Enter the Dragon – A Star City “Power Nine” Richmond Report *3rd*

The Star City Power Nine Tournament Series!

So why did Ben Kowal choose to play this metagame sleeper and how did he end up as the number one seed coming out of the swiss, and finish one game short of making the finals? The details are right here!

I know some people read reports to find out all of what happened, including travel complications, pre and post tournament parties, and excess drama such as versus mode between Meandeck and Short Bus. Other people read reports to find out sideboarding strategies, how your games went, and how they can use your information to make their own game stronger. If you’re the latter variety of person, go ahead and skip to round one.

The trip begins on a late Thursday night, as our plan involves beating Jersey traffic by travelling the ten or so hours from Massachusetts to Virginia by night. Andy Probasco, better known to some as the Brass Man, swings by Brandeis University on the other side of the state to pick up Jacob Orlove (who happens to be well known as Jacob Orlove) on his way to my place. We end up getting on route 91 south by one in the morning, which is a solid way to begin our journey.

So we drive.

A lot.

Andy’s car, a giant, purple van of some variety, has no functioning heat. We leave dressed in blankets and coats as it’s around six degrees in Massachusetts. By the time we hit the junction of 91 and 95 in Connecticut, none of us can feel our feet, and Jacob has scooped on life, curled up in to a little ball to prevent frostbite and promote sleeping.

We drive some more.

And continue driving.

The sun comes up around 7 in the morning, just as we’re passing by Washington DC. Never have I been so appreciative of the sunrise. The car instantly became bearable. I could even feel my feet! Soon we were in Richmond, and even in the right part of town to reach our destination: The estate of one Joshua Reynolds, better known to some as the Head Judge of the event, and probably considerably less well known as TMD’s Sliverking. Despite having to step aside for some directions (as Mapquest is considerably worse than, well, everything, including the bubonic plague) we end up at the estate around 10:30 or 11, significantly earlier than our expected arrival time.

The pre-tourney get together was fairly laid back. Nobody wanted to ruin their brains for the following day with alcohol and lack of sleep, but that didn’t stop me from getting stupid. [Somehow I’m picturing Kowal doing the Humpty Dance right now. -Knut, pronounced with an ‘umpty’] Inebriated Monopoly is a solid way to piss away three hours, even if Jacob rolls dice like a ninja. I begin to realize that if I’m still retarded in the morning and if I’m also lacking in sleep, I need to run a deck I can autopilot.

Enter the Dragon.


Short Bus Remix

(which is actually the Canadian Remix, plus a cymbal. Or in this case, a Verdant Force)

4 Worldgorger Dragon

4 Squee, Goblin Nabob

3 Xantid Swarm

1 Eternal Witness

1 Verdant Force

4 Force of Will

4 Animate Dead

3 Necromancy

3 Intuition

3 Lim-Dul’s Vault

3 Compulsion

1 Time Walk

1 Ancestral Recall

4 Bazaar of Baghdad

4 Polluted Delta

1 Flooded Strand

4 Underground Sea

3 Tropical Island

1 Swamp

1 Island

1 Black Lotus

1 Mana Crypt

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Emerald

1 Mox Pearl (omg proxied… but for how long?)

1 Mox Ruby


4 Chalice of the Void

3 Stifle

3 Pernicious Deed

2 Sundering Titan

2 Verdant Force

1 Memnarch

For those of you who are looking at this decklist and saying “whaaaaat?”, here’s how it works. I put Worldgorger Dragon in my graveyard, and cast Animate Dead or Necromancy, which come in to play as global enchantments and trigger upon entering play. They become local enchantments, enchanting Worldgorger Dragon, who then triggers to remove the world from play. When that happens, Animate Dead is no longer in play, and as such the dragon dies, returning all my permanents. In response to the Animate effect trigger, I can float mana from my now untapped lands and repeat the process to generate an unlimited supply of mana. At this point, I would use a Bazaar of Baghdad or a Compulsion to dig through my library for Eternal Witness. The Animate will now target her instead of the Dragon, who will trigger and deliver an animate from my (now well stocked) graveyard to my hand. I cast that animate with some of my floating zillions of mana, and target the Dragon. Now every time I go through the loop, Eternal Witness returns a card from my graveyard to my hand, which directly translates to me holding my entire deck. At this point, I can kill with Ancestral Recall to the face and a million hardcast force of wills for backup, or I can just animate Verdant Force, and go near infinite with Time Walk stopping the loop each time on a Squee so as to go lethal with beats from either the big man or his little cadre of trees.

