Saturday, December 2: 1:15 pm - Two-Headed Juggernaut
by Tim Willoughby
In the big debate over who you would least like to have to sit down against as your opponent, Kai is probably right up there. While his Hall of Fame year hasn't come up yet, he is someone whose name came up as soon as the idea of the Hall of Fame was conceived. It would be perfectly reasonable to want a slightly easier matchup than the German Juggernaut himself.
Now imagine having Kai on your side. Unless your name is Dirk Baberowski or Marco Blume - his teammates on Phoenix Foundation, the team that stormed 2 team Pro Tours and a Masters competition - it is pretty unlikely that you've had the chance to play alongside the single biggest money winner in Magic. That changes this weekend.
See where Pierre Canali's sitting? That could be you.
While no longer playing in the main event, Kai will join various R&D members who have been gunslinging all weekend. Every player that shows up to play at the gunslinging tables has received a ticket. Tonight there will be a draw, and the winners will get to play in the Two-Headed Giant competition with a Pro on their side.
Between Kai, Geoffrey Siron, and Raphael Levy, there are 13 Pro Tour Top 8s, and winnings easily over half a million dollars. Each of them will be joining lucky winners to battle it out in the Two-Headed Giant event. It is said that the best way to learn to get better is to play with better players. This might be the best way to get better ever, as said better players are allowed in the rules to tell you what they think as you are playing.
Saturday, December 2: 2:59 pm - See Paris, See the Serra
by Brian David-Marshall
While coming back from my pharmacy excursion I noticed a pair of Japanese tourists posing for pictures in front of the enormous Serra Angel statue that disrupted the flow of the Urologists convention the other day. Now that she has been let out of her box, Serra has been drawing admirers and flashbulbs all day.
Pro Tour photographer extraordinaire Craig Gibson has been taking pictures of all the National teams posing with their countries' flags today in front of the three-dimensional version of the famous Greg Staples illustration. As such, there are three bins with all the national flags along the wall near the statue.
Vice-President of Organized Play Chris Galvin laughed as he watched the Japanese pair snap shots of each other. They appeared to be tourists taking in the sights and sounds of the Louvre taken with the striking statue. "Perhaps they thought it was from the museum?" I asked Chris.
"I don't know," he replied, "but it has been happening all day long. Even more interesting is that when Craig is not taking team pictures, tourists are spontaneously coming over to the bins and picking out their National flag and posing for a picture in front of the Serra. We just had a Macedonian family do that with their flag."
Saturday, December 2: 3:37 pm - In for the Long Haul
by Brian David-Marshall
Gabriel Nassif is one of the brightest Constructed deck designers of all time. There was a stretch during the 2003 and 2004 seasons when Nassif was positively on fire for Constructed Magic like few players have ever been. Starting with his 5th place finish at Pro Tour - Venice 2003 and through to his 7th place finish at the 2004 World Championships. Nassif's worst finish in an event that was at least two-thirds Constructed was Pro Tour - Houston, where he came in 54th. The only other finish during that span that was not played out on Sunday was Worlds 2003 when he finished 9th.
Nassif in his decktesting thinktank/Paris apartment, where all the Magic happens
While Gab has certainly not been a slouch in the intervening years - he did win a Pro Tour last season after all - he has not been glowing on everybody's radar like he did when he was locked in on Constructed during those two years. When we visited Gab's apartment on Tuesday I was excited to hear from Heezy that Nassif had not only been bringing his considerable focus to the Standard format for the two weeks previous to the event but that he had also been forcing his visitors to avoid all distractions as well.
The result of that two-week metagame mastication was Nassif's MartyrTron deck, which he piloted to a 5-0-1 record. He also went 6-0 in Extended, which could herald a return to dominant form that could be likened to Jon Finkel's late career run of Limited Top 8 finishes.
Last night at dinner, I asked Randy if this Top 8 finish - Gab's seventh - was enough to propel him into the pantheon of the game's all-time greats.
"He is number three after Kai and Jon," declared Randy. "This Top 8 along with the backstory puts him into a clear third place - win, lose, or draw tomorrow."
The question prompted by Randy's statement is: "Then who is number four?"
