2019 Worlds, through the Eyes of Houston

In the past, the number of people from the Houston Destiny scene who travel for events, especially long-distance travel, has been limited. Worlds 2017 and 2018 both saw less than a handful of our most hardcore competitors make the trek to Minnesota. For 2019, however, we had a huge number of people hop on planes to play for the title. As a testament to the work we’ve done growing the game here, our normal crew of three rose to eight. It would have been even more, but some family emergencies forced people to bow out at the last minute.

The Records

Literally the least important part of this article. Partially because of how poorly most of us did, but mainly because the Destiny World Championship week is about so much more than just the main event.

All but one of us hit Day 1A (Friday) for our part in the main event. Even with seven of us in the tournament, no one got paired up against another Houstonian, and that’s always a win.  We didn’t do well overall, but there were some notable performances.

The Underdog

The brightest star of the weekend was Brian Piana, of Jank it Up Fuzzball notoriety, completely losing all his jank credibility by going 6-2 to put himself into Day 2. Brian has an awesome story about his tournament experience, and I highly recommend you take a listen to the latest episode of his podcast to hear it. One thing he left out of his retelling was the complete change in demeanor he experienced over the course of the tournament. If you’ve spent any time with Brian you know that he has this genuine “Aw shucks” persona that doesn’t really lend itself to cutthroat, smite-your-enemies tournament play. As he won round after round, first meeting and then eclipsing his goal of two wins (no Brian, you never told us you’d upped it to three), you could see the competitive juices start to flow. The more he won, the more he was loving it. It was after round six, when Brian sat at 5-1, that the change was complete. The guys had already informed me of his newest victory when I caught sight of him walking towards us.

“Brian, what are you doing!?”

Without batting an eye Brian comes back with a guttural, “CRUSHING DREAMS!!!”

There are some people you expect to hear something like that from. Brian is not one of them. It brought the house down. It wasn’t all a joke, though. He had that gleam in his eye. Things can be utterly hilarious and true at the same time. This was one of those moments.

**SPOILER ALERT** Brian tells this story much better. Please go listen to his podcast before reading this next paragraph.

One last thing about Brian’s performance: despite winning the last round to make Day 2, Brian scooped to his opponent at the last moment. With zero expectation of doing well, he’d booked his return flight during Day 1B, so rather than not fill his spot on Day 2, he gave it to the player sitting across from him. That’s a classy move from a classy man.

I was there when Brian left early after 0-fering yet another event over the summer, so to see him turn it around like this is immensely gratifying. I couldn’t be happier for the guy.

The Veteran

One of the original three who made it to previous World Championships, Lawton Burkhalter was the only Houston player running on Day 1B. While the rest of us ground out speed pods for tickets, Lawton was busy putting up his standard Top Cut finish. His most memorable play of Day 1 came during Round 2 against Red Maul.

The stand-out moment of the weekend would definitely be top-roping the Delve when I had a hand of Fist, Fist, Delve, Superlaser Siege Cannon immediately after my opponent revealed two Fists with his Probe. Dropping a cheap Fist helped make a big come back against the Maul2/FOST deck I played in Round 2.


Having your opponent whiff on a possible game destroying play is one of those moments of true ecstasy in this game. It’s like squinting your eyes closed in anticipation of being crushed by an oncoming car only to have them swerve at the last minute.

It wasn’t all highs, though. After making a successful trip through the Top 63, his Top 32 opponent proved that sometimes it just comes down to rolls.

The most frustrating moment happened in my Top 32 match against Drew from ABG. Round 1 we both piddled around and got resources, he got to 4 to drop a Megablaster Troopers which I immediately DMd, and I got to 5 resources and a Fist which he DMd in turn. Then, in Round 2 we both played Delve into Fist. He hit the free 3 Ranged side three times in a row where I hit 3 Indirect, 3 Disrupt (with a reroll into another 3 Disrupt), and finally hitting a pay side just after he took the last of my money.


Regardless of how it ended, Lawton trumped all Houstonians by making the deepest run in the main event.

So Close

Josh Shott is an up-and-coming Houston player who has really devoted himself to getting better at the game. It’s been a treat watching him grow from the internal fist pump when you see his name across from yours on the pairing sheet to the tournament threat who has managed to make Top 4 at a Texas-wide tournament and come within hair’s breadth of Day 2ing Worlds. He faced Agent of Zion in the final round for a slot in the Day 2 festivities and came within one damage of taking the match. This was also the match where he whiffed, repeatedly, one turn on Maul, both on the Power Action and rerolling for damage. Here’s Josh:

I was 1 HP from acing Palp3 and would have won the game with my first action in the next round, but some fortuitous rolls and a Fatal Blow dropped my 2 shield, completely healthy Mandalorian Super Commando before the round ended. 11 damage straight up and I dropped to 5-3. I was crushed. Telling yourself you had no expectations of making the cut is just a lie to try and make yourself feel better about losing. I bought into that lie.


