This weekend we will witness the most lucrative and high profile Magic event of the year, the World Championships. I’m excited to witness 24 of the best Magic players in the world duke it out for money and glory, and best of all, it’s right down the street from me in Boston, MA, so I’ll be able to watch it live.
This is the Super Bowl of Magic, and if that doesn’t get you excited, nothing will. This year’s competition is different in a few ways, and I think the structure has improved from last year, making the event more exciting for viewers.
This year, there are five things that have me pretty excited to watch the event:
5) I’m Not Playing!
OK, obviously I’m not actually happy that I’m not playing, but I am excited that I get to enjoy the event as a fan of the game. The first time I played the event two years ago, people told me that I was crazy to be jealous of the viewers at home who got to take it all in, watching two of the best show off their skills on the battlefield.
I can’t explain the amount of stress and pressure put on the players in the event, as this tournament can set you up for a great season or, for those who do poorly, a squandered opportunity. In prior years, more Pro Points were at stake, which added to that pressure. This year, instead of a Pro Point per match win, players will be awarded a Pro Point per match win beyond the third. If I were competing, I’m not sure if that would make me feel more or less stressed, but I know the money and title on the line is pressure enough on these players. For that reason, I think I will appreciate the gravity of the situation more. This isn’t just another tournament to these players—this may be the last or only time some of them get to play this event, so as an outsider who understands what it’s like on the inside, it just gets me more excited to see how the chips fall.
The Magic World Championships in its current form is one of the events that made me fall in love with Magic again. Watching Shahar Shenhar win back-to-back World Championships from my own home is a memory I won’t forget.
Better yet, as I mentioned before, the event is being held in my hometown of Boston, MA, so I’ll likely make my way to the event to hang out and root for my friends, and celebrate and commiserate after it’s all over.
While I’m disappointed that I didn’t qualify this year, I’m truly happy to be able to enjoy Worlds as a spectator and fan of the game.
4) Genesis vs. Musashi
Genesis and Musashi absolutely crushed it this year on the Pro Tour. These were the top two performing teams in the newly implemented Pro Tour Team Series, and they’ve earned the right to face off against each other for the championships.
For those of you who don’t know the players on these teams:
- Brad Nelson
- Lukas Blohon
- Seth Manfield
- Martin Dang
- Martin Mueller
- Thomas Hendriks (Replacing Michael Majors, who went to work for Wizards of the Coast midseason.)
- Kentaro Yamamoto
- Yuuya Watanabe
- Ken Yukihiro
- Yuuki Ichikawa
- Teruya Kakumae
- Shota Yasooka
These two teams will face off to see who is crowned the first Team Series Champion.
As you can see, some of the biggest names in Magic are going to be competing in this event, and as someone who takes pride in their testing process and team’s successes, I’m excited to see who’s crowned a champion—both teams deserve it after the seasons they’ve had.
What makes me less excited about this event? The structure of the championship.
The championship will be decided by the two teams splitting up into two separate three-person teams each. All of these three-person teams will build Team Sealed decks separately, and then play off against one of the other teams’ trios. It’s best two out of three, just as a Team Sealed Grand Prix would be, and if both trios on the same team win, then that team is champion. Otherwise, there is a playoff for the two winning teams.
After a year of sustained excellence, I think this format is missing two things. For one, this is just too short of a tournament structure to crown a champion. People are flying from across the globe to Boston, MA, and will potentially only play only one match of Magic, and may not even finish it if their team finishes their matches first. That is because three players on each side aren’t qualified for the World Championships itself, but just the team competition. For these players, I would like this to have some additional play to make it more dramatic for both them and the viewers.
On top of that is the lack of any Constructed being played. Standard will be showcased during the actual World Championships, yes, but after building incredible decks all year and performing well in Booster Draft, I think both Limited and Standard should be part of the event.
We have Standard master Brad Nelson facing off against a team with Shota Yasooka and Yuuya Watanabe, two of the best deck builders in the world. We know both of these teams are going to bring the heat in Standard and I would love to see them battle heads-up. There’s just something not right about it being decided 100% by Team Sealed deck when you have players of this caliber and their specific skill sets.
