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Grand Prix Phoenix Day 1 Coverage

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Day One of Grand Prix Phoenix has wrapped up, and a field of 1463 players has been knocked down to 172. Sitting at the top of the standings are Michael Peterson, No. 6 Ranked Player Shahar Shenhar, No. 23 Ranked Player Eric Froehlich, Grand Prix San Diego 2013 Champion Nathan Holiday, and 2012 Magic Online Champion Dmitriy Butakov.

Butakov in particular stands out as the lone combatant not representing one of the recognized Standard archetypes from the previous three weekends. The Magic Online player from Russia is taking advantage of his trip to the United States to compete in last weekend's 2013 Magic Online Championship in order to compete in a Grand Prix or two while he is here. His Bant Control deck, an interesting departure from his choice of Esper Control in last weekend's tournament, gives him some unique tools, but will they be enough to maintain his solid record?

Tune in tomorrow as we bring you live coverage from here in Phoenix, Arizona!











 

  • Constructed Last Chance Qualifier Winning Decklists

    by Event Coverage Staff


  • Joe Weber – Standard – Mono-Blue Devotion


    Caleb Tefft – Standard – White Weenie






    Alex Amato – Standard – Mono-Red Aggro



    Dustin Cox – Modern – Affinity





    Benjamin Bailey – Standard – Black-Green Dredge


    Max Delia – Standard – Mono-Blue Devotion






     

  • Limited Last Chance Qualifier Winning Decklists

    by Event Coverage Staff

  • David Hunting – Born of the Gods Sealed – White-Black

    Main Deck

    40 cards

    Plains
    10  Swamp
    Unknown Shores

    18 lands

    Akroan Skyguard
    Asphodel Wanderer
    Disciple of Phenax
    Gray Merchant of Asphodel
    Griffin Dreamfinder
    Hopeful Eidolon
    Marshmist Titan
    Nyxborn Eidolon
    Nyxborn Shieldmate
    Observant Alseid
    Odunos River Trawler
    Spirit of the Labyrinth
    Tormented Hero

    16 creatures

    Asphyxiate
    Boon of Erebos
    Fleetfeather Sandals
    Hold at Bay
    Necrobite

    6 other spells

    Sideboard
    Agent of Horizons
    Akroan Crusader
    Akroan Horse
    Akroan Phalanx
    Anvilwrought Raptor
    Aqueous Form
    Aspect of Hydra
    Battlewise Hoplite
    Charging Badger
    Coastline Chimera
    Commune with the Gods
    Crackling Triton
    Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass
    Defend the Hearth
    Dragon Mantle
    Epiphany Storm
    Fall of the Hammer
    Floodtide Serpent
    Forlorn Pseudamma
    Griptide
    Guardians of Meletis
    Horizon Scholar
    Ill-Tempered Cyclops
    Kiora's Follower
    Kragma Butcher
    Nullify
    Nyxborn Wolf
    Omenspeaker
    Opaline Unicorn
    Ordeal of Thassa
    Perplexing Chimera
    Pharagax Giant
    Pheres-Band Tromper
    Pinnacle of Rage
    Prescient Chimera
    Ragemonger
    Raised by Wolves
    Reckless Reveler
    Rise to the Challenge
    Satyr Nyx-Smith
    Savage Surge
    Snake of the Golden Grove
    Spark Jolt
    Spellheart Chimera
    Sudden Storm
    Swan Song
    Swordwise Centaur
    Thunder Brute
    Titan of Eternal Fire
    Triton Fortune Hunter
    Triton Shorethief
    Triton Tactics
    Warriors' Lesson
    Whelming Wave
    Wingsteed Rider

    61 sideboard cards



    Gary Wong – Born of the Gods Sealed – Black-Red

    Main Deck

    40 cards

    Mountain
    Swamp
    Unknown Shores

    17 lands

    Agent of the Fates
    Baleful Eidolon
    Borderland Minotaur
    Cavern Lampad
    Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass
    Felhide Minotaur
    Fleshmad Steed
    Ill-Tempered Cyclops
    Nyxborn Eidolon
    Odunos River Trawler
    Pharagax Giant
    Stormcaller of Keranos

    15 creatures

    Asphyxiate
    Bile Blight
    Bolt of Keranos
    Fall of the Hammer
    Sip of Hemlock

    8 other spells

    Sideboard
    Archetype of Imagination
    Battlewise Hoplite
    Benthic Giant
    Cavalry Pegasus
    Charging Badger
    Commune with the Gods
    Courser of Kruphix
    Crackling Triton
    Crypsis
    Dauntless Onslaught
    Ephara's Warden
    Eye Gouge
    Fate Foretold
    Feral Invocation
    Gainsay
    Glare of Heresy
    God-Favored General
    Gorgon's Head
    Great Hart
    Griffin Dreamfinder
    Impetuous Sunchaser
    Karametra's Favor
    Kiora, the Crashing Wave
    Lagonna-Band Elder
    Leonin Snarecaster
    Loathsome Catoblepas
    Mnemonic Wall
    Mortal's Ardor
    Nessian Demolok
    Nimbus Naiad
    Nullify
    Nyxborn Shieldmate
    Nyxborn Triton
    Ordeal of Nylea
    Oreskos Sun Guide
    Peak Eruption
    Pheres-Band Tromper
    Portent of Betrayal
    Priest of Iroas
    Prognostic Sphinx
    Prowler's Helm
    Retraction Helix
    Returned Phalanx
    Satyr Wayfinder
    Scholar of Athreos
    Sealock Monster
    Sedge Scorpion
    Siren of the Fanged Coast
    Soldier of the Pantheon
    Sphinx's Disciple
    Spirit of the Labyrinth
    Staunch-Hearted Warrior
    Stratus Walk
    Stymied Hopes
    Thassa's Bounty
    Thassa's Rebuff
    Time to Feed
    Tormented Hero
    Traveling Philosopher

