When we last left off, I was reeling from going 1-2 in my first draft at Worlds. Displeased and disappointed, I vowed to get my head back in the game at the 5-4 draft pod. Going into Worlds, I considered Zendikar Limited my best format. Now I was 1-2 with my back against the wall.
It was time to put up or shut up.
This draft was very odd. I started the draft by reluctantly selecting Sphinx of Jwar Isle. I have no problem with Sphinx of Jwar Isle as a card, as it is extremely difficult to beat upon resolution, but I hate Blue in Zendikar Limited. I hardly ever draft the color anymore because I never know what color to pair it with. Blue/Black is much too defensive for my tastes, Blue/Red is an awkward color combination with few synergies, Blue/White is perfectly acceptable if underwhelming, and Blue/Green can be ridiculously powerful but it has no access to removal. The only card that could put me into Blue is the one I opened, so I reluctantly selected it.
My next pick was a Plated Geopede out of a weak pack. I heavily dislike Blue/Red as a color combination, but if I have to run it in order to post a 3-0 result, then so be it.
During the middle of pack 1, I saw a Gatekeeper of Malakir staring me directly in the face, but opted for a card in color instead of making the switch. Seeing a Gatekeeper of Malakir halfway into pack 1 is a pretty good signal that Black is open, but as I explained last draft, I am not a very big fan of fighting over Black cards, and am more than happy passing them.
The next pick I saw a Surrakar Marauder.
The pick after that, I saw a Giant Scorpion.
During the review period of pack 1, I notice that I have close to five playable cards in Blue and Red combined. I was quite worried, and even began to panic. I despise Blue/Red as a color combination, and the fact that I so few playables caused me to make an insane decision.
I was going to draft Black in pack two.
Why? I have no idea! Something went off in my head that said “just switch to Black.” The decision made no sense. I just passed a Gatekeeper of Malakir, Surrakar Marauder, and a Giant Scorpion late in pack 1. Switching would be the dumbest thing I could do.
But I did it anyway.
Pack 2, I first picked a Hideous End.
Second pick. I received a Vampire Nighthawk.
Third pick, I selected a Hideous End.
The rest of the pack was mediocre, and I picked up fillers like Soul Stair Expedition and Sky Ruin Drake. At this point, I was developing a decent Blue/Black deck, but I still had close to seven Red cards in my sideboard. The crazy part is the Red cards I had required me to play a lot of Mountains. Spire Barrage and Ruinous Minotaur simply do not play well on the splash.
Going into pack 3, I had about 12 cards in Blue/Black and was desperate for help. I don’t really remember what cards I selected pack 3, but I can tell you the situation that kept coming up. Because I was base-Blue, selecting a Blue card each pick was easy if the pick was there. The problem was each pack had a middle of the road Black card and a middle of the road Blue card, but one was always better than the other. Each pick, I kept selecting a card of the other color because I could never get my feet set in either. When I sat down and began laying out my deck, I was overcome with embarrassment. I actually could not stop laughing at how poorly I drafted. My Blue/Red deck was about 17 cards, my Blue/Black deck was about 19 cards, and my Black/Red deck was 21 of the most embarrassing cards you would ever find.
So what did I do? The three-color special, of course!
2 Hideous End
1 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Sphinx of Jwar Isle
2 Soul Stair Expedition
1 Hedron Crab
1 Grim Discovery
1 AEther Figment
1 Ior Ruin Expedition
1 Windrider Eel
1 Sky Ruin Drake
1 Reckless Scholar
1 Into the Roil
1 Plated Geopede
1 Bladetusk Boar
1 Slaughter Cry
1 Paralyzing Grasp
1 Explorer’s Scope
1 Blazing Torch
1 Giant Scorpion
2 Teetering Peaks
Round 10 versus Jirapongtrakul, Boonch [THA]
Going into this round, I was pretty sure I had a 0-3 performance in my near future. I decided to be extremely casual about my next three rounds, because I had no idea how I was going to string together some wins in this draft. When I sat down with Boonch, I asked him if he had a good deck. He was a little reluctant to tell me, but I was more than happy to tell him my deck was absolute garbage. Maybe it would get him to lay his guard down a little and make a few mistakes. When you draft a deck this bad, you are willing to try a few off the wall tactics to win some matches.
