I almost switched this to tell some more PTQ stories – this time from last Saturday’s PTQ in Boston (Brighton, technically). Nothing like winning a PTQ to make you want to talk about it. There were enough important lessons in the PTQ, however, that I decided to make a “real” article out of them and stick with some fun stories from the Pro Tour instead.
Story one: I suck.
It’s Worlds – I wasn’t expecting to go, but somehow I made Top 8 at Barcelona and suddenly I’m invited to everything. I don’t have an Extended deck and our team is a bit behind the curve this year, when the mono-Blue Illusions-Donate deck appears in an article on wizards.com. I playtest it and it’s actually quite good, so I make a few modifications on it and keep practicing it. My version is still way behind the top curve and I think Zvi openly mocked me for still having Helm of Awakening in the deck. (At least Helm and Frantic Search made the deck goldfish faster, even if the “better” versions were more resilient.)
A lot of my deck was proxies since I knew I could buy the cards I needed onsite. (Now, of course, I would just buy them from StarCity, as I just did for my Regionals deck… assuming I don’t change it.) [Who buys their Regionals deck two months and one set before the tournament? – Knut, stunned] I actually had (or traded for) the rares, but I couldn’t find copies of some of the non-rare cards, like Merchant Scroll, and no one ever carries around cards like that in their trade binders.
Thankfully, I knew what Merchant Scroll did. It was a Sorcery, it cost 1U, and it fetched two different kinds of Blue spells that aren’t creatures. That can only leave Instants and Sorceries, right? It’s not like there’s any such thing as Interrupts, right?
Story two: No really, I suck.
Part of being a good player is learning (even discovering!) timing tricks. If you don’t know how to abuse timing tricks with Shuriken, for example, you aren’t prepared for the London Qualifiers. Some tricks come up a lot, but even the rare ones can win you a key game.
During Invasion Block I drafted 5cG a lot. One of the first tricks I discovered was that you could play a Lair as your third land and then Harrow in response to the Lair’s “return a land or sacrifice this” effect, sacrificing the Lair to Harrow and then choosing not to return a land to your hand. This isn’t anything like on the level of Shuriken, but it did help me in at least two matches and was a nice teaching tool for newer players at YMG since it was easy to explain.
Fast forward to Barcelona, final round of Swiss, playing for Top 8. (I only think I’m playing for Top 16, since I’m a point behind my opponent, but that’s still Gravy Train and some nice money so it would have been almost as important even if I was only playing for 9th or 10th.)
We’re well into game three, and the board is clear. I’m holding a Lair in hand just because I don’t want him to think I’m out of spells, and I draw Harrow. Naturally I’m going to cast Harrow to thin my deck of lands, but I decide to use my timing trick. I play the Lair, announce the effect, and Harrow in response.
My opponent’s next play is Vodalian Serpent with kicker. That’s kicker as in about to kicker my asser.
As it happens, the Lair I sacrificed produced Blue mana. As it happens, I only had one Island in play. So if I’d just cast Harrow like a normal human being (keeping the Lair in hand) I could have played the Lair, returned my lone Island, and turned his 6/6 beatstick into an impressive but not terribly threatening wall.
Sure, I’d seen most of his deck and no sign of Serpents. But so what? I got cute in a critical match and as a result left myself needlessly vulnerable to a common. Thankfully, my deck coughed up Thornscape Apprentice so the Serpent only dealt six the first time it turned sideways, and a few turns later I was attacking for the win with – wait for it – a Samite Pilgrim. Why use a 1/1 to prevent up to five points of damage when you can slap on an Armadillo Cloak and swing for the win?
Story three: We both suck
My first Pro Tour was an absolutely crazy experience. Rob Dougherty had taken the brokenness that was Urza Block and built a deck that was broken but also incredibly fun and even silly. While other R/U players were casting Tinker to fetch a Colossus and then blowing up the world with Wildfire, we were Tinkering for Citanul Flute, activating for one and then putting out Goblin Welder. Welder remains a Vintage power card (and running one maindeck was quite helpful for me in an Extended PTQ), but back then people had to read it – and this is Block Constructed!
Anyway, there are a million tales to tell from that tournament, but since I’m talking about being awful I’m going to tell of my match with David Bachmann. Bachmann was one of many people who decided that R/U artifact decks were going to be so dominant that he would build a control deck designed to beat them. He was R/W with lots of anti-artifact cards and Absolute Law in the board.
I don’t know how well David’s deck did against the field, but while our deck may not have had quite the raw power of Wildfire it was a lot more resilient against the control decks – largely due to Goblin Welder. David found this out against me when he was facing a Colossus he couldn’t deal with – he Scrapped it and I simply Welded it out of play, shortly to return.
Absolute Law was in play at the time.
I hope these stories don’t give you the impression that I’m awful, especially if we’re about to play a match. I want you to think I’m really good so that you’re nervous and misplay against me. Or even if we never play at all I want you to think I’m really good so I keep my job as a feature article writer here at StarCity. That said, I think all players have their moments to suck – these are just some of mine.
Hugs ’til tomorrow,