2006 U.S. Nationals Report – *1st Place* – Part 2

Paul concludes his exciting report on U.S. Nationals 2006! With fourteen rounds of swiss play behind him, seven men stood between him and an oversized comedy check. Yesterday’s opener had thrills and spills galore… today’s installment is packed with high drama! The best writers, the best players… only at StarCityGames.com!

[Part 1 of this entertaining report, dealing with each match up to the Top 8, can be found here. – Craig.]

After a celebratory dinner, we went back to our rooms to examine the Top 8 decklists, which looked liked this:

Ben Zoz (U/B/W Solar Flare)
John Sittner (B/W Discard)
Antonino De Rosa (G/W Ghazi-Glare)
Alex Kudlick (B/W Husk)
Benjamin Lundquist (U/R Tron)
Luis Scott-Vargas (U/B/W Solar Flare)
Paul Cheon (U/B/W Solar Flare)
Timothy Aten (U/R Tron)

The funniest part about the whole thing was that Luis had made plans to cancel his flight the week before, and it turned out that he couldn’t. This was after he realized that he was already qualified for Worlds and Kobe, and playing at Nationals would potentially destroy his chances of being able to attend either.

So, if he did poorly and lost qualification for both events, he would look like a total donkey. As it turns out, he Top 8ed… and continues to look like a master.

Luis was paired against Antonino’s Ghazi-Glare deck, and we decided to test that matchup. The matchup between John and I seemed pretty straightforward. He makes me discard my Angels, and then I Zombify them. Even though Luis lost to John in the last round, I still felt that it was a good matchup for Solar Flare. Luis had total control of the game with two dragons on the board, only to have both of them Condemned. As long as I played around Condemn by waiting until I drew my Persecute, I figured I would be fine.

We played ten games pre-sideboard and ten games post-sideboard. He managed to win seven of the ten games pre-sideboarded, and five of the ten games post-sideboard. The most important thing to note was that in all of the games that he won, he totally blew me out. Turn 4 Angel of Despair, or back-to-back Wrath of God. Every game I won involved me squeaking out a Jitte, or having a Glare stick to stop his fliers from getting out of hand.

After the testing, and with us having only about four hours to sleep before the Top 8, we concluded that the matchup was actually pretty decent for Solar Flare. It was definitely a winnable matchup.

For reference, here’s my Standard decklist:

Quarter-Finals: John Sittner with B/W discard

The first time I saw John was when I was in an Arizona Team PTQ for Charleston. He was with Jack Stanton and Steve Jarvis, trying to qualify. Then the next time I saw him, he was playing in the feature match area at PT: Charleston, in contention for Top 8. I think he did pretty well at that tournament (seventh, I believe).

After Luis had already played him during the swiss, he told me that the most important thing was to ramp up and get to six or seven mana. This way I can just topdeck a dragon or an angel, which would usually be enough to take it down (this advice helped me out a lot during game 2).

John was on the play and started out with a turn 2 Dark Confidant, followed up by a turn 3 Shrieking Grotesque (which made me discard a land). I dropped a Court Hussar to try to muck up the ground. The strategy worked… except for the fact that he dropped an Umezawa’s Jitte and slapped it onto the flier.

I ended up Wrathing the board, and he played a Ravenous Rats and equipped the Jitte. Seeing that he had about six cards in hand, it seemed that he was ready to start playing a war of attrition where he would force me to use removal spells on Ravenous Rats, effectively 2-for-1ing me in the process.

I dropped a Yosei on the following turn, which traded with a double-pumped Ravenous Rats and locked him down for the turn. The following turn destroyed his entire strategy of playing a war of attrition, because I cast Persecute naming Black and made him discard his entire hand.

I followed it up with a Meloku and made two tokens. He Mortified the Meloku and killed the two tokens with the Jitte. I then played an Ink-Eyes and a Kokusho, wondering if I could possibly lose this game after getting a six-for-one on a Persecute. He then drew a Cruel Edict to force me to sacrifice Ink-Eyes, and I was left with just a Kokusho. Luckily I had a Zombify for the Meloku – and tons of mana out – and that was game 1.

