Hello Magelings, as I’m sure you’re all perfectly aware, Modern weekend is now behind us! Rather than talk about about the things that I’m sure everybody has already heard via Reddit this weekend, I want to talk about my own personal experience at the tournament and everything that surrounded it.
For me it started on Thursday afternoon. I was talking with my friend Lowki about possibly hitting up this last-minute tournament which paid out $70 cash + sleep-in special if eligible to first place. I was reluctant to go because I didn’t feel as though my deck, Affinity, was positioned well for the meta right now, but he talked me into it and even picked me up from my house and drove. On the ride over to the shop, I mentioned that I was the one in the car who least wanted to be playing Modern at the moment, and that I likely was not going to be playing in the main event anyway because I thought my deck was bad, but I might as well show up and try and spike this tournament for some extra cash so that I could use the money to buy the Origins Edition for Overwatch.
Since karma is a pretty hilarious mistress, I ended up winning the first three rounds with relative ease, including one round versus Lowki, who thought the circumstance was amusing. I ended up not playing “classic” Affinity, and instead opted for a mono-blue build that was heavy on a variety of countermagic and bounce spells in the sideboard. As fate would have it, I was paired against Mage Ring’s good buddy Mixmaster Robert Wright in the finals. We split the cash, which was good because he ended up crushing me with Tron.
Source: SCG Live
Dude what are the odds that we get paired though? We have to play, it’s destined to be!
As a little backstory on Wobby Dubs and I, last year at the Charlotte Open, I lent my Affinity deck to Ricochetty to play in the tournament since he had spiked an IQ with it the prior week. It was my own personal deck, and was a very stock Affinity list. I decided to play a less traditional Affinity build in the Open myself, so I took my second Affinity deck (yeah, I owned two copies of the deck because my life is sad.) and ran 4 [mtg_card]Shrapnel Blast[/mtg_card] as a way to be hyperaggressive and get value out of cards that would be on the way to the yard anyway. It was working pretty well, because I started out that tournament at 5-0. After losing my first match to Logan Mize and hitting 5-1, I sat down for the 7th round only for Ricochetty to come over to my table and ask me if I had the deck I lent him. After he concluded that I didn’t have it, we quickly realized that it was gone. This basically tilted me off of my life because I had just lost what (at the time) was worth $700 and a lot of time. Faced with this news, I simply conceded to my opponent to help Ricochetty desperately search for my deck in hopes that maybe he had just accidentally set it down somewhere and that nobody had stolen it. Spoiler alert: it had been stolen.
After about an hour of searching for it, we decided that it was probably just gone. Ricochetty had to drop out of the tournament because he didn’t have a deck, (and he was 4-2 at the time so that sucks) and I THOUGHT I had dropped too, but I hadn’t initialed the slip to drop in my panic so I was still registered. I looked at my pairings as the next round started and saw I was paired against Robert, so I figured I’d go and say hi at least and share my bad beats story with him. I didn’t know him too well at the time. We had played a few times here and there, and since we’re both Charlotte players we had been out to eat after IQs and stuff with the group and we had carpooled to a few tournaments together, but for the most part we were kinda acquaintances and not much more. When I got there and told him what had happened, he basically demanded that we play anyway even if I was going to concede to him because Magic is fun and it would make me feel better. Despite the overall gloom that I had been experiencing before we started playing, after that game he had managed to get me back into high spirits. We both played like shit and we joked and laughed, and I’m fairly certain he let me win, but I still conceded to him anyway because I was just really grateful for the gesture. I know he and I don’t hang out much, but I think about that game of Magic a lot and until recently I hadn’t actually thanked him for doing that for me.
I know that’s mostly unrelated, but I wanted to talk about it because I’ve been just very impressed with the Magic players I’ve been meeting recently. I had quite a few similar interactions this weekend, and I just tried to remain positive all weekend long and I met some really cool people that I otherwise wouldn’t have if I had just kept droning on like the grinder that I was before I took my break.
