Hey guys! As many of you know I have been pretty flaky with content recently, having skipped two articles in three weeks. Sometimes things get tough and breaks need to happen. However playing Magic and going to events has been a great way to get my spirits lifted!
A few weeks ago I made a last-minute decision to attend Grand Prix Los Angeles. While I didn't do well in the main event I had a fun time playing Magic and getting to meet great opponents. I even got to see friends I haven't seen in years, as well as meet new ones.
The following week I went to Grand Prix Minneapolis. I didn't go to play — instead I did event coverage for Wizards. Going to an event and being deeply involved in it without shuffling cards is a pretty strange feeling. Despite not playing, I learned a lot. I watched some intense matches and got to see how players reacted in difficult situations. I asked myself what I would do in these situations and if the players did something different than what I'd do, I tried to put myself in their shoes and figure out their line of thinking.
The point is that by playing Magic or being involved in Magic, there is so much to learn, whether it's about the game itself or even things much deeper than that. Today I'm going to share some of my favorite Magic stories and why they resonated with me.
This tweet from Nathan Holt brought back some memories:
Has anyone broken this card in Legacy yet? Has the potential to be pretty busted IMO. pic.twitter.com/kwfTaag6r7— Nathan Holt (@WalkThePlanes) May 31, 2016
The year was 2001 and I was in Orlando for US Nationals (Nationals was my favorite tournament. Everyone was there regardless of if you were qualified or not. It would be great if Nationals returned in some way). During the early 2000s, all the cool kids would team draft deep into the night. It was probably about three in the morning and some friends and I haven't yet gotten our fill of Magic yet and we wanted to "hustle" some players we thought we could easily beat.
We finally found some players who were also as degenerate as us and our 3am draft started. Now this draft was a 2v2, and with less players and less packs being opened, it meant that the decks were much, much weaker than decks you'd see in an 8-player draft. Our decks were bad. However, we knew that our opponents' decks were equally bad, if not worse, because we knew we didn't pass them anything better than what we were taking.
In the deciding game of our draft, my opponent's first creature was Aven Trooper. If you were to poll a room of Magic players, my guess would be that only about 10% would know what that card even is. The card is bad and definitely not memorable. It was also a roughly 15th pick in draft. Let's just say that it's an embarrassing card to play in your draft deck.
When I saw the Aven Trooper, all I thought was "this should be an easy win." My deck was not great, and neither was my opponent's, but he was playing Aven Trooper! How could I possibly lose to that? Long story short, my opponent played well. He made great use of his mana and cards and that Aven Trooper was a house in combat. I lost the game, match, and draft.
The Lesson: Never underestimate your opponents. They are probably better than you and letting your guard down is the quickest way to lose.
The event was Grand Prix Orlando 2014, Khans of Tarkir limited. I was making a deep run in Day 2 and I only needed two more wins to make Top 8. I had just 3-0ed the first draft, had a great second draft and was feeling confident about my chances to Top 8.
In my first round of Draft 2, I played someone who appeared to be relatively inexperienced. His deck did not seem very strong and he was paying some interesting card choices, some choices that I wouldn't make at least. We ended up splitting the first two games and were in the middle of an intense Game 3.
My opponent played an early Gurmag Swiftwing, a card that I didn't find threatening given my hand. I had a pretty strong Abzan deck and as long as my life total didn't get too low I knew that I could stabilize and take over the game. I ignored the Gurmag Swiftwing for a while. After all, one damage a turn was pretty manageable. It wasn't long before he enchanted the Swiftwing with Molting Snakeskin, a card that I thought was weak and not something I'd put in my draft deck on Day 2 of a GP. Yet I was getting beaten down by this combo and I only had a few more turns until I died.
I knew that I had nothing in my deck to deal with this creature, especially if he kept Regeneration mana up (which he totally did). After tanking for a minute about the contents of my deck, I figured out my plan. I had a Siege Rhino in my deck, if I could get my opponent to three or less and I drew the Siege Rhino, I would win. I had to act fast though, the window was closing and if my opponent played any more blockers, there was no way I would be able to get him to three. So I made an attack that probably looked weird at the time. My opponent made the right blocks and fell to three. Now I had three turns to draw the Siege Rhino before I lost to this Gurmag Swiftwing.
I did draw the Siege Rhino two turns later, won the match, and went on to Top 8 that GP. If I didn't recognize my only way to win, I surely would have lost that game.
The Lesson: Play to your outs. Know your deck, and know what cards can get you out of situations.
In 2008 I played in a Lorwyn Block Constructed PTQ (Block Constructed was a competitive format for years, more so than Standard. There was always a Block Constructed Pro Tour and PTQ season every year). I was playing the best deck in the format, Faeries, and everyone was gunning for it. The room was full of Cloudthreshers and Plumeveils, but I powered through and found myself in the semifinals.
