Heading into the last event of the 2013-2014 Premier Play season, it seemed like everyone had something to play for. Players were chasing Pro Club status, captaincy of their national teams for the World Magic Cup, and above all, invitations to Magic's most prestigious event: The World Championships. The dust has settled on the swiss rounds, and after the Quarterfinals today, the World Magic Cup captains have been decided. Let's take a quick look at those.
It all starts with the quarterfinals. For Japan, Yuuki Ichikawa had control of his own destiny. If he defeated Jackson Cunningham, he would overtake Yuuya Watanabe as the captain of the Japanese World Magic Cup team. However, it was not meant to be, as Cunningham dispatched Ichikawa 2-1 in their quarterfinal match.
Meanwhile, it's a three-man dance among the Peach Garden Brothers for captaincy of the US National Team. Reid Duke had a huge lead coming into the event, but had to cheer Owen Turtenwald and William "Huey" Jensen from the sidelines on Day 2. As of Sunday morning, the situation is fairly straightforward: Since Owen Turtenwald won his quarterfinal match, he is your US National Champion.
Now let's look at how things stand for the World Championship.
Jared Boettcher can finally breathe easy and claim the Rookie of the Year title that was still up for grabs this weekend. Even as late as Round 12 on Day 2 he was still sweating, as both Dimitriy Butakov and Raymond Perez, Jr were hanging around the top of the standings and on-pace for a Top 8 appearance. If either had made Top 4 Boettcher would have been undone. Their Top 64 and Top 32 finishes are nothing to sneeze at, but Boettcher's great season gives him the much-deserved title.
The Top 2 APAC players going into this weekend managed to hold on to their invitations. Lee Shi Tian and Nam Sung Wook had a huge lead over their competitors, but Lee's MTGMintCard teammate Tzu-Ching Kuo made it interesting right down to the final rounds of Day 2. Sadly for him, those last three rounds ended in defeat at the hands of Top 8er's Yuuki Ichikawa, Matt Sperling, and then Pro Tour Dragon's Maze Champion Craig Wescoe.
A disappointing Day 1 left Willy Edel on the sidelines for Day 2, but his big lead in the Latin America race held firm. More interesting was the duel between Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Macelino Freeman from Mexico, separated by just five points. Da Rosa managed a strong end to what had been a disappointing season for him, finishing 27th to lock up his World Championships invite.
Now, Player of the Year Jeremy Dezani had already guaranteed himself occupancy of one of the Top 2 European spots. That left one slot, and Stanislav Cifka had a ten-point lead on his closest rival, 2013 World Champ Shahar Shenhar. Ivan Floch was a full 21 points back. However, Floch's stellar performance at this event has put him into the mix. If he wins the event, he will take the #2 spot from Cifka. If not, Cifka remains the #2. There won't be any crying either way, though. Whoever isn't the #2 European will have enough points to mathematically guarantee an at-large slot. So both Cifka and Floch are in.
The race for the Top 2 players from Japan has been decided in all but order. Yuuya Watanabe had a disappointing tournament, but only Top 8er Yuuki Ichikawa managed to challenge his lead.
We knew Reid Duke would make it to the World Championship, either as one of the Top 2 North Americans or with an At-Large invite thanks to a 73-point season. We also knew that the race to the Top of the North America standings was hotly contested, and packed with talent. The Peach Garden Brothers would not be denied this weekend, and with their Top 8s William Jensen and Owen Turtenwald are guaranteed spots at Worlds, again either as Top 2 players or At-Large on Pro Points.
Now add those names to the impressive roster of those who had already guaranteed invitations: Shahar Shenhar, Hall of Famer Raphael Levy, Jeremy Dezani, Shaun McLaren, Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin, Lars Dam and Reid Duke. That makes eighteen players. The remaining six invitations will go to the Top 6 uninvited players, based on Pro Points this season. Five of those spots are already locked up.
That's an impressive array of misers. 2013 Player of the Year Josh Utter-Leyton, Pro Tour Gatecrash Champion Tom Martell, newly-inducted Hall of Famer Paul Rietzl, two-time Pro Tour semifinalist Sam Black, and Pro Tour Born of the Gods Finalist Jacob Wilson. But who gets the last slot? One of five people.
Four of the Pro Tour Magic 2015 Top 8 players are guaranteed invitations: Ivan Floch, William Jensen, Owen Turtenwald and Yuuki Ichikawa. If any of those four wins the Pro Tour, it means that Kentarou Yamamoto of Japan sneaks in as the last At-Large invite. However, if any of Pat Cox, Matt Sperling, Jackson Cunningham or Pierre Mondon win, they will be invited instead. It's going to be a brutal sweat for Yamamoto from the spectator area, but it makes for great watching for you at home. Stay tuned to find out our 24th Competitor!