Pro Tour–Kyoto Blog: Day 1

Posted in Event Coverage on February 16, 2009

By Wizards of the Coast

Welcome to Pro Tour–Kyoto! The crack reporting squad of Bill Stark, Rich Hagon, Nate Price, Dave Guskin, and Craig Gibson are combing the halls of Pulse Plaza for all the inside information.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • 9:25 a.m. – Busy Busy
    by Nate Price
  • 11:40 a.m. – So Long, Stripes!
    by John Carter
  • 12:03 p.m. – Influx of Conflux
    by Dave Guskin
  • 1:31 p.m. – 100%. Seriously?
    by Rich Hagon
  • 2:37 p.m. – Coolest Mom Ever?
    by Rich Hagon
  • 4:49 p.m. – Challenge a Champion!
    by Bill Stark
  • 5:45 p.m. – Headlines
    by Nate Price
  • 6:10 p.m. – And Now for Something Completely Different
    by Bill Stark
  • 7:10 p.m. – Four-Word Deck Review
    by Rich Hagon

BLOG

Friday, February 27, 9:25 a.m. – Busy Busy

by Nate Price

Pro Tour–Kyoto is a bustling hub of activity here in the early hours of the morning as players and staffers alike anxiously anticipate the words that kick off this inaugural split-format Pro Tour: “Attention Pro Tour–Kyoto competitors: the pairings for Round 1 have been posted.” The players have flooded in to escape the light drizzle of rain that’s begun to fall outside, and to collect any last-minute cards, pieces of advice, and moments of peace they need before beginning a grueling seven-round day of play. 381 players representing 43 countries have made the trip, and, unsurprisingly, a whopping one fifth of the players are native Japanese.

After a long day of sightseeing, drafting, sushi, and drafting, the coverage crew has bunkered up to get to work on a long day of bringing you up-to-date action from the floor. Rich Hagon, the man behind the deliciously accented voice of the Magic podcasts, is off corralling various pros to get their opinions on topics from their impressions on the format to what they’ve seen and where they’ve gone here in Japan thus far. One of the best things the Pro Tour does is give people a chance to visit places they might not have had the opportunity to otherwise. The Pro Tour is a big moneymaker for these pros, so they obviously want to work as hard as they can to succeed here, but ignoring the fact that you’re given the opportunity to visit and explore a country as rich as Japan would be a crime. I think Brandon Scheel put it best yesterday in the airport when he admitted that he wasn’t sure whether to mark business or tourist down on the embarkation slips from customs.

Randy Buehler is working on some notes for his next Tournament Center update. His partner in crime, Brian David-Marshall, is hiding in the corner preparing to put the first few Twitter entries up on the main coverage page. I’m looking forward to dropping my little tidbits to him to put up for all of you at home to read, so make sure you check it out from time to time. Craig Gibson, our amazing photographer, is off snapping the images that illustrate our words. He captured a number of breathtaking images during his sightseeing trip yesterday that are going to be working their way into coverage all weekend long. He’s even got some great shots of one of the newest additions to the Pro Tour: the Arena. One of the most visually impressive things I’ve seen at a Pro Tour in a long time, the Arena is going to be the home to all of our feature matches this weekend. Gladatorial magical combat at its finest. I’ve actually heard that Rorix Bladewing is a little peeved that he couldn’t be here for the inaugural Arena match. (I’m pretty sure Arcanis the Omnipotent was quoted as saying, “I saw this coming. Learn to be in Standard, noob!”)

Whoops, sounds like things are about to get started here, and that’s my cue to head out. Check in with you later with some fun stories from this weekend. Until then: “Round 1 is fifty minutes long. You may begin.”


Friday, February 27, 11:40 a.m. – So Long, Stripes!

by John Carter

Over the last nearly 16 years there have been scores of shirts celebrating Magic: The Gathering and gamers everywhere. Often these are colorful t-shirts emblazoned with card art and event names. However, one shirt stands out above them all the most ionic attire even associated with Magic tournaments—the black-and-white striped DCI judge shirt.

