A FAMILY AFFAIR

Posted in GRAND PRIX PORTLAND 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on August 10, 2014

By Corbin Hosler

It started with a trip into the attic.

Stone Kaech was digging through his family's dusty attic several years ago, looking through his father's old boxes. Among the dated magazines and long-lost possessions, he found something unfamiliar but not unwelcome.

Magic cards. Sitting in a box lay something older than the now-16-year-old Stone: the remnants of his father Randy's collection. Mirage commons. A Portal starter deck. Long-forgotten cards from Magic's earliest days, lost memories that came rushing back to Randy when Stone brought the box downstairs.

It took some time and some encouragement from Stone, but Randy eventually got the bug again. Soon enough they were teaching younger brother Richy to play the game, Stone was playing Magic Online by night and Randy was hungrily devouring strategy articles by pros like Ari Lax, Craig Wescoe and 18th-ranked player Alexander Hayne.

Saturday at Grand Prix Portland, the Kaechs met their heroes. In the feature match area.

Then they beat them.

...

The road to the undefeated tables in Portland has been quite the journey for the Kaechs. Randy hadn't played Magic for 17 years. The last time he played in a tournament tiebreakers were calculated by hand, mana burn existed, the stack didn't, and Craw Wurm was a powerhouse.

The Kaechs. Randy, 16-year-old Stone, and 13-year-old Richy.

When Stone convinced him to try it out again last year, it didn't take long Randy long to figure out that things had changed quite a bit from when that Portal starter deck he gave Richy to teach him the game was new.

"I had to basically start from scratch," he said. "But I wanted to re-learn to play with my boys."

The family learned together. They regularly visited the shops in their hometown of Ferndale, Washington. Stone began to follow his favorite Magic pros with the same fervor he tracked Ferndale native and Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker. Craig Wescoe's winning deck from Pro Tour Dragon's Maze soon littered Stone's desk next to his beloved Titans jacket, and Richy eagerly awaited his 13th birthday so his father would let him join them at events.

The boys were excited to have their father playing the game with them. It was a family activity they could enjoy together at home, and it came with other benefits as well.

"I thought, 'if he's into it then I can get rides to places to play,'" Stone said as next to him his father rolled his eyes.

The learning curve was steep, but soon the Kaechs were fully immersed in the game and it was time for the next step. That next step was Grand Prix Vancouver in January, where Stone made Day 2 and they stuck around for the finals, watching as Hayne took down Peter Sundholm to win his third Grand Prix in six months.

The Kaechs were at Grand Prix Vancouver in January to witness Hayne win his third Grand Prix title in six months.

The family returned home from Vancouver with some new favorite players, a treasured experience and the fire to keep improving. Randy researched the Magic 2015 format and worked more on it with Stone, whom Randy says is the better technical player. They set their sights on Grand Prix Portland as the next chance to play.

Magic began as a family matter for the trio, and there was little doubt the team sheet at the event would read anything other than Kaech/Kaech/Kaech. They practiced steadily for the event and entered ready for the stage. A strong pool featuring Soul of Theros, Spirit Bonds and Jalira, Master Polymorphist rewarded them for their preparation, and soon they found themselves sitting undefeated when Round 4 pairings were posted.

Kaech/Kaech/Kaech vs. Lax/Hayne/Wescoe.

...

As much as they wanted to win, the Kaechs couldn't entirely hold in their excitement to meet the three storied pros with a pair of Pro Tour titles between them.

"I'm a huge fan of white weenie strategies," Randy told Wescoe, the master of the classic deck archetype, as the match began.

"Then why are you wearing a shirt with a Forest on it?" he joked back as they shuffled for the games.

Rarely has there been a bigger underdog on camera than in Round 4, but if the team of newbies was nervous, they didn't show it. Randy dispatched Lax in two games as Stone squared off against Hayne in the third game and Richy matched wits with Wescoe, who was characteristically casting white spells.

What transpired next is something that could only happen in Magic. A 13-year-old kid who has been playing for less than a year faced off against a Pro Tour champion, a master of his craft.

And he won.

The events that followed are also something you're hard-pressed to find outside of Magic. After losing a match in which they were heavily favored, the three pros — with nearly 20 Grand Prix Top 8s on their collective resume — laughed off the loss, congratulated the Kaechs and graciously signed tokens for the family as they talked over the games.

"We were soundly defeated," Lax announced to the gathered crowd. "They played really well."

Randy and Stone look on as 13-year-old Richy puts away the game against Pro Tour Dragon's Maze champion Craig Wescoe. Wescoe, Hayne and Lax were happy to talk to the Kaechs and sign tokens for the family after losing to them in Round 4 of Grand Prix Portland.

The two groups then went their separate ways. The game's greats still on the road to acquire all-important Pro Points for the Premier Play season that kicked off this weekend.

The Kaechs' road forward isn't as clear. It may end in a Top 4 appearance this weekend. It may lead to bigger tournaments and bigger wins in the future, with PTQ wins and cash finishes. Maybe their own path to the Pro Tour after defeating three shining examples of exactly what it means to be an ambassador of the game.

Or, it may not.

It doesn't really matter.

"All we're here to do is have fun with a bonding experience for the rest of our lives," Randy said. "When I'm 73 we can still look back and talk about this. That's why we're here."

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