Greetings, my fellow Magicians!
God, that sounds so lame. Hmm… What’s a good prologue for a tournament report? Perhaps it’s in everyone’s best interests if I get right to it – I know the Ferrett certainly wouldn’t mind fewer words, if his brain isn’t total tapioca by this juncture.
Bah; the hell with it. I’m sure the Ferrett can handle some more verbiage; my guess is that any man who can whip up an extensive fifty billion-question purity test can handle any editing task, no matter how daunting. (And if you don’t know what he’s talking about and you’re over sixteen , feel free to ask me – The Ferrett)
Hmm. On second thought, I’m not feeling prologueish. Cock the hammer; it’s time for action.
The Ralphie Treatment 15.0
Round 1: B/R/G Dougherty Reanimator (Daniel Rude)
I broke out my intimidating shiny purple sleeves and associated purple die (affectionately named Purple Nurple) and got ready to run thangs. A first-round loss at Regionals essentially puts you out of mix for the top 8, so I knew that I had to start off on the right foot. The first match is also where you’re most likely to make any nervous mistakes – something I’m not prone to, but wanted to make sure that I avoided anyway.
Daniel won the die roll and opted to go first (horror of horrors). The early turns featured production of a pair of mongrels gone wild (topless!), but they were met with a pair of Smothers. He discarded a Roar of the Wurm in response and brought out the 6/6 soon thereafter.
My grip had no action, and I had no concept of what he was playing at this point, seeing only swamps and forests and the aforementioned cards. I took a six-point lump on the chin and then dug for answers with Renewed Faith. Joyously, I found the best one in my deck – Wrath of God. Daniel dropped a Birds of Paradise and a Doomed Necromancer and passed the turn. The jig was up – I knew he was playing a variant on Rob D’s Reanimator as soon as I saw these guys fall. Wrath of God brought his team down, and I dropped the card he least wanted to see: Withered Wretch.
My opponent had nothing on his own turn, much to my delight. Fortunes can change with one topdeck when you’re up against Reanimator. The Wretch munched his graveyard clean and I deducted a stinging two points from his life total. An Exalted Angel later finished the job, as he could muster nothing to stop her.
Game 2 was unnerving. I went down to six and kept a one-land willaford (don’t ask) because it had both an Undead Gladiator and a Renewed Faith in it. If I had drawn just one more mana source, I would have been in fine shape, since my first land was a Grand Coliseum. One of the best characteristics of the Ralphie Treatment is that it can cycle its way out of poor mana situations rather quickly…
…But it was not meant to be. I did not pluck a land for two turns, but Daniel also stalled on the same number. The only difference? He had a Wild Mongrel ready to beat the tar out of me. I drew a Cabal Therapy and took out a Doomed Necromancer with it, figuring I still had a way to win the game if I could draw a few lands and stop the creature pressure. If he had drawn a third land and cast the Doomed Necromancer, it would have been over for me – so it was the right call, given the situation. However, in the course of taking the Doomed Necromancer, I noted a pair of Akroma, Angel of Wraths as well as two copies of Zombify. I hoped that I could draw another Cabal Therapy (or perhaps a creature to flash it back) before he reached four land… But no. Akroma fell from the heavens, and I was squished under her mighty heel.
The third game was an epic battle. Daniel got off a third-turn Buried Alive, sending Anger, Genesis, and Doomed Necromancer to the grumps… But I had the trump card in the form of Withered Wretch. In his upkeep, he elected to pay 2G to return Doomed Necromancer to his hand, and I removed it in response.
Now, excuse me while I slip into the present tense and don my Sheldon hat: The way this really happens is that Genesis’s trigger goes on the stack and the active player announces a target. At this point, I have to decide whether I want to remove the target with the Withered Wretch. If I pass priority, he can pay the 2G and get the creature back. Well, he did things backwards and paid the cost before the ability resolved. Technically, he should have taken three points of mana burn, but I didn’t call him on it since I’d already Time Walked because of his gaffe and that was enough.
