Slaughtered, Gutted, and Heartbroken – Or .2% Of A Tiebreaker Away From 8th Place

Jimmy Bean, my playtesting partner, wrote about Black/White AstroGlide yesterday – and today, I’m here to tell you how close I came to taking the whole damn thing. Plus, I have match coverage of the VA finals!

The title doesn’t tell the whole story of my day at States… But it does tell my feelings in the aftermath. Andy (Hall) Gibb (he of the 21-3-3 hot streak in his last three big sanctioned events) finished in 2nd place at Virginia States with U/G Madness, Sammy G finished in 15th place playing his own variation of the W/R AstroGlide deck, and my partner in crime, Jimmy Bean finished 21st (4-2-1) playing the same deck I did.

How did I finish? Well, my story follows…

A Brief Author’s Note: The normal features present in Mixed kNuts will not be featured in this column… But a fully-endowed Mixed kNuts column will appear late this week or early next week talking about tech, States, and the usual assortment of randomness. I will feature the match coverage I took from the Top 8 in VA at the end of this article though, so there’s still a bonus for those who are interested.

I’d like to state up front that Jimmy Bean worked his ass off for States. While I only made some suggestions and did occasional playtesting with him, the Porn Star went hardcore through all the matchups that we could be facing and tweaked every design that we worked on for maximum efficiency. The deck we played is truly his design, and hopefully you’ll see an article from the man himself discussing the design process and Version 2.0 later this week.

My story starts about four weeks ago when I finally started looking at possible Type 2 archetypes in preparation for States. As I’ve stated before, States is my favorite tournament of the year due to the fact that it features an open environment (there’s no real Pro Tour to set the metagame), a bunch of wild and crazy deck designs from the little kids and the semi-Pro players alike, and it doesn’t force you to play ten rounds of Swiss with 500 of your closest friends like Regionals. In general, it’s good times for all.

That said, the quality of players that show up are generally a bit lower than those who participate in PTQs – but who’s really going to complain about that aspect?

What is lacking from States is any sort of tie to the greater Magic world as a whole. Once again, I’m going to ask Wizards (politely) that they reconsider their current stance and do something to make States/Provincials/Counties relevant to the appropriate Regional or National tournaments. It’s bad enough that we only get two big Type 2 tournaments a year, but having one of those essentially mean nothing is frustrating – and it diminishes the work that thousands of players put into the tournament.

Allow me a second to hop down off my stump here and we’ll continue…

Four weeks ago I was thinking to myself that there has to be a better deck out there than just revamped OBC decks. I hate playing stale decks unless they are particularly clever or interesting, and I damn well wasn’t going to play U/G Madness or Mono-Black Control for States. That meant I needed to find something from OBC that was interesting, or I needed to come up with something new. Unfortunately my schedule became pretty busy at work during that time period and I had a lot less time to work on decks than I would have liked.

(And yes, I’ll admit that some of my testing time got sucked away by a Madden 2003 addiction as well, but who doesn’t have that happen? Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, anyone? You’re just lucky Metroid Prime doesn’t hit until this coming weekend, or States attendance could have been truly dismal.)

Thankfully, I don’t exist in a Magic vacuum, and about three weeks before States Jimmy Bean and I started to seriously discuss viable decks. His first thought was that Sligh was better than anyone else was saying (after banging his head against a wall for two weeks trying to get Aggro-Black to beat U/G and failing), and my first thought (aside from wishing that Green didn’t get Naturalize so I could play Burning Bridge) was that Opposition looked pretty good. It turns out that we were both right, with my supposition supported by the Invitational results and his being proved through extensive playtesting.

After the Invitational results came out, we started testing Wake a lot as part of our gauntlet and it was proving to be very good. In fact, if we had decided to make either Wake deck (Kibler’s is easier to play but doesn’t feature maindeck enchantment removal; Kai’s takes lots of practice) our top possible play deck, we never would have switched into anything else. The deck is that good – and because of this we decided that it should be one of the four major decks that any other deck had to matchup against, with the other three being Sligh, U/G Opposition, and U/G Madness.

Unfortunately, with 1week left to go, we still couldn’t decide what to play. Sligh was expensive and got shut down by Engineered Plagues, it was too late to switch into Wake, and the other two were a toss-up. Any one of the decks was good, but none of them grabbed us by the cajones and said””

Then came the AstroGlide decks and everything changed.

