If you missed last week’s article, I suggest that you read it as this article is the conclusion of it. Part one can be found here.
Friday morning greeted me the same way that Thursday did: on the carpet-covered concrete floor of my friend’s room. My back ached slightly, but that was to be expected considering the circumstances. I was always the first one up. Perhaps that had been because I still hadn’t adjusted to the time difference yet (nine hours ahead) or had just been eager to play. After we had finished up with our morning preparations, we were off to find some food before the draft rounds started.
During the player meeting we had found out that a Red Bull kiosk had been set up just inside at the front of the building. Bracelets had been distributed to the players and would entitle them to as much free Red Bull (yes, sugar-free also) that we could drink. All that was required was to go up and ask one of the booth babes, who sadly didn’t speak a word of non-Italian, that you wanted a drink. The only other caveat was that they had to open the Red Bull cans before giving them to you; otherwise a person could have theoretically gone and sold them on the Red Bull Black Market for the ridiculously low price of six Euros (or something like that).
I wasn’t sure why the Red Bull promotion had been set up in the first place. From a marketing standpoint, giving away free Red Bull would be good as long as the group of people being exposed to the promotion didn’t normally drink it, which hopefully would lead to additional purchases. Magic players, a subset of gamers, drink Red Bull more than the average group of people. Additionally (as I said earlier and will constantly repeat), Magic players are misers; they will take whatever they can get for free. Not only were we going to drink all their Red Bull, we wouldn’t buy any more than we usually would after that.
With the beverage part of our diet taken care of, the only part that remained for us to be responsible for was food. There was a row of eateries across the street from the site. While I didn’t go to all of them, the few that I did go to impressed me. They were all reasonably priced, had a good selection of what they were marketing, and were all courteous enough to lead me to think that there were still decent souls alive here. After grabbing a pastry and a cappuccino, I walked back with Luis, Gerry, and Wrapter (Josh Utter-Leyton).
One of the other perils in Italy was the crazy drivers. If you remember back to your childhood, you’d remember your mother telling you to look right, then left, and then right again before crossing the street at the crosswalk to make sure you weren’t flattened by Charlie the truck driver. You could walk in a crosswalk and have the right of way. In Italy, I wasn’t sure pedestrians had any rights. It almost seemed like motorists would swerve towards us and accelerate as we stood at the corner of the sidewalk. We looked left, then right, then left again, repeating the process several times as we inched forth holding hands, forming a super-pedestrian, to help ensure our safety. “Run over one and you’re gonna have to kill us all”. Thankfully no one was hit during the trip.
There was a row of parked cars across the street from the row of shops. On the way back, I happened to look down at the ground. Near the tire of one of the cars was a fifty-Euro bill. For once I was glad that everything was so expensive over here. Have I mentioned that I’ve been running pretty well? After being informed that I was blessed, we made our way back from the deli and got down to business.
Csaba Racz [HUN]
Julien de Graat [DEU]
Robert Jurkovic [SVK]
Mat Marr [USA]
David Ochoa [USA]
Andrew Plinston [NZL]
David Howard [USA]
A.J. Sacher [USA]
Pack 1: I took a Spire Barrage out of a fairly weak pack. The next pack had sub-par red cards, but there was an Umara Raptor present. Adventuring Gear and Goblin Guide followed. blue dried up and my pile of red cards grew larger. I picked up a Molten Ravager then got passed Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle (around 6th). From that point I decided it would be worth trying to force Mono-Red or at least a very heavy red deck. The remaining picks were mediocre and included two Grappling Hooks and a Slaughter Cry.
Pack 2: I opened a second Spire Barrage followed by a Torch Slinger. The red dried up quicker than I wanted it to and blue was absent as well. I picked up a Frontier Guide, a second Molten Ravager, and a third Spire Barrage. The only red cards that I had been seeing were the cards good in Mono-red, which was fine for me but bad at the same time, because it meant that people would take them if they had no better option. The packs that had been passed so far had enough Goblin Shortcutters, Highland Berserkers, and Shatterskull Giants to fend the other red drafters off. My green cards increased as I added a second Savage Silhouette and a Territorial Baloth to the mix. I wasn’t happy with where this was going. I needed a monster pack three to make a deck with only Mountains.
Pack 3: I opened a Plated Geopede and got passed a Bladetusk Boar followed by a fourth Spire Barrage. There was also an Expedition Map in the pack that I desperately needed to wheel. I picked up a Baloth Cage Trap and Khalni Heart Expedition where there wasn’t a red card to take, but was almost sure that I wouldn’t need them. I was also able to pick up a Zektar Shrine Expedition and a Hellfire Mongrel.
I wasn’t thrilled with how the draft turned out. My deck lacked early game plays and would have trouble against faster draws. I had Molten Ravagers to hold them off, but most of my good plays started on turn five. I would be able to win any game that went long unless I drew only lands and no Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle/Expedition Map.
