GP Montreal Postmortem

Posted on Wednesday, October 5th, 2011 by Jesse Mason
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Posted in mtg, Tournament Report

pt I – escape from montreal: a text adventure

You find yourself in a modern-looking train station that, due to lack of windows,
could be hundreds of feet below ground or directly under the foot of some Francophone
Godzilla, and you would be none the wiser until your life ends in its footprint.
You’d still be none the wiser after that happens, being dead. There are several
blocked-off escalators heading down, various exits, some fast-food restaurants in
English and French, and an advertisement that incorporates the map of the country
in the sign (and while the novelty of being in a foreign country has mostly worn
off at this late juncture in the trip, seeing a slightly smile-shaped archipelago
instead of the USA used in such promotional capacity is a bit odd for the few seconds
it takes to consider the normalcy and obviousness of the sign). What do you do?

> check inventory

You have a wallet, a train ticket, a phone, an iPod Touch, and a soft cloth suitcase
with a bunch of overstuffed zipper pockets, a faux-leather handle, and a clip for
the shoulder strap that you really wish you’d taken the time to find before
leaving. The bag feels a bit lighter now than it did on the way into the city, despite
the addition of two mediocre Sealed pools, but tell that to your bright-pink hands
that’ve had to carry the thing around from hostel to street to metro car to
staircase to the actual metro car you were supposed to be on in the first place
to escalator to train station.

> check train ticket





> check time

I don’t see a ‘time.’

> check phone

Fat lot of good that’ll do you, the flippo’s down to a flashbar having
been “looking for service” the entire time it’s been in this country.
There’s some useless and expensive pseudo-internet thing, a pitifully short
contact list including the parent you’re currently on speaking terms with,
the one you’re not, and that girl from the bar friday because you’re
dumb enough to get contact information from someone despite not having an actual
way to contact them. Phone also says 9:35AM, whatever that means.

> where is amtrak ticket counter

Over thataway.

> go thataway

You’re at the Amtrak ticket counter. There’s a French Canadian gentleman
that looks like the real-life inspiration for De Niro’s character in Meet
the Parents. You go up to the counter and (see how easy I’m making this for
you? I’m such an accommodating game, not making you type all those detailed
commands to accomplish simple tasks) show him the ticket, asking if the train has
left already (oui), then if there’s another one today (non).

> reason with

He’s French.

> make puppydog face

Nothing doing. What are you trying to accomplish here, anyway? There isn’t
even another train today, like I already told you. Sheesh.

> ask for refund

He refunds the ticket to your bank account (it’ll be processed in about
two days and have five or six dollars subtracted from the initial cost), and smiles
at you and advises to try the bus station, giving explicit and easily-understood
directions to it, after looking up the schedule for Greyhound busses (his company’s
competitor, might I add) at your request. And you thought he’d be a jerk!
Ha ha. I can’t actually feel emotion, but if I did it would probably be mild
bemusement at you. Let’s move on.

> go to bus station

You’re at the bus station. Technically, you were supposed to give a bunch
of detailed commands about opening doors, spending your last six dollars going back
and forth on the metro before realizing it was in walking distance (since you weren’t
listening to the kindly French Canadian gentleman), but I really feel like we’re
developing a bond here. We’ll make it through this, you and I.

> buy ticket

Hokay, wooo, well, I know we were getting along really well, but this is moving
a bit too fast for my taste. I’d prefer if we’d slow it down a little,
here, I’m getting uncomfortable. I have a reputation. I’m respectable.
I have dignity. This is my job, my livelihood as a fictional text-based adventure
game we’re talking about here. So yeah, well, how about you try waiting in
line first while I recoup for a second.

> wait in line

Thank you. You’re a good person, despite everything that’s happened.
Not all of it was your fault. You wait in line. Doo de doo. Now you can go up to
the counter and buy a ticket.

