In my high school creative writing class, I usually sat next to a guy named Tony. Not because he was my friend, but because the classroom was very, very small. Not to say he was a bad guy, but… let’s just say we ran with different crowds. He was virtually the coach of the boys’ basketball team, constantly scribbling plays and lineups in the margins of his notebook, and I was, well, me.
One day the class was discussing favorite books, and I mentioned an excellent Star Trek book called Q Squared.
“Ah,” said Tony quietly, so that only I could hear. I braced myself for a snide comment, but all he said was, “By Peter David.”
I gaped at him, and he said, “There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to choose between Star Trek and basketball, and…” He shrugged. “Well, you know what I chose.”
I, too, recently reached a moment of decision. It was time to decide between casual and competitive Magic, to embrace either the Magic that lives in basements and back rooms or the Magic that lives in tournament halls and… um, bigger tournament halls. And on ESPN2, in between the spelling bees and the dog shows. [Embarrassing Factoid: Jim Ferraiolo watches the Westminster Kennel Club show. Every year. – Knut]
Scrubdom forever, or a true start to a tourney career? The choice was mine, and I made it. I vowed to, yes, finally claw my way up, to make some kind of showing at a real tournament. I swore to emerge from my warm and snuggly prerelease cocoon and stretch my damp little wings in the cold and unforgiving world of PTQs, GPTs, MREs, etc. This article series will detail my antics and hi-jinks along the way, and, if you’re lucky, maybe even an honest-to-God caper.
I play mostly Limited (well, actually, I play exclusively Limited, if we’re going to get picky), so the whole structure feeding Pro Tour: Prague looks very inviting to me. I’ve arranged to go to all three PTQs nearby, as well as to Grand Prix: Richmond, but first on the docket was a GP Trial.
Which isn’t too bad. REL 2, I was told, and no more than 70 people. Sounds good. The prize payout is, shall we say, unimpressive (nine packs for Top 8, plus of course the third-round bye at Richmond for first), but the event should be low-turnout, low-key… the perfect way to start a season.
Cue ominous music…
My friend David and I make the two-hour drive from our native Champaign-Urbana (hometown of Roger Ebert and the HAL 9000) to the tournament in Indianapolis with plenty of time to spare- so much time that we get there early despite getting somewhat lost on the outskirts of Indy. I say somewhat lost because we always know where we were, and we more or less always know where our target is (sitting in the shadow of the massive RCA Dome), we just don’t really have a clear idea of how to connect the two.
Although we have never had serious navigational difficulties getting into or out of Indy, we have also never gone without our friend Chris, whose excellent memory is matched only by his astonishing volume. I come to realize that there is a strong positive correlation between these phenomena (Chris and the navigation, not his memory and his volume).
But we can always keep that big bubble of a sports arena in sight, and like a noob playing Shock, we’re two to the dome. And hey, sometimes that’s the play. My car’s even red! I should cut this metaphor off before I start talking about how we got Shunted away from our destination or something. We navigate Historic Downtown Indianapolis, drive underneath the Giant Hovering Art Museum (I mean, I’m seeing how they did it, I just don’t get the why), and arrive at the venue right around the start of registration.
The place is small. Like, stupid-small. Forty-people-small. I-have-a-chance-to-make-Top-8 small. The-vendors-don’t-even-sell-sleeves small. Wow. As the tournament wears on, it starts to smell like a gym, much worse than the average large Magic venue I’ve been to. For people engaging in a total lack of physical activity, Magic players sure do sweat a lot.
After a brief adventure involving much less toilet paper than I would have liked, I settle into the urgent business of sitting around approximately forever waiting for the tournament to start.
While we’re waiting, we run into Tim, the owner of a new game store in our town called Valhalla Games. They’re trying to put together a group in town to carpool to these sorts of things, so my odds of getting to Richmond are looking up.
David and I discuss our goals for the tournament. He wants three wins; I will be content with absolutely any result better than 0-2-drop. I also want to play my best and open a foil Watery Grave.
The tournament starts half an hour late (“Gamer time,” Tim calls it), but at long last, we get product. Things are a little different from the prereleases- decks are collected and redistributed, not passed, and (unlike some prereleases I’ve been to) you definitely have to record what you play. I get a little spooked by the REL-2-ness of it all, but soon settle into the now-familiar ritual of staring at a Sealed pool and realizing I have no goddamn clue what I’m doing.
