Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth

Monday, April 25 – Jason Ford managed his way to 13th place of GP Dallas, but as we all know, Magic is really all about the times! Read about the antics of him and his friends.

Slowly, she turned and gazed up at my eyes. With quite possibly the softest voice known to mankind, she quietly asked, “What are you thinking about
right now?”

Faced with the decision of choosing between my dignity and fidelity, I was painted into a corner.

I lied.

Somehow, deep down, I knew that any answer containing the words “Stoneforge Mystic” and “Preordain” would not be acceptable.

As it seems to be with most tournaments, Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth came far too quickly. While I had managed to convince a few friends into
acquiring various Standard decks on MTGO for me to test with, the actual gaming never really commenced. Even when pestered by Matty Gemme, who I
persuaded into coming against all logical reasoning, into battling for his sake, I usually excused myself after about forty minutes with phrases like
“Enjoy the tourney practice room, gonna go hoop.” Some friend and dedicated magician I am.

Friday rolled around soon enough and began rather inauspiciously. I woke up at 1 pm (Amateur Tip: don’t ever schedule a Friday class) and after eating
some three-day-old quesadillas, I hobbled down to my apartment office to pick up some cards that were shipped to me by the ever trusty Steve Baroni.
Shortly thereafter, I received an ecstatic call from my girlfriend who was all-too excited to inform me that her roommates were gone for the weekend.
Naturally, I snapped back by telling her how she could give me a ride to the airport in a half hour, to which she begrudgingly obliged.

Airport security felt as if it was at an all-time low, as I only had my bag searched once en route to boarding the plane. I also managed to have
a run-in with Minnesota native and ROY-candidate Matthias Hunt while clamoring through our undersized plane. I could be found asleep shortly
thereafter, listening to the sounds of various Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtracks while almost assuredly drooling all over whoever was unlucky enough to
be seated to my left.

Upon arriving at the DFW airport, I quickly met up with fellow masochist Matt Ferrando. After I lampooned him for wearing jeans in the refreshing Texas
weather, we hopped on a Super Shuttle headed towards the Sheraton hotel in downtown Fort Worth. After checking in and dropping off our bags, we scooted
over to the site to find the rest of our squad. I instantly found myself reunited with an awesome crew consisting of no less than Matty Gemme, Charles
Gindy, Korey McDuffie, and Nick Spagnolo. If it weren’t for the fact that these events bring together so many awesome people who I am happy to call my
friends from all across the country, I would almost certainly not be there.

After some lively chats and dropping off a room key with AJ Sacher, myself and the duo of Matts headed out in search of some grub. Despite wandering
the streets of downtown Fort Worth for a solid twenty minutes, we were forced to “settle” on Mambo’s Tapas Cantina.

Luckily, this place did not disappoint. While the food and dinner chats were merely excellent, they both took a huge backseat to the in-house
entertainment. While we had arrived at a scene that Ferrando described as “dreary enough for Billy Joel to show up and start playing Piano Man,” a
once-empty stage quickly found itself occupied by a scruffy adolescent sporting an orange jumpsuit. Manning the keyboard, this man started things off
with a relaxing tune reminiscent of Owl City. Then, before shifting gears for his next musical performance, our entertainer called a member of the
audience up on stage for… a Psalm reading. I mean, I guess we were in Texas…

The antics did not end there, as the man of the evening started up again, first with Renaissance music and then some ballpark anthems, all with his
intermittent biblical shenanigans integrated the whole way. Finally, when the performer announced that his next song was titled “Going Back to Africa”
(he was white, mind you), Ferrando announced that it really was time to leave.

Naturally, when we passed by the cantina hours later, the place was in full swing.

However, the restaurant held one last laugh to be had. When our checks arrived, where the party name would typically be labeled at the top, they were
instead appropriately titled “Boy” 1-3. Can’t say that our waitress was too far off on that one…

After dinner, we decided to continue our shenanigans from GP Denver and set out in search of the nearest 711. On our journey, we received a distressed
phone call from a befuddled AJ, incredulous of the directions to our hotel that we had given him earlier. Luckily, we were able to guide him out of the
beautiful Water Garden Plaza (which he described eloquently as “a maze… you know… guarded by a Minotaur and all”) without too much trouble.

Upon arriving at the 711, I quickly gathered up some breakfast items for the following morning. However, Ferrando was wise enough to call the hotel and
check our fridge situation (negative), which left me carrying just a bag of gummy sharks and a pint of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough back to our hotel.
The man behind the register was even kind enough to give me a fork for my ice cream.

