The Black Perspective – The Pro Players Club

Jamie is currently on holiday — he’ll be back next week — but in his place we have a real treat from Osyp “Joe Black” Lebedowicz. He brings us a rundown of his experiences in Pro Tour: Geneva, in which he placed a creditable 30th, and follows it with an irreverent and hilarious look at the Stars of Pro Tour: Geneva, a la Rich Hagon. Remember folks, it’s all in good humor…

“Magic needs characters. In the old days that meant Mike Long. Now it means Osyp Lebedowicz.”
Rich Hagon

Pro Tour: Geneva, where to begin…

Maybe I should try www.awkwardsituations.com/openinglines…

The 2006 season wasn’t exactly my finest season. In fact, it was the worst season I’ve had, pro points wise, since my rookie year in 2001. Although I did make a Top 8, I didn’t really do much else and was left three points shy of Level 4. I thought Level 3 would be fine, but the more I think about it the more I realize just how awful Level 3 is. I suppose I could’ve attended more Grand Prix tournaments, but that just seems ridiculous to me, no matter how much they help. So here I am, at the beginning of the season with bright lights in my eyes and hope on the horizon.

Wait, the first Pro Tour is a booster draft PT? Oh crap!

I’ve played in six previous Booster draft PTs, and my finished speak for themselves

PT: Nice – failed to make Day 2
PT: Yokohama – 45th
PT: San Diego – 75th
PT: London – failed to make Day 2 and had my hotel burglarized
PT: Prague – made Day 2 only to finish out of the money
PT: Kobe – made Day 2 only to finish out of the money, and pooped my pants on the way to the airport

So as you can see, my success in Limited has been limited… this is awkward for the both of us.

I wasn’t able to do much preparation for this event. In fact, I was only able to do a total of three drafts. I did, however, 4-0 the prerelease, so my confidence level was extremely high. Though I didn’t know much about Planar Chaos, my friend John Fiorillo had been doing plenty of drafting in San Diego, and I was planning on having him teach me to draft on our flight to Geneva. Sadly, John’s flight was cancelled and he was forced to arrive by boat. By the time John did arrive all he was able to tell me was to try and force Red early on. I liked this plan, since the main color combinations I wanted to be were Green/Red or Blue/Red.


I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who actually like Europe, hundreds even. But I am not one of them. More often than not, my trips to Old America end in disaster. This one was starting out much the same way. Hotels.com screwed me once again and placed me in a hotel that was not a mere mile from the site, but rather a twenty-minute bus ride. However, what my hotel lacked in convenience it more than made up for in its abundance of elderly gross prostitutes. I was particularly fond of Goldy, a black woman who wore gold leggings and propositioned me every morning for cab fare.

Sometimes PTs can run a little late, which means that grabbing a bite to eat can sometimes be a chore. Luckily, Wizards booked a location with a variety of solid restaurants nearby. There was Dmitri’s bistro, which wasn’t so much a restaurant as a guy who sold falafels out the side of a building. Then there was the PETRO gas station around the corner, but be sure to get there soon, there’s a run on Twix and Immodium AD around 10.

Ah, the majesty of old Europe, so charming.

I ended up being quite ill the night before Day 1 and I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to play the next day. However, I fought it out and made it to the site in time. Now it was time to draft, and I was determined to stay focused and not make a single mistake.

Draft 1, Pack 1, Pick 1:

Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician
Creature type – Goblin Advisor

Now, first off, let’s ignore the fact that I took this guy over a Duskrider Peregrine. Rumor has it this guy isn’t very good. I was not aware of this. He seemed awesome enough… I mean he was Red, and he was wearing an adorable outfit. Everything in my gut was telling me this was the right first pick. I ended up getting two Empty the Warrens, so I was even more confident that my first pick was right. Then after the draft I show my deck to Fiorillo and Antonio, and this is the conversation we had…

“You should probably cut the Mogg War Marshals
“No, no, they’re good because I also have Ib”
“No, you should cut Ib too”

Long story short, I end up 3-0ing my first draft on the strength of Empty and an assortment of Green and Red rares I opened, one of which being Ib.

My second pod featured Jon Sonne and Rich Hoaen, so a considerable step up from my last one. I first picked a Magus of the Scroll, once again trying to force Red, but this time I’m unable to go Green and am forced to go Black/Red, a color combination I don’t really like. I have little experience with this, so my deck was solid but unspectacular. Thankfully, I managed to go 2-1.

