The Guilds are Going at it... Again!
To put no finer point on it, Guild hostilities were high in Melbourne this weekend. We can try to euphemistically describe how the Boros were leading a conversational debate of ideas on Day 1, but the fact of the matter is they spent most of the day stomping around the room yelling and breaking things.
As we made the cut to Day 2 after Round 8, four of the five undefeated players were playing Boros while the last was valiantly waving a banner for Izzet. True to form, the Izzet banner spontaneously and unexpectedly burst into flame leaving us three 9-0 players at the end of Day 1, all playing Boros and all playing decks featuring Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice.
Day 2 however, was a different story. Coming out of the first draft, we had 16 players with 3-0 records, but the other Guilds had finally stepped forward to have their say.
|5 Dimir (2 with Red)|
|4 Golgari (1 with White)|
|4 Selesnya (1 with Black)|
Echoing the Drafts from Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica last weekend in Atlanta, Georgia, Dimir was coming out in force in response to the Boros dominance of Day 1, but more surprising was the number of Selesnya and Golgari decks winning their draft pods, as well as the fact that Izzet's experiments had appeared to have collectively gone horribly wrong.
|3 Dimir (1 with Green)|
|3 Selesnya (1 with Black)|
|2 Golgari (1 with Blue)|
Izzet continued to implode through the second draft. Of the 10 decks that ended the Swiss rounds with 3-0 records, Guilds featuring either Black or Green again outnumbered the Boros considerably. This set the stage for the Top 8 perfectly. After their Day 1 dominance, it seemed people were looking to avoid Boros, instead keeping them in their sights... but more on that later.
Australia's Got Heart
But the political disputes of Ravnica weren't the only thing happened at Grand Prix Melbourne this weekend, far from it! Side events were firing all around the room as people were coming together to enjoy Magic with friends old and new. Others were queuing to get their favourite cards signed by some of Magic's most popular artists.
The ever-friendly RK Post is willing to autograph almost anything.
Given the vast size of Australia, its human population is comparatively small, but what people it has tend to gather in communities across the country. One of Australian Magic's oldest is the 7 Point Highlander community, who collectively celebrated a bit of a milestone this weekend with their largest tournament to date. 98 players rocked up on Friday to compete, eclipsing previous turnouts by at good 25 players or so, and was won by Mimi Arthur.
Mimi Arthur and her trusty foil Jace, the Mind Sculptor won the largest 7 Point Highland Tournament Australia has seen to date.
The Quiet Over-Achiever
Zen Takahashi achieved his fifth Grand Prix Top 8 here this weekend at the tender age of 21, which is saying something given Australia and New Zealand have never had more than two Grand Prix events in any given year. Takahashi has long been a vocal supporter of the New Zealand Magic community. If you ever ask him how he prepared for any event, he's quick to shout out his friends as the real reasons behind his success. But it's Takahashi who keeps appearing in our Top 8's again and again, and he is now reasonably confident he has more than anyone else in the region. Perhaps we're witnessing the rise of a new star in the Australasian Magic scene?
Zen Takahashi is quietly becoming one of Australia and New Zealand's more consistent players.
The Top 8
The rest of the Guilds had stood up to Boros on Day 2, leaving them appearing a tad battered going into the Top 8. But the three players who had finished 9-0 on Day 1 with Boros had continued to build on that success and had earned themselves spots in the Top 8 playoffs.
One of the 9-0'ers was Malaysia's Shawn Khoo, a veteran of the World Magic Cup scene. Khoo had stuck with Boros throughout Day 2, but his continued loyalty to the hammer faltered in the Top 8 as he strayed into Selesnya territory to ask for a cup of sugar and never returned, siding with the trees to knock Zen Takahashi out of the Top 8.
The two remaining 9-0'ers were Taiga Tsujikawa and Calvin Liu. Tsujikawa had already flirted with Selesnya in the first draft, before returned to Boros in the second, while Liu ventured much further afield, mixing both Dimir and Golgari in his first draft, and then losing the Green to be pure Dimir in the second. But both Tsujikawa and Liu returned to the fold for the Top 8, as the only Boros drafters at the table, and the rest of the Top 8 paid the price as their paths again crossed in the finals.
Liu pressured Tsujikawa early with a Healer's Hawk that also helped keep Liu out of Tsujikawa's reach. Tsujikawa was forced to try and defend against Liu's assault with a Wojek Bodyguard and a... oh would you look at that? Liu had a Command the Storm the other would-be blocker was but a smoking hole in the ground, giving Liu the first game.
Calvin Liu pressures Taiga Tsujikawa in the Boros mirror.
Tsujikawa was again on the receiving end of Liu's forces in Game 2 and had to go into an Experimental Frenzy to try and dig up some semblance of a defence. But defence he did find, peeling creatures and land off the top of his deck repeatedly, while Liu continued to try and pressure Tsujikawa in the air by mentoring onto a Healer's Hawk. Tsujikawa finally pounced, ending his own Experiment and ambushing Liu's Hawk with a Sure Strike on a Healer's Hawk of his own. Liu tried to prevent it with his Goblin Cratermaker, but Tsujikawa saved it with a Take Heart, flipping the skies back into his favour and refilling his life total. Liu could only frown as the abundance of additional resources Tsujikawa had accumulated came to collect, and they were eventually shuffling up for the third and final game.
Taiga Tsujikawa going into an Experimental Frenzy.
Liu bravely kept an ambitious hand in the deciding game, and was punished as his deck hiccupped awkwardly, delaying a few of his land-drops. Tsujikawa wasted no time deploying a couple of his four (yes, four!) Hammer Droppers on Liu, bringing Tsujikawa the reverse sweep and making him the Grand Prix Melbourne 2018 Champion!
Taiga Tsujikawa is the Grand Prix Melbourne 2018 Champion!