I woke up Saturday morning feeling refreshed and ready for action. Blair had been a true pal and driven our roommate, Kelly, to the site so that he could get his “booth on,” and we were allotted an extra hour or so of sleep. In this time period, I managed to be the last one up and into the shower, making people pushy when it came to getting out the door to the car waiting for us downstairs. I was showered, dressed, and out the door in about 10 minutes. I am fairly infamous for long showers, and on occasion have fallen asleep in said shower if the hour is early enough, so it was relatively surprising that I was ready in such a hurry. The night before had been a good time, and I drank just a bit too much to be feeling super cheerful. Luckily, Red Bull exists, and I figured I could grab a few from the Starbucks located in the hotel lobby at the event site before the day began.
The 20 minute drive to the site was fairly uneventful, but for some reason I kept thinking of a song in my head. If you’ve ever watched the show Metalocalypse, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The band from the show, Dethklok, released an album a while back (yes, a real album that is amazing), and Blair had played it aplenty on our long journey to the tournament. I decided to ask Blair if I could borrow his iPod so I could jam out for a few minutes before the tournament resumed. Afterwards, I went to the Starbucks to grab the breakfast of champions: mixed fruit and a pair of Red Bulls. The 2nd draft began shortly after, with the our pods going up on the pairings board.
I began the draft by opening a decent pack 1 with a few goodies, but decided that Magma Spray was the safest pick (I don’t remember everything else in the pack). I got a second and third pick Executioner’s Capsule, as well as a fourth pick Bloodpyre Elemental that forced me into BR, which I am always happy to be in. The second pack gave me Fiery Fall and Volcanic Fallout, as well as a few more creatures like Shambling Remains and Goblin Outlander. The third pack had some goodies, as I got a Bituminous Blast and Terminate to round out the removal. I got a really late Singe Mind Ogre that made the cut into my deck, and I was fairly happy to play him as I was light on creatures. I think some people undervalue the Ogre, but I never mind having 1-2 Singe Mind Ogres in my deck, and especially so if I am very aggressive. He can steal games out of nowhere, and is much better when people rely on manafixing in the last two packs that cost three mana (Borderposts), or the landcyclers that tend to cost six or more. I drafted a few more random creatures, no real bombs like the last draft, but had a strong deck overall
Moving on to the first round of the draft, I see I am paired against Sam Stein. I’ve never actually played against him, but I hear he is a pretty good player. However, I am very happy with my deck and don’t think I should lose unless my opponent has some sick bomb like Martial Coup or Lavalanche. My deck could easily handle a Broodmate Dragon with the right draw, so those two cards are my only real worries.
Round 8 versus Sam Stein playing Naya Aggro
Game 1, Sam plays a few Aven Trailblazers, as well as a few other random Green fatties. I don’t remember exactly which ones, but I eventually killed all of his creatures and beat him down with some dorks. Singe Mind Ogre (revealing a Resounding Roar) and Etherium Abomination did the dirty work, but a topdecked Igneous Pouncer put the nail in the coffin when Sam showed me he had drawn about 9 lands.
Game 2 was as much more of a one-sided affair from his side of the board. He curved out, playing creatures on turns 2-5 while I drew no removal and no creatures that cost less than four. I tried to bluff a Volcanic Fallout, but Sam said, “If you got it, you got it.” I played a Singe Mind Ogre, once again revealing a Resounding Roar, and he killed me with a removal spell and the Resounding Roar, targeting a Marisi Twinclaws, while I was tapped out.
Game 3 was a mirror of game 1. He stumbled on lands early in the game, but still managed three or so creatures, which promptly died to Volcanic Fallout. After he drew out of his land-stall, I used a few Executioner’s Capsules and other removal spells to seal the deal.
Round 9 versus Brian Boss playing Naya Aggro
I’ve seen Brian before, but can’t really place where. I know he’s a decent player, and sit down ready to battle. However, he mulligans into a one-lander in game 1 and fails to play a spell before it is too late. I play a Shambling Remains that attacks for 20 damage.
