News Brief: Jeff Zandi, War of the Spark, Nexus Banned in BO1, New York Toy Fair Updates, and GPs Strasbourg & Memphis

The first Mythic Championship is on the horizon and if the news out of the New York Toy Fair is to be believed it will kick off another era of growth for the game. This is the news for the week of February 11, 2019.

The Passing of Jeff Zandi

Sad news came to light on February 16th. Jeff Zandi, a seminal figure in the Texas Magic scene, has passed away. The subject of this profile by Corbin Hosler, Zandi started the Magic team Texas Guildmages in the wake of the first Pro Tour and was a fixture of Texas Magic for more than two decades. For the past several years he helped to organize the Hunter Burton Memorial Open, which memorialized a member of the Texas community.

Shortly after the reports of Zandi’s passing hit Twitter there was an outpouring of recognition and support. The Hunter Burton Memorial Open will host a tournament on Sunday, March 17th to celebrate the life of Zandi. CFBEvents announced that there will be an event in honor of Zandi on June 28th at MagicFest Dallas. There will never be another man quite like Jeff Zandi. He will be missed.

War of the Spark Trailer and Prerelease

The trailer for the next set, War of the Spark, has been released. The set will mark the end of the current story that features Nicol Bolas as the primary antagonist.

War of the Spark will have its prerelease the weekend of April 26th, 2019. This is the same weekend as MagicFest London and CFBEvents will be running a special prerelease Grand Prix. There will be two flights of War of the Spark Sealed on Friday and two on Saturday, feeding into another Sealed event (Day 2) before a Top 8 Draft. Only those who finish at the top of their respective flights will qualify for Day 2.

The announcement was met with some concern from the English Magic community. Many cited issues with judges having to make a choice between helping their local game store or being pulled to a large Grand Prix as a problem. Others were worried for local game stores that rely on prerelease events to bring people into their shops.

Seemingly in response, the Wizards EU Twitter account announced that as a test, stores in the European Union region will be able to sell War of the Sparks packs during the prerelease. Additionally, shops in the United Kingdom and Ireland are able to host prerelease events on Friday, April 26th.

Nexus of Fate Banned in Arena Best-of-One

At the start of the month we learned about the “And” of Magic: the Gathering – Arena. The idea behind the “And” is that Arena would be its own entity and make decisions in the best interest of the platform. February 14th gave us our first taste of this as Nexus of Fate was banned in Arena best-of-one and nowhere else. This was done in part to curb the strategy of “roping.” That is, waiting until the timer appeared and running it down before taking an action, and never advancing the game state. The article linked cited that this is not a problem in tabletop since judges can prompt games to move forward. This means that Nexus of Fate will be banned at the upcoming Mythic Invitational. Some felt that the partial ban was due in part to Nexus of Fate potentially appearing in the upcoming Challenger Decks but that rumor has been debunked.

Arena Updates

The February 14th Arena patch included numerous improvements and updates. The Direct Challenge feature can now be used to set up best-of-three matches. The client will now feature Discord integration, helping to connect players through both text and voice chat. A guide for these features will be forthcoming. The deck building screen also received an overhaul, complete with format folders and a crafting mode where you can see what cards need to be acquired via Wild Cards.

New York Toy Fair Updates

Magic had a presence at this year’s New York Toy Fair. A new board game—Ravnica: Inquisition—was announced and should be on sale in June of 2019. There was also a presentation that described 2018 as a record-breaking year for Magic and that 2019 should see the official launch of Arena. Project “M,” a mobile game, was also announced to be in development. A thank you to Hipsters of the Coast for collecting these slides.

Grand Prix Strasbourg and Memphis

With Mythic Championship in Cleveland only a few days away the competition rolled on with Grand Prix in both Strasbourg and Memphis. Strasbourg was first on the docket and featured Ravnica Allegiance Limited. Over 1,600 players arrived to crack packs and hopefully make it to the Day 2 Draft. Four players went undefeated on Day 1 and two of them—Elias Klocker and Chang Kyum Kim—made the Top 8. Joining them were Pascal Viernen and Raphael Levy. Chang Kyum Kim made it all the way to the finals where he fell to Yves Sele and his powerful Jund deck. Sele leaned on Open the Gates to power out a deck that featured both Biogenic Ooze and Judith, the Scourge Diva.

Meanwhile in Memphis, something else was being built. On Friday, the MagicFest earned the nickname “jackhammer” due to construction. After a relocation and some free snacks, the Standard tournament was able to commence. Almost 2,000 players came to Music City in the last major Constructed tournament before Standard hits the stage at the Mythic Championship. At the end of Day 2 the Top 8 featured two Mono-Blue Tempo decks, two Sultai Midrange decks, a Simic Nexus, Gruul Midrange, Rakdos Midrange, and Mono-White Aggro. Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad winner Steve Rubin made the Top 8 but fell in the quarterfinals with Mono-Blue Tempo. The finals was an all midrange affair, with Corey Burkhart running Grixis Con… I mean Sultai Midrange against Jody Keith’s Rakdos build.

Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, has strong ties to Memphis. It is only fitting that the king of Standard’s past should also triumph in the town. In two matches, Keith, whose deck featured Goblin Chainwhirler, leveraged Siege-Gang Commander into victory.

Rakdos Midrange

Jody Keith, 1st place at Grand Prix Memphis

4 Blood Crypt
1 Cinder Barrens
4 Dragonskull Summit
1 Rakdos Guildgate
14 Mountain
1 Swamp
4 Dire Fleet Daredevil
4 Goblin Chainwhirler
4 Rekindling Phoenix
4 Rix Maadi Reveler
3 Siege-Gang Commander
1 Karn, Scion of Urza
4 Lava Coil
2 Shock
2 The Eldest Reborn
4 Treasure Map/Treasure Cove
3 Carnival/Carnage

1 Angrath, the Flame-Chained
4 Duress
2 Fiery Cannonade
1 Fight with Fire
3 Legion Warboss
1 Shivan Fire
1 Status/Statue
2 Theater of Horrors

Looking Forward

All eyes will be on Cleveland next week for the first Mythic Championship. Featuring Ravnica Allegiance Limited and Standard, the first major event of the Magic Pro League era is about to unfold before our eyes. Of course there’s also the small matter of Limited Grand Prix Cleveland, which will have the Mythic Championship as a backdrop. Two tournaments. Two champions. One city.

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