Not all roads lead to the top. The path that the King of the Kill walks always does. Those that rise through the rounds resting atop the throne inevitably find themselves in Top 8 contention, and the right to wear the crown is earned one way: Victory in battle.
Coming off his first Pro Tour victory at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx, No. 9 Ranked Player Patrick Chapin returned to the stage. Seeding the King of the Hill with the winner of the last Pro Tour is only fair, after all. The obvious question is whether he'd be able to hold out against a new crowd of challengers.
Round 1: (9) Patrick Chapin loses to Frank Skarren
Two-time Limited Grand Prix champion Frank Skarren may not be on your radar, but finding wins at large events in Limited isn't easy. With his skill at 40-card decks apparent, Skarren had drafted a Blue-Red deck with artifact synergy, including three copies of Scrapyard Mongrel. His pack of metal-chewing Hounds were enough to overcome Chapin's Blue-Black deck, even with Indulgent Tormentor on his side.
Round 2: Frank Skarren defeats Marc Tobiasch
True to his Limited prowess, Skarren fended off Tobiasch's attack the following round, asserting himself as a rightful ruler of the Pro Tour throne.
It would be the last time the King of the Hill held off the attacker.
Round 3: Frank Skarren loses to Robert Jurkovic
Alas for Skarren, no king rules forever as Robert Jurkovic brought a White-Black deck with enough removal to stymie and the hammering power of Spectra Ward to finish the job. Advancing to a 3-0 record through Draft, Jurkovic was in the slot when things switched over to Constructed.
Round 4: Robert Jurkovic (White-Blue Control) loses to (2) Jeremy Dezani (Rabble Red)
Standard were the armies the King of the Hill had to face, and it's here where Jurkovic fell. While White-Blue Control isn't as weak to a speedy aggressive deck, like 2nd-ranked Jeremy Dezani's Rabblemaster Red, the Frenchman had more than enough power to take the crown.
Round 5: (2) Jeremy Dezani (Rabble Red) loses to Richard Neil Reeves (Blue Devotion)
Most decks have a nemesis, a different deck that can wreak havoc on whatever one may have planned. For Dezani's red deck, Blue Devotion in the hands of Richard Neil Reeves put an end to the Pro Tour Born of the Gods winner's reign. Blue Devotion's high toughness and high impact creatures, namely Tidebinder Mage and Frostburn Weird, locked down the offensive power of Rabble Red.
Round 6: Richard Neil Reeves (Blue Devotion) loses to Gregory Orange (White-Blue Control)
In another turn of one deck facing another it's not well-suited to fight, Neil Reeves found himself handing the crown over to Gregory Orange and his White-Blue Control deck. Supreme Verdict and ample ways to fight Gods meant Reeves had an uphill battle from the start. Orange took the crown and, in his postgame interview, was enlightened on the history of mastery carried by Reeves. Those who carry the torch of battle need not know their enemy to defeat them: Magic is filled with these kind of unexpected victory.
Round 7: Gregory Orange (White-Blue Control) loses to (5) Owen Turtenwald (White-Black Midrange)
Like those before him, Orange's time sitting as King of the Hill was short-lived. No. 5 Ranked Player Owen Turtenwald brought to bear one of the dominant decks of the day: White-Black Midrange. Armed with both removal and difficult-to-deal-with creatures like Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Turtenwald struck down Orange like an assassin and made the most of his powerful deck's tools. As one of the few players in the running to earn one of the At Large seats for the World Championship this year, his move to 7-0 was putting him in position to battle for an even bigger title.
Round 8: (5) Owen Turtenwald (White-Black Midrange) loses to Zachary Jesse (Black Devotion)
However, Turtenwald's road to a potential World Championship seat wouldn't be so smooth. Zachary Jesse, an on-and-off-the-Pro Tour player for several years was also looking for success this weekend. While it would take a Top 25 finish to earn a qualification to the next Pro Tour, after winning his way here from a Pro Tour Qualifier earlier this summer, an 8-0 start for Day 2 could set up a much deeper run.
In two tough games, Jesse brought to bear the power of Pack Rat and outpaced the top ranked player. Turtenwald made the most of Underworld Connections in the second game, desperately looking to turn things around, but the steady march of Rats was the rising tide Jesse took to becoming one of the two undefeated Day 1 players.
Rubbing shoulders with someone like Hall of Fame member, 20th-ranked, and fellow Day 1 undefeated player William Jensen is always a tall order, but Jesse proved he could stand up to the challenge. And with five different decks taking over the King of the Hill slot in the Constructed rounds, it stands to reason the shuffle of victors could continue.
But that's a story for another day.