Grand Prix Beijing 2017 will be remembered for many reasons and here are five of the greatest moments of the weekend from the capital of China!
5) Glorybringer's Landslide Victory at the Magic Polls
Prior to this weekend, it was clear that Glorybringer was the most talked about rare in all of Amonkhet. There was no question that it was one of the strongest cards in the format and most commonly cited by the pros as the card that they wish to open. While other contenders such as Archfiend of Ifnir, Glyph Keeper, Angel of Sanctions, and Insult // Injury were discussed, Glorybringer was the top choice of the thirty esteemed players we polled.
It appeared in a couple of Grand Prix Trial Winning Decklists, as well as Wu Xuan's Day One 9-0 undefeated Sealed Deck. In fact, No. 23 Yuuya Watanabe even had not one, but two copies of the powerful Dragon in the second Booster Draft of Day 2 – a regular version as well as a Premium version!
Because it was a rare rather than a mythic rare, players had to be prepared for it since ended up being so devastating most of the time. This forced numerous players to adapt to he situation, such as splashing a third color to play Electrify and Final Reward, or simply hope that their opponent don't draw it at all. However, that latter plan has its flaws, because one of Amonkhet's key mechanics was cycling and the probability of drawing a particular card in your forty card deck is mathematically higher than in other formats without cycling.
It has been a long time since there was a landslide victory at the Magic polls and this is something you should be taking note of if you're attending an Amonkhet Limited event in the near future.
4) Tomoharu Saito nearly overtook Martin Jůza!
The number of lifetime Grand Prix Top 8s is a statistic that exhibits a player's dedication to the game. Not only was it a testament to one's tenured career, it was also a display of excellence and mastery. In terms of the number of Lifetime Grand Prix Top 8s , Oliver Ruel is number one with 28 Top 8s, while Shuhei Nakamura is number two with 27. Following that, we have Watanabe, Tomoharu Saito and Martin Jůza at 24 prior to this weekend. When the news broke out that he cracked the Top 8 here, news quickly spread that Saito had jumped Jůza's score, unless Jůza managed to make the Top 8 at Bologna.
And of course, Jůza did make the Top 8 at Grand Prix Bologna while Saito was playing his semifinals match. No matter, Saito wasn't disappointed and instead shared with me that it is always more fun when there is friendly competition.
“Shuhei, Watanabe and Martin are among my biggest competition and best friends. It is great to have source of motivation which keeps me going. I had a 7-2 record in Day 1, so I am very contented to make Top 8 anyway. Good luck to Martin in Bologna!"
Saito was not showing any sign that he intended to slow down and he was “just” three or four more Top 8's away from equalizing or taking over Olivier Ruel's throne. “Nakamura-san is probably going to get there before me and he is a worthy opponent. I'll just have to keep going and give it my best!"
And he did! As one of five players to go 6-0 in the Booster Draft portion, perhaps you'd like to take a look at Saito's winning decks?
Tomoharu Saito, always happy and almost always dreaming of greater heights.
Magic might be a great recreational hobby for the most of us but it can also be a lifelong affair for others. In Saito's case, he is the living embodiment of eternal passion which will be part of our Magic pop culture for all of eternity.
"Magic is my life and Magic is my passion. I'll keep going and I'll keep chasing my dreams, no matter what."
3) The Journey to the Afterlife
The cycle of Cartouches and Trials are a centric theme of Amonkhet's lore. The promise of a glorious afterlife was too much resist for all the inhabitants in Naktamum, the gleaming city that stood amidst the endless desert. Facing five trials that test the five aspects of worthiness, initiates earn a cartouche for every trial passed, an amulet imbued with the magic of the God-Pharaoh!
Are these Cartouches powerful in Amonkhet? Very much so! Since they interact so well with Trial of Solidarity, Trial of Knowledge, Trial of Ambition, Trial of Zeal and Trial of Strength, the Cartouches are even more valuable if you have a few of these uncommons.
Taking the Top 8 Booster Draft as an example, Kelvin Chew was ready with Cartouche of Solidarity, as well as five of Cartouche of Zeals! Hammerhand was great, but it won't help Chew “bounce” Trial of Solidarity back into his hand for a second charge!
