Mixed Knuts: The Skinny From The Steel City

Tournament Operator Mike Guptil found another (slightly less well-known) player passed out in the elevators. Upon being awoken, that player was very drunk and very disoriented, and was asked to leave the premises (though I doubt he could find the exit without some help). In case you’re missing the point, Grand Prixs are great times – but try not to destroy the hotel and venue, and also do your best to pass out in your room or a friend’s room. This can result in compromising photos of you that get posted on the internet.

As of 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, I wasn’t planning to go to Pittsburgh, but at 4:15 I suddenly was, and by 6 p.m. we were on the road. What changed? Well, Tybuc volunteered to head up there with me, since by this time the original crew I was going to ride with (Fog, Gibb, and Stokes) were supposed to have already left. That meant I wouldn’t have to make the five-plus hour drive solo, which was a start.

Then I got an e-mail from Becker saying he thought I was a moron, but a special type of moron, and one that he and Michael J. might want to talk to in person about the whole Hall of Fame deal. I complained back at him that being jobless made potential trips to exotic locales like Pittsburgh somewhat prohibitive, and I probably wasn’t going to go.

His reply insisted that the trip was going to be much cheaper than I expected, if only I’d be creative about things and be willing to sleep on the floor, while bringing a lot of my own food. I thought about it for a little while and realized that I’d regret not going if I stayed home. One AIM message to Tybucminster Fuller later, saying”It’s on,” and my ass was busy packing.

Um, for the trip. Yeah, packing for the trip.

We arrived at the site around 11:15 without a) a place to sleep, b) a third member of our team, and c) a care in the world. Seriously. I knew there were about five people I could beg floor space from, and if I couldn’t find any of them, I was perfectly willing to sleep in the car, provided I broke into somebody’s room in the morning to snatch a shower.

Filling out the team was completed shortly after we arrived at the site. I was walking along the hallway to the hotel lobby on my way out to the car to raid the cooler for beer, and who do I see? A drunk-off-his-ass Justin Morgan (a.k.a. Mandingo, a.k.a. Dingo) wearing a suit jacket, and playing piano like it ain’t no thang. The conversation went a little something like this:

“Yo, Dingo – what’s up, dawg?”

“I am so freaking drunk right now. We all went out to Outback and ran up a $200 dollar bar tab. I had so many shots with Huey, Linde, and Kyle Rose that I can no longer see straight.”

“Sweet. So you wanna play on our team tomorrow? I got Tybuc with me from C-Ville and we need a third. In your current state you should fit in fine.”

(slurred)”You guys need a third man? ‘Cuz I need a team, and I don’t want to play with completely unknown scrubs.”

“Yeah, Dingo, yer in. Just meet us by the Star City Booth at 9:45 tomorrow morning. Ya got that? 9:45, StarCity Booth.”

At that point, Eugene Harvey and crew came walking past and Dingo started to play the dueling pianos song. Eugene just shrugged him off, while the CMU-TOGIT crew laughed, and I reminded Dingo that this would be an utter beating for him, since at the last team Grand Prix Eugene bailed on his team in order to go give a professional piano concert or something.

I went back to the car and stocked my backpack with beer (Dundee’s Honey Brown, for those who care) while Tybuc grabbed his Absolut Citron, and we went back into the site to see if any of my room contacts were around. They weren’t, but Becker, Kelleher, and Bling Bling Berkowitz were there getting ready to draft with Kibler, Rubin, and Ho, so I settled in to learn something. Unfortunately nobody seemed to have much of a clue how to draft the format yet, so there was little real knowledge to be gleaned.

Eventually the C-Ville room connection showed up and we purchased some floor space before dropping off our crap and then getting in on a team Rochester. I knew we probably wouldn’t need it for the weekend (I’ve drafted OOL about ten total times since Legions was released), but the packs were cheap from BDM and I wanted something to do before we went to bed (mmm, pre-registering so that you can sleep late is nice). Needless to say, we got rolled – being clueless does that – and it was off to bed.

