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Punts on the Big Stage: Tales from a Brick

Thursday, December 23rd – The “Lowest Rated Player at Worlds” entered the tournament having barely touched the paper cards. Experience Magic backwards with MTGO grinder Bing Luke, who goes from PC to paper.


Here it is.

After starting a promising 2-1 in my first real tournament, including a win over Hall of Famer Olivier Ruel in round one, I rattle off three straight losses to close out the Standard portion of Worlds and am currently sitting winless in a train wreck of a draft playing for a combination of pride and rare drafts.

My Ichorclaw Myr is holding off an aggressive start, and my opponent’s turn 4 consists of playing a Snapsail Glider and leaving an Island untapped. I think it odd that he chose not to represent the Galvanic Blast I saw game one by leaving an available Mountain untapped, but given the way the game had played out, it probably didn’t make sense for him to have it anyway, so I note that he is repping Turn Aside instead. As I complete this thought, I look up and see his board now includes two tapped Islands and an untapped Mountain. It hits that I have no idea how to handle this situation: it’s severely unlikely to matter at all by itself and in fact has helped me, since I’m now sure that his hand contains neither a Galvanic Blast nor a Turn Aside. On the other hand, it appears to be a clear cheat, regardless of degree and effect. I decide to move on without comment.

This is but one of many in a series of punts for the weekend. When I relayed the situation afterwards to the avuncular Ray Walkinshaw, he agreed that while it did seem relatively harmless, I should at the very least have said something to put my opponent on notice, which seems absolutely correct. While I’m pretty sure I wasn’t cheated over the weekend, this pointedly showed me that I didn’t have the familiarity to recognize common shady situations and what to do if I caught them, bringing me to the first category of punts on the weekend.

Punts of a Feather Number One: Complete Unpreparedness for Live Play

A theme of all the coverage I was graciously included in, running up to and through Worlds weekend, was the fact that I’m firmly in Team MODO and have little experience with sanctioned play or any paper cards. The full impact of my unfamiliarity with live events didn’t hit me until I got here.

I had practiced shuffling but had no idea how long it took to de-sleeve and sleeve an unsleeved sideboard, prompting a deserved comment from Ruel between games. I was careful to track missed triggers but still missed at least three Luminarch Ascension counters over four matches (where having four counters translates pretty close to a game win with the build of U/W Control I was running).

I knew from testing how easy it was to miss attacks using non-card tokens but ended up not swinging with two Carrion Call tokens because they were actually one-yen coins, then awkwardly had to scratch out a win with him at eight poison counters for the rest of the luckily meaningless game.

Most of these could be mitigated by having actually practiced live play sometime between qualifying for and attending Worlds. I know I couldn’t possibly have bridged the gap, but there was no reason to put myself in a position where I was losing games directly as a result of the most basic mistakes.

On top of all that, I had no idea that live play is goddamn
exhausting.

By the end of six rounds, my brain was fried in a way that never happened after a full day of MODO. How the hell do people play ten rounds at GPs?

Punts of a Feather Number Two: Live Play Is Goddamn Exhausting

Seriously though, how the hell do people play ten rounds at GPs? I had put off a lot of decisions for the start of Worlds, namely deck choices for the Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS), thinking that I would have more time and information; though honestly I just put off a lot of things I could’ve done earlier. Given my brain state and that live play gives you significantly less downtime than you would expect, I ended up with little time or energy to complete what I needed to do.

A direct result of this was playing G/W Summoning Trap for MOCS Day 1 in Extended, based on a list hastily thrown together and with fewer than ten goldfished games.

Round one, game one versus Jund, I was on a stable, though deteriorating, board with Baneslayer Angel in hand and three green sources, a Windbrisk Heights, and a Verdant Catacombs on board. I went to fetch my Murmuring Bosk end of turn and couldn’t find it. Where was it? It was under Mosswort Bridge because clearly when you whiff on a hideaway, the answer is to take the best card available. Ended up losing that game.