My final pod of Day 1 was pretty easy. The toughest players were probably Dave Brucker and Roger Mattien. I saw no Red and just drafted Green in the first pack. In pack 2 I saw some solid White and decided to just be G/W. I knew very little about the color combination, but it seemed like I could draft a good tempo-based deck, which is what I like anyway. I think this was one of the useful things about not doing many drafts prior to the event. I didn’t have any set ideas about what I wanted to do, which meant that I wouldn’t ignore any particular combinations. A lot of player seemed to be forcing a particular combination, but I didn’t know enough to do so, so I just drafted what came. I did try and force Red if possible, but that preference only mattered when two picks were comparable. In general, if the card was much better than the Red card, I would take it regardless of what color it was. Unless it is was Ib.

My deck ended up being pretty solid. I had the Green six mana dude who can bring back other dudes [Deadwood Treefolk – Craig], Whitemane Lion, Tromp the Domains, and Hedge Troll. I actually didn’t even know Hedge Troll existed prior to the draft… had I known, I probably would’ve more excited about the prospects of a G/W deck. Those cards carried me through the first two rounds before I lost to a slow U/B deck in the final round.

Well, Day 1 was over, and I was exhausted. I got onto the number 5 bus and began the journey back to my hotel. I stopped off for some food all alone, and returned to my room ready to go to bed. Sadly, I found that my bed had not one, but several gamers on it, testing Extended. Rather than get some much needed shut eye, I was forced to stay up for at least five more hours by the hordes of Americans that failed to make Day 2 (and Jelger Wiegersma). Gerard came up with this game that had a bunch of convoluted rules but was essentially high card. We each ante’d up three francs, but in the end it was Gadiel that won the prize. Fortunately, most of us threw American pennies into the pot, and a drunken Gadiel was none the wiser. Afterwards I jokingly suggest we try to coax a prostitute up to the room to dance for the ten of us, but before I could laugh it off Mike Thompson and Pelcak are taking up a collection and the guys are off to scour the streets for ladies of the evening. It cost me 10 francs, but at least I have the room to myself.

Draft 4

I went back to drafting Red this time around, but Green was nowhere to be found. I managed to get an Amrou Scout late in pack 1, so I decided to go with R/W this time around. Despite a weak showing in pack 3, my deck turned out fine. Even though my creatures weren’t stellar, I did have all the good common red removal spells, so I was pretty sure I could pull out a winning record. Once again I managed to win the first two rounds, and that means I’m sitting at a 9-2 record with one match left in the pod. I’m pretty excited because I already played Roger and I knew that Wessels lost, so I would have to play one of the people at the table that I didn’t recognize. If I won it would mean I would be in great shape going into the last draft, and I would in all likelihood make Top 8. My final opponent of the pod was a Frenchman with a B/R deck. I had heard from Wessels that his deck was terrible. His creature base was terrible (Cyclopean Giant much), but aside from a Phthisis, he didn’t have the removal a B/R deck needs to make up for it. In game 1 I came out very quickly and he just played an assortment of 3/1s and 4/2s. Those beaters didn’t get there for him, and I managed to win the game. One win away from winning the pod, and I’m starting to get excited. His deck looked just as bad as Wessels said, and I only needed to win one more. Sadly, in both games 2 and 3 I mulliganed (once to five) and my deck just never showed up. This was pretty disappointing, and I was honestly a little shaken. I tried to pull myself together but I think it might have affected my last draft.

Before the tournament started, I hadn’t done much preparation, so my feeling was that I would just go in and draft what came to me. I didn’t really know what combinations worked and which didn’t, so I couldn’t afford to be biased. I needed to just take the best card in each pack. Karsten mentioned how he would only draft W/U, and he did well with that strategy. I couldn’t do something like that because 1) I didn’t know which combinations worked and 2) I didn’t know how to draft them. However, throughout the tournament I noticed that Red and Green were pretty awesome, and I’d say by draft 3 I started to make a conscious decision to try and draft one or the other.

I think the final draft of the tournament was my worst draft deck, and it was primarily because I ignored my plan. In pack 1 I didn’t see much Green, so I started to take whatever good cards I saw, which happened to be in White. In pack 2 I had the option of taking a Lightning Axe or an Ith, High Arcanist. I took the Ith, but in hindsight, had I taken the Lightning Axe my deck would’ve been drastically better. This is the main pick of the tournament that made me really regret not preparing. I’m still not sure had I drafted more the Axe would’ve been my pick, but I certainly would’ve ended up with a much better pick. I get no awesome Blue out of the pack and just soak of some more White cards. In pack 3 I open a Magus of the Arena, but I figure Ith is still more powerful so I stay in U/W and take a Whitemane Lion. Then I for my second pick the pack contains literally nothing in my colors. There is a red Akroma, which I decided to take simply because it’s the best card left in the pack. I then see an endless stream of Green cards, which I am forced to pass for average White cards. My deck ended up being below average, with a Chronosavant and an Ith. I had a decent rebel chain, but no tricks other than a Momentary Blink. I ended up playing the Red Akroma because I did have a blink and a Resurrection. So all in all I had the ability to get some good draws, but I didn’t like my chances.

