Sweet Home Chicago

First-Class Competition in the Second City

Scott McGough

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.

Finish Name Winnings
1 Randy Buehler $25,000
2 David Mills $15,000
3 Jon Finkel $10,000
4 Max Suver $8,000
5 Adrian Sayers $6,500
6 Justin Schneider $5,500
7 Kyle Rose $4,800
8 Olle Rade $4,300
9 Michael Long $4,000
10 Thomas Guevin $3,750
11 John Yoo $3,520
12 Andre Konstanczer $3,310
13 Ondrej Baudys $3,110
14 Pierre Malherbaud $2,920
15 NoahBoeken $2,750
16 Matt Place $2,590
17 Svend Sparre Geertsen $2,440
18 David Bachmann $2,300
19 Trevor Blackwell $2,170
20 Keith Keeling $2,050
21 Peter Radonjic $1,940
22 Mikael Magnusson $1,840
23 Tony Tsai $1,750
24 Ryan Fuller $1,660
25 Eric Phillipps $1,580
26 ThomasRefsdal $1,500
27 Michael Turian $1,430
28 Justin Gary $1,360
29 Mark Le Pine $1,290
30 Andrew Nishioka $1,230
31 Gary Krakower $1,170
32 Ray de Guzman $1,110
33 Toshiki Tsukamoto $1,060
34 Anthony Goh $1,010
35 Shannon Hill $960
36 Ryan Roe $920
37 David Price $880
38 Asa Tim Kariel $840
39 Tim Rivera $810
40 Brett Foster $780
41 Tommi Hovi $750
42 John Chinnock $720
43 Bill Macey $690
44 Bob Wagner $660
45 Brendon Herzog $630
46 Eric Taylor $610
47 Alessandro Grossi $590
48 Chris Herdeman $570
49 BenFarkas $550
50 Mattias Jorstedt $530
51 Dennis Bentley $510
52 Mike Winkelstein $490
53 Peter Ripley $480
54 Eric Tam $470
55 Matt Bordeaux $460
56 Oliver Schneider $450
57 Michael Debard $440
58 Jeroen Weyden $430
59 John Pennock $425
60 Jacob Chen $420
61 Elijah Pollock $415
62 Mark Justice $410
63 David Linder $405
64 Adam Lemke $400
65 Alan Comer  
66 Sigurd Eskeland  
67 Shane Myerscough  
68 Michael Lucarello  
69 Vinnie Falcone  
70 Ken Wallach  
71 Rudy Edwards  
72 Geoffrey Anders  
73 Gerardo Godinez-Estrada  
74 Marius Johnsen  
75 Gregor Wollny  
76 Shawn Regnier  
77 Christopher Selnes  
78 Mauro Rossetti  
79 Feming Chan  
80 Daniel Brickwell
81 Jason Gordon
82 Bob Maher, Jr.
83 Jeremy Baca
84 Andrew Wills
85 Christian Dreher
86 Stefan Meewes
87 Tomi Walamies
88 Bob Coonce
89 David Korejtko
90 Thomas Andersson
91 Sam Heckman
92 Sturla Bingen
93 Scott Lewis
94 Gregoire Hardy
95 Donald Gallitz
96 Federico Dato
97 Stephan Bulat
98 Scott Seville
99 Massimo De Matteo
100 Peter Guevin
101 Henry Johnson
102 Janosch Kuhn
103 John Robertson
104 Luca Chiera
105 Juha Ilmari Helppi
106 Jakub Slemr
107 Michael Pustilnik
108 Henning Rimkus
109 James Takenaga
110 Richard Van Cleave
111 Kurt Foket
112 Ted Kaplun
113 Darwin Kastle
114 Frank Adler
115 Gustavo Chapela Gaxiola
116 Truc Bui
117 Dale Taylor
118 Adam Howard
119 Aaron Kline
120 Dirk Roth
121 Patrick Chapin
122 Pieter Touber
123 James Scott Farr
124 Goro Matsuo
125 David Liersch
126 Haakon R Monsen
127 Igor Frayman
128 Sam Waller
129 Ryan Rusaw
130 Kristian Hellman
131 Aaron Cummings
132 John Larkin
133 Alexander Blumke
134 Michael Sochon
135 David Adams
136 Matthew Vienneau
137 Louis Rousseau
138 Matt Henstra
139 Robert Swarowski
140 Sean Fleischman
141 Paul Gallagher
142 Ben Sanders
143 Ben Bleiweiss
144 BrianWeissman
145 Jim Lemire
146 Cortney Cunningham
147 Masato Nakamura
148 Kevin McLaughlin
149 Ben Possemiers
