Constructed Criticism – A Roman Holiday

Claim your territory at The 2009's State and Provincial Championships!
Thursday, November 26th – Four months ago, I made the U.S. National Team. This has been my biggest Magic accomplishment to date, and I’m very proud of it. However, making the National Team is nothing compared to making Top 8 at a Pro Tour or Worlds, so preparation for these tournaments has been my priority over the last few months.

Four months ago, I made the U.S. National Team. This has been my biggest Magic accomplishment to date, and I’m very proud of it. However, making the National Team is nothing compared to making Top 8 at a Pro Tour or Worlds, so preparation for these tournaments has been my priority over the last few months. Since the release of Zendikar, Jund has been established as the best deck, and only a few weeks ago did I really figure out how to beat it. However, when you do well at a large tournament, people notice. People, in turn, figure out how to beat you, and that is where I made my biggest mistake. While my wife, Kali, won the StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open in Nashville, it put my deck on the radar. I had originally planned to use the tournament as a testing ground for the deck, but in doing so well with it I set off alarm bells for the best players in the World.

When I first wrote about the Eldrazi Green deck last week, I was not really expecting a lot of people to play it, or even take it seriously. Pros almost always dismiss decks that seem to have a linear game plan, and much enjoy casting spells that allow them to outplay their opponent. I had firmly decided upon playing the Eldrazi Green deck a few days prior to the tournament, since it was the deck I had the most experience playing, as well as having fair matchups across the board.

Kali and I left the Saturday before Worlds on our flight to Rome so that we could do a little sightseeing. After 10 hours of flying and moving 7 hours forward in time, jet lag had finally crept up on us. We were walking zombies in the train station, trying to find directions to our hotel. We learned that a bus ran by our hotel, but could not for the life of us figure out where it stopped. We asked a few people, but few spoke English, so we were in a bit of a pickle. We decided after about 30 minutes of searching that we would just give the address to a cab driver and get there sooner. Sleep was necessary, and we were done wandering around aimlessly.

After sleeping most of Sunday into oblivion, we woke up around 9pm and decided we were thoroughly starving. We figured out that the bus ran near the hotel, and if we just got off at a random stop near a restaurant, we could easily get back. We found a quaint little Chinese restaurant that was still open, and decided to eat some comfort food: Hot and Sour Soup with Chicken Lo Mein. After haumphing down the food, we tried to pay for our dinner. To our surprise, they didn’t take credit cards, traveler’s checks, or debit cards from America. I tried to use the ATM nearby but it wasn’t working, so what were we going to do? I tried to talk to the owner, but no one in the restaurant spoke English. I had about 12 Euro to pay, but the bill was 17, and I was stuck. We had no money at the hotel other than traveler’s checks, no way to get anywhere without waiting 30 minutes on the bus (which might have stopped running by this point), no cell phones, and no idea exactly where we were…

Then some goddess comes back from the kitchen and tells us we can just go. I know she’ll never read this, but she saved our life. I’m pretty sure she was the wife of the owner, and we promised in broken Italian that we would return tomorrow to pay what we owed. However, I had given them all my Euros and the busses has stopped running, so we out of the pan and into the fire. I remembered vaguely which direction the bus had come, so we decided to hoof it down the street back towards our hotel. After falling into a ditch, three miles of trudging on very thin walkways near the highway, and an hour and a half later, we finally made it back to the hotel. What. A. Night.

After returning, we vowed to never let this happen again. We decided to strap ourselves with traveler’s checks (that are completely and utterly useless in Italy), debit cards, credit cards, and everything else we could think of the next morning, then headed out in search of a bank or money exchange. We found a few banks that gave us the run-around and wouldn’t let us cash in our traveler’s checks, so we hoofed it to an ATM and tried our debit cards. To our complete and utter surprise, something went right and we got some money! We went back to the Chinese restaurant and paid what we owed them, and went on about our day. We decided that the Coliseum awaited!

