Saturday, May 6: 10:57 am - Not-So-Quick Question: Who is Big Oots?
by Brian David-Marshall
As Day 2.1 of the Pro Tour rumbled to life, only one player emerged from Round Eight with a perfect record intact. As Justin Gary fell to Terry Soh, Frank Karsten was crushed beneath the wheels of the juggernaut known simply as Big Oots. Who is this man? This myth? This legend? In the tradition of the old Quick Questions from Pro Tours past, I set out to find the answer from the players wandering the floor with my trusty digital recorder in hand.
Chris "Star Wars Kid" McDaniel:
I mean, he is not the smallest oots. He is not medium oots. He is the biggest oots…I have ever seen.
Who isn't Big Oots? He is the biggest oots. Do you actually want me to tell you? Ramses…Ramses…I have no idea who he is. Sea Beast? Ramses Sea Beast? Is that right? That's all I know. I know what he looks like. He is the biggest there has ever been.
Antonino De Rosa:
He is that awkward looking dude, that big dude. He is a true master, let me tell you. Did you know he got arrested this week and escaped the police to come to the Pro Tour? He was prank calling and prank called a judge and they sent cops to his house and threatened to kill him or something.
Some dude? I don't know.
I don't know…I think it is an ancient Greek god. That's all I got.
Big Oots? I don't get it. I don't know what to say. I don't get it. Is it Osyp?
I want to change my answer to a breakfast cereal. I think it is a breakfast cereal.
I honestly could not tell you because I don't know. Is he the best? You are just going to keep holding that there until I walk away or something, aren't you?
(For the record I am now walking away.)
Big Oots? What is Big Oots? What does Oots mean? I don't know. (Falls to his knees, pounds on the ground, and begins wailing.) I don't knooooooooooooow!!!!!
I played that dude at Worlds this year. Its Game 2 - I won Game 1 - and time is getting short. He is playing Scepter Chant and I swing with my Tog and he makes a movement with his hands like he is taking it and I pump, pump, pump my Tog. Then he taps five and goes, "Cycle Decree? I don't have it but if I could have drawn it I could have blocked I never said 'take it'."
Yaaaaaaah… He and I had some words. Then the judge told me to stop calling him names and I had to leave. But …. Yaaaaaah. He really got under the skin on that one. I had been really nice to the kid…letting him take stuff back…and then he tries to make me look like a punk?
He is the largest of all the oots. That is all he is.
He is a guy who asked me to team up with him for the next Pro Tour. He wanted me to team with him and Mark Zajdner. I immediately declined.
He is a guy. He is big and he has some oots. I don't know. I don't who he is - or what he is - or what the legend or myth is but it is probably exciting.
That's all I got.
Why are you still holding that?
I am going to walk away.
…but he is a good guy.
Big Oots is Rasmus Sibast. Do you want the full explanation? He is from Denmark and is like 17 or 18 years old. I met him through Gadiel Szleifer, who would always tell me things like, "Big Oots is classic" and stuff like that. He got on the gravy train last year with the help of Gadiel. He stayed at Gadiel's house during the week between Salt Lake City and Mexico. Now he is doing pretty well on the PT, I hear.
Saturday, May 6: 1:34 pm - Bad Beat Battle
by Brian David-Marshall
So you think you have had a bad beat at Magic lately? If you think the act of prying defeat from the jaws of victory stings in a 4-3-2-2, then you can only imagine what it feels like at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning in Prague with a quarter million on the line.
In round 10 on Saturday, Neil Reeves was playing a controllish blue-white- red deck against Ben Goodman. Ben mulliganed to five on the play - he was already down a game in the match to Neil. A couple of irrelevant dorks in the face of a wall of walls - Ancestor, Junktroller, etc. - seemed to indicate a sweep for Reeves. Then an unslaked Battering Wurm made an appearance. Obviously Ben has been taking 'mad beats' from Neil at every turn and was hating Magic.
One draw later Ben Goodman changed his mind. He enchanted the slippery snake with Wurmweaver Coil and smashed in, leaving Neil facing a one-possession game and a less-than-sunny disposition. He looked at the Master of Impediments he left sitting in his hand in favor of another wall and promptly scooped the game.
Despite Ben's best efforts to do himself in, he went on to take the third game as well; must be the luck of the Irish. (And before anyone e-mails me to the contrary, I know that Ben is Austrian and not in any way actually Irish). Neil stalked off the feature match area muttering something about 'one-outers' and 'every time.'
