In Charge and At-Large

Posted in The Week That Was on July 18, 2014

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on DailyMTG.com, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

There is no event more delicious than the last Pro Tour of the season. There is so much at stake just with Player's Club levels and invitations for the next season and World Magic Cup captaincies—which I talked about last week. For a scrum of the game's elite players, there is a dwindling supply of seats at the World Championship taking place in the Nice Acropolis, and just two more weekends to impact whether they are sitting or standing when the last results are played out.

It is quite the tournament to be invited to, with a whopping $150,000 prize pool being fought for by just 24 players. The winner walks away with $50,000 and everyone who plays will be certain to win at least $2,000. The action is going to kick off with Vintage Masters being drafted with physically made packs that mirror the collation of the online-only release.

Vintage.

Masters.

Quite literally madness.

The remaining four rounds of Day One will be Standard. Day Two will start with Khans of Tarkir draft and end with four rounds of Modern. The Top 4 players will advance to Sunday and play best-of-five matches in Modern. With 24 of the most accomplished players from the past season playing four formats for a $50,000 first prize, an exclusive outlet for Pro Points in the upcoming season, and a berth at the next World Championship, it is easy to see why even the most even-keeled and pragmatic of Magic players find their minds wandering into fantasy scenarios where they score one of those precious berths in the last week of the season.

Jérémy Dezani, current leader in the Player of the Year race

One player who knows he has a seat for this World Championship is Jérémy Dezani, who secured his seat by winning Pro Tour Theros to start the season. He has maintained a steady juggernaut pace throughout the season, with strong Day Two finishes and multiple Grand Prix Top 8s, including his recent win in Milan. As a result of those finishes, he currently leads the Player of the Year race and is also on top of the European standings, each of which triggers another at-large berth for the players with the most Pro Points at the end of the year without an invitation to the World Championship. Theoretically, he could open up yet another slot by winning Pro Tour Magic 2015. But that's crazy talk…right?

It certainly might have sounded like crazy talk if you turn the calendar back to the close of the previous season, when Jérémy Dezani was playing against Pro Tour Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas down the back half of Day Two at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze. Dezani was relatively unknown at the time despite his Grand Prix success and was a bad beat footnote to LSV's harrowing escape from a no-win situation that would have derailed his run to Platinum at that event.

"With four losses LSV thought his run was at a close when he faced down Jérémy Dezani's Assemble the Legion. Previous game interaction had revealed that Dezani was holding a counterspell. When LSV hopelessly played a topdecked Jace, he was shocked to find his dream was still alive when Dezani had a mental lapse and did not counter it, thinking he would just counter any cards drawn off the Jace. Luis was able to -1/-0 the tokens all the way back into the Top 16, leaving the French player with something bitter to chew over during the offseason."
"Not Quite To the Maze's End"

On the brink of the Player of the Year title and locked for a seat at the World Championship, Dezani gave credit to another Hall of Famer for helping him manage the tilt of throwing away such a crucial game and wringing the best possible outcome out of what remained of his tournament. He described the moment as simultaneously being his worst single play and most important learning opportunity.

"I hate playing badly, and after the game against LSV I was really angry at myself," recalled Dezani. "But Raphaël Lévy reminded me the tournament was not over and that I could still achieve something in the PT. I won my last three rounds—all the control mirror—and made Top 50. Maybe only because he helped me to stay calm. After this, the only motivation I had was to be better. During and between games, Raph is an example of mindset and friendly spirit—something that was not easy for me to do."

Dezani is pretty confident in his seat at both the World Championship and the World Magic Cup. Enough so that he is already fretting about how to playtest six or seven different formats for that long week of Magic in Nice. He is less confident about winning Player of the Year, with just a single point separating him and Reid Duke, and many more players within striking distance.

"I know I'm in a good spot but 30 points (for winning the Pro Tour) is a lot," said Dezani, who knows the very simple math that says someone other than him will win Pro Tour Magic 2015. "There are so many players who have won a PT, but there are far less who have won two."

He would love to join the small club of multiple–Pro Tour winners, but failing that, he was rooting for fellow Pro Tour Theros–finalist—and his good friend—Pierre Dagen, to join him and Raphaël Lévy at the World Championship. Lévy won his slot when he led the French National team to win the World Magic Cup last year. Dagen could win a berth by winning the last Pro Tour or he would be faced with the daunting task of closing a 16-point gap between himself and Stanslav Cifka for the remaining European berth—Dezani's becomes an at-large bid.

Europe

Jérémy Dezani

71

Already Qualified

Stansilav Cifka

53

Shahar Shenhar

43

Already Qualified

Patrick Dickmann

40

Raph Lévy

40

Already Qualified

Pierre Dagen

37

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa

37

Of course, anyone who gets close will find themselves in the mix for one of those at-large bids, but Patrick Dickmann is focused on the more immediate task of finding 2 extra points to ensure he hits Platinum for next season. The Pro Tour Born of the Gods Top 8 competitor will be making a pit stop in Boston en route to Portland to put his mastery of the Modern format to the task of finding at least 1 of those much-needed points.

Patrick Dickmann, Modern master

"I have more than five money finishes at GPs already but there's still one Top 64 finish awarding only 1 Pro Point, which I will try to improve," said the Tarmo-Twin player of his decision to take the trip to Boston. "With the season coming to an end, everybody does the math when being in a comparable situation, I would say. Obviously, I would love to do well at the PT, but because Platinum is on the line, I would be happy with a Top 75 finish, as well. I've been playing a lot of Standard lately and really want to improve in this format."

To make things a little more complicated for Dickmann, there is the small matter of having his good friend—and fellow PT Top 8 competitor—Christian Siebold and Pro Tour Hall of Famer Kai Budde bearing down on him for the captaincy of the German National team.

