Hot on the heels of the first Grand Prix in Eastern Europe last month in Prague, the premier event circuit is moving this weekend to Russia. Many of the Russian players are looking forward to their first opportunity to prove themselves on an international stage and have been testing hard.
The format for this weekend is Invasion Block constructed, the same as that for Pro Tour Tokyo, and it will be interesting to see whether anyone has found a new archetype or if all the decks are variations of those used by the high-finishing competitors in Japan. Quite a lot of Invasion Block have been held in Russia and the most popular decks are red/green and The Solution playing Angelic Shield to counteract the problem of Plague Spitters.
Of course it is not just Russians and other Eastern European countries represented this weekend; the regular faces from Western Europe and the United States are here as well. Ryan Fuller, Olivier Ruel, Antoine Ruel, Franck Canu, Trey Van Cleave and Mattias Jorstedt all made the trip, and so did Americans Alex Shvartsman, Mike "Mikey P" Pustilnik, and Dave Williams.
While the Russian players will be eager to show off all the new "tech" they have developed, the latter-mentioned players must be a little more circumspect: with an Invasion Block constructed Masters Series to think about two weeks from now in Barcelona, they must be wary about revealing their best deck this weekend with comparatively little at stake.
The venue this weekend is a little more austere than usual. Those of you who bother to look at the site pictures will notice that most of the usual banners and posters that decorate the playing halls at Grand Prix are not here this weekend. The reason for this is that over-officious Russian customs did not permit the Wizards of the Coast truck across the border; but perhaps the stark white walls will help players to concentrate on their matches.
In all, this event has attracted 241 players hoping for Grand Prix glory. Stay tuned throughout the weekend to see how it turns out.