2006 U.S. Nationals Report – *1st Place* – Part 1

Paul took his untested Solar Flare deck, armed with a single Kokusho, to the very top of the U.S. Nationals pile! His entertaining report on the tournament, covering the match-ups and sideboarding plans in great detail, is an excellent read. Part 1 deals with the full fourteen rounds of swiss play… join us tomorrow for the exciting Top 8 conclusion!

This is it, I told myself.

This is the tournament where I will have the opportunity to make a name for myself.

For those of you who don’t know me (basically most of you), my name is Paul Cheon. I am better known as

“NEONCHEON,” and more recently “noehcmaharbaluap,” on Magic Online.

I started playing Magic about four years ago, when my friend introduced me to Magic Online. After having a good

amount of success online I decided that it was time to start playing competitive Magic about 2 years ago. I managed to

qualify for Pro Tour: Philadelphia, where I finished 43rd. Ever since then, it’s been a struggle to qualify

for… well, anything.

I hit a dry spell for a year, getting innumerable seconds, Top 4s, Top 8s, and 9ths (three in the same PTQ season, to

tiebreakers!), with only a Top 32 at Grand Prix: Salt Lake City to note.

After a year of wondering if I was ever going to qualify for a big event again, I managed to qualify with Luis

Scott-Vargas (“FOB” on MTGO, and National Team member) and one of his friends Brent Peterson for PT:

Charleston. Unfortunately, Luis was unable to change the date of his final exam for Charleston, and we were unable to

participate in the event.

Finally, Regionals came along. I managed to qualify using a Niv-Mizzet control deck. Once qualified, I promised

myself that I would do whatever necessary to do well at the tournament…

Well… so much for that. I ended up staying at Luis’s house, doing something similar to cube drafts with

Gabe Walls, and playing Extended 2x Premiere Events with Luis. Then, when I went back to Los Angeles, I ended up playing

poker for a month before the tournament.

All of a sudden, I had one week to test for Nationals. I’d two Beta Coldsnap drafts under my

belt, and no idea what to play for Standard.

When I went back on the Beta for more Coldsnap drafts, there were only weird concoctions of drafts, including

Coldsnap/9th Edition/Invasion.

Then I went online to try to barn a deck off of somebody. David Jensen came to my rescue (“Bottle Gnome”

on MTGO). Apparently, he had an “insane” B/W Hand in Hand list, and he was nice enough to give it to me. I

took his word on it, built the deck, and it was off to Atlanta!

I booked the flight to get in on Wednesday because I wanted a good night’s sleep before I went to grinders to

check out the Standard metagame. I flew in and waited on Sam Stein and Matt Abrams so that we could check into our


After check-in we decided to get some food, until we saw a sign on the elevator which had the words FREE and FOOD in

it (miiise!). After dinner number one, we decided to get some testing in. Matt Abrams came with a Solar Flare deck, but

with two Clutch of the Undercity. They acted as a tutor for Wrath of God, Zombify, a solitary Sift, and Nightmare Void.

I came in super-confident with the B/W deck, because I won a 1x Standard Premier the night before (12 packs for 7

hours of work, yay!), only to have Matt Abrams repeatedly smash me with large dragons and Vindicate angels. The matchup

ended up being around 70/30 in Solar Flare’s favor.

Considering the fact that the deck has been extremely popular on MTGO, and that it recently won Australian Nationals,

seeds of doubt were planted in my head as to whether or not I chose the right deck.

After getting continuously bashed, I couldn’t stand it any more. We decided to get dinner number two.

Unfortunately, it was midnight. Everything was closed, except for the local McDonalds drive-thru. Without having access

to a car, we decided to give it a shot and walked up to the drive-thru for some chicken nuggets.

Us: Hello???

Guys behind us: Are you kidding me? *pointing and laughing*

Since we didn’t get a response, we decided to try to walk up to the window and order, only to have a

disgruntled lady telling us that we needed a car. We had to beg and plead until she told us to go to the front window to

order. So we went to the front window, only to find out that there’s no cash register up front; she was just

trying to get rid of us. We went back, and found a different person at the register. He was kind enough to take our


Mmm… nuggets

The day of grinders came, with people eager to get that last chance to qualify for Nationals.

After arriving at the site, we began to wonder why we came in on Wednesday. There was actually nothing to do, and we

sat around the whole day testing the B/W versus Solar Flare matchup, with a couple of spectators (which was actually

important in a later match against a well-known opponent), until we finally got some 2v2 drafts with Adam Fox.

