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Initial Technology – When 45 Points Just Isn’t Enough, Part 2 *3rd*

 

PT San Diego Report, Part 2

The first part of my report can be found here.

Going into the second draft, I still didn’t have any plans to force a particular archetype. I knew I was going to play Nassif round 1, since we were the only undefeateds, but past that it was no different from any other draft. Amusingly, I sat to Nassif’s right, so when we sat down I asked him if he had ever been hooked. It seems like negative value to try and hook him just because we play round one, but it was sure funny to think about doing!

As it turned out, I got to draft yet another mono-color deck, which is pretty awesome when doable. The draft viewer can be found here.

The course of my draft was set after the first few picks, since I moved in on Mono-Green pretty rapidly. After taking Eldrazi Monument over nothing, I had the option of Grazing Gladehart, Umara Raptor, Pitfall Trap, and Heartstabber Mosquito. Eldrazi goes best with Green, and Heartstabber is weaker than Gladehart, so I just took the Gladehart. The next pack was a great sign, as Nissa’s Chosen, Timbermaw Larva, Harrow, and Oran-Rief, the Vastwood were all still in the pack. In a pick that may surprise those who have seen me team draft, I took the reliable two-drop over the more powerful four-drop. Timbermaw Larva is pretty sick, and I already was hoping to be Mono-Green, but picking up one of the best two-drops is somewhat of a higher priority, even if Timbermaw beats down quite well. Mono-Green in particular ends up with enough high-end stuff, so I would much rather have an extra Chosen over an extra Larva most of the time. Of course, I ended up wheeling the Larva, with Oran-Rief still in the pack, at which point I had a good feeling about the draft.

I talked with BDM more about my two drafts in this video.

Eldrazi Green Draft Deck

I kept my Terastodon in my sideboard, ready to board it in against any slow deck, but unsurprisingly never did. If I didn’t have the Monument I probably would have started it, but between Monument, Adventuring Gear, and three Giant Growths I didn’t think most games would progress to a point where I wanted Terastodon.

Round Nine vs Gabriel Nassif

This was of course a feature match, since the last time we faced off was in the finals of Pro Tour Kyoto.

Nassif was also on the monocolor plan, with what looked like a Mono-Black Vampires deck. Game one was pretty fast, and I had the good fortune to be on the play. My curve of River Boa, Adventuring Gear, Grazing Gladehart, Arbor Elf, Vastwood Zendikon + attack on turn 5 was pretty tough to beat, although Gab almost stabilized with Feast of Blood. I even peeled Eldrazi Monument on the next turn, although I think I was going to win in a few turns anyway, since he was at 2 to my 22, and I had a potential 4/3 Boa coming in every turn.

He went in the tank game two after mulling to six, which I thought meant he had a one-lander. My seven was fine; Snapping Creeper, Oran-Rief Recluse, Harrow, Eldrazi Monument, lands. Sure enough, after a turn one Lacerator, he played a turn two Quag Vampires and no second land. I didn’t have a play until turn three, although I punted it pretty bad. I played the Creeper first, instead of just playing Oran-Rief Recluse. Either one would have stopped his offense, and it seemed reasonable to assume that he would kill the first guy I played, so I should have led with the worse one. Snapping Creeper could attack better, but the odds that he had a kill spell were too high.

He did in fact kill my first guy, and even though I kind of stabilized with Recluse plus Lodestone Golem, I was two points short of killing him with Eldrazi Monument plus two attacks; two points that Snapping Creeper would have dealt. As it ended up, I had to play a defensive Monument, and that sort of thing never works out well. I had a turn or two where a ripped Turntimber Ranger may have been an out, but I didn’t draw it (and it probably would only have delayed the inevitable).

Game three was pretty strange. If either of us had boarded in our really slow cards (Razor Boomerang for him and Terastodon for me), the game would have ended much sooner, but since the first two games were so fast we didn’t think to do so.

This game started as fast as the others, with both of us vomiting all sorts of Vampires, Snakes, and other monsters onto the board, but somehow it became a board stall around turn six or seven. He killed my Timbermaw Larva and Vastwood Zendikon, but my River Boa and assorted burdles made it so he couldn’t attack either. Oran-Rief Recluse and Grappler Spider stopped Pilgrim’s Eye from beating down, and Grazing Gladehart got me way above alpha strike range. At various points it looked like I might break through, what with a 15/15 Timbermaw Larva or a very large Territorial Baloth, but Heartstabber Mosquito and some kicked Quag Vampires made that less likely.

