When I left off last week, I had just won the first two rounds of the Vintage Prelim tournament. The winner of the tournament is awarded two round byes in the Vintage Championship.
Round 3: Chris Boomer, playing Dredge
This was a featured match covered by the MTG.com blog on Friday.
I shuffled up a hand that hand:
Force of Will
Force of Will
Fact or Fiction
Chris opens the game with a pre-game Leyline of the Void. There is only one major archetype I’m aware of that can make that play: Ichorid. I brace myself for a Bazaar, but he simply said â€˜Go.’
I play Land, Mox, Ritual, Tinker and summon up a Darksteel Colossus. The crowd in the feature match area is gasping with excitement at an 11/11 indestructible versus a vacant board. On the other hand, my teammate Brian DeMars is mocking the situation.
My opponent never plays a spell, and two swings from the Iron Giant ends the game.
But what the heck is Chris playing? I’d put him on Ichorid, but I can’t be sure.
The match coverage writer makes a big deal out of the fact that Chris said something along the lines of if only he had one more turn… I think the coverage writer interpreted that statement as a clever bit of Red Herring, designed to make me second guess my opponent. But in retrospect, it makes sense. My opponent wanted to discard a dredger on his discard step. But he needed two turns to have an overfull hand to do it.
I decided that he was probably Ichorid, but I wasn’t certain of it. I initially brought in the full gamut of Yixlid Jailers and Tormod’s Crypts, but then decided that if he wasn’t playing Ichorid, then I would have monumental dead space.
I decided to split the difference. I just brought in two Tormod’s Crypts, as insurance.
My opening hand was incredibly explosive (Black Lotus, Mox, Mana Crypt, and Yawgmoth’s Bargain), but vulnerable to Chalice.
Chris opened with Chalice of the Void and Bazaar of Baghdad, and I knew I was in trouble.
I topdecked a land and cast Duress, in response Chris activated Bazaar discarding Narcomoebas and junk. Chris just revealed a Dryad Arbor. The upside to this predicament was that Chris had no dredgers!
We played draw, go for a few turns until I could find some mana to hard cast Memory Jar with Rituals. I played my Black Lotus, Mana Crypt and Mox into his Chalice just to get them into my graveyard.
Finally, Chris found dredgers and began dredging. He was able to Therapy the Bargain out of my hand and strip all of the other contents. However, it was too late.
I untapped, activated Jar, and won the game.
As recounted in the match coverage:
I drew Vampiric Tutor, Dark Ritual, Tendrils of Agony, Mana Vault, Tormod’s Crypt, Duress and Polluted Delta.
And so it goes: still in upkeep, Vampiric Tutor (for Yawgmoth’s Will), Draw, Dark Ritual, Mana Vault, Yawgmoth’s Will, Dark Ritual (from ‘yard), Dark Ritual (from ‘yard), Crypt , Lotus, Mox, Mox (all from ‘yard — all wisely played and countered a turn earlier), Duress, Tendrils of Agony, initiate scoop phase.
Round 4: Jim Gaffney, Teammate playing Dredge
My opening hand was:
Jim mulliganed to 4. With each mulligan, my hope grew greater. But it was illusory.
On turn 1 Jim played Chalice of the Void and Bazaar.
Ichorid is such a tease. I’ve lost to Ichorid, even after it mulliganed to two before.
Obviously, I have a turn 1 victory, or very nearly one here. At a minimum, I can find Time Walk and Tinker up Darksteel Colossus all on turn 1. Unfortunately, Jim’s Chalice shuts me out.
I Grim Tutor for Chain of Vapor, on the gambit that I may draw a Blue mana source. Alas, I do not. I draw Mana Crypt, and junk, and then Jim kills me on the fourth turn.
I sideboard in my 4 Yixlid Jailers and 2 Tormod’s Crypts for 4 Force of Will, a land, and Rebuild.
My opening hand is:
I have turn 1 Tinker for Colossus. From there I win the game.
I sideboard in my Forces for Duress.
My opening hand:
Force of Will
I Force his turn 1 Chalice, but I Brainstorm into:
Jim plays City of Brass, Cabal Therapy.
I respond with Mystical Tutor for Demonic Tutor. I don’t remember what he named with Therapy, but it’s a whiff. I do remember thinking that it was a smart Therapy.
I untap and Demonic Tutor for Tormod’s Crypt, which I play. From here, Jim is quite careful.
He reaches a critical mass where I’m forced to Tormod’s Crypt him.
Immediately thereafter, he begins to Dredge again. He reveals a Darkblast, but immediately scoops it into his hand with the second dredge. Although he discards it again, he picks it back up in his draw step. He actually does this several turns in a row. He Therapies my Scroll and I draw dead from here on out. I draw:
Darksteel Colossus, Force of Will, and then when it is too late, I draw Vampiric Tutor.
My Tormod’s Crypt bought me time, but I couldn’t stop Darkblast. In fact, a Jailer can’t stop it because it was never in a graveyard during my turn.
In retrospect, I should have mulliganed that hand. It is potentially useful since I have a Brainstorm and plenty of mana, but it has no immediate, Ichorid-specific disruption in it, not does it have any tutors. It’s too risky to keep, even seeing four new cards. However, with a different board plan, it may have been effective. After this match, I decide that my anti-Ichorid configuration is insufficient, and resolve to up the ante for the Vintage Champs.
After defeating me, Jim would go onto win this tournament.
One of the most impressive things that Jim did in the second to last round of the swiss, in his matchup against Chris Nighbor, was to blind call Mind’s Desire with Cabal Therapy. Although Chris believes that Jim may have seen his hand, I was watching the match and know that Jim merely attentive to the situation.
Jim is an impressive Ichorid pilot. A lot of Vintage players don’t like Ichorid. It’s a deck without many advocates. But do not assume that just because there are a lot of mechanical decisions that the deck does not take a lot of skill to pilot to a high finish. If an Ichorid player places highly, they are as deserving of that accomplishment as anyone else. Ichorid, as with every other Vintage deck, separates the wheat from the chaff. Jim’s high level, one might say â€˜next level’ play is certainly the primary factor to his victory. His incredibly tight, and highly interactive ballet, against me in game 3 won him that game. Unfortunately for Vintage decks, decks without advocates tend not to survive as long as those with advocates. And those who do not like or appreciate the presence of Ichorid in Vintage will never understand the truth about the skill required to place well with Ichorid. The fact that there are many mechanical decisions does not mean that the relevant decisions are mechanical. They are not.
Round 5: Jerry Yang, Teammate, Mirror Match
Jerry lost in round three to Jim.
I have the nuts:
Force of Will
For reasons inexplicable, Jerry played turn 1 Duress, but took my Duress rather than Grim Tutor.
This allows me to play turn 1 Dark Ritual, Black Lotus, Grim Tutor, Necropotence, from which I win on turn 2.
My opening hand is risky:
Jerry opens with turn 1 Duress, again, and I think I’m sunk. He takes my Lotus Petal.
I can’t help but laugh when I draw Mox Sapphire. I play it and cast Brainstorm into: Mox Jet, Underground Sea, and Polluted Delta. I put back the Sea and the Scroll and play Delta into Sea, Mox, Time Walk.
I untap and cast Ritual, Ritual, Yawgmoth’s Will, Ritual, Ritual, Lotus Petal, and my Brainstorm carries me to victory, presumably with Demonic Tutor and some other combination of cards.
Round 6: Mike, playing Landstill
My opponent is part of the Canadian contingent, but he’s playing Landstill. Unlike traditional Vintage Landstill, which is either UR or UW, my opponent is playing it almost Mono-Blue with Mutavault, and a splash of Black.
Mike won the die roll.
And I didn’t notate my last card, but it wasn’t Blue.
I wasn’t unhappy with this hand, except that I wished it had another Blue spell.
That yearning grew stronger with the following sequence of plays.
My opponent played Black Lotus, to which I could only exhale. He sacrificed the Black Lotus for UUU and cast Ancestral Recall. I wanted to scream that I was holding Misdirection, but resisted the urge. He played Mutavault, sinking the remaining Lotus mana into it, and passed the turn.
I failed to draw a Blue spell and decided that my best shot at winning would be to try to go off now. If I waited, he could drop a Standstill and get even closer to seeing a Force of Will. I played the Lotus, Dark Ritual, etc, and he ended up countering whatever it was that I found with Grim Tutor, probably Necropotence.
I sideboarded in Dark Confidants and Phyrexian Negators.
My opening hand was:
Chain of Vapor
Two cards I don’t remember
I began with Polluted Delta.
I was taken aback when my opponent again opened with Black Lotus. He played a Mishra’s Factory and the broke the Lotus to play Standstill. Not quite Ancestral Recall here, but it should have the same effect.
I decided to try and use this play to my advantage.
I played Polluted Delta, go.
Mike played Faerie Conclave.
