For those of you that play Vs System, you might be able to guess that I don’t play much Magic: the Gathering anymore. It’s true, I spend most of my gaming time casting broken cards like restrictive Relentless Assaults and half Twiddles (Teen Titans Go! and Press the Attack for the oblivious), but I still play a fair amount of Magic.
I cast spells on MODO. A lot. Occasionally, I’ll build a Constructed deck, but it’s usually for awesome formats like singleton and vanguard. For Regionals, I built Tooth and Red Deck and played them each for about a week. Even though I’m embarrassed to admit it, I did Top 4 the monstrous 130-man Arizona Regionals. My company in the t4 was composed of some of the brightest minds in Arizona Magic.
However, this report isn’t about Regionals or how little I play “real Magic.” It’s about a PTQ. While I was busy getting my Marvel on in San Diego, some of the finest Minnesotans(?) were playing some Block Constructed. A perfect opportunity to playtest. By playtest, of course, I mean barn a list off of the internet, change about 3 cards in the sideboard to dumb it down enough for me to play it blind, then go about getting the cards, both physically and digitally.
When it comes to barning decks off of the internet, there’s no Minnesotan I’d rather barn (maybe the appropriate term is Bearl? Minnesotans, chime in!) than Gerry Thompson. Fortunately for me, he Top 8’d the Grand Prix, making his decklist available to all! I start collecting the cards on MODO starting Thursday night at about 1am, and I’m able to get in about 3 games in the “tournament practice” casual room on MODO after shelling out infinite virtual ducats for Kagemaros. On Friday, I go to FNM to find out that approximately 5 people showed up. After accomplishing important things like a 6-man DC Origins draft, I complete my (actually Anthony’s) deck with the help of one Owen Davis and my Marvel binder. That Marvel binder inexplicably had the fourth Kagemaro in the back of it, probably from a draft I don’t remember. To get in some playtesting, Owen, myself, and some other PTQ hopefuls went back to Owen’s place and drafted.
The next morning, I wake up at the asscrack of dawn sincerely hoping that the PTQ format was somehow changed to team booster draft, random teams. Unfortunately for me, it was still Block Constructed, so I registered Gerry’s deck, with some personal changes to dumb the deck down for my personal playstyle.
4 Gifts Ungiven
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Kodama’s Reach
4 Sickening Shoal
1 Soulless Revival
1 Death Denied (Gerry had Stir the Grave, which probably means I was stealing from someone who had tested a lot)
1 Cranial Extraction
1 Wear Away
1 Exile into Darkness
Round 1 – Johnny Bates – Gifts
I’m a bit concerned before the match, for a few reasons. First, this is like my fourth game or something with the deck. Second, and much more importantly, Johnny is from Tuscon. For some reason, the entire city has Protection from Prosaks. There’s a PTQ in Tuscon in a few weeks that I was already dreading at this point. Fortunately for me, Johnny makes these games easy for me. He draws more Plains than Forests before I setup Extraction recursion. I actually name Yosei with my first hit (I thought he was running the B/W Control deck that he played at the last PTQ). I win game 1 easily. The second game Johnny helps me out again by not drawing enough answers to my Graverobbers, which reanimate a bunch of his creatures.
Round 2 – Luke Davis – Black Hand
Call me sadistic, but I love bashing on small children that are intimidated by playing me. For those of you unfamiliar with the Finkel effect, it basically says that many of Jon Finkel opponents were so intimidated from playing Jon that they would play much worse than they normally do. While I am certainly no Finkel, many people in Arizona are very intimidated by me and more or less resign themselves to losing when they see my name across from theirs on the pairing sheet. Luke is one of these people and I’m able to win easily with Kagemaro, then Gifts into Exile both games.
About this time, some small child asks Owen Davis if he’s the #1 rated Vs. player in the state (that honor would belong to yours truly). When Owen calmly replies that he is not, the small child asks if he is Adam Prosak. I was so insulted.
