I’m in the Minneapolis airport waiting for my last connection, and all I can think about is getting home to wash clothes, take a shower, and start
practicing Sealed for the upcoming Grand Prix in Kansas City. I guess that’s the life of a Magic player. I haven’t even had a chance to update you guys
on the last couple weeks of events, but here I am more concerned about the next tournament on the schedule. I guess airports are great for getting a
chance to catch up and reflect.
Many people have told me that I have had a rough month in and out of events, and I can somewhat agree. If you follow tournament coverage, you probably
haven’t seen my name much, as I didn’t make Day Two of all three events. Last year, I only missed two Day Twos all season, so to miss three in a row
was very jarring. The old Brad would have chalked this up to variance and say it was just bad luck, but I think there is more to it than that.
Some people say that good/bad runs are caused by karma. You only get so much good or bad before the pendulum swings the other way and gives you a taste
of the other life. Cedric Phillips once told me that karma would hit me very hard after I finished second in Amsterdam last year. It would be a scary
thought if I believed that, and I won’t deny that this thought has crossed my mind in the last couple weeks.
Running good or bad is also influenced by playing good or bad [sic]. I don’t just mean in Magic but in life as well. When you are running good, you
tend to be playing good as well, as you make worse decisions when you’re running bad. This is not always true, but it seems to be the case more often
It all started about a month ago back in Mandan, North Dakota. Mandan is my hometown, and I recently moved back.
Bad Play #1
All of my Magic friends think it was crazy for me to just not move out of State and enjoy the nicer places in the United States, but I have a different
idea on that.
The first is that I truly believe that most people love where they grew up, and that is no different for me. I love North Dakota, and even though the
weather can be a bit frigid all the time, I think that helped make everything else amazing in the state.
I just moved back to Mandan and got an apartment with my best buddy and brother Corey Baumeister. Corey and I have always been close because of Magic,
but this would be a chance to really get to know each other before life takes us in other directions.
We ended up getting an apartment beside the river, which is the best place in the city to live. It’s really beachside housing for North Dakota. The
apartment is huge with everything you could possibly need. You could say that “it’s the nut.” To make the place even better, I purchased the most
unreal couch on the face of the planet. It is 8’/14’/5′ and is like a room all by itself. It is the dream couch and will go great with the 57” TV that
we’re going to use solely for MODO.
We signed the papers on May 23 and moved in on May 24, the Tuesday before Grand Prix Providence.
I moved in early, so I could get all settled down before I left for three weeks of tournaments and so I could lock up the sweet apartment before anyone
else. It was the best decision I could have made, and I was very happy with it.
My mother helped me unpack everything Tuesday night, and I was already completely moved in and watching my favorite movie (Eulogy) with my
brother that night.
Wednesday morning arrived with some startling news. It seemed that the Garrison Dam up the river was going to release six times the amount of water it
usually does because a dam in Montana lost all control. Not a good sign for my newly furnished apartment.
Run Bad #1
My new apartment is now in a flood zone and could very well be under water in a couple weeks. Flood insurance was out of the question, since who would
sell flood insurance right before a flood? I had no choice but to pack everything back up and put it all back in storage before I left.
I got the crew that helped me move only two days earlier back together and started the process all over again. It was so depressing to pack up
everything after you just unpacked it, but it had to be done. There is a chance my place doesn’t go under water but the fear of it happening while
competing made me decided to just play it safe.
Good Play #1
Once my apartment was once again empty, I jumped on a plane to Providence to play in the Legacy Grand Prix. Legacy has never been my favorite format,
and I have only played in two other Legacy events before this. It’s just hard to argue for skipping a domestic Grand Prix when you are Level 8.
The biggest problem was I didn’t practice at all and didn’t know what I was going to play or where the cards were going to come from. I talked to a
couple friends who were bringing some cards for me, and I would have to scrounge up some spare ones when I got to the site, which would be on Saturday
morning since the only flight I could get arrived at 11 pm.
