Monthly Archives: April 2012

JundWave

Ever since we brewed a Genesis Wave deck on episode 33 of Horde of Notions, there’s been a lot of interest in the list from listeners of the show. It’s tremendous fun to play, it’s explosive as hell and even if you don’t draw a Genesis Wave you’re still on the mono-Titans plan. All the ramp means you are more often than not dropping a Titan on turn 4, and then every topdeck is a potential nightmare for your opponent.

Here’s the list, with explanations of each choice.

1 Pristine Talisman – I’m not sure this needs to be in the deck. The life gain rarely matters and this might just be better as another Manalith.
4 Primeval Titan – Go on, pretend you’re surprised. Every ramp deck should be running this card, at least 3 and probably 4 in most cases.
3 Manalith – One of two maligned cards in the deck. Seriously, you need this. It ramps you AND lets you use it the turn you play it, plus it helps with the three-colour manabase without limits on usage.
3 Dawntreader Elk – Speed bump that ramps you. Be careful when you use it as it enables Morbid. Helpful against attacking Obliterators.
2 Massacre Wurm – A necessary evil. If you Wave into it, it helps clear the way of Spirit tokens and blockers. If you hard cast it, it keeps you alive.
2 Solemn Simulacrum – I would try up to 4, but normally by the time I can cast the second I would rather be casting a Titan. Good speed bump though.
4 Birds of Paradise – If there were a non-creature 1cc ramp spell, I would play it. Relying on this in a world of Tragic Slip, Gut Shot, Vapor Snag and Galvanic Blast is perilous to say the least. Still, there’s no better choice right now.
1 Shrine of Boundless Growth – People have stopped reading when they see this. Don’t sleep on this card. You drop it turn 2 or 3 and it beats a Mana Leak on your GWave by itself. I might play a second but any more would be wrong for sure.
2 Grave Titan – A case of it being better than any other creature option in these three colours, and it’s just stupid with Urabrask off a Wave.
3 Urabrask, the Hidden – Absolutely vital to the deck, especially against sorcery-speed sweepers. You can board this out against decks without them for more beef, or for like a Karn maybe. The only thing better than Waving into 3 Titans is Waving into 3 hasty Titans. Well, maybe Waving into 4…
4 Genesis Wave – You might actually be able to get away with 3 in the deck. Risky though.
4 Sphere of the Suns – I want Fellwar Stone back 🙁
3 Inferno Titan – The best Titan when you have Urabrask. Just a beating.

1 Inkmoth Nexus – Plan C, in case something goes wrong (waving into nothing, for example).
1 Kessig Wolf Run – See Inkmoth.
5 Forest
3 Mountain
1 Swamp
4 Woodland Cemetery
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Copperline Gorge
2 Evolving Wilds
2 Dragonskull Summit

 

The mana base is solid, I have only had issues with BBB for Wurm once or twice. Sideboard needs something to answer heavy permission (likely Autumn’s Veil), a plan in case you want to side out of GWave (Garruk 3.0 or Karn seem fine, even 2.0 would work), more beef against decks without sweepers (extra Titans probably), potentially Acidic Slime for Pod (which has been a rough matchup) and maybe Markov Warlord (against Obliterator, which is BAD for you) or Warstorm Surge.

 

So how does it play? Against Delver they basically have to either counter your ramp and race you or counter your beef and hope you die before you run out. Neither plan is particularly good for them. Remember many Delver decks are only running 3-4 counters main. Post-board they likely bring in Dissipate and maybe Flashfreeze, so you need either the Autumn’s Veil plan or the planeswalker one. Massacre Wurm is a bomb against the non-anthem versions of the deck, so never cut those. Urabrask however is a liability as it WILL be Vapor Snagged after the Wave. If you have the Veil then that’s not a concern, but consider siding him out.

 

Wolf Run needs a nut draw to compete. You’re both ramping in the early turns but their turn 4 or 5 Titan looks really bad next to your turn 5 or 6 Genesis Wave. Slagstorm can be an annoyance if you don’t play out your Elks with mana open, but otherwise you just shrug and go off. The white version on the other hand can be a real problem. Gideon Jura can ruin your day, especially if they have Day of Judgement in hand. Elesh Norn is also not something you want to see. That’s a bad matchup for you and I’m still trying to figure out how to beat it, though it probably involves Karn.