Genesis and Anger were the next menu items on the zombie snack bar – quite tasty! My Withered Wretch met Chainer’s Edict on his turn, but his purpose had been served. Still, my hand was fairly stagnant while he had plenty of cards. Hmmm… Wild Mongrel and a Wurm token (these kids always travel in packs and do it from the back) materialized and began to work on my life total. I dug through my deck with a cycling land and an Undead Gladiator, finally hitting upon a Smother for the big Wurm a turn later. I had already taken ten points from the gruesome twosome and was somewhere in the neighborhood of eight or nine life. I summoned a Graveborn Muse, hoping it would find me the droids I was looking for – or at least block the dog and reduce the size of his imposing-looking hand. I peeled a Chainer’s Edict as well as a Cabal Therapy on my next turn. I attacked his hand, looking for Zombify but only finding Sickening Dreams and three lands. Chainer took care of the Wild Mongrel, leaving me with a Graveborn Muse on the table and two lands in my hand.
Now, on his turn he could have cast Sickening Dreams for three to kill my Graveborn Muse and bring me down to five or so and leaving him with one card, but Daniel had some kind of strategy – probably one that involved killing me outright with the spell after Graveborn Muse’s ability whittled my life down. That’s not too bad a plan, but I already had a Cabal Therapy in the graveyard and could clearly sacrifice my Phyrexian Arena on legs any time I felt like it.
I really wish I could remember the exact details of the match’s final turns. Somewhere along the way, I stripped his Sickening Dreams, cast an Exalted Angel, and drew stupefying amounts of cards on my way to victory. I think I got as low as two life before Exalted Angel turned the tide, as usual.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games
Round 2: B/G Cemetery (Andrew Berke)
Swamp. Forest. A turn 2 Wirewood Herald gave me pause as I quickly identified his archetype: B/G Cemetery can be tough on Ralphie because there’s simply no way to deal with an early Braids, Cabal Minion. Cemetery players always have something handy to sacrifice to Chainer’s Edict, and it’s not as if you have a glut of creatures to satisfy Ms. Stewart’s lust for permanents. I tested the matchup, and it’s tricky (to rock a rhyme that’s right on time) – B/G has Caller of the Claw to answer Wrath of God, Wirewood Heralds to take Chainer’s Edict on the chin, and the ability to recur Nantuko Vigilante to kill your enchantments. You have to play your best and hope you get a little lucky in order to win… And that’s just what happened.
Andrew started off with Nantuko Husk and added a Bird of Paradise to the team. I played an early Astral Slide and later crushed his Husk with Smother. He cast back-to-back Oversold Cemeteries, but only had three creatures in his graveyard; I plucked a Wretch and ate the three creatures with no remorse, knowing that I had saved the game for now. My second-favorite zombie didn’t last long, though, catching a Smother in my end step. The next several turns involved my opponent drawing a good mix of land and creatures… Except none of the creatures he drew had power greater than one.
I cycled Undead Gladiator like a champion for five or six turns to keep the Wirewood Beat Patrol off my back and to hopefully find a win condition – a fact not lost on my opponent. He was chirpy the whole match, calling out his hopeful topdecks, quizzing me on how my deck won, and attempting to ascertain my spells when I tapped mana – basically, trying to distract me. I finally drew an Exalted Angel, but it was promptly sent to the graveyard via Dark Banishing. I had gambled that his build didn’t run anything except Smother for targeted removal, and was punished for it. He managed to add some more pressure in the form of a Nantuko Husk and cast Living Wish for a Nantuko Vigilante. Andrew’s insect druid did its thing, taking out one of my two Astral Slides on the next turn.
He started sacrificing Wirewood Heralds to the Nantuko Husk to get the engine going, fetching a Caller of the Claw and another Herald. I was holding Smother, Withered Wretch, Undead Gladiator, and Wrath of God; I knew that I couldn’t cast Wrath without first using Cabal Therapy to rid his hand of those meddling Elves. If I could draw a Cabal Therapy, I could set up the game-winning play and totally demolish him.
Smother touched his Wirewood Herald and he fetched his second Caller of the Claw, as expected. I untapped and cast Cabal Therapy; Andrew cast both Callers in response, leaving him with no cards in hand. He stacked up his creatures, knowing full well of the impending Wrath, and yet he did not care thanks to his double-Oversold action. But judging by the look on his face (which similar to one you’d have if stricken by a Johnny Cage-style nut punch), my young opponent was not expecting a Withered Wretch follow-up with six mana still left untapped. I chewed his graveyard down to safe range while cries of”how lucky!” rang in my ears. I later found an Exalted Angel and Visara the Dreadful to finish the game off in short order.