The first things that hit my eyes are a Watery Grave and two Chars. Well, at least this shindig’s paid for. The next things I see are a bunch of very playable Green and Black cards, and only a Civic Wayfinder to fix mana. It’s like when you’re trying to get a group of friends together, and you’d really like to hang out with a couple specific people, except one of them always brings his girlfriend whom another one can’t stand…
I flirt with Blue (Psychic Drain, Vedalken Entrancer and Dismisser, Snapping Drake, Belltower Sphinx, and a few other goodies, with the Grave smoothing mana) but decide she’s not deep enough. I try to buy the twin Chars a drink, but they’re way out of my league, and my mana-fixing suite of Mountain plus Civic Wayfinder doesn’t impress them. Besides, the other Red they’re hanging out with is really trashy. Ultimately, as usual, I end up going home with a giant horrible insect. No, just kidding. Usually I go home alone.
I’ll spare you the entire pool (watch for it in a special appendix at the end of this article!), but here’s what I end up playing:
2 Fists of Ironwood
Scion of the Wild
2 Bramble Elemental (1 foil)
2 Dimir House Guard
2 Veteran Armorer
Seeds of Strength
Gaze of the Gorgon
Hey, weren’t there supposed to be a lot of gold cards in this set? I’m running three hybrids, but only one real multicolor spell. I sleeve up some relevant sideboard cards, including Psychic Drain (with an Island and Watery Grave… might end up being the perfect way to bring it home), both Chars (with a Mountain, in case burn seems indicated strongly enough to justify the violence to my mana base), a Junktroller versus Mill, and a Darkblast and Carven Caryatid that I should have maindecked to begin with (more on that later).
I’m pretty happy with it, but I don’t even have time to shuffle before pairings are posted for Round 1. Now that things are moving, they move fast. Not only have I gotten out of the habit of having a time limit (plenty of home Sealed practice, but for some reason it never occurred to me to account for that), but the pathetic smallness of the venue means we’ve got almost no room to build our decks, so I can’t lay the cards out like I like to. In other words, bitch bitch bitch, moan moan moan, I take a slightly suboptimal deck into the breach.
Round 1. Fight!
After much grunting, shoving, and stumbling over chairs, I manage to seat myself for Round 1. Man, this place is tiny.
I’m facing Ben, who’s a very nice guy and a tight technical player, pretty much my favorite sort of person to play against. He’s playing Black/Blue with a Green splash, and maybe some White (he had a Selesnya Sanctuary, but I never saw any actual White cards). He also opened my foil Watery Grave, but I don’t begrudge him that. Much.
We both lead off with turn 2 Golgari Signets. Mine accelerates into a turn 3 Mossdog, while he plays a Halcyon Glaze. I play a Stinkweed Imp and Selesnya Guildmage turn 4, and he lays Sewerdreg (uh-oh) and swings into my Imp with the Glaze. I trade happily.
I swing with the Dog, no blocks (Guildmage has mana open to nut with combat), and he swings back with the Dreg (freakin’ Swampwalk) and lays a Tidewater Minion.
It’s at this juncture that I make a critical error. I have gotten it into my head that he and I are racing, and that I am ahead. Thus, in a desire to stay in the race, I Brainspoil… the Minion. What I should have done, of course, was kill the Dreg and keep him from racing at all (my deck can handle a 4/4), but this racing mindset, coupled with some vague desire not to give him a reason to use Sewerdreg to remove my Imp in the graveyard from the game, led me astray. I don’t realize what an error this is until my life total hits the single digits some turns later. He swings with the Dreg every single turn for the rest of the game, and short of drawing Faith’s Fetters or winning first, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.
The Dog keeps swinging, backed up by the Guildmage’s pump, while Saprolings block his non-Dreg attackers. I take him down to five with just the Dog, but the Dreg does all twenty damage and ends the game.
The Guildmage hits on turn 2 this time, squaring off against his first-turn Thoughtpicker Witch, but he Remands my third-turn Civic Wayfinder for a bit of tempo. I play down a freshly drawn Imp, then the Wayfinder, and he ups the ante with Golgari Rotwurm and Last Gasp (transmuted from Muddle the Mixture) on the Guildmage. I play a Mossdog and we stall for a few turns.
