52 FNMs – Whammy

Before we get started: I didn’t play FNM this week. If that’s what you came here for, sorry.

Instead, I went to Grand Prix: Baltimore.

I played this deck:

It’s not every day you register three Liquimetal Coating in your seventy-five.

My logic was that since I have no time to test (I’m taking nineteen credits this semester, ten of which are upper divisions; plus, I’m a shitty student to begin with), I would run the best deck—a powerful linear strategy with a lot of good matchups—and just have a good strategy for the mirror.

I stand by the sideboard. I think Liquimetal Coating, Ancient Grudge, and Surgical Extraction are valid sideboard cards, not just against the mirror, but against Frites and any random control deck I might see . . . but I saw one of those decks out of the four matches I played while I was still live in the tournament.

Going over all the matches, especially the ones I played in while I was dead on Day 1 (gotta get those PWPs!), seems pointless to me.1 For me, the Grand Prix weekend served mostly as juxtaposition to FNM.

First of all, it was a five-hour road trip that I took with three other dudes, all of whom I graduated high school with back in 2007.

Adam, or, as you may recognize him from previous articles, Adam Blanden, was very religious, and, I don’t think he’d mind me saying, a little self-righteous in high school. The other three of us in the car didn’t talk to Adam much during high school as a result. He went to SUNY Binghamton for pre-med and is currently pursuing an MD and a PhD simultaneously at SUNY Upstate in Syracuse. I actually met Adam on accident; the night I left for PT: Philly, I went to my LGS to grab a Commander deck from a friend, and Adam recognized me. He not only recognized me, but he was genuinely excited to see me, which instantly made me suspicious because I’m the worst. Here was this kid I went to high school with, didn’t talk to at all, with a wedding band on his finger, who was excited to see me. Since that day, I’ve gotten to know Adam better and better, and it’s been more like finding a new friend whom I coincidentally went to high school with. I think there’s an unspoken gentlemen’s agreement between the two of us that he doesn’t hold any of my high-school assholishness against me, and I show him the same courtesy. These days, Adam is just a really great guy—kind, humble, and one of those responsible types that every GP hotel room really needs. It’s also worth noting that he was the only genuinely good person who stayed in the room that weekend. His wife is also very nice.

Ryan, or, to those of you who follow the column, Ryan Sullivan, is the one in the room whom I’ve known the longest. We went to the same babysitter before we started kindergarten. His mom hit my mom’s car with her car during that time, and they’ve been friends ever since. He went to Allegheny College in Pennsylvania after high school, with the intent to “be Dr. Cox,” but decided to go into lab tech instead. He played Magic briefly in high school, but he got back into it after undergrad because he planned on moving in with my girlfriend and me, and since I spend a lot of my free time playing Magic, he figured he’d pick it back up. He’s going to move into our apartment when he finds a job in Syracuse, which will be never because the world’s money is on fire. So, he’s living at home right now, like so many college graduates. Ryan plays a little slowly and shakes when he plays sometimes, but we’ve all been there, and I’m positive that as he starts playing more often and becomes more comfortable playing the game, he’ll pull it together. One time during high school, Ryan and I went to dinner at a Chinese buffet, because in Cortland, New York, the only thing to do is eat. After we’d finished all our food (we were both stuffed), a friend called me and said a bunch of them were at Friendly’s. With the intent to just hang out, we drove over, and Ryan immediately ordered the Crowd Pleaser (ten scoops of ice cream) and ate it all by himself. Ryan weighs about a hundred pounds. That day was terrifying.

Eli has been written about before here. He went to Ithaca College after graduating high school and is just waiting for his grad schooling in Colorado to start up in the fall. He never really had much of a competitive streak to him, and upon finding other Magic players in Ithaca during his undergrad, he decided to keep the games casual instead of beating them down with all his good cards. He didn’t end up playing in the Grand Prix, but he came along for the good times. The highlights of his Grand Prix experience included trading for a foil Awakening Zone and getting head-butted by Mary Jacobson.