    60 sideboard cards



    Roderick Ioerger – Born of the Gods Sealed – Black-Green

    Main Deck

    40 cards

    Forest
    Swamp

    17 lands

    Baleful Eidolon
    Courser of Kruphix
    Disciple of Phenax
    Erebos's Emissary
    Graverobber Spider
    Gray Merchant of Asphodel
    Keepsake Gorgon
    Nylea's Disciple
    Nyxborn Eidolon
    Odunos River Trawler
    Pharika's Mender
    Pheres-Band Tromper
    Sedge Scorpion
    Servant of Tymaret
    Spiteful Returned
    Voyaging Satyr

    19 creatures

    Hunter's Prowess
    Lash of the Whip
    Pharika's Cure
    Raised by Wolves

    4 other spells

    Sideboard
    Akroan Skyguard
    Archetype of Finality
    Artisan's Sorrow
    Asphodel Wanderer
    Bolt of Keranos
    Borderland Minotaur
    Breaching Hippocamp
    Burnished Hart
    Charging Badger
    Chosen by Heliod
    Claim of Erebos
    Coastline Chimera
    Crypsis
    Deepwater Hypnotist
    Defend the Hearth
    Destructive Revelry
    Ephara's Enlightenment
    Ephara's Radiance
    Epiphany Storm
    Evanescent Intellect
    Fall of the Hammer
    Fleetfeather Sandals
    Fleshmad Steed
    Gift of Immortality
    Gorgon's Head
    Great Hart
    Ill-Tempered Cyclops
    Impetuous Sunchaser
    Karametra's Favor
    Leonin Snarecaster
    Nimbus Naiad
    Nullify
    Nylea's Presence
    Ordeal of Heliod
    Oreskos Sun Guide
    Pharagax Giant
    Pheres-Band Centaurs
    Prescient Chimera
    Ray of Dissolution
    Retraction Helix
    Returned Phalanx
    Reverent Hunter
    Satyr Firedancer
    Satyr Nyx-Smith
    Satyr Wayfinder
    Scholar of Athreos
    Sealock Monster
    Sphinx's Disciple
    Staunch-Hearted Warrior
    Stratus Walk
    Temple of Abandon
    Titan's Strength
    Triton Shorethief
    Vulpine Goliath

    61 sideboard cards



    Matthew Chung – Born of the Gods Sealed – Red-Green

    Main Deck

    40 cards

    Forest
    10  Mountain

    17 lands

    Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass
    Everflame Eidolon
    Flamespeaker Adept
    Impetuous Sunchaser
    Nessian Asp
    Nyxborn Wolf
    Pheres-Band Tromper
    Purphoros's Emissary
    Reverent Hunter
    Stormbreath Dragon
    Swordwise Centaur

    15 creatures

    Anger of the Gods
    Fall of the Hammer
    Fearsome Temper
    Portent of Betrayal
    Rise to the Challenge
    Savage Surge
    Thunderous Might
    Warriors' Lesson

    8 other spells

    Sideboard
    Aerie Worshippers
    Akroan Skyguard
    Asphyxiate
    Baleful Eidolon
    Benthic Giant
    Boulderfall
    Cavalry Pegasus
    Cavern Lampad
    Champion of Stray Souls
    Claim of Erebos
    Commune with the Gods
    Crackling Triton
    Cutthroat Maneuver
    Deepwater Hypnotist
    Defend the Hearth
    Divination
    Dragon Mantle
    Epiphany Storm
    Evanescent Intellect
    Eye Gouge
    Fated Return
    Fleetfeather Sandals
    Floodtide Serpent
    Ghostblade Eidolon
    Gray Merchant of Asphodel
    Great Hart
    Griffin Dreamfinder
    Kiora's Follower
    Last Breath
    Leonin Snarecaster
    Loathsome Catoblepas
    Lost in a Labyrinth
    Medomai the Ageless
    Messenger's Speed
    Mnemonic Wall
    Mogis's Marauder
    Nessian Demolok
    Nullify
    Nyxborn Eidolon
    Prescient Chimera
    Priest of Iroas
    Read the Bones
    Rescue from the Underworld
    Sea God's Revenge
    Sealock Monster
    Servant of Tymaret
    Setessan Battle Priest
    Siren of the Fanged Coast
    Siren of the Silent Song
    Spiteful Returned
    Thassa's Bounty
    Time to Feed
    Unknown Shores
    Wavecrash Triton
    Witches' Eye

    60 sideboard cards



    Brandon Bagley – Born of the Gods Sealed – Blue-Green

    Main Deck

    40 cards

    Forest
    Island
    Temple of Abandon

    17 lands

    Breaching Hippocamp
    Centaur Battlemaster
    Deepwater Hypnotist
    Flitterstep Eidolon
    Graverobber Spider
    Leafcrown Dryad
    Nessian Wilds Ravager
    Nyxborn Triton
    Nyxborn Wolf
    Prognostic Sphinx
    Prophet of Kruphix
    Sealock Monster
    Sedge Scorpion
    Swordwise Centaur

    16 creatures

    Feral Invocation
    Mortal's Resolve
    Oracle's Insight
    Raised by Wolves
    Retraction Helix
    Stratus Walk
    Voyage's End

