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Posted August 27, 2014 by Scott Gerhardt in Card Games

The Dangers of Overconfidence Part 2

Now, I feel as though I need to address some specific allegations that have been made in regards to the tournament.  First, an introduction.  Until 2013 I hadn’t played serious competitive Magic in 10+ years, playing VERY infrequently.  I will address my tournament history through PWP records.  Furthermore, please remember the Modern format starts with 8th Edition (released July 2003) and Mirrodin (released September 2003), which nearly perfectly coincide with my temporary departure from the game:

  • Grand Prix Anaheim in December 2003 was my last noteworthy competitive tournament, though 2003 was a light year overall.
  • In 2004 I played zero tournaments
  • In 2005 I played a random sealed PTQ at an event I was dealing at because attendance was SUPER low (58) and I wasn’t needed at the booth.  I have a standard tournament with a single match played as well – I seem to recall just being handed a deck and being asked to play round 1 so the tournament would fire (8 people)
  • In 2006 I played in a Dissention and Coldsnap Pre-release event as well as a Sealed Super FNM at Comic-Con
  • In 2007 I played in the Future Sight pre-release
  • In 2008 I played in the Shadowmoor pre-release, also doing a single draft that weekend. Two weeks later I played in a launch party event.  I also participated in the Eventide and Shards of Alara pre-releases.
  • In 2009 I played zero tournaments.
  • In 2010 I played in the Super FNM at PT-San Diego as well as a booster draft and some other event I don’t recognize that is marked as Casual-Limited
  • In 2011 I played limited-format FNMs in 3 consecutive weeks after the announcement of Planeswalker Points and how you could qualify for some super FNM championship based on doing well enough.  After 3 weeks I realized that other stores had the system set up so that simply playing one FNM at one store each week wasn’t going to cut it no matter how well I did.
  • In 2012 I played the Avacyn Restored “Shiny Sealed” event, consisting of 3 rounds.
  • In 2013 I played the Gatecrash pre-release followed by GP-San Diego, and I consider myself actually back into playing the game serious from here.

All of that said, I virtually never played Magic outside of a tournament structure.  I definitely didn’t play constructed, and every once in a blue moon I might do a one-on-one sealed with someone at the store just because we were bored.

Does that sound like someone who “grew up” playing the Modern format and knows the cards well?  Hopefully your answer is no.  Now, I will admit that someone who is looking to play a comp REL tournament should know their cards better, but Modern is a massive format with tons of cards – according to Gatherer, right now there are 8,451 legal cards.  Sure, I know what the big ones do – the ones that drive the major decks.  But, auxiliary or support and sideboard cards….nope, sorry, I usually have to read or at least skim it.

So with all that said, I would like to address specific issues that occurred over the course of the tournament.  I’ve combed the interwebs to try to find as many of these as I can, so I apologize if I miss some – you’re welcome to ask about anything else.

Q:  Why were you so damn slow all day long?  About half of your matches went to time and only two finished in what would be considered a “quick” manner.
A:  This is the primary point and underlying warning of the main article.  I picked up Kiki Pod that day.  I had never played a single game with it before Round 1.  Considering the number of cards I had to borrow on site at the PTQ, I think I have enough people who can verify this.  After the savage beating I took at the GPT against it, I figured “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”.  Pod is a hard deck to play, I don’t care what your skill level is.  Just picking up Kiki Pod right before a tournament playing it cold was insane, and frankly what should have been a total waste of $20 and 4-5 hours.  Moreover, the ability to win aside, the deck takes so much knowledge and brainpower that you can’t pick it up cold and play it at a normal pace.  If anyone wants to hit me for a crime, hit me here – it was bad judgment to pick up the deck cold and expect you could consistently play 3 game matches in under 50 minutes.  But again, while I had played longer games at previous tournaments with Melira Pod, I don’t remember any of them going to turns.  The additional complexity of this deck became apparent after the Round 3 Scapeshift match, but after that match I was 2-0-1 – it’s not like I was going to just drop.  I just hoped the few games I did get in would aid in deck familiarity.  While it did some, going to time or close to it almost every round left my brain more and more fried.  If I knew the deck well, that would be one thing, but I felt like I was just learning on the fly and having to process too much information.  I misjudged my abilities….badly.  Not my ability to win with the deck, but rather do so in a Competitive REL environment without benefit of lenient judges.

