A lot of things are changing here in London right now. I’d like to say this is happening while the leaves on the trees are turning brown and falling,
or something similarly poetic or meaningful, but then I’d be lying. It’s actually the start of summer and actually quite nice in England right now (the
slurs people make about our weather are mostly unfounded). I even wore shorts to work some days last week.
But I’m going off-point. Since last time I wrote, I’ve welcomed into our home one new friend and said goodbye to another. One is really cute and sleeps
at the foot of the bed; the other plays Magic—you can work out which is which.
Meet Guinness. He’s only been at home with us for a couple of weeks, yet already has a DCI rating in the 1900s and beats me every time in the Caw-Blade
mirror. There’s a reason I’m not interested in Standard right now, and he isn’t exactly helping.
As you may have gathered from my last article, I love cats. Even more than that creepy guy with the guitar on Animal Planet. So…
Do you want to play with cards other than Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor?
Do you not care at all if your deck loses (very easily) to decks containing either or both of the above two cards?
Hell, will you play a Tier 3 (at best) deck with cards that have disynergy with one another, but make sense purely because of some arbitrary flavor
requirement you’ve imposed on yourself?
If you answered yes to all of the above, you might like this one Guinness brewed up:
- 4 Leonin Skyhunter
- 4 Steppe Lynx
- 4 Kemba's Skyguard
- 2 Kemba, Kha Regent
- 4 Leonin Arbiter
- 4 Leonin Relic-Warder
- 16 Plains
- 4 Arid Mesa
- 4 Marsh Flats
If you can win an FNM with that (sideboard of your choosing, but no Stoneforge Mystics!), Guinness is offering a box of Dreamies to your feline companion as a bounty.
Now for the cute and cuddly one, who sadly shipped out and emigrated to New Zealand last week. Meet Gary:
To say Gary has had an interesting life would be like saying Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a relatively strong card. In the past 31
years, he’s seen the loftiest of highs, the most wretched of lows, and most everything in between. At one point, the filmmaker wife of our friend
Tom Baker even wanted to make a documentary about his turbulent life, and people were betting money on whether he’d live to see his next
He’s been homeless and fending for himself on the street and flush with more money than he knew what to do with. He’s seen amazing streaks
of good luck, then been totally screwed over by fate and other people. He’s seen and done things I cannot legally print here. He once shot a man
in Reno—and didn’t even hang about to watch him die. It’s a wonder he fell in love with an intellectual pursuit such as Magic and
didn’t become a cage fighter or something. Having seen him (accidentally) throw Mills through a table, I’m pretty sure he could handle it.
But don’t let all these tough guy stories fool you—he is damn smart. Void of common sense and good judgment at the best of times, sure, but a lot
smarter than his bad decisions might have you believe. And as much as it tortures me to finally admit it: Yes Gary, you are better at Magic than I am.
For the time being…
Today I will clear the backlog of little stories concerning Gary once and for all, the stories that have yet to find their place in other articles, the
legends on which new Magic players in the UK are weaned. Some of them even feature Magic!
It was probably my second London regional Prerelease when I first met Gary—he’d won a load of t-shirts but zero packs in the end of the day
raffle and was trying to flog them off to recoup his losses on the tickets. I bought one for five quid, after haggling him down from a tenner.
“How much did you spend?!”
He sighed heavily. “About forty quid?”
“What?! Why did you buy that many?”
“Well, they’d only sold like sixty odd; I figure if I bought loads I’d have a 50/50 shot at winning the box of product!”
Of course, the box was won by the guy who’d bought no tickets other than the one he was given for attending that day. Gary failed to make his
£40 selling the t-shirts.
The next time I saw him was several months later, the Friday night after I moved down to London in 2009. Stumbling into the kebab shop near my flat,
good and drunk after celebrating my first full week of gainful employment, I saw a short, stout figure, arguing over the counter about the quality of
the fried chicken he’d been given. With the argument eventually resolved to his reluctant satisfaction, he turned toward me to leave.
“Hey, you play Magic at the games club, right?”
“What are you doing here?!” He sounded almost annoyed to see me on his home turf.
“I just moved to London. I’m Dan, by the way.”
