gprich14

Liu Shatters the Richmond Record

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The letter I!t was a daunting task on Saturday morning—to look at a field of 4,300 players and know that within 36 hours it would have to be whittled down to one Modern stalwart. This was the largest Constructed Grand Prix ever; we even spilled across into different event halls. How could it be done? But by using all the Magic in Richmond, and over 15 rounds of fierce competition, we've found our last player standing—Brian Liu, armed with his Kiki Pod.

The field seemed open, with over twenty archetypes floating around the top tables. But as the weekend coalesced, some decks stood head-and-shoulders above the rest. Pod variants put five players in the Top 8 and Affinity put up two. Though Affinity seemed well-positioned to take the finals, it was right and proper for the deck that dominated the Top 8 placards to dominate the finals. Surprisingly, Twin put one lonely player in Top 8, and Storm was nowhere to be found.

Modern continues to evolve since the bannings and unbannings and since Pro Tour Born of the Gods. But there's still much to explore, and this amorphous Modern format keeps slipping through our fingers the moment we tighten our grips. We'll find what's next for Modern at Grand Prix Minneapolis, but before then we've got plenty of Born of the Gods Standard and Limited left to explore. There are eight more Grand Prix between here and the Twin Cities, and I have a feeling that by then the format will have shifted once again.

Have a great evening from Richmond, Virginia—the new home of the largest Constructed Grand Prix!




Quarterfinals   Semifinals   Finals   Champion
1 Michael Sigrist   Michael Sigrist, 2-0        
8 Luis D Scott-Vargas   Vipin Chackonal, 2-0
       
4 Vipin Chackonal   Vipin Chackonal, 2-1   Brian Liu, 2-1
5 Jamie Parke    
       
2 Oscar Jones   Oscar Jones, 2-1
7 Josh McClain   Brian Liu, 2-0
       
3 Ben Friedman   Brian Liu, 2-0
6 Brian Liu    









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EVENT COVERAGE INFORMATION
 1.  Brian Liu $4,000
 2.  Vipin Chackonal $2,700
 3.  Michael Sigrist $1,500
 4.  Oscar Jones $1,500
 5.  Ben Friedman $1,000
 6.  Jamie Parke $1,000
 7.  Josh McClain $1,000
 8.  Luis D Scott-Vargas $1,000
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  • Top 16 Decklists

    by Adam Styborski

  • All players who ended Grand Prix Richmond with no more than two losses will be awarded invitations to Pro Tour Journy into Nyx. These lists cover through 18th place finish in the event.



    Alex Rochette - Affinity
    Grand Prix Richmond - Modern






    Kevin Gerhart - Affinity
    Grand Prix Richmond - Modern



    Shaheen Soorani - WUR Control
    Grand Prix Richmond - Modern




     

  • Top 8 Decklists

    by Adam Styborski


  • Michael Silgrist - Affinity
    Grand Prix Richmond Top 8 - Modern



    Vipin Chackonal - Affinity
    Grand Prix Richmond Top 8 - Modern








     

  • Top 8 Profiles

    by Adam Styborski


  • Grand Prix Richmond Top 8


    Luis Scott-Vargas

    Age: 31
    Hometown: Oakland, CA
    Occupation: Vice President, ChannelFireball.com


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    5 Pro Tour Top 8s, 11 Grand Prix Top 8, Pro Tour Hall of Fame Class of 2013, US National Champion 2007

    What deck are you playing, and why?
    Melira Pod because it's powerful and versatile against and open field. Also can't get hated easily.

    If you were playing Modern tomorrow, what would you change about your deck?
    The main deck Thrun, the Last Troll wasn't good. Maybe play a fourth Noble Hierarch instead.

    What was the best card in your sideboard, and why?
    Thoughtseize, because it comes in against a ton of decks (though maybe Kataki, War's Wage since I played five Affinity decks).




    Mike Sigrist

    Age: 31
    Hometown: Mansfield, MA
    Occupation: Student


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    Played in some Pro Tours, Top 8 Pro Tour Boston 2003

    What deck are you playing, and why?
    Affinity. It loses to cards, not decks.

    If you were playing Modern tomorrow, what would you change about your deck?
    Gut a Rule of Law for Grafdigger's Cage in the sideboard.

    What was the best card in your sideboard, and why?
    Grafdigger's Cage. It won a couple of games that were of out reach otherwide.




    Brian Liu

    Age: 22
    Hometown: Toronto, Canada
    Occupation: Student


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    Sacrificing Linvala, Keeper of Silence with Birthing Pod to lose the finals of a PTQ against an opponent playing Splinter Twin

    What deck are you playing, and why?
    Kiki-Pod, since it has game against most of the Modern Field and attacks from multiple angles.

    If you were playing Modern tomorrow, what would you change about your deck?
    Nothing

    What was the best card in your sideboard, and why?
    Fiery Justice. It sets my opponent's very far deck.




    Ben Friedman

    Age: 20
    Hometown: Baltimore, MD
    Occupation: Co-Owern with Joe Dimestria, Day1MTG


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    3 StarCityGames Invitations Top 8s, 2 Grand Prix Top 8s, Stole Jacob Wilson from Kea

    What deck are you playing, and why?

