“I only checked after round three and I was like Walamo! What are you doing!”
-David Ball, 2005
I am Tomi Walamies. Some of you might remember me. I have played Magic since 1994, age fourteen, and I’ve been to something like twenty Pro Tours between 1997 and 2004. Then I suddenly stopped. If you don’t feel like reading non-Magic related things for a few pages I can just give you the summary of my life in the following paragraph.
At least I wasn’t losing to Blessing of Leeches.
After failing to make money in Pro Tour: Amsterdam in January 2004 I figured it is time for something entirely different. I was just about to graduate from business school and I had spent the last seven years playing on the Pro Tour. Surely there was more to life? I started surfing the web for all kinds of jobs available to an individual with my degree. I had a hard time finding something that I could consider myself doing with any degree of enthusiasm. In order to succeed in something I always need to be excited about it, so I’d be pretty bad at an average 9-5 job. They don’t really teach you anything at business school, which is good if you want to play Magic while studying, but not so hot after you get the degree.
There I was, head full of management and marketing terms, trying to think what on earth will happen next. Then I started to remember that there was something at school I really liked. At pretty much every course we did a presentation and I always added jokes to mine in order to keep people awake. I liked the feeling of power I had when on stage and the amount of attention I was getting. So maybe I could do just that?
And then it clicked. I will become a stand up comedian. It all fits perfectly. I am a serious, silent, analytical person with a good grasp of game strategy and income tax. So I will go on stage and tell jokes to a microphone. Why didn’t I think of it before?
Starting a career in any kind of a performance art is pretty much hell on Earth and stand up might be even tougher than normal. I am not emphasizing this to show how much of a hero I am but to explain why I just had to set the Pro Tour aside. I googled up as many tips about the craft as I could and borrowed everything that the Helsinki library system had about it. I then spent the next month writing jokes.
I was very fortunate to have a good first gig. It was in March 2004. The audience was huge, 250 people, as I performed for six minutes at a very good club in the middle of Finland, a town called Jyväskylä. They always have one open mic (new performer) at the two hour show full of professional comedians. I got a spot there since my cousin knew the guy who runs the place. I was very nervous and clumsy during my first performance and some of the jokes were simply not any good, but the audience was nice enough to forgive me and concentrate on the good things. This experience remains as one of my more positive ones in this career and is the main reason why I decided to continue.
It took me about six months to start making a living as a professional. When my British colleagues hear this they are amazed, but in Finland the scene is very new. One does not have to be that good to make a living. I even got a weekly gig warming up the audience of a live talk show. Technically I was only a few minutes away from being on television. In reality they even wrote my name wrong for the credits. I kept creating more material and doing longer sets at better clubs, until I finally decided to try my luck in London a year after I started.
I inquired to Jake Smith about the possibility of staying at his place. He said no, but instructed me to contact David Ball. He lives in a player community with Sam Gomersall, Richard Edbury, Richard Moore, and Mark Wraith but currently Sam was doing a few month tour in the States. The boys took me in like a stray dog and I was on my way to starting it all over again in the smokey pubs. I spent six weeks going around all kinds of clubs and performing wherever I could. Just as I had developed something of an ego as a successful performer back home I had to learn the entire craft again. Oh well, it was my choice.
This was a very stressful period and I just needed to take a day off and do something entirely different. So I played a qualifier that was ten minutes away from the flat. I was actually very prepared for this tournament because in the past few weeks I had been doing several drafts per day. I didn’t really have much to do during the days before I headed off to the pubs.
When lining up for registration I really felt that my chances are small. The amount of people there seemed endless. During deck construction they told us that the tournament has 151 players. I opened up a very good sealed pool with Jugan, Hideous Laughter and four different Black spot removal spells. I had two Psychic Spears in my sideboard, which proved very crucial as I got to the higher tables. In retrospect, you should always run one Spear main when trying to make the Top 8 of such a huge field. The good decks will not be lacking targets.
My first round opponent was bottom twenty in the global composite listing. I later heard that no one has ever seen him win a game. Yet he keeps coming to the local club to draft every week. I give him points for being persistent. He mentioned that he normally doesn’t play PTQs but he came here since the first prize is 200 pounds. I really shouldn’t be laughing at the guy but come on, I humiliate myself four to five nights a week. Don’t worry, I will insult professional players in the report.
