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Magic: The Gathering Hall of Famer Reid Duke wins first Pro Tour, sweeps finals

Pro Tour: Phyrexia was a shining moment for Pioneer.

Reid Duke, Magic Pro Tour Hall of Famer, captured his first Pro Tour victory by sweeping newcomer Benton Madsen in the finals of Pro Tour: Phyrexia.

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The return of the Pro Tour after the Magic esports experiment also marked the return of tabletop play at the highest levels after nearly three years of absence due to the pandemic. Duke has been a standard-bearer for competitive Magic for over a decade, so the first event of the new system highlighted the crowning of one of Magic’s best players.

Things went full circle from his crushing second-place defeat in 2013 against two-time world champion Shahar Shenhar. At today’s Pro Tour, Duke was in the position of the experienced veteran battling against the less experienced competitor in Banton. In his first Pro Tour, Banton managed to secure a second-place finish but ultimately struggled to string together the plays needed to take Duke down.

Duke’s list was the tried-and-true Izzet Creativity deck, an interactive combo deck that looks to hit Worldspine Wurm and Xenagos, God of Revels to one-shot the opponent. The list’s ability to suddenly win while stalling the game with the help of strong removal spells and value offered from some of the best cards in the format like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Big Score.

Banton stormed through the top eight on the back of his Selesnya Auras deck. The list looks to stack Aura cards onto a creature to create a massive threat that the opponent will struggle to deal with removal or through combat. Gladecover Scout is the primary target for Auras as a one-mana Hexproof creature. Light Paws, Emperor’s Voice and Sram, Senior Edificer are excellent sources of card advantage that help Benton maintain pressure. Skrelv, Defector Mite is a new card in the list that helps further protect key creatures alongside a vast suite of Enchantments.

Game one of the finals was a tight contest between Duke and Benton. After a mulligan to five, Benton managed a strong start, presenting lethal several times against Duke. Relying on chump blocks, Reid was able to survive the pressure applied by Benton, with some help from Benton’s inability to find evasion, long enough to rip his Indomitable Creativity combo kill. It was a back-and-forth game that exemplified what the set would go on to become. Game two was a similar start from Benton with another mulligan to four, a shocking turn of events. The aggressive mulligan strategy had a purpose: to find the critical Gladecover Scout.

The mulligan to four was ineffective in the face of two one-mana removal spells in Duke’s hand. It was an easier victory that time around with Duke nailing the combo and going up 2-0 in the series, leaving Benton with no room for error.

Still, he wasn’t deterred from taking aggressive mulligans, even in a two-game hole. To kick off game three, he again took a mulligan to four. This time, with a turn-one Gladecover Scout and two Ethereal Armors, he put Duke in a tough position early in the game. However, in a seemingly inevitable feat, Duke ripped off his Indomitable Creativity combo again to secure his first Pro Tour championship.

Image via WotC

Both Duke and Benton will join the other top eight competitors at this year’s Magic World Championship. Here are the top eight players that earned an invitation.

  • Shota Yasooka
  • Reid Duke
  • Gabriel Nassif
  • Takumi Matsuura
  • Benton Madsen
  • Chris Ferber
  • Derrick Davis

Reigning Magic World Champion Nathan Steuer also made the top eight but already obtained an invitation to this year’s World Championship by winning last year’s event. The top eight stood out because of the diversity of experience levels among the group. The broadcast pointed out that this field included three Hall of Fame players: Yasooka, Nassif, and Duke. It also featured three first-time competitors: Madsen, Ferber, and Davis. 

There were also six Pioneer archetypes represented in the top eight: Izzet Creativity, Lotus Field Combo, Rakdos Midrange, Selesnya Auras, Mono-White Humans, and Enigmatic Fires.

Competitive Magic rolls on with Regional Championships and Qualifiers happening at local game stores. For interested viewers, catch SCG CON Charlotte on March 3 to 5 for more high-level tabletop gameplay and coverage.


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Author
Xavier Johnson
My name is Xavier Johnson and I'm a freelance writer who covers Magic: The Gathering. I love control decks and my favorite card is Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.