The Champs Experience: 2006 Edition

John tells the epic tale of his preparation and performance at his local Champs tournament. As usual, he worked hard… and as usual, his story is full of highs and lows, all chronicled in the expected acerbic Rizzo style. If you’ve not read Rizzo before, this is the perfect time to try. If you’re already a fan… enjoy!


I awoke at 0500, got a million splinters at work and came home, where I ate dinner, beat the eggs senseless in a lightsaber battle, then went to my room to playtest by myself.

I was all set with my deck, having added Azorius Herald and Electrolyze (and what a difference it made, since those cards are more useful against control, combo and beatdown than Desolation Giant, Pride of the Clouds, and Valkyrie three times obv), but Little Rizzo’s deck was still in the pupa stage. Smallpox, while apropos – since Berto is the junior mints version of Bigpox (a.k.a. me) – wasn’t getting the job done.

After a few hours of complete failure, the deck started to come together. This was the first version that showed promise:

While the optimal opening would appear to be turn 2 Hyppie, turn 3 Curse, turn 4 Persecute, there were pleasant little intricacies and serendipitous situations all over the place. Most involved the Flying Plant, and the sheer number of cards that made him simply even more ridiculous.

A cute piece of synergy involves playing Mindstab the turn that the Plant is ready to attack. This is simply good, but when the Plant is combined with Ghost Quarter, Putrefy, Persecute, Sudden Death, or a Curse that has eaten permanents, he goes from a mere 7/7 to proportions that must be described as mythic.

I tested a dozen games against Angry White Chyx, always allowing the Plant to go first.

Angry White Chyx

4 Azorius Signet
4 Lightning Helix
2 Boros Signet
3 Azorius Herald
3 Electrolyze
3 Char
4 Faith’s Fetters
4 Wrath of God
4 Lightning Angel
4 Firemane Angel
1 Debtors’ Knell
1 Demonfire
4 Sacred Foundry
3 Gemstone Mine
3 Azorius Chancery
3 Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
2 Plains
2 Adarkar Wastes
2 Island
2 Mountain
1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
1 Boros Garrison

4 Moratorium Stone
x Remand or Cancel or something like that
3 Disenchant
2 Swift Silence
x Dodecapod or Guerilla Tactics
1 Gaea’s Blessing

Angry White Chyx: 8
The Flying Plant: 4

A couple things quickly became evident:

1. Angry White Chyx is incredibly resilient.

Quartering the lands, emptying the hand, or just beating down with Plague Sliver, the deck plays off the top better than any deck I’ve ever built. It might have something to do with every card that isn’t a mana producer being stone-cold action. Peeling Lighting Angel, Fetters or burn for the win is almost expected.

However, there is little that can be done when the Plant drops turn 1 and 2 Mindstab, and follows it up with Hyppie, Curse, Sliver. This was the idea behind the deck, and sometimes it even works.

2. Call of the Herd is a very sub-par card in this matchup.

Sure, it fights back from Wrath of God, but a Time Walk followed by casting a 3/3 that dies to eight pieces of burn and can’t get by the Angels isn’t some good. Since I don’t own any Ohran Vipers — believe me, I tried everything, short of actually buying them, and the three-spot is uncomfortably devoid of superstar creatures, this’ll have to do.

3. Suspend is really good.

We all know about Remand, but how good is suspend when it can’t be countered? There is little security in watching a counter come off Curse or Mindstab; “playing around” these cards is never desirable.

4. Plague Sliver looks awful wearing Fetters.

5. Boy, could this deck use lifegain. I miss Jitte and so do you.

6. I guess we could have reprinted Death Grasp, but no, sorry your life gain sucks.

The Plant reminds me a little too much of my Nearly Mono Black In Standard, though this time I don’t have the balls to include Bob.

Curse of the Cabal has a rather large converted mana cost.
And you thought Draco was nutz.

That’s not bad synergy, that’s “don’t go away mad, just go away” synergy.

And that’s pretty much the entire story. In ten minutes, it’ll be midnight. Until then, we’re T-minus five days and counting…


I awoke at 0500, got a million splinters at work and came home, where I ate dinner, beat the eggs senseless at Othello, then went to my room to playtest by myself.

Sideboard technology is the call of the day. The first idea was how to beat aggro-control or control variants. Adding counters was the knee jerk; however, they’ll still have more, and the only counter that should have a place in the side is Swift Silence.

There may be a random Grapeshot or other storm running around, and while I can gain life out the wazoo, it never hurts to say “no” to seven or eight spells and draw a fistful for my trouble. It’s worth two anyway. I think.

The second idea was to throw more burn at their heads. With Char, Helix, Electrolyze and a Demonfire already present, three or four dicey nuggets of “dome you” could make a nice comeuppance cocktail. Sudden Shock seems obv (obv), though Rift Bolt isn’t too shabby either.

