Apparently, I’m not as terrible at Magic as I believe. Yet I will continue believing it.
The choice to go to Kansas was not an easy one. I labored over it for a long time. New Wizards intern Paul Sottosanti informed me that I had three byes before he left on his trek to Seattle, and it got me thinking about the whole prospect. I don’t even think I ever had three byes before. Even if I did, what would I do with them? I only ever made day 2 of a Grand Prix once before – Grand Prix: Memphis, that fateful tournament where I became the first person to come in 9th place in a Grand Prix and not qualify in the history of the Grand Prixs.
Yeah, that’s par for the course when it comes to me and Magic. At least Mikey P won that Grand Prix with the deck that we made together. It was a very small consoling factor. Suffice to say, me and Grand Prixs never quite got along well.
My alternative for that weekend was going down to DC for the PTQ there, and going to visit several friends that are in the area. I did this for the last PTQ down there and was very pleased with the time I had with my friends there. I was actually going to choose DC again – but I had this nagging feeling that if I did not use these three byes that I earned at Nationals, then I might not have the chance ever again. I bought the overpriced ticket to KC, and was on my way to an unexpected pleasant surprise.
The first thing to happen to me in KC was getting ripped off by the cab driver. I paid $60 to get from the airport to the hotel… A price that probably could have bought me a ride on a small plane to the convention center, let alone a cab. The cab ride back was under $40. So just a warning to you all: be careful when it comes to transportation!
My arrival on site warranted some antics. Those who know me know that I am a fierce trading machine. I arrived to find the trading sharks swimming outside the convention hall, awaiting the arrival of warm bodies to trade with. I was of course glad to oblige and indulge in some very amusing magic conversation. Some traders don’t really play much, and have very little idea of what is going on in Magic. The one guy insisted that Akroma’s Vengeance would never be used outside of Block Constructed, therefore he got rid of all of his at $4 apiece… And remember, this guy sells a lot of cards. Just goes to show, kids – even intimidating dealers can have no idea what price some cards should be at. I traded several Vengeances away that weekend at $6-$8 easy.
To be honest, if it wasn’t for my trading habit, I wouldn’t have gone to KC. I knew I could at least make back the cost of the travel and lodgings by trading, and I would get to hang out with all my teammates whom I rarely see. I was looking forward to a fun weekend after I bombed out of the Grand prix as usual.
Ironically enough, the first of my teammates to arrive was no other than Antonino DeRosa, who later beat me in the finals of the Grand Prix to win the whole thing. Antonino is a good man and is fun to be around. I did a practice draft with him, Ben Stark (who I defeated in the semis), and several other players including BDM, who writes wonderful coverage for the Sideboard.
I had a full day of trading and saying hi to everyone who I had not seen in a long time, including my favorite Tournament Organizer, Mike Guptil, who was actually not the TO, but was there regardless to be the head judge. Scott Larabee and Mike Guptil gave me a little info on how to run Magic tournaments – something that I hope to start doing in the near future. Pittsburgh just doesn’t get enough tournaments due to the lack of large stores. Anyone interested in info about my tournaments, feel free to email me about it.
Eventually, my new housemates Mike Turian and Eugene Harvey arrived with Rachel Reynolds and Kartin’ Ken Krouner (who sadly does not Kart nearly enough these days). We retired to our room soon after and awaited the Grand Prix.
“Nate, you might do better than you think.”
-Brian David Marshall
Brian spoke these words to me when we were practice drafting, deciding that a set full of Manakins has to be good news for one Nate Heiss, Manakin king extraordinaire. But really, there is so much more to Mirrodin that I enjoy. Thanks to all the guys responsible for it – my hat is off to you! I think you’ve got it right.
The Sealed deck card pool I received was very powerful. I opened and passed away a Chrome Mox, deciding that it should only be fair to receive an Oblivion Stone in return. After getting my deck, I scanned the sheet and made the comment that I was sad and there was no Oblivion Stone.
Luckily, I’m an idiot and just didn’t see it marked on the sheet. Imagine my surprise when I found one peeking out of my pile!
I managed to do a poor job of building my deck, making it three colors instead of two. While in my bye rounds I discussed the deck build with about every one of my teammates. Many had different opinions, but the best idea seemed to be making the deck two colors. The most obvious mistake was not including Atog maindeck; every game, I boarded out the three White cards, Gold Myr, and the five White mana for Talisman of Impulse, Atog, Predator’s Strike, Plated Slagwurm, four Forest, and a Mountain.