A bus ride and train ride later, and we arrived at the Coliseo station. We walked out of the train station expecting to have to travel further to get to the Coliseum, but it was right in front of us when we walked out, in all of its awe and beauty. After walking about 10 feet out of the station, we were literally bombarded with people asking us if we wanted a tour. To our chagrin, there was a very long wait to get inside the Coliseum, but tours got “special” passes that allowed them to circumvent the line. As we walked around, we shopped for the cheapest tour and found one for only 8 Euro per person on top of the 12 Euro entry. The tour included the old city of Rome, which was located fairly close to the Coliseum. Once inside, Kali decided to pull out her favorite stuffed animal, place him in all sorts of weird places, and took a million pictures of him. We had a blast, but the tour of the Coliseum only lasted about 30 minutes! Cough *ripoff* cough. We decided to ditch the tour and just hang out at the Coliseum for about an hour and a half. It was truly something to behold.

After spending the rest of the day trudging through the city and finding its marvels, we found a small pizza joint that sold some of the most delicious pizza I had ever encountered. They used a white sauce instead of the “classic” tomato sauce to which we have grown accustomed, and it was truly much better than any pizza I had ever eaten. Around 5pm, we were pretty beat and decided going back to the hotel for a nap was in order. However, once arriving, we both slept for about 4 hours before ruining our sleep schedule once more. We watched a bit of Italian TV before trying to sleep some more, but we both awoke around 4am.

I tried to get in touch with a few friends of mine, including Gindy and Yurchick, to do some last minute testing before the tournament. I got in touch with Matt Marr, and we met up for dinner on Tuesday night, as well as some battling. We ate at yet another Chinese restaurant, because the Italian restaurants were either horrible or way out of our price range. Upon entering, we found the Russian National Team all testing at one of the back tables. We introduced ourselves, but they already knew me and Kali, as they were all playtesting with Eldrazi Green. Kali was giddy that people on the other side of the world knew who she was, and that they were asking her for advice on the deck. Good times. After wolfing down some delicious cuisine, we headed back to our hotel, as Matt needed some sleep. I read a book while Kali browsed the internet on her iPod Touch until about midnight, and we fell asleep once again.

Wednesday was the day of the player meeting, and I wanted to get there early so I could get in some matches and figure out what we were playing for the team portion of the tournament. We headed up there around noon, even though the site didn’t open until 2pm. We got some lunch at a little deli across the street and waited for the site to open, talking with Brad Nelson, his brother Corey (fffreakslittlebro), and Matt Marr. We talked about Standard, and how Brad could have been incriminated in the event of my sudden demise. It was good times.

The site opened and I found my teammates, and we decided upon our decks for the next day. Adam wasn’t sure what he was playing, and it took little effort to convince him to play Eldrazi Green, since it was pretty fun to play and had decent matchups across the board. Matt Marr was playing Boros, and Gindy was set on playing his White Weenie concoction he’d been working on for weeks (although he audibled last minute to Jund). Brad and Corey were both planning on playing Boros, and I had firmly decided upon Eldrazi Green after losing a ton of matches with my Jund list. Our Extended deck was going to be supplied by none other than Brian Kibler, who is actually just awesome, and Adam had Legacy on lock with some weird Counterbalance brew that supposedly smashed aggro decks and other Counterbalance decks.

The next morning we headed to the site at 7am, since the buses were fairly unreliable. The tournament didn’t start until 9, but that would leave us some time to get breakfast and finish out our decklists. Here is the list I ended up playing:

A few notes: Master of the Wild Hunt is much better against Jund than Garruk Wildspeaker, as he doesn’t die to Blightning. If left unmolested, he can singlehandedly win you the game against almost any deck. I really missed having the third Ant Queen, but felt like having four Master of the Wild Hunt was just better overall. Garruk was one of the weakest cards in the deck, since he makes you even more vulnerable to Blightning, but still warrants a slot.

Here’s the report:

Day 1

Round 1 against Lino Burgold playing Jund

I lose the die roll and keep a pretty solid open. However, Lino’s hand is actually unbeatable, and I get beaten down by a turn 2 Putrid Leech, turn 3 Blightning, turn 4 Garruk into Terminate into attack for 4. Then Broodmate Dragon comes down turn 5. I have no Eldrazi Monument, so I’m just dead on board to Garruk. I put up a fight, but his draw was just a bit too much to handle. On the play, I probably would have been able to stabilize, as I had an Eldrazi Monument on top the turn after I died, and ended with an Ant Queen in play.

