Buying Cookies For Two Visaras: A Pittsburgh Report
I honestly believe that the majority of Magic players are like me: They have been playing for a while, but have never experienced the"big game." That was the case for me... Until this last weekend. For the first time in my long, long Magic career, I attended a Grand Prix. Needless to say, it wasn't nearly what I expected - and I mean that in a very positive way. I would recommend that everyone at least do it once in your Magic career, as it's really a lot of fun.
My team, Karmic Justice, has been together for a while now. We are based out of Matrix Games in Oberlin, Ohio (which got its name way before the movie, in case you were wondering). Our team is Tysene Leboda, one of the people who qualified for Nationals from the Ohio Valley; Chris Newton, my friend who also no one has ever heard of; and myself. Tysene probably has the most big game experience - and I am sure that if you asked people, they would say my best Magic years are behind me, although I would disagree. I just think that the people in my area have gotten a lot better. With competition in the area like Tim Aten and his crew (who, by the way, took 13th at GP: Pittsburgh - congrats, guys!), of course the competition is going to get better, or you are going to remain stagnant and not get better yourself. The name comes from the fact that we are all strong believers in karma, which generally has this tendency to kick people who deserve it in the face.
Speaking of karma kicking people in the face, we almost caused two riots on the way down to the event, since someone (me) got out of the car and yelled"HELLLLLLO, PENSITUCKY!!" which caused even the people in passing cars to turn their heads. The second was caused because my teammate decided to wear his Browns shirt.
We arrived Friday, and tried to get some byes. Unfortunately, we were once again unsuccessful, going 1-2 drop with one of the worst sets of decks we have thrown together. It also taught us a lot about what not to do. We had taken 4th in a trial in a previous attempt, got one game from the byes because the other team who we didn't play in the semi-finals didn't need it, and the team that ended up taking the byes wasn't even the team that was going into the event -which was the team (Whine and Cheese) with the girl (Rachel Reynolds) in all the pictures on Sideboard.com, which only had two of their members in place for the event. She's a very good player - and in that meeting, hers was the only game we managed to pull off.
After we dropped, we started our trek to make the day memorable. I got to meet Pete, the owner of StarCityGames.com, and Ben Bleiweiss, who was surprised that I actually recognized his name from his"18,000 Words" articles. Both are really nice guys, and we sat there and talked for a few minutes before sitting down to screw around some more with our"thrown together in five minutes Onslaught Block Constructed" decks.
Some guy comes up with a black shirt with a dragon on it and began to chat with us randomly. I immediately recognized him as the infamous Zvi, and he sat down beside us and talked. Man, Zvi can talk. And talk. And talk. You will not find a nicer guy than Zvi. Not only does he profit from this game, but he also gives a lot back. Here we are, unknowns in the Magic world - and here's this pro sitting down beside us, just chatting like he's known us for years. We got him to sign two cards for us, one of which was of course Dream Halls (since I think everyone associates him with the abuse of that card), and Echo Tracer. After showing him our Kai Budde-signed Voidmage Prodigy, he was the only pro that got the joke and thought it was rather humorous. The Echo Tracer is from a super-rogue deck we have been working on, which has been doing well thus far, and continues to be tweaked (no, I haven't abandoned Slip and Slide; I think that Scourge gave it some cards for sure).
The next morning, we headed down from our hotel rooms one hour early, and began to look around for people we recognized as pros. Some of the things we got people to sign were ridiculous. We got Your Move Games to sign another Echo Tracer as a team, Team Illuminati to finish the Echo Tracer Zvi already started (karma!), and Brian Kibler to also sign an Echo Tracer. The funniest reaction however had to come from Osyp, who was shocked that we were having him sign something, and was very flattered. He was asking our friend whether she was serious that she wanted him to sign the cards, asking,"You know who I am right?", and she explained she knew. She got him to sign three Composts for the team, which is ironic in itself if you get the joke.
A lot of people make fun of pros - but you know, it's not the pros that are the problem. It's those people who have had that small taste of success who are the problem, not ones who get the consistent taste of the big game. Those pro wannabes are the ones who offer absolutely nothing to the game, and treat everyone with total disrespect. The pros we met were, without exception, wonderful people whose passion for the game is truly admirable.
Deck registration began, and we pull an Exalted Angel for another team. That's always a bummer - but seriously, things like that come back to you. There was nothing significant other than that, and I never really heard where that Angel went. When we finally received our deck, it was moderately decent, and we went R/G, U/W, and B/W.
I will save you the exact details of the matchups and everything; Rob Dougherty has already written his thoughts and will write another article. You probably would want to listen to him when it comes to what to do in this format as opposed to someone like me.
We take those decks to a 3-1 finish, the only significant thing that happened was our teammate getting accused of slow play twice. He doesn't stall, but he does make sure that he is methodical in every move he makes - and he takes pains to never break the rules. The funniest one happened in round 3, when his opponent accused him of it in Game 2 which Chris ended up pulling off, and then in Game 3 took beyond every second possible to try to draw it out, since he knew he was in trouble with Chris laying Carrion Feeder turn 1, Cleric turn 2, and Rotlung Reanimator turn 3. It's always funny to see someone accuse Chris of slow play, which they then tank it ten times over when they are going to lose. Chris wins it on turn 4 of the 5 extra rounds.
After a lunch break at the worst McDonalds in the world, we came back and did the same thing again. We opened absolutely nothing for whoever we were registering for - so whoever you are, I apologize.
