Eight rounds of Team Limited took place today, and any team that fared 6-2 or better would advance to Day 2. The field of 514 teams (that's 1542 players in total) reduced to just 69 teams.
As we shut the lights out, take a peek at the top happenings this exciting Saturday!
Three Blazing-Hot Teams to Watch
Damo Da Rosa-Froehlich-Stark
This wasn't the first time that (7) Damo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Eric Froehlich and Ben Stark teamed up together. Most recently, at Grand Prix Santa Clara, they put their rapport to the test, and they placed 19th overall. The three members were also teammates for the Pro Tour Team Series, a race that they currently sit in an impressive second place.
As the only team in the room comprised of three Pro Tour Hall of Famers, the three had 21 Pro Tour Top 8s and 56 Grand Prix Top 8s among them. That makes them one of the most influential teams in the room today, and all eyes will be on their to ascend to the top.
(5) Martin Jůza, Shuhei Nakamura and Corey Burkhart
5th-ranked Martin Jůza and Corey Burkhart teamed up with Andrew Baeckstrom at Grand Prix Providence 2017 to win it all. Today, they swapped out Baeckstrom for Pro Tour Hall of Famer Shuhei Nakamura, and they named themselves "Team Japan".
After that little upgrade, that's two Hall of Famers and one Grixis Master for you!
Among them were 64 Grand Prix Top 8s with 12 victories and with any luck, that statistic could be bumped up to 76 and 15 respectively. Since Rivals of Ixalan Team Sealed was a brand new format, these seasoned veterans could put their wealth of experience to overcome any team who hadn't practiced as much as they did.
"But... Did you forget that I'm the World Champion."
And of course, as with any Team tournament of late, we have to consider Peach Garden Oath as the strongest contenders seriously. (3) Owen Turtenwald, (8) William Jensen, and (2) Reid Duke were all ranked within the Top 25, and that also means PGO was the highest-ranked team in the tournament hall (for the umpteenth time!).
Turtenwald has 24 Grand Prix Top 8s, while Jensen and Duke have 25 and 23 respectively. Also, they have made the Top 4 at no less than seven Team Grand Prix - winning twice - solidifying themselves as the best three-person team on the Grand Prix Circuit in history.
Indianapolis, the City of Blessings
According to USA Today, Indianapolis was voted as the No. 1 convention destination in the country. Yes, numero uno! A city known for blockbuster events, Indianapolis has likewise picked up approval for a prospering culinary scene, thriving cultural institutions, and legendary hospitality.
More hotel rooms are connected to convention centers - via climate-controlled skywalks - than any other city in the world. Restaurants are plenty and close by, and the standard of living is affordable. With a location in the heartland, Indianapolis is also a short flight away for most in the country, and it is only fifteen minutes away from your next downtown destination.
Indeed, Indianapolis has got the city's blessing!
The Actual City's Blessing
Ascend is the new keyword from Rivals of Ixalan, and it unlocks different bonus on different cards - but only if you have the city's blessing! Cards like Secrets of the Golden City are decent, but it becomes way more powerful if you have ten permanents or more!
Seth Manfield playing against Josh Utter-Leyton in Round 1.
No. 1-Ranked Seth Manfield is the reigning Pro Tour Ixalan champion, and he was teamed up with Adam Bursavich and Ben Friedman. Not even seven minutes into Round 1, we witnessed Manfield amass ten permanents with his saucy White-Black Vampires deck.
Martyr of Dusk created a token when it died, as did Legion's Landing when it entered the battlefield. Along with a couple of other creatures and five lands including Adanto, the First Fort, that was more than ten permanents, giving Skymarcher Aspirant flying permanently. Manfield was also able to maintain his army by cranking out a bunch of Vampire Tokens with Adanto, the First Fort, taking down his first game of the weekend without batting an eyelid.
There are 23 cards in total with the keyword Ascend, nine of which are mythic rares and rares, eight uncommon, and five in common. Many of these cards are stable on their own but what pushes them over the top is when you arrive at the mid-game or the late game.
Spire Winder gets upgraded into a 3/4 from a 2/3, while Orzaca Relic is happy to get sacrificed since you likely do not need the mana anymore. Resplendent Griffin, Slippery Scoundrel, and Tendershoot Dryad can take over the game single-handedly!
As a result of this mechanic, slower but more powerful decks could arise, giving Ixalan Limited a potentially-refreshing overhaul. According to Pro Tour Hall of Famer Ben Stark, Sailor of Means got powerful. Aside from contributing two permanents to ascend, it's alsogreat for ramping into five-drops or six-drops - because these cards are more powerful now.
"We had three Sailor of Means, so we decided to build a White-Blue deck. You can race in the air, buy more time by blocking, or you can use the Treasure token to ramp into a big card".
Naturally, Legion Conquistador went up in value. It was reprinted in Rivals of Ixalan so you could still have a shot at scoring multiple copies. Since the number of permanents you control matter now, a single Legion Conquistador could provide you enough bodies to reach the magical number 10!
Is that all there is to ascend? More on that tomorrow!
Exploring Ixalan With Friends and Family
Most people overlook how important our friends and family are. Who do you call when you need guidance or a shoulder to cry on? We all come into this world alone. Yet, we find company in the presence of familiar faces as well as those of strangers.
Our community is kept closely-knitted by these bonds between old friends, father and daughter, couples, and enthusiastic gamers. In our world, we fall in love with Magic and then seek to find others who share the same passion, by scouring through our social circle.
