2015-16 Season's Penultimate Weekend

Posted in NEWS on July 28, 2016

By Mike Rosenberg

Mike Rosenberg is a writer and gamer and has been part of the Magic text coverage team since 2011. He joined Wizards as organized play’s content specialist in June 2014.

This weekend and the next are all that's left of the 2015–16 premier play season, as players chase their goals within the Pro Tour Players Club, World Magic Cup captaincies, and of course, 2016 World Championship invitations.

Pro Tour Eldritch Moon Approaches

The ultimate weekend of this season, of course, is the Pro Tour, which takes place next weekend, August 5–7.

For folks in North America, the Pro Tour's coverage will technically be August 4–6, since we'll be broadcasting live from Sydney a number of hours ahead of the North American time zones. Coverage will begin all three days at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET/11 p.m. UTC (remember, August 4–6 if you're in these time zones! For our Australian fans, coverage will begin August 5–7 at 9 a.m. local time). You can watch the coverage live on twitch.tv/magic, as well as on YouTube, NicoNico (in both English and Japanese), and BiliBili (in Chinese only).

Grand Prix Sydney, Stockholm, and Montreal

With three Grand Prix taking place across three continents, this weekend's Grand Prix will be the debut of Eldritch Moon Limited in premier play as players determine the best strategies and cards in Sealed and Booster Draft. The format for Sealed is four packs of Eldritch Moon and two packs of Shadows over Innistrad. The Booster Draft format is two packs of Eldritch Moon and one pack of Shadows over Innistrad (in that order).

And you know you're going to be in for a treat when Pro Tour Hall of Famer Ben Stark, one of the all-time greatest Limited minds, tweets something like this.

That's quite an endorsement. Needless to say, expect unique strategies to emerge from Eldritch Moon this weekend.

It all starts with Grand Prix Sydney, which, by nature of time zones, will be the first Grand Prix to kick things off. Sydney's also a special one for two reasons:

  • It shares a location with Pro Tour Eldritch Moon in a week, which means you can expect a lot of pros to attend this one.
  • We'll be bringing you live video coverage from Sydney, in one of the rare shows that we broadcast from a region other than North America or Europe.

We'll have writer-reporters bringing you the latest stories from Grand Prix Stockholm and Montreal while we bring you round-by-round live video from Sydney.

As my boss, Greg Collins, mentioned last week, the coverage team for this weekend's Grand Prix as is follows:

  • Play-by-Play Commentators: Brian David-Marshall and Tim Willoughby
  • Color Commentators: Frank Karsten and Marshall Sutcliffe
  • Writer-Reporters: Marc Calderaro and Neale Talbot (Sydney), Tobi Henke and Craig Jones (Stockholm), Corbin Hosler and Josh Bennett (Montreal)
  • Producer: Rich Hagon
  • Technical Director: Rashad Miller
  • Cameras/Graphics: Neil Rigby and Steven Leeming

Live video coverage of Grand Prix Sydney will begin on Saturday at 11 a.m. Sydney time (Friday 9 p.m. ET/Saturday at 1 a.m. UTC). Day Two coverage will begin Sunday at 10 a.m. Sydney time (Saturday 8 p.m. ET/Sunday at 12 a.m. UTC).

2016 World Championship Races

This weekend will ensure that at least one more seat in the 2016 Magic: The Gathering World Championship is decided, as the race for Grand Prix Master comes to a conclusion.

Here are a couple of races to keep an eye on headed into this weekend:

Grand Prix Master: Let's start off with the big one. Right now, the race for Grand Prix Master (the player with the most uncapped Pro Points earned at Grand Prix in the 2015–16 season) is very close. Brian Braun-Duin currently leads the race with 53 Pro Points, followed closely behind by Tomoharu Saito at 52. Reid Duke and Seth Manfield both trail Braun-Duin by 5 points at 48, but they are not out of the equation just yet should they make the Top 8 and both Braun-Duin and Saito whiff on the final Grand Prix weekend.

We will be closely following the race for Grand Prix Master this weekend, so tune in to our coverage for the latest to see who guarantees themselves a seat in this year's World Championship.

