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Breaking Through – Water Under the Bridge Part 2

 

When we last left our hero (that’s me!) he was boarding a plane and heading to San Juan. Luckily, the flight to our little island in the Caribbean was smooth and uneventful although I did land with absolutely no knowledge of an address for our beach house, which was a little unsettling. Luckily I met up with a fellow Coloradan and beach house member in the airport and we shot the breeze for a while until we could make it to the beach house.

The house was actually pretty sweet, with basically 3 different floors of rooms and balconies to examine as the beds were quickly claimed by various house members. The house was a perfect size for our original 10 or so members, but that number would soon grow to about 15 members by mid week, leaving many people on the floor or in some air mattresses purchased at the local Wal Mart.

As for San Juan… I am not sure how many of you have had the experience of going to San Juan, but if you want a little taste, simply imagine the movie Scarface, with all of its cliches and stereotypes, add a little more Spanglish (their words not mine) and you have San Juan. We were constantly being told to watch our vehicle as carjackings were common place.

Testing

We settled down for the day and began busting out some testing. I had a B/W deck chock full of synergy like Kor Skyfisher, Abyssal Persecutor, Wall of Omens, and Grim Discovery that was performing well back home and wanted to work on it. The pieces weren’t coming together though and I was beginning to get discouraged. A large contingent of the house which included Gavin Verhey, Kyle Boggemes, Raine Lourie, Brett Piazza, Jason Terry, Alex Smith, Sean Pottenger and a few others were set on going out to get groceries. While I had no issue with this and even threw in some money, I was on “vacation” and wanted to go out to eat, so I did just that with Brett and Alex.

This is where the Scarface theme really set in. The restaurant had a bar level, an eating level, and what appeared to be a dance floor level, completed by 2 men having a “business” conversation with no food in front of them. Sure enough, within 10 minutes what was clearly a pimp walked in with 2 of his “ladies” wearing matching attire including thongs visibly pulled up over their skirts that could hardly be called just that. We couldn’t help but laugh amongst ourselves as our waiter quickly turned into a drug dealer, offering us the chance to drive over the bridge with him after work and pick up some stuff. We passed on the offer but the city was living up to its stereotypes in very apparent ways. The waiter insisted we go with him, but we would have none of it and sped away in our little rental car from hell.

The road that lead back to our beach house was lined with speed bumps that could make Gravedigger cry. These things were easily a foot off the ground and forced us to come to a screeching halt or pay the price, which occurred at least twice, injuring the rental car and myself in quite the comical fashion. Our ride home provided more sights of the nightlife including a few more “ladies of the evening” if you catch my drift.
We got home and began the Magic-ing once again. I had moved off of B/W due to its bad matchup with U/W and was trying out basically every idea I could muster up. Among those ideas were things like 5 color control, B/G Momentous Fall, and eventually a G/W Eldrazi ramp deck that showed some promise as it was beating all of the matchups that the mono-Green version did, but 12 maindeck Walls also made the Vampire and Mono Red matchups solid.

Basically the house was set on testing constructed, until the next night where we held a draft before heading out to watch the Lakers play, as I am a diehard fan and our T.V. did not get the game. My draft consisted of a strong B/G ramp deck splashing for a Flame Slash and Staggershock with both Gruul Draaz Assassin, Drana, and not one, but TWO Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. I realize this is not at all conventional and probably wouldn’t have run the risk at something like a Pro Tour, but my deck had insane ramp and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Of course the deck was absurd and I won at least 2 or 3 games off of Emrakul all while having a blast doing so.

My opens for that draft were pretty insane by the way. I opened Drana for P1P1 of course, snatching her up. Pack 2 I opened a Kargan Dragonlord and foil Gruul Draaz Assassin, and pack three had me open a Sphinx of Magosi and foil Student of Warfare.

After the draft we went driving around San Juan in search of a sports bar as both of the ones we looked up ahead of time did not exist. Oddly enough, through the back alleys of some random streets in the middle of the night we found a small bar with 3 fairly attractive bartenders and enough room for maybe 15 people total. We ordered drinks and we promptly served some meat that was quite possibly the most delicious thing ever. We have yet to determine the exact meat that we ate that night, but after getting free samples, we ordered three plates of it, so even if it was squirrel or something, I can safely say I will eat squirrel again.

