52 FNMs – GP: SeaTac, Parts MCCXCVI–MCCCI

Lights up on a comic book store. Inside are about twenty men and one woman in it talking to each other in groups. The spotlight is on AARON, who is on a pedestal, distributing prizes to certain people in the crowd. AARON speaks to the crowd, and everyone turns to listen.

Can I have your attention for a minute, please?


The crowd falls silent. Everyone turns to face AARON.


AARON (cont.)
“I just wanna let you guys know, thanks for coming out, and also, after the PTQ tomorrow, there will be a Standard Pauper tournament here tomorrow at 6 PM; entry is $5; the third issue of the Magic: The Gathering comic is included in the entry fee.


The crowd murmurs in appreciation.


AARON (cont.)
Also, I’d like to let you all know that tonight, Jon Corpora scooped to his opponent when he had the win on the board.”


A second spotlight shines on a random member of the crowd.


AARON (cont.)
“Yes. When his opponent was tapped out and he had the win on the board, Jon offered his hand and conceded to him. Big round of applause for Jon Corpora, everybody.”


The crowd cheers wildly.

Lights down.


“Wow, you are really in the dregs of Standard now, aren’t you?” Jesse said, as he looked at my board of Avacyn's Pilgrim, Mortarpod, and two Strangleroot Geists, which were staring at a Wolf Run player’s Solemn Simulacrum.

The part of my brain that’s constantly telling me to act natural demands that I laugh, so I laugh.

“Yup, this deck’s pretty bad.”

I am playing the deck that made it to the finals of Grand Prix: Kuala Lumpur.

There is a difference between “this deck is bad” and “this deck does not suit my play style at all.” I don’t know how to identify the difference yet, but I do know that someone made the finals of a six-hundred-nine-person Grand Prix piloting it. So it can’t be that bad.

Taken from Paulo Vitor Dama de Rosa’s latest article:

Aggro decks without reach are usually White or Green based, and they don’t have Red. As a general concept, they’re very bad, despite what my latest deck choices would have you believe—they’re the ones that are less likely to ever get to “burn phase”, but if they ever do, then they’re doomed because they, well, don’t have any burn. Not having burn will make it so that you have a lot of “free losses” – that is, there are some games you lose and can’t do anything about . . . if all you have is basic Plains they can happily go to two life and win, you make their life much easier. To make matters worse, those Green and White based decks usually don’t have any ways of stopping you from doing whatever it is you wanna do, so their only resource is to either hope that what you’re doing isn’t enough to stop them or to kill you before you get to that point.

Taken from my article about the FNM I played the night before my 23rd birthday:

I don’t love the decks with a bunch of mana dorks in them. To me, it always feels like things really have to go your way in order for me to do well, and unfortunately for me last Friday, it just felt like I drew the Llanowar Elves half of my deck in far too many games.

I end up winning the match by having an Oblivion Ring for his Primeval Titan to go with my draw with three Strangleroot Geists Game 1. He mulligans and keeps a six-card hand with no green mana Game 2. The first time he looks up at me the entire match is when I Naturalize his Sphere of the Suns. This play makes him laugh because he’s a cool guy and can appreciate absurdity, which makes me inwardly forgive him for play Wolf Run at FNM. I can appreciate playing Wolf Run at a tournament where you have incentive to do so, but do people actually have fun playing Wolf Run? I can’t get over how infuriating Primeval Titan is.


July 22, 2011. My last match of the night at FNM—before Cloud City did Constructed tournaments—was against some kid named Kevin Poncelet, at Syracuse’s other Magic shop. He was playing a very bad mono-red deck. He played very, very, very slowly, but he was also very humble and, after the match, he talked about some of his lines of play and politely asked me about ways he could’ve played differently. For some reason, I remember discussing the card Goblin Grenade. Was he playing Fallen Empires copies or M12 copies? I can’t remember.

March 30, 2011. It’s Round 1 of my thirty-second consecutive FNM, and I’m paired against Kevin Poncelet, whom I can never ever beat at an FNM unless I’m playing an event deck and have no hope of winning the rest of my matches.

Kevin plays a turn-one Delver of Secrets, but he’s pinched on land as I beat him for 4 with a Mirran Crusader. He has a Mana Leak for a Hero of Bladehold and a Negate for a Garruk Relentless, but he can’t get that Mirran Crusader off the table. I also do a great job of drawing both of my Dismembers to get his blockers out of the way, and I even resolve a second Mirran Crusader for good measure.

Kevin allows himself to fall all the way to 2.

I should have known something was up.

During testing for GP: Baltimore at Cloud City, Aaron told anyone that would listen: “I have no problem playing against pros. I’ve played against names before, and I’ve taken down big matches. I’m not worried about it. What I am worried about is that man right there.” He points to Kevin. “Kevin, you are the luckiest luck sack that ever lucked a sack, and I’d rather stick my dick in a blender than play you in Day 2 of a Grand Prix.”

I should have known something was up, I think bitterly, as Kevin resolves back-to-back Gather the Townsfolk. I’m at 15, a reasonable cushion, and I’m able to pick off his guys two at a time with my Mirran Crusaders, but I’m starting to become a little mana-flooded. A Sword of War and Peace or Mortarpod off the top wins me the game right then and there, but neither comes, and a Champion of the Parish followed by a Snapcaster Mage flashing back the third final-hour-enhanced Gather the Townsfolk of the game seals the deal for Kevin.

Game 2 is even less close: Kevin has turn-one Champion of the Parish, turn-two Gather the Townsfolk, and turn-three Champion of the Parish, Gather the Townsfolk.

