As those who have been reading my last few articles know, I had been playing with U/G Opposition and white weenie – and I was pretty sure I was going to go with white weenie, but it had major problems with decks that made bigger critters than it did. Notably, the many flavors of R/G.
So after a few days of extra testing (and some tech hookups from the always helpful Jay Schneider), I decided to go with the R/G”Fast Beats,” descended from the IBC”Rocket Shoes” configuration, which had been crushing control decks in testing, and I was expecting a control-heavy environment.
R/G Fast Beats
4 Llanowar Elves
3 Wild Mongrel
4 Call of the Herd
4 Raging Kavu
4 Thornscape Familiar
4 Flametongue Kavu
4 Urza’s Rage
2 Mossfire Valley
4 Karplusan Forest
2 Barbarian Ring
3 Price of Glory (sometimes useful)
3 Spellbane Centaur (never played an Oppo deck, so they stayed in the side)
2 Shivan Wurm
3 Hull Breach
2 Thornscape Battlemage
Why Fire/Ice over Volcanic Hammer, you ask? Two reasons. One, I was predicting that the environment was going to be filled with a lot of X/1 creatures, Birds, Elves and whatnot. I was not disappointed, and I got a lot of two-for-ones with Fire that I could not have gotten with the Hammer. And because it’s an instant, I could apply more pressure with end-of-turn burn.
For the most part, my decision proved to be correct – although it was always weird seeing the blue-colored cards in my deck.
After some desperate wrangling to get the cards I needed for the deck, I was ready to embark on the suicide run; getting up at five in the morning to drive over the often-treacherous Oregon passes in time for the tournament. At least I wasn’t driving.
But the passes are fine, the drive is great, and we feel like we’re in pretty good shape for the tournament. The Gambit crew has come with many different flavors, Brad abandoned the U/B Braids deck he’d been testing for over a month for R/G beats, Aaron is playing his”Pokemon” deck – a five-color Dragon deck – and David Caldwell with U/G Oppo.
Right before pairings are announced, a feeling of dread passes over me. My record for the past two big tournaments I’ve entered is 4-8-1. Maybe I’ve lost it. I’ve come here on three hours sleep to go 0-2-drop and prove what a scrub I am with a crummy deck and I’m finally going to have to write my”dropping out” article.
Deep breaths, Dave, deep breaths…
Round 1: Nathan Saunders (R/G/w)
Nathan’s a pretty well known Portland player and nice enough guy; our paths have crossed a few times. Our decks are extremely similar, although he’s packing white for cards like Reprisal, Armadillo Cloak and, of course, Rith.
In matchups of these types, it usually comes down to who draws better. In game one, it’s me. Games with dueling R/G decks tend to be over before the proverbial smoke has cleared. Nathan’s a little mana screwed, and after I burn off his mana creatures and drop a turn four Llanowar Elves and Call of the Herd, he scoops.
Game two, it’s my turn to be screwed. My mana sources are not forthcoming and his fatties are, and it’s rapidly time for me to enter the scoop phase. And, sadly, game three is much the same for me. Nathan gets the dream draw of first-turn Elf, second-turn Call, third-turn Call, fourth-turn Titan (with kicker) and fifth-turn Flametongue… Well, suffice it to say, victory is not mine. But we agree to at least try and be good to each other’s tiebreakers.
Round 2: Jon Kim (R/B/U Tyranny/Megrim)
Jon’s from Roseburg, one of what I would consider the five”enclaves” of Magic around the state of Oregon, the other four being Eugene, Salem, Portland and, for now, Bend (anyone reading who thinks I’m missing their town, please let me know). Of course, Eugene is basically down to three”name” players now that I’ve left… Well, me and Jay Schneider, Sean Frackowiak, Max Zelaya and Aaron Fitzgerald… And that Benafel guy who’s always busy doing something else like making thousands of dollars on the Pro Tour or something like that.
Jon is running a deck that takes me quite a while to figure out, it’s a unique pass at a sort of combo deck utilizing Phyrexian Tyranny, Megrim, and Cephalid Coliseum.
Game one is the slowest game I play the entire tournament. I get a turn one Elf, and then walk into a Syncopate with my second turn Call. Stupid, Dave, stupid… We trade creatures for a while, nuking each other’s Flametongues, but eventually I start whittling his life total away with a lone Elf while topdecking land after land. Well, maybe I’ll just get to Rage-with-kicker mana at this rate.
When he’s at low life, his combo finally starts falling into place with an active Megrim and Cephalid Coliseum with threshold, doing it twice to deal twelve damage to me. But I draw enough burn (and have Firebolts in the graveyard) to carry the day.
