What do Carlos Romão, Benedikt Klauser, Nicolai Herzog, Kamiel Cornelissen and Julien Nuijten have in common?

National Pride

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The letter I!f the composition of the various National teams is to be any indication, we should be in for a heck of a show at Worlds this year. There has been a consistent thread of quality weaving its way through all of the Nationals rosters that includes three World Champions and multiple Pro Tour Top 8 competitors.

A much-younger Carlos Romão after he became the 2002 World Champion.
Carlos Romão first became a Magic superstar when he piloted Psychatog – utilizing an innovative strategy of not fighting over card-drawing spells in the mirror match – to the World Championships in 2002. He was the first Latin American player to win a Pro Tour. Many suspected that Carlos' best days were behind him, but perhaps spurred on by losing out on the Latin American Invitational Ballot for the first time in years, he has been playing recently with the fire of old.

With a room full of Japanese, Dutch, Belgian, Portuguese, and French players, Carlos was not the non-North American pundits were picking to win Grand Prix-Phoenix but that is exactly what happened two weeks ago. From there it was straight home for Carlos to play in his National Championship, winning a berth on his National team. Carlos joins Norway's Nicolai Herzog and Austria's Benedikt Klauser as National team members at this year's Worlds in the most likely to be featured under a “Don't Call It a Comeback” headline category.

Brazil's National Championship was won by rising Brazilian star and Pro Tour-Charleston finalist Paolo Vitor Damo De Rosa, playing Akira Asahara's Snow Ideal deck from Japanese Nationals. The identical 75-card list was played by Francisco Barciella, who finished fourth but lost to Romão in the 3/4 playoff; Carlos was playing Budget Boros. Hats off to second-place finisher Elton Fior for the heads-up and the decklists – as you can see the Top 4 was dominated by the snow theme. This was the second time that Elton finished as high as second at this tournament.

Paulo Vítor Damo da Rosa - Snow Ideal
2006 Brazilian National Championship – First place

Elton M Fior - Snow Bob
2006 Brazilian National Championship – Second place

Carlos "Jabaiano" Romão - Budget Boros
2006 Brazilian National Championship – Third place

Francisco "Xiko" Barciella - Snow Ideal
2006 Brazilian National Championship – Fourth place

The 2006 Brazilian National team.

The other Top 8 decks were Alex e Silva (Hand in Hand), Pedro Motta (UG Graft), Rafael Mendonça, and Daniel Frias (both with Structure & Force).

Here's how the bracket looked:

Top 8
Carlos (Boros) defeats Daniel (S&F)
Elton (Snow-Bob) defeats Alex (Hand)
Paulo (Ideal) defeats Pedro (UG)
Francisco (Ideal) defeats Rafael (S&F)

Paulo defeats Carlos Elton defeats Francisco

Finals and Playoff
Paulo defeats Elton
Fracisco concedes to Carlos

“Besides me, the Brazilian Team is none other than Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Carlos Romão!!” bragged Elton, who is a Pro Tour veteran and has finished as high as 19th at the World Championships. “I'll be the proud teammate of the two best Brazilian players, and they can attest, I'm no slouch either!”

Brazilian player Lucas Bethoud also wrote in with decklists and praise for the National team. He is expecting big things from this squad and assured me that they will produce solid results come Worlds: “That's easily the best the country could offer for the team competition. All the players are taking their game seriously this year and we hope great things can come from Paris in December.”

If Brazilian Nationals was all about Scrying Sheets, Dutch Nationals was all about Breeding Pool – five different players had decks that bore a passing resemblance to Sea Stompy. Of the five, only National Champion Kamiel Cornelissen had any red in his deck for cards such as Seal of Fire, Kird Ape, and sideboarded Rumbling Slum. Three of the remaining five opted for a straight blue-green ninja build while the fifth deck was all about Snakes on a Plane.

As a professional observer of professional Magic, I found the Dutch bracket heart-breaking. One side of the bracket was loaded up with the Top Dutch names while the other featured Rogier Maaten and three lesser-known players. Not only did Frank Karsten and Jeroen Remie get knocked out in the quarterfinals but Rogier did as well, losing to eventual National team member Robert van Medevoort.

Joining Kamiel and Robert on the National team was former World Champion and Rookie of the Year Julien Nuijten. Julien has playfully groused about Karsten getting credit for his innovations – such as AEther Vial in the Affinity deck and the pattern Frank used to lay out Sealed Decks after the release of Guildpact – and he got to exact some revenge by knocking The Fanatic out in the quarterfinals, losing in the semis to Kamiel, and then earning a spot in the playoff for 3rd/4th. Julien joins Katsuhiro Mori and Carlos Romão as former World Champions on national teams this year.

Kamiel Cornelissen
2006 Netherlands National Championship

If you have checked out the Tournament Center this weekend, then you already had seen the Dutch coverage as well as the Spanish Nationals coverage featuring National Champion Javier Dominguez. If Javier's name seems familiar to you, it is because he was part of the Spanish cabal that cooked up Cephalid Breakfast for Columbus, which he played to a Top 32 finish at that tournament.

