A Fine Day At The Virginia State Championship, Part 2

When last we left our hero, he was 1-0-1 going into the third round of Swiss at the Virginia State Championship. His G/r/w Blasto-geddon deck was being a little inconsistent, but it hadn’t lost a match yet. The glass is half full, right? Round 3 vs. Shane with Nether-go Shane was a real nice guy…

When last we left our hero, he was 1-0-1 going into the third round of Swiss at the Virginia State Championship. His G/r/w Blasto-geddon deck was being a little inconsistent, but it hadn’t lost a match yet. The glass is half full, right?

Round 3 vs. Shane with Nether-go
Shane was a real nice guy and I was extremely glad, because his deck just didn’t do him justice while my deck drew all the answers. It’s sometimes hard to be nice when you’re on that side of the equation. Acceleration, Lavas for his Spirits, and judicious divvying of his Fact or Fictions (lands in one pile, really good spells in the other) added up to a lopsided victory. The only damage I took was from a Karplusan Forest turn 1 to cast a Bird of Paradise.

Matches 2-0-1 Games 5-2-1

Round 4 vs. Don Gallitz with G/W goodstuff
Ruh-roh, Raggy! I’ve got a Pro Tour player across from me this game. I’ve never met Donnie before, so I didn’t know what to expect; would he be a cocky SOB, or a good sport? He ended up being an extremely nice guy to play against, very personable and fun. I’m glad he’s on the Tour representing the better side of Virginia Magic.

He doesn’t get a whole lot of early pressure, but he slows me down with a Tangle Wire, and we eventually square off with a couple of Rebels on his side, and I’ve got some Elves and Boas on my side. He eventually draws and drops a”bomb”: a Parallax Wave to temporarily erase my army. I look at my hand and get excited by what has so far been a useless card – the grinning face of my man Multani on Aura Mutation tells me not to worry. Donnie attacks; I mutate the Wave and bring back my Boas and an army of Saprolings. Donnie, being the Pro that he is, Waves out his attackers in response so he doesn’t lose anyone. However, my Armageddon soon seals the advantage and I eventually win the game. Donnie seems shocked at the Aura Mutation, and I later find out why – he’s playing with a couple himself, along with his playtest partner James Farr, and as far as I know we were the only ones in the room playing them. Ironic that we both developed that secret tech and then had to square off against each other. I get to shock Donnie a little more with some additional sideboard Mutations – Molimo’s Artifact Mutation turns the tide of battle this time by making some instant dudes from the remains of his Chimeric Idol. An Aura Mutation takes out his Saproling Burst to eventually win game 2. Donnie is understandably upset, but also tells me he really likes my deck, and we end up discussing the decklist later on.

Matches 3-0-1 Games 5-2-1

Round 5 vs. Brandon with R/G
I had seen Brandon playing nearby and knew he was playing the R/G Fires of Yavimaya beating-stick deck, so I was a bit nervous about this matchup. Still, I was on a roll so far, winning against a Pro and not losing a match yet. Luckily, the judges call a re-pairing and I end up with a new opponent.

Round 5 (take 2) vs. Lawrence with Nether-go
Lawrence is a regular at another game shop, but he had come by TAG for Friday Night Magic one time, and beat me with”Dark Tide.” I’m looking for a little revenge. He laments the lack of any good combo deck to play, which I guess is his deck type of choice. Welcome to the new Type 2, Lawrence! No combo in sight. We get a deck check and wait patiently while fifteen minutes ticks off the clock; when we’re given the decks back, we’re given fifteen minutes of extra time, despite the two to three minutes it takes to shuffle the decks after they unrandomized them. I certainly hope those minutes don’t matter, and they don’t. Game 1 is brutal, with me getting an early Port to tie up his mana while I develop with a Bird and Elf. I ‘geddon early, and the elf goes nearly all the way, taking him from twenty to eleven before another Elf joins the beats (after a second ‘Geddon). I Scorching Lava two Nether Spirits along the way, too. Game 2 is worse for him, as he has to mulligan, and still gets land screwed. My Ports and ‘Geddons don’t help him any, either.