Jeff ended up taking a train from Albany to Baltimore, so although he didn’t ride down with us, he stayed in our room. I met Jeff because he’s dating my girlfriend’s sister, but we became fast friends. Our first ever conversation:

Me: “So, I heard you went to the prerelease today.”
Jeff: “Yup.”
Me: “That’s cool. If I’d known about it, I would’ve loved to go; I haven’t been to a prerelease since Lorwyn.”
Jeff: “Oh, wow. Okay. I thought for a second there you were fucking with me, but you actually play Magic.”

Jeff is one of those few guys I know who can make me laugh at will. He’s hilarious. I can also count on him giving me shit for at least five things I tweeted about in the last month every time I see him, so that’s nice. He’s also the only one in the group who didn’t graduate with us, which also makes him the only one of us with a real, postgraduate job. I don’t really know how long Jeff’s been playing Magic, but he seems good enough to me; in two sanctioned matches against him, I’ve never been able to beat him. I actually played him at the GP when we were both 4–3. His girlfriend makes a kick-ass trail mix.


The four of us arrived in Baltimore at around 1:00 in the afternoon on Friday, and I was lucky to got to check in early (our original check-in time was 4:00 P.M.), and I headed down to Jimmy John’s for some lunch and eventually to the site for some gaming. Ryan and Adam decide to hop in the four o’clock Standard tourney, which I can’t get in because my deck is still short three Primeval Titans, so Eli, Jeff, and I head over to the Pratt St. Ale House to meet up with Adam Styborski. Our group gets accommodated, and Adam hands me a beer menu, asking me what our next pitcher should be. In the dark, I immediately order the highest-gravity beer on the menu (Spoiler alert: I wake up drunk the next day) and order some burger that has tiger sauce on it, which winds up being a delicious combination of barbecue sauce and mayonnaise. It was amazing.

Richard Castle shows up eventually, followed by Chris Mascioli and Mary Jacobson. Adam goes around the table, introducing people to Mary, and once he gets to me, Mary says, “I know who you are. I don’t like you,” which makes everyone at the table laugh.

“Yeah, he wrote an article about me when we played against each other, and he shit all over me ’cause I beat him. I’m gonna fight you tonight.”

The article in question is this one, in which I played against Mary and lost. Because Chris had never read the article in question, Jeff was kind enough to whip out his phone in the middle of the restaurant and read my third-round recap of Mary and my match aloud.

It was actually a pretty hysterical reading, thanks to the fact that both parties were present: Mary, just coming off a Grand Prix Top 8 in Nebraska, beating the best current Magic player (LSV) in the Swiss rounds to get there, and me, a guy who, at that moment, just wanted to disappear into thin air. Hell, even Mary was laughing. All I wanted to do was die. Jeff, to his credit, kept on reading, and the drinks kept flowing.

Go ahead and reread that article. Some lines played better than others to the audience. I’ll let you figure out which.

Suffice to say that by the end of the reading, Mary was ready to rumble . . . literally. I guess I’m misleading you a little bit by only giving you the facts. I think Mary is smart enough to realize that she’s way better at Magic than I am, and that article came out pretty early on in my career. I’m sure she also saw that I was very embarrassed during the entire reading (thanks again, Jeff!) but was still incensed enough about the fact that it happened in the first place to want to fight me, however nonrealistic the fight might be. She was never frowning when she said she wanted to fight me—it always had a playful tone to it.

Coming off a week full of discussions about play mats and objectifying women and all that, I really didn’t want to fight Mary Jacobson the night before a Grand Prix.

This is a pretty tricky issue: A girl whom you’ve wronged wants to, however playfully, fight you. You repeatedly say “no.” She responds to this by questioning your manhood. Having never gotten laid in high school, you know full well that your manhood deserves to be brought into question, so these taunts don’t work. Is it anti-women’s lib to refuse to fight this woman? I honestly don’t know. I’m very white, and very male, and I graduated a high school of one-hundred-sixty-something white kids. I am soundly unqualified to answer that question, so at the risk of outing myself as an uneducated country bumpkin, I won’t.