 

Zombies can be bad if they get a fast start. The nine-power-attacking-turn-three draw is tough for any deck to handle, and we’re not exempt from that. It’s made worse by the fact that a Massacre Wurm will wipe their board…and deal 3 to you in the process. Obliterator can also be nasty, though sometimes your Wave will be good enough to just attack on through it. Karn, Warstorm Surge and Markov Warlord are all options here, as well as playing out Urabrask before they can drop Obliterator, then Waving the turn after they do.

 

Humans needs anthems to have a hope. Champion into Gather is a tough start but fortunately it doesn’t have trample. Without anthems your Massacre Wurm is just that – a Massacre. Acidic Slime is a must out of the board, as is the fourth Inferno Titan.

 

That Might Not Work…

Jackie Lee wrote an excellent article today. I wish she hadn’t written it for many reasons, but it was very good. She supported her position with facts, anecdotal evidence, stats and human psychology, and she laid it out well. I’m not her editor though, and I’m sure she’ll get ample praise for the column both because it’s good and because it “needed to be said.”

Did it, though? In my cubicle I am somewhat sheltered from the luxuries of cell reception, so I haven’t been able to follow the Twitter furore properly. While on my lunch break I did see at least one (entirely unsurprising) person talk about the onslaught of “white knights” to defend Jackie and her article, though why either should need that is beyond me. Jackie is more than capable of defending herself, if in fact she feels a need to do so, and the article stands on its own. My fear though is that all this article will do is exacerbate what is already a serious issue.

I’d venture that some people reading this have heard of Gary Quach. He was recently banned by the DCI for 6 months for what can only be described as hate speech against women in the SCG chat feed during GP Salt Lake City. This has apparently been going on for a long time but was only recently brought to the attention of Wizards and the DCI. How he got 6 months for hate-fuelled disgusting garbage when Gerald Freas got 18 for poorly-done “humour” with little to no malicious intent is a topic for another time and place. The problem is that Quach is far from alone on the internet or indeed in the Magic community. He and his ilk will read Jackie’s article…and either laugh it off or start behaving even worse than they do now. Bigotry is born of ignorance but ignorance is bliss and many people will refuse to leave that state of mind. The worst elements of our community (and I am loathe to include them in that group) are the ones who need to read this most…and they won’t care.

Others will read it and nod their heads sagely, agreeing with every word, praising Jackie for her courage and lucidity and calm in the face of such extreme adversity. Many members of that group will be male and will apologise on behalf of the gender for the behaviour of a few, either out of some desire to score points with a member of the opposite sex or a genuine distress at the poor behaviour of others. Some will even go so far as to call out and deride those who dare to disagree with anything Jackie says and suggest that they are in fact part of the problem being described.

Then there’s the majority, the ones who will read the article and think that it’s true, but don’t think it affects them. These are the people Jackie should be trying to reach, because in all likelihood it DOES affect them. I don’t think anyone will disagree with me when I say that the vast majority of people playing this game are men. Many of them have called people “bitch” or referred to a particularly dominant victory as “rape.” Some even get offended that people find this offensive. I really admire Jackie’s question: Why do you use these terms? Of course most people won’t have an acceptable answer to that, and they’ll go on using it just as they use “gay” to describe something negative or “owned” to describe a rousing victory in another fashion. More on that later.

Jackie’s points, while well-researched and supported, work only in an idealist society. Alas, we don’t even LIVE in one, let alone play in one. The ONLY way that women will become accepted as commonplace in the competitive Magic scene is for them to BE commonplace there. I wish this weren’t the case but Jackie’s own story about the etymology of “bitch” is a good illustration here. Women won the right to vote and then had to put up with vicious verbal backlash for years thereafter. We are seeing the emergence of female pros in Magic and unfortunately it will take time for that to be accepted by The Great Unwashed, as Edward Bulwer-Lytton would no doubt refer to them.

One thing Jackie did not address is how the treatment of women in Magic seems to be an extension of the treatment they receive in the internet community at large. The Mos Eisley of the internet, known as 4chan, is famous for this. I could go on for hours about the psychological reasons behind the misogyny displayed by the socially maladjusted denizens of the internet, but it’s been done time and time again. There is a lot of overlap between Magic players and internet junkies, and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. Not every “nethead” is a raging bigot, far from it. The large overlap between Magic and the web though makes it inevitable that some of this negative element will bleed into our community, and we all know the effect that a bad apple has on the bunch.

