4 Lessons from Grand Prix Detroit

The Result

Detroit played host to another Modern tournament this weekend, although this time it was a team event. We don’t get to play a lot of Team Unified Modern, and when we do, it generally looks a little different than what we saw this weekend, but the wide-open nature of the format, as well as the lack of overlap between top-tier decks, changed things up considerably.

Broad predictions were made that the format would revolve around Humans and Ancient Stirrings, and this bore out reasonably accurately throughout the tournament. The third deck was often White-Blue or Jeskai Control, although we did see some off-the-wall choices, especially in the Top 4.

The Top 4 featured everything from Infect to Mardu Pyromancer to Scapeshift, while KCI master Matt Nass pivoted to the new Hardened Scales Affinity list. At the end of it all, however, it was the team of William Courson on Humans, Antonio Perez on Tron, and Andrew Lopez on Jeskai Control that beat out the superstar team of Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Matt Nass, and Sam Pardee in the finals. Congratulations!

The Moments

Ralph Betesh demonstrated the power of Bridgevine, discarding Bridge and Vengevine to Looting, casting Walking Ballista and Hangarback Walker for 0, and dumping eight power into play on his first turn, four with haste. Pretty good!

Andrew Lopez’s masterful play in the finals saw him let loose a highly unorthodox flurry of non-lethal burn spells, knocking Sam Pardee to 3 life. Lopez couldn’t find the final burn spell or Snapcaster to close it out—meaning Pardee looked to end the game quickly—and this resulted in a clean 4-for-1 with Settle the Wreckage:

The semifinal game between Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Jon Rowe had incredible back-and-forth moments, with players trading interactive creatures and mighty haymakers as they jostled for position. Rowe looked to have it in the bag with the latest piece of Humans technology—Riders of Gavony—but PV once again had the perfect answer, resulting in a colossal blowout:

The Deck

Scapeshift kind of fell off the radar for awhile there—in recent weeks and months, we haven’t seen people getting one-shotted with the recently-reprinted one-card combo finish. It was a little surprising, therefore, to see this blast from the past make it all the way to the Top 4! Once seen as one of the best decks in the entire format, Scapeshift was an unexpected addition to the typical three-deck configurations we saw all weekend, but did good work in the hands of Felix Tse.


Felix Tse, Top 4 at GP Detroit

While this deck contains all of the usual suspects, with an abundance of ramp spells and the usual payoffs in Scapeshift and Primeval Titan, Tse also included some more fringe options. Khalni Heart Expedition and Wood Elves don’t always appear in Scapeshift lists, let alone in multiples, but the real spice is the 1-of Prismatic Omen. This card allows Scapeshift to “go off” with just six lands, as it turns Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle into a Mountain and therefore brings it online a little earlier than usual.

There are plenty of glass cannon combo decks in Modern right now—everything from Storm to KCI—so one-shotting an opponent isn’t anything new. Scapeshift definitely has that capacity, but its strength is the relative ease it has in grinding an opponent out once Valakut is online. Even without Scapeshifts, an active Valakut (let alone multiples) will end the game quickly as almost every single card in the deck then deals 3 (or more) damage. Farseek? Wood Elves? Land? As the game goes long, Scapeshift has very few truly dead draws, meaning that it’s a combo deck with a decent late game.

The Takeaway

Celestial Colonnade had a great weekend. We all knew that Ancient Stirrings and Noble Hierarch were going to dominate the tournament, but white-blue based control decks had a field day, being heavily represented at the top tables. There was a relatively even split between white-blue and Jeskai—both versions have strengths and weaknesses. White-Blue makes the most of Terminus, which is exceptional against any creature-based deck (and absurd against recursive graveyard threats), while Jeskai’s burn package allows it to be much more proactive and gives it an edge against other control decks.

The main deck of Humans remains reasonably set in stone, as Militia Bugler seems to have entrenched itself in the previously flexible slots. The sideboard, however, is constantly chopped and changed, and this weekend the headline post-board options were a pair of 4-drops: Whirler Rogue and Riders of Gavony. The Riders are excellent against any tribal strategy, and that doesn’t just mean the mirror—with the continued rise of Spirits, Riders of Gavony is a powerful piece of technology (PV’s Paths notwithstandings).

Hardened Scales Affinity is the real deal. Entirely eclipsing its predecessor, this new and improved version relies on busted +1/+1 counter synergy and ties it all together with one of the most powerful cards in the format: Ancient Stirrings. As a result, sideboards are now full of powerful artifact hate. I’m curious to see how the deck fares from here on out, in such an openly hostile environment.

Next week we’re off to Stockholm for some more Modern, and once again I’ll be spouting my silly nonsense in the booth alongside the EU coverage team. Make sure to join us on twitch.tv/magic throughout the weekend. See you there!

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