Dragon*Con Every Year, Please – Tales from Grand Prix: Atlanta

I’ll do the responsible thing and issue a warning: This article, like nearly all my articles, contains links to scantily-clad women. It may also contain references to and stories about sex, marijuana, alcohol, and sundry other adult concepts. It is meant to be read by fine, upstanding adults who would never dream of emulating any of the lunacy that may or may not occur as part of the events depicted here. If these sorts of things don’t appeal to you, then feel free to hit your”Back” button and seek out other, more palatable authors with names like”Bennie Smith,””Anthony Alongi,” and”Peter Szigeti.” I promise I won’t be offended.

As for the rest of you… Come on in.

Sweet jeebus, where to start? How does one convey a weekend where they were unable to comprehend almost anything seen outside of the actual slinging of Magical cards?

Guess I’ll do the responsible thing and issue a warning: This article, like nearly all my articles, contains links to scantily-clad women. It may also contain references to and stories about sex, marijuana, alcohol, and sundry other adult concepts. It is meant to be read by fine, upstanding adults who would never dream of emulating any of the lunacy that may or may not occur as part of the events depicted here. If these sorts of things don’t appeal to you, then feel free to hit your”Back” button and seek out other, more palatable authors with names like”Bennie Smith,””Anthony Alongi,” and”Peter Szigeti.” I promise I won’t be offended.

Now – on with the show!

Dragon*Con and Grand Prix: Atlanta was probably the most entertaining trip I have ever taken, and that includes Grand Prix: New Orleans at the beginning of the year, when I chose to tag along with Jimmy Bean’s free vacation. It included some damn fine Magic from surprising sources, the best dinner I have ever eaten, ten thousand people wearing costumes, and more stories than I could possibly begin to convey. However, I’m a firm believer that enjoyment from an adventure stems not so much from what you do or see, as from who you are with. Therefore, I feel the need to introduce my companions on the weekend who helped make it so enjoyable.

Ted Knutson a.k.a.”TK,””The Holy Kanoot”

The self-proclaimed”Your fifth-favorite Magic writer,” Ted is the narrator and lead protagonist of this here storay. Kanoot has managed to turn a flair for being”merely amusing” into legions of pimple-faced fans, pseudo-celebrity status, and a part-time gig traveling to not-so-exotic locales in order to cover the shenanigans of the World’s Greatest Card Players. Renowned for leeching respectability from the game by posting pictures of scantily-clad women in his”articles,” TK is considerably less cranky and more likeable in real life than his articulate persona would suggest. The bitches, they see him and say,”Oh my, he’s so gangsta.”

Jim Ferraiolo a.k.a.”Jimmy Bean,””The Commando Crapper”

Whether he’s getting Ben Bleiweiss banned from his favorite restaurants for inappropriate volume and use of the”F” word, or demanding that the car be pulled over so he can take a dump in the woods, road trips with the rebel without a clue (James Bean) are always interesting. The whitest man to be an official hip-hop expert, this StarCityGames columnist is well on his way to making it over the hump and onto the Pro Tour, provided the wife, the job, and the poh-leece don’t get to him first.

Sam Griffith a.k.a.”SammyG,””Money Grif”

A hustler on the rise, this Gamecock freshman is gradually coming out of his shell and into the world of full-time playas. Grif recently stated his intention to”raise his game,” but friends are unsure if this statement was referencing the Magical cards or the bevy of incredible hotties that can be found at all state universities in the South. At the beginning of the trip, SammyG was hiding behind his compatriots as they moved through the convention area checking out the sights (translation: ladies), but by the end he could be heard saying,”Screw you guys, that chick was hot! I’m going in for a closer look.” He may or may not have been sold off into slavery on Saturday night.

The Ferrett a.k.a.”Rodent,””Big Willy Steinmetz”

The editor of this here site here made his presence known in Atlanta by being completely unrecognizable when compared to his picture. This man may or may not have actually flown to Atlanta for the purpose of viewing an”all-female oil wrestling festival” at night, and lucked into doing coverage for StarCityGames during the day. Rumor has it Big Willy was the real brains running The Gold Club, and still maintains”connections” in the Dirty South with Mafia, hookers, and professional athletes.

Ben Bleiweiss a.k.a.”The Penguin,””Hasidic Homeboy”

Rounding out this punishing cast of main characters is the fastest decklist typist in Magic. While many acquaintances of this irascible Jew describe him as cranky, those close to Ben describe him as”pleasantly cranky.” Ben poured so much energy into his work on the weekend that he depleted his immune system and had to retire to his room after the semi-finals of the Grand Prix, thus depriving him of witnessing Marco Blume’s victory and Sunday night’s festivities. Huge props to this homeboy for organizing the Fogo de Chao trip on Friday night, driving our sorry asses around town, and for being a good sport.

Hunter S. Thompson

The author of”Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and a crucial character in the best story of the weekend.

The GP:ATL Soundtrack

Due to computer difficulties, this soundtrack didn’t get completed until the weekend after ATL – but it was meant for the Atlanta trip, and that’s what counts, right?

1) Can I Kick It – A Tribe Called Quest

2) Young Boy – Clipse

3) Baby I Got Your Money – ODB

4) La La La – Jay Z

5) Now You’re Mine – Gang Starr

6) P.I.M.P. remix – Fifty Cent feat. Snoop Dogg

7) ATLeins – Outkast

8) Paid in Full – Eric B. and Rakim

9) React – Erick Sermon feat. Redman

10) Shake Ya Tailfeather – Nelly, Murphy Lee

11) Check the Rhyme – A Tribe Called Quest

12) Popular Thug – The Neptunes feat. Nas and Kelis

13) Jigga What, Jigga Who – Jay-Z

14) Rock Star – N.E.R.D.