At any rate, here is my deck and sideboard…I think I got all of it here anyhow:
One Dozen Eyes
Grab the Reins
2 Pyrite Spellbomb
Goblin War Wagon
Tree of Tales
As you can see, this deck has quite a few good cards – the most notable being Loxodon Warhammer, Grab the Reins, and Oblivion Stone. I felt that I played reasonably well the entire day, but I won’t lie – most of my games were won by me playing some really powerful cards from my deck and my opponent having no good responses.
After a grueling three-match duel with breakfast, I emerged for round 4.
As always, these recountings are approximate and may be distorted by memory. I will skip to the most memorable moments of the tournament.
Round 4: Peter G Szigeti (PTR)
PTR is a very unpredictable man. I had dinner with him, Zack Parker, and some of their friends after the Grand Prix and had a fun time. PTR may be the only man willing to play my extremely rogue Extended deck at Pro Tour: New Orleans – however, I fear that I may not be able to supply him the cards to do it with, since everyone seems to want all the same cards to borrow for the new format…
Anyhow, back to Limited.
In the second game I cast Oblivion Stone on Turn 3, activated on turn 5 blowing up 4 of his things and none of mine. He followed up with a Den Guard and a Cathodion. I then cast a Dirigible. Afterwards, I cast Grab the Reins to hit Cathodion, chucking it at his Den-Guard, then used the three mana to cast and equip a Bonesplitter.
I actually felt bad for PTR at this point, because I beat him the first game with some other ridiculous card – probably the Warhammer. Needless to say, I managed to win.
Round 5: Joseph C Reed Jr.
In the first game, I cast a Cub on turn 3 and equipped a Bonesplitter (thanks to my Myr). The next turn, I cast Fireshrieker but did not equip, thinking it was three mana to put on – so I hit him for five instead of ten. He killed the Equip next turn and tried to race, but fell one life point short.
Thanks to this man, I learned that the equip cost of Fireshrieker was two mana, not three. This ended up helping me in the next round.
In the second game I managed to trump his Megatog with a Plated Slagwurm. It would not have been enough, but I ripped a Loxodon Warhammer the next turn and put it on the Wurm, living the dream. Needless to say, he died immediately.
Round 6: Brian M Kibler
The master of monsters meets the master of Manakins.
In the first game, Brian beat my by equipping his flying creature with a Warhammer. The second game involved me equipping my own guys with a Warhammer. Apparently, the Warhammer is the key to any matchup.
If any card was too overpowered, it was this card and Grab the Reins. I literally felt that it was impossible for me to lose when I drew either card… And I only lost once when I did.
In game three, I attacked Brian on turn 5 with a Bonesplittered, Loxodon Warhammered, Fireshriekered Atog.
Kibler blocked with an Empyrial Plated 5/5 Bladewarden, pumping to 10/10. I trampled for two and gained twelve. Definitely not a format for the faint of heart.
Kibler actually mounted a comeback in the form of Molder Slug. When the dust settled, I ended up blowing up all my stuff with an Oblivion Stone or sacking it to Molder Slug. Luckily, I was setting up the game the whole time to kill him with a Predator’s Struck Slagwurm. Luckily, my plan worked.
Round 7: Jonathan E Sonne
Jon is a teammate of mine through CMU-Togit, and it was unfortunate to get paired with him. He is a very methodical player – you can never quite tell what he’s thinking. He could topdeck Morphling and you would never know it. Needless to say, it was a tense match.
In the first game, he started to do well, but then I Grabbed the Reins and killed him outright from fourteen life or something ridiculous. In the second game, I was happy because I drew Grab again, but this was the one time I was destined to lose with it in my hand. He played a late Spikeshot Goblin; I returned fire by playing a Goblin Dirigible. I had Predator’s Strike in my hand, which would let me make the flier big enough to attack and Fling it for the kill. Sadly, Jon cast Empyrial Plate and put it on his Spikeshot, shooting my 4/4 down. The game ended shortly afterwards.
I don’t remember a whole lot about the third game, but I believe it involved the Oblivion Stone and Grab the Reins.
Really, I feel like a broken record. I just keep talking about Oblivion Stone, Grab, and Hammer. Over and over. Maybe my deck was a little overpowered.
Round 8: Steve S Downing
At this point I was very happy with my performance, but I wanted to go all the way. This match had an interesting ending: He played out an Arc-Slogger, and then Fabricated for his Platinum Angel. At this point, I knew that I was going to deck him.
Sure enough, he activated his Slogger on my Goblin Dirigible, killing it and leaving only a few cards in his library. He then cast Leonin Abunas and Platinum Angel. I was a little worried because I could not target the Angel with the Abunas around. Luckily I drew Grab the Reins, which let me take the Abunas and Electrostatic Bolt the Angel.
