Killing the Dream – A Limited Champs Report *T8*

After hitting the big time with a Top 8 appearence at Grand Prix Toronto, Kyle had one goal: to make the Champs Triple Crown. Already a winner in the Two-Headed Giant Champs, with Billy Moreno, he travelled 300 miles in order to keep his dream alive. This is his story…

Today is my day. Not tomorrow. Not yesterday. Today. I will play to my best ability. I will play to win, and nothing else. I will play because playing is when I feel most alive. Finally, I will play better than anyone has ever played the game before me, and better than anyone ever will in the future… besides me, of course.

That is my tournament confidence chant. I say it before every tournament, to get my blood pumping and testosterone up. It may seem silly to the un-trained eye, but it actually works… sometimes.

I made vow to my second head Billy Moreno, as he did to me: that we would become the first Triple Crowns in the history of magic. Quite the historical event. I intended to keep this vow the weekend of Champs, as I drove 300 miles to a tournament that means nothing other than pride. I later found out that first place gets a CD case with “State Champion 2006” on it; this fueled me like a can of spinach to Popeye. Not really, I just couldn’t think of a better simile to use, and Popeye has been on a downward spiral ever since the awful Robin Williams movie in the mid 80’s. If you haven’t seen Hell, I encourage you to visit by watching it. If you have, I’m sorry to bring up the bad memories.

This was more than just a States Tournament, you must understand. My composite ranking was at a murky 1932 on the day of States. The Nationals cutoff was on the following Wednesday, and I needed a 1959 to play in my first Nationals ever. A dream that has slipped through my hands at Regionals, where I started 5-1 and needed one win in the final two rounds to make Top 8. Naturally, I lost both and finished with a 5-3 record. But a win here at States would all but lock me for a long dream of mine. My side option, if I don’t do well, is to move to Canada. Their Nationals cut-off rating is in the mid 1850s.

The Day of the Tournament

When I walk in every one bows as if I am a Tsar walking into my palace. This is true; however, it is unexpected that the word of my Tsar-status has reached the outskirts of the Dallas Convention Center. Everyone barned up to me, and I received a plethora of free stuff throughout the day. Free stuff includes hot dogs, pretzels, Guildpact booster packs, foot massages, mouse pads with women in bikinis on them, and a softly padded chair (in which I was carried to each match in by my servant crew).

I woke up to the tune of “Jubilation,” a custom ring tone that I use in the early hours of the morning to wake myself. It’s annoying, and it grabs your attention, much like when a stranger splashes coffee in your face and runs away…

I woke up in a strange environment, a different house, a different city. Oh snaps, that’s right… I drove 300 miles to play in a States tournament, and I’m now at my good buddy Arthur Morris’s house. I stretched to relieve the pain in my back from spending the night on a lumpy sofa. The pain stayed, and I knew I was in for a bad day. I gave myself the aforementioned chant, and showered quickly. It was around 9am already, and I had to get to the Convention Center before 10. I woke Arthur and we were off.

Before arriving, a bad omen crossed our path in the form of a black cat. I thought nothing of this at the time; however, looking back, it was my cue to get out of this cursed city as soon as possible. This is foreshadowing to a bad moment that is about to take place.

The Convention Center was packed full of cars. Images of a 200-person State tournament flashed through my head, me placing ninth on .01 tiebreakers, spilling coffee on my fresh white shirt. None of this happened; however, I felt I was worrying too much. I needed to relax; maybe I could visit a spa when I got back into town? Then I thought that if I relaxed too much, I would make a mistake somewhere. I gave myself the chant again before entering the building. A pregnant woman asked us if we would like to buy tickets at discount price of $25. I said, “no thanks.” And we kept walking.

It was then when I started to think we were in the wrong place. I hadn’t seen any Magic players; instead, they were replaced by dressed-up businessmen and women of all sorts packing into the small four-door entrance. Visions of us being to the wrong place, being on the other side of town, begin to cross my mind. I start to worry again. This is bad, very bad. What would Billy do if he were here? Ugh, there I go with Billy again. I start thinking about why I worry so much and why I think about Billy so much. Then I worry about why I’m thinking about Billy, and what Billy thinks about my worries?! I’m going insane, so I start worrying about my insanity. Ah look, a Magic player! We are in the right spot; my anxiety vanishes.

It turns out they were having a huge Motivational Speaker Conference that day. I’ve attended a few of those before, as I am an aspiring salesperson; they are more enjoyable than you might think, though usually packed with good information about the growing economy and other boring things. But I was comforted that if I lost first round I could salvage the day by getting my knowledge on.

Where can you see Lions? Only in Kenya...