Thursday was great and everything, but let’s move into Friday. Salty Dog showed up around 4pm and since he wanted to try and scoop up his second bye, we headed over to the convention center to hit up one of the last minute GPTs that they were running. I decided to play even though I had no intention of playing in the main event simply because I wanted to get prize tickets, (and if I ended up in the finals I could just scoop to my opponent) so I went hard in the paint. I crushed the first two rounds in a pretty magnificent scene, which included my opponent in round 1 trying to Kologhan’s Command me 4 times in the same game to no avail. As it turns out, when you’re playing mono blue Affinity, your matchups that used to be “miserable and unwinnable” turn into byes. Jund felt like an absolute joke to play against because you have countermagic and they can no longer try and 2-for-1 you to death. Between [mtg_card]Dispel[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Stoic Rebuttal[/mtg_card] out of the board, I never felt like I was out of the driver’s seat. While I did have to play the game a little longer than I would normally be comfortable with, winning at around turn 6, the fact of the matter is that in the matchup you have a few key permanents that do a lot more work than others and if you can protect those particular permanents it is incredibly difficult to lose. If you can keep Steel Overseer and Cranial Plating alive and active, you should basically iRobot the shit out of them.
Round 3 I met a guy named Daniel and his brother Mcrae. Daniel absolutely crushed me playing Bogles and ended up playing in the finals of the GPT against his own brother. The games he and I played were not even close, game 1 I destroyed him on turn 3 in typical Affinity fashion, but in games 2 and 3 he assembled the voltron and crushed me. Game 3 might have been close, I had an [mtg_card]Etched Champion[/mtg_card] online with a few other creatures, but unfortunately for me he eventually found a [mtg_card]Rancor[/mtg_card] and suited up [mtg_card]Kor Spiritdancer[/mtg_card]. He hadn’t seen any red spells out of me in any of our games, so I assume that he thought it was fine to keep a hand that was soft to burn because of this, and it ended up working out for him. There was a small window where I could have had him outright dead if I had been playing [mtg_card]Galvanic Blast[/mtg_card] instead of [mtg_card]Thoughtcast[/mtg_card], but unfortunately I just had to let him take the Kor to Valuetown. I ended up losing to that Kor through 27 toughness worth of blockers. Ouch.
After picking up my prize wall tickets, Salty Dog and I quickly departed from the convention center to get some shut eye before the main event started in the morning. We headed back to my place, stopped at Walmart to get some Cherry Lemon Sun Drop, (not an endorsement but a heavy-handed recommendation if you haven’t already seen the light that is that soda.) ate a freezer pizza and fell asleep watching LSV talk about how he thought Merfolk was bad on his Twitch VODs.
Salty Dog is notoriously bad about waking up in the morning, so I set an alarm for 7:30AM and got up before him to start cooking. I figured I hadn’t tried the food approach before, but it seems to have worked because he mustered the willpower to wake up a lot sooner than usual once the smell of food started wafting through the apartment. We ate our eggs and hash, showered, and took off for the tournament. We were comfortably early, and we parted ways almost as soon as we got there. I headed for the 9AM Modern challenge and ended up going 3-0-1 in that tournament. None of my matches were particularly noteworthy except the draw. The rest were against random tier 1/1.5 decks. My draw was to a guy who was playing a Kor equipment deck that used [mtg_card]Stoneforge Acolyte[/mtg_card] to find 0 drop equipment and [mtg_card]Puresteel Paladin[/mtg_card] to essentially “go off.” His big payoff equipment were Swords, but unfortunately for him I was playing maindeck [mtg_card]Etched Champion[/mtg_card]s, so I crushed him easily in game 1. In game 2, I had amassed a board that had multiple [mtg_card]Steel Overseer[/mtg_card]s in play as well as multiple [mtg_card]Etched Champion[/mtg_card]s. My opponent, however, had finally found his sideboard copy of [mtg_card]Godsend[/mtg_card], which obnoxiously deals with [mtg_card]Etched Champion[/mtg_card]. He was also at practically infinite life thanks to a combination of [mtg_card]Ondu Cleric[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Captain’s Claws[/mtg_card]. I blocked him for as long as I could until we eventually went to turns. He killed me on turn 4. I couldn’t be salty about it because his deck was sweet.
After that was over I decided to jump into the Sealed challenge. Sealed is a format that I love, and it is where I have had most of my Magic success over the years, but I didn’t have much intention of playing Shadows Over Innistrad sealed simply because I hadn’t really played much with the cards and didn’t want to slog through a few hours of sealed with a bad deck. I decided to look at my pool though just to make sure it wasn’t worth playing, and as it turned out my pool was actually just stone-cold nuts. I had 2 copies of [mtg_card]Tireless Tracker[/mtg_card], a [mtg_card]Tamiyo’s Journal[/mtg_card], a [mtg_card]Traverse the Ulvenwald[/mtg_card], and multiple copies of [mtg_card]Ulvenwald Mysteries[/mtg_card], so I decided to play because it seemed like my deck would be absurd. I’m glad that I did because I 3-1’d that sealed pool, losing only one round to having a handful of black spells and never drawing a single black source in both games.
