After the glaring disappointment that was Grand Prix Melbourne 2016, the ATGN coverage team had very low expectations of this year’s Grand Prix Brisbane. For those of you unfamiliar with my article on that GP, here’s the cliff notes: the venue was tiny and relatively isolated, there were 90 minute queues for side events, main event registration didn’t open until 4PM, there were no EFTPOS facilities (or advice of their absence), players were literally shoulder-to-shoulder all day, and a player even received a game-loss for an error by the tournament organisers.
Grand Prix Brisbane could not have been any further from that experience. At multiple points during the day the ATGN crew came together and marvelled at just how smoothly the main and side events were running. No event is without fault or controversy, especially one with 1101 players registered (966 competing), but the efforts and coordination of Chainlinks made GP Brisbane enjoyable, smooth and fun for all parties.
I entered the hall at 10:50 on the Friday, expecting another hour wait to enter my 12PM Australian 7pt Highlander Grinder, but immediately walked up to the side events table, gave them money and found a seat at a table. It wasn’t even 11AM yet, and I was already impressed. Not long after I had sat down the side events line had reached its peak for the weekend, a half hour wait; which is about a third of that experienced in Melbourne. While waiting for the event to fire, I had a chat with another player who had been told at the side event table that there would be no EFTPOS capabilities, and therefore missed his 12PM grinder. What differentiates this from Melbourne is that Chainlinks noted this on their facts booklet and website, and that there was an ATM in the convention center itself, so players weren’t forced to walk for half an hour to enter events.
It was in this event that I saw my first tournament discrepancy. A player was mysteriously dropped from the tournament at 3-0, and rather than re-pair, the attending judge slotted him in with a bye, taking him to 4-0 and playing off for the byes. It wasn’t the most integral thing to do, but we all moved on to our final round anyway, there would be plenty of opportunities for byes to come. For what it’s worth, I went 3-1 with Grixis Artifact Combos and earned 140 prize points (half a box). By and large, the scheduling of events over the weekend was an issue, with the Sunday Legacy event being shifted from 2PM to 4PM with little to no notice. There were a few similar occurrences over the weekend, some of which involved players not attending their tables for limited events and some due to problems with organisation. Overall, the events were managed fairly well by Chainlinks, with most problems due to judges being wrangled while trying to run side events.
As for the hall itself, I was in awe. The space looked absolutely cavernous, not helped by the incredibly high ceiling. I got vertigo just looking upwards.
Typical play space size throughout the event
There was plenty of space for players and spectators, with additional room for traffic. Every time I took a seat, there was space for my playmat, deck box, dice bag and life pad with a little room left over. The on-site cafe stocked good food (no sugar highs from energy drinks for me) for fairly reasonable prices, there were multiple water stations dotting the hall, and with multiple clean and tidy bathrooms in the hall no player ever went wanting for any amenity.
All of the judges on staff were an absolute pleasure. The usual Rogue’s Gallery of outstanding Oceanic judges (special shout-outs to Fry, Paul, and Sashi) were led by Riccardo Tessitori himself in his first trip to Australia. Riccardo was something else this weekend, bristling with charisma and passion, he was always willing to go the extra mile to bring players a fantastic experience. We’d love to have him back.
Throughout the Saturday of the main event, rounds ran to an exhausting 70 minute average, which gave the aggro pilots a chance for a spot of lunch, a chat and a quick nap between rounds. The day was fairly uneventful, with the most interesting tale making the rounds being of a Blue-Black Mill deck on the X-1 slot. Keep an eye out for Ben’s interview with the pilot, Sven Restel, in the next few days. Towards the end of the day commiserations and congratulations were swapped, with 285 players earning the magic 18 match points to make the second day.
When the dust finally settled, Zen Takahashi (Dredge) squared off against Oliver Oks (Lantern Control) in the final, Zen’s Ensnaring Bridge removal being stripped by Oliver’s Lost Legacy to take out the final 2-1. ATGN earned a spot filming the action (or non-action) of the final, so stay tuned for that upload.
For those of you who care, I went 11-4 (63rd on breakers) with Mono White Death and Taxes (not the Wescoe list). I’ll be doing a full breakdown and deck tech for you later in the week.
Overall I think Chainlinks not only redeemed themselves for the farce that was GP Melbourne, but also earned my respect for their conduct and level of professionalism displayed in Brisbane. I look forward to seeing how they perform in Sydney later this year.