Walking the floor of the Pro Tour after the draft it wasn’t hard to spot the on guy who stood out, and that was Dave Yekta from Minnesota, who has spent the day playing with his Nebraskan friend Mikaela Mielke by his side during his matches and the draft. Dave has been playing Magic competitively for a few years, while Mikaela has really only stepped up to PTQs in the last year and the two have become friends through Magic, playing against each other in PTQs all around that region.
Here at the Pro Tour Mikaela has been helping Dave out by shuffling cards, cutting his opponent’s deck, helping him with sideboarding and even managing Dave’s cards during the draft.
And why has she been doing all this? Because Dave is a klutz… although it doesn’t seem to have dented his sense of humor about the whole thing:
“So my arm is in a splint, in this cast”, Dave told me, pointing out the obvious fact that was right in front of us, “I was taking out the trash from my apartment building last week and I forgot my keys and, you guessed it, I managed to lock myself out. But the building I live in is really old and I knew there was a loose window up top that I figured I could use to break back in, so I climbed up the outside of the building and smashed the window”.
You can tell this isn’t going to end well, right?
“Only it didn’t just smash, it shattered and messed my arm up. I severed a nerve in my arm, split an artery, and there was just blood everywhere. I called 911 and had to hope they would get to me in time because I was basically bleeding to death. Something like that can really change your perspective on what’s important”.
But it obviously didn’t change Dave’s outlook on Magic…
“In the hospital, pretty much the first thing I asked the doctors was if my arm was going to be ok, and if I would be able to make it to the Pro Tour. They said that it would be fine, but it turned out that there was tons of glass still in my arm so I had to go in and have X-Rays and operations three times before they got all the glass out – under here I’ve got 50 stitches!”
And that was where Mikaela came in, sitting with Dave to help him through his matches:
“It’s just really lucky that Mikaela was here at the Pro Tour because I couldn’t have played without her help. We didn’t plan it in advance – Mikaela wasn’t qualified but she had come along because her roommate was playing. She’s from Nebraska while I’m Minnesotan, but we go to each other’s PTQs all the time so we know each other pretty well, and it’s a good job she was here because it would have been impossible. They said I could have a judge to shuffle for me, but there’s no way I could have had a judge sit with me the whole time like Mikaela has.”
This isn’t Dave’s first Pro Tour, though, and as you listen to the good-natured American talk about his game it seems likely it’s not going to be his last either. So long as he survives his next trip with the trash, that is…
“This is my second Pro Tour, and also my second Pro Tour in 2011 because I went to Paris at the start of the year. The trip to Paris was a lifechanging experience, getting to play on your first Pro Tour. It doesn’t matter how prepared you are, or how much of it you watch on the coverage, you just can’t know what it’s like to be there and to play against the best players. Until you’ve been beaten by them you simply don’t know what it is that you’re not doing. I learnt a whole lot, and it also gave me a lot of confidence.”
And Dave has really noticed a step up in his game this year, rewarded with his Pro Tour visits.
“I made a bunch of PTQ Top 8s in the past but I think there’s a real difference between making the Top 8 and winning the slot, and I think I’m getting there now – I won my 11th and 12th PTQ Top 8s so it was a long time coming, but it was going to happen eventually. I’m also a good friend of Brad Nelson - we’d been to lots of the same PTQs and the matches between us were always really close. When I saw him make that step up, and become Player of the Year, it made me realise that I could do it do – it was a real inspiration. And we’ve got a great team as well: there are four Minnesotans here this weekend and we’ve worked really hard. If you ask all the Pros they’ll tell you how important it is to have a good team and that’s true. You need people to bounce ideas off,” and Dave grins, “and sometimes I need somebody smart to explain something to me!”
Dave navigated his way through the Modern portion of the first day on a 3-2 record, piloting a version of Affinity with a couple of twists – Master of Eetherium and Paradise Mantle to help accelerate his path to Tezzeret. After winning his first round of draft, Dave’s eyes are on making it into Day Two one-handed, or three-handed if you count the help of Mikaela.
If he can survive the draft, and survive his chores, Dave Yetka could well be a name to watch out for in the future.