Blog Fanatic: How I Won The First Ever Pro Tour Qualifier

Today Ben retells the tale of the first ever Pro Tour Qualifier and how he won it. He also revisits his tournament report for that qualifier and ridicules the younger Bleiweiss until he has no choice but to curl into a little ball, sobbing from the intensity of old Bleiweiss’s literary beating. Okay, we might be making that last part up, but if you’re an aspiring Magic writer or historian, then this article is for you.

Who won the first PTQ ever? Answers vary, but the correct answer would either be Matt Hyra (who won a private, unpublicized PTQ) or myself (who won the first public PTQ ever, for Pro Tour: Los Angeles, at Neutral Ground. I had missed “qualifying” for the first Pro Tour because my phone did not have speed dial – the first PT was a phone-in tournament. In the wake of Pro Tour: New York, Necropotence and Land Tax-based decks emerged as the clear frontrunners. Luckily, the Los Angeles players had built their Necropotence decks badly, and they didn’t have finishes that were indicative of the deck’s powers. I had been playing a U/B/W Zur’s Weirding/Necropotence deck for a few months, which looked like this:

Poker Face’s Necropotence Deck.


Initiates Of Ebon Hand

4 Orders of Ebon Hand

4 Knight Of Stromgald



2 Disenchant

1 Disrupting Scepter

4 Fountain of Youth

1 Glasses of Urza

2 Hymn to Tourach

1 Ivory Tower

1 Jester’s Cap

2 Necropotence

2 Purelace

1 Recall

4 Swords to Plowshares

2 Zur’s Weirding

1 Zuran Orb


Adarkar Wastes

4 Mishra’s Factory

4 Plains

10 Swamp

Underground River


Circle of Protection: Red

2 Circle of Protection: White

2 Deathgrip

2 Disenchant

1 Feldon’s Cane

2 Hydroblast

2 Pestilence

2 Sleight of Mind

Wow, what a pile! It quite well back in the day, landing me in the top 8 of the old 500 person New York Magic tournaments. Brian David-Marshall came back gushing about Necropotence after Pro Tour New York, and I immediately switched my deck over to a more traditional, Leon Lindback build (he’s the only person to finish in the top eight of Pro Tour: New York with a Necropotence build).

Presented, for the first time in a while, is my unedited (except for profanity) Pro Tour LA 1 qualifier report. All added commentary is in italics – and there’s a lot I have to say about this tournament!

Coming into the tournament, I had been away from Neutral Ground since January, attending my one half a semester at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t smoke pot at all, and therefore I didn’t enjoy the Bob Marley and Bob Dylan that was blasted in my dorms at 3am every morning my entire time there. I ended up driving four hours to and from Neutral Ground every weekend – one such trip was to this Pro Tour Qualifier.

From: [email protected] (5)

Subject: Pro Tourney Qualifier NY–A Report

Date: 10 Mar 1996 22:58:34 -0500

Saturday was the first Pro-Tournament qualifier for NY (It was actually the first PTQ for Los Angeles, but the first HELD in New York). There was one spot available, and 56 or so people competing. First prize was airfare to LA, but more importantly, a chance to play in PTII. The following is my report of what happened in New York, at neutral Ground (Hey look! It took place at Ground, which was Neutral. Oops! That’s what you’ll get for not having an editor on the old Usenet newsgroups).

Preface: I won the tournament ๐Ÿ™‚ It took 13 hours, went 8 rounds, and ended past midnight. I am Really happy about winning, because it’s the first big tourney I’d won in New York (I’d made sealed deck (Top 8 – at the old New York Magic tournaments, three people made the top 8 from their Type 1 tournament, 3 from their Type Two tournament, and 2 from their sealed deck tournament. The top 8 then played a sealed deck tournament for the $1,000) at NY Magic, and won SEVERAL tournaments in New Orleans).

Moreover, before I give my recap to qualification, I’d like to thank a few people.

Bob, who drove me around all summer in New Orleans, going from Tourney to tourney. He helped me out loaning me cards and being a friend. (Yes, this is THE Bob Brubaker. You can read more about Bob here and here).

Tony, who’s helped me immensly since I came to New York, and has tought me a lot about Type II. (Tony Parodi, a fixture as the head judge of Gray Matter tournaments for several years. Tony and I were teammates for a while. We had an eventual falling out, which is a story for another day.)

