Congrats to our esteemed former editor-in-chief for moving up to, as Keith Olbermann would put it, “The Big Show.” Pack an umbrella and several cans of Rust-O-Leum, Omeed, you’re gonna need it.
Props must also be given to a local player I know, Chris Benafel, for finishing second at Nationals and advancing to Worlds (great, he’s insufferable enough as it is). He’s a rock-solid Mercadian drafter and his choice of Ponza was an excellent metagame call against a field filled with Trinity and Flores Black. I never could get Ponza to work against Replenish, ‘twould seem young Chris succeeded where I failed—Fire Diamonds were the superior choice to my oft-cursed Sandstone Needles.
Now if he’d only hurry up and move back to Seattle so I have a chance at winning some damn drafts down here, I’d be even more happy.
Chris gets to go to Belgium now. Wonderful place, Belgium. There’s just one thing wrong with it:
It’s filled with Belgians! (Ed. Note: send all hate mail to Mike Long, we don’t want any)
I kid, I kid. They make some great waffles over there in Belgium, and it is by far the swankiest of the Benelux countries.
One of my few remaining goals, Magic-wise, is to make the Pro Tour. It seems like most everyone I play against here in Eugene has made an appearance on the Pro Tour at some time or the other—everyone but me. I’ve come close a couple of times, but so far, that boat has passed me by.
And that segues nicely into my main topic here.
First, let me tell you about my friend Paul Poncy. Paul was, by far, the best Magic player I have ever, ever seen. He was the total package. An innovator and master deckbuilder, he could pick the best rares out of a set at first glance, trade chaff to get them, and have a nasty creation to beat you down with within two days of a set’s release. He built a killer Land’s Edge/Land Tax deck within a week of Legends being released, and he was playing a version of Turbo Kitty months before anyone ever posted about it on the Dojo.
When Paul showed up for one of the bi-monthly tournaments being held in central Oregon, where I then resided, the fifty or sixty-odd people generally knew one thing: they were playing for second. He was that damn good. A common refrain at tournaments was “I have to play Paul? Oh, no!” I kid you not. He was an auto-loss if you played him.
This was a time of frustration for me. I was finally starting to build good tournament decks (getting them under 70 cards), but was always finishing just out of the money. If prizes went to the top three, I was fourth. Top four, I’d finish sixth. Very frustrating.
I was one of many little fish in a little pond.
Then (I remember it very well), I entered a Type II at the local Book & Game Co., and the dreaded Paul was not there that day, meaning the field was wide open. I was with a 66-card mono-black discard deck I was very proud of, having cobbled it together that morning (Mind Ravel is, or at least was, a wonderfully underrated card). And great day in the morning, lo and behold, I finished…second. Not first, but for my first “in the money” finish in quite some time, I was quite pleased.
This began one of my better winning streaks in some time. The next three tournaments I finished first, second, first. All of the sudden I became the guy no one wanted to play in a tournament. Heck, I even beat Paul a few times! The common refrain was now “I don’t want to play Dave!”
I’m the king of the world! Whooo!
I was now the big fish in the little pond.
On occasion, I would head over to Eugene to try my hand at the earliest PTQs, and I never did very well, usually scrubbing out at 0-2 or 1-2 and trying my luck at side tournaments (and, not surprisingly, not doing to well at those, either).
There’s a very old joke about a big-mouth bass who goes around proclaiming how big his mouth is until he runs into a frog who says he eats big-mouth bass for lunch.
“What kind of bass did you say you were?” the frog asked the bass.
“I’m a little-mouth bass,” the fish quietly replied.
And that was pretty much my introduction to the Pro Tour. The big fish finds out that, well, he’s not as big as he thinks he is, and that it’s a pretty big pond out there.
It is the goal of every competitive Magic player, at the very least, to qualify for the Pro Tour, myself included. However, I’ve come to the realization that it is quite possible that I will never qualify for the Pro Tour. I have a busy job that keeps me occupied upwards of eighty hours a week sometimes, and that leaves me with little time to playtest or build decks. And practice makes perfect; there’s only so far that talent can take you. If you don’t practice, you’ll never get past being a scrub. Maybe a very good scrub, which is what I’d call myself, but a scrub nonetheless.
I may have to accept simply being regarded as being fairly good for my area and perhaps this state, with plenty of top four and top eight finishes and the occasional victory at a fourteen-or-so person tournament. I may never be asked for my autograph on a Verdant Force or Avalanche Riders, or have opponents quake in fear when they realize they have to play me in a tournament or be part of a “feature match” and get written up in the Sideboard. My winnings are generally not large trophies or thousand-dollar checks but usually a few bucks in store credit or maybe twelve or so packs of the latest expansion.
But on the flip side, I do have the respect of local peers (well, some respect, I hope, bad puns aside). I may not be the best deck builder or the best player overall, but I’ll give you a good game and I’m capable of beating any player at any given time. Of course, I’m also capable of losing to most anyone at any time, but let’s not go there.
Is that enough? To be the big fish in the little pond?
So far, the answer is yes.
But that’s not going to keep me from trying to get into the big pond.