3 Orim’s Chant
4 Force Spike
4 Accumulated Knowledge
4 Fire / Ice
1 Mana Leak
3 Cunning Wish
1 Decree of Justice
4 Isochron Scpeter
3 Chrome Mox
4 Flooded Strand
4 Shivan Reef
3 Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
2 Reflecting Pool
1 Orim’s Chant
1 Flash of Insight
1 Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
4 Exalted Angel
3 Lightning Angel
1 Decree of Justice
That’s it. The deck that just made me $4,500. And a whole lot of fun.
So much for an introduction, can you tell I couldn’t come up with anything? Hi, my name is Ruud Warmenhoven and you’ve probably never heard of me. But read on anyway, since I’ll tell you some things about real pro testing, surviving Gabe Walls’s appartment and Osyp’s and Eugene’s dancing skills. Oh, and how I got 12th at the PT with a deck that can’t win and has eight Angel cards in the sideboard.
Since I’m Dutch, I tend to test with Dutchies a lot. In the past, we were really terrible at Magic and we’ve been notoriously bad at testing Constructed formats, but that all changed a couple of years ago when Jelger Wiegersma got 3rd at an Extended PT. For this Pro Tour, there were many Dutchies qualified and Jelger, Jeroen and I were invited to hang out at Gabe Walls’ spacious two-story apartment the week before the PT, so we were looking good.
Most testing in Holland was done with Jelger, Jeroen, Rogier Maaten, Didier Deurloo and me, since we all live really close. Two things quickly became apparent in our testing:
1) Affinity sucks because of Energy Flux
2)The “Big Three” were Rock, Tog and U/G, and it was really hard to find a deck that beat all of those, let alone two. But believe me, we tried. At some point I made up a list of 30+ decks that could in theory be the best deck and just started scratching them off. Oh, and I made an obscure number of Heartbeat of Spring decks, but no one ever wanted to test against them.
After this list, everyone started to focus on specific decks while now and then building something from the list, running it against our gauntlet for some games, and then dismissing it as unplayable. One of these was White Weenie *foreshadowing*. I was put in charge of the Blue Control decks that weren’t Psychatog, and therefore had the most fun. While everyone was playing sideboarded games of Rock vs. U/G, I was either going off with Turboland, locking someone with Solitary Confinement, or just begging someone to play me at all, since people hate playing against weird bad decks. Most of these decks were just terrible and inferior to Tog, but there was one deck that I kinda liked and even had some game against the Big Three…
I originally got a list of a Scepter-Chant deck in the StarCityGames.com archives. It was some concoction by Adrian Sullivan that he won a PTQ with. Obviously, this list looks horrendous and needed some work. The version I proxied up got rid of all the bad counters and the Mystical Tutor and replaced them with Mana Leaks and Intuitions.
After the first twenty-something games, I realized three things:
1) Mox Diamonds are awful.
2) This deck screams for a third maindeck Chant (because of the Intuition).
3) This deck actually has some game and lots of “walk-over matchups” for all Red decks and combo decks like Aluren.
I reworked the deck and changed the mana to 22 lands, 3 moxen. Three seems the optimal number to me, since you never want to draw two and going first they’re only really good with a Scepter. A Faerie Conclave got added later on to make sure the deck could win some more, and I started out testing some different Wish targets, having a sideboard at that moment of Orim’s Chant, Boomerang, Disenchant, Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]/Flaming Gambit, Fact or Fiction, Starstorm and Enlightened Tutor.
Even though I was liking the deck more and more, it was hard getting people enthusiastic about it, especially since it never wins. I still remember playing against Jeroen with him being locked, but still playing it out and me having no idea how to kill him. We would then just see if the final Scepter and Fire/Ice were above the last ten cards to figure out if I could deal twenty at all. This is where Flash of Insight made a splash.
Flash turned out to be so good later on – better than Fact or Fiction even – that after a while I just lost the Fact all together. You see, every time you wish for Flash, you are looking for something, and Flash finds things better than Fact. This deck doesn’t want a bunch of cards, but a few specific ones. Besides, Flash can be used twice, which makes it very good vs. Duress and Cabal Therapy and great in control matchups, where you get to remove your Accumulated Knowledges.
