Not in Yokohama 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 2005 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!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Day 1 Blog Archive: The Hall of Famers, Play of the Day, Ted in China, News and Notes, and more!
- Day 2 Blog Archive: Draft 1 Notes, Info on Alex, Catching up With Kenji, Pretty Pictures, and more!
- Day 3 Blog Archive: POY Updates, Top Pro Play, Looking Ahead to Friday, and more!
- 10:45 am - Repeat Performers
- 1:34 pm - Living Up to the Hype (so far)
- 2:09 pm - Deck Tech: Sword Fighting
- 2:20 pm - Limited Deck Tech: Drake Draft
- 2:37 pm - Chewing on the Scenery
- 3:30 pm - Player Profile: The Last Emperor
- 4:58 pm - Membership Has Its Privileges
- 5:03 pm - Risking My Life for the Readers
- 6:15 pm - Roub-a-Dope!
- 7:02 pm - Current Currency
- 8:55 pm - Mailbag!
Friday, December 2: 10:32 am - Shuffling for 60
With the results in, we know that this year's Worlds Top 8 has three different players making a second Sunday appearance in one season. Frank Karsten took sixth in Nagoya, Shuhei Nakamura placed second at Pro Tour Columbus, and Tomohiro Kaji played on Sunday at Pro Tour Atlanta as a member of One Spin. Nakamura's performance this season is particularly remarkable, as he just barely missed out on Top 8 at Pro Tour Philly as well, coming in a close ninth on tiebreakers.
How many pro players have ever made three Pro Tour Top 8s in one season? Doing some crunching from the tables in the Tournament Center and checking everyone with four or more lifetime pro tour Top 8s (plus Kenji Tsumura and Mattias Jorstedt), I came up with eight, which was way more than I had expected. (If anyone has the time to crunch through the players with just 3 lifetime Top 8s and finds one I missed, please post to the forums). Can you name them? (You know, without looking.)
Jon Finkel ('97-'98)
Kai Budde ('02)
Mattias Jorstedt ('03)
Gabriel Nassif ('04)
Kamiel Cornelissen ('04)
Mike Turian ('04)
Kenji Tsumura ('05)
Oh, and some guy named Scott Johns. But, that was back in season one, before fire had been invented. (Ah, Pointed Stick Deck Wins B.C. 24,210 - now THAT was a deck).
And man, what was going on with '04? Clearly a season of chumps!
Saturday, December 3: 1:34 pm - Living Up to the Hype (so far)
Day 4 at Worlds means National Team competition. In early Worlds events this day pitted 4-person national teams against each other in a series of team sealed deck matches. Later the format was switched to 3-person teams, allowing 3 on 3 team Rochester drafts, considered by many to be the most skill-testing format on the Tour. (If you're new to the format, there's a quick explanation in Scott Wills' article "Teaming Up".) Each round has 9 points at stake, winning team takes all.The U.S. took down Portugal in the first round of team play.
Coming into this event, the U.S. team has not been shy with the trash-talk, going so far as guaranteeing first place. With three days of individual competition and one round of team draft behind them, so far they've walked the walk too. The first round Saturday went as well as they could have asked. Not only did they sweep No. 2 Portugal, but the third- and fourth-place teams drew on time, allowing the U.S. to stretch its lead even further.
With 113 points, the closest other teams are Portugal (102), the Slovak Republic (102), and Japan (101). Even with a loss here against the Slovak Republic, the US would still hold first. I checked in with them after the second draft while they deliberated over their decks.
"I think this draft went really well for us," team captain Antonino De Rosa said. "I think we all have good matchups!"
I asked if they'd sweep their opponents but De Rosa and Reeves were very fast with the same sentence, word for word: "I just hope we win two."
Laughing that they'd said the same thing Neil challenged, "What, are you trying to jinx us?"
Saturday, December 3: 2:09 pm - Deck Tech: Sword Fighting
There were four different 6-0 decks to emerge from Wednesday's Standard scrum. The alliterative GhaziGlare and Greater Good both finished up strong and will see play again on Sunday in the hands of Tomohiro Kaji and Frank Karsten. Antoine Ruel dropped from the tournament at 8-9 after his 6-0 start with a Critical Mass Update that featured exactly zero Vinelasher Kudzus. The remaining undefeated deck was played by Werner Cloete and both of his teammates on the South African National team.
