TORONTO (CP) _ The National Hockey League's general managers met in Toronto on Wednesday to discuss several possible rules changes for next season. But between debates about the future of the shootout and the size of goalie equipment, the 30 colleagues took the time in their one-and-only in-season meeting to enjoy a tournament of the immensely popular collectible card game, Magic: The Gathering.
Anaheim GM Bob Murray was the surprise winner of the tournament, using a deck top-heavy in rare Exalted Angel creatures that wore down opponents while keeping Murray's own life up. Murray's white and blue deck also featured several common cards like Counterspells and Brainstorms that seemed to click seamlessly in round after round.
Murray faced down stiff competition from expected top finishers Peter Chiarelli of Boston and Ray Shero of Pittsburgh. Chiarelli's black and red deck used cards like Hypnotic Spectre and Gorilla Shaman in a relentless attack. But Chiarelli's army of Dark Rituals wasn't able to keep up its brutal pace and petered out later in the tournament.
Shero's deck contained one of the rarest cards in the series - the nearly unstoppable and unblockable Phyrexian Negator - but his defensive creatures like the Scavenging Scarab were not enough to hold back enemy attacks.
Murray was proud of his deck's performance and was always confident in its potential, even when others doubted it.
"I never doubted my deck for a second," said Murray, taking a last long sip of his 64 ounce Mountain Dew. "Last year was a disappointment. But we built this kick-ass deck from the ground up using cards that bought into our system of mind control and healing. Having an owner willing to spend big money on some very sought-after cards is always a key component in building a winning deck.
"You can't simply rely on booster packs. You have to spend money if you want to win at Magic."
For taking first place, Murray walked away with six packs of cards, a t-shirt and a $25 gift card to GameStop.
Other top-five finishers included Chicago's Stan Bowman and his goblin-heavy red deck, and defending champion Dean Lombardi of Los Angeles, who used several canny trades to acquire cards once thought ineffective for his black and white deck.
"Wrath of God has been a friggin' sweet card for me for many years," said Lombardi. "It's a proven winner. We're disappointed we got pwned, but expect to get right back to work at the next tourney on draft weekend."
Not faring so well in this year's event was Florida GM Dale Tallon, whose torn and battered cards were disqualified per house rules. Philadelphia's Paul Holmgren brought a deck that was expected to be a difficult out, but instead had trouble draining opponent's mana for more than one or two successive turns. Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk had a deck full of artifact cards that did not work as cohesively with his creatures as he planned.
Edmonton's Steve Tambellini tried a deck comprised entirely of cards from the Magic 2013 set, but did not appear to know how to construct a proper deck with them. He did not stick to one or two magic colors focused on a certain style of play and seemed to pick his cards based only on their artwork.
"I like these pictures here," said Tambellini, who routinely would scan his cards while others were waiting for him to cast spells. "They look like oil paintings. Very creative. Hahaha...wonderful."
Although his deck finished out of the money, New York Islanders GM Garth Snow was praised for building a surprisingly competitive deck that contained less land cards than every other player.
This is a parody. Although I would pay good money to watch these guys play Magic.