As part of the MOCS prize package, each of us got our choice of one complete set of any available on MODO. I quickly loaded up SupernovaBots and saw that Worldwake had a sell price of 190 tix, clearly above my second choice of Tempest at 155. Two minutes later, I remembered that Wasteland was 35 tix, and that the uncommons as a whole should put it over the top but then hesitated to ask to have it switched. The next day, Benjamin Peebles-Mundy pointed out that in addition to Wasteland, Ancient Tomb, Propaganda, and Lotus Petal were all about four tix each, and that I would have to scramble to sell off my Worldwake set before it rotated out of Standard.

Back to the action, round 10, game 3, I was on the back foot against Valakut while playing a newly built Caw-Go list with only slight tweaks (and
throughout the day’s rounds comically consulting both
Brian Kibler
and
Brad Nelson
respective articles on the deck for sideboarding advice in real-time). I entered the round solidly in the middle-prize tier, though I got paired against the person who could vault me and put me tied at the bottom of the standings.

He had landed a Primeval Titan to put me at four life with four Valakuts in play. I activated Gideon to attack through his Primeval, and then used Day of Judgment on the board, and you could hear my spirit get crushed the moment Gideon got binned. I gave up the ghost and predictably lost a couple turns later. I knew he had a Ricochet Trap in hand (revealed off an Oracle of Mul Daya), so fully half his deck would lead to an immediate win.

This is the punt that bothered me most. I needed to sweat multiple topdecks, but there were still some sequences of cards that would leave me with a win. With him at fourteen, I needed to swing four times with the Celestial Colonnade I had left to get the job done. I had two hard counters and a Mana Leak (only one of which would’ve been negated by the Trap) and a big Jace, which was able to juggle his follow-up play of Avenger of Zendikar into no land. I could bounce the Avenger, burn my two counters to kill it through Trap, and then have Jace buy me percentage points while I swinging with Colonnade.

Sure, I was probably losing anyway, but it was a slim shot at preserving $2,000 worth of prizes. Why didn’t I do this? Because I was exhausted and didn’t see it because I wasn’t looking. I took my eyes off the prize after the Gideon punt and lost whatever motivation I had left. The worst part is that Gideon might ultimately not have mattered, since he had a board full of Plant tokens, and the game was much more about the top of his deck feeding him Forests. It was a punt unrelated to game play and instead resulted from my attitude towards the game.

Punts of a Feather Number Three: The Fire

A couple weeks before, the gnomic Jarvis Yu accused me of not having The Fire, the desire above all else to emerge victorious and to crush all opposition. Having seen the way Brad Nelson operates, both leading up to and during matches, I can say wholeheartedly that this was true. Dude is intense in a way I was not, at Worlds and leading up to it.

This was the primary source of almost everything mentioned above. I joked mid-Day 2 of entering
Just


Happy

-to-
Be


Here

mode, but the truth was I was already in it. I saw Brad shortly after Matignon won the tournament to send the Player of the Year race into overtime, and his first words were “I want to jump off a cliff.” This was a man who had already locked up Level 8 in his first full year on the Pro Tour, and he was still disconsolate. I feel bad for feeling only brief remorse for scrubbing out.

What’s next? Having gotten here only to fail so spectacularly has lit something. Whether it’s a full-fledged Fire has yet to be seen, but I’m determined to re-qualify for the Tour and make up for my shoddy performance. I understand that I don’t have all the opportunities of the full-time grinders, but I intend to take advantage of the all ones available. Details for MOCS 2011 were recently announced, and I’m chomping at the bit to grind when I get home, with an eye for the PTQs in my area that I can attend.

All that said, the weekend wasn’t a total bust. My first real match in paper Magic was a win over a Hall of Famer, and I ran off with 43 rating points out of a possible 48 because of it. How cool is that? I hung out with a ton of people I’ve only met on the internet, and they were all pretty awesome. It was especially cool to meet in real life the people I’ve grinded against on MODO, and I look forward to grinding with them in the future online or with actual paper cards.