If, by Saturday, I believe that Pox is going to be all the rage, Guerilla Tactics might make a fine punch in the face. But it’s situational, and that is enough to make me reconsider, whereas once I was the kind of guy who thought that precise situation was going to happen often enough to warrant playing such a card. Dodecapod! Oh how I have grown!

This is what we have so far:

3 Moratorium Stone
3 Disenchant
2 Swift Silence
1 Gaea’s Blessing

I want to resist the urge to fill the remaining spots with burn, but I can’t.

3 Rift Bolt
3 Sudden Shock

Against which decks, exactly, is cheap burn ill-advised? CoP: Red and Story Circle don’t mind target Red spells aimed at their impenetrable domes, and Paladin En-Vec and Akroma giggle like bi-curious teens during a sleepover at the mere thought of direct damage…

Should I throw in Condemn or rely on Faith’s Fetters and Wrath to keep me alive long enough to fly over and burn for the win? I’ll trust the latter, even if Fetters always dies to Angel of Despair.

Still, Wrath is just what the doctor ordered, even if a number of peeps were debating the merits of metagaming against control. Ordinarily, Champs has been the beatdown haven, but this time it’s personal: there are a number of strong control-type cards that lead to strong control-type archetypes. I mean, duh, Wrath is in the freakin’ format, people, why the hell would anyone play a creature deck!?

If everyone knows this, then no one will play creature decks.
If everyone knows that, then some will fight the power and play aggro-control.
If everyone knows that too, then some will throw up their hands and play…

Whatever the hell they want to, since, when you get right down to it, at this year’s Champs, the metagame doesn’t exist. How can it? We have, ostensibly, one brand new set (TS), and a couple that have yet to be fully explored (Coldsnap, Dissension). Combine this with the sheer goodness of Ravnica and Guildpact (both of which are so vast that I doubt they’ve been maxed out idea-wise), and you have what might be fifty viable deck ideas, which might yield a high number of decks that can take the cake.

Thus, since the metagame is its own metagame, which basically means it doesn’t exist, I’ll go with this:

Seventeen burn spells post-board – with Lightning Angel, Herald, and Firemanes taking up the slack – feels like enough to compete with control-type builds, be they of the aggro or MUC deals. And didn’t we learn that in high school: results don’t matter – it’s all about how you feel.

As for Berto’s deck… I dunno, but Call of the Herd sucks. Hard. Yep, two 3/3s for one card woohoo that’s really good… but no, sucks. Two turns of 3/3s is not a threat.

But it’s anti-Wrath technology!

So is Shambling Shell, and he doesn’t remove himself from the game!

Ditto Penumbra Spider and he can block a 3/3 flyer and live!

Thus, Call is out, which leads us to the next question: can you name a better 2G creature? I bet you can, but if you need a hint, it rhymes with “good elves.”

When good elves make it into a deck, fatties seem to follow. Skeletal Vampire is a nasty dish and can get out of control in a hurry, but (since I traded all of mine away a long time ago) the biggest, nastiest, fattyest finisher *that I currently own* for Black these days has to be Stronghold Overseer. He’s (often) an 8/5 (but he’s always) unblockable machine that comes equipped with a Darkness strapped to his genitalia.

Without taking the time to find facts, I dare say there is nothing that can block him in Standard. He flies with shadow. Who else does that no one though maybe but I don’t care datguysgood.

Revenge of the Flying Plant (and Shadow Guy Too)

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Mindstab
4 Wood Elves
4 Hypnotic Specter
4 Putrefy
2 Sudden Death
4 Curse of the Cabal
4 Plague Sliver
2 Persecute
2 Vulturous Zombie
3 Stronghold Overseer
5 Forest
5 Swamp
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Llanowar Wastes
3 Ghost Quarter
2 Golgari Rot Farm

The dozen games against Angry White Chyx, always allowing the Plant to go first.

Angry White Chyx: 8
The Flying Plant: 4

Progress is a state of mind, just like Neneh Cherry. Or her bro Eagle-Eye.

T-minus fo’, yo…


I awoke at 0500, got a million splinters at work and came home, where I ate dinner, beat the eggs senseless with a stick, then went to my room to playtest by myself. I’m kidding, I didn’t beat them senseless, just into unconsciousness. What, you don’t beat your kids?

I read Jeroen’s column, and found it interesting that he believes Hypnotic Specter isn’t really good against any deck. He might be right about that one, since it seems that every deck has something that hits him where it counts.

However, he is very high on Call of the Herd, and if you were paying attention yesterday, you would have remembered my breaking news: Call of the Herd sucks. It sucks on turn 2 or 3, and sucks again when it gets flashed back, regardless of when that is. Based solely on my acerbic tone (and wit), you might get the impression that I think Call of the Herd sucks, but it really doesn’t. It’s a good card.

It just sucks.
So hard it loses to Wood Elves.