Eventually it became clear that I was just going to draw Eldrazi Monument and kill him, but Nassif really had no incentive to concede. He probably could have played slowly enough to force a draw, but of course did no such thing. With four cards left I finally drew Monument, and he was more than dead from one attack.

9-0

After such a grueling match, I hoped that the other two rounds would be easier, although I expected most of the decks at our table to be pretty good.

Round 10 vs Jeroen Kanis

This round I battled against my eventual Top 8 opponent, Jeroen, who was far enough from me in the draft for me to have no clue what might be in his deck.

My turn two Grappler Spider was met with a Plated Geopede, off Lavaclaw Reaches and Mountain. I played my third land and immediately attacked, hoping he would block. Indeed he did, and I was able to use all my mana to Harrow and then Vines my Spider. On my next turn I dropped a Lodestone Golem, which was kept at bay by Ruinous Minotaur. At first I thought the Golem may have been interfering in his spellcasting, but after he kept playing lands it became clear that he didn’t have any spells to cast. I wasn’t suffering from the same problem, and Timbermaw Larva plus Territorial Baloth quickly overwhelmed his massive amounts of lands.

I had Lodestone Golem again game two, and this time it was causing him difficulty. He had a Zektar Shrine Expedition stuck on two, and four lands, which didn’t match up well against my Golem plus random dudes. When he finally drew a fifth land things got much closer, since he slammed a Tuktuk Scrapper to kill the Golem, and now his Shrine was live and able to kill my Timbermaw Larva. Still, the two or three turns where he was unable to develop his board cost him, since I got him low enough that Vines of Vastwood on an unblocked guy were enough to end the game.

10-0

One more round of draft to go! Coming in I was very worried about draft, but two mono-colored decks in a row seemed to have done the trick, even if I still had to battle the other 2-0 in the pod.

Round Eleven vs Russell Heitzmann

Feature Match coverage can be found here.

I had erroneously been told that Masaya was the other 2-0, so I thought I knew what I was facing. When I sat down to battle Russell, I had no idea what was in his deck at all, which isn’t a good place to be in the last round of a draft. It may seem like a lot of work, but scouting is crucial, especially in later rounds of the tournament. In this case, I should have been able to know who I was going to face, and if not able to scout the match myself, at least had a friend do it. I understand that it sounds sleazy to have friends watch matches or whatever, but scouting is fully legal, and going in unprepared is losing a potential advantage. By the later rounds of the tournament, you probably have at least a few friends who aren’t playing anymore, so having them gather intel on your potential opponents is a good thing. That being said, I barely scouted at all this tournament, so take that how you will. I guess if I was playing a deck with Force of Will or something it would be more important, but Boss Naya don’t care what it’s against; it’s gonna play Nacatls and Rangers and Bloodbraids until the game is over!

Back to the match at hand

Russell just destroyed me game one, as he played Steppe Lynx, Fledgling Griffin, Apex Hawks, and Journey plus Into the Roil. My draw wasn’t even great, and when I didn’t play a land on turn four I knew I was just dead. I did have some nice sideboard options though, and brought in a [card]Spidersilk Net[/card], which would be pretty hard for his deck to beat.

Game two was equally lopsided, as Arbor Elf into River Boa into Timbermaw Larva just got in there. I even had the Net, so he was hard-pressed to even get attacks in. Once I made a Grappler Spider or Nissa’s Chosen into an unassailable wall, his legions of 2/2 fliers were pretty much halted. I did have one interesting play, which was when he tried to Pitfall Trap my Timbermaw Larva. I had five mana, and my hand was Turntimber Ranger and Graypelt Hunter. I decided to Vines it without kicker, since I wanted to still play my Hunter. That did allow him to triple block and trade two guys for the Larva, but I was satisfied with that outcome, even if I would prefer he just take the damage. I figured that if I used Vines with kicker, I might get more damage in, but that would cost me my turn, and the Graypelt Hunter was going to be almost as big a threat as the Timbermaw, so trading off Timbermaw for his two guys and replacing it seemed like a better option. Plus, if he didn’t block the Timbermaw, I was in much better shape than if I kicked the Vines. In any case, he never was able to mount an offense and his guys were much smaller than mine, so I got him.