The good thing is, I had already discussed sideboarding strategies for the matchup before going in. I knew exactly how I wanted to sideboard:

-4 Remand
+3 Condemn
+1 Persecute

Descendant of Kiyomaro seemed weak yet again, as they were throughout the entire tournament. If you don’t expect much Zoo, Gruul, or Boros, then these can easily be cut.

I was wishing I had those Last Gasps in the sideboard again. Remands seemed pretty bad against his one-mana hand disruption spells, and the overall low mana curve of his deck meant that I wouldn’t even be able to get much tempo advantage out of them. I brought in the third copy of Persecute because I wanted to make sure that my dragons and angels could be able to attack without the fear of Condemn.

I knew that the matchup would probably end up being worse for me because he brought in 4 Condemns, 3 Blackmails, and 3 Okiba-Gang Shinobis… but I still felt that the matchup was in my favor, because the early hand disruption merely accelerates my fatties into play with Zombify.

John mulled to six and started out with a turn 2 Hand of Cruelty. I came back with a turn 2 Signet. He played a Cry of Contrition and a Blackmail, which made me discard a Wrath of God and a Zombify. I was just trying to ramp up my mana as fast as possible to play the fatties in my hand. Using Luis’ suggestion of ramping up my mana, I discarded my removal spells in favor of casting my Signets early.

The next two turns saw me play the two Signets in my hand, and then accelerating into a turn 4 hardcast Angel of Despair, killing his White source in hopes that he doesn’t draw another for a Condemn. He drew the White source anyway, and passed the turn.

The next turn is where I made a mistake that definitely could have cost me the game. I drew a Persecute, and I knew that the plan was to call White so that my angel can swing in freely. However, after making him discard basically his entire hand game 1 by naming Black, I was greedy and went for it again. He obviously had the Condemn, and I felt like a fool. I did manage to play a Court Hussar and put an Angel into my hand, only to have it Cry of Contritioned away.

Now I had to wait until I drew another Persecute before I could start attacking with the angel. He drew into a Mortify and continued to bash me with the Hand of Cruelty from turn 2. I eventually got down to six life, while he was still at a healthy thirteen.

After a couple of turns of drawing nothing, I managed to Compulsive Research into a Zombify to resurrect my Angel of Despair. Even though I knew he had the Condemn in hand, I had to attack to desperately gain some life to survive. He did what was expected and I followed up by playing a Court Hussar, which revealed Persecute, Compulsive Research, and Yosei. I wish I could have kept all three, but I decided to keep the Yosei.

The Yosei also got Condemned, and it was a race between his Hand of Cruelty and my two Court Hussars. The following couple of turns were a bit confusing for me because, he decided to stop attacking with his Hand of Cruelty and trading blows when he was up on life (possibly playing around Ink-Eyes?).

I drew another Yosei, and at this point he had to attack. I dropped down to two life, while he was at seven. On the following turn, I attacked with both Yosei and my Court Hussars, and when he tried to Quicksand my Court Hussar, I Ninjutsued Ink-Eyes into play for the game.

After making that mishap with the Persecute the game prior, I decided to go with 3 Castigates in and 3 Persecutes out, to get whatever threat I needed out of his hand instead of guessing.

Game 3 was much less eventful than the others. He was stuck on two lands, and cast a Cry of Contrition and Ravenous Rats (making me discard a land and a Condemn).

I accelerated into a turn 4 Meloku, for which he had no answer. That was followed up by a Yosei, and then an Angel of Despair to kill his Jitte. That was the match.

Record 11-3-1

Needless to say I was relieved to have won the quarter-finals, because that insured a qualification for Worlds. My next round opponent was going to be either Luis Scott-Vargas or Antonino De Rosa. I went over to look at their match, and Luis was on game 4 and up 2-1. I saw him ninjutsu Ink-Eyes, returning Angel of Despair, to steal Antonino’s Yosei… and that was the match!