I dropped Underground Sea, and passed.
My opponent missed his land drop and just attacked me for two damage.
I drew and played Polluted Delta. Having made four successive land drops, I decided it was time to do something before he drew a second Blue source.
I played Ponder, breaking his Standstill. I cast Mana Vault and played Tinker.
At this point my opponent has 10 cards in hand and Luis Scott-Vargas walks up behind me to watch the game.
I am tempted to get Darksteel Colossus, but I just have the feeling that it won’t do very much. He did have an Echoing Truth in hand.
I break the Jar immediately, with a colorless mana floating and see:
Cabal Ritual (without threshold)
I have essentially two options:
1) I can go for Necropotence. If he has a Force of Will, I’m spent and will likely lose in short order. However, if he doesn’t have a Force of Will, I’m likely to just crush him.
2) I can play the combination of Phyrexian Negator and Dark Confidant. If he counters either one, at least I have some gas. If he doesn’t counter either, I can probably deal a lot of damage very quickly.
I play Cabal Ritual, it resolves.
I hesitate, but decide to go for the man-plan. I play the two moxen. I play Dark Confidant. It resolves. I play Phyrexian Negator. It resolves. I pass the turn.
Mike discards a hand full of mana.
He plays Mox Sapphire, another Mishra’s Factory, and casts Null Rod. He attacks me with a Factory, and I go to 16 life.
My Bob flips over Force of Will, sending me to 11. I attack with Negator and Mike goes to 15 life. I draw another Bob and play it.
Mike plays draw, go.
One of my Bobs flips over Hurkyl’s Recall, sending me to 9. I draw Vampiric Tutor on the turn. I attack him with Negator and both Bobs, and he goes to 6 life.
I have him dead on board, next turn. I just need to survive that long.
Mike untaps and attacks me with a Factory, sending me to 7. He says: “Well, let’s see what you flip with Bobs. If you got me, you got me.” However, I don’t really want to risk losing to my Dark Confidants. If I should reveal a Yawgmoth’s Bargain, Mind’s Desire, or even another pitch counterspell and a two casting cost spell, I’ll lose the game.
In his endstep, I start by playing Hurkyl’s Recall on him, noting that it will bounce his Null Rod, his Mox, and a Factory. He plays Force of Will, going to 5 life. I play Misdirection, pitching a Force of Will. He has another Misdirection, which he uses to counter my Misdirection.
At this point, I think the path is clear. I play Chain of Vapor targeting my own Bob. My intention is to bounce a Bob, sacrifice a land, and bounce his Null Rod. That way I can let my remaining Bob reveal something, then kill him. Being at seven life, there is no way I can lose to one Bob.
Unfortunately, despite playing two pitch spells this turn, he has another Misdirection for my Chain of Vapor, and retargets my Phyrexian Negator. I consider my options. My Negator is going to get bounced. I won’t be able to kill him next turn with men, which means I’ll have to survive two turns with two Bobs on the table; possible, but unlikely. I sacrifice a land and copy the Chain to bounce a Bob and another to bounce his Null Rod.
I untap and my Bob reveals: Yawgmoth’s Bargain. The worst possible card it could reveal. I go from 7 to 1 life. I am toast. I can’t even play this stupid Vampiric Tutor.
I attack with a Dark Confidant, sending him to 3. Then I replay the Phyrexian Negator and Dark Confidant and pass the turn.
Unfortunately, all Mike has to do is untap and attack me with Faerie Conclave “For The Win,” which is exactly what he does.
After the match, I asked Luis Scott-Vargas, who had been watching the match, what he thought… and he said that he thought I was going to Vampiric Tutor for Brainstorm. Wow…
What he meant is that I could have the first Bob reveal Brainstorm and then Brainstorm a cheap card to the top of my library to survive the last Bob flip. I didn’t even think of that play.
In any case, I think it was rather unlikely to expect an opponent to be able to play three pitch counterspells in a single turn there. What’s more, I still would have won had I not flipped Bargain, Desire, or a 5cc spell. After he Forced my Hurkyl’s and Misdirected my Misdirection, I expected him to be out of gas. I thought my Chain would easily get through. On the other hand, since I had him dead on board, the Vamp for Brainstorm play makes the absolute most sense than trying to bounce Null Rod, and possibly and set up a “win-more” Yawgmoth’s Will with Vamp Tutor.
That is two match losses, and there is no way I can win this tournament.
However, my Eternal rating, nearly worthless though it may be (ranked 12th in the world at the time thanks to Vintage Champs last year and Grand Prix: Columbus (I mean, Flash)), I thought it might be a good idea to recoup some ratings points.
Round 7: Randall playing Stax
I was so pleased to win a die roll again. I had forgotten the experience.
I mulliganed into this:
I played turn 1 Mox Sapphire and cast Ancestral Recall, drawing an Underground Sea, from which I played: Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Yawgmoth’s Bargain.
One would think that from this position it would be an easy victory. I refilled my hand to seven and passed the turn.
Randall played turn 1 Mishra’s Workshop, Sphere of Resistance. I started drawing cards, trying to find a Force of Will, 15 life… 10 life… 7 life.. To no avail.
Finally, with my hand at 12 cards and with me at 5 life, I decided to stop. Sphere resolved. I had Hurkyl’s Recall in hand (My decklist from the previous article was in error, I had maindeck Hurkyl’s, not Rebuild), I just needed to play some Moxen and Hurkyl’s him on my next turn.
I played Island, Mox, Mox, discarded a few cards and passed the turn.
Unfortunately, Randall played land, Tangle Wire! This messed me up pretty badly.
I untapped and put Tangle Wire on the stack. I considered just playing Rebuild, but it wouldn’t have gotten me anywhere. I needed my lands to start to go off. I didn’t have Dark Ritual into anything I could win with. My hand was full of Blue cards. I decided to just keep playing lands to beat his Wire. I played another basic land and passed the turn.
Randall tapped his Wire, his Sphere, and a land. Randall tapped his Shop and a new land to play another Tangle Wire. Ugh.
I untapped my lands, contemplated my options, but resolved to persevere. I drew down to two life and passed the turn.
Randall was not finished with me. He tapped down five permanents and then played another Sphere. Finally, he played Mishra’s Factory.
I could feel the game slipping away. This would be the first time ever that I lost after resolving turn 1 Yawgmoth’s Bargain.
I untapped and decided I had to try to go for it. I played Hurkyl’s Recall on my upkeep, tapping the rest of my permanents.
I drew down to one life and stared and my hand.
Nothing. I found Yawgmoth’s Will, but all my Black mana was on the table tapped. After I resolved Hurkyl’s, I had to tap down the rest of my permanents.
The only mana I had was an Island and a Mana Crypt. I couldn’t draw a Black Lotus, a Lotus Petal, or a Mox Jet to save my life. I was starring at my hand of about 9 cards for what must have been a full minute. It was full of Blue spells.
Then, just as I was about to scoop, I saw the out. Island, Mana Crypt, Tinker.
I could Tinker for Darksteel Colossus, but that wouldn’t save me. If I were to swing on him, he would just attack back and kill me.
I Tinkered for Black Lotus to get the needed Black mana, cast Rituals, generating BBBBBBBBBBBBB mana, and then Yawgmoth’s Will. I replayed the Black Lotus, sacrificed it for UUU. I played Mystical Tutor for Tendrils and Pondered into it for the win.
Whew! What a close game.
I sideboarded in Dark Confidants, a Bayou, and a Hurkyl’s Recall.
My hand was slow, but good.
Randall opened with the weak play of Ancient Tomb, Chalice of the Void at 1. I had few cards in hand that cost 1. I wasn’t even remotely concerned.
I opened with:
Mox Sapphire, Lotus Petal, Underground Sea, Dark Confidant.
By that point Randall had realized his mistake and played Chalice on zero. He played a Crystal Vein. He tapped Ancient Tomb and played Null Rod.
I revealed Cabal Ritual with Dark Confidant, because I was sent to 18 life. I played a Fetchland and attacked him to 14 life.
Randall topdecked a City of Traitors and played Chalice of the Void at 2. I didn’t really care. At this point, I could Force of Will, but I don’t think Chalice 2 was very relevant here.
I tried to play Ponder, but an observer caught me before the damage was done, and both Randall and I received a Warning. I must have been tired or otherwise unfocused, as I usually don’t make that many play/game errors in such a short span of time.
I play another land and attack Randall to 10.
Randall tried to play Smokestack. This was a very interesting play. I had more permanents on the table. He had fewer permanents, and cards like Crystal Vein, City of Traitors, and Chalices. He had little he could sacrifice, I had plenty to sacrifice.
Specifically, he had: Ancient Tomb, Crystal Vein, City of Traitors, Chalice at 0, Chalice at 1, Chalice at 2, Null Rod.
