I Have Paid Dearly For My Success

“So you finally lost.”
“Yeah, it was a good run. First match loss in the eighth round is not a bad day. I mean, five, oh, and two is great after seven rounds. That’s top eight in a seven-round PTQ, right?”
“That’s true, man. But you suck. No lies; you really suck at this game, and yet you managed to be in contention for seven rounds. That’s pretty cool.”


“Oh, hey, Jack. I didn’t see you come up.”

“You were kinda zonin’, dude.”

“Sorry. I’ve been doing some work. I was just taking a break.”

“Looks like rain, dude. You might want to think about packing it in.”

“I think you’re right. I’ve done enough for the day.”

“So is that hut what you were working on, dude?”

“That is not a hut.”

“Really? It looks like a hut.”

“That is an exact replica of the Taj Mahal in one-eighth scale. It is a symbol of my undying devotion to my wife and our marriage.”

“It looks like a hut, dude.”

“It isn’t finished, Jack.”

“I’m just sayin’. Hey, are you gonna invite me across the threshold, or should I go finish the hut for you?”

“Sorry. Come in, have a seat.”

“Thanks, dude. Nice porch. Don’t think I’ve ever noticed it before.”

“I like it. I used to sit out here all the time before I quit smoking.”

“You don’t say. Hey, you don’t mind if I -“

“Go ahead. I think there’s still an ashtray under this table.”

“I got it, dude. You’re zonin’ again.”


“Dude. Stay with me.”

“Sorry, Jack. I’m just a little tired.”

“Right. Building a hut will do that to a guy.”

“It’s not a hut.”

“It really looks like a hut, dude.”

“If you must know, I’m tired because I didn’t get in until three the other night.”

“Three? As in early morning?”


“Dude, those are my hours. What were you doin’ out that late?”

“Playing cards. Regionals.”

“Oh, you were telling me about this. Your wife actually let you go and play cards on your anniversary?”

“Yup. Hey, Jack, could you be more careful when you ash that cigarette? You’re getting my blanket dirty.”

“Oh, I didn’t see that, dude. What’s the blanket for?”

“Didn’t I tell you? I sleep on the porch now. At least, until I finish the hut – I mean, Taj Mahal.”

“Dude. I told you not to play cards on your anniversary.”

“You did not.”

“Well, I was thinkin’ it real hard.”

“My telepathy is in the shop; broken receiver.”

“That would explain it, man. You’re fadin’ on me again.”

“Hey, I’m sorry, Jack. I’m just really tired.”

“Well, the rain’s comin’ down now, dude. I’m gonna be stuck here for awhile. Why don’t you tell me how you did at this Regionals thing?”

“Okay. After looking at all the numbers I crunched from previous recent tournaments I decided that U/G Madness would be the best deck to play.”

“So, what did you play?”

“I actually took my own advice for once. Here’s my decklist.”

U/G Madness – Pale Mage Southeast Regionals 2003

11 Island

9 Forest

2 City of Brass

2 Unsummon

2 Deep Analysis

1 Upheaval

1 Counterspell

1 Merfolk Looter

2 Quiet Speculation

4 Careful Study

4 Aquamoeba

3 Wonder

3 Circular Logic

4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Arrogant Wurm

3 Roar of the Wurm


1 Acorn Harvest

3 Turbulent Dreams

2 Ray of Revelation

1 Counterspell

1 Upheaval

2 Persuasion

3 Phantom Centaur

1 Merfolk Looter

1 Gigapede

“Dude. Where’s the fourth Logic?”

“I like a single Counterspell instead. I just feel better with a hard counter. That, and I only own three Circular Logics.”

“That would explain it.”

“I couldn’t make up my mind whether or not I wanted an Upheaval or a Ray of Revelation in the main. In the end, I decided I’d rather draw into Upheaval in a long game than a Ray. A long game typically means I have problems. Upheaval solves a lot of problems.”

“I follow you there, dude.”

