I would guess that most of you who follow sports have read some of Bill Simmons’ work on ESPN/Grantland. While Bill Simmons has a variety of entertaining article formats, my favorite is by far the retro diary. Simmons will take an important game or event and rewind it, writing comments throughout the game as they happen. This is a good example of Simmons’ work.
This is my attempt at a retro diary.
For reference, here are the two decks I played this weekend
I might write something about the decks I played in the future if there is a demand, but this is more of a tournament report.
Friday 2:00 pm: I’m at my dad’s house in Dandridge (read: middle of nowhere), Tennessee. It’s strange that I’ve only been to this town a handful of times in my life considering that it’s where my dad lives and all. It makes sense once you consider my dad moved here after I graduated high school and that it’s far from Arizona, but it’s strange to me nonetheless. It’s a really beautiful location, and I enjoy visiting, but I could never live here. The 10-minute drives to the corner store would get to me after a while. In any event, I am thankful that it is only a 3.5-hour drive to Charlotte, and I depart.
5:45 pm: One Billy Gogol calls. He wants to talk tech. I hate talking tech. I tell him that I am in Charlotte and will be at the site in 10-15 minutes. I hang up the phone.
Then my phone dies.
The problematic part of this is that I was relying on my phone’s GPS to get me to the convention center. I also didn’t bring my computer, and my phone charger doesn’t work, so I’m basically in the dark. I’m used to the grid layout of Phoenix, so I don’t handle being lost very well. I get disoriented easily.
6:30 pm: I arrive on site, finally. I meet up with the Phoenix peeps, but we don’t stay long. For whatever reason, we are eager to retreat to the Knight’s Inn for the (K)night. I’m fairly certain this hotel’s slogan was “Half the hotel for half the price!”
Saturday 8:00 am: I have a strong desire to meet up with my bff Anthony Avitollo for breakfast, but the rest of my room is not complying, as they are still asleep. I have Anthony come pick me up and leave my keys for the rest of the room. Anthony and I put the finishing touches on our respective decks, including me borrowing a bunch of cards from Anthony. Given that I spent two weeks visiting my parents in Tennessee, I didn’t exactly have a ton of time to play Magic before the event. Instead, I relied on Anthony to do my legwork, brewing up a few decks when I was visiting over Thanksgiving weekend.
All of the decks we made were variations on the U/R Delver deck I played this weekend, which made the timing of AShrout fairly bad. His Delver Burn deck was one of the versions we had built, although Anthony and I didn’t think you could burn people out after casting a Force of Will. Given that we wanted to Force of Will (a stupid idea in hindsight), we scrapped the burn deck and played something much worse. In any event, Anthony’s help this weekend cannot be underestimated, and I am extremely grateful.
12:00 pm: After enjoying my two-round bye (50 points exactsies!), I sat down for my first match against Mike Potente. As I was shuffling his deck, I felt a card slip. As I generally look away while shuffling, I asked my opponent if I had flipped a card. He said that I had not, and we proceeded to play our match. After I won on the back of Mike’s double mana screw, I went to pick up my things and noticed a card in my opponent’s sleeve on the floor. I always hate these sorts of situations, as I am responsible for something that sucks yet has no remedy. We call a judge over who tells us what we already knewâ€”nothing can be done. I sincerely apologize for my honest mistake.
I hate these witch hunts. GerryT received a large amount of hate for what amounted to a mistake. Gerry has no record of shadiness (quite the opposite), yet he suffered though baseless accusations by people who apparently love to throw stones. People make mistakes in games (yes, even games on camera!). Habitual mistakes that always favor the player making them likely constitutes shadiness. The occasional mistake that goes both ways does not.
5:00: OMG I beat Brian Kibler! He’s so dreamy.
8:00: I continue to run well and play well for the most part, and I am now 8-0! One of the downsides of doing well was that I couldn’t do as much outside of the tournament as I wanted to. The trolls over at mtgbridge.com were recording a podcast and invited me to have a drink or five with them, but I had a tournament to win! After waiting forever for dinner, it was far too late to join the podcast.
Sunday 10:00 am: As one of two people at 8-0, I knew my first-round opponent of day 2 would be Andrey Yanyuk. Andrey had some mirror technology that had destroyed Alex Bertoncini. Andrey’s tech was Trinket Mage! I was really jealous of this technology, as I’ve never played both Trinket Mage and Merfolk Looter in the same deck, despite those two cards being among my favorites of all time. His targets were Hex Parasite, which kills an Illusion on sight, and Sylvok Lifestaff. I was worried about the match and decided on a crazy sideboard strategy. I would side out all of my Illusions and replace them with all of my removal spells and Timely Reinforcements. I didn’t think I could win a normal game.