There were a few interesting cards that I played. Grappling Hook, albeit slow, was surprisingly decent in my deck with Molten Ravager, Zektar Shrine Expedition, and Ruinous Minotaur. There were a few instances where I had set up Zektar Shrine Expedition plus Grappling Hook. However, each of those times it was foiled by a trick my opponent had.
Round 7: Mat Marr [USA]
Game 1: I won the roll and stared at my hand (Mountain, Goblin Guide, Plated Geopede, Adventuring Gear, Slaughter Cry, Molten Ravager, and Spire Barrage). This hand was perfect except for one problem: it needed land. Well, I had nineteen lands left in the deck along with an Expedition Map. I kept and drew three Mountains in a row. Sorry Mat; you’re the only person I’ve killed on turn four in Limited, ever. Evil’s first play was Grazing Gladehart on turn three. He didn’t block on turn four and I played Slaughter Cry to deal lethal plus one.
Game 2: Game two was not quite as one-sided as the first one. Evil managed to stick a Grazing Gladehart and gain back some of the life that I was trying so hard to take away. I had set up Zektar Shrine Expedition plus Grappling Hook, but was wary of walking into a bunch of untapped lands/cards in hand because I knew about an Arrow Volley Trap. I sent in a Bladetusk Boar equipped with the Grappling Hook to test the waters and watched as it fell to the trap. Evil tapped out for a creature on his following turn except for two lands. I decided to take the chance and sacrifice the shrine. Evil played Seismic Shudder to stop my play. Evil began attacking me and I drew one of my four Spire Barrages (for nine) to kill him the turn before I died.
Round 8: Robert Jurkovic [SVK]
Wizards’ Event Coverage staff decided to feature me for this round. The coverage can be found at the Mothership here.
Unfortunately I was not able to win this round. With the help of [card]Bala Ged Thief[/card], Evil was able to defeat me in three games.
Round 9: A.J. Sacher [USA]
Sadly this is one of the rounds where my memory failed me. I didn’t take notes of the draft rounds and only remember a few details.
Game 1: Evil summoned an Umara Raptor and Ondu Cleric. I killed both of them and eventually got Evil down to “three” life with a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle in play. Evil had a Cliff Threader and Shepherd of the Lost. I drew the last Mountain that I needed to finish Evil off but soon found out that I had forgotten to write down the life gain from his Ondu Cleric. He had been at five and not three. The mistake was totally my fault and as a result my play that turn was terrible as I should have just killed the Shepherd of the Lost. I had three draws to find a land and found one on the last turn to not lose.
Game 2: I had a slow start while Evil summoned an Umara Raptor. I found Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle with Expedition Map. Evil summoned Shepherd of the Lost and continued beating me. Valakut was going to be too slow by itself, but I had a Spire Barrage ready. Evil summoned a kicked Aether Figment. Spire Barrage killed the Shepherd of the Lost. Valakut was online and killed Evil’s Aether Figment. The following turn, another Mountain fueled Valakut to kill the Umara Raptor. I had several more Mountains in my hand and used them to pick off Evil’s creatures as I was able to start attacking and win.
Jan Brodzak [CZE]
William Cavaglieri [ITA]
David Reitbauer [AUT]
Joel Calafell [ESP]
Martin Juza [CZE]
Dennis Stone [BEL]
Philipp Summereder [AUT]
David Ochoa [USA]
Pack 1: I took Plated Geopede over Disfigure pick one. I preferred Plated Geopede and wanted to stay out of black for this draft because it seemed like most of the people would want to start in it. For pick two I was staring back at a Vampire Nighthawk with the rare missing. I had to give some credit to William Cavaglieri (passing to me) and assumed he took Sorin Markov or Malakir Bloodwitch over it. There weren’t any other cards that I would have considered. Luckily for me there was also a Burst Lightning in the pack. Journey to Nowhere was my third pick and I settled down into red/white. The picks cooled down quite a bit after that and I acquired Stonework Puma, Goblin Shortcutter, Pillarfield Ox, two Explorer’s Scopes, and a Slaughter Cry. I wasn’t keen on the second Explorer’s Scope, but would probably play the first if I got enough landfall creatures and early drops along with a Bold Defense.
Pack 2: This was the payoff pack and I was rewarded for ignoring black. I opened a second Burst Lightning and was passed two Kazandu Blademasters, Inferno Trap, Kor Hookmaster, Hellfire Mongrel, and two copies of Slaughter Cry. I was also able to pick up a Molten Ravager and Pitfall Trap, both of which I wasn’t happy about playing.
Pack 3: I opened a second Plated Geopede and happily took it. Next I was passed a Punishing Fire. The picks dropped off a bit and I only got some filler cards like Cliff Threader and Teetering Peeks. A fifth-pick Bladetusk Boar was welcomed into my pool. The rest of the pack was more chaff: a second Cliff Threader, Celestial Mantle, and Pillarfield Ox.