Beginning with Pro Tour Kyoto, the official uniform of high level events is changing. The black-and-white as well as the black-and-red striped shirts are being retired from high level service. Local and regional events will still be home to the classic B&W stripes, but Pro Tours, Grand Prix, Nationals, and Worlds will upgrading to a sleeker, classier look. The DCI is proud to unveil the new, solid black button-down Magic: The Gathering DCI judge shirt. The design is a long-sleeve collared button-down made of a light material with a DCI logo on the right breast and a pocket on the left. The left shoulder has a Magic: The Gathering logo.

Judges will be seen is this new design at Kyoto and ongoing. Shirts will be made available at all Grand Prix, Pro Tours, Worlds, and some Nationals on and after 2/27/2009. Like the striped shirt distribution before it, there is an amount of time expected before the new shirts are widely available. The best way to get your hands on the latest in DCI attire is the get certified and get to one of the events offering the new shirts.


Friday, February 27, 12:03 p.m. – Influx of

by Dave Guskin

One of the most interesting aspects of a Pro Tour Constructed format is seeing how the pros shake down existing archetypes and build up new ones using cards from the newest expansion. Conflux has contributed its fair share of power to deck-builders, with many cards ready to stand toe to toe with the triumvirate of Bitterblossom , Cryptic Command and Figure of Destiny .

Goblin Outlander , which I sighted more than ten times in the early rounds, debuts as a perfect foil to many white-X aggro strategies and revitalizes the black-red “ Blightning Beatdown” deck. Shambling Remains and Hellspark Elemental accompany massive endgame spell Banefire to make the Blightning deck a strong choice against many of the more controlling builds here today as well. On the flip side, Doran, the Siege Tower makes a triumphant return aided by “new Birds” Noble Hierarch and Ancient Ziggurat to enable the full gamut of aggressive multicolor beaters.

Path to Exile is an obvious inclusion in the aforementioned white-X decks, especially the more aggressive token-based archetypes, but still draws heated arguments among players regarding its less obvious drawbacks, especially in a world where one’s Five-color Control opponent can use the land to ramp to unfair Ultimatums and Dragons. In addition, the more controlling white decks are utilizing Wall of Reverence , which joins fellow defender Plumeveil to produce a rock-solid defensive wall and life-gain engine.

Goblin Outlander
Noble Hierarch
Wall of Reverence
Volcanic Fallout

Finally, some new deck types emerge. Esper artifacts, already solid with impressive card draw and Master of Etherium to tangle with the white Anthem effects like Balefire Liege , has its early game versus the various red-X strategies shored up by Vedalken Outlander . Swans of Bryn Argoll , a card that hasn’t found a home since Time Spiral block rotated, pairs with Volcanic Fallout for a powerful new take on counter-burn. Conflux has arrived, and a new evolution of Standard has arrived with it.


Friday, February 27, 1:31 p.m. – 100%. Seriously?

by Rich Hagon

Masashiro Kuroda of Japan has seen a lot in his time. As a winner of a Grand Prix (Nagoya 2002), a Masters Series (Venice 2003) and a Pro Tour (Kobe 2004), it’s fair to say that he’s played a wide spectrum of opponents. One might suppose that there would be no situation he hadn’t faced, but Germany’s Timo Eifler added a unique twist.

There are several ways to qualify for the Pro Tour, and one of the toughest—but most rewarding—involves playing, and succeeding, in Grand Prix play. Top 16 is enough to get you a coveted invite down the line, and that’s where a little gap in the Eifler resume came to light. Swiss pairings guarantee you a match against an opponent on the same record as you—draws permitting—so Kuroda already knew Eifler had a 1-0 Constructed record this morning. What Kuroda didn’t know, until a laughing Timo confessed, was that the German was 1-0 in Constructed lifetime. It turns out Eifler qualified via the gigantic Grand Prix–Paris last year, where he finished 11th to book his place. After their match, which the Japanese master took 2-1, Eifler took up the story:

“I come from a tiny village, and for the first five or six years since I started playing I had no idea there was such a thing as a Grand Prix or a Pro Tour. Then I came to the big city to study, and suddenly a whole new world opened up. Grand Prix–Stuttgart was my first big tournament, and since then I play in Limited whenever I can.”

