A Bath, UK Tournament, In All Its Glory

Firstly I’d just like to thank all those readers who sent me deck lists and ideas for decks to play last Saturday. I liked some of them a lot especially one sent to me by Mikael Aaby-Ericsson and have started working on a R/G deck with big creatures, , and lots of burn. When I…

Firstly I’d just like to thank all those readers who sent me deck lists and ideas for decks to play last Saturday. I liked some of them a lot especially one sent to me by Mikael Aaby-Ericsson and have started working on a R/G deck with big creatures, Earthquakes, Powder Kegs and lots of burn.

When I last wrote, I was unsure of what deck to play last Saturday, and truth be told, I only decided ten minutes before the end of registration. I eventually chose to play a deck very similar to one I’d built with my teammate Paul Dale in Omaha: I chose to play a version of Speed Green. I don’t think it was the best choice I could have made but I’ll talk you through why and you can make your own decision.

Six days to ground zero

The week before the tournament I wasn’t looking forward to it. With only six days to go I could play any number of decks, including net decks and my own constructions. Wednesday nights are when the local Magic group meets up, so I had a couple of days to think about what I might play if I was to get any playtesting in.

Having spent a long time playing Sabre Bargain, I had a deck already built up and spent the two days looking at other decks I might play. Without enough time (in my mind anyway) to build a new deck that could compete with the net decks, I was looking for something I thought I could play and that I’d enjoy playing. I settled on a Rebel/Cradle deck based on one of the invitational decks, and Tinker Fire, a blue/red deck with lots of artifacts, Wildfire and (of course) Tinker. I liked the way that both decks always seemed to give me something to do. Rarely was I drawing a card and saying”I’m done”.

Even after deciding this, I persevered with my own creations but they weren’t really working. My accelerated green and accelerated white decks were strictly worse than their blue brother and their red cousin, Wildfire. I built a Speed White/Green deck with Disenchants, Armageddons, Mother of Runes and Reverent Mantra but there weren’t enough white spells to make the Mantra work and we all know that you cast a BIG threat before casting Armageddon, not a Pouncing Jaguar.

Wednesday rolled around and I got a call from a friend who moved away a year ago, Martin. He was coming to see me earlier than expected and would be in Bath that night. Martin isn’t a Magic player so I thought I might have to cut play testing short. As it happened, he was interested in playing in the tourney on Saturday and wanted to come up to playtesting. I met him at the station and we went along to the club.

The club in Bath is an interesting mix of students, ex-students and long-time Magic players. There are several players who’ve graced the top 25 in the country at one time or another, but only one who’s been to the Pro Tour. We don’t really play multi-player Magic anymore, something I miss. Everyone seems to want to do well at the monthly Type II tournament, so that’s all they ever seem to want to practice.

I got there late and we only played until about 9.30pm, but it helped a lot. Tinker Fire wasn’t going to be the deck I was going to take. When it works you get to do lots of fun things and kill your opponent in any of a number of ways. When it doesn’t work you sit there making Dynamo’s and Monoliths while you’re opponent beats you to death with an Elvish Lyrist and it just didn’t seem to work often enough. Rebel/Cradle worked well, but before sideboarding had a problem with Road Trip Red. On the other hand it worked very well against blue and the other decks there but seemed very random in the mirror match. Legendary permanent racing became the order of the day.

After the club broke up, we headed down town for some beer. We both got very drunk and stayed up until around 3am playing Tekken 3 on the Playstation. Tekken 3 is my new hobby. I’m playing Anna and Yoshimitsu as much as I can and trying to learn all of their moves. I have a couple of friends who’ve played it a lot more than me, but Martin is about the same level which makes things more interesting.

So, 7am Thursday morning and up for work. I work about 50 miles from where I live and commute nearly every day. It takes anywhere from one to one and a half hours to get there, and I car-share with my PhatBeats teammate Paul Dale. We generally get an hour of talking about Magic in, both on the way there and back from work. It makes the journey a lot easier and saves us both around 130 pounds (about $220) in petrol a month.