I break the stall first with Moldervine Cloak on the Mossdog, which he doesn’t block, going down to twelve. He plays Mortipede, I don’t have Darkblast, and his whole team swings over, taking me to nine. Mortipede and Stinky both die. After I stupidly fail to dredge the Imp, the Cloaked Dog stays back the next turn to block the Rotwurm- which saddles up with Fancy of Flight and takes me to 4. At this point my match notes have started to get a little critical, with entries like “no imp? moron!” and “Brainspoil Minion?“
I dredge the Imp and play it this time, but to no avail. When he untaps, I see four creatures, four Black mana, and four life, and that’s that.
Yeah, that went well. My deck performed about the way I’d like it to (minus not drawing Gleancrawler), but a couple of key play errors probably cost me the first game and certainly didn’t help any in the second.
As we’re filling out the results slip, he tells me that he’s read some of my articles and that he enjoyed them. I thank him, and he explains that he didn’t mention it earlier because he didn’t want to boost my ego before the match. I was secretly hoping somebody would recognize me, and of course it boosts my ego. I’m a freaking celebrity.
0-2 games, 0-1 matches
I camp out in 0-1 land and wait for Keith, another nice guy who has some trouble finding me because of some seriously weird table numbering. We introduce ourselves and shuffle up.
I’m on the play and staring at a hand consisting of Moldervine Cloak and lands, which I naturally ship off. I then make an abominable blunder (are we sensing a pattern here?) and keep a six-card hand with both Armorers in it and nary a White source in sight. I think I momentarily forgot that there are only three of those in the deck, with one search card.
He plays Elvish Skysweeper, Shambling Shell, Thoughtpicker Witch, Stinkweed Imp, and Scatter the Seeds. I miss my second land drop (no, really), and don’t manage to play anything of note until I’m down to seven. I play out some blockers, analyze the situation, and concede.
I lead with a Guildmage (wow, I played that guy on turn 2 a lot), he lays a Shell, and I play Keening Banshee to kill it. He gets stuck on three land, and I lay a Bramble Elemental and Veteran Armorer and go to town. He has a Greater Mossdog of his own, but I hardcast a Siege Wurm and he concedes.
We agree that it would be fun if we got to play an actual game, and we’re not disappointed. I have a slow start, but his isn’t exactly explosive. He swings twice with Thoughtpicker Witch and once with Stinkweed Imp, we both lay Civic Wayfinder, and I play Keening Banshee to take out his Imp.
He plays Helldozer, and I answer with the mighty Dimir House Guard. The instant after it hits the table it occurs to me that I might have wanted to transmute it into Faith’s Fetters for the Helldozer. Note I do say “might,” and I don’t waste too much time dwelling on it, but I at least should have considered my options.
He plays Svogthos, the Restless Tomb, which I resolve to keep an eye on. I swing once with Keening Banshee before he drops Clinging Darkness on it, then lays Golgari Rotwurm. Meanwhile, I play out a Bramble Elemental and Scion of the Wild. Fatties for all! But his are better.
In fact, this is starting to look a little grim… until I draw Seeds of Strength and feel a warm fuzzy sensation I can only describe as joy. I swing with the Elemental and the Scion. Rotwurm and Dozer block, respectively (oh, thank you), my guys get +2/+2 and +1/+1, respectively, and when the dust settles I’ve got an Elemental and he’s got no fatties. Sure, it’s a two-for-two, but it’s a lovely one.
Unfortunately, things soon go astray. My House Guard swings in freely, but my Elemental gets blocked by double Civic Wayfinder, a trade I’m fine with until Grifter’s Blade makes it a one-for-one. Meanwhile, I end up chump-blocking with the Banshee, because by this time I’ve drawn Recollect and would really prefer that it was in the ‘yard.
He drops a Shell, and I Recollect and replay Keening Banshee to kill it (the counter goes on an Elvish Skysweeper or something). I’m swinging with the House Guard every turn, but meanwhile, Svogthos has started coming in every turn too, along with a couple of tiny guys, one of them carrying the Blade. I chump the Tomb once, then kill it with Gaze of the Gorgon the next time it comes in, but a couple of measly weenies and Grifter’s Blade take it home. The final points are dealt by his first-turn Thoughtpicker Witch, grinning out from underneath the Blade. I’m so demoralized I don’t even think to make a Witchblade reference.
