News Brief: Player of the Year Race, and Grand Prix Hong Kong and Stockholm

The Guilds of Ravnica spoiler season continues, but that isn’t the lead this week. Two Grand Prix—Hong Kong and Stockholm—heralded the official end of the 2017-18 season. And Player of the Year was on the line.

Player of the Year Race

Heading into Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, Reid Duke had the lead in the Player of the Year race. A strong performance by Seth Manfield gave the Pro Tour Ixalan champion the lead. But that was only the start of the sprint toward the finish line, as Luis Salvatto’s finish at the final Pro Tour of the season put him within striking distance of the title.

So all three players hit the Grand Prix circuit. Hard. With only the six best Grand Prix finishes counting, Manfield needed to Top 8 an event to improve his standing while Duke needed to Top 16. Salvatto had a much easier path, as he needed to finish with 11 match wins—potentially outside the Top 16—to displace a previous finish. No movement happened until Grand Prix Richmond. All three contenders played in the Legacy Grand Prix, but Manfield and Salvatto picked up early losses on Day 2 and dropped to give Standard a try. Duke, however, was on the hunt to improve his score until the final round when a draw ended his chance.

Manfield and Salvatto both ended Day 1 of the Standard event strong, but Salvatto faltered down the stretch. He picked up enough wins to pull him into a tie for second with Duke, but Manfield went and made the semifinals. That put him 3 points clear of his competition.

The team Grand Prix in Detroit saw none of the players do well enough to change position. That left one final weekend. Manfield bowed out, opting to instead focus on his World Championship preparation. Duke and Salvatto flew to Stockholm.

The two players—who are both in the World Championships and on opposite sides of the Pro Tour Team Series Finals—entered the fray in the third round. Duke, piloting Abzan, picked up three losses and saw his run end before Round 8. Salvatto, well, he was 8-0 overnight. He piloted White-Blue Control and in the final round of the Swiss he needed to win to force the playoff.

He did just that.

If Salvatto could win his quarterfinal match, he would be the outright winner of the coveted title. It was not to be. He exited, tied for first place, and set up the second ever playoff in the history of Player of the Year.

Grand Prix Hong Kong

Before we wrap up Stockholm, let’s set our sights on Grand Prix Hong Kong. The Modern Grand Prix took place in the wake of Super Typhoon Mangkhut but over 900 players were not deterred. The Top 8 was a fairly diverse affair with seven different archetypes represented. The only repeat was Humans. Old standby Jund and new powerhouse Bridgevine also made an appearance, as well as a Jeskai Tempo deck.

But none of those claimed the trophy. Instead, it was Xu Fei of China, piloting Mono-Green Tron, who took the day. Much has been said about the potential death of the archetype with the upcoming printing of Assassin’s Trophy from Guilds of Ravnica. But that card has not yet been printed and the power of Tron is impossible to deny. Congratulations Xu Fei, your Grand Prix Hong Kong Champion!

Mono-Green Tron

Xu Fei, 1st place at GP Hong Kong

Grand Prix Stockholm

Remember that Luis Salvatto loss in his quarterfinals? It came at the hands of the eventual champion. Grand Prix Stockholm saw 1,322 players come out for the final event of the 2017-18 Pro Tour season. Standing atop the heap at the end of the day was Ondrej Stráský. Stráský, who had announced his retirement at the end of Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, played Bant Spirits to the Top 4 of his hometown Grand Prix Prague.

He liked the deck so much that he ran it back.

Although he picked up two early losses, Stráský battled back to the second seed in the Top 8. In Stockholm there were five distinct archetypes—although White-Blue Control and Jeskai Control share quite a bit in common—but no Humans. Stráský’s victory in the finals over Joel Larsson’s White-Blue Control locked the former retiree for Gold.

Congratulations to Ondrej Stráský, your Grand Prix Stockholm Champion!

Bant Spirits

Ondrej Stráský, 1st place at GP Stockholm

Looking Forward

This is it. Next week in Las Vegas it’s the 2018 Magic World Championship. Two dozen players will battle for the right to be the next champion of the Magic world. Meanwhile, Team Ultimate Guard and Team Hareyuya Latin will square off in the Pro Tour Team Series Final. It all comes down to next weekend.


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