Bad Plays At The BOM II

Carsten concludes his report about the Bazaar of Moxen with some misplays he made there in Legacy and Vintage in the hope that you can learn from them.

As we left our hero—me, in case you were wondering (and yes, I’m clearly the most modest person on the planet)—he had just finished Friday’s last-chance trial at a solid 6-1 record, granting one bye for Saturday’s event. No, I didn’t put the free three points to good use, thanks for the question. I dropped out at 5-3, but that record is deceiving. It includes both the bye and a no-show win in round 8, which is when I dropped and went home to brew something sweet for Sunday’s Vintage competition. Not that having a sweet brew helped me out there as I managed to reach an impressive 3-5 record, though that doesn’t say much about the brew itself given the astounding quality of my play.

Neither the results nor my anti-brilliance are in and of themselves particularly helpful to making you guys better players, yet I still had an entertaining two days and would like to share some of that experience. As such, I won’t bore you with a standard tournament report. Instead, I’ve prepared a little highlight reel of most embarrassing plays, amazing luck, and even a game win or two thrown in. Maybe my example will give heart to those of you who tend to punt matches and beat themselves up over it—as you’ll see, I’ve clearly done worse—and provide everyone else with some stuff to laugh about (or rather someone to laugh at truth be told). Lean back and prepare to be entertained!

Ritualistic Waste

To set things up, let’s take a look at easy boneheadedness early in the morning—don’t worry, stranger things await. After a grueling round 2 loss against my last round opponent from the grinder—yep, fate grants second chances sometimes—in which my deck imploded on me two out of three games, refusing to cough up starting hands with mana in them, I sat down and hoped for an easy matchup to collect myself. My wish was granted when I Duressed my opponent on turn 1 only to be forced to take Aether Vial because he was playing Goblins. After stalling the board with four Goblins on turn 3 (had to get the Empty out of my hand to enable hellbent), I was up 1:0 since he never saw a Thalia. Despite that, collecting myself clearly wasn’t going too well seeing as I punted in game 2 (only to win anyway because, well, nice deck and all).

My opponent opened on Leyline of Sanctity but not much else, and after a pretty terrible draw I was conscious I could finally win with the exact mana needed on turn 4. So I went ahead and Chain of Vapored the Leyline during his turn 4 end step, untapped, drew a Cabal Therapy, and decided to go for it. I cast my Dark Ritual, said to myself, "Well, I might as well make sure I don’t lose to Mindbreak Trap," and cast Therapy targeting him. I missed (his hand was terrible, with Leyline, Siege-Gang Commander, Restoration Angel, Aether Vial, and lands).

Remember that little phrase "with the exact mana needed?" Well, as I was going to cast my unthreshed Cabal Ritual, I luckily realized Cabal Therapy didn’t magically give me an extra mana and interrupted my botched combo attempt and passed the turn with two mana floating. Yay me! Obviously I was rewarded for being terrible and ripped a Lion’s Eye Diamond off the top next turn, which both enabled threshold and provided the necessary mana to win anyway. Better lucky than good, I guess.

One, Two, Four

That’s not the end of my brilliant attempts to get the simplest problems of grammar school math wrong. A couple of rounds later I was playing against an actual bad matchup—Reanimator—and had a Xantid Swarm in play with Infernal Tutor, Tendrils, Cabal Ritual, and Lotus Petal in hand after we’d shredded each other’s hands but still didn’t have threshold. I also happened to be stuck on just Tropical Island for mana.

He Reanimated Iona, Shield of Emeria (on black), putting himself to eight. Clearly I’m supposed to rip the Chain of Vapor here, right? I actually did, let him get a hit in with Iona, attacked with Swarm, and bounced the legendary Angel. Easy Tendrils from hand kill, right? Well, no—the thing was I was stuck on a single land and therefore couldn’t actually get to four mana.