Round 3 – Michael Benedict – Gifts
By this point, I was happy to play the mirror since I know how to play control mirrors. While I’ll admit they can get extremely boring to watch, control mirrors are among my favorite to play. Basically I know what I need to do to win a control battle – build mana, get card advantage, protect threats – and win fairly easily. His draw sucks game 1. Game 2 Graverobber does his thing, especially after he gives me the recursion spells instead of the creatures when I Gifts Ungiven, making Graverobber even better.
I would also like to mention how this match was essentially a free win too. Before we started, he says something along the lines of “I don’t mind losing to you, at least you’ll help my breakers.”
[For those of you that have never seen a Prosak in person, let me tell you that they are not remotely intimidating creatures. Some might describe them as blown up, fleshy-colored Oompah-Loompahs. Others might just describe them as round, goofy looking humanoids. Neither of these is quite accurate in describing “ihatepants” but it does give you a vague mental image that says “not even remotely intimidating.”
Round 4 – Josh McClure – WW
You may remember Mr. McClure from magical gatherings such as “Regionals: How to sack out the Tooth mirror” and “FNM: Duel to the Death”, but now he’s starring in his very own PTQ! His draw is hot in game 1, including 4 guys by turn 3 with a Jitte + equip on 4. He messes up by pumping for damage on turn 5, which means my Kagemaro for 6 can wipe out his entire team. Unfortunately, I’m very low on life at this point without much in the way of a long game. His Lantern Kami starts pinging me for 1 a turn while we match threats and answers otherwise. I have a Hana Kami which I can use to get back Sickening Shoal, as well as an Ink-Eyes with nothing to get back (thanks Pale Curtain.) For some reason I don’t just kill his Lantern Kami, rationalizing that I can race. He them plays a Celestial Kirin and then uses Otherworldly Journey to stop my lethal Shizo’d Ink-Eyes. Game 2 is terribly anticlimatic as I don’t do anything relevant and his draw is far too punishing for that nonsense.
Round 5 – David Schoonover – Gifts
I didn’t realize it until this round, but I love when decks that are really hard to play win Grand Prix. Then everyone copies the lists and your PTQs become a comedy of errors. Game 1 was funny, as I play a North Side on turn 4. On turn 5 I attack for 6. On turn 6 I attack for 6. On turn 7 I attack for 6. On turn 8 he scoops. Oh what fun. Game 2 I flip Graverobber (see a pattern yet?) and Distress his guys so I have threats.
At this point, I’m starving. The Dunkin’ Donuts have definitely worn off. Josh and a friend go on a food run that I happily buy in on, in hopes that I can win fast and they return just as quickly
Round 6 – Sean Sicari – Black Hand
Surprisingly enough, his draw is quite nice against mine, even without the help of discard. On turn 4, I Gifts for Shoal, Exile, Wear Away, and Kagemaro, and he gives me Wear Away and Exile, which plays perfectly into my hands. I happen to be holding the single Goryo’s Vengeance in the deck, and I’m able to clear his team. I end up having to splice the Wear Away onto a Soulless Revival, since I don’t have double Green, but that Soulless Revival gets back the Kagemaro, and he’s good enough to clear the way for Exile and North Side.
Game 2 he has a bunch of discard and little pressure, but I have a Top. I’m able to Gifts for an extra card in my hand to turn Exile online, and his draw simply can’t compete.
Thankfully, Josh returns with Sonic before my stomach grows a mouth of its own and eats itself. During my draw, I playtest DC Modern (Vs. System) with Ryan Rocco, who is also enjoying a draw into Top 8. Man is drawing Kyle Rayner + Emerald Dawn the pure nuts.
There was going to be a clean cut, as there were 6 people with 15+ as well as 4 people with 13. By some fluke, both of the 13 matches ended in a draw and a pair of 5-2s make it into the Top 8. Poor Riad.
Since Ray Powers (the TO in Arizona) is awesome, we get to look at the decklists before the Top 8 begins, saving me all the hard work of scouting and such.
T8 – Danny Smith – WW
The WW matchup is interesting. It’s always clear when the turning point of a game is, and it’s usually when I play Kagemaro or when they play Hokori. The game slows down after that point, and it’s generally clear who the winner will be.
