I hate introductions. Often times, the start of a paper, or an article can be so darn exciting… But the middle of it leaves you wanting more. I never seem to be able to know what to say, or really how to convey my feelings to the audience that is reading whatever offering I currently have available right here, at StarCity. I always get lost, or backtracked – or in some of my articles, I hardly even seem to make any sense at all. I still want to be the best writer that I can be, but I want to be a better player. My greatest shot of making the Pro Tour is sitting here, wagging its tail, and waiting for me to take it outside for a walk. Here is the tale of my journey so far.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I had just gotten off a nice thirteenth-place finish at the 2000 Kentucky State championships. I was giving Type Two a bit of a break, and was consumed with a rabid hunger for all things Invasion block. I started off with a nice little all-invasion Domain deck:
I played the deck for a while; as a matter of fact, I kept updating the deck, and eventually went 2-2 at a PTQ in Columbus with the a build similar to Zvi’s deck from the Masters Series. I decided after that horrific showing, I would never play Domain again. However, the rebirth (and death soon there after of Domain) rekindled my interest in the deck type. I was always keeping up to date on the current affairs of the IBC metagame, trying out just about every deck. Red/White/Blue Aggro, Kowal.dec, Kastle.dec, Green/Red splash blue.
Everything wants to counter creatures, or bounce creatures, or destroy them in this format. How could a creatureless deck do in this environment? In theory, you give the blue player at least six dead cards against this matchup. The Excludes are useless as you have no creatures to cast, and the Repulses will get discarded early because the deck sees that you have no creatures as well. That has stopped a majority of the blue mage from cycling their deck. My biggest fear of trying to play a creatureless deck is the lack of a true two-mana counterspell in the IBC format. Sure, there’s Prohibit and Evasive Action, but I feel that those two cards are limited and far too narrow to accomplish the total board control that I was seeking. I stopped building my own decks soon after the results from the Pro tour Qualifiers hit the net. The field was still very diverse, and I had yet to find a deck that I was happy with. Enter Ben Seck.
The Ben Seck had been winning with a very good creatureless deck that either killed with Goblin Trenches or direct damage spells. The deck lacked a board-clearing device… But after some tinkering, and some help from Bob Maher Jr. and his Grand Prix: Denver decklist, I soon settled with a version of Trench Control. Here is the deck that I played for the Grand Prix Trial.
By Ben Seck and Bob Maher, modified slightly by myself:
4 Fact or Fiction
4 Urza’s Rage
4 Prophetic Bolt
3 Evasive Action
2 Goblin Trenches
4 Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
4 Shivan Reef
4 Coastal Tower
…and three other spells that I can’t seem to remember at the time of writing.
I was quite pleased with the deck, but while I was playing it, I was always worried about mana shortage. I have made it my own personal credo to mulligan any hand that has less than three lands in this format. It works for me I guess. On to the report.
Round One: Scott Reed, Dark Domain
Before I start I would like to mention the great staff at the Books and Music Exchange, where this event took place. Cleo, the owner, and my former employer was super-hyped to see so many new Magic players there, and was equally thrilled with the strong showing by the veterans of the store. He made a very nice atmosphere, passed out free packs of cards, gave away door prizes, and made sure that everyone was comfortable. Also receiving thanks are Reese Davis, a good friend and Kentucky’s only Level two judge.
He did a very good job in assisting me with help, and kept the tournament running smoothly. Finally, Brennan Moody gets a shout-out, because as the state’s Tournament Organizer he has been assisting me in my crusade to get premiere events back in to Kentucky.
Now we hit the first round action.
Scott is from Owensboro, I had never played against him before, and he was quite the entertaining player. As I was writing down his name on my scorecard, I asked how he spelled his name:
ME: Is you name spelled SHAUN, or SHAWN?
Scott: No, my name is spelled SCOTT.
He won the roll, and played a first-turn forest, Lay of the Land. I got to thinking,”Great – domain,” which then led my mind off on a high-speed race to figure out which version he was playing. He kicked me off solid with a fourth-turn Deed, and I knew that Dark Domain was here. The first game lagged on back and forth while the mana-greedy Domain deck was trying to stabilize from my beatings.
He was able to cast a Collective Restraint while I was tapped out, and followed it with an Overgrown Estate. Two turns later, with thirty minutes left in the round, he cast a Global Ruin, which we countered over – and when it finally resolved, he had gained fifteen points of life. I looked at my depleted hand, my thin library, and decided to shuffle up for game two.