I did not take notes, so apologies if I can’t remember your name.

Round One: Oath

Game one is decided on my very first turn, when I have a Force of Will and a Lim Dul’s Vault to make sure my Xantid Swarm resolves. My opponent spends three or four turns playing an irrelevant card drawing game, and once he finally finds his Oath, I decide to win.

In game two, my opponent mulligans to five and I keep a relatively solid seven-card hand, albeit a little slow. He plays two moxes (Jet and Ruby if I recall) and passes the turn with no land drop. I begin setting up the parts a little cautiously since I’m assuming the only reason he kept the hand was a Black source and Coffin Purge. Eventually he finds a Tropical Island, and that allows him to play his Ground Seal, exhausting his hand to use the Force of Will backup that I had been setting up for my own Animate Dead. Despite a hardcast Dragon beating down, he finds an Oath fast enough to get Akroma on the table and kill me first.

Game three I get the goldfish hand of something like Island, Mox, Compulsion, Animate Dead, Worldgorger Dragon, Polluted Delta, Force of Will. I topdeck Black Lotus on my second turn to speed it up, and end up Compulsion-ing into another Force of Will, though it’s unnecessary as my opponent doesn’t have any juice outside of an Oath of Druids.

1-0, 2-1

Round Two: Jason Stinnet with Meandeck SX

I win the die roll and begin to make some jokes that I won the match. I was right.

Game one I keep a seven card hand that’s just a bit slow but has Force of Will. Having built a very similar deck about two months ago, I know that if the Dark Rituals are denied, a deck that can win as quickly as Dragon or TPS can win before Cabal Ritual gets online to help out. Instead, Jason was content to Land Grant and show me that the only business spell in his hand is Demonic Tutor. I allow Land Grant to resolve, and he depletes his entire hand with a storm count of nine to cast Demonic Tutor. I Force it, and he’s left with a board of Bayou, Mox Jet, and a tapped Mana Vault. I take my time to set up my win and do so around turn 4.

Game two I decide I cannot afford to keep a hand without Force of Will. In my mad quest to not die like everybody else who only runs four decent disruption slots, I end up tossing back several borderline acceptable hands to settle on a four card grip that doesn’t even satisfy my requirements: Swamp, Chalice of the Void, Force of Will, Animate Dead. He plays a first turn Mana Vault, and doesn’t win off it. I pick up Compulsion from the top and start feeling very comfortable. I drop the Swamp and the Chalice, which he Force of Wills, removing Brainstorm. I sit on my Force, content that the moment his Mana Vault is tapped to cast something, I’ll just win off the topdecks faster than him. My plan would have worked, but he was able to cast Ancestral Recall into Black Lotus, which permitted him two must-counters that turn. I chose not to counter Ancestral Recall because I knew from the first turn Land Grant that if I did, he had enough gas to win that turn anyway.

Game three Jason is forced to mulligan to five, and can’t really muster any gas. I win on turn 3 with Force of Will backup.

2-0, 4-2

Round Three: Mishra’s Workshop.dec

I would love to say whether this was 5/3 or Stax or something different altogether, but honestly I have no idea. I won pretty quickly.

Game one he opens with a couple Moxes, a land, and a Trinisphere, which I’m content to Force of Will pitching Compulsion. I start playing my game, and he throws a couple minor hedges at me in the form of Wasteland and Goblin Welder. I decide to win the turn he plays Crucible of Worlds, to prevent him from destroying Bazaar of Baghdad #2 and as such to prevent him from making me draw the game.

Game two he leads with a first turn Crucible of Worlds, and uses a Wasteland as part of the casting process. Undaunted, I start to dig out some basics and play Compulsion. His board position is slowly getting less relevant, as I begin to set up the win. When I finally go for it, it seems that his hand contains Swords to Plowshares and he knows the timing. I float two Black, let him do it, and then drop a Mox Sapphire and cast Necromancy with the other Dragon in my graveyard still available. I decide to just generate a bunch of Blue and animate Memnarch to steal all his junk, since he has no cards in hand and this is funnier than just winning. He scoops.

