Every major event usually has its share of name players who earn the opportunity to play in front of the lights and cameras on Sunday. My Team Part 17 with Justin Gary, Alex Shvartsman and Zvi Mowshowitz and Phoenix Foundation with Marco Blume, Kai Budde and Dirk Baberowski both contain players who have earned National, Grand Prix and Pro Tour victories, and are headed by Mowshowitz and Budde- two names that are closely associated with tournament success. Les Plus Class, a French team made up of Amiel Tenenbaum, Gabriel Nassif and Nicolas Olivieri is definitely the odd team out here. Still, they obviously have the talent and ability necessary to do well, and will admit to having a little luck along the way.
When I sat down with the team to conduct the interview, they were browsing through the player packet to see the money and Pro Tour points coming their way. What they found had to make them happy; a guaranteed payout of $15,000 and 12 Pro Tour points. The Pro Tour is a familiar place for Nicolas Olivieri. This event is his thirteenth Pro Tour, and his best finish to date. Other notable finishes were 22nd at Pro Tour Chicago, and Top 16 at the European Championships. Nassif's first Pro Tour was Chicago, where he placed 45th. Additionally, Gabriel is coming off a second place finish at Grand Prix London last week, where he lost to Budde. This weekend's event is Amiel Tenenbaum's first Pro Tour.
Les Plus Class had to beat their fellow countrymen and roommates for the weekend, Metagames, in the last round. I wondered if they felt bad about having to knock Canu, Ranque and Levy out of the Top 4 on their way to Sunday, but they assured me that "It didn't suck as long as one of us made Top 4. We knew we all couldn't be there unless we got lucky." The draft strategy they used today was to give the red/black deck to Tenenbaum who is on the A seat. He would also draft white for Acolytes if a black/red mirror match occurred. Tenenbaum joked, "I play the bad deck since I'm the best player on the team." Nassif had the middle seat and drafted blue/white with a splash of either black or red, and Olivieri drafted a deck with a green base in the C seat.
Even though they've done exceptionally well this weekend, Les Plus Class wasn't able to practice much heading into the event. Olivieri explained "(Tenenbaum and Nassif) live in Paris, and I live in South France, so we couldn't meet. Our only practice was seven drafts at Neutral Ground." The team told me that they felt that had some luck this weekend, which helped them along the way. "Whoever you are, you need luck to make Top 4"
Thanks to this performance, the team will now have plenty of Pro Tour points and some extra money, which will ensure that they are present on the Pro circuit for a while. Olivieri now has 31 Pro Tour points, and is planning to attend Grand Prix- he usually skipped out on them. Tenenbaum and Nassif don't have as many Pro Tour points, but are planning to go to New Orleans and any other Pro Tours they qualify for.
Tenenbaum and Nassif attributed much of their success to Ostelen, a game center in Paris. "It's very important for Magic in France. At French Nationals, seven of the top eight players were from there. It's like a school for Magic". The two players from Paris also mentioned that they play very frequently. The new DCI Player Rewards Program awards a Foil Wasteland to players for every 20 tournaments they play in; Tenenbaum and Nassif earned nine foils combined. Olivieri doesn't play at Ostelen since he lives in South France. He mentioned, "There aren't as many good players where I live, so I don't get as much practice."
So what were the predictions? Les Plus Class seems to think that they have luck on their side, and that the trend may continue tomorrow. "If we have the same luck, nothing can happen to us." Regardless of tomorrow's results, it's safe to say that the team is happy with how the weekend turned out. "It's unbelievable . . . we couldn't have expected it."