Under normal circumstances, I work weekends. This has never bothered me, as I am not a “weekend warrior.” I prefer to spend my weekends either at work or at home, relaxing, while the rest of the world bridge-and-tunnels into an immensity of New York City activity—until last year, of course, where I now have Magic to occupy me on weekend nights. My LGS reliably brims with activity and I find sustenance in the routine weekend drafts that supplement Modern on Tuesday nights. But since the passion for competition has resurfaced and my recent GP experiences built within me an insatiable hunger, it was when Hipsters writer Matt Jones was putting the Sunday PTQ van together and reached out to me, I quickly got my vacation day confirmed at work, and pounced on the opportunity to go for a New Jersey drive.

We had an awesome van sardined with many contributors to Hipsters of the Coast, and the drive out to the event site was smooth and easy. This was to be my first PTQ in over ten years; all the old scenes flashed in my mind as we rode Jersey-bound: soaring from highway to highway, Stratford to Boston, to New York, to Danbury, always early Saturday morning, sometimes picking someone up along the way. Nervousness, last-minute sideboarding, scanning the room for familiar faces. The old pilgrimage many of us are accustomed to making for a chance at the envelope that would carry us to the big stage, under the lights, beating back our fears. This was the true “weekend warrior.”

To my surprise, many elements of the PTQ atmosphere remain the same. Same tables and chairs, same shitty food, same droning lights and miserable bathrooms. Here is what I sleeved up.

Melira Pod

Creatures (29)
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Viscera Seer
Voice of Resurgence
Scavenging Ooze
Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Spellskite
Qasali Pridemage
Kitchen Finks
Eternal Witness
Orzhov Pontiff
Sin Collector
Reclamation Sage
Restoration Angel
Murderous Redcap
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Phyrexian Metamorph
Ranger of Eos
Revillark
Shriekmaw

Spells (8)
Birthing Pod
Abrupt Decay
Chord of Calling
Lands (23)
Verdant Catacombs
Misty Rainforest
Marsh Flats
Gavony Township
Overgrown Tomb
Temple Garden
Godless Shrine
Razorverge Thicket
Woodland Cemetery
Forest
Plains
Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Eidolon Of Rhetoric
Thrun, the Last Troll
Sigarda, Host of Herons
Thoughtseize
Slaughter Pact
Lingering Souls
Kataki, War’s Wage
Aven Mindcensor
Entomber Exarch
Acidic Slime

Thanks to friend of Hipsters, Robert Pompa, for talking me through the sideboard.

ROUND ONE vs. MARTIN on U/B FAE

Martin was a gentleman. I don’t have a lot of experience against this deck, but I know the contents of the stock faeries list and how it operates. Game one he had trouble getting an early threat out on the table, and once his removal ran out I easily overwhelmed his board. Game two was a grindy one: We traded resources for a bit but once his [casthaven]Bitterblossom[/casthaven] did enough damage to him I used my [casthaven]Orzhov Pontiff[/casthaven] to clear a path that quickly ended the game.

1-0

ROUND TWO vs. MATT FERRANDO on AFFINITY

Uh, oh. One of the matchups I’ve had trouble wrapping my head around, and in the very competent hands of a familiar face from the LGS. Matt is an excellent player and someone I would love to test the matchup against. Game one he barfed his hand out and [casthaven]Thoughtseize[/casthaven]d my [casthaven]Birthing Pod[/casthaven] away, leaving me with only a few threats in hand, and little to interact with. I peeled Orzhov Pontiff at the exact moment I needed him, and three-for-one’d his robots. Lucky me! The game swung brutally in my favor and I quickly closed it out. Game two I got an early Pod online and slammed [casthaven]Linvala, Keeper of Silence[/casthaven], against his board of [casthaven]Cunning Sparkmage[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Arcbound Ravager[/casthaven]. I took a gigantic poison hit from a Nexus wearing a hat, but a [casthaven]Reclamation Sage[/casthaven] and a [casthaven]Slaughter Pact[/casthaven] later and I had two 5/5 Voice tokens coming across the battlefield for the win. Ever [casthaven]Shriekmaw[/casthaven] your own [casthaven]Voice of Resurgence[/casthaven]? Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight??

My future Shriekmaw alter?

My future Shriekmaw alter?

2-0

ROUND THREE vs. CHRIS on HATEBEARS

Chris crushed me with Hatebears. I have never lost to this deck before! Our games were silly. The first one had me on two lands and then he [casthaven]Aven Mindcensor[/casthaven]ed my fetch for a third land, a sequencing error from which I never recovered. I hadn’t played a non-Rock-colored land, so I scooped ’em up early and telegraphed I was on The Rock. Game two I surprised him a bit when I dropped an early Pod and caught him choked on two lands. Game three Chris simply drew beautifully, probably the most painful draw I’ve ever seen the deck capable of sculpting. He sequenced [casthaven]Leonin Arbiter[/casthaven] into [casthaven]Ghost Quarter[/casthaven] into [casthaven]Ghost Quarter[/casthaven] into double [casthaven]Flickerwisp[/casthaven] into [casthaven]Aven Mindcensor[/casthaven]. It was unreal. I kept hitting land drops, though, and even hit a Swamp off my Marsh Flats, playing to my out of [casthaven]Orzhov Pontiff[/casthaven], who decided not to show up against a bunch of X/1’s. I wished Chris luck.