Then he was decked… He was probably the first guy to get decked all day.
After 8 rounds I was 8-0!
I did not know what to think. I sort of felt how I did after going 4-0 in Yokahama and then not making day 2. I needed to make top 8. For most people, sitting at 8-0 makes it easy to get in the top 8 – but I am Nate Heiss, and winning does not come so easily to me.
After a nice dinner at Applebee’s with the teammates and some Florida fellows, where former National Champion Eugene Harvey once again failed to come close to finishing his meal, I headed back to the hotel to sleep.
The only catch was I failed to sleep much…I guess I was a little excited about being 8-0. Who wouldn’t be?
The next day, I sat myself down with one Ben Stark on my left and one Dave Humphreys on my right. I was happy to have good players near me, because I knew they wouldn’t try anything extremely random. Me, on the other hand, well…You never know what I’m capable of until it’s done. I knew Ben and I would try to be extra-friendly during the draft. I was the first pack to open, and I opened a Molder Slug.
Molder Slug is probably the dark horse MVP rare of the set. Once you go Slug, you never go back. I took it over a Spikeshot and said,”Hi! I’m Green.” Apparently, no one was really paying attention to my right, since there were two green drafters to the right of Dave, and they made a good fight of taking every good green card except Tel-Jilad Exile.
So I got a lot of Tel-Jilad Exiles… Five of them. I actually left one in my sideboard, but even then I sideboarded it in a lot. I was sure how powerful they were; I originally thought they were just mediocre, but after playing with them I can tell you they are very powerful. Also, if you have five, play them all.
The rest of my deck was a splash of black for double-Consume Strength, Betrayal of Flesh, and Relic Bane. Yes, I just said a double drain life splash that involved more swamps in my deck than forests, which was the main color. Oh, and did I mention that I also splashed red for Spikeshot and Shatter? Yeah, my mana was grrrreat.
Round 9: Joshua T Wagener
Josh was convinced that I had the best deck at the table and I was going to smash him. Well, he was right on one of those accounts; my five-Exile deck was pretty powerful against his small, groundpounder deck. He probably had more powerful cards, but the matchup was heavily in my favor. We played about six games and I think I won them all.
Round 10: Aaron Estrin
To be honest, I don’t remember too much about this matchup except that it didn’t last very long, I most certainly was defeated, and it involved Mindslaver. He got it really late and I made a note of how good Mindslaver was… Little did I know I would have many in the next draft.
Round 11: Ben S Stark
Whoever won this round got into the top 8, so I was happy to see that at least my opponent was Ben. I wouldn’t mind so much losing to him, since he still owed me from Yokohama.
The first game I drew many Exiles – four, I think – and they promptly smashed face. The next game I drew no Exiles and got smashed in a similar manner. The third game I think I had an Exile, but the whole game came down to one play where I Betrayal of Fleshed his Hematite Golem with entwine, bringing back some goodie (probably an Exile) – and it got countered by the last card in his hand, Assert Authority. After that, the game completely turned around for him and I couldn’t scrape up enough land to power my infinite Exiles.
So I went 1-2 in the first draft – not what I was hoping after starting 9-0.
The next draft was a cool one, because four of the eight people in it attended dinner at Applebee’s the night before, and then there was Tony Tsai, too. The notables were Turian, DeRosa, and Tony Tsai. I had other people to my immediate sides, with Tony and Antonino on the left and right, respectively. I knew it was going to be an interesting draft, but I did not expect the earth-shattering event that it was. In the very first pack, I saw two cards that caught my eye.
I took the Prototype a bit high – sixth. The card is rather mediocre, but I knew it would come… it had to come…and it did. I long wheeled the Power Conduit and no one thought anything of it. I put the cards together in my two-card stack – I showed them off to Eugene Harvey, who was looking onward at the draft. He simply rolled his eyes at me like he always does, like the world is going to end.
Mike Patnik defeated me earlier that week in a draft by using Power Conduit, Myr Prototype, Slith Bloodletter, and Duskworker. I figured that since my first two cards in the draft happened to be the combo, I should try it out.
Most people might stick to the plan and play it safe with a top 8 on the line. Me? I do things my way. I can draft the best deck ever and I will 1-2. If I draft a pile of bad cards that I can have fun playing with, I will defeat the world.
Notable cards that I picked up were three Myr Prototypes, two Power Conduits, a Lightning Coils, and a Quicksilver Fountain. The best regular card I had was Spikeshot Goblin, but I also had some artifact removal, including a Detonate.
Oh yeah – and I had two Mindslavers. Now Mindslaver is an awesome card, but they really suck when you draw two in your opening hand – but still. I played them both and hoped for the best.