With the convention center deserted, we headed back to the hotel lobby to resolve card arrangements and jam a few games. While sleeving up Ferrando’s
Neurok Commando special (read: PILE), more than one individual approached us in the shadiest manner possible asking us if we had any Lotus Cobras. When
we responded with a negative, they gave us the “Are you sure?”, as if I was lying for my health. Anyhow, after watching Ferrando smack Matty Gemme
around for a few games, we packed up. On our way to the elevator, we caught up with a travel-worn Dan Jordan, who suddenly realized that he had almost
left his “I’m Pro” hat in the Super Shuttle van. Luckily, the hat was saved, though I’m sure Gerard will be more than a little upset after reading
this. After this short scuffle, we headed up to the room to crash. I can only imagine AJ’s surprise when he woke up in the middle of the night to find
himself being cuddled by Ferrando.

Saturday morning was a slow starter. While I had done a reasonable job of following Standard for the last few weeks and had discussed various Caw-Blade
lists with Gerry Thompson and Bryan Gottlieb, I was pretty much ready to throw all my testing out the window for whatever someone shipped along.
Luckily, AJ claimed to have the nut list (which he did) and was more than happy to share it with one more undeserving schmuck. Here’s the 75 I

This list is pretty much identical to what AJ, Korey McDuffie, and Josh Rayden ran, except I was dumb and decided to jam a Jace Beleren last minute
into the maindeck over a Tumble Magnet. This is wrong on so many levels, as Tumble Magnet is a better card in the mirror. Little Jace is only really
good when you have your Titans post-board, and so on forth. As Josh astutely pointed out later, “When AJ tells me something, I do first and ask why
later.” Obviously just blindly following someone else’s advice will only get you so far, but there are times where we would all be wise to acknowledge
who really knows what is going on and listen up.

After helping Matty Gemme fill out his deck and sitting through the player meeting, we scooted off for some breakfast. With fair warning and mockery
provided by AJ, I decided to be a little too adventurous and order the Chicken Fried Steak, which was about as gross as it sounds. I’m not sure what
the right call was, but essentially ordering KFC for breakfast before putting myself through a long day of mental exercise was almost certainly wrong.
“We” worked out all the various sideboard configurations we expected to use throughout the day, and by that, I mean AJ drew up instructions while Josh
and I looked on pensively. Feeling full and a little more informed about the deck, we headed back into the midday Texas sun en route to the convention

On the way back, I stopped with Mike Hawthorne at a nearby parking garage to acquire the last few cards I needed for my deck. While I was able to get
what I needed without much trouble, the elevator was something out of a Tim Burton movie. Whenever you pressed the button to call the elevator, a
magical whooshing noise was made as the doors opened, followed by various animal noises. Once we were inside, a voice over the loudspeaker began
reciting Super Bowl facts such as “The Pittsburgh Steelers have won six Super Bowls featuring Hall of Famers such as… the Kansas City Chiefs…” Y’know,
completely normal, standard, everyday happenings. Such a blessed life I lead.

I spent the duration of my byes birding Caw-Blade mirrors between Ari Lax and Sam Black. I’m pretty sure that neither of them ever missed a turn 2
Stoneforge Mystic (SUCH masters), making their testing so inbred that they actually began considering boarding Oust for one another. I also had the
pleasure of checking out Gerard’s “Angel” theme deck, which gave everyone at the table a few good laughs. While I can’t say I’d ever really advocate
bringing a deck like that to the table (nor do I have the stones to), I do applaud that some players out there are out there brewing away, just to keep
things “real.”

The battling for the day was uneventful. I started off with two close three-game wins over B/R Vampires and Valakut respectively before being
dismantled by Alex Khanin in a mirror match. After eking out another close mirror match, I took an undeserving win from AJ where I tried about as hard
as possible to give him a chance while he bricked at every opportunity. I then finished out the day with a close match win over some guy playing Boros. More than just a little unhappy with my personal play on the day, I felt
very fortunate to escape with an 8-1 record.

While the day had ended, the night had just begun, and we quickly gathered up a solid dinner squad. While the majority of the GFabs crew found
themselves waiting through a 45-minute line at the Mexican equivalent of Hooters, a crew including myself, Ferrando, Matty Gemme, Adam Yurchick, and AJ
Sacher quietly snuck off to the classy La Cocina across the street. The Zen master himself was ecstatic, more than just a little excited for the meal
ahead and for being with a group that he simply described as “having no chaff.”

