Similar to GP Montreal, GP Minneapolis was my first standard event after a B&R shakeup to the format. This time it was Aetherworks Marvel getting the axe in yet another effort to regain control of a standard format broken by the Kaladesh block.
I usually decide to wait until after the Pro Tour to test a format and invest in a standard deck. The Grand Prix was the week following the PT, so there wasn’t a lot of time to prepare for the event. The Pro Tour was dominated by Ramunap Red, putting 5 copies into the top 8 after the printing of Ramunap Ruins.
Everyone knew that Ramunap Red would have a big target on its back going into the GP, so I had to decide if I was going to play red in the face of potential hate or find another deck. The obvious counter to red was to play mono-black Zombies which was just a very strong deck in its own right. But I had zero practice with zombies, almost none of the cards and little time to try it out.
Besides those excuses for not playing zombies (and they are excuses; if I thought it was the best deck, cost and the effort to practice shouldn’t be a reason not to play it), I really liked the red deck. I’d long ago realized that I often tried to be too clever in trying to predict or outsmart a Grand Prix metagame. Ramunap Red was a very strong deck, maybe the best deck, and I felt like I could play it well. It seemed like it would be a mistake for me to try to play anything else.
GP Decklist – Ramunap Red
4 Bomat Courier
4 Falkenrath Gorger
2 Soul-Scar Mage
4 Earthshaker Khenra
2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
3 Hazoret the Fervent
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2 Collective Defiance
4 Ramunap Ruins
4 Sunscorched Desert
1 Sea Gate Wreckage
1 Scavenger Grounds
1 Sea Gate Wreckage
1 Savage Alliance
2 Magma Spray
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2 Sand Strangler
3 Chandra’s Defeat
2 Pia Nalaar
I tried a number of variations on monored based on the PT top 8 lists. Rather than trying to level the metagame, now what I usually try to do is tune a deck to adapt to the expected hate for the coming week.
If I’m playing the best deck or an expected deck, I first make sure I’m prepared for the mirror. I didn’t deviate too far from stock lists here but I made sure I had a lot of efficient removal and versatile 2-for-1s in my sideboard. I also trusted in my competency to play the mirror after sideboard; both tactically and strategically. For example, many players went big with Glorybringer or Chandra but I didn’t like either card in the mirror because they both traded so inefficiently with Chandra’s Defeat.
Second, I expected an uptick in Zombies so I hedged with more ways to kill Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet in my maindeck. I wouldn’t normally play Collective Defiance at all but it seemed like a necessary evil for this week. Similar logic applied to the x2 Chandra and x1 maindeck Glorybringer which are some of the best cards against Zombies and also good at going over the top in the mirror for game 1 (even though those same cards lose value after sideboard).
GP Day 1
R3, 3-0 – Ramunap Red (W, 2-1)
R4, 4-0 – Monowhite Monument (W, 2-1)
R5, 4-1 – Temur Energy (L, 1-2)
R6, 5-1 – Grixis Control (W, 2-1)
R7, 5-2 – Monoblack Zombies (L, 0-2)
R8, 5-3 – UR Control (L, 1-2)
R9, 6-3 – UR Prowess (W, 2-0)
My decision not to over-metagame the Grand Prix paid off as I played against seven distinct archetypes over my seven rounds of play. After two wins I ran into Temur Energy which was emerging as a new value-based energy midrange deck and a pretty tough matchup for Ramunap Red. A loss there followed by a loss to Zombies in round 7 put me at a 5-2 record.
My only disappointment on the day was a loss to UR Control, which would normally be a good matchup. I nearly lost all 3 games of that match too. I only won game 1 because my opponent called the judge on himself after drawing a sideboard card. He received a game loss, but shoutout to that opponent for his honesty. I’ve had to do this a couple times myself and it feels bad to receive a game loss. It would be easy not to say anything and just play the game out with an improperly presented deck. I admit, the thought does flash briefly through my mind. You might try to justify it by saying, ‘Well, this card isn’t really effecting the outcome of the game anyway.’ But I always feel better knowing that I did the right thing and didn’t take the opportunity to cheat. And I’m glad my opponent did in this case too. For that reason, I was actually happy that my opponent was able to win the next two games and take the match fair and square.
I ended day 1 at 6-3, with two losses to unfavorable matchups and one tough loss to control. An x-3 record is good enough to make day 2, but it never feels like you are playing for all that much. I’ve started to make day 2 regularly enough that I’m still happy to limp in at x-3 but I’d really like to have a better record. As it stood, I got to come back and play another day of Magic without any real pressure to perform well.
GP Day 2
R10, 7-3 – Mardu Vehicles (W, 2-1)
R11, 8-3 – Temur Energy (W, 2-0)
R12, 8-4 – RG Planeswalkers (L, 0-2)
R13, 9-4 – Ramunap Red (W, 2-0)
R14, 10-4 – Mardu Vehicles (W, 2-0)
R15, 10-5 – Ramunap Red (L, 0-2)
On day 2 I started running into the monored mirrors that I was looking forward to playing in this tournament. I played against two Ramunap Red decks and one Ramunap Red shell that was playing green for Rhonas, the Indomitable and Arlinn Kord. I went a disappointing 1-2 in these matches but I did beat both Mardu decks. I had tested Mardu and it just couldn’t beat a Hazoret, which proved to be true here.
I was happy with my deck choice and my decision not to overthink the metagame. Despite a PT top 8 concentrated with Ramunap Red I still didn’t face any archetype more than once on day 1 of the Grand Prix. The field wasn’t flooded with ‘the best deck’ or the counter to the best deck. It’s just another datapoint that shows how open most Grand Prix fields are; some players will try to test every deck and metagame the field but many players just play what they have or what they like.
I ended up 10-5, which was good enough to pick up 1 pro point. The pro points didn’t mean anything to me in terms of pro club status, but it still felt good to do well enough to earn them. I had earned my very first pro point at the end of 2016 and now I was starting to do well enough to consistently pick up a point or two here and there which felt like progress.
[Note: GP Minneapolis was 08/05/17. Tournament report written as part of an end of year catch up on overdue reports, published 12/31/17 and backdated.]