by Michael Long
A Note from Mark Rosewater
This week is the fifth annual Magic Invitational. It will be held November 15-18th in Sydney, Australia. The Sideboard will be covering the event live so please check in to watch the event as it proceeds. As you read this I've already left for Australia. My wife, baby daughter and I are going a week early for a much needed vacation.
In my mad rush to finalize all the details for the event before I left, I realized that I had one on-line duty that had yet to be fulfilled. One of this year's invitees for this year's Invitational is Mike Long. Mike has the most interesting ability to create controversy wherever he goes. This year's Invitational controversy (or at least the first one) has to do with his invitation. Last year I made all of the attendees write a tournament report. (Something which they will also be doing this year, so look for it a few weeks after the event.) Mike Long did not initially turn one in. Many of the players (who coincidentally are not Mike's biggest fans) insisted that Mike forfeited his invitation since I had stressed that they "had to write one or else". (All the players read "or else" as forfeiting the ability to attend the next year.)
What most players don't know is the conversation I had with Mike back in May (the event was in March). Mike and I had been playing phone tag. Mike, and several other attendees, had yet to turn in their report. I had left a message for him saying to call me so we can talk about the invitational report. I then disappeared for a month on paternity leave. When I returned, I found no report. I called Mike to ask about it. Mike informed me that he assumed that my message implied that he was to wait to write the report until I talked with him.
As I felt the misunderstanding was partially my fault, I told him that it was too late to post the report, but that I still expected one as I had informed all the players that they had to write one. As it wasn't being posted, I said I didn't need it immediately. Mike asked what would happened if he didn't turn one in. I said that if he didn't turn in a report, he wouldn't be able to attend the next year's Invitational.
Flash forward to a month ago. Sigurd Eskeland writes to me to inform me that due to school he would be unable to attend. I bump into Mike at Pro Tour New York where I let him know that Sigurd isn't attending. I mention that I probably need to talk to Gary Wise (the next person on the ballot). Mike reminds me that I had said that "there was no rush to turn the report in" and that I stressed he couldn't go only "if he hadn't turned in his report". Realizing that I had made the mistake of giving Mike no exact deadline, I informed him that he had until the next Tuesday before I began booking airline tickets. Without a report, he couldn't officially be invited and I would be unable to buy him an airplane ticket.
I arrived home late Monday. Early Tuesday morning I arrived to find an e-mail from Mike.
So without further ado, here is the long-lost, much overdue, in-just-under-the-wire tournament report from Mike Long:
Mike Long's Invitational Report
As I am unbelievably late with my invitational review, I thought I would include a little something that covered all four of the Magic/Duelist Invitationals. The idea of the invitational is a crucial one to our game. It is an honor to be picked and a privilege to attend. What follows is a little look into each of the first four invitationals.
This tournament was probably my favorite of all the events. Much like this year I was the last person who knew he'd be going to Hong Kong, as I made the tournament as an alternate when my friend Mark Justice had to skip the big trip to attend his brother's wedding.
Wizards arranged this first event as a real spectacular. Asia was something unknown to the Magic world, and holding the event in Hong Kong on the eve of Chinese re-occupation created an exciting and exotic scene. It was my first time out of the country and I can't say that I got 1/10 out of the trip that I could of and it was still one of the most amazing weeks of my life.
I was living in Harrisonburg, Virginia at the time, which is about 1 hour away from anywhere, so it was great when all of my friends came down to help me prepare for the event. Donnie Gallitz organized the whole trip which ended up being a great big slumber party. Dominic Crapuchettes gave me a version of his Type II deck (what would become popularly known as Draw Go), which I went 2-1 with. Justin Schneider taught me the ins and outs of Back Draft, which I managed to go 2-1 in. David Mills and I agreed that I would play a modified version of his Type I deck, The Keeper, which I ended up playing in the finals. Brian Schneider taught me Solomon Draft so well that I was able to handily beat Mark Chalice who invented the format!
This event was really special as it featured a number of the early Pro Tours greats who we don't get to see any more. Mark Chalice, Bertrande Lestree, George Baxter, Hammer, Eric Tam and Leon Lindback were just a few of the great players of our game that made their only Invitational appearance at this tournament.
Mark Chalice: As I mentioned above, this was almost a breakthrough match for me. I hadn't faced Mark before this, but his reputation, especially as inventor of Solomon Draft, preceded him. Because of my late night Waffle House work with Brian Schneider on Solomon I was able to more or less control the draft itself, ending up with a tight three color deck while forcing him into four colors with double color spells of each color.
Olle Rade: I faced Olle both in the swiss where be beat me in back draft and then again in the finals where we played Classic. I was excited about the event, but my excitement didn't protect me from mana problems and ultimately, from dozens of snake tokens that hopped out of his Snake Basket and beat me to death! I ended up losing the finals 3-1 and walking away frustrated, but with a renewed sense of purpose.
Rio de Janeiro:
This was the most beautiful site for any big Magic venue. Nothing could have prepared us for the sites of this amazing city. If you attached heaven, earth and threw in a big city that would be Rio.
