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By: MindlessMarty, Filipe Rodrigues
Jul 06 2017 12:00pm
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It’s that time of the year again when Magic meets Vegas and all kinds of greatness happen. Since the 2014-2015 season where attendance numbers reached through the roof with a record of 7551 people playing Magic: The Gathering in the same room,  Grand Prix Las Vegas never stopped surprising and this year was no different.


With 3 different formats on the menu: Legacy, Limited and Modern, I think it’s safe to say the one that surprised everyone the most was Modern. The most dominant deck for a while, Death's Shadow, was nowhere to be found in the top 8. How was that even possible? In this article, we are going to take a closer look at GP Vegas and its surprises, from cards to decks and even players. 


Surprise #1 - UB Taking Turns

When I started to think about what I was going to write in order to introduce this deck I find myself at a lack of words as I had never thought I would see this deck top 8 of an event ever (ok, perhaps "never" is too strong of a word). Not that this deck isn’t good. This top 8 has to mean something, right? "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas"? Yes, that’s probably it!

On a more serious note, this deck isn’t that bad. It seems to be safe against Control decks and Tron variants but seems to have a hard time against Zoo, Burn or Affinity. Gigadrowse certainly had a lot of work keeping things under control in the early game alongside Fatal Push and the various win conditions such as Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Thing in the Ice or a Part the Waterveil to awaken your Inkmoth Nexus take you to victory quickly once you have the turn engine going for you. 

The deck list seems pretty tuned with some odd numbers. I think nobody prepares for this particular matchup in any tournament and even if they do I don’t know if they would be expecting Commandeer and Snapback. I for instance, only saw these cards because they were selling an unusual amount and appeared on the bottom of the top selling lists of some Magic: The Gathering websites. However, I never actually saw them cast until now. 

This player definitely has played a lot of turns with this deck and knows his way around the list, a skill you obtain by playing and playing some more and never giving up despite the result. 

This deck is obviously very unique in the way it plays and you either love it or hate it, but Daniel Wong was very entertaining to watch in GP Vegas and after his performance with the deck, I think it’s worth to give it a shot if you are into this kind of strategy. 


Surprise #2 - A 6-year-old playing in a GP? 


Just a quick shout out to this young player, Dana Fischer. At such a young age she managed to finish 5-4, just short of a day 2. Not only can you see her in the feature match during round 1 of the Modern Grand Prix, you can watch her successfully pilot her deck, GB Elves to a clean victory. Hopefully she continues to give a great example of what we can all achieve as Magic players no matter the age or gender.



Surprise #3 - Hatebears


In a format dominated by Death's Shadow decks, where the most popular removal is Fatal Push, Terminate and Kolaghan's Command, Mirran Crusader is king. This card over performed throughout GP Vegas, and it's because protection from black can dodge all that removal!  Having double strike really hurts your opponent's health! 

4 Leonin Arbiter, while fine in Craig's deck really gets to shine in a mono-coloured deck, like it did in in the second place list.  It is very good in a meta where most decks have more than 8 fetchlands. By opting to go single colored like Theau Mery did, he was able to easily run 4 copies of Tectonic Edge which are a good way to disrupt your opponent’s mana base. (Dusk/Dawn) also seems like a a great choice as it’s just a better wrath that might be useful against some matchups. 

Craig Wescoe’s version adds green to the mix and offers you more power with cards such as Qasali Pridemage and Noble Hierarch which pump your attacker through exalted. Plus, this green and white version is also more versatile since having Qasali Pridemage and Scavenging Ooze in the main deck, allow you to deal with artifact and enchantments and also hate on graveyard strategies. Last but not least, Collected Company is also a reason to go green. I think no one can deny this is a powerful card. If you have any doubt you should have seen Craig cast Collected Company into double Mirran Crusader.

Despite both decks having ways to deal with Affinity, which was very present in the meta, the 2 Stony Silence present in both versions and the 2 more Aura of Silence on the single colored deck, didn’t seem enough for that weekend as Craig Wescoe made 6th place and Theau Mery made second place. However, this is a very solid deck and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it top8 more often.

Surprise #4 - WB Planeswalker Pox

A deck you don’t see near the top much often, WB Smallpox made a great result in GP Vegas coming in at 12th place. This deck has seen great additions to it in recent times, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar being one of them, hence the name change from WB Smallpox to WB Planeswalker Pox.

The thing about this deck is you want to increase your advantage with Smallpox. You do so by discarding Lingering Souls, Bloodghast or cards you might not need, such as extra lands when flooded for example. Another way to do it is by using Flagstones of Trokair when you need to sacrifice a land. However, it’s the Planeswalkers such as Khans of Tarkir’s Sorin, Solemn Visitor or Battle for Zendikar’s Gideon, Ally of Zendikar that give this deck the power it needed. They can create tokens to populate the board and pressure the opponent and are also a threat by themselves. Just like in Standard, you don’t want to be creatureless against a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Another dangerous scenario you don’t want to face is going against a bunch of Lingering Souls spirit tokens pumped up by a Sorin, Solemn Visitor to smash you while your opponent gains life. 

Just like the taking turns deck mentioned earlier, this is another solid deck which many players have a love or hate relationship over it. However, this might be a time to pick it up if you like planeswalkers (a lot).



Surprise # 5 - Humans


Another deck which has been helped by the printing of some recent cards is Humans. Just like Hatebears, the Humans deck has been having better and better results with time and despite not making Top 8 it made a solid 19th place. 

You probably have a human for pretty much anything you need now. Need to pump every creature? Here’s (Thalia's Lieutenant) for you. Hate playing against Control? How about Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Kambal, Consul of Allocation? How about Reflector Mage to out tempo your opponent? Everything you need to be done, this deck will do it. Just tune it to your meta (disclaimer: easier said than done). Anyway, I also wouldn't be surprised to see this deck have better results in the feature as it seems to gain more and more popularity online and it’s certainly a fun deck to play.




In summary, Grand Prix Las Vegas definitely stood out this year. Not only for the diversity of its 3 massive main events with different formats but also for the diversity of the Modern metagame. 

Everyone seemed to forget how good Affinity can be or was just too busy preparing for how good Death's Shadow is. However, these two decks alone have 6 copies of each in the Top32. Shadow players will probably use Lightning Bolt in the future instead of Fatal Push to deal with Mirran Crusader so be wary of that, and expect Death's Shadow to still top 8 in the future. With very little sideboard present and a lack of cards such as Kataki, War's Wage, Affinity was able to take advantage of a weakness in the metagame.  It’s going to become more popular but people are also going to prepare better against it. Anyway, I can’t wait to see the next big surprise in Modern and I would hate it if I had to wait until the next GP Vegas to happen. Will Death's Shadow be banned? Is Modern a fair format? One thing is for sure, the metagame sure has proven to be diverse in GP Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? Let’s hope not!