All 3 games are fairly close. Game 1 I stall on no Green mana, but have multiple Gifts (and the Island), but my draw is a turn too slow as he sacrifices his Kami of Ancient Law to turn on both of his Promise of Brunei to kill me. Game 2 is absurd. He gets a nice rush and Hokori’s me the turn I can play Kagemaro. Fortunately, some early spot removal kept his clock managable until I draw Kagemaro. I play him without mana open so I can block. His Jitte + Hand of Honor present a huge problem, but he puts me on 1 instead of keeping his Hand bigger than Kagemaro. I untap my land and wrath his Hand + Hokori.
At this point in the game, Danny has 3 Shining Shoals. Around about now, I realize a huge error in my sideboard. I don’t have an effective way post board of preventing Shining Shoal from dealing me the final 2-3 points. In my limited experience, the WW deck was able to get me below 5 in almost every game. It’s likely correct to have some way of dealing with Shoal, as it will often just redirect your attacks for lethal.
Fortunately, Danny makes a ton of errors and manages to lose this game. First, he doesn’t wait to stack damage before Shoaling my Kagemaro attack. I simply sacrifice the Kagemaro. Next, he does the same thing with a Sakura-Tribe Elder. Finally, he tries to Shining Shoal my Kiku’s Shadow. I simply Sickening Shoal the creature in question in response. I end up finding enough threats to win the game.
This seems like a good spot to mention the pace of play in this match. It was excruciatingly slow. Not only is Danny listening to his IPod and answering his phone during the match, but he’s taking way too long for simple plays, and even longer for the hard ones. Despite complaining about our match taking forever, Ray doesn’t do anything, at least not about the IPod or the cell phone, both of which I complain about.
It might sound like I’m being a bit hard on Danny, but I simply don’t like the kid. He even gave me the “GG” handshake not once, but twice during game 2. Please.
Game 3 goes according to script, with me stabilizing at 2 life this time. Time is called on his turn with life totals 17 to 2. He still has a steady stream of threats from the top of his library, but he’s under Exile lock and I have some additional removal. On turn 1 I play a 6/6 Kagemaro and a Hana Kami. I know I need to build up my hand size to make Kagemaro lethal (or find the Meloku, which I fail to do). I use Hana Kami recursion with Rending Vines targeting my own Tops with the mana I have after killing his guys. On turn 3 of time I attack him to 10. On turn 4 of time, Danny complicates things by playing 2 Hand of Honor, and I can only Exile into Darkness one away. I think for a bit and try and figure out how to get my Kagemaro through (I don’t have Shizo either). Luckily for me, there was a Goryo’s Vengeance that was part of a Gifts, so I simply wrath his team with Kagemaro, Hana Kami back the Vengeance, and splice some more stuff to build up to a 10 card hand with a hasty Kagemaro in play. Sweet.
Top 4 – Matt Vaughn – WW
How skill intensive is Magic? On one hand, I see the same Japanese pros in the money of practically every Grand Prix they attend. Kai has won 7 Pro Tours. I make about a trillion errors and still win my semifinal. About the only thing I did right was getting an Exile with my second Gifts. Despite my good plays, I win fairly easily, mostly because I drew all 4 Kagemaros. Game 2 exposes my misboarding again. I was careful not to make Gifts stacks that cutoff my recursion the entire tournament, but somehow I make a pair of Gifts that see Meloku, Hana Kami, and Soulless Revival all my in graveyard (I sided out Death Denied). Naturally, the game goes long, but I’m at 3 before I can stabilize with Exile into Darkness. I’m pretty sure he has Shining Shoal in his hand, so my beatdown is limited to Sakura-Tribe Elders. I’m not kidding. I beatdown with Elders while using Top to draw enough removal for guys that I can’t Exile away. It was embarrassing.
Top 2 – Josh McClure – WW
You might remember McClure from things such as Round 5 and… bleh, forget it. Seeing as how Josh is a good friend of mine, we agree to an even split of the prizes, and play for the slot. I draw the absolute nut hand game 1, except that there were only 4 cards in that hand. After my draw step, I had Forest Swamp 2 Elder and a Top. I almost make a game out of it, but his draw is aggressive enough to put me away quickly.