    7 other spells

    Sideboard
    Anvilwrought Raptor
    Aqueous Form
    Asphodel Wanderer
    Bolt of Keranos
    Borderland Minotaur
    Coordinated Assault
    Cutthroat Maneuver
    Dawn to Dusk
    Demolish
    Disciple of Phenax
    Elite Skirmisher
    Epiphany Storm
    Excoriate
    Eye Gouge
    Fall of the Hammer
    Fanatic of Mogis
    Fate Foretold
    Favored Hoplite
    Fleetfeather Sandals
    Forsaken Drifters
    Gainsay
    Gray Merchant of Asphodel
    Guardians of Meletis
    Hold at Bay
    Hopeful Eidolon
    Ill-Tempered Cyclops
    Karametra's Favor
    Kragma Butcher
    Loyal Pegasus
    Marshmist Titan
    Mogis, God of Slaughter
    Mortal's Ardor
    Nyxborn Eidolon
    Nyxborn Shieldmate
    Ordeal of Heliod
    Oreskos Sun Guide
    Portent of Betrayal
    Prescient Chimera
    Reap What Is Sown
    Returned Centaur
    Revoke Existence
    Rise to the Challenge
    Shredding Winds
    Shrike Harpy
    Spearpoint Oread
    Spiteful Returned
    Stoneshock Giant
    Thunderous Might
    Unknown Shores
    Vulpine Goliath
    Warchanter of Mogis
    Whims of the Fates

    60 sideboard cards



    Brennan Davis – Born of the Gods Sealed – White-Blue

    Main Deck

    40 cards

    Island
    Plains

    17 lands

    Benthic Giant
    Brimaz, King of Oreskos
    Daxos of Meletis
    Ghostblade Eidolon
    Griffin Dreamfinder
    Master of Waves
    Nyxborn Shieldmate
    Oreskos Sun Guide
    Pheres-Band Centaurs
    Vaporkin
    Vortex Elemental

    14 creatures

    Chosen by Heliod
    Divine Verdict
    Nullify
    Ordeal of Heliod
    Ordeal of Thassa
    Stratus Walk
    Triton Tactics

    9 other spells

    Sideboard
    Akroan Conscriptor
    Arbor Colossus
    Asphyxiate
    Baleful Eidolon
    Bolt of Keranos
    Boon of Erebos
    Champion of Stray Souls
    Charging Badger
    Commune with the Gods
    Crackling Triton
    Ephara's Radiance
    Evanescent Intellect
    Eye Gouge
    Fall of the Hammer
    Fanatic of Mogis
    Fanatic of Xenagos
    Fearsome Temper
    Felhide Brawler
    Floodtide Serpent
    Guardians of Meletis
    Heroes' Podium
    Hold at Bay
    Horizon Chimera
    Ill-Tempered Cyclops
    Impetuous Sunchaser
    Karametra's Favor
    Lash of the Whip
    Leafcrown Dryad
    Lightning Strike
    Minotaur Skullcleaver
    Nemesis of Mortals
    Nessian Wilds Ravager
    Ordeal of Nylea
    Pheres-Band Raiders
    Pheres-Band Tromper
    Portent of Betrayal
    Ray of Dissolution
    Returned Phalanx
    Revoke Existence
    Scouring Sands
    Sea God's Revenge
    Setessan Battle Priest
    Setessan Oathsworn
    Shrike Harpy
    Spearpoint Oread
    Sphinx's Disciple
    Spiteful Returned
    Swordwise Centaur
    Traveler's Amulet
    Unknown Shores
    Unravel the Æther
    Voyaging Satyr
    Vulpine Goliath
    Warchanter of Mogis
    Weight of the Underworld
    Wild Celebrants
    Witches' Eye
    Yoked Ox

    61 sideboard cards



    Zachary Freeman – Born of the Gods Sealed – Blue-Black

    Main Deck

    40 cards

    Island
    Swamp
    Temple of Malice

    17 lands

    Abhorrent Overlord
    Archetype of Finality
    Baleful Eidolon
    Breaching Hippocamp
    Chorus of the Tides
    Deepwater Hypnotist
    Erebos's Emissary
    Flitterstep Eidolon
    Floodtide Serpent
    Master of Waves
    Nighthowler
    Nimbus Naiad
    Omenspeaker
    Triton Fortune Hunter
    Vaporkin

    15 creatures

    Annul
    Asphyxiate
    Crypsis
    Fated Infatuation
    Lash of the Whip
    Pharika's Cure
    Read the Bones
    Sip of Hemlock

    8 other spells

    Sideboard
    Aspect of Hydra
    Asphodel Wanderer
    Benthic Giant
    Borderland Minotaur
    Boulderfall
    Centaur Battlemaster
    Charging Badger
    Claim of Erebos
    Cutthroat Maneuver
    Deathbellow Raider
    Defend the Hearth
    Elite Skirmisher
    Ephara's Radiance
    Epiphany Storm
    Excoriate
    Fated Conflagration
    Felhide Brawler
    Floodtide Serpent
    Ghostblade Eidolon
    Glimpse the Sun God
    Gorgon's Head
    Graverobber Spider
    Griffin Dreamfinder
    Grisly Transformation
    Hold at Bay
    Ill-Tempered Cyclops
    Leafcrown Dryad
    Leonin Snarecaster
    Lightning Volley
    Loyal Pegasus
    March of the Returned
    Marshmist Titan
    Messenger's Speed
    Mortal's Resolve
    Nessian Demolok
    Nylea's Disciple
    Nyxborn Shieldmate
    Nyxborn Wolf
    Ordeal of Heliod
    Ordeal of Purphoros
    Priest of Iroas
    Prowler's Helm
    Reckless Reveler
    Revoke Existence
    Satyr Piper
    Scouring Sands
    Setessan Griffin
    Silent Artisan
    Snake of the Golden Grove
    Stymied Hopes
    Swordwise Centaur
    Thassa's Bounty
    Thunderous Might
    Time to Feed
    Titan's Strength
    Traveler's Amulet
    Vanquish the Foul

    60 sideboard cards





     

  • Saturday, 12:35 p.m. – Standard's Evolution

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Buenos Aires. Cincinnati. Beijing. And now, Phoenix.

