There are a lot of good memories out there

This week’s In Development really hit a positive chord with the audience. I’m glad that my most commented columns are the ones where I share my love for the game, whether I’m telling everyone that PTQs are fun are reminding all of us that we’re blessed with a wealth of awesome play in the video coverage.
If you haven’t already, head on over to the column and check it out, then find me on twitter and let me know what you think.

PT: Home Town 2010 (2010 Pro Tour schedule)

The Pro Tour Schedule for 2010 is up, and it includes a return trip to my home town. Sounds like time for another PT trip, qualified or not!
Here’s the article about it and here’s a quick rundown:
San Diego, February 19-21, Standard and booster draft, qualifiers are Limited and start October 3rd (Zendikar!)
San Juan, May 28-30, Block and booster draft, qualifiers are Extended (yay) and start January 2nd
Amsterdam, September 3-5, Extended and booster draft, qualifiers are Standard and start April 17th
Worlds is in Chiba, December 9-12, and will, we assume, feature the usual set of quirky formats
…and as a final note, there will be online qualifiers for the Pro Tour this time around.

The 2009 Magic Pro Tour schedule

In this article, Brian David-Marshall introduces the 2009 Pro Tour schedule. The big update this time around is that in an effort to combine players’ interest in Limited play with the larger playing audience’s greater interest in coverage of Constructed events, each PT in the coming year will be a hybrid event, featuring a mix of Constructed and Limited rounds.
This seems fine to me, as it will make each Pro Tour more skill testing overall, and I’ll still be interested in a significant portion of the coverage. I thought it was interesting that apparently I am not alone in finding Limited coverage kind of unengaging:
Our coverage audience absolutely devours Constructed decklists from top players. The written and video deck tech pieces we do blow away a lot of the other stuff we do on the coverage side, and unfortunately all-Limited events just aren’t as captivating to that at-home audience, regardless of how fun they are to play in.
That’s Aaron Forsythe. For me, I find Limited coverage less interesting because although one can have a general draft plan (e.g. “value Slivers more than your opponents do”), you don’t get to come into a match with as much of a plan. When I’m watching a Limited match and someone wins, the actual cards they use feel fairly random. In contrast, in a Constructed event you get to see a player try to unfurl their plan, adapt it to new situations, and so forth. There’s more to latch onto, as a viewer.
Pro Tour Qualifiers will still be single format. Here’s the schedule for next year:
Kyoto, Japan (February 27, 2009)
Formats: Standard, Draft
Top 8: Standard
Qualifier Format: Sealed (presumably, Shards of Alara)
Qualifier Dates: October 4 through December 28, 2008
Honolulu, USA (June 5, 2009)
Formats: Block, Draft
Top 8: Draft
Qualifier Format: Extended (the new Extended — very exciting)
Qualifier Dates: January 3 through April 19, 2009
Austin, USA (October 16, 2009)
Formats: Extended, Draft
Top 8: Extended
Qualifier Format: Standard (awesome)
Qualifier Dates: May 2 through September 6, 2009
Worlds – Rome, Italy (November 19, 2009)
Formats: Standard, Draft, Extended
Top 8: Standard
(As always, you qualify for Worlds via your country’s Nationals and rating)

Match coverage to watch

Wizards is a fairly amazing company in terms of online support for their product lines, with daily updates to the Magic site and product developers who regularly read and respond to email. One aspect of this support that I especially appreciate is the archiving of Pro Tour webcasts. Each Pro Tour event features a live webcast of the top eight, allowing you and thousands of other players to watch the finale of the the event and, more often than not, see some really good play. Since 2004, Wizards has been archiving those webcasts in and making them available for download on The Webcast Video Archive page. There, you can find the top eights — usually broken up into quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals — zipped and ready for download and viewing.
Recently, I’ve taken to downloading some of the event coverage, stripping out the audio into separate files, and then using that as background listening from time to time. If you know the cards and the tournament environments, the audio play-by-play is about as good as the video (and if you don’t know all that, the video tends to lose you anyway).
In the extended, I’ll talk about my favorite coverage, and why I think it’s good stuff.