It seemed like his hand wasn’t great game three, since he didn’t have a two-drop, and his third turn was land, Fledgling Griffin. I once again had River Boa, which was outstanding against all the decks I played against. He missed his fourth land drop, and just played Apex Hawks, his Griffin unable to get past Nissa’s Chosen. My curve was pretty sweet, and I dropped a Timbermaw Larva. He chose to Journey my River Boa, which made sense considering there was a Day of Judgment in his deck somewhere. I of course had no idea, so I just kept playing guys, since playing around Day of Judgment in the dark was definitely worse than playing around him playing multiple creatures to survive. As it turned out, he never drew the Day, so my hordes of Green guys forced him to chump until he died.

11-0

I was pretty excited to get through Limited without a loss, especially since that was uh, a bit above my expectations (to say the least). It isn’t that I think I am just terrible at Limited, but Zendikar drafts have not been kind, and even the practice ones leading up the PT didn’t go that well. I was fortunate to be in a position to draft mono-colored decks, but I also tried pretty hard to make it happen. Taking Vampire Lacerator over Shepherd of the Lost, moving in on Green from pick 2; these are the kind of things you have to do sometimes if you want to go mono. Plus, I knew that I had the propensity to keep greedy hands, and by only playing one color I eliminated many of the opportunities to get mana screwed.

This is the second time I’ve gone back into the Constructed rounds only needing one win, although I would recommend against focusing too much on the record needed. I was definitely aware that one win would probably lock me for Top 8, but I just took each round one at a time, and didn’t concentrate on what the rewards were for winning.

Round 12 vs Daniel Graensteiner

Here is where the whole not scouting thing could have been harmful, although like I said earlier, the keepable hands in Naya aren’t really matchup dependent.

I kept Bloodbraid, Oblivion Ring, Bolt, Bloodbraid, lands, on the draw, while Daniel mulled to six. In general, I don’t have a problem keeping the all four-drop hand as long as I have a removal spell to slow them down. In this case, it didn’t end up mattering, since he didn’t do anything for the first four turns. My Bloodbraid hit a Bolt, and then it died to a Pulse. The second Bloodbraid didn’t, and I had O-Ring for his first play, a Baneslayer Angel, so he died.

I sideboarded the same as against other GW-type decks: +4 Sparkmage, +1 Collar, +1 Mystic, +2 Baneslayer and –3 Nacatl, -3 Ranger, -2 Bolt. Even though he might have Emeria Angel, without knowing for sure I would rather take out Bolt than anything else.

Game two wasn’t particularly close either. I assembled Voltron (Sparkmage + Collar) pretty quickly and just gunned down his guys, and he wasn’t able to really get anything going. Even against decks with Maelstrom Pulse, it isn’t that hard to not expose either piece until you get one kill in, at which point you still get a pretty sizeable advantage.

12-0

At this point I was pretty elated, since I was actually a lock. Starting at like 9-0 or 10-0, people were congratulating me or talking about the Top 8, and I was nowhere near a lock. 9-0 in particular is still pretty far from Top 8, since I still had to win three rounds, which doesn’t just happen automatically or anything of the sort. That all went away once I hit 12 wins, since then I knew I was in for sure (barring a very odd sequence of events). This was also the first round where I entertained the possibility of trying to go completely undefeated. I was in a position that doesn’t occur very often, and what I had to think pretty hard about what I wanted to do in the next four rounds. I certainly didn’t want to dreamcrush solely for the sake of doing so; I am a firm believer in karma, and wouldn’t want to get people if I didn’t have a good reason. On the other hand, going undefeated was a good reason, and the prospect of breaking the record (and potentially setting a completely new one if I managed to win the Pro Tour) was certainly exciting, and a goal worth striving for. Plus, either way I was going to play round 13, since at 12 wins I could technically miss, so there was no reason to leave it up to chance.

Round 13 vs Pascal Vieren

As was the usual for this tournament, I didn’t know what Pascal was playing. Normally, by the time you get to round 13 or 14, there are only a few people you can play against, but I was in the odd position of not having anyone near my bracket, which meant I could play against a bunch of different people. Between that and me not wanting to waste energy scouting six or eight potential opponents, I came into most of my matches blind.

Pascal didn’t seem too pleased with his six-card hand, but he ended up keeping it. When he played a Steward of Valeron on turn two, things looked pretty good, since straight GW is one of the best matchups Boss Naya has. He was unable to match my Knight of the Reliquary, and since the odds of him having Day of Judgment in his deck were pretty low, especially given the Steward of Valeron, I dropped another and just bashed.

