All work and no play makes Geordie a dull boy.
Sometimes the wheels just fall off of the truck. It happens to almost everyone at one time or another. It happens to your average players, to your good players, and sometimes even to the few great players that exist. Everything is cruising along just fine 0 and then the tournament reaches a crossroads where you get presented with a “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style conundrum. Two roads diverge and all that. You miss a crucial play or make the wrong decision and the day just goes sour.
Think back to your first trip to the library, when you might have thumbed through one of those childhood classics.
If you want to lose, turn to page 71.
If you want to win, turn to page 54.
The conditions are rough. It’s hot in the play area. You’re perspiring in big, wet drops that gather on your eyebrows. You’ve been playtesting and practicing and number-crunching and decklist-tightening for weeks, and it’s a close game that could go either way. Your brain is working overtime trying to figure out how to tilt the game in your favor. You’ve got tutor cards in hand – but what do you retrieve? You’ve got one counter in hand – but when should you use it?
The big “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel of life is turning pages at light speed.
Well, a stressed player can choke and give up the ghost. I turned to page 71 at least twice this last Saturday in Detroit, even with page 54 staring me right in the face. On both occasions I saw a big”The End” and the illustration would clearly show little Jimmy falling into a pit or being devoured by cannibals.
A change in the program tonight – the part of little Jimmy will be played by a grouchy, disgruntled Internet columnist.
Okay, enough metaphorical crap. Time to get this tournament report on the record, so you can see what went wrong. Before we get started, though, there’s a couple of points I should make about the events I’m about to relate.
First thing’s first – my draws were not good. People use this as an excuse far more than they should, and it pains me to do it here… But in this case it was true. Scout’s honor. My draws were mediocre for most of the day, and when they weren’t, my opponents would seem to compensate by getting strong draws that would just edge me out. I was color screwed much more often than I had any right to be with the manabase being as solid as it was.
Here we go.
The place: Garden City, Michigan.
The event: PTQ Houston.
128 players. 7 rounds of Swiss. The winner gets a $250 travel-award and an Invitation to PT Houston.
I get to the event and see Josh Rider, Sporto, Elijah Pollock and a bunch of other Canadian players I recognize. It’s nice to have Canadian players at the event who don’t choke under pressure.
“Does anyone have U/G decks with them? I haven’t tested against any.”
-Sporto, 15 minutes before start time
Here’s the deck I played, which I also listed yesterday in the column titled: “Terrible, Terrible OBC ‘Tog.” I should mention before I forget that it is The Ferrett who picks the titles for my column. Should I take a hint? ^_^
4 Cunning Wish
4 Chainer’s Edict
4 Circular Logic
4 Aether Burst
2 Deep Analysis
1 Innocent Blood
3 Darkwater Catacombs
2 Cephalid Coliseum
3 Innocent Blood
2 Ghastly Demise
1 Laquatus’ Disdain
1 Coffin Purge
1 Psychotic Haze
1 Aura Graft
The concept is tried and true: You stall, you stall, you stall some more, you win the game in one turn with a twenty-point Tog attack. Against U/G, you want to see early bounce and kill, plus a Psychatog to block and probably a Cunning Wish so you can go and get Coffin Purge to remove Wonder, if they have it.
Against Monoblack, you just lay lots of land, Edict or counter the early Shade if they have it, and then just sit back and hope they draw lots of useless removal while you try to ‘Heave and ‘Tog for the kill.
Round 1 vs. Brad Garrett w/ Monoblack
Brad is playing traditional Monoblack. I’m confident in my chances here – in testing, the Psychatog deck would win more often than not.
I win the roll, which is always good, and play a second-turn Compulsion. I’ve got the Edict for his Shade, but it doesn’t come, and I can just imagine his hand filling up with removal as I sit around playing land, cycling useless stuff at the end of his turn. The festivities start as they so often do against Monoblack, with a fifth-turn Cabal Coffers and a Diabolic Tutor with two mana available. I counter it through Compulsion with Circular Logic, draw another Logic, and I’m off to the races.
The next turn I counter a Mind Sludge with Logic and then untap, lay a land and Edict the Shade he lays afterward. At the end of his next turn, during which he does nothing much, I Cunning Wish for Envelop, cycle a few more cards through Compulsion, and then cast Concentrate on my turn, drawing a bunch more ammo and more land.
