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By: Pyrosin, Matt Rossi
Feb 23 2008 11:43am
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Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur

Batu Caves Outside Kuala Lumpur

Welcome Magic fans to the first (and hopefully not last) edition of The Highlight Reel.  My goal with this column will be to take all that great tournament coverage found on the Wizards' Tournament Center and condense it down into a single, succinct article that will allow you, the reader, to get caught up and see  the highlights from the latest events on the Pro Magic scene.

I will also look to point out any trends I see in the Metagame and try to keep abreast of the Player of the Year standings.

Lorwyn-Lorwyn-Morningtide

The first Pro Tour of the 2008 season was a limited event held last weekend (Feb. 15 - 17) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  The format was Lorwyn-Lorwyn-Morningtide Booster Draft.  Day One consisted of 2 draft pods and 6 rounds of Swiss play.  Only 119 out of the 346 Pros were able to achieve the minimal record of 4-2 required to move on to Day Two.  Following 3 more drafts and 9 rounds of Swiss on Day Two, we were left with one of the most prolific Top 8's of all time.

Other stories from the first two days of competition:

  • Paul Cheon, former U.S. Nationals Champ, was battling flu-like symptoms for the entire event, but was still able to battle his way to an 8 - 0 start before fading on the second day to finish 10 - 5 in 23rd place.
  • Hall of Famer, Raphael Levy, continued his string of strong finishes at high profile events, finishing in 19th, just one win outside the Top 8.
  • The need for a loofy 4 - 2 start required to advance in this limited event meant that a lot of top name Pros did not see Day Two, including Tsuyoshi Fujita,  Antonino De Rosa,  Zvi Mowshowitz, Kenji Tsumura, Mark Herberholz, and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, ... just to name a few.

Top 8 of Champions

When the dust settled following 15 rounds of Magic, we were left with a Top 8 that contained TWO Hall of Famers in the form of Jon Finkel and Nicolai Herzog, two Pro Tour Winners from last year with Guillaume Wafo-Tapa winning in PT Yokohama and Mike Hron who won the last individual limited PT in Geneva.  Also joining them in the Top 8 was two-time defending Italian National Champ Mario Pascoli, Joel Calafell of Spain, Marcio Carvalho of Portugal, and Ming Xu of China.  You can read all of their player profiles here.

Pulled in with the Morningtide

This was the first big event the Pros got to play with Morningtide, and I don't know about you guys, but since the set hasn't been released online yet, it was also the first time I got to see the set played at all.  When asked about their drafting strategies with the inclusion of Morningtide, Pro after Pro kept bringing up the same concept: Be Flexible.  With your first couple of picks you want to go for the splashable removal like Oblivion Ring, Lash Out, and Nameless Inversion, or some Changeling creatures.  Then around pick 4 or 5, look for that strong tribal card (i.e. Lys Alana Huntmaster) and try to go with that archetype. 

Of course tribe synergy still rains supreme in the block, but we also heard a lot about how much aggro has gained with the addition of Morngingtide.  Between the Banneret cycle and the Race Lord cycle, there is a new emphasis on tempo.  It looks like the best plan in this format is to draft as many early drops as possible and just race your opponent.  Most Pros still don't like Goblins.  The consensus thinks Faeries and Merfolk suffer from the loss of that third Lorwyn pack because the replacements in Morningtide don't fit the archetypes as well.  Elves are the most solid tribe, but are usually overdrafted.  Treefolk and Giants need a lot of removal and still fall too far behind in the early game.  The Class theme of Morningtide seems to be secondary to the Race you selected from the Lorwyn packs, and you just try to get the class that fits with your race (i.e. most Elves are also Warriors).  The tribe that gained the most from Morningtide appears to be the Kithkins.  And no where was this more clearly seen than in the Top 8.

