Magic Online Musings: This Week In Paris #2

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Blisterguy continues his French Odyssey with a humorous look at Days 1 and 2 of thus year’s World Championship. HE shares his personal deck of choice, and then shows us what he should have played. As if that weren’t enough, there’s also Premier Event statistics and funky photos!

(This week is brought to you by a great deal of jetlag. That’s the last time I claim to be the kind of person who is unaffected by that kind of thing, wew!)

Day 1

(Or how I failed to listen to myself and basically shot myself in the foot in various entertaining ways.)

After getting lost on the way back to our hotel the night before, we thought getting up with plenty of time to spare would be quite a good idea. We had been told by Scott Larabee the night before that we needed to be at the venue by something like 9:45am, and when the Grand Poobah of Organized Play (or whatever he) is tells you that, then you know it’s got to be right. With that in mind, we scoffed our croissants and bread rolls and coffee and headed out the door of our hotel at around 7:45am.

Half an hour later, we noticed that we were beginning to head uphill slightly. This was a bad thing for two reasons. One, because at no point the day before had we gone up or down any hills between the hotel and the Louvre; and two, because I was the one leading the way. We did go up hill a bit in the general vicinity of our hotel the night before whist lost, but that ended up being right behind the hotel. We figured there was no way we can walk for half an hour in one direction and then end up behind where we started. Thankfully, the streets of Paris feature many little map billboard things. Sadly, not all of them feature wee “you are here” stamps.

(Although, in retrospect, we had no idea that looking for “vous êtes ici” may have helped us a little there as well.)

The first thing we noticed while looking at the first map we found was that nothing seemed even remotely familiar, bar one of the streets that ran through the middle of everything. Once we had our heads sorted from our tails and our lefts from our rights; we headed off in the direction of Hausmann Boulevard, which was the main street we anchored our travels on in Paris.

Now the thing about Paris is, and this is probably true in many of the big old cities of the world, is that it was assembled as a city long before anyone ever considered the idea of “city planning”. To get a reasonable approximation of the layout of central Paris, you could give a piece of paper and a felt-tip pen to a two-year old and wait patiently for around ninety seconds. The resulting mess would probably resemble with surprising accuracy any street map of Paris you could buy from any store that would sell one. I can’t tell you about any of those stores however, because I never found one while I was there.

Anyway, we weren’t too worried about being lost because we had left plenty of time for such shenanigans and were in no danger of being late to the World Championships of Magic: the Gathering. Something like an hour later, we were still lost… and now in serious danger of being late to the World Championships of Magic: the Gathering. I’m not one to panic in general, so I tried to rally the troops as we gathered around what seemed like the tenth street map that morning. I said that if this map didn’t show us exactly how to get to the Louvre then I would pony up and ask one of the natives. If said native was unhelpful (apparently quite likely in Paris, or so we’d been told) then we could just grab a taxi to the venue and be there in no time.

I approached a lady and tried to ask her for directions to the Louvre in the best French I could muster. Unfortunately, the best French I could muster was apparently the equivalent of leaping about on all fours grunting, dribbling, and picking lice off passers by. Luckily the woman picked up that I was an English speaker by the way my knuckles had a tendency to drag on the sidewalk, and we managed to get a passable conversation going after all. She pulled a small map out of her handbag and began to describe the complicated subway route we would have to undergo to get to the venue. I inquired as to the best way to get there on foot, as we were worried that actually descending beneath the level of the street was just asking for trouble as far as getting lost was concerned. She just looked flabbergasted and told us that there was no way we were going to get there in time on foot.

Not to worry though, we had plan B all set up and ready to go. We headed for the nearest taxi stand and waited for a cab to show up. After a cab failed to materialize, we tried to flag one down. After our propositions had been rejected by several cab drivers, we abandoned the taxi plan and went with plan C, which is seldom utilized by the likes of us Magic players. Plan C happens to be something along the lines of “run like hell in the general direction of the venue and hope like mad that you get there before the end of round 1.”

At some point, Tim and Luke lagged behind Bear and I and we got to catch our breaths a little while waiting for them to show up. We began to share some concerned looks, as the two younger (and practically socially inept when it comes to large cities and the outdoors in general) players of the team just plain didn’t come down the street towards us. We decided that they had probably found a taxi somehow, taken a wrong turn, or had been abducted by unsavory peoples. Either way, we knew our only option was to keep moving.

At one point, we agreed that the building ahead kinda looked like one end of the Louvre, but instead it turned out to be something else entirely, but at least there was another street map with which we could bamboozle ourselves further. Luckily, this map told us that we were actually reasonably close to where we had started, and now that we knew vaguely what we were doing, it was a trivial task to run for another ten minutes to get to where we were going.