He Tutors on his turn, which I counter with Circular Logic, and then plays another Nantuko Shade, and I Aether Burst it at the end of his turn. On my turn, I lay land #9 and say”go.” On his turn, he replays the Shade and casts Mind Sludge, which I counter with Envelop. I Cunning Wish at the end of my turn for another Envelop, untap, cast Upheaval, lay a Psychatog and an untapped Island, and he knows I have the Envelop for his Innocent Blood.
Game 2:Same story here. I make it into the mid-game, which is where I want to be, without getting killed by a Nantuko Shade. All it usually takes is one Edict or Aether Burst to prevent the Shade death in the early game. Compulsion gets going, and I’m able to counter all of his threats until he has nothing but three cards in hand. I Cunning Wish for Plagiarize and clear him out at the end of his turn, drawing three cards in the meantime, and then play a Psychatog without Upheaval (which I couldn’t find), backing it with three copies of Circular Logic.
Match Record: 1-0
In between rounds I met fellow StarCity contributor Abe Sargent, who has sent a couple of emails my way. He seemed nice, and we talked shop for a while about writing and Magic and so forth. Over the course of the day, he would periodically check up on my progress, and though I appreciated his concern and attention, I almost wish he hadn’t.
Abe has a good way of letting you know he’s sympathetic to your plight whenever you happen to screw up big. He just says, “I’m sorry.”
Well, I made poor Abe pretty damn sorry during this tournament. He was about as sorry as one man can get. As they say in”Orgazmo,” there’s nothing sadder than a sad Japanese man – but he must have been close.
2-4-1? For the love of all things holy, people win more often than me playing the Lotto.
Round 2 vs. Bill Fleming w/ U/G Beatdown
Bill is playing a madness-heavy U/G with the full compliment of Aquamoeba, Mongrel, Arrogant Wurm, and Basking Rootwalla.
I have the Edict and a couple of Aether Bursts and even the Psychatog, but I get stuck on two land for way too long- about three or four turns. Instead of much -needed land, I end up drawing Compulsions. Not fun. I hold him off for as long as possible, but the creatures just keep coming – and when I finally get the Psychatog out, he Aether Bursts it and swings. I replay it, but he still comes through for lethal damage.
In a deck with twenty-four land, it’s tough to swallow a land-screw loss in an important tournament, but hey – they happen. I just have to win the next two. That’s fine.
This game was strange. My draw was strong, with Blood, Edict, and then a Standstill to reload. I killed both of his madness outlets and he was stuck with a bunch of Arrogant Wurm and Roar of the Wurm in hand, so I went aggro with my ‘Tog and popped down another Standstill. He has five land but instead of casting the Wurms, he just discards them at the end of his turn and casts them, leaving mana open for Envelop. It catches one Edict, but I’m a ton of cards up and I have an Aether Burst to send it home.
He discards it again, and again I send it home with the burst. During my turn I cast Concentrate and swing with the ‘Tog to finish it from fourteen life.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
If you want to MISS YOUR CHANCE TO TAKE TOTAL CONTROL OF THE GAME and instead make a terrible play, turn to page 30.
If you want to TAKE TOTAL CONTROL OF THE GAME AND WIN, turn to page 61.
Which way do you go? Here’s the situation. He has an Arrogant Wurm, a Roar token, and a Sylvan Safekeeper in play. I have two Psychatogs. I’m at eight life, he is at twenty… But he’s drawing off the top of his deck, and my hand contains Aether Burst, Cunning Wish, and two land.
He draws something useless and says go. I have five mana untapped at the end of his turn. If I want to defend against an Aether Burst kill, I can Cunning Wish for Psychotic Haze at the end of turn, madness it through my Tog, killing his Sylvan Safekeeper, and then Aether Burst both of his guys. Page 61.
If I want to defend against the Wonder kill, which won’t be easy for him to set up, since he currently has no way to throw it out, I can hold on to the Cunning Wish just in case I need to get Coffin Purge. Of course, killing Sylvan Safekeeper and holding my Burst will also defend against that kill by sending his flyers home. Page 30.
I make the wrong choice. I forget that he has an Aether Burst in his graveyard, first of all, and get to thinking that killing his Safekeeper just to bounce one guy won’t be all that effective. Instead, I hold on to my Wish and wait to see if I need to go get Coffin Purge. Note that I’ve also conveniently forgotten that he has no way to get Wonder into the graveyard in the first place.
