Korey McDuffie

Posted in Event Coverage on February 3, 2018

By Tom Ross

On February 2, 2018, Magic lost one of the youngest "grizzled veterans" the game has ever seen.

Korey McDuffie passed away too early at 25. He was a mainstay of competitive Magic for well over a decade.

I remember seeing him around at Pro Tour Qualifiers and Grand Prix in the late 2000s. I don't recall the moment we first met, but I do recall rooting for him while watching him play in 2009. Korey was the kind of guy that left a lasting impression.

We shared a hostel at Pro Tour Paris 2011. The format was Standard, Zendikar through Mirrodin Besieged. I showed up with a mopey Mono-Black Vampires deck. Korey showed up with a White-Blue Squadron Hawk, Stoneforge Mystic, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor deck that he built independently of the big teams. Dubbed Caw-Blade, it became known as one of the strongest decks Standard has ever seen.

Group photo from Pro Tour Paris during Tom Ross and Korey McDuffie's trip to the city for the event.

I remember walking around France with Korey, both of us not knowing a lick of French other than "Parlez vous Anglais?" and hoping the locals would say yes. We visited The Louvre not really knowing the beauty we were looking at. I don't remember a single thing about the museum. I only remember how happy we all were to travel in good company. We didn't know how lucky we were to travel the world playing Magic.

Korey was always fiercely driven by competition. I'd always see him at all PTQs in the Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia area. Even if it'd be a year since we'd last seen each other, we'd pick up conversations like it was only yesterday. PTQs were a treat to go to, knowing that I would see his familiar face.

It was little over two years ago when Korey won a StarCityGames.com Open with Atarka Red. His sideboard strategy was brilliant, completely blindsiding opponents by transforming into a control deck. It was something that avid beatdown players like myself were baffled by. His thought process was unparalleled.

Korey McDuffie's Atarka Red

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Korey had the hair droop in front of his eyes that'd he'd brush back like clockwork while playing a match of Magic. In a way, that was his own personal version of shuffling cards around in his hands. It was a rhythm that kept him focused.

He'd fan out his stacked graveyard out in one smooth motion, visibly revealing from a large stack to see for both himself and his opponent, each card flawlessly equidistant from each other. The maneuver was very signature and undeniably Korey. Watching him play was like appreciating a good work of art.

Korey was a perfectionist at Magic. He was very methodical in his play, and very harsh on himself when he'd made mistakes. His only competition was himself, and that's all he needed. I watched him try his best and come up short more times than I could count. Every time, he'd learn from the experience and come back with more passion than before.

If Korey would want one thing, it'd be, that the Magic community is strong, and undoubtedly his many friends helped him through hard times. I know he always brightened my day.

Rest in peace, brother.

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