Reflecting Ruel – Sleepless in Tacoma

Saturday, June 13th - SCG 5K Atlanta!
Friday, June 5th – Those of us that read Wednesday’s Drafting With Olivier will have picked up that Olivier didn’t have much fun in Seattle. Today, he tells us exactly what went wrong… and what, at the end of the weekend, went right.

Friday morning, I arrived in Seattle-Tacoma airport with my brother Antoine and a delegation of Frenchies (featuring Raphael Levy, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, and the soon-to-be-famous Yann Massicard). 24 hours from our arrival, we would be playing in our second Standard GP in a week. Our cab took us to our hotel, which was not what I would call top class. I didn’t have high expectations, but anything in Seattle would have been good. As I like the city and wanted to go shopping, it’d have made me pretty happy.

But I was actually told the event would take place in Tacoma, which kind of reminded me of GP: New York in Elisabeth, GP: Boston in Fitchburg or GP: San Francisco in San José. It’d be good if sometimes the organizers could announce the location in the event’s name. I mean, I know GP: Fitchburg wouldn’t sound so sexy (even though it kinda sounds like Pittsburgh), but I have the feeling I’ll end up going to the wrong city someday. I guess I’ll save the shopping for Hawaii and focus on playing Magic.

I’ve spent a lot more time preparing Block than Standard lately, so I didn’t have time to come up with any deck other than the UW Fog build I ran in Barcelona. I therefore decide to run the same deck again… if I could come up with a good sideboard versus Swans. As my brother Antoine agreed to give me two hours to playtest Swans against UW Fog despite not having a deck himself, I managed to come up with a very satisfying version. The plan was simple: as Swans contains forty-odd lands, I won’t help him draw the few spells he has by playing Howling Mine, and sideboard out my 7 draw artifacts. I actually sideboard in 15 cards.

At 11 am, the climax of the week-end, if not of the season, Grenoble-Sochaux kicked off about 6000 miles from here. Through the wonders of high technology, the match is broadcasted on the net, and I watched it from Manu B’s computer. Unlike American sports, European sports (here French soccer) have several leagues, and the worst three teams go the lower division at the end of each season. My favorite team has to avoid losing to keep its head in the top division.

Before the match, I would have agreed not to make Day 2 if Sochaux would win. Someone up there was apparently listening.

11:44am: Mevlut Erding scores for Sochaux. It’s the only goal of the game.

2pm: I’m 3-2 despite my three byes, after losing to Doran and Jund. I now have my back against the wall.

After a pair of wins versus Swans and Mono Red, I was back in business. I then played against WG, the deck’s best matchup. I won game 1 pretty quickly thanks to Tezzeret (not that I needed the card, but it is actually great against all the very slow players). In game 2, he had Pithing Needle for Jace, and I didn’t draw a single Howling Mine or Font of Mythos in my first twenty cards, even though I had Pithing Needle to stop Qasali Pridemage. Game 3 went the same, except that my opponent’s friend told him how to attack at some point. As the judge behind us doesn’t seem to care when the words “outside assistance” are spelled out to him, and as my opponent seems to be a nice guy (and he didn’t change his attacker despite his friend’s recommendation), I don’t want to insist and call over another judge. I could, and I probably should, have complained about it, but even though I was mad at the spectator, I didn’t want my opponent to pay for his mate’s stupid behavior. Two minutes later, I was dead and out of Day 2.

At this point, I was extremely tired because of the jetlag that had kept me from sleeping much the night before, and extremely disappointed by my tournament, as well as from the rest of my season so far. Feeling a little depressed, I borrowed Manu’s key to go get the stuff I had left in his hotel. After a few minutes’ walk, as I arrived at his hotel’s reception, I realized I didn’t even know his room number. I stayed there, totally lost, not knowing what to do for a while. I was just too tired and disappointed to think clearly.

That’s when I heard a voice calling my name. I turned back, and there were three guys I didn’t know at all.

“Hey Oli! Not playing anymore?”
“Nope, I’m out.”
“Oh… What happened?”
“I’ll spare you the classic boring Magic stories. I just had a bad day.”
“We’re going up for a drink. Wanna join us?”