It sucks because it suffers from the Hyppie complex: helluva card any which way you wanna slice it; it’s just not a helluva card right now.

I’m glad that’s settled. Now I can go to bed. At nine o’freakin’ clock.

Angry White Chyx: 8
The Flying Plant: 4

T-minus three…


I awoke at 0500, got a million splinters at work and came home, where I ate dinner, read the eggs school progress reports and beat them senseless because there isn’t an Advanced Magic class that they can’t ace, then went to my room to playtest by myself.

I read Flores’s Sixteen article, wherein he offered me my very own gauntlet, kinda. From his info and my own opinions, these are the decks I expect to see in droves of varying amounts:

Solar Flare(s)
U/G Beats
Angel Control
Karsten’s Babybot thing

Versus Boros:

I think I like my end; after all, I have Wrath, tons of life gain (Anti-Boros), and burn. In fact, I’ve done a substantial amount of testing against the Regionals Boros — read: Jitte still legal — and I can hold my own.

Determination: I probably win.

Versus Solar Flare(s):

I doubt I like this one, though I do have Wrath and Fetters to deal with Akroma, provided they tap out on turn 4 for Zombify. That takes care of the first one. Alas, perhaps the “side in too much burn” idea has legs, or at least a couple stumps on which to lean.

Hey, I just realized that I have zero creatures that can block everyone’s favorite 6/6.

Determination: they have a decided advantage, and considering that this will likely be one of the most played decks, this does not bode well for Johnny.

Versus U/G Beats:

They have weenies that die to Wrath, but to prevent such a tragic happenstance, they back their lil’ fellas up with counters. I’ve been in plenty of situations like this with many versions on Nearly Mono Black In Standard, and it’s no fun at all to have Wrath meet Remand two turns in a row and then they, well, beat you. However, their minis tend to die to just about all of my burn, all of which is instantaneous save for Demonfire.

Determination: pick ‘em me.

Versus Rakdos:

Angry White Chyx is strangely resilient to discard, which is not hard to believe considering that nearly all of the spells are on the business end. The life gain should take care of some of the burn, and this is one match where Electrolyze should two-for-one on a regular basis.

Determination: I like it, but don’t love it.

Versus Zoo(s):

If they don’t take ten from their manabase, they have as good a chance as any deck based almost entirely on creatures, which is not much. You may think I’m overconfident when it comes to facing beatdown decks, and perhaps I am. There is a reason.

Determination: I like this one as well.

Versus Pox:

See Rakdos for a discussion of top-decking. When I was busy thinking LD was the cat’s ass, I must have played a hundred games of LD versus Angry White Chyx. Oddly enough, LD didn’t have the effect I anticipated, which is why it went and got itself dismantled. The LD aspect of Pox can be a pain in the ass to many deck, and may be one of its selling points, but it’s not much more than that here — a minor pain in the ass. The sac effect is more worrisome when I ordinarily only have one creature out at a time.

The Rack. Not very nice.

Nonetheless, even with a paltry number of lands, no hand and no board to speak of, the creatures they send in to clean up “the mess” are assuredly not impressive — all of them die to a *randomly top-decked burn spell*.

Determination: I don’t mind it, but don’t want to play against this all day.

Versus Dragonstorm:

I just think I lose. They can combo or flat out win on turn 4 or 5… I dunno. Wrath and Fetters do little against haste. Likewise, my burn is too small to actually kill their guys, and I have virtually zero disruption. This leaves me with random Helix to the dome and Heralds to jump up above twenty, which may give me an extra turn or two. I’m not sure it will be enough.

Determination: I don’t like my end.

Versus Angel Control:

Ah, the mirror, sort of. They have everything I do, plus Condemn. Okay, I have Herald and a singleton Knell, but whatever. It’s a coin flip, though if they neglect to side graveyard hate, tails is likely to never fail for the guy who packs the ‘Stone.

Determination: Flip a coin, but favor me because we’re best friends, all of us.

Versus Karsten’s Babybot thing:

I’ve always been afraid of land destruction, and never enjoy playing against it because of the opening hand that doesn’t contain four or five lands and the first couple turns are nail-biters. But in playing against my own LD, which contained 12-16 land kill spells, I realized that Signets are sexy and eventually remembered something I read in Bethmo’s book: “they most certainly have more land in their decks than you have land kill effects.” I still hate playing against LD…

… but Angry White Chyx are especially angry when you go and blow up their lands, which give mana, which is akin to a sort of currency, which is used to “pay for” spells, which is sort of like “buying” something…

A chyk who can’t “pay for” stuff is apt to go and get pissed on your ass. And when they don’t tap to attack, lookout duck sucka.

Determination: Karsten knows his stuff, but I like wimmin and they like me (as not much more than an emotional tampon, which is what I am though sometimes they get drunk or especially lonely or vulnerable and throw me a sympathy twirl or maybe “because you’re the only one in the room”).

