Breaking Your Curve, A GP KC 9th Place Tournament Report

After nine years of playing Magic, after only ever coming in ninth at PTQs, Thomas “Tuffy” Maggio finally did it. He made it to the Pro Tour.

Think back to when you walked into your first big Magic

tournament, a State Championships or something.

You are there with your friends from a local shop, and you look

up to many of them because they are the best players in your shop. You

feel overwhelmed
by how many people are there, but you think you have a shot

because you’re playing a deck you have worked on at home and have a

feeling you are just
going to crush.

Soon you are dispatched from any remote chance of Top 8ing, but

you are excited you finished in the top half of the tournament.

Nine years later, you are on the bubble match of your life.

Everything is riding on this win at a GP. If you win this match, you’ll

be finally
qualified for the Pro Tour, something you and every other Magic

player who has never won a PTQ or played on the Pro Tour dreams about.

It’s also
something that has eluded you, time and time again with

continuous 9th-place finishes at PTQs.

After the longest thirty minutes of your Magic-playing career,

you win. You have an overwhelming feeling of excitement, like everything

culminated into
this one clutch moment where you finally pulled through.

Congratulations, you finally made it to the Pro Tour. You know

that this is just the beginning. You look back from over the years,

shaking your head
about the player you were then and the player you have become.

That is what this game does for so many people, and it finally

happened to me Sunday at Grand Prix Kansas City. 

Most of you may not know me, so here is a short introduction. My

name is Thomas Maggio, but a lot of my friends call me Tuffy; it was a

nickname given
to me when I was very little, and it stuck. I have been playing

Magic off and on for around 11 years. I started playing in Magic

tournaments about nine
years ago at a shop in Ottumwa, Iowa, called Spud’s Emporium. It

is no longer open, but that was my life when I was younger. I haven’t

done much in
this game, but I like to think I know how to sling some


My weekend started off similarly to most people who ended up

going to Kansas City. I left my small town—Fairfield, Iowa—at

around 7 pm
Friday with Ryan Detlefsen from Cedar Rapids. We joined Matt

Yeager about 20 minutes away and were on our way to KC, which is about a

to four-hour drive. I was just getting over bronchitis, so I was

still coughing, and it lasted the entire weekend—sorry,

everybody—but was
the worst on the way there. We ended up talking about anything

and everything, from the last GP in KC where I went 7-2 and didn’t Day

Two, to

We arrived at a decent time and tried to find a hotel somewhat

close to the event center. It cost us about 45 minutes of going in the

wrong direction
because I put Kansas City, Kansas, into the GPS and not Kansas

City, Missouri. We ended up way out in the boonies. Eventually we found a

hotel about
two miles away from the GP. I usually get little to no sleep

before a big tournament, but this time I actually went to sleep around 3

am; maybe there
is something to being rested before a tournament. Meh.

We all got up late-ish and barely got to the GP in time. I saw

many fellow Iowa players, and we discussed how many byes we had and

strategy. We all had
each only one bye except for Matt and Ryan who were raw-doggin’

it with zero, and Tim Grunch had two I believe. Grunch is basically

trolled 24/7 and
trolls others, but we love the guy.

I sat down and opened a decent pool, but still pretty mopey. I

didn’t want to see it and hoped I was passed an awesome one; like

everyone at a Sealed
event hopes for. The sealed pool I received didn’t looked too

great until I saw a Steel Hellkite and Treasure Mage, and a few cards

deeper revealed the
number one card I wanted to get: Life’s Finale. I knew the card

was pretty awesome; later I would realize exactly how awesome it


I ended up building a U/B deck with Life’s Finale, Steel

Hellkite, Bonehoard, Inkmoth Nexus, and three other living weapons. I

also had Blighted Agent,
which I thought would be insane with so many

Equipment—which it was. So I picked up my stuff and went to hang

out with the other Iowa guys and
see what they thought. The consensus was the deck was pretty

awesome. I had a good feeling about it, but I knew that I would have my

work cut out for
me with only one bye. 

My first round, round two, started off with my opponent playing

Chancellor of the Dross and crushing me in game one. Game two I got a

four-for-one with
Life’s Finale and ended up stripping his deck of three bomb

creatures. It was smooth sailing from there. Game three was essentially

the same.

After this round, I had a great feeling that I had a real shot at

Day Two-ing. Basically all my rounds, up until round 8, were like this.

