The New Orleans tournament Magic scene began to wind down after the release of Ice Age. The Have-A-Hobby tournaments (Steve & Keith’s tournaments) were ended, Kirk and Andy were put out of business, and the sole bastion of tournaments left were Serenidib Jim’s tournaments in Metarie. The format was the newly developed Type Two, and one man who loved this format was Anthony DiNatale. Anthony and his twin brother Chris would later become the most colorful and certainly most infamous Magic players on the New Orleans scene, but this was before Chris had moved from Philadelphia to the Big Easy.
Anthony was (and still is) a loud, redheaded Italian who was loud, and tended to be loud. Did I mention he was loud? This man was so loud that Spinal Tap asked him to turn it down to a twelve. Without the influence of his brother, Anthony was somewhat subdued and slightly shy. He didn’t like Type One very much, but loved playing this new”Type Two” format invented by Wizards. He always ran his White/Red deck.
Have-A-Hobby ran a couple of Type Two tournaments before they closed their doors for good, but the attendance was pretty abysmal. Steve and I would check on Anthony’s progress during the events. I remember vividly how Anthony recounted one game. He was playing against this woman who had a Thallid deck. Neither of them developed a board position, as Anthony cleared all of her early plays with an Earthquake for two. Finally, she played Feral Thallid, the 6/3 beater. Anthony played his sixth land and passed the turn. On the lady’s turn, she swung at Anthony.”Are you sure you want to do that?””Yeah?””Are you sure?” Her boyfriend, who had been watching the game, began to get annoyed.”She’s attacking.””Whoa guy, I’m just making sure the lady wants to attack. No blocks. Damage?” She nodded.”Ok, I’ll cast Eye for an Eye, and Fork it twice. I’ll go to six and you take eighteen.” And like that the game was over.
The Crescent City Comics tournaments were played in the back of the store, where comic boxes had been moved aside to make room for folding tables. Steve, Anthony and I were regulars at these events, as were Vinny and Chris Huang (whose name I’ve been misspelling the past few articles – sorry Chris!). Steve and I really didn’t catch on too well to Type Two at first, whereas Anthony came in with both guns blazing. This allowed Vinny and Chris to absolutely dominate the tournaments, since Anthony had one quirk – he would make a huge mistake every match. It would never be the same mistake twice, but it would always be a mistake big enough to either set him back significantly or outright lose him the match. He never screwed up the same way twice, but he sure did find a lot of ways to screw things up in general.
These tournaments weren’t very memorable except for one match between Anthony and Chris. Huang (as Anthony called him) was running a White/Blue Zur’s Weirding deck, whereas Anthony had his old faithful, White/Red. Mark Rosewater detailed the reactions that some people have to being Zur’s Weirding locked in his article from last week. However, Mark never played a game against his bitterest rival while Zur’s Weirding locked.
Anthony wasn’t only loud, but he was confrontational with people he didn’t like. Chris and Vinny fit into that category, since they were”against” us. Everything was”us vs. them” when it came to Anthony, though his attitude eventually morphed to an even more unfortunate”me vs. everyone else” philosophy as he grew older. Anyhow, Chris got the lock down on Anthony game one – Anthony had no threats on the board or in hand, whereas Chris got down four mana, two Fountain of Youth, and a Zur’s Weirding.
Anthony:”Well Huang, I bet you think you’re pretty smart?”
Anthony:”I’m gonna still win the game.”
Chris:”You can’t win the game.”
Anthony:”Yes I can.”
Chris:”No you can’t.”
Anthony: (Draws his card and reveals it.)
Chris:”Pay two life, discard that. I’ll gain two life with my Fountains.”
Anthony:”Whoa, whoa, whoa Huang! Give me a second to think here.”
Chris:”There’s nothing to think about. You can’t have the card.”
Anthony:”Let me think about it.”
Chris: (Getting more annoyed).”I deny!”
Chris: (Grabs the card out of Anthony’s hand, and throws it in Anthony’s graveyard)”I deny!”
Anthony:”Huang, don’t you ever touch my deck again.”
Chris:”I’ll touch it whenever I want. You’re just stalling.”
Anthony:”I’m not stalling, and you better not touch my deck again.”
Chris:”Look, I deny! Whatever you draw, I deny! I deny!”
Chris: (louder and louder)”I deny! I deny!”
Anthony:”Huang, you should look into that anger problem you have.”
Such was life with the DiNatale boys. Things only went further downhill when Anthony’s twin brother Chris decided that he would rather live in New Orleans than in Philadelphia – Chris DiNatale moved down to New Orleans in the fall semester of 1995.
During that summer, I spent more and more time with Bob Brubaker. We would hit tournaments in Baton Rouge. I remember we went to a meeting of the LSU Magic club, and we were introduced to a guy who had been banned from the LSU Magic scene, outside of casual play. We inquired why, and he showed us – he was a sleight of hand magician who could palm virtually any card he wanted, and draw any card out of his deck on any given turn. He demonstrated how he could end up with three to four of any given card in his deck on the draw, such as Psychic Purge versus a discard deck, or Mana Drain for the control on control match. While his displays were only a curiosity at the time, his technique and distraction methods would teach me later on to beware the antics of a certain infamous professional Magic player in the Virginia/Maryland/DC area.
Bob and I spent the summer going to restaurants, hitting up different Magic events in different parts of the state, and playing with the Tulane students who had stayed home for the summer. We went down to Kaldi’s coffee shop in the French Quarter (the Magic scene for the goth set), went over to Have-A-Hobby Steve’s house to play with Steve, Joel and Mike, and hit up Steve Curry on several occasions for some playtesting.
Bob had a lot of advice for me during this time.
Bob:”You know, I’ve made some mistakes in my life.”
Bob:”You should just say no to drugs.”
Ben:”Bob, I’ve never done drugs.”
Bob:”Good. But if anyone ever offers them to you, just say no. Look what they did to me.”
Ben:”Bob, you’re fine”
Bob: (Angry)”What’d you say about my mom?”
Ben:”Bob, I said you’re fine. I didn’t say anything about your mom.”
Bob: (Calming Down).”Oh, ok. Never mind.”
I’ve never been too close to my dad, but I can say without reservation that Bob was like a surrogate father to me during those spring and summer months in New Orleans. I had been talking to my parents maybe once or twice a month, but I could ask Bob about girls, or about school, and he’d do his best to impart his screwed up wisdom on me.
Ben:”Bob, I don’t know what to do about Pam.”
Ben:”The girl I’ve been talking about all summer?”
Bob:”Women. They can do that to you. Don’t do drugs.”
Bob did his best to listen, which was a huge help given what was in store in my life over the coming months – but that’s a story for tomorrow.
Ben can be reached at [email protected].