Then the pros started filtering in, and a 3v3 draft was born. Featuring Sam Stein, Matt Abrams, and Luis

Scott-Vargas against Antonino DeRosa, Josh Ravitz, and Billy Postlethwait.

Luis and Sam Stein went 2-1, and Abrams pulled off the DONUT going an impressive 0-3. Before Sam started to go off on

Abrams, Antonino agreed to have Abrams on his team at least once before Nationals was over (quite the gambit).

Back at the hotel room, Luis came armed with both a fully built Tron and Solar Flare deck. Unhappy with my deck, I

was basically prepared to audible into either of the two decks, preferably the Solar Flare deck because it looked more

fun to play.

Fortunately, one of Luis’ friends came down to try to grind in, and he had a fully built Solar Flare deck that

I could use for the tournament (thanks Iain!).

The only problem was that it was missing a Kokusho from the maindeck, because he borrowed it from some kid at

grinders and gave it back.

So instead of going out and buying another copy of Kokusho for the deck like a smart person, I went and looked for

the next best thing… Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni! She seemed really good in a field where I expected some number of

Solar Flare decks.

I was pretty tired after a whole day of doing nothing, but I still wanted to get in a couple of practice matches

before the tournament started. Luis decided to help me out with that… By busting out his Vintage Stax deck. He

agreed to give me two turns and he would have to mulligan to five. It ended up being 1-1. Vintage can be stupid


Finally, to the part that actually matters… and the reason you’re reading this article. Day 1 of


Here is a copy of my decklist:

The tournament is about to start… I’m a little nervous, because I have no idea how to sideboard in any of

my matchups. Pairings are up, and off to my first round!

Round 1: Ernie Marchesano with Heartbeat

When I sat down and saw the pairings, I thought the name sounded familiar, and then I realized why. Ernie was the

winner of the first Grand Prix I played in – GP: Seattle. So much for an easy round 1 opponent…

Anyway, I’m sitting there and waiting for him to appear, and he makes it to the table just in time… with

a box, and pile of unsleeved cards in his hand. I look at him, and he then proceeded to ask the judge if he needed

sleeves. The answer was yes, and I started off winning game 1 with raw talent.

We shuffled up for “game 2,” and he started off by playing a combination of Sensei’s Divining Tops,

Islands, Forests, and Sakura-Tribe Elders, so I gathered he was playing Heartbeat. I didn’t have any

hand-disruption elements in hand, and with only 4 Remands in the deck I realized that this is actually an unwinnable

matchup for me. I decided to just go for it and played a Yosei with Remand up. Who knows, maybe he had nothing!

He had something.

Sideboarding for the final game, and I immediately tossed in the “4 Castigates, 2 Cranial Extractions, 2

Persecutes” combination without exactly knowing what to take out. I’m not totally sure what I ended up

doing, but I think this was how I boarded:

+4 Castigate
+2 Persecute
+2 Cranial Extraction

-4 Wrath of God
-1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
-3 Court Hussar

The four Wraths seemed obvious enough, but the others? Unsure.

I really wish I had a better memory as to how the games turned out, but I don’t. I can tell you the key parts

to the matchup.

It got into a situation where I had a fatty on the board, and I Persecuted his hand for Blue. He tried to Remand it,

and I Remanded it back.

I picked Blue because I figured I would get the Remand and whatever Drifts or Muddles, and possibly more Remands,

that he had in his grip (although I think it is correct to name Green, because the Blue cards just fetch the Green and

there are more Green cards in the deck).

His hand had a Weird Harvest and a Heartbeat of Spring, with a Sakura-Tribe Elder in play. He sacrificed his Elder

on his upkeep instead of my end of turn, which confused me. I figured since he only had five mana in play and one land

tapped, the only way he could win would be to topdeck an Early Harvest to go off…

He did.

Off to a rocky start!

Record: 0-1

Round 2: William K. Davis with B/W/R control

William came with a homebrewed B/W/R control deck featuring Rakdos Guildmage, Kokusho, Yosei, and other goodies.

Game 1 had him quickly dispatching all of my creatures with his suite of removal spells, including Wrath of God,

Mortify, and Condemn. Then he cast Seek, removing my Angel of Despair from the game while gaining seven life.

He then proceeded to beat me down with Rakdos Guildmage tokens, while not attacking with the Guildmage to play around

Condemn. This ended up being very good for me, because I drew some combination of lands and Signets for six or seven

straight turns. I eventually drew a Remand, and had to Remand my Signet to cycle. I drew into my Compulsive Research,

which chained into more gas, and I eventually got a fatty to stick.

