2009 Magic World Championships Blog:
Day 3

Posted in Event Coverage on November 21, 2009

By Wizards of the Coast

Welcome to the 2009 Magic World Championships! The crack reporting squad of Bill Stark, Rich Hagon, Dave Guskin, Tim Willoughby, and Craig Gibson are combing the halls of the Palazzo Dei Congressi for all the inside information.



Saturday, 10:24 a.m. – Setting the Table, Saturday Edition

by Rich Hagon

Two days, five Championships. If you haven’t had six or seven hours spare over the last couple of days to keep up with all the action here in Rome, we understand. Some of you have jobs that don’t involve reporting on the best Magic players in the world. And we’re sorry about that, truly we are.

Still, it’s the weekend now, so it’s time to settle back and enjoy wall-to-wall coverage of the climax to the Magic season. Here’s what’s on the docket:

Individual World Championship
Team World Championship
Magic Online World Championship
Player of the Year Race
Rookie of the Year Race

Individual World Championship

It took until Round 12, but the unbeaten run of Marijn Lybaert came to an end when long-time Dutch pro Bram Snepvangers took him down to share the lead at a hugely impressive 11-1. If the tournament were to end right now, seven Europeans would be in the Top 8. Robert Jurkovic of Slovakia is having a monster week so far, sitting in third here, and also plugging away in the Online Champs. Austria is represented by David Reitbauer. Petr Brozek and Jan Brodzak are there for the Czech Republic, and Andre Coimbra blitzed his way through draft yesterday to return to premier event contention after a year out of the game.

Completing the notional Top 8 at the two-thirds mark is Conley Woods, a relatively new face on the scene, whose deckbuilding talents are widely recognised. Rumor has it that he’s been seen in late-night talks with Gabriel Nassif about the much-decorated Frenchman running Conley’s latest creation in Extended.

To put it mildly, the chasing pack are voracious title hunters. They begin with the 2006 World Champion Makihito Mihara, 2007 Player of the Year Tomoharu Saitou, and 2006 Player of the Year Shouta Yasooka, all from Japan. Joining them are a slew of European pros, like Swede David Larsson, Portugal’s Marcio Carvalho, Florian Pils of Germany, and Robert van Medevoort from the Netherlands.

Also on this mark is Martin Juza, and that’s significant for the Player of the Year Race, as we’ll shortly see. Terry Soh, the former Magic Invitational winner from Malaysia, also sits poised on 9-3, as does Mat Marr for the USA. Mat already has a little trivial distinction here at Worlds 2009, in that he’s the winner of the very first draft pod in Public Events, defeating the very first player on the list from the very first draft pod in Round 2 action, despite valiant efforts to the contrary. I know this curious fact, because that opponent was me!

At 8-4, we’re heading into the realms of players who have to do very, very well in Extended if they’re going to make the Top 8. Overnight leader Joel Calafell endured a horrible day two, falling from 6-0 to 8-4. Guillaume Wafo-Tapa has kept his hopes alive through Draft, and now returns to his favored Constructed formats. Other big names looking to piece a run together down the stretch include Manuel Bucher, South Korea’s Cynic Kim, Adam Yurchick and David Ochoa of the USA, Israeli Asaf Shomer, and Frenchman Gabriel Nassif. But wait, there’s more ... Brad " FFfreak" Nelson is on 8-4, as are Paul Rietzl, Brandon Scheel, and Gerard Fabiano. There truly are a bunch of talented Americans who could yet upset the European applecart with an undefeated Day Three run.

Today: Six rounds of Extended, and then the Top 8 progress to Sunday action.

Team World Championship

Coming into Day Two, Brazil held a commanding lead. No longer. In fact, their lead has gone entirely, and they now share top spot with the Czech Republic and Japan. Martin Juza, who knows a thing or two about Magic in his home country, confirmed on Wednesday that team members Lukas Jaklovsky, Lucas Blohon, and Jan Kotrla are all pretty good, and none have a negative record in the individual event. Everyone knew that Japan was likely to be awesome, and in some ways they’ve underperformed, with no member of the Czech team managing better than 7-5 overnight.