As soon as the match was over, it was straight to the match between Luis and I. I could tell that he was also very relieved to have made it to past the quarters, beating out the former National champ. It really sucks that we were in the same bracket going into the semi-finals… but hey, at least we didn’t get paired in the Top 8!

Semi-finals: Luis Scott-Vargas with Solar Flare

With the exceptional amount of testing that we both did with the deck prior to the start of the tournament, I had a feeling that I had the edge… because I played two more games with the deck than poor Luis (i.e. the two games against his Vintage Stax deck). Playing against a good friend is generally very stressful, but we had a prize split going into the Top 8 so we were really playing for the slot on the National team… and, I suppose, the recognition as the U.S. National Champion! Even if one of us lost, we would still have a chance to make the team by playing for the third slot.

Game 1
I won the die roll and we both started out by simply ramping up our mana. I played the first relevant spell in Angel of Despair, killing his lone Blue source. He Mortified it right away, and laid another Blue source. I Zombified the angel and destroyed his Blue source again. He Wrathed the board, and I simply laid another Angel of Despair. The mana advantage was too much for him to overcome.

In sideboarding, I was once again lost as to what to take out, because this was my first time actually boarding for this particular matchup. It took me the full amount of time allotted for sideboarding to figure out what was important in the matchup. In the end, I ended up sideboarding like this:

+4 Castigate
+2 Persecute
+2 Cranial Extraction
+2 Condemn

-2 Azorius Signet
-3 Court Hussar
-2 Wrath of God
-3 Mortify

I know it looks totally random and guess what? It was… The hand disruption elements were obviously going to go in, and I figured that Condemn was better than Mortify because of two reasons:

They shuffle the attacking dragons back into the library so they can’t get Zombified

We discussed what the right color was to name for Persecute, and decided that it was Black. Mortify gets hit on both sides of the color spectrum, and I decided that the Condemns would actually survive a Persecute.

The Signets were taken out for no reason, except for the fact that I figured the matches went long enough that the acceleration is not as important as all the hand disruption elements I was bringing in. Court Hussars didn’t seem to be as important as the other cards I was bringing in, and in all honesty, I didn’t really know what else to take out. I still wanted to keep in two copies of Wrath of God in case Meloku got out of hand.

Game 2
I had to mulligan down to six to start the match, while Luis kept his opening seven. He led out with a turn 2 Castigate, removing the lone copy of Kokusho from my deck. It became draw-go for a couple of turns, until Luis tried to gun a turn 5 Meloku, which I promptly Remanded.

Since my hand already had a Wrath of God for the Meloku in his hand, I decided to Persecute naming Black, to try and nab any of his other win conditions along with any Zombifies he could be holding. I managed to get a Zombify and Ink-Eyes, while seeing the Meloku that I Remanded, and two copies of Wrath of God.

He dropped the Meloku again on the following turn. I cast Wrath of God on the following turn, killing the Meloku. He laid a Kokusho for his turn and passed. I Persecuted him again, naming White to get rid of the pesky Wraths, only to see that he had drawn back-to-back Kokushos. I followed up the Persecute with a cranial extraction to get rid of the Kokusho in his hand.

This left his hand entirely empty, but there was still a pesky Kokusho to deal with. The good news was that he couldn’t attack me just yet, because his turn 2 Castigate revealed that I had a Condemn in my hand. I tapped out on the following turn to cast Angel of Despair, targeting the Kokusho in play. Unfortunately, he drew a Remand off the top, which basically said, “Lave Axe you, draw a card.”

After calling him a sack and taking five damage, the Angel of Despair resolved the second time, but I went down to four in the process. He tried to race me, with a Court Hussar against my Angel of Despair, but a second Angel made sure that didn’t happen.

Despite the Worlds qualification on the line, this match was the most enjoyable and stress-free match that I played all weekend. If I lost to Luis, then I would still have a chance to make the National team with a win… and Luis would automatically be on the National team. If I were to win, then Luis would still have a chance, and I’d be cheering him on. Anyway, back to the nitty-gritty.

