(Author’s Note: This was never intended to be a full article, so if it leaves you wanting, please keep in mind that it’s actually the Third Freaking Installment Adbjlsnds and I’m as sick of writing about it as you are of reading it).
With Gerry’s and my collective hopes riding on my next draft (as well as my performance in Block Constructed), you can imagine Mr. Thompson’s dismay when I returned from my draft pod with this:
1 Viridian Acolyte
3 Thought Courier
1 Vedalken Engineer
1 Silver Myr
1 Copper Myr
1 Arcbound Slith
1 Viridian Joiner
1 Tel-Jilad Wolf
1 Fangren Hunter
1 Skyreach Manta
1 Sawtooth Thresher
1 Lunar Avenger
1 Platinum Angel
1 Sundering Titan
1 Tel-Jilad Justice
1 Echoing Decay
1 Ferocious Charge
1 Whispersilk Cloak
1 Grafted Wargear
1 Dawn’s Reflection
1 Farsight Mask
1 Mirrodin’s Core
I felt that something had gone awry, but I had a little more faith in the deck than Gerry. The deck’s only real problems were fliers or decks that could bounce or kill Platinum Angel. Hm. Nonetheless, you have to admire the deck’s spunk. With sixteen lands and four mana-producing creatures, the deck would hopefully be able to power out a large monster on turn 4 or 5 and ride that to victory. The mana situation made the deck prone to flood, but the triple Looters could help assuage that problem. Grafted Wargear was the perfect card to plop down on one of my two-mana 1/1s after it had outlived its usefulness… not that I ever got to do that, but it would have been nice. I also wish I could have Grafted up the Joiner for a nice turn 5 Sundering Titan.
Round Ten vs. Masahiko Morita (W/R)
Game One: His Vulshok Sorcerer takes out my utility 1/1s, and Thunderstaff only serves to slow him down a little. His Razor Golem with Whispersilk Cloak takes me down two a turn. I think I have a chance to stabilize and mount a counteroffensive at around six life, but he drops a Cosmic Larva and moves the Cloak to that.
Game Two: Morita’s draw is a little slower than the previous game’s, but it features a Wand of the Elements. Thanks to some mana creatures and Farsight Mask, I’m able to get out a Platinum Angel and Cloak it up in fairly short order. Morita Stands Firm on a random guy and scrys two cards to the bottom. After a few turns of beats from the Angel, he concedes at around nine life. This got me thinking. At that point, I was almost positive that he had no way to kill both Whispersilk Cloak and Platinum Angel, and I probably would have bet decent money he couldn’t even kill the unequipped Angel.
Game Three: Morita’s deck is a solid, standard Red/White creature deck with no artifact removal. I have three Looters and a Platinum Angel. Hence, my mission is clear. I am playing a combo deck. My objective was simply to stay alive until I could cast Angel. I play Looters on turns 2 and 3 and start sifting through my deck like mad. Morita plays a Skyhunter Prowler and equips it with Vulshok Gauntlets. I’m looting away all sorts of lands and spells: Fangren Hunter, Skyreach Manta, Islands. I play Farsight Mask and a few guys, while he plays Razor Golem and Wand of the Elements. The board is fairly cluttered and stable on the ground, but his Skyhunter Prowler threatens to kill me in a few turns. He swings in with Razor Golem and Prowler, and I Ferocious Charge the creature blocking the Golem. When I scry, my baby’s waiting right on top for me. I untap, play Platinum Angel, and Cloak it up. Morita, who I haven’t wasted any time trying to damage, laughs and scoops up his cards.
Round Eleven vs. Takuya Oosawa (W/U)
Somehow, and I’m not even sure how it’s possible, but this guy looks like a Takuya. His deck is aggressive with lots of fliers and a bounce spell or two in case I ever live long enough to play big Plats.
Game One: He plays fliers, along with Cranial Plating to smash through my Thunderstaff.
Game Two: He plays fliers again. Hardly seems fair.
Round Twelve vs. Ivan Floch (W/G)
Game One: He doesn’t really do anything for the first five turns or so, but I can’t really capitalize since my beats consist of an Engineer and a Myr. Before he plays anything of note, I manage to Whispersilk Cloak up my Arcbound Slith. When he has six mana up, he plays a Tangle Spider to block one of my 1/1s, but I have Ferocious Charge ready. He starts playing creatures in the ensuing turns, but his days have long since been numbered because of the untargetable, unblockable Slith.