Chasing the three-way tie for the lead are Austria, adrift by just three points (-3), Chinese Taipei, China, and Argentina (-6), Germany (-8), the Netherlands and Spain (-9). What’s important to remember is that -9 is a significant figure in this competition, since that’s exactly the number of points you get for winning a team round. Costa Rica apparently "languish" down in 25th place, but two team wins this morning, coupled with two losses for any of the overnight leaders, would see them join that team on 78 points. In other words, this morning is a massive couple of hours for the team event.

Today: Two team rounds, with 9 points to the winner of each. Then each team member counts their individual Extended scores across six rounds. At the end of today, the Top 4 teams will progress to Semifinals early tomorrow, and then the live webcast Finals later in the day.

Magic Online World Championship

For the eight players involved in this ultra-exclusive event, it’s already been a long couple of days. With three rounds of Classic on Day One and a Zendikar draft last night, Anssi Myllymaki and Shouta Yasooka head the standings. Close behind are Federico Rivero, with Guiffault and Jurkovic tied for 4th. Intriguingly, Jurkovic is 4th out of 8 here, but 3rd out of 409 in the main event! Yasooka is also monstering his way through real-life Magic, sitting in 12th overnight.

Today: Three rounds of Standard. At that point, the Top 2 players will advance to the Championship battle tomorrow. That’s also Standard, but the players will be able to switch to a different Standard deck if they wish before the Finals.

Player of the Year Race

There was a moment yesterday when it looked as if the leader in the Race, Yuuya Watanabe of Japan, was about to utterly fall apart. There was surprise when he started out 1-2. Incredulity when that became 1-3. No surprise at all when that converted to a modest but serviceable 3-3. That’s the point at which he was supposed to annihilate an inexperienced draft table, and take his rightful place in contention once more.

Didn’t happen.

Two rounds later, Watanabe was still on three wins, and rival Tomoharu Saito was almost mythically distant at 8-0. That was the moment when it looked like we were witnessing meltdown.

That didn’t happen either.

As we come into Extended, Watanabe has fought back to a positive record at 7-5, and you can be sure he’ll be mighty relieved to be there. With Japan vying for the lead in the team competition, he can certainly expect some bonus points from that quarter. Even so, five losses likely puts him out of contention for Top 8, and that means that any of his rivals that go and win the individual event have a strong chance of also being crowned Player of the Year. So how are his closest challengers faring?

Both Martin Juza and Tomoharu Saito are in good shape at 9-3 overnight. A 4-1-1 record is certainly not beyond them in Extended, and somewhere in that region could be close to Top 8. With four losses, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa had a frustrating day yesterday, as he would certainly have anticipated doing rather better than the 3-3 record he eventually posted. Worse news for the Brazilian is the recovery of Watanabe, because Paulo’s shot at the title was always tenuous, virtually requiring a trinity of "win Worlds, win Teams, Watanabe loses horribly." Although never exactly likely to happen, that moment yesterday brought the dream into focus. That has now receded, although not been entirely snuffed out. Frenchman Gabriel Nassif also sits at 8-4, and needs a tremendous Extended run.

Five players, then, remain in contention, and our best guess is that the destination of the title lies in the hands of Tomoharu Saito and Martin Juza. Where the title actually lands, however, is still most likely to be in the hands of the current leader, Yuuya Watanabe, who will be keeping a close eye on his rivals for any signs of a stumble that would give him the crown.

Today: Six rounds of Extended, plus Watanabe has two team rounds to start the day. Cut to Top 8 at the end of the day. Saito, Juza, and Damo da Rosa must see Sunday action to keep the title alive into the final day.

Rookie of the Year

Akimasa Yamamoto leads coming into what may be the final day in this competition, as most of the contenders here are already out of contention for Sunday action. The exceptions to this are Brad Nelson and Ari Lax of the United States, and Lino Burgold of Germany, although for different reasons.

The two Americans have put together 8-4 records, which gives them a legitimate shot at the Top 8 down the stretch. If either one manages this, the minimum 12-point reward would see them crowned in this Rookie category. Burgold is out of the running in the individual event, but he and his teammates continue to be live in the national competition, with Germany currently sitting in 8th place. Burgold is just two points behind Yamamoto, and that makes these first two team rounds utterly crucial in this competition.

Today: Two rounds of team for Burgold, and then Nelson and Lax look to secure the title with a Top 8 berth across six rounds of Extended.

