The first day of a Team Pro Tour is always greeted with a certain amount of trepidation. Sure, players are ready to get down and play. They've wrangled themselves into the best possible team, and are confident about their play abilities. But the specter of the bad card pool hangs over everything. Not that it's a lottery to see who gets into Day 2. The construction and play mean the difference between a win and a loss. It's just that sometimes you're handed fewer tools than you'd like.
Surviving the triple-threat were Courtney's Boys: Bob Maher, Jr., Gary Wise and Neil Reeves. From a pure talent perspective, they're a heck of a group. Reeves is being talked up as the next big thing, following his Top 8 at Pro Tour - San Diego. Maher's Pro Tour and Grand Prix titles speak of skills that clearly haven't dulled during his six-month suspension, and Wise is playing some of the best Magic of his career, narrowly missing Top 8's at Osaka and finishing Top 32 at Worlds. He'll probably have trouble sleeping tonight while visions of a return to PT gold dance in his head.
Right behind them are Slay Pillage Gerard, anxious to improve on their sixth-place finish as Slay-Pillage-Massacre at New York last year. Having traded in Eric Ziegler for Gerard Fabiano, their sixteen points puts them in a good position heading into Day 2. And hot on their heels, again, is Stalking Tiger, Hidden Gibbon, composed of Josh Ravitz, Matt Urban and Paul Jordan.
Yes, Kai Budde will be playing tomorrow, but Phoenix Foundation (Budde, Baberowski, Blume) will have the disadvantage of starting 4-2. They won out from a precarious 2-2. Illuminati (Mowshowitz, Shvartsman, Gary) won their last to squeak in as well. If both show the same skill they did last year, it will be no surprise to see them in the final four again. Phoenix Foundation's still an even money bet, after all.
Europe has continued to carve out its place in the pro community. Team Outland of Norway had more than enough pro points to attend, but chose instead to split into two arguably weaker teams: Plan 9 from Outland and Team Outland 2002. The gambit paid off. Both will be competing tomorrow, joined by the oh-so-cleverly-named Potato Foundation (Harding, Kvalo, Gunderson). Big-name Netherlands team www.star-maker.nl/lap (Karsten, van der Broek, Wiegersma) are sitting pretty at 5-1.
That's nothing compared to the success of the French, who put a whopping six teams across. They are headed up by Hobby One (Olivier & Antoine Ruel, Florent Jeudon). Unfortunately, Turbo Petradon, the fusion of Amiel Tenenbaum and Gabriel Nassif of Les Plus Class with Rookie of the Year Farid Meraghni was not one of them. The Canadians are in a similar position, with JJJ (Hoaen, Zajdner, Cassel) and 2020 (Wolfman, Rood, Pollock) at the Pro Tour tables and Raw Dogs (Gab Tsang, Jeff Cunningham, and honorary Canadian Brian Hacker) at the money draft tables.
They join a long list of star-studded teams on the wrong end of the standings. Hometown heroes Your Move Games managed only two wins on the day. Ditto for Brian Kibler, Ben Rubin and Ken Ho, the misnamed Ubermenschen. Jon Finkel's collaboration with Peter Szigeti and Svend Geertsen bore 3-3 fruit, and the CMU superteam TOGIT Connection posted only 3-2-1. Perennial Masters finalists Panzer Hunter will also be on the sidelines tomorrow. Fortunately, Japan will still be represented by Hato Beeam (Higaki, Ooiso, Ueno) and www.shop-fireball.com (Nobushita, Ikeda, Okamoto).
From here, though, it's what's considered the most skill-driven format around: Team Rochester. Preparation and quick thinking will determine who gets to play on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if any of the teams have devised strategies to take advantage of conventional wisdom.