3,864 players were now down to two. That was always going to be the first sentence of this article, no matter who made it. This weekend has been historic on multiple levels, and the magnitude of the event could be seen at every turn.
But in the intimacy of the finals, with two players and a quickly emptying hall, everything comes into greater focus. Hours of planning, playing, drafting, sorting, sweating, and shuffling came down to two Wisconsinites in Grand Prix #1 and a Minnesotan versus a Wisconsin player over on this side, for an all Midwest finals round.
Scott Markeson, the top seed, represented Minnesota, while David Heineman, the fifth, held the mantle for Wisconsin.
They both, however, were rocking Blue-White Affinity in the finals.
That was the tale of this draft, with three players drafting the powerful artifact deck, and two of them making it all the way to the finals, looking to Make Magic History.
I swear, that's about the last time you'll read that. Today. Maybe.
The thing is, this is historic. Just like we remember Neal Oliver as the last champion of Grand Prix Las Vegas, so too will we remember the victor here above regular Grand Prix Champions. The winner will have accomplished something special. The winner will be remembered.
Glint Hawk Idol, likely the MVP of this Top 8 so far, kicked things off for Markeson on the second turn. The Idol had been deemed by many to be one of, if not the, most important cards in the Affinity archetype, and Markeson having his on the second turn certainly gave him an initial advantage. He even furthered that advantage with a three-mana Somber Hoverguard to follow.
Heineman, who had mulliganned, started falling further and further behind. He spent his entire fourth turn on a Thoughtcast, barely putting up any resistance and falling to 11.
It was a temporary reprieve, however, as Markeson was able to keep his team aloft and well-equipped—with the deadly Cranial Plating. One large attack and Markeson found himself a game away from history.
There's that word is again.
“We could have a double Madison GP win! You could make that happen!” Heineman quipped before the second game.
“If one person from Madison wins, it's already a loss for anyone from Minnesota, right?” Markeson shot back.
Indeed it is, as the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry runs deep. So deep, it wasn't even clear that Markeson was joking.
Scott Markeson, Minnesota's great hope.
But for the Wisconsinite across the table, it made him turn to swans. The Swans of Bryn Argoll.
The birds temporarily halted any attacks from Markeson, who chose not to head in against the 2/2 and the nigh-unkillable 4/3, instead playing a Lodestone Myr and preparing to battle through a Spectral Procession.
The Myr rumbled in, hitting for five on its first attack.
The match was swinging back and forth on every decision, and the championship seemed to hang on every little move. The crowd gathered around seemed to hold their breath as both players' life totals swung wildly, but ever downward. Fourteen became 8, 13 became seven.
In a tense back and forth match, David Heineman made every move count.
But then, 8 became just 7. Markeson had clearly taken the initiative. He just needed to break through once more before Heineman could finish him off, before Heineman could…
…attack with a 3/3 double striking Skyhunter Skirmisher! It was exactly enough to send the tense finals onto an ultimate decider.
It was, however, a brief setback for Markeson, who crashed in with a Lodestone Myr backed by three other artifacts. Carefully playing around Sunlance, Markeson held back some damage, but it made the Myr no less dangerous.
Once again, every move mattered. The crowd gathered around and watched artifice square off against artifice. The tension was high, but Markeson was quickly making it moot. He flooded the board with artifacts, making his Lodestone Myr impossible to block and virtually impossible to kill. Cranial Plating worsened matters, forcing Tumble Magnet to turn its attraction powers on a lowly Frogmite rather than the rumbling Myr.
You could see the end in site when Heineman smirked as Markeson played a completely, utterly free Myr Enforcer. Vapor Snag delayed the inevitable, but the gathered crowd was leaning in to see what they clearly expected.
And what came shortly thereafter as Lodestone Myr and a plethora of artifact creatures rumbled into the red zone for the final time this weekend.
Scott Markeson has made Magic history as the champion of Grand Prix Las Vegas #2.