SCG Talent Search – Play the Game, See the World, Get the Girl

Thursday, November 25th – What have they done in the face of impending celebration? What is the best way to win? The Called Shot.

Mongol General

: Hao! Dai ye! We won again! This is good, but what is best in life?


: The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair.

Mongol General

: Wrong! Conan! What is best in life?


: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

Mongol General

: That is good! That is good.

conan vs conan

Good Conan Good. Bad Conan Bad.

I once crushed a PTQ the way the housing bubble crushed the US economy. My lopsided victories came riding on the back of the Four Horsemen of Winning at Magic:

·        Luck in my Matchups

·        Preparation and Analysis

·        Tight Play

·        Luck in my draws

For one glorious day I was channeling the spirit of Nassif every time I drew a card. I was making plays like Kai and Ffffffreak were holding a heated debate among themselves until perfection was sculpted out of their powerful minds and then they whispered the optimal move in my ear. I understood the metagame almost as if Chapin and Saito’s love child had hand-drawn a map for me explaining where the perils lay and how to avoid them. The good
matchups were coming my way to the point where I started questioning my own sanity and began accusing myself of having paid off the Head Judge for
Juventus-style advantages.

Yes, for that day I was invincible and I knew it. Since I knew it, and I’m a gamer, the obvious question to ask is “What can I do to take advantage of this information?” It is a valid question… what would you do if you knew you were going to win? How would this affect your actions? If you could go back to 1983 would you purchase Microsoft, Apple, and Nike stocks or would you put your money on fixed yield bonds? The gamers’ goal is simple: get every possible atom of joy from your impending victory. To not only win, but to win in style… that is tech. I was going to have The Best Win Of My Life.

Fortunately, the world of competition and sports has provided with an answer to the impending victory conundrum. Over and over again uber-competitive individuals have looked at the opposition and visualized themselves standing victorious over their demolished dreams. What have they done in the face of impending celebration? What is the best way to win?

The Called Shot.

There are historic variations to The Called Shot. Each one conveys a message unique to the individual that is calling out the win.


Babe Ruth famously pointed to the bleachers

to make sure everyone knew where he was going to send the next ball the opposing pitcher had the affront to send his way. How dare the fool pitch to the great Babe? Did he not have Wikipedia?


With five seconds left in a tied game against the Seattle SuperSonics (now called Oklahoma City Thunder. The NBA it’s fannnnntastic!) Larry Bird told his coach during a time out “just give me the ball and tell everyone to get out of the way.” He then went to Xavier McDaniel, the guy in charge of
defending him, and told him “I’m going to get the ball, and I’m going to shoot it from right there, and
you can’t stop me.

Oh boy, the testicular fortitude of Larry Legend is… legendary. It is one of nature’s miracles that the guy could walk, let alone play basketball, since he was carrying two bowling balls strapped to his groin.

So what did he do? He got the ball, took the shot and made it. Then he told Xavier “I didn’t mean to leave two seconds on the clock”. Oh yes, the sweet satisfaction of rubbing salt on an opponents open wound. Good Conan would approve.


The Setup: NHL All-Star Game in 1997. Owen Nolan had scored two goals when he gets the puck and starts to skate towards Dominik Hasek. Owen then
points to the upper right corner of the net,

telling Dominik exactly where the hat trick will come. Calmly and with ice in his veins Nolan flicks his wrist and scores the goal exactly where he said he would.





How does The Called Shot apply to Magic? If you haven’t seen it before, watch the video below. If you have, watch it again. Yellow Hat gets a soul-crushing win versus Matteo Orsini-Jones.

Now, let’s get back to the before-mentioned PTQ win. How did it happen? I’m a self-admitted bad player. In my
last article

I tossed out a DataBase design for optimizing draft decisions and
got called out by Chapin

on the one and only piece of strategic advice I gave. To be fair, I was just repeating what Kai said, but I’ve learned my lesson. No more strategic advice from Bad Player Pedro (I know, I know, I’m stealing Flores’ trademark. Sue me).

The PTQ format was triple Lorwyn. I had drafted a lot before and had a clear idea of what I wanted to do. The Goal: get into U/w Merfolk if possible; if it wasn’t there, then try to ride U/B/r removal to the win. If that’s not available either then just read the packs. When the cut to Top 8 was
announced, I looked around and noticed

the good players had somehow fallen out. Bad beat after bad beat had released me into a pod where

no one

had any idea how to draft. Like a shark smelling tuna blood, I started to get excited. I had to leave the store and began walking the mall to try and calm down. No such luck.

I called my girlfriend, who was hanging out with her friends in order to let me focus on the cardboard, and had this exchange:

Me: Honey! We’re going to Malaysia!

Her: Yay! That’s awesome! I can’t believe we’re going! I can’t believe you won!

Me: I haven’t won.

Her: You haven’t? Then why are you telling me we’re going?

Me: I just saw who made Top 8! No way am I losing!

Her: You haven’t even drafted yet?

Me: No….

Her: Well… good luck, honey.

Not exactly a ticker-tape parade, but I’ll take it. She didn’t understand that the Magical Gods were all smiling down upon me. Some of it was luck, but a lot of it was putting in the time. I knew I had hundreds of drafting hours on everyone else in my pod. I knew the format well, I had read up online on everything that had been published, and I had prepared correctly. I had drafted with Tiago and drafted with Rich. I had put in hours in simulators when drafts weren’t available and ran into the frustrating experience of badly designed draft-bots. I even had my plastic, farm-animal tokens straining to go into battle with the rest of the Top 8.

Time to get back to the store. I grab a seat where the judge points and try to clear my mind. I know the plan. Focus on blue early, look for a white splash to power up Merfolk. If blue is cut off go heavy into removal. If neither path is there then start reading for what tribe is available.

