It would be impossible for any one tournament to capture 25 years of Magic history in a single weekend, but we packed Pro Tour 25th Anniversary with as much Magic and nostalgia as we could.
Not to mention a Pro Tour title in the first team PT since 2006.
Coming into the Pro Tour, Ultimate Guard Pro Team held a commanding lead in the Pro Tour Team Series race, but as we cut to Top 4 last night, Team Hareruya Latin had overtaken them convincingly. Not only that, but ChannelFireball also had an outside shot at passing Ultimate Guard Pro Team if they managed to walk away from this event with a first-place finish, probably all tough and chill like with slow motion explosions in the background. You get the idea.
As one, Ultimate Guard Pro Team watched with bated breath as ChannelFireball defeated Hareruya Latin in the semifinals to move on to face a nearly complete Hotsauce Games squad in the finals. In the end, though, the decks Hotsauce Games brought to the table lined up in a way that was unfortunate for ChannelFireball, and they had to settle for a finals finish at the Pro Tour, and a Top 4 finish in the Team Series for 2017-18. No doubt Ultimate Guard Pro Team heaved a collective sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge they'd be facing Hareruya Latin at the World Championship in Las Vegas next month.
Format Innovation Across the Board
This weekend was truly a celebration of the game's history, and nothing made that more evident than the formats chosen. Not only was the newest crop of Magic represented with Standard, but Modern and Legacy meant that all the best cards in the game's history would be given the chance to shine.
And the nearly 500 players in attendance made sure all three formats would be exciting. It started with Standard, where players arrived with two decks new to the format. The innovative Turbo Fog deck piloted by fifth-place finisher David Williams and Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy was designed by Gabriel Nassif and Mark Herberholz, some of Magic's most Legendary deck builders, and was the perfect answer to a metagame filled with Red-Black Aggro and Steel Leaf Stompy. Filled with Root Snares and Haze of Pollens followed by Karn, Scion of Urza, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and Nexus of Fate, the deck exploited the Standard metagame perfectly and made Goblin Chainwhirler look downright silly.
But that wasn't the only innovation in Standard. About a dozen players showed up with a mono-blue "Storm" deck of sorts with Aetherflux Reservoir combo. The deck has existed as a fringe player for a few months but Sai, Master Thopterist pushed it over the edge.
Modern and Legacy featured innovations as well, with Black-Red "Bridgevine" breaking out in Modern and finalist Josh "Wrapter" Utter-Leyton taking advantage of a renewed Legacy format by devising a Death's Shadow build that took multiple teams to success over the weekend.
25 Years of Personality
A quarter of a century is a long time, and Magic has seen many people come and go over the years. But a 25th anniversary is a big deal, and it seems a bunch of familiar faces decided to join us for the celebration in the only way they knew how, by finding some friends and teaming up for the Pro Tour! From Magic's earliest years, we had legends like Chris Pikula, William Jensen, and of course, Jon Finkel. From the late 90s and early 21st Century, we had the likes of Antoine Ruel, Kai Budde, and Tsuyoshi Fujita, and almost anyone else you can think of over the last decade, up to and including our most recent Pro Tour Champions, Wyatt Darby, and Luis Salvatto.
And one thing united them all: Our mutual love of the game. The friends we've all made, the stories and life experiences have brought us together over the last 25 years, and the many more it will no doubt bring us in the years to come!
A few months back, one of the janitors was sweeping out an old cupboard back at Wizards of the Coast HQ and found some really old and unopened packs of Magic cards. It turned out many of them were actual honest to goodness Limited Edition (Beta) packs, as well as some Arabian Nights, Antiquities, and Legends boosters an errant Unglued Squirrel token must have hidden away for a rainy day (obviously this was not the case, but let's believe for a minute, shall we?). We invited well-known Magic players from across the game's 25 years along with recognizable faces in the gaming community to Rochester Draft the packs on camera so we could share the pack cracking goodness with the World.
The draft ended with popular streamer Jason "Amaz" Chan opening a Shivan Dragon, much to the chagrin of his draft-mates, and he rode it all the way to the finals, beating David Williams and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa on the way. Pro Tour Return to Ravnica (2012) Champion Stanislav Cifka was one of several players who drafted aggressive Black-Red decks, defeating Shuhei Nakamura and Jon Finkel to meet Amaz in the finals.
Cifka defeats Amaz to win the Silver Showcase finals!
When he won the Pro Tour in 2012, Cifka used a deck known as "Eggs," so it only seemed fitting that he won the finals of the Silver Showcase with a pair of Rukh Eggs, defeating Amaz 3-1. However, hands down the best thing about this draft was that the cards will be donated to Child's Play for an auction later in the year.
Too Hotsauce to Handle
There were 165 teams at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. Dozens of Magic legends, the best the game has ever had to offer. The current crop of the best players in the world. Hundreds of Grand Prix grinders and Pro Tour luminaries. 25 years of Magic history crammed into one room, and in the end it all came down one last match.
On one side, a team that surprised no one. Three Hall of Famers in Martin Jůza, Ben Stark, and Josh Utter-Leyton. On the other, three GP grinders who have found some Pro Tour success in the past but nothing approaching this moment. Gregory Orange, Ben Hull, and Allen Wu were decidedly the underdogs, but if there were any nerves they hid it well, as perhaps the most laid-back team to ever make the finals of a Pro Tour sat down ready to go toe-to-toe with the Hall of Famers.
Three matches played best-of-five would determine the victors of Pro Tour 25th Anniversary.
The longshots left no doubt. They struck early, and they never relinquished the lead. First, Wu pulled off one of the most improbable wins to ever grace a Pro Tour feature match.
That gave his team the momentum, and Wu's teammates made sure they would never lose it. Orange delivered a masterful performance with White-Blue Control, methodically answering every single threat Jůza could present. He delivered the first match win of the round and sent things over to Hull with the opportunity to end it. Playing against the feared Krark-Clan Ironworks deck, Hull navigated the trickiest of matchups with poise, and a few tense attacks steps later he had upset another Hall of Famer and delivered a Pro Tour title to the Hotsauce Games crew.
With that, Orange, Hull, and Wu etched their names into Magic history. On the 25th anniversary to the day of the official release of the game, the revolutionary brainchild of one Richard Garfield.
Through twists and turns, ups and downs, from one breakout weekend at Gen Con 25 years ago to one unforgettable birthday celebration in Minneapolis, Magic has survived and thrived, and now these three incredible players are an indelible part of that history.
Congrats to Orange, Hull, and Wu, the champions of Pro Tour 25th Anniversary!