Surrounded by cheering fans, two combatants enter the pillar-lined ring. Their weapons carefully chosen and a lifetime of experience at their backs, they are prepared for only one outcome: victory. They know not what awaits them. It could be Knights and Rangers fighting for the Honor of the Pure. It could be a Noble Hierarch come to mete out the justice of their god. It could be a collection of wild animals. The only thing that's certain is that preparation, experience, and their wits are all the competitors have to rely on. They take their place in the ring, wait for the signal, and await their fate.
Two thousand years ago, this scene would have been a commonplace one, as noble gladiators were cheered on by hordes of onlooking Romans. Today, it applies equally well to the Magic: The Gathering World Championships held in Rome, just a few miles away from the ancient Colosseum. There, in the "Capital of the World," 409 players entered the Palazzo dei Congressi knowing that only one of them would survive the grueling twenty-one-round onslaught across three formats testing the breadth of their skills, and eventually emerge as the Magic: The Gathering World Champion. Also up for grabs was the World Team Championship, pitting 64 three-player teams from around the world against each other across the eighteen rounds of pre-Top 8 individual play as well as four rounds of team play, with the four highest-ranked teams across all those rounds heading to the Top 4.
In addition to the battle for the right to be named Magic: The Gathering World Champion, Worlds also provides recognition of feats of strength both current and old. During the opening ceremonies, before any play begins, the Magic community takes time to enshrine its newest class of Hall of Famers. These players are recognized as among the greatest to ever play the game, and they are a select company. On the other bookend of the weekend, the Player and Rookie of the year are decided and recognized. Usually, these contests come into Worlds as of yet undecided. A player's strong finish in Worlds can shift them into the lead while an abysmal one can drop a player out of contention.
Worlds is a unique event. It occupies the spot as the last Pro Tour event of the year. Like other Pro Tours, it is an invitation-only event. Exceptional players, such as those with an already high Pro Players Club level or personal rating, will be qualified just like any other Pro Tour. Unlike most Pro Tours, however, it has a single round of qualifying tournaments. There aren't wave after wave of PTQs to attend. You have one shot: qualify at Nationals.
Let's say you aren't qualified (like me). You may be wondering why you should be interested in going to Worlds. Well that answer's easy. Just like any Pro Tour, there are dozens of public events to play in, including more side drafts, Constructed tournaments, and Sealed Deck tournaments than you could ever play in, not to mention the always huge and fun Super Friday Night Magic. Also, seeing as how Worlds is a unique Pro Tour, it has many unique events to play in, such as the Play the Game, See the World tournament. There are also Pro Tour qualifiers for each Pro Tour next year. There are generic Grand Prix trials, which allow you to use the byes at any Grand Prix you feel like attending. Lastly, and my personal favorite, there's a Draft Challenge on the last day that will see you pitted against other players, including some out-of-contention Worlds competitors, to see who the best drafter is. For a full list of the public event winners, stay tuned until the end of the story.
I know there are those of you who are looking for more than just tournaments to play in. Luckily for you, Worlds offers a whole host of ancillary events that are right up your alley. First up is the Magic Game Show game show hosted by the devastatingly funny and terribly British Rich Hagon. You may recognize Rich as the voice behind the podcasts featured in our coverage. The Magic Game Show is a game show featuring increasingly difficult Magic-related trivia questions with increasingly larger prize support. Answer enough questions right, and you may find yourself walking out with one thousand shiny new rares!
The next big event for players interested is the Question Mark game show. While usually hosted by Mark Rosewater, hosting duties this year fell to local Italian-American celebrity and two-time runner-up for jolly man of the year, Antonino De Rosa. This game is played in the style of a Magic tournament, with teams of three battling heads-up for eight Swiss rounds before a cut to Top 8. The questions are usually in list form, such as "There are twenty-seven creatures in Magic with islandwalk. Name as many as you can." The team with the most correct answers wins. Honestly, it's some of the most fun I had all weekend.
