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Love of the Game Propels World Champ

July 17, 2019
Corbin Hosler

After Javier Dominguez's first appearance in the finals of the 2017 Magic World Championship, he knew exactly what he wanted to do—finish one notch higher than his second-place result. He left the biggest tournament in the game with purpose, focus, and a dream to chase.

The second time he went to the finals of theWorld Championship—knocking off Grzegorz Kowalski to win the 2018 tournament and land atop the Magic Multiverse—he left the event slightly terrified.

Elated at winning? Sure. Excited at accomplishing such an obscenely difficult feat? Of course. But scared, nonetheless.

"I was afraid that after winning, I wouldn't be motivated and I wouldn't be able to keep playing," he admitted. "I've seen that so many times from people in different games, and I was super scared of it happening to me."

Dominguez capped an amazing two-year run by winning the 2018 Magic World Championship.

It's a legitimate concern—when you've spent countless years chasing a singular goal, a letdown is nearly inevitable. Having seen the rise and fall of dynastic teams in traditional sports as well as watching other Magic champions struggle with the same challenge, Dominguez was well aware of what he would face when the lights were off and the check deposited.

Fortunately, Dominguez had a few things working in his favor. He had a strong support group of family and friends, and he knew what was coming. That knowledge helped him adjust.

But more than anything, it was something very simple that propelled Dominguez forward, even when he wasn't sure where he was supposed to be going.

"I guess I just like to play Magic more than I like to win," he confessed. "I knew what could happen, but competing and winning was never my biggest motivation. Two weeks after Worlds I made the Top 8 of a Grand Prix, and I was just as excited.

"Being the World Champion is great, I won't lie. But on the other hand, it's just a tournament and I'm still just me. In Magic, winning a tournament doesn't mean you're more likely to win the next one—the cards don't care if you're a World Champion or if it's your first game."

Still, a new challenge couldn't hurt, and the release of MTG Arena provided him exactly that. Suddenly, there was a new playing field and a new way for Dominguez to do what he loved most—just playing Magic.

Even if it messed up his plans.

"I had wanted to take a small break after Worlds because I had spent an unhealthy number of hours testing for three weeks," he recalled. "I needed a break, but it turned out that break was just one day long because the day after Worlds I downloaded MTG Arena, and I played it straight through and loved it. It's so beautiful and clean to play, and I thought then it might be the best thing to ever happen to Magic.

"Things really went super crazy after that—I went from winning the tournament to discovering MTG Arena and then the Magic Pro League and Magic becoming an esport. Everything just went so fast. We play Magic because we love it, but now we're actually professionals of the game and it's our job."

Embracing his new role as a face of the game at the exact moment the game was growing to ever-larger stature was a challenge for Dominguez; by his nature he's more quiet and private than some of his peers who seem to have been born to stream and perform in front of large audiences.

"Honestly, the first few weeks and months after Worlds and the MPL were really strange for me," he explained. "It took me a while to get used to being public and open about myself. It's really different than how things used to be, but I'm getting used to it now and I like the interaction with the community. I can help people and they can help me, and we all benefit from building those relationships. I feel super lucky to be a part of this."

The switch from traveling across the globe for weekly Grand Prix to streaming and playing high-stakes weekly MPL matches has come with a few unexpected benefits. Dominguez has made it out to his local FNM much more often—not to mention taking part in every event he can, no matter the format (he recently played three tournaments with different formats in three weeks).

In other words, things are going great for the World Champion—but there's one thing he's never experienced in Magic: his family watching him play in person.

But he can cross that off the list, too—Mythic Championship IV is coming to his hometown of Barcelona.

"It's going to be really special for me," he explained. "My family will be there for the first time. They've always followed me on coverage, but they've never been there in person. It's going to be great, and I can't wait."

No matter the scale of the event, Dominguez always keeps a smile on his face.

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