ixteen players are poring over the latest iteration of the Magic Online Cube as they prepare for the Magic Online Championship, which will be taking place at PAX East next weekend—which we will be streaming to you live—to see if they can wrest the trophy from the hands of reigning champion Reid Duke. We caught up with a handful of the competitors a few months back, but with the full roster set, all the formats laid out in front of us, and the event looming on the horizon, it seemed like a fine time to check in with more of the people we will be getting to know throughout the coverage next weekend.
If you follow people who regularly stream Magic events you are likely aware of Season 5 winner Jan van der Vegt who goes by the name Dzy on Magic Online. The twenty-five-year-old student from Amsterdam does not even recall where his online persona originates, only that is was an online nickname that he has had since his early teens. As a Magic player, he was involved with the game on and off since Urza's Saga until he returned a couple of years ago and started playing Magic Online regularly. Offline, he has a Top 16 at Grand Prix Amsterdam and qualified and played at Pro Tour Dark Ascension.
For his qualifier season he exclusively Cube drafted to the tune of 35 qualifier points and the two glorious byes that come with that. When it came time to play in the event he had to find a sixty-card deck for Innistrad Block Constructed. If you avidly follow the Grand Prix coverage you may recognize the deck he ended up with:
Jan van der Vegt's Jund
Innistrad Block Constructed – Winner, MOCS Season 5
"The deck was absolutely insane, I got it via Kibler, who played it in GP Anaheim the same weekend and Top 8ed that tournament," said van der Vegt. "I got very lucky getting access to that deck, which I tested the whole day before the MOCS."
Magic Online Championship Live Coverage
Tune in for the live video stream of the Magic Online Championship on Twitch.tv/magicprotour at these times:
Friday: 11 a.m. ET (Cube Draft, Standard)
Saturday: 3 p.m. ET (Gatecrash Sealed Deck, Standard Top 2)
Text coverage will also appear on DailyMTG.com over both days. Follow all the action by using the hashtag #mtgochamp.
For more information on the Magic Online Championship, visit this page.
Van der Vegt has been playing plenty of Sealed Deck and practicing Standard in anticipation of the event but is obviously most excited for the format that propelled him into the Qualifier in the first place.
"Cube is a format I love and every time it's on Magic Online I just play it all the time. I reviewed the new list and adapted all the archetypes. It's definitely the format I'm most confident in; I feel like I have a real edge over others there."
Following in the footsteps of Reid Duke and becoming a fixture on the Pro Tour would be just the ticket for the Dutch player, who is ready to get some stamps in his passport.
"I've met a lot of awesome people via Magic and that's what I like a lot," he said. "So hopefully I do well at a PT and get to Play the Game, See the World."
Sam Pardee is a web designer from Berkeley, California, who goes by the online name Smdster—which is a combination of misclicking on his own initials and his dad's last name. The Early Times clan member has been playing online since 2008 but has been playing the game of Magic since Ice Age.
"I got started playing Magic when I was three or four," said Pardee. "My dad played casually and I really wanted to learn because the cards looked so cool to me. I ended up teaching myself to read so I could play with him. I got into Magic Online after having taken a long break from the game. I knew that if I was going to start playing again, I'd want to do so competitively and I figured that playing online would give me the best chance to improve."
Pardee usually finds himself sitting on 35–45 qualifier points each season and plays the Qualifier whenever it is reasonable to do so. For Season 6, he ended up qualifying with a Standard deck designed by Sam Black that came to be called Delverless Delver.
Standard – Winner, MOCS Season 6
"Or 'Strictly Worse Delver' as I started calling it while stubbornly playing it for the remainder of that Standard season," joked Pardee about the deck and its name. "I remember playing against 'regular' UW Delver about a million times during the event; that's the main thing that sticks out to me."
Pardee has been working with some people from ChannelFireball to prepare for the event, including a couple of Grand Prix Champions in Matt Nass and Jacob Wilson. He also turned to the finalist from Wilson's win for a little advice.
