First Trips to Worlds, First Shots at Eternal Glory

Posted in Event Coverage on September 1, 2016

By Chapman Sim

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

This weekend, millions of viewers around the world will be witnessing Kaladesh preview cards for the very first time. This weekend, thousands of players will be attending PAX West for the very first time. This weekend, hundreds of players will be learning how to play Magic for the very first time.

Most importantly, this weekend, ten players are playing in their first Magic World Championship.

Naturally, for an event of such eminence, there are four revered slots for each Pro Tour Champion during the 2015–2016 season. With the exception of Steve Rubin, who won Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad and played in last year's World Championship, the other three Pro Tour Champions each won the right to play in their first World Championship this year.

From right: Jiachen Tao (Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch Champion), Lukas Blohon (Pro Tour Eldritch Moon Champion), and Kazuyuki Takimura (Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar Champion)

Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch Champion Jiachen Tao summed up his thoughts simply: "It's going to be a great experience. I get to play Magic against the best players in the world. Every match will be epic and every match will be exciting. It is not every day you get to enjoy such a challenging tournament, and I'm really glad to be here."

This sentiment was echoed by Lukas Blohon, Pro Tour Eldritch Moon Champion, who added that he had his eyes on a bigger prize now that he has a Pro Tour win under his belt. In addition to being crowned a World Champion, claiming the lion's share of the $250,000 prize purse was a tantalizing prospect.

2016 Magic World Championship trophy

Kazuyuki Takimura was among the quickest of the 24 to have secured his seat here when he won Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar. The finalist of that event, Ryoichi Tamada, also qualified, thanks to finishing the season as one of the top three players within the Asia-Pacific region. The bulk of his Pro Points originated from that very same Pro Tour.

Largely because Takimura and Tamada are relative greenhorns, they are not the hottest favorites (unlike the other two Japanese players, Yuuya Watanabe and Shota Yasooka), but they're eager to prove the naysayers wrong. Tamada already jump-started his season with a Top 8 at Grand Prix Guangzhou last week, and arrived in Seattle with high spirits. Aside from playtesting, Takimura even found time to attend a Conspiracy: Take the Crown event last week, cosplaying as Leovold, Emissary of Trest!

"I practiced on Magic Online a lot, but I don't think I put in even a quarter of the time that the other players put in. The World Championship is very tough, so I have modest expectations," said Takimura. "At the very least, I just want to be here and enjoy the party and the celebrations. This is what Magic is about. Enjoying the game and enjoying the good company!"

From right: Andrea Mengucci and Samuel Pardee

Andrea Mengucci also had a finals appearance himself at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, in addition to winning the 2015 World Magic Cup alongside Team Italy. A combination of these strong finishes propelled him into his first Platinum season and his first World Championship. Despite not coming in within the top three of the intensely-contested Europe region, he did accumulate more than enough Pro Points to earn an At-Large invite. Samuel Pardee also earned enough for an At-Large seat, after making the Sunday stage at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon.

"I'm really excited simply to be at PAX West," Pardee said. "While I've attended the convention numerous times, this is my first time competing—so I'm appreciating it from an entirely different angle. Still, nothing much has changed. It's basically me hanging around with family and friends at an awesome gaming convention doing awesome things together."

In Mengucci's case, he recognizes that he isn't the best player in the room but has decided to think big thoughts while relishing small pleasures. The idea of walking among the titans can be shudder-inducing for even the best of players.

"Of course I'll try my best to do well, but everyone else in the room is just super, super good! Even a 7-7 record would be decent for a first-timer like me," said Mengucci. "I'm going to enjoy the weekend, every single moment of it, and breathe in the entire experience and play the best Magic I can."

The 2016 Magic World Championship also marks the first time we're awarding seats via special "feats of strength." Our inaugural Grand Prix Master, Constructed Master, and Limited Master are all beneficiaries of these implementations.

From left: Brian Braun-Duin (Grand Prix Master), Olivier Tiu (Constructed Master), and Marcio Carvalho (Limited Master)

For the trio, the last twelve months have been a marathon rather than a sprint. After an entire season's hard work, Brian Braun-Duin arrived at the finish line after a stellar string of Grand Prix results. This title was not only the culmination of 2016, but also a glorious ending to Braun-Duin's Grand Prix journey of a lifetime. Oliver Tiu and Márcio Carvalho also earned their places by achieving the best win rates in the Constructed and Limited portions of the last four Pro Tours.

Perhaps the most amazing story is Tiu's. The reigning Rookie of the Year no longer earns an invitation to the World Championship, but Tiu got around that exclusion by achieving an accumulated record of 30-9-1 across the Constructed portions of the last four Pro Tours, which were also his first four lifetime Pro Tours! Carvalho's combined Pro Tour Draft record of 20-3-1 is similarly spectacular, and he lived up to everyone's expectations by starting 3-0 at an insanely stacked pod this morning. Shocker.

We'll never know how close we are to success if we surrender somewhere in between, and these three players are living embodiments of persistence, consistency, and unwavering heart.

2015 Magic Online Champion Niels Noorlander

Last but not least, Niels Noorlander is here by virtue of winning the Magic Online Championship, and will be the beacon of hope for all aspiring Magic Online players around the world. Naturally, most of his extensive playtesting took place online as he sharpened his metaphorical blades for the most difficult challenge of the year.

So, when was the last time you did something for the first time? At least for these ten players, they'll be taking their first shot at the coveted title of World Champion, attempting to fulfill another of their many magical dreams.

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