The top four finishers at French Nationals had their flights paid for. We decided to go to Japan together and booked flights that allowed us to meet up in Amsterdam en route to Narita on the fourth of December with us ultimately arriving in Japan on the fifth.
In my opinion it is really important to land at least three days before a tournament when you travel east to avoid jet lag problems (one of the many little tricks you learn after a while on the Pro Tour).
My flight to Amsterdam was quite early in the morning as was Wafo's. Neither of us lives in big cities and our starting airports don't have connecting flights all that frequently – this time that meant that we had to leave for our flights long before most people were awake. That extra time that proved to be quite useful since two hours after our arrival in Schiphol a big snowstorm cashed in preventing all the planes from landing. It wasn't much of a problem for us as we were already there and planes could still take off…. But it was another story entirely for Antoine Ruel and Julien Parez who were supposed to meet us in Amsterdam. Their flight from Paris got detoured to Brussels and they stayed there for about five hours blocked in the plane before having to go out and take a bus to Amsterdam to have a flight there on the next day.
When Julien called me he sounded really panicked. I felt glad that Antoine was with him. That was the first time he'd been out of Europe and if he hadn't had a seasoned veteran with him I think that we might not have seen him at Worlds.
That was only the first of a long string of bad beats for Antoine on that trip. Someone put a voodoo doll on him I'm pretty sure of that — a really efficient one. By the way if the person who put the voodoo doll on Antoine reads this I might need something like that for a certain person in early February; please contact me on the forums.
So both Wafo and I took our plane after a five-hour delay. Due to missed connections the flight was only 30% full. Thus I had a full row of seats just for me. When I say “full row” I mean all three seats near the window all four in the middle of the plane and the three seats near the window on the other side just for me. Well worth the five-hour delay...
For the first three days in Japan we planned to stay in the New Koyo a cheap hotel in eastern Tokyo. That's about 25€ per night for a private room. If you ever want to travel to Japan with a limited budget nothing is better than that — check their website at http://www.newkoyo.com/.
Thanks to the delay the Sunday was pretty much done by the time we got there. So we just reunited with Yann Massicard who got there from London with a tad more delay than us and we then headed to a nearby ramen shop. Ramen is my favorite Japanese food and I still don't understand why you can't find that many of those in western countries. Seriously it's way cheaper and better than sushi.
After that I took a sleeping pill and I was off to bed. Sleeping pills are really important for me when traveling and something I really advise you to take with you for every single Pro Tour. Maybe you won't need it but failing to find sleep the day before a Pro Tour is just the worst thing that can happen to you. Better safe than sorry.
Since Wafo and I thought we were quite ready with both of our decks and since Yann Massicard didn't care much about testing we headed out for a tour of Tokyo on the next morning. Before we went out we found out via email that Antoine and Julien should arrive later in the afternoon. We headed to Shinjuku then Ikebukuro.
We were up quite early and thus we got to the subway around rush hour. Not that much of a problem as Tokyo subway is way better at handling this than any other in the world. The funny thing about that is that during rush hour in Tokyo the first three cars on each subway are only for women. We didn't know that and got kicked out efficiently.
We did some shopping and stayed for an hour or so in an arcade near Shinjuku. I felt really cheated when I learned that Street Fighter IV arcade edition would come out on the seventeenth of December. Damn my return flight was scheduled on the sixteenth... Not that I'm a great Street Fighter player but I enjoy playing in tournaments and I like to watch videos of Pro Japanese players. Missing that was a heartbreak.
During our tour we stopped for a while at Saito's shop. Saito was nowhere to be seen but we discovered that Yoshihiko Ikawa is a seller there as a part-time job. Maybe you don't know the name which is understandable; his only breakout performance was a top 8 in San Diego this year. But Wafo and I have a habit of playing him and Hajime Nakamura in team drafts after each Pro Tour usually with Florent Lucas as our third. These are probably some of the funniest moments I've had on the Tour this year. Both teams don't take it too seriously we don't play for a lot — but we have a lot of fun playing against them. And isn't that all what Magic is about?
During our team draft in Amsterdam we got to the decisive ninth match. The match was so close and so interesting and we were putting on such a show that by the end of it we had around thirty spectators... Fun times. (for the record we lost that one.)
