When I left off yesterday, I had just gotten to a respectable 6-3 record and was regaining my old confidence. I wasn’t too sure what that meant yet, but in my experience erring on the side of overconfidence tends to be better than the opposite. From this point, it just didn’t seem like it would be too hard to repeat the 6-3; the 6-3 that would leave me 12-6, in top twenty-four, and, most importantly, in level six.
My second pod wasn’t much worse than my first. Once again, it included a Masashi. This time, though, rather than six unknowns it had five and Craig Krempels. Seemed fine; I was ready and psyched to draft some more GWx Affinity.
This draft was very different from the first, mostly in the sense that it a) involved several decisions that were hard at the time and b) I got some of these wrong. Everything started out normally, with me picking up some Siege Wurms, a Lightning Helix, and a bunch of playable but unexciting one, two, and three drops in pack one. Opening pack two, I have a choice between Vitu-Ghazi, The City Tree and Scion of the Wild. I took the full amount of time to pick the Vitu-Ghazi and it was wrong. When thinking it over for the forty-five seconds we have, I just simply couldn’t decide. When I first read the Scion I figured it should have trample, but then it didn’t, so “Man!” I have to think some more, this land gives you such great inevitability, but it’s so bad in the early game, etc. etc.
So with all this in mind, when the guy said “draft,” I just took the last piece of information I thought of and picked accordingly. That thought was that, well, rare lands with good effects are usually sick in Limited but have the glaring downside of not counting towards your 22-24 necessary playables. When you can take them without having to play garbage, though, they are nuts and definitely something you want to take. Coupling this little piece of information with the fact that I had already picked up ten plus playables in the first pack, I kind of just decided that a good non-basic land was a luxury I could afford and just took it. As I stated, it was wrong. Scion, in my type of deck, is just always huge since I’m picking cards like Scatter and Fists very highly.
Another pick that ended up being obvious but was tough at the time was that of Flame Fusillade or Sandsower. This is clearly a very easy pick; Fusillade might be the second best card in the set. However, at the time I was hardly seeing its potential and Sandsower seemed sick with token generators. As you will see, I was very glad I ended up taking the Fusillade.
My second big mistake of the draft came in the middle of this pack. I took my second Screeching Griffin out of a very crappy pack over a Temple Garden after much deliberation. Wow, was that stupid.
The last controversial pick came in the beginning of pack three. I had the choice between a second Lightning Helix and a Fists of Ironwood. It’s not hard to notice that Helix is the better card in a vacuum. The problem with not picking Fists was that I already had three Siege Wurms and only one Scatter for token generating. With three Wurms, I felt like the Fists were propelled to good enough where they were worth taking. Lots of people disagreed with this, and I can see why. Despite that, I still think I made the right pick. The decision hinged on thinking back to the affinity days, where it was always right to pick the card synergistic with your deck rather than the best card in the abstract. Since my deck ended up nuts, thanks in part to having two Fists instead of one (I picked one up after that), I think it was the right pick. Sure, my deck would have been solid if it had a Helix there too, but this way I’d say it was better.
Anyway, I ended up with the following monstrosity:
3 Siege Wurm
2 Fists of Ironwood
2 Votary of the Conclave
2 Gaze of the Gorgon
1 Root Kin Ally
1 Screeching Griffin
1 Scatter the Seeds
1 Trophy Hunter
1 Civic Way finder
1 Carven Caryatid
1 Faith’s Fetters
1 Flame Fusillade
1 Lightning Helix
1 Seeds of Strength
1 Selesnya Signet
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Vitu-Ghazi, The City Tree
Round 10 vs. Johan Kennes
Game one I won the roll and had a fairly average draw. The problem for him was that his multi-Sewerdreg special didn’t have a lot of game against my Siege Wurms. I got him low and finished him with Fusillade, even though I could have won easily even if that Fusillade was a blank, just a few turns later.
Game two was more of the same. His Blue/Black deck just didn’t have what it took to beat my quick 5/5s backed up by tricks.
Round 11 vs. Tzu Ching Kuo
Game one I lost the roll and his Boros deck came out furiously. However, as I discussed in part one, Boros is just not up to par, so I wasn’t too concerned. A Siege Wurm stopped him cold. He played a Boros Guildmage and the next turn passed with a bunch of mana up. I just attacked with the Siege Wurm anyway. He blocked with a bunch of dudes and gave them all first strike. I cast Gaze of the Gorgon and he scooped. I like Gaze of the Gorgon a lot, especially against Boros.
