(Metagame Archive) Voices from the Field: Reflections on New York

By Ben Kalman

Being a writer is definitely one of the greatest jobs in the world. The advantage of being a writer is that you have access to all of the action and are often privy to information during tournaments that others aren’t. It’s a rough job—sixteen hour days of non-stop work. But you get to meet a lot of super people who are surprisingly polite and responsive, even friendly, to your constant pestering and querying and interviewing.
 
When I first covered a major tournament in So Cal, I felt a bit intimidated by the players and spent a lot of time clinging to the players that I knew. New York was different, as I spread out and really introduced myself to everyone. I got to know some great players a lot better.
 
Today, I’m going to reflect back on the PC and some of what we learned there. After a year’s cycle of PCs, the game and the Pro Circuit have shifted, and this is a brief summary of the patterns and changes that occurred.
 
Germans Can Play, Too!
 
Hans Höh has had a lot of critics and still does, but up until New York, some of them had a point. Hans is likely the best Curve Sentinels player in the world, but when it came to proving that he was more than a one-dimensional player, he usually choked. He took his Amsterdam choke, however, and turned it into a PC Top 8 and a near win with one of the strongest drafts on Day 2 in NY. This finally proves that he’s more than Curve, Curve, Curve. He’s no longer arguably the best Curve Sentinels player in the world; he is now one of the best players in the world.
 
King of the Hill
 
Rob Leander has been supplanted. He held the number one ranking in the world in Constructed for eons, but his time will be up when the rankings reset this week. Rob is now fourteenth in the world in Constructed, and the new number one player is . . . surprise, surprise . . . Hans Joachim Höh!
 
Here’s a look at the Top 8 before and after the PC:
 
TOP 8 CONSTRUCTED
 
RANK  
THEN
NOW
 
 
 
1
Rob Leander (now 14th)
Hans Joachim Höh
2
Kristian Kockott (now 5th)
Roy St. Clair
3
Roy St. Clair (now 2nd)
Jason Hager
4
Jason Hoang (now 30th)
Michael Jacob
5
Milton Figueroa (now 6th)
Kristian Kockott
6
Alex Tennet (now 12th)
Milton Figueroa
7
Michael Dalton (now 34th)
Vidianto Wijaya
8
Dave Spears (now 65th)
Alex Shvartsman
9
Hans Joachim Höh (now 1st)
Ryan Jones
10
Paul Renie (now 50th)
Nick Little
 
 
We see dramatic shifts in the Top 10. Paul Renie and Dave Spears suffered unfortunate setbacks and will have to rebuild their rankings, and Michael Dalton’s brilliant performance in the Sealed Pack $10K won’t help him recover his lost Constructed points, either. Interestingly enough, with Wijaya and Jones both in the Top 10 now, we have two players currently in the Top 10 of both ratings. Finalist Jason Hager and top seed Alex Shvartsman also made it into the Ttop 10, as did Nick Little.
 
TOP 8 SEALED
 
RANK
THEN
NOW
 
 
 
1
Vidianto Wijaya
Vidianto Wijaya
2
Ryan Jones
Ryan Jones
3
Matthew Tatar
Matthew Tatar
4
Adam Horvath
Adam Horvath
5
Niles Rowland (now 6th)
Dair Grant
6
Dean Sohnle
Niles Rowland
7
Dair Grant (now 5th)
Dean Sohnle (tie for 6th)
8
Michael Walewski
Michael Walewski
9
Antonino De Rosa
Antonino De Rosa
10
Matthew Baldwin (now 11th)
Matt Oldaker
 
 
Unlike the Constructed rankings, the Sealed Pack rankings barely changed. The only major shift was Matt Oldaker replacing Matthew Baldwin in the tenth place spot. Day 1 always has a bigger impact on the ratings than Day 2 because only a fraction of players even make it to Day 2.
 
