Herberholz: GP Atlanta Tournament Report

by Mark Herberholz

I originally had planned on writing a report for this GP, much like I plan on writing one for every other tournament I go to. Then, like after every other tournament, I come home get distracted by pinkies, poker, and partying. This time, though, I’ve been running bad at poker and needed to take a break before I destroyed my laptop; getting slammed by ruthless three-outers all night will drive you to that. And since I’ve been trying to get a ton of work done rather than party, my break finds me at home at 1 am on a Wednesday night after an MSU basketball game–prime pinkie-patrolling time. But alas here I am, and the only thing of value I can find to do is regale you with my tales from GP Atlanta.

The precursor to the tournament involved me getting a phone call from Big Daddy Benafel a few days before the GP. He told me that he was going, and I needed to find us a hotel room. I talked to Gabe Walls, and he had a friend who knew a guy who had a sister who had a friend who gave handies in a back alley to the guy who owned the hotel, so we got a pretty sick deal. Big Daddy Benafel arrived a day early. I decided to spend my last night in East Lansing before a weekend of gaming like I always do: out boozing. I went out to the bar and started ripping shots and brews like they were going to declare prohibition tomorrow morning, and the next thing I know the DJ plays Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Jump on It.” Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with this song, there is a dance that goes along with it, made popular by an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, where Will and Carlton entered a Vegas dance competition and did a rendition to this song. To fully appreciate it you should just stop reading this now and watch it right now:

Okay, now that you’ve done that I can continue. When this song comes on, all my friends urge me to dance along; the truth is, I’m kind of a big deal when it comes to this song. There are three keys to pulling the dance off:

1. When you are doing the hip thrusts, you must have a dead serious face on
2. When you are jumping around and waving your arms during the “jump on it”‘ lines, you must have a look that I can describe only as childlike glee on your face
3. You must be tall, skinny, and lanky.

Since I have mastered all three of these criteria, I become the bane to every pinky in the establishment whenever this song comes on. Within 15 seconds of performing my dance, I have a girl who’s a solid 7 or 8 pull me aside and starts dancing with me. She is feeling me and I am feeling her ass, and all is good. The night progresses: I run some chats with her, we lose a game of pool, we rip some more shots, and closing time has come. So I find myself standing outside waiting for a cab with this girl and I suddenly realize that if I get into this cab there is a zero percent chance I make my 10 am flight. So I do what any true gamer would do: I looked her dead in the eye and said, “Well, I guess I’ll talk to you later.” I then made no move to get her phone number and went on to accept my consolation prize at the late-night Mexican place, which was an extra-large burrito with extra jalapenos.

So the next morning I wake up and grab my friend to give me a ride to the airport. He makes me drive as he is still legally drunk, and he just sleeps in the passenger seat the entire way there. I also am still legally drunk–drunk enough, in fact, that I believe that there will be no repercussions for any of my actions. Turns out, my flight is late; the airline bumps me up to a nonstop flight. Things are already starting to look up. I board the plane and am starting to sober up, which causes me to realize there are indeed repercussions for my actions. I dropped the biggest D of my life on that plane. That late-night extra-large burrito was a bad decision. This D was so big that I should have been charged for an extra carry-on. Also, my ass burned the whole flight, compliments of those extra jalapenos. I love jalapenos, but Lord knows they don’t love me. So I get into the Diiiiiirty and catch a cab to the site to run some drafts. Sadly, Nassif is also looking for some drafts, so I got hooked right on in to being on his team. Two hours later, my wallet is twenty dollars lighter. The draft was highlighted by Nassif punting a game in which he killed the wrong creature and died as a result, thanks to LSV’s topdeck. The best part about Hat is that after he punts, he complains that LSV is so lucky because (1) he (LSV) drew so well and (2) he (Nassif) is so stupid. We go back to the hotel and catch some sleep before the GP.

The actual GP was somewhat of a bust for me. I ran pretty bad. The highlights of my matches:

I’m playing against some guy one round and he plays the second-to-last card in his hand. He sets the last card down on the table and I see that it has the word “PACT” written on it in big red letters. (He wasn’t playing with sleeves.) He tells the judges that he is learning English and that he uses writes out new words on spare cards to practice his vocabulary. Once again the language barrier prevails, and my opponent walks away without a warning. Four rounds later he was disqualified for having cards in his lap. That came as a real shock to me–not because he was cheating but because typically foreigners are craftier with their cheats. In retrospect, though he was only Canadian–barely a foreigner at that.

I’m playing against some guy one round and he plays the second-to-last card in his hand. He sets the last card down on the table and I see that it has the word “PACT” written on it in big red letters. (He wasn’t playing with sleeves.) He tells the judges that he is learning English and that he uses writes out new words on spare cards to practice his vocabulary. Once again the language barrier prevails, and my opponent walks away without a warning. Four rounds later he was disqualified for having cards in his lap. That came as a real shock to me–not because he was cheating but because typically foreigners are craftier with their cheats. In retrospect, though he was only Canadian–barely a foreigner at that.

