Peer is no stranger to the Top 8 of Pro Tours—although he may be a stranger to players outside of Germany who have not been with the game very long. The Berlin resident made his third appearance on Day 3 this weekend. The last two times were PT Dallas in 1996 and PT Mainz in 1997.
He managed to stay on the Pro Tour until 1998 when he found himself without enough points—or the passion—to remain a professional Magic player. When he passed on an invitation to the 1999 World Championships in Japan he knew that his relationship with Magic had changed.
He played in a couple of Team Pro Tours but other than that only continued to play Magic for fun. He never left the game and regularly attended Prereleases and even the occasional PTQ if one rolled into town.
"Of course, I wanted to play in the World Championships in Berlin!" He wanted to but had no realistic expectations of winning at German Nationals with his Reanimator deck but it earned him an invitation and it was more or less the same deck that he played in the Top 8 today. "I played the deck because it is just fun to play with. It was much more fun than Wake. That's what I care about now—having fun. Much more so than about winning money—that is way too stressful.
Now that Peer is only playing for fun he seems to be on something of a roll. Before his tremendous performance this weekend the student and Magic writer—he writes for the German magazine Kartetakt among others—qualified for Pro Tour Boston with some friends at a PTQ. He will be taking his holiday in New England and plans to have—what else—fun.
Pro Tour New Orleans is another story. Despite being back on the gravy train after a five year absence he has no plans to attend the next individual Pro Tour. But he wasn't ruling it out either, "We'll see. Maybe if I can find some time..."
Gabe Walls is relatively new to the Pro Tour circuit and until Nationals had not posted any money finishes. He has followed that up impressively with another Top 8 here in Berlin. In addition to his Top 8 finish he also won a key match against fellow Top 8 finisher Tuomo Nieminen that earned him and his teammates the Worlds Team Championship. He has more than made up for his previous lack of winnings with his paycheck for this past week's hard work.
Gabe first got onto the tour over a year ago at a PTQ at his stomping grounds in Indiana during the Invasion Block Constructed season. He played Goblin Trenches, "That deck was gas!"
If you talk to Gabe much about Magic you will notice a common theme. Every deck is either 'gas' or 'ridiculous'. "Every deck IS gas or ridiculous!" explained Walls but he quickly amended the statement, except green in this limited format."
"In constructed green is fine—it has Mirari's Wake. If I had played Wake I would have won World's." Gabe just joined the YMG squad to prepare for this event and the whole team overlooked Wake. Well, not the whole team. Zvi Mowshowtiz playtested the deck for about a week and swore it wasn't viable. Not only did the YMG squad not play Wake but they were under prepared for it in their sideboards based on Zvi's evaluations.
Gabe is currently attending school at All-State University but his thinking about switching to a school that is in a more Magic-friendly part of the country, "Not Boston—I hate the traffic." Highway issues aside, he plans to maintain his relationship with Your Move Games. "They are the best team and all the guys are awesome."
Germany's newest member of the Top 8 club is Wolfgang Eder--a Magic everyman. After a questionable play in the Top 8 of the World Championships he was difficult to find. Someone suggested that he did not want to think or talk about Magic after his painful loss.
How wrong they were. Wolfgang was in the side events area happily engaged in a Sealed Deck tournament match. He loves to play Magic. Wolfgang first appeared on the Magic radar after his thirteenth place finish at the European Championships earned him an invite to this event. The deck he played was Goblin Bidding--a deck he originated that has become a tier one Standard deck.
"My uncle created a mono-red goblin deck that continually defeated my Blue-Green but it would always lose to Red-Green—Violent Eruption was bad for this deck. I started looking for a way to bring my goblins back to defeat that deck. I tried Oversold Cemetery at fist but it was too slow. And then I stumbled across Goblin Bidding..."
The deck took off when Tsuyoshi Fujita and company ran roughshod over Thailand with a tweaked version of the deck that utilized Goblin Matron. The Matron was only legal in the deck for a small window but even Wolfgang embraced its addition to the deck. There was a two day team competition in Germany and he ran Fujita's build as the Standard entry.
His team failed to qualify for Boston, falling in the finals but he is now on the gravy train for the next year. Unlike his countryman, Peer Kroger, Wolfgang fully plans on attending every Pro Tour he is qualified for—Boston if anyone needs his points and certainly New Orleans. "If I have the chance I will go. I think that money will not be problem anymore."
Leading up to Pro Tour Houston, this Dutch player was in the midst of a good year. He picked his game up to a new level in Houston posting his first Top 8 Pro Tour ever. A regular column on Brainburst pushed him further into the spotlight of Magic celebrity.
Jeroen became keenly aware of the pressure that professional Magic was exerting on him. "It was grueling to finish a Pro Tour only to have to start playtesting for the next one two weeks later."
