Welcome to New York City! The crack reporting squad of Josh Bennett, Bill Stark, Tim Willoughby, and Craig Gibson are combing the halls of the Javits Center for all the inside information as we close out the 2007 Pro Tour season. Who will be Player of the Year? What Standard and Legacy decks are at the top of the standings? What are the top draft cards in Lorwyn? All these questions and much more will be answered thsi weekend.
|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
Here at the World Championships in New York, we find the Pro Tour coming full circle. As we approach the 15th anniversary of the game, the World Championships come home to New York, the location of the very first Pro Tour event.
For PT 1, there was a blizzard that it took PT–Valencia's flood this year to beat. Outside this weekend, we've got snow, but it's just a light dusting, serving to make New York all the more Christmassy (and cold!). Inside, the snow has managed to creep in too. Traders in the hall were seen cracking boxes of Coldsnap as players proved willing to pay top dollar for powerful uncommons, including Flashfreeze, Into the North and especially everyone's favorite icy robot, Phyrexian Ironfoot. By the time players were sat down for the meeting before round one, the three-mana 3/4 was sold out at every trader, and sleeved up in a hefty amount of decks. If ever there was a tournament where Freyalise's Radiance looked like a viable sideboard choice it would be Worlds 2007.
Sales on Legacy cards were still a little slow, with players still to make choices about their decks. Olivier Ruel, resplendent in his lucky pink hat, declared that one of his goals for day one was to work out which 75 cards he'd be playing in Legacy. With a quick deck, he'd have plenty of time to talk to other players during the rounds, getting a good feel for the metagame, so that he could be ready for Friday's play.
Thursday, December 6: 10:15 a.m. – The Luck of the Draw
At the start of Round 1, Level 6 mage and Invitational winner Tiago Chan called the judge to complain of insufficient randomization—of the pairings! Paired against Jelger Wiegersma, he looked down the line of tables and saw Katsuhiro Mori vs. Tomoharu Saito, Antonino De Rosa vs. Paulo Carvalho, and a whole host of other big names surrounding him. In point of fact, this World Championships are just the biggest ever, with a lot of old names coming back to play, so it feels like Feature Match City wherever you go. The pairings are completely random—it's just that every now and then there are a lot of tough Round 1 matchups. This makes our jobs on coverage so much easier!
Thursday, December 6: 10:25 a.m. Threatening Behavior
Olivier Ruel shuffled up and looked at his opening hand with some concerns at the start of his first game of the World Championships. With three copies of Threaten, it looked a little shaky. A fourth soon joined its fellows, while his opponent staunchly refused to play any creatures. Olivier wasn't off to the start he wanted.
Until Bogardan Hellkite showed up. Ruel put away his first game in brutal fashion, stealing the dragon twice, and backing it up with burn before the Hellkite could finish him off.
Thursday, December 6: 10:33 a.m. Dave's Pocket Pair
Dave Williams went on from being a Magic Pro to being a poker Pro, but that didn't stop him from coming back to New York to play the game he loves. In Round 1, he took his first game in style, with a pair of Spinerock Knoll on the first two turns leading into the following:
This was enough to turn on those hideaway lands. The first one revealed Bogardan Hellkite. This met a Faerie Trickery. Dave seemed unperturbed though, as he activated the second to reveal a Dragonstorm hidden away to finish things off. I believe that the collective noun for the amount of dragons he fetched is a nonsense. His opponent did not wait to see them before scooping up his cards.
Thursday, December 6: 2:15 p.m. – Meet the Artists
One of the neatest features for visitors to any Pro Tour or major Magic event is the opportunity to meet some of the artists who create the prolific pictures of the game's spells, creatures, and artifacts. The 2007 Magic: The Gathering World Championships are no exception, and four artists are on hand to greet their throngs of fans and sign cards. Those visiting the Jakob K. Javits center this weekend will have the chance to meet Aleksi Briclot, Rebecca Guay, Jim Murray, and Paolo Parente.
Aleksi Briclot, with the art from Thoughtseize
Aleksi Briclot, who hails from Paris, France, is noticeable for his long dreadlocks almost as much as his artwork itself. Fans of Lorwyn will recognize him as the person who brought us the visual realization of all five planeswalkers: Liliana Vess, Chandra Nalaar, Jace Beleren, Ajani Goldmane, and Garruk Wildspeaker. He's also responsible for Thoughtseize, Venser, Shaper Savant, and (to the chagrin of many a red mage) the Tenth Edition version of Story Circle, amongst others.
