Ever have to sit across from a crying opponent? I have on more than one occasion. Such an ordeal offers me little satisfaction. A bigger curmudgeon might revel in an emotional victory. I can’t. Most of myself empathizes with my victim, but another aspect of myself finds it a little humorous. As I try to console my opponent, a little voice inside asks what the hell I am doing? Seriously, what other sport if you will has the victor apologizing to the defeated. Counting my digits, I can fully recall three FNM episodes, two at constructed tournaments, and two at a Grand Prix. The cuter of all the stories occurred at a constructed Vintage tournament. A dad shows up with his two kids. The younglings are happily holding their decks they brought to do battle. Dad has obviously played for years and proud as punch to be bringing his offspring up properly. The pairings get set up and a good acquaintance gets paired against the 11year-oldish daughter. I unfortunately got stuck with a bye. Darn it. The two draw and keep their hands. The acquaintance won the die roll and proceeds to go Island, Chrome Mox, Lotus Petal, Tinker into a Darksteel Colossus. Go. The poor girl just keeps looking at the indestructible 11/11, her hand, the 11/11, her hand, and, oh, oh, here it comes, the sobbing. I wonder what infraction crying would be at a high REL. Stalling maybe? Anyway, we spent the next ten minutes along with Mr. Dad trying to console her. Pops eventually had to drop to take her home. The twist was trying to console my acquaintance for he felt pretty awful about making some cute as button, little girl cry. I fondly remember him saying, “What was I supposed to do? I had it in my opening hand. How often does something like that happen?”
And the Winner is...
Many a player develop a strong emotional attachment to Magic. A lot of time and money is invested into the game. I understand. It is a joyous feeling having a deck perform well at a FNM or taking top place in a draft. Along with winning, we spend many a day losing to the person sitting across from us. The multiple losses used to bug me more in the past. A large part of me felt it was a slap in the face to my intelligence indirectly. I figured that I’m a smart guy. I should be able to perform well. More and more, I appreciate how the vast pool of Magic players are filled with intelligent people even if it is in their own special way. Nonetheless, I no longer assume the person sitting across from me is an idiot. Failing to give my opponent enough credit often leads me to a defeat.
A Grand Prix is soon approaching my neck of the woods. I hope to be there to test my metal against the populace. Big events remind me of a beauty pageant. All the contestants bring pads, dice, and play mats along with their hopes and dreams. Each of them is vying for the top prize. Magic isn’t based upon physical prowess. We don’t strut across a catwalk showing off our bodies worthy of the Greek Gods. Instead, we strut the walk of intellectual superiority. A room filled with beautiful minds. The talent portion varies with the computer savvy, grammar nazi’s, medical knowledgeable, math wizards, law pundits, and beyond. People who play the game are smart. I take solace my loss wasn’t to a moron. I shutter at the prospect of a swimsuit competition at a Grand Prix. I will let you form your own visuals.
An acquaintance of mine was once telling me about he originally lived in Washington D.C. His dad was a lawyer. His mom was lawyer. Both grandparents were lawyers. The older brother was becoming a lawyer. One day, they were throwing some hoops on the driveway. The basketball hoop was implanted into the ground between the driveways of their and neighbor’s property. If they missed the backboard, the ball would bounce onto the neighbor’s driveway. That day, a new neighbor not familiar with the D.C. area had just moved in and returned from work. They stopped to let her pull in with her car, but she had a bone to pick. She jumped out of her car and attempted to give them a tongue-lashing. “I want you to take that down right now,” she said. It was responded to by a firm, “no.” Her face turned red and she proudly insisted, “Don’t mess with me. I’m a lawyer. If you don’t take that down, I am going to sue you.” They broke down in hysterical laughter. She demanded what was so funny. His dad retorted, “Sweetie, I’m a lawyer. My wife is a lawyer. The neighbors across the street, to your right, and behind you are lawyers.” She stammered away in futility. As my acquaintance put it, somebody forgot to inform her that a very large segment of the D.C. area is either lawyers, lobbyists who were lawyers, or somebody who knows a lawyer.
Freak of Nature
Sometimes, we just have bad luck. Mongers may point out it is actually probability. Whatever. The fact remains; a huge amount of randomness is endemic to the game. Beyond pulling the most awesome of mostest awesomeest (That’s wright. I spelled it wrung on purpase) of top decks, we have other multiple other areas of randomness. At the Grand Prix, it will be a sealed event. It can be great and bad at the same time. During my first sealed event, my rares consisted of Powerstone Minefield, Yavimaya’s Embrace and Degavolver. The winner of the tournament opened up two Spiritmongers and a Pernicious Deed. Even in my early days, I thought it just didn’t seem quite fair. Good players will be able to maximize the most out of a bad pool. In the end, jank is still jank.
