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According to Webster – GP Atlanta Tournament Report *14th*

It’s been a while since I last convinced myself I had enough delicious material to cover all seven courses of a proper tournament report, and up until last week the secret missing ingredient had been the garnish of ‘success’ that perfectly completes any dish; for example, that playful swipe of blueberry cabernet reduction next to a seared filet. I had been on a rough ride during the last few GPs, missing Day Two in the majority at the start of the 2012-2013 season, but I was determined not to let those obvious flukes spoil my appetite for competition or lose focus on the joy I got out of the game.

I loved that Atlanta would be Legacy, because the format is filled with many nuances that others don’t have, and the number of articles on [card]Brainstorm[/card] alone can attest to that. Despite my affinity, I hadn’t kept up with Legacy’s latest innovations, tournament results, trends, and other details—sure, I looked at some SCG Open results every now and then—but I couldn’t have held my end of a discussion about a post-board matchup analysis between RUG Delver and Sneak & Show, or whether it’s correct to play a [card]Fauna Shaman[/card] in Maverick, even if my dinner plans depended on it. No, I didn’t play Legacy much, the last time being four months prior at GP: Indy. I decided earlier in the year to devote more time testing to help ensure that I’d be adequately prepared for whatever tournament I traveled to, and Atlanta was next on the list.

The metagame shifted to incorporate Avacyn Restored and Planechase 2012 cards, although only a few were seeing a lot of play like [card]Griselbrand[/card], [card]Shardless Agent[/card], [card]Maelstrom Wanderer[/card], [card]Cavern of Souls[/card], and [card]Baleful Strix[/card]. It seemed like Griselbrand impacted the format most, and people were trying to figure out the best deck shell to put him into, which ranged from [card reanimate]Reanimator[/card] to [card]Show and Tell[/card] to [card]Sneak Attack[/card] to [card]Hypergenesis[/card]. Yes, cheating with Griselbrand seemed pretty hot and was making all the girlfriends jealous.

I started looking for help and found my beacon of light, the one and only GerryT. He had been doing a good job routing the SCG circuit, and was testing for the Invitational that was a few weeks away in Indianapolis. I was also collaborating with Wrapter and Luis, playing on Magic Online when we could. We started with Reanimator for a few reasons: mainly, it was the fastest way to get [card]Griselbrand[/card] onto the battlefield, it ran a ton of good disruption, and we’d had experience playing it in the past.

There were a lot of cards that we tried, both new and old, including [card]Foil[/card], [card]Exhume[/card], [card]Not of this World[/card], [card]Lotus Petal[/card], [card]Show and Tell[/card], [card]Karakas[/card], and [card]Wasteland[/card]. However, there were problems. Foil was an interesting idea, the theory being that it was an additional discard outlet that protected your fatties. While Foil was quite good after reanimating Griselbrand, it required too many resources, namely Islands, to play beforehand. Most Reanimator lists weren’t running more than six actual Island cards, and we had little success even after adding a few [card]Watery Grave[/card]s.

Exhume was good because it let you reanimate without losing a chunk of life—which was a big issue depending on the matchup. However, since we expected a lot of the mirror, Exhume became a suboptimal choice, and we decided to run [card]Animate Dead[/card] instead. With the switch from Exhume to Animate Dead, that meant [card]Not of this World[/card] suddenly became bad because it wouldn’t protect Griselbrand for free (due to the -1/-0). The deck phased through a few different builds, but we eventually ran out of time and had to settle on something.

Finding the right deck for the GP was important, but there were other tasks that demanded immediate attention as well, like where to eat. “Why”, you ask? Why would I plan a trip to some far off destination while putting such trivial questions like, “Should I go to Burger King or McDonald’s?” ahead of my tournament preparations? Well, because I in fact did not want to ask myself that exact question. You see, food plays a central role in my life, like everyone else. I just happen to be aware, obsessed, and prioritize it more than most people, or at least that’s one of my current delusions. Cuisine isn’t a problem, and my range is as broad as the horizon itself; I just want to find the best version of everything available, whether it’s a $1 taco or a $200 tasting menu. Needless to say, much research was needed.

I knew there were a plethora of restaurant options in Atlanta. The city was laden like a peach tree in August and ready for the picking. Generally my food searches were restricted to Yelp with a lot of restaurant menu cross-checking, although, I’d expanded my forays into the Google/Bing queue. The amount of time I’d spent on this research was borderline obsessive. Nay, it was well past the border. It was in the heart of it all. After a modest time investment on my part, I had narrowed the weekend hit list to a few places that weren’t too far away from the site.