2-1

With well over 200 people at the event, X-1 was the only way I was top 8’ing this thing.

ROUND FOUR vs. ASHOK on RG SCAPESHIFT

Ashok was quiet and full of concentration, which I enjoy from an opponent. I don’t like this matchup, but at least I didn’t have to play around countermagic. Game one I naturally drew my Melira combo and went off turn 4 with [casthaven]Kitchen Finks[/casthaven], gaining infinite life. He scooped once I declared I could scry infinitely. Game two I whiffed on a [casthaven]Sin Collector[/casthaven], from which he then drew [casthaven]Anger of the Gods[/casthaven] and then [casthaven]Scapeshift[/casthaven]. Game three I was faced with a difficult [casthaven]Birthing Pod[/casthaven] activation that cost me the match. He was on six lands, with three cards in hand, having just cast [casthaven]Anger of the Gods[/casthaven] on my single [casthaven]Kitchen Finks[/casthaven]. I was on 18 life, which is death from a seven land [casthaven]Scapeshift[/casthaven]. I cast and podded away a two-drop and pondered over my three options: [casthaven]Kitchen Finks[/casthaven], [casthaven]Aven Mindcensor[/casthaven], or [casthaven]Sin Collector[/casthaven]. Given that he cast [casthaven]Anger of the Gods[/casthaven] last turn, I thought it unlikely his hand would contain exactly the second Anger and [casthaven]Scapeshift[/casthaven]. I took the riskier line and put my [casthaven]Aven Mindcensor[/casthaven] into play. He untaps, drops his seventh land, casts [casthaven]Anger of the Gods[/casthaven] and then [casthaven]Scapeshift[/casthaven] for 18. Had I chosen [casthaven]Sin Collector[/casthaven], I might have very likely been able to take his Scapeshift and stay in the game through another [casthaven]Anger of the Gods[/casthaven].

Taking a riskier line was incorrect, but defensible. I was now dead for top 8.

Unofficial Hipsters of the Coast Corner of the Dead. Except for Abe. Abe was still alive, hanging around the gravesite.

Unofficial Hipsters of the Coast Corner of the Dead. Except for Abe. Abe was still alive, hanging around the gravesite.

2-2

I decided to stick it out for one more round, as we had a single X/1 player, Abe, remaining in our van.

ROUND FIVE vs. THE ONE AND ONLY ZAC CLARK, DURDLE MAGUS EXTRAORDINAIRE on GRIXIS BURN

Oh, Zac. You have burn. I have [casthaven]Kitchen Finks[/casthaven]. Let’s see how we do!

Game one he went [casthaven]Goblin Guide[/casthaven] into [casthaven]Dark Confidant[/casthaven] and burned me out. I didn’t have much of a sideboard for the matchup, I just wanted to cast [casthaven]Kitchen Finks[/casthaven]. Game two I cast two of them and smack him around with some soapy dishes and silverware. Game three he gets me real close, but I Finks myself to seven life and he bricks long enough for me to take it home.

3-2

It was at this time we decided to ditch the place, leaving Abe “Thraglusk” Lusk in the very capable hands of fellow Hipster Monique, and chose to eat Korean Fried Chicken over playing three more hours of Magic. This turned out to be a very good decision.

Let's get the f**k outta here.

Let’s get the f**k outta here.

In the van on the way back to the city I looked up my history of competitive matches, dating back to 1997, on my phone for the first time. I flooded with memories, and looked at the bare statistics and flickering faces to long forgotten names of my teenage Magic life. I looked through all the old Grand Prix results, failed PTQs, and my one JSS 0-2 drop performance at PT New York, 1999. This PTQ tradition has been alive for so long: keeping many amateur but serious players holding onto a dream that, with one hot streak, with one win, anybody can make the Pro Tour. And soon, at the end of 2014, this tradition is coming swiftly to its end, and as many of you by now are aware, is being replaced by a new system. This won’t be my last—what will soon be deemed old-school—PTQ before the change permanently evolves the game we all love into a new age of competitive play. We are all going to need a stronger commitment and a more calculated attitude than what has worked for many envelope recipients of the past.

I, for one, welcome these changes. I look forward to realizing what it takes to climb the long ladder to the big stage. After all, with the game growing the way it has these past few years, it should inspire us all to reevaluate ourselves in the dusk of the first age of competitive Magic. But until then, I’m ready to take a few more days off to get my last taste of this dying world.

After a ten-year lapse from Magic, where his favorite combo was Tradewind Rider with Stasis, Derek is back to learn the new-border variant of the game. While less frustrating cards have been printed, he now has to get used to planeswalkers, and people rolling dice when he resolves Hymn to Tourach. He qualified for the Junior Super Series in 1999 at Pro Tour New York, then used his collection to finance his college education. Years later, he works in the fashion industry as a stylist, consultant, and sometime-matchmaker for brands. He loves all things black leather, and is out to journal his level-ups with hopes of playing at the highest competitive level of the game. You can reach him at [email protected].

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