The Measures and Milestones of Pro Tour Players

Posted in Event Coverage on February 7, 2015

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Do you remember your first match of Magic? Perhaps you went to a local Friday Night Magic and first tried your hand at competitive play, or a friend pulled you to a Grand Prix or Pro Tour Qualifier for some fun. Do you remember your 50th match too? What about your 100th, or 200th, or beyond, if you been attending events for years?

Over time it's easy to rack up numbers and hard to remember when your mile markers pop up.

With thousands of matches of Magic played, the players who have risen to the Pro Tour stage begin to accumulate even more pips on the scales. Keeping track of stats is an ever-shifting duty, as there are events factoring in for Grand Prix results nearly every weekend, hundreds of players earning new ones at each Pro Tour, and so many more changes to tally.

This weekend in particular featured several winning milestones for some of the longest-playing competitors:

  • Andrew Cuneo, Jamie Parke, and the 1st-ranked Owen Turtenwald all found their 200th win in a Pro Tour Match.
  • No. 8 and Pro Tour Hall of Fame player William Jensen notched his 300th on the Pro Tour, and likewise Hall of Fame player Brian Kibler earned a stunning 400th win.

With Magic played the world over, what makes a match stand out for someone like Kibler? "I think the memorable games come down to really exciting game-states and top decks," he said. "One that sticks out to me, and people haven't seen or heard of, was the last round of Day One of Pro Tour Chicago where I made my first Top 8. I was playing against Ben Ronaldson who was playing Rebels. At the time he was part of one of the big teams and we were in Game 3 in this huge stalemate. He's thinking for a really long time on his turn and we have a ton of creatures in play."

"So I said 'You don't need to think about it so hard, Ben. The top of my deck is a really good card.' He passed to me and I drew Tsabo's Decree, killed all his creatures, and won," Kibler said. "He was like 'Why didn't my teammates tell me about this card?' His team had me on some red-green monsters things—some things never really change—and it was something I'll never forget. Though my most memorable match for other people is still my quarterfinal against Jon Finkel at Pro Tour Dark Ascension."

Wins aren't the only measures of Pro Tour longevity. Other players have played past milestone numbers of matches. Matthew Sperling played in his 300th match on Day One. Longtime teammate, friend, Pro Tour Hall of Fame player, and 14th-ranked Paul Rietzl racked up his 500th.

"Wow," Rietzl said. "It's been that many?"

"I think for a memorable match to me, the number one most important thing are the stakes," he continued. "I've won matches with some tricky and smart plays, but for me it's when the match is down to making Top 8, you're really sweating it out, and you need to draw the right things. Those that raise your blood pressure a few points and get you really excited."

"I remember every single match I was playing for a Pro Tour Top 8 like it was yesterday," Rietzl continued. "The one I remember most is when I played against Thomas Holzinger. If I won I would make Top 8, Platinum, qualify for Worlds, and be a favorite for Hall of Fame that year. I went up a game and then I was crushed out. It was on camera, and I was on the precipice of dealing lethal damage. Then everything slipped away. It was pretty heartbreaking," he said, pausing a moment, "and motivating."

Another player who crossed the 500th Pro Tour match marker was the No. 11 Eric Froehlich, fresh of helping his team win Grand Prix San Jose the weekend before.

"There's not one thing that makes a match memorable for me," Froehlich said. "There's so many over the years. For me it really comes down to what happened in the match. The most memorable match for me was when I top-decked Mizzium Mortars to make Top 8 of Pro Tour Gatecrash. I could hear friends from hundreds of yards away yell when I drew the card. Success is great, but without people to share it with it's just a W. It's why I like team tournaments, and seeing [Grand Prix San Jose teammate Paul] Cheon qualify for the Pro Tour with that joy. It's nice when it goes beyond you."

No 21. Craig Wescoe blew by his 400th Pro Tour match on Day One as well. Like Froehlich, teammates made the difference for a memorable match.

"My most memorable match was my first Pro Tour win," Wescoe said. "The thing that was most memorable about it was how my teammates were putting forth such an effort to test my Top 8 matchups and help with sideboarding. It felt like if I was carrying the team, and we were winning as a team. Winning a Pro Tour had always been my number one goal in Magic, and when I knew I was about to win I just knew. It was kind of like everything was coming together. It was surreal."

"When my teammate Ari Lax won Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir it was awesome to experience all that again but from the side of vigorously testing his matchups and sideboard," Wescoe said. "Hopefully this weekend we can do it all over again for Seth [Manfield]," who had run up a perfect 12-0 match record deep in Day Two.

While you, too, may someday cross into hundreds of matches and wins on the Pro Tour, everyone remembers the moments of play that made a difference along the way. Have you shared your most memorable match of Magic?

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