The 2016-17 annual season for professional Magic featured some big twists, turns, and one heck of a finish.
Player of the Year – Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Pro Tour Hour of Devastation Champion and 2016-17 Player of the Year
For the third time in a row, the Player of the Year was decided in the final Pro Tour Top 8 of the season. Further, within the last three matches of the Pro Tour. This year, it was decided in the very last match!
In 2014-15, Mike Sigrist took the crown from Eric Froehlich, and in 2015-16 Owen Turtenwald did it to Seth Manfield. This year, Pro Tour Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa just did it to Márcio Carvalho.
People said Portugal's Márcio Carvalho's lead was so secure, it was seemingly insurmountable, and with one fewer win from Damo da Rosa, it just might have been. But in an effort to keep the Magic season gripping until the end, the Player of Year kept deciding to hold us in suspense.
In fact, in both rounds Damo da Rosa played, there were moments of certain doom he faced down. In the quarterfinals he was down 0-2, then won three straight games, the first of those on a mulligan to five cards. In the semifinals—a match people are already saying is "for the ages"—Damo da Rosa was dead on board in the fifth game and knew it, but impatience got the best of his opponent, Yam Wing Chun, offering Damo da Rosa a second life that he was more than happy to accept.
The often straight-forward Damo da Rosa said of that moment that he didn't worry too much about it. "I just thought, 'Oh man I'm dead; Oh wait, I guess I'm not dead; Oh, I'm still in a pretty good spot, I guess.'" Seems pretty easy to keep yourself collected in a situation like that.
This win for Paolo signifies the first for now-Pro Tour Hour of Devastation champion, and also the first for the South American continent. It's yet another feather in the cap of a man whose Magic career is becoming more and more bedazzled. The Brazilian has 19 Grand Prix Top 8s, 12 Pro Tour Top 8s, including two wins, inducted in the Pro Tour Hall of Fame in his first eligible year, and is now Player of the Year.
"It means a lot," he stated matter of fact. "It means of everyone in the year, I did the best!" Damo da Rosa flashed a genuine smirk of a smile. When asked later to verify that quote he said, "Well it's true, isn't it?"
After the win Paulo was flanked by his team and his friends, and he was soaking it all in. He was enjoying every moment.
It's true, Paulo, it's true. This year, you did the best.
Rookie of the Year – Ben Hull
Ben Hull, 2016-17 Rookie of the Year
"I expect I'll look back and be quite proud of this," Vancouver native Ben Hull said while looking at his Rookie of the Year plaque.
His development over the course of the year—jumpstarted by his Pro Tour Kaladesh Top 8 finish—is about the best anyone can hope for, and Hull's pathway, is certainly a repeatable one.
"I'd been playing for a couple of years—I had no idea what I was doing," Hull said laughing. "I wasn't really making an effort, but I was going to the PTQs." At one of those RPTQs, Hull won himself a qualification for Hawaii.
He seemed skeptical and a bit embarrassed to even talk about it. "I won a nineteen-player RPTQ—in Edmonton. Nineteen, and the PPTQ that fed it was 14 players." He laughed again. "I didn't check this or anything, but I'm pretty sure that was the smallest PPTQ/RPTQ combination for that Pro Tour."
Since that RPTQ win and the Pro Tour Top 8 that resulted, Hull looked to parlay that finish into future Magic success. He met Thien Nguyen, who was putting together Fire Squad for the Pro Tour Team Series, and thanks to other gregarious grinders like Nathan Smith, Hull quickly found a home on the tournament scene.
But he still went through his necessary growing pains, like waiting to finish his draft to throw up from travel-related food poisoning, and making silly mistakes and feeling badly about them.
"I have a tendency to make really stupid mistakes," Hull said. "Just last weekend, I played a Countervailing Winds, and when my opponent asked me to count the cards in my graveyard, I just put my hand into it, and I just put my whole hand in the graveyard." He shook his head about the whole ordeal. "During the judge call, my opponent just conceded because he saw I had an Angler Drake." He paused. "So that part was okay."
Hull missed out on Platinum by a single match this weekend, but he's not sweating it. He said that although it would be nice, it wouldn't have altered his plans too much. And plus, when you demonstrably had the best year of any rookie, setting your standards higher that that is a tall order indeed.
Hull has an enjoyable job outside of the gaming industry and is content with his part-time Magic life, at least for now. From Hull's perspective, this year he figured out how to navigate the Pro Tour, found some traveling kin, earned himself Gold, and took home a title to boot. He was quite satisfied with his achievement—a great ending to a great year.
Hall of Fame, The Masters, and the Pro Tour Team Series Results
Those two races weren't even close to the only Magic storylines that wrapped up this weekend. Here's a quick list of the rest:
- Josh Utter-Leyton and Martin Jůza were announced as the Pro Tour Hall of Fame 2017 Class;
- Martin Jůza from the Czech Republic became Draft Master, underscoring his Hall-worthy career;
- Sebastian Pozzo from Argentina clinched Constructed Master, after his match with the famed seven-card Bomat Courier;
- Musashi and Genesis remained the top two teams going to the Pro Tour Team Series finals at the 2017 Magic World Championship;
- And the invites to the 2017 World Championship were clinched (see below).
The 2017 World Championship Player List
The final 2016-2017 Pro Tour may be over, but all roads lead to Boston for the World Championship. Make sure to catch it on twitch.tv/magic October 6-8 to see which one of these amazing players can become World Champion. This looks like an amazing list of some of the game's best players, and that's good, because it is.
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
Lee Shi Tian
Lucas Esper Berthoud