4 Lessons from Grand Prix Singapore and Pittsburgh

The Result

This weekend featured two Grand Prix on either side of the Pacific—the celebration of Magic’s 25th anniversary continued with two high-profile tournaments. A meaningful decline in the presence of red decks was a breath of fresh air, as both Top 8s saw a respectable number of blue decks finding their way into the finals.

In Singapore, Yuuki Ichikawa returned to an archetype we haven’t seen for a good while—his God-Pharaoh’s Gift deck emerged victorious, beating out Esper Control in the finals. The deck hasn’t changed all that much since Pascal Maynard finished second at Pro Tour Ixalan last year, but it’s still good enough to get it done over six months later!

In Pittsburgh, the Top 8 was reflective of a slightly healthier format, split between aggressive red strategies, controlling blue strategies, and a few spicier options, like GPG itself. The power of Goblin Chainwhirler couldn’t be contained, however, and Braham Thomas was able to hoist the trophy after a massive Fight with Fire abruptly ended his finals match against Oliver Tiu!

The Moments

A truly inspired piece of cosplay:

A 30-damage one-shot thanks to The Antiquities War:

Chaos Orb living up to its name by causing chaos for the judges:

A kicked Fight with Fire takes down a Constructed GP:

GP Pittsburgh received a visit from a group of service dogs!

The Deck

You’ve probably heard of the Kiefers—a trio of young brothers who constantly put up impressive results with the backing of some of the coolest parents you’re likely to meet. Jack and Quinn were in attendance at GP Pittsburgh, and even played one another in the early stages of the tournament!

Jack Kiefer made it all the way to the semifinals with one of Standard’s only real combo decks—reanimating 4/4 Angel of Inventions as early as turn 4 is often a game-winning play. Kiefer also impressed everyone with his patient, calm, and effortlessly dignified conduct during a difficult and tumultuous semifinal defeat. The future holds bright things for this young man.

God-Pharaoh’s Gift

Jack Kiefer, Top 8 at GP Pittsburgh 2018

Kiefer wasn’t the only one to slam and jam with this deck. In the hands of Yuuki Ichikawa, it took down GP Singapore. I caught up with Standard superstar Corey “Rack ’em Up” Baumeister (he specifically instructed me to include this “nickname”), who also crushed his enemies with GPG, finishing 20th overall. “I think GPG was an insanely good metagame call, dontcha know” he said. “It seems like people kind of forgot this deck exists.”

“It had a really good red matchup,” he continued. “The control matches were good, especially because I had a bunch of practice with maneuvering through their countermagic.” Baumeister is skeptical of the deck’s future, however, especially with the uptick of blue-black decks. “The deck is a blasty-blast to play, however” he finished, “a blasty-blast from the pasty-past.”

This is not a joke—those were his exact words. Yep.

The Takeaway

Red is still powerful, but ultimately beatable. Despite it winning the tournament, we saw fewer copies of Goblin Chainwhirler in the Top 8, and the metagame has clearly self-adjusted to minimize the impact of the oppressive 3/3. Red decks have a massive target painted on them, and people arrived prepared to challenge them more strongly than ever before.

God-Pharaoh’s Gift proved itself to be a tier 1 force in what we thought was a settled Standard format. The deck is powerful, fast, and updated to tackle the field this weekend with cards like Sunscourge Champion in the main deck. In addition, decks just aren’t playing the right combination of cards to go up against GPG. It’s time to find room for those Scavenger Grounds again.

Green decks completely fell off the radar this weekend. In both Singapore and Pittsburgh, not a single Forest made it to the Top 8. Goblin Chainwhirler punishes green decks from the ground up, turning Llanowar Elves into Skirk Prospector, and Glorybringer continues to be the worst enemy of green decks everywhere. Red removal lines up far too well against green decks for them to gain traction. It’s not a good time to be a green mage.

This weekend, it’s time for the U.S. Nationals! Nationals tournaments were enormously entertaining last year, and with recent developments in Standard we may actually see a deep and engaging field emerge in Ohio this weekend. I’ll be back to bring you all the action!

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