PTSD 17th: The Way You Like It Part 1 – A Nice, Long Cuddle

Cuddly Bear Tim Aten shows his smoother, softer side, as he pleasantly recounts the events that took place at Pro Tour: San Diego. He sends this 17th place report out to all the lovers in the room…

(Author’s note: Despite the fact that the accounts presented in these reports may vary slightly, I assure you that nothing included herein is a lie. This does not apply to the blatant lies, which should, as the adjective implies, be readily apparent. The strange things that happened in my matches, however, are completely true. Oh, and also, I push my fingers into my).


It’s the only thing that slowly stops the ache…


I’ve had better introductions, and I’ve had worse ones. Sometimes you just gotta repazent for your peeps, ya feel me? Really, though, go look through the archives. No matter how bad one of my articles looks, odds are that I’ve written a worse one in the past. (Namely, the PTQ-Amsterdam report. You know, the one where I rehashed an old introduction and added commentary).

I really wish I could feel better about last weekend. I don’t think I drafted or played especially well, and I didn’t have very much fun despite it being my most successful Magic tournament to date. In essence, I’m not sure if I happened to”deserve” the 17th place finish at that particular tournament. I suppose I can blame part of my ambivalence on the fact that I didn’t really want to go, but really, who cares why I performed better or worse than I feel I’m capable of performing? In the end, all that seems to matter is the bottom line, the little numbers next to your name on the Sideboard and the DCI database.

In the grand scheme of things, how good of a finish is 17th anyway? How good of a rating is 2118 (which actually is my current Limited rating, and which I probably also don’t deserve)? On any given day, someone who is normally terrible or mediocre at best can slip into”the zone,” have amazing skill and luck*, and post an incredibly high finish. Conversely, someone who is very good may be suffering from jet lag or simply get bad draws with an alarming frequency. The point is, one really cannot look at ratings or individual performances to determine an individual’s Magic prowess. It would make me incredibly happy to believe that my 2118 really meant something, and frequently I’ve allowed myself to slip into the mindset that it does, but I’m honestly not convinced.

For some people, it certainly does mean something, if only from the Magic perspective. One cannot live his life with a detached, big-picture state of mind, or else he ends up sitting in front of a computer in holy sweatpants drinking milkshakes out of a bottle and repeating”Ambition and charisma are overrated” to himself like some sort of mantra, so let’s not be”big-picture.” At least not for the remainder of this paragraph. I um..

God, I lost my train of thought again. So-called”stream of consciousness” writing has the benefit that it’s not really possible to do it”incorrectly,” but it also has the drawback of confusing the piss out of your readers, in the parlance of our times, if done poorly. I’ll stop being cute now and just say what I was trying to say: People’s ratings are indicative of their skills to varying degrees. Mike Turian and Anton Jonsson, for instance, have clearly earned every last one of their 9,320,016 ratings points. Other people with ratings as high as 2184 haven’t exactly proven themselves, at least not to me.

People put far too much emphasis on success in the Western world anyway. Here I use”the Western world” as an oversimplified overgeneralization of the competitive, individualistic society to which I’m accustomed, based on snippets of wisdom that I gleaned from Mrs. Bryan’s 11th and 12th grade English classes. What’s so wrong with just having fun living and, when you do end up competing at something, doing your best? Then again, it is probably rather presumptuous for me to be telling you what is or is not important.

I got some clarification in my pitiful post-adolescent search for meaning talking to, of all people, Geordie Tait. My initial theory was something along the lines of:”Nothing at all matters, so just try to be happy and have fun in life.” Very pretentious pseudo-neo-hippie nonsense, I know. I wonder how arrogant it is to bother searching for meaning to begin with, as it makes the assumption that I possess the capacity to realize whether everything, nothing, or only certain things matter in the grand scheme of things. Geordie seems very fixated on success at Magic, so I was trying to put things in perspective by telling him that literally nothing mattered, so it didn’t help much in stressing over things. The refinement made to the theory with Tait’s aid was that, due to the subjective nature of reality, nothing matters in and of itself. Things only have the meaning that a person himself or herself gives them.

