While I was writing my last report about Grand Prix Atlanta, I had some time to think about the prerequisites necessary for a good story, and which I look for when deciding whether to write about a tournament. Generally, when someone writes about a tournament, it’s because they did well. There may be other interesting aspects tied into their journey that they want to share with the world, the stories that get thrown in for extra value such as an escapade about lost luggage, an interesting corner-case scenario that happened during a match, or other hardships they encountered during their odyssey—however, the main motivation is success. “I’m awesome and did well playing deck X and tournament Y, and I’m going to tell you all about it.” My prior reports had been based on a similar correlation between success and writing, but lately I’ve become more aware about what I actually care about: the ambient buzz surrounding an event, the details that get glossed over but shouldn’t—the scene.
“Hey man, how’re you doing?”
“In life or the tournament?”
“Life, of course. I couldn’t care less about the tournament!”
-Me, talking with a friend at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, Barcelona, 2012
Now, one must ask, “Why am I reading this?” Here you are, sitting at your computer, scouring the most privileged Magic: the Gathering strategy website, ChannelFireball.com, for information that will help you smash little Timmy the next time you get paired against him at FNM, and you stumble on this “useless” haystack, a modest seven-thousand words, nearly devoid of meaty strategic goodness.
How are you supposed to react? I say “privileged” solely based on the fact that I am producing content for them, and they are lucky to have me. This is a Magic strategy site. What is this fluff doing here? Well folks, I’ll tell you. It’s awesome—granted, for some people, these reports aren’t particularly interesting because they aren’t automaton-compliant. They won’t tell you specifically how to beat Delver with Naya Pod. This is not a sideboard guide.
What this is is a glimpse into the experience of a large, professional-level event, the highs and lows that make people come back for more.
And yes, there’s also some Magic strategy thrown in here and there.
Writing about a Limited event can be a bit trickier than Constructed, because it’s more difficult to captivate an audience—just look at event coverage. There are no decklists in Limited, and decklists are one of the most powerful tools to slap into an article to transform a back-alley no-name into a mainstay on Broadway. Still, it’s possible to write about a Limited format regarding draft/sealed archetypes, what to expect, what to main deck, and so on, and have a meaningful work at the end, but it won’t captivate people as easily. Luckily for me Columbus was Constructed, so even after you’ve wasted 10 minutes skimming this train wreck, you’ll at least have a Modern list to battle with.
Where was I?
Me being awesome. Check.
Ah yes, here we are: Columbus, Modern, decklist.
Modern was going to be one of the formats that I’d need to pay a lot of attention to during the summer months. For one, both the World Magic Cup, and more importantly the Players Championship, were going to be Modern. There weren’t going to be any more events between then and now other than M13 Limited, and of course Cube drafts online. As it turned out, Cube drafting was a giant monkey wrench thrown into the workings of my well-oiled machinery, and the subsequent chaos brought my content-producing productivity to a near halt. Cube queues paid out in Onslaught draft sets, and after running the gauntlet nearly thirty times, let’s just say that I’ll be in no short supply anytime soon.
There was only one other Modern event before the World Magic Cup and Players Championship besides GP Columbus, and that was GP Yokohama in late June. The last Modern event had been GP
Hoth Lincoln back in February. Yokohama came and went, and it left a new metagame contender in its wake: Naya Birthing Pod. All of the previous Pod decks had been BGW Melira-based, but this new take on Pod featured the ever-powerful Avacyn Restored rare Restoration Angel, in combination with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.
Grand Prix Yokohama 2012 – Top 8
The deck is pretty good at beating most aggro decks into the ground, especially with four Kitchen Finks maindeck. I don’t know how much Zoo everyone expected, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be on the Kird Ape side of the matchup. I made the deck on Magic Online, played it for a while, and came to a few conclusions. There is a high level of redundancy between the eight Birthing Pods/[card chord of calling]Chords of Calling[/card], four [card kiki-jiki, mirror breaker]Kiki-Jikis[/card], four Restoration Angels, and ten mana accelerators, which allows the deck to mulligan well.
