In this issue:
It takes a lot to keep me from checking my social media feeds, but #MakeMagicHistory might keep me from checking Twitter too many times this weekend. I already feel like I'm the only person not in Chiba, Utrecht, or Las Vegas. Clicking on images of great friends eating food, visiting golden castles, and already sitting down for Modern Masters side events has me feeling a little blue about missing out on the biggest weekend in the history of competitive Magic. As the Pro Tour Historian it seems like something I would want to be there for. And believe me I do…if it were on just about any other weekend of the year.
While I am sad to miss the weekend, I'm doing so only because it would make me much more sad to miss out on standing next to my best friend, Tony, at his wedding this Saturday. If I went to Las Vegas who would ham-handedly pretend to lose the wedding rings during the ceremony?
I have known Tony since we were both kids who wandered into a long-forgotten comic book store on Coney Island in Brooklyn (only a couple of blocks away from where Kings Games now resides). We bonded as high score adversaries on the parade of arcade games that rotated through the store—Galaga, Ms. Pac-Man, Joust, Robotron, and (of course) Spy Hunter. It was to the digital version of the Peter Gunn theme that our rivalry turned to a fast friendship.
Over the years that followed, Tony and I would: start a comic book publishing company, fight over girls, and play just about every type of game we could get our hands on. Eventually that would include Magic: The Gathering. After being violently shaken by someone looking to find something called "Magic," Tony and I went to the Compleat Strategist and purchased a couple of Unlimited Starter Decks to give the game a try.
We agreed that we would not buy more cards (a deal that I ultimately failed to keep) and just play with those two Starter Decks until one of us rendered the other player's deck unplayable. Cards would change hands through the long-abandoned notion of ante and to keep track of who had won the most cards we would…
If you are faint of heart you may want to skip down a paragraph.
I don't remember the exact contents of those two Starter decks, but I know I had an Ancestral Recall, Mox Pearl, and a Forcefield in my deck at some point. To keep track of where the cards in each deck originally came, from we took a Sharpie to the side of each deck so that the left-hand edge of each card in each deck was saturated in either red or blue ink. At a glance you could tell which card started in which deck by the ink soaked into the edge of the cards.
Yes, it hurts to even type those words.
It was playing those ink-stained, un-sleeved, and tattered decks while out to dinner with a group of friends when Tony became the cautionary tale for everyone who has ever been asked the inevitable question that pops up when the game is played in the wild.
It should be noted that while I have always been drawn to the competitive aspects of the game, and not long after the events of this story played out would organize one of the first large Magic tournaments on the East Coast, Tony was only ever competitive about the game with me. He took a much more narrative approach to playing the game, viewing it as more of a card-based RPG.
This was evident as we played the game and a very attractive waitress sidled up behind Tony and cooed as Tony played a Mesa Pegasus (I don't actually recall the specific card but I like to remember it as a Mesa Pegasus): "That art is so beautiful…what are you guys doing?"
That question has been asked of me thousands of time in the ensuing years and, depending on the situation, I have any number of facile ways to answer this. At the time I had no idea and was formulating an answer, when Tony—whom the waitress seemed as interested in as the Mesa Pegasus—said without a bit of irony:
"You see, we're two wizards, casting spells…."
It all worked out for the best. Had he answered differently, he might have altered the trajectory that propelled him to the altar this weekend with Susan, the love of his life. I will be proud and happy to stand next to him as they exchange their vows. Yes, I would love to be in Vegas with the multitude of friends I have made since Magic was released. That said, the only tears I will shed this weekend will occur while I struggle to make it through my toast without completely losing it.
To the 19,000 wizards in attendance I will be looking forward to seeing which if you #MakeMagicHistory.
Tony still plays Magic. He has Duels of the Planeswalkers on his tablet and plays casually with co-workers. I am working on a wizard-themed Commander deck for him.
Grand Prix Points Chase
It is important to note that Grand Prix Las Vegas was already big enough by last week that it needed to be split into two separate tournaments with identical cash prizes and, crucially, Pro Point payouts. That means there will be FOUR Grand Prix taking place this weekend and four chances for players looking to secure their seats at the World Championship in Seattle this August. The last reserved seat will be given away at Pro Tour Magic Origins this summer, but there are still plenty of opportunities for players to jostle for regional and at-large berths by racking up Pro Points.
For those larger races, Grand Prix can only play so large a role in the race. Players are capped on Grand Prix results for the purposes of the Player of the Year race and only their best six results count toward their year-end point totals. The exception to that rule is the new World Championship invitation that was added for this year's tournament. All the points from all the Grand Prix that the players compete in this season will count toward that race.
Here are the top five players and their point totals heading into this huge Magic weekend.
1) Alexander Hayne (31)
2) Teruya Kakumae (30)
3) Pascal Maynard (26)
4) Craig Wescoe (25)
5) Christian Calcano (25)
None of these five are currently qualified for a berth otherwise, so this weekend is a tremendous opportunity to close some ground…or in the case of Hayne, pad the lead. Sitting in sixth is Eric Froehlich, who by virtue of his Pro Tour finishes is a virtual lock for one of the at-large berths even if he doesn't retain the current lead in the Player of the Year race. Tied with Eric at 24 points in Martin Juza, who will likely be alone at Grand Prix Utrecht from the players in the scrum for the Grand Prix Player of the Year title. It is reasonable to assume Kakumae will be alone at Grand Prix Chiba. That places five of the top seven players scuffling across the two events that will add up to Grand Prix Vegas.
Modern Masters Common and Uncommon Foil Power Rankings
While much of the attention is justifiably paid to the Dark Confidants, Tarmogoyfs, and Emrakuls that lurk near the back of a Modern Masters 2015 Edition pack, it's the cards at the very back—the foils—that I really look forward to. I have a play set of foil Manamorphose from the original Modern Master that are waiting for the rest of a foiled-out Storm deck to assemble around them. I will be drafting this new set as often as I can—and really feeling the impact of not being at Modern Master Weekend—to chase down these five cards in foiled play sets.
#5 Mana Leak
Who doesn't love Mana Leak and Remand? Well…just about everyone who has ever played against them, but it is an essential tool in any Modern toolbox. Sure Cryptic Command is the backbreaker that closes out the game, but it is these two cheap tempo-stealing spells that make Cryptic Command possible. (I also love a Repeal, but have rarely played more than one.)
This card is the Zombie Cutthroat of spells. It can be played in any deck that's willing to pay 4 life to kill almost anything your opponent throws at you in the early part of the game. Rarely have I played four of them in Modern, but I figure any extras I have are that many fewer copies for my opponents.
It was a card that I had in that very first Starter Deck, way back when. It was a four-of in the deck that won the first tournament I ever organized. It is probably the most productive card in the history of the game. Somehow I don't own any in foil. I plan to change that over the coming weeks.