It began with more than 1,300 players and one Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh looming over them. It ended with Robert Anderson hoisting the trophy after an impressive Top 8 draft and a thrilling finals victory over Allen Sun, the native Canadian taking down the title in his home country.
Here are the highlights that stood out from Grand Prix Toronto.
Hour of Devastation Makes its Mark
Cats, Sphinxes, Gods and Bolas hit the scene at the Grand Prix this weekend. It was Hour of Devastations debut weekend in premier play, and it arrived with a bang. A walk through the top tables of the event revealed just how Magic's newest set had changed things.
Eternalize was the major factor in the set, with its proving its worth time and again. It helped players grind out advantages in the Sealed portion, and along with embalm it was just as good in the draft, as graveyard recursion took center stage. Anderson proved as much in his finals victory, riding the wings of a risen Oketra's Attendant to victory in the air.
Though it's early in Hour of Devastation's life at Grand Prix, we're already beginning to see evolution of the format. That was exemplified by Doug Potter's run to the Top 8 with a very specific plan for draft.
“Red is the best color, and you should force it," he explained. “Draft Crash Through highly and load up on creatures and bounce spells. Don't play more than 15 or 16 lands at the most."
His blue-red Top 8 draft deck – his third blue-red draft of the day – was the perfect example of the archetype, with just four cards that cost three or more mana. Potter played 14 lands, but said it's possible he should have stopped at just 13.
He was the only one to champion the tempo-based gameplan. Renowned Limited expert Rich Hoaen confirmed the findings.
“Unsummon, specifically, is way better than it usually is," he explained. “The Cartouches are so good, so being able to counter those is important. It allows you to play two spells and get ahead."
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.
Toronto has been friendly to Doug Potter. After making a run to the Top 8 at Grand Prix Toronto last year – when he was locked in and playing in top form – Potter entered this year's event decidedly less prepared, having not even looked over the full set.
Not that it slowed down the crowd favorite any. He rattled off a perfect record on Day 1, learning new cards along the way.
“I read a new uncommon for the first time in this match!" he exclaimed excitedly as he finished Round 8. “Just because I haven't seen the cards doesn't mean I can't learn as I go."
With the 9-0 in hand, Potter got serious. He woke up early Sunday, spending the day reading articles, watching drafts and talking to friends about the format. His First Strike podcast cohosts have worked over the last week to develop the aggressive blue-red archetype, and he was outspoken about forcing red in the drafts.
The strategy worked, and Potter found himself back in the Top 8 and back on the Pro Tour after a stint away the Magic circuit.
Trip Pays Off for Pros
Andrew Cuneo and Ben Weitz – both talented players with a long track record success – entered Grand Prix Toronto in desperate need of some Pro Points in the final Grand Prix of the season. Pros spend all year chasing points to ensure benefits for the next year, and at the end of the season every point matters.
Canada was good to the pair.
Both advanced to the Top 8, and both reached major breakpoints in their quest for points. For Cuneo, his Top 8 finish was enough to lock up Gold for the season, taking the pressure off of the season-ending Pro Tour next week in Kyoto.
Weitz led the pack on Day 1, finishing 9-0 and setting his sights on the Top 8. When he was the first to lock up the appearance, he set his sights higher – a Grand Prix win would guarantee him Gold as well, and he locked in on that opportunity.
While he ultimately fell just short – a nail-biting semifinal match went to his opponent Allen Sun and left Weitz on the outside looking in.
For now. He still made major progress on the weekend, putting himself a position where a 10-6 finish at the Pro Tour – much more realistic than a Top 16 or Top 8 finish – will lock his status in for the next year.
Anderson Keeps the Trophy in Toronto
Oftentimes the finals of a Grand Prix are held quietly. As the evening turns into the night and the Top 8 nears a conclusion, the hall begins to empty as players head home or to catch flights. That means the finals are not always surrounded by a crowd.
That was not the case in Toronto, thanks to Robert Anderson. Decked out in a Face to Face Games shirt and hat, he won close game after close game in the Top 8, advancing to the final against Allen Sun for all the marbles.
After winning the first game in lightning-quick fashion, Anderson stumbled on lands in the second game and saw it all come down to a final game.
What a game it was. The board went from empty to cluttered to empty again as players aggressively traded off creatures and removal spells, until both competitors were down to the tops of their decks.
Oketra's Attendant was the perfect draw for Anderson. It picked up a Cartouche of Solidarity and began chipping away at Sun's life total. When it was eventually felled by a removal spell, it came flying right on back thanks to embalm. For four successive turns it attacked, whittling away Sun's life until there was nothing life.
The crowd roared, as Anderson's friends surrounded him in a giant group hug, congratulating him on becoming the champion of Grand Prix Toronto.