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TABLE OF CONTENT
- 8:55 pm - Looking for a Nice Crow Preparation
- 8:21 pm - Searching for Slivers
- 7:19 pm - And Now For Something (not so) Completely Different…
- 6:15 pm - Purple People Eaters
- 5:30 pm - Bubble Bubble
- 4:37 pm - European Head-Scratcher
- 2:02 pm - This Just In…
- 12:17 pm - Magical Sing-a-Long Photo Essay
- 10:44 am - Downturn in Productivity
I am not going to lie to you… Game Seven of the National League Championship series, between the St Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets, has limited my mobility significantly. If any of the Magic action strays by the computer I have tuned into ESPN Gameday, then I promise to report on it as soon as the current inning is over.
I know that you, a dedicated Magic fan, don't care to hear about this, but I am going to plead the same grounds that allowed Hank Greenberg to sit out key games when with the Detroit Tigers because the date conflicted with his religious faith. I had limited capacity for the suspension of disbelief as a child, and I had to choose between organized religion and National League baseball - specifically New York Mets baseball.
I am informed by people watching at home that I am missing the best baseball game of the year - apparently Endy Chavez made the defensive play of the year to save the Mets' season for at least one more inning. While I am not there, I have done my part by going back to the room in order to get my lucky Mets hoodie. Of course, my roommate Jon Becker had left his key in the room (mine was in the little contraption that keeps the AC running while we were out) and we had to go through a Family Circus-like series of double-backs to finally get a cleaning person to come up and let us in. It is a credit to Jon that he did not question my insane superstitions and aided admirably in Operation Hoodie. Of course, he realized that I would blame him until the end of time if the Mets lost.
Now I just need the Mets to win.
Friday, Oct 20: 12:17 pm - Magical Sing-a-Long Photo Essay
Last night's player registration party was the latest in a series of amazing events, each in flavor with the local area. Past events this season have included a luau in Hawaii and a packed beer hall in Prague (which Pierre Canali could not recall even the slightest bit about - it was THAT good a party). What could be more appropriate for a Japanese event than to host the player registration party in a Karaoke club?
Wizards rented out the entire building and provided food and beverages in each room.
Players were then free to wander about the multi-floor complex and choose a room.
As is the standard at Player Registration parties, players were given draft sets and land. Geoffrey Siron was one of many players who chose to take advantage of some last-minute practice.
With all the food and drink, coupled with the small tables, deck construction was precarious at best.
Other players chose the "when in Rome" route.
After the event there was still plenty of food left over. Simon Wechsler grabbed as much as he could, hoping to defray some of the weekend's expenses. "I know how to win at this game," he grinned, with a fistful of fried things.
Friday, Oct 20: 2:02 pm - This Just In…
… and I can't even blame Jon Becker.
Friday, Oct 20: 4:37 pm - European Head-Scratcher
The European Magic community has been preparing for this event for the past few weeks. Grand Prix-Athens was a trial by fire for many of them. Among the group preparing were the likes of Anton Jonsson, Johan Sadeghpour, Jelger Wiergesma, Julien Nuijten, Gabriel Nassif, Frank Karsten, Nicolai Herzog (in a brief cameo), and Rogier Maaten.
"It was a fairly high-level draft," recalled Rogier, demonstrating a capacity for understatement. There were five Pro Tour wins in that group - and that's not including anyone I might be missing - and around one millionty Top 8s.
At first I was not winning any drafts at all," Rogier continued. Then he started drafting blue-white with Momentary Blink and cards with a variety of comes-into-play effects and he started winning. As he started winning, the others took notice and Momentary Blink began to make a steady climb up in the group's pick orders. Rogier recalled one particularly fiendish Nassif draft deck that featured Blink, Teferi, Mystic Snake, and the sleeper pick Dream Stalker.
The Europeans have been rather surprised by how little value other parts of the world seem to have attached to Momentary Blink. "In our drafts before Athens the card was being second picked all the time. Here I have seen it table."
Julien Nuijten exploited the tricksy instant in the first draft with Mangara of Corondor. You can activate the Mangara and Blink it away so that only your opponent loses a permanent. If you are playing blue - which you should be to be playing the card - you can do it again for four more mana.
There are also all sorts of crazy interactions with the card. Since it removes the target from play and returns it to play upon resolution of the spell, there is never an opportunity to check for state based effects. This means that token creatures return to play if they are Blinked. It also means that you can Blink out a Watcher Sliver without the rest of your team ever losing the Castle-like bonus.
