More than 1,300 players have arrived in Kentucky to battle for the Grand Prix Louisville title. Team events always bring out a crowd and offer something for everyone. For pros, it's a rare chance to actually play with their friends and teammates whom they compete against so often on the premier play level. For everyone else it's the same opportunity to play with friends, with the added benefit of having a chance to square off against some of the powerhouse teams in the field.
There's something for everyone in Louisville, and here are a few of the storylines we'll be following throughout the weekend.
It's the swan song of Eldritch Moon and Shadows Over Innistrad this weekend, as players battle against (or with) the Eldrazi for the final time at this level before moving into the vibrant world of Kaladesh and the shiny new toys (literally) it will bring.
The Eldritch Moon Limited format has proven popular so far, and with things pretty established at this point of its cycle the focus will be less on discovery and more on refinement. Some of the best Limited players in the world — including Rich Hoaen, who made the finals of the last North American team event in Washington D.C. earlier this year — have shown up to show off their chops at the format one more time.
Crowning the Champ
Also in attendance this weekend is No. 21 Brian Braun-Duin, also known as BBD, also known as the Magic world champion after his thrilling victory in the year's most prestigious tournament at PAX in Seattle last weekend.
Brian Braun-Duin is on top of the Magic world after his win at the 2016 World Championship last week. Now Craig Wescoe and Shaheen Soorani joined him for Grand Prix Louisville.
Braun-Duin admitted the entire week has been surreal, ever since he defeated Marcio Carvalho in four games to win the 24-person tournament of champions. Shuffling up in Louisville was a “return to normalcy” for the champ, though it's safe to say Braun-Duin will have to adjust to a new normal after his victory.
He's playing this weekend with a pair of great players who are jokingly referring to themselves “neutrals” after a “Power Rankings” article by Matt Sperling labeled them as such. But Shaheen Soorani and Craig Wescoe are far from neutral, with 10 Grand Prix Top 8 appearances between them and three Pro Tour Top 8s with a win at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze coming courtesy of Wescoe.
The names jump off the page. Turtenwald-Jensen-Duke. Rubin-Hayne-Sigrist. Pikula-Finkel-Parke. Cox-Hoaen-Cheon. Stark-Froehlich-Cuneo. Black-Severa-Cohen.
All great players, joining together to make even better teams. Twelve of the world's Top 25 players are in attendance, and with so many teamed together it makes for a truly daunting field. The road to the title leads through these teams, and notice is served to all who enter.
Rich Hoaen is no stranger to success in team events. He's paired with Paul Cheon and Patrick Cox this time around.
The team aspect also leads to a bit of friendly rivalry. The success of well-oiled teams like the famous “Peach Garden Oath” — hall of famer William “Huey” Jensen, No. 1 ranked Owen Turtenwald and No. 6 Reid Duke — has been well documented, and many teams are seeing success follow continuity. Thirteenth-ranked Sam Pardee is teaming up again with Matt Nass and Jacob Wilson after advancing to the Top 4 of multiple team events in the past. It's a trend that has grown over recent years and will likely solidify even more in the future, setting up recurring rivalries among teams vying at the top.
All of which means a few things. The first is that there's no telling exactly what to expect from Louisville this weekend. The second is that it's going to be fun to watch.