Reid Duke was ecstatic—and confident—heading into the 2012 Players Championship. The Magic Online Champion the year prior, he had plenty of reasons to feel ready to tangle. On top of dominating online, he had also been crowned the winner of Grand Prix Nashville earlier in the season. He was taking the Magic world by storm, and next up was the Players Championship.
But that's not how things worked out. Duke won just two matches the entire weekend, finishing a distant last with a 2-10 record and walking away with a sour taste in his mouth.
"It was a brutal reality check," he admitted. "I went from being a big fish in a small pond to being one of the weaker players in the room."
Like all the greats, that disappointment lit a fire under Duke, and he returned with a vengeance to the 2013 Magic World Championship, where he ultimately finished second to Shahar Shenhar. It was an incredible finish, but one that left Reid hungry for more.
All of which might explain the frankness with which the world's No. 6-ranked player speaks regarding his trip to the 2016 World Championship.
"The goal is first place, that's really the only thing I'm going for," he said. "I'm not going to be satisfied with a winning record or even a Top 4 appearance—I'm here to win. This tournament has huge emotion weight for me, and I want to leave knowing I showed up as well-prepared as I could possibly be."
No. 6-ranked Reid Duke has his eyes set on only one thing this weekend: a first-place finish.
Duke isn't the only returning competitor to feel that way. Fourteen of the 24 players here are making a repeat showing. Some—like defending World Champion Seth Manfield—have nothing left to prove and are here this weekend to reaffirm that they are still the best. But others like Thiago Saporito enter the weekend feeling they have something to prove. The Brazilian is representing Latin America for the second straight year, and narrowly missed the Top 4 in his last appearance, but was still ranked toward the bottom of the field by some prognosticators.
Don't think he didn't notice.
"I know I'm not one of the best here, but I want to prove the critics who ranked me last wrong," he said. "It's an honor to represent the region. That was the goal I set for myself this year, and now that I got it I want to do well."
In all, more than half the field is made up of returning players. The veterans are as follows:
- Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
- Reid Duke
- Joel Larsson
- Seth Manfield
- Martin Müller
- Mike Sigrist
- Thiago Saporito
- Shota Yasooka
- Owen Turtenwald
- Yuuya Watanabe
- Brad Nelson
- Ondřej Stráský
- Steve Rubin
- Luis Scott-Vargas
With so much experience in the tournament, the field is more competitive than ever. And while some players may be happy to just be here, you can be sure most of them feel similarly to the world's top-ranked player.
No. 1-ranked Owen Turtenwald came to play.
"You don't come to the World Championship to get second," No. 1-ranked Owen Turtenwald explained. "You go to win."