That's when it happened. Upon receiving our bag and opening it, we notice that the sheet has been written on in big letters. It said the following:
And around the edge, we see that someone has written the following:
"Only Matt Urban would pass you three Pitfighter Legends and the Abyss. You owe us a cookie, or brownies. There is a Miss Fields in the mall. We want that."
We look at each other, look at the decklists, and sure enough, there's two Visaras sitting there (with"HOW LUCKY!" written next to it), Call to the Grave, Dragon Mage, Hollow Specter, and Jareth. We immediately call the judge (in stereo, no less), since this isn't exactly something that is exactly common - before even opening the cards, just to have one judge who can verify that in fact we pulled this. I remember what everyone has been saying about the Nick Eisel situation (right or wrong), and didn't want that same stigma attached to my team. The judge was amazed himself, and it didn't take long before the entire room knew what we had.
That's when we sent our fourth person to Monroeville Mall to go buy brownies. They were completely out of brownies, except one, which was delivered as promised. I really wish that we could've gotten them more. Team Michael J. Flores, I'm sorry. Slops to Ms. Fields cookies! We made sure we delivered at least one, since we are all strong believers in the karma - hence the name.
We threw together mono-black, U/G, and R/W with the beatsticks we were given. Both of my teammates were feeling it; I was not however. I knew that my deck was weak, and knew it was going to be a tough haul for me. The Whipcorders kept me good company, however. While we were sitting there, Zvi comes up and starts talking to a friend who is at the same table as us, and says,"Did you hear that someone pulled two Visara and a Call to the Grave?!?" Tysene answers with a"hi!" and Zvi just laughs as we discuss the sickness that was Tysene's deck.
Round 5 wasn't even close for Tysene, and I manage to pull mine off, while Chris loses. We had not gone 3-0 at all today (and we didn't the entire trip). We come to find out that our opponents were none other then Team Juggernaut (who at the time of this writing had a 1763 team limited rating and were ranked 46th in the world), who had Gab Tsang on it. We ask Gab to sign our Riptide Laboratory (it actually saw play against him, and it went well with the rest of the stupid signings we did all day), and he obliged us. So I guess we actually got to beat a pro team, which was something that was always a goal for us - especially given that we weren't seriously taking stabs at this.
Round 6 again wasn't even close for Tysene, and Chris pulls his off. My deck decided to take a vacation from this point forward. The most amusing thing during this match was Tysene's Round 5 opponent coming up and saying,"Uh, you are going to lose. You don't stand a chance. You have no chance to win." We kept running into this, as it seemed that everyone in the room had heard of what we pulled.
Round 7 begins, and we are now 5-1. If we win, we are almost certainly in, as our 8th round is probably going to just draw to get in. We have zero byes, and have made it this far. We were literally one foot away from being in. Tysene once again absolutely dominates. I once again get dominated. Chris is 1-1 with his match, and it comes down to the final turn for one person.
Chris has Jareth and Crown of Furied Dragon Mage out, and his opponent has a morph, a Tephraderm, and a Berserk Murlodont he is attacking with. Chris is low on life, so he has to block. He has a Torrent of Fire in hand, as well as a Searing Flesh. One creature lives, Chris can end the game on his turn. The opponent has shown that he has beef, with two Enormous Baloths in the graveyard. Chris blocks the Tephraderm with the Jareth, who punched himself in the face for the biggest damage Jareth will ever see with no white mana open, and the Morph with the Dragon Mage. He flips the morph, which ends up being a Krosan Colossus, which crushes the Dragon. No matter how Chris figures it out, he still has his opponent at one. If he would've switched the blockers, or not used all his white mana, we would've surely continued on to see Day 2.
Imagine being that close to Day 2. Twelve inches away from Day 2. One white mana away from Day 2.
During this exchange, some other woman comes up and starts running her mouth about"Why do bad players end up with good cards?" Listen, get back to the back of the room where you belong with the rest of your loudmouthed team. We got to the front tables because we took decent-to-bad stuff in the first four rounds to a 3-1 record.
These are the people I am referring to when I talk about pro wannabes. Those players are the true parasites of the game, who make up for their own inadequacies in both life and the game by trying to tear down those players who happen to be doing decently. They hate the pros because they are successful, and they hate other players because they view them as inferior. Honestly, how these people finally don't just sit in their room with all their hate and eventually Cobain themselves is beyond me.
Round 8 once again wasn't even close for Tysene, who goes 4-0 with a Limited deck that could probably beat a lot of Constructed decks. My deck doesn't even show up again, and Chris's deck of course get hosed just enough to make us go home at 5-3.
We ended up 48th - the 8th best Amateur team there - which, of course, wasn't enough for the money.
We went back to the hotel room, enjoyed watching a show about"Punany Poets" on HBO. We sat there just thinking about how close we put ourselves to being in contention, and we felt good about that.
We spent Day 2 just basically hanging out, and my teammate went in with his"Day 2 gear," since he was rather satisfied with how we did. He looked like an angry mime.... But it would've been hilarious to see the Sideboard coverage of that. He was in full facepaint gothic look. Understand that I am a semi-overweight professional looking guy, and Chris is also a semi-fit professional looking guy. Then we have this guy in between us that looks like a mime that has lost his mind. It sure made for some hilarious looks, especially on the trip home. It's truly too bad that it will never be on The Sideboard. Alas.
Team Illuminati won the entire event - and they deserved it. It was funny when I talked to Zvi about making the trip to the Grand Prix, and him saying that he knew he had a good chance at money. He was definitely right.
If you ever get the chance, attend a Grand Prix. It's really a lot of fun.