After a few minutes of searching for the correct room, we finally arrived. We sat down at a table with a few other Magic players and watched a boring game of Constructed. It was Simic Tron battling against a UGW control deck with twenty-plus counters. I got bored, so I looked around the room for familiar faces. That’s when I saw him. He stood out like a Golgari Rotwurm in a field of Savannah Lions (better than the Popeye simile? [Definitely! — Craig, still laughing.]) It was none other than Neil Reeves. The best player in Texas, the best player in North America, and quite possibly the best player in the World. My dreams of having two crowns was smashed. I felt like un-registering, grabbing a hotdog from the concession stand, and going to the conference across the hall.

Why was he there? What did he have to gain from coming to States?

I decided to sweat it out. My Sealed deck looked something like this:

It was a very challenging build because I had Faiths Fetters, Lightning Helix, Firemane Angel, and five or six other White playables laughing at me from the sideboard. The build came down to whether I wanted the Black and Green spells, or the White spells. The Black and Green spells provided a much more consistent manabase; however, the deck overall might be more powerful if I had gone with White. I’m a bigger fan of consistency, and I always have the option to sideboard in the White spells against the powerful decks.

Glass Golem and Rakdos Pit Dragon are awesome. If not for those cards, and their supporters, I wouldn’t have done well at all. Nothing gives you a better feeling than playing turn 4 Glass Golem, turn 5 Galvanic Arc on your Golem, and Infiltrator’s Magemark on another creature, putting your opponent on a one- turn clock. This was my first time playing with the Pit Dragon. I was a bit skeptical at first – I mean, he just seems like a clunky, mana intensive Hill Giant. I was wrong. He is very good.

Round 1
Rakdos Pit Dragon went the distance, and was crazy Hellbent.

After round 1, ended a seven-year old friend of mine, Lawson, walked up to me upset and teary eyed. I asked him what happened, and he told me a horrible story. He was playing against a guy, and Lawson had lethal damage on the board with Skarrgan Pit-Skulk, Dimir House Guard, and Rabble Rouser. He attacked for eight unblockable, and his opponent blocked the Pit-Skulk with his Skyknight Legionnaire.

I was shocked by this. How baggy do you have to be to cheat against a kid?

I’d also like to comment about how good Lawson will be when he grows up. He plays with the best players in Texas, via his dad Jeff Zandi. Among that list includes the All-Star Neil Reeves. Lookout for Lawson Zandi, he’s coming to a Pro Tour near you… in about five or six years. Maybe seven. Max eight.

Round 2
Glass Golem + Infiltrator’s Magemark = success.

Round 3
This round was a little complicated. I played against a local shop owner who I’ve talked to before. We play loosely, but he is manascrewed for Black. I finally get a creature to stick, and he accidentally drops a Last Gasp on the table. Oops. This tipped me off that he must have a hand packed full of goodies.

He’s at sixteen, and I have Helium Squirter with a Pit Dragon in play and Wildsize in hand. He has six power on the board, and I’m at eleven. What’s the play? This took some thought… here are the scenarios.

1- I swing with both for seven (pumping dragon once) and pass the turn. If he tries to Last Gasp the dragon in his turn, I can Wildsize to save it and swing back for the win on the next turn. If he waits to Last Gasp during my turn, I will surely lose. He has five cards in hand. This plan also doesn’t work if he has a card like Disembowel.

2- I swing in with the team, and flash Wildsize in the hope that he concedes.

Scenario 2 worked out, and I won game 1.

Game 2 I get an insane draw and he can’t keep up. After the match, he told me he had Disembowel in his hand along with a Faiths Fetters. I patted myself on the back for Scenario 2.

I started out 3-0 playing against some of the better players in the State, not getting any of those, “Yes! I don’t know this person, I win!” matches. So I was a little disappointed about that, but you can’t argue with results.

Round 4
I had the fortunate pleasure to play against the same person who cheated against little Lawson. I’m a big fan of karma. Because of this I always treat all my opponents nicely and am friendly etc. etc. But this guy was already on my bad list before I met him. Nevertheless, I was still respectful to him, despite his evident lack in judgment. Not only to cheat, but to cheat a seven-year old…? I didn’t want to start anything so I kept my mouth shut, for now…

Game 1 he gets the nut draw against me with Wrecking Ball, Putrefy, Rotwurm, Shambling Shell, and Hit / Run. The game ended quickly. For game 2 I decided to board in my White package, with Helix and Fetters in place of my Fencer’s Magemark and Scab-Clan Mauler. I draw Compulsive Research and I win easily with Ribbons, Fetters, Helix, Arc, and finished him off with a 6/2 first striking Glass Golem. Game 3 he got the nut draw again, and messed up a few times with Golgari Guildmage and Shambling Shell, which bought me a couple of turns, but I still ended up losing to a Bathe in Light on his Golgari Rotwurm.