Versus Ghazi-Glare:

They use creatures, lots of them. Green and White creatures. Somehow, I can’t wrap my mind around the idea that I should not fall madly in love with this matchup.

Determination: I gotta love it.

Versus ‘Tron/’Vore:

I don’t have to like any variation. But that’s just because the deck/decks is/are annoying/seriously lame. Any deck that casts Wildfire shouldn’t take another fifteen turns to win. Any deck that assembles ‘Tron on turn 3 shouldn’t take another fifteen turns to win. With that in mind, I’m sure I’ll wait the requisite fifteen turns after it is clear I can’t win to, well, lose.

Determination: Wake me when you find your win condition, I’ll be over here losing.

The above “analysis” results in a 7-2-2 record, which should get me Top 8 in my own little Idaho, though not in any real tourney. Still, with such in-depth metagame discussion and foregone conclusions, why even bother to have Champs? Just give me a couple boxes, the title and whatever responsibilities that come along for the ride. If you need me to do a mall tour or speak at universities promoting my causes, then fine. If that’s what’s expected of the State Champ, then who am I to decry almost six or seven years of tradition?!

I bet you can’t wait for me to end up 2-5. Look: we can count it down together:

T-minus two…

Angry White Chyx: 7
The Flying Plant: 5

P.S: I really want to play the Return of the Flying Plant instead. A little.


I awoke at 0500, got a million splinters at work and came home, where I ate dinner, beat Little Rizzo senseless in exactly four playtest games, put them away and went back to my room to playtest by myself.

Yes, Berto played an entire four games with the deck, and still expected to do well. I played about a hundred and shrug and sigh I don’t know what to expect, though I still believe Wrath and Fetters are potent weapons against most decks I might face.

T-minus one…


I awoke at 0500– No, wait, it’s Saturday! I only dreamed of waking at 0500 and splinters! No wonder I woke up with a stiffy! If it’s Saturday, then it’s T-minus zero day, and boy is your mom tired.

Berto’s all excited because the highest-finishing player under the age of twelve wins a booster box of Time Spiral. He’s pretty sure that box has his name on it, and a few months ago I would have agreed. The thing it: he’s a Star Wars freak nowadays, with Magic taking the back-most burner.

He didn’t even ask about a deck until Thursday. I showed him Revenge of the Flying Plant, we talked about it for maybe five minutes, and then he was right back into Star Wars. Someday, he’ll grow up and realize just how awful Episodes One, Two, and Three truly are, and why giving any of your money to George Lucas should not be encouraged. But he did play four games.

Whatever, if there are no other kids under twelve, he wins by default, can 0-7 and bust the packs and trade in for Star Wars Mini figs, while I’ll probably get my ass kicked all over by seven kids who just today turned thirteen.

By the way, it’s raining like a sumbitch, with three inches expected and wind gust up in the seventies. Kinda cold too. Makes for a good omen, eh?

The decks:

There were 127 players in attendance, resulting in seven rounds of absolute love.

A number of people asked me how I felt about my chances, and all I could offer was a meek “ I dunno, how d’ya’ say about this weather?” Most agreed it was ass and left it at that.

Here’s your one chance Fancy, don’t let me down.

Round 1: James Sweenhart, Gruul

James drops Mountain, Kird Ape and I already like my chances, especially when I do the patented turn 2 bounceland, discard Firemane. He gets me to fourteen, and I play not one, not two, but three Fetters on his army. All he can do is add more men to the fray in an attempt to sneak through any damage. Herald comes down and quickly pairs up with Lightning Angel to clean up because I didn’t want to be accused of

slow rolling.

James mulligans but again has the turn 1e Ape, and again I discard Firemane on turn 2. I Helix the Ape, Fetters a Sophisticate wearing a fashionable Cloak, and answer each of his threats with more life than they can do damage. Lightning Angel and burn to the face finish the job in short order since James was

drawing dead.

I expected him to side in Blood Moon, but when we discussed it, he said it often hurts him more than his opponents, since he has a very low basic land-count. He did side in Krosan Grip as a solution to my bevy of Fetters, but never drew one. This seems fair to me, since I didn’t draw a single Necropotence.


Round 2: Brian Birkinbine, R/U/B Gargadon/Cabal Mess

Last week, I played a couple games against this monstrosity, and got my ass readily handed back on a platter. Brian always has a pile of rogue decks at the ready, but this one, in his words (and I agree) is “actually competitive.”

But as we shuffled up, I refused to mentally chalk this one up as an auto-loss.

I gained sixteen life in game 1 and still lost by a mile. His turn 5 Wildfire, with a suspended Gargadon, ended the game in a hurry.

