5) More Than Magic Comes Through in Milwaukee
The Grand Prix this weekend was more than just another tournament or the final bow of triple Kaladesh before the release of Aether Revolt. It also marked the end of events for 2016, and it brought out the best of what the community has shown this year.
Look no further than Sam Pardee and Matt Nass, the world's 13th and 22nd ranked players, respectively. When asked about their top moment of 2016, neither mentioned the momentous achievement of Top 8ing their first Pro Tour during the year.
The two are consummate teammates with a history of success when working together, and their display of comradery was far from the only one this weekend. Whether it was artists making the jump to playing or the incredible story of a family making a family outing of the Grand Prix, Milwaukee offered the best of the best when it comes to the community.
4) Madison Mainstay Severa Continues His Run
Matt Severa is a fixture of the Madison scene that has produced many of the game's all-time greats, and now the rest of the world is getting to know him as well.
Severa notched a victory in Denver last weekend, picking up his record-tying third trophy of 2016 after winning the previous two titles at team events. He continued the hot streak in Milwaukee, leading the pack with a perfect Day 1 run that extended his Grand Prix winning streak to an astounding 19 matches. The Madison native's run through the tournament was a testament not just to the continuing dominance of players from the Magic hotbed, but a statement that leaves no doubt that he's a force here to stay.
3) Four East-West Bowlers Make Top 8
East-West Bowl is one of the biggest team success stories of last season, with every player achieving either Gold or Platinum status in the Pro Players Club. And they're off to a great start this season, which became increasingly clear as Grand Prix Milwaukee began to close toward the Top 8.
Ari Lax, Eric Severson, Benjamin Weitz and Brandon Fischer all advanced to the elimination rounds of the event, and Brandon Fischer made it all the way to the finals before falling in a hard-fought three games. The dominance of the team was another demonstration of just how potent this group has become.
2) Burkhart Breaks Through After Near-Miss
One of the worst feelings in Magic is finishing in ninth place and just out of the Top 8. For Corey Burkhart, fresh off the finals of Grand Prix Dallas last month, that feeling came just a week ago when he finished in ninth at Grand Prix Denver.
As Round 15 played out in Milwaukee, it looked like Burkhart might meet the same fate here in Wisconsin. As he watched the matches play out around him after winning his own match, he oscillated between elated that he had a shot at making the Top 8 and morose that he might miss.
In the end, it came down to tiebreakers. And when the announcement came, Burkhart's overjoyed reaction said it all.
1) Carter Cruises Past the Pros
It was a loaded Top 8 – five pros including four from Team East-West Bowl – and on paper Steve Carter was undoubtedly the underdog from the start. After all, he was the only player in the Top 8 to have never been there before.
But there's a reason we play the games, and Carter played them the best. His black-green deck featuring Verdurous Gearhulk and a multitude of ways to interact with fabricate creatures ran the table, knocking off Toshiya Kanegawa in a tight semifinal match before dispatching Evan Petre in the semis and then East-West Bowler Brandon Fischer in an exciting and lightning-fast three-game finals. It was the dream finish in what has already been a great 2016 for the lifelong Cubs fan, who watched his baseball team overcome more than 100 years of futility to win the World Series, and followed it up with a momentous win of his own.
Congratulations to Steve Carter, the 2016 Grand Prix Milwaukee champion!