The past three season points races for the StarCityGames.com Open Series have been intense. Brian Braun-Duin clawed past William "Huey" Jensen in Season One, Chris VanMeter staved off Eric Rill in Season Two, and Joe Lossett topped Alex Bertoncini in Season Three. If you thought those three races were exciting, you haven't seen anything yet.
Season Four is going to be a bit different. Sure, there will be the points race leading up to the points winner claiming a berth to the Players' Championship at the end of the year, but there's more up for grabs this season. After the Season Four Invitational wraps up, the remaining top 8 ranking players on the points leaderboard all earn invites to the Players' Championship as well. This means more jockeying for position, more great players in the mix, and more thrilling matches of Magic between now and December 14.
Entering Season Four, we have six of our sixteen players qualified for the exclusive end-of-the-year tournament held in Roanoke, VA at the Star City Game Center. Joining BBD, CVM, and Lossett are Derrick Sheets, Tom Ross, and Reid Duke. Sheets punched his ticket by winning the Season One Invitational in March, Ross qualified by destroying the Season Two Invitational in June, and Duke locked up his spot to the PC with his runner-up finish this past weekend in the Season Three Invitational, falling to the already qualified Ross in the finals.
Now the real fun starts for the Open Series grinders.
Season Four continues this weekend in St. Louis and runs until the Seattle Invitational on December 12-14. Ten Open Series weekends fall between now and the final Invitational for the season as well as the Autumn State Championships. That's twelve weekends worth of events, not to mention countless IQs, dishing out Open points to fuel the final yearly standings. Opens across the country ranging from Oakland to Worcester and many places in between will set the stage for the Seattle Invitational, where the final roster for the Players' Championship will be determined.
Leading the pack for Season Four is the 49-time Pro Tour player and three-time Open Series winner, Gerard Fabiano. Right behind Fabiano is Ross Merriam, hot off his second-place finish in the Legacy Open this past weekend in New Jersey. Bertoncini, who was live to overtake the Season Three points race at the New Jersey Invitational, trails in third. Jared Boettcher, who has eight Open Series Top 8s this year, including all three Invitationals, is just one point behind Bertoncini.
From there, the leaderboard opens up. If the season ended today, the eight at-large berths would go down to 13th place, and every player with more than 100 points on the leaderboard would be set for the #SCGPC. But there is a lot of Magic still to be played, and you can be sure that Jim Davis and his 103 points is nowhere close to safe for his trip to Roanoke. Logan Mize, who has been climbing the leaderboard all year thanks to his work on the IQ circuit in Florida, is only five points behind Davis. And every player down to 32 is more than capable of stringing together a couple Top 8s this season to put their name in the discussion. We've already seen four of those players - Boettcher, Dylan Donegan, Andrew Boswell, and Tyler Wilkerson - have weekends where they make the Top 8 of both the Standard and Legacy Opens.
Lurking in the Top 32 are four previous Invitational winners in Todd Anderson, Brad Nelson, Erik Smith, and Duke, though his points total is a nonfactor with his qualification already locked. On top of the past Invitational winners, there are nine players in the Top 32 that have already won an Open this year. Fabiano, Merriam, Boettcher, Stephen Mann, Eric Rill, Andrew Tenjum, Danny Jessup, Jake Mondello, and Wilkerson have all hoisted trophies this year. Some of them have had shots at taking home multiple pieces of hardware.
To go along with the notable winners this season we have plenty of familiar faces on the Open Series. Players like Kent Ketter, who has two runner-up finishes in Opens this year, Jeff Hoogland, who made the Top 4 of the Cincinnati Standard Open, Matt Hoey, who took second in the Kansas City Legacy Open, and Feline Longmore, who has a couple Top 8s already this year, are all in the hunt. Of course, don't count out players not in the Top 32 as a back-to-back weekend can launch many players right into the thick of the Players' Championship race.
For now, the focus will be on St. Louis this weekend. Expect to see many of the Midwest grinders like Hoey, Hoogland, Tenjum, and Ketter in attendance, fighting for more points. Catch all the fun this weekend on SCGlive with Cedric Phillips and Patrick Sullivan calling all the action!