This is the tournament report that almost never was. I had planned to drive up Friday afternoon with part of my playtesting team, but Thursday was afflicted by what may have been the stomach flu. Or it may have been that Pizza Hut Buffalo Chicken pizza.
Mind you, I love buffalo wings. One of my great weaknesses. And, despite the artery-clogging factor, I can stomach Pizza Hut. And, yes, there are indeed”two great things that taste great together.” This, however, ain’t one of them. Ugh. Just thinking about it is making me queasy again.
I won’t regale you with Tales of Projectile Vomiting – although I did find a great way to lose fifteen pounds in the span of 24 hours – and my presence on the trip looked doubtful. [Sounds like you found the new Atkins… – Knut] Thanks to copious quantities of Advil and Gatorade, I managed to recover enough to make the drive on Friday.
That’s the best I can do for a road trip story.
What did I play? I’d been reading tons of articles and had played just about every deck out there, but then I found The Good (Red) Book, Chapter of Paskins, which saith,”And lo, I did smite my enemies with the tiny Red men, and breaketh his artifacts, and there was much rejoicing.”
Who am I to argue with that dogma?
4 Skirk Prospector
4 Goblin Sledder
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Goblin Warchief
4 Goblin Sharpshooter
4 Siege-Gang Commander
3 Shrapnel Blast
3 Chrome Mox
4 Great Furnace
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
The Bug and Super Skrull ride again! Once again, I get to haul out my HeroClix Skrull Warriors to serve as my Goblin tokens, thus earning more”spiffy token” points. I mean, look at these two and tell me there isn’t a resemblance!
My version is a little different than Dan’s. The Mox count went down to three, as I found that I got Mox-glutted (and we all know how painful that can be) too often with four, and going down to two meant I missed too many of those explosive draws you wanted to get with the Mox in your deck. Since I was fearing (rightfully so) more beatdown-oriented decks, one Shrapnel Blast got cut in favor of another maindeck Sparksmith.
I must give serious props to the organizers from Seattlemtg.com and Free Your Mind Games. They managed to keep the tournament moving quickly and amazingly managed to finish an eleven (yes, eleven) round tournament with 432 people in under fourteen hours. It was also good to run into mad genius Jay Schneider again, master of all things Sligh, who was on-site as one of the tournament organizers. He provided some key tips on sideboard additions and also had some of his playtesting group doing quite well with an”Elf-Nail” deck, a quirky mono-Green combination of the Elf-Clamp engine with Tooth and Nail, using the forgotten Vernal Bloom as the mana accelerator. I believe it qualified at least one person for Nationals, and hopefully Jay will be posting the deck online soon.
Cy Cook was also there, sporting a new hobo-riffic look. Complete with 1984 White Sox cap, he had the panhandler look down pat.
In lieu of any other funny anecdotes, let’s go to the tape. Almost live, from the bowels of Seahawks Stadium! Not the best acoustics, but God bless good ventilation.
Round 1: Ryan Normand (R/B Affinity)
Affinity has more”flavors” than Baskin freakin’ Robins, I swear. Ryan seems to be running the super-aggro version that eschews Green or Blue in favor of Tooth of Chiss-Goria, Ornithopters and beatdown to the dome.
Ryan opens with an artifact land, Skullclamp, and Ornithopter, followed by a Myr Moonvessel which promptly provides two cards with its timely demise. My opening is a bit slow, but I recover nicely with a turn 3 Sharpshooter, turn 4 Clickslither, and turn 5 Siege-Gang Commander. I have the game in hand, even when a Ravager hits play, but I make an error during his next attack phase which allows Ryan to pull the old”sacrifice-all-my-artifacts-to-the-Ravager-and-alpha-strike-for-the-win” trick, failing to kill his attacking Ornithopter when I had the opportunity.
Yep, that’s me, David R. Meddish, Good Magic Player.
Out go the Shrapnel Blasts and Piledrivers, in comes Shatter, E-Bolt, and my extra Sparksmith. I forget who said it – Zvi, Dan Paskins, perhaps – but when playing Affinity, remember, Goblins is the a control deck. Sounds weird, but it’s true.
