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Pro Tour Phyrexia Finals

February 19, 2023
Corbin Hosler

While we've celebrated Championship winners and incredible digital playoffs, It's been years since the last "Pro Tour champion" was crowned. It's something Reid Duke and Benton Madsen were well aware of when they met at the final table here in Philadelphia–and what they had been battling to be all weekend.

After one more best-of-five match, the next Pro Tour champion would be one of them.

The two were familiar with each other: they had played in Round 4 of the swiss when Madsen's Selesnya Auras deck knocked off the Izzet Creativity combo deck that had carried Duke (and teammate Gabriel Nassif) to the Top 8. But familiarity with the Sunday stage could not be more different between the two. It was the first Top Finish of Madsen's career, while Duke was appearing in his seventh and seeking to add the one thing missing from his illustrious Hall of Fame career: "Pro Tour champion."

For Duke, in the finals seat, this was the best chance he's had–and the first since the return of the Pro Tour. He entered the finals with momentum; after losing the first two games of the quarterfinals and needing to rally for the reverse 3-0 sweep to stay alive, he won five of six games to surge into the title match.

Madsen, meanwhile, was still riding the high he had been all weekend–he was the final remaining undefeated player at the Pro Tour and had cruised through the first two rounds of the Top 8 to find his underdog run now with just one more challenge to overcome.

The Games

Madsen led off the finals exactly as he hoped, with a one-drop Duke was very familiar with at final tables: Gladecover Scout. Duke famously surprised the world by playing a similar Auras deck at the 2013 World Championship, but fell in the finals to Shahar Shenhar. Now, to win the Pro Tour, he would have to send the Bogles packing.

That's easier said than done, and Madsen curved out game one in perhaps the most terrifying way possible: All That Glitters plus another pair of power-pumping auras on his Scout. Taking hits along the way, Duke responded with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker (using the token to block) and crossed his fingers he could survive long enough for it to be relevant. Duke fell to 8 life, but his plan began to come into focus: he deployed a second and then a third Fable, providing blockers for the souped-up Gladecover Scout while building toward an eventual endgame with the Reflection.

Gladecover Scout All That Glitters Ethereal Armor Fable of the Mirror-Breaker Indomitable Creativity Worldspine Wurm Xenagos, God of Revels

Madsen came out of the gates blazing, but no one has ever accused a Bogles deck of topdecking well, and he struggled to find a way to break through Duke's defenses over the following turns. Despite the explosive start, he was now facing down a board that Duke was slowly gaining control of. Madsen was able to find Skrelv, Defector Mite–a key card for protecting his creatures from removal in most circumstances and absolutely vital in this game for allowing it to swing past Kiki-Jiki reflections.

But he'd first have to untap. And that's exactly what Duke didn't let him do. The Hall of Famer untapped for his turn and resolved his deck's namesake, Indomitable Creativity, pulling out the pair of Xenagos, God of Revels and Worldspine Wurm for a +30/+30 Trampler to end the game.

Duke had dropped his first two games of the Top 8, but had been on fire since–and in game two, he channeled that into a pair of Fiery Impulses for Madsen's first two creatures. Things only got worse from there. The third-turn play from Duke was Make Disappear to counter a Light-Paws, an end-of-turn Big Score to make treasures, and Indomitable Creativity upon untapping to put the Wurm and God into play. That's a curve Pro Tour dreams are made of, and it put Duke to a 2-0 lead in the finals of Pro Tour Phyrexia.

"Pro Tour champion" was now a game away.

The third game would be Madsen's last chance to get back into the match. And while he had to mulligan down several cards, he was able to find the all-important Gladecover Scout to lead things off. He followed that up with a pair of Ethereal Armor, growing the Scout quickly in a bid to get through to Duke's life total long before Fable of the Mirror-Breaker came online.

It didn't work. This was Duke's day.

A second Fable arrived to provide another blocker, and when the Hall of Famer untapped, it was clear from his face he had everything he needed: an untapped land, an Indomitable Creativity, a lethal attack. And, after more than 25 years of playing Magic, his first Pro Tour victory.

Congratulations to Reid Duke, the champion of Pro Tour Phyrexia!

Reid Duke, Pro Tour Champion

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