Special thanks to Corbin Hosler and Marc Calderaro for their contributions to this article.
5. Team East West Bowl—Still Humming
First-ranked Seth Manfield finished 9-0 after Day One, Jarvis Yu locked Gold, and Pascal Maynard Top 8ed his 11th Grand Prix and finished in 2nd place. (And Ben Friedman had that wonderful 4.5-Color Dragons deck.) No matter the coast, the team puts their members in winning positions.
In fact, Maynard hadn't played his Bant Humans deck much before the tournament. But he had read a deck guide written by teammate Mark Jacobson, which allowed him to cruise to the finals.
Team East West Bowl exploded like a rocket, but have sustained their push well into the second stage. As we gear up for the next season and more of the teams locks statuses they've never hit before, they will only continue to rise.
4. The Race for Grand Prix Master Kicks into High Gear
Since the untimely exit of its leader, the race for the World Championship slot for to the person with the most points at Grand Prix has been at a fever pitch. Though both 13th-ranked Reid Duke and top-ranked Seth Manfield are in the running, it's Brian Braun-Duin and Tomoharu Saito who lead the race—they are tied. One of those two will likely get the slot.
Because Saito was in Taipei, Braun-Duin knew what he had to do. Saito had a lackluster first day, merely squeaking into Sunday, while Braun-Duin started 7-0. But Saito rallied and Braun-Duin faltered. And at the end of the weekend, they met in the middle.
Both Braun-Duin and Saito earned 2 Pro Points, which means they are still tied. They are both traversing the globe to Brazil next weekend. The title might be decided there.
3. Aleksa Telerov Vindicates His North American Trips
Serbian Aleksa Telerov had never traveled to the United States for a Grand Prix before a couple months ago. But he took the plunge to try and earn the last couple points to hit Gold. He came away from Charlotte and Minneapolis with 4 more points to his name, but he was still short. He went back to Serbia with only hope to show for it.
But when, for the first time ever, a nonstop flight from Serbia to New York opened up, Telerov saw his in. He flew to New York City and took a nearly ten-hour bus to Pittsburgh, needing a Top 8 to get what he came for. And he got it. Telerov nailed the final rounds, and qualified himself for Sydney in the process—meaning he'd get to go back to Team EUreka to test.
It was an emotional weekend for Telerov, made all the more so by the lengths he took to get here. He was extremely grateful for the finish, and left the quarterfinals as the loser but the tournament hall a winner.
2. Steve Rubin Closes Shadows over Innistrad Standard in His Hometown
Third-ranked Steve Rubin finished in the Top 8 of the last Shadows over Innistrad Standard Grand Prix playing the same deck he'd piloted to win the Pro Tour in Madrid. Green-White Tokens, since his initial win, has become a true leader in the format over the course of months. And this Top 8 was a victory lap for him.
Of course, it was a leisurely lap, because he didn't have to travel that far to cross the finish line. Pittsburgh is Rubin's hometown, which made the finish twice as sweet.
1. Petre Cuts Path through Pros to Grand Prix Glory
Evan Petre is not a Grand Prix veteran. The 24-year-old is relatively new to the competitive Magic scene, but he's had one heck of a start. A Top 16 finish at Grand Prix Los Angeles a month ago only whetted his appetite for more, and he certainly found that in Pittsburgh.
His unlikely victory wasn't just impressive, it was hard-fought. After dispatching Matt Tumavitch in the quarterfinals, he ran into third-ranked Steve Rubin, who wasn't just the winner of the last Pro Tour (Shadows over Innistrad), but also the progenitor of Green-White Tokens, the very deck that Petre himself was piloting. A mirror match against the master is a daunting challenge, but it was one that Petre was more than up to, fighting back from a shocking loss in the second game to narrowly close it out in the third.
The finals were even more difficult. He faced off against ten-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Pascal Maynard, who would lock Platinum with a win. And when Maynard took the first game and Petre mulliganed to five in the second game, it looked like he would achieve it. But thanks to tight play and a slew of Dromoka's Commands, Petre stormed back to win the game and then the match, forever leaving his mark on the Magic world as the winner of Grand Prix Pittsburgh 2016.