I’m playing for day two in the last round. I sit down against my opponent, who has no byes. I tell him he doesn’t have a realistic chance to make day two, and he tells me that he “likes his chances.” So we shuffle up. In game one, he tanks for about five minutes on turn 15 or so and then alpha strikes me with his whole team. He then casts Naya Charm to tap my side and then casts Resounding Roar on one of his creatures to deal exactly 13 points of damage. Since I am at 14, I drop down to 1. He looks bewildered and stares at his board and then sheepishly passes the turn with no cards in hand and his team all tapped. I untap and attack him. I have lethal on board next turn. He mentions that he is somewhat known for his ability to see into future and says, verbatim, “Well, I guess I had better draw a burn spell.” He untaps, draws Hissing Iguanarm, plays it, and attacks to kill me. Game two, we don’t shuffle up and instead he just hops on the table and drops a D on my face. I sign the slip 0-2 and slink off to clean myself up a bit. He finishes an honorable 87th.

I talk to some local ATL guys about finding some sweet bars to go to, but everyone else bails on me to draft. So we’re left with drafting in the hotel bar while slamming some brews. While the draft is getting established, we play Gerard Fabiano’s new game, “Resounding Silence or No?” In this game, the first player has a Viscera Dragger, and the second player a two-card library consisting of Swamp and Resounding Silence. The second player draws a card and nudges. Then the first player has to decide what to do. You have to get a read on your opponent and figure out whether he has it and whether it’s right to attack. If you attack and they have the swamp ,you win, but if they have the Silence, you lose. Some people like to stone-face it to try and gain an edge, but the game’s true masters banter back and forth and figure out whether their opponent has it. Within minutes we are gambling on this and in what will be a precursor to the night, Big Daddy Benafel is betting 50 bones a match on me versus Tom Martell. After a couple of 2-1 victories, we decide to run some drafts. For some reason Gabe Walls forgets to include me on his team after he gets Benafel to agree on a 3k draft. I take this as a personal insult and proceed to bash left and right, resulting in a Benafel victory and consequently a free night out for Herberheezy.

Sunday we go to the site and run some more drafts. Gabe Walls keeps drafting against me and Benafel in an attempt to win his money back. He picks up Benny the Kid (Ben Lundquist) and random rotating other guy. As a side note, my record against Benny the Kid in money drafts is absurd, something like 14-1. I just dont lose to the kid. I literally have a 5-year lease in his head that I just signed last June. So I’m playing against Ben and we do odd or even card number to see who goes first. He loses, but I don’t show him and put it facedown. Ben makes a move to grab the card and I slam my hand down on it, telling him that he can look but if I’m telling the truth I get to start with eight cards. If I’m lying, however, I start with five. In the first two drafts, Ben declines to look and lets me play first, but after the third time of me running it, he finally musters up the stones to look. Obviously, I was telling truth and rip my extra card. I’m able to topdeck my mana accelerator on turn two and then I quickly smash him. The next draft it looks as if the tables are finally about to turn on us as we start off down a quick 3-0. At that point Gabe Walls decides to give Benafel 6:1 odds on 50 dollars that he will beat us. Long story short, we win 5-4 and the joke is on GWalls…not to mention dinner and drinks. We make it to the hotel bar right after last call, but the manager lets us buy some beers before they close. There were only six of us so we grabbed about 30 beers. We ran some more drafts, the highlight of which was when Gerry Thompson walked up as Gabe and I were playing and said, “I hate it when Mom and Dad have to fight.” I can only hope that I am “Dad.” The night dies down, but not before I hear what quite possibly is the greatest story of all time….

So we’re lying down in the hotel room and Tillman, a friend of ours and a former Marvel pro, tells us this tale. There is a house of about three to four guys, and they decide they really want to stick it to this one guy who they don’t like. So they decide that to shit in a popcorn tin for two weeks and then fill up a soccer-ball-shaped pinata with it. Then they are going to make the half-hour drive or so with the shit-filled pinata in their car to this kid’s house and somehow convince him to break it open just to see the look on his face when he stares up in triumph, expecting candy to rain down on him only to see that the weather forecast called for a shitstorm. So they arrive at this dude’s place and persuade him to break the pinata, which he agrees to do. However, he just knocks it off the rope, and it falls down slightly cracked. He doesn’t realize that there is human excrement leaking from it or that the smell that is emanating from it is found only in an outhouse or in Tijuana, so he tells them to–wait for it–throw it at my head. Literally, he said, “Throw it at my head.” Because it’s a soccer-ball-shaped pinata, it’s only natural to want to head it. So they happily oblige him and run it, and he heads it and a little turdage leaks out onto his head. He still doesn’t notice it. So then he does a flying elbow leap onto the pinata, busting it open with his back and elbow. He is rewarded with a back covered in shit. Were he a pig he would be in heaven. However, since he is indeed a man, he was in hell. Rather than go into a murderous rage as I’m sure all of you are thinking you would do if this had happened to you, he just says, “Man, you guys really got me.” He then proceeded to go inside and clean off.

Well, that’s my Atlanta story in all it’s glory. Hopefully, I will make top 16 at Worlds so I can stay on the train and bring more behind-the-scenes tales of the Pro Tour to everyone.

Mark Herberholz

P.S. If I ever ask you whether you want to break a pinata, you should probably say no.