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Day 2 Coverage of Grand Prix Kansas City

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The letter D!ay 2. 128 players have returned on this sunny Kansas City morning, all looking to make a run at the Top 8 of this Modern Constructed Grand Prix. Five players completed Day 1 without picking up a loss: Robert Berni, Ari Lax, and Kevin Peppler at a perfect 9-0, with Stephen Hager and Sean Weihe finishing at 8-0-1. This gives them a leg up on their quest for the trophy, but there are 123 other players vying for that same honor.

All five of the undefeated decks were different archetypes, speaking to the variety of Modern. While yesterday certainly worked to further the narrative of Modern's diversity, it also made strong strides to continue the recent dominance of the Melira Pod archetype. Since the banning of Second Sunrise, Melira Pod has risen to the top of the format, both in numbers and performance, winning Sam Pardee Grand Prix Portland along the way. This trend continues, as Melira Pod is clearly the post played deck of Grand Prix Kansas City.

Still, there are plenty of other great decks in attendance. Twin variants, Affinity, Scapeshift, and Tron all show strength here at the start of the second day of play. While Melira currently holds the lead, a lot can happen over today's six rounds.











 

  • Sunday, 9:00 a.m. – Grand Prix Kansas City Day One Undefeated Decklists

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Robert Berni (9-0)
    Modern – Grand Prix Kansas City




    Stephen Hager (8-0-1)
    Modern – Grand Prix Kansas City






     

  • Round 10 Feature Match
    Todd Anderson (Vengeance) vs. Owen Turtenwald (Storm)

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • In a battle to see who goes off first, Todd Anderson's Vengeance deck weathered Owen Turtenwald's Storm 2-1 at the start of Day Two.

    The first game, however, was not indicitive of Anderson having a shot in the match, as his hand of deck-sifting sorceries such as See Beyond and Faithless Looting found nothing that could set up for a lethal turn involving Goryo's Vengeance and Griselbrand. In fact, he couldn't even use the flashback on his Faithless Looting since he was forced to discard Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, which shuffled his graveyard back into his deck.


    Owen Turtenwald

    Turtenwald, meanwhile, sculpted a hand that was resilient against disruption, letting him fight through a Thoughtseize and an Izzet Charm on his Goblin Pyromancer to build up a big storm on turn five. The big turn involved Pyretic Ritual, Desperate Ritual with a splice from arcane via another copy of the Champions of Kamigawa card, Manamorphose, the second Desperate Ritual, and then finally Past in Flames, which made the Grapeshot in Turtenwald's hand easily lethal when all of those rituals were flashed back for more mana.

    The second game however went much closer to plan for Anderson, but he was sweating a bit when Turtenwald led off the second turn with Pyretic Ritual into Manamorphose. Goblin Electromancer gave him a powerful outlet for accelerating his mana, but the second Manamorphose that came found nothing of value, and when Anderson untapped on the third turn, it was game over.

    Anderson's third turn let him get Griselbrand into the graveyard via Faithless Looting. Goryo's Vengeance returned the legend to play. It attacked in, dropping Turtenwald to 8. Anderson paid 14 life to draw fourteen cards, and Fury of the Horde let Griselbrand attack again. Turtenwald fell to 1, and after Anderson drew another seven cards, a second Fury of the Horde wrapped things up.


    Todd Anderson

    The third and final game was a tale of what happens when combo decks don't get their stellar draws, as both players struggled to amount any sort of big turns. While Turtenwald was busy flooding out, despite a very land light deck, Anderson struggled to find a creature to go with his in-hand Through the Breach.

    At least until the turn before Turtenwald was set to storm off, with the ritual needed to complete his big turn waiting on top of his deck thanks to Serum Visions. Anderson drew his final card, finding Griselbrand. Through the Breach was cast, and Griselbrand made its appearance for an attack. Anderson drew seven cards after gaining his life, but didn't find Fury of the Horde. Another 7 life, dropping Anderson to 8, found one, and another attack put Anderson one Fury of the Horde away from winning. He paid another 7 life, going back to 8, but didn't find Fury of the Horde.

