The summer of ’09, I remember it like it was any other day: The days were hot and the women even hotter. It was the first summer since college that I
didn’t have a real job, and I figured I would make the most of it by trying to hit up all the Magic events that I could. I just returned from my
standard 4-4 performance at Pro Tour Honolulu and was looking for a big score.
Grand Prix Boston was right around the corner and happened to fall on my birthday weekend. I figured I couldn’t pass up on it. The format was M10
Sealed, the price $40; what’s not to love? I decided to make the trip up with three of my closet friends: Jon Sonne, Ryan Phraner, and Josh Taylor.
Sonne is the only one you might know. I made Top 4 with him back in 2002 at Pro Tour Boston, and he then went on to put up a solid career with seven GP
Top 8s, two wins, and a Team Worlds finals alongside Antonino De Rosa and Neil Reeves, arguably the best 3-man USA National team ever.
My guess is it will be a heated race between 1) and 2) and would like to see what the outcome is.
Back to the story:
Ryan Phraner — you’ve probably never heard of him, although he is one of the better MODO (Magic Online) grinders out there and plays under the name of
Maniactilt24. Finally, there is Josh Taylor; my words won’t do justice describing him, so I’ll insert this response he wrote to the question:
Tell us a story about a time when you took a chance and came up short.
In my English comp. class had a paper due and everyone was going to present theirs, the teacher picking names out of a hat of up to four a day.
Naturally, I procrastinate as usual and decided to work on it the day before. Just as I sit down to work on it Sonne calls me, “Drafto?” he says,
and me being the unstoppable magician I am *cough top 24 grand prix Kansas City cough* I couldn’t say no. Needless to say I won both drafts, but
didn’t get home until after 12, I was too tired to work on this stupid paper (12 page min) so I said forget it, what are the odds of her picking me
anyway, I mean there were 27 people in the class, so I figured I’d play the odds. Next day rolls around its 9th period and she reads off the first
name to present, some unlucky smhuck who had to write their paper the night before, and then the next person, another unfortunate soul, and the
next, still not me. I was pretty confident at this point and she reached for the last name. She paused looked up and over in my direction, possibly
at me, I couldn’t tell. “JAMES!” she said, the moron who sits in front of me. MISE. As he stood up to go to the front of the room the teacher
yelled, “Oh, no wait, I meant Josh.” OBV OBV OBV F*** MY LIFE. She gave me a zero. Lesson learned. [sic]
So like I said, with a crew like this, I couldn’t pass up on the trip. The trip was fairly uneventful, and we arrived at the site late Friday night. I
was greeted with more cupcakes than I could eat from MTGMOM.com Megan Holland and did a late-night draft to brush up on my skills.
The next day rolled around, and the plan was to open the nut Sealed deck, make Day 2, then go out to celebrate. After forking over the $40, I received
my pool, a pile of unplayable cards, combined with Siege-Gang Commander and Ant Queen. I knew I had to play my bombs. I managed to scrape together 21
other cards to put together the deck that was going to make my birthday wishes come true.
After my three byes, I managed to win my next two matches to find myself at 5-0; with nine rounds total, I just needed to 2-2 to lock up a Day Two but
was on pace for a better record. At this point, I walked over to watch Ben Lundquist play his match. He was in game 3, and fan favorite David Williams
was watching on, and when I walked over, I remember Dave telling me something I would never forget. It might be obvious to everyone, but to me, it was
something I never thought of before — and if I did, I probably just overlooked it.
Ben was in a rough spot as the two were racing on the turn before the game would most likely end. It looked like Ben would need something to win. He
tanked on his opponent’s end step, bluffing he had an end-of-turn effect, glanced at his hand of Island, Swamp, Swamp, untapped, and off the top of his
deck, drew to no one’s surprise, Island.
He had a few options here, and he decided that even though he had a hand full of blanks, he needed to play as though he had something and swung in with
his guys. I was unsure of this risky play, but Williams gave me the nod of confirmation, so I knew it was correct. Ben passed the turn. His opponent
swung in with a few guys, dropping Ben to three life, such that if Ben’s opponent had nothing, Ben would win. In classic Ben fashion, he drew yet
another land, tanked for a moment, and swung in with the team; if Ben’s opponent had anything, Ben would lose on the spot, but Williams told me his
opponent just had all blanks in his hand.
I thought Williams had the sick poker read on the guy, but then he just said, “Yes, it’s simple; if he had anything, he just would’ve used it last
turn.” It made perfect sense to me the way Williams said it, and I feel this is something people don’t tend to think about when playing.
[Break from story]
Lots of times, players will make an attack, leave open up a mana, or think in response to an activation, and let me tell you 99% of the time, these
people are just bluffing — because if they did have something, they would almost always have used it.
In Limited, you’re on the play, and on an empty board, you drop a Pierce Strider into your opponent’s untapped Island, Island, and Swamp. If he is a
player who might try to bluff and says something like “hmmm, okay resolves,” he doesn’t have Halt Order because he would have used it. So when turn 6
comes around, and you’re hesitant to drop your Steel Hellkite, which for some reason some people are, just play it.
