Freeing James Beeton at Grand Prix: Madison *Finalists*

As a supplemental treat for our Premium membership, we present another new face to our Featured Writer lineup… Kyle Goodman. Kyle, along with the rest of Team FJB, placed second at GP Madison (losing to Team Faddy Josh). Want to know the score from the other side of the final table? Kyle spins the tale…

Before I get started, I’d like to give you some background info on our team (Free James Beeton) that consisted of Mark Ioli, Ben Lundquist, and me. I first met Mark at Pro Tour LA, when James Beeton introduced us. They had apparently met at a previous tournament, and I found out that Mark was a senior in high school like me. He posted a top 4 finish at Grand Prix Salt Lake City, following it up with a top 64 at PT LA.

Attack Of The Spiral Perm!

As for Ben, I met him in Aten and Chamber’s room the night before PT Honolulu. When I met up with Mark later that night, it turned out that he had already met Ben at Grand Prix Richmond. He told me a story about how they had been hanging out in Richmond and everyone had referred to Ben as Pierre Canali. So for the rest of GP Richmond, Mark actually believed Ben was the real Pierre until someone informed Mark that Ben was not, in fact, the French Rookie of the Year. The resemblance, however, is striking.

Throughout Pro Tour Honolulu, everyone kept joking that Ben should go take a picture next to Pierre Canali. Then the next thing we knew, Pierre Canali just strolled over and stood next to Ben while his French buddies snapped a photo of them standing next to each other! Ben went on to finish 21st with his Tron Wildfire deck at his first Pro Tour.

In the days leading up to GP: Madison, I joined the clan “Savage Beatdown” on Magic Online with Ben and Mark (who were already members). About a week before Madison, we decided we would be teaming together, so Ben and Mark flew in from New York and I made the drive from Michigan. Since we had all played different decks in Hawaii, we chose to run better tuned versions in Madison since they wouldn’t conflict with each other and we would all be masters at playing our own deck.

My testing for Madison involved tuning and tweaking my Honolulu deck while I ran 8 Man queues as Decimator88 on Magic Online. I discovered a few things. Paladin en-Vec is insane. Last Gasp is amazing in a field full of Black/White Mirrors, Zoo, and R/G. And double Shizo is the tech! You wont believe how many games that Shizo plus Ghost Council won for me. It allows your Ghost Councils to sneak past opposing Paladin en-Vecs, Hand of Honors, or even annoying Keigas. And the odds of drawing both in the same game are very small; even if you do, you will be holding extra lands late game for Descendant. Eventually I got to a point where I stopped losing with the deck, and that was the version I chose to run.

In the hotel the night before the tournament, we were debating whether Ben should run Magnivore or his Tron Wildfire deck. He ended up running the Tron version with some minor tweaks involving putting Pyroclasm main. It was definitely the right deck decision.

Mark knew he was running Zoo with his secret Congregation at Dawn tech for the mirror, but we weren’t sure about the last few slots. We eventually decided that he would be running two Paladin en-Vec and one Selesnya Guildmage. But wait a second! I already had three Paladins in my deck, for a grand total of five between our decks. We were lucky that Ben caught that at the last second. We decided to put 1 Bathe in Light in as a replacement. Here are the decks we played:

So our decks were set, but we still needed a team name. I saw Gomersall and Heezy at the tournament site and asked them for a team name. They suggested “Free James Beeton,” so we registered it and decided to get a good night’s sleep.

Now, I bet just about everyone out there is wondering, “who the heck is James Beeton, and why was your team name switched to FJB on the tournament coverage?” Here’s how the story goes.

James Beeton was a good barn. In fact, he was Mark Herberholz Number 1 barnacle. I remember this conversation I had with him at PT LA that went something like this:

Me: “Hey, lets go back the hotel.”
James: “OK, gimme a minute. I have to refill these drinks for Herberheezy and his buddies.”
Me: “What? Can’t he just get them himself?”
James: “No way! I’m a good barn, I would never want him to be angry with me.”

In return for little tasks like this, Heezy would reward James with certain privileges like allowing him to sleep in his oversized bathtub at GP Charlotte. When I asked James how he slept that night, he replied that it was “surprisingly comfortable.”

Unfortunately, a few weeks ago at the tender age of 16, Mr. Beeton ran into some trouble. Luckily, his parents shipped him to a military/catholic school somewhere in New York. He was a funny kid, and I used to hang out with him at tournaments, but I don’t know if he’ll ever be playing Magic again.

That answers one part of the question, but that little FJB enigma still remains…

During Day 2, a judge came up to Ted Knutson while he was covering our match and told him that all instances of Free James Beeton in the coverage would now be FJB. After the match I went up to the judge, wondering what was up with the name change.