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Pro Tour Hollywood 2008 information – side events and more

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Wizards has posted the full information page for Pro Tour Hollywood 2008, including information for participants, the LCQs, side events, artists, special hotel rates, and more. Given that this one is actually in my state, I’m seriously considering road-tripping down there to participate. Anyone else want to go?
PT Hollywood runs from May 23 to May 25 (with the LCQ on May 22).
Here are some highlights from the posted info:
Think you’ve qualified somehow? Check it here.
Still looking to qualify? The last-chance qualifier (LCQ) is the day before the event (May 22) starting at 4pm. Yes, 4pm. LCQs typically end shockingly late at night, letting a somewhat incoherent winner make a try at the PT the following morning. Even so, I’m thinking of trying for the LCQ. One…last…try! And so forth.
You can read the side events schedule here. Side events are open for all, and include:
8-player, single-elimination pickup events (Draft, Sealed, Standard, Extended) throughout the event.
10am – Shadowmoor sealed event with Apple products (Apple TVs, iPod Shuffles) as the top four prizes
12pm – PTQ for Berlin – Lorwyn-Shadowmoor block constructed
2pm – “Old Box” sealed deck – Shadowmoor sealed with Exodus and Urza’s Legacy boxes as the top two prizes
4pm – Digital camera constructed – Standard event with a digital camera as the top prize
6pm – Super FNM – Shadowmoor sealed with FNM promos as top prizes
10am – PTQ for Berlin – Lorwyn-Shadowmoor block constructed
12pm – Shadowmoor foil sealed – Shadowmoor sealed with a foil and a regular Shadowmoor set as the top prizes
2pm – “Old Box” constructed – Extended event, with prizes as for the other old box tourney
4pm – Apple iPod 2HG – Shadowmoor block sealed 2HG with ipods for top two finishing teams
5pm – Generic GP Trial – Standard event with the first prize being a flexible 3-round trial for any GP before mid-2009
6pm – Multiplayer free-for-all – Standard constructed event where 8-man multiplayer tables winnow down to one final winner, with prizes being a Legends box, a foil Mirrodin set, and regular Mirrodin sets
10am – iPod constructed – Standard event with iPods for the top four finishers
12pm – “Old Box” sealed – Shadowmoor sealed, prizes as above
2pm – Revised duals – Legacy constructed, with top prizes of 30 and 10 revised duals (that’s a substantial payout)
4pm – Magic prints sealed – Urza’s block sealed with Magic art prints as the top nine prizes
I’m definitely excited about the possibility of showing up with some Standard and Extended decks and playing on all the days, or at least until I’m burned out. Of course, if I go for the LCQ, I may burn out early…

“Let me not do something stupid.”

Brian David-Marshall has interviewed Jon Finkel here on the Wizards site. In the wake of Jon’s first pro tour top eight (and a win at that!) since 2003 or so, Brian asks him about how he got into Magic in the first place, his early tournament experiences, and what it’s like to go back to competitive play after all this time.
I especially like the contrast between what he was actually thinking and doing and how the match coverage reporter spun it. I’ve experienced this dichotomy myself, after watching a friendly, fast-paced game between Saito and Olivier Ruell at GP San Francisco be portrayed in the coverage as “glacially” slow and “frosty” due to a supposed antagonism between the two players. The drama’s not really necessary — the game is interesting enough. Here’s Jon on that topic:
It was funny…I was reading the coverage and the guy was talking about me playing mind games with my opponent because I made him burn for one and asked him not to look at my deck while shuffling. This guy has ascribed this whole internal world to my mind that has no basis in reality. I had him burn for one because he had a mana in his pool and he said, “go.” He was at two, but if he was at 20 I would still have him burn for one. The way he was shuffling there was a chance that he could see the bottom card of my library…probably not, but don’t look down while you are shuffling.
I am not saying that in my lifetime I haven’t played mind games with people. I think I probably play less than many people. I certainly wasn’t there. What should I do? Go back and say, “Would you like to go back and untap one of your lands in the Top 8 of the Pro Tour? You don’t need to burn this time.”