    Melira Pod. It has more tutor tagrtes than I have shout-outs:
    Joe Dimestria, Christian Calcano, Matt Costa, Jacob WIlson, Kurt Spiess, Shahar Shenhar, Josh McClain, Sma Pardee, Noah Walker, Pete Ingram, Dylan Donegan, Save Shiels, Jason Ford, Alex Majalton, Steve Dupal, Max Brown, Jermol Jupiter, and of course Branch Stanton

    If you were playing Modern tomorrow, what would you change about your deck?
    Fewer sleeves. More dice in the front pocket, and a few more Day1MTG tokens.

    What was the best card in your sideboard, and why?
    The $5 scratch-off ticket Joe gave me. Very lucky!




    Josh McClain

    Age: 24
    Hometown: Iowa City, Iowa
    Occupation: Student


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    1st at Grand Prix Detroit; 2nd at Grand Prix Miami; 11th at Pro Tour Born of the Gods.

    What deck are you playing, and why?
    Melira Pod. I've been playing the deck for over a year and am very comfortable with it. It's also one of the hardest decks to hate out.

    If you were playing Modern tomorrow, what would you change about your deck?
    If the mirror gets more popular, I think I might re-add the second Viscera Seer. I didn't play against Storm once, so the Ethersworn Canonist was pretty bad.

    What was the best card in your sideboard, and why?
    Entomber Exarch. It gives you so much game against the combo decks, while also being good against control decks.




    Oscar Jones

    Age: 16
    Hometown: Salt Lake City, UT
    Occupation: Student


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    2012 Magic Online Championship Series Finalist, Winner of Oasis Games' Tuesday Night Draft

    What deck are you playing, and why?
    Melira Pod because it's the best deck if you have experience with it.

    If you were playing Modern tomorrow, what would you change about your deck?
    I could see adding a second Slaughter Pact to the sideboard, but I would know for sure what card ot cut for it.

    What was the best card in your sideboard, and why?
    Entomber Exarch. It drastically improves your worst matchups.




    Vipin Chackoral

    Age: 25 (It's my birthday today!)
    Hometown: Freehold, New Jersey
    Occupation: Accountant


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    1st place at FNM.

    What deck are you playing, and why?
    Affinity. I've been playing it for almost a year. I know the deck in and out.

    If you were playing Modern tomorrow, what would you change about your deck?
    Absolutely nothing.

    What was the best card in your sideboard, and why?
    Thoughtseize, because of its versatility and its power against combo decks




    Jamie Parke

    Age: 32
    Hometown: NYC, New York
    Occupation: Miser


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    2 Worlds Top 8s (1999, 2008)2 Grand Prix Top 8s (New Orleans 2000, Indianapolis 2008)1 Junior Worlds Finalist (1997)

    What deck are you playing, and why?
    Tempo Twin, because I was the most comfortable with it. There are so many decks to choose from and no clear best deck, so familiarity won out. (PS - Josh Ravitz has a different name for this particular build; ask him about it next time you see him.)

    If you were playing Modern tomorrow, what would you change about your deck?
    Maybe make a few tweaks here and there, but nothing big.

    What was the best card in your sideboard, and why?
    Probably the second Flame Slash or the second Dispel. Both were very impactful and efficient spells.




     

  • Quarterfinals Round-Up

    by Marc Calderaro

  • Luis Scott-Vargas (Melira Pod) vs. Michael Sigrist (Affinity)

    This is a return to the Top 8 for both these players. Michael Sigrist finished in the Top 8 Pro Tour Boston on Team Work With Josh. Though often in team competitions, only the Top 4 gets the spotlight, that doesn't take anything away from a Pro Tour Top 8 as far as I'm concerned. And as for Luis Scott-Vargas, I think he's made a Top 8 or two. I tried to think of a time as his Hall of Fame ring glittered in the sun.

    This is the match-up of the Top 8. Pod and Affinity are the most-represented decks in the Top 8. This match could be a harbinger of the finals.

    Sigrist felt great about the deck line-up. He was as confident as one can be going up against someone named Luis Scott-Vargas.

    Game One

    Darksteel Citadel, Memnite, Mox Opal, and Etched Champion were the turn-one plays from Sigrist. It was a decent start, I guess.


    "That it?" Scott-Vargas stone faced. This was going to be tough for LSV.

    Next turn Sigrist added a Signal Pest and beat to 17-20. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Luis was down to 11. Though Kitchen Finks brought him back up to 13, he was still under pressure. Then Blinkmoth Nexus and Master of Etherium joined the party. Signal Pest gladly boosted them and the Etched Champion during the next attack step. LSV sunk to 5.

    He made a slight raspberry with his mouth when he drew his card for the turn. That might have well have been his concession.

    Apparently, on the West Coast, "Thpth" is actually shorthand for "I declare my scoop phase."

    Michael Sigrist 1 – 0 Luis Scott-Vargas


    Michael Sigrist

    Game Two

    LSV went first this game, and cast Overgrown Tomb and Birds of Paradise. This was as good a start as you can hope for. This allows for acceleration into the bigger spells and creatures that can impact the board.

