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Existing means feeling a broad spectrum of emotions. Most of the time you're in a consistent place, with some fluctuations of good and some bad. Occasionally, you're hit with a broad range of those emotions in a short amount of time that will put you in a manic state.
That was my weekend. Words like "whirlwind" and "rollercoaster" are applicable descriptors, yet fall short. I will never forget it.
The Testing Process
For this Pro Tour, we ran back "Team Fun," which is the nice way to describe our little group of outcasts. By some combination of being left without a large group to work with and because we wanted to focus on the friendship part of preparing for a tournament, Steve Rubin, Josh Cho, Ondrej Strasky, and I rented an Airbnb in Bilbao for a week.
The goal was to discuss Limited, each find a Modern deck we liked, listen to bad music, watch bad TV, and play non-Magic games, not necessarily in that order.
The week earlier, Steve Rubin lost in the finals of Grand Prix London and our entire squad made Day 2. Our Limited testing looked good individually, even though we never did anything resembling a team meeting. There was a team meeting that I briefly documented on Twitter, though.
Whereas last Pro Tour, our song of the week was "No Diggity," our songs of the week were "Gucci Gang" and "Man's Not Hot," as selected by everyone who was not me. Apparently, the worse music we listen to, the better someone from our squad does. One of these days, I'll actually pick a song. I tried to get Hoodie Allen's "No Interruption" to catch on, and while Ondrej liked it, it wasn't bad enough for everyone else.
The Deck Selection Process
When leaving for Bilbao, my list of potential decks was thus:
- Grixis Kiln Fiend
- Mardu Pyromancer
- Mardu Death's Shadow
- B/G Midrange
- U/R Madcap Moon
With Steve having the second most Modern trophies on Magic Online with Grixis Death's Shadow, he was locked in. I trusted his judgment and advised Cho to play the same 75.
I didn't bring every playable Modern card I owned, as I'd happily rebuy a large portion of a deck for $400 if it meant I didn't have to lug everything around. When I took the advice of EFro and started testing W/U Eldrazi and Taxes, I started regretting it.
While beating up on big mana seemed great, B/G decks were tough, as were Burn and Humans. Overall, the W/U deck seemed worse than Humans. Thankfully I didn't have to buy copies of cards I already had.
Going with Slippery Bogles seemed like it could be a good metagame choice, although there are probably decks that are better against Humans that also scoop to Tron. The deck was an inconsistent mess, which made me wonder how I ever lost to it in the first place.
Humans was a fine backup option (but that's where I figured everyone else was). Time was running out.
All of that information led to my predictions article two weeks ago. So far, those articles have made me look pretty smart. It makes sense that those articles being on point is the reason for my recent Pro Tour successes.
Thursday morning before the tournament, I joined a League with Mardu Pyromancer and dropped at 2-2. Winning without drawing Bedlam Reveler was nearly impossible in some matchups. Faithless Looting was also integral to translating dead resources into fresh ones.
Somewhat off the deck, I joined another league with Grixis Death's Shadow and started 2-0 before dying a horrible death to Burn. The deck felt fine but I could feel my incoming 6-4 record.
Time to panic?
Soon after, Nadine showed up to our Airbnb with Mattia Rizzi in tow. I f#*%^in love Mattia. I started to think of the reasons why and it literally now just dawned on me who he reminds me of. Damn.
Anyway, I coerced Mattia into sharing his decklist. He had played something like fifteen Leagues with Mardu Pyromancer and had sound reasoning for all his choices. When he went home, I changed ten cards and registered this:
It didn't take long for the #marduguy jokes to start. It also didn't take long for them to stop, at which point I picked up the #marduguy mantle unironically, much to everyone's chagrin. Turns out, when you play a deck you tell people is bad and they shouldn't play it and end up crushing it, they don't like it very much. Understandable, but in my defense, I didn't know!
My deck went 9-0-1 in the Swiss (and 2-1 in Top 8), whereas Mattia went 2-7-1 somehow. His lack of Wear certainly had something to do with it, but clearly the rest had to do with skill.
Metagame Gurus Sun might be the "A" Squad afterall!
There were many opportunities to fight jet lag on this trip, but I wasn't disciplined enough. At 3am the morning of the Pro Tour, I briefly woke up and checked my messages and found horrible news.
My longtime friend Korey McDuffie was in a coma and wasn't expected to wake up.
I'm not exaggerating when I say he was like my little brother. We were very tight for numerous years, and while we weren't as close the last year or so, I didn't care about him or his well-being any less than I had. The news was devastating for more than one reason.
I'm hard on myself. In this situation, there is no question that I could have done more to help my friend. Not keeping in contact was also on me, and at the very least, I could have utilized our time better. Those are things I carried with me all weekend.
People were saying "you look mad" or "why are you in a bad mood?" and I didn't know what to say. It didn't feel like my place to break the news to them, although I did tell a few people who were also close to him. You know those situations where you ask someone how their day is as a formality and they launch into their life story? I will never be that person, for better or worse.
I was in a bad place, but was going to keep playing until it was clear whether or not I should still be in the tournament. If I had to go home early, I would.
I drafted a U/G double splash ascend deck, as I tend to do. After starting 2-0, I completely threw away a Game 3 I had all but locked up and needed to check myself. I complimented my opponent on his Chinese foil City's Blessing token, told him he played well, and excused myself.
In between rounds, I'd find a corner by myself, read all the incredible messages people were posting as a means to honor Korey, and tear up.
Then I'd go inside and smash some helpless opponent.
There were a lot of three-game matches and many of them were close, but I finished the day 5-0 in Modern and 7-1 overall.
Exhausted, I tried to pass out early but just ended up crying in bed.