4 Lessons from Grand Prix Copenhagen

The Result

Another weekend, another Standard tournament falling to Goblin Chainwhirler and friends. Red decks utterly dominated Grand Prix Copenhagen, with over 40% of Day 2 decks running a full playset of the oppressive 3/3. While White-Blue Control enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, it wasn’t enough to contain the continued dominance of red mages.

The Top 8 saw six red decks, five of them playing Chainwhirler, and two copies of White-Blue Control. Some big names made it past the cut late on Sunday—Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir Champion Martin Dang joined PT Eldritch Moon Champion Lukas Blohon, with 2017 Worlds finalist Javier Dominguez also making an appearance.

Notably, Tim Kernke made it all the way to the semifinals in his first ever GP, and this was after a 3-2 start! After all the dust had settled, however, it was Tobias Maurer who took home the trophy. After topping the Swiss, the German demonstrated the edge that Mono-Red has over Black-Red Chainwhirler decks, and snagged himself a nice bit of hardware in doing so.

The Moments

Martin Müller curves four Winding Constrictors into a Verdurous Gearhulk:

Ondřej Stráský live-tweeted a bunch of Ivan Floch’s matches and it was glorious:

Marc Tobiasch winning with Aetherflux Reservoir:

Joel Larsson had to wear a thematically-appropriate sling during Friday’s spellslinging bout:

Rich Hagon raps about the rogue Haphazard Temur deck on stream:

The Deck

We’re well and truly used to dominant red decks at the moment—all too used to them, in fact, with the usual suspects lining up in every deck playing a stack of Mountains. Surprisingly, however, one of the Top 8 decks didn’t have any copies of Hazoret, Glorybringer, or even Goblin Chainwhirler!

Mono-Red Flame of Keld

Joakim Stahle-Nilsson, Top 8 at GP Copenhagen

This is one of the most aggressive, all-in lists you’re likely to see. With the discard clause on The Flame of Keld, you are highly incentivized to both dump your hand as early as possible, and play as many individual red sources of damage as possible (hence the inclusion of Fanatical Firebrand, which does both these things). In particular, Kari Zev is ridiculous with The Flame of Keld’s third chapter, as she attacks for seven that turn!

Typically, we don’t see red decks pointing burn spells upstairs. The overwhelming preference is for burn spells that target creatures exclusively—Abrade and Magma Spray, typically—but it’s a very different story with The Flame of Keld. 4 damage from a Shock, 5 from a Lightning Strike—the deck even plays Wizard’s Lightning!

Mono-red strategies have done well against their black-red counterparts in recent weeks, and while this one didn’t snag the trophy, it’s one way at least to “get under” what the dominant Chainwhirler-Chandra-Glorybringer decks are trying to do.

The Takeaway

Now more than ever before, the debate surrounding a Goblin Chainwhirler ban will dominate discussion of Standard. I’m generally in favor of keeping ban lists as small as possible, but I think the Chainwhirler has to go. I completely annihilates every reasonable metric used to determine if a card is ban-worthy.

Goblin Chainwhirler was well and truly in the crosshairs this weekend after a dominant Pro Tour performance. Despite some of the best players in the world attending the GP—Javier Dominguez, Martin Dang, and Lukas Blohon going as far as the Top 8—there was very little innovation in GP Copenhagen to beat the 3/3. It seems that on the beat ’em/join ’em axis, most opted for the former.

This lack of meaningful counterplay in conjunction with the oppressive role that Goblin Chainwhirler plays in the format—pushing out almost all 1-toughness creatures—means that I think it’s time to ban another red 3-mana 3/3. Goblin Chainwhirler is punishing deck diversity in Standard, and it’s not reasonable to expect that to change even with the upcoming release of Magic 2019.

In other news, some super sweet decks were featured throughout the weekend. Despite the overwhelming presence of Black-Red Chainwhirler decks, Team Coverage filled the majority of rounds with well-perfoming alternatives. You can go back through the Twitch VODs and see New Perspectives, Paradoxical Storm, B/R Eldest Reborn, and all sorts of other off-the-wall decks being played. The broadcast was a lot of fun, and didn’t suffer too badly for the lack of diversity at the top end of the format.

That’s it for this week! Next week is another double GP weekend, and one that is shaping up to be a show-stoppingly huge weekend of Magic. GP Vegas will have it all, and there will be so much to get across next week. Join me then when I come back with all of the highlights from Las Vegas!

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