Punishment: But I Kept Rhymin’ (PT Venice Report: *2nd Place*)

What you are about to read is a report of one the most screwed-up Pro Tours by far. Pyromancers, twenty-six-land goblin decks, Explosive Vegetations that are used in the role of reanimation spells, people boarding Rorix in every conceivable matchup, and the Withered Wretch-Silvos-Akroma, Angel of Wrath deck that made top8. All this in the city of water and old buildings… And in the country that brings you the ex-porn actress/present parliamentary representative. I will most definitely not be discussing those all in detail, as it would just blow my mind.

Skirk Prospector

It just doesn’t do anything. It can’t attack and it’s too small. Can’t block, also too small. Seldom useful to sacrifice, not enough mana. In the end, I’d rather have the 19th land; it gives me one mana every turn.

Joseph Gary Wise, 2003

Word, yo!

What you are about to read is a report of one the most screwed-up Pro Tours by far. Pyromancers, twenty-six-land goblin decks, Explosive Vegetations that are used in the role of reanimation spells, people boarding Rorix in every conceivable matchup, and the Withered Wretch-Silvos-Akroma, Angel of Wrath deck that made top8. All this in the city of water and old buildings… And in the country that brings you the ex-porn actress/present parliamentary representative. I will most definitely not be discussing those all in detail, as it would just blow my mind.

As you might know, my magical accomplishments of late are best summed up by the guy who said”lol@u” to me on IRC. I am currently quite occupied with working on my senior thesis, and going to a Pro Tour was not very high on my priority list. The main reason for me going is to allow Jens and Johan to play in the team Gateway; I skipped Osaka last year when they both attended, and didn’t want to screw them over twice.

My testing for the block format could be described as not exactly thorough – I played seven games with Bidding against Goblins, losing 1-6. Luckily for me, I am on this team thingie and have these people doing the work while I just sit on my behind. I didn’t quite master the Limited format, either, what with my two individual practice drafts and the six matches that followed. I tried to discuss some strategy with Erno Ekebom, but he was just showing off with his five Daru Stinger, three Timberwatch Elf LE-LE-LE deck.

So I left for the Pro Tour trying not to think about how I will be costing our team a Masters qualification. I hooked up with Johan and Anton in Paris, and started analyzing the Limited format with them. Anton plays more Magic Online than is physically possible, so he knows every possible combination of cards in any limited format. This makes conversations with him generally quite useful. After getting to Venice, we spend what seems like an infinite time taking a waterbus to the beautiful island of Lido. My first few hours in the town, and the water is already starting to get disturbing. I meet up with the other Swedes and also the Australian department of the team, then we head out to eat at probably the worst restaurant in the island. I discuss some limited strategy with the guys and the go to sleep.

I wake up the next morning filled with excitement and armed with the Warn a Brotha T-shirt. After eating probably the worst hotel breakfast ever, we finally get to the site. I meet up with the pros, most of whom are wondering what the hell I am doing here. I feel like an animal in the zoo.

“Aww, look, it’s so cute! It even qualifies!”

I try to chat a bit with the British, but they just greet me with the always friendly”So you are not drunk yet?” I struggle to remember the days when some people were actually looking up to me. Well, I suppose things could be worse. I could be English.

Luckily, there is one person honestly happy to see me. Farid comes up to me and we have the following conversation:





“Good luck.”

“Good luck.”



Farid and me talk often, but not that much.

After some consideration Johan and I decide to name our team Operating Correctly. Nomen est omen, etc. After receiving a bye in round one, the only thing standing between us and never-ending glory is… A bunch of natives?!?! We are not supposed to lose to these guys! They have other ideas, though, as I lose the critical game three to timing out and then having less life. This does not exactly cheer me up, as I start thinking about whether I could have played faster. Oh well, we go out to eat with the team. Kai comes to gloat with his new sunglasses, and I just want to go back to Finland.