So vaguely knowing what I’d want to play, on Saturday morning it was time to go to Gabe’s. It was gonna be rough, since I’d been going out in Amsterdam that Thursday and working a nightshift in a bar till 6 am. I got home very tired and “slightly” intoxicated, made an attempt at sorting 1.x cards to bring, packed my bag and barely caught the 7:30 train to the airport, trying to stay awake. Through my two flights, a classy steak dinner, a late-night testing session and some X-boxing, I didn’t sleep for 50 hours straight. Ah, the gamer’s life…
That dinner was the biggest game though. We ended up with a check of $300 and credit card gamed for it. I was pretty much all-in at that point, since I’d spent most of my last euros on my flight and was joking that I would have to fly home immediately if I lost this one. Fortunately, Gabe got this one (and many of the others) and the rest of us were just laughing at a very grumpy Gabe that night.
At the house, we tested some more, but nobody liked any of the decks, to the point where Jeroen actually started hating the Rock, which says a lot. Because Jelger, Jeroen, and Gabe had already tested a lot, no one felt like playing when I arrived, let alone against a deck that can’t win. But we had great times – playing poker, Xbox, Blind man’s bluff, and the occasional game of Magic. We also went to see Surviving Christmas and Team America: World Police. That last one was one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. The part where Gary makes his promise to the girl was definitely the best movie scene I’ve seen in a long time.
I was still having problems with Rock, Tog and U/G, but Tog seemed really good after boarding some Decrees of Justice, so I put three Decrees in the board, which at that time still had lots of blanks. Thinking more and more about the deck, I figured that the best way to use the sideboard would be in a transformational way, turning the non-creature deck that relies heavily on Isochron Scepter into a creature deck that dodges artifact removal.
Exalted Angel seemed a natural fit, being insane against Rock decks that just board out their Diabolic Edicts and U/G decks that board out Wonder. I just needed some other reasonably large flyer that would be good against creatures on its own. I thought about Keiga and Palinchron at first, but really wanted something cheaper. After a day of pondering, I came up with Lightning Angel – another perfect fit to deal with all the Treetops, Troll Ascetics, Basking Rootwallas and Aquamoebas of the Magic world.
Even though I’d now solved game 1 and 2, the third game vs. Rock and U/G would still be troublesome (read: unwinnable), but two out of three favorable game matchups seemed good enough, and I could still run the mind games for game three going either for the Scepter plan or the Angel plan, and I even ended up doing both once!
Gabe later came up with moving a Decree to the main to have a shot in the Tog matchup. One card just changes so much, forcing them to be the initiator and actually giving the deck a decent way to win. I cut the third Decree from the board, since you only need one and you don’t want to draw them to early.
So Tuesday night before the PT we go for food, and on the way back, Jelger randomly says, “I’m playing White Weenie for sure at the PT.” Now that was worth a good laugh. Back at the apartment he sat down at the table and wrote down a list, which only changed two cards before the PT. We all loved the idea of playing White Weenie at a Pro Tour and were therefore very encouraging. And, of course, we were mostly just encouraging so we could make more and more fun of it. At one point, Jelger played Gabe with Tog and stated that he would play whatever won the most. It was very exciting. At 1-0, Gabe shrugged and blame his draw, at 3-0 his misplay, at 4-0 his misfortune, and at 10-0 the ingeniousness of Jelger. Gabe and Neil were into it as well, just so they could attack for two and wouldn’t have to play Tog.
Thursday was spent getting cards and driving to Columbus. We had so much fun just knowing the decks we were going to play. I showed mine to the Sideboard staff, who thought it was hilarious, and I still remember when Ben Rubin walked into our hotel room to borrow a deck and seeing this table full of White cards, not knowing whether he should laugh or look away in disgust. Him doing the latter prompted us to do the former.
