Her blond hair shimmered and glistened as the water rippled off each strand and landed on my pale white chest. We splashed at each other a bit more as my white skin was burned underneath the hot Romanian sun. After our affair in the aqueaducts, we rested on a green patch beside the river feeding the ducts. She slept ever so softly in my arms as I stroked her now-dry hair. Post napping she fed me grapes and finger sandwiches as my skin turned from a pasty white to an attractive bronzed red. The grasshoppers lulled us to sleep as I drifted off with one special girl in my arms.
She was passionate, alive, and true. We lived on a farm together where we made love in the stables with the horses watching. Then we took our fondling out to our grassy fields where the cows grazed and grew envious of our true untainted inhibitions. After, we moved to the tallest tree on our vast property. I held her in my arms as the sun fell into the night sky. It was Diana and I, forever and always, until the sun creaked out of bed the next morning.
"Would you like the Chicken with pasta? Or the Beef with rice?" the flight attendant said promptly. I looked over to Billy, who had ordered the chicken.
She peeled the foil off of the small plastic dish and handed the tray to me.
Yum. The pasta was dry and hard, the chicken was bland and flavorless. I did like the kiwi slice in the fruit bowl, but other than that this could barely classify as food.
I was on my way back home, back to O’ San Antonio. Back to the Spurs, to the Alamo, to the same twin mattress that I had slept on for the past 18 years of my life.
The past eight days seemed to pass by faster than than a Sudden Shock to the dome. Nonetheless, it begins and ends with Diana. Not Diana the Lapdancer that resides in Tokyo, but Diana the Metaphor that lives in all of us. That one stupid moment when you lose all inhibitions and all rationale. To think that it all started with a LOL…
It’s the loud obnoxious lady (LOL) who hasn’t slept in almost forty hours. It’s the two bald gentleman topping each other with bad blonde jokes. It’s the insanely tedious security checkpoints that always seem to pile up when you walk in. It’s smug people exchanging awkward glares at each other as they wait for their next flight.
Nothing is more annoying than an airport.
The LOL (Loud Obnoxious Lady) is always standing next to me. The two bald guys always try and include me in their mindless drivel. I always get pulled aside to be checked more throughly (I think its my hair). I always catch the smug people looking at me. In fact, I’m probably one of the smug people; I see people in airports as an infection that need to be removed.
The little kids always walk up to me while I’m sipping my coffee and typing on my laptop, and I always give their parents one of those "get your kid away from me, or else" look. They comply nicely, most of the time. On the way to Grand Prix: Toronto, the parents were asleep, so I had to find clever ways to give the annoying brat a hint. I asked to play game with him, and I told him if I won he would have to give me a kiss.
It worked quite well.
Speaking of kids… I really wish their parents would control them. I’m always the kid magnet (I think its my hair). I’m kind to them most of the time, but on those rare occasions when I’m in a bad mood I always try and find creative ways to mess with them. Kids are totally oblivious to what is going on. I know I was the same way when I was young.
The bald guys are getting increasingly annoying, and I can hear the LOL ordering coffee, so I’m going to go for a walk. I wish I had brought my toothbrush in my backpack. I put it in my checked bag, and I could really use a good brushing right now.
Got to Tokyo, blah blah.
I thought their restrooms were used for washing your feet… that turned out real bad (it had to be the day I wore my flip flops).
Stayed at a Hostel, blah blah blah.
Couldn’t order food anywhere but McDonald’s and sushi bars with picture menus, blah blah.
Navigating the city was extremely troublesome, blah blah.
Japanese people are tiny, blah blah blah.
Walking everywhere with my luggage and heavy backpack gave me a back case of SBS (Sweaty Back Syndrome).
OMG!?!?! THEY ARE ALL WEARING SCHOOLGIRL OUTFITS!!! YUS!!!
Ueno park is one of the most beautiful places on earth, blah blah.
We decided to go party, Tokyo style.
The scene was Roppungi at 3am…
Sadin and I were walking the streets of Roppungi, the party district, looking for a good time. The sidewalks were crowded, the schoolgirls were at home, replaced now by the night birds who were looking for young Americans to pounce on… or so we hoped. We bounced around from club to club, eventually getting pulled aside by a large black man dressed like he was related to Ray Charles. He had style, that was for sure, but his pitch was truly the impressive part.