I then get a call from my sister asking how I did in the tournament. As I tell her that I already lost, she becomes very happy and says that now I can go to the main island and hang out with her and mom. What are my mom and sister doing in Venice, one might ask. Well, last year at the Nice PT many European pros brought a woman with them to watch the tournament – never the one to be outdone, I decided to bring two. So I spend the rest of the day watching the sights and eating ice cream.

When I get back to the site to register, I get to see the new picture on Kai’s card. It is hilarious! It seems that Wizards has recently adapted a utilitarian view and decided that the embarrassment of one is worth it if everyone else has good laughs. I wonder if Jens’s card will look like this. I chat some with the guys about goblins and Anton tells me to run twenty-six lands main. As I try to protest, he continues by reminding that four Skirk Fire Marshals in the board is a good number. I am too dumbfounded by the ridiculousness of this format to resist. I do want to have something of my own, though, and tell the guys that I am going to run Prospectors even though others are going with Goblin Grappler. I am also running Menacing Ogres main instead of Primoc Escapees.

Ah, the Pro Tour morning. I wake up before others do and take a long shower. This apparently uses up all the warm water – a fact that my roommates Johan and Anton find to be suboptimal. I then go buy some cards from the dealers, and Andystok makes some jokes about how I want to buy Call of the Herds. I opt for the Primocs instead, paying a respectable six dollars for three copies. I then go buy Fire Marshals from the English dealers, and their price goes up from 2.5 to 3.5 to 5 euros in one sentence. That country really has something against me, it seems. Oh well; I buy three of them anyway and tell myself that the card is good in multiple formats.

Then the whole thing starts. I am quite nervous as pairings are posted, and wonder what it will feel like to play this deck. Luckily, Goblins is simpler and more attack-oriented than George W. Bush, so I shouldn’t have too much trouble.

Round One Versus Matthew Hammond, Goblins

Matthew is a nice guy. He is at his first Pro Tour, but already knows the classical trick: He tells me how he likes Tog and qualified with it, trying to make me think that he has a controllish deck. If he keeps learning this fast, he will become a big timer someday.

It seems that I have a ridiculous advantage in this matchup with the four maindeck Gempalm Incinerators. I draw two of them in both games, while Matthew just brings out small guys.

Matches, 2-0 games

This feels good. The last time that I won the first round of a PT was a year and a half ago.

Round Two Versus Emmanuel Vernay, Goblins

I have seen this guy’s name before in quite a few coverages. He tells me that he tried to quit, but then qualified here from a Grand Prix. Emmanuel tells me that he got the deck from a friend. I saw Labarre play with a cosmic-looking cleric deck in round one and wonder if this will be interesting. It turns out less exciting when he drops a Goblin Sledder. His draw is quite horrible in game one, but it leaves me wandering what on earth the forest is for. I don’t board in the Marshals, since I figure he might have some red-green beast deck with a few goblins. This is quite stupid of me – but hey, I just play here. He drops several Broodhatch Nantukos in game two but I once again get the Gempalm advantage and somehow manage to beat him with Goons.

2-0, 4-0

The tension is starting to cool off. These mirror matches are good for practice, as I also get to see how the opponent plays this deck. Between the rounds, I see Trey van Cleave selling cards at the site. I think about taking a picture of him, but then realize that he might get a bit upset. This turns out to be a mistake, as I later hear that he did not have a permit to sell. The picture could have been used as evidence.

Round Three Versus Omar Sagol, Zombies

Omar is from Spain, and he too is a nice guy. It seems that nowadays most of the people at Pro Tours are good times. This is quite the change from my first Pro Tours, back when Van Halen was pop. I still remember the guy who waited for me to sleeve my deck and then told me to desleeve it. It was legal to request this back then. I Unsummoned the guy’s Bull Elephant twice and I still feel good about it.

I get excited as Swamps are being played. In testing, the boys told me, all kinds of random tribal decks just lost horribly to Goblins and Slide. I use Sparksmith to kill a few guys, and the save it from Infest with Sledders. Big guys start beating on Omar, as ‘Smith just gives me too much tempo advantage.

He gets some more ground defense in the next game, but this proves to be no problem as I just boarded in six fliers. Rorix does not care about Soulless Ones.