> go up to the counter and buy a ticket

Well, you go up the counter and attempt to buy a ticket, but your debit card gets
declined and I’m not really the world’s foremost financial detective
here, but I’m going to guess that fits roughly in the column of “things
you don’t want to happen.” I’m sorry. Not like, sorry that I did
anything wrong, because let’s face facts it was 100% your doing, whether you
remember causing it or not, but I’m sorry that it had to happen to an on-balance
alright guy.

> check wallet

You reach into your wallet and calmly try to slide out that crisp hundred, making
your most Stringer Bell-esque expression, only to find three $1 bills. Oh, wow.
What in heaven happened there? That’s just… well you’ll probably want
to get around to finding that thing. It WAS right there, though, you saw it in there
on Friday evening, and you certainly don’t remember spending or breaking it
any time since then. You duck your head so you stand, like, 6’2” tall,
and walk off glumly. That’s not a biased description. I’m sure you could
ask a lot of people how you walked off and a large number would say “glumly,”
so that’s as close to objective as we can get here. I’m not trying to
be mean. Even your most adverb-abhorring Strunk and White disciple would say you
were basically glumming up the whole station, right then.

> consider options

Well, you have no money, no car, no ticket home, and no working phone, so this
seems like a situation that you have to puzzle through yourself. That’s kind
of what you’re supposed to do with this sort of thing, hence the whole “adventure
game” presentation we’re dealing with. I’m just here to assist,
not do everything for you. Do you really expect me to just hold your hand through
yet another self-made crisis? Take some responsibility. Either that, or call your
mom on the payphone or something.

> call mom on payphone

What? Sweet lord that wasn’t a serious suggestion. My apologies. I’m
not very good at sarcastic humor, so let’s just chalk that up to a tragic
misunderstanding, move on, and you can choose an actual solution that’s not
just running over to GameFAQs for your life decisions. So, okay. Right. Just type
“cancel,” we’ll do something else. I’m sorry for chewing
you out before. That was a mistake. I apologize. You can type “nah”
or “no” or just an action to do something else, if you’d prefer
that to “cancel.” I’m understanding that way.

> call mom on payphone

Oh dear. You’re really going forward with that. Right, so, let’s discuss
our relationship. I don’t think we can do this any more. It just hasn’t
been working out. We’re very different. I’ll give you a Game Over here.
Or maybe you “Win.” That’s right. You’ve “Won.”
Congratulations. You’ve finished Escape From Montreal. Good job. I’m
clapping for you. Really. Please don’t contact me.

pt II – former best friend

In high school, I was in debate. I was sitting in that classroom one day at the
computer, browsing MTGSalvation, and a kid named Eri I had talked to a little bit
recognizes the site; we start talking about Magic. Outside of Magic tournaments,
I had never met anyone who played Magic above a strictly casual level.

We started testing for upcoming tournaments; we didn’t have the cards, so
we used commons with the same casting costs or wrote names on bits of paper and
stuck them in sleeves with cards of the same color. I was a lot better than him.
Somehow, I was able to pull little mental tricks on him to make him misplay and
throw away the win, which I’ve never even attempted on anyone else. For brief
moments I caught glimpses of why people harped on Fact or Fiction constantly.

We played Standard; we played Extended; we played Mental Magic; we played Solomon
draft with random commons; we Solomon drafted with whatever rares were in our shoeboxes,
then played the games by Type Four rules; we played Lorwyn*3 draft on Magic Online.

He was a little under a foot shorter than me. He had other friends, I did not.
He smoked a lot with people from our high school and elsewhere. I didn’t do
anything like that, but I was still a little jealous that he would go out doing
things and not invite me along. The jealousy faded a bit when his family situation
deteriorated (his parents were divorced as well), and he moved in with my family.
We played more Magic.