Overall I was quite satisfied with how the draft had turned out. I expected to go 2-1 with the deck. I would have liked to play Celestial Mantle but couldn’t decide on what to cut from the deck. Pitfall Trap was the card I was looking at. I couldn’t cut a creature because fourteen was already the minimum that I wanted to run (hence the Molten Ravager).
One of the problems the deck had was that it was unable to close out games. Its creatures were good for the most part; two Kazandu Blademasters and two Plated Geopedes would allow for very strong starts. However, there was a lack of finisher cards like Windborne Charge and Kor Skyfisher to push through the last points of damage. If the deck faltered early on, it would be difficult to compete with the slower spells that most of my opponents would have.
Round 10: Philipp Summereder [AUT]
Game 1: I had been passing to Evil in the draft, and as a result knew that I was playing against a Vampire Nighthawk. I summoned a Plated Geopede, but it died quickly to a Disfigure. Evil summoned an Oran-Rief Survivalist and I summoned a Kazandu Blademaster. I did some attacking and summoned another creature while Evil summoned Vampire Nighthawk. Evil suited up his Nighthawk with a Savage Silhouette and I wasn’t able to race it or draw a Journey to Nowhere.
Game 2: I started out well this game with a Kazandu Blademaster followed by a Stonework Puma. Evil was stuck on a Forest and a Swamp. He passed again after playing an Oran-Rief, the Vastwood. I hadn’t drawn a spell since the game had started and only had a Journey to Nowhere left in my hand along with a few lands. Evil summoned an Oran-Rief Survivalist and made it a 3/3 with Oran-Rief, the Vastwood. I couldn’t afford to wait for another piece of removal and removed the Survivalist from the game with Journey to Nowhere. Evil found a second Swamp and summoned a Joraga Bard followed by Turntimber Ranger. Evil had managed to thoroughly clog up the ground. I was unable to attack and he summoned Vampire Nighthawk and Guul Draz Specter. I drew a Burst Lightning and had to point it at the Specter. I wasn’t going to be able to play spells and race the Specter versus playing spells and racing the Nighthawk. Two turns later, Savage Silhouette made the Nighthawk lethal on the following turn.
Round 11: Dennis Stone [BEL]
Game 1: I had a good start with Plated Geopede and Cliff Threader. Evil was blue/red and was always on the defensive. I killed an Umara Raptor and Windrider Eel with Journey to Nowhere and Burst Lightning. Evil summoned a Stonework Puma to trade with my Bladetusk Boar, but I had Slaughter Cry to save it. Evil used Into the Roil to save himself for a turn, but didn’t find anything in the next two cards that would save him.
Game 2: I had another good opening hand that included two Plated Geopedes and a Kazandu Blademaster. Evil played a Zektar Shrine Expedition and Umara Raptor. Afterwards, he summoned a Stonework Puma and a Kraken Hatchling. The Kraken Hatchling died when I used Slaughter Cry to pump up my Plated Geopede. I summoned a Cliff Threader and Evil summoned a Welkin Tern. I had Evil down to five life when he sacrificed his Zektar Shrine Expedition and attacked with it along with his Umara Raptor and Welkin Tern. I thought for a moment about the possible combination of cards to get him out of the situation he was in but failed to consider Slaughter Cry. I was at fifteen and only blocked with my Kazandu Blademaster. One Into the Roil and Slaughter Cry later, Evil had done fifteen to me and we were on to game three.
Game 3: I summoned a Plated Geopede. Evil killed it with Disfigure with his Akoum Refuge. It appeared that Evil had sideboarded in black for the final game to combat my faster draws. I summoned a Cliff Threader and Evil summoned an Umara Raptor. Burst Lightning took care of the flying Ally and I was able to begin attacking. Evil summoned a Windrider Eel and I summoned a Bladetusk Boar. We were unable and unwilling to trade creatures; that was fine with me. Nimana Sell-Sword was summoned and followed shortly by Kazuul Warlord. My Bladetusk Boar was unable to attack any further. I decided to summon a Hellfire Mongrel and Pillarfield Ox. Evil continued to attack with his Windrider Eel and sent his 5/5 Nimana Sell-Sword in with it as well. I had Pitfall Trap ready for the Ally. Cliff Threader had attacked Evil down to five life and I was ready with Slaughter Cry for the next turn, but Evil used Burst Lightning to kill it on his turn. I was dead to Windrider Eel on the next turn so I had to attack with Bladetusk Boar, Hellfire Mongrel, and Pillarfield Ox. Evil blocked two of them and I played Slaughter Cry to finish him off.
Round 12: Jan Brodzak [CZE]
Game 1: I had to mulligan and kept a slow hand with Molten Ravager and Pillarfield Ox. Evil came blazing out of the gates with Steppe Lynx, Kor Outfitter, and Kor Hookmaster. I was never in the game.
