Good Player Lost in Sea of Broken Cards – A Power 9 Report *T8*

A few days before the prerelease, Ted Knutson asked me if I wanted to play in the StarCityGames Richmond Power 9 event. My only experience playing Vintage at that point was one event at GenCon 2004, but I figured I wasn’t doing anything anyway, so why not give it a shot. If I scrubbed out, I could always hop in a prerelease flight, right? Sadly my day went too well to get any action with Betrayers, but I was rewarded with a Mox Pearl for my “inconvenience”.

A few days before the Betrayers of Kamigawa prerelease, Mr. Knutson messaged me over IRC, asking if I was interested in playing in the StarCityGames Power Nine tournament. I’ve never really played Type One competitvely before – I had borrowed a deck from members of team Short Bus at GenCon this past year to play in a side event, missing out on Top 8 by losing only to two of the people who lent me the deck, but that’s the extent of my Type One tournament knowledge.

Although I didn’t do spectacularly well at Gen Con, my experience with Type One in general was very positive. There wasn’t a game I lost in the tournament I felt couldn’t have won if I had played differently or better. From the matches I saw, Type One really seemed to reward the player, the person who made the least mistakes. When every deck is crammed with powerful cards that can swing the game at any moment, mistakes could be costly, and there is far less room for error.

God knows any Type Two player has seen or played against some Ravager Affinity player who gave you every possible out, but still managed to win because they drew two Ravagers and a handful of Disciples, and let’s face it, if they come out fast enough, there isn’t really anything in Standard to deal with it. In Type One, a timely Balance would stop it in it’s tracks. Null Rod perhaps? Rack and Ruin? Swords to Plowshares? Turn 2 Mindslaver? Force of Will their big turn 2 play? Or combo out before they even get to attack?

Type One is a format of infinite card drawing spells, efficient countermagic, and cheap answers to every problem out there, barring a troubling Trinisphere hitting play turn one. However, since I first and last played at GenCon, Type One had undergone some drastic changes. I was told going into the tournament that their were lots of combo decks, capable of easily killing you before you even get your first turn. This only thrilled me, I love combo, but what I love more than combo, is control. For in a format where there exist combo decks that win before a creature ever could attack, Control must be a viable option.

That is why Mr. Knut advised Control Slaver, a deck packed with card drawing, counterspells, and powerful artifacts. It is designed to control the game until it can get a Mindslaver activated and completely decimate the opponent with his or her own resources, using Goblin Welder to recur any artifacts to help along the way. Even though I owned no Type One cards, Ted said he had acquired enough cards lately to be able to put together the deck for the SCG Power Nine tournament held at the prerelease.

Here is the list I was given to play:

1 Triskelion

1 Platinum Angel

1 Pentavus

4 Goblin Welder

4 Mana Drain

4 Force of Will

4 Thirst for Knowledge

4 Brainstorm

1 Fact or Fiction

1 Ancestral Recall

3 Duress

2 Mindslaver

1 Tinker

1 Time Walk

1 Mystical Tutor

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Mana Crypt

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Emerald

1 Mox Ruby

1 Mox Pearl

1 Mox Jet

1 Sol Ring

1 Black Lotus

1 Lotus Petal

1 Library of Alexandria

1 Darksteel Citadel

3 Underground Sea

4 Flooded Strand

4 Volcanic Island

3 Island


3 Lava Dart

2 Tormod’s Crypt

1 Duress

2 Echoing Truth

4 Sphere of Resistance

3 Rack and Ruin

I was pumped and ready to go. That’s when I was reminded I had SAT’s the very same weekend as the tournament. It was big frowns for me as informed Ted I would be unable to attend – damned school getting in the way of the important things like Magic!

However, fate intervened, with the snow and ice falling across the East Coast, schools everywhere were shutting down. On Friday night I learned that the SAT’s were cancelled, I would be able to attend. Immediately I got online and contacted Ted, seeing if he still has the needed cards available. Sadly he had lent them to Jim Ferraiolo for the tournament, and I was out of luck. Funny how things work out, when I had a deck I couldn’t attend, but when I could attend, I didn’t have a deck.

