Where in the Worlds?

Posted in Making Magic on July 29, 2013

By Mark Rosewater

Working in R&D since '95, Mark became Magic head designer in '03. His hobbies: spending time with family, writing about Magic in all mediums, and creating short bios.

Welcome to Worlds Week! My first idea was to do an article where I walk you through all the past World Championships, but then I realized I did that during a previous Worlds Week (back in 2009 in an article called "Around the Worlds in Fifteen Years"). Maybe I could talk in depth about the very first World Championship, the only one I ever played in. Nope, already covered that as well ("A Different Worlds"). All right, I could talk about the second Magic World Championship where I played a big role in getting the team event involved in Worlds. No, did that one too. ("Numbers on a White Board.") Okay, how about I do a trivia column based on the many World Championships? I haven't done a trivia article in a while. Have I done that one yet? No, I haven't. Whew!

Since I know many of you will not know much Worlds trivia, I'll try to make sure some of these questions tie into interesting stories. Let's get started.

Question #1: The United States were dominant in the team championship early in Worlds history, winning six of the first seven team championships. What was the only country to beat them during that time?

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Answer: Canada. In 1997, the Canadian team of Gary Krakower, Mike Donais, Ed Ito, and Gab Tsang won the team championship.

The funny behind-the-scenes story about this was that I was working hard at that event to help shoot all the video for an ESPN2 show. Yes, back in the day, Magic events were broadcast on an ESPN channel (Okay, not the main one, but still). The Magic team, led by then-national champion-Justin Gary, showed up wearing whatever and didn't have any sense of cohesion visually as a team. Many of the other teams, for example, had team outfits so they all matched.

Because there was great expectation that the United States would be claiming their third-straight team victory, the head producer for the show was worried that it wasn't going to look good. So he sent out someone to find shirts with the American flag on them for the U.S. team to wear. The poor woman responsible for this task drove all over town looking for them.

Eventually, though, the shirts were found and the US team was dressed up to look the part. They then managed to lose and not even make it to the finals. The winning Canadian team, interestingly, had come with matching hockey jerseys.

Question #2: Five members of world champion teams have come to work in Magic R&D (although one only as an intern), all of whom have served on at least one design team. Who are they?

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Answer: I'll start with Mike Donais, as I just mentioned him in the last question. He won with Canada in 1997. Mike would go onto to work for both Magic and Dungeons & Dragons. He was on numerous development teams as well as the Onslaught design team.

The second (although the first to accomplish the task) was Henry Stern, who was part of the American team that won the first team championship held at the second-ever Magic World competition (with Mark Justice, Mike Long, and Peter Leiher). The team won so decisively, by the way, that the team average was the cut-off for Top 8 in the tournament (both Stern and Justice advanced). Henry would go on to be a major role in development for many years, leading a huge number of development teams. Henry also served on a number of design teams, including Urza's Saga and Urza's Legacy, and was the design lead for Portal: Three Kingdoms. I am happy to announce that Henry just had a baby—a little boy named Alan.

Third was Matt Place. Along with Dennis Bentley, George Baxter, and Mike Long, he won the 1996 World Team title. Matt was another long-time developer who led various development teams and was on a number of design teams—Tenth Edition, Planar Chaos, Shards of Alara, Zendikar, Worldwake, Scars of Mirrodin, and New Phyrexia.

Fourth was Zvi Mowshowitz, who won the team title in 1999 along with Kyle Rose, John Hunka, and Charles Kornblith. Zvi, who would later go on to be inducted into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame, was a development intern for six months. He was on the design team of Future Sight.

The fifth and final R&D member to serve on a winning worlds team (so far) was the current director of Magic R&D, Aaron Forsythe. Aaron won the 2000 world team title along with Jon Finkel, Chris Benafel, and Frank Hernandez. Aaron was the lead developer of Shadowmoor, Zendikar, and New Phyrexia, and was the lead designer of Dissension, Lorwyn, Alara Reborn, Magic 2010, and Magic 2011.

Mike Donais, Henry Stern, Matt Place, Zvi Mowshowitz, Aaron Forsythe

So far, no world champion has ever worked in R&D, although R&D has had numerous Pro Tour champions (Randy Buehler, Matt Place, Scott Johns, Mike Turian, and Dave Humpherys).

Question #3: Which world champion had his car break down on his way to the World Championship that he won?

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Answer: Zak Dolan at the very first World Championship. The 1994 World Championship was held at Gen Con, the largest gaming convention in the United States, at the time held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Zak was driving on his way to attend Gen Con when his car died. Unable to get it restarted, he abandoned his car and found other transportation to get to the convention. Obviously, his luck improved a bit once he got there.

Question #4: During the finals of the 1995 World Championship, the two finalists asked permission to speak in a language other than English as both spoke it fluently. What was that language?

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Answer: French. The two players were the winner Alexander Blumke from Switzerland and runner-up Marc Hernandez from France.

