In our coverage, you mostly get to read about the well-known players, the Luis Scott-Vargas and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa level players of the world, the previous Pro Tour and Grand Prix champions, the Hall of Famers, the pros. However, there are more than a hundred people in attendance this weekend for whom this is their very first outing on the Pro Tour. Here are a couple of their stories.
Meet Raymond Perez Jr. is one such example, who played (and won) his Round 11 at table 1 to move to an overall record of 10-1. This astonishing feat begs the question, how did he do that?
His answer? "I don't know."
"Back home, I tested a bit with a friend, but I didn't have a team. Then when I got here I play-tested with Adam Jansen who showed me a lot," he said. Perez attributed much of his success to Magic Online. "I play a lot anyway, and as soon as the queues went up I drafted just about as much as I could," he explained. "I flew out Tuesday though, so I couldn't draft since then. Going 6-0 in draft? I didn't expect that."
Perez qualified by winning a Pro Tour Qualifier. "Finally! I tried getting on the Pro Tour for two years," he said. During that time he ended up in the Top 8 a number of times but always fell short of the Pr Tour invite, until this year. Talking about his amazing run, he said, "I wanted to show that I actually deserve to be here. I told myself, now that I got here, I want to stay here. I also started my first Pro Tour with a bye. Pretty lucky, right? But then I immediately had to play against Thomas Holzinger and Matthias Hunt. Basically, I've been playing against pros all weekend. Usually, I don't get intimidated because I've played in lots of Grand Prix Day Twos and other events, but this is different. Everyone is good around here."
Fabian Görzgen, another newcomer, said "Playing on the Pro Tour is totally awesome!". When I spoke to him, the twenty-four year-old from Germany had just lost his first match of the day, putting him at 5-4 overall, but he was still having a great time. "This is so much fun. It's completely different from a Grand Prix, different even from a Grand Prix Day Two."
Görzgen has some experience in that regard; he qualified for the event by making Top 8 at Grand Prix Strasbourg earlier this year and put in a lot of effort preparing for his first time on the Pro Tour. "I never play-tested this much for a tournament before, and it really paid off too," he said. "We built a red-green ramp deck and everyone on our team who played it made Day Two. Overall the deck was 11-4 yesterday." His team included Martin Zimmermann and Denis Sinner who have both had previous success at the Grand Prix and Pro Tour level as well as fellow first-timer Carsten Linden.
No stranger to fierce competition, Görzgen was still impressed with one match in particular. Görzgen said, "Yesterday I played against William Jensen and that Mono-Blue Devotion deck. He utterly destroyed me, like, really crushed me. But I guess losing against a Hall of Famer with a brilliant new deck is kind of forgiveable."
Austrian Christoph Aukenthaler also qualified via the Grand Prix route, in his case by outright winning Grand Prix Rimini in July. Even though he managed to evade the bigger names in the field this weekend, he also noted the difference between the Pro Tour and a Grand Prix. "Simply put, the players are better. I've seen some horrendous plays at the Grand Prix, whereas here people just make far fewer mistakes. Also, just talking to people, you get a real sense what depth of understanding they possess."
Among the world's Magic elite, Aukenthaler managed about an even record so far, nothing to be ashamed of at one's first Pro Tour. Still he wasn't entirely satisfied with his performance. "Standard didn't go as well as I had hoped. Somehow I lost my good match-ups and won the bad ones. Playing an aggro deck and drawing more lands than spells really didn't help either." Aside from simple bad luck, he attributed some of it to possible mistakes during testing. "I tested with friends back home. We drafted and discussed picks and also played a lot of Standard," he explained, "or actually, maybe not enough Standard after all. We mostly just build and play-tested the decks from the past few tournaments."
If he were to give advice to someone preparing for his or her first Pro Tour, it would be the following: "Exchanging ideas with other qualified players is really important. Maybe not as much when preparing for Modern, but especially after a Standard rotation. When you have to build decks for a brand-new format, networking is key."
When I talked to Pro Tour newcomer and PTQ winner Carlos Duarte, he had just finished his match against two-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor Matej Zatlkaj. Even though he lost this particular round, his score was 8-3, still in contention for a Top 8 berth. "It's been cool so far," the 31-year-old from Portugal said about his experience. "But I've been winning," he added with a smile. Duarte kept cool around the massive Magic prowess that gathered here in Dublin. "It's more or less the same as at a Grand Prix. Better players, I guess," he said with a shrug. Then again, not many people manage to go 8-3 against such a field.
Preparation helps apparently. "I went to Lisbon to test with other qualified players. We came here on Wednesday and have been practicing all up until Friday." His advice to others: "Find some good players from your country, or online, and arrange to meet them and play-test."
While the stories may differ – some players prepared with a team of fellow Pro Tour competitors or with friends or even did most of their testing online on their own – everyone could agree that playing on the Tour is great fun. So make your trip to a Pro Tour Qualifier or Grand Prix and maybe you too can join us at the Pro Tour next time!