Saturday, September 4: 9:15 pm - America the Abysmal
by Ted Knutson
Randy Buehler walked into the press room after round 3, wondering if we had detailed exactly how poorly American players had fared on the weekend. I told him that I thought we had, but the results were so awful that perhaps they bear repeating.
The U.S. finished in 21st in the team event, completely missing the leaderboard for the first time in history. To be fair, they did go 3-1 in drafts on Team Rochester day, but the individual performances in the main event put them in too great a hole to dig out of Saturday. However, the blame here cannot all be laid at the feet of the National team members. The highest-finishing American in the main event was Eugene Harvey, who ended the tournament in 16th. After that the next "American" listed in the standings is Torben Tweifel, the German National Champion (Torben lives in the U.S. but is a member of the German military, stationed here). The next actual American was Dave Humpherys, all the way down in 34th place. After Dave, Americans were scattered throughout the standings, but the performance of the nation as a whole was nothing less than an complete failure this weekend.
Whatever the reason for the poor performance -- whether it be laziness, distraction, or that the game has passed some players by, the door is now open for a fresh crop of young American players to step forward and carry the flag, returning the reputation of American Magic to its former glory. Or at least placing more than one player in the Top 32.
Saturday, September 4: 9:07 pm - Germany Ascendant!
by Ted Knutson
Going into the final round, not a single team had assured themselves a place in the Team Finals on Sunday. Germany lead the standings, but Belgium, Japan, and Denmark all had a shot to make the finals with a win. The feature match area for the final round was relatively docile as the Belgians dispatched Denmark to lock up their seats for the final draft, but the area around the Germany-Japan match was a wall of bodies watched the two teams square off in battle, with the victors meeting the Belgians in Sunday's finals while the losers earning little more than a check as their parting gift.
The B and the C seats split, so it all came down to Sebastien Zink vs. Shuuhei Nakamura in seat A. During one crucial attack late in game 3, Sebastien Zink cast Synod Centurion, equipped the 4/4 beater and then pushed it forward into the red zone, considering his attack. Nakamura misunderstood his action and thought Zink had declared his attackers, so he blocked with his Auriok Bladewarden, cast Predator's Strike on the 'Warden and then pumped it with its own ability. However, Zink had never taken his hand off the Centurion and tried to stop Nakamura's actions while they were happening. Head Judge Colin Jackson was called over to mediate the dispute and ruled in Zink's favor, who then equipped Leonin Bola to a creature and passed the turn, gaining crucial information about his opponent's combat tricks from the misunderstanding.
Zink's next draw was big, as he played and attacked with the Centurion and a new Dross Golem, dropping Nakamura to 2. The young Japanese player cast Acquire for a lowly Nim Replica from Zink's deck and then cast Sylvok Explorer, making sure he wouldn't die. Zink drew Soul Foundry, attacking with the two artifacts again, trading the Dross Golem with the Replica as Nakamura chumped the Centurion with his Explorer. Nakamura again had no real play, so when Zink drew a Moriok Scavenger to imprint on his Soul Foundry, thus assuring he would not only get a new creature each turn but also get one back from the graveyard, Nakamura had no choice but to extend the hand and congratulate the German twin.
The win for Germany also gives the Zink family the possibility to hold onto at least one World Champion title (in this case, Teams) for another year.
Saturday, September 4: 8:23 pm - Live Coverage of the World Championship Finals
by Ted Knutson
Tune in tomorrow for the best live webcast ever! In addition to the usual outstanding commentary by Randy Buehler and Brian Kibler, we have a host of new features planned to blow your viewing experience through the roof.
Individual quarterfinals coverage starts at 9 a.m. Pacific time, and for the first time ever we will be presenting the new Magic Card Viewer, which will display appropriate cards for the various Feature Matches live to the viewing audience. The Viewer will also include a scoreboard and rotating photos from all weekend. For the webcast, in addition to showing you all the matches, we'll have live interviews with the two finalists and Magic's creator Richard Garfield. But wait - there's more! On top of all that, we will also give you the best of Justin Gary's video segments throughout the weekend, replay all the old Magic commercials, and broadcast the ESPN video from the 2000 World Championships, which features what many players now refer to as the greatest single game of Magic ever -- Jon Finkel against Bob "The Great One" Maher.
But wait - there's even more. The team final draft will start at 1:30 p.m., with play beginning at 2:30 p.m. and the finals of the individual side of the tournament starting at 4 p.m. (all times Pacific). Stay with us all day as we bring you blow-by-blow action of this historic tournament, live!