Game 2 he mulligans again, but this time has spells to play. While still stuck on 2-3 land for a long portion of the game, he still casts spells and eventually attacks while I play the reactive game. My deck failed to provide me with relevant threats, so I was forced to waste removal on small creatures so that I could eventually take control of the late game. I eventually drew a few dorks, played some removal on his creatures, and forced him into a topdeck situation. He knocked on his deck, and it apparently delivered. He played Ranger of Eos, searching for… double Toxic Iguanar. Yep. I was pretty upset at this play, since Toxic Iguanar is usually horrible. However, Brian had a Green creature in play, and I felt really bad as my Monstrous Carabid had to attack into the 1/1 Deathtouch. I was pretty fortunate to have a removal spell for his only Green creature, but he still was able to come out alive. The next turn he plays the other Iguanar and passes. I topdeck Volcanic Fallout when he is at 6 life, and decide to go for the gold. I mainphase Fallout, but he has a Might of Alara to save his creature, which I have to attack into with my 4/4 and his 4/4 Iguanar immediately blocks. I don’t recover and die shortly after to a horde of creatures when he draws lands for Enlisted Wurm, and I just draw lands.
Game 3, he actually gets the stone nut draw against me when I mulligan, with a sick curve of creatures backed up by pump spells. I drew no removal spells, and that was that. His deck was decent, and my draws weren’t the best, but that happens sometimes and there isn’t much you can do about it.
At this point I’m 6-3, and have to win out in order to make Top 8. No biggie, right? Right?
Round 10 versus Brian Kibler playing 4-5 Color Midrange, Boooo!
I have always been a fan of Brian Kibler work, including his writings on StarCityGames.com. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever played against, and a fine southern gentleman to boot (remember the KFC suit from Honolulu?), but currently sitting between me and my goal. We shuffle up for our match, but I am surprisingly not nervous. I’m still very confident in my deck, and don’t feel like I should 1-2 this draft unless something goes horribly wrong here.
Game 1 I play a turn 3 Shambling Remains, as well as another dork, and draw plenty of removal spells for the creatures he played. When he failed to present an answer, we were off to the second game.
Game 2 is much closer. We are racing, me with Shambling Remains and Etherium Abomination, and him with a few 2/1s and 2/2s. However, he has the trump in Caldera Hellion, sitting at 8 life while I have a Fiery Fall in hand. He plays a Nacatl Hunt Pride with Rupture Spire open, and attacks with the 4/4 Hellion, which I take. Afterwards I use Fiery Fall at the end of turn to kill his 5/4. I untap, Unearth both creatures and swing for 8 damage. He has the Path to Exile (sadness), which saves his skin. I am tapped out now and at a preciously low life total. Brian untaps and plays Igneous Pouncer, attacking with both and puts me to 1 life. I untap and draw a card. I have Singe Mind Ogre in hand, and go for it. Here is what happened:
He reveals Soul’s Fire, and I confidently shake his hand and say good game. Brian does the same and looks at the top card of his deck. Unfortunately for him, we both realize after about 3 seconds that he is still alive after the Ogre resolves, and is at 1 life. We call a judge, since I am fairly certain that his actions merited a shortcut for conceding (with the handshake, saying GG, and looking at the top card(s) of his deck). The floor judge rules “looking at extra cards,” so I appeal. The head judge feels like the situation merits that Brian conceded. I feel like an idiot for “snaking” a win out of the ordeal, but Brian wishes me luck the next round and signs the slip. I just escaped a difficult match with a free win. How can I lose now? All kidding aside, I really just made a huge bonehead play. However, no play I made that turn was going to save me from losing the game. I honestly thought Brian was at 1 life when I played the Ogre, and in Brian’s own words (paraphrased), “my overwhelming confidence convinced him that he was, in fact, dead.”
I talk to Brian for a bit after the match, and he is light-hearted about the whole ordeal, laughing while saying, “That may be the first time I’ve ever conceded with lethal on board.” He seemed fairly jovial, wished me luck, and rooted me on for the rest of the tournament. I have never met a nicer person.
