I want to tell you a story about a control player named Ryan Bemrose.

Ryan Bemrose is well known across the Northwest PTQ circuit as a dangerous opponent who is also tremendously predictable: he’s going to play Islands. Bemrose shows up at tournaments with blue control decks, is friendly with everyone, and usually makes it to the elimination rounds.

You might know Bemrose from that one time he and I played on camera at an SCG, or that time he started a GP 9-0 running Thassa, God of the Sea in his Azorius control deck. I’m pretty sure he won Oregon States once or twice. You don’t know him from the Pro Tour though, because he’s never played on the Pro Tour, even though he seems like the kind of player who would have.

Bemrose is an extremely talented player, but he has some bad habits. He used to refuse to eat during tournaments. If you don’t know why that’s really really bad, here’s an amazing article you should read. He also has a great sense of fun, which can result in making… questionable choices.

For example: last Saturday, we had a Standard PTQ here in Portland. On Friday, Bemrose made sure he had fresh sleeves on his Azorius control deck before carefully wrapping a package and heading out to a birthday party.

Ryan had a few drinks at the party, and the birthday boy came over to discuss his gift. He said to Ryan, “The gift you gave me is not what I wanted.”

Ryan was quizzical. Birthday Boy spoke again, “I only want one thing for my birthday, and only you can give it to me.”

Ryan was uncomfortable.

“I want you to play a non-blue deck tomorrow” said the Birthday Boy, “for me.”

Ryan was relieved. And a little annoyed. He objected: “It’s the only deck I have built!” “I don’t have a good list for anything else!” “I don’t know how to play other decks!”

The Birthday Boy answered, “I have cards for you,” “Jason has a great Abzan list,” and “you just tap your lands and cast your spells on your own damn turn.”

Ryan was cornered.

At the PTQ, before round two, I told Ryan he shouldn’t be playing U/W control because U/B control was better. He didn’t let on that he had registered zero Islands for the first time in his constructed Magic career.

I didn’t find out Ryan was playing Abzan until I was watching the win-and-in matches for top 8. Ryan cast Siege Rhino and Courser of Kruphix like it was the most natural thing in the world. He made the top 8.

Then he made the top 4.

Then he made the finals.

And then he won the PTQ.

Heckuva birthday present.

I can’t wait to see what kind of control deck he brews up for the Pro Tour.

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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