The next morning came quickly, and I did my showering thing before Tybuc and I hit Micky D’s for breakfast (which I hate, but since I didn’t notice the nearby Einstein Bros on the way in, it was the only fast choice available). There was a brief incident where I asked for some mustard to add to my sausage biscuit, and the girl at the register held out two packs of honey mustard for me. I suggested to her that I wasn’t eating a salad, and asked if she had regular mustard. She bent down behind the counter and brought back a dip cup of spicy mustard that you would usually use with McNuggets or something. At that point, I figured out that I was dealing with McDonald’s personnel, and should probably give up before something really funny happened.

We got back to the site and sat down by the StarCityGames booth to wait for a very hung-over Mandingo to show up, and while we were chilling, we were forced to listen to the slightly-pudgy Peter Hoefling heckle our chiseled bodies (check that – Tybuc’s chiseled body; I’m kinda spongy these days…) because we were eating fatty breakfast food. Everybody’s a hater, but this is the man who keeps me stocked in cards, so I kept any witty replies under my hat.

I was gnoshing my sausage biscuit (lacking mustard) and hash browns when Mike Guptil called for”Justin Morgan or someone from his team to come up to the podium, please.” Tybuc volunteered so that my ass could grow ever-wider, and when he came back he delivered the worst news of the day.

“Mr. Guptil apparently disapproved of our team name. I asked him which part of ‘Poppin Caps For Christ’ he found objectionable, thinking we might Pop some caps for Allah or Buddha instead, but he said ‘All of it.’ Therefore, we are now Mystery Men.”

Weak team names make baby Jesus cry, especially since I knew somebody is going to make a joke about me being The Shoveler before the day was out. Tybuc is always Mr. Furious, but being compared to William H. Macy is never high on my list of celebrity likenesses to inspire, even if he is married to Felicity Huffman. Sigh.

Eventually Dingo showed up, the tournament started, and we were handed a crappy card pool. Tybuc and I both went 2-2 with W/B and R/U, while Dingo went an incredible 4-0 with his R/G deck. Tragically, Ken and I lost at the same time, and after four rounds we were a sterling 2-2 as a team.

Notable plays from card pool one include Round 1 opponent Dylan dropping a sideboarded Stabilizer against me on Turn 2 as I drew my Lightning Rift directly afterwards. This eventually forced me to beat him down with the Slipstream Eel that was in my opening grip and draw seven cards from casting Rush of Knowledge with the Eel on the table. Sometimes you just gotta rawdog it, I guess. Round 2 saw me get crushed by Aven Brigadier and his crew (including Glarecaster), a matchup that U/R does not win unless it has things like… Starstorm or Slice and Dice, I guess.

Oh yeah, and Round 4 opponent Steve from Rochester, NY sat down, looked at our team name, then at me, and said”Mystery Men, eh? You must be The Shoveller…” before he screwed up the combat math in game 2 and still beat me with a Mythic Proportioned Barkhide Mauler. I was going to kill him on the next turn and had a Wall of Deceit and a freaking Pro-Beasts Riptide Biologist on the board and still lost. How fair is this game?

I made a boatload of mistakes from rust throughout the day, but the truth of the matter is that every time I lost it seemed like I got over-powered, while every time I won I simply smashed heads.

Our second card pool was much better, and while we again didn’t have any bombs, all three decks were deep. I got a very solid R/G deck this time, while Tybuc got a seemingly-filthy U/W deck, and Dingo got to play mono-Black with a splash of Red for Shock and Skirk Marauder. In round 5 we rolled over our opponents like it ain’t no thang, but in round 6 we more than met our match. They were a bunch of punkass kids from the land of Cleve (nice punkass kids, but punkass nonetheless), and their decks were ridonkulous.

In Game 1 I got the”ten land, six spell” draw, and met my demise at the cloudy claws of a Mistform Skyreaver. These things happen. Game 2, on the other hand, saw me crush young Marty beneath the heel of my boot, as my Beasts ground his team into the ground. Suddenly, I was feeling good about my deck and my chances. Game 3 showed the ridiculous power of Marty’s deck though, as he got down an early wizard with one of his three (!) Lavamancer’s Skills, dropped an Echo Tracer, a Goblin Goon, a Mistform Skyreaver, kicked the crap out of me, and then showed me the Slice and Dice and Shock still left in his hand. By these standards my deck was ass – and the worst part of the story is that his teammates’ decks were just as good. They 3-0’d us, and we decided to drop and get food before more bad things happened.

