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.

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