(I would just like to set the record straight here. I know it sounds like Bear and I did a hell of a lot of running at this point, and while we did, it was suitably punctuated with fits of wheezing, standing about clutching our sides, and walking for a bit to prevent asphyxiation. Okay, so mostly it was just me doing those things while Bear waited for me, but I just wanted to make it clear that I’m not claiming to be any kind of a triathlete.)

When we finally stumbled into the Carousel de Louvre some fifteen minutes late, we found Tim and Luke happily waiting for us, after somehow having finally convinced a taxi driver that they weren’t murderers or terrorists or trying to sell something. Strangely enough, the main event was nowhere near starting and we were in no danger of missing round 1 or anything like that. There was even an opening ceremony to sit through before we shuffled up our cards. This made me feel pretty silly, because there was one of those last year too, and I should have known that we had that luxury instead of getting everyone’s knickers in a twist about being late.

(For some reason, Tim decided against leaving his backpack with us to look after, and proceeded to carry the New Zealand flag up to the stage wearing a huge blue eyesore on his back. I managed to deflect people’s attention away from this a little by cheering a little too loudly for him, although I’m pretty sure that wasn’t my intention at the time.)

(Luckily, I have no shame, or I could have been really embarrassed there.)

Anyway, on to the actual event. After much flip-flopping and last minute changing my mind, and making things up on the spot to sound knowledgeable to the other guys in the team (“no seriously guys, Krosan Grip is like chocolate cake and ice cream at the same time!”), I decided that I was going to play my trusty Zoo deck with a few minor… okay, okay, major modifications. The first and biggest change was to add Giant Solifuges to the deck. They had been an absolute beating in the Boros decks in testing, and I just knew I wanted to play with them. To help implement that, I also added Boros Garrisons to the maindeck (“no seriously guys, Mike Flores does actually say some worthwhile things sometimes!”).

The other change I made was a bad one. I decided to run Griffin Guides maindeck over Might of Old Krosas. From my research on Standard thanks to good ol’ Magic Online, I knew that there would be Dragonstorm, Izzetron, and Boros everywhere. Therefore it made no sense whatsoever for me to take out cards perfect in those matchups, and add cards that helped me in my worst matchup (Selesnya Aggro Control), which probably wouldn’t be showing up anyway because it was all but an auto-win for Dragonstorm. No sense at all, but I did it anyway.

Here’s the deck I ran, which obviously you should never run:

I ended up going 3-3 with this pile, which is probably why I’m being so harsh on the deck. I should probably lay more blame my unusually poor sense of direction for getting us lost and then putting myself on tilt for the rest of the week, but I’m certainly not going to overlook the deck construction errors just because I happened to be distracted.

The Solifuges worked perfectly, helping me win my first round match against Solar Flare. I lost the second round to a mirror match, partially because I kept a two land (Garrison and Gemstone Mine) hand in the third game, and when I drew my third land something like eight turns later, it was another Gemstone Mine. The game kept going long enough that the second Gemstone Mine expired before I did. In the third round I beat Simic Aggro, and in the fourth I lost in a very close match to Dragonstorm. I’m sure if I had been playing the Might of Old Krosas, I would have had a much better chance. In the fifth I beat a Green/White/Blue Momentary Blink deck, which should have been a harder match for me than it was, but those Griffin Guides actually worked out that time, and in the last round I lost to Simic Aggro for some reason I can’t really remember.

The list I should have played, regardless of what matches I actually ended up playing, is as follows:

The Worship plus Giant Solifuge plan is so good verses so many decks, that it’s worth having access to. The temporal Isolations seemed to do very little where it mattered. Ideally they were there for the mirror and to invalidate Spectral Forces, but it seemed like just plain burning them in the face and hiding behind Worship worked much better there instead. The Krosan Grips work double duty, taking out Circle of Protection: Reds and being available to nuke opposing Worships. I’ve seen Ronom Unicorns splashed about in Boros decks to take out Worships, but they don’t even come close to holding up in combat against anything else they might face in the mirror or similar. They certainly don’t do much in the face of a well-in-control Azorius deck that happens to be hiding behind the Cop: Red, either. The Cryoclasm are just plain fantastic, obviously, and the Honorable Passages can do some pretty hilarious things to Dragonstorm decks.

