Posted in Event Coverage on September 2, 2004

By Wizards of the Coast


In addition to our text coverage, is taking you inside the World Championships with regular video updates. Watch along all week as Randy Buehler and reporter Justin Gary talks to the game's top names in San Francisco.

Not in San Francisco for the Magic World Championships?

Fear not! Our illustrious team of snoops, sleuths, peepers and finks are on hand at the most important Magic event of the year sniffing out all the juicy tidbits of goings-on that would normally end up on the metaphoric cutting room floor. And this time we're involving you in the action. Are you rooting for a particular pro player and itching for an interview? Are you nursing an awesome story idea just waiting to get covered? Discuss the 2004 World Championships on our message boards and post your suggestions, comments, and ideas and we'll do our best to get you the insider scoop!



Wednesday, September 1: 6:12 pm - Topsy Turvy Team Standings

by Brian David-Marshall

Coming into Worlds, everyone predicted France was going to win the team competition. . . not a terribly bold prediction, in light of the year that Gabriel Nassif, Olivier Ruel, and Alexandre Peset have been having. At the end of round 6 they were sitting on top of the leaderboard but they were in a virtual tie with a couple of surprising squads. The Czech Republic, South Korea, and Finland all shared the 39-point total with the French team.

Largely on the strength of Sasha Zorc's 6-0 performance Wednesday, Croatia was right behind them with 36 points or an average record of 4-2. If you were looking for a North American team, you would have to look to Mexico as both the U.S. and Canada were below the radar in 21st and 25th place, respectively. Mexico, on the other hand, was in the thick of the race in virtual tie with seven other teams at 33 points. While Mexico is in 11th, you could also say they were tied for sixth.

With only 10 points separating the first place and 20th place teams, the race is just getting started. The formats switch over to Mirrodin Block Booster draft Thursday -- a format the American team is not doubt looking forward to. They are expecting more than two points from Bill Stead in that format. That's right, he went 0-4-2 in Standard on Day 1.

Wednesday, September 1: 5:33 pm - Catching up with past Champs

by Brian David-Marshall

There are three former Players of the Year in this week's competition. Both Jon Finkel and Bob Maher went 4-2, while Kai Budde, the person who has won the most Player of the Year titles got his defense of the title off to an inauspicious start with a 2-4 record.

There are also four former World Champions playing this weekend -- technically three, since Daniel Zink is the current champion until Sunday. Kai and Jon are covered in the paragraph above. 2002 Champion Carlos Romao was 4-1-1 at the end of play Wednesday, while current champ Zink was looking to defend his title with a 4-2 start to his weekend. Rumor has it that the first World Champion may be making an appearance, although Zak Dolan will be doing so only as a spectator.

The first Rookie of the Year was Randy Buehler, and we know he did not play on Day 1. Dirk Baberowski played the same deck this weekend as Kai and shared his 2-4 record. Brian Davis and Amiel Tanenmbaum were not in attendance but Katsuhiro Mori and Masashi Oiso were. Mori was off to a rock-solid 5-1 start but Oiso was scrapping along at 3-3.

Wednesday, September 1: 5:10 pm - Round Five in the Feature Match Area

by Brian David-Marshall

David Williams (2-2) vs. Zvi Mowshowitz (2-2)

David Williams rolled his eyes as he mulliganed for the second time in game 1. He showed off a hand of Forest and triple Oxidize to a sympathetic Zvi Mowshowitz, "I know you're not playing Affinity so…"

Game 1 was over by turn five. Williams had creatures but was not exerting much pressure with a Goblin Sledder and Piledriver over the first few turns. He played a Sparksmith and sighed, "I know you have a Wrath in hand."

Zvi nodded, "Yeah." He followed up with a Plow Under on two of Williams' lands and the soon to be television star shuffled for Game 2.

