Everyone remembers their first.
Pro Tour, that is. It's hard not to. The stakes are bigger, the lights are brighter, and the average skill level is often above anything you've faced before.
If you're lucky, you'll have the support of a friend or playtest partner. If you're even more fortunate, you'll qualify with someone you know. And if you're really lucky, your fortune will rub off on your countrymen.
That's what makes this Pro Tour that much more memorable for Othan Vatsis, Ioannis Dimitrakis, John Kalogerinis, and Andreas Photiou. Vatsis, Dimitrakis and Kalogerinis are all from Greece and all on their first Pro Tour, as is Phoutiou, who is from nearby Cyprus.
Even more impressive, all but Kalogerinis made it to Day 2.
Othan Vatsis, Ioannis Dimitrakis, and John Kalogerinis from Greece along with Andreas Photiou from Cyprus got the chance to compete in their very first Pro Tour this weekend.
"I thought I'd be nervous, but it was very different playing against the pros," said Dimitrakis. "I wanted to play against them and see how I'd do. And I was very pleased with how I played."
Dimitrakis, stocky, dark haired and bubbling with enthusiasm for the game, qualified for Pro Tour Gatecrash by winning a Bulgarian Pro Tour Qualifier, while defeating his good friend and playtest partner Vatsis in the Finals.
The pair, who could easily pass for brothers, are longtime friends from Thessaloniki, Greece, who are playing the exact same 75 card Jund Midrange decks this weekend, and to an identical 9-6 record through Round 15 no less.
Both Dimitrakis and Vatsis said the experience has been one to remember.
"It was an excellent experience," Vatsis said. "Playing against the pros, I learned so much from the many mistakes I made."
What they didn't share, however, was Vatsis' sense of humility.
"I was very pleased I made Day Two," Dimitrakis said. "I was pleased with my play. I made no mistakes."
Kalogerinis, dark-haired and friendlier than anyone not named Reid Duke, wouldn't make the same claim. He just missed joining his countrymen on Day Two when he lost in Round 8 to just miss the cut at 3-5. Still, he said the experience has been eye opening.
"It's been great to play against the pro players. I've gotten better just playing here," Kalogerinis said. "It's miles harder than a Grand Prix."
Though Kalogerinis was only just somewhat familiar with his two countrymen prior to the Pro Tour, they were connected by former Greek National Champion Fondas Papadatos and ended up traveling and rooming together, testing for several days before the Pro Tour. Only once they arrived did they meet Photiou from nearby Cyprus.
Though the quartet are not from Magic-rich areas, their enthusiasm for the game is infectious. And their desire for more experience – and more tournaments to "help grow the community more" – is readily evident.
"Yes, I'm going to keep trying to qualify," Vatsis said. "Now I feel prepared to try and qualify for Pro Tour Dragon's Maze."