This story is so good I couldn’t have made it up.
The guy in the banana suit made Top 8 with Wild Vomit. I get such a perverse thrill from writing that sentence that I will write it again. The guy in the banana suit made Top 8 with Wild Vomit.
That slippery squeal of joy was the sloppy culmination of an event that will not soon be forgotten. I’ll try to remember as many details as I can, starting from the beginning.
I had to work in Miami on Thursday, so I missed the first day of the Pro Circuit. Our flight was scheduled for 8:30 that night, with a connector from Atlanta to Indy. It didn’t happen.
A free room in Fort Lauderdale at the Sheraton is not the end of the world, especially since it included the wife and two free round trips to anywhere. Help us decide—should we take our next holiday in Vegas or Seattle? The replacement flight was an eye-opener at 5:27 Friday morning and I don’t remember sleeping much before our pre-dawn wake-up call. The next time I was fully conscious, we had finally arrived.
Nina had never been to Gen Con Indianapolis. Boy, did I have some showing around to do. We sniffed our way through the World Championship Spam-carving competition and rubbed shoulders with imaginary royalty. This was our favorite:
That is an alien named Hakura from the anime classic FLCL. The film was created by Kazuya Tsurumaki in the year 2000 and produced by Gaimax. It is the single greatest thing I have ever witnessed on television, and I often imagine the day we will be pitting Lord Conti against the Pirate King in Vs. System. If you have the same fantasies, drop me a line and we can proxy up some fan-based fooly-cooly cardboard the likes of which the world has never seen.
We had some seriously good times at this year’s version of gamer’s paradise, and then collapsed back at the hotel to get ready for the next day’s Bring Your Own Set $10K. Our wildest dreams came true.
I got to the hall early enough to meet a bunch of new friends and greet a whole slew of old ones. Ryeland “techn0range” Barnard hooked me up with an Italian Wild Sentinel so I could puke in a different language, and Ben “Kergillian” Kalman unloaded his EA version of the same. Kergy was playing Vomit himself. We wrestled for a while with the tweaks he was contemplating. Then it began. The first-ever single-set showdown was underway.
I sat down across from a dear friend running an old nemesis. Common Enemy knocked me for a loop the last time I played Wild Vomit in Indiana, at Pro Circuit Indy 2004. It was back again in the hands of Justin Futch. Justin used to live in Daytona, so we had faced each other many times before. Tarheel powder blue has never known a friendlier face. We reminisced and shuffled up. Longshot was nowhere to be seen.
Wild Vomit still has game without the mullet if you can draw enough Reconstruction Programs to keep swarming your way out of entropy. Justin Flame Trapped once, but never got enough card advantage to start a second fire. His Reign of Terror only got a single bounce off, since he didn’t see a second copy of Dr. Doom. We went to turn 7, and by then, Senator Kelly had his ping party scoring in double digits. I had one win in the books.
The second round dragged me back into the glaring lights of the feature match area, where I faced the $24,000 runner-up from three years back. Craig Edwards was not looking for a repeat performance of his [Rigged Election] glory days. The Bring Your Own Set format had him dusting off The Brave and the Bold.
The match was funky. Longshot made his first appearance of the day for me, got to taste a [Death in the Family], and buried all my Underground Sentinel Bases. Momentum wobbled back and forth and it all came down to a final swing because I forgot to use my Reconstruction Program to recycle the third copy of Senator Kelly for the win. If Craig had not pitched Terra to Optitron earlier, then he could have powered-up just enough to get to turn 7 . . . where he would have had Batman, Caped Crusader screaming Teen Titans Go! for a massive comeback. It was one of the largest sighs of relief in my entire Vs. System career.
I got to bark at the big dog in the next match. Checkmate / Villains United is the deck to beat in this format, and it was the overwhelming favorite of the field. Missing [Fatality] on turn 4 gave Ken Brune a distinct disadvantage against my shiny purple board blanket. I grabbed win number three, but knew I had my work cut out for me the rest of the day.
Fourth round undefeated and what did I see? [Captain America, Steve Rogers] leading the charge in an Avengers team attack deck! Kevin Critchlow had just destroyed Ryan Jones with Legendary Battles. I know how much fun that can be to win with, and it was a shame to see it sputter with a fairly horrendous draw. Longshot was golden and Kelly was platinum as I moved on with four wins.
