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The Week That Was: A Legacy of Winning

May 31, 2024
Corbin Hosler

"Using my phone hasn't been easy."

Words spoken from a Magic competitor traveling to another country for the first time? Or perhaps a Canadian veteran battling in the depths of the Montreal convention center? No; that's what one Regional Championship had to say about the days immediately following their momentous victory.

Because winning one of Magic's eleven Regional Championships is a big deal. The kind that draws friends and family and that guy you drafted next to six years ago out of the woodwork to congratulate you on the accomplishment. The Regional Championship is not just a path to the Pro Tour and the World Championship—though it certainly is that—it's a momentous event in its own right, the kind that teams spend months qualifying and testing for. The tournament itself is a gathering of the region's best Magic players, bringing together the community to play the game at the highest level for some of the highest stakes.

So when you persevere through all the challenges that come along with trying to win a large, competitive Magic tournament like the five Regional Championships that took place last weekend (in Aichi, Beijing, Melbourne, Taipei City, and Naples) and come out on top of it all and with an invite to Magic World Championship 30?

That's cause for celebration—and a battery-draining deluge of congratulations.

"I'm grateful to everyone who messaged me, I'm trying to do my best to answer everyone!" Mateo Ferreira Vazquez confessed with a grin in the days following his victory in Italy at the Regional Championship for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Ferreira can be forgiven for taking his time—the champ has a lot to catch up on after his team of players from Madrid had another dominating finish at the European Championship.

Ferreira has spent the Top 8 of the last several Regional Championships cheering on his teammates; the testing team he's helped lead has quietly been putting up result after result over the past year. Adrián Iñigo Tastet credited Ferreira after winning a Regional Championship last year, and the Spanish team has made a habit of securing multiple Top 8 berths since.

After a near-miss on a 14th-place finish last year, Ferreira finally found his own breakthrough moment last weekend. It came thanks to a Standard metagame call that not many can make: while many players were busy trying to push the limits of what was possible in the format with one-directional gameplans like Temur Analyst, Boros Convoke, or Bant Toxic, Ferreira didn't mind being boring.

That's certainly how some might describe Esper Midrange, a collection of the best cards in the colors tied together by Deep-Cavern Bat, Raffine, Scheming Seer, and Wedding Announcement. As Ferreira put it, if every other deck was operating on the edges, then he wanted to play from the middle where nothing can excessively target him.

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It's less flashy than ending games with Worldsoul's Rage and less explosive than Skrelv, Defector Mite plus Venerated Rotpriest, but it was exactly the right deck for Ferreira, who leveraged his deep knowledge of the format to work through a field of more than 800 players en route to the finals where he defeated Ivan Errico's Golgari Midrange list to win the title.

"It doesn't feel too weird. It feels like hard work pays off," Ferreira said. "I tested with some local friends from Madrid where we basically wanted to cover every matchup among the tier one decks. After that and some good online results, I was certain I was going to play Esper. Going into the tournament, I was certain my deck choice and expertise with it were there so I felt if I stayed there mentally and didn't get overwhelmed, I could achieve my goal of re-qualifying for the Pro Tour."

With the win, Ferreira did more than just qualify for his second career Pro Tour: he earns a direct spot in the World Championship later this year. It's well ahead of schedule for a 20-year-old who picked up competitive Magic less than two years ago, but also somehow feels like a long time coming after a pristine 11-0 start at the Regional Championship in Lille last year failed to convert to a Top 8.

It's also a long-awaited moment in the Madrid Magic community, which has rallied behind Ferreira and friends as they've crushed the circuit this year—three of the six World Championship invites this season went to Ferreira's testing squad, with Tastet and Borja Yañez Carvajal also picking up tickets to Vegas. It sets up a trio of qualified competitors already working together, a storyline to follow as we head toward MagicCon: Las Vegas this October.

For Ferreira, it's validation of his commitment to Magic over the past two years, tangible proof that the time and work he's put into improving his game and his team can pay off.

"I'm ready for the opportunity to compete on the big stage again," Ferreira said confidently. "Achieving this big result after barely missing on qualifying for Chicago and not making the Top 8 in Lille felt right. I want to take the opportunity to further myself in competing in every aspect, not just the technical game, and enjoy the process of doing so."

Not even a Regional Championship title can sate the Spaniard—Ferreira is hungry for more and will get his next chance at Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 at MagicCon: Amsterdam, June 28-30. That's also the last Pro Tour before the World Championship, which means the race will be on as players try and pick up those final few points that could qualify them for the biggest tournament of the year.

That picture is becoming much clearer after the five Regional Championships last weekend and will round fully into focus after four more Regional Championships take place this weekend to close the cycle. The largest expected competition will be in Dallas where the United States field will seek to sort out Standard, a task that is more complicated than ever after the five events turned out three very different winning decks (two Four-Color Legends, two Esper Midrange, and Azorius Control).

From there all eyes will turn to Amsterdam and the impending release of Modern Horizons 3—players officially have less than a month before the first draft of the Pro Tour kicks off.

The Road to the World Championship

MagicCon: Las Vegas and Magic World Championship 30 are fast approaching, and Frank and I are counting down the weeks by looking back at each of our previous champions. Today takes us back exactly 20 years, to the year when future European Regional Champion Mateo Ferreira was born and Julien Nuijten became the second Magic World Champion from the Netherlands (following Tom van de Logt in 2001).

We talk a lot about how Magic is a game for all ages; writing wholesome stories about families playing Magic together is one of my favorite pastimes. I got to experience a little of that myself last weekend as I took my 8-year-old son to the Clash for Cash tournament series in my hometown and even played in a Regional Championship Qualifier, but nothing puts it quite in such stark perspective as taking a retrospective look back at the World Championship and realizing this week's champ wasn't even alive when Nuijten was breaking Standard with the famous Astral Slide cycling deck—and then realizing that Nuijten won his world title at fifteen years old.

What a World Championship run. It's topped only by how Nuijten went on to celebrate: by buying his brother a car after joking that he would do so if he won the World Championship. Nuijten's win also put the Netherlands into an exclusive list: by 2004 only the United States and Germany had produced multiple World Championship winners (Brazil, Japan, Israel, and France have since joined the list).

Nuijten reached the top of the game at 15 years old, but he wasn't done. He went on to play on the Dutch national team in 2006 that won the team World Championship, making him one of very few players to ever earn both titles.

Julien Nuijten, 2004 Magic World Championship

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