    Anderson agonized over the decision. If he whiffed, he was certainly dead, but if Turtenwald untapped, he was also giong to lose. Anderson went to 1 life, drawing seven cards and finding one of the few remaining Fury of the Hordes to finish off Turtenwald.

    "My goldfish is supposed to be faster than them," Anderson said. "My draw was atrocious in the match though. Game one was bad and in that third game I was about two turns slower than usual."

    The match, as Anderson said, really came down to who drew better and went off faster. That said, Anderson also had some discard to have some form of interaction with other combo decks. Turtenwald, however...

    "I sided in Dispel, and that was it," he confirmed after the game, when I asked him whether any of his sideboard was utilized. Turtenwald's hope was that he could just go off faster than Anderson, as that was the only real line of play he had, with most of his sideboard staying where it was. Storm has a very fast draw for comboing off if the opponent doesn't interact with it, but that doesn't leave much room for modifications in between games if you want to keep that kind of speed.




     

  • Sunday, 11:45 a.m. – Day 2 Metagame Breakdown

    by Nate Price

  • First, allow me to introduce you to my friend, Numbers:

    Melira Pod – 15
    Affinity – 12
    Scapeshift – 8
    RG Tron – 8
    Ajundi – 8
    Jund – 7
    Kiki Pod – 7
    UR Twin – 5
    UWR Twin – 4
    BR Bump – 4
    Storm – 4
    UWR Control – 4
    Domain Zoo – 4
    BW Tokens – 3
    Gift Rites – 3
    Merfolk – 3
    GW Hatebears – 2
    Living End – 2
    Infect – 2
    Domri Pod – 1
    Goryo’s Vengeance – 1
    WR Stax – 1
    UW Flash – 1
    Hexproof Auras – 1
    Junk – 1
    BUG – 1
    UR Delver – 1
    Grixis Delver – 1
    Amulet – 1
    Gruul Blitz – 1
    BW Aggro – 1
    Junk Hatebears – 1
    Hybrid Pod – 1
    Grixis Twin – 1
    Summoning Trap – 1

    As you can see from this, there are quite a few different deck archetypes in Day 2. Thirty-six to be exact. Amidst this large and varied field, however, some trends can definitely be seen.

    Taken solely on the individual deck types, Melira Pod is clearly the big dog of this tournament. Coming in at over 10% of the Day 2 field, Melira Pod continues the run it has been on since Portland, and continues the strong performance we saw it put up throughout the course of Day 1. What is surprising, however, is that Affinity is the second-most played deck in Day 2. We watched Affinity drop off of the top tables during the course of Day 1, which was surprising in itself considering the deck's strong performance at Grand Prix Portland. It now appears that, while Affinity had fallen off of the top tables, it merely fell to some of the lower lying branches of that tree, putting a large number of players through to Day 2.

    Combined, the three Splinter Twin variants would be the third-most played deck in the tournament. That said, it is unfair to group them all together, as they play fairly differently outside of the combo kill. After watching UWR Twin slowly subsume UR Twin's spot in the metagame over the course of yesterday, it was again surprising to see that there were actually more UR Twin variants in Day 2 than UWR. One of each version made it to the undefeated mark on Day 1, so there is still much speculation to be done about which version is actually better.

    In the same boat as the Twin variants, a combination of the two major Jund variants, traditional and Ajundi, would actually tie Melira Pod for the largest deck in the tournament, but they can't be combined because they play incredibly differently in certain matchups. The addition of white for some combination of Path to Exile, Lingering Souls, and Ajani Vengeant gives Ajundi a distinct edge in some matchups, Melira Pod in particular. Still, at the end of the day, Liliana of the Veil is still the glue that holds the deck together and is the card that most people fear coming from decks with Swamps.

