here was a point on Saturday at Pro Tour–Hollywood
last weekend when it became apparent that Charles Gindy had a shot at making the Top 8. You could see very clearly what it meant to him as he talked about what was shaping up to be his best finish on a Pro Tour in five or six tries. The 22-year-old bill collector from Jacksonville, Florida began playing Magic
before he was even a teenager and has spent at least half of his life playing the game.
Little did he know that when he first picked up Magic, it would one day see him picking up a $40,000 check for playing a game that was immediately attractive to him—and just not for the beautiful artwork.
"A friend down the street introduced me to the game," explained Gindy in a post-tournament interview. "I really like math and I like the math part of game. I always had fun playing so I just played—a lot."
|Gindy shows off his Hollywood hardware.
It was not long before gaming at a casual level advanced to tournament level play when he was introduced to local tournaments and then PTQs by his friends. The decks that he played at this point were popular decks of the time, such as Counter Rebels, Fires, and NetherGo. By this point he was also able to pursue the Junior Super Series, although his performance at that level did not reflect his future success.
"I only qualified once and didn't do well," said Gindy.
Gindy has always been highly regarded by followers of the Team Rochester format for taking three different teams into the finals of three different Grand Prix tournaments. His first real taste of tournament success came at Grand Prix–Pittsburgh when he sat in between Jamie Duguid and Manny Orellana as Team Prodigy. They lost the last match of that weekend to Pro Tour finalists Illuminati (Alex Shvartsman, Justin Gary, and Rob Dougherty) but Gindy's easy command of the format more than lived up to the team's choice of name.
Next up for Gindy was Grand Prix–Washington D.C., which he and his teammates Bill Stead and Chris Fennell won as Thaaaat's Me. The team was clearly an underdog in a Top 4 peppered with Hall of Famers, Grand Prix and Pro Tour winners, and even a future WSOP bracelet winner. The other three teams playing in the elimination rounds featured Jon Finkel, Brian Kibler, Eric Froehlich, Darwin Kastle, Rob Dougherty, Alex Shvartsman, Osyp Lebedowicz, Patrick Sullivan, and Adam Horvath.
Gindy completed his trifecta of Grand Prix finals with a third different set of wingmen later that same season at Grand Prix–Chicago as Gindy's Sister Fan Club. He played alongside then 16 year-old Zach Parker and 18 year-old Adam Chambers. The team got past Josh Ravitz, Igor Frayman, and Chris Pikula (playing as The Max Fischer Players) in the semifinals but lost to the enigmatically named :B featuring Tim Aten, John Pelcak, and Gadiel Szleifer in the finals.
|Gindy, left, with D.C. teammates Chris Fennell and Bill Stead back in 2004.
Despite the loss it was clear that Gindy was a player to be reckoned with. Many observers of the game consider Team Rochester to among the most skill-testing formats in high-level Magic
play and Gindy had shown that he had what it took to go toe to toe with the greats of the game in one of the game's toughest formats...although Gindy makes it sound deceptively simple.
"I always went in with a game plan and was willing to abandon the plan," said the Team Rochester master before adding: "Also pick landwalkers high...just general rules I followed. It was challenging and fun. Sometimes you set them up for bad matchups—it was a great mind game."
With a wide assortment of teammates to choose from it, could easily have been Gindy sitting in the Andrew Pacifico seat on the Pro Tour–Atlanta 2005 finalist team We Add. Gindy chose to play with his Washington D.C. teammates and finished exactly one spot out of the money while his Chicago teammate Adam Chambers got to rock the Taking Back Sunday shirt on Sunday in Atlanta.
"Well I already told Chris (Fennell) and Bill (Stead) I would play with them," explained Gindy when asked how he sorted out his teaming options. "My friend KK (Ken Krouner) bought me a ticket for Chicago so I played and got second with Zach (Parker) and (Adam) Chambers. We all still qualified and I told Chambers to play with Andrew (Pacifico) and Don Smith and they got second. I was thrilled for them."
While he did not stop playing after Atlanta, he did retreat to the virtual Magic landscape of Magic Online almost exclusively until the most recent PTQ season, when he found himself with suddenly hankering to get back onto the Pro Tour.
"Since Atlanta I have only played in two PTQs for fun," he explained. "This last season I really wanted to play. I played in a PTQ. I was planning on going to three more if necessary but I won the first one with TEPS. I missed traveling and gaming—it's fun. I played with my friends at my apartment on Magic Online for Extended. I played every deck to get a feel for the format, went to FNM to see what people were playing, and found out there was going to be a lot of Affinity and Red-green so I played TEPS."
