Chump Blocking = Card Advantage — GP Cardiff Report, Part 2 *Winner*

Martin “Ding” Dingler returns with Day 2 tales from his recent triumph at Grand Prix Cardiff. Did his “Draft the Big Monsters” strategy continue unabated? Did he experience more of his phenominal luck? And did someone really pass him TWO Rumbling Slums? Read on to find out…

[Click here to read Chump Blocking = Card Advantage — GP Cardiff Report, Part 2 *Winner*]

When we left off, the Grand Prix Cardiff coverage staff were questioning the viability of Green beat machines in the format, saying that all decks need ways of generating card advantage. They’re probably right… decks do need ways of generating card advantage. However, card advantage isn’t solely limited to creatures with comes-into-play abilities and cards that draw you cards. In fact, there are many ways in which I gained card advantage over the course of Sunday without touching a Blue card. Let’s have another look at that first Draft deck I showed you in part 1.

For one, this deck actually has several cards that can be straight up card advantage, such as Ribbons of Night, Strands of Undeath, Orzhov Euthanist, Civic Wayfinder, and Golgari Guildmage. However I’ll give you two guesses as to what the primary source of card advantage here is.

If you said “the huge beefy monsters” with your first guess, then congratulations, you can read. Every chump they throw in the way is plus-one card advantage, every time they triple block I get plus-two, or plus-three with Wildsize. Not to mention all those cards that are stranded in their hand when I kill them, because they Researched Compulsively instead of throwing bodies on the table. This deck generates far more card advantage than any Blue deck I’ve come across. I’ll talk more about card advantage when I come to my other Draft decks.

After building my deck, I went to the land station that was manned by Glyn Forster (who’s a friend and you could say mentor (as a judge) of mine), and collected my land, then sleeved up and ended up with an extra sleeve. I counted the land and there was a Forest missing, so I went back to the land station, told Glyn off for not giving me the right land, and picked up another Forest. Yeah, Glyn didn’t give me the right land, that’s what happened, honest…

Round 9 versus Frank Karsten (UBR)
Game 1 he kills my Elves of Deep Shadow, and I get stuck on four land for a bit with a hand full of Savages, Siege Wurms and Ribbons. When I finally find my fifth mana, he’s already too far ahead on the board.

Game 2 was a beautiful – even archetypal – demonstration on why my decks won. During the course of the game he played two Compulsive Researches, and a Train of Thought for two. None of the infinite cards he drew could handle either of my two Siege Wurms, and he quickly succumbed. I rest my case.

Game 3 there was a somewhat funny incident. In previous months, I caught myself frequently playing a land, then playing Civic Wayfinder, instead of playing the Wayfinder first and then playing the land I fetch to deny my opponent information. In this game, I finally did the tight thing and played the Wayfinder first… and walked straight into Runeboggle! We both had a good laugh, and then my Siege Wurms had stewed Karsten for dinner again.

Match Record: 8-1
Actual Matches played Record: 4-1
Games that count Record: 9-4
Position: 3rd place

Round 10 versus Alex Yatsenko (WUB)
Alex is a Russian with an American passport, and he and Prof tell me about the visa system in Russia which is almost impossible to navigate, which is why he is the only Russian who ever shows up to big Magic events. Maybe the end of the Soviet Union was a less momentous occasion than we thought…

Anyway, this match was somewhat irregular, as the Siege Wurms never came out. Of course, this could have to do with me having turn three Moldervine Cloak in both games. In game 1 I put it on a Transluminant and he seemed to have an answer when he put Strands of Undeath on a Benevolent Ancestor. However, one turn he blocked with it and used his only Black mana to regenerate and I was ready to give the Ancestor euthanasia. Then he only had a bunch of Grey Ogres that were no match for my large Trannie.

Game 2 the turn three Cloak found a Ledgewalker. He found no answer, no blocker, and he couldn’t really race no matter how often he counted my library. His deck’s primary win condition was Glimpse the Unthinkable with Izzet Guildmage backup, but he didn’t have any Red mana. It didn’t seem very viable anyway, as the only Red mana he had in his deck came courtesy of a Terrarion.

