This is my GP Portland report! (and some other things too)
When last I left you, I was going to the Limited portion of PT Amsterdam. As I said in my last article, the rounds were very uninteresting, so I won’t dwell much on them (also I kind of promised this would only be a one part article). I will try a somewhat different approach with this one, and you can tell me if you like less stories and more games (though with Limited it is harder to do much more in terms of games). If stories bother you, then just do a control F for “round 4” or whatever.
I started with a first pick Foresee and a second pick Foresee, which is great because that is probably my favorite common. After that, though, things went downhill – I couldn’t well settle on a second color, and my deck ended up UG (which is a combination I actually like), but with a problem that seems to be present in a lot of my M11 drafts – it couldn’t well decide if I was aggro or control. In the end, I was left with 2 Wall of Frost and 2 Garruk’s Companion, which clearly does not work both strategy and mana-wise, and since the deck was more Blue than Green and more Control than Aggro the two 3/2s ended up in my board, ready to come in against other controllish opponent. The mana was still pretty bad, and actual every single green card in my deck was double costed (Trolls, Basilisks, Awakener Druids, etc). Still, I did have two Foresees and a Mind Control, and some reasonable dudes, so not all was lost.
Round 1 I got paired against a random guy with a Wu deck with Angel’s Feathers who didn’t put up a lot of resistance.
Round 2 I got paired against Jan Doise with an excellent UW deck, with a lot of fliers and Blinding Mages. I didn’t have much in the way of fliers myself, or removal, and succumbed in two quick games. I boarded in Red for game two, since I had two Combust and a Prodigal Pyromancer, but I didn’t have any fixers other than the Scry spells and ended up dying the turn I drew my Mountain.
Round 3 I got paired against a deck that was overall better than mine, but not overwhelmingly so. He had a Grave Titan in his deck, and my only answer to that was Mind Control. Both games he had the Grave Titan (in one he tutored for it, though) and in neither I had the Mind Control, so I quickly lost and was out of the tournament. I did switch the Walls (really, who puts Deathtouch on a 6/6? Weren’t they happy enough getting two 2/2s every turn, did they have to kill my Wall too?) for the Garruk’s Companion, though, and promptly played it into a Pyroclasm to get myself out of day 2.
Overall, though, I think the biggest problem in this tournament was not the deck I chose (and the fact we didn’t have a good sideboard). It was not even the plays I made, my mulligan decisions, my pick choices – it was my mindset. Before San Juan, I’ve always felt like I deserved to win a Pro Tour. Now I have won one, and, well, it is hard to think to myself that I deserve to win more. Not that I don’t deserve to win, but I know there are many other people who are also very good, and they haven’t won a Pro Tour, or top 8ed many – it just seemed like it would be selfish of me to want to Top 8 something else so soon and maybe I should “let” other people. As such, losing in Amsterdam did not even feel bad – I was prepared to lose, it was only fair that I did. Well, news flash:
You should NEVER be prepared to lose
When you play in a tournament, every loss has to be a stab in your heart. The loss that puts you out of day two or out of Top 8 contention should take away a piece of your soul with it. You should never join a tournament with the mindset that losing is “ok”.
Of course, I know this is easier said than done – you cannot really “will” yourself to think in a certain way. When I play in Top 8s, I am usually so happy that I Top 8ed, and the sense of accomplishment is already so big, that I don’t mind losing as much as I should. For that reason, perhaps I (almost) always lose in the Top 8s. I know I should not think like that, and I try very hard not to, but I just can’t most of the time. Still, you should try your hardest to convince yourself that losing is not ok, never ok.
For GP Portland, my mindset was completely different. I wanted to win so much, and I believed I would win – I would say “yes” to everyone who asked “are you going to win?”, and I would actually mean that – I was ready to win GP Portland. Losing in that tournament would definitely not be OK, it would be a terrible blow. So, what happened to make me change my mind?
Brad Nelson happened!
You see, beforehand, I had my win and I was happy with it. But then I saw Brad winning, over and over, and realized that, if he “is allowed to do it”, then so am I. Brad passing me (by so many points, too!) in the Player of the Year lit a fire that makes me want to do well in every event, makes me want to win everything – it was really the best thing that could have happened to take me out of the slumber I was in. I really want to win that PoY thing, and every loss is now painful, a wasted opportunity (except for the one in the t8, but hey I know I have to work on those). So, Brad, watch out, I am gunning for you!
Anyway, I was out of the tournament. I went to the tournament with everyone else anyway on the next day (and when you don’t day 2 it always feels like everyone else did, even if that is not exactly true), because there was a Standard side event that I wanted to play in, since I have Nationals this weekend (which I am planning on winning, by the way, to climb back to the PoY Race, just so you know) and I hadn’t played a match of Standard. I choose to play Naya with Zigurats, to try it out. I could never cast t1 Birds/Hierarch, but cascaded into one every time I played Bloodbraid Elf. I dropped at 2-2, disgusted after losing to the life.dec (I know right!!).