Anyhow, after failing to make much of a dent in the field on Day 1, (which, to be quite honest, is to be expected – I’m no Kai Budde) we carefully made our way back to the hotel, which we somehow managed it in one attempt. We chatted about what we had played against that day and the drafts that lay ahead of us the following day, and then burrowed down into the beds to try and get a good night’s sleep. After the day’s harrowing dash across half of Paris, it wasn’t too difficult to get to sleep, despite it being nigh on midday back at home.

(Cue dream sequence where I spout on about the Standard Metagame on Magic Online, woooo!)

(That was meant to be a ghost noise, but I kinda messed it up. My bad.)

The online metagame leading up to Worlds was largely defined by Izzetron, Dragonstorm, and Boros, but obviously, the online metagame would be in turn influenced by what was actually played in the Standard portion of Worlds. After Day 1 had died down, the Standard Premier Events could be seen morphing like some big alien like blob into a newer, more refined blob-like shape, with newer archetypes and newer takes on older archetypes being added to the mix. It’s been almost two weeks since Day 1, and here is what the Top 8 replays have been looking like since then.

27 (9) Boros Deck Wins (Red/White Aggro)
18 (11) Dragonstorm Combo (Blue/Red/Black Combo)
13 (0) Orzhov Aggro (Black/White Aggro with hand disruption)
13 (0) Azorius Urzatron (White/Blue Urzatron Control)
9 (13) Izzetron (Blue/Red Urzatron Control)
6 (0) Dimir Control (Blue/Black Control)
5 (4) MGA (Mono Green Aggro)
4 (5) Solar Flare (Blue/Black/White Control)
4 (5) Simic Aggro Control (Blue/Green)
4 (1) Orzhov Control (Black/White Control)
4 (0) Proclamation Control (White/Blue Martyr of Sands, Proclamation of Rebirth Combo)
3 (5) Magnivore (Blue/Red Land Destruction Control)
3 (4) Izzet Snow Control (Blue/Red Control with Stuffy Doll)
3 (0) White/Red/Blue Momentary Blink Control (For Avalanche Riders, Riftwing Cloudskate and Bogardan Hellkite)
2 (4) Zoo (Green/White/Red Aggro)
2 (4) Selesnya Aggro Control (Green/White Aggro Control. Yes, sometimes with Glare)
2 (3) Gruul Aggro (Red/Green Aggro)
2 (1) Angel Control (Blue/Red/White Control)
2 (1) Goblin Combo (Seething Song and Rite of Flame Empty the Warrens and yes, Greater Gargadon)
2 (0) White/Red/Black Angel Control (Trading the Compulsive Researches for Phyrexian Arena and Castigate)
1 (4) Azorius Control (Blue/White Control)
1 (4) Mono Black Snow Aggro (Small Black men and Bad Moon!)
1 (2) Unknown (We’ll never know…)
1 (1) Soggy Pickles (Brine Elemental and Vesuvan Shapeshifter lock down combo)
1 (2) Izzetron with White (Kind of like the Extended deck, but the mana isn’t as good)
1 (0) Azorius Green Control (Blue/White/Green Control)
1 (0) Mono Control (Previously with Snow elements, now with Urzatron)
1 (0) Mono White Control (This time without the Snow engine)
1 (0) Boros Proclamation Control (With Red for Firemane Angel instead of Blue)
0 (4) Hierarch Aggro Control (Green/White/Black Aggro Control)
0 (2) Satanic Sligh (Rakdos Burn)
0 (1) Four Color Blink (Green/White/Blue/Red Momentary Blink and Come into Play type stuff)

While the top decks (5-1 or greater) played at Worlds had one or two Izzetron decks amongst them, it wasn’t nearly as prevalent as Boros was, and this has definitely come through in the Magic Online results, dropping Izzetron from first place to fifth. Despite Dragonstorm actually winning the Event, it really wasn’t as well represented in those top decks. Once Mihara hoisted that cup on high (well, he didn’t really hoist it as such…) everyone predicted that the 8-man queues would be Dragonstorm, Dragonstorm, Dragonstorm all the way through to the finals. However, the Premier Events results paint a slightly different picture indeed, with Dragonstorm trailing behind Boros by quite a lengthy margin.

New to the Top 8’s are the various Azorius Urzatron decks that the many people opted to play, the Azorius Proclamation decks popularized by Gabriel Nassif and his playtest group, and the seemingly rogue Dimir Control decks that quietly worked their way up into those top decks as well.

Day 2

(Cue breakfast with croissants and bread rolls and coffee again.)

We were much more careful in our attempts to get to the Louvre on Day 2, so it didn’t take us long to spot that we were going the wrong way this time, and we were able to correct our course before things got out of hand again. However, the mere fact that we were once again all set to wander off aimlessly through the streets of Paris has us all just a little nervous as we eventually sat down to draft.