Game two could have played out very differently had Pascal wanted to bluff. We both played some guys, but I soon pulled ahead. I kept my eye on his mana situation, since Martial Coup was definitely a card I expected him to have, so if he ever hit six mana I would have to start playing around it. He was stuck on five for the longest time, so I kept adding guys to the board. First a Knight, then a Ranger, then a Baneslayer and a Scute Mob. Like I said, he never had enough mana that I was concerned about a Coup, and Day of Judgment isn’t a card GW typically plays. After the match Ocho and Wrapter were quite confused, since Pascal did have the Martial Coup, along with a Verdant Catacombs in his hand that he never played. Apparently, he was out of Forests to get with Catacombs, so he simply didn’t play it, but in doing so he lost a good opportunity to bluff. I would have had no idea that his Catacombs was empty, so by playing his sixth land a few turns earlier, I would have played around Martial Coup and probably given him enough time to draw real lands and cast the Martial Coup he had. In fact, if he hit his “7th” land and didn’t cast the Coup, I might assume he didn’t have it, and even overcommit that turn, giving him the out of drawing a land and destroying me with the Coup. I think I had enough gas to survive a Coup, but it would by no means be a sure thing. The takeaway here is that just because he knew his Catacombs did nothing doesn’t mean that I did, and by playing it he could have drastically altered my play.

13-0

After another talk with Gabe and BenS, I hardened my resolve. Going undefeated was in reach; all I had to do was win a few more matches. How hard could that be?

Round 14 vs Daniel Gardner

Time to battle Dan again, this time in Constructed. Game one was a blowout; he accelerated out an Emeria Angel, and played Jace to bounce my first play, a Knight of the Reliquary. Jace essentially stole each of my turns, all while Emeria Angel plus Lotus Cobra stole all my life. I tried for a desperation Bloodbraid, but I hit a Birds of Paradise, which was certainly not the Lightning Bolt or Oblivion Ring that I needed.

Besides Jace, his deck didn’t seem to play too many unexpected cards, so I boarded like I did against previous Bant decks.

Game two was over in a similar amount of time. I had a Collared up Sparkmage by turn 4, and followed that up with a Knight of the Reliquary. Dan had a Path, but had to kill Knight before I was able to leave up Knight into Sejiri Steppe, which let me Sparkmage run rampant. He never found a removal spell for the Sparkmage, so he straight up lost to my mini-Visara.

Game three was pretty epic, and could have played out in many different ways. He played a Knight, which I instantly Pathed, and then he played a Master of the Wild Hunt. I had my own Knight, which was large enough to survive a battle with his Wolf. He then played a Kor Firewalker, which didnn’t seem overly effective in the matchup; even though it doesn’t die to Sparkmage, Bolt, or Bloodbraid, it couldn’t really fight with Knight, Ranger, or Nacatl profitably, so it mostly just sat there and gained a few life. I played Bloodbraid, but whiffed on the cascade, hitting a bird that instantly died.

Dan then landed a Jace, and that’s when the game got interesting. He first used it to fateseal me, but with a Knight out I was shuffling anyway. I dropped a second Knight, which gave me a pretty reasonable board presence. I still had to keep a Knight untapped in order to leave Sejiri Steppe up, and even attacking each turn with a huge Knight would be thwarted by the Wolves his Master made.

On his next turn, Dan started to scry himself with Jace, presumably building up to Jace’s ultimate. While that might have been a reasonable plan, I have to assume that by Brainstorming every turn he would be able to overpower me with cards, rather than hoping I couldn’t kill his Master or Jace in the next four turns. I know the +2 ability did improve his draws, but drawing an extra card per turn seemed like it could work out better. I wasn’t breaking through, as my one Knight just killed a Wolf every turn.

The pivotal sequence of plays started when Dan attemped a Vapor Snare on one of my Knights. I of course used my untapped Knight to fetch a Steppe, and counter the Snare, which meant I had no reason to leave a Knight back on my next turn. To make things better, I even peeled Bolt, which let me kill his Master and stick a Collared up Sparkmage. The board had certainly changed; now it was his two Kor Firewalkers and Jace with 11 Loyalty against my two 11/11 or so Knights and Sparkmage with Collar. Needless to say, the game didn’t last long after that. I even peeled O-Ring to kill Jace, allowing me to bash with both my Knights. I think if Dan was more aggressive either with the Brainstorm or the Unsummon ability, the game may have gone differently, although that isn’t for sure. Having Jace and Master of the Wild Hunt out for six turns opens up a ton of possibilities, and it was likely that some of those possibilities would have led to a game win.

