Friday, Feb 9: 10:21 am - Kicking off the Season
by Tim Willoughby
Welcome to Day One of Pro Tour - Geneva! With a day of skiing behind them, players and staff are now ready for a whole weekend drafting the minty fresh Time Spiral - Time Spiral - Planar Chaos format. We've got more coverage than ever, with audio, video and plain old-fashioned words sent direct to you by super high-tech, modern internettery.
Here in the blog we'll be giving you all the latest in terms of news, photos, gossip around the venue, and possibly even some 'falling over in the snow' ski-trip anecdotes. This year's Pro Tour season might just have started, but check back often, as there are plenty of stories already.
Friday, Feb 9: 12:08 pm - That's not a scarf!
by Tim Willoughby
There are plenty of players here in Geneva sporting all sorts of wintry apparel. Given that yesterday a fair few of them went skiing, this is entirely appropriate. Pro Tour beanie hats and polo necks were given out to players at this event, and there have also been scarves, ear muffs, and gloves spotted, bearing the Pro Tour stamp or otherwise.
One player that rather stood out this morning, though, was Olivier Ruel. Had he taken the Japanese fashion of wearing a scarf flung jauntily over a shoulder to heart for this event? Actually no. Olivier is in a blue neck brace this Pro Tour, following an entirely un-skiing related mishap, though you could easily be forgiven for mistaking his neckwear for a fashion accessory. He did comment that he was pretty warm with it on most of the time.
More concerningly, though, Olivier has been put to a tricky decision as to what to do with regards to painkillers for this event. His neck is pretty uncomfortable, which could prove a distraction, but his painkillers make him drowsy - also not good for Magic. Going into the first draft, Ruel was going for the 'painful but awake' strategy. It remains to be seen if he will switch to his backup plan later in the weekend.
Friday, Feb 9: 2:10 pm - Crazy Plays
by Kelly Digges
A Pro Tour is the perfect place to catch clever plays and strange interactions, and the eclectic nature of Time Spiral block only accentuates it.
I noticed Olivier Ruel with a Vampiric Sliver and Ghost Ship faced down by Anatoli Lightfoot's lonely little Errant Doomsayers. Lightfoot was getting low on life and decided it was time to make a move. He attacked with his Errant Doomsayers, dealt Olivier 1 damage, and played Hail Storm at the end of his own combat step to kill the Doomsayers. Not exactly an orthodox play, but it allowed Lightfoot's newly minted Porphyry Nodes to get to work a turn earlier. "Desperate times," he said wryly. Of course, the whole thing would have looked a lot better for him if Olivier hadn't suspended a Deep-Sea Kraken a few turns earlier. The Kraken arrived in short order and rendered the clever play a moot point.
Meanwhile, Sam Gomersall was squaring off against American Mat Marr. The board was absurdly crowded, with Amrou Seekers, Poultice Sliver, threeWatcher Slivers, and, oh, yeah an Oros, the Avenger on Gomersall's side sitting opposite Saltfield Recluse, Ghost Ship, two Venser's Slivers, a Shaper Parasite, and a Clockwork Hydra with eight (!) counters on it. Marr dropped Griffin Guide on the Hydra and hit for ten, but tapped his mana wrong and couldn't pay to regenerate the Ghost Ship when he had to block Oros to save himself the next turn. Hammerheim Deadeye hit play for Gomersall the same turn, smoking the Hydra and breaking the stall wide open.
At the next table over, I then chanced to find Olivier (I wasn't following him, I swear) watching his brother Antoine in the middle of an alpha strike on a similarly crowded board against Chihiro Kawada. Antoine was still at 20 with lethal damage on the table, but his opponent played Healing Leaves to stay at 1. Antoine snorted, shook his head, and passed the turn - and his opponent dropped Groundbreaker to supplement an already sizeable army and took Antoine from 20 to 0 in one swing. It's hard to say which Ruel brother looked more astonished.
Friday, Feb 9: 3:15 pm - Combo Chaos
by Scott Johns
With a block as wild as Time Spiral, there are plenty of great combos out there waiting to happen, and Planar Chaos only ups the fun. Here's a quick list of combos I've either seen recently or hope to see soon.
Tolarian Sentinel + Reality Acid
A well-known combo among those who have practiced this draft format, but so powerful that you always can tell someone that hasn't seen it yet by the face they make when this gets going. The great thing is that Tolarian Sentinel combos with a seemingly endless list of cards in this format, whether it's repeating Shaper Parasites or who knows what else. (And you've always got the white "rescue" creatures if needed for similar effect.)
