One of the standout stories to come with the Top 8 at Grand Prix Providence was No. 23-ranked Steve Rubin’s second Top 8 this year. While that isn’t a magical number in of itself, the Pro Points his quarterfinal exit earned him was something special.
“Some people have said that like 52 Pro Points is the magic number,” Rubin said. “I’m at 49 now and obviously the next Pro Tour is 3 more. I’m on the hump: I need another finish. No complaints so far, though I could have used a win in the Top 8 here.”
Steve Rubin’s streak of great Pro Tour and Grand Prix finishes have added up in the new world of World Championship invitations.
What Rubin is referring to, and what others are vying for as the season winds down, is an invitation to this year’s World Championship. Based on top Pro Points earners and other top finishes, the system pulls in champions and those that consistently perform at the top of the game. While the process for this year is newer, earning invites through it is a lifelong process.
“I played plenty of local stuff,” Rubin explained, sharing his start in competitive Magic. “I started during Urza’s Saga block, but I didn’t start competitive until I was 16 or 17 during Zendikar. When I was in High School I started drafting at CMU – Carnegie Mellon University. So I’ve been doing that for seven years now. It’s not ‘the CMU of old’ but people still draft there,” Rubin said, referring to the dominate era in Magic’s earlier years that brought Hall of Fame players like Randy Buehler to the forefront of the game. “The funny thing is I consider myself a Limited player. When I started they did team drafts and I wanted to be the person they wanted on their teams, the person that they feared. So I played a lot of Limited games.”
“After that was a quick transition to ‘There’s a PTQ this weekend!’ I didn’t win my first one until 2013 when I went to Pro Tour Gatecrash,” Rubin continued. “Tom Martell won. I was like 9-2 and he beat me, then Joel Larrson beat me. They both made Top 8. That got me started going with Magic pretty hard.”
Last year was when things really took off for Rubin. “What started the run was making Top 8 at Grand Prix Chicago, which qualified me for Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir,” he said. “Now with the Pro Tour record-based system for invites it’s great. If it had been a year ago I wouldn’t have qualified for the Pro Tour again off 11-5. I went 11-5 at all three Pro Tours since, and this is my second Grand Prix Top 8. That’s where all my points come from.”
Of course, Rubin isn’t doing it alone. Like his early years battling at CMU, it’s an environment of skillful players that are helping hone his playing skill. “I’m working with Brad Nelson, Gerry Thompson, Ari Lax, Chris Fennell, Seth Manfield, Tom Martell and others – basically the old team TCGPlayer,” Rubin explained. “Having them on the team has been great: They play Standard every day, and I definitely had help on the way. There’s Grand Prix in Montreal and Dallas-Fort Worth this year so I’ll go to those most likely. If I can have a decent finish at any of those I should lock up a World Championship invite.”
Like the others in an elite group poised for world play, Rubin already has the next leg in his race planned. It’s the only way to stay on top, after all.