By Kim Eikefet
Helsinki is cold. In spite of the sun, the temperatures are low and there is a chilly wind occasionally sweeping the streets; autumn has come to the city. So have 367 Magic: the Gathering players. Finlandia Hall is the site of yet another European Grand Prix event where players will compete for eight slots for 2001 Pro Tour Los Angeles, money and of course, Pro Tour points.
While few players bothered to go to Manchester to play with the, at that time brand new set Invasion, more people have shown up in Helsinki. Players from all over Europe have come to the capital of Finland, and in spite of the event colliding with the Grand Prix in Dallas, a few Americans have chosen to go to Helsinki instead; Alex Shvartsman, Zvi Mowshowitz and Justin Gary. Ryan Fuller has had a base in Amsterdam for his European tour, and he is in Helsinki. So is Noah Boeken, Antoine and Olivier Ruel, Dominik Hothow, Benedikt Klauser, Nicolai Herzog, Sigurd Eskeland, Tony Dobson, Ben Ronaldson, and Jakub Slemr, to mention a few.
The majority of the players are Finnish, naturally, and while Finland doesn't really have a lot of name players on the Pro Tour at the moment, Arho Toikka, Arto Hiltunen and Erno Ekebom are all names that people may recognise. Another old-timer also seems to be on his way back into Magic. Olle Råde recently made the finals in a one-slot qualifier, but he lost in the finals. However, he is playing in Helsinki and if luck goes his way, we might just see him in Los Angeles as well.
Finlandia Hall is a rather huge building located in a park outside the city centre of Helsinki. The Magic players are welcomed by one of the familiar banners, and inside, the action takes place on two different floors. One floor up from the registration, you find the side event area. The artist Tom Wänerstrand, who painted for instance the amazing Ghost Ship and Blood Moon, is located on that floor as well, along with the retail booth.
One floor up from that, you find the Grand Prix area; a long rectangular hall with windows on one side and what looks like commentator boots on the other side. The floor is covered with tables and chairs, and in front, you can find the judge station as well as the Sideboard headquarters. A huge Grand Prix logo hangs behind the Sideboard tables, while Magic banners are smiling at us from the walls.
Registration started Friday afternoon, and so the tournament would have started on time if it hadn't been for the tournament organiser's promise to wait for a bunch of Swedes coming over with an early ferry. But the decks were handed out around eleven, and the players could start their deck construction.
Before Helsinki, two Sealed deck archetypes seemed to have become popular. One of the strategies is to go for white, green and blue and maximise your Master Decoy creatures. The other strategy is to go black, red and blue with as many anti-Master Decoys as possible. Still, a lot of players simply go with whatever colour combination seems the best. While most players tend to choose three colours, others get into five colours just to get to play with the best cards.
It will be interesting to see what decks will make it to the top after the first day, and to see if any new strategies have evolved since the first Invasion Grand Prix in Manchester. Chances are that in many cases, it will depend on the players' ability to draw the correct coloured mana. May the sources be with them.