I hung around for a couple drafts, and then there was the party. I know some people who thought it was a waste of time, but I always like those things, and I had a lot of fun. People looked like wild animals trying to get to the food (me included, in all likelihood), but once you actually got there it was pretty delicious (brownies with Strawberry!). The previews were a cool touch but somewhat disappointing, as most of the cards seemed bad and there were oh so many Myr reprints, and I liked the dancing (though the party could have used a few more Swedish Girls). At some point Chapin and I did some backflip thing that I was sure would get one of us killed, but in the end no one was harmed. The Mana Shots were also cool – I had a Blue one (obv obv). Zaiem had a Cruel Ultimatum shot, and Tom Martell could have cast three Progenitus with his. For those of you who weren’t there, here is a picture:
After that, we had a group of about 20 people who decided going to the Red Light District would be fun. We met a lot more magic players on the way, and also lost about half our original group in random places. In the end we just hanged around in the streets (with an extremely drunk Craig Wescoe yelling “Wescoe Check!” to anyone who would come close), not actually going anywhere, and went back to our hotel.
We got there on Sunday by the time the quarterfinals were finishing, and I did a couple more drafts before we left. I also tried a couple games with the RG Valakut deck, and it turned out to be the worst deck I’ve ever played (sorry Ben!)
Sunday night me, Ben Stark, Nassif and LSV decided to go Cube at the hotel Lobby. It was full of judges playing EDH, so we kindly and quietly requested to use the Restaurant tables, and the woman who was there said as long as we didn’t wreak havoc we could do it. Then Nassif proceeded to explain how the format worked, and it was some kind of Winston Rochester two-headed-giant-but-not-quite draft. No one quite understood what was going on, and in the end Nassif ended up with every Mox in the cube, and those things may or may not be related.
We did random teams after, and I got to play with LSV, who had tricked everyone in the Rochester into thinking he was picking Blue cards but had built a Naya Aggro instead. I built a 4-land Belcher (60 cards) and we lost 2×1 when I activated Belcher twice to hit our 15 life opponents and dealt a total of five damage. Now, this was a match that was worth absolutely nothing and it already left me kind of frustrated; I can only imagine what would happen if I was to pick up Legacy Belcher at a GP, got the perfect hand to combo on turn 1, and then dealt two damage – I am definitely not playing this deck anytime soon.
At this point it was very late, and every single person in the lobby had moved to the restaurant tables, which couldn’t have made the woman very happy. We packed our stuff and went to sleep.
Next morning we again ate at the “all you can eat” Japanese place, and then went around for a tour, me, Zaiem, Nassif and his girlfriend. We walked around a bit and had a Boat Tour to Anne Frank’s house, though we never actually got inside, and it was overall very pleasant.
For the evening, we met with people who were staying at Stayokay, and then played some Werewolf (which is like Mafia, except with Werewolves and therefore the superior version). Apparently I am a very logical person with valid points, but also very easy to read – I got lynched every single game, though in most of them I was actually the wolf so it’s excusable. We also played some 5 seconds Mental Magic and Alphabetic Mental Magic, and I beat Mat Marr (Maar?) like seven games to zero 😀
On the following day Zaiem and I met Lauren Lee, Tom Ross and Brian Kibler to celebrate Kibler’s birthday. They had drinks in a lot of places (I don’t drink much), and then we went to a Karaoke bar, the first time I ever went to one (not counting those in Japan where you get a cabin for yourself and friends). At first, I was very scared. Now, you see, this is not because I am shy – in fact, I am not shy at all. My problem was that, though I like singing, I have never been particularly good at it. As such, I was afraid other people would just hate me; I didn’t really know how good you were supposed to be to be singing there. When they say “you are welcome to sing even if you are bad”, do they really mean it? Won’t everyone think “wow what are you doing there”, “why do you try to sing if you so clearly can’t”, “stop the torture please”? Will they throw tomatoes at me?
All my fears vanished, though, the instant a gentlemen named Scott decided to perform a song. Scott was terrible. I knew that, no matter how bad I was, I HAD to be better than Scott. No one was yelling at him to stop singing; No one was throwing stuff at him. Most importantly, though, I knew he was bad, and I didn’t care – I was having fun, singing along and applauding. That told me that you really were welcome to sing, even if you were bad, and I sang a couple songs on my own, as well as “I will Survive” with Kibler and Tom Ross, and “Phantom of the Opera” with Lauren Lee.
We left early because we had early flights, and the next morning took a tram and then a train to the airport, and I arrived with plenty of time to catch my 10:30 flight.
Except it was at 8 instead.
So, what had happened was that I had looked at the arrival time instead of the departure time and, for the first time ever, I missed a flight and was responsible for it. This trip was, in fact, the first time for many things – it was, as I’ve already mentioned, the first time I went to Karaoke. It was also the first time White Weenie was ever good in a tournament (at least I assume it was good – it had to be, with the results it posted. I did get to try WW during testing, but all my builds had U for Meddling Mage and none of them had Brave the Elements, which seems to be a key card I missed, since it gives you some reach as well as protecting your Canonist).
It was the first time my iPod Shuffle ever ran out of battery – I charge it sometimes because I don’t want to have it run off in the middle of a trip, but for all I knew the battery was infinite. It was the first time I saw someone ever request a middle seat in an airplane – I strongly prefer aisle myself, since I like the freedom of getting up whenever I want, but I understand those who prefer window because they don’t ever have to get up when they don’t want to, but middle is just the worst of both worlds and I saw a guy during check in specifically saying he wanted a middle seat. It was also the first time I tried some hardcore drugs, in Amsterdam. Nah, just kidding, I do those all the time. Ok, ok, I don’t.
Anyway, since I had missed my flight, that meant I would also miss my connection in Barajas (and, just so you are sure this is me writing this, I hate the Barajas Airport). That wouldn’t be a problem, except my ticket was purchased with American Airlines, and not Iberia, and American Airlines does not have a representative in Schiphol. No big deal, right, I can just call them with those six Euros of coins I have left (no working phone etc).
