Posted in Event Coverage on March 4, 2006

By Wizards of the Coast

Stuck behind a computer screen while the pros play Magic on the sunny beaches of Honolulu?

Fear not! Our illustrious team of snoops, sleuths, peepers and piña-colada-wielding reporters are out to bring you the latest buzz from the premier Pro Tour event of the 2006 season. As always we're inviting you to be part of 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 2006 Pro Tour Honolulu on our message boards and post your suggestions, comments, and ideas and we'll do our best to get you the insider scoop!

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The clothes make the man

"I believe this is the biggest Pro Tour of all time!" - Randy Buehler

With 410 competitors opting to attend the nicest Pro Tour venue in a decade of events, that would not be a surprising statement if it were true. Alas, it was not. Pro Tour-New York 2001 had 426 competitors for the all-time largest event. That was a team event though so we can give Randy a pass as it is the most highly attended individual Pro Tour of all time.

Friday, March 3: 12:21 pm - Resident Genius Fight

by Brian David-Marshall

"I was waiting for him to play a third creature!" exclaimed Osyp Lebedowicz in the feature match pit.

"He's probably the best beatdown player on the planet - he's not going to play a third creature," answered Mike Flores.

That was the exchange between Osyp and Mike after Joe Black had to face off against Tsuyoshi Fujita in round one of Friday's action. Osyp was playing a blue-red tron deck that Mike had a hand in designing while Tsuyoshi Fujita was playing a zoo deck that he called Borosnya Zoo for its creatures from both Boros and Selesnya.

Osyp wonders why the Magic gods have cursed him with tough Round One matchups

In that first game Osyp could have Blazed a biggie-sized Kird Ape and Pyroclasmed away it and Isamaru. Instead he chose to draw three cards with Invoke the Firemind and found himself too far back after Fujita starting firing missiles at Osyp's life total.

In Game 2 Osyp ripped a Blaze to win on the last possible turn and in Game 3 he successfully assembled his Tron and gleefully declared, "If I wasn't lucky I don't know how I would even qualify."

Osyp was able to clear the first wave of Fujita's men out of the way but the second wave was staring down the barrel of Keiga and Meloku. Osyp breathed a sigh of relief at escaping this tough round one pairing with a 2-1 victory.

"At Worlds I played Oiso round one and now round one Tsuyoshi? You know there are a couple of bad European Pros I could play against."

Friday, March 3: 12:45 pm - Japanese Round-up

by Brian David-Marshall

So you would assume now that you know what Tsuyoshi Fujita was playing that you would also know what Shuhei Nakamura was playing. You would be wrong.

Tsuyoshi Fujita brought a zoo with him to Honolulu

Despite the fact that Shuhei played card-for-card copies of Tsuyoshi decks at three constructed events - to the tune of two Top 8s and a ninth-place finish - they seem to have parted ways on the deck front. Instead he is playing a copy of Tomohiro Kaji's blue-red burn deck.

The deck is fueled by Howling Mines and Kami of the Crescent Moon and finishes with Sudden Impact and Ebony Owl Netsuke. A similar deck has been kicking around on MTGO for some time but Kaji pimped his out with Cerebral Vortex and Twincast.

Traditionally Japanese playtesting groups have been constrained geographically. In the past, Shuhei and Tsuyoshi have worked together in the Osaka region but the Level 6 benefits of the Players' Club put an end to that. Kaji and Shuhei have been putting in a lot of miles together traveling to Richmond and Dortmund and have been playtesting together.

The third Japanese deck is being played by World Champion Katsuhiro Mori, Masashi Oiso, and Akira Asahara. They chose not to play the World Championship-winning GhaziGlare deck and instead played the runner-up deck Karsten Gifts.

Friday, March 3: 1:55 pm - News and Notes

by Brian David-Marshall

First Ring Ding


New Zealand's blisterguy looked down at the plate of food that he skulked off with from the judges luncheon. Sitting on the edge of the plate was a Ring-Ding.

