Pro Tour-New York 1999
Day 1 Recap

Posted in Event Coverage

By Wizards of the Coast

- Kim Eikefet

Despite the name, Pro Tour - New York, the fourth New York event isn't held there. The site is Meadowlands Exhibition Center in New Jersey, a fifteen-minute bus ride from Manhattan.

Players from all over the world have come to play in the first main tournament to use the Urza block constructed format. Using cards from Urza's Saga and Urza's Legacy only, the 308 players have a very limited card pool. Maybe that's why there has never been as much secrecy around deck tech as at this Pro Tour.

The period before Pro Tour - New York has been dominated by the forming of giant teams for playtesting. People have been generally unwilling to talk about what decks they were testing, hoping to prevent ideas and tech to leak out to other teams.

The most famous of the giant teams is the UberTeam. UberTeam is basically team CMU (Erik Lauer, Randy Buehler, Mike Turian, Nate Heiss) and team Deadguy (Jon Finkel, David Price, Chris Pikula, Tony Tsai, Worth Wollpert) along with Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz, Eric Taylor and Pat Chapin; many people have been worried about what Magic-minds like them can accomplish when they share ideas.

Before a Limited Pro Tour, people always gather in hotel lounges and hallways to draft and talk strategy. The night before Pro Tour New York, though, was very strange. Very few people played in the room provided for that, most of them sat in their hotel rooms and did some final playtesting with their teams.

When the first round started, though, it was clear that many teams had found the same decktypes during playtesting. Red-Blue Academy-decks was a popular decktype - but this Academy version was very different from the one that haunted Pro Tour Rome. Instead of Stroking your opponent to death, this version uses Tinker to get to a Phyrexian Colossus or a Phyrexian Processor.

In addition, there were very solid Fluctuator/Academy decks that used the old Academy-style Stroke for the win, a green/blue Deranged Hermit/Barrin deck, mono-red fattie decks with Wildfire, black/white Contamination/Worship decks and blue/white controldecks, to mention a few. All in all, there were a lot of different decktypes played in the tournament.

Some players thought that 50 minutes was too little time to finish three games of play, but in this tournament, a new system was made - when time was called, all ongoing games would be given a total of six extra turns. This meant that if someone played a Second Chance, they would steal one of their opponent's turns, as only six extra turns would be given. Fortunately, that wasn't a big problem.

The rules were also fixed so that players wouldn't get an automatic game loss if they flipped over an opponent's card, and that probably made people more relaxed when shuffling their opponent's deck.

Most of the pros had come to play in the tournament, but Kai Budde and Svend Sparre Geertsen had previously announced that they couldn't come because of exams and a hard program at school. Kai did make it though, as his exam was rescheduled, and he finished at 16th after day one.

"My exam was moved from Monday to Tuesday, so I have to go back Sunday evening. If I make top eight, I will probably have to leave after the first round," he smiles.

In spite of his good result, though, Budde didn't feel that he was well prepared. "I didn't build any decks, I just asked my team what was the best and played it. It's a red/blue deck with only two blue cards; one Stroke of Genius and one Morphling. I think the deck is okay, and now I hope to make top 32."

All the Germans played the Red-Blue deck, and they all did pretty well. But the winner of day one was Casey McCarrel. The top eight finisher from 1998 Pro Tour - Chicago was the only player to go 7-0, and throned on top of the list after seven rounds of swiss, playing his red/blue Academy/Wildfire deck.

"The deck is good, what can I say?" Casey says. "It takes control with artifacts and removal, gains a lot of resources, mana, and then you use Temporal Aperture to get what you need or Tinker for a Colossus. Wildfire is by far the most important card in the deck."

Casey didn't expect to do that well in Pro Tour - New York. "After I didn't make the second day in Pro Tour - Los Angeles, I almost didn't come. I thoght I'd lost my touch. But my father made me come. Now I'm hoping for top eight, another top eight would really be nice. But I can just as easily go 0-7 tomorrow."

While Casey did well, the hyped up UberTeam didn't. Only four UberTeam members made it to the second day: Jon Finkel, Pat Chapin, Nathan Heiss and Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz.

"We figured that if 50 percent of the team could make top 16 and 100 percent make day two, then we would be successful. Overall, our performance is terrible. We'd expected much more than this," Eric Taylor admits.

Eric played Pat Chapin's green/blue Deranged Hermit/Barrin deck, and he wasn't satisfied with his own performance. "I should have done better. But when we made a team, all the other players had to make teams, too. So the decks here were tougher than in other Pro Tours. I think everybody has tested a lot before this Pro Tour."

Taylor didn't actually want to be on a team, but he felt that he had to. "I'd rather not be on a team, but it's like the mafia, you can't get out because you've got all their secrets. I probably have to be on a team for the next Pro Tour as well. And even though the UberTeam goes away, you'll have other teams."

Generally, a lot of the players agreed that the best deck of the tournament was Team Mogg Squad's Fluctuator deck, including the UberTeam players. Team Mogg Squad had teamed up with Zvi Mowshowitz and Gary Wise during playtesting, and that paid off.

"I started on the deck when I heard about the Ring of Gix, and I threw in as many artifacts as possible. The deck lost to Stroke, so I added four Spirals and killed with Karn after locking my opponent down with Rings. Then at the prerelease of Urza's Legacy, I saw Grim Monolith, Cloud of Faeries and Frantic Search, and of course Memory Jar. I made a deck and sent it in to get Spiral banned. When I took out the Spirals, the decks still worked. Then they banned Memory Jar. I tried Opportunities instead, and the deck still worked, but it lost to green, so we put it aside. When we heard rumours about a deck that killed turn four, though, we started working on it again, and it got much tighter," Zvi Mowshowitz says after finishing 14th after day one. Day two will prove just how good the deck is.

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