After losing the finals of the first day, I was going to name my report “Always a Bridesmaid,” which I think is a saying that is humorous on multiple
levels and applies to my inability to close tournaments. However, after winning day two, that became nonsensical, so I decided to invert the saying
while tying it into a pop culture reference. That’s considered intellectual humor.
I’ve been playing since Guildpact and, despite being on the Pro Tour for a few years and having become decently well-known through writing, have never
actually won a tournament. Somewhat strange to think about, but it’s true. I’ve conceded the finals a couple of times, say at a PTQ I was already
qualified for, but never has my name appeared next to that little number one in the final standings.
This particular leg of the adventure that is my life began bright and early Friday morning when I breezed past the security line thanks to a newly
installed Frequent Flier line at the dinky little Harrisburg airport. My plane was going to be delayed so much that I would miss my connector, but they
were able to get me on a direct flight to Charlotte that left even earlier than my original flight.
I was running good.
I arrived in Charlotte earlier than expected, which can only mean one thing: Magic Online. The MODO PTQ was about to start, and the Charlotte airport
had free Wi-Fi that was of decent quality, which is one of the reasons that it’s my favorite airport I’ve encountered in all of my travels. I found a
corner next to an outlet, plopped myself on the ground, and fired up the ol’ rompy comp;
I whipped out the mouse that I brought for just such an occasion and put together my Caw-Blade list out of cards that Julian Booher and Tommy Ashton
had lent me. Sitting on the floor of the airport, I had a bag on my lap propping up the monitor and my other bag at my side to rest my sore shoulder as
I used the mouse. The material of my duffel wouldn’t let me get any mouse traction, but luckily I had my free playmat from GP Dallas to use as an
oversized mouse pad. I sat there with the precarious balance of my makeshift desk, grinding the PTQ for six hours, picking up my second loss in round 6
and dropping to make my way to the hotel.
Quick aside, in the last MODO PTQ I played, I was something like 4-1 and in between rounds, when a storm knocked the power out on my whole block. Most
people would chalk this up to a bad beat and go to bed, as it was three in the morning. Not me, though; I’m a goddamn warrior. I drove ten minutes to a
24-hour Giant grocery store that has a cafe with free Wi-Fi. I knew the cafe would be closed, but maybeâ€”JUST maybeâ€”the internet would still
Sure enough, the place was completely deserted. The lights were off in the cafe, but the fireplace was still roaring, casting shadows of the vacant
tables and chairs on the wall. I sat down at the window counter and plugged in my laptop, mouse, and headphones. It was game time.
Four lonely and borderline eerie hours later, I lost handily in Top 8 and was rewarded for my efforts with a couple of virtual booster packs.
This is the life of a grinder.
Chris VanMeter and Jesse Bradbury graciously picked me up from the airport and we headed over to the hotel. They headed out to Dave and Buster’s while
I went to a strange little steakhouse with Patrick Sullivan and his friend Matt Sitarski, who would end up winning the first Draft Open. When I came
back to the room, CVM said that they went to the gas station for snacks and found that they still carried a controversial, caffeinated, alcoholic
beverage that we’ll call Quatro Crazy.
Jesse had bought one and cracked it; the smell alone almost took him down. It could only be described as smelling like a homeless man’s genitals after
he rubbed Starburst all over them. Jesse held his nose and took a swig, gagging a bit and confirming that it tasted just as bad as it smelled. He was
able to down about a third of it before giving up and dumping it out.
He poured it into the toilet instead of throwing it away because he wanted to see the color and consistency. I figured as soon as it escaped its
cylindrical, aluminum prison, it would coagulate into a cube and start talking to us. It didn’t quite do that, but the color did all immediately sink
to the bottom of the bowl, showing how much heavier it was than water, which is disgusting in its own right.
Jesse’s stomach was killing him all night, and between his moaning/tummy grumbling, CVM’s rampant snoring, and my bad shoulder, I got very little
sleep. That is something I usually go well out of my way to avoid at tournaments.
I’m not going to talk about the tournaments all that much. The formats are about to change drastically anyway. I would like to say that I think the
people cutting Gideon Jura from their Caw-Blade decks are incorrect in doing so. I could see going down to two, but it’s one of your best cards in a
large percentage of your matchups. Edgar Flores was the sort of pioneer on this front and blindly spews his disapproval of the card, insisting
repeatedly that Gideon no hace nada.
We were paired in the semifinals, and I couldn’t help but bask a little in the irony when he won the roll, had a turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic on the play,
and singlehandedly lost to Gideon. Game two, Gideon closed the clock while I used Tectonic Edges to strand one that he had sideboarded in his hand.
