The Beautiful Struggle – Beach Spray

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I got home from Daytona Monday night. I have to work Tuesday until 5, of course I can’t write at all from work *wink*, and my article is due Tuesday at 6. So, you’re not going to get coherent thoughts from me like you usually do, but instead a wide-ranging spray of various topics and random thoughts that I had over the past four days…

I got home from Daytona Monday night. I have to work Tuesday until 5, of course I can’t write at all from work *wink*, and my article is due Tuesday at 6. So, you’re not going to get coherent thoughts from me like you usually do, but instead a wide-ranging spray of various topics and random thoughts that I had over the past four days, including…

… Watching one of Tim Aten matches during Day 1 reminded me of looking at a Picasso painting: you might find yourself confused, but that does not make him any less of a master. It’s too bad that Tim’s Day 2 drafts didn’t work out so well, but the beats come that way sometimes.

… It’s always nice to write “Seth Manfield is a rising star” three weeks ago and then be proven right. I can remember a few years ago when Seth was just another FNM kid, but he separated himself from the pack first in the then-JSS and later with a 12th-place finish at Grand Prix: New Jersey.

Young players out there who are looking to advance should note that Seth’s big weapon is not flawless technical play. In fact, Seth made more than a few mistakes during his Top 8 alone, and they are captured in the coverage. His big weapon is the one wielded by many top Pro Tour players: winning and losing have no effect on him. When I saw him after his 9-0 Day 1, Seth was beaming, but he also understood that he hadn’t won anything yet. When I encountered him after each of his two Day 2 losses to Gabriel Nassif, Seth was disappointed and concerned about letting his Top 8 shot slip away, but he didn’t let it get to him in his next match.

… I sat next to Kenji Tsumura during deck construction for the Grand Prix. Kenji opened the Rich Hoaen pro player card, and having heard that Rich and Kenji are good friends, I said, “Looks like you opened a bomb.” Kenji chuckled absently, in the same way that I might if someone came up to me and told me a knock-knock joke in Russian. I don’t expect the State Department will put me in the Japanese embassy any time soon.

… On Thursday night, after traveling across town to have some spectacular Sonny’s barbecue, I said that Daytona had the potential to be the greatest GP ever. Sadly, it was not to be, as the quality of food right at the tournament site was mediocre at best, and the city seemed pretty dead in November. Of course, if they had scheduled GP: Daytona during the spring or summer, hotels would have cost three times as much, so I guess it’s a trade-off.

Anyway, all that talk got me thinking: I would be curious to hear from y’all about the best GP experience you ever had. My traveling companions suggested Detroit (quality site with Canadian casinos right across the river), Seattle (great site, great format), and Montreal (best food ever). Also, no one in my car had ever been to a European GP, and I have heard that they use some spectacular locations across the pond for their Grands Prix. Let me hear it in the forums.

… Nothing breaks my heart like looking at the final standings and seeing “9: Adam Chambers.” I became a huge Chambers fan after our match during Day 1 GP: NJ, where I defeated him with an extremely lucky topdeck on the final turn of the five-turn clock. Adam’s silence — hell, indifference — at this unfortunate turn of events had me in awe of his in-game discipline. And indeed I scrubbed out of Day 2 in Jersey, while Chambers assembled an impressive winning streak during the drafts and finished 16th.

Judging from the coverage of Chambers’ final-round feature match, his Daytona experience ended with a similarly unfortunate topdeck. It’s a terrible thing, but if anyone could be expected to take it in stride, I would say Chambers is that guy.

Andre Coimbra (one of my roommates in Daytona) referred to Manfield’s Top 8 draft deck as a “Treefolk deck” during the coverage. That’s a fair assessment, considering that the deck had seven cards with type Treefolk, and more when you count Changelings. However, it’s also pretty ironic when you consider the problems that Seth encountered at the beginning of the draft.

His first pick was a Mulldrifter. I forget the other card that Seth considered picking, but it was X such that when he asked us later on “Mulldrifter or X?”, everyone at the table instantly responded, “Mulldrifter, obv.” The fact that Gabe Walls tried to claim that Mulldrifter is the best common, uncommon, rare, and tribe in the format should tell you how far it is above most of the other commons.

Seth then received a pack with Wort, Boggart Auntie; Imperious Perfect; and Oblivion Ring. Now that is a tough pick.

