This weekend's event kicks off the ninth season in Pro Tour history. In the last eight years, legends such as Mark Justice, Olle Rade, Paul McCabe, Jon Finkel, and Kai Budde made their mark, winning high level tournaments along with the prestige and money than comes with them. The Team Pro Tour, however, is a slightly different beast. Just as the above names dominated their eras, many teams have proven to be consistent over the years. Names like Phoenix Foundation, Your Move Games, and Illuminati come to mind, and no one would be surprised to see those teams emerge successful once again. As usual, there are some makeshift squads featuring players who haven't played together before, looking to parlay individual achievement into team success. Here's a brief look at some of the teams playing this weekend.
Phoenix Foundation (Marco Blume, Kai Budde, Dirk Baberowski)
Throughout the Pro Tour's existence, you'd be hard pressed to find a better example of dominance than Phoenix Foundation's stranglehold on this format. They've won the Team Pro Tour twice in a row and won a Masters in the format as well. What was even more shocking is that the Germans accomplished all this without losing a match in Draft. Kai, Marco, and Dirk took on the best the world had to offer and went 17-0. This record was finally broken in Venice, when Phoenix Foundation lost to Panzer Hunters. Sure, one loss may not be too significant, but it proves that the seemingly invincible team can be beaten. The question is, can it happen multiple times during the Swiss, and if not, can it happen on Sunday?
Phoenix Foundation faced 2020 in Round 1
2020 (Steven Wolfman, David Rood, Elijah Pollock)
This Canadian team seemingly came out of nowhere last year to come one match win away from a championship, losing to the Germans in the finals. Wolfman, Rood, and Pollock have had some individual successes on the Pro Tour and Grand Prix circuits as well, but thus far their accomplishments as a group are what make them stand out. Teammates who are familiar with each other and have past success is a winning combination, and 2020 fits the bill perfectly.
Bottom Set (Bob Maher, Neil Reeves, Dave Williams)
Maher and Reeves have always wanted to play with Williams, as the three are very good friends. Last year they weren't able to and teamed with Gary Wise. This combination proved to be successful, as the Pro Tour veterans made Top 4. Regardless, Maher and Reeves said they still wanted to team with Williams, and this weekend they'll get their wish. It's a team based strongly on friendship with players who are familiar with each other's styles, so expect solid teamwork here.
Kameel John and Erik (Kamiel Cornelissen, Jon Finkel, Eric Froehlich)
Ah, potential. It's a word that's supposed to be a compliment, but it's of little comfort to those defined by it. Kamiel Cornelissen was labeled as the next big thing in Magic a few years ago when he made the finals of back-to-back Pro Tours, among other impressive finishes. Everyone said he had potential to be the game's next big superstar, and although he's had a significant amount of success, he's yet to live up to the perhaps unfair expectations that were put upon him. Froehlich is in the same boat, as he was defined by many as the best player in America at one time, but has seen that label passed to competitors such as Bob Maher, Eugene Harvey, and William "Baby Huey" Jensen. Jon Finkel is, well, Jon Finkel. He's likely the most talented player in the world, and while we've seen the Finkel of old make a return, he still has potential to be the best Magic player on the planet. It'll be interesting to see if these three players with obvious natural talent and significant past success can achieve more together.
Anam Go is Best Player (Itaru Ishida, Tsuyoshi Fujita, Masahiko Morita)
PS2 gave Japan its first Masters Championship back at Venice, but for this event the squad won't be around. Katsuhiro Mori and Masashiro Kuroda recently retired from competitive Magic, leaving Morita as the lone Master remaining. Luckily, he's picked up two of Japan's best in Itaru Ishida and Tsuyoshi Fujita. Last year's season was a huge breakthrough for Japanese Magic, and this team may very well make a statement just as this season starts up.
vGG (Tommi Hovi, Nicolai Herzog, Mattias Jorstedt)
Herzog left his long time squad Team Outland due to internal conflicts, and last season's Pro Tour phenomenon Jorstedt needed a teammate as well. Who would be their third? They decided to pick up two-time Pro Tour Champion Tommi Hovi, who only had two Pro Tour points before this season. This is a European uberteam for sure, and it'll be interesting to see if Herzog and Jorstedt can keep their momentum going, and what kind of a factor Hovi will be.