"Neat, they have Ring-Dings," I said.

"What's a Ring-Ding?" asked blisterguy. "I thought that was just a tiny cake."

Thus we are able to bring these exclusive images of his first junk food experience in the Pro Tour coverage room.

The verdict?

"It's quite good. I am not a huge fan of the cream but chocolate makes the world go around and it made the cream bearable."

Neil's Broadsides

I was talking to Anton Jonsson outside the venue about his experience in the Hawaii house. I wanted to know who the funniest person was. Anton pointed out that while Gabe Walls is very, very funny he is going full-tilt all the time and it cheapens the humor somewhat. Anton preferred someone who picked his spots and whose humor had pinpoint accuracy - Neil Reeves.

Now I have made no secret of my membership in the Neil Reeves Fan Club and apologized in advance to Anton should I gush too much while on the subject of Neil.

"It's okay," Anton assured me. "We're all Neil's barns."

Food for Thought

Much has been made of the decision to hold a Pro Tour in Hawaii and Wizards did not cut corners on making sure everyone remembers the experience. When players arrived Thursday for registration there was a luau complete with a Hawaiian band and hula dancers.

Membership has its privileges

The food was exceptional, from the papaya seed vinaigrette on the salad to the kalua pork to the pineapple upside down cake. Potential Hall of Famer Rob Dougherty was impressed.

"This was better than most Top 8 lunches I have been to," he commented. After being to five of them over the course of his career, he had a better sample size than almost any other player in the room.

Red Carpet Club

As the players filed in last night, the long line to register snaked around the entrance to the convention center. Let me amend that: As the players not Level 3 or higher queued up to register, the line got pretty long.

Gravy-trained players were able to skip ahead through a special line reserved for them. With so many new players showing up for this event, that was especially welcome.

"I love the idea of the line," smiled Billy Moreno, who will be enjoying Level 3 status all year long, as he breezed right through the registration line onto the buffet line while hungry Pro Tour aspirants shuffled along.

Friday, March 3: 2:37 pm - The Summer Collection

by Brian David-Marshall

Players were given a bag of goodies when they showed up that included a draft set, sleeves, a Hawaiian competitor's shirt and a pair of special Pro Tour flip-flops with "Pro Tour" carved out of the bottom to leave the words pressed into the sand.

Our fabulous models show off the 2006 summer line

The biggest hit in the goodie bag was clearly the Hawaiian shirts. "I am trying to get a second one for my girlfriend," announced the freshly shaven Billy Moreno.

There were actually four shirts made for this weekend. The players all received a dark blue number while the Wizards staff and coverage crew were sporting powder blue. The judge were not clad in their usual zebra stripes either, as they were sporting black shirts with a white and green print. Head Judge John Shannon had a special red version all to himself.

"If I don't get sponsored to Prague I may eBay it off and pay my own way their," joked Shannon about the one-of-a-kind Pro Tour artifact.

Friday, March 3: 3:33 pm - Breaking Down the LCQ

by blisterguy

It's almost too perfect. The four decks that let four individuals into this Pro Tour at the last minute (a mere six hours before kick off) managed to cover four different archetypes. If it weren't for the fact that he does it almost constantly anyway, Aaron Forsythe would be cackling with delight.

Peter Kvetkosky raced in with his Zoo deck, proving that no matter how much you think your deck can take down the aggro, they can still get the draw that crushes you. Kyle Kanon waved the Izzetron banner, and utilized the new Izzet mana base and such heavy hitters as Repeal and Electrolyze to keep his hand full of petroleum. Hailing from Orzhovza, Steve Krueger made good on creatures that did at least two things. His Ravenous Rats and Shrieking Grotesques kept the opponents hand size down, while Dark Confidant bolstered his own. Descendant of Kiyomaro replenished Steve's life total in the race to zero that nobody wants to win.

