Saturday, 2:00 p.m. - How hard is it to make the top 8?

Posted in Event Coverage on September 17, 2011

By Rich Hagon

Rich Hagon combines a deep knowledge of the players of the Pro Tour with a passionate love of the game. He's a regular commentator for Pro Tour and Grand Prix live video coverage, and is the official Pro Tour Statistician. He has been covering Magic events since 2006.

Ask any Magic pundit, and they'll give you three Brazilian names straight off the bat: Willy Edel, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, and Carlos Romao. These are the Big Three, the Trinity, who you would automatically assume would have the best chance to make the top 8.

That may be true, but it's far from a guarantee. In fact, it's far from even a 50/50 proposition. Making the top 8 is really hard, and not just because you have to be good at Magic. The odds are right against you from the start.

Take last year for example. Romão began 1-2 in Standard. He turned that around with a 2-1 draft, and then lost his last round of the day to be out of contention at 3-4. Edel went 2-1 in Standard. He went 2-1 in the first draft. He went 2-1 in the second draft. He went 2-1 in the last three rounds of Standard. That was 8-4, and it wasn't enough. What about Paulo? LikeRomão, he opened 1-2, and only got back to 3-3 after the first draft. From there he went 5-1, but just like Willy Edel, he found that 8-4 wasn't enough. As it turned out, for one unfortunate, 9-3 wasn't enough either, Eduardo Borges missing out on the top 8 by 0.15% on tiebreaks. Harsh.

So here we are in 2011, and once again the assault on the summit has begun. Edel, as we know, dropped after two defeats put him into ratings purgatory. Romão opened with two victories, as did da Rosa. If you've read the feature match in round three, you know that da Rosa didn't make it a clean sweep in Standard.

And right there, you have the problem. At 2-1, you're behind the curve for making the top 8. Unless you now go 3-0 in your opening draft, you're going to be behind again, and at 4-2 at halfway you can only afford one more defeat. Depending where your two defeats happened, you may have to go completely undefeated during the second half of the Swiss.

That means no deck malfunctions. That means no opposing game three topdecks. That means nobody drafting and casting both Grave Titan and Inferno Titan in the same game against you. It means no bad Standard matchup. It means no poor sideboarding choices, and no gameplay errors when it counts.

These three are all tremendous players. Edel is already gone, and while the other two both have two wins, they're already behind the curve. It's only one quarter of the way through the Swiss, and already the odds of any of the Big Three making the top 8 have lengthened. Bear in mind that the very best in the history of the game have a winning percentage round about 2/3, which is an 8-4 record. To make the top 8, you have to do better than that.

How hard is it to make top 8?

Very.

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