Game Two: He stalls on two lands for a turn, then hits a nice mana glut. I get him into the single digits, but he successfully stabilizes. I’m unable to find Whispersilk Cloak, but I do have Thunderstaff and Farsight Mask, so we end up staring at each other for awhile. I start digging for my Platinum Angel/Whispersilk Cloak combo with my Couriers. He misses gaining a few life off his Leonin Elder, and I kill him by Ferocious Charging Platinum Angel, then moving Whispersilk Cloak onto it with one card left in my library. He leafs through his deck after the match, revealing that he had not a single way to remove an artifact from play in his entire White/Green deck.
The day wasn’t a total failure, and I didn’t know it at the time, but I actually ended up gaining two rating points.* I guess you and I will have to wait until Grand Prix: Austin for reality to hit. Take solace in the knowledge that when it does hit, it will hit hard. That said, I still had to win five of my next six matches for Worlds not to be a complete failure. Did I do it? Yes, of course I did. It’s hard to be suspenseful almost three weeks after the fact, let alone with my placing emblazoned across the top of the article. Nonetheless, it’s time for a nice interlude. Because I’m a total sellout, and in honor of Ted Knutson, who I may be just a little too mean to, Clown Shoes Productions proudly presents…
Here’s the part of my article where I tell stories from the Pro Tour about people with 20 or more Pro Points (like myself now), whose actions are much more interesting than yours because, as I mentioned, they have 20 or more Pro Points.
Death Kai for Cutie
I was watching William”Baby Huey” Jensen play a money draft match against Kai Budde, as I think Huey is one of the funniest men to pick up a basic land. A small child came up behind Kai holding a Voidmage Prodigy and a Sharpie, and he tapped Kai on the shoulder.
A. cheerfully sign the autograph for the tot?
B. throw his hand up and roll his eyes in disgust?
C. ignore the child until he went away?
If you guessed B or C, then you apparently don’t think much of our undisputed best player of all time (well, undisputed except by Josh Ravitz who still holds a candle for the Shadowmage Infiltrator). Nevertheless, choice B is the one that wins you the fabulous prize of the satisfaction of knowing you’re right, which, to me, is worth more than all the riches in China. The young boy, who was probably not much older than 10, did not see Kai‘s reflexive response. He got his Voidmage signed and went merrily on his way. Aftermath: Budde beat Huey, who posted an uncharacteristic 0-2, but since Huey‘s partner was Ben Stark, he won the draft anyway, since Ben Stark is suited, as the kids these days are saying. I don’t care for it one bit, but I have to keep up with the times.
The Sun Dies
After defeating Takuya Oosawa in our rematch, I relaxed at my table to listen to some Blindside, who are of course from Sweden, home of Anton Jonsson and, at times, his “Nordic mullet.” Playing next to me was Adam Horvath, member of Team TOGIT. I was pretty sure I was playing the music quietly enough that it wouldn’t disturb anyone, but I saw Horvath say something to me. I took the headphones off to ask him what he said, and the following conversation ensued. (Keep in mind that Horvath speaks in a barely audible voice).
Me:Is this too loud?
Horvath: (something inaudible)
Me: I can leave if it’s bothering you.
Horvath: What are you listening to?
Horvath: Ah, I’ve heard of them somewhere.
Me: Yeah it’s Christian rock.
Horvath: Christian rock?
Me: Yeah, it’s incidental. I just like how it sounds; I don’t care either way about the whole Christian label.
Horvath: (unfazed) You’re listening to Christian rock?
Me: Yeah, um…
Horvath: I’m gonna have to ask you to leave my table.
Brian Kibler is Awesome
A bunch of pros were sitting around a table, and Bob Maher was regaling us with an anecdote about WSOP Finalist David Williams, evidently the protege of Marcel Luske and Mike Long. Apparently Bob Maher’s dad, who has his own private jet, was ridiculing Long for something. Then Long had to play a feature match against Williams, and Williams delivered a salvo of trash talking the likes of which the world had never seen before. As TGO tells it, Long made several giant blunders, and went on to throw away the match. Afterward, Long was so mad that he was actually brought to tears.