Lastly, J. Evan Dean represented team GhaziGlare, but he chose not to run the actual Glare of Subdual card that helped make the deck so popular in the wake of the World Champs. Instead, he went with style, panache and Chord of Calling, which might well win over even more players after this event than Glare ever did. Here's hoping that at some point this weekend, we get to see someone convoke out an Angel of Despair and crush someone out of the game and like, totally off their chair or something.

We'll check back at the end of the day and see just how well these late entrants did after what can only be a maximum of five-and-a-half hours sleep. Can their adrenaline hold up? Watch this space…

(Actually, further down the page, but you know what I mean.)

Peter Kvetkosky - LCQ Honolulu

Download Arena Decklist

Steve Krueger - LCQ Honolulu

Download Arena Decklist

Kyle Kanon - LCQ Honolulu

Download Arena Decklist

J. Evan Dean - LCQ Honolulu

Download Arena Decklist

Friday, March 3: 4:17 pm - Spanning the Globe

by blisterguy

As I'm sure you're aware, the Pro Tour Qualifier prize structure got somewhat of a makeover for Pro Tour-Honolulu. Instead of a check, which let's face it, is pretty cool (yeah Mom, this is why I never did my homework) the prize for winning a Qualifying tournament was in fact flat-out airfare to this very event. Now some of you may not be that impressed with that, but I know for a fact that the price of admission on one of those fancy air-automobiles from my neck of the woods is something like $1400 US. You gotta make the finals a Grand Prix to get that kind of money to accompany your entrance to the Pro Tour, and I'll let you guess just how many GP's we get in this part of the world. So yeah, the plane ticket is a big thing for us, and it seems we're not alone here.

The last Pro Tour stop in Los Angeles saw 34 countries represented in its playing field. Here in Honolulu, we have players from 44 different countries. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call a successful policy change. These are the countries not present in L.A. but who have made the trip to Honolulu.

South Africa (3)
New Zealand (3)
Chile (3)
Slovak Republic (2)
Philippines (2)
Thailand (1)
Panama (1)
Hungary (1)
Hong Kong (1)
Dominican Republic (1)
Costa Rica (1)
Colombia (1)
Belarus (1)

(Apparently, nobody from Poland, Ukraine or Bulgaria turned up this time. I guess the weather is just better there, or… something?)

Friday, March 3: 4:40 pm - Low Cards on the Rise

by blisterguy


Loxodon Hierarch

You want tech? I got tech, but I think it has caused my brain to melt in conjunction with the tropical island heat (brag, brag). People out there, people who you know and see at the top of the standings are playing with cards that you, yes you, can pick up pretty cheap right now. The catch is, they'll only be cheap for the next day or two at most. The minute one of these plucky lads walks away a check (albeit a large one that may or may not fit in the overhead luggage compartment) these cards are going get the upgrade of their lives.

The green/white/black control / Loxodon Hierarch decks that have been roaming about the halls of Magic Online are fueling up with Phyrexian Arenas, currently selling at 3 tickets and buying at 1. You start throwing Loxodon Hierarchs and Faith's Fetters about and you'll not notice that pesky one life a turn. Your opponent will certainly notice the extra card you get each turn however, you mark my words.

Other Orzhov (black/white) Control decks are using the Arena too, but can also be seen using Weathered Wayfarer. People have been transmuting Dimir House Guards for not only Cranial Extractions and Ivory Masks, but also Persecutes and Night of Souls' Betrayal. All three of these cards can be found for 2 tickets, and sometimes even picked up for 1.5. Also be on the lookout for Debtors' Knell and Angel of Despair in these decks, but they're not exactly sitting in the bargain basement bins at this point, having just been released into the wild (so to speak)..

Adarkar Wastes is getting some legwork in blue/white/red control decks. It currently sells for 7, but could go up. I'm the kind of guy who believes you should always have Pain Lands and Dual Lands at your disposal, so if you don't have 'em yet and you think you might want 'em, don't get caught with your pants down and your wallet empty.