I get a good start, getting a Mox-powered Sparksmith on turn one, followed by a Warchief, enabling me to negate most of what passes for his early offense, although my efforts to kill an early Ornithopter earn me a Shrapnel Blast to the face. From there, I got a cool game-ending combo. I’m holding an E-Bolt and two Shatters, Ryan has Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer, an Ornithopter, Skullclamp, Vault of Whispers, two Glimmervoid, and Blinkmoth Nexus, and only one card in hand. I try use Sparksmith to kill the Ornithopter, Ryan sacrifices the Vault via Slobad to save it. In response, I bolt the ‘Thopter, Shatter the Skullclamp, then Shatter the Vault, which, at the end of turn, leaves a lonely Slobad and a Nexus on Ryan’s side of the board. Slobad isn’t long for the world, and when The Bug comes down, Ryan scoops.
Game three comes down to two minor play errors on my part that cost me the game. I get the early beatdown with two Goblin Warchiefs, while Ryan is slow to build up. He keeps me slowed down with Dark Banishings, but his demeanor indicates to me that neither of the two cards he’s holding is that great. At eight life, holding a Siege-Gang Commander and Sharpshooter in hand, and with a Siege-Gang, Warchief, two Goblin tokens and five lands, including two Nexii in play, I think, and think, and decide not to cast anything, hoping to pitch my Goblins for the kill.
Ryan Banishes the Super Skrull, and (mistake #1) I throw it at the Frogmite, dealing a total of only two damage, but next turn I’m set up for the alpha strike, and (mistake #2) I tap out to drop the Sharpshooter.
That gives Ryan the opportunity to peel Ravager off the top of his deck, feed all his artifacts to the Nexus and, in combination with Shrapnel Blast, swing for the win.
What I should have done, in retrospect (and in retrospect, can’t believe I didn’t do) was to cast the Sharpshooter, swing, let the Siege-Gang die and leave mana behind to be able to activate my Nexus to block his. In all likeliness, I would have won had I’d done that.
Such a fine line between stupid and clever.
Not the start I wanted, but I shall soldier on.
Round 2: Eugene I-Didn’t-Get-The-Last-Name (MWC)
Game one is just horrible. Horrible! I mulligan down to a one-land hand, that being a Nexus, and for six turns I never see another mana source. I decide to scoop early before Eugene gets an idea of what my deck is (he probably thinks Affinity) and make sideboarding hard for him. I bring in my Molten Rains and Sulfuric Vortexes, removing Sparky and a few other Goblins.
Game two is short and ugly, just the way I like them against control. Warchief turn 3, Siege-Gang turn 4, Vortex turn 5, and say goodnight, Gracie. [Goodnight, Gracie. – Knut] Game three, I drop the Vortex on turn 2, Molten Rain two consecutive lands (no Plains for you!), and follow that up with the Warchief/Piledriver combo for the win.
Round 3: Chris Jobe (mono-Red Goblins)
The beauty of this matchup is that we’ll be done before most people are done shuffling.
Game two is decided early again – and the mirror is all about getting a Sparksmith into play first. Whoever does will usually win. Going first, Chris gets it. I draw the Mox that would have let me play mine on turn 1, one turn too late. Sure, he takes twelve damage from his Sparksmith, but when I have no creatures on the board, I can’t do much of anything resembling and offense.
Game three was very disappointing. I’ve got two lands in hand; a Furnace and Nexus, a Piledriver, Sledder, Clamp and E-Bolt. Looks like a good start for me.
…and then never see another mana source for the duration of the game, with three E-Bolts taunting me from my hand.
I knew a student once. The teacher gave him a math problem. He went up to the board, wrote it down wrong, performed the calculations wrong, but still got the right answer. That’s what this match felt like.
Sorely demoralized after that loss, I contemplate dropping, but, hell, I didn’t go through puking my guts out thirty-six hours early to quit this early.
Round 4: Josh Mound (Goblin Bidding)
I like my chances against the Bidding pseudo-mirror. Game one, their Biddings are dead against me, not to mention they have painlands to deal with, while I’m faster with Chrome Mox.
My opening hand is weird – one land, two Moxes; normally suboptimal, but with a Sharpshooter, Warchief and Sparksmith, I decide to give it a go, dropping Sparky on turn 1, then, not drawing land, Warchief turn 2. This costs me a Siege-Gang and the Sharpshooter, but I feel it’s worth it. My faith is rewarded with land, Piledriver, and another Super Skrull in my next few draws.
Get used to this: out come the Blasts and one Piledriver, in comes one Sparksmith and the E-Bolts. Josh mulligans, and I get a dreamy start of turn 2 Warchief, followed by double Piledriver and a Sharpshooter. Josh has some of my old tech – Goblin Pyromancer – to attempt to clear the board, but the Sharpshooter takes care of him post-combat to keep my ground forces on the board, and I swing for the win afterwards.
