The Year in Review and Preview

For a while now, I’ve thought it to be fun and profitable to make predictions and look back on how right or wrong you are. Seeing as how I have this magnificent bully pulpit here at StarCityGames, I thought that this year I’d come out and share my predictions with you. As an added bonus, you get to see how well I did in a few predictions last year and an overall analysis of, well, what went down in 2005.

For a while now, I’ve thought it to be fun and profitable to make predictions and look back on how right or wrong you are. Seeing as how I have this magnificent bully pulpit here at StarCityGames, I thought that this year I’d come out and share my predictions with you. As an added bonus, you get to see how well I did in a few predictions last year and an overall analysis of, well, what went down in 2005.

An Objective Look At 2005

Japanese Dominance…Big Cheats?!?

Yabv. We all know about the dominance. But did you know that they are all Big Cheaters™ as well? Yes, it’s true. While the entire Magic community was ranting and raving about how the Japanese finally learned to play, I was out in the trenches coming to a different conclusion: they learned how to cheat. Quite simply, the Japanese can do it all. They can stack like Casey McCarrel, palm their best card like Mike Long, add like Nick Eisel, and do anything else any cheater has ever even dreamed of.

Ok, ok, I’m kidding, you got me. Honestly, though, it’d be nice to think it was true. If one can say that the Player of the Year race is an accurate device to measure who the best players are at the moment – and for the sake of argument let’s assume it is – I jump from seventh to second best player in the world just by assuming that the Japanese lick ‘n stick like there was no tomorrow. Obviously, the Player of the Year race is not an end all, be all measurement of skill. I’m sure some players below me are better and I may or may not be as good as or better than some of the players above me. Regardless, I’m sure you can see why I’d like to think this.

In all seriousness, though, the men from Japan have indeed established themselves as quality spellslingers. It would be more than pointless for me run down their seemingly never-ending list of accomplishments as everyone is already well aware of them. I will say though, that taking six of the top ten slots in the player of the year race, four more than number two France, it is clear that Magic is in their court now. Will it stay there, though? Many would argue yes. However, I have some different ideas about this, which will be detailed in the 2006 preview section of this article.

The Hall of Fame

One of the big events of 2005 was the establishment of the Magic Hall of Fame. While I have already stated my position that the whole thing is fairly pointless, there is no arguing that it will have a big impact for years to come.

Even for something I feel to be a wasteful endeavor, there is something to be said for the way in which it is being done. For me, the best option regarding a Hall of Fame would be having none. If there is going to be one, though, I think it is something that has to be done right. Along those lines, I can’t really complain. The whole voting process was done the best way possible, as shown by five deserving inductees. The ceremony, while annoying, was short and to the point compared to what it could have been. Sure, it caused me to miss a bit of sleep, but it could have been more.

I don’t have much more to say about the Hall of Fame for now. It was just definitely something important enough to mention in any kind of 2005 review and I wanted to at least acknowledge that the whole ordeal is being carried out very well.

The Player’s Club

Ah, here it is, the best thing that happened in the Magic world in 2005. The emergence of the Player’s Club singlehandedly prevented me from quitting magic before Pro Tour: Philadelphia. I know that many other players’ interest for Magic also reemerged when they found out about this new way Wizards was going to funnel money into the Pro Tour.

The whole idea of the Player’s Club is to make it possible for people’s job to be professional Magic. By that, I mean for people to make a living playing Magic in the long run, not for it to just kind of be their source of income while they are in college, until they get a real job. This was also the idea of the Masters, and of the end of the year payout. Neither succeeded in this sense, and neither will the Player’s Club.

However, this time, it is not due to conceptual problems in creating the club, or any other mistakes on Wizards’ part. This time, it will only fail to meet its goal because it is just way too lofty; virtually impossible. There is actually nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is a good thing. Reaching for the stars was what allowed Wizards to create such an awesome program as the Player’s Club in the first place. If they continue to do so, even if there is never such thing as a real professional Magic player, the game and Pro Tour will keep on improving for years to come.

Now, even if a level five or six magician can’t have long term financial security thanks to the Player’s Club, it sure as hell gives them enough motivation to test, keep practicing, and at least for the time being not completely switch over to poker. All said, the Player’s Club has been a smashing success and many years from now it will be something like the Magic world’s equivalent of social security.

A Little Prediction

A long, long time ago, actually in 2004, I was asked how I thought I’d do for the remainder of the year after making the final day of the first Pro Tour, Columbus. When I was asked that, I confidently responded that I’d probably make the top five in the Player of the Year Race. At the time, if they would have also asked me how many pro points I thought I’d get, I wouldn’t have said anywhere near 62. Thinking about it, that was a ridiculous prediction. Regardless, I was up there all year, only faltering at the end, and the end of my spiraling downfall that was the last two Pro Tours only resulted in me falling to seventh.

