Bad Brews: Scrubbing the Floor at GP Cincy

I came, I saw, I scrubbed out. For all my preparations, I could not overcome beating myself. But, despite poor play results, I had a blast of a weekend. I got to hang out with friends I hadn't seen in a while, make some new friends, and play the game I love. Here's a recap of the high (and low) lights.

Friday - Preparations

It all started with a day off work. I got up and began inundating myself with all things Standard - articles, videos, recent top decklists, you name it. Two of my best buddies drove down to my place, we got some lunch at Chipotle, and then headed out to the site to get registered and get our playmats. We were able to find parking on the street and I was thankful to save a few dollars.

By the time we got to it, the line was already pretty long. It moved quickly, though, and we were able to secure our amazing leprechaun playmats in the spirit of St Patrick's season. We were even able to help out a friend from my local shop who needed cash to register when he found out they didn't take credit card.

Steve Prescott is seriously awesome! This thing is gorgeous.

Steve Prescott is seriously awesome! This thing is gorgeous.

We did a spin around the convention center to get our bearings and make some transactions with the vendors (got out from under a foil Domri that had been burning a hole in my pocket for $39), then left. Shopping around for the best prices cost us a good chunk of time and we rushed out of the center to my car, hoping there wouldn't be a ticket on my windshield for the meter expiring. My good fortune continued, there was no ticket, and we were quickly on the road back to my place.

On the way back, I sent texts to a few friends who had expressed interest in coming over for Test Fest (Siri kept it "hands-free" as I was the driver) and told them we were en route and stopping by the store to pick up a few things. With three pounds of bacon, thirty eggs, and a large bag of hash browns in tow, we arrived back home just after two of my other friends.

The testing began with everyone switching around playing whatever deck they were practicing with for the next day. Together we had BW Midrange, Mono B Aggro, Mono B Midrange, and RW Burn. We put together some other top decks in a deck building and testing site as well, and started testing as much as we possibly could. I felt pretty confident in my deck, so I took most of the work playing the "gambit" decks on the computer. I hoped to learn more about them as I played them. We played game after game for a few hours. We made some tweaks based on results and some of us even switched decks entirely.

One such switch was to a deck we found in the Premium section of StarCity's site by Brad Nelson. As soon as we laid eyes on Brave Naya, all of us were in love. We knew it had a lot of great things going for it, and I happened to have just about everything needed to play it. Aggro is not exactly my forte, and my best friend (the co-owner of my Magic collection) was non-too-happy with RW Burn, so he made the switch. We took note of some of it's weaknesses, namely Blood Baron of Vizkopa, and made changes accordingly.

One buddy left after a little while, leaving just the four of us to keep at the testing. The weather was great so we moved outside and built a fire in the fire pit before ordering some pizza for dinner. A few games later the pizza came, and so did the darkness, and we were forced back inside. Another good friend of mine showed up a little while after the pizza did. He wasn't playing in the main event, but he was going to come with us to play in some side events and work some deals with vendors.

The evening wound down and I took my own advice about getting a full night's sleep. I was planning on getting up quite early to start cooking that big breakfast we bought. I made sure all my stuff was packed and hit the hay about 11:00 with the rest of the crew starting up an EDH game.

Saturday - Main Event

I woke to the sound of my alarm at 6:00 and hopped right out of bed. I'm not normally a morning person, but I was well-rested and quite excited for the day. I hopped out of bed and immediately went downstairs to start cooking breakfast. About 45 minutes, 2 pounds of bacon, 20 eggs, and a package of has browns later, my best friend and I served a hearty meal to everyone.

We all ate our fill, got dressed, loaded up our stuff, and carpooled down to the Convention Center. We stopped at a convenience store to grab ice for the cooler of lunch meat sandwich stuff we packed for lunch. Knowing I was going to be there all day, I parked in the adjoining garage. It was only $8 and we carpooled knowing we could split the bill.

Our crew gathered for some last minute testing and deck registration. We talked briefly to some of our other friends who were there for the event, then went our separate ways when they announced seats had been posted for the Player's Meeting. We arranged to meet up near the "Nuts and Chocolate" sign after every round to give recaps.

During my last major event, the SCG  Open last year in Cincy - coincidentally my first major event, I remember being extremely nervous during the Player's Meeting. I had no idea, then, what I was getting into. My heart was pounding, I anxiously tapped my foot and fingers, and just all around felt out of place. I made a few big mistakes in that tournament because I was distracted and moving too quickly.

This time felt different. I felt prepared, confident, relaxed. I had a full night's sleep under my belt, a stomach full of real food, and hours of prep time. Excitement coursed through my veins, but it was a calming sensation and not a distraction. There's no way I could have been in a better mindset.

It didn't help.

Instead of making rash decisions, I did exactly the opposite and overthought simple lines of play to my own detriment. Multiple times I talked myself out of the right calls and ended up losing. I would think to myself, "Okay, this is what I should do, but what if I did this?" Typically, that's a good thing. Examining all your options, factoring in your opponent's possible options, and coming up with the best course of action is exactly what you want to be doing. My failure was going so deep into the tank, actively trying to think of EVERY possibility, and convincing myself to do something other than my instinctive play JUST because it was different or to validate the time spent thinking about it.

My level of play was embarrassing. I went 3-3 before dropping. Every match loss was a direct result of a misplay. One was so bad my cousin had to walk away from watching. I was calculating three possible lines of play and took the one that killed my opponent on my next turn regardless of what he drew. However, I overlooked something when calculating my own life total on that line, something I didn't overlook when calculating the first two. The line I took left me dead on board. I convinced myself to take an unnatural line because it was a faster kill and, due to the number of variables I was trying to factor in, left myself open to his counter swing.

The thing that eats me up is I make the right play at my local shop 10/10 times. No thinking necessary. My intuition knew what the right play was and I let myself get talked out of it. It also compounded on itself, making me over-over-think later plays. I dropped after Round 6 and drafted the rest of the weekend, where I continued to misplay my way out of everything despite drafting killer decks.

Conclusion

The biggest takeaway for me from GP Cincy is that proper play is the single most important factor in Magic. All the preparations in the world couldn't save me from myself. There is a fine line between analysis and over-analysis. I tried a little TOO hard and paid the price for it.

Despite miserable performances in every facet of play, I still managed to have an exceptionally great time. I didn't let it get me down and I never tilted. I'm very proud of the way I handled myself. There were some truly amazing people with me for the event and I'm very happy I got to live it with them.

Moving forward, I will use lessons learned from GP Cincy to make me a better tournament player. Experience at both extremes of the pendulum will help me find a happy medium. Hopefully I can take down the next big one to come around.