Removed From Game – Pro Tour: Kyoto in Review

Read Rich Hagon every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Monday, March 9th – Without doubt, the Pro Tour in Kyoto was one for the history books. Rarely can a better Top 8 have been played out, in the amazing new Arena set for 2009. Gabriel Nassif and Luis Scott-Vargas took us all the way to a five-game thriller, and in this article we go behind some of the numbers to bring you the story of this fabulous weekend of Magic.

It’s my job to tell you that the Pro Tour is awesome, and it’s also my job to tell you that every Pro Tour is awesome, regardless of the Format, the cards available, and who wins. I’m in the entertainment industry, and telling you that Magic sucks isn’t something I’m likely to say too often. Thankfully, I’ve yet to be involved in a Pro Tour which was objectively poor for some reason or other (although there are those who would make a case that Pro Tour: San Diego, with its Two-Headed Giant Format, qualifies in this regard.) However, at its simplest, it’s unrealistic to expect every single event to live up to the hype. Even in your own individual Magic experience, you know that the majority of games are — what’s the word? – ordinary. Nobody topdecks or makes a killer sideboard switch. Neither player grotesquely forgets a cumulative upkeep or misreads a card that has Protection. Nobody attacks for 53 unblockable damage, and nobody gains infinite life. The average game of Magic is just that, average, and one of the reasons we love those wonderful stories so much is because it takes a lot of average games to get there.

In Kyoto last week, 380 players started the tournament. In each Super Sunday Top 8, there are seven matches. In Round One of Kyoto there were 190. At a very rough guess, that means that in the history of the Pro Tour there have been the same number of Top 8 onscreen matches as you would find in the first two Rounds of Kyoto as a whole. Now think of all the amazing stories the game has thrown up on Sundays under the lights, and you can see we’ve been very lucky. Although I’ve only been witness to 10 of these things from the ultimate ringside seat, I think it’s fair to say that this was easily the best Sunday’s action I’ve seen firsthand, and comfortably inside the Greatest Hits selection, period. But we’ll get there via the tale of 14 Rounds of Swiss, conveniently broken up into four easily digestible chunks.

Standard, Part 1

Although at the time I was surprised to see so many unknowns at the top of the leaderboard after four Rounds of Standard, on reflection I realise that some simple Pro Tour math was at work. Simply, four Rounds isn’t nearly enough to shake things out meaningfully. By my calculation, roughly 1/3rd of the players are what we might call Names, and the rest could be defined as Unknowns. Names to me are a mixed bag. Obviously they include the players high on the Player of the Year Race, players with previous Pro Tour Top 8s, players with high Pro levels, the Hall of Famers, Grand Prix winners, and so on. Although I’ve also heard of nearly everyone who has ever played for their national team at Worlds or has made a Grand Prix Top 8, I’m a Magic stat nerd with my record collection for everyone who’s done anything ever, so that doesn’t count. Therefore someone who has a Grand Prix Top 8 from 2001 and represented Venezuela in Worlds 2004 doesn’t automatically count as a Name. As for Unknowns, that of course covers the whole gamut of PTQ winners, plus a few ratings anomalies who have qualified for the Big Show via their own local market, being the best in a small pool. Amongst the PTQ winners, there are always going to be those on the way up, with their debut being something we can look back on and see the germ of something special. Maybe Ari Lax could be that guy. There are always going to be the PTQ winners who are back again, having been on and off the Tour along the way but never making a splash. Because he’s better than most people here in the UK, Kyoto was Neil Rigby’s 6th, 7th, 8th Pro Tour? But the chances are, you don’t know him. And then there are the deadweights. With all due respect, they’re the players who are on an incredible expenses-paid holiday. They’re living the dream, and the dream is about sitting down for Round 1. It’s also about winning Round 1, but beyond that they’re into bonus land, and making Day 2 is the absolute summit of their ambitions. In summary therefore, the Pro Tour seems to me to divide into roughly three groups. The Names, who have Top 32, Top 16, Top 8 and Top 1 goals.. The Unknowns who want to be Names, aiming for Top 50 to get an automatic invite for next time, and seeing the event as part of a broader climb towards a Magic Pro career. And finally, the Unknowns who know they’re never going to be Names, and just to play against them is honor enough. I think these three groups divide pretty evenly, meaning that after only four Rounds, you’re going to find plenty of the third group still playing each other, having successfully avoided both up-and-comers and the finished article. Of the 22 players on perfect 4-0 records, perhaps half a dozen were among those you might expect. Shouta Yasooka, Shuu Komuro and Yoshitaka Nakano were there for Japan. On the European side, Gabriel Nassif was joined by Italian David Besso and Protugal’s Marcio Carvalho, who came here under a cloud triggered by his expulsion from Grand Prix: Rotterdam the previous weekend. Brian Kowal was known more for his Boat Brew deck than his finishes, while Luis Scott-Vargas was undoubtedly the most famous player on Earth. Cedric Phillips had some kind of reputation back in the States, but nothing to suggest we’d see him on Sunday, and the same was true of Bostonian Brian Robinson. Of these perfect starts, four would translate into seats at the final table. Perhaps the first Draft would shake things up somewhat?