I’ve been called a “white knight” more times than I can count. It’s rather offensive actually, this idea that defending someone’s position is a bad thing and worthy of derision. Outside of Magic I do a lot of human rights and equal opportunities work. With all that said, I have on more than one occasion called something a bitch. I’ve joked with female friends in ways that Jackie in her article calls damaging. That makes me, by her definition, a contributing factor. That comes as something of a shock to me. In Canada the Aboriginal peoples have had a very tough time of it. One of my good friends, who is actively involved with his people and represents Aboriginal issues on a national stage, has a saying: “If you want to help me and my people, ask me how. Don’t just do.” So I have asked, and I’ve been told simply that I should treat female players as I do male players. I don’t get that impression from Jackie’s article.

The thing is, female players are NOT just like male players. I’m not talking about the obvious biological differences, but instead the number of them to be found at any given tournament. One of my ex-girlfriends once stopped by a PTQ to drop something off to a friend of mine so he could bring it over to me. She walked into this room on a university campus and said she instantly felt 120 sets of eyes on her. She was the only woman there. When a man succeeds at such an event, there is fanfare for his achievement. “Bravo! You have done something few have done before you!” When a WOMAN succeeds, it’s my belief that there should be MORE fanfare. Yes it puts them more in the spotlight, but we WANT that. One of the key tenets of equal opportunities is proportional representation. We may never reach that in competitive Magic but we can certainly do better than we are now, and touting every success of a woman is paramount to that taking place.

I really hope I am wrong about this. I’ll be doing a podcast with Jackie and the crew from RamenCast in the near future, and I look forward to having a discussion about it without character limits and such getting in the way. Those of us who don’t have an irrational fear of losing to a girl or mommy issues would all love to see more women playing the game at the highest level, and I for one can’t wait for the time when the topic isn’t a topic any more. Alas, we’re not close to being there yet. Pointing out all the little things that people do that are intimidating or distasteful to women is, in my mind, more likely to cause it to increase than decrease.

Apologies that this entry sounds so jumbled. I’m really just trying to get everything into words and published while the issue is still at the forefront of the collective conscience. I’ve already been asked what the solution is, and to be honest I think the best one is a reactionary approach. Tout the successes, call out the bigots and encourage the up-and-comers. Any community that wants to diversify has to be welcoming to the new elements, but invariably there will be the “there goes the neighbourhood” crowd whose impact needs to be minimised and whose conduct should be publicly shamed. “A Field Guide to Interacting With Female Magic Players” just isn’t going to do anyone any good, I fear.

Now, as an aside and without meaning to detract from Jackie’s article or the issue at hand…how many black people have made a GP or PT top 8? I count 4: Rashad Miller, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, David Williams and Cedric Phillips. They’ve done better than women (I believe all 4 have PT top 8s, though I could be wrong on that) but the number is the same as far as I can determine. Are black people subject to the same degree of bigotry in Magic circles as women are? I don’t think so, no. But how many of you have used the word “owned” to suggest domination? Were you aware of the origins of THAT particular word in that sense? Slavery, I’m afraid. Very rarely though will anyone chastise you for its use. If we’re going to start watching when we say “rape” (which I wholeheartedly agree is unpleasant) and “bitch” (which might be taking it a little far, but if it offends then so be it), perhaps we need to stop saying “owned” as well. While we’re at it, let’s dump “gay” too, huh?

Tagged , , , , ,

Things I’ve Learned

 

Believe it or not, people actually come to me for advice on decks. I know right? Took me by surprise too. Because I’ve been there and because I know how hard it is to find someone to be helpful and provide constructive criticism, I always try to help out with advice when I can. People like Conley Woods, Mike Flores, Jesse “Smi77y” Smith and Patrick Chapin have provided me with so much knowledge, both directly and indirectly, that I feel like it’s my duty to pass it on. Kind of like that book in American Pie, y’know?

 

Deckbuilding is hard. No no, bear with me. When I say that, I mean building your OWN deck is hard. Physically collecting the cards to play the latest Gerry Thompson Delver version is really rather easy. I’m not about to turn this into the age-old netdecking vs brewing argument (my stance on that has changed DRASTICALLY over the last 6 months anyway,) but the fact remains that many people prefer to build something that is uniquely them. And bravo! I think that part of the learning process of this game requires us to go through that stage, where we explore our own ideas and stoutly reject anything else. For some players it is drastically shorter than others, but like learning to ride a bike it will eventually come to most people who want it.