I got hired by the Obama campaign (we had been interns together, but I showed
up to make calls and knock doors more often than he did) and when I was working
in San Antonio, I got a call from my parents that they took him to the hospital
for alcohol poisoning. In the car on the way there, he kept trying to open the door
and climb out onto the highway. When I got back home, he had to go to AA if he wanted
to stay in the house. I walked him to his first meeting. I hoped none of the people
watching us go up to the door recognized me. I don’t know whether he went
to any others, but he certainly didn’t stop drinking. The liquor cabinet would
mysteriously be minus half a bottle of vodka, two inches lower on this bottle and
that. All in one night. It’s impressive that he lived through it, if he really

He was a smart kid. While I did debate, he did extemp(oraneous speaking), and
he was good at sounding convincing for nine minutes at a time. He was a good liar,
good at looking people in the eye without overdoing it, avoiding the usual body-language
clues. His lies, though, were truly awful. Got himself into situations that he could
talk himself out of, but why was he in that situation in the first place? Leaving
a Heineken bottle behind the toilet. Not thinking of doing something like refilling
vodka bottles with water, since it’s not like my parents would have been able
to tell the difference until they have a drink from it years in the future. Not
noting the organization and orientation of the various bills in my stepfather’s
wallet when he goes through it. Not thinking about the consequences of leaving my
wallet empty in a completely different place.

It’s difficult for me, even years later, to think about someone (especially
a Magic player) that gets wasted on various things on a regular basis without thinking
about Eri, and it’s become fairly important to me not to become him.

pt III – viet-thai restaurant

I sigh as I push aside the menu. “Why are we in here? Are there even any
good players here? I bet this place isn’t even
in the
SCG guide to the city. Of course, if it had been up to Verhey, we would have somehow
found a
Cheesecake Factory.”

Verhey laughs and shifts in his seat.

“Look who just came in,” Black says. “Is that Mascioli?”

I crane my head over. “No, can’t be. Isn’t Mascioli working
with Channel Fireball people now? I heard he got Wrapter to design his last Standard

Verhey shakes his head. “You’re thinking of Bertoncini. That’s
some local guy. No one.”

The local comes over and taps me on the shoulder. “Hey, Ocho, nice job on
that last M12 walkthrough, real good stuff.”

“Uhh, thanks,” I respond.

I’m feeling a little embarrassed by this, so I decide to show everyone my
new altered card. I get out my custom-painted oversized deckbox (Justin Treadway,
$850) and slide the card on the table, waiting for reactions.

“What’s that, Chinese Simplified?” West asks, obviously interested.

“Korean. Just got it off someone at an upstate tournament.” I try
to act nonchalant but can’t stop smiling. “Apparently, he was under
the impression that Natural Order was no longer good in Legacy. Thought I was doing
him a favor taking it off him.”

“I didn’t even know Visions was printed in Korean.” Verhey picks
the card up gently between his fingers, turning it over. “Great condition
on the back.”

“What kind of alter is that? Acrylic?” Black asks.

“Yeah. Pretty nice, huh?”

“That is nice, Mason,” West
admits. “But look at this.” He slides out a metal 75-card holder from
his beige Gap shorts, pulls out a card, and slaps it down.

“Portuguese foil Meloku,” he explains as we stare at it, “only
misprinted in the first edition. Quite short-run.” I feel a moment of panic,
looking at the perfect centering of the card, so difficult to find with foreign
foils. The art altering has left the text box completely untouched. I start sweating
as West continues. “Italian alterer… no website… in-person commissions
only…” Black picks it up, strokes the smooth corners, not a hint of a scuff
or scratch on any side of it, ignoring mine completely now. How can he possibly
think it’s better than mine? No one even plays Meloku any more.

“But wait,” Black says, pushing West’s card back to him, “mine.

It’s something I’ve only seen once before.

“Is that… the one from eBay?”

“Not the exact same, no, I had this beforehand,” Black says, leaning
back in his chair. “There probably aren’t more than a handful of foil
Russian Dark Confidants around, though. I considered getting that one, too, cornering
the market, so to speak.”