Random note: Did you know that there is a village in Spain that has an ass-squashing day once a year? During this day, the fattest man of the village rides an ass until the animal dies. If this sounds weird, then I will not tell you of the Spanish village where they throw a goat from the church tower once a year. (This is, strangely enough, true, and even more strangely, I knew it off the top of my head – The Ferrett)

3-0, 6-0

Round Four Versus Benjamin Caumes, Zombies

Benjamin is French, so I expect him to run Sligh too. This turns out not to be true, as he Smothers my Smith. I drop a new one and start thinning his troops. At some point he plays Read the Runes, but fails to come up with too many non-land cards. Omar also cast a Runes. Do these guys have Patriarch’s Biddings in the deck? I kill a Noxious Ghoul in this game, but am still relatively untroubled as I don’t figure out the Ghoul-Bidding combo. Game two is savage beats from Benjamin’s side, and I just run out of stuff trying to deal with all the Reanimators and avatars.

Oh, how tragic to finally lose a game!

I get a good start in the last game, and Benjamin is having trouble with mana. He tells me afterwards that this should be a good matchup for him, but with my 4-1 game score so far I am not so sure.

4-0, 8-1

Round Five Versus Masahiko Morita, Goblins

Masahiko is 4-0 and at the team masters finals. Not bad. He deserves it, though, as the guy played very well. He is land stalled for several turns in game one, but wins as I screw up twice. First, I sacrifice a goblin early to deal five extra damage. This is a bad idea, and leads to him eventually getting Goon advantage. Then I try to kill his Goon with Gempalm, forgetting that Sledder protects the guy for two points per goblin.

Game two, I manage to play well but that is of little help, as I don’t get much going on. Marshal is not so good without Starstorm, Goblin Burrows, Rorix, or another Marshal. His Avaraxes beat me up.

4-1, 8-3

Johan beats Benjamin on the fifth round, as the third game is once again solved by mana troubles. Johan then tells me about his loss in the second game to Bidding-Ghoul combo. I had no idea that the guy is active immediately. Looks like I was lucky to beat two Zombies.

Round Six Versus Atsushi Tabuchi, Goblins

This guy is the funniest ever! He draws the opening hand, yells”Too!” and ships it back. The next hand elicits a yet another”Too!” as do several of his draw steps. When he shows me a hand full of land on turn 5, I am not extremely surprised. In game two I once again get a single Marshal with no support, and lose miserably to Avarax. I really want to start drawing Starstorms. Game three is very close, with Marshall slowing him down. I finally draw the sixth land and beat him with Rorix after he gets me to three life or something. Phew.

Japanese opponents are the coolest. If I scrub out in Yokohama, I am so going to be playing side-events. In between rounds, I am informed of The Bet. The first Sligh player to activate Marshal, a.k.a. set up the bomb, gets five euros from others. I immediately agree. The activation is made quite challenging by the fact that we board out lots of goblins in the mirror.

5-1, 10-4

Round Seven Versus Sylvain Lauriol, Slide

Finally, I am playing versus Slide. This matchup pretty much dominated our entire testing, and our other decks would have looked very different if one of these two would have had the edge. It seemed that no matter which configurations are being played, it is about 50-50 but slightly favors the Slide player. This is if they are prepared for the big guys with sideboard Pacifisms. Sylvain had Walls of Hope instead, and they were significantly worse here.

In game one, Sylvain does not draw the enchantments even after some cycling. He is forced to hard-cast the removal, and runs out of it after a while. The second game is where he draws many enchantments and walls but also too much land. I am beating him with two Primocs, and he is going to die in four turns. I think about whether I should also attack with a Clickslither. If I don’t, and Sylvain draws nothing, I win pretty soon. However, if he has a Starstorm he can go to pretty much infinite life soon with the Walls. I decided to swing with the Slither. After he has chumped with all the Walls, he draws a Starstorm with eleven lands out. I still don’t know if I played right, but it worked out; I draw some more guys and he floods even more so the ending is anti-climatic.