"The finest girls in all of Tokyo!"
How could we resist?
Up the elevator to the 6th floor and we entered a new world – The White Horse Gentleman’s Club. Dark corners and bright light bulbs lined the walls, and we checked in paying our 4,000 yen for a drink tab. Right away, an attractive African mistress came up to me and started grabbing my hands, asking me if I wanted to party. Wow, they sure are friendly in Japan! In the States, I’d never get a greeting like that. We passed a table full of very attractive girls on our way to the best seats in the house, front row to the pole. All the girls were looking back at us from their table.
I only saw one…
A perky blond with a smile that could melt an iceberg (if only she had been on the Titanic on that fateful night). We exchanged long intimate glances, and I knew I was done.
"Screwdrivers, and keep em coming!" I said. I’m a big fan of orange juice, and don’t even get me started on how much I like Smirnoff. After that night, I doubt I will ever have a tall glass of OJ with my cereal in the morning.
She sat down next to me and introduced herself as Diana, a simple Romanian just trying to get by. I felt for her. She was gorgeous. Deep eyes. Full lips. Perky… personality. She had it all, including a smile that would melt an iceberg (hey, I’m just trying to get the point across).
First up on pole duty was the African mistress who greeted me at the door. She stared at me the entire time, which was kinda creepy to say the least. Couldn’t she see that I was workin’ my thang?
I was too screwdriven at this point to change my mind… and then she fed me the line:
"If you buy me champagne, it will make me hornier!"
I’m a buffoon.
I’m a stooge.
I’m a loser with a heart of gold.
After nearly two hours in the club, I rang up a bill of over $1,600 USD. My debit card would only allow $1,000 max in a foreign country, so I had to borrow a little extra from Sadin and dump my wallet. I ended up paying around $1,300 and walking away $300 in debt to them (so it was like the $350 champagne was free!).
We took the elevator down to a new Roppungi. A Roppungi draped by the early morning sun. We hoped into a cab for five minutes and found our quiet hotel. For some reason in the elevator Steve and I just started punching each other, and we eventually fell over laughing hysterically.
The clock said 7:12am, then I died.
I woke up at around 9:30 to make our 10am checkout. We went to Wendy’s and hoped on a train to Kobe. I slept the majority of the way while Radiohead and Scott Matthews lulled me to sleep. If I didn’t have an iPod I might actually kill myself. Its the perfect invention, and without it I would probably go insane and take a bunch of people down with me on my way out. You think I’m kidding, but I’m actually quite serious. Not really, I’m kidding.
We got off the train and walked to the hotel across the street and checked in under the name J Evan Dean. I mean, we were staying in his hotel room, so it would be cool if we checked it early rather than wait around for him to show up. While walking through the 27th floor I heard loud rap music coming from an open door. I had a good feeling about this one so I peeked in and it was none other than Gadiel, Cak, Ioli, Ben Lunquist, Samuel Stein, and the Biggest Oots I have ever seen. We got a draft going downstairs and blah blah blah blah blah.
J Evan Dean got really pissed at me for checking in under his name blah blah blah.
Drafted more blah blah.
Slept on the floor next to a Swedish French kid who no one in our room knew, how did he get there?
Drafted more blah blah.
Got lost on the way to check in, blah blah.
Aten got very mad at J Evan Dean for getting us lost on the way to the Karaoke check-in, blah blah.
Found Billy at the Karaoke place and drafted some more blah blah.
Slept on the floor, this time minus the Swedish French kid, and this time with a pillow and blanket, blah.
Day 1 of Pro Tour Kobe!
Only person I noticed at my table was Paul Cheon, who I’ve heard isn’t a threat on the draft floor. The dance floor, however, is a completely different story. Not only can Mr. Cheon dance, but rumor is he would put Pierre Canali to shame if the squared off one-on-one.
I got passed a lot of White and Blue, and got an 11th pick Brine Elemental. I had a very good deck, possibly a 3-0 deck.
