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By: Pyrosin, Matt Rossi
Feb 27 2008 12:00am
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Grand Prix Vancouver

Vancouver Skyline

The Magic scene moved to Vancouver, Canada this week where we got our first look at Extended on the Pro level since PT Valencia back in October.

393 players sat down at the beginning of Day One, meaning only the Top 64 would advance to Day Two of this event.  But before we get to that...

First Things First         

Its qualifier season for Pro Tour Hollywood, which will be held May 23-25, and the format for these events is Extended.  That means we can get a feel for the current Extended metagame by taking a look at the Top 8 decklists for the PT Qualifiers from the past two months.  Mike Flores wrote a nice article found here, that recaps the qualifier season up to this point.  And what we find is a metagame very similar to the one that we've seen in Josh's Extended Play articles located on this site.  That means a very diverse format with viable options in aggro, control and combo.

On the Aggro side you've got your Onslaught era Goblins deck and your Mirrodin era Affinity deck.  I'm sorry to say that other than Auntie's Hovel, Lorwyn block hasn't really altered the deck.  This just reinforces how silly the deck was to begin with.  I think we all know what Affinity does at this point.  It's even more of a block deck than Goblins.  There's also Domain Zoo, aka Gaea's Might Get There, whose curve tops out at a CC of 3, and plays the best weenie creatures in each color.  If none of those decks tickle your fancy, then you can always go with Red Deck Wins and burn your opponent out.  There's a large variation of RDW which may splash Green for Tarmogoyf, Black for Dark Confidant, or both to give the deck a little more punch.

If you prefer your creatures be a little bigger, then you can choose from several of the  decks that go with Doran, the Siege Tower, Loxodon Hierarch, or Spiritmonger as their fatty of choice and try to play a big Death Cloud for the win.  You can see lists for these decks in the Flores article mentioned above. 

On the Control side, the best deck appears to be Patrick Chapin's  Next Level Blue.  It runs the Counterbalance/Sensei's Divining Top combo with Tarmogoyf, a Trinket Mage or Living Wish-based tool box, and a whole bunch of blue cards like Sower of Temptation to steal your opponent's creatures.

If you want to go with Combo, then there's several options.  The first is Dredge, in which you do silly things with Bridge from Below.  Most Pros say this is the most powerful deck in Extended, but it also receives the most hate, so therefore may not be the best deck.  The durable TEPS deck is still around with its Mind's Desire into Tendrils of Agony kill.  If you rather play with enchantments, then Enduring Ideal might be the way to go.  But the newest combo deck comes to us courtesy of the Morningtide Rare Reveillark.  You can find the combo in the Flores article, but I'm going to go through it here, visually, just so I know that I know it.  They say you don't really know something until you can explain it to someone else, so here we go:

Bubble Hulk Combo

Step 1.  Cards you need in hand

Through the Breach
 

 +

 

Protean Hulk

 
Step 2. Put Protean Hulk into play with Through the Breach       

Step 3.  When Protean Hulk goes to the graveyard, search your library for:

Body Double

 +

 

 

Carrion Feeder

 
Step 4. Use Body Double to copy Protean Hulk.  Sacrifice Body Double to Carrion Feeder.   

Step 5. Body Double's Hulk ability triggers. Search your library for:

Mogg Fanatic

+

 

 

Forest

 

 

 

 

Step 8. Body Double comes into play as a copy of Reveillark, leaving the same board position as Step 5.  Repeat Steps 6 and 7 until opponent is dead.

 

 

 

 

Step 6. Sacrifice Mogg Fanatic, OPPONENT TAKES 1 DAMAGE! Sacrifice Reveillark to Carrion Feeder. 

 

Step 7. Reveillark's leaves play ability triggers. Body Double has a power of 0, so return it to play copying Reveillark.  Also return Mogg Fanatic to play. 

Body Double
 

And it's just that easy.  6 card combo, with at least 1 card from each color.  Luckily, you only need to cast one of those 6 cards.  If you get the nut draw, you can win Turn 1, but on average it's slower than Dredge.  As with most combo decks, it's too much of a pain to pull off online.  But I still think its fun to look at, and it did win one of the GP trials held the night before Vancouver started. 

So, going into GP Vancouver, there were at least a dozen viable Extended strategies out there, let's see what faired best.

On With the Show

Day One entailed 8 rounds of Swiss, with players needing at least 18 points and a record of 6 - 2 to make Day Two.  As expected, there were a large number of different archetypes were brought to the tournament.  

