Usually, the titles of Draft Master and Constructed Master, along with the corresponding invites to the World Championship, would be awarded at the final Pro Tour of the season. This year, with Pro Tour 25th Anniversary being a team tournament, they were going to be awarded at the end of the weekend.
Going into the weekend, Elias Watsfeldt led the race for Draft Master with two full match wins. His immediate competition wasn't able to catch up to him through the first draft, but Watsfeldt himself also "only" got a 2-1 record. Considering he had been 12-0 in previous Pro Tour drafts this season, this was a break in his winning streak.
The Swedish player had reached the Top 8 of four GPs between 2011 and 2013, so he was used to playing for high stakes. But he only returned to the game recently, and although he already added another GP Top 8 to his résumé this year, playing for a World Championship invite was the highest stakes yet.
Watsfeldt was trying not to think about what was on the line. When I asked him how he felt about his chances to claim the title, he replied: "I wish they were zero! I would much rather not have to worry about it. Playing Worlds would be fun, but I'm trying not to care too much about it."
Regarding his take on Dominaria Booster Draft, Watsfeldt said, "Recognize that board stalls are common. Realize that fliers are very important because of that. And draft accordingly."
Watsfeldt had drafted white and blue in his first draft and replied that, yes, this was one of his favorite color combinations. "I picked Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage and never looked back."
His closest rival going into the second day's draft now was Andrea Mengucci. If the three-time Pro Tour Top 8er earned two more wins than Watsfeldt in Saturday's draft, Mengucci would steal the title. Otherwise, Watsfeldt was a virtual lock.
Mengucci acknowledged as much. "It all depends on what the Swedish guy does."
Mengucci felt fine about Dominaria draft but admitted that his team hadn't broken the format. "Usually, we always have a strategy and try to force something. This time, we found that every color combination and archetype was viable, so we figured we just had to read the table."
Talking of which: Reading the table below will tell you who's still in contention to become Draft Master:
|3||Craig Wescoe||United States||33|
|3||Ari Lax||United States||33|
|3||Ondřej Stráský||Czech Republic||33|
The race for Constructed Master was a completely different story. The race had been wide open, and it continued to be wide open five rounds of Standard later.
Jon Rolf had been in the lead, but multiple players had been trailing him by only one point. By Round 7, the Pro Tour Ixalan semifinalist had fallen from first place in the ranking. "I didn't have a good day," Rolf said. "I had some bad luck, but I like my Standard deck. All you can do is keep playing, right?"
Another player who would keep playing for the heavily contested Constructed Master title was, once again, Andrea Mengucci. Going into Round 8, Mengucci was only three points behind the new frontrunner Matt Severa, so I went looking for the Italian player again.
"I didn't even know I was in contention for these titles," Mengucci said. "I was looking to get some Pro Points of course, trying to qualify for the World Championship that way, but I only learned here about all of this business. Actually, are you going to write an article about it tonight? Because I'll be sure to read that one!"
So, for the benefit of Mengucci, as well as everyone else, here's the list of everyone who could still claim the title of Constructed Master through Saturday's five rounds of Standard:
|1||Matthew Severa||United States||60|
|2||John Rolf||United States||58|
|3||Brian Braun-Duin||United States||57|
|3||Corey Baumeister||United States||57|
|3||Brad Nelson||United States||57|
|3||Jacob Nagro||United States||57|
|12||Reid Duke||United States||52|
|13||Shaheen Soorani||United States||51|
|13||Andrew Cuneo||United States||51|
|18||Paul Rietzl||United States||49|
|18||Lee Shi Tian||Hong Kong||49|
|20||Michael Hinderaker||United States||48|
|20||Jason Chung||New Zealand||48|
|30||Christian Calcano||United States||46|
|33||Benjamin Weitz||United States||45|
|33||Thomas Ashton||United States||45|
|33||Jonathan Sukenik||United States||45|
|33||Petr Sochurek||Czech Republic||45|
While Mengucci had lost his final round, he was now trailing the frontrunners in both races by just six points going into the final day. A testament to an extraordinary season on the Pro Tour, this singular achievement put Mengucci in an excellent position to clinch a World Championship qualification no matter what through one of the at-large invites.
Eleventh-ranked Andrea Mengucci found himself in the running for both the Draft Master and Constructed Master title.
No one had ever come this close to a double triumph, so we had to check the rules, just in case: If Mengucci were to claim both titles, neither of the two invites would be passed down to the next in line. Instead, another invite would go to the player with the most Pro Points following Pro Tour 25th Anniversary.