First of all, I’d like to apologize for not having written anything last week; the reason for that was that I was on a boat (learning to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef). In case you are wondering, it was absolutely awesome – I got to see big sharks, giant turtles, some freaky fish, and even a plastic bag that looked dangerously like a Box Jellyfish (really can‘t blame those Turtles for eating them). The people in the boat were also great – remember in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when she says “There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.”? It turns out chasing a gigantic shark underwater with flashlights in the middle of the night is another one of those things. Other highlights of the trip include two Danish guys who bought a car and then promptly crashed it the next day because they were driving in the wrong direction (in Australia they drive on the wrong side of the road, like in England, etc); three Swedish (!) girls who went diving with a compass and ended up in a different boat when they surfaced, and only actually realized it after getting inside it and taking out all their gear; a German boy and a German girl who kept insisting I dance Samba for them, and an old man who called me Carlos for the entire trip.
I’ve been wanting to go to Australia for a long time now; I actually made a big effort to go last year, but tickets were simply too expensive. The reason I wanted to go is that Australia seemed to be, well, different from everything else. It is actually on the other side of the world, and definitely a place not many people in Brazil have visited. At this point, I’ve been traveling for years and the locations have started to repeat themselves, but Australia is definitely a unique place. This year I planned better and took the opportunity when it showed up, even if I had to go through multiple complications – for example, to get my Visa, I took my passport to the consulate. Then they told me they didn’t work with passports anymore, but they would need a copy of my passport instead, and it had to be signed by someone important to say it was actually a copy of my passport. She told me that I would need copies of both my passports, since I have a lot of entries in many places and a lot of visas, so I went to the official place, took the copies and got them all signed, for the bargain price of 70 dollars. Then I took it there the other day and was met with “Oh, I’m sorry, it has to be colored copies”, so I had to go and do it all again. But, in the end, it all worked out just fine, even if a little bit too expensive and troublesome (Luis for example got his Visa online ¬¬).
Australia definitely didn’t disappoint, both in and outside of Magic.
This is my GP Sydney report.
I got to Australia after a reasonably long flight, but way shorter than I would have expected – two hours to Sao Paulo, four hours to Chile, 13 to Auckland and three more to Sydney, which is long but about half the time it took me to get to Gothenburg, for example, and Australia is, as I’ve said, on the actual other side of the world. Once I got to Sydney, it became clear that Australia had the worst baggage claim service in the world – it took so long for the luggage to arrive that, if it was not for the other 200 people also waiting for their stuff, I would definitely have thought they’d lost my suitcase. In fact, I’ve found out that baggage claim is generally very inefficient anywhere I’ve been except for the US, but Australia definitely gets the prize for being the worst.
After that, I had to wait for even longer in a line where they check my luggage for something that can contaminate Australia. Most of the time you can work around those forms and just answer “no” to everything, but the “have you been in Latin America in the past 6 days” item was looking pretty hard to overcome, and it would probably have been suspicious if I had answered “no” and then presented a Brazilian passport, so I had to check “yes” and wait in a gigantic line.
After all that, I managed to make my way to Aaron’s house (after the obligatory “Brazil?? But you‘re so white!” from the Taxi driver). I’d like to use the opportunity to thank Nicastri for inviting me (and the others) to stay at his place; it was definitely awesome! When I got there he asked if I was jetlagged, and surprisingly I didn’t feel like I was – I guess the time difference was so big that it kind of made up for itself, and I had managed to sleep a lot on the plane for a change.
We chatted a bit, everyone got ready and then we decided to go to the local store, Good Games, to draft – we could have drafted at his apartment, but the store was only a 15 minute walk, so we might as well go there. One of the good things about traveling is that you get to learn about other people’s cultures and so on – for example, I now know that whenever Australians say Chips, they actually mean French Fries. When they say Hungry Jack’s, they mean Burger King. And when they say “15 minutes”, they mean “an interval of time between 15 minutes and one hour”. So we walked for the 15 45 minutes and, as soon as we got there, we decided to just leave and go back to the apartment to draft. Yeah, we are such good planners, aren’t we. Before we left, I managed to destroy, annihilate and humiliate Luis in Tekken 5, though. We cabbed the way back, since no one felt like walking “15 minutes” again.
