Top 5 Moments of GP Atlanta

Posted in Event Coverage on October 10, 2016

By Event Coverage Staff

Thanks to Meghan Wolff and Marc Calderaro for their contributions to this article.

Every Grand Prix is made up of seemingly infinite stories and moments. Walking through the halls, you can't help but hear some amazing ones.

Here are the Top 5 moments we'll remember from Grand Prix Atlanta 2016.

5. Limited Combo Decks Having a Heyday on Kaladesh

Has there ever been a plane on which Limited combo decks run as rampant as they do on Kaladesh?

For example, Sixteenth-ranked Sam Black drafted a Minister of Inquiries mill deck—the creature being the only support the strategy even has.

Additionally, Panharmonicon is no joke, and it's not even just “fringe playable.” The card has been bumped up to a choice draft-around rare, and has a home in fabricate decks, energy decks, Cloudblazer decks, Fairgrounds Warden decks, Wispweaver Angel decks . . . you get the idea. Stephen Neal, Pat Cox, and Ari Lax all drafted decks with two copies of Panharmonicon somewhere in the pile of cards—and to great success too.

Even the Modules—cards that seemed questionably slow—have proven complete workhorses in making otherwise “crazy” strategies eminently sane.

Often the build-around draft cards don't reward you as often as you'd like, but throughout the weekend, Kaladesh has paid off every dream you've had when you first looked at a card in your booster pack and thought, “What if . . . ?”

4. The First-Round Masterpiece

There are thousands of turns, played in thousands of games, in thousands of matches over the course of a Grand Prix. Though the various Masterpieces in the Kaladesh packs are quite rare, people knew they would show up some places throughout the weekend.

But who would have thought that in the first round something crazy would happen?—and in the feature match area, no less. But it happened.

Judge Meg Baum was up against Stephen Berry. They went to the third game and Baum was feeling confident. That was, until Berry went Mana Crypt into a second-turn Dovin Baan. The Turn 2 planeswalker took over the game in short order, and sealed Baum's fate.

We all knew that some moments like this would happen over the weekend, but in the Feature Match area in the first round really made Berry's sequence one to remember.

3. Ray Perez, Jr. Burns the Midnight Oil

Ray Perez, Jr. willingly acknowledged that on Day 1 of Grand Prix Atlanta he didn't know exactly how the card Midnight Oil worked. As a result he didn't know exactly how good the card was either.

He quickly found out. The card sat in his sideboard on the first day, but once Perez realized that he would continue drawing cards, even with no more counters on Midnight Oil, he boarded it in every single round.

So on the second day, he drafted Midnight Oil in Day 2, and happily first-picked the card in his Top 8 draft. The enchantment carried him to the semifinals, and Perez learned a valuable lesson about evaluating the cards fully before opening a Grand Prix Sealed pool—regardless of how late he stays up to do it.

2. Chris Pikula Is Back on the Ballot

Northeastern Magic mainstay Chris Pikula has been playing Magic for over 20 years. And a few years ago was inches away from being elected into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. He barely—barely—missed, then became ineligible after the Pro Point–limit changed.

He tried hard to get the points necessary, but his playing had to take a back seat to make his family a priority. Pikula's battle to get back on the Hall of Fame ballot was chronicled in the Magic documentary Enter the Battlefield.

In past years he's come very close, and today he finally earned the last pro point he needed to get his name back in contention. Though he fell short of this Top 8, I have a feeling we'll be seeing Chris Pikula around the last-round lights soon.

1. Carlos Romão Goes Two in a Row, for Five in Total

Brazilian Carlos Romão has been a perennial name over the last two decades of Magic. Though his banner year was 2002, when he won the World Championship, he's Top 8'ed Grand Prix in three different decades!

But 2016 might become a new milestone for Romão. In just a few months he's added two more trophies to his collections—both in São Paulo and right here in Atlanta. That makes a total of five Grand Prix wins in nine Top 8s. That's a heck of a conversion rate.

Romão showed resolve and consistency with his mostly-Mono-Green draft deck throughout the Top 8. Heck, in the finals against Cash Turner, he lost the game when he went Longtusk Cub into Bristling Hydra, but his solid play carried him through the other two, earning him even more Grand Prix hardware.

Romão will be playing his first Pro Tour of the year next week at Pro Tour Kaladesh. 2016 might just become the new high-water mark for the seasoned pro.

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