Player of the Year: Last we checked, reigning World Champion Seth Manfield still had an 11-point lead over Owen Turtenwald, 83 to 72. While a 10-4-2 record or better would allow Turtenwald to pass Manfield in this race if the latter misses Day Two at the Pro Tour, it is going to take a very strong showing from Owen to take this title.

Outstanding Hall of Famer: This is a race between players who are buried in a wealth of opportunities for World Championship invitations, with Shota Yasooka, Luis Scott-Vargas, Paul Rietzl, and Jon Finkel all in the running for the title and the seat at the World Championship, as well as other titles and chances to compete in Magic's biggest tournament of the year.

Top Pro Points—North America: Given that the top three players in this race are all locked for the World Championship, the majority of these seats are likely to be converted to Top Pro Points—At Large seats, meaning the top finishers in the 2015–16 Player of the Year race who don't have a Worlds invite are the most likely to benefit from North America's allocated seats. That said, North America's seats provide a potential entry to the World Championship for some notable Hall of Famers, such as Luis Scott-Vargas, Jon Finkel, and Paul Rietzl, along with longtime Platinum pros such as Alexander Hayne. We'll have a better idea on where things will land come Pro Tour time.

Top Pro Points—Europe: This one is much tighter than North America, and the GPs this weekend may shake up the race for the three seats awarded to Europe's top Pro Point earners of 2015–16. Right now Joel Larsson is in third place for his geo-region, but close behind him are Lukas Blohon and Ondřej Stráský. Expect all three of these players to be competing in a Grand Prix this weekend, before every point counts.

Top Pro Points—Asia-Pacific: This one's close between Shota Yasooka, Ryoichi Tamada, and Yuuya Watanabe, but all three have a reasonable lead against the field right now. It is very likely that all three will try to improve on their lead this weekend, but if one of the players trailing Yuuya—who is in third place for the region—makes a huge leap with a Top 8 this weekend, Asia-Pacific is going to be hotly contested on who's going to the World Championship.

Top Pro Points—Latin America: This one's a lot less contested, as Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Thiago Saporito of Brazil have such sizable leads that it is extremely unlikely anyone surpasses them. Expect this race to be called shortly into Friday of next week's Pro Tour, with little movement out of this weekend.

Top Pro Points—At Large: These are all...uh, at large. Check back next week for a better idea of how the race is shaping up.

Constructed Master and Draft Master: See above. I hear Rich Hagon might have a word or a thousand on this and the At Large races (and more) for you to look forward to next week. You should check back then.

Pro Tour Eldritch Moon's Testing Teams

As with every Pro Tour, many pro Magic players have discovered that tackling a fresh Limited and Standard format is best done in groups. Many of our Pro Tour's top players have assembled testing teams to discover the ins and outs of Eldritch Moon and the footprint it has left on the Shadows over Innistrad block Booster Draft format as well as the Standard metagame.

Teams have long been an important part of professional Magic, and many of the top storylines to emerge at the Pro Tour have often involved teams in some form. Just this season, we have seen multiple stories emerge as new and familiar faces worked together to take on new formats and challenges.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of teams that are working on the new formats for Pro Tour Eldritch Moon. It is very likely that we will see many of them at Grand Prix Sydney this weekend, and the rest at the Pro Tour one week later.

Platinum and Pro Tour Hall of Fame players will be listed in italics.

The Pantheon

The ChannelFireball-sponsored super-team known as the Pantheon has seen a couple of shifts heading into the final Pro Tour of the season, including the addition of some familiar faces in Matthew Sperling and Pro Tour Hall of Famer Paul Rietzl, along with some new faces as well.

  • Andrew Cuneo
  • Antonino De Rosa
  • Reid Duke
  • Jon Finkel
  • William Jensen
  • Logan Nettles
  • Brock Parker
  • Paul Rietzl
  • Ben Rubin
  • Shahar Shenhar
  • Matthew Sperling
  • Owen Turtenwald
  • Jelger Wiegersma

MTG Mint Card

Team MTG Mint Card may have gotten its start as Asia-Pacific's super-team, but it has evolved slowly into the Oceanic region's best this season, with headliners from Asia, New Zealand, and Australia.

As a footnote, three players from the Hareruya Pros (listed in the next team roster) also tested with MTG Mint Card.