    But although Sigrist was a half-turn behind, he went Blinkmoth Nexus, Mox Opal, Ornithopter, Vault Skirge, Dismember the Birds. Then went Springleaf Drum and Arcbound Ravager. Taking the totals to 16-15 in LSV's favor. If you just walked in on the game, not only would you have thought Sigrist had went first, you probably would have thought Scott-Vargas showed up late. Despite being behind, the Hall-of-Famer remained jovial.

    "Has that Ravager been played before?" Scott-Vargas said as he looked at the well-loved wear around the edges of the Darksteel standout.

    Scott-Vargas's second-turn accelerator, Noble Hierarch, stuck, and he used it to cast a Birthing Pod. Then in selflessly sacrificed itself to make a Kataki, War's Wage. This was usually very difficult to overcome, but the well-love Ravager made sure all extraneous artifacts were converted into +1/+1 counters.

    Sigrist kept the Arcbound Ravager, Vault Skirge, Blinkmoth Nexus, and an Island. Before attackers he laid down a Darksteel Citadel and cast a Master of Etherium. This drew a wince from Luis. The Ravager had become a 4/4, and Luis, ever-conscious of his life total chump-blocked with his Kataki.


    "I couldn't afford my own Kataki," Luis said as he shipped the white creature to the bin. The life totals became 10-17. That Vault Skirge was starting to pay for itself in life.

    Scott-Vargas had an empty board save three lands and a Birthing Pod, and his opponent was down to just one card (probably because basically his entire hand had been on the battlefield since the first turn).

    Orzhov Pontiff came down, then gave himself to the Birthing Pod, and Scott-Vargas birthed a Linvala, Keeper of Silence. Scott-Vargas was actually dead on board with all the artifact creatures, so his odd-looking play was made in the hopes that Sigrist would forget his Vault Skirge was actually a 2/2 thanks to Master of Etherium. If he could get the Affinity player to give up one of his creatures to the Arcbound Ravager for free, he might survive.

    Sigrist didn't bite. Luis ended his turn, then a few moments later extended his hand.

    Michael Sigrist has defeated Luis Scott-Vargas 2-0 to advance to the Semifinals!



    Jamie Parke (Tempo Twin) vs. Vipin Chackonal (Affinity)

    Vipin Chackonal was extremely excited to make it here in the Top 8. Not only is this his biggest finish thus far, but today is his birthday!

    "This is the best birthday present ever!" He was quite elated. But not so fast, Chackonal. I wouldn't be too happy to have to face down Jamie Parke. Maybe that name doesn't mean much to some of the younger of you, but Parke has put up Top 8s across three decades now.

    His Tempo Twin deck can be a beast to handle, because it can always threaten to win at a moment's notice. Though less-suited to beat Affinity, Tempo Twin was made to delay the game just enough to eke out the win.

    Game One

    Memnite, Springleaf Drum, Signal Pest, and Inkmoth Nexus hit the field for Vipin Chackonal on the first turn. Luis Scott-Vargas heard the slaps of cardboard onto the table from the other side of the Top 8 tables and said, "I don't know exactly what's in play, but it probably includes a Mox Opal, maybe two."


    That was a heck of a turn one. But Jamie Parke was able to Lightning Bolt the Signal Pest to stop any real beats for at least the next turn. Chackonal followed with a Bolt-proof Etched Champion and brought the beats soon enough. Parke was behind on board, and also had to mulligan, so he was playing catch-up on two fronts.

    A turn or so later, after a Serum Visions, Chackonal cast an Arcbound Ravager that was immediately Bolted as well (but it grew the Champion to a 3/3).

    Parke was down to 9 life by the time he took his fourth turn. Electrolyze took out all the non-Etched Champion creatures to maintain his life total as best he could. It was low, but at least it would stay the same. The fist part of Tempo Twin was working—it was delaying. Now the tough part—winning before you lose.

    There was a rules question that gave Jamie an extra life. Chackonal meant to attack with his Blinkmoth Nexus but had accidentally passed into the declare attackers phase. Chackonal was a jittery and excited at his first time under the lights. And this time, this mistake didn't matter.

    Whether Parke was at 6 life or 7, Parked couldn't find an answer in time to stop the unkillable Champion.

    Vipin Chackonal 1 – 0 Jamie Parke


    Vipin Chackonal

    Game Two

    Parke played a Serum Visions on his first turn, while Chackonal was a little more proactive—casting a Blinkmoth Nexus, Ornithopter, Springleaf Drum, and Vault Skirge.

    His second turn was worse than the first. Another Ornithopter and Cranial Plating allowed him to attack for six. It was 13-24 in Chackonal's favor on turn two. It looked like Chackonal was on his way to a quick 2-0 just like the Michael Sigrist made against Luis Scott-Vargas. But Parke had other plans.

    He had the combo waiting in his hand, and all he had to do was live until turn four. If he did, he could cast Deceiver Exarch and enchant it with Splinter Twin to make the all-but-infinite combo of thousands upon thousands of attackers.