Brian, Glenn, Jim, and Karla at Neutral Ground, where I’ve played too much magic, won all of Glenn’s good cards in league play, and are flying me out to LA ๐Ÿ˜‰ (Brian, Karla, Glen and Jim owned Neutral Ground – and man oh man do I have stories about winning all of Glen’s cards. I nearly gave him fits at times.)

Robert Hahn, because he’s gonna *HAVE* to make Necropotence a school of magic now ๐Ÿ˜‰ (Rob did not. It took him a lot longer to recognize Necropotence as a good deck.)

And my family and friends, all the people at NG, and those New Orleans people I beat up on before I transferred schools ๐Ÿ˜‰

On to the tournament:

8 Round Tournamnt

(5 Rounds Swiss, 1 playoff, 2 final rounds)

When I reviewed this tournament report, I noticed that it completely lacked a decklist! How about I provide one now, eh?

Holy Schlamolies! It’s Ben “Poker Face” Bleiweiss’s winning PTQ LA I Decklist!


Hypnotic Specter

2 Knight of Stromgald

2 Order of the Ebon Hand

2 Sengir Vampire


Dark Ritual

2 Demonic Consultation

2 Drain Life

2 Gloom

4 Hymn to Tourach

1 Ivory Tower

3 Necropotence

3 Nevinyrral’s Disk

1 Zuran Orb


Mishra’s Factory

4 Strip Mine

20 Swamp



2 Apocalypse Chime

1 Feldon’s Cane

2 Gloom

2 Jalum Tome

1 Nevinyrral’s Disk

3 Serrated Arrows

2 Tormod’s Crypt

Some thoughts on the deck – Wizards made Pro Tour 1 a weird hybrid Standard format wherein you had to play at least five of every card from each expansion set legal in the format. This included 4th Edition, Chronicles, Ice Age, Homelands, and Fallen Empires. Hence, cards like Feldon’s Cane, Jalum Tome, and Aeolipile made my deck. In retrospect, I would have swapped the Jalum Tomes for Horn of Deafening, and Ihsahn’s Shade for Apocalypse Chime. I also would have made room for a fourth Necropotence and Drain Life #3 and #4 somewhere between deck and sideboard.

Round 1–

I came into the tournament with a Necrodeck (mono-black). It was low on creatures, but high on “risk” cards–ie, consultation, Disks, and 2 glooms to start. From the decks played by New Yorks are PTI, I figured if I could Ritual Gloom, or Ritual Hymn first turn, I’d have a good chance of screwing land tax. (While I do appreciate my own early efforts as a writer, this paragraph makes me cringe. I don’t explain what a Necrodeck is (it wasn’t very publicized back then), I fail to capitalize the names of virtually every card, and my sentence structure is pure rubbish. Now that I think about it, it’s not THAT much different from my current Blog….)

My first opponent was a mystery deck at first. (Though my opponent’s DECK was a mystery, I hate to think of how badly Gabe, my first round opponent, felt objectified by this sentence). I won die role, (because obviously I wanted to play the role of the die in the Broadway version of Mazes and Monsters) and choose to go first.

ME: Swamp, Dark Ritual, Gloom

Him: Strip the Swamp

Me: Swamp

Him: Strip the Swamp

Me: Mishra

Him: Mishra (By this point, I figured he was playing white, and was trying to do anything he could besides play white lands)

Me: Strip the Mishra

Him: Swamp (Me: DOH!)

So much for the metagame! He procedded to start hymning me, and paralyzing my creatures. However, this was a person who had NOT practiced with his deck. ALL three games, he killed himself by dropping the necropotence at the wrong time. For example:

He’s at 9 life. I have 2 hypnotic specters out. He has nothing. He casts Necropotence, and draws 3 cards. I look at him, and say “You just lost the game.”why? He’s now at 6 life, and is GUARENTEED (you can send donations for me to buy a dictionary to check spelling to: StarCityGames.com c/o The Bleiweiss for Literacy Foundation, 5623 Williamson Road NW, Roanoke, VA 24012) of discarding 2 of the 3 cards he just drew. By his NEXT upkeep, he only has 1 card in hand, and is at 2 life. If he had NOT cast necropotence, he would have drawn 1 more card, and had 1 more turn.

(My first round opponent was a guy named Gabe, who was known in the area as a bit of an unpleasant player. He was not happy at losing, especially after I pointed out his mistakes each and every game).

Anyhow, I swept that set 3-0.

