Amtrak got me into Rochester ahead of the storm of doom we all knew wouldn’t be that big a deal. I had to take a half day at work (much to my boss’s displeasure), cancel group therapy and a date with a pertty lady, to take the train in a day early in order to save my mom the stress of me driving the day of the storm with an ex-girlfriend (current friend-friend) from Brooklyn to The Flower City. Woah. “TMI, Obliterator,” You say. I agree. The train ride, as always, felt out of time and beautiful.

IMG_9834

“Hey mom, can I borrow your car and drive to Toronto the day after Thanksgiving for a Magic tournament?”

“Sure honey, whatever you want.”

“Thanks mom.”

On the way to Toronto I stopped by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. The museum is totally weird but has one of the best Guston abstractions (below), a sick Courbet cave painting, and a very good Van Gogh inhabited landscape painting.

IMG_9912

An Anselm Kiefer exhibition of humongous abstract-ish landscape was also there but I’m pretty over Kiefer’s work. I like his Nazi salute performance/photographs where he’d sieg heil “various locations in France, Switzerland and Italy calling for Germans to remember and to acknowledge the loss to their culture through the mad xenophobia of the Third Reich.” (Wikipedia, aka truth). The rest, meh. Overdone, nostalgic, sappy, and romantic. Give me Polke or Richter any day.

OH! There was a Ken Price show there too. I don’t know his work much but his drawings are sweet. Check them out ASAP. The catalog for the exhibition is worth buying if you can’t see the show.

I checked out the Burchfield Penney Museum, too. Charles Burchfield was an amazing artist, a contemporary of Edward Hopper. The museum only had some of his graphic design shit up and no sweet mystical landscape paintings so I was kinda bummed about that. They had his preserved studio though and that was awesome. Check it out.

IMG_9931

Where the US and Canada meet I told the Canadian border dude that I was going to Toronto to play in a Magic: The Gathering tournament. “What’s that?” he asked. “It’s the collectable card game of strategy and imagination,” I told him. He rolled his eyes and let me into Canada.

I found my hotel and then B-Mac. We took a cab, even though I had a freaking SUV, to the convention center and played in a grinder. We both had two byes already but points are points (as we’ll see in a bit) and we wanted more. B-Mac won the whole thing. I lost in round two to a sweet French Canadian guy who apologized for having such a fast deck. Canadians apologize a lot. It’s cute.

Anyway, round one I faced this guy.

IMG_9938

Info from the grinders isn’t online yet in an easy to get manner. I don’t remember his name but I remember him being the first in a series of nice opponents that lasted the entire weekend. My deck was firing on all pistons and his wasn’t.

And then did this to him.

IMG_9941

Round two I faced the sweet French Canadian, and then I was out.

IMG_9942

In despair I ripped up the foil Dissolve that was in my pool. Dissolve is my favorite card to rip up presently.

IMG_9943

I waited 1000 hours for Brendan to finally steal the two byes from everyone who needed them in the event (he got reimbursement for his sleep in special and 1000 packs, one for each hour he made me wait).

IMG_9948

We left the irradiated wasteland and headed into the not-quite-Toronto night.

We went to dinner at a Texas style restaurant. Canadians in cowboy hats serving steak and Mexican food. I ate maybe ten “hot” wings, a filet of cow, and most of a fried ice cream sundae by myself. I don’t remember falling asleep that night but I do remember B-Mac making me play Bound 2 1000 times when all I wanted to do was text with a special lady friend. “Uh huh honey” just kept being said by B-Mac or me, on repeat, all weekend. Ugggggh. There was nothing we could do about it. We were bound 2 it.

I slept like a guy who ate most of a cow and woke up sort of early but not that early. B-Mac and I ate $20 Canadian buffet breakfasts and headed to the convention center with Zach in the Dawn Jones mobile (my mom’s Nissan Rogue). We walked inside around 11:30 and they were still taking registrations. The first round didn’t start until 1:30 or so. Round 9 ended at midnight.