 

Like a parent watching his first child grow up, I often see the same mistakes I used to make running through the decklists I receive, and I knowingly shake my head with a wry grin. My mother always told me that when I had kids of my own, I would find myself saying the same things to them that she was saying to me. Of course I was an adolescent and I knew better, so I scoffed at this obviously ludicrous assertion. I was never going to be as strict, as stuffy and as unfair as MY mother! (As an aside, I had the least strict and stuffy mother of anyone I know.)She was right, of course. Certain life lessons have to be taught, and the way you were taught them tends to be the way you pass them on. With that in mind, and with the hope that people who listen to my podcasts will read this and find some value in it, I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned.

 

Lesson One: What are you doing with your mana?

Magic is a logic problem mixed with a resource management game. Cards in hand, cards in your library, permanents and mana are your resources, and in general the person who makes the best use of them will win. Each player can play one land a turn and draw one card a turn. If you have some way to bend or break those building-block rules of the game, you can put yourself ahead.

 

With mana though, it is not enough to just have more of it available. What matters most is what you DO with that mana. Let’s illustrate with an example. Josh is trying to build a WBG Tokens deck. He puts many powerful cards: Doomed Traveler, Blade Splicer, Gather the Townsfolk, Intangible Virtue, Lingering Souls. At the four-mana slot, he includes Parallel Lives. Doubling the tokens he can get seems like a great plan to him, and he’s seen the card in action doing some very powerful things in both Limited and EDH. Josh takes his deck to FNM, and Josh loses. A lot.

 

Parallel Lives is a skill-testing card. The effect it has is undoubtedly a powerful one, but is it worth the cost? I don’t just mean 3G, which is actually quite good for the effect. I mean the opportunity cost, a term I got from Limited Resources (if you’re not listening to that podcast, you are doing it very wrong). Parallel Lives occupies a spot in your deck and a slot on your mana curve. Optimally you want it in play as early as possible, which means you are likely tapping out to play it. It then has no effect on the board until you untap and draw a card. That gives your opponent a whole turn to deal with it with sorcery-speed effects, basically invalidating your entire turn and making you “waste” four mana. It also encourages bad play, as you will be tempted to hold back your token generators until you have this card in play.

 

Compare this with casting Garruk Relentless. At the same mana cost you can instantly impact the board, either by creating a token or killing an opposing creature. If your opponent then untaps and deals with your Garruk, you have still managed to impact the board. Don’t get me wrong, it still sucks for you. But at least your investment of 4 mana yielded some return. This is even more important at four mana, which for most decks running 23-25 lands is the “breaking point” at which you stop expecting your mana growth to match your turn number. Four mana on turn 4 is reasonable, 5 on turn 5 is less likely.

 

It’s a fundamental truth that the power of your spells increases with the mana cost, at least when it comes to tournament-quality cards. When building your decks, take that into account. Figure out what turns are your key turns, and by what turn you can expect to have “critical mass” of mana. Then make sure that the things you are doing with that mana are the most powerful things you CAN do for the deck you are building. Don’t put yourself in a position to get blown out by a commonly-played removal spell that wrecks your whole strategy if there are better options.

 

Lesson Two: Don’t be a slave to your theme

For perhaps the first time since the Lorwyn block, we have a Standard environment in which more than one tribal deck is viable. Both Spirits and Zombies have placed highly at professional-level events, with Zombies going undefeated through a Grand Prix. Human’s has been a perpetually strong archetype since Innistrad came out. It’s only a matter of time before Werewolves becomes a deck, and Vampires are pretty strong in an unexpecting meta.

 

There’s an inherent trap in building a deck around a tribe, a theme or a mechanic: including cards just because they fit the theme, or excluding cards because they don’t. Almost without fail, that’s wrong. Delver of Secrets is not a Spirit, nor does it transform into one. How many Spirit decks are NOT playing four of them? Fume Spitter and Phyrexian Obliterator aren’t Zombies either, but they are both close to ubiquitous in the Zombie deck.

