FINAL JUDGEMENT: “How Good Is Life Gain Against R/G Beats?”

What began with a heartwarming welcome and a fast start ended with a rude smack in the face. Such is my tale from Regionals ’03 – and it has pictures!

What began with a heartwarming welcome and a fast start ended with a rude smack in the face. Such is my tale from Regionals ’03.

Before Round 1 began, Head Judge John Carter (Level 3, Philadelphia) pointed out to the crowd that”StarCityGames’ own Sheldon Menery!” was in attendance. I was humbled by the very warm welcome. I was also well pleased with the celebrity treatment I received from organizer Laurel Chiat (of Dream Wizards in Rockville, MD) and staff – I mean, they treated me as if I were a real luminary. It was unforgettable. Laurel insists that judges who work her events never pay when they have the time to play, a policy other larger TOs should consider – community-building and all, you know.

Lisa went with me and volunteered to help run the event, and once again, she distinguished herself. Laurel invited us both back any time, no doubt due to the strength of Lisa’s organizational skills.

Because Laurel had already engaged John to be Head Judge, I decided to play. I knew my skills would be a little rusty, considering that I’d only played twice in the preceding six weeks due to moving and whatnot. I had been playing B/G Cemetery, but I found that it just didn’t punish a slow-starting deck. I chose to play R/G Beats because it would minimalize the impact of my creaky skills, and because I expected some slower-to-develop decks like ‘Tog and Wake. (And the favorable matchup against U/G didn’t hurt.) Here’s my list:


3 Grim Lavamancer

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Phantom Centaur

3 Llanowar Elves

3 Basking Rootwalla

2 Caller of the Claw

2 Blistering Firecat


3 Call of The Herd

4 Volcanic Hammer

3 Firebolt

3 Shock

3 Elephant Guide

1 Hurricane


3 Karplusan Forest

4 Wooded Foothills

1 Mossfire Valley

7 Forest

7 Mountain


3 Threaten

2 Krosan Reclamation

2 Sudden Impact

2 Nantuko Vigilante

3 Naturalize

3 Pillage

Obviously, I was expecting to see some ‘Tog and Wake. I liked the idea of a maindeck Hurricane as both a finisher and a U/G destroyer. The land count was a little thin; as you’ll see later, I had frequent mana trouble. I knew that chance existed going in, and was willing to risk it, but I didn’t expect it to really bite me so hard. The main sideboard choice I regret is not including Ensnaring Bridge – but perhaps that was match-up driven. As you’ll see, I played against only a narrow sampling of decks.

For the report, I’ve decided to take a page from Rizzo and include some photos.

Round 1: Seth, Slide

Seth was rattled from the get-go, John’s introduction of me as some sort of”celebrity,” serving to take him off his game. Seth stalled on two mana in Game 1, and mulliganed in Game 2, and my deck did what it’s designed to do: Turn a slow start into a short game. In Game 2, he managed to stave off the eventual beatings by playing Teroh’s Faithful on three consecutive turns, but a timely Naturalize and a Guided Mongrel was way too much.

Matches: 1-0. Games 2-0.

RULES STUFF: If a creature enchanted with Elephant Guide is removed from the game (as with Vengeful Dreams), the Elephant Guide doesn’t trigger. It only triggers on the creature going to the graveyard.

Between rounds, I compare notes with Ted Knutson and Jim Ferraiolo (way to go, Jim!), and one of their friends whose name I never got. I did get a photo, however, because he had the courage to play Clerics! I’m still working on that mono-black version of my own.

Round 2: Anthony, Mono-Black Control

A very pleasant opponent and what could be a tough match turned out to be a pleasant opponent who didn’t have much of a chance. Anthony mulliganed Game 1 only to face turn 3 Centaur, turn 4 Firecat. In Game 2, Anthony’s removal came out, as did some of his life gain. We went back and forth; I knew the longer the game went, the worse it would be for me. At seven life and facing a Mongrel on the board, and who knows what in my hand, Anthony Corrupted for eleven. Unfortunately, he drew Mirari the very next turn. It lasted a few turns, but eventually succumbed to my sideboard MVP, Pillage. A Firecat later, it was all over.

Matches 2-0. Games 4-0.

RULES STUFF: Anthony makes an excellent play to keep himself alive in the face of my Guided Elephant token. What was even nicer was that he was kind enough to explain to me how it worked. He plays Mutilate for six, and then copies it with Mirari. When the copied Mutilate resolves, it kills the token. The Elephant Guide triggers, and goes on the stack on top of the still-waiting Mutilate. The Guide trigger resolves, and I put a 3/3 Elephant token into play, which gets wiped out by the original Mutilate. Very nicely done.

