With the 2016 World Championship approaching in the distance (September 1-4), the race for seats at the coveted title bout is heating up. While some of the spots are already claimed by Pro Tour winners, there are still plenty up for grabs.
And nothing is tighter than the race for Grand Prix Master.
While Pro Points earned from Grand Prix are capped for purposes of determining Pro Players Club levels, there is no limit to the amount players can earn in the race for Grand Prix Master, awarded to the competitor who amasses the most over the season. Entering Grand Prix Columbus and Prague, there was an extremely tight four-way bunch at the top of the standings, with Tomoharu Saito and defending world champion Seth Manfield leading the way with 45 points. But right behind them lurked Brian Braun-Duin and Reid Duke, with 44 and 43 points respectively. With Saito playing in Prague and the other three competing in Columbus, a big performance by one could propel them into control of the race.
Choosing to battle with Eldrazi, Saito crossed the finish line first, finishing 11-4 in Prague to earn two Pro Points on the weekend and take a two-point lead on his closest competitor.
A respectable finish, but one that left the door open for the challengers battling in Columbus. And entering Day 2, they stood poised to make a run. Duke limped into Day 2 with a 6-3 record, but Braun-Duin and Manfield both made the cut at 7-2, both alive for the Top 8 and a shot at enough points to pull into the lead.
For Manfield — who already has a berth secured at the World Championship thanks to his victory last year — the day ended early as he fell out of contention. That left Braun-Duin and Duke, who both moved to Round 15 out of Top 8 contention but alive and well in the quest for points.
And they did their part. Duke reeled off a perfect Sunday run to finish 12-3 and pick up three Pro Points, and Braun-Duin matched that 12-3 finish to earn three of his own. With yet another tie at the top, that leaves the Grand Prix Master race closer than ever after Legacy weekend.