For the last PTQ I entered – Extended format – I put together a Three-Deuce deck on Thursday, played a mini-tournament on Friday (playing six matches total, going 5-1), and played on Saturday, having "tested" the deck for all of three hours. And I ended up going 5-0-2, finishing in the Top 8.
For this PTQ, I have probably done more testing for a qualifier than at any other time in my Magic career. I’ve played hundreds of games, agonized over card choices and finally tuned what I think is a pretty good deck.
Those familiar with the concept of irony can probably predict what is going to happen here, but please, read along and see if you can guess.
If you have been following my recent writings, you know that I’ve been pretty much playing nothing but the ineloquently named mono-blue control deck known as Rising Waters. Personally, I prefer the much more inventive "Alcatraz" moniker coined by Zvi Mowshowitz or my personal name for the deck, "Chinese Water Torture." It’s all in the name. Really it is.
I’d been devouring everything on the ‘net that I could find about Rising Waters. Articles by Zvi and Theron Martin were invaluable.
Towards the end of my testing, I was looking at G/W Blasto-Rebel and Rebel-Mageta Control, which I thought had a lot of power, but in the end I decided to "dance with who brought you" and stay with the power of the Waters. I wasn’t going to switch decks at the last second.
I’ve had the base deck, save for the 59th and 60th cards, pretty much set for weeks now. It was the sideboard that was giving me trouble.
I knew certain cards were going to stay. Bribery was too powerful against any non-bounce deck, especially any deck with Blastoderms. Misdirection was a beating against non-black targeted removal. After that, it was finding the right mixture of bounce, creatures and counters.
In the end, here’s what my deck looked like.
"Alcatraz" (aka Rising Waters, aka Chinese Water Torture)
4x Stinging Barrier
4x Ribbon Snake
4x Waterfront Bouncer
4x Eye of Ramos
4x Rising Waters
2x Seal of Removal
1x Spiketail Hatchling
Let the irony commence!
Rd. 1: Peter Sarmiento (U/B)
Peter is playing that French Nationals deck that is nothing but counters, removal, Nether Spirits and Thrashing Wumpuses (Wumpii?).
Game 1: We start out slow just dropping land. Turn five I drop a Ribbon Snake, and get into a counter war over it – I probably should have just let it go, because when my opponent drops a turn six Wumpus, he now has that one other counter to squeeze it through. It ends up going the distance as I draw island after island for six turns.
Game 2: This game is even less close. He draws three Vendettas in his first twelve cards, takes out any creature I get on the table and runs me over with Wumpuses and Spirits. I might have pulled it out if the Bribery had resolved – he was in the process of handing the deck to me when he suddenly decided he’d better counter it. Good for him, bad for me.
Well, this day is off to a rousing start.
Rd. 2: John Hammer (W/R)
John is running a very eclectic red and white deck-it almost seems like a preconstructed deck.
Game 1: He starts dropping what I would call sub-optimal weenies – Shrieking Mogg, Kyren Glider – which I’m happy to ignore until I can get a Wall of Tim into play. Then he drops a Puffer Extract, which, probably foolishly, I allow.
One by one his creatures are hammering me for seven and eight points of damage before dying. End game, he comes in with his last creature – Shrieking Mogg – pumps him up to make him a 6/6, dropping me to two – then he tries to cast Downhill Charge with the alternative casting cost.
He casts a second Charge.
>From there, the Snakes and Walls carry the day.
Game 2: I see the white mana he never played the first game. I never played Waters that first game, too, so he didn’t side in his anti-enchantment defense – apparently he thought I was a non-Waters "Fish" deck or something. The game is less close, as I beat down with Snakes and Bouncers in short order.
Match 3: Phil Epley (I think that’s the name – I have the handwriting of a doctor filling out a prescription) – Mirror Match
Game 1: It’s back and forth for a while, but ultimately in ends up as "who gets the Walls out first," and it ain’t me. I never see a Wall or a Bouncer and end up getting run over by Snakes.
Game 2: He busts out with a turn four Zeppelin – I’m depending upon Drakes ‘n Snakes for defense. Such is the nature of trying to out-tech the board. I do, however, get two active Barriers on the table – with a third in hand. I cast the third – and lose the counter war. Zeppelin goes the distance.
Well, so much for my Pro Tour dreams. I scrub out quite ignominiously at 1-2. A good month of testing wasted. All that time and effort, worthless. It would have been one thing to go 4-2 and lose out on the last round. But to crash and burn like this – suffice it to say, I was not in the best of moods.
To make things worse, someone’s been humming the latest dreck put out by Britney Spears so now I have that tune stuck in my brain.
It’s enough to make me want to break out the Home Lobotomy Kit and live out the rest of my days drooling in relative comfort.
Perhaps a side event will make me feel better, even though I’ve never ever won any side event. Ever. I’m not that bad of a drafter (of course, losing games because you forget that Avatar of Woe can destroy black creatures too, well, you deserve to lose).