But how do you manage to spend the last three years involved with Magic without playing a single sanctioned Constructed match? Isn’t Magic, well, Magic?

“I don’t know why exactly, but for me Limited has always been more fun, with more choices to make. I tested for Constructed because I knew I would have to play it, and another German PTQ winner worked on my red-white-blue control deck with me. Unfortunately, he was taken ill on Tuesday, and so is watching from home. Although he can’t play the deck this weekend, I’ve named the deck in his honor.”

So “Arne Meier’s Volcanic Lark” now stands at 1-1, and that suits the Constructed novice just fine.

“I want to go 2-2 in Standard, and then get to the Limited and go 2-1. If I can do that, I’ll make Day Two at my first Pro Tour, and that would be a great achievement.”

Indeed it would, and by my reckoning his eleventh Constructed match ever would be the Final, and that would be the fastest Constructed ascent in Magic history. The 100% record may be gone, but the Day Two dream is in decent shape, and that makes Timo Eifler, Magic‘s latest Constructed virgin, a happy man.


Friday, February 27, 2:37 p.m. – Coolest Mom Ever?

by Rich Hagon

Winnipeg’s Janet Bishop, like most mothers of Magic players, qualified for the Tour by winning a PTQ. Wait, what?Meet Janet Bishop, the latest addition to the Canadian Pro Tour community. Hailing from Winnipeg in the province of Manitoba, Bishop is here with her 21-year-old daughter Christa, who got the nod ahead of son Stephen, 23. So how did the vivacious Mom wind up on the biggest Magic stage of all?

“My son Stephen played as a kid, and it was something that he did, and I didn’t. Then he went on an exchange trip to Japan, and suddenly staying in touch became very important.”

And how did the Bishop family choose to keep in contact? Myspace? Facebook? Did they Twitter or MSN? Carrier pigeon?

“He convinced me to download Magic Online, and gave me an Elves deck to play with. We’d sit and play and chat, and gradually I really got into the game. From there I moved on to online Leagues and eventually drafting, but I didn’t play in real life until the Fifth Dawn Prerelease.”

And this Prerelease presumably took place in downtown Winnipeg?

“No, that would be in Japan! I went out to visit Stephen during his exchange, and what else would you take your Mom to in Japan than a Prerelease?!?”

I think we can all agree that many Magic players would kill for a mom who would not only take them to Magic events, but play in them as well. Thanks to that Prerelease being her first sanctioned event, she also got a nice bonus.

“It turns out that my DCI membership card is in Japanese, and that’s a nice keepsake” she says.

The Manitoba community is small but thriving, with three local stores running FNM and players traveling from surrounding Provinces and the U.S. for PTQs. Having qualified, Janet set about the business of giving herself the best chance of making Day Two.

“I did a stack of research, read everything I could find about the formats, built a ton of different decks, and then told Stephen he had to test them with me! I’m playing Blightning Beatdown because I enjoy aggro decks—I absolutely love my Goblin deck in Legacy—and nothing in the format suggested you had to play control to be competitive.”

And is she competitive?

“Definitely. When I’m into something, I’m really into it. Obviously I’d be thrilled to make Day Two here. I play a lot of Limited with a great bunch of guys back in Winnipeg, but making Day Two isn’t the be all and end all. My goals coming in were to play clean, make as few mistakes as possible, and don’t be thrown if things go wrong. I tend to be very hard on myself sometimes.”

When I spoke with her, she was sitting at 1-2, guaranteed to be “live” going into the Draft. So what does the family think of her arrival on the world stage?

