First off, this is the deck list I ran that Anthony had pretty much shown me a few days before. I had played a version of the deck once last fall when he came to visit me and wanted to test some modern and enjoyed playing it’s all in on a bunch of silly auras on silly creatures strategy, but I had little experience with it and little knowledge of the modern format beyond this limited playtesting.
Originally, I was thinking I wasn’t going to go to this tournament because I had a lot of assignments due after break, because I had so little experience in the modern format, because I wanted to save money and because whenever I hang around Anthony it means not eating until late for every meal and getting to sleep late so I knew it would wear me out. However, he talked me into going since it would be an experience being such a big tournament and he offered to pay for gas and hotel money. So it wasn’t until the Friday morning when the tournament actually started that I decided to go.
Anthony came and picked me up in Greensboro at my apartment on the way to Richmond during a fairly terrible ice storm where there was a powerline/tree limb down that was completely blocking one side of my road and most of the streetlights in the city were out because few places had power. As soon as he got out of the car with Delanio, who owns the shop we used to play at and sponsors the “team” from there, the idea was suggested that I could play under Austin’s name who did not think to get a ride to the shop so that he could carpool to Richmond. Delanio had already paid the $40 for Austin, so I agreed because I thought I wouldn’t do well since I didn’t know the format and this would save me the $40 entry fee.
Along with the two other Native guys who drove in a separate vehicle, we got to the tournament and watched a lecture by Patrick Chapin which was tremendously helpful in me understanding what the modern format was all about, including some of the best cards and an overview of many of the decks. Then we ate pizza and went back to the hotel to prepare our decks and get some sleep for the next morning’s tournament. I asked a bunch of questions about how the deck worked and how I should sideboard and felt like I started understanding the format and many of the dominant strategies better. I also watched some videos of it online that taught me some of the little tricks of the deck including the importance of being aggressive with mulliganing (going down to even 4 or 3 cards sometimes which I did multiple times during the tournament). Then I tried to get some sleep, but couldn’t sleep at all because Delanio did not bring his CPAP machine for sleep apnea and even lied to Anthony that he did and he made so much noise gasping for air the whole night that I don’t think I got more than a few hours of sleep.
The next morning, I got registered and saw GAC in my pod and talked to him for a long time which mostly involved listening to him talk about magic formats I didn’t know much about and about how he was going to be a financial auditor. The crazy thing was that since I was not knowledge about the format and not expecting to do well, I was not the least bit nervous that morning and in fact other than one small moment, did not feel nervous the entire time I played that day. The guy I was playing for had a first round bye, so I played against Anthony during the first round and got to understand the deck a little better. Then I won the first two rounds I played against some people who were competent, but not extremely strong players. The second guy I played tried to combo out two games against me with grapeshot and seemed to miscalculate how to do it right and fizzled out both times.
Then in the 4th round, I was paired up with Craig Wescoe. When he first shook my hand and introduced himself as Craig, my first instinct was to say, “Oh Shit” in my head. However, right after that, I decided that I was not going to acknowledge that he was a pro so that I would not psych myself out and instead just treated it like another day at the office. I mulliganed down to 5 the first game and made a pretty critical mistake where I attacked with my auraed up boggle into an active knight of the reliquary not thinking about his ability to search up a fetch land and play abrupt decay on one of my auras to kill my guy. The attack essentially blew me out of this game, a game that I actually seemed to be winning up until that point. The second game I had a solid 7 card hand and despite his best efforts put solid pressure on him the entire game and ended up winning when he made a mistake not realizing that the kor spiritdance got +2/+2 for having keen sense on it as I attacked for the win. The third game I had to mulligan down to 4 and he had a couple of thoughtseizes making it almost impossible for me to come back. Even though I lost, I was happy to be able to go toe to toe with somebody who is one of the best magic players of all time and not get my ass beat into the ground.
At this point, I was expecting my second loss to come fairly soon and then a third so I could go do some side drafts, which I was looking forward to. However, the crazy thing was I never lost another match, even though there were some close calls. I ended up going 8-1 and making day 2. Most people I played were really nice. Many of them made some misplays that swung the matches in my favor, something I wasn’t entirely expecting in people who were winning that much. However, there was one guy I play in the middle rounds that got really angry at me for beating him in a couple of games that were not really close. He talked about how lucky I was to always draw what I needed and started cussing. I wished him good luck and all he said was pffft and rolled his eyes. I beat one deck which I only later learned was a meleria pod deck with two amazing hands without even having any idea what the deck did. All I saw was him play a kitchen finks and a spike feeder and I had no idea what he might be trying to do. I thumped a couple of scapeshift decks which I seemed to have a good matchup against and outplayed a tough zoo opponent by using daybreak coronet which they could do almost nothing about. Every time I won I was shocked and not expecting it to continue.
Now at the end of the first day standing at 8-1, we all start to talk about what I am going to do since I am not playing under my own name. What if I get matched up against a pro during day two and they put our match online as the feature match? What if I do well enough to get prizes and have to fill out the tax forms with the incorrect information? What if I even made top 8 and was found out as a fraud? Could both of us get banned? Would I even be able to get any prizes? Given all of these potential consequences, it pains me to say that I decided not to participate in day two and slept in a little later instead. One of the guys I was with even said he overheard someone who was overjoyed at the fact that their opponent did not show up to day 2. While I will always wonder how I might have done if I had continued playing and if I could have won the whole thing or at least made some money in prizes, I think it was best to not get both of us banned or in trouble.
The second day, I bombed in a side draft where I rare draft 10 rares most of them out of color, but at least made my money back. Then Anthony and I went undefeated in a two-headed giant sealed event that was a blast to play in. It was an exciting time and I am still a bit in shock that I ended up doing so well. And now I learned an important lesson that I will always play in tournaments under my own name. The entire saving money angle was silly had I stopped to think about it since the batterskull and playmat that you get for entering were worth more than $40. If I have time, I might try to go to some more big tournaments like this soon, since I was a blast seeing so many magic players all having fun at the same time. And that is what I did during my summer vacation.