I’m interested in having you on staff as a featured writer, but I need you to actually turn in articles to keep you there. Will you be turning in articles for me for the future, or shall I scratch you off the list?
Ouch. Laziness rears its ugly head again. Even though I wrote Ted a reasonably honest reply where I said that I had been extremely busy with school and exams. I could have also argued that I only write when I like to, like just after winning money at a Pro Tour. Another reason would be that I don’t want to spam the world with more bad articles about nothing and just wait for a good topic to come up. I could have even said that I didn’t want to write about Constructed because I don’t want to share tech and not about Limited because I just generally don’t know anything about it. However, I can still remember countless hours filled with hanging around, wasting time or just not doing anything, in which after a putting in a little effort I could have shared a lot with the StarCityGames.com readers. But I didn’t. Why? Laziness.
So here I am having another go at it. I just returned from PT: Nagoya and after a good night’s sleep I missed my class and am trying to write an article. I already know what I’ll be writing about, scribbled down some notes on the plane and made up the obligatory introduction that appeals to the average Magic player. This article looks promising.
Pro Tour: Nagoya
PT: Nagoya happened and may or may not be the last Rochester draft Pro Tour ever. These rumors were everywhere on the site and since I’ve never really liked Rochester, I’d be happy to see it go as long as we won’t be playing Sealed Deck next year. Rochester Draft is skill intensive for the first four packs, after which you should be fine by just going with the flow. You just pick your colors right and stick with them. This should work out as long as everyone shares this strategy and plans ahead. I consider my personal experience at PT: Nagoya a prime example of where this goes wrong.
My first pod was like a little get-together with friends. I was in seat 6 sitting next to World Champ and friend Julien Nuijten in seat 7 with Jose Barbero, Alex Shvartsman and the always-optimistic Josh Ravitz in 2, 3 and 4 respectively. The other three were Asians I had never heard of. On the plane to Japan, I did some research into the format with Frank Karsten, Jelger Wiegersma and the English, and Frank compiled his first version of “The List”, which holds pick orders for every barely playable card in the format. We also talked about how many drafters of every color a table could support. My personal idea of an average table was 3 White, 3 Blue, 4 Black, 3 Red and 3 Green, where I’d be happy to be Red or White and even happier if I could be in a color drafted by even fewer people listed here as long as they weren’t to my immediate right.
But to continue my whine about the PT, I was one of three Black drafters after the first few packs and shared Red with two others so I should be in good shape. I was passing Julien a White deck and the guy in front of me was only picking up Blue cards up until that point. I expected him to go White as well, especially after Josh dove into Red as well to complement his Green cards and Alex was R/B just like me. When Josh’s pack was opened he took his second Glacial Ray, leaving Blind with Anger and I a Soratami Mirror-Guard in the pack. My deck pretty much got killed when the Japanese player in between Josh and me snagged the Blind with Anger and never looked back. It seemed bad for him not only to go into Red behind two others or as the fifth player on the table, but also since there were only two White players at the table at that time and he had a very good position for White in his seat. Since going White would significantly hurt Julien’s deck I decided to stick with R/B, hoping that Josh and the Japanese would just splash it or that I would get enough Red from Julien’s side, with my Black position still great. In the end my deck turned out decent, but way worse then Ravitz’s, Julien’s or Shvartsman’s. I ended up 1-2 and lost my first round of the next draft, marked the drop box and was off to relax in the lounge.
Speaking of which, the Player’s Lounge is a nice idea, but still needs some work. The concept of free food and drinks saved me a lot of money since usually exhibition hall prices easily approach infinity, as do most dinners in foreign countries where you don’t know where to get good and cheap food. Everyone was broadly discussing the concept and we concluded that the “private lounge” idea probably works better if there actually are people around that aren’t allowed there. This way it would be a nice refuge to keep the barns away. I also feel that most pros would enjoy their free Coke a lot more when there are people glued to the windows, dying to get in, but not being allowed to. In Nagoya there were hardly any non-competitors at the site, which restricted the fun to someone having MagictheGathering.com staff member Jon Becker kicked out.
