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The Week That Was: A Heroic Victory

November 03, 2023
Corbin Hosler

Magic is a global game. We travel the world for the Pro Tour, and players from dozens of countries attend. In years past, the World Magic Cup highlighted pride as players represented their countries. We think of the great teams over the decades, from the Japanese super squads to the European enclaves of Magic pros to dueling teams on the American coasts to the South American tradition of excellence. All of those groups come together several times a year for the Pro Tour, as we gather and celebrate high-level Magic play.

With so much elite Magic talent clustered together for one tournament weekend, those standouts were for many years some of the only glimpses we got into play from a given regional. Magic is global, but that can be hard to contextualize when you see everyone in one place.

The Regional Championship series inverts that paradigm, and I love it. The Pro Tour and the World Championship bring together a region's top finishers, but the Regional Championships are glimpses into a world of Magic that may look different than our own. If the Pro Tour is where Magic dreams are fulfilled, the Regional Championship is often where they're made.

There are a dozen or so Regional Championships for each Pro Tour cycle, each feeding the next Pro Tour and seats to the end-of-season World Championship beyond that. This time around, things got started in a double Regional Championship weekend taking place Calgary for Canada and Lille for Europe (where Boston Schatteman and Adrián Iñigo Tastet won, respectively). From there, a lull for a few weeks led to last weekend's RCs in China and Sydney. Next up is a triple RC weekend taking place across continents.

Trying to wrap my head around the story of this season and plug into events flung far across the globe, I thought about how all of this underscores Magic's reach in a different way – you could easily confuse the list of Regional Championship destinations with a dream vacation roadmap.

So buckle in, it's going to be a busy trip around the world over the next two months, as we build toward the first Pro Tour of 2024 at MagicCon: Chicago and the World Championship deeper in the distance.


All of that hit Brett Girvan all at once. At 4 a.m.

"I won the tournament, but I don't think any of it really clicked until the next night," he recalled. "I went from thinking I would hang out at the tournament and then go out, to worrying about how I was going to get this trophy home on the plane. Then the next night I woke up at 4, and it hit me that I was qualified for the Pro Tour again."

And the World Championship beyond that. Girvan won the ANZ Super Series Finals last weekend, absolutely crushing the Top 8 field with his pet deck Boros Heroic, culminating with a clean victory in the finals over Josh Bradbury. Girvan's perfect 6-0 run in games played on Sunday was everything the Maffra, Victoria native had hoped for in his testing against the explosive Pioneer metagame, the perfect finish to a weekend where he dropped zero matches and only three individual games with his deck.

Brett Girvan

And he did a lot of testing – just not in the traditional way.

"When my group began preparing for the Regional Championship, we thought maybe the Rakdos decks were disappearing, and that the format was getting fast. That meant we should be taking a look at Boros," Girvan explained. "But after the first Regional Championship weekend we saw that Rakdos was the most popular deck so we started looking at other options."

The problem for Girvan, a dedicated MTG Arena grinder, was that his work schedule changed unexpectedly and suddenly cut into his time to dive deep into Pioneer via tabletop or Magic Online play. What he did have was Arena, the ability to test what he had against reasonable facsimiles of many of the top Pioneer decks, and a lot of manual dexterity.

"I was playing Magic on my phone probably 95% of the time in my testing," he mentioned offhandedly. "I didn't have access to everything I needed to change the deck over to Boros Convoke, so I just kept jamming with Heroic," Girvan added. "And I just kept winning."

The Grand Prix Brisbane 2019 Top 8 member decided to bet on himself. He began his Magic journey back with Gatecrash in 2013, and that path had taken him to the Pro Tour. If he was going to return there, he wasn't going to let an inopportune schedule or deckbuilding restrictions or Mono-Green players stop him.

So he went to work, navigating Pioneer on his phone.

"You can't test against everything on Arena, but it was so good for getting games in," Girvan recalled. "A friend messaged me at some point to tell me they had just gotten in their 100th match on Magic Online, so I looked at my stats and saw that I was over 300 with Boros Heroic."

That's a lot of Monstrous Rage math. And when Girvan took the deck to Sydney, he found out that contrary to popular belief, math wasn't always for blockers (Illuminator Virtuoso can get very large, very quickly). He stayed true to his deck as he counted to 20, qualifying for the Regional Championship via a last-chance qualifier and deciding to stick with what brought him there. He ran back Boros Heroic for the main event, and not once did the deck let him down.

"If people blocked, things were easy: protect my creature and move on," Girvan explained. "It was when they didn't block that things got interesting."

That was the power of the Boros Heroic deck that received a notable upgrade in Monstrous Rage. It could kill out of nowhere as early as turn three, coming at Pioneer in a way completely foreign to players expecting to grind out Lotus Field Combo vs Rakdos Midrange all day long.

The element of surprise (and double strike) carved up a diverse Regional Championship field that featured six different archetypes in the Top 8. All you really need to do to understand just how familiar Girvan is with the exact strengths and weaknesses of his Regional Championship winning deck is to look at the sideboard, where a single copy of Den of the Bugbear resides. It's easy to miss and easier to discount, but it was meticulously calculated.

"Rakdos is the matchup I was most worried about, and I spent a month and a half trying to improve the matchup," Girvan explained. "I tried all kinds of things, from Fiendslayer Paladin and everything else. Showdown of the Skalds was the best card, and the extra land always comes in to cast that."

The best Magic players get something out of every single 75 in their decklist, and that example is the perfect microcosm of the care Girvan put into this tournament. As the Magic gods would have it, of course, Girvan only faced off against Rakdos once (he won).

"I went into the Top 8 not knowing what to expect, but the matchups looked good and I felt favored in them," he explained. "And somehow that's exactly how the whole thing played out. I beat my Lotus Field opponent on turn three in both games in the semifinals. You can't draw it up any better. Illuminator Virtuoso is a hell of a card."

Next up for Girvan is planning his return to the Pro Tour. If the effort he put into the Regional Championship series is any indication (and it is – he took time off work when the season opened to kick off testing with his friends), Girvan will head to the States with a plan in place. And plenty of playtesting, even if it comes on his phone.

"I'm super hyped for Chicago, and my next step is to work out how and when I'm going to get there and who I'm going to work with," he said. "It's a lot, and I'm still trying to get my head around it. It's been a while since I've done something like this!"

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