- 2 Benalish Cavalry
- 1 Brine Elemental
- 1 Cavalry Master
- 1 Coral Trickster
- 1 Crookclaw Transmuter
- 1 Errant Doomsayers
- 1 Ivory Giant
- 2 Looter il-Kor
- 2 Mangara of Corondor
- 2 Outrider en-Kor
- 3 Spiketail Drakeling
The deck was beautiful. The third best I had drafted at the Pro Tour. All that Mangara action was making my loins quiver. I mean, if I drew a Mangara there was literally no possible way I could lose, right?
My first and second round I don’t remember, but I won easily. My opponents probably got manascrewed, our I removed all their permanents from the game, or I curved them out and finished them with a timely Fortify.
I was especially confident for the third round because I had just played several rounds of the drum game they had in the PT Lounge. It was like Dance Dance Revolution, except you bang the drum to the beat with a pair of sticks. I walked around the site asking if anyone wanted to play for 1,000 yen, but I didn’t have any takers.
In my testing, Green sucked a lot. I’m not kidding, every time my opponent played turn 1 Forest, I wanted to shout up to the Magic Gods and thank them for this pairing. Well, this guy knew what he was doing when he drafted Green, I had to give him that. After several Search for Tomorrows and Gemhide Slivers, he Wrathed my low toughness board with a Fiery Justice. I went on tilt after he got the four-for-one, but I wasn’t wining that game anyway. Game 2 I smashed him handily, removing many of his permanents from the game with Mangara / Blink / Coral Trickster.
Game 3 was epic. I was on the verge of 3-0ing my first pod of my first Pro Tour. I was pumped and ready to roll. I begged him not to draw a Fiery Justice this game. He didn’t…
He drew two…
At this point I felt like calling a judge for a mid-game deck check. He informed me he was a judge, so I took his word for it.
The game was still close, with life totals tied at twelve apiece; that is, until he played Verdant Embrace…
The next eight turns were the slowest of my life. He built up to sixteen tokens and five other creatures until he attacked for the win. The first three or four turns I thought I could draw a Wipe Away to get rid of the pesky enchantment. I didn’t, and with my Ivory Giant sitting in the graveyard I was done.
- 1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
- 1 Stormscape Familiar
- 1 Amrou Scout
- 2 Amrou Seekers
- 1 Brine Elemental
- 1 Castle Raptors
- 1 Celestial Crusader
- 2 Cloudchaser Kestrel
- 1 Errant Doomsayers
- 1 Errant Ephemeron
- 2 Icatian Crier
- 1 Looter il-Kor
- 1 Riftwing Cloudskate
- 1 Spiketail Drakeling
This deck was really strange, more of a Ictian Crier deck than a “curve out and beat down” deck like my last. Fortify and Gaze of Justice are excellent with the Crier and its hard to lose once he gets going.
Highlights of this draft were:
1) Losing to Zac Hill horrible deck in the first round. He was playing Sangrophage… I mean, really… SANGROPHAGE (No, he didn’t have Tendrils or Syphon-Mage to accompany it, just raw dogging the Sangrophage).
2) Curving out against my second round opponent – turn 2 Familiar, turn 3 Armou Scout and Seekers, turn 4 Armou Seekers and Griffin Guide. Yup! I got there.
3) Beating the master Anton Jonnsson in the elimination round clincher with Ictian Crier and Fortify.
The next draft started, and I noticed Ruud Warmenhoven and Gerrard Fabiano in the seven man pod.
I opened a Looter Il-Kor with a couple of good Green cards in the pack, but took the Looter. I didn’t take a single Blue card after that, and ended up with this G/B Thallid deck.
- 1 Hunting Moa
- 1 Thornscape Battlemage
- 2 Ashcoat Bear
- 2 Deathspore Thallid
- 1 Firemaw Kavu
- 2 Herd Gnarr
- 2 Primal Forcemage
- 1 Savage Thallid
- 2 Sporesower Thallid
- 1 Stonebrow, Krosan Hero
- 2 Thallid Germinator
- 1 Yavimaya Dryad
This deck was pretty crazy – I wouldn’t normally play with a lot of the cards on this list, but they all have some remote synergy together, so I went for it. Going into Day 2 I definitely didn’t want to play Sprout or Primal Forcemage in my deck, but they actually worked surprisingly well. All those situations that you think up when you are deck building actually happened so it turned out fine.
