By Randy Buehler
The twelve rounds of preliminary competition are over now and the Top 8 competitors have been chosen. There were a number of interesting stories today:
Gab Tsang dominated this tournament, winning the Swiss by a full 4 points.
Terry Lau and Sam Lau tied for the Standard Event championship, each posting 5-0-1 records. Sam ran Accelerated Blue while Terry ran Tinker.
There were only two Stompy decks in the entire field, yet both of them advanced to the Top 8. Ryan Fuller and Murray "the Mauler" Evans both made the right call in a field full of monoblue decks. The 13 year-old Evans, who had to beat his brother, Forrest, along the road to the Top 8, picked up the nickname "Mauler" when he beat Olle Råde at some event that no one can remember now.
Terry Tsang and Terry Lau agreed to a draw in the ninth round, reasoning that it would give both of them the opportunity to make the Top 8 with 3-0 records from that point and they couldn't bring themselves to eliminate each other. Normally this strategy doesn't work out, but they almost pulled it off with Lau advancing at 3-0 and Tsang playing for it in the last round, but falling short with a draw against Michael Gurney's monoblue deck. (Playing Replenish, Tsang had Parallax Tide and Defense Grid in play, but Arcane Laboratory and Stronghold Machinist shut him down anyway.)
This is the second consecutive trip to the Canadian Nationals Top 8 for both Ryan Fuller and Gab Tsang. Both lost twice in the modified double elimination Top 8, putting them off the Canadian National Team.
Gary Wise won his last five matches to finish 5-1 in Constructed and tenth overall. Last year he was 5-0-1 in Limited but his Constructed performance sank him. Look for him to play Hermits and Arc Lightnings in Brussels - the Angry Hermit seems to like him.
There are 20 Rishadan Ports in the Top 8. Interestingly, neither Stompy deck ran any.
There are 24 Grim Monoliths in the Top 8, making it the most-played card in the Top 8 (not counting basic land).
There are 5 Prophecy cards in the Top 8: 3 Wild Mights in Fuller's Stompy deck and 2 Foils in Gurney's monoblue deck.
The Top 8 includes 4 Mono-Blue Control decks of the 15 that started the day, 2 of 2 Stompy decks, 1 of 2 Tinker decks, and 1 of 5 Bargain decks.
Here's a look at the finalists and their decks:
- Gab Tsang - Gab is a 23 year old student from Toronto, Ontario with two Pro Tour Top 8's on his resume (Worlds '97 and New York '97) along with, now, three Canadian Nationals Top 8's. He's running an Accelerated Blue deck that is perhaps most distinguished by the zero copies of Foil that are in it. Tsang forced Jason The to play the last round of the Swiss when The needed a draw to clinch Top 8. (Tsang had long since clinched.) Tsang won, but The snuck into the Top 8 on tiebreakers. Now they get to play again in the quarterfinals.
- Ryan Fuller - Ryan is 20 and from Burnaby, BC. One of the more controversial figures in Canadian Magic, Ryan is also one of the most talented. He'll run his Stompy deck (with 3 Wild Mights) against Michael Gurney's monoblue deck tomorrow morning. They played in the 11th round with the winner clinching a Top 8 slot and Fuller won 2-0. Fuller chose Stompy because he expected a lot of monoblue, yet his record against monoblue decks on Saturday was only 2-1-1.
- Roland Aw is 21 and from Edmonton, Alberta. He's been playing Magic for six years, but claims to have no previous top tournament accomplishments. After going 3-0-3 on Saturday, Aw faces off against Terry Lau and his Tinker deck tomorrow morning. Many of the Top 8 competitors picked Lau as the man to beat tomorrow so Aw will have his work cut out for him.
- Murray Evans is all of 13 years old and learned the game mostly from his brother Forrest (who finished 21st this weekend) back home in Edmonton, Alberta. "Murray the Mauler" also played Nationals last year after qualifying through a meatgrinder. He'll take his Stompy deck into battle against Michael Gurney's mono-blue. Gurney has a pretty good monoblue deck for the matchup (with Palinchrons in addition to Morphlings and Masticores), but Stompy should still have the edge.
- Sam Lau is a 31 year old database developer from Scarborough, Ontario. He was last year's Ontario provincial champion so he's in the habit of playing Canadian Nationals. His Accelerated Blue deck is fairly typical of the old Zvi Mowshowitz version with eight creatures and only eleven counters.
- Terry Lau is 29, from Richmond, British Columbia, and works as a sales engineer. He was a member of the 1996 Canadian national team and finished 4th at PT LA in '99. His Tinker deck is the brainchild of Alex Mitchell, who had success with it at both US Regionals and US Nationals.
- Michael Gurney is a 28 year old computer programmer from Port Moody, B.C. His best tournament finish was 6th place at the 1996 Canadian Nationals. His monoblue deck includes two copies of Foil amongst his twelve counters.
- Jason The (pronounced "tay") is an 18 year old computer science student at the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg. Several players this weekend experimented with various Prophecy cards in their Bargain decks, but The's version is the same Sabre Bargain deck that has been running around for months.