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
- 11:40 am - Let's Get It Started
- 12:50 pm - Just Because You Haven't Seen Them…
- 2:02 pm - The Things You Have To Go Through
- 2:34 pm - I Guess "Some Day" is Now
- 3:35 pm - The Sideboard Files
- 4:56 pm - You Need to Go to China
- 6:18 pm - News and Notes
- 7:33 pm - The Play of the Day and the Almost Boobie Prize
- 8:49 pm - Patting Myself on the Back
Wednesday, November 30: 11:40 am - Let's Get It Started
There are so many storylines here at Worlds that it might be hard to discuss them all, in spite of the fact that we have five full days of coverage to get it all down. In fact, I'm struggling just to figure out where to begin, so maybe it's time to give you an outline of what went on this morning and the stories that we'll be following throughout the day and weekend.The Class of 2005 shows off their new hardware.
For starters, the Hall of Fame ceremony occurred right after the flag ceremony to open the event and the whole procession was very impressive. All five members of the Hall looked dapper in their suits, the rings rewarded to each player are astoundingly cool, and we were informed that three of the members have chosen to take advantage of their new Level 3 Pro Players Club status and battle it out this weekend. Expect to see a lot more about the induction and the players' progress in the coming days.
Also expect a ton of information about the formats, the decks, and the Player of the Year race as the 2005 season comes to a thrilling conclusion. Masashi Oiso, Kenji Tsumura, and Olivier Ruel all made the Top 8 in China, with none of them getting much separation from the other two. Oiso has the greatest potential points this weekend because he's on the Japanese National Team, but he'll need all the points he can get to make up the lead that Olivier and Kenji have on him. All three players are incredibly hot, so you get the feeling everything is going to come right down to the wire.
As for the blog in particular, you can expect the normal fun and entertaining stories about things here at the event and some pictures that explain why it was really important for me to move my flight to Japan back a day and spend an extra Monday in China. Worlds is going to be a fantastic event, I hope you'll be with us all weekend long to enjoy the ride.
Wednesday, November 30: 12:50 pm - Just Because You Haven't Seen Them…
I've had an article in the works for three weeks now discussing what we learned about Standard from the States results and my thoughts about the format in general, but travel and work have interfered in the completion of that particular project, so I'll give you the synopsis here.
As it exists coming into this tournament, Standard is a fantastic format with a ton of untapped potential. As always, many of the decks to come out of States are not fully tuned and even those that are can often be made to crumple with the proper amount of hate thrown at them. The deck to beat as of last weekend was clearly (almost) Mono-Blue (usually splashing Black), with Critical Mass Update (U/G Aggro-Control) and Gifts Ungiven both contenders for the throne. Of course, sitting at the top of the food chain just gives everyone else a target to aim at and I expect to see a great deal of that here in Yokohama.
With the amount of mana-fixing that currently exists in the format, players have the potential to experiment and build almost anything. There's a good chance that that's exactly what you will see some of the best deckbuilders in the world bring to the table today. Just because you haven't seen any new decks recently in Standard does not mean they don't exist. At this point, new archetypes are like dinosaur bones in the cliffs, just waiting for some unlikely archeologist to trip over them and make them public knowledge. The Japanese have a white-green Glare of Subdual deck that looks spicy, Flores has developed a new Gifts Wildfire deck for the New York/New Jersey crowd, and there's a red-white aggro deck out there that had players scrounging for Orcish Artillery and Threatens at the dealer tables. I'm relatively certain that this is just the tip of the iceberg.Should the BB worry me?
What this means at the Friday Night Magic level is that rogue deckbuilders should be ecstatic. Keep searching for stuff to break. Look for new synergies out there that haven't been tapped, figure out how to build your mana base, and more than anything else, have fun. We're in a new golden age of Standard now and if you guys follow the guidelines listed above, you'll be doing exactly what the pros are doing here at the World Championships.
What would I be running if I were playing this weekend? Well, I've got this three-color gum deck that I've been working on here in Japan that seems pretty good. Conveniently, it's the exact same colors as the Critical Mass Update deck I've been running at home…
Wednesday, November 30: 2:02 pm - The Things You Have To Go Through
So as most of you know, I was in China last weekend for the Grand Prix in Beijing and my trip was amazing, but will get to that in a little bit. After the quality performance of Chinese players at the Grand Prix, the Chinese National Team decided that they could actually play the game with the rest of the world. (I have to admit that I was impressed by their ability to play.) A great idea, right?
