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4 Lessons from Grand Prix Indianapolis

The Result

Successive Grand Prix weekends have seen players that put in the hours and get to know the format better than the back of the shampoo bottle in your bathroom. Just as Brad Nelson’s mastery of Standard propelled him to victory last week in Denver, Andrew Cuneo’s victory at GP Indianapolis reflected months of practice, preparation, and perseverance.

As he blazed his way through the Swiss rounds, Cuneo crushed his enemies and saw them driven before him, showing the world what it looks like when you’ve mastered a format. His expertise was truly put on display in the Top 8, which he took down without losing a single game.

Cuneo knew the format inside out and wasn’t afraid to go deep during the testing process—sometimes learning some sharp lessons along the way!

Andrew Cuneo is not a man unfamiliar with success, with two Pro Tour Top 8s and almost 300 lifetime Pro Points. This Grand Prix is the latest vindication of the hard work that has spanned his long career—his insanely thorough preparation with Hour of Devastation Limited put him in the best possible position to make his mark on this tournament. A hearty congratulations to Cuneo for a truly stellar performance!

The Moment

Deep into Day 2, Sam Black was drafting for the second time as the cut to Top 8 loomed on the horizon. We’ve seen Black’s take on the format since Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, where his rather intriguing take on the Draft format helped to propel him to another Pro Tour Top 8. He was up to his old tricks again this time—you can watch his Draft here.

Unfortunately for the Madisonian, it didn’t seem like things had come together. Rather than the ramping, splashy powerhouse Black was after, he ended up on a removal-dense deck that would need a fair bit of luck—“my gut says that it’s bad,” Marshall Sutcliffe ruefully admitted from the booth. He wasn’t the only one to think so—Eric Froehlich described it as a “well-drafted F” and with all the dry humor of the German doctor, Simon Goertzen labelled it “the pinnacle of the format.”

Black, however, backed himself to the hilt. He sat down across from an unsuspecting Ethan Gaieski, who began to play a normal game of Magic, deploying threats and putting Black to the question. Black was on the back foot, under pressure from Gaieski’s beaters, but had the Sifter Wurm to stabilize. After scrying 3, Black didn’t like what he saw, and so he shipped the lot below deck.

Watch it here.

But fresh off the top is Razaketh, the Foulblooded—good for 8 life, not to mention the 8/8 flampler that joined the party shortly thereafter! Black cleaned up the first game on the back of this play, and obviously thought it was a good way to get it done—believe or not, game 2 went exactly the same way!

Watch it here.

This encore performance was enough to seal the deal, as Black’s gigantic monsters left Gaieski more battered than a blind carpenter’s thumb. Always bet on Black!

The Deck

Kyle Boggemes had a very clear idea of how he wanted to attack the Draft format throughout the weekend. While people like Sam Black were playing decks with more colors than a packet of M&Ms, Boggemes went into his Drafts knowing that he wanted to get aggressive and bang some heads together.

While one of his Draft decks was a mono-red masterpiece, the other two shared 6 Ambuscades between them and clearly indicated that Boggemes was looking to hustle hard. This was similarly reflected in his Top 8 Draft, where he took more or less every 2-drop he saw. His list ended up being one of the most straightforward and unpretentious Draft decks you’ll ever see.

Green-White

Kyle Boggeme, 2nd Place at GP Indianapolis

His Draft generated a bit of debate, however. Was Boggemes showing enormous discipline in sticking to his guns, or was he doing himself a disservice by being so rigid from the outset? Given that he met Cuneo’s slow, grindy white-blue deck in the finals, it speaks to the depth of the format that so many archetypes are supported, and even now there’s no strict consensus on the best way to approach Hour of Devastation Limited.

The Takeaway

Wizards around the world will be sorry to say goodbye to Hour of Devastation, which many may widely agree has been one of the best Limited formats in recent years. The complexity, the depth, and the huge flexibility of the format all mean it will be missed once we land on the sandy shores of Ixalan, but GP Indianapolis was an excellent farewell to an excellent format.

Sealed deck is generally a slower, splashier format than Draft, but this was taken to the next level by Hour of Devastation. After the aggression and speed of Amonkhet, Hour of Devastation slowed things down with better fixing, better removal, and monstrous bombs. Andrea Mengucci, the Italian Stallion himself, summed it up better than I ever could with his Tweet on Sunday night, after the GP Metz had concluded:

It has been truly fascinating to see the continued lack of consensus on the best way to approach drafting Hour of Devastation. Triple-Amonkhet saw us all scrambling for 2-drops and exert creatures, but there are more weird angles on this format than an MC Escher staircase. Even in the finals, Boggemes’ streamlined aggression was stifled by Cuneo’s rare-heavy defensive deck, and to the end Hour of Devastation remained a rich and diverse Limited format.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone to discover that if you put in the work, you get rewarded. After months of grinding through Drafts online, Andrew Cuneo added a shiny real-world trophy to the several million he’d accrued in Leagues. As children, we’re constantly told that practice makes perfect, and as adults it’s proven to us by the people who rose to the top of the tournament, none moreso than Cuneo himself.

As we bid a fond farewell to Hour of Devastation Limited, there may still be some surprises in store with Constructed. Coming up next, it’s a Standard double-header from Turin and DC. I’ll be back next week to get across both events!

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