By the time this article goes live we will already be eight rounds into the 2008 Magic: The Gathering World Championships—with six rounds of individual Standard play and two rounds of the team competition. As I mentioned in last week's column, all three formats from this weekend's individual competition were in play last week. You can check out the top Standard decklists from the Star City Standard Open in Philadelphia, the Extended lists from the Winter King, and of course the results from Grand Prix–Auckland on this very site.
With Worlds underway I thought I would give you a peek at what has happened in the days leading up to the event, what players attending Worlds can expect, and some of the game's best and brightest in action in Memphis, Tennessee.
On Wednesday night players were invited to the Registration Party at Memphis's castle—Graceland. Players had the opportunity to register for the event, sample some fine local cuisine, draft, and of course get a guided tour of Elvis's home.
The TV Room was a favorite of many of the players and staff members taking the tour.
Personally, I was stunned by the billiards room which was upholstered from floor to ceiling.
Elvis Presley was a ridiculous hit machine with something like 140 songs cracking the Billboard Top 100 in his career. Many of his gold records were on display in the trophy room, but one in particular was relevant to this World Championships. If you were not sure which side to take in the debate between Gerry Thompson and Patrick Chapin about which way to build the Five-Color Control deck you could let the King decide for you—he obviously prefers Tidings to the Grixis Ultimatum.
On Thursday before we could get to the business at hand—determining the winner of the final event of the 2008 season—it was time for the opening ceremonies, which included the flags of players from 57 different countries.
Australian National Champion Aaron Nicastri came into the event not only clinging to his country's flag but to a narrow 1-point lead in the 2008 Rookie of the Year race. Many of the players near him on the standings are also on national teams, so that race may very well be decided by the outcome of this year's team competition.
After that it was time to introduce the 2008 Pro Tour Hall of Fame Class, with me, Vice President of Organize Play Chris Galvin, and creator of Magic Richard Garfield on stage to handle the honors.
It was standing room only as players crowded the makeshift amphitheater to see this truly amazing assemblage of players inducted into the Hall of Fame.
I mean, just look at them. You would be hard pressed to find a more formidable array of Magic talent. From left to right they are Ben Rubin, Olivier Ruel, Jelger Wiegersma, Mike Turian, and Dirk Baberowski.
The best part of the Hall of Fame? The rings.
Mike Turian nearly didn't make it to the ceremony in time thanks to some flight delays. He made it just in the nick of time during the last bits of the flag ceremony. He was pretty tired by the time he got here, but fortunately had the blanket his mother made him from old Pro Tour t-shirts if he wanted to take a nap.
Finally with the pomp and circumstance out of the way it was time to play some Magic.
Reigning World Champion Uri Peleg hoped to defend his title with an Elf combo deck in Standard.
Shuhei Nakamura was hoping that he could defend his 14-point lead in the Player of the Year race from the likes of Olivier Ruel, Tomoharu Saito, and Luis Scott-Vargas.
A couple of former World Champions met in an early Day One feature match between Jon Finkel and Katsuhiro Mori.
Featured matches were set up off to the side of the main table for the early rounds while the stage used during the flag and induction ceremonies was converted into the snazzy new Feature Match area debuting this weekend.
As always, there is plenty of stuff to do if you are in Memphis this weekend aside from the World Championship. There is an opportunity to play in exhibition matches against some of the creators of the game like Aaron Forsythe and Mark Rosewater.
Artist signings are a big part of any large Magic event and this weekend is no exception. In addition to Mark Tedin (not pictured) Worlds participants can meet and greet with Mr. Vorthos Matt Cavotta and Alan Pollack.
One of the most anticipated public events on the weekend has to be the opportunity to win $10,000 in solid gold.
The winner of the tournament will receive a gold bar with the Worlds logo on it and 8 Krugerands. Each of these coins is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $800.
Note to self: Do not even joke about pocketing one of these babies.
There should be plenty of opportunities to learn about Conflux cards this weekend. Players were challenged to associate the images pictured here with the various choices for names below them. Can you figure out which is which? The answers will be revealed on Sunday when Randy Buehler and I do the live web coverage of the Top 8 of the 2008 Magic: The Gathering World Championships. Talk to you all then. In the meanwhile, enjoy the coverage!