hat a great time to be a Magic player. Not only are there abundant local events to play in every Friday night but the weekends are jam-packed with high-end Magic tournaments all around the world. I am not just talking about Wizards-organized events like Grand Prix either. There are independent tournament organizers hosting incredible tournaments. Just last weekend we saw Patrick Dickman win in Modern at GP Bochum and former Player of the Year Brad Nelson display mastery in both Standard and Legacy en route to winning the StarCityGames Invitational in Indianapolis.
This coming weekend will offer players a variety of independent events to play in and watch. There will be StarCityGames Standard and Legacy Opens this weekend in Los Angeles with video coverage anchored by Cedric Phillips and Patrick Sullivan. In Columbus, Ohio, the TCGplayer.com MaxPoint Series Championship will see players do battle in both Standard and Modern with video commentary by Frank Lepore and Caleb Durward. Pro Tour Hall of Famer Raphael Levy is sitting ringside to bring you all the coverage from Bazaar of Moxen, Europe's largest Eternal event of the year. And along with all of those, on the East Coast, Eternal Weekend will be hosted by Nick Coss, of Top Deck Games and CardTitan.com, in Philadelphia.
Coss is a veteran of the East Coast tournament scene and has run a very successful PTQ in the past but is stepping up his game in running the Vintage and Legacy Championships—events that have historically been held at Gen Con. To bring all the play-by-play action to those of us not in attendance he has lined up a video coverage team of the proper vintage with Matt Elias being joined by Chris Pikula and Pro Tour Hall of Famer Randy Buehler. It is a big step up the tournament organization ladder for Coss and I spoke with him to find out more about the tournament and his path to Eternal Weekend.
Coss has been playing Magic since 1994 when he discovered the game in middle school. He and his classmates were not the only ones to notice the game; cafeteria workers began noticing a lack of caloric intake shortly after the game took off.
"The school cafeteria wasn't a time to eat; it was a time to play Magic. This may have concerned our teachers (not eating) and soon enough they didn't let us play during school," said Coss. "After school was a completely different story, and I played with my awesome decks featuring Craw Wurm, Flight, and Regeneration all throughout middle school. Magic was what my friends and I did. It was an awesome game."
When he switched schools he left his playgroup behind though and his cards were relegated to a dusty box in his closet until he began attending college at Rutgers—a school with a long history of harboring New Jersey's most notable Magic players. The dorm was as riddled with Magic players as his middle school cafeteria and the box—and his play skills—got dusted off for good. In 2003 he tried his hand at Friday Night Magic—and began to form his identity as a tournament organizer.
"I got beat so badly that I didn't play in another sanctioned tournament for another eleven months. Part of that experience is why I try to make my store very welcoming to new players," he said. "As time progressed, I started playing in higher-level events. PTQs and GPs became the norm. While I enjoyed playing in these events, what I enjoyed most was not the game itself, but hanging out with friends who I knew from across world. I was one of those players who did a lot of trading, had a ton of cards, and this translated pretty easily into vending. I worked PTQs and Prereleases for a game store in the area, and when the opportunity presented itself to strike out and work for myself, I took it. After vending at events for few years, I wanted to challenge myself and really apply what I knew about the Magic community in the only way I saw possible. I opened a store, Top Deck Games, in southern New Jersey."
The store has been going well—it was the setting for the PTQ scenes in the most recent Walking the Planes—and he provides the experience he hoped he could have had at his first FNM. When Coss finds time to play Magic he finds that the older formats are the ones he makes time to play.
"Vintage by far is my favorite format. I am a power gamer, and there's nothing more powerful than Vintage. I was hooked the first time I played, dying turn one to my friend Allen's Worldgorger Dragon combo deck. Back then it killed with Magma Mine. Also, remember where I said that I enjoyed hanging out with friends more than playing? The Vintage community is filled with many of my best friends; playing Vintage in this area is much more about having fun. It's certainly competitive, but rarely at the expense of a good time," he said.
Top Deck Games got to host a 225 person PTQ recently and has been organizing monthly Eternal tournaments since 2010, putting Coss right at the epicenter of the Eternal community and in a position to act when it was announced that the premier events of the Eternal community would not be held at Gen Con this past summer.
"While talking with Hélène Bergeot, she mentioned that it hadn't been decided where Vintage and Legacy Champs were going to be held. I expressed my interest in running the event, and a few weeks later after submitting a proposal, I had been chosen as the TO (tournament organizer). For the first time Vintage and Legacy Champs were going to be held as a standalone event," he said.
"There are several major factors that go into making an event special: an excellent venue, comprehensive coverage, prizes that inspire attendance, and side events that aren't available anywhere else. The PA Convention Center is one of the best venues in the country, across the street from the Reading Terminal Market. I secured GGsLive to provide streaming coverage, along with established talent to be in front of the camera."
In addition to securing the throwback coverage team of Chris Pikula and Randy Buehler, Coss has lined up the Walking the Planes team to shoot an episode during the weekend and has added a deeper prize payout to the event than any previous incarnation of these tournaments—not to mention abundant side events.
