At the time of writing this, the race for the Grand Prix Master slot for the World Championships had just been decided down in Sydney. With Seth Manfield's run coming to an end in the semifinals that meant Brian Braun-Duin's 13th place was good enough for him to hold on to a seat at the World Championships. While this was the main story of this triple Grand Prix weekend there were other smaller stories as other players engaged in their own personal battles to accumulate Pro Points and lock in Pro Levels for the next season.
One such story is British player Kayure Patel. UK Magic has long had a reputation for underachievement on the international stage. Patel and other members of team Axion Now were hoping to change this and have been a regular sight on the European Grand Prix circuit with their bright lemon-yellow tops.
(Not to be confused with the equally bright lemon-yellow tops of the Belgic Magic team. Seriously, those teams should just battle, with the losing team being forced to change their shirt color.)
Patel was part of the 2015 English World Magic Cup team after winning the Modern WMCQ. Since then he'd had a solid year with the highlight being a Grand Prix title after winning in Bologna in March. Following that up with a 10-5 record in Paris and 12-3 record in Barcelona took him up to 17 Pro Points and one point away from Silver and an invite to Pro Tour Sydney.
With multiple European Grand Prix between then and Sydney it should be a cinch.
After all, it's not super-hard like winning a Grand Prix or Top 8ing a Pro Tour. All he needed was a single point. Just one 10-5 record at a Grand Prix.
How hard could it be?
Sometimes, in Magic, that one win or that one point can be the hardest thing to get.
At GP Manchester he went 5-4.
That was okay, he still had Prague a few weeks later.
GP Prague was even more heart-breaking as a 5-0 start collapsed to 5-4 and no Day 2.
Knowing he was so close and that the points would be dropping off after Pro Tour Eldritch Moon in Sydney, Patel decided to commit and took a punt on a trip halfway around the world to Grand Prix Taipei.
Just one single point…
Unfortunately, that trip too also ended in disappointment as Patel started out on a rocky 0-3 and, despite a fightback, was eliminated from Day 2 contention with a 4-4 record.
GP Stockholm marked the last roll of the dice, but at least this time Patel made it to Day 2. Ending Saturday with a 7-2 record, Patel needed just 3 more wins to achieve Silver.
Three more wins. A 3-3 record. It should be eas…
We've been here before.
It was going to be a fight all the way. When I took Patel aside for a quick interview he was currently 2-2 and needing to win one out of his remaining two matches.
Craig: “How long have you been playing?”
Kayure: “I've been playing since M13, about three years.”
I asked about the team he was part of, Axion Now, and how that had come about.
Kayure: “It was after the World Magic Cup. We hadn't done very well and we (Patel, Tom Law, Raoul Zimmerman) had a period of reflection to try and work out why that was and why English Magic doesn't do very well. We thought it was because the players in the country were concentrating too hard on playing against each other rather than working together, so we wanted to form a team out of the top players of each area.”
Aside from usual benefits from testing and learning a format, he mentioned other ways having a team helped.
Kayure: “I used to take the first loss hard and it was hard to pick myself up. Having ten teammates, with their enthusiasm, and knowing they want you to do well, really helps there.”
Patel had played in a few Grand Prix last year, but this year really made an effort to go to as many as he could.
I asked him about that rough patch of Manchester to Taipei and what he thought might have caused it.
Kayure: “For Manchester and Prague I think I was putting too much pressure on myself to get the results. For Taipei (Standard) I took a black-green deck that my team had tested and thought was good, but it turned out we didn't understand how the Japanese meta was different and it wasn't the right choice.”
Kayure: “I'm reluctant to say it was down to bad luck. There was something that wasn't working.”
After this event he said he would maybe take a break for a month to look into that and then come back refreshed.
Silver might not get Patel to Sydney for PT Eldritch Moon, but because of the visa issues in getting to Australia in time, some players had been allowed to defer the invite. This means that Silver is still a big thing, as it would qualify Patel for two Pro Tours next year.
He was close, but he wasn't there yet.
When I spoke to him he was still one win away at 2-2 for the day. For the first pod he'd drafted a black-red Vampires deck that was lacking cheap early plays and discard outlets. He managed to scrape through 2-1. The second draft put him in fingernail-biting territory as it looked like all he had was an iffy blue-green deck. He said he'd feared the worst during the draft, but it hadn't looked as bad as he thought when he came to put the deck together. Even though he lost Round 13, he said the match had felt close with one game revolving around his opponent having an Anguished Unmaking for his transformed Ormendahl, Profane Prince.
So, one more win…
And this time his story had a happy ending. I went over to watch his Round 14 match just in time to see him take it down on the back of a Wretched Gryff enchanted with Wolfkin Bond. Patel had done it. The hardest point was finally in the bank.