I had never met Pez before the BLBBBQ. I chatted with him briefly a couple of times on Discord and seen some of his comments there as well, mostly shit talking Cam Wall and Green cards. But, as intimidating as his comments and appearances may be, Pez is an extremely nice dude. I really enjoyed getting to hang out and talk with him at the BBQ and wish we had time to do more of it. He contacted me shortly after the event and told me he had a report he’d like for us to throw up on the blog and I was more than happy to do so. After reading it, I was happier to do so. This is one of my favorite tournament reports I’ve read. Dive in.
11:58am. I’m standing at the desk talking to the manager at the Enterprise car rental about why the SUV I prepaid for 5 days ago isn’t there. That’s when Shane (Atreyu) pulls up to my house after driving 4 hours from Rochester NY.
I call Shane. “Hey bro, there is a problem with the rental. I’m on my way to pick you up and we are getting shuttle a half hour away to pick up our ride. I will be there in 3 minutes.”
So, Shane and I had never met in person before then, had barely spoken at all really. We completed one transaction for 2 beta red elemental blasts 4 months earlier and we are about to drive 11 hours to Nashville, Tennessee, to ball the fuck out of control.
After a short delay, Enterprise’s shuttle takes us to another lot, where we are shown our new upgraded vehicle: a 2019 Dodge Durango. Fully loaded, all black, with a sick sound system (Mastodon, High on Fire, Gaza).
From Pittsburgh to Nashville is 560 miles, and my intention is to drive first and let Shane rest because he worked the night prior. He even woke up earlier than normal that morning to make it to my house by noon. I’ve done quite a few road trips, so I’m feeling pretty confident I can get some serious miles down and then rest a few hours. That would put us at our destination before midnight with the time zone change.
We chat about previous events attended, when we started Magic, some of our favorite cards, and before we know it, we are almost halfway done with the trip and making great time. We pull over at a rest area to stretch a bit and switch drivers.
Shane attended The Bootleggers Ball in 2018, driving it solo from NY with minimal preparation and sleep, so I figured he was a competent driver.
I was completely fucking wrong.
About 15 minutes into a nap, I am abruptly awoken by “Which way do I go??!! Do I turn left or right??!!”
Shane is on 65 South and just supposed to be following this road for the next 4 hours. It’s been under 45 minutes.
I see that there is a 65 South fast lane to the left and a 65 South regular lane to the right. But instead of picking a direction he decides to drive straight at about 75mph, nearly killing us and barely missing a drop off the highway of about 2 million feet.
I spend the next 15 minutes telling Shane exactly what I think of his driving skills and we pull over at the next rest area, where I take the wheel again. In his defense, Shane is a great dude, and we had a lot of laughs driving together. But dude needs to take a fucking driving class.
I end up driving until about 9:30pm, when we both decide it’s best if we get a hotel and just relax the rest of the night. We are less than 2 hours away, an easy drive in the morning.
After dropping Shane off, I make my way to the house I have rented with The Deep Spawners of So-Cal: John (HeyJohnSexton), Brian (SirLoki), and Park (ParkCofield).
We have a 12pm check in. I show up at 11:42am and the lock won’t work. So, I GPS the closest grocery store (Kroger’s) to get supplies. Three gallons of water, half a watermelon, eight kind bars, and two 16oz rib eyes. The essentials.
Directly next door to the grocery store was a small sushi spot. I hang out and drink two glasses of ice water, then tell the waitress about my near-death experience while driving from Pittsburgh the day before.
Five salmon, tuna, and avocado rolls to-go, then I’m driving back to the house. I pull up at 12:18pm. John has already punched in the code, gained access, and claimed the master bedroom for himself. Closet, TV, and what looked to be a really comfortable queen-sized bed. Well played, John, well played.
I claim the second-largest room for myself. It included a fairly large L-shaped desk that I turned into a clothes rack for the rest of the weekend.
Park’s flight lands at 4pm, but there is a delay with Brian’s flight and now he isn’t expected to be here until 11pm. So, we will be leaving for the much hyped BLBBBQ without him. That still leaves us a few hours to kill.
John shows me his “Hot Chicken” themed deck accompanied by a red-and-white checkered tablecloth as a playmat. He has commissioned some amazing alters for his Rukh tokens and clearly spent a lot of hours working on this.
I’ve brought with me my Mono Black deck (Everything Went Black), which I have been working on for the last year. We jam more than 10 games back-to-back before he is kind enough to pull out a few more of the decks he had built to lend to his friends, so I can get some more reps in with my deck. Shortly after Park arrives, we take an Uber to the BBQ, under 15 minutes away.
I arrive to a challenge: “My friend Cam Wall says you’re a big feller, but I do believe I can take you.” Alionamongstmen and me have been friends a few years now. We originally met on Reddit before the Discord server was really a thing, but this is our first face-to-face meeting.
Within the first 10 minutes of being at the BBQ, I am rushed away in Lions’s black F-150 blaring Behemoth on a quest to find Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. We end up finding it after only 3 stops and come back to a considerably larger gathering than when we left.
