A Champion Is Born! GP Atlanta Report *1st*

Friday, January 28 – Jason Ford is a 19-year-old student living in Minnesota and almost made Level Four last year but came up short. He’s off to a killer start this season with a GP win under his belt. Read about the winning U/G Scapeshift deck!

Hey guys! My name is Jason Ford, and I swear I’m better than this video would indicate.
I’m a nineteen-year-old student in Minnesota, though I hail from Boston. I’ve been playing Magic since around Time Spiral and have attended
the last five Pro Tours, though only with mediocre success.

With introductions out of the way, let’s get down to the juicy stuff – my GP Atlanta story!

Our adventure begins immediately after the end of Worlds. After finishing the 2010 season with a sour 19 Pro Points, I pretty much wanted to give up on
Magic. After Top 8ing GP Columbus, I wrongly assumed myself to be all but a mortal lock for Level Four, but two awful PT finishes later, I found myself
coming up a little short.

However, these trips are more than just about slinging spells – you also spawn new friendships. While Worlds was a bust as far as Magic goes, I
met a lot of new awesome people, including one Korey McDuffie. After having the time of our lives for an entire week, he invited me to come down and
stay with him for GP Atlanta – an offer I certainly couldn’t refuse.

With just a single PT invite in my hands, I settled on letting Atlanta decide my fate. If I came away with a decent finish, I would go to Paris and
chase the necessary six points to Level 4 for the rest of the year; otherwise, I’d probably just go to Worlds and disappear as just another
“never was.” Despite telling myself that I would put in a lot of work for the event, I got a little sidetracked over vacation and all too
quickly found myself flying back to school the Monday before Atlanta with hardly any games under my belt in the last month.

My original default was Faeries, which is still probably the strongest deck in Extended and one that I’m very familiar with. However, it’s not very
forgiving, and being slightly rusty, I decided that I’d rather not be put in a situation where I was kicking myself over punting every round. I
did a lot of brewing with Bryan Gottlieb (of Splinter Twin fame), but we came up a little short, so I settled on sleeving up Cedric’s Mythic

Thursday came quickly, and after explaining to my friends why I’d be missing the first weekend back at school, I found myself flying down to the Peach
state. While I didn’t get to attend the Calossopocalyse (I’m still but a small child), I was scooped up by Korey and brought to the baller Poker House,
where I found myself surrounded by sickos such as Charles Gindy, Brian Eason, and Owen Laufersweiler. We managed to string together a pretty good night
for ourselves, where I’m told that I ate an entire bag of Twilight smarties that “tasted like ChapStick” and scored a free meal on
Korey’s dime at the local Waffle House.

Waking up in the late afternoon on Friday, we eventually piled into a car and headed down to the site. Despite being stuck in traffic for what seemed
like forever, the ride remained enjoyable, as we got to watch Owen fumble over writing a single Facebook message to some girl for upwards of twenty
minutes. Between that, chatting with Brian about pokering, and watching Korey’s girlfriend freak out at every turn of the wheel, I was pretty

Eventually we made it to the site, and I quickly slithered my way over to the New York crowd that I love hanging out with. With people like Calcano,
Dan Jordan, and Matt Ferrando, it’s hard to not enjoy yourself.

After registering, I snagged a Naya deck off the ever trusty Joe Pennachio to battle with Ben Hayes with Scapeshift. Two games later, I was on board
with Ben’s deck. Gerry Thompson had sent me a similar list earlier in the week, but I had dismissed it preemptively. However, after having never
felt as helpless in my life as when I was losing on turn 4 to Ben despite my “nut draw,” I was completely sold.

After watching my buddy Matt Costa crush Christian Valenti (congrats on the finish!) in the finals of a grinder, it was about time to head back to the
house. We attempted to make a stop at Steak ‘n Shake, but upon seeing the length of the line, Korey decided that it would be better to just sit and
peer into the store windows to “see if he knew anyone in there.” Realizing how ridiculous we looked and that everyone was, in fact, staring
right back, we quickly peeled off and settled on KFC. After haumphing and watching Korey’s girlfriend put stickers all over Brian Eason’s
toes, it was time to get in a few short hours of sleep before the big event.

The morning was uneventful, and we quickly made our way over to the tournament site. I settled in with Calosso Fuentes, Ben Hayes, and Pete Ingram
– the three others who would be running the same 75 as I was. We worked out the final few slots, and after being threatened with death (and the
tearing up of cards I didn’t own) if I played the singleton Cultivate and See Beyond that Gerry suggested, we arrived at this:

Gerry has an article this week about the deck, but
it’s worth noting that I’m the only one who got tricked into playing Into the Roil, whereas the rest had the far superior Back to Nature. I guess
it’s kind of like “I’d rather lose than mulligan,” except for me it’s “I’d rather draw a card than
win.” Oh well.

Things got pretty dicey during my two byes. First, my close buddy and former JSS ringer, Blaine Hatab, managed to lose all of my cards, including
playsets of fetchlands and cards to make an Extended Naya deck. However, I can’t say I was really surprised, as I knew who and what I was dealing
with, so I got over that one more quickly than expected.