Well, as it turned out, phone calls in public phones in the Netherlands are more expensive than I had predicted. Back home I can talk for literally hours with six Euros, but at the airport phone my money ended before they could even locate my ticket. I then went to the book store and asked for a phone card; The woman told me she had one for ten Euros, and I asked for how long it lasted. She asked where I was calling, and I said it was a local call. She then made a wave gesture with her hand, as if it lasted for so long that I could not possibly use it all and shouldn’t even bother with the limit. Then she said it lasted 20. At this point, from her expression, I am fully expecting her to finish with “hours”. How very naïve of me.
19 minutes later, and 106 euros poorer (90 for the flight change and 10 for the card, as well as 6 in coins), I have a new ticket that goes to London instead.
Once I got to London and try to check in to JFK (so I could then go to Seattle), I find out that, when the woman rebooked my ticket on the phone, she completely erased the part that left from Portland back to Brazil. One would think that would be simple to correct, but it was not. The main problem is that my ticket included a flight with Alaskan Airlines, and that part could not be rebooked with the fare I had originally booked it with, and that I had missed some of my trip and that canceled that part and then the other parts all automatically cancelled too, except ones that were in a different plane ticket, which meant I could not change those either. I talked to a woman at the check in, and she talked to everyone in there without much success. She then phoned a bunch of different people, and all her conversations started with “I have this passenger here and it is going to be very complicated and take a lot of your time” and finished with “yes, I’ve already tried that” “and that” “and that” “ok, I will wait.”
At this point, we are 45 minutes in, there is a gigantic line waiting behind me, and it doesn’t look like we are getting close to solving it. The guy directly behind me started yelling that 45 minutes for a check in is an absurd, that the other attendants have each helped 10 people in that time and that “American Airlines is getting worse than Webjet” or whatever a very bad US company is, and the woman yells at him in return. She keeps getting redirected on the phone and no on has any clue what to do, and at some point we are already there for two hours and things get so ridiculous that I’m already friends with all the attendants, they offer me drinks, candy and cake and we chat happily while we wait for my problem to be solved. In the end, she managed to work it out – all I would need to do to rebook my flight with Alaskan is to pay the modest fee of 445 pounds.
Now, I have no problem paying the 90 euros to change my ticket (or rather, I do have a problem, but it was my mistake and I cannot complain about it). But this seemed totally like someone else’s mistake, and I saw no reason why I would have to pay for it, especially this ridiculous amount of money. And, anyway, what is another half hour of arguing for someone who has been there for two hours?
I argue with the attendants, with the supervisor, with a person behind the phone. In the end, after about three hours, we finally find someone who manages to cancel one of the flights I lost but not all the others, and instead of charging me 445 pounds, gives me a 145 dollar refund – so I actually made money by missing my flight, even if it took me three hours! See, it pays to be persistent!
I get to JFK and then Seattle, and I go to Zaiem’s house, where I am staying. The following day we go to Wizards of the Coast, where Aaron Forsythe is nice enough to give us a tour – thanks Aaron! The place is very awesome, and I got to meet a lot of people, some of which I already knew. I also got to see all this new cards they were working on, though they didn’t let me take any pictures – you guys just wait to see the new UB Planeswalker that will be on a future set, it’s basically as good as Jace!
Ok, that is a lie. Though I do think the new red Planeswalker is almost as good as Jace.
After that I had lunch with a lot of the WOTC staff, and in the afternoon we got to go to a local store in Seattle, where they were having a draft. I joined the draft, though I only got to play at one round, because we had to leave to eat pho (or however you spell that Vietnamese thing) and then go to Karaoke again.
This time we were joined by a lot more people (Zaiem, Zaiem’s wife Hollie, Dwayne St. Arnauld and his wife Teresa, Zac Hill, Tim Aten, Lee Sharpe, David Guskin, Tifa Meyen, Tony Mayer, his wife Misty, Jed Dolbeer, some people I didn‘t know, some people I know but don‘t know the name, some people I don‘t remember) and it was again very cool. I wish we had more of those Karaoke places where I live, they seem like they are always a lot of fun.
The next day we drove to GP Portland (yay)!
Ok, ok, I’ve digressed enough. Lets go to the point where I open this pool, minus unplayables:
Some guys have all the luck, etc, etc. I know.
Looking at this pool, it is obvious that I am playing blue and artifacts. Green is definitely out, and white is just a bunch of creatures, which is not what I am looking for – I’d rather have removal to go with my card drawing and bombs – so the choice is between red and black. In the end, Black won out due not only to sheer quality (Doom Blade is better than Outrage) but also because of curve issues, which is really important with Call to Mind and two Foresees. It’s unfortunate that I can’t play Hoarding Dragon with so many good artifacts, but this deck has so much power in either version that I just don’t want to die early.
This is what I ended up with:
This deck is obviously ridiculously insane. I had not day 2ed a sealed GP since Shards, and I knew that if I did not day 2 with this one, I’d not day 2 with any pool. I saw a lot of strong decks, but none of the decks I saw or played against were as good as mine, and I fully intended not to lose a match in the sealed portion. I was also extremely happy when they announced there was going to be a tenth sealed round, since I would have played all the rounds with this if I could.