End of Day 1

At the halfway point, Scott-Vargas had extended his run by another 3 victories. He was joined on the perfect overnight score by the impressive Akimasa Yamamoto of Japan, and the Netherlands Thomas Driessen. Brian Robinson had continued his good start, sitting now on 18 points, where a clutch of pre-tournament contenders lay in wait. Shouta Yasooka had been joined by reigning Player of the Year Shuuhei Nakamura, who now looked poised to deliver his challenge just one week after narrowly missing out on the final of Grand Prix Rotterdam the week before. The runner-up behind Charles Gindy in Hollywood last year, Jan Ruess of Germany was also taking things one match at a time, while Yann Massicard of France found himself right next to Gabriel Nassif in the standings, Nassif looking to register an incredible ninth Super Sunday appearance. It’s been a while since Britain had two in the mix, so it was great to see National Champion Jonathan Randle, and Matteo Orsini-Jones both at 6-1 overnight. At some multi-Format events, notably US Nationals, the first Draft can see some very inexperienced Limited players at the top tables, because they’ve qualified via Regionals with a Constructed deck they know inside and out, and simply don’t Draft that often. At that tournament, Pros who get to the top early have a great chance of staying there against a table of Drafters weaker than they would usually face. In Kyoto there was much less evidence of that, so although players fell from the leaderboard through the math of Swiss pairings, it was hard to spot the players who were out of their depth when 60 cards became 40. Would the second draft see the big names make their move, or would the newcomers and late-bloomers hold on to what their efforts had accorded them, a shot at Super Sunday?

Draft, Part 2

In total, nine players drafted their way to a perfect 6-0 Limited record. Six of these were European, two American and only one from Japan. That man was Yuuma Shiota, but his lone Standard win ensured that Draft performance wouldn’t translate into Top 8. Reinhard Kohl of Germany had, like Shuuhei Nakamura, made the top 8 in Rotterdam the week before, and continued to demonstrate his mastery of the Shards/Conflux format. Another German, Tobias Heinrich delivered the 6-0 run, but again, poor Standard performance left them well shy of the Top 8. Manoeuvring around the venue in a wheelchair courtesy of a broken foot, yet another Rotterdam Top 8er, Dutchie Robert van Medevoort, had come barrelling up the standings, along with compatriot Job Meertens. I have a lot of time for van Medevoort, who has much in common with Martin Juza in that he seems to be relentlessly Good at the game. However, while he’s one of the most respected players on the Grand Prix circuit, there always seems to be just enough people better than him to prevent him reaching the Top 8. Yann Massicard continued his good work from the first day, acing his second draft pod, while Matteo Orsini-Jones won another three back to back, including defeating National Champion Jonathan Randle while both were at 8-1. Eric Jones will, I trust, forgive me for being described as the ‘other’ American to make the perfect Limited record, because that leaves, amazingly, Luis Scott- Vargas, who seemed at this point quite frankly invincible. 7 straight wins at Worlds, 10 straight wins in Kyoto, that was a run that had left the best ever consecutive strings of Messrs Budde and Finkel absolutely in the dust. LSV headlined the overall standings of course, with Massicard and Orsini-Jones tied for second on 9-1. Amongst those very much in the running at 8-2 were Shouta Yasooka, Jan Ruess, Kazuya Mitamura, Germany’s Denis Sinner looking to build on his Top 8 from Berlin, Shuuhei Nakamura, and Gabriel Nassif. Still under the radar, four Americans were lurking in LSVs shadow, looking to make the Top 8 their own. Brian Robinson, Nick Lynn, Ari Lax and the suited Cedric Phillips were all looking to make more illustrious names pack their bags, something that had now been done by over 300 of the starting line-up. Heading back to Standard, 60 players were at 7 wins or better, and could still harbour ambitions of a chair on the final day.

