Going into the 2013-2014 Premier Play season, Slovakian Ivan Floch was a player who held the unfortunate reputation as one of the best players without a Pro Tour Top 8. The long-time player had two Pro Tour Top 32 finishes in his lifetime, four Grand Prix Top 8s, and a Team Worlds title from 2010, but was unable to break onto the Sunday stage of a Pro Tour.
This changed at Pro Tour Magic 2015, the highlight of his last year in Magic.
"Finally, I got my first Pro Tour Top 8," Floch recollected. "I am very phlegmatic person, but I was literally jumping around when I drew in the last round of swiss."
Floch, who had locked up the Top 8 after his win in Round 15 of that Pro Tour, made his first Top 8 a big one. After dispatching Burn opponent Matthew Sperling in the quarterfinals with his own Young Pyromancer, Floch then bested Owen Turtenwald 2-1 in the Semifinals.
The finals had Floch going up against Jackson Cunningham, who made a monumental showing at his first Pro Tour. The match came down to the last attacks in the fifth and final game, where Floch won in a very unconventional fashion: Nyx-Fleece Ram beatdowns, courtesy of an Archangel of Thune bolstering the flock.
Floch's beginnings are rooted to Apocalypse, a time when only a few people in his country were concerned with the Pro Tour. There was, however, an event that Floch's local scene were very into during his Magic roots.
"Everyone wanted to know who won last weekend in our weekly standard tournament in Slovakia," he explained. "That person was considered a true champion, at least for the rest of the week. And those tournaments were the most enjoyable events of my Magic youth. It was always a very casual atmosphere. Usually, when someone got eliminated, they joined someone who was still playing and they would talk into those player's games. The finals usually consisted of two big crowds of people playing against and screaming at each other, especially when a big top-deck occurred."
Floch has come a long way since his days starting out his local casual events. His win at Pro Tour Magic 2015 not only got him $40,000, but also secured him Platinum status in the Pro Players Club as well as his invitation to the 2014 World Championship.
However, on the path to Nice, France, Floch made a brief stop in Honolulu for Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, where he kicked off the start of this new season with a back-to-back Pro Tour Top 8. The Slovakian pro may have had playoff finishes evade him for years, but 2014 has been a wealth of breakout performances for the Slovakian pro.
We'll see very soon whether Floch continues this succession of prime finishes.