Hernandez, Blumke

I always remember this happening because I felt that it was a significant moment showing how global the game had become. My tie to this event was that I was the person they asked. You see, for the finals of the 1995 Worlds, I was the spotter on stage who was feeding information to the commentators. At this point, I had not yet started working for Wizards, and had been brought to the event to help out and report on it for The Duelist. (You can read that article here.) The question came at the beginning of Game One of the finals. I remember speaking into my mic: "Hernandez and Blunke said they would be more comfortable if they could both speak in French. Does anyone have a problem with that?"

Question #5: The 1996 World Championships was held in a distinct locale. What was it?

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Answer: The offices of Wizards of the Coast in Renton, Washington. Here's what happened: We had recently moved into our new building and we had a lot of extra space, so when they were trying to figure out a place big enough to hold the 1996 World Championships, it dawned on everyone that the answer was right around us.

While the event was chaotic, it was by far the most convenient Worlds I have ever attended. It also had a pretty big finish when top pro Mark Justice made it all the way to the finals to lose to newcomer Tom Chanpheng. The Top 8, by the way, included three people who would later to go on to work for R&D: Henry Stern, Matt Place, and Scott Johns.

Question #6: Tom Chanpheng, the 1996 World Champion, won a unique prize. What was it?

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Answer: Chanpheng won a card called the 1996 World Champion. There is one copy of the card in existence, making it the rarest Magic card in the world (tied with the card Shichifukujin Dragon). At the event, there was a video showing the destruction of every other copy of the card on the one sheet that was printed. The card was embedded in Chanpheng's winning trophy. I heard through the grapevine that many years later, Chanpheng sold the trophy to a bigtime Magic collector.

Question #7: Who is the only person to win his national championship and then go on to become both world champion and world team champion later that summer?

Click here.

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Answer: Hall of Famer Jon Finkel. It happened in 2000. Jon had done well during 1998 and 1999, winning a Pro Tour and finishing in the Top 8 of a few others, but in the summer of 2000, he said he was going to buckle down and focus. That focus led to a strong performance that summer. Later that year, in November, he went on to win the Magic Invitational (for which he earned the right to make the card Shadowmage Infiltrator).

Finkel at 2012 Players Championship

Question #8: Jon is one of two people to both win the World Championship and the Magic Invitational. Who is the other?

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Answer: Hall of Famer Kai Budde. He won the World Championship in 1999 and the Magic Invitational in 2001 (for which he earned the right to make Voidmage Prodigy).

The interesting story about his win in 1999 was that at the time, he wasn't a well-known player. He had done well at the Grand Prix circuit in Europe (earning 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st in succession) but was mostly unknown at the Pro Tour, as he had yet to have a Top 8 Pro Tour finish.

At the time, the World Championship had the reputation of often being won by lesser-known players who didn't go on to have a strong Pro Tour career. When Budde won, there was worry that this trend was repeating itself. I had talked with a lot of the European pros, though, who all spoke highly of Budde, so I spoke up and said, "I don't think you have to worry about it. Kai Budde is the real deal." History would obviously prove me correct.

Another funny story about Kai Budde's final match was that we were filming it to make a show for ESPN2. In the finals, he played against Mark Le Pine; both played blisteringly fast mono-red decks. The final match was over so quickly that using every minute of footage, from the beginning of the first die roll to see who would go first to the handshake when Le Pine conceded victory to Budde, wasn't enough for us to fill up the half-hour television show.

Question #9: How many continents can boast a world champion?

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Answer: Five.

  • Asia: Jun'ya Iyanaga, Makihito Mihara, Katsuhiro Mori (Japan); Uri Pelig (Israel)
  • Australia: Tom Chanpheng
  • Europe: Alexander Blumke (Switzerland); Kai Budde, Daniel Zink (Germany); André Coimbra (Portugal); Anti Malin (Finland); Guillaume Matignon (France); Julien Nuitjen, Tom Van de Logt (Netherlands); Jakub Slemr (Czech Republic)
  • North America: Zak Dolan, Jon Finkel, Brian Selden (United States)
  • South America: Carlos Romão (Brazil)

Africa is the only populated continent that has yet to win a World Champion title. Jon Finkel, Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz, and Daniel O'Mahoney-Schwartz did compete at a team Pro Tour (and placed in the Top 4) as Team Antarctica.

Question #10: How old was the youngest person to ever become the world champion?

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Answer: Fifteen. That was the age of 2004 World Champion Julien Nuijten from the Netherlands.

Julien Nuijten

One of the running conversations that's been happening in R&D for years is how long before the world champion is younger than the game. As Magic has just celebrated its twentieth birthday, it seems like it could happen any year.

