4 Lessons from Grand Prix Toronto

The Result

The Grand Prix circuit made a stop in Toronto last weekend. The city is a wonderful place to visit, especially during its beautiful spring time, but a word of warning for international travelers who may think they can rely on a Canadian visa to visit: Toronto is no longer part of Canada, as a result of being completely owned by LeBron James of Cleveland, Ohio. Sports!

This confusion aside, however, players from around the world battled Standard, Modern, and Legacy in the latest Team Trios event. The Top 4 had some proud scions of the frozen northlands representing their noble nation. Jennifer Crotts, Tyler Blum, and Robert Smith made the trip from Calgary and snagged a Pro Tour invite each. But with some of the biggest names in Magic appearing to contest another team tournament, it was unsurprising to see some familiar faces make the Top 4: Noah Walker, Oliver Tiu, and Oliver Tomajko made the cut, as did Brian “Battlebond” Braun-Duin, Seth Manfield, and Brad Nelson.

Emerging victorious, however, was the local trio of Morgan McLaughlin, Chris Harabas, and Lucas Siow. Playing White-Black Vehicles, 5-Color Humans, and Czech Pile respectively, this team not only topped the Swiss but also demonstrated that they are all about that base when lifting trophies.

The Moments

Poor old Wedge had some heavy shade thrown at him during spellslinging.

Affinity just can’t beat Tireless Tracker (although I suppose the Blood Moon and double-Emperion is helping a little).

Corey Burkhart tried his hand at text coverage—is there anything this modern day Samson can’t do?

I don’t think even the people who designed Chains of Mephistopheles were quite sure what it does.

The Deck

Last week, I wrote about how Teferi, Hero of Dominaria was starting to make a real splash in Modern. Seth Manfield seems to be of the same mind, piloting a Jeskai masterpiece all the way to the Top 4 that featured two copies of the new white-blue planeswalker.

Jeskai Control

Seth Manfield, Top 4 at GP Toronto 2018

For anyone who still doesn’t yet understand how a sorcery-speed 5-drop that doesn’t immediately win the game can possibly be making waves in a format as powerful as Modern, remember this: Secretly, Teferi isn’t actually a 5-drop. He’s a 3-drop you can’t cast until turn 5. Viewed through that lens, it isn’t difficult to see why he’s the latest control darling in Modern.

Playing a slower, more controlling game in Modern is difficult, principally due to the fact that the threats are impossibly diverse and the answers are necessarily narrow or limited. Dealing with anything and everything an opponent might throw at you is a difficult ask. A rolling value engine like Teferi, therefore, is enormously helpful in not falling behind.

Manfield played a high density of instants, which Teferi readily supports with his +1 ability. But Manfield’s preference for Serum Visions above Opt, in addition to his inclusion of three copies of Search for Azcanta, mean I’ll be adjusting my list accordingly. You simply can’t ignore the opinions of a player of Manfield’s caliber.

The Takeaway

At the present moment, it’s abundantly clear that each format has a “best deck.” What’s less clear is just how dominant these “best decks” are, as the push and pull of the respective metagames sees things develop at a different pace. Still, it’s difficult to argue against the fact that Standard, Modern, and Legacy are becoming more and more homogenized as time goes on.

In Standard, Black-Red Vehicles enjoyed a second consecutive week at the top of the pile. This came as a surprise to many, because while the deck is resilient and robust, it isn’t devoid of weakness. Keep a close eye on the results of next fortnight’s Pro Tour, as that will certainly settle the question of what the future holds for this deck. In the meantime, make sure you’re playing answers to Heart of Kiran and Karn, Scion of Urza! Oh, and Goblin Chainwhirler, and Rekindling Phoenix. Don’t forget Walking Ballista, either, or Glorybringer. And assuming you can answer all of those cards, don’t leave yourself dead to Chandra…

5-Color Humans continues to dominate the Modern format. As a disruptive creature deck, it excels at proactively attacking untuned or clunky lists, but can be dispatched relatively easily with sweepers or other game plans that nullify attacking creatures (for example, Ensnaring Bridge decks). Don’t skimp on cheap kill spells, and find ways to leverage mass removal wherever possible.

Grixis Delver maintains its position as the de facto overlord of Legacy. Heavily represented deep into Day 2, Delver can beat just about any opposing strategy due to its aggressive clock, tempo-oriented disruption, and consistent game play. Of course, if you’re wanting to beat Grixis Delver, you know what to do—dust off those Trinispheres and Blood Moons, power them out with your Chrome Moxen and Simian Spirit Guides, and don’t forget to bring along fifty cheering Scotsmen to chant your name.

Next week I’m off to D.C. for some more Dominaria Limited—it’s the last chance for the pros to get in some high-level stress-testing of their ideas before the Pro Tour. It’ll be fascinating to see what new strategies emerge from next weekend’s tournament. I’ll be back to get you across all the action!

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