Participated in the Magic Celebrity Cup

Raphael Levy

Raphael Levy

Introduction of the Magic Celebrity Cup

On Thursday 11th of July around 5:30 pm, I arrived at the headquarters of Webedia, a French leading company in e-Sports and web content. Christophe Lemaitre, my partner for the occasion, was there so we could sort the last few details and optimize our communication.

We were to compete in the Magic Celebrity Cup, a Magic Arena “tournament”, but most importantly, a promotional event that was hosted simultaneously in France, United Kingdom and Germany and broadcast on Twitch.

The setup was comparable to the Mythic Championship stage: racing chairs, top-end computers, professional lighting, everything you can expect from a top e-Sports event.

The idea behind this event was to bring together celebrities (and their community/fans/followers) to Magic through a fun and casual tournament. Each celebrity would be coached by a Magic Expert and they would play together in a special format, first against their country mates, and the best of them would compete against the best of the other two countries to bring the trophy home.

You can find all the pairs here: The Announcement of Magic Celeblity Cup.

The Formats and Our Deck Choices

Day One Fromat

Day one would be BO1 (Best of 1), Tribal-Themed. Each team would select two tribes (one picked by the celebrity’s followers on social networks) and one chosen by the celebrity, and build two decks with at least 20 cards from that tribe. A card is considered to belong to a tribe when the tribe’s name is either in the card’s name, in the text… or the art depicts a character of that tribe.

That means 《Tyrant’s Scorn》 is considered to be a Dragon card, as well as 《Dragonskull Summit》.

Tyrant's ScornDragonskull Summit

Yes, we are Dra…gon?

You could pick one of the following tribe: Dragons, Pirates, Wizards, Merfolks, Knights, Goblins, Dinosaurs or Vampires.

Day Two Fromat

Day Two was BO3 (Best of 3) Standard with a twist: after game 1 and 2, you could select a non-land card from your opponent’s deck or sideboard and ban it. They could only sideboard in cards to replace that card. If no card was picked, no changes could be made.

It’s a shame we didn’t have more time to prepare. I had built some decks but was only told which ones I had to update the day before I left to Brussels to cover the Red Bull Untapped, the decklists were to be submitted only a couple of hours after I got back to my room after the coverage. For Day One, the crowd chose Dinosaurs for us, and I suggested we picked Merfolks, as you know, as I know quite a bit about the fishes.

Our Deck Choices for Day One

Here are the decks we submitted:

Some of the teams had a lot more time to prepare and found ways to game the system. By abusing the “character on the art” clause, you could basically build a regular Esper Control deck: 《Tyrant’s Scorn》 and 《Prison Realm》 have Nicol Bolas (a Dragon) on the picture, 《Dragonskull Summit》 would count as a Dragon as well in a Grixis build… Somehow, I’m sure I could have ended up with better and more innovative decks. But I didn’t really want to spend too much time working on a BO1 format where fun and a little glory were the only reward.

The week before, Christophe joined me on my stream so we could jam some games and so I could see how much he knew about the game. He’s actually no newcomer to Magic as he’s already played in MCQ’s and MKM series tournaments! So don’t take the following video too seriously (I’m guilty of having fed 《little Raptor》 with a few 《Llanowar Elves》 myself!).

On paper, we were the favorites alongside Jean-Emmanuel Depraz’s team since none of the other teams had a Pro player. JE was paired with Youtuber Jhon Rachid who had completed the tutorial minutes before the tournament started.

Tournament Report

Day One

Our Merfolk prevailed in the first round against Esper which failed to draw a 《Kaya’s Wrath》.

We proceeded to win two more matches on that day with Dinosaurs, our trusty fishes falling to JE’s Grixis Dragon deck. That was enough to advance to Day Two to represent France in the European Showdown.

Day Two

For Day Two, we just picked a basic Dinosaurs deck that wouldn’t be too vulnerable to bans:

Unfortunately, Christophe had to get ready for another competition, Athletics World Championships which were a tad bit more important for him. At that level, every single training session is crucial. I know he enjoyed playing Day One, and I’m sure he also wanted to play Day Two, but he’s a professional athlete and I respect his discipline.

