There were plenty of great moments, decks, players, cards, and stories over the course of the weekend here in Nashville. The following ones are our picks for the things to remember from Pro Tour Amonkhet.
Invocation Opened on Stream
The weekend started off with a bang when a Masterpiece was opened on the featured Draft pod. Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif opened a booster with an Amonkhet Invocation Maelstrom Pulse; Nissa, Steward of Elements; Decimator Beetle; Trial of Zeal; and Magma Spray. He made the disciplined choice of taking Trial of Zeal, considered by many to be set's best uncommon in the best color.
Nassif then passed his booster to Martin Jůza to his right, whose draft was being streamed live.
"An uncommon was missing, and I was fairly sure that he took a Trial," Jůza said afterward. But unfazed by all those flashy cards, Jůza took Magma Spray—considered by many to be the best common in the set.
The two players didn't regret passing the Invocation, as Jůza drafted an awesome blue-red spells deck that carried him to a 2-1 record, while Nassif went 3-0 with a red-green deck. The full draft viewer is available here.
Christian Calcano Breaks Through to First Top 8
Before this weekend, Christian Calcano was on many people's shortlist of "the best players without a Pro Tour Top 8." As a true grinder who lives and breathes Magic, the Gold-level pro had previously found a lot of success on the Grand Prix circuit. (He's played in 144 GPs to date, and won two of them.) But after playing on the Pro Tour for close to seven years, that coveted Pro Tour Top 8 had always eluded him.
After winning his win-and-in match here in Nashville, flanked by his MTG Bent Card teammates, he couldn't hold back his tears.
Neither could we after watching that interview. And the outpouring of support that followed was massive.
Although he fell in the quarterfinals to Martin Müller, Calcano could feel a sense of validation for his years of dedication to the game. And he even reached the Top 8 by drafting a deck (seen here) with six copies of Slither Blade that shocked opponents and viewers alike.
Martin Müller's Road to the Semifinals
Martin Müller had been raising eyebrows all weekend in multiple ways. We'd like to highlight what the Platinum pro from team Genesis did when his Temur Aetherworks Marvel deck served him with poor hands and poor draws.
For instance, in his third game against Christian Calcano in Round 14, he had a very tough mulligan decision when faced with six spells and no lands.
Was his decision correct? It's hard to say. His deck had sixteen green mana sources, and given that he was on the draw with a scry, there was a 51% of finding a green source on turn one. Either way, it was a much-talked about mulligan decision that did not pay off for him in that game.
Facing Calcano for a rematch in the quarterfinals, Müller had to navigate through some hoops once more—no turn-four Ulamog for him—as in Game 1 he had to go through seven (!) spins of Aetherworks Marvel before finally finding Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. In Game 3 he managed to win despite losing Ulamog and Chandra, Flamecaller to Lost Legacy.
Aetherworks Marvel and Zombies Dominated Standard
The very short summary was that Mardu Vehicles, considered by many to be the "best deck" in Standard, had an average performance, while Mono-Black Zombies and Temur Aetherworks Marvel decks did very well. For more in-depth analyses of Standard, you can find win percentages and matchup matrices here and a detailed breakdown of all the top archetypes and the most-played cards here.
In particular, Temur Aetherworks Marvel variants that diverged from the stock builds by including either Chandra, Flamecaller but not Censor (as Martin Müller did) or by running Censor, Glimmer of Genius, and Torrential Gearhulk (as Yuuya Watanabe did) performed the best overall, but they were also played by some of the best players in the room.
The Team Series Heats Up
Entering Pro Tour Amonkhet, the Team Series was a topic very much on the minds of many players. The new, structured team aspect of the Pro Tour is still something competitors and viewers are getting used to, and it certainly raises the stakes in many matches that otherwise wouldn't have as much meaning to players not involved with the game.
Take the Top 8, for instance. While the playoff obviously mattered to the competitors vying for the title, every match also took on increased significance to the five teammates of those playing, as well as players from other teams jockeying for position in the race to be one of the top two team finishers to qualify for the Team Series Championship.
Coming into Nashville, there was a tie atop the standings, with Musashi and MTG Mint Card leading the way. Face to Face Games was in third, with DEXThird in fourth and Lingering Souls in fifth. Six teams behind them were within 5 points of cracking the top five. The top four after this event would automatically qualify all members for the final Pro Tour of the season in Kyoto, Japan, and from there the top two will advance to the final.
MTG Mint Card posted a solid team finish in Nashville, not placing any members into the Top 8 but posting strong finishes across the board to get to 88 points—good for third on the leaderboard. A strong finish, yes, but nothing like that of Musashi, which placed two members into the Top 8 in Ken Yukuhiro and Yuuya Watanabe, who finished in the semifinals and finals, respectively.
And they looked pretty good doing so.
With 119 points, the big finishes put Musashi well ahead of the pack. In second place is team Genesis, which soared from 11th to 2nd thanks in part to Martin Müller's semifinals appearance, but also due to extraordinarily consistent finishes from the rest of the team. Every member picked up significant chunks of Pro Points.
With those developments, the real drama came for the 4th-place spot. Lingering Souls captain Shaheen Soorani was sweating the Top 8, where teammate Chris Fennell was competing. Not qualified for Kyoto, Soorani's—and Lingering Souls'—hopes to qualify for Kyoto and possibly the Team Series Championship rested on the outcome of Fennell and Channel Fireball Ice–member Eric Froehlich. After Fennell lost in the quarterfinals, all eyes were on Froehlich, who suddenly had a chance to catapult his team all the way into fourth place.
But Froehlich fell in the quarters to Ken Yukuhiro, marking the second bullet Lingering Souls had dodged (after Puzzle Quest member Reid Duke lost playing for Top 8), allowing Lingering Souls to finish just 1 point ahead of Puzzle Quest, 74-73.
The team of "last picks" lives to fight another day.
The team competition will pick back up in Kyoto, and it's anyone's game. Musashi has a wide lead with 119 points to Genesis's 94, but anything can happen. 3rd place and 7th place are separated by just 17 points, which means any of those teams—and possibly more—can make a run at the Team Series Championship in Japan if they can post the kind of performance Musashi did this weekend.
Speaking of team Genesis, it's pretty easy to think of at least one tight-knit family who will be anxiously watching the next Pro Tour to see how well they can do.
Gerry Thompson Takes it Down with Mono-Black Zombies
It would be really hard to find a moment that defined the weekend better than watching Gerry Thompson and his massive army of Zombies shamble over Yuuya Watanabe to become the Champion of Pro Tour Amonkhet.
Amidst a sea of Aetherworks Marvel decks, Thompson relied on deck that played 22 basic Swamps to crush the field and deliver him the trophy. The matchup between Zombies and Marvel can be a careful dance, particularly after the Marvel deck sideboards in a sea of mass removal. All-in-all, this finals was a treat.
Thompson quickly ran away with the two pre-sideboard games, then Watanabe turned the tide in Game 3. In Game 4 of the finals, his back against the wall down two games to one, Yuuya Watanabe made a judgment call that may have cost him the game and ultimately the match.
Soon after clearing the board with a Radiant Flames, Watanabe had an opportunity to Harnessed Lightning the land-light Gerry Thompson's lone remaining Cryptbreaker, one of the few ways he had to get back in the game. Watanabe decided against it in favor of removing a follow-up Lord of the Accursed, and eventually the cards drawn by the Cryptbreaker helped Thompson piece together the threats he needed to close out the game and the match to become the Pro Tour Amonkhet Champion!