The tournament, like every Grand Prix, had been full of memorable stories, of exciting matches, of interesting decks doing interesting stuff. The following are our Top 5 picks, the five moments which made Grand Prix London an event to remember …
5. Worlds Runner-Up Run Over by Turn-Two Gearhulk
I feel we're going to hear a lot of stories about Masterpieces, the Kaladesh Inventions, in the coming weeks and months, especially with regards to games of Limited where their impact can be, let's say, a bit brutal. And they'll probably become old quite soon.
But we're not there yet, so let's have fun while we can! At Grand Prix London the most memorable tale of Masterpiece action came courtesy of none other than 2016 World Championship finalist Márcio Carvalho. He found himself facing Verdurous Gearhulk on turn two thanks to a turn-one Mana Vault. Said Carvalho, "How do you beat an 8/8 with trample on turn two?"
He didn't and lost the game and match. But the Draft Master still made it to the draft portion of the tournament and proved quite unbeatable there. Interestingly enough, neither the Top 32 undefeated decks from the first draft or the Top 8 decks at Grand Prix London featured any Masterpieces.
4. Going Aggro/Going Deep
A recurring theme throughout the weekend, Kaladesh Limited turned out to be somewhat schizophrenic. On the one hand, the ubiquitous Renegade Freighter closed games early and often, and lots of players argued that the format was all about tempo and aggressive decks. Taking this take on the format to the extreme, Gold pro Mattia Rizzi, for instance, drafted a 15-land, double-Renegade Tactics special.
On the other hand, some players went really deep, using multiple colors and several artifacts without any immediate board impact, and did so succesfully too! Andrew Quinn managed to create infinite Thopters with Whirler Virtuoso thanks to his Panharmonicon and three Decoction Modules. Or he would attack with, like, a 32/32 Electrostatic Pummeler …
3. Neil Rigby in the Top 8 Again
Neil Rigby had been a fixture in the Top 8 of Grand Prix events for a while now, but not as a player. In fact, his official role at recent GPs with video coverage was feature match area manager. Grand Prix London didn't have video coverage, but it did have one Neil Rigby in the Top 8 just the same, this time as a player.
Neil Rigby playing his way to the Top 8 of a Grand Prix wasn't really news though; rather olds. Some sixteen and eighteen years ago, a much younger Rigby had made it to the playoffs of Grand Prix Manchester and Grand Prix Birmingham, possibly setting a record for the longest time between Top 8s reached by the same person.
He'll be sorely missed by all the rest of the coverage team at Pro Tour Aether Revolt where he sadly won't be able to be part of the staff. Congratulations on qualifying for the Pro Tour, Riggers!
2. Drafting Blind
This was no figure of speech. Regarding his visual impairment Richard Wheatley said: "It's enough sight to dodge big things, but that's about it, and I have no depth perception." Also: "I can't read print."
Now this is obviously a challenge when playing Magic. Wheatley's usual workaround involved a set of brailled sleeves. These enable him to know what's in his hand. The board state has to be memorized and maintained in memory, with the occasional query to the opponent to determine what's on the battlefield. That worked well enough for Wheatley to reach the requisite 6-3 record to qualify for Day 2. But how do you draft when you can't see the cards …?
Well, you stand away from your actual draft table, you get a friendly ChannelFireball staff member to run back and forth and deliver the cards from which you draft your deck, you get another friendly member of the staff to whisper the card names to you out of earshot of the other drafters, and you get the whole system signed off on by the Head Judge. And, in fact, all involved wanted to be part of the solution, wanted to live in a world where Magic truly was a game for everyone. As ChannelFireball's Mashi Scanlan put it: "We had to make it work." And they did.
1. Fateful Showdown
It clearly was fate that Draft Master Márcio Carvalho made it all the way to the final, and it sure felt like destiny manifest when he won. Even the card Fateful Showdown got involved, dealing the final points of damage to Gabor Kocsis in game one.
Kocsis too seemed resigned to his fate, saying, "If I got to lose to someone, it might as well be Carvalho."