Pro Tour Mainz 1997 Results
December 5-7, 1997
Place Blasts the Competition in Mainz
Cool, blustery winds sweeping off the Rhine River and hotly contested matches being played inside the Kurfürstliches Schloss (the Roman-German Central Museum) were both prevailing at Pro Tour-Mainz, Wizards of the Coast's second-ever overseas Magic Pro Tour event. The tournament, held December 5-7 in Mainz, Germany--approximately thirty minutes south of Frankfurt--sported a total of 291 competitors and featured a challenging Tempest Rochester Draft format.
"The Tempest environment isn't as balanced as Fifth Edition-Visions. But I think the mana-screw problem has been reduced a lot, so there's less luck with mana," said twenty-year-old Canadian player Eric Tam. "In Mirage-Visions, if you get behind in mana, you die. But that's not true for Tempest because you can draw just one key card and win."
After six rounds of Swiss-style pairings and two drafts, the Top 64 performers advanced to Day 2, including thirty-one Americans and four Germans. Darwin Kastle, a twenty-six-year-old marketing administrator from Allston, Massachusetts, and proven Pro Tour player, was not among them. "It was frustrating for me," he said. "I felt like in both my drafts I drafted well, but there are still certain disadvantages being one of the better-known players during a draft. For instance, I was the only person who people were counter-drafting against at my table. People were drafting cards just so I couldn't get them. I had a guy take a first pick--not so he could play it--but so I couldn't have it."
Those are the breaks on the Magic Pro Tour, especially with $151,635 on the line--including a first-place prize of $25,000. After all the dust had settled, one Magic mainstay was left standing: twenty-two-year-old Matt Place of Kansas City, Missouri. An experienced player who had recently earned a Top 16 finish at Pro Tour-Chicago in October, Place dominated the field during Sunday's final rounds to score his first Pro Tour victory.
"The atmosphere here is what it's all about," he said, moments after defeating Germany's Peer Kröger, 3-1, in the semifinals. "You get a definite sense of excitement just knowing you're in a different country. I mean just look out the window; it's not even close to being back home."
Place drafted a red-black burn deck on Sunday and proceeded to crush his opponents, one right after the other, losing only a single game during all three of his best-of-five-game matches. The eight players who advanced to Sunday included five Americans (Chris Bishop, Kurt Burgner, Mark LePine, Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz, and Place); Germany's Kröger; England's John Ormerod; and Italy's Gabriele Pissicchio. The lineup was talented, but Place's overall knowledge of the game proved too tough to beat.
"The most important skill [in a draft] is to be able to just recognize which cards are truly better than others," said Place. "I try to give myself a lot of variety and set myself up well for the final packs by not choosing a particular color early on.
"I like Rochester Draft. I think it's the best format for testing someone's skill," he continued. "For training, all I did was look at every card and draft over and over again. And I memorized each of the cards by picture. You need to be aware of every card. The middle of a draft is no time to start learning what a particular cards does. It's definitely practice makes perfect in a draft format."
Place is currently traveling around the world, practicing his craft. He spent three weeks in Los Angeles before flying to Paris for a day of sightseeing prior to landing in Mainz.
Asked what he'll do with his recent prize winnings, he said: "I'm definitely gonna buy some more Magic cards, then I'll probably throw a $22,000 party. And I'll save the rest. I'm just a traveling bum right now." A bum who just got $25,000 richer with three days' work.
The next Magic Pro Tour event is scheduled to take place in Los Angeles, March 6-8, aboard the world-famous Queen Mary oceanliner. Another $150,000 cash purse will highlight Tempest Constructed competition. Good luck to those who qualify.
Final Match: Place vs. O'Mahoney-Schwartz
When the crowd gathered for the final match of Pro Tour-Mainz, they watched Kansas City's Matt Place, playing a fast red-black deck, take on New York's Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz, playing a green-black deck. Living Death looked to be Place's biggest advantage, although his hefty number of creature destruction and direct-damage cards helped tip the scales as well. In contrast, O'Mahoney-Schwartz's combination of quick, 2/1 creatures and powerful green creatures provided clear threats to Place's well-being.
Unhappy with his opening hand in the first game, Place opted to Mulligan down to six cards and began with a mountain, casting Mogg Fanatic. On his second turn he played his only other land, a swamp, and cast Fireslinger. Meanwhile, O'Mahoney-Schwartz cast a third-turn Rootwalla, which was quickly destroyed by the Fireslinger in concert with the Fanatic's sacrifice. Following up with a pair of Armodons, O'Mahoney-Schwartz went on the offensive.
