#GPNY Spotlight: Pros and Personalities

Grand Prix New York is coming up this weekend! If you’ve already preregistered, I’m sure you’re tuning your Standard deck in advance (if not, head to www.GPNY2016.com and preregister now—space is limited!) After all, the metagame is changing week by week, so staying up to date is a high priority. Grand Prix events aren’t just about high-level competition, though, they’re about having a great time celebrating Magic and its culture alongside old friends and new ones alike. One of the ways ChannelFireball likes to celebrate Magic culture is to invite Magic pros and personalities to its events, and Grand Prix New York has a great lineup! Today’s spotlight is on those pros and personalities and the events they’ll be attending during the Grand Prix Weekend, with an emphasis on Friday, May 6th. If you’re not already planning to come on Friday of the GP weekend, you’ll probably want to get the day off, because this is a fantastic schedule.


The first event with these VIPs is the Free Standard Seminar on Friday, May 6th at 4 p.m. ChannelFireball hosts these seminars on the Friday of each of their Grand Prix events, and the goal is to give players a wide view of the format being played. The seminar consists of a lecture as well as a question-and-answer period, so if you’re ruminating on your sideboard plan, you might even get a chance to ask about it! Your hosts at the GP New York Free Standard Seminar will be:

Reid Duke (@ReidDuke)

Reid is a Platinum pro and one of Magic’s brightest stars. He started out as a Magic Online phenom, qualifying for the 2011 Players Championship (now the Magic World Championship) through his win at the Magic Online Championship that year. He now boasts 1 Pro Tour Top 8 as well as 18 Grand Prix Top 8s, 4 of which he converted into wins. Reid is a member of ChannelFireball’s Team Pantheon and can often be seen battling alongside William Jensen and Owen Turtenwald as part of the “Peach Garden Oath.” Reid also features prominently in the recent Magic: the Gathering documentary, “Enter the Battlefield.”


Gaby Spartz (@GabySpartz)

Gaby is a prominent Magic Online streamer and the world’s #1 fan of the card Ambush Viper. She is currently competing in the Community Super League with other popular streamers and Magic personalities. Gaby is also well-known for providing live commentary at Magic events—she most recently appeared in the booth at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, Grand Prix Detroit, and Grand Prix Houston. Additionally, she has contributed fantastic articles to ChannelFireball and the official Magic website.

Foiled Again! Bounty Event

The seminar isn’t the end of the fun, though. If you’re looking to do more than just hear what the pros think about Standard, you’ll want to sign up for the 5 p.m. Foiled Again! Bounty Event, where you could get the chance to play Shadows over Innistrad Sealed Deck against some of the best players in the world! Here’s the breakdown: for $40, you’ll get 6 packs of Shadows over Innistrad to build a Sealed Deck that you’ll play for 3 rounds of Swiss. You’ll also get the exclusive GP New York playmat with Magali Villeneuve’s art from Pieces of the Puzzle, pictured here:

Everyone who enters will receive one of the assorted foil promo cards as part of the prize pool. For each match you win after that, you’ll receive 20 Prize Tix and an additional foil promo. That all sounds pretty good, but there’s even more good news: We’ve entered six of our sponsored pro players into the event, so you might get your shot to play against some of Magic’s top pros and biggest personalities. If you get paired against one of these players and win, you’ll receive an additional 100 Prize Tix to spend over at the Prize Wall!

Here’s the lineup of sponsored players you could be matched against during the Foiled Again! Bounty Event:

Reid Duke (@ReidDuke)


Gaby Spartz (@GabySpartz)


Neal Oliver (@trumpetman88)

Neal is a Silver-level pro who boasts 3 Grand Prix Top 8 appearances, including a win at Grand Prix Las Vegas 2013, where he topped a field of 4,492 players. Neal was also a member of the 2015 United States World Magic Cup team alongside Mike Sigrist, Tom Martell, and Joel Sadowsky. Neal is a regular contributor to ChannelFireball.com—if you’re looking for a good Standard deck, try the Esper Planeswalkers list he and much of the rest of Team East West Bowl played at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad!


