2008 Worlds Blog: Day 1

Posted in Event Coverage on December 11, 2008

By Wizards of the Coast

Welcome to the 2008 World Championships! The crack reporting squad of Bill Stark, Rich Hagon, Nate Price, Josh Bennett, Marc Calderaro, and Craig Gibson are combing the halls of Memphis Convention Center for all the inside information.



  • 8:25 p.m. - Asahara on Faeries
    by Josh Bennett
  • 7:27 p.m. - Catching up with the Hall of Famers
    by Bill Stark
  • 6:08 p.m. - Just a Humble Baberowski
    by Nate Price
  • 5:31 p.m. - Open to the Public
    by Nate Price
  • 4:42 p.m. - Cruisin'
    by Nate Price
  • 3:40 p.m. - Magic and the Marine Corps
    by Bill Stark
  • 2:31 p.m. - Israel A+B+C+D=Israel
    by Rich Hagon
  • 12:58 p.m. - Meeting the Teams
    by Rich Hagon



Having trouble keeping track of the fifty-seven national teams playing here at Worlds? Here’s how I summed up each of them during the opening ceremonies:

Argentina – Adrian Saredo leads the team.
Australia – Aaron Nicastri is National Champion.
Austria – Last year’s gallant runners-up.
Belgium – Pascal Vieren leads a strong squad.
Bolivia – Jose Ledezma heads the team.
Brazil – Willy Edel among the team.
Bulgaria – Kiril Stoichkov the champion.
Canada – Dan Lanthier carries the flag.
Chile – All four are first-time teamers.
China – Jia Wu back for a second time.
Colombia – Looking to improve from New York.
Costa Rica – Carlos Pal leads the way.
Croatia – Ognjen Cividini here for the third time.
Czech Republic – Can Martin Juza’s countrymen cause a splash?
Denmark – A very experienced worlds team, with seven appearances between them.
Dominican Republic – All making their debuts this year.
Ecuador – Francisco Arcos is the champ.
Estonia – Hannes Kerem the lone representative.
Finland – Erkki Siira here for the third year running.
France - Peyronnel, Malherbaud, and Ruel make up a real powerhouse team.
Germany – Olaf Krzikalla won Nationals this year.
Great Britain – Will Jonathan Randle be too hot to handle?
Greece – A rookie squad this year.
Hong Kong – All first-time team members.
Hungary – Andras Balogh on the team for the fifth time in seven years.
Iceland – Torfi Asgeirsson the champion.
Ireland – Stewart Shinkins on his second Worlds team.
Israel – Shomer, Shmuely and Bildner looking to emulate reigning champ Uri Peleg.
Italy – The improving Italian scene is paced by champ William Cavaglieri.
Japan – As ever, the team everyone has to beat.
Lithuania – Gaudenis Vidugiris has a Grand Prix Top 8 this year.
Malaysia – Terry Soh back once more.
Mexico – All first-timers this year.
Netherlands – Always one of the contenders.
New Zealand – Gene Brumby makes his second team.
Norway – Andre Mosholen leads the team.
Panama – Jose Carvajal is the champion.
Peru – Antonio Vargas makes the team for the second time in three years.
Philippines – Three times in four years for Joselito Jamir.
Poland – Tomek Pedrakowski leads the way.
Portugal – Marcio Carvalho will look to aid his Player of the Year chances.
Puerto Rico – Four first-timers make up the squad on the Puerto Rican debut.
Romania – Back at Worlds for the first time since 2004.
Russian Federation – Alexander Privalov won Nationals this year.
Serbia – Dragan Marosan makes his second team appearance.
Singapore – Hollywood Top 8er Yong Han Choo leads the team.
Slovak Republic – Three years running for Filip Valis.
Slovenia – The team features Valencia Top8er Tine Rus.
South Africa – Champion Adam Katz has a PT Top 8.
South Korea – A highly experienced squad.
Spain – Champion Omar Sagol makes his second team start.
Sweden – Seven team appearances between them.
Switzerland – The defending champions.
Turkey – All here for their first attempt.
Ukraine – Yuri Babich is the champion.
Venezuela – Jose Nasiff paces the squad.
United States – Can Jacob, Black and Cheon keep the trophy on home soil?