I passed the turn and so did he. Next turn I drew Lion’s Eye Diamond, covered him in bees again, and concluded, "Cool, Lion’s Eye Diamond gives me threshold; let’s Tendrils him." I played Petal and LED, and as I was about to cast Cabal Ritual, I realized I’d discard the Tendrils if I wanted the Diamond to provide threshold. Go me! I passed the turn significantly further behind than when I started the turn. He Exhumed Griselbrand, and like clockwork I ripped the Ritual to kill him in spite of the Swarm block bringing him back up to a more reasonable life total. Totally earned that one, I promise.

I’m Not The Only Punter

Once I had dispatched my Goblins opponent, I was paired against an artifact-loving Frenchman with MUD in round 3. I won the first game easily when he mulliganed, Gitaxian Probe into Cabal Therapy took his only piece of disruption—a Phyrexian Revoker—and he didn’t draw anything of relevance on the turn he had. In game 2, I kept a hand of two Cabal Rituals, a Ponder, a Chain of Vapor, a Lion’s Eye Diamond, and lands, including an Island and two fetches, which had a pretty good chance of getting there.

He has the Chalice, and my first draw step yields a Brainstorm. I cast the Ponder to move towards threshold, he points to the Chalice, and it’s back to him. This is where hilarity ensues. After drawing the Tendrils on turn 2, the next four or so turns all gave me extra fetch lands and a Swamp. In the meantime, he takes me down to five with a scary squad: consecutive Metalworkers and a Phyrexian Revoker all sped up by wearing a Lightning Greaves. Now that’s a beatdown!

As it turns out, the Tendrils was actually pretty good because Ancient Tomb had taken a toll and he was down to fourteen life. Finally, on turn 6 I was at five life with my Island and four fetches in play and two more lands, Tendrils, double Cabal Ritual, Brainstorm, Chain of Vapor, and Lion’s Eye Diamond in my hand. I decided I now had to Tendrils him for twelve since I wouldn’t be able to turn all those lands into actual mana sources anymore otherwise and resignedly played my Brainstorm to start ramping storm.

His answer was a dejected, "Ok, sure." My jaw drops—figuratively speaking only to be sure—but I wouldn’t look a new trigger rules gift horse in the mouth and drew my cards. Only once I was putting stuff back did he groan, "Oh damn, I missed the Chalice." Brainstorm clearly found the single spell I was short—there were only eight lands left in my deck after all—and I killed someone who I can only assume is as dejected with his play that weekend as I am with mine.

Afterwards I commiserated with him, and when he asked I admitted that yes that Brainstorm was in fact what gave me lethal. All he did was shrug and say, "Well, I did it to myself," when I asked to be excused once again for the Chalice thing.

For those of you out there that rage and accuse your opponents of cheating for resolving spells through a Chalice when the opponent forgets his trigger, learn from this man. You don’t have to like it (I’m not particularly fond of it myself truth be told), but the rules are the rules. If they say you can forget your triggers, you can. Not taking advantage of that isn’t cheating; it’s playing to lose. One word to my opponent: courage, you handled a sad situation with dignity. You have the attitude, so you’ll bounce back!

The Eternal Lesson Of Trusting Your Gut

This one is less of a terrible play and more of a reminder to myself that I should trust my gut when it’s telling me something. One of the rounds I lost was to Omni-Tell (yes, I still think that’s a favorable matchup) against someone who casually had Force of Will and the turn 3 kill both games. Game 2 he even had Leyline, and I truly couldn’t do anything. Game 1, though, my instincts would have let me win if I’d ever learned to not ignore them.

I mulliganed and played Cabal Therapy on turn 1, which got Force of Willed (he pitched Omniscience) and Lim Dul’s Vault at the end of his turn 2. Because of my taxed hand size, I settled on making ten Goblins involving a Gitaxian Probe and flashing back Therapy (he was on eighteen). I saw this hand, knowing he just left cards on top with Ponder:

Island, Show and Tell, Omniscience, Enter the Infinite, Ponder

Now, the mathematically correct play is to take Show and Tell here. He doesn’t have the mana to cast Dream Halls before he dies to Goblins, and there are only three blue super Seething Songs but five or six Dream Halls / Omniscience left in his deck. My gut was screaming at me to take Omniscience though. I went with the mathematically correct play, and he flipped over the Show and Tell he’d left on top of his deck. Dang it!

