Thanks to Meghan Wolff and Marc Calderaro for their contributions to this article.
5. Max Mick Cements Magic's Next Generation
Though there were two people younger than sixteen years old in the Top 8 this weekend, semifinalist Max Mick had a name that might have rung familiar. If it did, it's because he's the son of one of the founding playtesters, designers, and developers of Magic, Joel Mick.
As Magic nears its 25th anniversary, we much more frequently see families go to Grand Prix together, as Magic becomes a truly generational game. Young Max Mick put into sharp focus this emotional idea. He represents the next generation of a literal creator of the game, rising up and making a true name for himself in the game.
4. Planeswalker Summit
This weekend marked the first-ever Planeswalker Summit. As players converged on Portland, eager to prove themselves in the Grand Prix, cosplayers converged on the city as well, intent on celebrating and sharing their love of their craft. Kiora chatted with Ral Zarek while Nahiri eyed Sorin, sword in hand. Friends or enemies, they all congregated for photos that displayed the awesome power of Magic's most powerful mages and the cosplayers who bring them to life.
3. Bant Company's Resurgence and Demise in the Semifinals
At Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, Bant Company was the most popular, but worst-performing deck. But this weekend it made a strong resurgence both here and in Italy at Grand Prix Rimini. It stormed through the first day, accounting for more than a third of the Top 100 decks in the first day, then continued to do well, putting four copies into the Top 8.
But just as swiftly as they recurred, they were destined to recede again. The two remaining Bant Company decks—piloted by Max Mick and Tanner von Difloe—both lost in the semifinals. The deck's presence was reminder of the power it still wields, but its ultimate sound defeat provides promise that it is quite beatable.
2. Grixis Cat Pact Melts Both Our Hearts and Our Minds
Starting in the second day, a deck made its way to the top tables and moved to the front of everyone's mind. Chris Botelho—from a short trip away in Vancouver, Washington (“Vancouver, not BC; Washington, not DC,” he said)—was on an unstoppable march to the Top 8, becoming the first person to make the elimination rounds of a Grand Prix with Harmless Offering, the card with the most “adorbs” art in the world.
Round after round, we watched Botelho cast Demonic Pact, get some great value, then, at the last moment, give it away to an unsuspecting opponent (or a suspecting one, he didn't much care either way), right when it was time to choose the “You lose the game” option.
Though Botelho's quest ended in the quarterfinals, his story will not. He will play on his first Pro Tour, and he's shown people that it is indeed possible to Top 8 by handing out free kittens!
Robert Santana trusted in Distended Mindbender, and Distended Mindbender delivered, with, of course, a little help from Emrakul, the Promised End. Mindbender played a key role in both games of the finals, nabbing two key cards from opponent Travis Woo's hand in Game 1, and triggering a Kozilek's Return in Game 2. Emrakul herself, however, brought about the end of the tournament. Santana pulled apart Woo's game plan as he controlled his turn, leaving Woo vulnerable to lethal attacks from the Eldrazi titan. Congrtulations to Robert Santana, the winner of Grand Prix Portland!