On Saturday night, a big group was going out to Dave and Buster’s. However, having not slept well and having to get up early the next morning for the
Top 4, I passed in favor of the extra sleep. Pat Sullivan went to Matt and told him the plan. “Oh that Dave and Buster’s is not the best place to
be. There’s always something going down there; fights and arrests and stuff.” So of course they went anyway.
There were no problems. That is, until they went to get milkshakes across the street.
When they came back out, a man was being handcuffed and Tasered outside the building they were just in. He was screaming about how he “din’ do
nothin'” and flailing as much as one can in such a position. Two large black women come out of the doors and saw dude getting Tasered and both
started cackling hysterically.
“DZZZZZZZ!” one said, making a prodding, stabbing motion as if holding a Taser.
“Oooo girl, look at him cryin’ like a lil’ bitch!”
After losing the finals of the Standard portion, I was understandably upset. I mean, the bridesmaid dresses were beginning to pile up. I had somehow
become one of the most consistent performers at these tournaments without pocketing a single win. They always let me get close, so very close, before
snatching it away from me.
Losing is a habit, and a hard one to break.
Luckily, I didn’t have enough time to mope, as I had to get my entire physical deck together in less than an hour to start the grind all over again for
day two. Lewis Laskin, CVM, and PSully came to my rescue, and I only had to spend eight or so dollars to finish my somewhat unique deck full of fairly
obscure cards. I had lost in the quarterfinals the week before, and having only changed a card or two in the entire list, I was prepared to run it
back. Sure enough, I cruised to the Top 8.
I knew that after a finals on day one that a victory would secure Level 8 just in time for New Phyrexia. I tried to block it out of my head and focus
on just the game ahead for the whole tournament. Once I reached Top 8, however, a whirlwind overcame me. Am I choking in all of these Top 8s or just getting unlucky? Maybe I’m really bad and only getting lucky in the Swiss? A win was worth so much
more than usual, and there were so many people rooting for and relying on me that the pressure should have been enormous.
However, it seemed to be the perfect storm, and my mindset had fallen into the eye of it. I was able to maintain calm and focus, pulling out the grit
and determination that I once had, and which has since faded. It was time for our Top 8 Profile pictures, and all I wanted was number one.
There seems to be some controversy going around about my performance. People are freaking out that I had five or six “free wins” and that
my championship was somehow tainted. As far as I can tell, this hysteria, largely contained to the Twitterverse, stems from some misleading comments
made on the SCGLive stream.
I did not receive infinite concessions at that tournament. I had two byes to start, which I earned with my previous accomplishments by leveling up.
Then, I earned every single game I won until the Top 4, where I received my first and only concession of the day. This was from my good friend and
fresh Level 8, Edgar Flores. He knew that the win meant far more to me both financially and emotionally and graciously gave me the win.
If you’re upset that I got byes and a concession, then go out and earn your byes and put yourself in a spot where a concession would be worthwhile.
Other than that, there is nothing to complain about. I earned my championship. Go earn yours.
As for the finals, he did not outright concede to me. We had a completely fair and legal split negotiated. As far as I’m concerned, Kyle and I are
co-champions. We played out our match for pride afterward, and I defeated him in three games. The whole time, PSully and Edgar and everyone else
watching was cracking jokes and complaining about how long it was taking, telling us to hurry up or to just stop playing.
This was really disappointing, as that match meant a lot to me. Edgar and Pat have won tournaments before. I never had. I’ve had multiple opportunities
to and was never able to close. I wanted to see if I could. I wanted to see if I could earn an outright championship, and I wanted to do it for real. I
was not taking a long time to make them late for dinner; I was trying to play as well and as professionally as I would have if we were on camera with
everything on the line. I did so to the best of my abilities and was proud to have taken the match. That is not to take anything away from Kyle, since
as I said, in my mind we are co-champions.
I always try and do something unique and entertaining for my Top 8 profile pictures, and now, all of the sudden, I had to come up with something for my
trophy picture. I ended up going with the Rafael Nadal trophy-bite.
To me, this pose signifies two things: Firstly, a feeling of “is this real?” as in biting a coin to test its authenticity. Secondly, it
implies a hunger; a desire for more. While there is a small feeling of euphoria, for me it was more of relief. Relief as well as wishing that there
were more players lined up for me to smash.
Instead, I just had to direct that desire to destroy towards some Buffalo Wild Wings. Parmesan Garlic and Mild with ranch. A meal fit for a champion.