“Don’t be discouraged by a failure. It can be a positive experience. Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterwards carefully avoid.“
-John Keats (1795-1821)
Someone asked me over the weekend why it is that I put quotes to begin all my articles. Usually it’s because it focuses each article I write on a specific theme. For instance, last article (you know, the controversial one) I liked that the quote made sense as an introduction, yet really rang true only after you had read the entire thing. This week’s quote actually refers directly to the debate that still rages in the forums, and speaks to my own failures as well as successes.
Anyway, enough about quotes, this week’s article takes a turn from the high and lofty world of theory and lands smack in Chicago, Illinois, home of this year’s Team Grand Prix.
As Flores spoke about here, my team and I (consisting of Steve Sadin and Paul Jordan) were lucky enough to win byes at the GP: Trial at Neutral Ground by going an illustrious 0-2 in played matches. So we were looking forward to a solid chance at making Day 2.
Day 0, or Friday last, of the GP was pretty uneventful. We got to test against Captain Jack’s Buried Treasure, featuring Antonino DeRosa, Alex Lieberman and Billy Postlethwait. Immediately we knew we were in for a troubled day when we got smashed 2-1 (my trips Glacial Ray was able to beat Billy’s B/W build), but the bigger problem was the draft strategy. Team CJBT demolished us by completing ignoring Green in their drafting strategy, building decks that split two colors rather than one, and just counter-drafting from our Green mage when they needed to. Green, as weak as it is in comparison to the rest of the colors, is easily disrupted and even splitting two colors their decks were more than a match for ours.
Our plan going into the Rochester was to split White or Black, and after further discussions with Team TOGIT we all agreed that the team that split White beat the team that split Black, and thus we planned on the following configuration:
A – B/W (or B/x basically)
B – U/x (Green if it comes, or Black)
C – R/W (or R/x basically, possibly Green if the Green works out, making B the U/R mage)
We felt comfortable with this plan ,so after a few more drafts (we lost 3/3, but I beat Billy 2/3 times, so at least I felt confident my play was going to be up to the challenge of tomorrow) we all decided to get ready for dinner.
Friday’s dinner was, in short, the best time I had all weekend. It was Osyp’s birthday, so myself, Gerard, Antonino, Pat Sullivan, Kate Sullivan, the Holy Kanoot, an up-and-coming player by the name of Star Wars Kid (or Chris if you prefer, and no, not that Star Wars Kid) and PJ all hopped aboard a surprise Limo (Ted rules) and headed to what is the most amazing restaurant I’ve eaten at in a while: Fogo de Chao.
Now to understand Fogo de Chao, or Plataforma, you basically have to understand one thing: Red light/Green light. When I showed up and got my drink (yeah LIT) I went to put it on this red coaster that was slightly too small for a larger sized glass. Luckily my LIT had a small bottom so it fit perfectly, until Ted slapped my hand and was like “No no, not like that. Come on!” So you flip over this little coaster thing from Red to Green, and suddenly, all these waiters are showing up at your shoulder with a slab of meat the size of your upper torso and tossing knives at it until a slender cut falls onto your plate. The good part is that you never want for some meat; the bad part is … they never stop showing up at your shoulder with more. Finally I had to give in and flip my coaster back over a few times in order to actually talk to everyone.
It was great; we got to talk about all sorts of things. Naturally my article came up and that started a discussion all about cheating, and the various ways it happens. Osyp related a few stories about how he got cheated at the Pro Tour multiple times and Antonino shared how he had been demonized for a rules lawyer once. It was good times. I think the best moment was in the Limo though, when Gerard convinced us that he was going to get $10k from different Magic players in order to make a movie about all of us, and then make millions off the documentary.
I have no doubt that Gerard will one day make millions on what sounds to be the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of. He’s just one step ahead of everybody else.
After dinner (and the splitting of the daunting check) we finally got back to the Hotel room, where I summarily collapsed and woke up for Day 1.
When we got our cards for Round 1 it was pretty promising. We had Nezumi Shortfang, Keiga, the Tide Star, Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fang and enough Black cards to make a split worthwhile. Sadin had dubs Glacial Ray in his U/R deck. Each deck had problems though – I was W/B with probably the best of the creature curves, but the weakest cards overall. Paul was G/B with the Dragon Sword and Shortfang and Dance of Shadows, but otherwise the deck seemed fairly unimpressive with little synergy. Steve’s deck had insane spells, but about 12 creatures.
We made one major mistake with this build: Paul’s deck began with a focus on Soilshaper (as we had Soilshaper and some Kamis of the Hunt as well as a bunch of Zuberas and Devouring Greed), but then later he took the Dance of Shadows (yeah, Black was deep, hence the split) and the Soilshaper plan seemed like it wouldn’t work out. Unfortunately we kept all 3 Rend Fleshes in that deck and the Rend Spirit and Pull Under in my deck, which was a huge mistake. As it was, Paul could never kill a Spirit, and if we had given him the Pull Under (he was running Green so he could accelerate to this faster than I could) and a Rend Spirit and given me a Rend Flesh or two, our matchups may have been better.
So Round 1 we’re sitting outside in the cafeteria eating some food Sadin decides to ensure that we have byes, you know, just in case they screwed something up. Of course, they did screw it up and we race over to the Judge’s desk to find out that because we changed our name between the GP Trial and the GP they couldn’t match the byes. Thankfully they break the pairing and give both our team and our opponents’ a bye and we can go back to the café.
