Memoirs of a Magic: The Gathering Grinder: European Championships (Part 2/4) – Wisdom Fae Under the Bridge
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.” – Bridget Jones Diary
This is the second article in this series of four, and will feature my second Magic Player Fable. The first article focused mostly on how I got started with the game and ended up taking it pretty seriously, while this one covers the middle years once I was competent.
I was working for Highlander Games, so I was playing loads of Magic: The Gathering. It was also the year I qualified for European Championships: a tournament you qualified for if you were a pro from that region, or if you Top 8’d a National Championship in Europe. The idea was that 5th-8th got something for their accomplishment other than the feeling of almost qualifying for the World Championships, which 1st-4th qualified for in addition to the European Championship. My Limited game had improved drastically during Onslaught block, and this contributed to getting through my final Draft pod (where I needed to win both and ID the final) with a very poor draft deck of 19 creatures, 2 removal spells and a Giant Growth of some sort, with no real synergies in a Tribal block. I thought I was going home with nothing, despite having gone 5-1 in the Constructed portion with Red Green Beatdown.
Following that, I had a pretty near-miss in the Onslaught block PTQ too.
My newly acquired Limited skills did me well in Mirrodin Block Limited, where I Top 8’d a PTQ one week, and two weeks later won another qualifying me for my first actual Pro Tour. This was a good year clearly, as I got paid off for putting in the effort.
While this period started well because it was Limited-centered, but problematic divisions were occurring in the group. Many of these divisions were due to our age, and the close nature of our relationships outside of Magic (Jamie Ross is my cousin, resulting in some unfortunate rivalries, he lived with Jon Isaacs, etc), but some of it I learned from in a way which would be useful in the future. For instance, ego and trying fighting for prestige within a group can cause a lot of problems, as I discussed the other week.
Ultimately, I ended up not playing Affinity when the deck was completely insane because Jamie was championing it, and that clouded my judgement. Playing the deck would mean admitting he was right, validating him, on some level perhaps accepting that he was as good as me. I played the other decks, and they were pretty bad.
Jamie qualified for his first Pro Tour that year.
In the dead of winter, I randomly ask random-new-guy Joe Jackson if he fancies driving us to Minehead from Dundee to play at Gen Con where there was either a GP, or loads of PTQs. Bizarrely, he agrees to this, and Jamie, Joe, Bradley, Billy, Cameron and I go on what stands out as the most awful road trip I have endured in my entire time playing cards (largely my fault for incessantly bullying Jamie…). Still, while Billy dropped off the scene after this, Joe and I became very close friends, and that might not have happened had it not been for this disastrous event.
I couldn’t seem to get it right with this Limited format, and I was in a bad place emotionally (my aunt and father both died within a six month gap, and I’d dropped out of college again). I was playing a lot of World of Warcraft, and I was teetering on the edge of calling it a day with Magic. I asked Joe and Bradley one night “Why am I not winning?”. We discussed it a bit and concluded that it was mostly psychological – I was throwing in the towel miles before I needed to, because I would rather go home and play Warcraft. I resolved to give it my all if I was playing, and if I wanted just to play Warcraft, to do that. I distinctly remember playing Declan Chashin in draft, being about to scoop in disgust, but rallying, and winning. Later that week, we played again, only it was in the first round of a PTQ, and the same thing happened. Then I beat everyone I played for the rest of the day, with Mono Black Ogres.
Second Pro Tour
There was a big gap between my PTQ and the Pro Tour, which was fortunate as at the time you only got money, not flights, and it was in LA. In that time, I performed averagely in Limited PTQs and GPs, despite having a pretty good grasp of Ravnica Draft (Sealed was about fixing and bounce lands, while Draft was about being in the right deck). I didn’t do very well at the Pro Tour, but I did learn a lot; and a week and a half after I got home there was another PTQ, in which I didn’t drop a match in with BUG Madness.
Third Pro Tour
This time I think they paid for flights, which was really pretty lucky because I don’t think my mum would have shipped me the cash needed for a holiday in Hawaii. I did better this time, posting 4-4, and being in contention for Day 2 till Round 7 (you needed 5-3 or better, back then).
At Nationals that year, I started 4-0 in Constructed (Zoo), then 1-1-1 in Draft, followed by 3-0 in the next Draft. So I needed 1 win in 3 rounds of Constructed – when I hadn’t lost a match *in a year* in Scotland – to Top 8.