Atlanta had been a Grand Prix destination before, and the last time I visited it was snow-covered [card]tundra[/card]—Cold, barren, devoid of enjoyment, and I was sure to be better prepared for whatever type of curveball the weather was planning to throw me this time around. Unfortunately, I wasn’t exactly rushing for my down jacket when I found out what was in store. Temperatures in Atlanta, aka HOTlanta, were expected to be at record highs, easily breaking into the triple digits with the humidity close behind. A few of my friends from ChannelFireball verified my fate on Thursday, voicing their discomfort via Facebook as their phones melted. It wasn’t until I stepped out of the plane at Hartsfield-Jackson airport that I truly grasped what I was in for. It was hot, scorching almost, and the humidity made my feather-light polyester golf shirt seem more like a goose-down overcoat.

Fortunately for me, the denizens of Atlanta had adjusted to their adverse environment and built air conditioning into everything, including the enclosed walkways from the MARTA train to the Hyatt, where both the Grand Prix was being held and I was staying. The site was located in the depths of the hotel, deep underground compared to the lofty 18th-floor room that I was calling home for the next few days. The only separation between the two points was a spacious atrium and a quick ten-second elevator ride. By the time I’d managed to get settled in and registered for the GP, it was nearly time for dinner. Unfortunately the rest of my companions were flying in much later and/or didn’t want to go out for an extravagant, drawn-out dinner, and so it was a party of three in the end: me, myself, and I.

I’d decided to check out a place called Ecco, a modern European restaurant that was a short cab ride from the Hyatt. The menu and Yelp photos looked awesome earlier, and I was anticipating a reasonable dinner. When I arrived, I found a packed dining area before me, looked questioningly at the hostess, and asked, “So how long is this traffic jam going to be here?” There was a 30-minute wait for a table, or I could have a seat in the bar area immediately—if I could find one, as it was first-come, first-served, and still used the restaurant’s full menu. I didn’t spy any open bar seats initially, but after a bit of in-depth reconnaissance, I found a table on the other side which I expertly claimed for myself. Mise? I think so.

A server came around right after I sat down, introduced himself, and walked away after handing me some menus. Once he came back I decided to order a Belgian quadruple, the name of which I don’t recall anymore. I had made plans, schemes almost—but the rumblings in my stomach, or lack thereof, forebode of a lack of appetite on my part, and so I decided to “tone things down” a bit. Two beers, a nibble of bread, three appetizers, and a dessert later, I was ready to head back to the site. The end.

Wait, wait! You were expecting some juicy details, a copious helping of adjectives detailing my glorious conquest, perhaps? Well then, allow me to indulge you.

REWIND.

I wasn’t actually very hungry, but I still decided to smash more than a few appetizers—namely, the fried goat cheese with black pepper and honey (which accounted for half the Yelp photos I’d been browsing throughout the week); piquillo peppers stuffed with braised beef short rib; and the slow-roasted beets with peaches, feta, and pea tendrils. The goat cheese was amazing, with nearly half a dozen tangy, creamy bites, fried perfectly with a crispy golden-brown crust, and bathed in an equally light honey that was contrasted by specks of coarsely-ground, spicy black peppercorns. Next were the piquillo peppers with braised beef short rib, which definitely had a bolder flavor profile with the strong beef flavor accompanying the underlying smokiness from the chilies. Finally, I asked a server that was roaming around for some suggestions, and he recommended the roasted beets. The dish was composed like a warm salad with a mound of sweet, earthy beets hiding deposits of tart Georgia cling peaches, and specks of piquant feta cheese. It was very refreshing indeed. Overall, I was most pleased with the goat cheese.

In between the floats in the parade of appetizers, I nibbled on bits of bread and butter every now and then. I tried to resist, but as it turned out my willpower was no match to the allure of the rustic offering in front of me. I tried a few beers, mostly Belgian varieties, although I don’t recall which they were; however, I do remember that they were up to my usual standard. Lastly was dessert, which was a special, and thus off the normal menu so I simply can’t remember anymore. Sadly, its memory will remain a mystery forever. All in all, the whole affair took about an hour and a half and I had to hurry back to the hotel to meet up with Wrapter and Luis. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wade through the humidity for a long time because a cab was directly in front of the restaurant when I went outside.

