History in the Remaking?

Posted in The Week That Was on May 22, 2015

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.

In this issue:

Neal Oliver, GP Vegas 2013 Champion | World Championship Seats Going Fast

Neal Oliver is on the verge of being displaced in the Magic history books…or is he?

It was just a year and eleven months ago when we were first introduced to Oliver after he won the largest tournament in Magic history. Everyone knew that Grand Prix Las Vegas 2013—which was a Sealed Deck tournament with the original Modern Masters—was going to be big. However, 4,499 players was beyond just about everyone's expectations. Oliver was just one tiny sliver of that mass of Magic humanity and had no idea going into that weekend that he was going to make history. At the time he was just happy to get to play Magic on a Saturday.

Neal Oliver, GP Vegas 2013 Champion

"I was in Vegas on vacation and stayed to piggyback the Grand Prix," recalled Oliver, who was a member of the US National team that made the Top 4 at the World Magic Cup this year. "I was consistently working weekends, so this was a chance for me to play. But I didn't really worry about winning or anything—it was my 3rd or 4th GP ever. I do remember seeing the crowds of people, which I thought was pretty cool, and it felt like a true Magic spectacle. I wasn't really a fan of all the lines, but the event was well run and I had a blast with my friends in Vegas."

GP Vegas 2012 Champion Neal Oliver

Since that event Oliver has posted two more Grand Prix Top 8s—all three coming in Limited—and has never placed worse than second in those three finishes. None of those events have come close to matching the attendance totals that we saw for Grand Prix Vegas 2013. I asked the three-time GP Top 8 competitor if those subsequent events have felt different after taking part in the largest event in the history of the game.

"Certainly, other tournaments have a smaller, and less of an event, feel to them," he said. "I think back to GP Vegas 2013 and it was massive, but once you sit down to play Magic across from your opponent, it's game time. Those matches really didn't feel much different, other than the fact that we were playing with Modern Masters, which was totally awesome."

Modern Masters 2015 Edition comes out this weekend. And next weekend Magic history is going to be made again. Modern Masters Weekend center on three events all around the globe—Grand Prix Chiba, Grand Prix Utrecht, and—of course—Grand Prix Las Vegas. The attendance for the three events combined could be as high as 19,000 players. There are already 7,000 players registered for Vegas and it seems to be barreling toward its 10,000 player cap. Neal Oliver is already signed up and hopes to do the seemingly impossible.

"Definitely trying to defend the title. I've been practicing a lot of Sealed, and am going to the midnight release to try and get all the draft practice in I can. This upcoming tournament is definitely the one I've looked forward to and hope to win the most," said Oliver. He has been streaming Magic all week to sharpen his game. He has also been talking with his friends and co-hosts Benjamin Weitz and Tristan Killeen on their podcast, Allied Strategies, about how to approach a Sealed Deck pool for the Modern Masters 2015 Edition format.

"I will say that when building your Sealed pool, really have a plan. An unfocused deck will get you a quick exit from the tournament. Because there is so much synergy in the set, there are a lot of powerful things to be doing, and a very diverse set of options among those plans. I do think a wide range of decks can be successful, and I'm excited to see what everyone comes up with out of these crazy pools," shared Oliver.

If you can't be part of Magic history during Modern Masters Weekend, you can watch from round one of Grand Prix Chiba all the way through to the crowning of a Champion at Grand Prix Las Vegas. It is going to be the most ambitious weekend of coverage in the history of Magic streaming, and whichever side of the screen you are on you will not want to miss it.

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World Championship Seats Going Fast

Modern Masters Weekend is not the only tournament filling up quickly. With his win at the Magic Online Championship this past weekend Sweden's Magnus Lantto became the latest player to book a flight to Seattle this August for the World Championship that will take place during PAX Prime. Winning the Magic Online Championship means that the last titled seats still to be determined will be the winner of Pro Tour Magic 2015 and the Player of the Year. After that the seats will be given out to the top finishers in regions from around the globe and then at-large berths for the top Pros not invited otherwise.

Magic Online Championship Winner Magnus Lantto

There was a glimmer of hope for the scrum of Platinum Pros and would-be Platinum Pros when Pro Tour Fate Reforged Champion Antonio Del Moral León fought his way into the Top 4 on the back of a 4-0 run in Standard. Having already won a seat via the Pro Tour Championship, Del Moral León would have created an extra at-large berth by winning two more rounds of the Magic Online Championship. It was not to be, though, as he lost to Jasper de Jong in the semifinals. de Jong went on to get swept by Lantto in the finals.

The finals was a unique "two matches out of three" format, where the players had to play: a match with their Vintage decks, a match with their Modern decks, and—if needed—a match with their Standard decks. The Standard deck never got un-holstered, as Lantto swept the first two matches without dropping a game. It was an impressive showing for Lantto, who came to the two older formats with some sweet new tech.

His Vintage deck bore more than a passing resemblance to a Delver deck but eschewed that one-drop for Cabal Therapy which paired sublimely with Young Pyromancer for flashback fodder. In two games the Pyromancer Control deck just took apart de Jong's hand with surgical precision while Time Walking and Ancestral Recalling an army of Elementals into play.

Magnus Lantto's Pyromancer Control

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As exciting as that deck was his—and his countryman and playtest partner Olle Råde's—deck for Modern was the one that got me itching to fire up Magic Online. The two Swedish players came to Modern with an Elves deck that ran four copies each of Collected Company and Chord of Calling to churn out an army of Elves. Ezuri, Renegade Leader provided a tutor-able Overrun kill condition in the main deck, and after sideboard the deck had a number of sweet silver bullets to choose from. One of the highlights of the tournament was watching Olle Råde Chord up a singleton Burrenton Forge-Tender to protect his Spellskite that was giving his Splinter Twin opponent fits.

Olle Råde's Elf Company

Download Arena Decklist

The win was, in fact, much greater than the sum of the $25,000 check he received as the winner. With Gold status in his back pocket for the remainder of this year, and all the way through to the end of next season, it will be exciting to watch Magnus Lantto bring his deck-building prowess to the next five Pro Tours, the World Championship, and next year's Magic Online Championship. With Hall of Famer Olle Råde as his playtesting partner qualified for all the Pro Tours, at the very least, they will provide a solid foundation for the burgeoning Swedish Magic scene.

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