14-0

Round 15 vs Kyle Boggemes

I knew I was going to play Kyle before the round, as he was the only x-2 at the time. I have known Boggles for a little while, since I stayed with Pat Chapin for a week in Detroit before GP Philadelphia. DJ Kastner, Kyle, and I spent a fair bit of time battling Extended at RIW Hobbies, mostly Counterbalance vs the field. That testing paid off, as I played against DJ for Top 8 at the GP, and finished in the Top 4. With that in mind, I really didn’t want to knock Kyle out of Top 8 at this event, and luckily was pretty sure that even if he did lose to me he could draw in.

I actually did know what he was playing, and prepared myself for my first actual match against Jund in the tournament.

Game one was rough, as he did what Jund often does, and just killed all of my guys. Putrid Leech and Siege-Gang Commander didn’t give me much time to recover, and combined with a few removal spells, ended the game quickly.

I sideboarded as follows:

+2 Baneslayer Angel, +1 Stoneforge Mystic, +1 Behemoth Sledge
-2 Ajani Vengeant –1 Lightning Bolt –1 Basilisk Collar

Planeswalkers mostly suck against Jund, although Elspeth is tough enough to survive. Collar is also pretty unnecessary, as most of your guys are bigger than theirs.

Game two went a little better. My draw was a little faster, and I was actually able to keep guys on the table. Ranger delivered enough gas for me to overpower him, which backed by a fast start lets me send the match to a third game. This game is a good example of the plan against Jund, and also shows why the winning Jund list is tough to beat. Your early pressure, mainly Nacatls or Knights, is supposed to put them on the back foot, and ideally you force them to be one step behind. Kyle had to spend his third turn killing a Knight this game, and since I already had a Nacatl in play and then added a Ranger to the board, he dropped too far behind to ever gain control. Jund is most definitely the control, and even though you have Rangers and Bloodbraids to try and fight an attrition battle, Wild Nacatl and Knight are key in keeping them off balance. Of course, when they have eight 1-drop removal spells, that can be kind of difficult

Game three was one of the more exciting games I played all tournament. I played a Birds on turn one, and Kyle responded with a [card]Putrid Leech[/card]. On my second turn I played a Knight, which died to a Pulse. I then decided to play another Knight instead of a Bloodbraid, since I had a Bolt in hand and really wanted to catch his Leech. Sure enough, he killed the Knight and pumped his Leech, getting me get a ton of value out of my Bolt. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t scouting, as Kyle remarked that he didn’t even know that I had Bolts in my deck.

The game was far from over, even when I Bloodbraided into Stoneforge Mystic. He answered with a Siege-Gang, and I bashed with a 5/4 Trampling Lifelinked Elf. Unfortunately, he had another Pulse, and the Sledge was no more. Siege-Gang threw all his minions at my guys, leaving him with a Siege-Gang and me with a Birds. I played Dauntless Escort, which ate a Lightning Bolt. I was slightly ahead on life, due to the Sledge hit, but the 2/2 Goblin kept coming in. A series of nice topdecks ensued, the first of which was my Ranger of Eos. Kyle only had 1 land untapped, and was at two, so I decided to go for it. I played Ranger, got two Hierarchs, and tried to kill him with Birds. He was having none of it, and Bolted the flying Kird Ape.

On his turn, Deathmark killed my Ranger, leaving him with only one card in hand to my none. He then attacked me down to five with the Siege-Gang. I bashed with Hierarch, and he threw the Siege-Gang at it in response to the exalted trigger. I had drawn a blank, so I passed. He untapped and played a 5th land and passed back. I was pretty sure he had Broodmate in hand, so once he was on five lands there were very few blanks left in his deck. I peeled Raging Ravine and attacked him down to 1 with my lone Hierarch. He drew his sixth land and slammed down the Double Dragon.

I drew another blank, and had no choice but to send in Ravine to trade with a Dragon. With him at 1 and me at 5, he couldn’t actually attack with his remaining Dragon if he missed on his turn, which he did. I did not miss, as there was definitely an expensive Mythic Angel waiting on the top of my library! He didn’t draw one of his outs to Baneslayer, and thus ended a pretty sweet game. Incidentally, that is one of the reasons I played Baneslayer instead of some of the other options people played: it is so powerful, and has the potential to flat out win games that few other cards can. I’m not saying that is the only thing to consider, but when we were considering a bunch of different options, the power level is a reasonable tiebreaker. Baneslayer is a ridiculous card, and very rarely have I been unhappy to have it in my deck or sideboard. I mean, I’m advocating moving to four in Naya, so clearly the card worked out!