While in Saito's shop Wafo looked through all the foils and bought some Japanese Vivid lands Esper Charm and Celestial Purge. Hint hint — guess what I'm playing in Extended! Is there someone more obvious in the world? At least he had the decency to buy some cheap foil Dark Tutelages to be a little bit misleading about our Standard deck.
I have one or two things to say about Saito's ban by the way — so I'll put that here. I remember a talk I had with Wafo two or three months ago about who was currently the most talented Magic player. (Yes we not only play Magic a lot but we also talk about it a lot...) We decided that Tomoharu Saito was the most talented and it wasn't even close. I thought that his shady behavior was part of his character — perhaps even one of his strengths. And I thought that he was really too intelligent to be caught. So we all were surprised when he got banned in Florence. He probably deserves it.
But I'm only asking one thing of Wizards here: tell us more about it. He was (and still is) one of the best players of all time. He was a future Hall of Fame inductee he got banned and we only had one line in a BDM article to inform us on that. I don't like it; I think that we the players deserve to know more than this.
At noon we took a curry break. Yes curry is a Japanese culinary specialty. There are three type of curries in the world: the Indian one the London one and the Japanese one that I fancy the most.
Not much more to say on that day. We headed back to the hostel quite late. We finally met up with Antoine and Julien who had just arrived. Obviously they arrived without their luggage thanks to the voodoo doll.
On the following day we did a little more sightseeing and shopping this time in Akihabara and Asakusa. Antoine stayed at the hostel to write an article and since every single French player was scheduled to arrive in the afternoon we returned quite early.
So we gradually reunited with everyone while monopolizing the lobby for some testing and discussion. Wafo mostly played Valakut and he properly demolished U/W played by Antoine and then Florent Lucas. As Antoine protested: “But people on Magic Online don't play Valakut like that! I tend to win there.” Welcome to the Pro Tour old timer.
Seeing Wafo play Valakut is quite funny; you always have the feeling that he is holding some countermagic back...
That was enough to convince Lucas to come with us on our U/B deck but Antoine persisted with his U/W build. As for the other Frenchies Julien Parez the national champ was on White Weenie Quest. I usually don't like that type of decks and I would have preferred my teammate on my National Team to have a more solid deck…. But he was dead set on it so I let it pass.
Raphael Levy went with his usual method — that is to say asking people what they thought about their deck. As he says: “I don't need to play that much Magic you know. Maybe you need to test for long periods of time but I don't need to play more than ten games to learn everything possible on a format. So. What do you think about your deck is it good?”
That always feels kinda insulting to me. I just think that hard work is the only way to perform well and seeing Raph doing this well…. I don't like it. Not that I dislike Raph or anything — but to me not working before a tournament only results in losses and nothing else. So when he asks that I always respond: “you know my deck is quite bad I don't have a good feeling about it.” Always.
Pierre Canali had his Eldrazi Monument deck already built and it was already quite good so there's not much to say there. It's such a pleasure to see Pedro back on the Pro Tour. He's one of the nicest people I've ever met and while he was occupied with poker I didn't meet any other smokers on the Tour. It's so nice to have a smoking buddy when you're in a tournament.
On the next day Wednesday the eighth we finally moved to Chiba. Since our new hostel there was only registering rooms at 5 p.m. we tested in the lobby. Not much occurred there since Wafo and I were pretty much set on our decks; the only thing we didn't have were the maindecked Inquisition of Kozileks.
The Inquisitions got added at the last moment after a little chat with Gabriel Nassif on-site. We had Duress and Spell Pierce then. But that's the main reason to go to the tournament site the day before. Sure pre-registering is fine but talking with other players can be of great benefit. I don't mind showing my deck then. Sometimes you get something out of the discussion sometimes only the other guy gets a tech boost…. But overall you just gain way more by doing this than not. So thanks Gab for the Inquisitions— they were quite useful.
Pierre Canali was pretty sick at the time. He had a fever and trembling and everything. He didn't go on-site to register and gave me his passport for me to try to register him later. I couldn't do that — but at least I warned Scott Larabee about it and Pierre had a little more time to arrive on Thursday morning.
And so we got to the site. Some of the rumors floating there were that:
- Vampires was going to be played a lot as Demon of Death's Gates were sold out everywhere
- Valakut was going to be as heavily played as Jund was in Rome last year
- Nobody seemed happy with their Standard deck and there was no secret tech in sight
Those floating rumors were probably the reason for me I played a maindeck that was a little bit more dedicated to the Vampires matchup than Wafo.