    The two other big decks in Day 2 are decks that are everpresent in Modern, yet never quite seem to get the results that put them largely into the public eye: UWR Geist and RG Tron. The Geist deck is distinct from the UWR Control version of the deck that Sammy Tukeman used to make the finals of Grand Prix San Diego. Geist is more of a midrange creature deck, one similar to the UWR Midrange deck that is performing admirably in Standard right now. Tron, on the other hand, has gone through a number of variants over its lifetime, with the most recent Modern version relying on green and red for cards like Sylvan Scrying and Ancient Stirrings to find the pieces it needs to win. It has a reasonable place in Modern right now, as cards like Karn Liberated and Wurmcoil Engine are often able to end games before they begin, even in the fast-paced world of Modern. Still, like UWR Geist, the deck seems to always be around, but hasn't really had that breakthrough win that gives it the spotlight it so desperately craves.

    Finally, here is a treat for those of you at home. Here are generic sample Decklists (no sideboards) for each of the archetypes with more than five representatives in Day 2 of Grand Prix Kansas City, in order of representation. Hopefully this will give you a good idea of what the players here in Day 2 are going to have to go through to get that title.













     

  • Quick Hits:
    Which Modern deck were you most prepared for coming into this weekend?

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Patrick Sullivan: I guess I spent a lot of my main deck and sideboard space making my Pod matchup better.
    Ari Lax: Jund.
    Gaudenis Vidugiris: I'm playing Melira-Pod, and the deck I felt I needed to be most ready to beat was also Melira-Pod.
    Luis Scott-Vargas: Probably Melira-Pod.



     

  • Sunday, 1:30 p.m. – Broken Robots – Deck Decisions with Paul Rietzl

    by Nate Price

  • Just over two months ago, Paul Rietzl made his eighth Grand Prix Top 8 at Grand Prix Portland, the most recent Grand Prix to feature the Modern Format. His deck of choice for that Grand Prix was Affinity, and it was the same list that earned Hall of Famer Zvi Mowshowitz a Top 8 showing of his own. Their decision to run Affinity was not whimsical, rather a very calculated decision based on the preceding banning of Second Sunrise.

    "It was just recently after they banned, basically, the Eggs deck," he recounted. "People were just removing Stony Silences from their decks en masse. Kataki, War's Wage, wasn't really a thing, Ancient Grudge wasn't really a thing...people just had Stony Silence. If you had access to white mana, even if you were playing a green/black or red/green deck, if you had access to white mana, you had at least two Stony Silences, some people had three. It just blew up the Eggs deck, but it had splash damage against Affinity, RG Tron, and all of these other decks.


    Paul Rietzl

    So I thought that Affinity was really well positioned because people weren't playing Stony Silence anymore, and the deck is naturally very powerful in a no-hate environment. When Zvi and I made Top 8 with our list in Portland, I figured that people would bring it back. If you look at the Magic Online results, people are playing more and more Stony Silences, and there are a ton of Birthing Pod decks, so I figured Affinity wasn't well positioned for this event's metagame."

    That perfectly explains a very rational reaction by the metagame, and then a perfect window to capitalize on the shift to scissors by shifting one further to rock. The Eggs deck, which simply cannot function under a Stony Silence, was the impetus for people to start playing the enchantment in their sideboards. Knowing that the main driving force behind the appearance of Stony Silence was now a dead archetype, Rietzl's decision to play Affinity played on his prediction of the metagame shift, and it paid off immensely.

    Now, just as he made his decision on what to play in Portland based on a prediction of the metagame shift, so did he abandon it coming into this event. With Pod doing so well and he himself thrusting Affinity into the spotlight, it was clear that Modern had to react. While any old artifact removal spells would do, Stony Silence had the strongest impact across the board. Decks like Tron don't really care if its artifacts are blown up, but they care a great deal when their Expedition Maps and Chromatic Stars become utter dead weight. Artifact removal can kill a Birthing Pod, but they have to pass priority first, usually meaning that they get to activate it at least once. Stony Silence, a far more proactive answer, and a comfortable and familiar one at that, was poised for a comeback.