Game 1 was a pretty drawn out affair, but I ended up resolving a Sphinx of Jwar Isle. Boonch had a pretty mediocre Blue/White deck and was unable to stop my untargetable dragon.
Game 2, my Sphinx of Jwar Isle was met by a Cancel. I was racing Boonch with a Bladetusk Boar and AEther Figment, but a timely Arrow Volley Trap ended things for me.
Game 3 was much like game 1. The game went quite long, but I finally baited the Cancel out of Boonch’s hand and was able to windmill down my Sphinx of Jwar Isle. Much like game 1, it didn’t take long for the Sphinx to win me the game. Much to my astonishment, I won a match.
Round 11 versus Lehner, Bernhard [AUT]
When I sat down against Bernhard, we both lamented the fact that we each hated our draft decks. This could be good news for me!
Game 1, I had the start of turn 2 Plated Geopede (so lucky!), turn 3 Teetering Peaks it, turn 4 Windrider Eel, turn 5 smash your face for a ton. Bernhard was a little bit skeptical of me downplaying the power of my deck, but as you can all see, for me to get that kind of start, a lot of things had to go correctly.
Game 2, I played a Vampire Nighthawk in the mid/late game and Bernhard went pretty silent. He was B/g so I figured it would be a problem, but he did have a lot of cards in his hand, so I actually expected it to die to an Oran-Rief Recluse. When my Vampire Nighthawk finished him off from 14, I was a little surprised.
We talked after our match, and it turns out that he didn’t have a single removal spell in his whole pool. So, when I played that Vampire Nighthawk, it was actually the best Vampire Nighthawk in the history of Vampire Nighthawks.
How I was 2-0 with this deck I will certainly never know, but miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiize!
Round 12 versus Gatica, Miguel [CRI]
As I sat down against Miguel, I did the same thing I did every round: Ask my opponent if his deck was good, and be more than happy to tell him that mine was awful. Miguel, unlike my other two opponents, gave me a blank stare, said yes, and began shuffling.
F***! I was probably in for my fifth loss of the tournament.
And then I got to thinking… I was passing to Miguel this draft, and I cannot remember passing anything insane, like I did to Rasmus in the previous draft. His deck could not be that good.
Game 1 went on for a pretty long time, with me having to make unfavorable trades to stabilize, but stabilize I finally did. Miguel had only drawn Red mana the whole game, but when he finally drew a Plains I feared for the worst. Kor Hookmaster? Kor Skyfisher?
How about… Makindi Shieldmate!
Okay, that is just embarrassing. The next turn Miguel played a Murasa Pyromancer to kill my Reckless Scholar, but I didn’t care, and neither did my Sphinx of Jwar Isle. Unable to attack profitably, Miguel was forced to pass the turn, and Sphinx of Jwar Isle ended the game quite quickly.
Game 2, I took a pretty good beatdown due to Goblin Guide and Goblin Bushwhacker. I kept a pretty sketchy hand and never drew Black lands in time to cast the Vampire Nighthawk in my hand. On to an epic game 3!
Game 3, Miguel played a turn 2 Zektar Shrine Expedition, about which I wasn’t overly concerned. On turn 4, Miguel played a Grappling Hook, and I was now positive that he was lying to me before game one started. I hadn’t seen many cards from Miguel that I actually respected, and I knew that I could win this match with some tight play and not getting overconfident. On turn 6, Zektar Shrine Expedition came to party with a Grappling Hook equipped and ate my Giant Scorpion (and 11 points of my life total). I was at nine, but had Sphinx of Jwar Isle to save the day. Miguel played a Shepherd of the Lost, but I knew the top card of my deck was a good one:
I took care of the Shepherd of the Lost and sent in with my sphinx and AEther Figment. Miguel’s next play was Kor Cartographer plus equip Grapping Hook, but the top card of my deck was another good one:
I kicked the bounce spell into a Teetering Peaks, and attacked Miguel for nine. Facing lethal the next turn, Miguel conceded.
Remember when I said I reluctantly took Sphinx of Jwar Isle first pick? Yeah, disregard that comment. That card is completely ridiculous, and no matter how much I dislike Blue cards, I will always select and play Sphinx of Jwar Isle. It won me so many games in this draft that I will never say bad words about it again.