The deck was listed in the metagame breakdown as Blue-Red Tron but its given name is Hattori Hanzo Tron. I caught up with Werner to ask him about the deck and his mirror image record from Day One to Day Two. It turns out the South Africans also played a similar Hattori Hanzo creation in the Extended portion as well.Cloete and the South Africans love their Tron.
"We only had like 12 lands so we had to use them in both formats," laughed Werner regarding his decision to play Tron decks in both Constructed legs. "The Standard Urzatron deck is just broken. We stumbled across it and did some testing. If you have Pyroclasms you beat Boros and control is always about who has the most land and you can't have more lands than Urzatron.
"Combined our record was 12-6 with the deck but it should have been 13-5," he stopped to leer comically at one his teammates. "That's about all we are going to say about that."
The deck has a ridiculous advantage against the popular Jushi Control decks, which is one of the factors that led the team to play the deck.
"Basically they have to play around your counters because they just can't run into them. As soon as they play around them that gives you time to set up your Urzatron. Once you have Urzatron you can go Compulsive Research, Tidings, Meloku, and Keiga all on the same turn. It gets extremely stupid.
"[On Day One], I had to discard down to one card - a Tidings. A turn later I was discarding because I had too many cards in my hand. It's just stupid. All the control matchups let you sit there until you have Tron and start playing multiple threats and they can't counter all of them and that's about that. Against beatdown decks they generally have to overextend. You Pyroclasm their board, counter a few spells, and then drop a Keiga or Meloku."
The deck has some similar matchups in Extended that you just don't lose, although it is not quite the same deck - especially since the team only managed a 9-9 record with it.
"Instead of splashing red and black we are splashing white," Werner continued. "It's the same mentality. We were joking around about playing the same deck in both formats. Against control you have a good match-up again. Once you get your Tron you can cycle Decree of Justice for 20 or so and that's all there is to that."
The team felt the deck could have done better had the match-ups fallen their way. "I don't want to talk about it. You have a bad match-up against agro-Rock. Just accept it, live with it, and move on with your life. I am very good at drawing agro-Rock," sighed Werner. "Dedgeatog, Madness, and Affinity - if you drop a Platinum Angel they can't kill it and you win. Against those decks you have an auto win. You have so many huge bombs - Mindslaver is good."
Werner would have like to take a break from Magic on Saturday but his team had to get right back into for the Team Competition. Werner had high hopes for the tournament on Wednesday afternoon but ended up pulling the historic feat of starting undefeated on Day One and not winning on Day Two - a feat that was notably accomplished by Randy Buehler.
"We are going to make shirts that say "Worlds 6-0" on the front and "Worlds 0-6" on the back. After that sixth match you go home and just feel so great because draft is what you are good at. You are just hoping not to go 0-6 and then you go 0-6. I did win the first game of my last match though. I don't want to see Limited in my life again."
The team is made of Werner, Mike Nurse, and Andrew Klein. I asked Werner if he felt like the deck had any chance of becoming part of the Extended landscape. He preferred to revel in his Day One glory.
"The Type II deck is much better than the Extended one. I think we will see that one in Honolulu - I don't know about the PTQs."
Saturday, December 3: 2:20 pm - Limited Deck Tech: Drake Draft
Here is a little something for you 40-card aficionados. Raphael Levy decided to go rogue Thursday in the first draft. He broke free of the restrictive guild mindset and eschewed that Ravnica theme for the sub-theme of Auras. He went 2-1 with this surprising little decklist that featured four Drake Familiars.
Saturday, December 3: 2:37 pm - Chewing on the Scenery
It's like the outdoors, but not quite…
Orchestrating a Pro Tour goes way beyond just keeping the rounds running. Enormous thought and effort (and money) is put into the design and logistics of every venue, as members of Organized Play seek to outdo themselves with each new event to provide the players with the best gaming experience possible. While I was working on a photo piece earlier this morning I ran into event manager Renee Roub, who had some cool trivia about putting together this year's set.
First off, many people have commented on the three dramatic light boxes that tower around the edges of the hall.
The funny thing about these is why they came to be. Logistically speaking, the biggest challenge dealing with Japan is square footage. Specifically, there just isn't any. Square footage in Japan is so expensive that affordable storage is essentially impossible to find, as is pretty much anything else that requires significant areas of space.