We shake and agree that, yes, that was a hell of a game. It occurs to me later that I might have successfully held off his weenies had I stopped swinging with the House Guard, but for some reason I didn’t think of it at the time. Again, I decided to race when I probably shouldn’t have. Damn.
1-4 games, 0-2 matches
David, meanwhile, drew in the first round after winning game two in extra turns. He loses round two and we both drop. I did go 0-2-drop, I didn’t play my best, and somebody else got my foil dual land. This is not my best day ever.
There’s a T.G.I. Friday’s attached to the hotel, and a truly delicious bacon cheeseburger with provolone nurses my wounded pride. The Watery Grave helps, too, and the Chars are on standby. At this point I’m starting to hope that I can trade them for something I might use when I finally take the plunge and play Constructed. Boros Deck Wins doesn’t excite me much, so I’m trying to collect dual lands (which everybody should have), Birds (which everybody should have), and some specific cards for a couple of Block decks that I won’t go into because you’ll probably make fun of me.
After lunch, David and I play our Sealed decks against each other. Discussing my build, we conclude that the Armorers didn’t belong there because the splash should be as small as possible and they just don’t help enough. I replace them with Darkblast and Carven Caryatid before we play and leave the manabase as is. Naturally, the deck works like a dream, and I crush him 2-0. At one point I throw two Fists of Ironwood on a Bramble Elemental in a single turn and swing, which might just be the most fun I’ve had playing Magic in a very long time.
Not only that, but my technical play is tighter. I sacrifice my House-Guard to its own ability when he tries to play Faith’s Fetters on it, stuff like that. Do I just choke under pressure? Was it low blood sugar, maybe? Did balancing my notebook on my knee, trying to play the game and record, take more of a toll on my concentration than I realized? And did a two-card misbuild affect my deck that drastically, or were these just good draws? Darkblast is huge against him, and the Caryatid definitely helps, so maybe it really did make that much difference. Well, this is how we learn, right? By sucking.
Speaking of sucking, I just shouldn’t be allowed to dredge. I’m terrible at it. In two rounds of play, I dredged too early and too late, once when I probably shouldn’t have at all, and not when I really needed to. Twice in one game I dredged a card the turn before I actually wanted to play it, which strikes me as idiotic unless there are two things you need to dredge (there weren’t). Whenever there’s a card with dredge in my graveyard, I am gripped by fear. I feel like I’m on some terrible game show in the vein of Wheel of Fish.
“Will you take this lovely Stinkweed Imp,” (audience cheers) “or… what’s in the box?” (audience goes utterly wild) It seems like whenever I take the Imp, there was a Gleancrawler under the lid, and whenever I take the box, I get a freaking Forest. (“You! So! Stupiiiiid!”) In my games with David I get a little more comfortable with dredging, and it proves key in game two, as I keep bringing back Moldervine Cloak.
By this time, of course, we’ve realized that it’s only 5PM in our native time zone (6PM here, because Indiana is on Eastern Silly Time for reasons known to none), and we really don’t want to head home, so we know what to do.
0-2-drop? More like 0-2-draft!
That’s right, you thought you were reading a tournament report, and now suddenly you’re reading a draft analysis. You might even feel a little cheated. We sure did. This is called the fallacy of imitative form.
Round 3 Draft!
We get word that there are finally 8 people in our draft queue, which took a while (we actually signed up during lunch, but I left that out for dramatic effect. This is called lying). So we hover around the front table waiting for it to start for about ten minutes as the head judge tells us “any minute now,” then hear our names called impatiently from the back of the room. We hurry back there and find out that we’re late for the draft. Good thing they announced it and everything.
We sit down in a randomly determined order, and there’s David sitting opposite me, my first-round opponent. Great. Freaking great. I mean, okay, it’s single elimination, so if we do well we have to meet eventually, but this wipes one of us out of contention immediately and ensures that we won’t be able to split in the finals. We learn later that another couple guys in our draft who drove together are in the same boat. Weak tea.
I rip open my first pack, huff that wonderful new-card smell, and take a look. I don’t remember it very well (not MTGO, folks!), but I know that it had three or four first-pick quality cards. My picks ended up looking like this:
Faith’s Fetters (great!)
