After 18 rounds of Magic, these 8 players earned the right to play on Sunday:
Antoine Ruel - The Frenchman has been doing well on the Grand Prix circuit and as a member of team Black Ops, but now he's truly arrived on the Pro Tour scene. Ruel has earned respect as one of the top individual Magic players in Europe and he seemed really excited at the possibility of earning the European slot at the Magic Invitational.
Alex Borteh - The Columbus, Ohio based player has only a couple of Pro Tours worth of experience, but he busted out at U.S. Nationals, advancing to the Top 8 there with essentially the same Merfolk-Opposition deck that he'll take into battle on Sunday. He was the first player to clinch a Top 8 berth and was in first place until he conceded to get another representative of the Ohio Valley into the Top 8: Mike Turian. The exchange during round 17 went something like "You're a good man, Mike Turian." "You're a better man, thanks."
Andrea Santin - Santin is the lone Italian player in this year's Top 8 and it's his first high finish since he made the Top 32 at his hometown Pro Tour - PT Rome back in 1998. Santin, playing Stasis, lost his first match on Friday to one of the many white weenie decks that featured Ramosian Sergeants and Steadfast Guards, but never got paired against that nightmare again.
Tom Van de Logt - The Dutch National Champion has his team in first place going into Saturday, when he'll be trying to earn the right to play in both finals on Sunday. Finkel pulled off the double last year - playing on Saturday obviously didn't distract him - and Van de Logt, who will be playing in his second straight Worlds Top 8, has more than enough experience to be able to handle the challenge.
Dave Williams - After many Pro Tours of frustration, the Texas-based Williams put up his first Top 8 at Pro Tour-Tokyo. It didn't take him long to put up Top 8 number 2. After winning the match that would allow him to draw in, Williams seemed happier about earning a berth at the upcoming Magic Invitational than making Top 8 at Worlds. "I just want to game!"
Mike Turian - Turian started this Pro Tour season by leading Potato Nation to a win at the team Pro Tour. Now he's hoping to end it with an individual title. He's also put himself into position to make the Invitational on Pro Points. The Team CMU mainstay accomplished all of this with Secret Force. The spirit of Wakefield is strong with this one.
Jan Tomcani - The Slovak Surprise had to earn his berth the hard way - he had to take out Jon Finkel with Top 8 on the line in the final round of the Swiss, but that's precisely what he did. He and his Sligh deck smacked around Finkel 2-0 and Tomcani was through to Sunday. Tomcani was also forced to play for Top 8 in the last round of the last Pro Tour - in Barcelona - but he lost that match to Patrick Mello and finished 9th.
Tommi Hovi - The Finnish superstar was first man to ever win two different Pro Tours, Hovi will be looking to join Kai Budde as the only players to win 3. Jon Finkel is the only other payer with two wins.
Tomcani and Hovi snuck into the Top 8 based on their tiebreakers. They beat out John Ormerod, Katsuhiro Mori, and Djinn Okamoto. Ormerod actually took an intentional draw in the final round, hoping that his tiebreakers would pull him through. They didn't and he finished 9th for the second time at a Pro Tour (he also had that unfortunate position at Chicago '00). To be fair, Ormerod knew he was gambling, but his other option was to play a nightmare matchup for him. He felt his Draw-Go deck would almost certainly lose to Turian's Secret Force (with Chokes in the sideboard) so he took the draw and his gambit only failed because Hovi won his own match against Frank Kasten.
Katsuhiro Mori won a final round feature match to clinch the title of 2001 Rookie of the Year. His Top 16 performance was worth 8 PT points, good enough to leap-frog both Ken Ho and Lawrence Creech and claim the crown. Those 8 points also give him a secure seat on the gravy train and many expect him to stay on the pro Tour for a long time. Rookie of the Year carries with it a prize of free airfare and hotel for one Pro Tour event next season.
Kai Budde did indeed hold onto his lead in the Player of the Year race. He's far enough ahead that none of the players in the Top 8 can catch him, even if they win Worlds. Amazing what winning two Pro Tours will do for you, eh? Kai wins airfare and hotel for each PT stop next season and also becomes the first person ever to win Player of the year twice - he also won in 99-00, the year he was World Champion.
The Netherlands has the lead going into the final day of the Worlds team competition. Paced by national champion Tom van de Logt (who made the Top 8) and Frank Karsten (who was in contention for Top 8 until the final round), they lead the United States by 12 points and Japan is just one point further back.
Here are the Extended decks that rose to the top of the Swiss, along with their Day 3 records:
|Antoine Ruel||White Weenie||4-1-1|
|Alex Borteh||Three-Deuce||4-1-1 (his loss was via concession)|
|Mike Turian||Secret Force||5-0-1|
|Tom van de Logt||White Weenie||4-1-1|
Just missing Top 8, on tiebreakers, were:
|Katsuhiro Mori||White Weenie||5-1|
Four players went a perfect 6-0 in Extended. They were
|Alexander Witt||White Weenie|
A few others went 5-0-1, certainly a sign of a good deck. In addition to Turian and Williams, they were:
|Joost Vollebregt||White Weenie|
All in all, the Extended environment seems to be in great shape. There's an enormous variety of competitive decks - I listed 11 distinct archetypes above just amongst the 18 players who had particularly impressive results for one reason or another. In addition, those decks run the gamut from beatdown to control to combo to mixtures. The tournament worked out the way I imagine Magic must have worked back in its early days - everyone in the field played a deck that beat all their other decks. Gab Tsang and Ben Rubin did miserably with Stompy, but they insist that it was beating all their other decks. Finkel and Baby Huey insist that "Baby Bluey" was also kicking in testing, but then Finkel went 2-4 (including an 0-3 finish) when one more win would have put him into the Top 8. The players who did well are the ones who actually did build good, flexible decks in playtesting. No one who played the metagame by picking out 2 or 3 decks that they wanted to beat seemed to do well.
All those white weenie decks were splashing blue for Meddling Mage, by the way, and some had a small Rebel chain while others had Warrior en-Kors, Soul Wardens, and/or Paladin en-Vec. If anything emerged as the "deck to beat," it's probably white weenie.
The doomsayers predicted a sea of Oath decks, or that a monoblue Illusions-Donate deck would rule the roost. Instead it was great. New Orleans (which uses this same Extended format) should be a great Pro Tour and I'm sure the qualifier season that follows will also be a fun one.
Tune in Sunday for full coverage of the Top 8. The players will be using their Standard decks from Day 1, which line up as follows:
|1||Antoine Ruel||R-B-U control (Crosis-Go)|
|8||Tommi Hovi||B-U-W control (Dromar-Go)|
This should be long, complicated, and very skill testing. It seems sure to be a long game, which should favor Ruel, since he's packing Urza's Rage.
|4||Tom van de Logt||R-B blow-stuff-up (Machine-Head)|
|5||Dave Williams||U-G (Saproling-Oppositon)|
Blue-green is what van de Logt's deck was designed to destroy. Williams scoops immediately if Van de Logt can go Dark Ritual - Plague Spitter. Look for an all-European semifinal on this side of the bracket unless Williams can get the ultimate little kid card into play: Coat of Arms.
Turian's deck is designed to blow up the small creatures that populate Opposition decks so again, look for the Static Orb deck to go down to a deck designed to beat it.
Opposition is designed, in part, to feast on Fires. Static Orb really punishes the mana-heavy Fires deck and Opposition can tap all the fatties except Blastoderm. However, Tomcani did win Day 1, so he's confident in good 'ol Fires.