When Ted asked me to take a shot at the SCG Daily column, I wondered what I could write about. Then it occurred to me – as the oldest writer on the site (and quite possibly the oldest Magic player alive today) as well as a usetabee (I’d bet that 25% of SCG’s readers started playing Magic after my Top 8 in Barcelona), I’d write about my war stories. [Considering that was in 2000 or so, I’d put the number at 50%. – Knut] Just imagine me as an even older man (tricky, but possible), sitting on the porch, smoking a pipe and telling you about “the big one” while all the kids (that’s you readers) sit there hoping I’ll finally doze off so you can go play video games.
Yeah, that sounds about right.
My first story isn’t that old, however. It’s from last weekend’s PTQ. I opened the absolute nuts – had I received my deck back I would have run a deck featuring the following cards:
In White: Hikari, Twilight Guardian, Nagao, Bound by Honor, Kabuto Moth, Cage of Hands, two Waxmane Baku and other assorted solid creatures
In Green: Kodama’s Might, Unchecked Growth, two Gnarled Mass and other assorted solid creatures
In Black: Scuttling Death and a Rend (I think Flesh)
The curve would have been outstanding, the spirit count ample to make the Bakus quite nasty, I would have had the best combat tricks that don’t rhyme with Length of Meters and I would have topped out with a 4/4 flyer that is extremely difficult to kill and can, like the NYPD, protect and serve.
Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough, (cue music) I would have been getting Jitte with it.
After registration I chatted with various friends and let them all know that if they got my deck they had done well. Very well. But I knew in my heart that none of us were going to get it and that the person who did get it wasn’t going to make Top 8 with it. I even suspected the reason – he was going to be tempted by Heartless Hidetsugu and Pain Kami into playing Red. That meant that he would have worse mana and would replace some solid hitters with some less impressive cards, have fewer spirits, less overall synergy and a worse curve – all to play cards that aren’t necessarily even more powerful in the abstract than what he was giving up. Sure enough.
Every PTQ I see someone with an absolutely insane cardpool sitting in the lower tables. It may not be full vindication of Sealed Deck as a realm of skill domination (I like to think that my own 0-2 performance in the main event had something to do with getting a poopy cardpool back), but at least it’s something.
Okay, that was a boring story. The next one will at least be quicker – it’s from a side-draft at said PTQ. My deck was U/B with ninjas and Meloku; my opponent was R/B with lots of aggression and removal. We were in game two (possibly three) and we’d played the previous round next to each other, so he knew I had good Ninja action.
His board is Brutal Deceiver (tapped), Bile Urchin and Hired Muscle (one counter) with four or five lands untapped and two cards in hand. I’m pretty sure he’s got some removal, and we know the top card on his deck is land. He’s at around 16 life and I’m at 8. My board is Floodbringer and Scuttling Death, with six lands untapped. I swing with both of my guys.
My opponent declares no blockers, so I Ninja out a Mistblade Shinobi, returning my Floodbringer to my hand. He casts Blind With Anger on the Mistblade, putting a second counter on Hired Muscle. He’s now set to take four, flip his Muscle and then launch a lethal counterattack on my turn unless I have a Black blocker.
So naturally I respond to Blind With Anger by returning Mistblade Shinobi to my hand in exchange for a Okiba-Gang Shinobi – and then use my last mana to Ninja out the Mistblade, returning Scuttling Death! Both Ninjas hit and with bounce added to the stack after discard I’m able to return Hired Muscle and make him discard it along with his last card… which happened to be Devouring Greed.
Put yourself into his situation at the start of that attack – you’ve got two guys coming in and you’re at 18 life. Your grip is Blind with Anger and Devouring Greed and next turn if you need it you’ll have the mana to cast both. You’ve got lethal power on the table and will have the ability to cast a lethal Greed on your next turn. How confident are you that you’re winning this game?
Then suddenly you’ve lost your hand and best creature. You know that your next card is a land, and if you even attack with your Brutal Deceiver your opponent can bounce it and make you discard it. Frowning on the stack.
Okay, so that wasn’t quicker. Anyone who thought it was going to be quicker doesn’t know me very well – my stories take forever, even when they don’t involve lesbians. (For a story that does involve lesbians, ask me how I met my wife someday.) [Okay, now I’m intrigued… – Knut, sending Chad an e-mail]
Okay, one last story – this one from a long time ago at a Grand Prix that was far, far away – I think it was Seattle. YMG had just developed an early version of Necro-Trix, so naturally I was playing White Weenie because I’m awful. I get crushed in the utterly-unfair Counter-Sliver matchup (unfair because all their guys cost the same as yours but are strictly better, while your Plows can’t target theirs and theirs crush your dreams) and in the next round find myself paired against Zvi – the first time we’d met up to that point. Zvi notices the name on my scorepad from the previous round and chides me for telling him what I’m playing as it turns Sliver-boy was Zvi’s friend and they just happened to have chatted about their matchups in the previous round.
Then, while shuffling, Zvi accidentally flips over one of my cards. This was back when Wizards was starting to crack down hard on cheating and flipping over a card could easily turn into a game loss. Remember, Zvi doesn’t know me personally so naturally he tenses a bit when the card flips. My hand shoots up.
I think I even kept a fairly grim expression, although if I didn’t we should all pretend that I did so the story is better. Yeah, grim and mean…Zvi undoubtedly thinks he’s about to get a game loss.
No less a judge than BethMo comes to the table. I don’t know if BethMo was the official head judge, but back then she was probably the best-known judge around. She asked what had happened and I explained. I even mentioned that Zvi knew what I was playing before he shuffled since I’d played his friend last round and that I was 100% convinced that the flip had been accidental. I then told BethMo what, in my humble opinion, the penalty should be.
She should make faces at Zvi for being dumb enough to flip over a card while shuffling.
Beth looked at me, looked at Zvi, put her thumbs up against her ears and stuck her tongue out at Zvi while wigging her fingers.
On with the match. Zvi led with a Tropical Island – when I played a Plains he commented, “Just my luck you didn’t have a Wasteland” and Crop Rotated it for something better. So naturally I Wastelanded that. Zvi was having trouble getting his turbo-land combo going when suddenly I called over another judge. I explained to this judge what had happened with the shuffle and what BethMo’s ruling had been. Soon he was making faces at Zvi. I won the game. Somehow, despite Zvi boarding into an Oath deck with a big advantage vs. White Weenie, I took the match. But the best part about it was getting judge after judge to come over and make faces as though it was FNM instead of a GP.
Since then, of course, Zvi and I often hang out at tournaments and apparently I’m entertaining enough that Zvi will try to sit adjacent-and-opposite me during any match so he can enjoy my banter and try to guess what cards are in my hand. Naturally I up the banter level when Zvi is watching. Over my many years of play I’ve made many judges and players laugh (hopefully with me more often than at me) but my favorite silliness of all has to be that matched where Zvi learned that when I’m across the table the weirdness goes up to eleven.