Head Judge Riccardo Tessitore of Italy says the famous words: "Players. Welcome to Round One. You have fifty-five minutes. You may begin." Awesome.
And we're under way in Pro Tour–Austin, and we have the first result before the round has even begun! Eduardo Sella conceded to Mandee Peralta, and promptly dropped from the tournament. I guess he wanted the two pro points just for starting.
The Player of the Year Race looks absolutely staggering, with six players in close proximity. Yuuya Watanabe leads on 50 points. Two points back is former Player of the Year Tomaharu Saito. A third Japanese player, Reigning POY Shuhei Nakamura, sits in 5th on 44 Points. Sandwiched between them are Frenchman Gabriel Nassif (48) and American Luis Scott-Vargas (45). Rounding out the top half dozen is Martin Juza of the Czech Republic. A phenomenal group, and any one of them taking the 25 points on offer here would make a huge jump towards the title.
A quick glimpse at some of the key matchups in Round 1:
North American clash: Dan Lanthier (CAN) vs. Owen Turtenwald (USA)
Honolulu Top 8 competitor Brian Kibler faces GP–Barcelona Champion Joel Calafell
All-Europe match sees long-time pro Bram Snepvangers take on Marcio Carvalho of Portugal
Same team, same deck, same match: Mark Herberholz vs. Dave Williams
Grand Prix regulars Reinhold Kohl (Germany) and Niels Noorlander (Netherlands)
Ari Lax, Top 8 from GP–Seattle, takes on Masayi Kitayama
Matteo Orsini-Jones (Top 8 at Honolulu) faces an under-prepared Nicolay Potovin of Russia
King of the Kithkin Cedric Phillips takes on POY contender Luis Scott-Vargas in the Arena
Former Team World Champion Manuel Bucher of Switzerland faces Quentin "Q" Martin
First three results are in. John Sittner, a perennial on/off-Tour American, defeats John Nida. No such luck for Brad Nelson—FFfreak on Magic Online—who was beaten by Hunter Burton, nor for Todd Anderson, recently married, who got no breaks from Venezuelan Jose Martinez.
Steve Sadin is chatting with Matej Zatlkaj, both looking happy. Sadin wins, Zatlkaj wins. Which explains the happiness. The longest name in Magic, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa of Brazil, also starts with a win. Ten results in total, out of a field of 416 players.
Kibler in Honolulu.
In front of me, Brian Kibler and Joel Calafell are sideboarding, Kibler is in a much more low-key outfit than his stellar Day One white suit from Honolulu. Speaking of which, Michal Hebky, finalist from Honolulu, opens his account with a win.
Rasmus Sibast felt he didn't know much about the format, many of his fellow Danes having pulled out of the roadtrip at the last minute. Round One does not go his way. Vintage expert Tommy Kolowith has a great opening win against the ultra-solid Shingou Kurihara.
So many great decks to see, but which ones will survive the hate? Most people know the cards that can beat decks like Dredge and Affinity, because they're so completely devoted to a particular strategy. But how many sideboard cards can be dedicated to beating just one deck? At Pro Tour–Valencia in 2007, Dredge was clearly The Best Deck, but it didn't win, because every man, woman, and dog had brought the heat. In a diverse metagame, that may not be true this time around, making a long-time Dredge merchant like Sebastian Thaler potentially well positioned.
To my left, scorekeeper Nick Fang has a stack of results piling up in his inbox. Messrs. Kolowith, Zatlkaj, and Sadin continue to watch Gerry Thompson's opening match.
With just over half the round gone, we're about to go into serious results mode. Meanwhile, a judge comes over to check the wording on Felidar Sovereign. That's the 4/6 Lifelink and Vigilant guy from Zendikar, who lets you win the game in your upkeep if you have 40 or more life. So why did he need to check the wording? The card in question was Japanese. And he wasn't.
In time-honored fashion, the judges start shooing away players who have already finished their matches from the main play area. Once you're done, it's time to leave.
A bunch of Japanese players have opened with wins, including POY Shuhei Nakamura, former POY Tomaharu Saito, former POY Shouta Yasooka, Pro Tour–Honolulu champion Kazuya Mitamura, 2006 World Champion Makihito Mihara, plus Koutarou Ootsuka and Tsuyoshi Ikeda. These people are seriously good.
Andrew Temple is in his first Pro Tour, and still looks for his first win, losing to Tomasz Dudziec in Round 1. Still in search of his first Pro Tour championship, Olivier Ruel of France loses the deciding game to Italy's Alessandro Deidda.
