This is the second part of my article about our preparation for the WMC. For those who did not read the first part yet, you can find it here. In my first article I said that the second part would be about the tournament itself, but I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint some people as the actual tournament will have to wait for part III. This part talks only about Thursday (the day before the WMC).
Just as a reminder: this series of articles is based upon the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Not everything happened exactly as I describe it (obviously Vincent, Emmanuel, and Xavier did not steal my deck…), but everything is based on the truth. I am fully aware that this is not your regular strategy article—I just tried to tell a story, and I hope you guys enjoy it.
I woke up at 7.54 a.m. but decided I would stay where I was for another 1 hour and 6 minutes as I did not want to wake up Kelly because she always gets cantankerous when I wake her up too early. While lying in bed I tried to remember what had happened the night before but it was impossible because there was a gap in my memory. The last thing I remembered was selling my 4 [card]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/card] and 4 [card]Kalonian Hydra[/card]s for 156 event ticks which was 12 event tickets fewer than I had bought them for. Then I remembered that today was the day before the WMC which meant I had to decide what deck to play and I started to panic real hard because there were so many decisions to make and only 26 hours and 3 minutes left to do so (it was 7:57 when I realized this).
So I grabbed Kelly’s arm and told her we had to wake up. In the beginning she was very grumpy but when I explained her that there were only 26 hours and 1 minute left before the start of the WMC and that I had a lot of decisions to make in that time and that I was feeling sick, she understood.
She said: “We should make a plan.”
And I liked this because it would make me feel better when there was something in my head that had an order so that I could just follow the instructions one after another.
So we formulated a plan and it looked like this:
1. Wake up and collect all the standard legal cards I own.
2. Drive to Amsterdam to meet up with Vincent, Xavier and Emmanuel.
3. Decide what decks we would play as soon as possible.
4. Test some more hours to get used to the decks we would be playing.
5. Win the WMC.
And I liked this plan a lot.
I don’t like going to new places. I do not like it because there are so many new things to look at and I will always remember all of them. For example when I first visited the tournament venue for PT Amsterdam 2010 I noticed these things:
1. There are 24 M11 booster packs lying on the floor, and eight empty Pizza boxes next to it.
2. There is a sign in the middle of the hall that says SW38, which stands for Stork Wärtsila 38, which is a famous engine for marine propulsion and electricity generation on board ships. This probably means that this building was an old factory that was owned by Stork B.V., a Dutch manufacturing and service providing company.
3. The people in the room are mostly wearing black T-shirts.
There are 58 more things in this list of things I noticed but I will stop here because writing them all down would not make for a very good read. And it means that it is very tiring if I am in a new place because I see all these things, and if someone asked me afterwards what these M11 booster packs looked like I could tell them that 4 of them looked like [card]Sun Titan[/card], 6 of them looked like [card]Phylactery Lich[/card], 3 of them looked like [card]Hoarding Dragon[/card], 4 of them looked like [card]Obstinate Baloth[/card] and 7 of them looked like [card]Maritime Guard[/card]. And [card]Maritime Guard[/card] is a Merfolk Soldier and this is why I decided to play Merfolks at PT Amsterdam 2010.
Kelly packed our bags while I was collecting all my standard legal cards. I could not find my 4 [card]Champion of the Parish[/card] but this was fine because I hated White Weenie anyways and did not want to play it.
While I was waiting for Kelly to finish packing our bags I made a timetable because I like timetables. And I like timetables because I like to know when everything is going to happen. And this was the timetable I made for Thursday.
8.00 a.m. Wake up
8.10 a.m. Clean teeth and wash face
8.20 a.m. Have breakfast
8.30 a.m. Put clothes on
9.00 a.m. Collect all my standard legal cards
10.30 a.m. Leave for Amsterdam
10.35 a.m. Pick up Jan
10.40 a.m. Pick up Ms. Durnez
10.45 a.m. Go to the supermarket and buy sweets
1.30 p.m. Arrive in Amsterdam
1.45 p.m. Lunch
2.15 p.m. Play standard with Emmanuel
3.00 p.m. Play standard with Vincent
3.45 p.m. Play standard with Xavier
4.30 p.m. Have juice and snack
5.00 p.m. Go to the tournament site to register for the WMC
6.00 p.m. Play standard with Emmanuel
6.45 p.m. Play standard with Vincent
7.30 p.m. Play standard with Xavier
8.00 p.m. Have dinner
9.00 p.m. Write my decklist
9.30 p.m. Play video games
9.50 p.m. Have juice and snack
10.00 p.m. Go to bed
We left our place at 10:56 (which was 26 minutes later than what was written on my timetable). First we picked up my friend Jan. After this we went to pick up Kelly’s friend Mrs. Durnez. And after this we went to the supermarket to buy 25 liquorice laces, 8 pink wafer biscuits and 6 clementines.
