Writing about a tournament where you win or nearly win is easy. Each game is a triumphant record of card choices, each match a tribute to your playing and deck building skill. Writing about a tourney where you come twelfth of sixteen is a hell of a lot more difficult. I’ll give it a go, though, as I know some of you out there want to know how three rounds of Standard, three rounds of Peasant Magic and a knockout 5-Color magic tournament works out.
In my last two articles, I’ve looked at Peasant Magic and 5 Color decks – but as many readers have written to me and let me know, my unfamiliarity with the format has led me to leaving out many good cards I just didn’t know about, as both formats allow players to choose from many thousands of cards that even Extended players can no longer play with.
The tournament began, as so many do, with a week’s worth of deck building – all on a Thursday night. I knew that I’d need to check over my own Standard, Peasant and 5 Color decks, but I also had requests for most of the body of a Peasant High Tide deck, any spare cards I could find for a copy of my Peasant Counter-Burn deck and any of the guts of a Slide deck that I could find.
On top of that I had to put my 5 Color deck together, not an easy task in itself, and build a few spare Peasant decks. In the last few Invitationals as many as four of the Invitees haven’t shown up and I’m pretty sure that someone would squeeze in and not have a deck with them.
When all of that was finished, I sat down to build up an Extended deck for Sunday. My plan was to play the Invitational on Saturday and get a lift over to the PTQ in Bristol on Sunday. Of all the decks I could have chosen, I chose to put a Tinker deck together. With all the Benzo and Angry Hermit decks, around I figured a pair of main deck Ensnaring Bridges might help, as Tinker empties its hand so quickly – but I’d also need a main deck way of winning that didn’t involve attacking and so an Aladdin’s Ring, of all things, was added to the main deck. Sure it’s janky but I was going along to see what the English PTQ players were up to. Even with a month’s Extended testing under my belt I figured, I hadn’t done enough to make the top eight.
Luckily for me, I had Friday off to get most of my Christmas shopping out of the way, so going to bed at 3 a.m. after a gruelling evening and night’s deckbuilding wasn’t that much of a problem.
After a hectic day’s shopping six rounds of Magic followed by a top-four knockout sounded like a dream come true – and Saturday morning, the dream started for real.
With so much time spent on Peasant, 5 Color, and Extended, I really didn’t have much time to put a deck together, so I grabbed the deck that took me to a 6-1-1 record and Somerset County Champion and made a few changes. I expected a few more Astral Slide decks and control decks so I tweaked the deck accordingly. Here’s the deck I played:
Other Spells (34):
1x Ensnaring Bridge
1x Riptide Replicator
3x Chainer’s Edict
3x Diabolic Tutor
1x Engineered Plague
1x Haunting Echoes
3x Innocent Blood
2x Skeletal Scrying
4x Burning Wish
3x Tainted Pact
2x Engineered Plague
1x Cabal Therapy
1x Ensnaring Bridge
1x Haunting Echoes
1x Innocent Blood
1x Diabolic Tutor
1x Rancid Earth
1x Soul Feast
The only changes I made were to drop a main deck Chainer’s Edict for a Duress in the board and to add one Cabal Therapy to the sideboard to replace it. I figured that with better players, fewer of them would play aggressive creature decks and three each of Edict and Innocent Blood with two Mutilates would be enough creature kill main deck.
When we arrived we did a quick count, and ten of the sixteen players were there. I leant a few the cards they’d ask me to bring and chatted to some of the others. Seb Dolling came up to me and asked me”Which version of Peasant Magic” we were playing, and he wasn’t the only one. Apparently there are moves afoot to change the format, but I’d told everyone that it was the web page of the official site and we used those rules.
Seb also said that he hadn’t built up a 5 Color deck because”no one else will.” I pointed out that at least six of us had, and I knew another two people who were on their way had too. To calm his nerves I said that he could borrow my 5 Color deck if he made the top four and I didn’t.
Ten minutes after we were meant to start, all but two of the players were present and I checked out who could fill their place. There were only about 20 other players there, but Manveer Samra, Wiltshire County Champion, and Shane Silk-Reeves, a former Invitational player, were both high up in the rankings and present. Another twenty minutes later our final two players hadn’t shown up and their places dropped down to Manveer and Shane, neither of whom had a Peasant Magic deck!