I don't know about you, but I always find it intriguing to meet and play against some of the people who created the game. After all, who knows more about the cards than the guys who made them? The Champion Challenge is an arena set up where anyone who wants can challenge the famous names behind the game to a game of Magic. Some of the celebrities featured at this Champion Challenge include the Potato himself, Mike Turian; director of Magic R&D Aaron Forsythe; designer, developer, and Latest Developments contributor Tom LaPille; and a little-known gentleman named Richard Garfield. These guys are a blast to play against, and some of their stories about card development are incredibly entertaining.
Another major reason to attend Worlds is something I've cultivated over the past few years doing coverage: I absolutely love to watch Magic, especially when played at its highest level. Thanks to all of this exposure and watching, I'm playing at my highest level ever, and enjoying the game far more. At Worlds, there are four solid days of Magic to watch. Wander around, check out the matches being played in the main hall. Perhaps dip in to check out the matches going on in the Arena, which are hand-picked for their importance or because of the quality of the players in the match. On Sunday, curl up in the auditorium and watch the Top 8 as the guys in the booth give you the analysis and commentary. Rove through the PTQs or side drafts to watch how things are going. The possibilities for watching Magic are virtually endless, and I love it.
The last thing I really want to mention in the ancillary events is something I don't think gets enough recognition: the artists. At every Pro Tour event, and many Grand Prix, Wizards of the Coast is kind enough to send a few artists out to experience the end result of all of their hard work. Magic is an incredibly visual game, and Wizards has worked incredibly hard in the past decade to marry the form and function of the game so that flavor is almost indistinguishable from design. I, for one, think they've done an excellent job. Artwork has a very special place in all of this.
What do you think of when you see a massive red creature with flying? You think of a dragon, right? What if it was white? An angel. But the reason they resonate so well with you is that since the very first dragon and angel printed, you've been given tremendous examples of what these game mechanics translate into in the Magic world. Ask most longtime Magic players what the two most iconic cards ever printed are, and chances are they will say Shivan Dragon and Serra Angel. Why are they so iconic? I think the biggest reason comes down to their art. Thanks to the art, you aren't attacking with a 5/5 flying red creature with firebreathing, you're attacking with a freaking dragon! For those with a little Vorthos in you (and I contend that everyone has at least a little Vorthos in them), this is a major reason the game is so cool.
Honestly, without the art, the game becomes dry and stale, tiny pieces of card stock with words on them. It's a statement to how important the art is that players line up over an hour before their favorite artist shows up to sign cards, waiting in line to get a personalized card. They treasure it that much. The artist area is always the busiest area of the building, with the exception of wherever Richard Garfield happens to be at the moment. While the lines can get long, in the end, it's worth it. I have quite a few one-of-a-kinds that I treasure. If you're ever at a tournament that has a Magic artist in attendance, I highly recommend checking them out and letting them know how much you appreciate what they do for the game. It wouldn't be the same without them; they tell the story of Magic.
Every Worlds experience is unique, a story unlike any other. This trip to Rome marked my third trip to Worlds, and I have to say that it was my favorite trip yet. I'm always on the lookout to have a good time and pick up a good story or two, and this trip provided me with enough to write a book (or at least a 7,000-word article). Here are a few of my favorites. Hopefully, you enjoy them, and they prove that Pro Tours, and especially Worlds, are full of experiences you will carry with you for a lifetime, whether you're qualified or not.
My story begins in the Philadelphia International Airport. I've learned in my many years of traveling to dress for comfort when flying more than a couple of hours, so I'm all dolled up in my Indiana Pacers breakaway pants and a hoodie. Wandering from my flight in from Indianapolis, I run into Brian Kibler just outside the food court. We say hello to each other, and he lets me know that we've got a few other Magic players on our flight. This is good news. There is nothing more boring than a nine-hour flight with nothing to do, except a longer flight with nothing to do. Having a flight with Magic players ensures that there's at least a possibility of drafting at 30,000 feet. Getting to the gate, I run into a menagerie of American Magic players, including two-thirds of the American team, Charles Gindy and Adam Yurchick, as well as Pat Chapin, Gerard Fabiano, Michael Jacob, and Ben Lundquist. These are all great guys, so I know the trip out is going to be a good one. I sidle up and say hello. We talk for a bit and realize that we're all in roughly the same area of the plane. I smell a draft!
