by Sebastian Parker
It has been obvious for a while now that Grand Prix Brussels was going to be Jund Jund Jund, so I decided that instead of spending the money to travel to Europe and play a standard jund tournament for 1 day followed by an extended PTQ on Sunday when I inevitably lose 3 mirror matches, I was going to play an extended PTQ in Birmingham followed by a standard Nationals qualifier in Reading. Between the two tournaments my hope was to increase my rating by the 80 or so points needed to qualify for nationals, or straight up qualify on the Sunday. It was a nice idea, but the weekend didn't turn out as I had planned... Here's part 1:
As has become the norm before PTQ's Ben Scoones came round to mine the evening before for some last minute practice and online drafting. We spent a long time playing standard and building up decks for the two tournaments and before we knew it, it was 9.30pm and we hadn't had anything to eat. Ben suggested Domino's but I didn't want pizza so we compromised with a trip to a restaurant just down the road from where I live – Bella Italia. He ordered coke, I ordered diet coke and we sat there chatting about how Gavin Verhey is the only good starcitygames writer (editor's note: disagree) but the Ultemecia deck is pretty questionable. We ate our starters and ordered more cokes, but when our drinks came mine had a straw in it. Ben made a joke about the waitress thinking I was gay but we figured she probably just did it to indicate which one was diet and we carried on with the meal. When it came to ordering dessert, I didn't want one but Ben ordered a sundae and the waitress asked if we wanted two spoons! I guess two guys going to a candle-lit restaurant late on a Friday night does look a bit like a date so really the joke is on both of us...
Anyway, we got back to mine around 11pm and realized that drinking so much coke late at night is not a great idea so we stayed up chatting and playing various forms of magic till about 3am. As a result, I when we got up at 7am to get a lift to Birmingham I was totally exhausted and in no fit state to play. I did manage about an hour's sleep in the car but I still wasn't awake enough to play magic when I arrived at the tournament!
Just for reference, here's my decklist (which I credit the design of to Marco Orsini-Jones, except for the temporal isolations – which is some technology I found online, which I liked because they don't help your opponents when you have blood moon):
4 Arid Mesa
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Marsh Flats
1 Scalding Tarn
2 Stomping Grounds
1 Temple Garden
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Treetop Village
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Qasali Pridgemage
4 Knight of the Reliquary
3 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Blood Moon
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Temporal Isolation
3 Umezawa's Jitte
3 Baneslayer Angel
2 Path to Exile
4 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Tormod's Crypt
1 Ravenous Trap
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Oblivion Ring
Round 1: Lian Pizzey
I have seen Lian at tournaments for a long time and I know that he likes to play blue in extended, so I doubt that he's playing hypergenesis or dredge. I get a hand of noble hierarch, temple garden, arid mesa, double blood moon, double wild nacatl, which is great because I can get down a blood moon on turn 2 and hopefully get an easy win for game 1.
Lian wins the roll and opens with temple garden tapped. I draw a misty rain forest and say “snap” and play my own temple garden into noble hierarch. Turn 2, Lian plays a breeding pool untapped and removes a negate to chrome mox. My suspicions are revealed to be correct – he is playing blue! He passes the turn and casts vendilion clique in my upkeep, which I find odd since most people wait for the draw step but whatever... He takes a nacatl, I draw a knight of the reliquary and my draw for the turn yields a land. I play arid mesa and say “fetch basic plains”, dutifully put my plains into play and then look at the blood moon in my hand. I look at my board. Noble hierarch, temple garden, plains... no red mana... facepalm! I kick myself and then smile at how lucky I am that I have drawn a knight, which is still a strong turn 2 play.
Lian follows up with another dual land, path to exile on the knight and rhox war monk – making my board, hand and non-blood moon play look really mediocre. He beefs me with the clique and passes the turn. I have nothing better to do than play a blood moon and bolt his vendilion clique. Rhox war monk attacks me a couple of times while my nacatl hits back to keep his life in check. Eventually I draw a temporal isolation and a tarmogoyf and the game is looking like it has swung in my favor. Lian does manage a second war monk (see how effective my blood moons are?) but I draw into more large guys and he is forced to play defense, eventually a bloodbraid elf into another guy is too much for him and I win game 1.
I side out of blood moon, since Lian is playing both noble hierarch and chrome mox. I also side out one temporal isolation since he might have qasali pridemage. I side in 3 baneslayers and 2 path to exile.
In game 2 I have a nice curve of nacatl, qasali pridemage, knight, bloodbraid elf so I keep. Lian goes first and spends his turns not doing much. Lian Bant Charms my knight on his turn 4. My turn 4 I draw another knight and play a misty rainforest. I crack the fetchland and Lian marks the lifetotal change on his pad while I pick up my deck to search. Lian then looks up and alarmed that I am searching though my deck. He says, sorry I meant to respond to the sacrifice with aven mindcensor! I did play the whole thing rather fast, so it's not like he'd had loads of time to respond, and technically the lifetotal changes before he gets priority but we both agree it might have been prudent to say wait before marking the lifechange. I didn't find a land in the new top 4 cards of my deck so the mindcensor was pretty sick. I settle for casting the knight and I pass the turn. Lian improves his board with a rhox war monk. On my next turn I draw a second bloodbraid elf and I feel like I really need to cast an elf to get back in the game so I risk it, tapping a land for mana and sacrificing it to the knight. I pick up my deck to search, but then Lian reminds me that I can only search the top 4 cards and I get a warning from the judge (editor: that was me :D ).
