The 2011 World Championships marks the second time the game's most prestigious tournament has stopped in San Francisco.
Seven years ago, back in 2004, the City by the Bay played host to a World Championships that was also marked by Mirrodin's artifacts. It seems fitting, then, that a return to Mirrodin would mark a return to the site of the robot's previous stand in Standard.
The tournament was certainly defined, though not dominated, by Affinity, as both Standard and Mirrodin Block Constructed were featured. Arcbound Ravager and Disciple of the Vault teamed up for players who chose to play the villain, while many others chose to battle the artifact menace directly with artifact hate like Oxidize, Akroma's Vengeance and Viridian Shaman.
One such player was Gabriel Nassif, who took a U/W Control deck in Standard and a Mono Green deck in Mirrodin Block Constructed all the way to the Quarterfinals and the Player of the Year title. Nassif also happens to be back in San Francisco battling again this weekend.
"I don't play as much as I used to or as well as I used to, but I'm hoping to do well," said Nassif, who had long since left behind the bright yellow hat that had been his trademark in his early years.
Even seven years later, that tournament, for obvious reasons, still stands out in Nassif's head. He still remembers a first round match against Jeff Cunningham, pulling together his Block Constructed deck the night before, and a close match in the quarterfinals where he still regrets not mulliganing from six to five.
Nassif was also the first Player of the Year winner to claim the title without winning any Pro Tours. With Owen Turtenwald leading the Player of the Year race coming into this year's World Championships without even a Pro Tour Top 8 on his resume this year, there's a good shot at history repeating itself if Turtenwald comes out on top after this weekend.
The Hall of Famer wasn't the only highlight of the 2004 championships. Julien Nuijten famously went on a run through Dutch Nationals to earn a spot at worlds, where he became the youngest player ever to win a Pro Tour. Nuijten has since moved on, but his record win at just age 15 still stands as a record seven years later.
Nuijten and his G/W Slide deck had to navigate through a truly star-studded Top 8 that also featured Kamiel Cornelissen, Terry "Rakdos Augermage" Soh, Æo Paquette, Nassif, Ryo Ogura, Murray Evans and Manuel Bevand.
Paquette, Cornelissen and Evans all took Affinity decks into the Top 8. It was Paquette who defeated Nassif in the quarters and then Bevand in the semis before running into Nuijten. A flurry of Viridian Shamans, Oxidizes, Wing Shards and Wrath of Gods quickly gave Nuijten the title.
The team title also marked the last year of a bit of back and forth between the United States and Germany taking down the team title. The USA had won in 2003 and 2001, while Germany won in 2004 and had taken the title in 2002. In fact, it took until 2008 for the USA to reclaim the team title.
One thing is for sure: if 2011 holds half as many twists as seven years ago, this weekend will be one wild ride.