Unlike the race for Draft Master, the race for the title of 2017–18 Constructed Master was a nail-biter. No one had a sizeable lead going into Pro Tour Dominaria, the final tournament players could accrue points this season. With ten rounds of Standard across the first two days, these point totals would see a lot more movement.
At the beginning of the weekend, Pro Tour Ixalan semifinalist Jon Rolf was one point ahead of 2016 World Champion Brian Braun-Duin. After Friday's Standard action, Rolf still sported the same lead over Braun-Duin, as both went 3-2.
However, a new challenger had not only appeared but passed both of them. A clean 5-0 sweep put Matthew Severa into the pole position, now with a two-point lead. This was the beginning of a head-to-head race between Severa and Rolf that would continue to the very end of Saturday.
Both won their matches in Round 12 and 13, while Braun-Duin and the group of players chasing them fell further behind. In Round 14, Severa won and Rolf lost. This put Severa five points ahead of Rolf. As such, Severa could lock things up with a win in the penultimate round.
I went to talk to Severa about all that was on the line, before I knew he was trying to put thoughts of exactly this out of his mind. "I'm just happy to be in this spot," he told me. "It was only a few years ago that I was able to get over my anxiety playing important matches. This helped a lot. Now I just focus on my games."
I also caught up with Rolf and asked him how nervous he was. "I'm not super nervous because I have a decent shot to qualify for Worlds on Pro Points," he said. "It does still mean a lot to me. I would love to get the title."
Destiny gave Rolf a chance. He won Round 15 while Severa lost. The lead was again just two points. Rolf was watching Severa's feature match from the sideline and gave him the news afterward.
Jon Rolf (left) and Matthew Severa (right) jockeyed for position throughout the late rounds, seeking the title of Constructed Master.
"So, did you pass me now?" Severa asked.
"No, the only way I can pass you is if I win again and you either lose again or get a draw," Rolf answered.
"So we're back to where we were this morning."
"Exactly." The two of them shared a moment of contemplative silence. There was nothing more to say at this point, except for "Well, good luck, man."
They shook hands then parted ways to mentally prepare for perhaps the most important matches of either player's career so far. The race between these two went into its final round, as did the tournament. Both sat down in the feature match area for this.
Rolf won, which meant Severa really did need that 9-1 record in Standard.
In the end, Severa's match wasn't particularly close, a quick 2-0 win over Italy's Riccardo Biava. This left him with an overall 24-6 Constructed record across the three Pro Tours that fed into the race. It also left Matthew Severa as the 2017–18 Constructed Master, with an invitation to the World Championship, and massively relieved.
"I feel great!" was his obvious answer to my obvious question. "After 0-3'ing my first draft, I was just happy to qualify for Day 2. I didn't think about qualifying for Worlds! By the way, where is Worlds this year?"
When Severa learned that the 2018 World Championship would take place in Las Vegas, on September 21–23, he gave a little fist pump. "Yay, domestic!" He explained, "That's much better for me, because I already spent so many of my vacation days."
Severa stands atop the Constructed Mountain (and Swamp).
Severa asked whether we were doing shoutouts. We certainly were now.
"I want to thank my wife, for being lovely and supportive," Severa began. "I also want to give a shoutout to Team MetaGame Gurus and to Power Nine. My fourth shoutout, I guess, goes to Heart of Kiran. It's been very good to me this season, and I will be very sad when it rotates out of Standard."
About his season, he said, "I had a lot of fun, especially in the team tournaments I played with Sam Black, Andrew Baeckstrom, Mike Hroan, and Eddie Song."
Severa talked about his development as a player. "For the longest time, I've mostly been a Limited player. Since I got back onto the Pro Tour I had to learn how to play Constructed. My Limited game suffered terribly, but I would say I've become comfortable with Constructed. For example, I broke out of my comfort zone and played Temur Energy [at Pro Tour Ixalan]. I didn't master the deck, but I became reasonably proficient with it."
Comfortable with Constructed, huh? Well, that's one way to put it. Congratulations to Matthew Severa, Limited specialist-turned-Constructed Master!