The King is Back. Long Live the King!

Jamie Wakefield is back and this time he’s back to stay. Right here at StarCityGames.com

The tale really starts with Hilary.

Rodney pointed out to me that we have known each other twenty years.

I met Hilary and Rod my freshman year of college in 1984. Twenty years ago.

Twenty Years.

After college, Hilary started working for his Father in law at the family sign company. Hilary has always enjoyed the outdoors and this job gave him plenty of that. Hilary enjoyed the job and thought about taking it over one day. The hours were brutal, but Hilary worked there for about ten years. I would call at 8 o’clock at night and he would still be out on a job. I’d call at 7:00 am and he was already on a truck to some site in another state to fix a sign. And not just once or twice, often. For years on end he did this. Working outside in below zero weather 40 feet in the air, or during the blistering heat of summer surrounded by steaming blacktop. I don’t know how he did it.

You’ve heard the Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times.”

Michele and Hilary embody that curse. And have through all the years that I have known them.

One of my favorite stories about the sign job (and there were many) was the time he was at the top of a cherry picker, thirty feet above the ground, and the truck slipped out of gear.

I just called to make sure Hilary didn’t mind if I posted this, and to make sure I got the story straight.

He was thirty feet in the air, working on taking a sign down, and he thought the sign was falling, as it was pulling out of his grasp. But he soon realized that the brakes had slipped, or the truck had slipped out of gear, and he was rolling down a hill.

Towards a freeway.

His working partner tried to catch the truck, trying to jump in and slam on the brakes, but couldn’t catch it. Hilary, thinking fast, crouches down into the bucket, and starts to lower the bucket down towards the truck as fast as he can to reduce his height. The truck hits a ditch at the bottom of the hill, turns over, dumping Hilary, and the bucket, into the middle of the freeway with a terrific jolt.

“And a car came within a foot running over your head, right?

“It wasn’t a foot, it was inches.”

Can you imagine?

He eventually parted ways with the sign company and started up his own comic store. Something all of us have dreamed of at one time or another. As usual, he put hours into getting that store ready that would make another man weep. Dusk to dawn and beyond, and by looking at a few pictures, I think you can see that it was worth it. The shop is a work of art.

Even though I’ve been out of Magic for over five years, Hilary keeps asking me to come up and play in a tournament. I tell him I’ll come up when he has a tournament I can play Secret Force in. And I really do want to play in Hilary’s store, because of everyone I know, I am most happy that the man that has worked so hard for so many years, finally can achieve the dream of owning a comic and game shop.

On 1/5/05 Hilary finally does have a 1.5 tournament and I come up and play Secret Force in it and that’s detailed here.

This whets my appetite to play more, and I fall in love with the 1.5 format. I encourage Hilary to have another tournament so I can play Brother’s Grimm and Hymn people. About a month later, he has another 1.5 tournament and I decide to play Artifact Black instead of Brother’s Grimm.

The deck is based on an old Type One deck that I had still together that won me a tournament back in the good old Comics and Collectibles days. It was based on a very explosive start with discard to throw the opponent off his game while pounding him with Hypnotic Specters, Phyrexian Warbeasts and Skittering Scourges. Once your hand is empty, Cursed Scroll and Tongs finish them off.

I wrote about the deck idea here, a long time ago.

It also had Unearth in it so for one mana I could just go back into my graveyard and recurse whatever was most effective against the deck I was playing at the time. Everything in the deck cost less than three to play, so it was very light land, and a ton of creatures and discard.

I looked the deck over and had to lose my Mishra’s Workshop and Mox Jet, but other than that, I could play everything in it. But the more I looked it over, the more I changed it. Why were Bone Shredders in there? 1/1 with echo isn’t beatdown! Why did I have Scourges in there? I can’t play a Scourge in a heavy creature deck, what was I thinking? And no Juggernauts? You have to have Juggernauts in an Artifact Black deck! Second turn Juggernaut is a beating!

I make the same mistakes I made with Secret Force. I “tuned” the sideboard for Secret Force before the tourney, making the sideboard much worse. And with this Black deck, I “tune” it to the point of sucking.

I remove the Unearth so now I don’t have any ways of having eight Hippies against Control. No way to have eight Bone Shredders against creature decks. No way to have eight Warbeasts against Sligh. I take out the Scourges since its heavy creatures, and thus lose my flying beatdown. And in the middle of the tournament am reminded over and over why 3/2 flying beatdown is so much better than just about anything walking beatdown. And I remove the Bone Shredders because they have echo, and then die to creature decks all day long.

I've had better ideas.

Really not a wise idea to take a tourney winning deck from an era when you played a lot of Magic, and change it based on a whim after not playing Magic for five years. A lot of the choices I made on the deck were in the interest of fun. It’s a lot of fun to play Swamp, Ritual, Priest of Gix, Priest of Gix, War beast, “GO!.”

