Price Is Right

"King of Qualifiers" Crowned Pro Tour Champion
aboard Queen Mary

Despite recent El Niño-related weather problems, Long Beach was sunny and clear for the 1998 Pro Tour-Los Angeles. Held aboard the permanently moored Queen Mary, this year's stop marked the tour's third visit to the historic ship. A total of 342 players gathered on the ship to compete for over $150,000 in prizes, including a grand prize of $25,000.

The quarterfinalists who assembled on Sunday after fourteen rounds of Swiss-style pairings represented a variety of playing styles and backgrounds. While only three of the Top 8 players had ever competed on the third day of a Pro Tour event, the skill and determination of the competitors could not be questioned.

After several hours of grueling, slugfest action--including a two-and-a-half-hour match between finalist Ben Rubin and semifinalist Adam Katz--perennial Pro Tour participant David Price emerged as the victor. In taking the title of Pro Tour Champion, Price clinched his best performance ever on the tour. Despite participating in every Pro Tour event except for 1997's stop in Mainz, Germany, Price had never placed high enough to grab an automatic bid for any of the events, forcing him to requalify time and time again.

Dubbed by some as the "King of Qualifiers" for his knack of earning invitations the hard way, Price was clearly the fan favorite going into the finals. After defeating Rubin three games to two, Price was mobbed by friends and teammates who universally agreed that Price's reward was a long time in coming, but well worth the wait.

Despite his stoicism during Sunday's competition, Price was visibly exhausted as he stepped out of the room where the finals were held, looking more like someone who had just finished a marathon than a guy who had spent his weekend playing cards. Of course, as anyone who has ever participated in a high-stakes tournament would point out, there are fewer differences between these two activities than a casual observer might notice. By the time Price collected his trophy, he had competed for approximately thirty hours over a period of three days.

Pro Tour-Los Angeles used the Tempest-Only Constructed format. Going into the weekend, a number of cards and deck types were on the "most expected" list. As predicted, Cursed Scroll appeared in many of the top decks, though its presence was not as unbalancing as some players feared. Nearly as common as the Scroll was Scalding Tongs; many players who couldn't draw a timely Disenchant or Shatter were sent packing by the combination of these two artifacts.

Decks containing creature-recycling abilities were popular, with Bottle Gnomes and Staunch Defenders providing targets for Corpse Dance, Living Death, and Gravedigger. The life-gaining capability provided by these combinations drew many matches right out to the seventy-minute time limit.

So-called "bounce" deck technology was common, with Capsize and Tradewind Riders appearing frequently. As always, white weenies made an appearance, including semifinalist David Bachmann's deck. One interesting deck that didn't make the Top 8 was "Sliving Death," which, as its name would suggest, uses Living Death to return large numbers of slivers from the graveyard to the game.

The most successful decks, however, were variations on the mono-red "Sligh" deck, in which the makeup of creatures and spells follows a closely calculated mana curve to maximize speed and efficiency. Some observers estimated that perhaps half or more of the decks at the event were Sligh-style decks, and four of the Top 8 decks were variations on this theme.

Other attractions on the Queen Mary included the Super Series Western Division Championship, where sixteen players ages eighteen and under won free trips to compete in June's Junior Super Series Championship in Orlando; a 250-player Qualifier tournament for Pro Tour-New York; and dozens of ancillary tournaments which ran throughout the evenings. Magic artists Daren Bader, Terese Nielsen, Quinton Hoover, and Douglas Shuler signed cards, and several new games were demonstrated, including Twitch, one of Wizards of the Coast's new line of family card games, and Guillotine, a humorous card game due for release later this spring.

Pro Tour-New York, the final stop of the Pro Tour circuit before the Magic World Championships, follows hard on the heels of L.A.'s competition. The tour descends upon the Big Apple the weekend of April 17-19 and features the Tempest-Stronghold Booster Draft format.

Championship Match Recap

Jack Lewis Stanton

Heading into the finals of Pro Tour-Los Angeles, Ben Rubin was coming off an exhausting two-and-a-half-hour match against semifinalist Adam Katz, while David Price had been waiting patiently for well over an hour after dispatching his semifinals opponent, David Bachmann, three games to one in short order. The results of each of the five games in the finals depended entirely on which deck was able to establish its desired pace.

Playing the incredibly fast "Dead Guy Red" deck, Price managed to get an awesome draw during this crucial first game of the match. A first-turn Jackal Pup that was targeted by Giant Strength on the second turn provided massive beatdown early on. On his third turn Price summoned two Mogg Raiders and a Mogg Fanatic. By his fifth turn Price had managed to drop a Cursed Scroll. Rubin's only contribution to the game (other than that of an observer) was to target Bottle Gnomes with Intuition in an effort to stop the bleeding. By the sixth turn, the game was over.

