Captain’s Log #7 – The Curse of Syracuse

As stated in Captain’s Log #5, I had planned to take a short hiatus from the competitive side of the game from the middle of June last year all the way until the end of 2013. My goal was to give myself room to re-prioritize my life and I am glad that I did. Mentally, I am as sharp as ever. Physically, I now weight under 180 lbs, which puts me at my lightest in roughly a decade.

With my health now in check, I decided that I would want to return to Magic in a major way. I packed my January with a tournament every weekend (3 PTQs ending with Grand Prix Vancouver). It wasn’t hard to plan rides to some of these PTQs as one of my regular drivers, Frankie Richard, had told me how much he missed bonding with me. He always gave me top priority.

The Curse of Syracuse

The first stop was Syracuse, New York. Our car consisted of Frankie Richard, Francisco Leon Valencia, Tobias Rosman, and myself. When thinking of Syracuse, I don’t exactly have the fondest of memories of that place. In my first and only tournament in the city, I was playing GR Tron and had just won what I believed to be a “win-and-in”, but the tournament organizer decided to cut away the tie-breakers when displaying the standings before the last round.

Without the knowledge of the tiebreakers, my opponent in the last round decided it was in his best interest to play against me to lock up his spot in the top 8 and I don’t blame him. Unfortunately for me, I ended up losing to his [card]Tooth and Nail[/card] deck. Shortly after, the tiebreaker hiding was made known on Twitter and it was quickly confirmed by officials from Wizards that the tournament organizer did not have the right to do what he did.

Ultimately, Alexander Hayne helped me find some solace in this whole ordeal. He told me he probably would not have been Pro Tour Champion if this had not happened to me. And why is that, you say? Adam Barnello won the PTQ and Hayne would beat Barnello en route to becoming Pro Tour Avacyn Restored Champion. Butterfly effect, people, butterfly effect.

As we drove towards our destination Friday night, I was just hoping for nothing out of the ordinary to happen. Frankie had told me that there was a 200 player cap for this tournament and that he had to pre-register everyone in the car during the week. Surely, if there’s a cap, nothing can go wrong, right?

Frankie Richard or Francis Rickard

When we arrived at the Baymont Inn & Suites, it was late and we were ready to just jump in our beds, but the whole checking in process took over half an hour. It was actually unbelievable. They could not find Frankie’s reservation and then realized their colossal mistake.

Some dude named Francis Rickard had checked in a few hours before us and basically took our rooms. The receptionist thought that this Francis Rickard character must have misspelled his name during the online reservation process. She did note that she thought something was fishy when Francis had a different address and was staying for three nights and not one.

To cap it all off, the woman who was responsible for this mistake was at the end of her work shift and just left the whole mess to her coworkers which screwed us over even more because they had no clue what was going on.

Damn you, Francis Rickard, damn you…

Literally Standing for Four Rounds

The next morning, when we arrived at the venue and entered inside, the first thing we noticed was the sheer amount of people in the store. The tournament was to be held in one of the Play the Game Read the Story stores. My first reaction was that there better be more than one washroom, but no, to my disappointment, there was only one one-person washroom.

Before the tournament was scheduled to start, I saw judges rushing to take boxes of comics off of tables. Tables that were clearly not meant to be used to play a game of Magic. They were too high which would have meant that people would have to stand while playing. To my surprise, that’s what happened.

I don’t want to come across as judgmental because honestly, I have no clue what it takes to organize a tournament. I am bringing this to light in the hopes that things can be improved. With Magic growing in popularity, tournament organizers around the world have underestimated attendance to their tournaments. Not everyone prepares themselves for the worst like Kelly Ackerman.

We ended up with 213 whereas the expectation was probably more in the 150 range. The thing that did bug me was that I thought there was a 200 player cap and we had made sure to pre-register. From what I heard, it sounded like the tournament organizer caved and let in an extra 13 players. Why the pre-registration?