Game 2: I never got off the ground in this game. Evil summoned Steppe Lynx and Surrakar Marauder in the first turns while my draw failed to deliver mana to play either of the Kazandu Blademasters in my hand. I could only summon a Cliff Threader. Quest for the Gravelord made trading bad, but I had no choice. I was too low on life and eventually found a fourth land to summon Pillarfield Ox. However, Evil was able to force a trade which made his Quest active and get a 5/5 into play. I died shortly afterwards.
I was very disappointed at my 1-2 record for the draft. I felt like I had a perfect read of the table. My deck was good, but the games didn’t unfold like I had expected them to. Despite the lackluster finish, I had work to do. We needed to build an Extended deck for tomorrow. The Brazilian team had done well with the initial build of the Thopter deck which was good news.
Our first thoughts about Extended had started where Austin had left off: Dark Depths. We knew that there would be a metagame shift towards Zoo, especially Rubin Zoo, because of how it performed at Austin. Additionally, Zoo had always been a popular deck for Worlds because it didn’t require much testing and was easy to build. Preparing for a multi-format event was difficult. For members of Nationals teams that had to also worry about Legacy in addition to the individual tournament, there wasn’t always time to develop something other than Zoo.
Dark Depths was a powerful deck; it had done well in Austin for us. Although, a significant amount of our success had been because people were not prepared for the deck or simply didn’t respect the combo. After WOTC event coverage had crunched and reported the numbers from Austin, everyone was able to see how powerful and successful Dark Depths was. It was a real deck that demanded attention. Unfortunately, attention wasn’t what we wanted it to get. As a result of Rubin Zoo being popular, we knew that the number of Ghost Quarters and Blood Moons would increase (making Dark Depths much harder to win with). We just weren’t comfortable with playing the deck again.
We began to look elsewhere at other decks. A friend of ours (Lucas Siow) had brewed a deck for Austin based around Gifts Ungiven to go with various other combos like Dark Depths/Vampire Hexmage and Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek. The deck earned him a top-50 finish. We had been aware of the Thopter combo for some time and had tested it before Austin. Against Zoo, it was very hard for them to win if the combo ever got online. While the combo itself wasn’t an instant win, it usually created a “not lose” board.
We tested Thopter Foundry in many configurations. The combo was compact, and thus could easily be fit into almost any type of deck shell. We started by brainstorming if a Dark Depths deck with a transformational sideboard would be good. We discarded the idea after concluding that the Thopter combo would be more difficult to disrupt; it wouldn’t get stopped by Path to Exile and Ghost Quarter. Qasali Pridemage, Ancient Grudge, and Pithing Needle were much easier to stop and most of the cards we cared about were coming out from the sideboard.
We had to figure out just what kind of Thopter deck we needed for the tournament. At first we had a build that was blue/black that ran four Sword of the Meek and four Thopter Foundry. The deck was playing Wretched Banquet, Engineered Explosives, and Thoughtseize for disruption along with Muddle the Mixture which functioned as both disruption and tutoring. Thirst for Knowledge and Dark Confidant were included for card advantage. As matches went by, we decided that black wasn’t needed. Thoughtseize and Dark Confidant were both good, but not exceptional against Zoo.
The black option had been left on the wayside with us looking at the other: white. White gave us a few options: Path to Exile, Wrath of God, Meddling Mage, Baneslayer Angel, Ritual of Restoration, and some other odd options. We decided that we liked the white options more than what black offered and built a traditional control deck. Baneslayer Angel was nice to bring in against decks that loaded up on various Ancient Grudge-like cards.
We knew from prior testing that the midrange Rubin Zoo wasn’t good against a control deck. The problem was One-Drop Zoo. We had to make sure that the deck was adequately equipped to handle the faster draws that were normal for the deck. We made some alterations after having played a bunch of games and tested some more. Satisfied with our results, we began to fill out the deck and sideboard with cards for other decks. When the pow-wow was over, this is what we had come up with:
Thopter Control (AKA “Look Ma, No Four-Ofs!”):
We were pleased with the deck, especially Luis, because of the lack of four-ofs (with the exception of Thirst for Knowledge). Giddy with the prospect of playing Gifts Ungiven, Thirst for Knowledge, and Cryptic Command in Extended, we were satisfied with the deck, able to get to sleep shortly afterwards, and be enveloped in dreams about playing Gifts, Baneslayer, and Mana Leak in the same turn. In the morning we made our way back to the site after stopping by the pastry shop across the street to get some breakfast. The last rounds of the tournament were in sight.
Round 13: Thomas Preyer [AUT], All-In Red:
Game 1: I lost the roll. Evil played Rite of Flame, Desperate Ritual, and Blood Moon on turn one. My hand of fetchlands and non-basics was a lot worse with the crippling enchantment in play. I could do nothing but play lands. I had a Thirst for Knowledge, Trinket Mage, and Path to Exile, but couldn’t draw one of my eight basic lands or three Chrome Moxes to make them live. Evil played Seething Song to summon a Demigod of Revenge on turn three. The race was suddenly on. Fifteen. Ten. Five. My life dropped in chunks as the Demigod of Revenge went to work on my helpless form. With one turn left I drew my card. Steam Vents wasn’t going to cut it. I was dead.
