Okay, now I am in the mood to write.
Three weeks ago, I did something that I had thought I had sworn off – slinging of the magical spells. Last year, at PT: Boston I laid down the cardboard and called it quits. I played with two very good friends of mine for my final match and received something very near and dear to my heart – a slow play warning. I had such a great streak of”not playing over the course of the past year” only broken once by excessive nagging of said friends to play in a little tournament called GP: Pittsburgh.
Doubt my willpower? Well when said friends are:
The man, the legend, Joel Priest
Mr Sullivans Library himself…
How could I possibly resist? Putting my good sense aside, I played in the GP and promptly pulled my teammates into the ground. I mostly came because I’ve always had a soft spot for Pittsburgh and their Penguins. The Penguin costume has made many a trip to Pittsburgh Magic venues and sports arenas… but that is a tale for another day.
That being said, when Michael J invited me up to his pad for a little R and R, I could only nod my head in suspicion. Flores is up to something – he is always up to something… plotting, waiting.
“C’mon John, we are going to play fun games like Taboo and Boggle! Plus we are definitely going to run Plataforma.”
Would Michael J ever speak such words? You can bet the barn he wouldn’t! Okay, so maybe he would want to run the Godly love of meat that is Plataforma, but BP is not a Boggle man. Also, Taboo is the nuts!
Based on the off chance that I might be able to get a few rounds of Taboo in, I accepted Michael J’s offer to come up for the weekend. NY wasn’t all that far away from me, and this way I could see some of the old gang. Maybe we would even play Werewolf! You would think I would be more excited about going to Plataforma, but alas I have taken the vows of a vegetarian for one entire calendar year. Why would I inflict such suffering upon myself? Because I can say I did it later, and not get sh** from Dave Price while I dig into a giant T-Bone…
I was running late the day I was supposed to leave for NY, and quickly grabbed all my stuff and threw it in the back of my car. Besides the normal traveling stuff, I grabbed my backpack with some old games in it – I wasn’t sure exactly what I had, but I figured I would bring it along to try to dig up something interesting later.
When I got up there it was pretty late, so me and Zombie Flores only went out for a few drinks. When I got done with my last one, I felt extra tired and remember getting out of my chair and requesting that we leave for back home… except that I never made it out of my chair. When I woke up the next day I was in the back of the BPmobile driving to an undisclosed location.
“Where are we going BP?”
“What time is it?”
BPF:”About 9:30 AM. We are right on time!”
“What happened last night? I can’t remember anything.”
BPF:”Oh, I accidentally dropped some sleeping pills in your drink… you see, there was this PTQ today, and I figured there would be no way I could drag you along, so this is what I had to resort to. What can I say Shuler J, you are a very stubborn man.”
There you have it. You quit Magic for just a bit and the next thing you know your friends are slipping you knock out drugs and kidnapping you so they can play in a tournament.
BPF:”But I really need to qualify this time!”
Yeah, I’ve heard that one before – especially from those lips…
BPF:”But, Dave and Pikula will be there!”
Okay, this I accepted as retribution. I had not seen the lugs for a long time, since they essentially disappeared before I did, but I guess they couldn’t keep away from the old cardboard habit. I would have to scold them for their weakness!
We arrived to the venue of Neutral Ground just in time… also known as five minutes late. Mike was acting at superhuman speeds preparing everything he needed to play. The next thing you know they were calling the start of the round.
BPF: They are calling parings… oh by the way, you should probably check it out – I think you are sitting at table 27.
Apparently when I wasn’t looking, in that super human frenzy of registration sheets, there was one with my name and long lost DCI number on it! What a devious plan, Flores! You are a true master, but I am better than that.
“I’m not playing.”
BPF: But you have to play otherwise you will get a loss!
BPF: But that will hurt my chances of winning the tournament if you are just going to give people free wins!
“Then don’t win the tournament… hey, weren’t we supposed to play Taboo?”
Frustrated, Mike stomped off to play his match. I decided to stroll around looking at the matches. Now even though I don’t play Magic, that doesn’t mean I haven’t somewhat kept up with what’s going on. I knew that this was a Mirrodin and Darksteel PTQ for San Diego. I even knew a lot of the cards. After a minute of reminiscing about the good old days I had come to a stop in front of an empty seat. Across the table sat none other than Jon Becker.
Becker:”You are sitting across from me here… I thought you quit Magic last year. Now you have to go and be a scumbag and come to this tournament to show me up. People were supposed to get all impressed that I decided to play Magic for once, and you have to go stealing my limelight.”
I took the seat across from good man Becker. I didn’t want to play Magic, but Becker had a point… I could steal his limelight, and maybe even knock a couple people out of contention for the Pro Tour while I was out it. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
Registration and deck building were much as I remembered them, as a team event. Becker tried to give me advice as to how I should build my deck, but I assured him that even after not playing Magic for a year I was still better than him. Begrudgingly, he agreed and asked for my advice on how to build his deck. I refused him any such advantages, since they would be obviously against the rules.