In game 2, I went down like Jeff George in a collapsing pocket; Andrew had a turn 3 Braids as well as Duress/Cabal Therapy, and I had two total lands for the first six turns. Very fair. I’m glad I made him sweat for this one.
The third game saw me go down to six cards before settling on a decent starting hand. I Cabal Therapied for Braids early on, striking gold and snagging two copies. Seeing no removal in Andrew’s hand and having two Exalted Angels in mine, I went for the jugular and dropped her morphed on the third turn. I flashed the Therapy back at some point, nailing a Ravenous Baloth. How good is Cabal Therapy, people?
The second Exalted Angel joined the fray soon thereafter. With time running short in the round, I found an Astral Slide to protect my girls and rode them all the way to the Promised Land. Andrew topdecked several lands in a row (letting me know about his bad fortune the whole time) and couldn’t find anything to deal with the heaven-sent pressure.
2-0 matches, 4-2 games
Round 3: G/W/R Beasts (James Wilken)
At last – a true beatdown deck! The Ralphie Treatment went something ridiculous like 90% against Beasts in testing, so I was elated to see a turn 1 Windswept Heath/Birds of Paradise play from James’ side of the table. I took my standard first-turn gambit against Beasts, naming Anurid Brushhopper with Cabal Therapy. A hit! A palpable hit!
The rest of his hand contained land, Ravenous Baloth, and Genesis. I looked at the second Cabal Therapy in my hand and knew that it’d be difficult to lose this one – Exalted Angel was riding shotgun and set to come down unopposed on turn 3. Sure enough, James had nothing to cast prior to turn 4 Genesis and I won with ease.
Game 2 was a much better game, as James weathered my early Cabal Therapy (nailing both Anurid Brushhoppers and an unexpected sideboard card in Worship) and dropped a fair amount of beaters in the first six turns. I had to sacrifice a Withered Wretch to pay the flashback cost on Cabal Therapy, which is not something that I like to do against a deck that runs Genesis and Glory. I didn’t board in any enchantment removal, and I didn’t want to risk prolonging the game because I simply couldn’t get around Worship fast enough. I had an Exalted Angel back on defense against James’ ever-growing team, and things were looking poor until I ripped Visara the Dreadful off the top ropes.
Now folks, if Beasts does not run Reprisal, it cannot deal with the queen of snakes in any capacity. Fortunately, my opponent did not find his Reprisal for Visara until she already had four notches in her gun belt, decimating what there was of his board. The last creature to fall to Visara was Glory, so sacrificing the Withered Wretch early stung me a bit in the late game. James only had a couple of 0/1 birdies on defense, and I could win either with an Astral Slide/Wrath combo or by simply drawing another graveyard gourmand. With the aid of some cycling chicanery, I plucked into the former and won in four attack phases. James never really mustered anything after he executed Visara, save for some easily-vaporized elephant tokens.
I wish there was more to say about this match, but it was over really fast and provided me the chance to get some dirty lunchtime KFC on. I hope I wasn’t the only one who noticed how surly the Baltimore Travel Plaza KFC ladies are; I thought I was going to catch eleven special herbs and spices to the eye when I asked for extra biscuits instead of the usual KFC side dishes. And then they tried to slip me a mickey by giving me Coke when I asked for iced tea! That extra caffeine might have done me in, the lousy…
3-0 matches, 6-2 games
Round 4: MBC (Elijah Goldberg)
I was starting to get a little annoyed here, as I had not yet been pitted against U/G madness or R/G beats – two of my most favorable matchups. Meanwhile, Teddy K had faced a pair of R/G and one U/G deck… And he was running a card-for-card copy of my deck. Elliot Fertik had squared off against three consecutive U/G decks. Both men were undefeated. Sometimes, life’s not fair.
MBC was also a fantastic matchup for me in testing; any time I could get down an Astral Slide, all of their removal became really terrible. MBC players also have the tendency to hold Corrupt until they have eight or nine swamps on the table, which plays right into a game-ending Cabal Therapy. Bringing Braids in from the sideboard makes things even better in the second and third games. I guess I had no right to complain.
