Saturday, January 29: 9:10 am - Gaming the Pro Tour
by Ted Knutson
Those of you who used to read The Sideboard coverage before that site was consumed by MagictheGathering.com may remember the Fantasy Draft that we used to run before each Pro Tour. That doesn't mean that the pros have given up on that idea, however, as they are always looking for additional ways to make the game even more interesting. One group of road warriors that travel to most events has chosen to resurrect the fantasy draft for themselves.
Sam Gomersall is apparently the keeper of the draft list, and he showed us which pros were thought to be on a hot streak this weekend. Prizes are as yet undetermined, but the winner of the pool is simply the person who picked the player that has the highest finish this weekend. Some people picked friends, some picked Japanese ringers they thought would do well, and a one (namely the reigning Player of the Year) picked themselves as having the best chance to win this weekend.
||The Spikey-Haired Japanese guy (Kazuki Katou)
|Antonino De Rosa
||"I wheeled the Ruel Brothers!"
||"Insert Gabe Walls shady pick to be named later"
Saturday, January 29: 10:36 am - The Cost of Jet Lag
by Ted Knutson
Traveling to Japan is not a simple process, but once you become acclimated to the country, the language, and the Japanese people, it can become a great experience. One thing that is impossible to get used to quickly thought (and it explains why I was sleepwalking through yesterday's coverage) is the jet lag. From the East Coast of the United States Japan is a 14-hour time difference, and it's seven the hard way from most of Europe, meaning if you don't get here a week ahead of time, you're probably going to be struggling with fatigue -- and sometimes outright exhaustion -- at some point during the day, and it can cost you big when you're fighting the best Magic players in the world for thousands of dollars in prizes.
The PT has been an amazing experience. Being a relatively new player (well, very new on the tournament scene, it hardly feels like I have pro tour points since it wasn't that long ago I was at the prerelease for CHK, my first tournament!), everything was just new to me. It was great having free snack food, I was doing well for a while in Day 1, then it all went bad in the last match which would decide whether I go into Day 2. On reflection, it was both my bad draw (flood) and also 1 or 2 wrong picks near the end of the last draft. So I was feeling really bad. But, it was great in I got to play....
-- Reina Magica
We've already told you how Olivier Ruel and Bernardo Da Costa Cabral have been in country since Grand Prix-Osaka three weeks ago, but the rest of the French contingent met the pair in Tokyo about a week ago to sightsee and get their schedules switched over to Japanese time. Speaking of Olivier, I asked him how he was doing after round 8 and this was his answer: "Well, I as in last two rounds ago when I made Day 2. Since then I have gone 0-2, and I'm not very good at math, but I assume that means I am still in last." Most of the Dutchies such as Jeroen Remie and Frank Karsten, got here on Tuesday or Wednesday night, giving them enough time to feel relatively normal by Saturday, provided they survived a grueling Friday to make Day 2. Jelger Wiegersma in particular was having a rough time, saying he was only sleeping about two hours a night and that he was waking up at 3 every night, regardless of how tired he was when he laid down to sleep.
Perhaps the most startling choice this weekend was made by TOGIT players Osyp Lebedowicz and Adam Horvath, who arrived in Japan on Thursday night and then posted 5-1 records in their first two drafts before making some fatigue mistakes in the final hours of Day 1. Horvath made a brutal mistake in the last round of Day 1 that was clearly caused from being tired. Sitting at six, Adam let his opponent's green Kodama through, thinking that the attack would drop him to two life after damage. It wasn't until his opponent appeared confused that Adam looked at the card a second time and realized that he had just lost the game to Kodama of the North Tree instead of his slightly smaller South-side brother. Fellow TOGITer Craig Krempels also pointed out that Adam passed a Painwracker Oni for a Brutal Deceiver in the last back, in spite of being in the colors.
A tougher fight -- Magic or jet lag? Osyp battles both.
Antonino De Rosa chimed in while Krempels was telling me that story to inform me he was so tired during one draft yesterday that he inadvertently chose Iname, Death Aspect thinking it was the much more busty Kokusho, The Evening Star. In Osyp's final match of the day against Masahiro Kuroda, he also made a mistake caused by being tired. When Kuroda blocked with his Teller of Tales in Game 2 and then saved it with Indomitable Will when damage was on the stack, Osyp had a Kodama's Might in hand.
Osyp said if he'd been paying more attention, he would have realized that the only thing Kuroda could have had at that point in the game was the Will, and he simply should have cast the Might before damage, this making certain that the Teller went to the graveyard and possibly changing the course of the match.
We'll have to wait and see if fatigue plays a factor in the results the foreign players post. I love Japan, as do many of the players who endeavored to make the trip here this weekend, but jet lag is nobody's friend, especially when thousands of dollars can hinge on the slightest play mistake from some of the world's best players.
Saturday, January 29: 11:44 am - Webcast Public Service Announcement
by Ted Knutson
There are two more drafts left Saturday before we know what the Top 8 will look like, but now seemed as good a time as any to promote Sunday's webcast. Those of you who have been following previous Pro Tours know that our webcasts have been getting bigger and better with each new Pro Tour, and Sunday will continue that trend when we simulcast Japanese and English coverage live from dueling coverage booths.