Game 2 I beat him down with a pair of 4/4 Great Sable Stags. Game 3 he plays Leech into Blightning, then slams Bloodbraid down and hits a removal spell. I’m down to one creature in play and only two cards in hand, and can’t really do anything when he has the Lightning Bolt in response to my Stag becoming a 4/4.


At this point, Gindy and Adam both won so I’m feeling like I’m letting them down. I need to step it up and crush the rest of the day.

Round 2 against Toni Portolan playing “Dredge”

I win the die roll, and curve out with Llanowar Elves into Nissa’s Chosen into Master of the Wild Hunt. He cycles some cards and doesn’t really do anything. I play an Eldrazi Monument to threaten lethal, and he doesn’t have enough mana to Unearth Kederekt Leviathan.

Game 2 is a little harder, but I drew both Relics of Progenitus and make life hell for him. He can never move all in, and I’m able to slowly but surely whittle away at his life total. A pair of Great Sable Stags finish the job.


Adam is 2-0 and Gindy is 1-1.

Round 3 against Corey (fffreakslittlebro) playing Boros

The day before, we had played some games, and people were telling him to maindeck Earthquake. Apparently after losing 3 games in a row he felt like Earthquake was much better than he originally thought.

Game 1 was really close, but ultimately came down to the fact that his Plated Geopede was able to crash me for 7 after an Earthquake for 3 took care of literally my entire board.

Game 2 he mulligans into a one-lander and I roll him with Green fatties.

Game 3 I get to a point where I’m at 10 life, he has 2 cards in hand, and I can either use Nissa to gain 4 life, or play Eldrazi Monument and another creature, forcing him to kill me in one turn since I have lethal in play. During my end step, he uses Burst Lightning to put me at 6 life, then untaps, draws his seventh land, and Earthquakes me for 6. Bad beats. He tells me later that he kept a five-land Earthquake hand on the mulligan. I didn’t put him on Earthquake though, since there was a time on turn 4-5 where he could have killed three creatures and Garruk with an Earthquake for three.


Adam is 2-1 and Gindy is also 1-2.

Round 4 against Tomas Horvath playing Boros

He wins the die roll and nut-draws me with Steppe Lynx, Geopede, removal, then Skyfisher into Bushwhacker, followed by another Bushwhacker. My draw is fast but can’t compete. He has the Bolt for my Master of the Wild Hunt, and I never see an Eldrazi Monument or Nissa Revane.

Game 2 is much the same, as he gets Steppe Lynx and Geopede active. I play a few guys but just end up losing to Earthquake, backed by 4/5 and 5/5 Lynxes and Geopedes.


Gindy is 2-2 and Adam is 3-1. I’m feeling pretty bad right now, as I thought I should be doing much better, but my draws have been sub-par and my opponents have just been rolling me.

Round 5 against Jason playing RWU Control

I feel like I deserve this one, since his deck looks pretty similar to the deck I built a month ago. Game 1 he plays Earthquake on Turn 4, killing my entire board. I play a preemptive Eldrazi Monument, but Path to Exile takes care of my only creature to sacrifice. Later he plays Baneslayer Angel, and I have no outs after he Lightning Bolts my Master of the Wild Hunt.

Game 2 I curve out pretty sickly, and put him to one life with attacks, even after he counters my Eldrazi Monument. He can’t Earthquake since he’s at one, and loses shortly after.

Game 3 I get Earthquaked twice, Day of Judgment twice, Path to Exiled twice, and Lightning Bolted. He also has Ajani Vengeant and Baneslayer Angel to recoup some of his life lost, and I never see a Monument before all my creatures enter the graveyard.

1-4. I’m feeling pretty horrible at this point, since I was expecting to do well. Gindy is 2-3 and Adam is 4-1, so if I win the next round we’ll still be in okay shape.

Round 6 against Boros

I win the die roll and he mulligans. I come out quick with a Turn 3 Nissa Revane, and play some dorks. After getting an Ant Queen active, he doesn’t draw Path and can’t race.

Game 2 he destroys me with Lynx and Geopede backed by Earthquake. Sick draw.

Game 3 I get to finally blow someone out with Fog, and attack for just lethal on the swing back.


