Removed From Game – The 2007 Removed From Game Awards

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Season 2008 is upon us, so now’s the time to bid farewell to 2007 with an Award ceremony featuring the contenders and winners of such need-to-know categories as the Fall From Grace, the Redemption award, the Country on the Decline, Match of the Year, the Most Fashionable Player, and over a dozen more. So put on your dinner jacket, or get your ballgown dusted down for the star-studded event of the year.

Yes, ’tis the Awards Season, and I couldn’t let 2007 drift into the history books without trying to make some coherent sense out of all the amazing sights and sounds I’ve been privileged to witness in my Magical trek around (and around and around) the globe. As you might expect, some of these award winners will leave you scratching your head and wondering whether or not I’ve taken leave of my senses. I haven’t, but that’s for me to know and you to find out. So in no particular order we have:

Set of the Year

Since this is the first Removed from Game awards, you should know that I’ll always be looking at a 16 month span for these kind of things. That means we have Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, Future Sight, 10th Edition and Lorwyn to consider. Let’s begin with the (literally) lightweight contenders. Planar Chaos managed to take us back to the days of genuine knee-trembling excitement about the possibility of opening up the black Wrath of God, Damnation. When it came out, it didn’t disappoint. First, it wasn’t a reprint that was past its sell-by date and was destined never to be used by players. Just as important, set an almost impossible task of coming up with something every bit as iconic as the White version, Kev Walker hit the ball so far out of the park it’s still going. For utter menace, implacable will and sumptuous use of, well, black, Mr.Walker gave us a card we could yearn to own with a passion that was almost palpable on Pre-Release day.

Now how about the rest of Planar Chaos? Probably the card with the biggest influence on Constructed formats turned out to be a land: Urborg, Tomb Of Yawgmoth. Aeon Chronicler also shined brightly, and Calciderm still turns up to irritate targeted removal fans.

Let’s look at Future Sight. Well, this was the schizophrenic set, a collection of cards from every conceivable space and time, many of them that may never yet be. There were certainly some nice ideas here, including a wide variety of non-basic lands that showcased some interesting possible future directions. From a blue perspective – and what other perspective is there? – you couldn’t fail to be excited by Pact Of Negation. Come to that, you couldn’t fail to be excited by Slaughter Pact either, as who wouldn’t want free wins? Like many cycles, it was unrealistic to expect Constructed play from all five, but three ain’t bad, especially as the green version proved such a potent weapon in Legacy. Undoubted king of Future Sight was the 0/1 for One and a Green, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve almost certainly been playing Magic for less than 9 seconds. One of the great things about Tarmogoyf is the stories you hear of people buying a playset of 4 on eBay for $5. That’s the kind of pirateering trading that’s gone out of fashion because everyone is so damned clued up. But seriously, Tarmogoyf was stratospherically more influential than the next ‘best’ card, which might be Korlash, Heir To Blackblade.

Alright then, next up is 10th Edition. We can deal with that fairly easily. If a set of reprints is the most exciting set of the year, we have a problem, and not just in Houston. 10th seems to have struck a good balance between shaking up the environment and defining the environment, which you don’t really want it to do. Losing the Urzatron lands was good news, and sad though I was to find Dragonstorm apparently neutered with Seething Song departing the scene, there were nice tournament additions like Troll Ascetic, Pithing Needle, Incinerate, and my personal favorite Treetop Village, which may be a contender for Card of the Year.

That brings us to the two heavyweight contenders, Lorwyn and Time Spiral. My wife assures me that size isn’t everything, but I do think the difference in size is a crucial point. We can debate the semantics of whether the Time Shifted cards are a set all their own, but the fact remains that at the start of TS Block we were opening a pool of a whopping 400+ cards. Don’t get me wrong, Lorwyn is a nice set. Wizards have pulled off the Tribal idea brilliantly, thanks in part to the dual power levels inherent in most of the cards in the pool. In your deck, card X is average at best. in mine, it’s amazing. That’s a great trick to pull off in such quantities, and there’s every sign that Lorwyn Block will be a belter. Nonetheless, I only really need to take you back to Pre-Release day for Time Spiral to show you why TS gets my vote. I’ve probably been to 30 or so of these events over the years, and I can never remember so many smiling faces at the return of so many old friends in cardboard form. Time Spiral provided the bedrock to a spanking Block Constructed season, was solid Limited fun, and all in all is a worthy winner in our first category. The Set of the Year is Time Spiral.

