Feature Article — Encore

Tim Aten – two parts genius and three parts idiot — finally returns to grace the fair pages of StarCityGames.com… only to break the news of his eminent retirement from the game! In this frenetic article, Tim shares his experiences from the sidelines of GP: Dallas, and sets out the date of his coming departure. Plus, he tells us why Paul Cheon is the Greatest Thing in Magic.

Almost every Magic writer is either a whore or an idealistic buffoon. There’s really nothing new or interesting to say about Magic, and – partly because of this – there’s no check for quality. Editors are desperate for content, and “names” get good hits simply on the back of being “names,” so there’s really no incentive for anyone to try. There was a time when I could have faxed the contents of my shoe to Ted Knutson and I would have had at least a dozen loyal aficionados clamoring for a Nobel prize nomination in the forums. The difference between me and the rest of the writers (and when I refer to “the rest of the writers” in a derogatory / condescending / JUDGING PAYPLE way, there are exceptions, like Richard Feldman and Mike Flores) is that I’m not going to try to tell you anything new. I’m going to namedrop every single person I like*. I’m going to make fun of every single person I don’t like. I’m going to brag about all the team drafts I won at Grand Prix Dallas. I’m going to list the entire contents of my iPod. And I’m going to do it all while drinking this glass of water.


As many people know, and as I like to brag about almost as much as I like to brag about my gorgeous handwriting, money does not motivate me. It makes me feel somehow superior to claim that I’ve transcended currency and the earthly delights it affords commoners like yourselves. The plus side of this is that I’m not going to start submitting weekly 1,008 word articles about the local drafts I won against drooling troglodytes when I got three Shaper Parasites and three Dead / Gones in the last pack. The downside, at least for upwards of six or seven people, is that I write a lot less frequently. As I told Craig Stevenson, my muse is a schizophrenic trollop. So, then, what, exactly, comma, motivated me to write this? The reasons are twofold. First, I wanted to use the word “twofold.” And second, I wanted to spend a brief amount of time singing Paul Cheon‘s praises. (I still plan on gloating about my team drafts, but that’s kind of incidental.)

I will begin my Paul Cheon gushing with a brief true or false quiz. If you actually want to guess the answers, I suggest that you don’t scroll down, as they will follow the quiz directly.

True or False?
1. Paul Cheon was born in Korea.
2. Paul Cheon started attending college full-time when he was 15.
3. Paul’s Korean name means “Seven Bells.”
4. Paul is a black belt in tae kwon do.
5. Patrick Sullivan is Paul Cheon Magic archnemesis.
6. Paul likes to make stupid puns when certain cards are played, even if they make no sense (for instance, when someone plays a Gruul Nodorog, he’ll say “Well, it’s no Dorog” as though Dorog means anything to anyone).
7. I once made Paul mad enough to hit me.

The Answers
1. Paul Cheon was born in Korea.
False. Neon is 100% U.S. Grade A, and you’re a racist for insinuating otherwise. He’s never eaten a dog, he doesn’t pronounce the Taco Bell food item “charupa,” and he is an excellent driver. I really thought you guys were more progressive thinkers than that.

2. Paul Cheon started attending college full-time when he was 15.
False. He took some sort of test in 8th grade that let him skip all of high school and go right to college at the age of thirteen.

3. Paul’s Korean name means “Seven Bells.”
Oh, hai. Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!

4. Paul is a black belt in tae kwon do.
False. Again with the freaking racism. You are incorrigible.

5. Patrick Sullivan is Paul Cheon Magic archnemesis.
True. Read the coverage of the feature match at Dallas between the two. Pat Sullivan won as he does every time the two play, and even though this match was in the 5-0 bracket at a GP, it was by far the least important match they’ve played.

6. Paul likes to make stupid puns when certain cards are played, even if they make no sense (for instance, when someone plays a Gruul Nodorog, he’ll say “Well, it’s no Dorog” as though Dorog means anything to anyone).
False. That’s actually Luis Scott-Vargas who does that. He also has a makeshift poncho that he crafted by cutting holes into some sort of rug. One of these holes exposes what he refers to as “the small of his back.” I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m certainly scarred for life.

7. I once made Paul mad enough to hit me.
True. This was quite an accomplishment, as Neon doesn’t get mad about anything. I’ll just say that it’s best not to talk about his mother or sister unless you want a karate chop to the neck.