Ainsley Maddock and Annika Maddock
This weekend, the Maddock sisters received a lot of attention for their excellent cosplay. Since there were plenty of vampires in Ixalan, they decided to immerse in the atmosphere with a couple of homemade outfits. One of them dressed up as a conquistador - possibly vicious - while the other dressed up as Elenda, the Dusk Rose!
Matt Poljanic, who called himself a casual player, was not their father. Poljanic had been friends with Todd Maddock since the girls were babies. "Since I was Todd's family friend for so long, the girls felt very comfortable being my teammates this weekend."
Applying a cosmetic Vampire's Bite!
But why didn't Daddy Todd just team up with his two little girls? Upon a bit of prying, Todd shared with us that he had aspirations of his own. "I would have loved to play with both my daughters, but they still have a lot to learn. I hope to qualify for the Pro Tour one day, so I decided to play with two players who are more experienced. This is why I got Matt to team up with my daughters. Both my wife and I trust him."
Annika Maddock, Matt Poljanic, Ainsley Maddock, and Todd Maddock
"Yea, the girls know what they're doing. They built a Vampire deck (double Legion Lieutenant) and a Merfolk deck themselves. They know the rules of the games, but I still watch over them when they're playing."
"Some help would be nice! Thanks!"
According to the sisters, they have played Magic for around three-and-a-half years. "We live in Michigan, and we love everything about Magic! There was one time, we even met Andrew Elenbogen and Max McVety, and they taught us how to improve. We had some Sealed Deck practice to get ready for this tournament."
Elenbogen and McVety not only have two Grand Prix Top 8s each but also had great success on the StarCityGames Circuit. With a little advice and a lot more encouragement, the girls took a liking towards the game and the lore, as well as the community.
Poljanic: "We would like more players to play Magic, boys and girls alike. For Ainsley and Annika, they're learning new words, playing a game they love, interacting with other gamers, cosplaying, and having the best time of their life. The attention they've received so far is also positive and filled with support. Magic is not just about playing Magic. Magic is about spending time with your friends and family. It has been interesting watching these girls grow up!"
A Magic pro in the making.
Win or lose, you might not remember it. But these avid fans of Magic will remember every Grand Prix they attend. It's critical that you have people in your life who you care for. In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.
My babies! Mommy's rooting for you! 😘— Sara Maddock (@SarainAnnArbor) January 20, 2018
And yes, love your mom!
Going into Round 5, the "Lavrenz brothers" were one of the 4-0 teams leading the way. Despite having the same last name, they were not related by blood. Instead, they were friends who met each other Joe Lavrenz made Top 8 at Grand Prix Madison 2015, while Jeremy Lavrenz and James Lavrenz would love their first breakthrough.
"We think the Rivals of Ixalan is extremely fun. The games are more exciting and more dynamic". Floating to the top of the pack quickly, they found themselves paired with Paul Dean, Brian Braun-Duin, and (14) Corey Baumeister.
While Buccaneer's Bravado was far from being an important deciding factor, it did help James Lavrenz defeat Braun-Druin. With that newfound morale, not only did they win the match, they also Despite being the underdogs, they managed to slay the Titans and keep up their hot streak!
The Undefeated Players
Only two teams went for a perfect 8-0 score after the first day. One was barely surprising, the other, a bit more. Eric Froehlich, (7) Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Ben Stark—the ChannelFireball Hall of Famers, and Jason German, Joe Angelo, Adam Hicks, the unknown team for Rochester, Minnesota.
"The last format was tough for us as a team," Froehlich said. "Ixalan was a tough format." Though Team Limited is well known as the format where the pros can minimize variance, Ixalan Limited proved a sticky wicket for even those hardened vets. "We still went X-2-1, which is a fine finish, but we were still disappointed."
Froehlich feared that Rivals of Ixalan would be more of the same, but was surprised as the rounds wore on. "At 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, 5-0 ... all the way through, it was all the best teams at the top." And for a team of three of the best players, that's a relief.
In the final round, they defeated Matt Costa, Dave Shiels and Adam Snook—not slouches themselves, and The team of Froehlich, Damo da Rosa, and Stark sail across over the first day's hurdle.
On the flip side of the pro coin, the other undefeated team are rank amateurs, bucking Froehlich's ideas, and wiggling their way into the top spot. Adam Hicks, Jason German, and Joe Angelo had to win some squeakers, but they got there.
In the last game of the last round, everything tied 1-1, it was all on Hicks, who had the well-agreed-upon worst deck on the team.
"It was on me to win the match, with the worst deck, when I was already down a game," he rolled his eyes hard. "In the last game, I was in full chump-block mode, at one life." And then it happened. "Exactly what I needed, the top-deck Unfriendly Fire for the win. It was amazing."
And a similar thing had happened to German earlier, a last-turn One with the Wind off the top kept them in the X-0 bracket.
This team from Rochester, Minnesota have been playing together for years. Hicks and German lived next door to each other since they were six, playing Magic together from a young age, and when Angelo moved a few years ago from Buffalo, New York the team formed quickly.
"We started traveling to Grand Prix together—our first was Oklahoma City—and when a team event came up we thought, 'Well we have to team together.'"
Now in their fourth Grand Prix as a team, they are an oiled machine, and they each pick up the others' slack as the rounds wear on. Only tomorrow will tell if their machine can stay on the rails.
These two teams—the Pros and the Amateurs—will undoubtedly square off tomorrow, and we'll see who makes it out alive.
Tomorrow, 69 teams—207 players—will return to the Indiana Convention Centre and build three new decks from fresh boosters. After that, the relentless runs to the top ensue!