For instance, to me, DCI rating doesn’t really matter… or shouldn’t, that is. Yes, to some extent, it does matter, as it can qualify you for a Pro Tour or Nationals. As far as a feather in one’s cap or bragging rights or whatever you want to call them are concerned, I realize deep down that they don’t mean anything… in my mind, at least. I have this obsessive need to see the little numbers by my name go up, a neurosis which actually helped me in my desire to achieve in school. I don’t really know why I felt the need to see my name as close to the top of lists as was possible, nor do I really know why I feel the need to make stupid lists of songs and other nonsense, but for better or worse, I think it’s something ingrained within me. I could go to a psychologist, but as long as my symptoms aren’t ego dystonic, who’s to say whether the way I think about things is”right” or”wrong?”

So in other words, I’m crazy. You could have skipped the whole introduction up until this point and not missed a thing. I suppose if you’re bored at work or if you’re not into the whole”brevity” thing, it may have been worth reading. Unfortunately, due to the peculiar nature of the time constraints in submitting this particular article, I really don’t have the time to further refine or clarify my thought process, so I’ll just continue to brush the symptoms of my burgeoning psychosis and the boring, verbose, and yes,”lame” introductions aside with introspective, half-serious sound bites. If anyone actually is interested more on the Philosophy of winning at Magic, I may get back to it at a later date. Becker’s article on”Tomfidence” can help to explain why certain people win; I’m more interested in why people want to win, what results mean to them, what accomplishments are worth feeling proud of, and so on.

Speaking of music lists (which I did two paragraphs ago…as you can see, I’ve mastered the seamless segue), here are my top five songs of the week.

5. The Stills”Still in Love Song”

4. Hoobastank”From the Heart”

3. New Found Glory”All Downhill From Here”

2. Slipknot”Duality”

1. Franz Ferdinand”Take Me Out”

The Franz Ferdinand song is truly indescribable. Try to listen to the whole thing a few times before formulating an opinion no matter how much the opening sounds like a Strokes song. I heard it for the first time on Sunday and have since listened to it an average of twenty times a day.

Alright, let’s see…I’m actually writing this after the other version of the article so I get to cheat off that to see what I missed. Before I get into the tournament report, I need to mention some lingo, which I plan on cutting and pasting, and make menacing comments to one Douglass Ross Conway of Drexel University. Let’s cover the latter activity first.

Okay, here goes.

Where’s The Money Conway?

Where’s The &$#$Ing Money Conway?

Where’s The Money S$%^Head??!!

All gratuitous Big Lebowski allusions aside, can you please pay Gerry his money? Please? On the off chance that there actually is a money order in the mail (notbloodylikely), then I apologize for my persistence. However, assuming as I do that it was never really your intention to pay up, the least I can do is make public the fact that some people don’t like to pay off their debts. There’s a very simple way for you to be exonerated and for me to look even more like The Scum of the Earth (TM) than I already do: Pay heem. Pay that meean his maaney.

Wasn’t that fun? Now for the obligatory ostensibly gratutious** Lingo Interlude!!!

(hold for applause)

Some Gassy Tings of Lingo (abridged)

A Big Game (uh big GAME): This means”gas,” and can be used sarcastically. For instance, either Grab the Reins or Omega Myr could be considered a”big game” in the proper context. This is very annoying and obnoxious, like most lingo. My favorite usage of this over the weekend was when Jeff Cunningham drew a card, and Paul Rietzl expressed enthusiasm about it, then Cunningham deadpanned,”That was a rather large game.” But don’t you try to get fancy with it. Leave that to the experts. Don’t say this at all, in fact.