I got to my connection in Minneapolis to find Sam Black and the lesser-known Troy Thompson. Troy Thompson is a Minnesota local who was around back when
I was on the PTQ circuit many years back. We had good chemistry and became very good friends. He also has infinite Legacy cards and saw that I posted
on Facebook looking for a deck. I got onto the plane with zero cards and got off with almost an entire Legacy deck.
Run Good #1
The problem was that the cards were for G/B/W Junk, the deck I used to Top 8 the last Legacy Grand Prix. The deck was fine until people started playing
a ton of Jace, the Mind Sculptors.
Bad Play #2
I sleeved up Kibler’s 75 since he was testing the format and playing Junk as well and went to battle. My first two rounds were against an unwinnable
matchup—Tendrils combo. With no real way to win this matchup, I went 0-2.
I climbed back and had to win round 9 to make Day Two after a great guy named Alex Hayne in round 8 gave me the win after he beat me in game 2 right
before time was called. Either we would draw ourselves out of Day Two, or someone would have to concede. Alex played very well all round while I made a
few mistakes from not knowing the format all too well.
Round 9 was a different story. I was the only 6-2 to be paired down against a 5-2-1. He had 0% chance to make Day Two, but for some reason he thought
he had a chance. We went to game three, and he mulliganed to five on the play. Mental Misstep for my Thoughtseize and Vendilion Clique for my removal
spell were enough to beat me because I couldn’t find a removal spell in the top ten cards.
I asked him if he would concede to me. My opponent thought for a minute and then said he wanted the win in case there was even a 1% chance he could
make it. And also it wasn’t every day you got to beat Brad Nelson…dagger.
Run Bad #2
That was a rough way to end the day. I’m not saying I deserved to make Day Two, but having it stripped away by a guy who couldn’t make it at all was
I went out to eat with all the guys from Team ChannelFireball and started talking shop for the upcoming Pro Tour. It’s seemed like an interesting
format, and we felt poised to break it like we did in Paris. The bill came; I lost; Luis got paid; standard business.
There was one special thing about this event though. Jamie Park was in the building, which meant fun times were to be had. I wasn’t in the mood to go
out for drinks, since I was still tired from moving and packing as well as losing the credit card game (on the day of the event no less). I was a sad
puppy, but Patrick Chapin and Jamie Park were there to talk me into a couple drinks. One Vodka Red Bull later, and I was out on the town with two of
the biggest degenerates in the game.
The best part about hanging out with Jamie Park was that he taught me a game called the Salt and Pepper. It is a great game to play out at a bar since
the tools you need are right in front of you.
1 Salt Shaker
1 Pepper Shaker
2 Brains (We were slowly losing these as the night progressed.)
It originated from a game of Magic that was played year ago at Worlds. Player A had a creature with unearth in their graveyard, which was lethal if
they unearthed it. The trick was that Player B only had one spell left in his hand/deck, which was Resounding Wave. Player A would win the game if he
unearthed the creature and Player B did not have the Wave, but would lose if he did have it.
This meant Player A had to try to read the opponent to see if he had Resounding Wave or not to win the game.
Salt and Pepper is exactly that. One player puts both shakers under the table and consciously picks one of them and wraps it up with the napkin and
puts it on the table and leaves the other one out of sight. The other player then has to use any nonphysical way to read the player to figure out
whether it is Salt or Pepper.
This sounds like a very strange game to play, but it’s very fun when two smart people play it. We played this for an hour or two in between other
shenanigans throughout the night.
Jake Van Lunen was also in town for his brother’s graduation that weekend. He decided to come out for drinks with the Magic players for good times.
Steve Sadin also walked through the doors, and the night got off to a very great start.
I love these two people so much, and my relationships with both of them have something in common. For some reason, when one of them and I are together
and have had a few drinks, we just sit there talking each other up for countless hours. I just think we have an amazing bromance that would make anyone
jealous. It’s just guy love.
Looking back on Providence, I did not take the correct deck to the fight. I didn’t think losing at this event was going to bother me, since I didn’t
care about my results last year, I Top 8ed last time, so I was happy. This time was a different story because I did not make Day Two; however I learned
something about the format.