In round 1 I’m paired against Quentin, and he’s U/W too, but with an awesome sliver chain. I lose game 1 convincingly, and I realize that I probably won’t be able to beat him unless I get Akroma online. In game 2 that’s exactly what happens, and we’re off to game 3. In game 3 I mull but he makes huge mistake in my opinion by allowing me to play first. I guess he thinks my deck is slow and awkward, but I actually have a great opener against him. I have two Plains, a Benalish Cavalry, a Duskrider Peregrine, a Mana Tithe, and a Riftmarked Knight. I couldn’t have asked for a better opener on the play. I suspend the Peregrine on turn 2 and he plays a Prismatic Lens. I don’t draw a third land yet, so I decided to not play the Cavalry because I think it’s important to Tithe his next play. I end up making the right decision, as he walks a Telekinetic Sliver right into it. Again I don’t draw a land on my turn and just lay the Cavalry this time. He actually has no play on his next turn, so I’m not in the worst shape, but I still fail to draw land and eventually with only two beaters he’s able to halt my attacks with an army of slivers. I lose the game with only four lands in play, fourteen turns later.

At this point I’m out of Top 8 contention, and fairly miserable. I fairly sure I’ll 0-3 my pod so I’m just in this funk that I can’t get out of.

Round 2 I’m paired against Mattias Kettil, and my matches were all really close. Game 1 and 2 were lopsided but game 3 was a real fight. It all came down to him bouncing his own Syphon-Mage that had a Detainment Spell on it allowing him to replay it and win the race by a mere two life points. While I was upset about losing, I couldn’t deny how good of a match it was, and he played very well.

In the final round I’m paired against someone who had beaten me in a previous draft. Clearly I would’ve liked some revenge, but I didn’t think I was gonna get there this time around. He’s U/B and I lose game 1 to some big flyers. In game 2 I come out of the gates quick and I think he’s mana stalled since his turn 4 play was Dream Stalker, replay my Island. I try and capitalize and play a Voidstone Gargoyle, naming the Think Twice in his yard. He untaps and plays Damnation. Yeesh! Luckily I have an Ivory Gargoyle Suspended that comes into play shortly afterwards, and I pants it up with Griffin Guide for the win. In game 3 I come out of the gates quickly once again, and this time he is legitimately stalled on three. I attack him down to 8 and drop another dude, signaling a lethal attack next turn. He untaps and drops a fourth land and casts Damnation. Luckily this time I have the Mana Tithe, and win.

So I escape that pod with a 1-2 and finish the tournament in 30th place. I was pretty excited because this was my best draft PT finish.

Thanks for reading

Osyp Lebedowicz

And now, for a little extra, I present:

The Stars of Pro Tour: Geneva, Part III
By Osyp Lebedowicz

This article is a more detailed examination of the heated Player of the Year race that Rich Hagon already began. You might be wondering why name an article “The Stars of Pro Tour: Geneva” when it is about the POY race, but I couldn’t give you a good answer. You might also be wondering why rehash an issue that someone else has already talked about. Well, I’m not some reporter on the outside looking in. I’m a PT insider, here to give you the straight dope on some of the best players in the World. So without further ado, lets get right to it.

Ryuichi Arita – Japan. Level 3.
Arita is one of those Japanese Pros who’s very good but you’re not quite sure what he did. Did he win Charleston? Does he Top 8 a bunch of Asian GP’s? Who knows… but he comes from the Land of the Rising Sun, so he’ll probably do alright this season.

Akira Asahara – Japan. Level 3.
Most people don’t know this, but Akira is the son of Makahiro Asahara, one of the lead designers of the original Legend of Zelda. Perhaps it’s that creative gene that allows him to come up with such innovative decks that apparently only he can win with. Only time will tell if the PT will reward the man with the craziest of crazy concoctions. My guess, probably…?

Wesimo Al-Bacha – Germany. Level 3.
I’ll be completely honest with you. When I first saw this name on the player list, I thought it was made up. Apparently Chewbacca is a real person. Can Al-Barraca make it over the Top 16 hump and play for it all on Sunday? That’s the real question. If the answer is yes, then I like Westchester’s chances. If not, he’s going to have to settle for another Level 3.