On Wednesday of last week Jimbo started chatting with me about that deck. He felt that it looked interesting, but it was strangely built and would lose to Wake. In spite of what now proves to be a wrong metagame call for the state of Virginia (nobody here played Wake), we felt it was an important matchup that desperately needed to be improved. So, we started brainstorming about Coming-Into-Play creatures that could be used with Astral Slide. The first two that we could think to do stoopid stack tricks with were Mesmeric Fiend and Faceless Butcher – and when you combined those two with Astral Slide, Undead Gladiator, Smother, Chainer’s Edict, and Duress, you had the makings of something sick. Jim worked hard for the 36 hours we had left before we needed solid decklists and came up with the following creation:

The Ralphie Treatment

3 Duress

4 “Mesmeric Fiend

4 Smother

3 Chainer’s Edict

3 Renewed Faith

4 Undead Gladiator

4 Astral Slide

4 Wrath of God

2 Faceless Butcher

2 Guiltfeeder

2 Exalted Angel

10 Swamps

7 Plains

3 Barren Moor

2 Secluded Steppe

2 City of Brass

1 Tainted Field


3 Braids, Cabal Minion

2 Disenchant

2 Sphere of Law

2 Engineered Plague

2 Haunting Echoes

2 Cabal Therapy

1 Ray of Distortion

1 Aven Cloudchaser

I’m not going to do an in-depth review and rationalization of the deck choices right now because I’ll let Jim do that in his own article. What I will tell you is that going into the weekend I felt that our kill conditions were a little weak. We were running three Exalted Angels and almost nothing else at that time, but we had a little space to mess around with things. Initially we were just going to play a copy or two of the biggest, ugliest morph creature we could find and then unmorph it using the Slide… But as we were leaving the store on Thursday night, we heard two casual players talking about Guiltfeeder. Upon hearing this, Jim and I both got big, silly grins on our faces and we knew that we had solved our kill condition problem.

Guiltfeeder is insane in the late game against Wake, as they either have to find a Wrath or it’s”Game Over man, Game Over!” – and he provides an option in order to get around Ensnaring Bridge in Game 1. While he didn’t prove that crucial for me over the course of the day, I still think he makes sense for the metagame we envisioned.

All right, on with the story… I’ll sum up the deck’s strengths and weaknessessessesseses at the end.

Thursday night saw Grif, Gibb, Jim and I at The End doing some final testing and/or figuring out what we wanted to play. Gibb kept doing silly things like suggesting he build and play some sort of U/B beats deck with Wretched Anurids, Finkels, and whatever else popped into his mind, but the rest of us were clearly not going to let him. The kid is the best beatdown player I’ve ever seen, and his only two real choices for a deck (or a deck that we’d let him play anyway) were either U/G or W/G Madness – and he chose the former.

By the way, I’m making a rule here and now that says Gibb can’t play control decks at a Qualifier if he’s going to ride in my car. That should ensure that he stays on the Pro Tour for the foreseeable future anyway, even if it does make me look like a fascist.

Sammy G didn’t have a deck yet, but had decided he wanted to play his own version of W/R. I brought up the AstroGlide deck that had been running around and we took his version, lubed it up, and turned it into something he wanted to play. Grif’s deck ended up featuring four Burning Wishes in the main, along with the standard mix of cycling cards, enchantments, and interesting creatures. He also added two Disenchants main in order to deal with all the filthy enchantments and artifacts that I predicted would be running around. His results on the day were pretty good (5-2), but he said that both of his two losses came as the results of play mistakes, so he wasn’t completely happy with his performance.

9:40 a,n, on Saturday finds us at the Comfort Inn Conference Center in Richmond, VA. I get the cards we need from some guy named Pete and hurry back to finish building my deck and submit my registration. Just as I bring my decklist up, the Head Judge jokingly asks me if I’d believe he just printed the first pairings. I say no, and chat with him for about two minutes, when he informs me that I’ll be in the slot on the pairings sheet that formerly said ***BYE***. I then realize that he wasn’t kidding about printing out the pairings, and turn around to yell at the rest of the 108 participants that everyone else had better turn in their registration right freaking now or else they wouldn’t get in the tournament.

Four people stand up and start scurrying to the front of the room as fast as their little legs would carry them, and I win my karmic nice guy points for the day.

Round 1 – Brian Imsick – Mono-Black Control

I’ve met Brian before in a draft where he decided to cut off my white spells late and wrecked me when we had to play each other. No hard feelings though, right?

Anyway, this round saw me run headlong into a matchup that we hadn’t tested. Not exactly how I like to start my day – particularly when I’m playing against somebody who I know has their head on straight. Nothing to be done about that, though, all I had to do was play well and I’d be fine, right?