“It’s… great,” I manage to stammer out. When did Black get
such a nice card? The alter on it doesn’t even seem to change the thickness
at all, as if the paint was every bit a part of the card as the print was. The sleeve
on it is somehow a deeper black; it feels heavier, everything adding to the card’s
allure. I’m trying not to show my jealousy; I can feel my face getting redder.
The local’s entire table is probably watching us now.

“So are we going to get some of this Viet-Thai or what?” Verhey asks,
obviously feeling the same way I am. Even with the sudden change of subject I can’t
take my eyes of Black’s card.

The waitress comes over and looks at me first. She’d probably like to start
flirting. “Yeah, I’ll have… uh… V-1 or TS-3… whichever’s

“V-1 or TS-3?”

“Whichever. I don’t care. You choose. Whatever tastes better,”
I snap at her. She scurries away with our orders.

“Black, I think there was someone at the GP with one of those in their binder.
Unaltered, of course,” Verhey mentions, to take away a bit of the impact,
but it’s a bit too late. “They invited me to… play

 with them.”

“Oh, I think I saw them,” I say, waving my hand. “What were
they even
playing? It had to
be limited, they weren’t even using

“I… I don’t think they were playing a format…” Verhey says,
glancing off to one side. “It looked like just… Magic.”

“What do you mean, ‘just Magic?’ They must have been playing
a format,” I say. Verhey’s lack of knowledge is irritating. “So
what was it? Pauper cube? Rath cycle draft? Bring your own sealed?”

“I don’t… think that it
was limited.”

“Well, what kind of constructed was it, then? Modern with…

” The word disgusts me. “Ice age block constructed?
Peasant? EDH? Planechase with auctioned preconstructed decks?”

“No… I think they were just… playing casual.

The table is momentarily silent. We all stare at the myriad assortment of water
glasses that’ve been accruing due to the incompetence of the waitstaff.

“What do you mean, ‘casual?’” West finally asks.

Verhey looks at him, brow down for a few seconds. “I’m not exactly
sure. I think they just brought decks from home.”

I’m suddenly angry at him. “What do you mean, brought them from home?
Where’d they get the lists? Who’d they test them with? Did they at least
win some daily events on Magic Online? Are they tuned at all by Thompson or Sacher?
Did they get the lists from…
Flores?” My
hands are shaking, rattling the fork in my chicken and noodles with peanut sauce.

“They… they… made the decks themselves.

We all look at each other, dumbfounded.

“How do you do that?”

pt IV – hostel, night one

I stayed in a hostel because it was $22 a night. Stepping out of character for
a second here, if you’re in some foreign city and don’t know a soul
and need somewhere to stay for a tournament or anything, really, stay at a good
hostel and you’ll have a great time.

Here is what happened: I walked into
the hostel. I was shown around by an extremely cute French Canadian woman around
my age that spoke French to me before I could muster out the French for “I
don’t speak French,” then she apologized and talked to me in English.
Then she pointed out the sangria. I had some sangria, and it was tangy, and chatted
with the Australian women also around my age (maybe a couple years older?) that
were having sangria as well. If this were fiction they would have hit on me, but
it isn’t and they didn’t. They invited me out clubbing with a few other
people, and I said no because I had to get to bed in order to play the first day
of the tournament the next day. Then I asked myself exactly what I was doing with
my life that I had just turned down clubbing with Australian women because I needed
my sleepytime in order to play a card game. Then some French guys (as in French
French) and one woman who was just Parisian gorgeous- whole other world from normal
gorgeous- asked me if I’d like to go out clubbing with them. I said no because
I had to get to bed in order to play the first day of the tournament the next day.
They said oh please come out. I said no. They said please again but more heavily
accented this time. I said well alright. We went to a small bar/club (still not
sure exactly what it was) where a fairly competent DJ was playing a bunch of hip-hop
that everyone including me was singing along to. In front of the DJ on a little
set up above the small dance floor was a binder’s front page worth of girls
who, a few shouted words later in the evening, I learned were from McGill; I will
be sending my application in promptly. One of the French guys offered his hand up
to one and she came down to dance with him and then I did the same with another
girl but she turned out to be rather shy and frankly just not a very good dancer
so I switched over to the girl he had invited down, which no one seemed to mind
in the slightest, and I was still holding the drink that another French guy had
bought me, vodka tonic, quite nice of him, possibly a bit weak because it just tasted
fantastic in that way that either means a weak drink or a great evening, and I’m
dancing with this girl and there are a bunch of details that absolutely fascinate
me but will repulse a good deal of my readership, and most of them involve the manner
in which we’re dancing and I’m putting my hands on her sides and her
hands are going on my legs and even up around my pockets and we’re kissing
in the middle of this dance floor and for once I have absolutely no thoughts about
who can see me and Montreal is the best. I hold her hand and take her to an area
near the door where it’s a bit quieter, we have a brief conversation so after
all that I can hear what her voice sounds like. I leave.

