When the top four teams were announced at Grand Prix Indianapolis you might have been hard-pressed to pick who you thought would win it all. The easy pick, of course, was the Pro Tour Hall of Fame trio of Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (CFB), Eric Froehlich (FtFG), and Ben Stark (CFB). Though, no one could fault you for siding with the team across the table from them, led by two-time World Magic Champion Shahar Shenhar (MGGM) along with Lance Austin and Oliver Tiu (MGGS). The Dark Horse pick, in my opinion, was Eric Severson (MDW), Ben Weitz (MDW), and Neal Oliver, a team with some definite Pro Tour talent but not the impressive resumes.

But it’s a top four, not a top three, and rounding out the final tables was a team of newcomers: Fei Xinyu, Chih-Cheng Yeh, and Zhou Zirui showed that no matter how many hundreds of thousands of drafts you have in your belt (which might even be an underestimate for Ben Stark alone) all that mattered was that one final draft, and in this one, at the final table from Indianapolis, the proverbial David defeated Goliath.

Xinyu, Yeh, and Zirui along with the rest of the top four teams will of course go on to attempt to repeat the feat at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary later this summer. That’s a huge leap for a team of relative unknown players. Chih-Cheh (Peter) Yeh has the highest profile, having qualified for the 2015 Magic Online Championship Series and finishing 6th in that event.

In the meantime, the finals appearance for the veterans from Channel Fireball (and Face to Face Games) was certainly not unexpected. A vast number of pro players dropped in on Indianapolis for the event so it was expected that some, if not all, of the top four teams would be full of top pro players and hall of fame members.

Seth Manfield’s team finished in 6th place, the Peach Garden Oath trio finished in 9th, and the rest of the top 32 was littered with members of Pro Tour Team Series clubs and top-ranked players. For the viewing audience it was a real treat to watch the top players in the world compete in a brand-new limited format just two weeks before the Pro Tour.

What We Learned About RIX Limited

Speaking of that format, it seems pretty entertaining and certainly very, very aggressive. Vampires and Merfolk were among the more dominant tribal strategies, but plenty of mid-range styles of Dinosaur decks and control-ish PIrate decks were also featured. The City’s Blessing has turned out to be a pretty fun mechanic, swinging the tide of some matches. Before this weekend I don’t know that I thought an 0/3 for W that eventually became a 3/3 later in the game was that great, but I’m reconsidering my opinion.

Of course, instant-speed spot removal is the linchpin of Rivals of Ixalan limited. Reaver Ambush was on display all weekend as was Moment of Craving. Divine Verdict also got some decent mileage and there were, unsurprisingly, some Chupacabras running around, though none in the final draft of the day.

The biggest lesson to learn for fans looking to take the format for a spin back home or at their local shop should be to make sure they have a solid curve of creatures. Falling behind early and failing to develop board state can not only leave you open to an aggressive deck but will also make it difficult to achieve the City’s Blessing quickly, something that can quickly swing the game in your favor.

The New Format for Tournament Coverage

Earlier in the week, Rich Hagon announced some changes would be made for tournament coverage for the coming year. Most notably, the different parts of the tournament were being broken down into discrete shows to focus on different aspects of the event. This didn’t result in a noticeable change to in-round coverage, but rather in the content around the actual match coverage. Each day of Grand Prix competition is now split into three distinct shows:

  • MTG Launch — Saturday Morning (Rounds 1 – 2)
  • The Pro Show — Saturday Afternoon (Rounds 3 – 6)
  • The Cut — Saturday Evening (Rounds 7 – 8)
  • Good Morning Magic — Sunday Morning (Rounds 9 – 10)
  • MTG Red Zone — Sunday Afternoon (Rounds 11 – 15)
  • Sunday Night Magic — Sunday Evening (The Top 8)

Now, I think this is a wonderful idea because the feeling of each show should be very distinct. I think we’ve seen these themes start building out in coverage organically over the past year or so. I have very high hopes for these changes. I was only able to catch MTG Launch and Sunday Night Magic live this weekend, but you can tell that the team is behind Rich’s changes.

There’s obviously plenty of room for improvement but this is a massive step in the right direction for tournament coverage. I’m looking forward to seeing new graphics packages for these shows, possibly dedicated teams of panelists and hosts for each segment, new opportunities for content producers to get involved, new innovations in coverage that folks like Greg Collins and Rashad Miller may have, and so on.

We’ll cycle back on this topic at the end of the winter coverage season and see what’s working and what we think could use some improvements. But, until then, good on Rich Hagon and the folks at Channel Fireball for starting the arduous process of taking event coverage production to the next level.


Rich Stein is a retired Magic player, an amateur content creator, and a Level 2 Social Justice Sorcerer. He hopes to eventually become a professional content creator and a Level 20 dual class Social Justice Sorcerer/Bard but he’s more than content to remain a retired Magic player. You can follow his musings on Twitter @RichStein13.

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