Here are the answers along with some background stuff. If you haven’t read the original article yet, I’ve included the scenarios along with the answers to make for easier reading. I’m also going to include anything I thought was amusing from people that emailed me responses and / or anything funny from the forums.
1. The Topdeck
Way back in the day of Tempest Block sealed, I had a nice R/G number with fast critters and some decent removal. In game 2 of my first match, I had laid the beatdown against my opponent for several turns, getting her to seven, when she began to equalize with some good critters of her own. One of these was a Bottle Gnomes. I stalled out, drawing nothing but land, while she played an evasion creature and some removal on my less-than-stellar team. I kept knocking on my deck and praying for Rolling Thunder, which I topdecked on my final turn to live. I tapped nine mana and sent it to her dome, proclaiming,”You’re dead.” She surveyed the board, couldn’t see any way out, and congratulated me with a handshake. I decided not to tell her afterward about the Gnomes.
This story is true. I first learned about how to make your opponent believe they’d lost when they still had an out when I was a total scrub. An Inquest article entitled”The Jedi Mind Trick” taught me the master skills displayed here. A lot of the responses mentioned that girls don’t play Magic, and you’re right. This particular friend of mine is a woman named Charlene Murray. Unfortunately, she doesn’t completely beat the stereotype of females that play Magic, as her husband Mike Murray was the one to get her into it.
2. Passive Aggressive
I was playing a MDD draft at Richmond Comix when I was faced with this interesting situation. I was playing W/b and my opponent was Mono-Black. He went first, and played a mana Myr and then a third turn Nim Abomination. On my turn, I cast Arrest on his Nim. I was way ahead on life since his Nim Abom kept smacking him for three, but I couldn’t find any critters and he was going to scrape it out. It came down to one last draw – if I topdecked the critter, I’d be able to block lethal damage, and he’d die on his next turn. I drew an Arcbound Stinger (Stinger… I barely know her!) and proceeded to win without attacking once.
This story is also true. It happened during FNM at my local store. Who is the only person at my store that could pull off a win like this? Jay Coffman, of course.
3. Nice Guys Finish Last
I was playing in a Standard tournament and got paired up with a twelve-year-old scrub in the first round. I was playing a modified version of the B/R Jank deck that I took to State Champs, and he was playing Goblins. His deck clearly is sub-optimal, since he doesn’t have the right cards or the funds to procure them (his first turn play was a Crazed Goblin). However, I had to mulligan to five the first game to find a single mana hand and got crushed. I mulliganed into a similar hand in the second game, praying for a mana Myr, but it was not to be. We turned in the match slips and went our separate ways. Towards the end of the round, we ran into each other and he asked to me take a look at his deck and give him some suggestions, so I did. They had just posted pairings for the next round when I gave him my answer,”You should probably take out these four Firebolts, since they’re illegal.”
This is very plausible, but false. I’ve had very similar situations, but I never lost only to find out I was playing against an illegal deck. Note that what I attempted to describe here was someone that had little knowledge of formats and restrictions and played illegal cards on accident, not by cheating as most people assumed. Quote from an entry:”Fiction. You were playing a Standard Tournament. If you were playing mana Myr, you deserved to lose.”
4. Strength in Numbers
When I first began to play competitively, I went to an Extended PTQ, around the release of Mirage Block. I was playing a U/W CounterPost deck with Millstones and was getting beat down by Jolrael’s Centaurs and Gaea’s Blessing (Derf!) all day. In the fifth round I was playing against an Ashen Ghoul variant, which was a terrible matchup for me since it could shrug off my mass removal fairly easily. However, his version was sans Nevinyrral’s Disk, and had no way to remove the Light of Day that I played on my fourth turn in the second game. When I finally got a Kjeldoran Outpost I started making dudes. I ended the game by attacking for twenty in a single turn with one power Soldier Tokens.