Final result: 3-3 and a big, fat shrug.

Notes on Team Drafting, since I clearly learned very little about Team Sealed:

Since the introduction of Scourge, the Soldier tribe has become a lot stronger than the clergy. I watched a bunch of drafts with essentially one Soldier player and one Cleric player, and the Soldier deck came out better every time. If you are going to draft the Cleric deck, you need to make certain you put it in a place where it has a favorable matchup – which translates either to a deck playing Green, or possibly your opponent’s B/R deck – and you need to get the cards.

The feeling among most pros that I talked to is that Team Rochester in this Block is a lot less about matchups than Odyssey was… But Zvi drafted reactively all day long to setup reasonable matchups for his team and won the Grand Prix, so I can’t figure out who’s right here. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how Kai drafts it at Worlds for the correct answer.

By the way: Covering Team Events is hard. If you are going to break into doing match coverage for a website, get your feet wet in some other format first, or else you will drown in the sea of details that come from having triple the amount of information per match.

The People, Places, and Tings of GP: Pitt

Hmm… Time to start with gossip, I guess, since that always sets the scene best. Warning: This is all hearsay, which is why I’m not using any names unless I actually saw these things with my own eyes.

On the way back to my hotel room Saturday night, I saw a bunch of chandelier pieces lying in the hallway, some uprooted plants on the floor, and a lot of the quieter areas of the hotel looked like a tornado whipped through the place on it’s way to go draft or something. Dingo came barging into the room around 5 a.m. to tell us that a certain unnamed Pro was to blame for the destruction visited upon the hotel. The story I heard was that security caught up to this individual and was about to throw him out, but some friends of his showed up at the right time and made the security officers an offer they couldn’t refuse.

The second rumor I heard was that Tournament Operator Mike Guptil found another (slightly less well-known) player passed out in the elevators. Upon being awoken, that player was very drunk and very disoriented, and was asked to leave the premises (though I doubt he could find the exit without some help).

In case you’re missing the point, Grand Prixs are great times – but try not to destroy the hotel and venue, and also do your best to pass out in your room or a friend’s room. This can result in compromising photos of you that get posted on the internet, but it’s better than getting thrown out.

With regard to actual Magic playing, the sickest thing I saw this weekend was the Northern Lights #5 (Mike Long’s team, and a name that never should have been allowed because it references a marijuana distributor) vs. Ubermenschen (Kibler, Rubin, Ho) match. Mary Van Tyne got to do coverage, which was fine by me, since it meant that I could enjoy watching the match. To preface this match, Kibler’s team only needed a draw to make the Top 4 on 28 points, but they got paired down and had to play. Back home we call this getting the shaft.

Rubin pretty much rolled over Mike Krzywicki, but the other two matches were titanic.

In Game 3 of Kibler vs. Schneider, Brian had to mulligan down to five cards – which was pretty much the only way his deck could lose to Justin’s. Things looked awful for Kibs when Schneider played Clutch of Undeath on Brian’s morph until… Kibler said,”I may have a response,” and flipped over Zombie Cutthroat to a huge gasp from the crowd. Suddenly, it was on.

BK kept swinging the big nasty into the zone (playing a subsequent Alpha Status on it to make it an 8/9 beatstick) and dropped Schneider down to eight before Justin found enough chumps and Hunting Pack tokens to take it down after Brian had supposedly declared it as an attacker. (He hadn’t, as Schneider clearly said,”Before you attack” when he cast Hunting Pack and Efro and I both heard it, but Brian let it slide.) Anyway, Kibs deck then ran out of gas and the matches were 1-1. It was almost the sickest mistake of the tournament, but it turned out okay for Schneider in the end.

Down in the C match, Mike Long won the first game by topdecking Decree of Pain, wiping the board and drawing eight cards off it. I hear that helps win you some games.

