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An Anniversary World Championship Within Reach

June 26, 2024
Meghan Wolff

As we approach the last Pro Tour of the year, one final event looms large on the horizon – the World Championship. Dozens of players have already qualified, whether by winning Regional Championships or making the Top 8 of the season's first two Pro Tours. But for some, Pro Tour Modern Horizons III is the final opportunity to earn a seat at Magic's most prestigious event.

Among the players not yet qualified are Hall of Famers like Gabriel Nassif and Shota Yasooka, who once answered "what would winning a World Championship mean to you?" with "it's an annual goal."

Gabriel Nassif

Shota Yasooka

"It would be wild if Shota Yasooka and Gabriel Nassif wouldn't be at the World Championship this year," Pro Tour desk expert Frank Karsten said. "These Hall of Famers are among the best, most talented Magic players all-time, and they showed last year they still got it with Top 8s at Pro Tour Phyrexia. I see them as favorites to clinch a World Championship invite this year."

Some, like Eli Kassis, have multiple World Championships behind them and are familiar faces it would be strange to miss at Magic's biggest event.

Eli Kassis

"I would love to see Eli Kassis back at the World Championship," Pro Tour desk host Maria Bartholdi said. "Not only is he a great competitor, but I think he's the kind of Magic player everyone should aspire to be. Kind, welcoming and, yes, competitive - but not at the expense of his work-life balance. He understands you need to be in a good place mentally to do well at the highest level."

There are also Pro Tour Champions and players who had breakout years in seasons past that launched them into the World Championship field, but who have yet to replicate that success this season.

Dom Harvey

Jake Beardsley

"I would not be surprised if Dom Harvey or Jake Beardsley did well enough this weekend to qualify for Worlds because both are excellent Modern players," Pro Tour commentator Cedric Phillips said. "Jake is, of course, known for winning his first Pro Tour at Pro Tour: The Lord of the Rings with Rakdos Evoke, but Dom is also a master of Modern due to his intricate knowledge of Amulet Titan. Both decks still appear to be playable coming into this event so there's no reason both can't have success in Amsterdam."

Among them too are the players who have put together solid finishes in event after event, slowly gathering the AMPs needed to make it to the World Championship, and the players who have no idea yet that they'll find themselves playing on Sunday in Amsterdam, a Pro Tour Top 8 and a World Championship invite new and welcome additions to their list of Magic accomplishments.

Dominic Harvey didn't anticipate qualifying for the World Championship last year. The previous year he'd missed qualifying by a single win, and in 2023 he'd had only one 8-8 finish before his Top 8 in Barcelona catapulted him into the Worlds field.

"It was my first World Championship, so that in itself is a highlight, right? Being there in itself," Harvey said of his first World Championship. "They say about the Pro Tour that your first Pro Tour, regardless of how it goes, there's a deeper meaning to it that you are always going to treasure. That was definitely the case there."

In the following year, however, Harvey feels as though his performance has been lackluster.

"Top 8-ing the Pro Tour last year gave me all these opportunities – Worlds last year and then these three PTs – and I feel like I haven't really made most of those opportunities. So I guess it's a quest for redemption of sorts, and I want to do well here the way you want to for any PT, but getting to give myself another shot and to make the most of that shot is really the goal here. So I would love to do well again, even just 10-6 to requalify and give myself more chances to redeem myself I guess is the larger goal."

And while this season has left him short of qualifying for the World Championship this year, his experience in Barcelona last year has taught him that it's never an impossibility.

"I'm not on the leaderboard and I'm not one of the Worlds contenders at this point I would say, but I also would've said that at this point last year. So hopefully I can manifest that and make it a reality this time as well."

Derrick Davis

Unlike Harvey, Derrick Davis qualified for the World Championship last year with a fourth place finish at Pro Tour Phyrexia in February of 2023, meaning that he had his seat locked up well ahead of the curve. This season, that success has been more elusive, and Davis has found himself entering each Pro Tour with the goal of earning an invite to the next.

"This season, every Pro Tour has been surviving to advance," Davis said. "Last year at the very first one I got Top 4, and so for a year it was nice, smooth sailing. And now, every single one I've had to Day 2 to make it to the next. So I've kind of had the goals be on an individual basis – to get to the next, and now going into Amsterdam, starting to set the goal at let's get the PT invite and then let's lock up Worlds."