Round 3: Zeke, W/G Beats

As you can see, I was in trouble from the start. Zeke had a lucky monkey.

This was a match of mulligans. I did in Games 1 and 3; Zeke did in 2. His two wins came with Worship on the board and me with no answer.

The best play sequence was in Game 2: There were many creatures on the board, but Zeke had a Glory in the ‘yard, a Worship in play, two Anurid Brushhoppers enchanted with Elephant Guide, and Contested Cliffs. I had two Centaurs, both Guided, and a Mongrel, despite having stalled at four mana. On my turn, things looked desperate. I played a creature face-down, with full Jedi mind powers coming to bear. At end of turn, Zeke (a recent JSS winner), chose to off my Wild Mongrel with his Brushhopper, no doubt hearing the voice I had projected into his young mind:”Don’t mind me, I’m just a Firecat.”

On his turn, Zeke gave his guys protection from green and swung with everything, leaving me at 2. He said,”go.” I untapped and flipped over my Nantuko Vigilante. He hung his head and we went to Game 3.

The mulligan and three-mana stall was fatal. I accept mulligans are part of the game. What hurt most was losing despite Zeke’s poor play, which happened twice (see Rules Stuff, below).

Matches 2-1. Games 5-2.

RULES STUFF: Giving his creatures protection from green, Zeke made his Elephant Guides fall off. Protection means the permanent can’t be enchanted by enchantments of that color or quality (rule 502.7b).

I’m not too upset. My goal is 6-3, and I had already won difficult matchups. At this point, though, I began to realize that the field (at least what I was seeing) was hating R/G.

Round 4: Josh, MBC

Another excellent and sportsmanlike opponent, I take note of Josh’s ICP shirt. He makes a joking reference to me about trying to intimidate him with my judgeness. I peel back my shirt, and tell him that if I’m going to try to intimidate him, it’ll be with the giant dragon tattoo. He appreciates the artwork. And sorry, no picture; if you want to see it, you’ll have to do so in person (but I’ll be happy to show you – see me at Nationals).

The beats lay on early in Game 1. Josh topdecks a Corrupt to stay alive. I return the favor with a Firecat, and soon we’re shuffling. Game 2 was all about the Pillage. I had included it for its value against MBC and opposing Bridges; here, it took out his Cabal Coffers on turn 4, and he never recovered. He died with a Mutilate in his hand.

Matches 3-1. Games 7-2.

RULES STUFF: Mutilate applies to creatures that are in play when it resolves, but not those that come into play later (rule 418.3). If you pump a Nantuko Shade up to 8/7, then Mutilate for six, the Shade will only deal two damage. A Shade played post-Mutilate will not need to be pumped in order to keep it alive.

I’m finished very quickly, so I make a point to go down to the lobby to visit with Theresa. Theresa is the wife of loyal reader John Ewing, with whom I had lengthy discussions leading up to the tournament regarding B/G Cemetery; I even traded him the last two Oversold Cemeteries he needed to play the deck (he finished 5-4-1 and promises a report).

Anyway, he’s told me Theresa, who is on crutches from a skiing mishap, has come with him and is downstairs. John also tells me he hasn’t gotten down to see her much, because his matches have all run long. I had just met Theresa the week before when John ran into TAG in Mechanicsville to trade for those Cemeteries; she’s a smart, engaging, beautiful lady. I know that John’s play style is a little methodical, and I hate the idea of her sitting alone all day, so I head down to keep her company for a few minutes.

Turns out Theresa needs me like water needs wet. She’s brought along enough reading material to get her through a year’s full of Regionals, which includes the highly-recommended book”Word Freak.” Nonetheless, she’s kind enough to chat with me a bit before sending me back to my doom. And I’m dumb enough to not get a picture.

It’s a shame John and Theresa live so close to DC (meaning so far away from us). They’re good people, the type of folk that Lisa and I could become fast friends with – the opposite of:

Round 5: Unnamed Player, Slide

You’ll note that there’s no picture of Unnamed Player. That’s intentional. Right away, I get a bad vibe about him. He’s just unpleasant and a little rude. I don’t have any desire to take his picture, and I don’t even ask. He’s complete jerk, the type of player who makes me dislike tournament Magic – even though I played a lot of other great people that day.