Match Score: Price 1, Rubin 0

In the second game Rubin's cards showed up to play. Having a slow start, Price was forced to watch as Rubin dropped a Manikin early, along with a third-turn Tradewind Rider. Drawing into some beefy cards, Rubin allowed Price to kill off his Tradewind Rider and Manikin. On his next turn, Rubin cast Living Death. Price's only response was to destroy his own Canyon Wildcat in order to get it back once the Living Death resolved. At this time, Rubin's board situation was looking pretty fat. With a Tradewind Rider and Manikin in play, he summoned another Tradewind to give him bounce potential. But Price wouldn't have any of that and targeted the Manikin with Cursed Scroll in response to prevent the Tradewinds from dominating the game.

On his next turn Price managed to top-deck another Cursed Scroll, setting up a way for him to destroy the Tradewinds starting on his next turn. However, Rubin targeted Price's Disenchant with Intuition at the end of Price's turn to take out the second Scroll. Next, Rubin used Intuition for Staunch Defenders so he could start using it as a blocker and gain 4 life every turn thanks to the Tradewind Rider's bounce ability. At this point Price's attack ran out of steam. Another strong draw allowed Rubin to bounce Price's Cursed Scroll back to his hand on his opponent's turn. On his subsequent turn, Rubin cast Lobotomy on Price in order to remove the Cursed Scroll from the game, and thereby defused Price's only chance at winning. Price conceded in response to prevent Rubin from getting a look at his deck.

Match Score: Price 1, Rubin 1

Drawing only two lands in his opening hand, Rubin was in big trouble. David blazed early, dropping a first-turn Pup and second-turn Fanatic. As his critters went on the offensive, Price nullified Rubin's game by casting Stone Rain on one of Rubin's lands on his third turn, as well as casting Wasteland on two others on his fourth and fifth turns. With no lands in play and a single digit life total, Rubin conceded the game.

Match Score: Price 2, Rubin 1

Yet again Price started the game blazing, playing five creatures (Jackal Pup, two Mogg Fanatics, Mogg Raider, and Mogg Conscripts) while Rubin summoned his Rats of Wrath and Tradewind Rider. Gambling big on Price's fourth-turn attack, Rubin allowed his creatures to die. Rubin's gamble paid off when he drew his fifth land and, after casting Living Death, assumed board control with the return of his Rats and Tradewind; Price ended up with two Mogg Fanatics and a Mogg Raider.

From here out, Rubin held serve and started a volley of aces shortly thereafter. Rubin's Staunch Defenders and two Chills showed up to nullify the red component in Price's deck. Price conceded the game once the Gnomes targeted by Corpse Dance put Rubin's life total out of reach for good.

Match Score: Price 2, Rubin 2

This could quite possibly go down as one of the fastest games in Pro Tour finals history. After calling a Mulligan on his initial draw, Rubin was rewarded with only one land on his following six-card draw. Price, on the other hand, was looking as strong as he had during the first and third games of the match.

After dropping a first-turn Jackal Pup and second-turn Fireslinger, Price assassinated Rubin's lands with a third-turn Stone Rain and fourth-turn Stone Rain and Wasteland. Price's fifth turn welcomed a Mogg Fanatic to the fold, as well as a Scalding Tongs. Rubin's only act of self-preservation came during his seventh turn when he was able to finally cast a Bottle Gnome after reaching three lands. At 4 life, it proved too little too late as Price was able to swarm the Gnome the next round. Drawing nothing that could save him on his following turn, Rubin conceded the fifth game, making David Price the winner of the 1998 Pro Tour-Los Angeles.

Final Match Score: Price 3, Rubin 2

Rank Name
1 David Price
2 Ben Rubin
3 David Bachmann
4 Adam Katz
5 Kyle Rose
6 Jakub Slemr
7 Svend Sparre Geertsen
8 AndrewWolf
9 Lukas Ladra
10 Will Hilts
11 Brian Schneider
12 Zvi Mowshowitz
13 Itaru Ishida
14 Rudy Edwards
15 Ken Wallach
16 Randy Buehler
17 Tommi Hovi
18 Ben Earley
19 George Baxter
20 Chris Pikula
21 Lan Ho
22 Martin Jonsson
23 Jon Finkel
24 Shawn Regnier
25 Darwin Kastle
26 Mauro Rossetti
27 John Chinnock
28 Ryan Fuller
29 Gabriele Pisicchio
30 Peer Kroger
31 Terry Borer
32 Scott Johns
33 Austin Vaughan
34 Danny Victor
35 Casey McCarrel
36 Roger Ver
37 Geoffrey Kretz
38 Erik Lauer
39 Donald Gallitz
40 Chris Bishop
41 Lenny Collins
42 Michael Long
43 Christopher Czuba
44 Andreas Schraut
45 Eric Kirkman
46 Eric Phillipps
47 Jerome Legras
48 Derek Mallory
49 Ryan Cole
50 Gregory Dube
51 Tony Dobson
52 Feming Chan
53 Magnus Palm
54 Clement Merville
55 Ben Kellerstrass
56 Antoine Rottiers
57 Dan Silberman
58 Bob Maher, Jr.
59 Olle Rade
60 Brian Kibler
61 Mark Chalice
62 Jamie Parke
63 B. Alex Tyler
64 Glyeb Koumasinski