Ho looked crushed when it happened, because he was in complete control of the game – and even though he dropped a Quicksilver Dragon on the next turn, it wasn’t enough to overcome Long’s beats and card advantage. Game 2 was won in a landslide for Ken – and took an extra twelve minutes to compete due to Long having multiple questions for the table judge that had to be verified, like”Can Quicksilver Dragon redirect a Cruel Revival?” – but Game 3 was a letdown, as Ken’s deck refused to show up. Amazingly, it was the first time that Ho lost on the weekend and his deck was better than Long’s as well. Unfortunately, that loss knocked Kibler and Co. out of the Top 4 and made it possible for Mike Long to make his yearly Top 4/8 appearance.

I also watched PTR make infinite Centaurs with his Wirewood Channeler/Pemmin’s Aura/Centaur Glade combo. The deck was even sicker than that listing though, as Peter also had Kamahl, Fist of Krosa in his deck, and could therefore cast infinite Overruns as well. What a beating!

I was standing at the table when Ed Fear got a match loss for forgetting to mark down a Lonely Sandbar in his deck, and a mere five minutes later teammate Ken Krouner got a game loss for having a Wretched Anurid in his deck that was not on the master list. Decklists for these events are a big fat pain in the ass.

Gerard Fabiano surely has no trouble with the ladies (and from talking to him, he’s pretty cool), but the whole towel thing makes him look like a young Jerry Tarkanian. The resemblance is so strong that it’s actually kind of eerie in person.

BDM and Mike Flores are fantastic guys to talk to. Throw Becker and Shuler into the conversation as well (and all four of them were present in Pitt), and you get an all-day smorgasbord of funny Magic stories and delightful cutdowns. Keep your kids away from this crew, but if you get the opportunity to hang out with any of these four guys for even five minutes, I highly recommend it.

J. Gary Wise was quarantined in Toronto and could not make the tournament. Fill in your own joke here.

Jeff Cunningham is the tallest full-grown Magic player I’ve ever seen. He’s huge! I mean, he can’t be less than 5’7″, making him a veritable giant among twelve-year-olds. Oh yeah, and he’s one of the funniest writers on the net.

Jimmy Bean did not make the trip because he instead chose to attend his five-year class reunion at Holy Cross. Who goes to their five-year reunion? Baffling…

Aaron Forsythe is a tall, pleasantly-cranky gentleman who is expecting his first child soon. Congrats Aaron, and thanks for giving me a chance to write for you guys. P.S. if you ever want to forward some of your e-mail this way so that Van Tyne and I can write an”Aaron’s e-mail column,” feel free.

Mary Van Tyne is adorable. Seriously, she’s like a plague of insidious bunny rabbits running around a Magic site, spreading sweetness and light, while at the same time making dirty remarks just out of everyone’s earshot. I got to hang out with her for most of the weekend and had a great deal of fun.

The highlight of the Mary Experience, as I have begun to call it, came at the end of Day 2 as we were leaving the site. Mary tracked down Eugene Harvey and said (in her best breathy voice),”Eugene, I’ve been wanting to talk to you all day!” and then proceeded to ask him if he would drive her around CMU tomorrow so that she could track down a professor and have something to fill the day until her flight. Now, to any normal person this might not be a big deal… But Eugene is exceedingly shy. And he was surrounded by all of Team CMU-TOGIT at the time. And she said it loud enough so that the entire hall could hear it.

Eugene’s face went from pale white to bright freaking red in a nanosecond. Being the gentleman that he is, Mr. Harvey did agree to her request for an escort – and if those two hit it off, I hope they have litters of very pale children. Good times, and I can’t wait to see what the TOGIT guys say about the incident in their tournament reports.

Amount of players/judges/others that wanted to hit on MVT: At least thirty, though that’s only the number of guys I saw looking at her chest or her ass in the brief period of time I was paying attention. I’m sure it was a lot more than that, but have no evidence to prove it. I was even told that she was wearing a thong that the boys found delectable, but I was too busy covering my own matches to notice for myself. For those who want to know, the official answer is that she has a boyfriend.

