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Jeff Zandi is a five 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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The Southwestern Paladin
2005 Event Horizons Invitational
The Most Fun You Can Have With Magic Cards
by Jeff Zandi
December 15, 2005

On a sunny October Saturday in Austin, Texas, they assembled. Sixteen southern Magic players hand-picked for their play skill, their gaming tenacity and for their contributions to the Texas and Louisiana Magic scene.


These sixteen players assembled at a games store called Thor’s Hammer for the fifth annual installment of the Event Horizons Invitational. This event, the brainchild of Houston tournament organizer Tim Weissman PhD, represents a lot of things. The Event Horizons Invitational event structure closely mirrors the Duelist Invitational and is a sort of homage to that illustrious event. The Event Horizons Invitational also demonstrates one tournament organizer’s amazing and true devotion to gaming in general and Magic in particular. With no profit motive whatsoever, Tim and his wife Sheila, along with his best friend and business partner Don James put on a two day event where the sixteen invitees enjoy all the fun while Tim and Co. do all the work. The Event Horizons Invitational, simply put, is the most fun you can have with Magic cards.

Casual Magic gets pushed to back burner when it comes to event coverage, a self-fulfilling prophecy evidenced by the late date of this report for an amazing event now two months behind us. But I’m not here to report the facts, what who-cares Texas Magic player won a who-cares unsanctioned tournament in which corner of who-cares Texas. I’m here to tell you about a tournament that breaks all the rules, a tournament run not for money or for prizes, but strictly for pride and love of the game. Love of the game! That really IS news.


Tim Weissman started this event back in 1999, the first Event Horizons Invitational was played in November of that year, featuring names everyone knows in Texas, some of which may be memorable throughout the larger Magic world; Scott Gerhardt, Bryan Hubble, Ben Bleiweiss, Mason Peatross, Alan Tetu, James Stroud, Don “the Governor of Louisiana” Paul, Adrian Sayers, Cannon Boling, Carl James, Jeff Taylor, Jeff Clark, Lan D. Ho, Ryan Fischbeck, Rob Lawing and yours truly. Then, as now, the lineup consisted of top players according to DCI ratings as well as Texas and Louisiana players who had made a positive impact on the game in the region in any number of ways. Then, as now, the event consisted of five mini-events played over a weekend, with each of the sixteen players playing each of the other players one time during the event. Then, as now, the winner of each three round mini-event is awarded a very cool customized trophy, with bigger and nicer trophies awarded to the eventual champion and runner up of the entire two day event. Then, as now, a small trophy featuring the back end of a horse was awarded to the player suffering the ignominy of finishing last in the sixteen man field.


As the summer was coming to an end, Tim Weissman shocked the regulars on the Texas Magic League online forums (www.texasmagicleague.com) by announcing that there would be a 2005 Event Horizons Invitational, and that the tournament would be in only a few months. Weissman had announced his special Invitational event with more lead time in the past. Just as suddenly, Tim Weissman announced the invite policy for the upcoming event. Take a look at this year’s invitation policy and the players who were selected to satisfy each of the sixteen slots:

1. Last Champion (Neil Reeves)
2. Last Runner-Up (Trent Boneau)
3. 1st in Composite Ratings from TX as of Sept. 1, 2005 (Taylor S Webb) 4. 2nd in Composite Ratings from TX as of Sept. 1, 2005 (Aaron M Rzepka -- Replaced by Adam Bernstein) 5. 3rd in Composite Ratings from TX as of Sept. 1, 2005 (David C Solis) 6. 1st in Composite Ratings from LA as of Sept. 1, 2005 (Beau Ferguson) 7. 2nd in Composite Ratings from LA as of Sept. 1, 2005 (Derek A LeJeune) 8. 3rd in Composite Ratings from LA as of Sept. 1, 2005 (Jeffrey W Taylor) 9. Thor’s Hammer (sponsor/host) pick (Jeremy Jackson) 10. 1st place at Open qualifier 11. 1st place at Open qualifier 12. EHI pick (Fletcher Peatross) 13. EHI pick (Jeff Zandi) 14. EHI pick (Bryan Hubble) 15. Texas Magic League 2005 5k Champ (Nathan Zamora) 16. Player voted pick* (Cannon Boling)

The final invite list ended up a little different, due to the various scheduling issues of several original invitees.

