It's been a full weekend of Magic here at Grand Prix Cleveland, and nothing brings out the best of the community quite like a team event. Players from across the world arrive to play with their friends, and this weekend that included forefathers of the game Jon Finkel and Kai Budde.
More than 500 teams and 1,600 players turned up in Ohio to compete in Amonkhet's final Limited run before the release of Hour of Devastation. Of those teams – from the best in the world to local friends playing in their first Grand Prix – more than 100 advanced to play on Sunday.
And it came as no surprise who met in the finals – the super team "Peach Garden Oath," comprised of third-ranked Reid Duke, No. 5 Owen Turtenwald, and William "Huey" Jensen, the latter two Hall of Famers – squaring off against No. 11 Martin Jůza, Corey Burkhart, and Hall of Famer Shuhei Nakamura.
Here are the highlights that stood out to us this weekend.
Tiu, Shenhar, and Floch Start Perfect
It was a team brought together by circumstance. Olivier Tiu and Shahar Shenhar had already decided to pair up for Grand Prix Cleveland, but they still hadn't locked up the final spot on the team. Ivan Floch went to Grand Prix Amsterdam considering a trip to the United States for Grand Prix Vegas and Cleveland, but was lacking a team.
It was convenience that brought the team together, but don't be surprised to see them back together in the future after a perfect run through Day One of Grand Prix Cleveland. The team rattled off an unblemished 8-0 start before squaring off against the fabled Peach Garden Oath – Reid Duke, Owen Turtenwald, and William Jensen.
It didn't slow down the newly formed trio, and a pair of tight games later they had emerged as the only undefeated team. While their hot run didn't continue into Sunday, it was an impressive performance for a group that had never teamed together before.
A Last Look at Amonkhet
With the closing of Grand Prix Cleveland, so too closed the window on Amonkhet Limited. While it will still be around from here on out, the spotlight will belong fully to Hour of Devastation, which hits stores around the world in a few short weeks.
If it was a final look, it was a fun one, as evidence by an exciting Saturday play in the match between Oliver Tiu and Louis Kaplan. The match began like so many others – Tiu got ahead on board with his white-black deck, the Zombies giving him a large board and safe lead on life totals as well.
So when Kaplan attacked with both his creatures while trailing 17-7 in life, it raised a few eyebrows. Still, there was no predicting what was coming.
Tiu opted for the safe block, taking damage from one attacker while throwing a Soldier token in front of the Initiate's Companion Kaplan sent his way. The block put the pressure on Kaplan to make a move, and when he did just that with Shed Weakness, it was a trade Tiu was happy to make, as he looked to untap with lethal on the board for the crackback.
It was a chance he would never get. Kaplan followed up with Brute Strength, and then a final card to complete the "super combo."
That was far from the only sweet play to happen on camera. Another favorite came on Sunday, when Dave Williams made use of one of the more unique cards available in the format.
Not tired of cool plays yet? In a game that featured a pair of planeswalkers on one side of the board, it was a surprise third one that proved to be the difference in a key Sunday match.
Team tournaments are unique in that they cut to the Top 4 instead of the Top 8, which means that the bubble because even more harsh. In this particular tournament, with its 14 rounds before the cut, featured a pair of heartbreakers in the final round.
After draws on the top two tables, the door was open for several teams to sneak in, and with a pair of key matches happening at the top tables, a pair of fan favorites – Jack and Lucas Kiefer along with teammate Zachary Kiihne, and Luis Scott-Vargas, Pat Cox, and Josh Utter-Leyton – both pulled through in tense final matches to give themselves a shot at the Top 4 and set up a dramatic announcement.
Not to mention a nod to a certain Paul Cheon
In the end, both teams narrowly missed out, finishing in fifth and sixth place. Still, for two teams that started the tournament in the hole, it was an impressive run and a strong finish.
Peach Garden Oath Does it Again
If there was every any doubt as to the best three-person team in Magic, that should be long over. If favorites were tabbed before the tournament began, the fabled Peach Garden Oath – Owen Turtenwald, Huey Jensen, and Reid Duke – would be atop any list. Given the weight of expectations and overall quality of opponent, it still wasn't a given that the trio would advance deep into the tournament, much less the Top 4.
And yet when the tournament ended, it was once again the Peach Garden Oath standing alone at the top.
It was a spectacular run through the weekend, complete with exciting plays in addition to the technically tight and calculated moves we've come to expect from the Peach Garden Oath.
Their Top 4 run began with a victory over Nathan Smith, Brandon Ayers, and John Rolf in the first team draft, before running into the buzzsaw team of the weekend in Nakamura, Burkhart, and Jůza, who had cleanly dispatched Josh Sellers, Nick Neill, and Chris Ferber on the other side of the bracket. That set up an epic finals, and one that either team could win.
But would you really expect anyone other than the superstar trio to come out on top? As Jensen used Drake Haven to fly over the top for the final win of the tournament, it was once again the Peach Garden Oath that walked away with the title.