Meet the MOCS

Posted in The Week That Was on April 30, 2010

By Brian David-Marshall

Over the past two seasons of Magic, the once-impermeable barrier between Magic Online and the Pro Tour has begun to see the osmosis of digital players to real-life events. These days there are regular MTGO Pro Tour Qualifiers that send double digit players to the Tour each season, but the first event to pierce that barrier was the Magic Online Championship Series.

Starting last year, each of the MOCS qualifiers sent players to the World Championships to compete for a fat prize purse and play in the final Pro Tour of the year to boot. This season the overall prize purse was upped to $100,000 for the twelve-person Championship, which will take place in Chiba, Japan this winter. First prize is a whopping $25,000, and the minimum a player can earn for playing is $4,000. So far this season, three players have earned that guarantee of a $4,000 minimum prize and an invite to compete at Worlds.

The first player to win a seat was 21-year-old Christopher O'Bryant. Christopher is a full-time student from Lexington, Kentucky. He remembers that his first purchase of a booster pack was Mirrodin, although he learned the rules of the game around the time Fifth Edition came out. He decided to learn how to play Magic when he was playing a popular kids' card game and noticed people playing Magic.

"I would see other players with cards from a different game and they got me interested in Magic," said Christopher, who identifies himself mostly as an online player these days. "School takes up too much time for me to keep up with paper Magic and travel to different events. I haven't played in a paper event since States and that was the first one in a while before that."

He first started playing Magic Online—like so many of us do—when he wanted to draft. He does not remember how he discovered the online version of the game but he did recall that the format for his first MTGO draft was triple Shadowmoor. According to Christopher the online version of the game holds some advantages over the in-person game as well as some disadvantages.

"The two things that make it way better is not having to shuffle your deck ever—such a time saver—and also not having to keep your collection organized," he said. "A paper collection is such a pain to keep organized and can be expensive too if you go the distance. What makes [MTGO] a little worse is the anonymous aspect of the game play as you can't see your opponent and don't know who they are."

With the bulk of his playing time coming online, it is not surprising that Christopher has not logged any playing time on the Pro Tour so far—not that he has not had a couple of close calls, with a handful of PTQ Top 8s and a win at States.

"I didn't start traveling to play in events until Extended last year and even then it was only a few PTQs," said Christopher, who also works part time at UPS to help pay for college. "The only time I tried to qualify for San Juan was the first [MTGO] PTQ. I lost in the last round to miss out on Top 8 but otherwise I have been too busy with school to have anything to do with that. I just finished finals today and am going to be taking summer classes."

The format for his MOCS Season Championship was pre-Worldwake Extended, and Christopher piloted a Thopter Depths deck to the qualification.

ceobry01's Thopter Depths

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"I didn't really have very much experience with the format other than helping friends play test for PTQs so I just asked one of them what to play and they said that. So I just took a list and modified it some," said the MTGOV clan member. "The highlight of my MOCS win was getting text messages from my team at the Columbus PTQ for San Juan and Justin Brown making Top 8."

Christopher, who keeps a spreadsheet of all his MTGO events to analyze his play, will be working hard in anticipation of heading to Chiba.

"I expect to do well unless Legacy is part of the event, then I will have to work hard to learn that format as I have never played Legacy or Vintage before," he said. "I will be playing a lot of Magic, as I am taking the fall semester off from school due to going full time in the summer. Since I don't know what the formats will be I can't really prepare yet."

"I want to thank Community Cup participant and fellow team member Joshua Claytor for the all the support," Christopher added at the conclusion of our interview.

The season two winner was 20-year-old Reid Duke from Sugar Loaf, NY, who has been playing Magic for 75% of the time he has been alive.

"I've been playing magic since I was 5, when my mom brought home a starter of Fourth Edition for me, and a starter of Ice Age for my brother, Ian," said Reid, who started playing online in order to be able to continue playing with his brother Ian, his cousin Logan, and other friends he had spent years playing with in person.

"Because I've been away at school, I've played a lot of MTGO since I started about two years ago. I would say I've even had more success online than IRL, but I definitely prefer playing live," said Reid. "I consider MTGO a way to practice for live events. The biggest difference between MTGO and live Magic is the clock. I generally play quickly, so I'm never pressed for time on MTGO. That means that when I have a tough decision, I can take all the time I need to think it through. The same isn't true in real life, because I need to worry about shuffling taking time, how quickly my opponent is playing, and not breaking slow-play rules. There are also more distractions in real life."

