Profiles by Brian David-Marshall
The Invitational ballot continues its trip around the globe from Asia to Europe with another star-studded ballot. Even though five Europeans are already invited from other ballots and championships, these five stack up with any players in the world. The list includes the reigning Rookie of the Year, a possible Player of the Year, two of the game's top columnists, and a rising star. Which member of this all-star cast gets to go to Magic's All-Star game is up to you. Head to the forums and vote for your favorite European player now.
Winner: Tiago Chan (39.0% of votes)
Portugal's Tiago Chan made an incredible stretch run last season as he strove to improve his standing in the Pro Players Club. He had begun the 2006 season with a Hawaiian Top 8 at the helm of Owling Mine and had a solid midseason before he kicked things into overdrive. He traveled to multiple Grand Prix events on three continents with the hope of reaching Level 5 and chronicled his pursuit in his weekly column on starcitygames.com. As he approached the finish line in Paris for the World Championships, he was running on empty (and briefly found himself without a hotel room), but had just enough left in the tank to propel him into the Top 8 and Level 6 privileges for the current season.
Marijn Lybaert (8.2%)
Don't look now Sebastian, but Marijn Lybaert is breathing down your neck in the Player of the Year race. The bespectled Belgian seemingly came from nowhere when he lost to Kenji on the finals of Grand Prix–Tolouse but has shown no signs of returning there since then. He made his Pro Tour elmination bracket debut in Geneva despite dodging feature match attention all weekend long. That trend continued when he got to Yokohama, even as he was fighting for a second Top 8 berth right up until the final round. The lack of press did not stop everyone from making his Gargadon/Disintegrate tandem from that event standard issue in the wake of that tournament. Look for plenty of Feature Matches in this young man's future.
Quentin Martin (7.5%)
If only Quentin Martin was as good at filling out decklists as he was at drafting their inventory, he could easily have two Limited Top 8 finishes at the Pro Tour level sandwiched around a Top 32 finish in Kobe. Instead he has to content himself with a 10th-place finish in Geneva to go with his Sunday appearance in Prague. Throw in a third-place finish at Grand Prix–Kuala Lumpur last year and you can understand why Quentin was handed the wheel of Limited Information on this very site. And why nobody believes the myth that the British can't play Limited anymore.
Olivier Ruel (38.0%)
The third-highest money winner in the game, Olivier Ruel was in the thick of the Player of the Year race in 2004 and 2005 but was derailed by suspension in 2006. The French player decided the best way to put that behind him was to return to the game and play it at the highest level–which he has done thus far in 2007. True to form, he finds himself right in the thick of another Player of the Year race after posting a Top 64 finish in Geneva followed by a Top 16 in Yokohama. A veteran like Olivier knows that the game's top honor is won on the Grand Prix circuit and already has one Top 8 in Singapore and another near-miss in Montreal with his innovative Coalition Relic deck.
Sebastian Thaler (7.3%)
If Sebastian Thaler seemed to come out of nowhere to win the Rookie of the Year title, it's because the rising German star did the bulk of the work known as Sebastian Aljiaj. He posted two GP Top 8s–including a win in Athens–along with a near-miss in Malmo. Playing with David Brucker and Helmut Summersberger, their team finished sixth at Pro Tour–Charleston. In 2007, it seems like every time you watch Sebastian Thaler play, he is fighting for a Top 8 berth. In what is emerging as a compelling rivalry, Kenji Tsumura has cancelled Thaler's Sunday ticket twice. Without the game's best player barring the way in Yokohama, Sebastian took his seat at the Top 8 table for the first time in his young career.
Click here to see posts by the voters.