After my second-place finish in the only Pro Tour Qualifier I played in for New Orleans passed, I went about my regular life again – playtested IBC for a few hours, shot the sh*t with my friends, and worked at a nice little convenience store right here in Vine Grove, Kentucky. I was looking forward to going to Grand Prix: Minneapolis. I had lived in the city over the summer of 2000, and I had some friends and family that I left when I returned to my home state. When I left, most of the guys I played with certainly thought another scrub had just left the game without ever improving. I wanted to come back up, and show them how much better I had gotten. I hoped that with my performance at the Grand Prix, I was able to show them.
Something to Prove
I left Thursday night, from Books and Music Exchange in Louisville, Kentucky with my fiancee Laura coming along with me. We were set to leave the Greyhound bus station at 3:30 a.m. Friday morning, and we were scheduled to arrive in Minnesota late Friday evening. Well, after some late-night playtesting at the Louisville station, and some more, even later-night playtesting at the Chicago bus station, we finally make it to our final destination. We walk a very far distance to our hotel, and after showering, we proceeded to walk another far distance to the tournament site.
When we finally get out of the windy street, I immediately notice the Fat Man, and creator of 5 Color Magic Kurt Hahn, I challenge him to a game of five, and he beats my newbie face in. He takes my anted up Tundra, and scribbles,
Joshua X can not beat Hahn or Rizzo, how feeble!
I leave soon after they do, go back and fall into a comatose state on the hotel bed. I am awakened by the hotel phone, get dressed, and begin the journey that is my second Grand Prix.
Bye Bye Bye
Seeing that this was my first Constructed Grand Prix, and being somewhat of a Constructed only player, I worked hard to receive my byes. (Read about the Grand Prix Trial featured in the archives of Starcitygames.com) Thankfully, I met up with a friend in the finals, and he conceded the byes to me.
I started off my day just sitting around, trading for a few cards, and playtesting with Chris Rocco. Rocco was playing a really cool Black/White Arena deck, and it was turning out to be a tough matchup for me. Thankfully, the event was passing quickly, and my three byes were over quickly.
Now for all the fans of the departed Master T, here is all the stuff he would have dug reading.
When: September 29-30, 2001
Where: Hyatt Regency, Nicolett Mall, Minneapolis MN
Who: Steve Port, and the rest of the Legion.
Head Judge: Sheldon Menery
Format: Invasion Block Constructed
Number of players: 410
Rounds: 13 (Seven day one, six on the next)
Number of Byes for X: 3
Number of Feature Matches for X: 0
Number of rounds I played that should have been Feature Matches: 4
Finally, my decklist:
There were a couple of dead cards in my sideboard, I thought I would play against at least one Domain deck, which is the reasoning behind the Planar Overlay… But I never played against that match up. The Orim’s Thunder should have been one (and two) Aura Blasts. Hindsight, however, is always 20/20. By the way, I am able to get online and check the decklists after day one – and to my surprise, there is a link to the decks of name players. I search the list, and I find out that I have been excluded from that list. Jesus, I only write for three websites and one magazine. What am I going to have to do to get any respect from the people who run these things? What can I do to get noticed?
Proving myself, not only to everyone there, but also to myself.
Round four came lightning fast and I was paired against some one I had heard of before, Dustin Stern. Getting paired against a pro first round is a great test, right?
Round Four: Dustin Stern, Red/Green Beats. Rating: 1855
I stumble out of the gates in game one, and am unable to find any answers against the aggressiveness that is Red/Green beats. I fail to draw any counters, and kicked Skizziks end my first game of the day.
Game two, however, was a much different story. Dustin is unable to find red mana for most of the game, and whenever he finally lays some, a double-kicked Rakavolver has added much more to my life total than he could take away.
Game three is pretty much a replay of game two. Stern, although he started off strong, was unable to fight past a key play in the game: A kicked Jilt targeting his two Familiars. I burst out a Lightning Angel, and he scoops, just before he can draw a source to potentially swing the game back in his favor.
Pretty hyped up, I get Kurt Hahn to sign the match result slip, and I run outside to smoke a cigarette. My next round opponent would see me continue the Parade of Pros, and I am matched against 2001 Team Champion Member Brian Hegstad.
Round Five: Brian Hegstad, Blue/Green splash Red. Rating: 1911
I had always figured this matchup to be a good one for me. I had playtested it often, and after the addition of the Sunscape Familiars, it was heavily in my favor.
Game one was most likely the strongest game of IBC I had played during this season. I had an answer for all his threats, whether it be a Fire targeting a Familiar, or a lone trench token marching its way across the battlefield. I started off aggressively with the Goblin Machine, but when I pulled a Prophetic Bolt off the top, I decided to let my cheese win me the game. The Bolt knocked him down to four and revealed a Rage, along with three other cards that I did not care about. I enter my draw step, looked at my last Fire/Ice in my hand, and burned him out.
