongside a Thassa and a Master of Waves, put too much pressure on Rogers to last more than a few turns into the mid-game.
Luke Mulcahy 2 - Matt Rogers 0
"It feels like the only way I can steal games in this matchup is with an early Pack Rat", said Rogers, chatting after the game. He had sideboarded even more removal into his deck and removed his larger creatures, but was always going to struggle to keep pace with Mono-Blue's rapid and consistent threat deployment.
Round 11 Featured Match - Joshua Foley vs. Justin Cheung
by Chapman Sim
Four-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Justin Cheung is heralded as one of the top players in the Asia Pacific region and has just returned from Pro Tour Born of the Gods with a satisfying 50th place finish.
Wielding Esper Control as his weapon of choice, he has stumbled a little this weekend and would need to win out to make his fifth Grand Prix Top 8. Currently standing at 18 Pro Points, he is also in good shape to repeat the feat of becoming Australian National Champion once again.
His opponent Joshua Foley is at the exact 7-2-1 record and is piloting a unique Bant concoction of his own, featuring Kiora, the Crashing Wave, Advent of the Wurm and Selesnya Charm to go along with all the goodies that the Azorius Senate has to offer.
With both players mulliganing to five, Thoughtseize from Cheung seemed more devastating than usual, and knocked one of two Sphinx's Revelations out from Foley's hand.
However, Cheung was the one to stumble on land drops, with just two, and allowed Foley to successfully resolve a topdecked Kiora, the Crashing Wave without contest. However, Foley chose to tick up Kiora rather than Explore her other options and it gave Cheung time to find a third land to cast Detention Sphere.
Foley quickly replaced that with Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Cheung looked like he was in trouble, until he managed to draw a second Detention Sphere two turns later.
Foley forged ahead with Sphinx's Revelation for 4, restocking his hand while charging in with six Soldier tokens. Cheung was forced to use Ultimate Price on one of them, signaling that he did not have the Supreme Verdict to get out of the fix.
He did have his own Elspeth, Sun's Champion though, and managed to stabilize with Jace, Architect of Thought. A few Planeswalker activations coupled with a massive Sphinx Revelation put Cheung back into the game but Foley wasn't about to give up, sweeping the board thrice with Supreme Verdicts before eventually succumbing to the onslaught of 3/3 Soldier tokens.
Cheung recovers from a bad start to take Game One, bringing the epic 35-minute game to an end.
With just fifteen minutes left on the clock, Foley decided to bring in Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Archangel of Thune to supplement his "Advent of the Wurm beatdown plan", but found himself with the grindy triple Sphinx's Revelation draw.
After cycling a pair of Azorius Charm, Foley's next move was Jace, Architect of Thought. Cheung stopped it with Dissolve before untapping and resolving his own copy, which in turn granted him a replacement Dissolve.
The first of Foley's Sphinx's Revelations netted him Selesnya Charm, Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Archangel of Thune but the trinity fell to successive Supreme Verdicts.
A brisk counter war ensued when Cheung tried to resolve Ætherling. Foley attempted Dissolve, with Cheung showing him the same, but Foley had the last word with Render Silent.
This reduced Cheung to just a single card in his feeble grip and that was enough to convince Foley that Cheung was out of countermagic. Foley fired off Sphinx's Revelation (for more than I could count) and equalized the score by burying Cheung with card advantage and a duo of Archangel of Thune and Mutavault.
Foley equalizes the score and both players take yet another draw.
Justin Cheung draws with Joshua Foley and are both at an awkward 7-2-2 record.
Round 12 Feature Match - Robert Jackway vs. Patty Robertson
by Pip Foweraker
Both well-know Australian players came into Round 11 in the dangerous X-2 bracket, needing to win out their matches to keep any chance of making Top 8.
Jackway blew out of the gates early with a Burning Tree Emissary and a Magma Jet, whilst Robertson played out a pair of Temple of Enlightenments , passing with 3 mana open. Jackway had another Magma Jet, drawing a frown of consternation from Robertson before he let it resolve.