The knight finds a fetchland so things are looking ok, but the fetchland finds nothing so I'm stuck with just 1 land and a noble hierarch. Next turn Lian plays another bant charm on my knight and I have no chance to get back in the game.
Game 3 I have a strong start with a noble heirarch followed by a quasali pridemage and a bolt on his heirarch. Bloodbraid elf into knight and Lian is looking really far behind. He casts aven mindcensor and then paths the knight. I find no basic land in the top 4 cards and he doesn't block with the mindcensor. He attacks with his mincensor and I attack him again with the bloodbraid and qasali and he casts another mindcensor which I bolt so my creatures can get through unhindered. Post combat I'm thinking “phew, got rid of that mindcensor – now I can search my whole deck” so I play a fetchland, crack it and pick up my deck. Immediately about 3 different people say wait! And I realise that even though I did kill a mindcensor, there is another one in play. It even attacked me last turn... I feel like such a dumbass while I receive my second warning (editor: me again) when the first round hasn't even finished. Anyway, I topdeck a baneslayer and the lands to cast it and even though Lian manages to engineered explosives for 2 to get rid of my tarmogoyf and a temporal isolation on his war monk, he doesn't have an answer to baneslayer so I end up winning the round. A lucky escape from a terribly played round, but another warning for anything means a game loss so I have to wake up. I buy a can of coke and go and find my round 2 opponent.
Round 2: Stuart with Naya Burn
Last season I saw Stuart playing a version of naya zoo with giant growth and brute force. He won all the zoo mirrors because his creatures were constantly winning fights, but he lost to the control decks because pump spells are really bad when your opponent has removal and mana open...
I win the die roll, mulligan a no-land 7 into a double noble heirarch, tarmogoyf , blood moon, 2 land hand, which is pretty sweet against zoo I think. I start with fetching a basic forest and casting a heirarch. When he opens on a stomping ground into kird ape I am pretty stoked about mooning him out of the game, but take the time to ask him if he's playing the pump spell version he played last year. His response indicates that he's not, even if he tried to hide it and keep me guessing.
I get the turn 2 moon and I say “I hope your hand is dead”. It's decidedly not – he plays double kird ape and attacks for 1. The next turn he bolts my goyf and plays keldon marauders – it's like my moon has done nothing to his mana since every spell in his hand is mono-red. I draw only lands for the rest of the game and lose in very short order.
I side in baneslayers and a path for the moons, but game 2 is similarly fast as my life total does not last very long against my fetchlands, his keldon marauders and burn spells.
Round 3: Scapeshift
In the pregame chatter my opponent reveals that this is his first extended PTQ. I congratulate him on winning a round and welcome him to the world of tournament magic. It becomes quickly obvious that he's playing UGr scapeshift with his turn 2 sakura tribe elder serving as a speed bump for my quick beats. My deck doesn't have much burn and is slower than normal zoo decks so I'm a bit worried that this is a terrible matchup. For turns and turns my opponent is on 7+ mana and digging for a scapeshift but despite seeing about 30 cards of his deck, he doesn't manage to find a scapeshift so eventually my dudes get through for lethal.
I commiserate him on not finding a scapeshift in time, just to make sure he is actually playing it and he confirms a number of cards in his deck which I hadn't seen up to that point. I ask if he's playing punishing fire and he says no.
Game 2 he suspends a turn 1 search for tomorrow and I get a nacatl. Turn 2 I get a second nacatl while he plays peer through depths (finding another peer). Turn 3 he casts compulsive research and I get in for 6. Turn 4 he casts another peer through depths and suspends a search for tomorrow that he finds. I get in for another 6, putting him to 5. With lightning bolt in hand this game is looking pretty good for me. Turn 5 he casts Kitchen Finks and goes to 7. I bolt the finks and attack with both nacatls. He blocks one of the nacatls and goes to 6. I have lethal on the board, but I don't want him to have another kitchen finks to get back in the game so I cast a knight. He remands, drawing a peer through depths, which he casts, finding peer through depths, which he casts finding scapeshift. He reveals after casting the lethal scapeshift that his hand was remand and lands so if I just hadn't cast anything he was dead. I'm gutted that the knight ended winning him the game but I think I have to cast it there just because he could firespout or finks and have several turns to draw into scapeshift.
