“I just want to be qualified for like one or two Pro Tours a year; I'm not asking for much.” These were Ohioan Dan Musser's remarks on his Magic ambitions. But you wouldn't think that if you look at the standings after Round 12 of Grand Prix Atlanta.
Musser is the only undefeated player left at Grand Prix Atlanta—above both the most famous Pro Tour Hall of Fame member ever, Jon Finkel, and a shoe-in eventual Hall of Famer, second-ranked Owen Turtenwald. But although he's clearly excited, he does a good job of not letting it show.
“My mindset yesterday was just to Day 2. I've had a bad Grand Prix run lately. I haven't Day 2'ed in the like last six times ... then I went 9-0.” And that's when expectations changed. Now he's got a new mission. “One match to qualify. I just want to qualify for the Pro Tour again. I think one more win will do it.” Perhaps missing the forest for the trees, I asked about this weekend. He replied simply. “The Top 8 means less to me than that, by far.”
He Sealed deck, he said, was “definitely not a 9-0 deck.” And if you look back at the lists, he wasn't lying. Yet here he is—likely one win away from getting back on the tour.
Musser has been around the Magic scene for a long time. He's been a perennial PTQ winner in the Ohio Valley, won a Star City Open, and even played on the Pro Tour frequently over the last five years, but he's yet to truly break through. Perhaps we'll see that change.
His friends seem to believe that breakthrough is coming. Stu Somers, who was seated next to Musser along with recent Grand Prix SeaTac winner Jarvis Yu, said that as far as the Ohio Valley goes, Musser is one of the best. He even compared Musser to last year's breakout (15) Steve Rubin. And Musser often travels to the Grand Prix events with Adam Yurchick. It looks like he's got pretty good company.
But for Musser, his aims are still grounded. A former college math teacher with a Masters in Applied Math, he would like to be on top, but he really just wants his invite back. He's been blessed so far, with two of his Pro Tour appearances in Hawaii (tough life, right?), but he knows he can put up better results if he gets to the big stage more regularly.
Perhaps he's undervaluing what a Grand Prix Top 8 could mean this weekend. We've seen players vault after their first Top 8 to the stars, and most constellation points—great playgroup, humility, and, frankly, a 12-0 in a difficult format—lead to this being a launching point for Musser's Magic career.
It all rides on his second draft of the day—in the pod with both Jon Finkel and Owen Turtenwald. “I like the deck a lot...” he said. “but it isn't good.”
It's got power for sure. With Quarantine Field, multiple Radiant Flames, and some controlling nightmares—he's got stuff to do. But he's a solid three colors. “I was getting cut from both ends ... I stayed out of Green as long as I could.” He chuckled, his Greenwarden of Murasa gleaming in his deck. The deck was a little messy for sure.
“But it can get one win, easy. That's all I need.”
However nothing is “easy” when you to shuffle up and stare down Jon Finkel. The Jon Finkel. That was his Round 13 opponent.
Jon Finkel and Dan Musser
Just one more win and maybe Dan Musser, already a household name to some, might become one to the rest. Maybe, maybe not. But either way Musser's got his priorities in check. And he's taking things one step at a time.