It took a while for Luis and Wrapter to get to the hotel. For whatever reason they had been delayed a bit in their travels, and they arrived much later than expected. We still had to finalize the decklist and settle on a sideboard, an endeavor that took up much of the witching hour, when I preferred to be asleep above everything else tournament related. Reanimator seemed to be on the rise, and so we decided to metagame more heavily against it, because all the DI’s were going to play it.

This included maindeck cards like [card]Karakas[/card] and a singleton [card]Coffin Purge[/card] to fetch with [card]Entomb[/card]. Yes, we were a clever bunch. The post-board mirror had always been weird, and there was usually enough play going on to give the better player the advantage (yes, I know. I was doomed). The games went very long because both players would load up on graveyard hate, making it very difficult to successfully animate a monster. [card]Griselbrand[/card] would even be fairly summoned, multiple times in some games. Monsters would often become a liability, because either graveyard was fair game for reanimation spells, and the line of [card]Thoughtseize[/card] your guy, animate it was a common way to steal a win. We decided that it would be important to take advantage of this drawn-out style of game.

[card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] was one of the first cards that we looked at, and it was pretty good. It served as protection against a reanimated fatty, and wouldn’t get trumped by something like [card]Inkwell Leviathan[/card] or [card]Myr Battlesphere[/card] because nobody was running those anymore. Additionally, we only had to play around [card]Daze[/card], [card]Force of Will[/card], and [card]Thoughtseize[/card] most of the time, which made resolving Jace relatively easy, especially considering that we also had those tools at our disposal. Jace was awesome—eventually, we added a third to the board.

[card]Vendilion Clique[/card] was the next breakthrough. “Wow, just look at these guys. They jam Vendilion and Jace in a format they’re legal in, pat themselves on the back, and call it revolutionary. Brilliant! Brilliant I tell you!” Finding a card to bring in that didn’t suck was the specific problem. Unfortunately, the metagame was going to be very fragmented, Legacy is a format where there are a lot of viable decks and homebrews. Vendilion was a fine way to interact with hate cards and other non-aggro decks, like actually getting rid of a [card]Coffin Purge[/card] or [card]Lingering Souls[/card], and being able to trade with [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card] and [card]Insectile Aberration[/card]. The addition of two [card]Karakas[/card] to the maindeck was the nail in the coffin, so to speak, for the inclusion of Vendilion Clique.

The rest of the sideboard didn’t have much room left. Six slots were taken up by four [card]Show and Tell[/card] and two [card]City of Traitors[/card], aka the go-to way to play around graveyard hate, so that left four more slots for utility fatties, graveyard hate, and other various catch-all cards. We wanted a second Coffin Purge for the mirror, which left three slots for cards like [card iona, shield of emeria]Iona[/card], [card elesh norn, grand cenobite]Elesh Norn[/card], [card]Sphinx of the Steel Wind[/card], [card]Pithing Needle[/card], [card]Echoing Truth[/card], and [card]Submerge[/card].

Each of the non-creature spells had their merits against other cards, but in general they weren’t good. They would rot in your hand for most of the game until you decided to [card]Brainstorm[/card] them away, you died because your deck was filled with narrow answers and not enough action, or your opponent “fell into your trap” and summoned their [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card]. Our last slot was a creature, and we settled on Elesh Norn for decks like Dredge, Goblins, and Elves. Decks that liked to attack and could win through a [card]Blazing Archon[/card] were a problem, and Elesh Norn was the best answer. Sphinx of the Steel Wind had its merits (being non-legendary was near the top), but it was the weakest of the three anti-aggro creatures. In the end, I decided to run a mix of Submerge and Echoing Truth, and settled on the following list.

Reanimator:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Thoughtseize
4 Force of Will
3 Daze
1 Coffin Purge
4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
4 Careful Study
4 Entomb
4 Animate Dead
4 Reanimate
4 Griselbrand
1 Blazing Archon
1 Tidespout Tyrant
2 Karakas
2 Flooded Strand
4 Polluted Delta
2 Verdant Catacombs
2 Snow-Covered Island
2 Snow-Covered Swamp
4 Underground Sea

Sideboard:
4 Show and Tell
2 City of Traitors
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Vendilion Clique
1 Coffin Purge
1 Echoing Truth
1 Submerge
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/deck]

It was late. By the time we had finished with the list, it was after 1 AM. Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep as well as I would have liked. For whatever reason my sleeping pill had decided to take the night off, and there I was, tossing and turning restlessly like a zombie. When I woke up in the morning, I wasn’t quite that, but I was a bit deprived. Searching for reasonable brunch options had proven difficult, and so after the player meeting we headed to the food court to Chick-fil-A. The food court actually had a reasonable number of options, although I’m not a fast-food type of person which eliminated many of them because of their low quality. The breakfast menu just ended, which meant there were no more biscuit sandwiches, but I was able to snag one of the last few hidden off to the side (+1 butter biscuit. Thanks!).

