It takes a”special” player to be at 4-0, and then throw away the next two matches while being up a game in each. Working your ass off for two months, only to be done in by your own poor decision-making skills, is not a pleasant thing to have happen – but it happened to me. This is my story…
First of all, let me apologize if my self-loathing shines through over the course of this report: I really did have fun on Saturday, but my performance was quite a bit worse than it was last year, was not reflective of the amount of work I put into preparing for the tournament, and was fully avoidable if I had just made the correct plays in rounds 5 and 6. Needless to say, I’m still pissed at myself for how things turned out, but I should be over it and come correct with a Regionals Rundown article that will examine the shape of Type 2 for the next few months to come.
On with our story…
I woke up at 5:15 Saturday morning in order to grab a shower and make certain that everything was in order. That would have been fine – except I hadn’t actually gotten into bed until 1 a.m. You see, my wife and I had been moving from one apartment to another over the last week, and my cards were scattered from here to hell’s half-acre, meaning it took me an exceptionally long time to track down everything that I needed to build Ralphie and one backup deck. That meant that I didn’t get to go to bed until two hours after I wanted to be there, resulting in a mere four hours of sleep. Not a good way to start things off, but there was nothing that could be done at that point.
Anyway, I hit the store at about 6:10 and amazingly enough, everyone was already there and waiting. Punctuality makes me happy. The crew hopped in the car and we were underway. After some minor trouble with the 495 loop in DC, a great deal of hip-hop (DJ Kool’s”Let Me Clear My Throat” and Big Pun’s”Still Not a Player” were the official theme songs of the trip) and the annoying fact that the exit ramp to the tournament site was closed (apparently it was open on Friday), we arrived with plenty of time to stand in line and wonder if the festivities were going to start before 12 p.m. this year.
While we were waiting, I had time to shoot the sheezy with Uncle Sheldie and Bennie Smith, watch Elliot Fertik (who finished at 8-2 on the day with Beasts) come around and scout my deck, and to pay three dollars each for Smother from the sinister Ben Bleiweiss (have I mentioned how much I hate moving lately?). Eventually the socializing died and the pairings were posted – which is where the fun really begins, right?
Before I get to how the tournament played out, though, I probably should put in a little bit of discussion about the deck that was chosen for me. In case you missed it, I posted the results of the contest (along with oodles of tasty links and snarky comments) in Part II of”Aw Yes Indeed It’s Fun Time” in our forums. (I was late getting Ferrett the article, so had to do all the editing and linkage myself… The Horror!) In the end, things turned out just as I anticipated, with the Rogue deck winning the day.
The Ralphie Treatment, Version X
3 Cabal Therapy
3 Chainer’s Edict
3 Withered Wretch
4 Undead Gladiator
4 Astral Slide
3 Renewed Faith
4 Wrath of God
2 Teroh’s Faithful
2 Graveborn Muse
1 Visara the Dreadful
3 Exalted Angel
2 Secluded Steppe
3 Barren Moor
2 Grand Coliseum
2 City of Brass
4 Braids, Cabal Minion
2 Haunting Echoes
2 Bane of the Living
2 Ray of Distortion
1 Ray of Revelation
1 Visara the Dreadful
The version is”X” because the damned deck went through about seven different iterations in the last week alone, and calling it”2.0″ isn’t particularly reflective of how many versions Jim went through. I’ve put in a request that Jim discuss all the versions at some point in the future in order to give you an idea of how a deck like this evolves before a big tournament… But you’ll just have to wait and see if he comes through for you.
Needless to say, the decklist wasn’t truly finalized until Saturday morning. The two Bane of the Livings had been in and out of the maindeck and/or sideboard for about a month, as had the Graveborns and the Teroh’s Faithfuls. The Faithfuls were left in there as a nod to the fact that we still expected to see R/G decks in the early rounds of the tournament and couldn’t post good numbers without them. The Graveborns, on the other hand, simply went to work against Tog, turning a sometimes-difficult game 1 into a victory on the sheer strength of cards drawn… Provided you could get one into play.
