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Joshua Willis Wins DreamHack Magic Showdown

April 12, 2023
Corbin Hosler

With almost a dozen Regional Championships in the books, there’s been thousands of games and weeks of results that all led to the final Regional Championship of the cycle in San Diego, California last weekend. Almost 1,000 Magic competitors converged at DreamHack San Diego, and two intense days of competition later the last piece of the Pro Tour puzzle fell into place – with dozens of invites earned and a gripping Top 8 that saw Joshua Willis triumph with Rakdos Reanimator.

Congratulations to Joshua Willis, the Regional Champion for the U.S. after his win at DreamHack San Diego.

Willis has championed Grixis Midrange for most of its lifetime in Standard, but the results of the last three weeks of Regional Championships changed his mind about where things would stand in San Diego. That led him to choosing Rakdos Reanimator, the perfect metagame call for a field light on ways to stop The Cruelty of Gix from resolving and returning Atraxa, Grand Unifier.

He defeated Isaac Sears in a mirror-match finals, a final validation of their deck choice for the tournament. Willis’ path through the Top 8 included a quarterfinals matchup with Pro Tour regular Tommy Ashton and a tense semifinals with a World Championship invite on the line against another longtime Pro Tour level player in Max McVety.

The final was a Rakdos Reanimator mirror match between Joshua Willis and Isaac Sears.

But this weekend belonged to Willis, a 24-year-old student from Arlington, Texas. A veteran of the game who has put up a string of Top 8 appearances at large regional tournaments now has his breakthrough on the Pro Tour circuit, and Pro Tour March of the Machine at MagicCon: Minneapolis is the culmination of a chase 10 years in the making.

The Top 8

With almost all of the best players from the country in attendance, DreamHack Magic’s return to the west coast was a massive event, and the Top 8 bore that out with a mix of veterans and newcomers to the Pro Tour.

You can find the Top 48 decklists here.

One of the headliners was Ken Takahama, who made his second straight Top 8 appearance at the U.S. Regional Championship. He’ll return to the Pro Tour in Minneapolis, and he’ll be joined by the rest of the Top 8 from the tournament:

The Top 8 included Rei Zhang, Tommy Ashton, Max McVety, Noah Rabin, Ken Takahama, Abe Corrigan, Joshua Willis, and Isaac Sears

The top two earned invitations to the World Championship, and in a Top 8 that featured six unique archetypes it was the proactive decks that advanced to the semifinals: Sears and Willis on Reanimator, Rabin on Mono-White Midrange and McVety on Selesnya Toxic.

The Metagame

The Standard metagame has continued to evolve over the six-week stretch of Regional Championships, with Grixis slowly falling out of favor as players navigate the addition of Phyrexia: All Will Be One and the influx of aggressive decks. That set the field as competitors vied for the 48 Pro Tour qualifications available.

To wit, it was Esper Legends that led the field in San Diego, with Rakdos Midrange taking the place of Grixis as the top build of the archetype. Last week’s breakout Domain Control deck nearly cracked the top five archetypes, and the finals featured a mirror match of the Reanimator deck that wasn’t anywhere on the radar just a few months ago but was the fifth most-played archetype at DreamHack.

With the Regional Championship cycle now behind us, all eyes turn toward Minneapolis and Pro Tour March of the Machine. The qualifiers from San Diego are already making their plans to find teammates to test with over the three furious weeks ahead of us, and Standard figures to remain more open now than it was at the beginning of the season.

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