    Four Grand Prix weekends, all taking place in sequence, have shown the development and evolution of the Standard format across multiple continents. While Standard generally showcases known archetypes, it is through the accurate prediction of the metagame and the changes that the top archetypes go through that shows the evolution and re-shaping of Standard.

    With Grand Prix Phoenix set to show us the latest in Standard, it seems appropriate to look back on the past month and see what has led to Phoenix's metagame.

    Let's start with Buenos Aires, an event taken down by Brazilian Philippe Monlevade and his Jund Monsters deck.


    While Esper, Mono-Black Devotion, and Mono-Blue Devotion were two of the more heavily played archetypes that weekend, Jund Monsters followed closely behind these archetypes as the fourth most common deck among players who returned to Day Two of Buenos Aires, and it's clear as to why. Jund Monsters packs a powerful variety of threats ranging from big creatures like Polukranos, World Eater and Reaper of the Wilds to devastating card-advantage engines such as Courser of Kruphix and Domri Rade. As a side note, if you haven't had both Domri and Courser in play at the same time, you haven't experienced one of Standard's true delights, as the two play very well off of each other.

    Perhaps Monlevade's biggest strength was the prevalence of Mono-Blue Devotion, which he blasted through in the Quarterfinals and Finals. Polukranos happens to be a fine answer to Master of Waves, and his gargantuan size makes him a potent threat capable of ending the game in mere turns. Course of Kruphix's incremental life gain and card-advantage effect also proves useful, ensuring the Jund Monsters player typically draws spells on their turn while the lands come into play off the top of their deck.

    However, this archetype's prevalence did not last long, as the two most commonly seen archetypes of Standard, Black and Blue Devotion respectively, have some powerful hate for green creatures.

    In Grand Prix Cincinnati, Jund Monsters was unable to crack into the Top 8 despite being the fourth most played archetype on Day Two of the event. A lot of the cause for this was seen in the Black decks seen in the Top 8, all of which packed a minimum of two Lifebane Zombies in their main deck.

    Then there was this list from Clyde Martin:

    Clyde Martin
    Grand Prix Cincinnati 2014 – Standard - Top 8

    Main Deck

    60 cards

    Mutavault
    19  Swamp

    23 lands

    Desecration Demon
    Herald of Torment
    Lifebane Zombie
    Mogis's Marauder
    Pain Seer
    Rakdos Cackler
    Tormented Hero

    25 creatures

    Bile Blight
    Devour Flesh
    Hero's Downfall
    Thoughtseize

    12 other spells

    Sideboard
    Dark Betrayal
    Devour Flesh
    Doom Blade
    Duress
    Erebos, God of the Dead

    15 sideboard cards



    This Mono-Black aggro list packs the full number of Lifebane Zombies in the main deck, which is particularly back-breaking against Jund Monsters given their heavy leaning on four mana green creatures. Blue Devotion also began to adapt white with this event, with Jeffrey Pyka piloting a U/w Devotion deck with four main-deck Detention Spheres to the Top 8. Combine this with the already efficient Tidebinder Mage in the match-up, and it's easy to see why Jund Monsters failed to crack into the Top 8.

    However, none of these decks were able to hold up against Esper Control, the dominant deck of the weekend, and the ultimate winner of Grand Prix Cincinnati in the hands of Kyle Boggemes.


    Moving on to Beijing, where the Standard metagame makes a huge shift. Mono-Black Devotion was the clear leader in Day Two, followed shortly behind by Esper Control, Boros Burn, and Jund Monsters. However, neither previous Grand Prix winners were able to crack into the Top 8 for this event, with both decks missing the Top 8 cut in Beijing. While Esper colors made it into the Semifinal, it was in the form of Ken Sawada's Esper Midrange instead.

    Boros Burn, however, made a huge showing at Beijing with three players burning their way to the Top 8, including Grand Prix Beijing finalist Sherwin Pu. The deck preys on both Mono-Black Devotion and Esper Control decks that lean too heavily on life-gain getting them out of a predicament, with the deck running multiple copies of Skullcrack to shut down any blow-outs from Gray Merchant of Asphodel or Sphinx's Revelation.

    However, Pu was ultimately dispatched by Yuuya Watanabe's Mono-Black Devotion, and it's got some interesting card choices.

    Yuuya Watanabe
    Grand Prix Beijing 2014 – Top 8


    Watanabe did more than earn his staggering seventh Grand Prix title (tying Hall-of-Famer Kai Budde for most Grand Prix wins). He also introduced some new tech to Mono-Black Devotion. While the four main-deck Lifebane Zombies are an expected metagame trend and perfectly good at disrupting Jund Monsters as well as randomly hosing a couple of Blue Devotion's creatures (with even more creatures in that deck now vulnerable to Lifebane Zombie due to the archetype's dip into white), it was the four copies of Staff of the Death Magus that served Watanabe well through the Top 8, the three mana artifact proving to be a crucial element against Boros Burn, especially in his Semifinal match against Ben Ge. Watanbe accurately predicted a metagame flourishing with Boros Burn, and his prediction was rewarded at this event.

