Welcome to Kuala Lumpur! The crack reporting squad of Nate Price, Bill Stark, Scott Johns, Richard Hagon, Greg Collins, Noel Neo, and Craig Gibson are combing the halls of the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center for all the inside information.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
8:59 a.m. - Where is Everybody?by Greg Collins
10:53 a.m. - Local Heroesby Noel Neo
11:15 a.m. - Two-Deck Gambitby Noel Neo
12:05 p.m. - My Professional Opinionby Nate Price
1:30 p.m. – Chasing Greatnessby Nate Price
2:08 p.m. – Slow and Steady. . .by Nate Price
3:15 p.m. – So You've Won the Die Roll. . .by Nate Price
4:10 p.m. – Treefolk Elementalby Nate Price
5:25 p.m. – License to Illby Bill Stark
6:40 p.m. – Drafting with Localsby Noel Neo
8:20 p.m. – Fame in the Hall!by Scott Johns
Friday, February 15: 8:59 a.m. - Where is Everybody?
We're just minutes away from the first draft starting. I've eaten my carb-heavy breakfast to power me through the long coverage day. Laptop is powered up, walkie-talkie is charged, the coverage area is fully stocked with clipboards, notepads, and pens...time to review the day's coverage plan...
Scott Johns? Check.
Kelly Digges? Check.
Bill Stark? Check.
Nate Price? Check.
Richard Hagon? Check.
Craig Gibson? Check.
BDM? Randy? Uh, guys....where's the webcast team?
For the first time in my four years of running coverage at Pro Tours, Brian David-Marshall and Randy Buehler aren't here to lend their voluminous insights, wit, analysis, and expertise to the team. Randy's fate for KL had been known for a couple weeks, but BDM ended up being a last-minute cancellation.
Randy wanted to pass along this note in his absence:
"Hi guys – sorry I couldn’t be there in Kuala Lumpur this weekend. Rest assured that I wanted to go and that I intend to resume my role in the webcast booth in Hollywood. However, my day job got in the way of this one. Since being promoted out of Magic R&D and into my new role as Vice President of Digital Gaming for Wizards of the Coast, the Pro Tour no longer has anything specific to do with my job. Like most of you, I now go to Pro Tours out of a sheer love for the game. Unfortunately, I had work conflicts both right before and right after this weekend and I couldn’t make the time off work."
"Thus ends a streak of ten and a half years … the last Pro Tour I missed was Worlds ’97. Fellow Hall-of-Famer Raphael Levy now has the longest active streak for Pro Tours attended at ten years – if memory serves his streak dates to PT LA in early 1998. He already has the record for most consecutive Pro Tours played and seems likely to break my record for most consecutive Pro Tours attended by the end of the year. No one – not a dealer, not a player, and not even a Wizards employee – has shown the long-term love and dedication that we have and I can’t imagine a more fitting person to pass the torch to."
As for BDM, Old Man Winter decided to take up residence in Brian's lungs, knocking him out with a case of pneumonia. After a cough-filled conference call Friday to go over the webcast plan, Brian got the official diagnosis over the weekend.
"A lung problem plus a 15-hour flight to during flu season plus a week in Southeast Asia...isn't that the first chapter of The Stand?" wondered BDM. So rather than accidentally trigger a worldwide health crisis (certainly to involve plague-spitting zombies, if BDM has any say in it), Brian's spending the week recovering at home.
But don't worry -- the Tournament Center videos and webcast will go on. Picking up the torch for Randy and BDM are Rich Hagon and Bill Stark, along with a cast of thousands (well, maybe dozens) behind the scenes. Sunday's Top 8 webcast begins at 9:45 p.m. ET Saturday, perfect for your evening entertainment. Wondering when that is in your neighborhood? Here's a quick conversion guide:
Los Angeles: 6:45 p.m Saturday
Chicago: 8:45 p.m. Saturday
Rio de Janeiro: 11:45 p.m. Saturday
London: 2:45 a.m. Sunday
Paris: 3:45 a.m. Sunday
Moscow: 5:45 a.m. Sunday
Tokyo: 11:45 a.m. Sunday
Sydney: 1:45 p.m. Sunday
Randy and BDM, we fully expect to see you in the forums!
Friday, February 15: 10:53 a.m. - Local Heroes
Boarding the coach bound for Pro Tour–Kuala Lumpur invoked memories of the first time I travelled overseas for a Magic tournament. The event was Grand Prix–Kuala Lumpur 2002, and it was my first major event since I picked up the game in 1999.
