FINAL JUDGEMENT: Playing Around, Part II

My foray into mediocrity at the last Houston Qualifier led me to try it again at one of the early PT: Chicago Qualifiers. After all, what’s a better way to spend an afternoon than going 3-3 with your friends?

My foray into mediocrity at the last Houston Qualifier led me to try it again at one of the early PT: Chicago Qualifiers. After all, what’s a better way to spend an afternoon than going 3-3 with your friends?

Along with Team Zanzibar members Rob Weimer and Ariel Jones (Ariel’s promised a ZanziPage sometime soon), we descended on the Onslaught Sealed Deck event. I was pretty confident going in. The previous night, I had swept through the Friday night warm-up event with what I thought was a mediocre deck. I think I lost one game all night. In retrospect, I would have loved to have the same deck on Saturday. It didn’t have a single bomb, but it had a delicious synergy, augmented by some odd card distribution. I had two each of Goblin Machinist, Dirge of Dread, and Wake of Indifference (okay, that one’s not so odd) to go along with some decent Goblins and the Snapping Thragg.

Saturday was a little different. I won’t bore you with the complete contents, but suffice it to say that I was disappointed that I couldn’t play the one of the two bombs I had: Kamahl, Fist of Krosa. The rest of the green was really weak. What was worse was that I had great black creatures to include two Severed Legions, a Soulless One, and a Nantuko Husk in my pile of Zombies and the Shepherd of Rot (although no Festering Goblin) plus the Cabal Archon… But I had only one black spell: Shade’s Breath.

That other bomb? Grinning Demon.

No Swat, no Smother, no Cruel Revival, no removal of any kind in black. I had some good white Clerics as well, which would have gone nicely with the Archon -but again, no spells! I had one Pacifism. Black/white, which could have been really good, was not an option.

I toyed with the idea of playing black/green so I could play Kamahl, but I would have had to play 20 creatures because the only good green spells I had were two Wirewood Pride (with six Elves). It just didn’t sound viable-because there was no fat in green. I settled on playing the only color that had decent removal, red, where I had Pinpoint Avalanche and Erratic Explosion to go with the underrated Lay Waste and the MVP: Wave of Indifference.

Round 1: Joseph Whitney

Joseph is a very good local player who has been once to the Pro Tour (the final voyage on The Boat). We trade two games, as I lose to Tephraderm once and play around it a second time, going the distance with my unblockables. In game 3, it shows up again, but I do the math: I can win in three turns with my Shepherd of Rot, blocking and activating.

Then he drops Butcher Orgg.

Matches 0-1, games 1-2

Rules Insert: Butchered Orgg can deal its combat damage to anything the defending player controls, not just the player or what blocks it. It will wipe out the side in no time.

Round 2: Johnnie Knapp

Another decent player, I get paired up with Johnnie, who drew in the previous round. Johnnie’s dudes are better than mine, but he’s playing three colors. His guys win game 1, but I disrupt his white in game 2 with a timely Lay Waste.

I gamble and lose in game 3. I play turn 4 Grinning Demon. He doesn’t yet have a plains, so if he doesn’t have it and a Pacifism, I’m a wrecking ball; even if he does, I have the Husk.

Problem 1: He has immediate Plains/Pacifism.

Problem 2: Husk never shows.

Matches 0-2, games 2-4

Rules Insert: Grinning Demon’s ability is a beginning of upkeep trigger. That means it goes on the stack, and you can respond to it. If you’re at two life but have life gain in your hand, you can stack the Demon’s ability, play the life gain, and survive.

Round 3: Nathan Lyon

Nathan’s is one of the better younger players in the area, so I’m as surprised to see him as he is to see me. He tells me he’s made bad mistakes in each of his first two matches, and it cost him. At this point, I’m just playing for pride – and happy to be playing, though justifiably disappointed. Playing more makes you better, from what I hear.

Game 1, Nathan stalls at 3 land. Game 2 is a partial stalemate until I call on the power of Erratic Explosion (see rules insert, below).

Matches 1-2, games 4-4.

