What a weekend! I basically laughed for three days.

Monique picks Kadar and me up at 20ss around 1pm on Friday. Josh gets shotgun due to his massive girth. Poor Luis is the meat in a Matt, Luis, and Kadar sandwich in the back seat of the Cadillac (we ride in style, duh). The conversation is nothing short of brilliant and inspiring. We listen to Dr Octagon’s Octagonacologist for three-ish hours all the way to Atlantic City. A couple of wrong turns and a topping-off of the gas tank gets us to our hotel around four or five o’clock and into the convention center to register and start a grinder (baby only has one bye).


Kadar and I being awesome.

Luis, Kadar, and I are in Standard Grinder #9. I beat a nice guy playing Esper Super Friends in two games with a not-yet-finalized Dark Naya. Luis beats someone. Kadar gets beaten by someone. Round two I win in two games against a guy also on Naya. He turns out to be Zach Barash’s buddy and another nice dude. I see him one-hundred more times over the weekend. Game three I bested him on a mull to four (after mulling several Kessig Wolfrun only hands). Luis also wins his round. Round three I play UWR Flash and lose – turns out I should’ve tested more against this deck. Gisela, Blade of Goldnight. Who runs Gisela? My opponent isn’t the awesomest but also not a total douche. Rule #15 – One should playtest against whatever Gerry Thompson writes about a couple days before a GP. People will play whichever deck he posts.

Luis makes it to the semi-finals and loses in three close games – the last goes to time and is easily the closest. The next day Luis, having mulled over the game for countless hours no doubt, says he could’ve won if he played his last two turns differently, explains it to Josh and me. We agree. Oh well!

Kadar, Luis, Josh, and I eat some really shitty burgers at Tun, the restaurant attached to the Sheraton. Kadar nearly murders our waiter as his decision to upgrade a pile of french fries to onion rings nets him less food and costs him four more dollars. He doesn’t think each onion ring is worth a dollar and gets our waiter to give him four more.

We leave that shithole feeling gross and head upstairs to bed. 807, across the hall from our 808, is filled with party animals like Li, Chase, Zach, and others. Being maybe 1/4 as rambunctious as them pushes us into our room and some play testing. Josh slaps me around for thirty minutes with his BR Zombies deck. Luis and Kadar battle for over an hour. Kadar starts getting pretty saucy as he often does after consuming caffeine and wandering further from sleep.

There’s lots of talk of Deathrite going mainboard but I keep them in the side. Kadar and Luis talk up the merits of Golgari Charm, too, and a pair end up making my board. I can’t talk much more Magic at this point in the evening. My brain is becoming mush.

I shoot this photo of our beautiful view and text it to Bones so he could gear up for the level of inspiration this vantage point on the world would offer him.

I shoot this photo of our beautiful view and text it to Bones so he could gear up for the level of inspiration this vantage point on the world would offer him.

Bones shows up and I playtest against his newly minted Jumbies deck. I don’t remember who wins our games but I’m sure he does because I only beat Bones when the match is sanctioned. I head for bed and am only finally able to sleep when I remind Kadar and Bones it’s 2am and they should think about calling it a night.

I crazy-sleep due to dreaming that my girlfriend and I broke up but remain good friends though she’s now dating a mutual good friend ten years her senior. In the dream we all share a hotel room ‘cuz there’s a burlesque convention and a Grand Prix in the same city and we want to save some money. I figure I’m cool with them spooning in the bed next to mine. Turns out when they come home wasted and have loud sex I’m not at all cool with it and wake up in real life totally upset that they’d be that inconsiderate. Upon realizing that it was a dream I chuckle and stumble into the bathroom to begin my morning routine.

Kadar and I each eat a hero’s breakfast down the block from our chateau, then we walk into the convention center with a couple of minutes before the players’s meeting.

Here’s the deck I registered:

4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
2 Borderland Ranger
4 Loxodon Smiter
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
4 Restoration Angel
4 Thragtusk

2 Bonfire of the Damned
4 Farseek
2 Rakdos’s Return
3 Searing Spear
2 Selesnya Charm
1 Garruk Relentless
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter

1 Blood Crypt
2 Cavern of Souls
2 Clifftop Retreat
2 Forest
2 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Mountain
3 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plains
3 Rootbound Crag
2 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden

1 Bonfire of the Damned
3 Deathrite Shaman
2 Golgari Charm
1 Rakdos’s Return
2 Rest in Peace
1 Triumph of Ferocity
1 Sever the Bloodline
2 Slaughter Games
2 Sigarda, Host of Herons

The Players' Meeting

The Players’s Meeting. Something like 200,000 people played in GP AC.

We sit down for the meeting, the head judge says some things, I daydream. The player meeting is over and I spend my round one bye playtesting with a very under-the-weather Dana.

1-0 in matches, 2-0 in games.

Round 2 vs. Charles Clement-Barbeau’s Naya Humans.

