Welcome, Thursday readers to the conclusion of my tournament report for the Saturday Judgement Prerelease held in Garden City, Michigan! If you read yesterday’s column, you probably know that I opened a lot of threshold-enabled late game fat. Go back and read it again if you need to refresh your memories as to the exact contents – I’m vaulting right into the match coverage!
With the heavy smell of briquettes wafting through the room, we get the pairings for Round 1.
Round 1 vs. Matt Paffhouse w/ W/R/G
Winning Round 1 is pretty important. I’m hoping to…
Man, I can’t believe I just wrote that.
I am so sh*t…in my quest to fill up space and properly bookend the meaty parts of my report with obligatory crap, you’re getting a firsthand demonstration of how to state the obvious. Winning Round 1 is pretty important. Of course, it is then also important to win Round 2. After that, winning Round 3 would probably be a good idea.
Guess what the next logical step is? That’s right, Einstein. Round 4.
Enough of that crap – let’s play.
Matt takes a mulligan and then gets mana flooded, and I come out quick with some beatdown backed by Sudden Strength to keep the pressure on. Even though I wasn’t playing first, his draw has very slow and land-heavy, and he couldn’t afford to lose blockers to Sudden Strength instead of trading. That’s exactly what happened, with my Ironshell Beetle taking down a larger blocker… And he folds without dealing me a single point of damage.
No sideboard changes.
This game sees a Hallowed Healer on both sides, and a creature stalemate ensues. Though he has Commander Eesha, she’s trumped by the Healer. I begin to build up my side of the board in preparation for the big push through. Matt is searching for the second red mana to cast his Shower of Coals.
The Giant Warthog hits the table, and he drops a few more blockers. The Warthog can’t push through just yet – he’s got a Hallowed Healer, Eesha, and a bunch of speedbumps – but then I hit seven mana and here he comes! Thriss America. I start pounding on him with the Warthog, all the while throwing out every land I draw to the my Mongrel, and grab threshold to enable my Vigilant Sentry – who up until that point was just sitting around doing nothing. He still hasn’t found that second red mana.
Every turn, the 5/5 comes in and goes”High On The Hog” to the tune of 13/13, plus four points of possible damage prevention. Even Chastise won’t save him, as I have a Benevolent Bodyguard. It’s a few turns before he has to chump with everything he has, and then he scoops and shows me the Shower of Coals. Rough luck, but I might have had it anyhow – my early creatures were Hallowed Healer, Wild Mongrel, and Phantom Nomad, all of which are somewhat resilient.
Match Record: 1-0
So far the deck is working as designed – clog up the ground, get threshold, and come over with massive fatties. Not only that, but now the place smells like hamburgers. Score!
Time for Round 2.
Round 2 vs. Chris Turner w/ U/W
Chris has two Phantom Nomads (along with several other early drops) and three Wormfang Drakes. That’s pretty strong. While I’m really low on flyer defense, I’m hoping to push through with my fat. The question is… Does he have cards like Second Thoughts or Chastise – and if so, will I draw my Benevolent Bodyguard? If he does and I don’t, then racing those Drakes is impossible.
Chris busts the quick Drake and I’m stalled on offense. Then he starts bringing out annoying Phantom Nomads and Wormfang Newts that, while sucky, can trade with my Ironshell Beetle and Krosan Avenger. My life goes from twenty to five over the course of five turns, but then I rip Chastise and pray he doesn’t have Shelter or any other method of prevention. I actually found myself fearing Shelter a lot on this day, though I never did get drilled with it – a testament to just how amazing the card is. He doesn’t have it and my life goes back up to eight – a little safer. With the board somewhat stabilized thanks to my large counter-attack ability (I’m near threshold with Metamorphic Wurm and Giant Warthog on the table), I go to work trying to get cards into my graveyard. Then, at eighteen life, he drops Battlewise Aven and Phantom Flock and inexplicably starts attacking with only a few tiny blockers back, dropping me to five. Though I have an Embolden in my graveyard, it’ll probably have to be used next turn. There’s only one explanation for that sort of play, and it’s Prismatic Strands.