I was very angry after that match. I haven’t been that angry in a while.


Taken from Mike Flores’s last article (it’s premium, though):

Tilt and steam (or even the lapse in reality control I experienced in the Breakfast match against Zack) result when we allow circumstances to dictate our emotional states rather than dictating them ourselves.

After my match with Kevin, I was kinda starting to see why Jack the Ripper killed all those hookers. Hey, sometimes you gotta blow off some steam.

Tilt had hit, and I am positive that I only gave a shit at all because I keep losing to the same goddamn person week after week, and every week, I’m forced to air it to the entire Internet. I thought Kevin’s brew was sweet; was it W/U Humans? Was it W/U Delver? It was a great brew, but I was so damn mad after the match that I couldn’t even tell him anything. I couldn’t even think straight. I hated the stupid deck I was playing, I hated this stupid column I locked myself in, I hated the fuckwits in Syracuse blasting off on their Facebook, telling whomever would listen that they’d kill themselves if they’d only won three FNMs in thirty weeks, and I hated Magic . . . A week after I felt really happy to be playing the game.

The “lapse in reality control” Flores describes was yet to come.

How do you explain scooping when you have the win on the board? There were no sleight-of-hand tricks, and my opponent didn’t “play me” at all (he was actually very nice)—I just looked at the board, saw that I was dead next turn, saw that I couldn’t win this turn even though he was tapped out with no cards in hand, and extended the hand in defeat. How do you come back from that as a person? How do you save face? I don’t give a shit about the trolls in Syracuse (and there are plenty); I’m talking about your friends. How do you convince them that you deserve to breathe the same air as they do after that?

These aren’t rhetorical questions. I need to know the answers to them.

Round 2, I’m paired against a really nice kid named Mark. He is playing a B/U/g brew with Zombies and Birthing Pod. Very spicy indeed. I win Game 1 in decisive fashion, and he wins Game 2 just as decisively. His Diregraf Captains and Gravecrawlers I can handle, but he simply gets too much value out of his two Skinrenders, and I never see a Mirran Crusader.

“My deck never works like that! That was awesome!” said Mark, noting how well he drew in Game 2.

The stage for Game 3: I have a Birds of Paradise, a Sword of Feast and Famine, a Strangleroot Geist, and some lands. Mark has a Birthing Pod, a Havengul Lich, a Vorapede, and a Gravecrawler. He’s already attacked; I’m at 3; he’s at 4. On his second main phase, Mark casts Hex Parasite from his graveyard so he has a blocker for the sworded Strangleroot Geist.

Mark’s been pinched for lands all game, so he takes 2 from the Birthing Pod to sacrifice his Vorapede to go find an irrelevant Grave Titan. He says, “Go.”

I draw a Forest, survey the board, and extend the hand.

Everyone in the immediate area watching: “GAAAAAAAH AAAAAAW ALFBHSDLFKSDANGA”

Bret Weed grabs my Birds of Paradise, slams it on top of the Sword of Feast and Famine, taps them both, and then looks at me with incredulity.

“But he’s at . . . ”

I look at my life pad.

Mark is at 2 life.

I think I’m gonna be sick.


I’m playing Jund in one of the last Modern PTQs of the season:

I’m 1–1 going into Round 3, and I’m paired against a really nice guy. As per usual in my matches, I ask him if he has a die. He says no, and he instead pulls out three sleeved cards:

Rock Lobster
Paper Tiger
Scissors Lizard

I am immediately excited. This is my kinda guy.

“Are we using these to see who goes first?”

He smiles. “If you’re comfortable with it.”

“Are any of ’em marked?” I ask, jokingly.

“Doesn’t matter. You’re picking for both of us.” He lays the cards flat on the table, face down. I have to work really hard to suppress the giggle fits. Magic is sweet.

I slide to myself and to him. I flip Scissors Lizard; he flips Paper Tiger. I celebrate exuberantly.

Turns out he’s playing that crazy infect deck. His first turn is Breeding Pool, Glistener Elf. I love that crazy infect deck, and I do not hesitate to tell him so. He is a little taken aback at my enthusiasm.

He takes Game 1 when, after he exhausts most of my removal, my Maelstrom Pulses can’t deal with his Inkmoth Nexus with Pendelhaven. Game 2, I get to resolve Night of Souls’ Betrayal to my unadulterated delight, so it’s on to Game 3.

His turn one is City of Brass, pitch Simian Spirit Guide, cast Blighted Agent. I cast Thoughtseize on my first turn, and I see:

Mutagenic Growth
Vines of Vastwood
Vines of Vastwood

I take the Mutagenic Growth and pray to all major and minor deities that he doesn’t draw a land.

He rips a land and hits me for 5 poison with Groundswell. I’m able to Duress and take a Vines of Vastwood, but I’m dead to the second one next turn.

Leaving up a red mana, I say, “Go.”

He draws another land—this time, it’s a Pendelhaven. He attacks me for 2 poison, using the Pendelhaven to pump his Blighted Agent.

The bluff worked. I’m at 7 poison.

My two lands are Blackcleave Cliffs, Blackcleave Cliffs. If I Maelstrom Pulse his Blighted Agent, he has to save it with Vines of Vastwood. I’m still at the mercy of the top of his deck, but I have a second Maelstrom Pulse, and if he bricks, I’d be at 9 poison, and he’d have no guys left.

I confidently play my Swamp.

I look at the Verdant Catacombs in my hand.

I think I’m gonna be sick.

Jon Corpora
Pronounced ca-pora