Game 3 I get a good start but he quickly stubbs it with a firespout. I bolt him in response to make goyf a 2/3 and then have to explain how when firespout resolves goyf is a 3/4 with 3 damage on it. He says that must be why goyf is so expensive but he follows up with consecutive kitchen finks so he's not too bothered about one goyf. I follow up with double knight of the reliquary and now I can really start eating up his creatures. On the critical turn I have a knight untapped and ready to fetch ghost quarter and he taps low for a search for tomorrow into a scapeshift. With scapeshift on the stack I leave the table basically to ask a judge which land I should ghost quarter to stop valakut. Judges aren't allowed to give strategic advice so I know I need to phrase my question as a question about the rules of the game (which essentially it is). The floor judge doesn't seem to know anything about magic cards at all, and has to look up knight, ghost quarter and valakut, stomping ground, mountain... After wasting 5 minutes I suggest we call over the head judge, who is slightly better but it still takes forever to answer what happens if I kill valakut with the triggers on the stack. (The answer is pretty much nothing) He refuses to answer my question about targetting a mountain with ghost quarter because the judge call has taken so long and he tells me to just sit down and play out the game. I think he does this because scapeshift is usually the win and if my opponent doesn't make a mistake then I have lost and I am just wasting time looking for a way to win a lost game. If I had been playing against someone who I knew, or someone I knew was a good player I would just scoop to the scapeshift but since it's his first extended PTQ and he has already made mistakes there is a significant chance my opponent will slip up. I feel slightly bad since he is sitting there twiddling his thumbs, just waiting with his (in all likelihood game winning) scapeshift on the stack. So with the head judge watching we play out the game. My life total is 16. My opponent fetches 3 steam vents, 2 stomping grounds, mountain, 2x valakut. With the valakut triggers on the stack I use knight to sacrifice a plains to fetch ghost quarter from my deck. I sacrifice the ghost quarter targetting a stomping grounds and my opponent fetches a basic island out of his deck. Now with only 5 mountains in play, the valakut triggers fizzle and my opponent scoops the game. Stephen has been watching the whole time and has a small rant about how there is only one good judge at the event (editor: me?) and tells me that I was a bit mean to not scoop to the scapeshift. I admit it was unusual not to scoop, but when your opponent is inexperienced you might as well take the chance at the win. My opponent was light hearted about the loss – we had been friendly the whole game and he realised it was his mistake for not knowing what ghost quarter does. We discussed the ways he could have won and he was eager to learn. We wished each other good luck for the rest of the tournament.
Round 4: Bradley Barclay with singleton zoo
Bradley is a very solid Scottish player, who I have played once before at Nationals a couple of years ago. We met in the limited portion though, so I don't have a read yet on what he might be playing. It turns out he is playing a very strange version of zoo – game 1 I see a path, a bant charm, a negate, noble hierarch, wild nacatl, umezawa's jitte, tarmogoyf. He wins game 1 by having jitte and negate for my jitte and tarmogoyf advantage due to his removal. During sideboarding he flips over a card from his deck – wooly thoctar! I realise that both his fetchlands were different and that he fetched a steam vents and a temple garden so all of his lands were different. I come to the conclusion that due to the diversity of cards I saw (I saw no duplicates) he must be playing a singleton deck. I question him about it and he just laughs.
I start with misty rainforest into stomping ground for my noble hierarch and Bradley starts with stirring wildwood – another singleton! We trade dudes and removal until he gets ranger of eos for double wild nacatl. The singleton dream is shattered! I have a bloodbraid elf to match his ranger, but he casts another ranger. He has run out of wild nacatls though (he only had 3 in his deck) so he is forced to fetch his second noble heirarch of the game. My second bloodbraid elf also finds a hierarch, but this allows me to cast the two baneslayers in my hand. The baneslayers make short work of Bradley's life total and we're on to game 3.
In game 3 we both get fast starts and bash each other's life totals because exalted makes trading impossible. I get knights and goyfs but bradley has all the paths and bant charms so I end up with just a couple of 3 power guys and a knight in play against lots of his 3 power guys. He bashes in with his guys, losing 1 a turn in the process of diminishing my life total and he is holding back noble heirarchs for chump blocking – keeping his life total on 6. When he runs out of hierarchs, he leaves back just stirring wildwood and attacks with all his guys, removing my knight with a bant charm. I chump with my hierarch and I am at 2 life with an empty hand and 6 power of guys on the table to his board of all tapped creatures and a stirring wildwood with activation mana. Bradley could have played less aggressively at this point but I think he wanted me dead before I cast another baneslayer angel. I topdeck a path to exile so when I attack with my guys and he activates the wildwood I path it and he is dead. I feel good for winning, but it was just because I topdecked a path - another very lucky win.
Round 5: Tom playing All In Red
Now it is my turn to get unlucky. I lose the die roll and keep a hand with a turn 2 moon and some guys. Tom plays mountain, chrome mox removing simian spirit guide, desperate ritual, blood moon. My hand is blank – I have misty rainforest and noble heirarch but I need to draw one of my 2 forests to get into the game. Tom takes until about turn 10 to cast a deus, by which point I have a plains and temporal isolation so the game goes pretty long. Eventually he gets me with a demigod. I don't think it's very good to keep an all in red hand with just a blood moon and no threat but it paid off for Tom this time so whatever... I am a little peeved that since I had a turn 2 moon of my own I would have gone misty-> forest, noble heirarch on turn 1 and had no mana problems for the entire game and a very easy win.
I side out 4 blood moon and a jitte for path to exiles and baneslayers – if I cast a baneslayer his entire threat base is essentially blanked.
I'm on the play game 2 and I start with a wild nacatl into a qasali pridemage so I'm not getting blood mooned out this game. His turn 2 is spent on a Deus of Calamity, but I have temporal isolation so he's down to 11. Post combat I cast a knight. He casts a seething song to get a demigod of revenge and attacks me, but I am well ahead in this race and we're quickly on to game 3.
