There are three Grand Prix before Pro Tour Magic Origins: The two happening this weekend – in Lille and Montreal respectively – and one in Dallas. When Dallas is settled there will be one player who earned the most Pro Points from Grand Prix this year, and therefore earned a coveted slot at the World Championship in August.
Who it’s going to be is a race that’s going down to the wire between a resurgent Pascal Maynard and dominant No. 24-ranked Alexander Hayne.
How did we get here, two titans from Canada dueling it out for a chance to stand on top of the Magic world? It’s a different story for both.
Alexander Hayne was looking to break the chase for Worlds tie with Pascal Maynard, and set about it winning his first two matches of Grand Prix Montreal in decisive fashion.
“I had a reasonable number of Grand Prix points but nothing that great until after the Pro Tour in Brussels,” Hayne said. “After Grand Prix Krakow I’ve been on a pretty good run. I won Krakow and cashed almost every Grand Prix I’ve played in. A couple X-3 or X-4 finishes – it’s been steady. Pascal either wins or comes in last at every tournament he plays in. He just won in Buenos Aires and he has the tiebreaker on me so I’m slightly behind in the race.”
Fighting up until the last minute wasn’t originally in either’s plans. “Grand Prix Dallas wasn’t going to happen if one of us had the race locked up,” Hayne explained. “As it is now of course there’s just this weekend and Dallas to determine who wins the race. We’re both locked in to play now. We had talked about skipping last weekend since both Grand Prix were so far away,” he said, referring to Buenos Aires and Singapore, “but it worked out for Pascal obviously.”
Hayne was one of the many standout players collaborating in a team for Pro Tours. Was the race changing things for that? “The team was already planning to go to Dallas because various people need points for Gold or Platinum,” said Hayne. “An extra point would change the finish they need at the Pro Tour. The vast majority decided we were going to Dallas and it was made before I had pulled ahead of Pascal, but now we’re back to square one basically.”
“I think they’re all rooting for me, basically,” Hayne continued. “There’s some rooting for Pascal that think I have a chance for qualifying for Worlds at the Pro Tour, which is true but I need a very strong finish: I could finish 10-5 and not get there since I’m only at 42 Pro Points.”
Hayne was more focused on the immediate future, however. “I haven’t played this format much since Grand Prix Atlantic City but I got a little practice in coming in – more than I would have normally for a Grand Prix since the stakes have gone up,” Hayne said. “It’s a hometown Grand Prix so I’d like to shut the door behind him, and not too softly. A Top 8 would lock up Platinum and put me pretty far ahead of the race again. I’m going to try and channel Pascal’s win distribution skills.”
“My greatest fear is that I lose on tiebreaks,” Hayne continued. “I missed Worlds on tiebreaks last year. I lost out to people that got Pro Tour Top 8s last year but hadn’t gotten points all along the way. I’m a bit biased, but it’d be tough to lose out on breaks again. I definitely hope that doesn’t happen.”
Pascal Maynard had just won a Grand Prix to both tie Alexander Hayne in the Worlds race and earn the tiebreaker if it stayed that way.
Maynard’s story for the race started a bit different. “When they announced I was third – when they announced the Top 8 at Grand Prix Mexico City. The change was announced at Pro Tour Fate Forged and I knew,” Maynard said, referring to the Grand Prix points-for-World Championship slot announcement. Maynard was in the middle of a career resurgence after more than a year of disappointing finishes and results. The race propelled him to take chances, like his successful trip to Buenos Aires.
“I wanted to Top 4 because I’d need X-5 for Platinum at the Pro Tour instead of X-4, and if I won I’d tie Alex,” Maynard said. “I went there in need of a Top 4 – anything less was worthless. It was a greedy choice to go there. I didn’t like my deck that much so the only reason I went so I wouldn’t regret it next year. If I was short points and didn’t get them I’d regret it. Last year I was a few points shy of what I needed and the last Grand Prix was Limited, and I’m better at Limited. I didn’t have any expectations, I just had to do what I had to do.”
Tying Hayne was an unexpected result, but Maynard was still looking only in the moment. “I need to Top 8 this weekend for one point towards Platinum,” he said, virtually capped out of Pro Points from Grand Prix finishes, “but I have to do as well as Alex this weekend to hold the tie.”
Unlike Hayne, Maynard was willing to concede an ultimate loss in the race for Worlds. It was Platinum status that matters most. “If I lose to Alex, that’s fine. If either of us wins I’m happy,” he said. “I’d rather be beat by someone I know than someone I don’t. I’d obviously love to win. If I lose the race and get Platinum I’m fine: If I had to chose, Platinum would be fine.”
It was too early to tell if the tie would be broken, but Hayne won his first match of the day as Pascal last his. Where it would go from there was up to Hayne and Maynard alone.