Once we got there, we drafted. From the beginning it became apparent that I wasn’t going to win a single game, and I think my total record in al the drafts we did was like 10-30. I did learn a reasonable amount about the format, though. The main concern I had was that we were a confined group, and therefore we knew how each other person thought and what they drafted. For example, the Japanese liked to draft Poison, and I wanted to try that, but how was I going to do it when I knew the two people before me would be forcing poison no matter what? In the actual tournament, though, I knew it’d be different, since it is not like I’d have Kazuya sitting behind me and getting every poison card during the GP. Right?
Another thing I found out was that I didn’t like Myrs as much as everyone else. I know, I know, it seems noobish of me, but they only seemed good in the Metalcraft deck, and even then people would pick them extremely high. I started picking them very highly, because everyone said they were awesome, but then I’d end up with 5 Myrs and not much to do with them. Another point was that, in our 8-person group, most players valued Myrs more than the average GP player, so I was probably more likely to get them later in the tournament.
The following day I woke up and, after getting destroyed, annihilated and humiliated by Luis in Street Fighter, we met with Ray (Blisterguy) who was supposed to take some pictures of us for the coverage. Our plan was to go to the Zoo, and then after that go to the tournament site and do some more drafts. We decided to walk to the Ferry, since it was, according to Ray, only a 15 minute walk. At the time we didn’t know of the convention they use in Australia, so we were tricked again.
35 minutes later we get to the ferry and find out that it is way too late for us to go to the Zoo, so we hang around the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House instead, taking a bunch of pictures. After that we go to the site, and I decide to force Poison to see what would happen if a lot of people in the table drafted it, and if it could be forced even in that circumstance (I knew Martin, who was passing to me, was likely to go poison). In the end I managed to draft a very outside the box (or terrible, if that is how you want to put it) deck, with 9 Proliferate cards but only 5 ways to poison them. Every game they would just kill or block my poison guy, and I would just never kill them. If they ever got a poison counter though!!!11! There were four Poison drafters at the table, but everyone else’s deck seemed pretty decent.
At some point we were given free hot dogs, which was awesome, Australia rocks, etc. We go back to Aaron’s house and have a good night of sleep, and then next day the tournament starts without much delay. I know other people have said that, but I really liked the atmosphere of the event in Australia – less people makes for less delays and everything is more organized, and it is much nicer overall – you don’t have to fight an epic battle every time pairings go up, for example, and you can actually find a person in the hall relatively quickly. Besides, they gave us free hot dogs. The players in Australia are mostly very nice, too, and the tournament was a blast to play (except for the rounds in which I lost).
I open my sealed pool and realize that I am sitting close to the corner, which means I might end up getting my own pool back – at least if they did the same thing they did in the past GPs. I took the opportunity to take a look and see how I would build it if I happened to get it back, since the format is incredibly hard and any extra time is appreciated. In the end I did get my own pool, and it was good because I already had an idea what to do.
From the start I knew White was going to be my main color – it had Revoke Existence and two Arrests (which is one of, if not the best common), as well as three Glint Hawks and two Sunspear Shikari, which in some decks are actually unplayable but in my pool seemed very good, since I had two Darksteel Axe and one Sylvok Lifestaff, among other cheap artifacts. The decision in my second color was then between Red or Black. Black offered Grasp of Darkness, Carnifex Demon, Moriok Replica, Necrogen Scudder, Flesh Allergy (which actually seemed very sweet in my deck, with all the aggressive guys and two Perilous Myr) as well as two on-color Myrs.