As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, the first time I met Paul was at a PTQ in San Diego in August 2005. His deck was a little loose, insofar as it featured Journeyer’s Kite as opposed to Forests, but I knew just by watching him for a couple matches that he was a talented wizard. As I’ve also mentioned, I instantly began touting him as the next big thing, upon which time his career stalled out and I abandoned him as my pick for Future of American Magic. After declaring bankruptcy, Cheon hit the big time with a win at the 2006 U.S. Nationals. Since then, Neon has been on fire, with a Top 16 finish at Worlds, a Top 32 finish at Geneva, and a 2nd-place finish in Dallas. It took some time for people to realize Cheon’s prowess, but with results like these, it’s clear that he’s The Real Deal (TM). If the results don’t convince you, then just watch him play sometime. It’s like watching Leonardo painting a portrait, or Michelangelo carving a sculpture, or Donatello eating a pizza. I wouldn’t, however, look forward to playing against Neon in a big event, because he will beat you (unless you’re Pat Sullivan).

The side of Neon that most people see is the quiet Asian kid methodically bashing his opponents through a sequence of almost frighteningly-perfect play. Thus, many have come to assume that he’s just some sort of emotionless gaming automaton. I am not proud to admit that I was in this camp. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. While usually playing hapless straight man to Luis Scott-Vargas endless stream of buffoonery (and ensuing gigglery), Paul occasionally delivers some material of his own. The most outstanding instance of this occurred in the Fall 2006 session of Camp Vermilion. Paul, Luis, Ben Lundquist, and I had just completed an order at a Taco Bell drive-thru, and out of nowhere Neon unleashed an “Okaaay, sankyuuu!” at the Taco Bell employee in his best “fresh-off-the-boat” voice. That was easily the second-funniest thing I’d witnessed all year**. Naturally, I have added “okay sankyu” to my ever-changing lexicon. He has since continued to speak intermittently in his fake Asian accent for our amusement, since we roundeyes really get a kick out of that sort of thing.

As I hinted at in the answer to True / False question #7, Neon is quite easy to get along with. He’s easygoing, friendly, helpful… he’s like the perfect human being or something. There’s actually nothing he can’t do. If any of us are still alive ten years from now, I bet Neon will have achieved worldwide renown, and not just as a spellflinger. (I’d be more specific, but the man is actually capable of anything.)

For his masterful playskill, for his effortless manner of entertaining those around him, and for his ability to demolish any buffet, I award Paul Cheon Good Man of the Week!

Er, wait. What? I don’t… uhhh. What year is this? Who am I?

Before I get into my notes on Grand Prix: Dallas, I’d like to make it perfectly clear that I am not in love with Paul Cheon. That would simply be out of character. I mean, c’mon… he’s not skinny and blond! Er, I mean… he’s not a girl! This is awkward.

While there was some intentional whimsy in my introduction about my iPod and listing people and whatnot, I actually do intend to comment on some of the people I’m not a fan of. Let’s get started with…

(name withheld) — At Grand Prix: Phoenix, some girl (or “woman,” if you’d rather) was standing around watching me play in a team draft. When I moved to a couch to play against a different opponent, she came and sat down beside me, leaving literally no room between us. Naturally, I scooted over, and she probably took the hint. I was nevertheless friendly whenever I saw her for the rest of that weekend, which was sporadic at best for various reasons. It turns out that the girl (or “dame,” if you’d prefer) had gone to the GP with a fistful of player cards, hoping to “get acquainted” with a professional by the end of the weekend. I wouldn’t have brought any of this to light if not for her reaction to me at GP: Dallas. When I saw her and we made eye contact, she didn’t display any recognition despite the fact that she had specifically praised my articles in Phoenix (meaning she knew who I was). Apparently, I was no longer of any use to her.

Like, This Crazy Dude, or Whatever — Right, so like… there was this dude, right? And he was getting all up in my man SAHN-chez’s grill because he thought SAHN-chez drew an extra card during a span of time when there was confusion over whose turn it was? And then like he started telling everyone that SAHN-chez was a cheater? And like the next day, some guy who was playing against KK in a team draft had already twisted “Some dude thinks he saw Kyle Sanchez draw an extra card” into “I don’t like him because he cheats,” with “regularly” implied in that last statement? Yeah, like. This is how rumors get started, people. Don’t believe everything that you breathe***.

Ervin Tormos — Word to the wise: If you’re plopping down next to someone in a hotel bed for the night, don’t immediately begin talking about Tomoharu Saito’s genitalia. It’s just creepy.

Ben Lundquist Emo Friend — Like, I know he’s all excitable and whatnot because he’s a child, but I’d still like to criticize one of his tendencies that many people share. Simply put, never ask someone else what his record is just to get him to ask you back. If you really want to know how someone is doing, feel free to ask, but if you’re 7-0 in the freaking tournament, that should be enough to make you happy. The world doesn’t need to know, no one will start to respect you because you started off with a good record in some tournament, and most importantly, no one cares. The “ask to get asked back” is annoying and obvious. Oh, and pee ess—you are emo. Ask anyone.