Back then, three fellow cardslingers and I squeezed into a single room to save on the cost of the trip, which was funded by our measerly high school allowance. Though I didn't finish in the money, the excitement of the competition, the novelty of meeting people of different nationalities who share the love of the game, and the fun of simply being immersed in the gaming culture remain fresh in my mind.
Ding Yuen won the event, improving on his 3rd place finish at Grand Prix–Singapore the previous year. He was and remains one of Singapore's top players; and with the once formidable trio of Albertus Law, Sam Lau, and Kelvin Hoon focusing more on their respective careers, Ding Yuen is the Singaporean player to have your bets on.
Terry Soh is the unquestioned king of Malaysian Magic.On the Malaysian front, no one comes close to matching what Terry Soh has achieved. First rising to prominence by finishing 2nd at Grand Prix–Singapore 2003, he followed through with a 6th place finish at Worlds 2004 and a 3rd place finish at Pro Tour–Nagoya 2005. Winner of the Magic Invitational 2005, Terry demonstrated that playing with the big boys would not cause him to slack off at home, with a respectable 5th place finish at Grand Prix–Kuala Lumpur 2006.
Yet the establishment of the Pro Players Club has raised the level of competition world-wide by providing greater incentive for players to travel far and wide in search of those elusive Pro Points. From the initial Grand Prix events that were won by either Singaporeans or Malaysians, the game has progressed to a stage where foreign talent is expected to bag the top prize.
The Swedes were the first to break the Singapore-Malaysia stranglehold on events in the region, with Mikael Polgary winning Grand Prix–Singapore in 2003. Alerted to the presence of a potentially lucrative event in the region, the Japanese soon arrived in droves and swept the top prize from 2004 to 2006. Most recently, Frenchman Raphael Levy stole the trophy from the Japanese in an entirely French and Japanese Top 8 at Grand Prix Singapore 2007.
Despite the homeground advantage of being accustomed to the climate and time zone, it remains to be seen if the Singaporeans and Malaysians would be able to withstand the overwhelming foreign onslaught. Patriotically, I am honour bound to fervently wish for at least a seat in the Top 8 for a local player.
Friday, February 15: 11:15 a.m. - Two-Deck Gambit
Yesterday's Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) attracted hordes of players eager for the last slots in the Pro Tour and saw some brutal competition that stretched to the wee hours of the morning. With the bulk of the competitors coming from Singapore, it is not surprising that the top two finishers were Singaporeans.
The top finisher was Rondy Krish, who has been involved in the game since 1997 and attended Pro Tour–San Diego and Pro Tour–Valencia last year.
Fresh off a win with his blue-black Faerie deck, Rondy was upbeat about his chances in the first draft when I sat down with him to review the LCQ deck he used to qualify for the event. Like a proud daddy, he showed me the Shriekmaw in his deck, and said that it, alongside Profane Command and Mulldrifter, is one of his top picks in draft. He also said that Faeries are his favourite tribe in the format and forms an integral part of his draft strategy.
On the LCQ deck, Rondy said that the reason he played red-green, with a splash of black, was for the removal. He listed off a couple of the key threats like Rage Forger, Tauren Mauler, and Elemental Titan, but reminisced that the deck was not consistent and that he constantly sideboarded to a Blue White deck.
Rondy mentioned that he initially played pure blue-white, but started to splash red for the removal after losing to Lightning Crafter in his second round. With an evil grin, he also highlighted the interaction between Cloadgoat Ranger and Galepowder Mage, which could create three 1/1 tokens for him each turn.
In between rounds, I also managed to grab Kenny Ang, who's participating in a Pro Tour for the first time, for a quick rundown on his LCQ deck.
Kenny, who has been playing Magic for seven years, based his deck on the concept of attrition. With Sower of Temptation and Warren Pilferers, he was able to steal and recur creatures to gain an edge over his opponent in the long run. Kenny also revealed that a key ingredient for his success was Wings of Velis Vel, which he used to nullify the removal spells opponents would aim at the Sower of Temptation.
Friday, February 15: 12:05 p.m. - My Professional Opinion
Morningtide has arrived, and its impact has been felt, although not so much in the way one would expect. I got a chance to catch up with some of the better Limited players in the world coming out of some of the more difficult pods in the first round to get their impressions of the format.