The next morning. The sun is shining. I can’t lose.

pt V – favorite comment at the tournament

“At PT: Nagoya I dropped at 1-5, so Ari Lax got me a Loxodon Wayfarer.
For some reason he had on him one that was Japanese foil, and the artist was onsite.
So he got it signed and gave it to me with ‘CONGRATS ON PT NAGOYA, CHRIS!’”

“Wow. Remind me never to do badly at a Pro Tour.”

“I don’t think you’ll ever need to worry about that.”

pt VI – traders at magic tournaments

Since the birth of the now-threatened Legacy card bubble, traders out to make
a profit rather than find specific cards for their decks have shot up in number.
It’s unclear whether there are more capitalist-minded traders due to the increase
in columnists that write about nothing but card prices and trading advice, or whether
those writers are a symptom of the trend toward trading Magic for financial gain;
the two seem to have arisen simultaneously, egging each other on like children making
fart noises in front of their increasingly annoyed parents.

At the heart of the trading card game is a tension between people trading the
cards and the game. While tournament players often take it for granted that players
can find every card they need for every tournament, and never have to compromise
their deck due to any circumstances outside the game, the traders fervently embrace
the limited supply of cards, replacing the game of playing Magic with the metagame*
of exploiting others’ lack of knowledge about card prices (or lack of planning
in not getting the cards ahead of time). The tournament players think the traders
are universally bad at Magic, and with few exceptions that’s generally true.
The traders don’t say much of anything, because they’re making good
money at this and very few of the players are.

These traders only really exist because of a few facts about the cards:

1. They are worth money. I’m getting the super-obvious out of the way here,
but stick with it after your obligatory eyerolls, I have a destination in mind for
this one.

2. A whole assload of trading happens at big Magic events. Lots of players, people
bring cards, etc. Duh-territory once again.

3. Despite points 1. and 2., money is not allowed to be exchanged for cards, other
than at authorized and overpriced onsite dealers.

Here’s the important part that I had to string y’all along thus far
to discuss: the fact that everything is exchanged card-for-card means that traders
have the maximum possible information advantage over the general playerbase. They’re
not exactly merchants, because if someone goes to buy something, that person hopefully
knows roughly what the money in their pocket is worth. Traders set prices on both
their own merchandise and the currency used to buy it.

The thorny area is when we talk about traders “ripping someone off.”
The whole subject makes for rather awkward dinner conversation. There are traders
that are pretty blatant about it, just lying about what cards are worth in order
to get an advantage. These guys are pretty bad news from just about everyone’s
POV, but most traders are at least a bit higher up on the morality ladder than that.

Now let’s talk about The Supreme Question of the Expert Trader.

“What Do You Value This At?”