This draft was so strange. Everyone seemed to have a bad deck. The fact that my deck was the 3-0 deck of this draft is just pure insanity, and I still cannot believe as I write this. Yes, I really wanted to 3-0 with this deck, and my play was much tighter in that draft than at any other point over the weekend, but a decent draw from a decent deck was more than enough to beat me. Sometimes you just run good, I guess!
On a natural high from going 3-0, and excited to talk Extended, I headed to dinner with Sacher, Scheel (who went 6-0 on Day 2 to bring him to 8-4 as well), Conley Woods, and many others. Extended was a very hard format to predict. We all knew that Rubin Zoo was the best deck, but we weren’t sure if people were going to play it or play to beat it. I was looking to play to beat it, as I dislike playing the best deck in a tournament, so I talked to Rob Dougherty about the Zoo deck he took to 9th place at Pro Tour: Austin. He advised me to cut Dark Confidant in favor of Keldon Marauders, and to try a few Might of Alaras. He felt being balls-to-the-wall aggressive was the way to go, and I was in agreement with him.
I sleeved up the following to test:
4 Arid Mesa
1 Blood Crypt
1 Godless Shrine
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Sacred Foundry
3 Scalding Tarn
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Kird Ape
2 Jotun Grunt
4 Steppe Lynx
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Path to Exile
4 Tribal Flames
2 Might of Alara
The goal was to try to minimize the damage from Punishing Fire and rush Kibler Zoo as much as possible. Finishing them off with Tribal Flames and Lightning Bolt shouldn’t be too difficult, since it seemed like everyone was cutting Lightning Helix from their deck.
All of this was in theory. And my theory did not play out well in the games at all.
To put it mildly, I was getting crushed. Over and over and over again. Ugh…
I was at a crossroads. I could play a deck I didn’t believe in (Zoo), a deck that wasn’t fully tested but I was pretty sure was good (Charbelcher), or a deck that I really liked but didn’t do all that well (Dredge).
I chose Dredge:
- 1 Flame-Kin Zealot
- 4 Golgari Grave-Troll
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 4 Drowned Rusalka
- 4 Narcomoeba
- 3 Bloodghast
- 4 Hedron Crab
- 1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
- 1 Sphinx of Lost Truths
I selected Dredge for a couple of reasons:
1) I felt Dredge was the most powerful deck. Dredge is an extremely broken mechanic, and Hedron Crab has put the deck over the top. Dredge is a deck that is going to win game 1 90% of the time and then has to find a way to win a sideboarded game, which isn’t as difficult as people believe.
2) Players were skimping on hate cards. I really felt that people were not giving Dredge enough respect, and were on the plan of “Hope not to get paired against Dredge.” There are a lot of hate cards that are not even that good against Dredge (Extirpate, Tormod’s Crypt) that people continue to play. Better yet, with Ravenous Trap being the consensus best hate card against Dredge, Thoughtseize out of the Dredge sideboard has become that much more potent.
Looking at the above list, I really wish I had a third Thoughtseize. I would cut an Echoing Truth for another one if I had the chance to play the tournament over again.
Round 13 versus Oliveira, Luiz [BRA]
Oliveira was playing Rubin Zoo, and took a long time before deciding to keep his hand game 1. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter what hand Rubin Zoo keeps game 1, because if the Dredge player keeps a hand that does anything, they should come out on top. Oliveira kept a one-lander and wasn’t exactly punished for it, because I had an Iona in play on turn 3.
Game 2, I brought in the Tombstalkers and had an awkward game where I didn’t really do anything relevant and got Ravenous Trapped.
Before game 3, I figured Oliveria’s decklist was Kibler’s card for card except for with a few Ravenous Traps, so I decided that a hand with Thoughtseize was key to winning the match. After a mulligan, I Thoughtseized Oliveria and found a Ravenous Trap, Meddling Mage, and a bunch of irrelevant cards. Meddling Mage on Dread Return would be annoying if he drew the right mana to cast it, but at this juncture he did not have the mana in his hand to do so, and it is far from impossible to win through a Meddling Mage. I took, and would always take, Ravenous Trap, and I hoped to get a little bit fortunate.
