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The Week That Was: Making It To The Big Stage

December 09, 2022
Corbin Hosler

I want to start this week by peeling back the curtain a little bit. We're deep into the Regional Championship season across the world, and that means there's a lot that comes across my desk week-to-week (or my Twitter, anyway). There are more stories in Magic than we'll ever be able to cover, even with the return of The Week That Was.

But we're going to try anyway.

Across the world thousands of players are convening, for one of the first times in years, for high-level tabletop Magic everywhere you can find tables to sleeve up sixty. For me, that means a schedule of events and winners to follow, all the way up to and through 2023. By the time we reach Magic World Championship XXIX later next year, we'll have a large field of players, some of whom you may not have heard of.

But for those following the developments across the world (and the world of Magic), you'll begin to recognize names – even if they aren't always the winners. With so much happening, there's a lot of players fulfilling a dream who may not make it into the headlines – so today we're going to cover a handful of stories from across the globe.

Two Regional Championships Crown Victors

Let's start with a look at last week's events.

We had Regional Championships taking place in South America and Asia, with the South America Magic Series taking place in Santiago and the MIT Championship, respectively. They come on the heels of a month of high-level Pioneer Regional Championship play, and as the season has gone on the format has continued to evolve, a constantly shifting target for those competing in later weekends. A format that at the outset looked to be dominated by Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Mono-Green Devotion has instead revealed itself as an open format with some mainstays but altogether more possibilities than imagined before the season.

That played perfectly for Alejandro Sepúlveda, who surprised the field with Mono-Red Aggro and stormed his way through the field en route to a finals where he faced down another surprise deck: Dimir Control in the hands of Julian Prado. (Check out Frank's column for more on the decks and the Pioneer metagame!) It was the culmination of an event with more than 200 players from across the continent gathering to compete for a spot at the first Pro Tour of 2023 and the World Championship. The buzz to get back to the Pro Tour brought out the best in the region, and the Top 8 featured a number of accomplished competitors including former Mythic Champion Mattias Leveratto. With the win, Sepúlveda secures both a Pro Tour invite as well as guaranteeing himself a seat at the World Championship, and he heads there with momentum.

Over in New Tapei City, 55 players competed until Jim Tim Lee found himself atop the field with his trusted Rakdos Midrange deck (Rakdos has been the most consistent performer in Pioneer, despite the lack of hype around the deck entering the season). Lee described his deck choice as a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," mentality, and it's hard to argue with the undefeated results that stratagem yielded him. But even with the ubiquitous Rakdos winning the event, it had to go through a surprise Esper Control brew in the finals to get there.

Victories Large (And Small)

My job here is to share the path to the Pro Tour. And I take that somewhat literally – the road to the Pro Tour doesn't begin in the finals of a big PTQ or on Friday of the tournament or in deck selection the week before, or testing houses and Discords and all the rest.

It begins, like many great things, at the table with friends.

Not everyone will qualify for the Regional Championship and find unburdened success in front of them. But what can sometimes get lost in a week-to-week, Top 8-to-Top 8 world is that by the time you read about a player doing well in a particular tournament, odds are they've been steadfastly grinding away for years to improve their game and level up their results. That's one of the reasons Brian David-Marshall (the mainstay author of The Week That Was in years past) gave me this piece of advice when I picked up the column: highlight players at every stage of their journey. If the first time I'm introducing you to a winner is when they're lifting the trophy, then I've probably missed something along the way.

That's why I love stories like this one, which are told over and over again on the way to the Pro Tour.

Whether it's in the finals of the PT or the finals of FNM at Knight of Thorn in Watertown, New York, this is what the path to the Pro Tour looks like – it's a journey with different destinations for everyone, but we're all along for the same ride. I think back to my own competitive Magic accomplishments those matches where I was a game away from the Pro Tour for the first time. For me, the path to the Pro Tour was a gateway to what I really dreamed of doing: coverage. For friends meeting in the finals of the PTQ, that's what the path to the Pro Tour looks like. For Leveratto, it was a whirlwind of Magic after returning home from abroad in the last weekend of qualifiers. For Anthony Lee, it was years of dedicated assistance for teammates qualified for tournaments he wasn't – and they paid back the favor as he lived out those dreams himself at his Regional Championship. Every weekend, Pro Tour dreams are being made and it's been a blast to follow.

As we sit near the midpoint of the Regional Championship schedule, it felt like a good time to step back and remember that while we're chasing spicy decks and trophy winners (and with good reason!), the stories don't stop with the Top 8, and the ranks of the Pro Tour and World Championship in 2023 – and truthfully the future of competitive Magic overall – are being filled in at X-3 brackets across the world.

All Roads Lead to Philly

All roads lead to MagicCon: Philadelphia, where the hundreds of players from across the world proving right now that they belong with the best in the business will have their opportunity to take the next step at the Pro Tour. Philadelphia, of course, is famous for being home to the first Modern Pro Tour, which was a major step forward for competitive Magic (not to mention one of the most entertaining Magic events I've ever watched), so it's fitting that it will be home to the return of the paper Pro Tour. That event will kickstart a yearlong run to the World Championship, and the field – which already includes reigning World Champ Nathan Steuer along with Eli Kassis, Karl Sarap, and Jakub Tóth (the rest of the Top 4 at Magic World Championship XXVIII. The list is growing all the time, with Jim Tim Lee and Alejandro Sepúlveda adding their names this week. Frank has the most up-to-date list here.

So what does all of that mean, here at the midway point of the RC season? From where I'm sitting, at least, the fire for the Pro Tour is back. Seeing teams of players regroup in person after months or years apart with meaningful tournaments to play in has been frankly really reinvigorating after years of online events.

Navigating this season along with Frank, our field reporters and editorial staff has been the most plugged-in to a Magic season I've ever been, and between you and me that's saying something. The vibe I've gotten from most players has been similar, and the continued evolution of Pioneer has been a story in itself. In short, the blueprint is here, and personally I'm excited as hell for what 2023 has to bring for competitive Magic. And I'm not the only one – fun fact: shortly before I sat down to write this, I just got my clock cleaned by Jean-Emmanuel Depraz in The Brothers' War Sealed on MTG Arena. Seriously, is there anywhere that guy isn't at winning matches?

Looking Ahead

The holidays approach, and with a handful of Regional Championships left to play, we turn next to Canada, where the second championship of the season is on tap. The Eastern Canada Regional Championship got things rolling two weeks ago, with Christian Trudel taking down the FacetoFace Tour Weekend with Mono-Green Devotion.

There are more World Championship seats on the line when players get their shot this weekend at the Championship in Calgary, Alberta. Following that we move to the Mexico/Central America/Caribbean Regional Championship before closing out 2022. To follow along the coming two weekend, bookmark the MTG Melee pages of the Regional Championship for West Canada and the Regional Championship for Mexico/Central America/Caribbean.

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