Feature Article – Four PTQs Walk Into A Grand Prix Trial… (Part 2)

Read Feature Articles every Monday and Thursday... at StarCityGames.com!
Wednesday, April 2nd – Part 1 above walked us through seventeen thousand words of JFR’s very own peculiar madness… the exciting conclusion awaits within! (Yes, that’s right… JFR broke the article entry form.)

Disclaimer: Even from here, this article is like, really, really long.

So, I finished second in the Legacy with Boros, grabbed my pack support, beat Cory’s Affinity a few times, mentioned to Brenden that City Champs on Easter Sunday is sacrilegious to which he decided to change the date to a day less likely to incite Wrath of God on Isochron Scepter, and then ran over to play poker.

The wife didn’t want to play, since it was a $20 buy in, so natch on her. Little did I know how wise her decision would come to be.

We played, four guys and three women, from 6:00 to about 12:30. Imagine playing with plastered chyx that you would never do, and drunk-ass guys (likewise not do-worthy), not a single one of whom could STFU-slash-QFT for more than nine consecutive seconds.

Imagine loud music, grating and annoying women and their clueless mates, and every single f***in’ hand having to remind all of them that it’s either their bet or their blind or deal or cut or wait while I go pee and wtf can’t you quit babbling and pay attention, just once, for the sake of novelty?

It was like I was some unholy amalgam of kindergarten teacher and union delegate for the attention deficit disorder factory.

As a bonus, it was a tournament structure, so you can’t just pick up your winnings and go home whenever you want, like real poker. Thus, sit there and deal with it, yo, raking the occasional pot, but wishing you would just lose so you could go home.

Despite wanting to Oedipus my eyes without the messy incest thing, they pissed me off enough to make me gear down and knock out five of them, and then I lost in the head-to-head to an Aces-comin’-out-my-ass lucksack when I didn’t even care and saw the glory of the end of the game.

I tortured myself for more than six hours to take home forty bucks, which was the second place “prize.” That’s six hours of my life I’ll never get back, but heh and psst… I probably won’t report the income on my tax return. All said, I would have rather been playing Limited. Maybe.

Take annoying people, mix liberally with alcohol, loud music, and a freeze-out structure, and the result can only be described as super fun! This is why I hate bars, clubs, concerts, and just about any gathering of humanity that also involves copious amounts of adult beverages. Or adults.

Reality break:

On Sunday afternoon, I checked the GP — Philly standings, mostly curious about any new technology I may encounter, or steal, for the final two PTQs of the season. At the top of the standings I was shocked, no, flabbergasted, no, blown out of my freakin’ chair to see:


I looked again, wondering if perhaps there was another Paul Mathews in attendance.

No, seriously, that Paul Mathews, whom I would rate as a slightly better player than myself, mostly due to his regular testing with a bunch of hardcore Magicians. Well, I’d rate him that way before this bit of insanity up and made me reevaluate.

He won a PTQ early this season and accompanied his boys to the last couple of events as both a cheerleader and all-around brother-in-arms. He didn’t play at the GP Trial because he wanted to preserve his one bye due to ratings that he accumulated during his PTQ win.

It’s funny how a guy not willing to risk his one bye goes and beats up on the entire continent of Philadelphia. Yes, hilarious! It’s even funnier how his rating is sure to be way over 2000 by the time the dust settles, which basically means he’ll be terrified to play in any tourney, ever. Just like I would be if I was, like, an 1800.

Nevertheless, for him to be in first place after the Swiss was like a shot of ridiculously surreal adrenaline and inspiration all through my system: if he can do it, well, you know how the story goes. Cue the theme from Rocky and get me all motivated. Where’s my Nightscape Familiars!

Now, back to the other reality.

The results from the dual GPs were just nutty. Four Dredge decks make Top 8 in some foreign country, while they barely make a dent in Philly. wtf does that mean? To me, it means this:

Like they said in mistaorange’s clip: everything goes in Extended nowadays; for me to prepare for every possible variable is to be ready for nothing. And yet…

While Chapin had the balls to ignore Dredge, it seems unconscionable, or at least bats**t to attend a PTQ completely conceding to the, ahem, best deck in the format.

TEPS may or may not be the new flavor and no discard seems as crazy as no Leylines.

With U/W back in the spotlight (maybe), Oblivion Ring pisses off Kokusho.

I fell in love with Gerard’s deck; one-ofs and two-ofs and wft-ofs and Eternal Witnesses. If I ever wanted to net a deck, that is the deck I would a net.

Third Damnation or Sundering Titan main? Argh.

So everything really means nothing. Play what you want and it can probably do okay. Nice. Format. Which means it’s the best format ever. Don’t we have this exact same conversation every single Extended season?

Dear Wizards,

Eliminate all formats except Extended.

Everyone Except Limited Players Who Can’t Build Decks To Save Their Lives

Anyway, the deck:

When I look at this deck, I feel like I never owned an Andy Gibb album, and most especially not two of them. Can you say that about your deck? Longest two weeks ever. Let’s get on with it already!

Make the world a better place
Punch The Brothers Gibb in the face.
(‘cause they wouldn’t let Andy be a Bee Gee)

PTQ — Hollywood
TJ Collectibles, Milford, MA
135 peeps/ 8 rounds

I sit here at 9:08pm the night before the tourney trying to think of something that needs to be said, or considered, or even simply mulled around aimlessly. Not much, really, but mostly ‘cause I’m drugged up on Sudafed and Nyquil. Thursday and Friday I came home early from work, after coming home Wednesday and sleeping for 14 hours.

So yeah, I’m still pretty sick — I think I caught my wife’s bronchitis. I know it’s not contagious, so they say, but I always wanted bronchitis so now I pretend to have it. Berto’s been sick all week, everyone at work is all flu-like, and I feel pretty much like s**t. But suck it up because this is Extended.

Excuse for tomorrow’s failure mode: off.

When it comes down to it, pretty much nothing remains but the randomness of tomorrow’s games. I know what my deck does, what most of the others do, and now it’s up to me, my Bruce, and the gods of chance. I can control two of the three, and if I do so convincingly, perhaps they can voodoo away the no-land openers that mull to four.

Of all the matches I lost, too many are fresh in my mind as random garbage: mulling four times against Elves, mulling to four against Affinity, settling for the double Therapy, Swamp opener against Zoo, and I can keep on whining if you’d like.

These were the losses I felt were legitimate in any sense of the word, either due to superior decks or play or both:

David Hanna – U/W Scepter Chant
Ryan Durney – NLU
Brian Peters — Domain Zoo
Patrick Brown – Control Domain Zoo

Four of my eight losses felt “legit” due to actual gameplay themselves, and even in both Zoo matches I kept shifty openers or mulled too much, each of which cost me a full game.

The rest of the losses are highly suspect, due to poor opening hand decisions or mulligan randomness, or in the case of not cracking Deed immediately, a horrific mistake that snatched jaws from Robert Shaw’s teeth-ridden body. Of course, I had a couple iffy wins as well, so I guess it all works out, but no it doesn’t.

One is likely to remember the bad beats more readily that the easy wins. Yes, the losses always stay in the forefront, since many of them could have been wins if I had done something differently. To wit:

Something seems cheap about mulling to four. I know I’ve long been a proponent of taking out the trash when your deck spits out garbage, and I’ve done and am doing it. It’s not my opponent’s fault I didn’t play with sufficient land. But it’s his fault he’s a d*ck.

To that end, the results spoke and I added more land to further reduce dumb amounts of mulligans. I cut win conditions, which altered the focus, but the end result must be more playable seven-card hands, which, by default, should lower the number of purely dumb game losses.

Getting swarmed was another problem, although there is nothing random about that, particularly so against Zoo. Adding Smothers and an extra Putrefy is an attempt to rectify that problem; it’s happened enough to warrant trimming some fat to put in some lean, which should help me to survive long enough so my remaining obesity matters.

I think I just wrote a few paragraphs on minimizing randomness in your deck, which I’m positive someone has written a theory-packed article about by now. Alternately, call it streamlining, or “how to stop being your own worst enemy without giving up and net decking.”

Better yet, thought-process-in-progress: deck/results/changes/results/changes/results until we run fresh out of season. This is theory on a weekly basis (for me), played out on a stage for thousands, and when the results are just plain er derf (not only meaning “when I lose”), nothing is really accomplished. Pisses me off, is all. So fix it! I think I have.

Minimize randomness.


Minimize randomness.

My deck now does that, I think, by maximizing redundancy. Next case.

The plan was to pick up Colton at 6:20 and meet the boys at 6:45. Let’s try this again, hopefully with 50% less precipitation and 50% more premeditation. When I woke up, the thought of doing anything other than not moving for the next ten hours pissed me off, let alone 18 hours for a PTQ. Whatever, cowboy up, buckaroo.

I put on my Wizards of the Coast shirt I “stole” from Nats a couple years back, loaded up my gear and off I went, sickness be damned. Showers are for *other* people, especially when you shower the night before because you know it’ll take every ounce of grit just to not go back to sleep in the morning. Or maybe I just went funky so I’d fit in.

I met Colton on time, and at the right place, mind you, and was surprised to see Stephen Achorn, random 15 year-old, tagging along. I guess he simply invited himself. Whatever, that’s mo’ gas money!

What’s truly funny is that Steph, as we eventually took to calling him, had a massive bag of stuff with him, but somehow forgot the deck he was going to play. How one forgets his deck, the one tool above all others that you, um, need, is beyond reasoning.

Okay, let’s run the checklist:

Showered. Check.
Dressed. Check.
Plenty of money. Check.
Dice. Check.
Scorepad and pen. Check.
Trade binder. Check.

Ready to go! For Limited.

Luckily, Colton let him borrow his Astral Slide deck, and that’s what you deserve when you forget your Aggro-Loam deck that you’ve been playing for the last year straight.