Upon getting on the plane, though, I was a little let down. It turned out we were a little too spread out for the draft to work logistically. Chapin spent much of the flight working on a project of his own. Gerard was nodding in and out of sleep. While he was conscious, he kept picking up the Italian for Dummies book he'd brought with him. When Olivier Ruel, who was right in front of me on the flight, saw what he was reading, he looked over at Gerard and asked him, "Italian for Dummies? What is 'Fabiano'?" Gerard just smiled and said with a shake of his head, "Italian. I don't want to show up and not know any of the language." After questioning Gerard, Olivier went back to the game he was playing with Martin Juza. It went a little something like this:
You get the picture.
After about fifteen minutes of this (seriously), Juza finally won the game by being the first to fall asleep. Across the cabin, Michael Jacob was engrossed in the new Wheel of Time novel, which I picked up recently as well. Unfortunately, it had been long enough since I last read the series that I refused to read it until I'd caught myself back up. I brought books five and six in the series on the flight and got to work. Four hundred pages, two and a half movies, and about forty-five minutes of sleep later, we got the message that we were beginning our initial descent. Hooray!
As we are going through the customs department, while looking at my magnificent pants, Gerard asked me if I'd ever tried to convince anyone that I played for the Pacers. For those of you who don't know, I'm about 6'6", and the Pacers aren't the Lakers, so I might be able to pull it off. No sooner had he said that than the guy who was running the x-ray machine looked at me with widening eyes and asked, "Do you play for the Pacers?" Without missing a beat, I shot back, "Yes. I'm Tyler Hansbrough." Needless to say, we all got a kick out of the coincidence.
I want to preface this next part by saying that anyone who thinks that cab drivers in America are bad, you are spoiled. I don't care if you live in Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles, cab drivers in the U.S. don't have anything on the rest of the world. I almost died three times on the way to the hotel, and that isn't even a record for me. That belongs to the cab ride I took from the airport in São Paulo this year. To this day, I'm sure that I've been living in the coma that cab ride put me in. This cab ride was just fine until we hit traffic, which is apparently Italian for get out of my freaking way. Long story short, mostly because the driver was going so fast, we got to the hotel in (mostly) one piece. As I'm walking in, I run into two of my coverage compatriots, Greg Collins and Brian David-Marshall, on their way out. They tell me they're headed for breakfast and then out to sightsee. I ask to come along on the sightseeing trip, and they agree to hook up with me after food.
After a quick change out of my faux-Pacers uniform, I met up with Brian and Greg and we set out for the Vatican. This was my second trip to Rome, but this would be my first time in the center of Catholicism. Almost as soon as we step off the train, we ran right into a wall of people holding leaflets and shouting at us. No, it wasn't an underground kickboxing match. It was the dreaded tour guides. These people were more persistent than Kitchen Finks with an Ajani Goldmane out. Despite our protestations that we weren't interested in a guide, one lady followed us all the way from the train station to the entrance to the Vatican, which is like a ten-minute walk. Eventually Brian had to step in and tell her that we were already meeting some people who had a tour lined up for us. Somehow that worked, and she faded back into the mob.
Now freed from the tour guides, we set about checking out the Vatican. During our trip through the smallest country in the world, we stopped to check out St. Peter's Basilica, including a trip through the Tomb of the Popes and up to the Cupola. The entire place was just awe-inspiring and overwhelmingly impressive, and I'm not even Catholic. You know how sometimes they use plastic food to take pictures for advertising because there's no way that the real thing can look that good? That's exactly what the Basilica was like. It's like the perfect Catholic Church, with intricate sculpture, construction, and decoration everywhere you look. My favorite parts of the Basilica were the confessional booths, which were original, and cut so their backs were perfectly in line with the curvature and shape of the walls they were to press up against, as though they were built out of the walls themselves.
I think the most impressive part of the trip to the Vatican was our trip up to the Cupola. The Cupola is effectively the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, a structure that can be externally recognized from just about anywhere in Rome. After taking a short elevator ride, we had to take a few hundred steps through corridors straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Eventually, you get to the top and are rewarded with a view of Rome that is simply breathtaking.
