I had originally intended to write a report about Pro Tour – New York and the Masters Gateway tournament that preceded it. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t seem to find the words to make an interesting tale out of going 3-3 in the Team Sealed part of Pro Tour – New York with Gary Krakower and Matt Vienneau, using a Limited set that has just been outdated by the release of Invasion – following on the heels of a failed bid to grind my way into the Extended Masters event. I couldn’t do it. People wanted to hear about Invasion, and so did I. The Team PTQs and Grand Prixs wouldn’t roll around again for another nine or ten months and by then, there would brand new cards involved.
Still, with the Extended PTQs and Grand Prixs rapidly approaching, my Masters Gateway experience wasn’t totally irrelevant. Since Wizards of the Coast had taken away my Dark Ritual, which I had been content to use to cast Phyrexian Negators, zombies, and the occasional Hatred, I had to find a new deck for the Gateway tournament. The Pro Tour was far more important to me than the Gateway tournament (I would have felt differently, of course, if I had been in the main Masters event), so I wasn’t able to justify spending as much time as I’d have liked to on Extended. I limited my playtesting to finding a good beatdown deck to play, a type of deck that I knew that I would enjoy playing and that I would play well. I tried Lackey Red with Tangle Wire and Rishadan Port, Stompy with Demonic Consultation, Burn with Demonic Consultation, and I finally settled on a Mono-Red Deck with some cheap weenies and a healthy dose of burn. I found that making the red deck vulnerable to Wasteland by adding Badlands and Sulfurous Springs wasn’t worth it simply for the added power of Demonic Consultation.
4x Jackal Pup
4x Goblin Cadets
4x Mogg Fanatic
4x Ball Lightning
4x Cursed Scroll
4x Price of Progress
2x Hammer of Bogardan
4x Bottle Gnomes
I expected to see a great deal of mono-blue and my sideboard reflected that. I found it unlikely that a Stasis deck would have a chance against my quick creatures, burn, and killer sideboard cards: Pyroblast and Scald. The same went for other varieties of mono-blue, like Draw-Go and Forbidian. I couldn’t come up with a game breaking sideboard card against Survival, so I had to hope that they would be running enough non-basic lands to allow my Prices of Progress to give me the edge in the matchup. As it turns out, I was wrong on that count. Most of the Survival decks were only blue and green, using only Tropical Islands and basic lands. Not so good for me.
I received a bye in the first round of the tournament and in the second round, I was matched up against Brian Schneider playing Secret Force. This match was featured on the Sideboard
x=MASTERSNY00/994fgm2), so you can read the details there. In short, I had no sideboard for this particular matchup, the odds were greatly in Brian’s favor, and I gritted my teeth, played well, and managed to win the match, two games to one.
In the third round, I was matched up against one of the Keller brothers, playing Countersliver. I won’t give a play-by-play, but Countersliver’s excessive use of non-basic lands and the fact that I had Wasteland and Price of Progress put the odds highly in my favor. He did manage to get an early Crystalline Sliver out in all three games, which is a troublesome card for my deck, preventing me from burning up his blockers and from continuing to attack with my Jackal Pups and Goblin Cadets. Still, Wasteland and Price of Progress made enough of an appearance to allow me to win two games to one.
In the fourth round, I was matched against John Ormerod, playing Blue/Green Survival. With only four Tropicals to take advantage of, I was left with few options. I gritted my teeth, played well, and got my ass kicked. You can read about the match on Neutral Ground’s website (http://www.neutralground.net/Forums/ForumItem.asp?
NewsID=1066&BackupLink=Live/Main.asp). So I had made it to the top 16, but that wasn’t good enough. Only the top two would advance to the Masters Tournament, and I was forced to the sidelines.