The Grand Prix was slightly larger than Vancouver the week prior, with just over 900 players, including yours truly. In Vancouver, a handful of people made the cut to Day Two with a record worse than X-2, but I anticipated that wouldn’t be the case here, because of the fifty extra players, in addition to a larger draw bracket given the format. Legacy has a lot of shuffling going on, alongside deliberate and ritualistic methods of resolving [card]Brainstorm[/card]. It’s mind boggling to think of how much time gets wasted over the course of a match. In any case, one factor was that we would be playing very late into the day, and hopefully we would be able to finish in time to get some good food.

During the byes, after we had gotten brunch from the Peachtree food court, I was able to do a few things I had been looking forward to, namely getting cards signed. Everyone has their preferences about collecting, whether it’s accumulating sweet foils, foreign versions of cards, signed cards—or in my case, all of the above. Both rk post and Rob Alexander were present and signing away. I expected the lines to be long, but for whatever reason there weren’t many people there, so I was able to make it through the queue a few times before I had to start playing. I’d met both artists several times over the years and gotten all the tournament-playables taken care of long ago, so I was finishing up acquiring signatures for cards like [card]Ana Sanctuary[/card] and [card]Reconnaissance[/card]. ChannelFireball had managed to get a booth at the tournament, which meant that I’d get some time to hang out with some of my friends that I hadn’t seen in a while just like the rest of my buddies that traveled for Magic.

The rest of the day was more of a blur. Remembering all the details about a round, let alone an entire day, was tough even before I was an old fart, and now it’s become laborious. What I do remember is that I played against zero Reanimator. Yep, I had expected to play against it at once on Day One and probably again on Day Two. As it turned out, Reanimator didn’t do so well against all the Canadian Threshold RUG Delver that had infested the top tables. I would have called the matchup “close” or “tricky”, but maybe that was just my extremely jaded opinion backed up by my incredible card-slinging skills compensating for the fact that it was nearly impossible.

I finished up the day 7-2, picking up losses in rounds 4 and 8 against UWB Stoneforge and UR Delver, respectively. In round 9 I do remember that I was paired against Maverick, and fighting through [card]Karakas[/card], [card]Swords to Plowshares[/card], and [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] proved difficult. The deck also had multiple ways to access those cards thanks to [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] and [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card]. However, I managed to win a marathon match that involved recruiting multiple traitorous undead [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] with [card]Reanimate[/card] and [card]Animate Dead[/card]. [card jace, the mind sculptor]Jace[/card] was quite useful, and did what Jace does best against midrange decks: dominate. All the while, there were dead copies of [card]Purify the Grave[/card] in my opponent’s hand.

Luis hadn’t been able to make it to dinner the night before—however, he was in town tonight for sure. Unfortunately, he and Wrapter had been beaten more black and blue than an [card]Underground Sea[/card] sans penny sleeves. With tonight being the only night when everyone would be in town, I had saved the best restaurant on my hit list, and after recruiting a few other wayward souls to our lively event, we made our way over to our destination: Rathbun’s. I’d been given the recommendation earlier in the week. Several people had vouched for Rathbun’s awesomeness, and so I was completely in love with the idea of going there.

We actually managed to get there “relatively early” at 9:00 PM after having to endure the moderately stifling air outside of the Hyatt waiting for a cab. I swear that it was still over 90 degrees. We told the cab driver where to go, and he even had a GPS to plug the address into, but that didn’t comfort me much as we took winding turns outside of downtown, past residential neighborhoods, and into an area populated only with what looked like condemned grain mills. I looked over to Wrapter and said, “Well, it was a good run. Nice knowing you.” Suddenly we took a quick right turn followed by another right into a parking lot, and there was a valet. Could it be? Were we actually alive and at our location? “Welcome to Rathbun’s!” said the valet. Success! It took a few minutes for the second cab to meet us, which earlier had only helped convince me that I had been led to some dark corner of suburban Atlanta never to return again. However, now that we were all here, we were able to get out of the heat and inside to our awaiting table.

