How do you know the season is nearly over?
Well, yes, you could look at the calendar (for those of you taking the literal route), but there's another telltale sign: a veritable who's-who of pros making the trip to Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth rather than bunkering down in Vancouver to begin testing for next week's Pro Tour Magic Origins.
Players from across the globe are chasing those last few precious Pro Points, with just this weekend's Grand Prix left to accumulate points before the Pro Tour puts a bow on the season and decides all of the high-profile races we have going on right now.
In other words, for the pros, it's crunch time. For the rest of us, it's a great opportunity to watch exciting, high-drama Magic.
While most of the races won't be decided until next week, there is one we'll get to watch play itself by the end of the weekend.
It's been the dominant story of the past few months, and with good reason. Both players are chasing the lead for most points earned in Grand Prix this season, and the winner will walk away with a coveted spot in the 2015 Magic World Championship.
Hayne, with 42 points, has a three-point lead over Maynard. But the Tarmogoyf aficionado has refused to go down quietly; he made the trip to Buenos Aires a month ago and pulled out a surprise win to tie Hayne and breathe fresh life into the race. Hayne, not to be outdone, struck back with an 11th-place finish in Montreal the next week to pick up three points.
Maynard threw down the gauntlet after his victory in Buenos Aires.
That brings us to this weekend, where everything is on the line for both players. Hayne — who last year missed Worlds on a tiebreaker — has the edge entering the Grand Prix, but it's anyone's race.
World Championship Races
Next up is the race for regional spots at next month's World Championship. Each region is awarded a certain number of slots for the competition, and the races for those spots are heated, with players from every corner of the planet coming to Texas to make a run at the Top 8 and the valuable Pro Points it offers.
These races won't be fully decided until the conclusion of Pro Tour Magic Origins, and because some at-large spots are awarded based on Pro Points, breaking into the automatic-qualifying range isn't do-or-die for those on this list, but it's certainly the easiest route to the World Championship.
Here's where things stand entering the weekend, and who has made the trip to Dallas to compete.
North America (four spots awarded)
- Eric Froehlich (60 points, not in attendance)
- Sam Black (57 points, not in attendance)
- Ari Lax (54 points, competing in Dallas)
- Seth Manfield (53 points, competing in Dallas)
- Paul Rietzl (53 points, competing in Dallas)
- Owen Turtenwald (52 points, not in attendance)
- Jacob Wilson (51 points, not in attendance)
- Shaun McLaren (51 points, competing in Dallas)
- Brad Nelson (51 points, competing in Dallas)
- Steve Rubin (49 points, competing in Dallas)
While No. 1 Ranked Player Eric Froehlich has a spot locked up, the race becomes much tighter after that. Paul Rietzl, Ari Lax and Seth Manfield — ranked No. 6-8 respectively in the Top 25 rankings — are locked in a battle for the last few automatic bids, and all have made the trip to Dallas to try and gain ground. No. 9 Shaun McLaren and 11th-ranked Brad Nelson, both further down the list but still very much in contention with a strong finish, are also battling this weekend.
Europe (three spots awarded)
- Ondrej Strasky (50 points, competing in Dallas)
- Shahar Shenhar (48 points, not in attendance)
- Antonio Del Moral León (47 points, competing in Dallas)
- Jelger Wiegersma (47 points, not in attendance)
- Ivan Floch (47 points, competing in Dallas)
- Marcio Carvalho (43 points, not in attendance)
- Martin Dang (41 points, not in attendance)
- Martin Jůza (39 points, competing in Dallas)
With three spots on the line in Europe, two players — Martin Juza and 13th-ranked Ivan Floch, have traveled to the States a week early to try and move up and break into the top three. While this race will play itself out at the Pro Tour, Juza and Floch have a chance to better their position heading into the final lap.
Asia-Pacific (three spots awarded)
- Lee Shi Tian (57 points, competing in Dallas)
- Yuuya Watanabe (56 points, not in attendance)
- Jason Chung (45 points, competing in Dallas)
- Shota Yasooka (44 points, not in attendance)
- Yuuki Ichikawa (41 points, not in attendance)
- Teruya Kakumae (38 points, not in attendance)
With an 11th-place finish at Grand Prix Singapore last month, Jason Chung took a slim lead over No. 22 Ranked Player Shota Yasooka in the race for the region's third spot. He's looking to extend that hold with a strong finish this weekend, while everyone else chasing him will look toward the Pro Tour for their chance.
Latin America (two spots awarded)
- Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa (48 points, competing in Dallas)
- Thiago Saporito (42 points, competing in Dallas)
- Willy Edel (42 points, competing in Dallas)
It's a three-player race for two slots, and that means one of Latin America's three top pros could end up watching the World Championship from home. While No. 17 Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa has some breathing room, no lead is safe in this race, and all three are looking to make their move this weekend.
On the Hunt
While many of the pros are chasing each other, some are simply chasing a goal. A number of players are just a few points shy of reaching the next level in the Pro Players Club. Standing in the Pro Players Club is based on an individual's success over a year-long period, and Dallas is the second-to-last stop to accumulate points.
Here's a short list of player in attendance this weekend who are chasing the threshold and can reach their goal this weekend.
Chasing Platinum (46 Pro Points)
- Willy Edel (42 points)
- Thiago Saporito (42 points)
- Christian Calcano (42 points)
- Alexander Hayne (42 points)
- Ben Stark (42 points)
- Martin Juza (39 points)
- Pascal Maynard (39 points)
- Marco Cammilluzzi (38 points)
Chasing Gold (35 Pro Points)
- Lukas Blohon (31 points)
- Martin Muller (31 points)
- Josh McClain (31 points)
- Fabrizio Anteri (31 points)
- Luis Scott-Vargas (30 points)
- Matt Sperling (30 points)
- Nam, Sung Wook (30 points)
- David Ochoa (30 points)
- Don Van Ravenzwaaij (29 points)
- Jamie Parke (29 points)
- Nathan Holiday (29 points)
- Pierre Dagen (28 points)
- Robin Dolar (28 points)
- Javier Dominguez (28 points)
- Pattrick Cox (27 points)
That's a lot of players with a ton on the line in Texas' largest-ever Grand Prix, and doesn't even include the multitude of players chasing the 20-point threshold for Silver, including Gerald Fabiano, Jon Stern and reigning Rookie of the Year Raymond Perez, Jr.
Whether you're following your favorite pros, looking to see Magic Origins in action, or just hoping for a showdown match between Hayne and Maynard, Grand Prix Dallas has it all (Thopters included).