Finally Sam “The Brit” gets his breakout Top 8 finish. For the past two years Gomersall has worked incredibly hard at the game, using an inheritance to support him while he played the game full-time. This past year he has attended every European Grand Prix apart from Genova as well as two in the States. Up until now he’d been quietly finishing in the money (6 top 32 finishes in GP’s, 5th at the last Team Pro Tour) but that one breakout finish in the top 8 had continued to elude him. When I asked him what it felt like to finally get that major top 8 under his belt he said it was a huge relief.
Sam shares a flat in London with a bunch of other Magic players. This means he gets a lot of practise. The UK has tended to perform less well than other countries and when I asked him why he said part of the problem was that a lot of the other countries tend to go to the Pro Tours as more of a team. With the UK it tends to be ten guys who qualify and hope to get lucky. He thinks the testing they do is as good as other countries but they aren’t as tight-knit. Part of the problem is the lack of players on the Train. At the moment it is only Sam Gomersall although a couple of other players are close. After a couple of years in the doldrums it seems like things have picked up for UK magic. Stuart Wright made top 8 at Euro’s and came agonisingly close in Pro Tour New Orleans when he needed 1 win from three to make the top 8. The last couple of Grand Prix have started to see UK players finish in the money. Maybe this trend will continue but as Sam explained, part of the problem is there isn’t anywhere to play.
When I asked him about his strategy he said he’d intended to try and go for red-blue but after talking to Eric Froehlich he’d decided to try and force green instead.
Daniel is a student studying Business and Marketing from Randers in the middle of Jutland, Denmark. The Dane went to the World Championships in 2001 as the alternate for the Danish team but has not had much success in the bigger events. He and few friends meet up to play about a three times a month. There is a group of around 4-8 and they play at each other’s apartments. Bertelsen had two byes and felt he made it this far because he had a pretty good sealed deck and didn’t make many mistakes.
He didn’t like the Mirrodin format at first, especially the new card face, but now he’s got used to it. One of the reason’s he likes Mirrodin is mistakes are harshly punished which he thinks is a good thing. His draft strategy is to avoid green and take white wherever possible. Most of his drafts have been nearly mono-white. He likes the fliers and Den-Guard/equipment. Blinding Beams also work well in an aggro deck.
Tommi Hovi was the first player to win two Pro Tours when he took PT Rome back in ’99. Since then he’s had a World’s top 8 and some top 16’s and 32’s but has dropped off the radar somewhat. He’s missed a few Pro Tours of late and actually needed this top 8 to qualify for Amsterdam, which he intends to attend. His reason for not playing as much is he doesn’t have enough time, especially for constructed, and he thinks that to compete you have to put in a lot of time playtesting.
Back in Finland he tends to watch the odd draft but doesn’t really play. He doesn’t really like equipment in Mirrodin. He thinks the idea behind it is good, but doesn’t want to draft it. He tends to avoid green and go with blue, red or black if he can.
David Linder is one of two players from the home nation in the top 8. Linder is 23 and is currently a student at KTH, Stockholm. Linder has a strange record in Grand Prix. This is his fourth top 8 and third in a row, yet he only ever seems to show up for one a year. He doesn’t really play that often, only 4-5 tournaments a year and the occasional draft with friends. He doesn’t even own many cards, choosing to proxy them for constructed when testing and borrowing them from friends when he needs them.
He likes Mirrodin, especially the Sealed Part. He thinks this might be the first format where the Sealed format is almost as skill intensive as draft because of the many choices available in deck construction. He doesn’t really have any colour preferences but is not so bothered about fighting with his neighbour for a colour in this format because of the multitude of artifacts.
He plans to play in Pro Tour Amsterdam because it’s a nice city and close. If Linder ever decides to attend more Grand Prix it would be interesting to see what he could do…
Daniel Zink first burst onto the scene when he won the German Nationals and then went on to make the Semi-finals at the European Championships back in 2001. Then he seemed to vanish for a while. Now, after winning the World Championship’s in Berlin this year, Zink is most emphatically back on the scene. He’s 18 and still at school. He lives in Bochum, also home to recent New Orleans top 8’er Hans Joachim Höh. He doesn’t actually play that much in real life but does like playing online.
He thinks the Mirrodin format is a big improvement on Onslaught. There are plenty of broken artifacts but also plenty of ways to get rid of them. In draft his strategy is:
“Never draft black. Not at all. Whenever we draft the black decks always seem to be the one’s that go 0-3. My brother (Sebastian) said he wouldn’t even consider black unless he wheeled something like Terror
and Consume Spirit
.” I asked if he’d be attending all the Pro Tours and he said he might skip Kobe and although he’d like to play in the invitational he has a lot of exams this year that might affect his choices.
Not much really needs to be said about Kai. The German has a record in major tournaments that will take a long time to be surpassed, if ever. The 24-year-old from Hamburg is currently studying Computer Science and Economics.
Budde thinks Mirrodin is a big improvement on Onslaught for limited but thinks the main problem is that it easy to get mana-screwed. Decks have to play Myrs for the mana acceleration but then can run into problems as often a deck is twenty mana sources with no way to sink it in the late game. He doesn’t have a set strategy and thinks going into Rochester with a set strategy is a big mistake. One of the differences for this format is seat 8 is not quite the handicap it used to be. Both his drafts he was in seat 8 and liked it as it allowed him to see how the rest of the table settled in their colours.
When I talked about how Europe and America compared he was quite scornful.
“The Americans talk about how much better they are at draft but the last time an American made the final in a draft Pro Tour was Barcelona in 2001 and Alan Comer doesn’t really count as he used to be English.”
When it comes to Europe he thinks France and Germany are close. The Dutch would be, but are just lacking a really strong player. I asked if he thought the European record would go again in GP Munich and he said it was quite likely. There may not be as many German players as there were French at Lyon but he thought Munich was a “perfect location”, easy for most of Europe to get to.
Jelger Wiegersma making the top 8 of a Grand Prix is becoming a regular occurance now. He was top 8 in Lyon last month and this is his seventh appearance. Unfortunately the final draft always seemed to be a stumbling block and he still lacks that title to round of his resume. He lives in Eindhoven and is a student of Computer Science.
Since Lyon his draft strategy has altered slightly. Back then he rated creatures very highly, but now he thinks the removal like Electrostatic Bolt, Shatter and Arrest might be more important. He managed to get RW twice today and thought it was pretty good.
I asked him what he thought the chances of a Dutch player taking the title in Pro Tour Amsterdam next year were and he said he thought they were pretty good. All the Dutch players are drafting a lot in preparation.
Benjamin Lindqvist is the only amateur in a very strong Top 8. The 19-year-old student lives in Gothenburg. Unfortunately his Quarter-final was rather brutal and he left before I had a chance to interview him.