On the final day of Pro Tour Fate Reforged, eight players returned to the feature match area ready to battle. Headlined by a Hall of Fame pro from the Netherlands, a now Hall of Fame elect in his fourth Pro Tour Top 8, and a finalist from the previous year's Modern Pro Tour, there were many players who people picked to be a favorite to win the whole thing.
Fast forward through the quarters and semis, and you have a finals that featured a showdown between two relatively new faces. On one side of the table was Justin Cohen, a Madison resident with a renowned roommate in Samuel Black, a proven gift for solving Magic puzzle, and a phenomenal first Pro Tour showing. On the other side of the table was Antonio Del Moral León, a Spaniard who was competing in only his fourth Pro Tour, one he qualified for via winning a Magic Online Championship Series event.
2015 World Championship Competitor Antonio Del Moral León
Fast forward again four games, and Del Moral León was holding the trophy and the giant $40,000 novelty check alongside a posse of his newfound compatriots as Spain's very first Pro Tour champion. The win immediately rocketed him into the spotlight, and in the months that have followed, Del Moral León has only continued to impress with extremely solid play as one of Magic's biggest new stars, a continuation on Europe's Pro Tour dominance in the 2014-15 Premier Play season. Del Moral León's origins with the game began when he was fourteen years old.
"I remember a summer evening in which I played football with the kids in my neighborhood, and then my best friends Rafael and twins Antonio and Pedro convinced me to go to a Magic store called TOLARIA to teach me how to play the game," Del Moral León recalled. "I remember that I started by buying a Rakdos pre-constructed deck, and then they would lend me an Orzhov Constructed deck, which was really good, but I could never get a single win with it! In my first booster pack, I cracked a Pithing Needle, which back then was one of the most sought after cards of the set."
"I liked the game so much that I started playing daily in the store with my friends, having drinks and food, and sharing laughs every day until at some point after a few years playing I almost quit because I never seemed to win anything. It was then that I decided to start playing competitively, and when I installed Magic Online on my computer…"
Spain's first Pro Tour champion, Platinum Pro, and Magic Online Championship semifinalist, Del Moral León's origins can't really be discussed without looking at his online persona as well: CharLy.
Frequent players on Magic Online may recognize that name, as CharLy has played in thousands of matches across Daily Events, Premier Events, and the queues. More may remember him from this year's Magic Online Championship, where he once again showcased his Modern prowess with a semifinals appearance.
As Del Moral León spent more time on Magic Online, his skill with Magic began to grow, eventually leading to him winning a Pro Tour Qualifier. This led to his debut event on the pro player scene at eighteen years of age: Pro Tour Return to Ravnica.
"I managed to qualify for my first Pro Tour in Seattle," Del Moral León recollected. "It was incredible for me being in that kind of tournament. I would always watch online from home, and I got to see so many good players around me, and I got to play against them. I was able to play against none other than Gabriel Nassif in my first round!"
"The first day did not go very well, but it did not matter to me. I was just a kid living my dream, and that motivated me to keep playing so I could become a professional player. After that, I won a Magic Online Championship Series event as well as one of Spain's World Magic Cup Qualifiers, which was the tournament I was most excited to win since I got to compete in the World Magic Cup representing my country with an unbeatable team. Every time I play in a tournament like that, I get the urge to play more and more."
The last twelve months have been an exciting time for Del Moral León. He and his Spanish compatriots finished in 30th at the World Magic Cup last year, earning him $1,000 and some Pro Points.
His Magic Online Championship Series event win led to his qualification for Pro Tour Fate Reforged, whichever forever changed Del Moral León's presence in the game. It also ensured that Del Moral León would return to the World Magic Cup later this year, where he'll represent Spain as its national champion.
And now, Del Moral León will be able to show what he's got at the 2015 World Championship. As one of the up and coming pros in the Magic community, will he surprise the field with another big title? We'll see soon enough.
Special thanks to Hall of Fame pro and coverage reporter Frank Karsten along with translator and judge Javier Martin for the interview that these quotes came from.
The 2015 Magic: The Gathering World Championship takes place in Seattle, Washington, during PAX Prime on August 27, 28, and 30. To learn more about this year's competitors, head over to the 2015 World Championship Competitors page, and check back every weekday leading up to the World Championship for new profiles on each of this year's competitors.