Kami of the Crescent Moon

The Ebony Owl Netsuke deck is getting some respect from those in the know. "Oh really?" you ask. "Ya really" I say.

Last night the dealers sold out of Howling Mines, and from what I gather, they weren't far off on the Kami of the Crescent Moon either. Apparently this is not a drill.

Lastly, the Izzetron decks (yes, you can blame me for the name if it catches on) are playing actual copies of Ryusei, the Falling Star in addition to their Keigas and Melokus. Maybe he should have been called "Ryusei, the neglected Star," but this could finally be his coming-out party. The other card you can see hanging out around Izzetron is Giant Solifuge, who leaps forth from the sideboard so hastily and so untargetably, that people aren't going to know what hit them!

So there you guy, snap these up before you're forced to pay through the nose.

(If I'm wrong, this piece was actually written by Ted Knutson and mistakenly credited to the devilishly handsome blisterguy)

Friday, March 3: 5:27 pm - Face in the Crowd

by Brian David-Marshall

As we crossed the halfway mark on Friday, I malingered around the top tables to catch a glimpse of what was being played by some of the people on the wrong side of the Feature Match Area's velvet ropes. People you might not know yet but will want to keep a close eye on Saturday.

Zamora shows off his key cards

Table one saw Craig Jones and Texan Nathan Zamora do battle. Jones is the beat reporter for the European Grand Prix scene and was last spotted in Los Angeles on an 8-0 run that did not yield a Top 8 berth. He came to Honolulu packing Zoo this time but the blue-red Magnivore deck was too much for him. In Game 1 Zamora pinned the mana-light Jones to the mat with a pair of Stone Rains and in Game 2 a steady stream of Threads of Disloyalty went card for card with Kird Ape, Isamaru, and Tin-Street Hooligan.

There would be no 8-0 sprint and stumble for Jones this weekend. Perhaps getting the loss out of the way early will be just what he needed to right his Day Two ship. Meanwhile, the lesser-known Zamora had secured a Day Two berth for the first time in his career.

"It's pretty much the exact same thing that Anton played at Worlds," explained the happy Zamora. "He had Tidings and Counsel of the Soratami. I just felt those cards were kind of clunky. I just cut them for more maindeck burn spells and Mana Leak."

An instant in a Magnivore deck?


"Everyone kept telling me that the deck just autoloses to Cranial Extraction so a Mana Leak can easily stop that. Then you just Wildfire and kill them. There are only three of them in the deck and thirty sorceries. I figure that is plenty since you are using Sleight of Hand and Compulsive Research."

The deck has proven pretty hearty against a variety of archetypes thus far. After five rounds Nathan had dispatched Heartbeat, black-white-green control, Ghazi Glare with black for Mortify, Eminent Domain, and Zoo to the X-and-1 bracket.

If only Nathan's path to Hawaii had been so easy. It all started with a missed flight. After missing his flight to Philadelphia for the Legacy Grand Prix, he and his pals opted for an Austin PTQ that weekend. Instead of the High Tide combo deck he had built for Philly he ended up playing Heartbeat a la Chris McDaniel instead and went undefeated.

This marks the second time that Nathan has played on the Pro Tour, with the last being a couple seasons back in Houston. The Pro Tour has changed considerably in that span of time and Nathan felt those changes were for the better.

"It's a lot different. The people seem much friendlier to me than they did back then. The tournament itself seems much more organized. Paying the airfare is much better than the old system with travel vouchers. Obviously back in Houston I would not have wanted my airfare paid but for this one…

"Ever since I qualified I have been on MTGO every single day. That, work, and eat is all I do. I wasn't playing Magnivore at first. In fact, I hated the deck - 'Stone Rain and Demolish? Land destruction? That's awful.' Eventually I figured out that it was not really land destruction so much as disruption that has synergy with your Magnivores and Wildfires."

Nathan was hoping that synergy would continue on into Saturday and possibly beyond to Sunday.

Stay tuned.

