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Breaking Through – On the Road Again

Denver to Montreal: 900 dollars
Chicago to Montreal: 900 dollars

Yea, that makes sense. Flights were extraordinarily high for what seemed like no reason other than the fact that they were technically international. I had put off buying my ticket to Montreal until a few weeks beforehand sure, but this was still insane. In an audible, I decided to look into driving. From my parents place we would need to spend a good 12 or 13 hours on the 800 mile journey, but it would still be relatively inexpensive compared to the alternative. But there was a detail that still needed to be filled in. Who would “we” be?

Naturally, I dipped my hand into the tank of degenerates. I don’t mean that I skimmed the top, I mean I dug down and scraped the bottom. Sure enough, I managed to find the two fattest degens there were, just hanging out at the bottom, all sad and mopey-like, and decided they would do. Sigh. Owen Turtenwald and Brandon Large in a car together with myself for 12 hours? What could possibly go wrong?

Brandon decided to take the train up from St Louis and I had to go pick Owen up from Milwaukee, but once I had them back at my parents house, it was time for one night out on the town and then we would leave in the morning (alright, the afternoon, lets be honest). The drive was mostly uneventful for the first few hours. I drove while those two monguises played countless games of Ascension on Owen’s iPod.

At one point, Owen decided to have us play this mental Magic game where each play gets 1 mana (plus 1 more each turn) of any color. You cannot draw cards, you discard down to 0 each turn, and your mana empties at the end of turn. Games began with things like turn 1 [card]Goblin Guide[/card]. [card]Nekrataal[/card] and any other 2 for 1 creature ended up being quite good. Once it was established that you keep your graveyard, [card]Reveillark[/card] became a huge go-to creature once you hit 5 or 6 mana. We were playing Modern legal cards only as to keep the game from being too degenerate, but as we continued to play though, I brewed up a scenario that made us have plenty of in-car bannings.

Turn 1: [card]Cursecatcher[/card] Turn 2: [card]Spiketail Hatchling[/card] Turn 3: [card]Savor the Moment[/card] Turn 4: [card]Stitch in Time[/card] Turn 5: [card]Time Warp[/card] Turn 6: [card]Walk the Aeons[/card] Turn 7: [card]Sins of the Past[/card] targeting [card]Walk the Aeons[/card] Turn 8: [card]Recollect[/card] targeting [card]Time Warp[/card], [card]Time Warp[/card] Turn 9: [card]Eternal Witness[/card] on [card]Time Warp[/card], [card]Time Warp[/card] Turn 10: [card]Time Stretch[/card]

And then you could use just about any combination of cards over your next two turns to win the game pretty easily from [card ulamog, the infinite gyre]Ulamog[/card] to [card]Hidetsugu’s Second Rite[/card] (we had already banned [card]Sorin’s Vengeance[/card]). Once any [card]Time Walk[/card]s were banned, we decided that [card]The Rack[/card] also had to go, as it was too good. Eventually, we grew tired of the game and I came up with another mental Magic game…

Mental Magic Momir

Alright, so yes, it was difficult to keep this one unbiased, but it was still fun for a little while. Basically each of them would play a game of Momir like normal, only whenever they would go to make a creature, I would be in charge of coming up with said creature. I decided to just name the first creature that came to my mind each time (with no duplicates), which turned into a pretty fun game for a few games of it at least. You can’t be too attached to winning when it comes to mental magic Momir though, because there will always be someone complaining that the creature allotment is not fair etc, but it was still good to pass the time.

We ended up making camp in London for the night and would pick up where we left off the next day. The rest of the drive went as expected, without too many wrenches thrown our way. There were speeding drivers, traffic, and almost running out of gas, but we made it to our hotel in Montreal none the less. We met a young man doing his best entrepreneur impersonation outside of the hotel, trying to sell us any and everything and a scan of the surrounding area confirmed about a dozen bars and/or clubs within a few blocks so we knew there was a good chance we would have to deal with some shenanigans at some point, but for now, we just headed to the site. We met up with some fellow mages, registered for the event, and then headed to the famous Schwartz smoked meat restaurant, which was quite insane for what its worth. With meat in our bellies, it was time for bed.

I opted against the sleep-in special that so many others have already written about. I figured the value in showing up and rebuilding your pool was too enticing and did not want to cut that short. Granted, as the tournament started late, the sleep-in special saw others arrive at the start of round 2, so who knows. My pool happened to be the same one I registered, which really takes some of the sweat out of the process. It was fine, but not amazing, especially considering that I was BW. Here is my list:

[deck]1 Gideon’s Lawkeeper
1 Stave Off
1 Alabaster Mage
2 Pacifism
1 Spirit Mantle
1 Gideon’s Avenger
1 Auramancer
1 Arbalest Elite
2 Peregrine Griffin
1 Aegis Angel
1 Reassembling Skeleton
1 Onyx Mage
2 Child of Night
1 Mind Rot
1 Devouring Swarm
1 Brink of Disaster
1 Gravedigger
1 Zombie Goliath
1 Call to the Grave
1 Sorin Markov
8 Plains
9 Swamp[/deck]

The pool had some nice top end cards like the [card aegis angel]Angel[/card] and [card sorin markov]Sorin[/card], but a lack of ways to deal with pesky utility creatures like an opposing [card]Gideon’s Lawkeeper[/card] and a shortage of removal in general, meant that my actual removal, like [card]Pacifism[/card], usually had to be deployed earlier than I would have liked, leaving me exposed to later threats.

I lost two rounds to mana issues, which is always a problem with Black White. One round was aided by the casting of [card]Acidic Slime[/card] and [card]Frost Titan[/card] from my opponent while the other round was just me holding 6 drops and double White cards in hand with 4 Swamps and a Plains in play as I slowly died to an [card]Azure Mage[/card]. My other loss on day one, in the win-and-in round was quite comical actually.