Once again, I was totally lost as to how to sideboard for the match. He wasn’t playing a typical “net

deck,” so I didn’t think that Cranial Extraction was going to be very good. I decided to bring in 2

Persecutes and 4 Castigates for 4 Wrath of Gods and 2 Azorius Signets. He was a little light on creatures, so I figured

the Mortifies and Angel of Despairs would be enough to deal with his threats, along with the hand disruption. I took out

the two Signets because game 1 ended up very drawn-out, and the acceleration didn’t seem as necessary.

Game 2 he cast Seek on turn 2, removing my single Kokusho from the game while gaining him six life. I managed to

have a fatty to stick, and rode it to victory.

Record: 1-1

Round 3: Brett D. Mcleaf with U/R Magnivore

Before the start of this tournament, the person who lent me this deck claimed that it was a solid choice… but

that Magnivore is a terrible matchup. He lost twice in the grinders to a Magnivore deck.

We shuffled up and I managed to win the die roll. When he lead out with Steam Vents, I already knew I was going to

be in a world of hurt. However, I managed to lead out with a turn 2 Signet, which he Eye of Nowhered. On the following

turn, I played double Signet and the mana allowed me to drop a Kokusho that went all the way.

Whew! I knew that the only way I could possibly beat the deck would be to avoid drawing bouncelands while making

lots and lots of Signets. One more time!

While looking through the sideboard, I was a little glad that I was playing against a control deck. At this point, I

had a decent idea as to how to board against such trickery. I brought in 2 Persecutes, 4 Castigates, 2 Cranial

Extractions, and 3 Condemns, for 4 Wrath of God, 3 Mortify, 1 Ink-Eyes, and 3 Court Hussar. I figured Condemns were

better than Mortifies because I could actually cast them against Magnivore.

He started off game 2 with a double mulligan into a three-Mountain two-Blue-spell hand. I ended up getting the nut

draw, with a turn 2 Signet, turn 3 Compulsive Research, turn 4 Zombify an Angel of Despair.

Record: 2-1

Needless to say, I was pretty happy with the 2-1 record despite losing a match to somebody who came in with a game

loss. I managed to beat one of my bad matchups, and now I was set and ready for Ravnica Limited.

If there was any format that I was confident in going into Nationals, it was RGD draft.

In my table I didn’t recognize anybody except for GP: Charlotte winner Michael Krumb. The only thing I was a

little concerned with was the fact that since I’m always drafting on MTGO, I can always view the picks that I take

and sort them out while I’m drafting. You can’t do that until the very end of each pack in real life.

Anyway, onto the draft:

Pack 1
My first pick was pretty simple: Faith’s Fetters versus unplayables. Then I got passed a second pick Cerulean

Sphinx! I’ve already had a recent inclination towards a Blue/White fliers deck splashing Red, and this was just

the signal I wanted.

I took a Conclave Equenaut third, and a Belltower Sphinx fourth, and was setting myself up nicely to go into

Blue/White with a possible splash of Red or Black (depending on what the second pack provided). I was concerned about

picking up Signets and Karoos, and decided that I would pick them up the moment I saw them… unless they were up

against a 4/4 flier or something…

Pack 2
I open Graven Dominator, and obviously there was an Izzet Boilerworks in the pack. I really did think about it

for a while, until my brain went: hey, dude… it flies, and it’s, like… a 4/4.

The rest of the pack was a huge disappointment. I was stuck with things like Absolver Thrull third pick, without

Signets or the like. I did manage to get seventh, eighth, and ninth pick Ghost Wardens, which were gifts considering I

was running very low on two-drops at that point. I didn’t really get to see any good Izzet or Orzhov cards, let

alone Signets and bouncelands. If I ever needed a bounceland or a Signet, it was pack 3!

Pack 3
I open a Simic Guildmage and no other playable Blue or White card, so I picked it up. It wasn’t that bad,

considering I was lacking in the two-drop department.

Then the packs started getting ridiculous… Second pick I was passed Isperia the Inscrutable, which was the

stone nuts. Third pick I got Grand Arbiter Augustin IV. Oh my, it doesn’t stop. Fourth pick I got Novijen Sages.

Three straight rares… must be nice. Then I was able to pick up some more solid cards in Azorius First-Wing over a

Court Hussar (gotta keep the flying theme going… and two-drops!), and a couple of Ocular Halos to round it out.

Once again, I was unable to pick up any of the Chanceries or Signets in the last pack. Every time I was given the

option, a rare bomb was in the pack. I also ended up getting a Tidespout Tyrant tenth pick or so, which I

happily added to my deck.