Looking For Any Takers

Back before the beginning of the season, before I knew Julien, I was convinced he was just a big fluke, like most other people. I was mad that he was stealing my small child thunder, and wanted to prove that I was the best of the children. I tried to bet anyone I ever talked to as much as possible that I would beat him in the following season’s player of the year race.

That was a pretty bold proposition, seeing as how at the time I was looking at needing a Top 48 finish at PT: Columbus to even get on the gravy train and Julien was already on it. Regardless, I was not to be swayed. Unfortunately, since most of the people I talked to were friends and either a) didn’t want to bet against me or b) agreed that Julien was a fluke or c) both, I didn’t get to bet anyone.

It’s too bad no one took me up on this bet, as I handily beat my “competitor” by a margin of twenty or so points. At the same time, at that point, I never would have said I’d get forty points or whatever Julien ended up with. After I actually met the kid, we became friends and I lost the hunger to prove my superiority. Additionally, I think he showed everyone that he wasn’t the predecessor to Pierre Canali by winning two Grand Prix and posting some other decent finishes.

What’s In Store For 2006

Better Overall Pro Tour Circuit

This all comes back to the changes made in conjunction with the creation of the Player’s Club. A multitude of things are changing about the Pro Tour this coming season, and each of them points directly at me, and other people, enjoying the Pro Tour a lot more next season.

First, and most importantly, Wizards is cutting down on the number of Pro Tours and changing the prize support appropriately. To begin with, this gives players more time to prepare for each Pro Tour. This goes just a little bit further in reducing luck in Magic, which is always a good thing. Another thing it does is reduce the number of times the players have to travel and at the same time not cost us anything as far as prize money. Not many players are in high school, like myself, but a fair amount are college students. Since Wizards doesn’t seem to remotely care about scheduling Pro Tours on good dates for students, as shown by Pro Tour: Prague planned for AP Exam week, it is convenient for us that they are cutting down the amount of times we have to miss, whether it is or isn’t their intention.

The other nice thing about the upcoming season’s Pro Tour schedule, which actually is intentional, is the beautiful locales that will play host to the Pro Tours. I highly doubt anyone is too upset about going to Hawaii to play a little cards, and the same goes for Prague, Paris, and Kobe.

Personally, I am not too psyched about Charleston, South Carolina, though. Wizards tries to play it up as a historically rich American city or something, but I don’t really buy it. I mean, I guess it has a rich history of slavery and secession and such, but I don’t know what else they could really mean other than that. Maybe I’m the ignorant one and I’ll find a never-ending fountain of knowledge when I arrive. We’ll see. Regardless, overall, I’m looking forward to visiting all the cool places Wizards has set up for this season’s Pro Tours.

Predictions on the Japanese

As I mentioned before, most people are sure to think the Japanese will continue to steamroll the Pro Tour like they did this year. Admittedly, that would be the sensible thing to assume. As I hinted on earlier, though, I am not so sure that’s exactly how it’s going to go down.

You see, when I look for a potential downfall of the Japanese following their quick rise to the top, I look at previous downfalls and look for the likelihood of similar events occurring. I think it is fair to say that the biggest, and pretty much only, big downfall in magic thus far has been that of the Americans. It is easy to point out that this is due to one thing and one thing only: poker.

I do think that the Japanese will do really well in Hawaii. It is their specialty (Constructed), and it is the very first Pro Tour, so there won’t be enough time for the phenomenon to kick in. Past that, though, I would just bet they would have found poker by then. Obviously, the likes of Kenji, Masashi, and company are not stupid people. Actually, they are very smart people! I don’t think it would take them long to realize how much more money there is in poker than in Magic. I also don’t think it would take them long to get good at it; what’s more, they might just start dominating that soon enough.

This is not to say they would quit Magic, or become God-awful, or anything along those lines. I mean, sure everyone jokes about how miserable the Americans have become, including me. Regardless, we all know we are still up there, floating somewhere near the top. It’s just that compared to how it used to be, back in the day, when Americans were almost the only players that won matches, we do suck now. What I’m trying to say is that a Japanese “downfall,” as I’ve called it, would only mean that they aren’t a dominating force as they were this season, not that they become downright bad.

Basically, the point is that when the Japanese are playing as much poker as we Americans are now, it will become an even playing field again. Let me invite you all to join me in looking forward to that day, which is hopefully very soon to come!

Put your hand down, [author name=

Who To Watch Out For

Well, me. Obviously. Raise your hand if you didn’t see this one coming.

Next on the list, we’ve got a Mister Mike Krumb. I know I’m kind of cheating, as he’s In First Place In The Player Of The Year Race and whatnot, but I promise I would have said this three weeks ago. You see, here’s a little not-so-well-known timeline of Mike Krumb:

2001: Became friends with me before it was in style.

2002-2004: Drove me to PTQs, not in a barn kind of way.

2005-present: Kept going to PTQs.

