Grand Prix–Rimini closed the books on Mirrodin block, at least as far as major tournaments are concerned. There are still a smattering of Pro Tour Qualifiers on the ledger, but the next time a Grand Prix event rolls around it will be a Limited tournament that introduces the world to the newest block.
DCI overlord Ilja Rotelli had to be pleased as five of his countrymen made the quarterfinals in Rimini, the last Mirrodin Block Constructed Grand Prix. In the end, it was Italian Domingo Ottati who hoisted the trophy by playing blue-green control, taking out Tooth and Nail in the finals.
Despite what would seem like an optimistic finals that featured Tooth and Nail and blue-green, there were four Affinity decks in the Top 8, which has to leave players looking in the new set for answers to the deck in Standard format. R&D apparently has tried to create a flavor-based set in Champions and offered none of the mechanical hooks that have been a prominent feature in recent block releases. In previous seasons, Madness, Astral Slide, and Affinity have all dominated and then been supplanted by the next mechanic in previous seasons.
There will be no decks served up quite as obviously in the new set. Will players dig deep and find the decks that can knock off the king of the hill or will they just bring Affinity to States? Keep your eyes peeled this weekend for Constructed gems in your Limited tournaments.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
That is the question Aeo Paquette is asking himself about Pro Tour–Columbus. The 19-year-old Canadian has made the Top 8 in both Pro Tours he has ever played, but he is unsure about which event he will be attending next. After making the Top 8 of Pro Tour–Amsterdam, Aeo -- a self-proclaimed "Professional Slacker" -- did not attend the next few events that he found himself qualified to play in.
“I didn't want to go to Kobe because it was far/expensive and I didn't test very much…I was starting to play less at the time," he explained. “After that I quit for several months. So I didn't go to the next limited PT that Herzog won 'cause I wasn't playing at the time.”
He eventually squandered his PT points and was actually not qualified for Worlds on the basis of his Amsterdam experience. Paquette had finished second to Andrew Cuneo last year in the first Magic Online Worlds Qualifier and in some way it got him to Worlds this year. They say nobody ever actually quits the game, and the avid MTGO player soon found himself being drawn back.
“I got into the game again, starting playing on modo more, and I qualified through my rating so I figured why not,” he shrugged.
From there he prepared for the event with Canadian National team member Mike Thicke and former Week-in-Reviewer Jeff Cunningham. He focused on Standard and draft, choosing to worry about Block at a later point. He ended up cobbling together his Mirrodin Block deck from his Standard build, making a few changes based on the fact that there was so much anti-Affinity in the format. His Standard deck -- soon to be 'immortalized' in the Worlds 2004 decks -- featured Chrome Mox to accelerate his draws against March of the Machines decks and Tooth and Nail. With almost every non-Affinity deck in block running some kind of main-deck artifact removal, he cut them from his Day 3 deck.
His Standard deck build was interesting for a number of reasons. In addition to the Chrome Mox, he ran Shrapnel Blasts, Ornithopters, and zero Myr Enforcers. Many players complain about the color requirements of the Shrapnel Blasts and have cut them from most Affinity builds. Paquette found that they actually worked well with the aforementioned Chrome Mox.
“The Mox is pretty decent in type 2.," Paquette said. "I think they are just far better then Vial seeing as it doesn't actually do anything. Basically they take the place of Chromatic Sphere. Also, if you have a card in hand that you can't cast due to mana issues you can just imprint it.”
As for the absence of the Myr Enforcers, “I played Somber Hoverguards instead, mostly because I needed cards to imprint on the Mox but I think it was just better in my deck also because of the four Cranial Plating.”
Paquette piloted his deck through two rounds of the Top 8 and met up with Nuijten in the finals. Between the prize differential and the standings in the Player-of-the-Year race for the end-of-year payout, there was more money on the line than there had ever been before in a single match of Magic.
“A lot of things were going through my mind," Paquette said. "I was already very happy to come so far and I knew how bad the match up was, but still the idea of being World Champion and all of the extra money kept popping onto my head. All I can say is I've never been so nervous in my life. I've never even come close to being as nervous as I was there before in my life so I didn't really know what to do myself.”
Regardless of his emotional state, Paquette did not think there was much he could have done to alter the outcome of the finals.
“I don't believe the matchup is winnable in a best-of-five match," Paquette said. "The only game I won out of the four we played was the one where I played my whole hand on turn one and I still would have lost to an Oxidize for my Plating.”
Still it marked an improvement from his last Pro Tour Top 8, when Paquette did not win a game. If he continues to improve on that curve, the $40,000 he won last year playing Magic should be dwarfed by this coming season when he wins every Pro Tour he plays in, right? Don't tell that to Aeo, who may not even attend Columbus.
“I'm not completely sure but currently I'm thinking I'm not going to go to the Extended one because I've never played Extended before and I know absolutely nothing about the format. So if I go I would like to be prepared and that means a lot of play testing which I have never done.”
Personally, I think success may have come to easily for young Aeo. He does not seem to have a sense of what a prodigious achievement making the Top 8 of his first two Pro Tours actually is. I am not completely sure, but I think you need to go back as far as Shawn “Hammer” Regnier and Preston Poulter who accomplished the feat in the first two PTs. I believe Kamiel was playing in his second Pro Tour when he made his first Top 8, and even if there is one or two more examples it is a remarkable and rare feat.
