It’s three o’clock in the morning, Thursday night before the Grand Prix. I am asleep in the backseat of Kyle Goodman car as we make our way along the twelve-and-a-half hour car ride to Kansas.
I wake up to find us parked on the shoulder with our hazards on. Why aren’t we moving?
I ask Kyle, “Why aren’t we moving?”
“We ran out of gas.”
“We ran out of gas? What? Why?”
“We wanted to find a Denny’s before we stopped for gas…”
“Well, do we have a plan to rectify the situation?”
“What do you mean?”
“Are we gonna get gas?”
“Because the car won’t move.”
Okay, this is just ridiculous. I hand my triple A card up to the front and go back to sleep. A few minutes later, Kyle is talking to someone at triple A on the phone, when all of a sudden…
A semi rails the side of our parked car, hitting us at about 60 miles an hour. You might be asking yourself, “how did you survive, let alone walk away from the accident?” Well, that is a fair question. The key is that the only part of the semi that hit us was the steps that lead up to the passenger side.
The steps actually tore a line all the way down the side of the car, leading from the back all the way to the front. Both driver’s side wheels collapsed and the door handles were ripped off. Still the most interesting mark was the metal tear all the way down the length of the car, much like when a 60 foot terminator robot with absurdly large blades slices your vehicle up in a hardcore style.
No one was really hurt, but things were definitely a little crazy at this point. The police came, and we were eventually given a ride to a hotel. Kyle’s car was totaled, so we needed a new plan. All I wanted to do was sleep, so I did, and decided I would figure something out the next day.
Noon rolled around, and I woke Kyle, DJ Kastner, and Kyle Boggemes up and announced that I was leaving in five minutes to rent a car and drive to the GP. They were welcome to come with, but regardless, I was taking off in five minutes.
They all elected to go with me and we set about renting a car. I am the only misfit in that ragtag operation to be at least 25 years of age, so the burden fell on me to acquire the rental car.
At first I was going to charge it to my bank card, but then it turned out that they do a credit check for bank cards, and my credit score is under 660.
I tried paying in cash, but they were not having it. They said my only option was a credit card. I have a credit card, but I had just put my Berlin ticket on it, so I actually only had about $39 or so available and the rental was supposed to be 126 to leave the car in KC.
I haggled and haggled and haggled, trying to work out an arrangement with Avis. Eventually, I called my credit card company and inquired about paying it off using my bank card. The problem was, the payment wouldn’t post to my credit card until midnight.
I spoke to someone’s supervisor and then I spoke with that person’s supervisor. Eventually, I spoke with someone who seemed to sympathize with my position and said that they would make sure that it gets processed immediately. With the agreement in place, I made a payment to my credit card and was promptly told that the payment would post at midnight.
I tried talking to supervisors and supervisor’s supervisors, but was told the same thing. Payments are posted at midnight.
I can’t believe Visa got me!
I went back inside to haggle with the Avis people some more. There is no question they empathized with me, and no question they just wanted me out of their hair. Then, inspiration struck.
“How much to rent that car and bring it back here tomorrow morning?”
“You are going to bring it back here? I thought you said you need to be in KC.”
“I am just wondering how much it would be to bring it back here.”
“Well, err, I dunno, I mean, let me check. It looks like it would be $32.”
“And let’s say I were to change my mind and drop it off somewhere else, could I do that tomorrow?”
“Well, err, I dunno… I mean, I guess you could do that. You would have to pay the difference then.”
“I would like to rent that car to bring back here tomorrow.”
“You are going to bring it back tomorrow?”
“That’s the plan. I am 100% definitely going to bring it back here tomorrow, unless I end up dropping it off somewhere else. Cool?”
Fortunately, they went for it and everything worked out, though it was annoying having to drive the whole way. Still I am glad I didn’t have as much trouble as some people. One of my friends was trying to rent a car, and when they ran his name he came back as having a grand theft auto on his record.
He was not over embarrassed, despite the awkwardness of the situation, though it was a bit of an inconvenience, especially since he has never actually stolen a car before…
So let me get you up to speed. I am sitting in a cyber cafe in Berlin, so I obviously made it through the weekend. I am here testing with Paul Cheon, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Manuel Bucher, preparing for the Pro Tour coming up around Halloween. Kansas City was a blast, so I guess this is the tournament report, though I must warn you, there won’t be much strategy in this article, as it is mostly tales of the times.