– I don’t like Terramorphic Expanse in two colors. There, I said it. Most people, very good people, think I am retarded for thinking that, but I still think so and cannot stop myself from thinking like that. Their argument is that you will lose games or mulligan hands because Terramorphic is not the correct basic, and my argument is that I think you will lose more games because the land comes into play tapped in the late game. Everyone else claims they are correct and I am wrong, but I think they cannot actually know how much more likely it is to lose for one reason or another, and it is just a matter of “feeling”. I might be wrong, you don’t have to do as I do, but since in the end I think it is just feeling, I will go with mine and not anyone else’s.
– Because the deck is so strong and has so much quality, as well as plenty of card advantage with two Foresees (and Call to Mind), Mind Control, Titan, etc, I chose to play in the dark in every game. I reasoned that I would only lose to a quick rush, and playing prevents that. Once I got to see their decks, I sometimes chose to draw.
– I kept in mind that, if my opponent was very heavy Black, I could switch to Red after game 1, but that never happened. I did board Call to Mind out against decks where I thought I wouldn’t have enough targets to recur Doom Blade, though. Other relevant sideboard cards were Flashfreeze, Stabbing Pain, Bog Raiders, though boarding with this deck was very tough because all the cards were good – Call to Mind and Gargoyle Sentinel were pretty much the only cards I ever boarded out. I also think it’s worth noting that, in this format, Sideboards are very important – there are so many great cards to side in (Stabbing Pain, Armored Cancrix, Hornet Sting, all the color hosers, Bog Raiders, even the 2/2 Goblin for R) and people often do not even check their boards for anything.
After building, we had to wait an actual eternity for our rounds to start. We manage to do an entire team draft + playing before they finish one round (Drafted RG, had two Obstinate Baloths, two Lightning Bolts, two Fireballs, didn‘t win a game, RG sucks). When I talked about Sweden in my last article, I forgot to mention one thing – it really is the kind of thing you can only fully appreciate when it’s taken from you. In Sweden, the tournament was scheduled to start at 9:30. It literally started at 9:30 and thirty seconds. In Seattle, it started one hour late, and every round went on for around one hour and a half. People with three byes got to play at around 4 or 5 PM – by that time, I had dropped in Sweden already! It really is somewhat absurd that tournaments end at midnight and then next day starts at 8:45 – there just isn’t enough time to move between hotel/venue, shower, eat and get decent sleep. I understand that the tournament is big and hard to run, but Sweden had 1K people and was ran perfectly, so it is definitely something that can be done with enough dedication/people.
The Main Event
My opponent had an aggressive UW deck. Game one I mulliganed to 5, he played Ajani, and I won effortlessly. Told you my deck was good!
Game two he starts with turn two Elite Vanguard, and I Preordain into Reassembling Skeletons and Mana Leak. My hand is 4 land, [card]Foresee[/card], Stone Golem. I am keeping the Skeleton for sure, but what do I do with the Mana Leak?
At the time, I reasoned that the only window I would have to cast Mana Leak would be on turn three, since I would want to play spells on turns two, four and five, and probably over five too since I had Foresee to dig for more spells. I reasoned that I could do better, and shipped it to theh bottom. My opponent proceeded to play turn two White Knight, turn four Ajani – and I did not have a Mana Leak. After that he played another creature and Mana Leaked my creature, and I was quickly smashed. If I keep that Mana Leak in there, I think I probably win the game – it shouldn’t matter that I only have one turn to cast it, I can just Mana Leak whatever his turn four play is and it should buy me enough time to get to my important cards.
Game three I had turn two Overseer on the play, and turn three Gargoyle Sentinel, though I did not play it because he passed with WU open after Preordaining. I really think that, in this format, one of the most important skills to have is to know when to play your spells into Blue mana or not. I like Mana Leak and Cancel more than almost anyone in M11, and I’ve seen many games being decided because someone played, or did not play a spell into open Blue mana. It is almost like playing Faeries – if they play something, you counter it. If they don’t, you play Unsummon or Jace’s Ingenuity. Perhaps you have neither, perhaps you have both. Much of the time there isn’t one strictly correct answer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about it anyway.
In this case, waiting felt better – I have the board advantage with Overseer in play, and the Gargoyle seems to be an important card (because I have the Overseer). There is no reason to rush it into Mana Leak, and he has to make the first move anyway, so I can afford to wait. On turn three he plays something, and then I play the Gargoyle and some more guys and win through his Ajani again.
Game two I had a much better early defense, and though at some point he did play Squadron Hawk to get two more, that was too late and I already had such a big board advantage. It left me very scared, though, because Squadron Hawk is a beast against my deck.
Game three I had turn two Steel Overseer, and he had turn two Squadron Hawk to go with his Infantry Veteran. I am on the back foot for a while, and though my hand is excellent, I have to take care not to lose to Threaten – I just can’t play my Frost Titan. I Mind Control a Squadron Hawk and do a lot of blocking, and during a turn I even purposely decline to pump Overseer because I don’t want it to be too big if it gets Threatened and it doesn’t look like the size is going to kill him.
At some point I have enough blockers that I can play Juggernaut and Sword of Vengeance, and I attack him with it. He plays Act of Treason and alpha strikes, and I do a lot of blocking and in the end am left with my own Juggernaut, and he is tapped out. I then play Stone Golem, equip Sword and kill him.
This was probably the hardest match in the sealed portion – it was funny how once we got to the “good” decks at X-0 I just outclassed all of them, but the fast decks were the ones giving me trouble, not the ones with bombs. Kind of made me happy that I was choosing to play first.
Round 6 was a Feature Match against Tim Aten. I’d link it to you, but sideboard.com isn’t working at the time, so I have no clue, but you can probably find it very easily if you want to.