Conclave Equenaut (hmmmm)
Belltower Sphinx (WTF?)
Veteran Armorer (okay, back on track)
Flight of Fancy (are you nuts?)
Terraformer (something tells me my mana might need fixing)
Wait, look, I can explain. I’ve had great experiences with Faith’s Fetters, and would first-pick it over probably any other common. I’m not 100% sure that it was the best first pick, but that would be easier to gauge if I remembered the pack. The rare was Mindleech Mass, but that’s all I’ve got.
I took the Equenaut second pick because there was no Green, and I thought I had learned my lesson about switching into a non-guild color. There wasn’t any Red that I recall, but I have developed a serious blind spot for Boros as I have seen it underperform time and time again. My increasing dislike for Boros in Ravnica Limited is an entirely separate issue that deserves more than a brief aside, so I’ll leave it at that.
After the Equenaut, of course, the White dried up too and I took Belltower Sphinx, because the Dimir was freaking nuts. Okay, sometimes you switch. Except my next three packs had some good Selesnya picks, so I thought I’d leave that Belltower Sphinx business behind me… then the Selesnya dried up again, so I switched into Blue. Blue/White? Am I really that terrible? Read on.
As I open pack 2, I am firmly committed to a new plan. Go Dimir, and splash White for that Fetters if I’m light on removal. And so, of course, I open up another tough pack with no Dimir and a Faith’s Fetters, and… I take it. Sure.
After that, I get a Civic Wayfinder, reasoning that I can run Selesnya and fix my mana to run a bit of Blue, and a third-pick Fetters (!) cements this plan. Hmm, I’ve never tried running three before. Should be good, right? Then, of course, the Dimir dominates the pack again, and I pick up Tattered Drake, Drift of Phantasms, Dimir Signet, Vedalken Dismisser, eighth pick Dimir Guildmage (!), etc. This always seems to happen when I draft Ravnica, perhaps because many of the best Dimir cards are only good in the context of a dedicated Dimir deck. Thus, other stuff gets grabbed ahead of them because it’s splashy, and some astonishingly powerful Dimir cards make it around late. If I draft again before Guildpact comes out, I will seriously consider just forcing Dimir. It is utterly underdrafted in my area. Once Guildpact does come out, this U/B/w thing might be worth keeping in mind.
Okay, new plan. Or, well, back to an old plan. I’ll run Blue/Black, mostly Blue, splashing for three Faith’s Fetters and maybe using Green to fix my mana. Splashing for mana fixing is a terrible plan, but I think I can make it work. Terraformer will help, right?
My first pick is a Dream Leash, which I’m very happy about. I proceed to pick up Psychic Drain, Cloudstone Curio, Netherborn Phalanx, Telling Time, Drake Familiar, a second Signet and Drift, a late Induce Paranoia, and a really late Terrarion that I am, given the circumstances, extremely happy to grab.
I sit down out in the hall and take a look at the pile I have drafted, and suddenly, realization strikes me: I am a moron. No, really. We’re talking chimp-in-diapers drafting here. Unbelievable. Suddenly I find it worrying that I was allowed to operate a motor vehicle earlier today. I win the prize!
Okay, so what have I got? There are some good cards here, but I’m not sure there’s a deck. Ignoring the five Red cards and other chaff like Zephyr Spirit I was forced to pick up late and never intended to play, ignoring the Stasis Cell I cut for not being Faith’s Fetters and the Remand and two Perplexes I cut for not being creatures, ignoring nine maindeckable but unspectacular White and Green cards that I can’t afford to play because nearly everything else I have is Blue, and finally abandoning the insane plan of running twelve Islands, two Plains, two Swamps, four Forests, a Farseek, and a Civic Wayfinder, this is the pile I throw together:
2 Dimir Signet
2 Drift of Phantasms
Flight of Fancy
3 Faith’s Fetters
Yes, that’s right, mono-Blue Dimir with a Black splash for the Phalanx, Drain, and a few off-color activations and a White splash for triple Fetters. I don’t recall ever seeing a more hideous pile of junk emerge from a draft.