Day One: Standard and Two Rounds of Team
I left the hotel quite early in the morning. I stress out quite a lot just before any big tournament. The two hours before slinging the first spells are such a horror for me. After that it's fine — I can't do much more than what I've done. But during those dreaded hours I wonder about everything I've tested so far.
So I left the hotel with the first group — which is to say Pierre Canali who still had to register and Julien Parez who had the flag ceremony to attend. Obviously we took the wrong train and headed the wrong direction for thirty minutes which did not help my stress level at all .
The Hall of Fame ceremony was pretty great this year. I liked watching the resumes of all three inductees and gladly applauded each of them. But I expect a much better ceremony next year when Wafo gets voted in...
And then it all started.
Just in case you've forgotten what I was playing….
Round 1: Massicard Yann [FRA] – White Weenie Quest
Playing against someone you know well is not the best way to start a tournament. At least I knew what he was playing.
After the game he told me that this year he was a good omen for the person he played in first round. In his first three Pro Tours this year he's played against one of the finalists in round 1. Now he's four for four...
Round 2: Sirilertvorakul™ Veer [THA] – Valakut
I don't remember anything that happened in that round except that at the end the judge who took the result slip tried to pronounce our names failed then said: “Are you guys okay with this result?”
Oh and I lost.
Round 3: Chick Hoi [HKG] – B/R Vampires
Don't remember much from that one too I won 2-0 that's it.
Round 4: Cox Patrick [USA] – B/R Vampires
Nope — still don't remember anything. Did I tell you that I have quite a bad memory for Magic games? Well if I haven't I have now. I won 2-1.
Round 5: Rietzl Paul [USA] – Boros (feature match)
I knew that he was playing Boros before the game thanks to Lucas Florent who played against him earlier. I won the roll and kept while he mulliganed.
I played the Inquisition and saw two Lightning Bolts Arid Mesa Adventuring Gear Stoneforge Mystic and an Emeria Angel. I made him discard the Mystic… And from there I furiously tried to find something in my deck for five turns before I simply died to the Angel that he played on turn 4. I didn't.
I know that I must have misplayed somewhere in that game — losing that isn't possible otherwise. But I don't remember the game well enough to pinpoint the misplays.
That one loss was hard.
On game 2 I mulliganed to six kept a one-lander with a Preordain and never saw the second land. That's Magic for you.
After the game I chatted a little bit with Paul. I played him earlier this year in San Juan and I felt that he was really suspicious during the games. I've wondered why ever since then. But after the game he told me that it was his usual behavior when he was playing someone he didn't know. He was way friendlier during that round. Guess I earned some respect...
Round 6: Sakai Yoshitoki [JPN] – Valakut
I threw this round hard. Was it my exhaustion from a little bit of sickness thanks to Pierre Canali? I don't know. But I played so poorly that I don't have any excuses.
From there I basically have three options:
- Bluff the Mana Leak and say "go"
- Try to deprive him of his green and play the Spreading Seas on the Raging Ravine
- Play Preordain to dig for a Duress effect
The best course of play there is probably to bluff the Leak. Or if I'm really desperate Preordain is fine. But playing the Seas is just bad; that's just being lured by the possibility of an easy win.
I made him discard the Explore. That's the wrong choice there. I don't know why I did that.
At that point I was really near tilt.
For the team we decided to play the Standard deck with the best record among French players… Which is to say Wafo's Deck. Antoine got it and joked for a while with Wafo: “I don't know if my friendship toward you is worth more than the price of your deck. I could leave with it and win more money selling it than having a top 64 finish...”
Julien played my version of Faeries in Extended.
Team Round 1: France vs. England
I played against a Scottish guy with ANT… Which was probably the worst possible matchup for G/W Survival. I got killed in turn 1 game one while being on the draw. In game two my opening of Mother of Runes into Gaddock Teeg felt to his double Chain of Vapors.
I was in the middle so I had enough time to watch both players' games and be of use if needed.
Antoine was still in his game one against U/W. It was an interesting game with an opposing Gideon Jura that had nineteen loyalty counters at one point. Julien had lost the first one to a G/W Hideway deck and I didn't watch much of his first game.
And in Julien's game two he countered a Nest Invader on turn 2 and got Trapped into Emrakul without asking if the Leak was the right play or not. He had Spellstutter Sprite Vendilion Clique and Mistbind Clique in hand. There was no way he could lose.
