For one week all eyes in the world of Magic turned to Minneapolis. The final Pro Tour of the season was the first Team Constructed Pro Tour in a dozen years, and it did not disappoint. Standard, Modern, and Legacy were on full display at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. The Silver Showcase, an exhibition tournament showing off some of Magic’s earliest sets, also took place this weekend. When all was said and done $1,000,000 was handed out in prizes, a team earned a Pro Tour title, and the finalists for the 2017-18 Pro Tour Team Series were set.
Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
“All you need is a brain, a deck, and a friend.” Magic’s old slogan was new again this weekend. For the first time since Charleston in 2006, Team Trios Constructed was the format of choice at the Pro Tour. Unlike previous Team Unified events, which have additional deck building restrictions, Team Trios sees players select a format—Standard, Modern, or Legacy—and compete against the corresponding player on the opposing team.
Pro Tour 25th Anniversary put teams to the test. With three times as many Constructed formats to test, groups took many different approaches to preparation. Some relied on specialists to take over for Legacy or Modern while other teams sought out brain trusts. The celebratory nature of the tournament brought out plenty of names from Magic’s past.
First time helping @gabnassif test for a PT since I left the tour. Instantly fell back into our rhythm of me polishing his ideas to turn good into great. Almost resulted in him top 8ing for the first time since we stopped testing together. Feels good to help break a format again.
— Mark Herberholz (@herberheezy) August 5, 2018
Innovation was on full display across all three formats. Standard saw some controversy with Nexus of Fate playing a major role in one successful deck. Dave Williams, teamed with Hall-of-Famers Gabriel Nassif and Eric Froehlich, played a Turbo Fog strategy in Standard. The deck could win with Karn, Scion of Urza Constructs or by taking extra turns with Nexus of Fate and then using Teferi, Hero of Dominaria’s second ability to put itself back in the library. Various control decks utilized the Teferi Tuck as a win condition during the weekend.
David Williams, Standard at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
Controversy swirled around Nexus of Fate. The card does not appear in Core Set 2019 booster packs and was instead only available as a buy-a-box promo during the prerelease. The stated intent of the buy-a-box promotion was to drive sales to local game stores with cards that were unlikely to see play in Standard. Nexus of Fate is the second card released in such a fashion and has already forced Magic Online to change the card’s frequency in Treasure Chests to keep up with demand.
Meanwhile in Modern, Vengevine made its presence felt. Using Stitcher’s Supplier to fill the graveyard with copies of Bloodghast and Bridge from Below, then making tokens with Insolent Neonate and Walking Ballista cast for no mana, Bridgevine could crash in for quite a bit of damage in a flash thanks to Goblin Bushwhacker. Faithless Looting is proving itself to be a powerhouse in Modern.
Jacob Nagro, Modern at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
Legacy recently saw both Gitaxian Probe and Deathrite Shaman hit the banned list. This change allowed some new archetypes to emerge, but the one that made waves in Minneapolis was a port from Modern—a Death’s Shadow deck. Members of the ChannelFireball testing collective ran more copies of Watery Grave than Underground Sea in their Legacy deck as the life points paid are actually a benefit. Paired with Gurmag Angler and Delver of Secrets—and Snuff Out for good measure—Blue-Black Death’s Shadow added another wrinkle to one of Magic’s largest formats.
Blue-Black Death’s Shadow
Josh Utter-Leyton, Legacy at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
After 14 rounds of Team Trios, the Top 4 was set:
- Team Hot Sauce Games: Allen Wu (Legacy Death and Taxes), Ben Hull (Modern Hollow One), Greg Orange (Standard White-Blue Control)
- Team ChannelFireball: Josh Utter-Leyton (Legacy Blue-Black Death’s Shadow), Ben Stark (Modern Krark-Clan Ironworks), Martin Jůza (Standard Red-Black Aggro)
- Team Hareryuya Latin: Márcio Carvalho (Legacy Death and Taxes), Thiago Saporito (Modern Humans), Carlos Romão (Standard Red-Black Aggro)
- Christophe Gregoir (Legacy Eldrazi Stompy), Branco Neirynck (Modern Humans), Thomas Van Der Paelt (Standard White-Blue God-Pharaoh’s Gift)
Team Hot Sauce Games triumphed over Gregoir-Neirynck-Van Der Paelt in the first semifinal. The second semifinal came down to the fifth game of Legacy between Carvalho and Utter-Leyton. Carvalho’s Palace Jailer added another texture to the game where both players battled over the Monarch. The game piece, from the multiplayer focused Conspiracy: Take the Crown, bounced back and forth but in the end Utter-Leyton’s pairing of efficient creatures and disruption was too much.
The finals had some added drama. Hareryuya Latin was already a lock for the Pro Tour Team Series final. If ChannelFireball emerged victorious in the finals, they would claim the second spot and topple the seemingly insurmountable lead of Team Ultimate Guard (Jon Finkel, Paul Rietzl, Andrew Cuneo, William Jensen, Reid Duke, Owen Turtenwald).
It was destined to be an uphill climb. Utter-Leyton jumped out to a two-game lead on Wu. Wu threaded the needle to win game 3 despite the Hall-of-Famer having three copies of Dread of Night on the board, rendering all white creatures useless, but not a Phyrexian Revoker that could carry a Sword of Fire and Ice.
They never got to finish their match. In Standard, Greg Orange and his White-Blue Control deck took down Jůza in four games. In the fourth game of the battle of the Bens, Hull had Stark on the ropes. With a Leyline of the Void in play on the other side of the table, Stark’s deck was operating at less than half speed. Stark held on by his fingernails as he scraped for a Nature’s Claim but it was not to be. A hand was extended and Team Hot Sauce Games secured their title of Pro Tour Champions!
Congratulations to #PT25A champions Allen Wu, Ben Hull, and Greg Orange! They defeated triple Hall of Famers Josh Utter-Leyton, Ben Stark, and Martin Juza in the finals, proving that today, hot sauce is hotter than a fireball. pic.twitter.com/hZEcWADEnJ
— Magic Esports (@MagicEsports) August 5, 2018
Death and Taxes
Allen Wu, 1st place in Legacy at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
Ben Hull, 1st place in Modern at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
Greg Orange, 1st place in Standard at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
The Silver Showcase was an invite-only exhibition Rochester Draft of Beta, Arabian Nights, Legends, and Antiquities. The roster of players included four Hall-of-Famers and five Pro Tour Champions. The Draft took place on the Thursday before the Pro Tour and the finals wrapped up on Sunday morning. Jason Chan—also known as Amaz—fresh off a Top 32 finish at the Pro Tour, squared off against Pro Tour Return to Ravnica champion Stanislav Cifka. Amaz had beaten David Williams and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa on his way to the finals with the help of his Shivan Dragon. Cifka, meanwhile, went through Shuhei Nakamura and Jon Finkel with a black-red deck that featured Fireball, Pestilence, and Pyrotechnics. And when the dust settled it was the Pro Tour champion who got to add another title to his mantle.
Next week sees the return of Standard with Grand Prix in Orlando and Brussels, as well as several National Championships. Will White-Blue Control rule the day and will people be able to acquire Nexus of Fate? Or will something new emerge to tackle the top end of Standard?