The Final Draft

To help us, the fans, understand the rise of the Kithkin, Rich Hagon and friends at the Tournament Center decided to give us a Drafting Kithkin feature with PT San Diego Winner Jacob Van Lunen.  They showed us the powerhouse Morningtide commons in White that have made the Kithkin a tribe to recken with.  Burrenton Bombardier is a 2/2 flyer for 3 that also doubles as a nice combat trick due to reinforce.  With Kithkin Zephyrnaut, you have a potential Serra Angel every turn.  White also gets two common removal spells in Coordinated Barrage and Weight of Conscience.  Unfortunately, Jacob went 2 - 4 on Day One, missing Day Two, and finished 264th.  But it was Sunday when we got to see how prophetic this little feature video was.

Below you can see how the Top 8 competitors were arranged, and the color combinations they ended up in.  First pack was passed clockwise around the table as shown below.  If you like, you can view every pick of every player with the Top 8 Draft Viewer, but I'll sum it up if you don't want to go look.


Ming Xu


Marcio Carvalho


Mike Hron

Jon Finkel

Guillaume 
Wafo-Tapa

Mario Pascoli

Nicolai Herzog

Joel Calafell

 

Ming Xu had first pick Drowner of Secrets followed by second pick Drowner of Secrets, which put him in Merfolk.  This hurt Wafo-Tapa's Merfolk deck that started off with Sygg, River Guide and Harpoon Sniper, but then quickly dried up (get it... Merfolk... dried up ... anyway).  Marcio Carvalho went Treefolk with a third pick Thorntooth Witch, but ended up removal light, needing to splash White for 2 Oblivion Ring.  Mike Hron opened Cryptic Command followed by Jace Beleren, he tried to go Flamekin/Giants from there, but didn't receive anything cohesive.  Joel Calafell also opened Cryptic Command, moved quickly toward Green in the middle of the first pack but didn't really settle in until Elves in Morningtide. 

Nicolai Herzog passed up a Chandra Nalaar to go with Nameless Inversion followed by a Final Revels.  He then got into Elves with a Wren's Run Vanquisher and picked up an Imperious Perfect along the way, but never saw enough removal.  Mario Pascoli, on the other hand, had no problems finding removal.  Mario quickly got into Red/Black with a first pick Eyeblight's Ending and that gift of a second pick Chandra from Nicolai.  He ended up with a rather weak creature base, but just had so much removal, including a Thundercloud Shaman in a ridiculous pack that also included Tarfire and Lash Out, that it got him all the way to the finals.

Finally, that brings us to Jon Finkel.  Finkel was able to stay flexible for the longest period of time, and ended up with the most aggressive deck of the bunch.  He opened first pick Mulldrifter, the only one in the entire draft, over the more powerful but more restrictive Brion Stoutarm. He appeared to move toward White/Blue Merfolk with a third pick Summon the School.  But Jon continued to take high quality, splashable cards in the form of Pestermite and Avian Changeling with picks four and five.  It wasn't until a NINTH pick Goldmeadow Stalwart that Finkel really moved toward Kithkin.  He ended the pack with a total of 3 Kinsbaile Skirmisher and 1 Cenn's Heir.  Second pack, he had first pack Wizened Cenn and second pick Kithkin Harbinger to solidify the strategy. 

Going into the pack of Morningtide, Jon was devoid of removal, the only disruption being a second pick Goldmeadow Harrier.  But as we saw from the draft feature, White has two common removal spells and Finkel was able to go pick one Weight of Conscience, pick two Coordinated Barrage.  The he found a bomb with Preeminent Captain.  He also picked up a Kithkin Zephyrnaut and Distant Melody which were ridiculous in his highly synergistic deck.  Here's the final deck list:

Jon Finkel's Top 8 Deck
Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur
Creatures
1 Avian Changeling
2 Cenn's Heir
1 Goldmeadow Harrier
1 Goldmeadow Stalwart
1 Kinsbaile Balloonist
4 Kinsbaile Skirmisher
2 Kithkin Greatheart
1 Kithkin Harbinger
1 Kithkin Zephyrnaut
1 Mosquito Guard
1 Mulldrifter
1 Pestermite
1 Preeminent Captain
1 Wizened Cenn

Other Spells
1 Coordinated Barrage
1 Disperse
1 Distant Melody
1 Surge of Thoughtweft
1 Weight of Conscience
Lands
5 Island
11 Plains