Eventually, I oblige Mary, with the intent to let her bop me a bunch because, hey, for that article, I deserved it. The “fight” ends up being very anti-climactic: Mary ends up wanting to fight Eli instead because, as she put it, he’s “the small one,” and she ends up head-butting him in his eyebrow ridge, which makes me laugh very, very hard.

Chris and Jeff both taped the whole thing on two separate cameras. Eli, Jeff, and I left for our hotel room shortly after this, and Ryan and Adam were there testing. We all ended up getting to sleep at around 3:00 A.M.


Everyone went down to the site early in the morning except for Eli and me because Eli’s not playing, and I had two byes and paid for the sleep-in special, which ended up being the best $10 I spent during the weekend. Eli and I wind up watching a lot of Saturday-morning cartoons in the room, including Yu-Gi-Oh and some Richard Scarry cartoons, eventually switching over to GSN to watch a bunch of idiots play a terribly designed game called Whammy. I eventually got brunch at California Tortilla on my way over to the site.

Coincidentally enough, the first person Eli and I saw at the site was none other than Mary, and she greeted us very warmly. It was going to be a good day.

Rounds One and Two – Byes

Round Three – Jon Dimaio

Jon didn’t have a play mat.

He starts off by asking me where I’m from, and I tell him. He tells me he’s from Boston, and we start chit-chatting about Pandemonium Games, located in Cambridge, because I played in an FNM there once.

In our first game, he shows himself to be an Esper control deck and capitalizes on my slow start by landing a Gideon Jura and attacking my empty board a couple times.

Eventually, I’m at 10, and he has a Gideon Jura on 9 counters, a Wurmcoil Engine, and a Snapcaster Mage. I have a Primeval Titan, a Solemn Simulacrum, and a bunch of lands. He has just used Gideon Jura to off a Huntmaster of the Fells. My land situation is such that if I attack with my Primeval Titan and he blocks with his Wurmcoil Engine, I can pump with exactly enough damage to kill Gideon Jura, leaving me at 2 the next turn after he cracks back with his Wurms and Snapcaster Mage, or I can leave Gideon Jura at 3 counters so I can Slagstorm, ostensibly gaining 2 life, assuming he attacks me with Gideon Jura. I decide that I’m not winning this game if I don’t resolve a Slagstorm this turn, and I lose to a Flashfreeze I would have lost to on the next turn anyway.

Game 2, he mulligans to five, and I stick a Liquimetal Coating on turn two that he remarks that he’s legitimately scared of, but I can’t find an Ancient Grudge or anything else in time, and he lands an Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite before I see anything resembling action.

Going into this tournament, I expected to beat up on control with my sideboard tech, and it didn’t happen. Luckily, my opponent was a nice kid, which admittedly took a lot of the sting off.


Round Four – Chris Pregent

Chris had a play mat from some random, recent Grand Prix, with two or three PTQ pins on it, in addition to an SCG pin. Not the type of thing you normally see at an FNM. Also different than the normal FNM fare was that he played with his hoodie hood up.

This Grand Prix, like most Grands Prix, was very tight. There wasn’t a lot of room for people to work with. This made people using play mats very obnoxious, as their mats took up more space than they were given. Using mats here was pointless anyway, as the tables had tablecloths on them, but come on, guys. Wait until Day 2 to use your mats. There’s just not enough goddamn space on Day 1.

He’s on W/U Humans—a pretty terrible matchup for me.

To further distance himself from the FNM fare I’m accustomed to, his deck is mostly foils, and his basics are Japanese Fourth Edition. He wins the die roll.

My first play is Rampant Growth. Chris Mana Leaks it. He follows his Mana Leak up with a Mirran Crusader on his turn.