When information becomes available, I want to process it and use it in some way. I learned a couple things about Legacy but don’t really have any
outlet to use that information. For the first time ever, I’m really interested in the format and want to break it open. I talked about this with Drew
Levin during the weekend, and he was excited to help me in any way I needed. This is the beginning of a great relationship, and something you all
should look forward to in the coming months when I take a stab at learning what Legacy has to offer.
I said goodbye to Providence and headed on to Singapore.
Singapore is a strange country. I heard going into the trip that they have a long list of crazy laws that are very expensive to break. No littering, no
spitting, no bringing gum in or out of the country, but the strangest thing about all of this is that I did not see one police officer the entire time
I was there. I spent an entire week in the country and didn’t see a single one.
We ended up getting a hotel in downtown Singapore for the duration of our stay. We wanted to do the bulk of our testing there. We also would also stay
with a teammate the entire time we were traveling because we didn’t want an information leak, like the one that happened in Paris. We decided to use
what Luis called the “buddy system.”
This was actually just his way of needling me because my buddy was Conley Woods.
Run Bads #3
I think I need to back up for this one.
The week before PT Paris, we all tested in San Diego at a beach house Gabe Walls rented. The crew was smaller than the one in Singapore, but it was
much more wild. It was David Ochoa, Wrapter, LSV, Efro, Conley, Gabe Walls, Owen, and me.
One night, most of the crew went to bed, and Owen, Conley, Wrapter, and I hung out. Someone started a question game. It might have a name, but I don’t
know it. Two people try to guess what a third party will say in response to a question—not what the right answer actually is. They keep bidding
up until someone books the other in. The answer is revealed, and they see who wins. For example:
“Hey Brad, how many matches out of fifteen would you win against Conley?”
Owen and Wrapter started out with:
Owen stopped, thought, and said something on the lines of, “I know this is already high, but there is no way Brad would say lower than this: 10!”
Wrapter booked at ten, so he would win if the number was nine or below, and Owen would win if the number was between ten and fifteen.
My answer? 12!
Bad Play #3
It was late at night, and at the time, I truly believed that, in a competitive tournament, I could get close to twelve match wins, even though it is a
I regret saying this because it became the foundation for the craziest fake grudge to ever develop. I now have a friendly grudge with Conley; not
because I want it, but because the team left me no choice.
It got much worse because we drafted 4v4s to test for the Pro Tour. This method allows players to help each other build decks and mulligan and provides
incentive to keep playing even after losing round one.
Conley and I were on opposite teams.
The score was 6/5, and they were up. The only match left was between Conley and me. The entire group circled around to make what should have been a
great match into a three-ring circus.
Luis said of the match: “Conley draws six lands and all spells and complains about being spell flooded while Brad has played four spells all game and
is still in it because Conley is spewing spells left and right. Brad plays really well until the last turn where he punts and loses.”
It stung, but what’s worse is that I got very into the games and was very annoyed with the team’s banter. The more frustrated I got, the happier they
were to deliver more of it. The grudge was on.
(I’m currently 2-0 against Conley in tournament matches, but who is keeping track?)
Our Singapore hotel was a bit expensive and far from the site, but the best thing was the restaurant in the hotel. They allowed us to take up the back
area to game for the entire week. It’s usually very difficult to find a great place for everyone to test while traveling, so getting as many tables as
we needed was a big game.
Run Good #2
Testing was the most important part of being in Singapore, but there was also a tournament to be played there as well. The format was Standard, which
meant it was all about the Caw-Blade. I don’t care if there are other good decks in the format; there’s no reason to play anything but Caw-Blade in
Standard right now.
I liked my list for the event, but the tournament did not go too well for me.
In round 4, it was turn 3 of game one with 43 minutes on the clock. I called the judge over for the first time. My opponent was playing slowly, and I
wanted to be able to finish three games, which became difficult to do in the mirror ever since New Phyrexia came out.
The problem is all of the life gain. Before New Phyrexia, the mirror was a big grind, and people could take a while to figure out how to cast their
spells. But now the problem is that it’s just really difficult to kill someone who is gaining 4-10 life per turn.
I called over judges constantly throughout the match and managed to kill him in game two on turn 1 of turns to push the draw.
