The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated – and I suspect that it is largely my own fault. Following the Magic Invitational, I wrote a tournament report for the Sideboard in which I talked about a number of things, including my desire to either do well at the Pro Tour or stop attending. The idea of retiring from Magic certainly has its appeal to me, but a good finish would probably change my whole attitude about the game. As it is, I’ve attended more Pro Tours than I can count, starting with PT 1 and missing only Worlds ’96 and World’s ’97, both of which were quite hard to qualify for if you were an American. Aside from what seems like a fluke in Pro Tour – Los Angeles in 1998, where I won the whole thing, my Pro Tour career can only be described as dismal. There are a handful of top 32s and top 64s and a huge number of finishes below the top 128.
I certainly seem to have a knack for staying qualified for the Pro Tour, but what’s the point of competing in these events if I don’t have a real shot? That is the question that I must figure out. Certainly, I love traveling. And often these tournaments are in places where I’ve always wanted to visit anyways, like the upcoming Pro Tour – Venice. But aside from the travel, it is difficult for me to invest too much of myself in Magic and the Pro Tour when I constantly come up short. There have been times when the Deadguys playtested like dogs, largely to no avail, and there have been times when we’ve shown up unprepared and gotten bashed, and deservedly so. With Worth Wollpert working for Wizards of the Coast, Chris Pikula retired, and Jon Finkel showing up and still doing well despite no preparation (God, I’m jealous of that man’s Magic skills sometimes), that leaves just me and Tony Tsai. Tony Tsai is probably the best Magic player of the bunch now, he still plays in PTQs and Grudge Match tournaments at Neutral Ground – NY. Even he isn’t always qualified for the Pro Tour, as is the case for Pro Tour – Venice. The Deadguys are about done; some would argue that we’ve been done for a while now and they might be right.
Following the Invitational, I had believed that Pro Tour – Chicago would be my final Pro Tour. I needed to make top 128 there or I wouldn’t be qualified for Venice. I didn’t attend any PTQs or Grand Prixs for Venice, so doing better than average in Chicago was my only shot. It always seemed that I was able to do the bare minimum that was required to stay qualified for the PT, so I wanted to put it to the test. Showing up at Pro Tour – Chicago, I believed I would either have to make the second day or I wouldn’t qualify for the next one.
The first draft went very well, I drafted a red/white deck with Jon Finkel on the opposite end of the table. Seriously, the draft table was straight out of 1998. There was Jon Finkel and myself, David Williams, and Andrew Nishioka. The other four players weren’t slouches, either. Besides losing to Jon Finkel in the 3rd round, I managed to win the rest, going 3-1 in that pod. I think this may be the first time I’ve ever lost to Jon in a sanctioned match, but I doubt that alone means that I’m over the hill.
In the second draft, I needed to win one of my first two matches so that I could draw into the second day. I ended up with a decent Black/Green deck, but luck was not on my side. A series of mono-color land draws left me 0-2. My hopes were dashed. I was 3-3, certainly out of the top 128, I thought. As it turns out, the other player who was 0-2 in that pod dropped out, so I received a bye to end up 4-3. The bye, combined with my early 2-0, then 3-1 start left me with excellent tiebreakers, but it was still looking unlikely that I would place in the top 128. When the last match of the 7th round was in, they did the final standings for day 1 and there I was: 125th place.
I’m still not sure whether to be happy or sad. I had gotten the extra Pro Tour point that I needed to qualify for Pro Tour – Venice, but I had once again failed to do well at the Pro Tour.
So here I am, qualified for Pro Tour – Venice with few of my good friends qualified. Jon Finkel won’t practice – of that I’m sure – and my success playtesting with Scott McCord and Mike Pustilnik at Neutral Ground is abysmal. At this point, I’m hoping to find a beatdown deck that will work, so at least I’ll have a bit of fun in Venice and I won’t have to play Astral Slide-on-Astral Slide mirror matches all day. I know its not the best attitude to have, but that’s really the only thing that’ll get me on a plane to Italy, besides my desire to experience the city of Venice for the first time.
To all those who thought I was down for the count, it hasn’t happened quite yet. I’m going to need one hell of a performance in Venice to qualify for PT-Yokohama, but anything’s possible, right?
Thanks again to everyone who has offered their encouragement and support. Playing on Magic: Online just might inspire me to do well again; so many people have seen me there and told me that they wish me luck and that they want to see me stay on the Pro Tour that it brings a smile to my face, which is quite an accomplishment if you know me very well at all.