By the end of the day story tips can be few and far between. Deck techs have been put together, players are hunkering down for the Top 8, and most of the go-to stories have already been used. So as I scanned the hall for something interesting to write about, I was pleased to get an urgent motion from StarCityGames.com Events Manager Jared Sylva. "Bill, there's a 12-year-old who's X-1!" He said as I walked over to see what he needed.
You don't say?
Zac Cole was the name of the player, and I jumped on the chance to talk to the youngster about his success on the day and how he had managed to tear off a 6-1 record, in good shape to make Top 8 with only two rounds to go. While proud dad Tom watching over, at times emotionally swelled up with pride, I chatted with Zac about his experiences playing Magic.
The first question I wanted an answer to was how long exactly he'd been playing Magic? "Since I was 3," he said without hesitation. Considering his present age of 12, that means some nine years of battling, and a beginning that came incredibly young. The phenom credited his dad with getting him started. So what was the first deck he started playing? "Goblins," Zac replied with a huge grin on his face. "Goblin King was my favorite card!"
Times have changed, and with them so have Zac's tastes. He listed Baneslayer Angel as one of his favorite cards now, and felt Ninth Edition was his favorite set so far. I asked him more about how often he spends playing. "I've stopped and started again every couple of years. But I play Friday Night Magic every week. And I play Magic Online just about every day."
So what deck was he playing in Denver? "Jund. The only other Standard deck I've played was Vampires, but that was months ago. I'm used to Jund. I've gotten 1st and 2nd with it at FNM, and I've been playing it for a year." Cole twisted in his seat, distracted by the crowd of people crowding around to listen in on the interview, then continued, "My dad said it was a really good deck, and had good card advantage. He built a copy of it too, but then started playing Super Friends."
So why didn't Zac play the same deck as his dad? With a laugh he gave a pretty matter-of-fact response: "My dad wouldn't let me use his Jaces or Gideons!" That thought brought a smile even to this grizzled reporter's face, and I couldn't help notice that Zac's happy-go-lucky attitude towards Magic and the tournament was just the tiniest bit contagious.
I wanted to know how he had found out about the tournament, and his answer was equally humorous: "I've been using StarCityGames.com to check my card prices for a long time, and I saw an ad about the event. I told my dad about it because I was wondering what it was. At first my mom said we weren't going to come, but then she said we could. It's a six hour drive!" It's certainly not every day a Magic competitor playing so deeply in the tournament was almost prevented from coming as a result of parental influence, but Denver makes a perfectly reasonable vacation destination even if you're driving all the way from Kearney, Nebraska as Zac and his family were.
I closed by asking Zac for his thoughts on the event so far. "I felt like I was going to get last place," he said of his hopes in the morning before adding, "but now I feel like I'm going to do awesome!"
Yes you are Zac.