For the uninitiated, the deck functions like this: [card kiki-jiki, mirror breaker]Kiki-Jiki[/card] + Restoration Angel = win.
Kiki-Jiki has haste and makes hasty copies of non-legendary creatures. Restoration Angel blinks non-Angel permanents. Much like the finals of Pro Tour Philadelphia, Infinity
Faeries Angels ensue when the two cards are on the battlefield together. Still with me? Good. The deck sounds simple right? Well, it’s not, and it wasn’t for me. I found out the hard way that there are a plethora of subtle nuances to piloting the deck that my bumbling, inner ogre was simply unaware of from the beginning. After hemorrhaging packs for a few hours, I managed to get a feel for my guns and was a quick-shooting duelist soon afterwards.
There are a lot of interesting lines to take. Wall of Roots is one of the most broken cards in the deck, and functions like a two-mana Gilded Lotus if you know how to use it. Between using its mana ability both on your turn and the opponent’s, and being two mana for Chord of Calling, Wall of Roots lets you gain an almost unfair tempo advantage over the subsequent turns—all while blocking.
Maximizing Wall of Roots is very important, and will often lead to playing Restoration Angel on your turn (using Wall of Roots, Birds of Paradise, and two lands), blinking your Birds of Paradise, and then playing Chord of Calling on the opponent’s turn (with only a net loss of one for the Chord).
Village Bell-Ringer is a cheaper way to go infinite with Kiki-Jiki, but it isn’t a very powerful card in the deck otherwise. There are times when you can combo off with a few Birds/Hierarchs to cheapen your plays, but for the most part, the Bell-Ringer isn’t broken.
There are a number of utility creatures in the deck, including Qasali Pridemage, Spellskite, Wall of Omens, Cunning Sparkmage, Eternal Witness, Village Bell-Ringer, Murderous Redcap, and other sideboard creatures like [card linvala, keeper of silence]Linvala[/card], Aven Mindcensor, Ethersworn Canonist, Fulminator Mage, [card sigarda, host of herons]Sigarda[/card], and Stonecloaker.
Step 1: Chord for Witness, getting back Chord.
Step 2: Chord for Restoration Angel, blink [card eternal witness]Witness[/card], get back [card chord of calling]Chord[/card].
Step 3: Chord for [card kiki-jiki, mirror breaker]Kiki-Jiki[/card]. “To infinity, and beyond!”
Against decks without a lot of spot removal, the previous sequence is a reasonable way to end the game. However, it’s not difficult to disrupt, and it will usually require a bit of protection, which is where cards like Spellskite and reactive Restoration Angels get involved.
I wanted to move forward and improve the deck, streamline it, get rid of all the chaff for more action. It was pretty easy to get carried away with cool creatures to add simply because they “gave you value” with Restoration Angel and Birthing Pod but didn’t actually focus on winning. Huntmaster of the Fells, Geist-Honored Monk, and various other nonsense creatures made the deck lose focus by not helping it combo. I was interested in none of that.
Wait a minute. Finks is bad? Yes, Finks is terrible. “Why is that?” you ask. Well, Finks is only good against aggro and is your worst card in every other matchup. Even against aggro, cards like Path to Exile and Delver of Secrets make Kitchen Finks ineffective. Cunning Sparkmage and Murderous Redcap are both weak and don’t belong in the maindeck barring some metagame decision. They helped out in the mirror and against decks with Soul Warden, but nowhere else.
About a week before the tournament, I messaged Wrapter to see what he had been brewing up. I was looking for input about other decks, because I’d played a ton with Pod and nothing else. I’d had trouble against decks like Jund, Living End, Past in Flames, and UW Tron. Jund’s worst cards were its creatures, and if they drew enough Kitchen Finks instead of infinite removal, then winning wasn’t too difficult—although it was still close. Living End was rough—one lone Ethersworn Canonist and Spellskite wasn’t enough against quad main deck Ingot Chewers and a few Beast Within.
