have to admit that I was wrong. I thought Grand Prix Las Vegas was going to be big, but I had no idea that it would be anywhere close to the nearly 4,500 players that took part in the history-making tournament. In fact, at one point, I was convinced that Grand Prix Providence would be the larger of the two events. Like I said... wrong.
As the magnitude of my wrongness continued to mount, I realized that I could not let this occasion pass without actually witnessing the historic event firsthand. I spent the week in California, working out of Sacramento, and decided that instead of flying home on Friday I would adjust my travel plans for a couple of days in Nevada. I preregistered as soon as I knew I was going and was assured a seat in the tournament. I was worried about finding a room and reached out to Rich Hagon and found out that his little playtest group had a room with an extra bed I could nab.
I wanted to get in early on Friday but that was nearly impossible. There was a lot going on in Vegas that weekend, with major poker events, American Ninja Warrior trials (Rich has a great story about this that I am sure he plans to tell on the next European Grand Prix coverage), and a huge electronic music festival. There would be no afternoon Grand Prix Trials for me, and I would be starting the largest card game tournament of all time with zero byes.
I cannot stress enough what an amazing job Tim Shields and the Cascade Games staff did in pulling this event off. Despite having four times the number of people that you would normally find attending a Grand Prix, they had us all in our seats and ready to go by 10:15 — and it is to the staff's credit that they were disappointed that it did not happen exactly at 10:00.
Playing Modern Masters Sealed Deck was unlike any other Limited experience in Magic history. The product is pretty scarce and there were not many opportunities to prepare for the tournament like you normally would for an event you are taking a full weekend to plane, train, or automobile to. It also presented some unique challenges for the judges. Normally, when you play in a Sealed Deck event you are handed a pool of cards to register. Traditionally, those are NOT your cards and you have to hand that pool off to someone else. With highly desirable foils like Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, and a slew of Swords certain to be opened multiple times, a decision had to be made about how to deal with the players who would balk at handing these treasures off to other players.
In the end, players were allowed to drop from the tournament prior to registering the deck and take their cards with them rather than create feel-bad situations where players might have to get suspended for violating DCI policy. It was a somewhat contentious decision for experienced players who have grown used to registering decks and passing them off to other players at GPs and PTQs for as long as they have been playing. Ultimately, I think it was correct for this unique event, even though I actually invented registration and deck-swap for Sealed Deck tournaments way back in the mid-90s at Neutral Ground.
The deck I was handed to work with had some good cards but was lacking the bombs you hope for when building a Sealed Deck. I ended up constructing a pretty fair Red-White Giants deck that featured a pair of Ivory Giants, Cloudgoat Ranger, Thundercloud Shaman, two virtually unblockable Hillcomber Giants, and a Blinding Beam. My preferred green-blue was tantalizing, with plenty of good suspend creatures, but none of the mana-fixing and acceleration that makes it really tick. What I had really been hoping for was a fast deck like the one Rich Hagon ended up playing with multiple one- and two-drops and a trio of Bonesplitters.
I ended up dropping at 4–3 with two of my match losses coming in rounds where I mulliganed to four. It would be easy to curse my bad luck, but really, I should have cut one of my cards from the deck to play eighteen lands. My deck had no acceleration and desperately wanted to suspend Ivory Giant on turn one. As such, it had to mulligan pretty aggressively and would have benefitted from an extra land. I had a Round 3 Feature Match against Andrew Cuneo that was my first loss. Game 1 was my four-card hand not getting there and in Game 2 his barrage of removal kept my forces from mounting a significant attack.
Round 4 was almost an embarrassing incident. As we sat down to play, my opponent — who was also 2–1 — explained that both his wins were flukes and that he was just starting to play Magic again after a very long layoff. I won Game 2 and on turn three of Game 2 he "cycled" a Manamorphose to play Eternal Witness and get the Manamorphose back. He did not do anything else for the next few turns and my Giants were threatening to close the game out if he passed the turn without doing anything. He drew his card for the turn and shrugged, "I guess you got me. I can't do anything."
"You can always just 'cycle' Manamorphose, right," I suggested.
He kind of smacked himself in the forehead and played the spell to draw a card. He looked at the card and he stood up straight in his chair. He looked around for some dice and began tracking his mana and how many spells he had cast. He played another Manamorphose, a Desperate Ritual, and a removal spell for one of my creatures. Then he made ten goblins with Empty the Warrens.