One of his highlights of the past year was a 3-0 start in the featured draft pod at Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor, and ahead of this Pro Tour he's once again feeling confident about the draft.

"In particular I think draft has really come together for me as of late, but I've also been very happy with where I'm at with Constructed. The only thing about that is I know what I'm getting with Limited, and [Modern] is a wide open format where who knows what a team like Channel Fireball might show up with. You can try to do whatever you want to predict the metagame, but you really don't know until you get there what it's gonna look like."

Martin Dominguez

Martin Dominguez's path to last year's World Championship went not through the Pro Tour, but through the Regional Championship that earned him invites to both events. Dominguez qualified for Worlds last year by winning the South American Regional Championship in July of 2023. While he saw the World Championship as the most important Magic tournament he could play in, he was also surprisingly not as nervous for the event because the invite was in addition to the Pro Tour invite he also earned at the RC.

This year, he has the same perspective on the World Championship as he heads into the last Pro Tour of the season – the World Championship could be a great bonus of achieving his key goal of continuing his Pro Tour qualifications.

"I'm really happy if I can make it, but it's not my goal," Dominguez said. "My primary goal is to qualify for the first PT of next year and to keep chaining Pro Tours. If I can make Words while I am collecting adjusted match points, that's great."

And while he didn't do well at last year's Worlds, falling short of making Day Two, he still had a great experience traveling for the event.

"The Magic part wasn't great, but the travel was really great. I traveled with a lot of friends and rented a big place with a pool and we had a super great time. So even when I didn't do well in the tournament, the travel with friends is always the best part."

Mitchell Tamblyn has been playing Magic for over twenty years, and his competitive days stretch all the way back to the Junior Super Series and Pro Tours in the early 2000s. More recently, he qualified for last year's World Championship via adjusted match points, putting together strong enough finishes across the season to earn him a spot.

Mitchell Tamblyn

While Tamblyn came into the season with another Worlds qualification on his mind, he also sees the invite as part of a larger Magic journey towards becoming a stronger players.

"It's a part of it, but it's not everything for me. Invitations are very nice, but I try not to be so results oriented. My hope would be that I could just improve as a player and execute more consistently. Obviously I forget this a lot in the short term, but if I can become a master of the game eventually, then it's only a matter of time before you have really good results. So certainly it's great to have invites, but I'm just hoping to get better as a player. That's probably my main overarching goal."

His long history with the game also means that in a season with highs and lows, the opportunity to connect or reconnect with people over Magic has provided an overarching bright spot.

"The highlights for me were my wife getting to come to Seattle and experience the Pro Tour atmosphere, and a lot of the relationships I've built playing Magic and being on different teams and old relationships and people I've grown to love. I think the people more so is the highlight than any finish."

Jim Davis

For longtime competitor Jim Davis, the last few years of strong Pro Tour performances and being a part of last year's World Championship fall into a strange place between who he used to be as a Magic competitor and his priorities now.

"I'm just happy to be here, you know?" Davis said. "And it's interesting for me because back in the day when I was playing in Pro Tours, it was all I had, it was everything. I was in my twenties, I was working part-time here and there, living at home, and every Pro Tour meant the literal end of the world to me. And I did okay, but never great. I never got to that next level which I wanted so bad for years, and eventually after three years of trying I just kind of gave up. And now the things that I've experienced in the last two years are things that 25-year-old Jim would've never dreamed of."

Davis is bringing that perspective into the upcoming Pro Tour, and is happy to qualify for the World Championship if he can but also finding relief in the absence of pressure from his own expectations.

"These are all things that I'm extremely thankful for and happy that I have the opportunity to do. But my life's much more balanced now, I have a good job I'm happy with, I have a great family and so now I go to an event and I know that I can 0-10 this event and I'm still gonna go home, have the best job in the world, have a beautiful family, have a house, and my life is great. I think that gives me a bit of serenity when I'm playing, where I can play and live in the moment and not feel the pressure."

For each of the nearly 250 competitors playing in this weekend's Pro Tour, the possibility of the World Championship is still alive. Whether it's a Top 8 finish that earns them an invitation, or a finish that can push them over the line for adjusted match points, there are still paths open to hoisting the trophy in Vegas and holding the title of Magic World Champion.

Watch the action all weekend long with the broadcast, like from Amsterstam with Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3!

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