Game two, Hegsted continued to play Question.Dec, while I was playing Answers.Dec. A second-turn Familiar, followed by a third-turn Lightning Angel spelled doom for my opponent, and the duo of Rage and Fire/Ice sealed the match for me.
Not bad, right? With the two wins, I figured I needed at least one draw to be guaranteed a spot on day two. I wanted to get my draw in round seven, but I got it during round six against Taerthrum Bluett.
Round Six: Taerthrum Bluett. Red/White/Blue Aggro. Rating: 1805
Okay, this is pretty much the same match up for me as the Red/Green, splash blue. Get some Familiars to stop the bleeding, Rout when it looks like I can get control, and use the Angel to zap my opponent into the sideboarding phase of their games.
It did not work for me like that in the first game.
I get beat up pretty quickly the first, but am able to stabilize with one wall, and an Angel. He is sitting at five life and I am at three – here is the board position.
Turn: My upkeep.
His Cards: 2x Meddling Mage, 2x Galina’s Knight, 1x Goblin Legionnaire, one untapped Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author].
During my upkeep, he decides to cast a Rage at my dome. I respond with the Prophetic Bolt, which knocked him down to one life. In my Impulse, I look at the top card, and slam it into to my hand; the other three cards were of no importance. I take the two lands and the Rage and place them on the bottom, and still responding to his Rage, I tap three lands, and rage him back. If he takes damage from the Forge, I win; if not, the Rage kills him. We shuffle up for game two.
Game two is pretty much a reply of the first game, but I am able to cast multiple Routs. He is at seven life, and I am at a healthy fourteen. All I need to do is topdeck a Prophetic Bolt or a land within the next five turns to start off my next game 7-0… But it was not to be, thanks in part to a play mistake on my own part. He knocks me to two life with the Angel, and during his end step I take my Rage and put him at four, which makes me have to draw the Bolt off the top for the win. I breathe, look at my card, and flip it into play. It was the twelfth land I needed in order to Rage with Kicker him out of the game.
With five minutes left in the game, we both try for the aggro starts, but both fizzle, and we end in the draw.
Round Seven: Steven Shears: Red/White/Black. Rating: 1992
Steve was playing a deck type that I first saw in the first Origins PTQ: Red/Black/White aggro. Michael T. Stewart played it to a win against my Domain deck, and then went on to beat the Sexiest of Sexy Vanilla players ever, John Rizzo, in the next round. Steve was a really good player, and was quite enjoyable to be paired against. A win puts us both in great position for the top eight, having only a need for four wins on the next day to reach the expected threshold of thirty points.
I started off the matchup preparing to play it the same way I do against all aggro-based decks. I was relieved to be playing against aggro decks for the first four rounds, as I know that I generally hold the upper hand in the match up.
Game one is not in his favor. I Fire a turn two Lynx during his end step and his threats pretty much stopped there. I get out a fourth-turn Angel, and it lives to see my next untap step; after that it’s academic. Protect the Angel, stop the threats that are gonna kill me. It ends with a Bolt to his head, during the turn he Flametongued the Angel away. The Bolt revealed the Fire that was needed to end it.
Game two, I am forced to mulligan a subpar hand, and probably should have done the same with my hand of six. I get beat down the second game with a lack of blue mana. The third can be considered the same as the second; just replace the word”blue” with”red.”
Sigh – I was promised you would never play the same game twice when I first started off in Magic.
Okay, so that ends day one. I finish up at a strong 5-1-1. Good enough for twenty-ninth place overall, and eleventh in the amateur standings. Things are looking good for Joshua X, no?
I head out of the event area in high spirits. I am about to visit my family, who I have not seen since I left Minnesota, and I was about to qualify for my first Pro Tour ever! Damn, those sugarplums keep getting a brotha’s hopes up.
At least Hannibal was a stomachable movie.
I wake up Sunday morning after being forced to watch Hannibal. I really hate gory horror flicks – I have a super weak stomach, and still have a swallowing disorder. I was close to upchucking the little foods and slim fast that I had eaten that day. Mmm, that sure smells good!
Was any one else a bit worried when the guy fed the little boy on the plane the brains as well?
My Grand Prix experience came to an exciting beginning that morning – I go to the site, and get paired up against one Paul Thiessen. I think he was running a Wild Research deck, but I actually have no idea, because my game was on autopilot. I counter his threats, Aura Blast the Research, and then just romp his face all over the place.
In all honesty, though, Paul never really showed up to receive his vicious beatings. I guess sleep was a bit more important, and he was awarded a match loss for not showing up. Well, it is a win, and I will take that win any way I can.