Q:  Why did you try to redirect to Spellskite a Repeal on a Courser of Kruphix.
A:  I skimmed Repeal with the card in his hand just to make sure it was only a return effect.  I thought it said “X or less”, like the wording on Chord of Calling and other similar cards.  I did not follow my own mantra:  RTFC.  I had already taken 2 extra damage from a Spellskite earlier in this game when I tried to redirect 2 targets of an Electrolyze only to learn I could not.  Given that this opponent knew his rules as they pertains to Spellskite having already called me on it once, why would I INTENTIONALLY try to cheat and risk taking 2 extra damage when he’s just going to call me on it?  It’s not like I was in a lethal position where I definitely lose the game otherwise.  Yes, in hindsight I should have simply taken my 2 points and the Courser should have gone back.  My opponent did not call me on it either, so I assumed I was making a legal play.  The Repeal was in his deck and I assumed he knew the card.  This was an error on both of our parts.

Q:  When you had your Aven Mindcensor countered and Phantasmal Image bounced with Cryptic Command, why did you put the Mindcensor in your hand?
A:  The answer to this as well as many other questions is just me not thinking clearly.  Cryptic Command’s mode was counter one, bounce one.  That was what was in my head.  I knew that targeting the image would kill it putting it in the graveyard.  So, since one went to the grave, the other (in my mind) went to my hand.  It was a total mental goof.  If left uncaught I would have realized it as soon as I picked up my hand which was laying face down on the table, and then put the Mindcensor in the graveyard.  You can’t think I was actually going to try to cast the Mindcensor again?  That would have been full-blown, “thanks for coming and getting DQed, lets see how long your suspension is for” cheating, not to mention the single easiest cheat to catch ever when the graveyard gets checked and it’s not there.  Yes, it was a play error.  Yes, it was worthy of a warning.  No, it was not me intentionally trying to cheat to gain an advantage.

Q:  Why did you not know how Spellskite worked – it was in YOUR deck?
I thought I did.  I never actually looked up specific rulings on it and did not realize it was considerably more complex than I had intuitively thought.  I assure you I know these rulings now.

Q:  Why did you try to stall out the Scapeshift player in Round Three?
A:   I didn’t.  Please see the first question.  Game one was extremely long because I was having a hard time getting enough damage pushed through or getting my combo components on the board successfully.  He simply could not find a Scapeshift to end it.  These factors led to a very long game one.  I don’t intentionally play slow….ever.  Now I won’t judy pick up the pace if it doesn’t behoove me to do so, but I most certainly won’t play any slower for the purposes of running off time on the clock.  That’s a scumbag move.

Q:  What’s the deal with you trying to cheese out your Round Three opponent at the end of game two by saying he played two lands on the turn he killed you?
A:  I never said for sure that he did.  This was absolutely the whole match here.  When he Scapeshifted, he did so with eight lands and then later sacrificed a Sakura-Tribe Elder to get a mountain and played a Steam Vents from his hand for what would have been lethal damage (putting me to -1).  Back up to the previous turn.  On his turn he played two spells (and for the life of me I don’t remember the second one, but the first was a hard cast Search For Tomorrow into something else that cost 4 mana.  Either way, at the conclusion of those two spells, he was tapped out with seven lands on the board.  When he ended his turn, he was tapped out.  So, when this exchange the next turn happened, I backed it up in my head.  He took a very long time on this turn (I believe time had been called so he was turn zero), and I took no offense to him wanting to make sure that he did everything correctly and meticulously, but it did take a LONG time and involved floating a bit of mana.  He started the previous turn with 6 lands, played 2 spells which left him completely tapped out at the end of the turn – how could he possibly have 8 lands on board and have NOT played a land yet.  Answer:  Well, obviously the Search got one getting him to 7 (which is just +1 land in my already overloaded brain right now) and then he tapped out.  What I didn’t realize until I was told by an onlooker that I personally trust was that after the spells had been played, he played a shock land into play tapped, bringing him to 8.  I simply didn’t realize this.  Once this information was brought to light and I confirmed with the spectator he was completely sure, I shook his hand and signed the match slip.   I was in no way trying to cheese – I was genuinely unsure how the extra land got into play.  I have been cheated in this way before, and I didn’t know anything about this player prior to the match, so I didn’t know if he was the type of person who would be willing to cheat in this way.  I now believe he’s not the type of player who would do that, but without knowing him at all beforehand, I could not take that risk.

