Counting the Days

Posted in The Week That Was on September 16, 2004

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.

Unless you were in Italy this past weekend, Magic has been a waiting game for the past week as we build up to the release of Champions of Kamigawa. Each day brings us another preview card, a new mechanic or keyword, and 24 hours closer to the release of the new block of cards.

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.

RankFirst NameLast NameCountryCompound Rating
1JeffGarzaUnited States2183
2DavidCoxUnited States2168
4EugeneHarveyUnited States2149
11GrgurPetric MareticCroatia (Hrvatska)2108
13Kyoung GeunNamKorea (South)2104
14Kwan ChingYuenSingapore2101
15DavidSolisUnited States2100
17AndrewCuneoUnited States2099
17JoshPhillipsUnited States2099
19RichardProffittUnited States2093
23BenjaminBlackmanUnited States2081
23JoshLewisUnited States2081
25BlakeQuelleUnited States2080
26MattSchmaltzUnited States2076
30ThomasGuevinUnited States2068
30JakubSlemrCzech Republic2068
30OmarBonillaDominican Republic2068
33JustinGaryUnited States2067
35ErikThorenUnited States2064
38Bryan DanielDominguezDominican Republic2063
43RaffaeleLo MoroItaly2060
46BrantFaulknerUnited States2058
49NickMevesUnited States2057
52KyleRoseUnited States2056
53RobertDoughertyUnited States2055
54PatrickMillerUnited States2054
56SashaZorcCroatia (Hrvatska)2053
56KyleGoodmanUnited States2053
58KyleJeffersonUnited States2051
59SeanFitzgeraldUnited States2050
61DavidHumpherysUnited States2049
61BrianSeldenUnited States2049
63OndrejBaudysCzech Republic2048
65ColeSwannackNew Zealand2047
68TravisTurningUnited States2046
68AaronBoyerUnited States2046
72JonathanWatsonUnited States2045
78KonradBrandtSouth Africa2042
80DeQuanWatsonUnited States2039
87AaronAmendoliaUnited States2036
88BrianLynchUnited States2035
88AlexLiebermanUnited States2035
91JoeGagliardiUnited States2034
92JosephKambourakisUnited States2033
96CarlosCoro SanchezBolivia2031
97SeanBuckleyUnited States2030
99KevinMacPheeUnited States2029

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.

PTQ Results

Event CityEvent DateEvent TO
Dallas, Texas (GP Trial)9/11/2004Edward 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)9/11/2004Steve 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)9/11/2004Alan 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)9/11/2004Jym 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

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