Despite being cordially greeted as we entered the restaurant, the hostess quickly informed AJ that outside drinks we not allowed inside the
establishment. Carrying a Subway cup, AJ tilted it toward the young lady, assuring her that it was just water and that there was no reason to be
concerned. Equipped with a smile, she remained forthright in telling us that no outside drinks were allowed but that she would be more than happy to
bring AJ a glass of water. Not one to be outdone, AJ quickly fired back with “Well then, by all means, ONNNNEEEE WATTTTER,” hand motions and all. While
we were all thoroughly amused, our waitress was more than a little put off, but hey, who’s to say that we’re the ones with attitude problems.
Apparently a personality check is not part of the interview process at said restaurant.

Dinner went smoothly from there on out, as the food was beyond excellent, and we had some lively discussion about various TV Shows and movies including
Sex Drive, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, and Yurchick’s recent obsession with Gumby. Plenty of stories were shared, including the absurd bashing
of Zach Efland by AJ’s mother, Matty Gemme’s shrinking self-esteem under the guise of his parents, and my own mother’s ability to insult me at every
opportune moment. Parents can be quite a beating, but at least they keep things interesting.

After our late dinner affairs, we made the trek back to the Sheraton. While we were all extremely worn out from the long day, none of us went to bed
for a solid hour, busy discussing just how long someone could wear the same pair of socks (one member of the room who will remain anonymous had gone a
week) and other oddities. Some elicit laughing and schoolgirl pillow bashing later and I found myself soundly asleep with fresh dreams of Top 8ing
dancing through my head.

Sunday morning was another peculiarity. Before going to shower, AJ asked me to call down to the front desk to request some shaving cream and a razor so
that he could touch up his facial features. However, the delivery was a little less than prompt, and he decided to just take the items with him to the
site, intent on just shaving in one of the bathrooms there. As we were joking about AJ’s general inability to grow facial hair in the elevator (a club
that I’m also part of), an elderly gentleman accompanied by his wife turned to us and said wryly, “Well I could just have my cat lick it for you.”
Unsure of exactly how to respond to that remark, AJ and I just rolled into the lobby giggling, befuddled at whether we were just part of the sickest
joke of all time or just one creepy old dude doing what he does best.

Honestly, I can’t say the battling on Day 2 was much more interesting. I played against five Caw-Blade mirrors, in which I was on both the giving and
receiving end of some severe beatings. I felt like I lost to some strong draws from Justin Bates in round 10 and was later knocked out of Top 8
contention by some extremely well played Magic by Jesse Hampton while taking down a mulligan-impaired Patrick Chapin, an Esper Caw-Blade opponent, and
Mark Wallace with Eldrazi Green. Finally, I escaped with a narrow 2-1 victory over Gaudenis Vidugiris in the final round after some extremely poor play
on my behalf to lock up thirteenth place.

I’m more than aware that the actual Magic content of this report is a bit lacking, so I’d like to clarify some things. I could sit here and reel off
specific scenarios and game situations that I either capitalized on or punted away throughout the weekend, but providing you with these very narrow and
tough-to-apply nuggets of knowledge really does no one any good. However, all this beating myself up did give me more than a few insights which I would
be more than happy to pass on.

First, practice is far more invaluable than I had ever truly imagined. Yea, I know, this is probably the most common advice available, but throughout
the weekend, I often found myself in unfamiliar game situations or missing triggers or opportunities that a player of my caliber should be capitalizing
on (or at least I’d like to think so). There is something to be said for the rewards of entering each situation with a fresh mindset, as you’re
essentially free from autopilot, but I feel like I was far more disadvantaged by missing common lines of play and by not having fuller knowledge of a

I made a mistake by attacking with a Celestial Colonnade and not using it for mana immediately to activate Tectonic Edge targeting his animated
Colonnade. Ben Lundquist, who was watching, made a remark along the lines of, “It’s not like you’re brain dead—you just missed it for a second.” Any
bystander could tell that I knew what I had done wrong the second I attacked, but it really doesn’t do you any good when you’ve already passed up the

Second, I want to talk about the importance of actually playing out games. I’m not being redundant with my first point; I mean actually playing a game
out to its entirety instead of conceding or having your test partner assume the game is over. Games do not end the first time you get hit by a Sword of
Feast and Famine, nor do they end when your opponent opens on Stoneforge Mystic, Squadron Hawk, Spell Pierce your Jace (as I found out in round 6).
When you’re playing with prize money on the line, your opponent will rarely lay down until they’re actually at zero life, just hoping that you slip up
enough times to give them their 5% chance of coming back into the game.