Deep breath now. There. And how can you follow every twist and turn? Why, I’m glad you asked, because it turns out that we here at magicthegathering.com were planning on sending a thing or two your way over the next 48 hours...

Saturday, 12:16 p.m. – Legacy in its Own Time

by Dave Guskin

The team competition at Worlds showcased the Pros’ take on the Legacy format, including quite a few new and interesting deck lists among a sea of staples. As the teams played out the third round of their four-round stretch, some pretty unbelievable game states were achieved. Well, unbelievable in anything but an Eternal format.

A player with a black-green deck had his Storm opponent at 9 with a 4/5 Tarmogoyf ready to knock down the door. The Storm player cast Ad Nauseum, going down to only one card in hand. Eight cards and 7 life later, the Storm pilot deployed a Mox Diamond and three Dark Rituals. He threw two Disfigures at the Tarmogoyf. "Still alive!" said the black-green player, pointing at the ‘Goyf. His opponent smiled and unloaded his last card in hand, Tendrils of Agony for lethal, pointed at the Goyf’s controller.

Tendrils of Agony

With premier combo engine Survival of the Fittest in the format, Squee, Goblin Nabob is worth his goblin weight in gold. In one match, the Survival player used Squee, Goblin Nabob to shut down his Dredge opponent by pulling out Loaming Shaman, and then used the Nabob again to grab Akroma, Angel of Wrath and Volrath’s Shapeshifter for the quick kill.

Survival of the Fittest
Volrath's Shapeshifter

"White Stax" played the Legacy part for many teams. It’s a deck that strangles the opposition under cost increasers like Trinisphere and preemptive disruption like Chalice of the Void. One player had out Smokestack on one counter, Chalices on one, two, and three, a Crucible of Worlds recurring a repeatedly sacrificed Flagstones of Trokair, and Trinisphere. His red-based Storm opponent had ... no permanents.

Flagstones of Trokair

Finally, an interesting Elf Combo deck using Survival of the Fittest has been sighted in the hands of a few National Teams—and it brings a whole new meaning to the pseudoword "Elfball." Having discarded Anger first, the Elf pilot had a good thing going with two Elvish Archdruids and a Priest of Titania accompanied by Quirion Ranger and Wirewood Symbiote. Out of gas, he activated Survival ... to refuel with little-known Apocalypse uncommon Sylvan Messenger.

Priest of Titania
Sylvan Messenger

Check back soon for a metagame breakdown and an interesting look at some new Legacy designs from the worlds’ top players!

Saturday, 1:31 p.m. – The Magic Game Show

by Rich Hagon

In amongst the ton of great Magic events going on here at Worlds, it’s sometimes possible to win cool stuff without even laying a land, attacking with a creature, or countering a Day of Judgment. Thursday night saw a hundred or so Magic trivia buffs gather in the theater for the Magic Game Show, which is pretty much what it sounds like.

With Antonino de Rosa joining yours truly as hosts for simultaneous English / Italian translation, we went about the business of selecting the players for The Hot Seat up on stage, where they would have a chance to win up to one thousand Rares from across the years. Four contestants were randomly chosen, and then were eliminated when they could no longer name an Angel. Now you may be thinking that this is an easy task, given that there are more than sixty of them. Under the gaze of your peers, and in the glare of the spotlight, it ain’t so easy, and suffice to say it wasn’t long before we were joined with our first man in the chair, Helias from Italy.

It’s fair to say that the first five questions are meant to be pretty easy. Let’s see how you would have got on:

1. Which of these is featured on the back of every Magic card?
"Hocus Pocus" / "Abracadabra" / "Magic" / "Sleight of Hand"

2. In which decade was the game invented?
1970s / 1980s / 1990s / 2000s

3. According to the color wheel, what comes next after white, blue, and black?
Red / Green / Blue / Gold

4. How many cards must be in your main deck to be legal in Constructed formats such as Standard, Extended, or Legacy?

40 / 50 / 60 / 75

5. Artifacts now have a silver-grey background. What color did they used to be?
Brown / purple / pink / orange

Darksteel Colossus

Alright, now I think we can be honest and say that you’d have a pretty significant problem if you got any of those wrong. Or, that you’re a player’s Mom and are here to check that your child is alive.

