Mitchell Manders wins GP Bilbao (Modern) with UWR Control
Allen Zhang wins GP Sydney (Limited); Tomoharu Saito back on Pro Tour after top 4 finish
Sean Thrasher wins Dallas Standard Open with Naya Humans
Will Craddock wins Dallas Legacy Open with Sneak and Show
Paul Cheon Twitch Stream: http://www.twitch.tv/haumph
Larry Swasey’s new UWR Control deck continued its run through the Modern format this past weekend, winning GP Bilbao. If you didn’t take the deck seriously yet, you should probably start. Last week I said you had one more week before this deck was on everyone’s radar – after a GP win, it most assuredly is! An additional copy top 16ed, and Tiago Chan, Snapcaster Mage himself, played a similar version to a top 32 finish (swapping Blade Splicer for Geist of Saint Traft), and was actually one of the top 5 most played decks on the weekend (although it only made up 5% of the field, and was joined in that percentage by infinite other decks, so that statement is a bit misleading). Still, the deck had a larger showing than Affinity or RG Tron, both of which tend to have 3+ hate slots dedicated to them. With a large number of cards carrying over from Standard UWR Flash, I expect the deck to only increase in popularity as the season progresses, and won’t be surprised to see Phantasmal Image or Supreme Verdict start appearing in sideboards. Incidentally, while Manders’ list did not play Restoration Angel, that is something you shouldn’t be surprised to see if you play against this deck.
Looking at the other decks in the top 8, we see 2 Jund, 2 Scapeshift, Gifts Control, and 2 Kiki Pod decks. Of these, the most exciting are a version of Scapeshift that splashed black for Clutch of the Undercity and the Gifts deck. Clutch allows the deck to tutor for Scapeshift, giving you “seven” copies, while also allowing for cards such as Slaughter Games in the sideboard. Meanwhile, the Gifts deck looks to beat the opponent with the Gifts Ungiven/Unburial Rites combo to put an Iona or Elesh Norn into play (no fear, Deathrite Shaman!). In fact, it plays 4 copies of it’s own Deathrite Shamans to accelerate into Liliana, Gifts, and Jace 4.0. As expected of a Gifts Ungiven deck, the main deck and sideboard are packed with 1-ofs. If you’ve been waiting for a “real” control deck in Modern, this might be just the thing for you!
Over in Sydney, Allen Zhang won an incredibly stacked top 8, defeating Team Worlds 2008 finalist Justin Cheung 2-0 to claim victory. Martin Juza, Stanislav Cifka, Daniel Unwin, and the returning Tomoharu Saito joined him, along with locals Adam Witton and Zen Takahashi. Takahashi, only 15, also has a PTQ win and an 11th place finish at GP Auckland. Expect big things from him in the future!
Meanwhile, SCG Dallas let’s us look at the two remaining popular Magic formats, Standard and Legacy. This weekend was a pretty great spread, as you could watch whichever format struck your fancy! Sean Thrasher won the Standard Open with Naya Humans, continuing the current Standard trend of a different deck winning every weekend. He was joined in the top 8 by BR Zombies, two copies of Bant Hexproof, Grixis Control, Mono Red, and GB Aggro, with Bant Control and a number of other aggro decks on the outside looking in. The Hexproof deck was all over the Standard Open, and I personally expected it to be crushed by hate, but apparently people still aren’t taking it seriously (or it is more resilient than it seems). Regardless, I personally enjoy seeing a Geist of Saint Traft getting suited up, so there were no complaints on my end. If you don’t want to lose to the deck, there are a number of options – Rolling Temblor, Supreme Verdict, Erase, Paraselene, Ray of Revelation, Liliana of the Veil, Tribute to Hunger… Find something that works in your colors, and punish your opponent for playing such an all-in strategy!
Legacy presented an interesting top 8 as well, showcasing just how diverse the format can be (in case you were worried about too many Deathrite Shaman decks after the last GP). Sneak and Show finally won an event again, defeating Junk Midrange in the finals. While Mark Hendrickson was able to take one game on the back of his discard and other disruption, Will Craddock and Emrakul refused to be stymied, and Annihilated Mark in three games. Will had actually just lost in the finals of the Standard Open earlier Sunday morning, but managed to get over that hump and battle through a full day of Legacy to claim his trophy!
Looking at the rest of the top 8, we see a return of Merfolk (!), Jund, Stoneblade, Reanimator (a standard Reanimator list, for a change), Painter’s Servant, and UR Delver. No Tropical Island decks anywhere! Of course, moving out a bit further, we see more Stoneblade, Dredge, BUG Delver, Walking Dead, High Tide, and a number of other interesting decks. While Legacy is always slow to adapt to a new metagame, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of BUG decks over the past few tournaments, suggesting that perhaps the format was getting a bit too inbred when they started trying to Cascade into Ancestral Visions while cutting their Force of Wills and Spell Pierces. The main thing you can probably take away from this tournament though, is that almost any deck is viable, so pick a deck you like, learn to play it well, and you can have success! This was always one of the biggest selling points of Legacy, so it’s nice to see an open tournament such as this one.
One last thing to keep in mind – Dredge has consistently done well at the last few events, but not *too* well. David Thomas finished in 11th at Dallas, winning one game on camera off a mull to 3 – easily – against a hapless Stoneblade pilot. The recent successes of Reanimator at the past three events also suggest that people are skimping on their graveyard hate and relying on Deathrite Shaman to do the heavy lifting, so if you like summoning creatures back from the dead in one form or another, it might be time to give that strategy another try.
Next weekend is the Gatecrash Prerelease, so all of these formats are in for major shake-ups soon. Currently every format is incredibly diverse – hopefully it will stay that way!
If you didn’t get a chance to watch the SCG Live Coverage from Dallas, I’d recommend going back and watching a few matches – Osyp and Cedric made a great coverage team; hopefully we’ll be seeing more of them in the future!
Finally, Paul Cheon, former US Team World Champion, has started a twitch stream at http://www.twitch.tv/haumph. Cheon was arguably the best player in the US before retiring in 2008, and has started a stream showcasing his efforts to get back on the Pro Tour. If you have an interest in Modern, Cheon is one of the best players in the world, so hearing his insights into the format is a huge boon. Last night LSV and Efro even Skyped in for a pun-filled draft. If you enjoy watching Magic streams, this is easily one of the best.