There's no question Europe has been a Magic powerhouse for many years. For the 2005 Magic Invitational, there might not be a deeper field in all the reader ballots -- 14 Top 8 appearances in 2004 and 2005, for a start, not to mention dominating the Nagoya Pro Standings.
(Profiles by Brian David-Marshall)
WINNER: Kai Budde (26.3% of vote)
Nicknamed “The German Juggernaut,” Kai Budde has done it all -- including winning in Invitational and being featured on the resulting Voidmage Prodigy. Kai has had Pro Tour seasons that could be the career goals of many a Magic Pro -- multiple Pro Tour wins in three different seasons and winning Player of the Year races like Meryl Streep gets Oscar nods. The 2003-2004 season saw Kai post top 32 finishes in all but two individual Pro Tours. He was still contending for a staggering fourth Player of the Year title right up until Worlds -- he finished 8th.
2003-2004 Pro Points: 58 (tie-8th) | Nagoya Pro Standings: 29 (40th)
Kamiel Cornelissen (4.7%)
Kamiel Cornelissen is the standard bearer for an army of Dutch players who are one of the dominant forces in the game. Kamiel can best be described as the strong, silent type. He barely talks or banters during his matches -- he is all business, and his business is winning. For quite some time it seemed like the only thing that could stop Kamiel was the final match on Sunday, where he had fallen short of cashing the big check twice. Fittingly, when his team Von Dutch squared off against Japan’s www.shop-fireball.com2 he was paired with Jin Okamoto -- another player who knows a thing or two about finishing in second. Kamiel won the pivotal rubber match in the finals to slay that monkey on his back. He followed up with a Top 8 at Worlds -- the fifth time he had to wake up early on a Sunday -- and finished 6th in the Player-of-the-Year race.
2003-2004 Pro Points: 64 (6th) | Nagoya Pro Standings: 55 (5th)
Nicolai Herzog (16.0%)
Nicolai Herzog and Anton Jonsson have sparked a "Mantle or Mays"-type of debate as to the title of best Limited player. Much the way the Mantle camp can point to the World Series banners fluttering atop Yankee Stadium to support their claim, Nico can show off his giant wallet that he used to house his two fat checks from winning Pro Tour–Amsterdam and Pro Tour–San Diego last season. Making the Top 8 of two Pro Tours in one season is impressive -- winning two is stunning. Nicolai had a hare-like lead in the Player of the Year race -- and one of three locked-in invites for this event -- going into Worlds but was overtaken by the slow but steady Gabriel Nassif.
2003-2004 Pro Points: 82 (2nd) | Nagoya Pro Standings: 44 (13th)
Anton Jonsson (7.9%)
Anton Jonsson’s back-to-back Limited Pro Tour Top 8s in 2003-04 are easy to miss in light of Nicolai Herzog winning both of those events. Anton truly loves playing Limited Magic and is the embodiment of the Limited specialist. He picked up this season where he left off, posting yet another Top 8 finish in Nagoya, Japan. That is three straight for the Swedish standout, who is still looking for his first Pro Tour win after a heart-breaking loss in the Nagoya finals against Japan’s Shu Komuro. It was also the fifth Sunday appearance for him. That is rarified air -- only three players have ever played on Sunday more often. Those three players are Kai, Jon Finkel, and Darwin Kastle -- Invitational winners all.
2003-2004 Pro Points: 47 (16th) | Nagoya Pro Standings: 52 (6th)
Jeroen Remie (13.2%)
Like his teammate Jelger Wiegersma, Jeroen Remie’s third time was the charm. The gregarious bear of the Magic Professional scene finally won a Pro Tour in Seattle with his team Von Dutch. If Kamiel is the standard bearer for the Dutch Magic scene, Jeroen is their balladeer. He is a highly regarded Magic strategist who writes about high-level play for the online Magic community. He travels around the world competing on the highest levels, having fun all the time. He spends enough time abroad and is such a likable and recognizable personality that a restaurant in Indiana serves him “the usual” without even asking when he saunters through their door.
2003-2004 Pro Points: 52 (12th) | Nagoya Pro Standings: 48 (11th)
Antoine Ruel (11.4%)
Antoine and Olivier Ruel have been dominant forces on the Pro Tour since they first emerged as two-thirds of Black Ops when they won Grand Prix–Cannes 99-00. Of the two brothers, Antoine can easily be described as “The Quiet One” although his actions speak far louder than he does. Antoine finished second at Pro Tour–San Diego last season and also finished second at this season’s Grand Prix–Vienna, and fourth in last season’s Grand Prix–Sendai. In 2004, he finished in the money at every Pro Tour, posting better individual performances at every step along the way (plus a sixth-place team finish in Seattle) -- all of which culminated in a fourth-place finish in the Player-of-the-Year race. That level of consistent excellence has put Antoine at the top of the current Pro Standings, reflecting the best 12 months of any player on the Pro Tour.
2003-2004 Pro Points: 68 (4th) | Nagoya Pro Standings: 69 (1st)
Olivier Ruel (17.4%)
In between winning Grand Prix–Cannes in 99-00 (along with his brother and Florent Jeudon) and Grand Prix–Helsinki in 2005, Olivier has traveled around the world to make eleven GP Top 8s and three PT Top 8s. The boisterous half of the Ruel brothers, Olivier has traveled the globe and made friends all over the world. A solid 2003-2004 saw him finish in a tie for 8th place (with Kai) in the Player-of-the-Year race. The 2005 season started off on a high note with a Top 8 in Columbus and a win at Grand Prix–Helsinki. If the Top 8 from Columbus can be called the "Class of Columbus," then Olivier is certainly the class clown. He was also the most mentioned name among the Class of Columbus when they were polled for a Player of the Year prediction for 2005.
2003-2004 Pro Points: 58 (tie-8th) | Nagoya Pro Standings: 63 (2nd)
Jelger Wiegersma (3.2%)
Jelger Wiegersma played on Sunday twice last season. He worked with players all over the world (including Zvi Mowshowitz) to fine-tune his Affinity decklist for Pro Tour–Kobe and his deck from that tournament is the foundation for the modern Vial Affinity deck. The Kobe field was so packed with Affinity hatred that it is a testament to his skill that he was able to emerge in the Top 8 of that event as one of only two Affinity players. He was a member of Von Dutch, along with fellow Dutchies Jeroen Remie and Kamiel Cornelissen. Pro Tour–Seattle was his third PT Top 8, and like his teammates, the first time he went home with the trophy. Jelger finished 5th in the Player-of-the-Year Race.
2003-2004 Pro Points: 66 (5th) | Nagoya Pro Standings: 57 (3rd)