Remember, friends don’t let friends play Goblin Bidding. Better Red than dead, baby!
Round 5: Gabe Connon (Goblin Bidding)
My notes are a little spotty, mostly because the action was fast and furious. We had dueling Sparksmiths for the first game, although mine died to a cycled Incinerator, but I was able drop more creatures than he did and manage to land one more knockout punch than he did. Game two, despite mulliganing, he gets a nice two-Piledriver-draw and put me on the defensive quickly, a position I never recover from.
The rubber match sees me get a turn 1 Sparksmith, which controls the board for a couple of turns before getting annihilated. Gabe is a little mana screwed, and his City of Brass and Bloodstained Mires are doing him no favors, and he takes about eight total damage from his painlands during the game. I can’t fault my draw, getting all three E-Bolts with my first twelve cards, and they come in very handy in dealing with Gabe’s threats. This is a good thing, as he gets Skullclamps in play, and I don’t, and I really don’t want him drawing lots of cards. We peck away at each other’s life totals, killing each other’s creatures, and eventually I get him down to four life when I finally find a Super Skrull and get him into play.
Gabe plays Prospector, Clamps, draws two. He drops Sledder, Clamps, draws two.
And his deck gives him no love.
Round 6: Nick Custer (Tooth and Nail)
Gotta love traveling 300+ miles to play someone from your store. Nick’s got the Urzatron version, but I have the speed.
Both games are brutishly short. I have a turn 1 Piledriver, followed by a turn 2 Warchief, getting Nick down to ten life in a real hurry. A Skullclamp makes the Piledriver a little scarier. Next turn, not wanting to lose his freshly cast Vine Trellis, he blocks the Warchief, enabling me to throw a Shrapnel Blast to the dome for the win.
Game two, I once again get the dreamy Piledriver/Warchief combo, this time followed with back-to-back Molten Rains, and the entire game is over in three minutes.
Did somebody say lunch?
Round 7: Alex Mitchell (Goblin-Bidding)
Bidding again? This is getting to be a broken record.
Game one is, like my previous match against Nick, amazingly short. Turn 1 Sledder, followed by Piledriver, Warchief, Clickslither and Siege-Gang. The lone Warchief Alex has for an answer is little more than a speed bump.
Game two, I have to mulligan, and we open with dueling Prospectors. I get the turn 2 Warchief, but those darn Incinerators make short work of him. Alex gets ahead on the creature race and plays Oversold Cemetery – good tech against mono-Red – and faced with the prospect of Incinerator recursion, I scoop.
We trade Sledders in the opening turns of game three, but I get to creatures faster – Sparksmith gets fried, but a Sharpshooter controls the board for a while, and I start going into beatdown mode while maximizing my machine gunner to his maximum. Alex gets the Cemetery into play, threatening to start getting a recursion engine going, but my deck delivers not one but two Clickslithers and a timely Electrostatic Bolt to a freshly cast Sparksmith to deliver the coup de grace… just in time, as Alex was about to stabilize and take control.
I’ll say it again: mono-Red is superior to Bidding, Oversold or no Oversold.
Round 8: Peter Sarasohn (R/W Slide)
Peter appears to be around twelve or so, and I make a note to myself not to treat him like a little kid – you aren’t 5-2 at Regionals with a”dead” archetype if you aren’t a good player.
The first game was the perfect draw for the Slide players. Every creature I play meets a horrible demise via multiple Starstorms and Wraths of God. I manage to force through a few points, but two Eternal Dragons and a Damping Matrix are too much to stop.
Game two, even though I have no fear, I must at least respect the likely presence of CoP: Red. Speed is of the essence. Ask and ye shall receive. Turn 2 Warchief, followed by double Piledriver, and it’s over before Peter even gets to four mana.
Game three is a true game of attrition. Peter gets the turn 2 Circle, so I have to dink and scrape for every point of damage I can get. Blinkmoth Nexus is my main weapon here – that, and Peter not remembering to prevent damage from Molten Rain. I make him waste a few spells, like using a Sledder to pump up an attacking Nexus when he tries to Starstorm is away.
The game, I feel, will come down to whether or not Peter makes a critical mistake, as every turn brings him closer to taking control. My Shrapnel Blasts, which I was hoping to use for dome shots, instead get wasted having to ground Dragons and Angels. Eventually, I get Peter down to one, but he now has triple Lightning Rifts in play and I need a small miracle to win.
