5. All Storied Players, No 9-0s
Just a fun moment that happened at the end of the first day. Despite two Pro Tour Hall of Fame members, a former Player of the Year, and a two-time Grand Prix winner all finishing without a loss, they were not unblemished. Fifteenth-ranked Yuuya Watanabe, Ben Rubin, eighteenth-ranked Brad Nelson, and soon-to-be Grand Prix Costa Rican Top 8er Brian Braun-Duin all garnered a draw, making a four-way tie and the end of the first day at 8-0-1.
Maybe it says something about the format, or maybe it’s just a fluke.
4. Brad Nelson and Brian Braun-Duin Meet to Confirm Their Deck Choices
Brad Nelson and Brian Braun-Duin did everything together this trip. “We flew together; we slept in the same King-size bed together; we win together,” Nelson said. They played the same 75 cards together, playing a classic looking Bant Company build.
And if they were every unsure about their deck choice, the did something else together—they were both the only undefeated players left at Round 11, and they hung out in the feature match area. It was a confirmation that they had done right. Though Nelson won the match, it was Braun-Duin would go on to make the Top 8.
3. Saul Alvarado breaks the Grand Prix Costa Rica Habit
The last time a Grand Prix came to Costa Rica it was magnificent. But there was one nagging thought that plagued many a Central American. Not one Central American broke into the Top 8. The closest one was Miguel Gatica, the hometown hero, who finished 9th on breakers.
This time around, Panama’s Saul Alvarado was able to keep it in house. The multi-time Panamanian National Champion added a second Grand Prix Top 8 to his resume, and showed the foreign invaders they're not the only ones at this Central American Grand Prix.
2. Oliver Tiu Locks Up Platinum
Last year, it was (3) Steve Rubin who snuck up on everyone—getting Platinum before he was a household name. This year, the Steve Rubin award will likely go to eighteen-year-old Oliver Tiu. After putting up two Pro Tour Top 16s, his success started bubbling above the surface, adding his second and third Grand Prix Top 8s, and clinching the coveted Platinum player level for next year.
With Steve Rubin’s recent Pro Tour win, who knows what’s in store for Tiu next year—or maybe even sooner!
1. Who the Heck is this Seth Manfield Guy, Anyway?!
Look, I don’t know what World Champion, first-ranked Seth Manfield is drinking, but I’ll take five.
This man is on a tear and looks like a million bucks when he plays. Not content being the reigning World Champ, he’s leading the Player of the Year race, Top 8’ed the last Pro Tour and—thanks to a win here—has won two Grand Prix in a month!
The only reason this shouldn’t be number one, is because if this happens with any more frequency, it will become commonplace.
As is becoming increasingly usual, Seth Manfield stole the show.
The Herrera Family - Carlos, Doña-Blanquita, Nicolas, Jaime, and Rafa
Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jaime Herrera, and his entire family, friends, and network of Central and South Americans who made this event possible. If you talk to any Costa Rican or Central American, they speak in reverent tones about the Herreras, who seemingly single-handedly created the Magic scene in Costa Rica. (Although I’d be remiss not mention that Doña Blanquita, Carlos, Jaime and Rafa’s mother, is everyone’s favorite, by far. However, little Nicolas is getting close.)
For this event in particular, after the Grand Prix in Argentina had to be changed, Jaime and his whole clan stepped up to make an incredible Costa Rican experience, and a fantastic tournament on much shorter notice than it usually takes to book a Grand Prix.
It turned out better than anyone could have hoped, at a beautiful site, and they have been consistently gracious and hospitable to everyone. For that, I wanted to thank them.
Thank You, Friends.