A champion in Krakow and a 15-hour-layover

I’ve got quite the tale for you today - to tell it, we need to rewind all the way back to 2007. Paul Cheon was my roommate at the time, and we were both trying to make it onto the Pro Tour. If you don’t know Paul, he now has a ton of Magic accomplishments, and has gone from Pro player to streamer to Wizards of the Coast employee, but back then both of us were early in our careers. We hadn’t quite made it onto the Pro Tour consistently, and 2007 was the first year where we were really going for it.

It was late in the season, and we both had accumulated a good amount of Pro Points, but wanted to grab a few more to give ourselves the best shot at hitting the requisite pro levels. There were far fewer GP’s back then (though I guess now there are none, unfortunately) and after looking at the schedule, there was one left that we could attend. That Grand Prix was GP Krakow, all the way over in Poland. After much deliberation (and looking at flight prices), we decided to take the shot and fly to our first international Grand Prix.

We chose Mono-Blue Snow Control

We figured out what we wanted to play, which was an unholy amalgam of Mono-Blue Snow Control, Pickles (the Vesuvan Shapeshifter + Brine Elemental combo) and UW Control. The end result was this masterpiece, which had elements of snow, the Pickles combo and terrible mana to support Wrath of God (which also was great in our deck full of creatures).

Vesuvan ShapeshifterBrine ElementalWrath of God

Take a look at this:

4 Phyrexian Ironfoot

4 Vesuvan Shapeshifter

3 Brine Elemental

2 Venser, Shaper Savant

2 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir

4 Ancestral Vision

3 Wrath of God

4 Rune Snag

4 Cryptic Command

3 Oblivion Ring

4 Calciform Pools

2 Urza's Factory

3 Nimbus Maze

4 Snow-Covered Plains

10 Snow-Covered Island

4 Adarkar Wastes


1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir

1 Oblivion Ring

1 Wrath of God

3 Aven Riftwatcher

2 Jace Beleren

2 Aeon Chronicler

3 Faerie Trickery

2 Magus of the Tabernacle

The deck was quite the brew, but we had high hopes.

The trip started out on the right foot when we landed in Krakow and encountered freezing, snowy, weather. I wasn’t that experienced of a traveler back then, and was wearing shorts, a t-shirt and sandals, much to the amusement of fellow travelers and airport staff. I managed to borrow one of Cheon’s jackets, and we made our way to the hotel.

After consuming Poland’s version of a burrito (I gotta say, curried chicken and broccoli worked better than I would have expected), we were ready to game. We got our decks sleeved, made last minute tweaks and proceeded to try and take down the tournament.

Cheon Conquers Krakow

You can find full coverage here (spoilers, the page is called “Cheon Conquers Krakow”), but I’ve got some highlights for you:

  • Paul was dead on board, but the opponent failed to pay for his Magus of the Tabernacle, and lost all their creatures. Paul then also forgot to pay, and wasn’t able to win that turn (though he did end up winning).
  • One of my opponents cast three Funeral Charms on me after I mulled to five. I did not win that game.
  • Playing six colorless lands in our UUUWW deck came back to bite one of us (hint: I was not the person who won the tournament).
  • One of my opponents had a shirt that said “California” on it. I said I was from California, and he said he wished he was from California. He then beat me very badly.

As the coverage title shows, Paul did end up making Top 8, and indeed taking the whole tournament down. Our deck was truly bad, but Paul was (and is) a master, and despite a suboptimal deck, played well enough and got lucky enough to emerge victorious. This deck is still a punchline for us, 15 years later.

© 1993-2022 Wizards of the Coast LLC

Of course, the best part of the trip (from my perspective) was yet to come. See, I had booked our flights, and we were going to different places on the return, since Paul was heading to Denver, where he had just moved. As I was booking, I saw a flight that landed at 10 in Frankfurt and left for Denver at 1, which didn’t seem too bad. A three-hour layover is fine, you can get a little food and stretch your legs before the long flight.

I woke up to dozens of messages from an increasingly-tilted Cheon, as it wasn’t a three hour layover at all. No, the flight landed at 10 p.m. and left at 1 p.m. the following day, so it was a 15-hour layover instead! I still maintain that the only reason I’m still alive is that Paul won the tournament, and the high from that kept him sane during his bonus 12 hours in Frankfurt.

This was a momentous Grand Prix for us, and one of my fondest memories, though Paul may disagree.

Author: Luis Scott-Vargas

Magic: The Gathering Hall of Fame, Member of Team CFBUltimateGuard

Luis is one of the most accomplished players in Magic: the Gathering history. His journey with Magic began in 1994, when he and his friend Seth bought a starter deck of Revised and two packs of The Dark each. Little did he know that this was a life-defining moment, as once he opened a Fire Elemental and Wrath of God, he was hooked. Learn more about Luis.