As the clock ticked down on 2017, I took some time to reflect on the year. How my life has changed as my children got older, but also to think back on how I’ll remember Magic in 2017. 2017 wasn’t my best year as a Pro Magic player, but I learned a lot, and had some of the truly best experiences of my Magic career. My trip to Kyoto, Japan was one of the most memorable trips I’ve taken for a Pro Tour. On top of that, I made a few lists of the things I’d want to remember about 2017.
Top 5 Bannings of 2017
Okay, I’m only doing this because it’s pretty funny that I actually can. Let’s hope that we don’t have to ban anything in 2018, especially in Standard.
5) Golgari Grave-Troll: Modern
While Dredge is certainly still a viable archetype in Modern, too much of a good thing—in this case, potent dredgers—can be a bad thing. With the printing of Cathartic Reunion as well, Dredge was too consistent and powerful, and neutering the deck was important for the health of Modern. This banning was on point and perhaps even more important than Gitaxian Probe.
4) Emrakul, the Promised End: Standard
This was one of my favorite cards printed in a long time, because it made games all about surviving until you cast Emrakul, then taking over the game in one huge turn. Their turn, of course. I like playing games where I have inevitability and that’s what Emrakul was all about. She made Magic games solely about who could cast it first, or if someone could win before it got cast. It forced weird plays like emptying your hand of removal on bad creatures, or even your own creatures, an optimal line of play. Coupled with Traverse the Ulvenwald, you didn’t even have to commit to playing multiple Emrakul in the same deck as you had four 1-mana tutors for it in your deck already. I played Emrakul in every Standard tournament I could, but was still happy to see it go.
3) Sensei’s Divining Top: Legacy
While I’m not an avid Legacy player, I played a couple of events with Miracles, and not only was the deck probably the best in Legacy, it was also a frustrating one to play against because of Sensei’s Divining Top. The tedious physical nature of the card to constantly check and reorder your top cards, combined with a lot of shuffling from fetchlands, always led to time bleeding away. While it doesn’t affect me much, as an outsider, I was happy to see this one go.
2) Aetherworks Marvel: Standard
Aetherworks Marvel was the best engine for energy decks and allowed for unfun and unfair play patterns. Having two of your best permanents exiled on turn 4 by an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is something you should strive for in fun formats, like Holiday Cube, not in competitive formats like Standard.
1) Felidar Guardian: Standard
Top 5 Players of 2017
This list is made up of people who inspired me in some way, whether it was pure play skill and dominance or perseverance.
5) Christian Calcano
Christian Calcano is one of the most beloved players on the Pro Tour, both by his competitors and its fans. Christian finished 1 point shy of Platinum a couple of years ago, and the sadness I saw in him was truly devastating. Calcano is one of the most positive people you’ll ever meet, so to see him that disappointed was painful. I was standing right next to him when he did that memorable interview with Brian David-Marshall as seen in this clip of Enter the Battlefield: Huey, showing his emotions in making his first PT Top 8. As someone who is truly passionate about this game, and yet, have never felt something as strong as Christian Calcano about Magic, his emotional response inspired me just as I’m sure he did with everyone else watching. I’m so happy Calcano not only hit Platinum, but also got to play in the World Championships. Two truly remarkable and memorable milestones in a player’s career.
4) Yam Wing Chun
Yam Wing Chun inspired me in ways I didn’t think he would have at the time. Out of excitement, Wing made an error trying to attack with a Hazoret the Fervent with two cards in hand and eventual Pro Tour Hour of Devastation Champion Paulo Vitor Damo aa Rosa dead on the board. This error cost Chun the match, and potentially a Pro Tour Championship. He’s taken this mistake in stride and while you could see the disappointment in the moment, he’s been nothing but a positive influence on all of us who have made costly mistakes, laughing about it and making jokes at his own expense. I also made a match-losing blunder in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Ixalan, which left me devastated for days. Seeing how well Chun was able to overcome that disappointment and even rattle off a 9-0 on Day 1 of the very next Pro Tour gives me confidence that we all make mistakes and it’s how we react to them that will define us, not the mistakes themselves. Not only did he have two incredible finishes back-to-back at the Pro Tour, he left me inspired by his professionalism in handling his mistake, which is something I will take with me forever from 2017.