Zabutan Nemonaut (Mike Turian, Gary Wise, Eugene Harvey)
Speaking of teams that have won this event in the past, Mike Turian and Gary Wise were victorious two years ago in New York. Their teammate, Scott Johns, has been replaced by CMU-TOGIT teammate Eugene Harvey, creating an incredible group. The past experience and success is there, and Turian is considered to be one of the world's most talented players at team draft strategy, while Wise is always most comfortable with forty card decks. Harvey is one of the best players in America today, and the fact that all three players are teammates throughout the year will make teamwork much easier.
www.shop-fireball.com (Jun Nobushita, Tsuyoshi Ikeda, Jin Okamoto)
Everyone knows that Jin Okamoto is nicknamed "The Last Emperor" because he won the last APAC Championships, but you might not know that Jun Nobushita came in second. The two have been friends for a long time, and together with Tsuyoshi Ikeda made Top 8 here last year. Since then, Ikeda made the Top 4 at Pro Tour - Yokohama, and Okamoto finished second at Worlds. This gave them enough points to bring Nobushita back to Boston.
Ubermenschen (Brian Kibler, Ben Rubin, Ken Ho)
What can be said about these three that hasn't been said before? They've been on the Pro Tour for years and have an incredible amount of accomplishments combined, including three Masters championships. They've been teaming together for a while, but have yet to make Top 4 at a Pro Tour.
Illuminati (Justin Gary, Zvi Mowshowitz, Alex Shvartsman)
Once upon a time, Illuminati was considered a "mercenary team", as long-time teammates Zvi and Alex picked up Justin as a third based on his past success in individual competition. Fast forward a few years later with great finishes in Pro Tours and Grand Prix events, and Illuminati is considered by many to be the second best team in the world based on accomplishments. The "mercenary" aspect of Illuminati is no longer relevant, as the team led to Zvi and Alex joining Your Move Games. Now Illuminati is a true team in every sense of the word, testing together for individual and team events. You won't find this kind of team camaraderie on many other squads this weekend, and it's a big part of Illuminati's formula for success.
Illuminati vs. Team Your Move Games
Your Move Games (Robert Dougherty, Darwin Kastle, Dave Humpherys)
Your Move Games is competitive Magic's oldest active team, and these three are the flagship. Even though other teams will often change due to politics, retirements or members not getting enough points, Dougherty, Kastle and Humpherys are a constant presence, and certainly a threat. As individuals, they have too many accomplishments to list, and as a team they've got Pro Tour and Grand Prix championships under their belt. Being in their home turf of Boston doesn't hurt either. If you're looking for a team that's capable of beating Phoenix Foundation, Your Move Games could certainly get the job done.
Venga Venga Carta Roja (Matias Gabrenja, Diego Ostrovich, Carlos Romao)
Many pegged the Latin American success at Worlds last year as a fluke, but Romao and Ostrovich have proved that they are for real. They've had significant success since Sydney, especially on the Grand Prix circuit. In fact, last month in Berlin, Romao was one match away from making back-to-back Worlds Top 8 appearances. This weekend, along with Grand Prix champion Matias Gabrenja, Ostrovich and Romao represent the best Latin American team in Boston.
Two on Three (Mike Hron, Gabe Walls, Jordan Berkowitz)
Even though Berkowitz and Walls fired plenty of trash talk at each other during their Top 8 match at U.S. Nationals, they're pretty good friends. Both players are on an impressive streak, as Worlds gave Walls a Top 8 and Berkowitz another solid finish to add to his ever-growing resume. One might be surprised to see them teaming with Mike Hron, but he's considered a great player by many within Pro Tour circles, and he has the opportunity to prove it this weekend.