“Gary. Well, are you coming along tomorrow? Drafts, or sealed or… something.”
“Tomorrow? I could, I guess…” I dreaded the inevitable hangover.
“Well, you should. Starts at twelve. I’m going home now.” He barged past me and left while chomping down on a piece of chicken, grease dripping down
his chin and onto the floor.
The next day at lunchtime, I meandered into the County Hotel’s function room, February sunglasses shielding my bleary eyes. I heard Gary before I
saw him, shouting and telling someone they were wrong, among a group of players in one corner. I walked over and stood next to him.
“Oh, you came!” He seemed pleased to see me this time, as I smiled hesitantly around the others, who weren’t nearly as welcoming.
“Who’s this ****ing guy?” A very tall, good-looking, eyeliner-wearing teen objected to my presence on the edge of their tight-knit
group. Others clearly thought similarly, looking me up and down with hostile eyes.
“This is Dan. He’s cool, guys. Oh and shut up, Rob.”
With that, I was welcomed straight into the London inner sanctum. Gary and I quickly became firm friends, sharing loves including Magic, beer,
deathcore bands, and flipping coins.
Top 5 places to sleep:
Put Gary in a proper bed for the night, and he’ll toss and turn fretfully, wake up once an hour to smoke or go to the bathroom and generally have a
terrible sleep. Find him an uncomfortable, dangerous (and preferably outdoor) location, and he’ll sleep like (and be as easy to wake as) a
Of course, nothing can top the Brighton beach story from GB
Nats 2009, but here are the top five runners up for best “Gary falls asleep” story.
– After a long day of Magic followed by beers out, Gary had come back to my flat to crash on the futon for the night. Before sleeping though, he
popped out for a quick cigarette, while I dropped straight off to sleep.
The next morning, I woke up, and Gary wasn’t there, and no one was in the bathroom. He wouldn’t just leave, right? Well, he hadn’t;
he’d never even made it to bed. The bench on my outside balcony proved too inviting after his smoke, and he never made it inside to the futon.
– After starting drinking before noon, Gary was escorted away from the venue by his girlfriend Estelle about 6 pm one summer afternoon,
considerably worse for wear. Just a short walk to the tube station, ten minutes on the underground, and then home. Simple.
About an hour later, Estelle returned to the games club alone and annoyed: “I can’t move him. He sat down in the park outside Euston
station, fell asleep, and won’t get up again.” It eventually took over three hours to complete their twenty-minute journey home.
– At the tail end of a night out with Mills, Gary said he was too tired to take the bus home, so sat down in a shop doorway and went to sleep.
After trying to rouse him for twenty minutes or so, Mills eventually gave up and went home alone, leaving Gary where he lay.
At first it sounded to me like he was being a terrible friend, until I asked Mills to explain: “Oh, this isn’t the first time he’s
done this! It’s happened so many times now I know when to just give up and leave. I think he actually likes sleeping in doorways now, you
– Another night out several years previous, this time alone, Gary made it all the way to the bus stop before falling asleep—a valiant
effort. He awoke early the following morning, his face in excruciating pain, and checked himself into the hospital. It turned out while he’d been
asleep someone had thrown acid over his face, severely burning his skin.
A shocking event to be sure, but it does make you wonder: Who carries around acid to throw on sleeping people at bus stops, anyway?!
– It’s the day after Gary woke up on the beach at Brighton, and this time, he hasn’t slept at all the previous night, instead
drinking through until 11 am, at which point even switching beer for Red Bull wasn’t going to help much. So he found a comfortable, secluded
place to lay his head and went to sleep.
Thing is, a table in the middle of public events at a Grand Prix is neither comfortable, nor secluded. Despite being just feet away from a speaker
blaring out announcements and having drafts taking place all around him, Gary was out like a light for the best part of an hour—during which time
he was covered with cards (mainly copies of Sleep) and newspapers, until a judge finally woke him up and sent him on his way.
In between the drinking, gambles he couldn’t afford to lose, eating of fried chicken and shouting, Gary somehow manages to find time to play
games, including Magic. The “highlights” of his career thus far:
The worst NQ ever:
At the London Nats qualifier in 2009, Gary turned up barely in time, hauling two large black bin bags behind him.