Game one we trade a bunch of removal spells and we get to a point where we are somewhat stalled and I have the choice between Call to Minding a Doom Blade (both are gone) or a Foresee. Since I had a Mind Control in my hand still, in case he dropped some bomb, going with the Foresee seemed to be the better option, because there were many strong cards left to draw. I ended up Foreseeing into creature + Sword of Vengeance, but he had the third Bolt to kill it (plus a Doom Blade and a Chandra’s Outrage). In the end I Mind Control his Spined Wurm, and that plus another guy that I draw, as well as the Sword, seal the deal.
Game two was all about me deciding what to play around, since I had a bunch of guys and Sword of Vengeance, but knew he had a lot of instant speed removal. In the end it came down to him re-playing a Fire Servant, with enough mana to lethal me next turn if he had a Fireball (which I hadn’t seen and he wasn’t likely to have in hand from the way he played, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t draw it), but no way to win if he didn’t have one (or Destructive Force I suppose). I tried very hard to think of all the attacking scenarios that would force him to block with the Servant, and after a long while (I would not have been surprised if I had gotten a Slow Play warning there) I decided there was no way to reliably do it and settled for getting him to 1 life. He didn’t have the Fireball and I won.
Round 7: I don’t know if this is round 7 or 8, but it’s pretty much irrelevant
My opponent this round was playing an UG deck. Game one seems to be very much in my favor, and I kill everything he plays. At some point, I play Frost Titan. He thinks for literally three minutes, and then Mana Leaks it. Yeah, I guess you are not going to find a better target for that, after all. We get to the game state where I have Azure Drake, Liliana’s Specter and Reassembling Skeleton in play, a Call to Mind in hand, and 10 life. In my graveyard there is a Foresee and a Doom Blade. He is at 6 life, has a Sylvan Ranger and one card in hand, that he has had for a while. He untaps, draws, plays Spined Wurm and passes. I draw a land.
I figure that the best I can do is get back the Doom Blade, kill his Wurm and attack him. I cast the Call to Mind targeting Doom Blade, and then he asks me to see my graveyard. At this point, every single alarm bell I had in my head sounded “Redirect” – just from the way he acted, how he made sure the spell hadn’t resolved before he looked at my graveyard, it just really made me think he had a Redirect. I then think for a while and consider not playing the Doom Blade – I don’t even need it anyway… but hey, Redirect is a RARE… how very lucky would he have to be to have that exact Rare in his hand?
So I just played the Doom Blade. And he redirected it to my Azure drake. I knew it. I am an idiot. Anyway, no big deal – I just attack him down to four with my Specter, and I have the Skeleton to block. On his turn, he draws and plays Sleep. On my turn I draw another land and die.
It makes me feel a bit better that the fact that he drew Sleep means he would have beaten me anyway even if I had not played the Doom Blade, but I really messed up on this one – the picture of the card jumped to my face and I completely ignored it for no reason. Hell, I don’t even know if it is right to Doom Blade his guy even if he doesn’t have the Redirect – it very likely isn’t.
Game two I again have the advantage, but he keeps drawing into business (admittedly after being flooded for a while). At some point I have four creatures to his one and he is at one life or something, and then he draws and plays Jace’s Ingenuity into Cudgel Troll AND Aether Adept to survive for one more turn, but in the end that was still not enough.
I don’t remember game three, but I won (but of course you know that already, since I went 10-0. I‘m such a master).
Round 8 I played against a guy with BR, and game one he just got overpowered.
I consider taking out the black, since I didn’t see any Red creatures, but I figure that I didn’t actually see much of his deck anyway, and I just don’t bother, deciding to board in only a Flashfreeze.
Game two I have the board advantage until he plays Inferno Titan (not taking out the Doom Blades now!) and kills all my guys. I have Aether Adept in my hand, but only one Island. I then Foresee into Island, Island, Mana Leak, Preordain. The way I see it, my options are:
– I keep all the four cards on top, and hope to Adept + Mana Leak his Titan
– I keep Island, Preordain, and cast Preordain to try to find Mind Control or Doom Blade for the next turn
– I put all four on the bottom, and try to draw a Doom Blade (which I can still play this turn if I don’t Preordain).
I chose to go with option one. I draw Island and Mana Leak, since there is no point in Preordaining this turn when I am going to leave both cards on top anyway. On the following turn I play my third Island and bounce his Titan. He makes the correct assumption that I have a counterspell (I would never keep all the cards on top if I couldn’t deal with the Titan) and waited three more turns to be able to pay for the Mana Leak, and then I died (though he had a bunch of other stuff I couldn’t deal with too). Looking back, it was probably wrong to do what I did, if only because he can wait (like he did) and eventually pay 3, and then I will have to find a solution for the Titan anyway – might as well try to find it on the spot.
Game three he was a bit flooded and just died.
Round 9: My opponent in this round was pretty cool (in fact, pretty much every single opponent I had in this tournament was cool. Not that I often play against non cool people, but this time it was like all of them so I think it is worth mentioning; If you played against me in this tournament, consider yourself complimented), BUT he didn’t put up any resistance in any shape or form. Still had all these etc.
For the mercy of God they decided to move the last round to the following day, which means it only ended at midnight. At 8:45 we were there to play, and I got paired against Matt Nass.