I went 6-1-1 and drafted a U/W Hikari special in the Top 8. It was the kind of deck that looks bad but there was a lot of synergy. I was running stuff like Toils of Night and Day and Mending Hands, but they turned out okay. In fact, Mending Hands has often been very good for me in the drafts. It is one of the few tricks that you can play without interrupting your development. I won the finals with Mirror-Mage (protected from burn with Hands) against multiple Genjus and collected my 200 pounds. Walking back home I felt simply amazing. I do feel good after a successful comedy gig, but this was different. I had been missing the euphoria that comes from winning in Magic.
I will take a break from the storytelling to give my views on a dead format, CCB. I think Red is not very good since it only has first picks and subpar cards. This means that others will take your first picks and give you the crap. Green is not that hot either. I never first picked a Yamabushi’s Flame in this format instead opting for inferior cards in superior colors.
After some more performances and networking I went back home. I immediately realized that I had become a far better performer. Audiences’ expectation levels in Britain had been so much higher that I had learned a lot. That realization, coupled with the fact that I had just broken up with my girlfriend of six months (we decided it be best we walk our own ways) (okay, I got dumped) made the decision easy: I will move to London.
So I travel back to the rainy city. Notice the sudden shift to present tense as the tournament is about to start. Just before the PT, Ryan Soh came around to hang out at the flat. I hear that he is this Asian mastermind who won a GP by mulliganing to two cards, Dark Ritual and Necropotence. Surely a powerful mage. Little do I know that he is also a troubled young man. This fact is later revealed at a dinner.
“Malaysia is a great place to live in,” Ryan suddenly says. “Unless if you are a guy. Then it’s terrible.”
I am quite puzzled.
“The Westerners…they take all our women”
I feel strangely guilty. What am I supposed to say?
For the duration of the Pro Tour I go to a hotel with Tuomo Nieminen, Nicolai Herzog, and Jarno Härkönen. I wake up on Thursday morning and wonder why the television is on. It seems that London is under a terrorist attack. I try to call the people at home but the lines are stuck. For the remainder of the day I keep getting text messages from people back home asking me if I’m okay.
I have taken political stances in my earlier reports. This time I will shut up to respect the memory of those who died in the bombings.
I get to the site and there are these one pound drafts going on. In the first one I sit down to draft and the person on the other side of the table, Eugene Levin, looks troubled.
“Should you really be sitting there?”
“I do think so.”
“Are you Tomi Walamies?”
“You look nothing like him.”
I don’t know what to say. Well, I do. Since Pro Tour: Venice I have lost 25 kilograms. I have done this by exercising, eating less, etc. But the main reason I have lost so much weight is that when I have a gig I find it hard to eat before it. So some days I have simply been unable to eat, especially at the beginning of my career. Not the healthiest possible way to get slim.
Eugene beats me like a punk and then points out a savage misplay I made. I wish him luck in the next round and he struggles to hold back the “Thanks Barn”. I do two more drafts and actually win them both. In these drafts with lots of Pro Tour players it feels strangely easy to get Green. I had no trouble getting BG, UG, and GR decks with high card qualities. Don’t people know that Green is good?
At the site I meet the intellectual gamer Mark Zadjner. We take time off from our tight schedules to have a mature conversation.
“I HEAR THAT YOU ARE A COMEDIAN NOW!”
“TELL ME A JOKE!”
“COME ONE, ONE JOKE!”
I also meet Ryan Soh at the last chance qualifier. I try to look as uninterested as possible in the concept of a Malaysian woman and instead cheer him up.
“Hi Ryan! How are you doing?”
“I just lost and dropped out.”
“Oh. Uh…I think you built your deck correctly.”
We part as friends.
Tuomo made it to the Top 8 of the LCQ but then lost in the draft to a land destruction deck. Earth may or may not have been Cracked. I stare at him and realize that sometimes you say it best when you say nothing at all.
The Pro Tour finally begins. Here is my first draft table:
1 Homann, Sebastian
2 Cassar, Calvin
3 Herold, Jim
4 Adebo Diaz, Juan Carlos
5 Cloete, Werner
6 Siron, Geoffrey
7 Ramperez, Sergio
8 Walamies, Tomi
If you find your name misspelled in this report, I advise you to direct all complaints to Wizards of the Coast.
I honestly don’t remember a single pick in this draft. Maybe it went smoothly, or maybe I struggled to get playables. Perhaps I made stupid choices. But what is a single draft in the grand scheme of things? In the end I have a U/G/r deck splashing for Torrent of Stone and Ghost-Lit Raider.