I am now Zen.

Let the drafting begin.

This rare instant… oh yes. Cryptic Command. I’ll take that.

So much blue.

So many Merfolk.

Is no one else in blue?

I guess no one to my right is blue.

This is good.

Pack 2.

Even though I cut blue hard, I know some went by. Time to start looking for a second color.

Open Merfolk… yes please.

Is that… another Cryptic Command? I guess the guy to my left is not blue.

The guy to my left is not blue.









Thank you, thank you, thankyouthankyouthankyou thank you for not hating out the freaking Cryptic Command!!!!!! YOU DA MAN!! I’ll be sure to thank you from the plane on my way to Kuala Freaking Lumpur!!!

Are you kidding me! I can’t believe it!

I’m going to Kuala Lumpur!


Pant, pant, pant.

Breathe, breathe, breathe.

Focus. Don’t do anything stupid.

Pick the card.

Shuffle the pack.

I am again.


Let the drafting resume.

So much blue.

Splash some white.

Manage the curve.

Draft to improve; you are no longer filling holes.

Finish the pack.

A friend, one of the players whose elimination I had celebrated less than thirty minutes ago, was looking over my shoulder while I drafted. He made no noise. He made no gestures, but I could sense him salivating at the cards I was getting passed. This was a dream draft… in the Top 8.

I looked at my pile. I could build now and still have an overpowered deck. With one pack to go I was looking to hate out opponents and pick cards to improve my curve, but I would’ve been happy to slap in seventeen lands right then and there.

Breathe, pack 3 is coming.

Focus. Know your plan.

I am.


Take the blue.

Hate out the removal.

Ride the wave.

Five cards into the third pack I heard my friend start to giggle. The bastard.
“Fernando, shut up.”

Zen goes out the window, and I struggle not to laugh.

Finish the third pack.

I turn around and ask:

“Do you want me to bring you back a souvenir from Malaysia? Maybe a t-shirt?”

The shot had been called.

I put together the deck. With the 1UUU cost of both of my two double twin duplicate fotocopied redundant amazing Cryptic Commands I decided to go mono-blue. Why even risk mana screw? I went with eighteen lands for the same reason. The only way I would lose was if my deck decided to hate me out. I got my forty-one registered and walked out. Yes, forty-one. I told you I suck, didn’t I?

I called my dad. I tell him I’m going to win. He sounds baffled when I tell him I haven’t played yet. “Good luck, son” carries me around the food court as I walk in hunt of caffeine and sugar.

I called my girlfriend again. I told her to call the travel agent ’cause we was lookin’ to go travelin’ down to some exotic Asian lands.

Her: You won!

Me: No…. We haven’t played yet.

Her: Well… good luck, honey.

I crush the quarterfinals.

I crush the semi finals.

In the finals my opponent was foolish enough to attempt to battle against the Magical Gods. You see, they were there for me, not for him. On this day, his absolutely perfectly sculpted play of tapping out to Profane Command me for exactly lethal was trumped. Of course I had ripped Cryptic from the top like a pro the turn before.
“Counter your spell and tap all your creatures. My turn? Attack for lethal with my army of blue men.”

I am Pedro’s never-ending joy.

I called my girlfriend again.

Me: We’re going to Malaysia!!!

Her: You won?

Me: Yes.

Her: Woooooo!

Me: I must now kill the prime minister of Malaysia so small children can work in factories!

Her: You’re an idiot, but I love you anyways.


Perhentian Islands, Malaysia.

Fast-forward a couple of months. The trip was Costa Rica to Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur to a smaller city in Malaysia then on a van for two hours of driving through the country side to a small fishing village to get on a boat (I’m on a boat!) for an hour and a half to finally
arrive at a cluster of small islands on the Pacific Ocean. Not even my
my trip to Pro Tour Prague

took so long. Nevertheless, worth every second of travel just get to a place that was paradise. The sand was white and silky, and the water was warm and transparent. We went scuba-diving right off the beach in front of the resort and swam with the sea turtles that inhabit the channel between the islands. Take it from me; sea turtles don’t like being chased. I think one of them flipped me the finger. Flipped me the flipper? Anyway, that was an annoyed critter.

Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur was scheduled for February of 2008. The three dates in which mages would battle for fame and glory were Friday 15th, Saturday 16th, and Sunday 17th. I had other plans to take advantage of the auspicious timing, particularly of the day before the PT.

Can you think of a more romantic place than a perfect, secluded beach on a perfect island in the pacific at dawn of Valentine’s Day? Yeah, me neither. Time to go big.

I planned it carefully.
“Honey, let’s go take some pictures of the sunrise”

was the excuse given to get her out of bed at
the a**-crack of dawn. Good thing she studied photography and wanted to try out a new lens. The funny looks kept coming when I told her
“just a litte bit further.”

You see, I had a special spot in mind.

We got there, and she started to set up her tripod. When she turned around I dropped to one knee and went all in.

Me: Will you marry me?

Her: Yes!!!

Me: Yes!!!

Her: Where is my ring?

Me: D’oh!

For those of you keeping track at home, having a ring when proposing is tech.

couple beach

Good thing we had a camera right there.

To get back to slinging cards, we embark on a boat (I’m on a boat!), get to the mainland, catch a shuttle van, go to the airport, fly back to Kuala Lumpur, and we’re there in time for the Player Party. This was quite simply the best meal of my life. Eight delicious courses later we were ready to digest the food and get some sleep.

Friday, February 15

. First day of the Pro Tour. We head to the convention center and start looking around and talking to people.

And that is where I met The Zvi.