Welcome to the coverage of Grand Prix: Oakland! Over 440 competitors have descended on the Bay Area for the inaugural weekend of the Pro Tour San Diego qualifier season. Officially Darksteel has only been on sale for one day but when everyone sits down to build their sealed decks they will have two packs of the new set with which to grapple.
Expectations were high for the attendance of this tournament and the numbers today were a healthy uptick from the disappointing turnout in Anaheim. Apparently, Magic in the Bay Area has been undergoing something of a renaissance. Tournament Organizer Conan Blackwell has had some impressive numbers at his events recently. Most notably a packed to the rafters Darksteel Prerelease that reset the bar for such events in California.
Head Judge Sheldon Menery and his able-bodied crew should have their hands full answering questions about new cards and mechanics, including the much-ballyhooed indestructible cards, which are making their major tournament debut this weekend.
For many of the players in attendance this will be their 'prerelease'—their first look at the new cards. Last night there was a 120-person Grand Prix Trial and many players already in possession of three byes were prowling the play area hoping to get a handle on how to value the new cards. Many familiar Top 8 personalities were huddled together flipping through discarded commons trying to establish the pick orders for the set and cramming in last minute practice drafts in anticipation of playing on Day Two.
There are a number of subplots to keep an eye on this weekend. There is apparently some new incarnation of the YMG team that is the brainchild of the Guevin brothers. What does the new roster look like and what are the implications for the original YMG squad?
Ben Stark is 15-0 on Day One in his last two Grand Prix appearances with a pair of Top 8s but no trophy. Can he continue to ride the crest of his recent success and top it off with a victory that would cement his place as one of America's best players?
Head Judge Sheldon Menery has taken all of the games bad boys aside and put the on a short leash for this tournament. Will he keep them in line or will that leash chafe?
Keep your browser where it is and follow the action from Oakland all weekend.