“I don’t think this is going to work.” She paused to search for more words as my breathing quickened.
It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen this coming. The writing had not only been on the wall, but it had been written in yellow highlighter
accompanied by a candid picture of Cupid pointing an arrow down his throat. With my birthday four days away, I just thought I had another week, maybe
two. A couple last draw steps to topdeck myself out of a poor situation.
I took the initiative.
“Why not? Everything has been so good! We’ve been together for over a year – we can fix this!” It was the best response my
splintered mind could come up with, albeit a comically empty and useless one. I could hear the airy whisper of her head shaking over the
“Maybe I fell in love with you. Maybe I didn’t. I don’t really know anymore – I only know I fell in love with the idea of
“You keep taking these trips all the time. And now this? You’re just trying to distance us!”
“It was a surprise birthday gift from my dad! I didn’t know ahead of time. We’ve talked about th –“
“Plenty of talk. Not enough action.” I could feel her poisonous breath dripping onto my neck over the phone from a thousand miles away.
“You should have turned him down.”
“I’ve thought this through. Goodbye, Gavin.”
I looked down at the options in front of me. Each one was a unique weapon that could cause my own suicide. I grabbed one and felt its weight, then set
it down. I grabbed another and tossed it over before setting it, too, down. I grabbed the third, this time with a look of intent. I picked it up,
raised it chest high, took a deep breath… and began to riffle shuffle.
It was the day before Pro Tour Berlin. I was sitting in a room with Mike Gurney and Jed Dolbeer, two fellow North Westerners, as we engaged in the
all-important practice of last-minute playtesting and deck discussion.
“I wish we had tested against that Elves deck more,” I said with a chuckle. The cat was out of the bag after numerous pros ran up to us at
the player party, asking to buy Glimpses of Nature ranging between 50 and 100 Euros each. “I guessed we shouldn’t have dismissed it so fast
“How popular could it possibly be?” asked Jed.
“Who knows? I think this deck has a good matchup against it though,” I said, pointing to the cards in my hand.
“Really?” inquired Mike.
I went into the tank and came out with a Death Cloud for two, depleting my resources and stripping all but one card from Mike’s hand.
“That deck seemed so good early on in our playtesting,” said Mike. “But the past few weeks, now that more refined decks have
appeared, I’ve barely been able to go 50/50 with most of the field.”
“I like it. I’m comfortable with it.”
Mike put down a Swans of Bryn Argoll and passed. “Being comfortable will get you killed.”
I looked back to Jed, who was deep in the tank choosing the last few cards for his unique Zoo list, then back to Mike who was thumbing through a box
looking for sideboard options while he waited for me to play. “And you guys are switching to those,” I asked, pointing. They each nodded.
“Like Sadin told you at the party, I don’t think Cloud is a very good choice,” said Jed. Mike nodded.
I passed the turn. “Why are we playtesting this matchup anyway?”
Mike shrugged and drew his card, revealing a Chains of Plasma and grinning.
I groaned. “That’s life. Another loss to variance.”
Mike looked squarely at the remainder of my deck. “Is it?”
“And then she said, ‘that’s the name of my poodle!’” We both laughed, and I rolled down the window a little. It was a
comfortably warm summer day – a Washington rarity.
“That’s crazy,” I said, turning my head to face her side. “What an odd coincidence!”
“I know, right?” She laughed again and squeezed my hand. I smiled. Even now, nearly a year in, I still felt a momentary rush of euphoria
when she did that.
“Hey, what do you want to eat for dinner?”
“I dunno,” she said, concentrating on passing a car. She paused for a second as she did so. “Want to do Mexican again?”
“What, does that not sound good to you? Too much Mexican for you?” She turned for just a second to stick her tongue out at me.
“No, no, it’s fine.”
Her brow furrowed, “Do you not want to eat there? Did you not like it last time?”
“No, it was fine. I’d be happy eating there again!”
“It sure doesn’t sound like you want to eat there again!”
“No, I do! It –“
“Can you roll your window up,” she snapped. “It’s distracting me.”
I rolled the window back into its slot, slowly moving it upward to help mask the window’s audible screech. “Anyway, as I said, I’m
fine with the place. We’re pretty close, right?”
She made a wordless shriek.
She swerved to the corner and veered off the freeway and onto the off-ramp. She kept her speed up, running a red light and making a straight line for a
No response this time.
She pulled into a parking spot, turned off the car, and stepped outside, slamming the door. She stormed off, following the sidewalk around the gray
office building to the side.
She had never done this before, but I knew what she wanted: for me to follow her and talk in circles for an hour. I wasn’t interested in playing
this game of hers.
I waited in the passenger seat. Twenty minutes later, she returned, going into the back seat and slamming the door.
“What’s up?” I asked nonchalantly.
This time, I knew she wanted me to crawl into the back seat. I’d apologize; we’d cuddle for a while, and then eventually she’d
complain about being hungry, and we’d be back en route for lunch.
I wasn’t interested in dating a 5-year-old.
I turned around. “What’s the problem?”
She looked at me with a stare that could have killed a ghost. Still no response.
I shrugged and turned around again, closing my eyes and waiting for her to grow up.
We sat there in silence for over an hour. At one point, she crawled under the blanket in the backseat, and I thought I heard her cry.
Finally, she hopped back in the front seat.