Between deckbuilding and the start of round 1 of the Sealed, I decided to take a stroll over to the main event area and check on Salty Dog. He was undefeated at the time and he informed me that they were having some technical difficulties and that they’ve been waiting like 30 minutes for the next round to start. So I head back over and start playing sealed, and that’s when they make the announcement that WER has basically exploded and that the rest of the event was going to be done using random pairings. Daniel got this sweet picture of Archmagus Brad Nelson as they made the announcement, which I thought was too hilarious not to include. Apparently he showed it to Brad later and Brad thought it was funny too, so I figured he wouldn’t mind if I post it here.
Credit: Daniel Hott
I’m sure most people shared Brad’s exact sentiment on the subject. From where I was at on the other side of the convention hall, you could hear the audible displeasure of all of the players. After sealed I didn’t really have anything to do for a while, but I had a challenge badge so I played a single round of Vintage with my Affinity deck. The event needed one more person to fire so I figured I’d be the hero they deserved. I actually managed to sneak one game out from under my opponent who was playing [mtg_card]Monastery Mentor[/mtg_card] because I was on the play and I went [mtg_card]Ancient Tomb[/mtg_card] into [mtg_card]Sol Ring[/mtg_card] into play all of my permanents. Killed him with [mtg_card]Inkmoth Nexus[/mtg_card] on turn 3. Obviously he was on the play and crushed me in the following sideboarded games.
I planned on registering for the Standard event that was coming up after Vintage, but right before registration started for that they announced that due to technical difficulties that anybody who was enrolled in the main event who dropped at X-3 would get a challenge badge and that they were adding an additional sealed pool at 6:30 to help compensate for those players. So I bailed on Standard and jumped into the second sealed event instead. That event was nightmareishly large, with a pool of almost 800 registered players. By the time drops had happened we still had 380+ players enrolled. I opened my pool and didn’t really see any compelling reason to play it out, so I dropped and hung out with my bud John Hartness for a bit. (You should check him out, he’s great.) A little later on Lowki and I found one another and watched Dan Musser crush his opponent. Talked to Dan a little bit, he’s one of my favorite Magic players, and got his opinion on whether or not I should get into Force of Will. He compared it to playing Vintage except all the decks are really cheap, so he did a pretty good job of selling me on the idea. Lowki and I are probably going to go hard in the paint on that game, but Overwatch is coming out today so I might not learn to play that game for at least a few weeks. Dan’s a pretty cool dude, but I guess after watching Card Shop Life I didn’t really expect anything different. 10/10 classy guy.
Yeah man, the nice thing about Force of Will is that it’s like playing Vintage Magic except everything isn’t prohibitively expensive.
After that day 1 was basically over. Salty Dog and I shambled our way to the car, drove home and collapsed almost immediately. We tried to watch some of the GP Los Angeles VOD but didn’t last very long. Thankfully they pushed the main event start time back an hour to make up for the fact that day 1 ended so late, so we got to sleep in a bit.
Day 2, at least for me, was an unmitigated dumpster fire for most of the day. We woke up early again and had breakfast. This morning, however, we goofed on our way to the convention center. You see, what had happened was…well, we were listening to Whitesnake on the highway and jamming out in the car, (because nobody can resist “Still Of The Night,” right?) which caused us to drive pretty far past the exit we needed to take. Eventually I realized that we were traversing into Narnia, and so we turned on the GPS and realized “Yep, we fucked up.” We turned around and managed to hoof it into the convention center just in time for them to announce the player’s meeting. So I missed registration for the Modern IQ, but Salty Dog was at least on time for the player meeting. (He was X-1 at this point, too.) I walked around to the vendors and decided to sell some cards so that I could justify purchasing Overwatch. I ran into Daniel and we happened upon a random Nissa cosplayer that was nice enough to let us take a picture of her. I was actually thrilled to see someone doing Nissa, since she’s one of the less popular cosplay Walkers. Her staff was also really fucking neat.
Credit: Daniel Hott (Need a source for the girl if she has a cosplay page, we forgot to ask.)
After a bit he and I went our separate ways, and suddenly I had a vicious migraine. This basically took the winds directly out of my sails, and I spent the rest of the day droning around the convention center like a zombie because when your head hurts your will to live is effectively drained from your body. I had planned to buy a challenge badge and hit up some more sealed, but with my head pounding I just didn’t feel up to it anymore. I roamed around and chatted with random Charlotte players, and at some point during that afternoon I ran into Hartness, who gave me this sweet playmat. I consider it a birthday present, since my birthday was on Saturday the 21st. As I said on Facebook…
Thanks to Leon Fortner, John Hartness and I’m sure Emma Handy. When I first saw the pictures of this play mat circulating in the Charlotte Magic groups I knew I wanted one but didn’t think I could afford it. Had one handed to me this weekend and I will likely be using it until people forget that we’re different.