15) 100 Miles and Runnin’ – N.W.A.

16) King Piece in the Chess Game – Slick Rick

17) Brain – N.E.R.D.

18) Pimp Juice – Nelly

19) A.D.I.D.A.S. – Killer Mike feat Big Boi

The weekend began innocently enough, with me picking up Jimmy Bean at 7:15 a.m. Friday morning. I learned my lesson from Grand Prix: New Orleans, and arrived a good fifteen minutes late, thereby avoiding any possibility of Jim answering the door clad only in boxer shorts. His shizzy was promptly thrown in the trunk and we were on our way. For lunch I introduced Jim to the glory of Steak and Shake (and their new banana milkshakes), and seven hours after we started, I pulled into Columbia, South Carolina to pick up SammyG.

After driving around lost for twenty minutes and yelling phrases like,”We are here, now find a f***ing map and tell us how to get to where you are or I’ll leave your sorry ass home” at Grif through the phone (apparently Jim really dislikes being lost), we found the University of South Carolina and SammyG’s dorm. Three hours later (ten hours total trip time, or two extra hours each way to pick up SammyG), we were at our hotel in Atlanta.

Grif called his parents to check in and tell them we had reached Atlanta at 5:30, forgetting that he had previously informed them that attending Grand Prix: Atlanta would not affect his ability to attend his 2:30 class. Whoops.

I called Ferrett to find out the 4-1-1 and he told us to meet them in their hotel lobby at 8 p.m., so we all headed over to the Hyatt to get registered and pick up our badges. Obtaining my press pass took all of five minutes, but Jim and Grif failed to pre-register for the event, thus costing them an hour of standing in line in addition to the $75 dollars for their badge. While they were waiting in line, I decided to get my first flavor of what Dragon*Con was like and people watched. A brief listing of notable sights would include:

  • Catwoman’s camel toe (I had no idea costumes not worn by Michelle Pfeiffer could be that tight).

  • Death’s (from the Sandman comic book series) nipples

  • Wolverine

  • Supergirl

  • The actual guy who played Jonathan on Buffy the Vampire Slayer

  • More naughty schoolgirl outfits than I ever thought existed

  • A busty girl dressed up as a bar wench with a name tag saying,”I’m thirteen years old, so don’t get any ideas.”

Once Jim and Grif obtained their badges we headed back to the lobby of the visually spectacular Marriott Marquis to wait for Ferrett and Ben. It was there that we got our first glimpse of the greatest ass any of us had ever seen. She was about 5’3,” dark skinned, had a pretty face and long wavy hair, and she was wearing a pair of golden pants that were so tight they would cut off penile circulation if they were worn by a man. Thankfully, Golden Girl (our nickname for her) was definitely not a man, and her pants simply contained the finest peach never to fall from a tree in Georgia.

Now I know many of you have seen the pictures that Ferrett posted and poo-poohed them, but none of those pictures did the girls of Dragon*Con justice. Golden Girl amazed not just us, but all the men who passed by her – and even though she was never in a noticeable costume, everybody (including the three hundred-pound Klingons) wanted to get pictures with her. I mentioned to my cohorts that she was hot enough to be either a model or a porn star, but none of us had seen her in either role, so we ended up thinking maybe she was just a hot chick at the convention with friends. Stranger things definitely happened that weekend…

Anyway, about quarter after eight, Grand Moff Bleiweiss makes his arrival with his friend Adam, Gaming Jim and underling, and the Rodent – and after chastising me for not telling him Jim and Grif were coming to dinner (apparently Fogo de Chao requires precise party numbers for reservations), we piled eleven people into his mini-van and headed to Buckhead to eat dinner served by men bearing swords of meat.

On the trip to the restaurant, somebody asked me what I was planning on doing at Dragon*Con, and I responded with,”Well, aside from kicking The Sideboard’s ass with our event coverage, I don’t have any set plans” – which immediately quieted the entire van with hushed ooohs and ahs, as they waited for any response from John Stephens and Mary Van Tyne in the back. Our Sideboard cohorts just laughed it off, though, and Ben finally arrived at the restaurant mere moments before parts of my body became permanently unusable from being squished into a mini-van with ten other inhabitants.

Note to self: I am too large to attend clown college.

For those who have never eaten at a Brazilian steakhouse, let me briefly set the scene for you: They are very expensive ($50/person is practically the minimum you can drop), their clientele is very upscale (and young, upscale clientele means an additional buffet of hot women to check out during dinner), and dinner consists mostly of meat. Lots and lots of meat. They serve more meat in one night than the gay porn industry puts on film over an entire year. And it all tastes incredible.

(The Fogo meat, that is. I have no idea how gay porn tastes.)

You start off with a salad bar that’s easily worth $15-20 by itself, but smart folks know that the real goldmine is delivered on swords by men who are shipped to Brazil to train for six months. The arrival of these men-in-funny-blue-pants is controlled by a plastic button in front of each diner. Green means”Bring me the finest meats and chickens in all the land!” while Red means”Please, God, no more or I’m going to hurl!”

The variety of meats available to you is somewhat ridiculous, as I’m certain I tried cuts of filet mignon, top steak, bottom steak, rump roast, garlic beef, parmesan pork, chicken, lamb, sausage, all served on swords (have I mentioned the long, pointy swords bearing meat yet?) and sliced off by the men-in-funny-pants directly at your table. Combine the variety of meats with the fact that all of them tasted amazing, the excellent-but-briefly-sampled salad bar, the fine patronage, some bombtastic cheesecake (though I’m told the creme brulee was even better), and the fact that I didn’t have to pay, and you have what is hands down, the best meal I have ever eaten.

