As if there weren't enough goings on at Grand Prix events already, this weekend it's near the end of the 2015–2016 season. That means there's a lot of jockeying for position among the pros. And the metagame can get pretty nitty-gritty. So what should we be looking out for? Three things immediately come to mind. The race for Grand Prix Master, the utter dominance, and diversity of White in the metagame, and the WMCQ results from Santa Clara, again pushing the name of Team East West Bowl (and the true master, Owen Turtenwald).
Firstly, vying for Grand Prix Master title are four men: top-ranked Seth Manfield, sixteenth-ranked Reid Duke, Tomoharu Saito, and Brian Braun-Duin are hitting hard with a World Championship invite on the line. Now, Manfield will likely qualify for the Championship regardless, but if he ends as the Master, his invite won't transfer down. Rather it will go to an “At-Large” slot instead. This is key for the others.
This weekend, Saito is competing at Grand Prix Taipei, while Manfield, Duke, and Braun-Duin are here in Pittsburgh. And at least for one, BBD is ready, willing, but understanding.
“I'm feeling pretty great about the race. A month ago I wasn't even in it.” He said. “To me, it feels like both a free-roll and something I could actually win.” After putting up both consistent and stellar results recently, headlined by a Top 8 finish at Grand Prix Costa Rica, Braun-Duin is just happy to be here.
BBD in the Top 8 of Grand Prix Costa Rica
“I love that the competition is fierce and that they are some all-time great players like Reid, Seth, and Saito. I am just gonna play Magic, and if things work out, that's great. If not, that's OK too.”
We'll be following that story closely. And in Taipei, Saito has already just squeaked into the second day at 6-3. This could be great for the players in Grand Prix Pittsburgh. We'll hear from the players here to get the skinny on them. And the race is already heating up on the internet.
Note: BBD has byes. His undefeated record is not yet impressive.
Secondly, the metagame is rife with White decks. White has the best answers to Westvale Abbey and its evil counterpart Ormendahl, Profane Prince, so it's easy to want that color around. Add that fact to the color of Archangel Avacyn and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and you can understand the color's ubiquity. Bant Humans, Bant Company, Green-White Tokens, White-Black Control, Mono-White and Red-White Humans are all in showing up in droves.
For example, from the WMCQ, all the Top 8 decks played White, and seven of them played Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. So what can the other colors do? Will we be looking back at Shadows over Innistrad Standard as a diverse, but White metagame? We'll be looking to deck tech people who are figuring this whole thing out. How the White decks are finding for more reach, even if they are traditionally faster decks, and how the non-White decks are hoping to stack up against the opposition. I've heard tell of a true Green-White Control deck, but we'll see if it shows up and performs well.
And lastly, speaking of the North American WMCQ, there were two clear narratives that emerged from Santa Clara, California. One, second-ranked Owen Turtenwald is really good; he won. Duh. And two, Team East West Bowl continues to rise precipitously. After Seth Manfield won his second Grand Prix in a month, Jarvis Yu finished in the Top 8 of Grand Prix Columbus, with a deck he'd already used to win a Grand Prix. Then, three out of the top four of the WMCQ in Santa Clara were Team East West Bowl—Mark Jacobson, Eric Severson, and finalist Paul Yeem. In their home turf of Northern California, the team made yet another strong showing in a long line of strong showings stretch back to Vancouver at the dawn of 2016. However, this WMCQ finish was despite Turtenwald decimating them all.
“He was fairly merciless about killing all of us,” Benjamin Weitz laughed. Not only did Turtenwald dispatch both Severson and Yeem in the Top 8, in the last round of Swiss, he defeated Weitz, another East West guy, to keep him out of the elimination rounds.
Regardless of getting run over by the Turt Train, the East West Bowl model continues to prove successful. And though Weitz was quick to dispel praise—“Look, we have a big team,” he said—it's clear that Team East West Bowl will not slow into the next season.
There's an Emrakul on the horizon, ready to warp our Innistrad reality. To prepare properly for the transformation, we need to know what our reality is right now, here in Pittsburgh. So for the weekend, look for White decks to continue to push through and further adapt, while non-White decks search for footholds in the metagame. Follow closely the race from Grand Prix Master. Each player will likely be tweeting up storms (@ReidDuke, @TomoharuSaito, @BraunDuinIt, and @SethManfield); the round by round standings are available right on this here site.
And as always, look for East West Bowl to do something good, as they always seem to do. Ben Weitz took the trip here to clinch Gold—and X-2 will get him there. Can he do it? Or will one of the East Coast contingents, like Jarvis Yu, Alex Majlaton, or Ben Freidman make their way to the top?
It'll be a great weekend here in Pittsburgh. So let's get down to it.