9-1, 5-1, 11-4, 1st place

At this point, I’m ecstatic. Top of the standings! Still, I dare not dream of accomplishing the unaccomplishable here.

Round 11 versus Quentin Martin (RUB)
Here we go again. Round 2, time for revenge, fight! My notes are getting worse and worse. Fortunately, this is the last round I actually needed them. The only thing useful in my notes is that I had two Savages in game 2, and finished both games on nineteen life. Revenge is so very, very sweet.

Can't see the wood for the trees

At one point in this match I drew a card and it didn’t feel right. As in, my sense of touch screamed out that something was amiss. I take a closer look at the Forest and realise what’s wrong, stick my hand up and call a judge. Interestingly, the first judge on the scene is Glyn, and I tell him, “Y’know, you didn’t actually give me too few Forests… I just put two of them in one sleeve!”

I didn’t actually think about what this infraction was, but for some reason I was expecting to get a game loss. In the end, I just got a warning for Procedural Error — Major, upheld by the head judge. Interestingly, none of the people involved – including the head judge – had ever come across this situation before.

10-1, 6-1, 13-4, 1st place

Now it all began to feel surreal, I was still at the top of the standings. I had just 3-0’d Pod 1 on Day 2 of a GP! Me! I was one win away from Top 8! Me! Fortunately I was still tired, and still my brain failed to fill with silly dreams.

Draft 2
I just realized that in the three Drafts there were only three people sitting next to me — in Draft 1 I was between RaphaÔl Lévy and Quentin, in Draft 2 I was between Antoine Ruel and Quentin, and in the Top 8 I was between Raph and Antoine… and each and every time, they fed me the goods. Thanks guys!

As my next round was to be a feature match, you might already have a good idea what my deck was like. It was shifting a lot during the Draft from a GBr deck to a GRb deck and back. In Guildpact that was easily settled, as the Gruul I picked up was simply the stone cold nuts. First pick Savage Twister, second pick Rumbling Slum was an awesome enough start. Third pick I take a Wildsize over a Stomping Ground, and wonder whether my mana is going to be good enough. I pick up my booster for the fifth pick, and Antoine is just sitting there staring at me. I look through the booster, look back at Antoine, and burst out laughing. Then I add the second Rumbling Slum to my pile.

Antoine was harassing me for the rest of the day demanding his two Slums back. He was upset I didn’t pass him any in the Top 8. I told him it’s definitely not my fault, because Raph stole them, but he wouldn’t listen. It’s not my fault when people fail to realize that gargantuan Green behemoths are the way forward.

This is my second Draft deck in all its glory:

2 Rumbling Slum
38 Other Cards

Okay, let’s try that again.

This deck could really have benefited from a Signet or two, with that many four-drops. I wasn’t actually expecting to play Slums on turn 4 very often with only five Mountains in the deck, although the Terrarion, the Starfletcher, and the Wild Cantor could contribute. Speaking of the Wild Cantor, this deck definitely has some filler at the bottom end of the curve, but that’s okay, they’re just there until either the fatties come out or the Cloak turns them into real threats.

Sources of Card Advantage
Guildmage, Twister blahblahblah. Like it matters that they draw loads of cards from their Limited deck when you show up with the deck that won the last Constructed Pro Tour.

Round 12 versus Wesimo Al-Bacha (GBRw)
This was covered very well in a feature match report. I had been waiting all weekend to get a feature match; every time I got paired against a name Pro I was expecting it to happen. Versus Olivier Ruel? No. Versus Julien Goron? No. RaphaÔl Lévy? Frank Karsten? Either of the undefeated Day 1 players? Nope. Finally I get a feature match… against a guy I’ve never heard of. I know he’s now the leader in the Rookie of the Year race, but in round 12 he was just “that guy in our pods I’ve never heard of.”

