Top 8: Michael Gurney

Posted in Event Coverage

By Michelle Bush

If success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, Michael Gurney may be an exception. Many players in LA's Top 8 got there by practicing the format over and over and over again, but Gurney is not one of them. The 28-year-old Canadian had played Invasion Rochester Draft exactly once before arriving in Los Angeles this weekend. His inspirational run at the boat was instead based on a mix of natural talent, familiarity with booster draft in general, and of course, a lot of luck. His performance in the Swiss was so impressive, that he had secured a spot in the Top 8 with two rounds left to play and advanced to the final draft in third seed.

Gurney is no stranger to the Pro Tour, but this event was very much his coming out party. Although he is from Magic's old school, having played since Antiquities, his job as a computer programmer means that he can only play in his spare time. He has qualified for six prior Pro Tours, but was able to play in only four of them. His best finishes to date were Top 8 in Canadian Nationals in 1995 and again in 2000. He admitted that he was excited and a little nervous to be here, especially with so much money on the line. His attitude is understandable: the $7,500 minimum he was guaranteed to win in the Top 8 dwarfs his previous winnings by an order of magnitude. One of Gurney's biggest tasks in the Top 8 was to maintain the calm, quiet, and confident psychological game that carried him to the top. Gurney's composure was particularly impressive because his quarterfinals opponent was none other than Jon Finkel, one of the most intimidating men in Magic.

Mishra's Game Factory in Vancouver is Gurney's home base, where he developed his draft strategy with fellow Canadians Ryan Fuller, Terry Tsang, Terry Lau, and Jeff Fung. "I wanted to draft black/red or black/blue. But I can draft anything if I have to, whatever falls into my lap." Gurney demonstrated his flexibility throughout the tournament, drafting four different archetypes in the four swiss drafts: black/red, red/green, black/blue, and blue/white.

Before the Top 8, Gurney said that the card he would most like to crack is Breath of Darigaaz. He was also hoping for power rares in black and blue, like Spinal Embrace, Barrin's Spite, or "any of the Masters." His final draft was a fast red/black deck with a fair amount of removal, but was lacking any of his wish list bombs. The way the packs fell in the Top 8 was a bit painful for Gurney, most notably when a Pyre Zombie was opened just one tantalizing seat to his left. To make matters worse, not only was the Zombie out of Gurney's reach, it went all the way to Jon Finkel as a 4th pick. The Zombie gave Finkel a huge edge in their black/red-on-black/red mirror match.

Although he was talking about Rochester strategy at the time, Gurney made an interesting observation that may go well beyond the draft table. "As long as you cooperate, everything's fine," he said. "But I'm not above revenge." This weekend proves that Gurney has what it takes to compete at the Tour's highest level, and I expect that if revenge is what he's looking for, he should have plenty of chances.

Latest Event Coverage Articles

December 4, 2021

Innistrad Championship Top 8 Decklists by, Adam Styborski

The Innistrad Championship has its Top 8 players! Congratulations to Christian Hauck, Toru Saito, Yuuki Ichikawa, Zachary Kiihne, Simon Görtzen, Yuta Takahashi, Riku Kumagai, and Yo Akaik...

Learn More

November 29, 2021

Historic at the Innistrad Championship by, Mani Davoudi

Throughout the last competitive season, we watched as Standard and Historic took the spotlight, being featured throughout the League Weekends and Championships. The formats evolved with e...

Learn More



Event Coverage Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All