Withered Wretch was a relatively early addition on Jim’s part and made the U/G matchup into a cakewalk. Oh, you want to tutor for three Roar of the Wurm tokens? Cool. I’ll just eat them before you can get around to casting them. Thanks, Good Game.
It also helped that they performed important functions against Tog and Reanimator (though for some – like me! – they proved particularly difficult to draw when facing the Reanimator decks), so yanking them out became less and less of a question as the metagame cleared up.
The last-minute, crucial addition was one that I fought for over the course of the last week. Every time I was testing the deck it seemed like I won if I got an Undead Gladiator working, and life was very difficult if I didn’t. Therefore, I told Jim that if he couldn’t find something to cut to fit the fourth Gladiator into the maindeck, I would show how janky I really am and run 61 cards. That was how important that kid was to me. Eventually Jim caved and dropped a Renewed Faith, replacing it with Undead G numero quattro, proving that he really is smarter than the average bear.
The deck is diesel… If you understand how to play it. Ninety percent of the people who watched our matches had no idea what was going on, though, and comments like,”I have no idea how that deck is playing for an invitation” were rampant. Me? I understand how to play it; I just made some dumb mistakes on the day. However, the explanation article will have to come from the master, as I have other things to write about, and everybody really wants to learn from the guy who qualified with the deck, right?
On to the results…
Round 1 – Matthew Lake from Richmond, VA – R/G
Matt sat down and promptly informed me that there were about four people in the entire room whose name he was aware of, and unfortunately he had drawn one of them in the first round. I sympathized with him, telling him how thankful I was that I had no idea who he was, and also informed him that I’m actually a really awful player that merely writes well.
Sigh; truer words have never been spoken.
Game one saw me fight through three Phantom Centaurs on my way to a hard fought victory. Two Slides on the board plus a Gladiator meant that I could keep damage off me indefinitely while searching for the appropriate answers, which is exactly what I did.
Game 2 was more of the same with a little less pain por moi. Matt made a huge mistake by Burning Wishing for Simplify when I had a Slide on the board and he had a Compost (he didn’t realize he had to sacrifice an enchantment as well), and then I beat the bejeezus out of him with a Bane of the Living.
Round 2 – Dalton from Stafford, VA – R/G
Ugh; R/G match number two. I definitely prefer playing against R/G as opposed to something like Tog, but Beasts and U/G are much better matches and don’t feature that random”Burn your ass to a crisp” factor. I thought any kid named”Dalton” would be bigger, too, but that’s more a result of watching Roadhouse way too many times than anything to do with reality.
I lost Game 1 because I didn’t play aggressively enough. I had the opportunity to make him either take some damage or lose some Call of the Herd tokens, but instead I let my kids hang back and do nothing, and it cost me the game with him ending at six life. I must play better (and drawing a Slide would help).
Game 2 goes longer than anticipated, as I again manage not to draw an Astral Slide, but I do draw a Wrath and multiple Exalted Angels, and end the game at nineteen life.
Game 3 sees me rip my fourth land off the top rope just in time to bring the Wrath of an angry God to bear on his troops, and Exalted Angel does mop-up duty, with a Ray of Distortion taking out the Ensnaring Bridge he put into play.
Round 3 – Justin from Maryland – MBC
Jim kept telling me this was an easy matchup for us, as all we had to do was resolve an Astral Slide and we would win. Unfortunately, I’m a pro at not drawing Astral Slide or getting it Cabal Therapied away, sooo…
Game 1, he crushed about a third of my deck with a Haunting Echoes (I removed all the important stuff myself with Withered Wretch) and I got Corrupted out from twenty-seven life in a single turn. Bleagh.
Game 2 sees me put the full Hand Disruption + Braids plan into action, and I steal the good parts of Justin’s hand while watching Braids do her dirty work for a quick victory.