Amazingly, Paquette does not have the sense of entitlement many players with consecutive Top 8 berths would find themselves saddled with. Despite winning $40,000 and coming a match shy of almost $60,000, he is reluctant to anticipate similar success in the future -- although he will not dismiss it as possibility.
“I think I could make money playing Magic, but not enough to make a living. Consistently, I don't think I will make $40,000 a year. I'm still debating even going to Columbus. But I think if I make three straight Top 8s it might influence me to try harder and make a living off of it.
“I just believe there are a lot more than eight very good people playing on the Pro Tour and that means that they can't all make Top 8 in every event.”
Paquette is going to wait and see how Champions of Kamigawa treats him before making a decision about attending Pro Tour–Nagoya. The next time he shows up on the tour could be in Atlanta for the next team event, where he hopes to play with Jeff Cunningham and Mark Zajdner. Based on his "reservation" at the Sunday Pro Tour table I'm sure he will have no trouble securing them or anyone else he is interested in playing with.
That is, if he shows up.
Counting down to Columbus
Grand Prix–Rimini sent a series of ripples through the invite list for the upcoming Pro Tour in Columbus. It was the last major event to take place before the ratings run earlier this week. It qualified eight new players, as well as propelling players up and down the ratings ladder. Joe Kambourakis -- last seen reporting from Grand Prix–New Jersey -- has been following the fluctuations acutely the past few weeks. He had a 2033 constructed rating and was hoping it would be enough to squeeze into the Top 50 for the purposes of a ratings invite.
According to the most recent run that put him in 92nd worldwide. Fortunately for him, the invites pass down if the players ahead of you are previously invited. With names like Jeff Garza, Gabriel Nassif, and Julien Nuijten (to name a few players who have popped up in my column recently) on or near the top of the list, there were plenty of slots to trickle down. Kambourakis tracked down as much info as he could regarding Pro Point invites and PTQ slots that were awarded and has determined that he is 49th among players without an invite. That means the invites would pass down as far as the three players tied for 93rd -- Sigurd Eskeland, Alex Lecky, and Kentarou Ino.
Kambourakis' research is by no means official but it should give players a pretty good idea of where they needed to be to earn an invite to Pro Tour–Columbus. Here are the Top 100 players in Constructed as of the most recent ratings run. Congrats to everyone who made it.
|Rank||First Name||Last Name||Country||Compound Rating|
|11||Grgur||Petric Maretic||Croatia (Hrvatska)||2108|
|13||Kyoung Geun||Nam||Korea (South)||2104|
|38||Bryan Daniel||Dominguez||Dominican Republic||2063|
All in and All Over
If you have flipped by any of the ESPN family of channels in the past few days you have likely seen Magic's own David Williams losing in a heads-up match to Greg Raymer at the 2004 World Series of Poker. And by losing, I mean taking home $3.5 million for finishing second. Williams lurked back in the pack for most of the earlier installments and leapt to the top tables as the tournament winnowed down the field. There was not much footage of him early but the last few shows featured him prominently. If you look close you can see a number of Dave's Magic friends rooting him on from the sidelines.
I should have an interview with Magic's most famous player for next week's installment of The Week that Was.
|Event City||Event Date||Event TO|
|Dallas, Texas (GP Trial)||9/11/2004||Edward Fox|
|Finish: 1. Jeffrey LaRue; 2. Andy Anders; 3. Robert Moore; 4. Eric Knapp; 5. Leonard Lansford; 6. Jeremy Ross; 7. Jeffrey Haskovec; 8. Jeffrey Zandi|
|Manhattan, Kan. (GP Trial)||9/11/2004||Steve Ferrell|
|Finish: 1. Thomas Glowiak; 2. Richard Germar; 3. Mohammad Mohmand; 4. Loren Canady; 5. Leroy Denaoyer; 6. Quanah Gray; 7. James Zhan; 8. Chris Standfuss|
|Chicago, Ill. (PT Qualifier)||9/11/2004||Alan Hochman|
|Finish: 1. Timothy Gruneich; 2. Jeff Novekoff; 3. Thomas LaPille; 4. Michael Purn; 5. C.J. Morello; 6. Joel Stob; 7. Eddie Bontkowski; 8. Jimmy Fricke|
|High Point, N.C. (PT Qualifier)||9/11/2004||Jim Bailey|
|Finish: 1. Shaun Mack; 2. John Spires; 3. Matthew Kimbrell; 4. Justin LaRose; 5. Paul Hayworth; 6. Lawrence Creech; 7. Andrew Carrier; 8. Conrad Kirby|
|Nashville, Tenn. (PT Qualifier)||9/11/2004||Jym Recsinti|
|Finish: 1. Donald Buchanan; 2. Matthew Frazier; 3. Christian Valenti; 4. Ron Eubank; 5. Harry Baker; 6. Robert Watson; 7. John Mayes; 8. Chris Rheal|
|Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. (PT Qualifier)||9/11/2004||Marvin Paguirigan|
|Finish: 1. Mark Zajdner; 2. Mike Frac; 3. Michael Abramovich; 4. Filip Hajduk; 5. Mike Vasovski; 6. Barry Slade; 7. Michael Singh; 8. Scott Sweezey|