After getting that debacle out of the way, I had a bit of time to go grab some water and collect my thoughts. If I wanted a shot at making Top 8, I could not continue playing sloppily, and decided it was now or never. I needed a 4-0 record in the last set of Standard to Top 8 and have a shot at making the National Team. It definitely wasn’t going to be easy.
Round 11 versus Brendan O’Donnell with GW Elf Combo
Game 1 is really weird. His hand must have been a lot of blanks and random Green guys, because all he did in the first few turns was play 1/1s and Elvish Archdruid. On turn 4, he had decided that running the aggro plan was his best course of action, and attacked with one of his Archdruids into a Plumeveil. After a few turns of draw-go from him, I went into action with Volcanic Fallout, followed by a Broodmate Dragon. He never drew an answer, and we were off to sideboarding.
Game 2 he is on the play, and easily manages a turn 2 Elvish Archdruid, followed by a turn 3 Oversoul of Dusk. I am fairly sunk at this point, as I’ve sided out all my Broken Ambitions, and I didn’t side in Runed Halos. Brendan wins the sideboarding war, and I awkwardly get bashed for a million by a 5/5 to which I literally have no outs other than triple Infest, or sweeper plus Cruel Ultimatum. I never get to that much mana in time and just die.
Game 3 gets a bit sketchy in the mid-game. I decided to board back in some Broken Ambitions to prevent a turn 3 Primal Command or Oversoul of Dusk, as well as some Runed Halos to have outs to resolved Oversouls. I use an early Firespout to kill a horde of 2/2’s, but he follows that up with an Oversoul of Dusk. I play a Runed Halo naming Oversoul, and he promptly plays a second one. Obv. After I had wiped his board clean, he had no creatures in play other than Oversouls, and no hand as he had drawn about 5 lands. However, for some reason he draws 2 cards in his draw step after I use Esper Charm to draw 2 cards during my mainphase. We call a judge, and Brendan and I are both sure he has just lost the match due to an accident. He even shows me the 2 cards he’s drawn: Great Sable Stag and Primal Command. One does 3 damage a turn if I don’t kill it with the Firespout in my hand, or name Stag with Runed Halo, while the other puts the Halo on top of my deck and searches for a Regal Force. This also allows his Oversouls to deal me 10 damage (I’m sitting at 17).
The head judge comes back and rules it as a game rule violation but not drawing extra cards. He gets only a warning. I disagree with the ruling, but keep my cool as both his cards are shuffled, and one is put back into his deck at random. I tell him just to flip the other card over since I know what they both are already. He shows me….STAG. I can’t lose now. However, my deck isn’t very cooperative, and I draw a million lands in a row. Eventually I draw some gas in Cryptic Command and Cruel Ultimatum, and go on the aggressive plan with Mulldrifter. I use a Broken Ambitions later in the game for 9 to counter a Regal Force, and deal him 10 points of damage with Mulldrifter while my Ajani Vengeant and Volcanic Fallout deal the last 5 points to him. I sigh in relief, as I thought I would lose for a moment since I had drawn 20 lands and 2 win conditions. I gave him infinite time to come back from his poor draw, but luckily I was able to close out the game before he drew out of his situation.
Brendan was an all around good sport about the judge matter, and admitted afterwards that he too thought he should have received a game loss, but was quite happy that the opposite had occurred. Fortunately for me he was not able to capitalize upon his opportunity, and I had only 3 more matches to win before I made the Top 8!
Round 12 versus Josh Wludyka playing Jund
This was a “feature match,” but didn’t actually get covered. I was pretty disappointed, since it was my first feature match at a real tournament. However, I was just excited to still be in contention and figured I could make the best of it by putting the hammer down on Josh. He is a good player, and I expected him to be playing a good deck.
Unfortunately, I don’t quite remember a lot of the more important details of this match, but I’ll try my best.
