Hello there. The name's John Cuvelier. I live in Florida and have since I was a child. I'm what you call a PTQ grinder. At the ripe age of 25, I've been playing sanctioned Magic for eleven years and professional-level Magic for nine of them. It hasn't always been easy, but hey, you knew that. What makes me so special? Why should you spend your time reading about me? Honestly, I feel like I'm one of the few players that are on the cusp of a breakthrough performance. Let me show you why.
My First FNM
May 31st, 2002: It was a booster draft at local game store Cosmic Games. This is the format I consider my bread and butter. Although I had not drafted prior to this in my life, I have a sort of deckbuilding skill that is unique to others. This didn't come to full fruition until later in my career, but I had that gut feeling I had that special something. I finished this event with a respectable 2-2 record, meeting some new friends along the way.
My First Prerelease
August 28th, 2002: Three months after my first event I was ready for my first Prerelease. Back then they didn't hold Prereleases like they do nowadays. Instead of going to your local game store to play, everyone in the state went to a centralized location to play in one big Prerelease. I have very fond memories of this particular Prerelease not just because it was my first. I went 4-0 in my first event, opening a foil Kamahl, Fist of Krosa in the process.
Over the next two years I spent my time building experience at my local game store. It became quite apparent to me who the best player in the room was after not too long. I immediately began building a relationship with Rickey Tabors, the man who basically won every event at the shop. I took in all the information I could since this was the only way I knew how to get better at the game. It really paid off since my first big event was on the horizon.
My First Grand Prix
July 24th, 2004: Grand Prix Orlando! This event was Mirrodin Block Constructed. I, like so many others, was playing the deck everyone loved to hate: Affinity. Looking back at this event today, I played against some of the best players the game has ever seen. Don't believe me? Take a look:
Round 1: Win (+24) Bishop, Jamison S
Round 2: Win (+24) Barrett, Chris
Round 3: Win (+24) Freeman, William
Round 4: Win (+24) Engels, Joey M
Round 5: Win (+24) Himes, Chad
Round 6: Win (+24) Garza, Jeff R
Round 7: Win (+24) Bonneville, Tim
Round 8: Loss(+0) Amado, Micah
Round 9: Loss (+0) Jensen, William
Round 10: Win (+24) Stark, Ben
Round 11: Win (+24) Walls, Gabe
Round 12: Loss (+0) Chernoff, Adam S
Round 13: Loss (+0) Dyke, Jim R
Round 14: Win(+24) Osako, Ken
I guess the great thing about being new to the game is I had no idea who the heck anyone was. Being intimidated wasn't an option, and the only thing holding me back from success was me. I finished this event in 26th place, good enough for $250 because of placement and an additional $250 more for amateur prize. [Editor's Note: The ol' amateur prize. It's been forever since I've seen that.]
My First PTQ
October 24th, 2004: It's fairly rare that a player plays their first Grand Prix before their first PTQ. That was the case for me, however, and the sixteen-year-old me was riding his high horse after doing so well at the GP a couple months before. The format was Sealed, a perfect opportunity to show why I thought I was such a good deckbuilder. I did just that, posting a 5-1-1 record going into the Top 8. I was knocked off my horse by Pro Tour regular and World of Warcraft TCG World Champ William Postlethwait in the Top 4.
My First U.S. Nationals
August 11th, 2005: By performing well at the GP and PTQ along with other smaller events, my DCI rating was brought up high enough to qualify me for U.S. Nationals. I bargained with my parents and managed to convince them to fly me up to Baltimore for the event. After posting a 5-2-1 start on day 1, I really thought I had a chance of making the Top 8. However, the wheels fell off the track, and by the final round of the event, I was playing a Standard match for essentially $1000. I managed to fall victim to a Gift's Ungiven Rock deck in the final round as I was playing Tooth and Nail.
- 1 Darksteel Colossus
- 1 Duplicant
- 1 Sundering Titan
- 3 Eternal Witness
- 4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 4 Vine Trellis
- 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
My First Pro Tour
June 16th, 2006: Pro Tour Charleston! This was a Team Trios Unified Ravnica Block Constructed event. The teammates I had for the event were David Irvine and Keith McLaughlin. We all managed to qualify based on an average DCI rating over a certain threshold. I'm not positive on the threshold marker, but between Irvine and me we could bring basically anyone on our team who had a rating of at least 1800.