And yet… I have a suspicion. There are definitely some strong synergies here. Drake Familiar and Cloudstone Curio both like to play with four enchantments with comes-into-play effects (and another that might enjoy being retargeted). Dismisser and Phalanx also play nice with Curio. Telling Time, Terrarion, and Terraformer will smooth things out for me, and although I clearly don’t have either the mill plan or the aggro plan, I at least have something, albeit something very, very slow and weird. It’s possible that this is one of those decks that looks terrible on paper and actually works wonderfully. Of course, it’s also possible, and substantially more likely, that it’s a steaming pile of garbage, just like it looks.
I’m playing a guy named David who I rode here with. He’s running Green/White, apparently with no splash. After bitching a little more about being paired together, we shuffle up and go.
I’d give you the blow by blow, but the game comes down to this: My deck absolutely works, with Faith’s Fetters, Cloudstone Curio, Flight of Fancy, Drake Familiar bouncing Flight, etc. He, meanwhile, draws three cards that aren’t lands, and one of them’s a Farseek. He throws Fists of Ironwood on my early Lurking Informant to get the guys, his Nullmage Shepherd stares helplessly at my Curio and Flight before staring even more helpless at the Fetters enchanting him, and he never has a chance. I transmute Phalanx into Dismisser and he concedes before I can start to alternate between replaying Dismisser on one turn then Drake and Flight the next.
He hits me with a couple of early Skysweepers (he boarded one in against my flyers). I have a Faith’s Fetters in hand that I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll need later. I Telling Time at end of turn and see Belltower Sphinx, Cloudstone Curio, and Terraformer. I’m already convinced of the Curio’s power, I need the ‘Former to cast Fetters, and the Sphinx would just die to a Skysweeper, so I ship the Sphinx to the bottom and grab the other two.
He plays a Divebomber Griffin that I hit with Faith’s Fetters, but he counters the next turn with Sundering Vitae and swings with the Griffin and the Skysweeper. I block the Griffin with a Drift of Phantasms, and the Drift dies to Strength of Seeds. By this time, though, I’ve drawn Dream Leash, so I slap that on the Griffin next turn and feel pretty good about the whole thing.
He plays Bramble Elemental, which I hit with Vedalken Dismisser, swinging with the Griffin. I don’t know whether he lets the Griffin live (when a Skysweeper could kill it) because he’s hoping to play the Shepherd and get it back or because he’s getting tired, but the Griffin takes him down to eleven. I play Cloudstone Curio to recur the Dismisser (albeit only every other turn), and he concedes.
2-0 games, 1-0 matches
Well, that was unexpected. I seem to recall Kartin’ Ken talking about a Cloudstone Curio deck, and I think I may have drafted it accidentally. If I’d been drafting U/B from the beginning I might actually have made it work. I could have picked up a second Dismisser, a second Curio that was floating around late, an Entrancer to aid the mill angle, and some other good stuff. Though no Mark of Eviction. I am now even more intent on forcing Dimir the next time I draft. Unless I don’t.
Between rounds, David tells me he found somebody who wants two Chars, so I track the guy down. His name is Brent, and he seems cool. We agree that 2 Chars for Birds of Paradise looks almost like a fair trade, and he says that even just a Putrefy on my end would even it out. I don’t have one, nor does David, but Tim from Valhalla gives me one (“Don’t worry about it,” he says. “It’s just a Putrefy”) to even out the trade and seal the deal. A thousand thanks to Tim, who’s a heck of a guy.
For the first time in my life, I am unreservedly happy about a Magic trade. I don’t miss my Chars and never plan to, and getting this Birds of Paradise, which is inexplicably my first in over a decade of playing Magic, makes me feel good.
I’m paired against Chad, who was sitting next to David and is running what looks like G/W/r. This may explain why David’s deck was a little weak, but this guy has Boros to fill in the blanks.
I drop Dimir Guildmage, and he plays Trophy Hunter. That might wreck me if I ever draw some flyers, but it only gets to swing once before Terrarion helps me cast Faith’s Fetters to take it out of the game. He follows up with a Boros Guildmage, hits me once and takes me back down to twenty, then plays Bramble Elemental. I play a Drift of Phantasms to block it.
He then plays Galvanic Arc on the Elemental, killing my Guildmage and netting two Saprolings. Then he swings into my Drift and plays another Galvanic Arc to kill it and get two more Saprolings. I make a Terraformer and chump the Elemental before being buried under a pile of fungus.
