First off, I’d like to apologize for the absence of my column, Price of Progress, over the past few weeks. Once in a long while, there comes a time when I’m qualified for an upcoming Pro Tour and I have nothing to do put practice. That makes for poor reading. On top of that, with the recent collapse of the Dojo, I’ve had to find a new home for my column. For the foreseeable future, that home will be StarCityCCG, a website that I know will be updated regularly and run professionally.
Two weeks ago, I was boarding a plane to Frankfurt, Germany, preparing to compete with old school Deadguy, David Bartholow, and Hashim Bello from New York City in the team Grand Prix. We named our team, Impossible Dream. Who knew how fitting the name would become as the weekend progressed?
We at Team Deadguy have a number of impossible dreams, one of which proved to be not-so-impossible and actually came true. Who knew? Some of our many impossible dreams:
– Chris Pikula winning a match of Magic, let alone the Duelist Invitational in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (defying all odds, this one actually came true)
– David Bartholow graduating from college
– Me getting a job
– Tony Tsai not getting fired from his
– Bartholow developing good fashion sense
– Worth Wollpert developing good taste in movies
– Jon Finkel looking in a mirror and not thinking about his hair
– Me getting back on the "gravy train"
These are just some of the many dreams that Team Deadguy has had. It’s a shame only one of them has come true. I have an image ingrained in my mind of David Bartholow sitting on the couch in our college apartment in Ithaca, NY, wearing daisy dukes, a tight blue t-shirt, eating a stick of pepperoni. I have heard Worth Wollpert claim that Fargo was the worst movie ever, while sitting idly by and watching an aging action star blow up an asteroid on a collision course with earth in Armageddon. All this, while the words of the great Jon Finkel echo in my mind, "Guys, does my hair look okay?"
Its important to dream, though. Without dreams, life is a dreary place.
So the collective dreams of Team Deadguy, combined with the ever witty nickname of our third would-be teammate, Hashim "The Dream" Bello, made "Impossible Dream" the perfect team name to christen our ill-fated voyage across the Atlantic. Little did we know, it was to become even MORE appropriate. David Bartholow and I flew out of Philadelphia, while Hashim was planning on flying out a few hours later from New York City with Team Antartica or Backside Attack or Friends and Fun, whatever Jon Finkel, Steven OMS, and Dan OMS are calling themselves these days. The flight was uneventful, Bartholow and I playing Mercadian Masques block constructed in between eating Indian Vegetarian meals, catching naps, and watching miserable movies. We arrived in Frankfurt the next morning, found our hotel and went to sleep for awhile… not the perfect cure for jetlag, but whatever. We woke up sometime in the evening and tracked down Jon Finkel and the OMS brothers, only to receive some disturbing news.
Hashim wasn’t with them.
Uh huh. Apparantly some sort of mixup with the passport office, or with the local, state, or federal authorities. Let’s just say that the United States of America LOVES Hashim Bello so much, that they don’t want him to leave the country.
Instead of finding this out a week before, a few days before, or even a few hours before Bartholow and I catch our flight, he decides to find out that he can’t leave the country while we are in a big metal object hurtling across the Atlantic Ocean. Good timing.
Team Impossible Dream is taking on new meaning. A new Impossible Dream is that David and I find a third person to play on our team the next morning.
Apparantly, though, reinforcements were on the way. Lauren Passmore, my savior, had heard of this shady business with Hashim and found us a third teammate, Rich Frangiosa of Philadelphia, and bought him a ticket to Frankfurt, arriving the morning of the tournament. Would he arrive in time and save the day? Would we be able to stay awake long enough to build two sealed decks and make it into the second day? To make matters worse, both David and I had picked up some illness somewhere along the way and not only that, I was unable to eat anything at the tournament site (Germany is not so good for vegetarians) so I had to eat enough at the hotel breakfast each day to last me through to the next morning. If this isn’t a recipe for victory, I don’t know what is.
As it turned out, Richie showed up the morning of the tournament, we registered okay, and things seemed to be going smoothly. There were a few American teams in attendance, Team Antartica/Backside Attack/Friends and Fun, Your Move Games, as well as Team Shvartsman. Aside from those three teams, there were about 200 other teams from all over Europe, mostly from Germany, but also from France, Norway, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Switzerland. The sheer number of teams present was overwhelming. It was looking to be a difficult feat to make the second day (top 20 teams), let alone win a qualifying spot.
