Going into the qualifier, I liked my chances for several reasons. One, I’ve been doing really well at Invasion Sealed and Draft lately, even owning a win over Chris Benafel recently (and I don’t care if it was via mana screw/flood, a win is a win and I’ll take it). Secondly, I was figuring on a low turnout for this event, being as it’s for a Pro Tour in Barcelona, and there aren’t that many people who can afford to fly to Spain. Me, I’ve got more frequent flyer miles than I know what to do with.
Did I mention that I’ve always wanted to visit Barcelona?
This, I believed, would be my best chance to make the Pro Tour at long long last. I’m on a roll playing lately, attending a hopefully sparsely-attended qualifier.
I was pulling out all the stops. Lucky shirt. Lucky high school class ring. Stylish lucky beret (although the jury is still out if it makes me look "swanky" or "fruity.") (put swanky.jpg here)
I even brought along Mini-Me to confound my opponents. (put Minime.jpg here)
I did stop short of sacrificing a goat to Ba’al to curry the favor of the Babylonian gods and pumping the room full of carbon monoxide. I’ve got a few standards.
This is what I got. The rares aren’t bad, but it goes downhill from there:
Lord of the Undead (mmm…brains)
So what do you do with this pile?
This is what I agonizingly ended up putting together:
As you can see, I was trying to get the "zombie engine" going with Lord of the Undead and three Zombies, including the otherwise suboptimal Maggot Carrier. I never got it going once, sadly.
But it is quite the pile, no? In retrospect, I should have gone R/G/W/b, so I could play my three good green-white cards (Spider, Nishoba and Cloak) and splash black for Void — but lacking multicolor support beyond Quirion Elves, I was reluctant to commit to that and instead going B/R/u, giving me a slightly better removal, although my creature base was not the best.
Hindsight is 20/20. More like 20/15 in this case.
My crappy deckbuilding aside, I decided to give this the old college try and realize my Pro Tour dreams. Who knows, I’m due to get lucky.
Round 1: Ken Coomer (R/G/B)
I win the die roll and elect to play first, trying to apply early pressure by dropping a turn three Trench Wurm with the help of a Sulfur Vent; it ends up trading for an Ancient Kavu. Ken, meanwhile, has cast a turn two Elfhame Sanctuary and proceeds to spend the next ten turns thawing land from his deck. My deck has slowed down a bit, as I can only manage a Volcanic Imp and Phyrexian Slayer to maintain the beats.
Then Ken drops a Jade Leech. By my math, however, I can win a race through the air. That is, until he enchants the Leech with Whip Silk.
After getting what seems like every possible basic land out of his deck, Ken starts drawing, getting a Kavu Climber and enchanting it with Sinister Strength. And my pile of a deck rolls over and shows its soft white underbelly.
I knew I should have sacrificed that goat.
Game two starts a little better. A turn two Addle nets a Kavu Climber, and his turn four Leech meets a timely Exclude. I drop a Slayer and enchant him with my Sinister Strength, and that flyer goes on to deliver victory in four turns.
Game three has Ken forced to mulligan, and his first play is a turn three Caldera Kavu (another card I wish I had), but it gets Assaulted. I get out an Andradite Leech and Trench Wurm to begin the beats; Ken creates an effective blocker with a Kavu with Keldon Mantle. While the ground war is a standoff, I take to the air with a Slayer and whittle him away. His last-ditch Jade Leech does him no good, coming too late in the game.
Okay, maybe the deck isn’t a total pile after all.
Round 2: Josh Beck (R/G/W)
I win the die roll and my deck rolls out they way I had intended it: turn one Nightscape Apprentice, turn two Shivan Zombie, turn three Urborg Phantom, turn four Thunderscape Apprentice and Andradite Leech. That’s a lot of fat beats. My opponent, however, does have a Benalish Trapper and Thornscape Apprentice in play, preventing the bulk of my fat beats from coming over, and then a Hunting Kavu further slows the rush. A potential game turner in Skizzik meets my Exclude. I am able to keep a consistent attack on for a few creatures each turn, at one point forcing him to trade his Trapper for my Urborg Phantom (a good trade in my book). The Shivan Zombie ends up dealing the bulk of the damage to carry the day.
Game two, Josh sideboards out his white in favor of black — a questionable move, in my opinion. Josh starts quickly with a turn two Sinistered Apprentice; I’m forced to cast Mourning on it to slow the beating. The Apprentice does deal about ten points to me before I can muster a ground army and staunch the flow of life. Josh casts Diabolic Intent, sacrificing a mana elf, for what I don’t know, but I suspect it’s a Skizzik, and I have no Exclude — I would be forced to trade my Trench Wurm for it, which would leave me open to the Apprentice beatings again. But no Skizzik is forthcoming.
I eventually manage to Strafe the Apprentice and attack with the Trench Wurm, enchanted with a Sinister Strength of his own. Then Josh casts what he tutored for — Thunderscape Master. Too bad I just topdecked a Tribal Flames.
The deck’s 2-0. Maybe it isn’t that bad. Maybe I really do have a shot here.
Round 3: Dave Schaber (B/U/W)
You know everyone was rooting for Dave in this match.
I get another good start in a turn two Nightscape Apprentice, turn three Lava Zombie, turn four Slayer. David has a decent ground force being built as well, then drops Cloud Cover — so I guess all my burn goes to his dome instead.