15-0

You know how I said I was pretty relaxed once I locked up Top 8 in round 12? Yeah, that was gone, and I was back to my normal self during a tournament. It no longer felt like I had anything locked up, and this next match seemed more important than most of the matches I had ever played. The pairings went up, and I was facing Bertil Elfgren, who I knew was playing Jund.

Round 16 vs Bertil Elfgren

Jund again. At least I was getting some actual match results against Jund, which wasn’t a bad thing.

Game one was a bit odd. I was on the draw, and he instantly Terminated my turn two Wild Nacatl. He followed that up with a Sprouting Thrinax, which would have pretty much blanked the Nacatl anyway. I played the first of my two Knights, assuming it would die, since he had to have excess removal if he was willing to kill a Nacatl. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t removal he played on his turn, but a Blightning! I gladly pitched two cards, then untapped and dropped a second Knight. I figured there was no way he could have Pulse, but even if he drew one the Steppe would stop it.

He tried to Pulse the Knights on his turn, but I Stepped it, which makes me think that he hadn’t considered that Knight could get Sejiri Steppe. He may have just drawn the Pulse, but if he didn’t factor in the Knight/Steppe interaction he could conceivably have chosen to Blightning instead of kill the Knight the turn prior, figuring he could kill the Knight later. In either case, I got to untap with two Knights, and once I Sledged one up and bashed, the game was nearly over. If he had a second Pulse, that would have made it closer, but barring that he was quite dead to my 9/9 Knights. He didn’t, and we were on to the next game.

Game two was a tight one. He started with two Leeches, but I had a fast draw myself. After playing a turn two Hierarch, I played an Arid Mesa and immediately fetched for a Mountain, just so he would consider Lightning Bolt (which I didn’t have). As expected, he didn’t pump his Leech on turn three, which saved me 2 very important damage.

He didn’t have a third land, and I had a turn three Ranger, although that meant taking eight off his two Leeches. I bashed back and played two Nacatls, leaving both Path and Bolt up (which I drew the turn after bluffing it). He bolted me end of turn, then Blightning’ed me on his turn, putting me to two. He chose not to attack with his Leeches, since presumably he had another Blighting and simply needed to survive in order to kill me. After counting it up not once, then again, then again, then finally a fourth time, I realized I had done it. I just wanted to be sure, after all!

I Bolted him down to 8, then Pathed a Leech, untapped, and had exactly enough mana to activate Raging Ravine and swing with the Ravine, Ranger, and two 3/3 Nacatls into his Leech.

16-0

After two days of battling, somehow I had managed to make it through the Swiss unscathed. I wouldn’t say I was ecstatic, since I still had the Top 8 to worry about, but I was definitely quite happy. The combination of a good Standard deck, good draft opens, a level of play I was happy with, almost uniformly smooth draws during the tournament, and of course a little help from my opponents, was apparently enough to perfect the Swiss. It actually gives me hope, since even though I rarely got screwed on two landers and the like, I also didn’t feel like I was running insanely hot. I wasn’t peeling out on my opponents every round or anything like that, mostly because the decks I was playing (both in Constructed and Limited) seemed like pretty big favorites in most of my matchups, which meant that I would win a good portion of the games where I simply didn’t draw terribly. I’m not saying I didn’t have luck on my side, because that would be absurd, but that if you go into a tournament with an edge in almost every round, you don’t need to run like a god to do a lot of winning.

My quarterfinals matchup, Mono-Red, didn’t seem terrible, although it was a matchup I had never tested. In theory, the Knights and Basilisk Collars seemed pretty strong, and we were about to find out. If I won round one, I would play the winner of Open the Vaults and Jund, so we knew we had to test the Vaults deck as well, since it was so off-the-radar.

After a good (if pricey) dinner, which I of course was on the hook for, we got down to business. Even my friends who didn’t have a piece of me via splits were awesome in helping out, and we actually had a pretty impressive team going. Web walked all the way back to the hotel to get all the cards to build decks, PV and BenS got another copy of Naya ready and proxied Niels’ Open the Vaults deck, and Fffreak found Gabe a copy of Kanis’ deck.