    But why did he choose to run to the GW Hatebears deck that has been and will be a part of Modern for as long as Gaddock Teeg and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, are cards?

    "Well, I was never going to play Birthing Pod," He began, "It's not really my style of deck. I think it's a fine deck, but it's not my thing. I tried out Affinity, I tried out UWR, and I was getting OK results, but I was really finding out that no deck had an incredible percentage against Birthing Pod because they could just play a Birthing Pod and just win. And all of the cards are just objectively powerful, like Deathrite Shaman, Voice of Resurgence, and stuff like that.

    So my deck is more or less Birthing Pod, except instead of playing Birthing Pod, I'm playing cards that make Birthing Pod terrible, like Aven Mindcensor and Leonin Arbiter. I get to play Strip Mine in my deck and Swords to Plowshares. And the fact that I can go 2/1 into Voice into Smiter means that I at least have game against the slower controlling decks in the format. Liliana of the Veil is a total brick against me because I have Loxodon Smiter, Wilt-Leaf Liege, and Voice of Resurgence; it's just bad against me.

    And Æther Vial...Æther Vial is so powerful in this deck. I keep any hand that has it. My particular list is a little bit different than what exists online. If you have Vial one like two or three, they have no idea what you could have. On three you could have Kitchen Finks, you could have Aven Mindcensor, you could have Loxodon Smiter, there's other stuff... On four you get Wilt-Leaf Liege and Hero of Bladehold. On two you could have Kataki, or Thalia, or Gaddock Teeg, Qasali Pridemade, Leonin Arbiter... It's so hard ot prepare for all of the different things that could come out of it. All of the eventualities. For a green/white deck, it has an incredible amount of play. You've got a bunch of cards that present situations to people that are not normal situations for them to be facing, and it just gives them so many opportunities to make mistakes. Yet you aren't sacrificing much power to get that. Other than Dryad Militant, no card in the deck isn't objectively powerful by itself."

    It was interesting to hear him compare his deck to Birthing Pod decks minus the Birthing Pod, but the analogy has merit. Marshall Sutcliffe and I were having an argument (which is a common occurrence between the two of us) discussing the classification of Pod decks as "creature-based combo deck." The one point of our discussion upon which we unequivocally agreed was that the creature base in the Pod decks is often capable of winning matches without the combo because all of the cards are simply good in their own right. The same holds true for Rietzl's GW Hatebears deck. Every card in the deck is reasonable regardless of situation, and they are all elevated to a new level if the right matchup comes up. Considering his expectation of a rising tide of Melira Pod decks, the decision to join the Hate Brigade seems like it was the correct decision. Since we've seen Pod continue to dominate this weekend, his GW Hatebears list is a reasonable choice for anyone who might be looking to run down a Modern Daily or Premier event on Magic Online. Here's his list:





     

  • Sunday, 2:00 p.m. – Deck Tech - Goryo's Vengeance with Todd Anderson

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • In June of 2012, Todd Anderson wrote an article for StarCityGames.com that makes first use of the hashtag #Griselbanned. In it, Anderson compares the legendary demon and its impact on the Legacy format to a card that has been banned for a long time in that format: Yawgmoth's Bargain.

    In fact, he went beyond simply comparing it to Yawgmoth's Bargain. Anderson noted that Griselbrand is just better than Yawgmoth's Bargain. Griselbrand is a threat on its own; it attacks, it blocks, and it's nearly impossible for any creature deck to race. And even if they find an answer, Griselbrand reloads its player with a brand new hand.

