European Domination

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When the qualification list for the Nice Masters was initially announced, 16 of the 30 predetermined slots were given to Americans, with the possibility of up to two more qualifying via the Gateway. By sheer numbers alone, Americans looked to dominate the event.

The Gateway was not kind to the US of A. Only one American – YMG's Darwin Kastle – survived until the Top 8, but there were none in the Top 4; the two slots were awarded to Japan's Jin Okamoto and the Dutchman Alexander Witt.

The main Masters event started out bad for Americans when Randy Davis didn't show up at all (awarding a bye to William Jensen, so maybe it wasn't so bad). Then it only got worse.

Jens Thoren eliminated Osyp Lebedowicz and Chris Benafel. Alexander Witt took down Alan Comer and Gerard Fabiano. Patrick Mello bested Brian Hegstad and Alex Shvarstman. And so it went. Americans put up a sad 4-11 record against non-Americans, and to date only Justin Gary lives on to fight for the Stars and Stripes. Gary, tellingly, made it to the top 4 by beating two other Americans before taking out Thoren.

The question is: Why? Or maybe: How? Didn't the USA used to be the uncontested Magic powerhouse for years?

"It's only going to get worse," said one anonymous American competitor, "Limited stays about even, but constructed is going down the [tubes]. Nobody even plays anymore."

Patrick Mello commented that Europeans take constructed much more seriously. I saw Dan Clegg take a deck straight from the Gateway Top 4," said the German, "and I knew they [Americans] hadn't tested at all."

Mello's compatriot Kai Budde is not so hard on the Yankees: "The single-elimination format makes the Masters not worth testing for. I'm pretty sure that only Tomi [Walamies] and Jens [Thoren] did any significant testing." Easy for Kai to say, as he sits in the top 4 poised for another title run.

Gary Wise, the Englishman-nee-Canadian, thinks the format has nothing to do with it. He noted that, "Americans play too much poker and too many money drafts when they should be practicing."

The general attitude seems to be that Americans have all the necessary talent to win, but seem to be resting on their laurels. What will it take to jump-start them as a group? Apparently the lure of big money is not enough.

Who will be the next big American workhorse? Who can rally the troops and return them to the top of the standings en masse? Until that answer is known, look for the Europeans to be taking home the trophies and the large checks.

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