Removed From Game – Pro Tour: Berlin… the Results

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Wednesday, November 5th – Here’s your chance to guess the theme correctly for the second week running. Here’s a clue. There was a Pro Tour this past weekend, in Berlin, and there were Results. Still struggling?

Pro Tour: Berlin has been and gone, and it was interesting for many things, but the shape of the format arguably isn’t one of them. I want to say at the outset that in my view Randy Buehler and BDM put on a masterclass in how to make a whole lot of nothing sound interesting. Although there are only so many ways that you can say, ‘and now we’ve reached part 37 of our 89 part Combo here on turn 3,’ they managed to use plenty that hadn’t even been invented before Sunday, and were still fresh, funny, informative, and entertaining as Luis Scott-Vargas finally stitched together the Combo for a blessedly final time. Yes I work with them, and yes I’m biased, but I stood under the lights for every second of that Top 8 broadcast, and it was never dull. Sometimes you just have to stand up and say people are awesome. They were awesome.

And now to the players, and as last week I won’t attempt to look at all 454 players who took to the field. Instead, I’ll wrap the stories I highlighted last time, and offer a brief round-up at the end for people I just can’t ignore.


Argentinean Joaquin Alvarez Rivera did travel all the way from South America, and almost gave himself two days of play, finally succumbing at 4-4. As expected, Oyvind Andersen remained absent, although I’m prepared to guarantee that had he attended, he would almost certainly have had an excellent version of Elfball. At 5-3 overnight, Ryuichi Arita continued that form on Saturday, winding up in 71st on 10-6. Of Tim Aten, there was no sign.


Scott Barrentine couldn’t quite manage a positive record, but with one of the better 4-4 tiebreaks he generated an extra Pro Point by finishing 191st. Our first Portuguese player Frederico Bastos had a horrible Day 1, finishing with just one win before packing it in. Giulio Barra did nothing to improve his perilous Pro situation, since he didn’t attend, but Armin Birner had a decent finish, with back to back 5-3 day records to finish in 73rd place. Chilean Julio Bernabe had a nice start, reaching 6-2 overnight, but could only manage two wins and a draw on Saturday. In that context, his 117th place was probably disappointing. Definitely a disappointment was David Besso, who pulled out with just two wins. Even so, that was one more win than Team World Champion Nico Bohny could manage. Whereas the three basic options for Day 2 absentees generally consist of a PTQ, drafting with friends, or sightseeing, Bohny is one of the few who actively gives back to the game (Bram Snepvangers being another notable example) by judging. I offered best of luck to Przemyslaw Bok, winner of the Lithuanian PTQ. Sadly, Bok couldn’t buy a win, and withdrew with 0 points. Whilst this was probably a chastening experience, I still congratulate him and those like him who get their ticket to the Big Show. The Tour can be very unforgiving sometimes, but getting there is a huge achievement, regardless of the outcome. Francisco Braga didn’t attend, and that leaves Manuel Bucher, the first of the Super-team. Finishing 70th with a 10-6 record, the group — Bucher, both Ruels, the Guillaumes Wafo-Tapa and Matignon, plus Americans Patrick Chapin, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Paul Cheon — were unhappy to find that every man woman and dog in the building had a version of the Elfball deck, since they had entertained hopes that they might have at least partially had it to themselves. It’s a measure of how far Manuel Bucher has come in the game that a 10-6 record seems a weak return.


Joel Calafell forged two 5-3 days to finish in a decent 47th spot, which in a field this size is almost the top 10%. Wow, the PT is getting big. Italian National Champion William Cavaglieri is a terrific player, but got nowhere fast, with just two wins. SuperTeam member number 2 is Patrick Chapin. He was nicely positioned overnight, having plowed a furrow of his own, playing Next Level Gifts, which I’m sure you’ll be reading about from the man himself. This isn’t a criticism of Mr. C, who reminds us when there’s something he’s not telling us, and why he can’t, but the fact remains that the one thing he couldn’t share about Extended was so massively format-defining and warping that it rendered almost all conversation about the format meaningless. That sentence would have gone something like, ‘Elfball is one of the most brutal, outstanding, and plain old can’t-lose Combo decks in the history of Magic, and this weekend almost nothing else is likely to have a chance, so it will be elveselveselveselveselves, and the rest can just go home.’ Given that I know that Chapin recognises this truth, it will be interesting as ever to hear the thought process behind not playing it. As for his tournament, a decent 6-2 Day 1 couldn’t be sustained, with a 4-4 Saturday leaving him exactly 50th, thus securing him a guaranteed invite for Pro Tour: Kyoto, so in that sense, mission accomplished. Yong Han Choo didn’t attend, which was a surprise given what a great year he’s having, Mark Conkle couldn’t make Day 2 on 3-5, and Andre Coimbra faded down the stretch, with 6-2 becoming 3-5 on the second day.


Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa of Brazil made Day 2 on 15 points, and then improved on the Saturday to 6-2, together making 33 points and 76th place. Jan de Coster of Belgium was mildly dismayed by his first Pro Tour performance, ending on 3-5, but he’ll be back, not least because the Belgians look after their own, and his Top 8 from Grand Prix: Paris adds to his credibility. Melissa de Tora made Day 2 in the middle of the 5-3 brigade, but couldn’t kick on with 2-6 on Saturday ending her weekend, and Antonino de Rosa was indeed otherwise engaged.


Having taken a break from the game, Willy Edel is indeed back, but not on Saturday, with a 3-5 record eliminating him earlier than he would have liked and I expected. Jason Elarar didn’t make the trip.


If you read last week, you know by views on Gerard Fabiano, and therefore you probably know my views of him ending the PT winless, with just a single draw to his name. Elton Fior was another Brazilian who made the trip, and got to 3-5. Tsuyoshi Fujita was a no-show.


At 6-2 overnight, Charles Gindy was putting in a decent showing, and would have gone to bed Friday entertaining visions of a repeat performance from Pro Tour: Hollywood. However, this time around he was playing Zoo, and that clearly wasn’t the best deck in the room. Saturday saw only one more win for Gindy, who ended 138th on 7-9, and he was suitably frustrated by the experience. Christophe Gregoir from Belgium also fell away on Day 2, despite having the best deck in the room, Elfball. He went 6-2 on Day 1, but only 3-5 on Day 2. Possibly this was just a case of him being on the wrong end of tight Elfball mirrors, since there aren’t many that could expect to beat him on playskill or temperament alone.


The number one ranked player didn’t put his ranking on the line, with Matt Hansen not making the start line. Tim Willoughby rather bullishly offered me a wager, taking the duo of Mark Herberholz and Gabriel Nassif to have a higher placed finisher than the SuperTeam, a wager I was happy to take, for (to me) obvious reasons, like an 8-2 bodycount advantage. Herberholz was the first to go, winning twice on Day 1. Jim Herold presented one of the more unusual sights at a Pro Tour, since he had brought his good lady with him, and tiny baby in tow. Now everyone knows that Zac Hill has four kids, and that Stuart Wright has a lovechild from at least nine separate Pro Tour cities around the world (both of these are jokes, by the way), but I wonder if this was a Pro Tour first? Herold, incidentally, shared Herberholz’s fate of just two wins, and he now seems a very long way from Pro safety. Richie Hoaen had a decent weekend, standing at 6-2 overnight, but a 4-4 Day 2 saw him slip from contention. He was his usual grumpy self, but it was good to see him back. And Christoph Huber? That rogue prediction of mine didn’t work out, with 4-4 as much as the Team World Champion could muster.


The fire really seems to have gone out of David Irvine, and his two wins on Day 1 reflect his current form and apparent interest. Ken Ishimaru went 4-4, the PTQ winner Atsushi Itou had a cracking weekend, finishing 39th with a 10-1-5 record, while Juniya Iyanaga also made Day 2, and finished in a decent 77th with 28 Points. Ren Ishikawa failed to show.


Two out of three ain’t bad, or so I’ve heard. I incorrectly predicted Klaus Joens to make Day 2, but only one win was far below anyone’s expectations. I can’t take too much credit for accurately forecasting that Dan Jenkins wouldn’t attend, but I’m glad that I stuck my neck out for Martin Juza of the Czech Republic, who repaid my faith in spades. Here’s what I said: ‘Martin Juza is one of the more impressive Europeans to come onto the global scene for a while. He was in contention deep into Day 2 at Pro Tour: Hollywood, made Top 16 at Grand Prix: Birmingham, again Constructed, and must have a decent shot at a similar performance here.’ Even I hadn’t realized quite how outstanding his season was becoming. 19th was in fact his lowest performance of the Pro Tour year, and now he must head into Worlds next month as a serious contender for the crown.