"We built the old Magic Online Cube before they announced the list was going to change, and then updated it as soon as we saw the new one," said Pardee, who was a little alarmed that one of his favorite cards was no longer in the Cube. "Also got some pointers from Josh Utter-Leyton, who had prepared with a similar Cube for the Magic Player's Championship. They cut some cards that were legitimately good, with Shelldock Isle being the most shocking change. I'm excited that they added more lands, because I love drafting three-color controlling decks with a lot of nonbasics but I wish they had done more to help out multicolor aggressive decks."
Pardee is in fine form heading into the MOCS, with a PTQ win for Pro Tour Dragon's Maze and a finals appearance at Grand Prix Toronto. He is sitting on 16 Pro Points and will need a couple of strong finishes to fulfill his goal of reaching Gold status this season.
Season 9 saw Christophe Hartman, a thirty-four-year-old systems administrator from Phoenix, Arizona, win the Magic 2013 Sealed Qualifier. He goes by the name cozmo when playing online—the name is a reference from the movie Sneakers—and has had his account for more than a decade. He has been playing Magic offline for almost as long as it has been around.
"I started playing Magic back in 1994 while Revised was out up until around the Mirage Block," said Hartman. "After a long break, I started playing Magic again with Magic Online back in 2002 for a year or two. I took another break and finally came back when Innistrad block started. Now having a full-time job and a family,Magic Online is the easiest way for me to play. I try and go to my local shop (Pop Culture Comics) and draft as often as I can."
He qualified for the season 9 event playing mostly Sealed and Draft, and when he opened Krenko, Mob Boss in the Top 8 he never looked back, although he stressed that Chronomaton was his actual most valuable card en route to victory. You can still see his Top 8 draft here: MOCS Season 9 Draft
Playing in the MOCS is the clear highlight of Hartman's career but he knows he is going to be facing a steep challenge given his ability to prepare for the event. Not that he is going to let that stop him from giving it his all.
"Unfortunately, one of my disadvantages is the amount of time I'm able to spend preparing for the MOCS. Having a full-time job and a family limits my available time to focus on practicing. I also don't have a group of people that I can prepare with, so I spend any available practice time playing on Magic Online or watching streams on twitch. I also read the DailyMTG section and keep eye on the What's Happening section of the Magic Online website."
Season 10 brought us Shaun McClaren, a twenty-five-year-old from Alberta, Canada. He goes by the name ArsenalMunch on Magic Online, which is an anagram of his name. McClaren was a Canadian Nationals finalist in 2007 and recently picked up a virtual blue envelope when he won a"Magic Online PTQ for Pro Tour Dragon's Maze. After winning the MOCS he wrote a highly entertaining article about the event for StarCityGames.com.
"The MOCS was the weekend after the release of RTR so it was a completely fresh format," recalled McLaren. "These are my favorite type of tournament since the formats quirks haven't already been squeezed, processed, and served. Winning often comes down to who can make card evaluations and judgment calls without being familiar with how the set plays."
The format he is most looking forward to is... you guessed it...
"Cube is an awesome format. It tests every Magic skill you've picked up. It's basically the format you've been testing for your entire life, so the decks you draft are usually going to reflect who you truly are as a Magic Player. The more off-the-wall and deep a format the better."
McLaren has been working with his brother Dean to prepare for the event and hopes to one day play on the Pro Tour with his brother... again.
"We did once before in Amsterdam. I won a PTQ and he came along and ground in the night before but we didn't have time to test together," Hartman explained. "Magic is a great game and I want to be close to it for a long time to come, whether its playing on the PT, writing articles, or streaming. I'm qualified for San Diego and Dublin, so I'm looking to have some strong finishes in the future and hopefully the Pro Player club will be updated to make it a little easier for new blood to make it."