Draft 3 highlights…
1) Playing around double Call to the Nethervoid against Ruud, and wining the game because of it.
2) I was playing around Fortify against my second round opponent, and then once I had more creatures with my Thallid engine I played around Tromp the Domains. The turn before I could kill him he drew and played both Tromp the Domains and Fortify, lol.
3) I don’t remember the third round, but I won! I think he mulliganed a lot, or got manascrewed.
Going into draft four, I’m 6-3 and have 2-1’d each draft so far. I was happy with my performance thus far, but I really wanted to get a 3-0. I was still in Top 8 contention if I drafted two very good decks and they held up, luckily for me I was about to draft the two best decks of the tournament.
Guilame Wafo-Tapa, Pierre Canali, Ryuuichi Arita and Tommi Hovi were at this table, along with little Duncan Lee from Canada, the 14 year old who knocked out J Evan Dean in round 6.
I open a Sporesower Thallid along with a Looter. I took the Looter obviously but the Thallid had done me real good last draft. I also considered taking it because there were a lot of good people at this table, and good players hate Green. This fact proved true when I got a third pick Theonite Hermit in pack 1 and 3, along with a slew of awesome Green cards. This was my best deck of the weekend by far.
- 1 Vhati il-Dal
- 1 Spike Feeder
- 1 Ashcoat Bear
- 2 Durkwood Baloth
- 2 Greenseeker
- 1 Nightshade Assassin
- 3 Penumbra Spider
- 1 Thallid Shell-Dweller
- 2 Thelonite Hermit
Man, this deck is so good. It’s got tons of removal, lots of big guys, stuff to stall the ground, and double Greenseeker! Disintegrate and Vhati Il-Dal are also premium, to go along with the dubs Hermitt.
Highlights of my three matches…
1) I didn’t use any of my four bombs, but I still won easily with a mass of Spiders and Baloths.
2) Disintegrate won this one.
3) Ah, this match sucked a lot. I really didn’t get anything going and lost to a sub-par Blue/Black deck. The games weren’t even close, which was the sad part. He killed me with Stronghold Overseer game 1. Game 2 I came back and destroyed him with turn 1 Mindstab on the play. Game 3 was interesting since my opening hand was Vhati, Hermit, Hermit, Greenseeker, Forest, Strangling Soot. I kept and drew nothing but lands the entire game, which was good, but he killed both Hermitts before they could be flipped and ran me over with the 3/1 shadow guys.
So I’m 8-4 now. 3-0 would put me into top 16, 2-0-1 into top 24, 2-1 puts me in top 32 with good tiebreakers, 1-2 puts me in the money, 0-3 and I will jump off the event center roof head first.
I felt like I was almost guaranteed top 32 since I’ve 2-1’d every pod up to this point, and when I sat down to a pod with only Kamiel and Sam Stein I felt pretty confident. I opened Might Sliver and remembered Gadiel’s advice to me…
"Sanchez, listen to me… just draft four-color slivers every time, and you’ll do well."
Ioli and Cak said something along the same lines, but since their combined record was 6-14 I as a bit skeptical. Never the less I got there and my deck turned out reaaaalllllly good.
- 2 Spined Sliver
- 2 Bonesplitter Sliver
- 1 Firewake Sliver
- 1 Fury Sliver
- 1 Gemhide Sliver
- 1 Greenseeker
- 1 Might Sliver
- 1 Psionic Sliver
- 3 Spinneret Sliver
- 2 Two-Headed Sliver
- 2 Watcher Sliver
Looking back on it, I guess the deck wasn’t that good. Probably the worst deck I had drafted all weekend, but I got some pretty insane draws while playtesting, so I had confidence.
1) I mulliganed twice in game 1 but had an insane draw with turn 2 Spined Sliver, turn 3 Spinneret Sliver, turn 4 Watcher Sliver, swing out for the rest of the game while using two Strength in Numbers to put him to three life. The final play was him with a Morph and Nantuko Shaman in play, me with Spined Sliver and Gemhide Sliver. I attack out with Strength in Numbers in my hand he blocks Morph on Spined and Shaman on Gemhide. After Spined Sliver’s pump resolves I Strength in Numbers The Spined Sliver and assign trample damage three and two. He’s at three and with damage on the stack, and he flips Fortune Thief to stay at one. The game goes waay downhill from there, and by way I mean waaaaaaay. I get blown out with Squall Line and Rift Bolt as my outs.