6-1, 12-4

Mattiases (Kettil and Jorstedt) are also 6-1. Rickard Österberg, Anton, and Johan are 4-2-1 with the same deck, with Morgan Karlsson as the only Goblin player to miss day two. Our Bidding players did less well due to the low turnout of Slide. Rob Nadebaum didn’t make it, Shun Jiang is 4-2-1 and Jens dropped out after three rounds.

I go out to eat with mom after presenting Peter Szigeti to her. He looks a little out of place as I introduce him as the nicest player on the tour. After the dinner, I go to the Mattiases’ hotel to surf the coverage but fail to find pictures of myself. I see Trey at the same hotel and say hi to him, but he does not reply. How rude. I go to sleep, determined to be photographed tomorrow.

I wake up pretty early and wake up the others by asking,”Do the new communication technologies mean that people of nowadays are a part of many communities, as opposed to the old days when people lived in small villages?” Johan, always the intellectual, responds by saying”You mean, like, in draft?”

I give up on the conversation fairly soon.

As I get to the site Mattiases have already compiled a pretty comprehensive list of what the other 6-1s are playing. Rob is our official scout for today and updates the list as we find out more. The pairings go up and it is time to show hell.

Round Eight Versus Daniel Zink, Goblins

Daniel has been taking a break from magic lately, but is looking good for a comeback. His breakthrough event was the same as mine, Euros 2001 in Milan. He was fourth while I was third. Hence, I get all sentimental and talk about the good old times with him. I once again draw more Gempalms in game one, and they help me get a Goon advantage. That seems to be the most important thing in the un-sideboarded mirror. I have no idea what happened in the second game, though.

7-1, 14-4

In between rounds, PTR is trying to get me to moneydraft with him. I respond by saying that I am playing in the professional tournament. Kyle Rose sitting next to us says,”Thaar ain’t no profassionals hier.” I am still troubled about what he meant by professionals.

We talk some more, and as I say that I might be playing in US nationals sometime in the future, Kyle once again participates in the conversation:”Well, I ain’t going then.” I leave the company before something stranger is being said.

Round Eight Versus Svend Geertsen, GW

This is covered on the Sideboard. Svend’s deck is quite cool. There is just something wrong about the format when people go turn six Silvos, turn seven Wrath and regenerate. I hear that this matchup is good for me before sideboarding, but bad afterwards. (Actually, that is what almost everyone says about their deck’s chances against Sligh.) The biggest threat for me in this match is Akroma’s Vengeance. Svend does not draw a single one of them in two games, so he cannot keep up.

8-1, 16-4

I am getting close.

(Round 9: Huh? – The Ferrett)

Round Ten Versus Mattias Jorstedt, Goblins

Ugh, the Punisher mirror. I have seen number generators less random than this matchup. We decide to make it a bit more skill-oriented though by playing badly. Mattias bids too much for an Ogre, and that helps me get momentum back in game two. I then a few turns later fail to realize that I have sufficient damage on the board and hand to kill a tapped-out Mattias. Counting up to eight is kind of difficult. This means that I have to topdeck the next turn, which I do in the form of Burrows. I feel quite embarrassed as Rob points out the mistake.

9-1, 18-4

One more to go! I still haven’t lost a game today.

Round Eleven Versus Diego Ostrovich, G/R Beasts With Rift

This is also covered at The Sideboard. I have no idea how the matchup is supposed to go, but once again hear that I should win game one and lose the next two. The first game is quite ridiculous, as Diego just sits there and plays lands. Turn five ‘Derm is not enough versus fast decks. The second game features Diego totally locking up the ground just to die to Rorix. It ain’t fair, man.

10-1, 20-4

##### Warning! Political content! #########

I would like to thank Diego for making loads of”Say No to Imperialist War” shirts and bringing them to the Pro Tour. Also thanks to Amiel Tenenbaum for helping to sell these shirts, and the dozens of players who bought and wore them. I’d like to think of Magic players as smarter than average people, so it seems good to see them reunited against insanity like war. The one I bought was too small, but whatever.

