Oath Premier Play Kickoff: Nagoya, Mexico City, Vancouver

Posted in Competitive Gaming on January 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.

Three Grand Prix. Three different continents. Thousands of players and dozens of teams, all competing for the title of Grand Prix Champion, and many testing their Limited knowledge in preparation for next week's Pro Tour.

Looking for your first journey into the world of competitive Oath of the Gatewatch Sealed Deck and Booster Draft? This weekend is for you.

Oath of the Gatewatch Triple Grand Prix Weekend

This weekend marks the kickoff of Oath of the Gatewatch at the Grand Prix level, with main events taking place in Nagoya, Mexico City, and Vancouver.

Players in the main events at these Grand Prix will be spending their Saturday finding the best 40-card decks that they can piece together from four booster packs of Oath of the Gatewatch and two booster packs of Battle for Zendikar. Then, these players will compete in nine rounds of Swiss. A 6-3 record will get them into Day Two, where Booster Draft awaits.

Day Two features two drafts using two packs of Oath of the Gatewatch and one pack of Battle for Zendikar, in that order. Each draft is followed by three rounds of Swiss, after which the Top 8 players will advance to the last Booster Draft of the day and a single-elimination playoff. The last player remaining will win $10,000, a trophy, and the title of Grand Prix Champion.

Grand Prix Nagoya

Nagoya is the first to get started, as time zones ensure that this event will be the first to fire and the first to end. With a capacity for 2,700 players in the main event, Grand Prix Nagoya is sure to be a spectacle for everyone on site.

Teamwork is something we will see at work at each of the three Grand Prix, and Nagoya will feature representatives from Japan's finest. Team Cygames—featuring Yuuki Ichikawa, Kentaro Yamamoto, and Teruya Kakumae—represents one of Japan's newest player groups, with Ichikawa being one of the flagship members.

Yuuki Ichikawa, of Team Cygames.

Ichikawa has come a long way from humble beginnings on NicoNico—the Japanese video streaming and content service similar to Twitch—as a Magic Online player. He eventually advanced to the ranks of the Pro Tour elite in 2014 with back-to-back Top 8s at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx and Pro Tour Magic 2015. His methodical and calculated play has earned the respect of professional Magic players worldwide, with No. 1–ranked player Owen Turtenwald even going so far as to say that Ichikawa is one of the best players on the planet in one of his recent articles. If you're wondering what that is in reference to, I highly recommend taking a look at his quarterfinal match in Pro Tour Magic 2015 to get why Turtenwald regards him so highly.

Kentaro Yamamoto is no slouch either, with three Pro Tour Top 8s and Platinum status in the Pro Players Club. The third member of the team, Teruya Kakumae, is also a Gold-level pro with two Grand Prix titles to his name, so he's someone to keep your eyes on this weekend as well.

The other big team to expect out of Grand Prix Nagoya is Hareruya Pros, the team featuring Hall of Famers all under the recognizable cartoon sun banner of Tomoharu Saito's mega Magic store in Chiba.

Pro Tour Hall of Famer Shota Yasooka, of Hareruya Pros.

Perhaps one of the most notable recent names is that of 2015 Hall of Famer Shota Yasooka, who was inducted into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame back in October. Having recently made the move to Hareruya Pros, the renowned designer of blue decks is now representing Hareruya on the Pro Tour. Will he continue to showcase his blue creations at the Modern Pro Tour?

Also part of Hareruya is Hall of Famer Kenji Tsumura, who recently represented Team Japan at the World Magic Cup. Tsumura has a storied history in the game, and is a symbol of Japan's biggest era in professional Magic. Joining Yasooka and Tsumura on the team is three-time Grand Prix Champion Yuta Takahashi along with Yoshihiko Ikawa.

Yuuya Watanabe, of Team...wait...which team?

The jury's still out on Yuuya Watanabe, as it was announced that Grand Prix Nagoya will be his final tournament under the banner of Team Mint. Where will he go next? We'll just have to wait and see what the two-time Player of the Year does next.

Reporter and Silver-level Pro Chapman Sim will be reporting on the latest out of Grand Prix Nagoya, so be sure to check out the Grand Prix Nagoya coverage page throughout the weekend for the latest updates and—wait, what's that? What about Team MTG Mint Card, the Asia-Pacific superteam headlined by Lee Shi Tian?

Turns out, one familiar team will be heading to a different Grand Prix this weekend...