My first deck was pretty good. Blue and Red with some nice Teferi and Jaya-like action, backed up by just the right number of wee flyers and stuff. It’s a pity that I got blown out 0-3, which I would like to blame on being flustered at almost getting lost again, but honestly seemed like a bit of bad luck. No, I hate blaming luck. It’s never luck, it’s always my fault, it just has to be. You don’t learn anything by blaming luck. It’s possible I misread the signals going around the table, it kinda seemed like nobody wanted White, which is somewhat unusual so I let it keep going by until it was probably too late to switch in to.

I lost the first round when my opponent played a miscellaneous Thallid, a Sporesower Thallid, and a Savage Thallid in the first few turns of the game. He told be afterwards that he only had five Thallids in his deck. Game 2 was a reasonably fair race, with him needing to top deck one card left in his deck. If he drew the Strength in Numbers, there was no way I could block and survive before killing him on my turn, so clearly he drew the Strength in Numbers. Oh well.

I lost the second round to a deck that featured three Celestial Crusaders and two Sacred Mesa. No, I’m not kidding. The deck was played by James Porter, who I recognized from when I did the coverage for the Grand Prix in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year. Actually meeting James took sting out of the loss, because he was a pretty cool guy, and I’m not just saying that because he (apparently) reads these columns, he really was a nice guy.

Anyway, the third round was terrible for me. Not just me, but also for Stuart Wright and Stephen Murray. The three of us knew each other online and were getting aquatinted in person, when we failed to notice the pairings go up. Not that it was easy to notice, there was no announcement in the main hall, you just had to spot the other players filtering through the doors to the play area, but yeah, we failed on that count and all received game losses for tardiness. It’s kinda funny, when I read “tardiness” I think of it as being a infraction against being a “retard”, as terribly un-PC as that sounds. But it’s kinda fitting, because “retarded” is pretty much the only word I can think of for how stupid it is to be late for any round at a Pro Tour level event. Go me.

(And Stu and Stephen)

(… ‘tards)

So I took my game loss, mulliganed and then took a turn 4 Spectral Force to the face and ended the first pod on 0-3. Weeeee.

The second draft seemed to go just as well as the first. Which is to say that I felt the draft went well, but I got screwed over by nothing other than luck in the rounds that followed. Well, it can’t be luck, can it? I think I drafted (and subsequently played) too many Assassinates (four). The first round I got pummeled by large White men, which can’t be right, because I thought White men were traditionally small. However, Ivory Giants, Cavalry Masters, and Moorish Cavalry trampled all over me before I could say “crikey!” in two games straight. The second round I lost 1-2. It was definitely 1-2 because I drew a total of 35 land across the entire match, and you can’t do that in two games if you’re only running 17 lands. The third round, I won, so I didn’t totally embarrass myself, but I certainly wasn’t feeling overly happy with how everything had gone to this point.

Speaking of embarrassing oneself, joining me on the bottle tables was one Craig Stevenson, who will have no doubt edited this part to make himself look more like Brad Pitt or something by the time it reaches your eyes. Craig was having a bad tournament much like my own, but unlike me he was not free to drop out at any point, because he was carrying the flag for the English team. And carry it on he did, like a trooper. They were covered having what appeared to be a ball of a time during day four, Craig was yet another sterling gent I met on this trip, but more on him next week maybe. [How dare you infer that I don’t look like Brad Pitt! – Craig.]

And now we come to what appears to be the depressing ending of this journey, because at this point I decided I had just plain had enough, and elected to drop out of the main event at a hopeless 4-8. Any other sane person would then get as far away from the tournament as possible and check out the sights of Paris, but not me – I headed straight out the back and volunteered my services as a coverage reporterer-type guy for the rest of the show. But of course, more about that next week!

(Wow that boy sure can milk out a trip to France, can’t he?)

(Yes he can!)

Here’s a small hint of day 3 for you. The next morning I awoke without a care in the world. I didn’t mind that I could get lost on the way to the venue any more, because I wasn’t playing and I could be late all I liked! Not only that, but there was a beautiful sunrise, which made Paris look even prettier than usual. So while the rest of the New Zealand team hurried off (in the correct direction this time!) towards the venue, I wandered about taking these pictures.

Paris by morning

Where the streets have no name

Red sky at night? Shepherd's delight. Red sky in the morning? The boulangerie's on fire

Tune in next week, where I try to remember what happened at Worlds once I donned my reporterers cap, and I also take a look at how the Magic Online Card prices have shaped up since then as well. So until then, um, I dunno, behave yourselves. Unless nobody is looking, obviously.