########## Political content ends #########

The truth is starting to sink into me. I am practically a lock for the top8! What on earth is happening? I have been too nervous during the last four rounds to think about this. I spend pretty much all of my free time during the rest of the day by going around and boasting to people.

Round Twelve Versus Darwin Kastle, Dragons

We take a draw. I discuss the matchup and hear that”You should win game one and lose the next two.” Darwin being at 10-1 is not the only major accomplishment of Your Move Games so far in this tournament; Rob Dougherty pretty much altered the time-space continuum with his idea of using binoculars to scout decks during rounds. Head judge Collin Jackson put an end to this brilliance before I actually got to see it.

Talking about missing out on something, I never got to see Nick Eisel either.

10-1-1, 20-4

After this round Mattias Kettil, who is having a bad day, comes up to me grinning widely. Before I get a chance to inquire anything, he tells me to pay him the five euros. Oh my God, the bomb has been set! Mattias’ opponent was a bit surprised when the Swede just said”BOOM!!” and committed suicide.

Round Thirteen Versus Jordan Berkowitz, G/R Beasts

Sixteen years old and drawing into top8. How lucky; I got paired down at that age and lost. I recover from the bitterness and take a draw.

10-1-2, 20-4

Mattias has so far lost only to me today, so he is also in the process of taking draws.

Round Fourteen Versus Gabriel Nassif, Goblins

I could draw and secure second place in the Swiss. This means though that I might be forced to play Mattias in the quarters. I decide to play. If I win, I’m first seed and not playing against a teammate.

Gabriel draws just small guys in the first game, while naturally, I get several Gempalms. I get slightly flooded in the next game, so I lose the Goon war versus Avaraxes. Starstorm would be gamebreaking, but is nowhere to be seen as usual. Third game sees me stalling on three lands. As Gabriel is finishing me off, I suggest the draw once again. He is going to win the Swiss even with a draw, so he says okay.

I then start to think: Do I want to secure myself a few extra thousand dollars in case I lose quarters or semis, or do I want to have less of a chance to play against Mattias? This decision is quite tough. I ask for the standings, but as I do the complicated calculations I am being ordered to keep playing. This leads to a ridiculous situation where I just look at the standings while playing out random cards. Gabriel taps out for an Avarax and goes for the lethal attack, and there I am reading the standings and thinking about futile blocks.”Do you have effects?” and so on. The judge finds this to be less funny than the spectators, and I am ordered to make a decision. I accept the draw. We economics students have this money-oriented attitude, I suppose.

10-1-3, 20-4

So I’m second and have to play Mattias. There is probably some deeper lesson about life involved here; he is fine with my choice, though, and says that he would have chosen the extra cash, too. I can be like most people and act idealistic when it doesn’t matter.

We go to eat at a cool pizza place. As I finish my modest one-liter beer, Mattias offers to buy me some tequila shots. How nice of him! I reject the offer, though. As he hears that I don’t have an alarm clock in my room, he makes an”Excellent….” Montgomery Burns imitation, complete with fingertips pushed together and all. We put together Darwin’s deck for testing, but I head to sleep. Berkowitz and pals are at our hotel, so I spend some time at their room. It seems that Jordan has a serious edge over Darwin. Oh well; we built the wrong deck. I get to my room and put on the television, and there is a Britney Spears special on. What infinite mise! I watch it for about an hour before going to sleep.

I wake up pretty early and get to the site for pictures. Osyp is surprised to hear that I have done some modeling work in my younger days. I grap something to eat and get ready for the match.

Quarters Versus Mattias Jorstedt, Goblins

This is covered quite accurately at The Sideboard. There are not that many tough choices involved in the match. I have more gas in two games and we both stall on lands once. Mattias could have played differently at the end of game one, but it wouldn’t have mattered. One thing that I wasn’t sure of was sideboarding. Bringing in four Starstorms is obvious when opponent has no Marshals – but what about when both have four? I decided to bring them all in when going second. When going first, I took them out for a third Goon and three Sledders.