Jose Barbero – Argentina. Level 3.
What can I say about Jose Barbero that hasn’t been said about him by impressionable sixteen year olds around the World? He’s arguable to the most fun person on the Pro Tour, and that’s including Bram Snapplebottoms. He’s always good for a laugh, and he’s a fierce competitor. That being said, JoseB doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming player of the year.

Aaron Brackmann – Germany. Level 4.
Someone in Germany needs to fill the void left by Maximillian Bracht’s expulsion from competitive Magic. But I just don’t think Brackmann has the fashion sense, or the overhwhelming sense of entitlement, needed to get the job done.

David Brucker – Germany. Level 4.
Brucker is an awesome player, and I think he’s poised for greatness. That being said, it’s hard to believe another German not named Kai Budde could possibly become Player of the Year.

Bernardo da Costa Cabral – Belgium. Level 3.
Some call Bernardo the “the best player to never make Top 8”. That’s an adorable title, but in America we call those people choke artists. And when it comes to choke artists, Bernardo is Picasso. Terrific player, but POY is not possible.

Pierre Canali – France. Level 3.
Pierre leads quite the life these days. He spends his days teaching rich old French women how to Salsa, and his nights seducing their daughters. The man is easily my favorite Frenchman (Levy moved to Sweden, and Nassif knows what he did), and no one roots for him more than me at every event he plays. With more Constructed events this season than last, his chances are better, but can Pierre take his head out of the clouds long enough to make a solid run? Probably not.

Marcio Carvalho – Portugal. Level 3.

Adam Chambers – USA. Level 3.
Chambers is like the Daniel Day Lewis of Magic. He doesn’t play in every event, but when he does it’s always something special. Well not always. Sometimes it’s average, actually, most of the time it’s about average. But when he does break out and put up good numbers, no one is surprised. However, his performances might not be consistent enough to beat Kenji.

Tiago Chan – Portugal. Level 6.
Chan is Hagon’s odds on favorite to win the POY title. I think that’s a ridiculous statement. Granted, there are few others who have the desire to win or the determination to do well more so than Tiago, but POY is more than just showing up to every GP. A Japanese player will both win POY and likely come in second, so Hagon and Tiago can only hope for a 3rd place finish. Or, 2nd loser, however you prefer to look at it.

Andre Coimbra – Portugal. Level 4.
Andre gave up a promising acting career last year to make a run for Level 6, attending most of the GPs. Sadly he fell short and had to settle for a Level 4. Some would see this as a failure, but Andre wasn’t that good of an actor, so you can view it more as a mild disappointment.

Kamiel Cornellisen – Netherlands. Level 4.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Everyone is so focused on the fall of American Magic that they failed to see the decline of one of Europe’s powerhouses. The Dutchies were once a force to be reckoned with, but now they’re the people you want to see at your draft table. They’ve become the equivalent of the Japanese four years ago, coming up with crazy draft strategies that are only effective at beating Wessels and Bram in their local three-on-threes. I blame the decline on the loss of Jeroen Remie from the PT scene. For a long time, people in the know knew that Jeroen was the reason the Dutchies were successful at all. Now Jeroen spends his time answering phony letters from his “fans” and importing cases of Mountain Dew. Kamiel is the best Dutch player so he’ll probably still put up good numbers this season, but without Jeroen, it’s questionable if he can become the player he once was.

Thomas Didierjean – France. Level 3.
Everyone knows that Thomas is one of those players you don’t want to play against. You might not know who Thomas is now, but rest assured, his name will haunt your dreams soon enough. Didierjean is quietly working up the ranks and starting to make a real name for him. I expect big things from Thomas, but POY might be a little out of reach.

Willy Edel – Brazil. Level 5.
Willy Edel is the greatest Magic player who has ever lived. Yes, I know I sound crazy. How can I make such a statement when he’s only played in four Pro Tours? Well, what other explanation could there be? The man has made Top 8 of 75% of the Pro Tours he’s played in. The only possible explanation there could be is that he’s simply the best player alive. I know, I know, sounds ridiculous doesn’t it, but that’s all there is to it. With no other explanation available, the only one we have to go with is that he’s the best player to have ever graced the game. Can you think of a better explanation? Is there any other explanation we can come up with for someone doing so well so quickly? Of course not, he’s simply the best, better than all the rest.

Gerard Fabiano – USA. Level 3.
With the exception of Gabe Walls and Gerry Thompson, Gerard is probably the biggest buffoon to ever have graced the game. I’m more worried about Gerard staying on the gravy train this season than winning POY.

