At the Gathering – Califailing

SCG Open Richmond!

Friday, February 19th – Grand Prix: Oakland was a monumental failure, in almost every aspect of the word. I went to the event with what I felt was a nicely tuned, semi-rogue deck that I felt had the ability and power to breakout. Unfortunately, things went differently. However, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start where all things start; at the beginning…

Grand Prix: Oakland was a monumental failure, in almost every aspect of the word. I went to the event with what I felt was a nicely tuned, semi-rogue deck that I felt had the ability and power to breakout. Unfortunately, things went differently. However, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start where all things start; at the beginning.

After Pro Tour: Austin, I felt that Thopter/ Sword Combo would be better off in U/B, because of the disruption package. I put some work into a Thopter Depths deck, but never managed to make it consistent enough to be powerful. I knew that Muddle the Mixture was ridiculously powerful for both sides of the combo, but alas, I’m no GerryT, and I and abandoned the project when I kept losing to Zoo over and over. After a lot of testing, I finally decided on this deck list for Oakland.

Sadly, I got too over-reactive to the environment, and changed the deck list in a few places. In the end, this hurt me far too much, as I lost a lot of my experience with the deck.

On change that should definitely happen is the change to Dark Confidant over Ancestral Vision as a draw engine. Vision is good when it resolves, but far too slow. In games where I suspended it first turn, it was fine. Anything after that, it was often far worse than Senor Maher would have been. Plus, the Hall of Famer can beat for two, if necessary.

The Time Sieve in the main got moved to the sideboard, which I wasn’t pleased with. It is a very powerful one-of in a deck with the ability to go infinite on turns if given an opening. Perhaps I am too in love with the card, but it absolutely breaks open control matches.

I had resolved to try a slightly tweaked All In Red deck for the grinders, to see if it could just luck sack my way to three byes, and then switch to something else if it didn’t go well. Here’s the list:

I removed the Chalices to the Sideboard, and put Lodestone Golem in the main. Perfect for hosing most strategies by at least a turn or two, he often gets in for ten before the opponent even has an option to do anything about him. Also, costing four means it’s easier to power him out on turn 1. The sideboard was some amount of Chalices and Shattering Sprees, and other junk I didn’t like.

The first grinder was a loose keep, but turn 1 Magus of the Moon got met by Lightning Bolt. Game 2 had Blood Moon, but no creatures, and I died to a few Kird Apes and a Basic Forest.

$20 later, grinder number two saw me matched against Hypergenesis. I saw him lose the first grinder, so I knew what he was on. Game 1, on the draw, I have the option of turn 1 Golem or turn 1 Deus of Calamity. I choose poorly, he combos the next turn thanks to Mana Monkey, and I die.

Interesting note out there, the Lodestone Golem does make your Hypergenesis cost 1, and in post match analysis, my opponent mentioned he would have not considered that, thinking it only affected his actual cascade spell, thus stranding his first attempt to go off. I board in the Chalices, but mulligan to oblivion, unable to disrupt him in any reasonable manner.

So, I shipped another $20 and played a third grinder, this time with Depth Charge. Round the first, I am paired against the one and only Owen Turtenwald, playing Zoo. Game 1, I combo off with Hexmage, and in the second, he has a triple Damping Matrix draw, one of which is Thoughtseized, the other two get Echoing Truth for their trouble, and I beat face with two Thopter tokens, one with Sword, until he’s dead. I was pretty pleased to win this match, and played probably my best game of Magic all weekend against Owen. Sadly, I lost the next round to Zoo, and a fourth grinder after that. Sufficiently depressed, I went out to dinner at the hotel restaurant, and spent the rest of the night needlessly changing my deck.

The morning of the GP, I register some abortion of a mangled deck, and proceed to my pairings.

In round 1, I’m paired against Depth Charge. He wins the first game, I win the second, and we draw the third, as he was playing rather slowly, and I’m not used to having to remind my opponents to play faster. On the fourth turn of extra turns, I ask for the concession, as a draw doesn’t help either of us, but he doesn’t budge.
1-1, 0-0-1

Round 2, I play against dredge, which I had removed my hate for and decided to hope and dodge, as I hadn’t seen any the previous day. Game 1 is a long game, where he has three Bridges in his bottom 19 cards, but finally manages to end it. In the second, I have a chance, but he stabilizes at two with Iona on Blue, and I don’t draw my outs fast enough.
1-3, 0-1-1

Round 3, deck check time! At least two of the deck checks this round were players in the draw bracket, which all but guarantees a longer turnaround time. 15 minutes later, I am being given a game loss for having tow non-sleeved cards in my deck box, mixed in with my tokens. At the last minute, I pulled a Sudden Death and a Deathmark to add back in two Shadow of Doubt, but had no place to put them, so I used them as a divider for my Faerie Rogue and Thopter Tokens. This is ruled as a 17 card sideboard, as even with the obvious differentiation (my sideboard is sleeved, these are not) there’s still a potential for abuse. I appeal, but correctly predict that Head Judge Carter will uphold the ruling, which he does. By the time we actually get to shuffling, it’s 20 minutes into the round. My opponent is on some form of Zoo, but I manage to win the remaining two games to take the match. Ironically, this was also the only die roll I won all day, and it didn’t even matter. Sad Panda.
3-4, 1-1-1

If we had an attendance more than 800, I might be able to squeak in at 6-2-1, similar in circumstances to Grand Prix Los Angeles last year, but since we’re under 800, it will be all 7-2′ in Day 2. This means I need to win out.

