Pro Tour Chicago 1997 Results
October 10-12, 1997
Sweet Home Chicago
First-Class Competition in the Second City
There wasn't much for a bluesman to sing about when Magic: The Gathering hit Chicago this fall. From October 10-12, Chicago's Navy Pier enjoyed perfect weather, breathtaking views of both the Windy City and Lake Michigan, and the largest field of competitors the Pro Tour has ever seen. Throw in the relatively new and untested Extended format with over $150,000 in prize money at stake, the kickoff of the new Junior Super Series, and countless ancillary events, and you have the makings of a truly memorable weekend.
More than 324 players qualified for Pro Tour-Chicago from a wide range of feeder tournaments, and the Extended card pool (which includes The Dark through Tempest sets) encouraged diversity among the deck types. Not all the players were so encouraged, however, as Necro, Prison, and Counterpost variants of all shapes and sizes came out to play. New Jersey semifinalist John Finkel declared it "easy" to predict what deck types he would have to face, because "there are a lot of things that everybody is playing with." Still, the sheer number of competitors and available cards had an impact on the metagame. As quarterfinalist Olle Råde from Sweden pointed out, "There are usually three or four deck types [to prepare for] instead of sixteen."
The wide and deep card pool appealed to players like Virginia's David Mills, who declared, "The more sets in a Constructed event, the better," but it also proved to be a major stumbling block for some of the Pro Tour's most familiar names. Player of the Year Paul McCabe wound up dead last after losing four straight matches and dropping out on Day 1; Pro Tour perennials Mark Chalice, Jeff Donais, and Jason Zila all finished higher than 200; and although all of the World Championship's Top 8 competed in Chicago, only two finished in the money and none made it into the Top 16.
Those that did make it to the Top 8 did so by turbocharging familiar and established deck themes with the most powerful cards available outside of Classic (Type I). Nineteen-year-old Finkel's Prison variant with Gaea's Blessing and Aura of Silence drew ecstatic praise from Pro Tour insiders; Råde (18) and Virginia's Kyle Rose (17) both used white weenies, Lightning Bolt, and Armageddon to good effect. Austinite Adrian Sayers (20) and Randy Buehler (25) of Pittsburgh added a touch of red to traditional Necro while Tongo Nation's Justin Schneider (16) and David Mills (24) played almost identical blue-red Frenetic Efreet decks and Seattle's Max Suver (20) played a blue-red creature removal/denial deck.
Sunday saw the Top 8 cycle through all their matches in a remarkably short time, with similar deck types facing and eliminating each other in the quarterfinals. Buehler got the better of Sayers 3-2 in a battle of the Necrodecks, and Mills's Efreets were similarly more frenetic than Schneider's; Finkel's creatureless Winter Orb recipe proved too rich for Råde, who fell 3-1, and Suver's big blue machine crushed Rose's Erhnageddon 3-0.
Buoyed by some phenomenal coin tosses and his Dwarven Miner's ability to eat dual lands, Mills was able to get his Efreets past Finkel's defenses in the semis for a fast 3-0 victory. Buehler defeated Suver 3-1, primarily through the judicious application of Demonic Consultation to set up a Lake of the Dead-Drain Life combo for the win.
The finals were tight and solid until the very last moments of Game 4. Down two games to one, David Mills was so focused on fending off Buehler's weenie horde with his Wildfire Emissary that he failed to either make use of the Lightning Bolt he had in his hand, or to anticipate the game-ending Lake Drain Buehler had in store for him. When Buehler Consulted for and played the elements of his winning combo, he was as surprised as Mills when it resolved. The oldest rookie in a field of veteran youngsters came away with the win.
The Pro Tour is bound for Europe again as Mainz, Germany, hosts the next event on December 5-7, 1997.
Championship Match Recap
Jack Lewis Stanton
Game 1 of the final match at Pro Tour-Chicago started quickly, as a second-turn Hymn to Tourach by Randy Buehler was countered by a Force of Will from opponent David Mills (who discarded Desertion to cast the spell). Mills couldn't stop Buehler's third-turn Necropotence, however, which quickly started churning through Buehler's deck.
Mills summoned a third-turn Frenetic Efreet--a creature that had brought Mills's previous opponents no end of grief due to his uncanny luck in coin flips. Despite gaining three cards from Necropotence on his fourth turn, Buehler played nothing. On his second turn, Mills attacked with the Efreet, which successfully phased out when Buehler threw Firestorm at it. Mills summoned up another Frenetic Efreet once the dust had settled.
