The Endless Stakes of the Weekend

Posted in Event Coverage on July 28, 2017

By Marc Calderaro

Ladies, gentleman, Gods, God-Pharaohs, and everything between and outside, it has been quite the Magical year leading to this weekend. We've had amazing ups and downs, but now it's all focused into these precious days. There's action all over the place—on the tournament floor, in the coverage, in the standings, on Twitter, on Facebook—just what should you be looking for?

Well, firstly, look for your favorite player to be shooting up the standings, of course! After that, here are the races that will finish up this weekend, and who's relevant in them. We've got:

  • Player of the Year
  • Rookie of the Year
  • Draft Master
  • Standard Master

All but Rookie of the Year will feed the:

  • World Championship

And also taking place that same weekend is the:

  • Pro Tour Team Series

Okay, so let's get down to business, tackling them in order.

Player of the Year

Márcio Carvalho has a sizable lead for the Player of the Year title.

Heading into the event, the frontrunner for Player of the Year is last year's Draft Master, first-ranked Márcio Carvalho. He's pretty far ahead of the rest of the pack, but not insurmountably so. If Carvalho does poorly here—which I'll admit is unlikely—a strong Top 8 finish from any of the other top players will help them leapfrog into first place. This exact situation has already happened twice in the last two years. Two years ago, we saw Mike Sigrist steal the title from Eric Froehlich in that famous Pro Tour Magic Origins semifinals, and last year, fifth-ranked Owen Turtenwald usurped ninth-ranked Seth Manfield on the final Sunday.

The players most likely to be Carvalho's spoilsport are (2) Shota Yasooka, (3) Reid Duke, and two-time Player of the Year already, (4) Yuuya Watanabe. Of these three, only the American Duke would be a first-time winner.

There are few outside shots for (8) Kelvin Chew, (5) Owen Turtenwald (to back-to-back!), (6) Brad Nelson, (7) Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, (10) Martin Jůza, (11) Lee Shi Tian, (13) Ken Yukuhiro, (12) Martin Müller, (14) Gerry Thompson, (18) Eduardo Sajgalik, and Froehlich. But they must do very, very well to do so. As the tournament develops, we'll know which of these names stay relevant in the Player of the Year conversation, or if the lead horse Carvalho can gallop through the finish line.

Rookie of the Year

While Ben Hull has a lead in the Rookie of the Year race, Makis Matsoukas of Greece isn't far behind.

It's Canadian newcomer Ben Hull in the lead for Rookie of the Year coming into the tournament, though he is quick to downplay his accomplishment, noting that finishing well in the first Pro Tour of the year gave him a distinct advantage. "Don't get me wrong; it could be real cool if I win," he noted. And his friends betrayed his cool exterior by saying he's been doing nothing but dissecting pro-point scenarios leading up to the weekend, so he's still in it to win it.

The player's total Hull's been tabulating is for Makis Matsoukas, the Greek player who also finished in the Pro Tour Kaladesh Top 8 (one place higher than Hull to be exact). Hull is currently seven points ahead of Matsoukas, but that is far from a safe lead at the Pro Tour. Unless both players Top 8, following Hull's early record might reveal if this contest is indeed contestable. If Hull does well, Matsoukas must to really well.

The Pro Tour Masters — Draft and Standard

This unique category can look the most different from the other races. Often there is overlap between the Player of the Year category, the World Championship and the Pro Tour Team Series with the same names and faces. But unlike any of those, the actual pro points earned at the event don't matter for the Masters. The only thing these categories care about is your Pro Tour record in the given format. In fact, two of the three leaders don't even have a Pro Tour Top 8 to their names!

The lead is narrow, but Travis Woo headed into this weekend at the top of the Draft Master standings.

Starting with the race for Draft Master, Travis Woo is edging out the field by a single point. Since there are only six rounds of draft total, if Woo can manage 3-0 and 3-0, he is a lock to win. But if he drops just one round, everything can go up in smoke.

