The Pro Tour Masters

Posted in Event Coverage on August 6, 2016

By Marc Calderaro

Last week at Grand Prix Sydney, the race in focus was the one for the Grand Prix Master slot at the World Championship. Brian Braun-Duin, No. 1-ranked Seth Manfield, and Tomoharu Saito had a shoot-out that was hanging on all weekend. But now that's been settled, and it's time to look at the Pro Tour Masters.

The two Pro Tour Masters slots at the World Championship are slotted for the Draft Master and the Constructed Master. Both races have been intense. Chapman Sim recapped the state of the races yesterday, but it's time to see what the second day of competition brought.

Draft Master

The race for Pro Tour Draft Master was incredibly tight. Going into the last draft pod, the standings were close.

Draft Master Standings After Day One

Rank Name Points
1 Márcio Carvalho 52
2 Christian Calcano 49
3 (4) Shota Yasooka 48
3 (18) Jon Finkel 48
5 Timothy Wu 46
6 (2) Owen Turtenwald 45
6 Matt Sperling 45
6 Nathan Holiday 45
6 (12) Yuuya Watanabe 45
6 Matej Zatlkaj 45

After Pro Tour Hall of Fame exemplars No. 18-ranked Jon Finkel and No. 4-ranked Shota Yasooka fell by the wayside, it became a two-man race. It was between Portugal's Márcio Carvalho and the United States' Christian Calcano. But with Carvalho 3 points ahead (thanks to a single Ben Rubin­­–induced draw) Calcano needed to go 3-0 with Carvalho at 2-1 to even tie it up.

But in the second-to-last round, Calcano lost—trying a gutsy 24-point Mercurial Geists against Brock Parker that went sideways. And Carvalho won again. It was all over. The Portuguese didn't even need to win the last round—although he did anyway—and Carvalho was going to the World Championships.

3-2-1, 5-1, 6-0, 6-0. A total Pro Tour draft record of 20-3-1 this year. His DEX Army teammate Thiago Saporito gave him a huge high-five. He was ecstatic.

"I don't have the words for it really. I don't." Carvalho said. "When the Limited Master slot was announced, my friend said to me, 'They made a slot for you!' A year later, here I am." He almost seemed out of breath. Luckily, DEX Army captain and Pro Tour Hall of Famer Willy Edel stepped up at that exact time, giving Carvalho a moment.

Edel looked me in the eyes, gesticulated wildly as he usually does, and said, "He is by far the best Limited player I have ever seen. Ever. And it's not close." Edel, like most team members, had been repeated schooled by Carvalho during the DEX testing sessions over multiple Pro Tours.

"It takes most people a week, or maybe ten drafts to learn what he just knows from his first draft," Edel waxed. "When Luis Salvatto Top 8ed the Pro Tour, he went 6-0 in Limited, he gave all the thanks to Márcio. Last week, Santiago de Paoli Top 8s a Limited Grand Prix for the first time and he gives all the thanks to Márcio." He concluded, "I mean, I didn't learn from him, obviously; but I tried!"

Teammate and Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Top 8 finisher Pedro Carvalho was strongly nodding his head the whole time. As I know that Edel is prone to exaggeration, I asked the Carvalhos if what he had said was all true.

"It's true," they said. "It's true that Willy exaggerates a lot, but all this is true too." Márcio added later, "Even when I was eighteen or nineteen, when I won [Grand Prix Lisbon], I went undefeated in Limited." He just has a feel for it.

"I draft a lot on Magic Online," Márcio also said. He was famous for having 287 Clutch of Currents in his Magic Online trade binder. 287! That's truly insane. Not only does he have natural aptitude for Draft, he also puts the work in.

"Sometimes I don't play Magic for three of four days, but then I play, like, eight to ten drafts in a day."

This title suits him, and he was finally finding the words he was happy with, saying, "I've played Magic since I was fourteen. Now sixteen years after, I'm still playing this game. It means everything to me." Adding, "[Since I have gotten older] I've really tried to help everyone in the community, especially in Portugal. Magic is more about the gathering now for me."

He finished, "These are my friends. I don't talk to my college friends anymore, but I still talk to my Magic friends from fifteen years ago. And I know I'll be friends with them 30 years from now. That's amazing for a game."