At halftime we headed over to Chili’s which was more expensive than the ones in the States, but also better. The oddest thing was the required valet parking that was an obvious theft deterrent, although at the time, it felt sketchy handing our keys to some randos outside of Chili’s. After the game we were interested in some more bar crawling and headed to this beach side bar located right on the waves. Unfortunately, while standing on the sand, the ocean came up and swallowed my sandals. I spent the next 15 minutes diving into the waves in search of my sandals in solid darkness to the screams and points of not only my housemates, but random passerbys who were cheering me on. Eventually the sea surrendered the battled and I found one sandal on some rocks as the other came floating in out of nowhere.

Of course, not to give up the fight without a trade, during my frantic search for footwear, Jason also lost his shoes to the ocean. No one had a clue until I pulled one out of the sand and asked if I had just found a 3rd shoe or not. We never did find his other shoe though. A fitting sacrifice to the island if nothing else.

The next day Alex’s fiance was getting into town which was a nice treat as she was Puerto Rican native who’s family still all lived on the island. Alex had actually won his PTQ at the perfect time as the two were planning on getting married in September and he had yet to meet the parents, so to speak. Anyway, Isabel had offered her Mom’s house as a free place to stay for the remainder of the week. As it was told to me, they also lived in San Juan so commuting to the beach house for testing would be simple enough. Turns out I was misinformed.

Isabel arrived very excited to show Alex the family which already left me feeling a bit like a 3rd wheel but I figured that would pass. After about an hour on the highway, I began to wonder exactly just how far her Mom lived from here. She comforted me a bit by saying we were going to meet her Dad and Grandma who did not live with her Mom.

We arrived at a rundown little town and walked into a very humbling little shack of a house with the classic image of a Grandmother cooking for her family straight out of the movies. We mingled a little and I got to experience the first “joke” of Isabel’s as she introduced me as Alex, putting me into an awkward situation where I had to assure her family who spoke little to no English that I was in fact not the one marrying their daughter. This would turn into a joke told more than once, and it never got any more comfortable for me.

We were then ushered to her Uncle’s store which was possibly the most cliche thing I had ever seen. It was a rundown shop that sold used car parts, live chickens, lettuce, ice cream, bunny rabbits, and assorted fried goods. The smell was quite overbearing and every time we found some new crazy good they sold it made the experience even more unique. One of the highlights was a hose that you hook up to 3 of your tires in order to draw some air from them to fill a 4th flat tire enough to drive. The entire device seemed quite sketchy both for being unsafe and the fact that there was no way people weren’t stealing air from other people’s tires.

After we left the shop we were finally on our way to Isabel’s mother’s house, which to my amazement was even further away. I was beginning to feel like this was a bad idea. I was an hour and a half from any other Magic player, running around performing tasks that were designed for Alex, and was likely not to get any testing in. I would have been all for the trip after the Pro Tour, but without a deck in hand, I was feeling an opportunity slipping away.

We finally made it to her Mom’s house only to find our phones completely out of service and a distinct lack of internet access. This meant that even our plan of communicating with the house that night was not going to go off as drawn up. We went grocery shopping to help out the family we would be staying with over the next few days and returned to the house to play with their horse, who had a strange thing for biting people and then running away. I was bitten twice in what the 2 year-old pony thought was a playful manner, but it still hurt pretty bad.

The house we would be staying in was in a constant state of remodeling. That is to say that other than our room and the master bedroom which were both air conditioned, the rest of the house was effectively outdoors. No glass could be found in the windows and the interior was torn up as well. This would have been inconvenient anywhere, but Puerto Rico has like 100% humidity at all times, making walking out into the kitchen or living room the equivalent but opposite of jumping from a hot tub into a swimming pool.

We ate and ended up getting in about 5 games of testing, which was helpful but not that beneficial in the grand scheme of things. When we awoke, we found the food we had purchased, or at least some of it, was infested with bugs. Apparently you have to take cereal out of its box and place it in the fridge or else ants will literally eat their way through the plastic and cover the cereal still in the bag. Ants were all over the pizza we had ordered the night before as well. Leading this insect army was the largest roach I had ever seen. I mistook it for a beetle at first, as it was about the size of my cell phone, but Isabel corrected me and told me it was a roach…great.

Isabel continued with her planned activities that did not involve Magic, as we now had to run to the post office and then go out to eat with her Dad and Grandmother. Like I said, this all would have been awesome if I had a deck. As it was however, trudging through the countryside and slums running errands designed for Alex (with Alex to be fair) felt kind of awkward, almost as if I was being kidnapped by some family. In fact, every time someone took the wheel of the car who did not speak English, this feeling set in even more, as we would drive further into the heart of the island and further away from the beach house where testing and drafting were surely taking place.