That is all well and good, but Rogier was relying on a much more predictable card interaction between Momentary Blink and Ivory Giant to run his first draft table to a 3-0 record. "I pretty much force this deck whenever I can now," he shrugged. "I am glad I didn't have to play any other white decks - otherwise I actually have to fight my way through."
Friday, Oct 20: 5:30 pm - Bubble Bubble
As I walked over to the Feature Match area to check in on the Frank Karsten/Antoine Ruel match, I caught them in mid-conversation regarding Grand Prix - New Jersey. Frank was planning to attend and was talking about the reasonable airfare. Antoine looked tired, and after doing the Athens to Kobe jaunt, he was hoping to avoid some Magic-related travel if at all possible.
"I am just hoping I can win this Pro Tour," sighed Antoine. "I don't want to go to Grand Prix - New Jersey."
"Winning this Pro Tour is something of a weird proposition at this point," remarked a bemused Frank Karsten. "You need to go runner, runner, runner, runner…"Pro Tour giants teetering on the edge of elimination.
Both players were sitting on 2-2 records coming into round five, and the next loss today would be that player's last; X-3s are consigned to the rails. Things were not looking good for the Magic Online columnist, who was already down a game. He mulliganed his first hand and kept the second one - but was clearly not happy with it.
Antoine came out of the gate fast with Errant Ephemeron and Spiketail Drakeling, while Karsten stalled on two lands. "This game is soooooo over," said Frank with a resigned shake of his head. Still, he fought on, eventually finding a third land - a third Island, to be specific - but still he had no play save for bouncing the 4/4 flier when it finally hit the board. Antoine had added a sideboarded Scragnoth and morph to the table, and Frank quickly found himself at 1.
Any normal player would have scooped right there, but not Frank. "I actually have one out." With lethal damage dealt to him, Frank reached across the table and flipped over Antoine's morph. "This needs to be a land."
It was a Coral Trickster. Frank's tournament was over, but he went out with grace and a good sense of humor.
Friday, Oct 20: 6:15 pm - Purple People Eaters
Referencing older players who return to play with Time Spiral as "timeshifted" pros is quickly becoming tiresome. Still, it is hard to avoid the connection between the return of old mechanics, storyline characters, and reprinted cards and the return of any number of older players picking up the cards to play again.
I have been referring to them as "purples" instead. Among the Purple People Eaters in attendance were former World Champion Tom Van de Logt, the allegedly retired Jin Okamoto, two-time Pro Tour winner Tommi Hovi, and four-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Brian Hegstead. While the least accomplished of the group, Brian was off to a tremendous start at 4-1.
"It won't last," laughed Hegstead. "I only played at the Prerelease before playing this weekend. I have just been relying on the old instincts."
Jin was also 4-1 after beating Malaysia's Vincent Gan in the fifth round. Tommi Hovi was not as fortunate when he found his green white deck powerless to stop Chandler's ex-girlfriend Janice, aka Jaya Ballard, Task Mage. "He has two of them," shrugged Tommi. It was the second loss for the Hall of Famer. If he could get through the remaining round without a loss or draw he would become the first Hall of Fame member to advance to Day Two at a Pro Tour after induction.
Stay tuned for more purple updates throughout the weekend.
Friday, Oct 20: 7:19 pm - And Now For Something (not so) Completely Different…
Osyp Lebedowicz has always been known as a Constructed deck specialist. He has fostered that image with self-deprecating humor about his lack of Limited skills. This actually holds true over his past few Limited Pro Tours. He has finished 109th in Prague and 267th in London. There must be something in the water here in Japan that agrees with him. He finished 10th in Nagoya during the 2005 season and just wrapped up "Day One" this weekend with a 5-1 record after defeating Tsuyoshi Ikeda.
Despite his Top 8 finish at Pro Tour Honolulu, Osyp found himself just shy of Level 3 status for the 2007 season. He was able to play in a Geneva PTQ two weekends ago and won himself some free airfare. That win and his early push this weekend are no coincidence. Osyp has been keeping an eye on the 2007 Pro Tour calendar and knows that between Geneva and San Diego he needed to sharpen his 40-card game.