At this point, you now have 1 shiny rare in your possession, and for Helias that meant a real old-school favorite in the form of Nevinyrral’s Disk. For the next five questions, you get to double up each time, up to 32 rares at question 10.

6. Which Magic Expansion was based on a metal world?
Tempest / Mercadian Masques / Mirrodin / Ravnica

7. Which of these Zendikar cards is not an Ally?
Highland Berserker / Armament Master / Kabira Evangel / Nimana Sell-Sword

8. Which Japanese player began Worlds as the leader in the Player of the Year Race?
Tomoharu Saito / Yuuya Watanabe / Shuhei Nakamura / Shingo Kurihara

9. By converted mana cost, what is the most expensive spell in Zendikar?
Lorthos, the Tidemaker / Lavaball Trap / Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet / Iona, Shield of Emeria

10. At Grand Prix–Nottingham 2005, which color featured in 88% of day one decklists?
Green / Red / White / Black

Perhaps I should mention that the player has three "lifelines" available to them. Fact or Fiction enables them to take away two of the three wrong answers, giving them a 50/50 shot. Crowd Favorites allows everyone to participate in a thoroughly democratic vote, while Rush of Knowledge focuses in on just one audience member who may, or may not, help out our hero. Helias got himself to 32 pretty handily, but then things got tough. For 64 rares:

11. Craig Stevenson is the managing editor of which Magic web site?
blackborder.com / starcitygames.com / channelfireball.com / mananation.com

For 125 rares:

12. Which player won the first World Championship in 1994?
Bernard Lestree / Michael Loconto / Mike Long / Zak Dolan

This was the point that Helias cried enough, and he took home 64 rares as a souvenir. Would you have got to 250 rares with this?

13. I remove the ultimate number of counters from Nissa Revane, Ajani Vengeant, Liliana Vess, and Chandra Ablaze. How many counters have I removed all together?
26 / 28 / 29 / 30

Let’s try 500 rares. Only one player at these things has ever won 500, and that was Pro Tour–San Diego Champion Chris Lachmann.

14. Ambition’s Cost was a black Sorcery from Eighth Edition, that allowed you to draw three cards and lose 3 life. What set was it in originally?
Portal / Portal Second Age / Portal Three Kingdoms / Saviors of Kamigawa

For the final question, worth 1,000 rares, there are no options. You either know it, or you don’t. Most of you don’t ....

15. Spain, Great Britain, Denmark, and Portugal all have the same number of Grand Prix titles. How many?

So how many rares would you have walked away with? To save you trying to find your way through Gatherer to the answers, click here:

  1. Magic
  2. 1990s
  3. Red
  4. 60
  5. Brown
  6. Mirrodin
  7. Armament Master
  8. Yuuya Watanabe
  9. Iona, Shield of Emeria
  10. Green
  11. starcitygames.com
  12. Zak Dolan
  13. 29
  14. Portal Three Kingdoms
  15. 3

If you want a crack at winning a thousand rares yourself, you’ll just have to join us at the next Magic Game Show. Until next time, I’m your host Richard Hagon saying, er, bye!

Saturday, 2:05 p.m. – Last Man Standing

by Rich Hagon

Like Christmas, it happens every year. Hundreds of players start out on their Worlds campaign, and somewhere around 200 of them lose Round 1. Swiss pairings ensure that this winnowing effect happens every single round, and sooner or later, there’s only one player left in the building who has an undefeated record. This year, that honor went to Marijn Lybaert of Belgium, joining a truly exclusive club. But how does his undefeated record compare to previous record-holders? Let’s take a walk down memory lane, as we look at the last man standing...

An undefeated Jon Finkel at Worlds 1998

We begin in 1998, where a certain Jon Finkel leaped out to an 11-0 start. His streak was ended by another Hall of Famer, Raphael Levy of France. Finkel would go on to reach the Semifinals that year, and that, strangely, is the closest the last man standing has ever gotten to the title.

With nine wins and a draw, Jakub Slemr of the Czech Republic made the Quarterfinals in 1999, while the Netherlands’ Tom van de Logt would make Top 8 on the back of nine straight wins in 2000. He didn’t win that year, but came back in 2001 to take the title. Pacing the field that year in Toronto with eight straight wins was Jan Tomcani of the Slovak Republic, and in what would be his only Top 8, he lost in the quarters.