Round 12: Antonino De Rosa
Antonino is a great guy, but he was kind of annoyed with my deck. I don’t think he understands how Magic really works yet. He is a great player, but you have to realize to have fun with the game – much of his success was probably attached with his love of the card Wild Mongrel, which also happens to be a really powerful card to be in love with.
At any rate, there is no Wild Mongrel in this format. I came out strong in the first game by moving Prototype counters over to my Spikeshot Goblin and essentially crushing him with a large Spikeshot. The second game involved a little bit of over-aggressiveness on my part, where I might have attacked my Myr Prototype into a Myr Enforcer too early, but I did it in order to get more counters on my Lightning Coils which would simply win the game once active. As it turned out, I miscalculated and only had four counters on it – I desperately needed a way to kill one of my guys! Luckily, I ripped a Detonate to blow up my Manakin…What a way to win a match…
DETONATE MY MANAKIN FOR THE WIN WHAT?
Needless to say, Antonino was not amused. He went away saying things about how he hates Magic and life in general. I think this is how most of my opponents feel when I beat them. Don’t worry, Antonino – you are going to come back big-time in this tournament…
Round 13: Dal W Austin
Well, this is it – if I win, I’m in. If not, then I must win the next round and I still might be in because my tiebreakers are awesome. I get paired up against the guy who was on my right, and I know he was a pretty good Black deck. We were drafting extra-friendly, mostly because he let me have a 15th pick Vulshok Berserker. This was wise of him, because I am a notoriously hateful drafter unless prompted otherwise. After this gift of peace, we were very nice to each other.
Unfortunately for him, the Berserker had a way of beating him down. Unfortunately for me, he had acquired a Bosh, Iron Golem during the draft – not surprisingly Bosh boshed my face in the first game. He seemed to also have many Barter in Bloods, so I kept that in mind for the next game.
I tried to have lots of dorks on the table – obviously including the combo. I don’t really remember how I won the second game, but game three was quite memorable. I came out very quickly with Auriok Transfixer, Leonin Skyknight, Lightning Coils, and Vulshok Berserker. I put a ton of pressure on him and played out lots of guys to protect my attackers from Barter in Blood – which would have probably been sub-par for him anyhow, considering my Lightning Coils. I made sure not to let him get to eight mana for as long as I could, and eventually the team took him down…. I was in the top 8!!!
I was in the top 8!!!
Hey, how the heck did I do that anyhow?
Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t necessarily in the top 8 yet – as it turns out, I was going to get paired down to a fellow who could not afford to draw.
Round 14: Justin B Bing
I offered Mr. Bing the draw, but he did not accept, being aware of his situation. He said that if he drew, he would have a 50/50 shot of making it, and he really did not want to chance it like that. I wasn’t sure if he even had that much of a chance, but I wasn’t going to argue.
As it turned out, we only had to play one game. It was going kind of rough for me, but then he attacked his Trolls of Tel-Jilad into my double Berserkers, foolishly Predator’s Struck my Berserker, assigned the damage four and one, then forgot to regenerate his Troll. It seemed like a pretty poor play to me, but I guess that was just his prerogative…
Oh, wait – it was my prerogative. I’d used Mindslaver on him that turn.
After getting bashed in the first game, he decided to accept the draw, feeling better with his 50/50 chances and a guaranteed top 16 finish than another game against my monstrosity combo deck. I guess sometimes you actually can use Mindslaver to make your opponent draw…
I was in the Top 8!! For sure this time! Yay!
Mike Turian was paired against Antonino in the last round, and he scooped it up to Antonino because he had the better tiebreakers and therefore a shot at making top 8. Luckily for Antonino, the six matches that he had to have go right for him did, and he made it!
The top 8 draft was a little confusing – too many people were dipping into White. Everyone seems to think White is very powerful in Mirrodin, but it actually isn’t that great. The two powerhouse colors are Red and Green – the hard part is getting enough of them to make a real deck. Luckily, that is exactly what happened. At first the draft wasn’t going great for me – both Kibler and Antonino were getting ridiculous cards for their deck while I was staring at a normal pile. Then, miraculously, I got an Electrostatic Bolt, two Deconstructs, and a Creeping Mold all in a row, and my deck was a superstar. You can read all about my picks on the Sideboard.
In the end, I had a really tight Green/Red deck with multiple Spikeshot Goblins. The nicest gift that I got was a Tooth of Chiss-Goria in the last pack – a saving grace with my Spikeshot Goblins. I was not able to pick up much power-enhancing equipment, so the Tooth would have to do.