The nations of Worlds.Fifty seven nations. That’s pretty special when you stop to think about it—the idea that almost certainly every single minute of every single day, somebody somewhere is playing Magic. Even more extraordinary is the organization that delivers these fifty-seven national representative teams to the same room at the same time on the same day to pit themselves against each other. Of course, members of the same national team can’t be drawn against each other in the individual competition. That wouldn’t be fair, now would it? Nobody said you couldn’t play against someone from the same country, however, and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Willy Edel of Brazil found that out the hard way in Round 1, facing each other in a matchup that neither would have cared to face. Paulo’s Faeries eventually triumphed over the Kithkin overload favored by the man who doggedly took White Weenie into the massacre that was Pro Tour–Yokohama last year. Over the next three days, I’ll be your guide to the team competition, beginning with six rounds of individual play in Standard today, before the teams unite for two exclusive rounds. Each team member brings a Constructed deck to play—one Standard, one Extended, and one Legacy, the format almost certainly tested the least by the field at large. In our next installment of the Team tournament, I’ll bring you up to date with the opening rounds, and talk with Israel’s Niv Shmuely about the most expensive common card he’s ever purchased ....

Thursday, 2:31 p.m: Israel A+B+C+D=Israel

by Rich Hagon

With so many storylines to keep track of, sometimes things slip under the radar. Last year, it was only in hindsight that we were able to construct the outstanding performance of not only the World Champion Uri Peleg but the entire Israeli squad, who narrowly missed out on a Sunday Team appearance.

This time around, we’re leaving nothing to chance, and I got the chance before Round Three to sit with the team, plus the Reigning Champion himself. National Champion Asaf Shomer has been playing for five years, similar to teammate Niv Shmuely, who began during Mirrodin. The third member of the team, Orr Bildner, has a much loner association with the game. Like Uri Peleg, he’s been playing for a dozen years, and also like Peleg, has past experience of team play at Worlds, making his second appearance in the last three years. As for Peleg, last year was his fourth team attempt, and despite not being able to attend as many events as he would have liked in his World Champion season, he retains a massive love of the game.

Last year, Peleg called upon help from the global community to get him across the finish line, with an American group contributing the Legacy deck that would take Peleg to Super Sunday. This time around, the squad have come thoroughly prepared for Day One and Standard, with one of the more innovative decks in the room—Elf Combo. Now you may be thinking that Elf Combo is unlikely to be particularly innovative. But this is Standard, not Extended, and that means some eclectic card choices from this likeable group for whom fun is always uppermost in their minds.

“Of course winning is important,” says Bildner, “and winning can be fun too. But certainly having fun is very important to us. Some Standard decks are pretty dull to play, and we wanted to make sure we enjoyed every round.” There are nods of agreement all around, and they clearly are having a terrific time, despite the early rounds not exactly going their way. One thing that really helps is something Israel shares with Belgium and the Netherlands, who also punch above their weight on the global scene.

“You never have to drive more than an hour and a half to get to a tournament, so everyone knows everyone else” says Niv Shmuely, “and that means that when it comes to testing, it’s really easy to get together and come up with something good.”

It turns out that Peleg and Shomer had the idea for Combo Elves independently, but almost on the same day. Peleg takes up the story. “For a loooong time, the deck was really bad, but it was still fun, so we kept working on it. Eventually we found the cards that turned the tide.”

With the team a combined 4-5 after the first three Rounds, it’s unclear to what extent the tide has indeed turned. In fact, the deck almost never made it into Round One, due to an unfortunate oversight.

“We arrived knowing that we needed six more Commune With Nature” says Shmuely, “and none of the dealers had any.” Seasoned Pro Tour attendees won’t be surprised by this, since the hardest cards to find from dealers are always common because they so rarely (no pun intended) bring them to events. So what to do?

“We went and bought a box of Tenth Edition from the DCI booth. That got us four of the six we needed. So we went back, and bought two boosters. Ripped them open, no Commune. Two more boosters, ripped them open, no Commune.”

All four are grinning at this grisly tale of probability gone awry. How many boosters did they eventually open?