Jackway tried a Fanatic of Mogis, but Robertson had the (Dissolve), untapping into a Jace, Architect of Thought. Jackway kept going with his Jace, finding an Elspeth with his mini-Fact or Fiction. Jackway started to accumulate cards in hand as Robertson fell to 11. A Last Breath finally took care of the Emissary, Jackway replacing it with a Boros Reckoner. Jace started going berserk, flipping a Doom Blade, Azorius Charm and a Syncopate, Robertson taking a pile with the Charm and counterspell.
Jackway, knowing the bevy of cards in Robertson's hands, had few options but to load up on threats and overwhelm the control player. Robertson was having none of that. His Azorius Charm took care of the Reckoner for a time, and Robertson swung into clean-up mode. Jackway was left with no gas versus an active Jace and a control opponent with a full grip. A few turns later, Jackway bowed to the inevitable and headed for his sideboard.
Jackway looks for a way to light things up.
Patty Robertson 1 - Robert Jackway 0
Jackway came roaring our of the gates in the second game with a Rackdos Cackler and a pair of Ash Zealots. Robertson pinged the Zealots with a Detention Sphere and then laughed as Jackway cast a third. Robertson had a Jace, Architect of Thought to clog things up on the ground.
Jackway decided to ignore it and attacked Robertson's life points directly, going all-in with a Burning Tree Emissary and a Rakdos Cackler post-combat. Robertson untapped and considered his next move, staring down a bunch of damage on the board. At a perilous 4 life, he summoned a Blood Baron of Vizkopa, activated Jace's -1/-0 ability, and passed back to Jackway.
Does Robertson look like a guy who's gonna let your spell resolve?
Jackway glared lasers at the Blood Baron. After it disobligingly failed to burst into flame, he was forced to simply summon a Boros Reckoner and pass, his army stymied by the powerful lifelinker.
Robertson fired off a Sphinx's Revelation for 3 to gain back some precious breathing room. He drew into another Blood Baron and Jace continued to tick upwards, putting Jackway further and further behind in the damage race. A Skullcrack should let him punch through, but the top of his deck yielded only another Boros Reckoner.
Robertson activated Jace's ultimate, mulling over whether to take a Magma Jet, deny Jackway a Skullcrack, or to switch to an aggressive stance and take a beater. In the end he opted for Magma Jet and replaced his Jace with another.
Robertson, comfortably ahead, began attacking with his Blood Barons. An Elspeth on defence and a grip full of action left the red player sitting opposite him looking a little forlorn. The rest of the game was all mopping up.
Patty Robertson 2 - Robert Jackway 0
After the match, both players laughed about how tense the middle of the second game was before its somewhat lopsided ending. Jackway had multiple outs in his deck - Skullcrack or a Fanatic of Mogis would have ended the game instantly - but didn't find anything in the window he was given before Robertson clawed his way back into a comfortable position. The match highlighted the raw power of Sphinx's Revelation, which kept Robertson with a decent grip and helped pull his life total out of the danger zone.
Round 13 Feature Match - Alex Keech vs. Luke Mulcahy
by Chapman Sim
Luke Mulcahy is hunting for his second Grand Prix Top 8 to bolster his previous Top 4 performance at Grand Prix Brisbane 2011. The local community knows that he is one of the best, with his most impressive performance coming from a Top 16 finish at Pro Tour San Diego few years back. Faced against Alex Keech, he would need to overcome the Gruul horde with his little blue men.
Mulcahy opened solidly (and quite customarily for the Mono-Blue Devotion player), with Judge's Familiar, Frostburn Weird and Nightveil Specter. Keech's Red Green Monsters deck lived up to expectations as well and coughed up Sylvan Caryatid, Courser of Kruphix and Polukranos, World Eater.
Tidebinder Mage emerged from the waves to tap down the Legendary Hydra and Mulcahy also added a second Nightveil Specter, hoping to loot some green mana sources to summon the two Polukranos, World Eaters the first Specter had already stolen.
Keech advanced his board with Ghor-Clan Rampager and Xenagos, God of Revels, while hatching a secret plan. He soon accumulated sufficient mana to overload Mizzium Mortars, including one extra for paying Judge's Familiar's mana tithe.
This annihilated the opposing board while keeping his own intact and it was a simple matter of turning his entire army sideways to prompt Mulcahy's concession.