I think Wort is clearly the odd man out; in addition to being a little slower than the Perfect, with her you are probably committed to two colors and a tribe*. However, Steve Sadin was telling BDM and me before the tournament that he thought the Goblin deck was massively under-drafted. Facevaulters were circling tables even amongst pro players, and Mudbutton Torchrunners were coming fifth or sixth for him. So, even though I’m writing off Wort here, I will acknowledge any forum posters who think that to be crazy talk.

That leaves Oblivion Ring and Imperious Perfect, and I mean… how can you pick there? It’s hard to fault anyone for wanting the removal spell, but Imperious Perfect is Imperious Perfect. Aside from the obvious benefits to an Elf deck, he’s also a one-man army with one Green symbol in his casting cost. In other words, he’s a bomb which doesn’t necessarily commit you to a color or tribe. When Seth asked me about the pick later, I was completely unable to decide, even after two minutes or so of hemming and hawing. Seth, under the pressures of timed drafting, made the “safe” pick (when you’re in a tough spot, you almost never go wrong taking removal) and took Oblivion Ring.

The really important thing to take away from this is that Seth was still flexible in terms of both color and tribe at this point. This should be pretty clear from the fact that he gave serious consideration to Wort, which would have left him in three colors after two picks. The Mulldrifter and O-Ring obviously left him thinking U/W, but the “Treefolk deck” developed after Seth received a fifth-pick Doran, the Siege Tower. You might think that opening Profane Command in pack 2 would move him into G/B with multiple splashes, but in fact a Changeling Hero, a second O-Ring, and a Neck Snap moved Seth into G/W, splashing for Profane Command off of one Swamp. Such is the power of the Vivid land, Fertile Ground, and Wanderer’s Twig.

… Kenji and Tiago are fine drafters and good writers, but I wish we still employed Rich Hoaen. I remember some old feature-match coverage where it was said about Bob Maher, “He doesn’t make mistakes. If he went turn 1 ‘land, burn for one,’ it was right.” That’s how I feel about Drafting with Rich. If he told me to take the foil basic land for pick 1 of pack 1, I would do it.

… On the ride home, Seth Manfield became approximately the hundredth person to ask me, “What does Brian David-Marshall do for a living?” The next time someone asks me that question, I’m just going to start making stuff up, which could be bad for BDM since I have quite the twisted mind.

Sean Vandover watched the Top 8 of the Standard-format “Win a Car” qualifier on Sunday, and reported on an unusual deck that split in the finals. He didn’t get the complete decklist, but it looked a bit like this:


4 Shock
4 Tarfire
4 Incinerate
4 Rift Bolt
4 Rite of Flame
4 Bogardan Hellkite
4 Grapeshot
4 Lotus Bloom
4 Dragonstorm
4 Pyromancer’s Swath
4 Spinerock Knoll
4 Molten Slagheap
12 Mountain

It might have been only three copies each of Dragonstorm and Pyromancer’s Swath and 22 lands, I’m not sure. Regardless, I’m sure you get the idea: it’s the next evolution of the Pyromancer’s Swath storm decks that debuted at Australian Nationals (I think) and developed a following on Magic Online before Ravnica rotated out. The sideboard included Molten Disaster, but Sean didn’t see much else; with Hellkites and Dragonstorms present, I’d be tempted to run Lash Out in the board, but beyond that I don’t know.

The Red Hideaway land is one of the keys to the deck, as it is a cheap way to increase your storm count and resolve a Dragonstorm or Hellkite if you should be lacking copies of Rite of Flame. Another important factor is that it is kind of a free Impulse: based on your opening hand, the card you hide, and the cards you put on the bottom, it’s not hard to calculate what you’ll need to sculpt your combo win a few turns down the road. Even without a Pyromancer’s Swath in play, it’s not tough for this deck to deal seven damage in a turn, so the hidden card will get played most of the time.

The deck took the Daytona tournament by storm: most opponents were completely unprepared for it. Now once it spreads on MTGO (and it could, because I’m told word of the deck got around to Kenji and the rest of the Japanese contingent) the deck might not be so good, as people figure out how to fight it. Venser and Riftwing Cloudskate, for example, completely blow out the hideaway mechanic and do a fair job of fighting a Dragonstorm kill also.

However, the deck is cheap and easy to assemble online, so I wouldn’t be surprised if its popularity balloons there even if the deck proves to be a non-factor at Worlds. Be aware.

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* Not always, though. I once splashed Wort in a R/W Giant deck where the only cards she could get back were my three Stinkdrinker Daredevils (!), Tarfire, and Mirror Entity. Yeah, I won that draft.