I show up to the tournament and I think we have about 20 people that day, but Mare was at home, so we didn’t get any pictures for this one. Not to worry though as this report is going to be very short.

I pick up Joshie Trash Talker at 10 am and we drive the 90 minutes to Hilary’s store. Joshie’s been playing in all the Extended qualifiers with his Sneak Attack deck. I love his deck, and he says it even meaner in 1.5 and he gets consistent turn 2-3 kills. Probably the best part about this day was the 90 minutes up and back with Joshie. Even though we work together and he’s my best friend in Middlebury, the ride up and back was a male bonding experience that could only be topped by beating the crap out of each other in a drunken rage and then laughing about it.

My first opponent is Al Race. Al found out about the tournament from my message boards and has brought two friends from Worcester Mass all the way up to the Northern tip of Vermont to play. As luck would have it, Al is my first opponent.

Al is playing a highly tuned Survival deck that is about as shiny as you can make a deck. And by “shiny” I mean pretty. And by pretty, I mean a collector’s dream. Nothing but mint condition foils, Arena lands, signed cards by artists and named players. It is a work of beauty and it is “his” deck.

I, on the other hand, am playing a deck I just made a week ago and have playtested not even once.

I don’t get any speed on the opening draw, but I do have two Swamps and a Hymn so I keep and Hymn him on the second turn. I start to draw some creatures and get him to thirteen life. He on the other had has Suvivival on the board and Squee in the graveyard. I concede when I realize that I have blown my hand, am drawing off the top of my library and have no creatures in play.

I side in four Terrors to keep the path clear for my beats and hope to kill him before he gets the survival going.

I mulligan to five and keep a hand of City of Traitors, Contagion, Swamp, and Gix, hoping that I can draw something to go with the Gix and on my first turn draw a Hippy. I play the Swamp and pass the turn. He plays a Forest and a Birds of Paradise if I remember correctly. I play a City of Traitors, Priest of Gix, Hippy! Second turn! Let the beatings commence!

He Plows my Hippy, and then plays a Survival on the turn after and I see lot of shiny signed cards beat me about the head and neck. Cards like Rofellos and then Phantom Nishoba.

His deck was some good. Some pretty. And some tuned to a razor fine edge.

We chat for a bit afterwards; I sign some fatties for him, and marvel over not only the beauty of his deck, but some of the cards Wizards has made over the years that I have missed.

Joshie has killed his opponent on turn 2 and turn 3.

In the next three rounds of Swiss, I get to play a White Weenie deck that beats me despite the fact that I went Swamp, Ritual, Gloom on the first turn. And my only victory of the day came to a Red deck that played 12 land and was mana hosed two games in a row. Despite this, I still almost lost to him.

My deck was bad.

Bad even for me.

Ah what the hell. It was nice to meet some new guys from Mass, Josh and I had great conversations on the way up and back, and it was in Hilary’s Store. Joshie ends up making Top 8 but loses in the first round.

A couple weeks later and Justin “Burn Boy” Olson and Joshie Trash Talker have a tournament in the Middlebury Ilsley Library. Most of the proceeds are going to fund Jeremy Muir’s trip to PT: Philly and I decide, what the hell, it’s a good cause, I’ll go to that one too.

But this one is Extended, and I don’t have a deck.

Joshie starts to edumacate me on what’s big and what he’s going to be playing and why. This leads into a huge, multi day discussion on the Extended qualifiers and Pro Tour Philly, and a lot of deck education. I start to understand the jist of Joshie’s Sneak Attack deck we discuss how to make it better or worse and looking at a few cards that he is considering.

Eventually, I need to watch him play, so I follow him over to Paul’s house and watch them play a few games. Nick is there as well and has this insane goblin deck. The speed he can play out eight goblins and attack you for your life total is donkey punch staggering. I watch him clean Josh and Paul’s clock three or four times each and then start forming my own deck idea in my mind. It’s based off the fact that one or two land destruction spells just seemed to obliterate the speed of Sneak Attack and Life. Josh’s Sneak Attack deck also showed me the speed of the environment.

With City of Traitor’s, Crystal Vein, and Seething Song, Red can generate a huge amount of mana on turn 2 and 3. I’ve always been all about the mana. I get 4 Seething Songs and go home to look at cards and see what I can come up. I mean, hey, when Red has access to a Dark Ritual, there’s gotta be some way to abuse that.

I make up a deck that I think is an incredible beating, with 3 Jokalhaups, 3 Wildfire, Avalanche Riders, Shivan Dragons, Pure Concentrated Evil (Shivan Hellkite) some burn, Pillage, Stone Rain, and plan on just slowing my opponent down if they are playing combo, or turbo Haupsing or Wildfire-ing if they are playing weenie.

