This weekend I'm going to a Grand Prix. This isn't new for me; I started traveling to Grand Prix in 2012, before I was even on the coverage team. After transitioning to doing more coverage, traveling to Grand Prix became quite a common occurrence for me. I'm often gone more weekends in a year than I'm home. So you won't be surprised to hear that this weekend, I'm going to a Grand Prix.
But this one is special. This is the Grand Prix weekend of all Grand Prix weekends. I'll be going to Las Vegas, Nevada, to cover Grand Prix Las Vegas. The crazy part? I'm covering just one of the two tournaments that will make up Grand Prix Las Vegas. Crazier still: Those two tournaments make up only half of the total number of Grand Prix tournaments taking place this weekend! There are Grand Prix in Utrecht, Netherlands, and Chiba, Japan, happening at the same time as Grand Prix Las Vegas.
It's a special weekend for Magic players around the world. We get to celebrate this game that we all love by playing in or watching the biggest tournament day in the long history of the game. It's a great time to reflect on the game and how far it's come. And also to reflect on the bigger picture. Magic has always been about the people. That's the glue. I love the cards, and the game itself in all its forms. But if it weren't for the like-minded people I've met through the game, I may have wandered in a different direction.
This weekend we all get to focus on one very cool thing: Modern Masters 2015 Edition tournaments all around the globe. I know that I speak for the rest of the coverage team when I say that I'm honored to be able to cover the event and bring you all the action from Vegas. There are streams from all three locations all weekend, so grab a sandwich, some friends, and make yourself comfortable because the programming won't stop!
If you do plan on tuning into the stream(s), you'll want to know what to look out for. For starters, let's give a brief overview of the tournament structure and then we'll get you prepped for viewing.
Grand Prix are two-day events. Anyone can sign up to play in the first day of action, if you are a Magic pro, and aspiring amateur, or even a more casual player just looking for the experience of it.
Each player will get six booster packs of Modern Masters 2015 Edition and from those they will build their Day One deck. That's right, they will be playing all nine rounds of Day One with this deck. The players will of course be hoping to open up a sweet Sealed pool, or they'll be looking to fight as hard as they can with whatever they do open.
Day One is nine rounds of Swiss play (this just means that you'll be playing against players with the same record as you). Every player with a 7-2 or better record will advance to Day Two. The rest will have to settle for side events or a day out on the town.
So what are the players hoping for when they crack those packs for their Sealed deck? Bombs of course! If you plan to watch the coverage, these are a few of the big cards that will finish the game and go over the top of the opponent. These are also the type of cards that everyone will be trying to prepare for when they build their deck.
Since Sealed tends to be a bit slower than Booster Draft, big, expensive spells get some time to breath. Like Comet Storm, for example. If you get a bunch of mana together, this card is just plain dumb. You'll see it kill players, or just clear the way for creatures to do so. Did you notice that it's an instant as well?
One interesting twist is that since it's double red to cast, it won't be splashed easily. You'll see this mainly in dedicated red decks—or decks with exceptional mana fixing.
Remember Overrun? The uncommon game-ender in Limited. Well this is like that, but rare, and easier to cast. And if you pair it with a Pelakka Wurm, it's +7/+7 and trample to all of your creatures! Of course, you only need to pair it with, say, a Kozilek's Predator to make it +3/+3 and trample… aka Overrun. Oh and those Eldrazi Spawn tokens can attack now too. Yeah.
I predict that Overwhelming Stampede will steal more games than any other card over the course of the weekend. It's just so trivially easy to cast a few creatures, one of which is moderately sized, and then win the game on the spot.
Speaking of Overrun…
Elesh Norn doesn't really look much like an Overrun, but when she hits the battlefield it sure feels like it. See, the polar nature of pumping your team up while shrinking their team down leads to a ton of damage crashing in the first turn she arrives. If your opponent survives that hit, they usually don't survive the next.
I've seen a timely Elesh Norn turn around some absurd games of Magic before. With all of the mana ramp available in the format, we'll be seeing plenty of this potent seven-drop for sure.
And if seven-drops are your thing, how about this guy?
Now, if you find yourself way behind in a game, Karn might not get you out of it. He usually does, but since he is only taking out one permanent the turn he comes down, you could still face some significant heat even after he takes his tax on your opponent.
If the game is remotely close—or gods willing, you are ahead—Karn shuts the door right on the flailing hand of your opponent so hard they might want to reconsider coming back for Game 2.
The super-interesting part about Karn is that he's colorless. Of all the Karn Liberated opened on the GP weekend, how many do you think won't get played? That number will be very small.
If you find yourself tuning in for any of the coverage this weekend, keep your eye out for these finishers and more. For now, though, we have something pressing to discuss: Sunday!
Sunday is different. With the field drastically narrowed down, the players will be put into pods of eight people, and you know what that means: Draft!
Day Two is made up of two separate Booster Drafts. Players will draft Modern Masters 2015 Edition early in the morning, play their three rounds, and then draft again in the afternoon. After that, the Swiss part of the tournament is over. Fifteen rounds will have gone by, and only the Top 8 records of all the people who played in the event will make the final cut.
The Top 8 will be a big deal at all of these events. Big prizes are a given, as well as Pro Tour invites. But the real treat here is being able to say that you made the Top 8 on the biggest Magic weekend in history. How cool would that be?
The Top 8 players will then be seated for the last draft of the weekend. They'll pick and choose their weapons to take into battle to see who will win the entire event. While it is true that they'll be hoping for bombs or great removal to start with, if history is any indicator, you don't necessarily need them to win.
Neal Oliver won the previous Modern Masters Grand Prix in Las Vegas (the record holder for biggest Magic tournament ever at the time; around 4500 players). And the deck he won with did not feature the all-time best cards in it. He beat down his finals opponent, Madison Jonas, with Mothdust Changeling of all things.
You can watch the finals (with me commentating even) of that Grand Prix on YouTube.
It just goes to show that anything can happen in a Top 8. It doesn't hurt that Neal played excellent Magic throughout the weekend, of course.
The last wrinkle to consider as the weekend approaches is that none of these players have had much time to prepare. Modern Masters 2015 Edition will only have been released for about a week prior to the event. As a spectator, this is awesome. It rewards the players who put in the most work, and it makes the games exciting because some of the players are learning on the fly.
When you factor in how deep this set is and how wide a net it casts, things are sure to get crazy.
I hope you'll join us this weekend in celebrating our game and coming together as a group to recognize how far we've all come.
It's going to be awesome.
Until next week!