I’ve been teasing to the main event for nearly a week now, but it’s finally time to talk about Steve and Keith’s big power 9 tournament, held monthly at the Quality Inn in Metarie, Louisiana. This wasn’t Steve Curry, who was my play partner from Tulane – this was a different Steve entirely. Anyone who was anybody showed up to compete in this event, so attendance usually ran in the high 70’s. This was before decklists, good judges, and comprehension of the rules in general, so chaos was the rule rather than the exception.
Steve Curry was probably the guy who told me about this event, and I was sure to want to go. We playtested with all the Tulane guys day in and day out – me, Steve, Anthony, Neil, Dave, Rick and others spent way too much time playing our Type One (only it wasn’t called Type One back then) decks head to head, making small changes here and there. Everyone in those days had a pet deck and creature. Steve loved the big Blue flyers from Arabian Nights, so he usually built his decks around Serendib Efreet and Serendib Djinn. Neil stuck with his Red/Green decks with no mana, and Rick always ran Blue/White control. I was the maverick of the group – I would build whatever deck I felt would work against the previous metagame at the event. Only back then, it wasn’t called a metagame. It went more like this:
Me: "Hey Steve, there sure were a lot of artifact/Abyss decks at the last tournament."
Steve: "There sure were."
Me: "Time to run Argothian Pixies and Disenchants main!"
And thus White/Green weenie with mass artifact hate (Disenchant, Crumble) and multiple protection from Black creatures (Whirling Dervish, White Knight) was the deck of the day for me.
We viewed ourselves as the heroes of the Magic world, going forth to vanquish all comers who would dare challenge our throne of Magic dominance. Who are heroes without villains? They were aplenty.
Andy and Kirk: Andy and Kirk were a pair of long time friends who were both pretty good. And when I say pretty good, I mean at cheating. Both were pretty affable guys – Andy was a young cancer survivor whose hair had gone a distinctive white from the treatment. Kirk looked a lot like Bennie Smith. The two of them always traveled together, and I have one really good story about Andy and Kirk that comes a little further down the New Orleans Magic History road tour.
Joel and Mike: These two guys were UNO students or graduates at the time. Technically they weren’t villains – both of them ended up being friends of mine by the time I left New Orleans in 2003. Back then, they were competition. Joel Tempas loved bike riding, coming up with wacky combos, and telling really long stories that had no relevance. Mike Zimmerman was big on the rules, and ended up being one of the head judges for these events. Both of them were good friends with Steve and Keith, who ran these events – they had all played in the same Dungeons and Dragons campaign all through college.
Vinny "The Pimp" Falcone: Did you ever have someone who you just can’t beat at Magic? Vinny was my kryptonite. He was around twelve or thirteen years old at the time, and was already one of the most talented Magic players in the area. He just understood the game well. Whenever we were paired up, I would lose, plain and simple. It didn’t matter which deck I was playing. He could run the sixty Forest deck and beat me. Vinny was really soft spoken, wore glasses, and kept to his playgroup, which included:
Chris and Josh: Chris was Vinny’s Asian friend, and Josh was his Texas friend. Both were not as good at Magic as Vinny, but learned a lot playing with him. They weren’t technically villains either, but these three made up our main rivals. Chris would always play the best deck he could find, whereas Josh ended up working for a card shop in Kenner, Louisiana and running his own Magic tournaments at Frank’s.
Rick "Nails" Moscatello: Rick was a contributor at Inquest magazine for years. He wasn’t "Nails" back then – that nickname would come during my year and a half absence from the Magic scene. Rick was playing Magic from the beginning, and was one of the sorest losers on the planet. He just couldn’t accept defeat with any degree of graciousness.
There were plenty of other regulars to these tournaments, but these are the people who stick out in my mind. We would all come together monthly for Steve and Keith’s power 9 tournament – the winner got a full set of the power 9, and the loser got something like $50 in credit useable towards singles. There weren’t really any splits back then, and all matches were "Play all three games and record the results." Pairings were done by hand, scouting was rampant, and the rules were a muddled mess. I’m sure that people were also cheating out their ying yangs, but I was honest and I kept our Tulane guys honest. We were better than the other Magic guys there, and we didn’t need to take a walk on the dark side to win.
Steve and Keith. I haven’t said much about them, have I? These two were college friends who were in the aforementioned D&D campaign with Joel and Mike and some other guys from their college days. Steve came up with the idea to run these tournaments, and they were a success right off the bat. Steve was a short, bearded guy who was a little round in the waist and was an absolute computer junky. We loved him for this; I ended up falling in with their group for a while, and we’d all go back to Steve’s house, where he had set up a network of a half dozen computers. We’d then have a big ol’ fragfest with Doom, or see who could win Wing Commander 2 from start to finish the fastest. Good times.
Steve was married to Michelle, who was a really good natured person. She helped him run the tournaments – he was basically a typical disorganized gaming guy, and she was the glue that kept his head on his shoulders. They complimented one another very well, and made for a very cute couple.
And then Keith. It’s hard to get a read on Keith, because he was mostly known as Steve’s friend/partner. I can’t really distill Keith down to an essence, but instead I’ll tell you a story about Keith. This story takes place about a month after Steve and Keith stopped running these monthly tournaments, so you’ll have to pardon me for skipping ahead to late 1995. Anyhow, Steve and Keith ceased holding these events, and Steve got pretty heavily into his computer work. One day, I get a phone call from Joel.
"What do you mean?"
"Come to Steve’s. We’ll fill you in there."
When I was there, everyone’s eyes were filled with concern. A few of our other friends made their way to Steve’s house, and finally Steve let us in on Keith’s fate:
"Keith was feeling pretty lost and aimless the last few months, and was looking for something to make of his life. He answered an ad in a bounty hunter magazine, and left New Orleans to join a three person militia team in Oregon. He took all the money out of his bank, sold all his belongings, and left within two days."
That was Keith. And when we come back on Monday, I’ll share you a few stories from the early days and early decks of Ben Bleiweiss. Be here to find out my defeats, my victories – and to find out how I got banned from playing in these Power 9 events.