I blame Matty Gemme.
You see, when I was a younger, more innocent mage, I ran into Mr. Gemme while traversing the treacherous JSS circuit. We both acknowledged that we were
empty vessels without one another, exchanging AIM screen names and chatting sporadically. However, the JSS was cancelled shortly after our initial
encounter, and with Gemme’s concurrent departure for college, we both found ourselves out of the game.
No one ever actually quits, though. An innocuous message sent to me after Matty was forced to leave school for a semester drew me back in, and I
quickly found myself playing games on his bedroom floor after a long night of FNM or in preparation for the next day’s PTQ. The rest, as they
say, is history—a pretty brief and pathetic one, to be fair.
With the last summer of his life before him (he will be entering Law school in the fall), Gemme had made it clear that he would like to travel to as
many events as reasonably possible. Naturally that means I would be getting “dragged” along with him, though I don’t deny at least a
little personal interest in making these trips. The first of these adventures would be to lovely Baltimore for an SCG Open.
While I was unable to convince Bryan Gottlieb into making this trip, we were able to fill out our car with some chaff (read: GP Winners Dave Shiels and
Tim Landale), and we headed south from Boston on Friday morning. For those keeping track, that’s a few too many children for one car, resulting
in all sorts of unruly shenanigans. At some point, I was getting a little bored with the monotonous drive and, to spice up the action, started peeling
a banana after muttering, “Time to go real-life Mario Kart.” Despite getting a few odd looks, all confusion was cleared when I was seen
throwing the yellow peel out the window shortly thereafter. No one was injured in the making of this tournament report. I think.
One banana ordeal was not enough it seems. I was later seen making a threatening motion at a motorcycle with that deadly piece of fruit but also
managed to use it as a pseudo peace offering after a man attempted to cut us off. While both Gemme and the other car’s respective driver began
making the typical obscene gestures at one another, I simply held up a banana and smiled with my thumbs up, causing everyone to back down and assume a
much more jovial mood.
There’s also the brownie “incident.” My mother insisted that I take a sheet of brownies with us on the trip to snack on (this was not
a kind act; she was merely trying to make me fat like the rest of my family). Brownies can be a little messy, and I am but a mere child, so suffice to
say that there was some brown goo on my sock, the floor, and maybe even on the ceiling by the end of the car ride. How exactly these things happened,
I’m not quite sure, but we pretty much just set ourselves up from the start.
Much of the rest of the ride was diluted with traffic and accompanying frustrations, though that did nothing to stop Landale from dancing like a mad
man. On no less than three separate occasions did he attempt to start a two-man conga line with myself while bopping out to whatever terrible techno
music was found on Gemme’s CD Mix collection. Plenty of Tswift was played throughout the drive, and I even managed to do a little brewing with
Tim for my Battle Royale article next week (slightly shame-filled plug).
We finally arrived after about eight hours, catching up with fellow roommates for the weekend—AJ Sacher, Josh Jacobson, and Matt Ferrando. They
were also accompanied by Sir Edgar Flores, instantly multiplying the “Pro” factor of our group by about 52. After dropping our bags off at
our hotel room (that I was somehow forced to book after being designated the adult for the weekend), we made our way down to the beautiful harbor area
for some dinner.
Our groups soon split up and Gemme, Ferrando, and I quickly found ourselves in search of some ice cream. However, we were quickly lured in like the
children we are by the possibility of enjoying our frozen treats while riding a pedal boat through the harbor area and went about setting that up. We
were offered the choice of riding a regular pedal boat ($11) or a dragon-styled one ($18), so we made the clear value play and hopped on the winged
creature. I think this picture sums
it all up.
After our little water adventure, we headed back to the hotel room. Jacobson immediately began telling us about how much he wanted to ride in one of
those dragon boats, to which we quickly fired back by explaining just how amazing it was. Everyone began sorting out their respective decks for the
next day, with the majority of us sleeving up either Twinblade or Caw-Blade. While I was (obviously) under-prepared, Gerry was kind enough to have
shipped me a list earlier to give me a rough idea of where I should be.