D Infi (dee IN fee): This one’s easy. It’s just the latest morphing of the downward spiral started by Kenny Hsiung and Alex Borteh years ago.”Gas” became”dergas” which became”dg” which became”d infi g” which is now just”d infi.” Simply precious. The most memorable use of this phrase at the tour was when Linde was drunk and said it literally once every four seconds (compared to once every seven seconds while sober). It was a big game, to say the least.

Suited: EFro uses this one. Morgy says that it’s virtually impossible to understand what EFro is saying anymore because of all the various slang he uses. Like the other two,”suited” means”gas.” Saying”gas” over and over again gets tiresome. Plus, the word itself is sooooo 1998. As yet another aside, an associate of mine (okay, fine, it’s Gerry again. Count the number of times the word”Gerry” appears in the article for a wonderful prize***) is tired of all the epithets of familiarity people use these days: dude, man, brah, and so on. If anyone has any replacements for these, let one of us know. Example of suited:”Franz Ferdinand is suited.”

Suited Itchies: This phrase doesn’t actually mean anything.

Pocher u me?: This one either.

(pointing up): This isn’t technically lingo, since lingo by definition involves language. If you don’t believe me, feel free to consult m-w.com. God knows I did to make sure the previous statement was accurate. I can actually be rather diligent at times. Anyway, at a key point when you topdeck and/or cast something amazing, point to the sky and form a goofy awe-filled expression on your face at your own mastery. Sometimes you can precede this with that ignorant thing that LL Cool J used to do on those commercials where he kisses his fingers and then flashes a sideways peace sign or whatever the Hell he does, but you have to transition right into the upward point. Optional: look up when you point up.

For some reason, I seem to have blocked a lot of the events from the previous few weeks from memory. They involved a lot of stressing about the PT, though. For various stupid reasons, I had convinced myself that I simply had to do well at the PT. Failure was simply not an option. That’s not a healthy mindset to enter any event with, since manascrew happens. Bad drafts happen. Deep down, I knew and know that my success at Magic really shouldn’t impact my mental well-being at all, but a lifetime of low self-esteem has really taken its toll.

Pragmatically speaking, my real goal was to at least cover the expenses of the trip. I didn’t really want to go to San Diego, but it was too late to back out. Thus I spent my days leading up to the tour praying to various entities – God, Buddha, Rodman, etc – that I just make my money back. That’s all I wanted. I hadn’t really been on top of my game in the weeks leading up to the Pro Tour – there was a string of unsuccessful Magic Online drafts, a 2-2 in a team PTQ, and a disappointing money draft loss to Ervin Tormos – so I was afraid that my”simple” request of top 64 was too much to ask.

Speaking of the money draft with Ervin Tormos… I’ll give you a scenario, and you tell me what the correct play is: Your opponent attacks with a Krark-Clan Grunt, a Goblin Replica, and a freshly cast Oxidda Golem. You block Grunt with an unequipped Skyhunter Cub, and he sacrifices a Myr to give his creature first strike. You then cast Leonin Bladetrap. Do you…

A) Calmly announce your intention to sacrifice Leonin Bladetrap, place it in the graveyard, and wait for responses

B) Hang your head in shame at having sideboarded in such a”sketchy” card, and apologize for the lame way in which you tricked your opponent

C) Tap two mana, throw the Bladetrap at your opponent, get up from the table and raise your arms in victory, high-five anyone in arm’s reach, take an exaggerated bow, sit back down across from your stunned opponent, pick up his attackers, and put them in his graveyard for him

I think I picked the right option. We’ll never know. I probably should have put that anecdote in the other article, but this one was sorta dragging ass. I didn’t want to make you regret your choice of article.