Game 1 sees me get some early disruption in the form of Duress and Mesmeric Fiend, but all Brian has are Tainted Pacts and Innocent Bloods, so it did me very little good. He then”Pacts” it in to fetch a Tutor and grab Mirari. Since I didn’t have any artifact removal in the maindeck and he already had a Cabal Coffers on the board, the game was decided as soon as he drew a Corrupt.

Sideboard: Out goes the creature removal except Edicts (I figured he’d have Shades in for Game 2, and I was correct), in came Cabal Therapy, Braids, my artifact removal, and Haunting Echoes.

Game 2 Saw me get a Fiend and a Therapy in my opening hand. I chose to take a gamble that he wouldn’t get a Duress with his first three cards and keep both in my hand until I could cast them on the same turn. It worked, and I got to remove two Corrupts from his hand, along with a Diabolic Tutor. He also had a Mirari and seemed a bit surprised that I didn’t take it, but he must have realized shortly afterwards that I was sitting on a Disenchant because he looked nonplussed when I destroyed it immediately after it hit the board. From there, it was mostly a mop-up job as I delivered some Fiend and Undead Gladiator beatings until a Guiltfeeder popped up to swing for thirteen on consecutive turns.

Game 3 was very tight, as I started out with a Mesmeric Fiend that revealed a hand of Diabolic Tutor, Chainer’s Edict, Mind Sludge, Skeletal Scrying, Mirari, and a Swamp for him. Bleagh! All he needed to do was draw land and I was going to have real problems. I took the Edict with the first Fiend and then with a second one I decided to sit on Diabolic Tutor. The next turn saw me pluck a Cabal Therapy from the top rope and use it to get the Mind Sludge out of his hand, and then I sacrificed the Fiend (one died to a removal spell) to remove his Tutor as well.

Griffin was done with his game, and got a kick out of me saying”I’ll choose Diabolic Tutor” after having sacrificed the Fiend to return it to my opponent’s hand. Brian hadn’t picked the card up yet, so he looked confused when he said”I don’t have a Tutor in my hand,” at which point I pointed to the card on the board and said”You do now.”

Anyway, this game got really tight when Brian cast Haunting Echoes and removed my Gladiators plus some random spam from the game. Gladiators are a huge key for me to beat control decks and also to make certain my creatures don’t die to removal by phasing them out with Astral Slide. Fortunately for me, I also plucked a Haunting Echoes and removed his Shades, Corrupts, Skeletal Scryings, and Edicts from the game. Then I drew into two Exalted Angels and started to go to town. After three turns of Angel beatings, Brian drew Riptide Replicator and decided that creating 10/10 Blue creatures seemed like a spiffy idea – which I could only agree with. Even with the lifegain from my Angel, ten points a turn would be a hasty demise… But at that point, I had two Slides on the board and was about to draw into another one and two cycling cards. The Slide helped me remove his big beasts and protect my Angel from a Mutilate to eventually swing for the win in turn 3 of extra time.

Whew! Like I needed that to be my first match of the day.

Record: 1-0 Games: 2-1

Round 2 – Joe West – Burning Bridge

Joy, match number 2 that we didn’t test for. Joe tells me that he’s the former webmaster for Star City, and that he only plays once a year at States. Sounds good to me.

(Hi, Joe! The Ferrett, now sweating in your place)

He also stated that his deck is pretty much the same deck that he played last year, which leaves me intrigued… Until I realize that he’s playing Burning Bridge. All of a sudden I have an”Oh Sh*t” feeling in my stomach as I try to remember if there’s a way I can win this matchup when I have no maindeck artifact removal.

Game 1 sees me not draw a Guiltfeeder as I bravely try to stay alive by casting Renewed Faith for the full cost, but I eventually fall to the onslaught of burn.

Sideboard: Out Out OUT goes the creature removal and in comes all the artifact removal, the Spheres of Law, and Haunting Echoes.

Game 2 sees me go all the way down to five life while trying to stabilize. I eventually get a Haunting Echoes to remove most of his good stuff and a Sphere of Law on the board. Then I gain a bit of life to put me out of Barbarian Ring range and cycle like a fiend to draw enough artifact removal to get rid of his three Bridges on the table. This takes me about forty cards, but I eventually do get to swing with my two Angels and get the win.

Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t playing fast enough and by the time we started Game 3 there were only 3 minutes left. I got a nuts hand with two Spheres of Law and an Exalted Angel and an Astral Slide, but Joe dropped Bridges on consecutive turns which meant that we drew. If I had been playing faster throughout the match, it would have been an easy win post-sideboard, but that’s not what happened and I ended up with a lousy draw to a nice guy.

Record: 1-0-1 Games:3-2

Round 3 – Hal White – U/B Aggro with Oversold Cemetery

Hal had the good fortune of playing Jimbo in Round 1 and getting a draw. Because of this, he knew exactly what my deck did – while I had no clue what his did. His deck was one of two decks that I saw all day that I found truly impressive (with Robbie Auchter’s Tog build being the other one). The combination of Oversold Cemetery, Nantuko Husk, and Shambling Swarm is a pain to deal with, and is quite clever. Last week when I mentioned that we briefly flirted with playing a deck that ran maindeck Chambers of Manipulation, the outline of the deck looked similar to what Hal played, but we didn’t finish fleshing out the idea enough to take it anywhere. I will be revisiting that deck idea soon though, as I feel it has some real merit, especially after having seen Hal’s deck in action.

Game 1 sees me get wrecked by Oversold Cemetery. There’s nothing I can do to remove it, and my mass removal is slowly overcome by the fact that he gets a kid back each turn not matter how many times I kill them. This translates to a slow but inevitable death for me.

Sideboard: I brought in enchantment removal and Haunting Echoes at the expense of a little creature removal and Faceless Butchers.

Game 2 sees me hanging out at the three-land stop, which is in a pretty bad area of town, when Braids hits the table and completely ruins my day. Some quick beats later see me a little dismayed at my start to the day.

Record: 1-1-1 Games: 3-4

Round 4 – Chris”No H in” Tompkins – Priestly Lovin’.dec

I’ve met Chris a couple of times before – but because I’m horrible with names, I can’t remember his when we sit down. I do know that he’s a pretty nice guy, though, and that he’s also a good Magic player because he made the Top 8 at the OBC PTQ that Gibb won (where I spelled his name wrong the first time).

Game 1 sees Chris have two Rotlung Reanimators on the board in addition to a Benevolent Bodyguard and a Zombie token. I’m taking a few points of damage here, but nothing really to worry about since I had a Wrath in my hand that I cast on the next turn.

What? What’s that, you say? You say that I shouldn’t cast the Wrath of God because the triggers from both of the Rotlungs will go on the stack at the same time they all go to the graveyard and then will give Chris six Zombie tokens? You’re clearly insane, as that can’t be right. Can it?

Judge! Hey, Chris says he gets six! Zombie tokens because the Rotlungs trigger even though they leave play.

Oh, they do?

All right, dammit, I want a second opinion… Head Judge! Now David, splain’ this to me. Does he get zero Zombies or six?

Six, you say? Okay, I think I’ve exhausted my options… I’m officially f*cked.

Thus endeth Game 1.

Sideboard: I took out the Guiltfeeders and put in Haunting Echoes. For those of you counting at home, this is match number 4 that I hadn’t tested against, which wouldn’t be saying much – except Jim hadn’t tested against it either. Glad he put in all that work. This is why I love States… And also why I (sometimes) hate it.

Game 2 can be explained by the phrase written in my notes,”Chris topdecks like a Fiend!!” I had complete control of this game but simply couldn’t kill the bastich for about ten turns after getting his life down to six. He kept sacrificing Clerics to gain life, so while my Exalted Angel kept smacking him around, I couldn’t finish him off. Eventually he got rid of my Angel (I hear Wrath is good at that, provided there isn’t an Astral Slide on the board), started smacking me around until I hit a measly four life… At which point I finally stabilized, he stopped topdecking and eventually died to an Undead Gladiator.

After Game 2’s epic struggle, time was running quite low for Game 3 – which, incidentally, is always a bad thing when you are playing a control deck. I have no quick beatdown unless you want to count Mesmeric Fiends and Undead Gladiators as beatdown, so it looked like draw #2 for the day was imminent. I was in control of the match, but on the 4th turn of extra time, Chris did something absolutely filthy…

He extended his hand to me and said”I concede.”

I’m serious. I didn’t ask him to do it; he simply offered it to me and I accepted. His reasoning was that it would be silly for both of us to be knocked out of contention – but we’re both pretty good players as well, so the concession was unexpected. Not only did he offer an unexpected concession, but he also offered to let me borrow cards in the future if I should need them and was an all-around pleasant gentleman to hang around for the course of the day. Chris Tompkins is a helluva nice guy, folks, so give him a shout if he happens to be at your tournament.