I pulled out my Stompy and Burn decks and handed them over. Manveer got the Stompy deck, which had a sideboard but the Burn deck was missing one. Shane built one up before round one and Chris, the head judge, kicked off the Bath Magic Invitational 2002.
Round 1: Mark Bathe-Taylor playing Slide.
When Mark played out a Mountain, I really wasn’t sure if he was playing Goblins or not. When he played out a Plains I knew he was playing Slide and felt safe that I should be able to take the first game. Slide has a hard time against the large life swing that Corrupt can give the MBC player, and game one they are really not set up to deal with it at all.
Even so, after we both had to mulligan, Mark had a good start with an early Lightning Rift. Black and Red have a hard time with enchantments, especially those that can do two damage a turn.
I concentrated on developing my board position and attacking Mark’s hand until he had only one card left, but he managed to get me all the way down to one life before I cast Corrupt back up to seven. A turn later I cast a second Corrupt, raising me up to fourteen. Mark continued to cycle cards my way but Nantuko Shade came out and started swinging for the team – and Mark had no Slide in play! A few turns later the game was mine.
As Mark had no critters other than the Angels and maybe a few life gaining guys, I figured that I could stand to loose a few Innocent Bloods and took out all three, bringing in two Engineered Plagues and an Ensnaring Bridge. I knew that Mark had Firecat Blitz, as he’d shown me at the end of the game, and I knew that a Bridge had more chance of staying on the table than an Edict had a chance of killing an Angel. I also knew that bringing in extra artifacts and enchantments would give him more targets for the enchantment removal he was bound to bring in for my Replicator and Mirari. If I was lucky he’d use it on those and not the Replicator.
The game started well but Mark quickly dropped a Slide and a Lightning Rift to give me something to worry about. Unfortunately for him he drew land after land whilst I drew a good mix of spells and set myself up with a Mirari.
Luckily for Mark, he drew into a Disenchant and put Mirari in the bin – but not before I’d used it to Tutor for a few things I’d like to hand and get a Recoup and Wish in my hand. Even luckier, he soon drew into Circle of Protection: Black and played it straight away.
Mark looked happy but I knew I could still win.
“That’s life loss, isn’t it? Nice one.”
Next turn, I Recouped it and cast it again.
A few turns later I cast Burning Wish to go get it and cast it – and Recouped it again! With more Burning Wishes and a Second Recoup I could gain a further sixteen life and win if Mark saw no more life gain. It got even worse for Mark when I drew my Replicator and dropped it on the board, tapping out to cast it. Two land draws later, Mark was dead and I’d started this year’s invitational off well.
Matches: 1-0. Games: 2-0.
Circle of Protection: Black isn’t the answer people think it is. There are lots of ways to get around it, especially if you’re splashing Red. I can play red creatures, I can have a Red X spell in my sideboard, and I can use artifacts and life loss rather than Corrupt. Just because Slide can play COP: Black doesn’t mean MBC is dead, especially with so few people playing Blue based control decks in the environment.
Round 2: Seb Dolling, playing Deep Dog.
Seb is well-known in Bath for playing the best, aggressive deck he can get off the net. He’ll often tweak a few cards in the main deck and sideboard – but typically, you know what he’s playing. Even so, he plays aggressive decks well.
My opening hand was full of creature kill and a few lands, so I went with it. Seb started beating me down and protecting his Wild Mongrel by discarding Basking Rootwallas when I cast Blood and Edict, but he couldn’t keep it up forever. He managed to knock me down to six life before I Forked a Corrupt with Mirari to take myself back up to twenty-two and him down to one and, with a second Corrupt in hand, I took the game.
I sideboarded my standard way, bringing in the Ensnaring Bridge and one of the two Plagues, as Seb might have Squirrel Nests in his sideboard. I also dropped a Duress for a Blackmail, hoping to snag a few critters where I could.