While I’m unsure if it’s up to Oxford standards grammatically, it’s
an innocent-seeming but fairly insidious phrase once we think about the implications.
The issue here is that the person asking already knows the answer, or else they
wouldn’t be able to afford a Standard Pauper deck once they’re done
at a tournament. The trader is only interested if their customer thinks that the
trader’s cards are worth more than they really are, or that their own cards
(the customer’s) are worth less. The fact that it was the customer that suggested
the price is pretty much irrelevant, since the trader fishes around until they get
a nibble of incompetence from the customer, then decides to do that trade. Somehow,
this is viewed as being more okay than claiming all one’s cards are worth
a brazilian dollars, because rather than directly conning someone, they just wait
to accept until the person cons themselves.

Trading at a limited GP like Montreal is probably not as profitable, since there
aren’t many players that will desperately need certain high-value cards immediately.
I packed my meager binder, but didn’t trust myself with it onsite, so really
this entire essay has next to nothing to do with Montreal and we’ll move on.

*N.B. the use of the word to emphasize that this game-above-the-game is not the
same thing as the “metagame” as most often used in the community; despite
the mental intrusiveness of using a word for something notably different than its
community-accepted definition, there is no extant word that can fill the same role
in a less confusing manner. Rosewater and others have talked about how their internal
usage of the word refers to all the community interactions and anything taking place
around the game that isn’t the game itself; Magic has a multitude of metagames
including deck construction intended to defeat a known field (traditional usage
of the word), trading, writing essays about the game and rebuttals to those essays
if the original author had his head in an anatomically inappropriate location, basically
everything that occurs on Magic internet forums, etc.

pt VII – on the oft-discussed topic of hitting on girls at magic tournaments
(the subject of articles such as Darwin Kastle’s recent “Dating and
Magic” at gatheringmagic):

Don’t. Do you not interact with any women at all? There are places where
you can talk to attractive women without a 100-to-1 ratio against you. Places include
“bars,” “clubs,” and “life in general.”

pt VIII – round one, against Charles-William

Here are some of the advantages my opponent has over me.

1. His first name is two first names. This is twice as many first names as I have.

2. His hair has two parts in it, with a sort of semi-fauxhawk emerging above his
head, composed of marvelously combed sandy-blond (highlighted?) hair. Mine looks

3. He is French-Canadian, speaking twice as many languages as me.

4. I can feel someone watching over my shoulder.

5. Aside from the hair and all that, overall let’s just look at the facts
here, this is a guy whose face is just way better-composed than mine. Prominent
cheekbones but not to a creepy extent. He is someone I would expect to see on TV
and someone sitting near me would make some crack about him being gay, then we would
be depressed.

6. The reason we’d be depressed is that we know, in our hearts, that he’s
probably not gay. He’s probably quite straight. He probably gets laid way
more often than we do. He is the guy leaving with the girl who blew us off.

7. He is the guy your girlfriend had drinks with on Friday while you were playing

8. To be blunt, I’m not in much of a fit state at the moment. Excuses, excuses,
I know.

9. Clothes. They fit. Having clothes that actually fit tends to be rather underrated,
especially among Magic-playing circles.

10. The body those clothes fit is actually, like, go ahead and use your imagination
on this one and you’ll be correct.

I had no chance in this tournament.

pt IX – a half-remembered phone conversation between myself and the
person I was in a long-distance relationship with

“Well… I… I play Magic.”

“You mean, every now and then?”

“Well, no. Quite a bit. I’m playing this weekend.”