Grand Prix Mexico City

Team MTG Mint Card is getting a head start on beating jet lag by traveling to Grand Prix Mexico City as a stop in North America before the whole team continues their trek to Atlanta for the Pro Tour. They're not the only team with this plan, as Mexico City will be overflowing with some of Magic's biggest teams from all over the world.

Lee Shi Tian, Jason Chung, and Paul Jackson, all part of MTG Mint Card.

Headlined by Lee Shi Tian, Team MTG Mint Card has some new additions as two continents converge in an effort to get an edge over what is expected to be a thoroughly difficult field to navigate.

New Zealand's Platinum Pro, Jason Chung, and Australian Gold-level pro Paul Jackson, along with Zen Takahashi, Matt Rogers, and Chester Swords, have formed the New Zealand–Australia collective that will be joining the Asian pro lineup of Hong Kong Platinum Pro Lee Shi Tian, Taipei Gold-level Pro Huang Hao-Shan, Yam Wing Chung, and Chan Sze Hang. Tomoharu Saito is also preparing with this group for the Pro Tour, making this a joining of some of the Asia-Pacific's very best.

The DEX Army from Pro Tour Magic Origins, along with a few Brazilian friends of the team.

Also coming to Grand Prix Mexico City is the DEX Army, the Iberican–Latin American alliance that brings together Spain, Portugal, and South America's best players. Captained by Pro Tour Hall of Famer Willy Del and featuring the best of Latin America's finest along with aspiring Pro Tour hopefuls, the DEX Army will be in Mexico City in full force.

And not to be left out are the two major European teams, which will be heading down to Mexico to make this event one that will feature some big names on Day One and Day Two. Team EUreka, the new superteam on the block featuring young stars like Martin Müller and Pro Tour regulars like Joel Larsson, will be using Mexico City as a testing ground for their Limited knowledge. Joining them will be Cabin Crew, headlined by pros such as Martin Jůza and Hall of Famer Frank Karsten.

Writer and journalist Corbin Hosler will be reporting on his findings as he dives into the thick of the action on text. You'll be able to get the latest from Mexico over at the Grand Prix Mexico City coverage page.

Grand Prix Vancouver

And finally, Grand Prix Vancouver will feature some prominent North American teams testing their first impressions of Oath of the Gatewatch Limited in a major tournament to see if their expectations were correct—and to see if they can pick up some early Pro Points and cash.

One of the teams to watch during this weekend in Vancouver will be Team Ultra PRO. Friend and former coverage stalwart Adam Styborski did a phenomenal write-up on the team of Hall of Famers and Pro Tour legends, and Vancouver will feature a few in their ranks test the new set.

Samuel Black, member of Team Ultra PRO.

Samuel Black, coming off his win at the 2016 Super Sunday Series Championship, has been staying in the Pacific Northwest this week and will be making the trek up to Vancouver with friend and teammate Matt Severa. They will be joined by Matthew Sperling and Tom Martell as Ultra PRO's representatives at Grand Prix Vancouver.

Left to right: Paul Cheon, Alexander Hayne, Thiago Saporito, and Ondřej Stráský, all part of Team ChannelFireball/Face to Face Games for this Pro Tour.

The other big team we'll see in action in Vancouver is the team-up of Team ChannelFireball and Team Face to Face Games, as some of the best players from all over the world put their heads together to prepare for the upcoming Pro Tour.

New additions to the team for this Pro Tour include Ondřej Stráský and Thiago Saporito, who have both moved to Team ChannelFireball. Andrea Mengucci and Ivan Floch have joined them on the team, making this one of the superteams to watch, as it's packed with power from four continents.

Grand Prix Vancouver will be feature a live video broadcast on twitch.tv/magic that starts on Saturday at around 2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET/10 p.m. UTC, and again on Sunday at around 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET/6 p.m. UTC. Join Rich Hagon, Marshall Sutcliffe, Randy Buehler, Brian David-Marshall, Rashad Miller, Neil Rigby, Steven Leeming, Marc Calderaro, and Melissa DeTora as they bring you the latest live matches, the latest video features, and the latest articles and stories from the tournament floor.

Vancouver will also feature updates from Nagoya and Mexico City as they come in, as Chapman and Corbin will send in their latest findings to Vancouver, so tune in to get the latest from all three shows!

Many have taken the oath, but only three will be crowned Grand Prix Champions this weekend. Check back all weekend for the latest.

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