Game 1 he opens with a turn 2 Sygg River Cutthroat, and doesn’t attack on turn 3. I say, “If you are good enough to play around it, then I guess I’ll just go ahead and play it.” I run the Plumeveil out there, and he plays Bituminous Blast into Bloodbraid Elf into Boggart Ram-Gang on turn 5. This sends me to 9 life, but I calmly untap and cast Firespout, taking care of his squad while still holding Agony Warp and another Plumeveil. He casts another Bloodbraid Elf into Kitchen Finks, but I play the Plumeveil and start getting aggressive with Mulldrifter. I get him down to 8, use Ajani Vengeant to shoot him for 3, and play Cruel Ultimatum for the win. Apparently he was sitting on a lot of lands.
Game 2 I am at 13 life in a flash via Putrid Leech and Ram-Gang. My mulligan didn’t help and we are already shuffling up for game 3 when I don’t draw another land.
Game 3 he doesn’t have a very aggressive draw, and that gives me plenty of time to play Runed Halo on Anathemancer, as well as a Cruel Ultimatum on turn 7. After a few draw steps and a Broodmate Dragon later, he packs it in.
At this point, I am surprisingly calm. I need one more win to get some Pro Points, and two more wins to make it into the Top 8. I’m playing for possibly thousands of dollars, but I just know that in the immortal words of Derrick Sheets:
“I can’t lose!”
When the next round is called, I see I’m paired against Matt Severa. I’m just happy that I don’t recognize the name, but I do recognize the player once we sit down. I know from watching a round before that he is playing Elementals, which is not a great matchup for me.
Round 13 versus Matt Severa playing Elementals
Game 1 is pretty weird, as he doesn’t have a super aggressive draw, and I counter his relevant threats early in the game. I stabilize with a Volcanic Fallout, killing approximately 6 creatures of his, and play a few Broodmate Dragons. He plays Reveillark and Horde of Notions. I use a Dragon token and Plumeveil to gang-block the 5/5 before it gets out of hand, and later use a Cryptic Command to tap his creatures and alpha strike via 12 power worth of Dragons backed by a Cruel Ultimatum.
Game 2 he keeps a sketchy hand with only 2 lands, Flamekin Harbinger for Smokebraider, and Soul Warden, which he didn’t side out. I actually couldn’t be happier. I use an early Volcanic Fallout to kill his creatures, but he uses Fulminator Mages to put me behind on lands. We go back and forth saying “draw-go” for a while, but I eventually draw out of my situation. I counter his relevant Reveillarks and Horde of Notions, and take the game in short order with Broodmate Dragon and Cruel Ultimatum.
10-3 and only 1 more to go!
Round 14 is covered in the coverage archive, but I’ll go into a bit more detail as it seemed a bit short on the specifics.
Round 14 versus John Rolf playing Faeries
When I lose the die roll I’m a bit miffed, since Faeries is much better when they are on the play.
He opens with Drowned Catacombs, and follows with a second Catacombs on turn 2. I’m pretty happy about this, since I’m given infinite time to set up. However, he does manage a turn 3 Bitterblossom, but I’m sitting on a mediocre hand with Plumeveil, Firespout, and Ajani Vengeant. I play the Ajani on turn 4 when he only has 2 Faeries in play (including the Blossom), which means he needs either maindeck Negate or Broken Ambitions to counter it. My gambit paid off, and the Ajani soon tied up his mana in very awkward ways. He eventually drew a Mutavault, but couldn’t afford to attack into my Plumeveil. To compound his problems, I had Agony Warp and Firespout when his swarm got large enough to attack Ajani. I wiped his board clean, and he conceded shortly after when he couldn’t stop my Ajani from casting a one-sided Armageddon.