This story is true, and is recounted in my second article for StarCityGames.com, entitled”From Scrub to Pro Tour: The Philosophy of Fun.” It was my first PTQ ever, and I didn’t win much, but I did manage to have fun as this story suggests. However – many people have informed me of the mistake I made in typing this up. Light of Day is indeed from Tempest, and as one savvy forum poster pointed out, Extended didn’t even exist as a format at that point in time. For the purposes of the contest, I removed this question due to my error. It wouldn’t have made a difference anyway, but I’m trying to be as fair as I can.
5. Concession Stand
In a Mirrodin / Darksteel sealed deck, it was the third game of the last round of Swiss and whoever won the match would go on to some prizes, while the loser would get nothing. My opponent got a quick start with a Copper Myr, a Goblin Replica, and a Fangren Hunter, bashing me down to six before I could stabilize. While I continued to draw critters and removal and started to gnaw away at his life, he was drawing little besides land and stalled out. He was pretty unhappy about it and didn’t even try to keep his frustration to himself. Around turn 10 or so, I was preparing for a massive Alpha strike, but I was one point short counting the Predator’s Strike in my hand, but he hadn’t counted yet. At the end of his turn, I flashed him the Strike, said”Good game,” and extended my hand. He shook it and sighed in frustration, and swept up his board. On a whim, I flipped over the top card of his library: a would-be lethal Fireball.
This story is also quite possible; it is basically another Jedi Mind Trick like the play made in #1 – but I’ve never actually pulled something like this off, making it false. Someone posted that since I hadn’t”actually” won, this action would be providing my opponent with a concession and is a rules violation if I accepted the win. This raises other ethical questions. The top of the list is prize splits. There was recently an article on Brainburst by Shane Houtsinger that discussed these situations in some detail. The question is: if it is considered legal (and even gentlemanly or polite) to concede to someone in the last round of a tournament when they have a chance to make top 8 and you don’t, then why should it be illegal to trick someone into conceding? Is there even a difference? Doesn’t it take more skill to turn a dead-end situation into a win than just ask for it?
6. Flood Coming?
At Grand Prix: DC I started doing MMD drafts, and my first draft was a delectable B/u number featuring Crystal Shard. In game two, I kept an iffy four-land hand because I had both colors of mana, a decent critter, and a removal spell. Unfortunately, I ripped three Swamps off the top. I was thinking to myself,”The only way I can win this game is to draw Shard.” WHOOP! There it was, next draw. Then I thought to myself,”If only I had Solemn Simulacrum…” WHOOP! I should think to myself more often. I started using the Shard / Simulacrum combo to pull land after land from my deck, snagging five over the course of the game; my opponent and I both thought I had it locked up. But I kept ripping lands off the top and he kept drawing spells. On my final turn to live, with fifteen of sixteen lands in play (and about seventeen cards left in my library), I drew my card: Vault of Whispers.
This story is true, oh so true, and it was awful. I drew three lands in a row twice, as well as two lands in a row twice. Then I drew the last land in my library! I had a 6% chance of doing so. If only I could beat those odds when I needed to rip Fireball off the top…
7. Life’s a Beach and Then You Die
I was playing Tide at an Extended PTQ and battled my way to top 8, and then the finals. I was playing against Secret Force, which was a fine matchup for me; that deck isn’t fast enough to deal the necessary damage before a lethal Stroke of Genius. I get Thawing Glaciers going, Frantic Search a few times, and I have the necessary hand to combo out. I go High Tide, High Tide, Frantic Search, Time Spiral, fully expecting to win in short order. But when I draw my seven cards off the top, I’ve got five Islands, a Counterspell, and a Thawing Glaciers.
This story is also true. This was a completely frustrating tournament for me: I was first place after four rounds at 4-0, then lost my next three matches to completely scrub out of the tournament. Anyway, Tide was rampant and took a bunch of Top 8 spots, and it came down to Tide vs. Secret Force, a metagame deck developed by a few of my friends. It was looking good for Tide in the final match when his Time Spiral gave him a whole lot of nothing – and he mana burned for the loss.