Game 3: My notes for this game say”Oh My God!” because I ripped one of the sickest topdecks ever in this game, firmly declaring myself as a River Rat and never looking back. I got somewhat manascrewed in this game, but was putting pressure on him with a pair of Undead Gladiators. Until…
He drops Visara into play.
Now, I played MBC for months; I know what MBC’s plan is, and I should know not to side out all my removal against it. Unfortunately, I had done just that, and all my Edicts were sitting in my sideboard, pleasantly waving and smiling at me. Or they would have been if I were on LSD – but since I’m a big advocate of being drug-free, they were merely hanging out and chatting with my lucky sheep token. Chainer does not smile.
Aside: Who gets Kev Walker to do the art for Sheep tokens?
Anyway, the crucial point in the game sees me getting my ass kicked by Visara, but still keeping two Gladiators on the board to beat back. Unfortunately, his beater is much better than mine, and I eventually find myself reduced to a mere one life point with two Gladiators on the board, while Justin was sitting at three life. I draw my card for the turn, aware that nothing I could draw would really help me here, and let my face fall as I’m forced to pass the turn again. Justin crushes a Gladiator at the end of my turn, untaps, and beats with Visara looking to end the game. Before damage goes on the stack, I rawdog the Renewed Faith I just plucked and go up to seven life, while hoping he doesn’t have any removal for my Gladiator.
He doesn’t, and Undead G goes on to swing for the win.
Just in case you missed it… I’m an awful player, but was saved by an extremely lucky topdeck to go 3-0 on the day.
Round 4 – Mike from Maryland – U/G Madness
Mmm… Table 4. Nice digs up there, even if we are still packed in like sardines. Allow me to summarize the two games we played thusly: Mike played a sum total of one Basking Rootwalla and two Wonders. In the match. I’d say he definitely got The Ralphie Treatment, but my deck didn’t give it to him.
After Round 4, I grabbed some food and came back just in time to watch Jim finish off his opponent, putting both of us at 4-0. He stood up from the table and began to curse because the button on his shorts had popped off, knowing that he’d have to deal with it for the rest of the day. This also revealed Jim’s Scooby Doo boxer shorts. Then he chose to drop them down a bit further so that everyone walking past could see, and loudly sang,”Scooby, Scooby Doo, where are you?” Sigh.
I really need to find a new testing partner to work with – even if this one does build some of the sickest decks known to man. If I never see that monkey in his boxer shorts again it will be too soon.
Round 5 – Jeremy Beaver – G/B/r Reanimator
Da kNuts versus da Beaver, at Table 2. Jimmy Bean was sitting next to me at Table 1. Good times. This round is also known as”The Beginning of the End.”
My notes show that I beat the bejeezus out of Jeremy in Game 1, but for some reason it took twenty-five minutes. Oh well; I’m up a game against Reanimator and have Withered Wretch in the maindeck and Haunting Echoes in the sideboard.
Game 2 had one crucial play on turn 3 where I plucked a Duress off the top of my deck and got distracted. You see, I had an Astral Slide in my hand as well, and the plan is to drop Slide and then crush dreams… Or at least make him deal with it. Tragically, my brain lost track of the plan somewhere and thought,”Hey, Duress would be good to take Zombify about now.” and that’s what I attempted to do. Jeremy then plucked his own Duress off the top and took my Slide away, and then left me to fight through two Composts for the rest of the game. I still would have won the damned thing, too, if I had been able to draw any one of the five cards that could deal with the kids he kept bringing out of his graveyard. Unfortunately, I did not and Jeremy was eventually able to kill me with two minutes left in the round.
Let’s just say that the draw bracket was the place I most-est did not-est want to be on the day… But I was headed there due to one stoopid mistake. I didn’t lose that game because of my inability to draw one of my graveyard removal spells; I lost it because I misplayed my third turn. Not good times…
Round 6 – Christian Griffith from Richmond, VA – W/G Lifegain
First of all I like Christian, so playing him isn’t as much fun as it could be. Second of all, the lifegain deck is really annoying. This match would be a test of endurance to see which guy screwed up first, and who could actually put through enough damage to kill the other.