    With Watanabe's victory fresh in everyone's heads, as well as Lars Dam's victory with Black Devotion splashing red at the 2013 Magic Online Championship, Black Devotion is the deck to beat going into Grand Prix Phoenix. How will players adjust to the expected turn-out for this archetype? What is the correct deck to run if you're trying to get an accurate read on the metagame?

    We'll find out later today, both as we see the metagame unfold, and as we talk to players and get their thoughts on the current Standard format.




     

  • Quick Hits - What is the best strategy for combating Black Devotion?

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • No. 11 Ranked Player Alexander Hayne: "My personal favorite way is to cast big Sphinx's Revelations and out-draw them, using scry lands to keep your best cards on top of your library to keep them hidden from hand disruption.

    No. 6 Ranked Player Shahar Shenhar: "I would say Dredge. Dredge is the best deck you can play to just beat Mono-Black. You could also play a Mono-Red creature deck. Staff of the Death Magus is not as insane against a Mono-Red creature deck as it is against the burn deck.

    Grand Prix Minneapolis 2012 Champion Christian Calcano: "It's tough. Normally I'd say the Boros Burn decks, but the Mono-Black decks adapting with Staff of the Death Magus in the sideboard. I just think the white-blue control decks are the best way. They have a lot of answers for what that deck's trying to do.

    Pro Tour Born of the Gods Quarterfinalist Tim Rivera: "I plan for the mirror. Erebos, God of the Dead and Duress effects. I think Mono-Black is the best deck so that's my goal.

    Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa: "What I like to do is have very powerful cards, since they have discard spells and it's easy to get into a top-deck war against Mono-Black. Sphinx's Revelation, for example, is a card you'd want in a top-deck war since you'd be ahead in those situations. The other way to combat is to beat them very quickly, but now they have Staff of the Death Magus so that's kind of awkward. It's a hard deck to beat since it has cards that are good against everything. Maybe Dredge, since your guys are big and are hard to deal with, and they come back after they deal with them.



     

  • Quick Hits - What is the most underrated removal spell in Standard?

    by Mike Rosenberg and Adam Styborski

  • 2011 World Championship Semifinalist Conley Woods: "Turn & Burn. I would play more if I wasn't playing five colors. If I was just Blue-Red Green or Blue-Red I'd play two or three right now. It kills Mutavaults, deals with Blood Baron of Vizkopas, and sets up a lot of two-for-ones.

    No. 23 Ranked Player Eric Froehlich: "Dreadbore. It has more functionality against control decks. Every deck is very powerful, either with creatures or planeswalkers. Dreadbore deals with them either way.

    Hall of Famer Brian Kibler: "Shock. Shock costs one mana, and against aggressive decks you're playing against time rather than value. Being able to kill something for one mana and play something else that same turn is valuable. You're mostly trying to buy time against a lot of those decks.

    Five-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Ben Lundquist: ""The most underrated removal spell I think is Dimir Charm. It's like Last Breath but it can also counter things like Thoughtseize and Rakdos's Return.

    No. 6 Ranked Player Shahar Shenhar: "Golgari Charm and Abrupt Decay. They are so versatile. For Golgari Charm, against Elspseth, Sun's Champion for example you can -1/-1 their team and attack in when their plan is to chump-block. It kills Underworld Connections, it can regenerate your team and it kills Detention Spheres end-of-turn. Abrupt Decay is kind of the same thing. It doesn't stop Elspeth, but it's a main-deck card since it can kill almost anything. It can kill both bestow creatures, Nighthowler and Herald of Torment.



     

  • Saturday, 4:53 p.m. – Top Tables Metagame – Round 5

    by Adam Styborski

  • Coming off Grand Prix Beijing, Mono-Black Devotion was among the most popular archetypes in Standard. It was the most played deck on Day 2, and tied for making Top 8 there as well. Boros Burn was the other high-placing deck of the weekend since it was one of the ways to handle the black menace, but Esper Control-playing Yuuya Watanabe demonstrated what Staff of the Death Magus could do against the faster deck. With that technology available, Mono-Black Devotion was still among the best positioned for Phoenix, with a cadre of popular options behind it: Mono-Blue Devotion, White Weenie, "Monster" decks of Jund and Red-Green varieties, Blue Devotion with a black or more often white splash, and White-Black Midrange and Control.

    Five rounds into the showdown at Phoenix, this is what was among the top twenty-five tables:

    Archetype Count
    Esper Control 11
    Mono-Black Devotion 6
    Red-Green Midrange 5
    Boros Burn 5
    Mono-Blue Devotion 4
    White-Black Midrange 3
    Mono-Red Aggro 3
    Jund Monsters 3
    Black-Red Aggro 2
    Azorius Control 2
    White-Black-Red Aggro 1
    White Weenie 1
    Mono-Green Devotion 1
    Jund Dredge 1
    Big Naya 1
    Bant Control 1

    Or, summarized by percentages:


    While it's just a taste of the data – there were many more going into the round with a 4-0 record – it does point in the directions we expected. Esper Control and Mono-Black Devotion account for a third of the decks across the top tables, with Red-Green Midrange (Monsters) and Boros Burn close behind to round out the top half. Mostly other aggressive decks with a splash of Azorius Control filled things out.

