From Humble Beginnings…

Posted in The Week That Was on April 7, 2006

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.

What do the following players have in common?

  • David Bachmann
  • Jon Finkel
  • Jason Gordon
  • Brian Kibler
  • Bob Maher, Jr.
  • Paul McCabe
  • Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz
  • Dan O'Mahoney-Schwartz
  • Elijah Pollock
  • Justin Schneider
  • Brad Swan

If you said each has at least one Pro Tour Top 8 appearance, you'd be right. But it goes deeper than that. Since this column delves into the world of the Junior Super Series (the new season just started, for you younger readers out there), that should be a big hint. While none of these players ever played on the JSS as it exists today, they did all play at Pro Tour 1 in the Junior Division. Back in those days, the Pro Tour was broken out into age groups and at PT 1, the youngsters played on the top floor of the Puck Building while the Seniors got the plum Grand Ballroom on the ground floor.

I had volunteered to work at that event and was part of the judging staff. When they asked who wanted to work with each group, there was an overwhelming show of hands to work on the ground floor. Not me. My hand remained by my side. I knew where the action was. Just look over that list above…

New York's finest from the Juniors division.

On the New York Magic tournament scene, no one worked up a nervous sweat about playing anyone on the ground floor. Finkel, Bachmann, and Steve O, on the other hand? Many a grown man had to use Shout to get out the armpit stains when they faced off against these baby-faced assassins. I was heading upstairs to see the masters in the Juniors division.

Play in the JSS this season, and you'll take home this card.You want more harbingers? Along with the first appearances of such great players, the Juniors also featured Necro as the top deck. In the Masters event, Leon Lindbeck finished third with his Necro deck. That finish with Necro has been given more historical importance mostly due to the fact that the Juniors decklists are very difficult to find, and Leon's deck was immortalized in gold borders with the Top 8 Masters decks. However, Graham Totomer's Juniors-winning list was the one that all the New York area Magic kids dissected, stitched back together, and terrorized the locals with.

Jon Finkel also went on to make the first of countless Top 8s in his illustrious Hall of Fame career. It seems almost impossible that at least one more player from that top floor of the Puck Building won't be similarly enshrined this year as Bob Maher becomes eligible for year two induction. David Bachmann and Steve OMS remain eligible for this season and by next year when Brian Kibler joins the ballot, there could conceivably be as many as five players in the Hall of Fame who started out in Junior play at Pro Tour 1.

A couple of other interesting names from that very first tournament's Junior division include R&D's own Brian Schneider – easily one of the game's top deck designers – and incoming Limited Information scribe Noah Weil. While he did not play at that first event, Zvi Mowshowitz is another Junior division alum who has gone on to greater success as an adult.

The Junior Division was absorbed into the Senior Division in the middle of Season Two right before Pro Tour-Paris and players like Finkel, Steve OMS, and Maher hit the ground running. Eventually the Junior Division was replaced by the amateur-status Junior Super Series, which culminates each year in the Super Series Championship.

Take a trip down memory lane by reviewing past JSS Championship standings and see how many familiar names you come across.

The JSS Challenge events qualify players for the Championships and put $1,000 in scholarship money into an account for when the players are ready for a higher education (and no, I do not mean the Pro Tour). Players also receive exclusive foils for participating and additional goodies such as display boxes of cards and backpacks are given away for the Top 8 in each event. This season's participation prize is a foil Shard Phoenix with alternate art.

At the Championship, a pool of $100,000 worth of scholarships is given away to a deep group of players, with the winner taking home a $10,000 scholarship. Former coverage reporter Toby Wachter was a veteran of those Championship events, and while he never had huge success in the Championships he was able to pay for his college education thanks to the money he won playing in JSS and Championship events.

Kyle Goodman finished 10th at Pro Tour-Columbus after two years of JSS success.While the events do prepare players financially for college, they do also provide valuable competitive Magic experience for players on their way to a big-league Magic career. Gadiel Szleifer is the most successful recent graduate of the JSS on the Pro Tour level with two Top 8's last season, including his Sunday-seizing win in Philadelphia over Kenji Tsumura. Gadiel felt confident enough in his ability to play the game at the highest level after experiencing JSS success that he jumped up to the Pro ranks even though he was still eligible to play in JSS events.

Grand Prix-Madison finalist Kyle Goodman looks to be on a fast track himself after a stellar JSS career that included multiple Championship Top 8s. Adam Chambers finished fourth in a Super Series Championship in the 2001-2002 season before reaching the Top 4 of Pro Tour-Atlanta last year.

As you scroll down the standings from the 2001 season's championship, you see that Alex Lieberman, Billy Posthlethwait, Paul Rietzl, Adam Chambers (once again), and Jordan Berkowitz all came out of that class. That's just a taste of names the JSS has ushered into the ranks of the Pro Tour.

Career Builder 101

Not everyone wants to play Magic as a professional, but that is what is so great about the JSS. You can play for the cards, you can play for the scholarship money, or you can play for the experience. This year you can participate in a new way that doesn't even require you to play in the event – you just need to be 15 years of age or younger and a creative itch to scratch.