“Sixty-one” admits Shmuely, “which probably makes them the most expensive Commune With Nature in history.” Eager to recoup their losses, Peleg and Shmuely suggest that for a modest fee, I could sponsor them to wear Rich Hagon shirts at the event.

“I wouldn’t accept less than $2 though” cautions Peleg. “I’d need at least $3,” says Shmuely. This strikes me as grossly unfair, and say so. How can a Reigning World Champion cost me 33 percent less than a debutant Team member? “Ah, but Uri doesn’t need the money...”

Thursday, December 11, 3:40 p.m. – and the Marine Corps

by Bill Stark

Raphael Levy got players to storm Pro Tour–Berlin in style, organizing an entire day for the pros to show up wearing their dress finest. The stunt was called “Suit Up in Berlin,” but a different formal dress style caught the eye of the coverage staff this weekend.

Daniel Rowland is a United States Marine Corps Sergeant based out of Jacksonville, North Carolina. He came to Worlds this weekend in Marine Corps brown, ready to take on all comers in the world of Magic: The Gathering. From his rank insignia down to his dress shoes polished so bright you can see your reflection in them, Daniel cut a sharp contrast to many of his fellow competitors. “I wanted to dress up, but I didn’t have a suit-coat,” he explained laughing. “So ... it was wear this or my Magic hoodie.”

Rowland has been stationed in places as diverse as Korea and Iraq, but demurred when asked how long he’s been playing. “I started playing about 8 years ago,” he said. “But I guess I only started playing competitively a year ago.”

Making the World Championships during his first year of competitive play—Didn’t he think that was quite a feat?

“Well, let’s say I’ve played a lot of nonsanctioned competitive Magic. When you’ve got six guys in the desert and a box of Saviors of Kamigawa commons, what are you going to do?”

The serviceman explained that it was tough traveling to events with a wife and kids at home. “I qualified on rating, playing local events around my area. You can play four or five times a week where I live, and I’ve been known to play three or four events in a single weekend.”

With 12 years in the Marine Corps, was Daniel considering pursuing a career as a professional Magic player?

“No,” he said laughing, before adding, “I am 1-1 this weekend against former World Champions!”

One has to admit, it’s a good feeling to see a sharply dressed player find time to work his way to the World Championships stage by supporting his local stores, all while in service of his country!

Thursday, December 11, 4:42 pm – Cruisin’

by Nate Price

Tropical beaches, shining sun, gorgeous people, and all the Magic you could stand. The Pro Tour–Honolulu Beach House was one of the coolest things to happen to Magic in a long while. Who wouldn’t want to get their Magic on in tropical climes during the harsh winter? While I admit the beaches probably didn’t see too much milky-white Magic player belly, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would trade their time at the house for anything.

Lindsey Kary and Steve Port of Legion EventsLegion Events’ “Game in the Gulf” cruise is picking up where the Beach House left off. Tropical beaches, shining sun, gorgeous people, and all the Magic you can stand—this time on a boat. What do you get if you take two hundred Magic players, put them on a cruise, and give them access to unlimited gaming and a few panels by some of the game’s biggest names? Unless my math is wrong, you get five days of uninterrupted fun.

For the past year, Legion Events has been having qualifiers to attend the cruise, including one on Magic Online, culminating with a final qualifier here on the first day of Worlds. Don’t be too bummed out if you think you missed your chance to qualify. As long as all the spots aren’t taken, you merely have to get to sign up; get to Galveston, TX; pay the $485 for the cruise; and be prepared for an unforgettable five days. Once you’re on board, a one-time fee of $89 gets you signed up for every event being held on the cruise. And if you should decide to actually go do cruise-y things (heaven forbid!), you are still entitled to any sealed product that might have been used for an event you missed.

The timing for the cruise couldn’t be better for what Legion has planned. It takes place over Confluxrelease weekend, so they’re holding a release event. They’ve got Patrick Chapin coming on the cruise, and he’ll be giving a little seminar on the Constructed impact of Conflux. They’ve even got Conflux lead developer Mike Turian on board to have a little Q&A session about the set’s design. In addition to all the Conflux fun, they’ve got Sealed Deck events, Drafts, and open play events all weekend. With the emphasis on fun, they’ve got a couple nights of open play set aside for primarily Elder Dragon Highlander (!), Two-Headed Giant, and Grand Melee. They’ve also got Evan Erwin along for the ride for a discussion of my personal favorite format, Cube draft. For the more serious players, there’s appropriately a PTQ for Honolulu and a multi-format championship that tests players’ skills across Standard, Draft, and Sealed Deck. There really is something for everyone.