“The sideboard is hardly fine tuned, but it has some solid stuff. The Phantom Centaurs come in against MBC, Tog, and just about anything else that’s making me panic. Persuasion is for MBC that is running Shade or Visara. An extra Counterspell and Upheaval on general principal. The Turbulent Dreams I threw in for R/G Beats, which I didn’t see all day.”

“Acorn Harvest?”

“Chainer’s Edict, Innocent Blood.”

“Ray of Revelation?”

“Astroglide, Cunning Wake, Engineered Plague.”

“Merfolk Looter?”

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall.”


“I really have no idea, but I own one so what the heck.”

“Fair enough, man. Hey, didn’t you play in Regionals last year?”

“Sort of. I was there for all of one round before I had to leave due to a family emergency. It turned out to be nothing serious, but I’ve dying to play in a large tournament like that ever since.”

“Your appetite was whetted.”

“You could say that, yes.”

“I believe I just did, dude.”

“Don’t mess with me when I’m this tired, Jack.”

“Sorry, man.”

“There were a little over four hundred folks last year, and I thought it would be cool if it was a little larger than that. I got my wish. Around five hundred and sixty people showed up to play in the Southeast Regional tourney this year.”

“Is that a lot?”

“It is when you’re trying to pair that number down to eight. It is when you’re trying to get them registered. It is when you’re trying to get to the bathroom.”

“I get your point, dude.”

“Hey, check this out” There were so many of us that the room normally set aside for drafts and such would be where the bottom tables were until enough folks had dropped.”

“Wow. Two rooms. Imagine!”

“Well, it seemed interesting at the time. It led my first-round opponent and I to have the following exchange.”

Announcer: All tables higher than 224 will be in the draft room.

Opponent: My goal for today is to stay out of that room.

Me: I’ll do what I can to prevent that, okay?

“You know, dude, you can be a real jerk sometimes.”

“I smiled when I said it. We had been milling about for so long I needed to do something to adjust my attitude. I mean, it was game time, you know?”

“My friend, you are many things, but you are not a skilled trash-talker.”

“I’m not?”



“Dude, you couldn’t talk trash if you lived in a Hefty bag.”

“That’s a possibility if this porch thing doesn’t work out for me.”

“Sorry, dude. We were speaking of more pleasant things.”

“Right. My first round at Regionals. I was playing David.”

“David. Did you beat him?”

“Well, he went first and dropped Swamp, Festering Goblin. He got to hit me before I answered with Mongrel, Rootwalla. Basically, I was casting more stuff than he could handle. He dropped Plains on the table, and cast Words of Worship.”

David: …and now you know what I’m playing.

“Anyone else in the room probably would have. I didn’t know. I’d been preparing for the tournament by poking around a crappy Access database. Everyone else in the room had been playing Magic.”

“So what was he playing?”

“Someone later suggested he was playing The Graveborn Identity, but I couldn’t swear to it. Anyway, he obviously didn’t have a great draw in the first game so I overwhelmed him pretty quickly. The second game I was taking Festering Goblin beatings until I was at fifteen before I stabilized.”

“Maybe you should have tossed that hand back, dude.”

“Maybe. I just didn’t have access to any green mana for a long time. I had a Counterspell in my opening hand and the two islands to cast it, which kept a Soulless One off the table. Anyway, I finally drew some threats after casting two Deep Analysis via flashback. That took me to nine, and I didn’t lose any life after that.”

“So you won the first match.”

“Yup. I love winning the first match of a tournament. It really puts me in a positive frame of mind. It was around noon at this point, and the line was too long for food, so I caught up with some friends before the second round.”

“Did you win the second round, dude?”

“My second round opponent was Travis with his Monoblack Control deck.”

“Is that good for you, dude?”

“Not really sure. There was a lack of playtesting between the time I sleeved the deck on Friday night and Saturday morning.”

“You’re a madman.”

“Something like that. Before our match started, it was announced some idiot had taken the pay phone in the hall, which had about two dollars worth of change in it. My opponent and I looked at one another and shook our heads.”

Travis: That’s just sad.

Me: I don’t understand people.

“A round of applause went up when it was announced the perpetrator would be hauled off by the State Patrol. An amnesty was offered to anyone who had information about the heist.”

