If you don’t win a tournament, then you’ve lost the tournament.
At 6-3, I was confident going in to the second draft. If I could finish the day at 9-3, then I’d have a decent shot at the Top 8.
The pods went up and when I sat down I saw that this draft would be far, far from simple. I had Yuuya Watanabe to my right, Olivier Ruel to his right, Gaudenis Vidugiris to
right, and Martin Juza two seats down on my left.
There are some upsides to having such quality players in your draft, though â€” namely that you can be sure that they will draft well, and that usually means cooperatively. I opened up Myr Battlesphere and got passed an Oxidda Scrapmelter. I took it over a Cystbearer â€” and as the first pack went on, I began to draft a very solid R/W Metalcraft deck, passing what seemed to be a solid infect deck.
The third pack saw me get hooked up again as I picked up a second Oxidda Scrapmelter, along with some more solid cards. When I went to build my deck, I had far too many playables, so cutting cards became the main focus. After much deliberation, I cut a Spellbomb or two, along with a couple of creatures.
In the end, I had an excellent deck, with the highlights being double-Oxidda Scrapmelter, Myr Battlesphere, Glimmerpoint Stag, double Galvanic Blast, Shatter, and a Razor Hippogriff â€” oh, and a Sword of Body and Mind!
Match 10 – Miguel Gatica – U/B/r
This was a frustrating match. Despite the fact that I had powerful cards in hand, my mana was light and my opponent had even more powerful cards. When he Scrapmeltered my Myr before I could do the same to him (stranding me on three lands), I fell too far behind and was killed by a Sky-Eel School.
The second game pretty much went the same way as the first. I could never quite get to metalcraft, and consequently couldn’t Galvanic Blast all his 3/3s. After the game, he showed me a few more bombs such as Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon, Volition Reins, and his own Myr Battlesphere.
Match 11 – Gaudenis Vidugiris – G/W Metalcraft
Another round, and another frustrating match. Gaudenis is a top player â€” and although my deck was stronger than his, he maximized every situation and put as much pressure on as possible.
I took a close game one after several two-for-ones. He took game two, since I stalled on three mana and was dead before I drew out of it.
Game three went long, and since both of us were playing at a fairly slow pace, we went into extra turns with a stalled board. I did have several outs to break this state â€” but only two more draw steps to get one. He had Kemba, Kha Regent equipped with Strider Harness and was making a white 2/2 token each turn, which was nullifying my Sword of Body and Mind. One hit from the Sword would mill the rest of his deck, so I needed to kill Kemba. I had the Galvanic Blast (with metalcraft) so I need to draw either one of my Scrapmelters, Shatter, or Revoke Existence.
I didn’t. The game ended in a draw.
I knew that I had to win out from here to make the Top 8, but I was still feeling detached from my results. I was just taking each game as it comes.
Match 12 – Yuuya Watanabe – U/B
I won game one in a swift fashion, as I drew all gas, including both Scrapmelters. I killed some Myr and he just couldn’t answer my 3/3s.
I lost game two since a) he is a top player and b) he beat me down with Sky-Eel Schools.
Game three, to my relief, was a total blowout. I began quickly and put him under a lot of pressure. After he had dealt with my early wave, I dropped the Myr Battlesphere. Since I knew he had Volition Reins (he had played it in game two), I was slow-rolling my Glimmerpoint Stag. After he Reined my Battlesphere, I showed the Stag â€” and with a laugh, Yuuya scooped.
I went to find the rest of my team â€” since now came the scramble to find an Extended deck. I hadn’t exactly come prepared to this tournament, having tested Standard a lot but done absolutely nothing for Extended.
I had, however, taken my Faerie cards, since I had a love for the dark arts since
winning Nationals with the deck in 2008
. I really had no idea if the Fae was good in Extended or not, but it was my default choice. After finding Dan (who, by the way, never has his own cards and
relies on other people for a deck), we went to see what information we could gather about the format. Dan said that he had gotten a list from a Japanese friend which just so happened to be Faeries. I was immediately on board.