Game 3
If there was ever a game to describe to you the sheer topdecking skills of Luis Scott-Vargas, it was this one. It’s really unfair. Not only is he a good player, he’s also known to be one of the luckiest.

I started off by attempting a Castigate on turn 2 – that got Remanded. He then cast Compulsive Research, discarding an Angel of Despair and a land, thus signalling a Zombify in his hand. I Castigate the following turn to reveal a hand of Zombify and all lands. I happily took the Zombify while looking at my hand of all gas thinking to myself, “finals, here we come!”

On his turn, he drew topdeck number one… the second Zombify in his deck, to get back the Angel of Despair and kill a land. This slowed me down from playing my Kokusho for two turns, because he hit a Karoo, but I figured since he had nothing I was still in good shape.

I’m having a tough time recalling exactly what happened, so I decided to ask Luis. This was the response.

lsvargas23: ok ok
lsvargas23: i research into like WoG
lsvargas23: pitch angel
lsvargas23: you castigate Zombify
lsvargas23: i then rip zombify (targeting angel of despair)
lsvargas23: hit your karoo
lsvargas23: then i rip cranial, hit angels
lsvargas23: i then rip Kokusho
lsvargas23: bash, after drawing another one
lsvargas23: you castigate the 2nd one
lsvargas23: then i rip research i think
lsvargas23: and remand your play (which was Kokusho…)
lsvargas23: and that was it?
lsvargas23: i ripped zombify cranial kokusho kokusho research remand
lsvargas23: in total
lsvargas23: off no cards
lsvargas23: man
lsvargas23: that’s a lot
CHEONdotCOM: hahahha

That was basically what happened and I was always one step behind him on tempo and somehow managed to lose the game. The sack!

Reaching for the sideboard yet again, I decided to take out the Wrath of Gods and Condemns, and bring back in the Court Hussars and a Signet, and go for a more aggressive approach.

Game 4
Luis started out with a turn 2 Castigate, which got rid of an Angel of Despair. He then attempted another Castigate, which I Remanded. At this point, my hand contained Meloku, Yosei, and another Angel of Despair.

Instead of Castigating me again on the following turn, he decided to try to blow me out with a Persecute. Fortunately for me, he named Black (which is correct) and he ended up just taking the Angel of Despair.

I dropped Yosei for my turn and passed, while he Castigated away the Meloku that was sitting in my hand. He passed his turn with no other plays, and I Castigated him to see just what he was up to. His hand revealed Cranial Extraction and Zombify (with no creatures in graveyard). I took the Cranial and started bashing him with Yoseis, while he continued to draw blanks down to one life.

With one card to draw to try to come back from the game… he drew… Meloku the Clouded Mirror. As soon as he played it, I was wishing that I kept some number of Wrath of Gods in, because I could no longer get through for damage.

I drew another Yosei for my turn, but decided against playing it to lock him down because I had no other plays for a couple of turns. On his turn, he cast Wrath of God to clear the board, and while the Yosei triggers were on the stack, he floated the appropriate mana to Zombify Meloku and make another token.

Things were looking grim, and I knew that the only way to come back from this would be to draw another fatty to get back in this game and make him chump block two creatures a turn instead of one. Untap, upkeep, draw… Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni! Back in the game! I played my land, and played Yosei and Ink-Eyes on the same turn.

This forced Luis to make two tokens a turn to chump the five-powered beaters. Eventually he was down to a couple of Chanceries, which would have been suicide to bounce, and I managed to draw a Zombify for the Angel of Despair to kill the Meloku. This left me open to a Wrath of God, which would’ve totally crippled me, but thankfully he only left one in after sideboarding.

Record: 12-3-1

After my match against Luis, we were given a 45-minute lunch break. Luis, Tim Aten, Josh Ravitz, and I went to a sports bar downstairs to grab a bite to eat, while discussing who we would prefer to have Luis play in the match that determines the third member of the National team.

