Last year, Magic celebrated its twentieth anniversary.
Also last year, the World Championship was won for the first time by a player younger than the game itself. That player, Shahar Shenhar, at the time only nineteen-years-old, had to battle through the fatigue of playing for five straight days between two events as will as insurmountable odds in order to claim the title.
"The tournament was incredibly difficult," Shenhar explained. "I was playing versus the best in the world in an air-condition-free room under the hot lights [during a heat wave]. It was five straight days of Magic for me because I had the World Magic Cup to compete in as well. On top of all that, when I made it to the finals I had to beat a very bad match-up, a match-up that I already lost to in the swiss rounds of the tournament."
"All that being said, although it was a stressful five days, I ended up on top and my family was there cheering me on for the first time. It was an event that I'll never forget, and a finish that I'm looking to repeat this year as well."
Shenhar's remarkable victory over Reid Duke in 2013 was nothing short of impressive, and Shenhar's victory at the World Championship added a big accomplishment to his already impressive three Grand Prix victories at the time. All of this has come fairly recently, as among the competitors in the World Championship, Shenhar's career in the game clocks in at way under a decade.
"I've been playing Magic since I was fourteen, which is when the set Lorwyn was released," Shenhar recalled. "I was introduced to this game by my best friend. He was raised in a religious family—I was not, but when I was at their house I respected the restrictions—and so during Shabbat he wasn't allowed to use any electronics. Instead of playing first-person shooters we either went outside to play sports or played indoor games like Chess, Checkers, and one of the games his older siblings played as well was Magic."
"Once I learned the game—mostly by watching—I completely fell in love. I started building decks out of their collection which was a very casual one. I built a mono-black deck which was doing well against their field. My mom saw that I really liked the game and she liked it too because it was very intellectual compared to all the shooting games which she to this day still hates. She looked online to see if there were any nearby Magic stores and there were a few, including one ten minutes away from us called Adventureson.com/Adventures Comics and Games."
Shenhar's experiences at the store, aside from it being the starting point of his Magic career, included his friendships with Ricky Sidher and Michael Hetrick. "I grew up with these two friends, going to the same store multiple times a week," he said. "They were the best players at that store, so getting to watch and learn from them was instrumental to my game."
Shenhar, who only started playing when he was fourteen, had grown so fast that he was hoisting the World Championship trophy in 2013 at the age of nineteen. Now, Shenhar is trying to run it back. A second trophy, again with his family watching, would be a new greatest memory. "If I can do it two years in a row, with all while my family watching and cheering me on, I might cry of happiness," said Shenhar. "Something that I've never done."