s Tournament Organizers flicked off the lights and locked the doors of convention centers in Denmark, Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, the Russian Federation, and Turkey this past Sunday the summer season is almost officially at a close. Only Sweden, Belarus, and Iceland have yet to run their National Championships which will determine which players will represent their countries in New York City at the 2007 Magic World Championships.
We have seen a smattering of countries get official Tournament Center coverage—and at least one country get unofficial Frank Karsten coverage—but at the start of the season tournament organizers were invited to send me their results so we could feature the winning decklists in this year-end column.
Belgium and Brazil are a pair of countries that have put forth rising stars over the past few seasons, and I was especially eager to learn more about those tournaments. When you think of countries with a surging pro player base, Belgium might not immediately leap to mind, but Joery Van Nevel—the DCI Data & CS Coordinator—gave the rundown of which players to keep an eye on prior to his country's Championship and for the coming season.
"The guy to watch out for is Marijn Lybaert," declared Joery of the 22-year old rising star. "He is on a roll and goes in head first in this Nationals. Don't let the age deceive you. His recent achievements include making Top 8 on PT–Geneva and finishing second at GP–Toulouse behind Kenji Tsumura."
Mark Dictus is one of the longest standing Belgian pros and a fixture in his Magic community as a store owner and tournament organizer. He was last year's Champ and has been participating in high level Magic tournaments since the very first Grand Prix in Amsterdam more than ten years ago.
|Fried Meulders, the 2007 Belgian National Champion
It is impossible to talk about the Belgian Magic
scene without mentioning Geoffrey Siron, Bernardo Da Costa Cabral, or Vincent Lemoine. "Together with Pavlos Akritas, they are the "crème de la crème" of the French speaking part of Belgium," said Joery. Siron, of course, is the only player to win a Pro Tour without dropping a single game in the Top 8.
Of Joery's advance picks only Bernardo emerged from the Swiss to make the Top 8. Like so many of the events from this Championship season which have had a name player make the elimination rounds Bernardo, did not win that crucial final match. The winner was another up-and-coming player by the name Fried Meulders. He may not be a household name, but I am sure it is not a name you want to see opposite yours heading into the Top 8 of a Belgian PTQ.
At one point last season Fried qualified for five straight Pro Tours through the qualifier circuit. That won't be a problem for him in the immediate future as the young player has locked up level 3 this season and has put himself in a good position to pick up extra points as the captain of his National team at Worlds.
|The 2007 Belgian Nationals Top 8
Top 8 Decklists
Fried Meulders's AngelFire
Vincent Gieling's GoyfRack
Veltchev Kalin's AngelFire
Bernardo Da Costa Cabral's Blue-Black Teferi
Philippe Massart's Unthinkable Dredge
Christophe Gregoir's BlueSnow
Stan Van de Velde's Dredge
Brazil has been a country that is gearing up for Magic world conquest with Willy Edel and Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa leading the charge. Long before anyone knew who they were there was a forum poster using the handle Bertu who would sing the praises of the Brazilian Magic scene. The 22-year-old law student from São Paulo can start tooting his own horn to accompany that little ditty as he has been revealed as Lucas Berthoud, but you can just call him the Brazilian national Champion.
Joining him on the team are: runner-up Nicholas Damian, a 27-year-old medical doctor who started playing Magic two years ago; Francisco Braga, who has won three PTQs this season and made Day 2 in all PTs he played, putting him on a Rookie of the Year trajectory; and Guilherme Fonseca, who finished 9th last year.
Success breeds success in Magic and everyone wants to see someone from their homeland to do well at the game. If you think that recent success of Willy and Paulo hasn't kicked open the doors for a wave of South American players you only need to look at why Lucas is even playing the game right now for a counter argument.
|Carlos Romao was the 2002 World Champion.
"I started playing Magic
in 1995 when the cards were released in Portuguese," explained the Champ. "I then stopped a couple years later and became interested in the game again when someone told me that a Brazilian had won Worlds
"There are a lot of good players these days. You can't measure the impact that PV and Edel's success had on incentivizing players to take the next step. Guys like Celso Zampere, Robson Silveira, Pedro Motta, Sergio Martins, Christiano Pereira, and Filipe Cardoso started traveling to foreign GPs this year just to Q for the tour... and they were successful so far."
"There are also the guys who play MOL all the time and have previous PT experience like Elton Fior (Pickareta), Eloi Pattaro (Dao_Phu), Ary Caspritrany (D_E_n_t_z), Fabiano Lucindo (Lucindo), Sergio Costa (cenora_MG), Rafael Mendonca (Undergrnd), Jonathan Melamed (Jonais), Victor Galves, and especially Francisco Braga (_MetroiD_), who is on a run to Rookie of the Year and will be on the National team—he is so talented," Lucas continued. "Those guys, we always knew they were good and now they have that inner fire to get even better. That is a lot of names I said, but I can guarantee that I am not happy-facing any of them on the other side of the table."
Lucas played Tomoharu Saito's red-green deck from Japanese Nationals changing two Molten Disaster and 2 Loxodon Warhammer for 2 Dead // Gone and 2 Rumbling Slum. "The cards Saito played were good against Gruul decks with 20 lands, while the cards we added are better having in mind the 60-card mirror and Black-Green Rack," Lucas said of the decision to change the deck. "In played matches, I went 7-0 in Standard and 5-1 in draft."
Looking forward to the World Championships, Lucas was not worried about any of the individual rounds at all. "We can practice Constructed and Limited just fine by playing online with all the other Brazilians that are attending Worlds, but playing Two-Headed Giant will be impossible because we are all from different states. I have no idea what to do. The National Team has good players, but our success will depend on whether or not we can practice 2HG."
So what of Paulo and Willy? Lucus offers the following story of Willy Edel's tournament:
It's deck registration time. Willy Edel is sitting confident. He practiced a lot the week before and created an Assault / Loam deck that he knew would be a killer. Sitting in front of him is Rafael Coqueiro, the popular "Pumba" of "Raaaaala Pumba" fame. As Willy watches Pumba register his deck, he is in horror. Willy says numerous times how bad Pumba's deck is and how he has no chance at all playing that pile. He is so alarmed, in fact, that he offers Pumba his own deck to play, as Pumba is his close friend and needs to qualify for Worlds.
Lists are wrapped. Willy goes asking for cards but couldn't find enough duplicates for himself. So he just asked a guy who played in the Grinders for whatever full deck he had and registered it, while Pumba got to keep Edel's former deck.
Willy goes 0-3 in standard with the mono-green deck he just had found. But Pumba, playing Willy's creation, doesn't drop a match in the Swiss Constructed leg in his way to Top 8. Pumba then lost on the quarters, but he is now qualified for Worlds by rating and will be in New York for sure, making company to his buddy Edel.
This is the list that Willy crafted so carefully (just so that he could give it away five minutes before the tournament to help a friend):
Rafael Coqueiro's Loam of Lore
Firestarter: What I did on my Summer vacation...
It has been well documented that there was dearth of events over the summer months for the PTQ-minded player, which I imagine makes up a significant portion of my readership. What did you guys do this summer to get by?