Sorry this report is a week late, but I’m sure you’ll understand — especially given my chosen profession. I’ll say one thing about the whole incident and move on (actually, it’s a quote from "Henry V"):
"Though we seemed dead we did but slumber.
We speak on our cue and our voice is imperial.
He shall repent his folly, see his rashness, and admire our sufferance.
Tell him he has betrayed his followers, for their destruction is pronounc’d."
As I might have told you before, here in Alaska we like to run two events the weekend of PTQs, because our contingent from Fairbanks travels about four hundred miles to get here. The least I can do is run two tournaments for them.
Our PTQ for New Orleans went off relatively smoothly. Even with only a fair showing from Fairbanks, we got thirty-four, which is about average. Although I was getting a bit weary of IBC (we played it to death in the six weeks leading up to the PTQ), I love the environment. We all know it’s kind of counter-heavy, but it’s still wide open, with room for rogue decks. And that’s exactly what won.
Local master of rogues Ambler Q. Stephenson defied logic and spit in the face of Dodecapod, running a discard-heavy black, white, splash of blue and red deck. He had noted the previous week that since no one (locally) was playing discard, no one was playing Dodecapod in the sideboard. It was a meta- metagame decision that bore itself out. There were no Dodecapods in the Top 8 — and only two in the entire field. The deck gave other control decks absolute fits. Ambler beat Tuli Jakobsen (who plays half the year here and half in Wisconsin, and who none other than Bob Maher described as "a complete beating") in the semi-finals and Fairbanksian Jia Wu’s Solution in the finals.
It’s the Grand Prix: Minneapolis Trial, however, that was full of drama. About half the field changed decks; many changed sideboards. Ambler started the day 1-2 and finished 13th with the exact same deck. Only two players, Jia and Johnnie Knapp, repeated their Top 8 performances. In what promises to be good for female Magic players everywhere, they were joined in the Top 8 by two women: Certainly a first for us.
The ladies pulled into the Top 8 by rather different paths. Twana "Rocket Shoes" Rabon plays just about every Friday night with us, and attends the odd draft. She admittedly plays mostly because Johnnie, her boyfriend (he that’s mentioned above — can you see what’s coming?), plays. Tami Manley, 43-year-old mother of two and grandmother (!) plays when she can get away from babysitting duties. She plays irregularly on Friday nights, but always does reasonably well.
The two also came by their decks in different ways. Twana played a Rocket Shoes variant that Johnnie messed around with a bit. After he was done, she apparently took out the cards that he put in and replaced them with the originals (all this is anecdotal, coming from Johnnie’s Team One-Pack teammates; Twana’s Team Chyx could not be reached for comment). She had just barely missed making Top 8 in the PTQ with the same brutal deck.
Tami, on the other hand, played a deck designed by her son, Jason. Jason’s another good rogue deckbuilder, and likes to feature fat creatures for big beatings. Tami’s deck on this day was no exception. She piloted her black/green/blue deck featuring Pernicious Deed and Spiritmonger through the field. Unfortunately, she ran into eventual champ Genesis Garcia and his control deck in the quarterfinals. It was nip and tuck; she was one Spiritmonger attack away from winning game 3 when Genesis closed her out. After the match, Jason (who also played and finished in the middle of the pack) confided that there were some sideboard cards that would have helped her — but they were in his deck. Tami has since decided that Jason can watch his own kids on Friday night — she’s coming to play!*
Twana’s road through the Top 8 was strewn with Jia, playing the same Solution deck he played both days, and Johnnie in the semi-final. Johnnie’s blue/white/green Nishoba deck packed plenty of sideboard hate against Twana, but she fired up the turbos and flattened him in both games in which she went first. Sideboard hate, it appears, is no substitute for speed. After the natural moment of distress over losing a tough match, Johnnie gave her a kiss for good luck and sent her into the finals against Genesis.
It was not to be a storybook ending. In the deciding game, she drew a sub-optimal hand, but one that she couldn’t really mulligan. It was the edge the sixteen-year-old needed to establish control and take the victory.
Two women in one Top 8 is a precedent I’d like to continue to set here in Alaska. Women doing well in Premier Events can only serve to open new markets, to encourage more young ladies (and grandmothers!) to get out there and pick up the game. It might take sons and boyfriends to get ladies interested in the game, but it’s the game itself that will keep them coming around.
And that’s my Final Judgement.
Sheldon K. Menery
* – She showed up last Friday and finished 4th—with more Monger beatings.