The Past in Flames matchup wasn’t bad, especially after I moved a Canonist to the maindeck, but that was a terrible card to draw in almost every other matchup. UW Tron was harder to beat than RG Tron because it was more resilient to land destruction like Fulminator Mage, Avalanche Riders, and Sowing Salt. The LD package didn’t trump Gifts Ungiven for Unburial Rites and [card elesh norn, grand cenobite]Elesh Norn[/card], and she(?) was a huge problem for the deck. RG Tron was much easier to handle, their biggest threat is Karn Liberated—however, after a Sowing Salt, Wurmcoil Engine was the only real threat that they would be able to play (which is a joke against us).
“Yo Wrapter, what are we playing in Modern?”
After talking to Wrapter for a while, he was convinced that the deck was good for the Grand Prix. He’d also been playing a lot with the Pod deck, and had an updated list that addressed some of my concerns. He’d started to incorporate blue for Phyrexian Metamorph as a way to deal with cards like [card elesh norn, grand cenobite]Elesh Norn[/card].
We tested other cards like Dismember, [card kataki, war's wage]Kataki[/card], [card sigarda, host of herons]Sigarda[/card], and Sowing Salt, but they proved unnecessary. Our finished list had a few cards that were excellent upgrades, namely Deceiver Exarch. One of the main problems with the pure Naya version was that it wasn’t unfair enough. It didn’t abuse Birthing Pod as well as it could have. Using Pod once per turn was underwhelming at times and just too slow. Deceiver Exarch and Zealous Conscripts changed all that by allowing us to Pod more than once per turn. Restoration Angel made Deceiver Exarch even sicker.
Another great addition was Phantasmal Image, which not only helped address the [card elesh norn, grand cenobite]Elesh Norn[/card] problem, but created an amazing chain that would allow you to win “out of nowhere”. If you had a Pod, a one-drop, a two-drop—along with some life and mana—you could win in one turn.
Step 1: Use Birthing Pod, sacrificing your two-drop. Get Deceiver Exarch, untap Birthing Pod.
Step 2: Use Birthing Pod, sacrificing your one-drop. Get Phantasmal Image, copy Deceiver Exarch, untap your Birthing Pod.
Step 3: Use Birthing Pod, sacrificing your Phantasmal Imaged Deceiver Exarch. Get Restoration Angel, blink Deceiver Exarch, untap Birthing Pod.
Step 4: Use Birthing Pod, sacrificing Restoration Angel. Get Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. You win the prize.
Against the less-informed, it’s relatively easy to set up the combo, but it often requires a bit of life since it involves using Birthing Pod four times. The new setup allows the deck to kill on turn three if you can open with a one-drop, two Wall of Roots and another one-drop on turn two, followed by the Pod for the kill.
We added a third Noble Hierarch because drawing mana acceleration is really important. Basically, you always want to draw two, and always want one on turn one. Birthing Pod and Chord of Calling both make accelerants good, so we wanted to maximize them.
Glen Elendra Archmage was a complete upgrade from Murderous Redcap. The deck had problems interacting with faster, non-creature decks like Past in Flames and Living End, and the Archmage was a good addition that was miles better than Ethersworn Canonist. Additionally, the Archmage can generate a win by itself with Pod. As long as the Archmage doesn’t have a -1/-1 counter, you can use Pod to get Zealous Conscripts, followed by Kiki-Jiki after the Conscripts untaps the Pod.
Overall, I was happy with the deck, although I wasn’t sold on the mana base. I’d had problems with Blood Moon and lost games to that card alone. After the Grand Prix, I experimented with a revised mana base, although I haven’t come to a good conclusion yet.
I was quite happy with myself, partly because I’d gotten a lot of practice in with the deck that I was planning on playing at the GP, and also because my level of clairvoyance was off the charts regarding my deck choice from the get go. Aside from a few pieces of unfinished business, it seemed like I was all set to play in the Grand Prix.
I visited Columbus once before in 2010 for the Legacy Grand Prix. My endeavors then hadn’t been fruitful as far as the tournament was concerned, but I’d still left with some knowledge of the town and places that I wanted to visit again. Regardless of how much I thought I knew about Columbus, I didn’t want to navigate those waters without knowing the currents like the back of my hand. I went through my normal process of scouting on Yelp, along with other sites, before coming to the conclusion that my dining options weren’t going to be as lavish for the upcoming weekend as they had been in Atlanta—no sir, it wasn’t even close. Still, I’d managed to find a few places that sounded sweet.
