I attended by third PTQ of my season last weekend in Portland, OR: about 200 players showed up. In the first two, I lost three matches that would have earned me a spot in the draft, so I figure I’m due.

I win the first round in two quick games, and Kale Satta-Hutton asks me to look over his sealed deck build. We find some improvements, and another friend who has come by to look asks for my thoughts on his build. After we deck-tech him, another request comes from some guy sitting nearby. I don’t know him, but he has his deck laid out and I’ve got time on my hands. His build is kind of challenging, but we determine that his spells are much better than his lands, and he should cut some Mardu cards for a more reliable Abzhan build featuring Ghostfire Blade, Sorin, and a trio of Abzhan Guides. He says he likes the new build and thanks me. Friendly guy.

My sealed deck is pretty good, but I make an overly cute play in round two and start the day 1-1. I tighten up and win the next three, taking us to round six.

Somehow, my facial recognition systems fail and I don’t realize I’m paired against the guy I helped after round two — until he mentions as we are shuffling up that I already know the contents of his deck. I laugh and point out that my memory is obviously not particularly clear on that episode. We have an epic game one, which I win, but the clock becomes a factor. He sideboards into his better deck and I get punished for a land-heavy hand game two, and time is quite low as we both resolve Sorin game three and lifelink pulls both of us above 30 life.

Eventually Sorin and Sorin die, and I resolve Villainous Wealth for six creating a dominant board state. On turn five of extra turns, I have two huge flyers and 50 life to my opponent’s eight life and 1/5 flyer. But turn five is his, and although he carefully considers my request that he concede, he eventually does what most players would do: takes the draw and preserves his tournament.

I was pretty salty.

He lost the next round and was out of contention. I won my next two rounds, but there were ten players at 19+ points, and my tiebreakers left me in ninth. Saltier.

Somehow, the prize for ninth was nothing. Not a single draft set or steak knife.

Salty, salty, salty.

Two of my friends had made top 8, so I tried to suppress my frustrations and be supportive. I watched the top 8 draft, but left before the matches started. My buddy Brian Weller-Gordon took home the blue envelope, I later learned. So at least I’ll get some cake out of the deal!

Before I left I had an extremely stupid conversation with the tournament organizer about the prize structure. This conversation was stupid for lots of reasons, but mostly it was stupid because of me: nothing I say is going to alter the situation, and some packs of Magic cards really don’t matter in my life. I already have a *bunch* of Magic cards, you know? Also, the only prize I care about is the invitation, and I wasn’t getting that anyway.

So, I’m left to examine why I didn’t go further in the tournament. Was it because I helped some guy rebuild his deck? Was it because that guy refused to concede to me in a dominant board state? Was it because I could have played faster in round six and had time to finish that match?

I think the answers to those questions are distinctly No, No, and Probably. I think the real reason is because I got cute in round two in a very winnable game three. I may have also screwed up round six by being salty with my opponent after he refused to concede. Making him feel bad was tempting in that moment, but it could very well have impacted his play in the following rounds: rounds I needed him to win for the sake of my tiebreakers — never mind that being salty with someone for perfectly fair play is just bad behavior.

As for my round six opponent: he didn’t owe me anything. He didn’t play particularly slowly, he played a fair and friendly match, and I don’t know that I would have conceded from his position given the stakes, either. I would have considered it: that’s exactly what he did.

So, congrats to Brian Weller-Gordon on a well earned win. I only watched one of his games, but he played it extremely well, overcoming being stuck on two lands for many turns. Not only that, but he was quite civil with his opponent the entire time…

I’ll see if I can’t follow his good example at the last sealed PTQ of the season. Adding all this salt to a bad beat story doesn’t make it any more palatable, so instead of Props & Slops we’re just going to run an “Apologies” section:


  • Round 6 guy: sorry for being salty, totally unnecessary.
  • Angel: sorry for being salty, totally unnecessary.
  • Brian Weller-Gordon: sorry I didn’t stick around to watch you win!
  • Conrad Kolos: sorry I didn’t stick around to watch you lose!
  • Readers: sorry for the bad beat story!

Gabe Carleton-Barnes has been playing Magic for over 20 years, mostly as a PTQ grinder and intermittently as a Pro Tour competitor. Currently based in Portland, Oregon, where he is an Open Source web developer by day, Gabe lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for three years. While there, he failed to make a documentary about competitive Magic but succeeded in deepening his obsession with the game. Gabe is now a ringleader and community-builder for the competitive Magic scene in Portland, wielding old-timey slang and tired cliches to motivate kids half his age to drive with him to tournaments.

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