Masami Kaneko had a day to forget with just two wins. When I interviewed Frank Karsten on the morning of the tournament he didn’t seem too excited by his deck, Elfball. Always a calm guy, Frank was shrugging personified about his chances. At 4-0 things were going really well, but the second half of Friday was less exciting, generating a win, a draw, and two losses. Undaunted, Frank came out of the gates in a hurry on Saturday with three straight wins, but once again the back half was less kind. A Day 2 4-4 meant that Karsten finished 76th overall, still well inside the top 20%, but it could have been so much better. Still, this was 22 points better than Rogier Kleij, who couldn’t repeat the heroics of Grand Prix: Brussels. Grand Prix: Vienna winner Mateusz Kopec came to Berlin more in hope than expectation. He was one of only two in the 454 strong field that elected to play the Swans Of Bryn Argoll combo deck, that in Extended needed just one extra card to go with the Swans, namely Chain Of Plasma. Since there was no particular hate for the deck, Kopec stood in the Top 8 overnight on 7-1, but couldn’t sustain that form, falling to 3-5 on Day 2 and ending up in the pack on 30 points in 45th. Mattias Kunzler spent Day 2 moving from 79th all the way up to 77th, while Shingou Kurihara missed out with a 4-4 record.


Tim Landale is someone I mentioned, although he wasn’t someone I’d heard of until he came to prominence at Grand Prix: Denver. A 6-2 Friday was followed by an even 4-4, taking him to 57th. As a Swede, David Larsson had quite a spectator role as his compatriot Kenny Oberg topped the Swiss standings, but Larsson himself ended 4-4, not making Day 2. At Grand Prix level, one thing you can often see is a big named Pro making his move on Day 2, having sneaked in the back door at the end of Day 1. Raphael Levy ended the first day on 15 points, in 101st place, but continuing on that 5-3 pace on Saturday took him past a large group of players, eventually leaving the Hall of Famer inside the Top 64, in 59th. Playing Elfball, Marijn Lybaert was again in a strong position after Day 1 at 6-2, but then the wheels came off, pushing him down the field. Nevertheless, Lybaert remains in the top tier of the game, and he’ll be a contender again in Memphis next month. Finally, Ben Lundquist. He was another player, like Levy, who benefitted from consistency, as others fell around him on Day 2. His 10-6 record left him seven places adrift of Levy, irritatingly leaving him just outside the Top 64 in 66th.


Antti Malin had an even record, but couldn’t secure a bonus Pro Point. Tyler Mantey made Day 2 as I expected, but he couldn’t make a move up the leaderboard, with a 3-5 record on Saturday. Next up for the SuperTeam was Guillaume Matignon, who had two days of very contrasting fortune. 6-2 on Day 1 put him in excellent shape, but that became 6-3, 6-4, 6-5… Matignon didn’t win a match on Day 2. Bizarre. Massive congratulations go to Rashad Miller, for two reasons. First, he put in by far and away his best performance to date. Having made Day 2 twice before, this time he kicked on, and ended in a virtual tie for Top 8 on a whacking 12-4 record. But the big reason to congratulate him is that the man had, as he himself put it, the biggest balls in the tournament, running the so-called All-In Red, which had incredibly explosive draws, but wasn’t a risk most Pros were willing to run. To be honest, whenever I saw Rashad in action, he was beating people by far more than some sick opening hand nonsense, and his 14th place ensures he’ll be around to play at least part of next season. Awesome. I described Rogier Maaten, Quentin Martin and Fried Meulders as ‘semi-detached’ last week. None made Day 2, although Meulders had the best record of the three at an even 4-4. Zvi Mowshowitz didn’t attend, and Makahito Mihara must have wished he hadn’t, the former World Champion sliding out in 322nd place. Andre Mueller narrowly missed out on Top 8, but only because his name is almost Andreas Muller, who really DID narrowly miss out on Top 8. The Pro Tour: Valencia runner-up looked amazing in the Raph Levy-inspired suit (about 100 players made the effort, simply outstanding) but could only muster two wins.