The only downside about the deck was that it had no bouncelands or Signets, so I had to run 18 straight lands, which

reminded me more of Onslaught Block Limited than Ravnica. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the only time

I’ve run 18 lands in a Ravnica Block Draft deck. On the bright side, I was running two Ocular Halos, Train of

Thought, and Flow of Ideas, so I didn’t have to worry too much about the flood.

Round 4: John M. Glass, playing G/B/R?

John Glass is a player from Southern California who qualified via Regionals. He seemed pretty upset with how his

deck turned out, claiming that it was actually the worst. When he asked me about my deck, I told him it was decent while

looking at my opening hand of Isperia, Graven Dominator, Ghost Warden, and some lands.

Game 1 wasn’t much of a game. He played two lands and discarded on the next three turns, while I played an

Isperia. He conceded to hide the goodies in his deck.

After some deliberation, I decided that my curve was still a bit high. I boarded in the Gruul Signet every game. I

believe I took out… To Arms!

Game 2 was much the same affair. He was stuck on three mana of the wrong color, and his only spell was a turn 3

Sadistic Augermage. I played a Cerulean Sphinx, and as in the Constructed rounds, the big fatty stuck and I won.

Record: 3-1

Round 5: Tommy M. Ashton, playing U/G

Tommy Ashton also plays on MTGO quite a lot, and from his words, is now apparently “infinite.” He was

packing a solid U/G deck with tons of fatties; Momir Vig, Simic Visionary; and three Coiling Oracles


Game 1, and he bashed the hell out of me with fatties. He Repealed one of my creatures that would have helped me


I boarded in both the Gruul Signet and Thunderheads, and took out To Arms! and Flow of Ideas.

Game 2 was ridiculous. I’m almost positive I should’ve lost. I curved out with a Ghost Warden, and then

started to drop flying beaters (like Isperia). He proceeded to play a Momir Vig, which prompted me to pick up the card

and actually read what he does, because I’ve never played with the guy before.

After doing so, I was just hoping he didn’t have many Simic spells in his deck, or else I would be in trouble.

His first spell was merely Green, which triggered Momir Vig. He went to go fetch Elvish Skysweeper

Uh oh.

Then, after playing the Skysweeper and dealing with the Isperia, he fetched a Coiling Oracle. That was the beginning

of what I felt was the end. He used the Oracle to fetch another Oracle, while drawing a card.

A sick engine with Elvish Skysweeper, versus my deck of eight fliers. He then used the second Oracle to fetch yet

another Oracle, and I was looking at my hand of Graven Dominator, Tidespout Tyrant and the like.

Meanwhile, he was beating me down with Momir Vig and a Bramble Elemental. The only thing that kept me in the game

was my Ghost Warden, armed with an Ocular Halo. He also had a Cyclopean Snare going.

The key point in the match was when I drew Thunderheads. I managed to Thunderheads for four, and ended up killing

his Bramble and Momir Vig. His Coiling Oracles were already sacrificed to kill my flying fatties.

With him killing all my fliers, and still with some creatures in play that turned sideways, I drew a card off of one

of my Ghost Wardens. I also had another Ghost Warden in play, and thought about how I could possibly win this game.

I was holding another Ghost Warden in my hand that he bounced in a prior turn, but I was holding it so that I could

play a Tidespout Tyrant and the Warden on the same turn, to cause some damage before the Skysweeper killed the Tyrant. I

figured the only way to win would be to just attack with Ghost Warden into his Elvish Skysweeper… and pray

for a block.

Me: Heh…attack with Ghost Warden. (Inner Me: OMG PLZ BLOCK BLOCK

Him: Block
Me: Okay… damage on? Alright. (Inner Me: I can’t believe

he blocked! I’m actually going to win! Yes!)

On the second main, I proceeded to drop all the fliers I was slow rolling – namely the Tidespout Tyrant. I untapped,

and dropped even more spells, and that was the game.

Game 3 saw him stuck on two mana, while I dropped a turn 5 Isperia. I then hit with it, and I was lucky enough to

blind-call Minister of Impediments. I fetched Cerulean Sphinx, and that was it.

Record: 4-1


Round 6: Justin B. Simpson, playing B/W/R

Justin knew two other people in the same draft pod, and my last round opponent told him to “pack his

bags.” So he knew exactly what was in my deck, and was telling me that he couldn’t possibly beat all those

bombs… Well, he was right.

I don’t remember too much of the match, but I remember there was a turn where I had Grand Arbiter and attacked

into his Benevolent Ancestor with a Veteran Armorer in play. I then proceeded to play the Graven Dominator, which

basically acted as an Ogre Gatecrasher… and I realized that he had six mana open, thus Pyromantics kills all my

other critters. Fortunately, he didn’t have it, and the flier went all the way.