David Williams and Eric Froelich had arrived on the island and wanted to test with us, which I had agreed to the day before. Now, without phone service in anything resembling a consistent manner, I had to send broken texts about how I had no idea where I was or how I was making it to their hotel to test. We had the player party that night, so at least I knew I would be getting some games in then. I had already made my mind up that I would escape this captivity and stay at the beach house that night to finally get some sort of deck together.

The party was pretty good this time, with actual food instead of just some samples on sticks. The music was way to loud though, swallowing any conversation in the void found between mouth and ear. I met up with Gavin and the rest of the house though and caught a ride back with them. I was without a bed, without an air mattress, and without cushions to form some sort of makeshift sleeping spot, so I would be sleeping on marble floor for the night, but I had to do what it takes to make a deck.

I threw together a ton of poop to put it lightly. Blue White aggro, and Blue Red Explosive Revelation.dec that used Selective Memory to 15 them off of an Emrakul. That deck showed some promise in our mock tournament actually, although the combo itself was just clunky and rarely good. Instead, to remove clunkiness (caution, sarcasm ahead) I decide to streamline the list by adding 4 Lavaball Traps and a pair of Chandra Ablaze…. I know I know, but it seemed good at the time and helped me go 3-0 in our mock tournament.

I got more and more testing in, maybe 20 or 30 games in all and continued to tweak the deck. I got to a point where I felt comfortable with it and ultimately settled. With so little time left I had to pick a deck and I got loose and choose the midnight brew. There was no breaking this format, so I should have just played some stock mono Red deck or something. Basically anything but Vampires, as the house already knew my feelings there. On multiple accounts I had actually threatened to forcefully remove the manhood of anyone who played vampires. I felt like I was doing the house a favor, as that deck was total poop, but Kyle Boggemes registered the deck anyway. She shall be henceforth known as Kylie. What could I do? My hands were tied!

The list I registered:

I can’t do much to defend this, as it sucked hardcore. David Williams put his faith in me and promptly went 0-4 with the deck. I managed to mise a sweet 1-4 record with it. Luckily everyone else jumped off the bandwagon in time to avoid playing this monstrosity. Needless to say, I would discourage everyone from burning the midnight oil in hopes of a deck. As a parallel thought, avoid being dragged away from your testing 3 days before the Pro Tour. While you do need to enjoy the time you get to spend at these venues you also need to make sure you are properly prepared. It is almost always going to be better to explore the land after the Tour is over so you can focus beforehand.

Friday night we decided to go out with Kyle, Christian, Craig “One Heine” Wescoe, Alex, Isabel, and Sean Pottenger. We originally just planned on going out to eat at this awesome spot that Isabel recommended. I devoured some Mufungo which was easily the best food I had on the trip. I actually ate a similar meal 2 other times because I liked it so much. Of course, as with any Magic dinner where alcohol is involved, some shenanigans had to go down. Isabel and I ended up having a food fight where she threatened me with whip cream and I made it clear that she would be doused in water among other things if it happened. She pulled the trigger and I retaliated. There may have been some innocent parties that got caught in between us as well, but consider them casualties of war.

After leaving the restaurant, Alex and Isabel drove back off into the rainforest and took our only GPS. Needless to say, our car of 5 got lost on the way home as we were just going off of landmarks along the way. We ended up in a skeezy part of town with some distinct sights. Women wearing fishnets and lace-covered garments were entering cars on either side of the road at an alarming rate. We actually ran into a dead end but felt a little uncomfortable turning around as the rumors of car jackings caught up to us so we drove up onto a sidewalk and across a 20 foot area not meant for vehicles to end up on another road. After about 2 hours of driving around we finally found the correct path back to the beach house.

As for Craig Wescoe; The nickname of “One Heine” came after he enjoyed a single Heineken at the restaurant and did a total 180 in personality. He basically turned into that kid in highschool that tries to win over friends by sharing the most disturbing information possible with people. It was quite hilarious to watch him speak random bits of information one after another. My views on Craig changed after that night, although for the better.

The next day was a pretty relaxed day where I got involved in a few “side drafts” but nothing too exciting happened. We caught the next Lakers game later that night as we went out with Ben Lundquist and Gerard Fabiano, although they split after the first bar we went to. I had a strange concoction called a chilli pepper martini that was insanely spicy. I finished it just to make the claim of doing so, but it was not very enjoyable. That night involved another midnight swim in the ocean that was just a hundred feet from the house and overall it was a good night.

The next day was pretty laid back as well. I ended up securing a Time Walk in the sealed tournament for power. My deck was pretty good although I don’t think it was totally absurd like some of the pools were. I got to rock this:

And I found myself bringing in the following package a lot too, mainly against the plethora of Gruul Draz Assassin decks that I encountered.