Game 2: Being on the play was huge in this match-up because it meant that I had six additional virtual basic lands (thanks to my fetchlands) to combat his Blood Moon/Magus of the Moon. Unfortunately I would be on the draw in the final game when it happened. I had an Arid Mesa ready to search for a basic Plains in case Evil resolved a turn one Moon again. Sure enough, Evil played Mountain, Chrome Mox, Desperate Ritual, and Blood Moon. I sacrificed Arid Mesa in response. Afterwards, Evil played a Chalice for zero which effectively prevented me from using Engineered Explosives to destroy his Chalice or future Goblin tokens (from Empty the Warrens) while stopping my own Chrome Moxes. A few turns went by without any action. I managed to find an Island and summon a Trinket Mage that searched for Engineered Explosives. Evil still had no plays and the Trinket Mage began to go to work chipping away at Evil’s life total. Eighteen. I played Engineered Explosives with Sunburst three. Sixteen. I summoned another Trinket Mage and searched for Seat of the Synod. Fourteen. Evil played a second Blood Moon and Empty the Warrens. I was ready to spring my trap. At the end of Evil’s turn, Engineered Explosives blew up the world, destroying both of Evil’s Blood Moons along with my two Trinket Mages. Two fetchlands became live again and searched for a Plains and an Island. I played Tezzeret the Seeker and searched for Sword of the Meek while holding Thopter Foundry. Evil divided his forces sending two Goblins to slay Tezzeret and two Goblins at me. However, Evil’s best efforts were in vain. I played the Thopter Foundry and began to make tokens. He thought for a moment and conceded.
Game 3: Negate wasn’t going to be good on the draw. We were starting to run low on time. As a result I needed a way to win quickly if the situation demanded it. Baneslayer Angel came in to fight for me. Evil was first and had another All-In turn one. He played Mountain, Rite of Flame, Desperate Ritual, and Blood Moon. I thought Evil was done but he still had more plays. He removed a Simian Spirit Guide in his hand from the game and summoned a Figure of Destiny. I wasn’t too worried about the Figure because I had a Path to Exile in my hand and Evil only had one card left in his. However, the only source of white mana I had was a Chrome Mox. If Evil’s last card was Chalice of the Void, I’d be in some serious trouble. He passed the turn and I was able to forge my Chrome Mox while sadly having to imprint a Baneslayer Angel over a second Path to Exile. I didn’t mind taking damage for a few turns because Evil was low on cards and mana. Eighteen. I was ready to take more damage, but Evil surprised me with a Rite of Flame to grow his Figure of Destiny. Four damage was too much and I had to use my Path to Exile.
I was stuck on three mana sources (white Chrome Mox and two non-basic Mountains) and could only watch as Evil began to rebuild his hand. He used Seething Song to summon a Deus of Calamity, but I was ready with my second Path to Exile during his draw step. I managed to hit a few land drops, all non-basic. Evil found another threat and summoned a Simian Spirit Guide. I had a third Path to Exile, but waited to draw a Trinket Mage or Engineered Explosives and rid myself of the Blood Moon as well. I had to save the Path to Exile for a Deus of Calamity or Demigod of Revenge.
Evil’s Simian Spirit Guide attacked me. Sixteen. Fourteen. Empty the Warrens for four shortened the time I had to find what I needed. I had no choice but to use my Path to Exile to remove the Simian Spirit Guide from the game. The Goblins put me on a three turn clock to find an answer. Ten. Six. I drew an Island, unlocking my Thirst for Knowledge. I discarded two Cryptic Commands while keeping a Sword of the Meek. Two. I drew Thopter Foundry and played it along with [card]Sword of the Meek[/card] while still having two lands leftover. Dejected, Evil untapped and conceded the game.
Round 14: Alain Simn Martin [ESP], Dredge:
Game 1: I had to mulligan to six. Evil summoned a Hedron Crab on turn one. I transmuted Tolaria West on turn three to find and play Tormod’s Crypt. Evil continued dredging, trying to bait me into using my Tormod’s Crypt prematurely. I resisted, knowing that it was the only card that I could use to leverage enough time to assemble the cards that I needed to win or find Academy Ruins. I used an Engineered Explosives to destroy the Hedron Crab. Tormod’s Crypt removed Evil’s graveyard as well because there were two Bridge from Below that had triggered. I would not have had enough time otherwise. Evil was waiting to use Ideas Unbound, but I had been prepared with Spell Snare. With both of us reset, I transmuted Muddle the Mixture to find Thopter Foundry. I had a Chrome Mox in hand as well as one in play along with an artifact land to form an army and hopefully do enough damage to kill Evil before he got off the ground again. However, Evil had a Glimpse the Unthinkable that put several Bloodghasts into the graveyard. I was unable to race them and died shortly afterwards.
