"Wow, I haven’t written in a long time." My articles always seem to start out that way. The fact of the matter is, I was in quasi-retirement for a while. I still played, but I didn’t playtest or practice; I just went to PTQs. Let me tell you this strategy is bad if you are looking to get on the Pro Tour. Well, maybe not. I mean, it is always possible to get a deck the night before a Grand Prix and win the whole thing…. But I get ahead of myself.
After I moved to Rochester, I started playing Magic seriously again. I was very rusty, but I eventually got back into respectable form. I tried my luck going to three Sealed Qualifiers for LA, but as we all know, no matter how good you are, it is hard to beat sealed luck. Not to say that I’m that good, but you know what I mean.
After Ed Fear’s finish at Worlds he decided he was going to make a run at Masters and started traveling to Grand Prixs. My roommate Joe Weber was going to be in Phoenix that weekend visiting his parents and playing in the GP, so I decided that we might as well piss off all of our coworkers and have Joe and myself in Phoenix that weekend (since Joe and I both work in Ed Fear’s store).
Before Masters, I built Trix. Granted, the list I had was fairly poor, but I knew the deck was still viable. Joe and Ed just brushed it off and I left it behind, as I wasn’t even qualified to play in the Gateway.
Masters ends and Trix is a presence. None made top 4, but it was still there. Joe decides it is worth testing so we set about using their lists. The deck simply refuses to lose. I test with my age-old test partner, Dan Bridy, online. The deck will not lose. I test with my friend Mike Van Zander. The deck will not lose. I give it to my friend Derek to play in a trial. What? It lost? Oh. You screwed up. You should have won. Okay, it’s settled – Trix it is. But how many people know about Trix? Everyone knows it exists, but do they know HOW good it is? Better keep it on the down low just to be safe. I need more information about Trix, though. Better talk to the gurus….
I go on IRC and /msg Kai Budde. We chat about the maindeck, the sideboard, specific cards, the fourth Donate, Lim-Dul’s Vault. I do the same thing with Dirk. Dirk had a special insight, since he lost to Counter-Sliver in the Masters. One Massacre in the sideboard instead of a Firestorm. When I talked to Warren Marsh, he said Dirk was just being paranoid, and the Massacre was not needed. What can I say – I’m a paranoid person. Okay, just two more gurus to talk to. YES! John Marks just signed on. What’s that, Marks? Don’t ever side the combo out? But the Euros said always take it out. Oh well, I guess testing will tell all.
The next day Michelle Bush signs on, and I can get my last bit of wisdom. You need a way to deal with Seal. She played her own Seal in the main when she won the trial.
After all this I through together CounterSliver for testing. Wow this Counter-Sliver thing is pretty good. I’ll play it in the trial. If it serves me well, I may have to play it. Time to talk to the Sliver gurus…
Senhouse’s list is nearly identical to mine, and so, obviously is Joel Frank’s as they are on the same team. The sideboard is where the real trick comes in. Four Pyros are obvious. The fourth Seal is needed; I like the fourth Sword. Erase seems good for Back to Basics and Trix; how about two? I think you need two more Misdirections for more Forces against counters and utter beatings against burn. I needed something for the mirror; Joel said Volrath’s Stronghold was tight. He’s the man. Two.
And now for the Sligh dilemma: I don’t like Hydro. Neither do the Boston people. Chris and Joel swear by Worship. My problem with Worship is twofold: First of all, it is destroyed by Anarchy, and when it is you are at one. Secondly, it costs four. Sligh have four Wastelands and you are only playing twenty-three lands, four of which are fetch lands. So for me, it is one of three cards: Honorable Passage, Samite Ministration, and Heroes’ Reunion. I can’t decide. I will bring them all to Phoenix and decide there.
I do some last-minute testing with Ed Fear, and he is convinced he is going with Hatred with Lake of the Dead. I still like Trix and Slivers.
My flight leaves at 7 a.m. from Buffalo, so I have a one-hour drive to the airport. I hate travelling alone. I land in Detroit, waiting on my one-hour layover; then the plane is delayed another two hours. I finally land in Phoenix and exit the plane to T-Pup’s jovial face. We went to the bus station to pick up some New Mexico people and headed to a local store. This is where I met Ben and Tubby, the other people I would be testing with pre-Prix. I don’t make it in time for the Trial. Frown. Oh well…. One bye it is. We go back to Riad’s house. Joe, Tubby, Ben, Riad, Lephi, and myself set about testing and making decks and sideboards. Trix resumes its winning ways. So I go with:
4x Demonic Consultation
4x Vampiric Tutor
4x Illusions Of Grandeur
4x Force of Will
4x Mox Diamond
4x Underground Sea
4x Gemstone Mine
4x Phyrexian Negator
Joe and Riad go with the same deck, Ben opts for Lackey Sligh, Lephi for old school Forbidian with Tradewinds and so on. Tubby can’t make up his mind, so I hand him the Sliver deck I was gonna play in the trial.
Well we get there and it is still an hour or so before round 1 pairings. Joe and I get into a money draft with Chad Ellis and Joel Frank. Joe 2-0’s, I 0-2, and we wind up just splitting because the GP was about to start.
Round 1 Bye
Round 2 Matt Sperling, CounterOath:
Game 1: I was able to draw a counter with Duress, then drop Necro with Force of Will backup.
Game 2: Very similar game. In defense of Matt, unless he didn’t cast them, he never drew a Force in the entire match.