    Was this really what everyone was expecting? We caught up with currently 10th-ranked and 2013 Player of the Year Josh Utter-Leyton for his thoughts. Coming into Phoenix, Utter-Leyton expected "Esper Control and Mono-Black Devotion being the big two – more popular than everything else by a fair margin. The next most popular in order: Blue Devotion, Monsters with or without splashing black, and Burn decks."

    2013 Player of the Year Josh Utter-Leyton is known for his knack at understanding Constructed formats.

    We gave Utter-Leyton a chance to look at what we pulled from the top tables. "That was pretty much exactly what I said, right?" Utter-Leyton laughed at the eerie prescience. With Red-Green Midrange pushing larger than expected, why would someone choose that deck over one of the other options? "If Esper Control's the deck to beat," Utter-Leyton explained, "Monsters is good against it. Something like Mono-Blue isn't."

    It's a little early for predictions, but we'll follow up with another look in two rounds to see evolution at work. What do you expect we'll find?




     

  • Saturday, 7:17 p.m. – Top Tables Metagame – Round 7

    by Adam Styborski

  • It's over halfway through Day 1 of Grand Prix Phoenix, and the press to make Day 2 is beginning in earnest. As players see and face down more opponents, those with winning lists begin to rise to the top. Two round earlier it was clear Esper Control and Midrange, as well as Black Devotion decks, were the dominant share of the top tables metagame. This is how it looked across the top twenty-four tables going into Round 7:

    Archetype Count
    Black Devotion 13
    Esper Control & Midrange 7
    Blue Devotion 7
    Jund Monsters 4
    Bant Control 3
    Boros Burn 3
    White-Green Aggro 2
    Black-Red Aggro 2
    Mono-Red Aggro 2
    Azorius Control 1
    Red-Green Midrange 1
    Jund Dredge 1
    White-Blue-Red Control 1
    Mono-Green Devotion 1

    (Note: Blue Devotion and Black Devotion include splash variants of the Mono-Versions)

    Again, as percentages of the field:


    Is this how the metagame of a mature format performs? Pro Tour Hall of Famer William "Huey" Jensen had been watching events unfold as a coverage commentator in Phoenix, so we asked him what he had seen so far.

    "Pretty much what I expected," Jensen said. "A lot of Esper. A sprinkling of Red-Green Monsters, Jund Monsters, a little Blue Devotion, but mostly Sphinx's Revelation decks and Black Devotion. Conley Wood's Five-Color Control deck was interesting, probably the most unique deck we've seen so far."

    A formidable player in his own right, Hall of Famer William Jensen was in front of the camera throughout Grand Prix Phoenix.

    What did he expect to see coming into the weekend? "Black Devotion and Esper. I wrote an article this week that looks at the Top 40 decks from the last three Standard Grand Prix – Top 16, Top 16, and Top 8 – and those two decks accounted for 55% of the Top 40."

    So is this what a mature format looks like? Jensen seemed to agree. "There's a little room for innovation," Jensen said. "I don't think there's a Tier 1 deck that hasn't been discovered, especially right now: Born of the Gods didn't have a big impact on Standard. A lot of decks have been Tier 1 since the release of Theros so I'd be surprised to find more then metagame tweaks at this point."

    What's the most compelling metagame tweak he's seen so far? "I think most notable tweak is the addition of red for Rakdos's Return to the Mono-Black deck," Jensen said. "Rakdos's Return is very good against Esper and the Mono-Black mirror. It's also pretty good against Burn, interestingly."

    Jensen's succinct summary of Grand Prix Phoenix so far: "It's been the status quo. It's exactly what I expected to see."

    We'll follow up and see what the end of Day 1 has to say about maintaining the status quo of Born of the Gods Standard.




     

  • Round 8 Feature Match – Eric Froehlich (B/r Devotion) vs. Daniel Ward (Bant Control)

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • No. 23 Ranked Player Eric Froehlich put up an impressive finish with the touch of red that he added to the Black Devotion deck, finishing in the Top 16 and missing out thanks to some rough beats in the final rounds of Grand Prix Cincinnati. Today, he's playing the same general idea, but has some prepared with a few changes based on his expectations of what this week's metagame looks like.

    "I made a few changes to the deck. I really liked it," Froehlich said. "This tournament, I actually have no red cards in the main deck, but I have three Rakdos's Returns in the sideboard.. Rakdos's Return is one of the best cards in Standard, but at the same time it needs complements."

    On the other hand, a card that was missing from his 75 in Cincinnati – Pack Rat – has now made its appearance in his list. "I didn't play Pack Rat in my main deck [in Cincinnati], because I think it's a lot weaker in Standard and I still think that, but the decks that it is better against I thought were going to be more popular this week," Froehlich explained.

    The expected popularity of Yuuya Watanabe's Grand Prix Beijing-winning list would favor Pack Rat in the main deck, with Watanabe's one main-deck Bile Blight making way for Pack Rat to be a much stronger play. With the Blue Devotion decks now moving back to Mono-Blue, and away from variants running Temple of Enlightenment and Detention Sphere, Pack Rat is much better positioned strategy.

    The Rakdos's Returns work better out of the sideboard against decks like Esper and – surprisingly – the Jund Monsters decks since their deck can sometimes be too slow to deal with the card. "Against Esper, my plan morphs into stripping their hand of counterspells, letting them keep all their Detention Spheres and Supreme Verdicts. Just don't play things early, then hit them with Rakdos's Return," Froehlich said.