Colton and I spent most of the ride to Denny’s teasing Steph about the bad decks he used to play in the Legacy tourneys at Crossroads:

From his basic land five-colors-of-the-worst-slivers-in-existence chunkfest, to his Piledriver-less Goblins and Bay-Falcon-ftw-Stasis, Steph took his lumps like a man, which is what he will become once his voice changes and he develops pubic hair. And remembers his deck.

We got Chet and Cory, squeezed everyone in, and off we went. Since I was sort of living on the edge of reality, I was able to pay only slight attention to the Comedy Central banter from all sides.

Steph: Riz, do you watch tv?
Me: No.

The ensuing silence was what it may have sounded like if I had answered “I once shampooed Al Sharpton’s hair. And I liked it!”

Most of the rest of the ride was spent in a foggy haze, weaving in and out of the conversation, though I did perk up when Cory and I tried to suck Chet into playing Smallpox:

You: Turn 1 Thoughtseize.
Them: Land, Birds.
You: Smallpox.


You: Turn 1 Thoughtseize.
Them: Invasion sac land.
You: Smallpox.


You: Turn 1 Thoughtseize.
Them: Mox, Blood Crypt, Banneret.

You: Smallpox.


So we had Chet with Mono Black, more of a weenie discard build than fatties, though he did have Korlash, Cory and Colton with Affinity, Steph with Slide 2003, and me with high hopes and one hell of a headache. It hurt to move my freakin’ eyes, yo; naturally, I looked straight ahead to show pain who owns whom.

We made it in plenty of time and found the place jam-packed with net deckers. Since I brought at least three of them with me, I didn’t find it too odd. After a few hellos, but not to Paul Mathews, who was curiously not in attendance but I sure as hell would be, off we went.

Round 1: David Howell — Ninjas

In game 1, I double mulled, and David played about a million little guys, attacked with Mutavaults and ninja’d in Deep Hours and Higure. I was at four when I started to play “real” spells:

Deed your army, Baloth, Baloth, Kokusho.

1/1s and 2/2s off the top don’t last long against monsters that cost an additional four to six mana.

I double mulled again to start game 2, and David played turn 2 Standstill. I just about had an orgasm on the spot. Nothing happened until about turn 7, when I figured I’d Scry for Coffers number two, give myself 16 mana, and win on the back of the six dream crushers in my hand.

He drew his three and cast about a billion things, including Needle on Deed, Meekstone and Jitte. I Putrefied Needle end of turn, then Deeded everything else.

Kokusho did his thing from there, with Command for life total, Lily and more Baloths than you can eat hanging out if needed.

Dear Everyone,

Please play turn 2 Standstill against me, and particularly when I mull to five.

Over Here Gettin’ My Mana On

Running mulligan total: 4

Four mulligans, one win. Go figure it out.

The first installment of Win Tom Shea’s Money: Who won PT — Boston ’03?

I wondered if this is the one I attended after I quit, and wrote a forty page report that spent thirty five of those pages comparing and contrasting the Asses of Boston. When someone answered “Brockafellas,” I knew it wasn’t the same.

Still, I flashed back to my hours in the lobby spent writing much of the article, and wondered if anyone ever found my cell phone, or if Farid the bellhop has beaten many customers to death lately.

I also wondered if I was going to be able to last another eight or nine hours. To that end, I found myself a nice little cozy at the bottom of the stairs. With a fan blowing directly on me, I was chillin’, and this close to falling asleep standing up. Like camels. Or cows, or some other farm animal that doesn’t lie down to sleep. Like The Elephant Man.

As an added bonus, I can watch asses go up the stairs, and if that’s not enough, it’s like four inches from where they hang the pairings. I’m so clutch.

Round 2: Edward Dunning — Rock

I remembered the name, the face, but not where we had previously played. Edward put it in perspective: last Extended season, I got my Opposition and you didn’t. Yes, now I remember how not very nice of you that was and how very bad my deck happened to be.

I’d reference the article, but I think it was one of those 30 pagers I wrote, sent to Craigers and he lost it or was in Japan or something. It wasn’t very good anyway.

In game 1, Edward gets his turn 2 ‘Goyf on and has to do tricks to get it to kill my Elder. Soon after, he makes a pachyderm and goes to 24, while I’m content to ramp and fix my mana and drop a turn 5 Kokusho.

It hits him twice before he Putrefies the rabid animal. The thing is: I’m never sorry to see someone kill Kokusho. Ever. But they are. I have yet to see a smiling face when Kok hits, and if they happen to kill him, their frown goes and turns even frownier when they think they’ve done something positive…

…then go to their score sheet and subtract 5 from their life total and give it to me. Liberalism in action!

A couple Thoughtseizes knock out my Lily and Baloth, but Command does him in. The other thing is: I could have brought back the Kokusho that he already killed. If we started with 40 life instead of 20, I might have been bothered to choose a second Command target.

Edward: I think your deck beats mine.

Again, humility prevented me from agreeing too profusely.

Game 2 started with Edward’s mulligan, and his apparent lack of joy at keeping his six. Two Thoughtseizes took Kok and Command, but Lily went and nabbed herself the final two Commands, one of which brought Kok back, and 16 to the face went and happened quick-like.

After killing my hand in both games and dropping ‘Goyfs like they were hawt, Edward was left with one semi-rhetorical question: Can any mid-range deck possibly beat you?

Well, they certainly have an uphill battle.

Running mulligan total: 4

Installment two of Win Tom Shea’s Money: What was the only PT whose format was a prerelease?

I knew this, but when I tried to recall, my mind was fuzzy, my sinuses were clogged, and dayum, girl, I’m 2-0!

“PT: Atlanta” was the answer, and the release event in question was Mirage. Everyone out there is going “I knew that!” No, you didn’t. Well, okay, probably you did.

Round 3: Dennis Tsao — Spirit Stompy

In game 1, I double mulligan, but keep a decent hand with Elder and Deed, while Dennis goes Village, Teeg, Troll, Village, Troll. I Deeded away the first wave, but he saved one Troll, and the trees took it down. Wasn’t much more to it than that, really.

The second game sees Dennis again go Village, Teeg, Troll, but then Troll, Troll, and this time with an Armadillo Cloak as an added bonus. However, I have noise: a Deed for three that nabs Cloak, one Troll and Teeg, and then Kokusho plus Miren.

I hit him to 6, he finds another Cloak, goes back to 11, and then Command for about 20 put an end to those shenanigans.

In the final game I mulled, but my opener contained Titan, Wish, Scrying, Elder, Forest, Urborg. I spent about a minute in the thinker contemplating the chances of a turn 5 Titan.

I came to the conclusion that it was going to happen, but wasn’t sure it would be enough – if he didn’t draw a Cloak, it might get there, but I’d be at about 8. That’s how much I thought this game through — five turns, which proves I’m so good at Magic. Probably.

Anyway, my first draw was Coffers, and then I was positive the big 7/10 was about to get sprung, and any Deed I drew in the meantime would be “put six (or seven) in the pool, cast Deed and crack it for three” surprise brutality.

And then I drew Damnation on turn two and knew Dennis needed a Cloak, right now or else, to even have a chance at this game.

Dennis went Village, Kami of Ancient Law, Troll, and then Chameleon Colossus. Seems okay, ‘specially that last one.

But I drop the turn five Titan and blow up three of his lands (Village equals SwampUrborg is king!) and none of mine, and with a Command in hand, I feel like the possibility to win this game is here. If.

I wasn’t sure what the “if” happened to be, though with Damnation in hand, “if” was mostly “when.” Casting Damnation would kill his entire freakin’ board, lands and all — a one-sided Obliterate, so I wasn’t overly concerned about losing anytime soon.

Dennis played Teeg with his lonely two mana and passed it over, ready to swarm ftw next turn. I Smothered Teeg end-of-turn and untapped. The board looked like this as I headed into what appeared to be end of days to everyone watching:

Dennis (16 life): Chameleon Colossus, Kami of Ancient Law, huge ‘Goyf, Troll Ascetic.
Me: (8 life) Sundering Titan.

I draw Wish, figure that means I have to serve and cast Damnation, then wait! look at my mana, count the mana that will exist after I wish for another Coffers… yep, Gaea might get there!

I grab Coffers
put 13 in the pool
Command his face for 11
and give Titan fear.


Best keyword ever.

Dennis counts my mana a couple times, and I go through the whole procedure again. He shakes his head, says “wow…” and extends the hand.

Cory, standing behind Dennis, had the look of someone who has just seen an impossibly monster penis: fear, envy, admiration, jealousy, and a lack of understanding.

I could almost hear Randy Buehler with his Bob Maher Ivory Mask from nowhere:

“What just happened!?”

While my game winner was a cool play, the real cool play would have been to serve then cast Damnation, leaving him with zero permanents. It wasn’t too long ago that I would have taken that route, rather than stop to think if I could possibly win this turn instead of being cool.

Yet, I got to win and be cool. It’s so fun being a grown up!

Running mulligan total: 7

I think everyone in the car was out of contention by now. They were subsisting on my success, living vicariously through every big spell aimed at domes. Leeches!

It was in between rounds that I noticed my body starting to become weak. My legs, back and shoulders were stiffening, and my eyes were being pithed with needles. However, I leaned against the wall in my nook, and let the fan take me away. To round 4.

Round 4: Jonathan Ross — Affinity

I double mull game 1 on the play and die on turn 4. Exciting!

In game 2, my opener is something like: Deed, Elder, Wish, Smother, Forest, Swamp, Urborg, or similar ridiculousness. When I played my second land, a Swamp, and cast Elder, Jonathan looked at my lands for a moment and called a judge.

“Wtf,” thought I, “did I play an Elder with two Swamps or something?”

