Welcome to Day 1 of GP Washington DC! It's an unusual second Team Limited event for Dominaria, and the last GP to feed into the hallmark team event of the season, Pro Tour 25th Anniversary.
And that's not the only thing drawing teams from all over the world to the Dulles Expo Center. Pro Tour Dominaria is just a week away in nearby Richmond, Virginia, so the field here is stacked with juggernaut (not Juggernaut) players from all over the world forming daunting pro teams like Black/Severa/Hron, two-thirds of the winning team from GP Washington DC 2016, Damo Da Rosa/Froehlich/Stark, all members of the Hall of Fame, Floch/Hendricks/Larsson, a team of two PT winners, the international talent amalgamation of Jůza/Nakamura/Burkhart, and the classic Turtenwald/Jensen/Duke, winners of two team GPs and in the Top 4 of five others.
Over 500 teams pack the Dulles Expo Center, eager to see what their Dominaria boosters and the rounds ahead of them hold. Legends live again as Karn, Jhoira, Teferi, Squee, and more battle their way through the Grand Prix, bringing their literally timeless amounts of experience to bear on the multiverse.
At the end of Day 1, only two teams remained undefeated, leading the pack as all teams with a 6-2 or better record return for another six rounds of Sealed before the Top 4. Join us tomorrow to catch the exciting conclusion, at twitch.tv/magic!
Team events of the past often looked like a collection of the world's greatest players assembled together into groups of three recognizable names without much of a repeatable pattern, the teams changing from event to event.
In the past year, however, spurred in part by the introduction of the Pro Tour Team Series and in part by the quality of results from the most consistent teams, players have more often found their team and stuck with it through the Grand Prix season. While the Peach Garden Oath (Owen Turtenwald, William Jensen, and Reid Duke) have been around (and winning GPs) for ages now, here are just a handful of the teams at GP DC that have seen the advantages of sticking together through Grand Prix from one coast to another in recent years.
This is the third team GP for Eli Kassis, Shaheen Soorani, and Noah Walker.
“The first one, we didn't make Day 2. The last one we got ninth. This one, well . . ." Walker said, then trailed off. They were 4-0 at the time, so the chance that they could improve on their last finish was still very much in play.
The three players are all members of Team Cardhoarder in the Pro Tour Team Series, and, in addition, have known each other for years beyond that, making their choice of teammates an easy decision.
Greg Orange, Adam Jansen, and Stephen Neal have played in three Grand Prix and a PTQ together. Most recently, they came in 49th in Columbus. All three hail from the midwest, which was part of what initially drew them together. Their team further solidified when Neal joined Jansen and Orange on Hotsauce Games for the Pro Tour Team Series.
At the end of last season, teammates Eric Froehlich and Ben Stark, both members of the Hall of Fame, had a pair of strong finished with third team member Andrew Cuneo. The trio finished seventh in Cleveland and won GP Mexico City.
Friends Froehlich and Stark were set on teaming together again this season, and picked up third Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa when he agreed to commit to playing all team Limited events with them. They've played five Grand Prix together since then. After a rocky start at GP Providence, the trio went on to finished 19th in Santa Clara, 14th in both Toronto and Columbus, and second in Indianapolis.
Steve Rubin, Alexander Hayne, and Mike Sigrist (who go by the name Dem Boys) have teamed together for so many Grand Prix that they're a little shaky on how many it's been exactly, but definitely something like seven or eight.
Hayne and Sigrist were looking for third teammate who they knew would be not only a good player, but someone they'd enjoy spending time with - an important factor that's not to be overlooked if there are seven or eight or nine team Grand Prix in your team's future - and landed on either Josh Utter-Leyton or Steve Rubin. Since Utter-Leyton had a team at the time, Rubin was the pick.
“Teams that were sticking together were doing better, like PGO," Rubin pointed out when discussing the decision to commit to a team.
“Oh, I thought you were talking about the name, that having a name was important to winning," Hayne said.
It's not just about the tournament results for Rubin, Sigrist, and Hayne. Instead, they're proud to say, they once made videos that were so annoying that they singlehandedly made Matt Sperling drop the team lower in his power rankings leading up to a team Grand Prix in which they then beat him.
Reappearing in DC is the team of Dave Goldfarb, Edgar Magalhaes, and Jacob Baugh, who took down GP Columbus a few short weeks ago. Because of the concentration of team events leading up to Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, that was also a Dominaria team Limited event.
