SCG Daily – Ask Joe Black: 2003-2004 Season

Osyp continues to bring the beats in his amusing daily series. Today, six Pro Tours (and Worlds) come under the hammer of nostalgia…


Longtime friends and teammates William “Baby Huey” Jensen, Brock Parker, and Matt Linde made history by beating the Phoenix Foundation in the Top 4, preventing them from winning their third straight team Pro Tour, and went on to win the whole show. Gary Wise also made his third Sunday team appearance, securing his place in history as one of the best team players of all time. Really?

I played in this Pro Tour, with Antonio De Rosa and Morgan Douglass, and I failed to make Day 2 once again, further convincing me that I was awful at Team Limited. This PT was disappointing because I had actually tested a lot with Antonio at my house prior to the event, so we ended up just going back to NJ on Saturday that weekend.


Although this was my third time in Big Easy, I can say that it was easily my favorite. I ended up playing Tinker with Chalice of the Void, and it did very well for all of us that weekend. I could’ve finished higher than T48 if I hadn’t been Goblin Charbelchered for about 190 points of damage over the course of the weekend.

This Pro Tour marked the beginning of Gabriel Nassif run for the Player of the Year, losing once again in the finals to Rickard Osterberg. This was also the first Pro Tour that Wizards stopped the Masters system, and just decided to give a check for $2000 to 32 players that would’ve made the Masters. Luckily, I was one of the 32. Because of this windfall, I decided I might as well spend a lot of money on booze and women, and what better place to do it than New Orleans. Between Eugene Harvey doing a bump and grind with three sorority girls, and Antonio De Rosa doing a strip tease for a lucky birthday girl, I would say it was a good weekend.


Following up PT New Orleans with PT Amsterdam was a bold move by Wizards; luckily, to the best of my knowledge, no one died of alcohol poisoning. Amsterdam was a bit disappointing because going into the final draft all I needed to do was win one of the first two rounds in order to make the Top 8. Sadly I went 0-2, and then conceded to eventual champion Nicolai Herzog.

Some people (Gabe Walls and Peter Szigeti) are convinced that I actually threw my matches so I wouldn’t have to follow through with the Top 8 bet we made the Thursday before the event. The Top 8 bet is an agreement made between myself and several other pros once and a while to do something absurd if one of us happens to make the Top 8. Usually it’s something silly like jumping into a fountain, or buying everyone a piece of cheesecake. This time around, PTR decided that keeping with the theme of Amsterdam, whoever makes Top 8 has to agree to see a lady of the night that would be chosen by the rest of the group. Although I was upset I didn’t make Top 8, I am happy I didn’t have to follow through with the bet.


This Pro Tour was very disappointing for me because I had generally done very well at Block Constructed events. Skullclamp was legal, so I figured I might as well play it before it got banned. Mike Turian designed the affinity deck we played, which was a standard Blue and Black build that boarded into Green for Oxidize. The deck was fairly weak because we didn’t know how good Aether Vial was, but what made are deck truly awful was Mike’s sideboard plan for us.

“Hey Mike, what do we do against decks with a lot of artifact removal?”
“Easy fix, we board in Broodstar.”
“… Okay”

Needless to say, every time my opponent Shattered one of my lands and I proceeded to draw a Broodstar, a part of me died inside. I’ve never fully recovered. I can sum up my experience from this PT by once again quoting an old tourney report of mine…

“A year ago I was playing in the Pro Tour on my way to winning $30,000. Now I was playing in a side tournament for a Kobe beef dinner. At this rate, a year from now you’ll find me playing in a side draft for a bologna sandwich.”

Several things make this PT a memorable one. For starters, it was the first time a Japanese player actually won the whole thing. Masashiro Kuroda, one of the coolest and most talented Japanese players, finally broke the curse and brought a victory home for the Japanese… how fitting that it was a Japanese Pro Tour. This PT was also a very successful one for the Italians. The Italians? Yeah, I know, they put three of their own into the Top 8. Another thing that makes this PT memorable, for me at least, was that it marked the first time Ben Stark made Top 8 of a Pro Tour. Ben had long been considered one of the best players to never make a Top 8, and was the best player not named Billy Pumperstinkle to come out of Florida. I recently sat down with Ben to ask him why he stopped attending Pro Tours and what he’s been up to*.

Osyp: “Hey Ben, how’s it… Geddes, what are you doing here?”
Geddes: “Ben couldn’t make it, he sent me to do the interview.”
Osyp: “Are you serious?”
Geddes: “He’s busy buying another condo, I can answer any questions you have.”
Osyp: “But, if you’re here, who’s doing his laundry?”
Geddes: “Lieberman.”
Osyp: “Oh, then who’s mowing his lawn?”
Geddes: “BillyP”
Osyp: “Alright, this interview is over.”