So back to San Diego. I don’t remember much about the trip there, but that’s sort of convenient since you probably don’t give a hoot. I Had Two Layovers, And The Trip Took Forever. Good Beats! I hung around the event site until I met up with edt, who gave me the room key. After being far too inept to procure a taxi, I decided to simply walk to the hotel, which wasn’t too big of a deal, since I’m fat and can use the exercise. I was rather frustrated, since I kept thinking I was going in the wrong direction and had a lowered feeling of self-efficacy following my gross incompetence. I stopped twice along the way to ask for clarification on directions. Derek Starleaf told me that he had seen the Radisson about a mile in the opposite direction, so I went into the lobby of the Holidae Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinn to ask for a cab. After ten minutes when the front-desk-clerk-guy showed up, he looked incredulous and informed me that I could have gone to the Radisson any time I wanted. All I had to do was click my heels together, say”there’s no place like home,” and then Cross The Goddamn Street Because The F$%#Ing Radisson Was Right There, Moron. [Well played. – Knut]


I pondered jumping off my balcony Thursday night, but since I was on the eighth story and the balcony overlooked the fifth story, I figured the fall would probably, at best, maim me. I would like to once again thank edt and Alana”Platy” Burman for letting me stay in their room. Best of all, Platy was out gallivanting with her beloved Dutchies on Thursday night, so I had a bed all to myself.

My nagging feeling of impending doom didn’t make me any less fashion conscious Friday morning. I was dressed for success in a borrowed long-sleeved Slipknot t-shirt and of course, those black swishy pants that no one is really sure what to call but I always wear because they’re so damn comfy. I know you don’t care what I was wearing, but I don’t like to forgo any opportunity I can give you to mock me.”Who listens to Slipknot?””Who wears long-sleeved t-shirts?””You’re ugly, fatty!” And so on.

I thought my first table was kinda rough, although apparently the one that included Gerry and my friend Cedric Phillips was noticeably rougher. Anton Jonsson was feeding Justin Gary, who was feeding Oyvind Harding, who was feeding me. Also at my table were Jon Sonne and Canadian Modo superstar Forrest Evans, who seems more famous as being Murray”The Mauler” Evans’s brother than for his own exploits.

My first pack featured Tel-Jilad Archers, Pyrite Spellbomb, Terror, and Barter in Blood. I didn’t want to start drafting Green or Red with a card that weak. Barter is a stronger card and a stronger signal if passed, so I took it. I then got passed Terror and an ensuing series of simply awful packs. In pack two, I got some nice Consume Spirits for my mono-Black deck. I also had three Ancient Dens for my Nim and Irradiate. I fantasized about what good fortune it would be to open up and splash a nice Leonin Battlemage. What I actually opened was a Pristine Angel(!) I smiled at my luck in how well things came together and then gladly scooped up Pulse of the Fields second.

Here’s what I ended up with:

1 Disciple of the Vault

1 Gold Myr

1 Iron Myr

1 Grimclaw Bats

1 Myr Retriever(?)

1 Elf Replica

1 Nim Lasher

1 Scavenging Scarab

1 Dross Golem

1 Pewter Golem

1 Woebearer

1 Pristine Angel

1 Darksteel Pendant

2 Terror

3 Consume Spirit

1 Darksteel Ingot

1 Wirefly Hive

1 Pulse of the Fields

1 Irradiate

1 Barter in Blood

1 Essence Drain

3 Ancient Den

12 Swamp

1 Plains

I’m not really sure what else I could have done with this deck, but based on the list, I probably screwed up somewhere. The first pack was sort of weak, so it was hard to discern signals. The problem with my card quality was exacerbated by the fact that Anton was drafting the stone cold nuts aggro Black deck a few seats to my right. One would figure that a two-person cushion would still allow me to see decent Black cards in Darksteel, but it was not to be. I never saw Justin Gary’s deck; it’s possible, but not very likely, that he was Black as well.

The Wirefly Hive is decent in this deck, since it’s defensive, controllish, and short on creatures. Also, I needed the extra artifact for my Nim and Irradiate. (In one of my decks, possibly this one, I had to leave one of two Irradiates in the sideboard because of artifact quantity issues). That said, I generally hate the Hive, I always hate the Ingot, and all my creatures save the Pristine Angel were abysmal. I essentially had three Death Grasps in my deck, but without the proper creature support, these cannot perform at their best. At the time, I thought the deck looked okay despite the horrible men, but in retrospect, Pristine Angel was probably the only way I was going to win any matches. What a terrible deck.

