Grand Prix Coverage – 14-16/09/18 – Hong Kong (Modern)

Hi all, just over a week ago while most of my friends took a trip to Stockholm to play in a Modern Grand Prix, I flew to Hong Kong to attend the GP taking place there (which was also Modern). In this article I’ll give an overall review of my adventures abroad which of course are mainly about the GP itself. The reason I travelled to Hong Kong instead of Stockholm despite it being much further away was because it was my chosen destination for the top prize at the Axion Now Mega Modern event which took place in January. I wrote an article about this which you can read here.

My deck

Of course, I was going to give 5c Humans another outing. Bant Spirits and Hardened Scales have caught my eye as decks with which I’d like to experiment, but given that I wanted to go into the event with as much confidence in my deck as possible, I thought it would be best to stick to my guns.

Maindeck (60)
Ancient Ziggurat
Cavern of Souls
Horizon Canopy
Seachrome Coast
Unclaimed Territory
Champion of the Parish
Noble Hierarch
Kitesail Freebooter
Meddling Mage
Phantasmal Image
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thalia's Lieutenant
Mantis Rider
Militia Bugler
Reflector Mage
Aether Vial
Sideboard (15)
Damping Sphere
Auriok Champion
Gaddock Teeg
Kataki, War's Wage
Izzet Staticaster
Reclamation Sage
Reflector Mage
Sin Collector
Riders of Gavony

The maindeck was fairly ‘stock’. In the sideboard I played two Damping Spheres and one Gaddock Teeg, favouring this split to squeeze in some extra win percentage against Tron rather than against white/blue control. There are some draws the Tron deck has against you that you cannot really do anything about other than play a turn two Damping Sphere (for example turn three Tron, Walking Ballista, Turn four Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger). So I wanted to increase my outs against this kinds of Tron draws. Gaddock Teeg still stops their Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and All is Dust but I find the sphere more valuable. Teeg obviously shines a lot more in the white/blue control matchup where he can lock out a good number of their key cards. Good deckbuilders playing the white/blue deck have wisened up to the Meddling Mage (naming Path to Exile) and Gaddock Teeg ‘hard lock’ and are playing some ‘spicy’ tech like Oust to have more outs. I find that matchup reasonably winnable even if you don’t draw the Kithkin Advisor.

Typhoon Mangkhut

Reports of a Typhoon emerged in early September and while I didn’t cancel my flights as a result, I learned, on arrival in Hong Kong, that several of the Japanese players had cancelled their trip to the Grand Prix itself. There was no notification of the event being cancelled, and the atmosphere that I interpreted from most of the locals was one of acceptance rather than panic. Apparently Hong Kong is subject to dramatic storms most years around autumn. A typhoon of this scale has happened before (in Hong Kong), but admittedly not for about 25 years.

The Event

Day Zero (Friday)

I went to the event hall early on the Friday as it had been explained to me that I was able to make use of a free ‘Constructed Fanatic’ package because this event simply did not have a VIP option. I was quite happy to take advantage of this, given that it would give me the chance to pick up some prize tix for free while doing what I came here to do – play some Magic. I only managed to play in two side events on Friday:

Event 1 (Modern)

  • Round 1 vs Jeskai Control – 2-0 WIN
  • Round 2 vs 5c Humans – 1-1-1 DRAW
  • Round 3 vs 5c Humans – 2-0 WIN

Event 2 (Modern)

  • Round 1 vs white/blue control – 2-1 WIN 
  • Round 2 vs 5c Humans – 2-1 WIN
  • Round 3 vs UB Mill – 2-1 WIN

The draw in the first event was unintentional. It was a humans mirror where I was behind by quite a long way, but I had three Izzet Staticasters (thanks to Phantasmal Image) and both of us had Auriok Champion. I did start to claw my way back but it was too late. Against the mill deck, I learnt what the card Crypt Incursion does!

After six rounds of Modern going 5-0-1 I felt reasonably confident for the next day. During the side events I encountered a few players who said they had read my articles (and know what I’m playing) which was touching. I shared my sideboarding with some other Humans players. In the side events I was playing a slightly different list to the above. I played 4 Reflector Mage in the maindeck and 3 Phantasmal Image, and instead of the sideboarded Reflector Mage I played Anafenza the Foremost (I didn’t think it would be great – it wasn’t – but I wanted to try it out regardless).