As someone who has been there, on both sides of the table, I completely relate to that soul-crushing moment. The high of getting that point of damage and moving on in the tournament is the dopamine hit that keeps us so addicted to the game, while the despair of missing only makes us ache for it more. Josh goes on:

Many of our Houston Crew had similar outcomes. Commiserating about close calls and what-ifs is good and cathartic, but I was still not getting over it, as it was my closest brush with something this big and felt like my biggest loss in the game. That was when Trey Dismukes, of Coaxium Gaming and Kingwood Hobbies, said the words that I needed to hear. That you fellow newcomers to competitive play need to hear. That I am one bad decision away from getting tattooed on my forearm: “Sometimes you just lose, and it fucking sucks.”

I can’t express how perfectly timed and apt that statement was for me. Sure, it wasn’t the rousing locker room inspirational speech we have come to expect from the movies, but it was the truth. And I needed to hear it. Without it I probably would have sulked and brooded, and probably would have not gone to the meetup later that night.


Hulk Gets Smashed

Which brings us to my performance. I started strong at 4-1, but then things fell off a cliff when I dropped the final three matches to go 4-4.

There is one round in my Round 6 match that perfectly foreshadows the futility of the rest of my tournament. I was playing a lovely gentleman from Oklahoma whose name I forget, and already struggling. I was on 4-LOM supports with lots of bounties, and I was both struggling to draw anything that did damage and kill his bountied-up character (one of those leads to the other). Earlier in the match, I’d landed a Megablaster Troopers only to see it instantly Desperate Measured. I was sitting on a single Entourage that, as my only Scoundrel, wasn’t doing a whole lot of damage. In the penultimate round, my rollout of Entourage saw a Coruscant Police drop to remove its die. Finally, though, I was able to pop the guy with bounties and load up to bring the pain. I drew a fist full of cards and ratcheted my resources up to eight. Feeling froggy I plopped down my Vader’s Fist and rolled the die into the pool. Desperate Measures, again. That’s fine. Well, it’s not fine, but it at least falls within the realm of things that should happen during this World Championship tournament. Bright side, I still have three resources and a second Entourage in my hand. Quickly, I drop that bad boy on the table and roll it out. My opponent then plays yet another Coruscant Police out of his hand to remove that die. My round went from the exultation of finally breaking through to not getting a single die resolved, my biggest gun blown up, and my opponent rolling in three extra dice (the first Coruscant Police got Wat Power Actioned in). Gut. Rending.

Fine, whatever. That was a brutal beat, but I’m still in it. I just can’t drop another match.

If you’ve never played competitively, there is a truism you should know about the tournament experience: you are probably not going to X-0 the tournament you’re in. It doesn’t matter how good you are or how carefully you play, at some point, RNJesus is going to turn against you. Your dice will go cold, theirs will go insanely hot, or they draw their one-outer. In any game that incorporates chance, something is going to happen over the course of a tournament that will steal a victory from you. The best you can hope for is to play as perfect a game as you can so that your one loss to randomness doesn’t give way to many more. As a veteran of this type of tournament, I’ve made my peace with losing a match to Lady Fortune. It sucks, but it’s going to happen.

Now, if you happened to see my Round 7 match on the FFG Live Stream, you have an inclination of what happened. While I did make my worst mistake of the tournament, playing a Round 1 Fickle Mercenaries into my opponent’s two unspent resources, that mistake had no bearing on the outcome of my match. My dice went cold. Frozen-level cold. Every round I would roll out fistfuls of dice that came up useless. Then, I’d pitch card after card trying to get something useful, only for an array of uninteresting dice sides to stare back at me. Meanwhile, my opponent was on fire. Maul roll? 3 Melee and something else. Maul2 Power Action? Hit a 3M on the first try.

My Round 8 against Vader3/Greedo was the same. I rolled fistfuls of dice over and over and without anything useful coming up. Meanwhile, I got hit for 12 with Fear and Dead Men in Round 1 and 9 in Round 2. Through all of that, I still had lethal damage on the table when my team succumbed to the Terror to Behold.

Dropping one match to Dice Game is expected. Dropping two is brutal but understandable. Three, especially in the way I lost the last two, was devastating. To say I was in a bad place is a gross understatement. The urge to go Hulk Smash with destruction and table flips was almost irresistible.

This is the point where, brooding like King Conan, that I realize I am not making myself look good to other people. That realization snaps me to, and I begin to sort and file my feelings. That move from passionate rage to analytical decision making instantly soothes my soul and brings me back to life. It’s like a click where I put my rage and frustration away. I remember all the good things about life, and what a wonderful one I’ve created for myself. At that point the clouds part, the red veil ascends, and I’m back to my normal self. It was this moment of my process where I said what apparently became the mantra for those of our group who fell short of what we wanted that weekend, “Sometimes you just lose, and it fucking sucks.” I didn’t think it was especially sage-like at the time, and I still don’t. It was just my way of putting away my own despair to make the most of our time at the event. That multiple people latched onto the phrase was pretty weird, but I’m glad I was able to help other folks overcome their disappointment.