Eight wins was also the start in 2002 for Sim Han How of Malaysia. Another last man standing Quarterfinal exit was his reward. The 2003 record holder, Tuomo Nieminen of Finland, fared rather better. His streak went into double figures, and he, like Finkel, finished third overall. Also making the semis was the 2004 pacesetter, Manuel Bevand of France, with nine wins to start the competition.

The first Japanese player to enter our list is Tomohiro Kaji. His eight wins led to a Semifinal loss. Worlds 2006 in Paris saw Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa of Brazil streaking clear. The Brazilian reached 9-0, and began Worlds Sunday with a chance of being crowned Player of the Year. The draw for the Top 8 was not kind, however, and eventual World Champion Makihito Mihara used Dragonstorm to edge past Paulo in the Quarterfinals.

Christoph Huber, first to surpass Finkel’s 11-0 Worlds start, picking up his first loss at 11-1-1.

Nine years after Jon Finkel posted eleven straight wins, his undefeated points tally was surpassed by Christoph Huber of Switzerland. I say "points" rather than "wins" because Huber had a draw earlier in the tournament. Huber would go on to lose his Quarterfinal matchup, but had the consolation of being team World Champion with his Swiss teammates Nico Bohny, Gennari Raphael, and Manuel Bucher. Nonetheless, with eleven wins and a draw, Huber’s 34 points represented the most a tournament leader had ever begun Worlds with ... until this year.

Last year was not a vintage year for the early leaders, with Masashi Oiso and Justin Cheung getting to 8-0 before running out of steam. Neither made the Top 8, which is the first time this has happened since our records began.

And so to 2009 here in Rome. Marijn Lybaert, needing to reach the Top 24 to maintain pro status for next season, delivered on Day One, going 6-0. At a killer draft pod on Day Two, he went undefeated again, taking him to 9-0. Draft number two saw him construct another solid deck. 10-0 ...11-0 ....

In the final round of the day, he was paired against long-time Dutch pro Bram Snepvangers, and as the light faded, so did the chance of a piece of Magic history, as Bram snatched the match 2-1 to join Marijn on top of the leaderboard.

Still, at least one more piece of history remains. No last man standing has ever been the Last Man Standing, holding the trophy aloft. Marijn Lybaert, history is in your hands.

Marijn Lyaert could still make history

Saturday, 2:31 p.m. – Legacy Lowdown

by Tim Willoughby

Legacy is part of the Worlds team competition this year, and with a pair of Grand Prix next year, it will be in the spotlight quite a bit in 2010. For those of you wondering how different teams approached the format, here’s a full metagame breakdown.

Archetype Players
Merfolk: 11
Dredge: 4
Canadian Threshold: 4
Ad Nauseam Tendrils (ANT): 3
Countertop Control: 3
White Stax: 3
Zoo: 3
Goblins: 2
Goblin Charbelcher: 2
Eva Green: 2
Dark Depths: 2
Grindstone / Painter’s Servant: 2
Landstill: 1
Reanimator: 1
Elves!: 1
Full English Breakfast: 1
Affinity: 1
42 Lands: 1
All-In Red: 1
Burn: 1
Deadguy Ale: 1
Protean Hulk: 1

As you can see, Legacy is pretty wide open, with Merfolk ruling the roost as a popular choice, but also featuring the huge amounts of variation that we have come to expect from the Legacy metagame. Having gone through lists, there are a few nice Zendikar inclusions, like Ravenous Trap and Mindbreak Trap against graveyards and storm, respectively. The lists were on the whole not the highest on innovation, which we can perhaps forgive, as Nationals Team members already had a lot of formats to consider in their preparation.

That said, there were four deck lists that stuck out for me as being worth a closer look.

Bulgaria's Flashless Hulk

Download Arena Decklist

It seems like every format in which Protean Hulk is around has had a crazy combo deck. This build is not wholly new, but hasn’t been putting up big numbers just yet. While it isn’t the terrifying machine that Steve Sadin won Grand Prix–Columbus with, this Hulk list can definitely still smash, and makes good use of Entomb to get Protean Hulk going with Necromancy or Footsteps of the Goryo.