Shuuhei Nakamura — Top 50 Pro Tour: Hollywood
Shuuhei Nakamura — Pro Club Level 6+
Shuuhei Nakamura — Top 100 Rating — 2108 (9th)
Shuuhei Nakamura — Grand Prix: Birmingham Top 16
Shuuhei Nakamura — Grand Prix: Copenhagen Top 16
Shuuhei Nakamura — Grand Prix: Madrid Top 16
Shuuhei Nakamura — 54 Pro Points
Shuuhei Nakamura — Level 8
Shuuhei Nakamura — Leader Player of the Year Race

At 6-2 overnight, most of us expected Shuuhei to power onward towards yet another stellar performance that would more or less lock up Player of the Year. Didn’t happen. Instead he fell victim to the Day 2 blues, breaking even at 4-4. With Tomaharu Saitou making Top 8, there was a point on Sunday where it looked like the Reigning POY was about to almost catch the presumed Heir Apparent in one tournament. That didn’t happen, quite, but it was still only a moderate weekend for Shuuhei. Someone who did kick on during Saturday was Gabriel Nassif, yet again showing what a monster talent he is. 78th overnight turned into an eventual 23rd, and that could have been right on the brink of the Top 8 but for a final round loss to Johan Sadeghpour of Sweden. I enjoyed making the lifestyle Pro piece as part of the coverage with Aaron Nicastri, although he didn’t have a great main event, not making Day 2. What’s great about his story is the huge support he’s garnered from around the Magic community. A terrific networker, Nicastri has openly asked for help in his world tour that began with Paris and Berlin, and will take in all four remaining Grand Prix before Worlds. Nicastri has a pretty amazing travelling companion lined up, none other than Shuuhei Nakamura. The two will hook up in Atlanta, and then return to chez Nakamura before hiring a car to drive down to the Japanese GP, then on to Taipei, New Zealand, and then eventually to Worlds. Now Aaron’s a smart guy, so what do you think his chances are of learning a thing or two from Shuuhei? What a great gig for someone who hadn’t been to a Pro Tour before Hollywood earlier this year. As for Dutchie Julien Nuijten, this was a no-show. Pity.


I freely admit that I only mentioned Kenny Oberg of Sweden last week for two reasons. First, I thought it entertaining that a Swede had won a Norwegian PTQ, and second, I’d seen Kenny helping out at a trade stand during Grand Prix: Paris. My guess is that most of you now know The Tezzerator. Oberg had a terrific deck in Berlin, and in a world where finding an edge is increasingly difficult, he found a massive one. Opponents had no real clue what he was playing, had minimal idea what to sideboard, frequently misread the deck, and Oberg took full advantage. In the quarter-final he found himself two up with three to play, but couldn’t prevent Luis Scott-Vargas from making a remarkable comeback. The only slight blot on a fantastic weekend was the last round of the Swiss, where Oberg set out to defeat Andreas Muller in order to influence the makeup of the Top 8. Nothing wrong with that of course, except this was a decision based on national rather than personal interest. The Muller matchup would have been great for Oberg, he believed, but fellow Swede and friend Johan Sadeghpour was fighting for a Top 8 berth, so Oberg played, and in fact beat, a man who in gameplay terms alone would have been an ideal opponent come Sunday. In fact, Sadeghpour won, but Oberg’s unwillingness to concede to Muller ultimately let Luis Scott-Vargas into the Top 8, his vanquisher in the quarter finals. My high horse is currently on holiday, so thankfully for many of you I can’t get on it, but the lesson of this Pro Tour from Andreas Muller is that you have to be several points better than some of your rivals if you don’t have friends in high places or your face doesn’t fit. If Sadeghpour wasn’t Swedish, Luis Scott-Vargas would not have been in Sunday at all. My number one tip for playing on Tour? Make everyone your friend. Everyone. (Pause). Koutarou Ootsuka was among the 5-3 crowd, but he accelerated slightly on Saturday, and that extra point for a draw got him up to 41st. Marco Orsini-Jones put up a terrific performance, as did several Brits. O-J was one of the players who managed to improve on Day 2, turning 5-3 into 11-5, and finishing 33rd. Good job. Takuya Osawa did not start.


This Pro Tour was no walk in the ‘park.’ Jamie Park+e couldn’t muster a win at all, with just a draw to his name, while near-namesake Richard Park+er didn’t even get a single point. Nightmare for the pair of them. At 3-5, French National Champion Christophe Peyronnel did at least trouble the scorers, but still finished well back in 277th, and although German Raul Porojan got to 50% at 4-4, that wasn’t enough either.


Turned out my mild optimism about British prospects was reasonable. Four players made the second day, one of the best showings for a while, including National Champion Jonathan Randle. With 10 Pro Points for his Nationals win, a Top 8 at Grand Prix: Birmingham and now useful Points here, he seems certain to be at Level 4 next year, a tremendous achievement. Two Germans next, neither of whom got through Friday. Simon Ritzka has been doing well on the European GP circuit, while Jan Ruess lost the final of Pro Tour: Hollywood. Astonishingly, Ruess didn’t get a single point this time around. From 2nd to 452nd. Neil Reeves didn’t play, and neither did Ben Rubin.