Game two started in similar fashion to game one; he had a fast start but eventually I shut him down. This time, though, he was still slowly bashing me with a flyer. I had to do something about it fast. I started attacking with a Siege Wurm, since he still couldn’t attack with anything but that flyer. However, a Boros Fury Shield put me on the wrong end of a race I wasn’t winning. I had been holding a Fusillade that I had been hoping would finish him, but instead I had to cast it on my turn, looking to decimate his team. Instead, he played two Wojek Sirens in response on his Sunhome Enforcer, meaning I could only kill two guys – his Veteran Armorer and his flyer. Still, I had gotten a four-for-one and was pulling far ahead. I started attacking again but a peeled second Fury Shield put me to one. A peeled Bathe In Light on his turn finished me. I think I might have had a chance if I played a little more aggressively early on. The problem with this is that it’s only in hindsight, knowing that giving him the time allowed him to peel a lot. If I would have been aggressive earlier, he could have peeled a lot more cards to win and wouldn’t have needed runners.
Game three was a bit more of the usual beating Selesnya should give Boros. It was a bit of an anticlimactic end to a pretty good match the way he didn’t ever stand a chance in this game. On the other hand, the Boros player isn’t supposed to stand a chance in the matchup so I wasn’t too upset. The details of what actually happened are that I got two quick Siege Wurms backed up by Gaze of the Gorgon. He battled back a bit with Fury Shield and Siren but they weren’t close to enough.
Round 12 vs. Craig Krempels
I knew Craig had a strong deck with three Last Gasps, additional removal, Glimpse, and Vulturous Zombie from scouting him out after my previous match. On the bright side, he only had like eight or nine creatures, so I knew I still had a decent chance despite his assortment of way more than three first picks.
Game one I won the roll and had a fairly quick start of beaters. Some of my early guys got Last Gasped and my first Siege Wurm got Brainspoiled. The second one stuck, though, and started doing some serious damage. Meanwhile, Craig was busy milling me with his 1/4 and his Lurking Informant. I drew some lands, kept attacking with the Wurm, and got milled for ten as he transmuted for Glimpse and used it on me. When he recollected the Glimpse and used it again, I was one turn away from getting decked. Luckily, though, I had the Seeds of Strength to force in the last bit of damage that I needed to win just in time.
Game two started very similarly to game one; he even chose to draw first. The only difference, the key difference, was that before he Glimpsed me he had a Vulturous Zombie. Well, he played the Zombie, I Lightning Helixed it, he Recollected it, ran it, and Glimpsed me. I hoped against hope for Fetters to get there, but unfortunately it didn’t and we were going to a deciding third game.
Game three looked like a losing proposition right from the start. Early on, he was shipping my guys right back to the grip with a pair of Marks of Eviction. This got even worse when they started going to the top of my library rather than my hand via Vedalken Dismisser that was getting replayed every turn thanks to those same Marks. I highly considered conceding, but I thought I’d still give him the chance to make a mistake and give myself the chance to get lucky. Once all my guys were off the board, I started making tokens with Vitu-Ghazi rather than play guys so I could get draw steps. When one of those draw steps was Civic Wayfinder, I decided to cast it and start thinning my deck of for several reasons. First, I thought there was a good chance that he would refuse to repel it since then I could keep thinning my deck. If he did repel it, then eventually I could just choose not to run it and get draw steps out of a very thin deck. If he didn’t, then I could get the Mountain I needed for two of my outs, Fusillade and Helix, and I could thin the deck of one card at no cost.
As I expected, he chose not to do anything to the Wayfinder. We both just sat there for a while, as I played more lands and made tokens that all died to his Marks of Eviction, and he did a lot of nothing since that was the trademark of his deck. Eventually, when I had enough lands, I played out most of my hand of something like five guys. This allowed me to get in some damage the next turn before my squad got bounced again. I repeated this until he was at very low life. By this point, though, Craig could and was monitoring my draws with Lurking Informant. This meant that either a) he needed to mill something irrelevant and have the next card be one of my outs or b) I could have two outs in a row so he would mill one then I’d draw the other. After a few turns of hoping, he took a very long time deciding whether or not to mill my top card. When he was debating with himself, I was hoping very much that he milled it. Obviously, the card wasn’t one of my outs. He did. It was a fairly irrelevant Screeching Griffin. My next card was Flame Fusillade. Aaaaaaa ding!