John Fiorillo – USA. Level 3.
John Fiorillo has Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Why is this relevant? It probably isn’t. In fact, I’m not quite sure why I mentioned it. John is a good friend of mine, and managed to get onto the gravy train last season even though he missed a PT and actually never won a match. I expect big things from John this season, and I would even go as far as saying Yokohama will be his breakout performance. Sadly, when I say “breakout performance for John”, I of course mean he’ll probably finally make Day 2.

Tsuyoshi Fujita – Japan. Level 3.
Fujita is so good at Magic that I sometimes wonder why he isn’t always in the front of the pack when it comes time to look at POY candidates. With so many great Japanese players, it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle. But like I said before, with more Constructed events this season, I expect Constructed masters like Fujita to move to the front early and stay there. Kenji’s newfound Limited prowess probably still make him the favorite, but Fujita has a better mental game, if he could only get his limited game on par with his Constructed I could easily see him as the next POY.

Osama Fujita – Japan. Level 3.
Osama is Tsuyoshi’s younger step brother and the two are very close. The two both own and operate a Blockbuster video just outside of Tokyo and it’s rumored they test Constructed on the lunch breaks. As long as Osama continues to get tech from his older brother, you can expect to see him high up in the standings.

Sam Gomersall – England. Level 3.
Sam is completely ridiculous. He’s probably the richest hobo you’ll ever meet. The man joined a GYM simply to use their shower because the water was turned off in his apartment. He’s now deep in the World of Warcraft, so he might not stay on the train this season. But I’m sure his cleric is level 70 by now, so you know, every cloud.

Julien Goron – France. Level 3.
Julien is a singing instructor whose greatest claim to fame does not come from Magic, but rather the world of entertainment. One of Julien’s pupils actually made it to the semi-finals of European Idol. While Julian may be well known in the singing community, he’s still a bit of an unknown in the Magic World. Julien will probably have some solid GP finishes once again, but POY is probably too far out of reach.

Roel van Heeswijk – Netherlands. Level 3.
Roel is a great guy, I like him a lot. That being said, remember what I said about the Dutchies. Well, if Kamiel ain’t doing it, odds are Roel ain’t either.

Mark Herberholz – USA. Level 5.
Apparently Mark used all his winnings from Honolulu to open up a gaming store in Michigan. Everyone knows that new businesses are more likely to fail than succeed, so Mark will need to focus most of his attentions there and not on Magic. This means that POY just isn’t a top priority for him this year.

Rich Hoaen – Canada. Level 5.
Richie really needed a good finish in Geneva to be a real contender. With more Constructed events we’ll have to see if his friendship with Kenji will pay off. Otherwise it’ll be a long road ahead for this American.

Christian Huttenburger – Germany. Level 3.
Everyone knows that Christian is one of those players you don’t want to play against. You might not know who Christian is now, but rest assured, his name will haunt your dreams soon enough. Huttenburger is quietly working up the ranks and starting to make a real name for him. I expect big things from Christian, but POY might be a little out of reach.

Itaru Ishida – Japan. Level 3.
No one is more upset about the loss of three-man Team Limited Pro Tours than the resident genius of the format, Mr. Ishida. With his bread and butter gone, Ishida needs to work that much harder to get to the top, and it doesn’t seem like he’s willing to put in the work.

Klaus Dieter Jons – Germany. Level 3.
Everyone knows that Klaus is one of those players you don’t want to play against. You might not know who Klaus is now, but rest assured, his name will haunt your dreams soon enough. Jons is quietly working up the ranks and starting to make a real name for him. I expect big things from Klaus, but POY might be a little out of reach.

Craig Jones – England. Level 4.
The man made people believe in miracles. I hope for his sake he has another one up his sleeve.

Tomohiro Kaji – Japan. Level 4.
Kaji is easily one of my favorite Japanese players. He has a great personality and can belt out Linkin Park like he was Chester himself. Sadly, Kaji is off designing his own brand of raincoats for his dad, so he won’t be able to attend as many events this year.

Frank Karsten – Netherlands. Level 3.
How many Pro Tours this season use Avatars. Any? No, hmmm…. Well then I guess we’re just gonna have to see what the master of stats can pull out of his hat.

Shu Komuro – Japan. Level 3.
Shu Komuro holds the title for most adorable Pro Tour winner of all time (sorry MikeP). Shu can melt the hearts of most of his opponents, but that can only get you so far. I don’t think this champ has the goods to take the title.

