Top 4 Player Profiles

Posted in DAILYMTG on August 5, 2013

By Event Coverage Staff


Reid Duke

Age: 23
Hometown: Sugar Loaf, NY, USA
Occupation: Magic Player

Invitation Source: Top Pro Points, At-Large
Lifetime Pro Points: 111
Lifetime Winnings: $66,100

ProfessionalMagicAccomplishments:

  • 2011MagicOnline champion
  • Grand Prix Nashville 2012 champion
  • Grand Prix Miami 2013 champion

Pro Tour Top 8s: 0

Grand Prix Top 8s: 7

  • Providence 2011: 3rd
  • Montreal 2011: 5th
  • Nashville 2012: 1st
  • Charleston 2012: 5th
  • San Antonio 2012: 4th
  • Quebec City 201: 4th
  • Miami 2013: 1st

National Team Appearances: 0

After an incredibly disappointing performance at last year's Players Championship, Reid Duke made it his mission to qualify for this year's World Championship and redeem himself. After a tense Pro Tour Dragon's Maze, Duke found himself in ninth place, good enough to earn him a chance to work out his frustrations from last year on fifteen of the best players in the world.

Originally showing up on the competitive Magic scene as reiderrabbit on Magic Online, Duke was one of the first big Magic Online superstars to successfully make the transition to in-person play. As a Magic Online Championship Series winner and Grand Prix champion, Duke has played at the highest level, and has proven that he is no stranger to success. He's also playing at the top of his game right now, as is evidenced by his recent win at Grand Prix Miami.

This happened to be the same tournament where he stopped his trophy photo shoot to help a random stranger push their stalled car out of the street.

It should be no surprise that Duke is widely regarded as one of the nicest, most liked professional players in the game today. As a member of Team SCG, Duke provides an incredible insight into the game through his weekly article series. As the complete package of skill and personality, there are few people in the game better to learn from than Reid Duke.

What is your favoriteMagiccard?
Green Sun's Zenith. It can be mana acceleration when you need it, and a giant threat when you need it—my idea of the perfect card!

What is your favoriteMagicdeck?
Standard Jund. It has a fantastic late game, and both Huntmaster of the Fells and Thragtusk—two of the best defensive creatures of all time—ensure that you get there.

Who is your favoriteMagicplayer to watch?
Jon Finkel

What's your favorite format and why?
Core Set Sealed Deck. It really boils Magic: The Gathering down to its simplest form. If you truly understand the game and have mastered all of the basic principles, you'll shine, but if you don't, you can't cover it up by drafting well or by copying a winning decklist.

What is your favorite draft format?
Triple Shards of Alara. I loved the number of possibilities. Decks could be two to five colors; games could be fast or slow; and all of the shards were pretty balanced while having their own strengths and weaknesses.

On average, how many hours ofMagicdo you play each week?
25 hours

Who taught you how to play Magic?
One day my mother Beth brought home two Starter decks, Fourth Edition for me and Ice Age for my brother, Ian. We learned to play together, starting by reading the little rules inserts that came in the packs.

What was the firstMagicdeck you built?
Sitting on the floor of my room when I was five years old, I innovated some monumental strategies. There was the "Orc Deck," where every card besides Mountain had to have the word "Orc" on it. Then there was the brutal combo of Weakness plus Transmutation, which could kill Ian's 2/2 creatures! But the first deck that I started to bring to tournaments was White Weenie, which was actually good and was the only deck I played for almost a decade.

At which local game store have you've played the most Magic?
Growing up I played at S and J's Comics and Cards (which later changed to Winn Comics). I think I spent as much time at that store as I spent at school! Sadly, when I went off to college, Winn Comics closed down (I guess maybe I had made up the bulk of their business). Now I play at Toywiz in Nanuet, NY.