Seb went first and dropped a land and a creature. I dropped a land and killed it. He dropped a land and a critter again, throwing a Wurm away as I killed his Mongrel. A turn later he had a Wurm in play and I had no way to kill it. I looked on as Seb knocked me to fouryeem and played a Rootwalla. Next turn I was down to five and needed to draw a Swamp and a Mutilate. I drew the Mutilate but couldn’t win without cheating and drawing the next card too! Damn the rules…
The last game, Seb mulliganned all the way to two cards! I looked on in astonishment and at the creature removal filled hand I’d drawn. I played a land and cast Blackmail, taking his Birds of Paradise, leaving him with one land.
He played the land and then went on to draw every card he needed off the top of his deck. Land, Looter, Land, Land, Wurm. Luckily I had plenty of time to get the removal I needed, go fetch a Shade and a few Corrupts and kill him. Even so, it was looking a little scary there for a while.
Matches: 2-0. Games: 4-3.
So, 2-0 up and looking good. We wandered over to the New Inn for lunch, we had plenty of time. Only four people were now on 2-0: Me and Chris Hardy, fellow PhatBeats team member, Roy Williams (one of the best players in Wales) and Gordon Benson, one of the top players in the country and sometime Pro Tour player. Not bad company – but then, everyone in the Invitational had to have done well over the last year to get in.
I really didn’t want to play my teammate, but we agreed that we’d draw if we did. I also didn’t want to play Roy, as he was playing Slide and, although I was confident I could win, playing Slide really isn’t the most exciting thing out there.
Round 3: Gordon Benson playing Deep Dog.
So my luck held and I got the matchup I wanted. Even so, I don’t think I’ve ever beaten Gordon and so, psychologically, he had the advantage. I also didn’t know what deck he was playing…
A few turns later, it was obvious that it was Deep Dog. I had a good hand and soaked up a lot of pressure before dropping an Ensnaring Bridge. As most Deep Dog decks don’t pack Naturalize main deck I only then have to worry about one main deck Upheaval, and so I concentrated on killing Gordon’s Looters until I drew into my own Corrupts and killed him off.
The game started well, as I saw an early Bridge – but I couldn’t get hold of enough creature kill and Gordon started to build up an impressive army behind my bridge. I knew it couldn’t last forever and started digging for kill, but Gordon saw the Naturalize he needed and came in for ten two turns in a row.
I really thought I had a good chance in the final game, but I was to be proven wrong. I saw another early bridge, but also saw plenty of kill. Even so, Gordon managed to get a Wurm into his graveyard and a Looter in play and quickly built up a fearful army. I drew into a Corrupt – and had to kill his Looter. I have killed the Wurm but the Looter was getting Gordon closer and closer to a Naturalize. He drew one and attacked. I drew a Bridge off the top and dropped it. A few turns later, Gordon drew a second Naturalize and attacked again. Luckily for me, I drew a Mutilate and killed his army – but he cast a critter straight away and started in again. I could draw only land.
Matches: 2-1. Games: 5-5.
We chatted about the deck and Gordon asked why I wasn’t playing four main deck Shades. It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for some time, as they can win a game on their own and they can certainly hold off most other people’s creatures for a while. If I do add, them I’ll have to rework the deck substantially, as I’ll need to find another three slots and it’s already tight. Even so, it may well be the place to go.
So; I’m 2-1 after three rounds and I was well placed for the fun format, Peasant Magic. I guessed that another 2-1 record would see me in a top four slot and I really wanted to try out my 5 Color deck. My team mate Chris, had beaten Roy to be 3-0. We both played the Peasant Magic deck I listed in a previous article.
We shuffled up and sat down for what we expected to be some short games.
Round 4: Madog Williams playing Burn.
Chris and I were both confidant in our CounterBurn, deck as we’d tested it against three others and knew it’s strengths and weaknesses. Even so, you never really know until you sit down and play in a tournament.
All I can say is”Sorry, Chris.”
Madog started well and soon had me on the back foot as I tried to control his early critters and counter his danger spells on hardly any land. I managed to survive for a while, even getting an Air Elemental into play – but it just wasn’t enough. I found myself drawing land after land, with nothing to do with them and with a Steel Golem on the table and one in hand, desperate to cast it. He took the first game easily. As planned, I bought in the Hydroblasts and kept my fingers crossed.