+1 Prophetic Prism
+2 Mountain
+1 Staggershock
+1 Flame Slash

-1 Island
-1 Swamp
-1 Bloodrite Invoker
-1 Zulaport Enforcer

and then a different 3rd card each time between things like Essence Feed or Bala Ged Scorpion.

The deck performed well, only losing a match in which I stumbled on mana and my opponent ran me over with a Red/White leveler deck. After getting home, we found the house even more booby trapped than before.

Allow me to elaborate.

All week long, pictures had been falling off of walls with no one around, toilets were being clogged at random times, remotes were breaking, wooden corners of tables had been falling off and even on Friday the power had gone out to half of the house. Upon getting back on Sunday though, the internet had finally given up on us and the power outage had spread even further. So with little electricity and no internet, there was only one thing to do; Pack Wars!

Craig had been dominating Kenny Mayer and others before I got back, but once I did, things changed. We were playing for keeps so I won some cool things like All is Dust, but then we decided to up the ante, literally. We put a quarter down for ever draw step and at the beginning of the game. Basically if you didn’t ante up a quarter, you had to skip your draw step. I made out on top of the money situation, winning like 8 bucks or so, but Craig cracked a Gideon, so I suppose he was the real winner.

My flight was not out until Tuesday despite the majority of the house leaving on Monday, so we had to pack up and hit the road. Brett and Sean were staying until Friday, so I decided to hang with them on Monday and man, was it a journey. We checked out the fort down in Old San Juan and got some insane pictures there (which you can see on my facebook page if interested) but the real fun came at night. We found a hotel for the night with a casino in it that took much more money than it gave out unfortunately. Brett was excited to win 260 the second time going down, but when I informed him that Sean and I had each lost 130 and could have literally handed him the cash instead, all he could rebuttal was that we got a few free drinks out of the deal.

We went out that night looking to grab some food and maybe a drink and ran into some fellow Magicians at a local bar. Gerry T, AJ Sacher and Brian Kibler headlined the group, but there were a ton of familiar faces. It is always cool to run into friends randomly in a city 3500 miles away from your hometown. After deciding to call it a night we started to trek back to our hotel only to find out that Old San Juan had become San Juan Lake. There was literally a 2 and a half foot deep “puddle” that was probably 120 feet across blocking us from getting to our hotel. Due to the way the hotel was positioned, there was no way to get to the front doors other than to trudge across. Sean and Brett had sandals, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but I had basketball shoes on.

I debated taking them off, but we would be walking on the street and I had no idea what lurked beneath the water. The last thing I wanted to do was step on some glass or some needle or something, so I left them on. We traversed our way across, almost dying as we stepped over what was the curb, as we had no idea it was there and it was easily a foot drop. We were greeted by laughing hotel staff who just kept pointing at my feet and snickering. Despite my best efforts to dry them, I had to bag up those shoes for the plane ride.

The flight to Chicago en route to Denver was a pleasant one though. I ran into Brad Nelson at the airport and determined I was sitting 1 row in front of him. That changed though as I went to board the plan and was informed to wait by the door for a second. They ended up upgrading me to first class which was awesome. I never got to tell Brad, so he probably thought I missed the flight or something, but it was quite fun eating, drinking, watching movies, and most importantly, having room for my legs over the next 5 hours.

So that was the trip to San Juan and D.C. It was fun, although I have to be looking forward to Columbus as I can’t help but wish for better results there. I learned quite a few things and got to hang out with some amazing people, so the trip was still worth every moment despite wishing a few things had gone differently.

It looks like the next GP is Columbus and therefore Legacy, so who wouldn’t be excited for that? Congrats to Brad on his win in D.C., Paulo for his win in San Juan, and Kibler for his win in Sendai. It looks like the good guys are on a roll right now. Thanks for reading everyone!

Conley Woods

30 thoughts on “Breaking Through – Water Under the Bridge Part 2”

  1. its a shame to hear the deck was a flop, I definitely see how some of the cards certainly were wrong, but I can see also how lavaball trap could have been insane, but I think you have to use it with more land kill, not just as a bad earthquake. I guess the bigger issue is that all the really powerful acceleration in this format is creature based, so you end up hitting yourself if you wanna make it fast enough to impact games.

  2. Sounds interesting. Let me tell you about my past few days. *CODING SERVERS. THE END*

    ….you win good sir. I think… you win.

    Man, playing in some of these big events sounds like an absolute blast.

  3. @tommy

    You seem like an idiot. If he would have x-0d with the deck you would be telling him he was a master.

