The Long Road Down: From Pro Tour Playa To Golden Ass

Gary Wise gets Unhinged!By 10:30 in the morning of September 2nd, I was certain that I had written my last real article on Magic. It had been almost a year since my column work on Sideboard.com had ceased to be, I was far from in love with Wizards – and I’d just lost the first round of draft day at Worlds, prompting me to become the second of three-hundred-and five players to drop from the tournament. Forty-some Pro Tours and a few hundred articles later, I was done.

…But then came a shocking development.

By 10:30 in the morning of September 2nd, I was certain that I had written my last real article on Magic. It had been almost a year since my column work on Sideboard.com had ceased to be, I was far from in love with Wizards – and I’d just lost the first round of draft day at Worlds, prompting me to become the second of three-hundred-and five players to drop from the tournament. Forty-some Pro Tours and a few hundred articles later, I was done.

Good riddance.

For a couple of years, Magic had ceased to be a game for me. Every duel I played was entered with a win-at-all-costs attitude, one that had sapped every ounce of fun from even the fun games I played. Through years of competition and abuse from the Internet community, I was tired and beaten. Once, I entered matches with unblinking ferocity, ready to beat my opponents down with sheer determination – no rule was too obscure, no lawyering unworthy, no psychological ploy unworthy, no slight unnoticed. For the last year or so leading to Worlds, I resigned myself to resignation: I was done. The ferocity had been replaced by indifference. I could no longer be the mean bastard who’d gotten on (and stayed on) the Tour. If I hadn’t quit after Worlds, I was going to be forced out by my own failings soon enough.

Over the next month, I didn’t play a single game of Magic, and nothing could have been better. Magic had become a weight around my neck, and the time away lifted it. The time away allowed me to renew my perspective on the game: For most, Magic isn’t purely about winning or losing, it’s about fun and camaraderie and creativity. On occasion, I’d been getting together with my old casual friends Mark Brombacher and Wayne Mittlestead – and with some of the competitive edge removed from my outlook, now seemed like a good time to renew said acquaintances.

I started heading down to Wayne’s store, Dueling Grounds, on irregular occasions for purely casual games. I wouldn’t bring decks (since frankly, the last thing I wanted to do was spend my time thinking analytically about Magic), with the guys down there happy to provide a mish mash of sixty-card creations. I tried to shove aside my need to win (or at least, play too strategically), though it definitely reasserted itself when the opportunity to get political in games of Chaos reared their ugly heads, but the players were forgiving. They knew where I’d come from and that Magic and competitiveness went hand-in-hand. Through all this came a shocking development:

I started having fun.

The store was great. Well-lit, good space, clean…Toronto’s gaming community has been victimized over the years by thieves and skinflints, a fact that saw me withdraw myself from the local tournament scene. I had no home store, an essential for the pure hobbyist, and to be honest with myself, that aforementioned competitive drive had probably alienated me from a good portion of the city’s competitive community. Dueling Grounds brought me out of my hibernation and gave me the first non-home playing environment I’d enjoyed in years.

I guess that’s why when I heard about this weekend’s Unhinged prerelease, I couldn’t say no.

The Dueling Grounds, On The Day Of The Prerelease

I was teammates with Brombacher, along with Mike and Jeff Donais, back in our mid-nineties university days – and he was at the store waiting for me when I arrived. I’d read the spoiler the night before (laughing out loud on a few occasions) and shared a few of my findings with him. Mark is a character – a comedian who uses every ounce of the spectrum of sound to get laughs from those around him. We headed to the gaming area where we got a trash talk-filled game going, but when a few players started congregating, Mark’s iPod got busted in the mob. This was a $400 machine he’d risked his rent on – “One of the few gifts I’ve ever bought myself” – and its demise sent him into a deep funk. He was miserable, and talking about going home before the tournament had even started. Fortunately, I’d been holding one little tidbit about the set back.

“Ach, Hans, Run!”…

See, Lhurgoyf is a card near and dear to me. It was always a favorite of team Weedwacker, and I’m fairly convinced the inclusion of Ach, Hans, Run… was in some way an ode to Brombacher. Somehow, Mike had gotten his grubby hands into the creation of the set and made sure that our connection to the past would be honored.

