This weekend's event was part closure, and part chaos. The Standard portion of the tournament was the last hurrah for the environment that most players have been familiar with since Invasion was released. With Apocalypse set to be legal in Constructed at the end of the weekend, this tournament would be the final statement from a fully explored environment. With July comes an entirely new metagame that will take months to fully comprehend.
So was there any innovation in this metagame's final hour? Sort of. Scott Richards piloted a Counter Rebel deck to the Championship, defeating Argentina National Champion Diego Ostrovich in the finals. The only new development to come out of this weekend's tournament was a green-red-white rogue deck that used Charging Troll in addition to the usual powerful green acceleration and fatties. Victor Galimbertti also carried a Ponza variant to a Top 8 finish. Besides the usual land destruction and burn spells, Victor used Mogg Sentry, which was surprisingly good in the counter-heavy environment. His four maindeck Blood Oaths also raised some eyebrows, and many players commented that it might be a maindeck caliber card.
Eventual champion Scott Richards beat Julio Silva Maciel's Merfolk Opposition deck in the Quarterfinals, squeaking out a victory in a match that went the full five games. Eduardo Sella's Fires deck fell to Victor Galimbertti's Ponza deck, thanks in part to the massive amount of burn that was used to eliminate Birds and Elves early. Raphael Garcia defeated Alejandro del Gerbo Actis' Fires deck with his Blue/White permission deck, in a matchup that typically favors the control deck. Diego Ostrovich beat Christiano Pereira's Fires deck, and advanced to the Semifinals. Once there, he beat Garcia's permission deck in the fifth and deciding game to move onto the finals. Amazingly, Scott Richards beat Victor Galimbertti's Ponza deck in five games as well, thanks mostly to his sideboard, and some bad mana draws by Victor.
The bigger story to emerge from this weekend was the impact of Apocalypse on Invasion Block Rochester Draft. The Invasion and Planeshift pack encourage players to draft three allied colors, while the Apocalypse pack benefits the drafter who is drafting enemy colors. The result is that the third pack presents a decision to either play many powerful cards at the expense of a weaker mana base, or to play a consistent deck that is less powerful. Different tables during the draft portion of the tournament showed a variety of strategies applied.
Some players, such as Carlos Romao at his first table, forced opposing colors to clean up in the Apocalypse pack. Others stuck to the three allied color strategy beneficial in the first two packs, and accepted that they could not access most of the undercosted cards in Apocalypse. Many drafts saw power cards such as Jilt and Goblin Legionnaires being picked after cards such as Tundra Kavu and Zombie Boa.
What makes this even more complex is the fact that Rochester is an open draft where all the players can see what is being drafted. This usually results in lots of psychological things to consider, such as signaling the colors you intend to draft, and reading the signals of the rest of the color. However, when you throw in the chaotic element of an allied-to-enemy power switch, things tend to get a little out of control. This tournament gave players their first taste of the new and exciting draft metagame, which will continue developing through Worlds.
While the Latin American Championships were going on, the Argentina Open was happening at the same time. This tournament was open to all players, offering a cash payout. Chris Benafel even decided to make the trip down from the United States to participate, but did not place in the Top 8. Mexican National Champion Hugo Araiza scrubbed out of the main event, and then entered the open, where he came in second place. Jorge Rodriguez won the tournament with Fires, collecting a $2,000 prize.
Steven O'Mahoney-Shwartz and Dave Williams were also on hand to do gunslinging through the weekend. Players could try their decks against these American Pro Tour veterans, and would win a pack if they were victorious. Williams and Steve OMS also participated in a Magic Quiz Show, which was similar to the Game Shows Mark Rosewater runs at Pro Tours. The enthusiastic crowd was whipped into a frenzy as they shouted out answers, eager to win some free packs. In fact, it reached a point that saw staff members used as "crowd control" to keep the participants in order. This sort of excitement over a Magic Quiz Show is something that would not be expected in America, but is an example of how enthusiastic the Latin American players are about Magic.
With the exception of Canadian and Amateur Championships, this tournament along with Euros was the final major event before Worlds. It may not have involved the earth shattering Apocalypse in Constructed, but it did provide players with a final look at the environment that had become very familiar with. As far as limited is concerned, if today is any indication of how post-Apocalypse draft operates, Worlds will indeed be quite interesting.