I stormed out of the room took Wafo with me on the way and headed for a much-needed smoke. The conversation we had there went like this:
- Me: “Prevent me from doing a stupid thing please.”
- Wafo: “Stupid like what?”
- Me: “Like leaving right now.”
- Wafo: “There's still another team round scheduled you know?”
- Me: “They can manage without me. Anyway Julien doesn't care about asking anything.”
- Wafo: “He didn't know it was such a big mistake.”
- Me: “F*** that! We had a mailing list with every single deck added. That one was well developed — and I bet he didn't even bother to read it.”
- Wafo: “This is his first Pro Tour. Didn't you play poorly on your first too?”
- Me: “Well yes and not only the first one. But his mistake looks so much like the one I made in round 6.”
- Wafo: “That was your mistake not his. Don't blame him for that one.” (pause) “So. Can we go back in now? Are you finished?”
- Me: “Thanks.”
Always nice to have a voice of reason when it's needed...
Antoine did something neat to end that round too. He won his first game with fifteen minutes left on the clock. We'd had lost the round so there was no point in playing anymore. But Dan Gardner his opponent was like “I still want to play — I want to prove that U/W is better than U/B.”
To which Antoine replied “You know that your team has already won. There's only one possible way for England to lose that round — which is for you to get DQed during the second game. Maybe there's a chance in one million that it'll happen — but do you really want to take the risk?”
And voil! Fifteen minutes won...
0-1 in teams
Team Round 2: France vs. Portugal
I would really like to know Antoine's opponent's name from that round. He was a pretty muscular guy who joked all the time. He got a Game Loss for an error in his list on game one then took a mulligan to four on game two… And the guy was still joking happy to be there and play Magic for fun.
I owe two people for putting me back on track at the end of Day 1 Wafo and him. So if I ever meet you again in a Magic tournament or elsewhere I'll gladly buy you a drink or two — you deserve it for being yourself sir.
A friendly and funny round was just what I needed at that time. All three of us won — though Antoine lost game two against that mulligan to four...
1-1 in teams
The day finished in a restaurant nearby with all of us talking about everything but Magic. Antoine Mnard was there with his wife. He wasn't in Japan just to play but also for his honeymoon… Well actually they took care of that during ten days before the tournament in Kyoto.
But anyway that's really what a Magic player is — you need a great wife to accept a World Championships as a part of their honeymoon. And Antoine now has a wife like that! Congrats.
Day Two: Draft
When I left the hostel that day I only had one thing in mind: playing Magic and having fun doing that. And that's the best mental state to be in for gaming...
Olivier Ruel developed a nice habit during the tournament. Every day he bought three Gashapons toys for Antoine himself and me (check the Wikipedia page for Gashopons if you want to know what they are). Always One Piece-themed Gashapons obviously. The three of us are big manga fans — we're reading it on a weekly basis eagerly waiting for the next chapter to come. At Magic tournaments most of the conversations we have together are about One Piece not Magic.
Every single morning Olivier distributed the capsules at random… And that very morning I pulled Luffy the hero. Good omen...
Antoine pulled Goofy — yes the Disney character. There was an error in the machine I guess…. but that pull pretty much summarized his tournament. A voodoo doll on him I tell you.
And thanks to Oli for just being himself wacky and friendly all the time.
That one was basically an exercise in getting out of Infect. I first-picked a Grasp of Darkness over Plague Stinger pack one then took a Cystbearer over Turn to Slag and some white cards pack 2…. But I never consider white except for Sunblast Angel anyway.
Pick 3 I had the choice between Contagious Nim and Galvanic Blast. There are two signs worthy of note in that pack: red is as open as it can get and poison is probably not open at all. I took the Blast and never looked back easily putting together a nice R/B deck.
My draft 1 for reference:
Round 7: Jamir™ Joselito Alber [PHL]
I won somehow.
Round 8: Bono Joe [USA]
Still won. Still no clue about what happened there.
Round 9: Nettles Logan [USA]
Same as last round.
Yeah yeah I know — quite a lackluster report. But be honest with yourself when you read a report do you really like the play-by-play action on every single round? I don't...
Anyway that felt pretty good to get the 3-0 with that deck. Not that it was bad but on paper it does look like a 2-1 deck not a winning one.