Another point that I had to consider when looking for places to go was the fact that my return flight wasn’t until 5:30 PM on Monday. Normally I wouldn’t fly out so late, but I’d managed to find a fare that I couldn’t say no to at basically half price. The catch? It had some weird flight times.
It was a Wednesday, back in the beginning of June, and I’d been looking at Columbus flights for a while with little luck. I mention luck, and by that I mean the prices were higher than what I wanted to pay, and there were very few ideal flight times. Normally I would buy tickets on Tuesday morning because that’s when fares are at their lowest, but I hadn’t found anything on TripAdvisor.com. I was chatting with someone about how all the flights to Columbus were terrible, and that I was thinking about using miles to get a ticket instead of buying one. Then, randomly, I went to Delta to see if there were any other flight options, even though TripAdvisor had searched through Delta’s fares already. Well, lo and behold, I see a fare that hadn’t shown up earlier. I recognized immediately that I wasn’t going to get another chance to book the flight, and so I bought it right there. WHAM! The itinerary was ugly, three flights each way, leaving at 6:00 AM on Friday, returning late on Monday with a tight connector in the middle, but it was only $250. It seemed worth my time.
Given that I had an entire day on Monday to spend in scenic Columbus, I decided it was probably worth researching the highlights of the city. As it turned out, there were a lot of options if I was game for embracing nature and going to parks and all that jazz. There were some museum exhibits as well, but I wasn’t as interested in those. I made an itinerary, keeping in mind that I’d probably be walking around for most of the day. I compiled a list of food places that looked interesting—including Skillet, Northstar Café, Tasi, El Arepazo, Plantain Café, The Thurman Café, Schmidt’s Sausage Haus, Barley’s Brewing, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Whit’s Frozen Custard, and the 2012 Jazz and Rib Fest. Most were within walking distance of the site, the Greater Columbus Convention Center, next to the Drury Hotel, my home away from home for the upcoming weekend, with a few exceptions that would require transportation or outlandish stamina.
As the week before the Grand Prix came and went, trickling into the past like the sands of an hourglass, so had the tasks I’d needed to complete before leaving. Everything seemed to be in order, and all that remained was getting up for my 6:00 AM flight. I’d considered going to a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, but decided against it in the end, after discovering that it was 165 minutes long, and that if I saw it, I wouldn’t get back until after 3:00 AM—far too late considering I had planned on getting up at 4:30 AM to leave. C’est la vie.
Travel day came and went, and while I’d previously regretted taking 6:00 AM flights, this one wasn’t that bad. For whatever reason, my troubles from flights past didn’t come back to haunt me this time around, and I was able to make my way through the three legs of my journey with relative ease (I suppose it was because I’d become accustomed to frequent traveling, had found my swing for enduring hardships that would cause a rookie to falter, and was an all-around master). After a layover in Salt Lake City and Minneapolis, I’d managed to hopscotch my way across the country to Columbus.
The weather in Columbus was actually a bit worse that I’d planned for. I knew that it was going to be hot, in the high 80’s, but I hadn’t checked on the humidity—which as it turned out, was my downfall. Let’s just say that most people would have confused this report’s scene with my last one in Atlanta. It was downright humid, flirting with discomfort, but still manageable. I met some friends at the airport, and we split a cab. After checking into the hotel, registering for the Grand Prix, and scouting some dealing for cards, we were off to dinner across the street at Barley’s Brewery.
I’d been to Barley’s the last time I visited Columbus, and it’d been my favorite brewery restaurant. In fact, I’d liked it so much that I’d gone back a second time for lunch before flying out. The menu leans slightly towards starch and fried foods, which can be frustrating if you’re looking for a light meal, but other than that, I’ve found the overall quality above average compared to similar establishments. My standards are high, so when I say the food is “fine”, “okay”, or “reasonable”, that’s a good thing.