Apparently, Jonathan didn’t like the way my Swamp was “warped,” so the judge took my Swamp and replaced it with a new one. Either I suggested or maybe the judge simply picked up my deck and looked at all the sleeves. Turns out every single sleeve in the deck was “warped” in the exact same way. I guess from something they call “shuffling.”

We got back to business after Jonathan offered a “sorry, man,” which I took to mean “I tried to finagle a game loss, better luck next time.” I gave him an “it’s okay,” nod, which really meant “I’m going to cast my warped-ass Deed and bury all your perfectly-flat permanents next turn.”

Jonathan got his overextend-into-oblivion groove on, and my rubbery Deed waffled into play and eliminated all his artificia. Shortly thereafter, I turned it over to my crooked Kokusho, who was very hard to tap due to that uncanny bend, but I managed.

I’m all for calling a judge for something shifty, but that felt like petty nothingness that would have made Sartre jealous. Yes, I think I know the difference between a too legit to quit judge call and, something well, less Hammer-like.

In game 3, again I’m offered a very strong hand: Deed, Damnation, Scrying, three lands including Tron pieces and Putrefy. I like Magic.

About turn 4, Jonathan has no cards in hand and a full board, featuring Ravager, Frogmite, ‘Thopter and Plating that he’s smashing my face with. I have to decide to Damnation or Deed for two, which will let Frogmite eat Ravager counters.

I did the advance math: the Frog goes to 7/7, and even if he had a Shrapnel Blast and a red source in hand, I’d still be at 1 and then I could eliminate all of his permanents except Citadel.

I Deeded for two, he sacced as expected, leaving Citadel and Frog as his only permanents. I went to 6 next turn, cast Damnation, and then Baloth. Seems unfair.

Playing off the top with one land is not what Affinity likes, though I was aware that life gain wouldn’t be a bad idea just in case, but mostly because I could and there was no one to stop me: I served with Baloth, sacced him for the four life, then Commanded for 13 (taking Jonathan to 3) and brought him back to play to administer the death blow.

Me: Where were the Needles for my Deed?
Jonathan: I don’t have any.
Me: omgz @wsumeszzz Vans’ warped tour4L!

Running mulligan total: 9

The final installment of Win Tom Shea’s Money: Who won the second PT ever, PT — LA?

Cory won himself a draft set for knowing it was Hammer. Not the emcee variety as referenced above, but that arm-wrestler guy. Considering that Cory was 1-3 at the time, a draft set was the least anyone could do for a brother.

While leaning in my nook, I became aware that I really wasn’t feeling very well at all. However, knowing that, even if we left right now, I was stuck being awake and conscious for the next three-plus hours was enough to force me to stay away from the light.

Round 5: James Sanguinetti — Rock-n-Flow

In game 1, James ripped Deed, Putrefy and Putrefy from my hand by turn 2. His board quickly filled with smallish ‘Goyfs, Top, and Destructive Flow. He could not, however, rip Kokusho from the top of my deck, though he did kill it when he was at 10.

James’s boys at table 1: Ha ha, Kokusho!

With no cards in hand, though at 21, I ripped Baloth, which survived until my next turn, since James tapped out to Witness back Putrefy, thinking of killing it next turn.

With only five mana available thanks to his Flow, I ripped Command, pointed it at him for three, and gave Baloth fear ftw.


Best keyword ever.

James: Nice rip.

I was pretty sure that was sarcastic, and considered saying something like “what am I supposed to do when you take every single card from my hand, not rip?” Or perhaps something like “my deck is better than your deck the deck you copied from the web, of course I’ll rip.” But discretion was the better part of valor, at least in this instance.

For game 2, I considered siding out some removal for Thoughtseize, but decided against it. My opener was Thicket, Tomb, and Scrying to help out, with plenty of gas. I figured that I’m only hurting if he has Thoughtseize and takes Scrying. He did and did.

Over the next few turns, I drew into two Wish and three Commands. Dumb. He dropped the Flow, and I was reduced to Wishing for Boseiju just to have something to sac. It was not pretty, and it still took him like 15 turns to beat me, since that’s what Rock decks do:

putz around for a hundred turns doing all these cutesy moves that prove how good they are at Magic but really accomplish pretty much nothing. Oh, and I think I’ll Top a dozen times, too. Why not just, um, win? Like right now.

In game 3, I sided out four pieces of removal for Thoughtseize, and regretted it almost immediately. I can win though Flow, but the last game hit me a little too stupidly — I have only eight basic lands, and without an Elder Flow can make life harder, but…

Dumb move to side out removal — he came out with creatures a’plenny but no Flow and I couldn’t kill them fast enough. Then I drew Deed and passed it over. James played Garruk and quickly made a main phase guy for no reason.

The “no reason” was obvious: he just drew Flow and wanted me to Deed. The funny thing is that I had to fall into his “trap,” since I’d be just about dead within a couple turns.

I took beats, drew nothing helpful, and then Deeded during his next attack. I was not shocked in the least when he dropped Flow. Still, after he had established firm control of the game, I had at least three full turns to draw Kok, Command, Spirit, Lily, Baloth, Titan, Damnation or another Deed.

None of the above occurred, and JFR took a loss because he was worried about a card that he can play through and around but didn’t trust himself or his deck enough. Or maybe he just wanted to get it over with. No, I most assuredly didn’t just want to get it over with, so Bruce your own damned non-sick bay ass while you’re at it.

I think James dodged a bullet and isn’t even aware that he should have wiped his brow, because despite feeling I gave him this match, he still had to try really, really hard to win.

Running mulligan total: 9

In between rounds, I finally had something to eat: two pieces of greasy ass pizza. And I thought this would make me feel better? At least the spices didn’t counteract negatively with the pack of spearmint gum I bought to wash it down.

frigginrizzo: ← in good health.

Round 6: Patrick Crane — Goblins

I started with six in game 1, but Deeded Fanatic, Warchief, Piledriver and Banneret. Ringleader refilled his hand, but Kokusho with Miren, aided by rampant fetchland technology from Patrick, ended the game in a hurry.

He did cast Banneret with two Mountains. I asked how. He said “Urborg.” Oh yeah, your land gets to be Swamps even when I’m not casting Titan. Urborg giveth and Urborg taketh away. Like Heather Mills.

In the second game, I kept a six-lander (Tron!) with Wish, which is ordinarily a hand I love to keep. However, this is perhaps a might too slow against Goblins. It’s hard to tell, since I drew nothing but lands and another Wish in the five turns it took for Patrick to kill me.

Not a great keep on my part, but you know how I get when I start the mulligan parade. Intuition told me to mull, but I didn’t listen. Shut up with the Bruce bulls**t already! I can justify it with “better the devil I know,” for mulling to six is likely to produce a mull to five and to four and let’s go to game 3. Wait…

Know what, you’re right: I was up a game, a six-lander is garbage, and I can afford to take a stab or two at actually drawing into a good hand. I didn’t really think of that line of reasoning until I was sitting right here writing the report. Good call, everyone!

Bonus tight play alert: I did manage to stall him from killing me for a turn — I was down to 2 after his attack that included two Fanatics. Perhaps he expected some life-gain tomfoolery, and in that instance, was ready to stack me to death. Next turn, he played another Fanatic, and then attacked. Always make them kill you. I guess.

I opened up a sexy hand in game 3: Deed, three lands, Scrying, Kok, Lily. If it only had Elder, it would have been about perfect. That’s a turn 4 cast Deed and blow it for two if I need it, more if Elder shows up in the meantime. Or, worst case, turn three Deed and blow it for at least five on turn four.

The problem started on Patrick’s first turn with Chrome Mox, which took all my math and threw it out like it was a baby in bathwater. Banneret, Warchief, Matron, Piledriver, Piledriver had me dead on turn three.

While I was very pleased with my hand, it was suddenly one turn too slow. Who expects Chrome Mox/Banneret? Shante probably does, and I bet he gets it, too. While Elder would have cured much that ailed me, wtf am I supposed to do against the nuts? Oh yeah, sign the match slip in the loser column and go stand in my nook.

Running mulligan total: 10

I can’t even be pissed – the gobbos were just too fast. Sure, it sucks to be out of contention for Top 8, but I can be honest when I say Goblins draws like that are going to beat me, and many other players, a great majority of the time.

So yeah, I’m out, and again you’re all correct: my deck is bad, I’m bad, and why not check straight into a cemetery. Well, you weren’t quite that mean, but I felt it in the subtext.

Round 7: Jeff Kowalczyk — Death Cloud

As we shuffle up, it’s clear we’re both in a “fun, late round” mood: me mostly because I haven’t yet keeled over due to pure sickness, and Jeff because he seems like the kind of guy who’s often in “fun” mode.

I tell him I’m not going to try very hard, and he says he might not either. One of us is probably lying, though, and the other knows it.

When Jeff drops Treetop Village, I pop me a chub on sight and realize I really won’t have to try very hard after all. He does what Cloud/Rock does: take every single card of import from my hand. Thoughtseize, Witness to get it back, Duress or Therapy, and even a Top shows up in there. He’s trying! Great!

I did manage to play Baloth, which was beating his 3/4 ‘Goyf. However, Jeff had Top and Deed, and after I blocked, but before the D on the S, he Deeded for one, making his ‘Goyf a Suddenly Susan 5/6. Tricky! I gained four life to teach him a lesson in stack management.

Since I did pretty much nothing other than cycle and Scry and Wish for lands most of the game, I decided to simply untap and Command him for 18, which put him at minus 3.

Jeff: I thought you weren’t going to try very hard.
Me: Dude, I played like one spell.
Jeff: Good point.

In game 2, Jeff rips apart my hand per Cloud/Rock standard operating procedure, and drops a ‘Goyf and Baloth, but on my turn 5, I respond with a sexy use of 11 mana: Lily and Kokusho.