What's your biggest edge going into the World Championship?
Dedication and discipline. This might make me sound like I'm some stoic secluding myself, practicing for the tournament, and never having any fun, but that's not really the case. It's easy to be dedicated to something you love, and I enjoy preparing for tournaments maybe more than anybody else I know.I feel that I have an excellent process for building decks. I may not be the most original in terms of coming up with wild ideas, but I know how to find a deck I like, learn it inside and out, and tune it until every card is perfect for the job I need it to do.

Who or what is your nemesis?
Shahar Shenhar

Where is your favorite placeMagichas taken you?
Favorite Country: Japan. Favorite City: Amsterdam.

What doesMagicmean to you?
Magic brings out the best in me. I don't know where I'd be without it.

We're going out for food. What do you want to eat?
I want to try the local specialty. It's all about variety!

What do you enjoy doing when you're not playing Magic?
I enjoy the Outdoors, other games and sports, and reading books.

And finally...rock, paper, or scissors?
I thought there weren't going to be any strategy questions in this interview!


Shahar Shenhar

Age: 19
Hometown: Jerusalem, Israel / Sacramento, CA, USA
Occupation: Pro Magic Player

Invitation Source: Top Pro Points, At-Large
Lifetime Pro Points: 112
Lifetime Winnings: $41.650

Professional Magic Accomplishments:

  • Grand Prix San Diego 2011 champion
  • Grand Prix Salt Lake City 2012 champion
  • Grand Prix Houston 2013 champion
  • 2013 Israel National champion

Pro Tour Top 8s: 0

Grand Prix Top 8s: 5

  • San Diego 2011: 1st
  • Salt Lake City 2012: 1st
  • Columbus 2012: 5th
  • Verona 2013: 7th
  • Houston 2013: 1st

National Team Appearances: 0

The youngest player invited to the 2013 Magic World Championship, Shahar Shenhar has an incredibly bright future ahead of him if the results of his fairly young career are anything to judge by. Of all of the players invited to the World Championship, Shenhar has the highest career win percentage. He has a trio of Grand Prix wins already in his career, all earned with only five Grand Prix Top 8s. He has one of the highest median finishes of any player in the game, and all of this has happened before his 20th birthday!

Playing competitive Magic since the first time he held a card, Shenhar has moved quickly up through the professional ranks. Now traveling full time for Magic, it is rare to attend a Grand Prix these days and not see Shenhar in attendance. In fact, he has spent more time traveling for Magic than at his home in Israel over the last year.

This diligence has paid off though, as recently as Grand Prix Houston, where Shenhar made it look easy, defeating even the mighty Hall of Famer Shuhei Nakamura on his way to the title. Thanks to his success, Shenhar has fallen in and become good friends with many of the other top pros in the game today. This is a busy weekend for him, as he will be doing his part to represent Israel as the top player in the country in the World Magic Cup as well. Still, if Shenhar has proven anything, he can handle the pressure despite his young age.

What is your favorite Magic card?
Snapcaster Mage

What is your favorite Magic deck?
Blue-Black Faeries

Who is your favorite Magic player to watch?
Jun'ya Iyanaga

What's your favorite format and why?
Standard, because it constantly changes.

What is your favorite draft format?
Any Core Sets like Magic 2012 or Magic 2013.

On average, how many hours of Magic do you play each week?
Over 35 hours, including the Grand Prix events I play every other week.

Who taught you how to play Magic?
Family, and close friends during shabat.

What was the first Magic deck you built?
Mono Black in Vintage. One more players was needed for an event so everyone chipped in for me to play a horrible deck. I thought it would be fun but Luis-Scott Vargas crushed me with his real Vintage deck.

At which local game store have you've played the most Magic?
AdventuresOn in Sacramento.

What's your biggest edge going into the World Championship?
I did a lot of drafts and I'm confident in my Constructed decks.

Who or what is your nemesis?
Sleep

Where is your favorite place Magic has taken you?
Amsterdam

What does Magic mean to you?
Magic is my job, and so many of my friends come from this game.

We're going out for food. What do you want to eat?
Pizza

What do you enjoy doing when you're not playing Magic?
Playing sports and hanging with friends.

And finally... rock, paper, or scissors?
Always rock, not close!


