I have to admit, being able to eat dinner and get back at about the same time that GP Portland was in round 6 was pretty insane. Playing at a smaller event is just way more fun; the environment is really different, and even without the difference in difficulty, I would still rather play a 400 person tournament than a 1500 person tournament. In any case, we got back early enough to try and watch a movie, though most of us crashed partway through.
My pod for day 2 was pretty tough:
25 Saito, Tomoharu
26 Cusack, Benedict J
27 Crewe, David A
28 Wright, Dale
29 Scott-Vargas, Luis D
30 Nakamura, Shuuhei
31 Hicks, Jason
32 Ng, Kar Wye
The top 3 players were actually on 19 points, which was awesome. Having high tiebreakers is a huge advantage, and was a direct result of me playing a ton of good players on day 1. Being able to get paired up because of good tiebreakers continues to boost said breakers, and can almost count as another win later in the tournament.
On to the draft:
I opened a pretty awkward pack. While, I was certainly taking Skinrender, I was shipping the following:
Skinrender tends to lead into poison, since poison is the main reason to draft black, but I was shipping a pack full of poison cards. I figured I could still probably draft it, and just anticipate getting cut in pack 2. My second pack didn’t help matters, as I took Grasp of Darkness over Corpse Cur and Ichor Rats. I wasn’t completely committed to poison, but my third pack didn’t offer much of an option. I could either take Neurok Replica or Blight Mamba, neither of which was especially exciting. I took the Mamba, since UB isn’t a very synergistic archetype, and Mamba is a solid poison dude. The next few packs continued to send a terrible signal to the people to my left, as I would continuously take a poison card over another poison card. It was good that the people to my right weren’t in poison, but for sure the guy to my left was going to be. I rounded out the pack with Untamed Might (one of the best poison cards) and a few more poison dudes.
I opened a pretty weak pack 2, taking a Blight Mamba over nothing. I then got shipped the biggest gift I’ve received in draft:
A common was missing, which made me sure that the guy passing to me was in poison. I wouldn’t take any common over Wurmcoil, even if I was mono-poison, but it was the only thing I could think of. Either way, I was happy. As I expected, pack two was pretty dry for the poison deck. I picked up some nice combo pieces, and one or two random poison stragglers. The combo I was assembling used the following cards:
Proliferate and poison is a good combo already, and the Throne would work quite well with Culling Dais and Tumble Magnet. Clone Shells could be sacrificed to either Dias or Throne of Geth, and I certainly had a few good creatures to ninja into play.
Pack three was pretty light on poison as well, and I ended up somewhat pessimistic about my chances of actually poisoning people. Here is what my deck ended up looking like:
As expected, it was a bit unfocused. While I did have a solid poison theme, backed up by Throne of Geth, I also had a couple random non-poison guys, which was problematic. I just ran a few cards short, and as such had to play Snapsail Glider and Bleak Coven Vampires. Luckily, Skinrender, Wurmcoil Engine, and Trigon of Corruption are all insane on their own, so hopefully they could carry me to victory.
Round 9 vs Jason Hicks
Game one was pretty interesting because of the complex board position, which isn’t uncommon in this format. All the moving pieces are what makes this format so cool, and is one of the biggest contrasts to Zendikar. Both formats are Rachet Bomb quite fast, but Scars actually has interesting and complex boards, not just a collection of unstoppable evasion guys.
I also had a Spider and a Clone Shell, which conveniently enough was hiding a Skinrender. He bashed with Perilous Myr, and I blocked with my Spider. He then threw his Iron Myr at the Spider (after the Perilous Myr targeted it for 2), and sacrificed Rachet Bomb for 2 when I tried to eat the Spider with the Dias. In response, I sacrificed the Throne to up the Dias and the Magnet, drawing two cards for my troubles. Next turn, the Clone Shell traded for Ferrovore, and Skinrender joined the part, eating the Ogre and pretty much ending the game.
Game two was a brief and bloody affair, as I kept a 2-land Myr hand, and never saw a fourth land. After missing a land drop, he quickly killed my Myr, stranding a bunch of Clone Shells in my hand.