I had: Mox Sapphire, Underground Sea, Swamp, Island, and Dark Confidant.
Nonetheless, Smokestack could ramp quickly, Randall could continue to make land drops and play permanents, and things could spiral out of my control. I decided it was too threatening, so I Forced it.
Bob revealed Fact or Fiction! This sent me from 15 to 11 life.
I attacked Randall to 6 life.
I played a fourth land, tapped all of my lands and cast Fact or Fiction. The cards I revealed were mostly irrelevant since I could play none of them. At this point, only the mana mattered.
Randall played Tolarian Academy, and did the unthinkable: Chalice of the Void at 3.
I have never seen a full set of Chalices on one side of a Vintage table before. Now I have.
I had spent my Force, and now when I needed it most, I was lacking. I needed three more swings with Confidant to seal the deal, and I needed Randall to have no answer.
I attacked him with Dark Confidant, and sent him to 4.
Randall played Mishra’s Factory.
There went my last path to victory…or so it would seem.
Although I can’t Tinker, Grim Tutor, or Yawgmoth’s Will, I could still draw the Tendrils of Agony. If I do, it would be a simple thing to play it and win at this point.
I can no longer attack with Confidant, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still win.
Unfortunately, that was a pipe dream. My Confidant has already done me quite a bit of damage, and a revealed Force of Will sends me to 4, with more damage coming thereafter. Another Factory joins the board and soon I’m dead.
Although it’s far from a given, I’m confident that I could have won the game had I let Smokestack resolve. I had all of the relevant advantages at that point in the game.
Game 3 was a blow out. I mulliganed twice into a one land hand and I never played a spell the entire game.
Thus ended my Vintage Preliminary tournament, the barely-above average 4-3.
Here is what I learned:
1) The number one most important lesson of the tournament is that my anti-Ichorid package was insufficient. Darkblast is the trump for Yixlid Jailer, and it is recurring, so multiple Jailers can’t defeat it. To beat Ichorid, you need a well-rounded mix of threats. And just running six anti-Ichorid cards when Brainstorm is no longer around is probably not enough for you to naturally draw them with a high enough frequency.
After some discussion with Tommy Kolowith and others, I settled on this package:
1 Leyline of the Void
2 Tormod’s Crypts
3 Yixlid Jailers
This configuration seemed to have much promise, as it is hard to fight. People have asked me about the “misers” Leyline. My explanation is that having a singleton Leyline can be quite powerful if I open with it, but unlike having multiple Leylines, it’s not going to get in my way later in the game. Also, I can always hard cast it with Dark Rituals.
2) Rebuild maindeck is just better than Hurkyl’s Recall. It cycles in a pinch, but more importantly, it’s just a superior card. I thought that Hurkyl’s would be better since it’s cheaper, but the bonus of being able to bounce your own artifacts and of not being targeted is worth it, in my estimation, as game 1 against Randall attests.
3) I missed Mind’s Desire. Mind’s Desire is a tremendous out against many decks. Even without Academy, it is still quite castable. In fact, if I had Mind’s Desire over Fact or Fiction against Randall in game 2, I think I win that game. I got 6 mana down against him, I just couldn’t play anything. I could have built up an irrelevant storm count and then Desired. The Desire would have dug me closer to finding the Tendrils I needed to seal the deal.
4) I missed the Goyfs. Dark Confidant didn’t do me a lot of favors. Sure, I could have used him more effectively, but he can’t get the job done by himself, unlike Goyf.
I also felt like Bob was just wasting time, rather than buying it. For example, in the Slaver match in round one and in the Stax match, he really didn’t end up doing much. He killed me in the Landstill match and in the Stax match.
Tommy came to the same conclusion and abandoned the man-plan altogether, running no Negators or Bobs (aside from THE man plan, DSC, which he finally included in his board).
But how do I incorporate Goyfs without sacrificing the solidity and stability of my mana base? How do I include all of those anti-Ichorid cards without sacrificing other matchups?
That night I met up with Tommy and others in our hotel room. We laid out the decklist and discussed our options. We didn’t settle on a particular configuration, but our discussion was helpful.
That morning, I woke up, my mind clear, and spread apart my decklist. I decided that the deck was incredibly solid as it was. The best game plan was not to transform into a man-plan, post-board, but to use the man-plan as a way to win against extremely hateful matchups like Stax. Against other decks, like Control Slaver, your best plan actually would be to just bounce their Spheres, forced through by your high level of disruption, and win the game as you normally would.
But how to fit Goyfs? I didn’t want to cut a basic land. I didn’t really want to cut a fetchland, since those were functionally basics. That left an Underground Sea. I cut the third Underground Sea for a maindeck Bayou. I then put another Bayou into the sideboard.
Resolved, my final deck and sideboard:
- 1 Tendrils of Agony
- 1 Brainstorm
- 2 Cabal Ritual
- 1 Yawgmoth's Bargain
- 1 Vampiric Tutor
- 1 Mystical Tutor
- 1 Yawgmoth's Will
- 4 Duress
- 4 Force of Will
- 1 Necropotence
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 1 Time Walk
- 4 Dark Ritual
- 1 Ancestral Recall
- 1 Imperial Seal
- 2 Grim Tutor
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Timetwister
- 1 Gifts Ungiven
- 1 Mind's Desire
- 1 Merchant Scroll
- 1 Memory Jar
- 1 Chain of Vapor
- 1 Misdirection
- 1 Tinker
- 1 Rebuild
- 1 Black Lotus
- 1 Lotus Petal
- 1 Mox Emerald
- 1 Mox Jet
- 1 Mox Pearl
- 1 Mox Ruby
- 1 Mox Sapphire
- 1 Ponder
Even now, I wouldn’t change a single thing. This sideboard is adequately forward oriented, ready for Fish or Workshop or whatever metagame shifts may be in store. If the metagame moves more towards combo, I would consider adding a couple of Thoughtseizes in the sideboard, as additional Duress effect, but I don’t think I’d go the triple Mind Twist route that Tommy took. Mind Twist is powerful, but Vintage decks are very capable of topdecking their way out of a dire situation. And hitting a lot of cards isn’t that important, since it’s only a few cards in most decks that matter. The relative proportion of relevant to irrelevant cards is high for a deck like TPS. I prefer the pinpoint precision of Thoughtseize.
From here, you will see large numbers of Vintage players advancing the claim that their deck in their testing crushes TPS. If you play this thing, you will discover the error of those claims.
The 2008 Vintage Championship, August 2, 2008
Round 1: Painter Combo
Despite my copious amounts of post-match notes, I have little recollection of this round or my fourth round. I will do my best to recount.
I won the die roll and elected to play.
My opening hand was:
Force of Will
When you are going to see at least four new cards with hand like this, it seems pretty good. In fact, I can play almost any threat immediately or near immediately.
I played: Mox Sapphire, Mana Crypt, Time Walk
Do you agree with that? I think some players may have been inclined to Ponder first. I prefer to dig as deeply as possible before playing spells like Ponder and Brainstorm. I untapped and Pondered.
I wish I could say what happened next, except I honestly don’t recall. I do believe that the game was over very quickly after that.
I opened with:
Force of Will
This hand is very interesting. It lacks the Blue mana I need to play Ancestral, but the presence of the Ritual and Grim Tutor means that I can find Black Lotus ASAP.
I believe my opponent opened with land, go, or land, Mox, go.
I drew a Blue mana source on my first turn. Rather than play Sol Ring, I decided to play Ancestral on his upkeep. He tried to Force of Will it, but I pitched Mind’s Desire to play my own Force of Will.
On his second turn, he played land, Painter’s Servant, I believe.
I Duressed his hand and saw Extirpate and another Servant.
My notes indicate that I tapped for the following mana:
I used B2U to play Gifts Ungiven for: Black Lotus, Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, and Mana Crypt.
From here, I had the 7 mana needed to Grim Tutor for Yawgmoth’s Will to win the game.
Round 2: Faeries/Rogues
This match was played out in the feature match area.
I won the die roll and elected to play first.
Force of Will
I considered the hand’s merits. Although I felt that it was risky, it was no more risky than an unknown hand of six.
I played turn 1 Duress, seeing:
Keep in mind that I had to read two of these cards. Although I really wanted to take the Black Lotus, I felt that the Brainstorm posed the greatest threat. I took Brainstorm.
My opponent opened with: Black Lotus, Mana Crypt, Mox Sapphire, Underground Sea, Banneret and Latchkey Faerie.
I played the Dark Ritual, Grim Tutor for Black Lotus and passed the turn back.
My opponent played another Latchkey Faerie and attacked me for some minor damage. He then tried to play a Morsel Theft. I decided to counter it with my Force of Will. This proved critical.
I untapped and cast Memory Jar.
I let my opponent swing at me one more time before breaking the Jar.
I played some Rituals, Yawgmoth’s Will, and won the game with exactly 9 storm to deal 18 damage. He was at 17 life.