Matches 4-0-1 Games 7-2-1

Round 6 vs. Skip with R/G Fires of Yavimaya
Though I didn’t enjoy the a** whipping Skip applied to my deck, I did enjoy playing him. Skip was very personable before and after the game, and didn’t gloat in the least when he swept me. The two games were brutal, with my deck being a little land-shy – he burned away my early mana critters, and I just didn’t get much of anything going. He was churning out monsters and burn like clockwork. I didn’t even damage him in the second game. Skip wisely didn’t play his Saproling Bursts, having seen me whip out the Aura Mutations on Donnie before. There was one funny moment when he dropped a Lumbering Satyr (presumably from the board) to hasten the beats, since he correctly figured he had bigger and badder monsters than I… but then he realized that he was the only one sporting forests. I didn’t have a single one in my deck! It didn’t really matter, but it would have been nice to have a few fatties to capitalize on that move. This match really made me question my Shocks – sure, they were cheap, but doggonit, Urza’s Rage is good! If the game drags out, each land you draw is just another step closer to the kicker cost. I heard horror stories all day of people being Raged for ten. The environment is slow enough that this is not that unlikely.

Matches 4-1-1 Games 7-4-1

Round 7 vs. Brandon with R/G Fires of Yavimaya
Well, well. Here we go again. Sitting down across from Brandon, after the whupping I got from Skip the round before, I almost sunk into despair. When he won the die roll, and got”the hand” to kill me quickly, I felt even worse. Early Fires, and then Blastoderms, Saproling Burst tokens and Ancient Hydras came swinging. But then I dipped into my sideboard, looked lovingly at my Saber Ants, and told myself”I am going to win this match. I am going to make top 8.” The key was to destroy the enchantments; Fires had to be stopped, and if I could Mutate the Bursts, I could really swing the game in my favor. Another key factor would be if I drew my Saber Ants early enough to matter. The next two games were a blur to me; all I remember was both Saber Ants and Aura Mutation came to my rescue. In the last game, I remember being able to Disenchant his turn 3 Fires, and being able to play a Saber Ants after he drops a Blastoderm, which he lets fade away rather than letting me get five tokens. After I nail the Hydra with a Shock, with him only able to remove three counters from it (which he shot at me for some reason, instead of hitting my Boas and forcing me to regenerate with Karplusan Forest mana), he finally drops a Saproling Burst, and I’m ready with an Aura Mutation. Boom! Five 1/1 critters! The next turn he drops another Burst, but I have another Mutation – and the game is over. Whew! That was close; I escaped with my hide relatively intact and progress to the top 8. Thanks for being a great opponent, Brandon. You were exceptionally nice even when victory slipped away.

Matches 5-1-1 Games 9-5-1

So they announce the top 8 pairings, and it’s confirmed that I’m in! There are 3 Rebel decks, 2 G/W good stuff decks, 1 R/G Fires deck, my G/r/w ‘geddon deck, and a really cool Ankh/Tide deck with awesome Evil Eye of Orms-by-Gore technology! Evil Eye is a beating right now! It blocks Blastoderms and Skizziks, and effectively kills both of them without dying. Maybe I should have thought of them for the Borg deck. (Don’t worry, Dave Meeson did… but then again, after seeing what happened to Dave you might not have…- The Ferrett) Props to Paul Putney for that cool discovery.

Round 8 vs. Jee Hang with Mono White Weenie/Rebels
Jee Hang sat at the top tables all day, and seems overconfident about this match. He barely says a word to me before the game and has that certain air about him… you know, when a guy thinks the match is a foregone conclusion, that he can easily beat you so he’s thinking about the next match. I wanted to shout out,”Hey, man! I’m the defending State Champ! This game is NOT a foregone conclusion!” But I didn’t; I just crossed my fingers and hoped that my deck would make the point for me. And boy did it ever!