Credit: Emma Handy and GetSomeGame.com
Cody ends up X-3 which is dead for top 8, and later on scoops to Shaheen Soorani so that he could get the points to get into Silver, so we’re all sitting around licking our wounds. I go cash in my prize wall tickets for packs, and in those packs I manage to make the day significantly less shitty.
I ended up selling those to Hareruya so that I could go out to dinner and appropriately celebrate my birthday with friends. I played a little bit of Mental Magic with Ricochetty before we left, but I was playing worse than usual since my head was still killing me. He crushed me pretty badly in one game where he cast [mtg_card]Sinkhole[/mtg_card] into [mtg_card]Smokestack[/mtg_card]. What a fucking scumlord, right? I actually had the sickest counterspell for the [mtg_card]Sinkhole[/mtg_card] in the form of [mtg_card]Turn Aside[/mtg_card], (I didn’t want to cast any “good” U counterspells because you can only cast a spell once per game) but he’s a bitch and [mtg_card]Red Elemental Blast[/mtg_card]ed it.
We were on our way out of the convention center when I ran into Daniel again and we said our goodbyes. I hope to meet more players like him in the future, he was a super nice guy. His brother seemed pretty cool but he and I didn’t really chat that much so I dunno if he liked me. I know I can come on a little strong to most people. I’m certainly not an introvert. Cody and I head over to my neck of the woods to one of our favorite places to eat. A small local place called Hobo’s. It’s a restaurant appropriately named since it is right next to the railroad tracks. We met up with Polar Bear (who was out of town for his wedding anniversary and didn’t come to the GP) and we had dinner. We all ordered the chicken and waffle sandwich, which is one of the best possible things you can put into your mouth. If you live in the Charlotte area, you should do yourself a favor and get out to Hobo’s. I’m just saying, that’s a waffle with bacon cooked into it, and a chicken breast with maple syrup aioli on it. It’s just absurd how good it is.
Credit: Salty Dog AKA Cody Silvers
I was doing myself an injustice having never eaten that before.
After birthday dinner, we all part ways for the weekend. Cody and I were both basically crippled by the itis after eating that sandwich, so he heads back to his house after dropping me off, and I fall directly into bed and don’t wake up until noon today. This article took me a long time to write and I understand that it’s very wordy, but I just wanted to make sure that I illustrated that even though Grand Prix Charlotte was a gigantic blunder in a lot of ways, that I still enjoyed it a lot.
I know that Wizards and StarCityGames have hinted at the fact that they don’t intend to run another Grand Prix/Open here because of House Bill 2, but sharing this experience is my plea to them to reconsider. Charlotte is a great city, and although we have government officials that disregard basic human rights, they do not reflect our city’s culture as you can obviously see based on the play mats making circulation, and the hundreds of “I’ll go with you” stickers that I saw people wearing all throughout the convention. Those same government official’s days are numbered, as our state has taken obvious issue with HB2, and it has had a negative impact on our economy. They may be in office this year, but it seems incredibly unlikely that based on their recent actions and the state’s blatant outrage that they will remain there.
While I understand WotC/SCG’s intentions are righteous in the sense that the only bargaining power that they have to leverage against North Carolina is to remove their support, this has the unintended consequence of hurting the people who live here who are not even necessarily represented by the views of the lawmaking minority. From a geographic standpoint, Charlotte is the perfect place to have a large Magic tournament on the East Coast. It’s within reasonable driving distance from both Southern Florida and Northern Maine and everywhere in between.
Political issues aside, I do want to thank StarCityGames for a wonderful weekend. Was the tournament perfect? Nah, it wasn’t. But I think they did a good job of trying to make the best of a bad situation that was out of their hands. I’m also incredibly proud of the community for not burdening them with unreasonable amounts of blame. I expected to wake up this morning and see a SCG smear campaign on Reddit, but instead I just saw a lot of understanding even though people were obviously displeased. The judge community also did a good job of not cracking under the pressure, so the fact that they can stand up to that catastrophe really gives me confidence that those guys are a class act. We should be paying them actual wages, because they performed at a high capacity all weekend long and it couldn’t have been easy.
Until I write another block of text that is likely too long for anybody to read, signing off.