Game 2 was won in a similar fashion, but I believe an Ickspitter comboed with a Euthanist to kill something. I

believe a big fat flier won this game as well.

Record: 5-1

Round 7: Mike Krumb, playing U/W/R Aggro

I’m not sure what to make of Mike’s deck. It had a number of weird cards in it. It was a very

aggressive U/W/R deck, with maindeck Writ of Passages and Overrules.

Game 1 I got a good draw and managed to outrace his Ogre Savant – which had an Infiltrator’s Magemark on it –

with my big flying fatties.

I sideboarded in the Thunderheads because it seemed pretty nuts versus Infiltrator’s Magemarks and all of his

little beaters. I boarded out… To Arms! And Flow of Ideas (for the ‘heads and the Gruul Signet).

Game 2 came down to a close race with his Writ of Passage, and, once again, an Infiltrator’s Magemarked

creature. He then tried to bash for lethal damage, while the attack back from me would have killed him. Fortunately for

me, I had the best possible card against him: Thunderheads, replicated for three. The reason why this was so insane was

because he was holding an Overrule in hand, with the mana to counter just about anything… but since the replicates

were different copies, I managed to kill the Magemarked Savant and attack back for the win.

Record: 6-1

So that was the end of Day 1. It’s safe to say that I was pretty happy about my performance. Luis was

probably feeling a little better, sitting on a 7-0 record day 1 needing a 3-3-1 record on Day 2 to make the Top 8. Even

my good friend Sam Stein was in it, with a solid 5-2 performance.

With a decent starting position to go for Top 8, I started stressing out a little about Coldsnap drafts, considering

I did approximately two going into the event.

I managed to rally some people and get together an 8-man Coldsnap draft. I really had no idea what I was doing, and

ended up playing a B/W deck with some removal spells but no theme going for it at all (unless you consider 4x coca-cola

bears a refreshing theme). No broken ripple or Mist decks here. However, I did open a Herald of Leshrac, which was

pretty absurd every time I played him, and I managed to make it to the finals on his back.

I got up the next morning and I was still unsure exactly how to draft Coldsnap, and got a last minute rundown on what

was good from both Luis and Sam. I was with the mindset of drafting a Green deck with Ronom Hulks and Red or Black for

some removal, or Blue/Black/Red snow. Day 2 Coldsnap draft, here we go!

The table had several names I recognized, and I realized that it wouldn’t be a cakewalk by any means. It

featured Gabe Walls, Billy Moreno, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Ben Zoz. The draft picks and whatnot were covered here.

I know I made a bunch of mispicks. Please feel free to comment on what you would have taken during the draft, because

I really did not know what I was doing. All I knew was that Luis told me the other day that he liked drafting U/B/R

snow, and when the seatings were announced and I found out that I was passing to Luis, I decided to go for the big Green

men strategy.

Pack 1
I opened a pack with Into the North, Deathmark, Surging Might, Zombie Musher, and Thermopod as possible picks. Since I

decided to draft big Green men, I took the Into the North so that I could turbo out Aurochs and the like. Unfortunately,

that’s not how the draft played out. Before I go on, I’d like to apologize to John F. Rizzo for forgetting

to show him my picks half the time. I know you had to look down at my picks at least 10 times during the course of the

draft, but I’ve never drafted with people recording every pick before.

I ended up taking a Boreal Centaur second pick, and then pack 3 came along… and boy, was it loaded. It still

had a Ronom Hulk, Brooding Saurian, Arctic Nishoba, and Juniper Order Ranger. All huge fatties, but I could only pick

one. From what I’ve been told, the Hulk just wins games… so I took him.

I eventually ended up drafting a terrible G/B deck that had only two Surging Mights, minimal removal, and many filler

cards (featuring double Chilling Shade with three snow lands, Rimebound Dead, and Frostweb Spider). The only highlight

of the deck was that it had two Ronom Hulks, and I just prayed that I could ride those bad boys to victory. I was

hoping for a 1-2 with the deck.

Round 8: Alex Kudlick with a solid R/G deck

Alex is from Northern California, and he qualified from the same Regionals that I played in. It was pretty cool to

see both of us doing well in the tournament. I don’t remember the specifics of this match, except for the fact

that he had double Stalking Yeti, a Resize, and, all in all, a better deck than me.

Game 1 started with both of us playing random dorks, and then him casting the Yeti to trade with my Simian Brawler

(if only I had a land). I managed to get out a Ronom Hulk, and pretty soon it became a deadly clock. In the end, he

couldn’t find enough non-snow chumpers.

