Q: Looking back on 2007, what were the top moments?
A: I made it...
I just came back from Paris where the 2006 season ended. My head is full of memories: The Hall of Fame ceremony, my parents and my brother who made the trip to the capital city from Toulouse and Israel to attend my glory day, Worlds itself where I needed to finish in the top 48 to level up to Level 5, the party at the "Iron Bell," the bar that Cyril Grillon, the former French DCI manager, had kept open on Sunday evening for our private party...
The bus ride from Landvetter Airport to Park Aveny in Göteborg is a quiet show that welcomed me back to Sweden. Every time I went to or came back from the airport, I loved to sit by the window and stare at the hills and forests on my way to the city center. That always reminded me of how different Sweden was from France, how much peace I could find there.
I had been living for more than six months at Olle Råde's place while he was studying in Malmö. I had never noticed before, but on a bookshelf was standing his Hall of Fame ring, in the same box mine was handed to me. It was in all points similar to mine except for the name written on it. When it comes to connections, Magic has been for me an awesome way to meet people. Not only acquaintances, but friends and people I can count on. In Sweden, Mikael Polgary was the one who offered me shelter while I was looking for an apartment on my own. Olle Råde rented his place to me when he was away. Mattias Jorstedt was the one person who would help me anytime I was in trouble or needed to fix something.
But I had to leave soon, Olle was coming back from Malmö and I wanted to spend New Year's Eve in Toulouse. I packed most of my stuff, left some of them in Mattias's cellar with the intention to come pick them up when I find a new place in Göteborg.
I left Sweden on the 25th of December, not knowing that I would not be moving back. Ahead was Pro Tour–Geneva and I would not spend much time at home anyways, so no real rush to find a new place.
Back to Toulouse. Strange feeling to speak French again. My experience in Sweden lasted for more than a year and a half. I got used to speaking English, Swedish even. That's what I loved about it. In any situation of everyday life there is something to learn, a new word to add to your vocabulary at least. Everything was the same in France. All the things I had left because I was tired of them were still there. But it was only a question of time until I moved again, so I thought.
I was not going to stay there for long though. About four weeks later, we had a draft/ski trip scheduled with my gang (Geoffrey, Jelger, Julien, Ruud, Quentin, Florent and Maxime) in Avoriaz, only 45 minutes away from Geneva. When others decided to attend the ski trip organized by Wizards on the Thursday prior to the tournament, we had booked 10 in the French Alps to ski and draft.
|A view of the Alps.
Training paid off for me, ending up 33rd at the first Pro Tour of the season. The next events scheduled were Grand Prix in Dallas, Singapore, Amsterdam, and Kyoto, on consecutive weekends. I wanted to enjoy my Level 5 status and therefore travel as much as possible during the year. A Grand Prix in the US, especially in Constructed (Extended), was not exactly the most exciting perspective. I had in mind to go if I could find a cheap deal. I badly wanted to go to Singapore, so I might have as well been prepared in Extended for both events. The journey looked tiring but that is what it takes.
History shows that going was definitely a good idea. I sure had good days in my Magic career, but it never reached that climax. Winning both Grand Prix–Dallas and Singapore was totally unreal. If you ask me again now, I still have a hard time realizing what I have accomplished, given the fact that I had not won a premier event in nine years. Olivier and Antoine travelled to both places with me, both of them joining me in the Top 8 in Singapore. Seldom was the trip back to France so cheerful. We had an awesome time in Asia, met success, and were ready to battle more.
|The Singapore skyline.
I had planned to start looking for a place in Sweden. In Singapore, when I called home to tell my parents what happened, they announced me that my mom was diagnosed with a case of cancer. My take on superstition is mixed. I believe that details such as sitting on the same side of the table or wearing your favorite shirt will indeed influence the way you play the game as long as you are aware of them, as some kind of psychological allies or enemies. In this case, I am not sure what to think. Did I win because she was to be told bad news, to cheer her up a little? Was it a coincidence? I do not know. I did not have in mind to move back to Sweden anymore. I would remain in France until things get better, to show support and just to be there.
Grand Prix–Amsterdam on the week after was the most chaotic event ever held. Everyone expected me and wanted me to do well there. Unfortunately, I was tired, not exactly in the mood to play, in a format Two-Headed Giant that, like most of my peers, disliked a lot. Going to Kyoto on the week after was out of question. Too far, too expensive, too tired, in a Standard format mastered by Japanese minds on their own land.
