4 Lessons from GP São Paulo

The Result

Modern is the stone-cold best. Another weekend of showcasing to the world—this time from Brazil—meant that the weekend’s coverage was an absolute blast to be a part of. I took so much away from the tournament, and not just teasing PV for his taste in food and Disney films.

Much of the South American Magic community converged on São Paulo for a keenly-anticipated GP that would make up part of the ongoing 25th anniversary celebrations. Quite aside from cupcakes, an Unlimited Draft, and R&D panels, there were all the usual things that make a GP so terrific: cosplayers, artists, spellslinging, and of course an endlessly entertaining main event.

15 rounds of Swiss saw a typically diverse field go at it, although KCI was the talk of the tournament with yet another strong showing at the top tables. Ultimately, one copy made it to the Top 8 in the hands of Sebastian Pozzo,and he was flanked by six different archetypes in the hands of his seven Top 8 adversaries.

Amulet Titan, R/G Eldrazi, Tron, Affinity, Abzan Traverse, and two copies of Mardu Pyromancer also made it to the Top 8. It was one of those two Mardu players who saw off all comers to raise the trophy on Sunday night. Congratulations to Jose Echeverria!

The Moment

Apparently, there was a minor non-Magic tournament taking place somewhere in the world at the same time at GP São Paulo. Generously, the tournament organizers set up a large screen so that people with an interest in this rather niche hobby would be able to watch it, which was a little perplexing, as it seemed to generally involve a group of men in brightly-colored clothing propelling a small orb back and forth with no discernible purpose or intent.

All the same, GP goers took in much of the action from the “Soccerball World Cup” (I even had to sub in for my coverage colleague Tim Willoughby as he watched England defy all established orthodoxy and demonstrate a level of proficiency with a sport they themselves invented) on the big screen as the matches unfolded.

The raucous crowd was even heard on stream at a few points, although there was one particular case where I enjoyed pretending it was because they were getting behind the noble hero during a classic showdown of good vs. evil. Tron was running roughshod over Jeskai Control, and this clutch draw was blessed with particularly good timing:

England wins; Jeskai loses. There is no justice in this world.

The Deck

Legend tells of a Modern format overrun with turn-2 Primeval Titan kills, where no one was safe from the turn-1 Amulet of Vigor. Since the banning of Summer Bloom, turn-2 Prime Time is much less of a danger for those playing Modern, but not if Daniel Caixeta has his way with things. Caixeta made the Top 8 with a real blasty-blast from the pasty-past, as the saying goes.

Amulet Titan

Daniel Caixeta, Top 8 at GP São Paulo 2018

It seems like no matter how many boots or rolled-up newspapers we use to stamp this cockroach into oblivion, Amulet Titan will continue to skitter away unharmed. It’s not too often that we see it spike so hard, but with so many non-interactive decks at the top tables of Modern, Caixeta picked his spot magnificently and was richly rewarded with a strong tournament finish.

If you’re unfamiliar with the particular brand of degeneracy this deck peddles, it’s not always immediately obvious what it’s capable of. Broken draws invariably involve, unsurprisingly, Amulet of Vigor and Primeval Titan. When used in conjunction with the “bouncelands” from the original Ravnica block, the deck can generate enormous amounts of mana very quickly, and Prime Time only keeps that train rolling once it leaves the station.

Slayers’ Stronghold and Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion can lead to some out-of-nowhere victories thanks to hasty trampling double-strikers, but the deck has a reasonably resilient plan B thanks to its ramp package. If the explosive start isn’t available, this deck can ramp to half a billion mana and start to chain Titans (the first fetches a bounceland and Tolaria West, which transmutes for a Summoner’s Pact, and the chain begins anew).

The Takeaway

Modern continues to be the golden child of competitive Magic formats. Its dynamism and openness are wonderful boons to those who enjoy competing in such a Wild West format. Of course, after a weekend in the booth with PV, I’m not immune to the criticisms leveled at Modern, and they’re not all completely merit-less. It’s difficult to adequately prepare for a tournament format where there are upwards of 25 or 30 viable decks, and the lottery of the pairings board will determine a good number of matches.

Still, Modern is engaging, decision-rich, and in a constant state of flux. As a spectator I just can’t get enough of it, and am very excited to see how things pan out in the upcoming team PT, where Modern will make up a full third of the field. We’ll see old masters wield decks they’ve been rusted onto for years alongside pros at the cutting edge of the format’s technology.

Which, right now, seems to be KCI combo. A highly divisive deck—it’s a spiritual successor to Lantern Control in that regard—KCI has its fair share of vocal critics. It’s non-interactive, resilient, and insanely complex, and people tend to fear what they don’t understand. But as FDR once said, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself, as well as KCI going off on turn 3.” Pack those Stony Silences, my friends.

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