1800 or Bust!: A Little Rotisserie, Sir?

The Second Annual Bath Invitational is up… And Jim’s involved in the Rotisserie Draft! What sorts of strategies can you use when you have all the cards?

Another year is nearly over, and in Bath that means the invitations are sent out for the Bath Annual Magic Invitational. The top 15 players throughout the year, based on their performance in all the Bath monthly Type II tourneys, are invited to compete with last year’s Champion for this year’s title.

As one of the locals that helps to run Bath events, judging when necessary and maintaining our web site (at http:///www.curiosity-shoppe.com/magic), I spent some time with Chris Bangall (our Level III judge) working out what we’d do for this event. At first we thought of running five rounds of Swiss Type II, with a top-four knockout, but Richard Edbury – a local player, and sometime Pro Tour competitor – suggested we play three rounds of Rotisserie Draft. I told Richard I’d think about it and went back to Chris.

Chris agreed that it’d be fun, so we started out aiming for three rounds of Type II, three rounds of Rotisserie, followed by a top-four knockout. Things don’t always go the way you plan…

At the end of a few exhausting days working then coming home to find cards, I came up twenty-five cards short of two complete sets of Odyssey – I still have a lot of cards to get hold of but, like everyone else, I’ve been concentrating on the bombs. I gave a few friends a ring and asked them if they could lend me ant of the missing cards. I swore them to secret, but at least one of them let slip while they were trying to find out how to play Rotisserie. I guess some people really can’t keep a secret.

With the cards for the draft sorted out my thoughts turned to Type II. This year I was sitting in 18th place, just outside the invites. Last year four places dropped down because people didn’t show up, so I picked out a deck just in case I got lucky and got some practice with it under my belt. I spent a little time working on the sideboard and decided got the deck ready.

I played Snake Tongue; for ease of reference, here’s the decklist:

Snake Tongue, by Jon Sonne:

Creatures (8):

4x Flametongue Kavu

4x Mystic Snake

Other Spells (28):

4x Counterspell

4x Call of the Herd

4x Aether Burst

2x Disrupt

2x Syncopate

4x Fact or Fiction

4x Urza’s Rage

4x Fire/Ice

Land (24):

4x Shivan Oasis

4x Shivan Reef

4x Yavimaya Coast

1x Karplusan Forest

8x Island

3x Mountain

I liked Jon’s sideboard, but it didn’t really fit with the weenie-heavy environment you find in Bath, so I made some metagame changes:

Sideboard (15):

3x Gainsay

2x Spellbane Centaur

3x Dodecapod

3x Hull Breach

2x Rushing River

2x Jungle Barrier

I made a mistake here, since when I built the sideboard forgetting I was playing the best of the best! In hindsight, I’d drop the Jungle Barriers for something more useful against control.

On the day of the tourney, we turned up early. I knew that one place would drop down straight away, as my flatmate Tarik – the current Champion – was away skiing. An hour later, a few more people hadn’t shown up either, and I was in! We scrabbled around to make sure we had enough judges so that I could play and the day began.

Round 1: Chris Hardy

Always the same, wherever I go I have to play against my play test partners. I knew that Chris would be playing a Domain variant, and I was pretty sure that I would be able to win the game. An early Disrupt followed by some counters and some Elephant lovin’ would give me the game.

I sat down to play next to Styfen Batten. After a few minutes, we both realised we were playing the same deck! Styfen had played with the mana a little, but at least fifty of the cards were the same.

I won 2-0 pretty quickly, as Chris was screwed for Green mana in one game, denying him the use of his Rampant Growths and Harrows, whilst the second game a handy Elephant (Nellie) did the job for the home team.

There isn’t really much to say about this matchup. They have to get stunning hands and you have to see no counterspells for them to win – Domain needs a workover before it’ll work in Type II, it really does. I bought in Gainsays to bolster my decks against his Worldly Counsels, Allied Strategies, and Evasive Actions, but I already had counters spare and they really were overkill. I did have a bunch of dead spells game one (Aether Burst and FTKs), but you can use the Bursts to get an extra counterspell out of each Mystic Snake if you’re really pushed.

