Team events continue to be a big part of competitive Magic in 2018 as we approach the Team Pro Tour later on in the year. Typically, they deliver some of the most compelling and engaging Magic you’re likely to see, and this weekend in Madrid was no exception.
Team Trios is, in my view, just about as good as it gets. Standard is in a terrific place at the moment, Modern is always effortlessly entertaining to both play and watch, and it’s terrific to be able to showcase the highest level of Legacy at tournaments like these. Getting across all formats this weekend was truly excellent, and there was a lot to take away from what we saw.
Standard was dominated by The Scarab God, with continued tension as to what’s the best shell for the powerhouse 5-drop—whether it’s Blue-Black Midrange or Control, or perhaps something like Grixis Energy, remains to be discovered. Modern continues to find its feet in the wake of last month’s unbannings, with Bloodbraid Elf encouraging top-heavy curves and even finding its way into Scapeshift. In Legacy, Delver decks still reign supreme—in no small part thanks to Deathrite Shaman—but some more fringe strategies like Red Prison had their share of success, too.
In the end, it was the British combination of Christoph Green, Ben Jones, and Charles Eliatamby playing Grixis Energy, Grixis Death’s Shadow, and Eldrazi respectively that won the day, only after beating the Danes, Michael Bonde, Andreas Petersen, and Thomas Enevoldsen, who until then had been undefeated with Blue-Black Midrange, Bloodbraid Scapeshift, and Czech Pile. We’ll see Green, Jones, and Eliatamby at the Pro Tour in August. Congratulations!
(Tobi) Congratulations to Christoph Green, Ben Jones, and Charles Eliatamby who beat Michael Bonde, Andreas Petersen, and Thomas Enevoldsen 2-0 in the finals to become champions of #gpmadrid 2018. Congratulations! pic.twitter.com/dL3RhXTHWT
— Magic Esports (@MagicEsports) March 11, 2018
Legacy is a format full of surprises, and much of what we saw throughout GP Madrid displayed some of the ridiculous cards, interactions, and plays that make the format what it is. In the finals, we saw an astonishing match between Thomas Enevoldsen on Czech Pile and Charles Eliatamby on Eldrazi. After some of the tightest play we saw all weekend, Enevoldsen produced a staggering and completely unexpected result.
Eliatamby was smashing realities up and downtown—his Eldrazi deck was firing on all cylinders, with various 5/5s completely outclassing the tiny creatures Enevoldsen was sitting behind. At one point, Eliatamby managed to get Enevoldsen down to a single point of life, but the Dane didn’t give in and began to lay out his path to victory.
Czech Pile plays the best cards in Legacy across its four colors, and has the tools to get itself out of almost any situation. Finding them, however, is another matter entirely, especially when you’re under a huge amount of pressure from various tentacled monsters. Enevoldsen kept a cool head, however, ripping through his decks with various cantrips and a Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
After stabilizing, Enevoldsen slowly but surely began to draw ahead. The point at which the balance of the game finally tipped was when Jace stopped Brainstorming and went into fateseal mode. By then, the writing was on the wall, and Enevoldsen went on to snatch one of the most dramatic and unlikely victories you’ll ever see!
The Danish team of Bonde, Petersen, and Enevoldsen ran the tables for the Swiss portion of the tournament. Only picking up a single draw as they cruised into the Top 4, this team made winning look supremely easy. The decks they had all chosen seemed to be supremely well-placed for the tournament, too: Blue-Black Midrange to take advantage of the Scarab God and Czech Pile to tussle with all comers in Legacy, but it was their Modern deck that demonstrated a deft and precise awareness of what they were likely to face.
Andreas Petersen, 2nd place at GP Madrid 2018
Scapeshift isn’t a new strategy—it’s been around for donkey’s years—but recently the big mana deck du jour has invariably been Tron. With Bloodbraid Elf re-entering the format, however, Petersen pushed Modern’s development forward by including her in a Scapeshift list. Why was this such a great call for the weekend? Well, the natural prey for big mana decks is Jund, and Jund was sharply identified as the deck to beat in the wake of the MOCS. Scapeshift was an excellent choice for a format full of Jund, and Petersen reaped the rewards.
Bloodbraid Elf looks like a superb inclusion in Scapeshift. With a multitude of cards that result in having 4 mana on turn 3 (Sakura-Tribe Elder, Farseek, Search for Tomorrow, Explore), this deck is often able to deploy BBE a turn ahead of time. She will then cascade into another ramp spell, or some interaction in the form of Lightning Bolt or Sweltering Suns (which, critically, resolves before BBE enters the battlefield). While Summoner’s Pact is a pretty ordinary hit, every other card in the deck should be a good cascade result.
Petersen’s BBE experiment seemed to pay off for him this weekend, and Scapeshift remains a consistent, powerful deck that is resilient in the face of disruption. With an exceptionally strong late game now bolstered by turn-3 BBE, this could be the shape of Scapeshift to come!
As you might imagine, there was an enormous amount to learn from a split-format GP—too much to include in this article. There were particularly significant lessons in each individual format, however, and it’s worth reminding ourselves of them here.
In Standard, it’s indisputable that The Scarab God reigns supreme. The format revolved around this card all weekend, meaning that blue-black decks have well and truly secured their position as the dominant strategy. Not only as these are the colors needed to deploy TSG, but because they’re the colors with the best answers to it. Vraska’s Contempt and Essence Scatter are the cleanest ways to deal with The Scarab God, meaning that there’s little incentive to play anything else. It’s time to find another way to beat this enormous threat!
In Modern, Bloodbraid Elf continues to redefine the format, and as discussed, not just in Jund. More generally, and as a result of this, we’re seeing the format slow down. The Top 4 Jund list featuring Glorybringer is an excellent example of this. 5-drops in a midrange deck isn’t something we generally see in Modern, but that’s the shape of things right now. Also of note: Jace, the Mind Sculptor is yet to have a breakthrough performance, post-unban. Looks like we fell for the hype!
In Legacy, Delver decks of various colors continue to overperform. Invariably they are nonwhite, and invariably they feature Deathrite Shaman. While all the usual suspects are included in B/U/G, R/U/G, and Grixis Delver (Brainstorm, Force of Will, Daze), it’s the 1/2 from Return to Ravnica that is generating the most discussion. A turn-1 Deathrite Shaman is one of the strongest plays you can make in the format, and some are concerned it may in fact be too strong. Whether it warrants a ban or not remains to be seen, but there’s no arguing with the fact that DRS is a cornerstone of the Legacy format.
We all got a nice surprise when it was announced that GP Phoenix will feature live video coverage next weekend. As the format is Modern, it’ll be terrific to see more of the format on display. I’ll be back next week with the highlights from Arizona!