Round One vs. Forrest Evans (G/R)

I was somewhat happy with this pairing because, relative to the rest of the table, I assumed this would be a fairly easy match. Perhaps I underestimated the sheer mastery of this Alberta Clipper.

Game One: I kept a questionable hand since my deck doesn’t mulligan well due to its inconsistency and need for lots of land. I missed some key land drops while drawing cards like Elf Replica and Goblin War Wagon or whatever the 24th card I can’t really remember was. It was still very close, but I lost to Fangren Hunter since it’s so AWEsome. I seem to recall trying to race the Hunter as being a mistake, or perhaps I was not being aggressive enough; either way, it was possible that I would have won by playing slightly differently. It was the Pro Tour, the most important tournament I’d be playing in all month, and yet I still refused to take my time and consider all my options and all the possible paths to victory.

A noteworthy occurrence this game: I activated my Pendant, looked at my top card for a second, put it back, and then started to think about whether I’d keep it. Forrest called the judge, arguing that my replacing of the card signified my intent to not put it at the bottom. Fortunately, on the Pro Tour, the judges go by intent and not strict procedure in situations such as this, and I was allowed to put the card on the bottom as I had wanted. I was told to be more careful in the future. Unfortunately, I still lost.

Game Two: No Terrors, no Barter, a mana short of Consuming his Fangren Hunter that he drew again. The opening hand I kept was even more questionable than the first. I was probably correct in keeping my hand game 1, but I perhaps should have thrown this one back, as it was land shy and featured all mediocre cards. Perhaps I should have drafted a better deck. I considered going back to the room and trying my luck with the balcony after this inauspicious start. I had to win four of my next five to make day 2.


Round Two vs. Patrick Lutz (G/W/r)

Patrick was a nice guy from Germany. If you’ve read my articles, this should serve as foreshadowing; it seems like I rarely lose to”nice guys” for some reason. I’ve also found that I have a pretty good record against people whose first language isn’t English. I would have said”foreigners” or”Europeans,” but I got my head kicked in by Englishmen and Irishmen at PTNO 2001.

Game One: I think he land-stalled for a turn and played a Darksteel Pendant, which I usually treat as a mulligan when my opponent plays it. Considering my decklist, this appraisal is somewhat unfortunate/paradoxical. I successfully made a Wirefly after three tries during an attack step, and he had to use a Blinding Beam to lock down it and a Nim Lasher for a turn so his attacking Ghost wouldn’t get eaten. After he was forced to take out his queen**** too early, I dropped Big Prists and rode her to victory.

Game Two: We both had very slow starts. On around turn 7, he played a Tangle Golem with Test of Faith mana open. I considered my options and had no choice but to Consume it for five. It died. I Consumed something else for a lot later and was hence at thirty-five when he started bashing me with a Gauntleted Cub. I could have Consumed the Cub, but I was planning on using it as a finisher. He had Sun Droplet out, and I was slowly pecking away at his life total with the motley crew of Woebearer, two Myr, Dross Golem, and Elf Replica. At one point, he was at six and had WWGR open. I was at fourteen or so from his Cub. I didn’t really think much about what him having Pulse of the Fields (which he had played the previous game) would do to my chances of winning, so I just hoped he didn’t have it and Consumed him for nine. I thought there was a decent chance he had it based on how many cards he’d seen, but I attempted nonetheless.

He threw down his hand, which in fact did include Pulse of the Fields, and shook my hand, admitting defeat. I was rather confused at why he didn’t simply cast the Pulse to stay alive, but I certainly wasn’t going to complain about my good luck.