Game 2 was where I basically determined that my deck wins only if I draw Ronom Hulk. I played a mighty turn 3

Chilling Shade with no snow lands. He played good creatures, and killed my Shade with a Stalking Yeti. It

wasn’t even close. Then he played some Rimerunners and Ohran Yeti with snow lands, and my outclassed creatures had

no chance.

Game 3 was pretty much like game 2, and he did me in with his superior deck. I was also fortunate enough to make the

mistake of forgetting Ohran Yeti’s ability, and attacking into his 2/2 first striker with my bear. Nice plays! Oh,

and no Ronom Hulk equals no win…

Record: 6-2

Round 9: Ken Nowell with equally bad G/B deck

Apparently, Ken thought his deck was also awful. It was a battle of the bad decks.

For Game 1 he played a relatively early Phyrexian Etchings, and was drawing a good amount of cards… but the

cumulative upkeep seemed to have prevented him playing anything relevant. I played a turn 5 Ronom Hulk, and the only

thing he could muster was a chump block from a non-snow creature every turn. Eventually, he ran out of non-snow


Game 2 became a race, with our 2/2s refusing to chump block. Instead, we sent them to the red zone. I got out a turn

3 Chilling Shade, and then put a Surging Might on it for the beatdown. I then put another Surging Might on the

Chilling Shade, to further try to race, but he hit the necessary mana to kill it with a Disciple of Tevesh Szat. He won a

very close race.

Game 3 I played a bunch of snow critters, while he continued to pass after playing a bear or something of that

nature. I Deathmarked his Ronom Hulk, and continued to bash with random snow guys. Later on he showed me a hand of Grim

Harvest and two Chill to the Bones, with me having all snow creatures in play. How unlucky…

Record: 7-2

Round 10: Gabe Walls with a solid U/W/G snow deck

I asked Gabe if he thought his deck was good, and he said that it was. I knew that going in I’d have to get a

little – maybe a lot – lucky to win this match… and that’s exactly what happened.

Game 1 saw him get totally manascrewed, while I played a turn 5 Ronom Hulk. Yeah, I know it’s getting

old, but he’s so good! It kept bashing and bashing, and Gabe’s deck refused to give him lands.

Game 2 he was once again light on mana, and I tried to punish the mana screw. Unfortunately, he had some Boreal

Centaurs (with snow mana up) to slow me down. I once again got turn 5 Ronom Hulk, and it was looking really good for me.

He was on five or below, and had a Boreal Centaur, a snow land, and a Taskmage in play, with three lands up. I

couldn’t see how he would be able to come back from this position. He ended up drawing a Boreal Shelf, and laying

a third Boreal Centaur to have the necessary four snow permanents to lock down the Hulk. After he untapped, he

started playing the spells in his ridiculous seven-card grip, and destroyed me.

This is the first time I even considered looking at my sideboard, because I was already playing so many fillers I

couldn’t possibly see what would help me. Then I saw them. There was an Icefall and a Cryoclasm in the sideboard,

and with his deck being so reliant on the snow lands, I decided I needed to get a little lucky… and went for it. I

asked the judge for two additional Mountains, and tried to see if I could kill some lands and mise a win.

However, that was totally unnecessary, because for the third straight game, Gabe was totally manascrewed. I was able

to beat him by playing random dorks.

Record: 8-2

I was extremely happy at this point to go 2-1 in the Coldsnap draft, considering what a pile the deck turned out to

be. Now all I had to do was win 2 of the next 3 matches to insure that I could draw in. A couple of 10-4s were likely

to make it in, but my tiebreakers weren’t the best at the time.

Round 11: Alex Kudlick with B/W Husk

I was a little happy to get paired with Alex this round, because it was my chance to try to exact revenge for the

thrashing that he gave me in the Coldsnap draft portion. I also knew he was playing B/W Husk, and I assumed that it was

like Hand in Hand, and that I had a good matchup against him.

I calmly sat down at my table waiting for Alex to show up so that I could get my revenge… waiting…

waiting… more waiting… He was nowhere to be seen. The round began, and I got the first game.

Then I saw him running towards the tables, saying that he was testing Standard with some friends and didn’t

hear the round start. At this point I started to think that this was my tournament to win. Everything was going my way.

From going 2-1 with an awful deck, and now a free game win.

Once again I’m feeling very fortunate to have a free game win, and I’m just telling myself not to blow it

like last time. This is a good matchup this time, too!

Shuffling up for “game 2,” it started out very good for me. I Wrathed his board, leaving me with a grip

of spells. He merely passed on the following turn after Wrath, and I was thrilled.

