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4 Lessons from Grand Prix Amsterdam

The Result

For better or for worse, we leave the sandy shores of Ixalan Limited behind us to head for the storied legends of Dominaria. Grand Prix Amsterdam was the format’s curtain call, offering teams from around the world one final chance to prove their prowess on the big stage.

More than 1,500 players made up the 522 teams that converged on the Dutch city for a final showing with the Merfolk, Dinosaurs, Vampires, and Pirates, and four of these teams were left standing after a grueling 14 rounds of Swiss pairings. The German team of Huschenbeth, Severin, and Grimmer fell at the first hurdle (unsurprising, as a typical hurdle is taller than Severin himself), while the trio of Pechler, Ball, Sondag also lost in the semis (also unsurprising, as Ball has a strong aversion to winning GPs).

The finals, then, were fought between the teams Kreijne, Geurts, Heijne and Siron, Lemoine, Loeb. The latter are a much more experienced team of players, even including a PT Champion, but that didn’t matter. Kreijne, Geurts, Heijne won the day after a masterful Draft and a tense three-match final. Congratulations to the winners of GP Amsterdam!

The Moments

GPs offer the opportunity to meet some of the biggest names in Magic:

Snagging sweet loot with high-value trades:

Not all pools have the rares you’re hoping for:

Team events really bring the old guard out of the woodwork:

Perennial GP finals bridesmaid Alex Ball reflects on his Top 4 performance:

The Decks

With Ixalan Limited in the rear view—for the most part anyway—now is the time we can examine and evaluate various decks with all the benefits of hindsight. Here is a brief collection of decks played by some of the pros throughout GP Amsterdam.

Tom Martell

Martell characterised his Day 2 deck as “almost perfect,” and it’s easy enough to see why. With a plethora of aggressive 2-drops, plenty of excellent removal across the curve, and some game-winning bombs such as Champion of Dusk and Elenda, the Dusk Rose, this deck really has it all. Even Vampire all-stars Radiant Destiny and Legion Lieutenant make an appearance!

Immanuel Gerschenson

Gerschenson put together a pretty busto deck for his Day 1 appearance in Amsterdam. With a ton of ramp thanks to double Wayward Swordtooth, easy fixing with Atzocan Seer and Thunderherd Migration, and huge amounts of the best removal in white, the Austrian was all set for a strong run toward Day 2. It’s not surprising to hear he only picked up a single loss with this monstrosity!

Frank Karsten

Karsten and his teammates ran the tables on Day 1, putting together an 8-0 performance before tragically falling short of the Top 4 on Day 2. Karsten didn’t do too much to hype up his “random collection of Pirates, Merfolk, Dinosaurs, and Snakes,” but nonetheless there’s a lot going for this deck. Despite being light on tribal synergies, there are good threats at every point on the curve, useful interaction in the form of Hunt the Weak and Waterknot, and some splashy curve-toppers. I think we’re all a bit confused by the fact he didn’t play any Woodland Streams, though.

The Takeaway

Despite most attention being focused on the forthcoming release of Dominaria—especially now that preview season is in full swing—GP Amsterdam provided Ixalan block one last opportunity to teach us a thing or two. Despite Ixalan perhaps not joining the list of all-time greatest Limited formats, there nonetheless ended up being quite a bit of meat on those bones.

As a tribal set, immediate impressions of Ixalan focused on synergy and how to make the most of tribal components of various cards. Before the introduction of Rivals of Ixalan, we saw reasonably linear Draft strategies rising to dominance, fueled by powerful tribal payoffs. Cards like River Heralds’ Boon and Savage Stomp were enormously impactful, and a common criticism of triple-Ixalan was its straightforward nature and lack of meaningful decision points while drafting or deck building.

Rivals of Ixalan saw a significant increase in the quality of the overall Limited format, as showcased this weekend. Tribal synergies were still there to exploit, but opening up the format to more generic “good stuff” decks meant that the archetypes became broader and gameplay more varied. Critically, meaningful support for both white-blue and black-green as playable archetypes made for a much wider array of viable Limited strategies, rather than just picking a tribe and putting the blinders on.

At the close of business for the Ixalan block, it’s my view that there’s a lot to be said for the format and that players should think twice before consigning it to the scrapheap. Rivals of Ixalan, in particular, offered a format with depth and breadth, while still showcasing a breathtakingly flavorful world with simple, intuitive mechanics. Ixalan is no Innistrad—but its time with us was still worth something.

Next week we’re off to the home of Magic, with an absolute show-stopper in the form of GP Seattle. There’s going to be so much to get across from a huge weekend of Magic. I’m looking forward to bringing everyone up to speed next week!

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