Rathbun’s had a coolness that contrasted with the outside air and brought a pleasant reprieve from the heat. The restaurant was made up of a front bar stretching to the right-hand side as we walked in, with an expansive dining room in the rear, both dimly-lit and with very high ceilings that only matched my expectations. The main portcullis was guarded by two hostesses who were sure to not let any riff-raff through, but fortunately I had the password. “Good evening ladies. The name’s Ochoa. David Ochoa,” I said, being the natural poet that I am. Swooning ensued. No sooner had I uttered those sweet nothings, we were quickly guided to our reserved table.

Our party was eight: my old friend John; my partners in crime, Wrapter and Luis; Maverick Master, Legacy connoisseur, and level 50 flavor-drafter Ben S.; The Patrick Chapin; Owen Tweetenwald; and the ever stoic Conley Woods; along with myself. We browsed the menu for a while. I had already committed it to memory earlier in the week (thanks Monday, I knew you were good for something), and was more interested in their daily specials sheet along with their beer list. A few of the daily specials caught my eye, but I decided to stick with my guns and start with the Grilled Red Beets with Harissa Yogurt, and Candied Pistachio.

The harissa complemented the earthiness of the beets, and was mellowed by the yogurt while the pistachios added a nice contrast in both flavor and texture. I couldn’t leave any witnesses and crudely mopped up the surviving beet juice with a bit of the bread that had been brought for the table which I had successfully avoided until then. Next was the Elk Chop with Blueberry Demi, Foraged Mushrooms, and Cheese Polenta for my main, along with a split side of Charred Corn & Gouda Cheese. The Elk offered nearly no resistance when I sliced through it, and had a flavor similar to beef, but with a slight hint of gaminess. The crisp polenta was mild and added a bit of volume to the dish, allowing the richness of the blueberry demi to shine. I wasn’t able to figure out what type of cheese had been paired with the polenta and forgot to ask later on. The Gouda and charred corn was much bolder, assertive, and dominating. At no point did I ever question what I was eating: a low-calorie marriage of smoky Gouda and buttery roasted corn. A few Belgian triples and I was in flavor paradise. Magnifique!

It was getting late. Ben S., Conley, Owen, and Patrick decided to head back to the Hyatt so they could get to sleep, while the rest of us stayed for a while to get dessert. Some people close to me know that I have what may be conservatively called “a massive sweet tooth,” but in truth, what they see on a regular basis as a deserted ice-covered island, both remote in distance and stature, is actually a titanic glacier, displacing an amount of water great enough as to be classified as a heavenly body.

“Would you like to see our desser-“
“Yes. Thank you.” I replied, anticipating our server’s obvious play.

There were times at which I contemplated between two different options, agonized almost, and have since come up with the most ingenious solution—it was, simply, to get both. That’s right. The double dessert gambit, aka, I’m a fatty, now leave me alone and let me eat my ice cream.

“I’ll have the Warm Gooey Toffee Cake with Jack Daniels Ice Cream… AND! The Banana Peanut Butter Cream Pie.”

Heavenly goodness.

We paid the bill and headed back, having to wait ten minutes for a taxi to venture out from the safe urban enclosure of the city center to the unincorporated swampy industrial island that we had marooned ourselves on earlier. It was just before midnight when we got back, and still over 90 degrees. Comforting, I know. At least we were done with the heat for the time being, and within the air-conditioned walls of the Hyatt. We headed back up to the room and to the comforts of sleep soon afterwards.

In the morning I was the only one to wake up early. The rest of my companions had not made Day Two, and were either sleeping in or had left covertly under the cover of darkness. The restaurant in the Hyatt was acceptable and I decided to grab “a bit” of food for breakfast. After lounging around there for an hour, eating contently while reading a bit of Game of Thrones, I left for the tournament hall via Starbucks. Finishing day one with a 7-2 record meant that I wasn’t going to be able to make any mistakes today, and that if I wanted to make Top 8, I’d likely need to go 5-0 and then only maybe be able to draw despite starting with three byes. One misstep and it’d be coitens for me. I was doing so well, until I got mauled very quickly by Sam Black’s Oros Zombie deck in round thirteen. All bad stories start with Oros…

“So I got forced into Oros Metal-Poison and…”
“I just lost to the ‘worst’ Oros deck featuring double [card]Exsanguinate[/card], [card]True Conviction[/card], and at least two [card]Goblin Gaveleer[/card]s…”

In truth, Sam’s deck was pretty awesome and can be found here. I managed to win my last two rounds and finish in 14th place which I was happy with. I had found that I was usually happy with a Top 16, content with a Top 32, and disappointed with a Top 64 finish, and today was no different. I walked around to see how the rest of my friends had finished up, congratulating the ones who had done well and listening to the wails of the one who hadn’t, but that was life. I watched Ben S. play in the Top 8, but my presence there didn’t prove to be his lucky rabbit’s foot as he was defeated in a close three games by a Standard Delver list.