I was decked.

No, not in the sense that my opponent played a Jace and hit 10 cards after 10 cards. Not even in the [card]Jace’s Erasure[/card] sense of the word. In fact, my opponent was even playing Blue. I lost because I was on the draw and had to draw my card first when neither of us had any cards left in our library. Yep, that way.

The game started out with me on the back foot. He came out of the gates with a few creatures and I was forced to suit up an [card]Auramancer[/card] with [card]Spirit Mantle[/card] just to play defense. A [card]Sengir Vampire[/card] began to pick apart my life total though and I had to drop back to back [card]Peregrine Griffin[/card]s to hold back his Vampire and stabilize at 9 life. He played a second [card sengir vampire]Vampire[/card] and we continued to go creature for creature. I played a tapper, he played a [card]Child of Night[/card]. On and on this went, with neither of us able to break through the stalemate.

I assembled the [card]Devouring Swarm[/card] plus [card]Reassembling Skeleton[/card] combo, but did not have enough mana to kill both of his Vampires, meaning that one would grow to a 5/5 if he doubled blocked (he also had a [card]Giant Spider[/card] out), so I held back. My [card]Auramancer[/card] could never get to attacking because he had a [card]Cudgel Troll[/card] and [card]Vampire Outcasts[/card] that threatened to pick apart members of my team and give him life, which would hurt my racing chances anyway. At one point, I finally drew an [card]Aegis Angel[/card] that would allow my [card]Devouring Swarm[/card] to be indestructible and eventually break through his double Vampires. I passed the turn without enough mana to bring back the skeleton enough times and he naturally drew a [card]Trollhide[/card] to place on a [card]Sengir Vampire[/card]. Back to a stall I guess.

I then drew and played [card]Call to the Grave[/card], which would just eat a [card]Pacifism[/card]’d guy or two on his side of the board at first, but my [card]Reassembling Skeleton[/card] would combo with it nicely, so I thought I would begin to pull ahead. As if the script was written ahead of time, he sacrificed a guy with [card]Pacifism[/card] and then drew his own [card]Reassembling Skeleton[/card]. Back. To. Parity.

I was still waiting to draw my [card sorin markov]Sorin[/card], which I thought would break the game open, but he hit a stall breaker first in [card]Jade Mage[/card] with plenty of mana at the ready. I answered back with a topdecked [card]Alabaster Mage[/card] that would hold back his growing Saproling team for a little while. Turn by turn we drew lands or irrelevant dorks until it was looking like he would be able to alpha attack me for lethal on the following turn. Of course, my deck kept that from happening with a [card]Gravedigger[/card] that brought back a [card]Gideon’s Avenger[/card] in the nick of time. You see, a [card]Gideon’s Avenger[/card] plus [card]Alabaster Mage[/card] meant that all of his Saprolings were totally invalidated. Back to the grind.

I had 3 cards left in my library and needed the top one to be a [card sorin markov]Sorin[/card] to have a shot, it wasn’t. As is to be expected in situations like this, my planeswalker was having a vacation on the bottom of my library as I drew it and passed the turn back. He immediately passed back and that was all she wrote. We had a game 2, but despite him mulliganing to 5 and me only to 6, he had a pair of [card]Sengir Vampire[/card]s out before I hit my 3rd land drop and he moved on to his first day 2 ever while I was left searching for Planeswalker Points in other areas.

That night, Owen and I were left wondering the streets of Montreal, not having made day 2. We decided to eat at Schwartz smoked meats once again and then went out for a drink or two before calling it a night.

Sunday was much of what you expect from Sunday at a Grand Prix. The unfortunate souls that have not made day 2 can be seen huddled around a tabled of opened booster packs, scrapping for any sort of competition. This time there was also a giant plate of meat courtesy of (you guessed it) Schwartz that some other guys on the team had ordered. Intermittently, Luis would walk over and show us his 3 color deck from day 2 of the GP that would naturally go 3-0 despite containing [card]Child of Night[/card] on the splash. Owen could be seen leveling Matt Nass like it was his job and [card sorin markov]Sorin[/card] plus [card]Sorin’s Vengeance[/card] were played on back to back turns at least 3 different times. The GP was over, but life as a Professional Magic player went on, as always.

On the way back out of Montreal (and to Chicago for those curious) we stopped and had some terrible truck-stop food and then continued on our journey. It had started raining which made driving a little more tedious than normal, but we made it to Toronto and decided to look for a hotel to get out of the rain. After checking out 4 different hotels and being turned away at each, we found out that an insect show (similar to a dog show I was told) had the entire town in No Vacancy mode and that it would be difficult to find anything. We tried a few more hotels, spending an hour and a half driving around the city but nothing was available. Eventually, without even a stable offered to us for the night, we were back on the road in search of a different town. We eventually stopped in Woodstock where there was not an insect show in sight and made camp.

The next morning, we would find out that Owen had lost his Passport. We searched the room we had stayed in, the car, and the surrounding area about 1000 times before determining it was not there. Eventually, we found the receipt for the truck stop diner we had eaten the day before and sure enough, they had found his Passport. We then called the border and found out that they would legally have to let Owen back in if he could prove he was a U.S. Resident, and then the Passport could be mailed back later. So despite falling in love with the idea of jamming Owen in the trunk, or making him swim back to America, there he sat, in the passenger seat, as we drive over the bridge back home.

Without a tournament in North America until San Diego, I am seriously considering going to Santiago, Chile, but am unsure as of right now. Regardless, San Diego and Worlds will both be a lot of fun and I am looking forward to the break in between now and then. One thing is for certain though, there will be no road trips this time around…

Conley Woods

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