Pro Tour Magic Origins settled more than the folks facing off at the World Championship in a month: Many players ranked up by earning a higher place in the Pro Players Club. From Hall of Fame players like Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Luis Scott-Vargas to breakout stars like Marcio Carvalho and Thiago Saporito, players across the world aspire to find the highest place possible.
We had a chance to catch up with four of these rising stars at Grand Prix San Diego.
No. 20-ranked Matt Sperling’s second Pro Tour Top 8 put him firmly in the discussion for best players in the world.
No. 20-ranked Matt Sperling’s success ebbed and flowed throughout the year, but it was early on his sights were set on earning Platinum. “It’s huge. In January I got second in two different Grand Prix – it was a very good month. I set a goal for myself to make Platinum,” he explained. “The next couple Pro Tours weren’t kind to me so it was slipping out of my grasp. I needed a Top 8 or better in the last Pro Tour. I got to my goal but in a roundabout way.”
What does it mean to hit Platinum? “It sets that stage to have a year where I’m getting appearance fees as ranked playing going in with confidence,” Sperling said. “I’m excited to go after Platinum again, and to go after the World Championship. I’m not setting it as my goal this year: My goal is to hit Platinum again. If I can go Platinum to Platinum I’m more than happy with that.”
No. 6-ranked Seth Manfield’s impressive year of play earned him both a Pro Tour Top 8 and Platinum status.
Sperling wasn’t alone in turning early success into a higher goal. No. 6-ranked Seth Manfield also leveled up to Platinum.
“It feels good,” Manfield said. “The previous year I was Gold so I was always striving to hit Platinum and compete at the World Championship. It felt great winning Grand Prix Ottawa, then making Top 8 at Pro Tour Fate Reforged. I had a bunch of Pro Points and felt confident that I would be Platinum. I was pushing for the World Championship and getting over that hump to compete against the best in the world.
Manfield has played Magic off and on for fifteen years, but it wasn’t that long ago he become the competitor we know now. “I got back into Magic two-and-a-half years ago, and started writing about it about a year ago. I even had a daughter – some life events happened along the way but it’s always great to play Magic,” he explained. “I always knew I was good but it was a matter of taking the time and putting in the effort, traveling to a bunch of tournaments. I want to do well at the World Championship and the Pro Tour, but doing well doesn’t stop me from wanting to achieve. It’s nice to have a group – the team I test with for the Pro Tour – and a lot of my friends play Magic: It’s hanging out and enjoying myself.”
Paul Cheon catapulted back onto the pro player scene with a team Grand Prix victory in San Jose to lead him to Pro Tour Fate Reforged the following weekend. Earning Gold ensured he would return for many more.
Chasing Platinum was a common goal among the game’s elite. Paul Cheon’s heroic run at events locked him into an entire year of Pro Tours, but his goal was always higher. “I needed to go 12-4 last weekend, and I was in good position so I was pretty hopeful,” he explained about him run at Platinum. “If I could have replicated what I did Day 1 I would have been ok. Unfortunately I didn’t get there. I went 1-5 on Day 2. I still feel very blessed to be back.”
“At the beginning I was aiming for Silver,” Cheon said. “Now it feels good to not worry about being qualified for the next tournament, like at Grand Prix San Jose. I can see how far I’ve come – just eight months ago I had zero byes. This is my first tournament with three byes in seven years. I know I’ve improved, and doing poorly at that Pro Tour just motivated me to do better. My goal is to hit Platinum. I’m going to focus even harder on the game and just get better.”
Justin Cohen took his first Pro Tour appearance all the way to the finals. Now he had one goal in mind: Platinum.
Cheon wasn’t the only player to put in an exceptional season. Justin Cohen’s breakout performance at Pro Tour Fate Reforged was, to him, just the beginning.
“Getting second at my first Pro Tour was surreal,” Cohen said. “Most of the good feeling I had was tied up in that. I didn’t have a good run at Grand Prix after that and did okay at Brussels. I was a couple of match wins short of Platinum in Vancouver. I got Rookie of the Year, but that felt like a little bit of the foregone conclusion.”
Cohen, like Cheon, was always after the highest status. “I really want Platinum,” Cohen said. “Platinum is so valuable, but I’ve got to get better at Grand Prix. I feel good about he testing we do for Pro Tour. Team Ultra Pro is great, and they’re a great group to play with. It can be tougher to keep up the momentum week in and week out for Grand Prix, especially when the format changes so much. I have to have good Day 2’s: I had multiple one Pro Point finishes that could have been three.”
Cohen also knows what’s holding him back. “The biggest thing I need to do is become good at Magic,” he explained. “Right now I’m good at picking my advantages and spots, like playing Amulet Bloom at the Pro Tour. But if you want to be a Pro Magic player you have to be good at playing Magic, and I’m not good yet.