You know those days when things just go by? I have a lot of them. I just wake up at noon and then go out for a walk, trying to come up with new topics for jokes. Then I see something beautiful, like the blue ocean. Or a couple kissing. And you think that this moment will stay in your mind but it doesn’t. Just the general feeling does.
I may not be the first writer ever to come up with this kind of an observation. Oh well. Time to fight.
Round one versus Jim Herold, BW
Jim is a true old timer. He has never done that well at the Pro Tour but the man has won quite a few Grand Prix. I think he was the first person ever to win multiples of those.
I keep two Islands on the draw and end up discarding. After crushing me, Jim asks if I had the two Islands in my opening hand. I know that he is just trying to be polite and apologize for the manascrew… but I can’t stop thinking whether he sees me as the kind of guy who keeps a one-lander.
The second game goes very long. I am just about to win with my Cloud Chariot by sending a few big guys flying over every turn. Then Jim untaps, returns Exile into Darkness, casts it, and attacks. I block and go down to exactly zero. Whoops! I put my head in my hands and silently start cursing about my poor math. Jim feels bad for me and explains how I would have lost anyway, so the mistake did not matter.
A total defeat and a sympathetic opponent. I am not exactly back in full force.
0-1 matches, 0-2 games
Kai asks me how I did. I respond with “Draft error, deck construction error, play error. I lost”. The other Germans don’t know what to say but Kai just laughs at me. I don’t remember what the draft error was, but in deck construction I left Hankyu in my sideboard. Jeff Cunningham tells me between rounds that it is now quite good in the format.
Round two versus Juan Carlo Adebo Diaz, GR
I win game one with the Chariot. We both play lots of big guys but combat is hopeless for him while I keep flying over. The Chariot is at its best versus Green because you block their big guys with small ones and they have trouble with the fliers. The games also go long so you’ll have time to use it.
In game two Juan beats me slowly with Budoka Pupil and Kami of Fire’s Roar. I don’t draw removal for either and cannot put up enough pressure myself. My sideboarded Hankyu would have been insane at any point in the game.
Juan kills my Hankyu with Rending Vines in the third game. An aside on Rending Vines: It is important to have one of these. This sideboard card is very good because card advantage is so important in the format. Whether or not you have this card in your sideboard can easily mean the difference between going 1-2 or 2-1. I advise you to keep a good count of your playables when heading for the third pack so you know when you are ready to take this over an average maindeck card.
But back to the game. It goes very long and I start winning with the Chariot. At the end he kills one of my attackers with Torrent to stay alive and topdecks Inner Calm, Outer Strength to hit me exactly to zero in the fourth extra turn. There was a lot of complicated math going on during the last turns and I cannot shake the feeling that I just screwed up at some point. Juan taps me on the shoulder and says: “I am sorry. I go now.”
I am not exactly certain what I expected from this event but I wasn’t ready for the overwhelming amount of sympathy. This is pathetic. I consider just leaving the site and going back to the world of comedy. I mean, what do I have to prove? I have already done well on the Pro Tour. I have already established the financial security. Gone are the days when I was playing the last round of Grand Prix to see whether I can pay next month’s rent, and winning with a sideboarded Orim’s Touch.
I hang around a lot with all kind of performing artists. These people are mostly comedians but also actors and musicians. They are quite left wing and many of them feel like they really need to change the world in some way. Things are not quite right and these people have a need to communicate a message. They are just not certain what the message is and how to efficiently communicate it. For a long time in my life I felt like I needed to make a Pro Tour Top 8 just to justify my existence. Then when I finally succeeded, I didn’t know what to do next. When I spend time with gamers, the “Save the World” ideology seems distant and naive. When I am with colleagues, the “let’s make the most money” goal of Poker and Pro Tours feels wrong.
I am not sure what point I was trying to make with the above paragraph. Maybe that I have something of a dual identity right now. It could be that these kind of existentialist ponderings are better suited for live journals than tournament reports. I know I used to be good at making funny reports. Maybe I tried harder back then. Now I just feel like writing what is on my mind.
Back to Magic.
Round three versus Calvin Cassar, BR
Calvin has a very fast BR deck with multiple Glitterfangs and combos but it runs out of steam game one. In game two I get a great start but he keeps trading Mountains with my big guys with the Genju and stabilizes on low life. I then manage to soulshift two guys with Forked-Branch Garami and that’s game.