Ben, on the other hand, was now 7-3 although he was a little stunned to fully grasp it. "What just happened? Is that a win?"
I don't know if Neil was feeling worse than Chris McDaniel after Round 8. Star Wars Kid was scuffling with Benjamin Caumes - a Top 8 competitor in Pro Tour-Yokohama a couple seasons back - and the Frenchman stunned the young American with a turn-two play of Watchwolf - off of an Island/Mountain board. Terrarion is being sought for questioning in the murder of Chris's spirit.
Even Benjamin felt awful about the win. "He apologized after the match," claimed The Kid.
Daniel O'Mahoney-Schwartz found no such comfort from his own opponent in the same round. Dan lost to an honest to goodness actual misclick. His opponent used a removal spell on one of his creatures and Dan responded with Peel from Reality but had a senior moment and returned some creature other than the one he wanted to protect to his hand. Despite the calamity, Dan still made a game of it although he almost wished he hadn't.
"I told him that I thought he would have won the match anyway but he was adamant, 'No way. You would have destroyed me!' " Dan relayed. "Doesn't he know he is supposed to cooperate and make me feel better about it?"
Dan did salve his wounds one round later by thrashing that young whippersnapper Masashi Oiso.
Some have honed the bad beat story to an art form. Tomi Walamies and Anton Jonsson are minimalist masters in this regard. The two Scandinavians - or Irish-Austrians - are rooming together and woke up this morning with seventh-round hangovers after shaky drafts.
Tomi looked at Anton as they prepared the head to the venue and hung his head, "Why me?"
Anton nodded in agreement, "Why me?"
Of course, what they were both really saying was, "Why not you?"
Saturday, May 6: 5:41 pm - Draft Dodgers
by Brian David-Marshall
Yesterday's 400+ person release tournament for Dissension was a fascinating process to watch as it unfolded. It was disappointing to watch Jon Finkel start strong and then falter but I felt like I learned a lot by watching him draft. His selection process clearly delineated the struggle between drafting the best cards and the best deck. Many players yesterday - notably the Hoaen-schooled San Diego crowd - opted for the latter option.
Blood-Graft decks were among the most successful archetypes to reach the height of the Day One learning curve. As the players took their seats for the first draft on Saturday I planted myself behind Justin Gary to see how he navigated his picks sitting between Terry Soh on his right and Frank Karsten on his left. Both Justin and Terry had successfully drafted Blood-Graft in the first two drafts. When they sat down next to each other in the third draft yesterday - technically the first draft after the cut to Day Two - Justin tried to avoid blue-green acknowledging Terry's preference and more dominating position at the table - to his right.
Justin was all smiles yesterday, but today Terry Soh has been his nemesis.
Justin drafted with Azorius in mind in that draft and got well paid for his efforts as he had eight-straight high quality picks from that guild. Despite his high quality cards they were accompanied by low-quality mana and, after picking up his seventh win, Justin took back-to-back losses to close the third draft.
Justin looked at Peel from Reality and Vedalken Dismisser in his opening pack and had to consider the players on either side of him. He knew that passing either card to Frank would likely be cutting off the flow of Izzet cards in pack two. He also knew that Terry Soh would likely be Simic in the third pack and definitely blue. Anticipating that passing two blue cards downstream would send both players into Izzet and that Rakdos would flow his way through Terry, Justin made a first pack decision to try a Hellbent Boros deck with Skynight Legionnaire.
Once again Terry did not disappoint as Justin second-picked another Skyknight that Terry had passed over in favor of Civic Wayfinder. Justin stayed on target throughout with consistent but underwhelming picks such as a Screeching Griffin over Moroii. Meanwhile Terry was looking forward to the rest of his draft with an eye toward power as he had taken a second pick Civic Wayfinder too. He was then passed Vedalken Dismisser and a Mark of Eviction. He certainly was anticipating Izzet in pack two but with two Wayfinders, Watery Grave, and Elves of Deep Shadow in his pile nothing was out of bounds in the third pack - nothing that Justin was hoping to see anyway.
Justin first-picked Pillory in the second set of packs but wavered for a moment when Frank unexpectedly passed him a Chronarch. I say unexpectedly but Justin thinks the card has gone down considerably in value since the release of the third set and has it behind both Ogre Savant and Steamcore Weird, possibly even Pyromatics depending on your deck. When passed Blind Hunter and Weird in the next pack he returned to the Dark Boros plan and sent the Weird to a happy home in Terry's Mark of Eviction collection.
