Sunday afternoon, Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas won Grand Prix Denver, defeating Gregg Keithley 2-0 in the finals.

Scott-Vargas played Bant Scapeshift, a new archetype enabled by Field of the Dead from Core Set 2020, which was released on July 12—just a week before the tournament. The deck’s main game plan is to ramp up to seven (or more) lands and cast Scapeshift to sacrifice most (if not all) of its lands in play. Then, thanks to sacrificing lands to Scapeshift,  it can put multiple Field of the Deads plus a bunch of other lands (making sure that are at least seven lands with different names) into play to create a lethal horde of zombies.

LSV's Standard Bant Scapeshift

Creatures (12)
Arboreal Grazer
Elvish Rejuvenator
Hydroid Krasis

Spells (16)
Circuitous Route
Grow from the Ashes
Growth Spiral
Prison Realm

Planeswalkers (4)
Teferi, Time Raveler
Lands (28)
Azorius Guildgate
Blast Zone
Blossoming Sands
Breeding Pool
Field of Ruin
Field of the Dead
Hallowed Fountain
Hinterland Harbor
Memorial to Genius
Selesnya Guildgate
Simic Guildgate
Sunpetal Grove
Temple Garden
Temple of Mystery
Thornwood Falls
Tranquil Cove

Sideboard (15)
Ajani's Welcome
Crucible of Worlds
Deputy of Detention
Dovin's Veto
Ixalan's Binding
Ripjaw Raptor
Veil of Summerr

He was joined by three other Bant Scapeshift decks in the Top 8, as well as one copy each of Boros Feather, Jeskai Superfriends, Orzhov Vampires, and Simic Nexus, which Gregg Keithley piloted to the finals. (You can find all of the Top 8 decklists from GP Denver on ChannelFireball.)

Scott-Vargas showed off an updated Bant Scapeshift decklist on a Grand Prix victory celebration Twitch stream just hours after the finals. In the updated list, he dropped an Arboreal Grazer and Memorial of Genius from the maindeck for a Temple of Malady and a third Breeding Pool, while removing two Ripjaw Raptors and two Ajani’s Welcomes from the sideboard and replacing them with three Aether Gusts and another Deputy of Detention.

A Last Minute Audible

Scott-Vargas was prepared to play Orzhov Vampires the Friday before GP Denver was set to start. But just before 6 PM local time, he tweeted that he would rather play Bant Scapeshift and asked if anyone could lend him the cards.

Luis Scott-Vargas starts looking for the cards needed to play Scapeshift.

Despite the last minute change of heart, Scott-Vargas was able to borrow most of the commons from Nathan Steuer, who went on to win the MCQ on Sunday.  He borrowed the missing commons from other friends, who required him to sign those cards to play with them in his deck, and found the rares at the ChannelFireball booth.

“I switched to Scapeshift because Huey Jensen and Gerry Thompson told me it was sweet,” Scott-Vargas said on his victory stream. People weren’t prepared for the deck, he said, so no one was playing the necessary hate cards, making Bant Scapeshift a very well-positioned deck at GP Denver.

“Part of the reason why this deck is so good is that it can go over the top of basically any deck in the format,” he continued. And, unlike the Scapeshift decks in its original Standard format or in Modern, Bant Scapeshift is capable of reloading with a giant Hydroid Krasis if your opponent is able to deal with your first wave of zombies after comboing off. Or, “you can win a lot of games with Field of the Dead just by grinding them out” by playing lands and making zombies.

Another Victory for One of Magic’s Best Players

Luis Scott-Vargas is one of the best players in Magic: the Gathering history. GP Denver was his sixth Grand Prix victory, which ties him for fourth all-time behind Shuhei Nakamura, Yuuya Watanabe, and Kai Budde, who are all tied for first at seven wins apiece. It was also his third time winning a “hometown” GP. He is originally from the Bay Area and won GP San Francisco in 2007 and GP San Jose in 2015, and now has won GP Denver after moving to Denver to work for Direwolf Digital in 2012.

Chris Pikula, another of Magic’s most popular personalities, celebrates Scott-Vargas’s sixth GP victory.

He also has 10 Pro Tour/Mythic Championship Top 8s, winning Pro Tour Berlin in 2008, which is tied for third all-time with Kai Budde, behind Jon Finkel (16) and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (12). He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013.

Two Consecutive GPs With Low Attendance

Only 615 players registered for GP Denver, making it the smallest Grand Prix in the United States in years. The last American Grand Prix to fall below 700 players was GP Charleston in 2012, which had 662 players. GP Denver’s low attendance comes just a week after 706 players registered for GP Detroit to play Core Set 2020 Limited.

Grand Prix attendance has suffered in 2019 after Wizards of the Coast announced that it was phasing out the Pro Point system. Pro Points were awarded at both Grand Prix and Pro Tours and allowed players to accrue points at these events to reach higher and higher levels in the Pro Players Club—which also ended along with Pro Points after GP Seattle in June 2019.

Pro Points were replaced with Mythic Points, which help qualify players for the World Championship but are not awarded at Grand Prix. Without Pro Points and the Pro Players Club, the only competitive reward (outside of prize money) at Grand Prix are the Mythic Championship invites for players that finish at 13-2 or make the Top 8. Since Pro Points were one of the main reasons professional (and aspiring professional) Magic players attended Grand Prix, losing them in conjunction with losing the Pro Players Club has dramatically reduced the incentives for Magic grinders to attend Grand Prix.

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