IMG_9965

Brendan and I walked around deciding if we should do a $5 draft while we waited. They weren’t yet firing so we ate some pizza. I ate a lot of pizza that weekend. How about at least one slice for four days in a row? Yes, how about that.

IMG_9966

Brendan bought an Old Man of the Sea.

An announcement stated that us sleep-in specialers could build our decks early and just about everyone jumped on the opportunity. Owen Turtenwald, Huey Jensen, LSV, all of them pros were building their decks with us. That’s the second best part of byes, you feel cool because you’re doing what the pros are doing (which means you feel like kinda like a pro, too).

This is the pool I was handed:

Sealed Pool—White

(13)
Cavalry Pegasus
Chosen by Heliod
Divine Verdict
Fabled Hero
Fabled Hoplite
Glare of Heresy
Lagonna-Band Elder
Last Breath
Scholar of Athreos
Traveling Philosopher
Wingsteed Rider
Yoked Ox

Sealed Deck—Blue

(10)
Triton Shorethief
Vaporkin
Stymied Hopes
Ordeal of Thassa
Fate Foretold
Wavecrash Triton
Coastline Chimera
Mnemonic Wall
Thassa’s Bounty
Sea God’s Revenge

Sealed Pool—Black

(16)
Asphodel Wanderer
Baleful Eidolon
Ordeal of Erebos
Read the Bones
Felhide Minotaur
Mogis’s Marauder
Disciple of Phenax
Cavern Lampad
Insatiable Harpy
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Keepsake Gorgon
Sip of Hemlock

Sealed Pool—Red

(17)
Akroan Crusader
Titan’s Strength
Messenger’s Speed
Priest of Iroas
Arena Athlete
Spearpoint Oread
Borderland Minotaur
Purphoros’s Emissary
Ill-Tempered Cyclops
Labyrinth Champion
Stoneshock Giant
Rage of Purphoros
Boulderfall

Sealed Pool—Green

(13)
Warriors’ Lesson
Sedge Scorpion
Savage Surge
Satyr Hedonist
Leafcrown Dryad
Voyaging Satyr
Feral Invocation
Time to Feed
Staunch-Hearted Warrior
Nylea’s Emissary
Centaur Battlemaster

Sealed Pool—Gold

(6)
Anax and Cymede
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
Polis Crusher
Steam Augery
Pharika’s Mender

Sealed Pool—Artifact

(7)
Traveler’s Amulet
Bronze Sable
Opaline Unicorn
Guardian’s of Meletis

Sealed Pool—Land

(2)
Unknown Shores
Island (foil)

I wanted Wx heroic because of Fabled Hero. I wanted GR because of two Polis Crushers. I wanted BU because of Ashiok. I built every possible deck in every variation more than a couple times each. It was between GR and BU at the end and I went with GR for my main deck because it’s my style, had the most beats, and I figured did the best in a vacuum. It would survive aggro starts. It had late game, it had some removal, etc. BU, isn’t my style, not normally, and I figured I’d be more frustrated with it, especially if I came in contact with any aggro decks. It was all late game and prone to mana screw, I think. It had a number of six mana spells, ugh. It would be sweet to win with Ashiok all day, though.

Day One Sealed Deck One—GR Mid-Range Beats

Creatures (15)
Akroan Crusader
Sedge Scorpion
Arena Athlete
Voyaging Satyr
Leafcrown Dryad
Satyr Hedonist
Spearpoint Oread
Ill-Temptered Cyclops
Labyrinth Champion
Nylea’s Emissary
Polis Crusher (YES!!!)
Purphoros’s Emissary
Centaur Battlemaster
Stoneshock Giant

Spells (7)
Warriors’ Lesson
Titan’s Strength
Savage Surge
Feral Invocation
Time to Feed
Rage of Purphoros

Land (18)
Forest
Mountain
Sideboard Cards of Note (2)
Borderland Minotaur

Every single game two (that I didn’t side in the UB deck) I took out Akroan Crusader and one Mountain and added two Borderland Minotaurs. The Minotaurs contributed numerous times and the Akroan Crusader did nothing. I also needed to run 17 lands (not 18) despite my brain telling me otherwise. I was really worried about making land drops to four and playing the infinite four drops in the deck. Andy Longo alerted me to this fact and then told me that I should’ve played the BU deck.