Game 1 he gets a slow start, but I manage to burn his early searchers, get a couple of critters out, and cast a ‘Geddon to seal the advantage. While he seemed amused that I cast ‘Geddon against his white weenie deck, it was enough to allow my Boa to nearly take it all the way. Some lucky Ports on my side and a land-light draw for him finished it. The second game is a long, drawn-out affair, since he evidentally sided out most of his rebel chain for lots of control. I play conservatively, burning his dudes and laying one threat at a time to avoid being wrecked by the expected Wraths, but eventually his deck poops out and I think a mixture of Aura Mutations and Blastoderms take the game. He seemed stunned at the loss.

Matches 6-1-1 Games 11-5-1

Round 9 vs. Tom with Mono White Rebels
Ah, a rematch with Tom! I’ve been matched up with him three previous times in big tournaments; once in Regionals, and twice at last year’s States. Each time I’ve owned the match. Can I continue the trend, or does Tom get his revenge? I know he’s got the same thoughts going through his head, and I try and break the tension some with a little small talk, but Tom wraps himself in the arrogant Cloak of Silence. Some of the tournament regulars have been referring to him as Mike Long, Jr., and not exactly in a flattering way. I get a lot of well-wishers from the crowd, who by and large do not want Tom to win.

Alas, the cards were not with me in this match, and I fall in two straight. He gets searchers out early and I draw little of my removal, and unfortunately against Rebels that usually means game. One particular moment in the first duel saw the game possibly swinging my way when he dropped a Parallax Wave, which I was able to Mutate into some dudes. But he played another Wave the next turn and I didn’t have an answer. I had to ‘Geddon with a bad board position to prevent him from searching any more than he already had, which made the ‘Geddon much less of the bomb that it should have been. Game 2 didn’t go any better, as he gets some active searchers out and starts pinging me with fliers; I tried to get something going with Squallmonger, but make a mistake by activating it during my turn instead of waiting for his turn; we were both low on life, and I needed to kill his Ramosian Sky Captain, but if I killed it my turn (like I started to do), he’d search out another flier at the end of the turn, hit me with it, placing me lower than he in life, and then kill me with my own Squallmonger. So that major mistake cost me, though I don’t know if I could have pulled it out anyway.

Matches 6-2-1 Games 11-7-1

Thus, I end my run for a repeat at a very respectable 4th place, and get a box of Invasion for my troubles. I get together with Donnie Gallitz afterwards and he lays out my deck, wanting to look it over and talk about what worked and what didn’t. He’s qualified for Pro Tour Chicago, and I guess he’s still trying to decide on a deck to play; it was great to talk tech with him, and I hope he does well at Chicago.

A couple of things I learned about the new Type 2:

#1 – Do NOT underestimate the power of Rebels. I did, and I paid the price. The consistancy of mono-color, plus cheap beats and card-advantage searchers, adds up to a beating. Four Rebel Informers in the sideboard would have gone a long way, and would have been a lot cheaper to get out quick than Tsabo’s Decree.

#2 – Aura Mutations are great board control cards; being able to destroy enchantments, many of which are powerful game-breakers, and then create an instant army was fantastic all day long. I only lost one game where I successfully cast Aura Mutation.

#3 – Armageddons (and the Breaks), while very good lots of times, were probably the weakest part of my deck. With so many Birds, Elves, and quick critters being played in the field, I think it might be better to put Armageddons in the sideboard and use the mana critters just for acceleration and protection *from* Armageddons on the other side of the board.

#4 – Fact or Fiction is NOT broken! I never lost a match to anyone playing Fact or Fiction, and only one deck sporting the card made it to the top 8 here. Keep in mind that, while it can net you a large volume of cards, it can be easy to get greedy and let your opponent dictate what you get. For instance, I often gave my opponent great cards, but made sure that the land ended up in the graveyard. You need mana to cast all those great cards, dude. One Armageddon gets through and you’re screwed.

Oh, and I didn’t want to forget – mad props to my man Tony Holmes, who stuck with me to the very end, even though his run for top 8 ended quite a long time before. Whereas all the rest of the TAG crew abandoned me to find something else to do on Saturday night, Tony was there to share my success, and helped me crack open the box of Invasion. Thanks, man! Nothing beats have friends around to share the good times with.

Anyway, hope everyone had a good time at his or her respective States tournaments. I guess attention now shifts to Extended… How ’bout them elves? 🙂

Bennie Smith