I mulliganed into:
Black Lotus, Mox, Massacre, Brainstorm, and lands.
My opponent opened the game with:
He then openly remarked how unfortunate his situation was. He played an Island and passed the turn.
I was curious to see what was going on. I Brainstormed into a Duress, but no other business. I played Duress and saw:
My opponent had all Black spells, but no Black mana.
I took Thoughtseize.
I continued to draw blanks for the next three or four turns, sitting on my lone Massacre, wishing it was anything else instead so that I could capitalize on my opponent’s mana screw.
I Duressed him one more time and saw:
Leyline of the Void
I took Time Walk.
A turn later I drew something relevant and victory ensued.
I walked outside and sat behind an oversized concrete flower urn, decorating the front cause-way of the convention center. I had roughly 30 minutes left in the round. I decided to make the most of it, getting some sun and fresh air, clearing my head and relaxing so that I might be in the right mind state to win the tournament.
About five minutes into my meditations, Kenji walks over and sits beside me. We quietly chat as he peruses my decklist and we joke around, relaxing like two lizards in the sun. About 20 minutes later, Kenji and I are joking and giggling and Brian DeMars walks over, and I instruct Brian to show Kenji the new, insane Meandeck Strategic Slaver.
My attempts to explain Strategic Plans to Kenji had previously failed. Upon seeing the card, Kenji expresses the same excitement about that we had. About five minutes before the round is about to end, we get up and walk inside.
Round 3: Mat Endress with UW Control
Mat Endress is an innovative Vintage designer from Team GWS. I believe my record against Endress is now evened at 1-1 over the years. This would be the tie breaker.
The first time I faced Endress was at Gencon in 2005. I won two byes that year and Endress gave me a Round Four loss, setting me up for a tournament knockout. I was playing Meandeck Gifts and he was playing some extreme hater- Oath deck with maindeck Chokes and Chalices. I had no idea what he was playing at the time and walked into a game 1 choke after I tapped down to Merchant Scroll.
In the prelim tournament I had the opportunity closely inspect Endress’s newest concoction, and it was a deck after my own heart.
He had rebuilt mono Blue, using a tiny white splash. In addition to the standard control magic of Force of Will and Mana Drain, he was running Rune Snag and Mana Leak. He used Back to Basics and Chalices to lock his opponent out of mana. He also ran the new Augury Adept over Ophidian! I was not looking forward to this matchup and feared it would be my first loss. In any case, it would require a quick start, heightened focus, and above all, endurance. Even if I won game 1, this match would go long.
Either by force of mulligan or choice, I kept a one land hand that relied on a single Swamp. I won the die roll and elected to play.
I opened with, Swamp, Duress, seeing:
Swords to Plowshares
I believe I took Black Lotus, although this seems like a mistake in retrospect.
This game went forever. We both accumulated mana on the table for probably close to 7 turns. At some point, I went for a threat, and he Mana Leaked it. Another threat a few turns later was Rune Snagged.
Mat was unable to get ahead. He had traded one-for-one, but had put a Back to Basics, Chalice at 0, and Null Rod on the table. All irrelevant.
I asked the judge how much time was left in the round. We had used up about 30 minutes.
My hand had grown larger than his by a few cards, at least.
I sculpted a hand into:
Force of Will
Lotus Petal (just drew it)
Tendrils of Agony
On the table I had: Island, Swamp, Swamp (and some dead artifact mana).
My plan was to play the second Island and then cast Mind’s Desire for about 5. I didn’t need it to do very much for me, just find a Dark Ritual or two so that I could play the Tendrils from my hand and win the game.
Unfortunately, the turn before I was about to execute, Mat Strip Mined one of my Islands.
For some reason, I went into automaton mode and untapped, drew a card, and cast Dark Ritual
No sooner had I played the Dark Ritual than I realized that I lacked the Blue mana to play Mind’s Desire. I thought about it for a moment, about whether I should just burn the mana and wait to try and play Desire or to play the Twister.
I stupidly decided to play Twister.
Mat thought about it. “Steve, would you laugh at me if I let that resolve?”
I kept a quiet mien. After a tense moment, Mat let it resolve, revealing the counterspell and Swords to Plowshares in his hand and the two Sword to Plowshares on top of his library.
I looked at the top of my library and saw an Underground Sea.
I shuffled my cards together, and when I opened my new hand, my heart sunk. It was garbage. I burned a mana and passed the turn. Mat drew the nuts. He untapped and exploded in my face with card draw and mana denial and full, stacked hand of countermagic.
I scooped up.
My opening hand was:
How would you play this hand?
There are a million ways to play this hand out. Tinker for Colossus adds a lot of early pressure. I thought about it for a while and then went a most unconventional route.
I played Petal, Sapphire, Delta into Swamp, and cast Grim Tutor.
I searched up Ancestral Recall and passed the turn.
Mat just played a land and passed back.
On my second turn I played Ancestral Recall and then cast Brainstorm.
Mat played a second land.
On turn 3 I played Tinker, but just found Black Lotus, and then cast Yawgmoth’s Will, using Misdirection to protect my Yawgmoth’s Will from his Mana Drain.
After perusing my graveyard Mat scooped.
My opening hand in game 3 (after drawing my first card) was:
Force of Will
Force of Will
Unfortunately, Mat began game 3 with land, Chalice on zero. I Forced his Chalice, but he answered with another. I fell back in my seat with an air of resignation.
I decided to play turn 1 Bayou, Dark Ritual, Grim Tutor.
But what do you find? In my view, there are three options.
The first is to find a Tarmogoyf. If I draw any land, I can play it.
The second option is to find Necropotence. If I draw a second land, I can play Cabal Ritual, Necro.
The third option is to get an Island here. With an Island, I can begin playing spells off the top.
Option 1 seemed inferior to Option 2. Option 3 seemed solid, but less rewarding than option 2. If Option 2 paid off, I could win this game.
I decided to get Necropotence. I never drew another land. I drew Demonic Tutor on the very next draw, followed by all kinds of other two and three casting cost spells, to no avail.
Mat had a turn 3 or four Augury Adept, which drew him cards until he was so full of counterspells that I was practically all locked out.
Soon, a Tinker for Sundering Titan wrapped up this game.
Some of the mistakes I made in that match were egregious, such as the Ritual, Twister. Some were more subtly wrong, such as my Grim Tutor target, but I was not happy with the way I was playing.
I could not find my focus. I felt like I was playing solidly enough to beat most Vintage players, but not well enough to take home the gold.
My notes from this match are even sparser than round one. Even worse, I am not even sure who my opponent was or what he was playing. I can’t even picture his face. After some forced reflection, I have managed to recover some bits and bytes of the match beyond the recorded opening hands.
My opening hand was:
On turn 1 I played Ponder and saw Mind’s Desire. I thought for a moment and then pleasantly realized that this should be an easy, but potent, Desire to set up.
My opponent didn’t play much of anything, at least as I remember, and I remember almost nothing.
On my third turn I played a third land and then cast Dark Ritual. It resolved.
I played two more of the same. Upon announcing the third Dark Ritual, my opponent made a smart-alec remark, a well deserved one, I admit.
I cast Mind’s Desire for 6 storm with three Black mana floating.
On or about the third flip, I revealed Tendrils. On the fifth flip, my opponent scooped since I had enough spells to cast Tendrils for lethal based upon what was revealed.
My opening hand was:
The only thing I distinctly recollect about this game is walking my Goyf into a Mana Drain for the purpose of resolving some other spell on a subsequent turn, which may have been Necro, but I don’t think was. I think I drew another playable threat.
My notes indicate that I Dursessed my opponent at some point and saw:
I know that this game was over fairly quickly as well, as I took the next 30 minutes or so to get food with Brian DeMars.
I was quite excited to discover that there was a Black women’s convention within the same hall.
Round 5: Stasch Kuras playing Ichorid
Now the stakes began to rise and the tension began to ratchet. Every round from here on out was a nail-biter. The next three matches probably fall into top 20 best tournament Vintage matches I’ve ever played.
This one was memorable not only for the players, but the spectators as well.
Stasch asked me if my only loss was Endress, to which I nodded in the affirmative. I returned the question, and asked him to whom he lost. He told me it was some Canadian guy with Landstill. I asked him if he was the one with Extirpates in the sideboard, information which would tip me off to what he was playing. Stasch indicated that it was. The guy I played in the prelim tournament.
I was fortunate to win the die roll. I mulliganed some garbage into:
Stasch mulliganed to 6. At my comment “It begins, huh?” he nodded in the affirmative, which confirmed my suspicion that he was on Ichorid.
I was sitting near the edge of a table and a small gaggle of players were gathering to watch.
When I played:
Tinker for Darksteel Colossus…
People watched on in amazement.
However, their astonishment was soon to grow.