Our first pool of cards were fairly strong, with nothing particularly broken. We separated the colors and arranged them into mana costs (one casting cost, two casting cost, etc.) with a separate rows for creatures and spells, while cutting the unplayable cards from the good ones. This gave us an easy way to visualize the strengths and weaknesses of the colors, which could almost stand on their own, which needed creature support, etc. After a little wrangling, we decided on splitting up the red removal, between the blue deck and the white deck, ending up with three solid decks, a green/black, a blue/red, and a white/red. I played the black/green, which was truly a beatdown.
After our bye and three rounds vs. teams KTB, Reservoir Turtles, and Die Frisore, we managed to lose only one individual match, ending the first sealed deck with a 4-0 match record.
The second set of sealed decks was a bit weaker, but we still managed to do okay with them. This time, we ended up splitting up the black removal, making a Green/Black deck, a Blue/Black deck, and a White/Red deck. I got to play the White/Red deck, which didn’t have as much brokenness as solid cards like Orim’s Cure, Gerard’s Irregulars, and Fresh Volunteers. None of our decks were awful, but neither were they particularly good.
In our first two matches, we ended up getting draws against Marie et Deux Enfants and Deflection Dornheim. One of those could’ve been a win and the other could’ve been a loss, but such is life. At 4-0-2, we are matched up against the German Juggernauts, containing both the Pro Player and Amateur of the Year, Kai Budde and Dirk Baberowski. Not a problem. Bartholow and Richie split their matches, with one win and one loss (I wasn’t paying attention to who won and who lost) and it came down to me against Kai. We were in our third game and we were off to the races. Kai’s draw was somewhat suboptimal, with him having to play a Lumbering Satyr, allowing me to forestwalk over on the next turn. He sends a counterattack and I make a free 4/4 angel to block one of his fatties (not the Satyr). My Flowstone Crusher is giving him problems and on his final turn, he casts Rupture, intending to sacrifice the Satyr and clear the board. I tap one of my little dudes to cast Orim’s Cure on the Crusher and the big Flowstone guy comes across for the kill on my next turn. Thank you for "free" spells. They made all the difference, being able to cast creatures AND kill his/save mine was a bit unfair.
So we finished the first day at 5-0-2, in 5th place. Not too bad, what with the tremendous competition. As it turns out, we were the only American team to make day 2. Take that, Your Move Games and Antartica. They were both hoping to get some practice for the team event at PT-New York, but no such luck.
After four or five hours of sleep, we were back the next day for the three team drafts before the cut to the top 4. I was on the left, Bartholow was in the middle, and Frangiosa was on the right. The game plan was for me to draft white, picking up the Nemesis goods in white, Bartholow to draft green, and Frangiosa to draft blue. We would split up black and red for removal.
I was a bit rusty during our first draft of the day, failing to counterdraft a Rushwood Herbalist from the opposing team and accidentally taking a Ceremonial Guard from Bartholow, our green/red mage, but we outdrafted our opponents, Deflection Dornheim, who we’d drawn with the day before. I ended up with a mono-white deck with Crooked Scales, Flowstone Armor, and lots of good rebels, while Richie and David split the other four colors. This match ended up favorably for us, with us winning the match 3-0 according to the European Sideboard website, although I seem to recall ending my individual match with a draw.
I won’t bore you too much with the details of the next few matches, as there are mighty good draft and match analysis on the European Sideboard website.
I ended up with a blue/white deck in our next two matches, and I didn’t do much winning with them. Our team won the second draft of the day against Smarties and ran out of time against the Hammer of Brno in our third draft, leaving us with a 7-0-3 record. Somehow, despite being in lead through most of the tournament, we lost on tiebreakers and ended up finishing out of the top 4, in 5th place.
Such is life. For the little team that almost wasn’t, the Impossible Dream, we made a fine run for the top 4. We built our sealed decks well, outdrafted our opponents, and didn’t quite make it.
That’s about all I have to report. Thanks to Lauren Passmore for saving the day, and thanks to Richie Frangiosa for the last minute substitution. Check back next week for my Pro Tour – New York report.
King of the Qualifiers