he Japanese contingent was out in full force for this Pro Tour. And why not? One of the subplots of every major event this year has been about the inevitable victory of a Japanese player at the Pro Tour. Despite some tantalizingly close finishes--starting with Jin Okomoto and Worlds and up through Osamu Fujita Top 8 in Amsterdam--it has yet to happen. There were fifty-five Japanese players qualified for this event and every single one of them was here for the start of play on Friday. They represent over twenty percent of the field.
While all of the Japanese players were present and accounted for there were some notable absences from other parts of the world. For a variety of reasons a number of familiar faces failed to show up.
One of the game's biggest stars did not make the trip. Jon's less than dedicated approach to the game is well documented. He is notorious for his lack of play testing prior to any Constructed events and borrowing decks at the last minute with predictable results. Jon has resigned himself to the role of Limited Specialist and could not justify the time and expense of a trip to Japan based on his most recent constructed finishes.
Jon is still going to pursue the game as long he is able to experience it at the highest level. My guess is that if finds himself unqualified for a Pro Tour it is unlikely that you will have to worry about running into him at your local PTQ. He still as a few Pro Tours to go this year and Randy Buehler pointed out that he has RSVP'd for this year's Invitational. I don't think anyone will be surprised if he pulls off yet another Top 8 performance in San Diego the week after.
When registration closed without Jon Finkel claiming his invite it marked the end of the longest Pro Tour streak on record going back to the first season. Darwin Kastle now holds the Iron Man record but he needs a strong performance this weekend or he will find himself without an invite to Pro Tour San Diego. If that happens you should not be surprised if Darwin makes his presence known on the Northeastern PTQ circuit.
Jon is the standard bearer for the old guard of American Magic players. As the group has gotten a little older and taken on the burden of real jobs and families they have found it increasingly difficult to travel for the game as much as they did in the past. One of those players is Rob Dougherty. With two children and a business to run, Rob found it difficult to maintain the level of preparation that had served him so well in recent years.
A year of middle of the pack finishes finally caught up with him and he found himself without the necessary Pro Points or rating to qualify for this tournament. Rob still keeps up with the game and participates in his team's playtesting to some extent. Rob will make an attempt to qualify but running a store and two children will present some hurdles. Since he is the Tournament Organizer for the bulk of the PTQs in his immediate vicinity, his most convenient chances are unavailable to him.
"Mikey P" is the only player with a victory in an individual Pro Tour, Masters, and Grand Prix. Despite his past success Mike found himself scrambling for Pro Tour points in Amsterdam. When he failed to attain the necessary finish he signed up for PTQ on Sunday. Since then Mike has been a regular on the Northeastern PTQ circuit. He attended Grand Prixs in Oakland and Munich and is sure to be found in Columbus.
Perhaps the most intriguing absence is Jeff Cunningham's. Earlier this month Jeff found himself at the center of controversy when it came to light that he had acquired CMU/TOGIT's play testing results from the Magic Online beta test. It seems that he was erroneously granted moderator status and was able to observe all of the CMU matches without being noticed.
The incident first came to light in the coverage from Grand Prix Oakland and was fully revealed in an article by Antonino DeRosa for Star City Games. The disclosure sent a jolt through the Magic community and had virtual tongues wagging on every major message board. The next day there was a response from Jeff in which he apologized for the whole incident and corrected a few inaccuracies in Antonino's article.
There are two different stories going around about why Jeff decided not to attend this tournament. The first story claims that he did not want to be the subject of intense scrutiny every time he played a member of the CMU/TOGIT squad. Another story making the rounds is that Tom Guevin--the new leader of the revamped YMG team--told Jeff he had to stay home as a conciliatory gesture to the CMU/TOGIT gang.
When asked for his version of events Tom Guevin had only this to say, "I am not talking the press today."
Most of the CMU/TOGIT members claimed they wished Jeff nothing but good luck and would not have been angered by his presence this weekend. Rich Hoaen claimed that Jeff and Amsterdam Top 8 competitor Aeo Paquette were unwilling to make the trip based on their dissatisfaction with the decks that emerged from the YMG play testing. "They didn't care for CMU's either!"
The reigning World Champion has no more time off coming to him. He is in his senior year of high school and if he hopes to graduate on time he can't miss anymore classes. With Pro Tours starting on Friday it seems he is not going to make too many more appearances until the end of the school year.
Other notable absences include Jeroen Remie, Tomi Walamies, Evind Nitter, Patrick Mello, John Larkin, and Tim Aten. The most cited reason for not attending was the expense of traveling to Japan.