"I figured if Wizards is going to give me two Limited Pro Tours in the next year I might as well actually practice," laughed Osyp. He seemed surprised that people (and by 'people' I mean me) were surprised by his early run. In addition to the high quality players Osyp normally prepares with, he has been making regular appearances at the fabled "Jonny Drafts" that take place at Finkel's house in New York City.
With six rounds in the books, 'Day One' was officially over. Everyone with three losses was jettisoned from the event and the survivors were corralled for one more draft before the chronological day ended, which will be followed by one more round of 'Day Two' play.
Friday, Oct 20: 8:21 pm - Searching for Slivers
Slivers got no respect coming into this tournament. To many players' way of thinking, Slivers were the sign of a draft gone awry, a draft where you tried to get cards but ended up with Slivers - almost a sub-card, if you will. Worse yet, Slivers generally meant you were green, which, as every pro knows, is the worst possible color to be in… right?
Not so for Amiel Tannenbaum and Nigel Higdon, who were seated side by side at table 1 for the opening draft of "day two." Amiel's highest finish on the Pro Tour came in 2001, when he was a member of the second-place Les Plus Class that featured then-rookie Gabriel Nassif. Nigel Higdon of Detroit is not quite a rookie, although he is only playing in his first individual Pro Tour after playing teams in Seattle a couple of seasons back. Both players drafted decks that heavily featured Slivers and managed to run roughshod over their tables.
Amiel had a draft deck for the first pod that featured double Gemhide Sliver, triple Fury Sliver, double Might Sliver, and one each of Pulmonic and Watcher Sliver. He also had an array of fatties that he could call upon for back-up should the flying, double-striking, mana-producing, +4/+6 army of denizens of the Stronghold not get the job done.
Nigel's deck was a much more controlling version of the sliver archetype that was headlined by triple Telekenetic Sliver with a cast of double Opaline, Watcher, and Gemhide Slivers. The Slivers in this deck did none of the bashing that Amiel's version did. Instead they set the stage for the surprise guest stars from the back of two packs - double Mystic Enforcer.
Nigel had not really drafted the control Sliver archetype before Thursday night at the karaoke party. "I decided that the deck really needed some kind of finisher," explained Nigel. He said he thinks the deck should feature some kind of fattie like Phantom Wurm or - you know - Mystic Enforcer.
As the two players sat down for the draft right next to each other - Amiel was feeding Nigel - I was excited to see if either of them were going to pursue the Sliver route. Nigel quickly went for removal spells with his picks and set himself up for a different style of draft. Amiel, on the other hand, failed to disappoint this Sliver fan, taking Gemhide Sliver with his first pick. He picked up a handful of red and white slivers along the way, but he could never get a foothold into green. Eventually he ended up eschewing the green for his deck and just utilized the Slivers as a subtheme.
As he walked toward the tables to register his deck, he cast a rueful look back at Rogier Maaten, who was seated to his right. "I did maybe seven or eight drafts with Rogier. He was never green once. I predict that he must have opened either Call of the Herd or Stormbind - because I saw hardly any green from him."
Friday, Oct 20: 8:55 pm - Looking for a Nice Crow Preparation
I may need some recommendations for tasty ways to prepare a dish of crow. I'm not quite ready to cook it up yet, but I wouldn't mind having a tasty one at the ready just in case. In my Time Spiral prerelease primer I urged players not to play with one-drops unless they had exceptional abilities. I singled out Sage of Epityr as being an example of a card just not being good enough to be worth the slot in a deck. To make matters worse, I lost a one-on-one draft to Jon Becker, involving his turn-one Sage, on the plane ride over.
As Round 7 wound down, I was faced with the daunting prospect of reporting that two players - Pro Tour winners, no less - were each playing Sage of Epityr in their UNDEFEATED decks. Mark Herberholz and Tomoharu Saito were both spotted casting the one drop in the Feature Match area in games that propelled them to the lofty record of 7-0.
Rumors of why the card may be better than originally suspected include: the clock of the format, which may be such that the combination of a one-drop with the ability to smooth out your curve over the next few turns is enough to rev a deck into gear; decks with enchantments like Undying Rage and Griffin Guide just want bodies to carry those enchantments; and finally, decks with Grapeshot may just need cheap plays to feed their storm count.
I am still unsure whether I am buying or selling on the Sage. I am not even sure exactly what my motivation is in writing this. Partially it is an admission of a possible error, partially it is in hopes that my opponents will play one drops against me in Limited events, and partially it is to taunt Jon Becker for playing with Sage of Epityr.