 

When building a deck to be competitive, goal number 1 should ALWAYS be to include the best cards that do what your deck wants to do. If you start off with the idea that “I want to abuse the fact that most Spirits have flying, so making them big and giving them hexproof seems good,” then you want to figure out first of all how many of your cards are going to be dedicated to that goal. Thirty-seven spirits and 23 land will win you precisely zero events. Cards like Lingering Souls and Midnight Haunting are very powerful, and they make Spirits. Drogskul Captain buffs them. Great, we have a start. Lantern Spirit is hard to kill anyway, but for one less mana I can copy my Captain AND buff it at the same time. Phantasmal Image dies when it is targeted BUT…it’s hexproof now. Awesome, we have a base. This is where most people fall into the trap. It’s really easy to throw in things like Lantern Spirit to dodge sweepers, Niblis of the Breath to tap down Titans, Battleground Geist to give your dudes even more of a boost. It’s also probably not as good as adding Snapcaster Mage, Delver of Secrets and Mana Leak. “Spirits” is just a name for the deck, don’t let it lure you down the path of tribal troubles.

 

There are no prizes for keeping your deck on theme. There are, however, prizes for playing good cards. If you can do both, fabulous! Ask yourself two key questions: Why am I playing this card? Is there another one that does a similar thing? If your answer to the first starts with “because it fits the theme” and the second answer is “yes, and it costs less” or “yes, and it does it better” then chances are you should change it. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it’s a great starting point. This is a hard habit to break but once you do, you’ll notice a major jump in the quality of your decks.

 

Lesson Three: Nine out of ten decks built by the best SUCK.

That’s a direct quote from Patrick Chapin in the song “Brewmaster’s Delight.” Live by it. If you ask Mike Flores, he’ll tell you it’s more like 95 out of 100. For us mortals, we can expect that number to be in the 99th percentile. That deck you thought of with the Necrotic Ooze/Grimgrin/Bloodline Keeper combo? The professional brewers all thought of it too. There’s a reason they are making money on the Pro Tour and we’re aspiring to win a PTQ: they’re better at this than we are. They find the combos faster and they test them religiously. The thing that makes them better is that they know when to let an idea go.

 

You see, they built the same deck you did. They included all the same cards, and probably other ones you haven’t considered. They probably built a better mana base. When it didn’t win consistently, they discarded it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, far from it. As good as these players are, they are fallible human beings. The key here lies in recognizing when a deck idea just isn’t good enough, and subsequently in putting it down and walking away.

 

I firmly believe that, for regular players like you and me, any idea is worth testing. If after a few rounds of tweaking you’re STILL losing, it’s time to let it go. You found one of the 99 bad ideas that are hiding the good one. This isn’t a failure! It’s a learning experience. Whatever you do, don’t tear up your notes and never think of it again. A deck that is two turns too slow right now might be three turns faster when a new set comes out or when rotation happens. It’s just not the right time for your idea. If you aspire to be better at deckbuilding, this is very hard to do. Your deck is your baby, this is your idea and you don’t want to let it go. I understand. I’ve been there so, so many times. It was the hardest thing I had to learn and I still struggle with it. The thing is, your time can better be spent elsewhere. MOVE ALONG.

 

This also applies to card choice within a deck. Very often you will come up with an idea based on a couple of cards and the idea will work. But one of the cards that initially led you down this path just isn’t pulling its weight. No matter how much you love the card in a vacuum, you have to cut it. Magic, like nature, abhors a vacuum and you can’t make card choices based on how you wish they played out. If you draw a card on turn 3, turn 9 and turn 12 and ALWAYS wish it was something else…it should be something else.

 

Lesson Four: Never play a bad something else

Every now and then a brewer hits upon an idea that is similar to a deck being played at what the cool kids call “tier 1” level. Rather than take this as a good sign, the nascent brewer will often fight tooth and nail to keep his version intact simply because it is his. Alas, it is very rarely as good. If you find yourself building a green/white ramp deck that aims to get to 7 mana and then cast Chancellor of the Tangle or Vorinclex, you’re guilty of this. You’re doing the same thing early on as a Wolf Run deck, but your end game is nowhere near as powerful.

 

It’s a truism, but good ideas are successful because they are good. Sometimes there is a good reason to deviate from a tournament-winning decklist: the metagame has evolved, or testing shows the changes actually improve the deck. Wolf Run White is probably a better deck than the straight green-red version, for example. But if you’re on the ramp plan I mentioned above, then you’re just playing a bad version of something else.