Several people asked at which event this occurred; apparently it was Pro Tour: Chicago. However, there were several PT Chicagos, so I asked which one, trying to figure out how old the bawling baldy was at the time. It was the Type 2 PT Chicago, according to Maher. Brian Kibler chimed in,”Ah yes. That was the Chicago that I Top 8ed.”
Bob‘s retort was,”Leave it to Kibler to somehow make that story about himself!”
“With Rith the Awakener!” added Kibler.
A Barnacle Scorned
Speaking of Bob Maher, the Great One was in a money draft, and I noticed an empty seat next to him. I plopped down in it, chirping,”Call me Mike LeBeau.” I paused for a moment to let the comment sink in, but there was no response, and the following conversation ensued…
Me: Did I get the name wrong or something?
TGO: What did you say?
Me: You know, I’m huddling over you and watching you draft like Mike LeBeau.
TGO: Who’s that?
Me: (laughs) You’re kidding, right?
Me: That old guy who always watches you play Magic? You don’t know who that is?
Me: Oh, c’mon. Not everyone even knows his name. Most people just call him”TGO’s Old Barn.” You never noticed this guy watching you?
TGO: Can’t say that I have.
I was dumbfounded, as I imagine Mr. LeBeau will be if he reads this fantastic article, which I doubt he would have liked anyway since he’s not a fan of me after I made fun of his crappy article that censored every instance of and, or, and but and he consequently said that my Ti Esrever Dna was a painful read.
Krempels, Clown Shoes, and the Gentle Giant
National Champion Craig Krempels was sitting around chatting with my awesome posse for the duration of Worlds: myself, Gerry Thompson, Matt Schmaltz, and Josh Rider, whom Iain Telfer said was cute like a Pokemon. Krempels was in high spirits because of his excellent record at that point in the tournament, and he was rather animated. Without knowing I had just adopted it as my current pet lingo, Krempels went on a rant about Eric Froehlich’s clown shoes, referred to as such because they were so long that they bent up in the front like, well, clown shoes. I was laughing hysterically, which only served to encourage Krempels to keep describing the clown shoes over and over, which in turn, caused me to continue my girlish giggling.
After all that subsided, I noticed Marco Blume of Phoenix Foundation fame sitting a nearby table. In a whispered tone, I semi-rhetorically asked the rest of the table if perhaps Marco had gotten bigger. Krempels said I should ask him, and when I declined, he proceeded to do so himself. Marco didn’t hear what he said exactly, so Krempels repeated the question, rephrasing it to ask if Marco had been working out, complete with a gesture pantomiming the lifting of a barbell. Marco was not about to take that sitting down, quite literally; he got up from his table and asked Krempels to repeat what he said. Needless to say, Krempels decided to balk, and a crisis was averted.
Brock Parker just finished up a match in a money draft, and he announced that he was going to go get a beverage. This pales in comparison to the Nationals 2002 hamburger anecdote, and may not even be funny if you don’t know Brock, but Brock returned a moment later with a drink and a pizza.”Getting a drink, eh?” I scoffed.
I hope these anecdotes entertained you, if only because you got to hear about people with DCI ratings several hundred points higher than yours, which naturally makes them better people.
Day Three, or Please Don’t Use the”F-Word”
I had played R/G in an online premier event as well as at GP: New Jersey, and I was comfortable with the deck. Remember, children: When there are multiple equally viable decks in an environment, choose one you’ll have a good time playing. It was truly interesting to see the deck evolve over time.** Here’s the list I ran:
Fake Deck Name: (I don’t even wanna type it).
Real Deck Name: R/G
4 Solemn Simulacrum
4 Eternal Witness
3 Viridian Shaman
2 Molder Slug
4 Wayfarer’s Bauble
4 Magma Jet
3 Electrostatic Bolt
2 Rude Awakening
4 Tel-Jilad Justice
4 Molten Rain
3 Creeping Mold
1 Journey of Discovery
1 Rude Awakening
There are many cards that are more or less mandatory for the maindeck. The Oxidizes, Jets, Witnesses, Sloggers, Bolts, and Solemns are pretty standard, with most people opting for 4 Bolts. I’m pretty sure that if you pick this deck for the final PTQ of the season, you’ll want the 2 Slugs and 2 Awakenings main. Slugs are Big Fat Monster-Type Win Conditions #5 and #6, and they’re exceptional against any Big Red build. After sideboarding, they play a big role in allowing you to eliminate all of an Affinity player’s permanents.