The Standard Run-In

One round later, and 40 contenders remained. LSV had won again, taking his streak to 18, and guaranteeing him a slot with three full rounds to spare. On tiebreaks, Sweden’s Mattias Anderson now stood in second, sharing that slot with a dozen more headlined by Ruess and Nakamura. Among the 8-3 club, all needing to win out, were Robert van Medevoort, Shouta Yasooka, Brandon Scheel being ultra-consistent as usual, GP winner Emanuele Giusit of Italy, Kazuya Mitamura, and Gab Nassif of France, looking to ride 5-color into the Top 8. There was Brian Kowal, Belgium’s Marijn Lybaert, former team world champion Nico Bohny, Czech Republic hotshot Martin Juza, and a fellow Czech by the name of Adam Koska, who had started the day at 4-3, on the absolute fringes of contention, and was continuing to cling on by his fingertips to the leaders’ coattails.

Twelve rounds gone, and we were down to 27, although Martin Juza knew his tiebreaks were looking very grim. In 27th he could look all the way up to Yasooka in 9th, on the same record. Had the tournament ended here after twelve rounds, it would have been tempting to think of the Top 8 as LSV + seven making up the numbers. The resume of Brian Robinson, Matteo Orsini-Jones, Akimasa Yamamoto, Ari Lax, Cedric Phillips, Masayasu Tanahashi and Taichi Fujimoto were somewhat thin, but even players like Nassif had to start somewhere, and he hadn’t given up hope of sneaking over the line, as he stood in 18th place. Orsini-Jones meanwhile had done his chances no harm at all by finally — finally — ending the streak of Luis Scott Vargas in a black-white tokens mirror match. Now, with the streak over, LSV could turn his attention to something that really mattered – $40,000, and a slice of history.

Juza won again in round 13, but those tiebreaks weren’t getting nearly better enough, and of the 13 players on 10-3 coming into the final round, he was the least likely to see Sunday action. Although Nakamura was still in contention, it wasn’t player of the year Shuuhei but namesake Hajime who was still in the frame. While Scott-Vargas, Orsini-Jones, Yamamoto and Phillips could breathe a huge sigh of relief and look forward to the Top 8, the other thirteen were scrambling for the other four spots, and 13 into 4 doesn’t go without a lot of kicking and screaming. In a US mirror, Brian Robinson ended Ari Lax hopes. Jan Ruess efficiently dispatched Frenchman Yann Massicard, eliminating him. Masayasu Tanahasi defeated Eric Jones of the US, while Spain’s Oscar Perez defeated Nico Bohny. Brian Kowal stood just one match away from his first Top 8, but it was Gabriel Nassif who ended that dream. Martin Juza won yet again, daring tiebreaks to do their worst, and compatriot Adam Koska completed a remarkable run that saw him go from 4-3 to 11-3. Koska knew enough about the math to see that he was going to finish either 8th or 9th, and he wound up the wrong side of the line. 5th to 11th all shared 33 Points, a truly impressive 11-3 record, and I’m not sure that knowing you were going to get done over by percentage points will have done much for either Koska or Juza, who ended 11th.

With the super-good Juza eliminated, we were looking at a Top 8 of five Unknowns, a clearcut third seed, and two superstars of the game. With his four color Doran/Rafiq deck, Brian Robinson had just kept on winning. Cedric Phillips navigated Kithkin into Sunday, where he would face Robinson. The undoubted third seed was Jan Ruess of Germany, who has developed a marvellously even approach to play that rarely sees him frustrated, or capricious, or anything that would get in the way of the correct play. Having finished runner-up in Hollywood, this was his chance to go one better. His quarter final was a Boat Brew mirror against Japan’s Akimasa Yamamoto, the third of our Unknowns. The other Japanese player in Sunday action was Masayusa Tanahashi, and it was his job to try and overcome Luis Scott-Vargas. That left Matteo Orsini-Jones of England, who had the unenviable task on his first Top 8 appearance of taking down Gabriel Nassif, on his ninth Sunday outing. Here’s how the Quarter Finals went…

Luis Scott-Vargas versus Masayusa Tanahashi.

