Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Thank you for Grand Prix Indianapolis

What an amazing event. So many people stopped by or used social media to congratulate me and comment on what a well-run Grand Prix it was. And it really was, wasn't it? The player meeting got started at 9:02 and we finished in 10 minutes, prompting David Ochoa to Tweet:

Things hummed along from there. The last match of Day 1 finished at 8:09pm. That's 73-minute rounds on average, when I've been told that anything under 75 is good. Day 2, even better. 9:03 to 3:31 for 65-minute rounds, and the Top 8 finished at 6:04pm with a flurry of Lightning Bolts from Brandon Burton.

It helped that the Modern format is in a fast place. Burn decks like the one that Brandon won with are all the place, and in general, aggressive strategies like Affinity, Valakut, and Infect are favored over true control decks. Heck, even the control decks have fast closeouts with Bolts and Snapcasters, or a quick Nahiri/Emrakul finish. But there were two other Modern GPs this weekend with fewer players, and we kept pace or better with both.

It takes more than one person to make an event like this happen, and while I'm happy to be the front man for the band, I have to thank all of my band mates.

First of all, Alan Hochman, the TO. I'm sure that it's never a comfortable feeling to have your event be someone's GP Head Judge debut, but he was supportive and encouraging all the way through, looking to make it a celebration of this milestone. He and I share a birthday, and that kind of random detail made this feel like it was meant to be. The staff he put together, both for his stage staff and the judges, was integral to the event's success. This can't be said enough. When you have people like John Alderfer and Rob McKenzie devoted to TO business instead of floor judging, that's a small loss to get a huge gain. I didn't interface with those two much, but I felt their constant presence, making things run smooth in the background.

Speaking of those judges, CJ Crooks, as Judge Manager, helped me navigate through staff selection and scheduling. At this event, CJ reminded me that I had tested him for Level 2 in 2011, and I'm proud of what influence I've had on his judging career. CJ gave me a lot of leeway in putting together the squad that I wanted, and I thank him for having faith in my selections. CJ is another great judge in his own right, one of my favorites to work with on the floor. In his role as Judge Manager, he was usually pretty close by on the stage with me, and his attitude was a constant uplifting factor for me.

Jeff Morrow and Jared Sylva, my two Appeals Judges in burgundy. Fun fact. These two were the ones who recommended me for Level 3 way back in 2009. They have been constant mentors, friends, and partners in my long career. Back in May, I told Jeff that I would HJ of this GP and asked him to come. Despite the fact that he was already planning on being in Indianapolis for GenCon just a few shorts weeks prior to this event, he made the quick turnaround. Jared never let there be any doubt that he would be there, despite having a Pro Tour in Australia and the New Jersey Invitational on his docket in the weeks leading up to Indy. Those are the kinds of friends I have.

Kali Anderson. In 2010, at the Atlanta Open where I interviewed for my job with StarCityGames (the first time around), Kali certified for Level 1. Our paths became pretty intertwined since then, and I enjoyed watched her blossom first as a judge, then as a scorekeeper, and now I get to have lunch with her almost every week day as her coworker. Having her as the main event scorekeeper was reassuring from a skill perspective first, but also from a familiarity perspective. It was like being a pitcher who has a personal catcher. You can get so much done without even speaking about it.

Jarrod Feight. He's a new one to the roster. I worked with him last May at a Dallas Open that I attended basically to "cycle" for miles. He caught my attention, and we've struck up a friendship and working relationship. He recently had a baby, but he came out from Dallas to support me. He came through big by delivering one of the best Day 2 Team Lead performances on his first try.

I could keep going and going. Eric Dustin Brown and Patrick Vorbroker came out despite Head Judging their own tournaments the following week in Richmond. CJ Shrader, who doesn't venture out of the Southeast all too often. Jeff Higgins and Scott Neiwert from Portland, following in the wake of their own GP there a few weeks prior. A lot of people made choices and sacrifices to be here, to be here for me.

In some sense, the preparation for this event goes back years. The people I've met and the relationships I've made with them are what made this event the success that it was. I'm a fan of stacking my decks when it comes to judge staffs of events that I Head Judge. And for this one, I never stopped stacking. You should see the people I contacted who couldn't make it. Eric Levine, recently returned from Japan, had to make some hard cuts in events so as not to overload his schedule. Jacob Milicic attended a wedding. (Someone else who I can't recall at the moment also attended a wedding, but probably not the same one.) The good news, especially for Jacob, is that we are running it back at GP Milwaukee in December. Pastimes and Riki Hayashi, take two. This one's Limited, so the degree of difficulty goes up. Let's do it again.