150 JohnHolt
151 Mark Langley
153 Brian Wilson
154 Worth Wollpert
155 Melissa Lang
156 Brian Kibler
157 Tyler Ruckman
158 Daisuke Kanno
159 Erik Landriz
160 Jason Moungey
161 Kim Eikefet
162 Kyle Bigos
163 Antoni Puig
164 MichalSrba
165 Gregory Reid
166 Bruce Cowley
167 Chris Pikula
168 David Humphreys
169 Hans Ejimaal
170 Gabriele Pisicchio
171 Frank Gilson
172 Cyrille De Foucaud
173 Eric Kesselman
174 Heath Kennel
175 PerDanngarde
176 Guillermo Barro
177 Micha'l Elkaim
178 Patrik Skogsfors
179 Alexander Sacal
180 Jason Marks
181 Jaroslav Sita
182 Bruce Beauharnis
183 Daniel Connelly
184 Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz
185 Manuel Bevand
186 Robin McCandless
187 Cory Ferguson
188 Graham Thomson
189 Sebastien Zurek
190 Giovanni Gentile
191 Luis Barros Figueira
192 Martin Jordo
193 Koichiro Maki
194 Andrea Redi
195 Koby Kennison
196 Pier Paulo Vaschetti
197 Gadoux Fabrice
198 Eufemio Juan Rincon
199 Skylr Chamberlin
200 Guido Pacifici
201 Mason Greene
202 Jason Zila
203 Peter Leiher
204 Clement Merville
205 Mathieu Roberge
206 JeffDonais
207 Erik Lauer
208 Ivan Stanoev
209 Chris Faesi
210 Brandon Rutter
211 Mario Robaina
212 Giulio Gomitoni
213 Paul Ferker
214 Douglas Anderson
215 Jamie Woodward
216 Scott Johns
217 Ted Shroyer
218 James Baker
219 Adam Jansen
220 Jason Opalka
221 Matt Linde
222 Bryan Hubble
223 Dan Silberman
224 Adam Maysonet
225 Phillip Hart
226 Gero Maier
227 Brian Ogilbee
228 Daniel Clegg
229 Jose Lozada Jr.
230 Hayim Z. Mizrachi
231 Adrian Sullivan
232 Alex Baranosky
233 Alex McConnell
234 Ricardo Buccolo
235 Christopher Manners
236 Nate Clarke
237 Gianluca Stucchi
238 Brian Hacker
239 Matt Provenzano
240 Chris Stelzer
241 Ron Schubert
242 Paul Lohndorf
243 David Williams
244 Rob Brannon
245 Jukka Valta
246 Richard Nowak
247 Remy Rossello
248 Rodrigo Silva
249 Brian Harding
250 Colin Mayfield
251 David Kearney
252 Todd Deen
253 Shannon Krumick
254 Arho Toikka
255 John Lee
256 Josh Rauschenbach
257 Francis Keys
258 Herbert Engleiter
259 Mark Chalice
260 Aaron Muranaka
261 JimmyBucknell
262 Mark Venhaus
263 Brad Balk
264 Thomas Steinmetz
265 Daniel Berg
266 David Bartholow
267 Max Szlagor
268 Ronny Serio
269 Paul Carmouche
270 Karsten Hoppe
271 George Baxter
272 Joe Weber
273 Jamie Parke
274 Gabriel Tsang
275 Terry Lau
276 James Weatherford
277 Kelsey McNair
278 JedBradell
279 Senta Miller
280 Chad Hastaba
281 Steve Hirsch
282 Steven Cowley
283 Anthony De La Torre
284 JohnHunka
285 Gary Wise
286 Kentaro Yada
287 John Immordino
288 Wade Maraj
289 Terry Tsang
290 Michael Swailes
291 Ron Franke
292 Ty Holcomb
293 Matthew Bach
294 Cary Darwin
295 Jan Brandenburg
296 Alvaro Marques
297 Elihu Feustel
298 Andrew Harker
299 Scott Valleroy
300 Bryan Sammon
301 Matteo Negrini
302 Jono Eduorde Emilio Madeira
303 JasonRodriguez
304 Peer Kroger
305 Derek Rank
306 Jeff Simoneau
307 Robert Allbright
308 Marcel Baran
309 Jess Means
310 Paul Brinke
311 Riad Mourssali
312 Andrew Corley
313 Lee Steht
314 Jason McHale
315 Seth Burn
316 Robert Thornburg
317 Javier Garavito
318 Thomas Girard
319 Noah Weil
320 Michael Loconto
321 Jay Wagner
322 Antti Tarvainen
323 Nikolai Weibull
324 Paul McCabe