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Feature: Brad Nelson, One Year On

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The letter O!n each step up the Magic mountain, players look up to the next level and privately wonder whether they've got what it takes to get there. It might begin with something as "simple" as your first match win at Friday Night Magic, or EDH, or Archenemy. The journey continues with your first Prerelease, your first winning draft, the first time you attend a PTQ. Then the road ahead starts to come into focus. You attend PTQs regularly, you claim your first Top 8 but get knocked out in the quarters, the semis, you reach your first final but can't quite get there. Finally, you make it across the line, and a berth at the Pro Tour is yours.

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As Gandalf might like to say, one journey is over, but another begins. Entering the Pro Tour arena for round one is a special feeling that you're among the best of the best, and that you deserve your place at the top table of global Magic. Then it's time for your next quest for the summit. A positive record means day two. Rack up the Pro Points with each win. Count down the rounds. Are you still at four losses or less? Maybe, just maybe, the Sunday spotlight is within reach. And then, a chance at Pro Tour history.

But the path doesn't always run smoothly, and that's where the real champions show their mettle. The very best players the game has ever seen win around two-thirds of their matches. That means they spend a lot of time losing at Magic. A lot. How you deal with those losses, and what you take from them, how you grow as a player, and as a person, is every bit as important as taking that Naturalize for your sideboard pick eight in a draft.

And so we come to Brad Nelson. One year ago, he arrived on the Pro Tour for the first time, ready to do battle in Block Constructed and Shards of Alara draft in Honolulu. Rarely has a Pro Tour debut been so keenly anticipated, because Brad was no unknown first-timer, but a renowned Magic Online powerhouse. Most of us make our first Pro Tour starts well aware from the harsh glare of the spotlight. Not Brad. He began his Pro Tour career in the Feature Match arena against Luis Scott-Vargas, and lost. Welcome to the Pro Tour, Mr. Nelson.

He finished 9th at that event, and in the year since his debut has made Top 8 at Nationals, Top 8 at Grand Prix–Minneapolis 2009, qualified for the end-of-the-year Magic Online Championship, won Grand Prix–Washington D.C. 2010, and will represent Magic Online players around the world at the 2010 Magic Online Community Cup next month. Oh, and after losing round one here in San Juan, he was flawless, and stands at 7-1, poised just behind the two overnight leaders.

So what is it that makes a great Magic player? How does Brad go about his business? What did he buy himself with his Pro Tour winnings? Why doesn't winning or losing matter to him? There are some interesting, challenging, surprising, and profoundly important answers for your game just a click away, in one of the most powerful interviews I've had the privilege to conduct here at the home of Magic.

Brad Nelson, one year on: A champion, in many ways.

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