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Nationals Impressions

Sorry about the delay, folks; the trip back has been quite the beating. But I'm here, and with a whole new idea of what Magic is about. Watching and interacting with the players this last weekend has been a fantastic pleasure, and I was able to really enjoy a great deal of it while reporting on some of the matches and drafts. You guys will reap the benefits of this over the next day or two, as I'll be filling in a few match reports and draft reports from Nationals. If there's any other information you guys want about the events, please feel free to let me know through email at

Right now, I'm just going to concentrate on the trip, and the grinders. The meat grinders, or the U.S. Open Qualifiers, as they are otherwise called, were formerly a real test of endurance and mettle. Playing all night, sometimes having started early the previous morning, players would attempt to play their way into the U.S. Nationals through the series of single-elimination events that preceded Nationals. The newer format of the grinders is much more forgiving: less grinders, more seats given out per grinder. The negative aspect of this is that it allows you to enter less events; personally, I was only able to enter two grinders, having gone 3-1 in the first event, and not being able to play again until the last.

I have some criticisms to make right now of the organization of the grinders. While they do provide some ease of play, they did an extremely poor job of annoucing time and the beginning and ending of rounds. I know of several people who were ejected from grinders due to missing rounds. In some cases, they were blatently ignored by judges when they were informing them of the circumstances. One player was late returning, and recieved a match loss. Upon asking Colin Jackson for a record of the time with which the previous round had ended and the new round had begun, or even a clock or watch by which the round was being timed, he was told that there was no such record available, and they could not show him the time elapsed in the round, as they didn't seem to be keeping accurate time. They couldn't tell him how long the round had been going, or when the previous had ended. A frustrating experience, and one attesting to the somewhat lackadaisical efforts put forth by the judges at the grinders. I heard frustration from several other players at these and other circumstances over the day.

Personally, I played in two grinders in an attempt to qualify for Nationals. The first grinder was sealed, and I got a pretty solid deck to play with. Pure R/B with Flametounge Kavu, Terminate, Magma Burst, Skizzik, and a load of nice creatures and additional removal. I lost in the round of 32 to a guy who dropped turn 5 Treva in both games while I manascrewed. Game 1 I even had a Terminate in hand that I could never cast. The next grinder was constructed, and I played my version of counter-rebels, which I have been playing for quite some time. I totally destroyed a Fires deck in the first round, but lost in the next round to another Fires player who drew four ports and treated it like it was nothing. I also drew one rebel in the final game: Jhovall Queen. Fantastic.

The next two days were spent doing coverage, watching matches and drafts. While this is hard work, and the first time I have done press coverage at an event, it was a lot of fun to look over choices in the drafts, and talk with some of the players after the drafts. I was really hesitant starting to work; I wasn't really personally familiar with enough players to barge in on their play. Also, with Sideboard covering so many of the pivotal matches, it was hard to find additional matches to cover that would hold interest. In the end, I have several limited matches covered, and a pair of constructed matches that I will share with you over the next day or two. I just ask for a little patience here; I wasn't able to send reports from Florida, so I'm having to write them all up right now.

I also socialized with a lot of people from all over the country, and had a lot of fun with them. A quick shout to Adrian Sullivan for discussing strategy with me, and to Jack Stanton for sitting through a lunch with me. Hallo to Joe Cain and others with whom I chatted, and a brief apology to Brandon and Eileen (sorry I didn't really get to say hello). And thanks to all the other friends with me through the trip, who got me there and back again. I'll be working on my reports through the week, but if you have any questions about Nationals, or about tech in general, please let me know. In the meantime, I'll be passing on everything I can through the week, along with plenty of notes about the actual competition at Nats. Later, folks!

-Jonathan Pechon