Two years ago, in Amsterdam, nineteen-year-old Shahar Shenhar entered the professional Magic history books as the first Magic: The Gathering World Champion to be younger than the game itself, as he won the World Championship during the game's twentieth anniversary.
One year later, Shenhar made history yet again by becoming the first player to win back-to-back World Championship titles.
The now 21-year-old Shenhar, who has roots in Israel as well as Sacramento, California, now seeks a third World Championship title this year. But going back into the past a bit, Shenhar's origin story with Magic and his first Pro Tour began seven years ago.
2015 World Championship Competitor Shahar Shenhar
"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 I played 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."
And from there, Shenhar's Magic history began. It was at Adventures Comics and Games that he began to improve with his two friends, Ricky Sidher and Michael Hetrick. They would go to the store a few times each week to play and it was watching them and playing against them each week that improved Shenhar for the Pro Tour.
"Pro Tour Paris 2011 was my first Pro Tour," Shenhar recalled. "I qualified by winning my first PTQ Top 8, so I was very new to the competitive scene. At the Pro Tour I played the U/R/G Ramp deck that I was doing really well with at FNMs and other tournaments during the week."
"At this Pro Tour, I had my best Constructed performance ever which was 8-1-1, but I remember that my Limited game was off, to say the least. This was due to the fact that I was just a kid that had no one to team with. All of my friends from my area were not qualified. My Limited record was 2-1-3, which when combined with my Constructed record was good enough for 38th place."
That 38th place finish from Shenhar qualified him for the next Pro Tour, the beginning of Shenhar's ascension to one of Magic's top players. He currently plays Magic professionally as one of the game's Platinum players, and is also a content provider for TCGPlayer.com.
For Shenhar, who has already obtained Magic's greatest title (twice!), this year's World Championship is yet another victory lap for the young but storied pro player, and another year to defend the title from 23 other competitors who will seek to knock him off the plateau. Would they succeed, or would Shenhar continue to build his Magic legacy with an unprecedented third win?
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.