And when we arrived in Amsterdam I knew that it was time to go for lunch because that was how it was written on my timetable except that it was already 1.56 p.m. and not 1.30 p.m..
On our way to the restaurant we walked into Vincent, Emmanuel and Xavier. Vincent, Emmanuel and Xavier were checking in at the reception. I was still angry at Vincent because of what happened the day before but Kelly said I should be a good boy so I went to say hi. So I decided that I would be a good boy and walked straight to Vincent and said “Hi Vincent.” but I did not know whether to shake hands with him or not.
So I looked at Kelly and she said “C’mon Marijn, be polite.”, so I shook Vincent’s hand because that is being polite.
After this I walked to Emmanuel and I said “Hi Emmanuel” and I shook his hand as well. And he said “Hi Marijn. I want to play RG from Kibler. I think this deck is very stronk.”. And with stronk he meant to say strong but Emmanuel has a strange French accent so it is hard for him to pronounce strong correctly.
After this I went to say hi to Xavier but Xavier did not want to shake hands. Instead he wanted to give me a kiss on the cheek but this scared me a lot and it reminded me about that one time at school where the teacher told us about stranger danger and how we should be careful. So I pulled away and ran to the restaurant to have dinner with Kelly, Jan and Ms. Durnez.
In the restaurant I made a picture in my head of decks I could play at the WMC if Vincent played “Bleu – Vert – Rouge” and Emmanuel played “RG Kibler”. And it looked like this:
And then I imagined crossing out all the decks which were impossible, which is something I like to do when I have a very hard decision to make. And it was like this:
Which meant I had to play Junk Aristocrats. And I would not change my mind again because this was my final decision.
The first thing I did when I got back from lunch was look for a Junk Aristocrats list on my iPad. And when I found a list I looked for another one. And after finding a second list I looked for a third Junk Aristocrats list. And then I decided which one I liked the most and it was this one:
Junk Aristocrats by Michael Braverman
4 Blood Artist
4 Cartel Aristocrat
4 Doomed Traveler
1 Scavenging Ooze
3 Skirsdag High Priest
4 Voice of Resurgence
1 Young Wolf
1 Obzedat, Ghost Council
2 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
3 Garruk Relentless
4 Tragic Slip
4 Lingering Souls
2 Gavony Township
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Overgrown Tomb
3 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden
3 Woodland Cemetery
2 Lifebane Zombie
2 Scavenging Ooze
3 Abrupt Decay
1 Doom Blade
1 Ray of Revelation
1 Obzedat, Ghost Council
3 Appetite for Brains
So I searched through all my standard legal cards and made the deck except that I did not have any [card]Young Wolf[/card] so I made a proxy and it looked like this:
After making my deck I did not know what to do. I wanted to play as much as possible with the deck but I was still mad at Vincent and I could not come near Xavier because of stranger danger. I wanted to be on my own and read a book. But if I did not play with the deck I would not know if it was any good. And then I had to decide what to do because I could not stay in my room the whole day. So I made a decision.
I decided that I would meet with Vincent, Emmanuel and Xavier and ask Vincent why we could not play BG Midrange. And I would explain to Xavier what stranger danger is and tell him that it is not OK to kiss me on the cheek. And after this I would play as much standard as I could to get familiar with Junk Aristocrats.
The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time is my favorite book.
I like this book because the main character is Christopher Boon. Christopher is fifteen and has Asperger’s Syndrome. He knows a great deal about maths and solving puzzles and very little about human beings. And this is just like me.
And I also like The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time because in the book it says
And this is why I am very good at playing chess, because I detach my mind at will and concentrate on the board and after a while the person I am playing will stop concentrating and start scratching their nose, or staring out of the window and then they will make a mistake and I will win.
And I think this is why people make a lot of mistakes while playing Magic: The Gathering. While they are playing their memory is full with things like “If I win this match, I only need to win two more for Top 8” or “This is a bad matchup. I can never win.”
