The last week was headlined by the end of one era and the beginning of another. The 2018 World Championships and the 2017-18 Pro Tour Team Series Final took place in Las Vegas mere days after the full Guilds of Ravnica card list was released.
It was a storybook ending for Javier Dominguez. Last year, the professional player from Spain made it to the finals of the 2017 World Championship. Piloting Ramunap Red, Dominguez fell in four games to William Jensen. The Spaniard earned his spot in the 2018 tournament by virtue of being a top Pro Points earner, buoyed by his Top 8 at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. He made the most of his opportunity.
Dominguez was one of the co-leaders at the end of Day 1 alongside Grzegorz Kowalski. The two led wire-to-wire, with Dominguez going in as the number one seed with Kowalski right behind him. Joining them in the Top 4 was Hall-of-Famer Ben Stark in his second Worlds Top 4 and Shahar Shenhar looking to win his third World Championship. Both of the top seeds were piloting Red-Black Aggro with Stark piloting Mono-Red and Shenhar on White-Blue God-Pharaoh’s Gift.
Dominguez was up against Shenhar in the first semifinal. Shenhar came prepared for red decks with both Angel of Invention and Sunscourge Champion in his build. It took five games, but in the end Dominguez’s quest for his second chance edged out Shenhar’s hope for a three-peat.
The other side of the bracket set up Kowalski and Stark. Stark had brought a mono-red deck designed to be slightly faster than the more popular 2-color build. While it may have served him well in the first two days of competition, it faltered in the Top 4. Stark never got his footing under him, and Kowalski, displaying the skill that got him to this point, swept his ways to the finals.
It was a Red-Black mirror for the title, the trophy, and the prize. Dominguez started the year with a finals appearance at the last World Championships, made Top 8 at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, and had three Grand Prix Top 8 appearances. Kowalski had no Pro Tour Top 8s to speak of but did make it to the elimination rounds of four different Grand Prix. Next year, these two players are going to be teammates but for one more match they were rivals. The match went to five games, with Dominguez taking the first, but falling behind in games 2 and 3. Battling back to force a game 5, Kowalski took a mulligan. A Doomfall from Dominguez revealed a hand full of 4-drops and only three lands for Kowalski. Dominguez continued to apply pressure and Kowalski could do nothing about it. On the final turn, Kowalski peeled a card and extended his hand. It was over—Javier Dominguez is your 2018 Magic World Champion!
Congratulations to the 2018 World Champion, Javier Dominguez! After coming so close last year, losing in the finals to William Huey Jensen, Dominguez took his year, and the tournament, one match at a time. It all led him here, to the win of a lifetime. #MTGChamp pic.twitter.com/hVDCmo3X5z
— Magic Pro Tour (@magicprotour) September 24, 2018
Javier Dominguez’s Red-Black Aggro
2017-18 Pro Tour Team Series Finals
Before the Top 4 commenced, the finals of the 2017-18 Pro Tour Team Series took place. Pitting the Ultimate Guard Pro Team—Jon Finkel, Andrew Cuneo, Paul Rietzl, William Jensen, Owen Turtenwald, and Reid Duke—against Hareruya Latin—Carlos Romão, Márcio Carvalho, Thiago Saporito, Sebastian Pozzo, Luis Salvatto, Lucas Esper Berthoud—in a Guilds of Ravnica Team Sealed event. Each team would present a squad of three players to play best two-out-of-three Team Sealed, with the team that won two matches getting the win. Then the next sets would duel. In the event of a tie there would be another match to serve as the tiebreaker.
The first set saw Finkel, Cuneo, and Rietzl square off against Romão, Carvalho, and Saporito. It was a quick affair with Rietzl and Cuneo winning their matches and securing the first match for the Ultimate Guard. This set up a battle between the vaunted Peach Garden Oath—Duke, Turtenwald, and Jensen—against Pozzo, Salvatto, and Esper Berthoud.
Things did not go as smoothly in the second match. Duke went down in two games to Pozzo and both Jensen and Turtenwald lost their first games. With their back against the wall, Turtenwald and Jensen battled back and won four straight games.
