I Fear For My Friends
I fear for my friends. With my bags packed and laptop loaded, only a few short hours separate us from M-Fest, four days of pure Magic heaven courtesy of Wizards UK. Over the four days, there are any number of great events – three Pro Tour: Valencia qualifiers, Grand Prix Trials left right and centre, Historic Sealed Deck events, Theme Deck carnage, a mountain of regular booster drafts of every shade and hue, and of course, sitting proudly as the showpiece of the four days, the newly-unified UK National Championship. And I fear for my friends.
Team moxradio currently has seven members. Over the next four days you’ll hear about many others, each with their own stories to tell, and goals to accomplish. I’m not foolish enough to claim that the winner will come from these six, although any of them would be worthy champions. Between the seven of us, and a supporting cast of hundreds, I hope to find the words, both here in print, and across on the mothership through direct tympanic membrane resonance (the podcasts) to show you what it means, not just to play Magic, but to really care, as these guys, and many more of us, do. Here’s the team:
This is the guy who beat me out of Top 8 at English Nationals back in the last century, when he was 15, and looked about 12. Danny was the archetypal Angry Young Man. Frankly, he was a little bit scary. Intellectually, Danny’s a titan in a world populated by smart people turning cards sideways. In those days, for him Magic was a weapon, a rapier used to dispatch his mental inferiors without mercy. You need to remember that in those pre-MTGO days, many players only dusted off their decks one day a month for their local tournament. No playtesting, no real netdecks dominating the tournament scene, and a huge number of catastrophically bad plays. If I’m not adequately explaining how rough and ready those days were, it’s worth mentioning that over 6 rounds, at least two opponents would get the draw and untap parts of the turn in the wrong order, and that Prodigal Sorcerer generally only activated about half the times it could have.
Fast forward six years, and although the saying “time will take care of it” isn’t always true, it certainly has been when applied to Danny. The adolescent angst has been left behind, leaving a man every bit as whip-smart as he ever was, but with a hard-won humanity that makes him no less fearsome an opponent… one for whom Magic has ceased to be quite the righteous flame of self-definition it may once have been. As I write, Danny has a decision to make. Danny makes draft decks dance, but Constructed isn’t so effortless. He’s worked hard at Block Constructed, and lost in two Top 8s so far this qualifying season. PTQs for Valencia are scheduled one each day through Friday-Sunday, the exact same three days as the Main Event itself. Cold logic suggests that with almost no Standard experience with any of the cards, Danny’s chances of making Worlds through Nationals are almost certainly lower than they will be this time next year. On the other hand, he knows Block backwards and, with the greatest respect to those waiting to try and win a blue envelope to Valencia, most of them will have tried to qualify for the Championship itself, and failed to do so. So what to do? Maximise your chances of making it to the Tour, and pass up Nationals for another 12 months? Or acknowledge that Nationals is the prize worth winning, a fact readily attested to by another team-mate. If he does play, nobody will want it more, unless it’s this guy…
Guillaume Wafo-Tapa is one of the cagiest players I know. His relentless ability to mask his feelings during a game has, I have no doubt, given him an edge in countless matchups. Now Craig, our esteemed Editor and reigning National Champion, knows how to mix it with the best when it comes to mind-games and sheer will to win. However, this is a seriously emotional guy, and he finds it hard to hide at the sharp end of a tournament. I was less than two feet away when Craig was crowned. The tears that were wiped away at that moment were a vindication of an effort that had started long before, the culmination of a plan set in motion early in 2006. The internal tension during the final was something to behold. Let’s be fair, there’s plenty of Craig to contain those emotions, but the body wasn’t big enough then, and probably won’t be this year either.
