Innovations – U.S. Nationals Tournament Report *29th*

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Thursday, August 7th – It was a safe bet that, going into U.S. Nationals last weekend, Patrick “The Innovator” Chapin would have something, well, innovative for the Standard portion of the event. He didn’t disappoint. Today he walks us through his own personal Nationals competition, that saw him come close to Sunday play…

I’m back in Detroit. To fully appreciate how good it feels to be back, one has to get a grasp of all that I have been up to for the past couple of weeks. I was in Chicago for over a week. This is my story.

The Sunday before the tournament I drove into town with Mark Herberholz and a car full of beautiful babes, each with varying levels of involvement in the film project. That night we stayed in a stray hotel.

Monday we moved locations and got settled into the house (of cards?). This place was insane. We are talking 3650 square foot and 4 stories with many wild features… totally unreal. Four bedrooms, four bathrooms, three living rooms, a kitchen, a dining room, a balcony, an interrogation room, a laundry room, workout facilities, dozens of closets including one bigger than Owen Turtenwald hotel room… this house was bananas.

Mark and I immediately set to breaking Standard. I was in favor of Nucklavee control, which I had been working on with other members of Team RIW as well as some interesting brainstorming sessions with Mike Long. Mark initially favored Merfolk, but after seeing how it could not beat Red, as well as just how insane my control deck was, Mark decided to focus his efforts on helping me perfect it.

The U/R Control deck I had concocted was very solid, but it had a fatal flaw: Faeries. Mark was adamant that we were not playing a deck that lost so badly to the Fae. We tried various solutions, with Commandeer being the most effective. Still, it was not enough, and in the end the decision was made to hybridize it with Quick n’ Toast, a deck that does have edge over Faeries when played well.

The trade-off was that we were losing percentage against Reveillark. Still, this was a small price to pay. When it came time to finalize the sideboard, Mark asked me what our match-ups looked like. I told him we will lose to Reveillark and Demigod Red. After I explained why all of our match-ups would play out the way they would, he figured out great ways to fight both of our bad match-ups, including such tech as 4 Condemn, Extirpate, and so on.

We ended up playing slightly different lists. Here is mine:

The only differences between Heezy’s maindeck and mine were:

1. He played a Damnation (and slightly different land) instead of Wrath, just because he didn’t have them. The Wrath build is better.
2. He played an Oona instead of the second Nucklavee. We both liked it our own way.
3. He played a maindeck Murderous Redcap instead of the fourth Mulldrifter. His way was probably better in this case. This allowed him to play a second Slaughter Pact in the board.

After a few days of partying, drafting, and fun times that included Gerrard’s birthday dinner, it was time to get to Nationals. How can I be so quick to gloss over these days? Well, the long and short of it is that you should eventually be able to watch what we were up to.

How about this… our pre-tournament week included:

1. A stripper pole, upon which I pole danced to Billie Jean.
2. Over a hundred cheeseburgers.
3. Four cases of the girliest adult beverage imaginable.
4. A wrestling match that ended with beer being spilled on a $28,000 piano.
5. Multiple men in “Bubble Bath Bikinis,” and being mere moments away from one of the babes taking the challenge (a.k.a. bikinis made only of bubbles).
6. An old fashioned “White-Off” (Think White Castle eating competition).
7. College girls that really wanted to get on camera.

Heezy and I started battling Friday morning, and started out on totally different paths. I began 1-2 after taking some bad beats. One loss came at the hands of a Red/Green Mana Ramp deck that should have been a fairly favorable match-up for me, but I just couldn’t answer Magus of the Moon.

The other was a Mono-Red match-up that I should have won, but my opponent and I disagreed on reality and I received a bad ruling. I don’t want to focus on this negativity, so let’s move on. After this setback, I was on medium life-tilt, but fortunately am not one to give up mentally. I focused on drafting and ended up drafting a powerful W/R control deck with Twilight Shepherd and two Power of Fires, with which I posted a 4-0 record.

I started out the second day with a U/R control deck (I usually like Red-based aggro decks in this format, personally). I won my first two matches before dropping one to Melissa DeTora and her absurd G/R Stompy deck. I was impressed by her play, and am glad I got the chance to talk more with her.

She posted a 7-0 record in the draft portion of Nationals, and was dominating the Block Constructed side events with her innovative take on Faeries. She is certainly a player to watch this year. I predict she’ll make her Top 8 breakthrough in the next twelve months, and if I had to pick a tournament, it would be Worlds…

My Constructed match against Ben Lunquist was an epic mirror match, ending with me edging him out on the strength of my Nucklavees to his Oonas. We were a Feature Match, and we did not disappoint. This match was truly a pleasure to play, and I know for a fact that it was an exciting one to watch.

Unfortunately, my run at Top 8 came to an end in the next round against Tim Aten and his Kithkin deck. Normally, this is an easy match-up for me, with Firespouts, Wraths, Walls, Finks, Condemns, and so on. Unfortunately I mulliganed at least once in each of our three games and lost to triple Mana Tithe in the deciding game. Sad times.

