Reid Duke on winning Pro Tour Phyrexia | Magic: The Gathering

I’ve played MTG ever since I was a kid, and I have a lifetime of memories to show for it. These include my first pack of cards (a starter deck of 4th Edition) and attending my first Grand Prix (New Jersey 2003). You can read about many of these fun memories right here, here and here!

But you could argue that the first big milestone in my pro career was actually tuning in to watch the finals of a Pro Tour - PT Columbus 2004. The competitors were the Japanese pro Shuhei Nakamura against the newcomer from France, Pierre Canali. Nakamura was playing the subtle but effective Red Deck Wins, looking to finesse his way to close wins using cheap spells. Canali had the much more powerful Affinity deck, capable of huge, explosive turns. 

I was certainly able to become part of the action. After years of trying, I broke through to the Pro Tour in 2010 and never looked back.This match had everything: high stakes, great players, very cool - and very different - strategies! Over the next year or two, I copied both of their decks and brought them to tournaments. I wanted to be part of the action and the excitement. Someday, I wanted to sit in one of those seats at the Pro Tour finals. 

I was certainly able to become part of the action. After years of trying, I broke through to the Pro Tour in 2010 and never looked back.

The going wasn’t always easy. I failed to make day two of my first five Pro Tours. Even after I achieved that milestone, it was several years until I broke through to a Top 8. Finally, a couple of big results came in.

I had a deep run in the 2013 World Championship, playing Jund in Standard and Bogles in Modern. 

Then I made my first Pro Tour Top 8 at PT Journey Into Nyx 2014, playing Sultai Midrange. It felt particularly sweet since it had been a goal so long in the making (you’ll notice this is a theme in my career. I don’t tend to get things right on the first try…).

All of that said, the Pro Tour finals continued to elude me. With the restructuring of MTG organized play, not to mention a global pandemic that derailed everything, it seemed likely that my goal would remain unachieved. What would happen to it? Maybe it would just sag, like a heavy load. 

Yet fate is a funny thing. Though it was deferred a few years, the Pro Tour made its return in 2023, and I was fortunate enough to be there, complete with a team and a support network as strong as anybody could ask for. 

Our deck of choice was Izzet Indomitable Creativity, and we had a good plan for the Booster Draft portion as well.

Going in, I wasn’t thinking about making good on a lifelong dream. Instead, I was just so happy to be playing and to be around friends. I was so happy that MTG was thriving and that the Pro Tour was back. 

I found myself with a strong 6-2 record going into the second day of competition. As we got deeper, it dawned on me that I was actually within striking distance of the Top 8 playoff rounds. A victory against 2018 World Champion Javier Dominguez was followed by a miraculous win in a tough matchup. Finally, I defeated teammate Gabriel Nassif in the "mirror match" (we were playing the same deck), and I made the Top 8!

You might think that was the moment where I resolved to win the whole thing, but you’d be mistaken. I was still in a mindset of simply feeling blessed to be there. I’d made Pro Tour Top 8’s before, but I’d always gone out in the Quarterfinals or Semifinals. Plus, I’d drawn a tough first opponent in reigning World Champion Nathan Steuer, and legends Gabriel Nassif and Shota Yasooka - far stronger players than me - were in the running too. Surely I wouldn’t be the one holding the trophy at the end of it all?

Yet fate is a funny thing! After coming back from a 0-2 deficit in the best-of-five match, I cruised through the Top 8. Like Pierre Canali two decades prior, I’d exceeded my expectations, beaten everyone in my path, and won the Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour!

To say that winning the Pro Tour is a dream come true feels like an understatement. For so many years I’ve watched and admired the best players. I’ve honed my skills and tried time and time again. Now I’ve joined the ranks of some of my heroes as a PT Champion (many of whom are current or former members of Team CFBUltimateGuard!). I’ve made a permanent mark on the game I love. And for at least one weekend, I can say that I was the best!

It didn’t hit me right away when the finals ended, because I was still in "game mode", trying to stay calm and focused. It was only when Cedric Phillips called me to the front of the stage and announced, "Pro Tour Phyrexia Champion – Reid Duke," that it became real. I teared up a little at that moment. 

In the days that followed, I was overwhelmed by the amount of support and encouragement I received. Knowing how many people were cheering for me, and were happy to see me win is as amazing as the win itself.

What’s next? Well, I still have a major chip on my shoulder about the World Championship. The Pro Tour win qualifies me to play this year’s Worlds, coming up in Las Vegas in September. More than that, I want to continue being a part of the action and the excitement, and bring my best in the tournaments I decide to enter. Long live the Pro Tour!

Autor: Reid Duke

Magic: The Gathering Hall of Fame, Member of Team CFBUltimateGuard

Magic runs in the family for Reid. When Reid was five, his mom came home one day with two Magic starter packs for him and his brother Ian. They both hardly knew the rules but they muddled through as best they could with the rules inserts. 26 years later, Reid’s now one of Magic’s most successful and respected players in the world. Learn more about Reid.