Thran Utopia #22: Once Upon a Time in Amsterdam

The upcoming Pro Tour takes me back to almost a year ago. It was, just like it will be this year, the Pro Tour with the largest card pool (Extended instead of Modern). And it was in Amsterdam. What is the relevance of all this? Well, it was the first Pro Tour I visited. Not as a competitor, but just as a railbird and side event-competitor. It was an amazing and fun weekend which won’t happen again, since they closed the Pro Tours for the public. Reminisce a bit with me today, will you?

(Please bear in mind this is written almost a year after it happened and without notes to recall from. Everything comes from the mind. The miiiiiind.)

Friday, September 3rd

We drove out around nine in the morning. We figured this would be enough time to get to the site and partake in a big Two Headed Giant Sealed event. Well, we did get to partake in a Sealed event, but not that one. The problem is my chronic lack of anything that even remotely resembles a sense of direction. The event was to be beld in the Amsterdam Convention Factory, and I effortlessly guided Robert and myself to the Amsterdam Convention Center – on the other side of Amsterdam. We talked to a few people that were there – for some reason, Robert liked talking English to them, which resulted in very bad English on their part – and ordered a cab to our hotel. This was yet another notch on the belt of my inability to guide us anywhere. Another famous example is when Rick and I where in Barcelona, where I managed to miss the Magic shop literally around the corner for two days straight. I even looked the address up in advance of our journey!

Our hotel was a whole story on it’s own. It was a very cheap hostel, so we didn’t have much expectations. It was actually quite good and the internet reviews where spot on. The rooms where small and the staff was pretty norse, but the breakfast was very good (although you had to pay extra for things like boiled eggs). Actually, the rooms where really small. I couldn’t open my locker and the door of the room at the same time, neither could I the bathroom door. The light in the bathroom took ages to light after you pressed the button, which became our de-facto joke for the weekend. If something took long, we always compared it to the time it took for our bathroom light to light. “I’ll press the button now so the light is on when we get back tonight.”

This photo shows the Door Dilemma.

The first tournament we did was M11 Two Headed Giant Sealed. We where looking forward to this, but at something like 1-3, we called it quits. Building two decks from one pool is a tough affair and requires a mindset very different from building a regular Sealed deck. I can’t even remember the decks we had. All I know I was playing blue and I had a Mind Control. To no avail.

Moving on, we had an afternoon of durdling around. At the time, I was working on a deck centered around Mycosynth Lattice and Shattering Spree, also known as Grand Spree (view Ben Bleweiss’s take on the deck here), and I was foiling my Eldrazi Green peasant deck. Robert, meanwhile, was working on foiling his Legacy Enchantress deck and an Esper-colored highlander deck. We both found a few cards for the deck. I traded with a dealer for Goblin Welders, while Robert was able to score a foil Sterling Grove and a foil Darksteel Forge for way less than he valued them. I also scrounged my way to a few hard-to-find cards like Tower of the Magistrate, and Cloudposts foiled (I managed to get five, two of which were French, and all of which who were Mirrodin) for a more than reasonable price. All in all, a good day as far as our constructed decks were concerned.

We grabbed a bite to eat and went on to the FNM event for the day. It was Friday after all! The format was again M11 (kinda disappointing: I would’ve liked more Rise of the Eldrazi, the then-latest expert-level set) and again, nothing spectacular here. I got a 2-2 record, which was good enough for the current promo (Qasali Pridemage, I believe) and another recent one of my choice (Cloudpost). The best part was the American player who lived in Germany and whom I beat. He was very friendly and we chatted throughout the whole match, him sometimes in awe by my cards and plays. If that’s not a nice opponent to play against, then I don’t know what is.

Friday Night Munching. Omnomnom.

We ended the day at a Turkish food place on the way back from the site back to our hotel. The kebab we had there was great since we were both starved. (The picture above was our dinner, not our Turkish delight.)

Saturday, September 4th

We started the day with a good breakfast, stuffing ourselves to prevent hunger attacks before noon.We succeeded. We took the tram to the event site and got the chauffeur interested in the game. He asked us where we were going, since he saw a lot of guys wearing backpacks and having cards that also headed where we were heading. We told him about the game and he was fascinated. It was too bad we had to get out. He even got a few cards from us, so in the best case scenario we recruited a new player for the game. All in all, another moment that signifies the greatness of the game. People you don’t even know talk to you because Magic looks interesting.

The Pro Tour site was littered with puzzles. You had one for each color of mana, and if you got them all correct, your solution would net you a booster pack. We spent the larger part of the day looking for the puzzles and solving them, which was very much fun. I envy Mark Gottlieb for his insane talent in making puzzles. More on this later.

A picture of Robert playing his Enchantress deck against Wizards’ Steve Warner. Steve didn’t know Legacy was so popular, so his deck was actually one scrambled together from Mark Gottlieb’s cube. Steve couldn’t get enough of proclaiming how bad the deck was, claiming it was ‘all tutoring and no action’.

We also did an M11 draft. Again, and dare I say ‘sigh’, nothing spectacular. It was single elimination, so naturally my double Mind Control-with-Jace-and-other-insane-blue-and-red-cards had a disagreement with my seventeen lands and I was out in the first round. Also, Bram Snepvangers was in this draft. I really hate not having played against him.

The best part about this day, and arguably the entire weekend, was the Scars of Mirrodin preview party. It started with delicious food – for free! It was too bad we had just stuffed ourselves at McDonalds and all we could muster was a dessert.