Pro Tour Hall of Fame-elect (10) Martin Jůza and Pro Tour Hall of Fame member (5) Owen Turtenwald are tied behind Woo, so they are the mostly likely to capitalize on a falter by the leader, but don't count out the three outsiders. Christian Calcano, Timothy Wu, and Rookie of the Year-hopeful Makis Matsoukas are in striking distance as well. Calcano in particular can almost taste it, as he was in this same position last year. Maybe this weekend will be Calcano's first dally at the World Championship!

When reached for comment, Calcano said he wasn't paying any attention to others' results. "I'm going play as good as I can every round. Nothing good will come from worrying about it."

The race was event tighter for Standard Master leaders Shaun McLaren and Steve Hatto, who had a lot of rounds left to go before either were safe.

Turning toward Standard Master, things get murkier. With four more rounds of Standard than Draft, the math is trickier. Because the two players tied for the lead (Pro Tour Champion, Canada's Shaun McLaren, and Luxembourg's Steve Hatto) are ahead by less than a win, and going 10-0 in Standard is extremely unlikely, it's possible neither of these names will have meaning in the race by the end of Saturday. Heck, maybe even by the end of today!

Eleventh-ranked, five-time Pro Tour Top 8er, Hong Kong's Lee Shi Tian, Argentina's Sebastian Pozzo, and eighth-ranked Singapore's Kelvin Chew are the most likely to overtake to the top contenders.

Crazily enough, the race for Standard Master must also factor in the draft rounds, because unless a player goes 4-4, they won't even play on the second day. A 0-3 in the first draft pod would put the pressure on any of these players to perform in next five rounds.

World Championship

This is the big kahuna, the pièce de résistance, the whole enchilada, megillah, nine yards, and kit and caboodle. The Feast of the Seven Fishes. The World Championship is what it's all about, folks. Each year, the World Championship caps off the entire Magic season to determine which of the best performers of the year can truly be crowned champ.

Several of the slots are locked already— Shota Yasooka, Lucas Esper Berthoud, Gerry Thompson, and Josh Utter-Leyton—the previous Pro Tour winners and the Magic Online Championship winner. And the Standard Master, Draft Master, and Pro Tour Hour of Devastation champion will all earn invites as well. But Marc, aren't there 24 players at the tournament? Why, yes there are. Which means plenty more slots need to be filled.

Those competitors will come from two places. First, the Top Pro Point Earner in each geo-region (North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America). One of these geo-region slots will go to the Player of the Year, because obviously they will have the most points in their geo-region by virtue of having the most points in the world. The rest will come from the Top Pro Point Earners from across the world, so with yearly pro point totals being tabulated at the end of the Pro Tour, the field will be set, and all slots filled by then.

From Rich Hagon's calculations, somewhere between 52 and 55 pro points will be the relevant numbers for players. There are about 100 people within range of that 52 here, but the most likely pile includes some number of the following names:

Owen Turtenwald, Kelvin Chew, Brad Nelson, Martin Jůza, Lee Shi Tian, Ken Yukuhiro, Eric Froehlich, Eduardo Sajgalik, Carlos Romão, William Jensen, Seth Manfield, Steve Rubin, Martin Müller, and Donald Smith.

The exact names will have to wait until the end of the Tour, like David Foster Wallace, and expect your Twitter to explode as various pros figure out whether they made it in.

Pro Tour Team Series

We saved this for last, because it gets extensive. This race is to see which two teams will face off at the Pro Tour Team Series finals at the World Championship, so unlike every other contest here, second place is just as good as first.

That statement must be a relief for many teams, as catching the number one team will be a feat indeed. Japan's Team Musashi—named after a famous feudal Japanese ronin—has sliced and diced its way to a healthy lead at the top of the standings. The powerhouse team of (23) Kentaro Yamamoto, (4) Yuuya Watanabe, (13) Ken Yukuhiro, Yuuki Ichikawa, Teruya Kakumae, and (2) Shota Yasooka are seemingly secure in their space at the top of the mountain—and certainly their space in the top two. Something truly cataclysmic would have to happen to not see them at the World Championships in their uniforms, fighting as a team.

Rather, the battle this weekend is raging for second place. Team Genesis is firmly ahead, but MTG Mint Card, Lingering Souls, Puzzle Quest, Mutiny, EUreka, and ChannelFireball Ice are all within striking distance.