This game ended about six turns later with Oliveria ending the game with three Meddling Mages in his hand, and me attacking him with Tombstalker.
Round 14 versus Korzunov, Semen [RUS]
After watching Semen suspend Search for Tomorrow on turn 1, I realized I was against Scapeshift, which is a matchup I feel is heavily in my favor. My draw game 1 was a little bit awkward, as I never really dredged into anything insane and was unable to find an Iona, Flame-Kin Zealot, or Dread Return. I will be the first to admit that I was unaware how quickly Scapeshift could go off, but I felt I was going to die on turn 5 when, in reality, I died on turn 4. There was nothing I could do about dying on turn 4, but I was certainly surprised when it became a reality.
Game 2 I had a very clunky draw and ended up being beaten down by Tarmogoyfs, Kitchen Finks, and Sakura-Tribe Elders. It was quite a disappointment to be knocked out by a deck that I felt was such a good matchup, but Semen certainly knew what he was doing.
We spoke after the match, and he said he got fairly lucky game 1 since my goldfish is about two full turns faster than his. After sideboard, Semen had three Ravenous Trap and two Tormod’s Crypt to Harmonize into (all of his Dredge hate is free to cast), in addition to his aggressive game plan.
I wasn’t upset about being knocked out of Top 8 contention this round so much as I was just truly shocked that I lost to Scapeshift. The deck is certainly a contender in the Extended metagame, but I felt a Mono Green combo deck that doesn’t really have a great way to interact with me game 1 should be close to a bye. I guess that’s why they play the game.
Round 15 versus Wescoe, Craig [USA]
Craig is a member of the same Magic forums as I, so I knew he had an affinity for Zoo decks. I just wasn’t sure what version of Zoo he would be running. Game 1, Craig mulliganed down to five, but the game was much closer than I thought it would be. Once again, I never found an Iona or Flame-Kin Zealot, so I had to go beatdown with Bloodghast, Narcomoebas, and Stinkweed Imps. My life total was starting to suffer, so I had to start going the throat quite quickly. On the last turn of the game, when I was tapped out and all of my flyers had attacked, Craig pounded on his deck and chanted “one time!” I actually had no idea what could beat me at this point, since I put myself out of burn range to the best of my ability.
After he drew his card, he sighed, showed me the Elspeth, Knight-Errant in his hand, and conceded. Boy, it would have been super-awkward to lose that game.
Game 2, Craig mulliganed to five, and after getting sick of watching me play it safe, he graciously conceded. We really didn’t get to play a match of Magic.
Round 16 versus Ochoa, David [USA]
David and I know each other quite well since we share the same friends in this wonderful card game. I knew David was playing Tezzerator with the Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek combo built in, and he knew I was on Dredge.
Game 1 was a game where I played a little slower than I should have, but I was trying fairly hard to not get wrecked by the maindeck Tormod’s Crypt that I knew he had. When I realized that I didn’t need to worry about it any longer, I just started doing the broken things Dredge has access to (reanimating Iona on White, Bloodghast plus Bridge from Below) and David eventually conceded.
Game 2, I knew he was going to sideboard in a bunch of hate cards so I decided to sideboard out some of my Dredge stuff. Cards like Glimpse the Unthinkable are pretty bad against a deck with access to a bunch of graveyard removal. I don’t remember much of what happened this game except that I got mangled by some Meddling Mages naming Dread Return, a card that was no longer in my deck.
While sideboarding for game 3, I realised that David didn’t know that I was switching plans. I sided out all of my Dread Returns; Glimpse the Unthinkables; Golgari Grave-Trolls; Iona, Shield of Emeria; and Flame-Kin Zealot in favor of Echoing Truth, Ancient Grudge, Tombstalkers, Thoughtseizes, and a few copies of Leyline of the Void to try and shut off his Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek nonsense. For as little as I remember about game 2, I remember quite a bit about game 3.
Game 3, I kept an opening hand of 2 Hedron Crab, Life from the Loam, Tombstalker, Island, Blooghast and (I believe) Ideas Unbound. My rationale for keeping this one-land hand was the following:
1) Game 1, David played a Path to Exile on my turn 1 Hedron Crab almost immediately. If he did this again, I would be able to cast my Ideas Unbound.
