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 that one should recall about Grand Prix Manchester 2016 …
5. Swedish Kibler Becomes Dragon Master
We can't tell you how and why Pro Tour Magic Origins champion Joel Larsson first got the nickname "Swedish Kibler." He doesn't look like Hall of Famer Brian Kibler in either our or his own opinion. But it's surprisingly hard to get rid of a nickname, and Larsson didn't really help his case this weekend.
We can tell you, however, how Brian Kibler got the nickname "Dragon Master." He made the Top 8 of Pro Tour Chicago 2000 with the quirky inclusion of Rith, the Awakener and went on to ride various other Dragons to victory at several times throughout his career.
And so did Joel Larsson, currently ranked 11th in the Top 25, this weekend. Playing a quirky deck featuring Dragonlord Atarka, Dragonlord Dromoka, and Dragonlord Ojutai, Larsson put Shaman of Forgotten Ways to good use. Larsson's deck eventually failed him on Day 2, but until then he did a reasonable impression of "Swedish Kibler, the Dragon Master."
4. Martin Müller Does Great with Jace's Sanctum
After weeks of Standard being played at the Pro Tour and Grand Prix level, we didn't expect to see a brand new deck with a previously unexplored engine pop up at this Grand Prix. We certainly didn't expect such a deck to come close to the Top 8!
But No. 7 Martin Müller did, piloting a mono-blue brew featuring Engulf the Shore and lots of card drawing. We had seen similar decks before, but while those had been using Brain in a Jar, Müller employed the engine of Jace's Sanctum and Day's Undoing.
He went 12-3 and told us he might have avoided at least one of those losses. He said he still didn't have enough experience with this insanely complicated deck and could have played better.
3. Petr Sochůrek Reaches Platinum
Petr Sochůrek had had an excellent season so far. He had won Grand Prix Paris, had made deep runs at Pro Tours, and had already managed to amass 45 Pro Points.
But he still needed to score two extra points to clinch the coveted Platinum level at the end of the season. He could get there by either putting up a specific performance at Pro Tour Sydney, for which he would be really nervous, or by posting a 13-2 record at a Grand Prix event.
And here in Manchester, he got there! With Yuuya Watanabe's Bant Humans deck, he posted exactly the record he needed. Although he finished in ninth place on tiebreakers, he wasn't all that sad about missing Top 8. "Platinum!" he shouted jubilantly.
2. Dromoka's Command Commands Respect, or Doesn't
In the semifinals between Julien Henry and Jonas Friberg, a very interesting game play situation developed. Both players had just cast a 2-drop on their fourth turn and passed with two lands untapped. First was Henry with Duskwatch Recruiter, then came Friberg with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy.
Both players had the option to kill their opponent's creature, Henry with the help of Dromoka's Command, Friberg with Fiery Impulse, either now at end of Friberg's turn or later. Only problem: whoever would cast his spell first would lose both that spell and a creature to the other's instant. So what's the correct play here?
One could argue about it for quite some time, and the players did so, after the match had concluded. In this situation, as well as in the match, Julien Henry and his Dromoka's Command came out on top. As Henry told Friberg: "I saw the chance to get you really good, and I took it."
1. Raphaël Lévy Takes His Sixth Grand Prix Trophy
Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy reached the 21st Grand Prix Top 8 of his career this weekend. So far only five people in the history of the game managed to get to the GP playoffs more often. Then he won it all and hoisted his sixth trophy. Only three people could lay claim to more, and only barely so with seven wins each.
And Lévy took down the tournament in stylish fashion, playing Green-White Tokens … with a twist. His decklist included all the usual suspects of the archetype, but many people stumbled over his two copies of Chandra, Flamecaller. Why was there a double-red card in a deck with exactly zero sources of red mana?
Well, Oath of Nissa already was a standard inclusion in the deck anyway. So why not utilize its second ability to surprise people with a sweeper of boards/creator of hasty attackers/drawer of cards?