Steve Rubin's Origin Story

Posted in Feature on August 25, 2015

By Mike Rosenberg

Mike Rosenberg is a writer and gamer and has been part of the Magic text coverage team since 2011. He joined Wizards as organized play’s content specialist in June 2014.

Definitively this year's dark horse competitor at the 2015 World Championship, Steve Rubin is a player that many who watch Magic coverage may not recognize, but is certainly a player that the Pro Tour competitors—including many who are playing in the World Championship—that rings a bell.

Rubin has been a longtime player of the game who has made a name for himself through the independent tournament circuits as well as in the east coast Magic scene. In the 2014-15 Premier Play season, Steve Rubin was quietly crushing at each Pro Tour. While he has yet to earn his first Pro Tour Top 8, a series of solid finishes allowed Rubin to chain together qualifications until he found himself at Platinum status in the Pro Tour Players Club.

2015 World Championship Competitor Steve Rubin

It was the season Rubin needed to fortify his place on the Pro Tour, and a long time coming for someone who first picked up the game with his family when he was in elementary school.

"I started playing Magic after elementary school when I was six during Urza's Saga block with my older brother Scott and his friend Aaron, who were three years my senior," Rubin recalled. "We didn't have a great handle on the rules, but we managed to play here and there after school. My father Rich had noticed that my brother and I were bringing home Magic cards in our backpacks, and naturally became curious about the game. We taught him what we knew about the game, but being so young our dad—a board game player himself—set out to learn the actual rules of the game. Soon after "teaching" him how to play, he taught us—Scott and I—and then we started playing together. Dad would bring us to Prereleases and other local events around the Pittsburgh area, and he became a somewhat competitive player himself participating in PTQs while we were—me especially—too young."

"My first big event was Grand Prix Pittsburgh 2003, Onslaught block Team Sealed, where of course I teamed with Scott and Dad. The event was fun even though we got crushed, and we were really starting to love the game and entrenching Magic into our lives. We continued to play casually throughout my childhood, going to Prereleases, some PTQs, and JSS events, but nothing outside of Pittsburgh. My Dad and brother eventually waned on interest, but my interests went the opposite way. All I wanted to do was play Magic. I thought about decks, playing, read articles, and I could not sleep at night without thinking about Magic."

"It was not until high school that my friend Zohar Bhagat, a Carnegie Mellon University student who I had met through the local store, suggested that I started coming to CMU to play. He saw that I had potential and they were always looking for more players for team drafts and testing for events. Playing at CMU really started my progression toward improving as a player, and it improved my desire to play. I really got my drive through team drafting; I wanted to be the player that people wanted on their team and an opponent that they hated passing to them in drafts. I met all sorts of friends from all over, and I quickly started traveling with my CMU friends to events outside of Pittsburgh: Grand Prix, PTQs, Open Series events, anything. That was seven years ago, and today I still play at CMU and travel with CMU players to events."

"My first Pro Tour was at Pro Tour Gatecrash," Rubin recollected. "I had played in so many PTQs in my career before that event—over 35 according to my Planeswalker Points page—that finally qualifying had me beyond excited. I had prepared with a newly formed team by Craig Wescoe, Adam Yurchick, and Ari Lax. The team testing experience was tough. I liked playing Magic of course, but disliked testing to the extent where it felt like a job. I managed to not test as much as I wanted for that reason, and was the only member to play a deck that wasn't also piloted by another teammate. I was pretty nervous since I was a loner with my deck, but the Pro Tour itself was a blast and I managed to turn a 9-2 start into a 10-6 finish. The rollercoaster of emotions I experienced were rigorous, but after the Pro Tour, all I wanted to do was qualify again, but mostly just play more Magic."

Rubin certainly hasn't slowed down when it comes to playing Magic. His first Grand Prix Top 8 at Grand Prix Chicago last year earned his qualification to Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, and from there, Rubin stayed on the Pro Tour all season long. A series of solid finishes earned him qualification from one Pro Tour to the next until he locked Platinum through three solid Pro Tours in a row, and now, Rubin has his chance to compete as one of the world's best at PAX Prime.

Will the dark horse cement his name in Magic history?

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.

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