Grand Prix Albuquerque

Covering the Quarters, Sunday 7:47

The swiss rounds have finished, the Top 8 determined, and the players shuffled up and sat down. Adam joined the coverage team for the quarter finals and got a tableside seat to the match between Sam Black and Valentin Mackl:

Recent Grand Prix events have proven that skill matters in Theros Standard. The Top 8 in Albuquerque was stacked with talent, from Pro Tour Amsterdam winner and No. 20-ranked player Paul Reitzl to No. 16-ranked player Owen Turtenwald in a back-to-back Top 8 coming off his week the previous week in Washington, D.C. and Grand Prix Portland winner Sam Pardee, himself a three time Grand Prix Top 8 player in the past twelve months.

Valentin Mackl is a name you might not recognize but that you should start to watch. Over the past few months, Mackl has made the Top 8 of three Grand Prix: Miami, Valencia, and now Albuquerque. With two Standard and one Limited under his belt, and a qualification to Pro Tour Born of the Gods already locked up, Mackl is well on his way into a hot season of playing top level Magic.

But Mackl's heat is just vaguely warm compared to that of Samuel Black's, who is on the absolute hottest streak of any player this season. In the four back-to-back premier events Black has attended, he made Top 8 in all of them: Pro Tour Theros, Grand Prix Louisville, Grand Prix D.C., and here at Grand Prix Albuquerque. Three times it's been with Mono-Blue Devotion shuffled between his hands. Already moved up to the No. 8-ranked player this season, blue seemed to be Black's strength in marching him up the Top 25 standings.

It looked to be a good thing here as this match was a mono-blue mirror, and his prowess with the deck was well known. "I hear you're a pretty good monoblue player," Mackl said. Black just shrugged and nodded, letting his third Top 8 with the deck speak for itself.

You can get all of the details of the match over on the official coverage page, but in the end it was Mackl who was victorious and went on to face Owen Turtenwald in the semifinals. The semifinal matches both featured the matchup between the premier devotion decks in the Standard format: Mono-Black and Mono-Blue. Todd Anderson facing down Sam Pardee and Owen Turtenwald battling Valentin Mackl.

Adam's coverage experience wasn't just limited to watching and writing about great games of Magic. Here's some of the other things that he saw:

Meet Randy Buehler, Sunday 5:20

Legends walk among the game today.

Randy Buehler is one of the game's all-time greats, as a former R&D member with a place in the Pro Tour Hall of Fame that served as the voice for some of the Pro Tour's most iconic coverage calls. While those of us who've played for longer than a decade find him unforgettable, the past few years of Magic growth almost guarantee that introductions are due all over again.

Why does Randy Buehler still love Magic after so many years? “It's the best game in the history of the world,” Buehler said matter of fact. “I think of it situated halfway between poker and chess, two classic great games. It has more strategy than chess, and with shuffling for randomness Magic has this sweet spot in between.”

How did he rise into the Pro Tour and beyond? “I was a grad student looking to live the life of academia,” Buehler said. “I played Magic as a hobby and qualified for Pro Tour Chicago 1997, and won it. I went back to college and my professors asked me 'How much money did you make? Do you know how much we make?' So I took a sabbatical and played on the Pro Tour, winning a bunch of money. I think I'm still technically on sabbatical.”

“For two years I was one of the best couple players – Jon Finkel was still the best,” Buehler admitted. “I only played in 12 PTs, for Top 8 five times, and I made money in 10 out of 12 events. I got to know the guys at WotC since I was one of the first guys traveling the Grand Prix circuit. Mark Rosewater was one that I talked to at pretty much at every event, and he pushed me to apply for a job in Development. I left the PT in late 1999.”

What was his effect on Magic through the years? “My first set was Invasion, and I felt like I was able to come in and make a difference right way. I pushed R&D to make creatures better, and coming from the PT I got a lot of credibility for understanding the game. I was in R&D for seven years; The last set I had a significant influence on was Future Sight.”

How did Magic change with his time on Development and beyond? “I'd like to think WotC got good at development while I was there. Before I joined, Tempest was too fast, Urza's Saga was broken beyond words, and Mercadian Masques was a deliberate step back in power level that was unfun for a lot of people. It was a roller coaster of sets,” said Buehler. “With Invasion, it was a series of sets that managed to be interesting, and fun, and powerful. I like to think of that as the legacy I left behind. Since I've left, I think Aaron Forsythe has done a spectacular job. Sets got too complicated around Future Sight/Lorwyn, and I think Aaron did a fantastic job backing off the complexity at common. Magic doesn't have to be overly complicated to be fun. You can keep all the strategic depth and complexity while keeping the game fun for new players.”

What's the most important feature about Magic? “The Magic community has always been one of the best parts of the game for me. A lot of people find the best friends they're going to find through the community. One of the things I said to myself when I joined that my goal was to do well enough for the Pro Tour to be there for me when I left. Here I am, back in the community again.”

 

Another Day, Another Adventure, Sunday 4:15

The first day of Grand Prix Albuquerque is in the books, but the fun is just getting started. Even if you missed the cut to play in Day Two of the main event, there are still all kinds of awesome activities to be involved in, from side events and casual games to spectating and taking in the Magic culture.

There's even a professional photographer at the tournament site, taking photos of Magic fans with the cosplayers who are bringing our favorite Planeswalkers to life. Adam met Simone Mularkey (Gideon) and Ramona Lopez (Chandra) yesterday, but couldn't help himself from getting a few more photos taken.

The Planeswalkers in Albuquerque are very friendly...

 


...As long as you stay on their good side, that is.

 

Cosplay at #GPABQ, Saturday 7:28

Cosplay is awesome.