It seems like I could only think of four people at the GP who bothered me. This either means I’m getting all fuzzy and warm-hearted in my old age, or dumber. All evidence points to the latter.

Now I will go upstairs and retrieve my iPod. When I come back, I will put it on shuffle and type in the first 30 songs that come on. If you think I’m kidding, ask Ken Krouner. He’s witnessing this as it happens.

Some Songs

Hot Hot Heat “Goodnight Goodnight”
Velvet Revolver “Fall to Pieces”
Korn “Y’all Want a Single”
The Beatles “Across the Universe” (potential for music critic cred, eneyus)
Creed “Are You Ready?” (mm, well so much for that)
Billy Talent “Prisoners of Today”
My Chemical Romance “I’m Not Okay”
The Roots “The Seed 2.0”
Gorillaz “M1 A1”
The Hives “Walk Idiot Walk”
The Raconteurs “Blue Veins” (never actually listened to this one)
Taking Back Sunday “New American Classic”
Alice in Chains “Got Me Wrong”
Elastica “Connection”
Stone Temple Pilots “A Song for Sleeping”
Godsmack “Serenity” (which of these is the most awkward?)
Adema “The Way You Like It”
Busta Rhymes “Gimme Some Mo”
Foo Fighters “DOA”
Evanescence “Lithium”
Live “Insomnia and the Hole in the Universe” (I actually recommend this one)
Snow Patrol “Hands Open” (and this one)
The White Stripes “It’s True That We Love One Another”
Finger Eleven “First Time”
Disturbed “Prayer”
My Chemical Romance “Disenchanted”
Morrissey “Irish Blood, English Heart”
Bad Religion “Yesterday”
311 “Love Song”
Sheryl Crow “Tomorrow Never Dies”

Okay, #30 was the most awkward, I think. That was a lot of fun for me, though. I think I’ll write down 20 more.

Linkin Park “Hit the Floor”
Creed “Don’t Stop Dancing”
Nelly Furtado “Baby Girl”
Gorillaz “Dare”
Stone Temple Pilots “Sour Girl”
The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army”
System of a Down “Holy Mountains
Sum 41 “All Messed Up”
Blindside “Silence
Adema “Giving In” (this is on army commercials or something now)
Creed “My Own Prison”
Limp Bizkit “Nobody Like You”
Deftones “Digital Bath”
My Chemical Romance “The End”
Eric Clapton “Layla (unplugged)”
Nelly Furtado “Well, Well”
Jet “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?”
Incubus “Quicksand
Genesis “The Brazilian”
Hoobastank “Too Little Too Late”

That’ll do for now. I would like to assure you that those songs are truly random. I did not, for instance, hand-pick songs to try to somehow prove I have “eclectic” musical tastes. If that were the case, I would have put more black people in there and left off the Creed entirely. I also wasn’t intentionally embarrassing myself – even though you college kid hipster wannabes clutching Return to Cookie Mountain probably think I succeeded in that nevertheless – because if I were I’d probably have mentioned Celine Dion or included three or more My Chemical Romance songs. Besides, fabricating randomness is way too hard. Remember when I wrote that draft walkthrough article where I actually just stone made up 24 packs’ worth of cards? You don’t? Aw, die in a hole.

I’ve lost most of my ability to spin a narrative – how much I ever had is pretty debatable since I’ve always hidden behind a “stream-of-consciousness” style of writing, or whatever – so I’ll just continue to bounce from topic to topic like the schizo I am. Sound like a plan?

On the Friday morning before the GP, Ken Krouner and I left his posh Atlanta suburb on a road trip to Dallas. We didn’t karaoke with the CDs as much as I would have liked, but we did pass through a city in Texas named Longview. In retrospect, I really wish I had gotten out of the car to get my picture taken next to one of the signs bearing the town’s name. We arrived at the site at around 8pm, I carried a laundry basket full of clothes and cards – which I nearly dropped several times – to the room because I didn’t bring a suitcase to Atlanta because I’m a moron, and then I started to look for a team draft.

I did five team drafts the weekend of GP: Dallas, and even though Pat Sullivan was the awesomest person I teamed with, I think the first draft featured my overall favorite team. My squad included Kyle SAAAAAAAHHHHNNNNNN-chez and Taylor “Big Putts” (spelled as such so you don’t pronounce it like “puts”) Putnam, and our opponents were Brandon Scheel, Kyle Mechler, and some other Iowan, possibly Jordan Weber. I rarely make the time to become acquainted with the people whose lives I’m about to ruin, so I’ll end up leaving out a name here or there.