Quarterfinals: Gerry W Thompson
I was under the impression that Gerry was drafting Blue and fliers for some reasons, however, he turned out to be Green/Red like me. Unfortunately for him, his cards were much worse than mine and I pretty much trounced him.
Semifinals: Ben S Stark
Ben promptly announced there was no way he could win this matchup. This was good news for me, because I wasn’t sure how good his deck had turned out. I knew he got some decent cards, but that never equates to a solid deck.
In the first game, Ben found three men who were looking to be equipped: Two Den-Guards and a Punisher. Unfortunately for him, there was no equipment to be found and my Wizard Replica was holding back the team. He scooped up his cards when he was at fifteen life while under heavy assault.
The second game was funnier, with Ben coming out of the gates with a Leonin Elder, a couple of Raise the Alarm dorks, and a Manakin. He was all the way up to about twenty-four life when I played Spikeshot Goblin and promptly destroyed his team. He followed up with some bigger and better men, but I had a few of my own to stall the ground – namely, Tel-Jilad Archers. At any rate, my Altar of Shadows came down to seal the deal.
A note on Altar of Shadows – while this card bears resemblances to Predator, Flagship, it is not as friendly a format for this type of card. I think I would pick a Grab the Reins or a Loxodon Warhammer over this card easily, but I am not sure what other better cards are out there.
Finals: Antonino De Rosa
So. We meet again.
It was awesome to be playing against Antonino in the finals, ensuring a victory for CMU-TOGIT. The team has gone through a lot of changes, but I think we finally got our act together. Expect more strong performances and good times from CMU-TOGIT.
Antonino’s deck was pretty good – much better than mine, I think. He started off the match by successfully drawing two cards from Liar’s Pendulum. Those would be the last two cards he drew the whole match. Antonino must have activated the Pendulum ten more times with utter failure. Yes, I am a master.
Actually, I am terrible. The one game, I knew he had a Shatter in his hand. He then Shattered my guy and end of turn activated the Pendulum naming Shatter. I moronically responded,”You definitely have a Shatter in your hand.”
To which Antonino responded,”I hate you Nate Heiss, you are so stupid!”
He did not draw a card. Oh yes, I may be stupid, but I was right – somehow. How lucky!
In the first game, Antonino brought home the gold with none other than Wurmskin Forger. To me, that guy seems pretty bad, but once he is on the table, he is still a 5/5. I was stabilizing when Antonino’s Glissa Sunseeker hit the table. Yeah – Glissa, a.k.a. Visara, a.k.a. GG. I drew a Goblin Charbelcher and activated it, targeting the bomb, but failed to kill.
Stupid Goblin Charbelcher– why do you spite me!
Anyhow, game two went much better – Antonino was mana light and he was trying to come out of it with a Viridian Joiner. Antonino’s big plan was to make the Joiner big with a Vulshok Gauntlets to cast Triskelion, which I knew he had because he failed to draw a cards after naming it with the Pendulum. Luckily, I had Electrostatic Bolt for the Joiner in response to the equip effect. After that, the game went downhill fast for Antonino when I played Spikeshot and other goodies.
Game three was agonizing. I felt so close to victory – he was mana screwed! While Antonino was trying to draw a fourth land off his Liar’s Pendulum (and me getting it right every time) for his Glissa, I was trying to assemble some sort or beatdown. Unfortunately, I could get enough beats going before he played out his fourth land and Glissa. Apparently, it doesn’t matter how landscrewed you are – Glissa makes up for it. Antonino was able to survive long enough because of his double-Shatter draw, and Glissa took it home.
Antonino won the Grand Prix, and balance is restored. I was slightly afraid of the world ending if I had won. I was still very happy with my performance, much better than I had ever hoped. I get to go to Amsterdam and have an awesome Limited rating for awhile.
Yes, somehow Nate Heiss is top 20 in the world for Limited play.
Does this mean you should take limited advice from me?
Only if you are going to play Power Conduit.
I have not written a tourney report since Regionals so I was a bit rusty, but I want to include some props –
- Team CMU – luv you guys, even if you steal my O fries.
- Everyone else who I practice with on a regular basis: Jeremy, Patnik, Beek, Rich, and the rest of you. You know who you are.
- The CMU-TOGIT list, who are kind enough to put up with me – no easy task, I assure you.
- The concession stand at the tournament site that was wise enough to sell three-dollar Chipwiches.
- The staff and crew responsible for the Grand Prix, and also Mike Guptil, for no real reason other than he’s gas.
- Lastly, Elliot Fung and Dan Silberman, who probably won’t even learn of this achievement until sometime next year but will probably dismiss the whole thing as a typo.
Thanks for reading folks. Sorry I couldn’t be more detailed, but I didn’t take many notes seeing as, well…