(Cue announcer voice.)
Welcome to the 2024 competitive Magic season!
If you don't know exactly what that means, here's a great place to start. But to sum it up: the Regional Championship season forges Pro Tour Top 8 storylines. While players sometimes experience breakout moments at the Pro Tour, those stories actually begin months or years before then.
Take World Championship XXIX Top 8 competitor Anthony Lee. In a field filled with Hall of Famers and legends of the game, Lee was undoubtedly one of the biggest underdogs in the field before play began after working his way through the entire qualifying path there. But with his win at the ANZ Super Series Finals—the Regional Championship for his area—Lee proved that he was more than capable of winning at the highest levels, and the RC gave him the chance to qualify for worlds and prove that to everyone.
Lee's storybook run that took him from Regional Championship to Pro Tour to World Championship is the blueprint thousands of players across the globe are hoping to follow as we really dive into 2024's events with a double Regional Championship weekend to feature.
Last year's final Regional Championship season was a marathon I don't know that we'll match again anytime soon—there were a dozen RCs in as many weeks spanning all corners of the world, and almost as many winning Pioneer decks in the winner's circle. The first cycle of 2024, on the other hand, is spaced out across four Modern weekends between now and the conclusion on March 10.
For the thousands of qualified players across the Magic world hoping to qualify for the Pro Tour and beyond, that's actually a pretty important distinction—this is the first-ever set of Regional Championships to feature the Modern format, and one that is coming off a shakeup with the removal of
The Gathering in Ghent
Speaking of the Regional Championship in Europe, it may not have featured a squad of Rakdos players, but it did feature the resounding success of a group of a different kind: five players from Spain made the Top 8—and they did so on four different decks. In other words, this wasn't a case of one team breaking things open: it was a strong showing from different testing groups.
The five players hailing from across the region featured a mix of Pro Tour veterans and Regional Championship newcomers. The most recent convert to competitive Magic is undoubtedly Borja Yañez Carvajal, a 25-year-old from Madrid who piloted Golgari Yawgmoth last weekend for a reason that I can feel in creaky knees.
Borja Yañez Carvajal 🇪🇸 is the first of three Yawgmoth players in the Top 8 of the European Championship.— PlayMTG (@PlayMTG) January 28, 2024
"It was the deck I used to play since I started playing!" pic.twitter.com/bm0CE1yAwF
Carvajal chose a good one to pick up. As Frank detailed in this week's Metagame Mentor,
While Carvajal was the newcomer of the group, Nils Gutierrez von Porat and Toni Martos were making themselves quite comfortable in the Top 8—both were making their return after Top 8 showings in Athens last year, a lifechanging event for Martos and one that may have been just the beginning.
I have played the game for 20 years. Today I did my first top8 on an important event. I did it with the swamps signed by mom and dad.— Martos (@tonimart0s) June 11, 2023
Surrounded by team and friends. I lost a big match? Waevaaa.
I'm the happiest guy ever.
Protour in hometown BCN let's gooo🥳🕺🏻🥳🏻🤩#LECAthens pic.twitter.com/LAm9rz6TLU
The remaining two Spanish players in the Top 8 are old-school PT veterans. Daniel Toledo made the Top 4 of Grand Prix Liverpool in 2018 (also in Modern), while Rodrigo Togores is one of the community's most accomplished players with wins at Grand Prix Prague in 2016 (Legacy) and Grand Prix Madrid in 2017 (Team Trios Modern).
Togores' life has intersected with Magic as far back as he can remember, back to when he saw his first cards in 1995 at five or six years old. Today, the Madrid native and eternal format streamer has taken a step back from traveling for Magic but still plays the 4Seasons tournament series in Italy along with Regional Championship Qualifiers. This season, a lot of Regional Championship Qualifiers.
"I focused on the Modern season because I'm more interested in it than Pioneer or Standard, and I played a lot to qualify. I played 12 RCQs, making the Top 8 in eight of them and losing in the finals of two," he recalled. "I ended up qualifying for Ghent by finishing 23rd with Tron at the Grand Open Qualifier in Barcelona. My expectations going in were to aim for Day 2, which is easier to do at the RC with a 6-3 record needed. I was not seeking the Pro Tour slot and did not think that I would make the Top 8."
Famous last words, right? Togores navigated the rounds of the Regional Championship with
"Most of my preparation came on stream, and I chose to play
With the finish, the 34-year-old is headed back to the Pro Tour, and it's the perfect opportunity for a Magic lifer who keeps finding his way back to the Pro Tour time and again to ride the wave once more.
"This is another really cool Top 8," he said. "As far as Magic, it doesn't change too much for me, I will keep playing and streaming Magic fulltime while playing decks I enjoy!"
We'll have more from these players in the coming weeks as we move through the RC season over the next six weeks—with a break for MagicCon: Chicago and Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor coming up in just three!
As for the Regional Championships, the next opportunity to catch Modern in action comes next week with events in the United States, Canada, and Japan and South Korea. Then comes the Pro Tour break—and the attention diverted briefly to Pioneer—before we wrap up the Regional Championships with events the first two weekends of March.