Many here have coined the term “Pro Tour Costa Rica” to describe the field. There are nine players in the Top 25 in attendance and six Pro Tour Hall of Fame members—including an wild Kai Budde, as this is quite a short flight from his residence. The field is has multiple Pro Tour winners, the current and former World Champion; it’s pretty crazy.
So what brought them all here? For most who didn’t indulge in the last Costa Rica, it was an excuse to visit a country that everyone’s been saying to visit. And with Ari Reyes, de facto head of the Costa Rican Magic tourism bureau, again leading the charge to help outsiders find lodging, food, adventure, and local stores, every traveling pro at least considered making the trip.
The largest group of travelers were those staying at Costa Rican Miguel Gatica’s abode. Sixteenth-ranked Alex Hayne, Pascal Maynard, Shahar Shenhar, top-ranked Seth Manfield, Chris Fennell, and many others took a week and holed up at Gatica’s. But sadly, there’s no way I can chronicle their journey. At least not on this here site. If you see them at a Grand Prix sometime, go up and ask them about it.
However, there were some other travelers who had adventures more than fit to print. The most interesting was the journey of Hall of Famer Frank Karsten teaming with mtgMintCard members Chapman Sim, Huang Hao-Shan, Yam Wing Chun, others like Minh Nguygen, Tanner Lear, and a few more to be named later for the sake of storytelling.
Frank Karsten and Chapman Sim, travel buddies
Karsten, planner extraordinaire, got some friends on board and planned a classic Costa Rican itinerary—volcanoes, rainforests, waterfalls, toucans landing on you, the works. But the companions hit a speed bump when they realized none of them could drive. This was a problem for their plan next Monday to drive out to Monteverde Cloud Forest and see some volcanoes along the way.
After a few days of hemming and hawing, Sim got a text while at lunch with Yam. Sim turned to Yam and said, “We found a driver.” Yam was happy and asked who it was. Sim replied, “Oh no one you know. He just won seven Pro Tours, no big deal.” And it hit Yam.
German Juggernaut, chauffeur
“Wait, Kai Budde is driving us around?!” So in with the group came Kai, and Hall of Famer Ben Rubin joined shortly after. So this rag-tag group has been gallivanting across Costa Rica together. Though this did make the Round 4 match between Huang and Kai a bit sad, it’s been wonderful.
Frank Karsten testing the water.
(And “water-full,” as Sim insists the photo below is Frank Karsten nearly falling in a river right near a waterfall. Karsten denies it fully.)
Frank Karsten – is that a fall?
Craig Wescoe used this as an opportunity to do the things he couldn’t fit in last time around in 2012. He made a beeline for Manuel Antonio National Park. He’s filling in the gaps from four years ago, and doing the things he fell in love with all over again.
For many of the big names here, this trip is barely about the Grand Prix at all. Karsten, tenth-ranked Sam Black, and many others have said to me, “If I scrub out, that means one more day in Costa Rica!” Almost everyone has back-up plans in place for that potential extra day. This is the same logic East West Bowl’s Eric Severson used. Even though a paid flight to the Pro Tour in Sydney is on the line for him, he’s here vacationing with his significant other. And she’s been hoping that Severson doesn’t make the second day, even though they have a good week here afterwards.
Jillian Leigh and Eric Severson already in vacation mode
There’s so much you can do with an extra day in Costa Rica, and plenty of pros have considered the possibility. However, honestly, I don’t think I want to know what the Gatica crew would do with more time. I’ll leave it to y’alls imagination.
But that “basically vacation” sentiment is not universally true. Chapman Sim is currently tied in the race for Singapore National Champion; Oliver Tiu is three points shy of Platinum; and Karsten, well, Karsten said despondently, “I would like to win a Grand Prix at some point in my career...” There are always stakes, and if there’s one thing we know, if you give Magic players tables and chairs, they’re going to give it their all. Or most-all.
Because though the competition is fierce, it’s more play than work here. I mean, did you see Tyler Barnett and Grand Prix Detroit winner Ralph Betesh in swim trunks? They were both actually doing pretty well, but were taking dips in the pool between rounds. Oh, you didn’t? Here’s a quick shot, grabbed on the fly.
Just caught Tyler Barnett and Ralph Betesh on the way to the pool
It’s easy to call this “Pro Tour Costa Rica,” but that’s really a misnomer. How the Pros treat Pro Tours, and how they are treating this Grand Prix are miles apart. And Pascal Maynard’s viscous sunburned skin is living proof.