Event of the Year

What goes into an Event? Everything. It’s partly about a cool location in some exciting part of the world. It’s partly about the tournament setting itself. It’s partly about the stories, the camaraderie, and the good times away from the gaming tables. And of course it’s partly about the Magic, whether it be for catastrophic misplays, unheard of shock results, yet mroe unbelievable bad beat tales. Combined, it’s the event where you look back and say ‘now that was awesome.’ This is easy – San Diego had it all. The venue itself was beautiful, and in a ridiculously gorgeous Californian city. The scenery, both architectural and otherwise, was spectacular. Inside the convention center everything was picture perfect, including an awesome Pro Lounge. Once we got down to the Magic, whilst some Pros didn’t like the Two-Headed Giant format, the fact was that it made for great viewing. This was especially true in the early rounds where board postions of hideous complexity were commonplace, and outrageous victories were pulled out in the dying turns by almost comically convoluted synergies. That’s before we get to the big story of the so-called Sliver Kids, Lachmann and van Lunen. Even the crowd reaction to Nassif versus Chapin at Worlds pales by comparison with the roar when the two Americans won the fastest ever Top 8 match in Magic history. Sun, sea, sand and slivers, the Event of the Year is Pro Tour: San Diego.

Most Fashionable

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and we’ve had some interesting fashion choices along the way in 2007. You can always rely on the Japanese, who have contributed some serious contenders. Katsuhiro Mori at Worlds put on a show in more ways than one, with hair, depending on your age, either coming from some anime character or a Duran Duran pop video. The manbag/handbag accoutrement was a unique addition to the usual deckbox plus rucksack combo, but the lipgloss? Not so sure that was a winner. Patrick Chapin has two sides to his wardrobe, and never the twain shall meet. On the one hand comes the city banker, super smart without a hair out of place. This Patrick Chapin means business, and cleanly goes about that business in a calm, unruffled, surgeon-like manner. Then there’s the hoodie-wearing street punk version of Chapin, who usually turns up on Day 2. This Chapin combines a Zen-like impenetrability with the outward appearance of a prize fighter minutes before the knockout blow. This is trench warfare Chapin, a man you don’t want to face, and really don’t want to second guess. And all this from a change of clothes. Also from the North American stable we have the Ervin Tormos experience. Now you have to understand that Ervin is a big fan of irony, and at Worlds he was in expansive mood. Day 1 saw him in a seriously natty suit which, had there been any hot chicks, would doubtless have seen him swamped in offers of marriage. Then we had the Rocky outfit. Wow, this man has balls of steel. White vest, black leather jacket and, I kid you not, medallions. Lots of them. As I’ve said before, the Pro Tour needs people like Ervin, he’s a true original. No fashion review would be complete without mentioning Olivier Ruel, who seems to somehow whisk an absurd hat out of thin air for the business end of a tournament. I’ve lost count of the idiotic antlers and other antennae glimpsed across a crowded tournament floor. It certainly makes him easy to find. But the winner – for the winner we have to go back to Japan. If you look at the coverage of the Magic Invitational you’ll find some pictures of the players in their official shirts. Now these (in England at least) are known as Polo shirts. Frankly, I rather like them, but I’m not naive. It is very close to impossible to make a polo shirt look fashionable. Smart, possibly. Neat, certainly. Fashionable? Uh-uh. Step forward Shuuhei Nakamura. At 7 in the morning he turned up for breakfast in stonewashed jeans, his everpresent purse/manbag and this black Invitational polo. And he looked cool, hip, trendy, all those words that I know how to spell but don’t know how to be. Next year I’m going to give him a black plastic bin liner and see if he can do something with that. The Fashion award winner is Shuuhei Nakamura.