Several hours later and I found myself awake and freezing, though a quick hot shower later, and I was all ready for the day. We took the most absurd
route possible to reach the beautiful tournament site, but made it with plenty of time to register and find the necessary cards. Props to Steve Baroni,
Stefan Ellsworth, Ben Friedman, and Drew Levin for lending me cards and for the two gentlemen at my player meeting table who straight-up gave me copies
of Twisted Image. I’d like to echo Drew’s sentiments about just
how great the Magic community really is and how thankful I am to be constantly surrounded by these kinds of people.
While my decklist is now completely irrelevant, I’ll include my 75 for the posterity of this article as a tournament report.
Some of the major highlights from my Swiss rounds include:
- Getting two Consecrated Sphinxes into play instead of just winning the game outright because this is
Magic, and I’m here to have fun
- After having my opponent tap out to play an Emeria Angel, I promptly shoved my second Mountain,
Deceiver Exarch, and Splinter Twin from my grip in his face and asked, “Is this good enough for you?” Josh Jacobson (birding since round 4)
could be seen rolling on the floor shortly afterwards.
- Against the same opponent, I fearlessly jammed a turn four Jace into his two open mana. I’ve
never really played Poker, but I would describe my play in Magic as tight-aggressive… mostly just aggressive though. I also managed to Gitaxian
Probe him on the following turn, revealing his grip of four lands and a Batterskull, electing more laughter from the goon squad standing behind me.
- During out feature match, Gerry decided to don a groovy Technicolor baseball hat, concealing his
identity. When the judge came by with the match slip, he looked at the names, looked at me, and then peeked under Gerry’s cap to make sure he
recognized one of the players on the piece of paper. This entire sequence was repeated shortly thereafter when Jared Sylva came to put in the printouts
for the name holders on the feature match board. Someday I might get recognized for myself, but until then I’m okay being Travis Woo, Ben Seck,
or Vidianto Wijaya.
- Watching AJ and Ferrando argue between rounds about what “good” television and music are.
These two are just adorable together.
- Picking up my only loss to Ali Aintrazi after he mulled to five, and I kept four lands, Stoneforge
Mystic, Deceiver Exarch, and Splinter Twin. One of us is good at this game, and the other…
- Winning a game where I cast my third Stoneforge Mystic and did not search (I had bottomed a bunch of
blanks with Preordain and had already tutored up both of my Equipment), only to later draw and discover that I had not sideboarded out my Sword of War
and Peace and win because of it.
- The tremendous tournament site. Not only was it clean and kept at a perfect temperature for the warm
summer weather, there was also a beautiful garden area to hang out in between rounds. Rarely am I so impressed with an event site that I would actually
rave about it, but in a world of clammy convention centers and muggy PTQ arenas, this deserved a shout out.
- Peeling exact perfects every time and never mulliganing.
I’d also like to bring up one other situation that arose in the tournament. During round seven against Nicholas Gilbert with Caw-Blade, my
opponent had a Stoneforge Mystic and a (token-less) Batterskull in play. In order to play around the Deceiver Exarch I had in hand, he activated his
Stoneforge Mystic first and asked me if that was “OK” with a deliberate pause in-between. I assured him that it was fine, to which he
attempted to respond by activating his Batterskull, prompting me to call the judge. I really hate being in these sorts of situations—my opponent
clearly messed up, but at the same time it was not a sequencing or play error but rather just a technicality with the rules. I understood his intent,
but his execution was a little poor. I do not enjoy calling a judge in these spots and am by no means about to rules lawyer for in-game advantage, but
I do need to defend myself as a player to some extent, and I felt that these were reasonable circumstances to do so under. Feel free to sound off in
the forums, as the few other opinions I was given came from close friends and tournament grinders.
After locking up my spot in the Top 8, I ventured back to the harbor with Matty Gemme to split a Spicy Italian from Subway and get my head in the right
spot. After bombing out of both GP Providence and Kansas City, it was nice to taste a little success again. Even more so, I was just having a good time
being in a new city with some close friends and enjoying being in their company for a weekend. I really can’t say it enough but as great of a
game that Magic is, it is almost entirely the people that keep me coming back.
Upon returning to the event site, I filled out the player profile with as many terrible inside jokes as possible. Pathetically, I find amusing the few
friends I have to be slightly more important than informing the general viewing audience about the menial details of my life and such. I was told that
I would be playing against Mono Red in the Top 8, and when I asked around if anyone knew the guy, I was informed that he was some Magic Online ringer.