While eating dinner, Gaming Jim regaled our end of the table with stories of his various adventures across the United States. It appears that Gaming Jim is a bit of a… rogue, and his endeavors are the sort of items that make good stories. Anyway, we got along swimmingly, and at some point during dinner I convinced him to help us play a joke on Ben. On the ride to the restaurant, Monsieur Bleiweiss was bitching to the people in the van about Jimmy Bean’s boisterous use of the”F” word at a restaurant in Roanoke we had visited with Ben a few weeks earlier. James Bean’s language was so bad, Ben claimed, that he had been officially invited not to return and eat there anymore, in spite of the fact that Ben was a very consistent customer of the restaurant and it was one of his favorite places to dine.

I was a bit skeptical of Ben’s story, but I also know how Jimmy Bean’s mouth is often not for public consumption, so the possibility that our pretty, young Southern waitress told her manager about Ben and his friends did exist. Anyway, Gaming Jim seemed like a wagering man, so I placed a simple dollar bill on the idea that he could not get our waiter to play a joke on Ben. All the waiter had to do would be to approach Ben and quietly inform him that Jimmy Bean was cursing loudly at the end of the table and inform Mr. Bleiweiss and party that we would need to leave immediately.

Gaming Jim accepted the wager, and he put the plan into action as everyone was in the middle of dessert. The waiter very discreetly approached Ben and instructed him that his party at the far end of the table was being disruptive, particularly the individual who fit the description of one James Ferraiolo, and asked him to pay for dinner and leave immediately. Ben’s face turned beet-red as he informed the table of what he had been told, and the folks on my end of the table just laughed at the joke. Ben, however, didn’t know it was a joke, and was telling everyone at his end of the table that the waiter was very serious about what he’d said, and Jim was the reason we all had to leave right now. We laughed some at Ben’s reaction and mentioned it was just a joke.

Ferrett looked at me with raised eyebrows while I just shrugged and cackled some more, thinking everyone had heard us tell Ben it was a joke. But no one had. They were all bewildered by what had just happened, and Ben was looking very embarrassed. We actually had to quiet him down, get his attention, and then tell the entire table once again that this was all a joke schemed up by Gaming Jim and myself, and that he really didn’t have to leave right now. We even got the waiter to smile and wave at Ben to prove that he was in on everything.

I laughed so hard I cried, while the rest of the table cackled madly and Bleiweiss proclaimed a pox upon our houses and vowed revenge against us all.

I don’t think a drunk John Stephens was meant to be a pox on us, but he might as well have been – for by the end of the weekend everyone sleeping in our room who was not dating John wanted to beat the bejeezus out of him for his infuriatingly loud snoring, and how it made it almost impossible to sleep.

Friday and Saturday night were the crazy nights at Dragon*Con, but we didn’t know that ahead of time and were all exhausted, so after dinner Jim, Grif, and I went back to the hotel to sleep. Ferrett went to watch the all-female oil wrestling, while Gaming Jim, a D*C veteran, disappeared into the nether regions of the convention, but not until he told us exactly where we would need to go in order to sign up the baby-faced SammyG to be someone’s love slave.

I am now on page 6 of this article and haven’t even hit the beginning of the Grand Prix yet. For my next trick, I will change my name to Brian Kibler!

Saturday morning kicked off early, as I was on site by 8 a.m. to type up decklists and do a brief analysis of the GP Trial metagame. Then Ferrett mentioned that he heard Kai, Marco, and Dirk were in town and assigned me to track them down and get an interview. Huzzah!

Unfortunately for me, it was just Kai and Marco in town (Dirk would be in Germany running his business for a few more days), meaning I was an almost complete stranger (I’ve chatted with Kai online once or twice) meeting Kai and Marco for the first time with no Dirk around to break the ice.

For those who have never met Kai in person, there are a few notes you should remember. First, he’s taller and thinner than you expect him to be. He has a deep, resonant voice, and his English is pretty flawless. He’s also Kai Budde, which means dozens of people come up to him at every Magic tournament to shake his hand, get his autograph, or just have a few words with the man, the myth, the Juggernaut. If he doesn’t know you, he immediately tries to figure out if you are some dork wasting his time or if you might be worthwhile enough to talk to.

I introduced myself and noticed right away he was sizing me up, which I found intriguing – but unfortunately, all he told me was that they hadn’t tested for the Grand Prix, they weren’t big fans of the format, and that they’d be hanging out in the states until Boston rolled around. All Marco did was continue testing the Wake matchup and chat with Kai in German, so the quick interview was a bit of a non-starter.

Round 1 – Pegleg vs. The Young Azn – Wake vs. Wake

I took some flack on IRC for describing Michael Kwan as a young Asian, but when dealing with a) two guys named Michael and b) two guys playing Wake, you kind of run out of accurate descriptions for who is playing what.

Anyway, you can read the match coverage for yourself, but I would like to say that, in the brief time he has been around the premiere event scene, Pegleg Mike has proven to be an odd duck. At Regionals he was an absolute savant playing Wake, as Jim gained his only loss on the day from Mike while I sat right next to him and witnessed the madness. Then at Nationals, Mike said he needed to get a 5-1 record on Day 1 in order to stay in the main tournament and not drop out into the JSS championships… So he mised the Day and went 6-0 instead. Some people thought he was crazy for doing so, but my understanding is that, even though he didn’t make the Top 8, he obtained some serious money from splits he made along the way.

