4 Lessons from Grand Prix Vegas

The Result

It finally arrived—one of the most hyped Grand Prix all year took place at long last over the weekend, crowning two champions and seeing the wildly exciting Beta Draft take place with some of the biggest names in Magic. Showcasing both Modern and Dominaria Limited, The GPs saw incredible decks triumph and records tumble. It was a remarkable weekend of Magic.

In Modern, Hall-of-Famer Martin Juza snagged his 30th GP Top 8—the highest number yet achieved. Despite this, Matt Nass proved himself nigh-unassailable when piloting Krark-Clan Ironworks Combo, and went all the way with it. This intricate and highly unorthodox combo deck bagged Nass back-to-back Modern GP wins, which, according to Magic statistician ajlvi, puts him at 54-12 at his last five GPs. What a truly incredible run!

In Limited, Dominaria continued to bring the heat as one of the best formats in recent memory. With a Top 8 that included Steve Rubin and Andrew Cuneo, eventual champion Michael Bernat beat out all comers to take the trophy.

Sunday afternoon also featured a triple-Beta Rochester Draft, the only one of its kind ever to take place. Tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of cards were opened and split among the competitors, including a Mox Emerald and a Time Walk, but it was Tim Rivera who emerged victorious after three rounds, with $2,500 and an Alpha Starter Set for his trouble!

The Moments

Rich Hagon opens a Black Lotus, live on stream:

Cosplayers of all sizes were united in Vegas:

The best Staticaster activation in the history of the game:

Of course, there was a Vegas wedding, complete with a reading of the rules for Soulbond:

Ben Stark opens an actual Mox Emerald, live on stream:

The Deck

The olden-days strategies involving Melira, Sylvok Outcast more recently gave way to Vizier of Remedies and Devoted Druid. This two-card infinite-mana combo is enough to win the game on the spot with something like a Duskwatch Recruiter, and doesn’t rely on the graveyard, unlike the old persist combos with Kitchen Finks and Murderous Redcaps. Typically, the green-white base is paired with black to give access to cards like Viscera Seer, but Luke Renaud showed us how powerful an alternative approach can be with his Top 8 performance.

Bant Company

Luke Renaud, Top 8 at GP Vegas 2018

The core collection of green and white creatures remains broadly untouched, and seeks to combo kill with infinite mana plus Duskwatch Recruiter to find and then summon an arbitrarily large Walking Ballista. Key blue cards get the nod to back up this strategy, but in the main deck, Reflector Mage helps to keep the board clear and shines against delve creatures, and in the sideboard, countermagic helps to fight post-board disruption suites.

Some of the toolbox Magic this deck can play, however, is hilariously powerful. For example, this deck can Chord for a Selfless Spirit to defend the team against a sweeper, or a Finks to keep the life total buffered. I don’t know how many people Renaud bamboozled with a Chord for 1 in response to a key instant or sorcery—Judge’s Familiar is the ultimate Force Spike in that situation!

The Takeaway

As has been the norm for many months now, Modern refuses to “settle down.” The format is in a constant state of flux, with decks coming in and out of fashion on a weekly basis. Tron and Humans seem to remain pretty steady toward the top of the format. Tron, in particular, put up a great performance throughout the weekend, and occupied a broad proportion of the Top 16.

Similarly, Jeskai Control has maneuvered its way back to a position of prominence. With a string of Top 8 appearances in recent tournaments, the deck seems to be back in action. This may have something to do with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria as its threat of choice. If you had told me around the time that Jace was unbanned that within a few months he’d be eclipsed by a gold-colored, 5-drop planeswalker, I would have laughed in your face. Who’s laughing now?

Well, mainly, Matt Nass. Krark-Clan Ironworks is a real force to be reckoned with. It’s heavily underrepresented online due to it requiring more clicks than counting in Juǀ’hoan, KCI flies under the radar due to its lack of a real online presence. Make no mistake, however—people will pick this deck up and run with it, so be sure to pack those Stony Silences in preparation for your next Modern tournament.

There’s not too much to say about Dominaria. The set has been a resounding success in both Limited and Constructed, and it will be sad to say goodbye to it in a few weeks as we welcome back Core Set Magic. Dominaria has been a slower format with complex decisions, characterized by excellent removal and flexible threats, and will live on as one of the best of all time.

Next week, I’m off to Pittsburgh! I’ll be in the booth with Reid Duke for the first time in my career, which should make for some barnstorming coverage. I hope you’ll join us on the Twitch stream. If not, I’ll be back here next week to bring you up to speed on the action from PA!

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