And just like that, the Ultimate Guard Pro Team won the title. The team, which had lead the competition for much of the year, found themselves in a sweat at the last Pro Tour, where a victory for Team ChannelFireball would have knocked them out of the Top 2. It was not to be and they made the most of their opportunity. Congratulations to your 2017-18 Pro Tour Team Series Champions!
— Magic Pro Tour (@magicprotour) September 23, 2018
Hall of Fame Announcement
The Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame got two new members. Seth Manfield and Lee Shi Tian were both elected to the Hall of Fame and will be inducted at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica. Manfield has a stellar resume including a World Championship, a Pro Tour victory, and four total Pro Tour Top 8s. Lee is a pillar of the Hong Kong community, has five Pro Tour Top 8s, and is the first non-Japanese player to be elected from the APAC region. Congratulations to the newest elected members of the Hall of Fame!
Gerry Thompson Protests the World Championship
Shortly before the World Championship was set to begin, Pro Tour Amonkhet winner Gerry Thompson announced that he would not be participating in the tournament in protest. Thompson used his platform as a way to highlight many things he views as issues with the current state of professional Magic. Points he raised included the difficulty of making a living wage as a professional player, lack of player promotion, poor communication from Wizards of the Coast, the quality of coverage, the challenge with qualifying and staying on the tour, and the recent run of players formerly banned for cheating making a return. Thompson goes on to provide his opinion on ways to fix some of these issues in the post. ChannelFireball’s Luis Scott-Vargas was able to interview Thompson after his announcement. According to Thompson, he was removed from the World Championship guest list and at the time of the interview he said that there had been no further contact from Wizards of the Coast.
Thompson wanted to make a statement in the hopes of improving conditions for aspiring professional players and those already on the tour. The reaction from the community appeared to be overwhelmingly supportive of the decision. Shortly after Round 2, Wizards of the Coast released a statement, read on stream and posted to Twitter.
A brief statement about today's Magic World Championship discussion: pic.twitter.com/kf4uow6qGE
— Magic: The Gathering (@wizards_magic) September 21, 2018
The World Championships continued with 23 players.
Guilds of Ravnica Is Here!
The complete Guilds of Ravnica card list is now available! The prerelease for the next expansion will take place the weekend of September 29th. The full list for the Guilds of Ravnica Planeswalker decks were also revealed last week.
The latest set will be coming to Magic Online early as well. Prerelease events will start on the digital platform on September 27th at 10am Pacific Time. But that’s not all. The latest set will also come to Arena on the same date and starting September 27th Arena will enter Open Beta. As part of the Open Beta, Wizards of the Coast is launching an Arena Creator Hub. The Hub will help to highlight different streamers and those who participate will be eligible for special items in Arena and early access. Wizards of the Coast is also working with Streamlabs to provide customization to the Arena interface.
New Distribution Methods
Wizards of the Coast took some time this week to discuss the way they distribute product. In an article that can be read as a reaction to the initial restrictions around having the Guilds of Ravnica Mythic Edition for sale only in the Hasbro Toy Store, Wizards talked about how they are trying different things to see what works. Included in this article is that Wizards has formalized a relationship with Amazon. As such, Amazon will now be selling product (with Walmart and Target to follow). The goal here, according to the article, is to better serve individuals who already use those services to purchase cards. It also makes specific mention that more unique items will be coming with Wizards Play Network Locations in the coming months.
Finally, Guilds of Ravnica Mythic Edition will be available outside North America. A limited number of the product will be for available for preorder to be picked up at Grand Prix in the coming weeks.
The Guilds of Ravnica prerelease happens this weekend. The full Grand Prix schedule will come on October 4th. The 2018-19 Pro Tour season kicks off in earnest with the Grand Prix Montreal and Mexico city the weekend of October 5th. And at some point in the future, Seth Manfield and Luis Salvatto will duel for the right to be the 2017-18 Pro Tour Player of the Year!