He went for the land destruction plan in Game 2 and although he got in a couple of Stone Rains, Zvi still managed to squeak out a couple of Pulses to negate Williams' attack steps. Dave tried to keep pace by manna-burning but by the time Zvi Wrathed he was almost out of gas. He did manage to Naturalize an Astral Slide but that was the last spell his deck offered him. Zvi grew the Slide back with an Eternal Witness and Williams saw no reason to prolong his own agony and scooped to the Eternal Slide deck.

Final result: Zvi wins 2-0

Tsuyoshi Fujita (4-0) vs. William Jensen (4-0)

Both players went with red decks. Jensen was playing red-green goblins while the Japanese National Champion was piloting a Ponza deck. Fujita took game 1 so quickly that you would miss the game if you blinked.

I blinked.

In game 2, Jensen had sided in land destruction of his own to keep the Ponza deck back on its heels. He got in some early beat down which Fujita finally staunched with a Starstorm and Pyroclasm but he had sustained some heavy damage. Fujita used Seething Song into Rorix and Stone Rained to keep Jensen away from Siege-Gang Commander.

Jensen played a Smirk Prospector and a Clickslither on the next turn. Fujita was low enough that he could not attack with the Rorix out of respect for the insect. Jensen played a Siege-Gang and Fujita did the math to see if his Starstorm that could go up to four would get him out from under, but the math came out wrong no matter how you did it and they went to game 3.

Jensen had an aggressive turn-two Stone Rain powered out by a Prospector. He had another on the third turn and Fujita had no plays. Jensen played a Gempalm Incinerator and Fujita bolted it. He bolted a Prospector on the next turn as well. Jensen had Molten Rain and Sharpshooter but Fujita finally got to three lands on turn eight and cast two Seething Songs. He bolted the Sharpshooter and played Rorix. He sealed the game with a Starstorm for one two turns later to mop up the goblin resistance.

Final result: Fujita wins 2-1

Daniel Zink (3-1) vs. Masahiko Morita (3-1)

The reigning World Champion and German National team member had taken the first game of this Affinity of Affinity feature match. In game 2 he had a Cranial Plated Frogmite that he sent hurtling toward Morita's side of the red zone. Morita wanted to avoid blocking and tried to figure out what would happen if he let the frog get through -- he was looking at 10 damage but he eyed the Aether Vial suspiciously.

He braced for the worst but Zink only did the 10 that was showing. Both players had Relic Barrier and Zink's was currently trumping Morita's. Morita played a second one and achieved Barrier advantage.

Affinity on Affinity has been tagged by the game's top players as the single most decision-intensive match-up in current constructed formats (and it is being played in ALL constructed formats) and Morita was agonizing over Zink's Aether Vial. He announced attackers and Zink tapped a Ravager. Morita attacked with his Rigger and tapped two Frogmites before blockers hoping that the Vial would not spit out anything surprising.

"No blocks?"

He finished off the German player with a combination of Disciple and Ravager to make his Rigger big enough to send them to Game 3.

In the third game, Zink started pounding away with a doubly Plated Frogmite while Morita put his own Frogs in the way and kept making his Rigger larger. Zink found a Ravager and an Ornithopter, and although he was under pressure from the Rigger and a Disciple, Morita could not find a Ravager to make them especially useful.

Morita made a small mistake when he activated a non-summoning sick Blinkmoth Nexus first. Zink tapped it with a Relic Barrier and Morita then activated the one he played last turn but could not pump it to kill the Ornithopter.

Final result: Zink wins 2-1

Gabriel Nassif (3-1) vs. Masashi Oiso (3-1)

Gabriel Nassif is in pursuit to unseat Kai Budde as the Player of the Year and is trying to stay ahead of two-time Pro Tour winner Nicolai Herzog in the standings. He was playing former Japanese Rookie of the Year Masashi Oiso. It was blue-white control for the French National Team member while the Japanese was with Eternal Slide.

The first game was still grinding on while the other three matches had all reached their conclusion. And then suddenly it was over. Nassif cycled for 14 soldier tokens and there was nothing the green-white player could do to prevent that from killing him.