There are few mathematical scenarios where a team overtakes Genesis without putting someone into the Top 8, but with the laundry list of incredible pros, the likelihood of any one of them making the Sunday rounds and upsetting Genesis's balance is quite high. The pressure is on Genesis to hold all the other teams at bay.

This is a truly exciting race, as everyone can find a favorite team to back.

Genesis is a team forged out of the ashes of various old teams, all thick as thieves despite the Atlantic Ocean between them. (6) Brad Nelson, (19) Lukas Blohon, (9) Seth Manfield, Martin Dang, (12) Martin Müller, and Thomas Hendricks (who replaced the now-Wizards staff member Michael Majors) have been seen traveling as a pack before this year, whether on a team, or just as strong friends. This amazing year has solidified the idea that when you like testing and hanging with someone, your results can reflect your happiness.

MTG Mint Card has a transcontinental gang of Pro Tour mainstays with (11) Lee Shi Tian, Jason Chung, Huang Hao-Shan, (8) Kelvin Chew, (18) Eduardo Sajgalik, and Nam Sung Wook. And they even purposefully built their team to make sure their sixth player, Nam, could get qualified for the last Pro Tour of the year. That's a friendship story indeed. Most players on Mint Card hail from a less-heralded section of the Magic world, non-Japan Asia (Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea). But this year's strong showing has helped solidify the role of greater APAC region in the tournament Magic universe.

Puzzle Quest is simply a collection of some of the best players in the history of the game. (3) Reid Duke, (5) Owen Turtenwald, (17) William Jensen, Jon Finkel, Andrew Cuneo, and Paul Rietzl reinforced that status last weekend, putting three players in Grand Prix Top 8s between Kyoto and Toronto, with "Huey" Jensen taking home the Kyoto trophy. Betting against these players is never a good choice. Their Pro Tour testing is famously rigorous, and their results reflect their work ethic.

The same could be said for ChannelFireball Ice, with (7) Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Mike Sigrist, Joel Larsson, Ben Stark, Ondřej Stráský, and (16) Eric Froehlich. With three Pro Tour Hall of Famers, and potential future ones as well, this is a team of veterans showing the youngster Stráský the ropes. It feels weird calling a two-time Pro Tour Top 8er a youngster, but with 24 total from the rest of the team, yes, Stráský is young.

EUreka, though very different from the old team of the same name, is a pan-European troupe who've stuck together despite the various changes that have befallen the team over the years. Immanuel Gerschenson, Valentin Mackl, Patrick Dickmann, Steve Hatto, Aleksa Telarov, and Marc Tobiasch have 15 Grand Prix Top 8s, 4 wins, and a three Pro Tour Top 8s among them, and Tobiasch's strong showing at Pro Tour Amonkhet, along with Hatto in the lead for Constructed Master, their loyalty has been rewarded.

Team Mutiny is a team I find myself personally rooting for. Made up of a veritable mismosh of Americans, this potent crew has shown that America can truly be a melting pot. David Ochoa, Joshua Cho, Matthew Severa, Samuel Black, and Pro Tour Amonkhet winner Gerry Thompson are all names well known in the States if not the world, and even though they are a player down for this last event, don't be surprised if they do something spectacular to become the true Cinderella story of this first year in the Pro Tour Team Series.

Lastly, but not leastly, the true mélange—Lingering Souls, the most aptly name team in the bunch. This group was built of disparate parts, but have voltron'd themselves into the main-event picture, bringing up all their statures in the process. Shaheen Soorani, Chris Fennell, Travis Woo, Andreas Ganz, Ashraf Abou Omar, and Donald Smith are all names you've liked heard before, but their working together was an experiment to say the least. And being ranked fourth, with a strong chance at going to the World Championship as a unit, it seems the experiment was successful.

Hopefully this can help guide you through everything at stake this weekend. We didn't even touch the World Magic Cup, with great races to be found therein. I'll leave that to the undisputed champion of Magic stats, Rich Hagon, to tell you throughout the weekend on the stream.

There's so many formats of Magic to enjoy this weekend. It's one of the most important events on the Magic calendar, as all roads lead to Rome…well actually, Boston at the World Championship! Enjoy!

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