Four of the very best players in the world have reached the Sunday playoffs for the 2016 Magic: The Gathering World Championship: Grand Prix Master Brian Braun-Duin, Draft Master Márcio Carvalho, Constructed Master Oliver Tiu, and stone-cold master Shota Yasooka.
The format for the Top 4 is Standard, and the livestream starts on twitch.tv/magic on Sunday at 11 a.m. PT. The first semifinals will be played between Brian Braun-Duin's Bant Humans and Shota Yasooka's Bant Company, followed by the second semifinals between Oliver Tiu's Temur Emerge and Márcio Carvalho's Bant Company. Then the remaining two players will play one final match to determine who will win the $70,000 first-place prize and the title of 2016 Magic World Champion.
Learn a little more about these four by reading their player profiles below!
Hometown: Roanoke, Virginia
Invite: 2015–2016 Grand Prix Master
Standard record: 4-0 with Bant Humans
Modern record: 3-0-1 with Bant Eldrazi
Draft record: 3-3
"This is like one small step for man, one giant leap for my career," Braun-Duin said when asked what making the Top 4 meant to him. Braun-Duin has taken the everyman's journey to the top—from PTQ grinder to StarCityGames.com grinder to Grand Prix grinder to Pro Tour grinder, and now he's finally gotten to the top. Making the World Championship was already ahead of the schedule that Braun-Duin had set out for himself, even though he targeted the Grand Prix Master slot at the start of the season, but making Top 4 was certainly way beyond where he had envisioned himself at this point in his career.
He felt he had a really good preparation for this event, having done a lot of testing together with Brad Nelson, Joel Larsson, and Martin Müller. And his mentality was on point: "I wasn't nervous, I wasn't beating myself up over mistakes, I didn't feel intimidated playing against the best in the world. I was just playing the best I could every turn, and things went my way for the most part."
"I'm really happy, but I also can't stop thinking about the matches I'll be playing tomorrow. I wanna win pretty badly, so I'm definitely not gonna rest on the thrill on making Top 4. I'm going to try to go all the way. Winning tomorrow would be the culmination of what I always wanted to do in Magic."
Hometown: Tokyo, Japan
Invite: Top Pro Points, Asia-Pacific
Standard record: 2-2 with Bant Company
Modern record: 2-2 with Abzan Company
Draft record: 5-1
Four years ago, Shota Yasooka confirmed to the world that he was one of the absolute best by posting an incredible 11-1 record in the 2012 Magic World Championship. But then he lost in the Top 4 and was unable to convert his performance into a win.
Since then, a lot has happened. He came second at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir. He was inducted into the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Fame. But one title that Yasooka never managed he'd claim was the one of World Champion. This year, he qualified for the World Championship again. He is now two for two for making the Top 4 at this prestigious event. And tomorrow he has another opportunity to take the trophy.
How did making the Top 4 feel for him? "The game starts now, really."
Hometown: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Invite: 2015–2016 Constructed Master
Standard record: 2-1-1 with Temur Emerge
Modern record: 4-0 with TitanShift
Draft record: 3-3
"It's amazing," Oliver Tiu said after securing his spot in the Top 4. "That last match was incredibly close, but for once in my life I was happy with my play and I won. I never thought I would be here. I started my first week at college this week before coming here, and this is a whole lot better than class, I'll tell you that much."
Tiu is younger than the game itself and has exactly four Pro Tours under his belt. But all four came in the 2015–16 season, where he won the Constructed Master title by having the best Constructed record of anyone on the Pro Tour.
On what winning would mean, Tiu said: "It would be the most amazing thing in the world. I've been playing forever, but I never thought I would be in contention to be the World Champion. It's insane."
Hometown: Lisbon, Portugal
Invite: 2015–2016 Draft Master
Standard record: 3-1 with Bant Company
Modern record: 1-2-1 with Abzan
Draft record: 5-1
"I'm just feeling great," Carvalho said when asked how it felt to make the Top 4. "I can't even describe the feeling, it's like electricity is running through my body."
As Draft Master, he showed his dominance on the plane of Innistrad with a combined 17-1 record in the Draft portions of Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, and here at the World Championship.
But he also did well in Standard, and he had his eyes on the prize like anyone else. "Winning would be the culmination of sixteen years of playing Magic. It would be the culmination of everything I've worked for."