I’ve decided to write an article about the last three months in my life, as I spent them all in America and underwent quite a few changes, some for better, some for worse, depending mainly on if you are one of my parents or not. If you are looking for an article on the latest Type Two deck or what you should be drafting this week on MODO, then this is probably not for you, but if you want to know what it is like to be at rock bottom and still make the best of what you have, then settle down make yourself a cup of tea. You’re in for a nice ride and I hope you will enjoy it.
The whole trip was planned out by my favorite American Mark Herberholz and myself. The reason for the trip being that I couldn’t afford to fly over the Atlantic twice for two different PT’s that were so close together. We had already agreed to play with each other for Pro Tour: Atlanta, where we teamed with Richie Hoaen, and then there was the more recent PT: Philly only two months later. So it just made sense for me to stay for the time in between with Mark at his university apartment in Lansing, Michigan.
To restore some sort of order to this, I guess I should begin at the start, which was when I landed in America at New Jersey where we would be testing for Atlanta. We decided to go there to test, as they have produced so many good teams over the last few years, a few of which have done very well at the team PT. The testing team for this particular event was basically all of the American pros over the age of 22 who still play MTG instead of poker, a few select Dutchies, Richie, Kai and myself. Another reason for the trip to TOGIT was the fact that the Dutchies were going to be there, and Jelger, Ruud and Jeroen are three of the most fun people to hang out with on the PT.
I arrive in Chicago after my flight has been delayed by about an hour and have to run to catch my connection. This of course means that my luggage doesn’t follow me and I have to wait two hours for it in Jersey. Normally this would be quite annoying for Gerard and myself who was supposed to pick me up, but after I got through customs there was no sign of him. So I waited. Then waited. Then kept on waiting without the faintest idea of where my luggage was or how to get to Gerard’s. Somehow the message that I left Gerard had become lost between the various people it was passed through, which is mainly my fault for not speaking to him directly, but hey – I’m never one to plan things out very well, so whatever. There are obviously many ways this situation could be avoided, such as not leaving the piece of paper with Gerard’s contact details in front of my computer 2000 miles away, talking to him myself, or just being aware I could make a free phone call to information and request his home phone number. Basically I ended up spending the night next to the baggage claim with no money whatsoever (Travelex was closed by the time I arrived), no food and no way of contacting anyone.
This has become a kind of tradition for me, since at least once a year I either miss a flight or lose a ticket and have to spend the night on a floor, but this one was particularly hard and extremely cold. Of course, I’ve slept in many worse places and probably many worse to come yet, I’m sure. So morning came and I manage to change my Â£30 or whatever I had on me and went to find the internet cafe so as to try to contact everyone I knew and tell them my predicament. After 16 hours or so of not eating or really sleeping after a long flight, Gerard comes and picks me up and we drive over to TOGIT to begin the testing.
We managed to get through about 5-6 drafts every day, trying out all manner of matchups and looking to see what cards would break those games wide open. This obviously wasn’t working too well by the time Mark arrived on Tuesday, because all 5 teams that were there had different draft strategies ready for Day 2 with only a few days to go before the PT. Mark, however, had come up with a plan that meant he got to play U/W and as that was his favorite color combination in CHK Limited, we decided to give it a go. What we came up with was this, U/W, B/R, B/G. This had a nice even spread of the colors and allowed us to play Black in the seat that we thought was going to be the Green mirror (the A seat). By the time the PT had come round, we had had a lot of success with this amongst our group and a few of the Dutchy teams decided to run the same thing.
On Thursday, we met up at the site to hang out with the friends that we only get to see six times a year, and pick up the free food and draft set that Wizards so kindly donated to each registering player. This was very useful for Herby and myself, since affording a meal every day had become a real push. So we wandered around trying to find out what the latest tech was from all the other teams whilst not giving away our own awesome plan for the draft portion. We drafted a bit and lost I seem to remember, but we did learned something even from drafting at this late stage in proceedings. The next morning we woke up nice and early so as to be first in line for food at the Pro Players lounge. This is not exactly something to be proud of, but when you’re at rock bottom, you have to take whatever you can get for free.
Before we started deck construction there was the “Pro Players Vote” for the Invitational which I was so happy to win, even though I didn’t think it would mean that much to me. Now that it is only a few days away though, I actually can’t wait to go to Los Angeles. Thanks for everyone that voted for me. Our first sealed decks weren’t too hot, but they were competitive and we were hoping for a 2-0, although we figured we would have to get lucky to pull it out. The first round pairings go up and I have to check them about seven to eight times, as I don’t believe that we got the bye, but sure enough we would only need a 1-0 with these decks, which was a big relief. Skipping on a bunch we ended up 2-3 drop with a bye, which is not a very impressive record by any teams standard. We figured with our collection of card pools we should’ve gone 4-2 and made Day 2. That might just be us being arrogant and feeling like we deserved to be playing for the money and the accolade, but hey never mind, there is always next time. We were pretty bummed out for the next few days, especially due to the fact that now we didn’t make any money and Mark had no clue how he was gonna pay for rent next month, let alone how we were going to afford to booze and less importantly, eat.