    Chackonal tried to beat as fast as he could, but killing on turn three, on the draw, is quite the difficult task to complete. He couldn't do it. Though Parke was brought deep into single digits, on the end of Chackonal's third turn, Parke flashed out a Exarch, then calmly untapped and resolved his Splinter Twin for the win.

    Vipin Chackonal 1 – 1 Jamie Parke


    Jamie Parke

    Game Three

    "You're on the play. That's bad for me." Those sound like famous last words out of Jamie Parke. In the first two turns, Chackonal had made two Ornithopter, two Springleaf Drums, a Vault Skirge, and a Blinkmoth Nexus. Though lots of cards were on the battlefield, there weren't really any damage-dealers.

    Parke thought he was just fine. He was sitting on Anger of the Gods, and so he would just wait for the right moment to crush. But then his own dreams got crushed. On the third turn the big things came down. Both Torpor Orb and Thoughtseize resolved. Parke slumped visibly in his chair when the Thoughtseize resolved.

    Two Exarch, Snapcaster Mage, two land, Anger of the Gods and Flame Slash. Parke dutifully notated what his opponent saw in addition to Chackonal marking it. This diligence would hopefully pay off later. But as for now, all of Parke's creatures were basically worthless and the Anger of the Gods was in his graveyard.

    Parke was a little shaken, and was getting a little itchy. He cast the Snapcaster the following turn and tried to target his Serum Visions in the graveyard, but Chackonal informed him that Torpor Orb stopped that. Parke passed the turn.

    Chackonal had a stranglehold on the game, but his clock was very, very slow. Parke's life total went to 17, then 16, then 13. Parke, trying to stem the inexorable bleed, cast Deceiver Exarch as a Horned Turtle. It was a sad day for the New Yorker. Soon the Etched Champions came down and the Blinkmoth Nexus animated. Affinity started taking bigger chunks of Parke's life than he could handle.

    On the last possible turn, Parke drew an Ancient Grudge and perked up in his seat. He could knocked out Torpor Orb, and if he drew either Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker or Splinter Twin, he could still win. And even in the worst-case scenario, he could kill both the Blinkmoth Nexus when the animated and have a shot. But those plans were not meant to be.

    Before animating either of the lands, Chackonal cast a Spellskite. This would divert Parke's Ancient Grudge either time he tried to cast it. So both potential plans were basically for naught. Parke looked around the board and realized there was nothing he could do.

    He extended his hand to Chackonal.

    Vipin Chackonal, the birthday boy, advances to the semifinals over Jamie Parke 2-1!

    These matches were covered on video as well. If you missed the live action, videos will be up on the Star City Games YouTube channel a week after the Grand Prix.




     

  • Quarterfinals - Josh McClain (Melira Pod) vs. Oscar Jones (Melira Pod)

    by Adam Styborski

  • The Melira Pod master had done it again. After winning Grand Prix Detroit 2013 with his deck, number 19-ranked Josh McClain ran deep into Pro Tour Born of the Gods and was poised to run it through for a another Grand Prix victory here in Richmond.

    Oscar Jones bore experience beyond his youthful years, having experience with prize finishes at several Grand Prix before. Already qualified for Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx with his Top 8 appearance here, Jones' challenge was something different: Defeat a current master of the deck he himself was playing.

    Each players' confidence was clear with how quickly they handled their decks, a sure sign of knowing every one of it's silver bullet cards by heart. The question would be who would find them first.

    The first game found Jones led off with early creatures, Murderous Redcap and Orzhov Pontiff, but McClain found the first Birthing Pod. From a low 11 life McClain tried to fight back, with a Birds of Paradise transforming into Wall of Roots, but Jones' Abrupt Decay kept blockers out of the way. With Gavony Township to knock McClain down to just 2 life, McClain was out of outs.


    Jones, like McClain, didn't need to look at decklists between games. He knew his Melira Pod deck.

    The second game was a flipped situation, with McClain drawing down a quick army of Qasali Pridemage, Scavenging Ooze, and Kitchen Finks. Using Dismember and a green mana, McClain protected his Ooze from Jones' Murderous Redcaps. Attacking Jones to 8 life, and adding a second Scavenging Ooze to keep persist shenanigans locked out, Jones played the only card that could unfreeze his combos: Linvala, Keeper of Silence. While his Angel unlocked persist it came too late to stop McClain's army.

    "So far, the card Birthing Pod has not won a game," McClain chuckled upon tying it up.

    "Yeah, just idiot creatures in our decks," Jones agreed, sharing a quick laugh.


    McClain was more than familiar with "the beatdown plan" for Melria Pod.

    The third game featured equally quick starts: Jones with Noble Heirarch and Kitchen Finks, McClain with his own Hierarch and Qasali Pridemage. While McClain valiantly killed every one-drop mana generator Jones played, the younger player always had another ready, even using Eternal Witness to return Noble Hierarch for another go.