Jeff: What the…!

He goes to 15 after a Kok serve, then I Command him and Kok for 10, putting him at zero. He sacs Baloth to go to 4, I fetch another Command and pass it over. He looks at his hand, draws a card, Tops a little, looks back at his hand, and after deciding he isn’t going to survive the upcoming Command, Clouds for three for no reason, then ships it over and lets me prove it.

Jeff: That was ridiculous.
Me: I agree.

Running mulligan total: 10

Round 8: James White — 20 Dolla Burn Y’all

We both mulligan to start, but James comes out quick with a pair of Fanatics and Lava Spike. I ramp with Elder, but Shard Volley, another Spike and Fanatic beatdown get me to 9 in a hurry.

Then he drops Sulfuric Vortex, which of course I have to read. The two damage thing sucks, but the “gain no life” tangent blows something fierce. I take two from Vortex, then Deed away the board, prepping to play Baloth and salvage some dignity. Shrapnel Blast ends my dream. Pleh.

James mulligans again and throws burn at my dome — I’m at 8 when I get Lily and pack my deck with Consume Spirit (no Flames of the Blood Hand, go me!), and then Profane Command next turn for the rest of your life. I raced a straight Red burn deck with a crooked Black deck with spells that cost a hundred mana? Dude.

Again, James started with a mulligan, and again he thought crazy amounts of burn at my head was justifiable. However, I got Lily again and set up Titan. He had Vortex on board neutering my Baloth in hand, and though I had Deed as well, you just don’t get very many turns under Vortex and burn. So don’t waste them.

At the end of my turn, he sacced Darksteel Citadel to Shard Volley me, putting me at 5, and left himself with two Mountains and Great Furnace and one card in hand. He drew and passed. I went to 3, cast Titan, macked a Mountain and Furnace/Swamp, and put him on one serious clock. I used Lily to make him ditch a card: another Great Furnace.

At this point, my body language must have indicated I was in complete control of this game, because James’s posture got a little slumpy, and he was eagerly eyeing the top of his deck. Okay, one land in play, but a hundred spells in his deck that kill me for one.

He took two from Vortex to 14, drew, and passed it back. Fourteen divided by two is seven. Sundering Titan has seven power. I noticed. I went to 1 on my turn, smashed him to 7 and cast Deed to kill Vortex in my second main. Lily took a Mountain.

He had one last turn to draw something that does 1 damage, and with a deck filled with cards that do just that, I was left to hold my breath and wait and see. He drew his card, played a Mountain, groaned, then showed me Shrapnel Blast. I noticed he had no artifacts, so woot for me I win.

But then his buddies noted that James made two enormous blunders:

He sacced Darksteel Citadel to Shard Volley
He discarded Great Furnace to Lily.

If he did only one of those, he would have won.

I can feel relief at pulling out a difficult win from an untenable situation, but I did what men do: everything I can to win, not not lose, like every NFL coach does.

While I had to have a couple things go my way, when you give yourself a path to victory, even one riddled with many potential pitfalls, you’re more likely to win if you are proactively advancing your strategy rather than trying to stem the bleeding. Probably.

If I would have spent one entire turn Deeding Vortex, and next turn played Baloth, I feel certain I would have lost. This would have given him at least two additional turns, all of his lands, and the Shrapnel Blast would have been in hand with both artifact lands alongside or in play.

Lily’s discard wouldn’t have happened; instead, I would have fetched another Baloth or Consume Spirit, and even if I eventually grabbed Titan, it might have been a turn, or more, too late. Plus, it can’t kill Citadel, no matter how Swampy it looks.

The Titan plan seems better, since there is effectively little difference between three life and one life against his deck. Sure, being at one gives him Fanatics and Marauders he can use as game enders, but Deeding and then casting Baloth a turn later is going to put me in the exact same boat, but behind by one more turn, and Vortex will have done at least two less damage to him.

And really, going from one to five isn’t going to give me much time to formulate a winning plan other than desperately trying to stay alive. Even going from five to nine isn’t going to do that, though I bet I would have been a little less tense than being at one.

Then again, Lily for Titan may be a case of the wrong play ending the right way, but getting him to one land and facing a two-turn clock seems right all the way around.

Thinking things out and coming away with a win to finish 6-2 is insanely better than punting a 4-0 to end up 5-3. I would, however, have used my sickness as a good excuse and you would have given me richly-deserved sympathy. And I wouldn’t even have appreciated it.

Running mulligan total: 11
Mulligans on the season: 35 in 27 actual rounds

12th freakin’ place.
Four spots lower than the deck deserves.
Fourth best possible tiebreakers among the 18 pointers. Score!

The guys I lost to finished second and eleventh, so I can’t feel that my deck performed too poorly. I’d love a Flow rematch, but I doubt I ever beat Goblins without Plagues. Or Hail Storm! Per usual, I didn’t have to face a sea of Islands or Dredge or Domain Zoo or TEPS, so you’re still not convinced the deck is any good. But I am.

The deck is now 17-10-2, which is better than 16-10-2 to be sure. In the last two events, Big Mana Rock has responded with a 10-3-2 record, which feels this close, as if there were one or two cards or a little sumthin’ sumthin’ keeping it from Top 8 dreams.

Nevertheless, I’ll take my 12 packs, add them to my 14 from last time, the one from winning Tom Shea’s money, one from a Legacy tourney, and that’s almost a full box. Holy s**t, I almost went infinite!

Sundering Titan is now a perfect 3-0, and Lily is a very strong second, with (probably, but don’t quote me) a 100% hit-the-board-and-win-the-game ratio as well. Kok is up there as well; I think I lost one game all season where he hit play, and that sumb*tch hits play like this was 1985 and everyone carried a boombox on their shoulder.

Of all the times I Wished, Maga was not a target even once, only the lands made it to my hand, further cementing the idea of a very happy main deck — I didn’t need to grab that lethal burn spell from the side because I used my starting 60 instead.

Interestingly enough, I went to the sideboard one entire time, and erroneously at that, which may lead me to believe that the main is about as tight as it can be against aggro and mid-range decks. But it’s nice to have sideboard cards and not have to put them in. This means I’m playing against decks that I feel already equipped to handle.

Eventually, I’ll have to play matches against decks I can’t simply slaughter — TEPS, Dredge, NLU/PLU, Goblins again, but until that time, bring on all the Rock decks I can eat. That’s 6-0 against Doran, Rock, and Death Cloud, which I’ll lump into the general “Rock” category. If you want to get finicky and add Flow Rock to the mix, I’ll suck down to 6-1, but you know how bad I was in round 5.

Anyway, some guys made Top 8 and someone won, but not me.

While watching the rest of the guys finish up their games, I noticed two serious sketchers. Keep in mind that I was watching Colton, Steph, Chet and Cory, all of whom were seated next to each other, simultaneously as they played their matches. Obviously, I was sick, and pretty much exhausted, and they all looked at least as tired as I felt.

The first involved Chet casting Jitte, and then animating Mutavault and equipping it for free.

1: Mutavault becomes a 2/2 dude and stuff.
When Mutavault becomes a dude, attach it to target equipment. For free.

No wonder it’s rare.

Steph pulled off either one of the biggest cheats ever, or the worst rules gaffes in history. His opponent had Spiritmonger equipped with Demon Horn or some other bad equipment that gives him trample and I never heard of it anyway, and attacked.

Steph blocked with Elder and said “before damage, sac the Elder.”

I turned just in time to see Cory aggressively scooping up all his cards after meeting the third Hurkyl’s Recall of the game. He looked at me and shrugged in a suggestion of “at least it’s not a turn zero Leyline.”

I turned back to Steph’s game and noticed his life total didn’t change and Spiritmonger had zero counters. Apparently, either one or both figured “before damage, sac the Elder” is like Elder blocking a creature wearing a Jitte — no damage occurs, thus no counters.

So, instead of taking 6 trample, Steph took nothing, and his opponent didn’t even get to add a counter to Spiritmonger. These kids today — it’s either ignorance or apathy or both. But it certainly isn’t rules knowledge.

I don’t know that the above plays were nothing more than the result of sloppy play at the end of a long day. But c’mon, man, play fair! Speaking of fair, Cory happened to be watching one of Chet’s earlier games where his opponent sacced Explosives set for two. Chet buried his Nantuko Shade and Pithing Needle and his opponent said nothing.

Sloppy play is not cool. Knowingly letting your opponent do something legally incorrect that just so happens to be detrimental to his game may be as bad as drawing extra cards or lying about your life total. And it makes you an ass.

I had the chance to bin a Frogmite when I Deeded for two but didn’t — see somewhere up there for details. I think playing honestly “cost” me that game, but no, it didn’t cost me anything.

When you watch your opponent bin his Needle when you Explosive for two it will eventually cost you much more than you expect, if there’s any sense of justice in the world, that is. There very well may not be, but let’s find out together!

Regardless, Chet, Cory and Stephan all finished with 3 wins, while somehow Colton went 1-7 with Affinity. How is that possible, you may ask? I don’t know, I may answer.

On the way home, I mentioned to both Steph and Chet that they were savage cheaters. Neither completely believed what I told them, though confessed it could have happened based solely on my integrity factor, which leads me to believe they experienced goofy moments of imitation lucidity. Or just cheated.

And yet, Steph, in all his wisdom, insists that he called a judge on a similar play earlier it the tourney, and the judge sided with him. It was one of those conversations where you’re pretty sure one of you is greatly misunderstanding the other, so much so that neither of you knows what the hell the other is talking about. That happens to me a lot.

Some of you may be thinking to yourselves “why is he telling us about his friends who are at least guilty of sloppy play?” Six reasons:

a) I don’t have any friends.
b) Because it’s my article.
c) Why wouldn’t I?
d) I’d prefer to think they were simple mistakes.
e) ‘Cause cheaters blow.
f) Seven hundred more words!

