eid Duke is having a pretty sweet season of Magic that started with him competing in the Magic Players Championship . While he finished last in that event, he got to rack up some exclusive chase-rare Pro Points in the process. From there he went to Pro Tour Return to Ravnica and finished in the Top 64 before rattling off two Grand Prix Top 8s after a Top 16 at GP Chicago. He has racked up a healthy amount of points early in the year and looks to be a fixture on the Pro Tour for the foreseeable future.
How did he get to that point? Well, a big part of his success was predicated on becoming the Magic Online Championship Series winner at Worlds in San Francisco in 2011. He played against Florian Pils in the Modern finals and introduced the Magic world to Jund with Liliana of the Veil. Perhaps you have heard of that deck? Duke has successfully navigated his way from the world of Magic Online to competing at the highest levels of paper Magic. Will there be another player to follow in his footsteps or will Duke be able to defend the title against fifteen upstarts and become the first two-time MOCS Champion?
Almost all the spots for the MOCS finals to be held in 2013 are settled, although there is still time to sneak in with two Last Chance Qualifiers before the New Year. Here is the field as it currently stands:
||RTR Block Constructed
||ISD Block Constructed
||van der Vegt
They will be joined by Reid Duke, the two Last Chance Qualifier winners, and the Magic Online Player of the Year to form a sixteen-person field playing at a soon-to-be-announced event early in 2013. I caught up with a handful of the players who won their seasonal events to find out more about them, the events they won, and how they plan to approach the Championship.
The first season of the year was won by Dmitriy Butakov, who uses his last name as his Magic Online handle. The twenty-four-year-old intellectual property manager from Barnaul, Russia, has been playing Magic since he was thirteen and was taught the game by his uncle. As he took the game more seriously and continued to improve the search for tougher opponents led him to Magic Online, where he became a member of the clan Against All Odds—a clan that would put three players into the Top 8 of the Modern season qualifier.
"I was playing Melira Pod," recalled Butakov, who has been waiting for this upcoming Championship longer than any player besides the reigning champion. "Actually, all of my matches in Top 8 were against very strong opponents—two of them were my clanmates—and were quite interesting, but it's a bit hard to remember details after almost a year."
Butakov's Melira Pod
Modern – Winner, MOCS Season 1
Butakov usually racks up in excess of 50 QPs each season and is going to be even more focused on Magic Online as he prepares for the Championship. I asked him if he had a team he would prepare with for the MOCS.
"Yes, I have a testing team, and it's new every Daily Event; it's the best practice technique I know so far," said Butakov, of the 24-hour availability of Magic events online that will be the backbone of his preparation. "And as for theory and analysis, I'll be preparing with my team from themtgnoob.com and my clanmates."
The third season of the MOCS was won by a familiar face to anyone who has followed this event series, pays attention to the Top 8s of Pro Tour events, or has noticed the recent resurgence of the Canadian Magic scene. I am talking about David Caplan, known as goobafish on Magic Online, who is the most tournament-accomplished player to emerge from the seasonal events. In addition to being the Season 6 winner from last year's MOCS, he has a Grand Prix Top 8 in 2009 and was in the Top 4 of Worlds during the same weekend he was competing in the last MOCS.
The twenty-four-year old project coordinator from Toronto, Canada, has been playing Magic since he was in elementary school and it quickly became a central part of his childhood. His earliest tournament experiences were mostly Legacy and Vintage and he first became well-known when he had his first taste of success with the Legacy deck Canadian Threshold.
"My success at the 2009 Legacy GP in Chicago allowed me to play both the Canadian Nationals and Pro Tour Honolulu, exposing me to a totally new level of competitive Magic," said Caplan, who would go on to finish in the Top 4 of Worlds just two years later. "Magic Online has been an amazing tool that allowed me to explore new formats while maintaining my tournament schedule."
As his MOCS event was approaching, Caplan had to turn his focus away from eternal formats to prepare for the Standard event. Ironically, he was playing in a local Team Trios event that same day, in which team members all play different formats. Normally, he would run the Legacy leg of such a team effort but he switched to the more recent format for the extra practice. The only problem was that the 7 p.m. start time for the MOCS meant he could face a scheduling conflict if they did well in the Trios event.
"If I wanted a chance to play in both, I needed to earn two byes in order to delay my start time for the MOCS," said Caplan, who realized that way to play in two Magic events in one day was to play even more Magic. "I used Magic Online Dailies and Premiers all month to test and tweak my deck while earning my byes."
Standard – Winner, MOCS Season 3
It was a long day into night of Magic for Caplan as the Top 8 of the MOCS took place in a New Brunswick hotel room early the next morning. After almost 24 hours of Magic, it all came down to a dramatic Game 3 and a Delver reveal to determine if Caplan would be taking his first step toward a stated goal of winning a seat at the next Magic Players Championship.
"The most exciting part of the Top 8 was definitely Game 3 of the finals, where my opponent opens with Birds on the draw," Caplan recounted. "I have a Mana Leak in hand, but I also have the option of playing an Invisible Stalker to accompany my Delver. I decide to cast the Invisible Stalker; he untaps and slams a Sword of War and Peace. I anxiously wait for my Delver of Secrets trigger, praying for a... GUT SHOT! I hit my wish and ride my counters to victory."