Colors

Deck Name

Inside the Numbers

Percentage

RDW

14%

Next Level Blue

11%

Doran

10%

Goblins

7%

Death Cloud

6%

Dredge

6%

  Affinity

5%

Gaea's Might Get There

4%

Enduring Ideal

3%

UG Tron

2%

TEPS

2%

  Other

26%

- Start of the Day  - Made Top 64

The many incarnations of Red Deck Wins lead the way in terms of numbers, comprising 14% of the field.  Frightful of the hate, only 6% played "the most powerful deck in the format" Dredge.  Next Level Blue was the most prevalent control deck at 11%.  Combo in the form of Enduring Ideal and TEPS were played by few, but placed a large percentage in the Top 64, which is an indication of the skill required to pilot these decks.  At most, only one player went with the aforementioned Bubble Hulk deck, which I assume was one of the "Other."

Other stories from Day One:

  •  We saw the effect the new Pro Player structure has had on the attendance of GPs.  Only 3 Europeans made the trip to Vancouver, including Raphael Levy, Olivier Ruel, and Solemn Simulacrum himself, Jens Thoren.  The only two Japanese players present were, reigning Player of the Year Tomoharu Saito and GP Stuttgart Winner Shuhei Nakamaura.  Nakamaura said he only came because he booked his flight before he learned of the structure change.  Both Thoren and Nakamaura earned 2 Pro points for making Top 32 by finishing 17th and 29th, respectively.  Olivier Ruel got 1 point for 42nd.
  • Following up his undefeated Day One at PT Kuala Lumpur, Paul Cheon came back and had an undefeated Day One at GP Vancouver, going 7 - 0 - 1 with the newest version of Next Level Blue, which he was calling "Previous Level Blue," having removed Counterbalance for more hard counters, like Spell Snare.

Breakdown of Top 64

Colors

Deck Name

Number

Percentage

RDW

18%

Next Level Blue

15%

Death Cloud

10%

Goblins

10%

TEPS

7%

Doran

7%

Enduring Ideal

6%

Gaea's Might Get There

6%

UG Tron

3%

Dredge

3%

  Affinity

3%

 

Other

6%

 - Made Top 64  - Made Top 8

 Day Two saw 6 more rounds of Swiss, and it took 33 points or a record of at least 11 - 3 to make Top 8.  Two extra players got to 33 points, but missed out on tiebreakers.  The aggro decks, Red Deck Wins, Goblins, Gaea's Might Get There, and Affinity made up 37% of the Top 64, but were not able to get a single player into the Top 8.  Remarkably, TEPS which only comprised 2% of the field at the beginning of Day One made up an entire 25% of the Top 8.  And it looks like all that graveyard hate worked, because Dredge was shut out.  From the metagame breakdown its easy to see that the most dominant archetype was  Control, otherwise known as Tarmogoyf and Counterspells.

 Top 8

Headlining the Top 8 of GP Vancouver was Paul Cheon.  Unlike PT Kuala Lumpur, Paul was able to finish strong with a record of 11-1-2.  The Top 8 also contained several unknowns in the form of Marc Bonnefoy and Aaron Paquette, friends from Canada who were both playing TEPS.  Hunter Coale from the USA and Michael Gurney from Canada, who made Top 8 at PT LA in 2000, were both playing with their own versions of Next Level Blue.  It was hometown boy Jason Fleurant that played the lone non-Blue deck in the Top 8 with his  Death Cloud build.  

But the biggest story of the Top 8 was the emergence of the UG Tron deck designed by 2006 US Nationals Runner Up Ben Lundquist.  Ben gave the deck list to Zack Hall from the USA, who rounded out the Top 8 using the same exact 75 cards.  These two were the only ones to make the Top 64 with UG Tron, so let's take a look at what they were playing.

 

The deck has enough counter magic to stall until it can complete the Urzatron, then uses Gifts Ungiven and Life from the Loam to set up an infinite lock with Academy Ruins and Mindslaver.  The unique element of the deck appears to be the Tarmogoyfs in the sideboard.  In many instances, players would side out much of their creature removal after Game 1, only to be facing a beatdown from the Goyfs in Game 2 with no answers in hand.

Quarterfinals: In the first quarterfinal, Paquette and Bonnefoy played a TEPS mirror match.  Bonnefoy won the coin flip, which meant he got to suspend the first Lotus Bloom in games 1 and 3.  Boring.  Bonnefoy advances 2-1 in the only Top 8 match to see a game 3.  In separate quarterfinal matches, Ben Lundquist and Zack Hall were able to get quick Mindslaver locks to each win 2-0 over Coale and Fleurant, respectively.  The Counterbalance-dependent deck of Hunter Coale didn't stand a chance against the 6 CC Mindslaver.  In the final quarterfinal match, Paul Cheon used Spell Snare after Spell Snare to win some silly counter wars and take down Gurney 2 - 0, meaning 3  Control decks and one TEPS made the semis .

