Collect 'em All!

Posted in The Week That Was on September 16, 2005

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

In my Prerelease feature article going up Monday, I mildly groused about not getting to do a traditional preview card in my weekly column. My weekly column tends to lend itself more toward news, results, and occasionally a juicy rumor or two. It does not usually create a hospitable environment to talk about the new cards in an appropriate fashion.

Emphasis on ‘usually’…

Here is a quick look at a card you may very well find waiting for you when you crack open a tournament pack of Ravnica at the Prerelease. But brace yourself; it is probably not what you are expecting.

Savvy followers of the Pro Tour probably noticed the reappearance of photographer extraordinaire Craig Gibson around Pro Tour-Nagoya and then again at Pro Tour-Atlanta. Craig came to snap pics of the best and brightest Magic players for a top-secret project that was spearheaded by Aaron Forsythe and Wendy Wallace. To see more player images, click here.

Aaron’s goal was to create something similar to the baseball cards he collected as a kid. Players opening a Ravnica tournament pack will get one free player card from a set of 25 (in addition to all the cards you normally get in the pack). Aaron felt that there was a need for something like this as the coverage of Magic events has shifted from the bygone print era of Sideboard and Duelist to the online coverage here at

“Without magazines,” explained Forsythe, “it is hard to expose people to the Pro Tour. You either click on the coverage or you don’t. With these cards we get to show off the Pro Tour to players who might not otherwise look that way. I remember when I was playing and went to a PTQ and was like, ‘Whoa, there is Dave Price.’”

Chris Pikula, Jon Finkel, Darwin Kastle, and all the other Invitational winners get asked to sign the Magic cards bearing their likenesses all the time. Aaron was hopeful that these player cards would open up a wider range of players to that experience. He also hoped that it would provide players on the PTQ level something to aspire to.

“These are great for our stars to show off to their friends and family who might not understand what they do. They are a great reward for our top players.”

In the case of Antonino De Rosa, the timing could not be better. The photography sessions went all weekend with a long checklist of players up for consideration. After all the photos were taken the players would be culled down to a manageable number based on a variety of factors including popularity, personality, and performance.

De Rosa has always been a popular player but has never posted results that matched his TOGIT teammates. It is actually pretty serendipitous that he was included in the set long before his back-to-back wins at U.S. Nationals and Grand Prix-Salt Lake City. De Rosa’s resume is starting to live up to his larger-than-life personality that is on display in the card art previewed here.

“People here who knew Antonino De Rosa well said that we should expect big things from him,” Aaron recalled. “The were right.”

I can already hear the groans of the more casual player audience but the player cards are (obviously) not part of the regular set of cards. Instead they are a little something extra for fans of the game’s best players to collect. They will make fun game accessories and I certainly expect to see them used as tokens before the Prerelease is over. Just like baseball cards, they include biographical information about the players as well as some statistical data such as money earned, Pro Tour Top 8s, and Grand Prix Top 8s.

“It is great that we have enough history and a backlog of events that allow us to put meaningful statistics on the card,” Forsythe said. “You look at the backs of some of these cards and you can’t believe how much the players have won or how long some of them have been around!”

It will be interesting to me to watch players trading these and trying to track down their favorite players within the first set and how players value them. I know I will be keeping my eyes peeled for a complete Bob Maher, Jr. set – one Dark Confidant and one player card!

Player of the Year Update

The next stop on the Pro Tour is going to be upon us in just a few more weeks. Pro Tour Los Angeles is the penultimate event in the 2005 season and it will go a long way to settling the Player of the Year Race, which is shaping up like this.