Game 2 is pretty dicey. He uses an early Thoughtseize to nab a Cryptic Command instead of a Volcanic Fallout. This instantly lets me know he’s sitting on Mistbind Clique. After a few turns of me tapping out, he casts Puppeteer Clique, removing a Plumeveil that had been countered earlier when he attacked with a Mutavault. I decided that the best course of action was to set him behind on threats and Cryptic Command his Puppeteer Clique back to his hand. This gave me another draw to hit a land to cast Broodmate Dragon, and if he tapped out for the Clique again then I would have an open window. However, he passed the turn after playing Jace and Bitterblossom. Blech. A turn later I quickly said “Upkeep,” to which he replied, “Mistbind Clique.” I attempted a Broken Ambitions for X=4 with him sitting on 3 lands untapped. He tries for Spellstutter Sprite. I think I have made a mistake by not making X=5, but I was playing around Broken Ambitions from his side of the board also. I said, “Sprite resolves, but you have to target the Mistbind Clique because you only have 3 other Faeries in play.” In response to this, he tried to activate the Mutavault, which also resolved, which did nothing since he had to choose a target before the Mutavault was a creature. After a long battle with the judge, my opponent resigned to his fate and I used Volcanic Fallout to wipe the board clean, including the Mutavault. Soon after this exchange, I cast Cruel Ultimatum when he was sitting on no counterspells and apparently 3 Warren Weirdings for my Great Sable Stags that I never drew (I talked to a friend after the match). I had 9 mana and Negate on backup, so it was more than likely going to resolve.
11-3: GOT THERE!
At this point, I’m getting congratulations from all around. Even Patrick Chapin yells out into the crowd when they announce that I’m in the Top 8. My friends all congratulate me on the accomplishment, but nothing felt better than hearing my name over the loudspeaker. My fiancee called me to tell me congratulations and to tell me she was proud of me. I also got about 100 text messages over the next 4 hours from friends wishing me luck the next day. I think I’m a good Magic player, but even I was not expecting to do this well at the tournament. I thought that, at best, I’d make the money and pay for the trip. Instead I’m guaranteed $1000 and have a sick shot at making the National Team, all while qualifying for Worlds in the process (guess I don’t have to play the MOL Champs anymore!).
I fill out some tax paperwork, get the decklists of other Top 8 competitors, as well as the brackets as to who will be playing who in the morning. Unfortunately, most of the people in my hotel room are bums and none of us really have cards to build the decks I needed to test against. I feel confident that I can figure out sideboarding plans on my own, though, and leave it up to the fates. The next day should be fun, but tonight should be a celebration!
We go to dinner at the small restaurant located in the hotel, where they have a pretty small menu consisting of some great items. Chris Greene and I share a pitcher of some local beer that is delicious, some eggrolls that are incredible, and some pizza that we didn’t even come close to finishing. Even the waitress gets in on the action, and she knows how to play Magic! To boot, she asked us a rules question about Fading. Not Vanishing from Planar Chaos, but Fading from Nemesis. Apparently, there was some dispute among her playgroup as to when the permanent with Fading died, but the many desperate-for-attention Magic players at the table literally knocked each other out of the way to answer her question. “I’m a level 1 Judge” could be heard by tables across the restaurant. It was quite possibly the highlight of the evening, eclipsing even my run into the Top 8. After I bought dinner for a few of my roommates, we decided to run a team draft. Since most of my friends are bad at Magic, we decided to just let the two worst players pick teams and we had a slug-fest 4v4 draft that took about 4 hours. Bad idea. We left the site around 1am and I got about 5 hours of sleep.
For some reason I woke up the next morning thinking of Kenan and Kel, and how much Kel loved orange soda. Don’t even ask why because even I don’t know. But I do remember responding to someone’s question while I was in the shower with, “Who loves Orange Soda? Kel loves Orange Soda. Is it true? I do I do I do…ooo…ooo.” Don’t. Even. Ask. I think I was still partially asleep.
