PT Atlanta '05 Champs, Nova
Unfortunately one of my teammates caught a savage virus just before we left for Atlanta and spent most of the holiday stuck in the hotel room. He did eventually make it down for the Pro-Tour itself but given the sickly nature of our card pools (and I don't mean “aww man that's sick!” here) I doubt it would've made a lot of difference had he been in perfect health! Our rare cards from the first sealed deck pool were a good indicator. From memory (so I might be off by one or two, but I don't think so) they were:
Not exactly your ideal opponent for Round 1, especially in this format!The pairings for the first round brought a smile when we found ourselves at table one, but that quickly switched to a wry smile when I found myself sitting opposite Kai! Fortunately we're pretty good friends as he used to team with several English friends of mine and we've played a few times before at some of the countless European GPs I used to go to, so it was a fun match. On turns three to six he cast Takenuma Bleeder, Yukora, the Prisoner, Frost Ogre and Scourge of Numai! It took a while to deal with them and I just barely managed it. Unfortunately when it came down to top-deck wars I was way behind on life totals and always going to struggle. A Cuthroat finished me off when it let a Throat Slitter nip in and take out one of my last guys.
We lost that round and then drew the next. A draw in the third effectively eliminated us from day two but we were behind in the third match and we decided to do the decent thing and concede (under the watchful eyes of a Judge of course). I wouldn't do this in a lot of circumstances as you might simply be preventing someone else from taking a top 64 or top 8 slot for example, but here the cut to day two is not a set number so we wanted to give our opponent's their chance to make day two whilst still not hurting anyone else's. Surprisingly they found us at the venue the next day and thanked us a lot as they actually went on to win their next three matches and make it in!
Fortunately I had a fantastic time in Atlanta. It was the first time I'd visited the southern U.S. and everyone was very friendly and made it a very enjoyable experience. This was the first PT I'd been too for a couple of years and I have to say they're looking much more impressive these days. If you've never been to one I'd definitely recommend doing so as a spectator if it ever comes to a city near you as it's completely beyond any other Magic event you might've been to.
The main thing I have to tackle this week is to offer my votes for the Internet Writers Vote for the upcoming Invitational event. When they first announced this category and told me I was going to be including my votes I was a little surprised. Many of today's regular writers (on this site and on others) are regular Pro players themselves and probably have their fingers on the PT pulse whereas I tend to skip the vast number of PTs I qualify for these days. I know most of the old school players but there's plenty of new blood around I've never even seen at an event.
Despite that, I figure they must've added this category for a reason and in my mind if they're going to ask the writers then maybe the writing ability of the invitee should figure in the voting. So I'm going to be judging people on two counts: their abilities as a player and how much they contribute to the Magic community by writing articles for others. A strong performance in either area will get noted, but scoring well in both areas are what I'd look for.
So, in reverse order my votes go to:
Oiso, at GP Hong Kong ‘045) Masashi Oiso
Masashi was 6th in the player of the year race before PT Atlanta and has been scoring well all season. He finished in the money again at PT Atlanta with his team Shonichide Pon and will no doubt be in the running as the year progresses. Masashi has had numerous excellent finishes over the last year or two and although I don't know of any writing me may or may not do in Japan he makes it onto the list simply by virtue of excelling so consistently at the game.
4) Jeff Cunningham
Jeff might've moved up the list a little if he'd just write more! I find his writing style very entertaining, and his dry sense of humour could easily be mistaken for an English one if you ask me. He already has a Pro-Tour top eight to his name which puts him in an elite crowd, but he also quietly and consistently posts solid finishes at Pro Tours time and again. He is one of a few players that seems to be comfortable playing and writing about both constructed and limited formats and I hope we'll see him around for a long time yet.
Remie, GP NJ ‘043) Jeroen Remie
Jeroen is another player I'd like to see write more as when he does it he does it very well. He's very good at distilling down complex decks and theories so people can understand them and if he ever writes something that that disagrees with the general consensus you can be sure he'll give a sound reason for doing so. He's an excellent player who has been around the Pro-Tour for several years now and also has a Pro-Tour win under his belt with his team Von Dutch. He's definitely deserving of a slot at the invitational so I do hope he makes it in.
2) Olivier Ruel
There are few Pro's who appear to enjoy the game of Magic as much as Olivier. Whether it's attending an event in a kimono or just using Magic as a springboard to explore the world Olivier always seems to be getting more from the game than most other players. Despite – or perhaps because of – his jovial approach to the game his results remain excellent. Prior to Atlanta he was just three points shy of leading the Player of the Year race and I'm sure nobody would be surprised to see him leading at the end of the year. As English isn't his first language he obviously doesn't write as much as others might but he's a regular contributor to my column and when he offers an opinion you should definitively give it due attention. Traditionally Olivier always submits the wackiest card at the Invitational so I'd like to see him there again just to see what he submits this year!
Aten (center) with team mates Pelcak and Szleifer after winning GP Chicago earlier this year.1) Tim Aten
Tim Aten tops my list primarily because he writes some of the best articles you can currently find on the net. They're acidly entertaining and yet extremely informative at the same time. More than that he manages to write regularly and at a consistently high quality and take it from me, that's a very difficult thing to do! From my point of view I love that there's another great limited writer out there to challenge the things I write about and present differing points of view and approaches to the game. Let's also not forget that he's no slouch at Magic either with a recent GP win under his belt. He's also clearly passionate about the game; although he may well deny it it's obvious from his writing. Tim is someone else I'd like to see at the Invitational, not least of which because I'm sure we'd get an excellent report out of him after the fact!
Pro-Tour Philadelphia qualifiers are practically over now and the next season will therefore rotate back to limited again. As a result I'll be throwing some sealed deck articles into the mix once again with some strategy articles and some example builds over the coming months. I'm including a sealed deck pool below that I'll be looking at next week so take some time, think about the best build you'd make with it and then tune in next week to see how it compares.
The card pool I'll be looking at next week is listed here. I've also included a Magic Online .DEC file that you can download and load into Magic Online to let you see better how the cards look when laid out together.
So join me next week when we take a look at the possibilities in that pool.