Game two went much smoother for me. I went blazing with a turn two Ice, turn three, Rage, turn four Fact or Fiction and turn five Prophetic Bolt. He was stalled for land, and I took every opportunity I had to counter his land-fetching spells. At a solid twenty-seven life, I went for the throat with my Goblin Trenches. Four Goblins, a countered Deed, and a kicked Rage spelled doom for Scott, and it was on to game three.
We were strapped for time as the third game started, and we both played as fast as we could. We both fought for board control, and he was gaining the upper hand. My last chance to win was in my final turn, all I had to do was hit him with my six goblin tokens, cast a Fire and an Urza’s Rage, and I would start off with a win. I declared my attack phase — and he responded with an activated Deed. Suddenly the burn in my hand was not enough, and we had to settle for the draw.
Round Two: Randy Hollis, Red/White/Blue Aggro.
Randy is a good guy, and I most certainly consider him a friend. We had played two weeks ago in the finals of a Type Two tournament right after Worlds. He was sporting Tom Van de Logt’s deck, while I went control with Antoine Ruel Crosis-Go. I swept both games from him and walked away with forty-five dollars in a prize split. I had figured that these games would be hotly contested, and without a doubt in my mind was the best showing of my deck in the swiss rounds.
He hit me off quick with a turn four Lightning Angel, and from that point I was backpedaling the entire game. I eventually pull a removal spell for the hasted Angel, and I slowly started to stabilize outside of burn range. He cast a Skizzik, but I Absorbed it, and the during my next main phase, I was able to hit him with my goblins and Rage him out of the first game.
I get a aggressive start with a third-turn Goblin Trenches. I make four guys, and start to swing with them as soon as it hits my first combat phase. He was stuck with a poor mana draw, and went down quickly.
I honestly hate writing about games where next to nothing happens. He got land hosed; there’s not really much I can say about that. I wished him luck, and I moved on to my round three opponent.
Round Three: James Waters. Neo Obliterate.
Damn, but Waters and I have a long history. We first met each other at the Prerelease for Invasion at Indianapolis, and soon met in our first game during the Kentucky State Championships. The winner of that match would have a better shot of making top eight, and we played some crowd-pleasing games; we had more spectators than most of the players at the top tables. We remained in contact and have played each other a lot since that day, and I know that my games against him will be enjoyable as long as no one gets mana screwed.
So who got mana screwed this match? I did!
Our match was over in five minutes. Slow hands stunted my growth, and as hard as I tried to play it out, I was using too many resources to keep in the game. I conceded, and hung my head in shame – not because I had just lost, but I felt my chances of winning the tournament were sliding down the drain. I have been preparing for Grand Prix: Minnesota ever since I found out there was going to be one. I have family up there, as well as friends, and I think that the state will be a beautiful place for me and Laura to take a bit of a vacation. I wanted the byes. I wanted them more than any person in that room. I was fighting like a rat against a lion. It looked like an unwinnable battle, but I knew that I could get myself out of the tight squeeze.
Round Four: Ricky Atwood, Red/Green Beats.
Ricky has been a friend of mine ever since I met him and his son, Justin. We have done a lot of traveling together for this game, and I always enjoy the time that he and I spend together. He is a very good person, and a great father to his kid. I was scared of this matchup, though. He has been playing Red/Green since Tokyo, and I knew that he knows his deck better than anyone else knew their deck at the tournament.
I won the roll, and started off the game with a land. He starts to apply some early pressure in the form of dual Blurred Mongeese, and I had to sacrifice my lands in order to stay alive from the beatdown. Trenches can be compared to Rath’s Edge in this format; no one toughness creature will stay alive for long. I let him cast a lot of creatures, and as he stares down for the kill, I calmly tap seven mana for an instant Rout. His hand is lacking any business cards, and I am able to counter whatever threats he tried to play. I sideboard in my tech of Teferi’s Moat, and more Routs.
My opening hand for game two is pure solid gold. I had a play for the first five turns, and I used this to my advantage. Turn eight, I slap down my Moat, and countered the Battlemage that would have allowed his creatures to finish me off. However, I have an answer for all of his Mages – Rout during his end step – and finish him off with four goblin tokens.
I am now sitting pretty with a 2-1-1 record. I win this next round, and I have a really good chance to top eight; I lose, I go home without any byes.
Next round, I get paired down against my third consecutive friend: Shane Adams. He is playing a deck similar to The Pollution, and I know that this may be a bad matchup. However, there is not much to report, he only had nine points to my ten, and he conceded to me. This improved my chances to top eight.