  • Christian Calcano
  • Marco Cammiluzzi
  • Jason Chung
  • Huang Hao-shan
  • Jacob Hart
  • Julien Henry
  • Paul Jackson
  • Faye Lai
  • Raphaël Lévy
  • Andrea Mengucci
  • Thierry Ramboa
  • Lee Shi Tian
  • Yam Wing Chun

Hareruya Pros

The other key team out of Japan is the one represented by Tomoharu Saito's store, Hareruya. The Hareruya Pros features two prominent Pro Tour Hall of Famers alongside many of Japan's most seasoned veterans.

One important highlight is that three Hareruya players worked alongside MTG Mint Card for this Pro Tour. Those players are:

  • Jérémy Dezani
  • Katsuhiro Mori
  • Tomoharu Saito

The following players are part of the Hareruya Pros (and did not test with any other team):

  • Yoshihiko Ikawa
  • Yuta Takahashi
  • Kenji Tsumura
  • Shota Yasooka

Team Ultra PRO

Team Ultra PRO has seen some shifts, with a condensed roster, but they continue to work alongside Team ChannelFireball in preparation for this event.

  • Andrew Baeckstrom
  • Samuel Black
  • Corey Burkhart
  • Justin Cohen
  • Pat Cox
  • Tom Martell
  • Ben Seck
  • Matt Severa
  • Ben Stark

ChannelFireball

One of the longer-standing teams of recent Pro Tour history, ChannelFireball features Pro Tour Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas alongside the usual suspects, as they work with Team Ultra PRO to prepare for this event.

  • Paul Cheon
  • Matthew Nass
  • David Ochoa
  • Luis Scott-Vargas
  • Josh Utter-Leyton

Face to Face Games

Team Face to Face Games took over the last Pro Tour, and they're back again for this one, ready to battle it out.

  • Brian Braun-Duin
  • Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
  • Ivan Floch
  • Alexander Hayne
  • Josh McClain
  • Shuhei Nakamura
  • Samuel Pardee
  • Steve Rubin
  • Mike Sigrist
  • Jon Stern
  • Ondřej Stráský
  • Oliver Tiu
  • Jacob Wilson

EUreka

Team EUreka, having started as a primarily EU-focused team, has expanded into North America, adding one new face from the United States as well as two new players from Europe.

  • Pierre Dagen
  • Martin Dang
  • Louis Deltour
  • Immanuel Gerschenson
  • Thomas Hendriks
  • Frank Karsten
  • Magnus Lantto
  • Christoffer Larsen
  • Joel Larsson
  • Michael Majors
  • Martin Müller
  • Brad Nelson
  • Simon Nielsen
  • Oliver Polak-Rottmann
  • Aleksa Telarov
  • Matej Zatlkaj

East West Bowl

Team East West Bowl cemented their name in Pro Tour history after a dominating performance at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. They have continued to strengthen their ranks headed into Pro Tour Eldritch Moon.

  • Andrew Brown
  • Ricky Chin
  • Mark Jacobson
  • Ari Lax
  • Scott Lipp
  • Seth Manfield
  • Pascal Maynard
  • Eric Severson
  • Jiachen Tao
  • Ben Weitz
  • Timothy Wu
  • Jarvis Yu

Cygames

Featuring some of the most visible and decorated players from Japan, the roster for Cygames continues to put up solid, consistent finishes. Pro Tour Eldritch Moon is where they hope to go a step further than that.

  • Yuuki Ichikawa
  • Teruya Kakumae
  • Yuuya Watanabe
  • Kentaro Yamamoto

DEX Army

The DEX Army is a team that primarily features an alliance of Latin American and Iberian pro players, along with one friend from the United States.

  • Carlos Ballester
  • Jose Cabezas
  • Marcio Carvalho
  • Pedro Carvalho
  • Antonio Del Moral León
  • Javier Dominguez
  • Willy Edel
  • Marcos Paulo de Jesus Freitas
  • Mateus Martins
  • Santiago de Paoli
  • Juan Pujalte
  • Toni Pascual
  • Douglas Romani
  • Thiago Saporito
  • Artur Villela
  • Dan Ward