Cunningham Earns an Invite

Posted in Event Coverage on March 10, 2006

By Wizards of the Coast

With Osyp Lebedowicz winning the Writer’s Ballot, the North American ballot is a wide open race that includes a couple of Pro Tour winners, multiple National Champions, a bevy of Grand Prix trophy holders, and more Top 8s than you could shake an Isochron Scepter at.

Because of pass-downs, Antonino De Rosa has been moved to the Players' Pick invitation. Jeff Cunningham assumes the spot of the North American Invitationalist.

(Profiles by Brian David-Marshall)

Winner: Antonino DeRosa (32.1% of votes)

Antonino DeRosa had a heck of a 2005 season that included winning the U.S. National Championship and piloting a squad made up of him, Neil Reeves, and Jon Sonne to the finals of the team competition against the Japanese squad. On top of that the gregarious weekly columnist played on Day Two of every Pro Tour stop last season and finished in the money in all but one event, including a Top 10 in Atlanta. A strong Top 32 finish closed out the year at Worlds. Combined with his win at Grand Prix Salt Lake City De Rosa more than doubled his lifetime winnings last season.

Jeff Cunningham (16.3%)

One of the best writers to ever tackle the subject of Magic: The Gathering, Canada's Jeff Cunningham is also a great player who continually resides high in the standings. He had two Top 32 finishes and another top 64 last year in addition to mentoring Murray the Mauler to his Top 8s in Nagoya and Worlds 2004. Mike Flores recently pointed out that the talented Cunningham produced three of the best articles in 2005 despite only producing three articles.

Murray Evans (2.5%)

Canadian Murray Evans has been around forever, having started out as the proverbial 'small child' many, many World Championships ago. Last season he followed up a 2004 campaign that saw him Top 8 Canadian Nationals and Worlds with a Top 8 appearance at Pro Tour Nagoya. His unconventional card choices were a big story during that tournament and carried Murray to the second PT Top 8 of his career.

Gerard Fabiano (9.6%)

New Jersey's Gerard Fabiano is sure to be a popular pick on this ballot for members of the burgeoning Gerard Fabiano Fan Club. A Top 16 finish in Philadelphia and two more Top 64s were a big factor in driving fan club membership as was his popular Magic column. Gerard piloted Critical Mass to its highest profile finish when he reached the Top 8 of Grand Prix Mexico City with the popular blue-green build.

Mark Herberholz (15.5%)

Mark Herberholz rejected the conventional wisdom of the Hawaii House, eschewing their three-color control deck in favor of his Gruul-flavored beatdown deck with plenty of burn and good mana. He moved from the Hawaii House right to Heezy Street with his breakout win just a week ago, after two previous trips to the Top 8 brackets. The only question is whether or not his player card will reflect his Price is Right winnings in his lifetime tally.

Rich Hoaen (4.0%)

The amount of time Canadian Rich Hoaen spends drafting online is legendary and he was recently rewarded with a victory at Grand Prix-Richmond. Rich is consistently in the money at any Limited Pro Tour with a Top 16 and a Top 24 to show for the 2005 season. He has started to post Constructed results as well with a Top 64 finish at Pro Tour Philadelphia but draft remains his first love. It is entirely unclear which came first: the Hoaen or the Magic Online draft queue. But it is equally unclear if either could exist without the other.

Craig Krempels (0.6%)

The 2004 U.S. National Champion ended the 2005 season with a Top 16 at the World Championships - the highest finish of any American at the tournament. It was his second Top 16 of the 2005 campaign. He kicked off the current season - a season he has declared that will be one he makes a go at going full-time Pro during - with a 37th place finish.

Neil Reeves (6.8%)

Neil Reeves came out of retirement to make a run at a U.S. Nationals that saw him make the team - a team that went all the way to the Finals at the World Championships. He made the most of his scant Pro Tour appearances last season with the capper being a Top 24 at Worlds and a Top 64 in Los Angeles. A single Grand Prix appearance also yielded his one Grand Prix Top 8 appearance in Austin. Neil demonstrated his will to win with one of the more memorable sideboarded games at U.S. Nationals. Playing mono-blue against Kuroda-style red he sided in the singleton Uyo residing in his board for the Tooth and Nail match-up.

Jon Sonne (3.1%)

Much like Kamiel Cornelissen, Jon could benefit from making a little noise once in a while. A steady money finisher on the Pro Tour for several years now, Sonne allowed his Grand Prix results to do the talking for him with wins in Austin and Philadelphia and a Finals battle with Rich Hoaen in Richmond. He had three Top 64 finishes on the Pro Tour and was also the third member of that U.S. National team that reached the Finals at Worlds.

Gadiel Szleifer (9.5%)

Gadiel Szleifer had the best year of any North American Pro with a seventh place finish in the Player of the Year race. He was the first player to appear on that list not from Japan or France. His position on that list was boosted by his Finals win in Philadelphia over Player of the Year Kenji Tsumura and his Top 8 in Columbus to start the season. In the Grand Prix column of the ledger he had multiple high finishes that included a Top 8 in Mexico City and a win in Chicago as a member of :B.

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