Luckily, Wurmcoil made an appearance in the third game, and pretty much ended it. It turns out that Wurmcoil is pretty good against the RB removal deck.
Games won via poison: 0
I felt pretty confident after this round. Even though I had yet to poison anyone, the whole Clone Shell + sacrifice outlet engine worked like a charm, and gave me more ways to find Wurmcoil Engine and Skinrender, which was pretty much the plan. While I don’t recommend drafting a messy deck like this, knowing how to make the best of a bad situation is pretty important. When life gives you Clone Shells, build a machine!
Round 10 vs Kar Wye Ng
I had done some brief scouting after my round, and walked over in time to see Shuhei fall to the classic Grindstone plus Thrummingbird combo against Kar Wye. It looked like he had the actual proliferate deck, complete with Steady Progress and Golem Foundry.
Game one made my deck look real nice. He played a variety of decent creatures, and I killed every single one. Sky-Eel School? Grasp of Darkness. Another one? Skinrender. Oh, you have three artifacts for your Certarch? Grasp it. I even had the Wurmcoil for cleanup duty, complete with Culling Dais to protect against Volition Reins. He did bounce the Vedalken Certarch in response to my Grasp, but Tumble Magnet was able to stop it from doing much when it came back down. By the time he drew Golem Foundry, it was way too late, and I Coiled him to death.
He was pretty heavy on artifacts, so I decided the it might be worth trying to Defy him. I was really just hoping he wouldn’t play a turn two Grindstone, since my deck was way too slow to race it, even if he didn’t have much else.
He mulled to six in game two, and his draw wasn’t very exciting. Once again, it was random beaters to the rescue, and I killed him with a motley crew of Snapsail Glider and Bleak Coven Vampires. Hey, whatever works.
Games won via poison: 0
Round 11 vs Benedict Cusack
I hadn’t seen any of Benedict’s games, but since he was directly to my left in the draft, I put him on poison. I also planned on asking what he took over Wurmcoil, though after the match of course.
Game one was a rout. He was on the play, and led with Vector Asp. I traded my Blight Mamba for it on turn two, which ended up not working out so well. I traded there because I was going to tap out the next few turns, and Asp can trade for Mamba regardless, but since he ended up having a three-drop, he wasn’t going to poison me that turn anyway. Either way, he dropped a Cystbearer, and then played Carrion Call, so I died rapidly. I had Trigon of Corruption in my hand, but nowhere near enough time to use it. He did show me an Island and a Disperse, along with his GB cards, so I was a little confused.
I sided in Moriok Reaver to block his early poison guys, cutting a Spellbomb again.
Game two it was my turn to have a sick draw. My turn two Myr accelerated out a turn three Skinrender, which devoured his Plague Stinger. I followed that up with an Acid-Web Spider and a Wurmcoil Engine, and all of a sudden he was dead. Beatdowns!
I once again had a Myr game three, and this time it led to a turn three Trigon of Corruption. That, combined with his not-so-fast draw, let me lock him out rapidly. Poison guys aren’t known for their toughness, so an active Trigon was almost enough just by itself. Meanwhile, my only creature for a while was Blight Mamba, but just when it looked like I might kill him with poison, Bleak Coven Vampires showed up and ruined that dream.
Games won via poison: 0
Poison sure is a nice deck. It turns out that removal is where it’s at, and of course, Wurmcoil Engine. Speaking of the Engine, my suspicions were correct. Benedict took Plague Stinger over it, because Wurmcoil Engine didn’t have infect. I definitely disagree with that pick, though I’m clearly happy he made it. Even in the most dedicated poison deck, having Engine gives you a great backup plan, since it can just win a game by itself. Plus, it’s also worth like 15 dollars, so mise!