After I play a Sphere of the Suns on my turn, I have a decision to make. In my hand, I have a Galvanic Blast. I can hit his Mirran Crusader on my turn while he’s tapped out, or if I hold on to the Galvanic Blast, I can play around Angelic Destiny, a very, very bad card for a Wolf Run player to see, especially on a Mirran Crusader.

Chris just attacks with the Mirran Crusader on his turn. I go for the Galvanic Blast, and he has the second Mana Leak.

I play an irrelevant Solemn Simulacrum on my turn, and he trumps it with Hero of Bladehold, a card I can’t deal with given my Titan-less hand.

A mulligan and a Hero of Bladehold later, and I’m going into the fifth round without having earned a single game win yet . . . let alone a match.


Round Five – Thomas Kauffman

Tom is on Esper Spirits. I don’t really remember this matchup other than wrecking him in two short games. Oh, and he missed a Delver of Secrets trigger.

In reference to my deck, he mentions, “Oh, that’s the deck my son’s playing. He’s here somewhere. It’s a good deck.” He got pretty frustrated that he forgot the Delver of Secrets trigger, but it’s a pretty bad matchup for him anyway.


Round Six – Benjamin Fehrman

At the beginning of Round 6, I am sitting across from an empty chair. The round begins, and I call for a judge. Before the judge can get there, my opponent, Ben, arrives hurriedly, sits down, and quickly starts shuffling. I know that at some tournaments judges give game losses for tardiness, but not at this one, so I just put my hand down.

“Sorry, mate, was just having a smoke.” Ben is British, as far as I can tell.

We split our first two games; he’s a mono-white Humans deck, which is an awesome matchup for me. He doesn’t shuffle a whole lot in between games, so I end up doing the bulk of his shuffling for him.

Between our second and third game, an agitated announcement over the loudspeaker reminds players that “only vendors can buy and sell cards at the venue.”

“Don’t you think that’s gay?” Ben asks, “They’re your own fucking cards. Can’t you do whatever you want with them?”

I just nod.

“No, seriously, that’s really gay that they can say what you can and can’t do with your cards.”

“Yeah, man, that’s pretty weird.”

It’s easy to sigh at someone using “gay” as a derogative term and wistfully say, “Boy, Magic players sure do have a long way to go.” I hate hearing about some idiot doing stupid shit and then having it presented as: “This is the scene we cultivate, guys!” On the other hand, I didn’t chastise Ben either; it’s not my place. Ben is an adult. I shouldn’t need to give him a lecture on the ramifications on being flippant about important issues, and I also don’t feel comfortable doing it. I don’t feel that Ben represents me—as in every population, there are nice Magic players, and there are mean ones.

On the other hand, there are a lot of hypotheticals to consider. Assume I’m gay and this is my first pro-level Magic tournament, and Ben conducts himself the same way, calling that rule gay to my face. I don’t know what I’d do. I could hope I’d realize not all Magic players are bigots, but maybe the remarks make me feel alienated enough that I lose hope in competitive Magic and just stay at my LGS.

Ben wins the third game on the play in impressive fashion, starting on turn-one Champion of the Parish, turn-two Gather the Townsfolk, turn-three Elite Inquisitor, turn-four Honor of the Pure, second Elite Inquisitor, and you’re dead.

I offer the hand, and we pack up our cards in silence. I still don’t chastise him because I’m still convinced it’s not my place to do so, although if I don’t, who will? Will anyone?

The issue is just so tricky. Ben was a very nice kid. I don’t think he’s actually bigoted at all; it’s just that “gay” was his chosen pejorative. Is it wrong that I didn’t feel comfortable correcting him? This is not a rhetorical question, and I’d like to think we can have a discussion about it in the forums that doesn’t devolve into one party telling another party how he or she should feel.


And like that, I was dead.

See you next week!

Jon Corpora
Pronounced Ca-pora


1 Let’s face it: If your tournament report doesn’t end with you in the Top 8, it’s pointless to write it, thanks to this and this.