1800 or Bust: A Grand Weekend

This weekend was a special weekend for me – no, I didn’t qualify for PT Chicago; it was the weekend of the Bath Annual Invitational event. (Although I have been reading the live coverage on the Sideboard, and articles are definitely my favourites on there.  Pop by and check them out.) In January 2000, Paul…

This weekend was a special weekend for me – no, I didn’t qualify for PT Chicago; it was the weekend of the Bath Annual Invitational event. (Although I have been reading the live coverage on the Sideboard, and Anthony Alongi articles are definitely my favourites on there.  Pop by and check them out.)

In January 2000, Paul Dale, a fellow member of Team PhatBeats, and I decided that we would run an annual event to try and reward the regular players here in Bath. Every month the top six players of the monthly Type II tournament would receive Formula One style points (ten points for first place, six for second, etc) whilst everyone else would receive half a point. After the November tournament the top sixteen players would be invited to a closed event with much better prizes than a normal Type II event. We also decided that all players who gained at least four points would get some form of prize if they turned up (as it happens, they all got a lot more). The idea was to try to get the local, and maybe not-so-local, players to turn up more regularly, and to try to reward the players that have stuck with the tourney over the year.

When each set was released Paul and I put together and bought a box of product for the Bath Invitational. The company that owns the Bath Magic website also bought a box, and the boxes sat in my house waiting for December. It was hard watching them sitting there all year, sealed in their little plastic coats, but I managed it. We didn’t open ONE – a true test of will for those of us who are more than a little addicted to playing Magical cards.

At the end of the ninth monthly tourney in November (some months we ran Pre-release tournaments instead of a Type II tourney), the top sixteen was fixed. Our tiebreakers were the points from a composite of all the Type II tourneys that year (isn’t DCI reporter good?). The top sixteen were posted on the website, and we started planning what else would happen – after all, it’s no good having a sixteen player tournament on its own.  What would the other players do?

In the end, the TO Chris Bagnall came up with lots of good ideas. Firstly, we’d run side events; lots of side events. All the Type II events would be free to enter, eight players each and direct elimination. Whenever a player won a match, they’d win an Invasion booster. We also ran limited side events; again, winning a match meant winning a booster. The big event for the non-invitees was a bit special, though. At 1 p.m., we’d put all the side events on hold and start a 24-player Grand Melee Sealed deck event.

That’s right, 24 players (for only £5.50) would all be given an Invasion Starter and two boosters to build a multiplayer deck. Each player could attack the player to their left or their right, and could cast spells up to two players left or right. When a player killed another player, they would receive (you guessed it) another booster.

On the morning of the tournament, I awoke in my new home. Over the last week or so I’ve been moving in, and Friday night was the first time I got to sleep in my new house. I didn’t have a mattress yet, so it was a little uncomfortable but I was there and it was mine!

We’d decided the night before that Tarik would be playing our green/white deck. Liz and Andy might play a few Type II side events and they’d chosen blue/white control and Gold Fish respectively. The only problem was building the decks.

For those of you that have moved house, you’ll know the feeling that something you’re looking for is”in one of those boxes over there.” The problem for me was that all the boxes looked just the same and were BIG. Magic cards are quite small, so it was a struggle to find everything I needed. I started with Tarik’s deck. We had most of the main deck, but decided to make a few small changes. We added an extra Vine Trellis main (we knew that at least three of the players in the invitational preferred white weenie) and one maindecked Wrath of God.

We spent ten minutes looking at a few green/white decks that had done well recently, notably Theron Martin’s, and Tarik put a sideboard together. Liz’s and Andy’s decks were mostly done, as we’d been playtesting them for some time, so we added the final touches and were about to leave.

“You have all got at least one Dust Bowl in there, haven’t you?” I asked.

“Erm… nope,” they all replied.

I dug some out and we added them. In playtesting we’d found Keldon Necropolis to be a real pain in the mid- to late game. The blue/white deck had the biggest problem, but repeatable (and for all purposes) unpreventable damage is too good to ignore. We then wandered over to the tourney. It’s a little farther away than from my old house – it must be all of five minutes to get there now.

A lot of players had turned up. We had 13 of the 16 invitees (Richard Edbury had qualified for Chicago, and two others were trying to qualify for Tokyo. Richard did very well, coming in at 35th with $1,100 and 5 PT points – congratulations, Rich!), and the other three places dropped down quite far, as lots of the other players were also trying to qualify for Tokyo. Luckily for Team PhatBeats Andy Smith was one of the players that got a place, giving us two representatives for the home team.