I feel sorry for Steve Sadin, whose deck choice backfired spectacularly. Four wins and a draw wouldn’t be enough to get one person into Day 2, and that was the combined mark of Sadin, Jamie Parke, and Jacob van Lunen, all of whom played a convoluted Second Sunrise deck that just got battered in the Metagame. Tomaharu Saitou showed why he’s the Player of the Year with a focused display of Magical prowess with his version of Elfball, which eventual winner Scott-Vargas was gracious enough to describe as the best in the field. LSV defeated Saitou 3-2 in a great semi-final, which began with Saitou pulling off the Turn 2 kill against a version of the deck that was meant to be faster than his. It was a rare bad day for Brandon Scheel, who finished 3-5. As for LSV, he was thrilled to win, handled the pressure of Sunday with apparent ease, and leaps from 14 Points to 39 in a single bound. Oh, and he wins $40,000 too. Guess that means the SuperTeam did all right then. Three wins weren’t enough for Rasmus Sibast, nor for Lee Steht of the U.S., nor Alexander Syomkin of Russia. Neither Bram Snepvangers nor John Sittner were able to kickstart an end of season burst, and Jon Sonne did not start.


Amiel Tenenbaum had another solid performance, which explains why he’s ranked so highly, he just rarely has a properly bad day. 6-2 became 10-6, good enough for a Top 64 finish. The affable Gerry Thompson probably knew the format as well as anyone, but couldn’t convert. Nonetheless, my total inability to count the number of Grand Prix Top 8s he has to his name last week was very poor. Humble apologies, Mr Six GP Top 8s Thompson. Meanwhile, Kenji Tsumura really does seem to have lost interest in the game. Either that, or he’s got relatively poor relatively quickly, since he never looked like making Day 2, and didn’t. Owen Turtenwald also failed to step up, despite a fair 4-4 showing.


4-4 was also the score for Marsh Usary, but I expect him to show well at Worlds, now that the spotlight is becoming commonplace.


No joy for Robert van Medevoort, who surprisingly didn’t make Day 2 (4-4).


As Randy Buehler was heard to remark, one of the real rare sights greeted him on Saturday morning: Guillaume Wafo-Tapa having breakfast. At 10am. While all but Patrick Chapin on the SuperTeam had settled on Elfball, Guillaume just couldn’t tear himself away from Next Next Next Next Level Blue (or whatever). 4-4 left him shy, and sampling the delights of hotel breakfast post-8am for the first time in ages. One of the big movers on Day 2 was Ruud Warmenhoven, whose 5-3 Day 1 improved to 33 points overall, enough for a push from 73rd to 24th. Yuuya Watanabe had a costly draw, leaving him marooned on 13 points and outside Day 2. Stuart Wright played Zoo, wasn’t hopeful, and with good reason, while Jelger Wiegersma was a no-show.


Adam Yurchick had a frustrating time, in that he played solidly all weekend, went 5-3 both days, and yet in 67th place will probably feel unfulfilled.


‘Matej Zatlkej made the Top 16 in Grand Prix: Madrid and I expect him to take advantage of the invite with a strong showing here in Berlin.’ That’s what I said last week, but of course I couldn’t have anticipated such a fantastic weekend for Matej, who interestingly was probably the most disappointed of all the runners-up I’ve seen since I started doing the Pro Tour. I’m sure on reflection he’ll be thrilled with his performance. Incidentally, he had one of the best sideboards for the Elfball mirror, and in my view that’s because he’s a humble guy. When some other testing teams found Elfball, they had at least some possibility of believing they would be the only ones with the ‘technology,’ or at least that many would miss it. Coming from an unpretentious group of talented but lesser-known players, Zatlkej rightly assumed that if he had it, everyone had it, and he reaped the rewards by being extremely prepared for it. A great weekend, and probably not the last. He finished exactly 356 places better off than Arnost Zidek.

And Finally…

In shameless plug mode, look out for a highlights audio show coming next week over on the mothership, where I’ll bring you more on the decks, some of the players who unexpectedly made the Top 8, and more. For those of you who felt I unfairly missed out ‘your’ guy, I apologise, and I do agree that there were plenty of good players who didn’t get a mention. Perhaps one day I’ll abandon my family completely and you can have a rundown of all 454 players!

Until next time, as ever, thanks for reading.