After the match, we start scrambling to get our decks together for the team portion, only to overhear that something has gone horribly wrong at Gindy’s table. Apparently there was a misrepresentation of the game state, and a million judges swarmed in to see what the problem was. Sheldon ended up ruling that Gindy had used a misrepresentation of a game state to gain an advantage, and was disqualified without prize, shattering our hopes of repeat Team Champions.

Gindy was 2-3 and should have been 3-3, but there was some incredible amount of controversy over something he did (or didn’t do) in the match. I don’t really want to talk about it, because I don’t want to speculate on something I did not see. However, I do know that he literally did nothing wrong in-game, although he thought Master of the Wild Hunt worked differently than it actually did. After the match, he told his opponent he could have killed a 2/2 tapped Wolf (that had attacked) when he used his Master of the Wild Hunt’s ability to kill an opposing creature with a 3/3 Wolf. This is not how the game was represented on WotC, so I just thought I’d try to clear some of that up. His opponent took advantage of a situation where he had already lost, and Gindy just didn’t know how his cards worked. Gindy was disqualified without prize, and our National Team was disqualified with him. However, Adam and I still get the minimum payout, so I wasn’t too angry. After all, Gindy lost more money than we did.

With dreams crushed and hopes fizzled, I could still potentially win out and make Top 8. At the very least, I could do very well and make Top 50 to qualify for San Diego. I had to look forward and keep my head up. Tomorrow was draft, and in order to have any shot at Top 8, I had to 6-0. At 2-4, my pods shouldn’t be that difficult, but this was Worlds, so everyone was at least decent.

On Thursday we arrived at the site and started drafting around 9am. Kali wanted to play the Sealed PTQ, but decided against it since she was feeling sick. She was starting to lose her voice and wasn’t feeling up to snuff, and certainly didn’t want to battle. Zach Efland was kind enough to give her some Benadryl, which promptly knocked her unconscious.

I drafted a solid RW deck in the first pod with 2 Kor Skyfisher, Kor Hookmaster, and a plethora of solid removal.

Day 2

Round 7 against BR

My opponent must have been the only Black drafter at the table, because he just soul-crushed me both games. Game 1 he stalled on three land with a Surrukar Marauders, but was able to play a few removal spells for my threat-light draw. I killed a Plated Geopede, but had no answers when my Felidar Sovereign bit a Hideous End.

Game 2 was pretty much the same, except I drew threats. I threatened his board with a few creatures, but he had Disfigure, two Hideous End, and finally a Mark of Mutiny to finish me off when I played a Kor Skyfisher, bounced my Kabira Crossroads, and gained enough life to survive… or so I thought.

At 2-5, I felt pretty awful. I thought my deck was really good, so I didn’t let it bother me too much and kept playing.

Round 8 against RW

I don’t remember much about these Limited games, other than my opponent’s only creature in Game 1 was Hellkite Charger, for which I had Journey to Nowhere. He had mulliganed into a hand with removal but nothing threatening. I was able to beat him down with Kor Skyfishers.

Game 2 he mulliganed again, but drew literally no creatures. It’s not hard to win when that happens. He killed a few guys with Journey to Nowhere and Inferno Trap, but it didn’t matter when he had no blockers. At least I can beat opponents who don’t cast threats!


Round 9 against BW

I have a nutty opener that consists of Skyfisher, Geopede, and Bushwhacker, but he stalls me out with Emeria Angel. I get him to 7 life, but can’t push through the extra damage.

Games 2 and 3, I drew removal for the Emeria Angel and he just played some 2/2’s that didn’t do much. My Geopedes and Skyfishers outclassed his army, and he didn’t draw removal for my evasive guys.


Draft pod 2 I drafted RW again, but this time with 2 Trusty Machete and 3 Kor Skyfisher.

Round 10 against Robert Menton playing RW

Game 1 is pretty close, but I end up losing to a just-lethal Goblin Bushwhacker attack when I had played around removal but not considered the hasted pump guy.

Game 2 I roll him with Skyfishers and Machete. He has a lot of removal in his deck, but I finally got a flier to stick with Machete and raced.

Game 3 is pretty difficult for me, as I get him down to little on board while I have lethal in play. He has one card in hand, and I’m positive it’s Spire Barrage. The only way I can lose is if he draws a removal spell or Mountain. He draws the Mountain, puts me to seven, and plays the Mountain and Spire Barrage for exactly lethal.