Game 2 I mulligan twice again, this time without the nut draw.
2) I played against Makahito Mihara, a good Japanese player. I recognized him once I saw the match slip. Game 1 I killed him on turn 7 once I drew my sixth land for Tromp the Domains. I thought this matchup was heavily in my favor as he is just playing a mediocre G/W deck.
I got steamrolled by mulligans and mana flood.
I’m 0-2 with this deck and I’m going into the final round facing a no-money finish if I don’t win.
3) I beat the living snot out of Sam Stein. Wasn’t even close. Thanks Tromp! Right on time!
62nd, $530, and about $2,400 away from breaking even on the whole trip.
I was tired and worn down from the hours upon hours of exhausting play. So I drafted several times and didn’t return to the hotel until 5am.
Next day (Sunday) I got to the event site around 1 with Billy and we drafted the entire day. We picked up Tiago Chan on our team twice, I mean he had to be a good choice after he top 16’d and all. He 0-6’d, and I ran out of yen. The format is a lot of fun to play, and the game play situations can be quite challenging. Every color is very playable and has the potential to dominate games with a good combination of synergy and efficient spells.
Now I’m going to give what little strategic advice I can on the format.
Whenever I’m drafting I’m always looking for cool card combinations so that I can trick my opponent. The games are always very fast paced and involve a lot of math and racing. When the game ends its not uncommon for the opponent to be a couple turns away from beating you. This is what makes Time Spiral such a unique beast; it’s the game play situations that arise that make this format what it is.
White is still my favorite because it’s the most aggressive of all the colors. It also has the best finishing combo with Ivory Giant and Momentary Blink. Whenever I draft this deck I really like to get as many Icatian Criers as I can get. They will simply dominate a game un-killed and combo well with Gaze of Justice, Fortify, and Ivory Giant. I’m also not a very big fan of Cloudchaser Kestrel, he always seems to backfire on me. His mana cost has also been an issue. He has some nice interactions with Ivory Giant and Gaze of Justice though, so I may be wrong about him.
The Japanese guy next to me is deciding to get a little friendly and is sleeping on my shoulder, so I’m going to the restroom.
Green also isn’t as bad as everyone has made out. If you are one of the two Green drafters at the table you can get tons of absurd stuff that can fuel your deck to a strong finish. Thallids haven’t been too impressive unless you get the Sporesower or that artifact that makes tokens. Herd Gnarr has also been a relative sleeper in the format. He gets pretty insane if you get some Ashcoat Bears or Fallen Ideal. I try and avoid picking any Green cards first, simply because your first pick usually won’t matter if you being passed Green, you’ll still get a ton of good cards, its better to hope for a non-Green deck in the first pick. The only Green cards I might first pick are Verdant Embrace, Sporesower Thalid, Stormbind, and Tromp the Domains. Everything else isn’t really strong enough, even Hermit is rather lacking in my book. It may be because I’ve only flipped him once, and I still managed to lose that game.
Blue is the best color by far. You have probably heard this over and over; it just has so many deep premium commons that interact well with all the other colors. There are usually between 3-5 drafters at the table so getting late Blue cards pack one could be your signal to move in and collect the goodies pack 3 ("collect the goodies" wow, I’m really digging deep here, I’m so tired, but I have 12 minutes before the movie Cars starts so I’ll keep writing until then).
Red is an awkward color. Lightning Axe is probably one of the top commons in the set, with Rift Bolt not far behind it. Other than that there is a great amount of debate as to who is #3. I personally like Coal Stoker, but he is very deck dependant and I’ve had him in the sideboard frequently. In the U/R storm deck he can provide a huge tempo boost just by being able to play him and a morph on turn 4. Orcish Cannonade doesn’t seem worthy for the third spot since its so hard to win with that card if your both racing. It might be Flowstone Channeler, but all these picks are really deck dependant.
