What does $250,000 USD mean?
When I was invited into the Magic Pro League, I heard about the Mythic Invitational, and couldn’t grasp the meaning of 1 million dollars.
I still don’t properly understand the value of money. I know how much my cards are worth, I know how much a flight from Italy to Boston costs, and I know how much I win if I Top 8 a Mythic Championship, but I cannot understand the meaning of $250,000 dollars.
Money is a concept I’ve never worried about. It may be because of my family, or because I’ve won enough in the past to never experience anxiety about it. I actually grew up with a sacred concept of money (thanks to my mom), and with the motto of never spending too much.
Those who know me well may call me cheap. I check prices, compare them, and decide what has the best value. I downloaded McDonald’s app to see what the daily offers are. I went around PAX East to get free stuff.
Just to give you an example:
— gabriel nassif (@gabnassif) March 31, 2019
Why does this matter?
Because I just won the biggest Magic event ever and $250,000 dollars, becoming the 10th-highest-earning Magic player in 26 years, and in just one day, the highest-earning Italian in any esport.
Many people have asked me how I will spend all this money. The answer has been “some expensive Magic cards,” and a big question mark.
Will this money change my life? Probably not.
Will this money change me? Definitely not! I’ll always be the same cheap guy, doing his best to succeed at Magic, and having fun with Legacy veedeos!
The Valencia Testing
I am not going to talk about Magic much in this article. But rather, about the experiences, the people, and the friendships I have made through Magic and that helped me succeed last weekend.
Valencia is a wonderful city in Spain—my second favorite, after my hometown, the beautiful Senigallia, Italy.
Valencia is also the hometown of my teammate Javier Dominguez. Javier and I have been an inseparable pair for a year now. I can’t see myself ever playtesting without him, or playing a different deck than he does.
We’ve basically been two bodies (his much bigger than mine), with a single brain.
— Andrea Mengucci (@Mengu09) March 24, 2019
We message each other constantly, we share updates on testing, and we are both professional Magic: The Gathering players who play a lot of MTG and love the game.
Ever since Worlds 2018, I’ve spent the week before any big event at Javier’s house to practice 8 hours a day. The hours of the day we’re not practicing or sleeping are spent discussing Magic. This has helped both of us immensely, and we’ve done very well since. Case in point: Javier’s win at Worlds 2018.
We never reinvented the wheel. We always play tier 1 decks, but our strength is in tuning and playing them to perfection. This is a winning recipe that has worked for me time and again in my career.
Javier lives with his girlfriend, Beatriz Grancha, who, other than being one of the nicest people I know and a great supporter of Javier and myself during our preparation, also competed in the Mythic Invitational, thanks to her stellar performance in the month of February on Magic Arena, clinching the top 8!
I like to think of the three of us as a family during Valencia testing. Maybe this makes me look childish, but I genuinely love both Javier and Beatriz so much that I’m as happy with the two of them in Valencia as I am when I’m home with my parents.
This time Valencia testing was slightly atypical, since I booked the trip there before I knew that the deck lists were due on the Wednesday two weeks before the Mythic Invitational. This meant that the day I arrived in Valencia would be the day we had to submit our final deck lists.
A quick aside on how many people have joked about my article on how I would never play control again, and the fact that I was piloting Esper Control to an almost undefeated record just a few days later.
Yes, that looks awkward, but had you opened the article (something that’s apparently very hard for most people who comment on social media), you would have noticed that I was only talking about best-of-three Magic, and I even explained that best-of-one changes this dramatically.
Determined that Esper was the best deck, I was left to decide between Gruul Midrange or White Weenie for my second list.
I was more inclined to play Gruul, but Javier was sure that registering Weenie was correct. When in doubt and without many points in my favor, I trusted my teammate and registered the deck.
With us were Lee Shi Tian, Marcio Carvalho, Luis Salvatto, and the Brazilians to share ideas and information. We all ended up playing the same configuration.
This Valencia testing was basically just an opportunity for Javier and me to get as proficient as possible at playing our decks. We played tons and tons of Arena. I went down to 96th and up to 5th ranked in Mythic, whereas Javier locked 1st place pretty early in the week, and got to keep it until the end of the week when Luis Salvatto took his spot.
