But the race was years in the making for Braun-Duin. This title was the culmination of not just 2016, but the last four years in the man’s life. In 2012, Brian Braun-Duin was without a job and living on a couch. And the climb from there to here never had an easy step. In Pittsburgh Braun-Duin, or “BBD,” facetiously told me, “It is kinda my award,” and now it truly is. How did he get from the couch to the World Championship?
Nelson met Braun-Duin under inauspicious circumstances. “I was going to an Invitational in Baltimore, and I was staying with Todd and BBD. didn’t have a suitcase; he just had a plastic bag.” Later on, after placing the bag under a car for safe keeping, it was stolen. Braun-Duin did not win that Invitational either.
Winning Grand Prix Master is a culmination of everything Braun-Duin has accomplished so far in Magic. Though the other contenders, Tomoharu Saito, No. 15-ranked Reid Duke, and No. 1-ranked Seth Manfield all deserve it too, for them, it would be yet another accolade for the shelf. For Braun-Duin it’s the pinnacle of his career so far, and a totem to reach the next height.
The 2015–2016 race for Grand Prix Master will go down as the final time the World Championship will offer such a slot. Though it was a just reward for consistency on the Grand Prix grind, and its passing is sad for those of us who live on the circuit week in and week out, this year’s winner—the ultimate Grand Prix Master—is possibly the perfect one. Brian Braun-Duin deserved this title. For those watching the race that ended at Grand Prix Sydney last weekend, it was drama ready
But this is all a familiar story for tournament Magicians. However, it was the next crucial step that made the difference. Throughout this time, always Braun-Duin maintained the motivation, never flagging. “He never loses the motivation. I don’t know how he does it.” Nelson related it to his own journey, saying, “When I was struggling and was doing badly, I still got articles and press and stuff. But Brian grinded in the shadows for three years without ever losing any hope.”
Braun-Duin’s face gleamed brighter as he talked through this next step in his process. “It was risky, but I quit my job, and devoted myself to Magic full-time.” It still didn’t come quickly, or easily. It wasn’t until late 2015 when he’d learn his biggest tricks in yet in Magic—tricks that gave him the tools to win Grand Prix Master.
“He’s playing the best Magic of his life, and it’s amazing.” Brad Nelson summed up, watching Braun-Duin get yet another win here at the Pro Tour, ending with his best Day One record ever. “I’m so proud of him. Look, I literally just tweeted this:”
“Now were both working on exercising, going to the gym. Except I skip; he doesn’t.” Maybe that’s the secret. Maybe that’s what makes Braun-Duin’s story truly different from so many do-it-yourself Magic pros of the past. Nelson said, “A lot of people let that fall off. They don’t ‘give up,’ they just can’t keep up that level. He can and he does.”
Braun-Duin said, “That’s just who I am personally. When I want to succeed at something, I just hit my head against it. I always feel like I’m going to find a crack.” He added, “As long as I’m finding things to improve on, and I understand them, I’ll keep going.” He’s been rewarded for that hard-headedness so far. We have no reason to think it’ll let up any time soon.
If you’d like to read more about Braun-Duin, plenty has been written about him at tournaments. And the capable, fun writer himself just wrote about his Grand Prix Master season.
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