So instead of concentrating on the board and analyzing everything, they think about these things and then they make a mistake and I win. And that is the reason why I always listen to Sigur Ròs at the beginning of a match. It is because if I put the volume right up so that it is all I can hear, I can detach my mind at will and won’t think about things like “I urgently need to go to the wee” or “If he draws his Meloku again, I can never win”.
It was already 3.30 p.m. when I met with Vincent, Emmanuel and Xavier, which meant we had only 18 hours and 30 minutes left before the start of the WMC and we still did not know what we were going to play. So I got straight to the point (which means that I said exactly what I meant to say and nothing more than that).
I said “Hey Vincent, Emmanuel and Xavier. We still need to decide what we are going to play tomorrow and there are only 18 hours and 28 minutes left to do so. But first I need to know why we cannot play GB Midrange”.
And they said, “Howdy partner,” which is a joke they do.
And Vincent said, “We cannot play GB Midrange because we’ve tested it and it’s really bad.”
And I said, “Against what did you test?”
And Vincent said, “Against Patriot.” And I knew that with Patriot he meant Blue-White-Red because Emmanuel and Xavier had been using this name for Blue-White-Red the whole time.
And I said, “And how bad was it?”
And Vincent said, “The GB Midrange deck couldn’t win a game.”
And I said, “In how many games?”
And Emmanuel said, “Two.”
And Vincent said, “No, it was more.”
And Emmanuel said, “No no, it was two. We did not finish the third game.”
And Vincent said, “Hmmm, I’m not sure. But it’s also bad against Mono-Red.”
So I asked, “How do you know?”
And Vincent said, “Because we theorized about it.”
And then Emmanuel and Xavier started to laugh but I did not understand why they were laughing because this was not a joke (and I do not understand jokes anyway).
People never test with sideboard. They always say “This matchup is bad” when in fact they only play pre-sideboard, which does not say anything about a matchup. It only says something about game 1. Let’s take a look at the following example.
Deck A has a 75% chance of winning game 1 against deck B, which is what people would call a very bad matchup for deck B. But after sideboard deck B has a 66% chance of winning. And people would not know this because they do not test after sideboard. And if you want to know which deck has a better chance of winning this matchup, you can do it by math or you can make a picture of all the possible outcomes like this
And now we can see that deck A has only 38.5% chance to win this matchup and deck B has 61.5% chance to win so this is actually a pretty good matchup for deck B (and this is only an approximation because there can also be draws). And when you play the matchup there is a 41.6% chance that the match ends after two games and a 58.4% chance that the match ends after three games (and this is an approximation as well). So when you test this matchup you should play 40.2% of your games without sideboard and 59.8% of your games after sideboard.
And this shows that when you only play pre-sideboarded games, you can get things wrong. And this is also how people decide what deck they want to play in a certain tournament. But playing games after sideboard can help you make the right choice.
And that is the truth.
And it is not funny.
I did not know what to do after Vincent had told me he had only played 2 games with BG Midrange. My head was hurting and I could not think anymore. I didn’t want to speak to anyone but it was not possible because I had decided that I would play as much standard as I could. So I decided to stay quiet for a bit and calm down but after 7 minutes Vincent said “I think you should play White Weenie”. And the pain in my head got much worse.
I stayed quiet for another 15 minutes. And after this I did some reasoning. I reasoned that if I wanted to win the WMC I had to make the best out of this situation, which means that I would do as well as possible with something that is not too promising.
I said, “I am going to play Junk Aristocrats tomorrow. Who wants to play against me?”
And Emmanuel said, “I will play against you.”
Emmanuel played R/G Kibler and we played 4 games before sideboard and 6 games after sideboard. I won 2 games before sideboard and 2 games after sideboard, which made this a 33% matchup.
After this I played against Vincent. Vincent played “Bleu – Vert – Rouge” but we could only play two games before it was time to go to the tournament site.
It was 5.00 p.m. when we went to the tournament site. On the way to the venue I talked to Emmanuel. I was starting to get used to Emmanuel. I had watched him play for many games and I knew he was safe. He was not a stranger to me anymore.
I said, “What do you think we should play?”
And he said, “Vincent should play Patriot. And I like RG Kibler a lot.”
And I said, “And what about me?”
And he said, “I don’t know. I think White Weenie could be a good choice.”
And I didn’t say anything.
And he said, “Don’t you think?”
