"So what brings you to Japan? Did you come solely to play the Grand Prix?"
That was the question on everyone's minds. Considering there was a Grand Prix in Krakow this very same weekend, many were bamboozled by the sight of Olivier Ruel roaming the tournament floor in Kyōto. Was Ruel a closet Legacy enthusiast?
Hall of Famer, Olivier Ruel.
Back in the olden days, there was a prestigious tournament similar to the World Championships as we have today. It was the Invitational and the winner received the ultimate prize of being immortalized on their very own Magic card. Olivier Ruel's brother, Antoine Ruel, won the Invitationals in 2006 and created Ranger of Eos.
To be invited to the Invitational, you'd need to have won the previous Invitationals (Terry Soh won in 2005, creating Rakdos Augermage), become the Player of the Year (Kenji Tsumura) or win the ballot in several categories to clinch an invite.
A lesser known piece of trivia was that Ruel once won the ballot as the "Road Warrior" to participate in Invitationals 2006.
What I'm trying to say is that, Olivier Ruel was the embodiment of globetrotting and it shouldn't surprise anyone that Ruel was here this weekend as a tourist. But like any other Magic player, whenever you plan a vacation, you always check the Events Schedule to see if you could somehow coincide your vacation with a Grand Prix.
"My girlfriend and I both wanted to come to Japan around April or May. It's when we have some free time and also the weather is great, so I checked the schedule and there was a Grand Prix happening in Kyōto. She's visiting the city now and if I don't make Day 2, I'll go with her tomorrow. Haha!"
He arrived in Osaka on Monday and stayed there for a couple of nights before heading for Hakone, a beautiful Geopark famous for its hot spring resorts and its proximity to Tokyo and Mount Fuji. Then, he went camping with his girlfriend at Lake Biwako, a stunningly beautiful water body an hour away from Kyōto.
He intends to stay over at Masahiro Kuroda's (Pro Tour Kobe 2004 Champion) place for a day or two after the Grand Prix, before going to climb Mount Fuji. It sounds like Ruel's got a real exciting trip lined up!
Abusing these cards with the aid of little green men is Ruel's game plan today.
So what is Olivier Ruel playing today? To his chagrin, he could only answer "Elves", with a sad look in his eyes. I thought it was a really solid deck, when I witnessed him demolish his opponents in the last two rounds, one of the victims being Kenji Tsumura.
"I was walking around just now and I saw someone playing with High Tide. It just seems like so much fun and I feel SOOOOO much better when I have Islands in front of me. I get to pass my turn with Islands untapped and cast exciting cards like Meditate (and now Dig Through Time, I added). I really wished I was playing blue today."
Olivier Ruel loves his Islands. People who love Islands love to draw cards.
"I don't have any cards so I asked Kuroda whether he was able to build me a deck and he said he had components to build nearly every Legacy deck. Unfortunately, Kuroda had decided that he wanted to play Delver and since he took away most of the blue cards, Ruel had to pick a deck that did NOT contain Force of Will."
"Since I had almost no time to prepare, I wanted a deck that interacted with my opponent as little as possible. Elves seemed like a good choice, and I goldfished 30 games for practice. I'm having a little problem with the sideboarding portion though. In fact, I boarded wrongly against Merfolk just now and brought in Choke against them."
Ruel professes that he forgot about Cavern of Souls, which brings up the number of "unchokeable" lands in the match up to 8 (including Mutavault). To make matters worse, Merfolk can easily recover from the lock by cheating out their creatures via Aether Vial.
"I also forgot to bring in the additional Abrupt Decay and Reclamation Sage because I forgot about the Pithing Needle and Chalice of the Void and lost to them. I rectified my deck in Game 3 and won the match. Basically, I need to win my first game, make some mistakes and learn from it in Game 2, and hope to win Game 3."
Choke is not amazing against Merfolk. Ruel learns the hard way.
That seems like a lot of learning on the job, but if anyone can do it, it's Olivier Ruel.
"I generally have a lot of fun playing Magic, but I don't like to go into tournaments that I'm not prepared for," possibly referring to this tournament as well as the last one he was in. The disastrous fiasco at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir.
After going 3-0 at his draft table at Brussels, he proceeded to rack up five losses in a row with a Jeskai Heroic deck to miss Day Two. Ruel explains that he has a better grasp at Limited formats in general but he doesn't understand constructed all that well. 99% of my time on Magic Online, he’s in the Booster Draft queues and almost always never plays Standard.
"I guess that reflects the level of my unpreparedness. I probably need at least 50 hours of practice at least to even have a chance to beat the average player at the Pro Tour. One game, my opponent playing blue passed the turn with five mana open and I attacked with all my five creatures when I could have attacked with just one or two. I get hit by Aetherspouts and lost that match. I probably deserve to lose because I had no clue what cards were even legal in Standard."
Ruel confessed that he had never seen this card, until it was unleashed upon him.
Despite the little setback, I'm guessing we'll still be seeing more of the Ruels in future.
"With the Hall of Fame appearance fees being increased, I will be inclined to play more events now. Definitely going to show up at the European Pro Tour and try to play at least one American Pro Tour every two years. The next event for me is Grand Prix Lille, another Legacy Grand Prix. It's in my hometown so I'll be there for sure!"