Caplan's preparation squad for the MOCS has learned a thing or two about preparing for big events over the past couple of years, with Team ManaDeprived.com being built around the successes of the likes of Pascal Maynard; Marc Anderson; Dan Lantier; and, of course, Alexander Hayne, with whom Caplan colaborated for both players' Top 8 finishes.
"Working closely with Hayne over the past year has been incredibly enjoyable and fruitful for the both of us, and I look forward to working with him again to prepare for the MOCS."
Season 4 was Magic 2012 Limited and the finals were won by Ari Malka, a twenty-seven-year old marketing manager from Los Angeles who goes by the intimidating Lord.Nazgul on Magic Online. Malka has been playing the game for more than half his life, but rarely as a competitive player...until he started playing online.
"I received a Starter Pack as a birthday gift in fifth grade," recalled Malka. "I've been a casual player on and off since. I randomly stumbled onto Magic Online after college and just really liked how competitive the atmosphere was/is and started playing it more."
He mostly just drafts online and found himself with 15 QPs and a chance to play in the MOCS. As soon as he looked at his Sealed Pool, he knew he had a shot at making the Top 8 with a pair of Mind Controls and a Clone, Phantasmal Image, and Sphinx of Uthuun. He drafted red-green in the Top 8 and thought his deck was average, but added, "I remember Trollhide and Fling doing work, though."
Lord.Nazgul's Magic 2012 Draft Deck
Magic 2012 Limited (Draft) – Winner, MOCS Season 4
Malka, who mostly just plays Magic as a drafter and has little tournament experience, knows he has his work cut out for him when the MOCS rolls around.
"Ideally, I would like to know all the relevant cards at a high level and the various ways they interact with each other in context with the meta at the time of the MOCS championship," said Malka, who would like to try his hand at playing competitive paper Magic. "I will be focusing heavily on Constructed, as that is where I have very little experience. This is my first big tournament. I have never been to a Pro Tour Qualifier, Open, or Grand Prix. I don't really have a group of players who I prepare with, but I stream often and listen to the viewers if I think they have a good point. I plan on reading Pat Chapin's "Next Level Magic," practicing a lot online, and trying to learn from players with a higher Magic skillset."
Another player who got there via Limited is Season 7 winner Andrew Shrout, who has one of my favorite Magic Online names in the field—JohnnyHotSauce. The twenty-five-year old from Louisville, Kentucky, started out playing the game online before Magic Online even existed. When he learned about the Junior Super Series he started playing paper Magic and bought his way into the game with a Blue Skies deck purchased from a then-unknown Ben Stark.
If the name sounds familiar to you, it may be from his win at a StarCityGames Open to go along with some other Top 8 finishes. A self-described Magic Online grinder, Shrout just assumes he will be eligible for the MOCS each season: "I play so many Dailies that it'd be kind of hard for me not to qualify. I just checked my collection; I had 74 QPs that month."
The Top 8 for his MOCS was Avacyn Restored Draft but Shrout had little experience with it when he sat down for the elimination rounds, as he was still enamored with Innistrad Draft at the time.
"The advice I was given before the draft started was draft around two-drops and ignore black completely," joked Shrout. "Naturally, I drafted a clunky midrangey GW Control deck, and I had to take down the nut mono-black deck in the finals."
Like Butakov, Shrout plans to rely on Daily Events as his primary method of event preparation. When asked about his goals in Magic, he explained that he is looking to build a resume so he can find a career in gaming.
"Eventually, I'd like to build up enough of a profile that I 'graduate' from tournament play into an actual job in game design, coverage, or something similar. I still haven't actually played on a Pro Tour yet, either, so for now I'll say that's the next step."
Twenty-four-year old Jacek Sadurski—aka jacksad—from Lublin, Poland, won Season 8 playing Legacy. He has been playing since 2005 at the encouragement of a friend and soon sought out the worldwide player base of Magic Online to find enough tournaments to sate his appetites. In addition to being a solicitor at a large law firm, he occasionally writes about Magic for puremtgo.com You can find his account of the win here.
jacksad's RUB OmniShow
Legacy – Winner, MOCS Season 8
You may notice that the deck listed contains sixty-one cards—something that Sadurski says it is a weakness of his.
"I hardly ever play sixty-card decks. I almost always play an additional one," he confessed. "I like to have answers for decks I expect to see in large numbers; that additional card is more like a transition from sideboard to main deck. It gives me more flexibility also for sideboard options."
The extra card was a second copy of Personal Tutor: "It literally gave me access to everything in my deck: starting from Show and Tell or to the MVP of the deck, Burning Wish. What gave me advantage was having sideboard cards always available before sideboard time."
This is just a handful of the players who will be participating, and we will be getting more in-depth profiles from everyone as we learn more about where and when the MOCS will be held in 2013. Who knows? I could be talking to you as one of the happy winners of the remaining Last Chance Qualifier spots.