    Tapping out exactly his mana and creatures for Chord of Calling, Orzhov Pontiff reset the mana makers on McClain's side to leave him with just two mana available. Jones used a Thoughtseize to find Birthing Pod, Murderous Redcap, and Harmonic Sliver in McClain's hand, and chose to strip away the potent combo piece. It cost him falling to 5 life but it didn't matter.

    A second Chord of Calling found Murderous Redcap for Jones, and with a Birthing Pod on his turn he took command of the game by adding Melira, Sylvok Outcast to the battlefield to join Viscera Seer. While an arbitrary amount of life was at his fingertips, he needed to be sure to deal lethal damage to McClain. After Thoughtseize found the path clear, Kitchen Finks became Murderous Redcap to seal the deal for Jones.

    "I needed him to not draw a land the turn he played Orzhov Pontiff, and if I had drawn a land I could have played my Birthing Pod," McClain lamented. While the Pod master fell short of the repeat, perhaps the future of the format rests in young Jones' hands.

    Oscar Jones defeated Josh McClain, 2-1.




     

  • Quarterfinals: Ben Friedman (Melira Pod) vs. Brian Liu (Kiki Pod)

    by Reuben Bressler

  • One deck has proven itself to be enemy number one of this event: Melira Pod. Originally a combo-centric deck focused on achieving the combo of Viscera Seer; Melira, Sylvok Outcast; and either Kitchen Finks or Murderous Redcap has become less about trying to combo quickly and more about controlling the ground game, grinding little advantages and using Gavony Township to create an army out of nowhere.

    Ben Friedman is one of the players in this Top 8 playing the Junk-colored menace. Ben is no stranger to the top 8 stage, with two Grand Prix top 8s and a slew of other high tournament finishes already under his belt.

    While his opponent may have less knockout round experience, Brian Liu is nonetheless ready by playing Birthing Pod. Liu is using the slightly older and more combo-centric version, Kiki Pod, which uses the power utilized by many Twin decks of Deceiver Exarch and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.

    Liu is a road warrior: He drove here with a few of his buddies all the way from Toronto, Canada. The twelve hour drive paid off immediately, since he walked in the door and won the first Last Chance Grand Prix Trial he entered. He then parlayed those byes into an identical 13-1-1 record.

    As the players shuffled up, the competitors commiserated about the incredible amount of Birthing Pod decks in the top 8, and the interesting one-ofs in each deck like Restoration Angel and Big Game Hunter. Liu also had a quick comment about Friedman's numbers on his deck registration sheet.

    "I see you only have one Redcap..."

    "Yeah, I don't know why people keep insisting on two of that. That card is uncastable!" Friedman explained.


    Ben Friedman was thrilled to find himself in his third Grand Prix Top 8.

    Once Friedman kept his six, he led things off with Noble Hierarch. Liu fetched and shocked himself with Stomping Ground to play a Noble Hierarch of his own. Friedman's turn two was not particularly impressive, missing a land drop and dropping another Hierarch. Liu's was better, dropping Wall of Roots as well as Birds of Paradise in addition to Misty Rainforest.

    Friedman used his turn three to play Spellskite. Liu dropped Linvala, Keeper of Silence on his main phase, which stymied Ben's Noble Hierarchs. Left with naught but a Forest for mana at this point, Liu brought the beats. Linvala picked up an exalted trigger thanks to Liu's own Noble Hierarch. When Ben finally found a land to try to knock off Wall of Roots with Abrupt Decay, Brain was ready and waiting with Restoration Angel. A turn later Chord of Calling for five found Restoration Angel's good friend Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and as soon as Liu began making an arbitrarily large number of 3/4s with the goblin legend Friedman scooped up his cards and headed for his sideboard.

    "This is my second Pod matchup; the first one was a Kiki Pod mirror. This is actually the first time I've played Melira Pod in this event." Liu said.

    Friedman didn't have a reply.


    Facing Melira Pod for the first time in the tournament, Brian Liu seemed prepared.

    To start the second game, Friedman cast Thoughtseize on turn two and took Linvala, Keeper of Silence from Liu's grip.

    From Thoughtseize we knew that Deceiver Exarch was going to be Liu's play, and it attempted to tap down Birds of Paradise. Friedman went to his turn and made his third land drop before adding Birthing Pod to his board, paying two life to do so. Liu, now facing a potential waterfall of card advantage thanks to the green artifact, added Birds of Paradise number two.

    Friedman used the Pod to turn the Birds into a Wall of Roots: Not the explosive starts from Melira Pod he hoped. Liu dropped Noble Hierarch before using Chord of Calling to search out Qasali Pridemage to deal with Birthing Pod.

    Liu was still flush with gas, dropping Kitchen Finks as the sixth creature on his side of things. Scavenging Ooze ate both of the creatures in the graveyard before Friedman untapped, and then the now 4/4 Ooze was able to rumble in for some damage... or it would have had it not been sent on the Path to Exile.

    Then Liu dropped Birthing Pod, which he used the Pod, sacrificing Deceiver Exarch to find Restoration Angel. Friedman used the Gavony Township at end of turn to make his team slightly larger, but with no army only the Redcap and the Wall of Roots grew thanks to the activation. Again a pair of Restoration Angels came into the red zone, and Friedman fell to 5. Friedman found no help on top on his turn, and Liu's Ooze became Titan-sized on the end step. There was little Friedman could do. With a shake of his head, Friedman conceded the match.