Yeah, that seems more like how this deck should play.
I consider siding in Perplex, because he always seems to have one card in his hand that he seems very attached to, but ultimately I decide against. I’ve seen that card completely whiff too many times.
I lead off with Terrarion and a Signet, and he lays an Evangel, then a Nullmage Shepherd. The Evangel takes me to nineteen, but I Fetter the Shepherd to go back up to twenty-three. He plays Bramble Elemental, and I play Drift to block it. Then he lays Trophy Hunter with 1G open and swings, and naturally I don’t block (why didn’t he swing, then lay the Hunter and kill my drift?), going back down to nineteen. Then I Fetter the Hunter and go back up to twenty-three, but by this time the Evangel is online. I play down a Lurking Informant and a Tattered Drake. I see an Equenaut one turn, which I deny him, and a Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi the next. I don’t let him have that either. I briefly wish I had let the Guardian through so I could Induce Paranoia it, but I’m nowhere close to winning through milling and this saves my Induce Paranoia for a better day.
Then he lays Crown of Convergence, and I shudder at the thought of all those 2/2 Saprolings and counter it, sighing as two measly cards hit the bin. I have Lurking Informant, yes, but he’s got approximately a million mana, and that card could end the game quick. Sadly, I’m reasonably sure this was the right play, although not knowing the number of Green creatures in his deck, it’s hard to say.
He Fiery Conclusions my Drift, Arcs my Lurking Informant, and swings, and things start looking grim. I draw and play three lands in a row while he lays Viashino Fangtail and keeps swinging, opposed only by my Tattered Drake. I’m at seven when I decide that I finally need to play the Psychic Drain I’ve been clutching for five turns. X=8, leaving a Swamp untapped for the Drake. He flips a bunch of good stuff into the ‘yard, leaving eight cards in his library, and I go back up to fifteen, but he’s got such overwhelming pressure at this point that it only buys me two turns. He immediately takes me down to two, and I look at my draw for the turn (I think it was a land) and concede. My next card down was Netherborn Phalanx (!), but even that wouldn’t have done him the sixteen I needed or let me stay alive.
2-2 games, 1-1 matches (well, okay, 3-6 games, 1-3 matches, if you want)
I’m informed that this is a 6-4-1-1 draft (?), so I take my pack and go home. On the way back, before we settle into discussing the ultimate fate of humanity, we play first-pick first-pack with my prize, because we can’t think of anything else to do with it. It contains a Vedalken Entrancer, a Golgari Rotwurm, a Scatter the Seeds, a Selesnya Evangel, a Root-Kin Ally… ooh, tough pack! Except the rare’s Firemane Angel, so… you know. Windmill slam that and let the downstreamers fight over Selesnya and Golgari while somebody grabs the Entrancer and grins like a maniac. I still don’t like Boros, but I’ll take a windfall when I see one. First-pick first-pack is such a crappy game.
I accomplished a lot today, despite my lackluster showing. I learned some new principles in Sealed (minimize the splash!) and in Draft (don’t be a moron!), picked up two money rares that I’ll actually use, made a mutually beneficial trade with which I am truly and totally satisfied (seriously, that’s a first for me), and realized that I really need to work on my technical play, my deckbuilding, my mental game, and my drafting before GP: Richmond.
Join me next time for a whole bunch of words on a screen. That, I can deliver.
Appendix A: In Which We Find Our Hero’s Sealed Pool, In Its Entirety, With Asterisks (*) To Denote Those Cards Which Were Played In The Main Body Of The Deck
Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
2 Boros Fury-Shield
**2 Veteran Armorer
Votary of the Conclave
2 Dizzy Spell
Muddle the Mixture
**2 Dimir House Guard
Surge of Zeal
2 War-Torch Goblin
**2 Bramble Elemental (1 foil)
Dryad’s Caress (Foil)
2 Elvish Skysweeper
*2 Fists of Ironwood
*Scion of the Wild
Rally the Righteous
*Seeds of Strength
*Gaze of the Gorgon
As I look at it now, there might have been a pretty good G/w/r deck in there. Or I might have splashed Blue instead of White and run Thoughtpicker Witch, Vedalken Entrancer, and Psychic Drain as a mill plan. Did I misbuild a little, or a lot? Talk it up in the forums!