Few would begrudge Craig his win last year. He played great Magic, had only a normal range of luck, and has been a dignified wearer of the crown. But two things about Craig. First, he has a tilt button, and I’m not the only one who knows it. Second, while I’ve seen the overarching joy at first hand, I’ve also seen Craig pretty close to bereft during Worlds in Paris last December. In and of itself, his tale of woe during those first two days is perfectly normal. He played a bunch of matches, and lost most of them. What separates Craig – and most of the heavy hitters – is that they see defeat as a reflection of themselves on a personal level. Quite why we choose to invest part of ourselves in a “mere” card game is a subject for another time, but beyond a shadow of doubt, and beyond a Shadow of Doubt, Craig means to have a ticket to Worlds in his back pocket come Sunday teatime. Nobody will want it more, unless it’s this guy…
Last year, Tom brought his own deck to Nationals. It was based in Boros, and was basically a fantastic choice. Always a good drafter, Tom managed to get himself into an outstanding position via a ridiculous Coldsnap draft deck, before succumbing in the final round of the Swiss. Tom is generally a very happy-go-lucky kind of guy. Not after the Swiss last year. The truth was that Tom had decided that 2006 was “his” year. I guess that right now there are quite a few people who think that 2007 will be “their” year. And all but one of them will be wrong. Giving yourself a goal like this can be fantastic motivation, and at the highest levels of the game there is a direct correlation between the players who decide to just turn up and play getting 2 Pro Points for just turning up and playing, and the players who decide to win turning up and, er, winning. The flipside is the look on Tom’s face at the end of the Swiss a year ago. This year isn’t, as far as I know, The Year of the Tom. That was last year. But if he gets that one extra round further onto Sunday play, nobody will want it more, unless it’s this guy…
Seasoned Pro Tour observers will know who Stuart Wright is. The rest of you won’t. Stuart generally occupies the role of “Deckbuilder to the Stars,” with multiple concoctions turning up in top-level hands at the back end of PT weekends. As a player, Stuart has been less successful, by a tantalisingly irritating amount. This is the guy who the phrase “on the bubble” was designed for. From year to year, Stuart turns up without fanfare or fuss and wins a PTQ, and then does fine at the resulting PT. Fine, but not brilliant. And yet he absolutely has world class game, on occasion. If there was such a thing as the Extended World Champion, that would be Stuart Wright right now. 6-0 in the Extended portion of the event in Paris, with even better tiebreakers than another UK Nats contender, Roy Williams of Wales. For every excellent performance that qualifies him automatically for a PT, there follows an average return that sends him back to the PTQ ranks. For someone who has the respect of the Pro community, this “on the train, off the train” shenanigans must be driving him nuts. Add in the fact that following a 6-0 Standard performance last year Stuart lost his quarter final, stranding himself outside the team for Paris, and it’s pretty clear that, when it comes to lifting the trophy nobody will want it more, unless it’s this guy…
You all know who he is, you all know what he’s done. If you read his Pro Player Blogs from the PTs, you know that Craig has been turning losing gracefully into an art form in recent times. It’s true that Craig is an extremely English Englishman, and for him to show a sign of temper would offend his sensibilities. Last year, he very nearly lost it. Totally. He had a hideous run of deck malfunctions – you know the kind of thing, 12 land in a row, no land in 9 etc – and walked away, by my admittedly unscientific calculations, approximately 3.7692 seconds from comprehensive meltdown. The Professor probably wouldn’t admit this, but the pressure is starting to build. Vindication is a word I expect to use quite a bit this week, and if the Professor can pilot the latest version of Gruul to a quarterfinal shootout, that’s what he’ll be playing for. Nobody will want it more, unless it’s this guy…
Neil’s pretty much a legend in the UK, but not always for the right reasons. Of all my team-mates, Neil is my closest friend and the man I understand best. And it’s Neil that, sitting here at what is now three in the morning, I fear for the most. Neil is defined by Magic. Neil eats, sleeps and breathes the game. He’s an outstanding Magician, whose biggest opponent is almost always himself. His career to date is littered with moments of Icarus-like disaster. Icarus, classical scholars will doubtless recall, made himself a pair of wings fixed with wax. Nothing wrong with wanting to fly, and nothing wrong with wings fixed with wax, unless of course you fly too close to the sun and the wax begins to melt…