The event was to be run as four rounds of Swiss followed by a cut to the top four for two semis and a final. The winner would receive two boxes of product, second place a box, and less and less all the way down to 16th. 16th place still received a handful of boosters though and each player who qualified for the top sixteen also received a solid silver ring (courtesy of Paul) to commemorate the first Bath Invitational.

Chris and I started off a number of Limited and Type II side events before sitting the invitees down and beginning the tourney. My job as a judge was to wander around and watch a few games, whilst answering any rules questions anyone had. I like judging, and as part of my wish to become a better Magic player, I want to know the rules much better than I do now. I’d asked if I could take my level II test, but after spending the whole month worrying about moving, I didn’t feel up to it and asked Chris if I could take it early next year instead. Thoughts of announcement, modal spells, regeneration shields, and the colour of damage on resolution don’t sit well in a worried mind.

At 1 p.m. we halted the side events, and handed out product to all those who wanted to be in the Grand Melee event. The second round of the invitational finished and Chris left for lunch. I stuck around to answer any questions and there were quite a lot, mainly about  Djinns and spells that had a global effect. We decided that any spell with a global effect would only affect players up to two seats left and right. Djinns would only count permanents in that range, leeches would only affect players in the two-person range, and so on.  

The third round brought a low point in my day. I was walking past the table where Tarik and Jon Pinder were playing, and Tarik accidentally drew from Jon’s deck. Jon looked up and said,”That’s not really allowed, is it?”

I asked Tarik,”Did you see the card?”

Tarik, to his credit, admitted that he had. I told him that I thought it would be a game loss and went to check with Chris, as I wasn’t sure what Rules Enforcement Level the tourney was running at. A game loss it was. Tarik asked to speak to Chris, so I went and got him and took over judging the Grand Melee for a little while.

I really hate having to hand out penalties to my friends. It is probably one of the aspects of judging that is the most difficult to do. You don’t want to be seen as being biased, but you also have to make sure you’re not too hard on them. The ONLY way to do this, in my book, is to stick to the letter of the law. If they’re a good friend, they’ll appreciate the situation you’re in – and if they want to argue, they’ll ask to speak to the head judge just like Tarik did. If they have a go at you and cause you grief, it’s difficult to give them a warning, but it’s something you have to bear in mind – after all, if they weren’t your friends and they continued to argue, you’d give them a warning wouldn’t you?

It seemed to give Tarik a little kick and he started playing much tighter Magic, winning the next two games in a row against Jon to pull back the win.

Meanwhile, the Grand Melee was proceeding well. Chris had decided, to speed things up, that four turns would happen at any one time. Liz had the idea of passing markers around, so that we could keep track of where the turns were. As long as no turn marker got within four players of another, they wouldn’t interact with each other at all. The judges kept a strict eye on how far apart the turns were and the game seemed to be going smoothly.

It was very interesting to watch, as lots of alliances started to form. Players would agree to watch each other backs and work outward, killing the players either side of them. In one corner, although we’d seated the players randomly, three friends were sitting together and they formed an alliance, agreeing not to attack each other. The player in the middle would cast spells to the left and right, whilst the guys on the outside would do all the attacking – almost like a game of Emperor!

At the end of the fourth round of the invitational, we had three players on eight or more points and four on seven. One player would get in, and Tarik’s luck held as his tiebreakers got him into the top four. We both hadn’t played in a week and so he felt it was a little unjustified, but I congratulated him and we started the semifinals.

For each of the semi-finals, we cleared a table and had one match on each, thereby giving the players a little more space and creating an arena for other people to watch.

Paul sat in and kept life totals on one semi (Kurt Bath vs. Tarik) whilst I kept life totals on the other (Mike Hampton vs. Nat James). Mike smashed Nat down very quickly and won 2-0 in 13 minutes. Tarik and Kurt’s match was close, Tarik winning the first game, and looked as if Kurt would win the second.

Kurt had three Nether Spirits out to Tarik’s one Idol. Kurt could attack with two Spirits a turn and keep one back to block the Idol (Kurt was on one life, Tarik on 9).

After attacking and bringing Tarik down to five, Kurt sacrificed one of the tapped Spirits to his Necropolis to do Tarik an extra two points of damage.

As soon as Kurt had placed the Spirit in the graveyard he realised his mistake. He had to block Tarik’s Idol the next turn and there would be two Spirits in the graveyard. Kurt had a few turns to find an answer, but he didn’t as Tarik swung in for three more turns with the Idol for the win. So, my teammate reached the finals, but had to play the player who’d beaten him solidly in the very first round of the day!