Matches: 1-0, Games: 2-0

Round 2: Maik Boyken

Maik had travelled quite a way to appear, and really enjoyed the whole day. He, too, was playing Snake Tongue and I cursed that I hadn’t tested the mirror match. One matchup I had tested was Snake Tongue vs. Kibler’s U/G deck, which is pretty close, so I hoped that would prepare me.

After two games, I’d won again. In each game, it came down to gaining control by countering key spells and keeping Flametongues back as long as possible. I sideboarded out my Fire/Ice and one Snake to bring in three Gainsays and two Spellbane Centaurs. I never saw the Centaurs, but the Gainsays helped – especially early on when the Snake would have been too expensive.

The only real trick during the game was when I cast Burst on my own Flametongue in response to Maik trying to cast his Flametongue. I let it come into play and kill itself, leaving me with more removal in hand for Maik’s next creature. Not a difficult trick, but Maik seemed surprised – unusual for someone of his calibre.

Matches: 2-0, Games: 4-0

Round 3: Dave Fry

Sitting down for the last game of the Type II Swiss, I sat opposite another good friend of mine: Dave Fry. Dave’s been playing the game much longer than I; he even went to the very first Worlds!

This match gave a perfect example of why people say Magic is often more about luck than skill. Game one, Dave won convincingly. I was a little low on mana, but it really came down to seeing too many removal spells and not enough counters. Game two, Dave got stuck on two land and I cast Elephants with counter backup until he died. Game three, Dave was colour screwed, playing all four of his Caves of Koilos in consecutive turns before finally seeing one blue source of mana a turn before he died.

Dave wasn’t too happy, and we all know why. It might be a win, and I’m not sorry that I won, but it’s not a way you want to beat a friend in a friendly tourney, really. Dave started to talk of dropping out – as he doesn’t like Rochester and wasn’t looking forward to Rotisserie. After a few minutes, he chilled out a bit and decided to play and see what it was like.

Matches: 3-0, Games: 6-1.

After the Type II I was in first place, the only other unbeaten player was Styfen, my first round neighbour. As seeds one and two, we got to pick where we sat in two separate Rotisserie Drafts. The drafts were chosen, and we were randomly seated and I was asked to choose who went first. I put myself in the fourth seat and we started.

It’s an awe inspiring sight to see a full set of an expansion laid out before you, and one I count myself very lucky to have seen – there can’t be that many people who’ve played Rotisserie in the world. I had a rough plan in my head, but it depended on who took what before me. I wanted to cooperate as much as possible with both of my neighbours and try to draft a two-colour deck with one of black or red in. I reckoned that removal was important.

Kirtar’s Wrath went first, Aboshan second, and Call of the Herd next. I thought for a little while and took Cabal Patriarch, hoping to drop into blue. Dave next to me took a blue card and the table continued picking until it got round to me. Black was still untouched, so I picked a Painbringer and passed. My next two picks were Hallowed Healer and Nomad Decoy from an almost-untouched White. Even without Threshold, and if I saw my first two picks I probably wouldn’t get it, these guys are great – and so I settled into my stride, picking fliers where I could and grabbing cards to stall the ground attack.

I partially succeeded with cards like Dusk Imp, Childhood Horror and Fledgling Imp, along with Aven Flock and Aven Archer. I didn’t get enough removal, though, as a couple of players dropped into black taking Patriarch’s Desire and Afflict just before I could pick them both on the turn. In fact, I found that that kept happening. In Rochester, I try to make sure that I have a solid creature base, trying to keep in mind how much removal I had so that I didn’t end up with too few creatures. In this draft, I went over the top and should have picked cards like Patriarch’s Desire and Shelter much higher than I did.

Here’s the deck I played in the end:

Creatures (16):

Cabal Patriarch


Fledgling Imp

Dusk Imp

Childhood Horror

Aven Flock

Aven Archer

Angelic Wall

Beloved Chaplain

Limestone Golem

Hallowed Healer

Nomad Decoy

Mystic Zealot


Limestone Golem

Famished Ghoul

Other Spells (7):


Caustic Tar

Kirtar’s Desire

Morbid Hunger

Morgue Theft

Second Thoughts

Darkwater Egg

Land (18):

1 Cabal Pit

8 Swamps

9 Plains

I like playing 41 cards, I don’t know why, but 41 with eighteen lands and an Egg seems to be just right. Looking at the deck, you can see what the problems are straight away. Lots of smallish creatures, a few good bombs, but not enough outright removal. I’d have loved to drop the Morgue Theft and Embolden for some more removal, but I just didn’t get enough.