Fortunately for me, I drew a seventh land on my next turn and was able to push through the final points of damage with a hard-cast Ivory Giant tapping down his sudden red army. I was 3–1 but not feeling very good about it. I won my next round but lost the next two — the last loss coming to a deck that featured a solid White-Black Rebel chain topped off with Adarkar Valkyrie, Skeletal Vampire, and Sword of Fire and Ice. I have to admit I was surprised that he had two losses. As it turns out, he lost helplessly to the same exact card twice — Sword of Light and Shadow.
That was it for my main event. Fortunately, there were plenty of old friends in attendance and I was able to head out and grab dinner with someone I had not seen in awhile. I came back the next day and played some side events, but as the day wore on what I really wanted to do was draft Modern Masters and that was not the easiest thing in the world. Thankfully, Josh Frankel (aka Inkwell Looter) invited me to draft with him and some friends from the Bay Area, and I spent the evening hanging out with some good people and playing Magic. What more could I ask?
After our eight-person draft, in which I went 2–1 with Red-Green Storm, we played a couple of five-player games of Commander. We tried out their variant called Bang Commander for one of those games and it was interesting enough that it warranted mentioning here. The variant is reminiscent of popular party games Mafia or Werewolf. One player is randomly selected as The Sheriff and that is revealed to all players. The other roles are all played in secret. There is a deputy who has to keep the Sheriff protected, two outlaws who need to kill the Sheriff to win, and a renegade who wins if he or she is the last player standing. My recollection is a little less than crystal clear of all the subtleties of the rules, but it was a fun variant to try and I am eager to try it out in an established Commander environment in need of a political shakeup.
Check out this slideshow from the event if you want to get a real sense of just how big this tournament was. Pro Tour photographer extraordinaire Craig Gibson does not normally ply his trade at a Grand Prix, but when he does it is for the largest card game tournament of all time.
Hall of Fame Season
One of the topics that came up repeatedly throughout the weekend was the impending Hall of Fame ballot for the 2013 class that will be inducted in Dublin at Pro Tour Theros. This will be the ninth class honored for its accomplishments and it will be a transition year to a change being made for the 2014 class of the Hall of Fame. Since the first year of the Hall, which enshrined players who began playing on the Pro Tour during the very first season, the requirements for being on the ballot were that you needed to have first played on the Pro Tour ten seasons before your eligibility and during that time amassed 100 Pro Points.
During the latter half of the 90s, Pro Points were not nearly as plentiful as they are now. Grand Prix were fewer and further between, there were not ways to get points from other tournaments like the World Magic Cup, and the points were given out in smaller doses overall. Players who are going to be on this year's ballot need to have started their Pro Tour career during the 2004 season or earlier to be eligible, and they will have played their careers out in a much more Pro Point-rich environment. As such, starting next year, players will now need 150 lifetime points to be added to the ballot.
Players who would have been on the ballot this year with 100 points will be grandfathered onto the ballot for this season, before the 150-point requirement is enforced for everyone next year. Players with 100 career points will still be eligible to be on the Player Committee that votes for the Hall of Fame.
Here is the specific language regarding eligibility for this year's ballot:
In order to have his or her name on the 2013 Hall of Fame selection ballot, a player must meet BOTH of the following two requirements:
- 1. The player must have participated in his or her first Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour at least 10 seasons prior to the current voting year.
- 2. The player must be in good standing with the DCI (e.g., not suspended or under investigation).
Additionally, the player must meet ONE of the following four requirements:
- 1. The player must have 150 lifetime Professional Points as of May 19, 2013; or
- 2. The player must have appeared on a Pro Tour Hall of Fame ballot from 2005 to 2012 and (1) not had his or her name removed from the ballot prior to 2013, or (2) had his or her name scheduled to be removed from the ballot in 2013; or
- 3. The player must have (1) first appeared in a Pro Tour prior to 2004; (2) crossed 100 Lifetime Professional Points threshold between May 14, 2012 and May 19, 2013, and (3) have between 100 and 149 Lifetime Professional Points as of May 19, 2013; or
- 4. The player must have (1) played in his or her first Pro Tour in 2004 and (2) have between 100 and 149 Lifetime Professional Points as of May 19, 2013.
Criterions 2 through 4 will only be used for 2013. Starting in 2014, a player must have 150 lifetime Professional Points to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot, regardless of any previous years' criteria or personal performance.
As for the ballot, that will be going out to the Selection Committee and Players Committee next week, prior to the July 4th holiday here in the US. Who would you vote for if you were given an opportunity to cast a ballot for up to five of these players?
|Bernardo Da Costa Cabral
|Antonio De Rosa
Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on DailyMTG.com, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.