The first Pro Tour of a new season is here. There is plenty to get excited about - the new payout system with more prizes, the first ever Master Series and a very fun format.
New York's famous Madison Square Garden will host the second ever Team Pro Tour. Teams of three will compete in Sealed Deck and Rochester Draft formats for over $200,000 in prizes.
Over the course of the last six months, pro players spent a lot of time forming alliances, making deals and otherwise trying to decide who they are going to team up with for this event. Some players stuck with their friends and teammates who they play with locally. Others formed long distance or international teams, trying to join up with the best possible group of players. In this article, I will take a look at some of the most interesting teams that ended up being formed.
ABSOLUTE POWER (Igor Frayman, Brian Hacker, Gabriel Tsang) (USA, Canada)
If there ever was an old-school partnership that survived and flourished in a game where an average lifespan for the best of teams is under two years, this is it. Although Tsang is in Canada while his teammates live in California, these three have been challenging all comers to money drafts at Pro Tour for years. They know each other's play styles inside and out and will undoubtedly set up their strategy to capitalize on that.
ABSOLUTE SAMUELS (Patrick Jansen, Demir Sejdiu, Daniel Steinsdorfer) (Germany)
While most of the teams discussed in this article are noteworthy because of individual players involved, there are several that managed to gain reputation as a team over the course of the last year. Absolute Samuels is a perfect example. None of these players are well-known on the Pro Tour individually, but they've enjoyed a lot of success as a team, barely missing top 4 at GP-Cannes and then making the top 4 and qualifying for this tournament at GP-Frankfurt.
ANTARCTICA (Jon Finkel, Steve O'Mahoney Schwartz, Dan O'Mahoney Schwartz) (USA)
Any team featuring the illustrious Jon Finkel is definitely in contention for the title of the best team in the world, which is not to take any credit away from the OMS brothers, who are at the top of their game as well. This trio has already proven to work together extremely well. Not only did they make the top 4 of the first Team Pro Tour in Washington D.C., but they also won GP-St. Louis. Antarctica and Your Move Games are presently vying for the unofficial title of the best team in the world, and Pro Tour-New York will allow one of these two teams to score a few points over the competition.
BLACK OPS (Florent Jeudon, Antoine Ruel, Olivier Ruel) (France)
Much like Absolute Samuels, these players gained acclaim by working as a team, rather than bringing their own clout to support their sponsor - the French gaming magazine Black Ops. Invited to the Team Invitational at Pro Tour-New York '99 based on their DCI rating, they were considered an underdog, yet they managed to win, defeating Antarctica in the finals. They also defeated my own team in the finals of GP-Cannes to claim another Champion title.
CHARLIE BROWN (Patrick Chapin, Lan Ho, Brian Schneider) (USA)
This team is a real dark horse of the tournament. All three of these players are occasionally brilliant - when they care to take the time away from their lives to think about Magic. It seems that they've actually put a fair amount of effort to practice for this event. Schneider spent ten days with his teammates in Texas, practicing for the tournament, then traveled to New York to practice with Zvi and I, then met up with Finkel and McKenna to play more in New Jersey. Solid technical players and amazing deckbuilders, this trio might come up with some real breakthroughs in the team draft strategy before they are done.
EXECUTIONERS (Kenichi Fujita, Koichiro Maki, Satoshi Nakamura) (Japan)
The strongest team from Asia present, it features APAC champions Maki and Nakamura along with a two time Grand Prix winner Fujita. Japanese players are known for showing up with some radically different decks and strategies, and this time may be no different. It will certainly be interesting to see what Satoshi pulls out of his hat this time.
THE FIX (Justin Gary, Bob Maher, Dave Williams) (USA)
Player of the Year Bob Maher Jr. has been playing together with Dave Williams to some successful finishes throughout the last GP season, including a top 4 finish at GP-Nagoya. They could not go wrong with Justin Gary either - although top 8 finishes seem to elude him on purpose, few players in the world are as consistent. Gary has finished in the money at almost every major event over the last two seasons. Perhaps this will be his chance to finally get into the single elimination rounds.