“What’s with the bags? You trying to get a job as a bin man?”
“Shut up. No, Gemma kicked me out.” (His now ex-girlfriend.)
“Where’s the rest of your stuff, then?”
“This is all my stuff.”
“Oh.” An awkward pause.
Later, I was well out of the running, but Gary was win-and-in in the final round, with the possibility of being paired against a friend who could
afford to scoop him in. When paired against said friend, Gary was overjoyed, until:
As a result, Gary was now paired against an unknown to us, who was on fewer points and thus couldn’t qualify even if he won.
As calm as he possibly could be, Gary explained the situation and pretty much begged for a concession.
“Let me think about it. We’ll play a game first.”
To me, this says: “Don’t be a dick to me for fifteen minutes, and I’ll scoop to you.” Not an unreasonable request when considering conceding against
someone you don’t know.
However, within minutes, Gary was fuming, commenting to us onlookers about the superlative quality of his opponent’s draws and generally acting at the
pinnacle of sportsmanship. Two games were over very quickly; then Gary dared to ask about the result:
“So, you’ll still concede to me, right?” He pleaded, desperate and sweating.
“No. I don’t like how you were talking to your friends,” gesturing over to myself and Rob, who had retreated to a safer distance after the first
Shortly afterwards, Gary was politely asked to leave the venue.
Outside, Rob and I did the best we could to console him: “Hard luck man; that was rough. But look on the bright side, at least that bag with your stuff
in it has a big hole!”
Gary looked down to see his favorite t-shirt leaking out of a large tear in the bag into the gutter and was too annoyed to even tell me to shut up or
punch me in the arm.
I started to feel a bit guilty. “All right, you can stay at my house then!”
A questionable “innovation”:
Take a look at the following Five-Color Control list, which I leant out to Gary to play in the PTQ and NQ at the Gravesend weekender in May 2009. This
is the exact list he sent me on Facebook:
- 2 Wrath of God
- 4 Cryptic Command
- 2 Hallowed Burial
- 2 Cruel Ultimatum
- 4 Esper Charm
- 1 Naya Charm
- 2 Celestial Purge
- 4 Path to Exile
- 1 Banefire
- 2 Volcanic Fallout
- 4 Maelstrom Pulse
- 1 Soul Manipulation
Does anything strike you as a little odd about this deck?
4 Cryptic Command – we’re off to a good start. Lots of removal and card draw, fine; splits on these cards seems reasonable enough:
Anathemancer for the mirror and against Jund. A couple of “cute” one-ofs, well we all do it… Maelstrom Pulse seems a little bit of an
odd choice, but not totally indefensible I suppose?
Oh wait, there it is: Before JWay’s 66, there was Gary Lynch with 72 cards in the maindeck of 5-Color Control.
“There was just more stuff I wanted, and adding it would be fine so long as I kept the ratio of lands to removal to other stuff about the
same,” he tried to justify it to us. “Plus, more cards in your deck gives you more of a chance against Sanity Grinding!” The worst matchup at the time.)
“Isn’t Cryptic Command your best card? Don’t you want to draw that as often as possible?”
“Yea but now that I’ve got all these other cards to deal with their stuff, I don’t need to rely on it as much!”
We went in circles like this with him, but he still played the deck as listed above. He didn’t win the PTQ or qualify for Nationals with it.
Gary’s crowning achievement:
I asked Gary a while before writing this article, what achievement in his time playing Magic he was most proud of:
“One of the PTQs you made Top 8 in?”
“Qualifying for and playing in Nationals?”
“Winning a Time Spiral Block Constructed GPT while absolutely hammered. I was like God when it came to playing Teachings. And even better once
I’d had a few beers.”
So when it came time to give him a farewell gift, after scooping him into the Top 8 of the last event we’d ever play in together, there was only
one card that could possibly show how much I’d miss him.
Foil Japanese Mystical Teachings.
Just one card among a whole heap of other cards Games Club regulars donated and altered, to help him start on building a Commander deck:
Farewell, Gary, and good luck containing him, New Zealand.
You’re going to need it.