Vesuvan Shapeshifter + Shaper Parasite
Coverage photographer Craig Gibson got this monstrosity going against editor Kelly Digges in a draft we did the other night in the hotel. Kelly still mutters and shakes his head with a wild look when we bring this up. Two mana to kill a guy with 2 toughness or less every turn? Sign me up!
Clockspinning + Giant Oyster
I haven't drawn them both at the same time yet, but I can't wait to get this one going.
Merfolk Thaumaturgist + Bewilder
Thanks to the current rules that handle power and toughness switching effects, the Thaumaturgist's effect is applied after any effects that alter power and toughness, thus turning -3/-0 into -0/-3. So with this combo you can kill almost anything with a power of 3 or lower and draw a card to boot!
Fiery Justice + Kavu Predator
Healing Leaves + Kavu Predator is bad enough, so Fiery Justice and Kavu Predator is outright ridiculous.
Herd Gnarr + Dream Stalker
Works great with Mantle of Leadership too!
Null Profusion + Wistful Thinking
Bombo alert! This is, however, a great way to stop someone with Null Profusion dead in their tracks.
Wild Pair + Dream Stalker
When fellow coverage writer Tim Willoughby heard me working on this blog item he immediately jumped in with this nasty little number. Wild Pair is crazy already, but here you play Dream Stalker, get Firemaw Kavu (and put it into play), let the Dream Stalker's bounce ability send the Firemaw Kavu to your hand. Something just took 6 damage, and you've got a Kavu in hand ready for more. Or just pick up the Dream Stalker instead, setting up more Kavu bouncing and even more searching as you go. (According to Tim, Quentin Martin reportedly pulled this off in the Pro Tour today, though granted, when it comes to Quentin you can't be too sure.) Also nice are cheap 1/1s to grab the likes of Triskelavus.
Stuffy Doll Lightning Round!
For every player who has laughed diabolically seeing a Sulfurous Blast resolve with Stuffy Doll in play, here are three combos guaranteed to make you grin (or grimace).
Shivan Meteor + Stuffy Doll
Pyrohemia + Stuffy Doll
Volcano Hellion + Stuffy Doll
Friday, Feb 9: 4:45 pm - Does Age Matter?
by Ted Knutson
On the plane flight over, I found myself wondering whether the young obviously have it better in Magic than their older competitors. Magic often feels like a game for the young, and we certainly highlight teenage superstars like Jan-Moritz Merkel, Gadiel Szleifer, and Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa, but are those simply anomalies, or do the kids truly seem to have an edge? Let's take a look at the age breakdown of the players in Level 5 and above:
Avg Age = 23.5
This information is somewhat surprising to me, since I figured the average would be college age, but as you can see, there's only one teenager on this list and more than a couple players age 25 or above. There are no 30-year old superstars running around out there, but some of the Hall of Famers are creeping up on 40.
Anyway, that was my oddball "I wonder…" set of stats for today. Tune in next time when we poll the ratio for boxers, briefs, or commando.
Friday, Feb 9: 5:12 pm - A Different Kind of Damage Race
by Scott Johns
Generally speaking, the Pro Tour tends to attract the best and brightest. Sometimes you have to wonder, though. Today two players actually decided to determine who would go first in their Pro Tour match by agreeing to a race across the back of the room. Worse, they both ended up charging through the black curtains behind the judges' stand, not realizing those were there to create a space for all of the audio/visual/server equipment running the venue. Both players fell and then received what the head judge described as "very stern" written warnings for using a non-random (and dangerous!) method of determining who would be play first.
Friday, Feb 9: 6:33 pm - Draft Two with Kenji Tsumura
by Ted Knutson
There's just something about Kenji Tusmura. Whether he's the Player of the Year or not (and for this year, he is not), he's always one of the coolest players in the room. His humor is infectious and mischievous, he's always fashionable, and as he showed the world last year, he has taught himself to play Limited. A 3-0 performance in draft one was exactly what he was hoping for, and for the first time ever, he found himself drafting at Table 1 at a Pro Tour.
In Time Spiral, Kenji was always a fan of green decks, often sporting black and playing a large number of fungi. His first deck here in Geneva was an excellent multi-color green piece with tons of mana fixing and Tromp the Domains - it will be interesting to see whether he stays true to Kermit form here, or if he's forced to draft a set of colors that are not featured on frogs.