Again, omnomnom. Also, HAUMPH.

There where a few stands around the area without anything on them. There was also this conglomeration of orbs (which were the Mirrodin suns) in the middle of the room. We could only wonder what that would be for.

The stage, on which the battle for Mirrodin was about to commence.

Then they revealed a bunch of Scars of Mirrodin-cards onto those stands. It was awesome. I couldn’t contain myself. I snapped pictures of every one of them and frantically tried to capture my excitement into text messages to Rick. He was excited too, so I mailed him those pictures and he uploaded them onto MTGSalvation. Magic 2.0! Interwebs fame (or not)!

Next up was a puzzle (again by resident puzzling genius Mark Gottlieb) where you had to look for certain letters on the cards. On the back of the flyer where certain questions that decided if you where a Mirran or Phyrexian. You got a t-shirt and a button of faction. Being a good guy, I naturally ended up a Mirran.

These two sides would have a battle for dominance of the plane of mirrodin. On a screen, an artwork would be shown of a creature. You had to guess it’s printed toughness and if you won, you would deal that much damage the opposing player. There were five head-to-head art battles like this, each for a Mirran sun. We, the Mirrans, won this one three to two. Afterwards we all got an actual card from the set.

Meanwhile, the Pro Tour had finished it’s Saturday portion. The Top 8 was set and two of my favorite players, Brian Kibler and Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, where in. Great! I was looking forward to seeing them on the big screen. I had already seen Wafo playing against Conley in a draft match, which was a great experience. The feature match area was in a huge theatre room where we went quite a few times on Saturday. Later we also got to see Brian Kibler’s Treehouse in action against LSV, also sporting said deck. After the preview party was done, Robert and I took a walk around the site and saw Brian Kibler testing his matchup for Sunday. Ben Rubin had put together the same 75 as Brian’s first Sunday opponent: Michael Jacob, with Teachings. Robert dove into a huge box of basic lands, where we spotted some Zombie tokens. The things people throw away these days!

It was great to see the great minds of the game at work in real life.

We went back to the hotel and saw a lot of Magic-minded people on the way back. The excitement over a few Scars of Mirrodin-commons kinda gave it away. Everyone seemed to had a mana Myr (which are all watermarked Mirrans), which led us to conclude that we got those cards because Mirrodin won the battle.

None other than Brian David-Marshall and Rashad Miller proved us wrong by showing us Ichorclaw Myrs in the tram. Robert’s Zombie tokens came in handy, as he traded for the Myrs using the Zombies he rescued from all-but-certain-death just a few minutes ago.

Back in the hotel, we did Pack Wars with the packs we had gotten from our Treasure Hunt, and of course Robert won. Like I said a while ago, the golden rule of Pack Wars is that Robert always wins. Always.

Sunday, September 5th

It was the day on which a new Pro Tour champion would be crowned and the excitement had spread amongst the people present that Kai Budde himself was in the Top 8. He wasn’t the only big name, as Brad Nelson, Brian Kibler, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa and the then-unknown-to-me Paul Rietzl where all still in contention on Pro Tour Sunday.

We got a few seats around eleven and where ready to go for the whole thing. It was sad to see my favorites falling by the wayside. Since I’m a control player at heart, it was too bad MJ’s and Wafo’s Teachings-decks lost their quarterfinals in an uneven showing. The aggressive decks deserved the win more, and so it be.

We watched the whole thing unfold in front of our eyes. We got a lunch when the pro’s did the same, and while enjoying our meals we did a Winston draft using seven ROE-packs. For once I emerged victorious, with my most memorable play (pretty memorable, since I still remember it today) casting Spawning Breath and copying it with Echo Mage, then using the two Spawn tokens and six lands to set Robert’s demise in motion using Ulamog’s Crusher, which turned out stopped Robert’s own Crusher from reaching the battlefield. The fact that there weren’t any memorable rares to be won was of secundary importance.

When we got back, we where surprised by commentator Brian David-Marshall recalling our meeting of last night on public broadcast. We were quite honored to be named in the webcast, even though they didn’t call us by name or anything. That didn’t matter to us – we both couldn’t surpress a wide grin on our faces.

In the end, it was Rietzl’s White Weenie deck that took home the trophy. We joked around (in true PVDDR-fashion) that we were ashamed a deck like White Weenie won the event we watched for a whole weekend, but you can’t deny its power over the weekend, nor the power of Paul Rietzl. His insane run at Magic Weekend Paris earlier this year proved I should be the one ashamed for not knowing who he was.

Congratulations to Paul Rietzl! ... Fine, fine, you too, White Weenie. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Sadly, the story ends with a frowny face. And I don’t mean the way I managed to prolong the car ride back home by a full three quarters since I managed to miss two out of two exits we were supposed to take (Robert, I can hear you, so stop laughing!). No, I mean that Pro Tours are closed events from now on. No more railbirding, no more walking among the Great of the Game. Let this be a message to you, Wizards of the Coast, that you should really open Pro Tours up for people not participating. You are denying a lot of people a lot of fun. Pro Tour Amsterdam was one of the best weekends I already have and I would go again if I were able to. So please, Wizards, make me able to! Until then, though, I’ll be watching the live webcasts. And yes, I am very much looking forward to PT Philly!

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Posted on August 28, 2011, in Articles, Thran Utopia and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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