Stasch parried with turn 1 Bazaar.
Although I drew an Island and played it, Stasch activated Bazaar on my endstep and discarded two dredgers and a Bridge From Below.
He untapped and dredged. I was absolutely astonished to see two more Bridges fall into his graveyard in the next 12 cards, along with two Narcomoebas. He revealed a pair of Cabal Therapies between his upkeep draws, his discard, and his draw step dredge. More importantly, all of the combo parts lined up. He saw Flame Kin Zealot, Dread Returns, and everything except a Cephalid Sage.
He Therapied me just to generate 3 tokens, and then cast Dread Return on Flame Kin Zealot.
He announced “gotcha” with his 5 tokens and his Zealot and I was about to scoop up when I decided to count the tokens. By my count he only had 18 damage coming at me.
I called the judge about whether all of those tokens should be tapped. The judge ruled that Stasch hadn’t actually declared them as attacking until he tapped them, a ruling I take no issue with.
Stasch attacked with four tokens, sending me to 8.
The crowd roared when I drew Time Walk off the top. I played Time Walk, attacked, and Stasch scooped.
Most impressively, he didn’t even flinch when I announced Time Walk. “Poker,” he explained.
Now to test my sideboard.
+ 1 Leyline of the Void
+ 2 Tormod’s Crypt
+ 2 Extirpate
+ 3 Yixlid Jailer
– 4 Duress
– 1 Bayou
– 1 Mox Pearl
– 1 Rebuild
– 1 Grim Tutor
My opening hand was… intriguing:
And another spell I can’t remember but wasn’t relevant in any way.
Stasch opened with turn 1 Bazaar.
What would you do?
I had several options.
Option 1) Ancestral Recall, hoping to draw another mana source, from whence I could execute one of the following two options
Option 2) Just Petal, Jet, Cabal Ritual into Necropotence
Option 3) Petal, Jet, Yixlid Jailer
In retrospect, option 1 seems like the obvious play. All I need is any mana source, a Dark Ritual, an off-color Mox, and I can play Jailer or Necropotence.
However, I went with Option 2. It was the safest. Option 2 seemed to make the most sense at the time so long as I got another turn. Since Ichorid is generally slower in games 2 and 3, this makes a lot of sense. So long as I get one more turn, I should be able to clean up quite easily.
I pay at least 11 life, stuff a fistful of cards into my hand, and pass the turn.
On my endstep, Stasch activates Bazaar and discards a dredger or two. On his upkeep, he dredged a bunch. On his draw step, he dredged some more. It didn’t seem like he was going to get very far…
Until he played a second Bazaar.
Then he dredged the rest of his deck. He Dread Returned Cephalid Sage, then Dread Returned Flame Kin Zealot and I died.
This match has been a match of amazing twists and turns.
I go back into my sideboard and make the following changes for Game 3:
– 4 Force of Will
– 1 Fact or Fiction
– 1 Misdirection
+ 4 Duress
+ 1 Mox Pearl
+ 1 Grim Tutor
I fan open a hand of seven. I ask Tommy, who is standing nearby, to watch this game.
My hand is:
Chain of Vapor
I have no idea whether this is a good hand or not. I’ve heard Tommy talk about how powerful the topdeck tutors are against Ichorid, so after some careful, frustrating contemplation, I announce that I’m keeping.
Stasch does the same.
I open with Underground Sea, Imperial Seal (for Yixlid Jailer).
Imagine my astonishment when Stasch plays Dryad Arbor, Go.
Flabbergasted is probably too strong of a word. My suspicion is that he’s sandbagging the Bazaar to trick me.
I untap and draw Demonic Tutor. I debate my next move. I ultimately play nothing. I want to see what happens.
Stash plays another Dryad Arbor, and attacks me for 1.
At this point, I decide to play Yixlid Jailer.
He attacks me for two. I Mystical Tutor for Ancestral Recall and draw some cards.
He gets another turn, and then I combo out on turn 4 or so.
Match Score: 4-1
I still don’t understand what happened there…
Round 6: James Gaffney
James is a somewhat inactive teammate of mine. James had the distinction of winning the prelim tournament the night before with Ichorid. Unfortunately, Jim had to return the Bazaars to another teammate, forcing him to play Control Slaver. Such is the reality (and irony) of no-proxy tournaments.
I won the die roll and elected to play first.
This game was a blow out, involving an early Necropotence being Forced into play through another Force of Will, and the game ending shortly thereafter. I Necroed for 10 life and then Jarred into the Yawgmoth’s Will shortly thereafter.
I mulligan to 6 and see:
Force of Will
Force of Will
Jim opens with Mox Jet, Volcanic Island, Sphere of Resistance. I Force of Will, which he Forces. I Force again. My hand is spent.
I Duress him and see Gorilla Shaman and something else I can’t recall, a land I believe.
Jim draws junk, and remarks that he can’t believe he kept a particular card in his deck.
I draw Cabal Ritual and pass the turn again. Jim draws and passes, commenting that I should take advantage of his mistake. Believe me, I’d like to. I just need some business.
Jim topdecks another Sphere of Resistance on turn 4 and that’s it for me. A turn too late I top deck Demonic Tutor. I never get back in this game. Tinker for Sundering Titan eventually ends me.
I mulligan to 6 and keep a hand with double Duress, basic lands, and some mana acceleration.
I Duress and see:
Force of Will
Thirst For Knowledge
Thirst For Knowledge
I am quite stoked. Although Jim’s hand is insane, he has some mana problems. One mana topdeck and I know he’ll be out of them, but he has to get there. I have time. I take his Recall and pass the turn.
Jim plays Island, Jet, pass.
I topdeck Ancestral Recall. I play my second Duress, taking Force and seeing a new Goblin Welder in his hand. I resolve Ancestral in my favor. At this point, things are looking bleak for Jim.
Jim plays a Wasteland and passes the turn.
I drop some mana acceleration, including Mana Crypt and Mana Vault, and cast Gifts Ungiven with one colorless floating, an untapped Mox and untapped Swamp in play. My hand is Dark Ritual and Force of Will.
This is the critical play of the game.
I Gifts for Black Lotus, Necropotence, Yawgmoth’s Bargain, and Demonic Tutor.
What would you give me?
If Jim gives me Black Lotus and DT, I can play the Dark Ritual, DT for Will and win the game. If he gives me Bargain and Lotus, I can play Lotus, Ritual, Bargain. If he gives me Necro and DT, I can play Necro off of my Ritual.
He gives me Necro and Bargain. I play Dark Ritual, Necro. I set aside 11 cards. I figure I need an 8 life cushion for Grim Tutor, a Mana Crypt roll, Force of Will or fetchland use. I am not happy when I see three Force of Wills, Tinker, Tendrils, and no Black mana or Black tutors. I debate even what to do. I think about Tinker Colossus plan, but I think it’s too risky when he has a Welder in his hand. I decide to Tinker for a Mox Jet, play a mini-Tendrils, and then find Yawgmoth’s Will. I throw away a half dozen cards and pass the turn.
Jim plays Island, Thirst For Knowledge and casts Tormod’s Crypt, which I Force of Will.
I untap, Tinker away my Mana Crypt for Mox Jet, play something else minor, and cast Tendrils for 6. I Necro for 6 and this time I finally find Yawgmoth’s Will itself. However, Jim has other plans. On my endstep, Jim casts Thirst, which I let resolve.
He untaps and plays Underground Sea, Demonic Tutor. I let it resolve. He gets another Tormod’s Crypt. I Force it, but he Mana Drains me.
I am almost Necro locked at this point.
I play Mystical Tutor for Mind’s Desire and then Necro for 3, drawing Hurkyl’s Recall, Rebuild, and the Desire, going to 2 life.
My hand is now: Yawgmoth’s Will, Cabal Ritual, Dark Ritual, Rebuild, Hurkyl’s Recall, and Mind’s Desire.
James taps his Island and casts Thirst for Knowledge, with three mana floating. Then he plays another land and casts Gifts Ungiven. He finds: Gorilla Shaman, Goblin Welder, Time Walk, and Merchant Scroll.
I think about it for a moment, and then give him Goblin Welder and Merchant Scroll. My reasoning is simple. I’m at 2 life. If he gets Time Walk, I’m basically dead. I can’t give him two creatures either, if I want to win this game the hard way.
I am surprised when he plays a Mox Ruby and casts Goblin Welder. Then he taps his Wasteland and a new Fetchland, which he cracks for a Volcanic Island to find Merchant Scroll. He Scrolls up Mystical Tutor and passes the turn.
On his endstep, I announce Hurkyl’s Recall on him. He responds by sacrificing his Tormod’s Crypt to remove my graveyard from game.
I untap and it begins.