Kyle, Kyle, DJ, and I arrived in Kansas around one in the morning and crashed at another friend named Kyle’s place. The next day, I built my sealed pool and was definitely pleased. My pool ended up looking like this:
1 Hellkite Overlord
1 Empyrial Archangel
1 Carrion Thrash
1 Dragon Fodder
3 Druid of Anima
1 Gift of the Gargantuan
2 Magma Spray
1 Naya Battlemage
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Rakeclaw Gargantuan
1 Resounding Roar
1 Resounding Silence
1 Rockcaster Platoon
1 Sigil Blessing
1 Skeletal Kathari
1 Steward of Valeron
1 Thunder-thrash Elder
1 Woolly Thoctar
1 Seaside Citadel
1 Jungle Shrine
1 Arcane Sanctum
1 Bant Panorama
1 Jund Panorama
Other interesting cards included Angel’s Herald (with almost no Blue creatures whatsoever), Angel’s Song, Bant Battlemage, Blister Beetle, 2 Dispeller’s Capsule, Fire-fiend Ogre, Grixis Battlemage, Knight of the White Orchid, Obelisk of Bant, 2 Obelisk of Esper, 2 Ridge Rannet, Rip-Clan Crasher, Shore Snapper, Tidehollow Strix, and 2 Undead Leotau.
After playing some games, I realized that I built my deck wrong and began sideboarding in Blistering Beetle and an Obelisk of Esper every round. I also often brought in Grixis Battlemage, with Ridge Rannet and Dispeller’s Capsule making occasional appearances. I usually took out some combination of Dragon Fodder, Skullmulcher, Thunder-thrash Elder, Rockcaster Platoon, and Naturalize. The Devour theme just didn’t get there in my deck, Rockcaster was ineffective against the opponents without fliers, and Naturalize was often a dead card in this sea of RG decks.
During my three byes, I had to race to the airport to drop off the rental car, lest I be charged another $126. Ben Lundquist, good friend that he is, agreed to follow me in another car so as to give me a ride back and help me avoid a $100 cab ride.
On our way back to the site, we stopped at McDonald’s to grab some food. I offered to buy him lunch, as it was the least I could do, and he won $100 playing the Monopoly game. See, karma does work both ways.
My first round opponent was Adam Yurchick. Adam is a great player that has been on the rise in the past year, putting up several high finishes. Him and I have a bid of a thing going, as I have played him at almost every major event since Worlds.
At Worlds, I defeated his Pickles deck with Dragonstorm, when he thought I was Snow-Red. At Grand Prix: Philly, he beat my Vendilion Clique Chase Rare deck with his U-W Tron deck. Then, most recently, he defeated my Five-Color Control deck in Denver with Elementals.
This time it all came down to this: he was at 8 life and I was at 1. I was down to just a Naya Battlemage to his double Carrion Thrash and Bull Cerodon. He had no cards in his hand and knew that the last card in my hand was a Hellkite Overlord. I had seven land in play.
Why couldn’t this be a Top 8 match?
I windmill slam the top card of my library, and it’s a land that comes into play untapped! I am the winner.
Yurchick was a pleasure to play, as always, and hopefully I will face him next in the Top 8 of Berlin.
Round 5 is rather uneventful, with the most interesting play being the playing of a 1/1 Thunder-thrash Elder that just sits in play for 3 turns, then wins the game for me as a result of my playing it when I did.
Round 6 was rather disappointing. The deciding game ended up in a situation where I had a Steward and a Woolly Thoctar with four land and an Obelisk (plenty of mana of every color). My opponent has a summoning-sick Vithian Stinger and a Mossdodon with a bunch of Plains, Mountains, and Forests. My hand is Sigil Blessing, Empyrial Archangel, and a Druid of Anima that I just drew. My opponent has no cards in hand. My life total is seven, and my opponent’s is in the teens.
What do you do? Basically, the question is, do you play the mana elf, knowing it will most likely just get shot, or do you hold it, hoping to draw one of the four answers left in your deck? Well, I knew my Woolly Thoctar was probably going to kill the Mosstodon with the help of a Sigil Blessing. I decided that I had plenty of time and didn’t play it.
My opponent drew Soul’s Fire, which he used in combat to put me to 2. If I had played the Elf, he wouldn’t have shot it, preferring to put me on a one-turn clock. I drew a land which would have given me the eight mana I needed for my Angel which would have locked up the game. Even if he had shot the Elf, the extra turn that would have bought me would have been enough for me to win the race.