Whether it’s trying to complete a perfect victory with an opponent left with zero permanents and with zero cards left in his library or graveyard – I’ve seen him do this at a PTQ, for crying out loud – or missing a Masticore upkeep with the PTQ in the bag, or getting himself kicked from the game for fifteen long, lonely months, this is a man who takes himself into every game knowing that the capacity to fly too close to the sun is an ever-present concern. Neil is not currently qualified for Nationals. Tomorrow he has two shots. As a reporter, I am of course unbiased. As a friend, I am desperately hoping he will make it in. I’m good with words, but I honestly don’t know what I can say to him if he has to watch another Nationals from the sidelines. Assuming that he gets there, this is my Wednesday prediction for the 2007 UK National Champion. Because, I mean it this time, nobody would want it more, unless it’s this guy…
No, I’m not playing. Part of me wishes that I were. Watching winners win is one of the best parts of my job. Having interviewed three Pro Tour winners so far this year, I’ve got a glimpse at the immeasurable satisfaction that finishing on top of the pile brings. Part of me is extremely thankful that I’m not about to put myself through three days of such a stern examination of Magical prowess (although I may end up becoming a Level 1 Judge by the time the trophy is lifted) because while watching winners win is instructive, so is looking at losers losing. And it’s not pretty. I’ve seen otherwise intelligent, witty, charming, rounded human beings lose all perspective as their journey to victory gets permanently derailed. Even players with bucketloads of joie de vivre, like Pierre Canali or Osyp Lebedowicz, genuinely seem to suffer when the wheels come off. And as I look at my six team-mates, about to embark upon that journey of self-examination, I salute not just them, but all the competitors who sit down week in and week out to lay themselves on the line, prepared to want it so badly, and knowing that all but one of them cannot succeed.
And that is why I fear for my friends.
Not The Real World
Magic, as you may have spotted, is pretty much an indoor sport, and as such, windows are pretty much optional. It’s quite possible to enter a giant conference center at nine in the morning, leave at midnight, and have had no clue whether there’s a storm or sunshine going on outside. This is one of the environmental factors that helps us leave the real world behind, and let’s be clear — Magic is a long way from the real world. Obviously, it’s rich in internal mythology. Apparently, there are some people who actually read the novels given away with the fat packs, and one person who has done this tells me (and I believe him) that four mana 2/2 with Flash that goes in the Blink-Touch deck right now is a guy called Venser who’s trying to save the world. Not our world, this other one. Okey dokey.
Put any single-minded group of people in the same room, and the chances are that their behavior will seem normal to them. As someone Removed From Game, I’m often sent what you might call the “Hasbro Refugees.” These are guys and gals from assorted Head Offices who have come to look at what goes on at a Premier Event. If you’ve spent your working life marketing Barbie, this sometimes comes as a bit of a shock. So I show them around the venue, chat a bit about what makes Magic tick, and try to explain that yes, astonishingly that’s correct, people buy a game, sit down with seven people they don’t know, throw the game components away less than two hours later, and then buy the game again.
Then comes the fun bit where I try to explain the Trade Hall.
“So these cards that people have just thrown away, they come here and they buy them, but just one at a time?”
“But how can this one cost more? It’s very pretty, but I like this card better.”
“Sure, but this one is really useful for lots of people, and that one’s called Spellbook.”
“And how much do they actually cost?”
“The Spellbook’s probably about 50p.”
“And the Black Lotus?”
If you’ve ever wondered why Premier Events have St. John’s Ambulance staff on hand, it’s so they can revive Corporate Executives and Parents when they hear trade prices.
Meanwhile, back where the action is, we — 600 of us — will turn up at 9am for something called a Tournament that will last until, if we’re lucky, Tuesday. If we’re unlucky, the tournament won’t start until Tuesday. The game is so complicated that there are entire squadrons of bald people walking around in black and white stripes whose sole purpose is to tell people who want to play the game how to play the game. In the corner, there are people queuing up to become a bald person walking around in black and white stripes whose sole purpose is to tell people who want to play the game how to play the game. As if the game isn’t complicated enough, there are, at the last count, 43,256 variations, all of which have their own rules, including lists of cards that are banned. That’s right Daddy, you’ve just bought me a card for Â£3,000 that, wait for it:
I. Can’t. Use.
After four days of deciding whether Invasion Invasion Planeshift is a better draft format than 7th/8th/9th/10th, after four days of watching a lot of good winning and a ton of bad losing, after four days of watching people collapse from 14 hours of Magic before heading for the hotel bar to take a break by playing Magic, and after four days of loving every second just like everyone else, I will get in my car and turn the radio on.
