Top 4 Profiles

Posted in Event Coverage on September 23, 2018

By Event Coverage Staff

Only four competitors remain in the 2018 Magic: The Gathering World Championship. Each of these players will be competing for the $100,000 first place prize on Sunday, September 23.

Name: Javier Dominguez (@Thalaiet)

Country: Spain

Draft #1 Record: 2-1

Draft #2 Record: 3-0

Standard Constructed Record: 6-2

The Spaniard Javier Dominguez has been quietly building his resume over the last few years with six Grand Prix Top 8s including two wins. But he finally became a household name with his finals finish at the World Championship last year. Since then, he's added three more Grand Prix Top 8s and his first ever Pro Tour Top 8 in his home country at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. He finished this season with a strong 65 Pro Points and got himself to the World Championship as a Top Pro Point earner.

His tournament this weekend looked even smoother than his journey at last year's championship. He finished the first day at the top of the standings with Grzegorz Kowalski at 6-1, then plowed through the second draft winning all three matches with a crazy The Flame of Keld deck that he admits he'd basically never drafted before. He cleaned up with the trusty Red-black Aggro deck, even though throughout the history of the format, it had been White-Blue Control that twice got him to Grand Prix Top 8s.

Though he said he tries not to tie his happiness to any specific tournament wins, and that qualifying for this tournament was all the reward he needed, he couldn't promise that he wouldn't be overcome with emotion if he actually won the World Championship.

Name: Grzegorz Kowalski (@urlich00)

Country: Poland

Draft #1 Record: 3-0

Draft #2 Record: 2-1

Standard Constructed Record: 6-2

Though casual audiences might not recognize his name, Grzegorz Kowalski has been a silent workhorse in Magic over the last couple years. With four Grand Prix Top 8s coming into this season, he was previously best known for captaining Team Poland to the World Magic Cup finals last year. He's parlayed that not only into increasing visibility of other Polish Magic players, but also to his first Platinum season and his first Grand Prix win in Lyon (along with a finals appearance in Birmingham and a semifinals appearance in Singapore). Kowalski views himself as not as naturally gifted at the game as many of the top pros, so he makes up for that with data and iteration. Famously he said he felt unprepared going into a Grand Prix because he had only played about 20 Magic Online Leagues with the deck (about 100 matches).

In his first ever World Championship appearance he has performed well above expectation. He 3-0'd his first draft, and didn't take a loss until the last round of Day One. Piloting his Red-black Aggro deck, a variant of the mono-red deck he crewed in Singapore, Kowalski has deftly positioned himself at the top of the standings throughout the weekend. After the first three rounds he had said for his first-ever appearance he'd just be happy to finish in the Top 8, but now he's aiming for just a bit more.

Name: Ben Stark (@BenS8528)

Country: United States

Draft #1 Record: 3-0

Draft #2 Record: 1-2

Standard Constructed Record: 6-2

Coming into the tournament, Pro Tour Hall of Fame member Ben Stark would be one of the surer bets in the room. The Pro Tour Paris Champion has achieved many of the top heights in Magic and is always one of the most feared opponents in any room. He's also the most experienced in the room with 59(!) Pro Tours played.

Last year was the first time in five years Ben missed the Platinum player mark; he deviated back to the mean this year, adding a fifth Pro Tour Top 8 to his resume at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary on a team with fellow Hall of Famer pros Josh Utter-Leyton and Martin Jůza. He came into the World Championship saying that, like usual, he just wants to play great Magic against great opponents. Like usual, he came through.

This weekend, after swiftly 3-0ing his first draft pod, he piloted the only Mono-Red Aggro deck in the room to a solid-enough 2-2 finish to end the day 5-2. Expecting most of the field to be Black-red, his ultra-low-to-the-ground red deck aimed to get underneath every other deck in the format, especially the Red-black Aggro decks, mostly tuned bigger for the mirrors. After getting two early losses in the second day, he rattled off three straight wins to put himself in prime position for the Top 4.

Shahar Shenhar (@shaharshenhar)

Country: Israel

Draft #1 Record: 0-3

Draft #2 Record: 3-0

Standard Constructed Record: 6-2

Winning his first Grand Prix at 18 years old, Shahar Shenhar rose fast in the scene, racking up four more Top 8s over the next two years, and two more wins! He then parlayed his consistent performances into becoming World Champion the first time he qualified<nbsp> . . .</nbsp> and then again the second time. He's the first and only back-to-back World Champion, and without a Pro Tour Top 8 to his name.

After that happened, he admitted that he became a little cocky, and didn't practice like he used to—as a result, his strong finishes stopped rolling in. But after reasserting himself in the game he won another Grand Prix, his fourth in total, then followed up with a Top 16 at Pro Tour Ixalan. Shenhar earned his way back to the World Championship in style.

This weekend was a bit of a Cinderella story for Shenhar. He started the tournament losing all three of his Draft rounds, but a solid finish in Constructed kept him alive. Then he reared back with a vengeance Day Two with a 3-0 in Draft. He was ready to go back to the 75 cards that kept him in the running on Day One, and they came through again. His White-Blue Gift deck proved clutch, and now Shenhar has the opportunity to become the first ever three-time World Champion!

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