 

Our resident Vorthos flavor writer, MJ Scott, is running a contest to make the ultimate Magic cosplay. Christine Sprankle is a pillar of the Magic cosplay community, even being featured in several episodes of Walking the Planes. Our Community Manager Heather Lafferty interviewed several more cosplayers from across the multiverse.

Here in Albuquerque, three more cosplayers commanded everyone attention.

 (Ramona Lopez as Chandra Nalar)

 (Amanda Cohen as Liliana Vess)

 (Simone Mularkey as Gideon Jura)

Why is it easier than ever to find cosplayers at Magic events today? All three shared just what cosplaying
means to them

“I love Magic and dressing up,” said Ramona Lopez, cosplaying as Chanda Nalaar. “I'm just as superfan.”

“It's great for self esteem,” said Amanda Cohen, cosplaying as Liliana Vess. “I learned Magic and started
cosplaying at the same time, and in two years I turned things around and felt so much better about
myself. Yesterday this little girl saw me and I was kinda grumpy at the time but she just lit up and it
made my day.”

Simone Mularkey had an answer the other two chimed in agreement with. “Halloween was always my
favorite holiday. When you wear a costume you're not just Simone, you get to become someone else.
You bring them to life. They live on the cards and in flavor text, but when you see one in person it's
great. When someone sees you and there's that connection with the character.”

How did they first get into cosplaying?

“My parents were professional clowns,” said Lopez. “I've been dressing and dressed up since I was a kid.
I stopped doing that right before high school, but then I got into theater. It just carried over as a natural
extension of my personality”

Cohen's journey started later. “I got introduced to it in high school,” she said. “A friend of mine, his
uncle ran a big convention and he brought me out to cosplay. From there it became an addiction to
playing around meeting people, and playing off their costumes. I also fell in love with making costumes.
It brings you closer to the character and brings it to a personal level. When I see a character like Jace I
have feelings for that character and understand how Liliana experiences that.

“Magic got me into cosplay,” Mularkey said. “I always saw cosplayers before and thought it was really
cool. I learned how to play and fell in love with it and the characters. Eventually, I made a costume of my
favorite, Sorin Markov. It was so much fun making a costume and bringing that character to life I that
wanted to do it again. I love playing characters that aren't shown as much; It's great to bring them out
too.”

Where will the troupe of friends end up next? “Grand Prix Sacramento,” said Lopez. “If we can keep coming back we'll collect more and more planeswalkers to join in,” Cohen said. “Maybe WonderCon if we can manage that as well.

“We're gathering friends...” Mularkey said, with smile and ominous wave of her hand. They all laughed at the pun.

 

If you want to see where Lopez, Cohen, and Mularkey go form here you can find more photos from the weekend at Thou Shalt Game, as well as on their personal accounts.

Ramona Lopez

Amanda Cohen

Simone Mularkey

Something Old, Something New, and Everything Awesome, Saturday 6:18 PM

859 players have come to Albuquerque, New Mexico to battle for supremacy and determine whose devotion will be rewarded. But that doesn't mean that Standard is the only thing going on. Adam Styborski made the trip to Albuquerque, and will be sharing photos, tweets, interviews, and more from the event throughout the weekend. What'd he see in the first half of Day One? Take a look:

 

 

 

 

Check back for more updates throughout the weekend, and tune in to the official lifestream of Grand Prix Albuquerque to watch the action.

 

CMDRDecks Interview, Saturday 3:18 PM

Playing Magic should be fun. While Grand Prix events bring a regular rotation of formats to locations all over the world, playing in them isn't something the appeals to everyone. I love to attend big Magic events for the same reason the man behind CMDR Decks: Commander.

Uriah Oxford may be best known for his Commander deck tech video series we share here, but this Colorado native has a sultry radio voice and a passion for the format everyone that's played with him can attest to.

“I don't like tournament style Magic,” said Oxford. “It's a little too competitive. To stay at a competitive level in a non-Eternal format you have to keep getting new cards. If you have casual 60 cards decks there's no frame: People will show up with Prosperity combo on turn three. Commander gives a broad structure to casual play so you can sit across from someone who will play with the same banned list, taking the barrier away from showing up with a monogreen Tribal deck but playing against a deck with multiple Mana Crypts.”

How did he first get into the format? It's all about From the Vault: Dragons. “Within the foldout description of the dragons, there was an intro on EDH. I had heard of it before and thought it was mainly a judge format,” Oxford explained. Commander is still known as EHD by many, an acronym from it's earliest days when it was known as Elder Dragon Highlander as spread through the judging community like wildfire. “My brother saw that and thought it looked fun too. He went home the next day and built a Phyrexian-themed Commander deck around Tsabo Tavoc. So I had to build a deck too, and it was around Zur the Enchanter. Reliably tutoring in a singleton format was pretty good, but it wasn't built to be broken. It was just 'Hey, here's Holy Armor and Unholy Strength.' so I could get in some damage.”

How does attending a Grand Prix to play Commander differ from hanging out with friends at home. “At Grand Prix it's a higher competitive level. We played with this guy yesterday with Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius: It was super combo, take all the turns for the rest of the game. When people come to a GP they'll usually be playing in the Commander event pods. If you don't want to just throw away $5 you need to build competitively,” said Oxford. “When we're playing casually we know what the limits of the other decks are so we play to that. We started playing Pauper EDH,” a format with lots of tweaks but essentially requires all commons to be used, “and I like that because it's another restriction so I have to be creative to make the deck work, and you won't get blown out by someone taking all the turns with a combo.”

Where else can a Magic player go to get their Commander fix? “With so many comic conventions, like New York Comic Con and San Diego Comic Con, the Magic play there is ramping up,” Oxford said. “Those are great events as well. It's good to get outside your FNM and play with even more cards you're not familiar with.”

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