Pro Tour Berlin 2008, day one — Hijinks ensued

Day one of PT Berlin 2008 is done, and I suppose if I’d been paying attention to preparations for the event, I’d have been less surprised at the day one deck archetype breakdown.
The big story is not that over a quarter of the field turned up with some variant of Zoo, capitalizing on Wild Nacatl and the general value of aggression in a recently compressed card pool (which, even while compressed, still comes in at thousands and thousands of cards). The big story is, instead, the “worst kept secret” deck, Elf Ball. Perhaps most exciting to my sense of quirk, however, is the Tezzeret and Trinket Mage deck that Kenny Oberg piloted to an undefeated day one finish (the other undefeated day one player is PT veteran Gadiel Szleifer, who’s running Faeries with Dark Confidant and Jitte).
My two favorite parts of the day’s coverage are “not knowing how to play your combo” and “All-in Red.”
The first shows up here in the Day One blog, and concerns what happens when you accidentally kill yourself because you’ve forgotten a critical aspect of your combo deck. To wit, Zac Hill “going off” with his Elf Ball deck:
When Zac began going through the motions, Pascal simply nodded, having designed the combo himself and providing the Belgians with it. Seemingly resigned to his fate, Vieren shrugged and asked, “So, how many times?” When Hill responded with a ridiculously large number, Pascal scooped up his cards, adding, “Okay, you’re dead.”
Come again?
It turns out Hill had forgotten he had resolved a Glimpse of Nature in order to get to the point in the game in which he had amassed enough creatures to combo his opponent. Awkward. Zac and Pascal left the round with a crazy story, but things were about to get crazier. Enter Grgur Petric, a respected up-and-coming pro from Croatia. He had gotten his copy of the Elves! deck from Zac, and found himself squaring off against Pascal in Round 5, just a match removed from Zac’s ignominious fate. So how did the match turn out?
Would you believe Grgur also forgot about his Glimpse? Unbelievably, Pascal was the lucky recipient of back-to-back game wins as a result of his opponents’ rare but careless play. When asked about the situation Pascal replied, “I knew about the play. In testing, Marijn [Lybaert] would always say ‘Go infinite,’ and I always said, ‘Don’t or you’ll deck yourself!'”

Notably, Pascal designed the specific Elf Ball build both his opponents accidentally suicided with.
The second is in this round seven coverage of a match between Owen Turtenwald and PT scorekeeper Rashad Miller. Rashad brought “All-in Red” to the tournament, a deck that tries to do, well, this:
Rashad was on the play, and led with Simian Spirit Guide, Rite of Flame, Seething Song, Deus of Calamity.
“That’s… er… fine…”
Turtenwald played a Polluted Delta and passed.
Rashad had a second Rite of Flame and Magus of the Moon.
“We can move on to Game 2 if you like?”

Here’s the Day One archetype breakdown
Here are the round eight standings
Here’s the PT coverage
…and, to end it all, here’s the day one wrap:

PTQ Kyoto 2009 — San Jose (first of two)

This weekend, I went to the first Bay Area PTQ of the current season. This was the first of our local PTQs to be held at the expansive new Superstars Game Center in San Jose, just two blocks from the San Jose State campus. Thanks again to the Superstars owners for hosting the event, and to the excellent judge staff for keeping the thing moving at a good clip. I don’t have the exact count, but they said it was about 188 people or so, per Bay Area PTQ tradition.
I didn’t win, but I was happy overall with my performance. See the extended for my card pool, the deck I built, and my round-by-round.

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One DCI number, and a year of free tournaments (more or less)

In the most recent The Week that Was column, BDM has a nice series of interviews with some of the influential tournament organizers (TOs) who’ve helped bring large-scale organized Magic play to their regions. In addition to some nice background on them and what they’ve done, there are two bits of news in there:
1) If you win your States this year, you win a year of free entries into all Constructed premier events run by TOs participating in the program. Premier events include PTQs, Regionals, and Grand Prix level events. This is a nice prize (and honestly a big payout, if you’re the kind of person who attends multiple PTQs in each season).
2) The DCI is shifting to a single rating that covers all types of event. This is necessary given the hybrid nature of the upcoming PTs. This also means that my currently dismal Limited rating will be subsumed within my Constructed rating, I think, so yay and all that. I’m not very concerned about my rating, but the “never playing in Limited events” aspect of my hobby meant that my Limited rating is especially poor.
That’s one nice bit of news, and one awesome bit of news.
As a reminder, you can check out what your States will be like here.