Day One (Saturday)

I returned to the venue ready for Day One. I had two byes so I traded for some more foils with the traders. Then it was time to do battle. The GP was capped at 1000 players due to the size of the venue. Here’s how it went:

  • Round 3 vs White/blue control 2-0 WIN
  • Round 4 vs White/blue control 2-0 WIN
  • Round 5 vs Jund 0-2 LOSS
  • Round 6 vs Burn 2-1 WIN
  • Round 7 vs G Tron 1-2 LOSS
  • Round 8 vs White/blue control 0-2 LOSS

A disappointing 5-3 which includes two byes. Here are some of the more interesting talking points from the matches:

  • I don’t consider Jund a very good choice in the current modern metagame but it is at least consistent and plays powerful cards. It’s also quite strong against humans provided it can curve out with removal to match the curve laid out by the humans player. In addition to being heavy on creature removal, Liliana the Last Hope and Scavenging Ooze are particularly troublesome for the deck and this is how I was undone in both games against my opponent.
  • In game three of round six quite an interesting choice came up during my turn: my board: Champion of the Parish (7/7), Thalia’s Lieutenant (1/1), Cavern of Souls, Unclaimed Territory, Plains. My hand: Meddling Mage, Cavern of Souls. My health: 5. Opponent’s board: Goblin Guide, Goblin Guide, Mountain (tapped), Mountain, Sacred Foundry (tapped). Opponent’s hand: 2 cards. Opponent’s health: 2. My opponent has held his creatures back to block and has one Mountain untapped because he used Sacred Foundry and Mountain last turn to cast two Lava Spikes at me to put me to my current health total. I’m very aware that I will probably win the following turn, so my main concern is dying before I can force through the damage. I think it’s likely that my opponent has Lightning Bolt in his hand, probably hoping to fire it off at the end of my turn, untap and fire off another burn spell for the win. I therefore have to bait out the Bolt with Meddling Mage, name correctly on whatever is in my opponent’s hand and hope that my opponent doesn’t topdeck a relevant spell next turn. I cast the Meddling Mage and my opponent does not respond with Lightning Bolt. He asks me what I’m naming with Meddling Mage’s ability. I’m semi convinced that he now doesn’t have a Lightning Bolt in his hand, otherwise he would have used it while the Mage was on the stack. I ask to see his graveyard which contains three Lava Spikes, a Searing Blaze and a Rift Bolt. Considering my options, I still think that Lightning Bolt gives him the best chance to win so I name it anyway. He then declares that he will respond to me naming Lightning Bolt by playing that very card. Unfortunately I have to get the judge to explain to him how Meddling Mage works and he is unable to play the Lightning Bolt in his hand. It was very tempting to name another card given no response, for example Boros Charm or Lightning Helix, but I think under the circumstances naming Lightning Bolt was correct. If my opponent had played it while Meddling Mage was on the stack I would probably have named one of these other spells, of which there were likely still 4 in his deck/hand. What do you think?
  • My white/blue opponent in the final round was Gao Tan, the only control player who beat me all weekend. He played on the Chinese national team that made Top 8 at the last World Magic Cup and was unsurprisingly good at playing his deck. In game one, I put him to one life before he used Path to Exile on one of my lockpieces and subsequently casted Supreme Verdict, allowing him to get out of the predicament. He also managed to remove every single threat that could kill him afterwards (including the ones I put in ‘end of turn’ with Aether Vial) until he found a Timely Reinforcements. Then, with some life to spare, he took full control of the game. In game two I mulled to four and put up a bit of a fight, but after my turn two Kitesail Freebooter looked at his hand containing two Path to Exile, Snapcaster Mage, Settle the Wreckage. I knew this one was probably over. After the match he showed me his 75 which included a lot of one-ofs including Wall of Omens, Spreading Seas, Settle the Wreckage. He said he had done this because firstly, he expects all opponents to play round the conventional choices a bit better and wanted to mix things up a bit, secondly, it’s more fun!

Looks like I get to use those free side events tomorrow! I decided this would probably be more fun than playing in the PTQ tomorrow, which I wasn’t sure of being able to get to on time due to the storm anyway.

Day two (Sunday)

Typhoon Mangkhut update

In the morning I got up to find that the storm was indeed descending upon Hong Kong. I had heard that public transport wasn’t running and as I stepped out of the front door of the hotel I could tell why. Rain was almost blowing sideways. It was amusing to see some people still insisted on taking their dog for a morning walk in such conditions. A taxi was available but I had to pay a bit of a ‘typhoon tax’ to get to the venue. To put things into perspective, it was normally about $60 Hong Kong Dollars (£6/$7.6 US) to get to the venue, but this morning it was going to be $200 HK (£20/$25) to get to the venue. I didn’t take any pictures of the crazy weather lest my camera be blown out of my hands but I can assure you it was certainly an interesting experience battling the 100MPH wet winds. I had put all my cards in a sealed plastic bag within my backpack just in case!