Anyway, you have this back story that I’m already aware of, and then Mike walks up to Head Judge Sheldon Menery at about 9:30 a.m. and asks if he can give up his Byes. Everybody’s jaw drops to the floor until Mike explains he’s a single rating point from being qualified from Pro Tour: New Orleans, and he’d much rather face a random round 1 guy than a possible Pro in round 4. Thankfully for Mike, he won, and now gets to travel to New Orleans with his dad to take in all the madness that will be Halloween in The Big Easy.

Round two was spent cleaning up my coverage, watching Jim lose a very painful feature match, and chatting with the inimitable Andy Stokinger. Andy is a funny guy who pulls no punches whatsoever, either on his website or in person. I asked him about calling me a”wigger” on TA a couple of months back, and his response was,”I did that? Really? Well, you must have deserved it!”

Ferrett and I also quizzed him briefly about his past girlfriends. Alana Burman had mentioned on IRC that Andy was gifted by the Gods with a particularly large… Membership drive. Andy informed us that all the rumors were true and that,”I may not get that many girls to go out with me, but when they do, I keep them coming back for more.”

Round 3 – Mad Canuck Scrubby Z versus Matthew Long from De-Kay-tur

This was my first experience with Zadjner and it was relatively painless. Mark will basically talk to anyone sitting or standing around the Feature Match table when he’s playing, making it a fun place to spectate but a dangerous place to judge or report, since you don’t want to say something that could get you in trouble. The table judge here handled Mark extremely well, explaining how things work without giving any real hints as to how to play the match. Matt was a nice, quiet kid who was unfortunately completely outmatched by both Mark’s skills and his draws.

Round 4 – Listening to Ed Fear

While I was finishing up my Round 3 coverage (I write much slower than either Ferrett or Ben), Ed Fear came up to our table and we engaged the always entertaining Magic Jesus in some brief conversation. Ed told us anecdotes about the incredible Mikey P playing basketball, his adventures at Dragon*Con (the”oil wrestling” event he attended apparently included both genders and allowed audience members to participate), and random board game World Championships both won and lost. I haven’t gotten a handle on Ed as a person yet, but there are very few people on tour who tell tales better than Mr. Fear.

Round 5 – Sol Malka vs. Carlos Romao

My match coverage here is about as good as Carlos’s English – which is to say, not very. Ferrett smacked me around with a trout for it, though, and got me back on my game.

It’s surprising how much one has to concentrate not only on what is happening on the board, but also on describing it cleanly and accurately. Match coverage is mentally grueling work, and sometimes you just punt one. Thankfully, I have an editor around who cleans things up and makes me look better, or else you’d all suffer a great deal more.

Anyway, the match wasn’t all that exciting as Carlos didn’t say much, while Sol’s deck screwed him in games two and three.

Round 6 – Food run? Who knows any more…

Round 7 – Zvi vs. Ken Ho

I got to watch a lot of Ken at Grand Prix: Pittsburgh, but this was the chattiest I’d seen him. Zvi, on the other hand, always has something to say. The match turned out to be a great one to cover, showing off Ken’s power combination of Nimble Mongoose and Worship against a deck composed almost entirely of red men and creatures. What I really learned from this match, though, was just how ridiculous Goblin Sharpshooter can be. Zvi looked to be in a completely unwinnable position in Game 3, but by having a pair of active Sharpshooters on the board and continuing to draw Goblins, he decimated Ken’s team and aimed enough damage at Ken’s dome to finish him off.

Round 8 – The Dragon*Con Fashion Review.

Ferrett’s idea was a very good one, but being funny on command after twelve hours of work is really hard, especially when there are ten people hanging around.

Jim went 6-2, losing his Featured Match against Wake by not conceding Game 1 for a very long time (his opponent was at four life but in complete control of the game), while Ralphie owns games 2 and 3 in that matchup, and also losing to some poogainus draws when playing Diego Ostrovich (an admittedly bad matchup). A few 6-2s made it into Day 2 – but because Jim lost in Round 3, his tiebreakers were abysmal, placing him at 94th for the weekend.

We finally packed up our crap at around 9:00 or so and headed to Ben’s mini-van. Jim was exhausted due to lack of sleep from someone’s snoring, so he went straight back to the room to crash. The rest of us were passengers as the Hasidic Homeboy managed to get us lost down near Moreland Avenue instead of taking us to I-85 N. I eventually got us back to the Emory area and dinner was eaten at Chili’s, since I was too tired to figure out any other acceptable places and everyone else was too hungry to drive over to Buckhead and hit Rock Bottom.

After dinner, Ben had to stop and get gas at Quik Trip, or we weren’t going to make it back to the hotel. The Penguin (sometimes he looks like a cross between Opus and Danny Devito in Batman Returns, but mostly I call him that because I needed something to call him besides”F***ing Bleiweiss!!”) waddled out to pump gas, while Ferrett went into QT to stock up on Diet Pepsi and so much sugar that if a diabetic had merely smelled his bag of goodies, they would have died on the spot.

To our left were some straight G’s thumping hip hop out of their bass cannons in the trunk of their Dodge Stratus. To our right were some Hasidic Jews refilling their mini-van. For some reason, the Hassids decided they needed to kick out the jams as well, and cranked up their own music loud enough to rival the hip-hop.

