In one of the larger events in recent memory – one which blew past the event cap early on and then continued to grow – Denver didn't disappoint. With teams able to get their hands on Guilds of Ravnica, there were sure to be fireworks all weekend, and the Grand Prix lived up to the hype – here are the stories that stood out.
What’s a Little Blizzard?
Denver is known for many things, but one of the things it does better than most cities is snow. Lots and lots of snow. At least, it may have seemed that way for many out-of-towners at the tournament; I’m told it was fairly tame by Denver standard.
Regardless, it wasn’t enough to stop the cosplayers at the tournament from having a little fun.
It was a packed event hall in Colorado, with more than 1,500 individual participants in the Grand Prix, busy side events, artists and cosplay throughout the hall. Like most Grand Prix, not all the highlights came from the main event itself.
We (#GatewatchGirls ) had a great day at #GPDenver. Even though we only won two team matches, we had such a good time playing as a team & learned a lot about teamwork. Plus we all played in sleeves that matched our outfits! @MaddockTodd pic.twitter.com/FZH76TnCuq— Dana Fischer the Magic Planeswalker (@DanaFischerMTG) October 14, 2018
Winning for Jimmy
The most intriguing story to come out of the first day of GP Denver had everything and nothing to do with Magic.
Michael Malone, Dustin Flora and Jimmy Smith were supposed to play the tournament together. The trio knew each other from back home in Florida and were looking forward to playing the main event together. When Malone – himself a former Grand Prix winner – landed in Denver, it was to bitterly disappointing news.
Smith wouldn’t be making it. Even worse, it was because Hurricane Michael, a powerful storm that terrorized the southeastern United States over the past week, had destroyed his home. Suddenly, Magic was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.
But Smith told his teammates he wanted them to play without him. Jesus Buenrostro, another friend to the group, was the hero of the hour. He booked a same-day ticket to Denver, arrived Friday evening and joined the team as they tore through Day 1, finishing 8-0 and heading into Sunday with a great shot at the Top 4, while dedicating the weekend to their absent comrade.
They didn’t quite make it to the Top 4, but it was still an enormously successful weekend for a last-minute team playing for something more than just themselves.
Amaz Keeps It Going
At this point, professional streamer and card player Jason “Amaz” Chan can no longer be referred to as a player new to the competitive Magic scene. In fact, the more he plays the more it becomes clear he doesn’t just belong at Magic tournaments – he belongs at the top.
The first clue was when Chan advanced to the finals of the Silver Showcase at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. While that was an odd format that no one had a perfect way to prepare for, Chan’s recent tournament results have made clear exactly how comfortable he can be in the realm of paper games.
A deep run at Grand Prix Minneapolis a few months ago was followed by his first GP Top 8 in Mexico City last week, and he kept the momentum going here in Colorado.
Winning is for the Birds
In this case, lots and lots of birds. “Millions of birds," as Jacob Baugh described it.
Okay, it may not have actually been a million birds, but it was quite a few. In their Round 14 match that amounted to a win-and-in for the Top 4, Baugh and teammates Andrew Tenjum and Jack Dobbin were just one game away from advancing to the elimination rounds.
The only problem? Sitting across from them was one of the most dominant teams in the room: Hall of Famers Eric Froehlich and Ben Stark, joined by former player of the year Mike Sigrist. It was a daunting match at any point, but especially so in such a high-pressure situation.
None of which affected Baugh as he and Stark shuffled up for a third and deciding game after the other two matches in the round had split. Playing Izzet, Murmuring Mystic was one of Baugh’s best cards, so he was delighted to tap out and play it on the fourth turn of the game, even if he expected it wouldn’t stick around very long.
But fortune was with him – Stark couldn’t kill it, instead choosing to add to his board. That opened the window for Baugh, and he took full advantage. Quasiduplicate copied the Mystic, and then did so again as Stark struggled to find a crucial fourth land to unlock the removal in his hand.
Unfortunately for the Hall of Famer, removal doesn’t mean much against three Mystics and the accompanying army of Birds. A few spells later and the air force was enough to send Baugh and his team on to the Top 4.
A Winning Mood
Both teams in the finals overcame difficult semifinal matches. For Baugh, Andrew Tenjum and Jack Dobbin, that meant going through a team that had been playing the underdog role all weekend and doing it quite well – Max Margolis, Matthew DelGrosso and Chris Spear acquitted themselves very well throughout the tournament and were rewarded with a ticket to the Pro Tour. Meanwhile, John Rolf, Brandon Ayers and Peter Yeh were forced to go through a team that included a former Pro Tour winner in Steve Rubin, not to mention plenty of Grand Prix Top 8 appearances between Rubin, Frank Skarren and Pete Ingram.
But they persevered – no doubt on the back of Dobbin’s undefeated weekend entering the finals – and both teams entered the matches ready to close the deal. Of course, when Dobbin lost his match to Yeh, suddenly the constant all weekend was off the table for Baugh and Tenjum.
But this time, they had their teammate’s back. Baugh knocked off Ayers and that sent things over to Tenjum and Rolf for the trophy. A sideboarded Drowned Secrets looked like it had Rolf on the winning track – Tenjum was down to eight cards in library – but an absolutely devastating reversal came thanks to Moodmark Painter, which used that stocked graveyard to create a massive attack that was enough to end the game and the match, making Dobbin, Baugh and Tenjum the winners of Grand Prix Denver.