Back then, you played all three games of the match. Match points were the first tiebreaker, and game points were the second. Now the second tiebreaker is the much less collusion-friendly opponent’s match win percentage.

Did I forget to mention my board of wins? Before I attended the tournament, I made up a large poster which contained three Benalish Heroes on the top and three Mesa Pegasus on the bottom – there were six rows of these cards, one atop another, and one for each round of Swiss in the tournament. I brought a miniature sword/letter opener with me to the tournament, and whenever I would beat an opponent, I stabbed the Benalish Hero through the head. Every time I lost, I’d point to the Mesa Pegasus with the sword, get ready to stab it, and then say “Nah, I’m gonna win the other two”. Yes, I was a huge dick back in the day – but only when I was playing for something.

GAME 2: W/U ??? deck vs. Me

The guy I played had won because his oppoenent in round one had an invalid deck (It wasn’t professional (Didn’t have five cards from each of the expansions – see above). Anyhow, he was playing a deck where the only creatures he had were Vodalian Wizards, and 2 Mahamoti’s. No control Magics, no sleights.

Game one, I gloomed him, game over.

Game two, I gloomed him, game over. Game three, he got up and early COP black. I managed to gloom him twice, and drop a specter. Then I dropped a knight. He HIGH TIDED with 8 islands out to pay 14 to COP both my creatures!! however, all was for naught, and he died shortly thereafter.

Record: 6-0, 2 sets (I was stabbing a lot of Benalish Heros by this point. Ah, cardboard genocide).

Game 3: White Weenie (Mono) vs. Me

The guy I was playing (Mike May) sat down (he’s a friend of mine) and basically said “I know I’m screwed.” He could do *NOTHING* about my glooms. That’s why, in game 1, I drew 6 swamps and a specter on my draw, and drew 3 swamps the next 3 turns ๐Ÿ™ He procedded to whip the snot out

of me with orders of leitbur (My nose was running for weeks after). Even more insulting, he did the final two damage with an AELOPILE!. (Ick)

Game 2, the deck went to 4 disks, 4 glooms. I gloomed him first turn. I gloomed him 4th turn. Game over. However, I DID finish *HIM* with an aeopile (Luckily, I declined to deal two to myself with the Aelopile. Strategies such as finishing him and not myself led to my victory on the day!), causing us to call the judge, and asking if killing the opponent two games in a row in this way was legal!

Game 3, it looked like he got an early jump (Might as well Jump). However, I hymned his disenchant out of his hand (as opposed to Hymning his Disenchant out of my hand or Hymning my Disenchant out of his hand), and managed to disk out his entire side (2 weenies, 2 knights), and drop 2 glooms within 2 turns. With 2 glooms out, he knew he had no chance, and I procedded to stomp on him. (Years later, I would sue Broadway for stealing my idea of using everyday objects in non-traditional ways, such as to smash an opponent at the Magic table).

Mike May was a Neutral Ground regular, and always a pleasure to compete against in both serious and casual tournaments. He was truly a gentleman through all the time I knew him in New York.

Also, people thought Aeolipile was an awful, horrible card. It wasn’t too bad, and Aeolipile tech became respected as time went on. It’s not too far off from Pyrite Spellbomb, and ended up being perhaps the best tournament rare out of Fallen Empires. That’s not hard when your competition is Goblin Warrens and Icatian Town.

Record: 8-1, 3 sets.

Game 4: Chad (W/G Armageddon) vs. Me

Gloom, gloom gloom. Man, I love the meta-game. For the third round in a row, I hosed the opponent in the first game with glooms. The second game, he got up and early lifeforce, but tapped down to two forests. I stripped the forest, necropoteneced, and dropped a disk. Game over for him. Game 3, he made a mistake that would have cost him the game, but I was a nice guy, and let him take it back (I had an aelopile on the table, he had 2 forests, and an elf…he taps a forest to cast Birds, and I respond to kill his elves. He says “Look, it was a stupid mistake, and I’ve been making them all day–can I take that back?” I knew he would win if I let him, but I was a nice guy (NICE GUYS FINISH LAST AT PTQS!), and did it anyway (Young and naïve – not only would I not let him take it back if I had to go back and do it over again, I’d make him pay me a $5 fine for even suggesting it). I lost the 3rd game. *SIGH*…I’ll have to be a dick more often ๐Ÿ˜‰ (Note: This is not an endorsement for the Republican Vice-President).

