Jeff Zandi is a four time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events.

Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.


 

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i

Lone Star Magic Heats Up
2004 Texas 5K Championship


by Jeff Zandi


Even though sidewalks already sizzle in Texas during August, Fletcher and
Mason Peatross managed to make things even hotter in Waco on Sunday with
their second annual Texas 5K Championship, the biggest event of the year in
Texas Magic. This exclusive Type II (Standard) constructed event was open to
exactly thirty-two players, each of which whom had to win their slot in a
qualifying tournament. The main event on Sunday featured five rounds of
Swiss play and a total payout of $5000, with $1000 for first place all the
way down to $50 for last place.

While some other locales have been successful in creating their own special
events outside the glare of Magic's Pro Tour spotlight, no state has done
more in this way than Texas. Sunday's successful second annual Texas 5K
Championship is simply more proof that everything is bigger in Texas,
especially competitive Magic. Game Closet, one of Texas' best gaming stores,
repeated as the location for this special event.

The qualifier season for this year's Texas 5K event began in April. Team
Peatross shrewdly determined that were was not that much going on by way of
Pro Tour events and qualifiers around Texas during the late spring and into
the long summer of 2004. After Regionals in early May, and a teams pro tour
qualifier a week later, both in Dallas, there really were not many big Magic
events on the calendar until the PTQ season started for Pro Tour Columbus in
August. The Peatross' used this 'hole' in the Texas competitive Magic
calendar to schedule twenty-eight qualifiers for the Texas 5K Championship.
The qualifying tournaments were held in nine different game stores in seven
different areas all across the state, including stops in big cities like
Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston as well as smaller places like Waco,
Lubbock and the unlikely Kerrville. The tournament in Kerrville is a
particularly graphic testimony to the popularity of the 5K event. Even
though the qualifier there attracted only eight players (the lowest
attendance of any of the 5K qualifiers) the owner of the Heart of the Cards
store was excited to be a part of big-time Texas Magic. Heart of the Cards
has already asked for a qualifier for next year's Texas 5K Championship.

The 2004 Texas 5K Championship Field

The finals of the first annual Texas 5K Championship was an epic matchup
between possibly the two best pro players to ever come out of Texas. David
Williams lost in a very close championship finals to Brent Kaskel. Since
both players are members of the same local team, it was not a surprise to
learn that they had already agreed to split first and second place cash
prizes totaling $1600. In most annual championships, the past champion and
possibly even the runner-up would receive free passes to the next year's
event. Not in the Texas 5K. 2003 finalists Brent Kaskel and David Williams
each played all day in Saturday's last-chance qualifiers in Waco, and each
was successful in winning a seat for Sunday's main event. Simply amazing.
Brent Kaskel remains the hottest Texas player in Magic, with good
performances at the U.S. Nationals and in several Grand Prix events in the
past year. David Williams' team at Pro Tour Seattle came within one match
win of that Pro Tour's final four. It is truly amazing that David was
prepared to dedicate two days of his life to this tournament. Williams
recently won $3.5 million finishing second in the 2004 World Series of
Poker. Suffice to say that Big Dave has had some things on his mind lately
other than Magic. Still, Tiger came to play, qualifying on Saturday with a
mono red Ponza deck that let him down on Sunday in the main event.

The Texas Guildmages, the team with the longest history together in the
state, had four players in the thirty man field on Sunday (there were meant
to be thirty-two slots, but two players failed to attend the event).
Guildmages included Williams and Kaskel, of course, as well as Jeremy
Simmons and yours truly. Special events like this have long been an
excellent stage for intrastate rivalries between players based in the three
biggest Magic cities of Houston, Dallas and Austin. This year, more than
half the field was made up of players from either Austin or the Dallas area.

Players that participated in the three last-chance tournaments on the day
before the main event gained more than a great chance to test their decks.
Saturday's competitors gained important meta-game information. Green/white
Astral Slide decks made a big splash on Saturday, and a blue/white control
deck designed and played by Dallas' Eric Knipp won one of the qualifiers.
This information was powerful, and it played an important part in shaping
the outcome of Sunday's championship.

The field for the qualifiers this season looked a lot like this year's
Regionals; lots of Affinity and lots of Goblins. Fifth Dawn offered little
to the Goblin decks, but helped Affinity with Cranial Plating. Fifth Dawn
introduced the card that would prove to be the most powerful card at the
2004 Texas 5K Championship, a little green lady called Eternal Witness.
While preparing for Mirrodin Block Constructed, players gained a certain
appreciation for Eternal Witness. However, the Witness makes the Astral
Slide deck much more powerful than it had been in the past. Astral Slide
crept into the main event on Sunday without much noise, causing very few
players to have cards in their sideboard to combat the Astral Slide decks.