Sideboard
1 Battle Mastery
1 Burrenton Shield-Bearers
1 Caterwauling Boggart
1 Entangling Trap
2 Exiled Boggart
1 Giant Harbinger
1 Graceful Reprieve
1 Hillcomber Giant
1 Ink Dissolver
1 Latchkey Faerie
1 Paperfin Rascal
2 Ponder
1 Quill-Slinger Boggart
1 Seething Pathblazer
1 Shinewend
1 Stingmoggie
1 Stomping Slabs
1 Summon the School
1 Wellgabber Apothecary
Kinsbaile Skirmisher

 

If you chart his deck, you'll see that Finkel had an extremely low mana curve, with an average mana cost of only 2.33.  The curve of this deck was so low... (How low was it?)  It was so low that he only ran 16 lands.  Jon's deck allowed him to throw down lots of cheap creatures.  Then with 4 Kinsbaile Skirmisher, he was able to force a lot of early attacks that would have otherwise been impossible to occur.  Combined with Kithkin Harbinger, Jon was able to see  Wizened Cenn almost every time.

 

Congratulations to Jon Finkel, Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur Champion

Most games played out something like this.  Jon would get in on the ground in the early game while his opponent had minimal board position.  Along the way, the ground would clog, Jon would reload with his two card drawing spells, and then find his flyers to finish the job.  He was never pushed to a game 5, beating Wafo-Tapa 3-0 in the quarters, Carvalho 3-1 in the semis, and Pascoli 3-1 in the finals.  The only two games he lost were a result of his opponents finding their one and two drops in their opening hands which stalled Jon long enough to stabilize.

If you want to watch any of Jon's stellar play, you can download the videos here.  But, I think, he really won this PT at the draft table.  He waited, didn't force anything, and recognized the signal to tell him which tribe to draft.  And then in the third pack, got a little lucky, to get first and 

second pick removal spells in his color.  With everyone else at the table fighting over Merfolk, Elves, and Treefolk, Jon was the only one going Kithkin which allowed him to pick up a lot of playable cards late.  So remember, when we finally get to do some LLM drafts of our own on MTGO, aggro is the way to go, but synergy is still key to getting the maximum value out of those late picks.

Player of the Year

Top 20 in the 2008 Player of the Year Standings 
Following PT Kuala Lumpur

Position Player Points
1 Jon Finkel* 25
2 Mario Pascoli 20
3 Joel Calafell 16
4 Marcio Carvalho 16
5 Ming Xu 16
6 Shuuhei Nakamura* 13
7 Guillaume Wafo-Tapa 13
8 Nicolai Herzog 12
9 Mike Hron 12
10 Robert van Medevoort 11
11 Patrizio Golia 9
12 Maritn Juza 9
13 Raphael Levy 9
14 Manuel Bucher 8
15 Fabien Demazeau 8
16 Christopher Green 8
17 Mattias Kettil 8
18 Raul Porojan 8
19 Thomas Preyer 8
20 Steven Sadin 8

* Event Winner

For winning Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur, Jon Finkel received 25 Pro Points and the early lead in the Player of the Year Race.  Shuuhei Nakamura, winner of Grand Prix Stuttgart back in December, followed up with a 41st place finish at Kuala Lumpur, dropping him from 1st to 6th in the standings.  Of course, these standings only reflect the results of two events and will change dramatically throughout the year.

Join me next week when we take a look at the Extended results from Grand Prix Vancouver.

And if you have any suggestions regarding what you'd like to see from this column, please leave a comment.  It's still a work in progress here.

2 Comments

by patrizio (Unregistered) 151.30.190.41 (not verified) at Mon, 09/01/2008 - 07:20
patrizio (Unregistered) 151.30.190.41's picture

Beacause the sideboard is so....strange??

by eotinb at Sat, 02/23/2008 - 22:14
eotinb's picture

Really nice summary. My only suggestion is to consider including a few more links to highlights from the official coverage if you can identify more gems in there (like the kithkin video).