When you are
a lock for Day Two at 7-0, that pretty good feeling kind of

overwhelms you, but I knew I had to play it one round at a time. Coming

off from a win in
round seven against Christian Calcano, I knew that I could go

undefeated. Calcano’s deck was really good, and he made a small error of

miscounting his
lands in game three, so I was able to take it down.

Soon round 8 was announced, and low and behold I was playing

against one of the best Magic players of this generation, LSV. I have

played Magic Online
a lot in the past two years, so playing against great players

like LSV, Gerry Thompson, or Brad Nelson was not something I worried

about much. I think
of them as fellow human beings who are good at a game we all

play—well, okay, they have a lot of amazing finishes, and I don’t,

but I’m trying.

I sat down and waited for a bit, since LSV was in the bathroom.

He got back, and it hit me: I was playing in a tournament that was

essentially Pro Tour
in challenge level, and was doing great. So our match started off

with Life’s Finale taking game one. Game two he dropped a ton of removal

and a 7/7
infect dude and crushed me. Game three he played Moltensteel

Dragon, and I didn’t realize it had Phyrexian firebreathing, so I died

pretty quickly.
Yeah, amateur mistake, I know. I could have lived a couple more

turns by blocking with Inkmoth Nexus, but I would have likely lost a lot

of resources
trying to deal with the Dragon, as my deck didn’t have any spot

removal besides bounce.

I was 7-1 and looking forward to my next round despite the loss.

I sat across from Alex West, and we got to battle. I ended up taking game

one, which
wasn’t very eventful. Game two he got me down to 1 life. He was

playing U/W, so I didn’t think anything of it until he said “pay two

life, Gut Shot
you.” My jaw dropped for a second; then I laughed, and he joined;

we laughed about it for a while. We got to game three, and he played

Volition Reins
on my Steel Hellkite to which I had both Disperse and Quicksilver

Geyser in hand to deal with it. I ended up playing my Disperse into the

counter I
knew he had and then played Geyser on his next turn when he

tapped out with no fliers, and he was at five or so life. 

After the match, my friends congratulated me for being 8-1 and

making Day Two. Unfortunately Yeager and Detlefsen didn’t make the cut,

so I felt bad
for keeping them there another day, but they were more than happy

to be there. Defl was playing in the MMS tournament, so Yeager and I

ended up going
to Gates BBQ, which is absolutely amazing. We joined the other

Iowa guys and brought Detlefsen back some food.

We got back to the event center and did a team draft, since I

hadn’t really drafted the format much; I was more of a Constructed

player. We ended up
winning the team draft and all the cards: a Tezzeret, Agent of

Bolas, Elspeth Tirel, Phyrexian Obliterator, and a foil Karn Liberated.

Detlefsen ended
up making top 4 of the MMS tournament, so he walked away with a

cool $325 in his pocket. We were only booked for Friday night just in

case nobody out
of our car made Day Two, but since I was holding everyone back,

we had to find another hotel.

I stayed up until 5 am looking up coverage and articles on how to

actually draft since I still didn’t know much about the format. I felt

tired when I
woke up to an open shower call, but then I realized I was playing

in Day Two with an 8-1 record. That woke me up.

I was in pod two with Conley Woods and Ocho, among others. I

wished the other guys from Iowa good luck who made Day Two, which

included Grunch and
Andrew Zachow who was on the other team in the team draft from

the night before.

After the player meeting, we got our seatings. I sat down with

Conley directly to my left and Ocho a couple to my right, so I knew no

mistaken picks
were likely to float my way. I cracked pack one into a

Batterskull and Enslave. I windmill slammed Batterskull after scouring

through the rest of the
pack to predict what might come back. I got passed a pack that

had nothing but a Blind Zealot, which I may have overvalued, but there

was absolutely
junk in the rest of the pack. I ended up taking the Zealot and

cutting Conley off of black for the duration of pack one. I ended up with

three Zealots
and two Spire Monitors and no real removal. Pack two was

uneventful, but rounded out my deck well. Pack three I ended up getting a

few good removal
spells and some good creatures, so I knew that my deck was solid.

I ended up playing against an infect deck in round one, and the

Zealots were really good. My opponent did pop a pump spell to take game

two, so I knew
that I had to really focus from then on. Game three was basically

a massacre. I had double Spire Monitor, and he stumbled on creatures.