Saturday, September 4: 7:30 pm - News and Notes
by Ted Knutson
We'll start off with the big one here and then get to the fun stuff.
Gabriel Nassif is the 2004 Player of the Year! With one round of draft left to go, France has guaranteed themselves at least a 12th-place finish, meaning Nassif will earn at least two Pro Tour points from the team competition. That means Kamiel Cornelissen cannot catch him, even if Gab loses in the quarterfinals Sunday and Kamiel wins the event. Congratulations, Gabriel!
Speaking of France, Brian David-Marshall relayed this amusing anecdote from France's battle with South Korea in Round 3. Alexandre Peset was playing Sang-ryeol Lee when Lee cast Eater of Days. Peset was nonplussed by this because he had both a Regress in hand and a Tel-Jilad Archers on the board to soak up damage, plus who doesn't love free turns? So Lee casts Eater, Peset Regresses it, takes two turns, Lee replays the Eater, Peset takes two more turns with little action and then dies turns later as the Eater tramples through the Archers to give the Korean the victory. France did win the match, but that little story certainly made for a few smiles around the press room.
I walked up to chat with John Ormerod, captain of the English National team to chat about how his draft went after Saturday's second round of play. While John and I were chatting, a pony-tailed player wearing all black who was standing with the rest of the English looked at me and said, "Your face is strangely familiar." I asked him what his name was, and he said, "David Chapman, Scottish National champion." I told him my face should look familiar, since I edit all the articles he sends to Star City Games and my face is on that site all the time. "Oh… right then. Pleasure to meet you."
Speaking of the Scots, they were somewhat dismayed when they trekked around San Francisco on Tuesday when the weather was cool, damp, foggy and without a glimpse of sun all day. Since then the weather has turned unseasonably warm here, but for a while the Scots were complaining "God, if I would have wanted cold and cloudy with fog everywhere, I could have just stayed home.
Saturday, September 4: 6:07 pm - Germans vs. Belgians
by Ted Knutson
Vincent LeMoine and Geoffrey Siron may not be names you know right now, but they comprise two-thirds of the Belgian National team, the team currently sitting atop the leader board for the World Championships. Geoffrey finished 9th at Osaka, while Vincent has is a longtime member of the Pro Tour, and the only thing that has surprised them about this weekend is that success took them so long to achieve. When you combine them with relative newcomer Dilson Ramos da Fonseca they have become a force to be reckoned with at the drafting tables.
Sitting across the table from them is a team that has been here many times before, though with many different rosters. Usually when Magic players think of Germans, they think of Kai, Dirk, and Marco, but those Pro Tour veterans have been replaced this year by Torben Tweifel (who lives in the United States but owns German citizenship), Constructed guru Roland Bode, and the brother of reigning World Champion Daniel Zink, Sebastian Zink. Coming into Saturday, both teams were at the bottom of the top 5, but whoever wins this round takes over the lead in the tournament and puts themselves in perfect position to play on Sunday.
While waiting for the Seat A deck check to complete, I was able to witness Roland Bode destroy Geoffrey Siron in Seat C with Bringer of the White and the Blue Dawn, in the same game. Kai Budde actually walked up to the table to cheer on his countrymen, and his eyes popped when he saw the twin sunburst fatties. German National Champion Tweifel also won his match in the B seat, giving Germany a quick 2-0 lead in the game count.
Dilson Ramos de Fonseca vs. Sebastian Zink
Siron tied up his match against Bode in the C seat before Dilson had finished mulliganing down to four cards. After Parising a one-land hand at the start, the Belgian kept drawing hands with expensive spells and no land, putting him in a nearly impossible position on the play. However, he had turn-two and -three drops in the form of Grimclaw Bats and Fleshgrafter. Zink played out some Bats of his own as well as Cathodion and Cranial Plating, giving both players some early action.
Tweifel smashed through Lemoine again, while Bode dropped Game 3 to Siron, evening the match and making the outcome dependent on what happened in Seat A, where game 1 was about halfway done.
Zink used a Trinket Mage to fetch a Leonin Bola from his deck, giving him a foil to Dilson's Neurok Spy. Zink's next draw gave him a second Mountain to cast Pulse of the Forge on Dilson, who conceded after drawing his next card, the victim of some very harsh mana screw and beats from a Plating-equipped Cathodion.
Dilson kept a one-land, seven-card hand in game 2 featuring Lose Hope and a myr and various two-drops, but drew three more cards with no additional lands to show for it.