I don’t remember much from this draft other than the facts that all the packs were wicked good, and that my deck was somehow terrible. All my cards were either double-Blue, triple-Green, or had three different colors of mana in the casting cost. My first pick of the draft had been Sporesower Thallid over Durkwood Baloth, Fathom Seer, and Looter or something. I’m not sure if the Thallid is better than Baloth now, but I felt like going for the Pallid Mycoderm archetype.

I lost to Kyle Mechler in literally three minutes (not including shuffling, in case you thought I was being hyperbolic) thanks to some Baloths and a Fury Charm and sketchier draws on my part than I deserved, even with my deck. Big Putts and SAAHHHNNN-chez both won. I took another huge beating from Scheel the next round, even though I juked him real good the second game, and SAAAAAHHHHHNN-chez won again. Taylor was in game 3 against Mechler, and Mechler had double-mulled on the play. Taylor’s hand featured your typical classic “spells and the lands to cast them.”

Important Lesson Alert

Mechler only played three spells that game, and yet he emerged victorious. This was because Taylor failed to… uhhh… “tailor” (awkward) his strategy around what was happening on the opponent’s side of the table. When your opponent double mulligans on the play, his best chance of winning is getting lucky and smashing you before you have the chance to set up. Since he or she is already behind in cards, you can afford to throw a few away to stem bleeding, and you should obviously make as many 1-for-1 trades as possible. You shouldn’t be looking to race; there are fewer threats to neutralize, so your life total becomes a more important commodity than usual in relation to “cards.” In this case, Taylor took two hits from Durkwood Baloth instead of Dream Stalkering a land back to his hand to bring him up to eight and discarding Dark Withering to kill it. He also probably could have chumped the beast for a turn. Instead, Mechler used Pyrohemia to clear the board and take Taylor to six, then topdecked Groundbreaker the turn before he would have died to finish Taylor off.

End Important Lesson

Taylor won his last match and Kyle lost his, so it was all on me. My deck was sketchy, so my teammates and I understood there was a good chance I’d lose. Taking that into consideration, I thought of a possible dilemma to ask various people: “One person on your team went 2-1 – for the purposes of the dilemma, ignore him. Another person went 0-3, and the third went 2-1, but he definitely threw a match away. Who is more at fault for the team losing the draft – the 0-3 or the 2-1 that punted?” Obviously, it’s a team effort, so both people are really at fault. Just pretend you have to choose one. Most people I asked thought the 2-1 was more to blame.

Does this mean that I chastised Big Putts vehemently after we lost? Of course not. I won my last match because that’s what I frickin’ do in team frickin’ drafts. I got some of the best draws my deck could muster both games, but that didn’t stop SAAAHHN-chez from trying to coach me as I played, as though I had no clue how to gather Magics. It’s a little insulting that he thought I needed his help to win a simple match. There was a day when children had respect. Why, when Gadiel and Pelcak still respected me, we were the top-rated team in the world! ‘Course, the world was much smaller those days, and the Saxons were threatening us with their bronze tools. Times were hard but good, assuming you lived through the plague and all, and then Cromwell came along and blew all that to smithereens, I tell you what!

As concerns the GP itself, I was bent on playing Spectral Lynxes and Griffin Guides. I had made a version of the deck before Worlds that focused more on beating Boros, and I think I actually would have played it if I had gone. As the metagame had shifted quite a bit between the two events, I took out the Shining Shoals for Dark Confidants, among other changes. The list I played in Dallas was underpowered, and I wouldn’t recommend playing it (and as far as I know, Extended season will be over by the time this sees print), so there’s no need to show the complete contents of the deck. I lost to Jesse Hawkins of all people in round 4, and then decided I didn’t feel like playing anymore. Thus, I dropped.

People don’t understand why I drop way before I’m out of contention, or why I skip events entirely. The main reason I stopped going to PTs is because I hate traveling abroad with the fire of a thousand suns; that, however relates to the broader reason for my avoidance. This may come as a surprise to you, but I’m kind of a depressive. (My aunt sent me a letter that said she saw my MySpace and thought this was the case. I continue to redefine “awkward” with every breath I take.) Very little in life brings me joy. Hence, when faced with the option of doing something I don’t feel like doing or doing nothing at all, I will choose the latter. My serotonin levels are low enough without my consenting to engage in activities I have the desire and ability to avoid. I do what I want because sometimes, that’s all that keeps me alive.

Here would probably be a good time to grab a Kleenex to wipe away the single tear that’s rolling down your cheek.

As soon as I had assembled the squad of Putnam / SAAAHHN-chez / me, I knew I had a winner. I was very excited to spend the rest of the weekend drafting with those fine and wacky individuals, so I eagerly anticipated their departure from the main event. Taylor was quick to join me, but SAAAHHHN-chez was on the path to Day 2, so it didn’t look like I’d be able to live the dream. To make matters worse, Mitchell Tamblyn had dropped from the tournament and found opponents for a 2-on-2, so after he spent a good 15 minutes begging me to be on his team, I joined him.