Fall From Grace

I guess you start by looking at the players who began 2007 as Pros and are no longer on the Train. That definitely counts as a fall from grace, although for many it’s through a perfectly natural combination of playing in fewer events and having their attention taken away from Magic by other aspects of life. I’d include Geoffrey Siron of Belgium, Julien Nuitjen of the Netherlands, and Craig Jones of England in this category. Having said that, it’s a surprise to see a former double World Champion missing for 2008, and Nuijten won the team event in 2006, following up his individual win of the previous year. To me, the big two fallers both come from higher up the ranks. Willy Edel of Brazil will only be Level 3 this coming season, and that seems at least one level less than his talent demands, and at least two less than he will feel he should be capable of. Meanwhile Tiago Chan had a frustrating time of it in 2007, tumbling from the heights of Level 6 to the only just Pro Level 3. It was ironic that the one time things went well for him all year was when no Pro Points were on the line at the Invitational, where he churned his way through a stellar field, and then took care of Rich Hoaen in the final. You could look at that event as the saving grace of a season, but his obvious ability to go toe to toe with the absolute best the game has to offer means that ending up Level 3 is even less sensible an outcome. Therefore, the Fall from Grace award goes to Tiago Chan.


Roel van Heeswijk had been having a miserable season that was leading him to question his position within the game and the likelihood of him ever achieving something special. Thankfully, the season lasts 12 months, not 11, and in the final tournament of the year van Heeswijk did indeed achieve something special, a slot on Super Sunday. Having kept his cool to defeat Guillaume Wafo-Tapa in the closing rounds of the Swiss, he was disappointed to find himself as a clear underdog in his quarter final against Gabriel Nassif of France. Fighting hard, he couldn’t turn it round, but the tournament certainly redeemed his season. Next up is Paul Cheon. Redemption? For a Level 6? Well yes, because early on Day 1 of Grand Prix: Krakow, Cheon made a thoroughly basic mistake that lost him a game, a match, and could have put him totally on tilt. On the defensive through much of the third game, he found himself with only a Magus of the Tabernacle in play against an opponent who had been turning his men sideways with monotonous regularity. Knowing that one more swing would finish him, Cheon was heard to remark, ‘I need something pretty good’ before drawing his last card of the match. It wasn’t good, and Cheon extended the hand. Then spectators pointed out that his opponent was on 2 life, the Magus was a 2/6, and that attacking a 2/6 into an empty board with an opponent at 2 life generally meant you got the three points. Did Cheon go on tilt? No, he went on the rampage, and won the whole tournament 24 hours later. But the Redemption award goes to someone we’ve already mentioned, Tiago Chan. Long after his 2007 season has been forgotten, and probably long after most Pros won’t have ever met him, we may be playing with his very own Counterspell. That’s the prize for winning the Invitational, and to be in the illustrious company of some of the game’s genuine greats makes him the clear winner in this category. The Redemption award for 2007 goes to Tiago Chan.