Season 11 saw twenty-nine-year-old teacher Malte Holm, a teacher from Copenhagen, Denmark, qualify for the MOCS playing Block Constructed. While he does play paper Magic, Holm's accomplishments, which include another MOCS Top 8 and a PTQ win, have all been online.
"A friend in high school introduced me to the game and lent me decks to play versus him," said Holm. "We played casually but I soon discovered my local game store, where there was a weekly Standard tournament every Saturday afternoon. That game store also had a few computers where they had Magic Online installed—that's how I got introduced to it. From there on I played Magic Online to draft. Since the introduction of Magic Online PTQs and the MOCS, I almost exclusively play online."
The format for his Qualifier was single-set Return to Ravnica Constructed, and he piloted this deck to a 10-0 record before losing the final Swiss round into the Top 8.
Malte Holm's Golgari
Return to Ravnica Constructed – Winner, MOCS Season 11
Holm recalled the format as being "Golgari vs. Sphinx's Revelation" and felt good in all the matchups he had encountered en route to the finals—Jund, Golgari, Azorius, and Bant—but was almost caught unawares by his final hurdle when his opponent was playing Rakdos—the first time he faced the archetype all day—and night—long. The two players split the first two games and needless to say that third game was the biggest game of Holm's Magic playing career.
"It all got down to me having zero cards in hand, a Deadbridge Goliath in play, and my opponent at 8 life. I had a Dreg Mangler in my graveyard to scavenge onto the Goliath next turn and exactly kill my opponent," said Holm, playing back the match. "My opponent had zero cards, lots of lands, and an unleashed Rakdos Cackler. And I'm at 3 life, so I figure about twelve to sixteen cards in my opponent's deck kill me on the spot, and sixteen to twenty cards make sure I can't win next turn, giving him another draw. So we're in his upkeep. Its 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and I've been playing since 8 p.m. Saturday night. He draws his card, then pauses for a bit... and writes 'Congrats' in the chat, plays the Mountain he drew, and concedes. That was by far the most intense moment I have experienced in a Magic game."
You can find the finals here, along with a recap of the Top 8.
Holm is making sure to play plenty of Gatecrash Sealed and as much Standard as he can but was concerned about how we would fare with Cube.
"I think Cube will be my 'worst' format. Mostly because it's hard to get in practice without being able to play with the Cube online," said Holm, who was positive about the changes made to the Cube. "I have played a lot of Cube the last time it was around so I have a decent feel for it. I think the biggest change is the adding of a lot of new lands. Bounce lands, Alara tri-lands, filter-lands from Shadowmoor, and the Mirage fetchlands. That's a lot of fix being added. Apart from that, I think this change will make decks even more powerful than they were before. A lot of the cards you would play 40% of the time are being removed while the cards that take their place are cards you want to play 70% of the time."
The final season of the MOCS went to a thirty-three-year-old electronics engineer from Barcelona, Spain. Jorge Pinazo (painas on Magic Online) has been playing the game since he was drawn into it when watching his chess buddies play the game.
"I had more fun with Magic than with other games," explained the avid gamer who had competed in the Chess Olympics. "It's a really wide strategy game where you are able to discuss it with your friends and can have different points of view."
His playtesting for the event will be with his friends from Humiyaos Team, which was his squad that would prepare for GPs and PTs together, even though some of them have cut back on their gaming to raise their families.
"I played as many Cube Drafts as I could this February but due the variety of cards it is very difficult to try to go for a concrete deck," said Pinazo of the format on everybody's mind. "Of course, you need to know all the possible cards that the Cube has, but I think it's still more important to be open to playing any sort of deck—aggro, control, or combo. There can be decks as good as Legacy ones."
That catches us up on almost all the seasonal winners over the two Meet the MOCS articles, but next week we will round out the set with the LCQ winners; The Player of the Year; and, of course, the reigning Champion, Reid Duke. In the meanwhile, let me give you a look at the card pool that these players will be grappling with when they sit down to the newest iteration of the Magic Online Cube.
Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on DailyMTG.com, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.