Looking back I find it hard to believe I did any work on Thursday at all. I started off hung over and sent emails to out other teammate, Tarik Browne. Tarik works in Bath (lucky). Paul, Tarik and I must have swapped over 30 emails on Thursday between us, with a decklist in each. We started the day with my Rebel/Cradle deck and ended up with something quite good, but still with no tech for the mirror match or a good sideboard to raise the win percentage against Bargain. It looked like Rebel/Cradle was out.

If you’ve followed this so far you can probably work out what deck that leaves me with: Sabre Bargain, a deck I didn’t really want to play. I may have mentioned before that I don’t like sitting down opposite a ten year old, watching him play three land before I kill him. I doesn’t seem very sportsmanlike to me. I thought up our team motto:”Honour and friendship above all else”, and I really believe it. Was I really going to be forced to play Bargain after everything that had happened?

I had Friday off work, both because Martin was coming to see me and to prepare for the tourney. That meant I could go out again on Thursday night. A night that ended up, once again, in a very drunken stupor very early on Friday morning with three friends crashing over.

One day to go

I awoke feeling very bad indeed. It’s not something I’m proud of but it’s something that you should expect when you get that drunk. Nothing in life is free and a hangover is the price you pay for losing all your inhibitions, forgetting everything you’ve done and needing to go to the loo every ten minutes. Sounds just about right to me. So kids: don’t do it. Learn your limits and DON’T have that one extra drink…

We spent the day wandering around and I told Martin about the decks that were going to be played and discussed what he should play. He wasn’t looking for anything too complicated, and he wanted the chance of winning a few games, so I suggested we build him Speed Green.

The rest of the day was spent looking for cheap Dreamcasts. We finally got it down to 200 pounds (around $320). Electrical goods are expensive over here. During the day, I bumped into another Magic player Andy Smith. Andy wanted to come back and work on the Speed Green deck and show me his new deck called”Poacher”. If you can guess what Poacher does just from the name you’re a better player than I, but I’ll come to that later.

So, the three of us picked up a few more friends and headed back to my place where Andy and I started working on the green deck. The deck we started with was one I had built with my teammate Paul Dale over in Omaha, Nebraska and it had performed quite well. We spent a good hour on the net looking at green decks and eventually came up with this:

4 Pouncing Jaguars
4 River Boa
3 Albino Troll
2 Elvish Lyrist
2 Uktabi Orangutan
4 Elvish Archers
3 Simian Grunts
1 Masticore
1 Squallmonger

24 creatures

2 Creeping Mold
1 Splinter
4 Giant Growth
4 Rancor
2 Invigorate
2 Might Of Oaks
4 Land Grant

19 spells

2 Gaea’s Cradle
3 Treetop Village
12 Forests

17 land

At sixty cards, it doesn’t have many one-drops, but has plenty of resilient creatures, a few surprises and a few ways of getting rid of enchantments and artifacts. It’s more controlling than some versions and looses out on the early beats, but it’s fun to play and has a chance of winning against anything: Just what Martin wanted.

The sideboard was more of a challenge, we eventually came up with:

2 Cursed Totem
2 Reverent Silence
1 Tranquil Grove
2 Uktabi Orangutan
1 Splinter
3 Thran Lens
2 Masticore
1 Hurricane
1 Whirlwind

It gives you a few cards to strengthen the main deck against just about everything. We sleeved everything, put the decks in a bag and played Tekken 3 until 4am.

The big morning

I awoke at 9am, after only five hours of sleep and couldn’t get anyone else up. Martin was too tired and said he didn’t want to play after all, which meant I had an alternative deck to take with me: I didn’t have to play Bargain if I didn’t want to!

I wandered along to the venue. We play our tourneys at a place called the Percy Community Center. It doesn’t have any food for sale, but is only a few minutes from the centre of Bath and a big Supermarket. I arrived to find one member of Team Spike there: Phil Mattingly (yes, he is a real person and a good friend of mine to boot). Phil assured me that the rest of Team Spike (Matt Green, Gordon Benson and Alice Coggins of European Sideboard fame) would arrive shortly. In the meantime I headed over to the rest of Team PhatBeats.