The first four turns of the Ralphie vs. MBC matchup are about as exciting as golf on television. I won the die roll and laid out a few tap lands to start things off. I cast Cabal Therapy for Diabolic Tutor on turn 3 (after drawing it on turn 2, mind you), like I always do against MBC. I snagged two of them, but Elijah already had the things he’d most likely fetch – Mind Sludge and Haunting Echoes – in his hand. I had a freshly-Duressed Smother in the graveyard to go with my Cabal Therapy, yet I still contained Exalted Angel, Teroh’s Faithful, Visara, and lands in the grip. If Elijah were to cast Mind Sludge and Haunting Echoes back-to-back, you’d think he’d be a favorite to win the game, right? After all, a good chunk of my deck would be out of the game and I’d really struggle for kill conditions.
Things unfolded as predicted – Elijah stripped me of my hand and then went rooting around in my library for all the goodies. I drew an Astral Slide a few turns later and immediately played it, breathing a sigh of relief. I was somewhat lucky to have found one reasonably early – I could have just as easily drawn land after land. Fortunately, my shuffling technologies are on par with my card technologies! Always give your post-Haunting Echoes decks plenty of riffle, kids.
I now needed to find a threat and an Undead Gladiator. In just a few turns, my library produced a Barren Moor and the best”threat” possible – Graveborn Muse. Elijah was drawing swamps and removal spells, now made utterly useless in the face of Astral Slide. I dropped the Graveborn Muse and started drawing two a turn. I found a second Slide and a pair of Undead Gladiators. At some point I was Haunting Echoed again, but it had no effect at all on the game. The power of Graveborn Muse kept me drawing sick card after sick card, and I rawdogged a couple Renewed Faiths to stay out of double-Corrupt range.
I knew that there was no way I could die as long as a Mirari didn’t hit the table. I kept up the cycling plan, ducked a couple of Mutilates, darted away from Chainer’s Edict, and fled from torrents of Innocent Blood. Game 1 was mine with just five cards left in my library.
I really can’t remember whether this match went to the second or third game, but I do remember that I won with the typically fiendish Braids, Cabal Minion. I named Chainer’s Edict with Cabal Therapy on the first or second turn (and nailed it again) and dropped her on the fourth turn, knowing that Elijah did not have an answer. Graveborn Muse joined the party and the match was soon over. My recollection of this one is pretty hazy; Elijah, if I goofed here, I apologize.
4-0 matches, 8-2 games
Round 5: Mirari’s Wake (Michael McGee)
Well, then – table 1, is it? And look who’s sitting next to me – it’s my partner in crime, Teddy KGB! I told him that we needed to both win and never leave our seats the rest of the day. Well, we both lost.
Michael laid a turn 1 Krosan Verge, and I scowled on the inside. He said,”Are you unhappy to be playing against Wake?” I said,”No, not really,” but I was only half telling the truth. I’m never unhappy to be facing any particular matchup, because every game of Magic is winnable – but I’d be lying if I said game 1 vs. Wake is good times. Ralphie has four dead Wrath of Gods and four dead Smothers in the first game. Teroh’s Faithful is nearly dead, since no life total is too high when infinite elephants are concerned. I have precious little disruption to make things work, no enchantment removal in the maindeck, and no fast creature pressure to put a Wake deck on the defensive. Game 1 is essentially unwinnable; any deck that packs as much dedicated creature removal as mine is going to struggle in game 1 vs. control – it’s just a reality of the build.
I got down a turn 3 Exalted Angel and hit once with it, but Pegleg McGee had the Wrath of God. After that, Michael owned me in short order, getting out the Fix (Compulsion + Mirari’s Wake + Mirari) by turn 10 or so and just stampeded over me with elephants.
IN: 4 Braids, Cabal Minion, 3 Duress, 2 Ray of Distortion, 1 Ray of Revelation, 2 Haunting Echoes, 2 Bane of the Living
OUT: 4 Wrath of God, 4 Smother, 2 Teroh’s Faithful, 1 Visara, the Dreadful, 1 Exalted Angel, 2 Renewed Faith
For those of you scoring at home, that’s fourteen cards in.
It didn’t matter.