The last part of the first day in Rome was taken up with a trip to the Sistine Chapel, which was awe-inspiring. I don't think we spent more than ten minutes admiring any particular room of the Vatican Museums until we got to the final, iconic chamber. We spent about 45 minutes in that room. It was just so busy, and yet so well organized; it was really cool to see and recognize all of the patterns going around the room, like how one row is popes and another prophets. Not to mention that the quality of the art at some points was so amazing that it looked three-dimensional.
After a quick dinner, I went back to the hotel and slept the sleep of the dead. And the ridiculously jet-lagged. The next morning, I woke up and met up with Bill Stark and Evan Erwin in the breakfast room. Today was our last day of sightseeing before the real work began, so we decided to head out and check out a few more of the remnants of the classical world: the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Forum.
Upon arriving at the Colosseum's stop, we were once again assaulted by the zombie hordes (read: tour guides). Through a combination of just being too weak to resist and getting a positive recommendation from Magic Online brand manager Worth Wollpert—plus I think one of them bit me—we decided that we couldn't beat them, so we'd join them. Fortunately, our freshly minted status as members of the growing zombie horde allowed us a few special privileges. We were able to skip past the ticket lines, had access to an expert's knowledge, and gained B: Regenerate from our tour guide.
Like everything else we'd seen thus far in Rome, the Colosseum was pretty amazing. Thinking about the age of the place and what it must have been like at its peak is simply stunning. Glowing marble, raving spectators, and savage gladiators—they even filled the Colosseum with water sometimes to have massive mock naval battles! That's like playing Battleship with real battleships! I'm pretty sure I've been rudely awakened during that dream before.
I think the highlight of our excursion through the most well-known sports stadium in the world had to be when we were given free rein to wander around as we saw fit for about fifteen minutes before our tour reconvened across the street at the Palatine Hill. We walked around the lower level of the Colosseum looking for a stairway to take us to the upper deck (where the season ticket holders sat) and stumbled upon two guys who had the right idea. Where better to test the Jund / Zoo match-up than at the freaking Colosseum? Nowhere, that's where. Two Spanish Magic players had made the trip to the Colosseum to check it out and decided to have a little competition in one of the most competitive buildings of all time. After giving them obligatory high fives, the three of us scooted out to our next stops: the Palatine Hill and the Forum.
One of the seven hills of Rome, the Palatine Hill is traditionally seen as the hill upon which Rome was originally founded. It is currently home to the ruins of the Flavian Palace, which was one of the first houses to ever appear on MTV's "Cribs." It had an indoor sporting complex known as a hippodrome, a dining room larger than my house, and a place to keep at least thirty souped up chariots ridin' on 45s. Our tour guide for this part of the tour was an hilarious Englishman who really did make sure that a funny thing did happen on our way to the Forum, which was the final third of our tour. During this part of our tour, we learned that the Forum had essentially been under about twenty feet of settled dirt until it was excavated, which I wouldn't have been able to tell if I hadn't been told. We also learned that Romans love to build arches to celebrate how awesome they were. We just beat the Egyptians. Let's build an arch! We sacked Jerusalem. Let's build an arch! I'm going to start doing that in Indianapolis. I just won a PTQ. Let's build an arch! The only real difference will be that my arch won't be fifty feet tall and made of marble.
As much fun as I was having just exploring Rome, I couldn't wait for Worlds to actually start. After all, it's why I was in Rome. Thursday morning, bright and early, I got up prepared for a good day. For those of you that don't know, I love Limited Magic. Thursday morning marked the first PTQ of the weekend, and it was Zendikar Sealed Deck. Time to play my first sanctioned Magic of the weekend. I got to the site, said hello, and wished luck to some of my friends, and registered for the PTQ.
I was amazed at my Sealed Deck pool. I'm used to seeing a collection of cards that I have to struggle to squeeze a 40-card deck out of. Instead, I was gifted by a pool that was almost too deep. Every color was a reasonable choice for inclusion. I had decent red and black removal, although there wasn't a whole lot of it. I had great green cards, including Rampaging Baloths and Beastmaster Ascension. Ultimately, though, I went with a white-blue build that got to take advantage of double Kazandu Blademaster, double Umara Raptor, double Welkin Tern, Celestial Mantle, and Luminarch Ascension. The deck was ridiculously aggressive, and I managed to win multiple matches on the power of my Ascension protected by triple Makindi Shieldmate.