She sighs. “Okay. So, a few rules. First, you will not try to teach me how
to play. Second, you won’t even try to talk about it to me. At all. Third,
you will never, ever, ever ditch me or cancel plans in order to play. Got that?”

pt X – hostel, night two

I’m bad at Magic so I take stock of what matters to me. I break out the
two-liter of fairly nice vodka I brought in my bag. I don’t remember drinking
of it any before this. I need to get to sleep. The vodka helps with that. Unfortunately,
after running the common area fridge out of flat Sprite I try to take a shot with
no chaser; I’m extraordinarily bad at this and run to the bathroom. I’m
too preoccupied to check for anyone watching me. I think I’m okay as I’m
facing the sink, and throw up the unidirectionally delicious chicken and noodle
in peanut sauce into the sink. It doesn’t drain. Like, at all. I don’t
mind much of anything at the moment. I reach my ET fingers down and kind of push
the chicken and noodle chunks around the drain; unfortunately it settles rather
quickly, but if I keep a circular motion going, it eventually sucks down some of
the liquid into the pipe. This will probably stay here a while. After five minutes
(???) I realize that, at the current rate and with the current technique, it will
drain all the liquid and none of everything else; this will leave for whatever janitorial
staff the possibly-ickier situation of a mass of solidish gunk. I resign myself
to this and make sure no one sees me leaving. Above almost all else, I’m embarrassed
that what caused the situation isn’t that I’ve had too much alcohol-
I’m quite comfortable with the amount that I’ve had- it was just drinking
it incompetently. I firmly commit to further practice, to avoid such unfortunate
incidents in the future.

I take the bottle back up to the bunk bed. In the bed below me lies Captain Sleep
Apnea of the good ship HONK. This is what I brought the bottle for in the first
place. Sleep arrives soon.

pt XI – most recent long-term romantic relationship

In April, I taught my then-girlfriend to play Magic. In a lot of ways, she was
probably the type of person that male nerds really want to go out with and/or invent
for their dreadful gaming-themed webcomic: she was really into anime, wore short
skirts, and we watched 24, played Pokemon, etc. I got her to watch Burn Notice with
me; she was not as successful in trying to get me into Gossip Girl (there are some
plots so uninteresting even constant swigs of vodka don’t help). Teaching
her to play Magic was probably not the best idea, since she could swing into horrific
depression for no reason whatsoever. All the bubble-round losses I’ve seen,
the people I’ve outdrawn on Magic Online, all the people losing in Sealed
to Grave Titan for the third round in a row, it was nothing compared to this massive
amount of tilt. My mental line connecting playing Magic with not getting laid had
never been better-established than it was after those games.

I built a few decks for us to play, including a mediocre WR aggro that I piloted
myself, giving her the far superior UBR control with just a few win conditions in
it. In the previous game, she had won with Niv-Mizzet (which she correctly referred
to as “Dragon Wizard”). As we shuffled up for the next game, I noticed
there was one card set aside. She dealt herself an opening seven by putting six
cards on top of that card. I asked if she had snuck Niv-Mizzet into her opening
hand, which she denied. I asked her to show me her hand, then. She reveals six cards
from her hand.

A few days later, I broke up with her because she had been sleeping with another
guy. It was disorienting talking to my other friends who knew her, because she had
told each of us inaccurate information about one another.

I think what hurt the most was that this wasn’t some drunken spur-of-the-moment
whim, despite how she presented herself as a spontaneous person. Her spontaneity
was always backed up by a multi-week itemized schedule consisting of major and minor
goals; the fact that her target was someone she referred to as a womanizer would
help out her story later on.

It’s easy to villainize people in retrospect. Despite my thoughts then,
she’s not an evil person. We had a good relationship. She just set out some
goals, then accomplished them. Following that, she created a narrative about our
relationship, then sold people on that narrative. Mine happens to be different.

pt XII – advice for those choosing to drink during magic tournaments

Try to take it easy. While I understand how tempting it is to sneak off a few
drinks every time your opponent outdraws you, it’s easy to fall victim to
the end-of-day hangover by the later rounds, and that’s one of the worst ways
to end a tournament.

pt XIII – unfinished pseudo-theory article making some sort of tortured
connection between magic and literature when, if we’re honest with ourselves,
there isn’t that much of an overlap community-wise between the groups of people
that “seriously care” about these two things (magic theory and literary