I went first in game 2 and got a somewhat decent draw with Duress and Braids in my opening hand. Duress snagged a Compulsion and things were looking to be sunshine and roses… Until Michael laid a turn 1 Krosan Verge and followed it up with another on turn 2. By the time I got Braids online, he had more land in play than I did – very sad. Mike peeled another Compulsion after sacrificing a Verge in his upkeep (a move I had to get some clarification on – it wasn’t clear whether Andrew was saccing the land to Braids herself or using its ability, since he played Wake like Zvi plays Turboland). He then Compulsed away a Circular Logic in my end step, finding the needed Wrath of God. I managed to Haunting Echoes him the turn after, scoring Wrath, Logic, Compulsion, Moment’s Peace, and a couple of lands. Not a bad haul, but not enough to win the game.
I didn’t produce much pressure and Compulsion totally took over, per usual. Cunning Wishes were Forked, dreams were crushed, etc. I think I lost twenty-five life in two brutal swings.
On a side note, Pro Tour regulars should be on the lookout for this kid soon. He’s already the fourth highest-ranked player in Constructed under the age of fifteen, and after the DCI standings update, he may be the tops. To play Mirari’s Wake with such speed and confidence was evidence enough to convince me that Michael McGee was an excellent player with a bright future.
I glanced over to my left to see Ted in a very bad way against a B/R/G Reanimator deck, much like the one I faced in the first round. All he needed to sew up the game was to pluck a Withered Wretch, but he purchased the farm courtesy of a Genesis-recurred hasted Gigapede. After both going down, we scurried off to a quiet corner of the immense room to lick our wounds.
4-1 matches, 8-4 games
Round 6: Psychatog (Dan Hartman)
I’m a firm believer that at some point, in order to win or place well in a big tournament, you have to have some true luck. I’m not talking about a good pairing, or a topdeck, or your opponent getting mana-screwed; I’m talking about something completely out of your control that ends up in your benefit. This is the match where I got lucky.
Game 1 against Psychatog is definitely no walk in the park. You have almost as many dead cards as you do against Mirari’s Wake – but unlike Wake, Tog decks can deal with your creatures on a one-for-one basis. Dan’s build was more along the Zevatog lines, though, featuring four Shadowmage Infiltrators, four Standstills, and four Aether Bursts – cards that sufficiently weaken his deck’s chances vs. The Ralphie Treatment. The reason for this is simple – the Zevatog decks run fewer dedicated card drawing spells and instead rely on good ol’ Finkel to give them the card advantage necessary for victory. Well, if there’s one thing that Ralphie does well, it’s kill creatures. I knew that I still couldn’t stop Upheaval if Dan drew into it, but I could try to make things as uncomfortable as possible.
I can’t remember all of the details of game 1, but there was a long battle for board position, eventually culminating in an Upheaval and my subsequent demise. My basic plan against Psychatog decks was to force an Astral Slide into play using disruption and then make them counter every creature I cast. Once I had a creature in play, the chances of it being killed by sorcery-speed removal were extremely low, to say the least. In this game, I was a little lacking on the disruption end of things and could never get a Slide down. I also had to break a Standstill, which is never a winning prospect. After about twenty-five minutes of scratching and clawing, I dropped the first game to Mr. Teeth.
The second game was another marathon affair – one that saw me risk being Force Spiked out of the match by casting a turn 3 Astral Slide when Dan had only one blue mana source. It resolved, and I started to go on the offensive with an Undead Gladiator. Dan attempted to keep the G-man at bay by dropping a Shadowmage Infiltrator, but I had the Smother primed up. At some point during the mid-game, I managed to nab an Upheaval with a Duress, putting Dan in a very difficult position: He now had to draw the last Upheaval in his deck in order to win, since there was no possible way he could put lethal damage on me with a Psychatog when I had Astral Slide on the table. I chipped away turn after turn with an Undead Gladiator, cycling another G each turn to take out his blocking squad. A second Astral Slide made it through the Counterspell maze, and I eventually won by beating for three every turn until Dan was dead. Not glamorous by any means, but it worked.
We only had about two minutes left to finish game 3, which was obviously not happening. Dan and I chose to play an aborted game 3, for some inexplicable reason. It was an amusing sight: A Psychatog deck playing as aggro as possible against a deck with tons of removal. Good times!
“I guess we draw,” I said forlornly. I did not want to get into the draw bracket and face a sea of Mirari’s Wake or random slow control decks for the rest of the day. A draw in the sixth round would certainly not help my tiebreakers either, even if I did manage to win out.
“Well hold on, I might drop… I think my friend and I want to go home. Let me call him,” said Dan.
My eyes lit up.”Sure. Take your time.”