3) William “Huey” Jensen
While Huey did win the World Championships, and that alone might get him on my list, he’s also a long-time friend of mine from Boston who managed to do so in his home town. I talked to Huey earlier in the season and he told me flat-out he was going to focus more on doing coverage, and just attend occasional GPs and team events with PGO. He did just that, and after some deep runs in some Pro Tours, Huey didn’t seem likely to hit Platinum this year, let alone make it to Worlds. Then he won a Grand Prix with the PGO in Cleveland, and then he won an individual Grand Prix in Kyoto shortly after, and then managed to gather enough Pro Points at PT Hour of Devastation to give himself a spot at Worlds. Huey, Reid, and Owen out-worked the rest of Worlds competitors in 2017, coming with a fresh take on the best deck in the format: Temur Energy. Huey played nearly flawless Magic throughout the entirety of the event and watching it was truly humbling. Watching Huey break into tears in this interview from Enter the Battlefield: Huey while talking about his teammates and the work they put in to accomplish that goal in his hometown lit a fire in me.
2) Seth Manfield
Having Seth at number two may be in fact, too low. Seth has a daughter that is approximately the same age as my twin girls, and to watch him crush tournaments gives me faith that I can continue to do well even with my new family obligations. In my head it’s sort of a friendly competitive rivalry (that I’m losing badly) to try to keep up with Seth’s success. On the surface Seth is just an excellent player in all facets of the game. Seth always drafts well, plays technically well, and usually brings one of the best decks in the tournament to the room. As good as Seth was a couple of years ago when he won the World Championships, I think he’s gotten noticeably better since then, which is scary.
1) Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
Paulo won Player of the Year in 2017, so it’s hard not to have him at number one. Though I’m a bit older than Paulo, he is a mentor to me in many ways. Paulo is who I ask for play advice if I have a “What’s the Play” screenshot, deck building advice, and if I want to bounce an article concept off of someone it’s always Paulo because he’s the content producer I admire the most. Paulo not only won the title of Player of the Year on the Pro Tour, but he also was the person who inspired me the most in Magic. Thanks, Paulo.
Top 5 Tournaments of 2017
5) Grand Prix Las Vegas
GP Vegas was one of the most exciting Magic events I’ve been to in my life. Truly a Magic Event for all levels of players, it was a fantastic way to celebrate Magic. Having the events lumped so close together felt like a marathon that I’m probably too old to run. It’s also the perfect location for this event because you can take a week or two vacation and experience the rest of what Vegas has to offer. I used to live in Las Vegas about four years, so it was also a good chance to catch up with old friends and eat at some of my favorite restaurants.
4) 2016 Magic Online Championships (MOCS)
Yes I know the name of the tournament is confusing. It was held in March of 2017, but is called the 2016 Magic Online Championships. This was one of the most exciting tournaments to spectate from home. The commentary was on point and the play was exceptional. I saw how well Magic Online could facilitate premier level events. I was actually eager to play Magic Online during the event and try out the things the competitors were playing because I could see how they were sideboarding and what their exact deck configurations were in between games. I had never actually watched the event before because I wasn’t really interested in past years, and likely would have the previous year if not for competing myself. The roster of amazing talent this year made it more exciting to watch as a fan from home, and this year it’s already a pretty stacked lineup as well. Someday I’ll point to this tournament as the reason I started watching the MOCS after having never missed watching it since.
3) Pro Tour Hour of Devastation
I had an underwhelming performance at this tournament but it was one of the best times I’ve ever had on a Magic trip. I stayed to sightsee and experience Japan. But the best part of this tournament was watching two of my favorite people in the game face off in the finals. Sam Pardee and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa were finals opponents, both on my testing team, both playing the two decks we worked the hardest on in Ramunap Red and B/G Constrictor, and the two decks I was having trouble deciding between. The match fittingly went five games to keep me in suspense. I don’t mind when I do poorly at a Pro Tour as long as our team does well, and this is the perfect example of that.