Rules Insert: Nathan didn’t understand the power of Erratic Explosion. I announced Explosion, targeting Nathan’s Nantuko Husk. He said "okay." I asked if he was sure that he wanted to let the Explosion resolve. He said "yes." I turned over a card worth four damage to it, at which time he wanted to sacrifice creatures to the Husk. I told him that he didn’t have an opportunity before the Husk died to a State-Based Effect. Remember, the only kind of damage that stacks is combat damage. It’s spells that stack. Damage that’s part of the resolution of a spell cannot be responded to.

Round 4: William McDonald

William is a relatively new player to our environment, and a pleasant guy to play against. In Game 1, he stalls at two land, and I wince a little when I Lay Waste one of them. When he again stalls at 2 land in Game 2, I ask how many he’s playing. He tells me "fifteen, but I haven’t had a problem yet."

In this environment, I don’t think that’s enough.

Matches 2-2, games 6-4.

Rules Insert: Gustcloak creatures have an ability that triggers on them becoming blocked. The ability triggers and goes on the stack, and when it resolves, the creature’s controller chooses whether or not to remove it from combat. If he does, the creature isn’t in combat when the Combat Damage Step comes around, so the creature will neither give nor receive combat damage.

Round 5: Logan Cordell

Logan is one of a pair of twins here in Anchorage that both qualified for the JSS last year. They’re both young enough to play again this year.

Now it’s my turn to stall on three land… In two games. In Game 1, I nearly come all the way back, but his Quicksilver Dragon closes the door. In Game 2, I never have a chance, with a timely Complicate upsetting my rhythm. The Dragon again does its work.

It’s frustrating to not be able to use your skillz.

Matches 2-3, games 6-6

Rules insert: Complicate has a Cycle triggered ability. When you activate its Cycle ability, you can choose to put the triggered ability on the stack. That means the triggered ability ("counter target spell unless its controller pays 1") will resolve before the card draw. This is the case for all Cycle triggered abilities, because the first thing that happens when you announce a spell or ability is that spell or ability goes on the stack.

Round 6: Steve Dixon, D.V.M.

I don’t know why Steve is listed as a veterinarian in the DCI database: He’s an opera singer. We’re both frustrated at what could have been a much better day, but we’re playing in a room where the ballgame is on the TV, so it’s fine. While we’re shuffling, I watch Barry Bonds hit a ball so hard into McCovey cove that steam rises from the bay.

We trade the first two, with my pair of unblockable Legions (Steve’s playing W/U) taking Game 2 after I (again!) stalled on three land in Game 1. Things stalemate in Game 3, as he succeeds in killing both of my Legions. I have a fair number of Zombies out, to include a Husk and the Shepherd, but when Steve Clones the Husk, I almost scoop – because he has seven creatures and a Crafty Pathmage. I decide to see what happens. The next turn, he puts Crown of Awe on the Clone, I now I’m sure I’m done for. He attacks with just the Husk, not bothering to activate the Pathmage. Fortunately, I have a face-down morph creature, so I chump with it. In my hand, I happen to have two more morph creatures. I do the math. At the end of my turn, I activate the Shepherd. I play the morph creature face down and go. The scene repeats itself for two more turns, and I Shepherd him for the win.

As we’re scooping, I point out the Pathmage play; fortunately, Steve, who is a giant of a man (6’5"-ish and 300+ pounds), is also a good-natured fellow. We laugh about it and he doesn’t kill me.

Matches 3-3, games 7-6.

Rules Insert: Clone is not a targeted spell (although it once was). It can copy a creature that has Protection from Blue (or Creatures) or is untargetable. The creature to be copied is chosen as part of the resolution of the Clone spell; the Clone doesn’t come into play as a Clone and then change, it comes into play as that thing. Copying a Beast, will, for example, trigger Aether Charge.

All in all, a modestly disappointing day, mitigated by the fact that both Ariel and Rob made Top 8 (pack sharing rules!). Ariel was knocked out in the quarterfinals by her nemesis, State Champion Nate Wilke, and Rob lost in the semis to Wellwisher.dec.

Kudos to David Phifer on running a good tournament despite the last-minute loss of the original play space. Thanks also to Bosco’s Cards and Comics for providing the space when the original became unavailable.

After losing in the first two rounds, I’ve second-guessed my build decision a thousand times… But I’ve settled on the fact that I chose the best of what I had to play with.

And that’s my Final Judgement.