CMU: Carnegie Mellon University, an educational facility in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
TOGIT: The Only Game In Town, a gaming facility in northern New Jersey
At the top of the standings, a perfect 6-0 going into today's last round, is Eugene Harvey, a member of two of the current best teams in Magic, CMU and TOGIT. Harvey, the reigning US National Champion and GP New Orleans finalist, grew up in Jersey but went to school in Pittsburgh, and has brought these two groups together. The results have been spectacular.
From the TOGIT side, Osyp Lebedowicz, Craig Krempals, Jon Sonne, Gerard Fabiano, and Pat Sullivan were qualified for this event. They didn't get too many 8-man Rochester drafts in at the TOGIT store, but did a lot of 3-on-3's, which Sullivan says is just as good for learning relative card strengths and interactions. They got their real practice in at Neutral Ground, as several other pro-caliber players, including Jon Finkel, Dave Price, Mike Pustilnik, Jon Becker, and Jordan Berkowitz often were available for gaming at the NYC landmark.
"We also played in Eugene's basement a lot," said Sullivan, "but not the real format. It was more like off-the-top infinite-mana with huge stacks of Fallen Empires commons and random foils. No one loves Magic like Eugene."
Harvey's other team, CMU, had Mike Turian, Nick Eisel, Nate Heiss, and Jeremy Darling qualified for this Pro Tour. Another team member, Paul Sottosanti, made the trip to Chicago and qualified in the Last-Chance tournament, which ended two hours before the actual PT began.
Lots of gaming goes on at CMU. Tuesday Magic nights draw over 16 players on average, most of which have Pro Tour experience. That means they can run two Rochester drafts at the same time, and will often do a third later for those that want to stay. Thursday nights heralds more drafting at the apartment Turian, Harvey, Sottosanti, and Andrew Johnson share. And in between, there is always Magic Online.
Whereas the TOGIT crew doesn't usually play online, the CMU gang has embraced the new medium. Much has been written about Nick Eisel's rise to fame on Magic Online, and Sottosanti is a known commodity on there as well (you can read his draft column on the Magic Online page). In fact, Sottosanti won a January championship qualifier as practice for the Last Chance PTQ. Turian and Harvey also often do a draft per day online.
Several of the TOGIT guys—including Osyp, Fabiano, and Sonne—took a weekend trip to Pittsburgh before this event to practice with Eugene's other mates from CMU. In addition the two teams often chat online or email one another with idea about drafting. What's their secret? Osyp says it is all about looking for underdrafted colors. "Everyone seems to love blue/red this weekend," said Osyp, "which means that green is way underdrafted. If there are as many blue players and white players as green players at the table, green wins every time. Blue red is good," he added, "but it needs so many cards that multiple people can't draft it. You need Lavamancer Skills and Riptide Biologists and fliers... you can't get all those."
Turian and Eisel prefer a little more reckless style, drafting colors right behind other players, or stealing powerful cards for splashes. "I drafted red right between two other red guys in the last draft," said Turian, who was 2-0 at the time with the deck.
As for Eugene, he doesn't seem to do any one thing remarkably, but every facet of his game is strong. He thinks fast when he needs to, is patient when he needs to be, and always manages to win some how.
Going into the last round, the group was looking solid. Heiss, Fabiano, and Sullivan were eliminated. Darling needed a win to make day 2, whereas Sonne and Sottosanti were set to draw their ways in at 4-2. And at the top of the standings were the other four. In fact, all four Round 7 Feature Matches included CMU/TOGIT members: Krempals, Lebedowicz, and Harvey were all 6-0, with Eisel right behind at 5-1. Turian, although not featured, was also 5-1.
Will their efforts result in another "sweep" like Your Move Games did in Houston? It's looking good so far... halfway there.