Me: “Excuse me sir, I was wondering why you are abbreviating our name.”
Judge: “You know why.”
Me: “No, I honestly don’t.”
Judge: “Well, I searched his name on the Internet and found out who he really was.”
Me: “And?”
Judge: “And he is a 35-year-old man currently in jail for abducting and assaulting a 15-year old girl.”
Long pause…
Me: “Oh.”

I Googled the name when I got the chance and, sure enough, the story checked out. Talk about coincidence!

Now, I don’t remember every match I played in complete detail, or exactly what my teammates played against each round. However, I’ll try to give you some highlights from the tournament and what to expect in the upcoming Team Standard events.

Every second counts

During the player’s meeting right before the tournament started, they made a shocking announcement: teams would be allowed to communicate and help each other, as long as it was kept under roughly twenty seconds. This meant you were allowed to say short sentences like, “Attack with Watchwolf, but hold back Isamaru.” You weren’t, however, allowed to discuss what the right play would be with your teammate. Slow play would be enforced. (More on this later)

We had two byes so we went out to breakfast, and then won our next two rounds quickly. For round 5 we were paired against 4815162342- Maher, Hoaen, and Eric Froehlich’s team. EFro said their team name was his phone number, so feel free to give him a call if you want to chat with him about his WSoP Bracelet.

I was able to steal game 1 away from Hoaen, playing Heartbeat, after mulliganing and literally being stuck on one land for four turns straight. In game 2, there was a point where Hoaen played Heartbeat and passed the turn. I totally forgot about the Heartbeat, so I was about to attack after equipping Jitte, but Mark reminded me that I had mana floating so I was able to utilize it – much to the dismay of Hoaen. Good catch. Now, if only people had been allowed to save Ryan Cimera or Billy Moreno from Heartbeat of Spring issues.

It ended up not mattering, as Bottled Cloister made an appearance and, since I hadn’t sided in Terashi’s Grasp, I was quickly taken out by the card advantage. We didn’t have any time to play game 3 and since Ben had beaten The Great One and EFro had taken out Ioli, the match ended in a draw.

It was cool though, because I thought the Dark Confidant I was playing with kind of resembled the guy Ben was playing against. I showed Mark and he said I must be seeing things. He was probably right.

We lost our next round, so we had to win out to make Day 2.

In round 7, Adrian Sullivan piloted the only Owl deck that we played against throughout the entire tournament. Luckily for us, he had to play against Mark. And as we all know, Zoo isn’t a very good match up for that deck. We beat Sullivan’s team and won the next round to finish Day 1 in 8th place.

Afterwards Mark and I went out to eat with some other guys, including Pelcak and Taka who’s team had managed the big 8-0 day 1. The ribs were great, but the service was slow. I wanted to draft after, but we decided it would be better to rest up for Day 2.

Mark and I started off Day 2 with a loss, although Ben continued to steamroll his opponents. We needed to win out to top 4, so we did just that until the final round, when we were paired against Faddy Josh.

Taka said they would scoop us in, since they would be in first place no matter what. Aten, however, decided to play devil’s advocate and tried to convince Faddy Josh that the Cak’s team would have a better chance of making it in if they were to play it out and beat us. Fortunately, Taka signed the slip before TBulge had a chance to change his mind.

It ended up working out fine, because team Cedric Phillips Stole My Bike made it into the top 4 anyway, and Cedric promised to return their bike in exchange for some of the GP money they won.

In the top 4 we had a rematch against 4815162342. This time Ioli was able to pull off the upset against EFro. On his final turn of game 3, Froehlich had the choice of running Ghost Council and sacrificing his Dark Confidant on Mark’s turn, or Slaying Mark’s Selesnya Guildmage.

Hoaen and EFro were talking about which play would be better, but the judges intervened and told them they had to make a decision since they had been talking for a while. EFro hastily played the Slay, which probably cost him the game. If they had more time they ultimately would have come up with the correct play.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about being allowed to help your teammates while you play. On the plus side, it allows your team to be more interactive and have more of an actual “team” feel. On the other side, there is a fine line between what is helping and what is discussing. Also, it is very easy for seat A to see what seat C is playing and vice versa. So for most matches we knew what we were playing against before we started or we could hear our opponents whispering to each other, “You’re playing against Black/White.” I guess everyone will have to take extra precautions in the future to make sure your decks can’t be seen when you’re shuffling.

