Thanks to Neale Talbot and Marc Calderaro for their contributions to this article.
5. The Clear Shot Heard 'Round the World
If you were watching the stream during the first day, you will always remember it. It was Round 7 of Sealed. Under the Feature Match camera. Fifteenth-ranked Ondřej Stráský from the Czech Republic had a commanding board position. Multiple Spirit tokens, Moorland Drifter, Sigardian Priest, and to cap it off, the powerful Voldaren Pariah.
Pro Tour Hall of Famer Ben Stark was fighting to stay alive, but he had sided into a green version of his deck to try and get there. He cast a Smoldering Werewolf—which Stráský knew about—to nab two Spirits. Stráský thought he could get the better of the deal, so he activated Voldaren Pariah by sacrificing three creatures—the Drifter and the two Spirits that were going to die anyway. Once the Pariah transforms into Abolisher of Bloodlines, Stark would also have to sacrifice three creatures, and Stráský would have a 6/5 flier.
Not so fast, Stark said. "Clear Shot."
Stark wouldn't have to sacrifice the creatures if the Pariah never transformed. Clear Shot made Stráský's play into a self-immolation that left him without an entire board.
It was a brutal, brutal play. And it's one that even caught the broadcasters off-guard.
4. Zen Takahashi Begins His Ascent with a Triple-Q
Zen Takahashi proved himself once again as one of the rising stars of the Asia-Pacific Magic scene by Top 8ing yet another Sydney Grand Prix, following on from 2013 and 2015. A close friend of Jason Chung and Matt Rogers, the young man recently qualified for the New Zealand World Magic Cup team.
Moreover, by making Top 8 today he achieved Silver Pro Player status, thus managing to queue for the next three Pro Tours combined, including Pro Tour Eldritch Moon next week.
Look for a piece on Zen Takahashi on this site later this week!
3. TBS Returns
The last time Ben Seck—much better known as "The Ben Seck"—was in the Grand Prix Top 8 spotlight was 2003. He won Grand Prix Melbourne back then. And though many of us who attend Grand Prix across the world are lucky enough to see TBS's face often, this weekend it finally got back where it belonged: in the Top 8.
An elder statesman of Australian Magic returned home at Grand Prix Sydney, and his motherland rewarded him for his efforts.
You can read more about Ben Seck in Neale Talbot's article.
2. Brian Braun-Duin Grand Prix Master in the Semifinals, Kinda
Reality finally caught up with top-ranked Seth Manfield, and he lost his semifinal match, putting an end to his chance to seize the title of Grand Prix Master. Both Tomoharu Saito and Reid Duke had fallen by the wayside during Day Two, which left one player standing—Brian Braun-Duin.
Braun-Duin had come to GP Sydney to protect his single-point lead he'd worked so hard to achieve, and he kept that goal. The yearlong race for Grand Prix Master had been decided with road warrior Braun-Duin at the top, thereby securing him a place at the World Championship in September.
Congratulations, Brian; you've earned this.
1. The East West Bowl Crew Crashes Scott Lipp's Trophy Photos
Scott Lipp's victory was sweet, but it became even sweeter when the entire East West Bowl crew currently in Australia sprinted through the hall screaming "East West Bowl" and bear-hugging Lipp.
This was in the middle of the photographer trying to get Lipp's trophy photos.
It did work out, though, because Neale Talbot was able to snag all these shots in succession.
And we were able to get this great shot after it all.