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Going for the Gravy Train

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After the first day of 2002 Pro Tour Nice, Endre Helgesen Skjetne from Norway found himself at the top of the standings, undefeated. Two rounds into the second day, after a weird draft at the first table, he had two losses and a deck with few threats, but a lot of removal. "My goal was to make the top 16, which would get me on the gravy train. So at least I hope to win one match with this deck and then go 2-1 to make the top 16. If I don't make it, I'll go back to the hotel and scream," the 24-year-old says.

Norway has fostered quite a few solid Magic players. Most of them live in Oslo, Norway's capital both officially and Magic-wise. Endre started playing Magic back in 1994 when he lived in Trondheim ("some buddies had bought some starters and boosters and we played at school"). However, three years ago he moved to Oslo to study. In Oslo, he got to play with people like Sigurd Eskeland, Nicolai Herzog, Eivind Nitter, Øyvind Ødegaard and Lovre Crnobori, and he became significantly better. He qualified for his first Pro Tour back in 2000, and Nice is his fourth Pro Tour appearance. "I think I should have qualified for more Tours, but I have had a lot of bad luck. I've been to about 20 PTQ playoffs," he explains.

Lately, Endre seems to be on some kind of streak. He finished 25th in 2002 Pro Tour Osaka, and in the Norwegian Nationals, he made the top 4 and qualified for Worlds. And no matter how he finishes in the end, at least he will have a perfect day one record from a Pro Tour. "We had a really bad pool at the first draft table. I chose red/black, which I think is the best colour combination in a weak pool because you get a lot from Torment. I had eleven playable Odyssey cards, but then I got ten or eleven in Torment," the Norwegian explains.

Endre won the first table 4-0, which surprised him a lot. Then he went on to draft a red and green beast of a deck. "I opened up Beast Attack, Shower of Coals and Fiery Temper, and I was passed two Fiery Tempers. It was the best red/green deck ever. So after the draft, I was all smiles. I knew there was no way I could lose," he grins. He admits that being 7-0 was quite amazing, and that he had far from expected that result. "I fear doing a Kamiel from San Diego, where he went 7-0 and then 0-7. But hopefully I'll manage to win a match today."

In fact, Endre doesn't playtest all that much. He studies law and has a part time job, which takes up much of his time. That's the reason why he plays only plays pre-releases and Pro Tour qualifiers in addition to the Pro Tours he qualifies for. In addition, Magic Online doesn't work on his computer, because he runs Linux and not Windows. "I go to Nico's place and wake him up, and then I can play some Magic Online while he gets up," Endre chuckles.

Most of his "playtesting" takes place in the pub in the basement where Eivind Nitter lives. "They have cheap beer and good pizza, so we sit there and play. I don't really play that much compared to guys who draft online every day, but there are lots of factors that are important in a tournament – what cards you open, who you are seated next to, making the right calls. No matter how much you test, you don't get any guarantees. If I test for 100 hours and someone else tests for 1000 hours, there is still no guarantee saying that he will be better than me," Endre says.

Now that Sigurd plays less Magic than he used to, Endre thinks that is important that other Norwegians step forward to take over and continue the good, Norwegian trend. "We have to make sure that a Norwegian wins the Euro Championship, that's the important thing," he chuckles. Norway has won the Euro Championship three out of four times, and while Noah Boeken broke the Norwegian streak by winning two years ago, Skjetne just blows that off by calling him a substitute Norwegian. "We have Dale Tech, and no one beats that! As long as we have Dale Tech, it's easy to do well," he claims, referring to tech made by Eivind Nitter, who hails from Dale, a small town on the Norwegian west coast.

Endre doesn't really know what he likes about Magic. "It's a cool game, and people need a hobby, so this is mine. I had the choice between this and fly-fishing, and I chose Magic," he jokes, admitting that he never tried fly-fishing. Games, on the other hand, have always been one of his passions. Endre likes gaming in general, and he plays all sorts of games. "But Magic is perhaps the best game I've found," he thinks.

In spite of taking the game pretty seriously, Endre doesn't have a goal for his Magic career. He merely wants to do as well as possible on the Pro Tour. "It would be nice to earn some money on it. If I had made a top 8, I would probably have stopped working and just studied and played Magic," he explains. The Norwegian thinks that in order to be really successful at the game, a player needs talent and intuition, or just a whole lot of hard work.

"I don't think I'm among those with the most intuition, nor among those who play the most. Right now I feel that I am a decent player. I think I can play the best in the world without making mistakes, even though I know I'm not up there, I'm probably a worse player than most of the others that made day two in the Pro Tour. In fact, I think both Nico and Nitter and Øyvind and Sigurd are better players than me, but I gain a lot from playing with them. I don't know, maybe I will be good eventually, maybe I am good, you never know?" he says philosophically, absently chewing on a piece of gum, staring out towards the playing area.

Unfortunately for Endre he went 0-4 in his first pod of Day 2 and is now out of contention.

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