I couldn’t have played the BU deck all day, not this guy. Look at it.

Day One Sealed Deck Two—UB Long Game

Creatures (13)
Vaporkin
Baleful Eidilon
Opaline Unicorn
Mogis’s Marauder
Wavecrash Triton
Felhide Minotaur
Insatiable Harpy
Cavern Lampid
Disciple of Phenax
Gray Merchant
Keepsake Gorgon

Spells (10)
Stymied Hopes
Ordeal of Thassa
Fate Foretold
Ordeal of Erebos
Read the Bones
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
Sip of Hemlock
Sea God’s Revenge
Lands (17)
Islands
10 Swamps

A mana hungry monster with one abusable ramp card. No way.

Brendan and I play tested a bit. One board state looked like this (we were testing his UW deck versus my BU deck).

IMG_9968

And, yeah, that looks pretty amazing. A 5/4 Vaporkin, death touch dude on the ground, Ashiok at five. This was the nut draw against a very slowly developing board. I questioned my choice of decks for a second, then put it out of my mind. It wasn’t going to be helpful to think that way all day, to be second guessing myself. The BU deck was a sideboard tool and that’s it. I had a line of play and I needed to commit fully, so I did.

For my 750+ Planeswalker Points I got two byes for the event. My day officially started at round three.

 

Round Three vs Felix

IMG_9969

I lost game one and thought “Oh boy here we go, another shitty Limited GP performance from yours truly,” and then talked myself out of it, again, and side boarded out the Akroan Crusader and Mountain for the two Borderland Minotaurs. The Minotaurs immediately did work and I won game two through a Master of Waves. Game three I was able to suit up a Stoneshock Giant with Purphuros’s Emissary (and later Nylea’s Emissary) for the win. We shook hands and wished each other good luck. 3-0.

Round Four vs Tyler

IMG_9970

Tyler was on Bant. We both did a little bullshitting about how horrible our decks were. His was definitely great if he got to the correct mana. He was able to do this two of the three games. Game one he housed me. Game two I Time to Feed‘d his Voyaging Satyr to keep him off of monstrous mana for his Hundred-Handed One. He attacked, I blocked, he tried to monstrous it, I said “You don’t have three white,” and he looked down and it was true. I beat him down from 32 life. Game three wasn’t much of a fight. He got Prophet down on the table and I was drawing dead into his 100 creatures. “Fuck,” I thought. We shook hands and wished each other good luck. 3-1.

I was totally blown out. I hate that kinda variation in sealed. My deck was fine, but shit. His deck was insane. Bomb after bomb. I just looked up to see how Tyler did and he ended up with 18 points in 211th place. He said he lost if he couldn’t find his mana. He must’ve not found his mana one too many times. If I’d have won round four would I have ended up with 18 points, too? I always wonder this at tournaments. Maybe my path was easier than most. Or is the amount of variance so high that when the “right time to lose is” totally doesn’t warrant thinking about?

Round Five vs James

IMG_9972

James was at a VIP table. His buddy treated him to it for his birthday. Don’t raid his house or anything, but he and his dad have two sets of Power. They’re in a safety deposit box so you won’t be able to get at ’em anyway. James isn’t allowed to touch them anymore (they’re his dad’s but James’ll get them when his dad eats it). When he was a kid he put a Mox Jet in his bike spokes. “It’s a land that can be destroyed by Shatter, it sucks,” he told me. I hear that. No one plays Shatter anymore, man.