The idea that I showed up for Prague not caring and that I had some renewed sense of urgency for this tournament is…it is a fun narrative maybe for people to tell. Although it is kind of annoying when people tell a narrative about your life and you are just like, “Man, could you have at least asked me?”
It’s a good interview. Jon seems nice and level-headed, and has a good grasp on the balance between skill and luck involved in winning a PT.

Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur: An amazing top eight

The second day of swiss rounds finished some time ago in Kuala Lumpur, and the resulting top eight is one of the coolest ones I’ve seen. Check it out:
1. Jon Finkel — Hall of Fame member, with eleven Pro Tour top eights and two Junior Pro Tour top eights, from back when they had those. Jon is in with a 13-1-1 record, the only one in the tournament to do so well.
2. Guillaume Wafo-Tapa — Winner of Pro Tour Yokohama 2007.
3. Mike Hron — Winner of Pro Tour Geneva 2007
4. Joel Calafell — Top eight at GP Stuttgart 2007 and top sixteen at GP Bilbao 2005.
5. Marcio Carvalho — Top eight at Worlds 2005, as well as four GP top eights, including a win at GP Lisbon.
6. Nicolai Herzog — Another Hall of Fame member, with four PT top eights, including two in the same season, and two GP top eights.
7. Ming Xu — The only amateur in the group, Ming qualified on ranking, which is a pretty solid achievement.
8. Mario Pascoli — Multiple GP top eights, and a whole bunch of PT appearances.
I’m really looking forward to watching the top eight. You can watch it live by going to the live webcast page. The top eight webcast starts at 6:45 pm PST. I won’t be watching it live, however, as I’ll be off attending an animation showing and talk. Fortunately, Wizards archives this stuff pretty promptly, so I’ll download it and watch it then. I’m not sure what the ideal finish would be, but it might be something like Jon Finkel versus Ming Xu in the finals — hall of famer versus brand new guy from an emerging market. That’d be pretty good.
There’s one other notable finish — Steve Sadin came in twelfth. He’s decided to be serious about winning this year, and I suspect he’ll continue to move up the standings throughout 2008. Which is, all told, pretty cool.

Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur: Coverage et al

Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur is currently ongoing. Day one (Friday) is complete. As always, there are a lot of ways you can check in on what’s happening, starting with the Wizards YouTube channel:

Rich Hagon and Bill Stark are standing in for Randy and Brian David-Marshall because Randy was called away by work concerns and Brian is rather sick with pneumonia. Rich Hagon and Bill Stark are very good replacements. If you read tournament coverage, you’ve probably read some of Bill’s writing, and if you listen to the Podcasts from tournaments and European GPs, you’ve heard Rich Hagon’s excellent audio coverage.
You can read Kuala Lumpur coverage at the Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur 2008 web page. This page leads to some individual match coverage, individual round results, the daily blogs, and so forth.
You can also listen to Rich Hagon’s audio coverage from the podcast page. Rich does an excellent job with the podcasts, both in terms of content and in presentation. He’s a natural performer, and manages some really interesting interviews in each podcast. I appreciate his match coverage most of all — I found audio narratives of matches much more pleasing than text-based ones.
So far, perhaps the most intriguing outcome from the first day of this limited-format event (Lorwyn block draft) is high-level finishes from hall of fame players. At the end of round seven, we had Nicolai Herzog in thirteenth (6-1) and Jon Finkel in fifteenth (6-1 as well).
Only two players ended day one with perfect records: Paul Cheon and Martin Juza.
Finally, of last year’s Pro Tour winners, only two made the cut to day two: Guillaume Wafo-Tapa (6-1) and Mike Hron (5-2).