Country On The Rise

Hmm, this was a close one, not least because our first thought would be about some of the smaller Magic nations, either in historic significance or just in plain numbers. Taking the team performance at Worlds isn’t necessarily going to give us the best information, but it’s a start. So let’s start with the two finalists, Austria and the eventual champions Switzerland. One of the reasons that I identified these two as possible team contenders was that they seemed to have so many of their best-known players on the team. Summersberger, Reitbauer, Preyer, and Stradner were close to optimal for Austria, while Bohny, Huber, Bucher, and Gennari were similarly high calibre for Switzerland. In this sense therefore, I’m not sure we can call them countries on the rise, since there’s no real evidence of a next wave waiting to come and build on their fabulous Worlds success. Geographically the same is true of Israel, who in addition to the obvious eye-catching Worlds-winning performance of Uril Peleg had another in the top 20, and finished strongly in the team competition. The trouble here is that if Israel starts having any more Pros there won’t be enough players left in Tel Aviv to draft. The pool of players really isn’t very big. Therefore the two contenders for this award are both geographically large, and by chance are both in North America. I got into dreadful trouble when I innocently enquired as to the state of Canadian Magic a while back, and I in no way intended to set off the hornet’s nest of introspection that occurred. In fact, I thought the most pertinent comment was from some disaffected soul who enquired, ‘Why are we bothering what this joker says anyway?’ Well, it was a pleasure to meet Andy and Dan from the Canada squad, and after a satisfactory first two days, the team clearly did naughty things to people on the team day in order to finish in a fab third place overall. Now Canada is a prime location for some bright young things to be enthused by this and get a posse of Canadians back in the limelight. However, it’s hard to argue against the fact that the country that has really hit the power button this year is the United States. Mike Hron won Geneva, Mark Herberholz was narrowly beaten by eventual champ Wafo-Tapa in Yokohama, Lachmann and van Lunen won San Diego, and Patrick Chapin was a whisker away from Worlds. Add in the potent power of Luis Scott-Vargas and Paul Cheon, and you have a country that can go into 2008 expecting to win Pro Tours rather than just hoping to. The Country on the Rise is the United States.

Country on the Decline

Look, I don’t see how to do this one without being controversial, but I’ll try to cover myself a little by saying that there are contradictory signs that may mean, just for a change, that I’m talking nonsense. Nonetheless, here it comes. The Country on the Decline is… The Netherlands. Yes, things have gone a bit flat in the Netherlands. (I know, that was such a cheesy joke, but I enjoy tilting at windmills, and as the saying goes, ‘Daffodils? Daffodils? You’re meant to get tulips from hamster jam.’ Just publish and E-damned. Don’t ask.) Welcome back. As I was saying, there’s quite a lot of less than marvelous information for Dutch fans. They lost their team title. Okay, not much of a surprise there, defending it is next to impossible, and they were in contention almost all the way. No, that’s not the problem. Let’s take a look at some names. Frank Karsten’s reputation has been built on being a juggernaut of testing and preparation. With studies and life playing a more prominent role, that preparation and attention to matchup detail won’t be available, and chances are that will lead to a downturn in fortune. Having played relatively little in 2007, the 2006 National Champion Kamiel Cornellissen is no longer a Pro, and neither is his Team World Champion teammate Julien Nuijten, another who may be turning away from the game in search of more profitable pursuits. On we go. Wessel Oomens is heavily into bridge, and Rogier Maaten is just as likely to be seen playing with hearts and diamonds as Mountains and Forests. Then there’s Bram Snepvangers, a focal point of the Dutch scene since 4000 B.C. and now no longer a Level 3 (more on this later). Jelger Wiegersma has fallen a level or two… it’s not a terribly exciting picture. If the rot is to be stopped, there are three names we can look to, the Three R’s. Roel van Heeswijk could build on his Worlds Top 8. Ruud Warmenhoven might go higher than his current Level 4. And Robert van Medevoort, the third member of the 2006 Team world champs could be something pretty special. The Dutch being a powerhouse of European Magic feels instinctively right, but as things stand I’m not sure that’s the case. The Country on the Decline is The Netherlands.

Judge of the Year

I’m almost reluctant to offer you this one, since it’s one of the great functions of the DCI that whichever striped shirt comes to your table to serve you, you should always get the same level of customer care, so to speak. The fact remains that judges are a crucial factor in the smooth running of the high-level events I spend most of my Magic year involved with, and that’s especially true when it comes to the head judge. It was a true highlight of my year when I was granted the opportunity to spend a round at Valencia in the company of Head Judge Jaap Brouwer of the Netherlands, and there are so many outstanding judges I get to see go about their business. Kevin Desprez of France, no mean player himself, is relentlessly good at getting the job done. Here at home there is a revitalized judge program under the care of Level 3 Nick Sephton. Tobey Elliott undertook the gargantuan process of freshening up the penalty guidelines to a point where almost all of us can understand it. Judges are often seen at their best in difficult circumstances, and Grand Prix: Amsterdam gave a lot of black and whites, and a red and white, the chance to shine. For me though, the Judge of the Year is a mild-mannered Italian with a self-deprecating charm, an encyclopaedic precision, and a happy knack of inspiring loyalty in his talented crew. Whenever he pulls on the Head Judge shirt, you are almost guaranteed an incredibly efficient tournament, whether Sealed, Draft, or Constructed. His fundamentally humanist approach is a shining example of being tough but fair, and the winner of the Judge of the Year is Riccardo Tessitore.