Red offered Oxidda Scrapmelter, Koth, Panic Spellbomb, Turn to Slag, Barrage Ogre, as well as two Vulshok Replicas . I think Carnifex Demon is the best of those cards in a vacuum, but my deck was shaping out to be very aggressive, and Koth is ridiculously good when you are ahead, so he looked like he would be as good or even better in my deck. I also had four Myrs, which meant turn three Koth was a real possibility, and I was going to choose to play anyway so he gets even better (and I expected most people to choose to draw, though that was not what happened)/ Being able to play Panic Spellbomb for good value was also very important, since it powered up my three Hawks, and the Scrapmelter is better than Grasp, especially when you are trying to kill them quickly, since 3/3 is a very powerful body in this format.
In the end, I went with Red. I was semi-pleased with how I built my deck; after talking to other people, it became apparent that four Myrs was too many, since I didn’t really have a lot of expensive cards, and not that much Metalcraft. Necrogen Censer was the last card I removed, and it became apparent that this, too, was a mistake – the card is basically a Lava Axe that counts for Metalcraft (not that relevant in my deck) and that greatly improves Glint Hawk (extremely relevant in my deck), and, though some decks don’t actually want Lava Axe, this one did. Web told me it was by far the best card in my board, and it made a lot of sense – every game two I cut a Myr for the Censer. This was how it ended:
I know there are twice as many White cards, but three of the Red cards are double Red, and 8 seems more than enough sources for 8 cards anyway.
It actually spawned an interesting discussion when I was asked which Myr I was going to cut; generally, if you have off-color Myrs, you want to represent something that they are going to play around. In this format, this means either Red or White, since Shatter, Blast, Arrest and Revoke Existence are the cards that are most likely to be splashed (and it might even get them to play around Dispense Justice if they are paranoid). Since those were my main colors, though (and I didn’t have any Myrs in those colors anyway, because that would have been too lucky I guess), I had to choose which of the other three colors to cut, and, after some thought, I realized there is not really much incentive for cutting one or the other. Blue might have them play around, uh, Halt Order? Disperse? Black might have them play around Instill Infection, and green might have them play around Untamed Might, but none of those cards are particularly splashable, so it is not likely that this would ever work. Most of the time I just took out the green Myr – I figured if I played a Leaden Myr on turn two they might be more 2 tempted to kill it than otherwise because they might think I simply failed to draw black game one, whereas with green that is less probable because green is often very bad outside of poison, and from game one they will see that I am clearly not poison.
A lot of the people I talked to seemed to think that playing one of the Vulshok Replicas was better than the third Myr, but I am not so sure about that. I understand that Replica can be very good in an aggressive deck, and if they stall a little bit or if you remove their first guys it’s an easy 6-9 damage by itself, but it does trade with basically any card in the format, and Replica + Hawk is a lot clunkier than Myr + Hawk. I did change it in some matches, and left it with 3 Myrs in the others, and have no clue what is correct.
Rusted Relic was another card that we debated, but it seems to be a clear inclusion to me – I only have 12 artifacts, but I will always have a Relic, so I only need 2 of 11, which is more than reasonable, and the upside is definitely worth the times where it doesn’t do anything. It is also nice that they can’t really trick you with it – with Chrome Steed they can kill one artifact and ambush him with a 3/3, but a Relic will just turn into an artifact again and they won’t be able to do anything about that. You can also pull some sweet tricks – for example, I was playing a game against Luis during the byes, and he played Arrest on my Relic. On my turn I played Glint Hawk, returned my Censer, deactivated Relic, made the Arrest fall off, replayed the Censer with two new counters and attacked for 5! Relic is definitely one of my favorite cards in the set and I would first pick it above most things.
The Golems I actually like, just like the Sentinel, but they seemed too slow for what I was trying to do. In the end, it seemed like the WR build got the most out of my cards, but perhaps WB, or even BR control (splash W maybe, though that makes cards like the Axe, Flesh Allergy, Necrogen Scudder, etc, much worse), would have been better – I have no way to really tell, though I liked the WR deck.