Charles and I both keep our first seven cards and he’s on the play. Thalia janks up my ability to Farseek turn two and it doesn’t take much more than that to shut me down game one. Game two I keep my seven and Charles mulls to five. He doesn’t have much in the way of answers for my my Tusks and Huntmasters. Game three I mull to six and he keeps seven. From my notes it appears he gained zero life and I must’ve played a Thragtusk and Huntmaster. I overwhelm him with monsters, he concedes, we shake hands and both state it was a pleasure playing this match.

Game two I had sided out four Pilgrims and one Return for two Charms, a Bonfire, and two Sigardas.

2-0 in matches, 4-1 in games.

Round Three vs. John’s UWR Flash

John is nice guy #2 for the weekend. He’s on Jerry Thompson’s deck. He straight up out plays me game one and I lose with him at 27 life. He never gets above three lands game two and the game is as lopsided as game one was – this time in my favor. Game three I did my best but fall to John and have one strike against me. We shake hands and wish each other luck. I think about how I didn’t playtest against UWR Flash maybe at all and feel what an error that may have been.

2-1 in matches, 5-3 in games.

Round Four vs. Sam Abalos’s UWR Flash (yay…)

Sam mulls to six and I win pretty easily as he’s stuck on lands. Game two he gets is Revelating on and wins. Our play area smells like a mixture of body odor and vomit. “Man someone must’ve farted,” I say. “A fart would make it smell better,” says Sam. Game three is played at a frantic pace as we’re almost at time. I have him at 6 life with lethal on board and he needs to top deck his Supreme Verdict to win which he does. I make another dude on my turn and he needs to top deck a Detention Sphere on his to stay alive, he does. I play Huntmaster and make a wolf. He needs to draw into his final Charm (he’d already played three) and he does. I’m dead when he swings on his turn. Sometimes that kinda stuff happens. Sam is non-douche opponent #3 in a row! We wish each other good luck and I walk away with strike two.

2-2 in matches, 6-5 in games.

Round Five vs. Zack Feldbauer’s RDW

This match up is almost always a cake walk. Zack’s another super guy. He’s got the right attitude, isn’t a prick, and despite facing an infinite number of Smiters and Huntmasters, is a good sport. We shake hands, compliment one another on not being jerks, and offer good luck.

3-2 in matches, 8-5 in games.

The line for other food is too long so I get in the MUCH shorter hot dog line. They have run out of ketchup (thanks Chase) so the condiments you see on my dog are: relish, yellow mustard, and ranch dressing. Later on my gas would lead to the deaths of five people.

The line for other food is too long so I get in the MUCH shorter hot dog line. They have run out of ketchup (thanks Chase) so the condiments you see on my dog are: relish, yellow mustard, and ranch dressing. Later on my gas would lead to the deaths of five people.

Round Six vs. Robert Stanley’s BR Zombies

If this deck doesn’t curve out beautifully I win. Robert’s a ballet dancing 16 year old energy monster. Our match is filled with jokes, laughter, an argument about Alex Bertocini’s cheating, more laughter, and ends in my third strike and exit from day two potential. Robert curves out beautifully games one and three. We tell each other that the match was a pleasure and I wish he good luck which he needlessly returns to me. Non-douche opponent #5.

I play two more BR Zombies decks, beating both handily. Deathrite Shaman out of the board is very good at replacing the useless-in-this-matchup Avacyn’s Pilgrim. I lose to BW Tokens in three games. Both game losses are on bad mulligans to five. My final round opponent, a Zombie player, said he was going to quit Magic and sell his deck after our match if he lost. He suffered the fate of all aggro vs. multiple Thragtusks, Smiters, and Huntmasters. I saw him at Applebee’s later on and asked him if he sold his cards and he said “no way, man” and admits he was just frustrated.

My Applebee's milkshake.

My Applebee’s milkshake.

I finish day one 5-4 in matchs and 13-7 in games. Not a single match was decided without me having won at least one game (a fact I didn’t realize until just now). Pretty good. Like I said, we headed to Applebee’s and then shot the shit in our rooms for a couple hours and went to sleep.

The next day is a bit of a blur. I get up early to interview RK Post, a Magic artist signing at the GP, which will be my column for Thursday. After that I lose a Standard Win-A-Box tournament, falling to the only guy in the pod that has any Magic experience in round one. Olivia kicks my deck’s ass.

I signed up for the Super Series Standard tournament at 11am to get some points while my ride home people are playing in the 9am Super Series Sealed tournament. This’ll go quickly:

R1 I lose in two games to a really suped-up GW Aggro deck that’s got Silverblade Paladin’s coming out its wazoo. Joel has the NUTS and smashed me good.