Round 3 – Sadin mis-registers his deck as 39 cards, forgetting to register the Keiga (Blue Dragon). Somehow he manages to win Games 2 and 3 anyway, as Paul loses. I win a tight Game 1 against my G/R opponent and after losing Game 2, I’m able to Candle’s Glow his winning Yamabushi’s Flame, and win a few turns later.
Note – If you’re wondering why Sadin didn’t get a game loss, it’s because for the first time the DCI is testing a change in the penalty for 39 cards, putting it a game loss rather than a match loss. Though the new ruling goes into effect in January they were testing the change at this GP, and it saved our entire tournament. Thank you judging staff!
Round 4 – We get paired against Captain Jack’s Buried Treasure (De Rosa’s team), which was really annoying considering we had tested against them yesterday, but ah well, such is life. I get very lucky and smash De Rosa in two games that featured him playing a total of 5 land. Steve loses to Jugan + Strength of Cedars Game 1 and double Brothers Yamakazi Game 2, so it’s all on PJ. Steve and I can’t watch because the matchup is so bad (it’s G/B on U/W and Billy boarded into Hisoka’s Defiance for Paul’s Dance of Shadows). That said, the Rend Fleshes would be really good for this matchup since Billy had so many Samurai but Paul told us 40 minutes that 3 Rend Fleshes and a few dorks later, he had won 2-1. We were ecstatic, and headed into the second pod at 4-0.
Our card pool was slightly worse this time around. I was U/G/Honden of Infinite Rage, PJ had a R/W deck that looked really good, but actually turned out to perhaps be light on creatures, and Steve had a B/R deck, but his games were over so fast I barely saw the deck.
Round 5 – I don’t know what happened with my teammates, but my match consisted of having to deal with Thief of Hope and literally an endless amount of spirits. Game 1 I was able to win with a Strength of Cedars flyer + exact damage with Kodama of the North Tree, which he luckily didn’t block because he wanted to swing back for lethal next turn. Game 2 he crushes me but Game 3 Thief of Hope deserts him, and I’m able to overrun him.
Round 6 – Team Smug, Snobby and Arrogant. Steve wins and Paul makes a few misplays to lose his match, so it’s up to me. His deck is way better than mine, featuring Marrow-Gnawer, Nezumi Graverobber and White samurais. Let me tell you, Fear is some good against U/G/Red Honden when you don’t have a single bounce spell. In Game 3 he gets a draw of Isamaru, Kitsune Blademaster and Mothrider Samurai in turns 1-4 and I get destroyed. Rough beats.
Round 7 – Tim Aten team, :B. I get paired against Szleifer in the Green mirror – we both had Blue but his seemed better, since he actually had bounce spells where I had none. However Game 1 he got stuck on a color and Game 2 I was able to splice Kodoma’s Might on Strength of Cedars and recast Might for an exact twelve power Jukai Messenger (yeah, the Forest walker, great in the Green mirror!). Sadly, I was just in time to watch Steve mulligan to four and lose his match, and Paul get run over. Day 2 seems to be slipping away.
Round 8 – Lucas Glavin’s team. Paul tightens up and wins a good match, while Steve loses. Game 1 I get destroyed by turn 5 Kumano, Master Yamabushi of Brokenness. Still U/G/Red Honden with no bounce here, so I’m assuming I basically can’t win, but resolve that I didn’t come to Chicago to keel over and give up, so I promise to play tight as hell and hope for the best. Game 2 I get the nuts and run him over, and Game 3 commences. This was one of the tightest matches of the weekend for me, as I’m forced to play the role of extreme underdog and somehow pull out a win. He stumbles on mana slightly but makes up for it by having an endless amount of two- and three-mana spells and my stellar draw of Floating-Dream Zubera and Matsu-Tribe Decoy doesn’t do much against his 2 Floating Dream Zuberas in terms of attacking effectively. One turn I have a Feral Deceiver and I peak at my card and swing away, he doesn’t block and tries to Yamabushi’s Flame my Deceiver, not thinking I have a land on top. I activate the Deceiver in response to the Flame and swing for five, countering his best removal spell. This turn would eventually decide the game.
Finally, we both begin to draw out of it and my flyers are able to peck away at him, but then he begins to find his six-mana bombs and Earthshaker begins to gum up the works. I Mystic Restraint and continue to serve, but he gets Kumano and things look grim. I’m stuck with a Soratami Seer and almost a dozen lands, so I can attack and activate a few times. I mis-tap my mana, using two Green of the three available even though I have not laid a land yet and of course draw Kodama of the North Tree instead of the Mystic Restraints (my 3rd) that I was looking for. Luckily it doesn’t matter as I am able to pass the turn, untap with Kodama and Mystic Restraints in hand with five cards left in my library and serve over his Sire of the Storm with Kodama for the exact last three points of damage after I restraint Kumano. What a tight match.
We make Day 2 by the skin of our noses. Next week I’ll finish up the report and also include more Team Rochester tech, including some cards that become much more relevant, what the best color combinations are, and what are some of the best tactics to beating your opponents.
‘Til next time,
Michael L. Clair