Saturday, December 2: 4:21 pm - Speaking of Long Hauls…
by Brian David-Marshall
Tomorrow's quarterfinal matchup between Gabriel Nassif and Tiago Chan could be one of the epic battles of all time. Sitting opposite Nassif in the quarterfinals will be Tiago playing the Frank Karsten-designed Counter Mesa deck. By the time the match gets played out the deck will have not only been designed by Frank but run against Frank as well. Karsten has been helping to prepare Chan for the match-up and has been understudying as Nassif.
We don't want to reveal any details about the playtesting today, but you might want to make sure you have a comfortable chair to sit in for the quarters.
Saturday, December 2: 5:07 pm - Talking Bollocks
by Tim Willoughby
One big change in the worlds competition this season is the communication rules. Much as in team constructed, everyone is now allowed to communicate both verbally and non-verbally during both the play and draft itself.
Different teams have used this new angle in different ways. For those with languages that aren't widely spoken, it means that they can freely talk about their plans. The Brazilian team in particular were very vocal during their first couple of drafts, with former World Champion Carlos Romão heatedly discussing picks with current Top 8 member Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa at every juncture. This team was shushed fairly comprehensively in the third draft, though, as they played against Portugal - who clearly would be able to understand every word that was said.
Nearby France had it even worse. Playing against the Belgians, their national rivals. The French all speak French. The Belgians all speak French. The Belgians also all speak Dutch, which means that they can say what they want, while understanding everything.
The English have approached the language issue with a shrug. Everyone seems to speak some English at Worlds, so they are simply chatting about all sorts, putting up a screen of banter which is largely unrelated to the cards they are picking. The last signals seen from them were 'raise the roof' sign and a 'roflcopter hand spin' when a pack worked really well for them. The intense Rochester format has been made a little more fun by their antics, as all of a sudden there is very little tongue biting going on from the editor of StarCityGames.com and his crew.
Saturday, December 2: 6:50 pm - Level Up and (Keep) See(ing) The World!
by Brian David-Marshall
With the main event over but for the Top 8 and the team competition playing out around them, a cabal of Wizards decision makers huddled over Excel worksheets all morning to make a final determination regarding what - if any - adjustments needed to made to the Players Club thresholds for the 2006 season.
Before the third round of the team competition could begin, Organized Play Manager Scott Larabee made an announcement that was of particular interest to Bernardo Da Costa Cabral and Carlos Romão, who were playing on their respective National Teams. There would be a change to the threshold needed to hit Level 3, but all the other thresholds would remain the same.
"At Pro Tour - Charleston we began to get the feeling that we were not going to get as many people at the various levels due to the unexpectedly large number of competitors at that event," explained Larabee once the round started. "We sent a notice out to all the players that we were aware of the problem and sent out a letter to tell them we would look at it after Worlds. In part we addressed it in the planning for 2007. We took a look at the Pro Points and decided there weren't enough being generated. Part of the 2007 adjustment was to add more points to the top of Grand Prix - you can now get 8 points for a win as opposed to 6 - and we extended the points down from 32nd to 64th. We wanted to put more points in the system. With Pro Tours we did the same thing by adding more points to the bottom. Points don't cut off at 128 anymore; instead, they go down to 200."
That still did not take into account what many players felt to be one of the few mars on what has been otherwise a terrific Pro Tour season - the difficulty in picking up a reasonable number of points for a solid record due to the record setting turnout of players at that team event. While it did not really affect the players on the top and bottom rungs of the Player's Club in a significant way, it was of crucial significance for players chasing after the gravy train. It was also significant for the people responsible for the Player's Club.
"For the past couple of months, every time we run a Grand Prix or Pro Tour, we have been looking at where everybody is," Larabee continued. "We have an idea of how many people we want at each level. We want this club to work and for there to be the right number of people in on the gravy train, traveling to events, and receiving appearance fees. We have taken a look at everything and determined that we are going to lower the threshold for reaching Level 3 in 2006 from 20 to 18. The higher levels are looking really good. We have 4 people at Level 6 right now and 10 at Level 5. Level 4 has more people than we were expecting, so that has worked out nicely."