After allowing a Trained Armodon enchanted with Endless Scream to attack him unblocked, Place drew his second swamp. This allowed him to target the beast with Enfeeblement and finish it off with a ping from the Fireslinger. When O'Mahoney-Schwartz's Crazed Armodon was blocked by Place's Rats of Rath, Steven activated the Armodon's ability, giving it +3/+0 and trample. Unfortunately, he made a key mistake when he placed the Armodon in the graveyard at the end of combat. Since the Armodon's destruction effect doesn't happen until the end of the turn, this action meant that O'Mahoney-Schwartz was declaring his turn over. Later, O'Mahoney-Schwartz admitted this mistake probably cost him the game. "I could have cast a Krakalin and won in a few more turns."
Still, O'Mahoney-Schwartz led, 10 life to 4, and cast the Krakalin on the next turn. However, Place soon drew his fourth land and quickly won the first game in a flurry of direct damage, including Searing Touch, Kindle, and two Lightning Blasts.
Match Score: Place 1, O'Mahoney-Schwartz 0
As Game 2 opened, O'Mahoney-Schwartz again appeared to be on the offensive with a Dauthi Marauder and Crazed Armodon facing off against Place's Rats of Rath and Opportunist. After "Enfeebling" the Opportunist, O'Mahoney-Schwartz attacked for 6 damage. At the end of the turn, however, Place mysteriously activated the ability of his Rats of Rath, destroying his only creature. The conundrum was quickly solved as Place unleashed Living Death, wiping the board of his opponent's creatures and returning his to play. O'Mahoney-Schwartz could only stare wordlessly at the Rats of Rath in his hand, which would have allowed him to effectively counter the Living Death had the creature been in play.
But O'Mahoney-Schwartz wasn't out yet. On his next turn he cast Evincar's Justice, once again clearing the board. Place responded on his turn with Gravedigger, allowing him to retrieve and summon his Opportunist. Drawing a Marsh Lurker, O'Mahoney-Schwartz summoned both the Lurker and his Rats of Rath, but Place was already in the driver's seat. The mana problems of Game 1 a distant memory, Place destroyed the Marsh Lurker with Enfeeblement and the Rats with Searing Touch, and attacked with his creatures. Despite O'Mahoney-Schwartz summoning his Krakalin--a decision that prompted cheers from the crowd--Place was unfazed, finishing off the game with yet another Lightning Blast.
Match Score: Place 2, O'Mahoney-Schwartz 0
Knowing he needed an exceptionally fast start against Place's deck, O'Mahoney-Schwartz Mulliganed when his opening hand held six lands and a Rats of Rath. Though many in the crowd disagreed with the maneuver, his new hand featured three lands and a trio of quick, strong cards. O'Mahoney-Schwartz couldn't have known that Place had drawn an even better hand, including a Mogg Fanatic, Fireslinger, and both Lightning Blasts.
O'Mahoney-Schwartz's early Heartwood Dryad blocked Place's Mogg Fanatic just before the Fireslinger appeared. Matt soon summoned a Dauthi Marauder and Wall of Diffusion, which prevented O'Mahoney-Schwartz's Trumpeting Armodon from inflicting damage. An Evincar's Justice cast by O'Mahoney-Schwartz cleared out Place's creatures, which prompted a Lightning Blast of the Armodon in response.
Place quickly restocked his creatures with a Gravedigger (returning the Dauthi Marauder from his graveyard to his hand) and a Marsh Lurker. At the same time, O'Mahoney-Schwartz summoned a Darkling Stalker and Telethopter. Attempting to put a dent in Place's life total, O'Mahoney-Schwartz cast Endless Scream on his Telethopter, turning it into a formidable 7/1 flying creature. Once again, Place had the right card at the right time as he took down the 'thopter with Searing Touch.
With only 10 life remaining and no defense against the re-summoned Dauthi Marauder, O'Mahoney-Schwartz realized his time was limited. Place "Blood Frenzied" his attacking Marauder, creating a 7/1 shadow creature, and finished his opponent off with--what else--a Lightning Blast.
Final Match Score: Place 3, O'Mahoney-Schwartz 0
And so Matt Place finished off what was possibly the most entertaining Pro Tour final match yet. Anyone who had only watched the final match would have believed Place's deck was nothing but amazing, but his skillful, calculated play style was evident as he lost only a single game all day (to semifinal opponent Peer Kröger). That was no comfort to Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz, who only saw Place's deck perform at the top of its game. Worth Wollpert may have said it best: "We should call Matt ‘Radio Shack' because he had all the answers."
|7||Mark Le Pine||$4,800|
|53||Thomas Dall Jensen||$480|
|70||Patrick Van Beek|
|88||Evan Van Lissum|
|116||Antonio Cardenas Alonso|
|171||Bob Maher, Jr.|
|173||Svend Sparre Geertsen|
|189||C. Allen Martin|
|202||Juha Ilmari Helppi|
|229||Jacob Stirler Jr.|
|238||Rui de Aguiar|
|248||Marc Philipp Hugo|
|286||Victor Van den Broek|