    Keep in mind, he's talking about Legacy. In Modern, Griselbrand is also legal, and while the tools used to get him into play may not be as overwhelmingly powerful, like Show and Tell in Legacy, the tools are still there to get Griselbrand onto the battlefield, even if it's only for a turn.

    And really, when you have a card that a player can compare to Yawgmoth's Bargain as "Justbetter", one turn is enough. And keeping with his stance on Griselbrand being a card that might just be better than a card that is banned and even Legacy, Anderson has been tagging all of his tweets this weekend with the hashtag #Griselbanned.

    Anderson came into Day Two with an 8-1 record playing this deck with a gameplan that emphasizes how one turn with Griselbrand is more than enough:

    Todd Anderson's Vengeance
    Modern – Grand Prix Kansas City


    Anderson's deck, Vengeance, does things that no other deck in Modern can realistically do. In case you're wondering how the deck works, let me explain:

    -Your goal is to get a Griselbrand into the graveyard. In a pinch, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn also works, since your reanimation spell of choice (Goryo's Vengeance) can be cast while Emrakul's graveyard shuffling trigger is on the stack.

    -Resurrect your big creature (ideally Griselbrand) with Goryo's Vengeance, or put it into play with Through the Breach if step one wasn't possible. Attack.

    -After combat, if your big creature of choice was Griselbrand, draw seven. Then do it again, if those seven were'nt enough. And hey, you can even do it again after that if you have enough life! Find Fury of the Horde and two red spells to go with it.

    -Cast Fury of the Horde, pitching two red spells. Untap Griselbrand and move into your next combat. Attack.

    -Rinse and repeat until your opponent is dead.

    While Pod decks often combo out on turn four, and Storm has been slowed down to turn four as well, Vengeance kills on turn three more than most may be comfortable with. And sometimes, turn two isn't out of the question.


    Todd Anderson

    "Over the course of the tournament, I have killed my opponent on turn two three times. I have the opportunity to do it quicker, but I often wait for disruption," said Anderson, noting that turn two isn't out of the realm of possibility. While turn two kills are certainly possible, those situations are usually best left for turn three, where a Thoughtseize or a backup Izzet Charm can clear the way for a recently resurrected Griselbrand to do its dirty work.

    Anderson's list was decided earlier in the week after picking up the deck featured in one of Ari Lax's articles on Star City Games two weeks ago. "He had two Sleight of Hand and two Spoils of the Vault, but I cut the latter since it is too rough with Griselbrand," Anderson said. "I included Thoughtseize since it helps with disruption and it can target yourself in a pinch." Yes, you can Thoughtseize yourself to put Griselbrand into your graveyard. That is sometimes a thing.

    Vengeance is also positioned well in this format. "People aren't really prepared to deal with the graveyard since they use their graveyards as well," said Anderson, referring to a plethora of decks in Modern that also want to make use of their own graveyard, preventing hatred from being too heavily played. "Grafdigger's Cage isn't really being played, and I can reasonably beat the other one-shot graveyard hate cards like Tormod's Crypt and Relic of Progenitus. Through the Breach also gets around this."

    Despite Anderson being the only player in Day Two running the deck, it's hard to ignore an archetype that is capable of the casual turn two victory for too long.




     

  • Sunday, 3:00 p.m. – Meet Sam Black

    by Nate Price

  • Amidst greatness, it can be difficult to assess one's own greatness.

    "I don't know if I'm anywhere near as good as my peers, but I know that I work harder than a lot of people."

    With these words, one of the greatest deckbuilders of Magic's last few years summed up just how hard it can be to distinguish oneself from a list of distinguished people. As a member of the elite StarCityGames team, Black is surrounded by some of the greatest names in the game, from Pro Tour winning Tom Martell to Hall of Famers like Patrick Chapin, Gabriel Nassif, and Zvi Mowshowitz to the legendary Jon Finkel. Surrounded by all of this clout, by all of this historical significance, it can be easy to feel, well, sort of insignificant.