Compared to sealed, many prefer draft because of the skill intensity and being able to at least have the opportunity to draft a good deck. True. Still, randomness exists in the seating arrangement. Make day two to only get stuck in the draft in between two top professionals. Yeah, tell me how that goes. At large professional events, maybe it isn’t such a big deal with so many smart people. Seating placements at the lower level can be significant. Get stuck between two noobs, sweet. Get stuck between the two other top players of the shop, dam. It makes a difference. This is all taking into account people are drafting intelligently. Honestly, getting stuck between new players isn’t always a great thing. I was once stuck between two new players who barely understood the process. That’s okay. Everyone starts somewhere. The trouble was they kept switching colors so often I was completely confused on what to draft. It didn’t occur to me that they were just drafting the best cards. They knew enough to draft decent cards. The bad news is they didn’t know enough to stick with some kind of color scheme.
Then there are bad beats. A person can bring a deck to beat aggro and get stuck all night long against control. Build a deck to beat control to only get stuck all night against aggro. Who we face is completely random. It can be a deciding factor for our success. Let’s not forget the die-roll while at it. I can remember many nights never winning a single one. I’ve read stats showing it doesn’t matter. I say poppycock. Yes, going first doesn’t always matter and another card can make a difference. The truth is it matters for certain archetypes. I can’t remember the name off the top of my head, but I recall facing a red-green deck during Time Spiral. First turn Birds of Paradise, second turn Stone Rain, third turn Avalanche Riders. It was a lot of fun. Wildfire decks were equally thrilling. Going first with any of those decks was huge. Going first doesn’t matter? Tell that to my four lands in the graveyard. It is one of the reasons I absolutely hate Sinkhole and Wasteland in Legacy. Whining? Maybe. Are they completely ruining the format? No. My point, nobody would miss them if they were gone and the format would still be fine.
Beautiful People, the Beautiful People...Da Da Da
Okay, I have established most people at large events are smart. They are. This doesn’t mean they have spent the same amount of time, drafting, analyzing and anticipating every possible aspect of a format as other beautiful people...da da da. Not like those weekly column writers. It makes a huge difference in the people we face. Certain players are just more experienced. Period. It is true a successful person will consistently face tougher competition as wins accumulate. In the fourth round, am I facing the best of the players at 4-0 or the worst player who is also 4-0? Since Magic players are special, certain players specialize in certain areas. It is more known certain players are better with certain archetypes. Some of the elite prefer control, others aggro, and a few like combo. Something we don’t hear much of is what certain players are good against. As for myself, I prefer aggro or control. I can play combo, but it isn’t my niche. I can play against most styles fairly well. I truly suck against the Sligh style of decks. For some reason, I have difficulty in gauging those decks. I make a lot of misplays against those kind of red decks. A whole day against burn is not high on my list of fun ideas.
Oh, then there are those fabulous games of playing against random people who just drive one bananas. Sleazy players can make for a long day. Those games can be won easily, but such occurrences can be mentally taxing. I had beat a player at a Vintage tournament and then he proceeded to try to get me kicked out by calling a judge because I was playing with four Exhumes. I protested. I didn’t win the argument and was DQ’d. I’ve got into arguments over the tapping of cards. One case involved the declaring of attackers. I moved a couple creatures into the red zone. Decided against one attacker and pulled it back into the green zone. I declared those creatures were attacking. My opponent insisted I had to attack with the creature I pulled back into the green zone. What? His point was I took my hand off of it. The same issue appeared another time when I tapped lands, decided I messed up on the casting cost, I didn’t have enough mana, and I untapped them. My opponent insisted I had to take mana burn. Why? He insisted I had taken my hands off the lands after tapping them. I kick myself for not calling a judge both times. I didn’t because I was winning anyway and did win those matches. In any case, such episodes can make for a very long day.
In the end, always call a judge.
It does make me wonder were this stupid “Took your hand off of it” idea came about. Chess maybe? The reason I mention this is because I have run across it numerous times. It is incredibly annoying.
The Grand Prix is coming up and I am vying to go. Will I take top prize? I doubt it with a thousand or so others betting against me. Will I make a rules blunder? Probably. After ten some years, I have yet to completely memorize the comprehensive rules and all fifty thousand card interactions. Keep taking the Rules Advisor quizzes and just don’t have the stuff. Have a hard time sleeping? Read the comprehensive rules for twenty minutes. Guaranteed to put anyone under. Will my sealed pool suck? Maybe. Will I get mana screwed? It is possible. What are my odds of winning if I don’t go? Zero.
Just being realistic about it.
Not to mention, the Grand Prix will be a lot of fun.