Here are six of the Top 8 decklists from Spanish Nats.

Manuel Martinez
Nacional español 2006 - Rojo/Negro/Fusion!

I would also like to thank Gustavo Fischer for sending me the results from Uruguayan Nationals.

“The metagame was very varied,” explained Gustavo. “Loosely grouped, we had at least 20 different archetypes, with blue-red Magnivore and blue-white control variants (some with splash green or red) being the most played with five appearances out of 50 players, green-black Rock decks (most also splashing, red and white being the most popular splashes) with four, and Boros, Heartbeat Combo, blue-red Tron and Glare appearing three times each.”

Here are the Top 4 decks from that event as well as the metagame breakdown:

Federico Bigalli - GhaziGlare
2006 Uruguay National Championship – Second place

Nicolás Righetti - The Rock
2006 Uruguay National Championship – Fourth place

Metagame Breakdown:

UR Magnivore - 5
UW(g/r) Control - 5
GB (w or r splashes) Rock - 4
Heartbeat Combo - 3
GW(b) Glare - 3
BW(u) Hand in Hand - 3
Boros (with & without Howling Mine) - 3
UR Tron Wildfire - 2
Solar Flare - 2
UG(b) Aggro - 2
5-color Aggro - 1
UR Tron/Niv-Mizzet - 1
Izzet Combo - 1
Ninja Erayo - 2
WG Tallowisp - 1
Structure & Force - 1
Monored Snow/LD - 1
B/R Rakdos (Burn & non-Burn) - 1
RG LD - 1
BW Husk - 1
Monoblue Counterbalance - 1
UGw Snakes - 1
Sea Stompy (classic) - 1
Zoo - 1

Michael Durham also wrote in to update us on the Hungarian Nationals scene and to point out that second-place finisher Daniel Gulyas made the Top 8 for the fifth time at this tournament:

The results of Hungarian Nationals:

1. Szőke Zoltán (Magnivore)
2. Gulyás Dániel (WWr Boros)
3. Hodován Miklós (BGR Vipies)
4. Várady Balázs (Erayo Ninja)
5-8. Csizmadia Péter (Firemane control)
5-8. Tököli Zsolt (Greater Gifts)
5-8. Bokor Bence (Magnivore)
5-8. Szabó András (BGW Rock)
9. Suller Gergő (Counterbalance)

Szőke Zoltán (Magnivore) - Csizmadia Péter (Firemane control) 3 - 0
Várady Balázs (Erayo Ninja) - Tököli Zsolt (Greater Gifts) 3 - 0
Gulyás Dániel (WWr Boros) - Bokor Bence (Magnivore) 3 - 1
Hodován Miklós (BGR Vipies) - Szabó András (BGW) 3 - 1

Szőke Zoltán (Magnivore) - Hodován Miklós (BGR Vipies) 3 - 1
Gulyás Dániel (WWr Boros) - Várady Balázs (Erayo Ninja) 3 - 0

3rd-4th place
Hodován Miklós (BGR Vipies) - Várady Balázs (Erayo Ninja) 3 - 0

Szőke Zoltán (Magnivore) - Gulyás Dániel (WWr Boros) 3 - 1

He also included the decklists, which featured a dangerous twist on the Erayo Ninja deck from the fourth-place finisher:

Szőke Zoltán - Magnivore
2006 Hungary National Championship – First place

Main Deck

60 cards

Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Izzet Boilerworks
Minamo, School at Water's Edge
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
Shivan Reef
Steam Vents

24 lands


4 creatures

Compulsive Research
Eye of Nowhere
Mana Leak
Sleight of Hand
Stone Rain

32 other spells

15  Unknown Card

15 sideboard cards

Gulyás Dániel - Budget Boros
2006 Hungary National Championship – Second place

Hodován Miklós - Vipies
2006 Hungary National Championship – Third place

Arena Closing its Doors

For those of you who look back fondly of your early Magic experiences and recall oversized cards, alternate art lands, Fireballs, and Disenchants, and Vanguard I am afraid I have some sad news. After 10 years the Arena program is being shut down. In North America, there is no widespread program replacing it; however, any retail store will be able to purchase an Intro to the DCI tournament kit, which will include exclusive premium cards, a poster with Magic art, and league support information.

For stores already running DCI-sanctioned Magic tournaments, a new Tournament Support kit will be available. This kit will feature two different exclusive premium cards, along with other tournament-support information. If you're itching to play at your local store, ask your retailer to look into the new tournament kits. For the official Wizards of the Coast statement about the closing of Arena, click here.

In Europe, Arena is being replaced with the Gateway Program, a two-tiered effort to support new players with a more casual tournament experienced. I spoke with Felix Huybrechts, Senior Organized Play Manager for Europe, about the new initiative and he was kind enough to do a little Q&A with me.

I understand this program is phasing out Arena in Europe ... why?