After starting 5-0, I ran into a roadblock by the name of Antonino De Rosa. Ant's deck was pretty sick, containing virtually every good black card printed, including a Malakir Bloodwitch that did me in both games I lost. Ant's a great guy and always fun to play against, so I didn't mind losing to him too much. Sadly, I lost the round immediately following that one to a little card named Sorin Markov.
I'm pretty sure I heard Pat Chapin say that no one has ever beaten a Sorin Markov on the battlefield. Brian Kibler disagreed. "I beat him once. I had a Punishing Fire." Of course Kibler had a Punishing Fire. Unfortunately, I didn't have a good way to deal with the planeswalker. He found a way around my Cancel both games he hit, and I lost in short order.
Now out of Top 8 contention, I dropped from the tournament fairly happy with my result. It was the first sanctioned Magic I'd played in a long time, and I felt very good about my play. I had to play pretty tight to win a few of the matches, and don't think I made any real mistakes in the matches I lost. All in all, barring the whole not winning thing, I considered it a successful tournament. With nothing else to do after my gracious exit from the PTQ, I headed down to watch some Magic. It was the beginning of the Worlds team rounds, and I immediately found the match I wanted to watch. Sporting some killer blue jerseys, Team Japan was facing off against Team Malaysia in a Ring of Fire grudge match. I love watching Shuhei Nakamura and Yuuya Watanabe play, so I stopped by to watch the matches.
I will admit that I spent most of the time watching Watanabe's match, since I found it so interesting. He was the Extended player for his team and was playing Dredge, just like he did in Austin. I'm kind of partial to the deck since I played it in Standard a while back and really liked the things that had been done to it for Extended with the advent of Zendikar. After that round, I moved to the Arena to watch Team Japan one more time, this time helping reporter Tim Willoughby with his coverage that round. I figured that since I was watching, I might as well lend a hand also.
Thursday night capped a great day with two of my favorite activities: eating and drafting. To be honest, that's how pretty much every day on the Pro Tour ends—we go get food, head back to the hotel, and draft until we get too tired to see the cards. It's one of my favorite things about being in the same place as hundreds of other Magic players. It also goes to show how addictive the game can be. Even after spending the whole day trying to play mistake-free Magic, players still haven't gotten enough. The crack of a pack is like a dog whistle, drawing the attention of every gamer in a three-block radius.
Friday at Worlds is possibly my favorite day of the year in Magic—draft day. I love drafting. Though I am rapidly becoming a huge fan of casual Constructed formats like Elder Dragon Highlander and some of the Magic Online formats like Prismatic, nothing will ever draw my attention more than a good draft. Watching the Pros draft is like taking finals in a class for me. Do I know what this guy's going to draft from each pack? Is he seeing the signals the same way I am? It's always a great feeling knowing that things went exactly the same way as they would have had I been the one with the cards in my hands.
In addition, watching drafts gives me a bad case of what I call Mighty Ducks Syndrome. When I was a kid, every time I watched The Mighty Ducks, I was overwhelmed with this sudden desire to go play some hockey. Whenever I watch someone else drafting, I just get that itch and have to draft. I love drafting so much that I skipped the Extended PTQ just to watch the Worlds competitors draft.
After getting my draft addiction under control (I taped a booster pack to my side like the patch), I headed out to play some Magic. As early in the day as it was, the Champion Challenge area was a little deserted, so I sat down to give the lonely-looking designers someone to battle. I played Duel Decks: Liliana vs. Garruk with Mike Turian (my Liliana was victorious), a little Elder Dragon Highlander with Aaron Forsythe (his Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder had an amazing comeback to beat my Multani, Maro-Sorcerer), and signed up to battle Richard Garfield. By the time Richard showed up, the area was packed. It had been steadily filling up ever since I sat down, so by this point, everyone had a deluge of opponents.