Throughout the weekend and particularly in the Caw-Blade mirrors that I played, I often found myself developing brilliant game plans but sorely lacking
in the execution department. I knew how to script the game out, where I would pull ahead and cement my victories, but my mechanics in-between were poor
at best. I made unnecessary attacks with Squadron Hawks that allowed my opponents to peck away at my Jace or mismanaged by Tumble Magnet or used the
wrong abilities on my planeswalkers. Some would shake these mistakes off as irrelevant or negligible; certainly I was ahead in most of these games and
would be hard-pressed to lose them. However, especially when facing masters like AJ and Gau, I almost let what should have been easy victories slip out
underneath me because I made little mistakes on each and every turn.

The fact is that I don’t play much Magic right now. While I still find myself traveling to most of the major events, I’m constantly preoccupied with
school and my social life in-between times or lack the motivation to properly prepare. I’m not trying to run some sick brag, but what I’m really
getting at is that it I’ve certainly put myself in a bit of a bind. In one sense, I do demand a lot out of myself, both through results and through
personal and peer evaluation of technical play.

On the other hand, it’s a little unfair and downright silly of me to hold these standards when I don’t put in the requisite effort to really maintain
that level of skill and accomplishment. Assuredly, this is a conflict that each and every player deals with, but it’s especially difficult once you’ve
had a taste of the upper crust only to find yourself floundering in the sea shortly thereafter.

Thirteenth place is certainly a respectable finish and something that I probably would have told you I was okay with prior to the event (though I’m
sure AJ would condemn me for that), but I couldn’t help but feel awful afterwards. When you aren’t playing for a qualification and all you can really
reflect on is just how poorly you played throughout the weekend, what did you really accomplish? Again, I’m not trying to run off some ego stroke for
myself, but there is the reality of how things are, and while I strive to maintain a certain grade of expectation for myself, it may just not be
reasonable at this point. Hell, I probably am just as bad as the GGsLive coverage makes it seem.

Luckily, the weekend still had some good things in store. A Gfabs-led crew once again split off to hit up the aforementioned Hooters-esque joint;
another crew captained by Ari Lax including myself, Kyle Boggemes, Christian Keeth, and the ever-present Matty Gemme made its way over to an
all-you-can-eat-BBQ restaurant for a celebratory late lunch/early dinner. Considering the quality of the food and the price that came with it (a mere
$10 apiece), it was both the value play and just blatantly the right choice anyhow. Being served oversaturated food by spray-tanned waitresses who
already have three children isn’t quite my idea of “good” anyhow.

I know that it probably sounds like I relish these meals a little too much, but they really are one of the main highlights of traveling. Just reveling
in tales from Ari and Christian about “Adventures with Wescoe” from Japan and listening to KBogs tell stories about the legendary Kyle Goodman are
really what ties times like these together. I can safely say that the wide range of characters and anecdotes that accompany Magic events outpace any
other social gatherings I’ve ever taken part of by a far margin. We really are a special breed of extremely smart but incredibly stupid people, and I
wouldn’t have it any other way.

After heading back to the site for some random cubing, drafting, and birding of Ferrando as he punted away the Top 8 of the PTQ to GCB, we decided to
run it back at La Cocina. This time, the group was much larger, rolling about eleven deep with the usual cast of characters and some Southern and New
York Talent. I’d love to share some stories, but truthfully, all I can remember is Dan Jordan trolling every comment that was made and being more than
courteous to the staff.

From there, the long night is just a blur of sleep-deprived memories. We headed back to the hotel, celebrated a little with newly minted champion Dave
Shiels, and fell asleep in lobby chairs while waiting for our 4 am shuttle ride back to the airport. A few long hours later and I found myself back in
the confines of my apartment, still a less-than-diligent student jamming away at some long overdue work for a teacher for which I would have to prepare
some poor excuse. As Julian Booher often reminds me, “Tough life, kid.”

Where things lead from here, I have no clue. Currently, my parents will not allow me to travel to Japan for PT Nagoya; though with a realistic shot of
hitting Level 5 (or even 6) by the end of the year, I’m somewhat more motivated to nag a little harder. Hopefully I’ll find my way to all the major
events, including some StarCityGames.com Opens, throughout the summer, but I may be forced to take up a real job or something equally terrible. If you
do see me around though, feel free to say hi, as I’ll probably be alone and friendless per usual.

3thingstoknow.com, Props to all the sickos (especially Bertoncini, Korey, SneakyHomo, and of course Shiels), and Milk is always a bad choice.