It was also an opportunity for me to recover from my cold. I didn’t feel well at all, and at one point I even had a fever. I slept a lot, took a lot of medicine, and sneezed a lot, but when I arrived in Boston, I was fully recovered!
The PAX Week
Monday to Wednesday
We arrived in Boston on Monday. We had two days to recover from jetlag and play a little more MTG Arena.
We stayed at a Hyatt quite far from Boston, but the price was much better.
I practiced with white deck experts Lee Shi Tian and Marcio Carvalho, who are truly masters of that strategy and taught me everything they could, given the fact that I was asking them around 10 questions per game.
I’m eager to learn, I want to know all the options, how the best players would play my game, and how I should play my game. What is the perfect play? That is what has brought me where I am—watching other people’s streams, reading other people’s articles, and trying to learn as much as I can.
It was time to play!
The MTG Arena playing area was magnificent, and unlike anything I’ve seen before in my life. There was smoke, pyrotechnics, and professional gaming computers and chairs.
The cast was spectacular. While I didn’t know Day9 and Becca Scott, I was excited to see David Williams and Brian Kibler up there! Marshall, Paul Cheon, and AliasV led the team that did an incredible job during the weekend—especially Becca Scott, who brought joy, emotion, and fire to every winner’s interview she gave. A true professional!
Day 1 went smoothly for me. I went 3-0, beating Ben Stark, Nessa MeowMeow, and Luis Salvatto, advancing to the third day of competition. I did it together with my countryman Quicksort, who I didn’t know, but who proved to be a rising star in this new esport!
— Andrea Mengucci (@Mengu09) March 28, 2019
Thursday night, I took part in Wizards’ VIP party. It was a sensational party in a renowned club in Boston that Wizards rented only for Mythic Invitational players, special guests, and other invitees. It was amazing to dance and drink surrounded by the Magic landscape, and I got to meet and greet a lot of the streamers I watch in my free time at home.
Magic content producers, especially streamers, are incredible people. They are fun and engaging, and it was an honor and a pleasure to compete with them in this wonderful event.
While most people took full advantage of the open bar, I set my line at two drinks. I still had a ton of fun with my friends, but I wanted to stay focused. I’m a professional. I’m not there to party, but to win games of Magic.
I did not compete in Day 2 since it was time for groups C and D to get in there!
I enjoyed the stream from my hotel for the first part, while still grinding in the breakfast lounge. I got back into the top 10 thanks to Esper Control, before White Weenie pushed me back down.
Unfortunately, only Luis Salvatto and I made it to day 3 from our team, but Lee Shi Tian and Marcio Carvalho still got up very early to go to the site to cheer us on.
After beating my countryman Quicksort, I lost my first match of the tournament in round 2 vs. TheAsianAvenger, a great guy that I had the good fortune to meet outside of the event. He’s always happy and smiling, but was ruthless in defeating me with his two control decks. He took me down so masterfully that I felt outplayed and outprepared.
In the next round I had to defeat Matt Nass, and that was the most heart-stopping game I played the whole weekend. I still can’t believe I won, given that I was left without Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and had to hope Matt wouldn’t draw his second Mastermind’s Acquisition to kill me. I won the game with one card left in deck while he had two, one of them being the lethal Mastermind’s Acquisition.
After that, I took down Luis Salvatto and Gabrial Nassif, two of my very good friends.
It’s always tough eliminating a friend from the tournament, but high level Magic is often like that—you get paired against teammates and you have to defeat them in order to advance.
And so I did! I achieved the 4-1 and advanced to the Top 4. And that’s when I started realizing that I was about to win a Beta Power 9 and that my dream since I was a child might finally come true.
— Andrea Mengucci (@Mengu09) March 30, 2019
I didn’t celebrate or anything like that. I stayed calm and focused, and after going to the same lucky restaurant as Wednesday and Friday (rituals are important), I headed to sleep around 9 p.m.
Christian Calcano joined me in the meantime. Calc is a longtime friend of mine, and I wanted to have him by my side if I hoisted the trophy on Sunday.
The day of the Top 4 finally arrived.
I was excited, but still very calm, mainly because of my continued inability to comprehend the meaning of $250,000 dollars, but also because that’s what I’ve learned to do playing at Pro Tours over the past few years.
Play your best and be happy with the outcome. First or last doesn’t matter. You’ll always have another chance to prove yourself. Don’t be nervous before or sad after. Play well and smile at the beautiful life you’ve got.