I’ve been to Japan four times now and every time it startles me again what a different world it is over there. The people are absurdly polite and you tend to feel like a complete idiot since you don’t understand anything of their customs or their writing. The fact that most of them can’t speak English at all makes communication all the more difficult, especially since they’ll always pretend to understand you, not wanting to let you down. Being clearly noticeable as a foreigner looking clueless makes you very funny and interesting at the same time, which combined with the huge culture differences and impossible communication easily makes for the most hilarious situations.
The following things may or may not have happened in Nagoya:
– a Marriott employee thanking us for waiting in the elevator
– Gabe Walls destroying a wall in a restaurant after leaning into it
– a hostess telling me at least three times to not get arrested after I asked her where we should go for drinks
– Osyp teaching Pierre Canali salsa moves
– Pierre Canali teaching my friend Wessel a salsa move
– Wessel and me teaching Japanese girls salsa moves
– Japanese girls teaching Osyp salsa moves
– Katsuhiro Mori pointing and laughing at GWalls for destroying a wall
– two-time GP top 8 competitor Tomohiro Kaji calling Gabe Walls a donkey while making appropriate donkey-sounds when learning Hold ’em
– our cab driver stopping in the middle of a main street and getting out of the car to ask for directions
– Kids’ Plaza Nagoya having an entire floor chock full off real guns for sale
– Gabriel Nassif doing the best impression of Britney Spears, complete with video-matching dance moves during a karaoke night
For all you strategy buffs out there: here’s some, but let me explain you something first. When professional Magic players scrub out of a PT, they [censored for your protection] draft. It’s basically a rule. We all love it, which is why most pros filled out “Team Booster Draft” (Wizards official name for the format) on their player profile form under “favorite Magic format”. “Favorite Card” ranged from Necropotence to Villainous Ogre, but that’s a different story. Anyway, since everyone knows that drafts will happen, plenty packs are brought by people, especially those of the new Betrayers-variety. With those, we draft, play and then exchange [censored for your protection]. Rinse, repeat and before you know it’s Sunday night. And then you realize you’re in the privileged position to share your experiences with the Star City crowd!
Since my Betrayers experience comes solely from drafts I did in Nagoya and conversations about those drafts, I’ll just go over some random musings and leave the pick orders and set ratings to people like Eisel, Kai, your mother and maybe Frank Karsten when he finishes The List for Betrayers.
First up, the new ninjitsu mechanic. In on word: Overrated. The rare ones and the uncommon kill a guy dude are obviously great, but Limited is traditionally all about the commons. Of those, only Okiba-Gang Shinobi is decent and not even as good as everyone says. It just costs you so much tempo. You return a guy and your four-drop is a tapped 3/2, albeit with a nice ability that will probably trigger once. If you’ve ever played with Blood Speaker, you know it usually ends up trading with one of your opponent’s all-star creatures, like Orochi Ranger, after clogging up your curve on turn 4. Trading your board position for two cards isn’t such a good deal in this format, if you compare it to casting Waking Nightmare on turn 4 you know what I mean. Don’t even get me started on the Blue ninjas. The card-drawer might as well read: “pay 5: get a 2/2 and draw a card” since it never comes through a second time. Back in Invasion block we used to get a 3/3 pitched in that deal. The bounce-man could be best described as “Worst Unsummon Ever”. Compare the two and draw your own conclusions.
Ire of Kaminari
We did a 4-on-4 in Julien’s free Rookie of the Year hotel room after dinner with Dutchies, Raphaël Levy and a married couple. I must add that we were some “Good Quality Beers” in at the moment, “For Good Taste And Good Times”. And trust me, Japanese cans are never wrong! Now, being a bad drafter, especially at night, and slightly intoxicated, I tend to mess things up. My mistake? I was trying to draft Dampen from pick one. I started with Ray, trips Consuming Vortex, some Peers and an Eerie Possession but still lacked a win condition, or a deck in general. Betrayers came and I happily goofgrabbed along ending up with the following monstrosity, the Vital Surge being my dead last pick in the draft:
Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch (I just called him “DEFENDER!”)