Well, there was just one problem. Apparently, in order to be allowed into the country by the Japanese government, they had to pay a 15,000 RMB ($1875 USD) deposit to prove that they were not interested in coming and hiding out in Japan. And they had to scrounge up that sort of money before the Japanese Embassy closed on Monday.
In two hours.
Apparently, they were able to get on the cell phone network and call friends, card dealers, and players with money in order to raise that sort of money just in time to get their visas and are now here in Japan battling it out as a team. Some players will go through an awful lot just to play some Magic.
Wednesday, November 30: 2:34 pm - I Guess "Some Day" is Now
If you were to look back at the coverage from Pro Tour-Houston 2002, you would find some guy named Brian David-Marshall lucky enough to write about a feature match in round one between two guys you may have heard of.Jon Finkel never has to worry about qualifying again.
Kai: "Did you play in the Gateway?"
Jon: "No... I had to sit on my rating for Chicago."
Jon: "Laugh it up Kai, laugh it up... Some day you'll be down here too."
I'm not saying it means anything, but Mr. Finkel was inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend, thereby guaranteeing that he will be able to attend Pro Tours from now until forever provided he is interested and the Pro Tour exists. On the other side of the coin, the esteemed Mr. Budde is once again absent and is therefore unable to earn the four points he needed to guarantee his Level 3 status for the 2006 season. I guess it's Kai's turn to sit on his rating or battle in a PTQ if he wants to play on the Pro Tour. Until Worlds 2007, that is…
Wednesday, November 30: 3:35 pm - The Sideboard Files
Olle Råde squared off against Olivier Ruel in Round 3 and Råde got smashed, so Julien Nuijten sat down at the super cool tables in the feature match area to console the Hall of Famer. While he was sitting there, he noticed that Ruel had left his sideboard laying on the table, so Julien grabbed it and went in search of profits.
He eventually found the diminutive form of Kenji Tsumura, he of the huge Magical prowess trapped in a body that's 100 pounds and a spiky tuft of hair and who is also second in the Player of the Year race. Nuijten showed Kenji the sideboard and asked him how much he'd pay to obtain the 15 cards. Tsumura never quite settled on a number, but firmly suggested that Nuijten not return the cards to Ruel.
"I must beat him," said the pint-sized powerhouse, who then made as if he was kicking Ruel's body on the ground. As we saw in China, the Japanese are very serious about getting one of their players the end-of-the-year title.
Then again, I was talking to Tsuyoshi Fujita about the green-white deck that almost every Japanese player is running this weekend, and he said that was largely the result of the fact that many Japanese pros haven't had much time to test. The deck is actually a Champs deck from Japan that quickly turned into one of the decks to beat, and thus far it appears to be a good choice for the metagame, as it is both good and relatively unknown to the rest of the world.
As for the Japanese chances to win the overall team title, their National Team is extremely strong, but Masashi Oiso told me that they have done no testing in Team Rochester because they have been too busy playing Extended and the three players live very far away from each other. Even Team Rochester mastermind Itaru Ishida has been unable to help them out because the workload at his job has exploded and he barely had time to prepare for any of the formats here at Worlds.
We'll have to wait until Saturday to see how much they are able to learn on the fly and whether that will affect Oiso's title chances.
Wednesday, November 30: 4:56 pm - You Need to Go to China
Yokohama is great. It has a lot of the amenities of big cities in Japan without a lot of the downside. There's space in Yoko that doesn't exist in Tokyo or Osaka, the architecture can be quite beautiful, and you can generally avoid the crushing crowds here, which simply doesn't happen in the metropolises. So it's a nice place to visit and a great place to hold a Pro Tour.
You need, however, to make it to China (and you should probably do it before the 2008 Olympics irrevocably changes Beijing). Goods there are incredibly cheap, the culture is some of the oldest and deepest on the planet, and it's gradually becoming friendlier to English speakers. I was originally scheduled to leave Beijing on Monday morning at 9 a.m., but was convinced to move my flight back a day when David Ong informed me he was visiting the Great Wall on Monday, and would I like to come along?
Of freakin' course I'd like to come along. We started out as a group of seven, but only four of us (myself, Dale Aitken, plus Monica and Randy Gallegos) made it all the way to the top, a distance that I guesstimate to be about three quarters of a mile or so in each direction. Up steps. Some of which were over 18 inches tall. Welcome to the world's oldest Stairmaster.