“Dude, taking a pay phone is just stupid.”

“It wasn’t even like a real official pay phone with the steel cable and everything! It was just this little courtesy phone the facility had out in the hall that took small change. Anyway, Travis and I resolved not to let it ruin our match and tore into one another with righteous ferocity.”


“We played cards. The first two games were pretty classic U/G versus MBC matches. Game one, I am able to keep enough threats coming that his removal doesn’t catch up. By the time he gets Mirari in play, I’m ready to Upheaval and finish him with Basking Rootwallas. I did do a lot of damage to myself with City of Brass and Deep Analysis, though. Game two is the exact opposite. I keep playing threats and he keeps removing them. Just when I think he’s out of answers, he’s got the Mutilate ready. He’s at seven life, I’m at twenty, and he plays Corrupt with seven swamps in play. I scoop to Haunting Echoes, which would have left me with Ray of Revelation.”

“Dude, Ray of Revelation?”

“I thought he might bring in Engineered Plague.”

“Okay. You did bring in the Phantom Centaurs for that game, didn’t you?”

“Of course I did. I didn’t see him tutor for Visara in the first game, so I had taken a chance and left my Persuasions in the sideboard, but I did bring the second Upheaval. The only change I made in the third game was to take the Ray back out. Traded it for Counterspell.”

“That’s better.”

“Turned out to be a moot point, unfortunately. Travis got stuck at three Swamps for our third game and I quickly had him on the ropes. I was glad for the win, but I wish we could have had a better end to the match.”

“Dude, I’d take that win all day long. If I played, I mean.”

“I know a win is a win, Jack. It could have been worse. He could have been stuck on two Swamps and a Coffers.”

“Still, dude. You’re two and oh. That’s gotta make you smile.”

“It does, but I still don’t have enough time to make it through the food line to get lunch. At least, I shouldn’t have time. It turns out some results sheets were not turned in, so I had plenty of time. People really should just get the sheet signed as soon as the match is over and get it in to the judges. It cuts down on so much dead time for the players.”

“You mean delays and such?”

“Exactly. The sooner the result slip is in, the sooner it can be entered into the computer, and the sooner everyone gets their pairings for the next round. We had a delay of twenty minutes between rounds at one point because of missing results slips. There’s just no need for that.”

“Nice rant, dude. How’d the other nine rounds turn out for ya?”

“Subtle. Okay, third round, I’m playing Lance and his B/G deck. I could not figure out what he was playing at first, and it threw me off. I had a decent team on my side of the table, but I was too scared to serve into Wirewood Herald without knowing what was going to happen once he died. Silklash Spider joined his team, and he put Oversold Cemetery in play. Fortunately, I haven’t tossed Wonder to my Wild Mongrel. I’m holding seven cards, one of which is Wonder. I’ve got Basking Rootwalla, Wild Mongrel, and something else staring down Wirewood Herald, Silklash Spider, and Wall of Mulch.”

“I think you should have been swinging before then, dude.”

“You’re right; I was giving in to fear. I served. Lance assigns his blockers. The elf blocks the lizard, the wall blocks my mystery guy, and the spider blocks my dog. I toss five cards to the dog before damage goes on the stack.”

“That’s not exactly card advantage, dude.”

“Hey, I can’t tolerate that spider on the board. My big advantage against other creature decks is flying over their heads. A Hurricane with legs must not be allowed to live.”

“Makes sense, I guess.”

“Anyway, at the end of it all, I’ve still got a decent team, he still has Wall of Mulch, and he doesn’t have enough creatures in the ‘yard to use Oversold Cemetery. Life is good, I hit him for eleven the next turn, we move on to game two shortly thereafter.”

“Things are looking up then, eh?”

“Yup. Game two is rough. It is a long game, and I’m never really at a significant advantage. We’re both fighting for control for a little bit, but he gets his Nantuko Husk out, and eventually it is just too much for me. It was a close game, but it took too long to play out. We had less than five minutes left for the third game.”

“Who does that favor?”