I will now list what I remember of the deck, for very little reason other than that I like lists:

1 Ashcoat Bear
1 Thallid Shell-Dweller
1 Vitaspore Thallid
1 Errant Doomsayers
1 Knight of the Holy Nimbus
1 Saffi Eriksdotter
1 Thallid Germinator
1 Saltfield Recluse
1 Cloudchaser Kestrel (a.k.a. Awkward-san)
1 Penumbra Spider
1 Scarwood Treefolk
1 Flickering Spirit
1 Mystic Enforcer
1 Clockwork Hydra
1 Ghost Tactician
1 Durkwood Baloth
1 Havenwood Wurm
1 Evolution Charm
1 Utopia Vow
1 Fortify
1 Stonewood Invocation
1 Verdant Embrace
10 Forest
7 Plains

The mana was a little clunky, but I had the Evolution Charm (and I guess the Utopia Vow), so I erred on the side of Forests. Perhaps I should have been 9/8 anyway. The Vitaspore Thallid was a mistake, and I boarded it out each match. I knew it was a little “the loose” going in, but I had other Thallids, so I figured “mooze.” It should probably have been the Pentarch Ward I boarded in each match, which is for some reason somewhat better in 3-on-3s than 8-mans, and even better in 2-on-2s.

There isn’t much to say about this draft other than that Tamblyn didn’t win a game, and that I won all four of my pre-tiebreaker games with Stonewood Invocation. I split the first two games of the tiebreaker with my opponent, and then in the third game, I won with – brace yourselves – Stonewood Invocation. This brings me to another excellent list opportunity…

Excellent List Opportunity: Cards You Should Not Pass in Team Drafts

These are some of the best cards in Time Spiral and Planar Chaos, but this list isn’t merely a rundown of the most powerful cards in the format. Vesuvan Shapeshifter is certainly one of the best 10 cards in Time Spiral, but there’s no shame in passing one in a team draft. It’s quite powerful, but it isn’t a “win-stealer.” Basically, you want to keep your opponents from getting cards that can win games all by themselves, or cards that your teammates could put in the sentence, “Well I can’t possibly lose unless my opponent has __________.” Naturally, if there’s a slightly less powerful card in your colors, or if there’s too much stuff to hate, or if you’re reasonably certain the person you’re passing to won’t be playing the card in question, you can ship it along.

Oh, and these aren’t in order because, c’mon, that’d be tedious.

Bogardan Hellkite: Fewer players in a draft means fewer packs, which in turn means fewer cards, which in turn means less focused / aggressive decks. This means that eight mana is quite attainable, and if this shows up on the opponent’s side, your teammates won’t be happy. Unlike other expensive clunkers, this has an immediate effect when it hits play, making it more dangerous.

Firemaw Kavu: I hope this one is obvious, but I never know with you miscreants.

Fortify: There are considerably more on-color cards you can take over this since it’s not as inherently powerful as most of the list. That notwithstanding, this card can be quite devastating, so cut it whenever possible.

Griffin Guide: The very definition of a deus ex machina card. I’m not really sure what deus ex machine means, but my English teacher used to use it, and it makes me sound smarter. This card steals an inordinate amount of wins; it’s one of the most worrisome cards on the list. It can create a monstrous flier as early as turn 3, and even if you have a removal spell, you’re not entirely out of the woods. Sometimes one swing with this is all it takes, like in my round 15 feature match at Grand Prix: New Jersey against Tim McKenna, who finished 17th tee hee.

Jaya Ballard, Task Mage: This one probably doesn’t warrant mentioning, as people are likely to hate this anyway. I’m not a huge fan of this card, as it’s clunky and fairly easy to kill, but it’s still a one-(wo)man wrecking machine.

Magus of the Disk and other Wrath effects, like Sulfurous Blast, Damnation, and to a much lesser extent, Desolation Giant: Multicolored cards fit into the “must-hate” category less frequently since it’s unlikely your opponent will be both the colors in question. That said, you should definitely take cards like Sedge Sliver, Kaervek the Merciless, and Ith, High Arcanist if you think the person you’re feeding will play them.

Pardic Dragon and other large fliers with huge effects for their cost, like Serra Sphinx, Stronghold Overseer, and Sengir Nosferatu.

Penumbra Spider: Not a soul on Earth can beat this card, and that includes your teammates. At PT: Kobe, Tim Galbiati was touting this as the best common in Time Spiral, and while I didn’t believe him at the time, he actually wasn’t far off. As with Fortify, this is more acceptable to pass than the rarer cards.