Next up was lunch time, and with that, arranging some splits. Now, I’m not really the kind of person who usually splits himself off; not that I
have anything against it, it just isn’t my style. However, when Christian “The Future of American Magic” Calcano offers a piece of
himself for a slice of you, it’s hard to say no. When Calosso Fuentes offers a deal, you’re a bit more reluctant, but how can you say no?
And when Josh Jacobson offers you 20% of himself for 10% of you, it’s an awful deal. But you say yes because you’re too dumb not
to, and it’s not like you ever win…right?

The Day 1 action was not particularly interesting. I cruised through my first four matches (Wargate, Naya, Doran, and Jund) without dropping a game
before punting a match in three against Ben Stark and getting rolled by Christian Valenti. Somehow, Blaine, who started 0-2 after two byes and who
declared that “if my opponent asks me to concede, I’m sooo in” at the start of round 5, managed to run his way up to 6-2, so I
couldn’t embarrass myself and miss the cut. Luckily, my Faeries opponent hit a case of the mulligans, and I found myself a slot in Day 2.

Sometime during the Day 1, I happened to be sitting on a table chatting with Ben Hayes. Judge Nick Sabin, who I’ve chatted with a few times
previously, happened to wander over and noticed that the tablecloth was going off. In an attempt to keep things neat, he politely asked, “Travis,
do you mind getting up for a second so I can put this back?” Tucking my tail between my legs, I’ve learned to expect nothing less in this

Gerard Fabiano recruited myself and Matt Costa to head out to dinner, where we were joined by a crew of Ben Hayes, Matt Ferrando, Kyle Boggemes, his
girlfriend, Alexander West, and Gavin Verhey. Gerard is about as awesome as everyone claims, teaching me how to walk with the swagger of Justin
Timberlake and setting me up to be a high school coach explaining to a girl’s dad that she’s too fat for the cheerleading team over a
(presumably self-invented) game of Situations. While I can’t say any memorable stories were shared (an anomaly, I’m sure), he did manage to
explain how he got fired from his job but is still working there one day a week. Also, be sure to check out his new website, as the man has much knowledge to be shared.

After heading back to the site, I headed downstairs to bird some drafts and to see if I could find someone’s room to crash in for the night.
KBogs arrived, proudly displaying nothing short of the greatest thing I’ve ever seen, a cell phone photo of a woman who had walked down an entire
hallway ignorant of the toilet paper roll spilling out behind her. After they informed the lady of her mishap, she quickly disappeared, but there will
forever be pictures to prove it. Recovering from the nonstop laughter, Chris Myhre was kind enough to offer me a spot on his floor, which I quickly
accepted. Costa (who had 8-1’d) and I quickly headed up the room, eager to rest up before the big day ahead.

The morning started slowly, as they tend to. Realizing that you don’t have any clean clothes makes waking up even worse, especially after you
just wasted your time taking a shower. I also had the misfortune of discovering hair gel and, having never used it before, was obligated to have some
thrown in my hair by Ben Winterhalter. Suffice to say, after being chided by a few fellow fish and seeing myself in the mirror a couple of hours later,
I wanted to bury my head somewhere. If it really is the secret to winning (which Gerry sure makes it seem like), then I’d rather just hang out in
the 0-x bracket for the rest of my life and try to retain some shred of dignity.

I joined Ben Hayes, Calosso Fuentes, and Tom Ross to go get some breakfast at the hotel restaurant. With a $20 meal being slightly more than
Calosso’s net worth, he offered to give up our split in exchange for my covering his breakfast. Despite some hesitation, I accepted, only to hear
him utter out “fish.” When he called me on Monday, he said something like “I’ve never been so happy and felt so dumb in my
entire life.” Just saying.

Day 2 started well, as I quickly dispatched Matt Gargiulo playing R/G Scapeshift and then Faeries and U/W. Next, it was Chrandersen’s (piloting
R/G Scapeshift) turn to fall, followed by Matt Mansoor, who is, as Ari Lax pointed out, one hell of a Faeries player. Finally, I found myself in the
feature match arena, playing for Top 8 against Jonathan Hickerson with Mono-Red. Despite finally dropping a game on the day, I managed to pull the
match out after spiking a Scapeshift off Halimar Depths in a rather clutch manner.

Sometime during the day, I had called by friend from high school, telling him that I was in town and that we should get some dinner before I had to fly
home. He happened to arrive at the site a little prematurely, and I happened to be winning a little more than I should’ve been, leading to an awkward
situation where I had to reveal my so-called “Magic life” to him. Luckily, good friends don’t really care about these things, though
I think he was more shocked at my hairdo than the thousands of degenerates flocking around the hotel.

Soon enough, it was picture time (yes, I can’t actually keep my eyes open) followed by the player profiles. They really are the
trickiest things, as all I can ever think about are the many hilarious things I could get posted on the Mothership, but when it actually comes down to
filling it out, the creative juices stop flowing. I managed to sneak in Asher Hecht’s genius “part-time big tymer” line and inserted
the obligatory Ari Lax namedrop (who is, possibly unbeknownst to him, my mortal Magic enemy), so we got by without too much trouble. After receiving
some congratulations and having a short sideboarding consultation with Ben Hayes, I was ready to battle.

