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Breakthrough Players Poised for More Pro Tour Success

February 20, 2024
Meghan Wolff

A player's path through competitive Magic can look like a sequence of tournament successes, but in truth, it's almost never that linear. Each event has its own set of challenges, tough calls, and surprises. While one great finish can launch a player into the spotlight, it takes a persistent player dedicated to the journey to stand firm among the best in the world.

Dan Kristoff, David Olsen, Marco del Pivo, and Lorenzo Terlizzi were all fledgling competitors on the Pro Tour at the start of 2023, but by the end of the year, all four had strung together a full year of solid and stellar finishes that have put them on the cusp of becoming Pro Tour regulars.

Dan Kristoff placed 6th at the DreamHack US Regional Championship in November 2022, which qualified him for Pro Tour Phyrexia, where he finished 16th and secured his next qualification. He then went on to finish 10–6 at Pro Tour March of the Machine and 9–7 at Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings, an excellent year for any player, new or veteran.

Dan Kristoff

"It was a mix between qualifying for Worlds and making Top 16 in my first Pro Tour. Both of those were pretty big highlights for me," Kristoff said. "I honestly thought I was just going be one and done. It was the first Pro Tour I ever qualified for, and I didn't expect to make Day Two. So, the whole season defied expectations."

David Olsen placed 7th at the F2F Canadian Regional Championship in March 2023 and, like Kristoff, made the most of his first Pro Tour. Olsen finished 4th at Pro Tour March of the Machine, playing a five-color ramp deck that has since become ubiquitous in Standard.

David Olsen

"It's gotta be the first Pro Tour that I played last season where I managed to make Top 8—Pro Tour March of the Machine, that was definitely the highlight," Olsen said. "We managed to do it with a deck that the team put together and introduced to the metagame. That was pretty sweet."

Del Pivo began last year with a modest goal.

"My first thought was that I just wanted to try to qualify for one PT maximum," he said. "Then I reached all three PTs and made the Top 8 in Barcelona. My expectations were really low because I did not have a goal, I just tried to play my best, and then I achieved so many things and am so happy about that. It's an incredible feeling."

Marco del Pivo

And while del Pivo's Top 8 in Barcelona meant he already had PT qualifications lined up at the beginning of the current season, he didn't yet have an invitation to this year's Magic World Championship. Determined to qualify, he went to the first EMEA Regional Championship of the year, where he'd need to finish 1st or 2nd for the invite. It was Modern, the same format he'd played to a Top 8 finish in Barcelona, and he once again showed his proficiency by finishing first and securing a seat at the World Championship.

"Barcelona was Modern, and I played Temur Rhinos, a deck that's given me so many emotional finishes," del Pivo said. "Now I also won the Regional Championship with the same deck in, and I'm so happy about it."

Lorenzo Terlizzi had a season of close calls, coming out ahead each time he found himself in a tight spot. Terlizzi finished right on the qualification line at his first Regional Championship and, after going 10–6 at his first Pro Tour in Philadelphia to requalify, once again found himself on the cusp of qualification at Pro Tour March of the Machine in Minneapolis.

"I kept playing and went 9–7 after winning the last round in Minneapolis," Terlizzi said. "It was a matter of life or death because if I lost, I had no qualification to anything, but I won. That one is definitely one of the highest moments, winning the last round in Minneapolis to grant me the double Pro Tour qualification and get me very, very near to Worlds."

Lorenzo Terlizzi

It wasn't even the final close call of the year for Terlizzi.

"Another highlight was in Barcelona, because I needed to go to Day Two to qualify for the World Championship, and I obviously really wanted to. I started 2–0, so I was super hyped. I was like, come on, I need to win two more in the next six matches, and then I'm qualified to Las Vegas. Then I lost four in a row, so I was almost out. But then I meditated a little bit, which is something that I do often before events, and I managed to win the last two matches."

Each players' path for improvement is different, but developing better deck selection, participating in testing teams, and getting help from friends to develop a clear picture of the metagame, test specific match-ups, and generally provide support and camaraderie were common threads throughout.

