Day 1 of Grand Prix Sydney really helped showcase the broad and ever expanding Australian Magic Community, but after cutting the original 284 teams down to just 62 for Day 2, it was time to get down to business. Team Sealed has long been considered a very skill-intensive format that's dominated by the truly good players, and we were expecting to see that bear out this weekend.
The Day 1
Undefeated Least-Defeated Players
Things got a bit messy on Day 1, so by the time we made the cut to Day 2 we no longer had any undefeated players. Some teams did better than others, of course, and at the top of the standings at the end of the day with 25 points were Jarron Puszet, Dominic Z, and Karl Eyre.
Puszet, Z, and Eyre
All three had played Magic together in Melbourne for many years, both offline and on Magic Online, and it seemed their experience playing together had paid off this weekend, eventually leading them to (spoilers!) a spot in the Top 4.
Following behind the Melbournians were three other teams on 24 points. First up, the Keedle family.
Dante, Warren, and Aramis Keedle
Hailing from Orange, New South Wales, Warren Keedle has played Magic since the Ice Age, both the set and geological event itself. You and me both, Warren, you and me both. Remember when we used to ride Woolly Mammoths to our Prereleases, and we liked it that way? Once Dante (17) and Aramis (19) were around 8 years old, they joined in on the fun and have been avid Magic players ever since. Even though Aramis is now living down in Canberra for University, he couldn't resist the chance to throw down with his family at a Team Grand Prix. Unfortunately, Day 2 was less than kind to the Keedles, and they finished in 24th place.
Behind the Keedles and from across the ditch came New Zealanders Danny Liao, Jing-Wei Zheng, and Brandon Wise.
Liao, Wise, and Zheng
Liao and Wise both live in Hamilton, roughly and hour and a half south of Auckland, give or take Auckland's notorious traffic, while Zheng hails from Auckland itself. Liao knew Wise, and knew Zheng, but neither Zheng nor Wise really knew each other, so Liao brought them together for this event, and it certainly seemed to have worked out well for them, as they also joined (more spoilers!) Puszet, Z, and Eyre in the Top 4.
On top of that, Liao reminded me that I was his first ever opponent at the New Zealand National Champs back in 2006, and despite my terrible draw, I smashed him soundly. Good times, good times. For me, perhaps, maybe not so much for Liao.
The last team on 24 points were Jason "Amaz" Chan, Aziz Riphat, and Justin Robb.
Robb, Riphat, and Amaz
Living on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Justin Robb knew Indonesia's Aziz Riphat through their mutual connections with Team MTG Mint Card and Team Hareruya. They were originally planning to team up with Denmark's Lars Dam, who is currently living in Thailand, but Dam had to pull out at the last minute. Around the same time, it was announced that popular Twitch streamer Jason "Amaz" Chan had been awarded a special invitation to Pro Tour Hour of Devastation in Kyoto next month. Living in Hong Kong, Chan already knew MTG Mint Card's founder Lee Shi Tian, and Lee suggested Chan as a third for Robb and Aziz. The three of them continued well into Day 2, finishing in 13th place.
The Climb to the Top 4 Intensifies!
The talk around the room was that 33 points were needed to lock up a spot in the Top 4 this weekend, but as the playoffs got nearer, it became clear that not everyone on 33 points would make it.
In the second to last round, four teams were sitting on 30 points. Watanabe, Nakamura, and Ikawa defeated Chan, Riphat, and Robb, while Liao, Zheng, and Wise beat Anderson, Mines, and Pathirana to give us the first two teams to reach 33 points. While 33 might not be enough points for everyone, these two teams would certainly be standing in better stead than the others.
The final round looked even dicier. When the pairings went up, it became clear there would be between 5 and 7 teams on 33 points or more as we cut to the Top 4.
|Table||Team 1||Points||Team 2||Points|
The first results to come in saw Anderson-Mines-Pathirana winning, which gave Matthew Anderson enough Pro Points to lock up Silver Status for the season, and David Mines enough to secure Gold. Then Egan-Unwin-Neeman won, but they knew their tie-breakers would leave them in 5th place at best.
Then came tables 1 and 2, where both matches ended in upsets: Puszet, Z, and Eyre won to go to 34 points, and Wilks, Libabury, and Schroder did the same, which meant there would now be as many as 7 teams on 33 points or more. More specifically, two teams on 34 points, and five teams on 33.