We had both just seen each other decks and sideboards, and I knew his deck was very good (he had Mind Control, Frost Titan, Blinding Mage, Pacifism, Angelic Arbiter, Vengeful Archon, 2 Squadron Hawk, 2 Cancel (which I was afraid of)). It was probably the second best deck I saw, and after board he could switch to Black with 2 Doom Blade and 2 Quag Sickness. Regardless of that, he seemed to think he could not possibly win the match, and that my deck was much better than his.
It was also a covered feature match.
Game one I chose to play, because of the reasons I mentioned above – I didn’t really want to die to an early rush of white creatures, and I knew he did not have a lot in terms of removal so I might as well try to rush him with Overseer or Juggernaut or something like that. Might have been wrong, though, I think it was a close call.
Game one I Frost Titaned him out.
For game two, I noticed that he was siding in the Black. I then called a judge and asked for two “of this land” that I showed him. They were Islands, and I just swapped them for two other Islands in my deck, as well as changing two other cards for the same two cards. I did that because he had just seen my sideboard, and I wanted to keep him thinking about what I could be adding, and perhaps to play around something I didn’t have. He said something like “what, you’re changing colors too?”, so it kind of worked, but in the end I don’t think he paid much attention to it or lost a lot of his brain cells trying to figure out what I was doing. My apologies to the judge who had to walk and get me lands I didn’t need, but hey, it was for a noble cause!
My decision to play game one paid out when, in game two, he also chose to play. His words were something like “I’d choose to draw, but you are smarter than me and you chose to play… eh I guess I’ll play”. This suited me perfectly, because, against his UB control deck with a ton of removal, I would much rather draw, even if I had chosen to play against his UW version of it.
Game two we both have slow starts. I Doom Blade his first guy, and my first creature is Stone Golem which he Mind Controls after playing a Banshee. At this point, if he has a way to deal with my Frost Titan, I am dead. It turns out he did not have one of his two Doom Blades, nor his own Titan, and Titan with [card]Sword of Vengeance[/card] won it for me.
One interesting play this game was when I played Call to Mind targeting Doom Blade, and he Canceled it. Most of the time people would rather counter the actual spell if they can, to make the opponent waste more of his mana (the same is true in case of Tutors), but this time I was not actually going to play the spell on this turn – if he does not Cancel the Call to Mind, then I am just going to wait to play Doom Blade and he will have to keep three mana up forever assuming he has to protect something (since, at the moment, I don’t even want to kill anything). If I knew he was going to Cancel Call to Mind, I would probably not have played it.
I started my first draft with a first pick Day of Judgment over Azure Drake. I know some people don’t like it (Luis for example), but I do – I actually like UW control more than the W aggro decks. Besides, with Day of Judgment, you get to beat all the W aggro players who picked Infantry Veteran over it, and teach them a lesson.
My next pick offered me the choice between Squadron Hawk and Clone, and I picked the Clone – it seems to me to be the more powerful card, and UW is where I wanna be anyway with a first pick Wrath, so it does not harm me that I am choosing another color.
The draft continued with me taking UW cards, though some of them were more suited for aggro than control, like Sleep, since I didn’t manage to pick good control cards. I picked Scroll Thief over Jace’s Ingenuity at some point, and that was very likely wrong – though I really love Scroll Thief, at that point it seemed like I would have no way to push him through, and then he is not very good, whereas Ingenuity fits the Cancel/DoJ plan perfectly. I managed to pick two Cancels late (did I mention how much I like Counterspells in this format?), but in the end my deck ended up with some sort of identity crisis:
I don’t know what the last card is; I kept all my decks to write the report, but I left this one in my checked suitcase, and it ended up in New York instead of Brazil, because why would it not, and hasn’t gotten here yet, so I don’t have access to it.
Game one was against a UG deck. Game one was really tricky, and I win if at any point I draw Sleep. I make a point to play all the lands I get, because I might draw into Foresee or Jace’s Ingenuity and then get a land and a spell I want to play, and that is more important than bluffing. On a certain turn, he attacks and I have the option to try to trade with his guys, or I can keep my two Squadron Hawks (he is at 5) and a Siege Mastodon and try to draw either Sleep or Triskelion to kill him. I reason that my chances of winning are not big if we trade, so I go to 1 and keep my three guys to give me a chance to get lucky. I draw Jace’s Ingenuity, and the third card is Triskelion. I have exactly 11 mana, because I played every single hand I had. Yay!
I sided in another Harbor Serpent.
Game two I play a Serpent and he dies. Ok, kind of. We got to an interesting point once – he is at 11 and I am at 7, and I have Siege Mastodon, Serpent and Squadron Hawk to his Azure Drake. He attacks with the Drake, and I don’t block, going to 5. The reason I didn’t block was because it hits him for one, putting him to 10, which is an extra turn with the Serpent anyway. If he was at 10, however, I would have blocked – I basically just want to live for two turns, and I don’t want to take the risk of him having, say, Plummet + Giant Growth next turn. As it was, he did not play another guy, so I was safe to attack with the two ground ones (putting him to 3) and leaving the Hawk back to block.
Round 12 I played against a White/Red deck. Game one I am stuck on four lands for a while, and my hand is a bunch of Siege Mastodons. I cast a Foresee, and find land and Day of Judgment, which I keep. On his turn he uses Blinding Mage main phase to tap my remaining blocker and attacks me for 5, down to 5, with two cards in hand. He turns his guys sideways very fast. That seems to be a somewhat aggressive play, and I suspect he just wants to burn me out. As 6 is a lot more than 5 in a format with Lava Axe, I Diminish one of his 2/2s, taking only four. One life for a card is a pretty bad deal, but hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to stay alive, and I felt the sixth life was more than worth my Diminish.