Nuijten winning was the third time a country had a second World Champion (2001 World Champion Tom Van de Logt was also from the Netherlands); United States has had three World Champions—Zak Dolan (1994), Brian Selden (1998), and Jon Finkel (2000), and Germany has had two—Kai Budde (1999) and Daniel Zink (2003). Japan would go on to become the fourth country with multiple world champions with Katsuhiro Mori (2005), Makihito Mihara (2006), and Jun'ya Iyanaga. (Yuuya Watanabe won the Players Championship last year, which has been changed this year to be the World Championship.)

Question #11: Four world champions managed to win events hosted in their home countries. Who are they?

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Answer: The first was the first World Champion, Zak Dolan. He was an American and the event was held at Gen Con in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The second was also an American, Brian Selden. He won at the 1998 World Championships, held in Seattle, Washington.

The third person to achieve this feat and the first non-American was German Daniel Zink, who became the 2003 World Champion when the event was held in Berlin, Germany.

The fourth person to accomplish this was Japanese Katsuhiro Mori, who won Worlds in 2005 when it was hosted in Yokohama, Japan.

The players who almost did (i.e., they lost in the finals in their home country) are all Americans: Mark Justice (1996), Ben Rubin (1998), Patrick Chapin (2007), and Jamie Parke (2008).

Zak Dolan, Brian Selden, Daniel Zink, Katsuhiro Mori

The other player to almost accomplish this feat was Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif, when Worlds was held in Paris, France. Everything was going wonderfully for Nassif and it was looking like the most famous French player was going to win a Worlds title in his home country, but in the semifinals against the eventual winner Makihito Mihara, Nassif took a calculated risk. Mihara had one turn to have a specific mix of cards, otherwise Nassif was going to win the semis and move onto the finals, where he had an excellent deck match-up, but Mihara had exactly what he needed when he needed it and managed to eliminate Nassif.

Question #12: What Worlds Top 8 had the most players all from the same country?

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Answer: The 1998 World Championship in Seattle, Washington, had seven Americans. The only non-American in that Top 8 was Hall of Famer Raphael Levy from France. That was also the year that the Americans managed to win every Pro Tour of the season (Pro Tour Chicago—Randy Buehler, Pro Tour Mainz—Matt Place, Pro Tour Los Angeles—Dave Price, and Pro Tour New York—Jon Finkel). And 1998 was also the year the Americans took back the team title after having lost it for the first time ever to Canada the year before.

Question #13: Who was the only player to ever do commentary on a Top 8 he played in? (Hint: It happened at Worlds.)

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Answer: Chris Pikula. It happened at the 1998 World Championships that I just talked about above. Here's what happened: In the middle of this World Championships my only sister got married in Cleveland, Ohio. I spent Days One and Two at the event and then flew to Cleveland for Days Three and Four. I then came back for Day Five to produce the finals coverage.

Chris Pikula

Now, at that time, my coverage team was Brian Weissman (one of the early name players known for creating the very first published deck called, simply, "The Deck") and Chris Pikula. While in Cleveland, I paid attention to the tournament only to watch one of my commentators, Pikula, make Top 8. I made the call to try out a new commentator in Chris's place, a man named Randy Buehler. Randy would later go on to be one of the main commentators for the Pro Tour.

Pikula lost in the quarterfinals, so I made the call to pull him into the booth for the semis and finals.

Question #14: Who is the only player to have won both the World Championship and the pro player of the year title in the same season?

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Answer: Hall of Famer Kai Budde. Kai accomplished this feet during the 1998–99 Pro Tour season. Kai would later go on to win the pro player of the year title three more times. The only other player to even win the pro player of the year more than once is Yuuya Watanabe (in 2009 and 2012). Jon Finkel, by the way, is the only other player to have been both world champion and pro player of the year. Finkel just didn't do both during the same year (the first in 2000 and the second in 1998)

Kai Budde, Yuuya Watanabe, Jon Finkel

Question #15: One year, the Top 8 of Worlds was filled with competitors from eight different countries. Which Worlds was it?

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Answer: The 2009 World Championships in Rome, Italy. Not only was this the first Top 8 to have competitors from eight different countries, but it was also the first Pro Tour to have neither an American nor a Japanese player in the Top 8. The Top 8 was:

  1. André Coimbra—Portugal
  2. David Reitbauer—Austria
  3. Terry Soh—Malaysia
  4. Bram Snepvangers—Netherlands
  5. William Cavaglieri—Italy
  6. Manuel Bucher—Switzerland
  7. Marijn Lybaert—Belgium
  8. Florian Pils—Germany

I don't have a good story from this Worlds, as it is the only one I ever missed.

The Worlds Fair

I hope you all enjoyed the trivia and stories today. If you get a chance, check out the online coverage of both the World Championship and the World Magic Cup.

Join me next week when I explain how Magic almost died... twenty times!

Until then, may you enjoy collecting trivia along the way.

Drive to Work #44—"Making Magic"

I recently just celebrated six hundred weeks of writing "Making Magic," so I decided to spend a podcast talking about making "Making Magic."

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