First up was Charles Gindy playing Jund. After getting blown out after a mull to five followed by the ol’ Putrid Leech + Blightning in game 1, I
managed to get the next two on the back of some timely peels, hitting a Scapeshift in the second and an Omen in the third. I appreciate that Gindy was
such a good sport, as obviously the stakes were high, and I did indeed suck out, and I know that I would’ve had a tough time keeping my composure on
the other side of the table.

Next up was Jody Keith piloting U/W, which seems like a pretty good matchup on paper. Game 1 I easily trumped his T2 Wall of Omens with an accelerated
Oracle on the play, which quickly overwhelmed him. Game 2 his draw featured a plethora of hate cards for my Omens, so I just beat him down with an
Oracle and Vendilion Clique instead.

Short aside, I happened to get up during the middle of this match to go to the bathroom. My mom called me after the match, telling me about how people
in the GGsLive chat were wondering if I “went to go take a dump or get a sandwich.” For those of you who have not had the pleasure of
hearing me recite texts from Mama Dukes at any event that I do well at, all I can say is there’s no need to feed a troll. When the lady who used to
(literally) wipe your butt calls you to inform you that you played your Cryptic Command wrong (despite having no clue what that means), you start to
question whether this life is actually worth it. End aside…

Finally, it was time to battle it out with Ben Stark for the title. While I can’t say that I was particularly nervous about playing for the
trophy or some significant amount of money, I have huge anxiety problems when people I care about are watching me play – whether it be a team
draft or the finals of a Grand Prix. While that’s no real excuse (but maybe a small attempt to explain my otherwise embarrassing play), I managed
to limp my way through a bunch of mistakes and come away with the trophy after finding a Scapeshift via Halimar Depths and Ben coming up three points
short on his turn.

Quickly, I found myself buried by friends, slapping me on the back and offering congratulations. While the money and trophy are nice, it really is the
people who make these moments so great. I really can’t say enough good things about anyone I’d consider part of my “Magic
Crew,” as they’re all people I’d gladly hang out with outside this game and are the primary reason I keep showing up to these things – so

After that, things wound down pretty fast. I was able to reschedule my flight back to school for Monday morning, so we headed back to the Poker House
to celebrate. After grabbing some snacks when we stopped at a gas station, Gindy chimed in that “now that you just won 3k, I guess you’re
big time enough to spend $4 on some candy” – kids gotta eat. Arriving shortly thereafter with more congrats in tow, it all started to sink
in. You know that you’re surrounded by some serious gamers when you come back to a house where two people Top 8ed, and there’s a crew of six
assembled around a laptop while Gindy crushes a 2-man Commander match. Shortly afterwards, I found myself drifting to sleep with a smile stuck on my
face, still absolutely puzzled at what just happened.

While heading back to school, where I carry a “normal” and unknown life amongst 50,000 other schmucks, is sobering, I’m still in complete
awe over the weekend. As Tim Landale told me, “Enjoy this moment because they don’t come often enough.” The never-ending flood of
kudos and support, along with this nice looking trophy on my desk, give me a sense of accomplishment and validation in the Magic world. I’ve been
given a second shot at making a real run on the Pro Tour, and I plan to work as hard as reasonably possible to capitalize on this limited opportunity
that so many of us chase.

If I can share a few lasting words, it would be to make the most of all these events. When you find yourself in various big cities with friends that
you only see every few months, take the extra step to make it count. Be there to support your friends when they’re on a hot streak or down in the
dumps, and make sure to come away from the weekend with at least one good story. If all you can really tell your friends back home is that you traveled
across the country and sat in some cramped warehouse for two days, then you’re really missing out on having the holistic experience that makes this
game such an awesome part of our lives.

To finish things out, I’d like to throw in a few more shameless namedrops, as if there weren’t already enough:


-         Korey McDuffie and the rest of the Poker House, for putting me up for the weekend and showing me a
great time in Atlanta.

-         Matthias Hunt, for designing the initial U/G Scapeshift build and helping me out all weekend. This
guy is on a real heater, so watch out for him and the rest of the insane Minnesota crew.

-         Josh Rayden for supplying me with my super, pimped-out deck and anyone else who lent me cards on the

-         Andy Roman, Justin Desai, Steve Baroni, Chase Kovac, John Cloughtery, Matt Glantz, and the Gemmes
– I wouldn’t still be playing Magic without you guys keeping me interested.

-         Mama Dukes, for showing infinite support while still making fun of me the whole way.

-         Nick Spagnolo, for having the stones to play a deck with Flame Javelin, Time Warp, and Crumbling
Necropolis – and actually winning with it!

-         All of my friends whose names I couldn’t find a real excuse to fit in here – I appreciate
the support more than you guys will ever know. Seriously.

-         All of you readers, for being an audience that actually cared enough to click on this link and sit
through my nonsense.

And with that, I’m out!

– Jason