“Christa is absolutely thrilled. She doesn’t play the game at all, but she’s just got a trip to Japan thanks to Magic. Stephen is really proud and excited too. He wanted to come with me, but college commitments made that impossible.”

So what’s her motivation this weekend?

“Stephen told me, ‘If you don’t win any matches, you’re not playing ever again.’ Well, I’ve won one already, so I’m golden.”


Friday, February 27, 4:49 p.m. – Challenge a Champion!

by Bill Stark

The Pro Tour is a spectacle in every sense of the word, with hundreds of the world’s most elite Magic players battling for thousands in prize money, public events running almost non-stop throughout the weekend, and plenty of Magic to be found wherever you look. But it’s more than just a large tournament; it’s an experience unlike all other events. One of the things that makes the Pro Tour so great? The fact that there’s something to do for everyone who attends, whether you’re qualified for the main event or just excited to see your favorite big-name players duke it out.

Of course, getting free booster packs certainly doesn’t hurt. How do you do that, you ask? All weekend long at Pro Tour–Kyoto, visitors to the Pulse Plaza Convention Center can challenge famous Wizards R&D members in the “Champion Challenge.” By playing their favorite deck against Masami Ibamoto, Matt Place, and Steve Warner, participants get a free booster pack. Plus, the lucky few who manage to win a game earn a ticket that nets an additional free prize, ranging from more boosters to planeswalker mousepads and other exciting promotional items.

In between the dueling, your intrepid reporting squad managed to steal Matt and Steve away long enough to answer a few questions. Matt Place, who hails from Seattle by way of Kansas City, is a former Pro Tour champion and U.S. Nationals Team member. He left the Pro Tour a half decade ago to take on a role as a developer for Wizards of the Coast R&D. He has been the lead developer on nearly a half dozen Magic expansions, including the upcoming Alara Reborn, which will conclude the Shards of Alara block. So why does Matt keep coming out to big events for the Champion Challenge? “It’s fun to interact with players and get their perspective.” He explained. “We hear from a lot of pro players in the Pit [the R&D offices], but hearing from all sorts of perspectives, like while doing the Champion Challenge, is very valuable for designing good sets.”

Steve Warner, a four year member of Wizards R&D, worked his way up through a more formal process with Wizards of the Coast. “I started working in the Wizards retail stores. Then they hired me for customer service, and from there I was offered an R&D internship, and then a full time position!” When asked what the coolest deck he had seen on the weekend, Steve was quick to respond: “An infinite mana engine using Heritage Druid and Nettlevine Sentinel.” And how was Mr. Warner enjoying the Champion Challenge in Japan?

“I love it here!”


Friday, February 27, 5:45 p.m. – Headlines

by Nate Price

As I wandered the room searching for something worthy of my attention, I found myself drawn to some new takes on old cards. Here are a couple things that made me giggle.

The Many Uses of Puppet Conjurer

Puppet Conjurer

One match I watched featured what should have been one of the most pathetic duels in the game: Puppet Conjurer vs. Puppet Conjurer . With all the hot Homunculus action, I was a little surprised that Josh Ravitz didn’t drop by to join in on the fun. The fun little combos the Conjurers can power aren’t exactly news, but there were a few Conflux cards getting a workout in this game. Keep in mind that all of this happened in the same game.

Esperzoa – Upkeep officially changed to .

Esperzoa

Glaze Fiend – An oldie but goodie, the constant stream of Homunculi means your Fiend is always on.

Glaze Fiend

Sludge Strider – I really laughed hard at this guy getting to activate twice for every Conjurer activation. It threatened to get really sick, really fast.

Sludge Strider

Master Transmuter – Because any artifact is better than a Homunculus. Even Mercadian Lift . I mean, that at least did something. I’m just not sure what.

Master Transmuter

Scavenger Drake – It just keeps growing, and growing ....

