Richmond, Va. - This past weekend, March 7-9, 2014, StarCityGames hosted the largest constructed Grand Prix for "Magic: The Gathering" with 4300 participants. At the same time, online viewership peaked at 19,000 viewers.
The finals of the record setting tournament had Vipin Chackonal (Affinity) battling Brian Liu (Kiki-Pod).
Game one had both players taking a mulligan to six cards. Vipin showed a strong start by nearly playing his entire hand on turn two. His board, then, was an Inkmoth Nexus, Blinkmoth Nexus, Ornithopter, Cranial Plating, and a Signal Pest. Liu was only able to reply with a turn two Birthing Pod. While normally a fine play, it does not help against of an army of artifacts. Liu's cause was not helped when Chackonal equipped the Cranial Plating to his Inkmoth Nexus, effectively hitting Liu for eight poison counters. Chackonal would later abandon the infect plan and revert back to the traditional damage method. At one point, Liu seemed to have the win on the board. In fact, Twitter began to erupt with tweets with the play Liu should make in order to win game one. However, this was not the case and Chackonal would swing for lethal damage leading to game two.
Game two started slow for Liu and Chackonal. Liu was able to drop an early Spellskite which would prove strong enough to block damage from Chackonal's entire team which even included an Arcbound Ravager. Chackonal was never able to establish a big enough threat. This allowed Liu to piece together his combo and push for a decisive game three.
In the third, and final game of the match, Chackonal would be forced to mulligan down to six cards, while Liu was happy to keep his hand of seven. Chackonal would, unfortunately, be able to only play one land, but had the help of an active Mox Opal. However, Liu would accelerate into a game-breaking Shatterstorm that would leave his opponent with a lonely Island in play. This would lead to consecutive Chord of Callings from Liu setting up his combo and making Chackonal extend his hand in defeat. Thus declaring Brian Liu and his Kiki-Pod deck winners of Grand Prix Richmond.
Just like the last major "M:TG" tournament winner, Liu is also Canadian.
For a complete list of the top eight decks you can click here.
An important stat from this weekend was that there were five Birthing Pod decks, two Affinity decks, and one Splinter Twin deck in the top eight. This strong showing by Birthing Pod increased dialogue of whether or not the card should be banned in the Modern Format.
During the broadcast, Patrick Chapin, one of the commentators, was asked if he thought Birthing Pod should be banned. He replied, "[Wizards should] allow the Modern community to react." That any kind of action based on this weekends results would be done too soon. This was in regards to how the Modern community reacted to the strong showing of decks at Pro Tour Born of the Gods.
It's true that calling for the banning of Birthing Pod may be jumping the gun. Still, when you have the largest constructed tournament to date and half the decks in the final rounds consists of one archetype, it may not be a bad idea.
The next announcements regarding Bans and Restrictions are scheduled before the release of Journey to Nyx.
In other news, numerous cards made moves up and down the secondary market board. One of the big winners was Gavony Township. This was included as a three-of in every Birthing Pod deck. It started the weekend averaging $1.80 and can now be found on eBay for $3.00. With continued play and the increasing popularity of Birthing Pod, it's probably safe to assume that this price will greatly increase over time.
Another obvious winner was Birthing Pod. It started the week averaging $10.00 and spiked to $20 by the time the Grand Prix came around. However, it has now settled around $15.00.
Stony Silence was a card that was used as a sideboard solution to Birthing Pod when it was played in Standard. It has since made its way as a staple sideboard solution for Birthing Pod in Modern, and, thus, has helped increased its price as well. It started the weekend below a dollar, but can now be seen marked up on eBay close to $2.00. These prices have not translated over to TCG yet, but many stores are showing only one or two copies left in their inventories.
Other cards that saw a rise in price over the weekend include the Scars dual lands and Grafdigger's Cage. An interesting speculation was Phyrexian Unlife. It was played in a deck that got off to a successful start, but failed to make the top eight. Consumers cornered the market quickly, which lead to its extremely low quantities. However, there is no sign if it will move or not.
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