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The Week That Was: A Campy Win

June 07, 2024
Corbin Hosler

It's summer camp season here in the United States.

With school officially out for the summer and kids finding out after the first week or two that being at home all day isn't as fun as they thought it would be—not to mention the pesky tendency of most jobs to not come with a summer break—the days inevitably end up filled with something. Preferably something enriching, which is where summer camps come in: there's outdoors summer camp; space camp; science camp; zoo camp; robotics camp; sports camps of any kind you want; esports camp... you get the idea.

I didn't mention a Magic camp. But here's a secret many of you might already know: just about any summer camp can become a Magic camp, overnight. A completely random group of campers with different interests can stumble across a couple of intro decks, and the next thing you know the mess hall will never be the same.

I encountered this exact scenario myself last week. My eight-year-old son was attending coding camp (welcome to 2024!), and his neighbor started talking all about the new game he had picked up last summer at karate camp called Magic. Like that, they were off to the races.

Someone else who can attest to that experience? Adam Weiss. The newly crowned United States Regional Championship winner defeated more than 1,200 players to win the Dreamhack Magic Showdown in Dallas last weekend, and he knows a little bit about slinging summer camp cards.

Adam Weiss

"I started playing Magic sixteen years ago at summer camp, Camp Havaya, with my best friend of 20 years David Anes. We would play Magic every day at that camp together, just playing random 60-card Magic decks, not even knowing that formats existed," Weiss reminisced. "Eventually we became staff together, still always playing games together at night when we had time off."

Well, how else did you think the next generation of Magic campers would find their way to some cards? Sixteen years later Weiss and Anes are still playing Magic together, both at summer camp and at what the adult version of Magic camp might look like: the Regional Championship, where hundreds of competitors travel to compete for title, trophy, and prizes that include invites to the Pro Tour as well as Magic World Championship 30.

It was Anes who convinced Weiss to give the competitive side of Magic a try about five years ago, and mentored him as they took the next step in their Magic journey that began in between sessions of archery and hiking.

"David helped me out so much when I was just learning the ropes of what playing at a competitive level was like," Weiss said. "And the entire Nerd Rage Gaming community helped me grow in such a short amount of time; being able to jam games with them twice a week has been some of the most fun I have ever had.

"Since the event, it's been very strange still. This was my second Regional Championship, and I've never qualified for a Pro Tour before—my goal coming in was to make Day Two. One of my friends called me the U.S. champion and I told them to wait and see how well I do at worlds, and he replied: 'you won the U.S. Regional Championship; that's what being the U.S. champ means. That helped it really sink in. I've seen such a huge outpouring of support from friends and family; everyone is excited for me and most of them barely know what is going on."

That's the kind of reaction that comes with winning a Regional Championship: it's very easy to explain even to the most multiverse-adverse relatives that you've just won the championship for the entire United States—or any of the other regions that have crowned champions over the past two months, including the final weekend of events this cycle that spanned South America, Central America, and Southeast Asia. I've been writing it for months—the further we've progressed into the Regional Championship system, the more accomplishments on that level have come to matter to players. A U.S. Regional Championship isn't just a ticket to the Pro Tour; it's a career-defining accomplishment in itself.

Especially when it comes to such a huge Standard field that included such a wide range of gameplans. There was reactive and slow in Golgari Midrange and Azorius Control—the most popular deck in the room—as well as a smattering of fast decks in Boros Convoke (fifth-most popular), Bant Toxic, and various Mono-Red strategies. And however you want to classify Aftermath Analyst decks, the archetype has remained strong; it was the second most-played deck in the tournament.

Simply put, there's a lot possible in Standard right now. But what's always good? Attacking with aggressive creatures and casting pump spells—especially Monstrous Rage.

"I first played Mono-Red back in January but it wasn't good enough then; there were a lot of slow cards. Afterwards one of my friends, Stanley2099, told me to try out his version with Monstrous Rage; I won the very next RCQ," Weiss explained. "I got the exact 75 from him, he's a great friend and brewer who carefully chose every single card in the list. We worked together and gave each other feedback on a lot of it created our sideboard guide on Flexslot to really make sure every matchup was as clean as possible.

"The deck itself was great for this weekend. The core seven cards of Slickshot Show-Off, Kumano Faces Kakkazan, Monstrous Rage, Monastery Swiftspear, Fugitive Codebreaker, Demonic Ruckus, and Play with Fire are incredible and the mana is so good that the green splash is free. I had one game where my opponent went to 22 life and passed. I cast a Slickshot, a Ruckus, a Monstrous Rage, a double strike spell, but put creature to an 11/4 flying, trample, double strike, menace, with no fear of removal, and won. I then did the exact same thing against another opponent who assumed they were safe and tapped out for Nissa, Resurgent Animist on turn three."

655087 Monstrous Rage Monastery Swiftspear

Standard has showcased a diverse range of strategies for some months now, drawing high praise in the process, and the all-aggro finals of Dreamhack pitted Chris Barone's Boros Convoke against Weiss' Gruul Aggro. With Azorius Control and Ramp strategies also present in the Top 8, it's clear that the most important thing is finding a style that works for you. That's exactly what Weiss did, taking the deck he's familiar with and learning his lines perfectly—all so it could come together to line up perfectly one rainy weekend in Texas.

There's no doubt that Weiss' Regional Championship story is incredible. The story he's building at Camp Havaya might be even more memorable.

"David and I now run two tournaments a summer at camp, with at least 30 campers signing up for it," Weiss explained. "It's usually the most popular elective at the camp and some kids come to the camp because they really enjoying playing Magic there.

"I can't wait to start the rest of my career. I have already gotten more than I could ever hope for or expect. I can't wait to participate in my first-ever Pro Tour and also the World Championship. This is a place so many have worked hard and long for, and I feel lucky to have achieved them so early on."

The Road to the World Championship

As we head toward Magic World Championship 30 at MagicCon: Las Vegas later this year, Frank Karsten and I are looking back at three decades of World Championship Magic. It's my belief that competitive Magic's greatest asset is its rich tradition and history, and it's been a blast to look back through so many years of incredible Magic world champions. Trust me, I've never had more fun poring over blurry scanned-in images of old magazines.

This week takes us to 2005, a time of Pro Tour Magic that starts to look more like we see today than we saw in 1994. Competitive Magic was no longer a novelty; it was serious business that brought out the best in the world. And when the World Championship returned to Yokohama, Japan, the winner and most successful group by far was the hometown Japanese team. They not only produced the individual winner, but defeated the United States 3-0 in the finals of the team title bout.

In retrospect, 2005 is memorable for what came after: the 2005 World Championship was the start of a prolonged period of dominance by some of the best players Japan has ever produced. Another World Championship would go to Japan soon after, and it became common to see friendly faces like Shuhei Nakamura (who made the Top 8 of the 2005 World Championship) traveling the globe to Top 8 Grand Prix after Grand Prix.

Another pretty notable development from Yokohama in 2005? Our own Frank Karsten finishing in second place!

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