"Pressure, Go," was the sarcastic comment from Zink, as he cast Nuisance Engine. Oxidda Golem on the fourth turn from Sebastian shrank a bit from Lose Hope, giving Dilson a chance to scry for the lands he desperately needed. Unfortunately, while Dilson finally found had the mana he needed, Zink's deck had already generated a ton of tempo with Oxidda Golem and Krark-Clan Ogre beatings. Dilson played a couple of Myr and an Arcbound Stinger, then cast Trinket Mage for Arcbound Worker and played a free Frogmite, gumming up the board.
Zink drew Leonin Bola and played it, giving him the upper hand in any combat situation. He then seized the opportunity, using the Bola at the end of Dilson's next turn to tap the Stinger, then using Krark-Clan Ogre's ability to make sure none of Dilson's creatures could block, doing exactly enough damage to kill the Belgian and putting Germany into first place with one round left to play.
Saturday, September 4: 4:53 pm - The Gap is Gone
by Ted Knutson
Standing outside the event hall catching a breath of fresh air was none other than the Teutonic Titan, Marco Blume, resplendent in a bright white shirt and a pair of shorts. When I ran across him, he was chatting with Osyp Lebedowicz and Justin Gary about pretty much everything under the sun. When Marco and Osyp weren't deconstructing Kamiel Cornelissen's Affinity sideboard -- neither one liked it, while both thought Manuel Bevand's Ironworks sideboard was very interesting -- they were discussing the changes in skill levels on the Pro Tour.
I asked Marco if he was still planning to travel to Pro Tours and this is what he had to say: "I don't think I will travel as much in the coming year. Like, Kai wants to start testing for Pro Tour-Columbus, so if he comes up with a good deck -- preferably something that is not Red/Blue -- I will probably travel there. Outside of that though, I am not sure.
"One of the problems for Pros these days is that Magic Online has really closed the gap in skill between the best players and the worst players to the point that is has become very hard to win consistently," Blume continued . " In the past at Worlds, you would be really excited that you were playing someone from the Mexican National team, but these days every player on every team is much better. They can test for hundreds of hours online and suddenly play nearly as well as everyone who has been playing on the Tour for years. Basically there are no 'byes' these days, which makes it much harder to do well consistently.
"Don't get me wrong - I still like playing the game, and I enjoy hanging out with the people at the tournaments, but it's harder to always make money these days, which makes the travel more expensive and decreases your expected value. The game is still very good - the players have just become better."
Saturday, September 4: 3:40 pm - Belgians on Top
by Ted Knutson
Recapping the action of round 2 of the Teams competition, Germany beat the French, the Belgians defeated the Dutch, Japan defeated Malaysia, Canada mauled England, and the U.S. got on the board with a 2-1 victory over Hungary. What that all sorts out to is that Belgium now sits atop the standings, two points ahead of Germany, while France and Gabriel Nassif are still waiting for their first points of the day.
I talked to Jeroen Remie after his match, and he said that the Belgians impressed him. They really knew what they were doing in the draft, their play skills are solid, and he felt that they had a good chance to keep winning for the rest of the day. When asked whether the Belgians are a surprised, he said, "Not really. They have two regular Pro Tour players that are pretty good at Limited and they are having a good weekend. They deserve to be there."
Next up we have Belgium facing ze Germans, Japan against the Netherlands, a surprising Australia vs. Denmark, and South Korea vs. France. Down at table 16, the U.S. will be looking to keep their momentum going with a win over the feisty Philippines. The winner of the Belgium-Germany match will move even closer to assuring themselves a spot in the team finals Sunday, while everyone else will still be scrambling for the other Sunday spot, so there's still a lot of action to be seen in the final two rounds Saturday.
Saturday, September 4: 2:21 pm - A Different Language of Cool
by Ted Knutson
Aside from catching the competition and seeing your favorite artists, side events represent another exceptional reason to visit a Pro Tour event near you. Whether it be a Pro Tour Qualifier, a Team Sealed event, a Vintage tournament, Question Mark, or simply a desire to get your draft on, the Side Events table at Worlds this year has all that and more.
Saturday morning they ran a special Sealed Deck tournament featuring tournament packs of Chinese Fourth Edition and a pack of Italian Legends -- not as the prizes, but as the card pool. The tournament wasn't supposed to start until 11a.m., meaning event registration would typically start an hour earlier. Well, by 9:45 a.m., all 100 slots in the event had been filled and 20 more people had been turned away due to lack of available product for the extra would-be competitors.