Mark tried to suppress his smile, but he wasn’t fooling anyone: Within five minutes, we were cracking jokes and talking about the old days. All was good… Again.

The tournament started and my first game came to a crashing halt when, at 19 life, I was suddenly killed by the just-Wordmail-enchanted Our Market Research Shows That Players Like Really Long Card Names So We Made this Card to Have the Absolute Longest Card Name Ever Elemental. Fortunately, I made the comeback thanks to losing my Question Elemental, putting my opponent between a rock and a hard place with regards to all of his other speech-inclusive cards.

Of course, I was calling him on everything – a fact that caused him to stop talking at all unless he was fulfilling a card condition. Meanwhile, he had Laughing Hyena in his graveyard, so I wasn’t allowed to be amused by any of this – a fact made extremely difficult by Mittlestead, dressed in full Ass attire, trying to make me laugh, which in turn got my opponent’s Cheatyface into play, which in turn made me want to laugh more. These are the problems one encounters in Unhinged.

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Ass

I went 2-1-1 over the next four rounds, putting me in a win-or-go-home situation on the final round of the Swiss, where conversations like this occurred:

Me: Take four damage

Him: Gotcha! Get back Deal Damage.

Me: Gotcha! Get back Deal Damage.

There was another Hyena in the graveyard. This was painful.

I managed to win the final round, freeing my opponent, Stefan, from any further playing commitments – allowing him to go do things that, by his own admission, he’d rather be doing.

By now, it was past nine o’clock (we started at 1 p.m.) and we still had a draft to do. I cracked my booster, pulling Artful Looter despite my realization that a green-white Our Market Research Shows That Players Like Really Long Card Names So We Made this Card to Have the Absolute Longest Card Name Ever Elemental-S.N.O.T.-Wordmail deck should be nuts. The Looter seemed pretty insane to me in that it was very similar to Cephalid Looter, but its additional ability made it even stronger (granted, there wasn’t much in the way of Madness in Unhinged), but my fellow drafters apparently disagreed, passing me three more before we were done. I went black on the obviously-ridiculous Phyrexian Librarian in the second pack and managed to grab myself a few kill spells, and five Gotcha! Cards (which are insane with Looter, by the way; if you discard one, don’t ever mention it) for what looked to be a pretty strong deck.

It was then that I found out what we were playing for: As with most pre-releases, there was plenty of product available, but as an alternative, Wayne had set up three “Mystery Boxes” not unlike those on Let’s Make a Deal that one could choose over the Unhinged boosters. In addition, the winner would receive a commemorative plaque created by Cass Mittlestead (Wayne’s better half), who’d spent the day selling women’s underwear, candy for Fat Ass users and random boosters to Booster Tutor from, decked out in full clapper-girl-from-hell attire:

The Plaque – That’s the “Unhinged” logo at the bottom


Suddenly, the competitive instinct kicked in. Had Kai or Jon or Bob or Dirk ever won this title? No – this was something I could make my own. After a game one mana screw, I dominated blue-white in games two and three to take the quarters. In the semis, I played vs. blue-white again, crushing him two straight. I watched as those who lost chose between the packs and box, with every box selection proving to be not-unlike Rod Reilly riding on stage atop – fittingly enough – a donkey, with “Waaah, waaah, waaah, waaaaaaaaaaaah!!!” playing sadly in the background.

The finals pitted me against the dreaded Green-white deck – the one featuring the Our Market Research Shows That Players Like Really Long Card Names So We Made this Card to Have the Absolute Longest Card Name Ever ElementalWordmail combo (though without the S.N.O.T.). Game one saw me draw thirteen lands and no Looters, but the deck came to play in the end, giving me the win and the plaque.

“I’ve got a Golden Ass Plaque, I’ve got a Golden Ass Plaque….”

When it came time to collect my prize, I of course chose… The box.