I decide to go anyway, and get the slim chance of being able to borrow a deck from someone in the morning, or at the very least play in the prerelease. I rendezvous with Jim and Ted at Panera Bread Company and get some morning munchies before braving the frozen tundra that is Richmond, to make it to the promised land of the Prerelease.

We arrive about an hour before the tournament and I am off like a madman asking anyone I can find if they have an extra CS deck just lying around. I mean who doesn’t, really? Sadly it seemed I was out of luck until Andy Probasco, also known as “the Brassman” showed up. He had almost everything I needed for the deck and graciously allowed me to borrow it for the event, even taking the time to explain the various matchups and rough strategy I should implement in them. When not roughing up the Type One field and loaning decks to the environmentally challenged, Brassman can be seen helping the elderly cross the street and nursing fallen baby birds back to health.

After borrowing a Black Lotus from Yakob Orlove and some Force of Wills from John May, I had to break open my wallet and buy the important and hard-to-find cards for the deck. You know, the rare and elusive gems like Brainstorm, Lava Dart, and the ever-important Island.

As I sleeved up the deck, Josh Adams turned in my decklist (I was already past the deadline for doing so), and round one pairings went up. I joined the herd of gamers and await to see who my round one thrashing will come from.

Problem 1: I wasn’t on the list.

I go to the judging station to try and rectify the problem, and find that although I turned in a decklist, since I hadn’t paid the entry fee yet, I was not put on the list of players. Fortunately there were other mix ups in pairings and player registration, and I was allowed to pay and sign up.

Problem 2: I realized I was out of money as I had forgotten to find an ATM after paying for some of the singles I was missing from the deck. Luckilly for me, I was able to bum the entry fee from Adams (who I still owe) and finally begin the tourney, with a deck full of cards I didn’t own, entered with a list I didn’t make, entry fee paid for by someone other than me, and all in time I really didn’t have. Yes, apparently I am a slacker, yes apparently I am good for nothing.

Round 1, Jacob Orlove with Meandeck Tendrils:

Super, first round and I’m already playing someone I know is a good player, and who I borrowed cards from. I knew what deck he was playing, and was warned that it had a very high probability of killing me on turn one. I jokingly inform him that I have a 0% win record against people I have borrowed Type One cards from as we roll to see who goes first. Luckily, I win the roll in a matchup where the turn 1 play is possibly more crucial than any other.

The warning of the turn 1 kill rings in my head as I stare at Goblin Welder, Sol Ring, Volcanic Island, Thirst for Knowledge, Platinum Angel, Mox Jet, and a fetchland. I debate on whether or not to keep it, for while it ensures a turn 2 Platinum Angel on the play, it leaves me completely vulnerable to a turn 1 kill. I decide to keep – I mean what are the odds he actually has it? He immediately says he’s going to keep. Uh oh.

I turn 1 the Volcanic Island and drop the Welder, passing the turn. Jacob proceeds to unload a grip full of Rituals, card drawing spells, and other mana acceleration and unleashes a fatal turn 1 Tendrils of Agony. Wow, my first real match of Type One and I get hit with a turn one kill, at least I got to play a spell.

The worst part about knowing nothing of Type One is that I had no clue how to board in any of my matchups. I take out Pentavus, Triskelion, Fact or Fiction, and two Goblin Welders, deeming them too slow for this matchup and bring in the fourth Duress and four Sphere of Resistance. This time I keep a hand that allows for a turn 1 Duress, turn 2 Sphere, and then counterspell and Thirst for Knowledge backup. I lead with the Duress and he reveals a hand containing Mox Jet and Ruby, a land, Spoils of the Vault, Sol Ring, a combination of Chromatic Sphere and another card I can’t quite remember, but think was a Night’s Whisper. I debate on whether to take the Sol Ring and hopefully cripple his mana base under the stifling Sphere of Resistance, the Spoils thus preventing another possible turn 1 kill if he got lucky with his top deck, or his his only permanent Black source in the Mox.