R2 I beat Carl Hayman in the strangest match I’ve played in ages (so we’ll spend a second on it). We go three games. Carl is playing Jund with Bloodgift Demons. He gets a Demon out and misses the trigger during his upkeep. I’m not clear on how these things work, missed triggers that could benefit or not benefit me, so I pause our game and call a judge. While I don’t want him to draw a card I do think the one life could be relevant and in the back of my mind I think there’s a chance his missed trigger could result in my choice as to what happens with the demon’s ability and I’d love to draw a card. The judge comes over says he missed the trigger and could draw a card and take a damage if I want him to which I don’t. Carl misses a couple more Demon triggers and I suggest he put a die on his library so he will remember the trigger which he does and doesn’t miss another. He also misses at least one Garruk trigger. At some point I Rakdos’s Return him for five and he dumps his hand of three, or so I think, and takes five damage. During his upkeep he draws off of Demon, takes a damage, and then draws for the turn. I notice he has three cards in his hand after he was supposed to have dumped his hand last turn and only drew two. “Why do you have three cards?” I ask. “One was in my hand and the other two I just drew,” he replies. “But you had to discard your hand last turn.” “I thought you said for two.” “No, I said for five and to dump your hand.” We pause. Carl seems pretty nervous and is a very nice dude so I don’t want to game loss him just because he screwed up. I bet most wouldn’t have made the decision I made if they were in my place but I choose not to call a judge which I think would’ve resulted in a game loss for Carl as there’s no way for me or the judge to know which are the two cards he drew and which is the card from his hand he didn’t discard. Carl thanked me and then won the game with some Bloodgift Demon (not before giving me a chance to get back in it but “it’s not meant to be” says my deck as it feeds my hand more lands). Man! What if I lost this match because I didn’t call a judge?! Well, I didn’t. Game two is uneventful and just a smashing. Game three I top deck two Bonfires in a row to wipe his board twice. He’s in top deck mode and returns the favor with a Bonfire of his own. I get a Garruk, Relentless and make a wolf. He’s got nothing the following turn and I Wolfrun him over. We shake hands and I move onto the next round. Those in my car pool are still sealed’ing so I go on to round three.

If the situation with the non-discarded hand and the two drawn cards happens again I will definitely call the judge because it’s the correct thing to do. It has nothing to do with trusting my opponent and everything to do with playing a game according to the rules. Carl is a good guy and our match was 1/2 insane and totally fun, but the right thing to do is call a judge.

R3 I beat BG Zombies in three games. Josh comes over to me and I look away from the table for a second. When I turn back John, my R3 opponent, is eating a slice of pizza and I’m confused. “Where’d you get that?” I ask. He says he got a pie last night and before he finishes I say “yeah but I don’t see a pizza box so did you just pull that out of your backpack?” He laughs and throws a plastic bag from his backpack on the table that contains another slice and two muffins. Josh and I burst into laughter at John’s muffin-pizza.



I walk away from my tournament area to see what the pros are up to. Nervously I approach my MTG hero Brian Kibler and ask him to sign my business card and he laughs, pulls out a Sharpie, and signs on the swamp. Not wanting to be too lame but wanting to recognize my level of fandom I say “you know, love the articles and everything, thanks for doing such a good job” and he nods, chuckles, says “thanks, I appreciate it” and walks away. My man crush is fully charged.

I had been talking with Luis about buying Bayous from him or from someone soon and he agrees that because of Deathrite Shaman Bayous could become prohibitively expensive soon. My binder full of blue and white cards I’ll never play nets me around $200 from dealers at the GP which I fork over with $35 and acquire four Bayou. I then head back to the Super Series Standard tournament.

R4 I play my R3 opponent’s equally purple shirted friend’s Dark Naya with all kinds of weird cards in it and lose in three games (two are blow outs and the final one is VERY close).

R5 I have no memory of which deck I played. Jeremy Bowman is one happy dude and crushes me very easily when I mulligan to five and six respectively.

R6 my opponent shows up, shakes my hand, and says “enjoy your free win” which I thank him for.

R7 my car pool is ready to go and I’m 1/4 into G1 when I scoop to Bant Control because honestly I can’t deal with that shit. I’m on two nights of less than six hours of sleep and Thragtusk/Sphinx’s Revelations wars did not interest me in the slightest. I shake the dude’s hand and go on my merry way.

We pile into the card. Monique’s at the wheel, her man Bird-Law is shotgun, Josh and I bread up a Kadar sandwich in the back. The conversation eventually centers around spoiled Gatecrash cards and I nod off. An hour later I violently twitch myself awake, sort of freak Kadar out, and the two of us start alternating Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore clips on our phones for all to see, hear, and laugh at.

I can’t be any clearer than this: traveling for large Magic tournaments is the most fun thing I can do that doesn’t involve my girlfriend or making and showing art work. I’m incredibly grateful for the community around our store, the HotC crew, and for an amazing, deep, and challenging game that consumes my every waking thought. The most persistent thought I have in leaving GP AC is that I didn’t play a single dickhead. Every opponent was some kind of open, fun, and nice. Most of my opponents were even more than that and we had a great time during our matches no matter the out come! I met some really excellent players and more importantly really developed and excellent human beings!!

Grand Prix Pittsburgh can’t come soon enough.

Maybe I’ll see you tonight at Tuesday Night Magic. An email just came through letting me know that I’ll be playing in the Twenty Sided Store season championship. Formats include standard, standard pauper, store cube, and RTR draft. I’ll be playing Dark Naya, Junk, something green, and something else green – in that order. Look for a recap next Tuesday!

Much love,
Matt “The Obliterator” Jones

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