In the finals, I played against Brian Ziegler playing Heartbeat. I took game 1 quickly and remember looking over at Ioli versus TBulge’s match and seeing three Thief of Hope in play. Yeah, Mark was not winning that one…

I had my game 2 locked up, with a Needle on Drift of Phantasms and Sensei’s Divining Top. I also had two Phyrexian Arena in play, along with Faith’s Fetters for the Melokus my opponent was playing. So it was up to Ben to win the match for our team.

Ben lost his 1st game against Taka with R/G, but won the next. At this point I was watching and trying to help Ben as he played, since my match was pretty much over. Ben mulliganed to five for game 3, but his hand was very good. He double Pyroclasmed away Taka’s entire board at a very stable life. If he could just untap, he had Mana Leak, Keiga, and Wildfire in hand with enough land to stabilize and take the match…

But it was not meant to be. Taka ripped Giant Solifuge the next turn and got his beats on. A turn later he was going to play Flames of the Blood Hand at the end of Ben’s turn, right into his Mana Leak. However, TBulge saved him by saying that Ben has to deal with the threat on the board first.

I actually won my match right about here, but I had been watching Ben’s match as well the entire time. So, sure enough, at almost the exact moment I shook hands with Ziegler, Ben was forced to tap out to summon Keiga and was burned right out of the match giving Faddy Josh the championship title.

Overall, I thought our deck choices were very solid. However, for future tournaments I would not recommend playing R/G Heezy Street or Zoo. There are just too many bad matchups, and everyone is prepared to face these decks.

I thought Hoaen, EFro, and Maher’s team had a good configuration without Zoo or R/G. They ran Heartbeat, Black/White, and Magnivore.

Mark teched out his deck to beat the mirror and R/G, and he didn’t play against those decks the entire tournament. Not once. I only played one Zoo the entire tourney and zero R/G.

That meant Lundquist was pretty much playing Zoo or R/G every round, with a few other matches sprinkled in. The Tron Wildfire deck is surprisingly resilient though, and Ben was able to post an extremely good record while beating his bad matchups almost every round.

My Black/White deck is extremely powerful, and I found that it dominates aggro matchups and other Black/White decks if played properly. I would highly recommend it for any upcoming Standard tournaments. The two decks that can give it problems are Owling Mine and Heartbeat (if they don’t board into creatures), but they are still very winnable.

Before I go, I want to leave you with the sideboarding guidelines for most of the matchups that you would come across. You will definitely need some practice if you haven’t played this deck before, but it is very solid and has no horrible matchups.

R/G Heezy Street
Out: 3 Castigate, 1 Mortify, 3 Shrieking Grotesque
In: 1 Last Gasp, 2 Faith’s Fetters, 2 Nekrataal, 2 Seize the Soul

Out: 3 Castigate, 1 Mortify, 1 Shrieking Grotesque
In: 1 Last Gasp, 2 Faith’s Fetters, 2 Nekrataal

Out: 3 Castigate, 3 Shrieking Grotesque
In: 3 Phyrexian Arena, 1 Last Gasp, 2 Terashi’s Grasp (2 Faith’s Fetters if they aren’t running Arena in board)

Ghost Dad
Out: 3 Castigate, 1 Shrieking Grotesque, 1 Ravenous Rats
In: 2 Phyrexian Arena, 1 Last Gasp, 2 Terashi’s Grasp

Greater Goods Gifts
Out: 2 Plagued Rusalka, 3 Last Gasp, 3 Paladin en-Vec
In: 3 Phyrexian Arena, 2 Pithing Needle, 1 Castigate, 2 Faith’s Fetters

Out: 2 Plagued Rusalka, 3 Last Gasp, 1 Paladin en-Vec
In: 3 Phyrexian Arena, 2 Faith’s Fetters, 1 Castigate

Out: 2 Plagued Rusalka, 3 Last Gasp, 3 Paladin en-Vec
In: 2 Pithing Needle, 3 Phyrexian Arena, 1 Castigate, 2 Faith’s Fetters
(Sideboarding is more or less of a guessing game. This is how I would board if I had no idea if they were bringing in creatures or not. Life gain is relevant even if they aren’t running creatures)

Out: 4 Mortify, 1 Ghost Council of Orzhova, 1 Paladin en-Vec
In: 1 Castigate, 2 Pithing Needle, 1 Last Gasp, 2 Terashi’s Grasp

Out: 3 Last Gasp, 2 Plagued Rusalka
In: 3 Phyrexian Arena, 1 Seize the Soul, 1 Castigate

I hope you enjoyed this article. Good luck in your team PTQs for Charleston and feel free to hit me up at [email protected] or Decimator88 on Magic Online.

Kyle Goodman