During the byes we went to a Farmer’s Market (or something like that) to eat, which was pretty sweet – such a convenient thing to have around a tournament. After we ate, I decided to grab a smoothie, and it turned out to be the worst smoothie I’ve ever had by several orders of magnitude. As soon as I put the straw on my mouth and tasted it, the guy looked expectantly at me and asked “so, how is it?”. I paused for a good 10 seconds, shocked at the question and at how bad a smoothie could possibly be, and tried to figure out how to tell him it was the worst thing I’d ever tested without offending him – I mean, who knows how he is going to react if I tell him it is terrible, maybe he will unleash some poisonous Australian animal at me or something. In the end, I just gulped and told him “it’s good”. He seemed very pleased with himself.
After that, I gave Luis a sip of it and asked him to identify the flavor. He guessed Banana, Coconut, Pineapple, Banana with Coconut and Banana with Pineapple before he gave up. The flavor was Mango. Then I drank some more of it, to give it a second chance (and because hey I had just paid 5 dollars for it), and ended up throwing it in the garbage can – I guess they can’t all be winners.
The tournament started in a very exciting manner when I kept a one-lander on the play (I chose to play because my deck was really aggressive). I really hate that, but the hand was very appealing – it had Plains, 2x Glint Hawk, Sylvok Lifestaff, Myr, Arrest and another card, so I can afford to miss for a while and still beat a lot of decks. I started with Staff and promptly drew Plains, because that is how I roll (but don‘t do this at home, kids! We are all trained professionals here, keeping one landers is still terrible the great majority of the time).
On turn three I have to decide between equipping, attacking and then playing Hawk, or merely attacking and playing Hawk + the Staff again. I grab my dude and turn him a little bit, then immediately turn him back to his original position without even taking my hand off it. Then my opponent makes a weird face and says I can’t do that. I look at him in disbelief and say that I had barely moved my card, but he is still not convinced, so I offer to call a judge. I end up shouting Judge very loudly and it seemed kind of bad, but I am just used to having to shout to be heard because tournaments are so crowded. Anyway, it seems to have an intimidating effect on my opponent, as he quickly apologizes for whatever he had done (which he doesn‘t really have to, I‘m fine with people calling a judge when they think something is wrong). We explain the situation to the judge and he dismissively says I can “untap” my guy, and then I immediately tap it and attack anyway – hey, you’ve gotta show who is the boss, right? I won’t have my opponent thinking I attacked because he wanted me to.
In the end I managed to beat both his white deck and his sideboarded Poison deck relatively easily.
My opponent round 5 is super nice, and he is playing what looked like a good BG poison deck. First game I think I have it all under control, but two Untamed Mights later I am dead.
Game two I manage to not get hit by the Poison guys when he is in a position to +x/+x me out, and in the end he gets pretty flooded and I win.
Game three we go to a big stall where he has a bunch of poison guys and I have a bunch of blockers, and a Glint Hawk that is hitting in the air while we are stalled. I have a Tumble Magnet to stop his Accorder’s Shielded creature, and then when I have only one counter left he plays Sword of Body and Mind. He equips them both on the same guy and tries to attack, and at this point I am almost salivating with my Turn to Slag, but after much deliberation he moves one of them away and I end up killing just the guy and the Sword. That is more than enough, though, and I kill him with a bunch of blockers to spare. In this game, I messed up life totals twice, which was pretty annoying – at one point I thought he was at like 11 and he was at 9, and at another point I thought he was at 1 and he was at 3 (hey, it evens out) – thankfully it didn’t cost me either game.
Round 6 I get paired against a RW deck with seemingly more removal than I have permanents, but I manage to have one threat left both games to finish him.
Day two already! Sure feels great to stop losing every time in sealed Gps. After this round we had to try to “untilt” Martin Juza, who had gone berserk because his deck was really good and he had just lost twice in a row. Apparently he had played his foil Masticore, which prompted a “WOW, FOIL MASTICORE, THAT’S INSANE DUDE, MUST BE NICE, GOD FOIL MASTICORE” or something like that from his opponent, who then simply untapped and killed him with what was already on the board without playing any other spell (his opponent talked to us after and I know he didn’t mean any harm, he was just genuinely impressed, but it was still funny to watch how Martin reacted to that).