After getting my fourth bye of three, I decided that I could trade for some Extended cards that I was sure to use while I was in New Orleans. I mean, all I had to do was win four more games, and I was sure to be qualified. How hard could that be? I had decided to start work on three decks: Illusions/Donate, Blue White Weenie, and Secret Force. I acquired the bulk of what I needed, and looked at the newest issue of Sideboard to get decklists.
*Aside* Speaking of the Sideboard, I must say that I was quite disappointed in the coverage of the last major IBC event ever. Monty Ashley, assigned to do the coverage and take pictures and the like did a decent job with the tools that he had. David Jafari, while a great player, however, showed some of the inexperience of match reporting, I hope Alex was able to give him some pointers, as I feel he has limitless potential in the world of Magic writing. Sheldon and his staff did a great job, The Legion did a great job… But the Sideboard was lacking the personality that I have seen at the events I have been at. No OMC or Reverend or Buehler makes for a boring sideboard. Besides, I was paired against four name players, and never once got a feature match, nor was my deck on the name players listing. Remember, I am still a pretty regular writer on Magic.
Round Nine: Joel Priest: Nomar, or something like that.
Great, I was paired against a match that:
1. I had not playtested often enough to actually get the feel for it.
2. Did not playtest enough for it, because I considered it an auto loss for me.
3. It was boring to playtest, so I stayed away from testing against it.
Boy, did that ever come back to bite me on the ass.
And it did, as my lack of testing showed up… And it continued to plague me for four of the next five matches. It was no one’s fault but my own – I mean, come on, who really ignores one of the most popular deck types for all of the season?
Besides me? Any hands? I did not think so.
Anyways, we play two very boring games to a draw. Game one, I can not find a Repulse for his kicked Desolation Angel. Game Two, he can not find the answer to my Lightning Angel, and game three, I make a horrid, horrid mistake.
He casts Fact or Fiction. Revealing his cards, I look at his life, and see him at twelve. I spot the Charm he revealed, and the Verdict. Fearing the Charm, I have a momentary lapse in judgment, and give him this split:
Land, Land, Land, Gerrard’s Verdict.
Okay, he is at twelve life, which no answer to my Angel… But until this point, I forgot that Verdict targeted both players, and the six-point life swing was enough for him to stay away from the death angel. He ends that game at ten life, which would have been lower if he chosen the charm, and I would have been able to pitch all three Rages I had in hand to kill him.
There are reasons I am not on the Tour yet, and that FoF has to be one of them.
Round Ten: John Legges: Nomar.
Well, we shuffle up, present our decks – and as soon as that happens, the DCI swoops down like the hawks they are and proceed to deck check our happy little piles. I was not nervous, as I had never failed a deck check before. Well, all good things must come to a crashing halt, right? They did. The night before, I had decided to switch from Orange see-through sleeves to brand new green see-throughs. In my haste to finish it up before my uncle came to get me and Laura, I had placed a fourth foil Exclude in my deck. Well, the Exclude turned out to be a Repulse. I was given a break, with a single game loss and was instructed to find a copy of Repulse to correct my decklist. I run straight to the Crystal Lotus and their stand. Well, they are from Indy, and I am close to Indy, and I had been patronizing them all day, and they were nice to me, and kept up on my status in the main event. When I came over, Mike found a copy of Repulse for me, and I handed him the two dollars for it. Elated that I was able to get my fifth foil Repulse, I went back to the table, and began to shuffle it up again.
I did not shuffle enough. I get a horrible start, and that is paired off stalling at three lands for several consecutive turns. I Fire him to deal a bit of damage… But when I start to roll, it was too little too late. I succumb to the near-mint beatings of a Spectral Lynx.
Nice little British-themed pub, very good pasta salad, and an hour spent with Laura trying to regain some form of confidence to get me started off again when I played my next round.
What a great lunch break. I came back in proclaiming to the room that I am a wrecking ball. My confidence was back to a good position, and along comes Michael Bernat.
Round Eleven: Michael Bernat: A Red/Black/Blue deck that pretended to be a control match in the second game. Rating: 1887.
Let me start off by saying that playing Michael was like trying to get teeth pulled with no painkillers, and the dentist singing along to Master P albums. It was not an enjoyable game at all. I do not want to comment on it much further, as I feel that any attention that is given to him further warrants his inexcusable behavior. Mana screw happens, buddy – learn to accept that. I win due to mana screw both games, but he is most likely thinking that he got beat by a lucky scrub. Whatever!
Lord Of Atlantis Takes On An Avalanche Rider And Lives To Tell About It.
By Sideboard Staff.
