Insider Information – You Can’t Mise If You Don’t Try: Grand Prix Houston

The StarCityGames.com Open Series returns to Atlanta!
Friday, April 9th – With mere hours to go before he had to leave for Houston, Cedric Phillips didn’t have a plane ticket or a place to stay. Of course, if you’re Cedric Phillips, that’s not a problem. Today, he spins the story of his wild weekend as only Ced can…

Me: “Well guys, thanks for the ride.”
Chapin: “How do you plan on getting home from here?”
Me: “My friend Mehran is going to come and pick me up. Then we are going to watch the NCAA finals and head back to Purdue.”
Gerry: “You run pretty good, don’t you?”
Me: “You can’t mise if you don’t try!”

It’s hard for me to believe that five days ago I was in Houston, Texas battling my little heart out, but that’s exactly what happened. How did I get there?

Good question!

Thursday, April 1 (6:00am)

I headed to Orbitz.com to check the prices of a one-way ticket to Houston for the Grand Prix. The ticket I found for $151 was good to go for anytime Friday, or Saturday morning during my byes if necessary. Options were nice to have this late in the game. Now I just needed to find a way home. Everyone relevant was already asleep, so I decided to embark on a short six-hour slumber so I could wake up and play a Daily Event with Allies and figure out the rest of my travel plans.

Noon rolled around, and it was time to get everything in motion during my little grindfest. I was cleaning up with Allies all week, and this Daily Event was no different. I shot Owen Turtenwald a call, as he was on the road with Brian Kowal, Gerry Thompson, Patrick Chapin, and Misha Gurevich. They decided to embark on a 20-hour journey from the Madison area, in Misha’s van, to get to the Grand Prix. Now, I am not one for sitting in a vehicle for longer than 12 hours at a time, but when you’re without options and have the itch to game, sometimes you are left with no better options.

After a brief conversation with Kowal and company, I am informed that there is space in the van for one more on the way back. What a giant mize! Now, let’s get to booking that ticket with all these MTGO winnings I have! I fired up Orbitz.com again and got to purchasing.

It was at this moment that I about lost my mind.

The price of my one-way ticket had gone up from $151 to $305.

In. Six. Hours.

I didn’t have $305. I barely had $151! What the hell was I supposed to do now?

See, I needed to go to this Grand Prix.

I needed to go play Dredge one last time before Extended season was over.

I needed to be in the company of my best friends for a few days to put myself in a better mood.

I knew what needed to be done. I grabbed my IPhone and called Zac Efland

Me: “Do you have Talus Paladin or any of the other Ally cards on MTGO?”
Zac:”Yeah. Let me log on and trade them to you.”

It was time to get dirty. I had exactly 24 hours to make 120 tickets. I didn’t have time to grind a Premiere Event. If I lost in one of those, I would be too far behind. I had to win 8-mans. A whole lot of 8-mans.

So that is what I freaking did!

SystemFailure logged onto MTGO. The Electric Factory logged onto MTGO. Both accounts had a standard Allies deck. I was not going to be stopped. Not today.

It wasn’t easy, but I got there. Hour fifteen through seventeen was especially difficult, because my Jund opponents were starting to cast Bituminous Ultimatium instead of Bituminous Blast on a consistent basis, but once I got through that rough patch, I was able to lock up just over 140 tickets to pay my way to Grand Prix: Houston.

Friday, April 2 (around 2:00pm)

My flight was scheduled to leave around 5:15pm, so I had a couple hours to kill. The last thing I wanted to do was fire up Magic Online, so I turned on one of my favorite movies of all time: Training Day.

It was right after Alonzo and Hoyt harass Snoop Dogg in a wheelchair did I feel a tickle in my nose. I knew this was a bad news and tried to prevent myself from sneezing, but it was useless.

One sneeze is what most people deal with there, right? Possibly two or three?

Not fourteen. Welcome to the world of my allergies. But we will get to that in a moment.

I arrived in Houston groggy but ready to game. I gave my friend Chris a call:

Me: “Hey, it’s Cedric. I ended up being able to make it here after all. Do I still have a place to stay?”
Chris: “Yep. My roommate John is on his way to pick you up from the airport. You’re staying with him at his parents’ place for the weekend with Tanner (Nelson) and some others.”

After that phone call, I was thinking a few things:

1.) How did Chris know when my flight was getting in since I never told him?
2.) How did John know what airport to pick me up at since there are two in Houston?
3.) Who is John?
4.) How did I get so lucky to have a place to stay?

The answers to these questions are as follows:

1.) Because he is a master.
2.) Because he is a master.
3.) Full name = Jonathan Job. Occupation = Master
4.) You can’t mize if you don’t try.

John, who will now be referred to as Job from now on, took me to the event site to gather a few things and exchange pleasantries. After that was taken care of, we met up with his other buddies, smashed some WhatABurger (mediocre at best), and headed to his parents house.

I was informed that the Job residence was quite the estate, but I am always a little wary of these statements. I hear these things all the time, but am always left disappointed. Well, ladies and gentleman, the Job residence was a fully fledged masterpiece, complete with a forest in the backyard. Think MTVCribs.