Spectral Force: I mean. I am meaning. I have meant. I will mean. I shall have meant.

Squall Line: In a team draft, this is almost as bad as Disintegrate for you and your teammates. An opponent can suck out on you after you think you’ve stabilized, and Dawn Charm can’t even counter this one.

Stonebrow, Krosan Hero: I made mention of the multicolored rares already, but when I came across (pronounced uh-CROST here) it on the list, I still felt the need to mention it. I once had a teammate pass this to a Canadian in a 2-on-2, and then we both lost to it. Allow me to repeat: We lost to Canadians (neither of whom was gorompi-san).

Stonewood Invocation: See above. FIVE OUT OF SIX games were won with this card in the 2-on-2, and it was essential to victory in four of those.

Stuffy Doll: At least this doesn’t count as a hate draft since you’ll be able to play it.

Thelonite Hermit: Now it does feel like I’m simply listing all the good cards. But seriously, you’d better be taking something better than Benalish Cavalry over this if you’re ever on my team.

Tromp the Domains: Probably the number 2 offender, behind Disintegrate.

Verdant Embrace: This is a bomb despite being a creature enchantment. Red removal probably won’t be able to kill the enchanted creature, and the Black removal in this block is rather situational. Even if you have ways to kill the creature, if it stays in play for a couple turns, the havoc wreaked may insurmountable.

Call of the Herd: Another generic entry that’s just here because it’s simply too powerful to pass.

Disintegrate: I have a ball. Perhaps you’d like to bounce it.

Stormbind: Seriously, tell your teammates you passed a Stormbind and watch their reaction.

Enslave: See Call of the Herd. I’m starting to get bored myself. (Side note: This is clearly not as good as Call. That’s not what I’m trying to say.)

Intet, the Dreamer and Other Dragons: Use your best discretion. The person who you’re passing to could be 2 of the 3 colors and decide to move in, and you certainly don’t want to be held accountable for an opponent having a castable monster flier.

Jodah’s Avenger: Deceptively bomby. This is a very hard-to-stop four damage every turn, and it can get nutty if its controller has a pump spell or two. Additionally, if one could somehow look at the words on the card and derive meaning from them, one would be able to deduce that this is immune to Red removal.

Kor Dirge: Probably the swingiest trick in the format.

Magus of the Arena: Fewer packs also means less removal, and that makes a card that can singlehandedly wipe out an entire board of creatures scarier than normal.

Pyrohemia: Just a reminder that this counts as one of the aforementioned Wrath effects, as does Rough / Tumble.

Torchling: In a word, duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurrrrr. I actually had to hate both this and Pyrohemia in the 2-on-2 with Tamblyn.

Naturally, you should also hate-draft quality removal like Strangling Soot if there isn’t a great card for you, assuming you’re fairly certain your opponent would take it.

*End Excellent List Opportunity

After the 2-on-2 with Tamblyn, I spent a long while sulking for various reasons. Taylor Putnam wasn’t happy either, in his case because I don’t think he’d been able to find a draft in my absence. When some of my grumpiness had subsided, we managed to find one more draft on Saturday night. We picked up Patrick Sullivan and gamed against Billy Moreno, Tim Galbiati, and Galbiati’s friend from Missouri (pronounced (muh-ZURR-uh).

While SAHN-chez / Putnam / me was my favorite team of the weekend, this was easily my favorite draft of the weekend. Not only did I have a couple of rather nice cards, but Patrick and I had also just come back from BW3 (which serves alcohol), so Patrick was a little “out of sorts” and hence even more entertaining than usual.

My first pick of the draft was Sengir Nosferatu, and Billy saw fit to ship me Sedge Sliver second. The only situation in which I’d pass a Sedge Sliver – in any draft, not just a team draft – is if the pack also contained a Disintegrate. That’s it. It doesn’t matter that it commits a person to two colors right off the bat; it’s still worth windmill-slamming. I can only think of a few rares in the set that are better than it. It is my sincerest hope that no one reads this paragraph so I still have a shot at seeing one later than first pick.

I opened a Soul Collector in pack 2, and then Billy passed me a Damnation in pack 3. Beyond my four bomb rares, the deck was average at best (but with rares like mine, that didn’t matter). Furthermore, for some reason, I let Antonino and Patrick build my deck, so I ended up with a Bladescout in there as my 23rd card.