We decided that it would be preferable for him to play against Ben Zoz, because it was essentially a mirror match… but we had access to Castigates in the sideboard, while he didn’t. They also played in a feature match during the swiss, where Luis ended up winning in three games. We didn’t totally understand the U/R Tron matchup, but figured it to be very unfavorable game 1. It was a little better for games 2 and 3.

After we finished our food, the match between Ben Lundquist and Ben Zoz was finally over… and Lundquist managed to take the match 3-1. At this point Ben and I were just really excited to be on the National team and were cheering Luis on to capture that third slot.

I think I was too relaxed during the lunch break because after we ate, I realized that I still had to play another match for the actual title of National Champion, and I didn’t even think to talk with friends to figure out how I should sideboard in the matchup. I was then given even more time to figure out the Tron matchup against Lundquist, but I opted to watch the match against Ben Zoz and Luis Scott-Vargas instead.

Luis managed to pull through after a gruelling five games. All that time spent watching the match… I should’ve been preparing for my finals match with Ben… but nope, I was too busy watching the third place playoff.

So the National team was set, and the only thing we were playing for was 2,000 dollars and the title of National Champion. There was still a lot on the line, yet I really felt no pressure going into the finals. We were already excited to be on the National team, yelling stuff like “we did it” and “living the dream,” among all the other clichéd things to say in a Magic tournament. The last match felt like a formality.

And now, for ALL the marbles…!

Finals: Benjamin Lundquist with U/R Tron

Game 1
Ben won the roll and kept his opener, while I mulled to six. The first few turns saw us playing draw-go, with me sneaking in a Signet and him casting a Compulsive Research somewhere. The first power play came from Ben where he cast Wildfire with a Blue mana up, and I attempted to Remand it. He had the Spell Snare for the Remand, and I was left with only a Signet on the board.

He played a Keiga a couple of turns later. I attempted to Mortify it, but it got Remanded. He bashed me for five, and I was still stuck on three mana sources. The Mortify resolved on the second attempt. He then proceeded to refill his hand with Tidings, and another Keiga hit the board.

I cast a Mortify on his Keiga during his upkeep, and it resolved… only to have him play yet another Keiga. I cast a Wrath of God, which was met by a Remand. I took another hit from the Keiga and played a Yosei on the next turn. Ben simply shrugged, untapped, and confiscated the Yosei. He bashed me for five, and I went down to ten life.

Once again, I tried to Wrath the board, but this time it resolve. My own Yosei ended locking me up for a turn and I was at Ben’s mercy for an entire turn. He followed up with his fourth Keiga. I simply drew for my turn and passed, because all of my permanents were tapped.

He attacked with Keiga and got me down to five life. I attempted a Mortify on the fourth Keiga during his upkeep, but he Repealed it in response and then replayed it. He also cast Tidings on that same turn and still had mana up for countermagic (umm… if you hadn’t noticed… he had the Tron). I attempted to Zombify my Yosei, but it was met with a Mana Leak, and that was game 1.

After the thorough bashing that Ben gave me in game 1, the matchup just seemed hopeless. If he ever gets Tron going, his turns just end up becoming absurd. I also knew that from his sideboard, he would be bringing in 4 copies of Annex, a Meloku or two, and possibly Copy Enchantments to further break his Annexes. Considering that there are 4 bouncelands in my deck, it could only get worse.

I decided to go through my sideboard to try and figure out what exactly I wanted to bring in. I immediately grabbed the anti-control package of 2 Persecute, 4 Castigate, and 2 Cranial Extraction. I also decided to bring in Condemns over Mortifies to be able to deal with Keigas without giving him the dragons that could possibly be in play. I was really beginning to regret not preparing for this matchup because I had not a clue what to sideboard out.