Mathieu Brochou was riding the hottest streak in the history of the game when we lined up in the feature match area for round 5. He had the Ahmed Samsarra / [Fatality] duo that would allow me to snatch a King kill if I had double Search and Destroy, but he was smart enough to recruit it only after he saw the Mulletman bury two copies. As much as it hurt to watch The Science Spire flipped over to save him, it was mad cool to see it stamped from the Draft portion of Pro Circuit Indy 2006. I was handed my first loss of the day as my purple killing toys were turned into a random pile of useless metal.
John Hammond was next. At fifteen years old, he has quietly become one of the best Constructed Vs. System players in the world, without a doubt. His playtesting team is called the Irken Elite, and Sal D’Agostino is no longer their best player. Checkmate again, but this time his robots were better than mine. OMAC now means “Obviously My Ascendance Crashes.” Even though he is one-third my age, John put me in my place on turn 6 with impeccable strategy skills and a double Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot.
Round 7 brought out another classic from the annals of Vs. System history, and I was very lucky to watch it miss Natasha Romanoff on turn 2. Patrick Richardson, who has a Pro Circuit Top 8 under his belt, was soon facing two handfuls of Wild Sentinel kindling. I knew Senator Kelly needed to light a fire big enough to finish things before Wonder Man could get back to his old tricks, and it worked.
My surge continued in the eighth round, again in the feature match area. Scott Ashley is from Kansas. He is another old friend; we roomed together at last year’s Gen Con. Scott had been making legendary noises all day with a Brains and Brawn deck, but he missed Batman on turn 3 and never recovered. Longshot was a whirling dervish, and everything was right in the shiny purple heavens. The match turned completely Sentinel when I powered-up a Mark IV ten times and swung for 21 to finish with a flourish.
I moved on with six wins against only two losses. Things were about to get really interesting.
Robert Kraftschik is no stranger to a $10K Top 8, and he was playing my favorite non-purple deck of the day. War Paint was sporting the primary colors, being limited to a single set. Zazz couldn’t burn on this day, but that didn’t stop the Infernal Minions from dancing. It was a beautiful thing.
The 1-cost Army-off was messy good fun. I eventually got drowned by Ocean Master, and Robert moved on with my blessing. Sitting next to me, though, was something that kept me glued to my seat. Alex Stuck was nose to nose with a Pro Circuit champion, and his Wild Sentinels were pouring from a giant banana.
Jeff Jenkins and I had become fast friends over the course of the tournament, since he too is from Kansas and was running Vomit after only playing five games with it for practice. Along with Alex Stuck and me, Jeff made three of us who had a legitimate shot at the unimaginable. We shared the joys of swarming and the pressure that a mullet can take off the shoulders. See, if you lose with Wild Vomit, it is always Longshot’s fault. That is a very comforting position to be in, and I was in position to watch the guy in the banana suit take down one of the game’s best.
Anthony Calabrese had an ideal board with Spider-Friends. He had a Gift Wrapped in the row. He still couldn’t peel the nerves of steel in the heart of Alex Stuck. It is deliciously ironic that the best portrait in the history of Vs. System Top 8s has Anthony’s PC victory in the background; their match was one of the best I have ever had the pleasure to see.
Brendan Cummings was my final opponent of the day, standing between me and the money. It was dj vu all over again, since he knocked me out of Day 2 contention in the last round last year. Brendan is really fun to play against, even though he keeps beating me. He knows his cards and plays them optimally, yet has friendly fun while he does it.
Our match ended with one of the most intense scenarios in the game. Its place in history glows like a burning coal in my mind; it was the first win condition I ever practiced against, from the original starter decks four years ago. It still gives me shivers. Brendan was running Force, and since he tests with the deck’s creator, he was playing to perfection. We each had ideal tech for the matchup, and it all came up. I used Search and Destroy three times. He locked down my Underground Sentinel Base and I never saw another. I would have won if I could have drawn one Senator Kelly or a second USB, but alas.
Wolverine, Berserker Rage was growling at six shiny purple targets. All of them cost 4 or less and they had no way to stun him back. Scruffy was about to feast, and feast he did.
Of course, that did nothing to lessen the buzz surrounding the banana. I was so totally ecstatic about Wild Vomit making the Top 8 that I really didn’t care who was playing it. That’s how I roll, and the Bring Your Own Set $10K will have me spinning a big grin for a very long time.
Rian Fike is also known as stubarnes and this weekend had appeal—in more ways than one. If you have pictures of anyone else dressed as fresh fruit, slide them over to firstname.lastname@example.org.