Friday, December 2: 10:32 am - Shuffling for 60
by Brian David-Marshall
Day Three of World Championships are under way and it's time to get back to 60 card decks for the players. Friday's format is Extended - a format most of these players should be very familiar with. In the wake of Pro Tour-Los Angeles there have been five Extended Grand Prix and dozens upon dozens of Pro Tour Qualifiers. Let us just say that the format is pretty well explored.
That still doesn't help Game 1, round one when you are trying to cast a cold Cabal Therapy. Just ask Raphael Levy.
Raphael was partially stumped by the early metagame.
"I was playing someone in round one and he played turn-one Island, turn-two Adarkar Wastes, and Sleight of Hand so I figured he might be playing some version of Scepter Chant. So I Cabal Therapied him - I didn't have Putrefy in hand so I named Isochron Scepter. He showed me a hand with two Confiscate, Seething Song, two Pentad Prism, and a land. I don't think I could have possibly ever hit a card there - the chances are like zero."
Levy was playing a modified version of the deck he played in Los Angeles an aggressive green-black deck but this time without Hypnotic Specters. "They are way to slow. They were good in absolutely none of my matchups. They are just not worth it. When we originally built the deck for L.A. we figured they were good in some matchups like against Goblins they were okay. We just took them out because they are not good enough and Wild Mongrel was just better."
With his first round opponent dispatched while almost everyone else in the room was still playing Raphael had a chance to scout the field. "It is pretty much what we expected lots of Affinity and Chant. I haven't seen many Boros decks which is good for me."
One deck that he was not frightened of facing is the seemingly ubiquitous ScepterChant decks that all the Japanese players seem to be piloting. "It's a really good matchup. We have loads of discard - Duress and Therapy - and Putrefy maindeck so they can't go all in on the Scepter. After board we have even more artifact removal - it is pretty good."
Friday, December 2: 11:17 pm - Jeroen and the Japanese
by Brian David-Marshall
Remie and Mr. Stone Cold Nuts.
The Netherlands' Jeroen Remie was walking around the Feature Match area shaking his head. Every table seemed to be filled with Japanese players engaged in grueling ScepterChant mirror matches. "They all played ScepterChant and they are all the stone nuts," clucked Remie. "This is the only way they can possibly lose."
Jeroen was watching Masashi Oiso play against Albertus Law in the feature match area and he gestured to the pile of dice, beads, and Pro Player cards Oiso keeps on hand for any situation. "Shu Komuro came up to me earlier and asked me to sign a Pro Player card for Masashi. He said he had a complete set and they were trying to get everyone to sign them and they wanted a little quote for Masashi. So I wrote, 'Masashi is the stone nuts.'
"All the Japanese just turned and stared at each other 'Stone nuts? Stone nuts?' They just threw up their hands and said 'Stupid American' and walked away. It was pretty awesome."
Friday, December 2: 12:09 pm - Poor Billy
by Brian David-Marshall
Billy Moreno, a lonely man.
Billy Moreno has been having a rough follow-up tournament to his finals appearance at Pro Tour-Los Angeles. He would love to be able to put this tournament behind him and take the rest of his stay to experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of Tokyo. Before he can do that, he has some unfinished business to take care of - winning.
"Right now I am 5-9 and three of those wins are byes," laughed the very good-humored Moreno. "The other two wins are where my opponent mulliganed to five in Game 3 and I Lurking Informant locked him out of land - after he told me to do it. I was so not into this weekend at that point. My second 'real' win - sort of a half win - my opponent got a game loss for misregistering his deck. That is about the story of how my weekend is going."
Billy plans on dropping but not until he gets a win where he defeats an opponent with a legal decklist and sufficient land and spells to be a worthy opponent.
"I want to feel like a man again. Like if I was a normal person and I was leaving Monday I could drop now and start my sightseeing but since I am staying until Wednesday it's a bit too early to start that. I am going to stick it out and play with my Extended deck and try to get a real win."
Friday, December 2: 12:54 pm - Poor Oli
by Brian David-Marshall
Day Two was not kind to Olivier.
After traveling all around the World scavenging for Pro Points via Grand Prix tournaments, the Road Warrior is feeling a little weary. He got off to a wobbly start on Wednesday but finished Day One at 4-2 before a complete blowup on Thursday during the draft portion of the competition. So what happened?
