“Every Dog Has His Day”: A True Account of An Unintelligible Foreigner’s Seven-Year Quest And Its Culmination
I hate weddings. I hate going to them, I hate sitting through the long speeches, I hate sitting in the suit. I no longer mind wearing a tie, but I still don’t like the noose. And I dislike alcohol, so that removes one of the ways to survive the agony. But as much as I’m suffering, there’s someone worse off: The bridesmaids. These poor schmucks have to hang around and wear the most ridiculous dresses. Waiting around; waiting for some chromatic knight to sweep them off their feet…
Then I realize. I AM a bridesmaid. I have never won a non-junk draft tournament ever. Of any size. I’ve played in about a hundred of the darned things, and have gotten that ugly silver half a dozen times. I am quite possibly the player who started playing Magic earliest in all of Japan. But never have I walked home the sole victor… Until today. I now know it is within me to succeed.
The day? Sunday, June 3rd. The place? Handa, Japan. The tournament? An IN/PS/AP (Japanese) booster draft. I have just piloted a B/R/U Sealed deck to a 5-1 record with poor tiebreakers. I have studied Apocalypse very closely, for I have to play in a Japanese prerelease and I don’t read Japanese. So I have studied over the spoiler very carefully. Heck, I even misplaced the hardcopy spoiler and couldn’t find it the night before, so I grabbed a pencil and copied out all the information into my notebook so I could have a spoiler to translate with! And it helped the memorization curve. But the night before, I couldn’t sleep. I was burning to play the complete Invasion block booster draft… Because I had a plan.
I had a plan. A cunning plan. I didn’t even know if it was a good plan. All I knew that it was a plan, and that I would execute it to the best of my ability. And that was this: Draft the Sligh deck. I wanted to make sure that my deck would be able to empty its hand and play a threat for the first six turns of the game. I knew that doing so would be tough. And I wanted to play an enemy color base with the shared ally as the splash.
Here’s the best recollection of my picks:
Agonizing Demise (over Thicket Elemental, Repulse, and Armadillo Cloak. I like Red/Black.)
Hooded Kavu (over Kavu Chameleon, Probe, and Thornscape Apprentice)
Exclude (over Goham Djinn and another Armadillo Cloak)
Scorching Lava (over Sabertooth Nishoba, Serpentine Kavu. Lava fourth pick is really too strong a Red signal to pass.)
Duskwalker (over Zap, which is something of a risky signal, but Zap is weak in the B/R deck compared to the R/G. In retrospect, though, since I never drew the Duskwalker, it’s kind of irrelevant.)
Nomadic Elf (over Stormscape Apprentice, to keep the guy I’m passing to honest and not playing 5cG. I didn’t see any other good mana fixers get passed earlier, though.)
Tribal Flames (over a randomly good blue card and Kavu Climber)
Yavimaya Barbarian (over an Obsidian Acolyte and a randomly good green card… Explosive Growth)
Nightscape Apprentice (over the Thicket Elemental, who made it around the table… MAJOR signal here. But he was cheap.)
Phyrexian Battleflies (over Hypnotic Cloud, my plan didn’t want to cast a 6cc spell at this point that didn’t totally win the game)
Urborg Skeleton (passing garbage)
Holy Day (passing a Elfhame Sanctuary, I’m happy to pass very slow green mana fixers…)
Tainted Oh Well
At this point I knew I was going heavy into R/B — and depending on what came out of Planeshift, I’d take either really good white cards if I got passed them in the mid-picks, or broken green or blue. I was leaning towards green, because all the signals from Invasion told me that green was going to come around in Apocalypse and be golden. On the other hand, do the people I’m passing to happen to be competent signalers? I signaled for them to go green, but Japanese players are not inclined to go that way unless they’re going Green/Red. If they WERE going Green/Red, I’d see high blue or white quality, but my money’s on them going blue. Though that doesn’t mean they’re not going to draft red.
Yes, that paragraph seemed rather muddled, didn’t it? I was rather unsure at this point, but just decided to draft the powerful R/B and know it would make the deck. I anticipated being cut out of one of the two, so whichever I got cut out of would be my splash, and go heavy into the new color. I hoped Green would be the enemy color over blue, as I just don’t like the Apocalypse blue.
Planeshift, listed in the proximate order that I picked them:
Flametongue Kavu (over Mire Kavu, Eladamri’s Call, and Hunting Drake. I haven’t been looking, but I am so excited to pull the guy that I roll my head uncontrollably, and see next to me that the guy who is passing to me now happens to have Tahngarth in his pack. I doubt I will be passed any good red this pack.)
Magma Burst (gee, guess he pulled a lot of red. I also passed up a Terminate and a Nightscape Familiar)
LORD OF THE UNDEAD (over Green Battlemage. Woo HOO! This card screamed to me to go green, because there are a lot of common zombies in Apocalypse. Something good must have been picked from the last pack, though, because that’s the only good card that goes with red in this pack.)
Pachinko (Slingshot) Goblin. I guess the guy next to me has drafted some insane red.)
Bog Down (I see no red. White and Blue goodies are en route to the left.)
Lava Zombie (over Bog Down and Volcano Imp. Remember, Imp is generally great in Invasion/PS, but I want to draft a cheap curve. I now know the guy who is feeding me is playing R/G. Either that, or the guy who is feeding HIM is R/G.)
Sinister Strength (over not much anything else, though there wasn’t any good green coming down the pike either)
Phyrexian Bloodstock (over a lot of U/W gold stuff, a Gerrard’s Command, and a Morgue Toad)
Hull Breach (over a pile of green and white junk)
Sea Snidd (this late I figure blue has been underdrafted, but I passed quite a good bit of it in Invasion so the fix should be in that I’m going to be passed a lot of green cards in Apocalypse.)