Chad was also a Neutral Ground regular, and often ran with Nick “The Tick”, a player of dubious ethicality who would draw Channel/Fireball with alarming frequency when the judge wasn’t watching, and would never draw it when the judge watched him shuffle. We kept track of things like this back in the day, as the DCI didn’t have a great database to keep up with cheating trends – we basically self-policed regions and compared notes when other judges came to town/we went to other territories.

Record: 10-2, 4 sets won

Round 5: John (U/W) vs. Me

For the FOURTH straight round, Gloom hosed the opponent royally in game one (how I kept drawing one of my two Glooms opening game match after match I’ll never know. I swear I wasn’t cheating, but looking back on it now it sure does seem odd I kept getting them). Round two, we had a tense matchup. I nailed most of his disenchants (I didn’t know they were underage, officer!), but he had a 2 knights and a serra (3 white mana on board) vs. my 3 black knights. I was at 18, him at 10. (Me at 4 black mana, strip). He attacks for 9, knocking me to 9. What he didn’t know was that I had a drain life ๐Ÿ˜‰ (this was because I had lined my cards in lead to stop his X-ray vision.) I attacked him for 6 (knocking him to 4), then

drained him for 2 (Me, 11, him 2). He goes :”Oh s**t (Insert bar of soap into my potty mouth)! There’s goes the math!” (Yes, there is goes the math! All your base are belong to me! You have no chance to survive, make your time. Ha ha ha ha!) The next turn, he knocks me to 4, then wraths. We kept drawing back and forth (since this was the national Pictionary competition), but eventually he got too many coutnerspells (coutnerspell, unlike Counterspell, costs only a single Blue to cast), and killed me first (which he obviously did with his Counterspells – after all, he just Wrathed and I mentioned no other cards. Wow, what a great and informative tournament report I wrote!).

Game 3 was a heartbreaker for him ๐Ÿ™ John is a teriffic guy, and an opponent who is VERY gracious and courteous. I love playing against him ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyhow, his first draw was THREE counterspells, Adakar wastes,

Island, Island, Something. My draw was TWO strip mines, two consultations, swamp, something, something. To make a long story short, He played an island. I played a swamp. He played an island. I consulted for a swamp, which he let throught. I stripped. He played his wastes. I stripped. He didn’t get another land the whole game! Afterwards, he showed me his hand (3 counterspells, and 2 control magics by the end). It’s bad to lose on a mana screw ๐Ÿ™

Final Swiss Score: 12-3, 5 rounds won.

My round 5 opponent was Happy John Chinnok, another long-standing area pro. I’m glad I beat him here, because he was one of the best players left in the tournament.

This allowed me to qualify for the final 4 (elimination), along with 2 other people. 2 people were tied with IDENTICAL Win-Loss/point totals at fourth, so for round SIX, they played for the 4th spot. I didn’t see this round (no watching the competition play). (These days, you can scout so much that it’s legal to carry around miniature cameras which are conjoined to your detached retinas, and place them on every table at the tournament.)

Round 7: (U/W creatures vs. Me)

I played a guy who’s creatures were orders of Leitbur, Serras, and TIMS! (Yes, who is creatures were orders! Excuse me, I would like a orders of serras with a side of fries, pleases!) I’m going to be honest as all hell here (Hell doesn’t strike me as a particularly honest place, in retrospect): My deck was SO set up to hose his, it wasn’t funny. I DESTROYED him in game one, and sideboarded in 3 arrows, 2 aeopiles, and 1 disk (4 total) game 2. That game, I double gloomed him, and SERRATED ARROWSed TWO of my own controlled Knights to death. He didn’t have a chance. (Unfortunately, the English language didn’t stand a chance against my writing. I WEEP at the UNNECESSARY EMPHASIS I made at my SPELINGS! )

This advanced me to the finals! (In 1923, a wickets match in Yorkshire, England resulted in the winning semifinalist not advancing to the finals round. In all other cases of reality, the result of winning your semi-final match is advancement to the finals. I am glad I included this necessary information in my original report, as the reader might otherwise have been confused, especially since I mentioned this previously.)

Round 8: R/W/G BIG creature/armageddon vs. Me

First turn for him, I saw white. I jumped for joy. He whipped the S**T (according to NASCAR, I’m now down fifty points and fifty thousand dollars on the season and must write at a ten second delay. Thanks Dale Jr.) out of me. I sat there the whole game drawing peripheral cards (mishra, hymns, strips) (in later tournaments, I would be stuck with such peripheral cards as the two of clubs and the Ace of Hearts, but I could never hit gin), but NEVER getting a potence OR a creature ๐Ÿ™ (Kate says that I used emoticons more than a teenage girl. Tee hee!)