The second game went better, as I saw a good land mix and plenty of Burn and Counters when I needed them both. I even go up to enough mana to cast Capsize with Buyback – which, in hindsight, was my downfall. Madog played a creature and I had two Counters and Capsize in hand and six land. I thought for a while and let him cast it, leaving him with three untapped land, two tapped land and three cards in hand.
Can you see what’s coming yet?
I knew straight away that it was my mistake. I’d just plain forgotten that red players have instant speed burn. I guess that’s what Standard does for you.
Matches: 2-2. Games: 5-7.
Round 5: Stephen Woodward playing with Green Men.
I’d spent some time playing Counter burn against mono-Green, so I felt that I was in for a better time. Once again I was wrong – and not for the last time in the day.
Stephen poured out Green men. Guy after guy hit the table – until, when I was most vulnerable, River Boa dropped by to say”Hi.” I’d removed Incinerate from the deck to play Chain Lightning, as – and I’ll forgive you if you don’t believe me – our Green deck didn’t play with them. That’s right; we didn’t play one of the best two casting cost critters there is. Why? Well, it cost two mana and that’s quite expensive…
I couldn’t get him to tap out so I could kill it – and, although my Elemental, Stalking Stones, and Golem could keep his army at bay, the Boa swam over my Islands and kept kicking me in the shins turn after turn until, like a rotten peach thrown at a wall, I went squish.
Matches: 2-3. Games: 5-9.
That was it. No chance to play 5 Color for me now. All that work building a deck for nothing.
Even so, I have one more match to win. Chris had lost too but Shane, with my spare, sideboard-free deck was 2-0 in Peasant.
Round 6: Roy Williams playing Elves.
Roy too was playing Green men, but had decided that gaining life was important and played a million Elves and Wellwishers. In the first game he was land screwed and conceded before I could see much of his deck. In the second two he overran me – literally, in one case. Each time he would attack and loose a creature to my Steel Golem, and then cast another. I needed two blockers, not just one.
The second and third games went that way, leaving me 0-3 in Peasant. Chris too lost, leaving the deck 0-6 overall – a spectacular failure. Shane won all of his matches with the Burn deck.
Matches: 2-4. Games: 5-11.
Losing badly isn’t something I’m that used to. I used to do it, sure – but I haven’t for a while. Even so, my attitude to losing has changed a lot. I don’t mope around as much as I did, and I certainly don’t scream and shout at people any more. I try to look at what positive things I can take from the tourney and move on.
On good notes, my Standard deck is still powerful. I think it needs building up from the ground again, and the sideboard requires careful examination but come January and February and the Regional Qualifiers I’ll be looking at it to see me through to Nationals.
On a second, more hopeful note, I don’t think the Counter Burn deck is dead yet. Chris and I noticed several problems with it: Firstly, and most importantly, it suffers more than many decks to Strip Mine. There’s very little we can do about that. Secondly, it needs more card drawing. Four Accumulated Knowledges just isn’t enough in a deck with that much land. Fact or Fiction may be the answer, especially as playing Phyrexian War Beast instead of Steel Golem frees up four Uncommons for us to use.
Incinnerate or some other card that can deal with Boa is very necessary and many people, including Gordon Benson, asked me why I wasn’t playing with Serrated Arrows. The answer that I thought it was Uncommon! Once again, my research let me down.
If I were to play the deck again, I’d make changes as follows:
Other Spells (32):
4x Lightning Bolt
3x Arc Lightning
4x Force Spike
2x Fact or Fiction (Uncommon)
4x Accumulated Knowledge
3x Serrated Arrows
Boomerang and Capsize just weren’t good enough outside of the first three turns and you rarely want to Capsize with Buyback. Incinerate gives the deck a little more Instant speed control and Serrated Arrows kills even more creatures. With the loss of the Golems, we can also now play Hibernate in the sideboard – a much better idea than Fade Away, even though Fade Away helped a lot. Losing the Boomerangs also reduces the need for two Blue mana.
