The 2018-19 Pro season kicked off with a pair of Grand Prix featuring Guilds of Ravnica Limited, all while the very notion of the Grand Prix is poised to change in 2019.
Grand Prix Schedule and Magic Fest
2019 is going to be a year of change. This was a sentiment repeated often in an article released on October 4th with regard to Grand Prix, and Pro Tour qualifications in general. In the past several years, Grand Prix have become more than just tournaments—they have become gatherings of players of all stripes, artists, cosplayers, and more. In order to better reflect this, the weekends that host Grand Prix and Pro Tours will now be known as Magic Fest—it’s no longer Grand Prix Las Vegas, but rather “The Grand Prix at Magic Fest Las Vegas.” The complete schedule of Magic Fests and their associated Grand Prix can be found at the CFB Events website. Of note, there are fewer Grand Prix in every region when compared to the 2017-2018 season.
This announcement was met with a mixed reaction. Some opined that the name did not fit the nature of the weekends while others were happy to see Wizards of the Coast embrace the world outside the main event. Perhaps the oddest occurrence was a magician’s convention in Edinburgh reaching out to Hasbro with concerns over confusion of their gathering with the new Magic Fest.
With regards to Grand Prix, CFB Events has made two changes for 2019. First, the formats have only been announced for the first quarter of the year. Formats will be announced 90-180 days before the tournament takes place. Second, CFB Events has updated the prize structure of Grand Prix. There are now four different tiers, with prize pools of $35,000, $50,000, $65,000, and $80,000. The higher the prize tier, the more players finish in the money while also adding to a larger first place purse.
Qualifying for the Pro Tour
The announcement also detailed changes to the way players will be able to qualify for the Pro Tour. Pro Tour Cleveland and Pro Tour London—the first two Pro Tours of the 2018-19 season, will use the current Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier into Regional Pro Tour Qualifier system. Starting with qualifications for Pro Tour Dallas-Fort Worth, the system will change. There will be three main forms of qualification.
First, players will be able to qualify for the Pro Tour via Pro Club level or strong Pro Tour finishes. Second, Grand Prix will continue to qualify players for Pro Tours. A big change, however, is that Grand Prix will feed a specific Pro Tour in the same geographical region—not the next Pro Tour on the schedule.
Replacing the PPTQ/RPTQ system will be a series of direct qualifier tournaments. These tournaments will either be open or invite-only. The threshold for invite-only events has yet to be determined. These qualifiers will be run by tournament organizers and “best in class” WPN stores. The system will be undergoing revision due to feedback and, according to the release, could evolve over the course of the year.
The announcement closed by reiterating that 2019 will be a year of change, promising that 2020 will be a major year for competitive play.
Guilds of Ravnica Mythic Edition
The premium product was scheduled to go on sale at the Hasbro Toy Shop this week. But the system experienced numerous problems due to traffic. According to the official Magic Twitter feed, issues were being resolved on a case-by-case basis, although there have been reports of orders being canceled or going unfulfilled.
Grand Prix Montreal and Mexico City
The first two Grand Prix (not yet Magic Fests) to feature Guilds of Ravnica took place this past weekend, and both were on North American soil.
First up, by a few hours, was Grand Prix Montreal. The Canadian Grand Prix saw many high profile players make a deep run, including Eli Kassis, Rich Hoaen, Pro Tour Avacyn Restored champion Alexander Hayne, and Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir winner Ari Lax. None of them finished in the Top 8. Instead, it was hometown hero Christopher Leonard Huu Nguyen, in his first Grand Prix Day Two, who took down the tournament. Using an Izzet deck with precisely one rare—a copy of Steam Vents—he took down what many considered the best deck at the table in the finals. Leonard defeated Michael Van Vaals’ Boros deck—the only Boros deck in the Draft, thanks to a combination of Murmuring Mystic and a Gravitic Punch on a Sure Strike enhanced Citywatch Sphinx.
Congratulations to Christopher Leonard Huu Nguyen, champion of #gpmontreal! His one-two Gravitic Punch was just enough to beatdown Michael Van Vaals's Boros in the finals.
— Magic Pro Tour (@magicprotour) October 8, 2018
What Montreal lacked in star power was more than made up for at Grand Prix Mexico City. The Top 8 featured Jason Chan (also known as Amaz), Hall of Famer Martin Jůza, Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad Champion Steve Rubin, and Carlos Pal, who made his first Grand Prix Top 8 after almost four years away from the game. The final match pitted the Mark Jacobson and Logan Nettles against each other. Nettles, fresh off his victory at Grand Prix Los Angeles, was piloting Boros against Jacobson’s Dimir deck built around Disinformation Campaign. In the end, it was Jacobson, the only Dimir drafter at the final table, who triumphed over the back-to-back Grand Prix finalist.
Mark Jacobson is the #GPMex Champion!
He piloted his slow Dimir deck through the Top 8 without dropping a game. He defeated Logan Nettles deck in the finals, and afterwards Nettles scooped up his cards and said, "Your deck is, just awesome. You have so few creatures!" pic.twitter.com/WzZ8b21qsa
— Magic Pro Tour (@magicprotour) October 8, 2018
Both Grand Prix featured Boros decks in the finals and both saw the aggressive red-white guild falter. Over the course of the weekend we started to see the texture of this limited ecosystem evolve, with Boros, Dimir, and Izzet being favored over Golgari and Selesnya.
Guilds of Ravnica gets another double Grand Prix in the spotlight. Next weekend will be a repeat of the Pro Tour Team Series final—Guilds of Ravnica Team Limited at Grand Prix in Denver and Nagoya.