The Magic world has converged on Barcelona, Spain, for the final event of the 2011–2012 Pro Tour season. By the time this column goes live on the mothership, we will be getting underway for Round 1 of the action; as you can imagine, things are pretty hectic as my column deadline approaches. Fortunately, I get to work in thousand-word chunks for this column as I give you a glimpse into the days leading up to the event.
First up was sightseeing, which included taking in the Ramblas—a main drag of shops and eateries in the heart of the city. The highlight was definitely the Mercat de la Boqueria, a sprawling farmers market that offered everything from emu eggs to a dazzling array of fresh produce at its countless stalls.
No trip to Barcelona is complete without taking in some of the architecture by Antoni Guadi. The Guadi Cathedral is a breathtaking example, with soaring ceilings and vibrant stained glass.
The tournament site for Pro Tour Avacyn Restored is about as convenient to the staff hotel as any in recent memory—just around the bend of the Plaza Espana.
Inside the hall, players get to add another t-shirt to their Pro Tour wardrobe, featuring none other than Avacyn herself.
The video coverage is expanding this weekend to include a second studio featuring a newsdesk. We still have commentators in the booth each round...
...but we also have the snazzy new newsdesk set.
Not that exciting from the rear view. Here is what it looks like on the other side of the lumber.
The on-air coverage team has expanded from the last event, from four members to six. R&D member Zac Hill and Limited Resources podcast host Marshall Sutcliffe join the fun for Pro Tour Avacyn Restored.
Zac Hill, Rashad Miller, Sheldon Menery, and Marshall Sutcliffe
Both Sheldon Menery and Rashad Miller are returning alongside myself and Rich Hagon. Here you see the whole team—minus me manning the camera—working on the plan of attack for the new two-studio system.
There is a lot on the line this weekend, with spots on national teams for the World Magic Cup, precious berths in the Players Championship, and various levels of metallurgy in the Players Club all being settled by the closing bell this weekend. Not to be lost in all that will be the crowning of the Champion and the awarding of a juicy $40,000 check for his or her efforts.
While the Player of the Year title will not be determined until the newly created Players Championship during the week leading up to PAX Prime, the Rookie of the Year title will be determined at the conclusion of play this weekend. Jesse Hampton has a commanding lead, but with 30 points for winning the event, anything could happen.
Lots of attention will be paid the two all-star teams that make up ChannelFireball and StarCityGames: Black, with the likes of Luis Scott-Vargas, Brian Kibler, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Patrick Chapin, Jon Finkel, and Kai Budde, but there is another former Pro Tour winner who was looking to remind people he knows a thing or two about winning in Block Constructed.
Old-timer Osyp Lebedowicz admits that Block Constructed has gotten harder than it was back in the early part of the 2000s, when he won PT Venice with Astral Slide. He has been drafting, though, which is now essential to success at the Pro Tour. Hall of Famer Rob Dougherty also tweeted that he has been drafting extensively in preparation for this event. With more than 240 new cards to master in less than two weeks, the coverage team has been jamming in as many drafts as possible as well.
Marshall Sutcliffe, Steve Sadin, and Nick Fang, are hard at work researching the new draft format.
Tune in all weekend as we bring you the inside scoop on Avacyn Restored Booster Draft as well as Innistrad Block Constructed—a precursor to the new Standard format that will debut when the Scars of Mirrodin block rotates out this fall.