Tuesday, July 5, 2011

tournament dialogue part 1

“And I’m sitting there arms-crossed with my hand on the table looking at the matches on either side of me because that’s the proper response to an opponent resolving a Top activation during his upkeep for like the third turn in a row and way more interesting than this dude furrowing his brow over and over is the match to my right where this woman has taken her deck out of a box that says in label-maker-text ‘ANT’ and she’s playing mono-red burn against this Goblins player right. And this is the first game and she’s just crushing him with Lava Spikes and Bolts that go to his head at EOT instead of his turn-one Lackey, she was on the play, and then he’s tapped out she’s at fourteen or whatever he has the three creatures he’s had time to play before he’s down to two life and she untaps draws a land to go with her in-hand Bolt, Magma Jet, and she passes the turn back to him right after dropping the land and either she was just trying to tilt him majorly or she was just told always cast things at EOT instead of-”
“Oh right, so you’re Captain Feminist, and this woman must have just been told what to do. Right on.”
“Well I was getting to that, asshole, as they’re shuffling up and sideboarding and he’s trying to salvage himself from a complete embarrassment at the hands of a $20 deck-”
“Isn’t Chain Lightning like $5?”
“Probably had Guides.”
“Fine, $80 deck whatever thanks for your brilliant contributions; point is he’s trying to find two pride-salvaging brain chemicals to rub together and he starts doing the usual chats, you know all those where from how long’ve you been playing play much Legacy and she’s telling him in just that incredible French accent that before this wonderful life experience of losing at Magic, he’s only heard emerging from dark-lipsticked-mouths of fatales in noir movies about the Resistance set in 1944-”
“The French Resistance.”
“No. The fucking Native American resistance because they totally had French accents, yes obviously the French Resistance if I’m explaining that she sounded French, so what I was trying to say was that she tells this dude with this all-foil-except-the-duals-and-only-because-foil-duals-don’t-exist Goblins deck (why you’d foil Goblins instead of an actual deck well that’s just Legacy players I guess) anyway she tells him that she’s been playing for two weeks and this is her first Legacy tournament but it seems fun so far and he’s smilenodding looking down at his cards as he’s shuffling to make sure they’re not laughing at him that his Piledrivers don’t have their art altered to give him the finger but the read on him is pretty obvious. Dude is already forming his bad beat story. It’s half-written. That’s what people do when they sideboard, really, they’re thinking about the wording they’ll use when they tell-”
“So you won.”
“No but that’s not the point, you don’t hear me standing here talking about how I got sacked out-”
“Shut up, anyway so he’s already thinking how he’ll be like ‘oh man, unreal, I just lost to France’s Next Top Model’ but he pulls it together, turn one Lackey obviously again obviously survives obviously has Gang so yeah nice Spikes, game three she has the classic quad-Bolt Blast You Blast You and she kills him right as her counterpart starts birding-”
“Oh, here I thought you had a shot. Sucks, dude.”
“Well obviously none of us had a shot, dude has the same absolutely jaw-dropping Mediterranean look to him and they’re chatting in froggish about, I assume, high-level theoretical concepts that become intrinsic to your playstyle when you can blind half the tournament hall with the gleam off your teeth or maybe they’re just involuntarily scoffing at every other human that ever has or will exist and I think I might have recognized him? So he might be a pro or maybe I’ve only seen his bare chest and abs in professionally-photographed black and white magazine ads, but he seems happy so I guess he’s up.”
“Unlike you.”
“Well it’s like a 50/50 matchup, depends on if he has Deeds, I got Deeded both games, had maybe 50/50 shot if I had attempted a combo one game but I didn’t go for it, got Hymned and lost. Positive I could have played it better but no idea how, getting 2-0’d means I must have fucked up somewhere.”
“Yeah, well.”
“Deed seems slightly okay against you.”
“Little bit. Played against Conley yesterday and you know that BUG Standstill list?”
“Well he’s playing something like that but four Deed-”
“-removal package of a Diabolic Edict, a Dismember, a Go for the Throat, some other one-of that’s probably a four-mana uncommon that -0/-1s a guy and gives horsemanship if you control an Advisor-”
“First pick in MED draft for sure.”
“-anyway so yes, first he crushed me with a Deed, then he got Deed and I cried and he told me it would all be alright and then once that massacre was over-”
“Whoa, Massacre could be sweet in this format.”
“...that’s... actually a good idea. Huh. Well anyway this guy that I’d never seen and Conley didn’t seem to know was like giraffeing over Conley’s shoulder at the deck and doing that little look-up-and-to-the-left look with a slight head bob and barely mouthing to himself and he would do that every time Conley mentioned a card in his deck and then this dude tries to all stealthy-slip past everyone straight to the dealers which is a bit difficult when you’re pushing so hard against 300lbs that 300lbs falls over and rolls down the hill and plus one of those jumbo-sized backpacks over his god-knows-how-many X’s L black shirt with some white words on the front of it, guy’s at the SCG booth and does the same sort of look back and forth before saying anything that a Sim does when you tell it to steal something from someone’s house.”
“Okay, so what did he get?”
“No idea.”

“So I was walking back from the garage and Wescoe is sitting outside on a bench alone, reading something looked like a mass-market-size paperback and I could see small text and each page was broken into two columns, right? So I ask out of nowhere all incredulous ‘are you reading a dictionary?’ and he kinda looks at me and turns the cover and it says Holy Bible on the front and I think I saw on the inside that part of it was highlighted and had a heart drawn in sharpie around it so I just start blubbering apologies over and over and get out of there as fast as possible.”
“What? No.”
“All fact.”
“Do you think he’ll remember you?”
“Of course not, he’ll mistake me for the other million Magic players that are incredibly tall, rail-thin, with skinny jeans and a combover. The fuck do you think.”

