by Kim Eikefet
Many people consider Team Black Ops to be the best team in the world. The French trio, consisting of Florent Jeudon (20) and the two brothers Olivier (19) and Antoine (20) Ruel won the Team Challenge held during 2000 Pro Tour New York, and they also won Grand Prix Cannes. Still, the Black-Ops don't consider themselvfes favourites for the 2000 Team Pro Tour New York. "We are outsiders," Olivier thinks. "Team Antarctica are the favourites."
Regardless of what the Black-Ops think, they are still one of the teams that people expect to find high up on the standings list when the Pro Tour is over. One week ago, the two Ruel brothers ruled Grand Prix Porto; Antoine became the champion after defeating Olivier in the finals. That same weekend, Florent became the European Champion of Netrunner, so even though it wasn't Magic, they all proved that they are in a good strategic shape. In addition, they have playtested a lot.
"We have done about 20 team drafts," Olivier says. "And we have played in a few team trials for the French Cup, but then we've played with different people. We wanted to see how other players draft and make decks," Antoine explains. So the team should be well prepared for the event. Their goal is to make top 8. Olivier is not qualified for Pro Tour Chicago, and this is his last shot at getting a slot there.
The team was founded before the team Pro Tour last year. As their friends had teams already, the three of them teamed up. "First we were team Phenomène J, but then that store closed and we became the Black-Ops. Black Ops is a French card game magazine, and they sponsor us with cards," Florent says.
"We are cool, always cool," Antoine grins when asked about the team's strength. "And we're quiet," Olivier adds. On the more serious note, Antoine reckons that Florent is the best team drafter in the world, and Olivier agrees. "He has a great view of the team draft that we don't have," he explains, while Florent just smiles and refuses to comment on that particular statement. Then, not long after, when asked about the team's weaknesses, Antone laughs and points to Florent, making the other two break out in laughter as well. The Black-Ops are good friends. They have known each other for about three years, and they all think it's important to know each other and especially to know their teammates' play styles.
For the Sealed Deck, the Black-Ops had their own little strategy. "One, opening good cards," Olivier says. "That is very, very important. It is impossible to do well if you don't. All the commons are good, and you make the difference with the rares or the Nemesis uncommons. Two, it is important to play a deck that we like." The three teammates prefer different colours. Normally, Florent plays blue, Antoine goes green while Olivier picks white. In addition, each player has some favourite cards they want to play with, and every now and then they have to argue about whether a card should be in the deck or not. "Florent plays strange cards that we don't want him to play. He wants to play bad cards, but we don't want that," Antoine laughs.
In team draft, the Black-Ops aren't afraid of counterdrafting. "We are trying to make the best out of counterdrafting. If we have two good black cards, then we try to splash black for those cards. We optimize every card we draft," Antoine says. The three of them don't always agree on everything, but after a lot of playtesting, they find that they rarely disagree. If they do, then everybody explains their view, then they discuss it and come to a conclusion. And because of their long history together and their extensive playtesting, no-one will be surprised if they do well at Pro Tour New York. But the Black-Ops themselves aren't too sure about that. "There are lots of good American teams, so I expect a lot of them to make day two. I've seen six or seven teams with three very, very good players," Olivier says, showing that at least he doesn't underestimate his opponents.