Players were seated early and there was even a Chinese judge on hand to translate any cards the players might have questions about, so things were fine until the judges started passing out product. It was at that point that they realized that they had been told incorrectly -- the product was actually Japanese Fourth Edition. The side events folks scrambled for a moment, grabbed a Japanese judge to help with translations, and the event continued on without a hitch -- still very cool, regardless of which language the product was actually in.
Saturday, September 4: 12:21 pm - The D in 3-D stands for Dedicated
by Ted Knutson
When we initially brought you the story of Seishiro Ookubo on Wednesday in Magic goes 3-D, the crowds at the event were relatively small and it was mostly just the staff and the competitors oohing and aahing over his work, which really has to be seen in person to believe. But as we got to Saturday, hundreds of new jaws have dropped upon viewing Ookubo's work.
In our initial update, we pointed out how Ookubo only works on commons and uncommons, but he is making special exceptions for the people who actually make the cards. Aaron Forsythe submitted Sylvan Scrying as his card, and Brian David-Marshall asked Ookubo to do Temple of the False God (which looks incredible). As I write this, a set of Foil Cities of Brass was recently completed --, but Ilja Rotelli, DCI Senior Manager of Programs, completely trumped the process by submitting eight foil DCI Balances as his request for artwork.
As Ron Foster said, "You know it had to take a European in order to have the [moxie] to ask him to pull that one off."
Perhaps the most impressive piece thus far though has been Mark Rosewater's Maro. If you look at the picture on the Mirage version of Maro, you will notice a great deal of leaves and vines in the background, all of which have been cut and detailed by Ookubo -- an insane amount of work by any standard. I talked to Mr. Ookubo this morning and he said that in spite of all the detail that has already been done, the hardest part is yet to come, as he has to cut and detail Maro's face.
The requests from the fans alone have been overwhelming, and Seishiro says he has only been getting around three hours of sleep each night in order to continue working on the cards. He also was surprised and dismayed at the prices his cards have reached at the silent charity auction table, where the Japanese Lightning Bolt is currently sitting at $350 and the set of colored Myr cards already receiving a $500 bid --effectively pricing them out of range for normal players. To remedy this problem, he has generously donated four more cards to be given out as prizes for Saturday's trivia event, including Mountain Goat and War Elephant -- meaning the trivia contest will be very special, indeed.
In spite of my awe at the artistry of this amazing man, I find myself heartbroken for one reason and one reason alone . . . Time Stop has not been released yet, meaning I can't request a 3-D version of Scott M. Fischer's awesome art!
Saturday, September 4: 11:45 am - Gamers...
by Ted Knutson
After the Magic stops, both the players and the Worlds staff can usually be found participating in what for many of us has become a continuing passion: games. In the case of the magicthegathering.com staff, main man Scott Larabee was kind enough to get tickets for a Giants game at the incredible SBC Park. After staunching the blood flowing to my nose during the climb to our seats, we were treated to a 25-run slugfest and Barry Bonds' 697th home run, a tomahawk missile that cruised over the "421 ft" sign in centerfield.
On other nights, members of R&D can be seen in the hotel lobby drafting with various gamers and staff members as they try to determine whether their skills have deteriorated -- or whether the reporting staff is just getting better (it's definitely the former). That pales in comparison to what Huey Jensen, Dave Williams, Craig Krempels and company did last night though. They ran back-to-back four-on-four drafts with 24 different packs. That's right folks, they ran a normal draft, except each and every pack in the draft differed. Huey said that they had packs ranging from the current Mirrodin Block all the way back to Fallen Empires, with Portal and Portal - Three Kingdoms thrown in as well. In typical Huey style, his team won both drafts -- and of course, he told me all of this while waiting for the next round to begin on Magic Online.
Saturday, September 4: 10:30 am - It's Hard to Stay on Top
by Ted Knutson
After being knocked out of Top 8 contention by his own brother and finishing in 36th place, reigning World Champion Daniel Zink plans to play in one of Saturday's Pro Tour Qualifier events. That's right, exactly one year after guaranteeing himself Pro Tour attendance for 365 days, Daniel Zink finds himself unqualified for Pro Tour-Columbus.
Fellow Worlds 2003 Top 8 members Wolfgang Eder and Tuomo Nieminen didn't even make the trip this weekend, despite being qualified. In fact, none of last year's Top 8 even made the Top 32 this weekend, with Dave Humpherys the highest finisher at 34th place. Even last year's Player of the Year, Kai Budde, had a rough weekend, finishing just inside the Top 128 -- proving that in Magic, it's very hard to stay on top for long, particularly at Worlds.
However, if you take a look at the 2003 results and glance down at ninth place, you can see the future of the game in a shy, skinny French kid named Gabriel Nassif.