We flew back to Michigan with the goals of getting as drunk as possible and trying to pick up some skeezers as Mark would say, to help us forget our poor performance at the PT. This did not prove to be very hard, as alcohol is very cheap in the states (you have no idea how lucky you are), and there are plenty of college bars that have drinking deals if you are up for the challenge. Now while I live back in London, England, I never drink. There are many reasons for this that I won’t go into now, but suffice to say that drinking for eight hours a day for two months can take its toll on you, trust me. I am quite proud to now be thought of as an alcoholic by the people who have seen this change come over me, and I am here to say “My name is Sam and I don’t have a problem.” Herby just got me addicted to booze, that’s all.
Now if you read a lot of articles on the net, then you will have heard stories of how Jeroen Remie can go into a certain restaurant in Indiana and order “the usual”. Well I can do the same at a bar in a city where there are 50,000 students going to that college. I take this as a great achievement and I hope to be back there soon. There were so many people that were really nice to me while I stayed there, and I feel the need to mention Mark’s roommate called Phil (AtkinP on MODO). This guy loves a drunken draft more than any other thing on the entire planet, I believe. While everyone else slept in preparation for Day 2 of GP: Detroit, he drafted until six in the morning for the third night in a row, only to get up in less than two hours time to go and draft all day, playing for Top 8 in his first GP. Props to him and his girlfriend for feeding me throughout the desperate days.
So the plan at this point was that we would be testing for the next PT in Philly, but this didn’t really happen too much. We were part of a very good testing group for this PT, which was once again the TOGIT guys and the Dutchies plus a few random pros from around the world. We had a very big list of people, and in hindsight perhaps there were a few to many, but you always want to include all your friends and then their friends and so on until you have upwards of 50 guys all trying to bounce ideas off of each other. Mark and I sure didn’t do our part of the workload, but we thought we had the best deck close to the beginning of our testing, so couldn’t be bothered to do anything else besides boozing. We were just at the stage where I was eating two-day-old chicken out of the sink due to lack of money when Jelger arrived to stay. This was a Godsend, as we could transfer some money around on poker sites from my friends back in the UK and I could eat again. Huzzah.
This is how far I got on this article before I went to the Invitational (which was awesome and there will be some good stories from that to at a later date), and while I was away I managed to read Heezy’s article about my stay and there are a few things that I feel I need to set to right. Firstly, throughout our stay I contributed upwards of $800 by selling my Magic collection and playing in cash tournaments. Now… this is not even close to the amount I spent throughout the two-month stay, so I figured Mark and I were about even. As far as eating all of the food goes, that’s just a blatant lie. When I arrived at his apartment, there were only two items in his fridge: one box of eggs that he wouldn’t allow me to open for fear of stinking out the place and an assortment of condiments.
Secondly, I will have to admit that I did throw up, but only once out of about 50 trips to the bars, and I hadn’t drunk for the past eight years, so I don’t think that’s too bad. Thirdly, Mark attends about four hours of college a week and sleeps on average thirteen hours a day. I however only slept about five hours a day due to not being able to sleep whilst being drunk, so when you sum it up, most of Heezy’s writings about were lies. Just to clarify.
Back to where we were.
So at last we could afford to eat, but now the PT was so close Jelger decided that he wanted to do some playtesting, which is fair. He had a few decks that he had brought with him, but quickly we managed to convince him to play some sort of splice deck. I didn’t feel as if I had done enough testing with the Gifts/Splice deck by the time the PT came along and so decided to play a more conventional G/W control deck. Jelger came to the same conclusion. and so we just left Mark to work out his list with Gabe Walls, who was obviously playing splice too. Needless to say, the PT was a bit of a bust for me, only making $245. That is about average over my years at Constructed PT’s, and I did only go 2-3, so I guess I can’t complain. As I’m sure you are aware by now, Mark won actual infi and so now that I’ve left, he finally gets some real money to go out boozing with. Just my luck. The highlight of the PT for me was mostly on Friday when you’ve guessed it… I partied with some of the Dutch guys I hadn’t seen in a while. I had an awesome time in the States and I hope this article hasn’t dissuaded you in anyway to strive harder and make it to the Pro Tour. Not everyone at the PT is like Mark and myself, although sometimes I think it would be nice if everyone was once in a while.
Any helpful comments about this article are welcome at [email protected], I’m not even bothered if they are abusive, just ship me whatever your thoughts are on how I could make the next article better will suffice.
- Obviously no. 1 is Heezy without whom none of this would’ve been possible
- AtkinP and Meagan for keeping me alive when I was actually dying of starvation, and general awesomeness at drafting
- Phil’s mum for a whole bunch of food too
- Gerard, did so much driving around in New Jersey making testing possible
- Gerard’s mum (nicest person on Earth, by the way)
- Team TOGIT for letting us come and barn for a week
- The MSU guys and fit birds