In his GP Columbus Top 4 profile, Goldfarb mentioned he was playing with “one of my best friends . . . and Jacob," though it looks like their win in Columbus was enough to garner at least a little loyalty between the teammates, since they're back again in DC.
Check the Day 1 standings to see how your favorite team did here!
The Families that Play Together
Since the days of Liliana and Josu Vess . . . oh, he's a zombie? And she's responsible? Maybe that's a bad example. Ever since Chandra and her parents . . . wait, no, that's a sad one too.
Okay, outside of the Magic storyline, Magic is a great community for families. Whether it's teaching siblings to play at the kitchen table or taking kids to their first FNM, it's a fun way to connect through a shared hobby, and Team Limited Grand Prix are an especially great venue for enjoying the game together.
Twins Frederik and Nikolaj and brother Kasper Nielsen traveled to GP DC from Denmark. The three of them started playing Magic about three years ago, and they decided to make a family trip out of it when Frederik qualified for Pro Tour Dominaria via a Magic Online PTQ. (For those wondering, he is the incredibly accomplished Hearthstone player Hoej).
“We don't expect to win, because my brother doesn't play that much, so it's just a family trip” Frederik said, pointing toward Kasper, their middle seat, who laughed in agreement.
Before GP DC they traveled to New York, and after the PT they're stopping by Atlantic City before heading home.
Team Vigilance includes Nancy Devault and her sons Benjamin and Michael, as well as the youngest Devault, who's here as part of Team Vigilance even if he's not at the table yet. GP DC is the second Grand Prix for the family, who drove in from New York.
“We like to play, and we use it as family vacations," Michael said. “We started playing about a year ago."
“Actually, it was me AND Michael," Benjamin, the younger of the two, cut in, eager to be included.
“And I play as a way to relate to my kids," Nancy added.
Top Moments in Play
If you weren't able to tune into the live action at GP DC, there's always the replay on Twitch. And for those more pressed for time, or who caught the main event but want to relive the highlights, we have just a few moments from Twitch and from around the hall.
In Round 1, Tyler Hill cast a Jaya's Immolating Inferno for four damage to three different targets, and the targets that he got to choose were pretty brutal – but you can see them for yourself.
The entire match between Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa and former member of R&D Zac Hill was a nail biter, with the tables turning with what felt like very other turn of the last game. Catch the end of the match, coming down to a race between an Academy Drake and a Tetsuko Umezawa, then go back and watch the whole thing, which includes, spoiler alert, both Teferi and Karn's Temporal Sundering.
In Round 4, Team Donnelly/Murray/Davis faced off against pro team Orange/Jansen/Neal. In a Sealed format known for long games and battles over powerful creatures, Bridget Donnelly, Ian Murray, and Greg Davis built decks that ground out incremental advantage across these lengthy games.
Meanwhile, in the next seat over, Murray was kicking Skin-Witches left and right, and with a Naban in play, nabbed all three cards left in his opponent's hand with the second one.
In Round 6, it was a volley of powerful plays back and forth between Ondrej Strasky and Niels Molle, with a Verdant Force plus Sporecrown Thallid and Slimefoot, the Stowaway for Ondrej Strasky swinging in for enormous chunks of damage, but then Molle's Aven Sentry coming close to finishing Strasky off, but ultimately falling short.
First, Brad Nelson, Brian Braun-Duin, and Martin Müller defeated Christopher Collins, Artaud Hourticolon-Retzler, and Dinesh Mahadeo in a quick Round 8 match.
Nelson's team felt they had a good pool, with strong rares and a lot of removal. In addition to that, though, they felt their success hinged on the application of sideboard cards like Invoke the Divine and Broken Bonds, because these, along with traditional removal, interact with most of the bombs in the format. Nelson also highlighted that each player in their team also played a deck that suited their respective strengths.
The match of Oliver Tiu, Shahar Shenhar, and Ondrej Strasky versus Andrew Tenjum, Petr Sochurek, and Peter Ingram went to time after Ingram defeated Strasky and Shenhar defeated Sochurek, both in mirror matches (Black-Green and Blue-Red, respectively).
Tiu and Tenjum were locked in a mirror match of their own, both commanding powerful fliers and legendary creatures. In the final turns of the match, however, Tiu was able to navigate his way through a copy of In Bolas's Clutches, as well as a Forebear's Blade, to find victory, making Tiu, Shenhar, and Strasky the second undefeated team of GP Washington DC.
Congratulations to our undefeated teams, and all those returning for Day 2 in DC. Catch the action at twitch.tv/magic!