Record: 2-1-1 Games: 5-5

Round 5 – Doug – Wizard Opposition

Game 1 sees me draw the old 13 land, 7 spells routine from the first 20 cards in my deck en route to an Opposition lock. Lovely.

Sideboard: In come the Plagues, Enchantment removal, and Cabal Therapy, out go the Butchers, Duresses, and Guiltfeeders.

Game 2 – Three words: Engineered Plague, Wizard.

Game 3 – A longer game, but decided by the same element as game 2. Have I mentioned how annoying this deck is? It’s really annoying (that’s me, mentioning it), and I didn’t even see a Kai in the deck. Crazy stuff at States I tell ya, crazy stuff.

Match number 5 for which no testing actually took place. This is why it pays to do a thorough analysis of the metagame and have it posted on a major website the day before States, folks. Yesiree, nothing like seeing all that hard work come to fruition.

Fruition, that’s like fruit fusion… Sort of a Fruit Punch or Tutti Frutti like thing. Maybe some Rainbow Sherbet all up in there too.

Record: 3-1-1 Games: 7-6

Round 6 – Larry McKnight – Psychatog

Game 1 goes along quite slowly, but at no point did I feel I wasn’t in control. Wait, check that; flip it around. I was in total control from start to finish.

That’s more like it. People say I’m wordy sometimes, but that’s what writing is about you know. Words. It’s considered good form to use as few as possible to illustrate your point as clearly as possible, though. I just thought you should know that. I’m working on the whole few versus much thing right now in fact, except I’m switching the ‘much’ with the ‘few.’ You can stop reading if you need to, I understand.

Anyway, I was talking about my Psychatog match…

I always had removal in hand for his Togs and kept checking his hand with Duresses and Fiends to make sure that he wasn’t going to Upheaval. Undead Gladiators ate nine removal spells (3 Edict x2 + 3 Smother), and eventually one of them managed to stay on the board long enough to kill Larry. Unfortunately his brother Darryl and his other brother Darryl somehow survived.

Sideboard: Haunting Echoes came in along with Cabal Therapy and Braids. I sided out a couple of Mesmeric Fiends, the Butchers, and a bunch of Wraths.

Game 2 had a similar theme to Game 1 except Larry lived a shorter time (Darryl squared were again spared). I got a pretty decent draw and Larry ended up land short and eventually conceded.

I don’t think Larry’s deck would have faired very well over the course of ten games against the Ralphie Treatment, but it definitely let him down in game 2. He was a nice guy, though, and it was a pleasure to play against him. I seem to be saying that a lot about States – but what can I say? The people were mostly cool.

Record 4-1-1 Games: 9-6

Not a bad record if you discount the fact that I got a freebie win because Chris Tompkins is a hella-nice guy. I also shouldn’t have had my draw in round 2 (flashback: I feel I should have won that if I had played faster), but we’ll chalk that up to a learning experience about how you need to play this deck quickly in order to avoid draws.

Going into Round 7, it looks as if all I have to do is win and I’ll have a good chance of being in the Top 8. I’ve never actually been in this position, so I feel a little tight as I sit down to see if I can make my first Top 8.

Just win, baby! Just win!

Round 7 – Noah Barnett – G/W Beats

Game 1 starts off slowly for Noah as I trade an Undead Gladiator with a Call token, try to Butcher away a Anurid Brushhopper (which sees me net a Wrath and a Glory in the graveyard), and then double-Edict the Hopper and a recently-cast Wild Mongrel. Noah then recovers a bit by casting another Brushhopper after I Fiend away his Nantuko Monastery. Then I hard-cast my Exalted Angel and let the beatings begin.

I Duress away a freshly-drawn Wrath of God, which Noah is quite displeased by, and eventually cast another Exalted Angel with Astral Slide and cycling backup to get around his Glorified-Birds of Paradise. Game 1 to me.

Sideboard: In comes Haunting Echoes, out goes something I have no recollection of.

To start of Game Deux, I Smother a Wild Mongrel, trade a Gladiator for a Call token just like last game, and steal away a Worship with a Mesmeric Fiend. I then let Noah over-extend a bit by casting a Phantom Centaur, a Brushhopper, and a Silklash Spider before I Wrath away his team.