Game 1 was the best game of Magic I played all weekend. That turn where I had to chump block with the Guildmage, and did so without hesitation, is possibly my favorite of the whole tournament. I think part of my win in that game was down to my calmness once again. When he forgot to sacrifice the Saproling to the Rotwurm he was seriously annoyed. I made mistakes like that all day, I realized I was doing them, yet it didn’t affect me one bit. I just continued playing my game, simple as that.

Wesimo was the only person I played all day who wasn’t playing Blue. Remind me, which two players met in the final of this event? Oh yes, now I remember… those who shunned the silly islands. Wesimo, however, seemed to actively seek four-color decks and in both matches we played his color-screw played a crucial part. Keep your notes up to date: huge Green men in three-color decks win GPs.

11-1, 7-1, 15-4, 1st place

As soon as Wesimo extended the hand, I knew I had made Top 8. I raised my hands in the air to celebrate, and to praise Grozoth. I was a lock for Top 8, pretty much. I was the only player on 33 points, I had awesome tiebreakers, and in all likelihood they were just going to get better. Of course, all this doesn’t stop the paranoia from setting in…

Round 13 versus Quentin Martin
Here we go again. When I don’t need to win I tend to play awfully, so I’m generally happy to just ID, or even scoop, once I’m a lock. So I scoop ‘em up, as getting a fellow Englishman into the Top 8 can’t be bad. I was later told that Quentin didn’t ID with me in the last round of Day 1 because he considered me a bye. I know that’s arrogant and insulting, but in a way… he was right. I wasn’t really mentally there.

So we got paired against each other four times over the weekend: twice it was a bye for him, and twice I beat him in fair fights. Humiliation! Perhaps my wins were just Grozoth dishing out karma.

Getting paired against Q again was obviously good for my tiebreakers, with the three points I graciously gave him counting like nine.

11-2, 7-1, 15-4, 1st place

At this stage there are three other players from my pod on 33 points, and I’ve already played two of them, so I figure I’ll be paired against the third, Roel Heeswijk, and we’ll just ID and go and relax. DCI reporter was having none of that, and decided to pair Roel against Quentin and pair Wesimo and myself down.

Round 14 versus RaphaÔl Lévy
My paranoia is running rampant, and I feel annoyed that I can’t get the ID. Several people told me it’s safe for me to scoop again, and I eventually overcome that nagging in the back of my mind and fill in the result slip as a win to Raph. Then I went and had Prof demonstrate why there is no way I’m not in, and at the end I’m satisfied that in the worst case scenario I’ll finish 6th.

I also realise that no other amateur is still in contention for Top 8, so that I’ve already wrapped up the amateur prize. This brings up an image in my mind, of GP Birmingham two years ago. Dirk Baberowski was forlornly wandering around the hall, looking for the final standings to see whether he finished in the money. I went up to him and told him finished 32nd and I finished 33rd. He said he was sorry I missed out on the money. I said I was happy with the amateur money, and was happy to remain an amateur. We both walked away happy. I knew then that one day I would cash in my amateur status in style. Boy, did I ever!

Back in the current day Raph and I played two games for fun. Game 1 I stomped him, and game 2 he won with Cloudstone Curio tricks. We decided it was better not to see how it would have ended. It’s a shame that my ridiculous Draft deck only got a single outing.

11-3, 7-1, 15-4, 5th place

While I was happy to scoop my fellow StarCityGames Featured Writers into the Top 8, I wasn’t so happy when I saw that Jon Hopkins finished in ninth place. He would’ve deserved to make Top 8. Sorry Jon! On the other hand, he may have taken big Green monsters away from me, unlike Quentin and Raph. Yeah, I scooped to them not because I’m a nice guy, but because I wanted good matchups in the Top 8…

Honestly, I hadn’t really thought about this point before, but thinking about it, if you had been passed those ridiculous decks, wouldn’t you want those same people drafting with you in the Top 8?

The Top 8
Once again I’m seated between two tried and trusted sidekicks, Raph and Antoine. In the Draft coverage you can see that Antoine was torn between Last Gasp and Master Warcraft for his second pick. When I saw that booster I thought conventional wisdom says to pick one of those two cards. Well, “conventional wisdom” can go and perform unnatural acts on itself. There was no decision to be made here.