Anyway, in response to my allegations that were more like accusations that pretty much convinced me they were just clueless rather than cheats, Colton had a Steph story: Steph was watching Colton’s match when a judge-worthy event took place. While Colton was waiting for a judge or considering calling a judge, Colton said Steph told him “Don’t get the refs mad.”


We ragged on Steph for about fifty miles, which was about five hundred feet too long, since it only ended when I pulled to a toll booth and reached back to get the loot from Steph’s hand.

I got to the booth and there was no one there. Apparently, I pulled into the EZ Pass lane, and now wtf? Idiots behind me started to beep, and rather than put it in reverse and floor it, I moved up, out of the way, and got out to find a human.

I found one, and his take was they’ll send you something in the mail, tell them what happened and send the money and it should be okay. I responded with “take my buck-fifty and fix it now,” but omg no that’s impossible!

Rather than tell the overcompensated, private-sector dropout that he indeed works for me, punk, I let it slide, safe in the knowledge that I’m much more of a man than he is. I just happened to, um, pull into the, duh, EZ Pass lane.

Whatever, it’s New Hampshire, and if they’re anything like Maine, it’ll take them six months to even realize that they have cameras at the booths, and another six months to figure out how to put a ticket in the mail, and another six months to figure out where the stamp goes.

Or maybe they’ll send cops with body armor. So long as I’m not wearing a wife-beater and drinking beer and smoking on the couch while watching game shows in the middle of the day, I should be fine.

Much of the rest of the ride back was tech, and why aren’t all of you playing my deck? Cory was pretty sure he was going to play Affinity again next week, or Heartbeat maybe, Steph was going to try to remember to bring his Aggro-Loam, Chet was in love with Mono Black, and was finally starting to believe that Profane Command is gross, and Shizo with Korlash is plain stupid, and Colton was ready to spin Draco-Explosion on unsuspecting asses.

As for me, I was comfortable knowing that I don’t have nearly as much work to do as the rest of them. With 27 rounds of data and experience, it could be something minor that takes the deck to the next level. Next Level Rock? Of course, I’m liable to go 2-5 next week, so I should probably stfu now.

Sometime in Maine, Colton, or Steph perhaps, got the idea to randomly sing the “Free Credit Report.com” rap commercial that you may have heard. Everyone joined in (except me, since I was too busy laughing), as if it was the latest and phattest groove up in the ghetto:

“F-R-E-E, that spells ‘free,’ credit report dot com, ba-by!”

From there, we really enjoyed singing the Maine Lottery Songs, which, oddly enough, always conclude with “please play responsibly.”

You can dream a little, dream a lot.
Whatever you’re dreaming, there’s something we’ve got.
Playing Megabucks is so much fun,
You’d be amazed how many Mainers have won.
Powerball – the jackpot’s so great,
It’s even more fun when you play Powerplay!

Please play responsibly!

I want the job of writing lottery jingles. I’d kick ass, though I’d likely alienate the entire customer base and the lottery would go out of business. Then I could run the numbers on the street, offer protection, and pimp a little on the side.

Alas, we made it home in one piece, and with one more PTQ remaining, I’m going to bed to dream of Top 8 sexiness. Maybe that’ll cure the sickness that I no longer feel I am down with, but more like stuck with. “Get stuck with the sickness?” Doesn’t have quite the same ring.

Ring this: Lily Vess plus Beacon of Unrest. Pick up what I just threw down.

I spent much of Tuesday at work thinking about how I misplayed my last round against $20 Burn Y’all. While I still contend that fetching Titan was the correct call, using Lily to make my opponent discard was about foolish to the nth.

The only way making him pitch cards was correct is if I thought he had a 3-mana burn spells in hand. I’m going to assume that his deck contained exactly one three 3-mana spell: Sulfuric Vortex. Now that I know I got even luckier than I thought, why not use the last remaining fetch to get:

Miren — attack for 7, sac Titan: gain 10 life and kill all your lands.


Consume Spirit and gain 6 life.

Since I still had Lily, I could use her to tutor up a win condition two turns later. Why did my series of plays haunt me all day? Because I am a philosopher, and quite the lover if I do say so myself, but no women I’ve ever known would.

More accurately, it’s because it took me three days to realize that what I thought was tightness was not even close. See, I can’t even be happy when I luck out.

But making him pitch a card got me Great Furnace, which made his Shrapnel Blast dead, which, correct me if I’m wrong, won me the game because it was a dead draw.

WTF, Magic is so hard!

As for deck building chores, I did take one Therapy out of the ‘board for Hail Storm. Unlike Plague, it doesn’t get blown up by Deed, and it pretty much does the same thing for a lot less mana: kill the little Green men to death.

Before I could finish the previous paragraph, I took it out and added three Oppression because I think that’s teh tech, and if you don’t watch yourself, I might add a fourth because I haven’t written an article this long since 2005.

As much as I now fear Goblins, I know I’ll eventually have to face ‘Tron or TEPS or other control or combo decks, and Hail Storm doesn’t do much against them. Repeatable discard, on the other hand, does a number on storm. Play Seething Song, pitch a card, play Cabal Ritual, pitch a card, etc. If you’re wondering how I break the symmetry, ask Lily.

With Oppression on the table, she is cheating. Don’t even have to ask the ref on that one.

But I really don’t know about a three-mana discard enchantment. It’s been pretty good in the very small amount of testing I’ve done, but seriously, it’s Oppression. See, I’m still second-guessing myself, even after I’ve thirtieth-guessed myself by now.

Is Oppression that much better than Duress or Therapy? Do I really need repeatable discard? If I can draw Thoughtseize and Duress/Therapy in the same game, should I need more than that? Questions without answers. You guys that playtest a lot already know. But I don’t.

And yes, since you asked, I’m still upset about not Deeding immediately, and I’m adding much of games 2 and 3 against Flow, and the last few turns against Burn into the pile of soul-searching wtf-ness.

Whatever, I’m still sick, and three days of 12 hours of sleep haven’t helped as much as they should, though the outlook is partially sunny. At least now, I don’t come home, plop down on the couch and wish to be dead. No, not die, but you know, like be dead for a day, and then come back to life, and without all those side effects of having no oxygen to the brain for 24 hours. So I just sleep.

Rantings from an ill mind:

It’s now Thursday night, and I’ve been working on this article for 3580 minutes, if Word is to be believed. There comes a time when you just want it to be over. I have reached that time. I bet a few of you have, and probably about 30 pages ago.

Know what it’s like to look forward to something, like say, a PTQ, and then do that three more times over the course of more than a month? Sometimes, you just want to get to the end of the story; okay, we’ve had enough build up, let’s please get to the thrilling conclusion where you win a PTQ so we can stop reading and go back to work. Pleh.

We’re supposed to get 4-6 more inches of snow tomorrow, after what has easily been the worst winter of my life. Aside from the snow and cold and stupid oil prices and sickness, it’s been a disgusting last few months in general. I suddenly hate winter with a passion, and just want it to be over.

Hey, see a correlation between winter and the PTQs? Let’s get to the thrilling conclusion where the snow melts, the sun, warmth, black flies and tourists arrive, and gas prices rise even more for the summer driving season.

Sometimes I think no one understands me. Everyone at work (even the few people I like) is so f***in’ stupid it’s actually painful to be around them. That’s not hyperbole: it causes me physical pain to be in their presence for more than a few minutes.

The hardcore half of me wants to be the guy that has the balls and lack of civil discourse to say: “please get away and never come near me again. I don’t like you or anything about you, and while I don’t wish you ill will, I don’t really care.”

Do you know what it’s like to think everyone is beneath you on an indescribable level? Obviously, it’s not the success meter, since I can hardly be considered successful by any definition of the word, and I’m certainly not as intelligent as I think, so the brain meter is also out, so what can it be?

Why is everyone so stupid? Because they don’t get it. Get what? Anything! Everything seems so clear to me, so why does no one else get it? So much of everything is so patently obvious that a five-year-old knows it, but none of the credentialed intelligentsia that I report to, and most assuredly not the blue collar guys I’m stuck calling my peers.

The number of them who act and reacted as “expected” is staggering. They laugh when expected, offer “that’s too bad” when expected, and seem to live their lives exactly as expected. Expect “It’s Friday!” on Friday and “blah, Monday” on Monday. I can throw out something completely random and know exactly how each one of them will react.

“Let’s measure our johnsons during lunch!”

Most Magic players wouldn’t react like most “normal” people. The Magicians might offer something equally random such as “high roll to see who goes first,” or “only if this goes up on The Magic Show!”

The normals’ reactions would range from “what are you, a fag?” to “uh, no thanks, guy.” These are the people you can’t pass in the hall without an acknowledgment of some sort:

You’re carrying a box of pizza:

“Hey, pizza!” or “Is that for me?!”

Or a bottle of water:

“Thirsty?” or “I bet you wish that was a beer!”

A siren wails as it passes outside:

“There goes your ride!” or “What’d you do now?”

Expect the dumb “while you’re down there” when you bend over to pick something up, and the likewise “that’s what she said!” when a cue line of “I’m really sore” or the like slips out. Sameness and predictability and not-so-great expectations; nothing unique or even oddball; life straight from central casting. So many of them. They don’t get it.

I find no point in living that way; why even bother to wake up in the morning if you can’t even call yourself another brick in the wall — you’re more like a molecule of sand in the mortar that was mixed with water to become part of the brick in the wall.

No one gets it except Magic players. Well, they get it more than “regular” people, and I’d lump only about 15-20% of the players I’ve met with the general population, and an 80/20 split is enough to use the word “kindred.”

I have yet to encounter more than a dozen or so Magic players who do not rise far above and beyond 99% of the people I deal with on a daily basis. There are a few players I don’t like very much (or worse than that), and I’d still put them head and shoulders above most of the regulars I come in contact with, and the big reason would be the game.