In round 1 of the finals I had to defeat Savijz. He was the only one to take a game from me on Sunday, and he did it by piloting his white deck to perfection.
I won’t go deep into the games. I’m sure you’ve watched them. I just want to focus on the future of Magic for a second. Savijz comes from other games, yet he had no problem succeeding in a field of more than 30 pro players. It might be because the format isn’t as skill intensive as others—but it’s also a warning shot.
Watch out Magic pros! The stakes are getting high, smart players are coming—and we need to be ready!
— Andrea Mengucci (@Mengu09) March 31, 2019
Next, I played against Piotr Glowgoski. This match was huge, as the winner would not only reach the grand final, but do it with the luxury of being able to give a match away!
His line-up was perfect, but his draws with Mono-Blue were less so.
I took a quick 2-0 and moved on—closer to that magic number.
— Andrea Mengucci (@Mengu09) March 31, 2019
Savijz defeated Ondrej Strasky, but then had to surrender to Piotr’s Lightning Strike. It was rematch time!
The grand finale was about to start, and I was more calm than ever. I knew I was ahead, I knew I was playing very well, and I knew I had a great shot at winning the trophy.
And so I did! With another quick 2-0, I defeated the youngest Magic Pro League competitor, and got my hands on that beautiful trophy and the big check!
Once Day9 handed me the trophy, my first thought was:
“Wow, this is the same trophy that my teammate Javier Dominguez has at home after he won Worlds in 2018! We might be the only two owners of this kind of trophy in the whole world.”
Kind of a stupid thing to think, right? You win $250,000 dollars and the event with the most ever views on Twitch for Magic, hundreds of people are clapping for you and chanting your name, the fire is burning, but all you can do is look at the trophy and think about the fact that you won the same trophy as your teammate, who you have always looked up to and who you’ve always made decisions with.
While the trophy is mine and it has my name on it, in that moment I thought about all the people that helped me immensely during my Magic career to become the player I am now. I’d like to think that this isn’t my peak. I will play Magic forever, and I want to win more trophies like this one.
I have a huge number of people to thank now, but the entire list would be too long, so I’ll just go ahead and select two.
What a stupid thing, right? Thanking the website that pays you as your number 1.
Do you know how I got here? And how I wrote my first ever article for ChannelFireball?
It was Pro Tour Journey into Nyx in 2015. I was a random kid who had an enormous amount of luck—an amount of luck that will be very hardly topped by anyone.
I spiked a Top 8 and asked my hero Reid Duke if I could write a report for ChannelFireball.com, the website I was reading daily to try to get better at Magic. I lived in a city without a store and I was too young/poor to afford Magic Online.
Reid told me to write to Andy Cooperfauss. Andy agreed to let me write a report.
I asked few months later if I could write more. He said yes. I asked if I could do a video. He said yes.
They gave me a salary, they gave me a reason to continue playing my best even though I wasn’t a professional—they gave me everything. All I can do is give back to them now.
2. Lee Shi Tian
After I got kicked out of Team Face2Face after Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch I had no team to practice with. I asked my great friend Christian Calcano, and together we found a home in the arms of Team MTGMintCard.
It was a team I didn’t know well at all, but they quickly made me feel at home.
I was feeling so good with them that I reached the finals of the first event I played with them! It was Pro Tour Shadows Over Innistrad.
Lee Shi Tian was always the leader, and I became a worthy adviser of Team MTG Mintcard. We proceeded to do well at every Pro Tour, with great deck selection and Draft strategies. Lee Shi Tian is one of the true and very few masters of the game, with a vision for the game I’ve never seen in anyone else, despite having worked with some of the best players in the world.
Lee Shi Tian taught me everything he could and in every single win I’ll get from here on out, I will have to dedicate a part of it to the leader, the Hall-of-Famer, the great Lee Shi Tian.
This is it. This is the end of the article. It’s probably the longest article I’ve ever written without getting into the games or the strategies. I hope you guys enjoyed it, and that you had fun during the event. I hope you cheered for #TeamScarf and for #TeamMengu, and that you’ll celebrate with me once I finally get that Beta Power 9!
Until then, see you in my next Legacy VEEDEO!
— Andrea Mengucci (@Mengu09) March 31, 2019