4 Lessons from Grand Prix Sydney and Hartford

The Result

A historic weekend of Magic saw some terrific moments emerge on both sides of the Pacific, as players in Sydney and Hartford battled it out in Modern. The format has been at a high point for awhile now, and continued to deliver the goods. In both tournaments, we saw staggering deck diversity and some truly spectacular results.

In Sydney, where the format was Team Unified, Jessica Estephan, Ryan Lewis-Jonns, and Lachlan Saunders emerged triumphant. In doing so, Estephan made history by becoming the first woman to ever win a GP. Playing Hollow One, Humans, and Tron respectively, the trio took another gold home for Australia. Do Australians ever get sick of winning? No. No, we do not.

In Hartford, it was every wizard for themselves. An unbelievably diverse field was put on display in Connecticut, headlined by the ascendancy of Krark-Clan Ironworks in the hands of eventual champion, Matt Nass. A month ago, Nass made the Top 8 of GP Phoenix with the very same deck, but this time he took it all the way, and when the dust settled he was there to hoist the trophy!

The Moments

Watch an entire Bogles mirror in 30 seconds:

Australia is forever at the cutting-edge of fashion:

A rare appearance from an elusive coverage team member:

Aaron Forsythe addresses the now rather silent Henny Pennys of the Modern format:

Kevin Place sits through the KCI combo:

The Deck

Puresteel Paladin Combo existed as a marginal fringe deck in years gone by, and when Sram, Senior Edificer joined us in Aether Revolt there was a lot of talk of the strategy getting a huge shot in the arm. Despite various experimental brews popping up here and there, none managed to push through any notable results, until Ben Reilly finished with a respectable 12-3 record at GP Hartford.


Ben Reilly, 12-3 at GP Hartford

In the grand tradition of naming decks after cereals, “Cheerios” owes its designation to the similarity between this namesake breakfast food and the mana cost of many of the cards in the deck, which is to say, 0. The combo is self-evident—play either Puresteel Paladin or Sram (or both, if you’re a resident of Magical Christmas Land), and have all the 0-cost equipment cycle you to a lethal Grapeshot.

With just 15 lands and nothing in the way of a main-deck plan B (short of suiting up a Sram and getting busy, I suppose), this is an extremely linear combo deck that almost invariably looks to one-shot an opponent. Cards like Retract and Paradoxical Outcome help to mitigate the risk of whiffing, while Ghirapur Aether Grid comes in out of the board to provide an ongoing interactive option.

It’s not the craziest thing to imagine a deck like Cheerios riding to a position of consistent competitive viability—decks like Death’s Shadow, Hollow One, and now even KCI show us that wacky, off-the-wall brewskis can be honed and refined to a point where they’re winning events. Maybe Cheerios could be the next big thing!

The Takeaway

By now, it’s not news to anyone that Modern is the best it has ever been. A wildly diverse metagame is driven onward by a continual cycle of adaptation, innovation, and experimentation, and each week we have a swath of new information and technology to pore over and learn from.

Deck choice in Sydney was obviously heavily influenced by the restrictions in place due to the rules of Team Unified. Decks like Tron, Affinity, Humans, and Dredge were favored, as they share very few cards with other established archetypes. Decks like Jund, GDS, and Mardu were always going to be underrepresented due to their hunger for Modern staples across both removal suites and mana bases.

Unrestricted by any such limitation, players in Hartford brought the decks they truly considered the best. Among many of the world’s leading players, this was Hollow One—a wide proportion of top-level pros came ready to cast Burning Inquiry.


Outside of this, the format was as diverse as we’ve come to expect, although aggressive strategies were certainly favored. Affinity and 5-Color Humans put up the biggest numbers, but they were ultimately unable to follow through. With 15 different archetypes in the Top 16, Modern maintains its reputation as a format where anything goes.

Next week it’s the prerelease! I’ll be back to get across the highlights from Dominaria joining us, so make sure to send through any and all sweet moments and decks from your local LGS. You can find me on Twitter: @rileyquarytower. I can’t wait to see what everyone gets up to!


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