While every round of a Grand Prix is important, none outside the Top 8 are as dramatic as the final round of the day. At the top of the standings sit the players looking to put themselves in the best possible position to win the tournament, while farther down the line are a plethora of teams just looking to pull out a victory in the final round to advance to Day Two of the event.
Here’s how some of the most notable teams in both positions finished on Saturday.
There was no surer bet to perform in Detroit than the vaunted Peach Garden Oath. Comprised of 13th-ranked Owen Turtenwald, hall of famer William “Huey” Jensen and three-time Grand Prix winner Reid Duke, the trio won the team event in Portland a year ago and stormed through the first day of Grand Prix Detroit.
Of course, even all that experience doesn’t necessarily prepare you for facing off against the other team fighting for their place at the top of the standings. Already the reigning Player of the Year, Mike Sigrist was looking to find a high finish in Detroit before heading to the World Championship at PAX Prime next week. Teamed with the world’s top-ranked player were Jessie Hampton and hall of famer Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa.
Six great players, and three great matches ensued, with the round coming down to the final game between Jensen and Sigrist. In the end, it was a Skaab Goliath trusting its Wild Instincts to take out Mage-Ring Responder that turned the match, and sent the Peach Garden Oath into Day Two undefeated.
Across the room, another team of hall of famers was doing battle. (2) Eric Froehlich, (2) Luis Scott-Vargas and Ben Stark also needed every game of the round, but they too emerged victorious to finish Saturday at 9-0.
Further down the row, other teams were battling not for tournament supremacy, but for their very tournament lives.
Brandon Nelson, Stu Somers and Trent Jones were fighting for Day Two, and when I first walked by I watched Somers storm his match with a barrage of fliers provided by the Thopter Spy Network. The round came down to the final game, and in it Jones took down a close game three to advance to Sunday.
A few seats down, I caught sight of Ben Yu playing not just the “mythic uncommon” Sentinel of the Watch, but also a six-drop nearly as powerful in Skysnare Spider. Unsurprisingly, he took the match a few turns later and also sent he and his teammates Jon Stern and Greg Ogreenc into the final day of competition.
Other players on the bubble included Christian Calcano and teammates Joe Demestrio and Ben Friedman, who picked up a win in the final round to stay alive in the Grand Prix, as did the team with ninth-ranked Ari Lax, Cedric Phillips and Tommy Ashton. Joining them were Seth Manfield, Chris Fennell and Austin Bursavich, as well as No. 20 Josh Utter-Leyton, David Ochoa and Joshua Cho.
It’s an uphill battle for these teams in Day Two, but when it comes to the final round of a Grand Prix for a bubble team, only one thing matters: Playing on Sunday. And thanks to some clutch wins, these teams will be.