1. Neil Reeves
2. Trent Boneau
3. Taylor Webb
4. Adam Bernstein
5. Jeff Meyerson
6. Beau Ferguson
7. Leland Simmons
8. Jeff Taylor
9. Leland Simmons
10. Jimmy Spears
11. Cannon Boling
12. Fletcher Peatross
13. Jeff Zandi
14. Bryan Hubble
15. Nathan Zamora
16. Derrick Steele


One of the truly special things about the Event Horizons Invitational is that Don James and Tim Weissman continue to invent new fun formats every time. Here are the five events that we played at this year’s event.


Each player prepares three booster packs ahead of time, selecting all the cards for each of the packs himself. The first limitation is that each player must create packs from blocks ranging from Mirage through Champions of Kamigawa. We were not required to build all three packs from the same block, but we were required to build a booster from a large expansion (the first of any allowable block), our second pack had to be from the second expansion of any allowable block and our third pack had to be from the third expansion of any allowable block. Each pack must contain 11 commons, 3 uncommons and 1 rare. Each pack must contain at least 7 creatures. Packs can contain no basic lands or duplicates of any card. The eleven commons could contain a maximum of 1 artifact (2 if the pack is from a Mirrodin block set), 1 multi-color card (2 if the pack is from an Invasion block set) and 1 land card. Each pack must contain at least one common from all five colors.

If there is a third common of a single color, there must be two commons of each other single color in the pack. There were similar restrictions for the 3 uncommons in the packs as well.

Players are seated into four man draft pods where they use normal booster draft rules to draft with the premade packs they have created. Players played all three matches in this format against the other players in their four man draft pod.


This constructed format may have been the most insidious constructed format ever to be included in the Event Horizons Invitational. The rules for this format were simple: build a constructed deck with a sixty card minimum using only cards from Ravnica: City of Guilds. NO other rules. In other words, you could play any number of any particular card. Twenty Glimpse the Unthinkable? Go ahead and THINK ABOUT IT! Forty Lightning Helix? Knock yourself out! At the same time, you could ONLY play with Ravnica versions of cards EVEN if they had been previously printed in another set, so if you wanted to play Birds of Paradise in your deck (which nobody did, by the way) then you had to find Ravnica edition Birds for your deck.

The idea of this format was to recreate those old days of Magic when the size of your collection played a major role in what decks you could create. This wild constructed format also allowed the players to try strategies that simply would not work with normal deck construction restrictions.


For this format, players were split into two pods of eight players each. The players were randomly seated around a table. The players then took turns drafting from a list of cards including over 300 cards from the New Horizons set and over 100 cards from the Last Dawn set. These sets are original creations of Tim Weissman and Don James, a work that has continued for seven years.

Spoilers for these two fictional sets of Magic cards were made available to the players in advance, but this format was extremely wild, since none of the Invitational players had more than the smallest amount of exposure to the interesting sets created by Weissman and James.


For this format, players were divided up into four man draft pods. For each of three draft rounds, four booster packs of Ravnica were opened and shuffled without looking at the cards. Once a set of four boosters were shuffled together, a single card was moved from the top of the main stack to each of three new stacks labeled A, B and C. The first player to draft, selected randomly, looks at the cards in stack A and either takes all of them or puts them back. If he puts them back, a new card is added to stack A from the original stack of shuffled cards. If the first player takes all the cards from Stack A, one new card is moved face down to Stack A from the original stack of shuffled cards. If the player does not take Stack A, he then looks at the cards in Stack B. If he does not want the cards in Stack B, he returns those cards face down to Stack B, to which one new face down card is added from the original stack and the player moves on to Stack C. If the player does not want the cards in Stack C, he returns those cards face down to Stack C and another card is added to Stack C from the original stack and the player receives the next card from the top of the original stack, ending that player’s draft turn. The next player takes his draft turn, beginning again by examining Stack A. Remember that if a player DOES take Stack A, he does NOT get to look at stacks B or C. The cards are drafted in this manner, moving in a clockwise direction until all cards have been drafted. Players will not necessarily have the same number of cards at this time, or at any other time during this type of draft. When the first stack of cards have been completely drafted, the players open four more Ravnica boosters and shuffle them together into an original stack, from which one card is dealt face down to start three new stacks, A, B and C. Drafting this new group of cards begins with player number 4 and moves counterclockwise. When these cards have all been drafted, a third and final group of cards is shuffled up and new stacks are again created. This last group of cards is drafted beginning with player number 1 (as with the first group of cards) again moving in a clockwise direction.