We also hit the Forbidden City (which I had already been to briefly, but it could easily take three whole days to explore all it has to offer), made a reprise of the Silk Market, obtaining vast quantities of cheap-yet-well-made clothing, and topped off the whirlwind day with a dinner of Peking Duck. The meal included plenty of beer and beverages, food for eight even though there were only four of us, and was one of the more memorable meals I have eaten in my life. The cost for this astounding dinner for four? $45 USD.
The following were our reward for the extra day of sightseeing:Beautiful and simple. Climbing this should be easy.
Huh… the closer you get, the steeper it actually appears. We're nowhere near halfway.
It seems we have lost the parking lot somewhere.
The Forbidden City supposedly contains 9990 rooms. Most of them are quite beautiful.
There is no way to adequately convey to you just how large this courtyard really is.
Wednesday, November 30: 6:18 pm - News and Notes
We have a short injury report to issue from this weekend. Loveable curmudgeon and video reporter Jon Becker broke his ankle while heli-snowboarding last week in the Himalayas, so we had to put him on IR for the rest of the season. After round 4, Geoffrey Siron came up to Head Judge Sheldon Menery and informed him that he was too sick to play, but requested that he not be dropped from the event so that he could draft tomorrow if he felt better. Siron's record at the time was 2-2.
The Japanese white-green deck is clearly one of the breakout decks of the tournament and this round's feature match has 5-0's Ichiro Shimura and Katsuhiro Mori facing off against each other.
Speaking of interesting decks, Nassif and Raphael Levy have chosen to run Battle of Wits for the Standard portion of the event and could be seen scrounging Signets from draft leftovers at the staff hotel last night. Yellow Hat lost his Round 5 feature match to Anton Jonsson, dropping to 2-3 on the day, the same record as his countryman… perhaps indicating that Standard Battle isn't quite ready for prime time. Jonsson's deck was the very creative MagnivoreWildfire deck that all the Swedes and some of the Finns seem to have picked up on this weekend.
One last interesting deck to mention is the French version of Critical Mass. The French appear to have replaced the Threads-able Vinelasher Kudzu with Kodama of the North Tree and are also splashing Black for Putrefy (a change many players in the know made shortly after States by adding a Swamp and a couple of Overgrown Tombs to the manabase). Antoine Ruel is currently 5-0 with the deck, though every time I talk to him he doesn't seem to think it's a great deck. Some players apparently aren't even satisfied with perfection.
Wednesday, November 30: 7:33 pm - The Play of the Day and the Almost Boobie Prize
It's Round 6 and Jelger Wiegersma is facing Tiago Chan at table 22. Chan has Keiga and Ink-Eyes on the board, while Wiegersma has Meloku, who is an army unto himself. Chan attacks with his animals and Wiegersma simply blocks Ink-Eyes with… Meloku? What in the world is going on here?
I had failed to notice the flipped Jushi Apprentice on Jelger's side of the board. Wiegersma used Tomoya on himself at the end of Chan's turn to draw seven cards, and then his draw up to 15 cards in his hand during his own phase. He then paused a moment for emphasis, activated Tomoya targeting Chan, responded to the activation by untapping the legend with Minamo, and then did it again, forcing Chan to draw 30 and evening the match. Sadly for Jelger, he lost the final game of the match.
The almost boobie prize for Day One goes to Jose Barbero in a story related to me by Olivier Ruel. [To be read in a French accent]: "Jose had a very day today. He started the day with a loss, but in his second match he got his opponent to 12 in one of the games before losing 0-2. His third match he got a little unlucky, didn't draw enough lands and lost 0-2. His fourth match he was in it right to the very end, but he was unfortunately defeated… 0-2. His fifth match his opponent was very unlucky, but Jose was more unlucky and managed to lose that one 0-2. For his sixth match Jose went down in horrible flames in game 1 and then, THEN he mulliganned to five in Game 2. The final result? Jose won that one 2-1. So after an 0-11 run, Jose is definitely on a hot streak now."
"I think I may drop now," quoth the Barbero.
Wednesday, November 30: 8:49 pm - Patting Myself on the Back
Alright, a quick note of self-congratulation here for things I got right earlier in the day. Remember the note on the Chinese National Team scrounging for moolah from friends and family to make it here to Japan in time for Worlds? They finished the day second in the teams competition.
Oh, and remember how I noted that the deck I would play if I were battling this weekend was Critical Mass Update with Putrefy? Antoine Ruel ended the day at 6-0 with the French version of the deck.
I shall now go eat sushi, drink beer, and be merry. See you Thursday.