Speaking of other women: She’s gorgeous, she’s Mike Turian girlfriend and she’s also an excellent Magic player, so from now on we need to all give her some respect and call her Rachel (except Mike, he can call her whatever he can get away with).

In case you haven’t noticed, chicks at Magic tournaments are extremely good times.

Oh yeah, big ups to all the peeps wearing the high school throwback jerseys of Pierce, Lebron and the like. Gangsta chic is all that, yo!

Other people I got to talk to that were cool:

  • Scot McCord – This book editor turned out to be surprisingly interesting to talk to. Just don’t say he’s from New Joisey.

  • Mikey P – He’s a walking backgammon game. Maybe next time I should ask him to teach me to play.

  • Ed Fear – This guy is diesel… He’d be my favorite player on the tour if I just got to talk to him more often.

  • Zvi

  • Alex Shvartsman – Who took a big hit off of Tybuc’s Citron bottle after winning the tournament because we convinced him that Russians aren’t allowed to turn down Vodka. Congrats!

  • Kibler

  • Linde

  • Rubin

  • Ho – Who didn’t exactly say much

  • Charlie Gindy – Whipsmart. I hope he writes a tournament report about the weekend, and if he’s reading this, drop me an e-mail so I can ask you some questions.

  • James Duguid

  • OMC – This kid’s all sticks and bones, but the hair makes up for it

  • Tim Aten – Would have liked to talk to him more, as he seemed interesting. If he works on it, he too can have the OMC fro, but I keep thinking he looks more like a brown-haired Howard Stern or Joey Ramone.

  • Tom Kelleher

  • edt – Whose team mised the GP Trial, but missed Day 2.

  • David Rood

  • SC Writer John Stevens and his friend whose name I can never remember because I’m a bad person.

  • Krzywicki

  • John Carter – The most sarcastic and fun judge I’ve met. Always a pleasure to see him at an event.

People who sucked: Nobody. Seriously. Berkowitz had a minor dustup with an opposing team member in round 6, and Mike Long and PTR were on good behavior all weekend. Good times were had by all.

A Quick Note About the Writers Hall of Fame

I was contacted this week by some Wizards personnel who requested that I not move forward with this project, since I would be duplicating work that they are going to do at some point in the future, and they don’t really want to deal with the complications my side project would create.

The person that contacted me also stated that they would like to champion the yearly awards idea that was originally mentioned by Anthony Alongi in the forums and repeated by me in my follow-up piece.

Since Wizards has stated that they want to create an actual Hall of Fame to be founded at some point in the future, I feel my work with the idea is done. I don’t want to step on any Wizardy toes, and the whole point of the article was a) to push for an actual Hall of Fame, b) to create greater recognition of outstanding writers in the field, and c) to get people talking about the subject and generate interest not only in the best writers of today, but also the notable writers of yesteryear that may have been overlooked. Since that has largely been achieved, I’ll back off and let Wizards do it up right when the time comes.

In the meantime, though, you should all feel free to create your own Hall of Fame lists and post them wherever the hell they’ll be accepted, because even though Wizards has said they will do something, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be in your lifetime.

Obligatory Cheesecake Section

You know, I don’t know who, exactly, is the subject of this picture, but the word”peach” comes to mind. Where do lingerie designs like this come from, though… Were the old dental floss ones too heavy and not supportive enough or something, so they had to develop these? The world may never know…

Damn Victoria’s Secret for not posting the names of their models anywhere. First it takes me six months just to figure out who Allesandra Ambrosio is, and now this girl goes unknown as well! Dear God, do the male populace a service and tell us who to search for in Kazaa!

Public Service Announcement: Abercrombie and Fitch produces a catalogue for their clothing lines that features nude female models with some regularity. Their website, unfortunately, is a huge letdown.

Whee – Miss Universe 2003 is here!!

In you missed last year’s column on this, it has returned (and in a much better format this time around.. hooray!). Pageants are a great place to find cheesecake, but Miss Universe is better than most because it features the fantastic National Costume feature (here’s last year’s Miss Germany in full National Flava). I’ll cover the first half of the interesting contestants this week and save the rest for next week, as you can’t blow your wad on something as good as this all at one time.

