Over the course of three days, 512 competitors played single elimination games with winners then split into qualifying heats of 64 players. Finals started on Sunday at 8:00 am.
Magic was still in its infancy and all the powerful cards were widely available to use. Decks were constructed using cards from the Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Arabian Nights, Antiquities and Legends. Certain powerful cards like Black Lotus were restricted to one copy in each deck.
By the finals, Zak Dolan was the only American remaining in a field of European players. He defeated Dominic Symens of Belgium before being paired with the French national champion Bertrand Lestrée. Lestree was the man to beat and Dolan later admitted to being nervous about facing him.
Dolan's deck was heavily reliant on blue and ran all five of the Moxen. Unlike most of his opponents Dolan decided to only run a single copy of many cards. His deck was designed to slowly gain control of the match before killing an opponent through damage or his opponent conceding. Lestree filled his deck with a large number of green cards and featured the infamous Channel/Fireball combo along with other controversial cards such as Chaos Orb. Lestree's deck planned to win before his opponent could react, through fast damage.
Lestree won the first game through attacking with a Whirling Dervish, burn spells, and then finally a "Channel-ball" for ten damage. Dolan changed many of his cards in the sideboard while Lestree made no changes. Final life scores - Dolan: 0, Bertrand: 13.
The second game was a long one, lasting over 20 turns. Dolan finally managed to do 20 damage in only two turns via Serra Angel, Recall, and Vesuvan Doppelganger. Final life scores - Dolan: 12, Bertrand: 0
For the final game, Dolan drew a great hand with both Power Sink and Mana Drain, two cards that had helped beat Bertrand the previous game. Lestree was furious and called over the judges to confirm that Dolan's deck was fully legal. Dolan constantly gained life each turn from his Ivory Tower while Lestree was slowly dying from Dolan's Karma. To Bertrand's amusement Dolan countered his Argothian Pixies with Mana Drain and accidently took 2 points of damage from mana burn. However, Dolan had 37 life by this stage, so it hardly mattered. Dolan then played Stasis at which point Bertrand realised Karma would soon kill him and conceded the game. Final life scores - Dolan: 35, Bertrand: 10.
Dolan won a trophy, a poker deck with backs like Magic cards, and booster packs from out-of-print expansions. He has now retired from playing Magic professionally. There was also a video shot of the finals but the tape was lost. A card-by-card recap was transcribed and fortunately still exists.
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Jet
1 Sol Ring
- Magic’s First World Championships, a MagicTheGathering.com feature