"Kai and Christian are great players," said Dickmann. "I am totally aware that Kai—given a good run—can easily Top 8 a Pro Tour. I would love representing Germany at the World Magic Cup but right now my aim is Platinum, which is much more important to me. Also, if I manage to make it to Platinum, I should be pretty much set for National Champion, as well."

If everyone were to remain in the same Player of the Year positions this is what the seating chart for the World Championship would look like:

2013 World Champion

Shahar Shenhar

World Magic Cup Winner

Raphaël Lévy

Magic Online Champion

Lars Dam

PT Theros Winner

Jérémy Dezani

PT Born of the Gods Winner

Shaun McLaren

PT Journey Into Nyx Winner

Patrick Chapin

Pro Tour Magic 2015 Winner

TBD

Player of the Year

Jérémy Dezani

Already Qualified

Rookie of the Year

Jared Boettcher

North America

Reid Duke

North America

Shaun McLaren

Already Qualified

Latin America

Willy Edel

Latin America

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Europe

Jérémy Dezani

Already Qualified

Europe

Stansilav Cifka

Japan

Yuuya Watanabe

Japan

Kentaro Yamamoto

Asia-Pacific

Lee Shi-Tian

Asia-Pacific

Nam Sung Wook

At-Large

Owen Turtenwald

52

At-Large

Josh Utter-Leyton

51

At-Large

Tom Martell

49

At-Large

Sam Black

48

At-Large

Paul Rietzl

48

At-Large

Chris Fennell

44

At-Large

Josh McClain

44

At-Large

Alexander Hayne

44

Ben Stark

44

William Jensen

43

Jacob Wilson

42

Patrick Dickmann

40

Eric Froehlich

40

Player of the Year—whether it is Reid Duke or Jérémy Dezani—is going to add another berth to the at-large category, as it will leave the player on top of the appropriate Regional standings as well. Right now, that means there are eight at-large berths and a logjam of players within reach of those spots. Tiebreakers, which look at Pro Tour Top 8s and then GP Top 8s, will determine who is ahead between the players currently tied at 44, but Ben Stark would love to remove any uncertainty from the equation.

Pro Tour Hall of Famer Ben Stark

"Playing in the World Championship was the most fun I have ever had playing Magic," said the semifinalist from last year's tournament. "It was an amazing experience knowing I got to play against the best players in the world every round and every round is extremely important. I have been completely sweating the race for the at-large spots in the World Championship."

While he might be sweating the race, he will not let that affect his mental grip on the game.

"I always just try and make the best play possible when I'm playing Magic," said the Pro Tour Hall of Famer, who always makes that sound so simple in theory. "It's not any different playing for Top 64 in a Grand Prix or playing for Top 8 in a Pro Tour. It really doesn't change at all based on what is on the line. It's a game and you make the plays that you think give you the highest chance of winning and then you live with the result. I've never understood people who talk about being in this mindset or that mindset, or being focused and determined. Even though sometimes I surely don't make the best play, every time I make a play in a tournament I try and make the best play possible. That never changes."

Stark has another Pro Tour Hall of Famer hot on his heels. The way William Jensen's season has been going—he keeps getting Hulk-stronger—it would not surprise anyone to see him join his two good friends, and fellow swearers of the Peach Garden Oath Owen Turtenwald and Reid Duke, at the World Championship. As with Ben Stark, he will not let the fact that a berth in the tournament is on the line affect his play, but that does not mean it is not on his mind.

"It's certainly something I've thought about," said Jensen, who broke a record with eight Grand Prix Top 8s this season, and could have many more points if not for the five-event cap. "Basically, going into any Pro Tour, my goal is to do as well as I possibly can. This one is really no different in that regard. However, I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about making it to the World Championship. I think a Top 50 gives me some chance while a Top 25 makes me nearly a lock."

Jensen has had an amazing year that began with his induction into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame prior to PT Theros in Dublin. He had reengaged with the tournament scene prior to the season, but with a Gold Player's Club membership in his pocket, he went after it in earnest this season.

"There was a learning curve for sure, despite how much Magic I played in my youth," said the Pantheon team member who finished 39th at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx. "Having the opportunity to work with such a great team certainly helped. I'm very happy with where my game is at right now, and I'm very happy playing as much Magic as I do. I am certainly proud of everything I've achieved this season, but would really like to have a great Pro Tour finish in my 'modern career.'"

Whether or not Jensen qualifies for an at-large bid—or wins it outright by becoming the PT Magic 2015 champion—he will be there in spirit supporting and working with his two close friends.

"We've talked about the World Championship a little bit. Owen and Reid are both already locked, so I'm the only question mark at this point. I think a Top 25 finish in Portland will get me there, so hopefully I'm able to achieve it. If that doesn't end up working out for me, it's likely that no other finish is good enough for me this year, but that's okay. I would certainly love to play that tournament, it seems like tons of fun. But at least if I miss out, I can help Reid and Owen prepare and maybe one of them can take it down."

Jared Boettcher is all but certain to have the Rookie of the Year title this year and will become the first player winning that title to be given a seat at this event.

Jared Boettcher, Rookie of the Year race leader

"The World Championship seems like a dream," said Boettcher, who kicked off his Pro Tour season after Pro Tour Theros had concluded without him being qualified. "To think I went from my first Pro Tour with one quarter of the season already done, to having a seat at the World Championship almost feels a little unreal. I can't wait to be there for the experience—and hopefully do well, also. I'm 100% sure I will be more nervous than ever the first day, though, which I actually look forward to."


I am looking forward to that tournament almost as much as I am enjoying this mad dash across Grand Prix Taipei, Grand Prix Boston, and past the finish line at Pro Tour Magic 2015 in Portland. Stay tuned to see how it all ends.

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