Martin Juza (@Juzam_)

Martin is a Gold-level pro with 2 Pro Tour Top 8s and a staggering 23 Grand Prix Top 8s—the third highest such total in the world—including a Top 4 finish just over a month ago at Grand Prix Paris. Martin is a seasoned world traveler with Grand Prix titles on three continents as well as multiple World Championship appearances on the Czech Republic’s national team, which he has captained multiple times.


Andrew Cuneo (@AndrewCuneo)

Andrew, who first tasted Pro Tour success in 2000 when he made the finals of Pro Tour New York alongside teammates Aaron Forsythe and Andrew Johnson, is still going strong in the Magic scene. A Platinum pro who consistently finishes in the money, Andrew is well-known for his undying love of control decks—fortunately, this puts him among good company on ChannelFireball’s Team Pantheon.


Frank Karsten (@karsten_frank)

Frank is a Pro Tour veteran who is best known for his ability to analytically break down formats. His mathematical approach to Magic and his strong technical play have earned him 3 Pro Tour Top 8s, 6 Grand Prix Top 8s, and a spot in the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. At #PTSOI, Frank was part of Team EUreka, the squad behind the Red/Green Goggles deck that put Brad Nelson into the Top 8. Frank is a contributor to ChannelFireball.com, where you can check out his RG Goggles deck guide as well as his writings about mana base math, deck optimization, and more.

Now that’s a staggering series of resumes—and remember, these are people you might get to play against! There’s nothing quite like playing Magic against someone at this level of skill—personally, even though I don’t think I’ve ever won a match against one of ChannelFireball’s sponsored pros, I’ve enjoyed every moment of the ones I’ve lost. Plenty of people do win, though, and it’s always fantastic to see them receive their bounty of Prize Tix.

VIP Meet & Greet

You might think that would be the end of Friday’s offerings, but there’s actually one more thing: on Friday night at 9 p.m., all Planeswalker registrants are invited to join the VIP Meet & Greet over at the Urban Plum restaurant. That’s right, this is an exclusive event, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that while space is limited to 200 participants, there are still spots available at www.GPNY2016.com. Planeswalker registration is your ticket to this VIP experience, where you can enjoy food, drink, and a live episode of Magic TV while you chat with pro players, artists, and other stars of the Magic scene. The guest list so far is awesome, and more people are getting added every day. Let’s go over that guest list!

I already described these folks above, so I’ll let their names speak for themselves:

  • Andrew Cuneo
  • Reid Duke
  • Martin Juza
  • Frank Karsten
  • Gaby Spartz

Now that I’ve listed those fine folks, here are some more people you might meet at the VIP Meet & Greet:


Tom Martell (@TomMartell)

Tom is a Gold-level pro with a fantastic resume—for instance, he has 2 Pro Tour Top 8s, including a win at Pro Tour Gatecrash. His Grand Prix record is impressive as well—he’s made 9 GP Top 8s, converting 3 of those into wins in Indianapolis, Sacramento, and Atlanta. Tom is a member of Team Ultra PRO, an avid Magic streamer, and a content creator for ChannelFireball.com.


Pascal Maynard (@PascalMaynard)

Pascal is a Gold-level pro, and like Neal, he plays with Team East West Bowl. He put up a Top 8 finish at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, wading through the Eldrazi menace with his Affinity deck. He has also finished in the Top 8 of 9 Grand Prix events—you may remember his wins in Mexico City and Buenos Aires, or you might recall the foil Tarmogoyf he drafted in the Top 8 of GP Las Vegas 2015. Pascal writes for ChannelFireball.com, where you can see his #PTSOI report, among other articles.