Semifinals: After the TEPS mirror in the quarters, we were greeted with the UG Tron mirror between Lundquist and Hall in the semis.  This mirror focused around both players ramping up their mana to play and activate Mindslaver with enough counter magic in hand to force it through.  In both games, it was the deck's designer, Ben Lundquist that got the Mindslaver first, thus defeating Zack Hall 2-0.

In the other semi, Paul Cheon with Previous Level Blue faced off against Marc Bonnefoy and TEPS.  Cheon felt that TEPS was a bad matchup for him because of the lack of creatures in the TEPS deck.  Paul's only lose in the Swiss was to Bonnefoy and his TEPS deck, but it looked like Cheon learned from the experience.  In both games, Cheon got a Tarmogoyf on the board and then countered the relevant rituals like Lotus Bloom, Seething Song, and Cabal Ritual to prevent Bonnefoy from building enough mana to complete the combo.  Cheon defeats Bonnefoy 2-0. 

 

Congratulations Paul Cheon, Winner of GP Vancouver

Finals:  The finals of GP Vancouver featured a rematch of 2006 US Nationals with Paul Cheon facing off against Ben Lundquist.  Much of Ben's success over the weekend was due to his strong matchup against Next Level Blue decks, but how would he fair against Paul's version Previous Level Blue?  Game 1 saw Cheon make a Tarmogoyf stick on Turn 4 after a small counter war and a Repeal that delayed the Goyf for an extra turn.  Paul continued to protect the Goyf with counter magic and stall Ben with a Repeal of his own.  Ben eventually used a Gifts Ungiven to complete his UrzaTron and put a Mindslaver into his graveyard, but he couldn't find the Academy Ruins in time to set up the lock before Paul took him down with the Goyf to win game 1.

Ben sideboarded in his own Tarmogoyfs, and was able to get on the board early in game 2 while Paul was busy protecting his Tormod's Crypt to prevent a Mindslaver lock from developing.  The deciding factor of the game was when Paul won an epic counter war that stopped a Gifts Ungiven from resolving, leaving Ben with an empty hand.  Paul followed that up with Sower of Temptation on consecutive turns to steal Ben's Goyf and a Venser, Shaper Savant that cleared the way for the win.  Paul Cheon defeats Ben Lundquist 2-0 to win GP Vancouver.

 

Top 20 in the 2008 Player of the Year Standings 
Following GP Vancouver

Ranking Player Points
1 Jon Finkel* 25
2 Mario Pascoli 20
3 Joel Calafell 16
3 Marcio Carvalho 16
3 Ming Xu 16
6 Shuuhei Nakamura* 15
6 Paul Cheon* 15
8 Guillaume Wafo-Tapa 13
9 Mike Hron 12
9 Nicolai Herzog 12
11 Robert van Medevoort 11
12 Brandon Scheel 10
13 Raphael Levy 9
13 Martin Juza 9
13 Patrizio Golia 9
16 Taylor Webb 8
16 Olivier Ruel 8
16 Raul Porojan 8
16 Thomas Preyer 8
16 Steven Sadin 8

* 2008 Event Winner

Player of the Year Race

Jon Finkel still leads with the 25 Pro Points he earned from PT Kuala Lumpur. With his win, Paul Cheon jumps up into a tie for 6th with Shuuhei Nakamura, winner of GP Stuttgart back in December.

Now moving on with the season:  Will UG Tron rise as the control deck of choice?  Will any of the hate go away to allow Dredge to reemerge?  And can anyone come up with an Aggro deck in this format that can do something? 

Join me in two weeks when we get our first look at Post-Morningtide Standard at Grand Prix Shizuoka in Japan. 

5 Comments

teps by Reaper9889 at Wed, 02/27/2008 - 10:20
Reaper9889's picture

TEPS = The Extended Perfect Storm

PT Hollywood is Standard, no? by 88spartans88 at Wed, 02/27/2008 - 12:24
88spartans88's picture

Pro Tour-Hollywood is a three-day Standard format event with a prize purse of $230,795. For more information about the format, schedule, and prize payout, click here.

Qualifiers are Extended.  But the tournament itself is Standard.

teps by Barfly (Unregistered) 71.169.183.107 (not verified) at Wed, 02/27/2008 - 10:07
Barfly (Unregistered) 71.169.183.107's picture

what does teps stand for?

 

by DIProgan (Unregistered) 90.225.93.53 (not verified) at Wed, 02/27/2008 - 00:59
DIProgan (Unregistered) 90.225.93.53's picture

Clean and nice. Been interested in what's hot in extended lately and this told most of it. One of very very few Magic-articles i've read straight through.

There is a need to function by lenyrose2013 at Thu, 09/29/2016 - 06:36
lenyrose2013's picture
5

There is a need to function for the best result. That is how everything works. - Morgan Exteriors