GAME EMPIRE (Kurt Burgner, Alan Comer, Brian Selden) (USA)
Finalists from Pro Tour-D.C., this California team has enough raw talent to win the whole thing - but will they have the practice? Selden is semi-retired, yet still doing very well at tournaments he cares to show up for, and Kurt Burgner has been officially lost to the EverQuest online roleplaying game.
HUEY, BEN AND CASEY (William Jensen, Casey McCarrel, Ben Rubin) (USA)
Another very solid Pro Tour point team. Individually each of these players has known great success. McCarrel won Pro Tour: New York two years ago and Rubin has a number of top 4 PT finishes. William "Baby Huey" Jensen made top 8 at PT London. As a team, they won GP-Pittsburgh.
JUGGERNAUT (Dirk Baberowski, Kai Budde, Andre Konstanczer) (Germany)
Graduates of Team CCC, these players dominated the 1998-1999 PT season, with Budde claiming Player of the Year and Baberowski Rookie of the Year titles. The three have plenty of experience working together and, although Konstanczer has been too busy with his job to actively playtest, he is certainly sharp enough to play the deck he is handed really well.
NEW NAME 1 (Svend Geertsen, Raphael Levy, Mike Sochon) (Denmark & France)
One of the very best European teams present. Geertsen is one of those players who does not seem to practice much, but once he's got cards in hand, watch out. Levy has had a very good season and should be on top of his game after taking a months' vacation away from Magic. Sochon dominated the European scene a few years ago and has remained on the Pro Tour consistently since then, so he is never the one to be counted out.
POTATO NATION (Scott Johns, Gary Wise, Mike Turian) (USA & Canada)
This is a very interesting team that features a variety of play styles. Its members are all from various parts of North America, but they are all active IRC users and can prepare by meeting online. Wise is familiar to you as one of the leading columnists for Sideboard, Scott Johns is the editor-in-chief of Mindripper's strategy web page and Mike Turian - the Potato himself - is often referred to as the most sought after money draft partner on the Pro Tour. How can you go wrong?
TEAM ROCKET (Seth Burn, Adrian Sullivan, Brian Davis) (USA)
This team is very notable as it represents the politics sometimes involved in forming a team. Davis, who finished 2nd at PT Chicago last season, had plenty of PT points needed to qualify for this event, but still needed to prove himself as a consistent player. Burn and Sullivan did not have enough points on their own, so they were willing to take the chance on Davis in return for his points. Burn also helped Davis get onto the Mogg Squad playtest group for Worlds, which worked out very well for Davis as he finished in the 9th place. It will be interesting to see if this alliance works out for everyone involved.
YOUR MOVE GAMES (Darwin Kastle, Rob Dougherty, Dave Humpherys) (USA)
Winners of the previous team Pro Tour, not only each of these guys is a Pro Tour powerhouse in their own right, but they work so well together that it's scary. The trio has the advantage of being able to practice together regularly at Dougherty's Your Move Games store against some top notch players in Boston area. This is one of the teams I would not bet against, going into PT-NY.
ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY (Zvi Mowshowitz, Trevor Blackwell, Alex Shvartsman) (USA)
In a failing effort to avoid shameless self-promotion, I'll just complement my teammates here. Zvi is well known for his Constructed talents, but he is no chump when it comes to drafting either. A very solid player, Zvi thinks incredibly fast on his feet, a valuable skill for Day 2 of the tournament. I got a chance to watch Blackwell play when we teamed up (and won) for GP-Nagoya. He is an incredibly strong player and should do very well in New York. Me, I'll just try to keep up with these guys.
So, that's it. Who's going to do well? We'll see this weekend.
In the meantime, you can participate in Pro Tour-New York by picking your Fantasy Pro Tour team. The best players will win cool prizes from Sideboard. To find out more, click here.