How Luis Salvatto Became the 2017-18 Player of the Year

Posted in Event Coverage on November 9, 2018

By Corbin Hosler

Midway through a dinner with his teammates on the eve of Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica, Luis Salvatto excused himself for a few minutes. For the entire night his friends had been reading him the name of players who had been crowned the Magic Player of the Year, and after several iterations he needed a few minutes to himself.

"I went to the bathroom, looked in in the mirror," he said, "and I just started laughing."

There—in the mirror of a restroom of a restaurant in Atlanta—is when it first hit him. Really hit him. Unconcerned about how it might look to anyone else within earshot to hear someone talk to themselves in the mirror in public, Salvatto finally had to simply say it out loud to himself.

"You're the Player of the Year."

Most people travel irregularly. A cross-country or cross-continent trip is a rare occurrence for many and can often be a fun-but-stressful occurrence. A coast-to-coast trip in the United States, for instance, is about 3,000 miles and takes an entire day of travel to complete.

Salvatto did the equivalent of that eight times in six weeks—nearly 25,000 total miles traveled in all—and it was just the beginning.

"I didn't even plan on going to Stockholm at first, but in the end it was my last shot so I took it," he explained of his decision to book a last-minute flight to Sweden on the last weekend of the season. "I think the three big accomplishments in this game are winning a Pro Tour, being the World Champion, and being the Player of the Year, so this could be the second of those lifetime achievements. [Salvatto won Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan earlier this year.] I never imagined this position a few years ago so I'm trying to enjoy it as much as I can."

The wild globetrotting sprint wasn't enough to earn the Argentinian the Player of the Year title, but a dramatic Top 8 finish in his last possible chance at Grand Prix Stockholm left him exactly tied with frontrunner and newly minted Hall of Famer Seth Manfield. This forced just the second Player of the Year playoff showdown in Magic history. That meant it all came down to a best-of-seven match in a format with unique rules the day before the kickoff of Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica in Atlanta.

And what a match it was. Manfield took the first game in a mirror match of Mono-Blue Tempo decks, and appeared poised to take the second game as well after a devastating Goblin Chainwhirler wiped out most of Salvatto's board. Just like that, Salvatto's worldwide odyssey looked like it might not have the storybook ending that so many fans across the globe—and especially in his home region of Latin America—were fervently hoping for.

Then came the perfect Chart a Course.

The Tempest Djinn and more got Salvatto back in the game, and after Manfield missed for another turn with Experimental Frenzy the Hareruya Latin pro was on the board and in the zone.

"After he won the first game and had a good matchup in the second, I was feeling pretty bad," Salvatto admitted. "But when I came back and won that one I just knew things were going to go my way."

They certainly did. From that point on, Salvatto was nearly unbeatable, playing almost flawlessly while dispatching Manfield in three of the next four games to cap an incredible run to etch his name into Magic history. As his teammates swarmed him with a deafening chant, he earned—at long last—the title of 2017–18 Player of the Year.

"The entire match took less than 2 hours, but for the last three months it's all I've thought about," he said. "When I look at the other players who have done this and how far I've come from the LGS to the best in the world over the last year, it was just a fantastic moment. I'm just going to enjoy it and wherever things go from here I'm going to always be grateful for that moment."

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