    The game plan has been working out for him all day, and his metagame call also accurate. Froehlich sits at 7-0 going into the eighth round against Daniel Ward, who is bringing Bant Control to the table.

    While Froehlich's ability to strip a control deck's hand would be powerful, it was not a guaranteed route to victory if the control player could draw Sphinx's Revelation at the right time.

    The Games

    While Froehlich simply played a Swamp and a Mutavault for his first two turns, Ward came out with immediate info on his deck archetype, casting Sylvan Caryatid off of a Breeding Pool and Hallowed Fountain. Froehlich was more than happy to put Underworld Connections onto the table with his opponent lacking any way to respond. When Froehlich drew a card, he revealed his red splash with a tapped Blood Crypt. An upkeep Devour Flesh forced a Syncopate from Ward, who chose to save his 0/3 creature.

    Daniel Ward

    With Ward now tapped out, Erebos, God of the Dead came down for Froehlich, who passed back with an Underworld Connections land on the table. Ward then fired back with Elspeth, Sun's Champion, which made three tokens. Lifebane Zombie revealed what Froehlich was up against: two Jace, Architect of Thought, Ætherling, and Azorius Charm. An attack from Erebos prompted a chump-block with one of Elspeth's tokens, but Ætherling from Ward with blue mana open gave him a nigh impervious threat gave Ward a chance.

    Froehlich fought back, casting Thoughtseize and stripping Ward of Azorius Charm. Lifebane Zombie cracked in for 3, and Gray Merchant of Asphodel post-combat dropped Ward to 8. Jace, Architect of Thought found Ward Kiora, the Crashing Wave. Ætherling cracked in for 4 unbloackable damage, and Ward passed back. Hero's Downfall dispatched Elspeth before it could go ultimate, and Lifebane Zombie finished off Jace, Architect of Thought. However, another Jace came down on the next turn, netting Ward Dissolve.

    No. 23 Ranked Player Eric Froehlich

    Froehlich dug two cards deep with Erebos. Hero's Downfall took out Ætherling, Ward unwilling to drop below three mana for a potential Dissolve on Gray Merchant of Asphodel, which would be lethal. The soldier tokens Elspeth had made attacked in, getting through for 4. Kiora, the Crashing Wave came down and went to one loyalty when Temple of Mystery left a card on top, as Ward drew and cast Supreme Verdict. Froehlich used Devour Flesh to sacrifice his Gray Merchant, gaining 4.

    When Froehlich had Whip of Erebos and an activation to bring the Gray Merchant back on the next turn, an attack with the Merchant and Erebos, God of the Dead locked up the game for Froehlich, who went from an Erebos and an Underworld Connections to a sudden 14 damage out of nowhere, prompting the players to move to Game 2.

    Ward had an optimal start in the second game with a second-turn Sylvan Caryatid, while Froehlich had no action at all to go with his lands as the game became draw-go. Thoughtseize on Froehlich's fifth turn prompted Negate, giving Froehlich the window to resolve Erebos, God of the Dead. It was prompted exiled with Detention Sphere, but this paved the way for Froehlich to cast Rakdos's Return for Ward's whole hand, putting Froehlich way ahead, and showcasing the power of Rakdos's Return against the Sphinx's Revelation decks.

    However, Dissolve to stop Froehlich's Desecration Demon from getting onto the board, and Elspeth, Sun's Champion put Ward back into the game. While Froehlich had Hero's Downfall to shut down the planeswalker, the three tokens it provided would be be a contending force to race Froehlich's Lifebane Zombie. However, 1/1 tokens have problems attacking into untapped Mutavaults, and despite Froehlich's glut of lands, two of the lands were Mutavaults, so he still had the advantage in the race.

    Detention Sphere from Froehlich swung that race back a bit, but Froehlich simply replaced his exiled zombie with another. Thoughtseize plucked Supreme Verdict out of Ward's hand, and Gray Merchant of Asphodel further sped up Froehlich's clock. Another Gray Merchant of Asphodel earned the handshake from Ward when Ward played his last card, Azorius Charm, to stave off lethal from Lifebane Zombie.

    Froehlich 2 – Ward 0




     

  • Bubble-Match Round-Up

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Going into the ninth and final round with 18 points, a 6-2 record, is always a little nerve-wracking. Today, a win secures your place into Day Two, and keeps the dream of a Top 8 alive. A loss, however, ensures that your time in the main event is at an end.

    A few notable 18 point matches are taking place in the final round of Day One. Who would be moving on, and who would be getting the sleep-in special that they did not sign up for?

    Table 48: Marc Lalague (Black Devotion) vs. Ryan Leeper (Black Devotion)

    The Black Devotion mirror match pitted two-time Grand Prix Champion Marc Lalague, coming off of a recent victory in Mexico City, against Ryan Leeper.

    However, a third Grand Prix title was not in Lalague's future, as Leeper dispatched his opponent in the Black Devotion mirror match 2-1.

    Table 60: Seth Manfield (Esper Control) vs. Joshua Piper (Junk)

    Seth Manfield has had a hot year, with a Grand Prix victory in Kansas City last July, a Top 8 finish at Grand Prix Toronto last year, and a Top 8 finish at Grand Prix Dallas Fort Worth a week after that, Manfield is in a good position to lock up gold and hopefully platinum for the following season. This is all on top of his 2013 Magic Online Championship appearance last week. However, his tournament life was on the line, as he faced off against Joshus Piper's Junk deck with his Standard mainstay, Esper Control.