Despite not liking those elements of the competition, I’m excited to watch and see who is crowned the best team of this year. It will be exciting regardless.
3) The Peach Garden Oath
Owen Turtenwald, William “Huey” Jensen, and Reid Duke are among the best of the best Magic players in the world. This isn’t the first time they’ve all been qualified for the Magic World Championships, but if I were a competitor I’d be scared that these guys are all fully committed to this event.
In fact, Huey has been staying about a 10-minute drive from my place for about a month, and Owen has also been staying with him since about a week after that. I’ve gotten to spend a little time with them here and there in between what I understand to be marathon testing sessions. You know Reid has been heavily involved, he’s one of the hardest working Magic players in the world. These guys will have a full understanding of both Standard and Booster Draft by the time of the event.
If their dominance in Team Sealed doesn’t scare you, the fact that these guys are this committed this year should be. If I had to do player rankings for the event, there’s no way that any of these three would finish outside of my top 5.
With all three of these players qualified, focused, and in an event at the beginning of the season instead of the end, smart money has got to be on the Peach Garden Oath, as they’ve shown time and time again what they can do when they collaborate fully committed.
I’m really excited to see how PGO performs this weekend.
2) New Formats and Innovation
I had the luxury of playing Worlds the past two years, and my foremost complaint was that the formats I ended up playing, for the most part, were stale. Worlds wasn’t accompanied by a new set release, and we played the same Standard format and Draft format as the previous Pro Tour. This made the tournament less exciting to prepare for, and as a spectator, I’m sure it was much less exciting to watch formats that were about to rotate anyway.
This year, Worlds is basically the Pro Tour. Ixalan is still a fresh format. Players have separated into testing teams, and they’re working hard day in and day out to come up with exciting Standard decks and Draft strategies.
Added to this, there are fewer formats. Last year featured Standard, Booster Draft, and Modern. The year prior, there were two Draft formats instead of one, making it a full four formats to prepare for. This is a lot to put on the plate of the players, and because of this, there was a general lack of innovation. More of the focus was on metagaming and trying to figure out what decks weren’t horrible choices, not necessarily coming up with something new and exciting.
With less pressure to play multiple formats and more money on the line, I’m excited to see some of the new innovative decks in Standard, and clean and tuned version of decks we already knew about. These are the best players on the best teams, so we’ll get to see what they come up with in Standard, and this will set the stage for the upcoming Nationals events and Pro Tour Ixalan.
1) Magic Players Getting Paid!
This is my favorite part of this event. Magic payouts have been stagnant for years, and the World Championships this year for the first time will award the first place finisher $100,000. That, as a professional Magic player, and a fan of Magic, is the most exciting element of this year’s competition.
Professional Magic isn’t exactly the most lucrative career, but for those of us with a passion for this game, the community, and the competition, we’re drawn to this path despite potentially better opportunities elsewhere.
I was excited to see Brian Braun-Duin take down the World Championships last year because I knew how much the title meant to him, sure, but I also knew how earning two years of Platinum and the $75,000 would help validate his career path. Seeing that happen to a friend is a fulfilling experience that I’m excited to replicate this year.
I’m hoping bigger prize purses continue to come rolling in for Magic players, and I hope Magic can be a sustainable profession for those passionate and good enough to sustain themselves on the Pro Tour.
If you’re a fan of Magic, there’s something for you this weekend. The technical play will be unmatched by even the Pro Tour. The decks will be thoroughly tested and tuned for Standard. There’s a Team Sealed competition between two of the best teams in the world today. There will be new takes on Standard, exciting Draft strategies, and someone will be walking out of that room with $100,000 and the title of World Champion.
Get your favorite snacks together, get your Magic friends together, and watch and celebrate the most elite competition in Magic. I know I’ll be watching, and I really hope you do too.
What’s your favorite part about the World Championship?