Posted in Event Coverage on May 6, 2006

By Wizards of the Coast

Not in Prague playing Magic with the rest of the Pros?

Fear not! Our illustrious team of snoops, sleuths, peepers and reporters are out to bring you the latest buzz from the first Pro Tour to feature Dissension. 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 Prague 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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For those of you that read BDM's exciting preview column detailing the fact that four former Pro Tour winners were in the 400-plus person LCQ, I have some bad news. Not one of those players made it to the Top 8 of the LCQ. In fact, they were all out of contention by round 5 (of an astounding 9). Welcome to the new world of global Magic parity, where even the best Magic resume is only a catalog of past success and hardly ever a predictor of future success. Two semi-notables who did have success at the LCQ were former Finnish National Champion Jussi Timmonen and former Czech National Team member Ondrej Baudys. Their reward for staying up until 5 a.m. was one spot reserved for them at the 9 a.m. players' meeting. Good beats.

Jonny Magic is back at it.

Speaking of big resumes, there were quite a few questions about whether Hall of Famer Jon Finkel would actually take time out of his busy schedule to battle here in Prague. Mr. Finkel is indeed present here in the Czech Republic, and early reports say that he is one of the most prepared drafters coming into the event. We'll have to wait a few rounds yet to see whether that preparation translates to winning Magic, but it's incredibly difficult to find anyone in the building who doubts Jon will be able to recapture his previous er… magic.

As for the event itself, the brand, spanking new full block draft format is on display. I've watched a ton of drafts in the last week and seen some of the best players in the world holding their heads in their hands as they attempt to wrap their brains around the options ten guilds spread across three packs provides. Early feedback indicates that blue cards will generally be overdrafted, mana varies from amazing to impossible depending on the cards you draft and how highly you value karoos and Signets, and that players who come into this event unprepared are highly likely to fail.

The best color combinations look to be blue-black-white, blue-red-white, the Ravnica guildless green-blue-red, and the very greedy four- or five-color green special. Aggro strategies are surprisingly effective with Dissension in the mix, and the trick to the format looks like it's finding the proper balance between mana consistency and power, while making sure you aren't going to get run over by a creature rush. BDM thinks that most players will not realize just how good the Eidolons are when you draft a deck that can take advantage of them, and I think Simic cards will probably be undervalued by the full field, but everyone playing on Day 2 will have a pretty good idea as to how good they are.

The storylines here at the Pro Tour and the awesome new draft format give all indications that this might be one of the best Pro Tours ever, so stay tuned all weekend long for reports on the action.

Friday, May 5: 2:32 pm - Sazka Arena

by Ted Knutson

For those of you unable to attend Pro Tour-Prague (and I assume that's most of you), the venue is a little different from recent Pro Tours in that it is being held the Czech Republic's equivalent to Madison Square Garden. Normally host to hockey games and rock concerts, Sazka Arena's entire floor has been converted into Pro Tour space, complete with giant freaking scoreboard in the middle of the arena, and accompanying bleachers.

In fact, the plan for Sunday actually involves placing most fans in the bleachers and allowing them to follow the Top 8 action on the big screen. I've been to some big Magic events in my time, but never one quite as big as this, where everything Magical seems larger than life.

Here are a few glimpses of the event setup from the professional eye of photographer Craig Gibson.

The huge video display looms over the feature match area.For 415 players, 52 draft tables were needed.No screaming fans (yet) at Magic events, but maybe soon…The coverage team gets in some drafting in an empty arena Thursday.

Friday, May 5: 2:53 pm - Tales from Draft One

by Ted Knutson

I'm running a little behind today on bloggage due to covering Rich Hoaen's first draft (he went 2-1, by the way) and just due to being me, so it's time to power through some of the stories from the opening draft of the day.

  • A ton of big names pulled down perfect records in the first draft. In fact, I was surprised to find the list of undefeated players sprawling all the way over onto the second page of the standings, but I guess that's what happens when there are 415 players battling for $240,000 in prize money. Here's a short list of notables who are off to a hot start: Reeves, "Das Hopper" Nygaard, Karsten, Oiso, Da Costa Cabral, Dan OMS, Sadeghpour, Justin Gary, Olivier Ruel, Terry Soh, Katsuhiro Mori. Finkel watchers should be aware that Jon posted a 2-1 in his first pod, losing in round 3 to Ichiro Shimura.

Skeletal Vampire
  • Craig Jones first-picked a Skeletal Vampire from Guildpact and then was passed not one, not two, but three Debtors' Knells in a row. The charming and self-effacing Englishman cut the third from his deck, but ran the other two and the bomby six-drop as well. Sadly, the Knells blah blah, and Craig stumbled to an 0-2 start.

  • Nygaard was locked into an excellent battle against Craig Krempels for the 3-0 spot out of their pod. Krempels was ahead on life total and on the board when he cast Hunted Lammasu. Nygaard bounced it with an Ogre Savant, so Krempels replayed it as his following draws continued to be choked with lands, giving Nygaard a second 4/4 token. Finally the turn before Nygaard was about to die, he plucked another Savant off the top, essentially making his 4/4's free, as they were all generated by Craig's own 5/5 flier. The final Savant pluck combined with Krempels's flood of land was just enough to give Das Hopper a win, and leave Krempels visibly frustrated and cursing his bad luck.

  • Pro Tour-London champions Geoffrey Siron managed a 2-1 with his first deck and is one of many players who hope to ride the wave of green-blue-red decks as far as it will take him. Most of the players who have tested this format concur that the archetype is extremely powerful, but some of them have had some real difficulty getting enough spells and tricks to build good decks out of them. In fact, I have seen an alarming number of "20 men, two mana-fixers, two spell" decks.