I have no answers, so I toss land to Patrol Hound, gain threshold (the Wurm is now 7/7), attack for the win and sure enough, he has Prismatic Strands to prevent most the damage, going to twelve. On his turn, he attacks with everything and I have to flashback the Embolden to live. Yes that’s right – everything. I wait for him to play a white creature after combat, but he just says”go.”
No untapped white creature? I gain threshold once again (the flashback on Embolden removed it) and attack with everything. He checks the flashback cost of Prismatic Strands and has to scoop – whoops. He had a Phantom Nomad with one counter that he could have left back, too. On to game 2.
I side in Firebolt and Arcane Teachings and side out the Broker, Nullmage Advocate and my islands…I want to be consistent and maybe get rid of his weenies before he can drop a Drake. Arcane Teachings is great against all those Phantoms, too.
He stalls me again with a big Drake, and starts the beatdown with the Drake and a Beloved Chaplain, with my Hallowed Healer taking half the sting off. I get enough fat on the board that the Chaplain starts staying back, but he’s once again reducing my life pretty quickly, and I’m down to five once again before I rip Chastise and go up to eight. I Firebolt the Chaplain….
But then he plays Steamclaw.
Luckily, I get up to seven land and I’m suddenly tuned to 106.3 THRISS-FM.
Combined with a Disciple and my trampling Krosan Avenger, I pound on him until he is dead, while he draws nothing of note, and certainly nothing that can get past my topdecked Hallowed Healer and a potentially 9/9 Battlewise Aven. He has to chump block a lot – and though he does start threatening a counterattack via fliers, he has to chump with all his white ones and can’t flashback Prismatic Strands because he has no white creatures. That turns out to be important, since he had just drawn Unquestioned Authority to put the pressure back on me.
Like I said – Thriss is no Aboshan or Cabal Patriarch. But in this combat-oriented environment, he’s close.
Match Record: 2-0
In between rounds, I go out to Jean-Marc’s car and get a Coke. Gotta keep my (Battle of?) wits about me, make sure to play my best. With no mistakes, even if I lose I’ll at least know I did my best.
Time for Round 3.
Round 3 vs. James McCarthey w/ G/W Beats
James is running a good ol’ G/W deck as well, with a bunch of Phantom creatures and yet another Commander Eesha. Despite this, I know I’m going to win, because my deck crushes other decks with sheer size.
This is a pretty straightforward game… We trade efficient early plays (Nomad + Mongrel vs. Nomad + Phantom Tiger) and the land piles up. I get my Hallowed Healer and things start to slow down. I try to start serving with a Battlewise Aven + Disciple pumping but get cornholed by Chastise (whoops; sh*t). I hit six mana and drop the Hog. He plays Commander Eesha. Then I hit seven mana and pile on the fun with everyone’s favorite Nantuko Primus. Thriss is the friggin’ atomic bomb, yo. Recognize.
With Disciple, plenty of ground stall and, of course, Thriss, I send in the 5/5 trampler and go high on the Hog every turn until his whole side has to jump in the way to prevent his death. At that point he scoops, staring down a newly-cast Krosan Beast with threshold and my whole army.
No sideboard action.
This game was the nuts. I think I went Mongrel, Barkripper, Broker, Metamorphic Wurm, Krosan Beast, and then used the Broker to hit Threshold in two or three turns and run him over. I think on the first attack, I busted Sudden Strength to turn a trade into a kill and make things even worse… It was crazy – I took nothing and he went from 20-0 over the course of about two turns.
That was an utter and complete ass-hammering – I hope I play other G/W decks all day. My deck is great in the mirror. The MVP of that game was the Broker, which automatically gives me Threshold if it stays out long. Also, G/W can’t remove it, since it never attacks or blocks.
Match Record: 3-0
I’m 3-0 and feelin’ fine. I’m getting that feeling I had at GP: Detroit when I finished 35th – the feeling that something special might happen today…that I might have some success and go home stoked. Don’t let this optimism cloud things – just read on to the next round and see hope get stabbed multiple times:
Round 4 vs. Aaron Brieder w/ U/W/B
An excellent player who is a proven commodity at prereleases and other events, this guy was playing a house of a deck with excellent black removal, Cephalid Looter, Treacherous Vampire, Battle Screech, two copies of Cagemail to slow down the early game, and probably a bunch of other cool stuff I didn’t see.