As the last of the results crawled in, Egan, Unwin, and Neeman surprised nobody by ending up in 7th place, which was still quite impressive considering they limped into Day 2 in the last possible spot. Shinoda, Saeki, and Shimada earned themselves 6th place, while Anderson, Mines, and Pathirana had to console themselves with 5th. That put Danny Liao, Jing-Wei Zheng, and Brandon Wise in 3rd place, and rounding out the Top 4 were Hajime Nakamura, Yoshihiko Ikawa, and Hall of Famer Yuuya Watanabe.
Finishing just right below the 33 pointers on 31 points where both Lee Shi Tian, Tomoharu Saito, and Jeremy Dezani, and Jason Chung, Zen Takahashi, and William Poor, just to prove that Team Sealed is indeed one of the most skill testing Magic formats anyone can play.
The Top 4 Playoffs.
Top seeds Puszet, Z, and Eyre sat down around the draft table alternating seats with Watanabe, Nakamura, and Ikawa, and after the packs had been picked clean and the players had built their decks, the teams sat down opposite each other and prepared to battle.
Hall of Famer Yuuya Watanabe was the first on the scoreboard defeating Jarron Puszet, while Dominic Z evened up the score by beating Hajime Nakamura. The match came down to Yoshihiko Ikawa and Karl Eyre, with their teammates crowding around for support, both moral and strategic. In the end, Ikawa finished off Eyre to send the Japanese team to the Finals.
Yoshihiko Ikawa and Kyle Eyre play out the last game of their match as their teammates look on.
Meanwhile, New Zealanders Liao, Zheng, and Wise were duking it out with Wilks, Linabury, and Schroder from Canberra, Australia's Capital. Ivan Schroder brought in the first result, dispatching Brendon Wise, both players moving to sit between their teammates and offer further play advice and quiet motivational speeches. It looked like Danny Liao might even up the match against Jim Wilks, but in the middle seat, Simon Linabury was putting the hurt on Jing-Wei Zheng, and it wasn't long before Wilks, Linabury, and Schroder were advancing to the finals to face Watanabe, Nakamura, and Ikawa.
Both teams silently sat down at a shared table to draft. Silently they drafted, and silently they registered what they had picked. Countless times I tried to engage the players in conversation during registration, and each time the players stared at me blankly while a Judge moved to shut me down. It was almost as if the Judges had instructed them not to speak until instructed?!
(Voice of the Narrator: They had.)
And then suddenly they were off. Each team frantically discussing what they had opened and what they had passed downstream to the opposing team. Bit by bit they tried to piece together which colours each of their individual opponents would be playing, and which powerful cards they could expect to face once the match had begun.
I asked the Japanese team how they thought the draft went. They looked at each other uncertainly while hissing collective intakes of air.
"So-so," Yoshihiko Ikawa ventured. Yuuya Watanabe could only nod solemnly in agreement.
I wandered over to Canberra's finest and asked them the same.
"Hopefully everyone else has train wrecked as much as we have," Jim Wilks said with a grin.
"We've done around one team draft each before this, and that was… about an hour and a half ago," Simon Linabury added jokingly. "I tried to get the other guys to do a practice team draft with me before this event, but they just laughed at me!"
And as if to prove a point, Linabury's White-Black deck fell quickly to Nakamura's aggressive Red-White to put the Japanese on the board in the Finals. Schroder was the first to retaliate winning a game over Ikawa's White-Blue deck with his White-Black-Green deck, followed by Wilks, whose Blue-Black-Red deck took Game 1 from Watanabe's Red-Green deck.
Schroder closed out his match to even up the score 1-1 and it came down to the match between Wilks and Watanabe. The Hall of Famer rushed Wilks down before Wilks stabilised at a mere 1 life. Watanabe drew back to back lands several turns in a row as Wilks came back over the top and take the match, allowing Wilks, Linabury, and Schroder to become the Grand Prix Sydney Champions for 2017, keeping the first ever Australian Team Grand Prix trophies on home soil.
Yuuya Watanabe congratulates Jim Wilks as Wilks, Linabury, and Schroder win Grand Prix Sydney.
Grand Prix Sydney was a truly unique event the Australian Magic community had been clamouring for for a very long time. Players old and new banded together to test their skill against the best the Asia-Pacific Region could offer, it certainly seemed like it had been worth the wait. I've covered more than my share of these events, and I've never seen so many people playing their own drafts after the event while the Top 4 was playing out. I'm sure the players here this weekend will treasure and remember this event for a long time to come!
Congratulations to Jim Wilks, Simon Linabury, and Ivan Schroder, the Grand Prix Sydney 2017 Champions!