First round I play Josh, and despite destroying a land on turn 2, and turn 3, then playing out a Balduvian Horde he kills me with an Avatar and another fattie on about turn 6. The next game he sneaks out an Avatar on turn 3 and kills me.

Second round I play a goblin deck that lays out 8 goblins on turn 3 and swwwwwings for my life.

Third round I go home and remember why I quit Magic in the first place. Holy crappy format Batman. Plus the tournament got a very late start, I’m 0-2, its nine o’clock at night and I’m old.

For those who remember me – You know I thrive on getting punched in the face. If I’d won the last three tournaments I was in, I probably wouldn’t be writing this. But nothing fires me up to fight again like getting totally stomped into the dirt.

A couple weeks go by and Justin wants to run another tournament for Jeremy and Josh spreads the word. Another Tournament I have to drive four minutes to in a really nice building for ten bucks? Sure!

The amazing thing about playing in the Ilsley is how nice it is. Carpeted floors and long tables, bathrooms two steps away that are spotless clean. A Projector beaming onto a four-foot screen playing “Aqua Team Hunger Force” while the tournament is going on. A computer for running the DCI software. A fridge to store food and soda. It’s fantastic.

Gigante Devastore!

It’s Type Two this time and Josh shows me some of the fantastic Green cards in the format, as well as showing me where to get Apprentice which is just A DOT MAZING! Holy cow is that program simple and elegant and wonderful.

I use Apprentice to see which of my cards are legal these days and then head up into the attic to look for my cards. I find about four boxes of them but I’m missing all my gold cards, my special lands, and a ton of fatties. Back up into the attic again and two hours later I have four more small boxes of cards and a binder with some fatties in it. Ah, I think that’s everything.

I start to pour over my cards and see some Italian “Craw Giant.” One of my favorite cards of all time. I shake them at Mare, showing her the awesome artwork as I do so. “GIGANTE DEVASTORE!!! GIGANTE DEVASTORE!!!”

She looks at me like I’m on crack and goes back to playing WoW.

“Gigante Devastore?”

She ignores me.

Over the course of the next two weeks, I sort cards and sift through the ones that are legal and might be worthy of play. My hands get raw from sorting as I left my boxes of cards in less than stellar shape. And now 90% of what was in my Type Two box is now illegal, 10% of what was in my sorted, but not legal box is now legal. My trade stock is completely worthless and I have to find more of that. I have two boxes completely unsorted that have to be divided into colors, then what’s legal, then what’s legal but still crap ignore it. And then I have to find some trade stock so I can get some Iwamori, some Jugan, some Viridian Zealots. You know, that sort of thing.

It is a long long long long long process.


One of the things you’ll hear me say a lot in the coming months is “Green has everything I’ve ever asked for now.” And I make up a mono-Green deck and get to play test it 3-4 times with Joshie at lunch. (We work together now.)

Based on what I learn at lunch, I make a few changes, play it a bit more, and think I’m ready.

I’d love to get into what I played, and the tournament itself, but really, that’s next week’s column because that alone is ten pages. I won’t keep you in suspense though, and I’ll tell you I went 1-2 drop. Basically, I get my face punched in again. POW! I leave at 8:45 pm and rush home to watch the finals with Mare and think about next week’s article “The Silver Age of Magic.”

Mare and I are watching “The Ultimate Fighter” on Spike. A reality TV show about guys striving to enter the mixed martial art organization known as the UFC. The winner in two weight classes at the end of the show gets a new car and a six-figure contract with the UFC. Josh has just picked Diego to fight. In the last fight we watched, Diego destroyed his opponent in the first 90 seconds of round one with a couple quick punches, a takedown, and then choked him out. Fighting against Josh, he shoots in, takes him down, straddles him, gets inside his guard, and starts throwing bombs at Josh’s face until Josh is barely conscience, rolls over onto this belly to avoid more savage beatings, and Diego chokes him out. Another 90 second win.

Diego dwarfs his competition. When you see other fights on the show, they last the full two rounds and usually go to the judge’s card. Each fighter looks kind of beat up, exhausted, and each got their licks in on the other with no clear winner. Not always, but that’s the usual fight.

I turn to Mare and say “Man, if I was Josh, I would just quit mixed martial arts right then. None of these guys are anywhere near Diego’s skill level. I mean, why even bother?”

Mare snorts. “No you wouldn’t. You’d go train for a month and then challenge Diego again until you won.”

Well, that might not be an exact quote of what she said. I think I got it right. It might have been closer to “Diego would accidentally kill you with one punch.”

Well, it was one of those.

(Okay, it was the first one. Mare would never say anything discouraging to me, but the second one was funny.)

Either way, I’m getting back into the ring to get my face punched in a few times, learn some things, and hopefully get good enough to take ninth in Regionals.


Next week we’ll talk about what I played, how much Green Rules and why we are entering The Silver Age of Magic.