This Pro Tour was fun for me because it was the week after the invitational, which was the first one I ever played in. Wizards rented a bus for us and drove us all down to San Diego from LA. The drive over was a lot of fun, with all of us joking and placing bets on this twenty-question gizmo Justin Gary picked up at E3. The Pro Tour itself was fine, I finished just out of the money, but San Diego is such a nice town that I didn’t really mind that much.

After a successful stint as a guest commentator at US Nationals this year, Randy invited me back to do a little Top 8 commentary this time around. I always loved doing the commentary, but I guess my reasons for getting fired will have to be answered tomorrow. PT Hawaii champ Mark Herberholz made his first Top 8 at this event, starting the tournament 0-2. Along with Mark, Mike Turian, Anton Johnson, and Nicolai Herzog all made their second Limited Top 8 this season, showing off their Limited prowess. Nico ended up beating Antoine Ruel in the finals, marking the second time Nico won a PT as well as the second time a Ruel lost in the finals of a PT.

This PT also marked a new feature that Wizards was trying to push onto the competitors. In an attempt to be perceived as innovators, Wizards offered competitors a chance to get their pairings texted to them over their cell phones.

Getting paired against Mr Bye always raises a smile

Magic Pro Sol Malka checks his pairings after leaving his Mom a voicemail

Sadly, this innovation didn’t really catch on because of the glitches in the text messaging system. Many players continued to get text messages long after the tournament was over. You could be having a romantic evening with your girlfriend when all of a sudden you’d get a text message stating; [email protected]#New Pairings for Round 9# You will play at table 45 against Cedric Phillips. Talk about a buzz kill.


This Pro Tour was a memorable one for me, because it was the first time I ever made money at a Team Limited Pro Tour. I had probably the best team I ever had, teaming with Patrick Sullivan and Adam Horvath. We had made the finals of the team GP prior to this event, so I went into the PT with a little more confidence. I think our team worked well together because the three of us were good friends and lived close to each other (and Pat and Adam are absurd at Team Limited). With a team PT on the horizon, remember that it’s very important to work with the people on your team, so try and get as much practice together as possible.

My team survived the Sealed portion, and we went 4-1 on Day 2, placing us in the Top 10. The Japanese lost once again in the finals of an event, but the most awesome thing about this event was Von Dutch. Jeroen Remie and Jelger Wiegersma spent a week with us in NJ preparing for the event, and, along with Kamiel Cornelissen, were able to win the whole thing. Jeroen and Jelger in particular are two of my favorite people in the entire World, so I was really excited that they did so well, and I think that all three of them deserved this win. What made the weekend even better was the dinner the three of them treated us to after they won. They spent thousands of dollars on a dinner at the Cheescake Factory for over twenty of their friends, proving what awesome people they really are. It is certainly in my Top 10 favorite Pro Tour moments.


I was finally able to attend a World Championships so I was quite excited. The one and only Kai Budde stayed at my house for a week before Worlds to practice. I’ve told stories about his bikini-briefs and his ineffectiveness as a wingman countless times, so I’ll focus on our testing. Somehow, we ended up agreeing that a Blue and Red Obliterate deck was the best choice for this event. Kai was very convincing, but I think had we tested a matchup other than Affinity, I might have been more skeptical. I went 2-4 with that monstrosity, but that wasn’t even the worst record the deck posted. Both Gary Wise and Bill Stead both had to play against one another in the 0-5 bracket, and even when playing against the mirror, couldn’t muster a win and ended the day 0-5-1. I rallied on Day 2 and managed to win five straight, but lost to Ben Rubin in the last round to lose out on the Draft Champion title. I played Affinity on the Block Constructed day and went 4-2, a record I thought would place me in the money, but my tiebreakers disagreed.

San Francisco was a fun city with pleasant weather, but the high point for me came when GP Champion Jon Sonne drank an entire bottle of Goldschlager and locked himself in the bathroom for a good four hours. For the remainder of the week, he had one of the worst cases of mud butt these eyes have ever seen.

Worlds brought us the youngest PT winner of all time in the form of a one Julien Nuijten. Juilen is a welcomed addition to the Pro Tour, mostly because he always manages to find a way to really irritate Jeroen Remie. This PT was also historic because it was the first time a player was named Player of the Year without actually winning a Pro Tour. Nassif’s win was even more incredible when you consider that he beat out Nicolai Herzog, who actually won two PT’s that season. Nico was obviously upset, and actually took a break from competitive Magic. His close friends say that he spent the time crying into a gigantic pile of money.

So that’s the 2003-2004 season in a nutshell. Up next…

Pro Player lounge and other remarkable innovations.
Gadiel Szliefer has arrived (and a picture you have to see to believe).
Another Japanese player wins a Pro Tour… It happened.
Why I got fired from doing Top Eight commentary (a.k.a. the Canali incident).
Japanese Domination.

All this and more on the next… Ask Joe Black.

Osyp “Joe Black” Lebedowicz