Q:  Why did you stall out your round nine opponent to the point that it was going to be a draw, but instead he scooped to you?
A:  My round nine opponent was UBER cool.  We sat and were chatting a bit before the match.  He was X-2, and I was X-1-1.  I did the math prior to the round and knew that if the play down matchup won (turning out to be me) that one X-1-1 would miss the cut.  If I lose, then it’s a clean cut at X-1-1.  In both scenarios, there was no way an X-2 was making top 8.  I told him this and stated I was 100% certain of it.  I did indeed say at the beginning of the match, “I definitely want to play this round to see who the better man/deck is, but considering the Top 8 situation I would be incredibly grateful if he would consider a concession at the end.”  No bribery of any kind; he was not compensated at all.  The match started with a loose understanding that it would go down that way at the end.  It was his best showing ever in a PTQ and he was running a really cool B/W token deck that frankly I didn’t know existed in modern.  I actually even mentioned a couple times how much I liked his deck as it’s the kind of deck I prefer to play.  So we go to turns on game 3.  I can’t just say, “are you going to scoop now so we can move the tournament along?”  He made it this far and he deserved every opportunity to see if he could put me in a “lethal on the stack” situation.  It was a pride thing and one I understand very well.  At a PTQ in San Diego a couple months ago I had the EXACT same scenario happen, only in reverse.  I was the X-2, he (Connor Oakes) was the X-1-1 with a chance to Top 8.  We played a very long match that went to turn 5 of game 3.  With my turn 5 about to end, I conceded so he would have a chance to get there.  Back to this event, on turn 5 he was at 12 and I had 12 power worth of creatures on the board.  I mentioned that if I attacked and he did not block it would kill him.  Given the previous conversation, he didn’t block and I won.  But as far as my understanding went, the length of the game was not relevant – he was going to scoop no matter what happened, it was just a matter of playing for pride which I completely understand.  It’s possible that I’m wrong here, but that was the impression I had before we ever saw our game one opening hands.

Q:  Why did you leave the top card of your library face down several times with Courser of Kruphix on the board?
A:  Just about every time I have played with Courser of Kruphix in the past, it was on Magic Online (you have to remember I am primarily a limited player).  MTGO does it for you – nothing to remember.  Courser’s mechanic is not intuitive.  You don’t think to draw a card and then reveal the next one, or remember to re-reveal once a library is searched and shuffle, or at least I didn’t.  With everything else going on in my head with pod, it was just another mental error because I wasn’t thinking particularly clearly.  I tried using dice which were fine for normal draws, but I’d forget to replace them after the deck was searched/shuffled.  I can’t think of a single instance, though, where a card was put into my hand from the top of my library without my opponent having knowledge of what it was.

Q:  What about the Copperline Gorge you brought into play untapped with 3 lands already in play?
Again, total goof.  It was getting late, I was exhausted and had a very low blood sugar level –  I was not thinking clearly at all.  It came off the top from a Courser, though that’s not really an excuse at all.  I think it’s obvious that my mental screw-ups weren’t all just in my favor – anyone who watched game 3 knows I had the game won hands down if I play even remotely properly.  (Exarch and Thrun on board, Pod in hand, Kiki in library, 4 lands in play, life total >4)  My jacking stuff up at that point was because my brain had just virtually shut down.  I knew it was shut down and I was playing like crap.  But what am I supposed to do, drop in the semis of a PTQ?  Obviously not – you just do your best to get your crap together and play better.  Unfortunately I was just beyond that point after the length of the day I had.  I don’t think I have ever had a day of magic where I spent more time actively playing games.  I truly felt fried and no longer capable of playing or thinking clearly, plus what had become a huge bundle of emotions that just kinda exploded once I left the convention center while walking to my car.

Q:  So why didn’t you give your opponent the life from the Grove when you cast Kiki Jiki?
Two-fold.  First, I thought I had 3 red without it.  I miscounted.  Secondly and more importantly, casting the Kiki Jiki was going to (and did) combo off on him.  I more than anything thought he was just going to scoop at that point to progress the tournament and not make me go through the motions (the tournament was already running very late as had been mentioned several times).  He decided he wanted to see my steps, though, so it just didn’t cross my mind since knew I was basically doing infinite damage.  I also feel at this point he felt one of his routes to victory would be to expose my play errors as much as possible in the hopes of a game loss.  I can’t fault him for it, but I do think in this case it was definitely a case of trying to excessively rules lawyer.

Q:  Why did you cast Phantasmal Image copying Thrun anyway?
 It was a horrible combination of on tilt from realizing seconds earlier that there was nothing he could do to stop me from winning the game and still being brain fried.  There is my opponent and 1-2 judges (maybe more) plus a host of outside spectators watching the match.  There is no chance I’m just going to sneak a second legend onto the board and have nobody notice.  Plus a couple turns earlier I pulled over the head judge to ask a ruling involving Image and Thrun (does the Image know it’s a Thrun early enough to be uncounterable?)  The judge didn’t make any mention about it being a legend or anything.  Now, he wasn’t supposed to – he did his job to the letter and answered the question I asked and nothing more.  Because he didn’t say anything further, it just got in my head that it was okay, which is 110% my fault.  It just had jammed in my head at this point, though, that the route to victory was going to be 2 Hexproof regenerating 4/4s.  I think when I cast Thrun it was the second time ever, and I forgot he was legendary.  In short, I’m an idiot.