A game of Magic can be viewed either as a traditional narrative or as a dialogue,
and either view will explain what players find “fun.” One player does
something, the other responds (in both game language and English), the first player
responds to that, etc. One player makes threats (act one), other player attempts
to deal with them (act two), they succeed or fail (act three). Combo decks don’t
do anything like this. Non-combo deck does something, combo wins. Or, even worse,
non-combo deck does nothing, combo wins. Nearly every player has the narrative/dialogue
ideal set up as what a Magic game should be; if the game ends up varying from that,
the complaint is that they weren’t really playing Magic. Normal decks have,
built into them, cards that move the game along from one act to another. Aggro’s
one-drops and control’s removal spells move from the first to the second.
Burn and six-mana bombs move from the second to the third, or end the story right

Combo decks are built as monologues. To monologue, talk endlessly about and to
oneself, is far too self-centered, confrontational, and anti-social for the group-
and community-oriented game Wizards is pushing Magic toward. If the combo deck interacts
in a game, it’s going to be intermittent, stilted, with long, complex passages
that aren’t doing anything more than playing out what was inevitably decided
by subtle, nearly invisible choices in the prologue.

It’s not pleasant to think about, but not every game of Magic between “normal”
decks ends up reaching that ideal, either. People get manascrewed and do nothing.
Sometimes the three acts get all jumbled up in who did what when, sometimes an act
gets removed entirely, sometimes they happen in the wrong order, and nearly always
the story of what happened in a Magic game gets summarized to a more palatable,
shorter version.

When a game of Magic turns into a narrative after the fact, nearly all the choices
that happened along the way get removed; the person constructing the story ends
up accidentally fictionalizing what happened, by making it seem like there was only
one possible outcome, or no decisions to make along the way to a single branching
path. When games get long and somewhat interesting, there’s never only a single
fork in the road. We just ignore what doesn’t fit into the story.

Any tournament report by a player that isn’t very good has an unreliable

pt XIV – the channel fireball
people at gp montreal

If it’s not obvious from the website and coverage, the Channel Fireball
guys are the elite clique at a GP. While the SCG people might have their matching
t-shirts that look like someone hit the wrong zoom button in MS Paint, the CF guys
have their classy matching black with the little logo. They mostly sit around with
other CF people. The main difference is that, at a Magic tournament, other than
tournament games there’s a surprisingly small amount of Magic actually happening.
CF people are always playing Magic, and there’s almost always people gathered
around watching them.

Here is What I Learned about How to Get Good at Magic: just play a life-consuming
amount of Magic. When you go somewhere for Magic, don’t stand around chatting
and gossiping, play more Magic.

I didn’t get in close enough to do true character studies, but LSV is most
accurately described as “bouncy.” His words have a near-melodic bouncing
quality to them. When standing, he bounces on his black and white Adidas Sambas.
When talking, his head bounces along with what he’s saying; laughing gives
him a similar appearance.

pt XV – a conversation with a parent, upon calling when I realized
I had no money and no way to get back home [excerpt]

“Remind me why you’re there in the first place.”

“I can get a writing job after this, but look, this isn’t really the
time to talk about that. I’m paying god knows how much per minute to call
long-distance on some payphone. I’m sorry, I know I screwed up, but-”

“You got letters from the bank.”


“I opened them. You’re overdrawn. Negative one hundred thirty dollars,
after multiple $38.70 charges for debit payment on an already-overdrawn account.”

“I don’t know how that happened. I checked before I left. I had an
entire paycheck in there. Look, please, I’ll pay you back…”

“Right, and how will you do that? If I remember correctly, you’re
already supposed to be giving us $200 a month. That hasn’t happened in a while.
Plus we already paid for your classes. The ones you wouldn’t have to take
if you’d stayed sober long enough to show up last semester. How much does
all that cost you a month, anyway?”

“Look, please, just this once. Last time.”

Sighing. “Fine.”

Jesse Mason

killing a goldfish