This isn’t the first. It won’t be the last. But I have a daily column to write, and this is my topic.
US Nationals has a special place in everyone’s heart. No one likes to admit it, but people really love that tournament. Look at the Regional Championships… there’s always a huge turnout. Everyone wants to represent their country at Worlds, so everyone wants to go to Nats. This year, Nats is in Atlanta. I recently moved to Atlanta to live in a house of gamers. This happens to be a perfect formula for a vacation/playtesting ground.
The Colony, The Beach House, The Holiday Inn… these little gatherings of gamers have had many names. I was trying to come up with some clever name for ours, but I don’t want to make this some huge deal. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if not one game of Standard was played this entire week. Even if we were actually testing Standard, it wouldn’t be fair to anyone in the group to talk about it in any detail. This column will be primarily about the social aspects. I hope to bring you commentaries directly from some of our guests and hosts, but I can make no promises as very few know this is my plan for the column yet. Most of them are battling it out at Grand Prix St Louis as I write these very words.
For today I will give you a rundown of the cast of characters:
Joseph Crosby (Joe or Crosby) – While some of you may only know Joe from his recent Top 8 in Prague, he has been playing Magic a very long time. His first Pro Tour was Dave Price’s LA. That’s Tempest Block if you’re scoring at home. Joe has one of the most advanced gaming minds of anyone I’ve met. While most people living in the house aspire to be professional gamers, Joe has accomplished it. Joe works hard and plays hard.
Elizabeth Hutchinson (Liz) – Crosby’s better half. Liz is the matriarch of the household, taking care of us like the small children we are. Liz is the only non-gamer in the house. She’s up for a round of DDR, and she certainly is into partying, but you won’t see her with a Magic card or a poker chip in her hand on most days.
Justin Jackness (Justin or JJ) – A young up-and-coming gamer from Atlanta who is good friends with Crosby and Don Smith. From all accounts his growth in both Magic and Poker has been astounding. Justin is a great gamer and an even greater guy.
Ken Krouner (Ken, KK, or me) – I moved down from Albany, NY after I realized my cushy state job was rotting my soul. Hopefully check-raising proves to be a little more fulfilling than pushing paper. I’m not that big into tournament Magic anymore. I’m not even qualified for Nationals. I am seriously considering not playing in grinders. But make no mistake, I love the game as much as anything.
Don Smith (Don Smith) – Don Smith’s been playing almost as long as I have, but his first Pro Tour was just last year in Atlanta. Don Smith finished second along side Adam Chambers and Andrew Pacifico after winning the Last Chance Qualifier as “We Add.” Don has enjoyed modest success since then. When he actually decides to attend events, anyway.
Also living in the house we have Aziz Al-Doori and Adrienne Simmons. They will both be in Las Vegas for this week, attending the World Series of Poker. Aziz is a pro from further back than nearly anyone can remember. His trademark was Angelic Blessing. He first realized the power of this card in Limited, declaring “To the Air!” each time he cast it. Adrienne is Aziz’s better half. Both play poker, neither play Magic in earnest, but both love games.
Timothy Aten (Tim, Timmy or Aten) – I was pretty excited when I heard Tim was coming down. When both lived in Albany we barely ever hung out. Since his departure we’ve actually become better friends. He doesn’t need a Magic introduction, particularly on this site. It would only serve to patronize everyone involved. [Indeed, he’s running a series of Dailies this week too! – Craig.]
Kyle Goodman (Kyle) – Not to be confused with Ben Goodman, I first Met Kyle Goodman while he was playing in the Top 4 of the Junior Super Series in 2003. His play impressed me then. He made it again the next year. Soon after that he played in PT Philly and finished 10th. His career has just begun, but he has no fear. For political reasons I won’t list the players he considers jokes on the PT, but I assure you, you’d be shocked. He has consistently done well in GPs, with a Top 4 in Charlotte as his most recent individual finish of note. Confident, but not cocky. Truly a Good Man.
Richard Hoaen (Rich, Richie, rhoaen, Richard, Hoaen) – His Grumpy.
Mark Ioli (Mark or Ioli) – Mark came on the scene last year with a Top 8 in GP Salt Lake City. He also made the finals of GP Madison along side Kyle Goodman and Ben Lundquist as “FJB.” Don’t let Mark’s New York accent fool you, he’s damn smart with the cards. Just remember, once upon a time Neil Reeves was just a big dumb hick to many.
Benjamin Lundquist (Ben, Lenny B., Leo, The Lion, King of the Jungle) – Ben was a player from my area who I didn’t meet until he was already quite good at the game, he just didn’t know how good he was yet. He gained confidence quickly and soon won a PTQ for Hawaii. He went to the tournament unsure of what to play, and finally settled on a Tron build designed by Ray Tautic. It was love at first sight, and soon Ben became the world’s greatest Tron advocate. From all evidence on MTGO, he was absolutely right. This means, shockingly, Flores was wrong!
John Pelcak (The Cak, The Caaaaaak, The Check, Checkling Imp, Checkling Flames) – Team Specialist, John Pelcak has had remarkable finishes with several different teams. This can only happen so many times before you throw your hands up and say, “man, I guess he is good at something.” I jest, Cak’s a good kid and a great player. His individual career will come around eventually.
Dan Rodemann (Rodman) – I don’t know Rodman very well. From all accounts he’s a good guy, but my experience with him has been limited. He’s traveling with Hoaen and Timmy, so I’ll get to know him better over the course of the week.
Brian Kibler (Kibler) – I include Brian as he spent most of the last five or so years of his life here, and will be in town for more than visiting us and Nationals. Also we need him to get his sh** out of the basement. Damn, he hasn’t lived here in over a year!
Gabriel Krause (Gabe) – Gabe doesn’t play too much Magic anymore, but he does love to game. He’s a well-integrated part of the Atlanta gaming scene, so expect him to turn up from time to time.
Andrew Lichtenstien (Drew) – Drew is a gamer still young in his career, but has already played in his first Pro Tour. He is constantly sticking close to the veterans, absorbing all the information he can.
Zachary Parker (Zack, Baby-Faced Assassin, Face, BFA) – I was first introduced to the BFA by Bill Jensen. All my early experiences – and they were experiences – were with that group. Imagine my surprise when I found out he was actually part of the Atlanta Gaming community. Face most recently made the finals of GP Chicago, along side Adam Chambers and team specialist Charlie Gindy, as part of “Gindy’s Sister’s Fan Club.” Awkward.
Matthew Ranks (Matty, Matt Ranks) – I was reading old coverage a while back. During US Nats 2003, Andrew Ranks made the team and was referred to as the younger brother of Pro Tour Veteran Matt Ranks. The very next tournament, of course, Matty was referred to as the Older Brother of US National Team Member Andrew Ranks. The Magic media is just as fickle as the mainstream. Matty is a great guy and one of the best aggro players to ever pick up a card. Give him a mountain and a one-drop and he’ll find a way to win.
Roderick Cole Stewart (Cole) – Cole is a lot younger than his beard would indicate. He is a sharp player who has the potential for a solid Pro Tour career, if he decides he wants one.
Andrew Wolf (Andy, Andy Wolf) – Andy has been around since more or less the dawn of time. His first PT Top 8 was back in Dave Price’s LA in 1998. His second Top 8 was at PT San Diego in 2002. He qualified for Nationals with a Top 4 at Regionals this year, and is interested in testing for Nationals. Hopefully we can accommodate him.
Rudy Edwards and Josh Bradford are also in Vegas with Adrienne and Aziz, but I think you’ll agree this is a cast as impressive as it is diverse. Stay tuned!