November 29, 2022
Magic: The Gathering
It was June of 2015 and the Magic: the Gathering professional season was coming to a close. Soon, the points you'd earned over the course of the season would be tallied one last time, and you'd lock in your ranking and status for the following year.
Well, for the first time since I'd first achieved "Platinum" status several years prior, I was not on track to be one of the top level pro players. Either I had to find a way to earn a few extra "Professional Points", or else I had to be resigned to my fate and try again next year. So I made the rare (and somewhat extreme) choice of booking a plane ticket for an overseas Grand Prix.
"Overseas", in this case, is a bit of an understatement. Being from New York, on the east coast of the United States, Grand Prix Singapore was about the farthest away a Magic tournament could have possibly been. Prior to this, the longest trip in my life had been to Japan. The trip to Singapore would start with a flight to Japan before tacking on yet another massive flight to reach my destination. All told, it would be nearly 30 excruciating hours in airplanes and airports. Each way.
With travel arranged, there just remained the small problem of winning the tournament. The event was Modern - a format that I've always enjoyed. Unfortunately, my beloved Jund deck had been hit with a few bannings over the years, and would be a dubious choice for this event. It could be designed to beat some of the top decks, but not all of them. In particular, the menace of that time period was the Amulet Titan deck, fully powered with Summer Bloom, and it was a terrible matchup for Jund.
With this worry in the background, I spent most of the 13 hour flight from New York to Tokyo "goldfishing" (playing solitaire) with the combo deck. I stumbled off the airplane sore, dazed and sleep-deprived, but at least I'd gotten some much-needed familiarity with the new deck.
I managed to get a little sleep between Tokyo and Singapore, and arrived at my hotel no earlier than midnight the night before the tournament. I grabbed my duffle bag (mind you, this was before I owned one of Ultimate Guard's Ammonite Anti-Theft Backpacks) and dumped the contents onto the bed. I sifted through to find my toothbrush, but something was wrong. Something was missing. And it wasn't the toothbrush.
The Goryos Vengeance deck that I'd been playing with on the airplane hadn't made it back into my bag! It was lost somewhere in Narita Airport, on some airplane, or at the bottom of the East China Sea. Building a second copy was out of the question. In fact, I'd only brought 75 other cards with me on the trip. With no Goryos Vengeance deck, little time and no resources to make other arrangements, I turned to my last resort.
It was a discouraging way to start the event, but I had to - had to - make the most of it. There was too much money, effort and pride on the line. After all, I'd made miracles happen with Jund before, so maybe it could happen again.
As it turned out, I notched win after win, including one against Amulet Titan, and made Day 2 with a record of 8-1. Two friends playing Goryos Vengeance fared worse. The next day, I got mostly favorable matchups, highlighted by a win over Martin Juza playing Infect and a close loss against Yuta Takahashi playing Temur Splinter Twin. I cruised all the way to the Semifinals before being knocked out by Affinity.
When the dust settled, I'd earned enough Pro Points to achieve Platinum status for the following year. I'd achieved my goal. and I'd done it my way, with my faithful Jund deck.
It stunk to lose my Modern deck, and I never did recover any of the cards that went missing on my trip. Still, the value of those cards paled in comparison to the value of achieving Platinum status. Plus, I'd enjoyed the trip, and the people I met in Singapore proved to be kind, welcoming and generally awesome. Overall, it had to be considered a success.
Years later, Goryo's Vengeance hasn't really stood the test of time in Modern. Maybe the truth is that it wasn't a very strong deck to begin with.
Deck choice is one of the most stressful elements of tournament Magic. You can never quite silence your doubts, even when a particular option seems very strong. In this case, I was grateful to have fate give me a little nudge in the right direction.
runs in the family for Reid. When Reid was five, his mom came home one
day with two Magic starter packs for him and his brother Ian. They both
hardly knew the rules but they muddled through as best they could with
the rules inserts. 26 years later, Reid’s now one of Magic’s most
successful and respected players in the world. Learn more about Reid.