Every Pro Tour has a feel-good story, and San Diego's has to be the vindication of Donnie Gallitz's Pro Tour career. Gallitz literally has drawers full of T-shirts from attending big events for six years, yet he has never had the thrill - or the honor - of playing on Sunday. In fact, he held the record for most lifetime PT points without a Top 8.
Gallitz had to beat brash young French rookie Farid Meraghni in Round 14 in order to advance, and did so with flying colors as all his old mates and his wife, Rose, watched with bated breath. Some things are worth waiting for, and if Gallitz were to walk away from professional Magic after this weekend, as he has been announcing for months, he can at least do so with his head high and his name permanently etched in the annals.
This tournament also marks the breakout of young Canadian Jeff Cunningham, who led a very strong Vancouver contingent that also included top finishes from Ryan Fuller (13th), Terry Tsang (15), and Jeff Fung (17). Will British Columbia come to be recognized as one of the hotbeds of Magic talent? Certainly, if they keep up this pace.
In other Canada-related news, England's Gary Wise silenced his critics with a fine 12th place showing. Yes, he can draft, and yes, he gets to stay on the Gravy Train.Gary Wise
Europeans made a strong showing at this event, putting one familiar face in the Top 8 (Portugal's Frederico Bastos), and two new ones as well (Swedish Grand Prix veteran Jens Thoren and the aforementioned Meraghni). Other Europeans in the Top 16 include Germany's Dirk Baberowski, Italy's Giulio Barra and Gionata Dal Farra, Finn Tomi Hovi, and Wise. Keep an eye on Thoren, whom Europeans are hyping as their next star.
Fleshing out the Top 8 are two new faces and one old. Eric Froehlich has had some success on the Pro Tour in the past year, but this is his first individual Top 8. Arkansas' Neil Reeves has been whispered about as a strong up-and-comer, and this tournament finally proves that to be true. And Atlanta's Andrew Wolf finally returns to Sunday competition after a four-year break; his other Top 8 was in the Los Angeles Pro Tour that Dave Price won.
Japan's Jin Okamoto took a bad beat at the end, losing out on the Top 8 strictly on tiebreakers. Japan will have to wait for Pro Tour - Osaka for another chance to find a successor to Tsuyoshi Fujita - the only Japanese player with a Top 8 to date.
Sure, Kai didn't make the Top 8, Finkel dropped at the end, and Mike Turian went 0-3 in his last draft. But no one had a worse day than Kamiel Cornelissen. The Dutch wonder started Day 2 in 2nd place with a perfect 7-0 record, but ended the tournament at 7-7. You do the math.
Even with all that, there's still more to figure out. Who will win it all tomorrow? Will Cunningham or Thoren start a new legend? Or will Gallitz's have a happy ending?