You might think we'd cast a Sunbird's Invocation, because for Pro Tour Ixalan, we're in New Mexico—the land of enchantment! 455 players converged in Albuquerque over the weekend for a shot at this:
The Pro Tour Ixalan Champion and finalist trophies
Well, almost everyone. There were a few people who were in Albuquerque on Thursday night for another piece of hardware.
The newest Pro Tour Hall of Fame inductees, Josh Utter-Leyton (right) and (4) Martin Jůza (left)
For many in the game, those Pro Tour Hall of Fame rings serve as the pinnacle—the crowning achievement of years spent becoming the best. Josh Utter-Leyton and No. 4–ranked Martin Jůza were bestowed that honor at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony dinner recognizing their vast contributions to the game.
The night was one for the ages. First, Pro Tour treasure and host for the night, Brian David-Marshall spoke from the heart.
Then both Utter-Leyton and Jůza took to the stage . . .
. . . which of course caused much applause all around. These players were inducted by their peers, who were proud to join them to celebrate the auspicious occasion.
Surrounded by both their families and friends, the two newest members to pro Magic's most exclusive club had their Pro Tour Ixalan weekend made before the tournament was even underway.
Both families were so proud of all the things their no-longer-so-little ones had accomplished.
Check out just a few of the Magic personalities who joined the festivities.
Josh Utter-Leyton reminiscing with the G.O.A.T., Jon Finkel (middle), and two-time Pro Tour Champ, Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif (right).
Pro Tour Champion Gerry Thompson (left) and seven-time Grand Prix Top 8 finisher (twice while on a team with Martin Jůza) Corey Burkhart (middle) joined the Czech pro.
It was an evening for the ages. But there was also a Pro Tour to be played!
Though the early Draft rounds may seem less important than the later rounds of Standard, future Top 8 players Mike Sigrist and Guillaume Matignon knew the importance of those initial games, and showed off their nice Draft finds.
Mike Sigrist (left) and Guillaume Matignon (right) showoff the goods on their march to the Top 8.
Speaking of Mike Sigrist's Top 8, it must be said how important Pro Tour Top 8s are for the former Player of the Year. Each additional tick in his tally matters, because Sigrist has to get in the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. Why you ask? Because thanks to the induction ceremony, Sigrist is the only player on Team ChannelFireball not in the Hall!
ChannelFireball from left: Pro Tour Hall of Fame members Martin Jůza, Josh Utter-Leyton, Luis Scott-Vargas, Ben Stark, (2) Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, and frowning non-member, Pro Tour Ixalan Top 8 player Mike Sigrist
Speaking of teams, the Pro Tour Team Series has really ramped up the jerseys and allegiances at the Pro Tour. After Musashi won the inaugural Team Series Championship, every group of friends wants in on the action.
And though each team allows for six players, that doesn't mean that these groups of twelve Magic friends couldn't get in on the photo action. Here's a few photos of two teams who share one heart.
Genesis and Revelation from left: (21) Martin Müller (laying sideways), Martin Dang, (5) Brad Nelson, Christoffer Larsen, Joel Larsson, Thomas Hendriks, Corey Baumeister, Petr Sochůrek, Brian Braun-Duin, Paul Dean, Lukas Blohon, and (11) Seth Manfield
Team Cardhoarder Brazil and Team Hareruya Latin: Back—Marcos Paulo de Jesus Freitas , Márcio Carvalho, Carlos Romão, Eduardo dos Santos Vieira, Guilherme Merjam, Bernardo Santos; Front—Sebastian Pozzo, Luis Salvatto, Thiago Saporito, Lucas Esper Berthoud, Willy Edel; Middle—Jonathan Melamed
If you want to see all the 37 team photos, you can head to the Magic: The Gathering Facebook photo album. There was one photo in particular that warmed everyone's heart that must be shown here.
Team Connected Company (a play on Collected Company) was down one member this Pro Tour. And though that could have been sad for the rest of the team, they could not have been more happy. Because Pro Tour Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy is having a baby! In this photo, the team shows just how connected they are, cradling the little one in honor of Lévy.
Connected Company, from left: (14) Javier Dominguez, Tomoharu Saito, (16) Christian Calcano, Andrea Mengucci, Jérémy Dezani; In Spirit—Raphaël Lévy
Once the tournament got underway, the feature match lights lit up, and the pressure was on!
But not for these two cosplaying "Wizards of the Coast"!
Once the pressure gets too cooked, it can be important to make sure you have a good way to blow off steam. To do that, tons of players took part in the Magic: The Gathering Arena demos.
It also helps to be around friends. Especially if you're two of the young bucks in the face of all this Pro Tour Hall of Fame, old-guy talk.
Team MetaGameGurus Sun teammates and two of the younger pro players: Ondřej Stráský (left) and Oliver Tiu (right)
But no matter what you do to keep yourself in check, you can't forget the fact that you are at a Pro Tour. There are almost 500 people all feeling the pressure with you, and that group anxiety shows itself most when standings are posed.
Or maybe the most anxiety-inducing moment is Top 8 announcement time. At the end of Day Two, you could feel the anticipation.
Pro Tour Ixalan Top 8 player Christian Hauck buries his head in his hands as Phoenix: 404 teammate Joshua Bausch laughs it off.
Then, the anticipation turns into elation.
Team Tower Games's Samuel Ihlenfeldt had been convinced he was in ninth place for almost an hour. His jaw dropped to the floor when the announcer read off his name.
Fellow teammates and fans alike cheered raucously as the Top 8 stood on stage.
On Saturday night, after the Top 8 players out of 455 were announced, the stage was set for Sunday.
From left: Mike Sigrist, Christian Hauck, Pascal Maynard, (11) Seth Manfield, Guillaume Matignon, Piotr Glogowski, John Rolf, and Samuel Ihlenfeldt
And boy was it a crazy Sunday! After Quebec City native Pascal Maynard made it all the way to the finals with the unlikely White-Blue God-Pharaoh's Gift deck—and even took former teammate, No. 11–ranked Seth Manfield to the full five games...
...In the end, the former World Champion could not be stopped. Manfield capped off his back-to-back Pro Tour Top 8s with the Pro Tour Ixalan trophy! The team Genesis Sultai Energy deck proved itself, as did Seth Manfield, as he has again and again.
Seth Manfield celebrates with teammates and friends as Pro Tour Ixalan Champion!
What a time it was in the land of enchantment. It was a raucous pirate's life for us, with a hearty congrats to Seth Manfield—one-time World Champion, now Pro Tour Ixalan Champion!