On the following turn, I made the mistake that cost me the game.

I played Court Hussar, and my options were between Mortify and Wrath of God. I was going to have the mana to cast

Angel of Despair in a couple of turns, so I decided to keep the Mortify so that I could kill basically anything he plays

and swing in for five a turn. I passed the turn, and he played Eight-and-a-Half-Tails

If he had a Jitte, or drew a Jitte on the following turn, it would mean big trouble for me. I had no way of actually

dealing with it.

On my turn I drew another land, and passed with a Mortify and an Angel of Despair in my hand. I figured that even if

he drew Jitte, he would probably equip and attack me, leaving two mana up, which would have been fine. I would be able to

end step Mortify the 8.5 Tails, tapping him out, then I could untap and put an Angel into play to kill the Jitte.

This is really where his experience in testing the matchup proved its worth. On his turn, he merely played Jitte and

attacked for two, leaving mana up to protect his Jitte and his 8.5 Tails.

At this point, I knew that I had to start racing him and had to play the Angel regardless of whether or not he could

protect his permanents. By always leaving mana to protect his permanents, he essentially nullified the effect of my

Mortifies and Angels. I ended up not drawing a relevant spell for the next few turns, and his 8.5 tails with the absurd

equipment was all that was needed to kill me.

A little frazzled after the very strong start, I went into sideboarding and brought in the three Condemns. I

didn’t really think that the Descendants were that strong in the matchup, and wished that I had the three Last

Gasps that Luis was packing in his sideboard.

Alright, this matchup still is good. I still should be able to win, right? My first seven cards disagreed, while I

had to search for a hand that contained land. I then decided to keep a two-land hand with Compulsive Research and a

Wrath, in hopes to draw a land in the following two turns. It was not to be, and I got run over by an army of Black and

White critters.

This loss had me totally on tilt, because twice now in the Constructed portion of the tournament, my opponents

received game losses… and I lost on both occasions. I would now have to win my next two rounds to be able to make

Top 8 at this event. Meanwhile, Luis was sitting comfortably at 10-1, and was basically a lock for the Top 8. If there

were a time to get big, it would be in the following two matches.

Record: 8-3

Round 12: Billy Moreno with B/W Rats

I had to ship my initial seven cards, and kept a hand with two Swamps, Orzhov Basilica, Wrath of God, Persecute, and

a spell that escapes me because it didn’t really matter. I never drew a second White source, while he got a quick

start with Savannah Lions and Isamaru. I went for a Persecute on turn 4 to get some information, and then quickly


In sideboarding I boarded in three Condemns, but kept the Descendants away because he was playing the full rat

package. The Descendants would be 2/3s more often than not. I ended up taking out two Persecutes and an Ink-Eyes in the

matchup. Normally I would keep in Persecutes against B/W, but that was against a deck like Hand in Hand. Moreno’s

list was packing Savannah Lions and Isamarus, and he emptied his hand faster than other B/W versions.

Game 2: I got a good draw, which involved Wrathing his board then dropping a Kokusho into play. Meanwhile, Billy was

shaking his head and seemed apparently upset about how he sideboarded, because after I dropped the Kokusho, he went end

step: double last gasp your Kokusho. Mind Rotting opponents, while basically Soul Feasting them at the same

time, seems good. I dropped another big flier onto the board, and it stayed in play long enough to pull out game 2.

Remember earlier in the article where I said that I had some spectators when I was testing the B/W versus Solar Flare

matchup? Apparently, one of Billy’s friends was there watching me play B/W, and told him that I may be running

that deck. Since, in game 1, the only lands I played were Swamps and Basilicas… well, you get the picture.

As we were sideboarding for game 3, all he could say was, “well, that sucks,” shaking his head in

frustration. He grabbed his sideboard and approximately twelve cards were switched. I looked at my sideboard, but there

really wasn’t anything I wanted to bring in.

Game 3 started with him keeping his hand, and me shipping the first seven. I kept a spicy opening hand with two

Wrath of Gods and some lands. He started off with a turn 1 Isamaru followed up by a turn 2 creature, while I ramped up

with a turn 2 Signet. He continued to lay the pressure with two more creatures, and I was forced to Wrath.

However, I drew a third Wrath on that turn, and took a little time to play out the second Wrath in hopes that he

would overextend on the following turn, not expecting a third. That’s exactly what happened. The turn after the

second Wrath, he emptied his hand and played Hypnotic Specter, Dark Confidant, and Isamaru. One Wrath later, and with me

playing a dragon the turn after, the match was over.