For game 2, I sided out the Wraths, Knell, Firemanes and a couple Heralds in favor of burn and Disenchant (to deal with Phyrexian Totem). He was at nine relatively quickly, (with me at a semi-comfy 18 or so) and when it was clear that the long game was not his, he cast Wildfire. This left him with one land, a 1/1 goblin token, and a freshly suspended Gargadon, while I had three signets, zero land, and no cards in hand.

I drew a land wee! Go.

He eventually sacced some stuff and the Gargadon hit me for nine.

I drew my card, asked Brian how much three Signets and one land made, and when the answer was “four,” I Fettered the Gargadon. He giggled. This gave me the needed turns to peel Char, Electrolyze and Rift Bolt for the win. The four life I mean, not his giggling.

Then again, if I think about it, we may have just witnessed an example of

slow rolling.

In game 3, Brian got out to a good start with a pair of Totems, while I dropped the turn 4 Lightning Angel. He answered with the singleton copy of Serrated Arrows in his deck and proceeded to shrink it turn by turn, until it’s forced to *not even trade* with a 1/1 goblin token.

Despite this apparent inequity, I did manage to point as much burn as possible to his dome, while taking seven from the Totem and tokens. At one life, with Brian at two, I have one final chance to draw burn for the win.

Former State Champion Rob Foley, who was watching, wondered how I felt about drawing four lands in a row when all I needed was one of my dozen available burn spells. I wondered too, how I felt I mean. I guess, when it comes right down to it, in a sense, I was

drawing dead.

omg what a great bad beats story!


Round 3: Darrin Emery, Solar Pox

Darrin mulligans, while I bin Firemane on turn 2 and ride that life support up to 29. At this point, Darrin was at zero, though Peace of Mind staved off the inevitable for a few turns.

Lightning Angel is a burn spell, no question about it: four mana for three damage no matter what. It always gets through at least once, and often appears from nowhere. On a more humorous note, Darrin did discard Haakon and Hussar to Compulsive Research, and attempted to play Hussar from the ‘yard.

Me: Haakon has to be in play.
Darrin: Really?

Darrin has top eights coming out of his ass by now, though apparently hasn’t played in months. In fact, he picked up the deck yesterday. In essence, he was kinda sorta in a way

drawing dead.

On another humorous note, in game 2, Darrin had Haakon in play and cast Hussar from the ‘yard.

Darrin: No White.
Me: Um, okay…
Darrin: Okay what?
Me: I’ve never seen it done that way.
Darrin: Is there another?

Apparently, no one ever pays the White, preferring to leave Hussar in the ‘yard to be recast over and over and over and super Impulse and wow am I bad for not knowing what everyone in the entire Magic world has known for, like, ever.

Anyway, that kind of card advantage netted Darrin Condemns for a pair of Angels, Mortify whenever he wanted, and CoP: Red just in time for me to realize it’s time for game 3, since I was absolutely

drawing dead.

In game 3, Darrin gets an early CoP: Red. I play around it as best I can, then Fetters it, which frees me up to dome him. Nonplussed, he simply drops another one a few turns later, which, combined with Skeletal Vampire and a pair of Hussars, seals my doom. Boy, I’m glad I didn’t draw Wrath of God, ever, though if I had, bet your ass I’d certainly be the guy

slow rolling.

But instead I was

drawing dead.

I guess that’s what you get when you side out Firemanes and Heralds. Considering that I got beat to death by creatures, this feels like a bad choice in retrospect as a Monday morning quarterback.


Yep, out of contention after round three. My life is teh suck. Have I told you lately how much I abhor my job and secretly pray for a work-related injury (enough to get paid large enough to retire, but not enough that it, like, hurts too much)…?

Work-related mishaps ftw. The way I figure, I busted my ass and paid enough in taxes to support those who are unwilling to do so, now maybe it’s my turn to live off the blood, sweat, and tears of those who are not complete and utter slugs. Just like, bump into me with a forklift or a 2×10 to the head that looks really serious but isn’t.

frigginrizzo: ←ready to milk the system.

… And how much I look forward to Saturdays? And how fun it is to be out of contention after round three? And boy oh boy I can’t wait to go back to work and it’s so much easier after being out of contention after round 3.

At least it looks like Berto’s the only 12-year old in attendance, so the booster is apparently his (0-3 so far ow), which means that this day hasn’t been a complete disaster.

Round 4: Brian Russell, Sr., Mono Black Yeeaaahhh Boyyyyeeee!

Brian played a turn 2 Withered Wretch, Swampcycled, and Dread Returned the silly 6/3 regenerator. Obv I had Helix obv who doesn’t, and the beats were insane with a Herald, Lightning Angel, burn-you-to-death sequence of pure aggression.

Brian: ←drawing dead.

Game 2 started much the same way: turn 2 Wretch, which ended up eating a Firemane and Lighting Angel. Rather than face crazy Sligh beats, Brian cast two Soul Spikes the very hard way to kill the aforementioned beaters — six cards for two cards I have to like it.