It seemed like a fitting way to end the day, and frankly, I couldn’t figure out what I would do with 48 packs of Unhinged. My choice won me the following:

6 Unhinged boosters

1 Champions of Kamigawa Booster

1 Champions of Kamigawa Pre-constructed deck*

1 Tub of “Oh, Rats,” a gelatinous looking blue gummy-candy that I’m far too afraid to touch

1 Wooden Snake

1 Pack of Dragon Shield clear Sleeves

1 Champions of Kamigawa deck box

1 Champions of Kamigawa Fat pack

1 Candy Necklace

2 Seshiro, the Anointed

1 Chance Encounter

1 Battle of Wits

1 Darksteel Reactor

1 Epic Struggle

1 Mortal Combat

1 Hail to the Cheese

1 Foil Unhinged Land (the foils in the set look incredible, by the way)

1 Rat Trap, which, in demonstrating it to me, Wayne lost a finger to

I can’t believe I was dumb enough to take the box.

How the hell did I take the box???

Suddenly, there’s a very warm place in my heart for those 48 Unhinged boosters. Of course, this wasn’t about the spoils. For the first time in a long time, I’m having fun playing Magic again. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the same game – but a different attitude was what I needed, and I can honestly say the wait was worth it.

Before I end this, a few notes on a few of the cards I played:

Stop That!

This card was nuts for me in the top 8. The fact it’s an instant means it can be used during your opponent’s draw step after they draw – and quite simply, card flickers are obsessive-compulsive and years of training make them ridiculously susceptible. I think I cast this four times in one game.

The Fallen Apart

This card is insane. The text-box might as well be blank, making it a 4/4 for 2BB.

Vile Bile

I actually forced this guy to die because he hit me for six in the final game of the tournament. After the first two damage, I touched it again, inspiring this from Cass:

“Didn’t you just take two from that?”

Ahhh…The innocence of babes.

Working Stiff

I kept one in play for ten turns… But I couldn’t feel my arms for the rest of the night. Probably not worth the physical investment.


A strong card the first time you get it played against you. After that, though, you get paranoid and it gets pretty bad. I think I killed three of five.

Eye to Eye

This card is awful. I had an opponent cast it four times in one match and kill one creature. The first two staring contests were so one-sided he actually boarded one out.


I won a game because my opponent couldn’t pay the extra 1/2.

Loose Lips

Okay, okay, I admit it – I missed the ramifications of this card at first, but once you get it going with statements like “kill, destroy, one two three, sh-t I’m dead” and Gotcha! Cards, it gets pretty insane. Up until this was pointed out to me, I was just making my opponents say stuff like “Priests don’t loves little boys like I do.”

Magical Hacker

This card is insane against the Green-white deck I was talking about. Of course, I ran it into AWOL, not realizing it could only target an attacking creature – but yeah, it’s the nuts in that matchup. Oh, and I was the first to decipher the flavor text in the tournament. Thanks, guys.


I think this card does 1/2 damage too little to every creature in the format.

Frazzled Editor

Best card in Unhinged? (I certainly think so – The Ferrett)

Rod of Spanking

The number of times my opponents said “Thank you, sir, may I have another” while I was tapped out was astounding. In game terms, the card is crap, but the comedy value is worth it.

So that’s it. I’m now the Golden Ass – let the jokes commence. Simple fact is I had a lot of fun. I haven’t been able to say the same about tournament play in a long time.

I want to thank Wayne and Cass for hosting a great tournament. The costumes, door prizes, theme prizes, music and clean environment really do make for what a Magic tournament should be. I’d definitely urge any Ontario-types reading this to get out to one of their tournaments – they’re putting a new face on the game around here. Thanks for reading, may all your gaming be fun,


* – Is this the single worst Preconstructed deck in history? It has Orochi Leafcallers and Sakura Tribe-Elders despite being mono-green and having nothing to accelerate to, the rares are Orochi Hatchery and Junkyo Bell, and there’s a Time of Need to fetch the one Legend in the deck… And it isn’t Seshiro, the Anointed. Who the hell is going to want to Time of Need for Sachi, Daughter of Sashiro???