Moments later, Dan returned and said,”I can’t get in touch with him via cell phone, so I guess I’ll stay in… I think he might be drafting somewhere.”
“Hey, do you want to go look for him?” I offered. I was really working the concession angle – it would have been criminal for me to languish in the draw bracket for the remainder of the day while someone else was going to take this draw and then potentially not even play out the string.”Take your time, man. Go look for him; I’ll be here and I’ll hold on to the slip.”
In about five minutes, Dan came back, changed the one on my match slip to a two and signed it. I was floored. It was an amazingly cool thing to do, and a gesture of kindness that I won’t forget. Dan Hartman, I owe you one.
5-1 matches, 10-5 games
Round 7: MBC (Matthew St. John)
Knowing that I’d just been extremely blessed, I went into round 7 with the intention of not letting Dan’s gift go by the board. I was going to win out and make the top 8, no matter who stood in my way.
Matthew was my most pleasant opponent all day, having a freshness and candor about him that comes from being still relatively new to the game. He told me when we sat down that this was his first big Magic tournament. Well, hey – being 6-1 in your first major foray into competitive play says either a lot about your instincts as a player, or a lot about the power level of your deck. In Matthew’s case, things were definitely slanted towards the latter, as he did make a few noticeable mistakes during the course of the match. None of them were gamebreaking, except in game 3 when he cast Innocent Blood to rid me of a Braids, Cabal Minion and ended up losing his own Nantuko Shade in the process, which probably would have won him the game if I didn’t draw removal (I sided a bunch out, too).
The first game was complete insanity. We stared at each other for a good long while until I cast an Astral Slide and started playing out creatures. Cabal Therapy scored me two Corrupts, and I was clearly in the driver’s seat. Mirari soon entered play; I didn’t care. I had an Exalted Angel (under Astral protection), an Undead Gladiator, and a Graveborn Muse all beating on Matthew. He had maybe one or two cards in his hand, about eighteen lands in play, and I was above forty life. I guess I had reason to feel comfortable about my situation.
Ouch. That would buy him some time, but he needed to draw the last Corrupt in his deck in the next five turns to win. Nothing else would do. Visara was an Edict victim from much earlier, Riptide Replicator was a joke against two active Astral Slides; only the fourth and final Corrupt could do the job.
What can I say? He plucked it two turns later. Sixty-eight damage to my dome from two cards. Good game, son.
Never doubt the random aspect of Magic the Gathering; just when you think you’ve got things locked up tighter than a chastity belt, winning is never assured until the opponent’s life total reads zero.
Slightly dismayed at my opponent’s good fortune, I shuffled up for game two and brought in a host of good cards.
The second game wasn’t even close. Matthew got stuck on two lands, and I had the woman with the crazy gleam in her eye down on the fourth turn. There were a couple times when he forgot to sacrifice a land to Braids before drawing his card – stuff I could have called a judge for but didn’t want to be a jerk about. We’d both gotten our share of good karma, and it was on to game 3.
I came out relatively quickly with Withered Wretch and Undead Gladiator, but Matthew countered with a turn 2 Nantuko Shade and point removal for both of my creatures. I took two shots from the fully-pumped beater until I got to five lands and started bringing back Undead Gladiator to block. I had sided out a lot of my removal and was positive that I was going to die, but then the mistaken Innocent Blood that I alluded to earlier took place. I might have drawn something to deal with the Nantuko Shade, I might not have – but sacrificing it to Innocent Blood was clearly the wrong thing to do, Braids or no Braids.
Matthew busted out a Guiltfeeder, but with only three cards in my graveyard and an Undead Gladiator on blocking duty, I felt safe. I drew into the Astral Slide/Braids combo, then dropped a Graveborn Muse and rode the card advantage to victory.
6-1 matches, 12-6 games
Round 8: Psychatog (Ian Bennett)
By this time, I was pleading with anyone who’d listen for an easy matchup – as if they had the power to make it happen. The eighth round saw me matched against a fellow Virginian in Ian Bennett. I was pleased to see a familiar face at the top table, however, I was displeased to see that he was running Psychatog. Another m*thaf&*%# control matchup! Who said the Regionals metagame was all about beatdown?
