Why we need to read the prospectus

In a very casual way, I pulled up the Standard records of this year’s top eight to make a vague guess at how they might do (click here to see that post). Humorously, the final result is almost an inversion of how everyone did on day one of Worlds, with the two worst performers, Jamie Parke and Antti Malin, making it to the finals.
One is reminded of the standard investment disclaimer of “past performance is not indicative of future performance.”
However, we also may be looking at the effect of (1) learning a great deal from the practical “shakedown period” of the first six rounds, and (2) having a team to work on the matchups for you. I have no idea who Antti turned to, if anyone, but Jamie Parke had the backing of Jon Finkel, Gab Nassif, and others in trying to figure out how to take down each matchup. As Brian David-Marshall pointed out in the coverage, even though Jamie was completely blown out by his playtest partner playing Ikeda’s Blightning Beatdown deck during testing, playing fifteen or sixteen games against it gave him a comfort level that he wouldn’t have just from looking at the list, and taught him the obvious mistakes that he needed to avoid.
Faced with the problem of taking a deck that had critically underperformed into a key series of matches, Jamie was able to rely on a cadre of experienced players to assist him in working out a strategy for dealing with his problematic first-round matchup. Not only do you benefit from the experience of tremendous players when you’re in a position to have this kind of help — you also get to have an extra person-day or more of playtesting, because your friends can afford to stay up all night to do testing, while you get enough sleep to make sure you don’t make obvious errors during a day of best-of-five matches against incredibly tough opponents.
Or, more briefly, this is why we can’t just build a bracket based on how the first day turned out.

Worlds 2008 – In the lee of the metagame

I watched almost all of the individual top eight and the team event today, starting at a brisk 6:45am, PST. Worlds has an especially long final day, and I finally had to cut out before the final match could start to do some work out in the real world. I enjoyed the presentation this year, with the individual and team events interleaved throughout the day. I really enjoyed most of it — and it was interesting to see four of the five Faeries decks drop out of the individual event in the quarterfinals (although, sadly, this meant that there was no on-air game time featuring Frank Karsten, and very little time with Akira Asahara). The team semifinals and finals were both exciting, and honestly, I was rooting for everyone, although the American team just a bit more than everyone else.
Wizards has dutifully posted the top performing Standard and Extended decks. I don’t care too much about Standard right now (not until the end of January, when Superstars may well have another Standard $1K). However, I’m quite interested in Extended. You can see all the decks whose pilots did 4-2 or better in the Extended portion by clicking here. There may be some risk in drawing conclusions from deck performance across six rounds at the tail end of a long event, but it’s still worthwhile to see what did well and how people tweaked their designs. Let’s start by seeing what people played. I’ve broken it down, going from most to least common archetype. Click through to the extended entry to see the breakdown, and some commentary.

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Worlds 2008 — predicting the outcome

To start with, I’m basically rooting for Frank Karsten to win. He’s entertaining as a writer and player, and he might well have won Worlds 2005 but for a fairly significant gameplay error on the part of, well, everyone present at the final match. That said, what do the players’ records from the Standard portion of Worlds suggest about their likely success?
First, what were the records?
6-0 – Akira Asahara
5-1 – Tsuyoshi Ikeda, Kerem Hannes, Paulo Vitor damo da Rosa,
4-2 – Kenji Tsumura, Frank Karsten
3-3 – Antti Malin
2-3-1 – Jamie Parke
That bodes ill for Mr. Parke.
I was wondering, perhaps, if I could find out how the players fared against each other in the Standard rounds, but none of them played each other, so that’s out. Absent really knowing what their matchups were, I think the most we can safely say is that Jamie Parke is in trouble, and perhaps — perhaps — Antti Malin won’t make it past Akira Asahara. But who knows? Maybe Malin just needed some time to get up to speed.
I’m looking forward to tomorrow (well, later today — I really need to sleep!).

Worlds 2008 top eight (Way to go, Frank!)