The booth had been a haven for me throughout the day, and I headed over there after finishing every round to hang out, chat, and rest. I heard rumblings of them maybe finishing early enough to get dinner at a reasonable hour, and so I tried to set something up. Unfortunately, there weren’t many places that were open on Sunday here in the proper South. Luckily, I knew of one place: Empire State South. We decided to try it, and after we’d taken the booth down, freshened up, and powdered our noses, we were on our way to the restaurant.

It didn’t take long to get to ESS, and the ride over there was much more pleasant than the past experiences outside in the Georgia heat. We made our way into the restaurant and were seated immediately. I took a moment to glance around and take in the architecture, appreciating the bar setup that was directly to my right. There were bottles of fine spirits from floor-to-ceiling with all sorts of house-made syrups, herbs, citrus, wines, and an espresso bar among other, more normal things. Their stock was so expansive that the only potential limiting factor to what they could provide would have been a lack of imagination and creativity from the bartender, and that certainly wasn’t missing after looking over the drink menu. I thought about trying out a mixed drink or two, but a Belgian ale that I hadn’t tried caught my eye, and I decided to venture down that familiar road again.

Unfortunately the night wasn’t a repeat of the previous. Last night at Rathbun’s, I had been impressed with nearly everything that we ordered, but here at ESS the offerings weren’t as satiating. After I looked over the menu to refresh it in my mind, I ordered the charcuterie for the table to split. The order came with chicken liver pate and various meaty goodness, toasted baguette slices, assorted pickled vegetables and mustards. The pate and the mustards both impressed me. The pate was creamy and had a velvety consistency. The mustards varied quite a bit; in all, there were four. My favorite was the whole grain mustard in a cherry reduction. It had sharpness and acidity from the vinegar, tartness from the cherries, and the distinct spicy earthiness from the mustard seeds.

My next course was a salad that was off the specials menu and featured frisee and arugula greens, fourteen-month Serrano ham shavings, goat cheese, and champagne vinaigrette. I strayed from my rule of always ordering the pork belly if one is available, but fortunately my friend Alex was kind enough to share some of his. Tonight I wanted something a bit lighter than a cube of bacon, even though bacon is always awesome and on a different level than most other foods. My salad was a bit lacking. The ham didn’t command as much presence as I had expected it to, which left the dish off balance because it lacked the requisite saltiness that I desired. My main course was a coulotte steak, also known as picanha for the churrascaria aficionados, or quite simply top sirloin cap. It came pan-roasted and finished in an oven along with fingerling potatoes, and a Bordeaux reduction. The steak was fine, but it didn’t wow me like the Elk chop had, and was simply acceptable.

The rest of my comrades were out of it, completely drained after having worked fourteen-hour days all weekend long. They were so tired that they appeared to be losing consciousness as our meal drew to a close. No one was talking much, and so after a while I flagged our waiter down and got the check. I decided to take a gander at the dessert menu before paying, but none of the options inspired my appetite, which turned out to be a boon as I immediately lost the game. Oh well. GP checks have to pay for something, right? When we got back to the Hyatt, I saw a bunch of my friends in the lobby bar, and decided to join them for a drink before leaving to return to my room and homeward afterward. I must have stayed there for a few hours and outlasted the tide of friends that came and left like its ebb and flow, lounging around, chatting with people I hadn’t had a chance to say hello and goodbye to. When I returned to my room it was past midnight, leaving me with precious little time to sleep before my 8 am flight.

In the morning I returned the way I had come, on the MARTA train. The ride was pleasant on a sunny Monday morning, filled with sleepy commuters and weary travelers such as myself. It was a short ride to the airport, a modest 30 minutes in all, and I even got to keep my MARTA card for next time. It’s good for 10 years the lady had said to me when I got it. When I checked into my flight, I found out that I had been upgraded to first class. Finally, an upgrade on a flight that was longer than one hour. Things were looking great. I had a reasonably successful tournament while enjoying good food and excellent times with my friends. It’s hard to ask for much more than that.

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