  4. Easily one of the best magic trips.

    p.s. It was Raine that was out with us the night we got lost in Hookerville, PR. haha

  5. When I read Ochoa’s last article I skimmed to try to find something magic related. You barely talked about magic at all and I still found myself reading until the end. I mean, I don’t really want to say that this is the type of content I want to see more of, but that was pretty enjoyable.

  6. My bad on getting one of the 5 members of the car wrong… I should have remembered it was Raine, but oh well. Kyle picked up the name later… I remember better now

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  8. You probably got a false impression of my personality when I first arrived at the beach house because at that point I was all about business and trying to figure out a deck. But once the tournament was over I let loose and was just having fun. That’s actually where the 180 came from, not the Heineken.

    We should have the epic Star City vs Channelfireball pack war showdown part 2 in Amsterdam where you can seek your revenge. 🙂

  9. Conley, this might be one of the best “bad beats” articles I’ve ever read. PR sounds pretty sketchy, you should probably just be happy you didn’t get raped at this point. Better luck in Columbus (which is sketchy in it’s own right)!

  10. Yeah, well, that’s crazy that you cracked 4 Bomb Rares out of two packs, I hate being put in that situation, It’s like I just want to take all my packs stand up and run off.
    Nice Article BTW, North Dakota Rocks!!

  11. Pretty worthless as far as a MTG article goes. As for a travel article though, this is one of the more interesting ones I’ve read in a while. Keep up the great writing in your articles and GL at Columbus.

  12. Hey, btw on that Explosive revelation.dec you made. Why not try to make it less clunky by simply packing a deck with cards like Ponder, Jace 2.0 and halimar depths. to put emrakul on the top card when you revelation. I have even seen someone use liliana’s second ability. Basically you used the clunkiest version and it was promising. Try it out a bit more would be my suggestion.

    Also as far as the PTQ, oh well theres always the next one and at least you had a fun time.

  13. I love the stupid comments made by ‘pros’ about places they’ve barely spent any time in. I live for several years in Puerto Rico and was never carjacked. “It’s like Scarface” … really? really?

    MTG ‘pros’ need to get out more ….

  14. Dude, squirrell is awesome! You have to cook it right so it doesn’t get tough, but you’re not going to get that unique flavor from anything else. The only downside is biting down on a stray shotgun pellet, since ususally squirrell has to be gotten the old fashioned way.

  15. LoL, epic. I got kidnapped in Puerto Rico once also, they left us on the side of that mountain in the dark. mountain on oneside and death drop on the other side. We made our way down the mountain with the light off our watches and an occasional camra flash.

  16. I did enjoy the stories about San Juan, but I feel like tournament reports are becoming more and more burdened by content that has nothing to do with Magic. Since this is a strategy website and not a blog, maybe there should be more Magic discussion? There are other things you could have talked about, like why your deck appeared to be good at the mock tournament, or why the format is hostile to the archetype that you played. I don’t want to see all the fun stuff stripped from tournament reports, but it would be nice if it was in a separate section, marked by a header or something.

  17. That is partly why this was bonus content and not my regular article for the week. But my number one job as a writer is to entertain and bring in readership. Strategy is usually the result of this, but I would say that 1 to 2 weeks out of the year you have to have a little fun. Forcing strategy topics when none are available is how writers burn out quickly.

    But like I said, don’t worry in this case, I will have a normal article up Thursday night.

  18. I enjoyed the article(s), despite it not being chock full of MtG content. Sometimes it’s nice to read about the part of the game I don’t get to experience, instead of simply draft recaps, tournament prep talk and deck design (although don’t get me wrong, those things are nice too). Part of why I read most of the articles and most of the reason I don’t read the others on this site is because I enjoy the various aspects and experiences each author brings to the table weekly, and this series was delivered well enough in my opinion. After all, it’s not like it should have been a surprise if you read Part 1 that Part 2 wasn’t going to be the usual content article.

  19. really enjoyed the read, but I have to agree with what others have said before (although I don’t think above): find someone (or more people) to proof-read the articles before they hit the site. While some of the colloquial choices can be argued to help the tone, some of the grammar errors really just disrupt the flow for the reader. I really enjoy reading your articles, but at least a few times in each one some grammar fail happens that completely takes me out of the narrative and into the “what the hell does this sentence say?” realm.

  20. Dude, that shit was beyond funny. I think I laughed myself into a coma, because I swear to god, I read your story, laughing, passed out, dreamed about packs of cocaine, woke up, and I’m like what the fuck….Oh Conley woods story gave me a dream on acid.

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