Sideboard: -1 Cryptic Command, -1 Mana Leak, -2 Path to Exile, -1 Day of Judgment, -1 Wrath of God, -1 Chalice of the Void; +2 Glen Elendra Archmage, +3 Meddling Mage, +1 Relic of Progenitus, +1 Tormod’s Crypt
Game 2: I kept a decent hand but had trouble drawing lands. Evil summoned a Drowned Rusalka on turn one and followed it up by summoning a Hedron Crab. I played an Engineered Explosives for one but couldn’t use it immediately because I only had two lands in play. Evil began to fill his graveyard. The Explosives destroyed Evil’s two creatures, but created two Zombies thanks to Bridge from Below. I also played a Relic of Progenitus. Evil was able to use Ancient Grudge to destroy my Relic of Progenitus and went off dredging with another Drowned Rusalka afterwards. My lack of lands prevented me from countering multiple spells. Iona, Shield of Emeria led a host of Zombies to battle where I met my fate.
Round 15: Surachas Boonyasatian [THA], One-Drop Zoo:
Game 1: I lost the roll and Evil summoned a Wild Nacatl. I played a Chrome Mox (imprinting Spell Snare) and Chalice of the Void for one. The play was only bad if Evil had a two-drop which seemed less likely than having more one-drops. Sure enough, Evil attacked [G: 16] and summoned a Tarmogoyf. I had a Wrath of God in my hand so I wasn’t too concerned. Evil attacked again [G: 12] and summoned Gaddock Teeg after combat. Fortunately I had the Mana Leak. I missed on land and was forced to summon a Trinket Mage and search for Seat of the Synod. The Trinket Mage ran in front of Evil’s oncoming Tarmogoyf to save some of my life points [G: 9]. I played Wrath of God and got a Lightning Helix pointed at my face as punishment [G: 6]. Evil untapped and pointed a Tribal Flames at me [G: 1]. I was in trouble. Fortunately, I had Tezzeret the Seeker in my hand. I played it along with a Tormod’s Crypt, Chrome Mox and untapped two artifacts. Evil didn’t draw another two-mana burn spell. Instead he played a Tarmogoyf, which did nothing to stop my five animated artifacts from killing him.
Game 2: Evil didn’t have a creature on turn one which made me suspect his hand relied heavily on a Tarmogoyf. I was correct and had a Spell Snare ready. Evil played a Jitte which I let resolve. He then summoned a Kird Ape. I had a Path to Exile and wasn’t concerned. I played a Thirst for Knowledge and continued to make land drops. Evil equipped the Kird Ape and attacked. I was still at high life and took the hit [G: 16] I played a second Thirst for Knowledge after he was done. When Evil attacked again, I used Path to Exile after he used both of the counters on Umezawa’s Jitte to pump his Kird Ape. I played Gifts Ungiven for Thopter Foundry, Sword of the Meek, Tezzeret the Seeker, and Muddle the Mixture (Evil gave me Sword and Muddle). I had Cryptic Command for Evil’s next spell to ensure he couldn’t get counters on Umezawa’s Jitte and disrupt my combo. I was ready to combo off when I drew Baneslayer Angel and rode her to victory.
Round 16: Cedric Phillips [USA], Dredge:
Game 1: I don’t remember much about this game except that I didn’t win. Evil was able to get some cards in his graveyard and start dredging. I wasn’t able to contain his spells with my countermagic and I started taking damage from Bloodghasts and Bridge from Below tokens. I couldn’t find a Trinket Mage or Tormod’s Crypt before Evil resolved Dread Return on Iona, Shield of Emeria (naming white) because I had to burn a Cryptic Command so that I wouldn’t die to combat damage. This game ended up taking a long time and I should have conceded a turn (five minutes) earlier.
Sideboard: -1 Cryptic Command, -1 Mana Leak, -2 Path to Exile, -1 Day of Judgment, -1 Wrath of God, -1 Chalice of the Void; +2 Glen Elendra Archmage, +3 Meddling Mage, +1 Relic of Progenitus, +1 Tormod’s Crypt.
Game 2: Evil took some damage from his fetchlands while I summoned two Meddling Mages, naming Dread Return and Stinkweed Imp. Glen Elendra Archmage followed shortly thereafter. Evil was able to get a Bridge from Below into his graveyard and get a Zombie token which stopped my Meddling Mages. I was able to chip away at Evil’s life total with the Glen Elendra Archmage and summon a second one. Evil played Echoing Truth twice to bounce the two Archmages, but I used one to counter his spell and remove the Bridge from Below from his graveyard each time. A few turns later we went to game three.