After establishing early beats, getting David down to eight, he stabilizes and threatens to take the game over (especially after my beatdown machine, the Volcanic Imp, gets eliminated by an Agonizing Demise after being turned green by the ever-annoying Tidal Visionary). However, thanks to the Thunderscape Apprentice, David is on an eight-turn clock. He does drop a Stormscape Master, but it’s too late to be effective (and he has no black mana sources, which is why I thought he was U/W exclusively until game two), and I win the race with my Apprentice.
Game two, David has to double mulligan to five…And go first. That’s very very bad for him. Sorry, I’m showing no mercy here. I have a turn two Dream Thrush, followed by a turn three Kavu. This develops into a ground stall, however, with his Crimson Acolyte while I try to play Rishadan Port games with my Dream Thrush. Turn his swamp into a forest — he topdecks a swamp. Okay, turn your island into a mountain — he topdecks an island.
Fine, screw this crap, I’ll just start attacking for one. Eventually, however, he’s on the verge of establishing control when I cast Void for two, taking out two of his creatures (including the annoying Acolyte) and two cards from hand. That’s good card advantage.
David eventually drops an Urborg Shambler — that was unexpected — killing my Rats of Discarding Land, and making my newly-cast Lava Zombie a little less impressive. I force a trade, however; Shambler for Zombie, then cast a Shivan Zombie and Urborg Phantom to start the beatdown. David casts a Sunscape Master (criminy, he’s got two?), but I have the burn handy to remove his final blocker.
3-0! I got a shot here!
Unfortunately, we now move to the next part of our report…
Before we begin play, Ken Horton, the longtime tournament organizer here in Oregon, announced that this would be the last premier event he would be running — with a "real" job and two small children, running tournaments was simply too much of a drain on him and it was time to step away.
Anyone who’s had the pleasure in participating in Ken’s tournaments can attest they’re among the best-run tournaments in all the land, and we’re all going to miss Ken and his stalwart crew of judges. Vaya con Dios, Ken — and when you get tired of your kids, we hope you’ll come back and run more tournaments for us.
This also means that there are now no active Level III judges here in Oregon. I do hope WotC will find a capable replacement for Ken, ‘cause I really don’t want to have to drive to Seattle for these events. I have enough trouble getting to Portland, for cryin’ out loud.
Round 4: Richard Boyes (R/G/B)
It’s official. My deck IS a pile.
While our decks are similar, Richard’s is clearly superior. Better creatures, better burn, better removal, and he knows some better tricks. When I try to cast a Lava Zombie, returning my Leech to my hand, after gating goes on the stack, he casts Magma Burst with kicker, killing both the Zombie and the Leech, and I’m forced to return my only remaining creature due to gating.
I don’t have much in the way of notes for these two matches, but I was beaten like the proverbial redheaded stepchild.
But 3-1 ain’t so bad. I got a chance yet.
Round 5: Grey Anderson (5-color)
Oh, great, not Grey. Fellow Bendite and Gambit-eer, and a guy who simply has my number lately. And he’s playing this horribly janky five-color creation.
At least I have my superior looks.
I establish early beats, eliminating blockers with Singe and Assault, while beating down with a Trench Wurm and Urborg Phantom. It looks like I have the game in hand but Grey buys some time with a Tangle, then starts beating me down with a Silver Drake for three a turn.
Then I topdeck Soul Burn and I start doing the math. He has three creatures, I have five. I am at six life. If I can draw one more land, I will be able to get enough creatures through and Soul Burn him out for the win. He attacks with the Drake, I have no block. I go down to three. And you, Mr. Anderson, are mine.
I hate you.
Game two (with the help of Mini-Me staring straight at Grey and creeping him out), I try and go aggro fast before Grey can get his five colors and establish control. I get some damage in with creatures enchanted with Sinister Strength and Maniacal Rage; unfortunately, Grey is able to eliminate my threats while Harrowing into his colors. It comes down to a race, my Lava Zombie against his Silver Drake. And it looks like I might win. Last turn, I’m at three, Grey is at four, and he’s going to have to hold back a blocker or he will die…
Then he asks me, "Dave, do you know what ‘mise’ means?"
And casts Voice of All.
I really, really hate you.
I decide to stick around for a bit longer, as I do have a shot at a flag rating prize, and there’s a slim chance that 5-2 will be able to make Top 8, and I might be able to help out Grey’s tiebreakers a bit.
Round 6: Ricky Pine (R/G/B)
This game is over on turn two. Really. Ricky lays a swamp, and on turn two I cast Addle, naming black — bad call, Dave, as his hand is nothing but red and green cards, including a Shivan Wurm! Oh, if I’d only said red! The rest of the game is me trying to beat him down fast and eliminating his threats before he can cast the Wurm, as I really have absolutely no way to get rid of it except for Void. I do a pretty good job, but he eventually does get the Wurm out, and I roll over and die in rapid fashion.
Game two is anticlimactic. Ricky double mulligans, but he still makes me work for it before I Void away his only blockers and finish the beatdown.
Game three is a mirror of game two…only in reverse. I have nothing but mountains and black and blue cards in hand. And I roll over and die. I stopped taking notes at this point, as I cursed the mana gods.
So I drop and go play side events, my pro tour dreams dashed again.
Next time, I bring the carbon monoxide.