I did question the reason for only three Cryptics, but I do actually believe it is right. It’s tempting to cut a Mistbind Clique for the Cryptic, but I feel that Mistbind is back with a vengeance now. It’s always been a powerful card, but its numbers dropped during the last Extended season (pre-Amsterdam). However, in today’s format, it is one of your best cards â€” even more powerful than Cryptic. You want to turn the game quickly, moving from U/B Control to the dark art as fast as possible. Against Five-Color Control, you only really need to counter the Cruel Ultimatum, and against the other decks you just want to win quickly.
So I would definitely keep four Mistbinds. If you want to cut a Jace, then be my guest but Jace is the best card ever. The removal suite seemed perfect, too, and I loved the five Thoughtseizes.
Joe had had another bad day and was starting to feel the pressure of being the Nationals Champ, while Richard went 5-1 to keep the team alive.
The morning began with two more team rounds â€” and once again, I sat next to Dan whilst pretending to be a reporter.
Team Match 3 – Switzerland
This didn’t work out the best for us. I think we got swept 3-0. I had to do my best to stop Dan from tilting.
Team Match 4 – South Africa
This came down to the Legacy match â€” and Dan, Richard and I watched on as Joe tried to go off with his ANT deck against Dredge in game 3. After fizzling, he went off the next turn. Satisfying, to say the least.
Now began the final push to finish as highly as possible.
Match 13 – David Ochoa — Five-Color Control
I knew that there was a very good chance that David was playing Five-Color Control since he was part of the Luis Scott-Vargas crew. My opening hand was reasonably good, but didn’t have Bitterblossom and did have a Disfigure. I considered mulliganing, but instead resolved to Vendilion my Disfigure away at the first opportunity.
The game went on quite long and it was at this point that I made, what I believe to be, my first mistake of the tournament. I attempted to resolve Bitterblossom with Cryptic and Mana Leak backup, but I lost the counter war and was then Crueled. It’s pretty difficult to come back from that… And by “difficult,” I mean “impossible.”
I won game two, since I had Bitterblossom, and won game three with Jace.
Match 14 – Rondy Krish — Five-Color Control
I’m not sure how easy Five-Color Control is for the Fae, but it just seems so straight forward. Look at their hand, take their best spell. If you have Bitterblossom, great; if not, then Jace is just as good. Mistbind Clique isn’t bad either.
If they Cruel you, then they win. If they don’t, then you win. Cruel costs seven mana. Volcanic Fallout isn’t the end of the world, either; in fact it’s pretty much a mulligan for them. So basically, you have to draw a
of land to lose this matchup.
Match 15 – Alexis Martinez – Tempered Steel
I didn’t really know what was going on at first when he played Court Homunculus. I mean, I got the general idea, but I didn’t know the list at all. I lost a close game one when he resolved Tempered Steel and his Tidehollow Scullers got the better of me. I won game two, as I had Bitterblossom and eventually Wurmcoil Engine.
Being on the draw in game three was quite tense, since he kept instantly and began to unload his hand. Land, two Springleaf Drums, Mox Opal, Ornithopter, and a Court Homunculus (which I Disfigured). Still, I got there.
Match 16 – Brian Kibler – 5CC
It seemed to me that Brian was more than a little deflated when we started playing. It was as if he had already lost.
Brian is a top bloke. I didn’t really get a chance to chat with him much, but he did wish me luck in a sincere manner. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to win and didn’t feel bad at all for his collapse in this tournament (especially since he had just been inducted into the Hall of Fame!) but he’s a really genuine guy and an outstanding player.
Match 17 – Christian Gawrilowicz – G/W Trap
Chris was extremely chatty, which isn’t something I’m usually comfortable with.
I won game one with Mistbind Clique followed by two Cryptic Commands. I lost game two to Great Sable Stag, and won a close game three with Mistbind Clique again after Infesting away a Lotus Cobra and Nest Invader to prevent him from activating his Windbrisk Heights.