Game 3: We were short on time so I sideboarded in some Baneslayer Angels. Evil apparently kept a one-lander and summoned Hedron Crab on turn one. He passed on turn two with no action. I summoned a Meddling Mage (naming Ideas Unbound). Evil summoned a second Hedron Crab but played no land. I attacked and summoned a second Meddling Mage (naming Glimpse the Unthinkable). Both named cards were terrible choices. Evil had Hedron Crabs in play and I should have named something like Life from the Loam, Stinkweed Imp, Echoing Truth, Dread Return, or Ancient Grudge. I was pressed for time and didn’t think the situation through properly. Evil summoned a third Hedron Crab and played a Watery Grave to mill himself for nine cards; one Bridge from Below had been put into Evil’s graveyard. I attacked with the Meddling Mages and one of the Hedron Crabs blocked, creating a Zombie token which hindered my future attacks. I summoned a Glen Elendra Archmage, but wasn’t able to use it before Evil played Life from the Loam to get back some lands and start milling me. I attacked with the Glen Elendra Archmage while Evil summoned a Tombstalker and continued to mill me with his [card]Hedron Crab[/card]s. I couldn’t attack any further with the Glen Elendra Archmage and summoned a Baneslayer Angel with Archmage backup. Evil wasn’t able to do anything on his turn and I untapped with Cryptic Command. Baneslayer Angel attacked and Evil tapped out for some stuff on the following turn. I showed him the Cryptic Command to tap his team and that was it.
Round 17: Lukasz Musial [POL], One-Drop Zoo:
Game 1: Evil played first and summoned a Kird Ape. I used Spell Snare to counter a Tarmogoyf and was all set with Thirst for Knowledge on my third turn. However, Evil played Molten Rain to set me back a turn. I hadn’t drawn any more land which put me into a really bad position. Evil summoned another Tarmogoyf and a Wild Nacatl. I was unable to recover in time at that point.
Sideboard: -2 Cryptic Command, -1 Gifts Ungiven, -1 Tezzeret the Seeker,-1 Chalice of the Void, -1 Tormod’s Crypt, -1 Aether Spellbomb; +3 Baneslayer Angel, +2 Glen Elendra Archmage, +1 Path to Exile, +1 Crucible of Worlds.
Game 2: I figured that Crucible of Worlds would be “a land” at the minimum to help reduce the effectiveness of Molten Rain. Evil summoned a Kird Ape followed by a Wild Nacatl. I used Engineered Explosives to destroy the two creatures on my turn three. Evil summoned a Tarmogoyf while I was tapped out followed by a Gaddock Teeg on his next turn. I had Spell Snare ready for it though. I played a Crucible of Worlds which let me start recycling fetch lands. Evil went to attack with his Tarmogoyf, but I had Path to Exile. Thirst for Knowledge drew into a Thopter Foundry, Ancient Den, and another Arid Mesa. I was able to start making tokens by replaying the Ancient Den each turn with the Crucible of Worlds. Slowly my army of tokens increased. I summoned a Glen Elendra Archmage and was able to start attacking. Path to Exile shrank the Archmage to a 1/1 and as Evil drew more creatures, it became more difficult to attack with everything each turn. I had drawn all lands for the last few turns and was forced to only attack with the creatures that I had and use the token that I made each turn to block. Evil had two cards in hand, but I was confident that the Glen Elendra Archmage would be enough to go the distance. Two turns later, Evil was swarmed and couldn’t stop my lethal attack.
Game 3: Evil summoned a Wild Nacatl and followed up his play with a Kird Ape. I played Chrome Mox and Engineered Explosives for one. The Explosives destroyed Evil’s two creatures and he summoned a Tarmogoyf. I played Thirst for Knowledge and a tapped Hallowed Fountain. Tarmogoyf attacked me and Evil summoned another Wild Nacatl. I had Day of Judgment ready for the two. Evil was out of creatures and passed the turn. I played Sword of the Meek and Thopter Foundry. Evil still had no plays and I began making tokens; two at the end of Evil’s turn. I made another five the following. Evil couldn’t fight the two artifacts and conceded.
Round 18: Rafael Coqueiro [BRA], Rubin Zoo:
Game 1: I was on the play. Evil summoned a Wild Nacatl followed by a Noble Hierarch. I wasn’t too concerned with the Wild Nacatl because I knew that this Zoo deck was much slower than the traditional builds. I played Thirst for Knowledge which drew into the second half of my combo. Evil summoned a Baneslayer Angel. I began to make tokens to block every turn, but the process was complicated by Evil having a Punishing Fire. I was able to kill off Wild Nacatl and still block Evil’s Baneslayer Angel without taking more damage. I played Gifts Ungiven for Island, Snow-Covered Island, Hallowed Fountain, and Steam Vents so I could use the Vedalken Shackles in my hand to take Evil’s Baneslayer Angel while having Spell Snare back-up for a Qasali Pridemage in case he drew one. Once I had stolen the Baneslayer Angel, Evil wasn’t able to mount another offensive.