I tap my Mana Vault, Mox Pearl, Mox Sapphire, and Mox Ruby for mana and cast Rebuild. I replay the Pearl, Vault, Sapphire, and Ruby. Storm is 5. I tap a Swamp and cast Dark Ritual. I play Cabal Ritual and Yawgmoth’s Will. I replay Hurkyl’s on myself, replay all the Moxen, then Rebuld and replay the Moxen and Vault again. Storm is about 20 at this point. I debate whether to even play the Rituals again, but decide to do so since I can always just hard cast Colossus.
My deck has 25 cards left and I Desire for 22. I didn’t count my library, which Jimmy McCarthy, observing, notes was a risky move. It was.
I flip about 11 and see Brainstorm. When I get to all but my last Desire, I Brainstorm and see the Colossus the last card down. I take the Colossus.
With 21 Mind’s Desire cards spread across the table, I play Duress (taking Mystical Tutor), Time Walk, and hard cast Darksteel Colossus.
I untap and attack him from 12 to 1.
Jim draws dead and I win.
Wow. That was one of the most amazing games of Vintage I’ve ever played, which was preceded by another memorable match,
But the best was yet to come…
Round 7: Paul Mastriano, TPS mirror, Teammate
This was a battle for Top 8. The stakes couldn’t be higher. The winner of this match would advance to the 2008 Vintage Championship Top 8.
We looked at the standings, and unfortunately Paul and I were in the middle of the 15 pointers, which meant that if we drew, Paul probably wouldn’t make Top 8, although there is a good chance I could squeak in at 8th. There were three 13 pointers, all with tiebreakers worse than mine, but about on par with Paul’s. There were two 15 pointers ahead of us. The danger was that we could be leapfrogged.
We had to play.
Paul made Top 8 at Vintage Worlds 2006 with essentially the same deck. Now that Gushes are gone, this deck is definitely back on the map. It’s the Pitch Long/TPS mirror.
Paul wins the die roll. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t expect it to be that significant.
I open a hand with Force of Will, and immediately decide to keep despite the lack of business. The rest of my hand was Mana Crypt, Mox Pearl, Mox Sapphire, Dark Ritual, Time Walk, and Polluted Delta. It is a risky hand to keep. However, I have two draws to see business and it is unlikely that a hand of six would be as safe. In the TPS/Pitch Long mirror, the general strategy is to prevent your opponent from winning first, and then win yourself.
Paul opened with Polluted Delta and Mox Jet, and passed the turn.
I draw Ponder for my turn.
I play Mox Sapphire, Mox Pearl, Time Walk. I play Polluted Delta and break it for Underground Sea and play Ponder. I see Island, Rebuild, and Force of Will. Not terribly good. I pop the Rebuild into my hand, ordering Force on top and Island below it.
In round one, I was confronted with a very similar series of plays, and played it differently. There, I cantripped with Time Walk first, and then Pondered to see one card deeper. I should have done the same here.
I untap and draw Force of Will. I played the Mana Crypt and pass the turn.
On board, I had: Mana Crypt, Mox Sapphire, Underground Sea, Mox Pearl
And three cards in hand (Force, Force, Rebuild).
On my endstep, Paul cracks his Polluted Delta for Underground Sea and casts Brainstorm. I let it resolve. He then taps his Jet and casts Vampiric Tutor.
He untaps, draws his card, and casts Ancestral Recall. I tap my artifact mana and my Sea and hard cast Force of Will. Paul thinks the path is clear. He taps his Jet and casts Dark Ritual, Necro. I Force it as well, pitching Rebuild. Deflated, Paul plays a land and passes the turn.
On my second real turn, I draw the Island and play it.
Paul draws a card and passes the turn back..
The Mana Crypt inflicts 3 damage. I draw Tendrils of Agony and pass the turn.
Paul carefully taps down and announces Tinker, sacrificing his Mox Jet, leaving him with just two Seas in play.
He thinks for a few moments, and settles on Darksteel Colossus. I’m already at 14 life, because of my Mana Crypt. My Rebuild is RFG. One favorable Mana Crypt role and a swing from Colossus and I’m toast.
This better be a good draw…I snap a Tinker from the top of my library! The first real business spell I’ve seen this game.
I tap my Sea and play Dark Ritual. It resolves. I tap the Mana Crypt and Sapphire and cast Tinker. I briefly flirt with the idea of getting Colossus. As exciting as a DSC standoff sounds, I believe that I can win the game here.
I haven’t had a land drop, I’ll have three Black mana to play with, and I’ll have a Mana Crypt and a Tinker in my graveyard (along with Ponder and Time Walk).
I find Memory Jar. The problem is that I can’t just Jar here, since I’m holding my Tendrils (I drew it last turn). I am forced to played a mini-Tendrils for 4 damage and pass the turn.
Paul swings me down to 7 and meekly passes the turn.
On my upkeep, I break the Jar and draw 7 cards. I contemplate casting Vampiric Tutor in my upkeep, and although I probably should, I decide its unnecessary.
I draw Necropotence in my draw step, which is worthless at this point, and move to my main phase.
I first tap my Sea and play Duress. He plays Force of Will, denying me the chance to see what he has. I decide to go all in anyway.
I play Cabal Ritual, with only one other Black mana source available (the land in hand). It resolves and I get the sense that I’m in the clear. I’m holding Gifts, and briefly think about potential Gifts piles. I decide to just go for it instead. I Grim Tutor for Yawgmoth’s Will, play it, and that’s all she wrote. My graveyard, you’ll recall, already had Tendrils, Mana Crypt, and a Ritual in it.
I replay both Rituals, a land, Ponder, Mana Crypt, and Tendrils of Agony for more than enough damage.
We shuffle up for game 2.
I sideboard in two Tormod’s Crypts for the Bayou and a Mox Pearl.
I keep a hand very similar to the previous game’s hand, with even more disruption and plenty of mana.
Paul opens the game with a Duress off of a Delta into Sea. He sees my hand of Misdirection, Force of Will, Duress, and mana (Mox, Land, Land, Lotus Petal). He considers my hand for a moment, but takes my Force of Will.
I return the favor and Duress him off of Delta into Sea, seeing:
I can tell this is going to be a tight game.
Paul can’t pay Memory Jar here, but he can play either Vampiric Tutor or Demonic Tutor. If I had drawn a Blue spell this turn, I would have definitely taken the Demonic Tutor, to induce Paul to Vampiric Tutor for Ancestral Recall on his upkeep. Had I drawn a Blue spell, I think I would have had the game here, easily.
However, I didn’t draw a Blue spell (I drew Mana Vault), so I can’t use Misdirection. Bluffing here probably wouldn’t work against Paul.
I take the Vampiric Tutor, play a Mox, Mana Vault and pass the turn.
Paul plays his Delta, breaks it for another Sea, casts Demonic Tutor and passes the turn.
I’m curious as to what Paul may have tutored up.
Now I draw another Blue spell, a Force of Will. I play a second land and Lotus Petal, and pass the turn.
My board is: Sea, Sea, Mox (tapped), Mana Vault.
Paul plays Black Lotus, Memory Jar. I tap Mana Vault, my two lands, and hard cast Force of Will.
I untap and take a point of damage from Mana Vault. Here is my thinking. The only business card in hand is Misdirection. Since the board state right now is both a battle for card and tempo advantage, I feel that it is important to be holding up Misdirection. If I don’t untap Mana Vault, I can hard cast Misdirection with my two lands, Petal, and Mox if I draw a mana source. If I untap Mana Vault, I won’t be able to play Misdirection unless I draw a Blue spell. I decide to leave Mana Vault tapped.
I draw Cabal Ritual and pass the turn.
Paul played a Mox and Grim Tutor. I was convinced that he just got Yawgmoth’s Will, and I was scared out of my mind. His graveyard has Black Lotus and plenty of tutors.
I untap and, again, agonize over whether to take another point of damage to Mana Vault or untap it. Again, I decided to leave Mana Vault tapped.
When I draw Yawgmoth’s Bargain I want to kick myself for not untapping the Vault last turn. With my Petal, two lands, Cabal Ritual, and Mox I could easily cast it here and just win the game, had I untapped Vault. Unfortunately, I’m one mana short from being able to hard cast bargain.
I brace myself for the worst.
I am pleasantly surprised when Paul announces Tinker, and am even more surprised when he finds Darksteel Colossus
If I draw a land, I can hardcast Bargain and try to win here!
I untap, take another point of damage to Mana Vault (going to 15 life), and topdeck Tinker!
I play, sacrificing Mana Vault.
I briefly flirt with the idea, for the second time this match, of a Darksteel Colossus standoff.
However, Memory Jar worked for me last time, why not try it again?
I put Memory Jar into play and passed the turn.
Paul attacked me to 4 life.
On my turn, my Mana Vault sent me to 3.
I break the Jar on my upkeep and got the goods. I Duress Paul, seeing he has nothing. I play Cabal Ritual.
