It seems that every time I start to write an article, I want to begin with”Sorry I haven’t written in so long…” or another similar phrase. I find that I do that in real life when I talk to old friends and family members as well.
I’m generally a quiet guy. If I don’t have anything to say, I don’t say anything. This sometimes causes problems in my relationships with my fellow human beings, and it certainly translates into my articles. I watch many internet writers produce articles week after week, and many are either unaware or uncaring of the quality of their writing. I suspect that most write even when they are uninspired or uninspiring because they are looking for that paycheck, premium foil, or box of cards that they’ll receive in payment. Some go so far as to write a 14,000 word article and chop it up into seven parts so that they can get paid seven times, instead of simply editing it and coming up with a quality 2,000 or 4,000 word article. Just because you can write on and on about something, doesn’t mean that you should. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve written an article about a PTQ, a Grand Prix, or a Pro Tour and I just can’t justify sending it to a website because it’s not good, I’m not happy with it and I can’t figure out a way to fix it. Am I crazy? Probably; it is hard enough making a living being a professional Magic player, and every little bit of writing helps. At the same time, however, I like to proud of what I write and what I do. It’s the very same reason that I hold myself to such a high ethical standard when I play Magic. Sure, I could probably cheat and win more money… But I’d be doing my fellow players a disservice, and I don’t think I could look myself in the mirror and be proud of what I do. The same goes for my writing, although it is less of an ethical issue. I could produce articles with no value and give uninformed opinions about what’s good and what’s not just to get a paycheck, but I’d be doing fellow Magic players a disservice and I like to be proud of what I do.
I don’t want you to think that I’m entirely down about the state of Magic writing on the internet. For every Pro that writes a piece of crap to get paid, there are a bunch of other writers who produce interesting and entertaining articles for the love of the game. To these people, I salute you.
Team Sealed Deck and Draft
Over the past few seasons, I’ve joined up with other players to form a Pro Point team for the Team Pro Tour. As you may or may not know, one of the ways to qualify is to have a group of three people who meet a certain threshold of Pro Tour points, and it often results in strange bedfellows. While I don’t regret my choice of teammates in the past – Matt Vienneau and Gary Krakower are fine players and fine human beings – we were hampered somewhat by our geographic locations. We only really got to practice at the Grand Prix tournaments, as they live in Canada and I live in the United States.
This time around, I decided that I’d try to qualify with a team of my friends: The Deadguys. Chris Pikula and Tony Tsai, while not on the Pro Tour at the moment, are easily as good as those players on the Pro Point gravy train. Not only that, but they are two of my best friends and we are able to practice regularly at Neutral Ground: NY, so it seemed like a winning combination.
We had two options, really. Earn an invitation by either winning a PTQ or making the top 8 at a Grand Prix, or get our rating up to 1700. To start the ball rolling, we entered a team draft tournament at Neutral Ground and managed to lodge a decent 2-1 finish. Not great, but not bad. With three matches under our belt, our rating had improved to 1617. We still had a long way to go and we knew it. Our next event was a Team PTQ at Neutral Ground. We opened some great Sealed decks, built them well, and played like the devil. At the end of the seventh round, we were 7-0 in the PTQ. With still one round to go in the swiss and a finals match, we decided to drop from the tournament. Why? By our calculations, our rating was now above 1700 and we didn’t want to risk losing the eighth round and the finals, which would surely knock us below 1700 again. In addition, it gave another team the opportunity to win the Pro Tour: New York invite.
So Team Deadguy is back on the Pro Tour, with a 1725 rating and ten matches under its belt as of the ratings cutoff for Pro Tour: New York. Watch out, world.
I felt that I understood the metagame and I was ready for this tournament. While I may have been right, it didn’t work out so well in practice.
The deck’s Achilles’ Heel was Fires, but I expected very few Fires decks and I hoped to avoid them. I was right on one count. There weren’t many Fires decks, and those who played Fires did pretty poorly. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to avoid them, playing against Fires in my first three rounds. Aside from that, I played against two Skies decks and a CounterRebel deck – all good matchups for me – but a combination of mulligans and bad luck allowed me to beat only one of the three (a Skies deck).
By the end of the first day, I was 1-5 and I was pretty down about my chances in the tournament.
There was nothing to do now but try and claw my way up.
