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The Week That Was: A European Legacy

April 21, 2023
Corbin Hosler

It's common to say that a large event has a "buzz" to it, and while I'm sure that's true I'll say that the aura inside a tournament hall is unlike any sporting event I've been to. It's never a raucous environment, and the buzz isn't from a crowd waiting to explode in roaring excitement.

What is present at the best Magic tournaments is a buzz made up of whispers, of comments made in passing or draft bombs spotted across the table. Even as players find success, they're trained to hold it in, keeping their focus tight lest they let up and slip up in any way.

Whatever you want to call it, it's something every high-level Magic competitor can recognize. And this tournament had it all: a monstrous field of more than 1,000 players, a format with a ton of hype and innovation behind it, the biggest names new and old from across the region, and invites to important future tournaments on the line. As Ben Jones shuffled up for the Top 8, it had all the familiar trappings of the other memorable large-field events where he had made Top 8: Grand Prix Madrid in 2018 and the Regional Championship in Sofia late last year. With Pro Tour experience under his belt and now a second notable Top 8 in six months, Jones was riding high in the Magic world.

Except this wasn't a Pro Tour, or a Regional Championship. It was the Top 8 of LMS Prague, the latest stop on the Legacy European Tour series. And to these players, it mattered every bit as much.

"It was awesome having so many people in one room that share a love for the game," Jones said. "It reminded me a lot of an old Grand Prix."

You might not know it, but "it felt like a Grand Prix" is strong praise. We spend a lot of time in our columns here focusing on the Regional Championships (and their winners) throughout the year, leading to the Pro Tours and eventually the World Championship (and you'll want to read Frank's article this week if any of that sounds interesting to you), but they're not the only game in town these days. The Grand Prix circuit famously offered players across the world regular, large, open-to-all tournaments, at a cadence more frequent than the Regional Championships of today. It's also where many of the Top 8 regulars at Regional Championships today cut their teeth competitively. For those on what is still affectionately called "the grind" that meant popping up week to week in a new city and battling in a new tournament hall after battling through a new airport and taxi ride.

In the end, the city didn't matter—it was about the Magic and gathering with friends. It's something we missed dearly over the last few years, so when Jones says that LMS Prague "felt like a Grand Prix" consider that a ringing endorsement of the tournament.

That sentiment was echoed by everyone I've talked with about the tournament, which brought together players from across all of Europe for a weekend that had a little bit of everything, for everyone in the community.

As tabletop Magic has rebuilt itself over the past few years, we've seen the success of tournament circuits like the NRG Series in North America help fill the void that many players found lacking during the era of solely online play, and the celebration in Prague was a perfect example of the Magic community coming back together.

"It really has been great getting to play the game and see the world again—I've been to five different countries in the past six months!" Jones explained. "I played a lot of Magic Online over the pandemic, and that definitely helped contribute to my success now that paper is back."

The Wales native is quickly building onto a resume that already featured a win at Grand Prix Madrid, and his semifinals appearance in Prague is the latest for the Pro Tour regular. As the paper play circuit has spun back up so has his testing network, and he worked with Andrea Piemonti, Arne Huschenbeth, David Inglis, Louis Deltour, and Max Vervoort on the Indomitable Creativity combo Modern deck he took to the Top 4.

"I came to Prague just aiming to get an invite to the next event in Athens" he admitted. "I achieved that goal and a lot more!"

He did that in a stacked field. Not only did the Top 8 feature a former Pro Tour Top 8 member and World Magic Cup captain and champion Marco Cammilluzzi—who defeated Jones in the penultimate round—but also a two-time Grand Prix winner in Immanuel Gerschenson. That shouldn't come as a huge surprise; everywhere you looked throughout the hall you were likely to bump into a well-known player or FNM end boss—it was possibly the largest gathering of Europe's best Magic players in years.

Just ask Markus Leicht how much this tournament meant. He was just dipping his toes into the competitive circuit back in 2017, and back then he followed the Grand Prix circuit assiduously and learned very quickly that this was a goal he wanted to chase. The pandemic may have delayed that dream, but after defeating Cammilluzzi in the finals he finally found himself accomplishing a goal six years in the making.

"I've been doing a lot of Magic Online grinding over the past two years, so much so that I started streaming about eight months ago. After Covid hit, I became even more competitive online," Leicht explained. "Modern is my main format, and making the Top 8 of 100-plus payer Modern Challenges really made me confident and helped me believe I could make the Top 8 of a big event one day. I worked with Phillip Bogensperger on my deck and testing, and I felt good going into the tournament."

It paid off perfectly—Leicht refined his mulligan strategy with the Five-Color Elementals build with Keruga, the Macrosage he had been working on since the banning of Yorion. He said he felt "unstoppable" throughout the tournament as the matchups went his way and so did his draws. In all, it was a blur that Leicht has trouble remembering the details—but will never forget.

"Winning the tournament feels unreal, and it took me a few days to really realize it," Leicht said after traveling back home to Vienna, Austria. "When I started in my first-ever Cardmarket series tournament back in 2017, it was always my dream to Top 8 a Grand Prix, and now I win this 1,000-person tournament. Unreal."

Looking Ahead

The Legacy European Tour continues on with stops in Valencia and Athens coming up on May 26-28 and June 9-19, respectively, and is sure to feature the best high-level Magic Europe has to offer.

On the Pro Tour side, the Machine marches on to Minneapolis. We're in a small lull as the new set drops (I made it out to a prerelease to get in some testing with battles!), but rest assured we're in the calm before the storm. The best players from not just Europe but the entire world converge at MagicCon: Minneapolis on May 5-7 for Pro Tour March of the Machine, and that means that right now teams across the globe are hunkering down and digging into their draft packs. Soon, we'll have testing houses fill with players working out how to break battles and hopefully Standard along with it. It all leads to a packed hall Friday morning, when the buzz will sound identical to the room in Prague.

Phyrexia: All Will Be One gave us the return of the Pro Tour and a legendary win for a legendary player. What will March of the Machine hold? We'll find out in two short weeks.

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