Ben Stark

Age: 29
Hometown: Davie, FL, USA
Occupation: Professional Poker Player and Magic Player

Invitation Source: Top Pro Points, At-Large
Lifetime Pro Points: 299
Lifetime Winnings: $163,215

Professional Magic Accomplishments:

  • Pro Tour Paris 2011 champion
  • Grand Prix Indianapolis 2013 champion

Pro Tour Top 8s: 4

  • Kobe 2004: 7th
  • San Diego 2004: 6th
  • Paris 2011: 1st
  • Gatecrash in Montreal 2013: 3rd

Grand Prix Top 8s: 10

  • Kansas City 2003-04: 3rd
  • Anaheim 2003-04: 5th
  • Boston 2009: 2nd
  • Toronto 2010: 4th
  • Atlanta 2011: 2nd
  • Atlanta 2012: 5th
  • Costa Rica 2012: 3rd
  • Indianapolis 2013: 1st
  • Charlotte 2013: 7th
  • Providence 2013: 4th (Team)

National Team Appearances: 0

A self-described "non-competitive player," Ben Stark plays the game of Magic for one reason only: he loves it. And does he ever play it well. Long viewed by many of the top players in the world as one of the finest Limited minds to play the game, Stark has shattered that mold to become one of the most respected players in the game today.

This south Florida native has been playing the game for an incredibly long time, making his Pro Tour debut over a decade ago. While he has gone through fits and starts over the course of his career, he has really turned it on in recent years, winning a Pro Tour and making the Top 8 of another. Over the full duration of his career, he has earned titles in events of all formats, showcasing his utter grasp on the game, and a skill that goes far beyond a simple mastery of Limited.

Currently a member of incredibly powerful Team Channelfireball, Stark has seen his game continue to rise. An avid user of Magic Online, Stark is always on the lookout for an opportunity to draft, be it at an event, at home, or on a plane on the way to a Grand Prix. This constant desire to play—combined with surrounding himself with a number of the greatest players in the game—has paid off immensely, helping Stark to earn his spot here at the World Championship.

What is your favorite Magic card?
Counterspell

What is your favorite Magic deck?
Psychatog

Who is your favorite Magic player to watch?
I'm not a big watcher but back when I first started playing in Pro Tours in 1999, it would be Finkel.

What's your favorite format and why?
Booster Draft, All the games are different. I feel like in Constructed, once you have played 10-20 games of a matchup, you have experienced everything you are going to experience in that matchup. In Limited, every game is different.

What is your favorite draft format?
Champions of Kamigawa. It's the best set ever by miles.

On average, how many hours of Magic do you play each week?
N/A

Who taught you how to play Magic?
My friend Jared in the sixth grade.

What was the first Magic deck you built?
I used to play a local tournament every Saturday with my RUG deck when I was in 6th grade. I was on a limited budget then so every time I made Top 3 and got store credit, I would buy another dual land for the deck or things like that. It played Kird Apes, Serendib Efreets, Lightning Bolts, and Giant Growths.

At which local game store have you've played the most Magic?
For the past few years I've played almost exclusively at Cool Stuff Games in South Florida. Growing up, stores down here usually lasted a few years and then closed, so I went to a lot of different ones.

What's your biggest edge going into the World Championship?
My biggest edge is probably going to be Magic 2014 draft, the newest draft format. I'm pretty good at solving new draft formats quickly.

Who or what is your nemesis?
Brian Kibler, who is in this World Championship, and even though he is a friend, I can't say I was rooting for him to make it once I knew I was going to be in it. I've never beaten him and we have played a lot. And we have played more in Limited than Constructed. He just always beats me!

Where is your favorite place Magic has taken you?
Sydney, Australia for Worlds in 2002.

What does Magic mean to you?
Magic is a great game. Games expand your mind by teaching how you to analyze things. I don't think I would be half the person I am today if I hadn't started playing Magic when I was 11.

