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The Week That Was: With a Cherryxman on Top

August 12, 2022
Corbin Hosler

Editor's Note: We're excited to announce two new weekly article series, each launching this week and focusing on the path to the Pro Tour. Every Thursday, Frank Karsten will bring you the latest from across the Constructed landscape with "Metagame Mentor" to get you ready for your next big tournament. Friday features the return of "The Week That Was" in the hands of Corbin Hosler, chronicling player stories and event recaps from around the world.

"The Week That Was" was Magic.

That's not a pun. When I first discovered Magic, I devoured every piece of content I could find, from everywhere across the Magic: The Gathering internet. What I remember most from that time is the content that ran on the Magic: The Gathering news homepage—DailyMTG, or just "the mothership" as many called it, was the home of the most enduring Magic content (and still is with Mark Rosewater's Making Magic column).

For me it was "The Week That Was" column that introduced me to the wonder of the Pro Tour dream. Every week, I would check the mothership in the morning for the latest Brian David Marshall (BDM) column, highlighting the most recent winning decklists from across the world and introducing me to the players who won with them. BDM's column showed just how possible that dream was for players like me.

It was the great equalizer. In his own indelible style, the Pro Tour Historian documented the path rising players took to the Pro Tour—week in and week out. The column transitioned seamlessly through a roundtable of the game's top professionals in an exotic locale one week and took you inside the local game store complete with cluttered bookshelves and cramped Pro Tour Qualifiers (PTQs) the next. After all, the journey of every pro player BDM interviewed at the PT began in those same beloved local stores, and as the schedule wound in and out of the moments big to the Magic world, and the little moments that made Magic so big, so too did The Week That Was.

I was a relative latecomer to the game; I started playing Magic around the same time my column partner Frank Karsten was inducted into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. That was fifteen years of Magic I knew nothing about, a loose oral history doomed to fade if not for the actions of a handful of very prescient individuals. But through more than 600 columns over a decade, there it was: the history of the game, documented—celebrated—in a way that demanded I pay attention, to learn more about why I should care about something so clearly loved by everyone involved.

It was a revelation to a college athlete and journalism student with dreams of working at ESPN. Here was a card game being discussed with the same earnestness as the Super Bowl, and it reinforced the most important lesson I've learned in fifteen years of covering everything from city government and natural disasters to national championships and set championships: every story is about people first.

To me, that's why The Week That Was mattered so much to Magic. Looking back over those past fifteen years since I stumbled across BDM's column has afforded me incredible opportunities to bring the stories of people who play Magic to you. And so, when I received an opportunity to revive The Week That Was—along with Frank's Metagame Mentor with the latest metagame info—I knew exactly where to start.

BDM's biggest piece of advice? Don't just tell stories of players when they get to the top—the Pro Tour starts at kitchen tables across the world.

So, let's do just that. Meet Kiran Dhokia!

A MOCS Cherry on Top

Dhokia is a newcomer to the professional scene, having picked up Magic in 2016 when a friend introduced him to a Modern Elves deck. He began to explore the Magic scene in his hometown in the United Kingdom, and within a few years, he began the plunge into online Magic.

And as of last weekend, he's now a Magic Online Championship Showcase (MOCS) Qualifier winner.

Best known as Cherryxman on Twitch, Dhokia has been streaming almost exclusively Magic Online formats, with Modern and more recently Pioneer taking up his focus. He's accomplished quite a bit in a five-year competitive career despite the many complications in that time. That includes a handful of PTQ Top 8 appearances and one at Eternal Weekend, but his breakthrough didn't come until he dove headfirst into the emerging Pioneer metagame to push the limits of the format's best decks.

"Despite my many years finishing highly in tournaments, I had only ever come in first once before in a Vintage Challenge, so this is by far my greatest achievement in Magic," he explained. "I've lost in the finals of an online PTQ before, and getting that close and losing obviously doesn't feel great."