2) If I drew any fetchland, I would be able to get my Life from the Loam engine online.
3) Tombstalker is a card I was positive he wouldn’t see coming.
I played a turn 1, 2, and 4 Hedron Crab, but didn’t draw a second land for quite a while. When I finally did draw a land, it was a Watery Grave and not a fetchland. I played the Watery Grave and milled myself for nine cards, for what reason I am still not sure. I didn’t realize until four or five turns later that my play with Hedron Crab was terrible. With the right couple of draws, I would be able to mill him out. What was I even milling myself for? I didn’t have any relevant graveyard cards left in my deck!
The game went much longer, but by the time I realized what my plan should have been, I was facing down two Glen Elendra Archmages and a Baneslayer Angel. I could not undo my misplay and ended up losing in embarrassing fashion.
This is a loss that really aggravated me. It isn’t often that you are able to use Hedron Crab on your opponent while playing Dredge, but this is one of the games where that situation certainly came up. I am not sure if I would have won that game by milling David out, but it was a much better game plan that milling myself for no apparent reason. My series of plays led me to a loss that I deserved.
Round 17 versus GÃ¶rtzen, Simon [DEU]
Simon was piloting a Tezzerator deck that was much different from David’s, but seemed like a decent enough matchup all the same. We talked some before the match about what was left to accomplish at the tournament. I could become Level 5 with a Top 100 finish (pretty much a lock at this point), and he needed three points to become Level 2. We had some nice conversation overall, and began to buckle down for an important round of Extended.
Game 1 was much like my match against David, in which I was being extremely careful not to get wrecked by a Tormod’s Crypt, finally decided it didn’t matter anymore, and just started going off.
It should be noted that during game 1, I resolved the ability of Drowned Rusalka out of order with a Bridge from Below in my graveyard, and put the token into play after resolving the dredging of a Stinkweed Imp. I put the 2/2 into play after doing everything, which was incorrect. We both called a judge, each of us was awarded a warning, and we went on with the match.
During our time with the judge, the judge asked me if I had any other previous warnings for Bridge from Below for the day, and I told him that I did not. My only warning on the day, and in whole tournament, was for dredging a sixth card off Stinkweed Imp by accident.
I may be setting the stage for something here…
Game 2, I sideboarded just how I sideboarded game 3 against David. Much like my game 2 against David, I got beaten down by some Meddling Mages naming Dread Return, a card that was no longer in my deck.
Game 3 was the most notable game of the day. I started with a Leyline of the Void and a Hedron Crab. Simon played an Engineered Explosives on one, and blew up the Hedron Crab a turn later. On the next turn, I played an Ideas Unbound and discarded a Bloodghast, Bridge from Below, and a Stinkweed Imp. A few turns down the road, David had a Meddling Mage, naming Dread Return and equipped with a Sword of the Meek. I sent my Bloodghast right into it, and he opted to block. I happily put my 2/2 zombie token into play, played a land to get my Bloodghast back, and Echoing Truthed his Sword of the Meek to kill my Meddling Mage. Note that my Bridge from Below does not leave the graveyard due to my Leyline of the Void. Neat interaction!
We started this game with about 19 minutes left, and while I was worried about how much time we had, I wasn’t too concerned as I felt I was going to win the game. I had Simon sufficiently confused with how I sideboarded, and his Meddling Mages, Tormod’s Crypts, Extirpates or whatever other garbage he had for Dredge hate was just not going cut the mustard this game. His turns were taking a little long, but we were both cordial to each other the whole match so I didn’t really think much of it, as he actually had some decisions to make and my board presence was quite overwhelming.
Much much later into the game, my board is two Bloodghasts, a Tombstalker, and a Stinkweed Imp to his Thopter Foundry, a token equipped with Sword of the Meek, and a naked token. I sent in with all of my creatures; the equipped token blocked my Bloodghast, and the naked token blocked my Tombstalker. We resolved damage, and I placed my Bloodghast in the graveyard, replaced it with a 2/2 zombie token and passed the turn. As soon as I passed the turn, David called a judge.