We got to play midnight soccer on the beach with some locals (Paul McCabe was actually really good), we bounced around from nightclub to nightclub and generally enjoyed ourselves.
This was the first Invitational for Brian Hacker, Chris Pikula, Darwin Kastle, Svend Geertsen and Jakub Slemr, all of whom would become mainstays of the event. It was the only invitational for Mark Justice, John Chinnock, Paul McCabe and Terry Borer. As notable as these player's attendance was, the event was just as notable for who didn't show up: Jason Zila, who would become the butt of hundreds of invitational jokes. Interestingly enough the trip also featured a pair of stowaways, Jon Finkel and Steve OMS who had yet to break through to the big time, but who would take 1-2 at the Grand Prix and would make every subsequent Invitational.
Olle Rade: I swept Olle out in the second round with a mono black land destruction Necro deck given to me by Brian Schneider. This match featured a first turn Ishan's Shade which kept surviving each round because Olle never drew a second source of red to double bolt the fat Shade out with.
Tommi Hovi: By winning my last round I could have secured a return trip to the finals to face eventual champion Darwin Kastle. Playing what I considered to be a nearly unbeatable Tradewind 'Geddon deck I felt like I had a good chance at it, until I ran into Tommi Hovi, who gave me my first taste of Tempest Sligh. I think our third game consisted of Tommi paying what would become a classic combo, Jackal Pup, Wasteland Jackal Pup, Ball Lightning Fireblast. I didn't make it.
Barcelona is almost two cities rolled into one. The first is a classic European city, filled with the improbably architecture of Gaudis, and Spanish Civil war memorials. The other half is a little more fun.
The player's in this event seemed to be almost exactly the same as the year before, with the notable addition of David Price, Finkel and OMS. It would be the last appearance for Geertsen and Matt Place.
Of all the city's buildings, most players would come to agree the most impressive was the floating mega-mall which has a roof featuring all night nine discothèques surrounding a great putt-putt course. In all of the KL tournament reports you may have heard accounts of excellent basket play, just know that I am the only putt putt all star, in fact I can dunk.
The best part of this event was spending time with Matt Place and Svend Geertsen, two friends who, as it turned out, would be playing in their last invitational events. Svend even supplied me with the Extended Merfolk deck that would put me in position to make the finals. I also want to note that this was the only Invitational that Brian Selden would play in and if it weren't for his attendance and his knocking off Chris Pikula in the last round with his crazy Dream Halls deck, I would not have made the last day.
Svend Geertsen: This final round match ended up being quite controversial as I cruelly tricked Svend, who was playing Type II necro against my Merfolk deck, to allow me to re-enter my main phase so I could lock the game back down with a Winter Orb. There was lots of yelling and shouting, but Svend agreed to forgive me if I made my card a Merfolk.
Sturla Bingen: I faced Sturla in my second finals appearance. Once again the format was Classic, as he played a high tech Academy combo deck, while I played my business partner Peter Leiher's old school pump knight Necro deck. In a slow, ponderous match, I was able to come out on top, despite a game five double mulligan leaving me with only a Waste Land, a Strip Mine, two Hypnotic Specters and a Hymn to Tourach. This win would be my last actual tournament win until a few weeks ago when I won a two thousand dollar type II at Westwateree Trophy in Columbia, South Carolina.
Laura Waniuk and the rest of the WotC crew really outdid themselves with this venue. Not only did they book one of the most beautiful and comfortable cities in the world, but they also found what was unquestionably the greatest tournament Hotel ever. This hotel featured, and I am not kidding, its own mega mall and its own theme park and water park! The KL dollar also traded at about 4/1 vs. the U.S. dollar making shopping there a joke. All in all, KL was just an enjoyable, almost carnival like venue.
Basketball was the other big story of the Invitational. No matter what anyone else tells you, Basketball is no different than Magic, pick Finkle high and build around him.
New faces this year included Zvi Mowshowitz, Nickolai Herzog, Dave Humpherys, Kai Budde and the player I consider to be the finest Japanese competitor, Koichiro Maki. It appears that this may have been the last invitational for Brian Hacker and Jakub Slemr, who will be missed.
Jon Finkel: I played Jon in the last round of the Block party format. He was playing a classic Rec/Sur deck while I played a blue-black Brian Schneider Legacy's Allure, Dominating Licid deck. I had beaten Jon in several straight matches stretching back for 2-3 years, but this time he would get the best of me. I greatly enjoyed this match, and I have to say it was the first time that I as able to appreciate Jon's skill and consistency. Jon outlasted and outplayed me in a marathon three game match.
Steve OMS: I faced Steve in Classic early on day three of the tournament. Again I played Type I Necro, while Steve was playing Type I Tricks. This was among the most enjoyable matches of Magic I have played as Steve and I traded our first two games. I was ultimately able to outlast Steve in game three despite consulting away all of my library, as I rode a Negator and hid behind a Necropotence to keep me from getting decked.
All four Invitationals had their own flavors and their own personality, as some faces came and some faces went. I've played against every person ever to be qualified for an Invitational event and I can say that they are each players who bring a little something special to the game that is worth following.