My expert panel includes Tiago Chan, 2007's European representative at the Invitational; Mike Hron, winner of Pro Tour–Geneva, the last individual Limited Pro Tour; and Quentin Martin, who was magicthegathering.com's voice of Limited for a good nine months.
"Morningtide's biggest impact on the format is the absence of certain cards from Lorwyn, such as Harbingers and Mulldrifters," Quentin told me. "There are also fewer good Goblin commons."
Tiago believed that Morningtide also has a pretty big impact on combat. "Reinforce changes so much. An early reinforce on an attacker or blocker can change the course of a game."
Creature types in Lorwyn effectively determined the deck archetypes that showed up in Draft, with the occasional room for bleeding in decks like Merfolk and Faeries, which can often be found hanging out together. Morningtide doesn't do much to alter that since the creature types stayed the same. However, the introduction of cards that keyed off of class type all of a sudden made the second creature type on all of those Lorwyn cards matter. Morningtide serves more to enhance the themes already represented than forge any new ground. That's what you're looking for in Limited, since it allows players to enrich what they already know about a format as opposed to having to learn something completely new. It isn't the same as Constructed, where an entirely new deck can come to light with the addition of a single set, which greatly impacts the format.
By general consensus, the only really new decks to come out of Morningtide are really just slight divergences from standard Lorwyn draft decks. "Rogues are one of the more important creature types to be emphasized in Morningtide," Hron said. "Cards like Deeptread Merrow and Nightshade Stinger got a bunch better because of they're Rogues."
Quentin, however, believes that it isn't important enough to warrant changing pick orders by that much. "When we tested," he explained, "we tried really hard to find the best way to use prowl. Rather than filling your deck with the early cards that normally wouldn't make your deck [like the Stinger], it's better to just play your normal two- and three-drops, like Thieving Sprite and the Merrow, and use prowl later. Don't think of prowl cards as cards you get to play earlier than you normally would. Think of them as cards that allow you to get a huge jump in tempo later since you can play more spells in the same turn."
Expectedly, all three pros came into this draft looking to draft reactively instead of forcing an issue. "I just don't think you can win by forcing a deck in this format," Hron shrugged. Tiago agreed, and he added a little extra: "I'll draft whatever's coming. Except white. White got much better with Morningtide. Cards like Burrenton Bombardiers are really strong. But, I don't know, I just don't really like attacking with 2/2 vanilla guys."
Just because you're not forcing a particular deck, though, doesn't mean that you can't go into a draft hoping to come away with a particular deck. Hron and Tiago agreed that they would prefer to see Lys Alana Huntmasters and their kin running around the table. "I'd really like to end up Elves and Warriors if I could," Tiago admitted. "It's close to what I ended up with, except I'm black-green instead of red/green, which I'd prefer." Quentin was a little more specific with the deck he preferred to end up with: "Mulldrifters. I don't really care what else I get, I just want to see a bunch of Mulldrifters all weekend."
It's been interesting thus far musing about the impact that Morningtide will have on the format, and seeing how people's perceptions changes over the course of a couple of days of drafting should provide plenty of insight into the new format. Only time will tell whether the streams of Elves, Warriors, and flying fish find their way to these players piles.
Friday, February 15: 1:30 p.m. – Chasing Greatness
This past year in the world of sports has been a year of milestones caught and surpassed. Barry Bonds shattered Hank Aaron's home run record. The New England Patriots became the first team in NFL history to complete a perfect 16-0 season. Roger Federer completed his third grand slam. And Olivier Ruel inched his way to within three pro points of Jon Finkel's spot for second place all time.
The combined laundry list of accomplishments that these two have amassed is better than most small countries can claim. 781 lifetime pro points. Sixteen Pro Tour Top 8s, including two wins. A World Championship. And well over well over half a million dollars in lifetime winnings (yes, you're reading this right)! It's mind-boggling to think about the numbers these two have put up individually, let alone if you consider them together.
Right now, they are numbers two and three on the all-time pro points list, with a mere three points separating them. Both players have been playing the game for ages, and Finkel, though he retired at one point, has taken advantage of his Hall of Fame status to come out of the woodwork and show that he can still draft with the best of them.
With Finkel saying he'll only show up for Limited Pro Tours and Worlds, it seems like merely a matter of time before Olivier overtakes him for second all-time on the list. The two players have a great deal of respect for one another, which is only natural considering the rarified air they both currently occupy.