Game 1 ended with Chris conceding at nineteen life because I had a Slide on the board and a Gladiator going to work. I was a little disheartened about this, because like Mick McD, I could have gone on watching Chris chomp his Oreos while I busted him up all night – but you can’t stop somebody from conceding, so we went to Game 2.
Now if I’m a smart person, all I do is board out the Smothers in the deck and board in Braids. Chris can still kill me with creatures, as that’s always his plan – and since I’m well aware of how slowly these games will go, I should have just played to make it impossible for him to win Game 2. Unfortunately, I didn’t do that, and Chris prevailed in a long game for Game 2 (he was at six life at one point), and I was saddled with my second draw of the day.
Not good times, awful times… I got back-to-back draws because of two screwups that I made. And I realized that I f***ed up at the time, so my spirits were completely crushed. Four hours of sleep plus me making dumb mistakes was not good for my competitive spirit and I basically slept through the next two rounds (one against Wake, the other against Tog) and picked up two losses, thus allowing me to drop and mercifully ending my day before I threw away some more matches.
I’ll confess… You guys made the right choice. Ralphie is a fantastic deck to play at a tournament like Regionals, and we had a plan for every deck that we knew about (though Wake proved to be an impossible matchup for Ralphie in the current configuration). I simply made dumb mistakes for consecutive rounds, and screwed myself out of a probable 6-0 record. This time y’all bet on the wrong horse, and for that I apologize.
So that’s how my Regionals transpired. We had a great car trip home with Gibb, Fog, and Jimmy Bean doing some Cheech and Chong antics, while Grif and I cackled maniacally at the events we witnessed. I’d go into more detail, but it’s probably safer for all parties involved if I say that they wouldn’t translate that well to the written page (which is a lie, because they are funny as hell).
I’ll be back next week with a full roundup of Regionals, but here are some quick impressions:
- It’s odd how differently each of the regions played out… At Mid-Atlantic Regionals, playing an aggro deck to the top table was nearly impossible, and every time someone did it, they were given a hasty exit (though I believe Brock Parker was playing for the Top 8 with Elves!). My experience is colored by the control fest I saw in the Mid-Atlantic, but most other Regions looked to have a much more normal distribution of decks in the top 8. Once Wizards publishes all the information, it should be a lot of fun to break down how things ended up and search for patterns.
- Wake is going to be a problem. The Dutch version is so much better than anything that we’ve seen before, and the additions of Renewed Faith and Exalted Angel make a solid deck into an almost undefeatable one. Tog can be rebuilt to handle Wake in a control-heavy field, but it cannot handle both Wake and R/G decks at the same time. Get ready to dread playing against that thing for the next few months.
- Ensnaring Bridge is often an auto-win in Game 1 against most decks. Expect to see more of it.
- Elves remains a solid choice for players who like beatdown and who do not fear Wrath of God type effects (Caller of the Claw makes this a lot easier).
- Scott Johns will definitely qualify for the Pro Tour before me, but I may be at a Pro Tour before him.
- One month to Grand Prix: Pittsburgh. Barring acts of God, I plan to be there giving you the scoop on everything going on in front of and behind the scenes. Will Geordie Tait be there? Will I finally meet The Potato? We’ll know by June 1st.
- Big ups to my main men Jim Ferraiolo and John”Money” Mahon for qualifying for U.S. Nationals. Money has made something like fifteen Top 8s at PTQs, so you figured he would have no problems at an event where making Top 8 meant you actually get a slot. Jim actually had to break it to his wife that he would not be available to take her to the Wilco concert on her birthday weekend because he has to fly out to San Diego and play Magic. Oh, to be a fly on the wall during that conversation…
See you next week,
The Holy Kanoot