A little more than a year ago, the minimum record required to make day two of a Grand Prix was changed from 7-2 down to 6-3. This initiative had essentially zero impact on me, but given my proclivity for takes that reinforce a specific interpretation of what the Pro Tour should be, I had my Bad Take locked and loaded, ready to fire at any time.
The sum total of my take on the change was this: GPs had been moving away from a focus on the tournament itself for a while now, and more towards the experience of players less invested in the main event. I disliked this based on the reasoning that without the main event, people wouldn't even be there in the first place — weak reasoning given that a sizeable chunk of people at any given Grand Prix venue don't sign up for the Grand Prix at all, and it's been that way since time immemorial.
Early returns indicated that a minuscule percentage of the players that limped into day two with a 6-3 record went on to cash the tournament. So what were they playing for? That outside shot? It's unlikely they were playing for the pro points; my conservative estimate is that in every 2,000-person Grand Prix, 250 players are there for the pro points. Those players aren't filling the 6-3 coffers by themselves. So who are these Grand Prix changes for?
As expected, there's an influx of new players thrilled to make their first Grand Prix day two. This annoyed me; it was plain to see they moved the goalposts down so more people could reach it, and it's not like you're more than a six out of 100 shot to cash the tournament anyway, so what exactly are we celebrating? With all the tangible rewards of limping into day two on the minimum required record taken out of the equation, making the day two cut with a 6-3 record felt less like an accomplishment and more like an arbitrary distinction.
Luckily, players by and large don't see making day two of a Grand Prix as arbitrary, but as positive feedback that they're making the appropriate moves to improve their Magic game. Making the day two cut for the first time isn't complete and total validation, but it is a data point that signals to someone that they're headed in the right direction. So what if the goalpost moved? Who cares? It's not hurting anyone. Playing at 6-3 for a crack at a pro point or two, cruel and unusual as it may seem, is still a choice, and the accomplishment of making day two of a Grand Prix isn't diminished because its reward was rarely tangible in the first place.
Black Friday kickbacks have been live on TCGplayer.com all weekend, and our Cyber Monday sale's going all day today. What that means for this column in particular is that I'll be drawing from a lot of sales from last weekend, which hopefully moves some stuff around because as much as I love getting paid to write about Wizard Squares, writing about the same four Kaladesh uncommons every week's getting real old.
Weirdly enough, Hangarback Walker stayed just outside the top 10, along with Kaladesh standouts Smuggler's Copter, Concealed Courtyard, and Botanical Sanctum. Smuggler's Copter in particular feels egregiously powerful; it allows decks to avoid playing into board sweepers while letting them maintain aggression, all while smoothing out draws via efficient card selection. It's no small wonder that Smuggler's Copter is one of the defining cards of Standard.
Servant of the Conduit falls from #7 last week to #10 this week, but the real story here is that its longevity belies a move back towards Aetherworks Marvel (our 16th-best seller this week) strategies. This shift has been a long time coming; Standard's Best Deck, B/G Delirium, is hard-pressed to deal with a deck that goes over the top of it as easily as Aetherworks Marvel decks do.
I used to LOVE Sire of Insanity when Return to Ravnica block was Standard legal. Feast your eyes on this blast from the past:
These days, Sire of Insanity is a role-player in Legacy Reanimator decks, and with last weekend's Legacy Grand Prix in Japan, Legacy's getting all sorts of attention now.
I feel pretty comfortable just sharing Craig Wescoe's primer on Mono-White Humans in lieu of talking about how good Thraben Inspector is. If you didn't realize it by now, me talking at you about it won't help.
Another blast from the past! Collected Company dominated Standard for the bulk of the time it was legal and remains one of Modern's defining cards. This slight spike in sales is unprecedented, but don't be surprised by it — the card is superb.
Blessed Alliance moves down one spot from last Friday, from 5th to 6th, because... reasons? Who knows. The needle isn't moving enough to lose faith in Blessed Alliance — it still plays many important roles in both Modern and Standard decks.
Blooming Marsh actually improved its spot from Friday, jumping up from 8th. It's safe to lump Blooming Marsh in with the good Kaladesh uncommons that never leave the top 10, thanks to black/green strategies being forever good in Modern and the land's wide applications in Standard.
Yeah, the top ten didn't really change much at all. Sire of Insanity and Collected Company are the Standard hits of yesteryear that shook things up over the Black Friday weekend, but yeah, nothing really changed. Not that that's a bad thing — good cards selling well isn't inherently bad or good — I just root for chaos whenever I can, and would've loved to see some dumb, weird card make top 8 over the weekend like Skred did a little while back. The closest we got to that was Sire of Insanity in the top 10.
Maybe there was no hope of a top 10 shakeup. With so many sales, it was going to be even harder for some dumb, weird card to make a mark — the cream was destined to rise to the top this week. Bummer.
Yeah, yeah. It's a good card that sees lots of play in both Modern and Standard. It was #4 last week, and it's #3 now. Wheeeeee.
Panharmonicon's the kind of card that speaks to my soul. The decks I play tend to attack and block at various speeds, and Panharmonicon decks really aren't interested in doing that.
Panharmonicon's not a card I "see" very well — it's hard for me to build around it in an effective way, because anything that falls outside the aggressive-controlling axis (ie., combo decks) is harder for me to conceptualize, especially when it comes to winning games. Finding novel parts of a game you've been playing for more than a decade is nice.
#3 last week, #1 today. Yee haw.