Popular Internet writer Joshua X Claytor was paired against Former Pro Tour and Grand Prix Champion Darwin Kastle in this round twelve feature match. Joshua, hailing from Vine Grove Kentucky, is trying to qualify for his first Pro Tour in what many magic players consider a substandard environment. Magic in Kentucky, while it has its good players, is a virtual wasteland, with no real premiere events with the exception of Grand Prix Trials. Hell, the people who organize have been asked time and time again to get a qualifier in that area… But it never happens, in what can only be called favoritism to the bigger, better Magic cities of Indianapolis and Nashville. One can only wonder why the DCI has not looked into to scheduling events for the town of Louisville on the weekends when Indy and Nashville do not have events. What a beating! The town could potentially draw in players from Ohio, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, and other parts. Lord knows that the players of Kentucky have had to travel enough.
Darwin, on the other hand, is not in the evil bad place that Joshua is in. Part of Team Your Move Games, Massachusetts could be considered the Mecca of Magic. Abundant playtesting, deck tuning, and superior play skills are reasons that Darwin should just beat the face off of his younger inexperienced nervous opponent.
Will Joshua X be able to pull of the biggest upset of his career, and maybe earn a little bit of respect along the way… Or will Darwin crush the dreams of the young upstart? More to come from a site that is not www.sideboard.com.
Well, yet another match that I should have been able to say:
So and so did a good job of covering my match on the Sideboard – check out the link, and I will just post a bit of my own words for it.
Well, there is no link for this match. No one really pays attention to it, with the lone exception of Laura and Kurt Hahn showing up every now and then.
Game one sees Darwin get out an Agenda with a lot of Charms in the boneyard. While the Agenda was on the stack, I had to frantically search for a counterspell with Ice – and when it too got Charmed, the Agenda resolved, and he ended the game at thirty-one life.
Darwin’s favorite color, for all of those wondering, is reported to be purple… Or at least that’s what he told Laura.
Game two, the theme for IBC shows it’ ugly head, and at least for one game in a match, some one will get mana screwed. That someone happened to be Darwin this time. He scoops early to save what little time we have for the third game.
Again, Darwin seems to be land hosed, while hand is nothing but high-octane gas. The only thing I am lacking is the sparkplug that I needed to get it going… A red source of mana. By turn five I am at five lands, which is largely overshadowing Darwin’s three. After he took some pain from a Caves, he was at sixteen life. There are five minutes left in the round. I Repulse or Exclude his every creature, I Ice his lands, I Fact or Fiction… All in desperate need of a red source, be it a painland or mountain. My hand was three Prophetic Bolts, 2 Urza’s Rages, and 2 Lightning Angels – enough to do sixteen damage and then some to my opponent. It was not to be, though; after time is called, we play our five turns, and the turn after we draw, I topdeck my first Shivan Reef of the game. Some good for a deck with twelve red sources, right?
7-2-3. In the final round, I am really in need of a win. Not only would I like to guarantee my spot at Amateur Money, but I would like to get a slot that was sure to pass down. Still, knowing my luck, the weekend was sure to take a sour note for me.
Round thirteen, Philip Freneau: No-Mar, Rating 1982
I won the roll and proceeded to keep a very good hand against what I thought he was playing… Blue/Green/Red. However, his turn one play of Coastal Tower almost made me scoop and concede the match right on the spot. However, it was not until he actually killed me that we moved onto the second game.
The second game was nerve-wracking as hell. I was paired against one of my worse matchups, Peter Szigeti would not shut up, and the amount of people watching us made me less of a challenge than I was normally. I gave it a valiant effort, but it was not to be. Philip was able to sweep me in two easy games.
So this ended my Grand Prix experience. I stuck around for the awards ceremony and such, filled out paperwork to ensure that my prize money would show up on my doorstep, and said my goodbyes out the door. Goodbye Minnesota, goodbye Pro Tour, goodbye Invasion Block. I really liked this block, and it showed in my preparations for it. I spent ten months, from the Invasion only, to the Invasion/Planeshift only, all the way up to the Grand Prix, working my ass off for this season.
Am I disappointed that I did not qualify for the Pro Tour? Of course I am. Do I think I was able to prove myself to many players, namely my peers in Kentucky and myself? Yes, I think I did. Am I going to be the next big thing on the tour?
Maybe, but only time will tell.
Here are my stats for the season:
Pro Tour Qualifiers: Two played, one in which I made top eight.
Grand Prix Trials: One Played, one won.
Grand Prix: One played, one top 64 finish.
Not bad for ten months work, right?
Name players that I finished above:
What does that list prove? Am I almost worthy of respect now? Can I really hang out with the big boys? All of those questions will be answered in some time, as I tackle November Type Two and November Extended in preparations for States and Grand Prix Las Vegas.
Wish me luck!
Joshua X Claytor