After five rounds of Swiss, Sunday's top eight was split evenly with four
control decks including two GW Slide decks and two UW Control decks; and
four aggressive decks including one Affinity deck and three Goblin Bidding
decks. Overall, there were six green/white Astral Slide decks, four each
blue/white Control, Affinity, Goblin Bidding and RG Aggro/Control decks,
along with three mono red Ponza decks, three blue/red March of the
Machines/Obliterate decks and only two Tooth and Nail decks.

After the five rounds of Swiss, the top eight finishers agreed unanimously
to split up the cash prizes equally. Each of the eight shares was worth
$375, which was a good bit more than even the third and fourth prizes, which
would have been $300 each. Fletcher and Mason made it very clear that if
EVERY ONE of the top finishers was not COMPLETELY sure they wanted to split
up the prize, the top eight would have been played out to determine the
prizes normally. At the time, I was very happy to chop it up, but in
retrospect, I agree with those who feel the top eight split took away an
important aspect of this competition. If the money had been structured
differently, or if there had been some other important prize for first
place, like a trophy or award or something, I do not believe all eight
players would have gone for the split. The Peatross brothers, always
interested in ideas that could make their annual event better, have even
considered making next year's event six or seven rounds of Swiss with no
playoff rounds

The decklists for the top eight decks appear at the very bottom of this
report.

Origins of the Texas 5K Championship and Other Special Texas Magic Events

The Texas 5K Championship was created more than two years ago by brothers
Fletcher and Mason Peatross. The brothers have been involved in competitive
Magic since 1996, when Mason discovered the game soon after Alliances was
released. As both brothers began chasing the Pro Tour at qualifiers all
across the state of Texas, they discovered an innovative tournament series
known as the Texas Semi-Pro Tour. This series was created by one of the most
unique creative minds in all of Magic, The Mad Hatter (yes, that's his
actual legal name). Hatter was already involved in the Pro Tour both as a
player and as one of Magic's first sanctioned judges.

Although he liked the Pro Tour, Hatter disliked the way that pro tour
qualifier tournaments, usually held in hotels and other large meeting
spaces, were hurting the stores that were such a big part of Magic's ground
level success. In 1997, The Mad Hatter created a new tournament series, just
for Texas, called the Texas Semi-Pro Tour. In Hatter's semi-pro tour main
event, there were sixty-four seats up for grabs. Hatter sold each of the
sixty-four seats in the main event to stores all across the state. In
Hatter's system, individual stores had a good deal of freedom for how they
ran their qualifier, including what tournament format and prizes. These
qualifiers, as well as the main event, were not sanctioned events.
Qualifiers ran for five or six months before the main event. The Mad Hatter
ran two such series, one in 1997 and one in 1998. Both series, though not
perfectly conceived, were quite successful. One feature of Hatter's main
events was that the prize money was in cash, and the cash was on display
during the tournament, guarded by a big man with a large firearm. After two
seasons of the Texas Semi-Pro Tour, Mad Hatter moved on to other
Magic-related projects and the semi-pro tour came to an end.

Fletcher remembered the difficulty The Mad Hatter had in selling all
sixty-four slots for his semi-pro tour both years. When designing his own
Texas 5K tournament, Fletcher decided thirty-two was the right number of
slots. Sixteen was too exclusive, Fletcher figured, and Hatter's sixty-four
was clearly too many. Fletcher and brother Mason, now living in Lockhart and
nearby Austin, both have square day gigs in the information technology
field. Both brothers think very logically, even mechanically at times.
Thirty-two became the most logical number. After designing the 5K event,
Fletcher contacted WOTC tournament officials like Scott Larabee and Laura
Kilgore. Scott and Laura liked what Fletcher told them about his 5K
Championship event, so much that they have donated several cases of product
to the event each year. The bulk of this product has been used as prizes for
the last-chance qualifiers held the day before each year's main event. After
gaining the interest of these VIPs at Wizards of the Coast, Fletcher helped
to maintain their interest in his event by updating them each week with the
attendance and results of that week's 5K qualifiers.