At that time the two French players who were leading the pack Guillaume Wafo-Tapa and Pierre Canali managed to 1-2 their first draft. Pedro didn't draft enough and felt it would happen — but for Wafo that felt quite strange. That time it was my turn to put some confidence back into him before the final draft. Well I did it in my own way: “Wafo I'm going to catch up with you you know. Are you so bad at drafting that I can accomplish that feat today?”
That's my way of motivating him. And it worked...
This draft was quite an awful experience. The packs were empty I got hooked on Infect early and never found a way out even after it dried up. I made some strange picks to save my draft — for example the Platinum Emperion in pack 3 that I took over an Instill Infection. I felt like I would need that one to steal some games.
My draft 2 for reference:
1 Alpha Tyrranax
1 Bellowing Tanglewurm
1 Blackcleave Goblin
1 Corpse Cur
1 Fume Spitter
2 Moriok Replica
1 Platinum Emperion
1 Plague Stinger
1 Wall of Tanglecord
This was definitely not a draft deck that looked like it could go 3-0.
One of the nice things about being French is that you get to hear some funny things between drafts. This time Antoine Ruel came out after registering his deck and asked everybody outside: “I've got three Myr Galvanizers and four mana Myr including a black one; should I splash Exsanguinate as my fourth color?”
Americans don't do that...
Round 10: Thaler Sebastian [DEU] (feature match)
This match was covered in French here — and with that kind of a write-up I can easily remember the games.
I got destroyed in game one in five minutes or so. He had pretty much the same deck as my first one: An R/B brew with some spicy Furnace Celebration action to top it all off.
I mulliganed to six in game 2 then opened on Plague Stinger then Cystbearer. But on turn 4 he made a pretty big mistake which probably cost him the round. I attacked with both of my infect guys and he blocked my Cystbearer with his Moriok Reaver. I played Instill Infection on his guy and then he forgot to sacrifice it to his Dross Hopper basically giving me a free card. I'll take it...
Anyway he dealt with my infect troops over his next two turns staying at six poison. No problem.
Time for Plan B: Dinosaurs!
I just played an Alpha Tyrranax and an Ezuri's Archer on the following turn and that dynamic duo was enough to do him in. I like Dinosaurs.
In the third game I played Ezuri's Archer on turn 1 followed by a Necropede and then Ezuri Renegade Leader himself made an appearance. Against aggro decks boarding random creatures is a fine plan. And drawing both of my elves did help a little…
The Necropede worked well and held the ground all by himself. On the fifth turn I played a Bellowing Tanglewurm then started to attack with my Elves. Well since he had a Tumble Magnet that wasn't so efficient. Ezuri quickly became quite a threat and Sebastian was forced to use two Fume Spitters to deal with it. At that point I reverted to plan A playing a Trigon of Infection and an Heavy Arbalest. He just conceded the turn before I could attain the double crown — killing on the same attack step with both poison and damage.
Denying a double crown! That's not fair. But in the inside I knew I had it...
In front of the pairing board for round 11 I asked for a pairing with David Ochoa — the other guy I knew in the pod. He replied looking persecuted: “Why me? I'm a good guy.” Well “whispered” more than “replied.”
I just like to be evil I guess... And playing against great players is one of my favorite things about Pro Tours.
Round 11: Marr Mat [USA]
I have no notes from this round. And guess what? I don't remember anything.
After that I checked with David Ochoa to find out whether he had won or not. He told me he had lost and asked if I wanted to know my next opponent's deck. I thought about it for five seconds or so but I hate it when people ask others about what I'm playing. So I replied: “No thanks sir — let's have the surprise.”
Round 12: Soewanda Benny [IDN]
This was quite a funny round against a funny opponent. Our third game took thirty-five minutes because he had an impossible board…. But I had a Platinum Emperion that locked his position. So it came down to a war for him to find his lone out — an Oxidda Scrapmelter — while I scrambled to find my Heavy Arbalest.
I finished the game by equipping two Infiltration Lenses on my two-power infect guys just to draw faster. (He had an Abuna Acolyte to preventing me from doing so with my one-power ones.) And I had a Trigon of Infestation to clog the board a bit more. I finally found the machine gun with six cards remaining in my library. I also managed to not play poorly and not let it get destroyed by Turn to Slag by having my guy shoot himself in response.