We immediately moved to sideboarded games, since game one seemed pretty straightforward. At first, Gabe left all the Geopedes and Hellsparks in, only bringing in two Punishing Fire for two Quenchable Fire. After my Cunning Sparkmages got him over and over, he started cutting some of the 1-toughness guys for the full four Quenchables, on the theory that he could kill all my Birds and Hierarchs to cut me off of Blue mana. After that switch, the games weren’t as lopsided, although I was still winning. I was sideboarding like so:

+2 Baneslayer Angel, +1 Stoneforge Mystic, +1 Basilisk Collar, +4 Cunning Sparkmage
-2 Oblivion Ring, -1 Elspeth, -4 Ranger of Eos, -1 Scute Mob

Meanwhile, BenS and PV were busy battling against Wrapter, who was piloting my deck against Open the Vaults. Wrapter got destroyed over and over, which led us to conclude a few things. First was that I would probably rather play against Jund, even though Simon did have four Deathmarks. Since Simon didn’t have Bituminous Blast, I could theoretically attrition him out, despite his abundance of cheap removal. The second thing we discovered was that the Open the Vaults deck was definitely short on lands, with only 20 and three Borderposts to try and cast its multiple five and six-drops. As it turned out, Simon exploited that weakness, and Niels had mana problems throughout the match.

At about 1am, we called it quits and I went back to sleep.

Quarterfinals vs Jeroen Kanis

The official coverage can be found here.

All the games were pretty close, except for the first. He kept a one-lander on the play, which is definitely a risky move, and didn’t work out well. The other two games went much like our testing, where he would consistently bring me very low and have a few opportunities to draw the right burn spell for the win, and would lose if he missed. My streak of good fortune continued, and he got me to 1 and 2 life before missing on what I remember as two draw steps each time. In both games I equipped a Collar to a Knight and went up to an unreachable life total the turn after, ending the game. Jeroen sideboarded the way we concluded he should, putting in all the Punishing and Quenchable Fires and reducing the number of Geopedes and Hellsparks, so he definitely played to his outs. This was a close matchup, and I was glad to at least get out of the quarters.

After a reasonable if unexciting player lunch, it was time again to battle. Simon, with the help of Maelstrom Pulse and Niels’ manabase, had beaten Open the Vaults 3-1.

17-0

Semifinals vs Simon Gertzen

Strangely enough, they covered this one too.

The only game I won went like I described earlier: he didn’t have a cheap spell to kill my early Nacatl, and even though he killed most of my better guys, the Nacatl did a ton of damage, allowing me to peel a Bolt and kill him later in the game. Most of his removal is one for one, so when he spent each turn dealing with a guy and getting hit by Nacatl, I built up a pretty significant advantage.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play any of the other games. I kept two reasonable seven card hands, one with two lands and one with three lands plus Noble Hierarch, and just didn’t get to cast many spells either game. In the first case, I never drew a third land, and in the second, my Hierarch died and I never drew a fourth land or a non-Green source. In the deciding game, I mulliganed to a solid five, but when he killed my Knight of the Reliquary and cast a Bloodbraid, the game was essentially over. I don’t want to come off as being too bitter, since even though I got pretty subpar draws in this particular match, I still drew way above average if you count the tournament as a whole. Sure, I would have preferred to maybe split up the bad draws into some other matches, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

17-1

And that was that. I wasn’t feeling great after losing, obviously, so I did what any self-respecting Magic player would do after playing 18 rounds of a Pro Tour: draft! I was opening a pack of Zendikar less than five minutes after my defeat, and promptly lost three drafts in a row to Nassif, Heezy, and the Doctor (Chris Lachmann). I’m pretty sure that nobody has broken the tradition of doing well in a tournament and then immediately doing terribly in team drafts, but that doesn’t stop us from trying!

After the drafts, we headed to a pretty sweet Brazilian Steakhouse, where I at least wasn’t on the hook for the tab. If I had made the finals, I would have picked up this bill too, but losing in the Top 4 didn’t put me in a celebratory mood. Luckily, Gabe was feeling generous, and after an excellent meal and some lively discussions, we threw our cards in the ring. With six of us there and three buyouts, me, Gabe, and Wrapter battled for the huge swing. I was first out, leaving Gabe and Josh heads up. The “winner” would pay the whole 360 dollar tab, and the “loser” would walk away with 180 dollars. One 540-dollar coinflip later and Josh was gleefully shoving a stack of bills in his pocket while Gabe reluctantly shipped his credit card. It serves Gabe right: he beat me in like eight heads-up games during the two weeks he was in Oakland, so at least now he was paying that back.

After a sweet Cube draft (sweet being a somewhat redundant word; it is Cube, after all) we finally got to bed at 1 am. We flew home, and I had a whole 14 hours at home before I had to leave for my Madrid trip, which is where I am currently.