Our first game was ridiculously boring. I had a grip stocked full of useless creature-kill for the entire match, and absolutely nothing happened until Ian decided he had enough land to cast Upheaval and float enough mana to drop a Psychatog and still have the juice to counter the three Smothers in my hand. Uhh… Good game.
As long as the first game was, the second game was just as short. I had an opening hand with a Cabal Therapy, Duress, and Braids – near perfect for this matchup. Things were brutal as I nailed Compulsion with Duress, snatched Chainer’s Edict with Cabal Therapy, and then dropped the 2BB hammer. Miscellaneous Undead Gladiators joined the fray, and game two was swiftly in the books.
Some may question why I brought Bane of the Living in against Psychatog players. The answer is simple – it’s a threat, and most believe it’s Exalted Angel so you can get your opponent to waste a Smother on it if you’re cagey.
In the third game, I Cabal Therapied my way into Astral Slide on the fourth turn, as Ian lacked any useful countermagic (he had Circular Logic with an empty graveyard, as I recall). Seizing my opening, I cast a morph creature on the fifth turn with two Swamps still untapped; Ian attempted Smother at the end of the turn, and I flipped over Bane in response. It was a crushing blow, and Ian had no other removal in his hand. Because I already had an Astral Slide in play, he essentially needed to draw Chainer’s Edict on the next turn or Upheaval in the next five, or the Bane would win by itself. I had ample protection for my creature, and those were his only outs.
Ian frantically searched for an answer to the creature, at one point even using a Deep Analysis as a Concentrate and drawing the extra card. I piped up and said,”Whoa!! That’s Deep Analysis, not Concentrate! You just drew an extra card!” Ian apologized and put the card back; in turn, I apologized for freaking out and explained that I didn’t want to win the match based off of him getting a game loss for drawing an extra card.
I think I might be too nice, sometimes. I certainly won’t be offering such quarter at Nationals, since I know none will be given me if I make a procedural mistake. Ian scooped up his cards after his gaffe anyway, saying that he could not get rid of the Bane of the Living that was about to kill him the next turn.
7-1 matches, 14-7 games
After the match, I left the cavernous room and went to the bathroom to wash my face. Following that, I hung out by the staircase (away from the din) to collect my thoughts. One more win would likely guarantee me a position among the top 8. My only loss was to the current #1 ranked player on the standings, and the rest of my tiebreakers were the best of all the players at 7-1. Could this really be happening? It would be quite a story to make the top 8 with a totally rogue deck that I’d tested and tweaked for months. It would be vindicating to make it with an archetype that the pros dismissed as underpowered or not worth the effort. I only needed one win to make it happen.
I wish I could provide some kind of high drama for the first game, or use some clever wordsmithing to make things seem more interesting than they were – but it was a total beating. I dropped a morphed Exalted Angel on the third turn while my opponent was stuck on blue mana. I unmorphed Exalted #1 on the fourth turn and dropped Exalted #2 morphed on the fifth turn. Joel had no recourse and went down to the angelic twosome without ever really being in the game. He managed to find a Forest on the sixth or seventh turn, but it was completely academic by that point.
I wasn’t quite sure what Joel was playing yet, but I figured he’d probably bring in Compost against me or Equilibrium or some of the other standard U/G tricks. I had no clue that he was playing an Opposition deck until he dropped a turn 1 Hapless Researcher in game 2. He followed that up with a turn 2 City of Brass-powered Wild Mongrel. Unfortunately, Joel had no other land drops for at least seven turns. I had a beautiful draw with Wrath of God, an Exalted Angel, an Astral Slide, an Undead Gladiator, and three lands.
And yet there I sat, taking three damage each turn from Hapless Researcher and Wild Mongrel. I drew into a Chainer’s Edict and tried to kill the Wild Mongrel by Sliding out Hapless Researcher in Joel’s end step and then casting the Edict on my turn. My attempt was met with Circular Logic, and I was sentenced to another two turns of pain. I got as low as three life before drawing my fourth land and casting Wrath of God. Joel did not have a second Logic and glumly sacrificed Hapless in response, then sent his dog to the pound.