I played Red/White. It was kind of a cool deck and afterward people said I made some mistakes in building it, but I think I did a pretty good job. The tournament was seven rounds.
Round 1 vs.. Mike Pustilnik
Now as I sat down across from my first opponent, I find it was no other that Mikey P. He apparently didn’t find the fact that I was sitting across from him disturbing, because he didn’t know that I had quit. He just thought that I was doing terribly and fell off the Pro Tour.
Game 1: He’s Black/Green and comes out slow with his first creature being a Nim Shrieker with two Equipment in play (Bonesplitter and a Vulshok Gauntlets). By this time I have a Goblin Striker, a Leonin Elder, and an Ogre Leadfoot on the table, and he is already at fifteen. I swing him down to ten on my next turn. He double Equips his Shrieker and Attacks me down to ten by playing out an artifact Land. The next turn I play Savage Beating, killing him with my five poker worth of guys… I never even had to cast the Purge in my hand.
Game 2: Mikey was visibly upset about the last game, and I couldn’t imagine why. I curved out nicely with a turn 2 Striker and a turn 3 Yotian Soldier. He played a turn 2 Alpha Myr and a turn 3 Nim Replica. I guess sometimes you just have the right answers for those threats. My Striker beat him down for awhile and then I drew my Sword of Fire and Ice… apparently that was game. Cards are a lot more complicated and powerful than I remember.
Round 2 vs. Dave Price
Now Dave is a good guy, but I asked him why he was wearing a fake mustache and dark glasses. He said it was the only thing he could do to help being mobbed by adoring fans trying to get him back into the game. Secretly though, Dave can’t stay away from Magic for long, hence the appearance in this PTQ. I asked him if Pikula came and Dave said that he had work or something. Figures…
Game 1: I drew the first guy I could cast on turn 3, a Nim Replica. Dave already had three Crazed Goblins (one of them foil) attacking me every turn, and I knew the Replica would be an okay counter clock. To my surprise he played Goblin Striker and left it back on defense. I didn’t know what to do – I was getting beat down by a horde of dorks and being held back by the Striker, while drawing all lands. Then I drew Fireball. Oh sweet Fireball, how I’ve missed you! 1,1,1, and 1 was the split. Four 1/1’s down in a heart beat, and the Nim Replica was ready to take action. The match went on and on, but as we were nearing time being called, I drew Bosh, Golem of Bashing Face. The game ended a turn later.
Game 2: Dave kept a one-lander, but never drew any more land. Magic gives such tough love to its closest children.
Round 3 vs. Dynamite Jackson
When I sat down across from the large Black man, I had to feel intimidated. I was a bit suspicious, since he was wearing a Pro Tour shirt, a Pro Tour hat, had a Pro Tour pen, and a Pro Tour life sheet.”Aren’t you a Pro?” I asked. He only replied that without a PTQ top 8 Pin, he could never feel like a Pro, and that was his goal today. I didn’t buy it. I called over a Judge, who took off Mr. Jackson’s hat, instantly recognized him as a PT player, and DQed him for his playing in a PTQ and already being qualified. He was going to be investigated, but the man’s charm and quick wit seemed to have stifled that.
Round 4 vs. Josh Ravitz
He didn’t really say much, so I don’t know much about him. Despite being 3-0, he seemed really grumpy.
Game1: I curved out again like I did against Mikey P, and he stopped the beats with a Goblin Replica. I Purged it and continued with a Savage Beating, putting him on 10. The next turn I played out my Goblin Dirigible only to have it stopped by a Tel-Jilad Archers, but then I drew Grab the Reins and killed him. Whoops.
Game 2: With my spectacular draw, my opponent seemed like he was grumbling a lot without the actual physical performance of grumbling. This odd sight took me aback and I dubbed him”grumbling man.” We started the next game, and I had to mulligan my hand for the first time in the tournament. He had to double mulligan, so I was feeling pretty confident.”You’re so lucky” he told me, as I proceeded to bash his face with a Leonin Elder, Auriok Glaivemaster, and eventually a Leonin Battlemage. He never really recovered from the double mulligan, and the game was quickly over as he grumbled off to a corner.
Round 5 Vs. Zvi Mowshowitz
I asked Zvi what he was doing playing qualifiers, and he said that all his time has been dedicated to his new game, Cyberpunk, and he hasn’t really had time to playtest much. Because of that, he fell right off the gravy train. Poor Zvi, we knew him well. He requested that I didn’t take notes during our match, so I don’t remember much about it besides that I won with some combination of Bosh, Grab the Reins, Fireball, and Sword of Fire and Ice. People keep telling me my deck is the nuts. I am inclined to agree.