This was the second time I got the chance to play against Richard Garfield, the last coming at U.S. Nationals a few years ago in Baltimore. Usually, Richard spends a little time before coming to the Champion Challenge creating some unique cards that he slides into decks, waiting to play them on an unsuspecting, and usually giddy, opponent. Unfortunately, he had been so busy with the line of one hundred or so people waiting to get cards signed that he wasn't able to make any new cards. Instead, we just opted to play some more Garruk vs. Liliana, this time with me on the green machine. Throughout our match, people who hadn't gotten to wade through the line kept coming up and asking to get cards signed. It's really amazing to me how much people really love Richard. He's the ultimate Magic celebrity, and people just can't get enough of him.
The best part is that he's not some ridiculously robotic, impervious-to-mistakes player. He's just a regular guy, like most of us who played him. He had to ask Turian a rules question at one point during our match. He forgot that Rancor gave trample at one point. My favorite thing about playing him was that you could see he was having a great time. He just spent the previous couple of hours waiting at the end of a huge line of people, and this was his second stint in the Champion Challenge corner, and he was still having a great time playing the game he created. Now that's the type of person I always want to play against.
There was a slightly shorter day for the coverage team on Friday. Yay! That meant more time for dinner and drafting. Are you noticing a theme here?
Saturday split my attention all over the place. Down in the main hall, it was Extended day, and I really like the current Extended format. It's wide open, and there are tons of entertaining decks running around. Upstairs, the PTQ du jour was Standard, and my friend Gerry Thompson was playing his "Spread 'Em" deck that got featured in the Worlds coverage. There were also some cool things that I didn't get to do on the previous days that I really wanted to, namely check out the Duels of the Planeswalkers Xbox game.
I started off watching a round or two of Gerry's deck in the PTQ. Let's just say that at first, cascading into a card that just turns your opponent's land into an Island seems terrible. And then, that opponent just stops being able to cast spells and things get hilarious. At one point, one of Gerry's opponents had nine lands in play, seven of which were Islands. Unable to take any more, my aching sides and I went down to watch some Extended.
I caught up with another pair of Americans, Cedric Phillips and Brandon Scheel, to see how they were doing. Both were still in contention for Top 8, though it was going to take a monumental effort to get there. We ended up having an interesting discussion about deck choice in terms of a player's goals for a particular phase of the tournament. Cedric was playing to make Top 8, but he needed to 6-0 to get there. Consequently, he chose a deck that was capable of exploding to a 6-0 finish: Dredge. Scheel, on the other hand, was simply playing to Top 100, needing a 3-3 record. He chose Rubin Zoo for its consistency, even though it was expected by most of the field. I just thought that was an interesting way to look at a multi-stage tournament like Worlds and what deck a player should play.
After watching some things happen that could only happen to a Dredge deck (like a turn-four win off a mulligan to four), I headed out to play some Xbox. This was my first time playing Duels of the Planeswalkers, and it took me a little while to get used to it. It reminded me a lot of the first few times I played Magic Online. I clicked through a few attack steps. At first I couldn't figure out how to cast spells in response to anything. (Guess I should have played the tutorial?) Eventually, I put it all together and came out without losing a single game. After getting used to the controls, I really had a good time.
The AI for the game is pretty decent. I expected it to be better than the old Shandalar game, where opponents sometimes tapped their lands and mana burned for no reason, but I don't think I expected it to be as fluid as it was. Another thing I really like is the way you collect cards from winning games. I'm a glutton for punishment, so I love grinding aspects to games like this. I could easily see myself sitting in front of the game for hours as I painstakingly unlocked every card in the game. If it's worth doing, it's worth getting 100% on, if you ask me.
On Saturday night, things got really fun. I put the call out earlier in the day to anyone who wanted to be on my three-man team for the Question Mark game show. When the time came, my team (named the Gerard Fabiano Fan Club) consisted of me, Tim Willoughby (the English me), and Claudia Nellessen, a German judge Tim introduced me to earlier in the weekend. The only teams we were really concerned about in the competition were reigning World Champion Antti Malin's team and the German team led by Andre Müller. Andre is like the Terminator of this game. Every event we've ever been at together, he's won Question Mark. This time, we were going to stop him.