This was the only game that was close – he really broke my heart with a Chastise on my attacking Wild Mongrel, which I had only recently freed from Cagemail via the selfless actions of a Benevolent Bodyguard. While his pesky Phantom Nomads and Mirror Wall stalled the ground, he dropped Treacherous Vampire and started absolutely going to town on my ass, resulting in a life total that dropped faster than the WWF stock price following the launch of the XFL. (Man, was that or was that not the worst idea since Rick Steiner got confronted by Chuckie on Nitro? I’m thinking yes.)
I have no answer to the Vampire and it goes all the way while I twiddle my thumbs.
Ugh. Not only am I mana flooded, but his draw is a beating and he could have won anyway. It’s something like second-turn Innocent Blood your Phantom Nomad, third-turn Looter, fourth-turn Dirty Wererat, fifth-turn Demise your summoning sick Broker (that was the real backbreaker – it would have let me plow past all the land in my hand) and then Battle Screech and flash it. After that, he got threshold and started attacking for ten.
No, I didn’t win that one.
That beating was so severe that the government of Singapore would consider it inhumane. Brieder was nice enough to tell me that”I didn’t see any mistakes.” Good thing I didn’t tell him about my personal life.
Match Record: 3-1
Now feeling decidedly less confident, I bury my sorrows by chowing down on some bologna sandwiches that I packed. There’s nothing like processed meat to quell that massive hunger you get from being violated in Round 4. Well, at least I assume there’s nothing like processed meat. I’d have to know the contents to be sure, and even the FDA can’t reach a consensus on bologna.
Time for Round 5 – in this large a field, I need to win out in order to grab some prizes.
Round 5 vs. Adam Moisson w/ U/G/R
The key card here is Hallowed Healer. I get mine down and I’m able to keep the pressure on by constantly attacking… He’s never able to make a favorable block due to the Healer and my turn 4 Sudden Strength. I also pull off the Rabid Elephant/Chastise trick, gang blocking it with everything I have and then Chastising to gain mad life. I’m at twenty when he falls to the beatings – I simply attack every turn and he can never trade worth beans because Hallowed Healer is so good. The one time he tries to do a bunch of blocks and clear stuff out, I sac a Bodyguard, use a Healer and Embolden, and his side is obliterated in a massive unfavorable damage exchange. He scoops before I can deal the killing blow.
For the first of many times in the later rounds, I side in Shieldmage Advocate.
The end to this game was pretty unlikely. I once again have turn 4 Sudden Strength to get things going in my favor, but he drops some fat and Phantoms and stabilizes. Most importantly, he manages to get Wonder in the graveyard and it’s a dead-on race – my force against his force. He drops a Warthog and starts coming over for flying Hog beats, while I swing back with my entire ground squad including Mongrel, Nomad, Patrol Hound, and also my Battlewise Aven (not much point in blocking with it). This game is fast and furious, and with him at 10 life I think I have him dead. Pitching my last card to get threshold, an all-out attack seems to do the trick – he just attacked with his Warthog, and my force is Ironshell Beetle (with no counter though; it’s a 1/1), Nullmage Advocate, Phantom Nomad, Wild Mongrel (no cards in hand) Patrol Hound, and Battlewise Aven (with threshold and the Ironshell Beetle counter on it, it’s a 4/4). He has only a Rabid Elephant! I’m at four life with an Embolden in the graveyard.
I attack with everything and calculate that he cannot prevent his death…but I forgot he has Wonder in his graveyard and can chump the Aven and take nine. He goes to one. As it turns out, attacking with everything was the right play anyhow, since I needed to get rid of that Elephant.
Now he can only do five damage – and I can prevent four of it with Embolden, right?
Nope. He rips friggin’ Vivify and comes over for eight. Tough loss.
I leave my deck pretty much the same.