That was quite an exhausting day and for the first time in the tournament I took a taxi to get back to the hostel — the train was just too awful at that time. The others preferred the train and I was alone with Pierre Canali in the Taxi plan. Well we found out that the taxi only charged about 20€ for the trip. I didn't take the train much after discovering that.
Day Three: Two Rounds of Team then Extended
That was going to be a long day… And it wouldn't help that my opponents would probably have two hours of sleep instead of the team round. Anyway I just took the following two rounds of team as a much needed warm-up and didn't focus too much on it. The individual rounds were just so important that my concern for the team faded a little.
The Gashapon omen of the day was: Sengoku the Buddha. Not bad.
Team round 3: France vs. Sweden
I got destroyed in five minutes or so by a Two-land Belcher. We lost with Julien punting a little bit. I didn't care anymore.
1-2 in teams
Team round 4: France vs. Philippines
I finally met a U/G Survival deck. I won easily. We won 3-0.
2-2 in teams
And now the real business. With 27 points I would probably need at least four wins out of the first five rounds to get in the top 8 — not easy as pie but doable.
In case you've forgotten my deck:
Round 13: Chan Sze Hang [HKG] – Elves combo
I kept a hand of three Lands Volcanic Fallout Lightning Bolt Mana Leak and Cryptic Command on the play. When he played a Nettle Sentinel on his first turn I mentally pumped my fist. Volcanic Fallout wasn't nice to him. The second one added insult to injury.
Round 14: Martinez™ Alexis [ESP] – Affinity Steel Artifact or Tempered Steel — whatever you want to call it
He didn't have the Ranger of Eos tech and got destroyed by my many board sweepers.
Round 15: Egan Isaac [AUS] – Pyromancer Ascension
I lost the first game.
In the second game on his fourth turn he had three Islands and one Mountain. He tried to play a Cryptic Command toggling his lands a bit in the process…. And in doing so he discovered that he had another Mountain that was stuck underneath an Island. We obviously called a judge who judged that as a game loss. An appeal ensued and Ricardo the head judge gave the same sanction.
I'm dead sure that it wasn't on purpose and think I was favored in that game but well that sucked for Isaac.
The whole process took about twenty minutes so we had plenty of extra time to finish our match.
I managed to not lose my concentration too much during the whole process — I guess watching Wafo's game at the next table helped a bit.
In the third game I dealt with three Pyromancer Ascension successfully then managed to land a Jace the Mind Sculptor. Thus I had three Lightning Bolts a Mana Leak and a Cryptic Command when he attempted to go for the Pestermite combo. That was more than enough for me to seal the game.
We're getting there.
Round 16: Jaklovsky Lukas [CZE] – Jund
I knew that he was playing Anathemancer in the main deck since he'd defeated Wafo with it two rounds ago. Thus I knew to be extra careful with my land drops.
He probably made two or three small mistakes in the first game. He attacked into my Creeping Tar Pit which he forgot about. Then he attacked when waiting would have been a better move. I won that game at one life.
I guess that's the pressure of almost getting there. I don't feel it too much anymore — but that was the first time for Lukas. He seemed to be a nice guy so I was happy to see him top 8.
Game 2 and 3 were quite academic and a complete blowout in one way or the other. But I had the first one under my belt.
Round 17: da Rosa Paulo Vitor [BRA] – 4cc
We drew. The top 8 is locked for sure. But I didn't rejoice too much; I just waited for Wafo to win his round to join me.
While Wafo played his decisive second game in that round I felt just too stressed to watch it. I wandered aimlessly in the hall coming to see the game state from time to time.
And he won.
That felt so great...
In Amsterdam I was way happier than he was when he climbed into the top 8. This time it was just ten times better. We both got in! I can't really describe the feeling with words.
Round 18: Wafo-tapa Guillaume [FRA]– 5cc
We did some math here. We didn't want to be in the same bracket but a draw was the safest option. So we drew.
After that everything is a bit blurry for me.
I just remember that I got to talk a little bit with Scott Larabee before the brackets were announced. With the top 8 I had level 8 locked for 2011 while Wafo needed to make the finals to have the same. So I asked Scott if I was allowed to concede to him if I met him in quarters or semis.
He had just one response then: “Hopefully you guys won't be in the same bracket.”
When they announced the top 8 I realized that Wafo was third and that I was fourth. Avoidance maneuver: successful.