So I enter a Japanese Mercadian Booster Draft. And I have a pretty good little U/W deck, with a Bouncer, Cho-Manno and seven flyers.
I win my first round matchup against an enchantment-heavy mono-green deck. And I should have beaten the B/R deck I faced in the semifinals save for oh, about twelve extremely stupid mistakes I make. Like many people, I will make one mistake, get flustered, and the vicious cascade of ineptitude will overwhelm me.
Idiot that I am, I enter another booster draft. This time, I get a U/G deck, not as strong as my previous deck, but not bad. And I lose in the third game of round one because I draw all eight forests in my deck in the first twenty cards – all eight forests and twelve other blue cards.
At this point, I’m not sad. I’m not upset. No, I’m virtually livid. Every once in a great while my Irish temper flares (which is odd, since I’m not Irish). No, I didn’t throw a big hissy fit or anything like that. I simply left the table, quietly, and proceeded to shred each card I’d drafted.
While they were still in the Deck Protector sleeves.
We all have days where we wonder, "Why the hell am I playing this stupid game?" For me, this was definitely one of them.
Normally, I would have gone home and raided the liquor cabinet in a futile effort to feel better (funny how one tries to feel better by drinking large quantities of a known depressant). But, I wanted to cheer on the local constituents in the Top Eight, Cy and Jay.
Do I enter another draft? Why, why, why do I want to torture myself so? And definitely not if Chris Benafel is in it. I don’t think I’ve beaten him in a draft. Ever. Why add insult to injury?
So of course I enter it. I’m a masochist, I admit it. (Well, that and I got comped in out of pity. I have nothing against pity.)
Drafting next to Benafel, he does at least feed me some nice cards, but the deck I draft can generously be called a pile. It’s got several fliers, but there’s little synergy between the red and the white.
Round one I play a friend of Chris’s, who’s name I do not catch, with a much stronger U/W deck, complete with Alexi, Zephyr Mage. That makes the difference in game one as he bounces my side of the board and beats me down.
Game two I win on Mirror Strike, although my opponent gets extremely rules lawyer-y on me. He announces his attack, taps his attacking creature, I Strike it – no, no, that’s not fair, you didn’t announce blockers, blah blah blah.
At least the judge sides with me. On to game three.
And I’m hitting the mana curve on all cylinders here. Turn one Charm Peddler. Turn two Crossbow Infantry. Turn three Lawbringer. Turn four Keldon Berserker. Turn five-the Gerrard’s Irregulars stay in my hand so I can use the Charm Peddler on turn six. Boom, boom, boom, I beat him down hard and fast and even Alexi can’t save him.
And my opponent is less than pleased, bemoaning, "How could I lose with this deck?" (I’ve said that many, many times) and extremely disgusted about losing rating points. "You’d better have a good Limited rating," he told me.
Checking my DCI stats, I think he’s in for some disappointment. And that makes me smile. That might be a little petty, but I’ll take what few bits of happiness I can get from this day.
Semifinals, I play a young kid, I’m guessing around sixteen or so. He spreads his collection of – I don’t know what you’d call them. If Playboy and WotC got together to make a CCG, I guess that’s what you’d have. The funny part is when he hid them when his mom came into the room. They were a tad racy, y’see.
Game 1 is me playing twenty turns of "delaying the inevitable" while I get beaten down by Eagles, Blastoderms and Oraxids that have been Thrived about eight times. All the Charm Peddlers and Troubled Healers in the world can’t save me.
My opponent is continually berating me for using my Defiant Falcon to pull out "fags." After about three times, I finally pipe up and say, "Look, I don’t care for that kind of language, and would prefer that you not use it around me, OK?" Thankfully, he does.
I don’t to come across as a prude or narrow-minded, but my feelings on the use of these sort of slurs is well known, and I don’t think it has any place in the game. Others feel differently. But I was happy to shut him up, at least.
Game 3 is a slaughter. Not once but twice I kill his annoying 1/1 creatures with Flowstone Strike, and the Gliders beat down in short order. And I’m in the finals! I get prizes! I can die a (relatively) happy man!
So do I finally win my elusive first side event?
But I beat two decks that were far superior to mine and made no mistakes. In fact, my play was flawless, which was about the only time I could say that all day.
I wasn’t the happiest camper in the world, but I wasn’t going to go home and throw my cards out the window.
Magic ain’t chess, and sometimes, no matter how much skill and preparation is involved, it comes down to a big crapshoot with Lady Luck, and every once in a while you gonna roll the snake eyes. That’s part of the downside to this game, but one you have to live with.
And if there’s a moral to this ugly story, it’s this-we have bad days, bad tournaments and all-around bad experiences-but if you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’re just gonna end up doing them all over again."
Or, as philosopher George Santayana so eloquently put it: "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it."
Side note: Remember how the bannings of Port and Lin-Sivvi were supposed to open up the environment so it wasn’t all Waters and Rebel?
What were the two decks in the finals here in Eugene?
Waters and Rebel.