      Columbus Nagoya Atlanta Philadelphia London Avg. Place Median Best Worst Top 64 Events '05 Pro Points
1 Olivier Ruel 4 80 104 4 148 68 80 4 148 2 5 59
2 Gadiel Szleifer 5 152 80 1 80 63.6 80 1 152 2 5 56
3 Masashi Oiso 6 111 15 0 5 34.25 6 5 111 3 4 56
4 Kenji Tsumura 21 177 4 2 160 72.8 21 2 177 3 5 55
5 Shu Komuro 49 1 9 120 64 48.6 49 1 120 4 5 51
6 Shuuhei Nakamura 2 25 60 9 54 30 25 2 60 4 5 49
7 Tsuyoshi Fujita 9 100 102 20 2 46.6 20 2 102 3 5 46
8 Geoffrey Siron 8 70 57 207 1 68.6 57 1 207 2 5 44
9 Masahiko Morita 0 37 15 46 24 30.5 24 15 46 4 4 42
10 Pierre Canali 1 119 105 38 44 61.4 44 1 119 3 5 41

There are a couple of striking statistics that leap right off that chart. The first is the remarkable consistency of Masahiko Morita. He’s the only player in the Top 10 to X-0 the Pro Tours he attended in terms of money finishes (Yes, I know that almost everyone finished ‘in the money’ for Philadelphia. When I say in the money, I mean Top 64 for and individual event and Top 20 for a team event.). He is also the only player in the Top 10 to get there without a single Top 8 finish. His best finish was 15th but has not finished worse than 46th so far this season. Combine that remarkable consistency with his four Grand Prix Top 8s this season and Morita finds himself within one event of taking the lead – and that is without even showing up for Columbus at the start of the season.

Four GP Top 8s this season has put Morita in Player of the Year contention.The class of Columbus dominates this Top 10 list with six of the players who advanced to Sunday all very much in the Player of the Year race. All six of them have to feel good about another crack at Extended – even with the rotation and bannings. Only Nick West and Ryuchi Arita have fallen back in the standings.

Japanese Magic shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Japanese players make up 60 percent of the Top 10 and those six players have finished “in the money” in 21 out of 28 Pro Tours they have attended.

Olivier Ruel continues to maintain his lead despite only two money finishes out of five Pro Tours attended. A large chunk of his points come from traveling around the world to Grand Prix tournaments – and the fact that he’s won two of them.

Pierre Canali has not been the flash in the pan that some people predicted after Columbus. Although he has not reached the Top 8 of another large event, he has finished in the money three times and posted solid results in some pretty damn big Grand Prix tournaments. He remains in the hunt for the Player of the Year title and – barring a Nuijten-type performance from some unknown player – seems to have all but locked up the Rookie of the Year race.

      Columbus Nagoya Atlanta Philadelphia London Avg. Place Median Best Worst Top 64 Events '05 Pro Points
1 Pierre Canali 1 119 105 38 44 61.4 44 1 119 3 5 41
2 julien goron 19 12 105 124 29 57.8 29 12 124 3 5 29
3 Don Smith 0 0 2 25 0 13.5 0 2 25 2 2 22
4 Nicholas West 3 222 0 141 238 201.33 141 3 238 1 3 22
5 Erik Gröndahl 0 0 0 14 82 48.0 0 14 82 1 2 16
6 Jeff Novekoff 0 0 0 6 212 109 0 6 212 1 2 16
7 Maximilian Bracht 0 0 0 0 12 12 N/A 12 12 1 1 15
8 Ryan Cimera 0 0 0 5 0 5 N/A 5 5 1 1 15
9 Camille Fenet 0 0 3 250 0 126.5 0 3 250 1 2 14
10 John Fiorillo 0 0 27 269 187 161 27 27 269 1 3 14

The most interesting thing to leap off this set of standings is the name Julien Goron. If his name seems familiar to you, it is because he is the current French National Champion. But unbeknownst to just about everyone outside of the Goron family, Julien was in the middle of a solid rookie season when he captured that honor. He is in second place with three very under-the-radar money finishes. With Los Angeles, Worlds, and the team portion of Worlds to work with, Julien can make a dark horse run at his countryman Canali.

The other thing that seems apparent – granted, it is a small sample – is that Don Smith needs to play in more events.

Firestarter: Got ‘em, got ‘em, need ‘em, got ‘em

So what are you going to do with the player cards you get in your Ravnica Tournament packs? Are there any players you hope to open? Head over to the forums and let us know what you think.

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