Things didn't start off too well. Tim and Claudia were a little late to the game, so I had to play the first round by myself. The first question was to name all the equipment in Standard. I nailed all of the Zendikar pieces and some of the important ones from Magic 2010, but for some reason, I couldn't remember that Shards block was still in Standard. Needless to say, I was a bit behind when it came to the count. Soon thereafter, though, Tim and Claudia showed up and we went on a tear, winning all of our remaining seven rounds and going into the Top 8 as the second seed. Unfortunately, we couldn't remember as many uncounterable creatures as our quarterfinal opponents could (what the heck is a Great Sable Stag?!). Despite this loss, we had a great time and can't wait until next year so we can improve on this year's mark by winning the whole thing. After a nice dinner at the birthplace of carbonara and, you guessed it, more drafting, I turned in for the night to prepare for the final day of work and play.
Sundays at Worlds always have a ton going on. The individual Top 8, Team Finals, Magic Online World Championships, and the last stage of the Play the Game, See the World tournament all fall on to this action-packed day. I started today off by having to get all dolled up in my coverage gear to cover the Quarterfinal match between Terry Soh and Manuel Bucher. It was an interesting match where a couple of the games were literally decided by the coin flip. You can read about it here. My match was the next to last to finish, with only Bram Snepvangers' match going longer. Unfortunately, this meant that I missed the other results, as well as the impressive Game 4 in Bram's match.
After getting out from under the Sunday lights, I had to run over to the Magic Online area to cover the finals of the Magic Online World Championships. Whereas my paper Magic match had taken upwards of an hour, this match took twelve minutes. It went by so fast that I was almost unable to keep up with the action. Again, you can read about it here.
After my match coverage duties were over, I got the chance to head over to the sick auditorium setup that Wizards had put together for the Top 8 webcast. This might have actually been the best setup they've ever had for this part of the event. It was seriously an auditorium, just like a movie theater, but with Magic being broadcast. The booth was set up with Randy Buehler and Brian David-Marshall providing the soundtrack for two great finals performances. The atmosphere in the auditorium was electric during the final game of the individual finals, with probably more than half of the 900 seats filled with cheering Magic fans. There was a large contingent of Portuguese and Brazilian players up front who started cheering at the top of their lungs every time David Reitbauer drew a blank against Andre Coimbra in the finals. When he extended his hand at the end of the match, the place erupted so loud I thought I'd have hearing problems for the next week.
Sadly, due to the hectic scheduling of Sunday, I missed out on the finals of the Play the Game, See the World tournament. Thanks to the magic powers of the Internet, I was able to get in touch with the winner, ---, after the fact. I felt it very important to get to talk to him due to the uniqueness of the prize. As the winner, he won free airfare and hotel for every Pro Tour next year, including Worlds.
--- is a student from the Netherlands who qualified for the tournament by winning a Standard Qualifier in Amsterdam. He also happens to be a judge, though he'll probably be spending more time playing in events now rather than judging them. After all, winning the tournament got him everything he needs to compete at the Pro Tour except the invite. That he'll have to earn through the conventional means, and that means PTQs. Luckily for him, he lives in a good area for that.
"Good thing about the Netherlands, PTQs are not far away. There are usually ten PTQs within driving distance (two hours or less)." In fact, the morning after my interview with him, he had a PTQ to attend. Even if he doesn't end up qualifying through a PTQ, he still has the option of trying to grind in on site, and if nothing else, he still plans on going, even if unqualified. "I find something like this a great incentive. A championship, even if you're not qualified for Worlds."
Considering the road he had to take to arrive in Rome, ---- was understandably amazed at his performance. "I had to switch hotels at the last minute. I was on my way from the airport on Friday and found that my hotel was an hour or more from the site. I expected it to be a half an hour at most because I knew it was supposed to be next to a subway station. My parents booked me a new hotel from the Netherlands, right next to the Colosseum. I slept two hours on Friday night and failed big time with my Standard deck in the Saturday PTQ. I was starting to wonder why I had even come here. And then I sliced my way through the Swiss."
Despite an inauspicious start for ---, things seemed to come together well for him as the tournament progressed. He even found himself dug out of a tight spot in the Top 8 draft. "I got pretty lucky with my draft in booster three. I had only seven creatures after booster two. I ended up with fourteen after booster three." After taking his black-red deck and running it through his three Top 8 opponents, --- was left with four plane tickets, four hotel rooms, and a feeling of amazement. He summed it up best when he told me, "I'm just still a bit amazed that I won the thing. I can't really believe it."