Game 2, I got the tower/potence out against him. He had sideboarded out his disenchants, and I CREAMATED him. (This was justifiable, as my people had gone through a lot of this during WWII).

Game 3 was one of the BEST magic games I ever played in. He got a stormbind out against my necropotence, and was hitting me for 2 a turn (Smart move..I’ll tell you more about this guy and his deck in a minte) (Altoids). Anyhow, I hit him with a double dark ritual drain life (for 9 total) (luckily the police didn’t arrest me for assault), and hang on a while longer (nothing like changing verb tense every other word in a sentence). however, he’s still hitting me (which is only fair, as I started this brouhaha minutes earlier. Who knew that PTQs and the WWE had so much in common?). Finally, he has no cards in hand, and I necro myself to 8. I get the Zuran orb (I win the prize!). I have a disk in play. However, next turn, he draws. Holds the card. My upkeep, I set aside 3 cards with Necro (didn’t want to be bolted), to

drop me to 5. He Stormbinds me with his card (Autmn Willow). I’m at 3. I set off the disk (So I get a draw), and drop my zuran orb. I start going to work on him (he would later propose marriage to me thanks to my tender ministrations). By the end, he had 3 strips and 1 plains in play against a black creature horde (if only he’d drawn another Plains on 5th Street against my Flush, he might have beaten me). He concedes one turn before I kill him.

๐Ÿ™‚ (I like ponies and flowers. Giggle!)

Anyhow, this won me about 300-400 in cards (in Pesos) (Ice Age, Foreign editions, Italian Legends Packs), a T-Shirt, and airfare to Los Angeles ๐Ÿ™‚ Some notes are: Playing the meta-game won me the tournament. Yes, it’s a fancy word for guessing, but having glooms instead of icequakes hosed seven of my eight opponents on the day! (Go Gloom! It’s your Birthday! Have a party! Tee Hee!)

The guy I played in the finals (I forget his name) came down with about 6-7 friends from Montreal. They were all rooting for him while he played, and he had a really damn good deck (Bolts, Stormbinds, arrows

STARTING in the deck, disenchants, Armageddon, Autumn Willow, Blinking Spirits, Mishras, Strips, Ehrnams in sideboard for blinkers, since his only green lands were 4 brushlands, and 2 sacrifice FE lands).

I believe his name was Stephan, and he ended up qualifying a few weeks later. I’d see him often at the early Pro Tours, as he became a regular. He was a nice guy, though he eventually moved on from Magic. I wonder what ever happened to him?

Anyhow, my words of advice for mono-black necro-players: Practice with the deck for a GOOD long time. You *WILL* kill yourself with Necropotence if you drop it at the wrong time. (Studies show that nine out of ten Magic related deaths come from mishandling Necropotence.) A good player will notice when a necropotence is dropped at the wrong time, and kill you (unless, of course, they have no way of killing you at the time. It’s not like if you dropped Necropotence at the wrong time, Rune Horvik teleported in from Europe to immediately force a concession). Every other mono-black deck got destroyed, because the people playing them thought that the point of the Potence is to draw a weenie horde, regardless of your life total. That’s not the way it’s played.

Anyhow, One last thanks to the LA Necrodeck players. No, I never saw them play their decks (I was in school during PTI). However, the ideas I heard allowed me to change my U/W/B necrodeck to one that is vastly superior in the current forum. (It’s also much better in its current form, as well! The Necropotence forum was retired when Necropotence went missing post 5th edition. He was last seen picking up underage girls in Tijuana for packs of Portal 2).

Ben Bleiweiss

AKA Poker Face (What’s with Poker Face? BDM will tell this story in this very column, only but a month from this week! – FORESHADOWING OOOO SPOOKY!)

PS–BOOSTER DRAFT? UGGGH. Time to buy more cards and practice ๐Ÿ™‚

And now, as we reach the end of this tournament report, I leave you with some finals thoughts. Let us never mention this again – my writing was unclear, my spelling was awful, and I used the rules of Swahili grammar to write in English. In short, if anyone asks if I wrote this, how will I answer?


Oh, and he told me one other thing. He said some day, a crazy wild eyed scientist or a kid may show up asking about that book. And if that ever happened…you can contact Ben at [email protected]..