David Ochoa (@_DavidOchoa)

David (or “Web”) is a Gold-level pro and a Team ChannelFireball veteran. His resume features 6 GP Top 8s as well as a Sunday appearance at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica. David loves Magic in all its forms—he’s a notable Vintage enthusiast, placing second in the most recent Vintage Super League, and he has played in over 100 Grand Prix events as well. He’s also a well-known appreciator of fine food and beverages, so if he happens to give you a restaurant recommendation, make sure you take his advice.


Hélène Bergeot (@HeleneBergeot)

Hélène is the Director of Global Organized Play at Wizards of the Coast. She can be seen around the world at Magic Pro Tour and Grand Prix events interacting with professional and amateur players alike, and she’s known for being very responsive to questions and comments about Magic events on social media. She was also one of the minds behind the Escape the Room puzzles that were part of the Shadows Over Innistrad hype at Grand Prix events earlier this year, so if you participated in one of those, make sure to let her know how much fun it was!

Mashi Scanlan (@ThaGuyOnTheLeft)

Mashi is an old-school Magic player, but you may know him best as one of the hosts on Magic TV—he’s the guy on the left! Magic may not have enough good land destruction for Mashi’s liking these days, but he still loves the game, and his enthusiasm for all things Magic can’t be overstated.

Jon Saso (@JonSasoCFB)

Jon is the ChannelFireball President and CEO, but if you watch Magic TV, you’ve probably heard that hundreds of times. Jon played on the Pro Tour back in the day (and I’m sure he can tell you about 4th-4th-Homelands Draft if you ask) but these days he focuses on running ChannelFireball rather than casting spells. His favorite card is The Wretched.

That’s everyone I’ve got confirmed… oh, wait, I just got an email. We have one more very special guest.

That’s right—it’s none other than Pro Tour Hall-of-Famer Luis Scott-Vargas (@lsv). What can I say about Luis? He’s sixth on the all-time Pro Tour Top 8 leaderboard with 7 Sunday showings—and yes, that includes the last 2 Pro Tours in a row. He’s been a Pro Tour Champion, a Grand Prix Champion (5 times out of 15 Top 8s,) the US National Champion, the Vintage Super League Champion, and of course, he’s a member of Team ChannelFireball. In a feat that has yet to be replicated, he even rattled off a perfect 16-0 in the Swiss rounds of a Pro Tour once, in San Diego in 2010. He’s running incredibly well and he’s making a run for a spot in the Magic World Championship. If you want to meet LSV, you couldn’t pick a more exciting time.

I’ve been compiling this list, and as names get added to it, I have to say, I keep getting more and more jealous of the people who get to go to this thing. I’ve met most of the ChannelFireball pros and personalities over time, and it’s such a joy to see them in an environment where they can interact one-on-one with other people who love Magic the way they do. The VIP Meet & Greet is going to be an incredible experience, so if you have the chance to attend, do it.

So we’ve covered Friday, and as you might expect, most of these people will be busy on Saturday. Apparently they all want to win the Grand Prix or something. On Sunday… well, most of them will probably still be busy on Day 2 trying to win the whole thing, but we’ll be scheduling some fun stuff with the folks that aren’t. Anyone with Planeswalker registration should make sure to stop by the Planeswalker Lounge on Sunday, because if you do, you’ll get the chance to draft and/or play Mini Masters with the pros who’ll be stopping in. I’ve talked to both pros and Planeswalker registrants about this experience, and I can’t begin to tell you how much fun they said they had. Playing some relaxed Magic with some of the best players in the world is an incredible experience that you won’t get every day, or maybe even every year.

If you’ve read all this, chances are you’re hungry for more information. Check out www.GPNY2016.com, where you can see the full schedule of side events, preregister for the main event, the showdowns, and the Super Sunday Series, browse the list of artists and vendors, and more! If you have questions, send an email to [email protected] or Tweet to our @ChannelFireball account. Thanks for reading, and have a great time at Grand Prix New York!


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