We paused for a while to allow both players to have a rest, and I went to watch the Grand Melee. Lots of players had been killed, and the number of simultaneous turns had been reduced accordingly. The players had also been moved closer to one another to fill in some of the gaps. Some of the alliances were still holding, whilst others had fallen, either from treachery or players on either sides forming temporary truces to kill the alliances. Grand Melee seems much more about politics and people skills than skill with magical cards.  (Isn’t that what I’ve been saying all along? – The Ferrett)  

So, the final. I sat and watched life totals whilst a number of other people started to gather around the table. Tarik and Mike both shuffled and began. Mike was straight out of the blocks with a mana producer and soon had a Veteran Brawler and a Tangle Wire down. He reduced Tarik to two life before Tarik could stabilise the game, and there he stayed for another half an hour! We’d decided that although the finals would only be over three games, there would be no time limit. Mike was playing a deck with lots of burn spells in, but they all seemed to have moved to the bottom of his deck. Tarik had just started to attack Mike when Mike drew his second Wild Might and cast both on two Birds of Paradise to fly in for the win.

The second game started much the same, but Tarik managed to stabilise on four life. Mike’s deck is very aggressive, but gets worse as a game dragged on. After ten minutes of posturing on both sides, Tarik finally tapped two white and three other to cast a Blinding Angel. Mike had a Bird out so he could chump for at least one turn, and so he could cast a few more creatures so he could kill Tarik in a few turns’ time. Tarik then drew into a Hurricane and Hurricaned for one. The BOP died and the Angel came in again and again, killing Mike seven turns later (Mike was on fifteen at this point) with the Angel and a Wax cast on a BOP.

“I’ll kill you with the BOP just like you killed me last game,” Tarik said.

The final game looked to be in Tarik’s favour, as he stabilised at his highest life total so far: nine. Once again on the back foot, he used all of his creatures and two Parallax Waves to keep Mike from killing him until he, once again, cast the Angel. Mike was on twenty life, but seven turns later was down to just three. Mike finally managed to kill the Angel, but Tarik had been tapping and Waving out Mike’s River Boas so that he could attack with a Blastoderm and kill Mike’s creatures.

“There are a million ways I could kill you, but I’ll let you choose,” said Tarik.  “I can wave out your remaining blocker and come in with the Troll, or I could Hurricane you to death.”

Mike extended his hand in defeat.


WOW! My teammate won! So I now share a flat with the Bath Invitational Champion – neither he nor I can believe it.

The Grand Melee had finished, and I gathered the players together for the Invitational prizegiving. Everyone had enjoyed the day, invitees and other players alike, and so we’ll be keeping the invitational going with one small change – I’ll no longer be organising it, because I want to play in it too! I qualified this year, but was excluded in the rules that Paul and I decided on at the very beginning of the year. This year I want to be able to qualify AND play – let someone else judge it.

Tarik’s deck was as follows:

PhatBeats Green/White
Creatures (26):
4x Birds of Paradise
4x Blastoderm
4x River Boa
3x Vine Trellis
4x Chimeric Idol
3x Noble Panther
1x Charging Troll
2x Thornscape Apprentice
1x Kavu Chameleon

Other Spells (11):
2x Armageddon
4x Parallax Wave
4x Wax/Wane
1x Wrath of God

Land (23):
4x Brushland
2x Elfhame Palace
6x Plains
10x Forest
1x Dust Bowl
Sideboard (15):
3x Blinding Angel
2x Hurricane
2x Armageddon
3x Uktabi Orangutan
3x Kavu Chameleon
2x Aura Mutation

The only thing we really missed was a little instant speed Artifact removal. Although we (correctly) guessed that there would be a lot of Idols and the monkeys would take care of them, Tarik might have won a few more games if we’d have had Disenchant instead – something to think about anyway.

All in all, I had a great time judging. I had much more time to chat to some of the players who were there, and I had the opportunity to check up on some rules that I didn’t know about thanks to Chris. (Why WAS Chris stopping you from knowing these rules?  – The Ferrett)  I’ll continue to work on my rules knowledge over the next few months and hopefully with a few more tourneys under my belt, I’ll be able to become a level 2 judge.

Next week, an update on Good Spells.dec and a few thoughts on some other decks I have been working on.

Cheers, Jim.
Team PhatBeats