On his fifth turn, Buehler brought out Necropotence again, this time for five cards. Unfortunately, the Necropotence continued to fetch too many lands, while neglecting to provide a much-needed Drain Life. Mills's next attack brought Buehler down to 4 life. Facing imminent defeat, Buehler dropped down to 1 life, gaining three cards from Necropotence in a vain search for his last Firestorm. Unfortunately, the quest failed, and Mills attacked the next turn to win the first game. Total life sacrificed to the Necro--15. Total game time--7 minutes.
Match Score: Buehler 0, Mills 1.
Game 2 began much like the first with Buehler playing a second-turn Hymn to Tourach and a third-turn Necropotence. This time, the cards were coming up for Buehler. His fourth-turn Hymn was almost countered by Mills, but a handy Pyroblast allowed the Hymn to get through, costing Mills a Lightning Bolt and Tithe. On his fifth turn, Buehler played yet another Hymn and Mills lost a Fireball, though he did manage to Lightning Bolt Buehler in response.
At this point, Buehler had a full seven-card hand and Mills had no cards to play. Seeking a turnaround in the game, Mills drew and played a Frenetic Efreet, only to see it targeted by Terror on his next turn. The seventh, eighth, and ninth turns saw Buehler cast Drain Life for 7, 7, and 8 damage, respectively, to end the game and even the match.
Match Score: Buehler 1, Mills 1.
Putting the rally cap on, Mills elected to have Buehler play first in Game 3, a move found curious by the crowd watching on the big screen. The third time proved the charm as Buehler's second-turn Hymn to Tourach finally succeeded, netting a Blue Elemental Blast and Fireball. Mills summoned a Dwarven Miner on his second turn, only to see it targeted by Terror on Buehler's next turn.
Buehler's Necropotence came out on his fourth turn and on his fifth, he cast Demonic Consultation for a Hymn to Tourach. In the process, he lost two Drain Lifes, leaving him with one in his deck and one in hand. During his sixth turn, Buehler Drained David for 6 damage in order to keep the Necro going. A Frenetic Efreet summoned by Mills on the fourth turn met his match after being targeted by Pyroblast during the attack phase on Mills's sixth turn.
Buehler offense appeared in the form of three "pump Knights" summoned during his seventh and eighth turns. On his ninth turn, Buehler attempted a Demonic Consultation for his one remaining Drain Life. In another surprising move by Mills, he countered the Consultation, rather than letting Buehler churn through his library (which at this point held fewer than fifteen cards). On his tenth turn, Mills cast Impulse in search of an Earthquake to take care of the "pump Knight" horde. Coming up empty, he conceded the third game.
Match Score: Buehler 2, Mills 1.
Needing the win, Mills chose to play first during Game 4. In an unusual situation, a creature standoff of sorts appeared over the second through fourth turns, with Mills summoning a Dwarven Miner, Frenetic Efreet, and Wildfire Emissary and Buehler bringing out four "pump Knights." Facing repeated attacks from the flying Efreet, and looking at a hand full of non-basic land (ripe targets for the Dwarven Miner), Buehler decided he had nothing to lose. Despite the guaranteed loss of one Knight each turn to Wildfire Emissary, Buehler started attacking with all the Knights beginning on his sixth turn.
By Buehler's eighth turn, Mills was down to only 6 life. When attacked by Buehler's two remaining Knights, Mills decided to let one through rather than Bolting it. After the attack phase, Buehler went for broke. Sacrificing one of his two swamps in play to bring out his Lake of the Dead, and the other swamp to add six black mana to his mana pool, he cast a 4-point Drain Life on Mills. Ironically, luck was with Buehler, as Mills had no Counterspells in hand. The Drain Life went through, and Buehler became the winner of Chicago's first Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour event.
Final Match Score: Buehler 3, Mills 1.
|17||Svend Sparre Geertsen||$2,440|
|29||Mark Le Pine||$1,290|
|32||Ray de Guzman||$1,110|
|38||Asa Tim Kariel||$840|
|82||Bob Maher, Jr.|
|99||Massimo De Matteo|
|105||Juha Ilmari Helppi|
|110||Richard Van Cleave|
|115||Gustavo Chapela Gaxiola|
|123||James Scott Farr|
|126||Haakon R Monsen|
|172||Cyrille De Foucaud|
|191||Luis Barros Figueira|
|196||Pier Paulo Vaschetti|
|198||Eufemio Juan Rincon|
|229||Jose Lozada Jr.|
|230||Hayim Z. Mizrachi|
|283||Anthony De La Torre|
|302||Jono Eduorde Emilio Madeira|