Draft 2 Pod:
1 Puszet, Jarron 30
2 Neeman, Jeremy 30
3 Matsuyama, Satoshi 30
4 Watanabe, Yuuya 28
5 Dao, Michael 28
6 Botkov, Max 28
7 Scott-Vargas, Luis 27
8 Unwin, Daniel 27
And here those tiebreaker things come in handy again. Because I had the highest breakers, I got to mise pod 1, which was good for a bunch of reasons. The first is that I might have a chance at squeaking in at x-3, if I were to 2-1 the pod instead of 2-0-1ing, since I had the highest breakers going in and would only play against people with the same or better record. The second is a particularly nice one, and something that makes it an actual disadvantage to being in a pod with people of lower record. If I won round one vs Daniel (who I knew I would play, due to record), I would then play against someone with the same record as me. The key is that they would have the same overall record, not the same draft record, so I would get to battle one of the 30-pointers who lost round 1, which is awesome for me and bad for them. All things being equal, the better decks win and the worse ones lose, so I get to play a presumably worse deck than mine, since they lost the first round. This phenomenon is a function of the pod + swiss pairings system, and just is what it is; there isn’t any way to set yourself up for it, beyond having good breakers.
As for the draft…where do I begin? The final result was pretty interesting, and took quite the set of circumstances to end up as it did.
As usual, I opened a Skinrender. After the GP, I was almost to a full playset, just off the sealed plus both drafts. Hey, I’m not complaining! In any case, the Skinrender again put me in an awkward spot, though this time it wasn’t because I was passing a ton of poison cards. Along with the ‘Render, I didn’t pass much of anyhing, and I hoped to actually cut poison. I took a Grasp, then a Blight Mamba, and things were looking ok. Next thing I know, I’ve taken a Horizon Spellbomb out of an empty pack, and then an Arrest. I was still hoping to go GBw, but the packs just didn’t cooperate. After pack 1, the Blight Mamba was still the only poison card I had, of any color.
I opened a Razor Hippogriff and nothing, so I took it, and then was passed an Oxidda Scrapmelter. Random black and white cards followed, and still no poison. I had figured that I could go poison in pack 2, since I certainly didn’t pass any in the first pack, but there was still none to be had. At the end of pack 2, I was fairly sure I was going to be BWr, and unthemed at that. Ew.
Pack three rolled around, and I took True Conviction, resigned to my fate. Oddly enough, this was the pack where poison flowed, like some sort of sick joke. I saw a Hand of the Praetors third, and many other random poison guys. I guess that there just weren’t very many infect cards pack 1 or 2, and a ton in pack 3. In any case, I was committed to BW jank. My final deck was truly a masterpiece:
There are some positive things about this deck:
1) It has a lot of removal. Arrest, Grasp, Skinrender, Oxidda Scrapmelter, and Clasp are all top-notch removal spells, so it might be able to just kill all their relevant creatures.
2) Double Razor Hippogriff, True Conviction, Skinrender, and Scrapmelter are all powerful cards, and all generate card advantage.
3) Double Exsanguinate – Can you say HADOUKEN?
4) It has no good artifacts, so opposing Shatter effects are actually just dead.
5) It is playing a ton of bad cards, leading the opponent to underestimate the deck, as well as possibly making misplays due to being distracted by laughter.
6) If I lose, it is easy to blame the deck. After all, just showing the deck to a friend will easily absolve me of any responsibility, since who could reasonably expected to win matches with this thing?
I didn’t actually think my deck was terrible, and I certainly could have built it differently. I had a couple artifacts in my sideboard, along with Glint Hawk, Auriok Sunchaser, and Chrome Steed, but I decided that going for a mediocre metalcraft theme was just bad. It would make my deck vulnerable to Shatter, and it was still going to be a few artifacts short of the optimal amount. Instead, I cut all the conditional cards and played a bunch of Moriok Reavers, who were decent, and Dross Hopper, who was still terrible. Plus, the beatdown build made much better use of Exsanguinate, which is definitely a powerful card. After showing it to a few people, and getting mocked soundly as a result, I was ready to battle.
Round 12 vs Daniel Unwin
Daniel’s deck seemed a tad awkward, though it might just have been his draws. He gummed up the ground with a Wall of Tanglecord, but his two Chrome Steeds died to my Contagion Clasp and Fume Spitter. A slow process, to be sure, but I had time. The rest of the game went according to play, and my various removal spells plus random creatures overwhelmed his extremely land-heavy draw.