If there was ever a time when I could realistically have pushed through to something less ordinary in Magic, this was the best chance I had. Instead, I lost a mirror to Bradley Barclay, to Greg Davidson with BW control, and to Chris Llewellyn’s Blood Moon. There have been few times in my life when I have been quite so disappointed.
This was followed by a period of decline as Jamie and Jon had both faded out of the game, and Bradley took a serious step back too. I started playing with Ross Jenkins, as the sole survivor of my region’s generation of Magic players, with an aim to salving the one thing in my life that had been going well.
The rest of my life got better, but this was a pretty shocking year for Magic. I was decent at Time Spiral Limited, but couldn’t bring myself to actually get on trains and things to go events in England, especially when no one I used to travel with wanted to go. I ended up working pretty hard to get a lift from the emerging Glasgow players, and went to a few things with them.
In the summer of this year, the week before I moved to Glasgow for university, I went pretty deep in Nationals off the back of my Limited performance. The Constructed deck we were playing just wasn’t up to it – I’m not sure why it happened the way it did, but the infrastructure in Dundee Magic had just totally collapsed and there was no drive at all for competitive play.
Shortly after I moved, I was pleased to see this wasn’t so in Glasgow. They wanted to travel and test, didn’t mind spending money to get it done, etc. Early doors I felt I had a good handle on the Limited format, so I was optimistic about my changes when I opened a completely insane Sealed pool, that I’d get to Draft, and I’d be on the Pro Tour again. Unfortunately, I lost my win-and-in to Neil Rigby, who had worse cards than me, but talked me into losing.
I don’t remember being more disappointed with myself in Magic, ever.
The rest of the year is pretty much written off in terms of accomplishing anything, except for a random PTQ in which I go x-0 through the swiss, only to lose to Matt Light (who must have been about 3…) in the quarters.
This period features a pretty horrific incident in which I don’t play any sideboarded games of the mirror with the Red deck, then splash Tarmogoyf because it’s good game one… only to find that it’s basically impossible to win game two or three.
6-1 in Limited again, which in retrospect is less of a consolation and more of a twist of the knife. Two years in a row my deck was built poorly when it needn’t have been, so that I can’t take advantage of what would otherwise have been an awesome result.
The following week I travel to a GP, but can’t source the cards to change my deck from Red Green to Mono Red, so I don’t even play. Play the sideboarded games, boys and girls.
The year actually features numerous abortive GP trips, where I didn’t really test but went to them – perhaps with some romanticised notion of “traveling a bit while I’m at university”. Buffoon-like. Work out what you want, and go get it.
This period overall featured a few too many wasted opportunities for my liking. Anyway, that’s all for this instalment – time for the second “Magic Player Fable”!
The Miserable Old Rat
Once upon a time, there was a miserly old rat. The rat, either through happenstance of being old and being around at the time, or through his greedy nature, hoarded up a vast collection of shiny wrappers from out of production junk. Over time, the rat used his shiny wrappers to trade for more wrappers, and ended up with so many of the old out of print wrappers that no one else had even seen one, let alone owned one themselves.
One day, the rat walked into his hoarding room, and tripped over a stack of loot, causing the whole horde to come crashing down on him, crushing and squeezing him into a sticky paste. The rat’s dying words were “Oh no! My wrappers are only Near Mint now due to falling damage, and they’ll be heavily played by the time they soak up my blood! Nooooooo!!”
Meanwhile, across the street, the delivery man was dropping off “retro sweeties, with retro wrappers” to the hipster supermarket, and all the young rats were ever so excited to get to see them, that they didn’t even noticed the old miser rat had been crushed.
Several weeks later, his soggy, old versions of cards, that everyone has anyway, were pushed into a landfill, along with the miserly rat, as he didn’t even have funds for his own funeral.
The moral of the story is: Don’t bleed on your cards, they’ll get soggy.
All the best!
[schema type=”review” url=”http://www.manaleak.com/” name=”Memoirs of a MTG Grinder: European Championships (Part 2/4) – Wisdom Fae Under the Bridge by Graeme McIntyre” description=”This article covers ups and downs of Graeme McIntyre’s middle years of playing Magic: learning Limited, his Pro Tours, being a part of community and a testing group.” ]