Article of the Year

This is one that everyone will have thoughts on, so I’m just going to save you all the bother. I’ll be honest and say that although I’ve read ‘Deckade’ cover to cover, I don’t necessarily regard myself as a fully signed-up member of the Mike Flores fanclub. I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes I’m just too dumb to fully get what he’s trying to get across, and nobody likes to be left feeling stupid. I share this with you so that you don’t think that I’m simply a slavish devotee, and that if MJF wrote an article titled, ‘Why Magic should be abolished’ I’d nod sagely and say ‘he really knows what’s what.’ Okay, having I trust established my neutrality on the matter, here’s the truth: Mike Flores‘ pair of articles on the upcoming Valencia Extended Metagame had the most ridiculous amount of factual information of any article I’ve read, not just this year, but EVER. I was casting around, looking for information so that I wouldn’t sound like a clueless monkey on the coverage, and I clutched hold of this like the proverbial drowning man. But re-reading it now, I’m struck by just the merciless approach to his SWOT analysis. Every sentence deserves to be read and re-read, not simply because it’s a fantastic snapshot of a format at a particular time, but because there are so many precious lessons to be learned and applied to every format as it comes around. Dig into the bones and structure of this masterpiece, and you have a working construct for the rest of your Magic life. That’s a phenomenal gift, and nothing else this year comes close. The Article of the Year winner is Michael J Flores.

Surprise of the Year

There are two obvious candidates for this one. Please, no hate mail, but Uri Peleg coming out on top of the biggest heap in World Magic is one hell of an achievement, and wasn’t something expected by literally anyone. I suspect I should roll out once again that I regard him as a worthy winner, and certainly not a lucky one. Simple math tells you that he would be outside the Top 100 most likely winners on form. Those who point to his consistent appearances for his country at Worlds simply give credence to the surprise factor. This was someone who was comfortably among the best at home, but hadn’t made anything like this kind of splash on the world stage before. However, in a strange turn of events, the Surprise of the Year doesn’t go to a person, but to an event, Pro Tour: Valencia. That there should be a tremendous storm that utterly devastated that part of Spain was itself a massive surprise. That after an astonishing turnaround the event hall was open by 6pm on the Friday evening, and that Saturday and Sunday saw the main event take place, was a huge surprise, and a real tribute to the gargantuan effort put in by the backstage team at Wizards. Don’t ever say that Wizards don’t care about the Pro Tour – these people sweated blood to make sure that event happened, and to those who are lucky enough to know them, that wasn’t a surprise at all. The Surprise of the Year is the Existence of Pro Tour: Valencia.

Format of the Year

The runners and riders for this one: Time Spiral Block (plus Planar Chaos) ; Time Spiral Block (plus Future Sight) ; Time Spiral Sealed Deck ; TS-PC Draft ; TS-PC-FS Draft ; Extended ; Cube Draft ; Winston Draft ; Vintage ; Legacy ; Choose Your Own Standard ; Auction of the People ; Lorwyn Sealed ; Lorwyn Draft; Standard. That’s quite a list, and doesn’t include all the assorted oddities you can do online, like Mirage Visions Weatherlight or Masters Series. I don’t propose to give a full blow-by-blow account of all this lot, but here’s a shortlist for consideration. Of the Constructed formats, all performed well. Extended showed in Valencia that you could play almost anything and have a hope of success, while both Pro Tour: Yokohama and assorted Grand Prix demonstrated the robust health of a Block Format that often threatened to descend into Mystical Teachings versus The Rest but always had room for more innovation, right the way through to Florence in the Autumn when Andre Coimbra amongst others came up with some outstanding new tech. In the Limited field, most of the draft formats had plenty of options, but the real winners for Limited came outside the normal sanctioned formats. Both Cube and Winston Drafts were great fun, showcasing the extreme ends of Magic. In Cube, you could pick from 15 of Magic’s greatest hits, while in Lorwyn you could be looking at a Woodland Changeling versus Gilt-Leaf Ambush for your choice. With tribal to the fore, Lorwyn Sealed was a difficult exercise in trying to shoehorn the right creature types into your deck, while TimeSpiral was a more straightforward Sealed environment. In the end though, the choice came down to the wild ride that was 2HG versus the ever-changing landscape of Block Constructed. Thanks to the constant stream of innovation, the Format of the Year is the Full Block Time Spiral.

