Special thanks to Chapman Sim, Corbin Hosler, Melissa DeTora, and Marc Calderaro for their contributions to this article.
The first triple-Grand Prix weekend of 2016 was amazing. Situated on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, there was Oath of the Gatewatch action going on all over. Combatants last-chance qualified for Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch next weekend, players galvanized their teams and strategies for the Pro Tour, and tons of fun was had.
Here’s a look back at the most memorable moments from Vancouver, Nagoya, and Mexico City.
Grand Prix Nagoya
The big story was the impressive run of Park Jun Young. Park, on Team MTG Mint Card, is a Silver-level Pro who had sadly fallen off the train. But this weekend he was the sole undefeated player at 12-0 out of a field of 2656! He all-but glided into the Top 8.
Park wanted to get back onto the Pro Tour, and had come up short in the past. This weekend was his rousing welcome back. Making the Top 8 not only put him back on the tour, but helps in his quest to level up again. This weekend marked his fifth Grand Prix Top 8!
Grand Prix Mexico City
There were plenty of memorable moments to take from the premiere of Oath of the Gatewatch in Mexico City, but nothing tops the dominance shown by Team EUreka. Not only did team member 17th-ranked Fabrizio Anteri win the entire tournament—taking down Tomoharu Saito in the finals—but Team EUreka placed a second member into the Top 8 as well, with Martin Dang also making the elimination rounds.
The team had spent a week in Mexico City testing for this event and Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch next week. That practice clearly paid off. Team EUreka was a dominant force all weekend, and could have had several more members in the Top 8 if they hadn’t had to face their own teammates in the later rounds. The team proved once again that its success at recent Pro Tours wasn’t a fluke—and that opponents at next week’s Pro Tour better be prepared for the European super-team.
Grand Prix Vancouver
Vancouver had its ups and downs. Shuhei Nakamura losing in the last round was certainly sad. With a win that round, he would have tied Olivier Ruel’s record for Grand Prix Top 8 finishes.
But there was a huge offsetting upswing: the emergence of Team East West Bowl. You’d be forgiven if you don’t know the name ... yet. But this combination of Team TOGIT and the SoCal Collective (merged by GP Toronto Top 8 finisher, Mark Jacobson) made an impression this weekend. With only a few members in attendance, they dominated the top tables, and into Round 15 threatened to put multiple teammates into the Top 8.
During the round, the scene was electric. Rookie of the Year 2015 Runner-Up Ben Weitz was right there next to fellow Northern Californian, and two-time Grand Prix Top 8 finisher Eric Severson. And playtesting partner, friend and GP Orlando Winner Eugene Hwang, not quite a member, was also sitting at X-2.
All three were in the feature match area, huddled very close and it was the largest the crowd had been all weekend. In the end, Eric Severson converted, and it was a worthy payoff. Severson was yet to be qualified for Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, having lost six previous win-and-ins to do it. The seventh and final chance made good, and the pure joy on Severson’s face when he won was palpable.
Team East West Bowl will have tons of players competing next weekend at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. We’ll see if they can replicate this weekend’s impressive showing.
All these moments are but glimpses of the story of the weekend. They were the times when the Grand Prix hall hummed to the tune of the universe. Those usually happen only once a weekend, but the impact of those moments will carry on through the weeks following.