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Crossing (Off) the Finish Line

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The letter T!he 2013–14 season on the Pro Tour begins in earnest this weekend as the city of Dublin, Ireland, hosts Pro Tour Theros. It is the first of the four pillars of the season and making the Top 8 of any of these events is an accomplishment many Magic players dream about. The ten players I am highlighting in this week's article probably dream about it a little more than the rest. They might even have nightmares about it. They are the ten players qualified to play this weekend with the most lifetime Pro Points and no Pro Tour Top 8 on their resumes. We did a similar article last season prior to Pro Tour Gatecrash and both Gerry Thompson and Owen Turtenwald crossed their names off of it in short order.

10—Matt Nass (94 Lifetime Points)

The ChannelFireball member made his debut on the Pro Tour just a week after winning Grand Prix Oakland during the 2010 season. He has added three more Grand Prix Top 8s in his young career and this weekend will only be his thirteenth Pro Tour appearance. He has played in the Top 32 twice for his highest career finishes—17th at PT Philadelphia and 28th at PT Avacyn Restored. Nass recently rejoined the squad led by incoming Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas after spending a handful of Pro Tours working with other teams. The team does not have many members without a Top 8—he is one of only two of fifteen competing CFBers this weekend without a Sunday showing—and he will be looking to accomplish the same feat that David Ochoa and Gerry Thompson did last season wearing the CFB colors and remove himself from this list.

9—Hao-Shan Huang (98 Lifetime Points)

This Chinese Taipei player has twice been a National team member and has played on sixteen Pro Tours since making his debut in Kyoto to start the 2009 season. The bulk of his points have come from his three Grand Prix Top 8 appearances. He can usually be found traveling to international events in the company of World Magic Cup champion and countryman Tzu-Ching Kuo and is guaranteed to cross the 100 point threshold this weekend with the 3 points everyone gets for attending the event.


8—Andreas Ganz (98 Lifetime Points)

This Swiss pro will be playing in his eighteenth event as he crosses the 100 Pro Point threshold in Dublin, with a couple of Top 64 finishes headlining his resume. He is not only looking for his breakout finish at the Pro Tour but on the Grand Prix circuit as well, where he has played in sixty-seven such tournaments without a Top 8 finish. Ganz is a content creator about Magic and the longtime editor of Blackborder.com. Like the other two players listed ahead of him, Ganz is playing this weekend on a Silver membership in the Player's Club and will need a strong finish—if not the Top 8—to continue playing this Pro Tour season in Valencia at Pro Tour Born of the Gods.


7—Matt Sperling (106 Lifetime Points)

Matt Sperling has been playing on the Pro Tour since his debut in New York during the 2000 season. PT Theros will mark the twenty-third Pro Tour of his career, which is highlighted by a Top 16 and two Top 32 finishes during the 2010 season—15th at PT San Juan, 19th at PT Amsterdam, and 22nd at Worlds 2010. His two Grand Prix Top 8s are headlined by his team win at GP San Jose along with Dave Williams and Paul Rietzl. Sperling is working with the super team StarCityGames and will be looking to make the most of the PTQ win that brought him here.


6—Alex Majlaton (111 Lifetime Points)

Six Grand Prix Top 8 appearances contribute the bulk of Majlaton's lifetime total. Since his Pro Tour debut at PT Honolulu in 2006 he has played in a total of eighteen Pro Tours, often using the aforementioned GPs to make his way back to the game's biggest stage, where he has posted a solid win rate despite no real notable finishes. He has become known for his affinity for the Modern archetype known as Robots with a number of his Grand Prix finishes coming while at the helm of that terrifyingly aggressive deck. He is working with perhaps the amusingly named Mishra's Twerkshop, a team that includes Pro Tour Top 8 competitor Jesse Hampton as well as a couple of players inching their way up onto this list—Dan Jordan and Christian Calcano.

5—Ari Lax (116 Lifetime Points)

Ari Lax is the first player on this list who is also currently on the Magic Top 25 Pro Rankings—a list that should change significantly after this weekend. He comes into the event ranked 21st with 37 points. He's playing in his fifteenth Pro Tour this weekend. Last season was a series of heartbreakers for Lax; he started the season off with a 9th-place finish at PT Return to Ravnica, with a brutal Infect deck that may well have torn holes in the bracket. He concluded the year facing a win-for-Platinum match against Luis Scott-Vargas in the final Swiss round of Pro Tour Dragon's Maze. He ended up in 28th place and is qualified for this whole season with his consolation Gold status. He has been on the inside of the Top 32 a total of three times and has fared well at GPs as well, with six Top 8s at that level. For this event, he is working once again with Team Luxurious Hair with PT Dragon's Maze winner Craig Wescoe, Pro Tour Gatecrash Top 8 competitor Steve Mann, and Walking the Planes lucksack Chris Fennell.