As for my predictions, we didn’t see a Mike Dalton/Rob Leander final, though Dalton did make it to the $10K Top 4 where he lost to the eventual champion, Doug Tice.
 
Three of my Top 8 picks made it—Hans Höh, Vidi Wijaya, and Antonino De Rosa—which was much better than Amsterdam where I only hit one. I also almost got dark horse pick Matthew Tatar, who finished in the Top 20.
 
Lights, Camera, ACTION!
 
Several teams also preformed very well, proving as Matthew Tatar pointed out to me in my Day 1 profile of him that working within a team structure can certainly garner you an advantage. Realmworx put two in the Top 8, plus others in Day 2 of both the PC and the $10K event. TOGIT put De Rosa in the Top 8 and Horvath in the finals of the $10K, as well as placing other players in Day 2. Hager led a Day 2 charge from his team, placing all four of the New School players into Day 2 and reaching the finals himself—probably the most outstanding feat of the weekend. FTN placed three members in the Top 8 of the $10K, and Decktech and Middlepair No Stick walked away with quite a handful of dineros. The latter placed three players in near-contention.
 
Another interesting note is that several previous Top 8 performers were repeat finishers. After a year of PCs, we can finally look at perennial contenders and those who always seem to be at the top.
 
Vidi Wijaya, Ryan Jones, and Antonino De Rosa are all repeat Top 8 finishers. Tatar and Little both made the Top 20 in previous PCs. Horvath came very close to becoming the first player to win both a PC and a $10K, just missing in the finals. Höh came close to the same, but from the other end. Dalton also had a chance at being a winner for the first time after losing in the finals of a $10K and a PC. Dean Sohnle came from out of nowhere (he was not even expected at the tournament) and almost made Day 3. Kim Caton solidified her position as the top woman on the Circuit and one of the best Sealed Pack players in the game; her rating jumped 30 spot to 25th in the world. Peter Sundholm also proved himself to be a major force by putting another $10K Top 8 under his belt. Finally, several repeatedly strong performers, such as Josh Wiitanen, Michael Jacob, and Tim Batow, were Day 2 threats in one of the two tournaments. And then there was Hager, who almost took the PC with the best deck ever!
 
The Curse of the PC Champion
 
I’m not sure if Metagame.com colleague Ted Knutson blogged the Curse before or after we all discussed it. Probably before, as we Metagamers have an eerie way of thinking along the same wavelengths, but the Curse is very much alive and hungry. For those not in the know, the Curse is what each PC champion seems to suffer—they bomb out of the PC immediately following the one they won. Granted, people can make excuses for each of them—Kibler didn’t really put any effort into So Cal, knowing that he was going to work for UDE; Jones wasn’t a solid Modern Age player and rebounded when Golden Age hit again; Horvath is a self-proclaimed Sealed Pack specialist who fluked out with such a strong Amsterdam performance.
 
But I prefer to think of it as a Curse to be broken, a challenge to be overcome by all future PC winners as they hit the Sophomore Jinx and have to battle back into the limelight. We’ll see when Indy hits, assuming Adam Bernstein shows up, whether or not the Curse holds true.
 
Final Thoughts
 
This PC was more exciting than others because of the dazzling new tech. Even though we were swamped by a ridiculously high number of Sentinels decks (over 40 percent of the field!), watching The Number One Dream and New School decks romp through the field was fantastic. Also, the Sealed Pack $10K event was a great success—it was only the second time a $10K has been attended by over 200 players. The strategies and skills highlighted in that tournament proved that Sealed Pack is not just a kid’s game. In fact, I like Charlotte Ashley’s idea that we should flip Day 1 and Day 2 in the PC, allowing the Draft specialists an advantage for one or two PCs a year and making the Day 2 field a little off-road.
 
In the meantime, another great PC has come to a close with surprise winners all around, surprise Top 8s side by side with the expected, and surprise decks drawing cheers from everyone in the hall. See you at Indy—I can’t wait!
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