I flooded out game one, noticed he had huge creatures, and after shuffling for a second between games I switched to the BU deck. I figured the mana requirement of his big creatures would give me time to develop the board and when his beats finally showed up I’d be able to deal with them in a bunch of different ways.

I was correct.

Game two I was able to kill all his threats with Sips and eventually flew over him and won.

Game three I suited up a Harpy and ended our match at 31 life. I was starting to get excited. 4-1

Round Six vs. Chris

IMG_9973

Chris was totally f’d this whole round. He mulled a ton, had shitty land drops, died game two with an Abhorrent Overlord and Spear of Heliod in his hand. My deck wasn’t aggro but was very big and smashy. I sided in the two Minotaurs again and they helped win game two.

Chris was a super nice dude and a good sport despite his mana being dickish to him. 6-1

Round Seven vs. Jeff

IMG_9975

Thassa/Jeff beat the shit out of me game one. Thougths of being out of the tournament started flooding my mind. “GO AWAY!” I said, hopefully internally. I fought through and won the next two mostly due to Purphoros’s Emissary‘s near unblockability. 7-1

Round Eight vs. Matt

IMG_9976

Matt had all the answers. Removal. Big dudes. Little dudes. I switched to the BU deck game two but mana problems had me mulling to five. Turn three I played Ashiok and fucked with him for a while but there wasn’t much I could do, honestly. I looked up to see where Matt ended up finally, and it was at 152nd.

I had to win the next round. I prayed to gods I don’t believe in that I’d be paired against anyone but a pro.

Round Nine vs. John

IMG_9977

I didn’t recognize the name “John Stern” when I looked up my seating assignment. Then John Stern sat down and my mind went to the Magic Top 25 Pros list which looks something like this:

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 9.19.32 PM

Oy. I made some jokes about absolutely not being excited to play a pro on my win and in (for day two). Shit. What was I gonna do?

Game one our board devoloped pretty quickly. I went something like Satyr Hedonist turn two, turn three Stoneshock Giant (sacrificing the Hedonist after an attack). John said “uh-oh” when I sac’d the Hedonist. I forgot the satyr could do that! It was great.

Then all my tricks showed up. The tricks saved the day. I gave John an extra turn. I didn’t swing into his Nessian Asp because I wouldn’t have survived the swing back, but you know what? He had to block or he died so there wouldn’t be a Nessian Asp to swing back. Silly me.

John was a little stressed about our 20+ minute game one and asked that we play fast the next games. I said of course, sided in the two Minotaurs, suded out the Mountain and Crusader, shuffled up, and presented my deck. John sideboarded a bit longer than I did. Maybe he had actual sideboard cards and not main deck cards he had to side in every game two. Who knows?

He mulled to six again (I forgot to mention that he had in game one, too). My four drops all showed up on time. As did the tricks. It was awesome. I suited up a dude with Purphoros’s Emissary, swung for six. He’s at six. He plays another dude. He’s got two blockers. I have a Time to Feed in my hand and he’s tapped out. I started to shake a bit with nervous anticipation. Was I going to win? I cast Time to Feed targeting my dude and his dude, gain three life, and swing in. Six damage.

DAYTWOMEME

I was at ten-year-old-Matt-Jones-on-Xmas-Eve excitement level. We tried to get to sleep as quickly as possible. It wasn’t really happening. I woke up at 3am, then 5am, and got out of bed at 7am. I showered. B-Mac and I wolfed down some more $20 buffet, checked out of the Holiday Inn, and headed into the Cursed Earth.

Then the time arrived and I was seated at my first draft.