Round 6 Vs. Casey McCarell
Casey, fresh off of his ban, was unsettled to see me sitting across from him.”Wanna draw? 5-0-2 makes it in” he says. Oh, no, I will not consort with known cheaters. I demand a battle! He swears that he has turned over a new leaf and his ban taught him many things about life and honesty. A lot of good that did him when he drew 10 cards in his opening hand. The judges pulled him into a back room and I never saw him again.
I drew in round 7 with Darwin Kastle.
It turns out that BP Mike Flores came in ninth as a result of my decision to draw. Sorry Mike, didn’t know I was going to wreck you, but you don’t need to be on the PT anyway.
In the Top 8 Draft, I was advised by Flores to draft W/R like my sealed deck. He actually advised me to plead with the TO’s to just allow me to play my sealed deck instead of my draft deck, but they disallowed that. I was between Mikey P and Darwin Kastle. I was glad to see that Mikey managed to make top 8 after being defeated in Round 1.
I drafted a fast mono-White deck with a Sword of Fire and Ice again – how lucky to have it both in my sealed deck and Darksteel pack! I got a lot of those Arcbound guys too… and three Blinding beams. For Equipment (besides that Sword), I had a Skullclamp and a Bonesplitter, along with a Viridian Longbow. I had lots of little dudes and one Raise the Alarm. I read that Wizards keeps trying to make White Weenie good, so why not draft it.
Quarterfinals vs. Rich Frangiosa
Rich is a man among men, but today was not his day to draft. His deck was not-so-great, or so he told me. He said that even though I probably forgot what a”phase” was, I would still probably trounce him via the old habit I have of turning my men sideways. As it turned out, Rich has some kind of modular deck, with most of his guys having that ability, and most of them being Arcbound Bruisers. The problem with that deck was he really needed to get to five mana for the hitters to come out. The little ones seemed good, but they weren’t going to win the game on their own. My deck was much too fast for him and Blinding Beam ended the game by the time he got to Bruiser mana in both games that we played. At this point, I realized that I had not lost a game yet that day! I must have been playing very well.
Semifinals vs. Ed Fear
Now, I had not played Ed in a long time, but I know his reputation well. He said that he was sad to have to beat Mikey in the last round, but he was glad that he could at least be better than him at one game. I did not agree to that statement, which instantly made Ed play in his”furious mode,” where everything he does makes him seem like an ass. Still an overall charismatic man, he gets away with it quite easily. My”furious mode” also came out to see the light of day again, and our two games managed to go for a full hour, even though I crushed him with blindingly fast Auriok Glaivemaster, Bonsesplitter, Blinding Beam, Sword of Fire Ice draws in both games. I wanted to make sure I did not make any mistakes versus Ed, so I took my time in making my decisions. I thought he was playing a little slow overall, though.
Finals vs. Darwin Kastle
Kastle wanted the slot and offered me everything – all the money and the boxes, pleading that I didn’t really even want to play today anyhow. He knew that he didn’t stand a chance against my deck, so this was his best shot. I decided to decline him that privilege, and said that if he wanted to play on the Pro Tour, he would have to at least beat a guy who hasn’t played since GP: Pittsburgh. Kastle responded saying that I didn’t even want the slot, and he was right – I just wanted to help my buddies who were on the Tour Already by sucking one up for the team. Oh America!
We started our match at a crawling pace. Twenty minutes later we were on turn 4, and Darwin was looking in bad shape. I had out a Slith Ascendant and a Sword of Fire and Ice, along with an Auriok Transfixer. He had out two Darksteel Pendants. Needless to say, the game ended fast and bloody.
The next game went much longer, with Darwin stabilizing the board with a few modular guys and Spikeshot Goblin. He had a Neurok Transmuter out and was able to modular up the Spikeshot Goblin that way, so my guys were in trouble. Lucky, I had the three Blinding Beams. I started by beaming the Goblin and the Transmuter. Then I played out three men. Then on the next turn I Beamed again and attacked. Then I played out the last guy that was suck in my hand – Leonin Battlemage. Then I Beamed him for the last time. Then, on the last turn before his guys would untap (he had two more guys out now, a War Wagon and a Prodigy), I cast Roar of the Kha for the win. I pretty much Beamed him into the ground in the most ridiculous fashion man could devise. Needless to say, Darwin wasn’t happy and tried to offer me everything again, but still I would not accept. Pro Tour slot, I have you, and I will keep you sacred and never use you.
Besides, I was happy with my top 8 pin. Maybe if he would have offered me his top 8 Pin as well, I might have accepted.
Afterwards, me and all the guys went to the best deli in town and had good times with the best meats in the world… but you don’t want to read about that.
Oh, and don’t think this means I play Magic. Oh no – there will be no more of that in the future…I just can’t stand the luck factor in the game.
John M. Shuler