Rebecca Guay and the art from Spellstutter Sprite
One artist fans of the game are sure to recognize is Rebecca Guay, whose art has appeared on prolific cards like Gaea's Blessing, Priest of Titania, and Wood Elves. A resident of Ipswich, Massachusetts, her latest work can be seen on such Lorwyn cards as Drowner of Secrets and Peppersmoke. Her influences truly make her qualified for the job as she cites a creative range from the X-Men to The Princess Bride. As for other Magic artists she enjoys? Her list includes Adam Rex, Therese Nielsen, Dos Santos, Scott Fischer, and Mark Zug.
PT–Geneva winner Mike Hron, in the blue hat, is one of many to line up and have cards signed.
Of course, artist signings aren't just for the casual crowd. In between playing both in and out of the Feature Match area, Pro Tour–Geneva winner Mike Hron could be seen patiently standing in line with the rest of the art enthusiast community hoping to get some cards signed. The artist he was patiently waiting for? Paolo Parente, an Italy native who has painted Armadillo Cloak, Misdirection, and Masticore to name a few. Was this the first time Hron had sought to get a portion of his collection signed? "I waited for almost two hours in Valencia," he said, adding: "I need to get cards for my Five-Color deck."
Paolo Parente, with parts of the art of Wren's Run Vanquisher and Jagged-Scar Archers visible behind him
Paolo, meanwhile, cites his influences as including fellow Magic artist Kev Walker and when asked what specifically inspires him when making art works he said, "It's the challenge. For me every new piece is a struggle and a challenge."
Jim Murray and the Tenth Edition Gaea's Herald art
Rounding out the list was Jim Murray, who hails from Dorset County in the south of England. He credited Greg Staples as a fellow Magic artist he finds inspirational and when asked what he likes about being a Magic artist specifically said "I like creating strange characters in otherworldly settings." You can check out some of those characters on Bringer of the Green Dawn, Blind-Spot Giant, Razormane Masticore, and Sundering Titan, amongst others.
Thursday, December 6: 8:45 p.m. – The Judges
In the background of every tournament are a group of individuals many players take for granted. Of course we're talking about judges, and the World Championships features more of them than almost any other Magic tournament on the planet. As Day 1 of competition wound to a close the Event Coverage team had the chance to sit down with American Mike Guptil, head judge of the individual Draft portions of this year's event, and Italian Riccardo Tessitori who was responsible for heading operations during the Standard rounds.
Riccardo Tessitori and Mike GuptilSo what was the news amongst the judges for happenings on the day? First and foremost were two disqualifications, both involving Brazilian players. Fifteen minutes into Round 1, they explained, one of the Brazilian national team members moved to sideboard for the second game of his first match. In order to help remind himself of how to sideboard he pulled a handwritten note from his backpack which told him which cards he needed to take out and put in versus any number of matchups. Unfortunately for (and unbeknownst to) him, doing so is actually against the rules, punishable as "Cheating – Outside Notes." Although the player didn't know his actions were against the rules, evident by his openness about using the sideboarding guide, the penalty is universally the same: disqualification without prize.
The second DQ of the event was less innocent. The player in question was witnessed by a judge drawing an opening hand then, while his opponent was occupied looking at his own hand and figuring out whether he wanted to mulligan or not, sneaking a peek at the top cards of his library before making mulligan decisions based on that additional information. He was quickly taken aside and informed of the disqualification under "Cheating – Manipulating game materials" after an official investigation.
Not all things were gloom and doom in the world of rules enforcement on the weekend, though. Riccardo pointed out the tournament, the largest World Championships on record, was even larger than the event organizers had anticipated. "We had many more [players] than expected. We had to add tables," he explained, motioning to a long row of additional table space set up to accommodate the overflow of competitors.
Guptil was happy to add that despite the event being so large, they had received zero illegal deck lists for the Standard portion of Day 1. That's a pretty impressive feat when you consider nearly 400 people had to fill out 75 cards per sheet completely flawlessly. Unfortunately things weren't quite so rosy when it came to the draft portion of the day with at least 10 competitors receiving game losses for deck registration infractions, generally registering 46-card pools or 39-card decks and failing to double check themselves. "That's too many," Guptil commented of the number of illegal decklists, which seems reasonable considering that every single player could have avoided the penalty by just spending a few more minutes looking over the list.