I spot myself making multiple mistakes against him and decide to get my act together. I actually practiced for this tournament, and it is about time I do well in a limited event. I psyche up myself for the second draft. I tell Jeff Cunningham about my impossible dream of going 0-2, 4-0 and he refers to it as the ultimate high.
My second draft pod:
The feeling at the 1-2 table is always intense. I should know. Everyone looks around wondering who will be the one person salvaging their terrible tournament. Josh Ravitz is alternating between his sad look and his uninterested look. Andrew Pacifico realizes that this will be tougher than that Junior Super Series (I have all the possible 1998 references). It is kind of like eight terminally infected people looking at the one dose of cure. This will not be pretty.
And neither is my drafting. I take Eight-and-a-Half Tails and then start forcing G/W. I have the option to take late pick high quality Black cards but refuse to switch. I finally pick up something like 10th and 11th Pull Under and Dance of Shadows. Andrew on my left is quite hooked on Black and I have a feeling he will be the 3-0 guy.
And then I open Ink-Eyes, Throat Slitter, and nothing. Absolutely nothing else. I go with the legendary Rat Ninja and start forcing Black after I put the guy on my left in that color. By some miracle of fortunate print runs I actually get cards for my deck but it still looks rather janky. And then I open Celestial Kirin. I get quite a few good late Black cards that should justifiably have been Andrew’s.
My B/W deck has the broken rares, some removal and an endless amount of very mediocre creatures. There is close to no synergy and I have to rely on drawing the better half of this experiment. But I do have my favorite card, Mending Hands. Will it save me like in the PTQ?
Round four versus Jeremy Duck, UW
My two Ghost-Lit Stalkers totally demolish his slow deck in two games. He has the good cards like double Oboro Envoy, but they are too defensive. After taking all the tricks out of his hand I beat him with the rares.
While in the restroom between rounds I see a disturbing sight. Jose Barbero is looking at the mirror and fixing his hair. He keeps talking to himself: “Yes. Yes. That is good. Good. Yes. That is good.” Then he sees me from the mirror staring at him. He looks at me and says: “No. That is bad.” Then he goes back to complimenting his own hair.
Round five versus Daniel Neiman, WR
Daniel is very nice and casual. He has been to four Pro Tours before but this is his first Limited one. He asks me if this is my first Pro Tour. I could have explained how I am also something of a constructed player and am not surprised to be at the 1-2 table. Instead I say “I am twenty-fifth in life-time earnings.” You could argue that this is a very stupid and arrogant way to answer, but I honestly just wanted to see his reaction. It went something like “Cool.”
Is bragging a worse crime than belittling? The latter seems socially more accepted. It is rare to find someone show their accomplishments in an overly positive light but very common to hear things like “Omg those ppl in the top8 are so awful. Lifegain deck lol.” Personally I find boasting to be strangely refreshing and the random insults to be mindblowingly boring. The thing I hate the most is when someone is bashing their own deck/play/strategy just to get sympathy and attention.
I beat him in two close games. Mending Hands is key once again. Had I been less lazy and written this report sooner after the event I might actually remember some details. Sympathy please. Daniel is quite relaxed about the elimination and we end up talking between rounds, him wishing me luck.
I do have to add some strategic content into this report. So here goes. People out there preparing for nationals, you might find some of these ideas useful. Some are mine and some are blatantly copied from greater minds.
- UG is good because removal is not that important. Kabuto Moth is the only common that really bothers you and it is in the biggest expansion. The fact that you can win either with big guys or fliers means that usually you just have to stall the ground a bit. The deck often looks bad at first sight but most games end up with you stabilizing and then winning with something like card drawing. You have to see this deck in action to have any faith in it. I strongly recommend you try it out. Sakura-Tribe Springcaller is very good and Sakura-Tribe Scout is highly playable, especially with Soratamis.
- I feel like a real genius for saying this after Geoffrey went 9-0, but Red decks can end up to be insane. Red is very mediocre in the first two sets, but then it suddenly has everything in the last one. The reason why it is more important to have your good cards be in the last set is because by then people are done with switching colours. Sixth pick Barrel Downs are nothing extraordinary while fifth pick Befouls are unheard of.
- Serpent Skin is a lot better than before. Not only are there fewer Vortexes and Befouls but the card is more of a surprise now due to there being only one Champions booster. Same goes for Uncontrollable Anger.
- The last set is filled with good cards that are either Spirits or Arcane. This makes Hisoka’s Defiance quite good and Psychic Spear playable. There are also a lot of good one-toughness creatures in Saviors so Frostwielder, First Volley etc. get better.