Breaking barriers with big beasties

The only pick from the booster was Siege Wurm.

At the beginning of the day I would’ve never suggested taking Siege Wurm over Master Warcraft. But there’s no arguing with the results that came in during the day, so now I’ll take Siege Wurm over pretty much anything. I declare it the best common in the set. Nothing else comes even close. You want to tell me I’m wrong? I’ll put you under siege. I’ll sacrifice you on the altar of Grozoth.

Then again I don’t have to, because I’m a GP winner thanks to six little Siege Wurms.

The packs pushed me into GW early on, and going into Guildpact I thought it looked more like GWr than GWb. Then I got passed a Mortify, and after much umming and ahhing I finally took it. Then I got passed another Mortify. Then a Pillory of the Sleepless. Damn! I would have to play fewer creatures to fit in this removal stuff (that’s italics of disdain). So I went with this deck and its low creature count of sixteen!

I love Seeds of Strength. It’s probably the most underrated card in the format, even more underrated than my beloved Siege Wurm. I had a tough choice whether to take one of them 3rd pick, decided against it and it tabled! Seriously guys, if you’re playing White and Green this card is an absolute beating. It’s so versatile, it can be anything from Lava Spike to Plague Wind, and in any case it will be exactly the card you need. It should never stick around to 11th pick, even if no-one’s playing White and Green.

I guess now’s the time to sing an ode to the other card that is bound to become my signature: the mighty Transluminant, or Trannie to her friends. A model of efficiency at 2/2 for two mana, with the late-game utility of a little evasion. How many cards are awesome in a Limited beatdown deck, yet allow it to turn into a combo deck, in the final of a GP no less?

Let’s move on to more important issues. During Top 8 deck construction they gave us a free meal, served by level 3 waiter Ray Fong. Nothing special, just the food they serve there anyway, but it also included free drinks, like water. Free water, instead of the £2 daylight robbery charge I’d been paying all day. Hang on, I’m a success now… I no longer need to rant. It was money well spent.

Quarterfinal versus Quentin Martin
Who didn’t see that coming? The major difference here is that it was a feature match, and it is very difficult to feature a match of two Englishmen named Martin and Mr. Martin. Can’t use first names, can’t use nationalities, gotta stick to one way of doing it and it will still be confusing to read, where Martin isn’t me. I think he should’ve referred to us as “the Q-Meister” and “the Dinglenator” or something like that, but that’s just me.

Again, this match was well-covered. I don’t have that much to add, but in game 1 I find it funny how I kept playing like a scrub because that was the way to play. Turn all my men sideways and push them into the red zone. Quentin managed a series of desperate topdecks, but really nothing that could stop my bashing. This game shows the true power of Seeds of Strength, as an opponent who’s on the back foot from the start is easily shut out of staging a comeback through its punishing power.

Game 2 his deck came together perfectly and mashed me, but in game 3 he was mana-flooded and so the match as a whole just demonstrates once again how consistency does trump power most of the time in this format. Of course my deck was powerful, but I never had the implosion of a four-color deck like Quentin’s, and that‘s why I beat him.

Game 3 I made several mistakes, most notably not bouncing the Petrahydrox sooner, and probably would’ve lost to Ghosts of the Innocent if I hadn’t had the Mortify handy. I’m so glad I didn’t have to face that card with my earlier decks that had no answers to it! What can I say? It really was my lucky weekend.

Semi-final versus Roel Heeswijk
Roel started the tournament on 4-2 and then rattled off seven straight wins for a marvellous come-from-behind performance. In the coverage Roel was described as “a Limited player rated highly in the Netherlands but not so well known on the world stage.” I, however, remember his glorious Top 2 performance at Grand Prix Nottingham and was really impressed with the way he drafted UB aggro, and especially with how he abused Junktroller. Good news for me – he is definitely playing Blue.

