Oh man, stories for donations? As I gave you Yawgmoth's Bargain, and, in so doing, taught you about the card "Wielding the Green Dragon", can you tell a story about winning with (or losing to) a card you hadn't previously heard of?
Alright, I still have two of these left to cover! And as I sit in the airport on a layover, I figured it’d finally be a chance to do a bit of storytelling.
So, let’s kick it off. We’re going to go way back.
Did I win with my own card I hadn’t previously heard of or lose to one of my opponent’s card I hadn’t previously heard of? Well, neither really - but I promise this still fits. What could I possibly mean? Read on!
The year was 2005. If I had to pick a year that really started my Magic career, I would call it this one. I had just formed Team Unknown Stars (every time I type that name I flinch a bit - I love the team, but man that name was bad), and it was about when I started playing really seriously. I would win my first ever money playing Magic that year.
But let’s not get ahead of myself here.
The scene was the JSS Championship in Baltimore. (Which, I just realized, is incredibly appropriate, because I’m about to get on a plane to go to Baltimore - but I digress.) I was playing my trusty Mono Green Beatdown deck at the champs. It looked like this:
Gavin Green (Hey, this comes from the kid who named his team Unknown Stars)
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Iwamori of the Open Fist
2 Viridian Zealot
3 Rushwood Dryad
4 Troll Ascetic
4 Blanchwood Armor
3 Sword of Fire and Ice
4 Plow Under
3 Umezawa’s Jitte
4 Beacon of Creation
4 Cranial Extraction
4 Creeping Mold
2 Wear Away
2 Sword of Light and Shadow
1 Rushwood Dryad
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
22 lands in that deck with Beacon of Creation, Blanchwood Armor five drops, and equip costs. Oh, those were the days. But, as we all know, you’re exponentially more likely to hit all of your land drops the younger you are. (This is similar to my Urzatron graph, where your odds of having all 3 pieces on turn 3 drop lower about 5% for each year of your life)
Anyway, after making day 2 of competition at 6-3, I was told a simple breakdown: win all 4 of my day two matches and I would make top 8. Lose one, and those hopes would shatter.
Well, I suppose I had better try to win them.
That day, I was probably playing some of the best Magic I had played in my life up until that point. In the first round of day two (round 10), I convinced my opponent to cast Echoing Decay at the wrong time so my Jitte would get counters.
In round 11,I barely squeaked out a match against a Tooth and Nail player despite him immediately having Urzatron. (See? I wasn’t joking.)
So I was headed into round 12. I needed to win this round and the next round to make top 8. I sit down in my seat… and get called to my first ever feature match.
What a time for it to happen.
Me and Travis Woo actually sat side my side, fighting for our lives against our opponents - but my opponent had a very unusual deck.
Back then, Mike Long ran a paid website where he would basically build decks on video and then share them with its members. (At the time, video of you playing Magic was actually really uncommon, unlike today.) I had heard there was a deck he had built for this Standard format, but had no idea what it was nor had I ever seen it in action.
Well, I was about to.
Sitting in my feature match.
Playing for thousands of scholarship dollars.
At 15 years old.
This is where my Magic life truly started to begin.
The game begins. His first turn is Forest, Chrome Mox imprinting Mana Leak, and… Sakura-Tribe Elder.
Well, that was unexpected.
But it doesn’t stop there.
On his second turn he Kodama’s Reaches for a mountain and a plains.
I’m still mystified by what is going on. Fortunately, my deck just requires I attack so I do just that. And on the next turn…
“Land, Bringer of the Black Dawn."
He tutors, and chains Confiscates together to easily take the game.
Game two, I have a great draw and yet narrowly win entirely thanks to the protection from blue on my Sword of Fire and Ice letting my creature avoid Confiscation and then, after he took my Sword instead, casting a second sword to snake by his Bringer of the Blue Dawn.
It all game down to this. Game three. The rubber match. For… well, at least some amount of marbles.
I mulliganned down to 6 and had a mediocre start that forced me to go all-in on a Rushwood dryad with Blanchwood Armor.
After attacking on turn three and passing back the turn, he picked up two cards to draw and accidently looked at both of them. The judge issued him a warning and play continued.
I didn’t really think much of it. The judge gave him a warning, and we moved on. My mind was mostly focused on if he had the removal spell that turn.
He didn’t, so I swung in again and cast IWamori. Here it was! I just needed to survive one more turn. If I could just have one more turn I might be able to pull this out. With just one more turn I could -
Wrath of God.
I sank in my seat like a deflated balloon. Well, there it was. That was everything I had.
I don’t do anything relevant on my turn and on his turn he casts Enduring Ideal.
Turns out that his deck was also an Enduring Ideal deck. Bringer for Ideal, I suppose.
Well, that’s curtains for me. This is where the story should end…
…Except it doesn’t.
He tutors up Zur’s Weirding, and while I’m aware of the card’s general existence, it’s in the same way that a child is probably aware of swear words: they know they exist and can be used to effect, but don’t really know what they actually mean.
So, I reach across the table and begin to decipher the college textbook that is Zur’s Weirding.
And that’s when it happens.
Apropos of nothing, apparently just plain ol’ bored, and with the game locked up, my opponent turns to the judge next to him.
"I was just wondering, how many warnings does it take to get a game loss for something? I looked at my top card earlier in the tournament and would like to know.”
The judge looked at him, eyes growing wide. “Uh… Just stay here for one moment.”
With each passing moment, I started to inflate up in my chair while my opponent dipped down further and further, like a see-saw.
We were completely silent. Nobody wanted to make any move that might tell the cosmic universe to jinx their odds.
Eventually the judge came back with the head judge. Waiting to hear what the result was, I gripped my chair like some sort of JSS life raft, clinging onto what would be my chances for top 8 in this tournament.
"Well, we talked about it and looked at your earlier match history today. And based on that, we’re going to give you a game loss.”
I simultaneously felt horrible for him and ecstatic for myself. I filled out the slip and quietly left the table. He just sat there, paralyzed.
I had just won a game because my opponent had, essentially, given himself a game loss while I was reading his kill card.
Did that… Actually just happen?
I sat down, shellshocked, just taking a moment for the adrenaline in my system to go away. It wouldn’t.
After all, there was still a tournament to play.
I would go on to win my next round. Unfortunately, I actually had bad information and ended up missing the top 8 cut on tiebreakers - but that was still a nice $2,350 I ended up with for college by finishing at 10-3.
And that’s the story of how my opponent played a card, I didn’t know what it did, and then because I didn’t know what I did I won.
Of all of my Magic stories, this has got to be one of my strangest.