They didn’t stop there, though. Once the music was blasting at full volume, they all hopped out of the van and started – well, how do you describe it? It was some sort of strange, Hasidic breakdancing that was clearly a cross between Elaine’s”dancing” from Seinfeld and what they had seen in Breakin’ 2 – Electric Boogaloo. It was absolutely mindbreaking, and was probably the worst (and most entertaining) dancing I have seen since Diego Ostrovich danced with Osyp and Antonino DeRosa on Bourbon St.

As Ben said,”I can’t understand how I spent the entire weekend at Dragon*Con, and yet the most unbelievable thing I saw happened to be some Hasidic Jews busting a move in the suburbs.”

After dinner, everyone but SammyG and I adjourned to their rooms for sleeping. The two of us chose to do our civic duty and grabbed Ferrett’s digital camera in order to capture proof of how nuts Dragon*Con really was. Unfortunately, we couldn’t really find many of the fabled parties that are rumored to take place (and that other people we talked to may have lauded), but we did manage to get some good pictures of costumed hotties. We also saw Golden Girl again, this time making certain to get pictures of her and her spiffy “I Love Porn” badge. Tragically, we didn’t actually talk to her that much to find out who she was and why she was at the con because she was in high demand, but at least we had proof that she wasn’t a complete figment of our imagination.

This picture is alternately beautiful and painful. The young lady in the foreground is very cute and (though this outfit didn’t show it) she also has pierced nipples, making her quite the tasty dish. However, if you glance to the background, you will see the other side of the Dragon*Con coin, where the bottom contained by the thong in back is… less than perfect. Personally, I loved this aspect of the convention because I never knew what I would get to see, but Grif was a little more sensitive to the painful elements of this particular gift that kept on giving.

This lovely pirate was stacked and just happens to be the same girl wearing the Budweiser dress pictured here. You can’t tell from the first picture, but her abs are very nice, and she had some serious swish when she walked. The men left in the wake of her walk could be seen biting their fists and considering cold showers.

The guy with the big smile standing next to Conan is SammyG. I originally forced him into the picture because I wanted to get a contrasting body that demonstrated just how wide Conan was, but unfortunately Conan turned to the side just before I took the picture. I also discounted the fact that Grif is like 6’3″ or 6’4,” so he makes Conan look to be a normal (6’5″) height. Silly me. Anyway, Conan was a big hit with the ladies on both Friday night, when he dressed up with two equally large buddies as T-800 Terminator models, and on Saturday when all the women fawned over his huge, bulging muscles. The guy’s biceps are wider than Grif’s neck!

We got to hang with Elvis Stormtrooper briefly on Saturday night, but unfortunately we missed seeing Body Paint Leia in person. I prefer Jennifer Anniston to be dressed up as my slave Leia, but this girl certainly has the figure to pull it off…

I don’t know who she was supposed to be, but do you see those abs? Yum!

Eventually, even The Holiest of Kanoots gets tired and I decided it was time to head off to bed. Grif decided that he was still up for some action, though, and went down to the slavery bulletin board to try and find a non-repugnant dominatrix that wanted to punish his nubile eighteen-year-old body. I have no idea if he succeeded, but I do know that he didn’t come down to the convention the next day until about 3 p.m., and he seemed to be walking a little gingerly for the rest of the weekend.

For those of you who haven’t been to one, Grand Prix Day 2s usually start play at 9 a.m., meaning everyone tends to be very bleary-eyed as they walk into the room between 8:30 and 9. Ferrett and Ben were running a little late Sunday morning because they decided to wake up early and type up all 64 Day 2 decklists. Those crazy, workaholic kids… They sacrificed sleep just so you could have decklists to an already-dead format as it was dying!

Round 9 – Joshua X vs. Eugenius Harvey

I’ll state here that I like Eugene. He’s a good sport that takes teasing pretty well, and if I lived around TOGIT, we’d probably get along pretty well. However, this is all just supposition, since I don’t live near TOGIT and we never hang out.

On the flip side, you have the boisterous and goofy Josh Claytor. He plays up the”I suck” angle a bit too much sometimes, but he seemed to be a genuinely nice Southern boy who was on a bit of a hot streak that weekend.

The match wasn’t even close, as Josh ripped apart Eugene’s hand and then watched as Harvey drew far too many lands to recover.

Round 10 – I go get breakfast for the team and Ferrett assigns me to do interviews and article features until the quarterfinals.

Round 11 – Interview with Gabriel Nassif

I’d never met Gabriel, but I knew his work, so to speak, and he was a good interview for being another EASL European. His personality was a bit shy and humble – but when you talk to him, you can tell he’s a pretty clever guy. Thank God most of the Euros speak solid English or we’d never learn anything about them.

Like I said in the interview, Gabriel is one of the hottest deckbuilders around right now, taking even the G/W rogue deck that he admitted he built incorrectly to a 10th place finish in Atlanta. I was curious what his secret to success was, but Gabriel seemed to think it came from playing MODO a lot (but not necessarily testing), designing a deck less than a week before whatever tournament was next, and playing well. Some guys test a thousand games before playing a deck at a big tournament, others consistently net-deck, but Gabriel, one of the few original designers out there, seems to manufacture winning decks out of thin air because he knows formats so well.

Not much to go on, kids, but there you have it.

Round 12 – Polishing Nassif interview

Round 13 – Lunch with Zvi

I had three interviews I was supposed to get on Sunday, all with guys who designed interesting decks, and all to be completed before the Top 8. One was Gabriel (running aggro-G/W), one was Zvi (running Goblins), and the last was Brian Kibler (running B/W control). Now, two of those decks manage to finish things relatively quickly, but Kibler’s deck routinely runs until the last ten minutes of a round, and we were never able to hook up for an interview on the day. Zvi was drawing into the Top 8 with two rounds to go though, so he had plenty of time to chat. In fact, when I asked him if he’d give an interview, he invited me to lunch.