I was set to play against Eric Froehlich with his B/R Vampires in the quarterfinals. At that time I felt quite confident in the match-up. And playing first thanks to the new rules seemed really important in game one.
We got back to the hostel quite early had a simple ramen meal discussed our respective matchups for an hour or so. Then I got to bed. It was about 10 p.m.
I didn't want to play a single game of my quarter matchup before the Sunday; I had some confidence in me and didn't want to see it shattered. And sleeping is good — almost better than late-night testing...
During that evening Wafo refused every single split I offered him. “My bracket is way easier than yours! I have more chances to win the whole thing. We'll talk about a split when I meet you in finals.” That motivated me quite a lot! I made top 8 and the bugger still looked down on me... Typical.
Day Four: Top 8
I woke up really early around 7 a.m. And got to the site alone on the train. I quite enjoy to be left alone on those occasions it helps me concentrate.
And I needed some music to pump me up. In San Juan I had the original soundtrack from the Rocky movies; that worked well. In San Diego for the World of Warcraft Worlds Championships I listened to a David Bowie playlist which wasn't bad either.
This time I was in Japan. I had the right to be a little otaku on the border there no? This was my theme song this time.
Nice anime by the way. If you fancy that kind of show there's not much better.
Quarterfinals: Eric Froehlich – B/R vampires
On the first game I got a pretty nutty opening: Inquisition of Kozilek to make him discard his lone one-drop a Vampire Lacerator. Then I had the Spreading Seas on turn 2 to prevent him from playing anything relevant. I had the Mana Leak on turn 3 and dropped a Jace the Mind Sculptor on turn 4 on an empty board. Winning from there was pretty much academic.
For game two I'm still not sure about what I should have removed from his hand with Inquisition of Kozilek on turn 3. I probably misplayed there. I was already quite behind on board and I should have removed his Feast of Blood — which is his only good way to get rid of my Grave Titan. I had the Disfigure and I would have taken a bit more damage before being able to lay the Titan but at least that one would have been unanswered. He would still have won that one I guess; he drew the second Highborn shortly after. But a mistake is a mistake and nothing excuses that.
In game three Eric kept a hand without early action and yet I managed to get a Jace on his board of only Dark Tutelage. Having him there allowed me to play my Grave Titan on turn 6 on an empty board of his. No worry; Feast of Blood can't happen there. And double Lightning Bolt is really unlikely since my Jace lived that long. The Titan won as usual.
In game four Eric kept a one-lander. He played Pulse Tracker on turn 1 and another one on turn 2 without hitting his second land drop. At this time I had everything I could ever need in hand: Spreading Seas Disfigure and a Ratchet Bomb. I don't think that playing Duress instead of the second Tracker could have mattered. He didn't draw his second land and that was it.
All in all Eric was quite friendly during the games a great opponent... Better luck next time sir.
Then I wandered around a little bit in the halls where I met Kazuya Mitamura. He had a surprise for me. Earlier this year I think it was in Bochum I talked a bit with him about Street Fighter IV and how I played a bit and liked to watch the videos of Pro Japanese players. There he just told me “Hey one of my best friends is quite good at this! Maybe you've heard of him — his nickname is Acqua.”
“Yup. I've heard of him — he's just in the top ten players in the world . Small feat...”
Well turns out that the guy plays Magic too. Yes that's a small world for you. And he was there playing some legacy side-event. I talked a little bit with Acqua and he told me: “Kazuya told me that you enjoy playing SF4 — I came here by car I live twenty minutes away and this afternoon I have a little play session at home with Momochi and Choco. Want to come?”
I'll translate that into Magic terms just for you: that's about equal to Jon Finkel and Bob Maher proposing a little team draft with you as the third against the Phoenix Foundation. And I missed that...
Admittedly the top 8 of Worlds is a little bit more important than having fun. But still that's the real and only disappointment of the day.
I used the phone provided by Wizards to call back home. And my mom said: “You're playing against PV. That's it. You don't have a chance he's better than you. I'm going back to sleep. Call me if you ever win that one. But that's unlikely.”
In the meantime Wafo won and we got outside to discuss our next pairing and in/outs.
Wafo had at that time the best quote to make me confident in my semifinals matchup: “That match-up is so easy to play even if PV is way better than you you still have a good chance.”
Thanks Wafo for being sincere — but sometimes a little tact makes things better.
