Who to Follow – Midwest Grinders

There is a lot of Magic played on the coasts of the United States, and I’m not entirely sure I know why. There’s stuff to do in California, after all, and the East Coast is similarly packed with large metropolitan areas. The coasts have beaches, and everyone’s always roller-blading or playing Frisbee if gum and sunglasses commercials are to be believed. What is there to do in the Midwest? We’re landlocked, Detroit and Cleveland are engaged in a thirty-year struggle for the title of “worst city ever,” we are prone to tornadoes, and Lake Michigan thinks it’s hilarious to create something called the “Lake Effect,” which, if you’re not inclined to read the wiki, creates larger-than-normal amounts of winter precipitation because science. You know what’s a fun thing to do in the Midwest? Pack up and move.

Unfortunately, that isn’t an option for an estimated sixty million people including myself. I’ve called the Midwestern United States home my entire life, and I wouldn’t know what to do with myself anywhere else. What living here did mean is that I needed to find something to do during the six months a year when indoor activities are the only viable option for staving off boredom (although let’s not forget that driving on black ice is way more exciting than windsurfing will ever be). I found that something, and that was playing the children’s card game that brings us all together.

I alluded to a phenomenon a bit when I talked about the pedigree of RIW Hobbies in Michigan and how it seems to have figured out a way to 3D-print champions, and that is that the Midwestern U.S. seems to be a hotbed of Magic tech, innovation, and quality grinding, but most of the world doesn’t realize how important this corn-studded perineum between the coasts really is to the game. Sit yourselves down, and I’ll regale you with tales of three people who are grinding this here card game and are poised to be the next household names. Give them a follow, and make sure you’re ahead of the game when they break the format. And before you say, “I’ve never heard of some of these guys!” try to remember that’s the point.

Because I can’t think of a smoother segue from my semi-relevant preamble, let’s dive headfirst into “Who to Follow – Midwest Grinders.”

Chris Andersen

Where You Know Him From: The Glory Seekers podcast

Social Media: Twitter

Just kidding. Chris moved to Virginia to go work for StarCityGames. Could I technically include him in this article since he was a Midwesterner until last week? Yeah, I suppose I could. My theme may have been entirely arbitrary and a thinly-veiled excuse to talk about a few of these other guys, but I’m sticking to it. I only have two things in this world: my word and my play set of Future Sight Tarmogoyfs, and I won’t break either for nobody.

Maybe you’ll see Chris another week. Maybe his Twitter is right there and you want to maybe follow him anyway. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life.

Anyway . . . back to telling you how to live your life.

Jeff Hoogland

Where You Know Him From: If you’re paying attention, you know him from crushing everything.

Current Title: The Last True Deck-Builder

Social Media:
StarCityGames Archives

If you go to events and pay attention to feature matches, you’ve heard of Jeff already. He went on a tear early this year, smashing both the Standard and Legacy portions of many SCG Opens. He has almost as many Top 8 finishes as I have not Top 8 finishes. He’s only contributed two articles to the world, and lately, he’s resorted to writing tournament reports on Reddit, which I feel is the Magic equivalent of a Julliard-trained virtuoso playing his or her violin in the subway. But Jeff wouldn’t properly understand references to underground public transportation because he is from the Chicago area, and their trains are the opposite of underground.

What Jeff does seem to understand is the metagame. Unlike most people, he doesn’t stop when he understands the metagame for a given week. He goes on to create a deck that beats the metagame. You may have seen his wacky R/U/G Flash or B/G Rock or his insanely-effective four-colored Loam decks pop up in lots and lots of Top 8s. What was his most recent notable finish? Gee, I dunno, how about Top 8 of the Invitational? He’s still managing to fly under the radar a bit, but don’t expect that to be the case for long. Be ahead of the game, and benefit from his tech before everyone else catches on—tech, by the way, that he’s so desperate to give away for free that he writes it on Reddit.





It’s hard to disagree with that last tweet. I have a feeling next year is going to be even better. Expect the remainder of 2013 to be his last few months not being affiliated with a major website. Follow him now, and beat the rush.

Raymond Perez

Where You Know Him From: You probably should and probably don’t.

Current Title: Grinder

Social Media:
Perfect Storm MTG
Griffon Events article

After grinding for a very long time, Ray finally won a Pro Tour Qualifier this season and will be going to Dublin. That didn’t surprise me all that much because even though Ray loves to make Top 8 and then lose in the first round, he was still due. What did surprise me is that Ray is seventh in the world in Planeswalker Points for the year—31 points ahead of Brian Braun-Duin. It can almost be said that Ray has redefined what it means to be a grinder because he’s always spoiling for a card-based throwdown. Despite struggling to beat me historically, Ray seems capable of beating everyone else and is champing at the bit to head to Dublin and show the world what he’s made of.

Ray spent the better part of this year grinding as a member of Team Perfect Storm, which is a team out of the Southwest Michigan area that you probably haven’t heard the last of. A lot of his success is attributable to having a strong support system in place from that team. Then again, a lot of his success is attributable to the sheer volume of Magical skirmishes Ray engaged in this year. Sometimes, that means spending the entire day playing after you’re out of Top 8 contention just to try to grind out a few more Planeswalker Points, but Ray has squeaked back into the prize bracket a few times when another player may have gone home at three losses.

I don’t think Ray would be offended if I said he wasn’t the most gifted player I’ve ever met. Ray is a wrecking ball—he will play game after game until he understands a deck, a match, a metagame, and finally, a format. I don’t think anyone works harder than Ray does, and it’s paying off for him. Ray has proven an excellent resource not only for deck advice but for networking advice—playing so many events and making so many Top 8s has made Ray a fixture in the community. He knows everyone, and everyone knows him. It’s for all these reasons that I endorse Ray “Seventh in the World in Yearly Planeswalker Points Some-Damn-How” Perez, Jr. There’s scarcely room in your Twitter feed for all of the value.




All joking aside, Ray is wrong sometimes, too.


If you’re going to be at Grand Prix Detroit, track Ray down, and say “hello.” He’s excellent value and extremely ticklish.

Dan Musser

Where You Know Him From: Me—just now

Current Title: Grinder

Social Media:
Notable Finishes

Dan is another player I feel is poised to break out very soon. He qualified for Pro Tour Paris in 2011 and qualified for Dublin this past weekend. Hailing from the Ohio area, he has been grinding as much this year as have Ray and Jeff. Ray’s seventh-in-the-world status was impressive, and I consider Dan’s fifteenth place no less impressive. Fifteenth puts him between Shuhei Nakamura and Owen Turtenwald for points on the year—not bad company to be in at all. Dan’s success is attributable to his commitment to playing most every weekend, and winning two PTQs in three years shows his work continues to pay dividends.

If you watch much coverage, it’s almost inconceivable that you aren’t familiar with Dan given his tendency to end up on camera—a lot. His play is very tight, he innovates a lot, and he’s not afraid to admit that Jund is a boring deck to play and that it has ruined Magic (that last part is my own inference).


But he’ll give credit where credit is due.


He seems to know some of the other guys on the list.


Dan is good value for a follow, he’s had a great few years, and he will only grow better as he continues to crush events, and he’s in great company on this list. I heartily endorse all three of these players and hope you grow as a player and allow them to give their tech and good ideas away.


That does it for this week’s installment. Join me next week, where I’ll struggle to tie in three disparate community members by using a unifying theme that I can’t imagine won’t involve Gen Con. You won’t want to miss it for anything!

Visit CoolStuffInc at Gen Con Indy 2013, August 15 through 18!