Pack 1, pick 1 presented a number of good options, with Sulfurous Blast making the pile over Lightning Axe, Plague Sliver, and Might Sliver. Tromp the Domains went directly into the pile for pick 2 over Sudden Death and Desert, and then things dried up a bit with Nantuko Shaman, Yavimaya Dryad, and Orcish Cannonade as the relatively obvious choices over the next couple of packs. Havenwood Wurm, Trespasser il-Vec, and Ashcoat Bear - a card BDM is calling a high pick for the aggro red-green archetypes - rounded out pack 1.
Pack 2 immediately presented Kenji with a crisis of confidence. When faced with the choice of Avatar of Woe or Herd Gnarr and nothing in red, while few red cards came to you in pack 1, what do you do? In Kenji's case, you stay the course and take the Gnarr. He was rewarded with Sudden Shock in pack 2, but then the red really petered out again, with Keldon Halberdier and Goblin Skycutter the only other red cards he would get out of Time Spiral. The green wasn't particularly nipple-hardening either, with a pair of slivers arriving (Gemhide and Spinneret) escorted by another Shaman and Primal Forcemage.
Planar Chaos gave Kenji another tough pick, with Brute Force over StingScourger, a choice that many people would consider to be a no-brainer in the other direction. Rough/Tumble was a welcome arrival in pick 2 over Prodigal Pyromancer, and then Kenji chose Skirk Shaman, Rathi Tapper, Fury Charm, and Essence Warden in order. At this point, he had to be wondering what happened to his draft. The remaining packs didn't turn up any additional picks of merit, leaving Kenji with a tough row to hoe in an exceptional pod. One win with this deck will see him into Day 2, but that would surely leave him disappointed after an excellent start.
Friday, Feb 9: 7:45 pm - Seriously…
by Ted Knutson
Traveling has always been difficult for Ben Rubin, especially to Europe. Between living on the West Coast and enduring jet lag, things are rarely pleasant at foreign Pro Tours, but Rubin's most recent story takes the cake for travel difficulty and dedication in getting to a Pro Tour.
Rubin even looks serious.
His journey from San Diego was originally supposed to take 16 hours. The first flight from San Diego to San Francisco was delayed, and when Ben arrived at SF, he was told that there were no flights that could get him to Frankfurt that day. After a number of rants to various people, Rubin was able to finagle a flight from SF to London's Heathrow Airport, which was obviously delayed given heavy snow in the UK. He made his flight to Frankfurt in time, only to see it delayed as well. Finally, after getting in around midnight in Germany - far too late to catch any flight to Geneva - Ben started scrambling for options. After running into dead ends on both the plane and train fronts, Rubin finally tracked down a cabbie willing to drive him to Geneva.
That's right, he flagged a cab to travel the final 600 kilometers from Germany to Switzerland. Rubin wouldn't tell us what the cab actually cost him, but apparently it was more than the original cost of his round-trip plane ticket. The fun was not over yet! When they got to the Swiss border, the Swiss border patrol was initially unwilling to allow the cab to cross over because the cabbie - not expecting to need to cross any foreign borders that night - had neglected to bring his passport, and the Swiss were none too happy about it. Finally, after repeated haggling, the car was allowed through and Rubin was dropped off at the Palexpo center around 6 o'clock this morning.
So the answer to "Is Ben Rubin serious about Magic these days?" is "Would someone who wasn't serious go through all that crap just to make it to a Magic tournament?"
Oh, and his 4-1-1 record through the first six rounds is a decent answer as well.
Friday, Feb 9: 9:36 pm - Day 1 Wrap-Up
by Scott Johns
With Day 1 complete, we've done three drafts and seven rounds of competition so far. And when all that smoke has cleared, the picture painted has to be that this is a great draft format indeed.
First off, a quick look at the five undefeated drafters after six rounds gives an astonishing eight different two-color combinations of the total ten possible. The outliers are green-blue and green-red with two decks each, while green-black and white-red are the only two combinations not to show up. That means all of the other six combinations showed up in exactly one deck each, an incredibly good distribution of combinations overall.
Kenji Tsumura and Takuya Osawa posted the only 7-0 records.
And then there are the players. With 130 players having 12 or more points at the end of the day, the Top 32 is packed with well-known names. Japan rules the day, with Kenji Tsumura and Takuya Osawa posting the only perfect 7-0 records. From there, the rankings read like a who's who in current Magic. Going down the Top 32 gets you to about 15 points, but if you follow all those tied at 15 points you get all the way down to 89th place, which, probably not coincidentally, is right about where the density of well-known players finally starts to drop off.
With so many proven players crammed into such an unusually large percentage of the top half of the standings, and such an even distribution of color combinations capable of making a 6-0 record on Day 1, it seems impossible to paint this as anything other than a very healthy, highly skill-testing format.