Tomoharu Saito was fortunate to receive Trial of Strength and Trial of Knowledge to go with double Cartouche of Strength and double Cartouche of Knowledge, while Riku Kumagai had Trial of Solidarity and Trial of Knowledge as well as an assortment of four Cartouches! You would assume that I would have been done by now, but semifinalist Wu Xuan also recognized the power of the Cartouches, and picked up four copies of Cartouche of Strength!
As you can see, everyone on Amonkhet is eager to earn the favor of the God-Pharaoh! This synergy is likely to play a huge role in Amonkhet Limited going forward, especially at Pro Tour Amonkhet in Nashville in the upcoming week!
2) The Real Reason for Kumagai's Hot Streak
Before Riku Kumagai won Grand Prix Tokyo 2016, he had a reputation among the local community for being one of the most dedicated players in his region. Though he might not be a Japanese superstar (yet), taking down a Grand Prix with 3335 players will be a feat that is hard to beat.
Riku Kumagai, striving to prove himself worthy.
Proving that he is no fluke, Kumagai went 9-0 in Day One on the back of the mighty Gideon of the Trials, as well as efficient green creatures such as Prowling Serpopard, Ahn-Crop Champion and Colossapede. After that perfect run, he went on to crush Draft 1 and headed into Draft 2 as the only 12-0 player from among the initial 1029. Naturally, he continued to trudge forward and finished the Swiss rounds in the top seed!
Grand Prix Champions Riku Kumagai and Takuma Morofuji
It is rare to see such dominance from a lesser known player but he shared that the release of Amonkhet on Magic Online certainly aided him in his preparation process. One of Kumagai's opponents – also a Grand Prix Champion himself – had to weigh in on this issue. According to Takuma Morofuji, he had been having trouble beating Kumagai when they played on Magic Online.
“Kumagai is one of the best players on Magic Online. I just can't seem to beat him. He has spent so much time on Magic Online in the past week that nobody else in the room has more experience than him." I guess what he's implying that giving Magic Online to Kumagai was like giving a trained assassin a rifle and a scope.
No. 23 Yuuya Watanabe praised the early release of Amonkhet on Magic Online.
As a matter of fact, No. 23 Yuuya Watanabe himself admitted that the field was more well-prepared than before, while (a nearby and eavesdropping) Yuuki Ichikawa echoed that sentiment.
Both players explained that “everyone seemed to be very well-versed with the new cards. Anyone who has played a few events on Magic Online will quickly We think that Amonkhet being released early on Magic Online has contributed to the field being more well-prepared than before."
This can only be a good sign since Magic Online has traditionally been a great tool for anyone who wished to improve upon their game. In Kumagai's words, he thinks that “this is a great change for anyone who are going to be attending tournaments. I was able to practice Sealed Deck and Booster Draft online for an entire week and that certainly helped me achieve today's result. I am glad that my hard work paid off and I will continue working harder!"
Before we bid goodbye to Kumagai, it is also a coincidence that Grand Prix Tokyo 2016 took place on May 7, 2016, which is exactly one year ago from today! Maybe this special date is of special significance to him, since both of his Grand Prix Top 8s originated on this day!
1) Three Time's The Charm
Kelvin Chew had been on the circuit for several seasons but he was only enjoying his best year in the current one. Going into the tournament with 36 Pro Points, he felt like he was slightly out of reach from Platinum status.
As fate would have it, Chew rose to the top from among 1029 players who showed up at Beijing and earned eternal glory for himself in his third lifetime Top 8 appearance. In addition to being crowned the Singapore National Champion thrice and making the Top 8 at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica, he now has three Grand Prix Top 8s including a win!
Meet the Grand Prix Beijing 2017 Champion, Kelvin Chew!
With this victory, Chew advanced to 44 Pro Points and with a guaranteed six more on the way from the next two Pro Tours, he is only two points away from the coveted level. This victory was a great morale boost for Team MTG Mint Card who was atop the standings of the Pro Tour Team Series leaderboard. Chew credits his victory to his supportive teammates, who cracked the format and gave him the additional push to shine more than he already did.
As one of three Grand Prix Champions to be crowned this weekend – we still have Grand Prix Bologna and Grand Prix Richmond to focus upon – Chew had proven that he was deemed worthy! Congratulations to Kelvin Chew once more! You've earned a place alongside the God-Pharaoh, if you're willing to accept the “high honor”!