Round 3 Jonathan Lee, Sligh:
Game 1: I should have known I was destined for a good finish after this game. He plays first turn Pup, I Force. I play second turn land, hoping to consult for land and Vamp for Necro. He plays third turn Ball Lighting, so I Consult for Force. I have one of each combo piece in hand. I Consult away all the other combo pieces, so I have to let Ball Lightning resolve or I can’t win. I Vamp for a land and say "Go." I Consult for another land and drop Illusions. I need to topdeck a land and have him not draw Wasteland or Port. He draws neither, I draw land, and kindly give him one of my permanents.
Game 2: This was frustrating to him, as he had Wasteland and two Price of Progresses, and I had only Swamps and Moxes for mana sources – although he still could have topdecked burn for the win. I suspect I played this match poorly and got lucky.
Round 4: Dave Williams, Turbo Land:
Game 1: I get the insane second-turn Necro with Force backup.
Game 2: He stops my Necro; I have zero cards and he has like twenty, so I scoop.
Game 3: This was an interesting game. I play turn 1 Land Mox. He plays turn 1 Island. I Consult for Negator and play turn 2 Negator. He draws, thinks for a bit, then discards a Crater Hellion. I untap, draw Duress, and Duress him. He Forces; I Force back and he reveals his hand of four land and an Oath. As it turns out, if he had played the second-turn Oath I would have Forced, he would have Forced back, and I most likely would have lost, as all he had in his deck were two Feeders – but he was too focused on clearing my board with Hellion. I got very lucky, as I lost two Duresses with the Consult.
Round 5: Sean Fitzgerald, Counter-Sliver:
Game 1: He gets Seal out with Force backup and I scoop.
Game 2: He plays very well, not countering a Massacre that clears his board and saving it for the coming Necro. I lose.
This guy went on to win the GP. Oh – and did I mention his nickname is Tubby? Yes that’s right, my cards won a GP… but I wasn’t piloting them.
Round 6: Dan Clegg Elves:
Game 1: He gets my Illusions. I play another to survive the attack, and I Firestorm his board so he can pay for his Illusions.
Game 2: I Massacre his whole board, ready to start going off next turn. Then he topdecks one of his last two Lyrists for the win.
Game 3: I get Necro Negator. Firestorm his whole board and him for eight. And Negator takes it home.
Round 7 Mark Schick, Trix Feature Match:
Game 1: I got the god draw of third-turn Necro with Force back up. So did he, and he won the flip. Boo.
Game 2: He got out Necro on the fourth turn or so and it was all she wrote.
The mirror is pure luck as long as both players know what they are doing. Only one person watched, and I am surprised he stuck around.
Ben, Joe, Tubby, and I all make Day 2 which unfortunately makes Riad the only one not in day 2 of all the people who are sleeping at HIS house. We made Tubby sleep on the floor, but he got his revenge. We were all 5-2 at this point.
Round 8 Michael Girard, PT Jank:
This guy is great. He is a Star Wars player and a friend of a local friend of mine.
Game 1: He has out Mother, a Priest, and three Plains. I Duress him; he has Sword, Disenchant, Disenchant, and Incinerate, none of which are good for my team. I take Swords. I play Illusions, Necro down to take two attacks and pay for Force because I don’t have a Force yet. So if he draws a land, I lose. He doesn’t; I give him Illusions and win.
I made a mistake here. I should have Necroed for two more or three less; two more if I thought he wouldn’t draw a land, and three less if I thought he would. But I only got one Force, so two more was the play.
Game 2: I got "the look" when I dropped a turn 2 Negator. He had two Priests, but they were no good. He showed his hand at the end of the game, and it was two Erases and two Disenchants.
Round 9 Tim Rivera, Forbidian with Red:
Game 1: I go off with little resistance.
Game 2: I stop his Disks, Firestorms, and Masticores; he never really draws countermagic, and Negator goes to town.
Round 10 Jesse Mills, TradeBlossom:
Game 1: God draw. Land, Land, Land, Mox, Force, Illusions, Consult. Well, this hand is just too good, so I decide to Consult away my Donates just to be nice to the guy. 🙁
Game 2: All I saw game one from him was a Treetop Village when I scooped, so I put him on Counter Oath. Didn’t put Firestorm in, and that was all she wrote.
Round 11 Brian Foster, Trix:
This matchup is hardly worth writing about, as we all know what it comes down to. I got Necro out first both games and won.
Round 12 Mike Pustilnik, Trix:
Mike’s Deck is metagamed more towards beating Red and Oath, which makes it somewhat poor in the mirror.
Game 1: He attempts to get out Necro; I Force, get my own out, and win.
Game 2: I make a big mistake not hiding my Negator with Brainstorm, allowing Mike to win the race with his Skittering Skirge.
Game 3: I get out Necro and let my Negator do the walking.
Round 13 Brock Parker, CounterOath:
Although Brock and Linde are trying to tell me this matchup favors them, but I know through testing that they don’t have a chance.
Game 1: I Force through Necro and go off.
Game 2: He has two Tundras and a Treetop Village. I Duress, seeing three counters. I take one and Force through a Necro. I get out Negator, and he never sees another green source.
I end up 12th, and slots go all the way down to 11th. 🙁 Oh well, at least I snagged $500 for my troubles and got to see my cards win the whole thing in the hands of a great player.
It was nice to have success with an archetype I do not usually play. This is the first tournament I have ever finished well in with Combo, and I am glad that I am becoming a more versatile player.
I had a blast there. Everyone in Arizona was cool. Riad, thanks a lot for letting us crash at your place. Ben, thanks for driving us everywhere, and sorry I forgot about the Vamp Tutor. T-Pup, thanks for picking me up from the airport and getting me a ride back to the airport. Tubby, thanks for winning the GP for me, but if you ever beat me with my own deck again I will kill you.
Until next time (lord knows when that will be) enjoy,