Dear Joe Black,
It’s been a while… glad to hear you’re writing again. I was wondering if you could tell us a little about what the Pro Tour was like back when you first started playing, and how things have changed. I know it’s a big task but maybe you could split it up into a five part daily series.
Craig S. from England
Dear Craig S.,
Hey there, it’s great to be back. When I was asked to write a daily series this week I was hard pressed to come up with an idea that could top Billy Moreno insane ramblings. However, I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately and it seemed like a trip in the way-back machine could be interesting, so your email came at the perfect time. Each day this week I’ll take a look at the past Pro Tour seasons, starting with my rookie year, the 2001-2002 season.
Osyp “Joe Black” Lebedowicz
Well, with that out of the way let us begin shall we.
PT NEW YORK
I attended this PT not as a player, but as a spectator. I was not yet qualified for the Pro Tour, but since I live in NJ and still needed to play in the PTQ on Sunday, decided it was still worth going. This Pro Tour marked the beginning of the dominance of the Phoenix Foundation in Team Limited. Not only did they win this PT, but they went on to win the Masters tournament as well later in the season. Like I said, I didn’t play in this Pro Tour so I don’t have much to say about it. I did, however, get knocked out of the Top 8 of the PTQ by Osama Fujita.
The Pro Tour has seen some innovations over time. Some have lasted the test of time, while others fell by the wayside. One thing that I miss from the PT coverage was their Quick Interviews. Basically, the coverage team would ask the top Pro’s in the game some questions and post the answers on the event page. Being a total coverage barn I liked learning what the best in the game had to say about basically anything. Nowadays Randy does his pod casts and they’re all well and good, but those Quick Interviews will always hold a special place in my heart.
Quick Interview (archive)
Question Eight: What is the secret to your success?
Gary Wise: “Forehead wax
Mike Pustilnik: “My mom”
Mike Flores: “Success?”
Question Nine: What are you most proud of?
Andrew Cuneo: “My hair”
Jeff Cunningham: “My hair”
Gary Wise: “My hair”
I was not qualified for PT NY, but shortly after that event I managed to win a PTQ in Invasion block constructed and became qualified for my first Pro Tour, New Orleans.
PT NEW ORLEANS
Since this was my first Pro Tour I really didn’t have an extensive testing group. In fact, I really didn’t test for this PT at all. My good friends Pat Sullivan and Adam Horvath were also qualified and built a Junk deck that I was more than happy to play. The one and only Chris Pikula was on our flight to New Orleans (at the time I was a bit confused as to how he qualified) and he mentioned something to us about a Red and Blue Donate Illusions deck. I didn’t know what he was talking about so I just chalked it up to creative storytelling. Needless to say I lost twice to a Red and Blue Donate Illusions deck. I did end up finishing 17th though, which qualified me for the next event, so I was excited. One annoying thing about this event was that I lost to Brian Kibler on Day 2 when we were both in top 8 contention with only two rounds to go. It was game 3 and he mulliganed to six and I resolve two Gerard’s Verdicts against him on turns 2 and 3. I then proceeded to play Hunted Wumpus, which was met by Morphling… he then untapped and played Ruination. I lost several turns later and he continued to tell that story for years to come.
So my finish qualified me for my first limited Pro Tour, but considering I never even made Top 8 of a limited PTQ, I was quite nervous.
PT SAN DIEGO
San Diego is a beautiful city and I hope that the Pro Tour returns there soon. None of my friends from NJ were qualified for this Pro Tour so I was on my own. I didn’t get a chance to do many drafts in this format and actually had no clue what I was doing. I started the tournament out opening two Upheavals and winning my first pod, pretty lucky. My second pod was significantly harder than my first, containing Raphael Levy and Dirk Baberowski as the main Pros I recognized. In round 1 of that pod I played against some hick who I was sure I would crush. He had this thick southern accent and was quite folksy. To my surprise he was quite good and ended up destroying me quite handily. He ended up making Top 8 of that event. His name was Neil Reeves.
This Pro Tour marked the debut of Farid Meraghni. Farid is actually one of my favorite Magic players who I wish still played on the PT. He was very good, but what I liked most about him was that he was aggressively French, even more so than Frank Canu. The man showed up to the Pro Tour once with a banana skate board and skated his way to each of his matches. The infamous PTR once dumped a cup of water on Farid’s head while Farid was concentrating on a money draft. A true professional, Farid was able to gain his composure and went on to win the draft.
My rating was still high from New Orleans so I was able to qualify for the next event on rating.
This time around, many of my friends were Q’d for this event so I had plenty of people to work with. The now defunct team CMU built a Tog deck that seemed like a lot of fun so I decided to play it. I ended up doing quite well with the deck and made it all the way to the Top 8. During the Swiss, with only two rounds left to go, I played against PT San Diego finalist Jens Thoren. For those of you who don’t know Jens, picture a cross between Phillip Seymour Hoffman and a block of wood. Jens managed to beat me in game 1 and then decided to concede to me because he was already a lock for Top 8 and felt like my deck was a good matchup for his Mono-Black deck. Of course, we play against each other in the first round and I quickly go up 2-0. He admits to me that he tested the matchup the night before and wishes he had beaten me in the Swiss. Nevertheless, I end up getting some unfortunate draws and lose three straight. I wasn’t upset, because I never imagined I would make T8 of anything, let alone a PT, and this helped me qualify not only for the next Pro Tour, but the Masters as well.
The Top 8 for this PT was pretty good. Jens was on his second in a row and Rob Dougherty was probably the best Constructed player in the World at the time. Olivier Ruel made his first Top 8, but sadly he hasn’t made it back there since. Ken Ho not only made the Top 8 but won the whole thing, claiming victory for the Magic Colony.
I’ll be honest, I don’t remember much about this PT. It was the first time I didn’t make money at the PT and it rained all weekend, so I think I blocked most of the experience out. Bram Snapplebangers managed to defeat Kai Budde in the Top 8 and there was a bug hubbub about that. Anton Jonsson made another Top 8, laying the groundwork for being regarded as the European Richard Hoaen. And Gary Talim shocked the world by making Top 8 and then falling off the face of the Earth shortly afterwards. Gary, you will be missed.
Sadly, my band was playing the same weekend as Worlds so I was unable to attend. Oh, in case I forgot to mention it, I’m in a Def Leppard cover band called “Pyromaniac’s Stepchild”. Worlds seemed like it was fun, from what I hear. It was in Australia, so if you like 32 hour flights you had that going for you.
As Ricky Martin’s success continued to surge, World’s showed us that Latin America’s success does not end at bad pop music and awkward dancing. Eventual champion Carlos Romao and Diego Ostravich shocked the world with a new strategy that put them both in the Top 8 and put Latin America on the map. To quote the coverage:
“Carlos Romao is the 2002 Magic World Champion! At the start of the day, he and Argentinean National Champion Diego Ostrovich shared the honor of being the first Latin Americans to make the Top 8 of a Pro Tour. Their hard work had paid off. The Latin Alliance, composed of pros from Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Venezuela, was an unprecedented collaboration between the pro communities of Latin America.”
To this day, Latin America continues to dominate Pro Tours…
Carlos went on to use his winnings to open up a Subway in San Paolo. Diego works there.
Next time on Ask Joe Black…
Where are they now?
Osyp “Joe Black” Lebedowicz