“Neither, in my opinion. A fast game normally favors me, but now that I know he’s got the Husk/Caller combo, I know he can do a lot of damage in a hurry. We play quickly, but it goes into extra turns. On my second turn of the five additional turns, I forget we’re playing additional turns and cast Upheaval.”

“No, dude. Just no.”

“Hey, he had Ravenous Baloth on the table and three life. It was a draw the minute he put the Baloth on the table during his turn. I didn’t have enough to get him. Still, I knew I had frustrated him, and I apologized as soon as I realized what I had done. It would have been better if I had done the math and just offered the draw to him. I was still at twenty life at that point, so the only question was whether or not I was going to kill him in the allotted turns. I couldn’t have done it.”

“Did he take you outside and smack you around for a bit?”

“No, he was very gracious. We talked about the match briefly.”

“Well, he’s a bigger man than I am, dude. So that put you at two, oh, and one. That’s not too bad for a guy like you.”

“Well, I would have been happier with another win under my belt, but there’s no use in thinking about the match you just played, right? Time to move on. Still no time to eat. My fourth round opponent was waiting. He was a sly one by the name of Tim.”

“You gotta watch those guys named Tim. They make for powerful wizards, or so I’ve heard.”

“Monty Python references aside, Tim and I had a good match. Game one, he starts dropping swamps and some removal. I think I hit him with a Wild Mongrel before he Smothered it. After that, he was losing four points a turn, so maybe I had an Arrogant Wurm out. I don’t really remember.”

“Dude, did you play anybody who wasn’t dropping black spells?”

“Not in the early rounds. Anyway, Tim was also dropping white spells, specifically Astral Slide. Game two, his little B/W slide deck starts doing what its supposed to do. Eventually. Neither one of us had a blistering start that game, but he eventually gets the Exalted Angel out and I can’t keep enough in play to deal with her.”

“Dude. Exalted Angel. She’s hot in a stripper kind of way.”

“I hate her.”

“Is stripper the right image? Maybe porn. I can’t make up my mind. She just don’t look angelic, you know?”

“Jack, she’s a beating, that’s all I know.”

“So who won the third game?”

“Another draw. We got as far as turn 3 and I told Tim I couldn’t kill him. He agreed he couldn’t kill me. The game ended with me at ten, him at eleven.”

“Cool. You didn’t lose.”

“Yeah, that’s not so bad. I figured if I ran out the remaining seven rounds I might squeak into the top eight. But my back was to the wall. Three draws would certainly leave me out of the running.”

“Tension was running high.”

“Not really. But I was starving, and I finally decided I was going to eat something even if it meant a game loss. I muscled my way through the food line and swallowed a hot dog like a king snake, then got back in plenty of time for pairings.”

“Picturing that sort of makes me nauseous, man.”

“Cowboy up, Jack. This is where the swamps disappear for awhile.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yup. My fifth round opponent was Bill. Bill and his Cunning Wake deck.”

“That’s a combo deck, right dude?”

“More or less. It really plays like a control deck, but a lot of combo decks do. Going into the match, what I knew about Wake was that it needs Mirari to pull the combo off. That doesn’t really help me before sideboarding, so I just resolved to smash face. Then, Bill did the most lovely thing.”

Bill: I’ll go to six.

(Bill shuffles.)

(I shuffle.)

(Bill cuts. Bill draws six cards.)

Bill: I’ll go to five.

(Bill shuffles.)

(I shuffle.)

(Bill cuts. Bill draws five cards.)

Bill: I’ll go to four.


“It totally sucked for him, Jack. As we sideboarded after the first game, Bill told me he had one land in his six-card hand, and just got greedy.”


“Well, he took it a lot better than many other players might have. The second game was very exciting. He cast a morph. I bounced it, and countered Exalted Angel when he tried to recast her. After that, I’m swinging in to Moment’s Peace until Wrath of God. Rinse, repeat. He puts another Exalted Angel into play, and I can’t deal with her.”

“Exalted Angel.”

“I hate her. It was a really good game though. Classic threat and answer with the answers eventually winning the game. Game three looked like it was going to be much the same, but the answers ran out before the threats.”