Not having a clue how to sideboard while Ben was sitting comfortably with an already presented deck, I felt the need to rush myself a bit and went with this configuration:

+4 Castigate
+2 Persecute
+2 Cranial Extraction
+3 Condemn

-4 Wrath of God
-3 Court Hussar
-2 Azorius Signet
-1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
-1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror

I took out Meloku because I felt that it couldn’t possibly be that good against a deck with Wildfire… that was a mistake. I also took out Ink-Eyes because I figured that if I were to get rid of a threat in his deck, It’d be most likely through a Castigate, Cranial Extraction, or Condemn… that was also a mistake. I took out Wrath of God because I figured that the Mortifies, Condemns, and Angel of Despairs would be enough to deal with his threats. The Court Hussars were taken out because frankly, I couldn’t figure what else to take out. Since I couldn’t figure out what else to take out, I just took out X number of Signets equal to the number of cards I needed to remove.

Concerned about the terrible sideboarding that I did, I went to shuffle up for game 2. Once again I mulliganed my opening hand into: land, Signet, Research, Court Hussar, and two cards I forget. I figured that this matchup was bad, and I had to get a little lucky. If I draw a second land and play the Signet, I can dig for more lands with the Hussar and Compulsive Research.

As expected, I didn’t draw the land on turn 2, but I managed to draw a chancery on turn 3. Then I proceeded to draw no lands while discarding a couple of times. When I went for the Compulsive Research, it got Remanded, which forced me to discard yet again. The next Compulsive Research resolved, but I still could not find another land. Ben cast a Meloku and friends, getting me down low enough to Demonfire me out.

At this point, I was telling myself to calm down… that there are still three games left to play. I grabbed my sideboard and brought back in the Meloku, Ink-Eyes, and a Wrath of God. I took out the Condemns and decided to go with a more aggressive strategy by bringing in the big legends.

I realized that boarding out Ink-Eyes was absolutely stupid because ninjutsuing it out after a Persecute would just win games on its own. I brought in the Meloku because I figured that he sideboarded out his Wildfires after bringing in Melokus of his own.

The last Wrath of God was pretty random, and I just wanted it in there just in case he played a Meloku and it got out of hand. I really wanted to bring in two Wraths, but I couldn’t figure out what to take out.

-3 Condemn

+1 Meloku
+1 Ink-Eyes
+1 Wrath of God

A little demoralized, but realizing that there is still a lot more Magic to be played, we shuffled up for possibly the last game of the tournament.

Game 3
For once, I didn’t mulligan and we both kept our initial seven. I started off with an early Compulsive Research discarding an Angel of Despair and a land. He played out a couple of early Signets and laid out a Meloku.

I Castigated him to see a hand of Keiga and all lands. I then attempted to Mortify his Meloku, which prompted him to go all in and pick up four lands to make four tokens.

Now all I had to do was somehow deal with an army of 1/1 fliers. On the following turn, I hardcast an Ink-Eyes and the only thing I was thinking was… c’mon Shizo!

He attacked with three tokens and left one back to chump block, but I drew a Zombify to reanimate my angel of despair to kill his token, and the unblocked Ink-Eyes went on to steal his Meloku.

With the overwhelming board position that I had, he still hadn’t conceded yet. I looked at his board and he had Tron and had annexed an Azorius Chancery, so a topdecked Demonfire would still win him the game. Good thing I drew a Cranial Extraction to prevent any of those shenanigans from happening.

Back to the sideboard and still unsure of what exactly to do, I decided to bring in another Wrath of God after having Meloku’s minions almost kill me. I chose to take out a Kokusho because it seemed to be the least relevant of the win conditions in my deck.

As we were shuffling up for game 4, I commented mostly to myself, “Alright two more games, two more games!” which Ben responded with, “alright, one more game!”

Game 4
We were both happy with out starting seven (me especially, because I finally drew a Persecute, and dreams of six-for-ones were going through my head). We both started off with a turn 3 Compulsive Research. Ben managed to get Tron online by turn 4, tapped out, and went for Keiga…

Me: Cards in hand?
Ben: Six…
Me: Persecute you naming Blue?

He discarded his entire hand of six Blue spells, while my hand was full of gas. I Mortified his Keiga on the following turn. Then I dropped a Meloku for my turn, with the Ink-Eyes in my hand eyeballing the Keiga in his graveyard.