As we sat down, I noted to Zvi that I’m a good luck charm for him. I’ve only been to three Grand Prix, and every Grand Prix I’ve attended has resulted in a Top 8 for him, including two Grand Prix wins. He just laughed at me and said I should start firing the questions.

Most of you have probably never met Zvi, so let me paint a picture of him. The simple description says he’s a big goofball who happens to be one of the most genuinely nice people I’ve met on the Tour. He talks very quickly, but his mind moves faster, leaping from topic to topic with the grace of a champion thinker. His body, on the other hand, is a bit less nimble. He’s lost a lot of weight since I first saw him in New Orleans (perhaps as much as fifty pounds), and looks downright skinny these days.

Zvi’s also the perfect stereotype for the slightly mad scientist who gets lost in thought and forgets to take care of himself. Rumor has it that, back when Pro Tours could be found on TV (say New York in 98-99 or so), Zvi made the Top 8 and was looking more than a little rough. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say that it was clear he had been thinking about Magic an awful lot and about hygiene not at all, so the network folks were actually a little worried about putting him on TV. Therefore some emergency help was called in, and Zvi received a quick makeover before cameras started rolling. He has generally kept himself in better shape since then, but not always, and when he talks about not having much play with the ladies I always feel bad for him. He could be better at it, he just needs somebody to help him with his upkeep and practice. Lots of practice.

Anyway, Zvi’s a great guy and gives an excellent interview. I hope that one day in the near future we’ll get some folks to spruce Zvi up again. Then Ed Fear and Osyp will drag him along to go clubbing, with a pot of money going to whoever finds a girl who’s into the mad scientist first. And yours truly will be along to do the event coverage…

Incidentally, I was talking to the owner of StarCityGames last weekend, and he thought that I may have been a little too clever in my title for Zvi’s interview. It seems that only half as many people read”Chairman Mao Zvi-Tung And The Red Army” as read my Nassif interview, and the only rational reason we could figure out why more of you didn’t click on the link was that I made a funny title that nobody understood. The interview is worthwhile for Zvi’s explanation of the deck name alone, so if you are at all interested in what Zvi has to say (and two billion premium readers from another site certainly are), then go take a look.

Rd 14 – Finishing Zvi Interview, buying bad Cajun food for lunch.

Quarterfinals – Zvi vs. Keith McLaughlin

For some reason, the people running the event decided it wouldn’t make much sense to tell the press who was covering the event that the quarterfinals were actually starting. I came back from using the friggin’ bathroom to find out my match was already in progress and had been for some time. Whee! I sat down to see the last two plays of what I thought was Game 1, only to be told it was Game 2. Fan-TAS-tico! Game 3 went by in a blur as well, as Zvi got stuck on three lands with 2 Siege-Gangs in hand, and Keith had enough pressure to apply the beatings before Zvi could draw out of it.

I got caught up on what happened in games 1 and 2 from the players, Ferrett wrote a hasty intro for Keith in the match coverage (sorry about that… he’s actually an amateur from Florida, he’s friends with Bob Stead and apparently has photos of Bob puking all over the place at Dragon*Con from a bit too much alcohol… And he gets to go to New Orleans for Halloween), and then I went to wait for my semi-final to start.

About that time, I also found out Ben was feeling very sick, and the two semi-finals were so staggered in their start times that Ben was able to cover them both and then went off to get some rest, leaving Ferrett and I to cover the finals.

Finals – The Teutonic Titan versus”Sk8r Boi” Matt Linde (not an actual nickname… I doubt Linde sk8s at all, actually, but he kind of has the look).

Marco is huge, and he has that deep, resonant bass voice and laugh that only comes from having a beer keg for a chest. He’s a nice guy, and was extremely confident throughout the entire match – which I found very intriguing, considering I always feel like I’m going to lose until my opponent is actually dead.

Originally, I was supposed to cover Matt’s perspective and Ferrett was going to do Marco’s, but they sat down on different sides than we expected, so we flip-flopped our coverage. It’s hard to enhance what I wrote down for the match, other than to say I was actually really nervous for Marco in Game 3. I knew a Cabal Therapy at any time over the course of the last five turns would end the game, but I also knew that he was going to win if Matt couldn’t find one, because his hand was far too sick not to. Linde didn’t find the Therapy, Marco played perfectly, and the rest is history.

The only other hiccup during the match happened when my computer battery died at the end of game 2. I sent SammyG (who was a huge help all weekend) off to try and find another computer for me to use, but was forced to write down the events of game 3 on paper and later transcribe them into digital format. It worked out fine, but created a little extra work for some already exhausted writers/editors before we could pack things up and go eat.

We went and fetched Ben from the hotel room and set out to eat at Mick’s Steakhouse, which was right around the corner from the hotel. Before we got there though, we noticed Benihana, and made a quick audible to hibachi food instead. Unfortunately for us, it was 9:25 on a Sunday night, and Benihana closes at 9. So we went to Mick’s, only to find out we wouldn’t be able to get a table there at all. Same thing with Steak and Ale next door.

At this point Ben said,”To the Batmobile!” but we all vetoed that idea, because we certainly did not want to add an extra twenty minutes each way to our quest to get food, especially since all the restaurants anyone could think of close no later than 10 p.m. on Sundays. Finally, The Penguin had the ingenious idea (lots of things are genius when you are exhausted and starving) of hitting the hotel restaurants and seeing if they were open. The hotel steakhouse was able to seat us about 15 minutes after we heckled the Hostess, and it was another round of excellent, expensive food to us (with Ben ordering Tuna because penguins eat fish, of course), with a helping of Creme Brulee for dessert.