    Sam Black, in all of his greatness.

    Yet Black has proven his significance time and again, reinventing himself at various points in his career into what he needed to be most at that time.

    "I've been thought of as a number of different things," he explained. "There was a point a couple of years ago where I had an incredibly good run in Limited at a couple of Pro Tours. Patrick Chapin ran some numbers and found that over a particular one- or two-year period, I had the highest win percentage in Limited at Pro Tours...or maybe it was Grand Prix, I don't really remember. My focus has changed in terms of the thing I happen to spend the most time thinking about, and you just move from people thinking about you as a Constructed guy to a Limited guy to a deckbuilder and such based on whatever you happen to have done recently."

    I traditionally abhor labels such as these, because I believe that they tend to pigeonhole our opinions of a person. Thinking of someone as a "Limited expert" or a "master deckbuilder" can often lead to overlooking the fact that the person in question is simply a very good Magic player. Black has run the gamut of labels over the course of his career, with the compass point simply resting on "deckbuilder" at the moment. And underneath all of this, it's very important to remember that he is an incredibly goodMagic player. And he had to get his start somewhere.

    "I started playing in May or June of 1994," he told me. "Revised was the most recent set that came out, and The Dark hadn't yet been released. I began going to tournaments as soon as I found out that they existed. One of my friends told me that the local game store had tournaments, and I was like, 'Oh. Sweet!' So I started going; I was like twelve at the time. The first deck I played in a tournament was the red, black, and green cards that I had. I was excited to learn that a friend of mine had a Vaevictis Asmadi that I might be able to borrow, I mean, that guy's big, heh. I remember that I won my first match, and in the second round I played against the guy who was the highest-rated player in Illinois for a while in the very distant past. He had all of the power, I had never seen those cards before, um... I was playing Hypnotic Specter, that was my best card probably, and he was making me lose all of my permanents and die horribly. His deck looked pretty sweet.


    Sam Black

    When I first started, Magic wasn't really on the internet, so you built your own decks, but everyone in the world who was a kid was building the exact same decks. It was stuff like the Revised rare black deck, the Revised rare green deck, the Revised rare blue deck...The first deck that I had that I thought was pretty good was like four Counterspell, four Power Sink, four Spell Blast, four Mahamoti Djinn, four Vesuvan Doppleganger, four Clone... But I also had like four Mishra's Factories, I was accumulating power so I had some Moxes and a Library of Alexandria, and an Ancestral Recall and stuff...and this was all in my 'Mahamoti Djinn deck.' And I played this against my friends with their four Royal Assassin/four Nightmare/four Terror/four Dark Ritual/four Juzam Djinn deck. So I ended up taking this deck to a tournament and played against a guy who had a black weenie deck, one with all of these cheap creatures and Sword of the Ages. That was where I first saw an aggro deck with a curve, except for white weenie, and I thought it was pretty cool. Basically, everyone had those decks, then they would just get some Arabian Nights cards and that was what would make their decks different. Like my friends who had Jihad in their white weenie decks.

    I guess the first good decklist that I built was when I was in seventh grade. I built it for a friend who was in the sixth grade. We were playing in a St. Patrick's Day tournament, where half of the spells in your deck had to be green. So the deck had Llanowar Elves, Dark Ritual, Juzam Djinn, Erg Raiders, Giant Growth, Berserk, Juggernaut... It was just, like, black/green aggro. Thinking back on it, I definitely felt, 'yeah, that deck's reasonable.'"


    Sam Black, again, in all of his greatness.

    Despite starting out with feeling reasonably comfortable with competitive Magic, Black took a while to work his way into the professional ranks of the game.

    "All of the higher level organized play stuff, I didn't get into, even though I was playing a lot competitively, because I just didn't know where to find it locally," Black said. "The first PTQ I played in wasn't until Mercadian Masques block. I wasn't playing much Magic before that, from like Mirage through Exodus. Come Masques, I started playing in more tournaments, and I made Top 8 of my second PTQ. My frist Pro Tour was much later, not until after I graduated college. It was Pro Tour Honolulu in 2006. I didn't play at all while I was in college."

