Everybody makes mistakes, right? Well, I’m surely no exception. Over the course of my career, I’ve made plenty. There are a few that really haunt me, though. It’s hard to accurately define what makes one mistake worse than another, but these are the five that I’ve thought about the most over the years, due to a combination of boneheadedness and gravity of the situation. I apologize if I misremember some of the precise details, as it’s been a very long time.
5. Swords vs. Kamiel Cornelissen – World Championships in Toronto 2001, Extended
Some time in Day 3 of the 2001 World Championships, I had the pleasure of getting paired against Kamiel Cornelissen. Kamiel was playing a White Weenie deck, and I was playing a deck based around Ophidians, Thieving Magpies, Boomerang effects, and two-mana lands City of Traitors and Ancient Tomb.
At some point in the game, I managed to get a Masticore in play, my only creature. Kamiel’s only creature at the time was a Mother of Runes. I was tapped out, so Kamiel cast Swords to Plowshares on my Masticore. I responded by casting Misdirection, removing Force of Will from my hand.
I thought that if Kamiel were to use his Mother of Runes, it wouldn’t matter much, as the spell would fizzle. However, what actually happens is that I am unable to redirect the spell at all, and my Misdirection does nothing. So rather than cast Force of Will removing Misdirection, I lost both cards and my Masticore because I didn’t understand the rules well enough.
4. Keep vs. Trevor Blackwell – U.S. Nationals 2001, Standard
In game 5 of the Top 4 of the US.. National Championships, I was playing against eventual champion Trevor Blackwell (spoiler alert). I was on the draw for game five, as I’d manage to win game four to even the match at two games each. My hand was basically perfect. Perfect, except I only had one land: a Rishadan Port.
I don’t remember the exact contents of my hand, other than it had multiple mana creatures (Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves). I tend to be a bit less conservative with my mulligans than a lot of people. But this was just too much. I remember what I was thinking at the time. I was a 19-year-old kid. I was playing for the right to play in the finals and be U.S. National Championship. I just thought to myself, “I know if I draw this green mana, I’m going to be U.S. National Champion” (even though I would’ve had to win another match, I was a confident young man). But, in reality, I let that vision cloud my judgement. Instead, I discarded to hand size, lost a game with a hand I should have mulliganed, and Trevor went on to win Nationals.
3. Reckless Abandon vs. Kyle Rose – Pro Tour London 1999, Urza’s Sage/Urza’s Legacy/Urza’s Destiny Booster Draft
In the quarterfinals of PT London, I was paired against the great Kyle Rose. At some point in one of the games, I had a Molten Hydra (an extremely powerful limited card) in play with a +1/+1 counter on it, untapped in play. I also had another 4-power creature. Kyle on his previous turn had tapped out for a Thran War Machine. My plan was to block his Thran War Machine with my 4-power creature, and then use the Molten Hydra’s counter to finish it off. Then, I’d have Molten Hydra on an empty board, and I’d try to use it to keep control of the game.
So that’s what I did. Kyle attacked, and I blocked with my creature. However, instead of using Molten Hydra right away, I figured I’d just pick off the Thran War Machine at end of turn. That’s when we should be playing our instants anyway right? Well, naturally I should have given it some thought, but instead I played too quickly, and after combat Kyle played a Mountain and cast Reckless Abandon—sacrificing a Thran War Machine that I could have killed before he had the chance—to destroy my Molten Hydra.
2. Duress vs. Britt Fitch – Grand Prix Philadelphia 1999, Extended
Recently I wrote about the five best decks I’ve ever played, the best of which was my Necro Donate deck from GP Philadelphia. I mentioned in that article that I felt I let the deck down by making an inexplicably bad play in Top 8. This is one I can’t even justify with a thought process or explain why I did what I did. Instead of taking one of Britt’s two Pyroblasts out of his hand, making way to at least give me outs to draw a Force of Will to force through a necessary copy of Illusions of Donate, I opted to take a redundant Fireblast that effectively did nothing and would be very unlikely to ever have an effect on the game. To this day, I don’t know what I was thinking.
1. Spike Feeder vs. Stephen Valkyser – Pro Tour Chicago 1999, Extended
Playing for Day 2 of Pro Tour Chicago 1999 in the final round, I was paired against a good German player named Stephen Valkyser. It was game three, and I had gained complete control with my Recurring Nightmare/Survival deck. I had a Spike Feeder in play, and cast a Recurring Nightmare. I was going to start Recurring the Spike Feeder and put the game out of reach. I was at something like 14 life. I removed my two counters from Spike Feeder to gain 4 with the intention of getting it back. Of course, in response to that, Stephen did something like cast two copies of Fireblast and two copies of Lightning Bolt. Had I just done things properly, and not been in such a rush to close out the game, I would have removed one counter, let it resolve, and then removed another counter. Then, I could have recurred the Spike Feeder and had an insurmountable advantage.
I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the worst plays I’ve made in my Magic career. I certainly did not enjoy reliving them!