2) 2017 Magic World Championships
Not much else I can say about this event that I didn’t say about Huey. Watching a long-time friend play truly inspired Magic throughout the weekend was humbling and exciting. This is the one tournament a year I’m sad to miss but happy to watch when I do. After playing two years in a row, missing this year was disappointing, but made me realize how much I did actually miss it. It’s the most stressful and exhilarating event, and my goal is to be a competitor next year. So far we’re off to a good start.
1) Pro Tour Ixalan
The most diverse Standard format in the history of the game coupled with one of the best Limited formats of all time. How could this not be number one? Okay, fine. Neither of those things are remotely true, but I made Top 8 and this is my list. Deal with it.
Top 5 Decks of 2017
5) Mardu Vehicles
Lucas Esper Berthoud, 1st place at Pro Tour Aether Revolt
Mardu Vehicles was one of the most dominant decks at a Pro Tour in history. At Pro Tour Aether Revolt, 6 of the Top 8 were made up of Mardu Vehicles, and in a now defunct cut to Top 6, all of the Top 6 were Mardu Vehicles.
4) 4c Saheeli
Corey Baumeister, 1st place at Grand Prix New Jersey
Corey Baumeister took home a trophy with this version of 4c Saheeli. 4c Saheeli had a close rivalry with Mardu Vehicles in a mostly two-deck metagame before the banning of Felidar Guardian.
3) Aetherworks Marvel
Brad Nelson, 1st place at GP Omaha
Corey’s brother, Brad Nelson, took home the trophy at Grand Prix Omaha with this version of Aetherworks Marvel, but it was one of many tournaments dominated by the strategy in 2017. Just another energy shell dominating Standard.
2) Death’s Shadow
Josh Utter-Leyton, 1st place at Grand Prix Vancouver
When Gitaxian Probe got banned, many people including myself thought Death’s Shadow was a deck of the past. Josh Utter-Leyton’s victory at Grand Prix Vancouver alongside Top 8 performances from both Gerry Thompson and Sam Black, all playing the same deck, proved us all wrong. Death’s Shadow is still one of the strongest decks in Modern today, in its many different forms. Death’s Shadow is so high on my list because it still remains with us beyond stale Standard formats, and I think it’s something we will remember and be playing with for a long time.
1) Temur Energy
William Jensen, 1st place at Worlds
Looking back on 2017, no one will forget what an unstoppable force Temur Energy was in Standard. What’s truly impressive is this was the third iteration of the energy shell that dominated Standard (and my list), after having Felidar Guardian and Aetherworks Marvel banned. Hopefully, some cards printed in 2018 can compete.
Top 5 Cards of 2017
Last but not least, I’ll leave you with the Top 5 Cards released in 2017.
5) The Scarab God
A powerful and resilient win condition that provides inevitability. Made a home in control decks, midrange decks, and as an alternate win condition in decks like God-Pharaoh’s Gift.
The best haste Dragon since Stormbreath Dragon, Glorybringer has seen play in all types of decks. Ramunap Red usually plays some in the sideboard, U/R Control had some copies in the sideboard at points, and most notably the premiere win condition in Temur Energy.
3) Felidar Guardian
Felidar Guardian was an admitted mistake by WotC as it lead to an infinite combo with Saheeli Rai. This combo severely warped the metagame of Standard around it until it was eventually banned.
2) Rogue Refiner
Rogue Refiner is one of the integral parts of the energy shell. This card both acts as an energy enabler and value card and is still one of the most dominant cards in Standard today. There’s even talk of people wanting Rogue Refiner banned because of how powerful the energy decks are.
1) Fatal Push
Definitely the most well received card of 2017, this card is a player in all formats, and one of the best removal spells ever printed. When I think of a single card I want to remember from 2017, it’s Fatal Push.
This is all the stuff I’ll remember most about Magic in 2017. Another year of doing what I loved with people I love and I can’t ask for much more than that. What will you remember most about Magic in 2017?