Okay, now I could be openly excited. At 9-3, and going into what I thought would be my best format of the three since I was most experienced in it, I thought I had a good shot at Top 8. I knew I could also easily miss, but I was pretty sure I couldn’t miss the 3-3 necessary for top twenty-four and level six.
The other thing I was excited about is that I finally had another draft format I could be good at. For the uninformed, I was very good at MDF Limited, where I always forced Affinity, cashing four out of the five tournaments in that format, with the exception being the Grand Prix in which I didn’t wake up for Day 2. Being able to draft an Affinity-esque deck in this format as well, I felt, and still feel, that it the kind of format I can really have some success in and am looking forward to playing in the Ravnica Limited Grand Prixs and Pro Tours However, I digress…
Back to the 2005 Championships of the Whole Entire World, the problem I had was picking a deck. I had loosely decided on Affinity before the tournament started. However, after feeling miserable playing an aggro deck on day one, I wasn’t too excited about this prospect and was looking hard for alternatives. I was fairly set on a switch to CAL, but Olivier talked me out of it. I don’t know if he was trying to trick me or he honestly felt this way, but he told me that he was running it but if he was in contention at the top of the standings he wouldn’t run it. Additionally, I was hearing people talking about hate cards so much that I decided against it. Like, Nassif was talking about Ground Seal. People were mentioning Ivory Mask. Suppression Field was tossed around. And much, much more. Hearing all these, I just sh&% myself and overestimated the randoms’ likelihood in playing these good cards. I didn’t realize, for some reason, that only the good players would have cards “so anti-CAL.”
Since this decision, to switch back off of CAL, was made only minutes before the tournament, the only thing I had to switch back to was good old Affinity. Despite this, I wasn’t too upset about it, at the time, since I still felt it was decent even if it wasn’t top of the line. This is the list I played, which I still feel is pretty strong, as far as Affinity goes.
4 Arcbound Ravager
4 Myr Enforcer
4 Arcbound Worker
4 Shrapnel Blast
4 Cranial Plating
2 Chromatic Sphere
4 Pithing Needle
4 Blinkmouth Nexus
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Vault of Whispers
4 Great Furnace
3 Sulfurous Spring
4 Flaring Pain
3 Furnace Dragon
4 Cabal Therapy
Round 13 vs. Akira Asahara w/ Balancing Tings
This match was covered and the events of the actual match are accurate. Game one I thought for like ten minutes of how to set it up to give him only one turn, forcing him to Balancing Act without the mana to play Terravore. Obviously, his draws after this were land, land Terravore.
Game two he Kataki’d me out. If I had had a Red to Shrapnel Blast it, the game wouldn’t have been close, but I didn’t and lost. In that same game though, I lost all the respect I had previously had for Akira. I used to think the guy was really good. However, on a Cabal Therapy I ran I saw, of all cards, a Tooth and Nail. Is this real? Are you telling me that this guy brought in a nine mana spell against Affinity? Are you telling me that he just brought in a card that’s completely dead? I was honestly just stunned that someone who I thought was really good, possibly better than me, would make such a poor sideboarding move.
Round 14 vs. John Pelcak w/ Affinity
Man! Seventy-five card mirror against good friend is a bad beat.
Game one he won the roll and I mulliganed. He started strong and I also had a decent draw with Ornithopter some other guys and Plating. He made a play that allows him to kill me on the next turn but leaves him susceptible to a second Plating, which I had for the win.
Game two I mulliganed to five and got crushed.
Game three I mulligan to “just” six and he goes turn 1 Worker, turn 2 Ravager, Frogmite, turn 3 Chromatic Sphere, Terrarion, three Myr Enforcers. A nice match.
Round 15 vs. Shouta Yasouka w/ Tog
Game one he won the roll and I mulliganed to five-or one of the few ways I can lose to Tog.
Game two I got to play first, but I repeated the mulliganing to five. I lost.
Round 16 vs. Alexandre Peset w/ CAL
Game one I get off to a very quick start but he has the Confinement the turn before he dies. The next turn he Burning Wishes for Life From The Loam. I shrug and Needle Barren Moor, the only land in his graveyard. He lets his Confinement go, draws his card, and concedes.