After that I Wrath, I untap holding Cancel, and it doesn’t look like I can lose if I am careful. I get to play Siege Mastodon with Cancel up, and with two cards in hand he Mighty Leaps his Infantry Veteran. I let it resolve and take three, down to three. Next turn I can play another Mastodon, which ups my clock by one turn, or Wild Griffin. I think it is reasonable that he has another Mighty Leap (since it would be a card that he wouldn’t have played yet), and I really think that particular game was all about playing not to lose, so I played the Griffin. A turn later I play the Mastodon, and then I draw a Condemn. I attack, and after damage Condemn my own Mastodon, and at that point can’t lose anymore.
Round 13: this round I played against a kid with UB control. I knew he was UB Control, so I chose to draw. Game one we both get somewhat flooded, and I reason he has Corrupt because he immediately plays every Swamp he draws. I draw more drawing spells, Condemn his relevant creature and in the end I sculpt a hand where I eventually go counter into counter into Serpent plus Clone on the same turn. He has the Corrupt to kill one, but the other kills him.
Game three I mulligan into a hand that has Island, Squadron Hawk, Silvercoat Lion and spells, on the draw. I don’t know what possessed me to keep that hand – I figured since he had almost no creatures I could afford the loss of time, and Squadron Hawk is really good against him. I also figured the match after board was not in my favor (looks like we’re talking about constructed doesn’t it!), and I wouldn’t have much of a chance mulliganing to five. It was all a bunch of nonsense that I criticize people for thinking, and I should not have kept. As it turned out, I did draw an Island and a Plains on turn three, but he had a Doom Blade for my Lion and a Mana Leak for my Condemn to break through with Scroll Thief, and after that I got stalled on four lands for a bit and he just overpowered me with drawing spells.
Draft two started with a solid pack – it had a lot of decent cards, and the best was Pacifism, which I took. The rare was Captivating Vampire. Next pack there is Excommunicate and nothing else – the rare is another Captivating Vampire. Now, a normal person would just take Excommunicate here. I should have taken Excommunicate. Instead, though, I decided to show the world how smart I am, and took the Captivating Vampire. My reasoning was that the Vampire is not a good card, and he could definitely wheel from the first pack from what I had seen. I was the only person who knew there were two Vampires in the draft – the guy before me would get to see the second one, but he would never think his own was going to wheel, since his pack was very bad. In any case, there was a big chance he would just think it is the same Captivating Vampire, and not that he has another one coming next booster. So, intending to wheel it, I took the Vampire.
This pick is just bad; My reasoning is actually somewhat solid, I think, but even if I get two of them they are probably not worth the gamble, and I already have a Pacifism – should have just taken the Excommunicate.
It ended up not being terrible, though; I obviously did not wheel the other Vampire, but the black cards kept coming (at least in packs one and two; by pack three it seemed everyone had moved to Black). I made a point to pick two Deathmarks, because, in this draft, I don’t have to 3-0 – I really only have to beat one person, and Deathmark is good for that. I also picked two Bog Raiders. In the end my deck ended up being a normal deck, nothing spectacular but seemed capable of winning a match to me:
Notable sb: 2 Bog Raiders
Round 14: This was a feature match against Jon Loucks (sorry if I misspelled your name, I have credit on that regard though). It is not covered I don’t think, but it was on camera. Maybe it was covered…
His deck was also UB (obv obv why would it ever be green or white), and seemed about on par with mine. I lost game one to Sleep, won game two with Juggernaut + Clone on Juggernaut, and then lost game three to Phantom Beast + Rotting Legion, then Sleep, and then Diabolic Tutor for Sleep.
Round 15 was against UG. First game could have gone either way I think, but his Mind Control won it for him. During this game, he attacked with Sacred Wolf, I blocked with Azure Drake and he played Giant Growth.
Game two started better for me; I played a couple fliers and Ice Caged his Azure Drake. Then, at some point, I had Azure Drake and he attacked with Sacred Wolf. Now, if he has Giant Growth, I would much rather he cast it now, and not when I attack with my other flier and he gets to free his Ice Caged guy and block. His attack makes no sense – he does not have the Giant Growth, and if he does, he does not want to spend it on his Wolf. I block, and he bins his guy and passes. I play some more fliers and win after that, even though he does draw Giant Growth two turns later to free his guy.
Game three he Mana Leaked my turn three play, Mind Controlled my Juggernaut, Giant Growth’ed my blocker, and then, when I thought I was going to stabilize with Clone on his Wurm + Deathmark, after trading with the Juggernaut, he plays Stormtide Leviathan, for which my only answer is Unsummon (which is not quite an answer when I am at 10 and he is at 20). Two turns later, I’m dead.
Right. This is just the worst. I check the standings and realize that, even if I win my next round, I might still not make it, because some guy has tiebreakers that are better than mine. Seriously, how dare he have better tiebreakers than mine when I started 12-0? Who does he think he is?
Anyway, there is nothing left for me other than winning my last round and hoping that either the tiebreakers change a bit (he is not much ahead of me, after all), or that he loses.
My opponent was playing Wu (later WB), and again we were on camera.