Back to the stories.
Round Six versus Doug Lunn, UGb
Doug is splashing for the Throat Slitter I passed him. Not bad with his Mirror-Guard. He is playing Sensei’s Diving Top and Ideas Unbound just to find Umezawa’s Jitte sooner. Even though I don’t like those cards, this does make sense since Jitte is just so good.
I win game one with Kirin and Ink-Eyes. Fair, fair. I stall on lands on game two and scoop it up when he Jitte’s up his Soramaro, First to Dream. I board in Terashi’s Grasp. I draw mostly land but 8.5 doesn’t mind. Doug plays his first real threat at five mana so I Eradicate it. He soon draws Jitte and starts beating me with a flier. I use Mending Hands to prevent the first damage and try to race him back. Doug is mostly gaining life but manages to kill my Kami of Empty Graves with the equipment. The game is not going very well, but then I draw a Pull Under at the very last moment. I use it during his combat step and beat him exactly to zero.
Day 2! Dia dos! I did it! I walk around the site just smiling at everyone.
I also made Day 2 in the last Pro Tour I played in, Amsterdam 2004. There I followed up my 5-1 start with a stellar 3-6. Let’s see how this goes.
I take Kodama of the South Tree over Consuming Vortex. An obvious pick, sure, but I hate to pass the amazing blue card. I pass another Vortex taking Yamabushi’s Flame over it. Had I not passed a good Blue card, this would have been a really tough pick. The Red dries up so I take random Green and Blue cards. Kodama’s Reach and Sakura-Tribe Elder will make it easier for me to splash something.
So of course I open Ink-Eyes again. This time there are some other picks, most notably Forked-Branch Garami. Will I go UGr or take the legend? I feel like living dangerously and go with the Black card. For the rest of the draft I get good Green but my Black is fairly pathetic. Kagemaro’s Clutch is pretty much the only other card worth mentioning. I splash the Flame.
The reason why I keep switching colors with bomb rares is that aside from spiritcraft, synergy does not seem to matter that much in the format. Sometimes you get a deck that works as a whole. The well-oiled machine. For me those are usually the UG decks. Other times you just have a collection of cards. I am not saying that this format is bad because of this, I just find this block to be very different than others in this matter. Ben Stark was said to have taken Seat of The Synod over Grab the Reins in triple Mirrodin since he valued synergy over individual cards. I don’t know whether he was right, but it does speak volumes about the format that a professional would even consider that pick.
The deck ends up pretty good due to the good green creatures. I am playing Sink into Takenuma with seven Swamps due to the land-fetching. I also like the card more than most since it helps so much in the hand size fights.
I am sitting opposite Richard Hoaen during deck construction and we start comparing resumes. This is the Magic version of bulls banging their heads together. Upon hearing my story Richard says: “What? It took you five years to make a Top 8? Hah! Pathetic!”
Kids today can be so cruel.
But Richie is right. I have been around for ages. I do feel like I grew up on the Pro Tour. Which is, when you think of it, a pretty strange place to learn life lessons from. Nowadays when I find myself in big gatherings of people I instinctively start to wonder when will the pairings go up.
Round seven versus David Grant, BG
The last time I met David was at Worlds 2002. The Finnish national team had just gone 1-3 in team draft after being third in the standings after the first three days…so naturally I was getting outrageously drunk with the Brits and Aussies in Sydney. This culminated in me getting into a wrestling competition with the Australian national champion Justin West. Here is a picture of him:
But back to David. He has a very good deck even though we drafted the same colors next to each other. Double Horobi’s Whisper and what not. I win the first game with a five point Sink. Okay, the card should not be that good in my deck. This much I agree. The next game is a tight fight but then I draw my second Swamp just in time for Ink-Eyes. With O-Naginata it is too much for David to handle.
This feeling is amazing. I won five matches in a row and I have a good deck. I go to eat with the Swedes and Norwegians. Far be it from me to associate with non-Scandinavians. Johan Sadeghpour is 6-1 and Nicolai is 5-2 but others seem to have failed miserably. Tuomo is telling horror stories about his loss in the LCQ and everyone is acting interested.
“But then he spliced the Glacial Ray and…”
“Such beats. It must have been horrible.”
I wake up early and filled with determination, destined for success. I used this same sentence in my Venice report since it is easy to add after the tournament when I already know whether I did well. This is my retaliation towards all poker writers who put their opponents on the exact two cards.