The Real Reason to Go

As I said earlier, the main event is the absolute least reason to be a part of the Destiny World Championships. Next year is invite-only, and I will be right back there whether I have a seat in The Show or not. The real reason to go to the World Championships is the people. The tournament itself is secondary. If you’re one of those people that stayed home, you got to watch some of the highest-level competitive Destiny imaginable. I’m sure it was great, and I’m sure it was exciting. You didn’t catch even 5% of what made the week great, though. Everything that happened behind the camera, across the auditorium, or even down the street is what made this World Championships the incredibly successful celebration that it was.

Most of us have interests outside of Destiny, and those interests have their own celebrities. In most of those other arenas, however, the heroes are untouchable, uninteractable. Whether it’s sports, movies and TV, politics, or anything else, chances are that our adoration is completely one-sided. We love them, but we don’t relate to them. The heroes in those arenas perform physical feats we could never hope to emulate and are insulated from their legions of followers by public lifestyles we simply cannot relate to.

This game, however, is different. The community we’ve built around this game is a special thing that we’re all a part of. There are certainly the Mike Gemmes, Mr. Chips, and Klauses of the community, but the gap between the status we’ve conferred on them and the common Destiny player is narrow enough that you can reach across and touch the other side. Our celebrities are people just like us. People who work regular jobs with regular families. People we somehow know even though they’re from a different city, state, or even corner of the world. It’s the World Championships in Minnesota where that veil drops completely, and all of us come together to celebrate, side by side, the game and community that we love.

Even the community members whose names aren’t known by every Destiny player form the fabric of something special. These are people you’ve spoken with on Facebook or Reddit. People who, in any other community would be the faceless words on a screen that you just assume might be a real person somewhere. In Minnesota we get to put a real person to that online persona, and, universally, my life is better for spending time with them.

I’m not the only one who felt this way.

Going through security at the airport to leave I ran into another player (Edgy Sith Lord) (he had a Stormtrooper backpack). We struck up a conversation and ran into 2 other players (biketheif and ralath) and we all had lunch together and hung out until we had to fly out. 4 people from different parts of the country forming an instant bond over a game we all have in common is really cool.

I was able to deepen my relationship with people I already knew and made connections with people I just met.   The community almost seems like its own family in a way.   We all want to see it grow and get stronger and we all feel a certain part of ownership in that.   Yes we have our complaints about the logistics and decisions the company behind the game makes but we feel like it’s our game too kind of like a child that stumbles and  falls we try to help it back up and keep trying again hoping it can learn from mistakes and walk on its own. I know there were times when I was being quiet. I was just soaking it all in.  I am an observer at heart and what I witnessed was something special between hundreds of people from such different backgrounds.

Jason Griffin

I travelled solo to Worlds and was making my first ever trip outside of Houston to play Destiny. While one of my favorite aspects of going up to St. Paul was just being able to meet so many different people, I drew a lot of comfort in seeing the familiar faces of Houston players at the venue.

It was really cool when, on Day 1A of the tournament, Jason included me in his Houston player updates that were being reported through Facebook. That gesture made me feel like I was part of the Houston contingent, even though I actually don’t get to play that often with these guys.  It was also really nice having a crew to go report to after each match with my result. Then, at the lunch break, being able to join James, Jason, Jordan, and Trey for some tacos down the street really helped me stay loose after starting a very surprising 3-1.

After Day 1A concluded, I led a group of the Houston contingent to the the Content Creators meet up at a bar a few blocks away. It was the perfect end to an amazing day of Destiny.

While I’m not a regular player in the Houston scene, I’m grateful that for a couple days in Minnesota, it sure felt like I was.

Brian Piana

Going to Worlds 2019 was a once-in-a-lifetime event for me, and by large the biggest event I had ever attended. I was not aware that the festivities started on Wednesday, so I arrived Thursday afternoon. Even showing up to work pods 45 minutes after landing was overwhelming. I had never seen so many people in one place playing a game I love. Beginning to recognize players and judges as content creators I had known only virtually was the coolest experience of all. Before I get to my outing on day 1A, I just want to express the enormity of awesome that was the meetup even that Friday night. I got to meet many people, drink many beers, and even roll some dice. I am not sure who put that together, but it eliminated a lot of the stress and enhanced then fun, which carried on throughout the entire weekend. Here is my favorite photo from the meetup.

Josh Shott

If you dig hard enough and read other World’s recaps you will hear about many of the events.

  • The shindig thrown by content creators upstairs at Patrick McGovern’s Pub.
  • Grinding pods with new faces and old friends to maximize our prize tickets.
  • Karaoke night at New Bohemia.
  • The Minnesota Wild game Sunday night.
  • Watching the Astros clinch the ALCS at New Bohemia (that place is pretty great).
  • Dinner at the Happy Gnome gastropub.

Whatever we were doing, we were in the company of great friends, old and new. Friends who share a bond that many Destiny players don’t get to celebrate fully in their normal lives. If Star Wars Destiny, and the community around it, hold any sort of special place in your life, I cannot emphasize enough that you need to make it a priority to attend this event next year.