It doesn’t really seem like too hard of a decision and I snag the Sol Ring, preventing a jump of mana on his turn 1, and giving him fewer resources to work under the Sphere. He leads with the land, a Sphere, and some Moxen and passes back. I breathe a sigh of relief and drop my Sphere, pretty much ensuring his inability to kill me before I can take control of the game. He plays some more mana accel and draws some cards, setting up his combo and ends his turn. I untap and play more mana sources, giving me enough mana to Thirst for Knowledge and play Force of Will with its alternative casting cost, but my only other Blue card is the Thirst, and my hand has no action besides those two cards, meaning I could disrupt the combo with my counter and put myself into top deck mode, or I could gamble and Thirst, trying to draw a Blue card and some more gas.

Fortunately for me I don’t have to make the decision, as he plays some Ritual effects and Spoils with three Mana in his pool and more than 7 cards in his graveyard. He calls Cabal Ritual and starts to flip over his top cards, then he flips some more, then a few more, and more still. The first Ritual is the 19th card. Unfortunately for Jacob he had cast a Night’s Whisper earlier, making the Spoils just fatal enough for me to steal a win by doing approximately nothing. A turn 1 kill and a turn self-kill, boy what an interactive match!

Game three he gets to go first, and I mulligan a playable hand to try and come up with one that has Force of Will, which I do, perhaps allowing me to stop a turn 1 combo kill. His first spell is a Land Grant, revealing a hand without any card drawing, just Mox, Mana Vault, Tendrils of Agony, Chain of Vapor, and two Ritual effects. I let it resolve because he can’t turn kill me with it, and if he let’s me get a turn, I can ensure that he won’t be able to any time soon. He goes off, dropping me to two and emptying his hand, leaving him with just a Mox and a Vault. We both pass turns back and forth as he apparently doesn’t draw anything but more mana acceleration while I develop the board. I eventually Drain something, allowing me to Mindslaver him. He reveals a hand that has Dark and Cabal Rituals, Tendrils of Agony, and a Demonic Tutor. He has everything he needs except a source of Black mana. I promptly topdeck a source of such mana for him and Ritual out a Tutor, planning on searching his deck for a Chain of Vapor making him lose his Mana Vault and land – thus crippling him for the rest of the game until I can find a way to win. As I begin to pull out the Chain, I decide to search his deck completely to see what exactly is in it before I finish tutoring. I slap my head as I realize he has Spoils and Demonic Consultation in the deck. I grab the Spoils and triumphantly cast it for him naming Tooth and Nail, winning the game.


Round 2, Rich playing Salvagers Combo

He mullgans and leads with some artifact mana turn 1, and I Duress him revealing a hand of two Auriok Salvagers and a Wasteland, whiffing but showing that not only does he not have a White source, but is far from being able to combo me out. He wastes my land and I play the only other one I have, debating on sacrificing my Lotus to drop a Mindslaver without the mana to activate it this turn, or even the next unless I top deck something the next two turns and he doesn’t disrupt me. Instead I decide to hold back, as I have a Force of Will and no other Blue card in hand, so if I keep Lotus back I can still cast the Force. I pass back, he top decks a White source and drops Auriok Salvagers. Since he has two and it would cripple me to lose my Lotus, I let him have it – he still doesn’t have any other combo piece. I untap draw the needed mana source to be able to use Mindslaver next turn and decide to go for it. I tap out and pass the turn. He untaps, draws Intuition, Intuitions for Pyrite Spellbomb, Pyrite Spellbomb, Black Lotus. There’s nothing I can do and he combos off.

I board out my Triskelions, Pentavus, and four other random cards and bring in the Crypts and four Spheres. My opening hand is Force of Will, Ancestral Recall, Mana Drain, Sol Ring, Brainstorm, Force of Will, Sphere of Resistance. I was very tempted to keep this hand, and looking back I think my logic was correct. Given the choice I would normally run the risk of keeping it, especially on the draw. Seeing how I was on the play, I was a little reluctant to keep a hand that’s first turn was to say “Done”. The thing is, the deck I was playing against only really had the combo – it wasn’t an aggressive deck and had no way to win fast if it didn’t combo me out. With the cards I had, I could hold him off with both my Force of Wills and still have action when I finally drew some land. I shipped it back however, and the top card of my library was Darksteel Citadel followed by Flooded Strand …oof.