I personally don’t like Black at all. Strangling Soot, Tendrils, and Dark Withering are all awesome, but it has trouble pairing favorably with other colors. R/B never works because your picking removal over all the creautres and wind up having to kill them with weird cards like Empty the Warrens. G/B is usually really clunky because you almost always have to go the Thallid route. If you don’t then your forced to pick up too many insane Green cards to make it work. U/B and W/B are both pretty strong, but they are the two most drafted colors, so getting them could be an issue.
Slivers really suck, don’t draft them.
One theory that I have is that if you open Hermit you should force U/G. That way, you will be indirectly protecting your Hermit since Blue has so many morphs. To be honest, if Hermit flips at end of turn you will win the game most likely, or flipping Hermit with your opponent attacking into you is also pretty strong. It’s just getting there is the trouble. Often in G/X decks they kill the morph on sight, since there are literally no morphs in non-Blue decks.
The logic behind U/G/x is fairly simple. Pick every Blue card you see pack 1 and have all the Green cards table to you. That way in pack 2 you will get all the good Blue cards. Then in pack 3 you can just take whatever the best Blue or Green card is and not worry about signals. You can also expand on this by picking all the good Green fixers like Search for Tomorrow, Prismatic Lens, and Greenseeker to add either Red or Black to splash for removal. I’ve even splashed for Coal Stoker in one situation where I had seven morphs in my three-slot.
The best archtype in the format in my opinion is some form of White aggro, whether it be W/R, W/B, or W/U. All three have powerful aggressive tools that can be used to out-tempo your opponent. Fortify should become a pretty high pick as soon as people figure the format out because its not only good in these White aggro decks, but its also very good against them.
The second best is the U/R storm deck. It uses all of Blue’s premium cards like Fathom Seer, Crookclaw Transmuter, and Looter combined with Red’s removal, Grapeshot, Empty the Warrens, and Coal Stoker. I also find myself splashing Strangling Soot quite often in this deck via the storage lands, Chromatic Star, or Prismatic Lens. Chromatic Star is another card that is really good in this deck because it not only allows you to splash Soot, but is a cheap spell to up the storm count.
I’m really tired right now. Billy and Michael Jordan are playing behind me and my seat wont stop moving. Two rows back I can see Paul Cheon cuddling with Luis Scott Vargas in a corner. I wish I had brought my camera! Willy Edel is three rows back and built himself a little blanket castle, but I can see his glasses peeking through a little whole made at the center. Zac Hill is sitting five rows up and is passed out with his hand leaning over the edge. I think I might fill up the little plastic tray with boiling hot water and put his hand in it to make him pee.
I’m trying to remember if it’s hot water or cold water your supposed to put their hand in to make them pee. Boiling water would be pretty entertaining though.
I’m also really frustrated that I can’t pronounce Marijn Lybaret*. Ever since I wrote it a thousand or so words up it keeps popping up in my mind that I can’t say it. I’m thinking it sounds something like Mary with the j and n silent. I really have no clue. The last name I think I have down, I’m pronouncing it Lee-bear. Looking at it now, I doubt thats right either.
Okay, three minutes until Cars starts, I gotta finish this up quick. The most frustrating part is that my iPod is almost out of battery, and I put my charger in my checked baggage.
She is the strawberry chunks in my ice-cream.
The bright sun peeking through the stormy clouds after a terrible storm.
The pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
The San to my Chez.
The name Diana is as perfect as a snowflake plummeting to the ground on a cold Winter’s night, and as pure as Spring’s first rain. It resonates and dwells in my ear drum each time I pronounce it.
Smooth and creamy like a French vanilla frapachino from Starbucks.
She was soOooOoo beautiful, I even drew a picture of her. It does her no justice, but I put it at the end of this article.
I’m also quite eager to find out if she is on MySpace. I mean, how many Dianas can live in Japan**? I’m sure half the female population there is named something quirky like Shi or Shii, or even Shiii.
Thanks for reading,
Top 5 Picks
"The B-List" by The Starting Line
"Firefly" by Saves the Day
"All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands" by Surfjan Stevens
"Taylor" by Jack Johnson
"Swans (Life After Death)" by Islands
* Kyle: maybe the "Ly" is silent and the "baert" makes a "bur-eh" sound
Tim Aten: yeah maybe the "marijn lybaer" is silent and the "t" makes a "paul wall" sound
**Apparently only 61, and she wasn’t there… or was she?