Round 11 against Tomas again

My opponent got a game loss for mis-registering his deck, and I beat him pretty easily in the one game we played. He had some removal, but apparently never drew the second Plains for his Day of Judgment stuck in hand. Skyfisher and Machete took it all the way.

I get some revenge, though it is tainted by the game loss.


Round 12 against Jason again

I get some revenge here too against Jason. Game 1 is really close, and comes down to me topdecking a Kor Skyfisher that bounces a Goblin Shortcutter, keeping his Vampire Nighthawk from blocking. I get in there for exactly lethal with Fliers.

Game 2 I use Goblin Bushwhacker with just enough guys to do him 10 damage when I am at one life.


If I can 6-0 the final day, I can make Top 32 and get some good money. 5-1 probably makes Top 50, but if not I can still play it out for money and pro points. However, two losses means I’m just done, since the only thing that matters at that point is rating.

I spend the rest of the day figuring out what I want to play. I decided upon a Tezzeret deck that used Sword of the Meek and Thopter Foundry as an alternate win condition, but I couldn’t find any Tezzerets so that idea was out the window. Figuring that I needed to 6-0, I took a gamble and decided that I would just move all in with Hypergenesis. Hopefully people wouldn’t be prepared, and I could just steamroll them.

Day 3

Round 13 against UB Faeries

This is actually the worst matchup possible for me, but I almost win anyway.

Game 1 I get a turn 2 Hypergenesis off Simian Spirit Guide, letting me put Progenitus and Iona, Shield of Emeria in play. However, he plays Umezawa’s Jitte, Spellstutter Sprite, and Mistbind Clique, presenting a race. I name Blue with Iona, since I just can’t beat Cryptic Command, but he has the Doom Blade instead, putting me very far behind. On the last turn, my opponent is good enough to use Jitte to kill his Dark Confidant when he has lethal in the air. I draw blanks for the rest of the game, but I don’t think I would have won even if I had gotten another fatty into play.

Game 2 I beat him down with a Turn 2 Iona on Black, which he can’t really race. I use Demonic Dread and Ardent Plea to deal him exactly eight when he counters the Hypergenesis.

Game 3 he opens with Thoughtseize and Extirpate. I can’t really play spells, and scoop to a Mistbind Clique.


Round 14 against UR Hive Mind

He opens with Serum Visions, and I have no idea what he is playing. I stick a turn 2 Progenitus, but he puts a Hive Mind into play. I only have 4 lands, and I’m just sure that I’m dead. Luckily for him, I was right. He casts Pact of the Titan, I have to copy it, and I can’t pay 5 on my upkeep. Awkward.

Game 2 I mulligan into a hand with 2 lands, Vendilion Clique, a Cascade Spell, and Iona. I don’t draw another land, and he just combos me out on turn 3 with Seething Song, Chrome Mox, and Hive Mind into Pact of the Titan again.

6-8 and out of contention, so I drop.

It was a pretty horrible day, as I clearly chose the wrong deck. However, had I been playing in a better bracket of players, I could have potentially battled against Zoo all day with little or no disruption for the combo. That would have been much better for me, and I should have chosen a deck based on my standings rather than gambled.

I made a lot of mistakes in preparing for this tournament, but I’ve felt like I’ve learned a lot, and been introduced to a new network of people. In the future, this should really help me. I’m not qualified for San Diego, so I’m back to grinding again. Hopefully I’ll win a qualifier and be on my way. I’m hopeful for the future, but I have to take everything that has happened in this tournament and learn from it. Errors in preparation and errors in deckbuilding really cost me.

This past week really put everything into perspective for me. I’m not nearly as good as I thought, and I really need to work on every part of my game. After the tournament, we hung out with some new friends, and spent all of Sunday playing drafts and checking out Patrick Chapin “set” that he created. It was very fun to draft, and we had a blast. Hopefully he’ll write something about it in the future.

We came home on Monday, and spent literally 26 hours either flying, driving, or in airports. It was a brutal beating, and I’m so glad to be home. Cheeseburgers never tasted so good.

Thanks for reading.

strong sad on MOL