Even when I ask “how’d you do?” and see a shaking head and a sigh and know here comes a bad beat or mana screw or lucksack top deck story. Even when they giggle at some random kid using a random card in his random deck. Even when they act like regular people.

Because even the most jerky of Magicians know this isn’t just a game, even if they don’t come right out and say it or even pretend that it is precisely just that, while the rest of the world couldn’t be bothered to even comprehend slightly.

All of the important people in my life, i.e. those who matter, have a good idea what Magic means to me, and the rest don’t even know I play. They don’t know because I never told them. Know why I never told them? Because they don’t get to know. They’re not allowed to know.

No, it must be because I’m embarrassed that I don’t hunt, fish, go to strip clubs, drop fifty on scratchers and a twelve pack every pay day, right? No, they just don’t get to know. They don’t deserve to know. This is a part of me they simply don’t get to know about. Because I said so.

If you’re at work right now, casually look around until you find someone of whom you can say “This person gets it. This person is not stupid.” Find someone with whom you would feel comfortable saying “I built this deck for the PTQ and it’s important to me that it does well because I built it and I’m going to play it.” Good luck.

This may make me seem pissed off, or angry or bitter, and I’m really not that guy. Okay, a little, but mostly because I’m surrounded by people who aren’t like most of the people in my “other” world, who, despite their warts, certainly get it more than most people will ever be able to, or want to, figure out.

Go ahead and live in a world where you feel like an alien, then come back and tell me you’re shiny happy people. You’ll pardon me for the Hallmark sentiment, but sometimes it helps to feel you’re not alone. Even when you know you are.

I just want winter to be over!

PTQ Four:

Hey, know what’s neat? When the City Champs Finals is supposed to be on Easter, then you say “Brenden, that’s Easter!” to which he replies “we can’t have it on Easter!” and then they really do have it on Easter and I, along with three other guys in the Top 8, don’t show up and now what?

They had it with substitute players — apparently, if you don’t get 8 players for your finals, whoever wants to play has just become part of the Elite 8 and can play for the next level tourney.

Whatever, like I was going to drive all the way to Crossroads, on Easter no less, to play in a “three round single-elimination” tournament? Well, maybe I would have, had I thought it was changed to a non-Easter date but then it wasn’t so what I’m making Top 8 today so look the f*** out!

PTQ — Hollywood
Crossroad Games, Standish, ME
104 peeps/7 rounds

The 45 minute ride featured Slipknot’s “Vermillion” as the song of choice for the entire ride, for that’s how I roll. Hitting “repeat” on the CD is like, dude, so way before i-pods.

Many nerds were in the house, among them a few old school JFR article names: John “Pop to the Jackal to the Jackal to the Pop” Potts and Sexy Nick Camire, both of whom hadn’t played in at least a year, and Justin Tardif and Jason Trott, who both may be approaching the six months away anniversary.

Nice to see you, boys, hope we don’t get matched up, and especially you, Jason, playing TEPS, which may be my worst matchup ever. Look at the list and tell me how it beat TEPS:

Cory, Chet, Colton, Jeff, and Steph were all in attendance, and I didn’t even have to chauffeur this asses. No gas money: sucks. Knowing that I’ll be home 45 minutes after I leave: priceless.

They were playing decks that don’t matter since I didn’t drive to the site with them therefore I have no vested interest and they aren’t really relevant for this part of the report.

Funny how I humanize and try to make you care about my compadres, then kick them to the curb when they serve no immediate purpose, i.e. money in my pocket! Yeah, hilarious.

Well, this time, it’s all about me and my desire to end this article on a high note. To prove to myself that my deck can get there; that I can get there; that wow, I really do want to get to the end of this.

It’ll either be vindication or extreme disappointment. Actually, vindication isn’t likely, since very few people have said anything negative about the deck, at least not the type of stuff you’d put on the bulletin board in the locker room to use as motivation. Where are all the haters? I need me some impetus!

I congratulated Paul Mathews on his GP —Philly success, and to create my own impetus, I pretended he said “f*** off, Rizzo, don’t you know I’m a 2065!” The funny thing is that he probably did say that. At least I convinced myself that he did.

Impetus? Yeah, it’s on now.

Round 1 — Jason Trott — TEPS

At least I don’t have to play the guy who I told earlier that I didn’t want to play. No, wait, I actually do.

I start game 1 with a quick Elder into Baloth. Jason tries to go off turn 3, fizzled like Mikey drank Pepsi laced with Pop Rocks, and after a second Baloth, he scooped. He figured he should have waited one more turn to go off. I agreed, despite most likely not ever being able to successfully navigate, much less pilot, a TEPS deck.

Game 2, I start off with a mulligan into Thoughtseize, and see his hand is about perfect for a turn 3 kill. That’s what he gets, though it was of the “Wish for Warrens and flood the board with tokens” variety.

I had one turn to draw Deed or Damnation, and while my deck is good, it’s not that good. Actually, it is that good. I just wanted to go to game 3 and see if I could wheedle a game loss.

In game 3, I kept a decent hand with Thoughtseize, acceleration and Kokusho, while Jason showed me Empty the Warrens from his hand and said “I forgot to de-sideboard.” I tell him I have to call a judge, and before I can, Jason does.

After explaining the situation, and then noticing that he had a 13 card sideboard, due to leaving in two Wish cards, he gets a game loss. After an appeal to the head judge, Ian, the most British judge ever even though he’s Australian, the penalty is upheld.

It was like Judge Wapner beat my boy up in the grill then had Rusty take his battered ass to talk to Doug. Pretty much.

While that’s not a cool turn of events, Jason gets props for being honest rather than just playing it out and hoping I wouldn’t notice, which I most assuredly would not have. Even if he had played Warrens during the game, I still might not have realized he had no copies main deck.

Because I know the metagame so well.

Mulligan running total: 1

In between rounds I tried to coddle Jason to my bosom, and offered many sweet nothings about honor, duty, and a Marine’s fifth general order. None of it took very well. Honesty, Jason supposed, was for suckers. But when he’s at the pearly gates, Saint Pete’s liable to tick one off in the good guy column without so much as an asterisk. Probably.

Round 2 — Nick Colby — Ideal

Before I can even take out my deck, Nick and a judge get into a discussion. They disappear for a few minutes, and when they return, the judge informs me I get a game win for a deck infraction. So, I’m 2-0 in judge-affected games now?

David Howell and his ninjas, whom I beat in round 1 last week, was seated caddy-corner to me, and while Nick and the judge were negotiating a settlement, David called another judge because he, too, forgot to sideboard.

Messiest PTQ ever much? Suddenly, I felt like the world’s most attentive player ever.

How much pressure is there when you start with a free game win? Enough that I don’t think I’ve ever won a match when I got a freebie to start. Yes, it’s all psychological, but psychology is like philosophy for dumb people.

Nick’s first turn was Godless Shrine the hard way, Top and suspend Lotus Bloom. It took me a second turn to verify he was playing Ideal, and once I was sure, I got a funny feeling in my crotch. That Matt Potvin kind of feeling.

I knew Kokusho was coming to town, even if he wasn’t quite yet in my hand. If not Kok, then Deed or Lily would come to the rescue and let me Form his own damned Dragon right up in his grill.

No Kok. No Deed. No Lily. No chance. Dovescape, Confinement, Honden, Form.

I started game 3 with a mulligan, which I love to do mind you, but got Boseiju in my opener. I sided it in thinking the chances to draw it were better than merely Wishing for it.

My Thoughtseize and Scrying certainly resolved, even through Dovescape, but again, no Deed, Lily or Kokusho to whisk me away in their arms and take me to the land of the 2-0.

While I had Miren in play, Double Form took me out, since Kokusho, my one out, decided to call in sick. I would have, too.

After the match, Paul F***ing Mathews and Jacob F***ing Bruce (anyone standing too closely to Paul F***ing Mathews suddenly gets their own middle Name F***ing Punk’d) told Nick they were surprised he “escaped.”

After relaying the Potvin tale, Nick shrugged appropriately and expectedly, as if the match could have been a little harder. But he owns me and I suck at drawing perfect — or at least any one of seven cards, so I get lick my wounds while he gets to be cool at 2-0.

Mulligan running total: 2

Alas, it’s pretty much win out or end the season on a not-so-cool note. However, as much as I tried to whine like everyone else would have: “I had like 20 outs and couldn’t draw any of them!,” or “dude, I drew like seven lands in a row!,” I couldn’t. Suck it up and move on.

I’m such a man. No wonder chyx dig me.

Round 3 — Eric Decker — Doran

Eric went first and played Overgrown Tomb tapped. I breathed a sigh of relief. My opener was something like Scrying, Deed and five lands. So sexy against Rock.

I managed to Smother and Deed his Birds and ‘Goyf, but he calmly cast Profane Command for two, twice, to return everyone’s favorite overpriced bear-and-a-half.

I was happy to see one of the best cards in Extended played against me; even happier when it was included in a Rock-slash-free-win deck.

A Baloth took me to 22, then Lily hit. A pair of Commands went to the top of my library, then to his face. Command for two, Eric? Naw, dawg, we’re talking 9 (and bring back Baloth), and then the rest of your life. That’s how a playa drops The Black Command!

In game 2, Eric drops a turn 1 Needle naming Lily, which makes sense, but when he missed his second land drop, I figured he must have overestimated the value of both Needle and Lily.

Soon enough, he played Bob, Bob, and Birds, all of which I killed before he could untap with them, but he finally found his third land and fourth lands.

But I found Kokusho, who hit once then met Vindicate (okay, he hit twice!), and then Baloth and Command took care of the heavy lifting.