Think you might have the stuff to work at Wizards of the Coast some day? If you're 15 or younger, you can try your hand at the following categories during the JSS Championships in Atlanta:

  • Game Design
  • Fantasy Art
  • Fiction Writing
  • Strategy Articles and Tournament Reports

Have you ever wanted to change the rules of Magic? Write a story about it? Illustrate a card? Or maybe after reading about Magic, you have wanted to take a crack at writing a tournament report or feature match story like yours truly?

At this year's Super Series Championships in Atlanta (July 28-30), the "Create Your Own Magic" contest will provide aspiring writers, artists, and rules lawyers the opportunity to present submissions in one or all of the categories listed above for a chance to win a $1,000 scholarship and possibly see their creation here on Each participant will get a chance to present his or her entry to a panel from Wizards.

And just like the actual tournament, you get a participation prize just for showing up with an entry. Each creator who submits an entry will receive one free Fat Pack for his or her efforts. I double-checked that multiple times to make sure I wasn't reading it wrong but it seems pretty plain in the rules. Make a submission – only one per category – and get a free Fat pack with a retail value of almost thirty bucks.

How can you lose?

Recap: One Millionth Sanctioned Event

In this space last week I detailed a few fun facts about the upcoming One Millionth sanctioned Magic event. Well, that day came and went, and my friend and intrepid coverage reporter Keita Mori was on hand to detail the happenings. Here's his report from the scene:

Left to right, Ilja Rotelli (Wizards) Takeki Uyama (Lotus), Kenichi Sado (Takara-Tomy). Thirteen years have passed since Alex Parrish beat down the tournament with Juggernaut and Mons’ Goblin Raiders at the first sanctioned event at Gen Con in 1993.

On Friday March 31, 2006, the one millionth sanctioned Magic event was run! Mr. Uyama, a tournament organizer at a store called Lotus Kotesashi in Tokorozawa city, suburb of Tokyo, hosted the one millionth tournament. This store has been organizing Friday Night Magic tournaments for many years and today’s “regular” tournament happened to be a big one, the one millionth sanctioned event of Magic: The Gathering!


The event was celebrated by players and staff of the store, who were joined by Mr. Ilja Rotelli, director of operations, Organized Play of Wizards of the Coast, Mr. Paul Adachi, director of Japan office of Wizards of the Coast and Mr. Kenichi Sado, marketing manager from Takara-Tomy.

Framed copies of all FNM promo cards.

Mr. Ilja Rotelli welcomed all with these comments:

Human beings find milestones to be useful. They’re an opportunity to stop, look back, consider what you’ve done and hopefully get some inspiration for what to do in the future.

The first DCI sanctioned tournament event was run at Gen Con 13 years ago and tournament number 1,000,000 is about to begin here in this store, Lotus Kotesashi, in Japan. Throughout these years MTG tournaments have taken place in every continent, including Antarctica, with cards from 10 different languages, including Japanese. DCI sanctioned events have been held in more than 120 countries. We could not have made it happen without the continuous support and effort provided by tournament organizers like Mr. Uyama, card game store owners like Mr. Shimizu and services and distributors like Takara-Tomy. Above all, we could not have made it without all the passion for the game by all the players who have chosen to follow us throughout the years and keep on enjoying with us one of the best games ever made.

As a representative of Wizards of the Coast I came here to express to you, and to all the people who got involved in DCI tournaments this far, my deepest gratitude for making this event come true. On behalf of my company, you have my commitment to continue to provide great products and services for you in the future, ready to celebrate a few years from now tournament number 2,000,000.

Gentlemen, good luck, you may begin!

Standard tournament

Regular FNM participation had 14 local players, 3-round Standard format. The game began with Ilja’s call, “Good luck, you may begin!"

This player fills out a membership card celebrating the one millionth event. Future generations of Magic players will celebrate the two millionth tournament!

The store was full of players, including elementary students and medical doctors.

The winner of the one millionth tournament, Mr. Takahiro Machida, age 23. He has played Magic since the Urza’s Saga expansion was released. He has not played in a sanctioned event in the last six months but his technique did not show lack of practice and he smartly won with a sophisticated deck provided by his friend

It was a special day for this store. The store provided all kinds of great gifts for the players who participated the tournament.

Takahiro Machida

Download Arena Decklist

Hobby shop Lotus in Kotesashi city

This store is one of long-standing card game shops in Japan. It started to provide the first Japanese translated Magic cards, 4th Edition and has 10-year-history of MTG. The large varieties of Magic cards such as the discontinued starter set, Arabian Nights through the latest set, Guildpact, booster packs and single rare cards attract attracts local MTG players. This Magic premiere shop has a fully equipped 18-seat duel space that regularly gathers various Magic fans, businessmen, and school kids.

The staff of the store organize many different kinds of events, and one in particluar – the event called “Businessmen Tournament” – is worthy of remark. The events are exclusively for players over 20 years old, including Mr. Uyama and Mr. Shimizu. No wonder no one under 20 years old can participate in it because usually players get together drinking after the monthly event. ( Note: in Japan, 20 years old or older can have drinks in public.) The format of the event is flexible depending on how casual the players are.

Thanks Keita!

Firestarter: Make YOUR Own Magic

If you were 15 years old or younger and thinking about competing in this contest, which category would be the most enticing to you? Would you rather write a tournament report that might see publication on this site or would you rather tell a story? Change a rule or draw a card? Use the forums to share your specialty with us.

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