IMG_9983

And I pulled this thing together:

Day Two Draft Deck One

Creatures (15)
Baleful Eidolon
Blood-Toll Harpy
Mogis’s Marauder
Opaline Unicorn
Wavecrash Triton
Nimbus Naiad
Cavern Lampad
Disciple of Phenax
Horizon Chimera
Pharika’s Mender
Keepsake Gorgon
Sealock Monster

Spells (8)
Traveler’s Amulet
Boon of Erebos
Voyage’s End
Pharika’s Cure
Hero’s Downfall
Lash of the Whip
Sip of Hemlock
Sideboard of Note: (4)
Guardians of Meletis
Fade into Antiquity
Annul
Breaching Hippocamp

Lands (17)
Temple of Mystery
Temple of Deceit
Forest
Island
Swamp

I was telling Luis and Dana yesterday at Twenty Sided, that it was awesome making Day Two, and then it sinks in that I have to draft and man oh man drafting is just above EDH in my list of favorite ways of Magic’ing (that is: low). So, all the variance of Day One’s random-ass sealed pools was over (good?) and I (purposefully?) built this deck that apparently was weak to aggressive heroic decks.

Round 10 vs. Bret

IMG_9984

Brett RW Heroic’d all over me. He knows Mike “Combo Master” Herbig from his Syracuse days. Blah blah, wasn’t much of a match. I just couldn’t keep up or get dope cards in play fast enough against his red and white bastards. Just like that I’m dead to any hope of Top 8 (was slim anyway) and probably out of any chance at cash prizes. 7-3

Round 11 vs. Mitchell

IMG_9985

Mitchell must’ve gotten mana screwed or flooded round ten. His deck was better than Brett’s and squashed me hard, save game two when my deck hummed and his stalled. SHIT! I’m 0-2 in drafting on Day Two. WTF?! Drafting’s the worst. 7-4

Round 12 vs. Cody

IMG_9986

Cody’s GR deck seriously hated his guts. My deck ran smoothly. Salvaging one win wasn’t much but it meant a lot. 8-4

The second draft felt very similar to the first draft. I ended up drafting more “save me from aggro” cards than the first draft. It looked like this:

Day Two Draft Deck Two

Creatures (15)
Vaporkin
Omenspeaker
Voyaging Satyr
Agent of Horizons
Wavecrash Triton
Staunch-Hearted Warrior
Prescient Chimera
Prognostic Sphinx
Centaur Battlemaster
Nessian Asp
Volpine Goliath

Spells (8)
Aqueous Form
Savage Surge
Ordeal of Nylea
Bow of Nylea
Time to Feed
Fade to Antiquity
Sea God’s Revenge
Lands (17)
Island
Forest

Sideboard of Note (6)
Aqueous Form
Fate Foretold
Feral Invocation
Fade into Antiquity
Prowler’s Helm

Pack one pick one was Sea God’s Revenge over a Hundred-Handed One. I don’t like HHO much, a super boring card, and if I went white it wasn’t the kind of white I wanted to go. The rest of the deck came together when I got Bow of Nylea pack two pick one and the Sphinx pack three pick one was icing on the shit cake I’d been baking all morning.

Round 13 vs. Todd

IMG_9987

Todd had sat next to me during the draft and he played a Hundred-Handed One. Signals had worked! Huzzah! He also heard me make my speech prior to the draft about needing two wins out of this pod to get to 1500 points and commented during our match that I’d have to earn them in our battle. Fair enough!

His RW deck didn’t have the gas that the other decks did and Prognostic Sphinx tore him apart after I’d stabilized against his hordes. One scry 3 trigger I rearranged the top of my deck, putting the third card from the top at the top, and he said “Jeez! You found a BETTER card?” and laughed. It was Sea God’s Revenge and it assured my win the next turn if he played something powerful. 9-4

Round 14 vs. Pierre-Luc

IMG_9988

Pierre-Luc had a RB deck. When he played his lands I thought “Sweet, RB is the worst, this’ll be easy.” I won the second game when he was mana screwed and lost the other two. Pierre-Luc didn’t break a sweat.