“Decided what you’re playing yet Jim?”

“Yep, it’s going to be one of the two decks I have with me.”

“Right. So, ‘No’ then?”

My dilemma was as follows: I have two decks I can choose from. One is an vicious thing created to win as reliably as possible that I’ve been playing with since before Christmas. The other was built in the middle of the night after being in the pub, for a friend who’s not a Magic player.

Doesn’t sound like a dilemma really does it but it was. I really didn’t want to play Bargain, it’s soul destroying but the alternative was a non-serious deck. Ten minutes before the end of registration I sat down to write out my decklist and wrote down the Speed Green deck. With a team motto like”Honour and friendship above all else”, and all the kids present I just couldn’t bring myself to play Bargain.

The main event

Round 1.
I’m sorry to say I didn’t note down any more than”Dan” for my opponent’s name. Dan was a kid playing a blue green deck of his own devising. It had Fog Bank, Wall of Junk, Skyshroud Ridgeback, Pouncing Jaguar and a few other blue creatures in it.

Before the game started I pulled out my new mascot: Pikachu. I’ve seen Kevin O’Connor’s tourney report in the style of Pikcachu and decided I should take him along for good luck – much to the amusement of most of the people there. I only got one negative reaction all day, if you don’t count playing basketball with him, rugby, football and hanging Pikachu… That’s right: Someone hung my fluffy yellow Pikachu, and not just once! Mind you, I can see where they’re coming from.

Game one, Dan played walls and I ran them over with trampling creatures. Game two his life total went 20, 16, 8, -3: Not such a bad Speed Green after all. I chatted to him about his deck as we were the first to finish by quite a while and he seemed a little upset. He had been mana screwed so we counted his land: only 19. I made a few suggestions and wandered off to see what else was happening.

Matches: 1-0, Games: 2-0.

Round 2: Andy Smith.
Now I get to talk about Andy’s deck. Andy has come up with something I’ve never seen before and he’s happy for me to publish it. It’s called”Poacher” and the decklist is as follows:

4 Gamekeeper
4 Yawgmoth’s Will
4 Alter of Dementia
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Grim Monolith
2 Voltaic Key
4 Turnabout
3 Eye of Ramos
1 Skull of Ramos
3 Dark Ritual
4 Brainstorm
1 Counterspell
1 Stroke of Genius

4 Underground River
4 City of Brass
4 Peat Bog
4 Hickory Woodlot
3 Forest
2 Phyrexian Tower
1 Swamp

It’s called Poacher because you have to kill the Gamekeepers. Basically you get a Gamekeeper and an Altar on the table and a Yawgmoth’s Will in hand. You then sacrifice the Gamekeeper to get another creature, of which there are only other Gamekeepers. You do this until your entire library is in the graveyard and then cast Yawgmoth’s Will. Using the mana from the altar, the skulls, eyes and Rituals, you then cast all the artifacts out of the graveyard and Turnabout four times. This gives you the mana to Stroke your opponent to death.

Now, this is pretty original. I’m pretty sure someone, somewhere will have thought of this before but if they have no-one I know has heard of it and I’ve not seen it mentioned anywhere on the web, so here’s to a brand new combo deck; to Poacher *clink*.

Game one I sit down, take out Pikachu and talk to Andy. He knows my deck inside and out and knows that it’s going to come down to whether I see Might of Oaks or lots of Giant Growths. I do and win the first game. Andy sideboards, and I sideboard in my Lenses and artifact destruction. I’m pretty sure he’s playing Persih because I lent him my Bargain sideboard. Game two I get him down to 14 life before he goes off. Game three I get him down to 2 life and he goes off.

It’s an interesting deck and I suggest you have a look. We’ve already made it a bit more reliable and are looking to move the kill forward a turn, see what you can do.

Matches: 1-1, Games: 3-2.