Now, normally at the Pro Tour, Wizards has giant banners printed up for the site. In this case though, square footage is so expensive that they couldn't even find anywhere to print the banners, because nobody had enough space to print them! So, rather than print giant banners, the team got innovative by creating these popular boxes, which blend elements of texture, lighting, and nature.
And look at me, no jokes about thinking inside the box.
Saturday, December 3: 3:30 pm - Player Profile: The Last Emperor
In 2001 at the final APAC Championships, Jin Okamoto earned his nickname "The Last Emperor" when he won $15,000 and the trophy (this weekend's Top 8 competitor Katsuhiro Mori also finished third at that same tournament). Jin has been a fixture on the Pro Tour scene since then and went on to reach the finals of two Pro Tours. He squared off with Daniel Zink at the World Championships in Berlin two years ago and was part of the team that faced Von Dutch in the finals of Seattle during 2004 campaign.A young Jin Okamoto from the 2001 APAC Championships.
Over the course of his career he has become an elder statesman for the game in Japan. He is the second-winningest Japanese player and 27th overall with $111,000 in lifetime winnings - only Tsuyoshi Fujita is higher on the leaderboard among Japanese players. Jin has done well enough this year to lock up Level 3 Players Club status for all of next season - automatic qualification and $500 appearance fees - but it looks like the emperor is hanging up his kabuto.
Although he may still attend the occasional Pro Tour, Jin is retiring
from the ranks of Professional Magic players in order to pursue other career opportunities. He finished 66th in the final event of the season right behind Nico Herzog - both were lurking near the top of the standings for most of the week.
"I am 30 years old and my parents and family have been supportive for many years," explained Jin after confirming that he was retiring. "I have had a very satisfying career and the game has been very good to me. I am very satisfied as a Pro but it now it is time for me to find a job and support my family."
That is not to say that Jin won't show up at any more Pro Tours; instead his priorities are changing. If he attends he will be much more interested in seeing the sights than assessing the metagame.
"If I get to one Pro Tour next season I would like to get to Honolulu but if my job does not allow me to take the time off. I will certainly still be playing Magic for the fun of it - just not professionally. Right now Magic is my job but after this tournament I will go back to being a player just for the fun of Magic."Okamoto at 2005 Worlds.
Jin has pretty much known all-year long that this tournament would be his last one as a dedicated Pro. After Worlds in San Francisco he knew that there was little left for him to accomplish. He may not have been sitting on the stage come Sunday but his legacy was very much on display.
"Last year was the biggest moment for me. The year before I was the finalist at Worlds in Berlin - it was fantastic of course, probably the highlight of my career - but last year was the biggest tournament for me ever in my Magic career. One of my apprentices - Ryo Ogura - made the Top 4 of Worlds SF wearing my shirt with the tiger on it. I know the game is still alive if I leave."
"As long as there are players like Oiso and Tsumura - good young players leading the Asian committee of players. I had to do so much before but now it is okay because they can do it. Japanese Magic is in good hands."
With four players from Japan representing the home country during the single elimination rounds on Sunday threatening to put forth the first Japanese World Champion after Kenji Tsumura locked up the first ever Player of the Year title for the country, he couldn't be more right.
Saturday, December 3: 4:58 pm - Membership Has Its Privileges
Rich Hoaen and Magic R&D member Paul Sottosanti watch supergroup Jonsson, Warmenhoven, and Levy rock out.
I can't remember exactly when I came up with the idea, but sometime in the last couple of months I decided I wanted to hold a karaoke night here at Worlds, I just wasn't sure how to rope in enough players to make sure it was fun.
As many of you know, my day job is editing StarCityGames.com and it's been a great year, so I eventually decided I wanted to reward my writers in attendance here by inviting and treating them to an evening of drunken cover tunes. I sent out an e-mail to our writing list and received only a few lukewarm responses, but somewhere along the way a bunch of Euros became interested, then some of the Americans glommed on, and soon I had a critical mass of folks - so many in fact that I was worried about finding a room big enough to hold everyone.
The real cap to the preparation was when Kenji Tsumura and Japanese National Team Member Masashi Oiso agreed to come, generating a ton of excitement among everyone involved. Katsu Mori was also invited, but turned down the invitation due to exhaustion.The honored guests of the evening performed a couple of raucous duets.