I still think Show and Tell is what you’re supposed to name there on probabilities, but time and again going with what I believe to be the correct play instead of the play my gut is telling me to make has gotten me killed. I just hope that somewhere somehow I’ll learn my lesson and trust my subconscious. It’s much smarter than I am anyway.


So much for the memorable—if not particularly positive—resume of the Legacy event; let’s take a look at the sweet brew I brought for to the Vintage portion.

Yes, this looks pretty weird and probably is far from optimal—starting with Intuition as the 61st card—but I hadn’t gotten to play the format for such a long time (about five years now?) that I wanted to play something I truly enjoy. Burning Wish based combo-control decks are one such thing, and the concept of playing four Wills and four Tinkers sounded at least promising. My 3-5 run doesn’t exactly speak well for the deck admittedly, but it would probably have gone at least somewhat better if I’d had a trained monkey pilot it instead of myself, so there’s that.

Hooked Again

After playing the first three turns of the event, I was instantly in love with Vintage again. Just check out this sequence of plays:

I won the roll and opened with Tolarian Academy into Mox Ruby into Ancestral Recall. My opponent Mental Missteped, and I cast Force of Will removing Time Walk and drew three, including a Voltaic Key which I dropped. Not to be outdone, my opponent went land, Mox, Black Lotus, Young Pyromancer, Tinker into Blightsteel Colossus! Pretty rough, right?

Nah, we’re playing Vintage! I went fetch into Tundra, Burning Wish, Balance, discard my own Blightsteel Colossus because he had only two cards in hand. This. Format. Is. Sweet.

Why Win When You Can Balance

As that game proves, clearly Balance is the best thing you can do with Burning Wish, right? Well, that’s at least what my impression must have been. In the last round of the tournament, I was facing down BUG Fish, with my opponent having an aggressive start by getting out Trygon Predator, Deathrite Shaman, and Dark Confidant early and starting the beats. From turn 2 onwards, I planned for my insane Balance turn and held back artifact mana so as to not have it eaten by the Trygon.

Finally, on two or three life, my big moment came. I unloaded a Mox or two, Tolarian Academy, Mana Vault, and Voltaic Key to untap it. Burning Wish into Balance to wipe the board before playing a Jace, the Mind Sculptor next turn. The whole affair turned into a sweet game as Jace had to start bouncing his new Dark Confidant—remember I was at two—until I finally won it with another Wish for Tinker into Time Vault a couple of turns later.

The catch, you ask? Well, remember that Balance turn? As my opponent asked after the match, if I had Wish for Tinker available to me, why didn’t I just get Time Vault and untap that with the Voltaic Key instead of the Vault of the mana variety? I gave him the only honest answer I could—because I’m an idiot!

Mental Missteps

Given that I played the crap out of Mental Misstep in Legacy, one would expect that I know the card exists. Turns out adjusting to new circumstances in a format that resembles something I know but has become a slightly different animal with new printings has its rough spots. In round 3 when facing what I believe was something close to the traditional Vintage Grixis Control deck, I not only misplayed my Mana Drain—it’s hard announcing combat before playing spells, you know—but I also gave my opponent the perfect opening by greedily wanting to use that Drain mana by going Black Lotus, Merchant Scroll, Ancestral Recall, free Voltaic Key (instead of keeping the Lotus for my second Mana Drain and being ready to do Scroll shenanigans next turn).

The Ancestral resolved, though I ended up tapped out with another Mana Drain in hand but no Force of Will. Convinced that I was therefore unable to interact, I let my opponent go Demonic Tutor into Time Vault into Voltaic Key into my scoop—only to remember I had drawn Mental Misstep of off Ancestral Recall as soon as I had picked up my cards. Way to not counter the lethal Fireball!