With his hand depleted, it was just a matter of time before I drew into gas, and since I have a deck filled with such petroleum-like-octane-based products, I did just that. Herald, Angel: 15, Fetters something, 10, 5, dead.

me: ←slow rolling.


Round 5: Moira Skelly, G/U/r Aggro Control

She bust out the gates with Looter Il-Kor, which gets her a couple counters that stop my efforts to kill it. Key play: I try to end-of-turn Electrolyze her two Birds of Paradise, which she taps out to Mana Leak. As soon as I untap and draw, she asks “Wrath?” as if she just realized that losing two Birds compared to her entire team is not the cat’s ass.

Or the bee’s knees.

Sure, Wrath of God resets the board, though I played it quickly lest I be accused of

slow rolling.

Moira starts to rebuild, but her guys are too small and don’t do a very good job of blocking unblockable guys. Or fliers. Or damage to the face.

Yep, you guessed it: she was

drawing dead.

Game 2 is more of the same: she gets out little guys who nibble away at my life. I kill some, Fetters others, and when she’s out of cards I start dropping fatties. A pair of Firemanes aren’t likely to make anyone feel nice and warm, except for the guy who keeps attacking with them, and has a fistful of burn with which to wash it down. That’s me, Johnny Mintbox, the undisputed king of

slow rolling.

Speaking of slow rolling, it seems there is another 12-year old playing today. If you’ve never seen a 10-year old go from “word ‘em up” to “you gotta be friggin’ kiddin’” in thirty seconds or less, you tell him his free booster box is in jeopardy. The upside is that, like Little Riz, the other youngun’s also 1-4.


Round 6: Jeremy Morton, Gruul

I mulligan and get met in the face with Ape, Mauler, Shaman, Solifuge. A Helix bought me half a turn to find Wrath of God. Since I drew something that was not Wrath of God, you could say this was an instance of

drawing dead.

Game 2:

Ape, Mauler, Sophisticate, Solifuge, Hammer you, Cloak something, Shock you to death. Fetters bought me half a turn to find Wrath of God, and every draw phase bought a look of complete fear on Jeremy’s grill, wondering if I drew the card that would end his dreams. Nope, ever, never, thanks for playing “race you to the bottom of Rizzo’s deck.” And here he was, supposing that I had Wrath and was simply

slow rolling.

Wrath of God: best creature control card ever. When you draw it.

This match lasted about seven minutes. Wanna mill around for the next freakin’ hour much? I did have time to check out Little Riz as he faced off against Andrea, a Saturday Legacy stalwart, playing her version of Ghazi-Glare.

Berto had out three, count ‘em, three Curse of the Cabal, none of which did any good. Andrea was playing off the top, but had Vitu-Ghazi and a bunch of elves. Man, if ever three Curses didn’t stand a chance, this was the match. Afterwards, a guy at the next table to his buddy:

Guy: I was gonna play Curse of the Cabal, then I realized it sucked.

For some reason, I immediately wanted to punch this prick in his f***in’ teeth, mostly because it felt like he was taking a shot, veiled as it may have been or not, at my kid. However, Berto shot me a glance that said “dad, I’d like you to punch that prick in his f***in’ teeth, but the big picture is that we can simply walk away from him, while he’s stuck with himself for the rest of his life.”

Good point.

Anyway, the other lil’ kid won his match, so now Berto’s only chance is to win the last round, hope the kid loses, and pray for good tiebreakers. My only chance is that the top 40 all decide to go home and watch anime, which would bump me into the Top 8.


Round 7: Nick Porter, Reiterate.dec

I had seen Nick’s deck in action, though I can’t say I knew what the hell it did. In an earlier match, Matt Hill looked in complete control, and when they went into turns, things got really weird. I could see Nick’s hand, which was Early Harvest and Reiterate. Matt tried an end-of-turn Lightning Helix, which, combined with creature damage next turn, would seal the deal.

Nick tapped some mana and revealed his two cards. He explained something to Matt that I couldn’t hear, but I did hear Matt say “I guess that wasn’t a good idea” as he scooped up his cards. Okay. I guess.

Nick plays Rampant Growth, Search for Tomorrow and Into the North, which gets his mana on in a hurry, while I drop a pair of Lighting Angels and start beating. He casts Savage Twister, so I say “I’m a tremendous Magic player,” and play another one. He grins, apparently agreeing with me, then shortly thereafter, scoops ‘em up, way before I could execute my patented gank move of stockpiling burn and

slow rolling.

Nick: Do you know what I’m playing?
Me: A few rounds ago, I saw you use a Red instant that did stuff I didn’t understand.
Nick: Lol!
Me: Rofl!

In the second game, I side out Wraths, Fetters and bring in burn and Disenchant (Blood Moon I guess). He does his mana thing, while I drop a pair of (non-Red making) Signets on turn 3.