The final standings for worlds are up, and here’s your top eight:
1. Paulo Vitor damo da Rosa (42 points)
2. Antti Malin (42 points)
3. Kenji Tsumura (42 points)
4. Frank Karsten (41 points)
5. Tsuyoshi Ikeda (40 points)
6. Hannes Kerem (40 points)
7. Akira Asahara (40 points)
8. Jamie Parke (40 points)
I’m happy to see Frank in this top eight, as he’s an entertaining player to watch (if, potentially, a rather slow one). Notably, both Frank and Kenji have been putting “less emphasis” on Magic this year. This is another impressive finish by Paulo, and in general is a top eight just chock full of experienced players. Congratulations, then, to Hannes Kerem, whom I’d never heard of before this event.
With a strong 17th place finish, Aaron Nicastri should also be the rookie of the year this year — unless Kerem straight up wins Worlds (shades of 2004 there), or forces a playoff with a tie and certain team results from Austalia. While we’re talking “of the years,” Olivier Ruel settled in at 37th place, and will not be stealing the prize from Shuhei, so that’s set.
For fun, check out just how Frank, with ‘not enough time to test,’ put together his Faeries deck.
Finally, in teams, we have Brazil in first place and Japan in second, with the US and Australia taking third and fourth place, respectively.

Worlds 2008 — That’s an impressive round

As I work on other things today, I’m checking in on the Worlds coverage. Here are the very impressive tables one through four from round 15:
Table 1: Hannes Kerem versus Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa
Table 2: Tsuyoshi Ikeda versus Kenji Tsumura
Table 3: Ervin Tormos versus Marijn Lybaert
Table 4: Masashi Oiso versus Frank Karsten
Also fun is this deck tech featuring “Sunburst Gifts”, the slight revamp of the winning deck from Winter King. It’s four-color Gifts featuring some interesting Sunburst cards, including a recursive Etched Oracle.

Worlds 2008, two days in

Today was day two of Worlds 2008, and although the Standard portion didn’t bring anything particularly exciting to us, there are some fun stories in terms of who’s doing well — and who isn’t.
Going into this event, Shuhei Nakamura had the player of the year lead, with 67 points. The only plausible competitors down the rest of the list were Olivier Ruel (53 points), Luis Scott-Vargas (50 points), Tomoharu Saito (48 points), and Marcio Carvalho (45 points). Pretty much any scenario that had someone other than Shuhei winning required that Shuhei stumble (getting, say, 2 or 3 points) and the other person do quite well, with the caveat that Marcio and Olivier were both on their national teams and could potentially pick up an additional 6 or so points from a win there.
By the end of day two, here are how our competitors are doing:
Shuhei Namakura – 15 points, 222nd place
Well, that certainly qualifies as a stumble. And the rest?
Olivier Ruel – 28 points, 7th place
Luis Scott-Vargas – 21 points, 74th place
Tomoharu Saito – 9 points, 315th place
Marcio Carvalho – 24 points, 56th place
As for the teams, France is in a non-promising 15th place right now, and Portugal is in a dismal 25th, so there’s not a lot of help there for either Olivier or Marcio. That said, Olivier is doing very, very well, and if he keeps up his current pace, could reasonably hit a top eight. If Shuhei gets 3 points and goes to 70, Olivier would need to finish first or second to take player of the year away from him (if Shuhei gets 2 points, Olivier can tie by making it to the semifinals). I wouldn’t bet on Olivier being a finalist, but who knows? If the French team can somehow pull it together on the last day, Olivier might only need to top eight.
Other fun finishes from day one include Ervin Tormos, who leads the standings at 33 points in what is, I think, his only Pro Tour of this year (and who, if the podcast is to be believed, spent this evening deciding what deck he was going to play for Extended tomorrow). In a close second is Masashi Oiso, who is on track for both another top eight and a solid team finish (he has, apparently, promised to win the team event for Japan).
I’m looking forward to seeing what shows up in Extended tomorrow, given the upcoming GP in Los Angeles and the PTQ season for Honolulu. I expect that we’ll see Elves being properly controlled now that everyone knows to expect it, and as such, there likely won’t be any bannings in the near future.
I will, however, laugh if Dredge does really well.