Game two I start out well but he has Kataki. Luckily, I foresaw this and brought in Darkblast. Recurring said Darkblast a few times allowed me to mill Flaring Pains into my graveyard and finish him.
Round 17 vs. Neil Reeves w/ Tog
Game one I lost the roll and mulliganed but my two Frogmites went all the way. No, really. I kid you not; even when I won on Day 3 the games were terrible.
Game two I mulliganed again and started with a lot of pressure. The turning point of the game was where he was at six with Tog in play. I had Cranial Plating, two Frogmites, and Enforcer, as well as the necessary double black to move the Plating. I knew that his hand contained a Ghastly Demise and nothing else from Cabal Therapy. This meant he had to draw another Demise or Putrefy and a few of those outs were already gone. He did, and there was no coming back from there.
Game three (I bet you could never guess this) I mulliganed again. We did some of the usual, forgettable things that go in the Tog/Affinity matchup until the following situation arose: I had two Sulfurous Springs and two Blinkmoth Nexuses as well as a Frogmite in play. I had two Shrapnel Blasts in my hand and a Cabal Therapy in my graveyard. My life total was unimportant. Neil was at ten, tapped out with Meloku in play and three cards in hand, none of which I knew. At this point, I was one mana or one artifact short of killing him on the spot. My options, then, were limited to two. The first was Blasting his Meloku, sacking a Nexus, and getting in for two. This way, I’d probably have to peel to win the game. My other option was Therapying him for Counterspell, sacking my Frogmite, hopefully leaving him Counter-less. Then, if he didn’t draw a counter, I’d end-step Blast him, my turn Blast him for the win. I went for the second choice as I didn’t want to put myself in a position where I needed to peel. Unfortunately for me, he had a Circular Logic in his hand. This completely wrecked my plans. From this point on, he correctly left Logic mana up and killed me easily with Meloku. If I had Blasted the Meloku, I might have stood a chance. However, with his hand of Logic, Ghastly Demise, and Loam, I think I would have gotten just as crushed.
10-7, 25-18, kill me please
Round 18 vs. Oystein Arneson w/ Tog
We drew into Top 64. I didn’t want to see a Magic card for the rest of my life at this point, much less play again. Granted, it was my best matchup, but I had already managed to lose to it twice. Drawing was clearly the right choice.
When I drew, Nicolai Herzog and my opponent from round ten, Johan Kennes, were in our same situation. They asked me if they could draw as well. I told them I wasn’t sure, as I didn’t know what places they were in. They said they were right behind me, and if I expected to get in with a lot of breathing room. I said I was pretty sure, because judging by the math I had done before the judges pulled me away from the standings, I was going to get in somewhere between 55th and 58th. They drew. When I went and redid some math, I realized I had overlooked something. I was going to get 60th to 63rd and they were going to get somewhere between 62nd to 65th. I ran back to tell them, but they had already drawn. They had also split, in case one got screwed out. This was a good thing, as Nicolai got 65th. Johan got in, at 63rd, but I still kind of felt bad for misleading them, even though I was telling them what I honestly thought was right at the time. Nicolai understood, wasn’t mad, and was real cool about it. Regardless, you can take this as my public apology.
As far as apologies go, I feel I should kind of apologize for the lack of analysis in the Extended portion of the event. Unfortunately, other than my third game against Neil, there was just nothing that wasn’t perfectly clear cut. No, I did not play a great deck. It was definitely a rash decision, and an incorrect one for sure. Even still, I had to get very screwed to go 1-4 with it. Affinity, while bad, was not a 1-4 deck. It was more of a 3-3 deck that I should have snuck into the Top 24 with.
I mean, thirteen mulligans, I mean. There’s not way too much to say about the games with all these mulligans. The only match I won was the one I didn’t mulligan in. This was just not my day. By not my day, I mean the most miserable day of Magic I’ve ever played in my life. The $520 I got for 62nd place did not really make me feel a lot better. Neither did the $10,000+ I was going to win from the Player of the Year Race.* Neither did anything else fun I did over the course of the weekend.
And then, I wanted to die. The end. Hopefully, next time I’ll have a better story for you all, with a happier ending. Until then…
I’m Gadiel Szleifer. Peace.
* Actually, this did make me feel a little better. Saying it didn’t fits a lot better in context though.