There’s a reason that you play with good cards, and that is to cast them and win with them. So many times I see players play so cautiously that it
loses the game for them.Â If you’re going to play around something, ask yourself a few questions, such as: did you see it in your draft? Does he have
it in his deck? If he has it, would he have used it earlier in the game? Then decide if it’s worth it to play around a certain card, because most of
the time, it isn’t.
[Back to the story]
It was on to round 6, and I was matched up against a deck with just too many bombs and fell to 5-1. I wasn’t tilted and knew that M10 was bomb heavy
and took my loss in stride. I played well; my opponent played well; and I lost straight up. Pay the man his money.
Round 7 I luck sacked my way to a win, and in round 8 my opponent did the same, leaving me on the bubble at 6-2.
This was it — win and I’m in; lose and I’m out. I told myself before the round I wouldn’t get upset if I lost. It was my birthday, and I was here to
have fun. Besides, I was around almost all my closest friends, so whatever happened, happened. I was paired up against someone I didn’t recognize;
after sitting down and chatting with the guy, it turned out he was new to the GP scene and was excited to be playing for Day 2. He was a nice guy with
a mediocre B/W deck, so I liked my chances.
Game one he came out of the gates with a slew of creatures, and I lost in quick fashion. Game two however was all me, as he didn’t have an answer to
Ant Queen, and the game was over a few turns after I cast it.
This was it. A crowd gathered now, since we were on the end table, as I drew my opening hand. I pondered and then pondered some more and eventually
decided that no lands wouldn’t do the trick and was forced to mulligan. As I went to present my deck again, a judge who was standing there kind of made
a movement for the table. It startled me. I gave him a look, continued to riffle, and asked what was wrong. Silence came from him. I asked again, and
he said nothing and to continue. It seemed weird to me, but I thought nothing of it.
I presented and drew my six-card hand of Forest, Forest, Mountain, Lightning Bolt, Rampant Growth, and Ant Queen and thought “duh, winning.” I played
Mountain and passed the turn, then drew a two mana 2/2 and played it, as I figured I didn’t need to ramp to any four-drop and could cast Rampant Growth
on turn 3. I passed back, and my opponent dropped a Child of Knight. On turn 3, I drew Terramorphic Expanse. I tanked for a bit, played Terramorphic
Expanse, tapped two, and played Rampant Growth. I searched up a Mountain, shuffled my deck, and presented it to my opponent for a cut; instead, he
started to pile shuffle the deck. He was going slowly, so to save time, I told him I was just going to sacrifice my Expanse. I took back my deck, got
out a Forest, and handed the deck back to my opponent to continue his pile shuffle to save time.
Then all of a sudden, it happened. The same judge that was lurking around the table earlier jumped in and grabbed the deck. I was confused and asked
what was going on, and he responded with “GAME LOSS FOR INSUFFICIENT RANDOMIZATION.”
I shot him a look that someone would shoot to the Chipotle guy behind the counter when he only gives you one scoop of rice in your burrito bowl; it
just didn’t make sense. He then grabbed the slip as if I was going to let this happen or something. He was the cop trying to pull over the husband with
a pregnant wife going into labor in the backseat, rushing her to the hospital (okay maybe not so much, but at a Magic tournament, there aren’t any
I immediately appealed to the head judge, and when he came over, he asked what happened. I told him, and he said he was going to uphold the ruling.
This was absurd, and I wouldn’t have it. I got up and went to go talk to the other head judge who was at the front desk area of the tournament. I
pleaded my case, but nothing changed. Thoughts of demolishing the place crossed my mind. I saw a laptop that I figured would be nice to smash. I
thought to knock over tables that had matches still going on, given a few rock bottoms mixed in with a stone-cold stunner or two. But none of that
happened; after smashing my deck along with my deck box in the garbage, I stormed out of the site. At the time, I was so mad at what happened that I
But good came out of it about a year later. I was back in Boston for a 5k, and one of the judges came up to me who remembered the incident and told me
that they changed the rule, and judges can no longer give a game loss for a first-time insufficient randomization ruling; what happened to me came into
the discussion when they ended up changing the ruling for the better, which made me think it was worth it. So, happy birthday to me? Sure, it turned
out pretty good.
In addition, I want to give you guys an interesting Extended list, since there are a few more PTQs left, and most people are focusing on Standard and
Legacy right now. If you’re looking for something different and want to take the tournament by surprise give this a try.
Thanks for reading.
Props to Gerry T for making level 7
Props to Ben Lundquist for starting to write again
Props to Gabriel Espinosa for sweet decklist
Props to Little and Bigheadjoe along with Gavin and everyone else for great SCGLive coverage
Props to Antonin De Rosa for winning a PTQ this weekend to make his return and another run at Hall of Fame
Props to you guys for reading my article and visiting www.3thingstoknow.com, you pro
Gernardi on MODO