Round eight versus Michael Krumb, UB
Michael has a deck that seems to be missing everything. Not enough removal, not enough evasion, and the guys generally fail to achieve much. On top of this I get great draws. Bile Urchins and Ghost-Lit Warder can only achieve so much against South Tree.
Round nine versus Stuart Wright, UR
Stuart started his draft with 3rd and 4th pick Vortexes. I might like the card more than most but I still find this to be bizarre. My strategy for this match was as follows:
I used to do this for a living.
I just went 12-1 games after switching to Black twice…And I still don’t know whether it was correct. I took a big risk both times. I used to be a lot more timid drafter back in the days, opting for the mainstream strategies. This rarely worked. Now that I had actually tested, I had the courage to try something else. Maybe I should quit playing and instead write self-motivational books.
I shall now tell you a bad beat from the past. In Pro Tour: Nice 2002 (Odyssey-Odyssey-Torment booster draft) I was Blue/Black heading into pack three. I was then presented with the first pick choice of either hatedrafting Violent Eruption or taking Cephalid Aristocrat for my deck. Those who have drafted with Torment at all should know that a booster without Black or Blue playables should be impossible. To this day I hold a grudge.
Bad beat stories do not need a specific situation or reason for their telling. They are unconnected with the rest of the world, raising their heads at seemingly random intervals.
This is where things go bad and I only have myself to blame. I open Cage of Hands, Kabuto Moth, and Scuttling Death. I think about it for the full forty-five seconds and go with Scuttling. I then get passed a lot of White. I stubbornly keep passing it all and take mediocre Blue and Black cards. I get a lot of cards from Betrayers but that set ends up being almost my entire deck. I am playing four(!) cards from Saviors and I passed a great White deck to the guy on my left.
This is the only draft where I stay committed to my first few choices, and this is by far my worst deck of the tournament. I have some removal and a good late-game with several Scuttlings, Soratami Seer and Petals of Insight but most of my creatures are way below par. If I manage to drag things on I have a good shot to win, but I dunno how to do that with my terrible guys. The only saving grace among my earlier drops is Threads of Disloyalty. I hope to be drawing that a lot.
This is just the kind of deck that I hate. It has good removal and card drawing but you cannot win without getting card advantage and killing their best guys. This deck is the opposite of a good UG one.
As White is the color with most mana efficient early drops I hope to get paired against as few white decks as possible.
Round ten versus Julien Goron, UW
Game one is terrible. Kitsune Diviner, Split-Tail Miko, Kabuto Moth, Shimmering Glasskite, Genju of the Falls…I just look at his superior board and meekly cast my turn 5 Petals. I lose horribly. Julien floods a bit in game two and he has huge trouble dealing with the Threads on his Diviner. He also has a very slow start in the last game so I win with the ultra fast Genju of the Fens-Cloud Chariot combo. For advanced players only.
Please, let me win one of the next two rounds so I at least have a shot for Top 8… I promise to draft in a smarter way.
Round eleven versus David Larsson, WG
Great, the person who I gave the excellent White deck to. If it wasn’t for the Sparksmith/Lavamancer’s Skill format I could claim that I’ve never been this utterly defeated in a Limited match. Hand of Honor, Kabuto Moth, Split-Tail Miko and good Green guys just roll over me in two very quick games. David’s deck is all efficient creatures and some tricks. He also started the tournament 0-2, so I feel like we share some kind of a bond.
You have to admit that it was a pretty good winning streak. And it’s my second longest one. At nationals 1998 I won nine matches in a row.
Round twelve versus Tiago Chan, WB
What the #Â¤%”! is up with the pairings? This matchup is almost as hard as the round before. Tiago has loads of efficient early creatures and two Okiba-Gangs that I passed him. None of my early guys can trade with his, so Okibas can have a field day.
Tiago stalls on lands twice and I play turn 3 Threads all three games and yet I still narrowly squeeze out a win. It’s been a long time since I won a matchup this bad in an important tournament. I feel like I just escaped certain elimination.
If something strange happens with the tiebreakers I might end up at table two. This would mean that my opponents have good tiebreakers too, and I am likely to get a draw after going 2-0. The draw is almost impossible to get in table three, so that would mean an additional win. I am 18th in the standings so table three it is.