Round Three vs. Oyvind Harding (G/R)

This was one of my favorite parts of the weekend. I may try to be one cool, detached customer, but some things actually give me a sense of satisfaction. While we were shuffling up, Oyvind (who happens to seem to be a very nice guy) asked me if I was going to write a tournament report. I replied, simply,”No,” but I really meant”only if I do well,” but I didn’t think I was going to do well, so”No” was basically the succinct way to go. I figured out that if he asked if I was writing a report, it means he reads my articles. He probably also likes them, or else he wouldn’t really care whether I was going to write one. On Saturday, someone from Europe shook my hand and praised my work. On Sunday, Nicolai Herzog said that my articles were the best, or something comparable. I enjoy any evidence I get that people read and enjoy my articles. Apparently I have some sort of fan base in Europe after all.

When Ryan Opalk told me he loved my articles at a PTQ a few months back, Gadiel laughed at him afterward, deeming him a”barn.” I actually don’t think that. Honestly, if you like my articles, despite my ostensibly caustic exterior, I really do like hearing it. It confirms that I’m not wasting my time, and that I don’t need to make drastic changes to my approach. I can use any boost to my self-esteem that I can get.

Game One: He played a few random guys, then I played Pristine Angel on turn 5. Pristine Angel, of course, is a perfectly fair card that is not hard to beat at all.

Game Two: I Bartered away his first two guys but had no action while he decimated me with Tangle Golem and some other huge monster. At four life, I tried to Consume his Tangle Golem to buy myself a few more turns, but he Grabbed it at my nug in response.

Game Three: Oyvind admitted afterward that he’d made a mistake here. He debated Dismantling my Gold Myr out of fear of my Pristine Angel, but decided against it. I drew into Ingot and played the Angel and rode it to victory. If he had trusted his instincts and Dismantled the Myr, I certainly would have lost. Here’s the important question: Was his mistake really a mistake? Was it worth it to try to cripple my mana with precious artifact removal (also known as”Bauering” someone – don’t ask) out of fear of one card in my deck? It really depends. If he thought that was the only card likely to beat him – and he would have a good idea since he was passing to me for two out of three packs – then he should have killed it. Otherwise, it wasn’t the right call. Hindsight is always 20/20; I wonder what I would have done.


It appears that this is the end of Part One. Hopefully next week will bring a lot more strategic content and more memorable moments. I can’t make any promises, though, since I’m pretty stupid. And ugly. And worthless. I’d spend more time wrapping this up, but I have a big day ahead of me, memorizing the lyrics to The Offspring”Kick Him When He’s Down” so I can look like a giant badass in front of my friends when it comes on in my Dodge Stratus. Therefore, I shall just cut right to the lyric finale. See if you can figure out what song it’s from. If you do recognize the song, you’ll see how (hopefully) it half-applies and/or ties the whole room together, man. Unless I fail like I do at everything.


And don’t take it literally. I don’t really think 17th is that much of an accomplishment, as I’ve said. It’s not like, before this weekend I was nothing, and now I’ve suddenly hit the big time.

My life has changed but f$&* the fame, I’ll stay the same

You can’t complain when you can pay your bills and do your thing

Appreciate, don’t playa hate, congratulate

I miss the pain and the torment that you put me through

So what’s to fear when everything is crystal clear

You’ll realize that you should do the things you wanna do

Don’t give into what people say, don’t be ashamed

To separate the feelings on your mind you can’t sedate

Tim Aten

a.k.a. The Lemon Merchant

A Massive Tool

10792 on Modo

chester6561 or cup8675309 on AIM

[email protected]

“Talk me down, safe and sound…” –Sneaker Pimps,”6 Underground”

*For the sake of argument, please assume that”luck” exists. You know who you are.

**These adjectives would make more sense if you read the other article. I’m not sure if reading both is worth your time, or if you should just pick one. Probably the latter. It was my goal to make them separate but equal, but due to time constraints, I imagine the other one is a little better.

***That prize is the solemn recognition that you have way too much free time. Cash it in whenever you like!

****Half-assed Bobby Fischer reference. Here, in case you didn’t know, I am referring to Blinding Beam.