Not sure what the problem was, David explained that I did not remove my Bridge from Below from the game due to a token dying. I quickly pointed to my Leyline of the Void and explained that this interaction had been taking place the whole game, and there is no reason it would change now. Simon retorted that a token is not a card, and therefore the Bridge from Below should be removed. The judge was unsure of the correct ruling, and after consulting the other judges he revealed that Simon was indeed correct, and that my Bridge from Below should be removed from the game. Because the interaction between Bridge from Below and Leyline of the Void was confusing, our judge issued us both a warning and asked us to proceed.
Simon: “Just a warning? That is his third warning of the day.”
Judge “My ruling is a warning. Please continue play.”
Was this guy actually trying to get me a game loss? I was actually astounded. Normally, I am all over someone if they play slowly, but I decided to let my guard down because of the friendly conversation we had during the match, and because I was in firm control of game 3. The series of draws necessary for me to not even lose the game, but to draw the game, were so absurd that I didn’t think I could actually lose. And now, my kindness was being turned against me?! I was furious, and the players that were watching were surprised as well.
The game went a few more turns, and Simon ended up ripping an Extirpate to remove my Bloodghast from the graveyard with the landfall trigger on the stack, and then an Ancient Den on the last turn of the game to be able to block my lethal attack.
The match ended up a draw.
Was this draw my fault? Yes, yes it was. I am not one to blame things I can control on someone else. I could have called a judge for slow play much earlier into the match. I could have rushed Simon along. I could have gotten my Bloodghast back immediately instead of allowing Simon to peel an Extirpate that I didn’t see coming. There were a lot of things that I could have done differently to avoid this result, and I simply did not do them because I was being nice. I am hardly ever nice in a tournament setting. Maybe it was because I couldn’t make Top 8t anymore. Maybe it was because I was a lock for Top 100. Maybe it was because I was still upset about my loss to Ochoa. Whatever it was, it will not happen again, and this is here to make sure it does not happen to you.
Round 18 versus Fabiano, Gerard [USA]
Due to my draw last round, I was a lock for top 100. Gerard needed a win to make Top 50 and become Level 3 for the season, so I was more than happy to concede. He ended up 54th…
10-7-1, 92nd place
The rest of the night was spent eating dinner and sleeping. Sacher, Scheel, and I headed to the site on Sunday to do some casual drafting, but I only had time to get one in against Quentin Martin and company, in which I killed Q with a Runeflare Trap. Bah hah!
I headed to the airport by myself, ready to return to my apartment in good old Indiana. The bus I was on took much longer than expected, but I left three hours early just in case something stupid took place. Once I got to the train station, I realized that I needed to hustle up a little bit and looked for a place to buy a ticket. With no concept of Italian, I ran into a hustler who helped my buy a train ticket at a four euro fee (he helped me buy my ticket and took my change.) It turned out the train I needed to board was departing soon, so I had to actually sprint with my gigantic suitcase to the train in order not to miss it.
Luckily, I got to the airport with time to spare, and took my flight to Vienna. Once I arrived in Vienna, I was in search of my flight to Washington DC. Turns out that flight was leaving at 11:00am and not 11:00pm like I thought, so that meant it was time for me to get comfortable in Vienna airport for the night. I was much too upset to go grab my suitcase, so I decided I would get it in the morning and call it a night. And by call it a night, I mean pass out on a tile floor.
How comfortable do you think a tile floor is?
I came to around 5:30am, and found a Starbucks deep within the airport. This Starbucks had insanely comfortable chairs, and I was in and out of consciousness for the next three hours while sipping on a caramel hot chocolate. When I heard my flight was boarding, I zipped over there, anxious to fall asleep on the plane. Of course, when I got on the plane, I could not sleep at all, and was forced to watch The Ugly Truth.
But four times!
Luckily, Katherine Heigel is quite the looker, or my flight would have been miserable. The movie wasn’t too bad either.
I finally made it back to my kingdom late Monday evening, tired, hungry, disappointed, and most importantly up to speed on The Ugly Truth.
92nd place was a good showing at my first Worlds, but a Top 32 was well within my grasp. I did achieve Level 5 for the season, so that is certainly a good thing, but I am left wanting more. I feel big things coming for next season.
This year of Magic has been very special for me. But I have a job to do this Saturday.
I have to defend my State Championship! Look out Indiana!