With the release of a new set comes a whole new season of competitive meta-game play and Magic 2019, though it’s the first core set in years, is no different in this respect. Grand Prix Chiba and Grand Prix Sacramento both featured the new limited formats (sealed and draft) as has become the norm for the release weekend of a new expansion.

Almost 2,500 players descended on Chiba for the first core set Grand Prix event since 2015’s Grand Prix Madrid (Magic Origins Limited). That said, the last limited Grand Prix in Chiba was Modern Masters 2015 in late May of that year. That tournament’s attendance was 3,500! The only other Grand Prix held in Chiba? 2016’s Legacy GP which had more than 2,500 players.

So in the incredibly small sample set of Chiba, Japan, there’s still a clear problem with Grand Prix attendance numbers continuing to drop even though the number of people playing Magic in the world continues to climb. Still, an event with almost 2,500 players is nothing to scoff at and all due respect goes to Spain’s Guillem Salvador Arnal for securing the title (his first ever) and an invitation to the Pro Tour.

The event in Chiba was a celebration of 25 years of Magic including the history of Magic in Japan. The highlights article talks about some of the cool stuff going on in Chiba including the story of a Black Lotus being opened in a side event!

Eight players posted perfect records in day one of the main event, with a wide array of non-Green cards filling their decks. Blue seems to be the most powerful color in sealed, but Black/White was a formidable combination. Green has always tended to do poorly in sealed due to the lack of evasion creatures. The top eight draft was a different story with three decks competing for green resources though Islands remained dominant as well.

Grand Prix Sacramento continues our tale of small-sample-size Grand Prix attendance reduction. The last (and only other) Grand Prix in the northern California capital was Theros limited in 2014 which attracted a field of 1,855 players. This weekend’s Magic 2019 event had a registration of 1,253.

Quick aside: Main event registration is not indicative of overall event attendance. Unfortunately that number is not published by Channel Fireball Events, but it’s safe to say that the rising cost of main event registration is very likely directly tied to decreasing attendance numbers. However, the emergence of prize-wall-side-events and the convention-like atmosphere that can come from having a wide array of guests can produce the same overall attendance for the event.

Blue/X decks as well as Black/White decks were dominant in the top eight of the event, though Marcus Luong managed to play a mono-Red deck into the semifinals. In the end it was Richard Liu and his black/white deck that won the entire tournament in California.

All-in-all the opening weekend of Magic 2019 action was plenty of fun. Next week brings us two more limited Grand Prix events in Turin and Minneapolis, helping to further learn the new format, and two weeks from now we’ll be covering the 25th Anniversary Pro Tour!

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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