Dal Farra, Gionata
I take a Vortex over two other good commons from different colors. I have no recollection as to what they were. Then I have a choice between Orochi Sustainer and Soratami Rainshaper. This is really tough. Rainshaper is not that much worse and taking it would give me more options. I can still go Green after passing Sustainer since Green is good in the last pack, so it is more important to see whether it is open on your right than it is to cut Green. When drafting Black, on the other hand, you really need to cut it. I go with the mana guy for no particular reason. Azami, Lady of the Scrolls third pick means that Blue is quite open.
I pass Antoine three Torrents of Stone and a late Cunning Bandit. I have good picks for myself (Tomorrow, Azami’s Familiar, Shimmering Glasskite, Gnarled Mass, Child of Thorns), otherwise I might have switched. Antoine’s deck ends up really good, but his match record is 8-4 so I only have to play him if I lose. After opening Arashi, Sky Asunder in Saviors I feel like this tournament likes me. My deck has a great late-game and the tools to reach it with acceleration and several bounce spells. This is probably my most synergetic deck in the entire event. Go Sakura-Tribe Scout!
Sidenote: One mana spells that have a realistic chance to affect the board position are very useful in this format. Frostling, Child of Thorns, Blessed Breath, Kodama’s Might, and even Mending Hands accomplish something unique. Often that one turn is all you need. This is especially important if you have a powerful but slow deck. I have taken Frostling over Shimmering Glasskite in testing when I’ve had a deck that just needs to set up. I don’t know if I’d have the courage to make that pick in a big tournament though.
Round thirteen versus Gionata Dal Farra, WB
I mulligan to four in game one going second. I play lands on turns 2, 4 and 6 before packing it in. At this point I am visibly upset. I manage to refrain from complaining directly at the opponent but find myself mumbling stuff like “Not now, not now…” kind of like a child who dropped his ice cream. Gionata is very nice and we discuss the draft while I try to get my professional mindset together.
His deck is really lacking sufficient pressure so I have enough time to set up in game two. I have Tomorrow in play and Hinder in hand for five turns while I keep laying the threats. I stall on two lands in the deciding game but Gionata has a horrendously slow draw. After getting to Springcaller mana at ten life I just drop a big guy every turn. I win in short order and we discuss the draft some more. He got a good hookup on Black early but then it mysteriously dried up. Maybe someone did to him what I did to Andrew Pacifico in the second draft.
Nicholas West, who I last spoke to when I was 0-2, asks me how I’m doing. I tell him that I only need two more wins. He looks a bit puzzled, ponders for a while and then approves of my current record. It feels good to have a mentor.
Round fourteen versus Timothy Aten, UB
I like Tim’s writing so I’ve been following his career. The man puts up good finishes consistently but seems to have trouble reaching the highest level. I had this same period earlier in my career. There was some kind of mental block preventing me from reaching Sunday and I would keep on losing the last rounds of a tournament to finish in the Top 16 and Top 32. I don’t know if Tim has the same one. Clearly he has the raw skill needed to make Top 8. I had my first Sunday finishes when I started studying in the university. Playing Magic was a lot less stressful when I had something else to direct my attention to.
None of that matters in this match as I get two very smooth draws. I draw just the right amount of lands, acceleration, bounce, and big guys. Sometimes you just get the perfect mix. I use the Azami-Tomorrow combo in game one to go through six cards every turn. In game two I lock him up with Consuming Vortex, Kiri-Onna and a flipped Callow Jushi with three counters. He fights back to set up a lethal Devouring Greed but I have the Hinder.
I study the standings like mad. Can I afford to draw? Will I get a draw? Yes and no. My last round opponent would finish ninth and he decides to play. I would do the same almost regardless of the matchup. I would rather play a 20/80 % match about Sunday than lock up 50 % extra price money.
Round fifteen versus Luis Scott-Vargas, UWb
Scott is splashing for Throat Slitter, Kagemaro’s Clutch and… Choice of Damnations. His control deck has several unorthodox choices (Kitsune Palliator LOLZ!! Omg how awful!!) but it all comes together in a strange way to work as a whole. I do think that it is more important to have a solid personal strategy that you believe in and see through than it is to read lots of stuff about pick orders and blindly follow them. I have been making the same point in all of my literary productions ever. Not counting the anonymous love letter to my sixth-grade teacher, which may have featured cliches.