The roster of singers set, I managed to find a karaoke place within 10 minutes of the venue and once we got there we even snagged a room big enough to hold 30 people. I'm just going to tease you about the rest of the evening (you can expect a more complete report on Monday or Tuesday at StarCityGames.com), but let's just say that Kenji celebrated his Player of the Year title in style and I was more than a little concerned this morning that the festivities might sink Japan's team title hopes.
They're 2-0 right now, so things look good on that end, but with the way Masashi looked when he left last night, things were touch and go. It was one of the best Magic memories I've had in my life and every person in attendance conveyed to me that they had a great time last night. Here are a couple of images to further whet your appetite.
Saturday, December 3: 5:03 pm - Risking My Life for the Readers
I really hope all you eager readers, hungry for deck tech, appreciate what I am about to do. I have been threatened with violence by Adam Horvath if I publish Osyp's decklist from the Grand Prix Trial. Randy has been building the deck up in the podcast so I suggest that if Adam is looking for someone to harm, he might be advised to go after Randy (who is not only responsible for people being aware of the list, but also not as wary as I am).Osyp, we couldn't keep from showing your deck.
As of this writing Osyp is in the Top 4 of the trial with the deck that was inspired by Friggin' Rizzo and fine-tuned by another of Pittsburgh's finest, Paul Sottosanti. Horvath and several other players were talking about bringing the deck to Grand Prix-Charlotte and wanted it to be a surprise. With all the hype the deck has been getting in the podcast, it seemed impossible to avoid publishing the list. That's the risk you run when you play a deck at a public event.
"I brought the deck with me because I wanted to play some Magic," explained R&D's Sottosanti, who has been doing coverage this weekend. "The deck is based on the one Rizzo wrote about in his article. I just kept playing between rounds and it was really good. We kept making small changes and ended up with this. I had no idea Osyp was going to play it at this tournament though."
Adam Horvath could not be reached for comment. Has anyone seen him? Seriously, I am starting to get a little bit nervous here.
Saturday, December 3: 6:15 pm - Roub-a-Dope!
Boros Guild would love this place.
Earlier in this blog, I relayed the story from Renee Roub about how the towering light towers came to be, but that was just one of the cool things Renee had this morning. Another thing she pointed out was the curtains surrounding the Main Event side of the hall. These curtains alternate between red and white. For Japanese, this has cultural significance, indicting a celebration festival. (And you thought we were just pushing Boros more!)
Renee also had a funny story about getting all those flags to this event. Because of fire laws in Japan, many things have to be cleared by the fire marshal before they can be used in a hall like this. How exactly does that work? Well, it turns out we had to send a flag to the Fire Marshall, who then tried to light it on fire. The victim flag was chosen at random and duly sent off, and fortunately for us (and the flag), it didn't catch fire when they tried to light it.
Earlier I called Renee an event manager, but that's just a description of one part of her job. I checked back to get her full title and she gave a big smile and laughed. "I'm a DOPE! Director of Organized Play Events."Why is this woman smiling? Because Worlds is almost over!
Saturday, December 3: 7:02 pm - Current Currency
This could mean good news for a Japanese player.
So, I'm on the way to breakfast this morning, and as I close the door to my room I grab the newspaper hanging there.
So how come, if the dollar is at the strongest it's been in two and half years, breakfast at the hotel is costing me almost $30 a day? Then again, it's probably great news for the four Japanese players that will be playing in the Top 8 Sunday looking to become World Champion. With the dollar up about 20% in the last year against the yen, that's roughly an extra $7,000 in Yen if one the Japanese players wins it this year as opposed to last year!
Saturday, December 3: 8:55 pm - Mailbag!
Time to check in on the fans and see what's in my email tonight.
Dear Scott Johns,
You're so funny today! What's up with that? Usually on magithegathering.com you seem a little, um, "academic."
P.S. You're the best.
Scott, we'll talk after the show.
Wow, what a nice letter. And that's a pretty smart guy too, because we don't publish my email address on the site!
Well, Scott, the real reason is that here, I don't have to be The Man. Normally on magicthegathering.com I'm the last line of defense between our writers and the public, so I'm obviously just a suit, and the Powers-That-Be don't like the funny stuff. Here on the road, however, I'm just another writer. Producer Greg Collins is in charge of the site's Organized Play sections, which includes event coverage, so here on the road he's the boring one. Take that, Greg! You can't keep me down now!