At this point I cross reference my life total and realize that my Grim Tutor can’t actually get my Yawgmoth’s Will because I’m at three life!
I am forced to scoop.
I blew it! If I had just untapped that dang Mana Vault at almost any point in this game I would have won.
Had I untapped it on turn 3, I could have played turn 4 Bargain, and handily won this game.
Had I untapped it on turn 3 or four I would have had the one additional life I needed to play Grim Tutor for Yawgmoth’s Will.
Although I don’t think it was a clear error, another possible mistake was not playing Cabal Ritual, Tinker into Jar, and breaking the Jar on turn 5.
We move to game 3. I remain confident I can still take the match despite my frustration at repeatedly punting game 2.
I open with:
At this point, I believe I let my anxiety over the match and disappointment with game 3 cloud my judgment.
I play Mox, Island, Time Walk.
On my upkeep, I mystical for Ancestral.
I move to my main phase and cast it.
Paul announces Misdirection, jokingly. Although my fear intensifies, my nerves calm when he plays Force of Will instead.
That line of play makes little sense. The Time Walk here was a glorified cantrip, doing nothing developmentally since I have no more land and replaced my draw with Ancestral Recall. Worse, it consumed all of my additional Blue spells so that I could not use Misdirection to protect my Ancestral. As soon as I played Time Walk, I realized the error of it. The superior line of play would have been to simply play a land, Mox, and pass the turn. That way I could Mystical on Paul’s endstep and then play Ancestral Recall with Misdirection backup.
Paul opens with land, go.
I draw another Duress. Since I have no Black mana, I’m forced to pass.
Paul draws a land and plays it.
His development is not particularly fast here.
At this point, Brian DeMars sits down next to me. A crowd is gathering to witness the final turns of an epic match.
I drew a second Island and played it. I desperately need Black mana ASAP.
Paul plays Mox, Dark Ritual, Memory Jar!
Imagine my amusement when I topdeck Chain of Vapor. I Chain his Jar, and although he flirts with the notion of breaking it, he decides not to, wisely.
Paul plays draw, go.
I draw Force of Will and pass.
On my endstep, Paul plays Vampiric Tutor.
He untaps, plays Black Lotus and casts Memory Jar, but I Force it.
I draw Demonic Tutor and pass.
The tension is ratcheting up. Although I’ve managed to stay in the game, I feel like something has to give. Either Paul is going to win now, or I am going to find the necessary Black mana to put myself over the top.
Paul finally finds Yawgmoth’s Will. He taps down for Yawgmoth’s Will, but he has miscalculated!
He replays Black Lotus, a and Dark Ritual but can’t get to the 7 mana he needs to kill me. Instead, he’s forced to go for Necropotence, using all of his mana.
He sets aside 8 cards, going to 9 life.
Finally, I untap and topdeck Swamp.
I have several options here. I can Demonic Tutor for Black Lotus and play double Duress, a possibility I seriously entertain.
In truth, what I see as my best, perhaps last hope for victory is Duressing him and being able to take a Tendrils. The reason is that with Necropotence in play, any discard removes the card from game.
The other upside to this awful situation is that Paul has already played Yawgmoth’s Will, the best and most efficient route to a lethal Tendrils.
I cast Duress and see the nuts:
What can I do here? I think about taking the Cabal Ritual. Given the fact that he has already used Yawgmoth’s Will, Cabal Ritual is the most robust mana source he has available to himself. Timetwister is the worst play for him, since it can put me into resistance. Grim Tutor will cut off further Necro cards, but can find threats.
I ultimately decide that I have no solid reason to choose one card over another, and go with my gut instead. I take Ancestral Recall.
Imagine my surprise when Paul untaps, plays all of his mana, and casts Timetwister!
Paul draws me into a hand with Force of Will.
Paul plays Duress. As he did in game 1, in a move of perfect symmetry, I cycle Rebuild and then Force Duress.
Paul plays Grim Tutor, sending himself to 6. He evidently found Tinker, because he played it and put a Darksteel Colossus into play.
For three games in a row now, Paul has played Tinker for the Iron Giant. In one game, he won. In another, he lost. What about this one?
Remember, my hand is double Duress and Demonic Tutor.
Paul pays four life, sets aside 4 cards (going to 2 life!), and stacks the endstep Jar trigger and Necro triggers so that we discard our hands before he picks up four new cards.
Time has been called, and we are now going into turns.
Brian DeMars remarks that this is one of the best Vintage games of all time, easily top 10. I ask if he’s serious, and he replies with a look that indicates that he is dead series.
You’ll recall that my board is Island, Island, Swamp, Mox Sapphire.
My hand is: Duress, Duress, Demonic Tutor, Memory jar.
What do I do?
This is akin to one of those Rosewater puzzling situations. Make the right plays, you win.
I draw Underground Sea for the turn! Another Black mana source could prove critical here.
But, what’s my plan? What should I do?
He’s at 2 life. If I can somehow manage to play a Tendrils, and get a single copy to resolve, I can win this game.
I decide to lead with Duress.
Here’s what I see:
Force of Will
Force of Will
My plan is to bounce his Darksteel Colossus. It seems like the most sensible route to victory. Even if I Demonic Tutor for Tendrils, he can likely counter at least two copies with the copious amounts of mana he has on the table and will put into play.
I settle into the plan of Tutoring up Chain of Vapor. I take Misdirection.
I play Underground Sea, and cast Demonic Tutor….
Paul lets it resolve!
I search through my library and find Chain of Vapor, even though I consider just taking Tendrils.
Paul untaps and plays all of his mana Paul plays all of his mana so he can hardcast both Forces.
He attacks me with Colossus, sending me to 5 life, and passes the turn.
I untap and draw Tormod’s Crypt.
I Duress him. Paul is almost Necrolocked, so it’s the same cards I’ve seen before, basically the two Forces. I take one of them.
Here it goes… my final bluff…
I pretend as though I’ve formulated a somewhat complicated plan.
I announce Chain of Vapor, targeting my own Mox.
When Paul gives me a blank stare, I ask: “Is this okay?”
What I should have done is just pick up my Mox, as if he would normally let it resolve, but give him just a moment to respond.
It takes a minute for Paul to see what I’m trying to do.
A drawl comes out of Paul’s mouth… but then it becomes more confident:
“No…. No, that is not okay.”
Paul taps down and hard-casts Force.
I was trying to trick him. If he let the Chain resolve, targeting my Mox, I could copy Chain onto his Colossus and he wouldn’t be able to counter it.
Paul counters me down, and I extend my hand in humble congratulations.
Paul has beaten me in a truly epic set of three games. We ran not only through 60 minutes plus three turns of time, but Paul used every little last bit of his resources to get me. Although I was spent, I hung on with tenacious ferocity.
After the match, I had some time to think about my lines of play. In game 2, there were some subtle mistakes that cost me the game.
I began game 3 with a massive blunder that, almost, in and of itself cost me the game and match. However, I hung on.
It turned out that there were a few other major options at the end of the game.
Dan Carp pointed out that if I had Duressed a Force and then Demonic Tutored for Rebuild. I could have Duressed the second Force and he wouldn’t have been able to counter my Rebuild.
Dan was right. If we draw, Paul probably scoops to me, since we are teammates and I was the reigning champion. Moreover, even if we draw and no one scoops to the other, I maybe make Top 8 anyway at the 8th seed.
In any case, although Paul eventually would have been able to replay Darksteel Colossus, he wouldn’t have been able to kill me within turns.
Moreover, Chain of Vapor is almost certainly the wrong play since it allows him to break Necro lock by bouncing his Necro as well.
There were any number of plays that would have been superior, if I had just Duressed Force of Will first instead of Misdirection.
For example, I could have found Tinker and Tinkered up Darksteel Colossus. With the Darksteel standoff and with him Necro-locked, having already spent Timetwister and Yawg Will, I was going to be the inevitable victor. Whether I could have gotten there in the final turn is an unlikely unknown. But it still would have been a superior line of play.
So, why did I take Misdirection? I think the biggest reason is that I was committed to playing Chain. But even then, I don’t think that explains it. I think a big reason was subconscious pattern recognition. In my Top 4 match at the most recent StarCityGames.com tournament, I lost to AJ Grasso in the top 4 because I took Force of Will over a Misdirection in a very similar situation.
Paul played a hard fought match in where there are dozens of opportunities to make mistakes and he beat me. I’m sure that there were many lines of play he could have taken differently. In the end, Paul deserved to win.
Although my tournament was over, Paul went on to stomp the Top 8 and take home that painting! Paul later went onto to say that our match was the most difficult he played in the entire tournament, by far. It was also the longest match I played, not only in terms of time, but also in terms of turns, the entire weekend!
The Finals of the Vintage Championship
Bill Stark provided match coverage for magicthegathering.com here.