“Sorry about that. Still up for lunch?”
I wanted to clench my fists. I wanted to tell her about how immature she was for someone older than I was, about how I would still pay for her to get
checked out by a psychologist, about how much her lack of forethought bothered me. I wanted to tell her that she needed to change, or I was going to
have to break up with her.
“It’s okay,” I said. “Lunch sounds great,” I added.
Eric Weeden threw his hand down in a mixture of disbelief and frustration.
“Off of three turn-3 kills in a row,” I added, rolling my eyes.
“Hey, this deck is just awesome.”
I shook my head and returned my focus to the game at hand – one I was far behind in. Despite testing Conley’s newest brew for a week, I
couldn’t buy a good matchup against anything. Every bit of logic told me to not play this deck; I didn’t have the good same feeling I had
from Soul Sisters or Guess Who.
Conley was the opposite. He was crushing anything and everything we threw at him. Yet, I’d play the same matchup, have Conley watch the whole time, and
tell me I played just fine, and then I would lose. It was completely illogical – yet that’s how the entire night of testing had gone.
“Demigod?” my opponent asked rhetorically. I shook my head and picked up my cards. Strike up yet another loss in this matchup.
I turned to Conley. “Are you sure about this deck? Are you sure you aren’t just getting lucky, and we’re ignoring the facts?”
Conley, fresh off of another turn 3 victory, shook his head. “I’ve played over a hundred matches with this deck, and it’s
I thought back to the Chandra Ablaze incident in San Juan. I thought back to the Faeries deck and the Elves deck sitting in my room I could pick up and
play the next day. I thought of myself missing Day 2 of a Grand Prix I had flown all the way to Atlanta for.
I snapped out of it.
This time, Conley had played the deck significantly. My results were probably just variance, and I would be just fine tomorrow. With the exception of
his Chandra Ablaze brew, every time I had passed on a Conley deck, he made Top 32 of the event or better. I wasn’t going to let that happen
again. I was willing to believe everything would be okay.
“Yeah, you’re right. I’m sure everything will go great tomorrow.”
I checked the text message again. “Can you meet me this afternoon? My car is in stall 114C.” I looked down at the painted lettering.
“114C.” I was in the right place.
I sat down and waited, leaning against the silver doors. It had been almost a full month since she had ended it. What did she want now?
A shadow draped over my face. I looked up.
“Let’s talk,” she said.
We both stepped into the back seat of the car. And so it began.
She apologized for her actions. She apologized for the two days after she broke up with me when she called me to get back together and then, after I
said yes, called me back the next day and broke up again. She apologized for breaking up over the phone when I was three states away. She apologized
for breaking up right before my birthday. She explained how miserable and lonely she was now. She explained how I was right all along. She told me this
time she would want to be physical with me. She told me she would go get herself checked out by a psychologist.
Finally, she stopped.
“So what do you think,” she asked. “Can we get back together?”
I just looked at her. I studied her face. I studied her expression. I studied her thought process. I studied the offer. Then, I brushed it all aside.
“Make up a story and tell it to me.”
“You heard me. Tell me a story.”
“Gavin, you know I’m no good at being creative.”
“I’ll even give you a few minutes to think up a plot. Just tell me a story.”
“That’s utterly ridiculous.”
“If you want to get back together with me, tell me a story.”
“You’re being completely illogical.”
“Tell me a story.”
“Are you honestly going to base our relationship on if I can tell you a story or not!?”
“Tell me a story.”
“Why are you doing this?!?!”
“Tell me a story.”
“You’re not going to listen to any of the things I just told you??”
“Are you going to tell me a story or not?”
Her face scrunched and twisted. “Fine.”
She looked down for what seemed like forever, crafting what I hoped were the intricacies of a story. Finally, I prompted her.
She nodded. “So once upon a time, there was a beautiful man named Gavin who met me. We grew close –“
I burst out laughing, cutting her off. “Seriously?” I gave her a look of disbelief and pushed opened the car door.
“What are you doing?!” she hissed.
“We’re about a half-hour out of Los Angeles, where the local time is 6:08 pm. If you have any electronic devices turned on, you may want to
start shutting those off now.”
I looked down at my very non-electronic pad of paper and twisted the pen in my hand through my fingers. The decklist on the paper below, once again,
started with Death Cloud. I sunk my teeth into my lip, concentrating on the intricacies of the format at hand.
This time, I had seen success. I had won a Magic Online Premier Event last week. Mike Flores had just interviewed me for his article. And yet…
Something felt off. Change was in the air. I hadn’t been able to win an 8-man queue this week with the deck. People were packing hate. Storm and
Faeries were becoming more popular. And, more than anything, I felt like my prior success might have just been because of some luck on my part.
I thought back to Berlin. I thought back to how I failed to make Day Two. I thought about my stubbornness with deck choice. I thought about how
everyone else who adapted to the format did better.
I looked down at my pad of paper again. I looked again at those words. “Death Cloud.”
My hand moved, striking an X through the page and my decklist. I flipped to where I had written down Alex West’s Faeries decklist and began
studying the numbers. I began thinking about how the deck fit up against the metagame. I thought about how it would feel to play this deck the next
day. I thought about the future. And then, I smiled.
Rabon on Magic Online, GavinVerhey on twitter, Lesurgo everywhere else