#5 - Josh Buitenhuis runs off a perfect 15-0
Josh Buitenhuis attended his first-ever Grand Prix and went a perfect 15-0 to advance to the Top 8.
There are always plenty of new players at any given Grand Prix, and all have dreams of making a run to the Top 8. Though some come close, few make that dream a reality.
Josh Buitenhuis did. And he did it with style.
Armed with a White-Black Control deck of his own design, Buitenhuis not only overcame his nerves in his first-ever Grand Prix, he entered the record books with his perfect 15-0 run through the Swiss rounds.
None of those fifteen rounds were more exciting than the last. Facing down a dangerous board and in need of help from his deck, Buitenhuis ran off a Secure the Wastes for five tokens and followed that up with the perfect draw: Westvale Abbey to transform into a lethal attacker to send him into the Top 8 in the best way possible.
#4 - Jon Stern wins a nail-biter for Top 8
Jon Stern earned his ticket back to the Pro Tour with a finals appearance this weekend.
Entering the weekend, Jon Stern faced a dilemma: plenty of Pro Points this year but no invitation to Pro Tour Sydney this summer. That meant he needed a big finish over the next month to send him to Australia.
He had plenty of people rooting him on. Reigning Player of the Year Mike Sigrist described Stern as the “glue” that held Team Face to Face Games together at big events. The team's goal for the weekend was for Stern to put up a finish to qualify him for Sydney, and that meant he needed to advance to the semifinals.
He did one better, making it to the finals. But first he had to overcome a win-and-in in Round 15, and it was a nail-biter. With the clock run out and down to his last turn, Stern needed something of a miracle. The voice of Zendikar heard him, and a Nissa ultimate drew Stern 12 cards, including the Dromoka's Command he needed to make his Archangel Avacyn lethal on the final turn. The win sent Stern into the Top 8 and allowed him to achieve his goal of getting back onto the Pro Tour.
#3 - Doug Potter's busy weekend
A local favorite, Doug Potter had plenty of fans watching him make a deep run into the Grand Prix. But as he faltered near the end of the event, he had one thing to cheer him up: he had qualified on Friday for the Super Sunday Series final.
Already guaranteed a chance to play Sunday night, Potter wanted to finish the Grand Prix with a flurry and a high finish. He was completely taken by surprise when that finish turned out to better than he dreamed, sneaking into the Top 8 on tiebreaks and advancing all the way to the semifinals.
It was more than just his first career Top 8 (he had a heartbreaking 9th-place finish at Grand Prix Seattle a decade ago)—it was the perfect warm-up to the Super Sunday Series Top 8, which he ran off to play in immediately following the end of his Grand Prix run.
Congrats to you, Doug Potter, for playing all the Magic you could this weekend.
#2 - The continued transformation of Standard
The Shadows over Innistrad Standard format continues to transform. While Bant Company and Human tribal decks dominated the first few weeks of the format, the Pro Tour showed that things were far from solved, with eight distinct archetypes advancing to the Top 8. With Steve Rubin's victory with Green-White Tokens, it looked like perhaps Standard had been figured out. But even those decks were different this weekend, as members of Team EUreka arrived with an updated version of Bant Company that featured Eldrazi Skyspawner and Eldrazi Displacer.
And while green-white was the most-played color combination of the weekend, the fact that three different players advanced to the Top 8 with control decks—including winner Robert Lombardi's Esper Dragons—showed that Standard has not yet completed its transformation.
#1 - Lombardi and the Traitor of Ghet
Lombardi's Esper Dragons made full use of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet to take down the finals.
For a control deck, job number one is to survive the early game, then wrest the initiative from the enemy so that its powerful cards can take over the endgame. Champion Robert Lombardi was handing out hard lessons to that effect all weekend. In the finals, he squared off against Jon Stern, Canada's pride, playing Green-White Tokens. It was time for one more lesson.
Stern's draw was a little clumsy out of the gates, and on turn four Lombardi summoned Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. It completely changed the texture of the board. Suddenly Stern couldn't apply any pressure, and going wide would take a long time. Time is exactly what Lombardi wanted. While Stern built up his board, Lombardi resolved his powerful spells, safe behind Kalitas. Even better, the Zombie army he got from his removal spells meant that once the corner was turned, it wasn't long before the game was over. Kalitas was an all-star for Lombardi all weekend, and it was there to send him to the title.