Scavenger Drake

This Just In: Wisconsin Loves Five Color

Brian Kowal was spotted sporting a Worldheart Phoenix with two counters on it on turn six of a game. As a Midwest Magic player myself, I know the long storied love affair between Wisconsin and the many colors of Magic. The Prismatic format originated in Wisconsin (we called it five color back then). Seeing a Wisconsiner at the helm of a five-color draft deck brings me back to Invasion block drafts with Dustin Stern, Mike Hron, and the rest of the Wisconsin crew. Ah, memories.

Reflections

Minion Reflector is a card that infrequently gets even a first glance, much less a second in Draft. I did catch one player playing it, though, and using it to great effect. When your creature base consists of cards like Rotting Rats , Scourge Devil , Fleshbag Marauder , Parasitic Strix , and Sedraxis Alchemist , your reflections become a little more potent than usual.

Nicol Bolas is Good

I just thought you should know.


Friday, February 27, 6:10 p.m. – And Now for Something Completely Different

by Bill Stark

We’ve blogged extensively about the fact the Magic Pro Tour is a unique experience open for all and with considerably more to do than the actual Pro Tour tournament itself. One of the biggest draws for Pro Tour visitors, be they competitors or fans alike, are the artists. Pro Tour–Kyoto hasn’t disappointed, with Jeremy Jarvis, Todd Lockwood, D. Alexander Gregory, and 3-D card artist Seishiro Ookubo all making appearances. But there is something unique even for a Pro Tour happening just behind where the artists are set up.

Sprawled across the floor of the convention center is a gigantic banner, at least a building story tall in length. A Japanese artist struts across it, slowly bringing an image to life with a paintbrush attached to the end of a dowel. The image? None other than famed planeswalker Ajani Vengeant . But inquiring minds want to know ... What’s the deal?

Specializing in 3-D trick art, Masashi Hattori is a master of making people see things that aren’t really there. At Pro Tour–Kyoto, he’s bringing the planeswalker Ajani Vengeant to life. For many passersby, the card is plainly identifiable, if a bit out of proportion considering the medium. The trick, however, is all in how you view the thing. A camera set up on a tripod in front of the image reveals an entirely different picture: a perfectly sculpted, true-to-form Ajani Vengeant that almost literally pops from the canvas!

So what will Masashi Hattori’s final product look like? You’ll have to tune in this weekend to find out once he’s finished!


Friday, February 27, 7:10 p.m. – Four-Word Deck Review

by Rich Hagon

There have been millions upon millions of words written about Magic—Mark Rosewater alone can lay claim to seven figures in print—but for those of you clambering out of mud huts and discovering the joys of the internet for the first time, we thought we should bring you up to speed with the decks that are out there. Thing is, we know you don’t have time to assimilate all the incremental changes. What you want is a pithy, easily-digestible guide to the worlds of Standard and Draft.

Now, with a knowing nod to the slightly eccentric fourwordfilmreview.com, we invite you, our intrepid band of readers, to submit your summaries of each of the following decks:

Standard

Five-Color Control
Kithkin
Faeries
Red-White Lark
Blightning Beatdown

Draft

Bant
Esper
Grixis
Jund
Naya

Each summary must be exactly four words long, no more and no less. Less, and you might as well not bother. More, well, that would be just too darned normal.

To get you started, here’s a few quick suggestions being bandied around the venue.

Five-Color Control – Evokes cryptic vivid choices.
Kithkin – Unzipped armies packing heat.
Faeries – Bitter taste of victory.
Red-White Lark – Siege-Gang again? Again!
Blightning Beatdown – Discard, dat card, smash.

And for the Shards:

Bant – Exalted beaters beat removal?
Esper – Artifacts to the Air
Grixis – Not on Earth, Unearth
Jund – Drag on, then Dragon
Naya – smash, smash, boom, BOOM

Now it’s over to you. Post your four-word deck review in the forums, and help put the pith in Pithing Needle .

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