Q:  Why do you create an environment of guilt for an opponent to call a judge?
A:  Um….what?  I heard this and thought it was ludicrous, but I’m still addressing it.  Unless it’s to ask about a card interaction proactively, most judge calls come from the players having a disagreement.  Obviously in the disagreement I am going to try to explain why I am right.  I certainly have attempted to amicably resolve situations so that both players feel as though no one has been cheated or any injustice has happened.  I’m never going to stop someone from calling a judge, and any player in a competitive tournament should always feel welcome to do so.

Q:  What’s the deal with you and Travis Boese?  Seems you two don’t like each other very much.
A:  I only address this after Travis’s recent Facebook post where he wrote, “Someone scooped Scott Gerrhardt [sic] into the t8 of a PTQ? Man, that is criminal. There really should be a PSA about that guy at the beginning of every tournament. #nojustice”.  The post and comments from there got extremely nasty.  I don’t really want to discuss this in too much depth as it could go pretty long.  The short answer is either one or a combination of these reasons:

  • He didn’t take a joke that was CLEARLY a joke I made as funny
  • He’s trying to barn onto another well known anonymous pro that, while he doesn’t have the level of disdain Travis does for me, certainly isn’t my biggest fan.  Travis realized this in a public forum and took the opportunity to pile on and use it to get into a social circle.
  • He just got massively upset in a PTQ last September when I wouldn’t draw his friend into Top 8 and then knocked him out into 9th.  (Side note:  Even though the math made all the sense in the world for me to play the match, I really hoped something happened with the tiebreakers and he got in.  He obviously didn’t like the fact that he could have drawn into Top 8 and then was forced to play, but he was sportsmanlike and at least understanding about it  The modified play/draw rule sometimes makes you no friends.
  • Maybe some other reason that I don’t know.  He heard something, thought he knew something, or something else.

His exclamation of “Ugh!  There is no god” at the moment when I won a PTQ in September I felt was very rude and unsportsmanlike, but whatever.  He has attempted to slander and libel me every chance he gets with lies that are horrible enough I refuse to reprint them here.  I played him in an event a few months later.  When I sat down for the match I looked at him and said, “So, can we at least have a civil match?”  His response was “Even or Odd” as he was preparing to roll a die.  It was immediately apparent he had no desire to be nice, civil, or even sportsmanlike during the match, and I’m not exactly one to turn the other cheek when someone has made it clear they are going to be nasty about it.  I know I certainly tried to bury, at least temporarily, the hatchet.  He chose not to.  It’s really that simple.  I’m leaving any other specific things he has said and done out of this as I feel I’ve already gone over this more than I wanted to.

So, concluding, let me give you a list of things you can and can’t rightfully accuse me of.

You CAN accuse me of:

  • Slow play due to lack of deck knowledge.
  • Lack of judgement to try to play that deck without said knowledge
  • Being a very intense competitor and playing to win at a mental game.
  • Once upon a time being a HUGE dick that is trying to mellow out as he gets older but still isn’t all the way there.
  • Playing sloppily enough that I likely deserved a game loss for their accumulation had they been tracked more closely or the judges had been less lenient.
  • Playing a tournament so sloppily that I feel absolutely disgraced and disgusted with myself about it to the point that I feel like it is an absolute low in my Magic career.

You CAN NOT (rightfully) accuse me of:

  • Intentionally playing slowly to attempt to gain a strategic advantage
  • Performing any game actions with the willful intent of deceiving my opponent or a judge.
  • Having a reputation as a cheater.  If you are accusing me of this, please someone give me another example outside of this tournament of when I cheated someone.

If you believe the above, then well, I don’t know what to say – they are false.

So now that all the lynch mobs have their pitchforks and torches in hand, I wanted a chance to get the other side of this story out.  And remember one thing:  I am the only one who actually knows where my heart is and who I am as a person.  I know I am not, nor have I EVER been a cheater.  The people who actually know me well know I’m not a cheater.  This is why the comments from the haters don’t bug me – I know they are just trying to spread propaganda and poison.  To what end, though?  To create a more hostile gaming environment?  I don’t find this very productive and I do my best to not engage in it.  Whether someone likes someone else or not, if you get paired with them in a tournament, you still have to play.  Why go out of your way to make it unpleasant?

If anyone has any further questions for me that were not covered, please feel free to put them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them there or amend this article.

Keep Playing Everyone!

Scott Gerhardt

Scott has....thoughts. They can be about this, that, or just about anything. Seldom at a loss for words, you can find his thoughts chronicled here