    "You drew a lot of lands there."

    "I played a land light strategy game 1 and a land heavy one game 2."

    "...And I topdecked two Pods!"

    Friedman shrugged. "Sometimes they run hotter than you!"

    Brian Liu defeats Ben Friedman, 2-0.




     

  • Semifinals - Vipin Chackonal (Affinity) vs. Michael Sigrist (Affinity)

    by Marc Calderaro

  • Here was the blink-and-you'll-miss-it-Affinity mirror match. Meanwhile in the other Semifinals match, there were two Pod decks. So the Top 4 matchups could be thought of as the primary race to see which deck would be a better representative in general-election face-off of Affinity vs. Pod. Though the two Affinity player's decks are extremely similar, Vipin Chackonal's has a few more non-artifact spells in extra Thoughtcast and Galvanic Blast. This meant the deck could go a little longer, but was less explosive than Michael Sigrist's deck.

    Keep in mind we're really splitting hairs here. The decks are only a few cards apart.

    The two shuffled up for the first game, and I prepared for a blisteringly fast match.

    Game One

    Michael Sigrist went first, and, subverting all expectation, started very slowly. He just laid a land and passed the turn. What? Is this even Affinity? Luckily Chackonal satiated my need for speed by going Darksteel Citadel, Mox Opal, Signal Pest, Springleaf Drum, Memnite, and Cranial Plating in the first two turns. Phew.

    Sigrist cast a Steel Overseer and accepted the trade Chackonal offered him when a plated-up Memnite marched into the red zone. Though the Overseer was often the key to the match, the Cranial Plating required Sigrist to save all the damage he could and hope to attrition out Chackonal. However, it didn't look like Chackonal was planning on slowing up.


    Michael Sigrist

    Chackonal continued to gas out with Arcbound Ravager and Ornithopter. He equipped the Signal Pest with the Cranial Plating and offered second trade with Vault Skirge. It was again accepted.

    The life totals were still near 20 apiece, but the board state was changing in flurries. When Sigrist resolved his own Cranial Plating he began to even out the board. Granted, Chackonal's newly equipped Ravager was a 7/1 rather than a 3/1, but still, to the untrained eye it looked even.

    Sigrist's hand was all-but empty when a Thoughtcast gave him another Steel Overseer and a second Cranial Plating. Combined with his second Arcbound Ravager, the counting game had begun. Chackonal, an accountant, was the first player to physically count out potential damage he was calculating in his brain. He pointed his finger over and over towards the table as if he was using an invisible Morse code machine.

    He eventually cast Arcbound Ravager #2 pre-combat and swung in. Sigrist was at 11. He made all the blocks he could. But then the shenanigans started.

    Even more "flurrious" than the flurries before, artifacts flew around the battlefield and graveyard. Thanks to Arcbound Ravager, counters moved freely to wherever they would deal the most damage. Eventually, an unblocked, flying artifact was at 11 power. And that was that. It turned out here, the place where counters would deal the most damage was in Sigrist's piehole.

    Vipin Chackonal 1 – 0 Michael Sigrist


    Vipin Chackonal

    Game Two

    Sigrist had a more Affinity-like first turn this game, with a Darksteel Citadel, Ornithopter, and a Signal Pest. Not overly explosive, but at least I could tell it was Affinity. Chackonal answered in kind. However, unlike Sigrist, Chackonal added and equipped a Cranial Plating. This was a very big difference and meant Memnite swung for 8 (Plating giving bonus for Ornithopter, Signal Pest, Memnite, Mox Opal and Darksteel Citadel).

    Sigrist was back on the defensive. He cast an Arcbound Ravager and passed, trying to maintain the life totals at 12-20. Chackonal gladly continue his offensive assault, moving the Plating to the 0/2 flyer. Sigrist had a Galvanic Blast in hand but no source of red mana, and considered whether he should chump block with his own Ornithopter. He declined and sunk to 4 life. Odd isn't it, that a free 0/2 can deal so much damage? Such is the wonders of synergy.

    Sigrist had some heavy hitters in his hand: Master of Etherium, Steel Overseer and a second Ravager, but Chackonal wasn't giving him much time to cast them. Glimmervoid came down, allowing Sigrist to keep open the precious red to cast a Galvanic Blast. He still couldn't attack, but two Signal Pest, two Arcbound Ravagers, an Ornithopter and a Blast in hand made for a decent defense.

    But just like last time, it still wasn't enough. Sigrist could only block so much. And just the like dreaded Affinity deck during Mirrodin Standard, with enough sacrificing, any unblocked artifact attacker can turn into a giant. And coincidentally enough, that giant always seems to be exactly the size of the opponent's remaining life total.

    Sigrist lost his remaining life and extended his hand to Vipin Chackonal.

    Vipin Chackonal—first time Top 8er and birthday boy—is heading to the finals, 2-0 over Michael Sigrist.