Finally, came the day of the PT. We meet up with Lil’ Darwin (Paul Rietzl), who just flew in and was playing the exact same list as he played at GP Anaheim, because he was too busy with school to test. We tried to help him out a little, but he wanted none of it. Other Dutchies all ended up playing Aluren on Frank Karsten’s advice, except for a few Toggers and Rockers. Oh, and everybody laughed when they found out that Gabe, Jelger and Neil would be attacking for two that day.
Round 1 – Javier Dominguez – Cephalid Breakfast
When I saw my name next to a Spanish guy, I thought I had this one. When he stalled on his first land for three turns, I was sure of it. When he played a Blue 1/1 creature with Asian text, I had to ask a judge to find out what it does. Fortunately, Gabe Walls was sitting right behind me playing the same deck and tossed me an English copy, so I could realize that I was losing. After milling his entire library away and using his Cabal Therapies to strip my hand, he lost to a topdecked Counterspell… because he’d used his last Therapy to get rid of my Chrome Mox.
Second game, I kept a hand that locked him turn 4 but didn’t do anything before that and I lost to his turn 3 kill. For the third game, he had Aether Vial and Phyrexian Negators, and after dealing with his first threats, he drew five more, while I drew five lands and scooped.
Round 2 – Nathan R Heiss – Reanimator
Reanimator should be a good matchup for me, since they have no answer to the Stick, and it shouldn’t be very hard to stall them with counters unless they just draw it all. What I really hate about the Reanimator deck is that they also get these horrific draws and just lose to themselves. Usually they just lay their hand on the table and ask you if you can deal with that.
First game Nate had a turn 2 Akroma, but I got Scepter-Chant soon enough, which he had (like most decks) no answers to.
After boarding, he went turn 1 Verdant Force on me, which I was drawing dead to from the start.
The third game was pretty tight, with Nate drawing an abundance of reanimation spells and me barely dealing with them. He eventually got a Bringer of the Blue Dawn into play, but I could deal with it by Wishing for Boomerang on my turn, tapping out. He then had one more window before I took control of the game with a Scepter, but was out of threats.
Round 3 – Adam W Westnedge – Goblins
Yes, a Red deck. I remember testing against it and having the feeling I couldn’t lose. It’s so hard for them to do enough damage before you lock them down, and between Counterspells and Fire/Ice, you also slow them down so much.
The first game I stabilized at something like fifteen and dropped Scepter-Chant on turn four or five. He scooped after drawing a card.
I was pretty confident for the games post-board, as the Red/Black Goblin deck can’t bring anything in vs. me. Adam had a pretty fast draw and I didn’t find all the pieces in time. I had to let a Goblin Piledriver get through, and his abundance of one-mana Goblins combined with Goblin Sharpshooter did me in.
The final game was rather anticlimactic, as I drew mainly lands while Adam kept playing Warchiefs and Piledrivers. I think I died with eight lands out and four spells in my graveyard.
Round 4 – Kai Budde – Dragon-Reanimator
Not the guy you expect to see at the 1-2 table, huh? Kai is a funny man. I’ve never lost to him – I beat him once at Worlds in Berlin in the Wake mirror, with my one maindeck Stifle. Every time I’ve seen him after that, he’s been complaining about it. There is this natural rivalry between us, since he won’t accept that I’m good at Magic but still beat him and make fun of him. The fact that Holland and Germany also share a soccer history doesn’t really help that. But in the end, I really like the guy, even though the German national soccer team completely sucks.
Back to the 1-2 table where the action’s at. I heard Kai was playing some Reanimator deck, and I told him I was playing Lightning Angel. Because of this, he put me on some Star-Spangled Slaughter archetype and just went for it. He kept a hand without any discard, but with his whole combo, and came out pretty confident with Buried Alive and Exhume, pointing at the Dragons in his graveyard. I countered his Exhume and played a Scepter on Orim’s Chant. Thanks.
Because his deck was so dependant on Buried Alive, he led with Boseiju and took quite a lot of damage while not doing that much. I played Scepter on Chant. He went and found his one Echoing Truth and bounced it. Cunning Wish got it back and he was locked again. He played a Vampiric Tutor, looked through his deck and scooped up his cards.
