by Kim Eikefet
Four rounds into the 2000 Team Pro Tour New York, Potato Nation found themselves fourth on the standings with ten points out of twelve possible. And heading towards day two, Gary Wise (27), Scott Johns (27) and Michael Turian (21) were in a good mood. "Our goal is to make top 4 and see from there. I think that is realistic. I'll be disappointed if we finish outside the Top 8," Gary Wise admits.
Potato Nation was formed basically for the Team Pro Tour. However, they started up early so that they could play in two Grand Prix events together. "Mike and I have been friends since Mainz. I told him about Overrun and he told me about Harrow. Together we played three-colour Overrun decks, they were really good," Wise says. "Since then, we've both been among the few consistently good players who likes to draft green and three-colour decks. So we decided we wanted to play together."
So the two of them went searching for a third, and 'after rejecting 13 people', the choice fell upon Scott Johns because of his extensive experience as a team Sealed player. Then, they started fighting about a team name. Originally, they called themselves Pudge, but that name wasn't well-liked by all the members. So eventually they came up with Potato Nation, and they immediately knew that was the best name. Michael Turian is the Potato himself. "I don't know why," he promises. "I just said the word a lot on IRC..."
The three teammates live in totally different places. Gary is located in Toronto, Canada, Scott lives in Davis, California and Mike is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Still, they all tested quite a lot. In addition to the two team Grand Prix they played in together, Gary tested with Torontonians and Mike drafted three or four drafts a week. So while the others are more modest and go for top 4 initially, Mike Turian wants to win. "That's what I always expect," he grins. The team are all strong players, though. Scott has four Pro Tour top 8 performances; Columbus, 1996 Los Angeles, 1996 Worlds and 1998 Worlds, and in addition he won the Dallas Type 1 Championship. Gary made his first Pro Tour top 8 at Worlds 1999, and in addition he has seven Pro Tour top 32s. Turian made his first and only Pro Tour top 8 in last year's Team Pro Tour. Though he has one top 8 from the 2000 U.S. Nationals and two Pro Tour top 16s as well.
The strength of the team is the limited play. In addition, the team members are very versatile and cooperative. "Sealed Decks make up their own strategy. We have split red every time, but it just worked out that well," Mike says. In addition, they had their special little piece of strategy for the Sealed Deck. Gary played green, Scott was with white while Mike played blue. Since Mike is well-known for playing green, a lot of people sat down to play him assuming that he was playing green - but he wasn't...
Potato Nation reckons that new star teams will emerge from this tournament. "A lot of old teams are getting their asses kicked," Gary says, and after four rounds of play, several top teams were already eliminated from day two. Gary had an interesting experience himself when he sat down to play his good friend and playtest partner for five years, Gabe Tsang. "That was the toughest match. Gabe is someone who is usually on my side of the table. I liked that I won, but I don't like giving my friends losses. But it turned out that I needed the win. We won 2-1."