Venue of the Year

This is literally about bricks and mortar, a building or series of them that you’ll remember long after the tournament itself has faded. Valencia had a cutting-edge feel to it, and you couldn’t fail to be impressed by the surroundings, even without the Flood to contend with. Worlds in New York was great because of the city, not specifically the venue, which was a comfortable but conventional affair. With the gigantic ferris wheel clock just outside, Yokohama was certainly memorable, but for me there is a clearcut winner, and the award goes as much to Danny Brosens, the man charged with finding the venues for the European Grand Prix circuit as much as the venue itself. Grand Prix: Florence was held in a modern building with vast swathes of glass, giving it an airy feel quite apart from any other venue this year. But the modern building was set in a landscape of a Medieval architectural paradise, with castle walls and ramparts and spires and turrets gleaming in the warm Autumn sun. I didn’t think I’d be describing anything to do with Magic as Romantic, unless it was Sullivan’s Classic versus Romantic play decisions, but Florence was a truly fabulous venue, and a worthy winner of this award.

The Comeback Kid

There are only really two possible candidates for this one. First up is Katsuhiro Mori. The 2005 World Champion made it again to the final table in Paris in 2006. Then came his personal nadir in Yokohama, where a series of brushes with the law (read the DCI) finally led to a six month ‘holiday’ from the game that many felt had been coming for a long time. These days an enforced absence from competitive real-life Magic doesn’t necessitate an absence from comptetitive Magic. Yet another reason to be grateful for the existence of Magic Online. From what I hear, Mori didn’t touch the online version while he was away. His Lorwyn draft on Day 1 of Worlds was his third Lorwyn draft ever. And what did he end up doing? Why, just making the Top 8 of Worlds for the third year running. That’s some comeback, but it isn’t enough to take the award. That distinction goes to an American whose absence was even longer than Mori’s. Writing on this very site, Patrick Chapin continues to bring us insight and analysis liberally sprinkled with everyone’s favorite free gift, decklists. If you didn’t know his history, including Pro Tour Top 8s at New York in 1997 and Los Angeles in 1999, you should have had a clue that this guy had the chops to succeed when no less a leading light than Mark Herberholz played with Chapin in San Diego for the 2HG Pro Tour. With Worlds in New York, Chapin was ready to unveil the new improved Patrick Chapin alongside the new and improved Dragonstorm deck to an unsuspecting world. If the Top 8 pairings had been different, Chapin might not have faced Uri Peleg in a final that was disappointingly one-sided, thanks in large part to the Riftsweepers Peleg saw at key moments. But by then the point had been made. Chapin was back, and at the height of the game. Scarily, he may not be at the height of HIS game. The Comeback Kid for 2007 is Patrick Chapin.

Match of the Year

I’ve been very lucky this year to have seen some truly memorable games of Magic. Sometimes they haven’t been at the sharp end of the tournament, just two players leaving nothing in the locker in a bid to best their opponent. It’s possibly an indication of the strength of the Time Spiral Block Constructed format that a bunch of matches like this occurred at Grand Prix: Florence. Fried Meulders was dead for approximately 4000 consecutive turns before finally being worn down by his Italian adversary deep on Day 2. Rasmus Sibast quarter final was pretty epic, as his Mystical Teachings deck went up against the Haze of Rage Combo deck of Marco Camilluzzi. In the same tournament I watched Tomaharu Saitou hurl absolutely everything against another 2007 GP winner in Nicolai Potovin of Russia, and through a series of desperately convoluted defensive plays, Potovin managed to hold on. At the end of that match, Saitou knew he’d been in a battle against a legitimate heavyweight, and there was clear mutual respect between the two.