So, before I continue, let me recap.

On Wednesday, March 31, I had the following:

1.) No flight to Houston
2.) No way to get home from Houston
3.) Nowhere to stay if I got to Houston

On Friday, April 2nd, I had the following

1.) A ride awaiting me at the airport.
2.) A ride back to Chicago from Houston with an awesome group of people.
3.) My own personal bed within a mansion to sleep in for the weekend.

You can’t mise if you don’t try!

After talking about the metagame and other such nonsense for a little while, I headed to bed hoping to wake up feeling much better. Everything else was going right after all. This should too… right?

Oh, how wrong I was…

Saturday, April 3

My alarm goes off around 7:00am, and I feel like death. I headed to the bathroom hoping a long shower would cure my illness, but it was not to be. There was no way around it. I felt like total garbage.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Playing in the condition I was in is close to impossible for me, but I had to try. It was fun explaining to everyone what was wrong with me this weekend, but for those who don’t know, here goes:

Since birth, I’ve had allergies that no medicine has been able to solve. I tried a ton of medication and doctors when I was younger, but it was all useless. See, when people are afflicted by allergies, they get a runny nose, itchy eyes, or a sore throat. Perhaps there is sneezing and coughing involved. Well, I don’t get any of that. I wish I did, but I don’t. I get something much more unbearable.

My eyes water. And they water a lot. So much, in fact, that my vision is dramatically affected. To put it simply:

When I get sick, I cannot see.

My day is normally spent wiping my eyes as water flows through them at a much higher rate than normal. That explains the towel over my eyes at the Grand Prix. I had to wipe my eyes after almost every action I or my opponent made. Without that towel, I would have not made it through two rounds of that tournament. So, for those who I denied autographs or was short with in conversation, I truly apologize.

As I sat down for the players meeting, my condition was worsening rapidly. My eyes were watering a lot at this point, and even my nose was beginning to run. The right side of my face was beginning to numb up, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.

Enter the person across from me during the players meeting. His name was Joseph Phipps, and he was an Army doctor. He recommended that I go purchase some drugs and do it ASAP. He gave me a list of the goods:

1.) Claritin
2.) Afrin
3.) Sudafed

It didn’t come cheap, and I knew full well the Claritin wouldn’t work, but I was desperate. I had three byes to get myself together, and I was willing to try anything. Now I just needed a bottle of water to take these pills and I’d be good to go!

Oh right. Something else you didn’t know about me is I can’t take pills. I have an illogical fear that I will choke on them when I try to swallow them. I haven’t been able to take them my whole life. When I absolutely must take one, I chew them up with yogurt or cottage cheese to counter-act how bad they taste. Pathetic, right?

Today, I was going to get these pills down with whatever I could see. If I had to chew them up and then down them with some water, that is what was going to occur. It was going to taste absolutely disgusting, but I didn’t have a choice. It had to be done!

The Claritin and Sudafed went down relatively easy, but I wasn’t mentally ready for the Afrin. So, before I had my nasal virginity taken from me, I went to Gabe Walls’ hotel room and sat in the shower for around 45 minutes hoping that steam would cure what ailed me.

It didn’t.

Round two was over, and I had a little over an hour to get in the best shape that I could. I went to the tournament site and asked some gamers how to use the Afrin. I got a lot of dumb looks, but Kibler said:

“It’s easy! Just shoot and sniff at the same time. Doesn’t take long at all.”

Sounded easy enough. I headed to the restroom, blocked out the handicapped stall, and hoped for the best. One shoot-and-sniff later and I was in a pain that I had never felt before.

Maybe I sniffed too hard?

I have no idea, but I could feel alcoholic vapors coming through my nose and mouth. But that wasn’t the worst part. The bottle said take two shots per nostril

So I did!

And each time, I was in worse pain than the last shoot-and-sniff.

The site of me hunched over in a handicapped stall, sniffing nasal spray, screaming like a little girl, while my eyes watered like Niagara Falls was the breaking point for me.

I was going to drop before round 4 even started.

How on Earth was I supposed to play like this? My nose was on fire, I couldn’t see a thing, and I was literally breathing alcohol. I want to be a level seven pro by the end of this season, but there is a time to be tough and there is a time to wave the white flag. This was it.

I walked up to the tournament station about to drop from the tournament until I thought to myself:

“Wait a minute. I played Allies for 22 hours straight on two accounts just to purchase a one-way ticket to this tournament. I had to play.”

The clock read 22:00 left in round three. That meant I had 22 minutes to find a room to fix myself up in. I got a room key from Steve Sadin, got back in the shower, said a prayer, and hoped for the best. Right before I left his room, I grabbed a towel and made a break for it.

Forgive me if I don’t cover my matches as in-depth as usual. I, uh, couldn’t see anything during them!

Round 4 versus Paulo Vitor Dama da Rosa (Scapeshift)

This was supposed to be a feature match, but I declined the feature match because I didn’t want to be seen in the condition I was in.

