Pro Tour Magic Origins marks the end of the 2014-15 Pro Tour season, and nearly 400 players have assembled on the Vancouver waterfront to take part. For most, this is a chance to face off against the best in the game in pursuit of a share of the $250,000 prize pool and the immortal glory of becoming a Pro Tour champion. For the pros it's the last chance to secure Pro Tour Players Club status for the following year. For the teams—from the mighty Pantheon down to the smallest band of first-timers—it's a chance to show off the fruits of their testing and put their stamp on the nascent Standard Constructed format. But for the game's elite, there is so much more on the line.
Let's start with the big one: Player of the Year. It's arguably Magic's second most prestigious title, and a punctuation mark for twelve months of excellence. It also comes with a coveted invitation to the 2015 Magic World Championship. The race this year has been hotly contested, but as we hit the last leg, everyone is chasing Eric Froehlich. Knowing the passion that Froehlich brings when he competes, I had to ask him if being so close to the title put extra pressure on him for this weekend. He was all smiles as he answered.
"I don't think it did," he said. "I've had so much going on this month, especially with Hall of Fame voting. If it did affect me, it wasn't in a conscious way. But, I'm still going to go out and play the best I can. I'm actually feeling pretty relaxed this weekend. I'm locked for Platinum. I get to be in the booth Sunday (unless I Top 8). I'm basically freerolling the event."
Now, the Player of the Year race as well as all the others being contested this weekend will be settled by how many Pro Points players earn at this event. It can be a little daunting at first glance to understand what's going on, but stats maven Rich Hagon has your back. Since everyone gets a minimum of three points just for showing up this weekend, the important numbers are a player's tenth, eleventh and twelfth wins. A tenth win gets a player six points, three more than the minimum. The eleventh is worth ten, for a total gain of seven. The twelfth is fifteen. And of course, with thirteen wins you're all but guaranteed a spot in the Top 8 and the big points payouts. So as you follow along this weekend, remember that the jumps come with the tenth, eleventh and twelfth wins.
Whether it's a World Championship seat, World Magic Cup captaincy, or a Pro Tour Players Club level, every match matters in the last Pro Tour of the 2014-15 Premier Play season.
Back to the Player of the Year race, Froehlich's closest competitors are second-ranked Samuel Black and third-ranked Lee Shi Tian, both three points behind him. What this means is that no-one can overtake him without notching at least ten wins. There are a total of 51 players who could become Player of the Year, but 33 of those would need to at least make the Top 8 to even be in the conversation. And let's not forget that if Froehlich makes another deep run like he did at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, it gets even harder.
There are plenty of other invitations to Worlds up for grabs. Only seven of twenty-four have been decided: The reigning (back-to-back!) champion Shahar Shenhar, our three Pro Tour champions (Ari Lax, Antonio del Moral León, and Martin Dang), the captain of last year's World Magic Cup winning team Martin Müller, the Magic Online Champion Magnus Lantto, and Alexander Hayne, the year's Top Grand Prix Pro Points Earner. Add to that the winner of this weekend's event and the Player of the Year, and you only get to nine. The remainder get split up between top Pro Points earners of the various global regions with three "At-Large" invitations going to the three uninvited players with the most Pro Points. What's important to remember is that if a player meets the criteria for two invitations (for example, Antonio del Moral León leads Europe in Pro Points), the extra invitation becomes an additional "At-Large" invite. It does not pass down within the region.
Here's the picture coming into the weekend. Four slots go to North America, and the top four are Eric Froehlich, Ari Lax, Samuel Black, and Seth Manfield. Europe gets three, currently Antonio del Moral León, Shahar Shenhar, and Ondrej Strasky. The APAC region gets three: Lee Shi Tian, Yuuya Watanabe, and Jason Chung. Latin America gets two: Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Thiago Saporito (who overtook Willy Edel thanks to a strong showing at Grand Prix Dallas last weekend). The At-Large invites (seven in total thanks to double-ups) go to Paul Rietzl, Owen Turtenwald, Jacob Wilson, Brad Nelson, Shaun McLaren, Josh Utter-Leyton, and lastly Steve Rubin at 49 points.
Again it's those tenth, eleventh, and twelfth wins that will let players get in the battle for those spots. Rubin's closest competitors are Mike Sigrist, Ivan Floch and Jelger Wiegersma on 47 points (those last two also vying for one of the Europe invites) and Thiago Saporito on 46. Willy Edel is at 42 and could climb back into one of the Latin America slots with a big finish. Shota Yasooka is on 44, four points behind stealing an APAC spot from Jason Chung. Day Two is going to be fought tooth and claw for those clutch wins.
As if that weren't enough to worry about, there's also the captaincies of the World Magic Cup teams! Only thirty of the seventy-three countries have their captains set in stone, and some of the outstanding races are very close. Austria's Valentin Mackl is only three points ahead of Emmanuel Gerschenson. Brazil is a fight between Damo da Rosa, Saporito, and Edell. Germany's Christian Seibold is only a single point ahead of Patrick Dickmann. Canada's Shaun McLaren and Jacob Wilson are tied at 51! Stay tuned to the action and watch these races unfold, because you can bet there's going to be some fireworks.