The last Grand Prix Las Vegas I attended was in 2001. It was my second GP ever, had 462 players, and ran a scant thirteen rounds of Swiss.
I'd heard a lot about the last few Vegas GPs, and it was about time I participated. Sure enough, it didn't take long for me to be completely exhausted. Four or five days of Magic is simply too much for me. Interacting with people is great and one of the reasons I will continue to attend tournaments, but it does take its toll.
The week started with Legacy, continued with Sealed, and finished with Modern. My plan was to make Day 2 of both the Legacy and Modern GPs and forego Sealed entirely.
It didn't quite work out that way.
B/R Reanimator seems great. Despite six of my seven games ending with every relevant spell of mine being countered, I would happily run back the same deck. However, I wouldn't necessarily play the same 75. To start, we basically copied pyromaniac4290's list from Magic Online and made small tweaks.
Most lists have opted for Collective Brutality over Unmask in the maindeck, and I eventually came around to maindeck Unmask after some chatting with Todd. In Game 1, you want to jam your combo against everyone, which makes Unmask ideal and Collective Brutality a bit too slow. Should they stop you, hopefully you were at least able to deposit a fatty into the graveyard. At that point, you have twelve reanimation spells that are your threats.
Post-board, you can play a longer game with Collective Brutality, either killing Deathrite Shaman or punching through their wall of countermagic. Should they manage to keep their Deathrite Shaman around (or have other graveyard hate), you can juke them with Stronghold Gambit or Show and Tell.
Many of the Magic Online decks splashed Wear//Tear, but rather than destroy hate, I'd prefer to have an eight-card sideboard plan that mostly makes the hate irrelevant. Stronghold Gambit and Show and Tell are threats on their own, which make them potent sideboard options. Sitting on a Wear//Tear when your opponent has Deathrite Shaman or Surgical Extraction isn't going to get you anywhere.
Aside from the sideboard cards, the deck is very close to Mono-Black. Faithless Looting isn't entirely necessary, but it is nice at points. B/R Reanimator is more of a "jam" deck like Belcher and less of a "sculpting" combo deck like Storm. This deck isn't very interested in splashing Brainstorm, but Faithless Looting counts as a combo piece, so playing some filtering happens accidentally.
For the most part, B/R Reanimator is incredibly redundant with its disruption, fast mana, ways to put fatties in the graveyard, and ways to bring them back to life. Splashing cantrips would make the deck more consistent at doing its thing overall, but less consistent at accomplishing it in the early turns. Putting a big thing onto the battlefield on Turn 1 is what this deck is about, and that's where you want to be in Legacy, at least for right now.
Before the Grand Prix, I was eyeing this deck that finished 16th in the God of Legacy tournament with nearly 300 players.
This deck is part Tin Fins, part Storm, and all gas.
Without having the time or resources to properly test this monstrosity, I settled on B/R Reanimator. I knew it was solid, potentially the best deck in the format, and something that people were probably not prepared to face. That said, there is certainly room for improvement, and this deck could be it.
Mono-Black Reanimator will only win by putting Griselbrand onto the battlefield at some point, whereas B/R Reanimator can, in theory, beat decks with Chancellor of the Annex. While that could be construed as a weakness, you should also keep in mind that this deck will almost always win the game once Griselbrand has been activated. Additionally, it gets access to Lion's Eye Diamond / Infernal Tutor, which should add to the consistency.
Todd bemoaned his Sultai Delver matchup with B/R Reanimator, and the plan of hard-casting Grave Titan seems to fix that issue. Grim Monolith and Lake of the Dead are clever solutions to the problem, and likely something I'll try in the future.
I joined the Sealed GP with the intent of dropping if my record was worse than 8-1. While I was confident in my drafting abilities, I was looking forward to playing Modern. I effectively dropped at 5-1. My deck wasn't great, I was exhausted, and I wanted get my Modern deck ready.
At the time, I wasn't aware I could play the first few rounds of Day 2 during my byes while still being signed up for the Modern GP (and was actually told the opposite). Maybe I would have stayed in had I known.
Oh, well. It was time to rest and finalize my list for Modern.