Game two his combo falls into place, despite me having an active Price of Glory most of the game to deter his counterspells. He gets an early Tyranny and I start paying life for it while his deck, with a higher mana count, can get away with paying the mana cost. Still, I’m whittling down his life total a few points at a time. But when he gets two active Coliseums and taps me out, I lose extremely quickly.
Game three, I finally get an explosive draw. Turn one Elf, turn three Call and turn four Skizzik. Jon makes the mistake of playing Tyranny on turn three when down on life and only three land in play – ill advised against a speed deck.
The deck was certainly an interesting concoction, but the twelve painlands were probably too much. Against another control deck, though, it might fare better. I pass along a few suggestions and am quite pleased to get off the schneid.
Time for lunch! A word to the wise, if there are going to be future Portland tournaments held at this particular downtown Holiday Inn: There’s a little restaurant across from the street called”Al’s In & Out.” It’s like this pseudo-bento-something place that, well… It sucks. The service is bad and the food is worse. Trust me on this one; get a bite to eat at the Red Robin, at the McDonald’s – hell, I’d go eat at Denny’s before I gave this place any more of my money.
This has been a public service announcement courtesy of Dave’s stomach and wallet. Criminy, seven dollars for a cold roast beef sandwich and potato salad out of a box, I swear…
Round 3: Jason Ashby (U/G Threshold).
Jason’s deck reminds me of Jay Schneider’s “Draino” deck, which is extremely close to being the most broken deck in the format right now and I almost played it – but it seems to lack a lot of the more explosive threshold cards, like Tolarian Winds.
Game one, Jason has mana acceleration faster than I do with a turn two Werebear (“Bear? Where bear? There! There bear!” Yeah, that’s not getting old, is it?). I answer with a turn four Thornscape Familiar and Raging Kavu. Turn five, I rush in with the crew and a newly kicked-up Skizzik, and Jason saves his Werebear with a Might of Oaks… But in the end, he doesn’t hit threshold before I overrun him with creatures, ditching my hand to a Wild Mongrel to finish him off.
Game two, Jason double mulligans and gets off to a very slow start, and that’s what this deck punishes. A turn three Flametongue Kavu, accelerated by the Thornscape Familiar, goes the distance, as Jason never gets past three mana.
Strangeness of the day: Jonan Scheffler shows up with a 300+ card deck that generally wins through Battle of Wits. The obvious joke is that”he who plays with Battle of Wits is an unarmed man,” but Jonan is 3-0 and ends up giving Cord Slatton’s U/B Psychatog deck its only loss of the day.
A 300 card deck is 3-0 at States. I knew I should have brought my 5-color deck, dag nab it. (Jonan eventually finishes at 4-3, if I remember correctly).
Round 4: Romain Hughes (R/G Fast Beats)
I suspect that aside from maybe one or two cards, our decks are eerily similar. And again, these games will go to the better draws. Romain’s certainly no slouch, though. If memory serves, he knocked me out of my one and only top eight I ever made, so I have the revenge factor working for me.
Game one, I open with your friend and mine, Mr. Mulligan. My six-land hand is worse than my original, but I keep it, but Romain’s turn three Skizzik convinces me to move to the next game.
Game two, it’s Romain’s turn to visit the mulligan man, and I open with a turn one Elf and turn three Flametongue to convince Romain to move to the next game.
Game three, Mr. Mulligan decides he likes Romain much more than he likes me and pays him not one but two visits, leaving him with a hand full of mountains and green cards.
I open with turn one Elf, turn two Call, turn three Call, Romain scoops.
Better lucky than good. Well, better lucky and good – but if you can’t get both, you take the lucky.
And, I know, normally I try to be a bit more descriptive about my matches, but when the whole shebang only lasts eight minutes and at best six turns each, there’s not a whole lot of describing to do. But I do enjoy having the extra forty minutes each round to chill, scout the field and generally make horrible jokes and puns for the amusement of all.
Round 5: Kevin Williams (Good Stuff)
Kevin is running the rare-heavy tri-color deck that I believe was posted on”another site,” as we say in the business, designed to crush both straight R/G and the popular control decks. It’s not a great matchup for me, as he has creatures like Scutas and Spiritmongers that I have definite trouble dealing with.
Game one, I get off to a quick start, able to drop a turn two Elephant token, but then get stuck waiting for more land. Fortunately for me, my deck can survive pretty well on two and three mana while Kevin, who is in similar straits, needs more land for the big fatties. Even with two Terminates, I manage to swarm him with weenies to finish him off before he can get to his big hitters, using a pumped-up Mongrel for the coup de grace.