Next I was paired with a Faerie opponent. Again, this is a match-up I would ask for, but I mulliganed 3 or 4 times against him as well. Here, I must remember, I am not a victim. I made a mistake, and that mistake was not changing my sleeves. I have been doing this for a long time. I know better. You should change your sleeves each day of a competition. I am not sure how much the sleeves influenced my bad draws or if it was just sick variance, but it is my fault for not doing the most I could.

My final opponent was Gerrard Fabiano. He was playing Kyle Sanchez Zur-Wizard deck. In the final game, Gerrard stuck an early Zur, allowing him to tutor up first a Knollspine Invocation, then a Steel of the Godhead. At this point I was able to Condemn it, but the damage was done. I was now in a race against time.

After Gerrard discarded an Arbiter of Knollridge to knock me from 12 to 5, I knew I was short on time. I attacked with Nucklavee and after putting damage on the stack, Condemned it, just to gain a little time. Over the next 10 turns, I was basically knocked to 1 several times, Mulldriftered 6 times, Careful Considerationed 3 times, and I Cryptic Commanded to bounce his Knollspine Invocation 5 times, continually just trying to get ahead of him enough to counter the Invocation.

Eventually, I managed to win the race in what I felt was one of the best games of Magic I had ever played (if only we had the Top 8 on the line…). Fortunately, my teammate Mark Herberholz had swept the Standard portion and was in the Top 8, as well as my other teammate Michael Jacob. Unfortunately, they had to play each other.

MJ, armed with his Mono-Red Skred-Demigod (co-designed by one of the best Red deck builders in the country, Josh Wludyka) deck ended up knocking Heezy out on his way to winning the whole thing. Congratulations Michael! Our national team, this year, is pretty filthy, with Michael being joined by Sam Black (Elves) and Paul Cheon (Faeries). America is going to represent this year, no question.

Saturday night I made the most of some great opportunities to game, ending in the biggest Type 4 game of all time. For info on Type 4, look here. The game involved 10 players from all over, particularly stocked with Vintage superstars Team Meandeck, including last year’s champion Steve Menendian, this year’s champion Paul Mastriano, and next year’s champion Brian DeMars. By 6am I finally ended up winning it all with a counterspell-heavy deck and a large stack of diplomacy.

As I said, Paul Mastriano won this year’s Vintage World Championships, armed with his Long Tendrils combo deck (With Mike Long looking on, smiling…) For his prize he received a variety of old, exotic packs of cards, as well as a gorgeous oversized Mox Ruby with original artwork. One other exciting story of the Vintage weekend was Brian DeMars and Steve Menendian breaking Strategic Planning in Slaver, causing it to skyrocket from $15 to over $100 overnight.

As far as the film projects go, thank you to everyone who participated and helped us out. The footage from this week will be used for a couple of things. A documentary on tournament Magic is in the works, and footage from this Nationals will be useful for that. In addition, I was able to get some good footage to help build towards my TV show.

Just to clarify, the TV show is not yet at a point where it is going to be on cable next month. We are just shooting footage and helping collect material that will be used for the first season. There is still much more footage that needs to be shot, and we are a fair distance from completion. This is a very new and crazy concept for a show, and it is of the upmost importance that when I do it, I do it right.

I owe it to you guys, as well as to myself, to make the show fun, interesting, and a success. It is easy for some to knock the idea of a Magic-related TV show, questioning how well it can cross over to the mainstream, but take it from me, this culture is amazing. We have great times, and the game involves such great characters.

There is obviously a lot of room to do the show “wrong,” which is why it is so vital that those of us involved go to such lengths to ensure that when we are ready to release it, it is something that will make you all proud (as well as crack you up).

I will release more information on the TV Show in the months to come, but one last thing: it is focused on entertainment, not strategy. It is also not really a Real World type of thing, more like Entourage meets Viva La Bam.

The timeline on the documentary’s release has not yet been determined, but I will keep you informed. The TV Show will have more footage shot in the next few months, including at Grand Prix: Kansas City. There is going to be a contest there that will be filmed. You guys have an opportunity to be a part of it, if you are interested. For more information, watch this space.

Alright, I gotta get ready to go to GP: Denver. See you next week at my usual time.


Michael Jacob, National Champion. (LSV finishes 3rd, then wins the following year. MJ finished 3rd last year, and won this year? Paul Cheon finished 3rd this year…)
Pam of RIW Hobbies… always such strong support for Mark, MJ, and I.
The blonde that Mark took home from the bar. You cracked us all up.
Tess… what can I say? She rocks!
Dan Burdick, a man with SO much love.
Herberholz: thanks for 7-0ing with my deck. Such a master.
Mike Long and Dave Williams. Seeing you guys was a great time.
Team Meandeck… Type1? Type 4? Masters.
The Patio Party… you know who you are!


The brunette that Mark took home from bar. You were rude and sweaty.
People who lie to judges.
Magus of the Moon
Hotel Security for making the girls put their shirts back on.

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”