Hey Gerry, I just threw out my article for the week after I read your article about designing decks that are hard to combat. Your article was way better than my stupid one about how I screwed up a sealed deck at a PTQ (it was really hard to build!). I’m not embarrassed about my article not measuring up, though: your article is probably an instant classic. I can’t wait to hear Michael J talk about how it’s almost as good as some article he wrote back in ‘Nam.

Naw, I threw out my article because I had a better idea: recruit you!

I know I’ve said it before, but it’s awesome to have you back in the competitive Magic community. I was sad when you went to work for WOTC, because losing you was a travesty for constructed metagames, and for the evolution of deckbuilding strategy in general. It wasn’t all downside, though: it got you out to the Pacific Northwest with me! We get to hang out at PTQ’s and SCG’s. Actually, PTQ’s are almost over and I don’t really go to a lot of SCG’s — I’m too obsessed with the big stage. Maybe we should grab a beer, anyway.

I know I’ve probably mentioned this to you at some point, but I’ve been cultivating a competitive Magic crew down here in Portland. We’ve got a pretty reliable group now: in a region with only four or five PTQ’s each season, we’ve been qualifying two or three folks consistently. We get in-person drafts together all the time, are constantly discussing formats, and have a great sense of team unity at tournaments with card loans, snack sharing, and moral support. Basically, we’re like all the other good Magic communities but we’re in Portland so when we play cards on locally sourced playmats while drinking awesome beer!

You know what would be rad? You could move to Portland! Portland is the new New York: everyone has to live here once just to see if the legends are true. (Just between us: they totally are! Next month, around the corner from my house, they are opening a Cat Parlor. That’s a bar where they have a bunch of cats that hang out that you can adopt and/or drink with.) Also, we could talk about Magic all the time. I’m pretty sure I could get you on my Magic team here: everyone is super welcoming, and you can be pretty darn likable when you want to be.

It seems like you and I have a lot in common, you know? For example, both of us have come to terms with our obsession with Magic. I stopped pretending that I would ever quit long ago, and decided to build an environment for myself to enjoy and get better at Magic: much to my surprise, it has totally worked! You could come join that environment! We would have so much fun! Conrad lives here now too, and he’d love to dissect all your sideboard choices for hours over mind-blowing sour beers. Or IPA’s, if that’s your thing.

Anyway, I know how semi-famous deck-builders need the right people to get feedback from: you don’t want yes-men who are afraid to challenge you, but you also don’t want people who just challenge you to be contrary. You need explorers! People who want to dig in and find the right decks, and who cares who gets the credit, right? That’s totally Portland: do you know the name of anyone from Portland who is famous? Yeah, me neither! We’re not into taking credit, we just want to make sweet bike lanes and vegan restaurants so we can all enjoy them together.

When I think about you, Gerry, (and I think about you a lot) I often think about Grand Prix Oakland 2010. I showed up in the morning with a carbon-copy of your Thopter-Depths list from the weekend before, and just before the tournament I asked you for advice on the deck. You handed me your updated decklist and explained what the changes were for, including the mirror-match plan, without asking for anything in return. We were friendly at the time, but most Magic players would have played possum, or given some incomplete advice. You looked at me and thought, “I can’t have him playing the bad version of this masterpiece! This deck is a poem, and every word matters!” At the time you didn’t even know that my dad was a poet! I realized in that moment that you and I were soul mates. Magically speaking. That sounds weird, sorry, don’t misunderstand: I just think we could make beautiful things happen together.

Anyway, Gerry, great article. Miss you. Call me, ok?


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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