50,000 homes are still without electricity less than 50 miles from the venue. Another 20 people have died in road accidents. Millions of people have been to work as accountants, plumbers, postmen, vicars, lawyers, and ten thousand other professions. At home, the washing basket is empty, the ironing basket is full, and the bank statement is waiting to be opened. My five-year-old daughter is eager to start the day, my exhausted wife is ready for a holiday in the Bahamas that she won’t be getting. And as I sit there in my car on Sunday night, chances are I’ll be thinking something like this:
“I wonder if I should have had that third Cryoclasm in the board, because the metagame shift through the Australian and Italian results meant that I really didn’t need to dedicate all those slots for the R/G mirror…”
Magic is a great world, but it is most definitely not The Real World.
The Last Chance Qualifier
So, Neil didn’t make it. He got to 5-1. There were seven people on 5-1. 1 would get paired down, and play someone scrabbling around in the draw bracket. This time around, it was Neil. The other six players took Intentional Draws in the last round, and qualified for the Main Event. Neil played a very solid player called Marco Orsini-Jones and lost. He will not be in there come tomorrow morning. He is not happy. How unhappy, I don’t yet know, but as I told you yesterday, I fear for my friends.
Magic is not exactly filled with artistic and creative types, when it comes to players at least. The game is stacked overwhelmingly in favor of people with math, computing, and science backgrounds. You only need to read a sample of articles each week here on StarCityGames.com to know that us namby-pamby arty types find all this Game Theory, Vectors, Fundamental Turns, and Halfway Up The Metagame Horseshoe exceedingly hard work. So I’m not entirely sure why I decided to put myself through 6 months of brain-frying foolishness in a bid to become a bald man in black and… yes, I’m trying to become a Judge. When I qualified for my first Pro Tour I made the idiotic error of reading the Comprehensive Rules on the basis that it would help me, you know, know the rules. It didn’t. Thankfully, I like quizzes and puzzles, and the way you mostly learn what you need for a Judge test is by doing lots of Judge-y questions online. Since I don’t mind getting things wrong, and like finding out stuff, I’ve gradually worked my way to a point where I could, with a prevailing wind, become Level 1. But the stupid thing is, I am petrified. The head of the UK Judge Programme, Nick Sephton, is metaphorically jumping all over me, telling me that now, this evening, here is the time to put my new-found knowledge to the test and earn the stripes. I think I will fail. I think I am not ready. I think I cannot bear the shame of telling my friends that my hard work has been insufficient, so I really want to make some pitiful excuse and crawl under a rock. For the first time in a long time, I understand what my friends feel when they come out of the Feature Match area having been taken out of contention, and it isn’t nice. Why am I so afraid to fail?
Update: I passed. In a sentence that may be oxymoronic or possibly simply moronic, you can hear me reduced to total silence by a pair of extremely kind Level 3 judges over on the audio coverage of M-fest 2007 at the Mothership. Even I, who makes introspection an important part of every working day, only dimly glimpsed how badly I wanted this, and how genuinely sick I was at the possibility of failure. I am literally shaking as I type this. To strive and to succeed, fantastic. How Pro Tour winners don’t just explode with happiness I’ll never know. (I know, someone with a scientific background will explain in the forums why, generally, humans don’t explode, with happiness or otherwise.)