My opponent was Benjamin Peebles-Mundy, a strong player with plenty of PT appearances and known for creating the draft converter. We played some great Magic and in the deciding game I made one of the most epic plays in my career.
Ben was at eighteen. He was trying to resolve spells through my Counterspells and Mistveil Cliques and found himself tapped out on his turn. He had a pair of Plumeveils in play and was really in no danger of dying, especially at such a high life total. After he passed his turn, I confirmed that he was at eighteen life to which he responded, "yeah, am I dead?"
I cast one spell on my turn, the spell that would single-handedly end the game. That spell was a five-mana creature named Puppeteer Clique. Puppeteer Clique entered the battlefield and targeted Ben's Cloudthresher. Cloudthresher came into play on my side and dealt two damage to everything, including Ben, putting him to sixteen. The two damage also killed the Puppeteer Clique which persisted back into play and targeted Ben's other Cloudthresher.
Cloudthresher number two hit the board and dealt another two damage to everything. This two damage put Ben to fourteen and also finished off his two Plumeveils; his only blockers. I attacked with the hasty Cloudthreshers and dealt Ben fourteen damage, won the match and then the PTQ.
The Lesson: Be bold. Play interesting sideboard cards that will take people by surprise.
The old PTQ system was hard. There were lots of players and long rounds. I really have no idea how we put up with the it for so long. I'll be honest, I have never played a PPTQ (I was either a pro player or working at Wizards since their existence), so I don't know if the new system is better. All I know is that 9-round PTQs plus a single elimination Top 8 equals a twelve hour day with little food and sleep. Overall it's probably not a healthy way to spend a Saturday.
During 2007-2008 I was a pretty good player but not quite good enough to do well on the Pro Tour. I could make it there no problem, but doing well was another story. During these two years I was winning PTQs left and right and I was considered one of the top non-pro players in New England.
This seems like a happy story but unfortunately it is not. The Magic community during this time was very toxic. Everyone only cared about themselves, had huge egos, and thought they were god's gift to Magic. Since I was one of the top players in the region, that meant that the people I hung out with and considered friends were also lumped into this category of toxic players. Honestly there were even times where I was not the nicest person to my opponents.
One guy in particular was a player who was also considered one of the players in New England, was my go-to playtest partner, best friend, and we even dated. We were pretty inseparable for a few years and were even called a "power couple" on the PTQ scene.
I had just played in a Pro Tour and did well, but not well enough to qualify for the next one, so I was back to the PTQ grind. I felt pretty confident about my skill at the PTQ level, and I knew that I could win this PTQ. Spoiler alert: I won it. After the event was over this friend and I walked back to my car for our hour drive home, and he looked pretty angry.
"I can't believe you won. You are so lucky. You're going to scrub out of the Pro Tour."
Okay, so words like that are not usually spoken to friends, but here we were. To be honest, this is just how it was for me. I had very little support from the Magic community back then. Maybe it was because they didn't like that a woman was doing well in an all-boys club. Maybe it was because these players were insanely jealous that it was me and not them.
I think the Magic community has come a long way over the years. I can't speak for everyone but in general players are way more supportive of each other, especially friends, and I don't usually hear about toxicity in the community anymore. Of course, there's always room for improvement, but things are infinitely better.
The Lesson: Be supportive of your friends. Be happy for them when they do well. You never know when your harmful attitude will come back to haunt you.
For Pro Tour Charleston 2006 (Team Unified Constructed, Ravnica Block), I teamed with a good friend and strong player as well as an up-and-coming player who was pretty new to the Pro scene. As it was his first Pro Tour, we wanted him to be the middle player so that we could give him pointers if he needed them.
We had a great deck for the PT, it was a U/W/R Enchantment deck that played a bunch of sweet cards like Searing Meditation and Dream Leash, as well as a playset of Copy Enchantment to get double value out of the enchantments. It was our strongest deck, hard to play, and "Player B" really wanted to play it.
We were making a run for Day 2, and one of our matches came down to "Player B." Since "Player A" and I were done with our matches, we huddled around him to make sure he didn't mess up.
At one point, I knew that he had to cast the Copy Enchantment in his hand. I pointed at it and the Searing Meditation in play. This play made the most sense to me and looked like the best way for him to win. To my surprise, he shook his head no and cast a different spell. I was kind of shocked that he didn't take my advice; this was his first Pro Tour, and I was a veteran, having played in five (that's not really a veteran). I remember being mad and complained to my other teammate throughout the rest of the night.
Did he win the match after making a play that I disagreed with? Honestly I don't remember.
The Lesson: Sometimes you will disagree with a play. Maybe you will be positive that your play is the correct one. However, there is a player who believes that his or her play is correct, and there is value in learning why they think they are correct. Maybe their play is wrong, maybe it's right, but understanding their line of thinking will help you improve as a player.
That's all for this week. Until next week, be nice to your opponents and try to learn something from them.
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