Old-school favorites Osyp Lebedowicz and Gabe Walls have differing fortunes in their openers. Osyp wins 2-0, Gabe not so much.
Hall of Famer Ben Rubin begins with a win, and it's noticeable that the vast majority of results so far are 2-0. You'd expect that to be true early in the round—how would they have found time for three games?—but it's starting to look like comeback victories aren't going to happen that often.
The first arena result is in, and Luis Scott-Vargas gets straight down to business with victory over Cedric Phillips. Both will be looking to be back in the arena multiple times this weekend, including three times on Sunday.
No Jacob Van Lunen in town, but his partner in crime Chris Lachmann has started with a win. One Ruel brother has a win—Antoine, over Andre Müller of Germany, the man who made the final of Pro Tour–Valencia in 2007.
The Head Judge calls ten minutes to go in the round, and there's a constant stream of judges bringing results to the scorekeeping desk.
Herberholz and Williams in the arena.
With teammates Mark Herberholz and David Williams facing each other in the arena, it hasn't been a great start for Patrick Chapin and Co., with Chapin losing his opener.
Warnings and other penalties get noted on the back of the results slip, and there are plenty in the early going. Notable mistakes seem to resolve around resolving things through a Chalice of the Void that should counter them, missing Goblin Guide triggers, and someone dredging in their upkeep when they had no legal card to dredge. Nice.
Hall of Famer Rob Dougherty pilots Zoo to a win. Team World Champion Michael Jacob defeats Englishman Mark Glenister, while Remi Fortier, Extended Champion from Valencia two years ago, also wins. No joy for Pro Tour–Hollywood Champion Charles Gindy though.
No sign yet of Guillaume Wafo-Tapa's result, but then he's playing old school Blue-White control, so that result should arrive shortly before Christmas. Leader in the Player of the Year Race Yuuya Watanabe defeats Jim Davis to start his campaign. Robert Jurkovic edges Gerry Thompson, while Canada defeats America in Lanthier vs. Turtenwald.
"Players. Round One is over. You have five additional turns." Right on cue. Obviously.
Raphael Levy, Martin Juza, and Antti Malin all win, as does Netherlands Champion Kevin Grove. Good news for the Chapin squad, as Gabriel Nassif notches their first win. Still waiting on Herberholz Vs. Williams from the Arena.
Wafo-Tapa result is in, and he wins 2-1. He got three games in? Really? This format must be fast!
Herberholz wins 2-0 over Williams in the arena. Also in the arena, Quentin Martin—thoroughly English but part of the Canadian National Team for Worlds next month—edges Manuel Bucher 2-1, after being chastised for accidentally tapping a fetch land for mana along the way! Wins for Conley Woods, who must fancy his chances as part of a tremendous U.S. testing team, and Bram Snepvangers, who really has seen it all before. He won the decider against Marcio Carvalho of Portugal.
With the pace slowing, there's a chance to look up briefly and survey the scene. As hundreds mill around, discussing the hard lucks and near misses of Round 1, about half a dozen pairings still sit locked in battle on this side of the L-shaped tournament area. Every table still going has a judge in attendance, ready to speed them towards a result, and the result towards the scorekeeper.
Niels Noorlander defeats Reinhold Kohl in the Euro GP clash. Sebastian Thaler went the distance, but Dredge got there for him, 2-1 over Dan Macdonald. Despite minimal testing, Nicolay Potovin edged Matteo Orsini-Jones. Grand Prix–Seattle winner Yann Massicard of France loses in what looks like extra turns.
Suddenly we're getting the matches that ended in draws. Naoki Sakaguchi and Richard Bland fought to a standstill, and a single point also goes to Christopher Lapp and Robert Beverley, former Belgian Champion Pascal Vieren, GP winner Tim Landale, and Chikara Nakajima of Japan.
Still time for a few outright results, and some big ones. Gerard Fabiano defeats Marlon Egolf 2-1, Kenny Öberg, "the Tezzerator" (who isn't playing Tezzerator) wins, and in front of me a still-smiling Joel Calafell narrowly loses in a good-natured encounter with Brian Kibler. Seems the suit doesn't matter. The penultimate result sees Jason Elarar beat Brett Piazza.
Come on, table 124! You're holding up the Pro Tour! Jan Ruess or Pedro Carvalho? The table judge yells the result—Ruess wins—and seconds later the pairings are getting printed for Round 2. One down, and fifteen to go. That's 208 matches, fought by 416 players, in the books. Ready for more Magic? Let's go!