Tanahashi had the only Faeries list to make Sunday play, and he was the first sacrificial lamb in front of the LSV machine with his BW Tokens deck, That’s certainly how it seemed when LSV won the opener in just over three minutes. Tideholllow Sculler turn 2, Glorious Anthem turn 3, Sculler plus Terror turn 4, Cloudgoat Ranger turn 5. Shuffle up your permanents and welcome to the Top 8 Mr. Tanahashi. Game Two was little better for the Japanese player. This game was all about his inability to leave mana open for crucial counterspells, the tokens deck applying just enough pressure to keep the Fae constantly on the back foot. When Cryptic Command is being used as a fog effect to hold off Windbrisk Heights, you know you’re in trouble, and while the other three quarter-finals were all in game one, LSV was on the verge of the semis. In Berlin last year, LSV came back from the brink of elimination repeatedly. That was beyond Tanahashi in this one. A mulligan to five was a pretty mighty handicap in an 0-2 hole, and turn 2 Bitterblossom for LSV was all you really need to know. In a comprehensive sweep, the American was on track for a date with destiny.

Cedric Phillips versus Brian Robinson.

The expert take on the matchup was that Phillips had the edge, more likely than not to overrun Robinson with efficient weenie swarms against irrelevant 0/1s. Initially that seemed to be the way of things in game one, with Phillips getting into high gear early against paltry Noble Hierarchs. However, Rhox War Monk, it’s fair to say, changed the math considerably, as suddenly Robinson was powering into the red zone with a 6/7 triple-Exalted lifelink beatstick. Kithkin decks don’t take kindly to lifegain, certainly not of this magnitude, and although Phillips churned out some beefy men of his own via Cloudgoat Ranger and Glorious Anthem, Robinson inexorably pulled away, adding Loxodon Warhammer to the mix for stupendous lifegain, and he won the first going away on 93 life. Despite a turn two Doran the Siege Tower, Phillips got himself into a strong position in the second game. Windbrisk Heights revealed a Glorious Anthem to beef up his army of flying tokens, and Robinson sat at 5 life. Unfortunately for Phillips, that was four more life than Robinson needed, as he turned the game completely on its head. Path to Exile end of turn, a second Path to Exile, Nameless Inversion….Phillips’ defence lay in ruins, allowing Robinson to pile in for 10 damage, conveniently exactly the opposing life total. In a match he expected to win, Phillips found himself in the hole, and that hole got bigger and bigger. Turn two Doran again for Robinson was bad enough, but back to back Wilt-Leaf Lieges left Phillips looking at a 4/9 Doran attacking for 9. The Kithkin deck wasn’t designed with defence in mind, and thanks to turn one Birds of Paradise into turn two Doran, it had spent most of the match trying to do exactly that. Although Phillips had a Sunday to forget, he had a weekend to remember, and of the debutants in Kyoto it strikes me that he might well be back for more somewhere down the line. Robinson meanwhile, marched on to the semis against LSV.

Jan Ruess versus Akimasa Yamamoto

Quietly going about his business all weekend, Ruess was now in his second successive Standard Top 8 after Hollywood last year. With this matchup a Boat Brew red-white Reveillark mirror match, he would need all his experience to overcome Yamamoto. In game one Ruess managed time and again to thwart Yamamoto, who was looking to get three attackers into the red zone in order to free the power of Windbrisk Heights. With three copies of the hideaway land sitting primed for action on the Japanese side of the board, Ruess knew that would be game right there if the critical number was reached. Back and forth this one raged, but although Ruess won the battle of the Windbrisk, he couldn’t also win the battle of the Reveillarks, meaning that Yamamoto was able to return double Siege Gang Commander, and that represented too much damage for the German to deal with. The Siege-Gang was crucial in game two, but this time it was Ruess who benefitted, first casting it, then returning it via Reveillark to equalise things at one apiece. The middle game of the set was all about mana. Yamamoto had none, and none, and had to begin at just five cards. Ruess kept his opener, but proceeded to wish that he hadn’t, since no third land was forthcoming. Ajani Vengeant compounded his problems, locking him out of the mana he could have used for Spectral Procession the turn before he died. Once again, Yamamoto took the lead. Sideboard entertainment helped Ruess equalise for the second time in the match, as a Japanese Wrath of God was met with Lapse of Certainty, buying Ruess an extra turn of beatdown, and allowing him to effectively negate the Wrath by adding Reveillark to his board. With Knight of the White Orchid and Figure of Destiny both coming right back, Ruess was able to Banefire away the final few life points, and, more than 90 minutes after LSV had wrapped up his semi-final berth, game five was about to get under way. The decider turned into a race, with the players trading damage back and forth. In that situation, an Ajani Vengeant that can keep an opposing monster out of the running is a significant advantage, and although Ruess finally made his own Planeswalker, the damage had already been done by Yamamoto’s Vengeant, allowing him to pull away from Ruess at a crucial stage of the game. With Ruess tapped out to cast his own planeswalker, Yamamoto saw the door opening, and efficiently kicked it in with a massive attack plus the MVP Siege-gang commander doing what it does best to end the match. A gruelling five-setter was over, and Ruess wouldn’t be going one better than in Hollywood. Looking back on this one, I think Ruess gets a lot of credit for taking the match the whole distance. His opponent was thoroughly competent, and the absence of Wrath Of God from the German Sideboard meant that Yamamoto should arguably have had to fight less hard than he did. Ruess making his second Top 8 is probably the 5th or 6th storyline to come out of Kyoto, but whereas Hollywood didn’t necessarily feel like the start of something — to me, it was a journeyman Pro getting his moment in the sun — this assured performance feels much more like the second chapter in a lengthy list of entries, and I think the multiple Formats helped him here.