Round 5 – Steve A Canty – RDW
Ah, another Red deck. I heard Nick West (who made the Top 8 with his Scepter-Chant deck) stating it as his nightmare matchup, but I would disagree. This might have something to do with our different versions and me having more Force Spikes and Fire/Ice. In testing, Red Deck Wins just had to choose between playing a threat or attacking your mana. And then you have counters. And a turn 4 kill they can’t possibly race. I like my odds.
Game 1 Steve comes out quick with a Jackal Pup and a Slith Firewalker that I counter. He plays another Pup and gets wrecked by Fire/Ice. On turn 5, he has a Grim Lavamancer and lands. I have fourteen life… and a Scepter on Orim’s Chant.
Game 2 goes about the same, but Steve refuses to scoop like the first game. I find out why when I play out my hand after drawing some cards. He Rack and Ruins my Mox and Scepter and then casts Price of Progress during his upkeep. Fortunately I’d seen three of the Counterspells by then, and go quickly for the kill with Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author].
Round 6 – Mauro Stivoli – Rock
Mauro tells me he beat me in a money draft at GP: Gothenburg before. I ask him if he was the guy that went Wall of Blood – Grab the Reins on me twice. He said he was. Somehow this made me want to win this match.
The problem with the Rock is that it’s very hard to win if they draw the right cards. Mauro did and wrecked me with Therapy, Treetops and Pernicious Deed.
Up until this round, I’d never boarded in more than one card and was usually just switching the Plains for a Mountain, but now it was Angel time! I felt very excited to finally beat with some Angelic fatties and deal some real damage instead of Firing people out of the game or having them scoop. Exalted Angel is just so insane vs. Rock decks, they only have Deed to answer it and need so much mana for that. Whoa, was I thrilled!
Game 2 I stall on three lands and die. How unfortunate.
Well that certainly sucked, now I needed to win out, which I didn’t see happening. So I went looking for some splits. I’ll let them have my ten percent of nothing, ha!
Round 7 – Emanuele Canavesi – Psychatog
I remember his name form Houston two years ago where he was playing Tog, so I figured he was probably playing it again. When I looked at my opening hand I had the choice of going for turn 1 Scepter on either Chant or Brainstorm and went with the latter, which won me the game. The only thing he could muster was a Scepter on Mana Leak, which was annoying, but irrelevant. I screwed up once when I forgot it was even there, but it didn’t matter. He just sat there and laid lands as long as he could keep up, while I drew two cards a turn and made land drops into infinity. If it wasn’t for the Decree, I have no idea how I’d be supposed to win, even after drawing at least fifteen extra cards, but making a bunch of Soldiers finished the job. I made a mental note to thank Gabe.
The second game doesn’t go so well. I keep a five-lander, but he misses his fifth land drop and has trouble from that turn on, afraid to cast spells. We both get Scepters and draw some cards, but he still has to make a move, being down a game and knowing about the Decrees in my deck. I get one sooner than he expects, and he’s suddenly in this position where he has to Upheaval. He can float seven mana and has all the counters he can play, but after two AK’s I’ve got just enough spells and mana to stop it and kill him the next turn.
Round 8 – Brian M Lynch – Rock
He has an awkward start game 1, not really drawing everything and I just Chant-lock him turn 4, so he scoops.
The second game he gets off some hand disruption, but I topdeck an Intuition to get AK’s and draw into Lightning Angel. He was attacking me with Treetops up until this point. I counter a Deed and he resolves another, but has to wait a turn to have four mana again. Another Lightning Angel puts him at eight and he has to Tutor for Deed during his upkeep. The only counter I have is a Mana Leak, but it taps him down just enough so he has to take three again and I can finish it with Cunning Wish for Pulse. He was not happy, but wished me good luck anyway.
There you have the first half of my surprising weekend. Tune in next to hear more about the PT, partying on Halloween, and why all the Dutchies have so much success with the ladies.