The end result was a very unsatisfying experience. We drove 4 hours to this tournament and I had to play 4 rounds standing up and I pre-registered! I remain optimistic though as I know that this has probably already gotten Hélène Bergeot’s attention and improvements will be seen.

Square One

As for how my tournament went, I ended up with an embarrassing record of 3-5, my worst PTQ record that I can remember. Some people might ask why I didn’t 0-2 drop. Planeswalker Points are actually important to me since there’s time to accumulate a significant amount for Grand Prix Montreal in March and if you ever travel with Frankie, you know he wants to play every round. Because he paid for them.

Frankie Richard: I paid for eight rounds!
Frankie Richard: I paid for eight rounds!

Like I stated on Twitter, I was going into the tournament with Jon Stern’s updated Mono Black Devotion list. I guess I can take this opportunity to let people know how highly our local community regards Jon. At the hotel, we felt the best sports comparison would be to compare him to Peyton Manning. Jon prepares more than anyone I know. You ask him for sideboard advice and he will write you an entire guide as a reply on Facebook. Insane preparation is what has made Jon a top 25 player. Watch out for him at the next Pro Tour!

[deck title=Updated Mono-Black Devotion – Jon Stern]
19 Swamp
4 Mutavault
3 Temple of Silence
4 Pack Rat
4 Nightveil Specter
1 Lifebane Zombie
4 Desecration Demon
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Thoughtseize
2 Pharika’s Cure
1 Ultimate Price
1 Devour Flesh
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Underworld Connections
1 Whip of Erebos
3 Duress
1 Dark Betrayal
2 Devour Flesh
2 Pharika’s Cure
1 Doom Blade
2 Erebos, God of the Dead
2 Lifebane Zombie
2 Shrivel

Anyways, I played his list and followed his sideboarding guidelines, but I was making too many fundamental mistakes to do well. I am currently a very bad player. [card]Thoughtseize[/card] is one of the most powerful cards in the format right now, but only if you use it right. In round 4, against Alex Bianchi (a writer for, I double Thoughtseized him and saw 4 lands, [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], [card]Divination[/card], and [card]Dissolve[/card].

I believe my hand was [card]Nightveil Specter[/card], [card]Desecration Demon[/card], and removal spells. I was on the play and was going to need a land off the top to the Specter. I decided to discard [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] and [card]Divination[/card] thinking that I could pray to draw a land to cast a Specter before Alex could hit [card]Dissolve[/card] mana, which in retrospect doesn’t really make much sense.

I missed my land drop but I did get it the next turn. My next two turns, he was able to [card]Dissolve[/card] both of my threats and won the game from that point onwards. As Alex and I analyzed the game together post-match, I realized that I had not taken into account what colour his lands could produce. He actually had 0 white sources during the double [card]Thoughtseize[/card]. In fact, I almost won this game because it took him a good while before he could cast a [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] that he would draw later in the game.

This colossal mistake made me realize I am far from the player I was before the hiatus. I didn’t use all the information that was right in front of me, but I think the key for me now is just to keep being honest with myself, so that I can absorb as much as I can from my mistakes. I will likely perform far better next weekend.


Despite the laughable performance, as most everyone who grinds these events will tell you, the community is a big part of the fun. I got to see my American friends Bryan/Justin Gottlieb, Max Brown, Jared Boettcher, Bryce Menard, Amanda Stevens, Alex Bianchi, and none other than karaoke rapping god “It’s a Bonfire” Matthew Ratajczak. He ended up making top 8 with UW Control. I also met an Eh Team listener, Robert Vaughan, who was also able to make it to the elimination rounds with a UWr deck which primarily splashes red to play [card]Counterflux[/card] main.

Matthew Ratajczak: So powerful!
Matthew Ratajczak: So powerful!

Next Stop

The next stop this upcoming weekend is good old Windsor, Connecticut. See you guys there!

As always, thanks for reading!