The Regional Championships roll on.
Welcome back to the maelstrom of Magic we're in right now, with Regional Championships crisscrossing the globe all month long. I wrote last week about how Magic is a global game and nothing brings that home more than covering the Regional Championship circuit. It's the path to the Pro Tour for many fulfilling a Magic dream, and the most direct way to the World Championship.
I'm getting ahead of myself. Before I take you around the world to drop in on the latest developments – and trust me it's pandemonium in Pioneer right now – let's set up the stakes.
For the last several months, Magic hopefuls across the world have been working hard for this moment. Every one of the hundreds of players who competed in a Regional Championship last weekend qualified to be there, and with a whopping four events last weekend it was the widest gathering of high-level Magic play since Jean-Emmanuel Depraz won Magic World Championship XXIX at MagicCon: Las Vegas in lifechanging fashion.
The dozen Regional Championships feed into the Pro Tour and the World Championship, which means each event is both a current snapshot in time and a preview of what's to come. Beyond that, I love that the Regional Championship circuit gives prominence to communities across the globe, with players on the other side of multiple oceans hanging on to Top 8 updates or tuning into Regional Championship streams. Spread out over a matter of weeks, it creates a cadence for players to follow, and the twists and turns of a format over a season weave a story that builds upon itself all the way to the Pro Tour finals.
That's what makes following the Regional Championship circuit a blast for me, and there was plenty to take in last weekend as four regions held championship: Brazil; Southeast Asia; Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean; and Chinese Tapei. Three different decks took down those tournaments, with Rakdos Midrange (Edgar Rangel in Mexico City and Bor Hong Chen in Tapei City) doubling up alongside wins for Boros Convoke (William Araujo in Sao Paulo) and
There's a lot to catch up on – and you can start by checking out Frank Karsten's column digging into the details – and in the run-up to Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor at MagicCon: Chicago in February we're going to cover it all.
Today's stop? The City Class Games Showdown in Sao Paulo, where 169 players faced off to determine who would be crowned Brazil's Regional champ for this cycle and earn an automatic seat at the World Championship.
Seven different decks comprised a stacked Top 8 that featured a number of players with Pro Tour experience. In a format once feared to be nothing but Mono-Green Devotion, with players knowing what to expect, the
Araujo wasn't interested in fighting to go over the top with Mono-Green or eke out card advantage in Rakdos Midrange mirrors. Instead, he honed in on an aggressive deck early in testing and sleeved up Boros Convoke when it best fit the bill.
Araujo's victory highlighted a Top 8 filled with both familiar faces and newer names in the Brazilian Magic community. The region that has produced a pair of World Champions (Carlos Romão in 2002 and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa in 2019) has its next slate of Pro Tour competitors ready to go after an intense two-day Regional Championship. Joining Araujo will be Douglas Rosa, Gabriel Fehr, and Claudio Miranda, a Top 4 that stacks up against any other Regional Championship this cycle.
It's a second shot at the Pro Tour for Miranda, who kickstarted his career by winning a Magic Online Champions Showcase a little over a year ago and has continued to level up his play since.
"It's been a year of new experiences for me, and the highlight was definitely the Pro Tour in Barcelona," he reflected. "It was my first time traveling abroad, and I finally got to meet a lot of friends I made online over the years. And it was pretty fun to play against the best players in the world – that's why I started playing so much Magic Online in the first place: to have access to that kind of opponent."
Miranda's first Pro Tour certainly lived up to the hype on that front: his matches included tilts against Hall of Famers Reid Duke, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Shota Yasooka.
"I predictably didn't do very well, but it was a great experience and I learned a lot," Miranda said.
It was a level-up moment for one of Brazil's next generation of great Magic players, and he brought that back home across the Atlantic. When the next Regional Championship season rolled around, he and collaborators Eduardo Vieira and Danilo Ramos Modesto (who also made the Top 8) were already at the top of their game and eager to put their practice into play. Their finishes last weekend? 4th, 8th, and 11th.
"And we could have all made it, if we didn't have two in our team have to face each other," Miranda explained. "I think having the Pro Tour experience helped me in a few different spots in this tournament. I don't usually get to play high-stakes Magic in paper, so going to the Pro Tour was honestly a little nerve-wracking; I worry a lot about sequencing things correctly. But with that experience, my mindset was a lot better at the Regional Championship, and I felt I was able to play more relaxed."
Another unexpected benefit came from the structure of the tournament itself.
"This was my second or third event now with open decklists, and I've learned to adapt to that pretty well," Miranda said. "It's one of the reasons I like to play the control deck, if you know how to use that information well, it will benefit you a lot in the match."
The Regional Championship Top 8 is far from the first sign that Modesto, the five-time Pro Tour competitor and two-time Grand Prix Top 8 member, has returned to form – it's just the latest. His 2023 includes winning a Super Qualifier event on Magic Online and reaching the finals of a Showcase event. He also cashed the Arena Open, and his Regional Championship Top 8 is coming off the heels of a Top 16 showing at the last one.
The Londrina native is a connoisseur of the cult of Rakdos. He's been piloting the deck in Pioneer for a year and a half and knew exactly where his deck stacked up with the rest of an open field, even in the face of the previously ubiquitous Mono-Green Devotion falling out of favor. He also cited open decklists as benefitting his reactive deck; the extra information helped his deck avoid poorly matched up cards, like
"There's no better option for me than this deck," he explained simply. "I don't think it's living its best days in the format anymore, but it can have a plan against every deck. So my preparation was fully based on sideboard plans, as I already had great experience with the deck. And I want to thank Eduardo, known online as L1X0, for all his help prepping."
With Mono-Green falling off and Boros Convoke sometimes drilling through Rakdos, it's safe to say the current Pioneer metagame at the Regional Championships has not exactly been what people thought it might be.
There were eight different archetypes among the top nine finishers at the City Class Games Showdown. While Rakdos held the edge on titles this weekend, it's not the only option around for those furiously prepping for the next round of Regional Championships, coming Nov. 25-26 with East Canada, South America, and Japan and South Korea. From there, the series wraps up with the Regional Championship for the United States, coming at Dreamhack on Dec. 15-17.