The hour has come, and with a dragon's roar Hour of Devastation has arrived in Canada. More than 1,300 players turned out to compete in Hour's premier play debut, and it was a heck of a visit back to Amonkhet. From cats to lizards to Unesh, Criopshinx Sovereign to the baddest of them all, Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh himself, it's been a busy day at Grand Prix Toronto as players battled nine rounds on the way to Day 2.
Here are the moments that stood out from Saturday.
A Dragon Spreads Its Wings
Cosplay has become more and more common in the Magic community. Not long ago it would come as a surprise to encounter someone cosplaying their favorite character at a Grand Prix, but thankfully those days are behind us and the hobby has been fully embraced.
And we'll never get tired of seeing great cosplay.
The hour of devastation has come in Toronto... and what would that hour be without Nicol Bolas? Courtney "PurpleRogue" Pozzolo made sure the dragon could spread its wings, and thanks to a cosplay she spent two months working on, that's exactly what happened this weekend.
The Hour is at Hand
Hour of Devastation, that is. Magic's newest set landed last week, and today players got their crack at the brand-new Limited format, one that helped to slow down the all-out aggression that defined Amonkhet Limited.
The big change to the format is the introduction of the mechanics afflict and eternalize. While afflict fits perfectly in aggressive decks and makes blocking tricky, it's eternalize that has really made a splash, especially in the Sealed Deck portion of the tournament.
In Sealed, games tend to go longer as players can't build the streamlined, aggressive machines we seen in draft (especially Amonkhet draft). As a result, creature combat comes at a premium as both players are guaranteed to have impressive threats and flexible mana bases.
Renowned Limited Expert Rich Hoaen Put It Best
"It's hard to play removal-based control in this format, because everyone just has a pile of 2/2s," he explained simply. "You have to be able to keep up."
What that means is that games become all about grinding out value over the long term. And nothing provides that value better than eternalize creatures, which along with embalm creatures from Amonkhet and aftermath cards fuel a graveyard that often feels more like a second hand than anything else. Heck, it's no wonder that Crook of Condemnation has been spotted more than once today.
And, in case you were curious, Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh is a good Magic card.
Drago's Impressive Run
Great Magic play knows no age. From its earliest days, competitive Magic has always been home to wunderkinds, competitors who know that age is not just a number but an edge against those who underestimate them. Some of the game's best players in history got their start on the old junior circuit, and the traditional of exceptional Magic play at a young age is alive and well today.
Look no further than Lucas Kiefer at Grand Prix Kyoto, the sister event to Toronto. The 17-year-old is a part a trio of teenage brothers who have displayed impressive chops for the game and are already rising to its top levels. A 9-0 finish at an event filled with every big name in Magic may surprise some, but it comes as no shock to those who have followed Kiefer's rise.
Not to be outdone, the Grand Prix here in Canada featured its own impressive prodigy. Thirteen-year-old Drago Jukic knocked off good player after player as he finished Day 1 7-2. Even more impressive is that this isn't an outlier, the up-and-comer finished 23rd at Grand Prix Montreal just two months ago.
And may I just say, he's looked pretty intimidating in doing so.
Potter Does It Again
In 2016, Doug Potter was working hard on getting on the Magic train. He was playing every tournament he could and working hard in his personal time to get better. The move paid off, as the Canadian favorite made the Top 8 of the Grand Prix, earning his seventh Pro Tour invite in the process.
By contrast, after taking a bit of a break from competitive Magic, Potter came back to Toronto a little more relaxed – he hadn't even looked at the full set.
"Yeah, I was reading new cards all the way up to Round 9," he laughed as his day concluded.
And why should he be laughing? A perfect 9-0 puts the home crowd favorite atop the leaderboard heading into Sunday.
Five at the Top
Potter wasn't the only player to run the table on Saturday. Joining him at the coveted 9-0 are four other players who took on all comers in Toronto and emerged as the favorites to advance to the Top 8 tomorrow.
Ben Weitz, Brendan Mcnamara, Abe Corrigan, and Andrew Noworaj finished with 27 points, ahead of a host of players at 8-1. For Weitz, chasing Gold status in the Pro Players Club with a win here, it was a much-needed start to what he hopes will be a big tournament.
Of course, competition on Sunday will be fierce as players return for Hour of Devastation draft. It's going to be exciting race to the finish line!
Brendan Mcnamara, Abe Corrigan, Doug Potter, Ben Weitz, and Andrew Noworaj.