Nick: That’s pretty good.

He drops Blood Moon and sighs.

And here I was, wondering how I was going to get Red mana!

We had a Q&A session regarding the counter status of Gemstone Mine: do they come into play with counters, do those in play lose counters; and also: do shock lands dome you if you play them untapped, etcetera. Neither of us really cared enough to call a judge, and agreed that it didn’t much matter: either he combo’d out or I burned him to death.

Nick ends up transmuting for Twister to off an Angel, and Early Harvest for… well, just to put into his hand.

I end of turn Char him, and his deck starts to make sense:

He Reiterates it with buyback and sighs — let’s take six, shall we? Incidentally, the proper phrasing when casting Char is “Char us.” This is a fairly good example.

Shortly after, I burn him out and ask “what the hell does your deck do?”

It turns out that, with Reiterate and Early Harvest in hand, he can create infinite mana and infinite buyback on Reiterate, which in turn can be used to copy his opponents Call of the Herd (infinite Elephants!), Helix (infinite damage and life!), Funeral Charm (infinite Swampwalk!) and sometimes, even use it on his kill card:

Careful Consideration.

Deck yourself much, which is a textbook illustration of

drawing dead.

Anyway you slice it, cool deck. He ended up with three wins, which doesn’t sound too bad for a creatureless deck in this crazy ass environment.

Berto came with it to end up 2-5, while the other kid won his last match to go 3-4 and snatch up the free booster box. Someone check that kid’s birth certificate!


Fancy let me down. Or perhaps it was Bruce.

Regardless who is to blame — the mama who tricked out her lil’ girl or the guy who finds a way for you to lose, 4-3 is better than 3-4 or worse. Nevertheless, it’s still a sickening result, thanks. However, things can always be worse:

Justin Tardiff is playing Mike Chu for Top 8: win and you’re in. It’s late game and the board looks like it did when you first started playing Magic way back when: each player has about twenty lands and more creatures than anyone would bother to count. Justin, with U/W/G has two Worships and a Glare in play (with a pair of Azorius Herald), while Mike, with Ghazi-Glare, has all four Hermits and a boatload of tokens (47 at one point, I think).

After ten minutes of Justin playing “draw, drop another guy for no reason, go,” and with many less cards in his deck, time ran out. Since Mike won the first game, he got the victory and the Top 8 slot.

When they were picking up their cards, Mike handed back Justin’s Faith’s Fetters, which was Fettering Mike’s Glare of Subdual. Since the board was so cluttered, Justin didn’t notice that his Heralds couldn’t be tapped and well, ftw.

Large mistake, sure, though I can’t say I noticed either. It’s not like it was hidden, or Mike was trying to cheat; it’s just one of those things… that I can tease Justin about forever but probably won’t ‘cause he wouldn’t tease me if it happened to me, even if I encouraged him to do so.

While Berto and I are waiting for the Top 8 to be announced (and licking our wounds from such a counterproductive day), we head into the bookstore part, where a chyk that I beat in a Legacy match way back in January (and who has an intangible “something” about her that I just don’t like) looks up to Berto, adorned in his Steelers sweatshirt, and offers:

Chyk: I feel so bad for you.

Berto, thinking this is almost-won-the-booster sympathy:

Berto: That’s okay.
Chyk: That you’re a Steelers fan. Have you seen how Ben’s playing?

For some reason, I immediately wanted to punch this b*tch in her f***in’ teeth, mostly because it felt like she was taking a shot, veiled as it may have been or not, at my kid. However, Berto shot me a glance that said “dad, I’d like you to punch that b*tch in her f***in’ teeth, but the big picture is that we can simply walk away from her ass, while she’s stuck with herself for the rest of her life.”

We looked at each other, both shrugged “whatever,” and walked away, leaving her stuttering ass still stuttering about football like we gave a frog’s fat ass about a) the game, or b) her opinion on anything ever.

Isn’t there a rule that you have to know someone well enough before you can do certain things? Much like there seems to be a “familiar” threshold that must be reached before you teasing becomes “playful” and not just random bullsh**. Like you must know someone pretty well for six months before you make a negative comment about their psychical imperfections.

“Hey, big nose,” is an insult coming from a guy you met last week, while it’s nearly a term of endearment coming from an old friend. Seeing “I like men” written in the dirt of your fender is okay if it’s from one of your boys, and pure vandalism and line-crossing from a guy who’s friends with one of your friend’s friends.

I think everyone reading has a pretty good idea of what I mean, and neither the anti-Curse d*ckhead or the Dear Ben Die In A Motorcycle Crash b*tch are completely to blame, for they most likely are not aware of the rules. Plus, they’re freakin’ idiots.

It’s like your Bubble.

Everyone has their own space: extend your arms and spin in a circle. No one should ever enter that “space” unless you give them permission. If there’s a guy that likes to stand inside your Bubble, he’s an *sshole immediately, and should face serious repercussions.