Joel laid the land that he’d drawn off of Hapless and passed. The next turn I drew another land and slid a face-down Exalted Angel into play while Joel laid another land and tapped out for Opposition. I discarded the Ray of Revelation that I’d drawn to get back Undead Gladiator and flashed it back on the Opposition. I was at only two life, but firmly in control. I swung for two and passed, waiting to see if he had anything that could stop the soon-to-be-face-up 4/5 life-giving love machine. He put down a fifth land and dropped a Gigapede. I probably could have won the damage race against the large insect by casting Gladiator to block, but I opted to cycle it at the end of his second main phase, targeting my morph. I drew a Withered Wretch off of the cycle, and then looked at the Chainer’s Edict in my hand from a couple of turns prior. Exalted Angel came back at the end of turn. I declined to return Undead Gladiator in my upkeep. The final sequence is etched upon my mind:
- I’ll cast Withered Wretch.
- I’ll cast Chainer’s Edict.
- I’ll activate Withered Wretch, targeting Gigapede.
- I’ll activate Withered Wretch, targeting Wonder.
- I’ll swing for four and go up to six, putting you at five (Joel had already taken so much pain from City of Brass)
After such a sick turn, I knew there was no coming back for my opponent. Two more swings from Exalted Angel sealed the deal.
I felt kind of bad that Joel got landscrewed in the biggest match of the day, but I’m not sure he could have won anyway. The Ralphie Treatment was practically designed from the ground up to give U/G fits, and it was satisfying to secure a top 8 slot by finally drawing and winning my most favorable matchup… Or so I thought.
8-1 matches, 16-7 games
Chris Faesi and I spent the next thirty minutes trying to figure out everyone’s tiebreakers for the top 8. It turned out that there would be were three people with 24 points when the round finished, and one of them would be paired down against a 22-pointer in round 10. It would be crushing to have to play out the final match to make the top 8, and I prayed that I would not be the unlucky soul.
There are some things you can’t control in life. Sometimes, fate just has to smile on you.
- Tony Gregg (22 pts.) vs. Brock Parker (24 pts.)
- Jim Ferraiolo (24 pts.) vs. Krishan Leong (24 pts.)
Round 10: Mirari’s Wake (Krishan Leong)
Krishan and I exchanged glances as the match slips were handed out.
“0-0-3?” I offered.
“Sounds like a plan!”
8-1-1 matches, 16-7-3 games
The final standings were posted, and I stood in fourth place when the smoke cleared.
Thanks go out to Ted Knutson for believing in the deck and helping me to test it over the past few weeks. Extra special thanks go to Derek Mondeau for slapping me around five straight times with U/G Madness the night before the tournament, essentially convincing me to re-add Withered Wretch back to the maindeck – probably the MVP of the day.
Don’t ever let it be said that you can’t go rogue and place highly in a major tournament. If you work hard, test diligently, and learn your deck’s strengths and weaknesses inside and out, you can succeed. It’s definitely easier to play a potent netdeck whose power is already well-documented, but I must say that nothing, I repeat, nothing matches the satisfaction from winning with something original that you’ve incubated for months.
The Ralphie Treatment is a deck that requires a lot of practice and careful deliberation to play properly. I might even go as far to say that it’s the second-most complicated deck to play in the format, just behind Mirari’s Wake. Ted said that through the course of the final match with Joel, he could hear constant background comments to the effect of,”I have no idea how that deck works or what the right play is.” My next article will detail how the deck evolved from its many previous incarnations into what it is today. I’ll also discuss play strategies and all that other good stuff.
My First (And Last) Props And Slops:
- Teddy KGB – Thanks for believing in me and helping to test a winning deck.
- Derek Mondeau – Those five defeats at your hands were huge in me making it. Big up!
- Andy Gibb and Sam Fog – May our next receipt be even greater than the last.
- Bec Inkster – Cheesecake, not beefcake. I will remember.
- Elliot Fertik – For the record, I never had a problem with your shirt. Enjoy the box!
- Sheldon Menery – The coolest judge I’ve met, without a doubt.
- Wizards of the Coast – By virtue of sheer volume, Regionals one of the hardest tournaments to top 8, and you guys don’t give out a freaking dime in travel credit.
- Magic Online randoms – Who told me my deck was bad after they lost to it. How ya like me now?
As of tomorrow, I’m off to sunny Los Angeles, California for my yearly trip to the Electronic Entertainment Expo. I’ll be checking out what Leaping Lizards has cooked up for the newly-announced Magic Online 2.0 and playing a ton of Madden 2004, among other things. If you’re going to the show, drop me a line and maybe we can get together.
Until next time, enjoy life.