"I keep track of the standings, so I know how close I am to Jon and Kai," Olivier admitted. "I still wouldn't say I'm as good as them, though. It just means I've played longer." After that display of modesty, Oli told me he still enjoys the game as much as he used to, so it's safe to say that he'll be around for a while. Jon, on the other hand, has been in and out of Pro Tours for the past few years, but despite that fact is still always a threat to win whatever tournament he enters. When asked about Oli's approach to his mark, he expressed how much he though Oli deserved to be where he was. "I remember how good Olivier was when I played more regularly, and obviously the numbers don't lie. He's gotten to the number of points that he has for a reason."
Friday, February 15: 2:08 p.m. – Slow and Steady. . .
You've all heard that slow and steady wins the race, right? Well it certainly leads to a lot of draws in Magic! Through the end of Round 3, eleven matches had gone to extra turns. Of those eleven matches, every single one of them featured a Merfolk deck on at least one side of the board, and only two of them managed to secure a win before the last turn ended. As a player who could play slow enough to deck a Stasis player, I'm pretty sure I'll be staying away from the little blue men in timed matches!
Friday, February 15: 3:15 p.m. – So You've Won the Die Roll. . .
In any particular game of Magic, you will be faced with a multitude of decisions. Do I attack here? What card could my opponent possibly have? Should I kill this guy or save my removal for something better? Most of these decisions come up and stare you in the face until you deal with them. It's easy to understand their importance because their ultimate impact is so concrete. It's easy to tell what will happen if a particular guy dies or if you use your removal on a subpar target. However, some of the most overlooked decisions happen before the first card hits play, and they set the tone for the rest of the game. The impact of these decisions is much more difficult to gauge because you have no idea how the game is going to progress. Making them correctly can set you up to take the best advantage, though, of the more visible decisions you make later in the game. The very first decision, whose importance is undervalued and overlooked by most players, is whether to play or draw.
Unsurprisingly, the pros I spoke to were fairly unified on their opinions on the subject. When I asked everyone's favorite Dutch globetrotter, Ruud Warmenhoven about his opinions on playing versus drawing in the format, he simply laughed and said, "Play. Always." I was a little surprised to say the least that he was so adamant about the decision, but as he explained his reasoning, it started to make more sense.
"The format's fast enough that getting the extra card doesn't matter as much." As he pointed out, getting committed to the board in fast formats is so important that getting behind can be something that is very difficult to recover from. After talking to him for a few minutes, Ruud mentioned that I should really talk to Amiel Tenebaum about it. He spoke very highly of Amiel's preparation and understanding. "Amiel's just so good. I would definitely ask him and take his word over mine."
Amiel Tenenbaum maintains that there are reasons to draw first in Draft. Almost on cue, Amiel strolls by and we drag him over for a little conversation. "Yeah, there have definitely been games in which I've drawn first, usually if my opponent's decks are fairly bad and mine is quite good." In those situations, all he really needs to do is draw more cards than his opponent and his superior card quality should carry him through the game. He admitted, though, that such a small subset of games fit those criteria that it's almost universally better to play in this format.
As someone who is constantly trying to get better at Magic, though, I wasn't content just learning about this format. I want to be able to apply some general concept to every format. I got a chance to speak with Luis Scott-Vargas for a few minutes before the player meeting began, and I asked him a few more general questions about the play versus draw dilemma.
"Most of the time, the decks I end up drawing with are ones that favor longer games, where the extra cards really come into play. Another really important time is when my card quality is high, but my mana base kind of sucks. The idea is that if I get to play my cards, I should win the game." These ideas seemed like a more general idea behind the reasons Amiel gave me earlier for drawing. Your cards are good enough that all you need is the chance to play them and their strength should carry you past any lost tempo you may have suffered.
We also discussed the potential of drawing first based on your opponent's deck's requirements. If their mana base is horrendous of they just have a deck that really needs to draw first, it can be right to draw first simply because it isn't what your opponent wants you to do. After all, if drawing first helps your opponent more than playing first helps you, why wouldn't you take the advantage away from them? The problem is that is quantifying something like that is so hard without exact knowledge of your opponent's deck. "Unless you get to watch most of an opponent's match to figure out how badly they need to draw, it's really hard to be able to say how much taking the draw from them is going to hurt them," LSV explained.
Draft decks are just so much more focused than their Sealed counterparts that the format becomes much more punishing to people who get behind. This tends to lend itself to far more playing first in Draft formats, but more drawing in Sealed Deck where the card quality and mana bases are generally poorer. I will be on the lookout this weekend for examples of people deciding to draw first and try to figure out what made them make those decisions.