Game 2 looked like it was going to go Nassif's way as well and French team captain Olivier Ruel even went so far as to say that Nassif's record was 4-1. Ruel's eyes bugged though as the Japanese player somehow got an Astral Slide to resolve. He was able to control the remainder of the game with a couple of Jens's, an Eternal Dragon and a big top deck when his Solemn Simulacrum traded with a couple of tokens for a Wrath off the top.

Oiso had an Eternal Dragon advantage when Nassif had to Vengeance to get rid of the Slide. Oiso saved his Dragon and played another. Game 3 followed shortly thereafter.

In the third game things went Nassif's way. He cycled for seven tokens and was able to protect them with Rewinds and Condescend. The French team was leading the standings of the team competition and he added to their lead with another victory.

Final Result: Nassif wins 2-1

Wednesday, September 1: 2:45 pm - Off the Board

by Brian David-Marshall

Team USA climbed onto the leaderboard after round 3 in 16th place, but the team anticipates falling right back off of it after an 0-2-1 drubbing in round 4. Team captain Craig Krempels is playing the hotly debated blue-red deck, and after getting off to a 3-0 start fell to Affinity -- the deck's much vaunted best matchup --this round.

"I kept a hand with Island and Serum Visions on the draw in game 3 and I just didn't draw land for two turns," Krempels said.

Ben Zoz also lost to drop to 2-2 on the weekend. Bill Stead drew for the second round in a row, giving the American team their lone point for the round.

Kai Budde, who along with Antonino DeRosa was one of the blue-red deck's biggest proponents, also fell to 2-2 with a loss to a Ravenous Rats/Chittering Rats draw after he had double-mulliganed. On the other hand, Marco Blume is 4-0 dispatching three Affinity decks along the way to that record. He is still not saying anything nice about the deck though.

"I never look at my opening hand and think, 'I have some good cards in this deck!'" Blume said.

Adam Horvath was also 4-0 with the deck and Eugene Harvey was "excited" with his 1-2-1 performance so far in the tournament. "I just got the win this round. I am on the board--that makes me happy!"

Wednesday, September 1: 2:02 pm - Calling the Bluff

by Brian David-Marshall

"Jelger lied to my face this round. Can you believe it? And it almost worked!" declared Brian Kibler after his fourth-round feature match with Jelger Wiegersma.

Jelger was aware that Kibler was playing the blue-white control deck from the Top 4 of Grand Prix Nagoya. Kibler prodded the Dutch player for similar information, and when he asked if he was playing the blue-red deck, Jelger said that he was.

Kibler looked at his opening hand which contained Wrath of God and two Relic Barriers and seriously considered shipping it back for six new cards. Against blue-red that hand would be terrible. The only thing that gave Kibler pause was that Jelger had won the die roll and chose to play. If he was truly playing the blue-red deck, knowing what Kibler was playing, he would have chosen to draw. Kibler decided to keep and was mock-outraged when a grinning Jelger played a Vault of Whispers on the first turn -- he was playing Affinity. Kibler obviously demolished him that game and took the match 2-0.

Wednesday, September 1: 11:51 am - Fun with Finkel

by Brian David-Marshall

By now, Jon Finkel's lack of preparation for major events has become as legendary as his ability to excel at the game in spite of it. Last night during the player barbecue, Jon drifted from table to table trying to acquire the cards for the Block and Standard portions of play. He found someone (this humble reporter) to give him the cards for Block but he still needed to find a Standard deck.

Aaron Forsythe was sitting at our table and had a long box of decks that had been build for the express purpose of gun slinging. While the decks are fun they are not what you would call cutting-edge technology. We came very close to giving Jon a blue-green Cowardice deck that went "infinite" with Choking Tethers and Eternal Witness.

"You should have done it," Brian Kibler said. "I would have gone along and told him it was good deck."

Wednesday, September 1: 11:40 am - Marco Frowns

by Brian David-Marshall

"I wish I had not spoken with Kai. I was perfectly fine with Affinity," laughed March Blume.