So, round two and I’m already loosing. Luckily we had 40 people turn up so we have 7 rounds to play. Bath is a small city (a town really) and we get people coming from all over because we give away a box of product as our first prize. We can just about afford to do it because the tourney isn’t run for profit. The TO Chris Bagnall is a level 3 judge and doesn’t take one cent home, he plows it all back in to the tourney. This time last year we had 16 people, but we upped the prizes and the numbers have gone up accordingly, to the point where we’re giving boosters away to anyone that gets 9 points. This keeps the kids coming back because most of them go home with a booster every tourney and only pay 3 pounds (about $5) to get in.

After round 2 we broke for lunch and headed to a nearby pub for some food. There’s an excellent pub called The New Inn not far from the community center, it has a great selection and is quite cheap. The food was a little late but, as all of Team Spike, Team PhatBeats and a few others were there, Chris told us he’d extend lunch for us. Chris is a nice guy.

Round 3: Tim
Once again I forget to write down my opponent’s surname. I will remember it sooner or later. Tim is twelve and one of the kids I’ve been talking about. He’s been playing Magic for about two years and is playing a white/black Phyrexian Reclamation deck that he came up with himself. Dragoons, Highway Robbers, Bone Shredders are all present. Unluckily for him I see my enchantment removal game one and his life goes 20, 16, 12, 10, 2, -4.

Game two is a different kettle of fish. He goes up to 36 life using the Dragoons while I’m only on 18 and make my first playing mistake of the day. I tap one green and three colourless for… a Sqallmonger. I’d forgotten my opponent could use his ability and a race ensued. Could my creatures beat him down faster than he could kill me with my own Squallmonger? No. I got him down to two life before he killed me. Mistakes lose you games.

Game three was a little different: Treetop”your go.” Forest, Troll”your go.” Echo, Forest, Rancor, hit for five,”your go.” Forest, Rancor, hit for 7″your go.” Might of Oaks for the finish. This happened in less than five minutes because Tim drew no land and sat and discarded. Tim wasn’t upset, he took his deck away and started looking at it and making notes. That’s the kind of player we want to keep, and Bargain doesn’t help.

Matches: 2-1, Games: 5-3.

Round 4: Seb Dolling.
Seb is playing blue/white with Wrath of God, Exile, Masticore, Treachery and counterspells. Game one I start beating him down with a creature. He counters a few others and Wraths. I play another creature and keep up the pressure, until he’s very low on life. The problem is he’s got a different total from me. I’ve been using pen and paper to keep track of my life totals for some time now, but I’ve not been making a note of the source of the damage. We worked through the things that could have happened and, to be honest, I could have been wrong so from now on there’s going to be no chance I’m wrong.

I agreed on the higher total with Seb and beat him next turn anyway.

Game two is more interesting. I start with two land, three River Boas and an Albino troll. I cast the Troll, he counters it. I cast a Boa, he counters it. I cast a second Boa. It hits the table and starts hurting him. After a few turns he cast Wrath and followed up with a Masticore. With only two spells in his hand I figure one of them is a counter spell and cast my third boa. He counters it so I splinter his Masticore and follow up with an Elvish Archer for the kill. Sometimes you just got to know when to throw a good card away for the win.

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

Round 5: Kurt Bath.
At this point, I want one more win to walk away ahead of the game. I could happily go 4-3 and not lose any ranking points, so I’d really like to win the game. On the other hand Kurt is one of the top players in Wales and has a liking for combo decks.

Game one. I beat Kurt down to 13 life before he casts Replenish, removes all of my creatures and land from the game and follows up by beating me to death with enchantments. Yes, a Replenish/Opalescence deck. Kurt’s deck is very like one I saw for the first time on Friday, using Parallax Wave and Parallax Tide. It’s very good.

Game two I side in my super tech against him: Reverent Silence. If I have a Forest in play I can kill all of his enchantments. I start to beat him down when he gets his combo off. At this point, he’s on six life. Luckily for me I draw a Forest, play a Forest and cast the Reverent Silence. Kurt was stunned. He went up to 12 life. Next turn I finish him off with a little help from the Big Squirrel.

