Chicago is one of the few cities to which I can go where it’s colder than home. Lisa* and I blew into the Windy City for the ’03** installment of the Pro Tour on the tail of the arctic wind. Fortunately, the weather was the only low point of the weekend, and we stayed inside enough to not have to worry about it.
Our chilliest evening was Wednesday, when we walked two long city blocks to Harry Carey’s restaurant to have dinner with Wizards staffers Renee Roub, Jaime West, Eric Kegle, Andy Heckt, and Scott Larabee – plus our old friend Level 4 Judge Gis Hoogendijk and my favourite Canadian***, Sideboard and StarCity writer Josh Bennett. The meal was excellent; the company was better. I love working the Pro Tour, but what really keeps pulling me back is those friends. After dinner, Lisa, Scott, Josh, Gis, and I retreated to a quiet spot on the skyway bridge for a game of Carcasonne. My opponents underestimated the”draw a cathedral every turn” strategy. I trailed most of the way, then screamed to victory at the end. If you haven’t played Carcasonne, check it out at your local game shop.
Thursday I worked the Masters Gateway with the other early-arriving Judges, led by Gis. The only really interesting situation was when a player with Future Sight in play played Deep Analysis. He put the Deep Analysis on the table. He drew the top card off his library, placing it on the table. He dutifully revealed the next card then drew it, also placing it on the table. He then revealed the top card of his library. Then he scooped up the two cards that he had drawn, plus the Deep Analysis, and put them all in his hand. Fortunately, his opponent was paying attention and called him on it. A Judge was called and eventually the Head Judge. The player changed his story multiple times, which included a blatant lie to the original Judge. He was disqualified.
Rules stuff: Lying to any tournament official is cheating; it says so right in the Penalty Guidelines (Fraud, section 163).
I spent some time trading****, and then Lisa and I ate Chicago pizza and retreated to the Big Bar on the second level for a few cocktails. I was seduced by the giant novelty martini glass and had a 48 oz. Triple Crown (Kentucky Bourbon, Amaretto, and Cranberry juice). Mike Turian, officially the Nicest Guy Who Will Continually Beat You, stopped by for a chat, as did our Belgian friend from days gone by, the lovely and talented Ann Van Dam. Ann’s contract with Wizards is up at the end of January and she’s moving on to some other adventures. It was wonderful to see her, but we’re sad to see her go.
Friday began the long grind of a Rochester Draft Pro Tour. High-level Magic is as much an endurance contest as anything else, for both players and Judges. I wrote an article for the dearly-departed Mindripper some time back about giving yourself the edge (Which is, sadly, unavailable to link to – The Ferrett). Seven rounds plus two drafts makes for a long day. The unveiling of the new 8th Edition art highlighted the morning. I really like it, especially the power/toughness callout box. Artistically, it’s a nice direction.
Rules stuff: If you Clone a face up Morph creature and it gets turned face down later (like with Backslide), it still has the ability to turn itself face up again.
We didn’t get done until around ten. I joined fellow Judges Simeon Smilack and Suzy Life in the Big Bar for more novelty drinks. Gis joined us later, and he and I stayed up way too late reminiscing about the old days. I caught a few hours of sleep, skipped breakfast,***** and was on the way to Saturday.
Another long day faced us, but we got through it easily. Our experiences from Day 1 led us to be even more efficient on Day 2, so we got done early. Lisa was done about an hour before I was, and went to dinner with the staff crowd. I elected a little responsibility and went to bed early, knowing that I had a big Sunday ahead of me and was working on about three hours sleep.
Rules stuff: If your Beast which you target with Contested Cliffs gets changed to another creature type, the ability does nothing.
Sunday was the best and busiest day for me. First I made my sweep of the dealer’s tables, filling out my foil collection. I picked up a few bargains for both myself and Team Zanzibar teammates David Phifer and Ariel Jones. I table-judged the Kai Budde/William Jensen match, which was brutal and quick. I then had the privilege of sitting in on some Level 3 Judge interviews with Collin Jackson, Rune Horvik, Mike Guptil, and Aaron Matney. For some reason, I got to play the disgruntled player in all the scenarios; I certainly enjoyed it. I then bought the original art to Rotlung Reanimator from the very pleasant Tom Baxa, who I had enjoyed talking to at Nationals. Then I took my Level 3 recertification test. Finally, I went the always-enjoyable Judge dinner – hosted, as always, by Jeff Donais. Again, these are the best times of the weekend. A few of us made a final venture to the Big Bar, where we introduced Japan’s Akio Sugaya to Kentucky Sour Mash. Mike Guptil and Jeff Donais were their usually-generous selves; I don’t think anyone paid for their own drinks the whole night. A brief philosophy chat with Brian Kibler and many more Judge stories – many of them unrepeatable on this family site – wrapped up the night.
It was my third trip to PT Chicago, and easily the best. I enjoyed every element from top to bottom. I hope I have the chance to work with such a great team again.
And that’s my Final Judgement.
* – For you first-time readers, Lisa is my wife of thirteen years. She gets hired on at the Pro Tour to run the Side Events administration desk.
** – I can’t wait until I’m an old geezer and can say”I remember back in aught-three when I had an onion on my belt…”
*** – Even more favourite than Geddy Lee; extraneous”u” sponsored by a grant from the Mobil Corporation.
**** – I’m trying to trade for all the foil sets. I’ve completed Legacy, Destiny, Invasion block, and Torment. I’m still working on the rest. If you see me at an event, I’ll probably let you give me your crappy foil rares. Who else will take your Standardize?
***** – Kids, don’t do this at home. I’m a trained professional. A healthy breakfast is the way to start a great day. The Magic Players’ Special (Mountain Dew and a Snickers Bar) isn’t the way to go.
****** – This is a footnote pledge drive. Send me money, or I swear there’ll be more next time.