Gabriel Nassif versus Matteo Orsini-Jones

On experience alone, you had to make Nassif the favorite in this one. This was the Frenchman’s ninth Super Sunday. It was Orsini-Jones’ first. If anything, the matchup appeared to favor the five-color control deck, although both sets of playtesters agreed it was tight enough to go either way. The control deck generally looks to win with multiple Dragons courtesy of Broodmate Dragon plus one. In the first game, it took Broodmate Dragon plus one and Broodmate Dragon plus one to get the job done, but eventually Nassif prevailed, not without significant help from the top of his library. For a 1/1 for 1 mana, Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender turned out to be one of the biggest cards of the match. In game two it did everything Matteo could have asked of it, and more. It acted as counterspell bait, removing a French Cryptic Command from the equation. It acted as a defensive deterrent, preventing Nassif from swinging for the win, thanks to Broodmate Dragon being not only black and green, but red too. And it acted as an unblockable clock, whittling away the final life points as Nassif couldn’t pull back from the brink in time. It looked as if the Forge-Tender was going to give Orsini-Jones the lead in game three, as it continued to give Nassif fits. However, a 1/3 flyer came to Nassif’s rescue in the form of Wispmare, because conveniently it was white, not red. Now the Forge-Tender had to be sacrificed just to keep Orsini-Jones alive, but it was only for a turn. Nassif was one game away from the semi finals, and still on course for a historic final with Scott-Vargas. He was still one game away going into game five, as Orsini-Jones kept his cool to open with Bitterblossom, Thoughtseize and Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender, all cards that the five-color deck wouldn’t mind not seeing ever. Cloudgoat Ranger shortened this one considerably, and there was no help from the top of the French deck as there had been multiple times already.

The decider will go down in history as one of the great Magic moments, as Nassif, facing lethal damage the following turn, arranged his mana just so for a Cruel Ultimatum that happily for him lay waiting on top of his library. As the crowd roared, the devastated Orsini-Jones, moments away from a fabulous victory, displayed a maturity and dignity beyond his years to grin at Nassif and utter the immortal words ‘I think you’ve got more fans than I do.’ Almost nothing other than the mighty ultimatum could have saved Nassif, but sometimes — and for him it’s more often than most — it’s just your time. The dream final was still on.

It was still on after the semi-finals. LSV had done bad things to Brian Robinson, but not before Robinson had given him a mighty scare in the opener, curving out perfectly into Doran, The Siege Tower and Rafiq Of The Many. This became a lone attacker on Turn Three hitting for fourteen damage, making it what would have been the Play of the Day, were it not for Nassif’s Cruel Ultimatum earlier. Path To Exile, much-hyped as one of the two cards, along with Volcanic Fallout, that would really impact Standard out of Conflux, proved useful to LSV in carving out a 3-1 victory. Across the arena, Gabriel Nassif was also grinding his way to a 3-1 result against the Boat Brew victor, Akimasa Yamamoto. This match was largely about Ajani Vengeant. In the opener, Yamamoto got it to resolve, and rode it to victory. In the second, he got it to resolve, but couldn’t make it stick, and in the other two it was no factor. Broodmate Dragon plus one was a factor, and the team of deckbuilders that included Patrick Chapin, the Ruels, Manuel Bucher and Guillaume Wafo-Tapa had a representative in the final.

The final. Luis Scott-Vargas versus Gabriel Nassif.