At this stage we got something I don’t think I’ve ever had before — seeing the opponent’s deck before the match. I was only half-joking when I said I don’t understand Blue cards in this format. Frank Karsten got that quote wrong, by the way; the quote about the numbers being too small was made by a spectator, not me. That’s not what I find inexplicable about Blue in this block. My confusion comes from the fact that Blue decks have ridiculously low creature counts (e.g. twelve in Roel’s deck), most of which aren’t particularly good. Then the Blue mages frequently use their turn to just draw more cards, and the rest of the deck consists of a variety of removal spells and tricks that always appear too random to be reliably useful. I know that card advantage is powerful, but when you tap out in your main phase to draw loads of cards you really need defences up, since it’s the worst tempo play in the history of Magic.

Newsflash: Tempo still exists in Magic, even in Ravnica block Limited.

Game 1 against Roel was a bit odd, as all my deck gave me was some small flyers. Fortunately, and strangely, Roel’s deck was rather ill-equipped to deal with flyers, and he couldn’t deal with the four-point life swing of Mourning Thrull plus Ghost Warden.

I am quite proud of my play in game 2, not because I read correctly that he had the Wildsize – his signals were far too blatant – but because of the way I played around it. Sure, I could’ve traded the Mossdog for it, but I had a hand full of convoke guys I wanted to churn out as soon as possible. In the end I happily traded a Siege Wurm for it, because at that stage I didn’t need it to keep the momentum going until my victory was confirmed.

I wish the other semi-final had gone the other way, as an English-Scottish final at a Welsh Grand Prix would’ve been too juicy. It was not to be, though. Oh well, England-Germany has interesting history, too. Y’know, two world wars, one World Cup, and Grand Prix Cardiff.

Final versus Wesimo Al-Bacha
Wesimo may be a rising star. He may go far. Before that happens, however, I think he needs to get his nerves under control. He was this gibbering nervous wreck who kept swearing and telling himself he can’t beat my deck.

I don’t know whether he realised that I speak fluent German and understood every word he said. Either way, I found his frustration almost comical. He was also overlooking some of the subtleties of the match-up.

After game 1 he said something to the effect of “Oh, man, once the Cloister came down I should have won it!” This statement demonstrates that he hadn’t realised all the implications the Bottled Cloister brings with it. For one, its pure card advantage is nowhere near as powerful against me as it against most other decks. Additionally, it comes with a serious drawback in that it disables his most potent weapon — Boros Fury Shield. It is truly scary for a deck with so many huge monsters, and whenever the Cloister hit the table I was safe from it. I sideboarded in the Caregiver just to have another way to save myself.

He was also generally crippling his combat tricks as defensive tools. That’s fine when he’s the aggressor, but my monsters outclassed his so quickly that he almost never was. Sure, sometimes it doesn’t matter – like that turn in game 2 where he played Withstand in my upkeep – but that doesn’t change the fact that the Cloister is card advantage with a drawback that can lose games. The card I sideboarded out for the Caregiver was the MVP from the last round, Boros Guildmage, because he had no big creatures and First Strike would have done very little. In game 3 I sided in a Plains for a Plains just to confuse him. It’s something people should do more often.

Recap of the three games: Game 1 was won by my combo. Game 2 was won by his card advantage (it does work sometimes…) and game 3 was lost by his dodgy manabase.

As soon as the final was over I went swimming in a sea of congratulatory handshakes and hugs, and my brain decided it was really time to get out of here and I became an empty shell with a huge grin on its face. I look at that picture of me, with my trophy and my dragon, and it still doesn’t look real — my lips aren’t that wide!

By the way, the dragon is not for sale. If anyone hurts him in any way they’re dead. Dead! DEEEEEAAAAAAD!!!!!

So that was my Grand Prix Cardiff experience. I’m proud to have contributed to the current excellent state of English Magic. Two Grand Prix wins and a Pro Tour final so far this season — English Magic is in better shape than ever. Watch out — England is the new Japan. Y’all need to tremble with fear, I tells ya. Grozoth is on our side.

Thanks for reading,

darkheartothorny on StarCityGames forums and MTGO