Finally Riccardo pointed out an interesting rules interaction he thought might benefit those reading from home. During one of the Standard rounds a player was facing a horde of Tarmogoyfs that he desperately wanted to reduce in size. Fortunately for him he had a Tombstalker in hand; the 5/5s delve cost reduction would definitely go a long way towards cutting the 'Goyfs down to size by removing cards in his graveyard. The question he posed to the judges: was it possible to delve for more than the six generic mana in the Tombstalker's casting cost? Judge Tessitori revealed a surprising answer: yes, you can remove more than six cards for the cost reduction. Of course you won't actually be able to pay less than six generic mana or somehow generate mana by "going negative," but in a pinch, staring down a horde of Tarmogoyfs, Tombstalker can go a long ways toward cutting the two-drops down to a manageable force for a dwindling life total.
Asked if they had any final thoughts on how the judge staff was doing so far on the weekend Guptil concluded "We have a fantastically large staff but they're very experienced. I'm very very pleased with the judges today. They definitely get props."
Thursday, December 6: 9:42 p.m. – Zvi Mowshowitz's "My Faeries"
There's a lot to like about Zvi's Standard deck. Eschewing the convention wisdom that insists on blue-green (and how lucky it is that Scryb Ranger is a faerie), he turned to blue-black. And no-nonsense blue-black at that. There's no messing about with Thoughtseize. It's an efficient little package of aggro-control, running a suite of 8 one-drops and plenty of backbreakers. For the full scoop, you should check out Rich Hagon's interview in the final podcast of Thursday, but there's one interesting tweak (besides the miser's singleton Terror) that speaks to sorting out vulnerabilities and answering them.
After playtesting revealed a susceptibility to Desert draws, Zvi suited up his blue-black deck with a pair of Pendelhavens in the main, and a third in the board. His only loss in the swiss came when his opponent found Desert No. 3 to trump the Legendary Land.
Thursday, December 6: 10:55 p.m. – Drafting with Mori: Making the Best of a Bad Situation
Fashionista Katsuhiro "Zoom" Mori, resplendent in his finery of angora sweater, Tough-Guy T-Shirt, oversized belt, earbling and crazy kicks, sat down to his second Lorwyn draft at Table 1 of the World Championships. This was a particular disadvantage, because Lorwyn draft (according to most Pros) rewards archetype-drafting, rather than curve management and strong card evaluation. Mori would have to rely on a draft skillset that most have put aside.
For the complete pick-by-pick, check out the Draft Viewer.
For Mori, the first few picks were academic. He quickly settled on Merrow Reejerey over Nameless Inversion and Crib Swap, then happily scooped the Guile that was shipped to him. Then came Stonybrook Angler over Aethersnipe, cementing him in his plan.
It was about there where the wheels started to come off. He took Peppersmoke, and was faced with Wings of Velis-Vel as the only blue card, and Facevaulter as the only black. He veered into Primal Command, and followed up with Gilt-Leaf Ambush, shelving the black gambit owing to a shortness of black goodies. However, as the pack rounded out, it seemed like the blue playables had gone with them, and after fifteen he had a hodgepodge of 23rd cards in both green and black, and no new blue to speak of. He shuffled them around in the review period and seemed to settle on green-black.
The new plan panned out in pack two, with a gift of a third-pick Garruk Wildspeaker after Incremental Growth and Weed Strangle, but when Merrow Harbinger turned up with a wealth of blue cards, offering the seductive promise of salvaging his first three picks, Mori took it. And like so many of these seductive promises, it seemed to turn on him. He got a Fallowsage, but still the blue cards hid. His green was shored up nicely, but it wasn't clear if he'd be able to come up with a cohesive forty.
But then a miracle occurred. Apparently those feeding him had derailed their plans as well, and in pack three the blue cards came freely. He got some choice cards and filled out his curve nicely. He even got some dual lands and a Vivid Creek to smooth his mana. By focusing so heavily on the green cards in pack two, he had given himself enough playables for green-black or green-blue depending on how pack three flowed.
During deckbuilding Mori seemed slightly embarrassed at his deck, proclaiming a 2-1 record a "tough chance." Fortune was on his side, though. His fliers took care of Simon Englund in 6, and then Chris Lachmann's fearsome faerie deck stumbled on mana in Round 7. He almost made it clean sweep, but Christophe Huber's board-controlling merfolk managed to squeeze out a game win and then took the deciding game to time.
Now Mori's at the top of the standings, and if his "go-with-the-flow" style of drafting serves up another 2-1, we should be seeing him under the spotlight on Sunday.