On our return I am introduced to Alan (AlanFinney), who is hosting the BBQ at his house. Alan has prepared and epic feast of 30lbs of delicious pulled pork, corn tortillas, diced jalapenos, homemade salsa, and grilled Brussel sprouts. My man went completely all out for 40 complete strangers, and I was about to throw down because I am starving. I make a plate of 4 pulled pork tacos filled so full they barely close, and begin to get fueled up before I go seek an opponent and get down with some Old School Magic.
My first opponent is Steve (HotHands), a member of the Cleveland Rocs who I had met earlier in the year at one of their events. He is on a Power Artifact brew he’s been working on for a while now. My Djinns treat me pretty well these games, but it’s only half about playing the match. The other half is getting to hang out and chat with some of my friends who I haven’t seen in a while.
After our games I decide it’s time for me to take in some more of my surroundings. I fill my
Baphomet-adorned drinking mug halfway with some homemade mead from one of the four coolers in the garage. Then it’s time to explore.
The garage was connected to the basement of the house, which seemed to have endless amounts of Old Schoolers throwing down games everywhere. Tucked under a staircase, in the laundry room, two matches are being played on the bar in the family room. Another group of four have settled in the living room huddled, over an ottoman doing some final tweaks to their decks.
A moment of silence is abruptly broken by cheering and clapping as someone makes a clutch Chaos Orb flip at the other end of the house.
Outside a group of about ten people gather around a table, furiously cracking packs of Desert Storm trading cards from what turned out to be a stacked box, containing two Richard Cheney and one Saddam Hussein. My friend Mark (supercobra) walks up and greets me by showing me his two Cobra helicopters he opened, planning to use them as tokens in the event tomorrow.
What seems like a half-hour in reality has been almost five. Brian is landing soon from his delayed, rerouted plane that took him through Mexico before landing him in Nashville six hours late. My two roommates and I load up into an Uber and make our way to meet Brian for some (second) dinner.
“You think it burns going in?”
What the fuck did I get myself into?!? I thought as I read this on a shirt at Prince’s Hot Chicken. Hot chicken is a staple in Nashville: fried chicken cooked in hot sauce. I order eight tenders, medium, and what would prove to be the literal best slice of pecan pie I ever had in my life.
The wait time was about an hour, so this was a perfect opportunity to catch up with Brian and Mark with some ninja fries from Park’s plate while I was waiting on my tenders.
Medium is a lie. I’m absolutely terrified that there are three more additional levels of fire.
The Calm Before the War
The morning went efficiently. Four dudes rotating showers and toilets after a night of hot chicken and drinking went surprisingly well, and we are on our way to the venue, only about 15 minutes away.
9:45am. I’m sitting at a table at the venue, looking at the room fill quickly. I think to myself it’s already a little warm, and these air conditioner ducts are about as big as a business card, and I can’t feel the cold air blowing despite being only 2 feet away. But then the tournament begins.
Mono Green Alpha 60
Bob is a personal friend of mine from Pittsburgh. We make some jokes about how at least the round will be fast. Grizzly Bears and Wild Growths are no match for Djinns and Strip Mines.
At one point, I have multiple Juzams and Specters on the board facing 2 War Mammoths when a spectator from a couple matches away shouts out “Eeewwweee, one of y’all is driving a Porsche!”
I love Nashville.
Mono Green Ifh-Biff, Wyluli Wolf, Tracker
Carter is the first member of the Lords of the Pit I got to face today, playing his notorious Mono Green on-board creature deck. He was a little mana light game one and I was able to hold him down with Strips and Sinkholes as an Order did most of the heavy lifting. Game 2 I remember Tutoring for a Royal Assassin on turn 2, then being able to stall the board until some Vampires came down to finish it up.
The match was over in about 20 minutes, so we were able to jam about 7 more games where he got to try a few different sideboard plans. But unless Carter puts 10 Whirling Dervishes in his deck from that sideboard, there is zero percent chance he will ever beat me. Just ask Cam Wall.
4C Howling Mine, Winter Orb control deck
It’s about 90 degrees outside.
Close to 100 people inside the bar.
Air conditioner decided to say fuck it and commit suicide.
It is now warmer inside than it is outside.
James won the award last year at Eternal Weekend for most intoxicated. I realize this because his play mat is Dom sitting on the toilet, which was the prize for the coveted title.
I know this dude came to party.
James is on a prison brew. Multiple Howling Mines keep both our hands fully stocked, missing zero land drops and playing spells back and forth every turn. We get to a point where he has a Tabernacle in play, and I have a Strip Mine and Sinkhole in hand, but I go after colored sources to hold him down and keep swinging with my Order. Turns out it was the right play and the steady two-a-turn was enough to do him in.
Game 2 I am able to hold some of his colored sources off and play an Underworld Dreams. This card is such a beast to bring in against any deck with Sylvan Library or Howling Mine, and he is playing both. I really enjoyed playing this match as it presented some board interactions I haven’t seen in a long time. Very cool deck.
Mana dudes and jewelry ramp to fat Moti and Angels
Steve is also a Lord of the Pit and wearing a Black Sabbath shirt. We caught a smoke outside and had a conversation about Electric Wizard and Opeth. Maldo is a true connoisseur of metal.