 

Self-assessment is not an easy thing. Self-censure even less so. Nobody ever said this would be easy either. If it was people like Chapin wouldn’t be paid to write articles on their decks, because everyone could do it. Recognising that your idea is the watered-down Pepsi and the GP-winning deck is the canned Dr. Pepper is the first step to figuring out WHY your deck isn’t good enough. Once you know the why, fixing the problem gets a lot easier.

Final Lesson: LISTEN.

Certain elements of the Magic community have little to no respect for amateur brewers. If you’re a brewer you may have wondered why that is. It’s because by and large, we are the most stubborn, hard-headed bunch of ingrates that ever added mana to their pool. We’ll come up with an idea, we’ll send it far and wide and put it on our blog and beg people we respect to take a look at it…then we ignore everything they tell us. As my good friend and podcast host Chewie would say…HEY DUMMY.

 

Why did you send your list to me, to Smitty, to Jack, to anyone? Were you hoping for endorsement, or advice? If it’s the former, you’re not likely to get that. Anybody who enjoys building decks is going to have feedback to offer on your list, and if they don’t it’s likely because it’s just too bad for them to bother with. Don’t take this as an insult or an affront to your creative genius. Take it the way it is intended: as a potential lesson. You might already have tried the cards being suggested and found that they don’t work, but bear in mind that any advice you get is likely being provided in a vacuum. If you haven’t tried the suggestions, why are you dismissing them? Even if the person offering the advice is not a player you particularly respect, that doesn’t mean they can’t have a good idea.

 

All feedback is valuable, even that feedback you get and do not action. In fact some would say that type of feedback is MORE valuable because it can provide a sort of “save point” you can return to if your choice of paths does not work out. When I was playing GB Birthing Pod I steadfastly ignored any and all suggestions to play Strangleroot Geist because it wasn’t my idea, I didn’t think it would be good and I couldn’t see a reason to try it. Then I tried it, and it WAS good. Really good. I still don’t think it’s a four-of like some people were saying, but it definitely has a place in the deck. The only reason I didn’t know that before was a stubborn refusal to just…LISTEN.

 

 

Although nothing in this article will guarantee you success at any tournament, it will at least remove one obstacle from the road to success: deck construction. You will never catch me suggesting that you should blindly take someone else’s exact 75 to a tournament, but before you can run you have to learn to walk. Play other people’s decks, learn what makes them good and what weaknesses they have, THEN make them your own.

Dreamcrushed

I failed.

I’m not used to typing those words, or saying them for that matter. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I put my all into everything that I do, and that failing is just not an option. This single-minded doggedness has been both a blessing and a curse: it has got me my job and my home, but it often means I won’t listen to advice when I get an idea in my head, as that on some level translates to a failure to succeed on my own.

When the changes to Organized Play made Planeswalker Points the be-all, end-all for Magic players everywhere, I set my sights on qualifying for SOMETHING. Sure a Pro Tour was probably out of the question, but Canadian Nationals wasn’t…was it? Well, maybe. But with all the supplemental changes, I ended up with a clearly-defined goal: 300 points from December 26 to April 1, and I would qualify for Canada’s World Magic Cup Qualifiers (WMCQ). Winning one of those seemed unlikely at best, but it was a goal and a chance to prove that I belonged with the best of Canada’s Magic players, despite living in an isolated part of the country.

I knew I was in tough. With a very low likelihood of any events carrying a multiplier, I would need roughly 23 points a week which is about 7 match wins in 2 events. Every 3 additional events let me lose an additional match, but given the fact that our FNMs are always 4 rounds and our Saturday drafts always 3 rounds, it was going to be a very, VERY tough assignment. Nothing new to me! Tough assignments make it all that much sweeter when you complete them.

My quest was aided by the opening of Midgard Gaming, a second LGS that would allow me to play 4 times a week should I be so inclined. Five free points a week would mean I only needed 6 match wins from 4 events…not too hard, right? Plus there was a Game Day in the season, meaning a chance at double points. Plus a prerelease and release, which would give me multiple events in a single day. Yeah, this was looking better and better!

I’d overlooked a couple of things though. One of those was my travel schedule, which is not light. Sure I can play Magic while on the road but it’s not always possible or practical, and I have yet to figure out how to sanction an event on a plane. I’d estimate that flying cost me 3-5 events over the course of the season.