Morgue Toad (over nothing)
Pollen Remedy (HATE!)
Honorable Scout (Hate!)
Okay, I have… a cunning plan. I don’t have the blue to draft a good Crosis deck, and I don’t have the cojones to play with a purely Apocalyptic white splash. And I had a good feeling that the fix was in to pass me Green. I felt better running Green anyway, as my Black was more dominant than my Red.
Please pardon the omission of key cards I passed. Keep in mind that Apocalypse was only a week old, and I was playing with Japanese cards, so I had to process a lot of information in each pack. But I had a plan, dammit, and it paid in full.
Illuminate (Lo! Twice in a row I pull the mono-red bomb in the second and third pack. Who says luck doesn’t matter in booster draft?)
Consume Strength (I remember seeing the W/B painland in this pack, and thought,”Gee, this table is NOT stupid.”)
This gave me a deck that had a close to Sligh curve, which would be good and fast in an unknown environment. I ran eighteen lands, despite the fairly low curve in a forty-one card deck, due to the fact that I needed to draw black and green mana guaranteed. It paid off; I won.
2x Ana Disciple
Lord of the Dead
2x Consume Strength
Strength of Night
I liked this deck, as it consistently played out a strong early offense with enough removal and tricks to get the early beats in. I had eight removal effects, sixteen creatures, and a good curve.
In Round 1, a B/U/W with a splash of green deck played by the guy across the table from me managed to get out the Dega Disciple and a Flagbearer every game, but my Ana Disciple was always there to keep his guys from killing my guys. (If he had the Flagbearer out, how? — The Ferrett) In game 1, A Bloodfire comes through for a key clearing of the board after he Aether Mutationed my Bloodstock. His men and my men continue to accumulate, but they’re all small and tappers are taking out my evasion, and the best I can do with Death Mutation is eliminate his Aurora Griffin. So we continue to topdeck land until I pull out the Strength of Night. A Pollen Remedy only delays the inevitable. One turn later, I finish him off.
Game 2 is much faster, as my Yavimaya Barbarian comes out on turn two, gets a Sinister Strength, and I follow with a kicked Bog Down the next turn. All I had left in my hand was land anyway. The pro-blue 5/3 is far too unpleasant for him to deal with and I win on turn 6.
Round 2 is the main tournament judge. He doesn’t speak much English, but he can listen and understand my rules queries when I ask him clear,”yes or no” questions. He haunted over my shoulder for a good part of the day and explained how Suppress worked to every opponent that came my way in the prerelease. (And that’s a lot, when you open two of them — one foil, no less — in the same pack.) He was the 8th man for the tournament and was sitting two seats to my left. He ended up playing B/R/G, but with a much stronger focus on RG and a minor white splash. He’s the guy who took away all my good Planeshift red. However, that move lost him any good G/B cards he might have otherwise scored in Apocalypse at my hands…
In Game 1, our dueling Ana Disciples face off, but my Nomadic Elf and Hooded Kavu come out in a jiffy and slowly gives him a licking. A Battleflies-gated Lava Zombie faces off against his Stone Kavu, and I Lava away his Thornscape Apprentice. I keep letting the Stone Kavu through, but use the Disciple to keep my opponent honest. A Phyrexian Bloodstock makes it to the party and next turn I play his boss, give the Bloodstock flying by using the Nomadic Elves as a mana filter, and fly over for the last four points.
Game 2 is a real race as my Battleflies and Llanowar Dead face off against his Ana Disciple and Llanowar Dead. I get the upper hand as I drop a turn 3 Sinister Strength on the Battleflies and match his Ana Disciple. He plays some heavy hitters like Mire Kavu and Kavu Monarch, but my Flametongue and Tribal Flames burn away his fatties. He can’t get enough mana to keep the Battleflies from being Mourned, and the Flies go all the way.
Round 3 is my good friend Takashi, who happens to be the most fluent speaker of English in Handa’s Magic community. He and I discussed the strategy heavily for this tournament, and I told him that I wanted to go U/b/R. My”splash surrounded by two stronger allied colors” strategy held true, though. I offered a prize split, not knowing what it was. He checked; it was two Apocalypse boosters, and declined. I nodded sat down, winning the die roll.
Game 1 was very brief. My Nomadic Elves, Llanowar Dead, and Yavimaya Barbarian cruise in and introduce him to the negative side of the life counter with possibly excessive force. A Disciple shows him the error of his blocker’s ways as they all are overcome with angst, mourning, and misery, and a Tribal Flames seals the deal.
Game 2 is a repeat as he plays and double mulligans, and a turn 1 Flies, turn 2 Strength, turn 3 Ana Disciple lets me race him into oblivion. He gets out a Bloodfire Kavu, but doesn’t have the free red mana to save him.
What, I actually went undefeated and won an actual Magic tournament? With a foreign prerelease counting against me, no less? Folks, that is the true coming of the Apocalypse — and I guess every dog does get his day.
Moral of the story: Pay attention to signals in the first pack, and keep in mind the color that will be passed to you so you can get good stuff in Apocalypse. Maybe you want to go with the wedge split, which doubles your choices from Apocalypse. Or you can clamp down on a single combination, hard-combining your friendlies, which will be underdrafted when Apocalypse comes around… Provided you know that it’s coming. But come to the table with a plan, and be able to see what picks will implement the plan.
There is no definitive answer for the final Invasion booster draft — not one in my eyes, at least. But at least I’ve found a premise. And a premise is as good as anything when you’re got everything to go for, and nothing to lose.
now getting into IRC as Gaijineli