Marco is among the cadre of players with the blue-red Obliterate deck that, depending on who you speak to, either emerged from Canadian Nationals or the MTGO Worlds Qualifier. Either way, nobody seems happy with the deck including Marco -- and he is 2-0!

"The deck is truly awful. I am embarrassed to be playing it!"

Wednesday, September 1: 11:27 am - Kai's Master Plan?

by Brian David-Marshall

A giant leaderboard will be updated after each round with the team standings, featuring the top 20 teams. The United States team is not even on the board after round 1.

Brian Kibler leveled the following charge at Kai Budde when not a single member of the U.S. National team appeared on the leaderboard after round 1 with the blue-red March/Obliterate deck: "You just hate America so much that you sabotaged your tournament to take them out of the team competition!"

Mexico led after round 1 in a virtual tie with the Czech Republic and Malaysia. Kai had no comment but did rub his hands together in a fiendish fashion.

Wednesday, September 1: 11:20 am - Am I Blue(-Red)?

by Brian David-Marshall

"There is someone playing a deck with Obliterate, Future Sight, and Arc-Slogger?" asked an incredulous Scott Johns, as Japanese reporter Keita Mori recounted the match he was covering.

The answer to his question was yes, but it was not just someone playing the deck -- it was Kai Budde. Kai has been preparing for the event with the TOGIT gang since he arrived in the U.S. weeks ago for Grand Prix New Jersey. After weeks and weeks of testing they finally settled not on Affinity but, rather, a deck that beats Affinity. Kai started with Michael Thicke's deck from Canadian Nationals and then went to work under the hood. The most striking alteration is the swap of Concentrate for Future Sight. Kai pointed to the fact that it was synergistic with Obliterate while Concentrate was not.

"This is the only deck I comfortable sitting across from Affinity with," explained the German Juggernaut.

He was so confident with the deck that he managed to proselytize the TOGIT team, including Osyp Lebedowicz, Eugene Harvey, Craig Krempels, and even Gary Wise. Kai managed to win round 1 while it seemed like everyone else with the deck took a first-round loss.

"Its only bad matchup is Tooth and Nail," shrugged Kai.

That had Osyp concerned. "Now that I have taken a loss, I will be playing terrible Tooth and Nail decks in the loser bracket all day long. Why didn't I play Affinity?"

Wednesday, September 1: 10:15 am - Rats!

by Brian David-Marshall

There was a story going around the floor -- mostly spread by Mark Rosewater -- that John Ormerod had taken a round-one loss to a Relentless Rats deck. He did take a loss to Rats, but it was to rodents of the Ravenous and Chittering variety. There seems to be tons of control decks on the floor today, so you could be hearing more about the Rat deck once the final standings are posted at the end of Day 1.

Wednesday, September 1: 9:23 am - Nagoya Impact

by Brian David-Marshall

Going into Grand Prix Nagoya there was excitement that the Japanese would put another deck out there that set the Worlds metagame on its ear. Last year, Grand Prix Bangkok brought us the Goblin Bidding deck weeks before Worlds but this year there was no major innovation from Japan. There were four Affinity decks, one Deathcloud, one green-red goblins, one blue-white control, and a green-white Slide deck.

That has not stopped anyone from plundering that event for decklists. Brian Kibler is playing the blue-white list from the Top 4 with some minor tweaks, as are Seth Burn and Zvi Mowshowitz. Almost all of the Japanese players are running the green-red Goblin listing that took the title last week. Coming into the event the same players were all sporting Tron -- the mono-green Tooth deck that Shigehara used to win the online qualifier -- but when that plan had them all far short of the money they shifted to Goblin en masse. The ones that are not with goblins seem to playing Ponza.

The deck that beat John Ormerod in round 1 sounds suspiciously similar to Ibamoto's deck from Nagoya. If so let's hope that person added the Relic Barriers that were missing from Ibamoto's Top-4 build.

We will have to wait until Friday to find out what kind of impact Jeff Garza's green-red Tooth and Nail deck will have at this year's Worlds.

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