Although Bill captured the essence of the match, I recorded the play-by-play, including each of Paul’s draws and opening hand. Although Bill captured the ebb and flow of the match, I want to take you behind the scenes to see the decision trees Paul encountered.
Before the game begins, Jimmy is quite talkative. The topic of conversation ranges from the last time they faced each other in Top 8 (Jimmy won) to the state of Vintage. Jimmy shuffles and shuffles and shuffles some more before presenting his deck.
Paul’s opening hand:
Force of Will
Force of Will
This hand is a fine starting hand. It is disruptive and potentially explosive. Almost any basic threat from Timetwister to Memory Jar can be cast out of this hand. A single Ritual can make this hand turn 2 Yawgmoth’s Bargain.
According to Bill, Jimmy mulliganed and kept this hand (which I couldn’t see from my vantage point):
Thirst for Knowledge
Jimmy played Volcanic Island, Sol Ring, Tormod’s Crypt.
This is a solid start, since it cuts off Paul’s most efficient route to victory. It means that Paul will be at least a turn slower in almost any kill he tries to pull off.
Paul draws Ponder.
He plays his Polluted Delta and sacrifices it to search up an Island, which he puts into play to cast Ponder, seeing:
Tendrils of Agony
Paul considers the cards and then announces that he intends to shuffle his deck. Oddly enough, he shuffles into another Duress, which the Ponder pops into his hand.
Paul plays Mox Jet, Duress, seeing:
Thirst For Knowledge
From here, Paul recognizes that Jimmy is in a very weak position. Paul also recognizes that he needs to capitalize, quickly!
Paul nabs the Thirst.
Jimmy draws a card and plays Flooded Strand, and passes the turn.
Paul draws a card (I missed what it was, but it wasn’t business), and casts Brainstorm into Cabal Ritual, a fetchland, and a card I couldn’t see. Paul plays the Fetchland and Mana Vault and passes the turn.
At this point, Paul has no business spells to play. He’s seen only land and disruption.
His plan is clearly to shuffle away the junk on top in order to find a fresh new card.
On his endstep, Jimmy breaks his fetchland to find a land.
Jimmy played a Tolarian Academy and passed the turn.
On Jimmy’s endstep, Paul breaks his fetchlands for a Swamp.
Paul draws Tinker on his third turn.
He plays Duress to clear the way, seeing Sundering Titan and a Polluted Delta. He taps the Mana Vault and his Island and casts Tinker, summoning a Darksteel Colossus.
Jimmy looks to be in trouble.
Jimmy plays a Polluted Delta and passes the turn.
Paul draws Timetwister on the turn. This is certainly not a card he’s going to play right now. Paul attacks Jimmy for 11 with Darksteel Colossus and passes the turn.
Jimmy plays one more land and taps his Sol Ring, his Academy (for 2), and his four other lands and tries to cast Sundering Titan. Of course, Paul has been holding double Force of Will since turn 1, which he plays to counter the Titan.
Paul flips open his deckbox and starts looking through his sideboard. Initially, Paul pulls two Tormod’s Crypts and three Phyrexian Negators and moves them into his deck, pulling out a land. After a few moments, Paul reconsiders, pulling out a Tormod’s Crypt, and then eventually one of the Phyrexian Negators. Paul apparently changed his mind several times, so I wasn’t sure what his final sideboard changes were.
Jimmy’s loquaciousness has subsided, and he is now clenching his jaw as he thinks about his next steps.
After a few minutes of shuffling, the competitors move onto game 2.
According to Bill, Jimmy opened with:
Sphere of Resistance
I could see that Paul opened with:
Jimmy opened the game with
Sphere of Resistance
This is the strongest turn 1 play that Jimmy can make with an unrestricted card. Sphere of resistance is the ultimate trump to storm decks. To win, Paul will have to either bounce the Sphere or win through creature beatdown.
Paul drew Duress on the turn.
He played his Polluted Delta, and used it to fetch out a Swamp. He tapped the Swamp to cast Mox Sapphire.
Jimmy tapped his mana to play Brainstorm. He then played a Flooded Strand.
Paul’s line of play is not dissimilar. Paul drew a Delta on turn 2 and tapped his mana to play Brainstorm, seeing:
This opens up many interesting lines of play.
Paul put back Cabal Ritual and Underground Sea. In my notes, I had written that Paul drew a Swamp, but he must have drawn a Delta, because he played one and broke it for basic Island, which he used to play Mana Crypt.
On Paul’s endstep, Jimmy broke his Flooded Strand for a Volcanic Island.
Jimmy untapped and played Wasteland.
Paul drew Polluted Delta. At this point, Paul played Duress, seeing:
Thirst For Knowledge
Thirst For Knowledge
Sphere of Resistance
Paul thought about it for a moment and then settled on Misdirection. This is an interesting choice. My inclination may have been to take the Sphere. I think Paul reasoned that a second Sphere might hurt Jimmy more than him at this point, and that there would be a good chance that the Sphere is going to be fodder for a Thirst. On the other hand, if you take the Sphere, then it is likely that Thirst will be less effective.
Paul tapped the Mana Crypt and Island and played Time Walk.
Paul untapped and drew Duress. He Duressed again, taking Thirst.
Jimmy untapped and went to play a main phase Thirst For Knowledge. In response, Paul tapped Mana Crypt and three lands to play Gifts Ungiven!
Paul picked up his deck and quickly began pulling possible Gifts targets. Rather quickly, he flopped a Phyrexian Negator, Necropotence, Demonic Tutor, and Ancestral Recall onto the table.
I think at this point, my plan would have been simply to go for tutors, from which I can resolve Tinker for Darksteel Colossus. I would have grabbed Chain of Vapor, Mystical Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, and Demonic Tutor. However, Paul didn’t seem concerned.
Jimmy gave him Phyrexian Negator and Ancestral Recall, a fair deal.
Jimmy’s Thirst resolved, and he discarded the Sphere, as Paul predicted.
Jimmy played Polluted Delta and Gorilla Shaman. He ate Paul’s Mox Sapphire.
Paul untapped and drew Hurkyl’s Recall!
He tapped two lands and cast Ancestral Recall, drawing:
At this point, Paul has two major lines of play.
The first line of play is casting Negator here and applying some pressure. Keep in mind that Jimmy can eat his Mana Crypt and then Paul will only have four lands and a Negator. If Jimmy blocks with Shaman, Paul will be forced to blow up a land. On the other hand, Jimmy will be taking 4 damage on the spot and more every turn thereafter.
The other line of play is to do nothing now, but wait until Jimmy’s endstep to cast Hurkyl’s Recall. Then Paul can untap and win pretty much unmolested. Paul is holding Grim Tutor and Mystical Tutor, as well as a Ritual.
Paul settled on the Negator line of play. He played Underground Sea, cast Dark Ritual, and Phyrexian Negator.
On his endstep, Jimmy broke his fetchland for Underground Sea.
Jimmy played Demonic tutor, using three of his mana. He contemplated his options, which were limited. Jimmy only had two mana available after playing Demonic Tutor, and his Sphere was making everything cost more. If he wanted to have an impact now, he felt that he needed something he could play now. He settled on Ancestral Recall, which he played. He then used his Wasteland on Paul’s Sea and passed the turn.
Paul attacked Jimmy with the Negator and passed the turn back.
This was Jimmy’s last stand:
Jimmy played Mox Ruby, ate Paul’s Mana Crypt, and then cast Strategic Planning, unfortunately, it was more of a desperation move, putting a Sapphire and something else into the bin. Jimmy played a Welder.
It was all for naught. On Jimmy’s endstep, Paul played Hurkyl’s Recall and then Mystical Tutored for Yawgmoth’s Will.
Paul played Grim Tutor for Black Lotus, and then cast Yawgmoth’s Will, replaying Lotus, Ritual, Mana Crypt, Mox Sapphire, Grim Tutoring again for Tendrils for victory.
And so it was, Paul Mastriano became the 2008 Vintage Champion.
Brandan Borowicz and Team Mox Monkey’s recorded the play-by-play of the finals last year, and I recorded the play-by-play of the finals in 2006.
What’s interesting is that in the last three years, the finals match has been relatively one sided, only going to two games. But what is most interesting is that in each of the last three years, despite massive format upheaval, one of the games lasted six turns and the other lasted 5. I can’t find my dictation of the 2006 finals, but you can read the play-by-play of the 2007 finals and see that this is the case.
I’ve been to every Vintage Championship, except the first one because I was in Europe at the time. Unfortunately, it looks like I will not be able to attend the one next year, as long as it is held at Gencon, since my sister is getting married on August 15, and according to Wikipedia, Gencon 2009 will be held that weekend. (Please move it to Nationals again, WOTC!)
It’s been a fantastic year, and I think this heralds another great year for Vintage.
Congratulations to Paul Mastriano, our new Vintage Champion!
Until next time…