Mr. Potato rocked the tournament this weekend, entering the top 8 as the first seed. While Mike had very little formal drafting plans (he went black in the first draft on his fiancé's recommendation), he seemed to understand the format admirably.
This is Mike's 5th Grand Prix top 8, which combined with 4 Pro Tour top 8s and numerous money finishes had earned him over $90,000 in tourney winnings. Interestingly, he'll soon be giving it all up when he moves to Seattle. Wizards of the Coast policy forbids a person playing in DCI sanctioned events while married or co-habituating with a Wizards employee.
Mike is certainly not going out with a whimper. This top 8 directly follows his Pro Tour Amsterdam top 8 in January. Mike would also like to give out mad props to Rachel, his bestest friend in the whole wide world, and a shout out to everybody.
Second seed going into the top 8, Mitchell "Tambourine Man" Tamblyn has had an impressive and impressively short career. He impressed quite a number of people by starting his PT San Diego experience on a 5-0 tear…while 14 years old! A little wiser, and still excellent at his limited game, Mitchell Tamblyn is name you'll probably be seeing for some time to come.
Ian's actually been playing for quite some time, but like so many others, has quit and come back, quit and come back. Ian dedicated quite a bit of practice time to this event and it certainly paid off. Spaulding said his main goal was to draft Affinity, but would take anything if the packs favored a style.
This is Ian's first top 8, and wants to give a shout out and much love to his homies at Match Play.
4 Pro Tour top 8s. 5 Grand Prix top 8s. Over $140,000 in lifetime earnings. Ben Rubin has been a force at the Pro Tour for years, and sees no signs of stopping any time soon.
Coming into this event, Rubin wanted to force Affinity and Loxodon Warhammers at all costs. His style continued into the top 8. Rubin drew Ken Ho for his quarterfinal round.
"The Hump", long associated with Your Move Games, recently moved out to San Diego for a position with Upper Deck. Moving three thousand miles away from his comrades hasn't seemed to stop his competitive urge or skill. With five Pro Tour top-eights and nearly as many in Grand Prix, Dave is no stranger to the elimination rounds. He has been posting solid, if not spectacular, results this season, finishing 28th in Amsterdam and 52nd in New Orleans.
Massachusetts native Paul Rietzl must love the California sun. Two months ago at GP Anaheim, he made his first Grand Prix Top 8. Before the final round of the Swiss, he was trying to figure out whether he should try and draw into the top sixteen to almost guarantee himself a qualifying slot to San Diego. His opponent would hear nothing of it, so Paul was forced to beat him and make his second Grand Prix Top 8 in a row.
Rietzl is a talented member of team Your Move Games, but has never had much success at the professional level, although he nearly made the Top 8 at the US Nationals last year, but failed to win either of the last two rounds to earn himself a spot in the final day. Perhaps this signals the beginning of another strong Magic career from the ranks of YMG.
Ken Ho had fallen off the train in the last year, due to a lack of high finishes after his breakout PT-winning performance at Osaka 2002. Rather than face the ignominy of returning to the qualifier circuit, Ho dropped out of sight. Ken has been named amongst the top limited players in the game, and in his first premier finish, he took his "Ken Ho All-Stars" teammates, long time pros Dan Clegg and Lan Ho to a second place finish at GP Columbus 2001.
This, though, is his first individual Limited-format Top 8. Hopefully there will be much more to come from this talented player.
Nobody who has been within fifty meters of Gabe Walls can deny this simple fact: the man loves his Magic cards. At any given event, on any given day, you can find this US National team member playing with a glint in his eye and an excited yell only moments away.
When the 2003 national championships came to a close, pundits were predicting a disastrous result from the American team. Although Justin Gary was a solid anchor to the team, the two rookies - Walls and Josh Wagener - were unknown quantities. Despite a rocky start, they proved the critics wrong and took the team portion of worlds, propelled by Walls' individual top-eight performance.
Since then Walls has installed himself as a fixture on the money-draft circuit, and is respected as one of the top American players. This is his first major finish since his back-to-back US Nationals and Worlds top-eights, but expect to see more of him in the future.