Friday, May 5: 4:57 pm - Famous Enough?

by Ted Knutson

As summer approaches, many of the older Magic pros start thinking about the Hall of Fame voting again and wondering what sort of finishes would win over opinions of selection committee members. In fact, the possibility of election to the Hall has directly contributed to renewed interest from a whole host of players who have excellent resumes, but who might be on the outside looking in.

Tomi Walamies is one such player. The multiple-time Finnish National Champ has three Pro Tour Top 8s to his name, a Worlds team finals appearance, and is widely regarded as one of the most amusing Magic writers of all time. His full-time attention now turned to stand-up comedy, Tomi's schedule doesn't allow him to travel for Magic like the old days, but he lives with a group of gamers in London and slings spells pretty regularly. He was part of the Scandinavian draft colony here in Prague and the practice has paid off, as he notched a 3-0 start after pod 1.

Bash Brothers for an OMS brother.

Justin Gary is another four-Top 8 star who will soon be eligible for the Hall, and he's posting numbers here in Prague that would suggest he's very interested in adding a fifth to his resume. Gary's smiling face was the one you saw winning Pro Tour-Houston back in 2002, and he's hoping that voters will be swayed by his particularly photogenic face, gregarious style, and serious Magic chops.

Another name heavily interested in possible Hall of Fame qualification is two-time Pro Tour winner Nicolai Herzog. One of Magic's truly nice guys, Nico has four Pro Tour Top 8s to his name, but fell a bit short of qualifying for Prague here and had to try his hand at the LCQ, dropping after a first-round loss that put him immediately out of contention. Herzog still loves the game, but is one of many older players who has found it difficult to return to the PTQ grind in order to try and re-qualify for each Pro Tour. Induction into the Hall would let him avoid all of that, but he's one Top 8 short of what most people consider a lock these days, and finds himself wondering if the two victories will be enough to remind people he was one of the best Limited players of all time when his name comes up in year three.

There are two current Hall members playing in the event in Darwin Kastle and Jon Finkel. Finkel's renewed interest has spurred a string of old-time New Yorkers to take up the torch as well, including Jamie Parke, Igor Frayman, plus Dan and Steve O'Mahoney Schwartz. Igor and Steve both missed out on qualification via the LCQ, but Parke was Q'd from his 10th-place finish at Grand Prix-Richmond, and Dan made it in via a PTQ where he went undefeated on the day.

Dan OMS has continued that success here in Prague, stretching his record to 4-0, and guaranteeing he will get to continue drafting Saturday. He also received a small amount of grief from his slightly more famous teammate for being a bit too greedy with where he picked a Fists of Ironwood. Finkel suggested it was because Dan really wanted to play with his rookie Bash Brothers cards. Steroids or not, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire were a pair of monsters for the Oakland A's back in the day.

Friday, May 5: 6:11 pm - Master of the Beat Down

by Ted Knutson

Neil Reeves wasn't going to come to this Pro Tour. He was just going to hang out at home in Texas and enjoy the transition of spring into summer instead of dealing with jet lag and an entirely new Magic set here in the Czech Republic. Mark Herberholz had other ideas about this, and Reeves's mind was changed when his Charleston teammate offered to pay for his flight to Prague. It's a good thing that JT Money came, because he's 4-1 thus far, with the one loss coming to mana screw.

Many find themselves underneath a Neil Reeves beat.

When Neil isn't beating down opponents, he can be found filling reporter's notebooks with good beats on his friends as well. John Fiorillo found himself the recipient of one of Neil's more cutting exchanges on the day as he made his way to his spot at one of the 3-0 draft tables. John went to sit down in his seat, and Reeves immediately started in on the New Yorker, asking him what he thought he was doing. Fiorillo's confused look was answered with more questions.

"You know this isn't your table, right? This is the 3-0 table… since this is a Pro Tour, I'm sure you're supposed to be sitting over there somewhere," Reeves said, waving in the general direction of the 1-2 and 0-3 tables.

Reeves even went so far as to call a judge and tell the man to check the table numbers again, because there was no way Fiorillo could have gone 3-0 at a Pro Tour draft table - he was clearly too stainsy at the game to pull off such a feat. Fiorillo just smiled and took his beats in stride, comfortable with his record in the first draft and the thought that he only needed one more win to make sure he'd get to stick around and draft on Day 2.

Reeves went on to utterly smash Fiorillo when they played two rounds later, getting in some extra digs along the way, I'm sure.

American Joe Crosby was also the victim of some Reeves beats after Round 4, when Neil and BDM were looking at Crosby's draft deck. Joe had apparently drafted a very solid green-blue-red deck, but had somehow left two Thrives sitting in his sideboard. "Joe, you know this card is really good, right? Like, it was terrible in Masques Block, but it just smashes people now, especially with the cards you've got in your deck."

"I dunno, I really liked it in Masques Block," replied Crosby.

Neil just rolled his eyes and looked away before telling BDM, "Boy, is this awkward…"

Friday, May 5: 8:08 pm - Photo Wrap of Day One

by Ted Knutson
Welcome to beautiful Prague, capital of the Czech Republic and home to wonderful architecture and alarmingly attractive beer and cheap women.The flora here is nice enough, but it's the fauna that's truly ridiculous. This, however, is merely a subway wall.It's like Disney World, except real…Churches are everywhere here and do exactly what they are designed to do - fill you with awe at their majesty.There are 287 of these steps to get to the top of the tower. In other news, photographer Craig Gibson has lost ten pounds since arriving in Prague and may also have suffered a minor heart attack.In this band, it's the tuba player who made a deal with the devil.Andre Mueller's lens has been cracked since December of 2004.

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