After our energies were recharged, Ben went back to his room to try and sleep off his sickness before it became a full-blown flu epidemic, while the rest of us grabbed the digital camera and again set forth to see what trouble we could get into on our last night at Dragon*Con.


At this point I would like to tell you a fictional tale about two characters named Bob and Todd. Todd had brought some of the”green bean” down to the Dirty South in the hope of getting crumped one time on the weekend and appreciating the flavor of the event while under the influence of mild psychedelic drugs. Bob thought this was a super idea and, after dinner, set off toward the bathroom to go roll a joint with some receipt paper that he had been saving up for this very purpose.

In the meantime, Bob’s friends waited around, commenting on all the crazy costumes they had seen, taking pictures with Emperor Ming the Merciless and Captain Jack Sparrow, and figuring out how the damned digital camera worked so they wouldn’t run out of space in the camera before they ran out of photograph-worthy material.

Eventually, Bob returned from the bathroom and suggested that he and Todd go down to the deck in front of the Hyatt where everybody else was smoking and light up the”J.” Todd thought this idea wasn’t completely awful, so that’s what they did. Instead of hiding in the darkness where there would be less chance of getting caught, Bob, using precise beano logic, decided to go to the pool area in the corner of the deck and light up there. Fewer people around, he thought, so less folks would notice the smell of weed in the air.

Things were lit, puffs were taken, and the plan was going fine until a gentleman dressed as a perfect Hunter S. Thompson from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, complete with cigarette and holder, made his appearance.

The gentleman, accompanied by his nurse, approached Bob and Todd with the halting, stumbling gait portrayed by Johnny Depp in the movie. He asked,”Hey there… do you thinkImight havea hitofthat?” Todd looked at Bob with a huge smile on his face, as Bob nodded and said,”Perhaps… if you can do a few lines from the movie for us first.”

Hunter flashed a feral smile, and immediately broke into the”golf shoes” skit from the movie, as Bob and Todd laughed at each other in disbelief at how flawless this”Hunter” was. He was rewarded with a huge toke of the blueberry joint, expelling a Smaug-style cloud of smoke that quickly dissipated in the evening breeze. The little receipt was passed back to Todd for a final hit, then back to Hunter for two more massive hits, back to Bob again, and the rest was rewarded to the magnificent Hunter S.

However, as soon as the joint touched Hunter’s fingers, a burly African-American security guard jumped into the middle of the small gathering, shouting”Boo!” The potheads were obviously startled by his appearance, as Hunter squealed,”The Pigs!” and started shifting his weight back and forth, raising each foot to knee height before placing it back on the ground.

The security guard bellowed,”Smoke-in Weed!” – but Hunter was too well-versed in this game to let a simple hotel security guard ruin his act. He said,”Weed sir? No weed here, officer, just cigarettes!” as he shoved his cigarette and holder in front of the face of the guard for proof, continuing his nervous dance. The security pig searched the area for the remnants of the joint, but could find nothing at all until he looked down to his right. Behind one of the potted trees on the patio, he noticed two teenage girls also enjoying a toke of the illegal herb, and exclaimed,”Aw, man, not you too!” He radioed in to his command, saying”HQ, this is Clarence on the patio requesting backup… we got us a little SPARK-raisin’ goin’ on out here.”

At this point, Todd thought it would be a fantastic idea to get lost in the crowd and quietly slipped away, dragging Bob behind him. Neither of them ever knew exactly what had happened to the joint as it slipped from Bob’s hand to Hunter’s, but they knew for certain that Hunter S. Thompson had saved their f***ing asses by making it disappear and then distracting the security cop long enough for them to disappear.

They also promised to (once again) thank the mighty Gods who protect the lowly beanos from persecution by”the man,” and make certain that everyone knew the story of their divine avatar, Hunter S. Thompson, and how he had saved them.

Bob and Todd would like to suggest that you rent or purchase Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, post-haste.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Ignoring the whole Bob and Todd story, the rest of us moved through the convention area, casually following hot girls and making certain we obtained photos of all the interesting people. Ferrett’s taste in women is a bit less discerning than the rest of the group’s (I’m an admitted chubby chaser – The Ferrett), but an excellent time was had by all. These are the additional photos that I felt deserved mentioning on the weekend:

Have I mentioned how much I love Body Paint before? This looks more like liquid latex than body paint, but you can’t argue too much with the results.

Sammy G and I just missed seeing topless Leia in the flesh, but I deliver you more pictures of her so that you can realize what great fun Dragon*Con can be, and also realize she’s essentially wearing two pieces of loose fabric in public that just barely cover… anything. Good times!

The chicks claimed by the Imperium were not that hot, but you have to appreciate their taste in costumes. Or their exhibitionism. Or both.

I am not posting pictures of the guy wearing the clear Stormtrooper outfit because you really, really don’t need to see some guy’s sweaty, hairy butt, and neither do I. Suffice to say that this guy did exist at the convention, and he could use some manscaping before next year’s event.

I love this costume. Chicks dig demented psychobunnies.

I’ll confess: Aside from Golden Girl, these were the only girls I wanted to get my picture taken with all weekend. Unfortunately for me, they were”too tired” when I approached them for a pic, but Sauron, well… He gets all the girls (including the Liv Tyler-looking one who can’t be more than nineteen years old). Sigh.

The paint job here is unreal.

