The Pro Tour has certainly grown over the years, but every season it comes back to where it all started: New York. The first Pro Tour took place in February of 1996, and was won by Michael Loconto and his blue/white Millstone deck. After the victory, Loconto referred to himself as "The Michael Jordan of Magic".
Ah, how the times change. Even though there have been rumors of Michael Jordan making a comeback, Loconto has practically fallen off the face of the earth, and hasn't been heard from in Magic circles in years. Still, Loconto was probably trying to imply that like Jordan, he was the best at his game. The only difference is that Loconto won one championship, while Jordan and the Bulls won six. This doesn't mean that Loconto's accomplishment isn't important, but it's definitely a few emperors short of a dynasty.
Fast forward about six years later, and there's a player who is probably qualified to make a claim as brash as Loconto's Jordan comment at "Pro Tour 1". Kai Budde has been building a dynasty of Jordan-like proportions lately, and is emerging as the new heir to the throne of Magic supremacy that was once only reserved for Jon Finkel. Budde is the only player to ever win two Pro Tour Player of the Year titles. Budde is the only player to ever win two Pro Tours in one season. Just last week, Budde became the first player to have four Grand Prix titles when he emerged victorious in London. He followed that up with a victory this weekend at Pro Tour New York, with the help of his Phoenix Foundation teammates Dirk Baberowski and Macro Blume. Baberowski hasn't been heard from much on the Pro Tour in a while, and Blume was pulled out of retirement for the event. It's safe to say that after coming home to Germany $20,000 richer, Baberowski and Blume will be more visible figures at upcoming Pro Tours.
As far as historical ramifications are concerned, consider the list of players who have won multiple Pro Tours. Tommi Hovi and Jon Finkel have both won two, and the Pro Tour New York victory gives Baberowski his second championship as well. Budde was alone on top with three Pro Tour victories after conquering Barcelona, and this win puts him at four; a number above and beyond anyone else. It's a feat that no one else is likely to accomplish anytime soon, and at this rate, Kai may be at eight Pro Tour championships by the time someone else reaches four.
Want a scary statistic? Pro Tour Chicago was in December 2000. Pro Tour Barcelona was in May 2001. This Pro Tour took place in September 2001. Add it up, and Kai Budde has won three Pro Tours in less than 365 days. For most people winning a Pro Tour is merely a dream, but apparently Kai can pull it off three times a year.
Kai wasn't the only player to have strong back-to-back finishes in the past two weeks. He met and defeated Gabriel Nassif in the finals of Grand Prix London last week, and his team met Nassif's team in the finals this weekend. Les Plus Class, a French team that is made up of Nicolas Olivieri, Gabriel Nassif and Amiel Tenenbaum, came into Sunday as the underdogs. Their first round opponents Illuminati actually agreed to draw with them in the last round of the swiss because they anticipated an easier matchup against the French team. Sure enough, the first seed Illuminati got their wish, and Mowshowitz, Gary and Shvartsman played against the fourth seed Les Plus Class. In an intense match, Nassif used Death Bomb to win the deciding game that saw him at two life points and Zvi at one life point.
In the other Semifinal match, Phoenix Foundation went up against Car Acrobatic Team. Last year's Pro Tour New York saw the "C.A.T." (Aaron Forsythe, Andrew Johnson, Andrew Cuneo) reach the finals, where they lost to Turian, Wise and Johns of Potato Nation. Even though they ended up losing to the eventual Championship German team, Car Acrobatic Team showed that they are one of the most consistent Rochester draft teams in the world, and no one should be surprised if they are playing on Sunday in the 2002 Team Pro Tour.
With this Pro Tour now in the history books, the Magic community looks ahead to Pro Tour New Orleans and Extended. With his Grand Prix and Pro Tour victories, Kai Budde is currently the leader in the Pro Tour Player of the Year race, and seems to be on track to achieving that title again. The only problem with this much success is that Kai Budde may catch an acute case of "Finkelitis", where everyone expects him to win every event, and anything less than complete victory is a disappointment. Fortunately for Kai, he has never lost a match on a Sunday at a Pro Tour, and this trend is likely to continue. Nicknames are created for a reason, and while Loconto may not be worthy of the "Michael Jordan" title, Kai Budde is definitely "The German Juggernaut".