"I've put together an outstanding list of side events, including Modern Masters drafts, a Theros Sealed PTQ, IPA drafts, TPF drafts, a GPT for GP DC (organizer Tom Shea was nice enough to include free entry into the GP for 1st place), in addition to the other prizes. I've arranged for seven artists from all over the country to be in attendance. I've arranged for eight vendors to be on site to meet all of the players' needs as far as cards to buy and cards to sell," said Coss, who said there will be ample security in place.
More than 200 players already signed up for the Legacy Championships by midweek and more than 100 signed up for the Vintage Champs. And what are those players going to be vying for?
Wasteland | Art by Steven Belledin
"Each event gives away a unique painting of an iconic card," said Coss. "This year Legacy Champs' first prize is Wasteland, and Vintage Champs' first prize is Ancestral Recall. In the past, the paintings have been the only prize for first place, and I felt that was appropriate, given that they have sold for several thousand dollars. I decided to kick the prizes up a notch by offering $10,000 in cards to 2nd through 64th place. Also, given my store's extensive selection and competitive prices, I decided to offer store credit in lieu of set prizes, offering players the greatest degree of flexibility. After all, what good is a play set of Tropical Islands if the winner owns them already?"
Ancestral Recall | Art by Ryan Pancoast
I know from personal experience that putting on a fun event can be bittersweet because you are often doing things you would like to see as a player. There were two events in particular that Coss had to sigh about not getting to play in.
"I would be the most proud of being the Vintage champion for sure. I've come close two separate years, once losing my win and in versus Bob Maher in a last round feature match, and a second time losing in the Top 8 to the eventual champion, Mark Hornung," he said. "If I could play in one side event, I'd play in the Time Spiral/Planar Chaos/Future Sight draft. I loved that format, and Tromp the Domains is my favorite limited cards of all time. Coincidentally, Tromp the Domains is also in Modern Masters, which is available as a side event as well!"
What is next for Nick Coss after this weekend?
"Hopefully, this event will lead to more opportunities for me as a Tournament Organizer and for my store. In the meantime, I'll continue what we have been doing, and offering the same great experience to everyone who chooses to do business with my site, CardTitan.com, or my brick and mortar store, Top Deck Games."
October Player of the Month Nominees—#MTGPoM
October was fully stocked with tournament results and plenty of candidates to be the player of the month. As always you are encouraged to discuss the nominees on Twitter using the #MTGPoM hashtag throughout the week while I try to decide which of these players will win this monthly honor. As always you can also direct your comments to me @top8games. Who knows? I may even use your comments in next week's column when explaining why the winner was chosen. Let's meet the candidates:
Twenty-three-year-old student Justin Robb kicked off the month with a Modern win in Brisbane, Australia, playing with Artifact Aggro and exactly zero byes. He had to defeat two of Australia's most accomplished Magic players on his way through the elimination rounds, with both Daniel Unwin and Justin Cheung getting crushed beneath the metallic march of his machines.
Pierre-Cristophe Mondon is a 29-year-old resident of Kansas City originally from Magic-hotbed Columbus, Ohio, where he achieved his previous career highlight of beating up future Wizards employees Sam Stoddard, Tom LaPille, Tim Aten, and Mark Globus. Mondon showed off the power of Abhorrent Overlord while winning Grand Prix Oklahoma City in Theros Limited on the same weekend Robb won in Modern.
The following weekend saw the new cards get played out at the highest level during Pro Tour Theros in Dublin, Ireland. France's Jeremy Dezani had a Standard winning percentage north of 70% at high-level Magic events, but was relatively unknown coming into the tournament. After his triumphant performance, which included a mirror match showdown in the finals with Team Revolution teammate Pierre Dagen, he can no longer hide behind the cloak of anonymity.
Pro Tour Hall of Famer Shuhei Nakamura lists Doomed Traveler as his occupation in his Grand Prix Hong Kong profile. He also says his previous Grand Prix Top 8 finishes were fewer than 30 (!!!). This most recent Top 8 brought him up to 23 GP Top 8s for his career, which is second only to Olivier Ruel. It was also the sixth Grand Prix win of his career, which is second only to Kai Budde and tied with Yuuya Watanabe. Throw in having to defeat Martin Juza in the finals and it all adds up to a most impressive performance.
I interviewed Grand Prix Louisville winner Brian Braun-Duin for last week's column and he followed up with a Top 4 finish at this past weekend's StarCityGames Invitational in Indianapolis. Throw in his first Pro Tour Day Two—in just two career tries—the weekend before the Grand Prix and you have three weekends of exemplary Magic in the month of October for the man they call BBD.
Speaking of the Invitational... The seasonal culmination of the StarCityGames Open Series saw a final that featured former Player of the Year Brad Nelson defeating recently inducted Pro Tour Hall of Famer William Jensen in the Legacy finals in a Top 8 that also featured impending Wizards-intern Gerry Thompson and fellow #MTGPoM nominee Brian Braun-Duin.
This past weekend also closed the month out the same way it began, with a player coming into the event with zero byes and leaving it with a GP trophy and an invite to Pro Tour Born of the Gods happening in Valencia Spain in February of next year. Patrick Dickmann made the hill he had to climb even tougher with two early losses on Day One of the Modern Grand Prix. He would not lose again all weekend with his Splinter Twin update.
It is a tough month with nothing but winners on the ballot. Who do you like to win? Let me know on Twitter and check back here next week.
Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on DailyMTG.com, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.