Yes, this man knows what he's doing.
Recent color commentary addition Mike Flores stayed home to be with the wife and his baby this weekend, but rumor has it that we actually found someone older and just as knowledgeable as Mike to fill in -- namely, awesome coverage reporter Brian David-Marshall. Brian has been around the game from the very start, and if you're lucky he might even relate some of his recent exploits in Japan, including the discovery of Toto, a very special turtle. Ask him about it in the message board of his column!
Check back tomorrow starting at 9 a.m. Nagoya time (that's 7 p.m. ET Saturday night) for live coverage from this exciting Rochester Pro Tour, and be sure to listen for a few special announcements that they won't even let me hint about right now -- they are that secret.
Saturday, January 29: 12:36 pm - Unstoppable Force vs. Immovable Object
by Ted Knutson
The round 10 pairings gave everyone the matchup we'd been waiting for over the past three rounds: 8-1 Masahiro Kuroda vs. 9-0 Anton Jonsson. Kuroda won the last Japanese Pro Tour and Grand Prix: Osaka three weeks ago, making this shy Japanese family man a legend in his own time among Japanese players. Jonsson is clearly the best Limited player in attendance weekend, a title ceded to him when back-to-back Pro Tour champion Nicolai Herzog chose to vacation on the Canary Islands this weekend instead of making the trip.
Kuroda lost in the very first round before reeling off eight straight victories, drafting red-green decks twice before settling into blue-white for draft three. Lest you think that Kuroda's path to 8-1 was easy, he faced three straight Pro Tour winners in the third draft, beating Osyp Lebedowicz in round 7 and Jelger Wiegersma in round 8 before shutting down Jeroen Remie in round 9 without even attacking in Game 2. Kuroda simply absorbed damage for a few turns before stabilizing long enough to resolve Reverse the Sands, earning a concession from Remie.
Jonsson has been a wrecking ball all weekend, demolishing draft after draft usually through abuse of the splice mechanic. His third deck was a change of pace where he drafted a B/W deck with plenty of removal, some solid beaters, and the always welcome Nagao. Remarking on yet another impressive 3-0 performance after draft three, I asked BDM whether he thought Anton could lose this weekend. Brian replied, "He could, but he'd have to be playing on MTGO for it to happen," referencing Jonsson's frequent complaints about how much more often he loses on Magic Online versus in the real world.
Here are the two juggernauts' draft 3 decklists:
Draft 3 decklist
Pro Tour Nagoya 2005 Third Rochester Deck
Saturday, January 29: 2:32 pm - News and Notes from Round 11
by Ted Knutson
In round 11 there were three Canadians sitting in the feature match area. Rich Hoaen took down Tsuyoshi Ikeda courtesy of some speedy red/white beats and a Lava Spike, splicing Glacial Ray for the final few points of damage. Located across the feature match area from those two players was the round 11 Canadian Death Match, featuring Murray "The Mauler" Evans vs. Mark "Scrubby Z" Zajdner. Zajdner mulliganned all three games, but was able to split the first two before Murray's ridiculous blue-red deck bashed him into oblivion with help from Earthshaker and a bounty of spliced arcane spells.
Is this the Betrayer of Kamigawa?
Staying in North America for the moment, Adam Horvath has surfaced as theBetrayer of Kamigawa. After losing to TOGIT teammate Joshua Ravitz on Day 1, he's dispatched both Ravitz and Jonathan Sonne on Day 2, destroying their chances of making the Top 8 in order to keep his own hopes alive. After putting four players near the top table at 5-1 on Day 1, Team TOGIT has taken some rough beats, with only Horvath and Osyp Lebedowicz still in the running for a final day appearance.
After losing to Masashiro Kuroda in the matchup of juggernauts, Anton Jonsson dropped a second round in a row, showing a small chink in his armor, but leaving him still in the driver's seat for a Top 8 appearance. However, when I walked into the player's lounge, he could be heard grumping at Osyp Lebedowicz, who apparently cursed Anton back in round 10 and set off the current losing streak.
"You promise me that if you cursed me out of the Top 8, you'll buy me dinner?" asked Anton.
"Alright," responded the notoriously money-tight Ukrainian, "I promise you'll get a good dinner if my curse somehow ruins your weekend. Hell, if I'm that good, I'm going to curse myself while I'm at it. I'm cursed to make Top 8, I'm cursed to make Top 8..."
Saturday, January 29: 4:25 pm - Off the Beaten Path with Murray the Mauler
by Ted Knutson
Murray Evans is a drafting enigma. All weekend his opponents have come back from the draft table saying things like "God, Murray is so bad!" or "I have no idea what he was doing at the table. Does he even have a deck?"
Murray Evans drafts like no other.
In three of his four drafts this weekend, the answer has been a resounding "yes" as he 3-0'd each of them (with a forgettable 0-3 implosion mixed in). Curious about exactly why this particular player is throwing people for a loop, I asked Murray for his thoughts on the draft format.
