Who says you need to be a well-known pro player to coast through the top tables at a Grand Prix? Not Derek Simmons of Duncan, British Columbia. He’s now 7-0 at Table 1 and has his store team to thank. Derek plays at Dice Bag Games, only a short ferry ride away from Vancouver. He and seven other players including the shop owner made the trip up.
“I’ve been going to the store for about a year and a half, mostly because I wanted to improve my Limited game,” said Derek. The players in the store are pretty competitive and they play a lot of Limited. When the players found out that they were getting a Limited Grand Prix in practically their backyard, they knew they wanted to attend as a group and put in a lot of time and effort in their Sealed and Draft preparations.
The shop owner, Ben Winterbottom, is a pretty competitive player himself. “We play a lot of limited. About ninety percent of our FNMs are drafts. For the GP we got together every Wednesday night and did practice sealeds and drafts. We also had discussions over the internet.”
Ben has been playing Magic for years and while his regular players come and go, he has known many them for a long time. He has watched his players grow and improve at Magic, and some of them have even made it to the Pro Tour.
Ben was really excited when one of his store regulars qualified for Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. It’s his first Pro Tour. He was streaming the PTQ on twitch.tv and happened to win the whole thing. “Our buddy James “The Cage” Stevenson drafted a Shadows of the Past deck. I had never even seen that card played before in Magic Origins Limited,” he says. Many of the store regulars tuned in to the stream to offer their support.
From left to right: James “The Cage” Stevenson, Derek Simmons, Jason Dhaliwal, Taran Fairwell, Ben Winterbottom
By the middle of Day 2, two players from Dice Bag Games remained in the main event. Derek, after finishing Day 1 with a 7-2 record, didn’t do so well in the first draft. “There were so many pros in my pod. I took a game off 'Efro' but lost the match, and I lost the match against Costa. His deck matched up really well against mine,” he said. This is Derek’s first Grand Prix, and he is looking forward to attending more in the future if they aren’t too far away. “I’ll go to one if it’s limited. I think I do better in that format.”
Ben, on the other hand, had a much different Day 2 experience. “I was so nervous my hands were shaking! I even passed the packs the wrong way! I crushed though, I went 3-0. I splashed green for Worldbreaker but it was a huge mistake. I boarded it out every round.” This is Ben’s third Grand Prix. He attended Grand Prix Seattle in 2002 but did not play in the main event, and he played in Team Sealed Grand Prix Portland a few years ago. “I’m a new dad so it’s hard for me to get to GPs. I’ll probably attend any of the local ones.”
Ben and Derek are looking forward to the second draft of the day and then meeting up with the rest of their team later. Overall the team has accomplished a lot as relatively new players to the competitive scene. As they continue to hold Wednesday Sealed practice, their team will to improve their Magic skills as well as their friendship.