And I said, “It has a really bad matchup against UWR.” and I knew this because I had played a lot of games before and after sideboarding and even when I sideboarded 10 cards I was still losing 76% of my games.
And he said, “What about Mono-Red?”
And I said, “I like Junk Reanimator. We just need to find a way to split the [card]Restoration Angel[/card]s.”
And he said, “I really don’t think that is a good idea, Marijn”.
And I didn”t say anything after this.
After 5 minutes Emmanuel said something really weird. He said, “Next time I’m in the finals of a WMCQ, I will concede.”
And I asked “Why?”
And he said, “I don’t know. I’m a competitive player, but this is just too much for me.”
And after this I thought for a very long time. I think Emmanuel was scared for what could happen tomorrow but I wasn’t sure because I know very little about human beings. And Emmanuel wasn’t screaming or groaning, which is what I do when I’m scared. So I did not know what to say anymore.
After 3 more minutes we arrived at the tournament venue. I knew that it was the tournament venue because I remembered it from PT Amsterdam 2010, except that there were a lot of flags in the room now and there were M14 boosters on the floor instead of M11 boosters. But the SW38 sign was still there. And most people were still wearing black T-shirts.
After we registered, we went back to the hotel. I wanted to play against Jund so I asked Xavier if he wanted to play against me and he agreed.
We played 4 games before sideboard and 2 games after sideboard. I won two games pre-sideboard against Xavier and this was because Xavier did not draw any lands so this was not representative. In the games where Xavier drew more than 3 lands I did not win a single time. After this I had to quit because my head was hurting.
People often base their testing on games that are not representative.
Sometimes they will play 4 games where deck A wins 3 times because deck B did not draw more than two lands. And they will say that this is a very bad matchup for deck B because it could only win 1 out of 4 games.
Or they will play 4 games in which deck A plays his singleton Supreme Verdict on turn 4 every time. And they will say that this is a very bad matchup for deck B because deck B cannot beat [card]Supreme Verdict[/card].
Or they will play 4 games in which deck A has to mulligan every hand but the player that is playing deck A always draws 7 after a mulligan so he still wins. And they will say that this is a very bad matchup because deck B cannot win even when deck A is mulliganing.
And that is also how you make the wrong choice.
I was really frightened and I felt a panic starting. My heart was beating really fast and I could feel the pain like someone had blown up a big balloon in my chest. And I could not play anymore because I couldn’t concentrate because my head was hurting too much.
And I was frightened in two ways. One way was being frightened because I knew that if I didn’t play anymore I wouldn’t find a deck I liked, and the other was being frightened of playing more games because every deck I played I didn’t like. And they were in inverse proportion to one another, so that the total fear remained a constant no matter what I did. So it was like this
So I went to my room to calm down and also because I needed to go for a wee. And as I walked into my room I had a stroke of inspiration.
I remembered that Vincent had told me that he needed [card]Restoration Angel[/card] in his UWR but he had not told me how many he needed. So I thought it would be fine if he only had two. And this would mean that I could play Junk Reanimator with two [card]Restoration Angel[/card] which was worse than Junk Reanimator with four [card]Restoration Angel[/card] but still better than Junk Aristocrats because that deck could not beat Jund.
So I took my Junk Aristocrats deck and took out the lands, the [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card] and the [card]Garruk Relentless[/card]. And then I searched through all my standard legal cards so I could complete my Junk Reanimator deck. And then I went downstairs to tell Vincent, Emmanuel and Xavier about my plan.
After I had told Vincent, Emmanuel and Xavier about my plan I realized that I had forgotten to go for a wee. So I put my Junk Reanimator deck on the table and told them to already start testing while I went upstairs again to go for a wee. And when I arrived back downstairs Vincent was playing against Emmanuel. But they were not playing with my Junk Reanimator deck. They were playing “Bleu – Vert – Rouge” against RG Kibler.
So I asked, “Where is my Junk Reanimator deck so I can play with it against Xavier?”
But they did not answer.
So I asked again, “Does anyone know where my Junk Reanimator deck is?”.
And they said, “We do not know what you are talking about.”
And then I realized that my Junk Reanimator deck got lost. One other possibility was that Vincent, Emmanuel and Xavier had hidden my deck somewhere. But in both cases I needed to find it because otherwise I had no deck for tomorrow. So I decided to do some detecting and see if I could find it.
I started by looking in the hotel lobby.
Then I searched at the reception.