The second game, however, is all Kevin. He drops a turn four Scuta (with kicker, of course), which I manage to kill with a Rage and Fire. Then he drops a Spiritmonger – but he’s tapped out, so I waste another two burn spells to get rid of that. Then he drops a second ‘Monger and another Scuta, and I get on the bus to Scoopopolis.
It all comes down to game three, where I need the explosive draw (and no Pernicious Deeds from Kevin) if I’m going to keep playing. And the deck gods are good to me today. I get a turn one Elf and can cast consecutive Calls the next two turns. Kevin plays a Plague Spitter on turn three – normally some bad for my deck – but I gladly lose an Elf to waste it with a Flametongue and just beat him up from there.
Damn, I’m 4-1. Maybe I can still play this game after all.
Round 6: David Freeman (Dark Fires)
Great, another less than stellar matchup for me. He’s got beefier creatures, including maindeck Shivan Wurms, and has access to black mana for the crippling Slay. But I have speed on my side!
Game one, David gets a visit from what is proving to be my best friend so far – the Mulligan Man. Not once, but twice. But pumping the fist would be unsportmanlike, and I’ve learned the hard way to never tempt fate and taunt the mana gods. I get early beats with Calls, and he answers with Calls of his own. When he’s down to eight, however, he’s down to one creature – an Elephant token – which he gates to cast Shivan Wurm (some bad). However, I have creature advantage, and I’m willing to sacrifice a few creatures for the good of the team and I manage to beat him before he can muster an offense.
Game two… Oh, man, I have dreams like this. I have a mana-light hand, with only a Karplusan Forest and Barbarian Ring, but I have three Fire/Ice, so I decide to keep it. David goes City of Brass, point of pain, Birds of Paradise. And I start drooling. Figuratively, not literally – that would be gross. I play the Forest. David plays a second City of Brass and a second Bird.
I play the Ring and fry both his Birds, and that really takes the wind out of his sails. He takes a lot of damage from his Cities as well as from his next two lands, Llanowar Wastes, and he never really recovers from losing both his mana birds.
Great googly moogly, I’m 5-1 with excellent tiebreakers! I’m in 5th place! I can draw into the top eight!
Round seven is paired, and I am unfortunately paired down to the worst 5-1 player, which horrible tiebreakers; his opponent’s win percentage is below fifty percent. He cannot take the draw, so we are forced to play.
Round 7: Corey Mantor (Good Stuff w/Fires)
For those looking for the happy ending, there is not one here. I’d been lucky two times in a row against bad matchups for me, and the luck ends here. Game one, Corey goes first and manages to have three mana creatures on the board by turn two… And I’m just begging for a burn spell. A Fire/Ice might have made the difference, as he drops a turn three Spiritmonger and I put up a valiant fight, but ultimately the big guy gets up to 9/9 and pummels me to death.
Game two, I’m forced to mulligan and get a hand with two mountains and three Fire/Ice, but that’s about it.
I can’t mulligan down to five. Not drawing first. I make my silent prayer to the mana gods for a green mana source and play on.
Mana is not forthcoming.
I do manage to burn out two mana creatures with Fire, but he’s not having problems with land, drops the Spiritmonger on turn five, and I scoop shortly thereafter.
So much of this game is luck. If I’d only be stuck against a control deck, like Opposition, which I would have crushed. If only I’d gotten the better draws like I’d been getting earlier in the game. If only, if only, if only…
Nathan does say it was too bad I didn’t make it, since”We could use more humor in the top eight.”
To which I reply,”Then why did you want me there?”
Ah, self-depreciation. I’ve raised it to an art form, I have.
But in all honesty, I’m not too upset – in fact, I’m pretty pleased. I end up finishing 12th at 5-2, a very respectable finish that nets me a few packs and will no doubt boost my sagging ratings a bit, and I go on to win a side event as well – the third Odyssey draft in a row I’ve won (or tied for first)…so I must thank the person to my right for passing me both Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor and Bearscape back-to-back in that one.
I do have to give out a few thank yous, specifically to:
- Jay Schneider, for all deck advice and tech hookups
- Brad Irwin and Max Zelaya for loaning me the three Calls of the Herd so I could run the deck.
- David Caldwell, local player who finally learned how to play an Opposition deck (without Calls, no less) and finished a very respectable 13th, in his first major tournament.
- All of my opponents, gracious in victory and defeat and willing to put up with my bad puns (at least I wasn’t”token” for granted, arr arr arr)
Looks like Good Player Meddish is back for now. So no retirement articles for me… At least not today.