For what it’s worth, I was happy with the deck that I played, but I’m looking for another one that will have a better chance in this strange new Extended environment. After the Masters Gateway tournament, I played in Pro Tour – New York, spent a few days hanging out in New York City and Connecticut, and then boarded a plane to Manchester, England. The jet lag was frightening, but I went to bed at 5 p.m. and slept for about fifteen hours so I was well-rested the morning of the tournament.
GP-Manchester Sealed Contents
Rith, the Awakener
2x Tainted Well
Sway of Illusion
2x Vodalian Serpent
Crown of Flames
Angel of Mercy
2x Ardent Soldier
Rewards of Diversity
Strength of Unity
2x Sunscape Apprentice
2x Geothermal Crevice
2x Troll-horn Cameo
I was expecting a difficult deck to build, but this one seemed to build itself. With powerful gold cards and very weak black ones, I built what I thought (and still think) was the best deck and spent the next three rounds practicing it. At first, I didn’t think much of my deck, as I had fairly weak removal spells and I was one of the few people at the tournament not playing with black for Agonizing Demise, Plague Spores, etc. But the more I played, the better I felt about it and I was pretty confident going into the fourth round.
GP-Manchester Sealed Deck
2x Ardent Soldier
Angel of Mercy
Rith, the Awakener
I chose not to play a number of spells that I’ve heard are good or great in Sealed Deck, like Frenzied Tilling and Quirion Trailblazer. I’m never sure what to do with these guys. If you play them instead of a spell, you are reducing the power of your deck. If you play them instead of a land, you are begging to end up with three land and either a Quirion Trailblazer or a Frenzied Tilling in your hand doing nothing. In addition, I already had three painless sources of blue mana for my Zanam Djinn: Coastal Tower, Fertile Ground, and Quirion Elves. If I played either one of these cards, I would be tempted to play a basic Island to take full advantage of them and I would have to reduce the land count of one of my more important colors. So in the end, I left them in my sideboard and I was happy with that.
On the other hand, I ended up playing with some creatures that aren’t widely viewed as spectacular. In particular, I had two Ardent Soldiers and a Llanowar Cavalry. Neither card is a serious threat to the opponent; their main purpose is to help stall the ground until you draw your dragon or djinn, and they did that just fine. In addition, they were particularly good with "Giant Growth"-type cards, since they didn’t tap to attack. I could attack the opponent while his fatty was tapped without giving away the fact that I’d just drawn a pump card and I was going to block, use it, and kill the fatty on his or her next turn. Not so bad, really. All in all, my deck worked great, working far better than some of the individual cards might make you think. The weaker creatures shined and the pump cards were especially good for me, largely because of the lack of tricks and cheap instant speed kill in the environment.
After my three byes, I was matched up against a number of strong opponents. My fourth, fifth and sixth round opponents were Brook North from Neutral Ground-New York, Oyvind Odegaard from Norway, and Richard Edbury, one of the top Welsh players. My match with Richard Edbury was featured on the Sideboard
event=GPMAN00&name=546fm6). I managed to win all three of my first matches, two games to zero. In the final round of the swiss, at 6-0, I was matched against Rob Dougherty from Your Move Games in Boston. In one game, I was drawing first and I kept a draw with two Plains and a Mountain… and I didn’t draw a Forest until the final turn of the game. Not the best luck, but it was bound to happen eventually. In another game, I got off to a great start and rolled over
Rob. It all came down to the third game and we ended up running out of time. Rob clearly outdrew me in the third game, and the only reason I finished the last extra turn at one life was because he made a series of mistakes – including forgetting that his Duskwalker had fear, forgetting that he had Ruby Leech on the board until after he had tapped some red mana to cast something else, and not making the best use of his Spinal Embrace. I understand where he was coming from though, as we were all still adjusting to the time difference and were quite tired from the day’s playing. So I ended the first day at 6-0-1, in 4th place. Now I just had to draft and play well on the second day.