Two years ago, Team Peatross created www.texasmagicleague.com to serve as
their promotional device with which to spread the word about their Texas 5K
Championship. The website has done that and much more. Today, Fletcher's
website is the number one website for information about tournaments in
Texas. More importantly, the forums on the Peatross site are read by just
about every competitive player in the state. You can pretty much figure out
what's going on in Texas Magic very easily by checking out the forums on
this site.

It might be interesting to the many people who know the Peatross brothers
that Fletcher is the older of the two twins, born slightly earlier than
Mason on the last day of 1973 in Houston. While both brothers seemed to be a
lot more interested in gaming than in dating during their young adult lives
in Magic, each has succumbed to the gifts of the fairer sex. Mason has been
with girlfriend Leslie for more than two years. Fletcher went a step or two
further, marrying his girlfriend Sara several years ago, and producing
Peatross offspring in 2002, a son named Simon.

The Event Horizons Invitational

A year after The Mad Hatter discontinued his Texas Semi-Pro Tour, Tim and
Sheila Weissman, a tournament organizing team from Houston, created an
almost annual very exclusive gathering of the sixteen best Magic players
from Texas and Louisiana. The very successful first Event Horizons
Invitational took place in November 1999, followed by events in January of
2001, February of 2002 and most recently in April of 2003. The Weissman's
invitational events have been among the best remembered Magic events in
Texas for many reasons. Each year, the Invitational would invite the top
ranked players from Texas and Louisiana as determined by DCI standings, in
both limited and constructed formats. To round out the sixteen player field,
the Invitational added players through qualifying tournaments and through
player voting at Weissman-run Magic tournaments all over the area. Finally,
Tim and Sheila Weissman, aided by Tim's long-time friend, teammate and
business partner Don James, selected several players each year by hand.
These hand-picked invitees were chosen for contributions to the Texas Magic
scene that, while extremely valuable, may not be reflected in high DCI
rankings.

The Invitational is run very much like Magic's annual Sideboard Invitational
event. Just as in the Sideboard Invitational, players in the Event Horizons
Invitational compete in five different events containing just three rounds
each. This format pits each player against each of the fifteen other players
exactly once. After all fifteen rounds of play have been completed, the two
highest finishers play against each other in a head-to-head limited format
to decide a champion. The finalists of the four Invitationals include
players that have made an impact in the worldwide Magic scene and not just
in Texas. Neil Reeves, James Stroud, Bryan Hubble and Skye Thomsen are all
accomplished Pro Tour players that finished at the top of this special
invitational event.

The big payoff to the Event Horizons Invitational is anything BUT money.
It's all about prestige, bragging rights and cool looking trophies. Cool
looking trophies are one part of competition that Magic tournaments don't
think about very often. For each of the four Event Horizons Invitationals,
Tim Weissman went WAY over the top designing exceptional special trophies
for each of the event's five events, as well as trophies for the overall
champion, the overall runner-up, a sportsmanship award and a tiny trophy
(with a horse's ass on it) for the tournament's last place finisher.

What is the Future of Such Special Magic Events?

In Texas, the future of these kind of special Magic events appears to be
very strong. The Peatross brothers already figure to be putting on a third
Texas 5K Championship in 2005. A year after accomplishing his PHD, Dr. Tim
Weissman may become less "distracted" by the real world and decide to put on
another of his invitational gems. Special events like this can breed their
own success. Texas Magic stores that have before put on large Magic events
are considering their own big money cash series. Mad Hatter, Tim Weissman
and Fletcher Peatross have led the way, creating successful Magic
tournaments that do a lot to expand interest in competitive Magic across a
wide geographic area. Tournament organizers in other states would do well to
take a look at what is going on in Texas.

TOP EIGHT DECKLISTS FROM 2004 5K CHAMPIONSHIP

1st Place Finisher 5-0
David Solis
GW Astral Slide
3 Pyroclasm
4 Renewed Faith
2 Oxidize
3 Starstorm
2 Plow Under
2 Decree of Justice
4 Wrath of God
4 Astral Slide
4 Eternal Witness
4 Rampant Growth
3 Eternal Dragon
2 City of Brass
3 Tranquil Thicket
3 Secluded Steppes
2 Forgotten Cave
3 Mountain
5 Plains
6 Forest
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Windswept Heath
SIDEBOARD:
2 Sacred Ground
2 Plow Under
4 Xantid Swarm
3 Creeping Mold
4 Stone Rain