Now Márcio Carvalho will be celebrating with his friends on his World Championship invitation.

2015–16 Draft Master Márcio Carvalho

Constructed Master

This race is always a bit harder to parse, especially because there are ten rounds of Constructed, versus six rounds of Draft at each Pro Tour.

Coming into the Pro Tour No. 1-ranked Seth Manfield was looking pretty, as was Oliver Tiu. And Mr. Manfield didn't have the most shining Pro Tour weekend, but Tiu remained steadfast. However, you couldn't account for No. 2-ranked Owen Turtenwald, the sole undefeated player after the first day. As such, the standings looked a bit different after the Day One.

Constructed Master Standings After Day One

Rank Name Points
1 (2) Owen Turtenwald 79
2 Oliver Tiu 78
3 (1) Seth Manfield 75
3 (15) Reid Duke 75
5 (9) Paul Rietzl 73
5 (11) Sam Black 73
7 Kentaro Yamamoto 70
7 (14) Ondřej Stráský 70
7 Immanuel Gerschenson 70
7 Jiachen Tao 70
11 Sam Pardee 69
11 (25) Michael Majors 69
11 Paul Dean 69
11 Jacob Wilson 69

Despite the Midseason Master continuing to be a canon of consistency, Turtenwald had begun to fall off in the Standard rounds. And young Oliver Tiu stayed strong. In Round 15, Oliver got the 1 point he needed to pull too far away from both Turtenwald and No. 15 Reid Duke. He clinched Constructed Master. That means this Rookie of the Year and new Platinum Pro is also going to the World Championship.

It's an incredible achievement for the recent high school graduate and basically beyond what he could have expected even just a few months ago. "It's just so much more than I thought I was going to do."

However, if you know his history, it becomes a bit less surprising—and all the more fitting that he surpassed Owen Turtenwald to do it.

"Since I start playing," Tiu said, "I tried to watch all [Owen's] matches." He continued, "Ever since 2011, when he Top 8ed like a million GPs, I was like, '[Wow!], this guy is good'...even after, his performance is consistently at such a high level, year after year after year."

Just like Turtenwald advocated, Tiu studied his tape. He has tried to emulate what he believes makes the newly Hall of Fame–elect so good.

"I've learned he's always very professional in matches—he always clearly announces all his triggers; he stays open in drafts." Then Tiu took a second and added, "And he doesn't make mistakes."

Tiu admitted that last part has been the most difficult to emulate.

"He set a great example for me as a Magic professional. I don't know where I'd be right now if it weren't for him."

But that was Tiu's past. That was what got him to the table. Now what he's doing once he sits down is all him. And one of the first things he did was make sure that Constructed Master slot was not Turtenwald's for the taking. He bested his hero.

"Yeah, it's pretty insane. My idols have become my rivals," Tiu laughed. "...I feel like that's a rap lyric or something." It's Drake. But there is a slightly older expression even more direct—"Kill your idols"—that now Oliver Tiu has to follow.

"In every tournament, I've always rooted for Owen. Because I believe the best player should win more tournaments. Now for the first time I'm rooting against him—for selfish reasons."

When I asked how that made he feel, he thought about it and said, "Yeah, it does feel pretty good."

About this time I started talking to Thien Nguyen, who sat down alongside me and Oliver and began telling stories of how Oliver was crushing him seven years ago, as an 11-year-old.

"[Even back then he] had this hunger to win; he's so emotional about it. I'd never seen a person put so much into [the game]." Nguyen vividly remembers thinking, "Wow. This person's going to be great. He cares about this on a level that I just don't comprehend."

Nguyen went on to tell some specific stories, but in the middle of them, Tiu just leaned back and said to no one in particular:

"This is insane."

He sat in it for a moment. "Am I actually going to Worlds?! – It's just unreal."

Oliver Tiu has locked Rookie of the Year, Platinum pro status, and a slot at the World Championship all in one year—not to mention the Jon Finkel–funded Gamers Helping Gamers college scholarship.

The young Constructed Master wasn't exactly sure what to do in this situation, but there are worse things than emulating Owen here—just own it.

2015–16 Constructed Master Oliver Tiu

There you have it. Two more races have come to a close—and two more players, Márcio Carvalho and Oliver Tiu—are heading to the World Championship!

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