Some would call this a “judgment call,” but I think that it is just a play mistake plain and simple. I was just not familiar enough with the format to realize that there were enough ways to deal damage to me in a hurry that it was well worth it to throw the Elf out there just to prevent a point of damage. There was just too little of a chance that the Elf would ever be relevant to hold on to.
Round 7 was unexciting. I lost game 1 to a turn 5 Flameblast Dragon. I won game 2 despite mulliganing and getting stuck on two. I lost game 3 to a Caldera Hellion, despite totally blowing my opponent out with a Resounding Roar during my attack phase when he tried to Resounding Thunder my Rakeclaw.
Round 8 saw me win a game in which my opponent was manascrewed, then lose a game to double mulligan, then win the deciding game on the back of a last turn Hellkite Overlord off the top (though to be fair, I would have played Empyrial Archangel and been okay had I not drawn the Dragon that turn).
It all came down to round 9. I had a feature match against Scott Lipp to see which of us would make Day 2. Game 1 was a tough fight, but his Tezzeret for value was just too much for me after his initial onslaught of Esper weenies.
Game 2 was the most exciting, with Scott playing defensively the whole game, trying to stave off my quick attack. Eventually he turned things around and started to stabilize. I went for the kill with a Hellkite Overlord, and he answered with a Gather Specimens to take control of my Dragon. I kept a cool head, and plotted a way out of this mess. I imagined the series of cards I would need to draw to come back, and then to my amazement, I drew them, winning by the skin of my teeth.
Game 3 I mulliganed and kept a one-land hand with only Bant Panorama (on the play). I managed to get there, but was definitely a little behind, as I had to Panorama on two to get my Green to start casting elves. I think I made a mistake a turn where I got greedy and tried to hold up Resounding Silence mana instead of playing another creature. Scott figured it out, and I lost much needed tempo. In the end, I lost on the final turn of extra turns, where as if I had 2 more life I would have easily established control, though it was unclear if I could win in time (though I did have a Hellkite Overlord in my hand and finally enough mana to play it).
With that, I was eliminated, though the weekend was far from over. Saturday night, I went out on the town with Brian DeMars, Michael Jacob, and a host of other friends I was staying with. I’m toning down the misadventures unrelated to Magic, so I will let you use your imagination. Heh. If only the Master Mind, Gerry Thompson, had been able to come out with us…
Sunday afternoon was spent mostly walking around, kicking with friends. Many players from the old school, like Chris Pikula, Ryan Fuller, Noah Boeken, Chris Benefal, and more were in attendance.
Eventually I ended up guesting on the Magic School Bus Podcast which was a lot of fun. Somehow, one thing led to another, and we ended up in the hotel bar. After sharing tails of fighting armed men with sticks as well as stories of armed men without sticks, we began to accumulate a crowd.
I end up at a table with a bunch of pros and former pros, ranging from Heezy and Nassif to Dave Williams and Gabe Walls. The energy level is high, and everyone is getting into the spirit of things, as Noah Boeken is just busting packs of Beta that he acquired from Chris Benefal, winner of the Beta-Beta-Beta draft. If you ever get upset about the land in packs of Shards just remember, in Beta, there were 4 to 8 basic land in every pack!
One by one the packs of Beta were opened, and everyone at the table had such an inch to kick it old school. Fortunately, I happen to have a pack of almost everything. On me.
I presented the table with my collection of boosters, containing a pack of every tournament legal expansion from Ice Age forward, and players immediately began suggesting ways we could use them.
In the end, we organized a 3-on-3-on-3-on-3 team draft, where everyone would get 4 packs at random then each team would play team-draft style against another team, with the winner’s playing off and the winning team getting the cards.
I ended up with a B-R aggro deck that was okay, but not exciting. Nassif, Noah, and I lost our first round, which stretched late into the morning. I didn’t get a chance to see who won, but tune in next week for who to turn to next time you are drafting Ice-Home-All-Mir-Vis-Lite-Tem-Str-Exo-Sage-Legacy-Destiny-Masque-Nemesis-Prophecy-Inv-Plane-Apoc-Ody-Tor-Judge-Ons-Leg-Scourge-Mirrodin-Darksteel-Fifth-Champ-Betray-Savior-Rav-Guild-Diss-Cold-Time-Planar-Future-Lor-Morn-Shadow-Even-Shards-Tenth draft.
That pretty much brings us to today. As I said, now it is time to get down to business. I have a lot of work to do preparing for the Pro Tour, but I will still be here next week (on Monday), so see you then. (And this time, I will bring the decklists…)