There was an interesting dilemma for Justin two picks down the line when he had to choose between Spelltithe Enforcer and Orzhov Signet. "I have never played with or against that card," explained Justin, who took the mana fixer. "It could be amazing or it could be terrible." He just could not afford to do his playtesting at that late a juncture in the tournament.
With a hole in his four-slot, Justin took Demon's Jester over Rakdos Ickspitter and a second over Jagged Poppets a pick later and that was about all the Rakdos he saw for the rest of the packs. Terry took an Ickspitter to be a companion to his Gelectrode and a Wrecking Ball with his second pick. Justin did manage to get more than enough cards for his deck - he had close to 20 before Dissension - but the deck clearly did not turn out the way he expected. He could only shake his head as he watched First-Wing after Second-Wing after Third-Wing swooped around the table.
And what was happening to his left with Frank Karsten?
"I don't have a certain strategy. I don't try to force anything. Mainly I try to be flexible. My first pick - in a reeeeeally weak pack - was a Bramble Elemental over Boros Signet."
He took the Vedalken Dismisser as expected, followed by Drooling Groodion - not leaving him a lot of room to maneuver in the second set of packs but it was paying off. He got a fourth pick Brainspoil and then a gift with the fifth pick.
It's good to get passed the goods!
"For some reason I got a fifth pick Moroii, which is absurd because it is a clear first pick. The card is really good. I got passed some more green blue and black cards and then I had to find a strategy for Guildpact. I did not want to give up on any of my cards because they were all very good but if you stay in those colors there is no guild in Guildpact. My plan was to pick up some Izzet and Gruul cards and splash them so I have a couple of Gruul Turfs but no red cards - which is kind of strange. My first two picks were Douse in Glooms over cards like Izzet Chronarch and Blind Hunter. I ended up still being blue, black, and green after Guildpact. "
"I was planning to pick up some of the red removal in the third pack to splash off my Gruul Turfs but there were none and I ended up picking up Simic cards. And that was my deck. I would say it is an average deck. I would say it could go 2-1 but I would not be surprised to 1-2. "
Flexibility on either side of Justin cost his deck at least three removal spells - one Wrecking Ball and two Douse in Gloom - that he was anticipating would come in packs two and three. Had Terry and Frank been attending the same school of thought that scenario might have played out differently. This format is so challenging because the intentions of your neighbors will affect your card pool. Knowing you are in a draft with a flexible drafter could mean your consistent strategy will find itself short of key spells that the flexible drafter can scoop up regardless of the signals that have been sent.
Pro Tour Prague - Draft Four 3-0 record in pod
Pro Tour Prague - Draft Four 2-1 record in pod
Pro Tour Prague - Draft Four 0-3 record in pod
"I am pretty sure that drafting behind Terry Soh for two straight drafts has destroyed me," laughed Justin, in surprisingly good spirits after getting swept in the pod. "I am 1-5 in those two drafts but the good news is that Terry cannot be at this draft table and I am going back to green-blue-red."
If you want to get a first hand look at drafting this format be sure to avail yourself of our handy-dandy draft viewer which has captured all the picks for the players in the final draft pod of Day Two once we've got it online.
Saturday, May 6: 6:22 pm - Quentin Martin Can Get Hellbent for All I Care
by Brian David-Marshall
Would you trust this man?
I was finally starting to warm up to Quentin Martin. The guy can be something of an acquired taste. He is gruff about the edges with an odd sense of humor that occasionally rubs people the wrong way. Normally I can take the guy with a grain of salt - what comes out of Britain that couldn't use a little salt? -- but this time the guy has gone too far.
He broke my heart.
Into tiny little pieces.
Word made its way back to the coverage room that during combat in a Feature Match Quentin had activated Aetherplasm to put Vigean Hydropon into play blocking a Bramble Elemental. Coverage teams were assembled to write a ballad of the event, video and photography crews were dispatched to the scene to immortalize the triumphant defender, and I was giddy with the notion that such an elegant play could be pulled off at the highest level of competition.
Sadly, the event was all a product of Quentin's imagination.
He just made the whole thing up.
I am not too big a man to admit a little piece of me died inside but the cycle of life continued. No longer satisfied with the two-turn parlay of Simic Initiate into a 4/4 Scab-Clan, I will spend the rest of my drafting days trying to make my Hydropon block a creature.