Jeroen took a three month hiatus from the game. After Nationals he flat-out skipped the European Championships and only started playtesting for this event with the Dutch team three weeks ago.
"It's been really good for me. I have a fresh look at the game and it has become fun for me again. Before that even drafts were like going through the motions."
He credits the break and new perspective on having some fun with Magic as key to his success. Drafting is fun again and winning is fun as well. "I just talked to Anton Jonson and he was feeling the same way. I told him to just skip a Pro Tour and start fresh."
Tuomo certainly earned a name for himself this weekend—and perhaps a reputation. During the Swiss portions of the event he only lost three matches all weekend. He had a chance to draw with the reigning World Champion Carlos Romao in the final round but chose to play and knock the champ out of contention for Day 3.
Tuomo was on the way to making a name for himself when he found himself on the Pro Tour Gravy Train after Pro Tour New Orleans. He was kicked off the train by a mandatory nine month stint in the Finnish army. When he returned he had only a smattering of points and was not qualified.
He half-heartedly attempted to qualify via the PTQ system but he had his eyes on playing Wake at Finnish Nationals. "Six months of boredom really paid off." He spent all of his free time preparing for Nationals and had a deck and a strategy before most people knew they were attending. He not only qualified but made the National Team that made it to the finals of that portion of this event.
Leading up to World's he worked with National teammate Tomi Walamies and Team Punisher. He could not find a deck that seemed more powerful than Wake and decided to dance with the one that brought him.
Tuomo was thrilled with his performance in the event but was really disappointed with the loss in the finals of the team event. "I did not have a good match in the semi's so I'm not too disappointed. Tomi really wanted the title after two second place finishes—it was heart breaking."
He reconsidered and could not help smiling, "I won so much money this weekend...It's kind of hard to feel bad. I have never had this much money in my life!"
Dave is one of the original member of Your Move Games. He was attending school in the area when he caught the Magic bug and met Rob Dougherty and company. Since graduating he has been living in San Diego and catching up with friends and family that he hadn't seen much of between grad school and Magic.
He is forced to rely on MODO for his playtesting and he credits it with a sharp improvement of his Limited game. "Conversely my constructed game has suffered. I can only test online and most of the team—particularly Darwin and Rob—hate testing online.
Dave is known for playing control decks and his choice of Blue-Green Madness might seem startling at first but Dave played the deck because it was one of the few decks he was comfortable with that sported permission—Tog was no longer viable in his eyes. "I considered the Black-White deck that Kibler and Justin were playing but they warned me that the matches go long."
Dave has made a concerted effort to play faster and none of his matches this weekend went to time—a first for him at Worlds. "Potentially a first for any Pro Tour," added Dave. He came back from an 0-2 start with a stunning 14-2 run to earn—really earn yet another Top 8 notch for his deck box.
This was Dave's fourth time playing on a Sunday—excluding team events—and it is also the fourth time he has finished fourth. That includes his Top 4 finish at last year's World Championships when he lost to Mark Zeigner. "The last three times... I was beaten by a German."
For most players, winning Nationals or placing well at a major tournament would be incentive to dedicate even more time to Magic, but that wasn't the case for Daniel Zink. Zink, a player from Bochum, Germany, had a great run a few years back, winning German Nationals and coming in fourth at the European Championships. After that success, he decided to take some time off for his girlfriend and other interests. He hasn't quite come back at full steam either, and plays about once a month. He does play a lot of Magic Online, however, which helps keep his skills sharp. To get ready for Worlds, he stayed at Dirk Baberowski's house for about four days, testing with Baberowski, Marco Blume and Kai Budde. That preparation paid off, as Zink now finds himself with the opportunity to become a World Champion. It's apparent that he has the talent to win, and with the help of Germany's best, he should be successful for a long time to come.
That is, of course, if he decides to show up.
"The Last Emperor" has long been considered one of Japan's best players, and with good reason. He won the last APACs, hence his nickname, and has had a great deal of success on the Pro Tour. In fact, he missed making the Top 8 of a Pro Tour twice on tiebreakers, which makes playing on Sunday at Berlin all the more sweet. This serves not only as a great cornerstone to Okamoto's career, but helps to cement Japan's reputation as a true force in competitive Magic. This is Japan's fourth Pro Tour Top 8 this season, and the only step left is for Japan to finally get past the finals and have a Pro Tour Champion. If Okamoto has his way, he'll not only win that title, but will become a World Champion in the process. Jin is a quiet, reserved player, who unlike many Japanese players who wear their emotions on their sleeve, is not easy to read. The full-time Magic Pro prefers to let his cards do the talking, and when he's under the lights on Sunday, he won't need to say a word to get everyone watching.