Thank you Mr. Karma.

After this round, I took my traditional bathroom break and filled up my water bottle. However, this break was much different. When I was walking down the hall, I passed a little cutie attending the convention across the hall. I smiled, she smiled, and there was an instant attraction. I was dressed in my Saturday’s finest – a pair of torn, faded Hollister jeans, along with a very nice white button-up shirt, with my newly bought trinket necklace. I was looking good, believe me. Long story short: our brief love affair ended when I saw her boyfriend come and slap her on her bottom as they had a make-out session in the middle of the hall. Can’t get’ em all, tiger. This is a good life lesson, which is why I decided to include it in the report. You really can’t get them all. Much like in Magic, you can’t win every match. I raised my head and picked up the pieces from last round’s loss, and headed into round 5 with complete confidence.

Round 5
Primordial Sage makes his first All-Star appearance, and nets me insane card advantage. He was killed soon after, but the cards drawn from him were too much to keep up with. Next game I have Glass Golem in my opening hand, so I couldn’t lose.

I win round 6 via the “Yes! I don’t know this person, I win!” It also helped to have back-to-back Scab-Clan Mauler with Infiltrator’s Magemark.

I think about playing round 7 for rating points. I end up drawing with a friend from Houston, despite my better judgment. Like I said earlier, I’m a big supporter of karma, so I didn’t want to lose the tournament because I screwed someone out of Top 8.

Top 8 featured Neil and I in opposite brackets. Yes! This means I have a chance to be a back-to-back finalist. I’ve already thrown away all hopes of winning, but the real disappointment is that I won’t have a new CD case. *Frowny Face*

My opening pack was quite busty, including Fiery Conclusion, Moroii, Last Gasp, Drooling Groodion, Vulturous Zombie, and Compulsive Research.

He loves pumping his guy

I took the Zombie because there’s a good chance that I would get the Drooling Groodion back. And Zombie is the most powerful card in the pack. But I still hate passing a Compulsive Research. Next pick gave me a Dowsing Shaman in a weak pack. Then comes a 3rd pick Shambling Shell and 4th and 5th pick Golgari Rot Farms. I got a Fiery Conclusion and Elves of Deep Shadow before the Big Drools lapped back to me. For those of you who haven’t paid attention to the Drooling Groodion’s picture, he is drooling from more than just his mouth.

Second pack, and I had a few options. I was being shipped a lot of Blue and Green pack 1, so I decided I wanted to link to UG somehow in the last pack. I decided to go GBUr, trying to pick up all my mana fixing this pack with a few good Izzet and Gruul spells. These packs were very shallow, and I ended up getting an Izzet Signet, two Torch Drakes, and a Wildsize as the “good” cards. I got a saucy Exhumer Thrull fourth, and then I received two Skarrgan Pit-Skulks and a Rabble Rouser, which work quite well together. My deck was all over the place at this point, which I regret, but I would have a lot of options in the last pack regarding the direction I wanted to go. I could either pick up aggressive aggro cards and the mono-Green grafters to make my late Guildpact picks insane, or I could go the more traditional route and pick up all the good Simic cards and splash Red for some removal. Either way I was excited to get two Pit-Skulks, as they are a pet card of mine. After a weak Guildpact booster, I was hoping my luck would change and get hooked up fat in Dissension.

I opened a Twinstrike along with a Seal of Doom. I took Twinstrike despite my high hopes for Seals this pack with my Dowsing Shaman. Next pick gave me a Seal of Doom followed up by a Seal of Fire. Then I received a insane 4th pick Cytoplast Manipulator. Naturally, this would seem like a very clear signal to go into Simic. I took it as such, and because of this my draft turned bad. Turns out he took an Assault Zeppelid over it. Perhaps he never got the memo that Manipulator is insane. Then I took some graft guys, in the form of Aquastrand Spider and Cytospawn Shambler, and got a very late Momir Vig. I do regret the Cytospawn Shambler pick – I should have taken another Aquastrand Spider over it, as my two-drops were lacking. Then, to keep my options open for the aggro deck, I got a Thrive, Utvara Scalper, and Taste for Mayhem. Again, these cards may all seem janky, but they have a lot of synergy together. All of them have the bonus of being very late picks, which makes the archetype valid in this format. However, I didn’t draft it properly pack 2, which I regret. If I would have taken some of the mediocre Gruul cards over the Blue cards, I could definitely have one of those janky good decks.