Amsterdam was followed by an unsuccessful Grand Prix–Massachusetts where the testing for Pro Tour–Yokohama started. I never considered myself a Constructed player. I can not build a deck and am bored after 10 games of playtesting. Sometimes I have a good insight of what is good (experience, probably). This year was the year where it served me the most. I picked Julien Nujiten's mono-red deck the day prior to Yokohama. Eight years after my last Pro Tour Top 8 in Chicago, I finally posted another one of them. I blew my chance to win it all in the quarters against Tomoharu Saito. I was not as prepared for my match as I could have been. But I was happy enough...
|The ferris wheel next door to the Yokohama event site.
With 34 points in May after Grand Prix–Stockholm, I had Level 5 locked for 2008. With 3 Pro Tours and potentially 9 Grand Prix left to play, I set another goal: Level 6.
The story would not be as fun to tell and to read if I had done well in the next events. Reading about someone who wins all the time is boring. It is hard to identify yourself with him, you want some drama. Believe me, I would have loved not to have to tell the story, lock Level 6 after San Diego or Valencia...
After Grand Prix–Stockholm, I felt nostalgic when I visited Mattias in Göteborg. The streets, the language, everything was so familiar. I was missing the place, but it was not the time for me to move back.
The Block Constructed season was next. Grand Prix–Strasbourg, Montréal, San Francisco, and Florence...and I collected three points in total. Why? Lack of preparation. The format was dominated by a deck I could not play—control. I have never been able to play control, and I do not think I would have posted better results with one. The aggressive decks I played in three of the four Grand Prix were just not good enough. The reanimator deck I played in Montréal given to me by one of the French Pro Tour winners was a joke, but earned me one point nonetheless. In the meantime, Wilfried Ranque and I, despite lots of practice, lost the last round of Day One in San Diego, meaning no Day Two.
To counterbalance the fact that I was going through a rough time in Time Spiral Block Constructed, you voted and chose to send me to the Invitational. That event date was in conflict with Grand Prix–Brisbane, but even though I would have done a lot to level up, there was no way I would give up my first chance to play in the Invitational.
That sealed my schedule for the end of the year. Except for Grand Prix–Florence, the summer was quiet and uneventful. From the beginning of October until the very moment I am writing these lines, there has not been a week in which I did not fly somewhere.
Even though only a few cards from Future Sight saw play in the new Extended format, one of them was enough to turn the Five-color Zoo that took me to the top twice into an obsolete deck: Tarmogoyf. My deck did not betray me twice, maybe it could save the face a third time? In flooded Valencia, my Tribal Flames were doused and Gaea might have drowned.
I was disappointed but had a lot of opportunities to catch up. I was to leave for the most amazing trip I ever undertook. A trip that saw me play the Invitational in Germany. A trip that took me to Thailand, Poland, Japan, and the U.S. for Grand Prix. More than 80 hours spent in planes, which was more than worth it. But one can not have it all. Except for my ninth-place finish in Bangkok, the other tournaments were fruitless.
|Two different tropical locales: Thailand and ...
|... Daytona Beach
That left me with 44 points before Worlds, needing to Top 32 to level up. Last year's challenge was to be replayed, with an increased difficulty. It would be hard. Too many players. Too little room for mistakes.
As you can imagine, I would not be writing these lines here if it did not have a happy ending.
...I made it.
Despite a bad start, despite the accumulated fatigue of the previous jaunts, I made it. Maybe here again, it had to do something with the fact that after months of recovery, my mom got scheduled extra treatments to fight her recurring illness.
The 2007 season was for me an incredible experience. I played Magic in 12 different countries. I have been to places I always wanted to visit. I played in my first Invitational. I won my third Grand Prix a week after I won the second, nine years after the first one. I reached another Pro Tour Top 8, eight years after my last Sunday appearance. I reached Pro Level 6, a privilege granted to seven players in the world for next year. But most importantly, I honored my Hall of Fame ring, which is overall my greatest pride.
It was tumultuous and exhausting, but a hell lot of fun. Trust me, I will take advantage of the opportunity that is offered to me, to travel even more, to give you more of my adventures. Next year can not possibly be as successful as this one, but that is exactly what I thought at the end of last season, so who knows...
I do not believe in fate. I believe you shape your own fate. It is all up to you to reach the goals you set in your life, give yourself the means to achieve them. There is no such thing as a difficult goal to reach; it is either possible or impossible. Flying to the moon and back in one day is impossible, turning Ponders into Ancestral Recalls is impossible. For the rest, it is always up to you. It is a way of life. It is the way I see things and probably what gives me my resolve and my strength...
This article concludes the 2007 season for me. It also concludes my Ask the Pro column, that I enjoyed writing for a year and a half now.
Thank you all for your support, and for reading! I hope you enjoyed it. But don't worry, you are not done reading about my adventures!
See you next season!