I draw something useless, probably land, and say”go.”
He rips an Aether Burst and sends both of my ‘Togs home! The Sylvan Safekeeper is still alive, so I can’t Aether Burst his guys to save myself. My only option is to eat a graveyard Circular Logic in response, Cunning Wish for it, and counter the Burst.
Well, I suppose I could do that if I want to win. I have an infinite number of options that cause me to lose.
If you want to EAT CIRCULAR LOGIC, CUNNING WISH FOR IT, AND CAST IT TO SURVIVE, turn to page 11.
If you want to GO AND GET PSYCHOTIC HAZE ANYHOW, BECAUSE YOU’RE A MORON, turn to page 23.
I cast Cunning Wish to go and get the Psychotic Haze, because I wasn’t thinking clearly and I somehow got the impression that I could stack it in such a way as to Burst his guys before he makes them untargetable in response to the Haze. In hindsight, you and I both know it won’t work – he had like five land. Even with three Aether Bursts, it won’t work!
I Haze, he responds by making the Wurm untargetable, and I immediately see that responding with Burst won’t do anything whatsoever. Why didn’t I realize this before? No idea.
My Psychatogs get bounced and he serves with an untargetable Arrogant Wurm and Roar token. I lose. My next draw? Chainer’s Edict, which would have cleared his side. Then another Aether Burst. Then Concentrate. His next draws were Wild Mongrel and land.
The game was mine for the taking. I gave it away.
Match Record: 1-1
I’m totally shaken at my poor play in that last match. Without a doubt, it was likely my biggest blunder ever in high-end tournament play, and it was an understatement to say that I was”on tilt.”
I don’t know; maybe you can relate. With me, making a bad play in a major event – especially one that costs me the match – is a brutal experience. I personally can’t help but dwell on it, and I spend the next few rounds imagining a Star Trek-style alternate reality where I didn’t make the error in question, and everything is going swimmingly.
For the rest of the event, I am the personification of Jack Nicholson’s typewriter.
I could be 2-0 but I’m 1-1.
I could be 2-0 but I’m 1-1.
I could be 2-0 but I’m 1-1.
I could be 2-0 but I’m 1-1.
Here’s Johnny. Elevators filled with blood. Dead bodies in grimy bathtubs. 1-1 records that should have been 2-0. I don’t know which one is worse.
Round 3 vs. Eric Martin /w Monoblack
Eric is a nice guy who tells me after the match that he enjoys reading my articles. Thanks Eric, I appreciate it, and if you’re reading this, I hope I wasn’t too grouchy while playing you – the last round really took the wind out of my sails. You know how it is.
What else is there to tell? No sign of my Edict or my Innocent Blood, and I never had the mana to Syncopate or Logic it after the Burst. The second-turn Shade draw is Monoblack’s strongest draw against me.
I side in the Envelop.
So I lost right?
Let me bring out an old-school retort and say –
No I didn’t lose. With a lethal Shade on the table and most of my deck gone, I Compulsion like mad until the last four cards in my hand are Syncopate, Circular Logic, Psychatog, Upheaval and Envelop. (All the Edicts, Aether Bursts, Deep Analysis, Concentrates, and the remaining Psychatogs and Circular Logics are gone.) I have to ‘Heave with seven land, and I lay the first land and say”go.” He tries to replay his Shade on the new turn 2 and I Syncopate. I lay land #3. He draws and says…”Go.” I lay land #4 and say”go.” He lays a land and casts Diabolic Tutor.
I attack for the win next turn.
I’m sure you can see where this is headed. Despite drawing through one-third of my deck, at least, in the first six turns, I never draw the source of black that math dictates should come every 6.5 cards. He didn’t seem to have much else, either. He just kept attacking with the Shade, and I died with two Edicts in hand and six islands on the table.
Guess what I said when I threw my cards down at the end of that game? It starts with the letter”F” and gets worse as it goes along. Really, though – do I have anyone to blame but myself? Luck will start helping you when you learn to help yourself, and throwing away matches with dumb errors isn’t going to start that ball rolling.
Match Record: 1-2
I didn’t drop at this point, because I’m convinced my deck is good and I’m only losing due to poor play and bad draws. Unfortunately, that trend would continue. I’ll see you tomorrow for the conclusion of this report. In the meantime, when you choose your own adventure, don’t pick the page that sends you careening off the edge of a cliff, or into a pile of fire ants.