The start of the 2014–2015 Premier Play season, where everyone once again begins at the same pro point totals, took place last weekend. It was not only our pro players' first chance to pick up pro points during the season to start off with an early lead, but also an opportunity for many players to earn an invitation to Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, which takes place in October.
The Standard format continued on in Utrecht last weekend, as 1,509 players made the trek to the Netherlands in order to battle with their best 60-card concoctions, many with the goal of a Pro Tour invitation and a trophy, others with the hopes of starting the Premier Play season strong with a good early finish.
In the end, it was Austrian Oliver Polak-Rottman who emerged victorious through the weekend on the back of Blue Devotion. This was an interesting development, as the Blue Devotion archetype made few waves (har har) at Pro Tour Magic 2015 the weekend before. In fact, many teams chose decks on the hopes that Blue Devotion would be underrepresented, and they were correct.
However, one week later, this was not the case. Blue Devotion represented 22 of the 172 players on Sunday in Utrecht, and three Blue Devotion players made their way into the Top 8.
However, aside from the reemerging Blue Devotion archetype, the field proved itself to be diverse, as five other deck archetypes populated the Top 8. You can see those decks, and read more about the event as a whole, by checking out the Grand Prix Utrecht coverage.
Here are a couple of highlights from reporters Tobi Henke and Oliver Gehrmann from last weekend's European GP.
The Evolution of White-Blue: Gehrmann takes a look at the evolution of White-Blue Control and its presence at Utrecht. He also catches up with MagicGrand Prix commentator and Utrecht competitor Riley Knight to talk to him about his transformative sideboard plan, which caught enough people off-guard to give him 55th at the end of the weekend.
Magic Everywhere: Henke talks to one of the rare United States player sightings in Utrecht, Joel Heath, about his summer vacation and Grand Prix plans. This year, he and his girlfriend made a vacation out of stopping into Utrecht, as he continues to broaden his horizons through Magic.
However, Utrecht was not the only Grand Prix that was happening last weekend. In Portland, many players stayed after the Pro Tour to compete in teams of three in last weekend's Team Sealed main event. Three of those players included No 2.-ranked player Owen Turtenwald, third-ranked player and new DailyMTG.com columnist Reid Duke, and No. 4 William Jensen.
Reid Duke, William Jensen, and Owen Turtenwald
Naturally, they won. The three Platinum pros, commonly referred to in social media as the Peach Garden Oath Brothers, had an incredible 2013–2014 season, and with their win last weekend, they're off to an amazing start for this season as well.
There are some interesting reads in the Grand Prix Portland coverage from both Corbin Hosler and me, but here are a couple of last weekend's highlights.
A Family Affair: Hosler's piece on team-family, featuring Randy Kaech and his two sons Stone and Richy, was perhaps one of the coolest stories to come out of the Grand Prix circuit in weeks. We became aware of them in Round 4 when selecting feature matches, where they dispatched the team of Alexander Hayne, Ari Lax, and Craig Wescoe before the kids asked for their mentors' autographs after the match.
Semifinal: Reid Duke vs. Paul Cheon: Magic coverage commentator and long-time writer Tim Willoughby offered me a helping hand in the semifinals by getting into the nitty-gritty of what turned out to be the most important battle in the semifinal match featuring eventual champions Turtenwald, Jensen, and Duke against No. 23 Eric Froehlich, Hall of Famer Luis-Scott Vargas, and Paul Cheon. You can catch my recap of their matches here, but Willoughby gets into the thick of what went down in the deciding game for this match between Duke and Cheon.
This weekend features the first round of World Magic Cup Qualifiers (WMCQs), so our Grand Prix tour will be taking a break this week. However, next week, Grand Prix coverage begins again with events in Kobe and Sydney. You'll find plenty of coverage from both regions, and NicoNico will be broadcasting video coverage in Kobe for those who want to watch some Magic taking place.
We're also nearing the point where people should be finalizing travel plans for GP Orlando and GP Shanghai, with both events taking place October 3–5. If you need to fly, or if you're staying at a hotel for this event, now is a good time to look into taking care of your travel itinerary.
To those going to a WMCQ this weekend, best of luck!