Denmark's Full Danish Breakfast

Download Arena Decklist

Full English Breakfast, designed by Paul Barclay, was once described as "the deck that only a judge could ever design." Back in Trix era Extended it fit a neat hole, using Volrath’s Shapeshifter tricks as a potent threat. It is still around in Legacy, and it is cool to see it come out to play again.

Great Britain's Elves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Download Arena Decklist

The number of exclamation points on this deck is kind of optional, but the deck itself excites me plenty, as Elves is one of those decks that I have always enjoyed playing in Legacy. Running Natural Order, it can go for a Progenitus game, or it can play a very explosive Survival of the Fittest plan. With Anger in the graveyard and a Taiga out, those copies of Elvish Archdruid and Priest of Titania can get thoroughly out of hand.

Greece's Dark Depths

Download Arena Decklist

Dark Depths obviously hit big in Extended, and it has been building momentum in Legacy. This is the list run by Greece, making the most of the sweet control package of Counterbalance and Sensei’s Divining Top, and with a strong backup plan in Tarmogoyf.

Sweden's Linden Tomb

Download Arena Decklist

Finally, we have another deck to make strong use of Entomb, which is now available to Legacy players to do crazy things with. This Reanimator plan isn’t quite Benzo, as it has a fairly single-minded plan. The fatties that it can reanimate are just excellent though, so sticking to that lone strategy seems fair enough. If Iona gets into play against many decks in the field, it is all over bar the shouting.

Saturday, 2:55 p.m. – Playing Teams

by Bill Stark

Any competition with a global tinge to it inevitably brings out a swell of national pride from both its participants and its fans. The World Cup, the Olympics, the Magic: The Gathering World Championships. We sat down to speak with some members of various national teams to get their take on how being involved with the Team portion of the competition impacted Worlds for them, and how much taking the title home would mean.

First up was Belgium’s Jan Doise. A well respected pro from the tiny nation that has also produced a Pro Tour champion in Geoffrey Siron as well as Top 8s from Christophe Gregoir and Marijn Lybaert, Jan earned his own premier final table last season in Berlin. How did he feel about playing the team competition after finishing in the Top 3 at Belgian Nationals? "It’s great fun because you’re playing with friends." He clarified, discussing what it meant to him as a Belgian. "You’re playing for your country, so you have to play to defend your country’s pride. When you win there’s lots of high fiving."

Slots for the team competition at Worlds are extended to the Top 4 finishing players at a country’s nationals. First through third are the official team members, while fourth place is an alternate; should one of the top three finishers take ill or be otherwise unable to compete, the alternate steps in to fill their role. One player in that position was the Slovak Republic’s Matej Zatlkaj, a former National Champion. What would seeing his country bring home the title, mean to him, even if he were "only" the alternate?

"It would be unbelievable," said Zatlkaj. "It would be the biggest feat ever."

Matej explained how Nationals and the World Championships held special meaning to his Pro Tour career, which has reached as far as the Top 8 tables in Berlin last season. "My first Pro Tour was as National Champion in 2003. Unfortunately one of my teammates went 2-15-1. This year I really wanted to win Nationals. Next year I want to be National Champion; that’s my goal."

The last player we spoke with was the solid German Lino Burgold, who was banking on the team portion helping out his chances as Rookie of the Year. What was playing in the team competition like? "Playing teams is a whole lot of fun. I have a lot more fun playing teams. It’s just way cooler." And how did he feel about the possibility of Germany taking the team trophy back to his home country? "It would be cool to have Germany on top again."

Like other great global competitions, the Magic Team Championship holds special significance for those who find themselves in the enviable position of battling for the title. For Jan, Matej, Lino, and all the other competitors here this weekend, the hunt for the title is a special opportunity that helps secure the World Championships as one of the most unique Magic experiences in all the world.

Saturday, 4:10 p.m. – Challenge the Champions

by Dave Guskin
Magic creator Richard Garfield

Worlds is many things to many people. You can see the sights in Rome. You can test your skill against the best in the world. And for those looking for a taste of fame, you can match wits with the makers of the game.

Wizards of the Coast R&D members Aaron Forsythe, Mike Turian, and Tom LaPille join Hall of Famers Olle Rade and Darwin Kastle at the Champion Challenge, playing everything from Elder Dragon Highlander to Duel Decks to Standard to Sealed with all comers. Oh, and there’s a special treat in store for those willing to take the challenge: battling against Magic creator Richard Garfield.