Friday, February 15: 4:10 p.m. – Treefolk Elemental
I had some time to check in with two of my favorite players, Kenji Tsumura and Antonino De Rosa, who happened to be playing right next to each other. About two turns after I dropped by, Kenji played a Flamekin Harbinger to fetch his Chameleon Colossus. In a fun twist, Antonino fetched his own copy of the Colossus with a Treefolk Harbinger in his match. Then, to make matters even funnier, Kenji's opponent played Consuming Bonfire to kill his Colossus. While the Colossus can't be targeted with the first option on Consuming Bonfire (as Kenji proved, he's an Elemental), his Treefolk roots leave him vulnerable to the big 7 damage burn spell.
Friday, February 15: 5:25 p.m. – License to Ill
There are many risks traveling to a foreign country that players, judges, and coverage reporters alike must face for each major event they attend. Pro Tour–Kuala Lumpur is no exception, and after as much as a 30-hour trip to arrive in-country, a number of reporters have survived harrowing experiences with all manner of malady. Of course, some were snagged by trouble before they managed to get on the plane. None other than Pro Tour Historian Brian David-Marshall is spending this Pro Tour at home after he fell ill to a nasty bout of pneumonia (hope you're feeling better, big guy!).
Scott Johns, one of Wizards of the Coast's web site managers, managed to pick up a nasty case of uvulitis right before embarking. For those too lazy to Wikipedia it, uvulitis is an uncomfortable swelling of that lil' thing that hangs down in the back of your throat. That might not be so bad except that adding to Scott's problem was the fact that one week before he was to leave for Kuala Lumpur he managed to trip on a flight of stairs that wasn't up to code, inflaming a pre-existing chronic back pain condition (also caused by a flight of stairs; someone get that man an elevator).
Nate Price picked up a nasty bug before leaving his home in Indianapolis, Indiana. Just one week before he was scheduled to leave he spent 30 hours in bed waiting for a fever to break and unable to eat, drink, or even do a single draft on Magic Online. Over the following seven days his fever abated and he slowly re-joined the living before scrambling to put together all the things he needed for his trip to Malaysia just six hours before he was schedule to depart. Luckily for him, some quick thinking and dependable friends pulled him through, and he stepped onto his flight leaving the worst behind him and looking forward to a chance to unwind in the tropics.
I certainly wasn't spared the painful fate of illness. After a few days visiting Malaysia early in a beautiful oceanside resort some manner of food poisoning reared its ugly head, and I spent a miserable day in bed hoping the knot of knives in my stomach would abate before game time. Plenty of water and support from my traveling companions and the coverage staff put me back in good spirits, however, and I was excited to get to work watching Pro Tour–Kuala Lumpur unfold.
Of course, not all of us came down with the second coming of bubonic plague. Super photographer Craig Gibson managed to avoid any type of illness during his trip and after arriving in Kuala Lumpur. How did he manage that? Apparently by convincing his family to bite the bullet for him; within 24 hours of arriving he got the email to let him know his wife had come down with a nasty flu and his two-year old was battling a raging ear infection. Perhaps as karmic justice, Craig was forced to spend his birthday on an airplane, but somehow I imagine he'll be getting an earful when he returns home as well.
Editor Kelly Digges, lucky dog that he is, had a "luxurious flight" in which he also suffered no ill effects of any type and arrived in good spirits and well rested. He did point out, however, that he suffered the tragic fate of inadvertently watching all of Resident Evil: Extinction, though whether that was because he couldn't figure out how to operate the mini-TV in his seat or because he secretly wanted to see how the movie ended, he didn't say.
Even through all of that your dedicated staff of coverage reporters endures, working through our pain and suffering to make sure we don't miss a story for the inaugural Pro Tour of the 2008 season. Will Tomoharu Saito start strong on the road to defending his Player of the Year title? Will any newcomer lay claim to an early lead for Rookie of the Year? And who will demonstrate the best knowledge of the Lorwyn / Lorwyn / Morningtide format by hoisting the championship trophy on Sunday? Keep your browser tuned to magicthegathering.com to find out.
Friday, February 15: 6:40 p.m. – Drafting with Locals
When the dust from the first draft had settled, Ding Yuen was at 2-1, Terry Soh was at 1-2, and a newcomer to the competitive scene, Lucas Wong, was at 3-0. The LCQ winner, Rondy Krish, was also doing well with a record of 2-0-1, while Albertus Law and Sam Lau had failed in their bid to qualify in the LCQ, where they finished 8th and 19th respectively.