Game one I started with Viscera Seer and Captivating Vampire, and he had Wild Griffin. I started attacking, and so did he. Now, in this match, clearly one of us did not know who was supposed to be the beatdown, and I think that person (the one who didn’t know, not the one who was supposed to be the beatdown) was him. My hand had Deathmark, Quag Sickness, Stabbing Pain and Ice Cage – if he ever leaves his Griffin up to block, I am going to kill it. Since he never does, I am happy trading damage. He Condemns my Lord, and I think Scrying is better than gaining two. In the last turn of the game, he plays Axe and equips it triumphantly, but I have the Stabbing Pain and he dies on the return attack.
Game two I have two lands and Viscera Seer, and Scroll Thief in my hand but no third land. I consider sacrificing the Seer to scry, but decide against it, as I am actually attacking with it and I know he has the likes of Pacifism, which will let me get value from that later on. It might have been wrong, I don’t know.
I fail to draw my third land ever, and then he plays Alluring Siren and a blocker. At this point I sacrifice the Seer, and again fail to find a land. When I do, it’s too late.
Game three I played a bunch of fliers and, by the time he found a Serra Angel, it had to trade with my Shade and he died.
Now I had to wait for tiebreakers. I found the guy who was my new mortal enemy, and found out that he had lost, which made me pretty much a lock, since we were a full 5% ahead of the next person. I think I did a pretty terrible job of hiding my delight when he said he had lost his match, and I apologize for that – he was a cool guy who seemed to play well (he was my round 13 opponent) and was probably pretty upset at the time because he too was 12-1 and ended up going 0-3.
I was announced as 8th place, which wasn’t very surprising.
My top 8 draft started with Sleep, because I didn’t have anything else to take. I know all my decks have 150 Sleeps in them, but I don’t even like the card that much – it is the kind of card that, when I am playing against them, I just hope “please don’t draw Sleep”, but when I am playing with it, I always hope I please don’t draw Sleep either because it is a dead draw. Of course, sometimes it just wins you the game, and it is an excellent topdeck in a stalled board, but most of the time I hate drawing it.
After that I got two Blinding Mages, and after the first pack I was solidly in UW. My second pack offered me Mind Control and then Air Servant, two of the top three Uncommons in the format in my opinion (the other being Fireball), and from the first pack I wheeled the choice of Infantry Veteran and Azure Drake. There are certainly decks in which I think Veteran is better, but my deck seemed, again, more controllish than aggro, so I went with the Drake. Pack three gave me another good finisher in Angelic Arbiter (which I think is underrated), and in the end I was pretty happy with my deck:
I like around 18 cards in that deck, and then the other 4 are fillers. I struggled a bit with the last slot, and ended up with Squadron Hawk. I don’t really like main deck Celestial Purge (even many of the R or B decks don’t have many targets) and I’m also not a fan of Solemn Offering, especially since I already had a War Priest… I thought I didn’t have enough creatures (or cheap creatures, anyway – if I have Air Servant and Arbiter then I don’t care much about pumping them) to justify Inspired Charge over another creature, even if it is somewhat mediocre… I could easily be wrong on that, though, the Hawk just felt like the better card at the time.
Round 500: Martin Juza
It was annoying that I had to get paired against Martin, but oh well…. His deck was a good UB control build.
Game one I played Air Servant and Mind Controlled his Sphinx, and he named Doom Blade with it when I attacked. He was not dead that turn, so I don’t have any reason to believe he was trying to deceive me about having a Doom Blade, and he might have multiples. He Ice Cages my Servant, but I Diminish it and kill him.
Game two was interesting; I had two fliers and the Axe I boarded in. The turn I played Cloud Crusader, Martin paused for a while, with his mana up. Then he took his turn. That pause looked sooo much like a debate on whether he was going to play Doom Blade or not at the end of the turn – I had already ignored my impressions once, and in the end I was correct, so I was not about to ignore them again – for all intents and purposes, he had the [card]Doom Blade[/card]. Because of that, on a certain turn, I attacked with both my fliers. He took four damage and then, post combat, I equipped one of them. The reason I did not equip pre combat was that, if I do not, he is definitely not Doom Blading anything – he will assume I have something better to play (after all, why didn’t I equip?) and he is going to save it for a better target (or an equipped guy next turn), taking four. If I equip it and attack, he is just going to Doom Blade the one I equipped, and take two instead. In both scenarios he will end up killing the guy I equip, but in one of them I deal two more damage.
Those two damage were not enough to win me the game, though (he did have Doom Blade), and we went to game three.
My hand game three was Drake, Mind Control and 5 lands. I immediately drew Sleep (grr) and then three more lands, and things didn’t look good. The turn I played Drake, he attacked with Maritime Guard into it. I know he has Diminish in his deck, and I also know that he is going to attack no matter what – it costs him exactly zero to do so, since he is not blocking anything anyway and his guy isn’t dying if I block. However, the fact that an attack does not imply Diminish does not, by itself, imply that he does not have the Diminish. I think keeping my guy is more important, as I am looking forward to racing him this game with my Sleep, and so I take one.
In the end he plays Conundrum Sphinx, I Mind Control it, he bounces it and I am pretty flooded and don’t have anything. I Preordain into Arbiter, which actually gives me hope, but he has Necrotic Plague to kill it and then me.
As I’ve mentioned, I was pretty happy with my result – it was specially nice after being so scared of not making. At least Martin had the decency to win it all after beating me, so congratulations to him!
I have to admit I am a bit tired and my fingers hurt from writing so much, so I am going to leave you for now, and come back next week with a Nationals report (which I WILL split in two if it gets as big as this one!! PS. Wish me luck!). I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading this,