Friday, March 3: 5:55 pm - That's a Lot of Pros

by blisterguy


Sudden Impact

So I was checkin' it all out, havin' a look at what's goin' on. I remember at the start of the day looking at the tables the players were on and thinking "hey, that's not many players" and then catching sight of the other two thirds of the room for a hearty "wait, wait… that's a ton."

I saw one guy Sudden Impact another guy out and all I could think of was "boom!…headshot." Having to track down Anton Jonsson for the name of the Magnivore deck, only to have him tell me that it didn't have a name because he hates naming decks.

Just now, I cruised past the feature match area, and thought about how it's a shame we can't bring you a direct translation of everything that goes on here. I saw Takuma Morofuji and Olivier Ruel both stop playing their feature match to eavesdrop on Randy Buehler, just to see if he was going to mention them in his podcast.

I saw Arnost Zidek putting on quite the bemused face at Jim Roy tapping a Waterveil Cavern to play out a turn-two Izzet Guildmage. I saw Stewart Shinkins peeking as he drew his card, happily finding the Nekrataal he needed to stay alive in the face of Tomohide Sasagawa's Cloaked-up Kird Ape, and then despite that topdeck, Sasagawa then ripped a perfect Flames of the Blood Hand for the win anyway.

410 players really fills a room

And the faces they pull! Ruel spinning in his chair when he heard that Billy Moreno had just taken down Gabriel Nassif to move to 5-0 at the remaining feature match table. Morofuji looking like he had seen a ghost when he confused his removed-from-the-game pile with his graveyard, thinking that he had just missed an opportunity to Goryo's Vengeance a Yosei into play while he had a Greater Good in play. The good-natured Shinkins laughing off Sasagawa's Flames to the face. This is the stuff you can't see at home, so if ever the Pro Tour stops in your town, you'd be a fool to miss it.

Friday, March 3: 7:29 pm - Striking a Chord for Canada

by Brian David-Marshall

Round 6 on Friday saw Last Chance Qualifier survivor J. Evan Dean get paired with Billy Moreno at 5-0. Billy was playing a Zoo variant that included Frenzied Goblin while Dean was playing the same deck that carried him through Thursday's 90-plus person LCQ field where he did not lose a round, going 6-0-2 for that tournament.

J. Evan Dean's GhaziChord had him 6-0 after going 6-0-2 to grind in at the LCQ

"I am playing GhaziChord," Dean explained. "It is based on the GhaziGlare deck from Worlds in so far that it has the Wood Elves, the Hierarchs, the Guildmages, and the Tribe Elders but the key change that I made is to take out the Congregations and Glares. The key card I put in was Chord of Calling and it has been just so good all weekend long. All creatures are better at instant speed especially instant speed Yosei and instant speed Angel of Despair."

Dean had taken a lot of heat from other players about his mana base. Many have suggested that it could not even support the Ghost Council without the Chord of Calling.

Dean disagreed with his critics: "People look at the deck, they look at the mana base and they think it is really bad. But you have the eight mana accelerators, you have six base black dual lands, one black painland, and two swamps - it is never a problem. That being said you hardly ever hard cast the Ghost Council because it is the best Chord target. Ghost Council plus City-Tree is pretty much a hard lock against any deck that is control. They just can't fight through it."

After 14 rounds of play (between the LCQ and six rounds of Day One), Dean had only dropped two games - with 24 wins and 2 losses in those matches. Dean was really enjoying the experience, especially in contrast to his last Pro Tour in Yokohama.

"It feels good. This is the first successful PT I have had. This will be my first Day Two in three Pro Tours. I have obviously done well enough to get to Pro Tours but Worlds was not good. I had to redeem myself this time because I so badly prepared for Standard at Worlds."

Dean felt that he had underestimated the level of competition he would be facing at Worlds after doing well at Canadian Regionals and Nationals which helped him to identify a flaw in his playtesting process.