The second thing I overlooked was the biggest hurdle: I don’t play the best deck often enough. You’ll never catch me saying that rogue decks and brewing are bad, but when you’re in a race against the calendar and points are your number one priority, perhaps you shouldn’t be taking TurboFog to Game Day. Yes, I really did that. I also played Big Red Heretic’s Punishment at FNM and went 0-4 one week. I knew the decks weren’t great going in BUT I wanted to play them, and I got a lot of enjoyment out of doing so…briefly. It’s like the guy on a diet who buys a big bag of potato chips and promptly eats the whole thing, his brain screaming at him throughout that he should not be doing this. Shut up brain, I want yummy synthetic-bacon-flavoured deep-fried potato slivers! I don’t care that they’re bad for me, I love them!

Sadly, the losses piled on like the fat would have from those delicious, delicious bacon potato chips. Through sheer volume, (I guess) play skill and refusal to stop trying, I was still within striking distance…with luck and a prevailing wind. With one week left in the season we had finally managed to schedule a Grand Prix Trial (GPT), bringing with it a 3x multiplier. I was in the top 5 in the province at this point and a good showing at the (likely) 6-round event would mean that a couple of tournaments in the final week would push me over the finish line – just. I started looking in to flights to Montreal in April and Toronto in June, the two closest WMCQs geographically speaking. I was sitting on 235 points, and going 4-2 at the GPT would net me 45 of the 65 points I needed even if I didn’t make top 8. Twenty points in a week was nothing, especially if I could run a few 8-man grinders on the last day to help people qualify.

Again, I was overlooking something: a GPT requires a sanctioned judge, of which there are 3 in town. Neither of the other two judges was in contention for a WMCQ spot, so I thought I could convince one or both of them to judge the event and let me have my shot at…well, not greatness but respectability. I could go to the mainland and proudly wave the Newfoundland flag, showing that we ARE just as good as the Ontario and Quebec and Alberta players…we just don’t have the opportunities to show it. A fine plan, presuming the judges were amenable.

And, you know, that they show up.

Whatever else I regret, whatever else upsets me about my failure to reach 300 points, I do NOT regret judging that event. I place my role as a judge and community organiser far, FAR above my role as a player. They can play Magic without me, I can’t judge without them. One player went past the 300 mark due to the GPT (shout out to Extra Balls!), and that alone made it worthwhile. That we also got our store to Advanced WPN level and that the players immensely enjoyed the event just added to the satisfaction I got from watching and judging Magic all day. Besides, with some dedication and some winning on my part, it wasn’t over JUST yet. I had 7 days to get 65 points.

It WAS over, though. A 3-1 finish at FNM was a fine start, but a snowstorm on Saturday and a lack of midweek Magic (couldn’t get 8 people together) crushed the dream nicely. Sunday’s draft was never going to be enough, and with nobody else having the desire to grind until midnight there was just no way I was qualifying for a Qualifier. When it finally sunk in that I had failed, I was crushed. My good friends Mark and Ken tried to console me, to little avail. Even the fact that it was WrestleMania night wasn’t shaking the devastating feeling that I just wasn’t good enough. Every friendly rib from Jay Boosh and Nina, every sigh of frustration from Smitty and Justin Richardson, suddenly came back to me in a whole different light: am I just bad? Bad at Magic, bad at deckbuilding, bad at dedicating myself to a goal, bad at listening?

Several bottles of cider and a 4-hour pay per view event later, I came to one inescapable conclusion: the errors were all mine, and they were all fixable. I clearly had the ability to win games of Magic. That I gained over 180 of my 250 points in the last 6 weeks of the season suggests that my deck assessment skills are improving. I’m on the right track. Alas, that track is a very long one, and the 2013 WMCQs seem a long, long way away. I have to balance my commitment to my community with my desire to succeed on a personal level, and I will not sacrifice the former for the latter. We don’t know what the qualification standard will be for next year yet, but I’m saying here and now that it does not matter.

I’m crushing it. I’ll be there next year, representing this little province and our small but tight community. And I’ll be bringing half of them with me. Look out, Magic world. Newfoundland is coming, and we’re coming strong. And me? I’m leading. Failing again is not an option.

Tagged , , , , , , ,