"The Champion Challenge is going great," said Magic brand director Elaine Chase. "Especially for the lucky few who play Richard—it’s really a once in a lifetime experience!"

Magic developer Tom LaPille

Garfield was very happy with the reception. "The people are wonderful," he said as he played out the tail end of a Liliana vs. Chandra Duel Decks match-up. "Everyone’s friendly, it’s been a great experience. Oh—and I’ve never signed so many copies of Black Lotus and the Moxes!"

"I wonder if they have a vault of them in the Vatican," he added with a sly smile.

Mike Turian, one of the developers on many Magic sets including his stint as lead of upcoming expansion Worldwake, has seen quite a few insane situations at the Champion Challenge over the course of the weekend.

"I’ve been playing a lot of Duel Decks—it’s very fun," he said. "In a game of Jace vs. Chandra, I Willbendered Chandra Nalaar‘s Ultimate." Turian smiled, though the facts of the situation were not so happy from his opponent’s side of the table. Even losing, however, players are having a blast gaming against the game’s greats.

Saturday 4:43 p.m. – The Value of Your Shares May Go Down As Well As Up

by Rich Hagon

Most successful Magic players devote a bucketload of time to the game, week in, week out. Here at Worlds, the proof is in the pudding, as they lay their skills on the line one final time in the 2009 season. We’ve been following more than forty players trying to achieve personal goals and milestones, and now, with the final format, Extended, underway, it’s time to see how many of them are still in reach of their dreams.

Level 4

Needing Top 200 – Shouta Yasooka, Carlos Romao, Antti Malin, Manuel Bucher, Ari Lax
Top 100 – Matthias Kunzler, Adam Yurchick, Mateusz Kopec
Top 64 – Mark Herberholz, Shu Komuro, Kenny Öberg
Top 24 – Marijn Lybaert, Arnost Zidek, Aaron Nicastri
Top 16 – Bram Snepvangers, Akira Asahara, Rasmus Sibast
Top 8 – Brandon Scheel, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa

Marijn Lybaert and Shouta Yasooka Yasooka locked up Level 4 many rounds ago, and right now could be in the Top 8 tomorrow. Bucher is looking comfortable in 33rd, while Ari Lax needs a couple more wins to be sure. Meanwhile, two former World Champions, Antti Malin of Finland and Carlos Romao of Brazil, are in the fight of their lives, as they sit in 181st and 207th respectively, right on the edge. Kunzler is in the hunt for Top 100, and in 31st place Yurchick looks a lock. Not so Grand Prix–Vienna 2007 winner Mateusz Kopec, who has a ton of ground to make up from 234th.

None of the players needing to make Top 64 look like doing so. Herberholz has gone, Öberg is in deep trouble, and even Shu Komuro needs to climb past nearly 70 players in the remaining five rounds, which is tough. Aaron Nicastri has had a horrible tournament, but is at least still smiling. Arnost Zidek remains live in his pursuit of the Top 24, currently at 77th but within reach. As for Marijn Lybaert, you probably all know by now that he’s right at the top of the standings, with only a significant run of defeats possibly preventing him returning to the pro ranks next season.

Pacing Lybaert step for step is Bram Snepvangers, who needs Top 16 to progress, but may well surpass that. Rasmus Sibast needs a lot of wins, fast, while Akira Asahara will not be making Top 16 this time around. As for the pair looking for Top 8, both are still, technically, in the hunt. Brandon Scheel stands in 44th place on 9-4, while Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, with a fifth loss, now stands right on the brink.

Level 6

Top 100 – Lino Burgold
Top 64 – Sebastian Thaler
Top 32 – Michael Jacob
Top 32 – Tom Ross
Top 32 – Matteo Orsini-Jones

Although Burgold and Thaler are struggling in the individual standings, the German team continues to contend. Of this group, Michael Jacob is in the best shape in 89th place. That’s a lot to claw back, but he has five rounds to do it in.

Level 7

Top 32 - Koutarou Ootsuka
Top 24 – Shingo Kurihara
Top 16 – Michal Hebky
Top 8 – Conley Woods
Top 8 – Olivier Ruel

It was always going to be a stretch for these five to achieve Level 7, and at the time of writing only one still has a serious chance. That’s American Conley Woods, despite the fact that he needs Top 8 to accomplish the task. He begins Round 14 in 11th place, and is still on course for a memorable finish to the season.