“Cool, dude. You won the match.”

“I was really glad. The draws were starting to wear on me. The first game was just unfortunate, but the next two made up for it.”

“A win is a win, dude. So you had three wins, no losses, and two draws.”

“Yup. Round six was the hump match. My opponent was Anton with Mono Black Control.”

“Swamp. You’re favorite.”

“You know it. I think things are going to go well in the first game when I open with Careful Study, double Basking Rootwalla, but Anton has other plans. He Smothers, he Bloods, he casts Diabolic Tutor to get Visara, the Dreadful. It ends badly for me. I side in the Persuasions and Phantom Centaurs. That seems to work out pretty well. I Persuasion his Nantuko Shade and outrun his removal. Game three has some fun moments in it, like when he’s removed my early team so I dropped Phantom Centaur. He cast Edict. I dropped the second Centaur. He smiled at me, knowing I topdecked that card.”

“That must have been cool.”

“I like little moments like that in the heat of battle. Anyway, the third game ends in a strange fashion.”

“How strange was it?”

“Well, Anton is at ten life and has Withered Wretch on the table. I have two Arrogant Wurms. I swing. Anton thinks for a second and decides not to block, going down to two. I pass the turn. Anton drops Visara, and says ‘go’. At this point, I’m trying to figure out what he’s going to do during my combat phase to save himself. The only options I can think of for him don’t make sense. I swing with the two Wurms. He blocks both. As it turns out, Anton forgot Arrogant Wurm has trample.”

“Dude. Poor guy.”

“Yeah, I assigned damage and he hit himself in the head and immediately shook my hand. I’ll say this for him; he didn’t dwell on it or lose his mind or anything. He was a true sportsman.”

“Okay, dude. We’re not making a documentary here.”


“So you got another win. Four wins, zero losses, and two draws. What’s next?”

“Next is Adam with his Wake deck. Adam is one of the better players in my area, so I figured I might surprise him by sitting across from him. As it turns out, Adam was in a foul mood from his previous match, which had been a draw. I decided this would be in my favor.”

“Never play the match you just played, right dude?”

“Exactly. The first game took a long time, but he gets Mirari and its Wake on the table after casting Moment’s Peace about twenty times. Actually, he had just gotten your favorite stripper angel on the table, too.”

“Yeah, he had you nailed, didn’t he? Exalted Angel.”

“I hate her. Adam still doesn’t seem to be in a better mood, but he starts to relax during our second game. He doesn’t get to cast Moment’s Peace twenty times, and I think I bounce Exalted Angel at one point, but I can’t remember. In any event, I win the second game, and Adam and I have to face the possibility that we may be in for a third draw. Fortunately, that does not happen. He goes for the early Mirari’s Wake while I have Mongrel in play and nothing in the graveyard. I have the Logic in hand, and dump a City of Brass. Adam says ‘good call’, and draws an awful lot of land from there on.”

“So you won, dude?”

“I did. I’m the luckiest guy in the room.”

“No, dude. You beat him.”

“Well, Adam was obviously in dire straits when he tried to put Wake down so early. But in the second game, I could have killed him earlier than I thought. There was a point when I attacked and he was tapped out. I did not notice, and didn’t throw my hand to Mongrel because I was expecting Moment’s Peace. That’s the kind of mistake that costs match wins.”

“You’re right, dude. You’re lucky. Lucky enough to be sitting at five wins, no losses, and two draws.”

“I was feeling it. Four rounds left to play and I was in the running for a qualifying spot. Life can be a beautiful thing sometimes. I wandered outside to get some fresh air. The parking lot was filled with dejected competitors, some of whom were waiting for cabs to take them back to their hotels for money drafts and other diversions, and others who were toughing it out until their more successful friends were ready to leave, whenever that might be. I noticed some of the local guys who normally occupy the winning tables milling about with forties in brown paper bags. It was an odd scene.”

“Nice. Who was your next victim?”

“Chris with his Astroglide deck was my eighth round foe. Astroglide is just not a fun matchup for me.”