Craig Krempels – USA. Level 3.
The last time an American won POY, Murphy Brown was still on television. Much like Murphy Brown, our next contender doesn’t need a man in his life to have a positive sense of self worth. Craig probably thanks his lucky stars that Josh Wagenor exists. Because as long as Josh is alive, Craig can’t be the least successful US Nationals Champ of all time. That being said, 2007 will probably be Craig’s year…

Shingou Kurihara – Japan. Level 3.
Everyone knows that Shingou is one of those players you don’t want to play against. You might not know who Shingou is now, but rest assured, his name will haunt your dreams soon enough. Kurihara is quietly working up the ranks and starting to make a real name for him. I expect big things from Shingou, but POY might be a little out of reach.

Osyp Lebedowicz – USA. Level 3.
Not only do I stink, I’m not even attending every event this season. My Two-Headed Giant teammate is a man named Phil Napoli. Haven’t heard of him? Don’t worry, no one else has either. I’ll tell you the story of Phil… 26 years ago God was eating a plate of pasta up in Heaven, and a meatball rolled off his plate, fell from heaven and landed on Earth in the form of Phil Napoli. Now I know what you’re thinking… with all this going for me, how can I not win POY this year? Well, from your lips to Kenji’s ears.

Raphael Levy – France. Level 5.
It’s funny to think that Hall of Famer’s are probably less likely than anyone on this list to make POY. But Levy is a different story. I’m a huge Levy fan and I expect big things from him this year. Why? Well the man lives in Sweden… what else is there to do, other than play Magic? That combined with the fact that Raph is a huge nerd makes me smell POY in his future. [He’s definitely made a great start… – Craig.]

Ben Lundquist – USA. Level 3.
Who the hell is Ben Lundquist!!?

Nick Lovett – Wales. Level 3.
Everyone knows that Nick is one of those players you don’t want to play against. You might not know who Nick is now, but rest assured, his name will haunt your dreams soon enough. Lovett is quietly working up the ranks and starting to make a real name for him. I expect big things from Nick, but POY might be a little out of reach.

Rosario Maij – Germany. Level 3.
Everyone knows that Rosario is one of those players you don’t want to play against. You might not know who Rosario is now, but rest assured, his name will haunt your dreams soon enough. Maij is quietly working up the ranks and starting to make a real name for him. I expect big things from Rosario, but POY might be a little out of reach.

Quentin Martin – England. Level 4.


No seriously…


Chris McDaniel – USA. Level 3.
Who the hell is Chris McDaniel!?

Jan-Moritz Merkel – Germany. Level 3.
Everyone knows that Thomas is one of those players you don’t want to play against. You might not know who Thomas is now, but rest assured, his name will haunt your dreams soon enough. Didierjean is quietly working up the ranks and starting to make a real name for him. I expect big things from Thomas, but POY might be a little out of reach.

Makahito Mihara – Japan. Level 5.
Jesus Christ, another Japanese player… how many are there on this list?

Kazuya Mitamura – Japan. Level 3.
Oh c’mon…

Billy Moreno – USA. Level 3.
Billy Moreno? He’s Level 3?

Katsuhiro Mori – Japan. Level 4.
I’m pretty sure if everyone on the tour learned Japanese, Mori probably wouldn’t have a chance at POY. However, since it still remains a foreign language, anything is possible from this former World Champ. Plus, I hear he’s friends with Kenji!

Masahiko Morita – Japan. Level 3.
This guy can’t afford to skip PT’s… who does he think he is?

Chikara Nakajima – Japan. Level 3.
Chikara, I thought you were a flash in the pan in Charleston. Then in Singapore, you proved to be something special. But it wasn’t until Worlds when I started to think you might be the real deal. It’s been a long road we’ve traveled; can 2007 be your year?

Shuhei Nakamura – Japan. Level 6.
No one gets less respect on the Tour than Shuhei Nakamura. I know people know the name, and they probably are aware of how good he is. But I still feel like he isn’t mentioned enough when talking about top players. It’s easy to talk about Kenji because he travels a lot and is often in the spotlight, but only one player has managed to make Level 6 two years in a row. With all his solid finishes, he still couldn’t even get a ticket to the Invitational, a gross oversight. He puts in the work needed, he travels as much as anyone, there’s no reason for me not to believe he can’t make it to Level 6 once again. Hopefully this year he can capture the title of POY and not miss it by a mere five points.

Gabriel Nassif – France. Level 4.
Nassif is the greatest Constructed player of all time, period. There are more Constructed events this season than last year. If Kenji has any competition, it would have to be Nassif. Nassif can easily make as many Sunday appearances this season as Kenji, but if both make it at the same time, I’d put my money on Nassif. It’s not quite David versus Goliath, but Nassif certainly has his work cut out for him. As a fan of Magic, I hope Nassif is serious about making a run for it, because Kenji and Nassif would be as fun to watch as McGuire and Sosa.