After a few turns of play, I determined these reports to be false.
Despite getting crushed by an army of Goblin Guides in game one, I managed to rally for the next two and steal a win from what seemed like a terrible
matchup. I left almost immediately afterwards, headed back to the harbor for a delicious meal at the Cheesecake Factory. Dinner discussions mainly
focused on Kurt Vonnegut and other authors as we tried to shed our childlike appearances with some intellectual discussion, though we almost assuredly
failed in the eyes of everyone around us.
After dinner we began the three-block trek to our hotel. I mention this only because there was a man shot during our walk back, which is a little
unnerving to say the least. At least there was a swarm of cop cars there shortly afterwards…
I went over sideboarding against my semifinals Valakut opponent for a few minutes with AJ, causing him to chide me about just how many stone blanks I
had in my board. The rest of the room was busy finishing a draft and assembling decks for the next morning. While the sensible thing would have been to
go to sleep, I sat up until about 2 am listening to the incessant banter that came out of my friends’ mouths as they fought over nothing and
everything. AJ calls it beauty, and I just call it entertainment. As Landale was quick to point out to me, “This is what it is really
I managed to drag my sleep-deprived body to the tournament site by 8 am the next morning and quickly settled into battle mode. Paul Longo certainly had
an interesting Valakut list, but in a grueling three-game set, I was able to prove why Stoneforge Mystic and Jace TMS were being banned and not
The finals are captured on video, so check the coverage archive when they are posted if you are interested. In short, Ali destroyed me and proved why
he is deservedly a champion, and I’m just a second-rate schmuck trying to find a reason in this world. The one game I managed to win I could have
killed him four turns earlier if I Leaked both of his removal spells instead of being overly focused on putting a Consecrated Sphinx into play
(I’d rather draw cards than win). In the decisive third game, I went for the combo on turn four, but he had his three-outer in Dismember and
pummeled me for being too aggressive.
After accepting some congratulations and light-hearted berating from my friends, I decided to take the rest of the day off from playing. While I was by
no means satisfied with a second-place finish, I was physically exhausted and wanted to make sure that I enjoyed my time in Baltimore to the fullest
extent. When AJ and Christian Calcano found themselves dead after round two, Gemme and I decided to take off with our fellow magicians and head to
Camden Yards for a day game. Magic is good for the human brain, but spending a day out in the sun is about equally valuable for the body. We
commemorated over fond memories of playing baseball in our younger days, and I personally shared some horrific moments, which exposed my temper as a
child. Bats were thrown, helmets tossed, and words not suitable for this article were exclaimed. I swear I’m all better at this point.
Lengthy discussions were held over the possibility of Calcano being the next Orioles mascot (pause to take a moment to picture this), ballpark barbeque
was devoured, and good times were had all around. Being able to enjoy yourself with friends made through Magic even away from the tournament site is
refreshing, and assures me that these relationships will hold even when life calls for you to put down the cardboard. We eventually made our way back
to check in our fellow mages and spent the rest of the evening durdling around while Dave Shiels finished out the Legacy tournament at a respectable
By the time we packed up and were ready to head home, we were all a little too tired to make much of an exciting car ride happen. We had plans of
gaming the parking garage by printing out a second ticket, but those fell through, and we were forced to pay up. The drive home was fairly uneventful
beyond the incredible navigating duo of Shiels and Landale causing us to loop in a circle for about half an hour and Tim ordering one of the grossest,
cheese-filled meals from Taco Bell that I could ever imagine. I managed to make it home just in time to catch my mother before she left for work,
lauding me for finishing in a “pathetic second place.” Some games I’ll just never win…
Overall, I had a really great time trekking to Baltimore for the SCG Open. This was only the third Open that I’ve been able to make it to this
year, but I have definitely been impressed by the structure and smoothly run tournaments. Additionally, being good friends with much of the group
dubbed as “SCG Grinders” and having people like Matty Gemme push me to be at these events makes it an easy sell to attend these. I
don’t think I’ll be able to make it to any events in July due to a largely empty schedule and personal obligations, but I will almost
definitely be at Nationals, SCG Boston, GP Pittsburg, and PT Philadelphia, so feel free to say hi and call me an idiot.
Thanks to everyone I failed to mention that made this trip enjoyable, and for all of your readers out there.