At this point he also had a Glory in the graveyard, so things could have been very problematic for me if I hadn’t been sitting on a Wrath and waiting for him to get greedy. With my next pluck, I draw a Haunting Echoes and choose to get snarky by saying”I think I’ll pay 5 mana to win the game… Haunting Echoes on you.” I essentially got all his beatdown, excluding one lonely Silvos and a couple of Rootwallas, and go on to pummel him with Angel beatings while removing the his Birds of Paradise from the game on the final turn with 2 Astral Slides so that I could get around Worship.

Holy crap! I’m at 5-1-1 with decent tiebreakers. I should make it in…

But then I realize that I got paired down. That could be bad.

Hal, the guy who beat the bejeezus out of me in round 3 and has the same record also got paired down – but his opponent chose to be a moron and get disqualified for collusion when he asked for payment in return for his concession, so his round 7 was a little easier.

Standings are posted at the end of the round and all I see is:

9 Knutson, Ted 16 Numbers Numbers Numbers

Hal got as the 8th seed, which makes sense since he beat me.

Sigh. 9th place it is, and by .2% on the tiebreakers. Places 6-10 were all sitting at 16 points, but I had the second-worst breakers of the lot because I did something silly and got a draw and a loss very early in the tournament. What was I thinking!?! Okay, technically I wouldn’t have even been in position to make the Top 8 without an overly-kind concession – but technicalities don’t count when it comes to Top 8s, and that meant I was right f*cking there.

Things only got worse when Jim, Sammy G, and I looked at the probable pairings I would have had if I had made it in as the 8 seed and saw two G/W decks back to back and then Gibb’s U/G Madness deck in the finals. I’m not saying that those games would be Byes, but they were about the best matches I could have hoped for – particularly since they would have been untimed. Alas, it was not to be, so instead of availing you of my own Top 8 experience at Virginia States (and thereby immortalizing Jimmy Bean’s sick creation), I must simply provide you with match coverage for two of Andy Gibb’s (Hall) matches instead.

First though, let me talk a bit more about the deck. Over the course of the day, there was only one round where I flat out lost, and that was round 3. During my two draw rounds, I was probably going to win if we had been able to finish the games. That meant that the deck took on a variety of different rogue decks and fared pretty well against each (especially when you factor in the draw that Jim got in round 1 against the same U/B deck that I lost to.)

That’s definitely a good start – but what does it do against the best decks?

Well, we tested against the three main aggro decks in U/G, G/W, and Sligh and were able to beat them consistently, though any one of them has the chance to draw their Nuts hand and wreck you. The high amount of creature kill that we run in addition to the tricks that can be played with Astral Slide (and the Slide’s ability to render tokens useless) mean that Creature-based aggro decks that don’t run Oversold Cemetery are a good matchup.

Control decks, on the other hand, are the main reason why we switched the color scheme from W/R to W/B, as we didn’t like having what looked to be an auto-loss versus the Wake decks (particularly Cunning Wake, which can be a nightmare). The matchup versus the Wake twins is still very difficult because the deck’s are so good, but adding Black disruption and Unbdead Gladiator has improved the results dramatically from what Astroglide was getting.

I played a mono-black deck on the day piloted by a relatively decent player, and I can tell you that that matchup was also difficult – but by making sure that Mirari doesn’t stay on the board, and then getting down a Slide and a kid with protection, you should be able to win. Haunting Echoes in Game 2 can be a huge deal for either player, so do try to make sure your Echoes is the one that haunts them the most.

Thankfully, I had no problems with the Tog deck I faced Saturday, but I can see where that might not be the case down the road. My opinion is that right now, Tog is playing such a light creature count and relying on an easily removable win condition that you shouldn’t have a problem with it. With Undead Gladiators leading the way and a large amount of hand disruption plus Braids out of the Board, the Tog player will have a very difficult matchup against this deck.

As for the mirror match or the AstroGlide matchup, it may be the most painful experience I’ve ever been through in testing. In my opinion,”the Ralphie Treatment” is a better deck than Glide – but that doesn’t mean that it handles this matchup with grace and ease. Game 1 is typically a tossup and comes down to who can keep their enchantments on the board, while Game 2 is simplified a bit through the use of Sphere of Law and Haunting Echoes. Cleansing Meditation is a piece of tech that Sammy G thought up as a Burning Wish target for his deck, and that card can cause all sorts of problems because they have access to it right from the start. The bottom line here is that I’d rather somebody stick hot pokers under my toes and play paddywhack with my paddywhacker than have to face this matchup all day long. Then again, some of you may like those sorts of things (and there’s nothing wrong with that I guess), so maybe you’ll have fun playing against AstroGlide as well.