I get a six-card hand of no land, both Mindslavers, and no spells that cost less than 3 mana. I ship it back and get a 3 land, Tormod’s Crypt and Sphere hand. I lead with Crypt and he hesitates before nodding his head and I write down Force of Will on my score pad. Next turn I draw a land and drop the Sphere, which he responds by pitching a Blue card and casting the Force. A few turns after drawing some more land I draw another Sphere, which he Forces again. At this point he has everything he needs for the combo except a Pyrite Spellbomb. After several turns of not attacking me with Auriok Salvagers and Trinket Mage he begins to draw cards off of a recurring Scrabbling Claws, however there are only so many cards in both our yards and he still hasn’t drawn the Spellbombs. He begins his creature assault while I’m stuck drawing nothing and draws the Pyrite Spellbomb the turn he could have attacked me for the win.


Round 3, Two-Land Belcher:

Game one I get a turn 1 Duress and see what he is playing, stripping him of his way to get his combo going. He never really recovers, and eventually I Mindslaver him and get him to kill himself.

I again aggressively mulligan into a Force of Will and am glad I did, he begins with a turn 1 Land Grant revealing a hand with a ton of Ritual effects, Goblin Welder and other mana effects and other cards needed to combo, but only a Lotus Petal as any source of free mana. I Force the Land Grant and he drops the Petal and sacrifices it for the Welder. I begin to develop my mana and hand while he draws nothing and beats down with a rather lonely Goblin Welder. I eventually get out and activate a Mindslaver revealing a hand of pure gas on his part. He draws a Black source for his turn and I cast Demonic Consultation for Tooth and Nail, decking him.


Round 4, U/W/B control

This was my first match against a non-combo deck, and I had to kind of develop my game plan as I went along. As in the old Tog mirror matchups in Type Two, I settled on holding back my precious counterspells and letting him resolve all the card draw spells he wanted while he would do his best to use his to stop me from drawing cards. The game came to a crucial point when he dropped a Meddling Mage on Mana Drain the turn after I had resolved a Welder and went to play a face-down Exalted Angel. I played the only Force I had drawn and carefully saved, and he responded with his own. I untapped and slapped a Triskelion in play and shot the morph before he could flip it. With an active Welder and Triskelion the outcome was inevitable and I quickly won.

The next game was decidedly longer. He got a Meddling Mage out on Welder and I Duressed him revealing Decree of Justice, PtP, Skeletal Scrying, and Cunning Wish. He only had 3 land, so I nab the Skeletal Scrying to try and stop him from drawing into more land. I start chaining Thirst for Knowledges and Fact or Fiction, and get a Mindslaver out. I take out the Meddling Mage with Plow, untap and get a Welder into play with Mindslaver in my graveyard. When I see his next hand has Time Walk, I ponder my next course of action, and decide not to Slaver him a third time. He gets greedy and goes to build up his resources that turn and casts the Time Walk. At the end of his turn, I bring back the Slaver, snag his extra turn and make sure he can’t get out of my lock when I bring back Pentavus next turn to start abusing tokens. The game is shortly over when a combination of me tapping his City of Brass every turn and flying tokens get the better of him.


Round 5 Workshop deck:

If I win this round I can draw myself into Top 8 and win my first piece of power! I am still nervous, as I feel I had gotten lucky until this point, always seeming to get a Force of Will in my opening hand. My opponent wins the die roll and begins with an odd start of “Mishra’s Workshop, done”. I have Mana Drain, but only land as mana sources. I decide to Brainstorm main phase and am rewarded with both a Force of Will and Black Lotus to be able to cast a Mana Drain, should the need arise. As it turns out, my opponent kept a one-land hand with Trinispheres and four-drop artifacts, but never draws another land and can’t drop the Trinisphere, as it would lock him out of any chance in this game. I Duress him a few times and eventually get my beats on.

Game Two is much like the first. He never really gets anything online and I counter his few threats and eventually find a way to take the game home.