Round 7 I get paired against what seems to be a local hero, though I didn’t know him beforehand. He was a pretty cool guy too, and his name was Daniel Unwin, which is kind of funny. I’m sure LSV wishes he had played him, so he could write about how he “unwon” the game or something.
Game one I was a bit flooded, but I liked the way I played – I used my removal very conservatively, and when he played Ratchet Bomb I knew he was going to power it up to three to kill my Arrest, so I just tapped his Myr token with Tumble Magnet twice. In the end though I just drew a little bit too many lands and couldn’t deal with all his threats, or present enough of my own.
Game three is very interesting, and I have a bunch of decisions that I feel define the course of the game. I play a turn two Shikari, and on turn four he matches it with a Chrome Steed. I can then play Scrapmelter and attack, or I can play a Rust Relic. I decide to save my FTK for a better target (or even a better turn), and attack, but he just blocks, which is fine for me – until he plays Hippogriff and returns the Steed, gaining four life. At this point all my offense is stopped (I had another guy in play, a Hawk if I recall correctly). I think perhaps if I play the 3/3 I can pressure him more and then try to win the game faster. Anyway, we get to a point where I have a Hawk and a Bonesplitter, and then has to coordinate my actions because of his Ratchet Bomb – if I equip my ground guy and attack, then he just blocks the ground guy and doesn’t use the Ratched Bomb. If I equip the Hawk, then he doesn’t have to block the ground guy. It was a tricky situation, and I chose play number one. He ended up not sacrificing the Bomb, and I couldn’t play my Sylvok Lifestaff. We get to a point where I lose to a removal spell but beat most other cards, and then he has the removal. It was a nice game though, and I feel like I could have won if I had played differently (though I don’t know if necessarily better) – this is the kind of game that I don’t mind losing thaaat much, and it makes me feel so much better losing a game like that than a game like, well, the next one.
Round 8 is just the complete opposite of the previous round (other than the result, that was the same). Round one I keep a 4 spell 3 land and draw land for about 7 turns. We get to a point where I get Koth in play and I’m tapped out, and if he has removal I’m dead. He does. I then wait for his play – I am at 9 life, with no untapped lands and no untapped creatures. He decides to send five damage at me and four damage at Koth.
I think this offers me two lessons; the first one is that, no matter how bad it looks, there is always a chance your opponent will refuse to win the game, giving you one or more turns. The second is that there is no justice in this world, because if there was, God would have transmuted the top card of my library into Sunblast Angel. I guess he was too busy putting them into LSV’s last round opponent’s deck, but man does it feel annoying to lose to a guy who thinks killing Koth is more important than killing you.
On a more serious note, I think it is interesting to not scoop there, because it might make your opponent think you have outs – if I have 10 guys in play and you just scoop, I know you don’t have a Wrath, but if you draw your card and then scoop then you leave me in the dark.
Game two was equally frustrating – I mulligan to five and manage to play turn two Shikari, which he matches with Embersmith. I have a Vulshok Replica in my hand (I sided it in this time because his deck was very slow and had at least two Molder Beast, which the Replica trades with, and not many cheap guys), and decide to play it anyway – on five cards I can’t really afford to wait much, especially against a slow three color deck that likely has spells that are just more powerful than mine. I also saw actual zero artifacts game one, so I think there is a big chance he just can’t kill it, and if it survives for a turn it’s already good for me. He doesn’t have an artifact, so he plays Arc Trail on my whole board instead, which I guess gets the job done.
Sometime later he plays Steel Hellkite, and though he doesn’t pump it for two turns, deciding to pass with a lot of mana up for some reason (which he might actually have had, I just don’t know), it ends up killing me anyway as I drew 7 straight lands again.
So, that was that. I was not really happy with my result, especially this last round, but it was not horrible either – again, it just feels really bad when you lose the last round, and even worse the last two rounds, because it seems like you wasted your awesome start.
This is where I leave you today – I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and I’ll come back with a part two, as well as some more Australia stories, and maybe some pictures (I might do this outside of my normal schedule, since I skipped one week – I have to see if Luis lets me!)
Thanks for reading,