Both Jim and I performed reasonably well on the day, but we realized that there’s still a lot of room to tune the deck. This is not the best version you will see of an Astral Slide deck in these colors or even perhaps the best colors to run with Astral Slide, but they did prove effective against both beatdown and control decks, and that was the point. Expect to see more about our (mostly Jim’s) version sometime soon, as we continue to tweak things in order to transform this deck from a Big Block of power to a finely tuned Racing Machine.

Alright, on to the match coverage. Forgive me if it’s weak, as I’ve never tried this before…

The Quarterfinals. Seed #2 Robbie Auchter playing Futuretog vs. Seed #7 Andy Hall (Gibb) playing U/G Madness.

Game 1 one saw Andy play and start out with a Wild Mongrel on turn 2 while Robbie laid some land. Gibb attacked with his Mongrel on the next turn taking Robbie to eighteen and then cast a Merfolk Looter, which met Memory Lapse. On Robbie’s turn, he Predicted away Gibb’s Looter in order to set up his hand a little better by drawing two cards.

Turn 3 saw Gibb discard an Arrogant Wurm to his Mongrel and attack, taking Robbie to fifteen. On his turn, Robbie laid a Tog down on the table to hopefully eat one of Gibb’s blockers. Andy had an answer on the next turn though and discarded Wonder to el mongrel, and whacked Robbie for seven more points, reducing his life total to 8. He followed up the attack by dropping another Mongrel, and Robbie quickly scooped up his cards and moved on to Game 2.

Gibb was pretty quiet during the match, at least partly because he was sick as a dog and doing his best to keep breathing. Robbie, on the other hand, was almost chatty and didn’t seem discouraged by the loss in Game 1.

Robbie chose to play in game 2 and started out with a Polluted Delta. Gibb cast a Merfolk Looter on his turn 2, which again got Lapsed and Predicted away. Gibb’s second Looter met a subsequent Smother, but things didn’t look so bad from his side of the table since Robbie missed a land drop on Turn 4. They played Draw-Go for a few turns until each player started drawing into spells they could cast with the help of some Deep Analysis.

Robbie tapped out to drop a Future Sight on his turn, revealing a second Future Sight as his top card. Gibb flashed back his Deep Analysis and then cast a Wild Mongrel. Robbie drew his Future Sight and an Upheaval was revealed as the top card, removing any question of whether Robbie had that part of the combo. He then attempted to Smother the Mongrel during his main-phase, but the Gibb pulled a Mr. Spock and decided that it wouldn’t be Logical to allow that to happen, and cast his counter which met no resistance from Robbie. On Gibb’s turn the Mongrel finally went to work, hitting Robbie for three as Gibb chose to discard a Deep Analysis and flash it back, which Robbie countered. Gibb then dropped a second Mongrel and said he was done.

Robbie drew the Upheaval, revealing another Counterspell, and then flashed back the Deep Analysis he had in the graveyard, taking him to ten life. He then played and sacrificed a Polluted Delta, and chose to make a huge mistake by playing a Psychatog and saying”go.” On his own turn, Andy discarded Wonder and chose to attack with both Mongrels while having 6 cards in hand. Robbie cast Aether Burst (with one already in the graveyard) on both flying dogs – but because he had played the Tog on his turn, he didn’t have enough mana left to counter anything when Gibb chose to Circular Logic the Aether Burst and pitch his hand for the win.

I talked to Robbie afterwards and he said that he felt he clearly screwed up that game and should be marked down as”a sucky player.” Thus it was spoken, thus it hath been written.

Result: Gibb 2- Auchter 0

I’m going to skip ahead to the finals here, even though the Semi-Final match between Gibb and David Bass was an excellent Blue/Green mirror match that Gibb won in 2 close games. Why am I going to do that? Well, because I’m lazy and I’m already at the ten page mark, that’s why. Oh yeah, and don’t forget”because I can” as well, because that’s just as good a reason as the other two.

VA States Final match: Matthew Mann playing G/W Beats vs. Andy Gibb (Hall) playing U/G Madness

Game 1 starts with Matt choosing to play and Gibb choosing to paris. His second hand looked pretty good, though, provided he could draw an Island or two, so he kept it. Gibb played a turn 2 Mongrel while Matt followed that up by playing a turn 3 Anurid Brushhopper. Gibb chose to attack into the ‘hopper, and both players saved their creatures with Matt discarding a Glory and a land, and Andy discarding a Roar of the Wurm and a Rootwalla. Then the two beatdown decks went into Draw-Go mode for three turns each as they tried to improve their hands for the inevitable confrontation (actually, Gibb was mostly just trying to draw an Island, as any source of Blue at this point would give him an excellent chance of winning the game).