Game 1, I go Lotus, Swamp, Hymn, Hymn. Turn 3 specter.
Game 2 takes longer but is a lot of the same thing. He summons an early fat Genie, but I brought in 3 terrors and was able to keep the pressure going with Factories and Specters.
Brian (Sir Loki)
Orange County, CA
Workshops, Robots, Icy Manipulator
Brian plays extremely tight and knows his deck very well (Top 8 in Tacoma two weeks prior) so I knew I had my work cut out for me.
The match pivoted on one game. I’m on the play. Black Lotus. Dark Ritual. Mishra’s Factory. Hypnotic Specter. Hypnotic Specter. Your turn bro.
Him: Tundra, Mox, Mox, Lotus. Tetravus 🙂
I’m staring at the Chaos Orb in my hand knowing I have to rip a Mox or Sol Ring to kill his blocker and then ball him.
Rip Mox Jet. Alright, the Dark Lord is on my side today.
And then, for the first time since 1994, I missed my Chaos Orb flip.
Blame is on nerves, lack of sleep, it being 150 degrees in the venue, whatever. I can’t attack and kill his hand, so I don’t. I was 8-0 in games coming in and the dream crusher somehow comes back and wins this game.
At one point I drip sweat onto my Juzam Djinn. I wipe it away with my hand, but somehow my card sleeve is even more covered in sweat after that. My fingers are starting to look like I have been in the bathtub or pool for the last four hours.
I decide this is the price to pay to have the horned demons on your team, so I take the sweat soaked Djinn, insert it in my deck, and shuffle my sticky slightly damp cards and get ready to avenge my loss.
Behind tables 1-3, against the wall, is a fan. It’s about 70 years old. Covered in dust, completely made from steel; this thing is a safety hazard waiting to happen. But it’s 215 degrees in the venue. I’m looking at that fan and trying to decide if I should (a) keep the fan facing the ground and deal with being covered in sweat, or (b) tilt fan up and get direct contact of air flow for the first time today, but have to face the elements of wind and rain during and Chaos Orb flips for this match.
Fuck it, we are playing in a typhoon. I turn the fan to 11 and brace myself for the storm.
Gauntlet of Might, Shivan Dragon, Robots
Charlie is the 3rd Pit Lord I faced for the day. Charlie does a lot of traveling for events and always has a crazy tale of how he hasn’t slept in three days, travelled by train and horseback, then was abducted by aliens and had to play ante matches for his freedom. Going 5-1 is the easy part of the tournament for him.
On more than one occasion, I have been reminded by Charlie that my previous win two years ago in Round 1 of Eternal Weekend was a fluke. He had cast Berserk on a Shivan Dragon, attacked, then cast Wheel of Fortune to draw another Berserk, which would have been lethal if he’d done it before attacks.
This is the day he gets his revenge.
Game 1, I get him down to 4 and I have a Juzam and a Factory on board, with Time Walk in my hand. He has a Dragon. The plan is to swing with both, have him trade the Dragon for my Djinn, Time Walk, and win the game. Problem is, I miss that he has a Gauntlet of Might on the board, and that makes his Dragon a 6/6. Next turn, I get dragon-uppercut by a Shivan wearing the Infinity Gauntlet. Game 2 isn’t much better for me and I get wrecked pretty quickly, but at least I get a free drink out of it 🙂
Alright, we are playing in a sauna. It is full-fledged Bikram Yoga: the Gathering. It’s a very fucked up feeling when you have to go outside in 95-degree weather with no shade in Nashville to escape the heat from inside the venue.
Shivan Dragon, Orgg, White removal, Mana Vault
Winston is playing powerless today because he is allowing his son to use their set of jewelry. It’s pretty surprising to see he is doing so well without all the busted expensive cards. Just goes to show if you have a solid game plan, play tight and are a little lucky, you can potentially take one of these tournaments down. Unfortunately for Winston, his luck has ran out, and he was paired against me and my Djinns, who are getting restless and want blood because I’ve lost my last 2 matches.
Game 1, I go first and I’m able to kill a land on turn 2 and do that for three straight turns. He doesn’t draw another land for a few more turns and, a Specter and Hymn are able to take care of his removal. I put down an Order and the game was done a few turns later.
Game 2 he came out faster with a turn 3 Dragon, but the three Terrors I sideboard in against all big creature decks did what they were supposed to. Two back-to-back Djinns were able to get me my revenge.
With my 5-2 record, I was 6th place overall and was awarded an awesome Demonic Tutor alter and a Su-chi that everyone at the event signed.
My wife for allowing me to travel across the country and play a card game I have been obsessed with for 25 years.
Music City Old School for putting together such a memorable weekend.
Deep Spawners for being awesome roommates and winning lots of booze and sharing it.
Shane for dealing with me for 20+ hours in a car ride.
Holiday Inn Express breakfast selection. That’s for another time though.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my report. I’ve played Magic on and off for basically my entire life, and I am having more fun now than I ever have before with it. I appreciate all of you.