Soul of Magma
2 Reach through Mist
3 Peer through Depths
3 Consuming Vortex
2 Ire of Kaminari
Honden of Seeing Winds
The creatures are pretty irrelevant and are there just to stall. The Crushing Pain is by far the worst card in the deck but is a personal favourite and deals with big guys like Moss Kami. This deck only plays for the long game, stalling with guys, Ray, Vortex and Surge and then on one turn domes the opponent for 18 with Ires. It worked amazingly well, I 3-1ed with the one loss being against Kamiel who is unbeatable as we all know. The most important thing for this deck is having enough “Splice Vessels”, especially those that get you new ones like Peer, Reach and Eerie Possession. Oh, and the 0/3 was simply insane in this deck, preventing a lot of damage by blocking two-drops all game long.
This card is retardedly good.
The hard-lock in Betrayers
During a draft after I’d just offered a Snake (which I can recommend to everyone) Paul Rietzl comes over screaming that he had just hard-locked Nassif two games straight with Neko-Te and Ronin Cliffmaster. Stasis your guys, anyone?
Clash of Realities
In a draft with Kamiel and Raphaël where the packs were pretty bad, Raph and I ended up with some of the worst decks ever. Well, Raph’s actually had a plan that involved stalling until he drew Horobi, which would win him the game by killing all his opponent’s guys with Kitsune Healers and Kabuto Moths. My deck was a three-color train wreck sporting spirits and the Green wall that never got bigger then 0/2 and didn’t do more than chumping. Having lots of creatures and a decent amount of Soulshift, I added Clash of Realities to my pile. I drew it in my second match versus a Japanese guy, where it looked really good. I played it on turn 5 holding four guys while my Japanese opponent had three creatures out and two cards in hand. I was still on 13 and told my teammates that I just played Clash of Realities and was looking good. Our opponents all had to read it and word spread quickly that someone had just cast a Clash. People came walking in from all directions, while some dropped from the main event to see this miracle. When play proceeded my opponent just attacked me to eight and Greeded me out for maximal anti-climatical value. It did shine later on when I destroyed Gadiel Slzeifer with Tatsumasa (the dragon equipment) + Crash…
In that same draft when we were 0-3, John Pelcak found our decks so bad that he promised to quit Magic if we won this draft. When I looked over to Raph a little later I saw him gaining 2 life a turn with the 2 Pious Kitsune he had in play. Indestructible Pious Kitsunes that is. Yes, he was running That Which Was Taken and told me after the draft that it even might be playable in the controllish Blue/White archetype. Be sure not to forget the Pious Kitsunes, though.
This 5/4 guy caused me numerous headaches since it rules the board on turn 4, while providing a very fast clock. Its ability means it won’t ever block but that’s not much of a problem, since you’ll want to attack with it any way. The drawback is pretty minor since there are hardly any instants in this block and even if your opponent is holding one, it means they can’t play a good creature that turn. This being one of a lot of common good Ogres means that the CoK Onis will go up a bit in pick order lists. Especially Painwracker Oni seems better now, going from unplayable to either very good, decent or still unplayable depending on the number of Ogres in your deck.
Yes, they are insane. And the Red one creates a new dilemma: do you attack with it on turn 3 if you have no other play? Should your opponent trade his guy for a Stone Rain or just take 6? Off course this is all very situation-dependent but this will come up every now and then in the new format. Genjus in general will mean that you should pay a little more attention to picking up sideboard cards like Eye of Nowhere and Soratami Mirror-Mage.
Fumiko the Lowblood
I was lucky enough to open this card twice in a draft and decimate my opponents with it. After playing this on turn 4 there’s nothing you have to do but declare some good blocks and a few turns later you’ve killed all your opponent’s guys. Sometimes you shouldn’t even block them all to keep Fumiko’s Bushido high enough to kill their biggest attacker and live, but besides that it’s really hard to lose with Fumiko in play.
In conclusion, I must say that I enjoy PT’s more and more lately. There are a lot of interesting characters on the PT nowadays and every time I get to know a few more. It also helps to get you places to stay in foreign countries, like with the TOGIT-bunch where Jelger, Jeroen and me will be staying to practice for PT: Atlanta. And the English off course, with Quentin Martin being nice enough to have us over and introduce me to his voluptuous roommate, even if I’d have to face stiff competition with Jose Barbero also coming over.
Okay, enough with the name-dropping, until next time,