We're going out for food. What do you want to eat?
Hate to be cliché, but pizza is probably my favorite food. I like pretty much everything though. I also really like sushi and that's probably more of a "going out for food" answer.

What do you enjoy doing when you're not playing Magic?
I play basketball and watch all the HBO television series. Game of Thrones is the best one but True Blood and Boardwalk Empire are also very good.

And finally... rock, paper, or scissors?
Paper. Scissors is going too deep.


Josh Utter-Leyton

Age: 27
Hometown: Rohnert Park, CA, USA
Occupation: Software Engineer

Invitation Source: 2012-13 Player of the Year
Lifetime Pro Points: 223
Lifetime Winnings: $121,650

Professional Magic Accomplishments:

  • 2012-13 Pro Tour Player of the Year
  • 2010 United States National champion
  • 2013 United States National champion

Pro Tour Top 8s: 4

  • San Juan 2010: 5th
  • Philadelphia 2011: 2nd
  • 2011 World Championships in San Francisco: 7th
  • Dragon's Maze in San Diego 2013: 4th

Grand Prix Top 8s: 7

  • Nashville 2010: 5th
  • Dallas/Fort Worth 2011: 6th
  • Nashville 2012: 4th
  • Minneapolis 2012: 6th
  • Costa Rica 2012: 5th
  • Chicago 2012: 2nd
  • Atlantic City 2013: 2nd

National Team Appearances: 1

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2013 Player of the Year, Josh Utter-Leyton.

Utter-Leyton's possession of the title wasn't set until late into the closing rounds of Pro Tour Dragon's Maze, nervously watching as Tom Martell made his push for Top 8, but falling narrowly short. With the weight of the world off his shoulders, Utter-Leyton began to gush, incredulous that he was the new Player of the Year.

Having described his time in last year's Players Championship as "the greatest tournament experience he's ever had," Utter-Leyton was ecstatic at the opportunity to give a repeat performance. Earning his spot last year by virtue of his position as one of the top ranked players in the world, Utter-Leyton's calling card has been his utter consistency, seemingly never posting a finish outside of the Top 64. A core member of Team ChannelFireball, Utter-Leyton is surrounded by some of the best minds the game has to offer, and admits that it has been a major factor in his improvement as a player.

Another fairly quiet player once in the game, Utter-Leyton can always be located thanks to his signature headphones and cool demeanor. He can go from stoic to effusive in an instant. Despite being relatively taciturn, when Utter-Leyton speaks, people listen. This is why his articles are some of the most well-received of all of those posted on channelfireball.com.

What is your favorite Magic card?
Sensei's Divining Top

What is your favorite Magic deck?
Time Spiral Block Mystical Teachings

Who is your favorite Magic player to watch?
Luis-Scott Vargas

What's your favorite format and why?
Legacy. I love playing with cards like Brainstorm and Sensei's Divining Top, and really like the huge variety of interactions and combinations of cards you get to play with and against in the format.

What is your favorite draft format?
Rise of the Eldrazi.

On average, how many hours of Magic do you play each week?
15 hours.

Who taught you how to play Magic?
I taught myself from a Revised rulebook.

What was the first Magic deck you built?
I don't remember the first, but I know that the first deck I built that I thought was good was almost all Prodigal Sorcerers and its ilk.

At which local game store have you've played the most Magic?
ChannelFireball Game Center.

What's your biggest edge going into the World Championship?
Deck selection.

Who or what is your nemesis?
Lava Spike

Where is your favorite place Magic has taken you?
Japan

What does Magic mean to you?
I love playing games and Magic is the best game I have ever played. More than just entertainment, though, Magic has entrenched itself as an enormous part of my life. Preparing for, traveling to, and playing in tournaments is how I spend the majority of my time. It's also a huge part of my social life, as almost all of my closest friends I know through Magic.

We're going out for food. What do you want to eat?
Curry

What do you enjoy doing when you're not playing Magic?
Running or playing League of Legends.

And finally... rock, paper, or scissors?
Scissors, leveling everyone looking to beat up on good old rock.

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