    This match was covered on video as well. If you missed the live action, the video will be up on the Star City Games YouTube channel a week after the Grand Prix.




     

  • Semifinals - Brian Liu (Kiki Pod) vs. Oscar Jones (Melira Pod)

    by Adam Styborski

  • Which Pod is the best Pod? Melira Pod was out in much greater numbers than Kiki Pod this weekend, but from where Brian Liu sit it didn't matter: He had already slain Ben Friedman's Melira Pod.

    While it wasn't a Melira Pod mirror match as when he faced down Josh McClain, Oscar Jones was more than ready to do it all over again against Liu's Kiki Pod choice. Both players were anxious to keep things moving.


    Jones looked prepared against another type of Pod deck.

    With an early Spellskite, Jones looked to lock away some of what Liu might do, but Chord of Calling for Linvala, Keeper of Silence broke the chains. Liu had plans of his own.

    Undaunted, Jones played and used Birthing Pod to find a Linvala of his own and maintain the stalemate parity. Chord of Calling again from Liu found Zealous Conscripts to take, and kill, the newest Angel. Jones dug through his deck with Birthing Pod again, but Jones realized there wasn't any way to stop Liu from finishing him off.

    The second game started with Jones seeing Liu's hand off Thoughtseize – removing the sideboarded Combust he found there – and followed it up with both Birthing Pod and Linvala, Keeper of Silence. Then the waves of removal jousting began: Jones' Dismember for Deceiver Exarch in response to Restoration Angel, then Liu's Combust for Linvala in response to Spellskite.

    It left Restoration Angel free to attack, pressuring Jones to 7 life.


    At every turn, Liu seemed to have exactly what he needed against Jones.

    Birthing Pod transformed Jones' Spellskite into Eternal Witness and Linvala, Keeper of Silence all over again, but Liu's Zealous Conscripts were there to steal the Angel and end Jones' Top 8 run.

    "You have no burn, right?" Jones asked, knowing his opponent's decklist.

    "Yeah."

    "I could just take Restoration Angel and next turn get stuff. Did you top deck that guy?" Jones followed up, referring to Zealous Conscripts.

    "No, I had him."

    Jones just shook his head. The speed in which Liu clinched his finals appearance left no doubt in Jones' mind.

    Brian Liu defeated Oscar Jones, 2-1.




     

  • Finals - Vipin Chackonal (Affinity) vs. Brian Liu (Kiki Pod)

    by Adam Styborski

  • Could the birthday boy unwrap one of the sweetest presents in Magic? It's a question Vipin Chackonal wanted to answer in the affirmative. With his first deep Grand Prix run, on his birthday no less, Chackonal was one match away from an achievement perhaps no one else has claimed: Find a Grand Prix victory on his or her birthday.

    Brian Liu would not be an easy opponent. After slaying the monstrous Melira Pod deck twice in back-to-back matches, the last remaining contender was one that Liu surely saw over the event: Affinity. The most popular deck in the room coming into Day 2, Liu was determined to break down the last machinations standing in his way.

    Chackonal's artifacts flooded the battlefield in Game 1, with Signal Pest, Cranial Plating, Ornithopter, Springleaf Drum, Inkmoth Nexus, and Blinkmoth Nexus all by his second turn. Liu's was equally impressive with a Noble Hierarch into second turn Birthing Pod.

    Chackonal then activiated his Inkmoth Nexus to equip Cranial Plating, dealing 8 poison damage. Three turns down in the game. Liu thought for a moment before summoning Linvala, Keeper of Silence – a creature with flying to ostensibly block.

    Vipin planned his attack carefully, summoning Vault Skirge before using Ornithopter with Cranial Plating to attack for 8 damage. That put Liu at 4 life and 8 poison counters. Four turns of uncontested Affinity, and Liu could only consider his options and pass the turn back. When Chackonal attacked, Liu used Restoration Angel to play a second flying blocker, but there was just enough mana to move Cranial Plating to the unblocked Vault Scourge.

    Of course, Liu missed that using Pod on Linvala for Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to copy Noble Hierarch then cast Restoration Angel would have let him win on his turn.

    Five turns. Affinity doesn't turn down a gift like that.


    Chackonal was joyous to make it as far as the finals.

    The second game started similarly, with Inkmoth Nexus, Blinkmoth Nexus, Arcbound Ravager, Springleaf Drum, and Vault Skirge all in play on Chackonal's second turn. This time, Liu had Spellskite to curb any modular options, and hitting four mana on turn four meant he also had the threat of Restoration Angel active. Chackonal found himself without a clear attack and only another Vault Skirge to add.

    At the end of Chackonal's turn, Liu went for Restoration Angel but the opportunity was open for Galvanic Blast to handle Spellskite. A Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker off the top for Liu would end the game, but Birthing Pod was a close second as Wall of Roots transformed into Deceiver Exarch, which untapped the Pod and transformed Linvala into Kiki-Jiki.

    "I had to go for the combo. I couldn't play around another Galvanic Blast – which could have been the last card in [Jones'] hand. Spellskite was holding it together," Liu said before looking to Chackonal. "So you had a pretty poor hand?"