"I played my best but it was just not my day so I went 1-5. I won the last round with my opponent drawing all Forests in Game 1 and so many lands in Game 2 that he could not have had many left. I am a bit disappointed," Olivier deadpanned. "When I was 0-5, I thought maybe I would win the trophy for the worst drafter in the world but I got unlucky and kept drawing spells. But on the positive side I ended 1-5 and am in 199th place. I think it is a pretty good position for the last day. I think I can make Top 8 if I win the last 12 rounds."
Julien Nuijten helps Olivier 'deal' with this nagging Kenji problem.
After starting Day Three at 1-0-1, Olivier needed to win out and have Kenji go no better than 2-2 in the last four rounds…and that's just for the tie in the Player of the Year race.
"I went 1-5. What are you expecting? It is already a miracle if I could get the tie."
In the event of a tie, the players would meet for a Standard format playoff match in Honolulu, Hawaii. Olivier did not think that was the best solution.
"We could go to a stadium and run 400 meters. The best thing actually would be to split the title. If someone finishes with 85 points at the end of the year they probably deserve the title - even if they have to share it. I would not mind to share it. Actually I would love to share it with them."
Friday, December 2: 1:25 pm - Dark Horse Candidate
by Brian David-Marshall
Szleifer still has a sliver of a chance at Player of the Year.
This just in… the three-horse race that is Player of the Year has suddenly been joined by a new pony. Gadiel Szleifer found himself in a position to reach the Top 8 of Worlds if he could manage to sweep the rest of Day Three. If that happened…AND he managed to win the World Championships…AND Kenji does not finish as high as 24th…AND Olivier Ruel misses the Top 64 then Gadiel Szleifer would be the Player of the Year.
Just thought you would like to know.
Friday, December 2: 2:49 pm - Breaking Away
by Brian David-Marshall
Since Antonino De Rosa's Player Card was printed, he has nearly doubled his lifetime winnings at Magic with a solid Pro Tour season that included posing for the trophy shots at Grand Prix-Salt Lake City and U.S. Nationals. Despite being in the Top 100 money winners of all time, the American National Champion has never reached the coveted Top 8 of Pro Tour event. Halfway through Day Three he found himself in an excellent position to rectify that omission.
De Rosa and the U.S. team are in great shape for both the National Team competition and individual Top 8 honors.
"I am playing Affinity with green for Naturalize against the CAL deck," explained De Rosa when asked how his day was going. "I am 2-1 and I just lost to The Rock. Sometimes Affinity just poops out on you.
"We are in first place," DeRosa explained when asked about how his team was doing in the standings. "This round was kind of bad for us. We went 1-2 but as long as we can be in the top two or three teams by the end of this day we should be fine because our draft strategies are really good."
"Neil and Jon both came over my house in San Diego for about a week and we practiced against Rich Hoaen, Patrick Sullivan, and some other people like Kibler and Ben Seck. We developed a strategy and we have one plan and if that goes bad we have a back-up plan. The only thing that might go wrong for us is Neil's and Jon's inability to communicate. Other than that we should be fine."
I asked the captain if he had any regrets about Reeves' guarantee that the American team would win the Team competition. "I actually believe that we are going to win but I don't have the confidence to say that we are going to win," Ant smiled. "Neil is the coolest person on the Pro Tour he is allowed to say things like that - I am not."
Lost in the hubbub over the success of the American team was the fact that De Rosa was within two wins of his first Top 8.
"If I win the next two I can draw into Top and if my tiebreakers hold up I can even go 2-1 and Top 8. But I don't really care about making Top 8. I just really want to win the team competition and maybe make Top 16 and try to become Level 5 for all of next year."
"I would save so much money not having to pay for my plane tickets next year. Plus I would take Magic a lot more seriously too trying to stay at Level 5. Once you are a Level 5 you can't go back to being a Level 4. It's just not as cool. I'll be a little more motivated."
Friday, December 2: 5:13 pm - The Weight of Worlds
by Brian David-Marshall
Sheldon Menery is the Head Judge for the 2005 Magic the Gathering World Championships. He has had his work cut out for him this weekend but somehow I was able to pry him away for a few minutes to answer some questions about the demands of Head Judging this international gathering of players not to mention some of the events that have transpired this weekend.
