As Round 9 began at Grand Prix Louisville, nine players began the round with the chance to finish Day 1 perfectly. Some big names headlined that list: World Champion Brian Braun-Duin, Adam Jansen and Andrew Cuneo all had avoided a loss through eight rounds.
But, while the rest of the players may not have the same accolades, they had proven their mettle at Legacy over eight rounds, and stood just one win away from ending Saturday perfect and setting themselves up for a Sunday run to the Top 8.
It was Cody Napier who punched his ticket first, dispatching Nate Barton in a lightning-fast match that featured a heavy dose of Sneak Attack and game-ending monsters like Griselbrand and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.
"I haven't played Legacy in a while; it feels good to play Brainstorm again," Napier laughed after his match. You can't blame him for being a bit delirious — he got off work at 1 a.m. in his Tennessee hometown and drove the four hours to Louisville to compete.
Not far behind them was Fadi Hirmiz, who took down Andrew Cuneo, without a doubt the least enthusiastic of the 8-0s. After all, as Cuneo said, he "never finishes well when he goes 9-0." So, maybe a ninth-round loss wasn't the worst thing to happen to the longtime player's odds of winning the Grand Prix.
Next to finish was the contest between Eric English and Andrew Tenjum. A pair of accomplished players locked in a tight match, in the end it was English's rogue Food Chain deck that took the deciding game. With Day One in the books, English described his goals for the weekend as simple.
"It's time for Eternal Scourge to win another Grand Prix!" he exclaimed. "A lot of people didn't know what I was doing with this deck, and some games I just cast Foresight for three Misthollow Griffin and cast them from exile and then attacked for the win."
The World Champion wasn't far behind. Braun-Duin's Miracles deck proved you don't have to have Leovold, Emissary of Trest to find success, and he defeated Kenyon Collins to lock up his spot at the top of the standings. For Braun-Duin, it's success in another format he can add to his already impressive resume, and playing what has been widely seen as the "best deck" to a perfect finish is a milestone accomplishment.
The left the final match between Jody Keith and Austin Hoth, who went nearly the entire round in a grindy matchup that Keith eventually won with his Lands deck, making the most of his Wastelands and Life from the Loams to send himself to the ranks of the undefeated.
Not that he came entirely alone.
"Couldn't have done it without Patrick Vicini," the New Orleans native explained, crediting his friend and "manager" as they joked and insisted on posing together for the photo. But who can begrudge them for a little fun after Keith's undefeated run?
Jody Keith (right) with friend and "manager" Patrick Vicini after a perfect 9-0 start to Grand Prix Louisville.
Five undefeated players, five competitors who will return on Sunday with the best shot to advance to the Top 8 at Grand Prix Louisville. It was a busy and wild Day One, with new cards making an impact on the Legacy format and old powerhouses proving that no amount of Leovolds could hold down the Brainstorms. With nearly 500 players returning on Sunday, there's plenty to look forward to on Sunday at Grand Prix Louisville!