With an event as potentially awesome as this cruise, it would be great to have an overwhelming positive response. After all, if they have more requests for tickets than they can provide this year, it gives them reason to increase the number of slots available in years to come. These cruise ships can host around 2,000 people. How surreal would it be if enough people were interested in cruising the Caribbean and playing Magic that they were able to fill an entire ocean liner with Magic players? Magic hasn’t seen that many players gaming on a boat since Pro Tour–Los Angeles left the Queen Mary in 2001.

With Pro Tour–Honolulu on the horizon, the time is right for a return to tropical Magic. So get in while the getting’s good!

For more information on Legion Events’ “Game in the Gulf,” visit their web site.

Thursday, December 11, 5:31 pm – Open to the Public

by Nate Price

Not qualified for the main event? Why let that stop you from enjoying the fun here at Worlds 2k8? Just like every invitation-only Magic event, there are an Abundance of things to do even if you weren’t able to get that elusive invite.

Ordinary Magic players test themselves against Hall of Famers and R&D members.There are two PTQs: one for Kyoto and the other for Honolulu. There’s the perennially awesome Super Friday Night Magic. There are a million smaller events for the aspiring Trinket Mages that dole out little baubles like iPods, digital cameras, and even an Xbox Elite gaming system. There’s even a tournament to fulfill your Golden Wishes. Just like the “Win a Car” tournament at last year’s Worlds, there is an event this year with a massive prize that has had qualifiers all year long. The prize this year: Gold. Actual gold.

In addition to multitude of tournaments and games going on this weekend, there are game shows being held about 8 p.m. each night. Tonight’s Question Mark is a team, Magic trivia event hosted by the original Maro-sorcerer, Mark Rosewater. Rich Hagon gets to play Regis Philbin on his own trivia show the following night, called “Who Wants to Win a Thousand Rares?”. Perhaps the thing that intrigues me most occurs on Saturday night. I’ve always been a Giant Fan of panels. Saturday night, there’s a Magic design roundtable featuring Richard Garfield, Mark Rosewater, Aaron Forsythe, Mike Turian, and other Magic stars (read: Matt Place). Knowing these guys, they can turn an hour-long panel into three, make it feel like 15 minutes, and still leave people wanting more. I can’t wait for it!

Also ever-present at these events is the Champion Challenge area where you can come play a game or two against the Pros and even some of the faces who created the cards you can use to Smash them. It has to bring a designer a little nugget of joy to get bashed by a card they brought to life!

Here’s a schedule of the Public Events for the remainder of the weekend. So come on down and have some fun with us here at Magic Worlds 2008, and hopefully we’ll see you at premier-level event in the future—qualified or not!

Thursday, December 11, 6:08 p.m. – Just a Humble Baberowski

by Josh Bennett

Humble Hall of Famer Dirk BaberowskiThis story comes to us from roving reporter and Pro Tour Historian Brian David-Marshall. Compiling video interviews for the Hall of Fame, he was having a tough time getting answers out of 2008 Inductee Dirk Baberowski. The typically reticent German was even more so when it came to the subject of his success.

Question after question, he did his best to minimize his many accomplishments, saying things like “There are easily five players far better than me on the ballot, I have no idea how I got in,” and “I’ve played maybe one good game of Magic in my whole life.”

With concerted effort, BDM finally managed to extract enough useable video and wrapped up the ordeal.

“You know Dirk, I’ve got to tell you, you’re one of the most challenging interviews I’ve ever had.”


“You might be the most self-deprecating player on the Tour.”

Dirk, without a hint of irony, waved the accusation away.

“Oh, that’s not true,” he said. “There are many players more self-deprecating than I am.”