Tom makes a show of hesitating to keep, which makes me think either he has a really nutty hand and he's bad at poker or he's keeping a pretty marginal hand. I have plains, forest, noble heriarch, 2 qasali pridemage, wild nacatl, knight of the reliquary so I'm totally immune to blood moon. I think it's an ok keep, it's not lightning fast but it's not at all vulnerable to Tom's disruption.
Tom reveals his indecision with a turn 1 demigod of revenge, which he makes obvious is the only gas in his draw. I instantly regret not mulliganing to find a removal spell, but I'm stuck with racing so and hoping to get lucky with removal in the next 3 draw steps. I make sure my lands don't deal me 5 so that I can have the maximum number of draw steps to get to a temporal isolation but it doesn't happen and my turn 3 bloodbraid doesn't cascade into it either. A disappointing loss, but if I guess I deserve some bad luck after how lucky I've been to win 3 rounds.
Round 6: Nicholas Taylor with Living End
This round is pretty uninteresting as Nick's deck only manages to landcycle a couple of commons before my dudes just get there. During sideboarding I realise that I actually have an insane number of cards to board in this matchup – the 4 canonists and 3 graveyard hate, which is effectively 11 cards since each knight of the reliquary counts as a bojuka bog.
My opening hand contains a tormod's crypt, bojuka bog and ethersworn canonist so Nick is going to have to do a lot to win. I play the tormod's crypt and wild nacatl on turn 1, but Nick evokes a shriekmaw to kill it. He evokes a second shriekmaw to kill my tarmogoyf and he cycles a guy. Turn 3 I play canonist and bojuka bog away his shriekmaws. I am glad I saved the canonist till last, since he looks pretty unhappy and after 8 turns of occasional landcycling and not much else he reveals his hand of 5 cascade spells and concedes the game.
Round 7: Tomas Sukaitis playing ancestral visions/punishing fire/bloodbraid elf
I won the die roll and got a turn 1 noble heriarch but Tomas starts off with a Breeding pool untapped and suspends an ancestral vision and I get a noble heirarch into a turn 2 blood moon. I play out my creatures and he eventually uses a venser to bounce a knight and block a bloodbraid. I am slightly puzzled that he didn't bounce the blood moon because he ends up with no green mana for the rest of the game and plenty of cards in hand when his life total reaches zero. At the time I thought he must just have had useless blue cards, and I mistakenly assume that his deck doesn't care much about blood moon so I side it out for game 2 in favour of baneslayer angels.
It is now that I have a gruelling half hour of trying to stick a threat through his multiple grove of the burnwillows and punishing fires (which he – presumably deliberately - showed me none of game 1). Even my baneslayers are not immune and he eventually takes down every creature I play. Unfortunately he has no threats so I sit there waiting for lightning bolts to finish him off. I get a ghost quarter to off one of his groves, so now I can get a baneslayer. Eventually he gets a bloodbraid elf into ancestral visions but my life total is over 40 due to all his grove of the burnwillows activations. He casts a kitchen finks and starts beating down. I use up a temporal isolation on his finks, but he casts another one – his life total is escaping burn range. I topdeck my final baneslayer but he plays out a second grove to punishing fire it away and I am looking pretty dead. I spend two lightning bolts to his face to get him to 2, but my last bolt is not in the top few cards and I die.
I sideboard in some graveyard hate to get rid of the punishing fires, but there are only 5 minutes left on the round. Tomas mulligans and while he is shuffling tells me a story about a friend of his a while back who needed to draw into the top8 but his opponent needed to play. This friend mulliganed to zero so that the game wouldn't begin in time and was promptly disqualified from the PTQ for deliberate stalling. He is adamant that it is not good for either of us to draw the match – since we will end up with less prizes if we both 4-2-1. I don't think his deck can kill me very fast so I ask him if he just wants to concede, but he goes on a rant about staying above 1950 for the second bye at the next GP he's going to and he doesn't want to scoop.
On my turn 2 time is called and we have a bit more discussion about the concession. He says that I have no chance to win the game since his hand has so much control and the game is going to be a draw. I guess that he is probably telling the truth, but I decide to play it out just to make sure he's not bluffing. True enough he has plenty of removal and when he has bloodbraid and goyf it even looks like he might sneak in a win, but there are just not enough turns and I leave all my guys back to block and force the draw. He's a good sport, and decides that helping me to get ratings points for nationals is more important than his chance at losing his second bye (since he will still have a positive record at the end of the tournament) and he concedes me into the 5-2 bracket.
So I end up with another very lucky win – I didn't feel like I deserved the 5-2 since my only 'real' win was crushing living end with so many sideboard cards and the rest were lucky topdecked baneslayers or paths and my opponent not knowing what ghost quarter does. Also my game win % is insanely low for a 5-2. But I'll take the +50 ratings points since now I only need 30 more to qualify for nationals.
Part II will be about what I did on the Sunday and how a fire stopped me and Ben from tearing down the London PTQ last weekend.
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Thursday, 4 March 2010
When we left off at the end of part I, I had gone 7-2 in matches and 12-7 in games in the biggest Grand Prix of all time (even bigger than Beyonce's). This is obviously a good thing ™ and I was very happy. I got to bed quite late and had to get up at 7 to get to the venue in time for the player meeting. Some of the other players I was with came along too for the Vintage and PTQ side events but my eyes were on the main event. During the player meeting I looked through my sleeves and noticed a few of them had developed small splits so I changed those while listening to some Germans mocking their previous day's opponents.
