Pro Tour Magic 2015 Preview

Posted in NEWS on July 28, 2014

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.

The thing is, you really shouldn't need convincing. It's Magic, it's a Pro Tour, and there's a vast amount of text and video coverage coming your way across three days in Portland this weekend. So, can we just agree that you'll all be there to watch and read, and I can go back to checking the math on the Bolivian World Magic Cup captaincy race? (I think Carlos Torrico's got this.)

No? You actually want me to tell you why you should be joining us? Huh. Okay then, here's what exactly 60 seconds of thinking about it gets me:


Happy now? Wow, tough crowd.

All right, I'll explain….


This is Jérémy Dezani, the French champion of Pro Tour Theros back in Dublin last year, and, at the time of writing (before the final Grand Prix of the season in Boston-Worcester and Taipei), the leader in the Player of the Year race. As someone who gets to sit and watch every single European Grand Prix in person—something I've had the privilege to do since 2006—I can honestly say that Jérémy Dezani is one of the most compelling Magic players I've ever seen. When Dezani sits down to play Magic, it isn't a game, it isn't a "battle of wills"—it's war. Take no prisoners, stuff the Geneva convention, war. To watch him pulverize incredibly smart people into the dust, round after round, is simply enthralling theatre. If, as I suspect, he wins Player of the Year in Portland, there will be many matches we can point to through the season and privately acknowledge that not only would we have lost those matches, but that almost anybody would have lost those matches. There simply isn't a tougher "out" in the field. He's an utter monster.


This is Reid Duke, and, until Dezani came up with the only possible result at Grand Prix Milan last month that would see him take over the lead in the Player of the Year race (you know, winning the whole event), Reid Duke held that lead. It seems a long time ago now, but Reid was the proverbial inches away from being the reigning World Champion, holding a lead over Israel's Shahar Shenhar, all the way back in the Summer of 2013 (remember?). With a Grand Prix win in Miami, and an emotional first Pro Tour Top 8 at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx in Atlanta, the season has been a spectacular success for The Duke. If he can overcome Dezani by the end of the week, he will richly deserve to join the ranks of some of the greatest players who have ever turned a card sideways.


This is Jared Boettcher (pronounced something close to "betcha," making me fervently wish for a Feature Match against Ben Yu, for what I hope are obvious reasons). While the Player of the Year race is almost certainly a head-to-head between Dezani and Duke, the Rookie of the Year reduces that to a "head to…nobody" race. Frankly, Boettcher has been dominant in this category. He already has Platinum Pro Club status locked up for next season, and although it's not yet an absolute certainty that the Rookie title is his, four of his five notional rivals need to win the Pro Tour to catch him, and very possibly also need it to be Christmas next Wednesday. Will he take the title? Yu/Boettcher.


Stands for water closet, aka the restrooms, and it's always good to know where these are during a tournament (and—life lesson—at other times). WC also stands for World Championship. In one of the more astonishing performances ever seen at a Pro Tour, Journey into Nyx Champion Patrick Chapin was busy treating the event in Atlanta as a qualifying tournament for the event he really wants to win, the World Championship, which forms part of the epic Worlds Week in December.

A total of 24 players will go toe to toe across multiple formats. Technically speaking, only six of these are locked in:

  1. 2013 World Champion Shahar Shenhar
  2. 2013 World Magic Cup Captain Raphaël Lévy
  3. 2013 Magic Online Champion Lars Dam
  4. Pro Tour Theros Champion Jérémy Dezani
  5. Pro Tour Born of the Gods Champion Shaun McLaren
  6. Pro Tour Journey into Nyx Champion Patrick Chapin

Add in the two worst Magic players ever, and you'd still have an amazing lineup. Fortunately, we came up with a better idea, and you'll see the top players from each of five regions, plus the Rookie of the Year, the Pro Tour Magic 2015 champion, and the remaining slots filled by the highest-placed finishers in the Player of the Year race. This is the kind of event where Players of the Year, Hall of Famers, and Pro Tour champions struggle to get camera time.


Add one letter, get a whole other tournament for Worlds Week. A record 72 countries will send teams of four players to Nice, France, for two days of intense competition, high-decibel camaraderie, pulse-pounding drama, and hideous hats. While the World Magic Cup Qualifiers lie ahead of us in the next few weeks, the leaders of all 72 National Teams will be known by Sunday. Here are a dozen of the best WMC races:

  • Belgium—Marijn Lybaert gets to watch from home, to see if Grand Prix Champion Alexandre Darras or GP Top 8 competitor Johan Verhulst can catch him.
  • Brazil—He has a sizeable lead, but Willy Edel knows that Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa is well capable of a Top16 or better finish that could take this race to Sunday.
  • Canada—An indicator of great strength in depth, any of Alexander Hayne, Jacob Wilson, Jon Stern, or Sam Tharmaratnam could pip Pro Tour Born of the Gods Champion Shaun McLaren at the post.
  • Germany—Modern master Patrick Dickmann leads, with Grand Prix Barcelona winner Christian Seibold in second. But look who's sitting in third—Kai Budde. Eek.
  • Hungary—Tamas is going to lead the team, but will it be Glied or Nagy? Whoever makes it leads a team looking to go one better than a topdecked Rakdos's Return in last year's World Magic Cup final against the French.
  • Italy—This looks like a straight shootout between Pro Tour Philadelphia Champion Samuele Estratti and the king of the King of the Hill in Atlanta, Andrea Mengucci.
  • Japan—Yeah…Watanabe, Yamamoto, Nakamura, Mihara, Ichikawa, Yasooka, Yukuhiro, Saito. Still Japan, still ridiculous.
  • Netherlands—Hall of Famer Frank Karsten trails Hall of Famer Kamiel Cornelissen by the smallest of margins.
  • Singapore—One of the tighter races sees Kelvin Chew with a handful of points over Coverage regular Chapman Sim.
  • Slovak Republic—More red-hot coverage action, as EU Grand Prix host Matej Zatlkaj battles Ivan Floch, who has six team appearances already, including Champion in 2010.
  • Spain—Javier Dominguez is the cape-wielding matador, trying to keep a veritable army of young bulls at bay. (Nine, if you must know).
  • Sweden—Joel Larsson leads, but can't feel comfortable with Denniz Rachid and Olle Rade as potential rivals down the stretch.

And, in case you're wondering, Reid Duke ought to end up as the World Magic Cup captain for USA, since only Top 8s and better can help his pursuers. Except, his pursuers have two Hall of Fame rings, two Player of the Year titles, four Pro Tour victories, and 24 Pro Tour Top 8s.


Or, to give it the proper title, Magic 2015. There's something fantastically pure about a core set, and you always know where you stand. Divination leaves you with exactly one card more than you started with. Child of Night dies to anything, but gains you life until it does. Nobody who can read is going to open a Planeswalker in draft and pass it. Big dumb green creatures are biggerer and dumberer than anywhere else. Removal spells say things like "kill it, kill it dead" rather than "unless it's Thursday or there's an Enchantment in your sideboard." You get to feel absurdly powerful when you do cool stuff in a core set, because you actually understand what's happening—unlike that thing with the three timestamps during your upkeep.

Magic 2015 is a fine addition to the core set tradition, but, while it's clear to us mere mortals what most of the cards do, it's in the hands of the pros that a core set really gets to set out a stall and say "Here's what I can really do." We will start both days in Portland with three rounds of Magic 2015 Draft, and I can't wait to dive into this Limited format. Right from the start of our live coverage, when we'll be showing you two featured drafters in action, Magic 2015 will be putting the fun into fundamentals.


This stands for…well, never mind. It also stands for Standard. All right, we should be honest with each other and admit that not everybody is entirely, er, Devoted to Standard right now, and many players who spend each Friday Night Magic in the proverbial trenches will be anxiously hoping for a massive shift in what 60-card decks people are bringing to the table. Without breaking any confidences, it's fair to say the outlook is mixed. There's a powerful force of inertia at work—pros may well have been playing Black and Blue Devotion decks for close to a year now, and Magic 2015 won't necessarily persuade them to switch decks for this most important of examinations. However, the rewards for players who do manage to make the first shifts in the Standard metagame could be huge. As usual, Brian David-Marshall will lead the team bringing you all the best decks throughout the three days.


It's not going to be easy keeping track of everything that moves, but we're certainly going to try. Away from the headline-grabbing trophies and cash finishes, players who reach the key Gold (35 Points) and Platinum (45 Points) thresholds this weekend are doing something distinctly life-changing. For one thing, simply getting to the Pro Tour in the first place is really hard, and one of the key benefits of achieving Gold is that you get invited to every Pro Tour the following season. Yep, no more having to go to gigantic PTQs to get back to the main event. Add in Byes at Grand Prix, $500 appearance fee at each Pro Tour, and automatic entry into World Magic Cup Qualifiers, and you have the kind of package that says "sure, you fell just short this year, but we really want to see you again next year, all the time."

Platinum, though, is where the true elite ply their trade. Three byes at Grand Prix; invitations to every Pro Tour; sleep-in specials at Grand Prix; $250 appearance fee at Grand Prix; free airfare and hotel for each Pro Tour; $1,000 for competing in the World Magic Cup; $3,000 appearance fee for each Pro Tour. Put simply, hitting Platinum is a guarantee of somewhere in the region of $20,000, and that's before you earn a single cent in prize money. On Saturday afternoon in Portland, there are going to be multiple matches with Platinum on the line, and it's going to be great.