I still think the deck is vulnerable to Strip Mine, and probably not as consistent as any mono-coloured deck but it’s fun and, if you get a mountain and an island you’re, in for a good time.
The top four after the six rounds were Gordon Benson, Madog Williams, Seb Dolling and Dan Norris. Seb asked to borrow my deck and I checked it over one last time before he kicked off against Madog, leaving Gordon and Dan to battle for the other finals place.
I didn’t have all the cards I wanted to play with and, along with some suggestions from Rui and The Ferrett, I made a few changes to the deck I listed last week. For the sake of brevity I’ll list the changes:
+2 Order / Chaos (Chaos is actually useful…)
-4 Arcane Denial
+1 Bribery (It’s restricted, why not play it?)
+1 Morphling (Do I really need to explain this change?)
+1 Mystical Tutor (I should have listed this first time around).
-4 Swords To Plowshares (I’m going to add more mass removal)
-2 Dismantling Blow
-1 Soltari Priest
-1 Soltari Monk
-2 Weathering Wayfarer
+4 Mother of Runes
+2 Astral Slide (So much Cycling – why not?)
+1 Planar Portal (this is too good to miss out)
+1 Scroll Rack (as is this… think Rebel)
+4 Nevinyrral’s Disk (the extra removal I mentioned)
+4 Fellwar Stone (I can’t believe I forgot this one!)
-1 Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author] (missing)
-1 Tundra (missing)
-1 Dust Bowl
-2 Drifting Meadow
-1 Lonely Sandbar
-2 Mishra’s Factory
+1 Caves of Koilos
+1 Skyshroud Expanse
+4 Dromar’s Cavern (why not?)
+2 City of Brass
+1 Keldon Outpost (again, it’s too good not to)
+1 Volrath’s Stronghold (same here really)
+2 Thawing Glaciers (I really cannot believe this isn’t restricted).
As you can see I’ve added in a lot of powerful cards I missed out first time around. I would have liked to play some cards I didn’t have (like the Contracts), but I didn’t have time to get them.
I didn’t sleeve my deck by the way… I can’t play with many of these cards anywhere anyway, so what’s the point protecting them?
Seb didn’t do so well against Madog in the first game, but much of it was down to not knowing the deck. He had a Mystical Tutor in his hand and Blue and Black mana. He could have easily cast the Tutor for a better Tutor to get a Thawing Glaciers to solve his land problems but he didn’t because he didn’t know the deck.
In the second game he, made 2/2 critters and Madog died.
In the third game Madog made broken spells and won.
There was one issue I thought I’d bring up, and that was Burning Wish. I’d really like to see it considered for a ban in 5 color. Cunning Wish and Living Wish, too. In 5 color you can use them to go and get a card within arms reach. However, each player I saw use it had a folder full of cards to choose from and, in several cases, took more than five minutes to pick which one! The potential for abuse is too great. A fellow player could order then cards in the order you should pick them and drop the folder in the table. I know they shouldn’t, but it’ll require vigilant judges to stop it.
Dan beat Gordon in the other semi-final, by casting Dragon after Dragon, even with Gordon getting creature kill he couldn’t do much about it.
Dan beat Madog in the finals, too – again by casting big creature after big creature, fuelled by a whole bunch of critters and spells that fetched basic land of one type or another. The prize was a box of Onsalught and free entry to all tourneys in Bath next year. Madog’s runner-up prize was a box of product and free entry to two tourneys. Everyone else got a handful of boosters and free entry to at least one tourney.
So; another year is over.
In the next year, I’ll be judging more and more and will probably write about Magic less – as if I can’t play in as many tourneys, I probably won’t do as much testing and deck building. Even so, I can play in January and February and I’ll write about that, as I’ll be trying to qualify for Nationals again.
Anyway, that’s me done for another year. My ranking is up on this time last year by quite a bit in both Limited and Standard, so I’m happy but I need to work on getting both up another sixty points or so to auto-qualify for Nationals – and that’s not going to happen before March, so I’ll try and do it over the next year and auto-qualify the year after. Who says I don’t think ahead?
All the best and a very Merry Xmas to you all.