Game three was the best game of the day, and Kurt and I were both on a massive adrenaline rush for most of it. I managed to beat Kurt down to six life, even with an Opalescence in play. He needed to draw a Replenish to save him, and did so. I had three turns to live and the only way I could survive was to draw a Reverent Silence. Two turns later, my top decking skills kicked in and saved me. I cast Land Grant for free and show Kurt a Might of Oaks and Reverent Silence to get a Forest, put it into play and cast the Silence. Kurt was back up to 12 life and needed to see something in two turns. I got him down to seven before he drew a Parallax Wave and removed all of my monsters. I cast more monsters to use up his counters. Kurt knew I only had to attack ONCE to kill him. I drew my second Silence and got rid of the Wave. Kurt needed to draw a second Wave AND DID SO! Once more we were at a stalemate, but it was only a matter of time. Finally, the turn before his wave ran out he draw a Mystical Tutor and went for a Replenish. His Wave ran out, he cast Replenish and removed everything I had from the game, winning the turn after.

It was riveting. Between us, we topdecked more cards than I’ve managed in whole months before now, and the Tutor was only in there because Kurt couldn’t find an Enlightened Tutor to replace it before the end of deck registration. An excellent game and my first drubbing at the hands of a deck I think we’ll all be seeing a lot more of. Mind you, Reverent Silence seems to work very well against them so, if you can play green spells I’d consider it. At the very least playtest it and see what happens. I’m sure (as ever) it’s just a card that can slow them down a little but with some decks that’s all you need.

Matches: 3-2, Games: 8-4.

Round 6: Phil Norris.
Phil is an infrequent Bath player and was playing Rebels. Game one I got lots of creatures out and so did he. He backed his up with a few Glorious Anthems and fetched some fliers to finish me off. Game two was pretty much a repeat of game one, apart from my Cursed Totem slowing him down. Even so I did less damage and Phil won 2-0.

It surprised me that Phil was not playing Gaea’s Cradle nor Lin Sivvi. When I asked him why not he surprised me by answering”I don’t think it’s that powerful.” Hey ho.

Matches: 3-3, Games: 8-6.

Three wins and three losses. I have to win the final game to come out ahead. Another promising tourney has been neutered by bad match ups and a weak sideboard.

Round 7: Antoine Hupin.
Ant was present during playtesting on Wednesday and so I was pretty sure I knew what he was playing: Tinker Fire. Game one Ant started well and put lots of artifact mana on the table. In the meantime I cast a lyrist and started hurting him. Ant cast some more artifacts and I cast more creatures. Eventually Ant draw a Wildfire and stabalised the board with him at four life. I drew and cast another lyrist and Giant Growthed it the turn after for the kill.

Games two bore striking similarities to game one, the only major difference being the Big Squirrel helping me out. In both games I took no damage. Ant is a good player and won the previous month’s tournament, so I’m inclined to believe our assessment of the deck on Wednesday was correct: lots of artifact mana and too few threats, making the deck a little unreliable.

Matches: 4-3, Games 10-6.

The two Replenish decks at the tourney came second and third (of 40 people) and there were four Bargain decks there, only one of which made the top eight. The tourney was won by Richard Edbury, playing Accelerated Blue with extra counters.

Overall, it was a fun day. I enjoy playing creature decks and the kids I played understood what I was doing without me having to take them step by step through a combo that left them out in the cold.

Team PhatBeats left to join up with Team Spike in the pub for a few pints and, as ever we mostly had a good time. (Hope you guys like the bracelets and Alice: have you told Gordon yet?)

Chris Bagnall for another excellent tourney.
Pikachu for providing so much enjoyment to so many.
Team Spike for turning up in force and scaring the natives.

My deck. Never EVER take a deck to a tourney that you built the night before in the middle of the night… even if it is a simple one.

Lessons to take home:
Always make a note of how damage has been done to your opponent. It stops ANY confusion at all.
Replenish is as good as they say, be ready for it.

So, a fun tourney with no DCI points lost but it does leave me with a little problem. Speed Green doesn’t look like it’s good enough for me to qualify with this year. There are four days until the qualifier – what am I going to play ;P

Cheers, Jim Grimmett
Team PhatBeats
Bath Magic UK: http://www.curiosity-shoppe.com/magic