Stands for Hall of Fame. Pro Tour Historian Brian David-Marshall will be a busy man in Portland, but no duty will give him more satisfaction than bringing you the announcement of the results of the ballot for the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame. The selection panel of the great and the good have been casting their votes, and you'll get to hear exactly who will be joining the storied ranks of Magic Legends in the Hall. You won't have long to wait, either, as we'll be making the announcement during our Friday lunchtime show.


The Hall of Fame isn't the only announcement this weekend. While most of you would be happy to qualify for a Pro Tour just about anywhere, anytime, we're going to spend part of Saturday lunchtime filling in those blanks in your diaries for 2015. We'll tell you all the dates and locations for each and every Pro Tour in 2015, and we'll also run through a comprehensive guide to the Grand Prix coming to your region next year. Number of events you'll be wanting to attend : a lot.


This is Fabrizio Anteri, the likeable Venezuelan who currently makes London his home and will be (barring absurd weirdness in Portland) captaining the England World Magic Cup squad during Worlds Week. I honestly believe that this is one of the best pro seasons we've ever had, with a strength and depth of talent that puts some other years in their proper perspective. Part of this is due to the hugely successful US Platinum pros, many of which are still in theoretical contention for Player of the Year as I write. Anteri, however, makes Europe his home, and in another year might well have been one of the dominant storylines of the season. By winning Grand Prix Warsaw and then Manchester, he became the seventh player to win back-to-back Grand Prix. I wonder how many of the other six you've heard of?

Kai Budde. Kenji Tsumura. Raphael Levy. Tomoharu Saito. Yuuya Watanabe. Owen Turtenwald.

That's three Hall of Famers and three more who certainly aspire to it sometime down the track. As for Anteri, a first Pro Tour Top 8 is next on the to-do list, before the Venezuelan turns red, white, and blue for the World Magic Cup.


While there are multiple teams (and "super teams") busily prepping for Portland as we speak, the team here at the home of Magic is also getting itself in shape for the big finish to the season. On the text team, you'll get insights from the likes of Josh Bennett, Adam Styborski, Jacob van Lunen, Mike Rosenberg, Blake Rasmussen, and Nate Price. Craig Gibson, who has been chronicling the action since the earliest days of the Pro Tour, will be on hand as usual to click his shutter on anything and everything. Nate and Shawn will be busy away from the live action, shooting footage for another Pro Tour special Walking the Planes episode. And, on the live video coverage—which, as you've come to expect will deliver more than 35 hours of live content to you across the three days—features a team of Marshall Sutcliffe, Brian David-Marshall, Rashad Miller, Zac Hill, Tim Willoughby, Randy Buehler, and me—your host—Rich Hagon.


This may not be an actual word, but it perfectly conveys what Saturday afternoon is all about. Player A, needing Top 25 to claim a World Magic Cup captain slot, faces Player B, needing Top 50 to go Gold. Player C, looking for an at-large World Championship seat, takes on Player D, who can only be Player of the Year by making the Final. Player E, playing in his or her first Pro Tour, needs Top 25 to be invited to come back to Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir in Honolulu, faces Player F, who can get to Platinum with a Top 8 finish. Those kinds of matches aren't just season-altering, they're life-altering, and we'll bring you four of them each and every round.


We want to make sure there's lots of great content to watch when the players aren't actually trying to tear life chunks out of each other. In Portland, we've assembled a group of all-stars to bring you an outstanding review of Magic 2015. If you want a deeper understanding of what's going on under the hood of the latest set, this is going to be must-see TV, coming to you during our two lunchtime shows on Friday and Saturday. Players of the Year, Pro Tour champions, this is one set review you won't want to miss.


At Pro Tour Journey into Nyx, we were able to spotlight hundreds of tweets from you, the viewers, as you cheered on your favorites, told us where you were watching, and contributed your views on the hot topics as the rounds ticked by. This time around, we'll be adding to your participation with a special Draft feature early on Day Two. Make sure you tune in on Saturday morning, as we use the reach of CoveritLive to let you join the discussion.

All Sunday

It might seem really obvious now, but it's still great to think that you won't be missing out on anything that the final day of the season has to offer. All four quarterfinals will be shown one after the other, guaranteeing that you'll get to cheer on your pick through every turn of his or her Sunday showdown. That makes for a lot of Magic, which, among other things, means…


Yes, it's the perennial "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario. You love Luis Scott-Vargas, we love Luis Scott-Vargas, we all want to see him do well—but not too well! If he makes Top 8, that's fantastic news for him, but if he doesn't, it's fantastic news for you, since we'll get him into the commentary booth and the newsdesk throughout Sunday. Maybe it's more of a "win-win" scenario. In any case, look for Luis throughout the weekend.

I had 60 seconds, and that's all I could come up with. Sorry.

Seriously, though, if you're a long-time coverage watcher, you know that this is going to be an amazing weekend. If you're just joining us, you've chosen an incredible weekend to join the hundreds of thousands who set aside their time whenever the Pro Tour rolls around. It really is a phenomenal ride, and we can't wait to share it with you. See you on Friday!