Game 1, he whines about getting screwed because he doesn’t have white. Without white, he gets crushed. I want to gloat, but stay silent.

Game 2, he whines more about not getting something, although it’s not clear what. I Naturalize Slide and Rift. He whines about that. Then, he whines – I swear this is true – about having to hard-cast not one, but two Angels.

Game 3, I have to mulligan. I keep a one-land, one-Elf hand. It doesn’t matter, because he whines again about having to hard-cast both Angels.

Unnamed Player, you know who you are. Grow up.

Matches 3-2. Games 8-4.

RULES STUFF: It’s perfectly acceptable for people to play with foreign cards. If you can’t read them, ask the Judge. Even if you think you know what they do, get the Judge to confirm. And remember that Nantuko Monastery has first strike.

By this time, I’m getting a sinking feeling about the field. Four of five opponents with life gain does not bode well.

ROUND 6: Tyler, MBC

Here’s where it starts to get ugly. In Game 1, it’s removal central, and no Guides for me to compensate. At a critical moment, he double-Corrupts for like a zillion. In Game 2, I keep a weak hand – two lands and an Elf – and Tyler again has more removal than Mr. Clean. Centaurs are no good if you can’t play them.

Matches 3-3. Games 8-6.

RULES STUFF: Guiltfeeder triggers after blockers are declared and it’s not blocked. The life loss will happen before combat damage ever goes on the stack.

Now I’ve lost four games in a row. I’m out of prize contention, but I continue to play on for the practice and fun. What I get is frustration.

ROUND 7: Jeremy, G/W Fattie Slide

Jeremy tells me he came from Delaware to play. In Game 1, Jeremy mulligans to 5, then proceeds to cycle cards like a madman (including three Renewed Faith) and draw land every turn. Phantom Nishoba rhymes with”it’s over.” (Okay, not really.) The wheels have officially come off the cart when R/G’s opponent mulligans to five and still wins.

In Game 2, Jeremy again makes like Lance Armstrong, and with a graveyard full, Living Wishes for a Nishoba and drops Hunting Grounds on the table. I stare. He smiles.

Matches 3-4. Games 8-8.

RULES STUFF: Hunting Grounds triggers when your opponent plays a spell (but only if you have Threshold). If the spell is countered for any reason, the Hunting Grounds’ triggered ability still resolves.

Six game losses in a row. Unprecedented. Still, I play on. For one thing, Lisa’s still working, and for another, I want my points back.

Round 8: Patrick, R/G Beats

Patrick, perhaps the most gentlemanly of all my opponents, wins the die roll. I realize that I’m on a losing streak for that, too, as I’ve lost my fifth roll in a row.

Game 1 gets crazy quickly. He plays turn 2 Mongrel, I play Mongrel. He plays Guide, I play Guide. He plays Centaur, I play Centaur. He plays Centaur #2, I play Centaur #2. He plays Centaur #3, I play – Elf. He wins the race. Game 2 sees me mulligan again, and I never have a chance.

Matches 3-5. Games 8-10.

RULES STUFF: Phantom Centaur’s damage prevention ability isn’t optional. You can’t just let it take two damage from a Shock and heal during Cleanup. Every time it’s damaged, it will lose a counter.

Eight game losses in a row…I have reached the nadir of my Magic playing. I decide to drop, head back to Arlington where we were staying with our friend Thom, and enjoy a nice bottle of wine.

Never before have I seen such depths. My matchups being three Slides, three MBCs, and two Beats (1 W/G, 1 R/G), 3-5 is about all I might have hoped for. I expected to see some ‘Tog and U/G – obviously, I was wrong. But that’s our game. Life gain is just too much.

The Threatens in the sideboard weren’t worth much. Again, Ensnaring Bridges would have been better; they could have stopped the Angels cold, at least long enough to get some burn through. There was a never a matchup where the Hurricane would have been as useful as I had hoped. As far as Sudden Impact goes, my day would have been a success had a ‘tog player played Upheaval, and I responded with”Okay; I’ll float four…”

I still had a great time. I had plenty of time to chat with the Judges working the event, swap some stories, and help them with rules questions. Props to Adam for giving me my pairings so I wouldn’t have to get crushed in the crowd. I even managed to get back down to talk to Theresa some more, who listened patiently to my woes. Again, Laurel and her staff treated me like a king. I’ll be happy to work events with her any time.

And that’s my Final Judgement.