I ended up with this deck:

I had a very hard time building this deck. I had 2 Pit-Skulks, Utvara Scalper, Sandstorm Eidolon, Feral Animist, Taste for Mayhem, Mortipede, and Rabble Rouser in my sideboard. That may not sound like much, but all those cards have insane synergy with each other. I don’t believe the middle-ground was an option in this deck; I either played the busty Blue cards or the aggro R/G cards. Opinions?

It was rematch time from round 5. I get the honor of playing against Big Cheats again. This time, however it was for all the marbles… well, not all the marbles, but a good portion of them. And this time, I didn’t keep my mouth shut.

I asked him what happened in round 1. He responded with:

“I was lenient with him and everything, but I wasn’t about to lose round 1 to a little kid.”

I guess that’s the kind of attitude you need to win at this game… man, I was speechless when he said that. He basically admitted to cheating a seven-year old kid, just so he wouldn’t lose round 1 of States! Speechless.

Come on, Mr. Karma! Sanchez needs another State Title!

Game 1 I had a nice grip with Seal of Doom and Dowsing Shaman. He was playing GBR, so I anticipated removal on his side. I would have to be careful about when I played my game-winning combo. I played a turn 2 Shambling Shell, which quickly traded with his Centaur Safeguard and pumped up my Elves of Deep Shadow. Then I began abusing the Verdant Eidolon engine with Shambling Shell, and baited out a Putrefy with my fresh Cytospawn Shambler. I played out my Dowsing Shaman, which met a Seal of Doom on the next turn. I then Seal of Doomed his Streetbreaker Wurm, and we were at a stalemate.

He summoned a Golgari Rotwurm. I drew into my Cytoplast Manipulator and played it via Verdant Eidolon. Next turn I dredged Shambling Shell and got back my Eidolon when I played it, and I was suddenly very far ahead. On his turn he top decked another Seal of Doom and targeted my Manipulator. I sacrificed Shell to give his Rotwurm a +1/+1 counter. He read Manipulator, and said “uh… sure. When this dies I get my guy back.” I responded with an “oh, shoot! My bad.” He let the gain control ability resolve, and I threw his Rotwurm at him with my untapped swamp.

He looked down at his untapped swamp, and had the “Man, I suck” face on. I was still in a decent position: him with two cards in hand, me with Eidolon and Shambling Shell combo with a 2/2 Vesper Ghoul and 2/2 Elves of Deep Shadow out. I attack him with some guys, and he draws and plays his tenth land. He counts them one by one, and plays Dread Slag and Streetbreaker Wurm.


Game 2 I mulligan on the play, and keep a suspect hand of Forest, Forest, Island, Izzet Signet, Shambling Shell, Vulturous Zombie. I drew 2 more Forests and 3 more Black spells, and that was it. My dreams for Nationals and Triple Crown were dead and buried.

Neil ended up winning the tournament, as expected. He claimed his CD case with pride and poise. Or so I hear; I left as soon as I lost, to jump off the nearest bridge. Luckily I couldn’t find a bridge, so I just jumped off of my car and twisted my ankle.

As I left the city of Dallas-Fort Worth and the lights faded in the background, a tear ran gently down my freckled cheek. Another miss, another wasted trip, another time my heart was left broken. Still, I must look on to bigger and better things. Grand Prix St. Louis is looming in the near future. I had a lot of work to do if I was going to master the Coldsnap draft format before that time. I glanced down at my fuel gauge. The thin orange line was hanging over the bold E. I was in trouble. In my frustration, I had ignored the essential element in long distance travel: fuel. After fifteen miles, I took the first exit to a Shell station. I was lucky, not only to find a gas station, but now I could use my parents’ Shell card to pay for the much needed gasoline.

As I was pulling into the brightly-lit station, the tune of Jubilation started buzzing. I looked at the phone, and it was none other than Billy. I reached for the phone, flipped it open, and said into the dull silence “I’m sorry Billy” I heard weeping on the other side. He replied “I’m sorry too Kyle, I made the semifinals but lost to bad luck.” I told him my depressing story about long drives, cheaters, and Neil Reeves. We wept together, like babies craving a pacifier. He told me that this call wouldn’t last much longer, he was going underground in the subway. I told him “Billy, if there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks, I will follow you into… click”

I filled up my 2000 Cavalier and drove off into the darkness, listening to the best iPod songs in the history of man…

Thanks for reading,


Top 5 Picks

1) “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” by Death Cab For Cutie
2) “Two Step” by Dave Matthews Band
3) “Bridge” by Amon Tobin
4) “St. James Infirmary” by Louis Armstrong
5) “Addiction” by Kanye West