    "Yeah." Chackonal just nodded and shrugged.

    "All the marbles for the match are in my sideboard," Liu said.

    "So are mine," Chackonal agreed.

    "But mine are pretty powerful." Liu was unwittingly prescient with his boast.


    Liu laid our the future before anyone knew what happened.

    The third, final game put Chackonal on the play again but with a mulligan. Vault Skirge off an Island, then another Vault Skirge, Mox Opal, and Signal Pest was a step slower than his blistering first game. This time Liu played the "fill the battlefield" style of Affinity, chaining Wall of Roots into another Wall of Roots and Birds of Paradise all from a starting three mana.

    Despite falling to 14 on the next attack Liu seemed unphased. Shatterstorm on his turn was the reason why, and Chackonal was left with just an Island. Unknown to Chackonal, Liu had two Chord of Calling in his hand. At the end of the turn, Liu used on to grand Restoration Angle, then untapped with the other for Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.

    Chackonal smiled and extended his hand, unable to open the ultimate birthday gift. "Congratulations," he said.

    Liu smiled back, and the cheer from his friends hanging above was all you needed to hear to know it was over.

    "I saw two red sources and Shatterstorm. I couldn't not keep." Liu beamed.

    Brian Liu defeated Vipin Chackonal, 2-0




     

  • Top 5 Cards

    by Marc Calderaro



  • 5. Scapeshift

    It would be easy to overlook this four-mana green Sorcery. It gets lost in the shuffle of the Pods, the Twins, and all those robots. But this little guy refuses to quit. If you look at the archetypes of the undefeated decks from Day 1, Scapeshift put 2 players (out of 12) in the X-0 bracket, but represented significantly smaller portion of the Day 2 metagame. To compare, the other deck that put up two undefeated players was Merfolk, and it had 21 pilots; Scapeshift had 7. One of the two pilots, Andrew Calderon, was the last undefeated player at 13-0 in a 4,300-person tournament.

    The Tempo-Combo deck that could (no, not Tempo-Twin) might be a little better positioned in Modern than people expect—especially because all the heat is on those three decks above.





    4. Spellskite

    This card is doing double duty here. Firstly, it's protection in the Splinter Twin decks. Top 8 finisher Jamie Parke had two in his main deck. If you cast a Spellskite early, you can more confidently jam the combo out there if you need to. Sure, maybe your opponent has two Path to Exiles and you're boned. But maybe they only have one. And four toughness is the magic number that survives the format's most common removal spell, Lightning Bolt.

    Secondly, it's a necessary card in the sideboard of many decks—and often against Splinter Twin itself. It's best out of proactive decks that don't want to be bogged down by pesky spot removal. Hall of Fame member Zvi Mowshowitz noted that it was the best card in his sideboard—saying that it blanks decks like Hexproof Auras by requiring them to target your creature with all those awesome Auras.

    The card came back to bite Parke in the Top 8. Vipin Chackonal used it out of his Affinity sideboard to protect Torpor Orb during his march to the finals. If your opponents want to help their board, why don't you let them help yours instead?





    3. Thoughtseize

    In a field that has seen so many archetypes near the top tables, you need a sideboard card that can answer anything. Thoughtseize, for a mere two life, can answer anything before it becomes a problem. Named by Quarterfinalist Luis Scott-Vargas and Finalist Vipin Chackonal as the best card in their sideboards, Thoughtseize is a one-mana response to the most powerful cards Modern can muster. And when people are trying to do unfair things, Thoughtseize can bring them back down to earth.

    In the words of No. 8 Josh Utter-Leyton, "It forces uninteractive decks interact with you."





    2. Arcbound Ravager

    This card has not changed one bit, has it? The damage-stacking rules have changed around it, but Ravager doesn't care. It just does what it wants, and it does it well. You can pick many cards from the Affinity deck to highlight the powerful synergy of the deck, but the more Affinity gets played, the better Arcbound Ravager becomes. Eventual finalist Vipin Chackonal leaned on it hard in the mirror match, allowing him to always trade his creatures profitably, netting a few +1/+1 counters for his trouble. And in the counting war that is the Affinity mirror match, "a few" is all it takes.

    Additionally, Arcbound Ravager is the deck's best card to fight against Kataki, War's Wage from decks like Melira Pod. In the Quarters, Michael Sigrist used Arcbound to avoid paying upkeep costs for artifacts like Ornithopter and Signal Pest, while converting them into the valuable creature-pumping resources.

    The game may have changed, but Ravager still knows all the rules.





    1. Shatterstorm

    "I told you to play that card!" A friend of winner Brian Liu called out the proclamation as he won the decisive third game of the finals. Having the right tools for the right decks was a theme players kept coming back to on Sunday, and Shatterstorm shouts what it's meant for: Affinity.

    Working with a slower, six-card start, Brian Liu rendered Vipin Chackonal helpless with his potent artifact destruction. With only an Island left to worry about, Liu's victory lap of turns was a leisurely stroll.

    That's what the right card in the sideboard can do for you, even if your friend had to convince you upfront.




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