Somewhere in there, Mike Top 8’d some GP’s. Believe me, his big break is coming soon. Bigger than a mere Grand Prix victory. No joke.

Another guy who I think is going to make even more of an impact this year than last is Frank Karsten. Frank, unlike the Japanese, is certainly already aware of poker; he just either chooses not to play or plays but doesn’t let his Magic game suffer due to it. Seriously, though, I’ve played him several times and just talked with him about stuff regarding the game and I’ve been impressed, he seems to just know what’s up more than most.

The last man on the short list is one Neil Reeves. He’s probably our best player here in the US of A, and seems to be back in action, at least for a while. When it comes to Neil, I know for a fact that the case is he pokers but his Magic game doesn’t suffer from it. If the man shows up, he’ll probably do a lot winning.

If you didn’t make my list, please, don’t be too upset. Don’t do anything crazy, ok? There’s obviously a lot more great players but I can just feel these four about to win lots and lots of matches this year.

Who (Not) To Watch Out For

First up we’ve got the Japanese, in the way I previously mentioned. They’ll do their fair share of winning, just nothing like the embarrassment (for us) that was this year. In that sense, you shouldn’t watch out for them.

Next on the list is one Anthimos Papadopoulos. Anthimos, after a promising start to his career at Greek Nationals, didn’t do so hot at Worlds, only managing a 267th place finish. I don’t know what it is about Mr. Papadopoulos, but for some reason I just don’t see him finding the same kind of success he did that fateful day in Athens. Sometimes you just have a hunch, you know?

I don’t want to delve too far into negatives now, so I’ll approach the end of our little list here…Last we’ve got to go with John Pelcak and Ruud Warmenhoven. You see, John and Ruud battled at Worlds, and John beat Ruud in an intense three game contest. Afterwards, in an attempt to console the Dutchman, John said, “You know what Ruud? One of these days, one of us is going to win something really, really big. Don’t even worry about it.” After the two of them thought about this for a few seconds, they just shook their heads and laughed. After writing this, I realize that John talked about this in his own account of Worlds, but no matter. The important thing is that I saw this unfold firsthand and it was just painfully obvious that these two rising stars just lack the self-confidence needed to excel at the professional level. That attitude’s just not going to cut it, boys.

Make sure to disregard all this when the team PT rolls around, though. I daresay The Cak’s on the team to beat, what with me and our new third, Paul Rietzl on it…

Pro Player Cards

In all the rage about the brand new Professional Magician baseball cards, one thing that has been overlooked by almost everyone is the trading value of the little suckers. Right now, they are probably all close to even.

Maybe Tim Aten are worth a bit more than the rest, now that everyone saw Mike Krumb attack people with four tokens for $37,000 worth of lifetime winnings en route to a Grand Prix Championship. Or maybe Brian Kibler are worth just a little more in trade value because, at one time, Star City Games had them priced higher than the other player cards. More or less, though, they are all worth about the same.

When the second batch of cards comes out, this will all change. The thing is, good (or popular) players, who get remakes, will have cards worth less than players who don’t get remakes. For example, there will be a lot more Oliviers in print than say, Murray the Maulers. The Murray card will be that much rarer, and, all of a sudden, you will see people offering to trade three of the new, in print, Kenjis for one out of print Murray.

Keep em peeled.  Like potatoes.  Or carrots.

No matter what exactly the price fluctuations are, you profit traders out there should definitely keep your eyes peeled for what the effect of remakes and no remakes do to the market value of Pro Player Cards. When it helps make you thousands, I’ll accept your gratitude but no tips.

A Few Specific Predictions

(in no particular order)

  • Kyle Goodman will Top 8 a Constructed Pro Tour.

  • Don Smith will team with Jeff Novekoff and Billy Moreno.

  • Matt Abrams will fail to make Day 2 of a Pro Tour.

  • Adam Chambers will get excited.

  • Nikolas Nygard (Das Hopper) will make Player of the Year Money.

  • Marcio Carvalho will get disqualified from an event.

  • Rich Hoaen will Top 8 a Limited Pro Tour.

  • One of Alex Lieberman, Rogier Maaten, Gerry Thompson, and Bernardo da Costa Cabral will win a Pro Tour.

  • I will finish the season with 31 pro points.

  • Gabe will get in a fight with a pie and lose… oh wait, that’s already happened.

  • But seriously, he’ll get in a fight with a pie and lose.

  • Josh Ravitz will get married.

And that’s it folks! I can’t tell a lie. You heard it here first, people. I can’t begin to explain how happy it makes me to have been able to share an objective view of 2005 with you all, as well as let you know how things are almost certainly going to unfold in the upcoming Pro Tour season. Please, don’t get too mad for ruining all the surprises, it’s what I get paid the big bucks to do. Join me this time again in 2006 as I reminisce about how all the above things occurred and fill you in on anything and everything about to happen in 2007. Until then…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Gadiel Szleifer