The other brewery restaurant option I’d visited prior was Elevator, and while the menu displayed more potential because of the creativity, the execution failed. I’m not sure what it was about the half-cooked Buffalo wings, but they just didn’t quite do it for me. On the other hand, the beer at Barley’s was much better than at Elevator. Again, where Elevator shone in terms of culinary possibility, they fell flat with their brews.
The dinner party included a few other people, eight in total. I’ve always had difficulty with menus—actually, “difficulty” may not be the right word to use. I’m meticulous. Thus, I often take a while to figure out what I’m going to order. I’m a slow reader, and my ongoing six-month bout with Seven Pillars of Wisdom is proof of that. In this case, I finally settled on the Clevelander Polski Feast which included char-grilled kielbasa, bratwurst, and bangers served with grilled ale-washed onionskraut, buttermilk chive mashed potatoes & gravy, and both fresh hot horseradish and pale ale mustard on the side. To wash that mammoth plate down, I paired it with some of their Le Goodale Monstre, a Belgian Abbey Dubbel, and a MacLenny’s Scottish Ale, both of which were delicious.
I decided to forgo dessert at Barley’s in favor of a trip to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream to investigate their plethora of flavors. I’d been on a quest to find the best salted caramel ice cream, and it had taken me to many destinations including Molly Moon’s in Seattle, Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco, and Tara’s in Oakland (I’m not sure which is better between Molly Moon’s and Bi-Rite, and will have to sample both again. They’re very close.) Sadly though, Jeni’s fell short of the mark. It was still good, and I enjoyed the flavors I tried. Along with the salted caramel, I also had their goat cheese with red cherries and whisky & pecans. The goat cheese ice cream was quite mild, though it did manage to capture that tang that defines most goat cheese. The red cherries helped compliment the ice cream with additional bright, tart acidity that helped balance out the creaminess. The whisky & pecans was much more savory than the goat cheese ice cream. Whole, double-toasted, salty pecans riddled the silky whisky ice cream, infused with subtle notes of butterscotch, coconut, honey, and vanilla. Delicious. The salted caramel was fine, but not what I was hoping for—it was much milder than at other places. The defining, assertive, burnt caramel flavor wasn’t as vibrant, and it was more like a soft, fuzzy, pastel version of what should be a bold, defining, primary color. But hey, ice cream is still delicious. Anom nom nom…
Eventually the rest of my roommates arrived, although their journeys were more “interesting” than mine. Wrapter’s connector had been delayed multiple times before being canceled, which left him marooned in Texas. His options were either to not show up to the Grand Prix, or fly to Cincinnati, rent a car, and drive to Columbus, arriving at 4:00 AM. I found out all of this from Luis, and after being asleep for some amount of time, I was woken up by Wrapter coming into the room. There are beats and there are rough beats. And here I am complaining about the weather.
There was some good that had developed from Wrapter’s plight—we had a car. Being mobile meant it would be much easier to go places we normally wouldn’t without taking a cab. After we’d finished up with the player meeting with the other 1,050 people, we were off to brunch at Skillet. I looked forward to going here the most of all. At a certain point, you just know a place is going to be good. I knew that Skillet would be special, and after tackling the age-old question of “How do you fit six people in a four-door, midsize sedan?” (the trunk obviously), we were at our destination.
The universe tried its best to detour our journey. There were absurd obstacles like a 10k race zigzagging through downtown where the runners were pelted with colored cornstarch, cutting us off at every angle from the clear path to the end of the rainbow. Even when we finally made it to Skillet, this tiny restaurant with seating for thirty, we had a bit of a wait before getting settled in. The couple ahead of us, denizens of Columbus, asked us how we found this place. Everyone pointed to me, and I just smiled. After waiting “twenty minutes”, which was ten minutes after the first twenty, we were promptly seated.
I’d taken advantage of my reconnaissance skills, and expertly scouted the menu in the window while waiting outside, which let me successfully evade the pitfall of taking too long to decide what to get (according to me else at least. “A wizard is never late. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.”). I started off with some bottomless “Café Brioso Vienna Roasted Indonesian Sulawesi Toraja” aka Italian Roast from Café Breezy aka C-O-F-F-E-E.