BDM: How many Pro Tours have you Head Judged in your career?
Sheldon: This is the first time that I have Head Judged World Championships. I have Head Judged one other Pro Tour, and been to 30-ish overall.
It has been an eventful Worlds for Head Judge Sheldon Menery.
BDM: Is Head Judging a regular Pro Tour any different from doing so at Worlds?
Sheldon: Significantly different. With players from 58 different countries we have a lot of different languages - more languages than we have at a normal Pro Tour. We have some small nations that are represented based on their DCI numbers but they might not actually have any players who have been to a Pro Tour before so we run into language difficulties and maybe some cultural difficulties. Most of it is relatively easy to work out because we also have an international staff of judges. We widen the net that we cast out on the judge call. We have judges that speak fourteen different languages on staff today with 31 judges on staff including myself.
BDM: We are just coming off a delay between rounds which saw Gerardo Godinez get disqualified for playing two lands in one turn against Kenji Tsumura. I understand that there were some language barriers that you and your judges had to overcome to resolve the situation.
Sheldon: A staff member came to me and said that he had seen an infraction. Both players in question were communicating with me through translators. One of the translators' English was a little weak. I understood that the players both agreed about what happened in the game. That account was significantly different than the witness's. Subsequently Kenji asked me why his opponent did not get a warning. I said, "Well the two of you agreed on what happened so no warning was warranted." And he said, "No." So I got a different translator - one whose English was far stronger.
Godinez and Menery discuss the infraction.
After calling back all the principal parties and talking at length to the witness, we all came to the very clear conclusion that the infraction indeed happened - clearly. The penalty guidelines presume unintentional offenses. The smallest infraction performed intentionally becomes a disqualification offense. In this place it was very, very clear that player's actions were intentional.
BDM: That seems like a lot of weight for a judge to bear. It must be difficult when you will often hear different accounts of what happened on each side of a story and then have to decide whether or not to disqualify someone.
Sheldon: The thing is that two players account of something can be radically different and they both are not lying. They both think that their version is the truth. We find this happens a lot and there are times when one of them is blatantly lying. We normally catch them.
BDM: How difficult is it for judge to make that decision?
Sheldon: It is extremely important to get it right. We don't disqualify people lightly and we don't disqualify people without cause. It is a significant event in a judge's career when you disqualify somebody at a Pro Tour. It is certainly a significant event for the player. We double check and triple check and this particular situation took 45 minutes to resolve. I was happy to delay the tournament that long because I wanted make sure we got it right. Right is more important than speeding things up a bit.
BDM: There was another DQ Thursday during the Booster Draft portion of the tournament. Raul Mestre was DQ'd for peeking at other players' cards during the draft. How does that penalty get enforced? It seems like a player could easily look at another player's cards by accident. How do you determine intent there?
"We see a lot of 'I didn't intend to do that' or 'at home they don't make us register the cards we don't use in the draft.' We see a lot of problems with players not knowing how things work at this level. " - Head Judge Sheldon Menery
Sheldon: We certainly take into account players who are extra tall or players who hold their cards too far out from their body. We encourage players to focus on their own cards. If we see a single glance in a direction that is a warning sign - that is not the penalty. It's generally a subsequent look. In the case you are talking about yesterday a judge saw a player glance and took himself to a discreet distance and saw the player glance in two different directions on two different packs. This one was very clear.
BDM: What are some of the most common mistakes that players make when they are attending their first Pro Tour?
Sheldon: We see a little more of it at the World Championships than we do at the Pro Tour but it is ostensibly the same. They are used to playing a certain way at home. It is generally a little faster and a little sloppier than we like. We see a lot of "I didn't intend to do that" or "at home they don't make us register the cards we don't use in the draft." We see a lot of problems with players not knowing how things work at this level.
BDM: If you had to give the readers at home one piece of advice that they could use to avoid accidental penalties what would it be?
Sheldon: I encourage all players to play with their sideboards unsleeved and just switch their sideboard cards in. Then your sideboard cards won't be marked. If their maindeck sleeves are well worn and their sideboard sleeves aren't they could have a marked card situation.