In round 4, I play a nice local who is playing Zoo. Game 1, he nut draws me with Nacatl, Ape, 2 Tarmogoyf, Bolt, two lands as his opener. I Thoughtseize away one of the Goyfs, but the beatings continued until I was at 0. Game 2, I mulligan to 4, and while I try to make it reasonable, I’m too far behind to stabilize.
3-6, 1-2-1

I consider dropping here, but decide that I need one more round of beatings before it sinks in that I’m out. I play another round, but lose pitifully. I can’t even recall the archetype I played against, but I had mentally checked out already. I drop, and go look for some saucy side events.
4-8, 1-3-1

Saturday night, I played in a Legacy side event (which wasn’t even on the list of potential tournaments, and only went up the week of the event, Monday, I believe) with Charbelcher. I lost the first round to ANT, 1-2, on a few lucky Ad Nauseam reveals, although he played very well. I won the second against Mono-U good stuff, and won the third round against a Fish deck. Charbelcher reports aren’t very interesting, so I won’t go over the games too much. While waiting for the fourth round, we played a four man free-for all Legacy while the Canadian Threshold and Bant decks played. In the fourth, I am paired against Red Deck Wins. I go off, but when I cast Burning Wish for the Empty the Warrens in my sideboard, I find it’s not there. Turns out I shuffled it in with my deck after the four-man, and now have a game loss. I combo out on game 2, but he Mindbreak Traps the 7-storm Empty the Warrens I cast, and I lose, thus missing the cut to Top 4.

The following day, I PTQ with the Depth Charge deck, winning the first round against a Mirror, lose the second to something I forget (Teferi Control), and lose the third to the mirror. Important lesson of the day: If the opponent kills your 1/1 with the Sword Trigger on the stack, you still get to return it. It is an optional ability, though, so I punted the crap out of that one. I drop, railbird some other games, chat with some judges and other friends, and then finally get an 8-man Legacy event to fire. (Again, with Charbelcher)

I win the first round against Fish, and lose the second to Mono-Black discard Pox, playing a variety of discard. He nut draws the first, which adds suspicion when he pile shuffles in a very peculiar manner for the second. He was playing clear sleeves, and looked intently at the back of his cards while appearing to place certain cards in certain piles. He then did a few weak cuts (pull the middle half, put it on top) and presented. I should have called a judge right there, but instead, I shuffle the piss out of his deck, and combo him turn 1 with Charbelcher. Sadly, I hit Taiga five cards down, and I am never able to get it going again. I talked to a judge afterwards, and since he will be playing the last round (hopefully) I mention exactly what happened, and my suspicions about marked cards. I haven’t heard anything, and I’m not sure I will, but if he was running savage cheats, I hope he gets caught.

I did want to say that the judging at the event seemed very well done, and I was extremely pleased, as always, by the Judges professionalism and capability. They were the bright point in an otherwise crappy weekend.

Sunday night, we cab to the airport, and start to check in, trying a variety of methods.

Flight number: Cannot find
Last Name: Cannot find
Credit Card: Cannot find
Try another last name from our group: Cannot find
Confirmation number: Cannot find

So we try to get some help from the customer service desk, but she cannot find us at all. I grab the itinerary from Brandon, only to find out we have return flights booked for March 14. This is not the correct length of time I want to spend in Oakland. Southwest has flight leaving in 40 minutes, but a quick jog over to their terminal shows a line at least 80 people long. No way are we getting on that flight. Delta can move our tickets to the following morning, for $150 per ticket. No thanks, I’ll pass on the wallet pillaging. I announce I’m renting a car and driving to Salt Lake, and if the want to come, we can split costs. After 25 minutes pricing all the car rental agencies, Budget gives us a “Competitive discount” and we have a 2010 Altima for 166, including Full Coverage. We stop at In ‘N Out, and I am outraged to find out that they don’t have bacon. I don’t know what kind of burger place doesn’t have Bacon, but I firmly believe in at least two dead animals per Burger consumed. I briefly consider some sort of hybrid Chicken/Beef burger, but decide that sounds silly. Also, the fries were crap. We hit target for a load of Red Bull, and I proceed to Iron Man my way across California, Nevada, and Utah in about 10 hours (and 8 Red Bulls.) We pick up Brandon’s car in SLC and drive home, in a snowstorm nonetheless, and manage to get home without dying, despite the car’s best efforts to kill us by ejecting on of the windshield wipers on the freeway, in the snowstorm.

Until next time, this is Jeff Phillips, reminding you: Don’t make the Loser Choice.

PS: Today is my one year anniversary with StarCityGames.com. Yay!

PPS: Charbelcher Decklist!