My shortlist of the final three showcases so much of what’s great about the game. In third, and it’s hard to imagine that there are two better, comes the semi-final of Pro Tour: San Diego, starring Chris Lachmann and Jacob van Lunen. You probably won’t remember their opponents, in part due to the fact that they were onscreen for just over 3 minutes of matchtime. If you were in the building, the crowd reactions were truly goosebump-inducing. Sitting at home, I guess plenty of you were laughing out loud at the sheer absurdity of a match so unbelievably picture perfect. In terms of living the dream, this was number one. My runner up in this category comes from Poland and Grand Prix: Krakow. It’s another semi-final, this time featuring Paul Cheon of the United States and Olivier Ruel of France. I can’t in all conscience make this the winner, since in a sense not a lot happened. Cheon’s UW Pickles deck defeated Ruel’s Makeshift Mannequin deck 2-1, and the odds were against him doing so on the final turn, when he found one of his several ‘outs.’ What separated this match from many others we saw in 2007 was the level of strategic and tactical understanding with which it was played. This was a true masterclass from two men who may well be in contention again for major honors in 2008. But the winner is a match that didn’t have a winner at all. In theory there were no losers either, but in reality both players came out behind. The match in question took place in the final Swiss round of Pro Tour: Yokohama. On the scene of his 2005 Worlds runner-up performance, Frank Karsten faced Jose Luis Echeverria Parredes of Chile, knowing that the winner would be back for Super Sunday. Karsten had spent most of the day being violently sick, and The Bucket is now an iconic part of that Pro Tour experience. In that final match, a UB control mirror, both players manoeuvred round countermagic real and imagined and the ever-present threat of Teferi, Mage Of Zhalfir. With 8 minutes left on the round, they had barely finished game 2. As the clock ticked down they broke the speed limit in a bid to squeeze out a win in the dying seconds. With each potential game-winning turn met by riposte and parry, they fought each other to a standstill. As the extra turns expired both players believed that had the game gone on longer they would have emerged victorious. So with a shake of the hand it was all over, and both players were marooned outside the Top 8. Seeing two people go at it with such passion and skill and determination in pursuit of a goal is a powerful experience, and is one of the reasons we all play this great game. This match is an abiding memory of 2007 for me, and so the Match of the Year for 2007 is Karsten versus Parredes.

Limited Deck of the Year

Of course there are hundreds of decks out there that went 3-0 at Draft Tables during Pro Tour: Geneva, Pro Tour: San Diego and Worlds, not to mention an assortment of Grand Prix around the globe. I suspect I might be accused of misrepresentation if I offered up Steven Menendian’s 3-0 deck from the Magic Invitational, since that particular Limited format was Cube Draft! One of the funkiest decks was seen at the back end of the year. At Worlds, Shuuhei Nakamura had a great deck featuring what must have been every Boggart Sprite-Chaser in the building coupled with Runed Stalactites and assorted faeries, making his deck a dramatically-undercosted flying beatdown machine. Nonetheless, in the end a winner is easy to pick. It comes down to four or five decks from PT: San Diego, and all of them belong to Chris Lachmann and Jacob van Lunen. Every half-decent Sliver in the known universe, and a bunch of Slivers that don’t even qualify that highly, and they murderised the opposition all weekend. The Limited Deck of the Year is Slivers.