It’s hard to believe that there are still some people who don’t maindeck or even sideboard Rude Awakening. It’s the deck’s most effective finisher against every deck except Affinity, and it’s nearly unstoppable. Echoing Decay can suck, but if you suspect they might have it, you can leave back mana to cast Bolt or Jet on the target in response. Black doesn’t seem to be a popular deck choice nowadays, anyway.
The Wayfarer’s Baubles should probably stay in the deck too, unless you’d rather up the land count by one or two and slow the deck down a bit to increase its threat concentration. From what I’ve seen, that’s not a great idea. This leaves wiggle room of about 4-5 cards, depending on whether you run the fourth Bolt. I played Viridian Shaman because I anticipated a reasonable amount of Affinity at Worlds assuming most”Pros” wouldn’t mess around with anything but the undisputed best deck in the format. The Blue/Green deck can have trouble with a simple Gray Ogre; if it resolves, the U/G player will have to tap out on his turn to deploy an answer for the threat, allowing you a window to drop another threat. From what I understand, some U/G players have taken upwards of ten damage from a Viridian Shaman because they refused to drop their countermagic guard. Most decks have some targets for the Shaman, though, even if it’s just a Solemn Simulacrum. The Duplicants are nice against opposing Arc-Sloggers, and they provide an answer, albeit not a great one, for the Affinity deck’s Riggers and Togs.
The board used to feature two Journey of Discovery, but when boarding Molten Rain, the extra Mountain helps increase your odds of casting it on turn 3. The extra land in the board may not be a perfect substitute for a Journey, but it seems like a close enough approximation. If you’re comfortable with 12 mountains for the turn 3 Molten Rain, which could very well be enough, then you should probably keep the second Journey.
Round Thirteen vs. Diego Ostrovich (Big Red)
If I remember correctly, Diego is a somewhat attractive blonde lady from the Philippines.
Game One: I play a Molder Slug, and he Arc-Sloggers it three times. I’m a little nervous that he hasn’t revealed any Shrapnel Blasts, but he tells me after the match that he only plays 2 maindeck. I eventually draw into my own Arc-Slogger to handle his, and I play Rude Awakening before he can burn me out. Exciting stuff, to be sure.
Game Two: Diego mulligans, possibly twice. He Magma Jets me twice to find his third land drop then plays a turn 4 Furnace Whelp. I answer back with a turn 4 Arc-Slogger. Diego pumps Whelp to 5/2 during his attack, dropping me to eleven. On my turn, I shoot it with Arc-Slogger, attack Diego down to sixteen, and play a second Arc-Slogger. Diego Grabs my freshly cast Slogger, attacks me with it, and Slogs me down to five. Something tells me that perhaps I should try to win on my turn. I Magma Jet Diego on upkeep to ensure that I draw a Mountain; I’m pretty sure it was the top card anyway. I attack for eight, and Slog him three times to finish him off, accidentally removing 31 cards. Diego, apparently, is a classy individual, and he doesn’t bother trying to raise a stink about it.
Round Fourteen vs. Maris Greiers (R/G)
I thought I was going to actually play against a woman this round, since his name was incorrectly entered as”Maria” on the pairings sheet. If I remember correctly, Maris is a harelipped Cambodian with a heart of gold.
Game One: I’m just behind the whole game. He Fireballs my Arc-Slogger, I Witness it back, and he Fireballs it again. At some point, he Eternal Witnesses a Fireball back after combat when he could have gotten more damage through by doing it before his attack and killing my blockers. Eventually, he has an Arc-Slogger with too few cards for an activation and a Molder Slug in play; thanks to Magma Jet, I have about five chances to pluck Rude Awakening, but I do not.
Game Two: My draw is far superior to his. I Duplicant his Arc-Slogger and play one of my own. I block a random dude with one of them, and he plays Grab the Reins to kill them both. Fortunately, I’m not at a loss for action. He’s dealt me a few random points of damage here and there, so I foolishly decline to attack with a 4/5 on a few turns out of fear of Rude Awakening. Since he didn’t even have Awakening anywhere in his deck or sideboard, all I was really doing was giving him chances to draw out of his predicament. My Awakening finishes him off.