But a renewed focus on the resurgent Pioneer format in partnership with his testing partner and podcast host @HarryMTG put Dhokia onto Mono-Green Devotion for the key MOCS Qualifier—one way to make it to the $70,000 MOCS Season 2 later this year—and after weeks of testing, they believed they had the deck best positioned to "dominate" the field.

"I have enjoyed Pioneer since it was first added to Magic Online, and I enjoyed playing mono-green as well as Phoenix and the various Field of the Dead decks of the time," Dhokia explained. "Since April, I have been playing almost exclusively Mono-Green Devotion, and it has few bad matchups with decks that see very little play. Throughout this time, Harry, my testing partner for the tournament, and I both qualified for this tournament by Top 8ing the 400-player Showcase Challenges, along with great results in leagues, so we were confident with our deck choice going into the tournament."

Llanowar Elves 503801 534989 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

The mono-green deck (you can find more details on the deck in Frank's Metagame Mentor this week) has been a Pioneer staple since the format's inception, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Llanowar Elves have paired up to make some truly massive amounts of mana in Pioneer. For Dhokia, hours spent testing with the deck had sold him on some perhaps unconventional conclusions: main deck Shifting Ceratops and Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God among them.

Shifting Ceratops 461134

The tournament's twists and turns demonstrated what we've known about eternal formats for a while—that it's often better to be a master of your deck than a sampler of many. But Dhokia showed exactly why so many Modern and Pioneer players subscribe to that philosophy.

"In game three of the finals against White-Blue Yorion Control, I was able to make a nice play here," he recalled. "My opponent cast Portable Hole on my Pithing Needle, so I activated the +1 on Karn, the Great Creator to turn the Portable Hole into a creature. I was then able to remove it by activating Polukranos, World Eater.

"Oh, this was all with a God-Pharaoh's Statue in play, and after that, I was able to close out the game with a Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God to remove Teferi."

This dominant Pioneer showing may be just the start of things to come. At least one player considers Dhokia "the best Mono-Green player in the world" and when given the chance to gush about his testing partner, Harry didn't hold back. And who can blame him? After an incredible MOCS qualifier win, he's allowed to go all out for his friend.

"Working with Cherry felt like helping Da Vinci with the Mona Lisa," Harry said. "I was holding the bucket of paint while he used the brushes. For example, using Karn, the Great Creator [to] +1 on Portable Hole to play around Supreme Verdict from White-Blue Control is a somewhat common line. However, Cherry worked out Polukranos can kill it, turning a weaker card in the matchup into a powerful option. I am not surprised he won the event, but I am excited to see where his future goes!"

Whew. That's . . . a lot. This is all with a mono-green deck, by the way. Despite losing cards to bannings over the past few years, mono-green continues to be a dominant staple of the Pioneer format, and Cherryxman is among the deck's best. And now he'll have the chance to show off his rising star at the Pro Tour and the MOCS later this year.

It's the latter that means the most to him.

"I have always preferred online play, so qualifying for the Pro Tour has never been my main goal, but to get to play in the Magic Online Champions Showcase main event is something I've always wanted to do—to be qualified for the biggest online tournament in Magic is a huge honor, and I am excited to try my best to win it all!"

Looking Ahead

With high-level Pioneer and Modern events happening all summer, Dhokia's win is the first of many to come. Next week, the focus will shift to Modern as we highlight the MOCS qualifier in the format. As we begin the countdown to Magic 30 in October, the next few months will be filled with regional championships across the world that will begin to qualify players for the first Pro Tour in 2023.

Major events coming up include regional championship qualifiers in Canada, the United States, and Asia. The schedule will fill out quickly as we look toward rotation and the arrival of Dominaria United. There's also SCGCON in Baltimore next weekend, which will highlight Team Constructed events across Pioneer, Modern, and Legacy. In short, there's plenty of Magic to come on our road to the World Championship later this year, and I'll be here to help bring it to you.

When it comes to this column, no tournament is too small. I want to honor the original ethos of The Week That Was, and as competitive tabletop Magic returns to exotic cavernous locales and familiar local haunts alike, we'll be there.

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