Welcome to Grand Prix Manchester
by Kim Eikefet
Barely two weeks after Grand Prix Porto and one week after 2000 Team Pro Tour New York, Manchester is the host for yet another European Grand Prix. The city which is well-known for its football teams is located a good four hour drive north of London, and its New Century House, a conference and banqueting centre, is the Grand Prix site.
Opening Friday night, Magic players arrived early at the site for a Grand Prix Trial, early registration and side events. Carpeted floors lead you to the inner regions where numbered tables greet you along with a big welcome banner above the side event registration desk. The main event, on the other hand, takes place in a huge hall one floor up from the side events. Magic art and some banners hang from the walls along with some round Grand Prix logos. A bigger logo hangs on the stage in the far end of the room. From the stage, you have a full overview of the playing area. Numerous tables are put up and clothed with the ever-present green tableclothes. Red chairs make the room seem almost like a Christmas decoration.
The hunt for Pro Tour Points is definitely on. In spite of the heavy tournament schedule, a lot of name players have come to Britain to play in the Grand Prix. Several players have come from the States; for instance Alex Shvartsman, David Price, Mark LePine, Darwin Kastle, David Williams, Edward Fear, Zvi Mowshowitz, Mike Pustilnik, Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz and Justin Gary. Ryan Fuller and Jamie Lynn from Canada are both present. European top players Noah Boeken, Olivier Ruel, Nicolai Herzog, Bram Snepvangers, Janosch Kühn, Kai Budde and Dominik Hothow, along with the current Danish resident Trey Van Cleave. And of course, a lot of the British players have come to Manchester to play on their home turf; Tony Dobson, Ben Ronaldson, John Ormerod, Warren Marsh, Craig Jones and Scott Wills, to mention a few.
In fact, the amount of name players is pretty high compared to the rather low amount of participants of the tournament; a scarce 250 people have showed up and there are plenty of empty tables in the playing area. Nicolai Herzog believes that six out of the top eight will be well-known players - which is not at all unreasonable. Time will tell if his prediction kicks in.
The format for Grand Prix Manchester is Sealed Deck and Rochester Draft day two. But the set used is the brand new stand-alone Invasion, and a lot of players have spent a considerable amount of testing of the new set, at least compared to the short time period it has been released. The general consensus seems to be that you need to play most of the power cards you get, which means that most decks will have three or even more colours. Dragons are coveted; huge flyers can easily be the key to doing well.
Deck construction started early, decks were handed out before ten and everything seems to be working smoothly. The head judge for the tournament is Paul Barclay, and he seems relaxed. Right now, everything is calm in general, but when the battle for top 64 and then for top 8 begins, chances are that the temperature will rise. Be sure to check into The Sideboard for the latest updates!