He sets up a good defense and starts gaining four life a turn with Honden of Cleansing Fire and Ghost-Lit Redeemer. I try to put up an offense but it works mainly as a nuisance. I finally build up enough guys but then he puts me down to seven permanents with Choice. Great. I start rebuilding and work out that I have to deck him. In order to do that I need one more card, but I have the Hinder. I start playing Kiri-Onna targeting itself every turn to charge up Callow Jushi, while Tomorrow is in play to also protect me from decking. With zero cards left I flip Jushi with seven counters. Luis plays a one-mana Spirit, returns his own Kiri-Onna and replays it. I make him pay fourteen more with the Jushi tapping him out, and Hinder my own Consuming Vortex during upkeep.
Now that was an interesting game. There were quite a few moments when I either felt that I couldn’t lose or that I couldn’t win. With fourteen minutes left I use the full three minutes sideboarding (Joke! No ban plz). I take out four early drops to fit in Scaled Hulk, a second Freed from the Real, Thoughtbind and Minamo’s Meddling. This makes it very hard for Luis to win the long game. I end up beating him with big guys as he is slightly flooded.
Top 8!!! This feels amazing. Everyone is cheering and I just stare at the feature match table. I did it! For quite a few rounds I have had the feeling like I could make it this far, maybe… but I still haven’t quite believed in it.
Your opponent has disconnected.
My strategy for the Top 8 pictures and interviews was to smile a lot. This is most apparent even to the casual observer. I have a yet another five hour sleep as I anxiously await the three-mana enchantment that could be played as if it were and instant even though it is not.
Trivia: This is the first time that a Pro Tour Top 8 has either multiple Finns or multiple Swedes. On more than one occasion there has been one of each.
Radical personal opinion: There are very few problems in this world not caused by patriotism or religion.
Walamies, Tomi (Me! Hi mom!)
I start with Keiga, the Tide Star. My reasoning for this pick can be found in the next installment of our series. I then pick Blue and Green cards without there being any deeper logic than me liking the archetype and just having a general feel that the colors could be open. I take a Pull Under along to way for a possible splash.
In Betrayers and Saviors I continue to get good creatures but no reasonable tricks. I end up with a nice curve and decent synergy. Soratami Mirror-Mage works with Budoka Gardener and Sakura-Tribe Scout. I have two ninjas and loads of three-power guys with my Shuriken. I have solid stalling capabilities to set up a Hankyu lock. The pick that I regret the most is passing a Commune with Nature, as I could use it to set up the bounce combo, fetch Ninjas for Shuriken or simply get closer to Keiga.
On Geoffrey getting a ridiculous deck… I plead “least guilty” due to being on his immediate left. To be perfectly honest though I cannot shake the feeling that I could have switched.
Quarterfinals against Antti Malin, BW
Wizards has documented pretty much everything that happened here. All the games aside from my flood in the third one were very close. He wins game one by casting both Mending Hands and Blessing of Leeches during my attack going down to two life and saving his lethal attacker. I had my equipment working against him in games two and four. Once I won with them and once he just put out too much pressure. Looking at the decklists in hindsight the match does feel very even. Sometimes there are just games that come down to one player drawing one land too many. I had a lot of complicated math to do with the equipment and maybe by doing something different I could’ve won the fourth game.
Antti played fine here as he has been doing lately in these events. He is a true gamer at heart. After losing the semis 0-3, he ran to register for a 15-card Block Constructed highlander tournament barely making it in time. Then he went to the dealers to buy the missing cards for his deck as round one pairings were being posted.
Okay, I’ll bash the guy this much: In his ratings page you can find eleven teams below 1600.
I do some coverage for the semis in the Wizards booth. This means that everyone with a decent internet connection has the chance to hear my sexy accent. After the whole event I go talk to the Japanese to congratulate Tsuyoshi Fujita. Their reporter tells me that “Jin Okamoto thinks you are best player with the hat”. That is the kindest thing anyone has ever said to me. Tsuyoshi also gets a bit emotional.
“You lose semis?”
My stand up gig that night was very different. In the audience there were thirty Magic players and seven others. It went well even though I was quite nervous beforehand. I notice Randy Buehler talking to the local comedy MC, Sabrina, during the break and giving something to her.
I found out what it was a few days later as I met Sabrina again at a comedy night. She pulls a Portal Starter pack from her backpack and says:
“I heard how much you won. Now you teach me to play.”
And that is the end of this particular journey. In retrospect I am glad I took the day off to play the qualifier.
I would like to thank everyone who has ever helped me with anything. I’ll see you guys at the London County Championships.
Tomi Antti Juhani Walamies
(2152 composite respect!)