The inside of Roland Chang’s car buzzes with delirium as it rolls into the parking lot of a gilded all-night New York diner. It is after midnight on Saturday and we are within the witching hours. I have been texting everyone at work, trying to get someone to cover my Sunday shift, my mind exploding at tremendous speed, checking and rechecking my phone for someone to answer my desperate request. I had not planned on getting this far; I thought nothing of it when my boss told me she couldn’t give me both Saturday and Sunday off to go play Magic. That i’d have to be satisfied with just Saturday. It was fine, I told her, as I didn’t expect to do that well anyway. But here I was, blowing up phones for help. Nothing was more serious, more important to me, and I stared at my phone and checked it. And checked it.

We each slipped our bags over our shoulders and made for the glowing respite, laughing and smiling and holding the door on the way inside. We were seated at a large round corner table and handed the giant laminated menus when I had finally gotten the text. Someone agreed to fill in for me. I thanked them, sending a big kissy face selfie, and leaned a little deeper into my seat. Having eaten nothing but dry food all day, I wanted to engorge on something hot; to eat something very bad for me. I was going back to the convention center in the morning, but right now I had to celebrate.

After fried chicken wings and a decadent sandwich stacked with bacon strips, Roland dropped each of us off at home and I landed in bed around 2:30am and struggled to find sleep. At 6:30am I rose from bed well before the alarm and ran out to the same grocer as the day before to restock on food for the day ahead. I ordered a make-your-own salad from the salad bar. The guy putting the ingredients together looked up at me.

“What else do you want?”

I tried to figure it out.

“How many more do I have?”

I couldn’t add up to eight. Shit, I thought. I’m so tired I can’t even count.

I ate the salad for breakfast back on my stoop, waiting for Rolands car. And when Roland arrived, he drove us quickly and silently to the venue.

Resleeving my deck and sitting at the player meeting, I joked with the guys around me, comparing how many hours of sleep we each got. Very quickly it was round 10. I barely had time to get my head on.


I expected to face this deck several times today, and I went up against it three times in a row. In quick succession, I was smacked around by each of my three opponents. My morning went something like this:

Lose the die roll. Draw no Goyfs. Get burned out.

Lose the die roll. Draw no Goyfs. Opponent Cruises over and over.

Lose the die roll. Draw no Goyfs. Opponent resolves Blood Moon and Jitte.


Just like that.

But it didn’t shatter me, or tilt me. I was having a blast, even though I was losing. Because I was here, playing it out with the other 10% that made it this far. We were all enjoying ourselves and playing the game. Sure, I had wanted to cash the tournament, but inside I had already cashed. I played my best all weekend, and now understood that when my heart was in it, my mind was in it. And when I am that committed to this game, well… win or lose, I know I gave each draw in every game everything I had to give. In a way, this Grand Prix was the closest I had come to being a kid again. I was that boy again, sprawled along the carpet with his chin resting in his hands, looking down onto his first Serra Angel. The boy who discovered Magic: the Gathering as something he could invest himself in, and the years and years of self that formed from that discovery. I felt pure, delighted, zen-like. Nothing mattered anymore apart from joy.


My opponent, Ivan, was a familiar name. We knew each other tenuously from the internet. He opened with Jund land, Thoughtseize. I had a similar reaction to my Jund opponent from Day one. Somehow I win the first game, but post-sideboard his deck cooperated and mine gave me a wealth of removal and no threats. Ivan was superbly focused, and like my first Jund opponent, didn’t fully understand how easy a matchup this was for him. No matter how many times I told him this during the match. He was very sweet, so I scooped up my cards and wished him well.



My opponent and I laughed our whole way though this match. He was on the previous iteration of the deck that included Hymn to Tourach and Liliana of the Veil. We talked about the deck more or less the whole time. I got there in three games, as Treasure Cruise is a magical card.



My opponent was very muscular and had a wrestling tee shirt on, and his deckbox looked like a giant raw cut of emerald. I pegged him on Elves from this and was correct! Daniel was very gentlemanly and we had a lot of fun together. He Ruric Thar’s me game one after I counter a hardcast Craterhoof. Game two I call a judge when I have to run quickly to the bathroom, so we get three extra minutes beyond the end of the round should it get to that point. I get there game two with beaters and Grafdiggers Cage and we move to game three, where he opens by cracking a fetch for a Bayou and passing the turn. I draw, crack a fetch and play Deathrite Shaman. I take a quick peek at our graveyards and notice something weird.

“Dude, where’s your fetch?”

Daniel, my opponent, had drawn his card for his second turn and checks his graveyard.


“What? Where is it?”

“It’s in my hand.”

And he reveals the fetch land from his hand.  I start laughing.

“Dude, just put it in the ‘yard!”

We have a good laugh about it, and keep playing. We end up going to time, and on turn five, when neither of us had won, I show him my hand of Force, Force, Stifle, blue card. I have Delver, Tarmogoyf, and Deathrite on the table. He has lands. He extends the hand and gives me the win.




314th Place

314th! Out of 4000 people.

Quickly I find Roland, congratulating Charles, fellow Hipster Tim, and Bert for cashing the event along the way. We get out of the convention center immediately, back into the car and on the road. On the way out of New Jersey I spot this cold field of industry.


We stop at Denino’s in Staten Island for pizzas. It’s a old-school parlour packed with locals. We order two large pies and spend the next hour bloating our stomachs and swapping stories of weekend matches and I grew very warm and delighted and in that place I sunk deep into a weekend of accomplishments and beamed with the new peace I had found with the game I so love to play.

Derek Gallen likes cold fields of industry, and industrial music.






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