Match 10: Steewen Boettger with Zoo
He had a more traditional build which meant his first turn Nacatl made my double Goblin Guide hand less good than it would be in most matchups. After removing each others guys and getting down to topdecks I am on 8 and he is on 27, not optimal. However, my topdeck is Elspeth which matches whatever he draws each turn and allows me to draw more cards. When on 12 counters I Ultimate her and I'm in a winning position. My opponent tries to burn me out but I have a Lightning Helix to 'counter' one of his and we're off to game 2. I mull to 5 which is kinda bad for me because when we're done trading 1-for-1 he'll still be 2 cards up which will be creatures on the board. Surely enough he beats me down and we move to game 3. Being on the play is also nice in the mirror because you get to cast your guys first, which tends to mean they get bigger first. My Nacatl is matched by his but mine is a 3/3 to swing in. My turn 2 Lavamancer stops his coming down and he leaves his Nacatl back on defence. Turn 3 I Helix his Nacatl and swing, Pathing his Knight of the Reliquary then dropping my turn 4 Elspeth which draws the concession, yay.
Match 11: Enrique Garcia-baquero Rivas with Merfolk
During the last round and subsequent wander-round I found out that Rik had lost his wallet the previous night which is never fun :(. He missed the first round of the Vintage tournament too, poor guy. My luck seemed to be improving though as I drew Merfolk, aka Bye. Game 1 he got a couple of Silvergill Adepts down but I was easily able to play around Daze as he was on the play. I landed a Tarmogoyf and killed his lords to easily take the game. Game 2 was much of the same only I went down to 7 life. Only 5 of that damage was dealt by my opponent as I had to lean reasonably hard on a Horizon Canopy but I got to kill all his lords, then his mutavaults and then watch as he drew nothing, getting a cheeky peek along the way with trips Goblin Guide, GG indeed! In this game he used Mind Harness on my Wild Nacatl and immediately called a judge. I figured he was wondering if he got a 3/3, no dice my friend - you really want to save those for the Tarmogoyfs.
Match 12: Rafael Truchado with Bant
A strange deck, some counterbalance+top deck but with Trinket Mage, Engineered Explosives, Jace and Goyfs. Game 1 goes on a while as he keeps removing all my creatures (I hate it when they do that). Eventually he is on 11 and I am on 30. I Price of Progress twice while I still have time so he is on 3 and I am on 13. My Grim Lavamancer gets him to 1 but he kills it with an Explosives. He has a Trinket Mage and a Goyf from his draws while I have nothing in play now. He has one card in hand, Counterbalance but no Top, is tapped out and has just attacked me to 6. Facing lethal on board and having no cards in hand I untap my 3 duals, 1 mountain and Horizon Canopy and draw.. Qasali Pridemage. He shows me a Force of Will on top of his library and I take my opportunity for greatness. I crack the canopy to draw a card, leaving Plateau untapped - it's a Lightning Bolt. Sick topdeck to take the victory, thank-you very much. Game 2 would be similar except he couldn't deal with the steady stream of cheap efficient beaters and Gaddock Teeg plus 2 Cats knock him to dead.
Match 13: Angelo Cadei with ANT
The bogeyman. Not Angelo, ANT. I mull in game 1 and beat him down a little bit and then he waves his hands around a little bit, draws half his deck and kills me. I consider calling a judge but I've seen people do this before and apparently it's alright. I sideboard in my Mindbreak Traps, Teegs and the Canonist, taking out my Paths, Swords and Jitte because cards which are super-relevant are much better than cards which do absolutely nothing (I should write more strategy articles). Game 2 I make Wild Nacatl, Ethersworn Canonist, Goblin Guide + Lightning Bolt with Mindbreak backup and he can't do anything, nice draws. Game 3 I bash him down a lot and Lightning Helix myself up to 22. He's not drawn all that well and starts tanking a lot after I've attacked him 4 times. He uses Angel's grace in response to my lethal Lightning Bolt but can't combo off next turn from 1 life because Ad Nauseum just doesn't work that way.
Match 14: Amaiur Gonzalez Monreal with Merfolk
Another Merfolk matchup where I mull to less than optimal. My 5 is facing his 5 with me on the play but he gets some lords quickly and even my Grim Lavamancer can't save me because I can't power him up enough. Game 2 I do the usual Daze dance and get 2 Wild Nacatls and a Tarmogoyf in play, taking damage only off a fetch and a Horizon Canopy. Game 3 he has sideboarded a lot of cards in and out and mulls once. Unless he knows something I don't I'm pretty sure Merfolk has a lot of cheap counters in its board which are actually quite ineffective against me. I get a quick Tarmogoyf down and he counters my other stuff with Spellstutter Sprites, cute. Basically he was hoping to get and protect a quick clock but I had cheap fatties so he didn't really stand a chance.