Saturday, May 6: 6:41 pm - That's a Lot of Cake
by Brian David-Marshall
Wizards will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Pro Tour at each stop this season with birthday cake for all the competitors. The cake nearly ran dry - or I should say 'ran out' as the cake itself was quite moist and delicious - in Hawaii with so many competitors. When they trotted out the cake for this event there was more than enough even for this larger crowd.
How much cake did they bring? All I know is that the cake weighed more than coverage reporter Tim Willoughby.
Saturday, May 6: 8:08 pm - Kuroda Warrior
With a cake that big, *everyone* can have their cake and eat it too!
by Brian David-Marshall
Jon Becker's favorite Pro is Masashiro Kuroda. Not hard to understand actually, as the Pro Tour-Kobe champion is one charismatic son-of-a-gun. He is the first Japanese player to ever win a Pro Tour, speaks excellent English, and is an engaging conversationalist. It doesn't hurt that he comes off as a villainous badass on his Player Card.
Jon shows off his Kuroda prize.
Becker kicked himself when he learned that Kuroda was in attendance this weekend. Kuroda can rarely attend events outside of Japan but was able to make an appearance in Europe - only his second non-Japanese PT - because it is Golden Week in Japan.
Not expecting to see Kuroda, Jon did not bring his modest collection of Kuroda's Player Card to get signed. While not tracking down stories with his video camera in tow, Jon has been frantically trying to find copies here in Prague for Kuroda to autograph. One would assume that with release tournaments taking place in side events that there would be Kurodas all over the place, but players either did not open any or refused to trade them.
Jon found himself in something of a pickle. The only person with any Kurodas for trade was Martin Dingler. Becker has given the UK a notoriously hard time for having weak Limited players and Dingler has borne the brunt of Jon's curmudgeonliness on more than one occasion. In the end Jon swallowed his pride and made nice with the GP Wales Champion for five precious copies of his hero's card.
Saturday, May 6: 8:42 pm - "Power vs. Consistency"
by Brian David-Marshall
That has been the question all weekend long in regard to draft strategy. Either way, players have to make a sacrifice. If you want to draft a consistent deck around a specific strategy you need to forgo the temptations of off-color power cards as they pass around the table to your potential competition. On the other hand, the so-called power decks have stretched out mana bases you wouldn't want to bring home to mother.
Antoine just drafts for fun.
I caught up with two players to get their takes on the new draft format with five pods in the rear view mirror. Julien Nuijten was the ringleader of the Dutch slumber party that prepared for this event at his house while his parents were away on vacation. While Julian was team drafting on the unused tables from Friday, many of the guests from his house party were doing very well - most notably Frank Karsten.
"I favor card power over consistency because there are so many color fixers and the games take so long that eventually you will draw into the right mana and cast your powerful spells," explained the former World Champion. "I think it is a very slow format - it is like a Sealed Deck format, actually. Removal is the most important thing and the second is card advantage. Playing many colors doesn't actually matter. Occasionally you will run into an aggressive deck but that just happens. As long as you keep the big guys off the board and have more cards than your opponent the mana doesn't matter. The games take so long that you will get your mana eventually."
Don Smith takes the dissenting opinion. The finalist from Pro Tour Atlanta was making a run at a possible Top 16 finisher. Don was part of an Atlanta-based group that prepared for this event, which included former Limited Information columnist Joe Crosby. I originally approached Joe for this piece but he shifted me toward Don and credits him with anything he knows about this format. Crosby was in a position to make the Top 8 at the time.
Don preached consistency and tempo over raw power when drafting, saying "I am all about what the deck needs at that specific moment. This is the best format for that. You can't have a pick order. In every format in the past people would always ask what the best common is and you can't do that in this set. You might be able to say what the first pick is but after that it is all up in the air and depends on what you need. I take premier commons and then double lands."
"You pretty much want to set up your Guildpact if you can and make sure you are getting fed the right colors in the third pack," Smith continued. "Since the power level escalates in each pack it seems that Ravnica sets the table and you want to be as consistent as possible if you can. Try and cut off as best you can for Guildpact. It seems that everyone is trying to go blue-red-green and blue-red. I really like Orzhov. I think it is underdrafted. I try to start off taking black cards because I don't think a lot of people are doing that. People are trying to establish themselves in blue-red and perhaps green. I try to put them into blue-red and cut off Orzhov pretty hard. Then I will either go blue-white, blue-white-black, or blue-black-red."
Pro Tour Los Angeles Champion Antoine Ruel drafted with another philosophy entirely.
"I draft for fun," he grinned.