It’s Wednesday before the Pro Tour. I’m in a Quality Inn near Atlanta. It’s where I’ve been holed up for the past few days. Alone. Nothing to keep me company but a laptop computer, Magic Online, and a dream. Also, the internet allows me to communicate freely with all of my friends and family. But really, I’m holed up. Also, I’m free to leave this Quality Inn at any time. But I obviously don’t. The fact that I haven’t left in 2 days is really more of a telling commentary on the sad disarray of my life than any kind of testament to my willpower or determination to succeed at the Pro Tour. Still, I did have a lot of determination to succeed at this Pro Tour. Determination, sadly, is not nearly enough.

Why was I alone at a Quality Inn in Atlanta, when the rest of my team was testing in Roanoke, Virginia? Because I’m a very smart person. I had WotC book my Pro Tour flight from Vancouver to Atlanta after the Grand Prix there last weekend. Since that’s where the Pro Tour was, they couldn’t book me back to Roanoke. I figured that since Roanoke flies to Atlanta many times a day, it wouldn’t be that expensive for me to get a flight from Atlanta back home to Roanoke for a few days, then drive down to the Pro Tour with the rest of the team. I didn’t check the flight costs to verify, I just assumed it would be cheap.

I was wrong. It was about $400 for a short 1.5-hour flight. As a result, I decided to just save some money and effort, and get in some Quality testing instead. Quality Inn testing. The best kind.

Look. Say what you will about Quality Inn, but this Inn had some Quality WiFi. My connection was on point.

So here I am, playing Magic Online 12 hours a day in a hotel room, trying to figure out how to win this Pro Tour. I had a decent grasp on Limited.

Constructed? Well. Yeah. That’s a bit of a different ball game, now isn’t it? See, there was this lil’ ol deck called Splinter Twin. Over the last two months, it was a deck I became accustomed to playing in Modern. And then it got banned. That shook my world up.

In the aftermath of the Twin banning, I was like a lost puppy. I wandered from deck to deck, trying to find my home. I tested Chord decks. I tested Jund, UW Control, Jeskai, Burn, Zoo, you name it. I went through a wide list of decks, and none of them really seemed like what I wanted to be doing.

Somehow, I ended up with a deck that is, in all likelihood, just worse than any of those other decks. That’s how it goes, I guess.

Mono-Black Eldrazi

I liked this deck. But it wasn’t that good. I put in countless hours testing this deck. But it wasn’t tuned enough. Until Thursday afternoon, I was going to play this deck. I decided to audible and play Kiki-Chord instead.

I knew that Eldrazi had an insane power level, but I wasn’t able to make it work in a shell that was actually consistent. I missed the cards that made it good. I figured out the shell of Mimic, Reshaper, Endless One, Seer, and Smasher, but I was still stuck trying to play these random black cards. And that was my downfall. I would say Hero’s Downfall, but I’m no hero and Phyrexian Arena is just a better card at the same cost.

Seeing other teams absolutely decimate the Pro Tour with good builds of the Eldrazi deck made me a little bit sad. It definitely exposed a lot of flaws I have as a deckbuilder. In a way, that’s probably a good thing. In another way, there’s still that sense of “I wish.” When you work non-stop on a deck for a week straight and still have nothing to show for it—well, that sucks. When other people have a lot more to show for it—well, sometimes that sucks even more.

My Reality was Smashed at the Pro Tour. I drafted a nearly perfect BR Devoid aggro deck with about 6 rares, culminating in Ob Nixilis. I went 1-2. This was a bit heartbreaking for me. I have a reputation for being a Constructed specialist. I’ve put a lot of work into my Limited game and I would like to shake that reputation. So when I draft a great deck and then lose to mana issues two rounds, it stings. Also, I got beat by a Strip Mine when I missed a land drop in one match. I couldn’t even be mad about that. That’s what makes Magic great.

I went 2-3 in Modern to miss Day 2. I don’t think I played particularly well. I wasn’t super familiar with Kiki-Chord, and I definitely missed lines of play. I kind of deserved to miss Day 2. It was a depressing Pro Tour.

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end here.

Gerry Thompson also missed Day 2, and he had a bright idea. SCG Regionals was on Saturday. Why don’t we go play in that? So here we are, at 8 p.m. on Friday, stuck in Atlanta without a car, and we’re scrambling to get to one of the nearby SCG Regionals. I say nearby, but the two closest ones were Raleigh, North Carolina at 6 hours away, and Nashville, Tennessee 4 hours away.

Gerry Thompson is a resourceful man. Two hours later we were in a car with a couple of nut-highs from Atlanta driving to Nashville. Gerry thought it was “Knoxville” which is a different town in Tennessee. Knoxville is 4 hours away from Roanoke, and we were just going to rent a car and drive those 4 hours home. Nashville is 8 hours away. Oops.

The hotel wouldn’t let us cancel our booking, so we were stuck paying for a hotel room in Atlanta through Monday night, even though we weren’t planning on going back to Atlanta. We were basically spewing as much value as we possibly could.

Gerry and I scrambled to put together the Eldrazi deck that LSV and the rest of Team ChannelFireball and Face-to-Face Games played. We made a few spicy changes—because why not tinker with greatness and make it worse? We had a fun time finding these insanely expensive Modern cards that were sold out and that almost nobody had on them, but eventually we pieced together two copies of the deck and were set to battle.

Colorless Eldrazi

I didn’t lose a match. 7-0 double-draw into Top 8, and then won my quarterfinals and semifinals before splitting the finals. Wow, that deck is good. Wow, my Mono-Black version was laughably bad in comparison.

Ever have one of those tournaments where you just know you’re going to win? That was this tournament for me. I was playing a Legacy deck in Modern. I knew it in round 2, when I lost the die roll, and I had my 1-of Gemstone Caverns in my opening hand, and I got to effectively steal the play in the mirror. I knew it in round 4, when I lost the die roll, had Gemstone Caverns in my opening hand both games, and played Matter Reshaper on turn 1 both games against Scapeshift to race. This tournament couldn’t have been more different than the Pro Tour for me. The deck was simply operating on a different level.

We ended up riding back to Atlanta—originally the plan was to just drive to Roanoke—but at this point it was 1 a.m. and we were all sleep deprived from the long day of playing the Pro Tour and getting to Nashville the day before. Thankfully we still had that room. It had just been sitting there, empty, waiting for someone, anyone, to occupy it.

We filled the void. Devoid. The trip to Nashville was a blast. It reminded me of why I love Magic in the first place. Driving to a tournament with great company, having fun playing a sweet deck, and then staying up all night driving home. That’s what Magic is all about.

Still. I’m exhausted. I’m ready for a break. It’s been a hell of a week, and I could really use some Quality rest. Thankfully, I know just the place.