I decided to order the Steak & Eggs (grilled cracked pepper Berkshire pork flatiron served with two fried Stoutsville eggs with pork belly and Swiss chard hash). Yes, that sounded as amazing then as it does now. I wasn’t able to contain my sweet tooth, succumbed to its temptations as I saw the griddled cinnamon roll, served warm with string icing and caramel on the menu, and immediately ordered one. “Yes, the force is strong with this one.” It wasn’t a complete domination though, as I managed to regain some willpower and split the confection with Luis. The steak & eggs was a popular dish at the table, and by the time Wrapter went to order, the last one had been taken. The run-bads continue! He ended up ordering the Blackberry & Farmer’s cheese pancakes (Rhodes Farm berries, Laurel Valley cheddar curds, and Ohio maple syrup). Wrapter and I traded hostages at the end, and while the pancakes were decent, the pork was better. “Bacon is good you say? Inconceivable!”
The cinnamon roll was light and airy, if that’s believable, and didn’t have the common problem of being mistaken for a dense, filling bagel’s attractive cousin. I only wished there had been a bit more caramel, otherwise it was excellent. The steak & eggs were also quite good, appropriately spiced, with large chunks of cracked black pepper and a pan jus that brought the dish together with the Swiss chard hash. The eggs were fried perfectly, well, close enough, and rained golden, yolky goodness over the pork cutlet as I sliced right through them. Afterwards we decided to game the meal. I had a pretty good sweat, my card enduring the challenge as others were deemed safe, lasting all the way to the last two—a bout with Reitzl in the other corner. “I’ll pay 40%” he says. I suppose there may have been other documented cases of “No Sirs” that have broken the sound barrier, but not many. It’s strange how much tastier a meal is when it’s free. I would have never thought my steak & eggs could have been any more scrumptious, but just then, they were.
It finally came time to play in the Grand Prix. I managed to get paired against Mono-Red in round four, my cool countenance hiding the storm of lament raging inside of me about playing a lone Kitchen Finks. “The tournament will take care of Mono-Red”, said Wrapter. Thanks bro.
I won’t say that I played well that round. In fact, I made more mistakes than I was expecting. This was a warm-up round, but even then, I was still playing a bit loose. Good prevailed in the end, and I managed to win after [card thalia, guardian of thraben]Thalia[/card] caused a few problems for Evil. The seas calmed significantly after round four, and I found my stroke, enabling me to power forward throughout the day without waning. When the day was over, I had surged to the top of the standings, finishing 9-0. A first for me.
I’d managed to kill with the one-turn Pod chain in a feature match against BW tokens (found here), which was nice. In the last round I got paired against Affinity, and I inwardly chuckled as I brought in my pair of Ancient Grudges. Some cards just aren’t fair. The rest of the room was also doing well with Wrapter at 7-2 and Luis at 8-1. We finished early, and after herding the cats, we headed to Schmidt’s Sausage Haus in the heart of the German Village. Schmidt’s was one of the more popular destinations, and after looking at the menu and photos online, I’d hoped it would be good, although deep down I suspected that it was only going to be acceptable. My suspicions were correct.
The number for our dining party was holding as constant as the Northern Star at eight, although the composition had changed every time. This time Josh Cho, GerryT, Kaitlin Lindberg, Gindy, and their friend (sorry buddy, I’m terrible with names) joined Wrapter, Luis, and myself. The menu at Schmidt’s was a fairly classical German one, but it had quite a selection of desserts such as the half-pound crème puffs they were famous for. I decided to get their Autobahn buffet which included various sausages and other fare like German potato salad, braised cabbage, sauerkraut, and other various offerings. Everything was fine, but not exceptional. My sweet tooth came raging back with a vengeance, and I split two of the crème puffs with another helpless soul: mocha and chocolate-dipped peanut butter. The mocha flavor was a bit weak, and I favored the stronger-tasting peanut butter, which was tasty indeed. We finished a bit late, and it was close to midnight by the time we were done. I had big plans for Sunday, and didn’t want to have my performance sabotaged by a lack of sleep.