Round two I lost to Sam Friedman and his R/W metalcraft deck. He

was a really nice guy, and I had a really good time playing against him.

Round three was pretty uneventful, as my opponent was an infect

player, and Zealots were again amazing.

After my first draft, I was really happy sitting with a 10-2

record knowing that I stood to hit top 16 or even Top 8. After finding

out that Grunch and
Zachow were toast, I was Iowa’s last hope and became even more

focused. Iowa players have a really solid community of support, and a win

for one was
kind of a win for all.

I was in the second pod again for draft two. The caliber of good

players was again increased. My pod included Willy Edel, Christian

Valenti, and none
other than PV. I sat down, and PV was directly to my left, so I

had to pay very close attention to the signs my picks left. I ended up

going with B/R
infect, and I was not happy with my deck. I thought I would have

to get really lucky to even 2-1.

Round one I was playing against Chad Juarez. He aws playing U/W,

and I stole game one. The most embarrassing part about game one was the

fact that I
kept a six-land/Fallen Ferromancer hand. I kept because I knew

Ferromancer was the best card in my deck, and I was at a disadvantage

because my deck
was subpar. He ended up going turn 1 Gitaxian Probe to make

things more embarrassing. I knew he had to have been thinking “wow,

really?” I ended up
drawing some gas and winning that game with the Ferromancer.

Yeah, I got lucky, but that has to happen a few times along the way.

Game two he won easily. Game three I had him backpedaling the

whole time until he played Phyrexian Metamorph on my Skinrender to kill

my Ferromancer. I
topdecked an artifact to proliferate him out with Throne of Geth.

I wasn’t dead anytime soon, as he had nothing too threatening on board,

so I knew I
had a while to draw the artifact. But the immediacy was nice.

Realizing that I was 11-2 in matches, and all I needed was one

more win to draw into Top 8, my emotions made me jittery, and I had to

really focus
again, so I wouldn’t screw up this opportunity. I had never even

gotten into the Top 8 of a PTQ; I keep getting ninth.

Round 2 pairings posted, and to my surprise, I was playing

against the same person who crushed me in the last draft during round

two, Sam Friedman. We
had a laugh about it, and then we got down to business. He

crushed me in two games, and I was never really in it. His deck was

really good. I was
really disappointed though that I had lost and kind of just

walked away. I now regret that and wished I had congratulated him and

shook his hand like a
good sportsman.

The last round was a must win to top 16, and I was ready to just

play Magic and see what happens. I didn’t even think I had a shot at Top

8 because I
didn’t look at the standings for the round. I knew my breaks were

really good, so I figured I could get 9th to 12th if I won.

Round three pairings were posted, and I was paired against Sean

Weihe of Minnesota. We talked for a little while, and he told me that he

had a lot of
second-place finishes at PTQs but had never won one. I told him

that I had never gotten better than ninth at a PTQ, so this was our

chance to win big
for once. I ended up taking game one. We both had gas in the

beginning, and he ended up drawing lands while I won with a Decimator

killing him and not decking him. Game two he had removal for

everything as well as creatures. I ended up flooding, and he took full

advantage. Game
three he had removal along with a couple of solid creatures. I

ended up playing the only two removal spells in my deck and got him by

proliferating. He
congratulated me, and we both went our separate ways.

I was walking away when it finally hit me: I did it! I was

finally on the Pro Tour. After 11 years, I would get to try my hand on

the big stage. The
emotions I had were almost overwhelming. This was my goal since I

started playing the game, but I didn’t take it seriously enough until I

played in
Nationals in 2009 after qualifying through Yu-Gi-Oh!

The reason why I finally made it was pretty apparent and still

is: I had the support of all my awesome friends and the great pros who I

talked with
online; well, I had some luck too, but that is a part of the



To all my friends from Iowa and everywhere else for supporting me

and helping me attain this goal. I couldn’t have done it without you


Zach Stern for giving me a crash course in drafting by birding me

in the team draft. I owe you one.

Matt Yeager for being a machine. He drives for hours at a time

and does not rest, and has been a brother to me for years now. 

Spud, owner of Spuds Emporium, and all the guys that played

there. Thanks for all those years of putting up with me.

Matt Hardin and everyone from the Kobolds Corner, the local shop

I play at.

The tournament organizers judges from the GP. You guys definitely

ran it smoothly and quickly. 


None. This was the best weekend of my life. I can’t