Eli Loveman isn't your typical Mythic Champion.
Most winners reach the pinnacle only after many years of dedication, thousands of hours of intense practice, and hundreds of tournaments. A slow and stoic grind that pays off with a trophy and a trip to the top of the Magic world, cementing them as the best in the game.
Loveman hasn't had that experience. In fact, after making Day Two of his first Pro Tour several years ago and promptly losing the first three Draft rounds, he simply dropped to explore the city. His next three trips to a Pro Tour came intermittently, and he failed to advance past the first day in any of them. Nor was his path to Mythic Championship II in London flashy. He made the Top 8 of Grand Prix Memphis earlier this year, but promptly lost two games in the quarterfinals. His 5-3 start in London got him into his second Day Two, but left him far from the top of the leaderboard.
Not exactly the resume Mythic Champions are usually made of---which is a fact Loveman has embraced since reeling off a perfect 11-0 run from that point to win the second Mythic Championship of the season and take home the $50,000 top prize.
"It's like it wasn't real," he admitted in the days following his win. "It's still hard to say if it's set in. Even going into the semis and the finals, the matchups were so bad I didn't think I had a chance. I was considering myself 'Eli Loveman, Mythic Championship Top 4 competitor,' and that was perfectly fine.
"Then the cards lined up the way they did, and now I'm here. It's like a dream."
Briefly, Loveman sounds like the typical victor, soaking in the victory and the changes it brings to life.
But Loveman isn't your typical Mythic Champion.
"Even if I had a chance to play Magic professionally, I'd maybe do it to experience the opportunity, but I definitely wouldn't pursue it for more than a year," he continued. "My day job means a lot to me, and I don't want to leave it. That was my approach going into the tournament. And a lot has changed, but a lot has stayed the same, too."
Loveman is an integral part of a family business that specializes in developing affordable housing communities in southern California, a thankless job that he lists among his proudest accomplishments. He's a 25-year-old "one tournament a month, not one a weekend, kind of guy" who counts his greatest Magic accomplishment as the friends he's made along the way. He was the high schooler who picked up Magic by brewing Werewolf Tribal "and cool stuff like that" when Innistrad was new. He's the player who picks his tournaments based on what cities he wants to visit, from a playgroup that describes every Magic accomplishment---including Loveman's Mythic Championship victory---by ending it with "or whatever." He's the player who spent his Top 8 matches chatting jovially with his opponents, verbally discussing lines of play and even revealing hidden cards with Matt Sperling in the finals as they joked back and forth.
He's also the player whose impeccable technical play carried him through the tournament, the expert Humans Tribal pilot who spent all of Saturday night perfecting his sideboard plans for the Top 8. He's the veteran who learned from each of his previous failures, who used those losses as fuel for staying focused and treating each match "as just another round at FNM." Loveman is the learner who emulated stories he heard of Reid Duke finishing second at the World Championship then going home and immediately writing down all his mistakes so as not to repeat them.
Loveman is a Mythic Champion. But he's the same casual Werewolf Tribal player at heart.
"I don't think I'm the best Magic player in the world, and I know things lined up for me the right way," he said. "All the losing I had done taught me to just take it one round at a time, because at any point your house of cards could come tumbling down. It doesn't matter what place you finish in, it matters that you have the self-reflection to look back and see what you can learn. I've got that list on me."
There's one other way Loveman differs from the typical winner---his goals involve much more than just playing the game at the highest level.
"My dream is some kind of coverage position," he confessed with a laugh. "That's my ultimate end goal, but I think I've got a little bit left to prove along the way first. I can't wait to do it all over again in Barcelona."