Level 8

Top 200 – Kazuya Mitamura
Top 64 – Gaudenis Vidugiris
Top 32 – Brian Kibler
Top 8 – Tsuyoshi Ikeda

Indicating the overall strength of their game, only Tsuyoshi Ikeda, who needed Top 8, is out of the running. Kibler lies in 63rd, and can certainly push upwards through the format he won at Austin last month. Gaudenis Vidugiris has a big task down in 156th, and can surely not afford more losses. As for Kazuya Mitamura, in 152nd he is well on course to round out the year by joining the elite of the game for 2010.

Five rounds to go, and still the stories go on and on here at Worlds 2009.

Saturday, 7:20 p.m. – Zoo in Extended

by Bill Stark
Zoo Sub-Archetype Players
Rubin Zoo 64
Domain Zoo 14
Landfall Zoo 9
American Zoo 7
Zoo 3
Ikeda Zoo 2
Trinx Zoo

The most popular archetype during the Extended portion of the weekend was, by far, Zoo. Over a quarter of the field played the deck which has long been an industry standard but received renewed interest after taking both first and second at Pro Tour–Austin (not to mention an additional spot in the Semifinals). So how did the players playing the deck in Rome break out?

The most popular build was the list that took down Austin, created by Ben Rubin and played to the title by Brian Kibler. Many changed the deck not at all, leaving it with 2 Noble Hierarch, a miser’s Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and of course the centerpieces of Baneslayer Angel and Grove of the Burnwillows + Punishing Fire. Behind that was Domain Zoo, which splashes either black or blue (and sometimes both!) into the red-white-green shell of Zoo decks for cards like Meddling Mage and Dark Confidant. It also relies on domain cards like Tribal Flames and Might of Alara for added power.

Baneslayer Angel
Might of Alara

Landfall Zoo, played by Hunter Burton at Pro Tour–Austin, had nine champions this weekend who rely on Zendikar fetch lands to power landfall triggers on Steppe Lynx and Plated Geopede. Seven players, mostly Americans, opted to run a Rubinesque take the coverage team has dubbed “American Zoo.” It steals elements from all manner of Zoo lists, adding Molten Rain and Steppe Lynx from Hunter Burton’s Landfall version, Tribal Flames from the Domain version, and Ranger of Eos from Ranger builds to create an amalgam topped off by 1-3 copies of Slaughter Pact for opposing Baneslayer Angels. The final three species of Zoo decks were three traditional copies with none of the modern bells and whistles, two copies of the Tsuyoshi Ikeda version that had Spectral Procession, and one player who opted to cram a Trinket Mage skeleton into the deck.

Steppe Lynx
Ranger of Eos

Can the Zoo deck overwhelm the day on popularity and take the day by sheer strength of numbers? Check back to find out on magicthegathering.com!

(And as an added bonus, here’s what Brad Nelson’s version of American Zoo looked like ....)

Saturday 11:07 p.m. – Magic Online Championship final Swiss Standings

by Michael Gills

At the end of a long day of World Championship competition our 8 Magic Online championship competitors met for the final 3 rounds of Swiss play with their best Standard decks. While yaya3 (Shouta Yasooka) finished 2-1 and easily moved on to the final two, it took until the end of the last round for Anathik (Anssi Myllymäki) to withstand the charge from CharToYourFace (Federico Rivero) who he beat by 1 point and jurda (Robert Jurkovic) who he defeated by .081 in the first tie-breaker.

Shouta and Anssi will compete tomorrow in a best 2 out of 3 match of Standard play for their share of $50,000. Will they use the same decks or try something different? Look for deck lists and analysis from the finals and from the Standard Swiss rounds tomorrow.

MTGO Name Real Name Prev Points Current Points Total Points
yaya3 Shouta Yasooka 27 10 37
Anathik Anssi Myllymäki 27 4 31
jurda Robert Jurkovic 14 17 31
CharToYourFace Federico Rivero 20 10 30
Christian Février David Guiffault 14 4 18
tomy_vercety Stefan Steiner 10 4 14
Orgg Ascetic Justin Cheung 4 10 14
Ivan_Kulbich_aka_Striped Ivan Kulbich 4 0 4

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