Australia: This national costume is the epitome of”cowgirl sexy

– but next time instead of the pants, can we get her wearing just a pair of chaps, please? By the way, she’s nineteen, 5’10, and wants to be a stockbroker. And she is wearing a slip for an evening gown. And she has an Australian accent. I think I’m in love, and we’ve just begun…

Aruba: Her bio says she’s,”The only female driver on her drag car racing team…” and while she’s not the best-looking contestant, she can definitely handle a stick shift.

Argentina: Laura Romero looks a lot like Tony Soprano’s Russian ex-goomah. She even speaks Spanish and English and also likes Sci-Fi, so Magic players will not be immediately excluded for their geekiness. An early contender for hottest girl of the pageant, this girl is like a Tyson uppercut circa 1987.

Miss Belgium looks like an All-American girl. Cute, but nothing spectacular…

The site says Miss Belize is in this costume somewhere, but I’m having a hard time believing it.

Bolivia: Master’s in Finance, works with orphans and underprivileged blah blah blah… Who can resist the National Costumes?

It says here that Miss Brazil is a professional basketball player – and honestly, if every woman in the WNBA looked like her, I might start watching the games. Maybe. Okay, probably not, but I’d at least think about it.

For the second year in a row, the Miss Canada costume looks like it would get her an immediate case of frostbite if she were to ever wear it outside, but last year’s outfit was a little skimpier and didn’t look like the costume was swallowing her, so it gets the nod. She’s a 26 year old pharmacist who is practicing to be Mother Theresa in her spare time though, so what’s not to like?

I’m not sure precisely what this look conveys, but with a dress that’s nearly slit up to there and a face that looks like that, I’ll sign up to be on the receiving end any day.

Columbia: Dayam and Dayam again! These are the kind of women that make Telemundo worth watching.

Costa Rica: All right… I’m throwing the waterbra flag here! Normal bodies do not come equipped with that chest and those abs together Yes, they are a dynamite combination, but is it possible that these things are found together in nature? I think not! That said, I’ll gladly take video footage of her performing her gymnastics or spinning routines for the judges. The Costa Rica tourism board welcomes you to pick up our women while dropping off your money. Have a nice day…

Curacao: Even wearing this costume, her nose disqualifies her from placing in the competition. I’ll pave my way into hell by saying that the presence of slightly ugly girls from smaller countries is just another unexpected bonus of the Miss Universe competition.

Czech Republic: Long-time readers will know that I’m convinced Czech women are probably the hottest on the planet, and Katerina doesn’t disappoint. I do wish she’d eat a little more though, as those hipbones could cause serious injury to passers by.

Dominican Republic: She’s 18 years old, stands 6’1″, looks like this, and wants to start a recording career. Welcome to showbiz, baby!

Don’t miss the costume for that one, either.

Egypt: I’m guessing this costume makes a statement about the current political situation in the Middle East, but I’m too dumb to figure out what it is.

Estonia: From the right angle, she’s kind of cute, and from any other angle she’s mostly not.

Finland: Meet Tomi Walamies‘ girlfriend. And you thought Turian had it good… No other comments or else Tomi might buss’ a cap in my ayass.

Ah, welcome to France, where the food is good, the work week is thirty-five hours, and their contestants look like supermodels. They either don’t care if her nipples are showing, or this is a shot from the aftermath of the Miss Universe wet evening gown competition that mistakenly made it’s way online. How much would you pay to see that on Pay-Per-View?

Her first name is Emmanuelle. Like the movie. Sylvia Kristal is my favorite. Okay, I’m babbling. Ales Les Bleus!

The last contestant for this week is Miss Germany. Unlike last year’s Miss Germany, who was pure gas, this year’s model has opted for the dreaded one-piece swimsuit. Boo!! Her proudest achievement is that she’s been able to support her single mother through the earnings from her modeling career – but she isn’t showing any skin here, so she isn’t winning.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back next week to write about other stuff that may or may not involve a research project regarding Kai Budde. To anyone else I met this weekend and didn’t mention, thanks for a helluva good trip.

The Holy Kanoot

Ted Knutson

[email protected]