The stage was set for another double Grand Prix weekend, this time in Richmond. Legacy and Standard were put on show across the three days of competition, but it was the Legacy tournament that featured an exciting new twist on Magic coverage. Team Coverage followed Reid Duke for his entire Legacy tournament, with Duke alternating between the feature match area and the booth as every turn of every game he played was broadcast. As someone who is consistently exhausted after just doing a weekend’s coverage, I was blown away by how Duke managed to play and commentate across two days. Incredible!
Duke tragically missed out on the Legacy Top 8, however, which featured a reasonable cross-section of a format still in flux after some relatively recent bannings. The new Death’s Shadow list made an appearance, as did old favorite Stoneblade. Temur Delver, Grixis Control, and Eldrazi all cracked the Top 8 as well, but the final showdown was between Miracles in the hands of Andrew Cuneo and Lands piloted by Lucien Longlais. Ultimately, Cuneo’s mastery of white-blue control decks proved too much to handle, and he was duly crowned the champion!
— Magic Pro Tour (@magicprotour) September 2, 2018
In Standard, we saw much of the same stuff that has dominated the format for the last few months. Black-Red Aggro was omnipresent among the top decks, competing only with blue-based control and blue-black midrange strategies. Nonetheless, some huge names secured big finishes, with Seth Manfield, Oliver Tiu, and Mike Sigrist all making it to the Top 8. Sigrist, in fact, made it all the way to the finals. It was there, however, that he was dispatched by Alexander Hon. Congratulations to the weekend’s second GP champion!
— Magic Pro Tour (@magicprotour) September 3, 2018
Lucien Longlais casually dumps four mana sources into play on turn 1:
Matt Nass equally casually dumps a Griselbrand into play, also on turn 1:
Stefan Schutz storms off on easy mode with a squillion Rituals:
Reid Duke was said to be playing Grixis Control, but was clearly playing Burn:
The departure of both Deathrite Shaman and Gitaxian Probe from the Legacy format has, obviously, had a profound effect on the shape of the format. Delver decks are split across Temur and Grixis, and Czech Pile has disappeared entirely. Some decks that have lain dormant for years have begun to reemerge, blinking, into the blinding light of competitive viability.
Joe Lossett, 6th at GP Richmond (Legacy) 2018
In days of yore, Legacy was dominated by Esper and Jeskai Stoneblade, but the latest iteration of this old favorite features just two colors. Miracles, the format’s other main white-blue deck, is much more controlling, with Stoneblade being a little more flexible and midrange-oriented. In fact, Stoneblade can deftly pivot between proactive and reactive game play as the situation demands, with both hard-hitting creatures and first-rate removal.
Joe Lossett cruised into the Top 8 with his approach to the archetype, featuring all the usual Legacy suspects, in addition to some excellent and wild new faces. Venser, Shaper Savant would have taken more than one person by surprise this weekend, as would have Nahiri, the Lithomancer out of the board!
Hall-of-Famer Owen Turtenwald also rumbled with a Stoneforge variant, but rather than going bigger with Vendilion Clique and Venser, Turtenwald played Delver of Secrets! His list was much more aggressively streamlined, with a heavy tempo package thanks to playsets of Daze and Spell Pierce. Both players had remarkable results, and proved that Stoneblade is back on the menu.
Owen Turtenwald, 10th at GP Richmond (Legacy) 2018
The highlight of the weekend—even on top of Legacy seeing more GP coverage—was undoubtedly the match-by-match coverage of Reid Duke’s GP campaign. It seemed to be an exceptionally popular approach to coverage, with unparalleled insight into the mind of one of the game’s greats from a boots-on-the-ground perspective.
Reid Duke so good. #GPRichmond
— James (@letzgoterps) September 1, 2018
— Hunter Blaes (@BallMeBlazerr) August 31, 2018
Additionally, innovations such as a table mic, handcam, and bespoke sideboarding perspectives added to both the immersion and the drama of the weekend, and viewers made their voices heard.
— Hunter Blaes (@BallMeBlazerr) August 31, 2018
I never knew how much I wanted to hear Reid Duke and his opponents talk to each other during a game of Magic. Super impressed by the coverage so far. #GPRichmond
— Saffron Olive (@SaffronOlive) August 31, 2018
From a broader perspective, the Legacy tournament gave us a good idea of the slow development of the format. After having cycled through the combo-focused decks held in check by DRS such as Sneak and Show or Reanimator, Legacy seems to be heading toward a more battlefield-oriented, interaction-heavy metagame. Creature decks put up good numbers among the top decks—everything from Delver to Eldrazi—and as a result control decks like Miracles were able to take advantage of this.
In Standard, it was just another day at the office for a format that I hesitate to call “solved”—perhaps “settled” is the best way to describe it. As usual, it was Goblin Chainwhirler, Torrential Gearhulk, and not much else. We’ve seen these decks before, and doubtless we’ll see them again. With rotation so close, incentives to innovate are low.
But happily, the coming weeks are chock-a-block with Modern tournaments! This weekend we’re off to Detroit for Team Unified Modern, and I’ll be calling the action alongside the rest of Team Coverage. I’ll see you then for the full Motor City experience!
Image credit: @MagicProTour