I would like to say I was a genius and my plan worked perfectly, but Andrey got very flooded game 1 while I got very Merfolk Looter’d. In game 2, Andrey drew both of his Hex Parasites and none of his Trinket Mages, Geist of Saint Traft and no white mana, and Batterskull without a fifth land. He didn’t do anything all game, and I won easily.
11:15: I just had the pleasure of meeting one David McDarby, piloting Wolf Run. While I picked up my first loss of the tournament, I had some insane games in the meantime. Game 3 was by far the best; it involved David missing land 6 for a turn, then land 6 being a Copperline Gorge, followed by ripping an untapped land so his Autumn’s Veil was live. The craziest thing about this is that I was flooded, so I had six lands, Snapcaster Mage, and Mana Leak in hand, with no counterspells in the graveyard. If the Autumn’s Veil were Guttural Response, I could counter his Inferno Titan with the Snapcaster Mage. Regardless, I still screwed up to lose this game. My third card in hand was Phantasmal Image, and my opponent was on 6 life. If I just Snapcaster Mage-d a Vapor Snag, I could attack him to three life with the Mage, and when he replayed the Titan, Phantasmal Image could copy it to kill him. Instead, I waited until I could kill him with that sequence all at once, and he peeled Thrun, the Last Troll to stop me from attacking. I screwed up to lose a very winnable but entertaining game. Matches like this are why I play Magic.
12:15 pm: “I got a bad feeling about this. I think you’re going to dread my next play.”
Seconds later, Alex Bertoncini was putting his pair of Illusions in the graveyard.
Unlike last time, the match was not close whatsoever. Reid’s Mono-Black deck is something to be feared. I would’ve liked to see Bloodghast over Nether Spirit, and/or a splash, but Reid’s deck is excellent. Liliana of the Veil is the real deal in Legacy.
3:30: One of my greatest strengths as a player is that I don’t really care about results. I feel like winning takes care of itself if you do things the right way and that stressing over individual matches does nothing to help you for future matches. I can safely say I was very nervous about my win-and-in match against Dan Jordan. I never get nervous.
I won’t lie. I was happy when I saw that I was paired against Dan, or more specifically his U/W Stoneforge deck. While I’d rather not play against a player of Dan’s caliber, that was inevitable at this stage of the game. However, most people had built their Legacy decks with a Delver deck in mind, and it was nice to play against something not specifically built to beat Delvers, even if Dan’s deck is a good one.
It was a very close match, and I was overjoyed once I had won. I would’ve been kicking myself had I started 9-0 and finished 1-4 down the stretch. I will admit that I wasn’t super focused mentally and that I was thinking ahead a little too much, perhaps focused on the fast start.
6:00 While it was a relief to make Top 8, I knew the fight wasn’t over. I resolved to never let my game slip in elimination rounds, even if I have splits or whatever to lessen or eliminate financial incentives to win. I want to win tournaments, as those memories are what will stick with me. I’m still lighthearted and can crack jokes even during the match, but I came to game.
My Top 8 match against GerryT was very similar to our Swiss match. I felt significantly ahead during most of the games, but one fewer piece of gas from me or one more turn from Gerry would swing the game in his favor. Gerry is easily the best player that regularly plays on the SCG circuit, and I felt fortunate to get the best of him.
7:00: My Top 4 match was even easier. I never felt threatened in either game. Kristopher, while an excellent player, is not the same as GerryT, and his deck didn’t have the raw power of Gerry’s. Kristopher played well against me both in our Swiss match (he rolled me over with Dredge) and in the semis, but the games were not close.
8:00: Finally, the easiest match of all!
Too bad I lost. It’s very difficult to flip a Delver and have it stick in the mirror, but that’s exactly what Alex did in both games. My draws were simply horrendous, but them’s the breaks. I certainly have no regrets.
As for Alex Bertoncini, I don’t feel like I am qualified to comment too deeply. There are plenty of uninformed people saying all sorts of things about it, so I will leave it at that. It’s unfortunate whenever someone is banned for cheating, but cheating will happen in any competitive venue where prizes are awarded. The best we can do is have proper channels for dealing with it and foster a community that doesn’t accept it. I’m not sure how I feel about being retroactively named the winner of the Invitational, but I know I’ll enjoy looking back on this weekend, regardless of what sort of titles I may or may not have earned.
Right now: Everyone gets props!
Thanks for reading