I wasn’t very happy with the breakfast options at the Drury hotel. I’d foraged a tiny bit on Saturday before the player meeting, because I knew I wasn’t going to be eating until much later, but I had a different game plan for today. Yes, it was breakfast bright and early at Tasi. As I walked with Luis to our destination, I couldn’t help but think about the wonderful French toast I was going to have. For whatever reason, I’d also been on a quest to find the most delectable French toast. Maybe it’s just good food in general, but I have a passion for finding the best available. Go figure. We arrived early because day two started at 9:00 AM and Tasi opened an hour earlier, so we wanted to have the time to enjoy a good meal and a cushion so we didn’t have to rush.
The French toast was almost as good as I’d hoped. Three slices of Brioche were accompanied by gooey, flambéed bananas, maple syrup, and sprinkled with a “healthy” dusting of powdered sugar. I had to round out my meal, balance it, and ordered some coffee and a side of bacon, both of which fought a good fight to combat the sweetness of the French toast. The resulting harmony was blissful.
Despite my excellent start on Sunday morning, things just didn’t go as well as I would have liked from there. I needed to 3-2 to draw in, managed to limp into needing to win my second to last round, but failed. Alas, a Top 8 wasn’t to be.
The last round featured me against Brian Demars, playing Bant midrange (found here).
I managed to win game one, but ran into a bit of trouble in game two. It was my turn at some point before my main phase where a bunch of things happened. Brian summoned a Vendilion Clique, which resolved, and targeted me. My hand had some action, so I decided to respond and summoned a Restoration Angel, blinked my Wall of Roots, and followed that up with Chord of Calling for two, fetched Phantasmal Image, which copied the Vendilion Clique (the ability targeted him). He responded with a Path to Exile on my Restoration Angel. Path resolved, and then I, clumsily I may add, forgot to resolve my Clique’s trigger that had targeted him. Silly me. I’m not as young as I used to be, and therefore it takes a bit longer for the neurons to fire, connecting the dots.
Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, that giant traffic jam of a stack. Everything else resolved and I went to draw for my turn. “Hey, what’s going on? Why is that judge telling me to stop?” Moments later I found out that I had allegedly drawn an extra card. “Nonsense!” I said. “Why would I go and do a stupid thing like that?” I denied the lynch mob charges, being very convincing and adamant, at least in my mind. However, after the cards had been counted up, it was clear that I’d drawn an extra card. WHAM! Game loss for me. Oh well. Game three wasn’t as exciting as the first two, and involved taking a double-mulligan on the play (whine more?). Despite my very best efforts, the odds were stacked too heavily against me, and Good could not triumph. I tried to hold on for dear life, fighting tooth and nail, and in the end conceded to a lethal board after time had been called.
After the Swiss dust had settled, culling the Top 8 from the rest of the field, I found myself the proud owner of another sparkly Top 32 finish. I wasn’t exactly thrilled, considering that I’d started off 9-0 and gotten the first game-loss of my professional “career” in the process of obtaining my glittering new toy, and that’s speaking with great restraint. Nevertheless, a Top 32 finish was still reasonable. I was famished, having not eaten all day after breakfast, and made my way over to the public market across from the convention center to snack on some very mediocre Indian food.
After returning to the venue, inflated with food and deflated in spirit, I hung around with my friends for a short while at the site before we headed over to the Jazz and Rib fest that was going on down in the Arena district by the Scioto river. There were a ton of barbeque teams, selling their wares, with billboards above their trailers flaunting their resumes. Stands lined the street, and there was thick smoke in the air, foretelling of glorious barbeque. As we walked by, nearly suffocating from the smoke in the heat and humidity of that sunny summer Columbus day, we saw rows of trophies from past competitions, all displayed very proudly as symbols of conquest from delicious, hard-fought battles.