    However, Manfield's experience served him well with the archetype, and he was able to overcome his opponent with a 2-0 victory.

    Table 62: Joey Keep (Naya Midrange) vs. David Ochoa (B/r Devotion)

    Platinum pro David Ochoa is looking to make up for a relatively unexciting first half of the season, and each solid Grand Prix finish will aid him in his pursuit of platinum for yet another year. His opponent, Joey Keep, was looking to add another early exit to Ochoa's rough season.

    David Ochoa

    However, Ochoa's Black/red-splash Devotion was able to defeat Keep and his Naya Midrange deck 2-1 in the final round, giving Ochoa another shot at adding a solid Grand Prix finish to his year.

    Table 90: Chris Corrente (Mono-Red Aggro) vs. Josh Utter-Leyton (B/u Devotion)

    No. 10 Ranked Player Josh Utter-Leyton has a unique take on Black Devotion this weekend, with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver making an appearance over Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Like his friend and teammate David Ochoa, Utter-Leyton has also had a relatively uneventful first-half of the 2013-2014 season, and a solid Grand Prix finish here in Phoenix would be warmly welcomed.

    No. 10 Ranked Player Josh Utter-Leyton

    Unfortunately for Utter-Leyton, that finish would elude him this weekend, as Corrente defeated Utter-Leyton 2-1 in their final round match.

    Table 109: Marlon Avila Gutierrez (B/r Devotion) vs. Alexander Lapping (Esper Control)

    Grand Prix Dallas Fort Worth 2013 Champion Marlon Avila Gutierrez was one of the few players who made the trek up to Phoenix from Mexico. As the first Mexican national to win a United States Grand Prix, Gutierrez sought to take another trophy back to Mexico City with him. However, he found himself needing a win in the final round with his Black Devotion deck (splashing a touch of red) against Alexander Lapping's Esper Control in the final round.

    However, his deck did not disappoint, and Gutierrez was able to advance with a 2-0 victory.

    Table 111: Vlad Parascheiv (Black Devotion) vs. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (Esper Control)

    Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa was looking for a third Grand Prix Top 8 to add to his season's big finishes. The Brazilian pro had a lot of work to do to reach platinum status for the year, or to catch up with current point leader Willy Edel for South America's spot in the World Championship.

    Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

    Unfortunately for him, this weekend would not be one of those finishes he was looking for. His Esper Deck succumbed to Vlad Paracheiv's Black Devotion deck, who dispatched the Hall of Famer 2-1 in the final round.




     

  • Saturday, 9:25 p.m. – Day 1 Undefeated and Top Tables Metagame – Round 9

    by Adam Styborski

  • Undefeated.

    It's a nice crown to take away from Day One of a Grand Prix. Starting Day Two well positioned for a Top 8 run is what players work hard to find, and there were ten who stood poised for the prize. These are the matches we saw.


    Michael Peterson, with a typical Mono-Black Devotion deck, faced off against Kai Ruan with the Grand Prix Cincinnati-winning Esper Control deck. In this case, however, it was Peterson that cleared the decisive match two games to zero.


    23rd-ranked Eric Froehlich and his splash-red Black Devotion list was paired against Michael Bonacini with a Mono-Black deck of his own. The red proved the edge, putting Froehlich into perfection for Day One in two games to zero.


    2013 Word Champion and currently 6th-ranked Shahar Shenhar had his take on Esper Control to try and defeat Andreas Ganz with another Black Devotion deck splashing red. A red edge was not enough as Shenhar defeated Ganz without dropping a game.


    Nathan Holiday, with a Mono-Blue Devotion list, aimed his perfect hopes against Chad White's blistering Red Aggro deck. Master of Waves with protection from red proved invaluable as Holiday carried through, winning two games to White's zero.


    2012 Magic Online Champion Dmitry Butakov brought the atypical Bant Control deck to the affair, with Brandon Bercovich's traditional Mono-Black Devotion standing in the way. Butakov's switch from Esper Control in the previous weekend's 2013 Magic Online Championship proved worthy as he stepped past Bercovich, two games to zero.

    There was much more than just the ten running towards undefeated at the end of Day One. Here's the complete breakdown of archetypes from the top twenty-five tables going into Round 9:

    Archetype Count
    Black Devotion 13
    Esper Control & Midrange 10
    Blue Devotion 8
    Jund Monsters 4
    Azorius Control 3
    Mono-Red Aggro 3
    Red-Green Monsters 2
    Bant Control 2
    White-Black Midrange 1
    Mono-Green Devotion 1
    Red Burn 1
    Boros Burn 1
    White-Green Aggro 1

    (Note: Blue Devotion and Black Devotion include splash variants of the mono-colored versions)

    And as a more digestible pie:

    Another Caption

    At a glance it's clear the cluster of proven decks continues to tighten, with Black Devotion, Esper, and Blue Devotion decks filling nearly two-thirds of the entire top twenty-five tables. Jund Monsters, Azorius Control, and Red Aggro – all decks that have had varying levels of popularity at the last several Grand Prix – remained close behind.

    Metagame adjustments can likely explain the dramatic drop in the performance of Boros Burn compared to Grand Prix Beijing, but the surprising star of Day One is the rise of Bant Control featuring favorites like Kiora, the Crashing Wave. It may not be an entirely new archetype for the weekend, but we'll be watching the performance of the new face closely as it is one of the five undefeated decks – joining Esper Control, Mono-Blue Devotion, and two Black Devotion.

    We'll return with the complete Day Two metagame breakdown tomorrow morning.




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