This match was extremely uneventful. I won game 1 with an Iona, Shield of Emeria set on Green. Game 2, PV killed me on turn 5 with Scapeshift while I plodded around. Game 3, I was able to respond to a turn 3 Sakura-Tribe Elder with some great Drowned Rusalka activations.


Round 5 versus Martin Juza (Thepths)

Game 1 was a very long drawn out game where my Dredge engine got shut off extremely early, and I was left hoping Juza would kill himself with Dark Confidant. He didn’t, and that was that.

Game 2, I kept an opening hand of two Drowned Rusalkas, Darkblast and four lands, expecting to be able to take care of a Dark Confidant or early Vedalken Hexmage.

Martin: “Last time we played, you had the Darkblast for my Dark ConfidantChrome Mox imprinting Dark Confidant, Smother your Drowned Rusalka.”

I guess that’s why he is a Level 8 and I am only a Level 5.

I did get to hardcast a Bridge from Below this game though! I blew up with Nature’s Claim, gained four life, got a 2/2 zombie out of the deal, and then died to a 20/20 token. The look on his face when I cast the Bridge from Below (from what I could see through the faucets) was pretty priceless.


Round 6 versus Corey Lege (Hive Mind)

Talking with Corey before the match, I found out that he was 4-1 with zero byes and he killed his first round opponent on turn 1 of the tournament

Who do you think won?


Round 7 versus Joseph Phipps (Living End)

This name is familiar, isn’t it? It was the Army Doctor I was talking about earlier!

I won game 1 after a very long and drawn out affair where he played two Living Ends, but they helped me ever so slightly more than they helped him.

Game 2 was where me being sick really took a toll on my gameplay. On turn 5, I could have went for Dread Return on Iona, Shield of Emeria, but Joseph tapped out on his turn, so I felt he had Ravenous Trap in his hand. My board of Drowned Rusalka, Bloodghast, and Narcomoeba was actually going to take Joseph down in two turns if he didn’t have a Living End. If I was right about Joseph having Ravenous Trap, I would sacrifice my whole board and lose everything. If I was wrong about Ravenous Trap, I was still in decent shape and could win over two turns, so I opted not to pull the trigger.

The next turn, Joseph cast Night of Souls’ Betrayal.

Things had just become much more difficult.

The game dragged on and I got an Iona, Shield of Emeria into play off of a Living End, and was going to kill Joseph with it if he didn’t draw a second Violent Outburst in turn 3 of extra turns.

He did.

This would lead us to a draw that would knock us both out of the tournament, so Joseph graciously conceded.

I thanked him as best a blind guy with a towel could, and prepared for my next round.

Thanks again, Joseph, for everything this weekend! Wouldn’t have made it without you!


Round 8 versus Philip Yam (Dark Zoo)

Game 1, all I saw from Phil was Goblin Guide and Path to Exile before I killed him.

Game 2, Phil played a turn 2 Dark Confidant that I never got around to killing. The game went a very long time and Phil actually ended up casting two Leylines of the Void that he did not hit with Dark Confidant. I was able to power through those because they came so late and deal just enough damage that Dark Confidant killed him.


Round 9 versus Craig Edwards (Hypergenesis)

My opponent could have been God reincarnated. I did not go through all the work of getting to this tournament and playing with a towel over my head to lose playing for Day 2.

This match was literally the only match of the tournament where I dredged even reasonably well.

Game 1 saw me reanimate Iona, Shield of Emeria on turn 3.

Game 2 saw Craig cast Hypergenesis for Progenitus, Angel of Despair and Bogardan Hellkite and me killing him anyway with Dread Return on Sphinx of Lost Truths followed by Dread Return on Flame-Kin Zealot.


Day 2 was spent doing a lot of losing and drawing in the final round to lock up 50th place and a pro point. The best part about Day 2 was that once I drew into top 64, my vision cleared up almost immediately.

Very. Funny.

My drive home with the gang was uneventful. We had some good times, but I was asleep most of the way since I was unable to sleep well the entire weekend. I got dropped off at O’Hare airport in downtown Chicago, ran into Dolph Ziggler in the airport, and got a ride home with my friend Mehran back to my apartment in beautiful West Lafayette, Indiana early Tuesday morning.

But for those of you who think I run good (and I do), let me prove otherwise:

Monday, April 5

Mehran: “Did you ever pay the $25 for your NCAA bracket?”
Me: “Not yet. I’ll take care of it when I get back to my apartment.”
Mehran: “Do you know what place you’re in?”
Me: “No. I’m in seven different brackets. What website are we even on?”
Mehran: “CBS”
Me: “Yea, not a chance I have ever checked.”
Mehran: “Well you are in first place.”
Me: “Miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiise!”
Me:”What do I need to have happen for me to win it all?”
Mehran: “Butler needs to win.”
Mehran: “Or the total score needs to be over 120.5 points.”
Me: “Well that’s pretty easy. Both team should score 65-70 points.”

Duke – 61
Butler – 59


Cedric Phillips

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