A pair of Cloudfin Raptors plus Judge's Familiar quickly started to peck away at Keech's life total and threatened to end the game fast in conjunction with Thassa, God of the Sea.
Keech could only muster Courser of Kruphix and Bow of Nylea, but before he could even untap it seemed like the game was over.
Mulcahy summoned a second Judge's Familiar, before activating Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. With his devotion to blue at five, this gave him enough mana to summon Nightveil Specter, evolving both Cloudfin Raptors to 2/3s and even had mana left over to grant Thassa unblockability.
With his life total already slashed in half, Keech did his math and figured that he would be too slow to stop the quintet of flyers, much less "switch off" the angsty Sea God.
Mulcahy forces the rubber game by harnessing the power of the skies and the seas.
Keech was on the play this round and make the risky decision to keep a one lander. As he missed his second and third land drops, Mulcahy wasted no time to assemble Judge's Familiar, Cloudfin Raptor and Tidebinder Mage.
When Keech did draw Elvish Mystic, it was mercilessly sent home with Cyclonic Rift. Mutavault hastened the clock considerably and Keech was simply too far behind. He could only extend his hand, wishing Mulcahy good luck in his next two games.
Luke Mulcahy defeats Alex Keech 2-1 and moves on to 11-2.
Sunday, 2.15 p.m. - A Quick Chat with Justin Cheung
by Chapman Sim
Reigning Australian National Champion Justin Cheung is no stranger to the Grand Prix Circuit and has enjoyed great success in the region, racking up four lifetime Top 8s to date (Sydney 2013, Brisbane 2013, Auckland 2012, Auckland 2008). Beneath his silent demeanor is a cheery personality and an ingenious mind.
So why did he choose to run Esper today? "I didn't really have a lot of time preparing for this event since I was practicing for Modern and this list was suggested to me by a friend. I played a lot of Mono-Black in the past but I felt it was losing its position in the metagame, so I decided to make the switch."
As we speak, Cheung laments that was not doing as well as he hoped and will keep his fingers crossed for a Top 32 finish today. Standing at 18 Pro Points, two more will propel him into Silver, granting him an invite for upcoming Pro Tour Journey to Nyx.
"I don't think I will be able to make it for Grand Prix Beijing, but I'm considering to go to Grand Prix Taipei if I can't win a PTQ here." I cheered him up a little by bringing up Pro Tour Born of the Gods and his face beamed with a radiant smile. "During the last round in Valencia, I drew the last match to lock in a Top 75 finish. It was a nice surprise to finish in exactly at 50th place!"
When questioned about his chances for the Player Championships at the end of the year, he humbly professes that it would be a long shot to clinch one of the two Asia Pacific slots.
"Lee Shi Tian of Hong Kong just made the Top 8 last week in Valencia and Zheng Jingwei's in the Top 8 today. I'm not even qualified for the next Pro Tour so we'll see how it goes."
With just two more rounds to go, we wish Justin the best of luck as the Top 8 starts to shape up. Cheers!
Sunday, 3.30 p.m. - A Quick Chat with Zheng Jingwei
by Chapman Sim
Zheng Jingwei has been having a stellar fortnight. After returning from Pro Tour Born of the Gods with a Top 16 finish, he continued racking up wins in Melbourne and was one of the first players to lock up a spot in the Top 8.
Let's get to know Zheng a little more. An actuary by profession, Zheng is naturally gifted and precise when it comes to math and numbers. He has been playing Magic since Shards of Alara but got onto the professional scene a couple of years ago.
He used to game casually at HobbyMaster, one of the most prominent stores in Auckland. That was until he opened his own store, Cerberus Games, in Wellington, proof that he is a huge fan of the game.
"My best finish before this Pro Tour would be a Top 8 at the World Magic Cup 2013. New Zealand made it to the Top 8 and I'm glad to be part of the team." As the current Pro Point leader in his country, he could well be crowned the New Zealand National Champion at the end of the season if he continues his hot streak.
With his eye on one of the two Player Championship slots, the whole of Asia will be on his heels but he isn't discouraged one bit. Already qualified for the last two Pro Tours this season, his wish is to harness enough Points to reach Gold, or even Platinum level.
