Winning the StarCityGames.com Invitational in Atlanta in 2012 was more than just a $15,000 check for Todd Anderson. It marked the Alabama native’s second
five-digit payday from tournaments and reinforced his decision to make Magic his profession a year after he walked out on his restaurant job. The
Invitational win came soon after he took on a position at StarCityGames.com as an in-house content producer – a job that was a lifetime in the making and
would set him on his course to become one of the most decorated players on the Open Series.
Already a Select side writer for SCG, Anderson spiked the TCGPlayer Invitational in Chicago in August of 2011 for $20,000 in an event he described as
unthinkable. Anderson had been on and off the Pro Tour since 2006 (when he won his first PTQ and managed to make Day 2 of his first Pro Tour) and had a
Top-4 finish at Grand Prix Houston in 2010, but winning the event in Chicago launched him on his way to turning all his focus on the game. His spontaneous
decision to book the flight to Chicago just three days before the event in part to Brad Nelson’s advice changed everything.
“I was resigned to writing a weekly article and working a restaurant job at the time and then Brad just told me to go and I ended up winning the thing,”
Anderson said. “So I stopped working other jobs when I won. I figured that was a high enough cliff to jump off and hope to fly. It was a good soft landing
pad should I fail. I had always wanted to play Magic and do it professionally, but it always felt like a pipe dream. I was making 50 dollars an article for
so long, and that is just not a livable wage. It didn’t really hit me that I could do that well in tournaments and focus that much and turn it into a job.”
Anderson’s focus started to pay off following the TCGPlayer Invitational win. He began crushing the StarCityGames.com Open Series and won the Washington DC
Standard Open in January of 2012. He then scored his highest Pro Tour finish with a 17th-place finish at Pro Tour Dark Ascension in Honolulu in
February. From there, he notched a runner-up finish in Grand Prix Nashville in March, losing to Reid Duke in the finals. With his gig at StarCityGames.com
in full swing, Anderson entered the Atlanta Invitational comfortable and armed with Standard and Legacy decks tuned by testing partners and friends Nelson
and Gerry Thompson, who both had joined Anderson in Roanoke working at SCG.
Thompson tuned a Standard U/W Delver deck with Geist of Saint Traft, Mirran Crusader, and Spectral Flight to attack the metagame and Anderson piloted it
and RUG Delver in Legacy to the Top 8. Despite almost no testing, Anderson rode RUG Delver to the win by beating Anthony Eason, Ben Friedman, and Chi Hoi
Yim in the elimination rounds.
“Saying I tested would be an overstatement because I played zero games with either deck before the tournament. But the thing was, and is, with our play
group, Brad plays Magic Online constantly and Gerry is always tweaking and tuning the deck, so when they tell me something is good they usually don’t do it
or know it until a day before the event, and I end up playing a deck they brewed up a few days before the event happens,” Anderson said. “Winning that
tournament was phenomenal as a player and a husband, giving me more confidence as a player and by being able to provide as well.”
Todd shows off his spoils for winning the Atlanta 2012 StarCityGames.com Invitational trophy.
Anderson continued his success by taking down the very next Standard Open in Cincinnati in the first event with Return to Ravnica. Since then, Anderson has
made this mark on the Open Series and is third all-time in combined Open and Invitational Top 8s with 20, including four Open wins and his Atlanta
Invitational win. He won the Legacy Opens of Baltimore and Columbus in June 2013 and reached the semifinals of Grand Prix Louisville in October and Grand
Prix Albuquerque in November of last year. He placed 30th at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx in Atlanta just last month and is qualified for at least
the next two Pro Tours after winning a pivotal match at the end of Day 2 of Grand Prix Richmond back in March, where he finished in ninth place.
By squeaking out a tight match against Jarvis Yu in Round 15, Anderson finished X-2, narrowly missing out on Top 8, but locking up three PT invites – one
for Pro Tour Journey into Nyx thanks to his finish, and the next two because he secured Silver status in the Players’ Club. With his qualifications for the
next two Pro Tours secured, Anderson can now focus on preparation for playing at the highest level, which includes a Standard Pro Tour in Portland in
August. And he can prepare for that format by grinding Standard on the Open Series like he did back in 2012 for Honolulu.
Anderson had been testing for Pro Tour Dark Ascension with Brian Braun-Duin and the two had landed on a Mono-Green Dungrove Elder deck. The two Open Series
stalwarts tested the deck at the Richmond Open the week before the Pro Tour and Anderson made Top 8 showcasing their brew to the world. Anderson’s favorite
story heading into the Pro Tour came about because of his finish at the Open.