Thursday, December 11, 7:27 p.m. – Catching up with the Hall of Famers

by Bill Stark

Ben Rubin, international man of mystery, finished 3-2-1 on Day One.One of the most exciting stories each year at Worlds is the induction of a new Hall of Fame class. Mike Turian is an employee of Wizards of the Coast and thus ineligible to play sanctioned events, but all four eligible members of the newest class came to play. We caught up with Ben Rubin and Olivier Ruel to see how their weekend had gone so far.

Ben Rubin had squeaked out a 3-2-1 record, having just finished his last round of the day. “I’m a little disappointed [about my record],” he sighed. When asked how much time he had put into preparing for the event, he revealed a pretty heavy preparation regiment. “I did about 25 drafts on Magic Online and spent about 20-30 hours playing Constructed.”

With many of his teammates from years past no longer playing competitively, had Rubin found any new competitors to team up with?

“I tested some with Heezy [Mark Herberholz] and Gabriel Nassif.”

For the end of the first day of competition, 3-2-1 isn’t exactly the most inspiring start. How did Ben feel about his chances on the weekend?

“Day 2 [Shards of Alara booster draft] is my best format, but Day 3 [Extended] is my worst.”

Oliver Ruel and his enormous Hall of Fame ring finished 4-1-1 in Standard.A rare Hall inductee still at the height of his professional career, French super-pro Olivier Ruel ends the first day of competition at 4-1-1. How does he feel about his record? “I feel pretty good. I’m happy with the deck. Super happy.” When you have a resume like Olivier’s, you get to test with many of the world’s best. For this event that group included Manuel Bucher and Guillaume Wafo-Tapa. How many hours did they put in? “I’d say we tested at least 60 hours of Standard.”

The super group came up with a Five-Color Control build that was relatively successful over the first day of competition. When asked for more information on the creation, Olivier replied “I’m happy with the deck. I think the deck is good but not right. It has almost no bad matchups, but most matchups are between 40 and 60%. The deck is good but not fantastic.” And how did Olivier feel about his chances during his first weekend as a Hall of Famer? “I’m pretty confident on drafting; it will depend on the Extended deck.”

The other two members of the class, Jelger Wiegersma and Dirk Baberowski, finished 2-4 on the day. There are still three more days of competition to play, plenty of time for Ben, Olivier, and all the members of the Hall to make their runs at the Top 8. Will any of them succeed at reaching the hallowed tables of Sunday play? Stay tuned to magicthegathering.com all weekend long to find out!

Thursday, December 11, 8:25 p.m. – Asahara on Faeries

by Josh Bennett

Coming into this weekend, Faeries was the bedrock of the Standard format. A known quantity, it would be out in force, and any successful deck would need to have game against it. The optimal build is a contentious issue. Different configurations built around a core of Bitterblossom, Cryptic Command, Mistbind Clique, Spellstutter Sprite, and Scion of Oona were Top 8’ing tournaments regularly.

Enter Japan’s master deckbuilder, Akira Asahara. His resume boasts nine Grand Prix Top 8’s, including two wins, and he has been behind many of Japan’s best-performing decks. In Japan, when Asahara talks, everyone listens. After his latest performance this weekend, it’s about time the rest of the world paid attention. He retooled Faeries and posted a perfect 6-0, 12-0 record in Standard.


Akira Asahara

Download Arena Decklist
Planeswalker (2)
2 Jace Beleren
Enchantment (4)
4 Bitterblossom
Tribal instant (4)
4 Peppersmoke
60 Cards

The revisions are subtle but powerful. The card Asahara cites as the key to the deck is Peppersmoke. Forgotten since the deck’s pure tribal days, Asahara says that it plays against many more decks than Thoughtseize (relegated to the sideboard) and has a profound impact when it does. He combines these with a removal package split between Agony Warp and Terror, and supplemented with Sower of Temptation.

But not all the tweaks are anti-beatdown. He also shuns Remove Soul in favor of Broken Ambitions, giving him more game against control, and comes down strongly on the side of Jace Beleren. Stock in planeswalkers has been rising steadily, and Jace has been popping up in a number of Top 8 lists. Lastly, and most greedily, Asahara flaunts a full set of Faerie Conclaves, bucking conventional wisdom that they should be two or none.

But conventional wisdom means little to this deckbuilding genius. Results are all that matters, and these he provides.

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