We left from the hotel early on Sunday morning so that the remaining donks in the car could sign up for the $3000 draft challenge that would be running simultaneously with the Top 8 from Nationals. On the ride to the site, Blair played some metal to try to get us going early in the morning, since it had seemingly helped me the day before. After some rocking, we arrived to the site just before 8am, giving everyone ample time to sign up for the $3000 Draft Challenge. Will Cruse had placed in the money at Nationals (18th I think) and was looking to score a few more bills before we left Kansas City. Blair wanted to redeem himself for a poor showing, and MG decided against drafting since it was not his strongest quality. Chris Greene was just a bum (as always) and decided to sleep in, while I used this time between 8am and 10am (when the Top 8 started) talking to people about their thoughts on sideboarding, as well as how they thought my opponents would sideboard. I figured out Brian Robinson’s plan pretty quickly, but Gindy/Hendrickson was much trickier. I really wanted Hendrickson to win, since Gindy had a nightmare of a maindeck and sideboard plan for me to battle against. Luckily, I had to win the first round of the Top 8 before I had to worry about that.
When the Top 8 started, a lot of people began to gather around the tables. I was pretty nervous under the spotlight, but I had a small cheering section that rooted me on against all odds. Brian was a top-notch player and an overall great guy. We exchanged the formal “good luck,” and we were off on our best-of-five battle.
The Top 8 is extensively covered on the mothership, and I would really hate to copy/paste their fine work here. I felt like I played well, but definitely not perfect. I made a small mistake against Gindy, but the match was full of one-sided games and the fifth was no different. His decklist was superior for the mirror match and he deserved the win. Identity Crisis put me away, and there was very little chance of me recovering from his draw in that game.
I also would like to say that Brad Nelson is actually a really nice guy. The coverage makes him look like a bad sport, as he kept needling me. However, he told me afterwards that it was their game-plan all along, to needle me and put me on tilt. He did a great job, but I recovered in short order before I let tilt take control. Luckily, his draw in the deciding game was not on par with mine, and I was able to take it home quickly. In the final turns, I was attacking with multiple Stags while holding Cryptic Command. That was quite possibly the greatest feeling in the world.
After the Finals between Yurchick and Gindy, we were all escorted away for pictures. Along the way, I talked with Brad, Gindy, and Adam about Worlds formats, exchanged information so we could contact each other, and just tried to get to know my fellow teammates. We have our work cut out for us this year, as the Japanese team is just incredible, but our squad is solid. I pride myself on being very capable when I focus, and I am confident that we will do well in Rome. I just hope not disappoint everyone in the U.S. who will be rooting for us. Rome should be a fantastic place to visit, and I’m stoked about the whole trip. I’ll be bringing my newly wedded wife along for the ride, as we visit amazing pieces of art, and places I’ve only read about in books. It should be a fantastic vacation.
As of this moment I’m qualified for PT: Austin and Worlds, and ready to make my run for the Pro Tour Train. If I don’t do well in Austin or Rome, then I have truly blown an amazing chance that has been given to me, and don’t deserve another. I would love to become a regular on the PT, but it will take a lot of hard work and dedication over the next few months, and that is something I am ready and willing to do. Thanks for rooting me on, and I hope you enjoyed reading about this experience as much as I enjoyed living it.
Top 10 Slops and Props
10. Leaving at 6:30am on Friday morning to get to the site on time
9. Not eating BBQ on the entire trip
8. Destroying my own lands with Esper Charm
7. Forgetting to play a land after Cruel Ultimatum
6. Me wearing the same shirt on Day 2 and Day 3
5. Anathemancer… seriously, I hate that guy.
4. Thought Hemorrhage for all of my win conditions
3. MG going 0-4 in the 4v4 draft
2. Chris Greene going 0-3 in a draft and still getting paid
1. Blair playing Rhox War Monk over Kitchen Finks
10. Hibachi Japanese Steak House for being insane
9. Random waitress asking about Fading
8. Gindy for being a Top Notch person
7. Will Cruse for giving me his King Crab leftovers
6. Blair for helping pay for dinner one night
5. Will Cruse for going X-1 in team drafts and making money at Nats
4. “Go into the Water” by Dethklok. Truly inspiring
3. Red Bull. Thanks for existing.
2. MG for high fiving me on camera when I went up 2-1 against Brian Robinson
1. Broodmate Dragon. Without you I would never have gotten there.