I had misplayed by eating earlier. The Indian food in my stomach was mocking me: “See, you should have waited!” I walked up and down barbeque row, surveying the various offerings, all the while listening to the syncopated upbeat jazz in the background. I was trying pretty hard not to enjoy myself, but eventually I gave in, picked myself up, and put everything behind me. It wasn’t useful to dwell, so I didn’t. The barbeque options looked okay, but not mind-blowing. I’d had some good ‘cue in my day, and nothing here seemed to scream out, “EAT ME!” Everyone else got racks of ribs from a stand that had a lot of billboards and trophies and deemed the endeavor a success. My opinion was more lukewarm than anything else. It took a while to find some seats, and while it was unfortunately in the sun, I managed to make it through the meal, watching on as all those other people gorged themselves. I denied offers of ribs, more than once I might add, but succumbed in the end and tried one. It was only okay.
On the way back, we decided to go see The Dark Knight Rises, which was showing in about an hour at 8:30 PM. However, I had plans to go get dessert at Whit’s Frozen Custard regardless of how many people wanted to join me. Folks, never get in between a man and his ice cream. Bad things will happen. Given the fire in my eye, the sharp edge of determination in my voice, and my countenance with more resolve than the Man of Steel himself, they could only relent: “Okay…we can go get ice cream.” “Yay!” I elatedly exclaimed. We had to hurry over to Whit’s because it was far from the theater, and we were probably going to have to take a taxi back.
Whit’s Frozen Custard had a simple setup. Three flavors (vanilla,
chocolate, and a rotating weekly special), toppings, and sauces. That
was it. “Don’t mess with a good thing,” some people say. In this case they were
right. Frozen custard differs from normal ice cream because it has a
higher butterfat content, less air incorporated during churning, and is served at a warmer temperature than ice cream (28 degrees F, versus 18 degrees F), factors which make it smoother. I got a special called ShoNo: two scoops of vanilla with hot fudge, hot caramel sauce, and toasted pecans. I hadn’t had “ice cream” that was creamier. I was definitely coming
We managed to flag a taxi down after a few minutes hunting, and made our way back to the theater in time. There was a bank error in our favor, and the movie was free for the entire group, except Ben Swartz, who showed his gratitude for our company by treating us. Thanks Ben, you’re the best! The Dark Knight Rises was quite good. I kept hearing that it wasn’t as good as The Dark Knight, and that’s probably true, but I’d want to watch them all again to reevaluate.
The story came to an end for the rest of my friends. They all packed up and left town, and the charge in Columbus was being led by a lone banner man: myself. I said earlier that I’d researched some places to visit on Monday. I had the entire first half of the day to do as I wished before being forced to leave for the airport to catch my 5:30 PM flight. I decided to head back to Tasi for breakfast because I had seen an item on their menu that caught my eye the morning before, a Monte Cristo sandwich with a fried egg. Sadly, it wasn’t on the same level as the French toast I’d been fortunate enough to experience the day prior, and left merely content. I walked around the Scioto River, near where the replica of the Santa Maria is, and visited the Scioto Mile, the Columbus Commons, Topiary Park, and Schilling Park. Yes, I walked a lot that day.
I stopped at a few places to eat throughout the day, most notably Katzinger’s Delicatessen. I’d recommend going to Katzinger’s if you’re ever in the area. It’s something special. Inside, they have counters and shelves full of artisan breads, cheeses, salads, oils, spirits, and other assorted fine packaged goods in addition to their deli counter and eating area. I had a delicious Reuben sandwich joined with a dill pickle and a slice of Reeces pie for dessert. It’s okay to have dessert after every meal, right? I sure hope so. It was probably a good thing I was walking all over the place so that I could burn off all those clingy calories. After lunch dessert, I headed back to the hotel, but not before stopping by Whit’s “on the way” to sample their chocolate and the weekly special, espresso toffee chip. I preferred my creamier ShoNo from the night before.
My journey back wasn’t very eventful, even with a 35-minute layover in Memphis. By the time I arrived home, I’d had time to reflect on the weekend, its highs and lows. I knew that I’d need to focus more, “tighten up” as they say. With Grand Prix Boston and the Players Championship coming up, I was certain to have a dish stacked high with preparation work. As a child, my parents taught me to clean my plate. Hopefully, I’d continue to not disappoint.