4 Lessons from Grand Prix Lyon

The Result

With quite a number of team events approaching in 2018, thousands of players came to Lyon this weekend to whet their appetite for competitive play with friends by their sides. A new twist on a thoroughly-explored Ixalan format was a welcome change of pace for many, with the interesting dynamic of Team Sealed resulting in some powerful and occasionally absurd decks generated from the 12-pack pool each team received.

The general pattern was U/G Merfolk, W/B Vampires, and a red-based Pirates or Dinosaurs deck. The power level of these decks completely outstripped regular Sealed decks, with tribal synergies being pushed to the limit as pools were divided by players. It was very interesting indeed to explore Team Sealed, and last weekend was just the beginning—wizards from around the world converge in Nice next weekend to do it again at the World Magic Cup!

Ultimately, the finals were fought by two teams entirely composed of Danes—these sons of the frozen northlands donned their historically-inaccurate horned helmets and charged into battle like vikings of old. When all was said and done, Christoffer Larsen, Thomas Enevoldsen, and Michael Bonde emerged victorious.

Larsen, Enevoldsen, and Bonde didn’t make the most spectacular entrance into the tournament—at the end of the second round, they were at 0-2 and thinking more about what was for lunch rather than hoisting trophies the next day. They stuck it out, however, and pulled off an incredible 14-match winning streak to become the duly crowned champions of the tournament. Both Enevoldsen and Bonde have already squared away their new hardware!

The Moment

Everyone will remember the triumphant Danish victory at the 2014 Magic World Cup. The “Daneblast” became one of the most iconic moments in our game’s history, propelling the Danish team to ultimate victory. In one of the closest matches you’ll ever see, Denmark beat Greece out in the finals after a Duneblast cleared the way for Simon Nielsen to win the game, match, and tournament alongside his team.

Well, this weekend it was another team of Danes attempting to run it back with another hugely powerful one-sided sweeper—in the semifinal, eventual tournament runner-ups Alexander Pasgaard, Kasper Nielsen, and Marcus Hensing pulled off an incredible match win with a supremely-timed River’s Rebuke.

After a tight race, this overpowering play to launch the team of Danes into the finals is the absolute highlight, and there’s a lot to be said for they way they played toward the River’s Rebuke that won the game. The entire semifinal between these two teams is well worth watching, and you can even watch the Drafts that preceded it for an insight into the different dynamics that come along with Team Drafts themselves.

The People

Team events have a funny habit of drawing players from far and wide from out of the woodwork, and GP Lyon set a very positive precedent in this regard. Given the high number of team events coming our way next year—including, of course, a team Pro Tour—it’s exciting to think that we’ll see the very best of the best under the spotlights. And I’m not just talking about the best of contemporary players, as you might expect! Rising from the mists of history, GP Lyon saw some of the all-time greats come and contest the tournament.

The Pro Tour historian, Brian David-Marshall, tasked himself with tracking down all of the Pro Tour Champions who had come to Lyon to do battle. The usual suspects—champions like Joel Larsson, Ben Stark, and Pablo Doritos—were out and about, naturally. Additionally, BDM was able to track down some of the biggest names of yesteryear, including Pierre Canali and Antoine Ruel. But it was the German Juggernaut, Kai Budde himself, that made the biggest headlines.

With 7 Pro Tour victories, Budde is always included in any “greatest of all time” debate. Despite not playing actively these days, he made the trip to Lyon to play alongside Luca Casadei and Antonino De Rosa. What is it about team events that bring the game’s all-time greats back to the fore?

Frank “Secretly a Robot” Karsten explained it to me. “Playing high-level Magic with your friends is just too much fun,” he said. “Old players will always come back for team events because you don’t get to play Magic in this way very often.” As someone relatively new to the game, it’s fascinating for me to explore the history of Magic like this—to hear stories of old tournaments, victories and defeats, and upsets and triumphs. I can’t wait for the team events in 2018!

The Takeaway

The release of Rivals of Ixalan is under two months away. This may sound like a long time, but given that it’s the festive season, the weeks will fly by. Before we know it, we’ll be battling to claim the golden city of Orazca with the new set of cards that is currently inbound. Between now and then, Ixalan Limited doesn’t play a particularly prominent role in premier-level play, as both GPs Madrid and Santa Clara are Constructed. The notable exception to this is of course the World Magic Cup, where lessons learned in Lyon will be critical for the 73 teams looking to contest the trophy in Nice.

Team Sealed in Ixalan is all about tribes. Given they have both the smallest amount of overlap and arguably the most powerful synergies, U/G Merfolk and W/B Vampires are the obvious starting points for dividing up a pool. This leaves the red cards untouched, so it’s a matter of figuring out how to then build the best Pirate or Dinosaur deck without taking too much from Merfolk or Dinosaurs, then redistributing the remaining tribe among the decks that can use it.

It’s not a given, however, to configure decks in this way. More than once throughout the weekend we saw surprises such as black-green lists that gave up on tribal synergies to instead take advantage of raw card power. Even more surprising than this was when teams eschewed a color entirely, and built three decks with only four colors! In that case, registering sideboards became critical, as the fifth color’s cards could occasionally come in (especially with Treasure generators or cards like New Horizons) to give a deck a different game 2 angle.

The data gathered from GP Lyon will be instrumental for the teams we’ll see on our screens this coming weekend in Nice. I’ll be there with the rest of Team Coverage to get across all the action—I’m looking forward to your company on Twitch throughout the weekend as well!

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