I was selected as the person who got to register all the decklists on one massive sheet of paper. Just before the tournament started we were debating on where the last Banefire would end up between the three decks since they all had a little bit of red in them. We ended up making a switch at the last minute that I unfortunately did not record. This came back to haunt us round 2 as we all received a game loss for deck registration error. Starting off 0-2, we rallied up to 3-2 but were unable to secure a spot in day 2, falling to 3-4 at the end of day 1.
After getting a taste of the Pro Tour, I had to get more. Finally being eighteen meant that I could start flying and driving to Grand Prix without much restraint from my parents. With such a high DCI rating, I had three byes for every Grand Prix over the next two years. Back then, however, X-2 wasn't a lock for day 2, and I found that out the hard way. I had a pretty unbelievable run of GPs where I posted either X-2 or X-3 at every single one while never actually making day 2. I started to develop a feeling that maybe I wasn't cut out for this game after all. I decided I'd give the game one last shot at Grand Prix Atlanta in November 2008. Would you believe it? Another bomb out! Throwing in the towel seemed like the easy way out of the game.
But with a PTQ on day 2 of the GP, it meant I had one more event to play in.
My First PTQ Win
November 16th, 2008: A long time coming. I had struggled mightily in PTQs over the years. Prior to this win, I had lost in the Top 8 seven times, three of which were in the finals. It was fitting that I win this PTQ in an Alara Block Sealed event, beating the likes of Brett Blackman and Lucas Siow in the process. A 247-man PTQ on day 2 of GP Atlanta. If you're going to do it, might as well do it the hard way. Just like that new life was breathed back into me, and I was back!
My First Solo Pro Tour
February 27th, 2009: Pro Tour Kyoto! This was not only my first solo Pro Tour but my first trip out of North America. To say I was excited would be an understatement. Although I didn't cash in the event, I did manage to make day 2 and finish 136th. Getting my first taste of what it's like to play solo on the biggest stage made me want it even more. Looking back on this event today, I still somehow had no real concept about how to prepare for such an event. I ended up playing Kithkin just like Cedric Phillips, who made his Pro Tour Top 8 debut! The problem was I literally spent zero testing hours in preparation and thought my natural skills alone would be enough. What was I thinking?
My First SCG Open Top 8
March 28th, 2010: SCG Open Series: Orlando the first go around. It was the Legacy portion, and I was on Reanimator. I went undefeated throughout the Swiss portion of the event. A land screw in the first game of the quarterfinals followed by a marginal hand in the second led to an early departure and a great experience nonetheless. The eventual winner of the event was none other than Pro Tour Champion David Sharfman.
PTQ for Paris
October 23rd, 2010: Another Limited event, I managed to knock the monkey off my back with another PTQ win over my nemesis Chris Fennell in the finals. He had gotten the best of me in the two prior meetings in the finals of these before, but this time I happened to have my buddies Koth of the Hammer and Elspeth Tirel in my corner. This time around I again didn't spend any time preparing for the Pro Tour and went in pretty much blind. Fellow Floridian Ben Stark managed to win the whole thing, while other Floridian David Sharfman won the Grand Prix also held in Paris that same weekend. It was a good time to be a Florida Magic player.
I spent the next year or so struggling to win another PTQ while trying to make a name for myself. While I found myself in more Top 8s and more finals, unfortunately for me they ended in more losses. I was again faced with the dilemma of being done with the game. I'm an overachiever and feel like I have to be the best at what I'm doing at all times or I'm doing it wrong.
Grand Prix Lincoln
February 18th, 2012: Happy birthday to me. Modern season was in full swing, and Grand Prix Lincoln was its showcase. There was a local PTQ in Orlando, so I opted to skip Lincoln in favor of the PTQ. I had been testing modern with Bronson Magnan. I had devised a new archetype for the format in Aggro Loam and decided it was time to use it to take down the PTQ. While I did start that PTQ off 4-0, I sputtered out to finish with a 6-2 record. Bronson, on the other hand, went on to win the Grand Prix with the deck and got most of the credit for the deck that I was so desperately seeking on top of the Pro Tour invite that I desired even more. Would I ever get back on the Tour? I was starting to seriously doubt it.
