PTQ/GPQ St Louis: A Tale of Two Tourneys

Half tourney report, half discussion, Will discusses Force of Will. Not the column, the card.

"It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."

"Oh you’re ‘that’ guy."

I was still at the Fantasy Shop hanging around trying to make some late trades and was talking about my day. My 0-5 day in extended with Stasis.

Do you really want to hear a full match report on an 0-5 day with Stasis? I didn’t think so, so I’ll just cover some quick ground.

I had a blast!

The deck was a version of the deck Gary Wise played at the Masters tourney, where I think he won one round with it. Lucky man.

Let’s hit the rewind a bit.

I had to get up early and drive over an hour to meet Mike Mason and Scott Forster at the Steak ‘n’ Shake up the street from the shop. I had to drive gramma’s hoopty, a ’79 or so dirt-brown Plymouth, which was one of those cars that just about sent the Chrysler Corporation under shortly thereafter, until it was given the breath of new life by Lee Iaccoca. For entertainment, it’s got this crutchy Kraco stereo that you can’t tune without two sets of Vice Grips. My dad used to have it tuned to that sick slick country and western pop stuff that probably even he doesn’t like. I was desperate this morning for something to listen to, though, so I turned it on. To my surprise, it was tuned to the local commercial-free public station KDHX and I got to hear some locals taking phone calls and talking about duck hunting kill counts.

I meet Mike and Scott and have the world’s best burger, the double Steak Burger, there at Steak ‘n’ Shake. That was going to have to hold me awhile, and this burger is up to that task. This was a HUGE day and somewhere in this evening I was to meet Cool Daddy a.k.a. Metal Gear Ray for his birthday. Then my wife and I had a room at Harrah’s so this looked like a full day of fun. It was…

As I’d never been in a PTQ, there was some anticipation – but not too much. I got registered and we fooled around with getting our decks sleeved and ready, swapping cards and playing a few friendly standard games. Scott had brought some pile of cards off the shelf, a.k.a. Bookshelf.dec, in Green and White and Scott proceeded to destroy both Mike and my efforts to get a victory in before the PTQ.

The makings of Team Binary 21

"Twenty One" was not the deck any of us played. In binary, 21 is written 010101, which is where the three of us stood after round one. I met a G/W Jank beats deck with Hidden Gibbons. At the end of the match my notes read, "It was so bad I didn’t have to think." I had tested with Mike and Scott and had had okay luck with the Wise deck. I didn’t expect to win the tourney or anything, but on the day I just saw almost nothing like I had in my testing and preparation. Answers never came, matches went by with three-turn Stasis locks, and in general I didn’t have any or enough of the answers the deck needs. I’d metagamed red over green and saw, in order, G/W Jank, Jank, Stompy, CounterOath, and Stompy. The matches were all generally pretty brutal.

I get to the fifth round and am playing another guy down on his luck, "Oz," and we have a blast as he’s a funny guy. I notice that behind our match, where his Stompy crushes me yet again, that Ped Bun is playing. For anyone who remembers, I had wanted to get his autograph on a Rector, and after my loss I waited for his match to end, told him who I was, and had him sign the card. It was very cool and I was quite happy. I hear Ped later made it to the finals, although I don’t know if he won the tourney or not…

So I’m 0-5 and it’s about 3:30 or 4:00, and they are going to have a Grand Prix New Orleans qualifying tourney. The format is sealed deck for $10, and I can’t pass that up. I drop from the PTQ and join this tourney. I’m going to have to meet my wife and friend sooner rather than later by this time, but I’ll ride this one as far as that goes.

I think this tourney was bigger than the Extended one, with some fifty-something folks entered. It starts late and takes some time to get all these folks going with the registration and so forth. I register in a complete PILE of cards. Luckily, later when I’m given a deck I get some very good stuff for a G/W/U deck, including Glimmering Angel, Teferi’s Moat, Tidal Visionary, Armadillo Cloak, Traveler’s Robe, Obsidian Acolyte, Molimo, and Angel of Mercy. I go 1-1 and as it’s almost now 8 p.m. I drop out. I make a few trades and hunt up Mike and Scott to give Mike his cards back. I go meet my wife and friends, and we have a great time at Dave and Busters and then Harrah’s.

1-6 and I had a blast. I don’t go there to lose, and like anyone else I don’t like to lose, but I certainly try not to let losing stand in the way of having a good time. There’s a free PTQ coming up Dec 30th in Normal IL and I plan on going. Not Stasis: This time, I’m going completely rogue. Mike and Scott have been helping with a Aggro Control version of U/B Ankh Tide, and amazingly it’s been hanging in there with the big boys!

I’m getting a hunch that Dave Price’s game is on the upswing. I like his current forays into R/B for Extended. Keep an eye on him and…Go Dave!

Force of Will.

Since I’ve adopted the name as a title for my writing, I’m going to weigh in on the subject. I’ll start off with a question:

Is the game "stagnant" because of cards like Necropotence and Force of Will, or because of the perception of cards like these? I’ll give you a little anecdote on this idea.