Match 15: Jan Sudmann with Dredge
I was now up to table 16 but we'd been called for a (fake) feature match. This was my first ever feature match so I was a little nervous until I sat down and realised it was just a game like any other. I keep my decent hand but he mulls down to 5. He has an elaborate shuffling technique and a stack of empty sleeves so I figure he's probably dredge. Sure enough he turn 1 Unmasks himself to get a Dredge card in the bin and the race is on. My turn 1 Nacatl is joined by a turn 2 Tarmogoyf but he hits 3 Narcomoebas pretty quickly. With his two Ichorids he is able to start flashing back his spells and making guys to his 2 Bridges - nice draw. I am stuck on 2 land and probably punt by not pathing his last guy end of turn in the hope of drawing a burn spell. I did it so that I could always path the next thing that comes along. Sure enough I draw a Lightning Helix and proceed to get Iona locked with Zombie blockers, damn. Game 2 he mulls to 5 again but I keep a 2-hate hand with some aggression and I swing him to zero before he can do anything serious. I wish him luck in mulling 4 more times but he only manages to do it 3 times. He plays a City of Brass, casts Breakthrough for 0, draws 4 and discards his 6 cards. I Ravenous Trap him and he extends the hand, nice match. I got to lean over and thank LSV for the Tezz deck I won the PTQ with recently which is nice because I can be a little fanboyish sometimes.
Match 16: David Do Anh with ANT
After my previous match I was chatting with Rich Hagon and he informs me that I wasn't actually at table 16 because tables 1-10 had been removed. The standings go up and I'm in 8th place with 2 rounds to go. It looks like the winner of this round will be able to ID but the loser will have to get lucky in the next one with tie-breaks and winning. I play against David Do Anh who I met for the first time in the morning at the tube station with Gavin Goh. He seems a nice guy and I wasn't sure knowing what he was playing was going to be any kind of advantage. I get turn 1 Grim Lavamancer, turn 2 Qasali Pridemage but on his turn 3 he starts going off and there's nothing I can do when he finds everything while still on 8 life. I tried to tilt him when he announced a second Lion's Eye Diamond by saccing my Pridemage to kill the first but he had enough mana to put Ad Nauseum on the stack and sac the targetted LED. Wasn't sure if his lack of rules knowledge would confuse him into not going off correctly but it's worth a try at this level. Game 2 I keep a few guys, Canonist and Mindbreak Trap. He thoughtseizes away the Canonist and later duresses the Trap but doesn't have enough gas to go off. I beat him down to 6 and EOT Price of Progress him for 2 when I have another Price in hand and 2 Pridemages in play. I untap and attack with my two guys for lethal. He tries to Mystical Tutor for a Slaughter Pact, Brainstorm into the Pact and kill a guy but I drew the Mindbreak Trap to counter it ;).
Game 3 I mulligan and have a hand with no answers but some aggression. I really really need both in this matchup but it's unlikely that a random 5 will be any better so I keep it in the vain hope that it'll be enough. End of my turn 2 he cracks a Scalding Tarn and announces that he'll use the blue mana he's fetching to cast a Mystical Tutor. He finds an Ad Nauseum and puts it on top, untaps draws and casts 2 Lotus Petals. At this point I notice that he didn't actually find a land with the Tarn. I figure it hasn't made any different to any decisions because he was always going to draw the same card but I called a Judge anyway to resolve the situation - mise get free wins? Martin Juza, who was watching, called me a cheat because I had noticed straight away apparently, and wouldn't accept my insistence that I really hadn't noticed until just then. If he'd noticed then perhaps he should have called a judge maybe? I think it's a bit off to call someone a cheat when you're not following the rules yourself. The judge undoes the sequence of plays so my opponent finds a land, gives my opponent a Warning for Game Rule Violation and gives me one for "being a bit slow". I didn't bother to appeal the ludicrous Warning because it wouldn't matter anyway, but I don't like that judge much now. My opponent untapped and went off but there was a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. I wished him luck in the top 8 anyway and headed off to my friends. I was actually a bit gutted that I'd not made top 8 despite having been extremely happy to just make Day 2 but I tried to shrug it off quickly because I was still exceeding my expectations.
Match 17: Rafael Del Riego with UGRW control
We were potentially playing for top 8 but with the 4 tables above us playing Feature Matches it was far more likely we were playing for 9th place. He seemed to be playing a slightly janky UGRW deck with Jaces, Vendilion Cliques, Bolts, Swords and Goyfs. Plenty of good cards but a bit Rock-ish with a bad manabase - 4 colours _and_ Wasteland? Needless to say he always had the counterspells and removal spells for my stuff and I couldn't fight through so I lost the match.
My last opponent finished 9th but had better tie-breaks than I would have. I ended up in 30th place which is perfectly respectible but slightly lower than it could have been. I won myself a tidy $400 which more than paid for the trip and I'd had an excellent weekend. I'd had an on-off friendly rivalry with Matt Light the whole weekend and having been streaks ahead of him the whole way he pipped me by 1 place on tie-breaks right at the very end, curse you Matt :p!