BW tokens. 5 color control. The hottest player in Magic. The third best player of all time. The United States. France. All the elements for a monumental final match. For the neutral, all that really mattered was that the match went long, and the finalists didn’t disappoint. Nassif went all-in with the Broodmate Dragon plan in game one, and although LSV had double Tidehollow Sculler to rob Nassif of options, the flying men on the board were all the options he needed. Scott-Vargas came roaring back in game two, starting out with Tidehollow Sculler and Bitterblossom and then increasing the token threat with Glorious Anthem, Nassif meanwhile was struggling for mana, and although he managed an Infest to partially clear the board, Cloudgoat Ranger and Ajani Goldmane still remained to drop Nassif to the brink. Wrath of God was only the beginning of a massively unlikely series of plays that would have kept the Frenchman in it, and it was soon 1 each.
The third game saw mana problems for both players, but Luis took the lead with multiple Kitchen Finks putting Nassif on the defensive. As the Frenchman yet again went into topdeck mode, the deck yet again answered, with Broodmate Dragon utterly transforming the board. Fortunately for him however, LSV also had a top of the deck to knock, and Cloudgoat Ranger plus three trumped Broodmate Dragon plus one to put the American one duel away from two Pro Tour wins in the last three. Astounding.

Game four was special. With two of the world’s best players at the peak of their powers quarter was neither asked nor given, and time after time the game swung back and forth, most of the crowd willing Nassif on, if only because nobody wanted the entertainment to end. From an empty hand, Nassif drew Mulldrifter, and that in turn led to not one but two Broken Ambitions. Had the second in particular been missing, Scott-Vargas would surely have been crowned champion, as the match continued to hang by a thread. In the end, Volcanic Fallout cleared the way to ensure that Cloudgoat Ranger couldn’t leap to the air, and that meant Broodmate Dragon could at last dominate the skies. Millimetres from victory, LSV now had to prepare for a tumultuous game five. Except it wasn’t. After some of the most extraordinary games the Super Sunday stage has seen, something had to give, and that something was LSV’s manabase. Starting with five cards in his opening hand, only the most optimistic supporter could construct a sequence where he would end up winning the decider. With no early threats, he was forced to watch as Nassif built mana towards Broodmate Dragon, countering anything of relevance along the way, before delivering not one but two Cruel Ultimatums to finally put down the astonishing talent of Scott-Vargas. In a Top 8 that will live long in the memory, by three games to two, the champion of Pro Tour Kyoto 2009 was Gabriel Nassif.


The multi-Format was a great idea. While there was time for players to be punished for inefficiencies, either in Limited playskill or Constructed Metagame choice, there was also time enough for those to matter positively, as 2-2 in Standard became 8-2 after the Draft, became 10-4 in Standard, and deservedly missing out on the Top 8. With Nationals and Worlds both being multi-Format, we had plenty of data to suggest that this would work, but at Worlds it has sometimes felt like separate events which are subsequently combined. Today we play Extended. Tomorrow we Draft, the following day it’s Standard, and then we see who did best. With both Formats represented on both days, almost no strong Limited player was technically out of contention before he could get to pick one, pack one, and most of the strong Constructed players with winning records had a short enough Limited window to still be in contention when 60 cards came round again. From a viewing standpoint, being able to see the best in the world across Constructed and Limited has got to be a good thing, and I for one can’t wait to see Block Constructed and full Block Draft when we get to Honolulu at the start of June. The only slight downside to the new structure was how tight things were below the Top 8, where a slew of players found themselves on 30 Points, and there’s a ton of money between 12th and 30th or so. Rumor has it that we may find the numbers tweaked a little next time round, so this slight wrinkle should be gone.

As for Standard, it seems in good shape. Certainly the Top 8 provided interesting matches, even if the Boat Brew mirror was tough going. Faeries is still a top deck, but it isn’t the top deck, which is nice. Yes, R&D wanted that to be the case, but R&D doesn’t always get what it wants, and it was important that this time Faeries was kept alive but balanced. Going to Friday Night Magic you could play all kinds of decks, though for sheer entertainment the award has to go to Brian Robinson. Attacking for 14 is one thing, on turn three another, on turn three with one monster another, and on turn three with one monster for 14 with a printed power of zero? That’s why we love the game so much, right there.

I’m in Hannover next weekend for the latest in the Grand Prix circuit, where we turn our attention to Extended. With qualifiers still very much on the go, I’ll go all daring, and actually bring you some decklists to ponder.

Until then, as ever, thanks for reading.