Scott Forster recently asked us when Urza’s Rage was worth not three, or ten, but four points of damage?

…And the answer was when your opponent mistakenly alternate-cast Force of Will when you had cast Urza’s Rage, which happened to Scott in the Qualifier.

We know that Force of Will is an extremely good card… but does it really need to be banned? There is a little matter of perception at hand, I believe. Sean McKeown recently wrote about how that now that it’s been figured out that Trix is still good, the number of players playing it is increasing, and that it’s doing well in finishing up in tournaments in a way that points to it still being highly dominant. What I think back to, though, is the fact that that last season when Trix was an even BETTER deck, there were still some unique responsive decks that were able to do well, beat Trix, and qualify – like Iron Phoenix, Three Deuce, and perhaps even Fecundity Altar. (Where is this deck, by the way? As it’s Green and Blue, it can run the aforementioned Force of Will and draws a ton of cards to help alternate cast it.) This is to say that I think the environment will generally hold the cards to field alternate decks that can win if folks look for them or work on building them. Perception though means a lot when crossed with the easy path. As I think the Ferrett pointed out, and I’ve talked before, it’s a lot easier and efficient to be a "tweaker" and a player putting time into practicing than it is to build a deck like Fec Altar that I read took months to bring to some fruition.

Do we really need to believe that Force of Will needs to be banned then? I know one interesting thing. Even as McKeown was writing an article that thought that it was going to be banned, or was calling for that ban, he was working on a Pox-based deck that he claimed had favorable matchups with the likes of Trix and several other top-flight decks all sporting the Force. I could go back to Dave Price, who seems to be playing well enough and who I doubt if he even owns a Force of Will. So I think again that there is a response it is just that it is a tougher path to find. This will lead us on…

IF Force of Will were to be banned, then what next? If it’s perhaps not the cards true power but as much the perception of that power and the ease of copying the net deck then I’d submit that as soon as Force went bye-bye that some other card would be the centerpiece of the too easy to copy/broken deck syndrome – and a majority of players would be playing that card in various decks. Would it be Survival of the Fittest? Oath of Druids? Stormbind? Security Detail? I don’t know for sure, but that’s what I think, and it is probably in part why Wizards didn’t ban when they could have. I think that Extended looks pretty wide open, even if Force is in an awful lot of decks. In fact it might be that Force actually lets people think that they can do MORE things rather than less, as they can pull off different combos and protect different strategies.

I generally agree with what Mike Granaas has said of late. The good decks are inevitably already in the cards before they are ever seen in players’ eyes. All that the players must do is find them out. I’ve talked about this before. There are too many folks ferreting out the most efficient cards and combos to leave much space for the rogue deck to pop up… what does seem to happen, though, is that by so many hopping on the easy bandwagon that a lot of folks leave themselves wide open to some clever building and metagaming. As I said before, I think Jon Finkel proved that as last years US Nationals.

Extended isn’t my specialty, though. A year ago when I got back in the game after a long hiatus I just figured that since Extended (which was the qualifying format of the time) included most of the cards from the gap in my play history and card collection, that it would be best to start with Standard and ease myself into Extended. So I’m going to do a bit more of my schtick on Standard.

I read with interest David Sutcliffe’s last piece – he talks at length about the Chicago results and what he expected, what "we" expected, and so on. I generally agree on his take, but I will as usual add my own two cents – if not become downright disagreeable.

One thing that we noticed about Chicago and the spreadsheeted results was that the environment was a lot more vulnerable to mana disruption than I had previously thought. That’s why I had thought that, since ‘Geddon was at the fore of mana disruption and there were a lot of decks built to use ‘Geddon, Rising Waters was a dead archetype. But there are some interesting points. The Fires deck is particularly vulnerable to mana disruption, as its record against Waters and Tide combined was 1-4. I would also think that big chain rebels as opposed to white bears would also have trouble with mana denial strategies that would shut off its higher search powers. I would then predict that there will be a slight wavering between Sivvi high-chain rebels and Geddon-oriented white bears. This mana disruption possibility is what led me to look into shoving Plague Spitter with a Rising Waters as a possible response and control element for this field. It also may be telling us that the R/B strategy of Machine Head type decks packing Void were from the outset going in the wrong direction – and what the R/B combo should be looking to do is blow up a lot of land. Story Circle might then not have to be removed, but only deprived of the resources it needs to work. Plus, if you look at combining Black discard with Blue bounce, you can get a full range of permanent removal – even as it’s not as efficient as Disenchant versus enchantments.

Fires and Rebels are very good. They are not going away, but just like last season, there will be responses of differing efficiency that get different results. Boring and efficient does win… but it also tends to some stagnancy that can be an opening for a response from what could be called the rogue. As Rebels had an 11-15-1 showing vs. U/W control and Fires struggles against mana control, I’ve returned to mashing those two things together…which wasn’t very hard, considering I’d done that already in my "Definitive Ankh Tide Sourcebook."