4 Lessons from Grand Prix Washington D.C.

The Result

In the lead up to Pro Tour Dominaria this weekend, the world’s most powerful wizards converged on Washington, D.C. to do battle in another Team Limited event. Dominaria has, so far, established itself as one of the all-time great Limited formats, and the weekend’s action didn’t do anything to diminish that.

The tournament also supported the idea that Limited is very much a skill-testing format. The run towards the Top 4 was filled with some of the biggest names in Magic.

The Top 4 ultimately contained a galaxy’s worth of stars, with a collective Magic CV that would cost an arm and a leg in ink cartridges just to print off. Finally sitting down to Team Draft were Brad Nelson, Brian Braun-Duin, and Martin Müller, Ondrej Strasky, Shahar Shenhar, and Oliver Tiu, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Eric Froehlich, and Ben Stark, and Petr Sochurek, Peter Ingram, and Andrew Tenjum.

After a hard-fought finals series that featured three Drafts and masterful Limited play, ultimately, it was the accidental team of Tenjum, Ingram, and Sochurek that took home the trophy. Rather than tell the story myself, I’ll allow these tweets to speak for themselves:

The Moments

A bit of Ben Stark’s splashed Draft chaff produces the most obscene blowout:

Brad Narson somehow beats a Torgaar, Famine Incarnate wearing a Helm of the Host:

A disgustingly powerful start from Reid Duke sees 10 power across seven creatures on turn four:

Duke also tells the story of how he saved a bird before taking names at the GP (all in a day’s work):

The Deck

Red-blue decks were the talk of the tournament. The power of value-oriented kicker cards is no secret, and people have enjoyed getting their opponents with Caligo Skin-Witch and friends for quite some time. This weekend, however, showcased the power of Ghitu Chronicler, and all the ridiculous plays it can enable.

European heavyweights Martin Müller and Thomas Enevoldsen both had terrific Day 1 campaigns with their blue-red decks, going 8-0 and 7-1 respectively. Top 4 competitor Müller was able to pull together a very aggressive approach to the archetype, with multiple copies of Adeliz, the Cinder Wind and heaps of strong interaction.

Conversely, Enevoldsen’s deck sought to be a little more controlling. Bigger, more powerful creatures stood ready to take over the game later on, paired with excellent removal to keep the game under control. Plus, it never hurts to have Karn, Scion of Urza on your side.

Combining blue and red to pull together a “spells matter” deck isn’t too difficult in formats like Team Sealed and Draft, where a plethora of instants and sorceries in both colors will be flying around. With plenty of removal and card draw in red and blue respectively, it’s rare that your kicked Ghitu Chronicler isn’t going to be able to return the exact type of effect you need at a given time.

The Takeaway

While this week’s Pro Tour will focus on individual Limited play in contrast to the team-based event we had this weekend, there were important data points for competitors to take away from this GP, as every Dominaria tournament brings the format into clearer focus.

Our knowledge of the format is nowhere near complete. A historical preference for black and white—principally due to the top-notch removal at common—was undercut this week, as value-focused decks built to grind out a longer game with recursion and larger creatures rose to the fore. Ghitu Chronicler was a centerpiece of these decks, but their core of blue commons (Cloudreader Sphinx, Academy Journeymage) was also seen paired with white and blue throughout the tournament.

Dominaria was immediately recognized as a very defensive format, and this broad consensus hasn’t yet changed. We did, however, see several pilots looking to upend this idea with sleek, efficient, and very quick aggressive decks. Principally based in red-white, cheap creatures coupled with Equipment was the name of the game in trying to close out games quickly. Innocuous, “underpowered” creatures like Mesa Unicorn can spiral games of control very swiftly (especially when followed up with a Dub—“arise, Sir Unicorn of the Mesa”).

More broadly, we’re seeing Equipment and Auras play a larger role than usual in Limited. The trend of cranking up the power level of these attachments over the years now sees us in a position where people are looking for reasons to run cards like Dub and Frenzied Rage, even with several bounce spells at common! Don’t leave yourself cold to an early Jousting Lance or the like, and when drafting, don’t ignore the late Broken Bonds and Invoke the Divines.

The time has finally come—the Pro Tour is upon us! I’ll be there in Richmond to aid in broadcasting all the action to the world, and will be back here with a roundup of everything you need to know about the tournament. See you then!


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