Ravnica has returned to Standard, and the beloved plane has delivered yet again. Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica brought with it a changing metagame, fresh decks, great individual stories, and one of the best bluffs in Magic history, not to mention the ascension of one of the game's most dedicated and hardworking players to the top of the Pro Tour.
Here are the stories that stood out to us from Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica.
Tied No More
Before the Pro Tour even began, there was still some unfinished business to settle. Seth Manfield and Luis Salvatto ended the 2017–18 season tied atop the Player of the Year leaderboard, and they came to Atlanta on a crash course for a playoff decide the victor it once and for all.
It was a nearly unprecedented event; just once before had there been a tie, and Brad Nelson beat Guillaume Matignon then to claim the title. Manfield and Salvatto squared off in a unique best-of-seven format in which they each brought four decks with minimal overlap and played a series of single-game matches. Each player could no longer play a particular deck after they recorded a win with it, so they needed to win once with each of their decks to claim the title.
It was an innovative take, and one that brought out the best of both players. The match itself was an exciting back-and-forth affair from start to finish, until Salvatto took it down in the end to earn the title of 2017–18 Player of the Year and etch his name into the annals of Magic history.
Congratulations to Luis Salvatto, 2017–18 Player of the Year!
More Than a Game
Magic is many things to many people. To some, it's a competitive outlet. For others, it's a relaxing way to play with friends. For a lucky few, it's a career.
And for some people like Dustin Wade Roberson and his father Vance, it's—in their own words—something to live for. The pair shared their story with us this weekend, and having them at the Pro Tour was a special moment for everyone involved.
Dustin Wade Roberson (left) and his father Vance Morgan
White Weenie Winning Again
The last time that White Weenie—one of Magic's classic archetypes consisting of a mass of inexpensive white creatures as well as Glorious Anthem (originally Crusade) effects—was this good was probably Pro Tour Dragon's Maze in 2013. Craig Wescoe won that event with a Selesnya deck that doesn't look all that different from the winning deck of this event, once you look at the roles the cards in the deck play. It should come as no surprise that with the return of Ravnica came the return of White Weenie to the top of the Pro Tour.
But White Weenie didn't just in the tournament—it dominated it. Six of the Top 8 decks were White Weenie variants (some with Benalish Marshal, others with more red splashed). Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice was an all-star in the wide-open format that saw Golgari Midrange as the most popular deck in the room but had all five of the factions in Guilds of Ravnica well represented.
Where the format goes from here is anyone's guess—there are certainly answers to swarms of small creatures available in the format—but for this weekend at least, it was a return to classic Magic.
The Juggernaut Rolls Again
Kai Budde is widely considered one of the top Magic players to ever sleeve up a card. His resume speaks for itself: ten total Pro Tour Top 8 appearances, with a mind-blowing seven trophies to show for it. It's an unreal conversion rate that will likely never be matched. And while the Hall of Famer hasn't been around the Pro Tour as much in recent years, he showed this weekend that he very much still has it.
Nothing like a match against Seth Manfield, newly inducted Hall of Famer and Pro Tour and World Champion himself, to demonstrate that. On the final turn of a tight match, Manfield faced a tough decision on how to attack with Budde at just 1 life but holding open his mana. Manfield went for an attack with two of his three 1/1s, enough to play around a removal spell while also holding back a blocker if things went sideways.
Well, he avoided almost every removal spell. But not Vraska's Contempt. Budde used it on Manfield's only blocker—not either of his two attacking creatures—and when the dust settled Budde was at 1 life and ready to swing back for lethal.
The Settle Heard 'Round the World
The second semifinals here in Atlanta was one of the best matchups in Pro Tour Top 8 history—two former PT winners squaring off with everything on the line. Jérémy Dezani won Pro Tour Theros in 2013 in his only previous Top 8 appearance, while Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas won Pro Tour Berlin a decade ago and has an astounding eight other Sunday appearances to his name.
It was a showdown of the best of the best, and both were playing the best deck of the weekend: Boros Aggro. Both had dominated throughout the tournament, and both had won tightly contested quarterfinals matches to make it to this point.
After taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five semifinals, the Hall of Famer appeared to be hopelessly behind in the third game, but what happened next will go down in Magic history. LSV—who had Adanto, the First Fort untapped with mana to activate—grabbed a token off the battlefield and handed it to Dezani, who had been reaching toward one to help visualize the battlefield as he lined up the possible blocks. When he declared his attack as final, LSV promptly dropped Settle the Wreckage on the table, earning an instant handshake from Dezani as he realized he had been baited by one of the best bluffs in Pro Tour history.
With that, the match was over and LSV was on to the finals of Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica.
While LSV took a disappointing series of mulligans into the decisive fifth game of the finals match, it was Champion-to-be Andrew Elenbogen who was playing amazing Magic in his own right. After LSV blew out Dezani in the semifinals with Settle the Wreckage, respecting its power was something Elenbogen—and any savvy player—needed to do.
The odds of drawing a single card from the sideboard in any given game is pretty small. But, as Elenbogen noted, Scott-Vargas is "pretty lucky." Vastly ahead of Scott-Vargas on board, with an army representing lethal damage, Game 4 appeared locked up for Elenbogen. After Scott-Vargas passed his turn back with four mana open, Elenbogen decided there wasn't any way he was going to lose the game.
Making the called shot, and ensuring he didn't let his excitement to even the match score up overtake good judgment, Elenbogen forced Scott-Vargas to cast the powerful sweeper and clinched taking the finals to five games.
The rest of Elenbogen's victory is history.
Congratulations to Andrew Elenbogen, Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica Champion!