"Taking Level 3 down to 18 points will add 10 players. At the end of Worlds 2006, if you have 18 points you will be Level 3. Since we have made adjustments for the amount of points being given away in 2007 you will still need 20 points next year," Larabee concluded.
The players who get bumped into the Level 3 club by this change are as follows:
Bernardo Da Costa Cabral
Bernardo may have made Level 3 anyway as member of the Belgian National team, but Carlos Romão was suddenly given a little room to breathe. Now instead of needing the Brazilian team to win the event today he only needs to make the Finals to qualify for all of next year's beautiful Pro Tour stops, from Geneva to the mysterious location of next year's World Championships.
Saturday, December 2: 8:20 pm - Welcome to the Pro Tour, Eddie Mucha…
by Brian David-Marshall
11-year-old Eddie Mucha of Ireland, Grand Prize Winner.
11-year old Eddie Mucha of Talwey, Ireland was not even born when Magic cards first went on sale. It is possible he was not even been born when the Pro Tour first sprang to life one wintry weekend in New York City in 1996. Eddie was three years old when Kai made his Pro Tour debut in Mainz (Kai finished in the money, obv) and has only been playing Magic for the past two years since his dad got him into the game.
There have been celebrity gunslingers ranging from Mark Rosewater to Hall of Famers Bob Maher and Raph Levy to probable future HoFers like the German Juggernaut himself. Players who were willing to go up against the gunslingers were entered into a contest to play 2HG with big name Pros like Levy and Pro Tour London winner Geoffrey Siron. The grand prize in the drawing was won by the young Irish player with the mohawk. Later tonight Eddie will get to play side-by-side with Kai in the Two-Headed Giant tournament.
Eddie brought a variety of decks to the gunslinger tables and squared off - with a fair amount of success - against the likes of Bob Maher, Aaron Forsythe, Gary Wise, and Henry Stern - who finished 3rd at World Championships well before Eddie's first birthday.
"That doesn't matter much when we're playing Standard," laughed Eddie when he was made aware of Stern's resume.
Aaron Forsythe was one of many notable names out gunslinging.
He was well familiar with the career of his teammate for the tournament: "Who doesn't know who Kai is?"
Eddie was not worried that Kai might not be completely caught up on all the nuances of the Two-Headed Giant format since cards valuations change significantly when the move from individual competition to multi-player. Eddie was not going to let his admiration for his teammate prevent him from offering the elder head some advice in this area.
"There is a reason they call it Two-Headed Giant after all!"
Saturday, December 2: 8:34 pm - Giants in Two-Headed
by Tim Willoughby
Here in Paris, where things have just wrapped up with the big team event, there is a whole other big team event underway. The Worlds Two-Headed Giant competition has drawn 119 teams, including a few Pros who are looking to have a good time - and perhaps get a little practice in for the Two-Headed Giant Pro Tour next year.
Three lucky winners have Pros on their sides thanks to the Gunslinging competition. Jonathan Levy got paired with Raphael for '2 Headed Levy', Marie Nicolle joined Geoffrey Siron on 'Blogablag', and Irishman Eddie Mucha seemed particularly happy to be paired up with Kai Budde, in 'XXL.'
In addition to these Pros though there were a few more who were up for the action. Antoine Ruel, Piere Canali, Olle Rade, Frank Karsten and Antonino De Rosa also joined the fray in various different teams. With the full open communication, most were happy to play with friends, making the most of the ability to play with whoever they like playing with and have a good time. One power team of interest though was 'Flyt' (which is apparently Norwegian for 'everything going smoothly), which included the Norwegians Christian Flaaten, who just missed out on top eight this weekend, and Øyvind Andersen, a member of the Norwegian national team that dropped out of the team event, who was eager to win something back.
Flaaten is currently in the top 50 in the world at 2 Headed Giant and seemed really excited about the scale of the event at Worlds. When I asked him the single card he most hoped to open in the event, he responded 'Squall Line… or anything with Storm'. After burning people out lots in Extended with 4 colour Boros yesterday, he was clearly enthused at the idea of killing two heads as if they were one, or simply playing Empty the Warrens with a little help from his teammate to overwhelm everyone in short order.