I get it when Peter cycles his Eternal Dragon during his turn to kill my newly cast Super Skrull and two tokens. I draw a Clickslither, activate my Nexus and swing, praying for the best… and Peter has no cycling cards to kill the Nexus. Had he waited during his turn, he could have killed the Nexus and kept recycling the Dragon for the win.
As the saying goes, better lucky than good. At this point, with my tiebreakers, my chances at top eight are worse than slim, but a top sixteen is a good bet.
Round 9: Shawn Albrecht (R/B Affinity)
Another super-aggro version with Teeth. Game one… I thought I had notes here. All I see is a lot of slash marks where my life totals were. Oh, yeah, I got steamrolled.
Game two goes better with a two-Shatter opening hand. My Sledder gets a few points in, and anything even remotely resembling a threat gets blown up. A Warchief and Piledriver deliver some big hits, and a Siege-Gang prompts the scoop.
For game three, I mulligan a decent hand (but with no anti-Affinity love) into a worse hand (also with no anti-Affinity love), while my opponent drops his hand – literally – on turn 2, and I’m staring down an Ornithopter and Frogmite with two Teeth to start pounding on me. I get two Skullclamps into play, but with little to Clamp them on. I go to sixteen, twelve, and then eight before fighting through mana glut to draw a Clickslither, which I double Clamp. Hopefully, he’ll trade with that new Myr Enforcer and I might be able to draw some cards to save my bacon.
Curiously, before attacking, Shawn casts Pyroclasm – wiping out not only my Bug but his smaller creatures, leaving only the Enforcer on the board. Oh, please, let there be some love in my four cards… and there’s that E-Bolt I was begging for.
“Lovely,” I say in my most dejected fashion, trying to fool my opponent. I used to be an actor, you know. A veritable thespian. There are those who would say,”Dave, you’re a man, you can’t be a thespian,” but that’s beside the point.
Alex swings, and the Enforcer gets bolted. He does draw a Nexus, though, and that leaves me with a tough choice at one point – leave myself vulnerable to Shrapnel Blast or get a Siege-Gang Commander into play to start putting pressure on Alex. I suspect that he sideboarded them out, though, so I wheel the Super Skrull. In comes the Nexus for three and…
“How much life are you at?”
Long pause.”Your turn.”
The big guy goes the distance while my Nexii hold off his.
Like I said, better lucky than good.
Round 10: Brad Maybee (Mono-Red Goblins)
Not Bidding, this one’s the true mirror. Unfortunately for me, I discover his version is more teched-out than mine, with four maindeck Sparksmiths.
Game one, he gets the Sparksmith first, I don’t. I lose. That’s how it works.
Game two, he gets two Skullclamps in play, I don’t, and he easily draws more threats than I do. Game, set, match, no top sixteen for me. And all in under five minutes.
At this point, I have a choice: play the last round, maybe make top sixty-four and win, wow, six packs of Darksteel or save two hours of driving time and leave now.
I’m reasonably happy with a 7-3 finish. Reasonably, as those mistakes I made in the early rounds still irk me. But sleep, precious sleep… yep, let’s hit the road.
Out of ten rounds, I played only two control decks and one combo (Tooth and Nail) deck. The other eight were either Affinity, Bidding or mono-Red Goblins, and most other players in my group encountered similar results. Forget Wrath of God, Pulse of the Fields, Circle of Protection: Red. Control, like Elvis and Jerry Garcia, is dead.
I’d definitely play this deck again – with changes. In the mirror, whomever gets and keeps Sparksmith in play first wins. Accordingly, you need both a) more maindeck Sparksmiths and b) ways to get rid of other Sparksmiths. Shrapnel Blast – a high-speed killer against slower control decks – is just too unwieldy against decks that are just as fast.
I’d recommend this new slightly tweaked decklist if you’re planning for a Regionals event soon:
4 Skirk Prospector
4 Goblin Sledder
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Goblin Warchief
4 Goblin Sharpshooter
4 Siege-Gang Commander
3 Electrostatic Bolt
3 Chrome Mox
4 Great Furnace
Hey, it’s OnBC all over again. The only glaring addition would be Starstorm, which a popular anti-mirror defense during that block. Now, I haven’t tested this, obviously, and if you wanted to find room for more anti-artifact cards, like Detonate, or maybe Scrabbling Claws as anti-Bidding hate, I’d urge you to test those options.
I maintain that mono-Red Goblins is your best choice for Regionals, but the metagame is constantly evolving, and there might be a deck that evolves to combat both the many variants of Affinity and the Red hordes.
If that deck existed, however, it probably would have shown up by now.