Record: 9-3

One more to go!

Round 13: Sam Stein with B/W Hand

I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but Sam and I already saw this coming. We always seem to get into the

most dramatic of matches. We contemplated whether or not we should draw so that both of us could make it with a win, but

Sam decided that he could make it even with a loss, and decided to play it out.

Sam was playing basically the exact list that I gave him, and I knew that the matchup was in my favor, but the

matches played out much closer.

Sam started off with a double mulligan, and I kept my initial seven. It looks like the double mulligan didn’t

matter, because he started with a turn 1 Isamaru followed with turn 2 Dark Confidant and turn 3 Castigate, stripping the

Wrath I was planning on casting on the following turn. I played a Court Hussar to muck up the ground. He laid a second

Confidant and I dropped a Kokusho on the following turn. The race was on! On his next turn he played a Ghost Council of

Orzhova, and tried to sacrifice a Dark Confidant to slow the bleeding. I Mortified the Ghost Council in response to earn

the scoop.

In sideboarding, I decided to try Descendants. Sam’s deck didn’t have much discard and I was also on the

draw, which made me think that I would have card advantage for the most part. I brought in 4 Descendants and 3 Condemns

for 4 Remands, 2 Persecutes, and an Ink-Eyes.

Game 2 saw him mulligan yet again. His first play was turn 2 Hand of Honor followed with turn 3 Phyrexian Arena and

turn 4 Persecute. My ass was handed to me on a silver platter. I tried to come back with Meloku, only to have it

Mortified, and the Wrath in my hand was Castigated… On to game 3!

I decided to bring back in the Remands because they’re much more awesome when you’re on the play. The

Descendants were pretty awful. I played one on turn 3 in game 2, but it was highly irrelevant.

Boy, did the Remands pay off! He had no play on turn 1, and then had his Confidant Remanded on the following two

turns, giving me a huge tempo advantage and allowing me to build up my mana.

I cast a couple of Compulsive Researches to try to find a win condition, but could only find lands and some removal

spells. I killed the Confidant and Researched yet again to find a way to win. I could only find a couple of Signets

and a Mortify.

After not being able to draw relevant threats for several turns, he slowly gained the upper hand with an Arena, and

Persecuted two Zombifies from my hand. I had Mikokoro in play, and started furiously activating it every turn in hopes

to draw my way out of it. First I dropped a Yosei, and then cast Wrath of God to tap him down and give me more turns to


I drew nothing, and then activated Mikokoro again, which gave me a Zombify for the Yosei. On the following two

turns, I drew two more Angel of Despairs to kill anything that stood in their way, and won a very close game.

This victory was a bit bittersweet, because I could have possibly knocked a good friend out of contention for the Top

8, although I was also extremely excited to know that I was a draw away from getting there myself!

Record: 10-3

Before this round started, I found out that Tim Aten requested Ben Lundquist to play it out to increase his chances

of making the Top 8. This had me extremely stressed out, because there was a chance that I could get paired up against

him and have my dreams crushed. Pairings are up, and I’m the first one to look at my round 14 opponent only to see

the name Benjamin Lundquist as my opponent. How unlucky!

Round 14: Benjamin Lundquist with U/R Tron

Fortunately for me, Tim Aten was nice enough to give the ol’ thumbs up and approved of the draw. Top 8

Nationals, here I come!

Record: 10-3-1

At the end of the day, both Luis and I made the Top 8. Sam Stein was sitting at 10-4 and one person with that record

would make the top 8. We assumed that it would be a race between David Sharfman and Sam Stein (combined record 12-2 with

Bottle Gnome’s Hand in Hand list). Tim Aten also won his last round and was 10-4, but his breaks were pretty bad

and we decided to just write him off…

The names were being called out and finally the player in 8th place was about to be revealed… and the 8th place

contender at U.S. Nationals is… Timothy Aten!



How the hell did that happen?!

Apparently, Luis was asked to play it out and attempt to crush John Sittner’s dreams to help Sam get into the

Top 8.

Unfortunately, Luis ended up losing, which left only one slot for a 10-4 to make it instead of two. Not only that,

Tim played John three times already during the course of the competition, and got a huge boost in tiebreaks for the win

and the unlikely slot into the Top 8. Sorry Sam, you had a great run and it would have been awesome if all three of us

Top 8ed.

Even though I was a little disappointed that a good friend missed out on tiebreakers, I can’t tell you just how

excited I was to make the Top 8, and to have both Luis and I in contention to make the Nationals team!

Join me tomorrow, when I complete the story!

Until then,

Paul Cheon