Rising Star

The way I see it, the candidates look like this: Lachmann and van Lunen, Shingou Kurihara, Owen Turtenwald and Remi Fortier. Finding a winner is fairly straightforward. Obviously the jury is still out on the San Diego winners. I think part of the sniffiness surrounding them is the fact that they didn’t win the Limited event with three or four strategies, but basically just one. Turtenwald is the one I expect to make the most ‘new’ impact in 2008, but that’s in part because he’s currently below the radar, having mostly been succesful in events that don’t get you Pro Points i.e. GenCon Indianapolis and StarCityGames.com events. Fortier has youth on his side, but basically has that one-shot event to look back on, so could theoretically still be just the guy who got lucky with the right deck and the right matchups at the right time. I don’t believe that to be true, but that’s no reason to discount the possibility. Meanwhile, Shingou Kurihara came from nowhere to make the first Super Sunday of the year in Geneva, and he didn’t let up, with excellent performances throughout the year and across the continents. In one of the easier categories to decide, the Rising Star of 2007 is Shingou Kurihara.

Constructed Deck

Our first contender comes from March. In the run-up to Pro Tour: Yokohama fans of White Weenie decks around the globe were rubbing their hands in glee. Seven out of the eight decks in a 4x Premier Event were made up of small White men turning sideways, and there was genuine hope that they might show up at the back end of Yokohama the following week. Didn’t happen. Even so, for a few short days the White Weenie dream was alive and well, and that’s a dream that’s good for Magic. In Standard, one of the decks with the largest wow factor was showcased at Worlds last month. For a very long time it looked as if Dragonstorm was going to win Worlds for the second year running, but even though it didn’t get the job done in the final, this was still a lot of fun that deserved marks for audacity amongst it’s other qualities. I still believe that the deck of the year came from Yokohama. We saw Guillaume Wafo-Tapa pilot it all the way to victory, and it resonated throughout the rest of the year. The Constructed Deck of the Year is Mystical Teachings.

Card of the Year

Dragonstorm is an obvious contender here. It’s such a splashy card, and affected multiple formats through the year. Also in the TimeShifted section, Psionic Blast made a big splash, but mostly before it appeared. It still sneaked it’s way into a few decks towards the back end of Block Constructed, but probably did its job just by the excitement it generated. We’ve already mentioned Damnation, which had similar vibes to Psionic Blast but totally delivered on play quality. Tarmogoyf is an obvious inclusion, but as Devin Low is happy to point out, it is just a monster, however spectacular. Therefore, doing the double with the Deck of the Year, the Card of the Year is Mystical Teachings.

Performance of the Year

Anyone who wins a Premier event has every right to be proud of the achievement, and to list them all seems counter-productive. I’ll content myself with my top half dozen, in no special order. On the Nationals scene, Bodo Rosner of Germany began the tournament with a 4-3 record. From there, he won 17 straight games en route to the National Title. I suppose you can question what he was doing on 4-3 in the first place, but you can’t question what happened from there – when the going gets tough and all that. Also at Nationals, Craig Jones bade farewell to the game that he has given so much to with a screaming win that was almost surgical. He may be back down the line a ways, but quite apart from his famous Honolulu moment, he’ll be missed for his Pro Player blog and strategic insight. Of the Pro Tour winners, the Sliver Kids must be mentioned for their dedicated strategy, and Remi Fortier deserves a ton of credit for keeping himself together under extreme circumstances. Although Raphael Levy back to back Grand Prix wins were a great achievement, that he did well a week later with the same deck in the same format against similar class opposition is less surprising. In other words, you would expect him to make, say, Top 32 in Asia, and the fact that he won made it ‘one of those days.’ For me, we need to go to the European Grand Prix circuit, and to Florence in Italy, to find the Performance of the Year. In a mature Block Constructed format, Masami Kaneko simply butchered his way through the field, before casually pulling apart the Top 8 on his way to a victory that surely couldn’t have been, but sure looked, flawless. The Performance of the Year goes to Masami Kaneko of Japan.

And that about wraps it up, except of course for the Player of the Year, but then you knew that one already, didn’t you? Few could argue with the outcome, as Tomaharu Saitou proved the most consistent and successful Magician on the planet.

And with that, we head into 2008. There’s a bucketload to look forward to, and you’ll hear all about it with me on magicthegathering.com, and read about it all right here.

Until next week, as ever, thanks for reading.