I found the answer to my prayers via Magic Online. I had been fine-tuning Wolf Run Ramp with follow Floridian Steve Mann. Finally, in April of 2012, all the play testing finally showed its worth as I won a Magic Online PTQ. This is the point of my career where I felt that I finally was good enough. I had designed a Grand Prix-winning deck, I had won an online PTQ, and I was ready to take the world by storm.
My First SCG Open Win
May 19th, 2012: SCG came back to Orlando, and I wanted to get a win. Every time they had come to Florida I had made a Top 8 appearance in one of the formats. Last time I got knocked out of Top 4 by Gerry Thompson in a very close three-game match. This time I planned on it being different. The problem was I lost round 1 in three games. I was demoralized by my Delver opponent with his quadruple Vapor Snag draw and was considering dropping and going to Cube with some friends. In the end, I decided to stick it out since I thought I got very unlucky and had the best deck in the room. Turns out I was right:
Round 1: Loss (+0) Cohen, Brendan
Round 2: Win (+9) King, Byron
Round 3: Win (+9) Piedra, Christopher M
Round 4: Win (+9) Marino, James
Round 5: Win (+9) Soler, Justin
Round 6: Win (+9) Hockersmith, Ryan
Round 7: Win (+9) Herrera, Joseph A
Round 8: Win (+9) Carriveau, Kurt
Round 9: Win (+9) Barnes, Trek
Round 10: Win (+9) Strong, Bruce
Round 11: Win (+9) Laskin, Lewis
Round 12: Win (+9) Mize, Logan
That's a lot of wins in a row! Coverage of the event can be found here.
Magic Online PTQ Win #2
September 16th, 2012: The format was M13 Sealed. I'd been on fire this year and wasn't planning on being put out. After locking up the Sealed portion of the event, I had an Ajani, Caller of the Pride greet my screen. I opted to draft a U/W Tempo deck and managed to squeeze my way through the Top 8 for the victory and back-to-back Magic Online PTQ wins. Being qualified for the next two Pro Tours was an amazing feeling considering where I was just four months ago.
My First Pro Tour Cash
October 19th, 2012: Pro Tour Return to Ravnica. Good ol' Seattle. The week before the Pro Tour, I flew to California and partnered with Glenn Jones and other Floridian Julian De Los Santos for Grand Prix San Jose. Our pool was relatively weak, and we dropped after getting our second loss. After that I flew to Seattle and joined up with David Sharfman and Pat Cox to practice the format more in depth.
This was the first time I prepared a lot for a major event. We spent countless hours drafting online and even more testing all sorts of Modern decks. In the end, I decided that playing Affinity was a really good choice, especially because I had a lot of experience with the deck. I ended up posting an 8-2 record with Affinity in the Modern portion and a fairly embarrassing 2-4 record in Draft. That record put me 62nd place, good for $1000 and another $1000 from qualifying via Magic Online.
I finished out the year playing in Grand Prix Chicago. I got to visit my former roommates Kitt and Megan Holland (the MTG Mom as some of you may know) and also got another chance to play Modern at the GP. I opted to bring my Affinity deck again since it treated me quite well at the PT. I ended up posted an 8-1 record day 1, and I played against Brian Kibler in the last round of the event to determine who would make Top 8. The Dragonmaster made quick work of me this time, and I ended up just cashing again.
This year has been a relatively poor one for me Magic-wise. I went to Pro Tour Gatecrash, where I failed to make day 2 by starting day 1 0-3 in the Draft portion. I rallied, only to lose in the last round of the day not to make day 2. I then went to Grand Prix Charlotte in February, where I finished in the unexciting 33rd place, missing out on the extra cash with unfortunate breakers. Following that in March there was another SCG Open Series here in Florida, where I finished the Standard portion in yet another Top 8 but with another loss in the finals. You can find coverage of that event here.
In June I had another PTQ Top 8 with Jund Midrange in Standard but was dispatched in the quarterfinals by an Aetherling. I took a mild break before hitting the Grand Prix circuit again at Las Vegas, where I once again made day 2, but a bad matchup in the Draft portion meant I was out of contention for money at 8-3 and elected to drop. The week after I attended Grand Prix Miami, where I made day 2 and cash by finishing in 27th place.
Today I'm writing to you from the biggest Magic site on the web. If nothing else, going through my career in Magic has shown you that I'm as consistent as they come. Although I may be winding down the year without much of a bang in terms of large-scale tournaments, my promise to you is giving you the very best I have to offer.
Gosu. on Magic Online
@Jcuvelier on Twitter