4—Reid Duke (128 Lifetime Points)

He currently sits ranked 5th on the Magic Top 25 Pro Rankings and is a Platinum Pro this year. With a 2nd place at the World Championship, a Grand Prix win, the title on Magic Online World Champion, AND a win in the Community Cup, Reid Duke has crossed almost everything off his to-do list except for making the Top 8 of a Pro Tour. He is working with the StarCityGames team for this event and despite his accomplishments he can benefit from the experience of teammates that include Hall of Famers Kai Budde, Jon Finkel, Gabriel Nassif, Patrick Chapin, and the newly elected William Jensen.

For more on Duke, see the Player of the Month section below this list.

3—Shahar Shenhar (131 Lifetime Points)

The reigning Magic World Champion can hold his early career up against that of Kai Budde and find some similarities. Both players won three Grand Prix titles before they broke through and became world champions. Shenhar, who debuted on the PT in Paris 2011 and finished in the money, came close to his first Top 8 last year at PT Gatecrash. This will only be the tenth Pro Tour of his young career but he has a long way to go if he is going to match the Hall of Fame career of the all-time money winner. He certainly has the playtest team that can propel him to the next level this season in ChannelFireball, surrounded by Hall of Famers Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Frank Karsten, Brian Kibler, Shuhei Nakamura, and the newly elected duo of Ben Stark and Luis Scott-Vargas.

In addition to being 3rd on this list, the win at the World Championship propelled Shenhar into 3rd place on the Magic Top 25 Pro Rankings, with only teammates Ben Stark and Josh Utter-Leyton ahead of him. I am excited to see the burgeoning rivalry between him and his World Championship finals competitor Reid Duke throughout this year, as these two young players continue to peak and jockey to see which of them can remove their names from this list first.

2nd—Ivan Floch (142 Lifetime Points)

Ivan Floch is one of those players you don't hear much about, but at the Pro Tour, he is not a player you want to see yourself paired up against. He is a six-time National team member for the Slovak Republic and was a member of the squad that won the World Team Championship during Worlds 2010 in Chiba. Floch, who sits in a tie for No. 25 on the Magic Top 25 Pro Rankings, has two Top 32 finishes at the Pro Tour, highlighted by his 12th-place showing at Pro Tour Nagoya. He made his debut in 2004 at the World Championship in San Francisco and this weekend will mark the twenty-third Pro Tour for him.

While many of the pros with comparable resumes are much more gregarious, don't mistake Floch's stillness for a lack of emotion. When he won Grand Prix Lisbon last year and was greeted by the cheers of his supporters, he could be seen wiping tears from his eyes.

1st—Tzu-Ching Kuo (201 Lifetime Points)

Before the inaugural World Magic Cup in Indianapolis, Kuo was known largely for his performance on the Grand Prix circuit, where he has played in the eliminations round ten times. He has two finals appearances, including a recent one at Grand Prix Quebec City, but that breakthrough Pro Tour finish has eluded him. His most famous tournament finish came as the Chinese Taipei National Champion who led his team to victory at that first World Magic Cup. He came close at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored with a Top 16 finish, but he will look to improve on that—and his Gold status—this season, as he embarks on his twenty-eighth Pro Tour of his career. He comes into this event as the No. 19-ranked player on the Magic Top 25 Pro Rankings.



 

September Player of the Month: Reid Duke


It was a landslide for Reid Duke as he won the title of Player of the Month (#MTGPoM) for September based on his SCG Open win and his 2nd-place finish at Grand Prix Detroit. After starting out the previous season with a last-place finish at the Players Championship, Duke refocused his energy on the game and making improvements wherever he found himself lacking. Just making it to the sixteen-person Championship is an accomplishment in and of itself, but that was not enough for Duke, who needed every single point throughout last season to make it into the last invite for this season's corresponding World Championship. He won his final round of Pro Tour Dragon's Maze for what had to be the most satisfying 9th-place finish in the history of the game. It not only got him to the World Championship but was the difference between Platinum and Gold.

Duke, who was also nominated last month based on his 2nd-place finish at the World Championship and his role in the victory for the Community at the Community Cup, posted a finals appearance at GP Detroit as well as winning a StarCityGames Legacy Open.

Pro Tour Theros Webcast Schedule

The live video webcast will feature Rich Hagon, Marshall Sutcliffe, Rashad Miller, Zac Hill, Tim Willoughby, and myself calling the action.

City Friday Saturday Sunday
Dublin 9 a.m. 9 a.m. 11 a.m.
Los Angeles 1 a.m. 1 a.m. 3 a.m.
Chicago 3 a.m 3 a.m 5 a.m.
New York 4 a.m. 4 a.m. 6 a.m.
Rio de Janeiro 5 a.m. 5 a.m. 7 a.m.
London 9 a.m. 9 a.m. 11 a.m.
Paris 10 a.m. 10 a.m. Noon
Berlin 10 a.m. 10 a.m. Noon
Moscow Noon Noon 2 p.m.
Tokyo 5 p.m. 5 p.m. 7 p.m.
Sydney 7 p.m. 7 p.m. 9 p.m.
Find other corresponding start times around the world here.


 
Brian David-Marshall
Brian David-Marshall
@Top8Games
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Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on DailyMTG.com, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

 
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