Game Three: We both have crappy land draws, but I manage to resolve a Solemn Simulacrum before his land destruction comes online. After sideboarding, I’m pretty sure Maris had Molten Rain, Reap and Sow, and Creeping Mold. I stunt his mana development enough to let Arc-Slogger finish him off… at least, that’s how I remember it. It’s been awhile, and I wasn’t exactly taking studious notes. When I do well at a Magic event, I tend to remember a lot of details without having written them down; on that particular Friday, I evidently had too much on my mind**** for anything new to be transferred to my long-term memory.
Round Fifteen vs. Yuri Kolomeyko (U/G)
Yuri had been high enough in the standings the previous day to get a feature match, and now he was playing against an 8-5-1. This was probably indicative of tilt, which served to improve my morale. As an aside, I sorta liked the fact that the Ukrainian national team had not only a Yuri but also a Sergey. These are the names that I expect from a Russian-type country, not”Valentin” or”Kim Pok Song.” If I remember correctly, Yuri has a pretty pink dress with a big pink bow as well as a rainbow parasol.
Game One: I hate the Blue/Green deck. It’s really stupid. Any deck that simply loses if a 2/2 for three mana resolves is clown shoes, end of story. This game, he counters here and there, but I resolve an Arc-Slogger. I know he has Echoing Truth in his hand, and yet I attempt to cast a second Arc-Slogger. Naturally, it resolves, then they both return to my hand. I bait out a counter with one of the Arc-Sloggers, yadda yadda yadda, and he taps out for Triskelion. I untap and Rude Awakening for the kill.
Game Two: He counters everything I play and kills me with Rude Awakening.
Game Three: He stalls on two lands and has to discard.
Round Sixteen vs. Takuya Oosawa (R/G)
Ooh, a rematch. A chance for sweet, sweet vengeance. If I remember correctly, Takuya was a giant talking peanut with a cane and a monocle.
Game One: He has Troll Ascetics, which happen to be insane for him this game. He gets the Arc-Slogger advantage and Fireballs me out. Ho-hum.
Game Two: I mulligan into two of my Rude Awakenings, and I draw my third in my first few draw steps. I don’t recall what happened between this inauspicious start and the startling finale, but I won that game. The finale involved me tapping all seven lands, casting an Awakening for untapsies, then entwining a Rude Awakening. I remember that Takuya seemed not to know exactly what I was doing, and I was afraid I was going to have to call a judge to explain. He eventually figured out the”crafty” trick the gaijin had just pulled and conceded.
Game Three: Takuya stalls on two lands while I Solemn, possibly after Baubling. When I have six mana to his two, I cast Molten Rain on one of his lands; he scoops up his other land along with it before I can tap the rest of my mana to Eternal Witness the land destruction spell back.
Round Seventeen vs. Rickard Osterberg (Big Red)
Five rounds and not a single Affinity deck. I was a little leery since I knew that this should be a good matchup for me; I was just unsure what would go wrong. Rickard is from Norway, which is very close to Sweden, which explains why this cat was so damn cool. In addition to just emanating a generalized laid-back coolness sorta vibe, he ended up taking a horrible smashing but nonetheless remained jovial throughout the match.
Game One: I play the Cak-Slogger. He kills it. I Witness it back. He kills it again. I play yet another Arc-Slogger. It sticks.
Game Two: Alright, this one could be for money. My opener features one of each land, a Wayfarer’s Bauble, and two Molten Rains. Osterberg plays a Mountain and passes. I play land and Bauble. Osterberg plays another Mountain and passes. I drop my second land. Osterberg plays a Chromatic Sphere on his turn, pops it, and is forced to burn for one without playing a land. I sacrifice the Bauble, untap, and Molten Rain. Rickard misses again, and I Molten Rain again. Rickard says he’ll concede if I show him a monster of some sort. I tell him that I have Molder Slug, but I’m short of casting it by one land. He thinks for a moment, then concedes anyway. I show him the Slug. Then I show him two more Molten Rains. He laughs and ponders aloud that it would have been hard to beat my draw with any draw his deck could muster.
Round Eighteen vs. Eugene Harvey (Affinity)
If I remember correctly, Eugene looks like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year.