The format for his MOCS Season Qualifier was Zendikar / Worldwake Limited, and he had a strong Sealed pool that featured abundant removal backed by the bombs Emeria Angel, Archon of Redemption, and Butcher of Malakir. He drafted black-green in the Top 8 with mana ramping and hand destruction in the form of Mind Sludge and Bloodhusk Ritualist. His draft deck was very strong, but I guarantee that if you look over his deck and sideboard you would not be able to guess what his first pick of the draft was.


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"The highlight of the tournament was that I misclicked a Scythe Tiger for the first pick of the draft," laughed Reid. "Of all the cards in the set, I find it hilarious that it had to be a Scythe Tiger. It may have turned out to be a blessing, though, because I was going to pick a blue card, and I think my deck would have been worse if I had gone for blue."

Reid plans to put a lot of time in preparing for both the MOCS and the World Championships and looks forward to testing himself against the heavy competition that lays in his future.

"I'm lucky to know a lot of quality players who I can rely on to help me out," Reid concluded. "I'm gonna do my best, but I don't have any expectations. I've never been to a Pro Tour before, so even if I lose every match, I'll be thankful for the experience."

The third season's winner knows a thing or two about making the jump from online play to the Pro Tour and can certainly offer some advice to the two PT newcomers. Last year in Honolulu it was Brad Nelson, a.k.a. FFfreaK, who was playing his first Pro Tour match after being a dominant force in the MTGO metagame. After kicking his Pro Tour career off in a feature match with none other than Luis Scott-Vargas and finishing 9th at that Pro Tour, the 23-year-old from Mandan, ND has become a fixture on the Tour. He writes a weekly column about Magic for and was the third player to guarantee himself a minimum of $4,000 at Worlds this year.

Brad is still very active on Magic Online despite his burgeoning pro career, although he does have to ease up on the gas from time to time.

"The only difference is that I have to force myself to not play in other formats online when it is time to test for the PT," he said, with an obvious pang of remorse over having to restrain himself from playing. "Before [being on] the Tour I would play in every format available. For San Juan, I am not playing in any Magic Online events until Rise is legal. I play more Magic than before if you count everything."

Under the lights of his very first feature match Brad had commented about the difference in speed and sensory input playing online and in real life. I asked him if he had any advice for the other two qualified players about their first Pro matches coming up in Chiba.

"It is a crazy experience the first time around. The best piece of advice I can give is to go into the tournament with personal expectations," he advised. "Not on a finish, but on how well you are performing. You cannot conrol everything in this game, but you can control how well you are playing. The more you focus on that the better you will do over the course of the three days. That is my goal for this event. I just want to play great Magic."

The format for the MOCS season qualifier was Zendikar Block Constructed, and Brad's win—and overall experience with the format—has infused him with confidence heading toward San Juan, which will feature Block Constructed for the majority of the Swiss rounds.

"I have been testing for San Juan with the CF crew and some other friends of mine," said Brad. "Playing so much pre-Rise Block has given me a very strong background into this format. My goals are high. I am playing the best Magic I have ever played and it's in a Constructed and Limited format I think I understand."

Brad was quick to give credit for his deck to his teammate, and predicted great things for a former U.S. National Champion this year.

"I would not have won this Championship without Michael Jacob. I worked on the MOCS with him, and he was the lead designer in the deck we played. I am going to say it here. That man has not even come close to full potential in this game. He will be holding a Pro Tour trophy soon."

FFfreaK's Blue-Red-Green Good Stuff

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"All day during the MOCS I knew I was going to win," said Brad. "When I would think about losing I honestly couldn't comprehend it. I was on my A-game all day and had the best deck in the room. I was unstoppable."

Brad is obviously carrying that confidence forward to San Juan and plans to ride it all the way through to winning the $25,000 in Chiba.

"I am going to win it. Just because I won the Qualifier doesn't mean the tournament is done. I will work hard enough to justify that claim," he said. "Once I have more information, I will be testing as much as possible. Luis [Scott-Vargas] already promised me to teach me how to play Legacy ... I will be testing very hard for this event with anyone wanting to help me."

While the time for amassing the necessary Qualifier Points to play in the Season Four qualifier has passed, you can still play in the Rize of Eldrazi Sealed format Last Chance Qualifier on Saturday May 8th for the qualifier to be held the following day. And of course you have all started racking up the needed points for Season Five, which got underway on Wednesday—right?

    Last Chance for Bloodbraid Elf

Today is the last Friday in April, which means it's your last chance to get your hands on the alternate-art foil Bloodbraid Elf for finishing first or second at Friday Night Magic.

Now that Rise of the Eldrazi is legal for Constructed play, find an FNM near you and test out your new Standard deck ideas!

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