Brief History Of Worlds

Posted in Feature on August 30, 2004

By Alex Shvartsman

Although it may be hard to wrap your mind around it, Magic is eleven years old now! We have seen countless tournaments in those years, but it is the World Championships that have a special place in the heart of most tournament players, and it is the world champions that are remembered while you may or may not know who won the latest Pro Tour.

The first World Championship was held back in 1994. There were no large piles of cash at the time – just some sealed product to award to the winner. The tournament was won by Zak Dolan, who played a control deck that usually won via Serra Angel. Many of the cards Dolan used would not be even considered as tournament playable today, which shows just how far the skill of deck building has come since his day.

Zak Dolan

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In 1995, Switzerland’s Alexander Blumke became the second world champion. He played a black-blue-white control deck that was 63 cards in total and utilized many one-of’s such as Balance, Dark Banishing and Power Sink. Many tournament champions from those days have long since abandoned the game to pursue other interests, but Blumke is still active in the Magic community and is deservedly respected as one of the nicest veterans in the game.

By 1996 the Pro Tour has started and deck tech was improving very rapidly. The odds-on favorite in the finals that year was Mark Justice – whose name was as well known in 1996 as Kai Budde’s and Jon Finkel’s today. However, it was an unknown Australian player who took home the trophy. Tom Champheng used a white weenie deck to fight his way to the top. Champheng was splashing a Sleight of Mind so that he could give his Knights protection from colors other than black, but he forgot to register any lands that produce blue mana on his deck sheet. He was forced to play with a dead card in his deck, but this did not prevent him from making the finals and overcoming Justice to win the title.

A unique prize awarded in ’96 was a special card called “1996 World Champion”.

As there is only one such card in existence, it is definitely the rarest promo card in Magic. Rumor has it that Champheng sold it a few years ago to a private collector for over $10,000.

In 1997 the Worlds trophy traveled from Australia to Eastern Europe. Jakub Slemr from Czech Republic won the tournament with ‘4-color Black” – a weenie deck that splashed for powerful cards from many other colors. Czech Republic had several players be very successful on the Pro Tour between 1997 and 1999, and Slemr remains the most successful of the bunch, having stayed on the gravy train for a few years and done well in a number of other events.

The title was once again won by an American – for the first time since 1994! – in ’98. California’s Brian Selden won the tournament with a Living Death deck designed by a group of players who went on to form team Mogg Squad that included Selden, Zvi Mowshowitz, Scott Johns and a number of others.

In 1999 World Championship was held in Japan for the first time. Kai Budde won that tournament with a mono-red Wildfire control deck. Budde, already a very well-known pro at the time, went on to become an undisputed best player in the world, but this was the only time he won the World Championship title.

In 2000, it was the player who Budde unseated as the best player in the world who won the title. Jon Finkel, a New Jersey player who was considered the best until Kai came along proved that he was still pretty damn good, winning the tournament with a Tinker deck.

In 2001, World Championship took place in Toronto. It was the dutch player Tom van de Logt who took home the trophy that time, playing a black-red beatdown deck. Van de Logt was not as well known as the players who won over the course of the previous several years, but he proved his worth by remaining on the gravy train for years and posting many other high tournament finishes.

South America got to have its world champion in 2002, when Brazil’s Carlos Romao won the title playing a Psychatog deck. This was the first event where South American players did really well, impressing others with their level of preparation and understanding of this difficult-to-play archetype. Romao and Diego Ostrovich (who came in third that year) both remain successful Pro players today.

Finally, come the 2003 World Championship in Berlin. Germany’s own Daniel Zink defeated Japan’s Jin Okamoto in a Mirari’s Wake mirror match. Zink is now the World Champion – but only for a few more days! Over two hundred players are converging on San Francisco this week to compete for the coveted title. No one can predict who the next champion will become, but it is safe to assume that their name will be remembered ten more years down the line.

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