Ding Yuen won his 4th round and was pretty upbeat about his chances. He said that his strategy in Draft is to be fluid and start by taking the strongest cards in each pack. He would only commit to a tribe or colour when it is justified by the cards he has.
Nonetheless, Ding Yuen has a few themes he prefers. When drafting green, he would try to go green-black for Elves and Treefolk, but could end up in red-green, where his focus would be more on changelings than any tribe. He also likes blue-white Merfolk or Soldiers.
In the first draft, Ding Yuen first picked Chandra Nalaar in his first pack, and was passed strong green cards, grounding him in red-green. He mentioned that Chandra won him a few games, and that the strength of the deck lay in its speed, due to the acceleration the three Bannerets gave his changelings. He attributed the one game he lost to mana flood.
Similarly, Terry Soh attributed his poor performance in the first draft to bad luck. He highlighted the strong cards in his deck like Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw, and Æthersnipe, and said that one game was lost to colour screw, while he simply fell behind in the war of attrition in the other.
Like Ding Yuen, Terry is flexible in his approach to draft, picking changelings and removal high; he would only choose his tribe at the fifth to seventh pick. Though he tends to be neutral, Terry has a mild preference for Merfolk.
Lucas Wong is the reason I'm doing coverage today. We drew in the last of the Swiss rounds during the local PTQ I played in, and with four other competitors with the same number of points as I, I finished 9th on tie breaks.
Lucas prefers green-black Elves and Treefolk, but said that he would not try to force the deck. He would instead follow the signals being passed and take fat creatures first. Among his top picks are Briarhorn and Nameless Inversion.
Rondy Krish felt his deck was good and attributed his draw to time limitations. He said the theme of his deck was card advantage, with the key cards being: 1 Shriekmaw, 2 Dreamspoiler Witches, 1 Makeshift Mannequin, 2 Thieving Sprite, 2 Latchkey Faerie, and 1 Warren Pilferers.
Friday, February 15: 8:20 p.m. – Fame in the Hall!
Hall of Famer Nicolai HerzogMagic is coming up on its fifteenth anniversary this summer! I've been involved with this game in so many ways across those years (almost, but not quite, from the beginning) and while I've now been an employee with Wizards for over four years, I've still got over two-thirds of my time in the game as a player and all of it as a fan of the game's incredibly rich history.
I mention all that because this weekend marks my first return to coverage writing on the tour in about a year (my last event was Pro Tour–Geneva). And while there's a lot I've missed and am thrilled to get to do again, so far the best highlight for me this weekend has been watching so many Hall of Fame members out there not just playing, but outright kicking ass!
First off, there's at least one member from each class representing the Hall of Fame this weekend. There's a lot I love about the Hall of Fame, but by far my favorite feature is the way it's been bringing out so many of the game's greatest back out to do battle and show us what made them so special. Here's the breakdown of members by year competing here in Kuala Lumpur:
Class of '07
Class of '06
Class of '05
Hall of Famer Jon FinkelAs I write this we've already completed the first cut of the event, which occurs after Round 6. So as of that point, the lowest record out of those five players is Zvi Mowshowitz and Tsuyoshi Fujita at 3-3. It takes 4-2 to clear the first cut, so out of five players it's impressive to see that the worst any of these guys did was just miss the bar.
Levy, Finkel, and Herzog all made the cut, and while Levy is at a solid 4-1-1, Nicolai and Finkel are both sitting at a very strong 5-1, with just one loss each after six rounds. For someone like me that's been around the game for so long and been involved with it in so many ways, it's a thrill just getting to see these players back out there playing Magic under the bright lights. But getting to see players like Finkel and Nicolai back in the game and kicking ass doing it is the kind of thing that makes these twelve- or thirteen-hour coverage days positively fly by. Covering this kind of thing isn't work—it's a treat, a privilege. There's an electricity in the air when these guys are out there playing in the feature match area and climbing the standings. And this is just Day 1!
One particularly cool thing to be aware of is that the final draft we did today (Day 1, Draft 3) was covered in a draft viewer. It turned out that 5-1 Finkel and Herzog were at the same draft table, so naturally we jumped at the chance to record it all to bring you what is sure to be an awesome draft viewer. Since we've still got two more rounds to play with these decks tomorrow it wouldn't be fair to the players to post the draft viewer tonight, but consider this your heads-up to watch for it sometime tomorrow morning once we're farther into the rounds.