Last but not least we have Ferrett’s favorite girl of the convention. This girl was all that and a skinny bag of chips, and she certainly attracted a lot of attention. I’ve seen other pictures of her dressed as a horny she-devil, and she was just as hot in that outfit. I can only hope some guy found out whether there was truth behind the packaging.

About 2:30 a.m., Grif, Jim, and I packed it in to get some sleep while Ferrett ran off to see what extra trouble he could get into. The weekend was absolutely incredible, as it feels like you are living in fantasyland for 4 straight days and everybody else is buying into the plan. I highly recommend that Wizards hosts an event every year at D*C, and even if they don’t, I suggest you head down to Atlanta yourself next year and make an appearance. As long as you like gaming, you won’t regret it.

As for the cost of the convention, Jim and Grif complained quite a bit at first that $75 was ridiculous, but by the end of the weekend, they felt that had almost gotten a bargain. Additionally, if you know you are going to attend well ahead of time, you can save up to $25 per badge by purchasing early, making it a $50 ticket for four days of fun.

Special thanks to all the friends who helped make the weekend so much fun.

Random other D*C stuff:

If you want to know what happened to the Bet, you’ll need to ask Ferrett, since I reminded him two or three times and then washed my hands of it. (I just plumb forgot – d’oh! – The Ferrett)

Fantasy Fashion Rule #11: When wearing doublets, avoid teal.

The comparison between what I predicted the ATL metagame to look like and what it actually looked like is as follows:


Estimated Percent

Actual Percent










Goblin Bidding












I’m of the opinion that those numbers are pretty solid, though I overestimated the amount of people that would play Wake and Decree, and underestimated how many crazy people would find Reanimator to be a good choice.

The clear breakout deck of the tournament was the Zombie deck that Nassif originally played at Worlds (which is not a Mono-Black Control deck, no matter what Ben may think), and that was piloted in Atlanta by the South Americans and my boy David Rood. Though none of them managed to make it into the Top 8, they were hanging around the top tables all day only to be nosed out in the end. The other big surprise (aside from Josh Claytor winning big matches and Marco winning the tournament) was the fact that Josh Wagener is actually a pretty nice guy who managed to play a R/G deck to a third-place finish. I guess R/G lost less than I thought it did when 7th Edition rotated out.

Congrats to John”Money” Mahon, Master of the Swiss, for finally qualifying for the Pro Tour. After (at least) fifteen PTQ Top 8s, he still hasn’t won one, but his prowess in the Swiss events saw him win one of the coveted eight Pro Tour: New Orleans slots for himself.

The best costume worn by a Magic player this weekend may have actually belonged to Brian Kibler, who never quite made it home on Friday night and was forced to wear Eric Froelich’s clothing all day Saturday. With a pair of heels and a few accessories, Kibler and his 4XL Yao Ming dress might have cut the hottest sports jersey figure since Mariah Carey at the NBA All-Star Game.

It would be a conservative estimate to say I searched through over ten thousand pictures from Dragon*Con 2003, and I found zero pictures of anybody dressed up as Hunter S. Thompson. Divine Avatar indeed…

Other stuff…

Who credits Ferrett with switching their writing style from parentheses to footnotes and then misspells the man’s name? Gary Wize (or Gary Wize’s editors), we salute you!

I am utterly and completely convinced that Zvi Mowshowitz on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy would be the greatest television show ever. He even lives in New York, so there is nothing preventing this from happening except the fact that the QESG programmers don’t know what I know. Yet.

Heh; Cleavage Barbie. I am amused and aroused.

Freschetta has officially broken the frozen pizza format with their Pepperoni Brick Oven pizzas.

My wife is just plain tiny (5’1″ 96lbs or so), so I’m always surprised when it only takes her one 24 hour period to devour a 12.5 Oz bag of Raisinets.

He may be a muthaf***in’ P.I.M.P., but the boy’s got style!

FYI: In some dialects,”oil wrestling” is a loose translation of the word”orgy.” (Or even, in Ohio,”lesbian orgy” – The Ferrett)

With the possible exception of Ed Fear, Team TOGIT parties the hardest of anyone on the Pro Tour. At some future event, I hope to get to tag along with them, just to experience what it’s like when this group of”wild and cray-zeee” guys gets together to party.

Notre Dame makes no sense. They have a lower talent level than I’ve ever seen (even during the Jerry Faust years), they put themselves in impossible situations, and yet they still come out of it with wins. On the other side of the coin, for those of you who thought Oklahoma’s victory against Alabama was unimpressive, take a second and ask yourself if the offensive playcalling seemed a little vanilla. One or two bubble screens, no real tight end action, and the running game consisted almost entirely of inside draws. The only plays that were razzle-dazzle were the few long pass plays and the fake punt. Expect Bob Stoops to open up the playbook as conference play starts up, but still keep a bunch of Aces up his sleeve for the games against Texas, Colorado, and Nebraska.

In other college football news, I might have a sizeable bet with Tybuc involving UVa and the Top 20 at the end of the season that looks a lot more dangerous now than it did a week ago, and God – isn’t it about time Miami lost a regular season game?

Lastly, please go here between Noon Wednesday and Noon Thursday, register, and vote for Mike Flores. Flores has given a lot to the game and now is the time to give back to him. If nothing else, you can continue to irritate the comic book bigwigs (most of whom I happen to be a fan of) that are moderating the contest who keep ripping on Mike’s work… What’s more fun than that? I mean really, how dumb do you have to be in order to setup an online voting scheme and not expect it to get rigged in some way or another?

Until next time, enjoy Mirrodin… my initial impression is that it is quite spiffy.

The Holy Kanoot

Ted Knutson

[email protected]