"Well, I like white a lot, but I've been drafting blue-red all weekend because I didn't think there would be quite this many white drafters. Apparently the fact that I like Kitsune Blademaster better than Kabuto Moth is somewhat controversial among the pros, but the truth is that Blademaster just works better with the rest of the white cards like Indomitable Will and Blessed Breath. I guess that's been throwing people the last couple of days...
"The trick to drafting a good blue-red deck is to go blue early and then just be patient. Like, in the early packs you can just grab a Psychic Puppetry -- which is surprisingly good - or River Kaijin and wait for people to figure out what colors they are going to be in. Your deck is going to look like a pile early, that's just the way it is.
"However, later on you start to get better blue cards and hopefully dip into red with a few strong commons like Yamabushi's Flame, maybe a Battle-Mad Ronin or -- if you're lucky -- Glacial Ray. Once red opens up a bit, you're deck starts to get pretty good, and then you pick up things like sixth-pick Earthshaker, which is probably the single best card in U/R, but only a couple of drafters here this weekend seem to understand this. He's really underrated.
"As for my feelings on Battle-Mad Ronin, he's very versatile. People don't get that in some archetypes he acts as a 3/3 for two mana. In blue-red you don't care about damaging your opponent, so the turn you cast him, your opponent can't attack and then he just keeps swinging, dropping their life one point at a time. I think he's a lot better than people give him credit for, but you have to have the right deck for that to happen."
Saturday, January 29: 6:05 pm - A Quick Look at the Standings
by Ted Knutson
Time to fill you in on the scenarios that could happen with two rounds left to play, where the field for the Top 8 is taking shape. Masashiro Kuroda and Terry Soh both locked up a slot with wins in round 13 and an intentional draw at the beginning of round 14, giving both Japan and Malaysia at least one competitor apiece on Sunday. The rest of the possibilities after those two, however, are a bit more complex.
Assuming things go normally, at least four of the remaining slots will go to the winners of the following matches: Remie vs. Harkonen, Murray vs. Goron, Jonsson vs. Karsten, and Shu Komuro vs. Ryouma Shiozu. In fact, while I was writing this, Karsten utterly smashed Jonsson, putting Anton on the bubble for the last round -- a very scary position. After starting out 9-0, he has gone 1-4 and must now win to even have a chance to make the Top 8. It looks like Osyp's curse may be coming true. Greek player Vasilis Fatouros is also in the mix, but got paired down against one of the players with 27 points, which will hurt his tiebreakers a bit.
After that, things get more hazy. The losers of those matches all have the possibility to win in the final round and make it, provided their tiebreakers hold out. Below them are another five or six players who also have a shot at the Top 8 with a bit of help, including Tiago Chan, Osyp Lebedowicz, Andrei Hayrynen and Adam Horvath. Because no player has been able to run away with the tournament it has given us a tournament with a closely bunched group of players and a lot of questions that can only be determined by the results from these last two rounds of play.
Saturday, January 29: 8:36 pm - Round 15 Roundup
by Ted Knutson
I'll assume you've done the smart thing at this point and read BDM's coverage of Anton Jonsson's feature match for this round, since it involves a 9-0 start, Kumano, and a desperate scramble for one of the final two Top 8 slots. Here's what happened in the other three matches that mattered:
Vasilis Fatouros vs. Ryouma Shiozu
Fatouros land flooded in Game 1, and then Shiozu was land screwed in game 2, evening things at a game a piece before the other matches had even finished a game. Game 3 saw Shiozu keep a solid four-spell, three-land hand, but then draw one more spell and seven lands after that, sending Fatouros and his excellent tiebreakers straight to the Top 8.
Osyp Lebedowicz vs. Andrei Hayrynen
In one of the two "win and a prayer" matches, Osyp quickly mashed Hayrynen in Game 1 to jump out to an early 1-0 lead, but Game 2 was a nailbiter where Hayrynen's Wicked Akubas squared off against Osyp's spirited offense (supplemented by one of the subtle stars of the tournament, Battle-Mad Ronin). A timely Indomitable Will and a barrage of removal made it look like Hayrynen had the game in the bag, but Osyp was able to chump block just long enough to draw back-to-back Moss Kamis and take the game at one life.
Jeroen Remie vs. Julien Goron
In the other "win and a prayer" match, Goron leapt out to a 1-0 lead on the back of enchantment power when he used Mystic Restraints and Cage of Hands to lock down Remie's best creatures including Keiga, the Tide Star. Keiga made a repeat engagement in Game 2 and this time proved unstoppable, wracking up a hefty body count of chumps along the way.
Game 3 then proved to be a battle of dueling blue legends. Uyo, the Silent Prophet hit the board and dominated for Goron, while Keiga sat idly by, content to watch the action from Remie's hand because the Dutch star lacked the necessary blue mana to summon the dragon to his bidding. Remie actually had a strong start and put a great deal of pressure on Goron in the early game, but a pair of Reciprocates, Cage of Hands, and Teller of Tales eventually proved too much for him to handle.