2nd Place Finisher 4-1
Luke Oaks
GW Astral Slide
4 Astral Slide
3 Akroma's Vengeance
3 Renewed Faith
2 Decree of Justice
3 Gilded Light
4 Eternal Dragon
1 Wipe Clean
4 Wrath of God
2 Plow Under
1 Tel-Jilad Justice
2 Viridian Shaman
3 Krosan Tusker
4 Eternal Witness
2 Temple of the False God
4 Secluded Steppes
4 Tranquil Thicket
7 Plains
7 Forest
SIDEBOARD:
1 Viridian Shaman
2 Oxidize
3 Damping Matrix
2 Mindslaver
2 Pulse of the Fields
1 Wipe Clean
2 Aura Extraction
2 Sacred Ground

3rd Place Finisher 3-0-2
John Walsh
UW Control
4 Wrath of God
4 Decree of Justice
4 Mana Leak
4 Condescend
3 Akroma's Vengeance
3 Thirst for Knowledge
3 Echoing Truth
3 Pulse of the Fields
3 Eternal Dragon
4 Wayfarer's Bauble
4 Flooded Strand
4 Cloudpost
3 Coastal Tower
7 Plains
5 Island
2 Darksteel Citadel
SIDEBOARD:
4 Annul
1 Acquire
3 Purge
3 Sacred Ground
4 Silver Knight

4th Place Finisher 3-1-1
Andrew Tibbett
UW Control
3 Thirst for Knowledge
4 Wayfarer's Bauble
2 Pulse of the Fields
4 Decree of Justice
3 Eternal Dragon
4 Wrath of God
3 Akroma's Vengeance
2 Echoing Truth
3 Exalted Angel
4 Condescend
3 Mana Leak
4 Temple of the False God
4 Coastal Tower
4 Flooded Strand
5 Island
8 Plains
SIDEBOARD:
4 Annul
3 Purge
3 Circle of Protection: Red
1 Exalted Angel
4 Rewind

5th Place Finisher 3-1-1
Roy Spires
Artifact Affinity with Natural Affinity
3 Aether Vial
3 Atog
3 Moriok Rigger
3 Mana Leak
2 Welding Jar
2 Chromatic Sphere
3 Myr Enforcer
4 Frogmite
4 Disciple of the Vault
4 Krark Clan Shaman
4 Arcbound Ravager
2 Natural Affinity
3 Darksteel Citadel
4 Thoughtcast
3 Vault of Whispers
2 Tree of Tales
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Great Furnace
2 City of Brass
2 Glimmervoid
SIDEBOARD:
3 Pyroclasm
3 Pentad Prism
3 Furnace Dragon
1 Natural Affinity
2 Annul
1 Mana Leak
2 Shrapnel Blast

6th Place Finisher 3-1-1
Mark Dean
Goblin Bidding with Read the Runes
3 Patriarch's Bidding
3 Read the Runes
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Goblin Sharpshooter
4 Skirk Prospector
4 Goblin Sledder
4 Goblin Warchief
3 Gempalm Incinerator
3 Sparksmith
1 Obliterate
9 Mountain
3 Swamp
1 Island
4 City of Brass
3 Bloodstained Mire
3 Polluted Delta
SIDEBOARD:
4 Electrostatic Bolt
4 Relic Barrier
4 Mana Leak
2 Lightning Greaves
1 Sword of Fire and Ice

7th Place Finisher 3-1-1
Brian Hart
Goblin Bidding
4 Goblin Warchief
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Goblin Sledder
4 Goblin Sharpshooter
4 Skirk Prospector
4 Siege-Gang Commander
3 Gempalm Incinerator
3 Patriarch's Bidding
2 Clickslither
2 Electrostatic Bolt
1 Oversold Cemetary
3 Sparksmith
4 Swamp
4 Bloodstained Mire
3 City of Brass
11 Mountain

8th Place Finisher 3-1-1
Jeff Zandi
Goblin Bidding
4 Goblin Warchief
4 Goblin Sharpshooter
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Clickslither
4 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Skirk Prospector
4 Electrostatic Bolt
3 Goblin Sledder
3 Sparksmith
3 Patriarch's Bidding
3 City of Brass
4 Bloodstained Mire
3 Swamp
13 Mountain
SIDEBOARD:
4 Shatter
4 Dwarven Blastminer
4 Molten Rain
3 Sulfuric Vortex

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
jeffzandi@thoughtcastle.com
Zanman on Magic Online

 

 

 

 

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