Game 2 is one of those game where I’m able to get a Kagemaro out way before he gets me low on life. I draw into a few parts of the Vengeance lock and Gifts for the rest. Game 3 I stabilize fairly quickly as well, mostly due to his land light draw (he drew both his Eiganjo Castles, and only 2 other Plains). I’m able to remove his threats at my leisure, so naturally I take some beats that I probably didn’t need to take in order to preserve my long game and protect from Hokori. I go unnecessarily low, but I have Hana Kami + Soulless Revival. I screw around way too long before I just break the recursion and get a Meloku that I didn’t get with Gifts earlier. I qualify a turn later.
I made the Top 8 way harder than I needed to with my terrible sideboarding and incorrect Gifts piles. Even now, I don’t know what piles I should be making – all I know is that my piles were bad. Basically, I had a stable board against the aggressive decks almost every game, and just couldn’t slam the door for way too long. This required me to play way more Magic than I needed to. Granted, most of the time my opponent had no outs except Shining Shoal for 1 for my life total, but my play was still really sloppy and misguided.
A major problem I have with the deck is the immense amount of singleton cards. I know that using Gifts as a toolbox of sorts is powerful, but I think that some of the toolbox cards are the cards I wanted to draw, sometimes in multiples. Death Denied is particularly ridiculous against other control decks, and I wish I had a second one when playing the mirror. Exile into Darkness was ridiculous all day for me against the Jitte decks. The second one in my board was particularly spicy. Basically the only thing I needed to do to win most of the time was undo all their work from the first few turns (which Kagemaro does by himself), but can also be accomplished with spot removal or their overuse of Jitte.
The creature base also seems odd to me. Outside of the 4 Kagemaro, which are insane, I’m not a fan of any of the other cards. You obviously need some, but I don’t really like what any of them bring to the table. I was fine with the 1 of a bunch of different guys so you can Gifts for 4 of them and it doesn’t matter what they give you, since any beater will do the job. I also like playing the more popular legends, since you can just use yours as removal.
Against other control decks, I wanted cheap spells that had the impact of the more expensive bombs. With counterspells emerging in the format, you probably want something that can sneak under them. You can’t just test spell them with a lot of legends since they’ll Overwhelming Intellect you out of the game. I love Nezumi Graverobber for this purpose. Left unchecked, he will probably win you the game singlehandedly. Distress was average for me. It certainly did what I wanted it to do, but I guess it paled in comparison to the Graverobber. Cranial Extraction is definitely too hard for me to use, so I just played the one main to break up Hana/Revival tricks and then sided it out every game. Maybe I should just play some Graverobbers main.
In the absence of a real conclusion to this report, I’m gonna take the easy way out and do some props + slops
Slops: (Hey, I’m ending on a good note)
Danny Smith – lol @ the GG handshake. Not only is it rude to offer the handshake when you’ve won the match, but it’s extremely rude to do it when you haven’t won the match.
Me – for being really fat and being hungry most of the day. I crushed some Friday’s after the PTQ. Also for failing to qualify when I cared and qualifying when I don’t care
Hollaback Girl – I can’t think of any rational reason for the existence of this song. I’m pretty sure Gwen made a bet with someone on whether or not she could make any song a hit. This s*** is BANANAS! B-A-N-A-N-A-S
Ray Powers – He definitely ran the entire event by himself. Mastery.
Phimus Pan, Manhunter Duplicate – In addition to being a Vs. card, Phimus won his very first PTQ during the first PTQ of the season. He somehow managed to get multiple people to run 2 Eiganjo Castles, with disastrous effects.
Owen + Anthony – for loaning me some magical cards for the PTQ. And for being awesome in general. Special props to Anthony for being featured in a lil’ song I did. Live f. Mr P and Anthanizzle – Jitte Towne
VS System – Way sweeter than Magic
Like a fat kid in dodgeball, I’m out.
dirkavanbrussel on the AIM
ihatepants on the MODO
jezuitsoljaz at the yahoo dat cam