In the first round, I played against Tim Galbiati. In game 1, I managed to play a turn 3 Sedge Sliver and a turn 4 or 5 Spitting Sliver. (No, it wasn’t definitely turn 5. I had a Prismatic Lens, B.) He controlled Swamps and had a Sliver of his own, but I drew Nosferatu on turn 8, so Galbiati was quickly overwhelmed. A key play in the first game was my casting of Treacherous Urge after he attacked with a shadowy Trespasser il-Vec. His only lands were Swamps and Forests, and his three cards in hand were 2 more Forests and Jodah’s Avenger. Needless to say, this was a pleasant surprise – not only did it mean he was playing three colors, but I also actually managed to hit a creature that could block the Trespasser. Naturally, he should have discarded the Avenger in response, but he was probably somewhat distracted by Patrick’s drunken antics. In the second game, Galbiati figured his best chances for winning were to play out his creatures and pray I didn’t have the Damnation. Evidently, God had called in sick that day. Sullivan and Putnam won their matches, so we were up to 3-0.

I don’t remember much of my match against Billy. I remember that Vampire-san made an appearance in one of the games, as did Sedge Sliver. I also remember using my tried-and-true method of beating Mr. William Moreno…

Tried-and-True Method of Beating Mr. William Moreno
If Billy reads this, I’m going to have a harder time beating him in the future, since he’ll probably go flip mode on me. Essentially, Billy is what Chambers would call “the loose.” If a decision is even close, Billy will always err on the side of aggression. He takes every opportunity to sneak extra damage in, and he probably runs the Turian (attacking on the pure bluff of a trick) rather frequently. When playing against Billy, I just keep his play style in mind and give him enough rope to hang himself. If you’re banking on getting one last creature through to make your pump or burn spell lethal, you will probably not be disappointed. Also, Fog effects can be especially devastating against Billy, as they will often allow you to make two alpha strikes.

*End Tried Wuzza Methord Huzza Wuzza*

Patrick mopped up his game in short order, and he and I started humming**** the theme to Hawaii Five-0. Taylor emerged victorious in his match after the fact, and I won a fun match against my final opponent, with Galbiati tagging in for me for game 2 (and intentionally slowrolling his bombs to see if he could win without them.) Thus, the final tally was 7-0, but I have a feeling it might have gotten to 9-0. What a tremendous smashing.

The next morning, I watched Ken, Lynch, and The Jono Mizer draft against Olivier Ruel, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, and a third who allegedly paid the “professionals” to draft with him. (The third, incidentally, is the man I mentioned earlier who called SAAHNN-chez a cheater based on pure hearsay.) Jono registered a quick 0-3, and this resulted in an awkward situation later when he announced to Ken that Ken had conceded prematurely in his final round. Jono explained that the draft had been tied at four matches each, and that Ken’s match was actually supposed to be the decider. The reason for the discrepancy was that Jono thought he had won his first round, when in fact he had not. I actually had to recount to him how he had lost. I’m really not sure how it’s possible to go 0-3 and not remember that it happened.

I soon rediscovered my own draft fever, so I assembled Big Putts and Leonard J. Bundquist III to draft against Neil Reeves, Jelger Wiegersma, and Erik Thoren. Blah blah, wuzza wuzza, hooza decklist yaaaaaaaay!!! (Does my eloquence know no bounds?)

1 Looter il-Kor
1 Amrou Scout
1 Benalish Cavalry
1 Errant Doomsayers
1 Outrider en-Kor
1 Poultice Sliver
1 Aven Riftwatcher
1 Awkward-san
1 Shaper Parasite
1 Watcher Sliver
1 Chronozoa
1 Crookclaw Transmuter
1 Primal Plasma
1 Errant Ephemeron
1 Ith, High Arcanist
1 Whispers of the Muse
1 Rebuff the Wicked
1 Ovinize
1 Erratic Mutation
1 Frozen Aether
1 Temporal Eddy
2 Saltblast
9 Plains
8 Island

The mana was a little uglier than I would have preferred, but beyond that, the deck was a thing of beauty. This was yet another sound beating; as with the prior draft, I went 2-0 and didn’t have to play a third round. Afterwards, I went up to the hotel room and passed out, waking up just in time to see Neon shake Raphael Levy hand at the conclusion of the GP. From there, I remember wandering aimlessly around the hall awhile before retiring to the room once more. Right as I was getting comfortable in bed, Big Putts came into the room and informed me that he’d found another draft, and that our third would be Luis Scott-Vargas. I was in the lobby for the draft before the door even shut behind me. Our opponents, for the record, were Billy Moreno, Julien Nuijten, and Repeat Professional Magical Gatherer Tournament Series Top 8 Finisher Ervin “Nick Eisel” Tormos.