Julien Nuijten – Netherlands. Level 4.
Julien is the Dakota Fanning of Magic. Sadly, Dakota Fanning isn’t what she used to be and you’re better off being that cute chick from Little Miss Sunshine. Can Julien make a comeback and return to his former glory? Of course not, don’t be ridiculous.

Ryo Ogura – Japan. Level 4.
The best thing Ryo has going for him is that he looks like Tiago Chan, and maybe they’ll mistakenly hand him a Trophy at some point during the season. But that’s about as close to POY as he’ll get.

Masashi Oiso – Japan. Level 3.
There used to be a debate as to which player was better, Oiso or Kenji. For a long time I had my money on Oiso. He was phenomenal when he played, and actually one of the few people I would be excited to watch play. Clearly Kenji has to take that title nowadays, but I the Magic fan in me hopes Oiso starts to take Magic more seriously again. He’s currently devoting all his time to mastering Final Fantasy and has ballooned up to 240 lbs, so I’m not sure if Magic is a priority in his life at the moment. We’ll have to wait and see come Yokohama.

Wessel Oomens – Netherlands. Level 3.
Wessel’s is a solid pro who has had the misfortune of being born in the Netherlands. If he was born in America he would easily be on of the best players in the country, but as it stands he’s a second tier pro in the land of top tier pros. I think Wessel’s has a Level 4 in him easy, maybe even a 5, but Level 6 is a bit of a stretch.

Takuya Oosawa – Japan. Level 5.
Spectral Force does what? If he couldn’t Level 6 last year with a win, I’m not sure he can this time around with a runner up. If he travels more this year he can probably do it, but I don’t think he can POY.

John Pelcak – USA. Level 3
Pelcak was one point off from Level 4 last year, and that stings. I suspect that the “close but no cigar” feeling haunted him during the break and made him hungrier for success. Sadly I think the Cak will probably just stay hungry for the rest of the season and miss Level 4 again. He has that aura of tragedy about him.

Bastien Perez – France. Level 3.
Everyone knows that Bastien is one of those players you don’t want to play against. You might not know who Bastien is now, but rest assured, his name will haunt your dreams soon enough. Perez is quietly working up the ranks and starting to make a real name for him. I expect big things from Bastien, but POY might be a little out of reach.

Johnathon Rispal – France. Level 3.
330th, $0, 2 PP.
See above and make appropriate substitutions. It’s like Magic Mad Libs!

Carlos Romao – Brazil. Level 3.
Everyone knows that Diego Ostravich is the best Latin American player of all time, but Carlos isn’t far behind. This former World Champ has a habit of coming out of nowhere and winning a GP. He has a new entourage that’s been putting up good numbers so a Level 4 or 5 is a possibility, but probably not a 6.

Antonino de Rosa – USA. Level 4.
You remember when Antonino was good at Magic? It wasn’t too long ago. Lost was still good, Jeroen Remie was still on the PT, and no one heard of Battlestar Galactica. Lost is starting to get good again, so that might bode well for the face of American Magic.

Antoine Ruel – France. Level 5.
Prediction: Level 4

Olivier Ruel – France. Level 4.
Excerpt from Rich Hagon article: “In 2007, expect Oliver Ruel to play for keeps” I said in this very column, and while I can generally resist an I-told-you-so (often because I didn’t tell you so), nobody who witnessed his granite-like resistance to being swept out of the tournament can be in any doubt. Ruel is back in business, and he does indeed mean business. Thou hast been warned. Here endeth the lesson.”

What, are you kidding me?! Level 4, maybe 5.

Johan Sadeghpour – Sweden. Level 4.
If there were more Limited events than Constructed this season, I could see Johan doing very well. But I just don’t think he has the Constructed chops to make POY. Team Punisher was one of the best teams around for a long time, but without Walamies cracking jokes, Johan needs help. I would love for him to prove me wrong because he’s as good a player as he is a person, but I can see Level 5 only for him this season.

Tomaharu Saitou – Japan. Level 6.
Saitou is insane. Both figuratively and literally. 2006 was a great season for him, but I still don’t think POY is within his grasp.

Ryouma Shiozu – Japan. Level 3.
I actually didn’t even know this many Japanese people existed.

Rasmus Sibast – Denmark. Level 3.
The man looks like a cartoon character. I would love him to win POY.

