Preview: the Finns
Matti 'Newt' Nuortio
Rumour has it that no less than eleven Finns of fourteen invited are to attend the Magic: the Gathering 2001 European Championship. Tommi Hovi, clearly a force to be reckoned with, is not taking part in the tournament. There are nonetheless a few interesting names such as Tuomo Nieminen with high finishes in both the Masters and the Pro Tour this season, Erno Ekebom with two Pro Tour top eight finishes, Arto Hiltunen with a high finish in Pro Tour Chicago this season and a top eight finish in the European Championship 1999 and the Finnish National Champion 2001, Tomi 'Jelly' Walamies, who was undefeated during the European Championships 2000 draft portion. There are also some surprise names such as Jussi Perälä, who stormed the Finnish Nationals this year with Sligh and Olavi Kuosmanen, the Father of Playtesting.
The first format will be Standard without Apocalypse, an 'old''format if you please. Many people are simply going to trust established archetypes such as Fires or Counter-Rebel to carry them all the way. It is no secret that Finns are in love with blue. Tomi Walamies, the Finnish deckbuilding virtuoso, has been testing with his Swedish teammates and is definitely going to play something blue. "I'll play blue whenever one can expect it to do well." Jussi Perälä and Mike Wall - Finnish national team member 2000 and 2001 - must be regarded as the beatdown players among Finns. However, even they might cross the border to the wonderful world of drawing extra cards instead of turning creatures sideways over and over again.
The rest of the Finns have been testing Standard together. Tuomo Nieminen and Olavi Kuosmanen have been masterminding these sessions. They believe they have a pretty good version of Probe-Go, a blue-white control deck with Nether Spirits. Their Counter-Rebel deck is nothing to be ashamed of either. However, they also considered Fires and blue-white Millstone control reasonable alternatives. Because the playtesting group isn't exactly homogenous, one could safely bet there will be two or even more different decks played by them.
The second format, Invasion-Planeshift-Apocalypse Rochester draft, is wide open, at least if you ask the Finns. Practically all the Finns have been drafting together both in Safe Haven, the mecca of Finnish Magic, and at Kuosmanen's. Apocalypse has truly shaken things. Walamies would like to pick his main colours among green, blue and black. He wants to avoid white but will consider splashing in red if his mana base permits. Perälä is deeply into black and is ready to take any other colour that goes well with it. Ekebom, known to take delight in drafting white-blue control-oriented decks, might want to draft something revolving around green this time. Kuosmanen drops the bomb - his favourite is white-blue with a splash of red! Call Finns when you want diversion, eh? Nieminen perhaps best summed it up: "You can't really have exact theories in Rochester. Just go with the flow." That's what I expect most of the Finns will do. They should be good at adapting to things.