For Kristoff, having a solid friend group was key to his success on the Pro Tour.

"They weren't playing on the Pro Tour with me, but they were helping me out in any way that they could, like playtesting with me or talking about formats," he said. "It was mainly chatting through stuff and figuring out exactly what my lists were going to be. There were a couple times we played in person when I really wanted to drill down on a specific match-up. But it wasn't anything too intense, it was more like they were willing to help me as I needed it."

While Terlizzi didn't have that support network at the start of his competitive journey, Regional Championships and Pro Tours gave him the opportunity to develop one.

"I did a lot of networking at events, and I think to improve as a player, that helps a lot," Terlizzi said. "Before I qualified for my first Pro Tour, I just knew people from my area. In the last year, I did a lot of networking with people from all over the world, and having these Discord groups to communicate with, share screens, and discuss helped me a lot. The testing house helps a lot because there are usually very experienced players there. I had the opportunity to talk with many veterans, which prepared me for events and helped me master the knowledge of certain decks and formats."

For del Pivo, having a team was key to rounding out the skills that helped him succeed last season.

"I think that I improved my deck choices for the tournaments and the changes that I want to make, mainly thanks to my team," del Pivo said. Looking ahead to next year, he has Limited in his sights.

"I want to improve in Limited, and also every other format. I want to learn all the things from my team because I have a good team—Team Worldly Council. My first goal for improvement is in Limited."

With one season behind these players, another lies ahead, full of its own possibilities. While some players are using last year as a springboard for even bigger hopes, others are approaching the coming events with more pragmatism.

Taking first at the Regional Championship means that del Pivo is starting the season with one of his biggest goals already completed, which means he's looking even further ahead to 2025.

"I'm excited to play at high-level tournaments. I'm focused on that and on testing with my team," he said. "This is the mindset right now. I qualified for Worlds, so my main goal is to continue to do well in these tournaments. I want to do well in every tournament to be on track for next year."

Terlizzi's goals for the coming year are shaped by his Limited success this past year.

"This year, I would like to improve my Constructed portion," Terlizzi said. "I think my testing process with Constructed was too weak. I focused a lot on Limited before playing my first Pro Tour because I thought it was one of my weaknesses, and the way I focused on Draft helped me a lot to improve and do well. I would like to do the same thing now for Constructed because at the PT level, where everybody's super prepared, they are masters of their archetypes. Becoming a master of your archetype and also each specific metagame is important, and I would like to do something like that."

But the year ahead holds more than just tournament results, and while competitive goals are important to doing well, they're not the entire sum of what players have to look forward to.

"I want to be more focused on myself as a player," del Pivo said. "I will test in the same way with the team and with the same effort, but I want to improve myself just because now that I qualified for all the Pro Tours and [World Championship], I want to not take this tournament easy because I'm already qualified. I want to set my mind better for every tournament and not be careless."

Olsen, on the other hand, is looking forward to the ever-evolving Standard landscape and the space it leaves for innovation.

"I think I'm most looking forward to the tournament in Seattle in April," he said. "I've always enjoyed Standard the most competitively because it changes more from set to set and there's a lot of room for innovation. I've been working on my deck-building chops the past couple years, and it's fun to give that a spin."

"I like Pioneer a lot," Kristoff said. "I think it's actually a pretty balanced format in terms of, like, you can play kind of any strategy you want. There's a deck for it. Standard is looking pretty good, we'll see how the new set looks exactly, but it also looks pretty interesting. And I love Draft in general, so I'm always excited to draft."

But for Kristoff, the game itself is also something to look forward to.

"I've been playing this game for 20 years. I just love it. Magic means quite a lot to me. It's something I had growing up, and it helped me through some tough times, helped me kind of like when I was a socially awkward kid. Magic kind of forced me to be social and work through those problems. So I just love the game."

The season takes its first big step with Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor, broadcasting live from MagicCon: Chicago February 23–25 at We'll see the next breakthrough hero emerge soon!

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