In the first draft on Day 2, I drafted what I felt was a great deck. It was a bit lacking in the”Dark Banishing” effect department, but I had lots of quality creatures, speedy removal, and a Manacles of Decay for the big threats.
Draft Deck #1
2 Caldera Kavu
2 Phyrexian Slayer
2 Scorching Lava
Manacles of Decay
From this draft, I learned that if you never draw your Flametongue Kavu, what looks like a great draft deck is only okay. I won the first two rounds with it, but lost in the third round to the one fellow that I managed to beat on Day 1. My draws against him were quite poor and he got loads of card advantage with Phyrexian Rager, Cavern Harpy, and Hobble. Such is life.
In the second draft on day 2, everything was crazy. I was in Seat #1 – a bad place to be, as you have to make a first pick without any information on what the fellow to your right is drafting. The pack was only okay and I first-picked an Exotic Curse, as it fits in well to U/W/b, R/G/b, B/R, 5 Color Green, etc. I ended up getting a few other black cards… And then something went horribly wrong. The guy to my right, who had drafted some white and green cards, took a mediocre red card over Sunscape Master. I took the Sunscape Master, never saw another white card, and by the end of Invasion I think everyone but me was drafting 5 Color Green. I had a few mediocre black creatures, an Exotic Curse, two Plague Spores (which is great in this multi-colored environment), and some giant growths. As Planeshift developed, I realized that the situation wasn’t getting any better and I decided to pull the Apocalypse”tech.” I had gotten a few late pick Gaea’s Mights and I realized that I was going to have to go Black/Green with a splash of red, so I began picking up black and green creatures; anything that I could pump up and kill my opponent with. As it turned out, it paid off in Apocalypse, as I got two Llanowar Dead and two Consume Strengths and ended up with one of the better decks at the table.
Draft Deck #2
2 Llanowar Dead
2 Gaea’s Might
2 Consume Strength
2 Plague Spores
Once again, my dreams of 3-0’ing the table were crushed, this time in the first round. I played against a five-color mage who cast a sixth-turn Fungal Shambler followed by Draco in the first game, and just Draco in the second. I had no answer to Fungal Shambler and I had to Plague Spores his Coalition Honor Guard early on in the second, so I lost two games to zero. I did manage to win my next two rounds, however, leaving me with another 2-1 draft.
At the end of Day 2, I was 5-7 – still within reach of prize money. I just needed to 6-0 the Extended on Day 3, and I felt that I had the deck to do it with:
4 Land Grant
4 Rogue Elephant
4 Ghazban Ogre
4 Wild Dog
4 Skyshroud Elite
4 Quirion Ranger
4 Elvish Lyrist
3 River Boa
4 Elvish Spirit Guide
4 Vine Dryad
4 Briar Shield
4 Bounty of the Hunt
What a blast this deck was to play! I was expecting lots of CounterOath, blue control, and aggro blue decks, so my deck choice and sideboard where largely geared to beating those matchups. I did have four Hidden Gibbons to sub in for Ghazban Ogres against mono-red, as there always a bit of mono-red in the tournament, and three Rushwood Dryads to bring in against other green decks, as my route to victory against Secret Force was a fast forestwalker with as many Rancors and Briar Shields as I could pile on.
The deck worked like magic – it was fast and great fun to play. I won the first round against blue/white merfolk. I won the second round against another Stompy deck. I won the third round against CounterSliver. Things were going well – and then I lost to a great matchup, mono-blue control. My draws were a bit poor, and he topdecked like a mad man. In addition, he had lots of Powder Kegs, Nevinyrral’s Disks, and Masticores in the main, so it wasn’t as great a matchup as it normally was in the first game. So that left me at 8-8, and I needed to win two more to make the top 128 and get an extra PT point. In the next two rounds, I rolled over a TurboLand deck and another Stompy deck, leaving me with that 10-8 record and a 106th place finish.
It was certainly a disappointing finish, but I did manage to salvage a reasonable record from an 0-4 start, something that I’m proud of. I didn’t let myself get too down, I played well, and I made an extra PT point. I’m still two points short of qualifying for Pro Tour: New Orleans, but with any luck, I can make that up by doing well at some Grand Prix tournaments or by kicking ass at Pro Tour: New York with Team Deadguy.
I hope to be writing to you again soon. Good luck in the PTQs; I’ll see you there.