We trade a bunch of creatures in the early game and my Nullmage Advocate luckily removes one of his Arcane Teachings before it can wreck my side. He cycles a Vivify. We trade attacks once again; he’s at three and I’m at five when time is called. Still, I’ve just dropped Thriss and I can likely push through for those last three points of damage.
It’s not to be. On his turn, the first of our five turns, he plays Chamber of Manipulation, and it’s sure to remove any creature I pump with Thriss from combat. He can’t get through my Hallowed Healer and massive ground forces (with Embolden in hand to boot) and I don’t have any fliers for him to steal and attack with. I can’t get through his ground forces because of the Chamber.
It’s a draw.
Match Record: 3-1-1
Hmm. Well, that’s the last of my outs – I have to win the rest in order to make Top 8. With this deck it’s certainly possible, but will I have the draws? Will the somewhat troublesome mana be consistent enough? These questions are hammering all over my skull as I wait for Round 6.
Only one way to find out if something is going to go wrong – and that’s to jump in with both feet and hope against hope. Let’s go on to Round 6.
Round 6 vs. Stephen Thompson w/ U/R/B
Interesting color combination! Stephen is a young guy and also the only player I’ve seen today not playing White or Green. He does have some bombs – Fledgling Dragon, Psychatog, and Vampiric Dragon, but if I come out fast, they shouldn’t dominate the game due to threshold, mana, and graveyard requirements.
Game 1 is probably my fastest beatdown of the tournament, as I get a super-aggressive draw of Benevolent Bodyguard, Wild Mongrel, Ironshell Beetle (putting counter on the Mongrel), Sudden Strength turn 4 to flatten his Fledgling Dragon that was trying to kill the 1/1 Beetle, followed by more attacking. I also had Embolden. Now remember this – Embolden, much like Hallowed Healer (or, really, any damage prevention card) is not simply defensive in nature. Embolden just lets you keep attacking, attacking, attacking, without worrying about making bad trades in combat.
It’s an offensive card, and that’s what I did this game – slam into his creatures every turn, get some damage through, and prevent bad trades with Sudden Strength, followed by Embolden and flashback Embolden. Demoralize finishes the job just as he starts to stalemate the board.
Vicious color screw for Stephen this game, and my draw is pretty broken. Second-turn Rites of Spring for four, allowing me to get all four land types and five cards in the grave! Then I drop Anurid Barkripper and Cephalid Broker!
One use of the Broker puts me at Threshold and I have a turn 5 8/8 Krosan Beast, along with my now 4/4 Barkripper. That’s just unfair. Meanwhile, he can’t cast anything since he has no red mana and all of the cards in his hand are red. The game ends in a hurry, mostly because Krosan Beast steps on you like the heavy foot of government. The last time a Squirrel got this big, it keeled over and fed a trailer park for three weeks.
Two more rounds to go.”Evil” Matt Fox is also 4-1-1, I believe, so we’re both trying to win out while simultaneously hoping we don’t play each other.
Round 7 vs. Mike Nunez
Mike is playing a fast R/G beats deck, with a low mana curve and creatures like Liberated Dwarf, Phantom Tiger, Ironshell Beetle and the like. Worst of all, he also has Thriss, Nantuko Primus – which screws me out of casting mine if he gets his first. I need a specific kind of draw against a deck this fast, one with early defense like Phantom Nomad, Wild Mongrel, and Hallowed Healer. If I get a land-heavy opening grip with no play until turn 3, I think I’m in deep trouble.
I get a four-land hand with no play until turn 3 – but the turn 3 play is Hallowed Healer, and I topdeck a Benevolent Bodyguard to prevent the Healer from getting killed before it’s active. He does in fact come out fast, with Liberated Dwarf preventing me from doing any useful blocking with my Nullmage Advocate and Anurid Barkripper… I eventually just trade my Barkripper for the use of his Dwarf so I can stop the madness. The Healer comes out after the Advocate and I’m trying to stabilize, but he lays land after land along with a Krosan Avenger and Springing Tiger.