Round 4: Steve Preston.

Rather than try to describe the games, I’ll just mention the Bombs: Steve had Kamahl. Kamahl wrecked me in game two, after I’d handily won game one. I only managed to scrape a draw in game three because I had too many creatures in play for Steve to deal with, and Embolden in the graveyard. Steve also drafted Kirtar’s Wrath and cast it twice in the first game, having picked up an Anarchist to help him out.

Straight away, I realised that Rotisserie has a fundamental difference to Rochester. In Rochester, you have twenty-four rares; Rotisserie plays with a hundred and ten. Normally, your opponent will have one or two really good cards and you can keep your removal for them, generally outplaying and bluffing in the early game to kill lesser creatures. In Rotisserie, you can get rid of one bomb to find another dropped right in your lap, then another, then another. It’s very important to get removal and difficult-to-kill creatures – so much so that I’d advocate starting into three colours to make sure you get enough, and drafting cards that will smooth your mana much higher than you normally would.

Matches: 3-0-1, Games: 7-2

Round 5: Maik Boyken.

Maik had Upheaval, and I knew it. Even so, he started off playing lots of land and creatures, forcing me to extend myself to be vulnerable. As soon as he thought I’d extended myself too much he dropped Upheaval, floating three mana for a Psychatog. I was high on life at the time and quickly managed to drop creatures to slow it down and eventually win game one.

Game two was very similar, but after the stall he played Cultural Exchange, grabbing my (tapped) Painbringer and an imp of mine. I got Psychatog and Wererat in exchange, and had a full graveyard and a Cabal Pit on the table. I killed my own Painbringer and started attacking with the Wererat with Threshold – I quickly won.

You may have noticed that Cabal Patriarch isn’t being mentioned much so far. I guess that’s because the rest of my deck followed a nice, quick curve, and I often found myself keeping him in hand, as he was just too expensive. I guess he just didn’t fit into the deck well enough – he wasn’t aggressive enough.

Matches: 4-0-1, Games: 9-2

Round 6: Steve Hill.

So, last round and I’m the only undefeated player. If I won this game, I’d win the tourney. I didn’t and ended up coming third. It wasn’t to do with the bombs Steve had, as he didn’t know the set well and had stuck to red as much as possible, dipping into black for a little removal. My deck was much better and in game one it proved it handily beating him and leaving me on sixteen life – my easiest win of the day!

Game two, I saw three land. Game three, I saw lots of land – all swamps. My opening hand was three Swamps, Dusk Imp, Fledgling Imp, Childhood Horror, and Hallowed Healer. With three good spells and the mana to cast two of them I started off well, but drew only one more Swamp before I was killed.

I guess the gods of luck were getting me back for my win over Dave earlier. I tried to keep my cool – after all, it’s only a card game – but I was annoyed that Steve had beaten me, as I’d been paired down to him and his deck just wasn’t that good – but at the end of the day, I still came in third and that’s something worth celebrating in anyone’s book.

The winner at the end of the day was Styfen. 3-0 in the Type II, 2-1 in the Draft. We didn’t run the top-four knockout in the end because of time constraints, we made sure everyone knew well in advance, but we were really surprised by how long the draft took – as long as two normal drafts! Even with less cards (41 each) you have so many more to look at each pick, even once you get to less than a hundred left.

All in all, I liked the format. A lot of people didn’t, but they don’t like Rochester either, and of the others only those who didn’t know Odyssey well really complained – even though we’d advertised a Limited section well in advance. I don’t think you’ll be seeing a PTQ or Pro Tour with Rotisserie ever. The draft takes far too long, and there are too many good creatures when compared to the good removal. Often, removal is common and good creatures are uncommon or rare – in Rochester, that assures you’ll be able to kill lots of things. In Rotisserie, it leaves you stuck for answers in a question-filled format.

If you get a chance to play it, I’d suggest you give it a go. It’s a very challenging format – and it’s fun playing with all those rares, too!

So, third place in a Type II/Limited tourney with no scrubs at all – that leaves me pretty happy and looking forward to smacking some people down next year for a chance of getting into the 2002 Bath Invitational, and hell – I might even win next year.


Jim Grimmett.

Team PhatBeats.