Game One: Eugene has about seven creatures in play on turn 5. I actually might have been able to stabilize, but he draws somethingorother, like a Ravager or a second Disciple or whatever.
Game Two: I board in Molten Rains since I’m on the play, and I get to kill a Nexus with one. I kill all his guys and Platings while he draws land. I think I have the game in the bag, but he rips an Atog. Fortunately, I tajoooordan a Duplicant, and we’re onto game three, a game that, I would learn later, would not only bring the winner a top 16 berth but also the”honor” of being the highest-placing American at Worlds. I was somewhat skeptical of my chances of winning, seeing as how I was playing against the best player in the country (and one of the top 5 in the world) with the best deck, someone who I was undeservedly up 2-0 against lifetime. Nonetheless, I was sure I would put up a good fight.
Game Three: He kills me on turn 3.
The last line in”Game Two” was a blatant lie to set you up for the same joke I used in round two. I thought it was worth it.
Congratulations to those of you who made it this far. Your reward is… my sideboarding strategies for the decks I played against. Whoopie.
In: 1 Mountain, 1 Journey of Discovery, 1 Duplicant, 1 Rude Awakening
Out: 2 Electrostatic Bolt, 2 Oxidize
I remember that I actually only put three things in, but I can’t remember which one I left in the board. The important point is, there’s no room to side in the land destruction; the maindeck is too effective against Big Red. Diego had played Talismans against me, and there was a chance he could board in Sliths, so I left my artifact destruction and”2 damage to target creature” counts at five apiece. If they’re not running Talismans and only have Furnaces and Solemns as artifact destruction targets, it might be best to just take out all the Oxidizes. If you’re on the play, it might be a good idea to bring in the land destruction anyway. I brought it in against Osterberg because he was playing a wacky version of the deck with Cloudposts (and, incidentally, Furnace Dragon). I’m not sure what you’d take out, exactly; probably the other 2 Oxidizes, the last Bolt, a Rude, a Duplicant, and two other random cards, like maybe a Jet and (gasp) a Witness.
In: everything but the Justices
Out: 4 Oxidize, 3 Electrostatic Bolt, 3 Viridian Shaman, 1 Molder Slug
The Slug’s alright in the mirror because it’s a big dude, but there’s really nothing else to cut. Rude Awakening becomes your primary win condition; kill his lands and make your land drops until you can cast a big enough Awakening to finish him off. Of course, if you can play an early Arc-Slogger and ride that to victory, you should probably do that too.
In: 4 Molten Rain, 3 Creeping Mold, 1 Journey, 1 Mountain, 1 Rude Awakening
Out: 2 Duplicant, 3 Electrostatic Bolt, 4 Oxidize, 1 Molder Slug
This matchup can be sorta bad; the basic plan is to overload their countermagic and/or kill all their mana sources of one color outright with your land destruction. I think the sideboarding is fairly self-explanatory.
In: 4 Tel-Jilad Justice, 1 Duplicant
Out: 2 Rude Awakening, 2 Wayfarer’s Bauble, 1 Solemn Simulacrum
The Baubles aren’t so hot against Affinity because you’d really rather be spending your early turns killing stuff. When I boarded in the Molten Rains on the play against Eugene, I also boarded in the Mountain, and I think I took out the other 2 Baubles and the rest of the Solemns.
Well, that’s about enough. There’s no need for an Aftermath section of any sort. You’re bored, Ted’s bored, and I’m not getting paid to write this. Join me later this week or bright and early next week for my coveted Champions of Kamigawa White pick orders.
I remember there were people I wanted to prop and slop, like”the whole country of Sweden, even that guy on WSOP who goes YAAAAAAAAAHHHH” in the Props section, but I forget what else I wanted to say.
Pins and needles,
a.k.a. Black Mamba
The Most Diabolical Hater This Side of the Mississippi
Advocate of 63rd Trimester Abortions on Zieglers
Almost as big a fan of The Cack as Rodman
and so on and so on
Die young and save yourself.
*I then lost 7 points at the prerelease to a lucky, lucky topdeck. So lucky.
**Ehhh, not really.
***Arc-Slogger signed by Pelcak. It’s very good luck to have one of these, but I’m pretty sure I own the only one in existence.
****Especially that insidious Blindside song.