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The Week That Was: The MOCS Legacy

September 01, 2023
Corbin Hosler

We talked last week about the many paths to the World Championship. It's a high-level look at everything from a full year of Magic across the globe, and when play kicks off at Magic World Championship XXIX later this month at MagicCon: Las Vegas, and a great encapsulation of what makes this year's field so special.

In short, there were a dozen different ways to qualify. When you stop to consider the totality of the pathways players are coming in – Regional Championships, Pro Tours, Magic Online, Magic Arena, yearlong performance and more – it helps it sink in what it means to operate a truly global game. It all comes together at the World Championship, when a dozen unique Magic dreams fulfilled brought all off the 100-plus competitors to the same place, with the same opportunity.

To become the World Champion.

They'll have to go through reigning champ Nathan Steuer, of course, but the depth of the field can be found in their expertise across the many ways Magic is played in 2023.

And there really are many ways to play Magic. We're all familiar with a half-dozen Constructed formats off the top of our heads at least, and untold ways to play Limited when you don't have a draft pod (aka opening boosters with friends). At the highest levels of play, we're used to traditional drafts and a rotation of typically Standard, Pioneer and Modern tournaments that all provide a path to the World Championship.

But how about Vintage Cube?

That was the format, along with Legacy, players competed in at the Magic Online Champions Showcase Season 2 last weekend. The pinnacle of Magic Online play, the MOCS delivered a lineup of accomplished participants including Arena Championship winner Sam Rolph and two-time Top Finisher Sebastián Pozzo along with six more of Magic's best with slots at Magic World Championship XXX on the line, not to mention a $70,000 prize pool.

Drafting a cube for cash prizes? Talk about mixing business with leisure.

Lukáš Jaklovský, 2023 MOCS Season 2 Winner

Not that Lukáš Jaklovský seemed to mind. The longtime player put a prolific tabletop career (four Pro Tour Top 16s, three Grand Prix Top 8s and a Top 8 at the 2010 World Championship) behind him, but that didn't mean he wasn't still enjoying Magic – he just didn't realize that his new "for fun" format could actually qualify him for the MOCS and even the World Championship beyond that.

"Basically, I just enjoyed playing Pauper challenges. I enjoy the metagame, and I've been a fan of the format since 2011," he explained. "I like that the format moves slowly, since there were a few years where I didn't play Magic at all."

But all those Pauper performances were building toward something, and it culminated in a MOCS qualification for the Prague native. But it turns out that was just the beginning. He started the tournament with a strong Mono-Green Ramp featuring Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, but fell to Pozzo in the Cube finals that led the event.

That victory earned Pozzo his World Championship qualification on the spot – discarding Dragonlord Atarka to hand size and then casting Reanimate is a tried-and-true Cube strategy – and it left Jaklovský with a nice 2-1 finish but not the invitation.

"I thought I had a decent chance to 3-0 the Cube, but I've never really played Legacy before," he said. "It was quite the rollercoaster throughout the day. Going 4-0 in Legacy was almost unbelievable."

That's exactly what happened: he reeled off three straight Legacy victories to earn a rematch against Pozzo in the finals, and once he got there his Rakdos Reanimator deck returned the favor to Pozzo. As both players already knew and anyone who watching along learned, it feels a lot better to be the player casting Reanimate than the one having Reanimate cast against you.

Jaklovský may fancy himself a purely Pauper player these days, but the 6-1 overall record he posted was the best in the field and looked like a return to form for the 32-year-old Pro tour veteran.

"The whole experience was really smooth, and I really enjoyed playing in a field with so many great players, and me," he said with a smile. "This finish makes me think about starting to play professionally again, and in general it just felt really nice. I'd like to play as many Pro Tours as I can moving forward, and unlike my prehistoric Magic career, I think I'm willing to actually put in the work to prepare the right way for these events now."

As for Jaklovský's opponent in the finals, and the Cube Champion of the MOCS? It's safe to say he's not resting on his considerable laurels – Four Grand Prix Top 8s including a win, a runner-up finish in the 2018 Team Series, plus another Top Finish in 2019. Pozzo has been busy in the years since, and in this year alone he's already racked up a long list of impressive Magic Online feats.

Sebastián Pozzo

"I used a total of 960 Qualifying Points to play in 11 Showcase Challenges, seven qualifiers and six last chances, and played five super qualifiers with play points," he explained matter-of-factly (it's anything but to me).

"I Top 8'ed two Showcases and one qualifier, and then made Top 8 of two of the Showcase finals, with a lot of losing in there, too," he added. "The MOCS was my top priority since the season started, as I think it's the most reliable and direct avenue to get back onto the pro circuit for someone in Latin American. I haven't played much paper post-pandemic, and wasn't able to convert my Regional Championships into Top 4s. But I'm qualified for the upcoming Pro Tour in Chicago and then Magic World Championship XXX."

I told you he's been busy.

It's been a whirlwind of a year for Pozzo, who is making his way back to Magic after a few years away exploring other games (in which he was also dominant, by the way). The time away after the conclusion of the Rivals League he participated in helped him rediscover his energy for the game, and when the Pro Tour returned earlier this year the final piece fell into place.

"When they announced the Pro Tour was reestablished, I aspired to come back and now a year later, I've achieved it, and it means a lot," he said. "This finish means I'm still capable of competing at the highest level. There's always some inner doubts about that, especially when you take a break from Magic as I did in 2022. But it means a lot that my dedication and persistence paid off."

Two players, two very different paths to the MOCS. Now both are headed to the World Championship, straight from their living room to the biggest stage in the game. That's the Magic dream that hooked so many of us, and these longtime players are proving it's possible no matter where you are in your competitive career.

Looking Ahead

Jaklovský and Pozzo will take their shot in 2024, but for now all eyes are on the Magic World Championship XXIX field that's starting to perk up as we hit September and the World Championship's first Wilds of Eldraine draft looms just three weeks away.

Nathan Steuer and the rest of Team Handshake have once again turned in a dominant season, but with 100-plus players qualified for the expanded field at this year's event there's a lot of Magic to be played to determine if the superteam can deliver yet again.

It won't be easy. The field full of Pro Tour Top 8 competitors, Regional Champions and a not-insignificant number of Magic Pro Tour Hall of Famers is among the strongest assembled all year. It will test players in a Standard format that is guaranteed to look very different than when we last saw it at Pro Tour March of the Machine back in May.

All roads lead to the World Championship. More than one of them just happens to include Reanimate.

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