By far the best thing that happened on Saturday of Grand Prix Washington, D.C., given that I and the rest of my carmates washed out of Day 1 in spectacular fashion, was that I insta-guessed the all-time favorite condiment of longtime Hugh Kramer, Grade 9, pal Jim. At dinner that night, at Dave’s Famous BBQ near the Residence Inn in deadly dull Chantilly, Virginia—where real live people do in fact live and seemingly thrive—where our crew tensed for a Sharks v. Jets rumble with a table of MTG pros seated nearby, I put Jim on Grey Poupon, the only desert-island choice of a true saucier, and called out the condiment’s name within seconds of the game’s proverbial starter gun. Chewing, Jim gave me a knowing look, tipped his barbecue sauce–covered fingers at me in a gesture of recognition of another true saucier, and then the moment passed when someone wondered aloud why Matt Jones wasn’t talking. Answer: He was reading about sharks on his phone and eating ice cream, aka The Obliterator’s happy place.

Outside of Famous Dave's BBQ, obviously.

Outside of Famous Dave’s BBQ, obviously.

Over the course of the weekend I:

  • Ate Chick-Fil-A three times, and would have eaten it more if not for Sunday.
  • Ate Burger King once, and regretted it.
  • Passed 100,000 miles on my truck, and just missed it.
  • Played many games of Jund Monsters v. Mono-Black Devotion, piloted by Carrie O’Hara, in which my win percentage was probably I’d say 60 percent.
  • Drank one Red Bull (perhaps a career low).
  • Waited approximately one hour for each of two fast-food coffees to cool enough to even get my lips within a reasonable blast radius of the cups’ edges. (Two hours total.)
  • Drank a shit-ton of water.
  • Drank four beers.
  • Ate a whole thing of trail mix.
  • Had three byes.
  • Lost five sanctioned matches of Magic, including four in the main event.
  • Won three sanctioned matches of Magic, including two in the main event.
  • Total: 5-4 on Day 1, 1-1 in a side draft on Sunday.

I’d say my EV was pretty high.

Click play on this, then read on:

On Saturday in front of the Wal-Mart next to the Dulles Expo Center, where Grand Prix DC was happening, and which was itself clearly a former, pre-Cambrian Wal-Mart, I sat on a bench next to a bake sale that was being held by a group of young cheerleaders, probably eight to 10 years old, and ate my fruit cup from Chick-Fil-A while Carrie was inside getting water. The girls were intermittently cheering, and their parents (most of whom were probably slightly younger than me) were all standing around, looking on approvingly. I felt a little weird about being so close to the bake sale table, but this bench was the only bench even partially in the shade. So while I sat I listened to the cheers and the parents and wondered whether they were happy, living in Chantilly, Virginia, in the shadow of airplanes flying into Dulles. I thought about how when I was a kid and lived in the suburbs of Little Rock, Arkansas, that at times I hated the stultifying-ness of the suburbs … or did I? Now I would say that I do not like the acres of parking lots, how you have to drive everywhere, how everything seems set up mostly only to sell stuff and not to let people really live; but when I was a kid and a teenager I remember finding magic—lowercased—in lots of places, whether driving home exultantly in my sky blue VW Bug after kissing my high school girlfriend for the first time, or setting out on my bike to ride to Park Plaza Mall (spoiled only by the girl I had a crush on at the time pulling up alongside me in her parents’ van), or just staying out late at night in the neighborhood in the summer, when twilight was falling and the fireflies starting coming out and all the houses began to seem like they were lit from within … and so sitting there on the bench I thought, life finds a way, and maybe these kids and parents in Chantilly were happy. I finished my fruit cup, Carrie came out, and we drove the .01 miles from the Wal-Mart parking lot to the Dulles Expo Center parking lot, to sling some spells.

This has nothing to do with the above, unless it kind of does.

This has nothing to do with the above, unless it kind of does—which it might.

“You’re out—so you’re in!” Adam said to me, as I went behind the coverage curtain at the end of Day 1 to check in with Wizards’ text coverage team, Adam Styborski and Corbin Hosler, with whom I was scheduled to volunteer on Sunday, and tell them that I had failed to make Day 2, and thus was available to pitch in. “Yep, I’m in!” I said. So I woke up early on Sunday morning and went down to the site with my laptop and voice recorder and notepad and pen—kind of excessively nervous, to be honest, with a high-school feeling in my stomach—and before I knew it I was bird-dogging David Ochoa’s draft, watching him super-meticulously build his deck, and then interviewing him after, even managing to get in a Q. for the gourmand about whether he’d found anywhere decent to eat in Chantilly. (A: Willards BBQ, which was right next to the site.) I went back to the booth and blanked for a minute until I found my speed and dove into the story, which I think I did a pretty damn good job with, if I do say so myself. Just when I was finishing up, we heard that Ochoa was going to have a feature match, so I moved over to the feature match area and sat down with my laptop to furiously take notes (perhaps too many—it’s a classic rookie reporter mistake to try and literally record everything that happens at X event, which of course is entirely impossible, and in any case if you’re too busy scribbling notes you can sort of counter-intuitively miss what’s happening). But I got down what I needed to get down—Ochoa won 2-0—and I went back to the booth to finish one story and write another. It felt good to really write on a very quick deadline, which is something that, working on a magazine, I rarely do; and I have a newfound admiration for the text-coverage guys. It seems like a totally massive job with super long hours, and the fact that they manage to do it, make it read well, and constantly strive toward improving the text coverage for readers in intelligent ways is pretty awesome and made me excited. I hope they have me back sometime.


Picture courtesy Matt “The Obliterator” Jones.

In round five of the tournament, aka my second round of the day, my heart sank when I saw I was paired against pro player Brian Braun-Duin. It’s not that I don’t think I can beat pros—it’s just that, after suffering a first-round loss (as I had) you’re kind of hoping to get paired up against a less experienced player, so as to get a less hard-fought win and move on. I knew that wasn’t going to happen against BBD, as he’s known. And, sure enough, we had a competitive three game set, wherein I can’t really tell you exactly what happened in each game—but, at the deciding point of game one, BBD had out an Akroan Mastiff and some other Grizzly Bear against my board of Phalanx Leader (tapped and naked) and Font of Return (ready to pop, with several spicy creatures in the yard). I was at eight life and had no hand. BBD tanked for a while before deciding to swing in with both creatures, halving my life total and threatening lethal the following turn. He passed the turn, I drew Gnarled Scarhide, bestowed it onto the Leader, and swung for the win. BBD shuffled up and, as we were sideboarding, he kind of looked off into the middle distance, ruminating, and said to me, “That’s a play I’ll be thinking about for a while”—meaning, of course, whether or not to swing with both of his creatures or to leave the Mastiff back to tap my Leader and save himself if I had something off the top. Whether or not he was correct is kind of immaterial—I think he was, though; there were probably only five cards in my deck that could kill him from that point, and my Font of Return was threatening to go off the next turn and probably put the game out of reach if he tried to drag things out—but what I really found charming and endearing was the way in which BBD said what he said, which was with an air of respect and fellow-feeling towards me, another player who also plays a game that we both find really complex and challenging and fun. After the match, a couple kids came up to ask for his autograph, and he was totally cool and patient with those little awkward weirdos, and I admire the hell out of that kind of empathy and kindness. We need more players like him.

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands. Follow Hunter at @hrslaton.

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