Worlds always seems to offer unbelievable experiences to those who attend. Whether it's a chance to compete on the highest level of play against the world's best, or a championship that even the unqualified for Worlds can participate in, there really is something for everyone. Add to this the fact that Wizards always does a good job of holding Worlds in a place with a rich history that makes for some memorable sightseeing, and you get the reason why all roads throughout the year lead to Worlds. It is the shining jewel in the crown of Magic.
Hopefully you've enjoyed my story and it's given you some things to think about for next year. Who knows? Maybe I'll see you in Chiba creating a story of your own.
Public Event Winners
|PTQ - San Diego||ZEN Sealed||Boris Zlotoiabko (Ukraine)||Invite, airfare to Pro Tour-San Diego|
|Legacy||Legacy||Pietro Cavalletti (Italy)||40 Ravnica duals|
|"Play the Game, See the World" Qualifier||ZEN Sealed||Arnaud Bourdoux (Belgium) and Carlos Cervello Ferrando (Spain)||120gb iPod Classic, plus spot in Sunday final|
|Standard||Standard||Davide Grimaldi (Italy)||English-language foil set of each of the Standard-format sets|
|Generic Grand Prix Trial||Extended||Massimo Crotta (Italy)||3-round by to any 2010 GP, display box of Zendikar|
|Urza Block Sealed||Urza Block Sealed||Emilien Wild (Belgium)||English-language foil, uncut Zendikar card sheet or a From The Vault: Exiled Box Set|
|PTQ - Puerto Rico||Extended||Andrea Giarola (Italy)||Invite, airfare Pro Tour-San Juan|
|Zendikar 2HG Sealed||Zendikar 2HG Sealed||Riccardo Reale/Enrico Santinelli (Italy)||Each receive a foil set of Zendikar|
|"Play the Game, See the World" Qualifier||Standard||Samoil Petreski (Macedonia) and Christian Garbi (Italy)||120gb iPod Classic, plus spot in Sunday final|
|Generic Grand Prix Trial||Zendikar Sealed Deck||David Posadas Barrios (Spain) and Marteinn Fridriksson (Iceland)||3-round by to any 2010 GP, display box of Zendikar|
|Vintage||Vintage||Francesco Giani (Italy)||2 pieces of Power 9|
|PTQ - Amsterdam||Standard||Jorge Pinazo (Spain)||Invite, airfare to Pro Tour-Amsterdam|
|Zendikar Sealed Deck||Zendikar Sealed Deck||Michal Jedlicka (Slovak Republic)||Digital camera|
|Generic Grand Prix Trial||Extended||Giuseppe Buglione (Italy) and Paul Phillips (Great Britain)||3-round by to any 2010 GP, display box of Zendikar|
|"Play the Game, See the World" Qualifier||Zendikar 2HG Sealed||Marko Krekovic/Filip Popovic (Croatia) and Marco Cammilluzzi/Riccardo Minghetti (Italy)||120gb iPod Classic, plus spot in Sunday final|
|-||Zendikar Sealed Deck||---||---|
|Draft Challenge||Zendikar Booster Draft||Kaloyan Kirilov (Bulgaria)||Travel credit worth $1800 USD|
|Generic Grand Prix Trial||Zendikar Sealed Deck||Mikko Airaksinen (Finland) and Tom van de Logt (Netherlands)||3-round by to any 2010 GP, display box of Zendikar|
|Vintage||Vintage||Francesco Giani (Italy)||2 pieces of Power 9|
|Zendikar Sealed Deck||Zendikar Sealed Deck||Filip Polasek (Slovak Republic)||120gb iPod Classic|
|Standard||Standard||Raoul Trifan (Romania)||Foil set of Zendikar|
|Parent/Child 2HG||Zendikar 2HG Sealed||Daniele de Luca/Paola Esposito (Italy)||From The Vault: Exiled Box Set|
|Invasion Block Sealed||Invasion Block Sealed||Guillaume Matignon (France)||English-language foil, uncut Zendikar card sheet or a From The Vault: Exiled Box Set|
|Extended||Extended||Mateusz Kopec (Poland)||Foil Mirrodin Block set or a Foil Champions of Kamigawa Block set|