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The Week That Was: Brazil's Breakthrough Heroes

May 24, 2024
Corbin Hosler

Ready for some Regional Championships?

It's weeks like this that really drive home the global nature of Magic—there's five Regional Championship events this weekend stretching across three continents and even more time zones. While North and South America will be quiet this will still be the busiest weekend of a packed Regional Championship schedule, with just a pair of events three weeks ago to look toward for guidance in the surprisingly shifty Standard metagame. Amid all of this tabletop play, did I mention there was also the Magic Online Champions Showcase won by Stefan Schütz after a dominant season where he finished second on the leaderboard?

As always, there's a lot of Magic going on; coveted seats at Magic World Championship 30 are hard to come by and that's why thousands of players across the world are locked in as they prepare for a tournament that could change the trajectory of their Magic career. The 2024 season has already been filled with stories of players who have turned a breakthrough at the Regional Championship level into a deep Pro Tour run. That's the beauty of competitive Magic: you never know what one tournament might turn into.

Nicole Tipple is one of the best examples in recent memory: she decided to set a goal of qualifying for the Regional Championship, and put in the work to do so. That turned into a impressive RC finish that catapulted Tipple to Pro Tour Thunder Junction, where she played deep into Day Two. A journey that began at the local game store qualifier turned into the tournament of a lifetime on the biggest stage of them all.

Etner a Magic tournament, and you never know where the journey might end. Some people pick up a game at summer camp one year and the next thing they know they're following Magic across the world. It's impossible to replicate the experience that the Pro Tour can provide—it's tangible proof of the dedication players put in to qualify—and once your path to the Pro Tour begins there's no telling where it might end. Maybe as the World Champion—just ask Nathan Steuer, who went from a kid tagging along to Magic tournaments to its world champ.

And just like you never know where the journey might end, you never know where it might begin, either. Just ask William Bossaneli Araujo, Brazil's most consistent performer of the past year. Araujo—who won a RC title back in November—has been on a tear since then at the Regional Championship level. He made an incredible third straight Regional Championship Top 8 at the City Class Showdown last weekend before falling to eventual champion Jonathan Lobo Melamed. For Melamed, it was a second Top 8 this year, and this time he secured the trophy after a semifinals loss back in January.

But Melamed didn't want to talk about his victory; the champ wanted to shout out Araujo and his remarkable accomplishments so far this year—now the friends will play at the World Championship together. You can see from Melamed's reaction just how important the Regional Championship has become to a dozen different Magic regional ecosystems across the planet. While reigning Player of the Year Simon Nielsen has rightfully drawn attention for his own odds-defying streak, at the City Class Showdown it's players like Araujo who are the most-feared end bosses. To put it simply: the Pro Tour winners of tomorrow are the consistent Regional Championship finishers of today.

But it has to begin somewhere. And when asked about the key moment of this Regional Championship? Araujo pointed not to a Top 8 win-and-in match, not to the quarterfinals that carried with it the proverbial blue envelope, but all the way back an easily overlooked moment from Round 1.

"The most important moment of the tournament came in game 3 of Round 1 against Gabriel Fehr, one of the best players in Brazil who made the Top 8 of the first two Regional Championships the year," he recalled with the kind of perfect clarity that only comes from someone playing well enough to Top 8 three Regional Championships in a row. "I'm a Red player by heart, so I chose Mono-Red with some tweaks—it's not tier one, but I think it was in a good place for that tournament and I followed my heart as a red mage. Against Gabriel, I somehow forced him to tap out for Depopulate on turn four and I went for the win on my following turn with a plotted Slickshot Show-Off plus Monstrous Rage and Two-Headed Hunter! After that I knew it was going to be a good day."

655087 Monstrous Rage Two-Headed Hunter

It turned out to be another great day in a Magic season full of them for Araujo—days that are a long time coming. Araujo is that kid who gave a new card game a chance and is still following it three decades later—to Amsterdam and Las Vegas and Magic World Championship 30.

"This season has meant a lot to me; I've played the game since 1996 and Magic is a really a huge part of my life. This year I finally achieved my goal to qualify for the three Pro Tours and the World Championship," he explained. "It feels like living a dream to play all the Pro Tours this season and then to play worlds in Vegas."

Araujo and Melamed are both a part of the latest part of the Brazilian Magic community to find sustained success. Araujo credited much of his success over the past year to the group of friends he's been working with, including Melamed, Pedro Perrini, and Guilherme Merjam—who won January's Regional Championship to give the group a sweep of the last three titles.

"Rastaf [Merjam] is the Constructed master; he won that RC and put four lists into the Top 8 including myself," Araujo explained. "Pedro has been one of the most regular players in Brazil of the past few years, and Jonathan Top 8'ed one RC and won this last one. Those three friends have helped me a ton by practicing for the Regional Championships and Pro Tours, and I'm really thankful to them."

Brazil has a long history of success when it comes to producing world-class Magic players, and what we're witnessing come out of the Regional Championship cycle in 2024 suggests that won't be changing anytime soon.

The Road to Magic World Championship 30

One of Magic's greatest assets is its history, and as we march steadily toward MagicCon: Las Vegas and Magic World Championship 30, Frank and I are looking back at each of our previous World Championship events in order. Last week we covered the 2002 breakthrough for Carlos Romão that in no small way paved the road for Araujo, Merjam, and Melamed's victories today.

That brings us to 2003, when Daniel Zink won the World Championship with three copies of Mirari's Wake in a deck that also featured Wrath of God and won with Decree of Justice. It's an interesting deck—Frank has the full details on the fascinating metagame throwback—but the far more interesting part of Zink's story is that it's not entirely his own.

After all, winning a World Championship title is rare, something that objectively very few people in the world can ever do. And Zink did that: it was his only career Top Finish but he made the most of it by dropping only a single game in the Top 8 en route to the title.

But you know what's really rare? Siblings both winning World Championship titles. But that's exactly what Daniel and Sebastian Zink managed to pull off after Sebastian played a key role on the 2004 German National team that won the Team World Championship. I've heard of sibling rivalry before (Brad Nelson and Corey Baumeister and Reid and Ian Duke have never really stopped playing Magic with each other), but winning a world title because your brother did it a year earlier is next-level.

But that's Magic; you never know where the journey is going to take you, from the living room floor with your brother to the World Championship stage.

Daniel Zink, 2003 Magic World Championship

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