Friday, 2:15 p.m.: Not Eric, But Chris

Posted in Event Coverage on August 19, 2011

By Rich Hagon

Rich Hagon combines a deep knowledge of the players of the Pro Tour with a passionate love of the game. He's a regular commentator for Pro Tour and Grand Prix live video coverage, and is the official Pro Tour Statistician. He has been covering Magic events since 2006.

In the world of rock music, Eric Clapton has been around forever, and in the UK Magic scene the same can be said of namesake Chris. Aston Villa's number one fan, Clapton began playing back in 1997, when Mirage was the new set in town.

"I was in a Virgin Megastore, looking for a computer game, and one of my friends saw some Magic. He'd played a couple of games, and had heard from others that it was pretty interesting. So we bought a starter deck each. We just shuffled them all together, so of course we got horribly mana-screwed. So, I gave him all the blue and red cards, I got all the black and green cards, and we got playing. Simple beginnings, but it was a lot of fun. We looked at cards like Regeneration - amazing!"

He began playing regularly at what would now be called Friday Night Magic, but when your homebrew gets crushed every week by ProsBloom - one of the great Combo decks of all time - it can be a little off-putting.

Chris Clapton

"I got back into the game at university. I've always loved the mathematical aspects of the game, and I built aYawgmoth's Bargain deck. I'd just sit in my room playing it over and over, goldfishing the deck to see how all the combos worked. I started going to events, and took a Suicide Black deck to the final of a PTQ."

Chris is quick to point to the moment when his game really took off.

"The biggest thing you can do is to find players who are better than you, and who are willing to let you play with them" he says. "You're going to learn so much, and as you get better you'll get access to more and more good players. That's certainly what happened to me."

It certainly was, with Clapton becoming part of the world-famous 'Palace' group of players that included the likes of Tony Dobson, John Ormerod, Pete Norris, and Ben Ronaldson. Why was it called the 'Palace' group? Because Ronaldson, at one time arguably the leading deckbuilder in the world, lived and worked at Hampton Court Palace, once the home of King Henry VIII. As part of the 'Palace' squad, Clapton racked up eight Pro Tour appearances.

Like many, Clapton left the game for a while - most of the team stopped at around the same time, he played World of Warcraft a lot, and still had time to get married - but now he's back. The thing is, though, Magic moves on, and many of the Old School only turn up to Nationals for the social scene, seeing old friends and reliving past glories. Clapton has other plans.

Clapton means business this year

"In January I decided that I wanted to have a proper crack at Nationals. I've never won Nats, and I feel like I probably should have done. Cawblade looked like a lot of fun to me, but I was behind the curve, and I kept getting beaten by people who were more experienced with the deck. Then I discovered UB Control, and started going to lots of Standard tournaments."

"I'm pretty prepared for Nationals. My goal is to make the Top 8. I don't know if that's a realistic goal, but I've certainly come for more than just meeting up with people to talk about how good we used to be. I know there are some good players in the event, and I'm not completely up to speed, but we'll see what happens."

Unfortunately, Chris has been laid low by a mysterious illness over the last few days, and he's certainly not in the best fighting shape, at least physically. Still, with a ton of Pro Tours behind him, and thousands of games against high quality opponents, even those players who don't know his history will find him tough to beat here on day one of Great Britain Nationals.

He's not here just to make up the numbers.

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