Q. What is the best card in Extended?
A. My deck.

Mulligan running total: 2

While I had pretty much been cured of the sickness from the last week-plus, I started to feel not all that well at all. Enter a couple Twix bars – 500 empty calories of absolute garbage ought to do it. At least I washed it down with water. See, I really am a health nut.

Round 4 — Alexander Pogrebinsky — Zoo

In game 1, I kept an Urborg, Urborg, Swamp, Elder, Elder, Scrying, Deed hand. Obviously, he went Kird Ape, Teeg, Might, Flames for the turn 4 kill. This was one of those speculative hands that didn’t go and speculate real well.

He went to his board, wondering aloud what to side in against Swamp.dec. I went to my board, pretending I had a few Forests to throw in.

We both start with mulligans for game 2, and when Alex got all creature-heavy, I Deeded his board. When he played reserve guys, I Deeded them, too.

Baloth came to play when my life total was at a precarious 8, then another came online next turn. Ostensibly at 16 life, Alex soon realized he couldn’t kill me almost twice.

He did, however, predict my first three plays: Elder, Baloth, Deed, with impeccable accuracy. Either I was obvious about what was in my hand, or he’s just that good. Probably a little of both. Still, it was eerie stuff, yo.

While we were shuffling, Alex mentioned he thought this was a bad matchup for him. I disagreed with him, not vehemently, but almost strongly.

James Pirkey, seated beside me, agreed with my take and explained why; I don’t know how he knew so much about my deck, but being present for (I think) all the PTQs I played, he must have picked up some technology. Or maybe my eye twitched.

After all that, Alex admitted he didn’t feel better, well, okay, maybe he did.

Game 3 was all around times like old school kitchen table times. We were both empty handed by about turn 5, and even though he had the turn 3 Vindicate on my Urborg, I got my mana redundant recovery on in a hurry.

Luckily for me, his first play was turn 1 Fanatic, which gave me a little breathing room, and allowed me to Wish and Scry rather than pay too much attention to the board.

The match went pretty long, and a lot of people ended up watching us. When I was at 11 and peeled Baloth to Alex’s 14 and no threats and no cards, he slumped perceptibly.

A Japanese Teeg joined the mix and he soon killed Baloth, but when I Wished for Maga, neither of us were sure if it prevented creature x-spells. The judge said “Maga away, yo, and with impudence,” so I did and cast it for 7, putting him at 7 with one 2/2 to block. It really looked like that perceptible slump was a tremendous metagame call.

A timely Terminate ended my nonsense, a Smother ended his, and I was forced to take a couple turns of Ronom Unicorn beats while we were both in peel mode. When I was down to 9, Command did what Command does: get peeled and end games.

He showed me his hand: Scepter and Vindicate. Wow, I got even luckier than I thought I did. I’ll pretend I had Putrefy in hand, just in case, which I actually think I did but call me a lucksack anyway.

Mulligan running total: 3

I did hear that Maine is getting their first Prerelease ever. YMG has decided to further dominate the east coast, and has chosen Augusta, our beloved cesspool of a state capitol, for said ownership of Shadowmoor.

It’s a much shorter drive than Boston, but it is Limited. However, with one less PTQ season, I may be tempted to play in my first Prerelease since Torment.

Prereleases: the new States? I hope not.

By the way, Shadowmoor is about the coolest name for a set I’ve ever heard. It would be nice, and fitting too, if the artwork wasn’t an endless bilge of cartoon characters designed to prey on the feeble minds of young children and shy and awkward virginal adults. Like me.

Round 5— Joe Dubois — Doran

My game 1 opener was 6 lands (Tron) and Scrying. He played turn 1 Thoughtseize and must have thought he was going to blow me out. However, I’m much the fan of hands like that, especially when a Thicket is one of my lands.

Long story short: I peeled a lot of good cards, because that’s what my deck does. Fix the mana, and the rest will come. Kokusho on turn 5 was “the rest,” and he took down the crown all by his lonesome.

Joe started with a mulligan for game 2, sac-landed and Thoughtseized himself to 13, but then a Wished-for Withered Wretch came to play and ate the living hell out of our yards, completely neutralizing his ‘Goyf.

With Deed keeping his Village at bay, and Putrefy in hand just in case, we searched for threats off the top, but with me at a slight advantage due to large monsters and enormous burn spells that would eventually be drawn into my hand.

Baloth and Wretch got him to 3, and when I Deeded the Village and threw Putrefy his last blocker, he extended the hand.

Mulligan running total: 3

It’s something indeed to sit there with not much of a hand, if any at all, and face down ‘Goyfs and trees and know your deck will do what it does best: kick people in the teeth. Seriously, I opened that 6 land Scrying hand and went “wow, this hand is awesome.”

Most of you would have shipped it, but experience is the best teacher, and if it’s a hot chyk teacher, so much the better when you tell your boys you and teach got it on.

And that’s yet another example of a random Wretch nearly single-handedly winning a game. Take your Crypts and Extirpates and Leylines, and I’ll take a bear who picks and chooses how large ‘Goyf will become, and at instant speed to boot.

Every card in my deck is a man. It’s like a well-oiled machine with team chemistry: when it comes time to step up to the plate, someone always does. While Kok and Command do much of the dirty work, it’s nice to know that the utility infielders who can’t hit their weight, my Mark Belangers and Mario Mendozas, can bring it when called upon.

Damn, I’m like Joe Torre and s**t! Someone get me a fantasy team to draft ASAP!

Round 6 — Dylan Drew — Goblins

Apparently, this is Dylan’s first PTQ. Despite playing since Tempest, and attending multiple States and Regionals, this is his maiden voyage into the world of angry white boys and men who wield competitive fire like Connor McLeod wields his degree from The Keanu Reeves Institute of Thespians.

A Dredge player beside me was playing in his first PTQ as well, and his opponent was playing in his second. I didn’t have the heart to tell them this was probably my 40th. And what do I have to show for it? Two Top 8s and a million words on StarCityGames.com. Punx!

I mulled to four in game 1. This four: Forest, Urborg, Elder, Baloth. I’m so good at this game. I peeled Deeds and Smother and Damnation and another Baloth for spite, and got him down to two, but then I could no longer top deck like a god, which is pretty much what it takes when you’re playing off the top after turn 3.

I was due to peel three lands in a row and let him come back, and that’s what happened. He replied with a pair or Ringleaders, and even though he only hit three gobbos, it’s a slightly better draw mechanism than my cycling lands. Whatever, you mull to four against Goblins and you’re supposed to lose. Right?

In game 2, I Deeded the first three guys from nowhere, Damnation hit the next two, and then Baloth-sac-Command-back-in, and Kokusho did his life total but good.

Game 3 was as classic as they come. It was a battle of wits, a test of endurance, and even a looming shade over uncle istvan. We were about the last match playing, and the Top 8 implications were looming large. The crowd buzzed and hummed and basically wanted us to hurry the hell up so they could put up the pairings.

Against Goblins, my opening salvo-slash-gambit is to survive long enough to Deed or Damnation the board. Elder is the pimp in situations like that. He’s Shaft, John McClane, Rambo, Rocky, and Kyle Reese all rolled into one. Any hand that has Elder and can cast him is absolutely golden against green men.

My turn 2 and 4 Elders were some kind of golden clutch, and not only kept me from being pounded unmercifully, but thinned my deck, kept counters off the Jitte that wasn’t even in his deck, and got me to the goodies.

Deed cleared his board once, but he recovered with Ringleader and Earwig Squad, which got two Deeds and Damnation; the case Deed was in my hand, and came out and blew up while I was at a semi-healthy 9 life.

Another Ringleader plus some sexy draws let Dylan throw down 2 Bannerets, Pilderiver, Warchief, Matron, Fanatic, and another Squad, which took Damnation, Spirit and a Kokusho.

I killed a few of his guys, but he was still in position where he could win a war of attrition by hitting me for 3 or 4 a turn until eventually I was dead. His goblins are expendable (feel free to reload at any time), but the value of my guys increases exponentially the longer the games go on.

Finally, it came to crunch time: I had Baloth in play, double Putrefy and Scrying in hand. He’s at 9, I’m at 7, but I have something like 13 mana.

I looked at my hand for a long time, long enough for a judge to say I had to do something soon. The idea was to get greedy by Scrying for Thicket (Shante technology from way back), cycle and not die because I was going to win this game. I thawed and cycled and drew Wish. With only three mana available — Putrefy mana y’all, I turned it over.

Between Putrefy and Baloth, I figured I would survive barring some crazy-ass shenanigans. All I needed to do was end Dylan’s turn at one or more life.

His attack got me to 4 after Baloth took one for Putrefy and Putrefy ate Squad for Baloth, and when he passed it back, I knew I had just won. Then I drew Coffers number 3 and really, really, really won. I Wished for Maga, put 21 in the pool and threw out a super blast x-spell to the face. Yes, from nowhere.

There was a simultaneous “wow” of about 20 voices. I may have been one of them, since this game looked impossible for me to win for about the last 5 or 6 turns. I played tight, I’ll give me that, but because I gave myself every opportunity to win and not not lose, I, well, won.

It helps when your opponent Squads you and doesn’t take all your win conditions. I’d probably take Command and Kokusho, since Deed and Damnation are not going to win me the game single-handedly, but I can see both sides of the argument.

Plus seriously, who takes Kokusho? What’s that guy done lately? He won only one game in this match. I should cut him from the deck.

Mulligan running total: 6

Okay, it’s round 7 and I’m still in contention. It would be nice to be in a position to draw in, but hey, I’m new at this ID thing, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

In between rounds, I was chatting with Dylan, who just realized I’m that JFR. He said this made him feel a little better — losing to someone so “famous.” Apparently, he hasn’t read enough of my articles to realize that it’s no badge of courage losing to me.