For whatever reason I chose to play Enchantress (bad idea), and promptly exited the tournament at 1-3. PV finished 25th, which is near the top 1% of the tournament, frighteningly enough! Euro GPs are getting out of control, and make it seriously difficult to justify attending for those of us who come from distant lands. Since I live on the West Coast, it isn’t any farther for me to go to Asia, so I may just start doing that instead. Of course, part of the reason I came to Madrid is to visit family, so there is that, but when deciding between, say, GP Brussels and GP Yokohama, it seems pretty clear that Japan is the pick. Don’t get me wrong; it’s awesome that 2220 people wanted to play Magic at this tournament, but that is just too big a tournament to really want to battle. Missing Top 8 at 14-3 is just depressing, and playing in an increasingly crowded environment isn’t the most fun either. I have to give major props to the Judge staff though, since there were less delays at this GP than many I have attended, and I’m talking about 700-person GP’s, not 2000-man monstrosities.

Looking back to Standard, there are plenty of ways to approach the format now. Boss Naya is sweet, Jund is still good, Vampires seems mediocre, and UW Control seems decent. Even though Jund appears to be winning all the big tournaments, the field and the Top 8 are more wide open than previously, which is undoubtedly a good thing. That’s all I have for now, but fans of draft should note that I will be putting up ZendikarWorldwake drafts now that the new set is out on MTGO, so stay tuned!

LSV

21 thoughts on “Initial Technology – When 45 Points Just Isn’t Enough, Part 2 *3rd*”

  1. Woo! Zen/WW drafts!

    Considering how powerful knight/sejiri combo is would you consider running a second sejiri or is that just too much hell on the mana base?

  2. Oh and congratulations on having the greatest record in a pro tour, ever.

    You my friend are now a living legend!

  3. Copied the list card for card, played a few games, and felt like I was playing Jund with white instead of black. Awesome deck (thanks boss!), awesome tournament (grats on the swiss, sorry about the untimely end to the streak), and awesome report. The highlight of making day 2 for me was being there watching your record-setting 16th win. Keep it up! The community is stoked for you.

  4. Against Kyle Boggemes in game three you mentioned you played a Dauntless Escort, but you didn’t mention you sided it in?
    Do you actually side in the escorts against jund?

  5. OK, sooner or later we’re going to need a special guide to LSV verbiage. Based on context, I’m getting:

    burdle: ??? a random creature? also seems to have a verb usage
    durdle: to goof around? also seems to be applied to bad players
    birdle: observe and comment on a match of Magic (as in, rail-bird)
    dirndl: doesn’t belong on this list because it is a real word; pretty sick in Scrabble

  6. @emeng Channelfireball is doing a promo where if you wear their shirt and make top 8, they will pay you for how well you placed since they are getting free advertising.

  7. dowjonzechemical

    you know what I find funny (or do you care for that matter)?

    Before this tournament, many people were talkin’ shit about how your magic career was waning. Then you put up results, and the same people that were declaring the end was nigh are now once again lap dogs.

    People are funny…

    BTW..great performance. I won’t declare your career dead ever, unless you do first. Look at Finkel. Yeahhhhh…

    Sorry, I just like to point out hypocrisy, and our great MTG culture is chock full of it.

  8. @six: I sure hope he was. That was the guy who I scooped into top16 after smashing him 2-0 at gp Seattle and he ran the nopays. I love LSV, and even though I know he didn’t do it for me, I am going to keep on telling myself that, because it makes me feel better about it. Long live the Vargas!

  9. Nice article and great job. Most of us can only dream of doing so well in a big tourney, big props.

    @Someguy/Michiel

    Escorts are really good vs. jund since all its removal is destroy/damage instead of rfg. So if you have an escort and another creature out and they bitblast into a terminate, you simply sac and save your big knight/baneslayer. It’s pretty nice to do.

  10. Hello~ LSV
    I tested your Cruel list in a big game in my country and the only change I did was turns into . Seas works pretty well since
    man-lands are all around.
    The deck ran really well…..though I got land screwed in Top8, I really like the current Cruel list.
    Thanks for the idea !!!!

    By the way, I still couldn’t find a solution to manabarb XD

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  12. I gotta say, LSV is definitely my favorite pro. I can’t wait till i have the opportunity to have you sign a card….

    The Boss decks are pretty sweet, I tried out a “Boss Persecutor” deck, at an FNM win a box, to great success. I must say, Collaring up a scattershot archers against a fully gassed vampire deck, feels GREAT.

  13. Congrats for going undefeated. Regarding the tradition of doing badly in draft afterwards. I did some teamdrafting with Simon at the eve of the PT and we won, with bad decks all around even. The man is a machine, but you sure know by now (although your draws wouldn’t have allowed a win anyway.)

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