Round 6, Feature Match on Starcitygames.com

I thought I’d be able to draw, but after working it out with my friend Ian, we realize there is a chance he wouldn’t get in if we drew. We have to play it out and I am nervous, as I know Ian is a good player with more Type One experience than me. I don’t really need to get into the details as you can read what happens in the coverage. I essentially win both games, but decide to draw with him anyway because I’m a lock to get in, and it gives him a chance. It turns out he is in 9th… again. He came in 9th at the previous SCG Power Nine in Richmond, and at last year’s Regionals as well. I feel for him as it is a rough beat to come so far so many times, and come up one short.


Top 8: Workshop

Yeah, these matches were a joke, I get beat handily both games. Game one he gets a turn 1 Trinisphere on the play and is able to drop threat after threat without any worry of me doing a thing.

Game two I have a great hand with counterspells and card draw and tutors and two land. I get a land Stripped after I drop a Sol Ring. I drop my second land and begin drawing cards like crazy… except I never get another land. I have to burn all my resources to try and get a second land that would allow me to take control of the game, I get it too late and lose to big Juggs, but even a lowly Welder could have beaten me down under the resources I had.

All in all, the deck did extremely well considering I had never played a game with it before. It even got me a Mox Pearl, which I held for all of two seconds before it was yoinked by Ted. I think Control Slaver was so good at the Star City Tournament mainly because it had done so well at Waterbury. People fell into the same trap Affinity laid at PT: Columbus. All day, my opponents commented that they weren’t prepared for the CS matchup because they had figured nobody would run it, guessing it would be hated out because it had done so well at the previous tournament. Therefore they assumed they were safe to remove hate cards because the rest of the field would sufficiently beat the deck. Turns out several people had this idea and I got paired against them.

I really like the list I played, as it seemed pretty consistent for what I played against, the only thing I would have changed comfortably was the Platinum Angel main, it really should have been the final Duress that I had actually originally wanted. Platinum Angel isn’t really good against any of the decks, as the combo decks have tons of ways to get rid of her, and she is just an expensive Serra Angel in the control mirrors. Also it might not be a bad idea to work in a Nev’s Disk or two to be able to clear the board if you ever get behind, like against Workshop.

The one thing I really seemed to notice about Type One currently, is that the decision of when and what to mulligan is the most important decision you make during the whole tournament. Now I know no matter what the format is, the mulligan decision is the make or break decision, but it is even more so in Type One where so many of the games are decided early – sometimes before you even get a first or second turn. While the game may not end immediately, it seems that players are more or less going through the motions, and defeat is inevitable.

If I could stress one thing as an outsider looking in, it would be this: Learn when to mulligan. It’s not a simple decision at all, just because you have a fair mix of mana and spells doesn’t mean it should be kept.

The hard part is mulliganning isn’t an exact science – it depends on matchups, the deck you are playing, whether you are on the play or draw, what’s in your hand and left in your deck, and what your overall game plan is. However, there are some universal signs of shipping a hand back that may look playable at first sight. Try to ask yourself these simple questions (they aren’t even close perfect), but I think they give a rough idea of what you should be looking for.

1) Do I have the resources in which to work with what is in my hand? If not, what are the odds I will be able to draw into those resources in time to have a playable grip?

2) Are all my spells going to have a meaningful impact on the game?

3) When are they most likely going to matter?

4) Is that time too late for this particular matchup?

5) What would I need to feel comfortable with this hand?

6) Do I have any dead cards? What are they? What are the odds they will ever be useful?

7) Will I be potentially screwed out of the game if my opponent has card “X” or “Y”?

8) What will happen if I don’t top deck the needed mana? What will happen if I do? How long could I be a part of the game if my first 2 draws were essentially blank cards? 3? 4?

9) Finally: Is the risk worth the reward?

This is even more apparent when playing a deck like CS, because you virtually start out with a mulligan if you draw one of your expensive artifacts in your opening hand and don’t have a Welder around.

I really wish I had more advice to give, but honestly… I still don’t know that much about Type One. Just be a good player and always have the Force of Will.

Star Wars Kid