Geoffrey Siron – Belgium. Level 4.
Sirloin can tackle both Constructed and Limited pretty well, and he’s well connected in the European community. He certainly has what it takes to get to the Sunday stage, so if he hits the GP circuit he could make a strong showing this season. I’m not sure if POY is a real possibility with so much competition out there, but maybe Level 5 or even 6.

John Sittner – USA. Level 3.
Sittner is a man who needs no introduction. He made his first PT appearance last year at Charleston and burst onto the PT scene. Since then he’s shown no signs of slowing up. I assume.

Bram Snepvangers – Netherlands. Level 4.
Bram so often gets overlooked because he simply blends into the background. But if you ask any of the Dutchies who they respect the most, they’ll answer the same way over and over again… Kamiel. But if you ask them who they like the most, they’ll answer Bram. Bram is a solid player who always works his way up the standings throughout the year. His amazing performances are a little too inconsistent to be POY, but he’ll probably do well for himself this year too.

Terry Soh – Malaysia. Level 3.
Terry has been doing less than stellar lately. He had a great season two years ago that culminated with a win at the Invitational. Nowadays though he’s been spending the majority of his time with his new girl and mastering the art of drift racing. Terry relied on extensive testing sessions on MTGO to get to where he got, but with his priorities shifted, he can’t get the job done like he used to.

Jon Sonne – USA. Level 3.
Sonne is the American Bram Snapplevangers. I can’t say it any better than that.

Helmut Summersberger – Austria. Level 5.
I played Helmut once, years ago, at PT: Osaka.

Gadiel Szleifer – USA. Level 3.
Gadiel was supposed to be America’s last hope, so it’s not a huge surprise to me that he’s only Level 3. I’m actually not quite sure what Gadiel is doing lately. He’s very good at Constructed, easily in the top 10, but his Limited game isn’t so bad that it should be holding him back this much. Whether he just doesn’t care anymore or is too busy maintaining his MySpace page, this bad boy of Magic needs to look inward and get his priorities aligned if he wants to win the title of POY.

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa – France. Level 4.
Wow, I’m embarrassed right now. I honestly didn’t realize this name was attached to a real person. I thought it was a deck. At tournaments when I’d hear someone say, “I just lost to Wafo-Tapa,” I just assumed they meant some awkward control deck. Man, if this guys a real person he must be good. I wonder if Dralnu De Louvre is a real guy too.

Amiel Tenenbaum – France. Level 3.
What can be said about a man who’s willing to get DQ’d from a tournament so that he could acquire a foil FNM Disenchant. That’s the essence of Amiel. Considering they’re giving out foil Spiritmongers at events these days, I’m not sure Amiel will still be allowed to play Magic at season’s end, let alone win POY.

Sebastian Thaler – Germany. Level 4.
Everyone knows that Sebastian is one of those players you don’t want to play against. You might not know who Sebastian is now, but rest assured, his name will haunt your dreams soon enough. Thaler is quietly working up the ranks and starting to make a real name for him. I expect big things from Sebastian, but POY might be a little out of reach.

Mike Thompson – USA. Level 3.
Someone once called Mike Thompson the best player to come out of the Pacific Northwest since Brian Hegstad. Sadly that title means nothing really… maybe Level 3, fingers crossed.

Kenji Tsumura – Japan. Level 5.
The best player alive will in all likelihood win his second POY title this season. I personally think Nassif has the talent more so than anyone else on this list to give him a real run for his money. However, Nassif doesn’t travel to GPs as much as Kenji, nor does he have the Limited prowess Kenji now does. That being said, Kenji will do what only Kai has done before.

Ruud Warmenhoven – Netherlands. Level 4.
2006 was the best season Ruud has ever had. Most would be spurred by this to do better and work harder. Sadly Ruud spent the tail end of last season traveling throughout Malaysia and Singapore, doing things not legal in most parts of the World. I think Ruud has it in him for another strong season, but POY is a longshot for this hippie.

Jelger Wiegersma – Netherlands. Level 5.
Jeggles is a fantastic player, probably in the top 10 on this list. However he’s also a cycling enthusiast. And anyone who knows anything about Cycling knows that it’s a very time consuming hobby. Jelger actually has a stationary bike set up in his living room and he rides along during the races, true story. I predict that Jelger’s new hobby will lead to him having the worst season of his career. But since this is Jelger were talking about, that probably means only a Level 4.

Shouta Yasooka – Japan. Level 6.
I honestly know nothing about this guy. I guess he can win again, maybe.

Celso Zampere – Brazil. Level 3.

Osyp “Joe Black” Lebedowicz