My ability to remember Misstep’s existence luckily improved from there on out—but not enough to think of my opponent’s cards. In round 5 against a G/W Haterator deck, I had finally stabilized the board with a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, a ton of mana, and an Ingot Chewer—hey, it’s bigger than pretty much anything in his deck—to hold the fort against his remaining 2/2 for two. The hitch? I was at one life!

So when Kataki, War’s Wage came down on his turn, I was happily surprised to find a Lightning Bolt on top of my deck, Brainstormed with Jace, and set up the blowout of block one guy and Bolt the other. Deservedly my opponent ripped one of his Mental Missteps off the top of his deck and straight-up killed me. Clearly with a Jace in play I needed the two-for-one badly enough to risk straight-up dying to the topdeck, right? The best thing is that I even realized I just killed myself if he drew Misstep as soon as he entered combat . . .

Leonin Arbiter Is Not My Friend

That round against the G/W deck also led to the most embarrassing game I have ever played, not close. Not only did I play worse than I can ever remember playing—and that includes the time just after learning the game when I was using a twenty-land deck with Craw Worm and Craw Giant—but I also inadvertently cheated and only realized days after the match was over. I think I asked my opponent to excuse me for how badly I was playing, but if you’re reading this, once again I’m so sorry a million times over! Here’s how that went down:

My opponent wasn’t content just ruining my mana with Stony Silence and Wasteland; he also played a Leonin Arbiter on turn 2. I picked it up and dutifully orally verified it did what I thought it did—it does—and cracked my fetch land in response. Then on my turn I went Mana Crypt into Burning Wish for Tinker and cast it sacrificing the Crypt. As I went to pick up my deck, my opponent looked at me weirdly, and before he could say anything, I laughed in disbelief. "Oh wow, I’m brilliant. There’s still that Arbiter in play . . . Go, I guess?"

On my opponent’s turn, another Arbiter came down, and, well, how is one worse than two, right? I took my turn, cast a tapped Time Vault, Brainstormed, and found nothing to help me but had an Intuition in hand to shuffle. No, trust me, you don’t know where this is going yet.

My opponent took his turn, beat me down for some small multiple of two, and passed back. As soon as I had my mana back on my upkeep, I Intuitioned to get rid of the crap on top of my library. My opponent nodded it through, and I searched my deck and found nothing to really help me out so I got—wait for it—Gifts Ungiven, Merchant Scroll, and a third card I can’t remember now. Obviously I received the Gifts, which ended up being nothing but pitch fodder that game.

Did you realize what just happened? Not only did I just resolve an Intuition sans paying for Leonin Arbiter without me or my opponent ever realizing I was running the unintentional cheats, but the cards I found with my Intuition were actually utterly terrible because of the sick grizzly bear that could (well, should) too. It’s not like I don’t know what the card does. I remembered it and even reread it to make sure. My brain still wasn’t able to process that kind of ridiculous ability and refused to take it into account when considering lines of play or simply casting spells.

So I dare you: is there anyone out there who can claim they have played a worse game of sanctioned Magic in their life? And no, drunk drafting doesn’t count! Once again, if you were the person unlucky enough to sit down in front of me for that quarter of an hour or however long that comedy of misplays took, you have my sincerest apologies!

End Of An Odyssey

Now, these horror stories, punts, and crazy games aren’t all that happened at the BOM, but they’re probably what’s going to haunt or elate (as the case may be) me for the longest time. I have absolutely no idea what happened in my head once Saturday morning rolled around, but I sure hope I’ve gotten it out of my system now. While I firmly believe that there are only a handful of people who can actually play Magic truly well, I’m rather sure I can do better than that.

The good news is that just getting to play the awesomeness that is Vintage again has rekindled my fire to drop some Moxen into play and I’ve already talked to Kai Thiele—our local Eternal event organizer par excellence—and the rest of the Legacy crowd who made the trip to Paris about getting a Vintage proxy tournament going here in Berlin and signs are hopeful. Not making any promises, but you might be getting some content about the other Eternal format from me from time to time now. I sure hope so!

That’s it from me for today. Feel free to share the best and the worst of your extreme tournament experiences in the comments.

Until next time, play better than I do!

Carsten Kotter