3-0, 6-2

Round Four: Mike Gumbinger with Food Chain Goblins

My opponent looks slightly familiar, and I find out he spent the night in the same house as I did. Unfortunately for me, that means he knows what I’m playing and I have no idea what he’s playing.

The secret is out when his first turn is Mountain, Skirk Prospector. I am both happy for the good matchup and saddened that the feature match is going to be so boring. His goblins give me enough time to set up for a fairly uneventful turn 3 or 4 kill. I show him a Necromancy and a Compulsion and explain “exodia, I win?” and he picks up his side of the table.

Game two, I mull what may or may not be a solid hand (Mox Jet, Underground Sea, Intuition, Intuition, Force of Will, Animate Dead, and Force of Will) into a definitely crappy hand (Tropical Island, Tropical Island, Underground Sea, Animate Dead, Force of Will, Time Walk) My reasoning here is that the first hand will just lose barring an unlikely topdeck of a mana source, or my opponent seeing any of his five strips. I still couldn’t tell you why I kept the second hand. Overconfidence, I guess. Regardless, his hand is pretty fast, and I take a lot of points from the combo of Warchief and Piledriver. I manage to buy a turn before my demise by Necromancying his Recruiter to chump his Piledriver with, but it’s not quite enough.

Game three, I play a first turn Flooded Strand and a Mox Pearl, holding a Swamp. He plants a Blood Moon, but I am able to fetch my Island and play my Swamp, setting up a Lim-Dul’s Vault. Mike plays some little Red men that smile and look cute when I search my library for five cards that win. I show him my animate and my outlet and explain the loop once more.

4-0, 8-3

At this point, I’m psyched. I get to begin the new year with a chance to make up for my humiliating defeat at Waterbury, and in addition, all of the Meandeck presence has already scrubbed out and dropped to play Team Sealed in the Prerelease. I’m pretty much guaranteed to leave with $300+ assuming I don’t get paired down and get horrid tiebreakers.

Round Five: Eric Miller with The Riddler

We ID and decide to mosey on over to the internet stations in the convention center to go read the coverage and inflate our egos. I grab some chow and have a nice relaxing break.

4-0-1, 8-3

Round Six: Control Slaver

I’m informed by this guy that his tiebreakers are too crappy to draw in. I check the numbers, and he’s totally right. I also receive word that Ian Bennet needs a little help from me to let him draw in to the Top 8. I decide if it’s a game he wants, it’s a game he’ll get.

Unfortunately for both of us, it wasn’t a game we got. He overpowered me with his draw spells and my desperation animate got answered with Cunning Wish – For Ancestral Recall. He drops it on the table and scoops, because he only pulled 59 cards from his deck out of his box. Mad props to this guy. On the threshold of winning three hundred dollars, it would have been extremely easy for him to just pretend that Ancestral wasn’t there, and pretty much guarantee himself a Top 8 slot. Instead, he chose honor. Every format needs more players like this.

Game two is much like the first, except instead of a Cunning Wish ending the game prematurely, he gets to hardcast a Platinum Angel with a Mana Drain and later a Force for backup.

Game three, I go suicide animates, throwing every spell in my hand at his face as fast as possible. Generally the game plan against decks with Mana Drain is to sit back and abuse Bazaar or Compulsion until I have a hand that wins, similar to the plan TPS has against the same decks. As such, it’s a little bit counterintuitive to jettison that plan against Slaver, but apparently that’s what wins. I throw animate after animate at my opponent and he’s forced to remove his draw spells to pay for Force of Will. Eventually Necromancy happens, and my opponent finds himself with no permanents and no cards in his library.

5-0-1, 10-4

Entering the Top 8 as first seed, as well as giving my teammate Ian a shot at drawing in, I’m feeling pretty good. I wander around to hang out with people that were not as fortunate as I, and call Rich Shay to tell him how the event is going. It seems like no time at all when the Top 8 is paired and I go to meet my opponent.

Top Eight: Chris Marchand with Stax

I keep a fairly solid hand that will explode if I don’t see first turn Trinisphere. I do, and soon Smokestack and Sundering Titan join the party. This game is pretty uneventful as I don’t get to play spells.

Unimpressed, I know my Stax matchup is very strong. I board in some hate in the form of Memnarch and Verdant Force, and shuffle it up.

Game two I’m looking at a pretty solid goldfish hand that has all the parts to win, sans an animate. I Bazaar into Animate Dead, and cast it turn 3 after countering some random Stax component, which I believe was Smokestack or Karn.

