It's 35 days until the Pro Tour.
The countdown has begun, for me and the hundreds of competitors who will travel to Philadelphia Feb. 17-19 for the return of the Pro Tour alongside MagicCon: Philadelphia. And as The Gathering (tm) returns, I've been thinking about all that's about to return along with it.
It's been a long time—I've adopted a cat and added a kid since the last time we had a Pro Tour—so I think a big question on the minds of many of us in the coverage world at least is this: Is what comes next going to look like what came before?
All Eyes on Philadelphia
The last few years have been a drastic departure from (almost) everything that came before, both for Magic and the rest of our lives. And while high-level Magic found a way, there were certainly some things lost in translation. One of the most obvious might be the Pro Tour testing house, which historically was a one or two-week period before a Pro Tour (which came on the heels of a new set release—just like with Phyrexia: All Will Be One—where teams would rent out a space and grind drafts and Constructed to prepare. The "Pro Tour house" has consistently been among the most memorable experiences for burgeoning Pro Tour players, and this is one staple I expect to see in full over the next few weeks. And who knows—maybe some team out there will figure out how to take things to the next level.
With the Pro Tour coming back, If I can’t qualify my offer of being a chef for a testing house is very much real and on the table 👀— Anderson LeClair (@andersoneclair) April 6, 2022
Thirty-five days until the Pro Tour. That means less than a month before players from across the world begin gathering and the Pro Tour "experience" begins for many. All of which is a long way to say this: the Pro Tour isn't just coming, for hundreds of players living out their Pro Tour dream, it's damn near here. And for those of you who are going to be at the event, there will be qualifying events to get you started on your own path to the Pro Tour.
It's the second week of January, and the page is officially turning to the 2023 season. Over the past three months we've covered a dozen Regional Championships and the twists and turns of Pioneer along the way. We've covered the best of the best from online events (Kiran Dhokia and Sam Rolph come to mind), we've covered old-school Pro Tour players returning to the fold, and we've covered the incredible rise of the newest World Champion with Nathan Steuer.
All of these are more than just individual stories of individual tournaments. We're not just telling the stories of tournaments that have come before, we're telling stories of the tournaments to come—because these players whose stories and decks Frank and I feature are the foundation of the Pro Tour's return in 2023. For the hundreds of first-time Pro Tour players who will make their debut in a few short weeks, their first chapter has been written and they've been generous enough to let us in on the ride. And we'll be right there with them for the next.
Regional Championships Wrap Up in China
I'm feeling a bit retrospective because today I'm covering the final Regional Championship result that will feed into the first events of 2023. Due to delays from COVID, the MTG China Open was pushed back several weeks, but they wrapped up recently and crowned champions from the 83 players in the four events that made up the tournament.
With the delay, competitors had the opportunity to take in all the results from previous events. As anyone who is a regular reader of the Metagame Mentor column (and if you're not, you should be) known, Pioneer has proven reliably unreliable at the top over the course of the Regional Championship season. While the decks are largely known commodities, we've seen surprise Top 8 appearances and an even more diverse spread of winning decks. All that information is now at the fingertips of those gathering in Philadelphia, so a Pro Tour complete with The Brothers' War and Phyrexia: All Will Be One cards now build from that foundation.
The Regional Championship in China was the last chance to get a high-level look at the format, and it delivered on that. As coverage vet Meghan Wolff wrote in the roundup of the event, It was a weekend of upheaval for Pioneer. Favorite Rakdos Midrange only qualified a single player—Man Lok Wong who placed second in Hong Kong—while surprises like Lotus Field Combo, Izzet Control, and Mono-Red Fires also qualified players for the Pro Tour.
Tournament organizer Kadou put together some highlights from the Magic China Open Season 1 Finals!— PlayMTG (@PlayMTG) January 6, 2023
Check out upcoming events and RCQs in your region over at https://t.co/8Ma0ga8pos pic.twitter.com/6ZbAToM5C9
The MTG China Open also featured the return of a Pioneer classic and a full circle of sorts, with Mono-Green Devotion winning tournaments in Hong Kong and Shanghai in the hands of Pok Man Chan and 敏逸蔡.
If that was the biggest surprise from the weekend, it would still be a wrench for deckbuilders to consider for Philadelphia—clearly there's a price to be paid for pushing your deck too far into the midrange matchups and losing the ability to keep up with Green. But the other two events in China pushed things even further, with an old favorite showing it's still potent and a new contender that has popped up over the past few weeks and will have a lot of momentum heading into the Pro Tour. Jiao Hongchen won the event in Beijing, while 健涛 莫 was victorious in Shenzhen.
The decks worth watching are Lotus Field combo and Gruul Vehicles. It's a sign of the diversity in the format that two extremely different decks were able to find success in what had looked like a well-defined field. It proves that there's still a lot of life left in exploring the format before Philadelphia.
I'll leave it up to Frank to cover what the format looks like as we near the Pro Tour, but as an observer who hasn't dug deep into the format yet (I'm still a Modern main), the constant churning of decks winning events over the Regional Championship season has been fun to watch and it certainly sets the stage for a very interesting scene in Philly.
And with that, we've officially tied a bow on the first Regional Championship season. It's been a bit of whirlwind to cover if I'm being honest, and in the best way possible! A dozen high-level Magic tournaments over the course of three months, and now a short lull before the Pro Tour fires it all back up again? Sign me up for this cadence for the rest of the year—that's a lot of Magic to peruse for anyone looking to get an edge at FNM or begin their own journey to the Pro Tour.
While the Pro Tour looms next month, there's plenty of other high-level Magic going on right now, some of it with Regional Championship invites on the line!
- The Modern Grand Open Qualifier at LMS Trieste, with live coverage on Twitch, 32 Regional Championship invites at stake, and prizes exceeding $30K in value.
- The Modern $20K at SCG Con New Jersey, with live coverage on Twitch on Sunday and 4 Regional Championship invites at stake.
- The Pioneer/Modern NRG Series Championship, an invite-only tournament for the top 16 players from the 2022 NRG Series, with live coverage on Twitch starting at 10:00 AM CT.
It's 35 days until the Pro Tour, but PT coverage starts now here at The Week That Was. Over the coming weeks, we'll be digging into everything that comes with the return of the Pro Tour, from the teams to the chefs to the sideboards. See you in Philly!