“The strangest part is that these fucking nerds don’t even know how to cross the street. We’re talking one lane- granted it’s an offramp from a highway but still like one lane and not one of those luxurious west-coast “single lanes” with space for dancers on either side of your car as you’re driving, this is old-school east-coast thin-ass lane here. And the thing has a crossing sign which really isn’t even necessary. If there’s a car crossing, don’t fucking cross, if there isn’t one you cross. Not that complicated. So there’s a group of maybe like eight people and I’m at the front and the crossing sign changes from the bathroom sign turned sideways into the flashing hand that means 'planeswalk on over' and not just that but the damn thing has a timer to let you know how long you have before you can’t enter that five feet of pavement. So I cross and the thing has like 15 left on it and everyone save one person stays on the other side like 'whoa now. Let’s take this easy. Twenty seconds from now the other light will change from red to green and then if there is a car there it might not be safe to walk across this narrow strip of black for a few seconds. Better wait until the next cycle.' Either these dorks don’t really live in a major city like they claim or Seattle is some suburban hellhole that everyone calls a city just for shits and to trick people into thinking that it’s a place with culture instead of a desolate strip malling hellhole. Do they not even have streets there or does no one give the slightest of fucks about getting anywhere on time. Oh wait I know what it is, they only ever drive from their house to the card shop and to Local As Hell Coffee Store That Has Doughnuts so they never have to cross a street so they’re encountering these strange hieroglyphics on poles for the first time and don’t know what the fuck.”

“If he didn’t pull in more per hour than I make in a week and win every tournament he went to I’d feel a bit sorry for the guy.”
“Professional player, professional something else right heh heh-”
“No you idiot he’s one of those guys that gets paid to go to suity corporate events and do the little sleight of hand tricks in front of CEOs and the women they- the CEOs- are having sloppy grunty overpriced affairs with, he- the player- is doing the same thing he used to do at children’s parties except now he gets to make an occasional dick joke instead of the occasional fart joke and just leaves with his suit pockets bulging with tips from those CEOs that don’t want to look cheap in front of said affair-having-partners. Fortunately for him he’s practiced enough with little hand-movements that he doesn’t seem at all uncomfortable managing a wad of 20s/50s/100s that would be the envy of like most modern rappers and he can even subtly slip a few of them off of the wad when he actually needs to like pay for a thing, which he can do now because the guy’s just loaded to hell is the point. And so instead of sipping Warhol-print-colored drinks with sentence-long names on the beach owned by a now ex-wife of one of those CEOs mentioned previously he’s now hunting tournaments up and down the east coast not like just going to a few or some of them once in a while no no no. Dude is stalking them, seriously. Just comes to them out of the blue and the usual ringers just die in top eight-”
“When did people start using ‘ringer’ to mean, like, anyone competent because it actually means someone that’s not really supposed to be there but-”
“Oh not that shit again cut that out so anyway it’s not like he’s hiding his occupation from the world or anything- not bragging about it like a total dick either thankfully- but the thing of it is like no one wants to say anything but how would you feel if you’re playing against this guy that happens to do sleight-of-hand card tricks where he’ll move around cards and people don’t notice even when they know that’s what he’s doing and that it’s what he gets paid to do so he’s really good at that- this is what he does for a day job not in a game, hopefully, but that’s what I’m saying like how would you really know that. The guy seems legitimately good but there’ll always be that question in people’s minds. That oh wow what a shock the master card manipulator happened to draw the card at the exact right time hmm shocking.”
“But sometimes people just draw the right card.”
“Well what would you do?”
“I’d go oh my god cheating lucksack, obviously. But that’s the thing like if you’re constantly watching him for oh man is he putting an extra card in his hand is he trying to con me right now- oh I should mention he used to be an actual con man before the whole magician thing, that’s how he got into it because tricking people into giving you their money by being all fast-talking and using your hands a lot is actually a lot less profitable than just smiling and hoping they give it to you knowing full well exactly what they did because you were so impressive with your fast talking and hand shit. So he has this wonderful way of playing Magic where if you watch him it doesn’t look like he’s doing anything particularly fantastic and his decks are all usually like a week out of date at least, doesn’t hang with Thompson or anyone like that-”
“Thompson would ask for his bag from Denver back anyway.”
“-so instead he just plays a solid game of Magic. And smiles a lot. And hits on his opponents- he’s gay by the way- and laughs and more smiling. He doesn’t even flick the cards in his hands back and forth because like he’s just too good at actual ways to manipulate cards to bother with low-level shit like that I mean what would be the point? And his opponents just chuckle nervously at his jokes and sit there and flick and tank and flick flick tank tank and keep getting distracted by when he every now and then just peeks at one of the cards in his hand, they’re usually sitting in a pile face-down on the table except for that. Only remaining aspect of his day job in his play- he has to do this just to remind you that he can so you’d better watch him even closer- is not only does he not flick he doesn’t even look at his hand. He just flings it down on the table and it happens to land in that neat face-down pile and during his turn he draws his card quick peek and puts it in the middle of the face-down hand and whenever he needs to play a card he just turns over the top card and it’s what he needs to play because he’s just that fucking good and then he smiles. Always the smiling.”
“So how’s he today?”
“X-1, lost to burn I think.”


Unknown said...

I enjoyed this. At first I kind of wanted you to give context, then I didn't. Nice writing.

P.S. East Coasters are f***ers sometimes. Seattle is *definitely* a real city, though I've heard the Pacific NW can have a rather extreme "politeness" culture around sharing streets and waiting for others. But basically, I come from the SF Bay Area, and your EC giant urban blob ain't half as sweet as my WC giant urban blob.

P.P.S. <3 you anyway!

John Keck said...
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