My first pack featured Tromp but not Disintegrate, so my path was chosen for me. After taking Sudden Death second, I picked up a pair of Prismatic Lenses and decided to go balls-to-the-wall seven-color-Green. Unfortunately, not a lot of splash-worthy cards appeared; fortunately, there were enough Thallids present that I could attempt a theme deck…

1 Essence Warden
2 Thallid Shell-Dweller
1 Thelon of Havenwood
1 Deathspore Thallid
1 Rathi Trapper
2 Thallid Germinator
2 Citanul Woodreaders
2 Herd Gnarr
1 Mirri the Cursed
1 Pallid Mycoderm
1 Savage Thallid
1 Verdeloth the Ancient
1 Midnight Charm
1 Evolution Charm
1 Utopia Vow
1 Prismatic Lens
1 Sudden Death
1 Fortify
1 Tromp the Domains
10 Forest
5 Swamp
2 Plains

You’ll note that I only ended up playing one of my two Lenses; this was out of consideration for potential mana flood. If I played both Lenses, I would have had approximately 20 mana cards in my deck. (The Vow and Evolution Charm can count as about half each, but also in this deck, the Charm would usually be necessary for mana-fixing.) Trimming a land is not the answer, either; casting Sudden Death off Forests and Prismatic Lenses is not exactly a treat.

I played Julien first and defeated him in two games. In the second game, Julien discarded numerous spells to Dreamscape Artist in order to ramp up to Nicol Bolas, for which I had the Utopia Vow. Next round, I played against Billy. After Tromping him out game 1, I boarded in Molder for the Temporal Isolation and Teferi’s Moat he had shown. Game 2 was a race, with me trying to hold off Calciderm and his other ground troops long enough to win with Mirri. On the crucial turn, Billy was at 3, and I was at 10. Billy was attacking me with the Derm, a Whitemane Lion, and Chronozoa. My board featured a Shell-Dweller, a saproling, Mirri (tapped), and a Rathi Trapper with summoning sickness; I blocked the Derm and Lion and took 3 from Chronozoa. Then Billy completed his turn by tapping out for a Castle Raptors enchanted with Pentarch Ward on Black. I flashed him the Molder in my hand with a grin; I figured he’d realize that the game was over, as all I had to do was Molder the Ward, tap the Raptors, and swing one last time with Mirri. For some reason, he wasn’t conceding, though. After I went through the motions and attacked, he simply chump-blocked with Chronozoa, which Billy he explained he had never attacked with. I was pretty embarrassed – I could have sworn he attacked with the 3/3 flier along with his ground guys, but I was pretty tired. Billy eventually stabilized with Telekinetic Sliver, another Sliver, and Teferi’s Moat. I wasn’t quite sure how I had lost that game, but I was pretty sure I’d be able to win the third.

It was then that Billy said, “Hey, thanks for playing along.”

And I was all, “Whuuuhhhu??!!”

And he was all, “Yeah, you won that game. I did attack with Chronozoa.”

At this point, Big Putts was 1-1, but Luis had OOOBBBBBVVVVVVV-iously gone 2-0, so yet another draft was over before round 3. Man, Magic is fun.

I wish spending entire days on airplanes, and trying to sleep but failing miserably in a hotel room the size of a shoe, and exchanging currency, and waiting forever for pairings to go up, and Constructed in general weren’t so “the bunz.” Unfortunately, they are, and as such, I’ve determined that the PT really isn’t the place for me anymore. It was fun while it lasted, but I’m gettin’ too old for this sh**. If any of you gives a carp (as in the fish, not as in a typo), I’ll be at PT: San Diego, Nationals, and possibly Worlds to do coverage if they’ll let me, and then I’ll be all done. If I don’t see you again, go with Christ, brah.

And now, because this article hasn’t gone on for nearly long enough, here’s a gratuitous props / slops section.

-Jill Costigan and Aaron Lipczynski
-everyone in Ken’s house in Atlanta but Zach Parker (this includes the ever-rotating cast of guest characters like Rudy Edwards and Darooka)
-sealed boosters of Magic: the Gathering
Gadiel Szleifer
-Neon Cheon and Luis Scott-Vargas
Star Wars Kid
-Courtney Love
-the Stone Cold Creamery
-Trey Parker
-Colonel Sanders

-Matt Rubin
Zac Hill

Okaaaay, sankyuuuuuuuuu!

Timothy James Aten, the Totally Depraved
[email protected]
3000 W. Alameda Avenue
Burbank, CA

* If you think that this concept is stolen from Zac Hill, you have no concept of time or reality. You’re a hopeless, ignorant barn, just like the man you worship. You probably don’t even believe any of what I’m telling you because your rotting brain leaves you in a constant state of oblivion.
** The funniest was Chambers drunk at Friendly’s.
*** You’ll get a parking violation and a maggot on your sleeve.
**** We weren’t actually “humming” but rather making DUNT DUNT DUNNN sounds. There isn’t a word for this that I’m aware of.