11-1-3, 23-5

It is quite odd to play against a teammate. Splits are always involved, and in general the feeling is relaxed. I think I played so badly versus Jens in the first match of Invitational finals because I didn’t want to win badly enough. You really need the drive in order to succeed.

It felt good to win on camera, but sadly mom and sister weren’t watching. I had told them that I wouldn’t be playing on Sunday, so they just booked return tickets for Saturday. I have had trouble with pessimism before, as changing my Sunday ticket to a Monday one in New Orleans cost $125.

We assemble the Berkowitz deck and test some. I decide to board out one Skirk Prospector for a Starstorm in addition to bringing in the fliers. This is a bit random, but too many of the test games just ended with me not being able to draw anything. I get some more food at the top 8 dinner while discussing Osyp’s matchup with him. Osyp thinks that Jensen is overly confident. I find this statement to be absurd, as William is by far one of the most modest people I have ever met.

Semis Versus Jordan Berkowitz, GR Beasts

Yet once again, this is covered at The Sideboard. This matchup should be tough due to Canopy Crawler. How strange does that statement sound?

I get the Piledriver draw but Jordan has Primoc for defense. As I drop a ‘Smith, Jordan decides to take a risk: He attacks, leaving only Baloth for defense. I play Goon as fourth goblin and shoot the Baloth down, hitting for four. Jordan has to use Cliffs to kill Smith and falls way behind in tempo to combat Goon – too much, actually.

Game two is stupid as Jordan simply gets manascrewed. You need both colors of mana to beat aggressive decks. Game three starts well for Jordan, as he locks up the ground, but then he starts getting mana flooded. Big-timers like 3/3 Canopy Crawler don’t exactly scare me. I could have played a turn 4 Rorix if it wasn’t for a Shock on my Prospector. Rorix enters play on turn 7 and Jordan drops Cliffs and a Tusker with Baloth in play. I then trade Sledder, Slither, and Rorix for Tusker just to drop a second dragon and attack for the kill.

12-1-3, 26-5

At this point I am feeling less surreal than one might think. It is quite hard to cherish one’s success when there are still games to be played today. We test some games, and the matchup seems fine. As he has Gempalms instead of Pacifisms, I can occasionally just smash him with big guys. I don’t know what is the chance to get a turn three Slide after cycling once or twice, but I doubt it is over 60 %. The boys had similar results in testing. The most successful Slide deck versus Sligh started four Slice and Dice and boarded four Pacifisms.

Why am I explaining here? It is time to lose horribly.

Finals versus Osyp”Joe Black” Lebedowicz

Going into the finals, everyone knew how it would turn out. Lebedowicz was at an overwhelming advantage. Walamies knew it, too.

Looks like I know way less than the reporters give me credit for. Osyp gets the early Slide in all three games, and I get him to something like five life in all of them.

I could have won game two, though. I made two critical mistakes. First I play a Slither before combat even though Osyp has to Starstorm in order to survive. Then a few turns later I play Slither after attacking with Ogre so he cannot block it with Angel and morph. The thing is that he is at five lives with four mana open, so he dies to Ogre if he does that. Might as well throw away a game. I manage to perform somehow correctly in the other two games, but it is of no use.

12-2-3, 26-8

It’s over. I just finished second in a professional tournament. Osyp is one of the cooler guys one can lose to, even though his writing could use some work. I relax after four days of intensive Magic playing by moneydrafting with Nicolai and Lovre against the French. As I am 2-0 with my fifteen-soldier, four-Amplify, Vengeance, Slice and Dice, Convalescent Care deck Raphael pays me even though we haven’t won yet. I then spend a number of days being either drunk, hung over, or food poisoned.

At the moment I have been a few days healthy and have been able to access my feelings concerning the event. I have come to the following conclusion: What the hell just happened?

On to some props and slops:

  • Props to my homies.
  • Slops to competing gangs.

See you at Yokohama. My 38 points seem to be enough for Masters, where I may or may not be putting Awakening on the stack.

Keep it real guys.