Well, at least it hasn’t, until this year. Suddenly, it’s a rite of passage. Next!

The pairings went up, and I was in 9th place. Nick Colby had to go and 3-2, drop, putting my tiebreakers at, well not so good. Whatever, I felt very manly, and ready to blast some guy’s teeth in.

Live vicariously through me. Fire walk with me.

Round 7 — Richard Burns — TEPS

I had no idea what Richard was playing, but opened this on the play:

Forest, Urborg, Elder, Elder, Scrying, Scrying, Smother.

There is one deck in the format that this hand isn’t complete and utter gas against. The hand is so good, even without big spells in hand, that I’m already making my Top 8 acceptance speech.

Let me explain how good that hand is. It could be 16 mana on turn 5 good — damned near lethal Command or Spirit against many decks in the format. Against a couple sac and pain lands, it’s gfg, thanks for playing.

It’s also turn 5 Titan or Lily for gfg over the next two turns. It’s potential double Kokusho on turn 5 and kill you on turn 6. So many decks are going to lose to that opening hand. Except one.

He lays down Sulfur Vent.

That is the one.

I let out an audible “pleh” almost simultaneously with Justin, who was watching over my shoulder. I know this because when I fanned my hand, I’m sure I felt something poking me from behind.

Richard, behind his tapped, yet all-powerful, Sulfur Vent, asked if I wanted to concede. I figured I’d play it out and hope for a couple of game losses for lack of de-sideboarding.

He combo’d me out on turn 3.

I sided in 4 Thoughtseize and 2 Cabal Therapy, hoping for a hand so ridiculous that it couldn’t even really happen. I got Therapy, Baloth, Deed, Scrying and lands.

Rather than play the Therapy as a game of darts, I waited a couple of turns, thinking Thoughtseize would make it mighty hard to whiff, and I could play Baloth, or Elder if I drew one, to get three cards from his hand.

Three turns later, I had to Therapy for Wish. His hand was Ritual, Tendrils, Plunge, and Song. Thoughtseize would have been the ultimate in tightness, and to prove it, at the end of my turn, Richard Plunged for 10, untapped and rather than play 20 spells, he Chanted me during my upkeep.

He drew his card, said “that’s it,” and went through his rigmarole, but I didn’t concede, despite the Tendrils in his hand and 15 Black mana, because always make them kill you.

He did.

Well, lift my leg and shake the dew off my lily. How anticlimactic.

It turns out that Richard had just driven 10 hours from Jersey, and intended to drive another 6-plus hours to Rochester for the PTQ finale on Sunday. Brother may be hardcore, but that doesn’t change the fact that my deck ownz those without anagrams. Road warrior that, yo, and thanks for breaking wittle Johnny’s heart shaped box.

Sniffle. The show must go on. But not for me.

Mulligan running total: 6
Mulligans on the season: 41 in 34 actual rounds

13th place

Alas, the deck finished 22-12-2, although a 15-5-2 record in the last three events sounds better than the 7-7 in the first two PTQs.

By the way, I did get 9 packs, which is 3 less than last week for the same prize slot. Whatever, it’s free packs, and I am now over one complete box won from prize support and have officially gone infinite on MTGO (or Apprentice, which is pretty much the same thing, right?).

Somehow, when you win the packs, the cards aren’t as disappointing as they would be if I had to pay actual cash money from my pocket. It’s still “crackin’ packs,” and they taste much sweeter when you know some little kid in a sweatshop isn’t going to get a Christmas bonus this year because these packs were bought at the best possible Your Move Games distributor price and not paid for in actual retail value by me.

The Top 8 featured Mainers Brett Coggan with Faeries, John “Jackal Pop” Potts with Affinity, and local 9th place finisher4L John Huntley, with $20 Burn Y’all.

Patrick Crane, who ended my Top 8 dreams last week, was sitting in first after the Swiss, while my TEPS guy found himself in third — my third, against any other deck at the top two tables, that is.

All the Mainers lost in the quarterfinals, which is not something I would have done except to TEPS. I woulda won it all, maybe. I think.

Pop lost to Dredge in a match he thinks he must have punted, though his drop back 15 and wipe hands on pants wasn’t immediately obvious to me. I recorded the play-by-play, but it was seriously very uninteresting.

Perhaps one of them will write a report. Or probably not, since they are no longer en vogue, especially since En Vogue broke up and no one writes “My Fires” length reports anymore.

With no local boys in the hunt, I left when it looked like a Goblin mirror in the finals, which is odd considering that Coggan won last year’s Extended PTQ at Crossroads with Goblins. Inbred and stagnant format! Rotate something!

The drive home was fairly reflective. So close, and yet, wait ‘til next year. I wanted to be pissed that I had two clear looks at top eight and missed them both. But I couldn’t. I wanted to be pleased at my deck’s performance, despite not actually accomplishing anything. But I couldn’t.

I was somewhere in the middle: it feels okay to do okay, but why doesn’t it feel awful to not have made Top 8? If I had the killer instinct, nothing less than a PTQ win would be civilized. I guess I’m not a killer after all. At least I hope I cheated somewhere in there.

However, the plusses outweighed the minuses: I did take an idea and a seemingly random pile of Black and Green cards and turn it into a seriously synergistic killing machine. I proved to myself that I was on the right track. That and 2 bucks will get you a coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, but it’ll get me a little more.

I just realized that most of you have read 70-odd pages and don’t have much of an idea what the deck really does other than make people scratch the nearest melon. It sure is an ugly, or at least unconventional list, though you may have some familiarity with Command, and I bet you remember Coffers and Kokusho from their respective times in the sun.

You’ll have to trust that all the times I wrote that peeps said “wow,” or shook their heads in shock, wonder, awe, or horror, were correct. It really never got old for me, either, but when you’ve seen one nutty-ass, game-winning play, you’ve pretty much seen them all. Kinda.

Cory and Chet, who’ve seen the deck in five events, and witnessed a couple of jaw-dropping moments, are probably still not sold. If they were, they wouldn’t have played Affinity (to a 1-4 record) and Mono Black Control (3-2); they would have played my deck.

That would have been the icing: someone else jumping on the wagon and dishing obscenely large x-spells at domes. If I can’t make it to the final table, maybe someone else can take my children to the Promised Land. But now, we’ll never know.

Obviously, the format is still in one piece, but as the only guy I saw running three Commands, Consume Spirit, Kokusho and no discard, ‘Goyfs or Garruk in a “Rock” deck, I think I did okay for myself, not to mention accidentally building the best “mirror” match deck in Magic history.

I went 8-0 in matches with an insane 16-1 in games against Rock decks, with the only game loss coming on a double mull into a Shizo, Coffers hand. I’d call that total mid-range domination. Too bad combo and aggro decks exists. Damn that Adrian Sullivan!

Never mind that loss to Rock-n-Flow, since I pretty much choose not to call it a real Rock deck and won’t count it just to make myself feel better. Feel free to bring it up in the forums if it makes you feel better. I’m all about the touchy-feely, and if it can’t be me, then I hope making me sad and inadequate makes you feel like a real man.

I’d say I feel vindicated, but there is no vindication necessary. It really wasn’t me against the world. It was me against me. I kicked my ass all up and down this mutha, and take your five-life turn 1 Thoughtseize with you.

Remember when Vindicate was actually good? Me neither.

My Bruce took a mostly quiet backseat, and my famous play mistakes pretty much went into hiding after the stupid “Deed, go,” play. I didn’t dropkick many games, and while I certainly enjoyed my share of good fortune, I’d say I got a healthy heaping of bad luck as well. Prolly more good than bad, though. Just ask my opponents.

To some, none of it matters one bit, since I couldn’t even Top 8, or offer up “legitimate” technology, but the ride was fun, and worth every penny and endless highway mile. Especially since I can write off every freakin’ cent. Prolly won’t claim the packs as income, either.

I spent more than 4000 minutes writing this article, which is likely about how long it’ll take to read it. The season was filled with about 4000 minutes of memories that may or may not last a lifetime, a few months, or maybe somewhere in between, but as many as I can recall that were even remotely interesting made it into these pages. See, this is a blog after all.

I thought about how random and raw the deck was way back at PTQ One, and how I still felt confident about its ability to wreck face. How I watched as the Wonder Woman Underoos gave way to the slinky, silky black undies as it got its little tramp stamp slut on.

It became a hot chyk before my very eyes. It’s something to watch a creation blossom from nothingness into, well, somethingness, and still, like us all, have a lot of growing up to do.

PTQ One – 4-3 – 29th
PTQ Two – 3-4 – 43rd
GP Trial – 4-1-2 – 3rd
PTQ Three – 6-2 – 12th
PTQ Four – 5-2 – 13th

I would call this progress. Too bad the season’s over and this format will never exist again. Ever.

On Sunday, I de-sleeved the deck, but couldn’t bear to put the cards away. They had to stay together for at least one more day before going their separate ways. Some of them may see play in Standard, or Legacy or Extended, but I imagine many of the rest will never come out of storage. Poor guys.

I wondered how the rotation will impact the deck come next year. Or if I’ll still be drawn to playing the same deck type, let alone the same deck, sans Coffers. Or if I’ll even be playing in a year. Who the hell knows?

The Urza lands would make a nice replacement, but Wish will be a b*tch to replace. Don’t even think about finding a comparable substitute for Deed. Whatever, I’m still not sure what sets are rotating out next year.

Nevertheless, I’ll take my box-plus, 180 rating points, and affirmation that I’m not as bad at Magic as I want you to think I am, and go home until the next Constructed season. Or States or Regionals, whichever is closer. Or whichever actually exists anymore.

Two months ago, I determined to ply my trade with one deck, like Vegas back before they put eight decks in a shoe and card counters still kicked their asses.

Big Mana Rock was the deck.
I was the man.
This was my story.

John Friggin’ Rizzo

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