Having your name dropped by one of the best athletes on earth on a public video feels strange… and awesome! Thank you so much Christophe for your time and hopefully we’ll get to sling some spells together again soon.

Music performer, actor and Day One competitor PV Nova took his place and we were on to take the other teams.

Our Dinosaurs won pretty convincingly against UK’s Goblins deck in round 1 (check the last two turns of that game:

But fell in the mirror against Germany. Germany was up 2-0, we were 1-1 and the UK down 0-2.

It would be up to JE and Jhon Rachid, the other team to make Day Two to win it for us. After two rounds, Germany was down 0-2, we were up 1-0 and the UK led by Autumn Burchett were up 1-0.

In an unfortunate turn of event, JE made an uncharacteristic mistake in game 2 of the deciding match. In a game where you have to make your plays look as simple as possible for your teammate to play properly, your thought process is altered, and even it looked really bad, I completely understand where that came from.

With all teams at 2-2-2 after the second group play, the UK took the trophy on tiebreakers (best win/loss ratio). Booo!!

My Perspective and Conclusion

The format was mostly fun and the event casual but I loved everything about it. I loved the setup, the cameras, the cast, the players, the friendly rivalry on Day One and the support from the whole room on Day Two… and the idea of having celebrities showcase the game.

With Wizards inviting influencers to its most prestigious events, it’s no secret what their end goal is: attracting players from outside the Magic world, to try the game out.

The Magic Celebrity Cup was probably a test. For a first of a kind, I believe it was a success. It didn’t attract hundreds of thousands of viewers to Twitch, but it managed to reach people who had never heard about the game, unlike most Mythic Championships which newcomers find too complex and confusing.

Flesh+Blood

For Magic to grow bigger, to attract more investors, sponsors, it needs to find “fresh blood”. It needs to be as popular as Fortnite or League of Legends. It’s painful to say, but how much weight do we “Pro Players” have in comparison to an influencer that has over 5 million followers on Youtube? A single tweet telling them to download Magic Arena would have more benefits to Wizards than a Mythic Championship in terms of bringing new players.

I’m actually quite surprised something so big never happened before, but I’m sure this kind of initiative will happen again. I remember Josh Barnett, a world-class wrestler, played a game against Day9 in one of his shows.

Danny Trejo lending his image to the brand is also very telling of Wizards’ future strategy.

While it might not be easy to find celebrities who want to be associated with a card game, they are also people that sometimes have a lot of time on their hands and what do YOU do when you’re bored? You start Arena. Why wouldn’t they?

And honestly, it wouldn’t take a lot for the “Celebrity Tournament” to take place. The experts were needed yesterday, but at some point maybe, we could have Hollywood actors, who might even be good players, battling each other in the most hyped tournaments, while Pro Tours and Mythic Championships are a thing of the past.

In that alternate reality, we, the hardcore players, have a passenger seat. This is also Wizards’ dream. If it’s ever fulfilled, the game will be bigger than ever… and we’ll be sitting on the bench to witness it.

Eternal Witness

Maybe I’m derailing a little, maybe that will never happen. Or maybe it will be just a way to make us shine at the highest level. Since Magic is being rebranded as an e-Sport, there’s hope that we’re not going anywhere yet. But who knows.

In the meantime, I’m more than happy to take part in that segment of history. Time will tell us if I’m leading us to certain doom, or if on the contrary, we’re raising the stakes for a brighter future for Magic.

Raph (Twitter / Twitch)

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Raphael Levy

Raphael Levy Raphael Levy is a veteran player from France. His Pro Tour debut was 1997 and he is unstoppable since then. He played 91 Pro Tours continuously and became the very first player who reaches plying 100 Pro Tours at 2019 Mythic Championship I. During the long career he also achieved so many great results like 3 PT Top 8, 23 GP Top 8 with 6 wins, and won World Magic Cup 2013 as a French captain. He was elected Pro Tour Hall of Fame at 2006 and earned over 750 Pro Points. Read more articles by Raphael Levy