Likewise, when you’re standing on line for anything, and you can “feel” that the person behind you is in your Bubble, hence way too close, that person deserves a swift kick in the nuts or ovaries. Yes, I seriously do think that if you invade another person’s Bubble, you deserve to be kicked in the ‘nads.

Now obviously, place like a cramped PTQ deserve an asterisk, though only slightly so because everyone’s Bubble shrinks under crowded circumstances.

I hear you saying “what’s the big deal?” It’s a huge deal. Few things make me angrier than some dumbass in my Bubble at the convenience store register. It’s common effing human courtesy! Back the f*** up! How hard is that!? Weren’t you taught that as a child? Didn’t you learn that in kindergarten?

Someday, you’ll probably read about me in the paper or see me on the news:

Tonight at 11: Man shoots up bank patrons for invading his bubble!

So there. Stay out of my Bubble and don’t f*** with my kid! And yes, I am slightly disappointed that I ended up 4-3, why do you ask?

Top 8:

Brett Coggan, Tron
Paul Matthews, Solar Pox
Mike Chu, Ghazi-Glare
Andrew Waite, B/W Control
Matt Cook, Solar Flare
Brandon Gade, U/G
Billy Ham, Rack Pox
Zach Adair, Solar Pox

44. John Friggin’ Rizzo, So Lame Dot Deck
105. Little Riz, Dad’s Badder Deck.dec

The highest twelve-point player finished 28th, and even if it was me I still would have considered it a colossal failure. Knock me down 16 spots, and I’m left with a resounding feeling of “wtf” in the pit of my soul.

wtf, just wtf

Anyway, the top 8 love:

Coggan took care of Adair’s business like anyone still watches The Apprentice.
Ham top-decked like a champ and knocked Matthews into next week.
Gade defeated Chu with more combat tricks than Michael Dukakis in a tank.
Cook beat Waite badly enough that the gravedigger’s union must be hiring.

Coggan made quick work of Cook; Demonfire for life total and then some did the nasty.
Ham annihilated Gade; it looked like the Spanish Inquisition up in here.

In the finals, Coggan and Ham, playtest partners, buds, chums, bi-curious, etcetera, let loose and played somewhat fast and furious, with Coggan emerging victorious. He only went 10-0-1 on the day, so perhaps this “Tron” deck is okay. I’ll do a little asking around to see if this deck is for real, though because it is so new, there may be very scant information to be found.

Math, after.

There are many lessons I could claim were learned the hard way, but I’m not sure what they are. I don’t think I played poorly, though I’m sure I made my share of mistakes. I could blame my losses on Birkinbine’s ridiculous good fortune to draw his one Serrated Arrows, Emery’s luck to draw two of his CoP: Red, or my amazing inability to draw Wrath of God when it mattered against Morton, but I won’t.

I believe that when you fail in Constructed it’s your own fault. I could have spent more time in preparation, thought about what I was likely to face and come up with answers. For the most part, I did; no, not really. The majority of time spent was purely intrinsic: discovering the inherent flaws and tendencies in the deck’s interaction with itself – deckbuilder, heal thyself.

With only two mulligans in sixteen games, I’d say the inside edition per the imperfect (read: no requisite 10-12 shock lands) manabase was taken well care of. It’s the outside that needed more prep work, mostly: what can I do to beat Solar Flare/Pox? Moratorium Stone is not the answer, it’s not even close. I figured the “side in too much burn” would do the trick, but without actually putting this theory in actual motion, it remained an “answer” with a rather large question mark. It took one entire game in real life for me to see the defect in this strategy; a game I could have played myself and avoided this silly little misstep.

Whatever, look on the bright side: I did finish higher than a lot of name players who aren’t names to you but are to me, and I did get to hang out all day with the egg and shoot the breeze with peeps and play Magic and drink a dozen cans of Sprite Zero.

Queen’s Greatest Hits for the ride home, just like the ride there.

When we got home, there was an envelope from Wizards of the Coast Player Rewards. Inside were 3 foil textless Wrath of God and 2 Condemn, along with textless Fireball, Oxidize, a pair of Spirit tokens and a letter that said “WE WUV YOU! Here’s your reward!”

This reminded me of the very long ride home after the very frustrating “Ichorid Deck Goes To The PTQ” tale from last winter: crappy day ends in pleasant little enchanted StarCityGames moment. But this time, a “reward” for playing Magic? As sh**ty as things get, and indeed they get quite sh**ty from time to time, they usually straighten right up, and often when a brother needs a little pick-me-up.

It’s almost like StarCityGames.com and Wizards know what’s going through my mind, but they wait, and wait, and wait… and when the time is right, they tip their hand in what can only be described as the ultimate exhibition of

slow rolling.

Drawing dead ftw,
John Friggin’ Rizzo
Slow roller from the old school