Game two was kind of the opposite, as he seemed a bit short on lands. He again had the Wall, this time with a Darksteel Axe, so beatdowns were difficult, but I was able to slam a True Conviction. The game was still a grind, but I was in control the whole time. We traded cards over and over, and I was able to kill him before he hit enough mana for the Engulfing Slagwurm stuck in his hand. I’ll take it!
One round to go! If I won this round, I could presumably draw in, which would be awesome. As predicted, I battled a 10-1 who lost his round, which was good for me.
Round 13 vs Satoshi Matsuyama
Satoshi had come from Japan with one bye, which was impressive. Here is the feature match coverage.
I knew from scouting that he was a kind of awkward GB not-poison deck, which suited me just fine. Game one was interesting, mostly because I was stuck on four land and all spells. Normally, that isn’t a bad thing, but with double Fireball in my hand I could have used some land.
On turn four, I had Iron Myr and Moriok Replica in play, and was going to crack the Replica to make sure I hit my land drop. He had a Perilous Myr, but I attacked with the Replica anyway. If he blocked, I was cracking my Replica before damage, but he didn’t block. Two free damage is two free damage! I hit my land, and played a Perilous Myr. I then followed that up with a Razor Hippogriff, and then a Clone Shell.
When he bashed with a Molder Beast, I decided to block with both Clone Shell and Perilous Myr, since that played around any removal. Regardless of which guy he killed, the Beast was going down. He did in fact have a Grasp, so I took 9, but his guy died. Now it was time to find out what was in the box. It could be anything, even a…Razor Hippogriff! Clone Shell into Razor Hippogriff is not the worst, let me tell you. Even though he had an Acid-Web Spider on the following turn, double Hippogriff plus Exsanguinate let me burn him out.
Game two was when it became real. I was going to Top 8 the GP! I highly recommend that you don’t think about such things while playing, but sometimes it’s inevitable. When you have a solid draw and your opponent is stuck on four Swamps, it seems appropriate. The game ended up being much more involved, but it sure looked good at the beginning. We both had Blistergrubs (if only Ray was covering our match…), but I could actually cast my spells. I got out a Clone Shell and a True Conviction, but he found his Forests and started casting Molder Beasts.
The big turn happened when he dropped Contagion Engine, which killed two of my 1/1’s and pumped his Molder Beasts. He bashed with both, trading one for my Clone Shell, and once again it was hiding a Razor Hippogriff. That forced him to use up his Tumble Magnet on my flier, which meant he couldn’t proliferate it up with Contagion Engine, and gained me a bunch of life.
A few turns and a bunch of trades later, and the board was somehow cleared. He had two cards in hand to my none, despite me cracking Moriok Replica a turn earlier. Of course, I then immediately drew Exsanguinate, and that was that! It was a good draw, but I think I was in good shape anyway. He had no pressure and I was above 40 life, to his 3. I also had True Conviction in play, so any creature was a huge threat. Either way, that was game. My sweet WB pile had managed to 2-0.
As expected I was able to ID, locking up Top 8. Travelling to Australia is kind of a gambit, and I was very happy to see that it paid off.
Martin, Web, and I walked to a nearby convenience store, where we proceeded to get 2-0ed. I mean, 2.50 for a candy bar and 3.50 for a random drink is just a beating, but we were pretty much used to it at this point. When the exchange rate is 1 USD for 1 AUD, things aren’t pretty. Martin managed to spend 12 dollars on some candy bars and a soda, which was nice.
The Top 8 wasn’t bad, though Yuuya was the only person I really knew. He was passing to me, and I knew he favored UW.
I opened a pretty dry pack, and took Grand Architect over Blight Mamba. I kinda wanted to draft poison, but Grand Architect is pretty sweet, and Blight Mamba isn’t. That pick ended up being awesome, as I found out after the draft. Next, I took Kuldotha Phoenix, followed by a few random artifacts and a Trinket Mage. Luckily, I wheeled the Flight Spellbomb from my opening pack, which ended up being my only 1-drop artifact.