I’m trying to stabilize, and I get down Metamorphic Wurm and Wild Mongrel, but suddenly he’s at seven mana and drops Thriss. I, of course, have six mana and my Thriss is in my hand. He starts pounding on me and my life goes from nineteen to sixteen to ten, with the threat of a lot more to come. I get the Broker going, and get rid of Thriss to draw some useful cards, and draw into Sudden Strength and Demoralize while simultaneously (finally!) being able to put some cards in the grave.
My side of the table is Wild Mongrel, Metamorphic Wurm, Cephalid Broker, Shieldmage Advocate and Hallowed Healer. With three cards in the grave, I loot at the end of the turn, drawing and throwing out a couple of land. He’s at seventeen life, and I now have five cards in the grave. I draw another land, lay it to get seven mana, cast Sudden Strength to make the Mongrel 5/5 (six cards in grave), draw a card, pitch the land I drew to make the Mongrel 6/6 (seven cards in grave – THRESHOLD!), then cast Demoralize, which with threshold means his Elephant and Ironshell Beetle can’t block.
I attack with my 6/6 Mongrel, 7/7 Metamorphic Wurm, 2/2 Broker, 1/3 Advocate and 1/1 Healer. Add it up – it’s seventeen.
Me:”That’s seventeen. Pack ’em up.”
Mike Nunez:”That was a harsh Demoralize.”
Game 2 is a fast start for him and it’s all about Ben Affleck. What’s Ben Affleck?
Ben Affleck is Arcane Teachings.
“Affleck, you the bomb on Phantoms yo’!”
He puts Affleck on his Phantom Tiger and suddenly I’m staring down a creature that can never die. Try as I might, he just keeps throwing down more defense, pinging me every turn, and sneaking through a little more damage here and there. My life slowly drops while I desperately dig for answers – but if you look at my decklist, the only thing that can save me is my Nullmage Advocate, and I traded that in combat right at the start of this game. He pings me down and beats me dead.
I put up a good fight but what can I say – Affleck is the bomb on Phantoms.
“Word, bitch – Phantoms like a mutha****a!
“What’s up now?”
What, haven’t you guys seen Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back?
I played like utter garbage this game. Not only did I make some foolish trades in combat and use my Hallowed Healer at the wrong times, but I almost screwed up a sure win. I won but I didn’t deserve it, and Mike was none too happy. While I won’t go into the sordid details of my terrible play, I can show you what happened in the final moments of the game:
It’s a total stalemate. We’re staring each other down, and though I’ve managed to beat him down to four with my Battlewise Aven, he’s finally eliminated it with Flame Burst. I’m at eighteen but all he needs is one more creature to ensure his safety, and then he can start serving – his guys are larger.
I draw – Demoralize. I have six cards in my graveyard. I have a Forest in hand, and Wild Mongrel on the table, along with a bunch of other creatures, none of them too impressive. I think he has six creatures and I have five.
What do I do? Well, like a complete idiot, I cast Demoralize, and then forget to respond to it my pitching a card to my Mongrel. I even put it in the graveyard before I realize my stupidity. So I get the non-threshold Demoralize, which means my guys can only be blocked by two creatures each. That means two of them get through.
One of my guys is a Vigilant Sentry, so I’m still fine, since I can attack with four and pump the guy he doesn’t block… But that’s only if he doesn’t have Moment’s Peace. I check the damage and yes, if he has Moment’s Peace, he can in fact counterattack for eighteen damage and kill me.
Had I just cast the Threshold version of Demoralize, I could attack with just my Giant Warthog, leaving my Hallowed Healer and others back to block and prevent damage! Then I would be safe even if he had Moment’s Peace. What’s worse, Mike looks pretty calm, and he’s certainly representing Moment’s Peace. He didn’t do anything dumb like scoop as soon as he saw Demoralize.
“Demoralize. Sure.” That’s all he said.
Well, I have to go for it. I attack with everything. He double-blocks Giant Warthog, Anurid Barkripper and Wild Mongrel… But he dies to four damage from the Sentry with threshold and my Hallowed Healer. He doesn’t have Moment’s Peace.
The kicker? He flips his top two cards over and sure enough…Moment’s Peace is the second one down. I suck, but I got lucky…what terrible play!