As we speak, he is taking a short break while preparing for the Top 8 playoffs and we wish him the best of luck today.
Round 14 Feature Match - Craig Chapman vs. Hao-Shan Huang
by Pip Foweraker
Chapman is a member of Team Awesome Pirate, one of Australia's more colourful teams. Famous for boisterous behaviour and outlandish attire, Chapman let down the collective hopes of the coverage team by failing to show up in a Pope hat or dressed as an actual Pirate. Still, there's always next time.
His most estimable opponent, Hao-Shan Huang, disdains all activities of a piratical or even nautical nature. His team, MTG Mint Card, has been on a tear of late, placing members into multiple Top 8's and pioneering the successful Blue Moon deck at Pro Tour: Born of the Gods.
An early Lifebane Zombie from Chapman nabbed Huang's Courser of Kruphix. Huang summoned a Sylvan Caryatid, threatening an early Stormbreath Dragon, and followed up with a Domri Rade, who revealed another Dragon on top of his library. Chapman took to the skies with a Desecration Demon before Thoughtseizing one of the Dragons. Huang summoned the other one but couldn't attack profitably before Chapman offed it with an Ultimate Price.
Huang looked to the top of his deck for more threats, but couldn't muster anything meaningful while Chapman's Demon went to town on his life total. A few turns later, and it was all over for the first game.
Craig Chapman 1 - Hao-Shan Huang 0
Chapman offed an early Domri Rade with a Hero's Downfall, but Huang simply summoned another Planeswalker. Xenagos made a Satyr and started the assault, while Chapman's Thoughtseize took out a Mizzium Mortars, clearing the way for his mid-game creatures. A Lifebane Zombie took a Ghor-Clan Rampager out of the equation, but Huang simply summoned another one and swung with his Satyr and a Mutavault.
Chapman was happy to trade his Zombie for the Mutavault, keeping Huang from getting too adventurous with his mana. He had a Desecration Demon to clog up the red zone. Huang had a Domri Rade and a Polukranos, tipping the balance of the game somewhat back in his favour. Chapman was having none of this nonsense, offing a Satyr with a Bile Blight and holding yet more removal in hand.
Chapman looks for more buckles to swash.
In Chapmans' combat, Huang sacrificed his Rampager to slow down the Desecration Demon for a brief spell. Chapman was sandbagging an Ultimate Price. Huang activated his Domri Rade and drew into another Ghor-Clan Rampager, then settled in to run some math calculations. After a moment's reflection, he summoned the Rampager and sent Polukranos in to battle, where Chapman promptly killed it. Huang sacrificed a Mutavault to keep the Demon out of play for another turn. Chapman summoned a Lifebane Zombie and cast an Underworld Connections.
Huang fired off Xenagos' ultimate but whiffed on creatures, punching a bunch of lands into play with a frown. Domri Rade peeked and fetched him a Scavenging Ooze, who started going to town on graveyards. A freshly summoned Sylvan Caryatid tied down the Demon once more. Chapman summoned an Orzhova and blinked it out at the end of his turn.
Huang used his Domri to make his Scavenging Ooze fight the Lifebane Zombie, and then Plummeted the Desecration Demon to leave himself with enough creatures in the graveyard that Scavenging Ooze was lethal on the swing. Chapman chuckled at the play and shifted to his sideboard for the third game.
Hao-Shan Huang 1 - Craig Chapman 1
Huang started off with an early Domri Rade, which Chapman immediately Pithing Needle'd. Huang summoned a Polukranos, who paid the Ultimate Price before the dust of his arrival had had time to settle. Chapman, not done with messing with Huang's game plan, Thoughtseized a Rampager from Huang before attacking with his Mutavault.
Huang grimly observes the demolition of his board.
After a few turns without any action, Chapman resolved a Lifebane Zombie and started swinging. A second Lifebane Zombie revealed a sandbagged Plummet, but Huang was in trouble without any creatures to deal with the Zombies.
Huang eventually found a Courser of Kruphix and a Polukranos, but an Ultimate Price in response to his Monstrous activation prompted him to extend the handshake.
Craig Chapman 2 - Hao-Shan Huang 1