The fifty-minute wait was one of the longest I ever had to endure as a Magic player. I was pacing the store, nervous, almost on the edge of a breakdown. I went outside to smoke… And I missed the top eight pairings. I figured it for the better, but when my friend, and fellow Mental Giant, Brad Taylor walked out and congratulated me for my top eight, I knew that I had to fulfill my needs of winning this tournament.
I go get congratulated by my fiancée and my teammate Paul Hollar, and break down my deck for the top eight. My deck comes back clean from the deck check, and I start to shuffle it, and shuffle it some more. I was quite nervous. The top eight finally started, and I was paired against the Junior Super Series star Justin Brown.
Quarterfinals: Justin Brown: Green/Red, splash Blue.
Game one was not much to remember. I am able to take quick advantage of his mana screw, and that led me to a quick victory. As I really wanted the byes, I asked Justin if he would concede, and he quietly told me no. He was in it for the prize support, and wanted to get more really cool foreign cards. I accepted this answer, and we moved on to game two.
Game two was more of the same for Justin; however, I was not able to kick-start my offense in time to take a clear advantage of it. During the mid-game, he cast three straight Tranquilities, and I am only able to counter two of them. When the third is played, I let it resolve. The only enchantment I had in play was my Trenches. What would a good player do? I looked at my hand, saw the six counterspells, and decided to not make any little men. I figured, why put myself in mana issues whenever I have control of the game?
The next two spells Justin casts are of the uncounterable 2/1 creature variety, and suddenly my ten life does not look too exciting. I take some hits from the Mongeese, get another Trench out, and soon my life is at a rather paltry one. Neither of us have cards in hand, and he can kill me during his next attack phase. I breathe, touch my deck, and flip over my next card…
I attack, which takes him down to three, and then Rout away his little men. He takes a card off his deck, plays the land, and says go. I do not play any Goblins for some reason. I drew my card, did a double take, and looked at his life. I swing my arms in celebration, and flick the freshly-drawn Urza’s Rage into the play area. Things were going my way.
My semifinals opponent had a great deal of playtest time to himself. His opponent dropped out of the top eight to get some much-needed sleep, and was testing his matchup against my deck.
“I’m playing the same red/green/blue deck as Justin was,” he stated.”I win if I don’t get mana hosed.”
Wonder who got mana hosed this time?
Semifinals: Jarod Burt, Red/Green/splash Blue.
In my eyes, Jarod is one of the strongest players in the Kentucky Magic scene. He is a fundamentally sound player, and I have been lucky enough to playtest with him in the Elizabethtown area. He has been rather successful as of late, with at least one PTQ top eight under his belt this season. However, he has started to protect his rating, and would have liked to have not lost to me. He has two byes already to Minnesota, and I hope that he decides to come along with me and Laura to the Grand Prix.
However, there is not much to write about in this game; he is the recipient of two unfortunate mana draws, and by the middle of the second game, his interest has turned to packs of French Apocalypse that Justin was opening. I rage him out of the game, and move into the finals.
Sigh. I wish that could have been more interesting.
Finals: James Waters, Neo Obliterate
This was the classy moment of the tournament. Ever since we both played at States this year, we have both improved our game at the same rate. We have both become better players and he hit his first ever PTQ top eight at Origins this year. I fear this matchup, just because we had both played earlier in the day, and I was not looking forward to losing the byes to someone who may or may not be going to Minnesota. I reminded him of my reasons for the byes – and after a nice talk from Brad and a cigarette, James offers me the win for half of my product. I confer with Reese to make sure that this is legal, and I shake Waters’ hand. I won the byes! Oh, yeah – and half a box of German Apocalypse! I thank Waters and we both go off to open up our product. German cards are quite possibly the best ever!
After the tournament, I came back home, and found out that I had lost my job. My little brother, who was supposed to cover for me, never showed up, and I got fired. It was worth it, though. I was able to spend the day with my
fiancée, and I was able to get a nice start to my career. I am hoping that I can do well enough at the Grand Prix to qualify for New Orleans. This is my opportunity. I must make the best of it.
I am currently working on the Trenches deck for a PTQ in Nashville this weekend. After that, I begin to research the Three-Bye Metagame for Minnesota. I have never done this before, and I am nervous and happy at the same time. One day, when I have proved myself to the Magic world, I will look back at this tournament and realize what exactly it meant to my career.
Wish me luck!
Joshua X Claytor