Seb and I joined up with Matt Light and his mates for an 8-man random boosters draft then took a train back into town (chatting with Sam Black along the way) before Cube Drafting which I took down with a solid WG monsters+equipment+anthems deck after everyone was extolling the power of the blue cards in the cube. Overall it had been a very good weekend and I'd recommend my deck heavily to anyone looking to play Legacy Zoo. Maybe I'll win the next Grand Prix I go to, but I've Day 2'd 2 of the 3 so far and top 32'd one now, on with the Pro Tour :D
- Rik for lending me cards
- Rik, Colin and Seb for being good friends and travel buddies
- Richard Bland for making top 4
- Matt Light & crew for providing draft entertainment
- All the British players for being there for Legacy
- The judges who structured the weekend after being overloaded with players
- The judges who didn't expect 2000+ players and got overloaded with players
- Luton Airport for being a bit faily
- Madrid Airport for being really expensive
- Whoever stole Rik's Wallet
- Martin Juza for calling me a cheat + the judge who agreed
- Me for not top-8ing :p
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
I am calling this Part I with the vague ambition of writing Part II but it was a very long weekend. It started on Thursday evening when I travelled down to Stevenage to get picked up by Rik Powell and Colin Ward to stay the night and get a bit of testing in. Not for my deck, mind, because I was pretty happy with mine, but we had a Dark Depths list which needed a bit of tuning. The next day we headed to Luton Airport where we went inside and met up with our flight partner Seb Parker. Having done so the fire alarm immediately went off and we all had to evacuate the building
Airport fail #1.
We were eventually let back in and headed through the gates before settling down for a beer before the flight because we're English. En route to the bar, we noticed on the screen that the flight had been cancelled
Airport fail #2.
We went to the information kiosk and they were as surprised as we were since they are usually informed about this sort of thing. They phoned someone up and apparently it was just a little typo or something, weird. We went and had our beer but with all the delays we had to drink it relatively quickly before going through to the plane. We get in the plane and are taken through the pre-flight monotony. We get onto the runway and start speeding up. Then we didn't really take off. Then we slowed down a bit and turned off the runway. An announcement comes over the tannoy to the tune of "As many of you may have realised we did not just take off. We noticed another plane attempting to land on the runway so we got off as quickly as possible. We apologise for the delay but please don't panic, we'll try again in a few minutes"
Airport fail #3.
We did eventually take off and have a safe flight. I tested my deck against Seb's ANT list and it didn't seem too bad. Oh yeah, I'm playing Zoo. ANT isn't a great matchup but I removed the sideboard cards against the decks I beat anyway to make room for the combo-beating cards and it didn't seem too bad in the end. We land and meet some of Rik's London-Legacy friends so head off the tubes towards our hostels. We meet up with Fu in town and have some dinner before going to bed. Fu had some cool tech from the trader's stalls so I amended my sideboard a little bit to include one of Mick Edwards' 3 favourite cards. Here's what I played:
4 Goblin Guide
4 Grim Lavamancer
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Qasali Pridemage
1 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Path to Exile
2 Swords to Plowshares
3 Lightning Helix
1 Umezawa's Jitte
4 Price of Progress
1 Elspeth, Knight Errant
3 Basic Lands
3 RW, 2 GR, 1 GW Duals
3 Horizon Canopies
2 Gaddock Teeg
1 Ethersworn Canonist
4 Mindbreak Trap
2 Ravenous Trap
2 Tormod's Crypt
1 Umezawa's Jitte
2 Krosan Grip
1 Elspeth, Knight Errant
Having got to bed at 1 we get up at 6:30 to get ready and head off for registration. Turns out they weren't expecting anything like the numbers of players at the event, despite everyone's predictions of 2000-odd. You can read about this in articles by good players which you have to pay for but there were 2227 players in total (according to thedci.com) and they must have been expecting half that many. The player meeting was delayed by a long time and I wasn't handed my Umezawa's Free-tte until I requested it at the judge station. After a bite for lunch and my two byes I returned to the venue to begin my first round at about 2pm, more than 7 hours after I woke up.
Round 3: Vampires with Dark Depths
You will have to excuse me throughout these reports about lack of detail because it was 2 long days with little sleep and many rounds. I played against this deck in my first round, presumably still in the 'noobs with bad decks and wins' section of the tournament. I make a few guys and he has a couple of Gatekeeper of Malakirs which are exceedingly annoying for a Zoo deck. He eventually draws the Dark Depths combo off his Dark Confidant but his guys are more than enough for me to scoop anyway. Game 2 and 3 I pretty much just make some guys and swing a bit. He stumbled on stuff but I got a quick beatdown and had the removals for his guys. Always nice to win the first one because it puts you in a good mental place for the rest of it.
3-0 matches, 2-1 games
Round 4: Counter-Top
I get a quick couple of guys down but I think he gets a blocker because I didn't gain Swords life and he didn't lose attack life. I must have eventually got rid of his stuff because my Wild Nacatl got in for the winz after a bit. Game 2 He swords' my first couple of guys and lands a couple of his own. Qasali Pridemage was a bit too much for me to deal with and I was forced into bad trades after I couldn't land any bigger creatures. Game 3 he swords my first Goyf but I get a couple of Grim Lavamancers down for some slow damage before eventually getting a Qasali Pridemage and then an Elspeth to make my guys fly over and he can't deal with a 4 mana Planeswalker - cheers Fu!
Round 5: Combo Elves
Not the Standard version I lost to the last time I played Legacy, this guy had Natural Order + Progenitus which pretty much beat me up in games 2 and 3 after I crushed his 3 mulls in game 1. Go me! I used my Lightning Helices wisely to Time Walk against Progenitus beats but it's not quite enough when they can also make loads of chump blockers and are immune to Price of Progress. My one hope game 3 was for him to forget to pay for his Pact after he didn't put a counter on top, but during his upkeep he tapped and I conceded.