Match Record: 5-1-1
Well, this is it – the moment of truth. Will I end up 5-2-1, with nothing to bring home but a smile and a story and clothes smelling of bratwurst and briquettes? Or will I go 6-1-1 and grab myself some product?
Wish me luck.
Round 7 vs. Ron W. w/ G/W
Ron’s is an Asian guy I also see at most of these events, and his deck is just a beating – he has three Phantom Tigers, a couple of Phantom Nomads, Nantuko Disciple, a Phantom Centaur… And Phantom Nantuko! I’m going to need solid draws to carry this one through.
I’m able to Chastise a Phantom Tiger, which is a great way to get rid of that resilient little bastard, and I stalemate the board, which is great since I have Thriss in my hand. Ron starts swinging for some damage with his Battlewise Aven aided by Nantuko Disciple, but I get Thriss (!!!) on the board, and along with my Vigilant Sentry, my Krosan Avenger starts pumping to 11/9 trample and going to town.
Ron eventually gets his Phantom Nantuko big enough to stop much of the trample damage, but then I start laying fat after fat – during three successive turns I lay 8/8 Krosan Beast, 7/7 Metamorphic Wurm and 5/5 Warthog. I follow that up with Hallowed Healer and Nantuko Disciple, and suddenly he’s done like dinner – I’m coming in with creatures that are large enough to jack his Phantom Nantuko for lunch money about three times over.
He blocks with everything he can, but with multiple 10/10 creatures attacking every turn, he can’t last long, and packs it up. My deck is some strong in the mirror.
I get a little mana flooded, and we have to call a judge over when I try to triple block Phantom Nantuko to remove all three of its counters.
The Nantuko loses one counter and two of my guys get smoked, though I prevent the worst of it with the sacrifice of my Benevolent Bodyguard. Apparently all combat damage is one big chunk. Who knew? Time is running down, and I need to start drawing my fat if I want a chance of winning this game. It’s not looking good, though – I just draw more land.
I’m at one life (!!!), barely maintaining creature parity, Ron is moving in for the kill in a couple of turns, and then boom… Time is called.
Wow, does THAT ever suck. If he wins this, which it looks like he’s going to, we’re both screwed out of Top 8. I do everything I can to get a draw, including some (probably obvious) bluffing of Second Thoughts and Chastise…. But the truth is that both of my extra turns consist of drawing land. He plays around Chastise and Second Thoughts as much as possible, but on turn 5 he has to go for it – and I, of course, have nothing.
He wins. It’s a draw. We’re screwed.
Now things get interesting. There’s a judge watching us, but we didn’t discuss anything regarding a compensated scoop before the round started – I think we both thought we could get the match done in time, plus compensated scooping is illegal anyhow. Obviously with the judge there we can’t say anything, and when Ron tries to roll a die to determine the winner, the judge puts a stop to it.
It’s pretty obvious one of us has to scoop so the other guy can get his box, but we don’t know each other and one of us could just stiff the other. Ron is hesitant to scoop, and the judge is pressuring us to sign the match slip, so…
“Congratulations, Ron – I concede the match!”
I scoop. Hmm…I doubt John Rizzo ever scooped in the hope of getting prizes. In fact, he hated that two people could agree on a match outcome and screw some other guy out of Top 8. I am filled with shame.
Ah, who am I kidding? I didn’t care. I wanted some packs.
It’s important to note that Ron never said a word to me about splitting the box, either before the match or in the presence of the judge (thank god), so I’m flying blind here – and it also has the nice side effect that unlike most compensated scoops, this scoop is actually legal according to the DCI. So Ron gets his box and I get to hope.
It doesn’t end there though…as we leave, guess who is waiting for me out in the parking area? Yep, it’s Ron, box in hand. He gives me twenty packs of Judgment.
I am so not Rizzo. Considering I got twenty packs for not standing on JFR’s principles, I’d say it’s one of my best qualities.
This is Geordie, signing off. And don’t think this is over…I went to the Sunday Prerelease as well – you’ll hear about that one next week. Here’s the teaser – my deck included Glory, Overrun, and two Treacherous Vampires. How do you think I did?