So how about
The powerful sorcery was unbanned in Modern, along with
Modern is also the format that helped Dan Kristoff qualify for Magic World Championship XXIX in one of Magic's most unlikely storylines in a season full of them. He began the year a Pro Tour novice, but heading into Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings in Barcelona he was a three-time PT veteran on the verge of qualifying for the World Championship based on excellence at the highest level.
"The first Pro Tour this year, Phyrexia in Philadelphia, was also my first Pro Tour ever," Kristoff said. "I assumed I would be one-and-done like so many other players, but I ended up doing well and qualifying for the next one. I've been enjoying the ride since."
Kristoff went 11-5 in Pennsylvania, and then 10-6 at Pro Tour March of the Machine in Minneapolis. Reigning world champ Nathan Steuer took the headlines there (as did
The World Championship field will be larger this year than in recent ones; and alongside the automatic qualifiers from the slate of completed Pro Tours, Regional Championships, MTG Arena and Magic Online Championships, the 32 players with the most Adjusted Match Points not receiving an automatic invitation will also earn an invitation.
"The World Championship wasn't anywhere near my radar," Kristoff admitted. "Then I found out I was third in the AMP standings. After that, it became my goal to qualify."
Kristoff turned to his favorite Modern deck with his tournament life on the line – and it rewarded him with an 8-2 finish and a berth at the World Championship.
It's quite the journey, and one that players aspiring to the Pro Tour can look toward as the blueprint. Magic World Championship XXIX, coming at MagicCon: Las Vegas next month, is the pinnacle of the competitive Magic world, with the brightest lights and biggest stakes. The expanded player list will be filled with the best of the best, including former or reigning champs like Steuer, as well as numerous Pro Tour winners.
One of those Pro Tour winners will be Alexander Hayne. Viewers of the recent Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings will remember watching his race to the Top 8, with each win coming with as much drama as we could handle in the waning swiss rounds. It ended in heartbreak for Hayne, who was unable to secure victory in his win-and-in match. And longtime viewers of the not-so-recent Pro Tour Avacyn Restored will remember, Hayne's miraculous victory with his
Hayne has enjoyed a very successful career in the decade since, and in recent years has largely stepped back from his most intense competitive Magic endeavors. So, he didn't stress too much about not qualifying for the first Pro Tour earlier this year.
"My perspective on Magic has changed. I used to have pro Magic as my job, but now it's just a hobby for me and a chance to see friends and stretch old muscles, so I didn't expect much out of it," he explained. "I didn't expect to qualify based on match points since I hadn't played in the first Pro Tour, but I qualified for the second one and managed a 10-6 finish in Minneapolis to qualify for Barcelona. There, I had my kind of sad ninth-place finish, but that was more than enough to get more to Worlds."
Not bad for someone who's taken a step back from competitive play.
"I definitely wasn't expecting to basically end up back on the train and qualify for Worlds," Hayne admitted. "I'm not the player I once was in terms of format knowledge and sharpness, but it is nice to see I've still got chops enough to hang with the next generation of players. I'd love to win Worlds, but the era of my career where that was something I thought was a likely outcome is over, and now I'm not one of the favorites. My plan for Worlds is to copy a decklist and talk to my good buddy and Limited mastermind, Mike Sigrist, while his twins yell in the background."
Hayne may be playing it casually, but the race was anything but in the final rounds of the Pro Tour. Heading into the tournament in Barcelona, Hayne was one of the many players bunched up in the middle of the standings. He needed a deep run in Spain to convert into an invitation, and with the pressure on he delivered with a World Championship-qualifying run.
Something else that's not casual? The feeling Pro Tour competitors get if they're paired against Hayne – and that will be a common feeling in a stacked World Championship pool. You can see the full Adjusted Match Points list here along with notes on those who are qualified for Vegas, but let me go ahead and highlight the top 10 and their total points.
- Javier Dominguez: 114
- Simon Nielsen: 100
- Nathan Steuer: 92
- Shota Yasooka: 87
- Gabiel Nassif: 81
- Takumi Matsuura: 79
- Derrick Davis: 75
- Marco Del Pivo: 75
- Daniel Goetschel: 70
- Kazune Kosaka: 69
That's a massive lead for Dominguez, a testament to his dominance this year, which has come "quietly," if that's at all possible for such an accomplished player. There's a ton of trophies in that list, and the rest of the field is every bit as scary.
The top 10 is filled with Hall of Famers and Pro Tour winners, but it also features some relative newcomers who have made their mark on the 2023 season and are excited to tackle the opportunity in front of them.
"My goals this year were to improve, learn and hone my game. The World Championship is something that just came up," explained Daniel Goetschel, who broke through earlier this year with an 11-4-1 finish at Pro Tour March of the Machine, good enough for 11th place and later a World Championship qualification.
11-5 #PTLOTR w/ 4c Rhino 🕵️♀️🦏— Daniel Goetschel 🕊️ (@GuI_Dukat) July 31, 2023
7-3 constructed, 4-2 draft
Happy to finish year with a good result for amp leaderboard and etc
My record at pt this year
20-10 constructed (66.6%)
12-5-1 limited (70.5%)
Good year #TeamSewerRats #401games pic.twitter.com/2TSF35QKII
"My goal is to prepare well so I will be in the best shape I can be going in. If I go to the event and I have a ton of questions about the formats that I can't answer and I'm sleepy, I won't have put myself in a good position to do well, so for me good preparation is key to success. I'm also currently the number one ranked Elo played in Canada, so it would be nice to defend that!"
While this year's field will be much larger than last year's, we can still safely assume it's Nathan Steuer's tournament until it isn't. If you want to be the champ, you have to beat the champ. But there is every likelihood that this year's feature matches could look a lot like last year's World Championship features – Steuer is just one of a handful of players back for a second consecutive shot at the title.
That includes another player who, like Hayne, knows what it's like to narrowly miss out on a cut. Jim Davis finished a heart wrenching fifth place (on tiebreaks) at Magic World Championship XXVIII, but a strong 2023 season has the prolific content creator back with a chance to take the next step.
"After mostly retiring from competitive Magic to do content full time about six years ago, my focus has been to make the best content I can. I essentially am back on the Pro Tour by accident, winning a qualifier on stream and then chaining together invites ever since," he elaborated. "I managed my first Pro Tour Top 8 last year as well as the fifth at Worlds, and this year I've put together a solid-if-unexciting chain of finishes that leaves me qualified for the World Championship, as well as the next two Pro Tours."
That's been the common theme among World Championship players I've spoken to – they may feel like they just happened to qualify, but the truth is they earned their invitation with consistent play throughout the year. Consistency has always been maybe the hardest thing to come by in high-level Magic, and players like Davis are now rewarded with a chance to compete at the biggest tournament of the year.
Not that Davis is looking at it that way – he'll be playing in Vegas but he's already won as soon as he sits down for the first round.
"I have no goals or no expectations, I'm just enjoying the ride," he said. "It's awesome. Worlds last year was a very stressful but incredible event, as have all the Pro Tours this year. I do truly love playing on the Pro Tour and playing Magic at the highest level, and am incredibly fortunate that I am able to do so again. When I made the choice to move to content fulltime, I figured I had probably played my last Pro Tour or high-level event, so to be able to have the run I've had in the last year is something special."
Magic World Championship XXIX looms just over a month away, and Davis and the rest of the field – whether they got there by winning Regional Championships or Pro Tour Top 8s or they qualified thanks to a year of all-around excellence – have the tournament of a lifetime ahead of them.
First draft starts in 35 days and counting.