I got quite a gift in the second pack, and slammed Contagion Engine. Well, I actually just put it in my pile, since you aren’t really supposed to slam cards in the Top 8. The packs weren’t that spectacular past that, and I wasn’t even really all that committed to red until pack 3. I’m glad I didn’t stray out of red, since my picks pack 3 went as such:
If I were Yuuya, I’d be pretty miserable, shipping infinite awesome cards, but luckily he didn’t stray from BG. Actually, if I were Yuuya, I would have just taken the Bolts and splashed them, since I’m greedy. My deck ended up like this:
It was tough to build this deck, and the last slot could have been a number of cards. Stoic Rebuttal in particular might have been the call, though I went with Halt Order. I can’t resist a 2 for 1, after all. There weren’t enough artifacts to play Glint Hawk Idol, and Auriok Replica was the somewhat loose replacement. Gotta make sure that Certarch is active, after all.
Top 8 vs Jarron Puszet
My first match was pretty straightforward, and I’ll leave it to the coverage, found here.
I just kinda beat him down both games, though my line game one was probably wrong. PV later pointed out that I should have just attacked with Phoenix and passed the turn instead of playing Saberclaw Golem, since that gave me a much safer win. I knew he had Putrefax, but was planning on blocking it, and instead I should have just kept up double Galvanic Blast and Neurok Replica. As is, I was pretty favored to win either way, but PV’s way is safer in the event that he has removal.
Top 4 vs Isaac Egan
To really understand this match, you have to understand the following interaction:
What does this board do? Obviously, the Bonds are on the Demon, so it isn’t bashing. At all times, the Demon has at least one –1/-1 counter, and either of us can increase the number of counters at will, with Isaac also able to decrease them. Basically, any creatures that either of us play die, since I can force him to use his Demon by threatening to kill it with the Engine, though it takes two turns if he gets it down to 1 counter before playing a guy. Any guys I play are going to instantly die, and occasionally I have to match his with my own in order to not die.
It took a little while for us to fall into this pattern, as he initially threw away a few guys in game two, but he soon got into the swing of things and forced me to answer his guys by waiting until the Demon was at 1 counter before playing new guys. It took too many of my resources to deal with his assorted guys, and I eventually got decked.
For game three (since he mulled to 4 and I rolled him g1, though his draw ended up decent), I sided in a Grindstone, which would trump that situation. Well, it happened again. I played the Engine, he had the Demon, and I locked it down with Bonds. After many turns of back and forth, I eventually pulled the trigger. Double Galvanic Blast was able to kill his Demon, letting me drop two Chrome Steeds and bring back Kuldotha Phoenix, which killed him.
I knew I had the Grindstone in reserve, but he was on no cards, so this line seemed pretty safe too. After that marathon match, I was ready for the finals.
Finals vs Jeremy Neeman
This was a frustrating match, and the full coverage is here.
Game one was a massacre; turn three Grand Architect into turn four Darksteel Sentinel ambush, turn five dump my hand. After that game, I was definitely feeling good.
Sadly, the next two games didn’t go so smoothly. I actually thought I was winning both, until he had the nerve to play a bunch of good cards. How unfair. Game two it was Strata Scythe, and my controlling board position just crumbled, despite an active Spikeshot Elder.
Game three it was the combination of Scrapmelter, Glimmerpoint Stag blinking the ‘Melter, and a Shatter, and all my threats were dead. Disappointing, to be sure, but overall I certainly can’t complain about how the tournament went.
We packed up, headed back to Aaron’s, and had a sweet steak dinner (though I didn’t pay). I actually stayed in Australia for a few more days, and did a bunch of the touristy stuff I wasn’t able to get to beforehand.
This format is really good, both draft and sealed, and I look forward to playing more of it. I have three more GP’s, Worlds, and of course a ton of MTGO drafts to come, and I anticipate enjoying all of them.