    His first Pro Tour wasn't the best showing, finishing 401st out of 408. But a little early stumble wouldn't deter him from continuing to try and improve his game. Later that same season, he would improve to 110th at Pro Tour Kobe.

    "When I was younger, I knew that people like Jon Finkel and Kai Budde were able to make playing Magic their life, and I wanted to as well, but there is a world of difference between knowing that others are capable of it and believing that you are capable of it," Black explained. "It's really hard to make that leap before you've ever played on the Pro Tour and say something like, 'if I just put in four years and do nothing but play Magic, I'm sure I could be one of those guys.' That doesn't happen.

    I definitely didn't think it was possible. I just thought, 'these guys are smarter than I am.' Everyone has a cap of their abilities. I've seen guys who play FNMs who've been playing FNMs for fifteen years, but they've never made the Top 8 of a PTQ even though they play in them pretty often. They just don't get better. And that happens a lot, and it's really hard to know if you're one of those guys or not. But most of it is just having the appropriate mindset to get better. I've never been one of those guys who isn't thinking the right way to get better. I've always been able to see myself getting better, but I had no idea how much better I could get. I didn't know where my cap was. I still don't know if I'm anywhere near as good as my peers. I know that I work harder than a lot of people, but I don't have any reason to believe that I have the same talent as guys like Tom Martell, Josh Utter-Leyton, Luis Scott-Vargas, or Jon Finkel. They're probably a lot better than I am. But I work really hard."


    Sam Black, Limited Expert, Deckbuilder, Magic Strategist, and Teacher.

    This hard work has not only bred success, but it has blossomed into a spot on one of the preeminent teams in Magic, working alongside some of the greatest players to ever play the game, and they turn to him for advice.

    "It's just unreal," he said with a laugh and a shake of the head. "It's everything you thing it is. There was a point where there were big tournaments and I was not a part of them. Through all my childhood, I always wanted to be doing what I am doing right now, but I never thought that it could possible. I knew there were big tournaments, I wasn't a part of them, but I saw no way that I could be a part of them... I mean, obviously all of these people were way better than I was. Now, I find myself doing what I always wanted to do with people I'd always read about, and when I was reading about them, I never assumed there was any chance that I'd be part of this world. It's awesome.

    This is the equivalent. I grew up in Chicago when the Bulls were winning all of basketball. I didn't care about basketball, but I understood that Michael Jordan was a big deal. This, for me, is about the same thing as growing up and getting to play basketball with Michael Jordan on the Bulls before he retires. It's awesome to do that, but aside from how incredible that is on its own, all these guys are just great. They're all really smart, nice guys. Our team is serious, but we're having fun and we really get along. There's never any bickering, it's just have a good time with a bunch of really smart, interesting, very reasonable people who are all working as hard as they can on a project that they love that is fun and interesting for us the whole time, every time. It's the best thing. Huey Jensen came out to work with us for the last Pro Tour even though he wasn't even qualified because it's just the best thing to do."

    Hard work, that's all Sam Black will attribute his success to. He's always wanted to get better, always looked for ways to do so, and never strayed from diligence. His reward has been a life that he only dreamed could exist, collaborating with idols of his youth to achieve something he once thought impossible. Though he has worn many hats throughout his career, one that he has donned now is teacher. Be it helping his team to achieve greatness at the Pro Tour or helping the masses of Magic through his myriad of articles, Sam Black has worked hard to raise his own game to the point where he can help others raise theirs. Always active, always vocal, Black is the perfect example of how that impossible dream of someday competing not only against but with these incredible heroes of Magic is within reach. Just work, be ever vigilant, and really desire it, and nothing is outside of your reach. And Sam Black is the proof.




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