Chord of Calling

"The big mistake I made was just taking the popular deck from Regionals and building them straight-up," Dean elaborated. "I didn't look at making any changes to them and used them to test. I was just so completely unprepared. I didn't look at making any new decks, I didn't look at making any adjustments to decks, and I didn't look for any of those decks that may have made Top 8 and gotten a little unlucky there. I just missed a lot of decks."

"I should have looked at building original decks and I just never did."

Dean tried to take a whole new approach while preparing for the event with Murray Evans after a recent move to Calgary. "The whole idea was to prep him for this Pro Tour - I wasn't even qualified. We looked at a bunch of competitive decks and made changes and tried to anticipate what people would play."

The irony in all this is that Murray himself is not playing the deck - something he is not entirely happy about. It seems he had not completely resolved to play GhaziChord until he arrived in Honolulu. Once Dean won the LCQ, it left Murray without the cards to build a second copy. He ended up playing Eminent Domain instead and was 4-1-1 after six rounds. He felt pretty confidant that he would have had a similarly unblemished record as the one Dean was sporting had he been able to play GhaziChord.

"I challenge any player in the room," declared The Mauler, "to look at this deck and justifiably change a single card. It is the best deck."

Friday, March 3: 8:41 pm - Two Heads Better Than One?

by blisterguy

For the upcoming Two-Headed Giant Limited Champs, our own BDM is teaming with the one and only Osyp Lebedowicz…who, by the way gets his name printed as "Mr. Osyp Lebedowicz" in the feature match area.

Will these guys be smiling after playing all day together?

"I just wrote it down in the first round as a joke, and they kept adding it," he explained with a shrug during his sixth-round feature match.

At the end of Round 7, BDM got in some practice for his role of the "Big Head" of the Giant. The Big Head makes all of the decisions in a Two-Headed Giant match, and for some reason, Osyp though it would be a good idea to take the passenger seat for the upcoming tournament.

"Shake his hand Osyp …Osyp, shake his hand! …Osyp!" exclaimed BDM.

"Naw man, it's not my thing."

"What do you mean it's not your thing? Shake the man's hand!"

"No! Let me explain…"

"After you shake his hand"

Osyp shook the hand of his opponent, Nate Spilker who now drops to 6-1.

"See, it's my thing," Osyp explained. "I don't offer the hand if I won, that's just… *shrug* it's just mean! I feel like it would be like this…Good game buddy, good game! Put it there!"

At which point Osyp practically lunged across the table, almost pushing Spilker out of the playing area with his outstretched hand.

"So you mean it's like the winner saying 'Good Game' on Magic Online?" Jonathan Becker offered.

"Yeah, I dunno how many chairs I've gone through from people saying 'Good Game' at me on Magic Online. I just get like grrrrnnrr!"

At which point Osyp began to thrash wildly and I thought it prudent to back away, from the Osyp…

Friday, March 3: 9:33 pm - Heart of Combo is Still Beating

by Brian David-Marshall


Shadow of Doubt

Wesimo Al-Bacha is a first-time German Pro in a good position going into Day Two. After defeating Billy Moreno in the final round he was 6-2 with his Heartbeat combo deck. The deck itself was designed by fellow German Maximilian Bracht who was also 6-2 at the end of Day One.

The main deck was a pretty standard build that ramped up to kill with a gi-normous Maga, Traitor to Mortals. After sideboard the deck had some pretty techy elements including a card I have been on the lookout for all day long - Shadow of Doubt. Game 3 with Billy was decided in large part to a well-timed Savage Twister. Other back-end games have been decided by the Shadow of Doubt shutting down everything from transmute to Gifts Ungiven to Cranial Extraction.

Going into Day Two, Wesimo was feeling confident maybe even just a little cocky. When I asked him if he was going to win Rookie of the Year he agreed that he was… "And Player of the Year."

If he does go onto do acquire any of those titles it will be in due in some part to the new airfare payout from PTQs - his method of qualification for this event.

"It is pretty expensive to fly here from Germany, you know."

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