When I first saw Thomas Holzinger this morning and asked him about how he's been doing lately, he told me that he's trailing a little behind Valentin Mackl, who is boasting a comfortable 16 point lead in terms of Pro Points. This translates to Mackl most likely leading the Austrian team into the World Magic Cup.
"Valentin is having quite the roll", Holzinger admitted. "He's been playing Magic 24/7 lately.
"He's also the only one who has an invite for the upcoming Pro Tour, so it seems like this race seems has already been decided."
I asked Mackl what he's changed about his game to step out of the shadow of the other Austrian players and rather than himself, Holzinger once again explained: "He's playing more Magic than any other Austrian at the moment. I'm pretty sure there are few Europeans that play more than him."
Mackl disagreed with his friend: "I don't like testing too much. When there's a Pro Tour coming around, I'm putting in a lot of work, but other than that, I'm not even feeling inclined to go to the store to test. I don't play a lot of Magic Online either; I got like one Draft per season and that's it."
Obviously, your standards of what is "a lot" seem to change a bit when you're playing Magic competitively...
That's when Oliver Polak-Rottmann chimed in, who is currently tied in Pro Points with Holzinger. I asked him whether he has a rivalry going on with his friend.
Polak-Rottmann: "Honestly, we don't have a strong rivalry going on, but we would really like to attend the World Magic Cup together. David Reitbauer is currently on 9 points and he'll fly to Atlanta, so we can expect him to also end up on at least 12 points after the Pro Tour. So yeah, the race for the second and third place really is on this season."
Mackl tried to motivate his friends: "I wouldn't mind playing with you guys."
Polak-Rottmann then added: "We've been testing together for the last few larger events together with a German group that features Wenzel Krautmann. We get along really well and know each other for quite a while already. It would be great to represent Austria together."
Since Mackl had been playing Magic for a little longer, but he only started to come out successfully more often over the course of the last year, I asked him what had changed.
Mackl: "I've been playing for quite a while already, but I've never been too serious about Magic. That changed roughly 3 years ago when I started to enjoy the game a lot more.
"I still don't tend to think of myself as one of the best players, but I'm having a great time going up against some of the greats. For some reason, I seem to do rather well against them."
I then asked both Polak-Rottmann and Holzinger about their current goals.
Polak-Rottmann: "Currently, my goal is to collect seven more Pro Points for the Silver level so I can then attend Pro Tour Honolulu. I don't need to be on the Pro Tour train and play Magic all the time; I've tried it for a while and it was fun while it lasted, but I don't feel like I need it anymore."
Thomas Holzinger: "I missed Gold by one point last season and I'm currently a few points short of Silver. So basically, I'm no longer qualified for most of the events I would have otherwise liked to attend.
"I wanted to qualify for the upcoming Pro Tour, but I'm currently going through some changes in my life; I want to start studying very soon and I will focus a little more on that rather than staying up to date with the latest developments regarding the popular decks and so on. So in a way, I also consider taking a break from Magic for like two years."
Sometimes, a break is what's in order for you to appreciate the things you're having at the moment. Mackl also admitted that he doesn't like it when Magic feels like a job since it's supposed to be his hobby. "It's still great fun, but in a different way when compared to the years before."
Polak-Rottmann added: "I haven't been playing in the Pro Tour for three years and it was great fun to get back to it. I don't want to miss this experience, it's just the Grand Prix can't always get me out of the house."
Well, fortunately, Magic is offering plenty of opportunities to get your game on and enjoy playing the game at various levels of competition, whether you're going up against your friends in a local store or you're duking it out with some of the most renowned players from the other side of the globe.
I expect these 3 Austrian powerhouses to show up close to the top of the standings at the end of this weekend and who knows, maybe we'll see all three of them again at some of the upcoming Pro Tours?