Semifinal: Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa – Mirror Match
All the games are on video this time. Click here for the match coverage .
In game one he just drew way more chaff than I did. Nothing more nothing less.
I still don't know if I played my Jace correctly in that one. At the time I felt that I was so far ahead on board that I just needed to find one Grave Titan to close the game. I think it might have been better to alternate Brainstorm effects with fateseals or scry just to be sure.
Post-board my deck clearly became more powerful than his. The Memoricide provided me with another “kill” while he only had more counters.
On game two I had Duress in my opening turn and that one just gave every single bit of information I would need for the whole game in addition to making him discard a Jace Beleren. The game turned into an attrition war where we both hit each other's land while keeping Mana Leak open for opposing Jaces.
Then I drew more lands and he drew more Jaces. Lands are better than Jaces sometimes.
There were no more real choices in that game after that one. I just followed the flow.
The topdeck war at the end of that game was quite a funny thing. Guess I was the luckier one that day.
At the end of the game PV snatched one of my Grave Titans — what a sore loser! (I'm kidding natch.) That got me panicked at the start of the finals… but we'll come to that soon.
Wafo won shortly thereafter.
I felt ecstatic.
We won that's it end of the story.
Scott Larabee came to me quite panicked: “Are you guys going to play?”
To which I replied: “Sure! We're both level 8 now. Now it's a duel for bragging rights fame and glory — but it will be a friendly match.”
Wafo finally agreed on a split. You have to reach the Worlds finals to get some acknowledgment from him; he has quite high standards.
I still think that Wafo had more to lose than I did in that game. If he wins well he's quiet and I wouldn't feel the difference. But if I win that one I will be a pain for him over the next three years or so. And who cares about Player of the Year? A suite instead of a normal room is a nice bonus — but I'm not so big that I need a suite...
Bonus round: Final Guillaume Wafo-Tapa – Friend and Mirror
Doesn't feel like a final boss at all.
That's about how I felt at the beginning of the finals.
As usual the games are covered at Wizards . I don't have much to say about those games. I don't remember much and I don't want to watch them on video anytime soon. Maybe later.
I'm a lucksack and won Worlds on a topdeck against Wafo...
Still don't feel good about that.
Still feel that he deserved it more than me.
But well…. that's Magic.
Strangely I wasn't so happy to win — well not as happy as those guys.
I missed out on our usual team draft against Yoshihiko Ikawa and Hajime Nakamura. Sorry guys we'll do that in Paris. Oli replaced me and Wafo broke the top 8 curse and didn't go 0-3. They won that one too.
There's a really cool thing with that final: at the restaurant I wasn't alone for the bill. Wafo accompanied me in that too…. And that didn't restrain the other guys. I'm positively sure that they tried every single possible sushi in the menu.
The Player of the Year Playoff:
I've got mixed feelings on that one. But at least I really like Brad and I've really enjoyed his company on all our cigarette breaks through the whole year. I like him and respect him.
It sure won't be a grudge match.
We'll try to have some fun playing I guess. Playing for the fun of it is really the only thing that matters.
(You can skip this if you want but I can't.)
- Guillaume Wafo-Tapa: Friend and rival. I'm not at your level of skill. Yet. Maybe I won't ever be. But I'll try as hard as possible.
- Olivier Ruel: Sometimes a wacky friend is what you need. And Oli is always there for me.
- Antoine Ruel: One day your hard work will pay off. Soon enough I hope.
- Lucas Florent: Not bad for a first year on the train. You'll do better next year — you have the means.
- Pierre Canali: So glad to see you back with us at least for a little bit. You get to choose between Wafo and me for the free room in Paris.
- Antoine's Portuguese opponent: I don't have your name and I'm sorry about that. But your attitude toward Magic put me back on track. Many thanks for that.
And many others like:
Maurice Damien Blum Franois Dekenuydt Bastien B. Loddo Fred Seguin Erwan Maisonneuve Vincent Nogues Jeff Charlotte Willy Fievet Olivier Jean Gils Sylvain Lauriol Yoshihiko Ikawa Hajime Nakamura Kazuya Mitamura Patrick Chapin Brad Nelson Grgoire Soubrier Bastien Perez Rmi Lemeur Romuald Pulin Herv Gazard-Maurel Jrme Pagola Emile Vinsoneau Fred Brunet
You are all responsible for a tiny bit of that Worlds title. Thanks many thanks.