4-1, 5-4 :(
Round 6: Dutch? Stax
I don't know the names of the different Staxes but he was trying to beat me with Baneslayers. He had Armageddons, Trinispheres, Tabernacle and Crucibles but no Smokestack or Tangle Wire. Game 1 he goes for a Magus of the Tabernacle and Armageddony stuff but I have a Swords for his guy. My Qasali Pridemages go the distance. During this game I think he played a Karakas but it was an Italian one so I had to ask LSV on the table next to me if I could please read his (he was playing Enchantress) and after reading it confirmed that the oracle text said it could bounce only Legendary Creatures. Woo judge skills! Game 2 my opening hand was a little awkward because I had double Horizon Canopy which I needed to take a bunch of damage from to cast my spells. This isn't so bad against Stax though because they don't actually kill you until you're really dead anyway. His is a bit worse though as he takes 10 damage off an Ancient Tomb. He slowly locks me down while assembling Trinisphere, Crucible + Wasteland, double Ghostly Prison and stuff. He Oblivion Rings my Grim Lavamancer before making 2 Baneslayers which I send to the Exile zone. I don't know a stock list but I don't expect any more than 1 more Angel from him so I have some time to take his last 5 life. I have to keep the lands I draw in hand because I have 3 basics in play but really want 4 mana to either pay for 2 Prisons or play a Pridemage + Activate it. I did eventually get the Pridemage and killed the Ring on my Lavamancer so I could untap, 2 him with the guy and 3 him with a Lightning Bolt for good ole' exactsies.
Round 7: Merfolk
Game 1 we shuffle up and I enjoy the shuffling so much that I mull 7 spells, 6 spells, 5 lands, 4 spells into 2 Lavamancers and a Lightning Bolt. If I draw a Mountain then this has a chance against creature decks so I keep it. Having won the dice roll I just pass the turn. He makes Island and Aether Vial. I draw another Lavamancer and when he starts making guys I just scoop to save time because this match is unwinnable without the ability to cast spells. I get to sideboard for game 2 and he doesn't, which is only a small advantage because Zoo smashes Merfolk all day every day anyway. Game 2 I get a Lavamancer down and that's pretty much game because he can't land enough lords if I get double use out of Lightning Bolts. Game 3 I have 2 Lavamancers in my opening hand and simply play around Daze to start my onslaught. He has a cute techy Spellstutter Sprite but I don't think it's that good against me because even if it gets value out of countering a Wild Nacatl it's a 1/1 that's not going anywhere. So yeah I get down a couple of Wild Nacatls and a Goblin Guide and there's not much he can do, so I get to win-and-in.
Round 8: Staxless Stax I think
This was against Irish judge+player Mark McGovern. He won a PTQ for San Juan as well so we chatted about looking forward to it briefly. Just before this round Seb and I were chatting with the Orsini-Jones' and Dan Gardner and they were playing a game which involved finding Stelios Kargotis, ever-present greek/english judge. He moves pretty quickly and is quite small so is quite hard to find in a room of 2000 people. As we're shuffling up Stelios walks past our game so I pat him on the shoulder (easy to do while sat down) and say hi, turn to Matteo 2 seats away and announce my having won the game. Matteo ignored me a little bit I think, but maybe that was just game face. Mark doesn't really have a great start game 1. He gets down a Chalice for 1 and a Tabernacle but my Qasali Pridemage allows me to cast 2 Goblin Guides and a Price of Progress is more than enough to get him. Game 2 he uses Ancient Tomb to make a turn 1 Chalice for 1, essentially making me discard 4 cards. I make a land and he makes turn 2 Elspeth off a Mox Diamond. Does not suck to be him. Unlucky for Mark though it doesn't suck to be me either. I cast a Tarmogoyf off my basic plains and forest (crucible + wasteland makes non-basics risky business). He flies a soldier over for 4 looking to race me but lucky for me I know about Chalice so I cast 1-mana spells into it to Battlegrowth my Goyf. After a couple of swings the Elspeth is dead and another Goyf really puts the hurt on. He has another Elspeth but I aggro in and eventually a Price of Progress is enough for the win. I am in Day 2, feeling pretty happy :D
Round 9: Steppe Lynx Zoo
My deck isn't really built as well for the mirror in some sense because Goblin Guide just doesn't block anything and it dies to Lavamancer. I knew this in advance because the GG is GG against the slower decks so hopefully my Elspeths would get there because she owns the mirror. I don't remember the match too well as I was very tired but he got a board presence together and destroyed mine in games 2 and 3 after I did the same to him in game 1. That's pretty much how the mirror match goes though.
Very tired Seb and I set off back to the hostel for a sleep. We soon bumped into the usual English Legacy crowd so Seb got some dinner with them while I went to sleep. It was an awesome day and I was happy to make Day 2, my second from 3 Grand Prixs. Joining me were Richard Bland, Matt Light, Jason Christie and a few more (hard to keep track of so many people) and I know Rich Hagon was impressed at the quantity of British players getting so far in the tournament. I guess this concludes Part I of my report because if I write the rest now then this will be a very long report indeed. Thanks for sticking with me and reading all this (or slops if you skipped ahead to this sentence) and big Props to all the British players at the tournament who were all very friendly and good fun.