He drew a Tidings for his turn and was creeping back into the game. I ninjutsued the Ink-Eyes into play, courtesy of Meloku, and stole his Keiga, getting him to ten life.

Then a question came up as to what the life totals were. He had me at fifteen life, while I had myself at fourteen. In the beginning of the game, I recall that he had to tap his Shivan Reef to cast Compulsive Research on turn 3. Instead of marking down a life from his total, I took one from mine instead. After some discussion with the table judge, we came to the conclusion that I was at fifteen, while Ben was at nine life.

This turned out to be extremely relevant, because Ben had fifteen mana in play and would have been able to Demonfire me for fourteen had I been at that life. Sitting with lethal on my board, he had to Demonfire the Ink-Eyes instead. He failed to draw an answer to the Keiga in play, and it was off to game 5!

I flipped through my sideboard but I was pretty content with the final configuration. Keep in mind that it only took like three sideboarding sessions to do so. I then started to think to myself, “alright, one more! One more!” Meanwhile, a spectator was thanking me for making this an exciting match. Although making the match entertaining was the least of my worries, I’m glad that the audience enjoyed it.

Game 5
Once again we both kept our openers. We both started off laying lands for the first couple of turns, until on his turn 3…

He just said go…

This is when thoughts started circling in my head:

Is this really happening?
Am I actually going to win this thing?

I could have played a Signet on turn 3, but I did not want him to be able to cycle by Remanding the Signet. He managed to draw his third land and passed. I cast a Signet this time, and he Remanded it as expected.

This let me Castigate him, and I saw a hand of Minamo, Annex, Annex, Hinder, Tidings, Confiscate, Spell Snare. It took me a while to figure out what exactly I wanted to take, and I finally decided on the Hinder because if he were to draw an Island, he would be able to hinder a Persecute that I could possibly draw to take over the game. The Minamo he drew was not a mana source, because I already had one in play.

He simply Wastelanded my Minamo with his, and passed the turn. I proceeded to cast Cranial Extraction, nailing the two Annexes in his hand to prevent him from overcoming the manascrew in which he was currently mired.

The next turn saw him completing the Tron, while I dropped a Yosei. He drew his second Blue source to Confiscate my Yosei, but I was sitting with the Angel of Despair in my hand. I cast the angel to kill the enchantment, getting back my Yosei.

At this point he had Tron with two Shivan Reefs in play, against my Yosei and Angel of Despair. He was at seventeen to my twenty. On his turn he tapped both of his Shivan Reefs to go down to fifteen life, and a sudden rush of excitement came over me. I was staring at my Miren, the Moaning Well in play. I saw the win and I couldn’t help but to contain the excitement. I was actually going to do it!

He played an Island, and then cast a Compulsive Research to further search for answers. At this point there was absolutely nothing that he could draw to get him out of this game. As soon as he passed, I quickly untapped and drew for the turn.

My hands were shaking because I couldn’t hold back the excitement any longer. I attacked for ten, getting him down to five life. I sacrificed the Yosei to the Miren, and locked him down for the turn. I played a Compulsive Research and a Signet, and then passed the turn, which prompted the concession.

I did it!

I couldn’t believe it. It almost felt unreal. I pumped the fist in celebration, and was looking for the friends that I came with for some high fives. Unfortunately, almost all of them were playing in the PTQ, and Luis was busy team-drafting Mirrodin with others. A little disappointed, I saw some figure charging at me from a distance… it was Luis. We all congratulated each other, and were very happy with how the teams turned out.

All in all, this weekend couldn’t have turned out to be any better. Not only did I make the team, along with the very capable Ben Lundquist, our third team-mate was none other than my good friend Luis Scott-Vargas. This Worlds, and the testing for it, is going to be exciting, and unlike my testing for Nationals, I know that there will be a lot of it.

Congratulations to Benjamin Lundquist, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Ben Zoz! We’re going to Worlds!

Thanks for reading.

Paul Cheon