When all cards have been drafted, each player builds a 40 card minimum deck out of the card pool he has drafted. Three rounds are played in this format, with all matches played against players sharing the same draft pool. This format was invented by the Father of Magic: the Gathering, none other than Dr. Richard Garfield. Garfield created this format as an improvement to other forms of drafts possible between just two players. For this year’s Invitational, Tim Weissman and Don James mutated this format into a four way draft, changing the dynamics of this format quite a bit. Having drafted this format with four players three different times, the resulting decks are only slightly better than average sealed decks and quite a bit less powerful than average booster draft decks.


The fifth and last format for this year’s Invitational involved one of the strangest constructed formats ever devised. Each player’s deck was limited to EXACTLY 60 cards with a 15 card sideboard. The card pool included all cards legal for Legacy constructed. Each deckllist had to contain two cards with card names beginning with each letter of the English alphabet. This ABC portion of the decklist would take up 52 slots, another 10 cards, the 123 portion, would be made up of creature cards whose power and toughness added up to the numbers 1 through 10. In other words, your deck could contain three Birds of Paradise if you wished, two in the ‘B’ slot of your deck, satisfying the requirement to have two cards starting with the letter ‘B’, and a third Birds of Paradise satisfying the numeral ‘1’ slot, since the sum of the power and toughness of the 0/1 Birds of Paradise is exactly 1. To the 52 ABCs slots and the 10 123s slots were added 15 basic lands of the player’s choice. This adds up to a grand total of 77 slots, from which any two cards can be eliminated by the player at his discretion.

This format was a blast. This was the format we spent the most time working on, right from the start. We tried to see how each of the established Legacy format decks could fit into the ABCs and 123s restrictions. We soon learned that The Rock fit very well within the restrictions, while Goblin decks did not. There were some very good mono decks that fit very well, namely mono red and weenie white builds.


What follows is essentially my tournament report from this event. I have played in all five of these events, a fact that I am as proud of as anything else in my long connection to the game of Magic. My invite for the first event, back in 1999, was thanks to a vote based on ballots collected from players in Tim Weissman’s pro tour qualifiers that year. When the second Event Horizons Invitational came around, James Stroud and myself were able to make our second appearances in the event by winning the two open seats for the event the night before in a Standard constructed tournament. It was sheer luck that James, my longtime teammate, was on the other side of the top eight single elimination bracket. For the third EHI, I was invited for my various contributions to the Magic scene in Texas, more or less the same distinction that used by Tim Weissman to invite me this year. For the fourth EHI, back in 2003, I won another Standard constructed qualifying tournament.

This was the first year that I really did much by way of preparation for the event, for several reasons. This year, as soon as Tim Weissman and Don James published the formats that would make up the tournament, there was a buzz at the Texas Guildmages weekly practices. It was kind of a perfect storm. Neil Reeves, normally a VERY busy card player with lots of Grand Prix and Pro Tour travel on his schedule for Magic, as well as MORE travel for him and Adam Bernstein for Marvel Vs. professional tournaments, was actually going to be home for a nice long stretch. Neil used the time to load his pockets with poker winnings from games all around Dallas and to come over every Tuesday night to work on decks for the Event Horizons Invitational. Having Neil Reeves and Adam Bernstein available to work on decks and strategies for the limited formats was great all by itself. As luck would have it, EHI IV runner-up Trent Boneau, formerly of Houston and the United Arab Emirates, was now living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and was also a regular attendee of the Tuesday night play sessions. At first, Trent was quite reticent about the Invitational. A big fan and longtime friend of Tim Weissman, Trent was thrilled to be invited. The problem for this proud graduate of Notre Dame University was that he already had plans to attend a fairly significant football game in South Bend, Indiana, on Saturday, October 15th…namely, Notre Dame versus University of Southern California. Brent Kaskel, just about the hottest Magic player in Texas, popped in and out of the scene during the weeks leading up to the Invitational. When he was around, he was a big help. There has been no greater natural talent in the game than Brent, but lately, this young phenom has been busy with other things. Brent’s performance at Nationals this year dropped his ranking in Texas from third to fourth one day before Weissman made his selection of the three highest ranked players from Texas. Brent did receive an invitation for Weissman’s tournament this year, but the news came just days too late for Brent to change some conflicting travel plans. More tournament preparation help came from some other north Texas players who darken my doorway on a regular basis, most notably Mark Hendrickson and two talented players from across the metroplex in Fort Worth, Andy Van Zandt and Herman Armstrong.

Next week, I’ll take you through the fifteen rounds of the actual event and share more history about the Event Horizons Invitational. It’s important to give some real props to people who love our favorite intellectual sport enough to put so much of themselves into putting on a great Magic event.

As always, I would love to know what you think!

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
Zanman on Magic Online


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