Then I went upstairs and searched in my own room where I found my 4 missing [card]Champion of the Parish[/card].
Then I went downstairs again and searched at the table where Vincent, Emmanuel and Xavier were playing.
Then I looked for Xavier’s bag. And when I opened Xavier’s bag I saw that my deck was inside it.
Then I didn’t know what to do.
If my deckbox was inside Xavier’s bag it meant that Vincent, Emmanuel and Xavier had hidden it for me because they did not want me to play Junk Reanimator. And if they did not want me to play Junk Reanimator it meant that I again had no deck to play for tomorrow.
It was 9:00 p.m. when we went for dinner. I still had no deck to play but Vincent said that we would decide during dinner. On the way to the restaurant we passed 3 people in a row who were wearing a blue T-shirt which meant that this was a good time to make decisions. During dinner I did not eat anything because all I could think about was how I still did not have a deck for tomorrow and how the tournament would start in 13 hours.
As soon as everyone finished their dish I said, “I think it is time to make a decision.”
And Xavier said, “I think so too.”
And Vincent said, “I want to play Patriot.”
And we all agreed.
And Emmanuel said, “I want to play RG Kibler.”
And we all agreed as well.
And then I said, “Maybe I should just play BG Midrange?”
And then Vincent, Xavier and Emmanuel started laughing.
So I asked, “Why are you laughing?”
And Vincent said, “The deck is really bad Marijn.”
And I said, “But so is Junk Aristocrats. And White Weenie. And Mono Red. And you do not want me to play Junk Reanimator.”
And Vincent said, “But we tested BG Midrange, and really Marijn, it is very bad.”
And I said, “You tested it for two games against its worst matchup and you didn’t even sideboard.”
And Vincent said, “It was more than two games.”
And then Emmanuel started to laugh.
And I said, “At least BG Midrange has some really good matchups like Bant Hexproof and it can also win against random decks like Selesnya Aggro and White Weenie.”
And Xavier said, “Maybe he is right.”
And then it was very quiet for a minute or two.
And after this Vincent said, “So, does anyone have [card]Primeval Bounty[/card]?”
And Vincent, Emmanuel and Xavier started to laugh again.
Once back in the hotel we started to make the BG Midrange deck. I could remember most of the maindeck but for the sideboard I needed to do some research. So I grabbed my iPad and looked through all the dailymtg.com 4-0 lists to see if I could find any GB Midrange lists I liked. And then I found one (but I do not remember which one it was) and wrote down my decklist.
This is the list I wrote down:
BG Midrange by Vincent, Emmanuel, Xavier and Marijn
4 Desecration Demon
2 Disciple of Bolas
4 Lifebane Zombie
2 Scavenging Ooze
3 Liliana of the Veil
1 Vraska the Unseen
1 Abrupt Decay
2 Devour Flesh
1 Doom Blade
1 Primeval Bounty
3 Sign in Blood
2 Tragic Slip
1 Evolving Wilds
2 Golgari Guildgate
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Woodland Cemetery
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Curse of Death’s Hold
2 Dead Weight
1 Liliana of the Veil
1 Primeval Bounty
2 Tree of Redemption
2 Underworld Connections
1 Vraska the Unseen[/deck]
It was 11.14 p.m. when I went to bed. While I was lying in bed I thought about the cards I was still missing for the BG Midrange deck. I was missing 2 [card]Primeval Bounty[/card], 1 [card]Evolving Wilds[/card], 1 [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] and 2 [card]Golgari Guildgate[/card]. I remembered that they were selling [card]Primeval Bounty[/card] and [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] at the site so I did not worry about those. And I also remember that [card]Evolving Wilds[/card] had been an FNM Promo in October 2012 so I knew that the dealers would have this one as well. But then I realized that I also needed 2 [card]Golgari Guildgate[/card]s, which was a common and it was possible that the dealers did not have those. So I started to panic real hard. But Jan tried to calm me down and said we still have some Dragon’s Maze boosters we could open.
So I opened a Dragon’s Maze booster and opened a [card]Boros Guildgate[/card].
Then I opened a second booster and opened an [card]Orzhov Guildgate[/card].
Then I opened a third booster and opened another [card]Orzhov Guildgate[/card].
Then I opened the fourth and last booster and saw it was black and green. I carefully slid the card from the back of the pack. But then I saw it was an [card]Overgrown Tomb[/card].
And then I didn’t know what I was doing anymore.