Round 15 vs. Mikael

IMG_9989

One more win meant 1500 Planeswalker Points. It seems like it doesn’t matter much, now, knowing that I’ll be able to go to a single GP this coming season (in Richmond), but I really wanted to get there. I asked Mikael if he needed points for anything and he said “Maybe for two byes.” I said, “Oh, ok. I was gonna ask you if you’d scoop to me because a win in this round means I get three byes, and I really want to say I made it to three byes.”

Without hesitation Mikael says “No problem, I’ll scoop to you,” and I couldn’t believe it. What a nice man. When the round started he raised his hand, called a judge, and said he wanted to concede to me. “Fill out the slip and sign it,” the judge could care less. Ha! It meant the world to me and I’m grateful for Mikael’s kindness. What a guy! Thanks Mikael!

GP Toronto yielded me two personal bests: making Day Two and reaching 1500 PWP (which will probably never happen again now that there is a month shaved off of each season thanks to the addition of a fourth season).

I said my good byes and headed back to the good old USA after dropping B-Mac at the airport.

IMG_9990

The trip was quick if you don’t count the one hour wait in line at customs (sigh). From the point in the above photo I still had 45 minutes. The customs agent asked me what I’d been doing in Toronto. I told him I was in a Magic card tournament. He asked if I won any money and I said no. He asked if it was like the game Sheldon plays on Big Bang Theory and I said yes but more complicated and awesomer. He said he wasn’t a nerd and didn’t play. I said thanks and asked if I was free to go. Snarling, kinda, he said yes, and I sped towards Buffalo.

IMG_9991

When I got home I watched half of the shittiest Indiana Jones movie (which I like despite its shittiness).

Ten hours of sleep had me wide awake the next morning and I boarded an afternoon train to New York from Rochester.

IMG_9994

The return trip, too, felt out of time and beautiful. Trains, on the whole, are an amazing way to travel.

So what’s my take away?

Limited is not my preferred way to play Magic: The Gathering, the collectible card game of strategy and imagination. It’s somewhere around above Standard Pauper and below Standard. If it’s Limited PTQ season or there’s a Limited GP on the East Coast I’m playing Limited because I need points (and just love going to GPs). Otherwise, I’m out. I’ll continue to draft with friends and occasionally online cuz I love my friends and playing Magic Online is a very easy way to get my Magic fix when I need it (aka ALL THE TIME).

Theros limited is fun and pretty difficult. There’s a lot to think about. I’m no limited master but I’ve gotten better over time with heaps of practice. I’ve done a number of sealed deck tournaments. I’ve not received a “nut pool” yet (and don’t expect to play any more limited Theros as PTQ season has shifted to Standard). A few of my pools were abysmal which usually lead to me dropping from the tournament, as playing with shitty cards built poorly all day isn’t a challenge I’m that excited about, ever. I know that some peeps get really into that, defying the odds, playing beyond their abilities, etc. but I find it to be a significant waste of my time. Anything dealing with “the odds” doesn’t feel creative or inspiring to me.

The tournaments in which I’ve had mediocre or above mediocre pools I’ve posted results of .500 or better. Even then it feels like I’m up against it. I’m grateful for the success I had in Toronto and for making day two for the first time. I’m also grateful for Constructed PTQ season and not having to roll the dice hoping for a good pool.

Thanks for reading!

Much love to all,
Matt
MTGO: The_Obliterator
Twitter: @Die_Obliterator

Artist, cheerleader. Matt started playing at the end of The Dark, hit his stride during Mirage block, and quit Magic after finding booze, drugs, and sex during freshman year of art school. In 2011 or 2012 Twenty Sided Store opened eight blocks from Matt’s apartment in Williamburg, Brooklyn. He kept his distance for a few months due to fear of the game’s power over him but eventually caved. Matt’s main MTG interests are Unhinged lands and constructed formats. Power and Toughness is his weekly summation/journal article and he writes an Arting Around article now and then.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.