Highlights of Grand Prix Minneapolis

Posted in Event Coverage on July 30, 2018

By Corbin Hosler

More than 1,300 people traveled to Minnesota to compete in Grand Prix Minneapolis, an impressive showing for the final weekend of Core Set 2019 in premier play. As people sleeved up memorable cards like Nicol Bolas, the Ravager and Gigantosaurus, the field was whittled down to just under 300 for Day 2 before eight players – Chih-Cheng Yeh, Ashwin Ugale, Magnus Lantto, David Lam, Nathaniel Knox, Dan Troha, Kentaro Yamamoto and Ken Yukuhiro – squared off in one final draft to determine a champion.

Here are the highlights that stood out from the weekend.

The Ins and Outs of Core Set 2019

We got a look at how the top players in the world approached Core Set 2019 last weekend in Sacramento, and this weekend featured the same but with a bit more international flavor, as players from across the world flocked to the Twin Cities ahead of next week's Pro Tour 25th Anniversary.

So what stood out from the set? Well-known pro Mike Sigrist – a former Player of the Year who came to the GP on the hunt for pro points to try and qualify for the World Championship – shared his thoughts on the matter.

“There are some synergy decks [Green-White Enchantments, White-Black Lifegain], but I generally try to avoid them in draft because the payoffs are kind of small – the best of those is going wide with red-white because no one wants the card you're looking for like Trumpet Blast and Inspired Charge," he explained. “The other synergy decks are just okay; many of the payoffs for the artifacts deck are uncommon and the artifacts that are good go in every deck while the others are pretty weak. It's the same with the lifegain decks – the good cards will go elsewhere."

Instead, Sigrist likes to focus on playing generically strong cards, a strategy that works particularly well in the back-to-basics format that is Core Set draft where the fundamentals of Magic Grizzly Bears and Giant Growths, so to speak (or at least Greenwood Sentinel and Titanic Growth) – are rewarded.

There are, however, some standout cards that encouraged players to get creative, Dryad Greenseeker chief among them. The innocuous two-mana 1/3 is an all-star that saw successful players even splash for over the course of the weekend.

“It's the best uncommon," Sigrist noted. “It reminds me of a juiced-up Sigiled Starfish, only instead of scrying away lands in the late game, you actually get to draw them instead."

As for commons, Sigrist prefers white – Pegasus Courser, Star-Crowned Stag, and Angel of the Dawn are hard to pass up, especially since they line up a perfect curve. Black also stood out for its removal suite with Murder and Lich's Caress, which would explain why white-black was the most common archetype among the Trial-winning decklists on Friday.

Here's how those winning decks broke down:

 

 

White-Black

7

Green-White

6

Blue-Black

5

Green-Blue

5

Black-Red

3

White-Blue

3

White-Red

3

Black-Green

3

Blue-Red

1

The Race for Worlds

For some in the room this weekend, the Grand Prix was about more than this one event – the World Championship is quickly approaching, and while the field won't be settled until after next week's Pro Tour, this Grand Prix was the last chance otherwise to gain precious pro points that could qualify them for the event if they

“I know some players didn't come to this event because they wanted to prepare for the Pro Tour, but I think that was a mistake," Sigrist said. “This is a Worlds qualifier – you win it and you're in Worlds."

Because of his high finishes in previous Grand Prix this season, Sigrist would need a Top 8 to better his position heading into next week. Unfortunately for him, he picked up his third loss midway through Day 2, ending any chance at improving his position this weekend.

But one player did take a huge leap – Ken Yukuhiro was the final undefeated player in the tournament and converted that into a Top 8 berth. Though he lost in the quarterfinals, he was still able to bring his effective Pro Point total up from 53 to 56, vaulting him from 11th to 6th in the race for the 11 at-large spots – but perhaps more importantly solidifying his lead on the auto-qualifying spot if he can finish as the top point-getter from the Asia-Pacific region. The Top 8 finish was a huge boon to him in that race, and he'll enter the Pro Tour in a much-improved position to make it to Worlds.

Sights of the Grand Prix

It's said often, but Grand Prix are something unique to everyone who attends – and for many it's about more than just the main event. And there was little this weekend to top this.

The incredible Shalai, Voice of Plenty cosplay by @Nissacosplay lit up the room, with fully extendable and retractable winds controlled by her blade. And Shalai was far the only character to show up in Minneapolis.

And when it comes to just having fun at a Grand Prix, age is no barrier.

Amaz Makes a Run

Ahead of the Silver Showcase that will take place Thursday at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, popular Hearthstone and Magic streamer Jason “Amaz” Chan made an early stop at Grand Prix Minneapolis and proved he's got what it takes to do well in paper as well as online – fans of the Twitch phenom will no doubt be excited to know he's heading into the Pro Tour on a hot streak.

Totally Won

It was an exciting Top 8 from start to finish, but it would be hard to find a game as tight as the third and deciding game between Nathaniel Knox and David Lam. With the match on the line and his life total dwindling, Knox found the perfect time to deploy a Totally Lost he had been sitting on for nearly the entire game.

As you can see, it came at the perfect moment.

Lantto Not Going Anywhere

Magnus Lantto is no stranger to high-level Magic; he is, after all, a former Magic Online Championship Series winner. But recently he's been focusing his pursuits away from Magic and not attending as many events – he hasn't played an event since Kyoto in 2017 – in fact, he was planning on next week's Pro Tour being his last for a while.

Well, he's not going anywhere now.

Lantto tore through the tournament and with his Top 8 appearance locked up another Pro Tour berth for Guilds of Ravnica. And now he'll be going there with a little more hardware to his name. He rampaged through a stacked Top 8, knocking off Ashwin Ugale and Chih-Cheng Yeh before squaring off against Nathaniel Knox in the finals.

Once the match began, there was a never a doubt – Lantto's nearly mono-white deck ran roughshod over the blue-red deck Knox had navigated through a pair of tough matches of his own. And with a Mighty Leap and a shake of the hand, Lantto became the chapion of Grand Prix Minneapolis.

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