Gatherer update — Standard, Extended, Alara

Gatherer, the official Magic database, has just been updated. The updates bring the “Standard” and “Extended” menu options in line with the cards and sets that are legal in each format (and, indeed, the Top is not in the Extended search). There is now also a Shards of Alara Block option. They’ve also rearranged Gatherer — before, it was all the block options in one place, with the individual sets below. Now, the sets in each block are grouped with their block option.
Click here for Gatherer
Click here for Standard on Gatherer
Click here for Extended on Gatherer
Fun facts from these two searches:
There are 1,486 cards currently legal in Standard
There are 5,036 cards currently legal in Extended

A Planeswalker’s Guide to Alara

In his most recent Savor the Flavor column, Doug Beyer thanks a reader for their appreciation of A Planeswalker’s Guide to Alara, and urges us to buy a copy to support production of more books like this in the future.
My response to this was a big old “What?” followed by “Hey, awesome.” Here’s the cover:
This is basically an “art of” book for Alara, akin to “art of” books for movies. Here’s the product blerb:
You are a planeswalker, one of the most powerful mages in the multiverse. Countless planes of existence are yours to master. Now you have arrived on the fractured plane of Alara. Where do you begin?You begin with this lavishly illustrated guide that brings the Shards of Alara to life and gives MAGIC: THE GATHERING fans a look behind the scenes with concept art and insider information available nowhere else.The Planeswalker Guides will feature full-color illustrations drawn from early concept art and final card art to bring the worlds of MAGIC: THE GATHERING to life.
That’s from the Amazon product page
Wizards did an art of book for one of the Magic cycles years ago (my friend has a copy, but I’m currently blanking on the set in question), and after seeing the occasional excerpts from their style guides from time to time, I’ve really been wanting them to bring out new ones to go with each new set. This new book sounds like pretty much what I was looking for, and I’m glad to hear about it, although I’m a little surprised it wasn’t better publicized. I’m putting in my Amazon order now, and I’ll post a review as soon as I receive it and have a chance to look through it.
Good stuff.

Recommended seller: DJ Magic Cards

Last month, I talked about how I buy cards when I discussed my projected purchases from Shards of Alara. In that post, I mention that I buy through ebay, but I realized since then that I should have amended that to say that I buy largely from ebay, with the exception of some additional purchasing through sellers I know from ebay.
Over the course of the last year or so, ebay has become a bit more difficult for collectible game sellers, as the minimum price for store items has gone up, making it hard to effectively clear out back stock of low-cost singles. Combined with the ever-present listing fees, it can end up being more economically sound to have your own store. As it happens, sometimes one of the sellers I use on ebay goes ahead and splits off their own store, although they usually keep their ebay account as well.
Today, I’m giving a heads up about DJ Magic Cards. Since I got back into the game, they’ve been one of my purchasing stops. They’re easy to use and reliable, and always ship promptly. As is always the case with sellers, their prices may end up being higher than you can get in an auction — but often they’re just plain old cheaper, and also as always, you’re saved the trouble of dealing with auctions if that’s a problem for you or you just don’t like having to do last-second bids. They offer discount coupons for each new release, and their shipping is cheap.
If you’re buying Magic singles, I recommend looking to DJ Magic Cards as a solid, reliable source with good pricing and cheap shipping.

Pro Tour Kyoto 2009 PTQ schedule is up

The full schedule of PTQs leading into Pro Tour Kyoto 2009 is finally up. Click here to get to the PTQ information page, where you can find format information, as well as dates and locations for PTQs.
The format is Shards of Alara sealed, with a cut to a booster draft top eight.
For California players, here’s our PTQ schedule:
October 11 – Sacramento
October 25 – San Jose
November 15 – San Diego
December 6 – Sacramento
December 20 – San Jose
December 27 – Los Angeles
With one Los Angeles PTQ date TBA.

Happy rotation day!

Shards of Alara is tournament legal today, and both the non-eternal formats have undergone major rotations.
We lose Coldsnap, Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, and Future Sight.
Standard is now Tenth Edition, Lorwyn, Morningtide, Shadowmoor, Eventide, and Shards of Alara.
No cards are banned in Standard.
We lose Seventh EditioN (goodbye, Counterspell), Invasion, Planeshift, Apocalypse, Odyssey, Torment, and Judgment.
Extended is now Eight Edition, Ninth Edition, Tenth Edition, Onslaught, Legions, Scourge, Mirrodin, Darksteel, Fifth Dawn, Champions of Kamigawa, Betrayers of Kamigawa, Saviors of Kamigawa, Ravnica: City of Guilds, Guildpact, Dissension, Coldsnap, Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, Future Sight, Lorwyn, Morningtide, Shadowmoor, Eventide, and Shards of Alara.
Four cards are banned in Extended: Aether Vial, Disciple of the Vault, Sensei’s Divining Top, and Skullclamp
As always, you can check on formats and bannings here.

Help a pudding out

While you’re kitting out your Shards of Alara purchases, you may want to stop by ebay seller deathtopudding. I do not know this person, but as of this post they have a feedback of 100% and a feedback rating of 99, and as they say in their listings:
“Recently, a mix up in the an order for Shards of Alara product has left my store with more product than it can afford (Long story involving a duplicate order form). As a result, I will be listing tons of Shards of Alara cards at firesale prices. However, I’m going to have to require payment within 48 hours. This is because I need the money to pay off the massive credit card debt this error left me with, and I want to avoid the ridiculous interest rates on late payments.”
The prices really are low for a decent subset of Alara cards, so it’s worth taking a look. You can pick up some of the Ultimatums, Vein Drinkers, Realm Razers, and other fun cards, all for genuinely cheap prices. Help a pudding, help yourself.