As I was about to decline (who were these guys anyway?), I realized I had absolutely nothing better to do, and that it could do me some good.

“Yeah sure, let’s go.”

These three gentlemen were really nice, and thirty minutes and a few beers later, I was already a lot better. Back at the site, Antoine was 8-1 and Manu 7-2 with Patrick Chapin latest creation (a Jund deck splashing for Cryptic Command). Patrick was shocked to see they were both sideboarding out Commands all the time, and Sochaux was still in Ligue 1. Things could definitely be worse.

In Day 2, I was drafting on Antoine’s computer to provide you with articles (see Drafting with Olivier: ACR5), and I got my ass kicked a lot again. After going 0-3 and losing in a team draft, I went to the Judge station to check for the upcoming events to see if I could try and have some fun/win at Magic this weekend. There were two events left: the Mustache Invitational, and Grande Melee Standard. As I didn’t have a mustache, and I considered that drawing one with a Sharpee wouldn’t be fair, I turned to Grande Melee. How does that work? I had no idea, with 10 minutes before it started, but as I learnt quickly, I’ll be glad to explain it to you!

Here are the most important things to know about the format:

– One single game involving all the players registered (18 here).
– You can only attack the guy on your left, and therefore you can only be attacked by the guy on your right.
– Anything you play only affects your two neighbors, as you have a range of “1.” For instance, a Wrath of God will kill your creature and theirs, but won’t affect the other players at the table.
– You can have one free mulligan.
– You draw on turn 1.
– There is a turn counter every four players. You pass it when your turn is over, and there must be at least two players between two counters.

My Fog deck seemed great for the format. I mean, who would like to attack a guy that makes him draw three a turn when his other opponent draws only 1? However, I would lose via decking before the tournament was over if I ran my list the way it was, so I cut the deck’s Mystic Gates for a pair of Flooded Grove, and also add three Primal Command and a pair of Glen Elendra Archmages, instead of the two Pithing Needles, one Font of Mythos and two Runed Halos.

Then I only had to pray my right neighbor would be agro, and I could stop him with my Fogs. Three turns in, things were a little clearer. David, on my right, was Bant, and very aggressive, and my left neighbor Bob, who was soon to become my BFF, was Lark. Pretty quickly, David understood he had no interest in attacking me, as he was having a hard time resisting his Quillspike combo opponent, while Bob (I’m sorry if you read this, but I don’t remember your name… I’ll call you Bob for the rest of this report) and I quickly signed an implicit pact of non-aggression. I was not milling him with Jace and giving him enough cards to slaughter all the players at the table, in exchange for which he wouldn’t touch my Planeswalkers nor counter any of my spells. With only 18 players and 8 iPods to win (7 iPod Shuffles and 1 iPod Touch), it became clear Bob and I would finish in the Top 8, along with the Swans mage at the table. Luckily for me, the Swans player didn’t have Wheel of Sun and Moon (which could have ended the tournament on turn 4), while Bob was only running one Primal Command, and would lose to decking at some point.

In this interesting game of Magic/Diplomacy we were playing, I was wondering when would be the right time to stab Bob in the back… Until I realized he would not betray me, but would, according to our agreement, try and kill as many opponents as possible until he would unavoidably die to decking. He even managed to get the Swans deck to throw half of his lands to his face. Bob finished fourth, and I was on 34 life and seated between Swans and Quillspike Combo when the Top 3 started. As Bob had done such a great job, Swans was unable to deal me more than twenty, even though he had Reliquary Tower in play. I only had to counter Primal Command, and we were only two men left. Would my first ever iPod be a Shuffle or a Touch? What the hell was an iPod Touch? I had to wait another two turns to find out. After countering Rite of Consumption and a Guttural Response, I milled my last opponent to death and won the event.

I was able to win at Magic once again. Drinking with Canadians was cool. An iPod Touch was actually pretty great. I had caught up with James Lee, one of the best judges/people Magic has ever seen, for the first time in 8 years. Yann Massicard won the event (after losing two rounds for Top 8 in Kyoto, and missing GP: Strasbourg’s Top 8 with X-2-1). Mustaches could look cool for a day, and I was flying to Hawaii the next morning.

Life was good again.

Until next week…