“Well, it started well. He never really got started in the first game and I just took off. Game two was a good fight, but he drew Wrath of God too many times for me to finish him before he took control and dropped Exalted Angel. Guess who beat me up in the third game.”

“Exalted Angel, dude?”

“I hate her.”

“Dude, it’s just one card.”

“Well, it’s a tough card, but the real problem is that she has plenty of support. Obviously people aren’t going to dump her face-down in front of Wild Mongrel and two Wurm tokens. She usually shows up after Wrath of God or some other removal. The general rule is that I don’t have enough on the table to deal with her straight away, and when I can put an answer on the table, it is removed. Really, if I don’t counter her or bounce her, I’m pretty hosed.”

“So you finally lost.”

“Yeah, it was a good run. First match loss in the eighth round is not a bad day. I mean, five, oh, and two is great after seven rounds. That’s top eight in a seven-round PTQ, right?”

“If you say so, dude.”

“Anyway, the wheels kinda came off for the next couple of rounds. I lost the mirror match to Ken in the ninth round. I made horrible decisions regarding my opening hands. The day was catching up to me, and my previous loss had taken some of the wind out of my sails.”

“That sucks, dude. Five, two, and two, eh?”

“Yeah. Odd that the first mirror match would come in the ninth round. Anyway, Ken had some good advice for me about playing the mirror, so I took it to heart. I had played him before at Prereleases and such, so I knew him to be someone whose opinion I should respect.”

“Advice can be a good thing.”

“Yup. It didn’t come in handy for the rest of the tournament, but there will be others. Anyway, going into the tenth round I needed to concentrate and tighten up my game. I figured I could get serious, or I could get a forty in a brown paper wrapper. Leaving with a box of product and some pride sounded like the better deal.”

“What did the tenth round bring you, my man?”

“Ben and his good friend Psychatog. I played well, but the match went exactly as he needed it to go in games one and three. He controlled me. I stole the second one, though, so I didn’t walk away empty-handed; I had my moral victory. By the way, if anyone ever asks, U/G Madness generally doesn’t win counter wars with Psychatog. Just in case you were wondering.”

“That’s just sad, dude. You lost three matches in a row.”

“I know. I hate it, but that’s the way things go sometimes. I had one match left, and I had fun playing it. Brandon and his Solitary Confinement deck were both good times. We finished our match, the eleventh we had played that day, shortly before two a.m.”

“You won?”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry. I won that one. He had an obscene amount of life gain in that deck. Our first game was the first time I have ever seen Ancestor’s Chosen cast, ever. I dealt close to sixty damage to him during our two games. That’s enough for three games.”

“So you finished up with six wins, three losses, and two draws. That’s not bad, dude.”

“Well, it’s a marginal victory. With four rounds left to go, I went one and three. Not so good.”

“That’s true, man. But you suck. No lies; you really suck at this game, and yet you managed to be in contention for seven rounds. That’s pretty cool.”

“Yeah, but twenty points in the standings didn’t put me anywhere near the cutoff for prize support. I shuffled home without a box. All I had to comfort me was a ninety-point jump in my DCI Constructed rating.”

“Well, did you have a good time at least, dude?”

“I did. I love a large tournament. The delays sucked, but I thought the organizers handled the better than expected turnout pretty well. And I can’t complain about the food. When you’re the type who doesn’t eat breakfast and you don’t eat until five in the evening, whatever just passed your lips is ambrosia. I can’t wait for next year.”

“Yeah. It might not be on your anniversary next year, either.”

“That is a happy thought. I only have so much room for replicas of famous world monuments.”

“You mean huts.”

“It’s not a hut. It’s the Taj Mahal.”

“Did you ask your wife if she wanted the Taj Mahal?”

“Shut up, Jack.”

“I’m just sayin’. Rain’s lettin’ up.”

“Yup. Maybe it will hold off some tomorrow.”

“Yeah. Then you can finish that masterpiece on the lawn.”

“It will look better when I get the plaster on it.”

“Whatever, man.”

Pale Mage