“After I made Top 8 people were messaging me about Dungrove Elder because they love Mono Green,” Anderson said. “Brad was testing with Channel Fireball in
some beach house in Hawaii and they were watching the coverage and Martin Juza stood up in the house and yelled across the room, ‘How does Todd Anderson
have a better deck than us and we have been here testing for two weeks!?’ The deck was real tight and we got to play a singleton Bellowing Tanglewurm
because Green Sun’s Zenith was an absurd Magic card.”
If Anderson can duplicate his success from Honolulu and finish in the Top 25 in Portland, he’ll hit enough pro points to achieve Gold status in the
Players’ Club. He has made it a point to get back on the Open Series grind this coming season so that he can qualify for the StarCityGames.com Players’
Championship at the end of the year as well. If he does that, a big part of it will be by doing well in Standard, which can simultaneously help him sharpen
up for the Pro Tour. Luckily for Anderson, he will be traveling and testing with some of the hottest Standard players in the game: Nelson, Braun-Duin, and
While Anderson sits in 32nd place with 46 points for Season Three, his history on the Open Series speaks for his ability to rattle off enough
top finishes to become a factor in the points race for the season culminating in the New Jersey Invitational. And after seeing Ross Merriam grab 35 points
this past weekend in Providence, Anderson knows it’s also possible for him to go on a similar run.
“I want to qualify for the Players’ Championship at the end of the year, but I am a bit behind now because I had been focusing on PTs,” Anderson said. “We
saw Ross jump from his points to where he is now after 35 in one weekend, so I know it is possible. Next season if I can spike a couple events and I keep
Top 8ing and playing my best, it is very feasible that I can win one of the seasons, or I can just win an Invitational. At this point, if I don’t make the
Players’ Championship I will be pretty upset with myself.”
The matter at hand this weekend for Anderson, however, is the Season Two Invitational in Columbus, OH. He could simply wrap up his qualification for the
Players’ Championship by taking down the Invitational and join Thompson as the only other person to win two of the illustrious invite-only tournaments.
Also on the table, an Invitational win now comes with a custom token for the winner, something Anderson missed out on with his win. Anderson is quick to
mention that he does have his own token, his 3/3 Beast token from the second set of StarCityGames.com Author tokens, but he savors the chance to be
immortalized on another token as the Invitationals are his favorite time of the year.
“It’s Christmas four times a year, it’s crazy. With this being my job, I get to travel to all of them and play competitive Magic against a bunch of the
greatest players for a lot of money,” Anderson said. “It was always difficult to stay on the Pro Tour train, often having to win two PTQs a year, but with
this, I am qualified and look forward to each one. My favorite Magic memory is even captured in a photo from the Atlanta Invitational with me holding the
trophy and my wife Kali looking at me with her arms crossed.”
Kali looks on as Todd shows his Invitational trophy all the attention.
As sweet as another token would be, Anderson is also on the hunt for a bigger trophy. Even though his dining room walls are covered in his accolades, Kali
possesses the largest trophy of them all for winning a StarCityGames.com 5K from Nashville in 2009. Not only is Kali’s trophy the biggest in the room, she
earned it by beating Todd in the quarterfinals, when they were both playing the same Mono-Green Eldrazi Monument deck. She says the trophy is great to have
around for a number of reasons.
“He absolutely hates my trophy, anytime anyone mentions it he says he is going to smash it as soon as he wins one bigger than mine with the trophy, and as
much as I have lorded it over him and made jokes, I wouldn’t put it past him to one day win a Pro Tour and come home and smash it!” Kali said. “I like
having the bigger trophy because it gives him something to strive for. The biggest dagger was when he won the Invitational and brought home the trophy and
mine was still bigger. It gives him something to work for and that keeps giving him a reason to fight even more.”
It is safe to say no one see’s Todd’s drive and devotion to Magic more than Kali. She still recalls the night Todd told her over the phone that he quit his job
and was going to make Magic his career. And while she was hesitant and even disagreed with the idea at first, she eventually came around to it and couldn’t
be more proud of him today.
“Todd has the biggest drive and passion – he wants this,” Kali said. “I see people who say they want to play on the Pro Tour, but he really wants to be
there and be playing at the highest level. He is competitive and focused and really wants it. That’s what has carried him as far as he has gone because he
has the passion and drive and loves this game.”