I ended up talking to my opponent later in the day, and he actually admitted he was trying to slow play me in game two; however, it was difficult to do
so when I was calling judges all the time. Some people!
Run Bad #4
Being in the draw bracket seems like the worst in this format. That’s where all the slow Caw-Blade players end up. My matches would not be easy.
I beat a Caw-Blade opponent in round 5, lost to RUG Twin in 6, and beat two more Caw-Blade opponents in rounds 7 and 8. Nothing interesting happened in
any of these matches. Great format!
I got to round 9, and yet again I was in a win-and-in situation. I played the mirror in the feature match area where he won the die roll and got a turn
2 Stoneforge Mystic down. I had my own copy, and it was off to the races.
A couple turns later, there was an interesting line that I could make. On turn 5, my board was the following:
Him: 1 Inkmoth Nexus, 1 Tectonic Edge, 2 U/W dual lands, 2 Squadron Hawks, 1 Stoneforge Mystic, 1 Germed Batterskull, Sword of Feast and Famine, and a
Sword of War and Peace in hand.
Me: 2 Tectonic Edges, 2 U/W dual lands, 1 Island, 1 Germ-less Batterskull, 1 Stoneforge Mystic.
My hand had nothing to affect the board except Into the Roil, Squadron Hawk, and another Stoneforge Mystic. I could start trying to get on the board as
well, but the clock was too far in his favor to do so. He had just missed a land drop though.
I decided to just take out his two lands and pass, taking a ton of damage. It was a risky play, since any untapped white would mean I’d be screwed, but
playing any other way looked very bad for me.
He didn’t draw any more colored lands, and I was able to pull away with the game.
Game two played out with both of us going to town with Sword of War and Peace, but he had a Mirran Crusader, and I couldn’t find a Sun Titan to get him
in the Inkmoth Nexus block lock.
I then mulliganed to six and drew nothing relevant, eventually dying to Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which he easily resolved when I was behind three lands
I did make a mistake in deckbuilding in this event. This is what I ended up playing in Singapore.
- 4 Mana Leak
- 1 Condemn
- 2 Into the Roil
- 3 Spell Pierce
- 4 Preordain
- 1 Sword of Feast and Famine
- 2 Batterskull
- 1 Sword of War and Peace
- 2 Dismember
I didn’t have anything for the mirror that they didn’t have. I just had a tough time dealing with cards like Mirran Crusader or Consecrated Sphinx in
addition to all the other cards the deck usually plays. They would sometimes find a trump to what I was playing.
Bad Play #4
I might take a look into Standard next month just for my readers, but it’s a difficult format to want to play when there are no events for it coming
up. We’ll see.
Out of the twelve people in our team, only LSV and I were out of the tournament. That’s an impressive success rate for any group but also a very
depressing one when you’re on the losing side. We decided to update Block decks and battle a bit while the rest of the team competed.
We headed out to the site later than everyone else on Day Two. The cab ride took twenty minutes, and we talked about sick runs in the game. It’s hard
to explain whenever a single player runs very hot and Top 8s everything.
Luis did it in 2009; I did it in 2010; and now Owen is doing it this year. The funny thing about all of this is that none of us can explain how it
happens. It has to be a combination of playing good as well as running good, but other than that, it just is.
We got to the site and found that Paulo and Owen were on their way to yet another Top 8. Luis and I lost a draft versus the Belgians, and Paulo added
another title to his mantle. It was a pretty standard day if you ask me. We did get some Block testing in at least.
Singapore was an amazing country once I got past my hatred of hot climates. I think it’s just that I’m a bigger guy, and I hate feeling sweaty, but
humid islands are the bane of my existence.
The great part about the country is its Magic players. They are so in love with this game, and they really treated all the pros like actual rock stars.
I have never felt that what I was doing had any kind of impact on the world, until I was in Singapore, taking pictures with all the great players from
Thank you all for making my stay in Singapore a great one. This trip might have convinced me to actually start traveling internationally for Grand
That’s all I have for today, but join me tomorrow as I wrap up my story about Block Constructed, drafting SOM Block, and the Pro Tour itself.