Charles Gindy, Pro Tour–Hollywood Qualifier
With his qualification quickly in the books, it was time to turn his attention to the Standard format. In the early days of testing, Gindy was leaning toward a Green-red deck but switched to the deck he ultimately played based on the advice of an old friend.
"Three days before the PT I switched from Red-green to Elves as I thought it was more solid," said Gindy. He went on to confirm what many observers have wondered about regarding the true identity of Gindy's "Elf" deck: "And my friend KK told me to play Rock."
"I really like [Chameleon] Colossus—I don't see why not to play it. It's pretty insane, and four Civic Wayfinders make sure Profane Command and Colossus are always online."–Charles Gindy
It was the presence of Chameleon Colossus
—the telltale 4/4 for four—that really makes the deck feel like a classic Rock deck as opposed to Shuhei Nakamura's downsized version (which was glaringly devoid of shapeshifters). Gindy felt that the Colossus and his mana-fixing Civic Wayfinder
s were his keys to victory.
"I really like Colossus—I don't see why not to play it," said Gindy when asked about the differences between his and Shuhei Nakamura's lists. "It's pretty insane, and four Civic Wayfinders make sure Profane Command and Colossus are always online."
In the days leading up to Pro Tour–Hollywood the Faerie menace was very much on every player's mind—not only how the play with or against Faeries but how to cope with the decks that people would be expecting to play against Faeries. The monored deck that Evan Erwin piloted to a third place finish at the Star City Games event two weeks prior was rising in popularity and of course there were going to be plenty of wildcards.
"I made sure I knew the matchup and packed five cards for the match," said Gindy of his preparation for the Faerie deck. He felt confidant playing against Mountains but Vivid lands ended up giving him fits. "I think Monored is the best matchup but the worst was Quick 'n Toast."
With a 5-0 game record against Jan Ruess you could make a case that his best matchup was against Merfolk. Not only did Gindy have to get past Ruess in the finals, he had a key matchup against the German in Round 15 that the American needed to win in order to remain in Top 8 contention.
There was a pretty key moment in Game 2 of that Swiss match where Gindy had played Llanowar Elves
and a small Tarmogoyf
into Ruess's Stonybrook Banneret
"I cast Slaughter Pact on his land and blocked with 'Goyf and he couldn't catch up," recalled Gindy when asked about any big plays that came down the stretch.
With over a decade of Magic behind him and needing that crucial Round 15 win in order to draw into the Top 8, I wondered what was going through Gindy's mind as his tournament fate came down to this critical match—and how he was feeling after emerging with the win.
"I was just counting down the rounds one at a time," said Gindy. "I was just happy to get to play in a PT Top 8."
With his Top 8 berth secured it was time to get ready for his first trip to the Sunday stage at this level of play. Fortunately for Gindy, he had a strong supporting cast to help him prepare for his quarterfinal match with Nico Bohny and beyond.
"I built the Doran deck and me my friends Cory, Marshell, Bo and Chris helped me come up with sideboard plans and play some games," he said. "Then I went to playing Reveillark and didn't think I could win against it but might be able to get the match with some luck."
If you listened to the webcast, you also know he had some help from forces beyond his control...namely, a fortune cookie from Panda Express on Saturday night that informed him that "You'd make a name for yourself."
For that bad semifinal matchup against Yong Han Choo, Gindy received advice from special guest star Zvi Mowshowitz who explained that part of getting lucky in the matchup would mean winning quickly...and that meant he would not have time for his Tarmogoyf
s to supersize.
"Zvi's advice was good," acknowledged Gindy. "I took out four 'Goyf , two Terror, one Profane Command, and one Perfect and put in the Primal Commands, the Shriekmaws, two Squall Lines, and two Threshers."
Despite his dominance over Ruess in their two matches Sygg, River Guide gave Gindy fits when they played and he declared that it was the best card against Elves (along with Sower of Temptation).
"Save Terror for Sower," was Gindy's advice to anyone who finds themselves facing that matchup at Regionals before adding with a laugh, "And don't terror Lord of Atlantis."
He was, of course, referring to the groan—and smattering of good-natured booing—from the hometown crowd when he played Terror on Ruess's Lord of Atlantis in the final game. He could have instead Islandwalked—his preferred strategy back in his Team Rochester heyday—with doubly boosted Mutavaults and a Chameleon Colossus.
