The_Week_That_Was

Not to be left out of the preview action, BDM sneaks a peek at Ravnica.

Collect 'em All!

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In my Prerelease feature article going up Monday, I mildly groused about not getting to do a traditional preview card in my weekly column. My weekly column tends to lend itself more toward news, results, and occasionally a juicy rumor or two. It does not usually create a hospitable environment to talk about the new cards in an appropriate fashion.

Emphasis on ‘usually’…

Here is a quick look at a card you may very well find waiting for you when you crack open a tournament pack of Ravnica at the Prerelease. But brace yourself; it is probably not what you are expecting. Click here to see.

Savvy followers of the Pro Tour probably noticed the reappearance of photographer extraordinaire Craig Gibson around Pro Tour-Nagoya and then again at Pro Tour-Atlanta. Craig came to snap pics of the best and brightest Magic players for a top-secret project that was spearheaded by Aaron Forsythe and Wendy Wallace. To see more player images, click here.

Aaron’s goal was to create something similar to the baseball cards he collected as a kid. Players opening a Ravnica tournament pack will get one free player card from a set of 25 (in addition to all the cards you normally get in the pack). Aaron felt that there was a need for something like this as the coverage of Magic events has shifted from the bygone print era of Sideboard and Duelist to the online coverage here at magicthegathering.com.

“Without magazines,” explained Forsythe, “it is hard to expose people to the Pro Tour. You either click on the coverage or you don’t. With these cards we get to show off the Pro Tour to players who might not otherwise look that way. I remember when I was playing and went to a PTQ and was like, ‘Whoa, there is Dave Price.’”

Chris Pikula, Jon Finkel, Darwin Kastle, and all the other Invitational winners get asked to sign the Magic cards bearing their likenesses all the time. Aaron was hopeful that these player cards would open up a wider range of players to that experience. He also hoped that it would provide players on the PTQ level something to aspire to.

“These are great for our stars to show off to their friends and family who might not understand what they do. They are a great reward for our top players.”

In the case of Antonino De Rosa, the timing could not be better. The photography sessions went all weekend with a long checklist of players up for consideration. After all the photos were taken the players would be culled down to a manageable number based on a variety of factors including popularity, personality, and performance.

De Rosa has always been a popular player but has never posted results that matched his TOGIT teammates. It is actually pretty serendipitous that he was included in the set long before his back-to-back wins at U.S. Nationals and Grand Prix-Salt Lake City. De Rosa’s resume is starting to live up to his larger-than-life personality that is on display in the card art previewed here.

“People here who knew Antonino De Rosa well said that we should expect big things from him,” Aaron recalled. “The were right.”

I can already hear the groans of the more casual player audience but the player cards are (obviously) not part of the regular set of cards. Instead they are a little something extra for fans of the game’s best players to collect. They will make fun game accessories and I certainly expect to see them used as tokens before the Prerelease is over. Just like baseball cards, they include biographical information about the players as well as some statistical data such as money earned, Pro Tour Top 8s, and Grand Prix Top 8s.

“It is great that we have enough history and a backlog of events that allow us to put meaningful statistics on the card,” Forsythe said. “You look at the backs of some of these cards and you can’t believe how much the players have won or how long some of them have been around!”

It will be interesting to me to watch players trading these and trying to track down their favorite players within the first set and how players value them. I know I will be keeping my eyes peeled for a complete Bob Maher, Jr. set – one Dark Confidant and one player card!

Player of the Year Update

The next stop on the Pro Tour is going to be upon us in just a few more weeks. Pro Tour Los Angeles is the penultimate event in the 2005 season and it will go a long way to settling the Player of the Year Race, which is shaping up like this.

ColumbusNagoyaAtlantaPhiladelphiaLondonAvg. PlaceMedianBestWorstTop 64Events'05 Pro Points
1OlivierRuel4801044148688041482559
2GadielSzleifer51528018063.68011522556
3MasashiOiso6111150534.25651113456
4KenjiTsumura211774216072.82121773555
5ShuKomuro49191206448.64911204551
6ShuuheiNakamura2256095430252604549
7TsuyoshiFujita910010220246.62021023546
8GeoffreySiron87057207168.65712072544
9MasahikoMorita03715462430.52415464442
10PierreCanali1119105384461.44411193541

There are a couple of striking statistics that leap right off that chart. The first is the remarkable consistency of Masahiko Morita. He’s the only player in the Top 10 to X-0 the Pro Tours he attended in terms of money finishes (Yes, I know that almost everyone finished ‘in the money’ for Philadelphia. When I say in the money, I mean Top 64 for and individual event and Top 20 for a team event.). He is also the only player in the Top 10 to get there without a single Top 8 finish. His best finish was 15th but has not finished worse than 46th so far this season. Combine that remarkable consistency with his four Grand Prix Top 8s this season and Morita finds himself within one event of taking the lead – and that is without even showing up for Columbus at the start of the season.

Four GP Top 8s this season has put Morita in Player of the Year contention.
The class of Columbus dominates this Top 10 list with six of the players who advanced to Sunday all very much in the Player of the Year race. All six of them have to feel good about another crack at Extended – even with the rotation and bannings. Only Nick West and Ryuchi Arita have fallen back in the standings.

Japanese Magic shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Japanese players make up 60 percent of the Top 10 and those six players have finished “in the money” in 21 out of 28 Pro Tours they have attended.

Olivier Ruel continues to maintain his lead despite only two money finishes out of five Pro Tours attended. A large chunk of his points come from traveling around the world to Grand Prix tournaments – and the fact that he’s won two of them.

Pierre Canali has not been the flash in the pan that some people predicted after Columbus. Although he has not reached the Top 8 of another large event, he has finished in the money three times and posted solid results in some pretty damn big Grand Prix tournaments. He remains in the hunt for the Player of the Year title and – barring a Nuijten-type performance from some unknown player – seems to have all but locked up the Rookie of the Year race.

ColumbusNagoyaAtlantaPhiladelphiaLondonAvg. PlaceMedianBestWorstTop 64Events'05 Pro Points
1PierreCanali1119105384461.44411193541
2juliengoron19121051242957.829121243529
3DonSmith00225013.502252222
4NicholasWest32220141238201.3314132381322
5ErikGröndahl000148248.0014821216
6JeffNovekoff0006212109062121216
7MaximilianBracht00001212N/A12121115
8RyanCimera000505N/A551115
9CamilleFenet0032500126.5032501214
10JohnFiorillo002726918716127272691314

The most interesting thing to leap off this set of standings is the name Julien Goron. If his name seems familiar to you, it is because he is the current French National Champion. But unbeknownst to just about everyone outside of the Goron family, Julien was in the middle of a solid rookie season when he captured that honor. He is in second place with three very under-the-radar money finishes. With Los Angeles, Worlds, and the team portion of Worlds to work with, Julien can make a dark horse run at his countryman Canali.

The other thing that seems apparent – granted, it is a small sample – is that Don Smith needs to play in more events.

Firestarter: Got ‘em, got ‘em, need ‘em, got ‘em

So what are you going to do with the player cards you get in your Ravnica Tournament packs? Are there any players you hope to open? Head over to the forums and let us know what you think.

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