If you’re British, I can tell you to imagine an over-the-top “Lun-dun” (London) accent, and you’ve got Dave Grant cued up and ready to rock. If you’re not British, imagine Bob Hoskins as Smee in the film “Hook” and you’re pretty much there. One of the great traditions about Nationals is that Dave (or Grrrrraaaaaaaannnnnttttttyyyyyyyyyy as he is more usually known — go on, try it out loud) will always post to the UK newsgroup about six weeks before the event, announcing that he will be winning the event this year, and that everyone else can pack their bags. Granty has been winning Nationals for almost a decade now, although strangely his name has never actually appeared in first place on the final day. Once again, the tradition was upheld as the famous post appeared online, guaranteeing plenty of great banter during the weekend. Now Dave, or (as he lovingly styles himself) The Great White Hype, likes to talk. But he doesn’t talk about just anything. Oh no, Granty talks about his deck, and to his deck. Two weeks after I started playing Magic, I’m watching Granty play at the local store. He’s probably about 15 at this point. Mirage Block draft is the format and this, I swear to God, is what Granty was saying:
“My turn? My turn, are you sure? Because if it’s my turn, I’ve got stuff to do, and I’ll show it to you, yeah baby, ooh. Okay, untap, upkeep, draw my card, there it is, in my hand, see what I did there? Alrighty, what am I going to do? You don’t know, but Granty does, and soon you will too. Alright, you see these two Swamps and this Mountain, right? What I am going to do is turn them sideways, because that’s what they’re there for, tip tippety tap tap tip top tap, there we go, three mana in my mana poooooool, yeah baby, ooh, now here’s a card, it costs three mana, that’s why I tapped three mana, tip tippety tap, you don’t know what it is, but I do because Granty can see it, and I’m going to show it to you, here he is, he’s a Bone Dancer. You may not know what he does, I’ll turn him round so you can see, but don’t worry, I’ll tell you right, he’s made of Bone, and he’s a Dancer, doo de doo de doo, you see that’s why they call him the Bone Dancer, because he’s a Dancer and he’s made of Bone, see what they did there? Granty’s done for the turn, you’re up buddy.”
Granty has been doing this sort of thing to people for over a decade now, and if it comes across as irritating in print, I suppose there are players down the years who have scooped their eyeballs out with hot rusty spoons after playing Granty. However, in real life Granty is a ray of sunshine in the game, one of the most charismatic, charming, loud, brash, funny and vulnerable people in the game. Magic is lucky to have him. Maybe this is his year for real, tip tippety tap.
Main Event Update
End of the main event Day 1, nobody has a 7-0 record. The five team moxradio guys are in pretty decent shape. Danny’s doing fine on 4-2-1, Craig Jones is top of the 5-2s and the other 3 are all 6-1 and in a good position for tomorrow. Can’t argue, Craig Stevenson is defending his title with honor. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.
At any big event, there are certain players who draw a crowd. Maybe it’s the guy in the jester’s hat. Maybe it’s the 9 year old at 4-0 in the PTQ. Maybe it’s an Osyp or an Olivier, flamboyant players who can work a crowd, and maybe it’s two heavyweights of the game going head to head in an elimination match. Less often, a crowd gathers not because of the deck pilot, but because of the deck itself. Sometimes this is down to new technology. At Worlds in Paris, Johnathon Rispal found himself the absolute center of attention as he piloted the much-vaunted Sunny Side Up deck. Everyone wanted to know what this new deck did. But sometimes there is a deck that is just so inherently entertaining in and of itself, with funky interactions and jaw-dropping ways of breaking the game that you can’t help but want to see it in action. This afternoon, Daniel Godfrey of Wales was the man, and Hatching Plans was the deck. Every round, the crowds were round his matches. I accept that plenty of you don’t like Combo, and that’s fine, but in terms of sheer “wow” factor, in a field of Gruul and Rakdos the Plans deck was impossible to beat:
End of turn, cast Perilous Research, draw up to 7, sacrifice Hatching Plans, go up to 10. Untap, upkeep, unsuspend Lotus Bloom, Lotus Bloom, draw, 11 cards in hand, cast Claws of Gix, Repeal the Claws, cast Claws, Repeal Claws, cast Claws, Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Pyromancer’s Swath, Empty the Warrens for 22 1/1 Goblins, Grapeshot you for 36.
There’s something about Magic players that makes us appreciate truly sick behaviour, and watching a succession of crowds from a distance as Godfrey went about his business, there’s no doubt that the bit of all this that makes people grin uncontrollably is the Repeal nonsense. Getting to a Storm count of five off just two Blue mana is so palpably absurd I even feel dirty typing it. But of course the real thrill of the Plans deck is that it might not work. Even playing with it, there’s a feeling of juggling with grenades. Ignite Memories you for nine with Pyromancer’s swath in play, response Tendrils my guy for seven, go to 26, okay hit land – Spell Snare – Dimir Signet – Spell Snare — land — Signet – Spell Snare — Signet – Signet. Deal you 25. Oops.