The event hall was much quieter (understandably) than yesterday. Most of the artists and traders had not risked the journey in and there were only about thirty or so players who weren’t playing in the main event or PTQ (which was in round 2 as I arrived). However I did sign up for the side events, hoping to make use of my event entries. I got to play in four events:

Event 1 (Modern)

  • Round 1 vs Blue/Red Hollow One – 0-2 LOSS
  • Round 2 vs Burn – 2-0 WIN
  • Round 3 vs White/Blue Control – 2-0 WIN

Event 2 (Legacy)

  • Round 1 vs Death and Taxes – 2-1 WIN
  • Round 2 vs Food Chain – 0-2 LOSS
  • Drop to play Modern

Event 3 (Modern)

  • Round 1 vs G Tron – 1-2 LOSS
  • Round 2 vs G Tron – 2-0 WIN
  • Round 3 vs Jund – 0-0-3 DRAW

Event 4 (Modern)

  • Round 1 vs Burn – 2-0 WIN
  • Round 2 vs Amulet Titan – 0-2 LOSS
  • Drop to go home

The Blue/red Hollow One deck was interesting. After deploying Aether Vial with what you would consider a great Humans hand I didn’t think I could lose. My opponent played a Spirebluff Canal and a Burning Inquiry which robbed me of all my lands and prevented me from curving out. To add to this my opponent had discarded two Prized Amalgams and a Bloodghast. I slowly built up my board which would soon be able to blank my opponent’s Amalgam’s and Bloodghasts but my opponent emerges an Elder Deep Fiend to Fog and prevent me from blocking on the swing back. In game two something similar happens, only my opponent gets to play a Hollow One on turns one and two, one of which he emerges into an Elder Deep Fiend before I can get going. What a sweet deck!

I played in the Legacy event simply because I worked out that there weren’t enough modern events on in which I could use my event entry tickets. I got to beat Death and Taxes (probably one of the few decks I can feasibly beat) before mulliganning heavily against a Food Chain deck. I dropped before round three to play in the upcoming Modern events but got 40 prize tix for otherwise dead time.

In round two of the last Modern event, I had a lesson in how Trample works. Despite naming Primeval Titan with Meddling Mage, my opponent had managed to combo off with Zacama, Primal Calamity. The following turn I decided not to attack with my 10/10 Champion of the Parish as they could simply chump it with Azusa, Lost but Seeking and move on. At least it could block a 9/9 dinosaur. The following turn my opponent attacked with Zacama, I blocked with the Champion, They dealt 9 damage to the Champion by using Zacama’s ability three times and then gave Zacama double strike with Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion which meant that, because it has trample, it only needs to assign one damage to my Champion and can then deal me 17 damage! I felt a little foolish not knowing you can do this in games of Magic.

I dropped early from this event as it was getting a bit late and I anticipated it potentially being a bit of a task getting back to my hotel. I cashed in my prize tix for some booster boxes. The prize wall at this event was actually quite disappointing compared to what I am used to from previous GPs. It was quite small and was mostly comprised of old foreign booster boxes, and very few lucrative Magic Singles. So I traded the booster boxes I had just obtained with one of the traders for some lucrative Magic Foils.

The storm had settled by now but the taxi ride home showcased the aftermath of the typhoon, fallen debris such as trees and billboards, and broken traffic lights. I’m quite glad I was able to share the ride with a couple of players with whom several laughs were had.

Despite not doing very well in the main event, and the presence of a typhoon threatening to wipe out all of us, I still had a good time. I have to admit that I was hyper-aware that I was going to a GP where I knew basically nobody. I bumped into Quinton Lip and Jan Huang who I have played against in the UK, but other than that it was a matter of making friends if I wanted any form of camaraderie during the weekend. Fortunately we all speak Magic and people who I had played against in side events and even the main event were still happy to talk and spend time with me in between rounds.

After the GP, my girlfriend and I took a trip to the Philippines to beach hop, go snorkelling and see relatives. Although the typhoon had originated in the northern islands before it veered to Hong Kong, we weren’t visiting anywhere that had been badly affected by it.

I cannot close this article without mentioning how grateful I am for having won the Axion Now Mega Modern Tournament in January. The opportunity to ‘play the game, see the world’ is even more real than it otherwise would be thanks to Liz Barnetson and Francois Houchard who put the ‘Mega’ events on. I even had a chance to briefly chat with Mashi Scanlan at the GP and even he was taken aback about the opportunity reaped from winning such an event. So… if you want to play the game and see the world, I can’t stress enough to go sign up for the next one of these. They are great events in themselves and, having been lucky enough to win one, I can definitely say I will always want to try and win as many as possible!

What Next?

At the time of writing this, we’re currently in that lull between rotation/new set release, but I’ll certainly be working on the new formats once Guilds of Ravnica is released so look out for some forthcoming content from me following the new set coming out!

I have joined team Upheaval! (you may have seen existing members wearing the white and blue jerseys at competitive events). I will be working with Nick Waugh, Dominic Gates and the rest of the team to support one another with tournament magic, starting with ideas for new Standard and Guilds of Ravnica Limited. This means I’ll be committing to more GPs in 2019 and chasing Bronze (and more) a bit more seriously. As most of the team are based in the south of England, travel to my local PPTQs will probably still be with my friends based in Leeds but I’m excited about this new dimension to my competitive Magic endeavours.

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter (@Chris54154), or at most PPTQs in the North of England, RPTQs and GPs in England, and some other large competitive events like Mega Modern and Legacy Masters that arise during the year in the UK.

As always, thanks for reading, good luck and have fun in your next event!

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