I think this is a favorable matchup, as your removal spells really excel (since they need creatures to activate their “combo”), and they generally can’t do anything about your flyers. You have to be careful with your counterspells because of Summoning Trap, but you can afford to be due to your large amount of removal spells. Play carefully and you should be okay.
Match 18 – Berti Elfgren – Elves
This was a featured match, and you can
read the official coverage here
This is a very good matchup for Fae. It’s important to hit their key creatures with your removal (Heritage Druid and, to a lesser extent, Nettle Sentinel), and Spellstutter Sprite shines. Your sideboard makes your game even stronger with your Infests and Ratchet Bombs. Basically don’t keep too slow a hand â€” i.e., a hand with many four-drops.
Well, I had done it. I went 6-0 and waited with baited breath to see if I had made the Top 8. Richard Hagon assured me that I had â€” but seeing as I never once looked at the standings I wasn’t sure, and wouldn’t accept nor expect anything until I heard it officially announced.
I can tell you, though, that I was still feeling a sense of detachment from the tournament. Obviously, I was extremely excited at the possibility/probability of Top 8ing, but I never let these emotions rise to the surface.
And when the Top 8 was announced, and I was in, I
didn’t let my feelings go. It’s a strange experience, actually, and reminds me of when Liverpool won the European Cup in 2005. That was the single greatest moment of my life, but I never let myself release my joy (which can end up having a negative effect).
My friends congratulated me â€” and after the pictures and profiles were done, I headed back to the hotel for a good kip. I didn’t feel the need to test for my match with PV because I knew that I’m better than he is and that there was no possibility of losing…
…well, that and I had already tested the matchup before the tournament began. I don’t actually like to play Magic unless it is competitive.
Quarterfinals: Paulo Vitor Damo de Rosa
I hadn’t met PV before, but his reputation precedes him. I’ve read his articles and have to say that he is my favorite Magic author. He clearly has an agile mind and thinks outside of the box.
Since this was a control-on-control match, I’d have to be on the top of my game in order to read him, misdirect him, and not make any mistakes. He had the advantage because he had spells that would give him more information about the game state (Inquisition of Kozilek, Duress), but I had more threats and more answers to Jace, the Mind Sculptor (Gideon Jura, Elspeth Tirel, Venser, the Sojourner).
I tried to employ several kinds of bluffs throughout the match, but he read me every time. I tried switching my sideboarding strategy around for a few of the games â€” bringing Leonin Arbiter in and then taking her out, depending on how I thought he was siding his Sea Gate Oracles.
I was fortunate that he double-mulliganed in game three, and that I ripped a Jace Beleren game two â€” but on the whole, the matchup is closer than most people think.
I suppose the most controversial moment came at the beginning of the fifth game. I kept a one-land (Glacial Fortress), Preordain hand… And I’d do it again too. My hand had everything I needed to win this critical game.
I did, however, play it incorrectly. The key decision I had to make was whether or not PV would counter my Preordain. I didn’t think he would Inquisition it, since he had been holding his discard spells for when he wants to punch through a Jace, so it came down to how to best make him think that the Preordain didn’t matter. When I cast it on turn 3, I did so with confidence that it would resolve â€” yet he read the play and Mana Leaked.
In hindsight, there were several things I could have done to help carry my bluff through. I knew he was aware that I had taken several moments to decide whether to keep my hand, so I was aware that he thought that I either had a mana-light or spell-light hand. On the first turn, then, I should have taken a random spell from my hand and placed it on the table vertically, before then (without shuffling my cards) returning it and playing my Glacial Fortress.
It can also be argued that I should have just cast the Preordain turn 2 instead of the Leonin Arbiter (I drew the second land). But I kept the hand for a reason, and that reason was a risky one. My plan was to resolve the Leonin Arbiter and counter everything relevant he might then play. Sometimes your best course of action just so happens to be a highly risky one. I believe I made the correct choice; I just didn’t play it correctly.
Lose – out