Whether it works or not, there’s something about this deck that has people coming back for more, and that’s great.
The Best Bad Beat Story In The History Of The World. I Guarantee It.
Wait, don’t go to the next bit. Everyone has bad beat stories, and everyone thinks they’re really good, and mostly of course they’re really mundane. My favorite one of these is the one where someone tells you that they can’t understand it, they only lost twice all day, once in the Swiss and once in the semis, playing the same guy each time. How unlucky is that? Well let’s see. First of all, there were sixty-two 10 year olds, you and Kai Budde in the tournament, and you played Kai in round 5 of the Swiss. Second, White Weenie boy, Kai’s 28 Protection from White monsters are quite good against you I hear.
No, bad beat stories are really there to help you fill in the time while DCI Reporter 3 doesn’t get fixed.
I recognise that my headline is a pretty bold claim, but I’m willing to go further with the hyperbole (the hyperbole, as all North American sports fans know, happens the week before the Superbole). If Magic continues to be printed for the next thousand years, this bad beat story will never be beaten. Here it is:
Matt Hardy is a fairly new player. He works hard at his game, qualified for Nationals at his first attempt, has a good grasp of the Metagame, has made PTQ Top 8s very early in his career. In short, he’s on the up. He does, however, have something of a blind spot.
Playing in a PTQ with Time Spiral Block, Matt went along with U/B Teachings Control. He’s doing fine in the tournament, and uses Slaughter Pact to kill a blocker. His opponent puts the monster in the bin and then asks Matt if he’s going on holiday this year. Conversation ensues. Untap ensues, upkeep ensues, draw step ensues, game loss ensues. Oops.
One week later, Matt’s back at another PTQ. In Round 2 he plays our esteemed Editor Craig. It’s 1-1, and Matt kills Teferi with Slaughter Pact. Untap, upkeep, draw, good game. Oops. But all is not lost…
Matt’s Pact loss to Craig is his only loss of the Swiss. He wins his quarterfinal, and is paired against Craig again in the semis. One game all, this time Matt has the win on the board, providing he removes the last blocker. Slaughter Pact your guy, untap upkeep draw, gg. Really oops.
So far, so mundane. Now it starts getting funky.
Matt has decided not to play Pacts in Standard. Instead, he’s playing G/W with Tarmogoyfs and pals. He gets to 2-1, and then settles down to draft. Removal is quite good in draft, and Matt is quite light going into pack 3. But that’s okay, because look at that lovely zero-mana Black rare. He faces Stuart Wright. Matt has Spectral Force online and about to win the match, provided he removes the last blocker… Really, really, really oops. Good game.
And now the grand finale. You’re probably thinking you know what happens, and my guess is that you really don’t. Matt played in the PTQ today, back to good old Teachings Control. Matt uses Slaughter Pact. He pauses. He has learned his lesson. He puts a counter on top of his deck as a reminder to pay. His opponent taps 14 mana. Take Possession your Swamp. Take Possession your Swamp. Lay Urborg, Wastelanding your Urborg. Your turn, Island Boy.
And that, my friends, is the Bad Beat that will never be Beat.
Main Event Update
I will never forget looking at the first draft pod of the day. On table 2, four of the team are sitting next to each other. That’s not shabby. By the end of the draft, Tom is up to 8-2, having lost to Craig Jones twice in the weekend. The Professor is also 8-2. Stuart Wright, with the Constructed to look forward to, was at 7-3, Danny had aced his pod to move to 7-2-1, and the only casualty was Craig Stevenson. It’s neither big or clever to say “what a difference a year makes,” but seeing him in near-identical pose, head in hands, taking deep breaths and looking utterly pole-axed, I was again reminded just how much these events mean, and, once again, why I fear for my friends.