The only deck I brought with me was Grixis Death's Shadow. I had been doing well with it and it still seemed like the best deck, but it was clear that everyone else was adapting. For a moment, I considered playing W/B Tokens, Affinity, Mono-Green Tron, or anything else that might be well-suited to decks trying to fight Grixis Death's Shadow. Liliana of the Veil is one of the cards that looked particularly well-positioned to fight Eldrazi Tron and Grixis Death's Shadow. Returning to Jund or Sultai Death's Shadow seemed like a reasonable plan.
I knew I was going to be the dead money in the Grand Prix, but I enjoy Grixis, so I ran with it.
My main change was to add a third Tasigur, the Golden Fang to the maindeck and cut the Collective Brutalities in the sideboard. Overall, nothing groundbreaking.
I defeated G/R Valakut Round 4, lost a close one to Abzan in Round 5, and played horrendously and got punished against Burn in Round 6. The week was taking its toll and I decided to get out of there rather than try to soldier on. I was looking forward to resting up and enjoying the company.
The third Tasigur, the Golden Fang was mostly great, although there were some issues in the post-board games once you started facing down graveyard hate. I never felt like I needed the Collective Brutalities, even against Burn. They help against Collected Company, but so does having Anger of the Gods. If I move away from both, I might want some additional help against small creatures.
Was Grixis Death's Shadow the wrong choice? Probably. The Top 8 didn't have any copies, but two of them did finish 13-2. The Top 32 was littered with Grixis Death's Shadow, several of which closely resembled the list from my article. Some, however, did some wild innovating.
Owen's list is the biggest departure from the original list that I've seen.
Playing Dismember over Terminate makes the mana slightly easier, although it's not like the mana is demanding. The biggest gain is fast Death's Shadows and having additional cheap removal. Having access to the third Watery Grave is nice too. With three Stubborn Denials, having big Death's Shadows early can be game over, and Dismember helps facilitate that.
My biggest issues with Dismember are how much life it costs (because there is a limit) and how you lose out on ways to remove Death's Shadow in the mid-game. Overall, those can mitigated to some degree, especially since you typically want the game to end as quickly as possible. It should be noted that with only black removal spells, things like Mirran Crusader can become unbeatable.
There are diminishing returns on each Dismember. While you will probably run into a point where you don't mind casting a Dismember for three mana, it should be noted that Dismember and Snapcaster Mage aren't exactly friends. Going lower on Street Wraith mitigates the whole life loss issue to some degree, but that isn't an ideal solution either.
Still, I'm willing to believe that having the cheaper removal option for the early game is far more important than anything else.
Dredge is a huge issue, and while it's one that can be solved by copious amounts of graveyard hate, Anger of the Gods is a card that helps in that matchup and against other creature decks. Getting RR isn't trivial, but ignoring those matchups isn't ideal either. Owen presumably thought his matchup against small creature decks was already solid, and he's wrong. I'd still like to pad my percentages a bit if I could.
Ari's list was the other departure from the norm, except unlike Owen's, it's one I can't get behind.
Twelve cantrips and three Terminates is incredibly clunky, although Ari did remove some of the top end. Shaving two land kind of makes sense with all the cantrips, but how often do you end up spinning your wheels in the early game with nothing to show for it? There are times where I'm light on velocity and feel like the deck could use another cantrip or two, but I wouldn't go all-out like Ari did.
Over the course of a tournament, how many hands with a single land are you going to get? Do you keep them? Most Modern decks demand you interact with them quickly, and I can't see Watery Grave plus Sleight of Hand being a great place to be in this format.
Add one Sleight of Hand? Sure, I could see it. Four seems crazy to me though.
Is splashing red just for Kolaghan's Command worth it? Given the existence of Eldrazi Tron and Affinity, I'm willing to say yes. Splashing one card in U/B is close to free, and Kolaghan's Command seems to be the best card to fill in the gaps. If the format seems fast enough that you don't want the tools to fight a late game, not only would I not play Grixis, but I wouldn't cut lands for Sleight of Hands.
I had a ton of fun at #GPVEGAS, even though I wish we had afternoon nap time. If I could do it all over again, I'd skip the Sealed Grand Prix entirely and focus on the two Constructed ones. Eating better and staying closer to the event site would have probably helped too.
Then again, maybe next year it will be a simple Modern Masters Grand Prix and I won't have to worry too much.