Matt eventually played a Bird of Paradise, while Andy laid a second Wild Mongrel and considered attacking. He eventually decided not to, cocked his head to the side, and said”You have a Giant Growth in your hand.” Matt laughed and said”You sonnuvabitch – that’s the first time I’ve heard that all day.”

Matt continued to play out the cards he drew as Gibb just tried to keep the board stable while still waiting to draw an Island. He finally found one when he was sitting at ten life, but Matt was able to give his creatures Pro-Green and attack for the win before the Island got much use.

Games: Matt 1- Andy 0

During the sideboard period, Gibb was rather annoyed by his color screw and said something like,”Seven Blue cards; that sucked” – to which I replied,”Ya know Gibb. I don’t think it was those Blue cards that sucked so badly so much as your utter lack of an Island,” which actually received a few laughs from the spectators.

That’s what they take me along for on these trips, you know – to provide obvious commentary and snide remarks during those moments where you can cut the tension with a knife. Oh yeah, and because I drive…

Somebody asked Matt about Giant Growth before Game 2 and he had this quote,”Ya know, people kept telling me that I’d never win with Giant Growth. ‘You can’t play that card’ they said. ‘Giant Growth is crap.’ ‘Might of Oaks is so much better.’ Okay, nobody said that last one, but the definitely didn’t think I could do very well playing Giant Growth.” It turns out that he used that card to foul up combat math all day long.

Gibb chose to play for Game 2 and started off by casting a Careful Study, discarding a Deep Analysis and a Forest. Matt dropped a Basking Rootwalla on his turn, and Gibb chose to play a Merfolk Looter. The Rootwalla attacked, as Matt started to take control of the board by dropping a Wild Mongrel to keep his lizard company. Gibb flashed back a Deep Analysis and then decided to loot during his main phase, throwing a Roar of the Wurm into the graveyard while still not finding any kids that could block. Matt attacked with the Rootwalla and Mongrel to bring Gibb down to thirteen and then cast a Brushopper to continue the beatings. Gibb looted on his turn again, discarding a Wonder and flashing back a Roar to try and mount some defense. Matt had the answer though, as he discarded Glory into his own graveyard and gave his kids Pro-Green before attacking, thus bringing Gibb down to six.

On Gibb’s turn, he took a long look at the board before deciding what he wanted to do. Looking at Matt’s Brushhopper, Rootwalla, and Wild Mongrel compared to his Roar and Merfolk Looter, he was trying to figure out a way to not only live through the next turn, but to setup the board for an eventual win on his part. He cast a Careful Study first, drawing a Mongrel and a second Krosan Reclamation, while discarding two Circular Logics. He then cast a Wild Mongrel, and left open enough mana to Reclaim the Glory in Matt’s graveyard…

Then he extended his hand and chose to concede to Matt, because he couldn’t see any way to win. Upon seeing him do this, Jimbo and I almost killed him because he could have lived at least one more turn if Matt didn’t have a second Glory, but Matt smiled slyly as he showed us both Glory #2 and that was that.

After the tournament we made now traditional trip to O’Charley’s to partake of amazing rolls and huge Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches. While there, Gibb got off the line of the day as somehow”It’s a Wonderful Life” was brought up during conversation and he said,”It’s a Wonderful Life… That’s the movie where they go to the concentration camp, right?”

Herr Beano strikes again!

So in the end it was a good day, but the more I reflect on it, the more frustrated I am that I didn’t make the Top 8. I may not be”Slaughtered, Gutted, and Heartbroken” (free rare to the first person to tell me what band sang that song), but I was so close to fame, fortune, and chicks galore that I have to be disappointed I didn’t make it all the way there. Oh well; I’ll just have to console myself with the fact that I helped (a little anyway) make one of the cooler decks to come out of this year’s States and had a great time doing it.

That’s all for now. Be sure to check out Jimmy Bean’s article for a Ruben-esque breakdown of The Ralphie Treatment, and tune in next time for a regular Mixed kNuts article where I go to town on two potential decks that I feel could be spiffy (read: broken), bitch about the midterm election results, finally start discussing a bit of college football, and drop an infinitely large Nantuko Husk combo on your nugget (courtesy of Sammy G).

Peace out,

The Holy Kanoot

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