Felix: Gateway is specifically designed for the European markets and it frames our increased efforts to make sure beginning players easily can find their way to Organized Play and enjoy their first experiences in leagues and tournaments. Arena has been hugely successful in Europe but was also one of the oldest Organized Play programs, initially launched in Early 1997. Over the years the needs of the players and stores changed, so it was time to redesign our in-store entry-level program.

From looking at the web page it seems to offer two different paths to players – casual and competitive. What are the different experiences like?

Felix: Gateway is very flexible both for players and the stores hosting it. Depending on the demands or profile of the store's customers, it can be run as league or as a tournament. League is of course very casual but we recommend that the tournaments are kept small and at a very low competitive level as well. We have made sure that all stores understand that this is an entry-level program, real expert players should not play in this and beginners should move on after a few months. We see Gateway leading players to programs like Friday Night Magic and Prerelease tournaments.

What kind of prizes are available? It seems like the more you play the more you get? What is the top-level prizing like?

Felix: The Gateway kits will be renewed with each Magic: The Gathering release. Prizes are mainly exclusive foil promo cards. For the Time Spiral season, this will be Icatian Javelineers and Fiery Temper. Players collect stamps on the stamp card. Once they get 30 stamps, their card is full and they can choose a promo. Stamps are given out for participating, winning and even losing matches.

Gateway prizes for the first season.

What is your hope for this program – who do you see taking part in this?

Felix: Gateway is mainly for new customers who have made their first Magic purchases and slowly start to learn the game and build decks. It is made to give them a first great game-play experience at a non-competitive, social, and casual level.

What has the reaction been like in the European Magic community to the Hall of Fame induction of Raphaël Lévy?

Felix:: Extremely positive! Raphaël is appreciated and recognized by the whole community as a very talented player and also as a very nice guy. It is also importantly that at last we have a Hall of Famer who is still very active and really on top of his game. Check out his Pro Tour attendance record, I believe there is not even a Wizards employee who attended so many PT's...

Five Questions with Pete Hoefling

This was originally intended to appear in last week's column but I decided to bump it to not detract from any of the Hall of Fame hubbub. I would like to make Five Questions a regular feature in this column where I talk to various people behind the scenes in Magic besides the players themselves: Wizards of the Coast program managers, store owners, judges, artists, and other people who make Magic happen.

You may know him as the man behind the popular Magic website, but Pete Hoefling is also a store owner and tournament organizer who has been at the center of Mid-Atlantic Magic for the past 10 years. He recently expanded his physical Star City Games location to a staggeringly large facility that includes a parents' lounge and restaurant.

Courtesy Star City Games

1. When did the original site open?

Pete: Our original store opened in January 1994 as an 800 square-foot comic book store. We began carrying CCGs in 1995, and launched the first Star City website shortly thereafter. In 1996, we expanded into a 5,000 sq. ft. facility, and began focusing more on in-store tournaments and other forms of Organized Play. In December of 2001, we ceased carrying comic books, converted our entire store into more of a CCG-based tournament center and began devoting more resources to our rapidly growing mail-order division. In 2004, we purchased a 25,000 square-foot facility. Two years later, the new Star City Game Center officially opened.

2. Can you explain the difference between running a retail game store and running a tournament center?

Pete: A retail game store focuses on selling merchandise, and sometimes offers Organized Play as a service to their retail customers. A tournament center focuses on Organized Play, and structures everything that they sell around that.

3. What prompted you to move to the new game center?

Pete: Every division within our company was rapidly expanding, and we simply needed a much larger facility in order to accommodate that growth. However, in terms of the actual game center itself, I simply wanted to offer fans an incredible place to play, shop and hang out. So far, the feedback we've received has been overwhelmingly positive.

Courtesy Star City Games

4. What are the differences between the old site and the new one?

Pete: Our old site was basically an average game store that offered comfortable seating for approximately 50 players and parking for around 30 cars. The new Star City Game Center is capable of comfortably accommodating 300 players (with plenty of room to spare!) and has parking for almost 150 cars. The new place also features many amenities not seen in your typical game store, such as a private parents' lounge and a full-service, in-store restaurant appropriately named, “The Sideboard.” I'm also going on record, as saying we have the nicest bathrooms you'll ever see in a game store. :-)

5. What exciting, upcoming events do you have on tap for the new site?

Pete: On October 7-8, we'll be hosting one of our back-to-back "Duel for Duals" Legacy weekends offering 200 dual lands in prize support. In November, we'll be giving two complete sets of the "Power Nine" away when the final back-to-back Star City "Power Nine" Vintage weekend of 2006 is held right here at the new Star City Game Center. That actually hadn't been announced yet... so... well... there you go. :-)

Thanks Pete! Here's the address of the new store:

    Star City Game Center
    5728 Williamson Rd. NW
    Roanoke, VA 24012
    Ph: 540.767.GAME (4263)
    Hours: Sunday-Thursday 10am-6pm
    Friday and Saturday 10am-11pm

Firestarter: One Question…

What types of people would you like to see highlighted in the Five Questions feature in future columns? Is there anyone at Wizards you would be especially interested to hear from? What types of questions would you like to see asked? Help me shape this feature by going to the forums and sharing your opinions there.

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