Game 2: Evil summoned Noble Hierarch on turn one. On turn two he played a Treetop Village and summoned a Tarmogoyf. The Tarmogoyf hit me and Evil summoned a Birds of Paradise and a Meddling Mage, naming Wrath of God. I was out of land in my hand and played a Thopter Foundry with an untapped Hallowed Fountain (from the previous turn). If I had really needed a land, I could have sacrificed the Thopter Foundry to make a token, block one of Evil’s attackers, and use Path to Exile to get a land. However, that play would have required me to wait an extra turn to do it because I was short on mana as well as take all the damage from Evil’s current attack. I decided against that play and used the Path to Exile on Evil’s Treetop Village when he animated it to attack with everything. I drew Chrome Mox and used it to play the Day of Judgment that I had been holding. Evil’s board was reset and he had no plays on his next turn. I was able to play Thirst for Knowledge into Baneslayer Angel while holding Mana Leak and Cryptic Command. The angel went the distance and I was victorious.
The dust settled with me in 12th place. While that didn’t give me enough pro points to get to level six, I was happy enough with my results. I wished that I had played more practice games with the Thopter deck because it turned out to be more difficult to pilot than I had expected. While I didn’t exactly crash and burn, I noticed at times a certain unfamiliarity with the deck and had to put more thought into figuring out the correct line of play rather than it coming to me instinctively. I wasn’t always correct.
The tournament was over. Everyone had finished up and we went out looking for a place to eat other than the one that we had been going to for the last few days. After trekking around for about ten minutes in the crisp air, we found a suitable restaurant and camped out on their patio as we enjoyed the food and company. Afterwards we went back to the site to look for a draft but found none because everyone had been kicked out and/or left; it was unbelievable. We had always been able to find drafts before.
Sunday had been planned out before we had gotten to Italy. Plan A: Win Worlds. Plan B: Go sightseeing. Plan C: Play in the Vintage side event and play in a few team drafts. Plan A didn’t fall into place. I didn’t want to go sightseeing alone so I was left with Plan C. I had brought my Tezzeret deck along with me and was eager to show the Europeans how to us Americans did it. The event was no-proxy and had an additional prize structure for the highest finishing un-powered deck which meant that the amount of Dredge was going to be higher than normal. Luis played in the event with me as well.
The side events room was chaos. There were fifty-five people in the event and they were all noisy. A riot nearly broke out when the head judge announced that there would be five rounds of Swiss followed by a cut to top-4. After correcting the number of Swiss rounds to six, the tournament started and an announcement was made that there would be no refunds. People expected a top-8 because the Vintage event from the previous day had had a top-8. There hadn’t been an announcement in the tournament description about a top-8 for either. People were caught off guard and wanted their money back. Additionally, a hearty portion of people who were losing game one also “felt like the tournament had been misrepresented” and deserved a refund. Go figure.
I got the Bye round 1 (like I had said earlier, I’m running pretty well), won round 2 against an Oath of Druids deck, and promptly lost round 3 to an aggro Mystic Remora deck with Tarmogoyf, Cold-Eyed Selkie, and Trygon Predator. Just like that I was out because only 5-0-1 made top-4. Luis had also lost and we went looking to draft. After losing a few drafts, we had had our fill. The only good thing about the day had been the free Red Bull. They were still handing them out and I was happy to accept a few (or eight).
The day was waning and we had all split up to go on our separate ways. Our flights were at different times and some people were staying in Rome for an additional week to absorb some culture. I was going to have no such part in staying longer because I had to get back home. I managed to tag along with Ben Stark, his girlfriend Michelle, and Ari Lax. They needed to stop at the apartment that they had rented in downtown to pick up their luggage before we headed to the airport. We stayed up all night playing in the lobby of our hotel before the taxi arrived at 3:30 AM.
The taxi driver was a maniac. I wasn’t sure exactly what process people went through to become “certified” taxi drivers here, but I was fairly confident in that all that was required in Italy was a middle finger, a lead foot, and a complete disregard for traffic laws. I was thankful that we had decided to leave when there weren’t any other cars on the road because we would have certainly died with the way we were being driven around. The taxi driver constantly swerved from left to right across all four lanes on the road, ignored red lights, and sped like he had been fleeing for his life. At one point in the trip we drove by the Coliseum. Sightseeing: check.
The ride to the airport was fast (gee, I wonder why) and we were soon through security and at Ben’s gate. We got some breakfast before parting ways. I had a marathon journey ahead of me, going from Rome to Amsterdam to Minneapolis to Phoenix to Oakland in the span of twenty-one hours. The trip was long and un-enjoyable. I almost missed my connecting flight in Minneapolis because Customs had pulled me aside for a “random security check”. I had to run through the airport to my gate. Thankfully my Greek-godlike physique leant itself well to the situation and I was able to get there just in time. The cabin doors were literally closed right after I got on. Eventually I got home and was safe and sound. The last few months had been a whirlwind of events. I was thankful that I had a break before starting over again in 2010 but sad that I wouldn’t see many of my friends until then.