Update Part the Second
Woohoo! Danny and Tom came unstuck in the second batch of Standard, but that’s not the case for Stuart Wright and Craig Jones. They’re in the Top 8! Fantastic achievement for both, and best of all, they’re in different brackets, so I can go to sleep tonight dreaming of an all-moxradio final. Now that would be carnage! Come on boys!
Breasts — Everyone’s Number One Metagame Choice
I wonder what it’s like being a hot babe in a roomful of 600 guys. Having never been a hot babe, it’s hard to tell. I was once a smokin’ hot guy in a roomful of 600 girls, but that’s the kind of (true, incidentally) story you just don’t get on the free side of StarCityGames.com. So back to M-Fest. What do the ladies think when they sit down to play? They must know that they’re walking eye magnets for just about everyone in the building who isn’t actually playing Magic as they waft past, and for many who are. Some of the more competitive lady duellists clearly use this knowledge to their advantage. One such, who has sadly departed the scene, we’ll call, ooh, pluck a name at random from the air, Alice Coggins. Now Alice knew what the cards did — she was at the time the “other half” of Scott Wills, erstwhile Limited Information columnist on MagicTheGathering.com and serious player — but without fail when you played her, she would lean gratuitously over the table to caress your cardboard, give you an impossible-to-ignore view of her Gemstone Caverns, before retiring back to her own side of the board, leaving you thinking about a lot more than your upkeep. Here at M-Fest, I’ve found another of these duplicitous duellists. You know who you are. Now seriously, yes you look fabulous. Yes, I am, in a totally non-judgmental and non-adulterous way, wanting to have sex with you. Yes, obviously four copies of your breasts would be the first on the list for my Bazoomas of Rath theme deck. But I beg you, play fair ladies. Be demure. Be elegant. Cover your Charms, so we poor guys can concentrate on choosing the right mode for ours. And God, thank you for the gift of sight.
There’s a Frenchman in the Top 8, and it shouldn’t be allowed. Possibly. Eduardo Sajgalik is a 19-year-old French student, who is living and studying in Bristol. Turns out, he’s quite good at Magic, and so finds himself just one win away from the Worlds GB team. I have nothing against him personally, or the Finn Artturi Bjork who won English Nats a few years back, or Francois Hauchard who is playing here this weekend, a man so incontrovertibly French it’s untrue. The trouble is, Sajgalik could win it, and then a Frenchman would be carrying the Union Jack at Worlds. That’s palpably a nonsense. So why do we allow this situation to arise? The poor guy is sitting down against Craig Jones, and he is probably the only person in the entire building who doesn’t want a Jones victory. Talk about conducting yourself under pressure. The organisers want him to lose (in an unbiased good-for-the-game kind of way), the coverage team want him to lose (in a thoroughly unbiased reportery kind of way), the judges want him to lose (but in a totally unbiased professional judgey kind of way), the other players want him to lose… hell, the tealady probably wants him to lose, just on principle. There are well over a hundred events you could enter at M-Fest this weekend if you weren’t British. Why do we allow people who aren’t British to play in British Nationals? At the heart of all this concern is not, interestingly, xenophobia, as my title rather provocatively suggests, but a deep-seated embarrassment at the state of British Magic at the highest level. Quentin Martin, Sam Gomersall, Nick Lovett, and Craig Jones aside, Britain is not a heavy hitter on the world stage. To have a foreign winner of Nationals is a powerful symbol indicative of a serious absence of Pro talent, and as a race we don’t like being laughed at. I’m not angry about this, I just don’t get it. How does this happen?
I got my dream final. Two members of team moxradio made it all the way to the Championship match. I love having friends like these. I am a very lucky man. Stuart Wright played out of his skin to get past Grrrrraaaaaaaannnnnttttttyyyyyyyyyy in the quarters, with The Great White Hype just falling short. Once in the final, Magus of the Moon was a lethal sideboard card for Jones, and Wright succumbed in four games. Having made Top 8 last year, and lost in the quarters, he was more than a little pleased to have made it to New York.
And as for Craig Jones, Pro Player Blogger, with umpteen defeats and missed day twos behind him this year, and a Nationals to forget last year?
Turns out, nobody wanted it more.
Thanks for reading,