In the first draft of the next day, I was at a tough table with Ed Fear directly to my right, Bram Snepvangers two seat to my right, John Ormerod to my left and Steve OMS two seats to my left. The first pack was opened and Bram took a Harrow, Ed Fear took a Distorting Wake, and I was left with a choice between Probe and Fires of Yavimaya as the best cards remaining in the back. Ed had just taken a blue card and was almost assured of playing blue/white or blue/black (because it’s very difficult not to play allied colors in this environment), so I took the Fires of Yavimaya. While I’d prefer to play Black/Blue, Fires of Yavimaya is a more powerful card than Probe and I didn’t look forward to fighting with the guy on my right for blue and possibly black or white. John Ormerod picked up the Probe and Steve OMS took a Mourning, leaving with Red/Green and the only person with a card from my color was two seats to my right. And from the looks of it he would be drafting all five colors, since he first picked a Harrow over a number of clearly more powerful cards. Then we were off. I never wavered from my Red/Green plan, despite that fact that Ed Fear started sniping a few of my red creatures and one of my green creatures that would have dramatically helped my deck’s mana curve. On my other side, John Ormerod knew how to draft, giving me a last pick card that was quite useful to me, knowing that it would encourage me to stay out of his colors. Our side of the draft was featured by Tony Dobson for the Sideboard (http://www.wizards.com/sideboard/eventarticle.asp?
event=GPMAN00&name=543dr1), and his description is very accurate.
Draft Deck #1
2x Kavu Aggressor
3x Viashino Grappler
2x Pouncing Kavu
2x Explosive Growth
Breath of Darigaaz
Fires of Yavimaya
While my deck had powerful cards like Kavu Monarch, Thunderscape Master, Breath of Darigaaz, Canopy Surge, and Fires of Yavimaya, it also had a few holes in it. I had no spot removal and I needed a few more two drops, like the Skittish Kavu and Quirion Sentinel that Ed Fear drafted for his sideboard. Still, the deck was good and I hoped to go 2-1 with it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be. I did beat Bram "First Pick Harrow" Snepvangers (who went on to 0-3 the table), but I failed to beat my other two opponents, Tom Harle and Ed Fear. It was close, but I ended up going 1-2 with the deck.
Going into the last draft, I needed to go 3-0 to make the top 8. In the first pack, Justin Gary took a Black/Blue card on my right (either Recoil or Probe) and left me with a fifth pick Armadillo Cloak. So I took the Armadillo Cloak and ran with it, drafting a good green/white deck that I expected to go 2-1, with the possibility of going 3-0. I had two "Master Decoy"-type guys, two Armadillo Cloaks, a Charging Troll, a Power Armor, and an Atalya, Samite Master. Unfortunately, this deck’s mana curve was somewhat shady as well, with no three drops (there aren’t very many in green/white, unfortunately) and also very few two drops.
Draft Deck #2
2x Thornscape Apprentice
4x Kavu Climber
Atalya, Samite Master
2x Aggressive Urge
2x Armadillo Cloak
So did I go 2-1 or 3-0 with this good deck? No I didn’t. I won my first round against Alexander Witt, but then I lost to a combination of manascrew and multiple Frenzied Tillings against both Martin Tramm and in the last round against Florent Jeudon, a poor drafter who decided to draft a green card and then a white card on the way back after I’d picked up an Armadillo Cloak directly to his right. Needless to say, he ended up abandoning white and picking up red and black somewhere along the way, although he did make my life difficult by taking quality green and white cards here and there. Fortunately for him, when you draw the right mana in your three-color deck you often do well, as your cards tend to be slightly more powerful than the cards of a player who drafted only two colors.
So I ended the tournament at 8-4-1. I did manage to make 31st place, which meant a few dollars and a PT point, so the weekend wasn’t a waste. I learned a bit about Invasion draft and sealed as well, so I should be well prepared for Grand Prix – Dallas in a few weeks.
That’s all I have to tell.
Next week, I’ll try to give you a preview of some of my Invitational decks and ideas, and I’ll be looking for your help. Until then,
King of the Qualifiers