"It was lethal with pumps and Mutavault," pointed out Gindy, who explained that he got caught up in the excitement of knowing the game—and match—was all but locked up and drawing a second Terror that turn. "I wasn't thinking about that at the time, I just was thinking I couldn't lose."
Nearly everyone commented on Gindy's smile after the event—a smile that was twelve years in the making. When I asked him what meant more, the trophy or the check, he said without hesitation that it was the trophy.
"It meant a lot," said Gindy in an understated fashion. "I was really happy to win."
While he appeared happy and dry in his trophy shot on the coverage page, that does not tell the full story. While the pool party that Wizards had hoped to the throw for player registration never happened due to rain, the sun was shining for Gindy's win and his friends decided to celebrate his win by throwing him into the pool (with Gindy's consent, of course).
"They wanted to throw me in the pool and why not?" laughed Gindy. "I just won the Pro Tour!!!"
After drying off Gindy celebrated his win with a beer, a draft and then went to sleep. Not only had he won a Pro Tour, but suddenly he found himself right in the middle of the Player of the Year race, having now to contend with balancing his full-time job with the travel demands of the remaining Pro Tour stops and various and sundry Grand Prix.
While he still has not figured out exactly how he will manage it, Gindy assured me that "I will be at all the American GPs, Berlin, and Worlds."
In closing the interview Gindy answered a handful of quick questions about his support network, post-PT Standard advice, and his Magic favorites.
|Congratulations to Charles Gindy, the Pro Tour–Hollywood 2008 champion.
Anyone he wants to specifically thank for this event?
"My friends Ryan, Andy, Drake, Joe Crosby, Jamie Duguid and all my friends who loaned me cards and who were cheering me on."
Advice about the upcoming Regionals and the post-PT Standard format?
"I think Marijn Lybaert's list is good for the field—just add more Faerie Macabre in the sideboard and you can beat Reveillark."
Favorite draft format of all time?
Favorite deck of all time?
Open Casting for Berlin
Of all the Deck Techs Randy and I did last weekend, the one that seemed to generate the most buzz was the Ten Commandments interview with Kenneth Ellis (who finished in sixth place in the Friday Block Constructed Berlin PTQ). In the interview I mentioned that the decklists were going to be available in the coverage, but there was a little bit of a mix-up and the decklists actually were briefly unaccounted for. I have since tracked them down (thanks to Public Events coordinator Steve Port) and can showcase the Top 8 decklists from both the Friday and Saturday PTQs
The early default seems to be Faeries—a deck that players were able to easily port over from Standard with minor tweaking. Many players I talked to felt that would change as the season progressed as the deck is much weaker in Block than it is in Standard. We will get some sense of whether or not that is true this weekend with Grand Prix–Birmingham being the first high-profile event to use the Block Constructed format. Of course...the Saturday PTQ had its share of star as you will soon see.
But first the Friday decklists, including a very exciting take on White Weenie that is sure to put Mirrorweave on everyone's 'trade-for' lists.
Iain Bartolomei – Mirror Master
Kenneth Ellis – The Ten Commandments
Wayne Chiang – Sheldon’s Rage
Ross Merrian – Elementals
If you are wondering about the discrepancy between the Kenneth Ellis list here and the one in the video, that is because he took out one of the Commands for his second stab at a PTQ which is the deck we used in the video. The list here is what he piloted to his quarterfinals appearance on Friday.
The Saturday event saw the flying blue menace take the envelope.
Chris Ripple – Mirror Master
Gianluca Bevere – Elementals
Nicolas Rolf – Monoblack Control
Joshua Hakakian – Faeries
Josh Utter-Leyton – Faeries
If you are looking for a preview of what to expect from the Pros this weekend in Birmingham, take a look at these three decks by notable pros who all just missed making the Top 8 of the tournament.
Jacob Van Lunen – Shamans!
Akira Asahara – Elementals
Gerry Thompson – Mirror Master
Firestarter: What's On Deck?
North American Regionals are on the immediate horizon and then Block PTQ season will kick into full swing. What will the lasting impact of this Pro Tour have on the Standard format in the next couple of weeks? And how do you think the Block season will shake out? Will Faeries continue to swarm the skies or will the other tribes of Lorwyn Block find a collective answer? Head to the forums and share your analysis of the post-Pro Tour metagames.