Game three my opponent plays a Goblin Welder, so I set up Bazaar, Mox Sapphire, Mox Jet, Mox Emerald. He plays a Trinisphere or something, and I cast Intuition end of turn for the cards I need to win. I animate the Dragon and he loses to combo despite a Trinisphere that never gets removed. I love this game.

6-0-1, 12-5

Top Four: Eric Miller with The Riddler

This match was covered by a Ted Kanootsahn, so you can read about it here. But if you’re too lazy, here’s how it happened from my side of the table.

Eric wins the die roll and drops a first-turn Trinisphere, which pretty much ruins my mana light hand. Thankfully I have Bazaar of Baghdad, which is a mulligan. I start tossing crappy cards like moxen to my graveyard, and praying that Eric doesn’t have enough disruption to kill me before I set up the parts. He burns his turn to play an Enlightened Tutor on his upkeep to find an Illusionary Mask, and passes. I start dropping land and digging like crazy for the animate that wins. Eric drops the Mask and puts a guy under it. I drop more land and keep digging. He swings for 12. I drop a third land and dig more, Time Walk, drop a Bazaar, and dig four more cards deep, and still haven’t found an animate. I die having seen just under half my deck without seeing a seven-of.

Game two Eric gets a first turn Trinisphere again, but I’m able to set up a win underneath it. Eric opts to allow me to generate infinite mana before using his Ray of Revelation, hoping to force me to burn to death on the mana.

Unfortunately for him, my two card hand contains Intuition, which fetches Necromancy, Necromancy, Necromancy, and I go off a second time mid-loop to kill him before Ray of Revelation even reaches his graveyard.

Game three Eric gets first turn Trinisphere for a third time, and follows it up with all the gas in his deck. When he resolves Tinker, I assume he’s going to get Titan and kill my land, but instead he gets Platinum Angel because he boarded Titan out. If I can find an animate to target Dragon with in four turns, I can animate the dragon, swap the animate to Memnarch, and steal Eric entire board position and his chance at the finals. Unfortunately for me, my Animate effects are scared of Eric, and he denies me one opportunity to topdeck the win by playing Hanna’s Custody.

6-1-1, 13-7

It was a good run while it lasted.

After Eric splits with Jay Coffman, and they finish playing it out, we head out to purchase alcoholic beverages and pizza. I was looking forward to pizza, but instead we decided to get burgers. Or in the case of Marc Perez and Stephen Menendian, burgers decided to get them.

Unfortunately my coverage of the post tourney party is slightly limited, as I scooped on life to sleep on the couch and watch Conan 2 with Jacob, Andy, and Menendian. Later in the evening, I wake up to find I’ve lost three hours and my couch is being invaded, so I bumble upstairs and die on a rug in Josh’s livingroom.

The drive back is a nightmare. We leave around 10, which is actually 11 because it takes us an hour to scrape all the ice off Andy’s car. Three ice scrapers and some frostbite later, we’re on the road again, driving north in to a blizzard while the sun is setting. Instead of taking rest area breaks to urinate, we’re going inside to be where it’s warm. By Delaware, I have to convince Andy to not purchase sixty dollars of chinese food to use as foot warming devices. Not a moment too soon we arrive at the junction of 95 and 91, and we’re by this time so cold we can’t feel our freezing feet anyway.

So we drive.

And drive more.

And soon we’re parked sideways in my driveway, unable to actually get up to the top due to a terrible plowing job. What a journey.

It’s impossible to write a Type One tournament report without a final conclusion section, which is generally props and slops. As such, here’s what you’ve been waiting for, or maybe not.


  • Star City Games, for sticking to what’s advertised and laughing in the face of craptabulous weather.

  • Ben Bleiweiss, for hooking me up with a lesser mox of greater beta stature shortly after I picked the Sapphire from the lineup

  • All my opponents, especially those from round two and six, for being great examples of the reason I still play this format

  • My driver, Andy Probasco, for being the best flunky ever


  • My deck in the Top 4, for handing me lands and not animate effects

  • The weather, for killing the attendance and making it extremely difficult to avoid being whiny on the way back

  • Team Meandeck, for scrubbing out harder than I thought possible out of them

It was intensely awesome. The judging staff were excellent, Star City stuck with what was advertised despite weather related disaster, and I love seeing coverage, even if I’m at the event.