8. Legendary Mistake
I’m playing in a Standard tournament at FNM with MWC+, and my opponent is playing a G/w beats deck that expected a lot more Affinity. As I learned from forum posters after Regionals, Mindslaver is a Legendary artifact, and when he tried to play one opposite mine, I informed him that his would be taking a short trip to the graveyard. I had all the combo pieces, but I was holding Lightning Greaves in my hand since he had Glissa Sunseeker on the board. He drew his card for the turn and pondered his play for about thirty seconds before playing a second Glissa, which I informed him also had the creature type”Legend.”
I made this one up. Try to make up some plausible but false situations yourself – it’s kind of difficult. That’s why I used part of my Regionals experience to fabricate this entry. Another email comment:”Fiction. Nobody, not even you, would play Lightning Greaves in his MWC deck.” Right, but for the wrong reasons – use the search feature to look up MWC+ and you’ll find a Regionals report featuring my”extreme lifegain tech” as I have come to call it.
I was playing in a MMD side draft at Grand Prix: DC and put together a sweet Affinity deck featuring solid critters in Myr Enforcers and Somber Hoverguards, as well as ripping open the sickness in pack three (Arcbound Ravager). I also had a large amount of spot-removal in double Shatter, Dismantle, and Echoing Ruin. I played against mono-Black in round one and his first turn play was to drop a Disciple of the Vault, which is anathema to my archetype. On his second turn, he plays a Leonin Scimitar and equips the Disciple. I ask him if I can read it and pick it up, replacing the Equipment so that the Scimitar is covering the text box on the card. Without the Disciple’s ability in plain view, it slipped my opponent’s mind and I proceeded to win the game without taking a single point of loss of life when it would have killed me several times over. When he realized his mistake, he accused me of cheating. All I said was,”You may have target opponent lose one life.”
This one is also false. The idea comes from one of my matches at Pro Tour Amsterdam – I had a Viridian Longbow in play and my opponent played Vulshok Battlemaster. He picked up my Longbow and said,”This goes on here,” equipping his guy, without giving me time to think. I bounced his Battlemaster with a Crystal Shard and the next time he played him, I remembered to ping before he got his equip.
10. Who’s That Guy That Looks Like Da Cheat*
Another story from Grand Prix: DC. In the first round of the tournament, my teammate was playing the White Equipment deck with a splash of Green against a White/Red deck. He had an Auriok Bladewarden in play as well as a Leonin Den-Guard. In his main phase, he played a Leonin Scimitar and attempted to equip it to his Den-Guard. His opponent cast Electrostatic Bolt on the critter in response, dropped it in his graveyard, then cursed when he realized his mistake. The equip resolved and my teammate declared an attack when his opponent pulled the EB out of his graveyard and pointed it at the Auriok Bladewarden.”I killed your dude,” he said, and my entire team was dumbfounded at his brazen attitude. We called over a Judge and explained the situation; the opponent said stuff like”Why would I Bolt a creature that wouldn’t die? I just said ‘kill your guy,’ I should have been more specific.” The ruling was for the cheater, and my teammate subsequently lost a damage race he would have easily won.
This story is true. Unfortunately for Nationals players, I saw this guy again at Mid-Atlantic Regionals, and he qualified. I’m sure that if he’s cheated at one tournament with a high level of rules enforcement, he cheats at others as well. I never caught his name, but if anyone you are playing does something suspicious please call a judge! The only way to catch cheaters like these is to let it be known that they don’t play straight. If he gets warned for possible cheating infractions at every tournament he goes to, sooner or later the DCI will catch on.
And the winner is…………. (drumroll please)………..
Peter Haddemo of Sweden! The runner up is Dara Debuitlear – they both tied at 8 correct guesses apiece, so I flipped a coin. However, being a magnanimous soul, I am providing a runner-up prize of one ticket on Magic Online or any one-dollar rare in the SCG list from my own personal store credit. Congratulations to both players, and good luck playing!
John Matthew Upton
I like back, feed me!
jmumoo AT yahoo DOT com