“Once there was a very ugly barnacle. He was so ugly that everybody died. The end.”
—The Ugly Barnacle, from Spongebob Squarepants
There was no real need for that quote, but I don’t want to even bother with the pretext of remembering how to write an article introduction. I’m a slave to the grind now. Perhaps after I do my coveted pick orders for Champions of Kamigawa draft, I’ll take a nice, long break to collect my thoughts and rekindle the writing flame.
Ooh, actually, nevermind all that. I just decided that last week’s article fulfilled any introductory obligations I have for this article. I’m a genius. I’m just going to start blathering about playing Magic: the Gathering against foreigners and continue for the whole article. I’ll even be so kind as to repaste my Type 2 decklist from the last article so that you don’t have to go back to it for reference, and so that Ted gets the ethereal bliss of having to recode all those cards to link to the wonderful StarCityGames.com store. Pre-order those Champions boxes today, kids!
4 Decree of Justice
4 Mana Leak
4 Thirst for Knowledge
4 Relic Barrier
3 Akroma’s Vengeance
4 Wrath of God
3 Coastal Tower
4 Flooded Strand
2 Temple of the False God
3 Circle of Protection: Red
2 Decree of Silence
And before I start the report, I would just like to give a special shout-out to Paul Ziegler. I don’t know when or how, but I am going to bury you. That’s a f*&%ing promise, pal.
Round One vs. Peer Kroger (Tooth and Nail)
This match needs no introduction (because I pretty much did that last week).
Game One: Peer plays a Cloudpost and Sylvan Scryings for a second. I drop a face-down Exalted Angel on turn 3, hoping to somehow win with that before he fires off a Tooth and Nail. He plays Oblivion Stone on his next turn. Bummer. I lack sufficient mana as well as the good fortune to have one of my maindeck hard counters in hand, so I’m forced to Akroma’s Vengeance away a board of my Exalted Angel and his Oblivion Stone and Mindslaver. He untaps, fetches a third Cloudpost, and Tooth and Nails out two Darksteel Colossus. At some point, I had, on autopilot, Thirsted away a Relic Barrier; if I had drawn another one, I would have had to kick myself for throwing away a chance to hold off Peer’s onslaught.”Fortunately,” my error was irrelevant, and I lose miserably.
Game Two: Simply put, I forget to sideboard out my Wraths and keep a really crappy hand with 2 Plains and five White cards. It’s irrelevant what I lost to, but for those keeping score at home, it was a hardcast Sundering Titan.
Round Two vs Shuuhei Nakamura (Affinity)
Something about Japanese Magic players unsettles me, and I have a difficult time”reading” them; it’s hard to tell what they’re doing or thinking. I guess that’s fair, since, for many people, the same could probably be said of me. After having played Mr. Nakamura, I get the impression that he’s a smug, cocky bastard. Yeah, they have those in Japan, too, evidently.*
Game One: My draw isn’t that good, but Nakamura’s doesn’t seem exciting either. I have a Relic Barrier or two keeping his board in check, and I’ve cycled a few Decrees for roughly three tokens to put a little pressure on him. I don’t quite remember why I was trying to race an Affinity deck; perhaps it was because I had no Wrath forthcoming and was hoping to kill him before he could overwhelm my Barriers. Doesn’t exactly seem like a sound plan, does it? Eventually, I surmise that Nakamura has nothing and tap out to play an Eternal Dragon. Naturally, he Shrapnel Blasts it, Aether Vials out an Atog, and kills me on his next turn. I probably could have won that one if he were anything but Japanese, or if I were anything but Clown Shoes.
Game Two: I struggle getting to four lands for a bit, but Relic Barriers are keeping me in the game as I wait on Wrath mana. My wariness of playing against Japanese players combined with Nakamura’s mannerisms and exasperation at my lack of haste cause me to play with a marked temerity. This ended when I got my fourth land. I tap his sole Blue source with a Relic Barrier… and he has the audacity to float a mana! I announce my attack step, and he burns, prompting me to say”No respect.” I wish I knew how to say that in Japanese so that he’d understood it. After I Wrath his board, my nervousness dissipates, my confidence surges, and my play speed picks up. He Had The Nerve To Think I Wouldn’t Know To Announce An Attack Step? My play may have been somewhat sketchy game one, but I would think that the fact that I qualified for Worlds would clue him in that I might know something as simple as circumventing countermagic. At that moment, I knew the tide had turned, and a few board clearers and Angel tokens later, we were shuffling up for game three, with momentum soundly on my side of the table.
Game Three: He kills me on turn 3.
Round Three vs. Ricardo del Castillo (Affinity)
Ricardo is a nice guy. Ricardo is from the Dominican Republic. Ricardo is a nice guy from the Dominican Republic. Any predictions?
Game One: I seem to have everything under control this game. I’m not sure whether a Wrath was involved, but I know I had a Relic Barrier and a face-down Angel. It’s pretty obvious that Ricardo has a Shrapnel Blast, so I don’t dare turn it face up until I have Rewind mana up. I’m a little worried since the Hoverguard has beaten me down to 8 by the time I can flip and reverse the Angel. Fortunately, Ricardo is short on action, and I’m able to ride the Exalted to victory.
Game Two: He doesn’t commit too many threats to the board; it turns out that this is because he doesn’t have any. Regardless, I take several hits from a Disciple of the Vault before he adds another creature to make it worthwhile for me to Wrath. He’s pretty flooded this game. On a key turn, I swing with an Exalted Angel and one of my two Angel tokens, leaving the other and my freshly cast Eternal Dragon back. There was no reason to attack with the other Angel since it would have taken two turns to kill him either way; I figure it’s best to leave back one blocker for each of his potential artifact attackers, as he could actually have killed me if I attacked with the other Angel and he topdecked Ravager. Well, he does topdeck the Ravager, and it made me feel pretty damn good that I managed not to throw away a game that was firmly in my grasp, thus securing my first Worlds match win.
Round Four vs. Shu Nu Zhang (Affinity)
I don’t remember much about my opponent, and all I really recall about the first two games is that we split them. Game three is where things got interesting.
Game Three: My draw is nice, with the potential for a turn 2 Purge, turn 3 face-down Angel, turn 4 flip it. His draw is nicer, yielding two Arcbound Ravagers and two Disciples of the Vault. I’m on the play, and I pass my second turn with both lands up. He attacks with Disciple of the Vault, and I opt not to Purge it, choosing to save Purge for a potential Arcbound Ravager. In retrospect, my opponent was probably afraid of countermagic, so he contented himself with playing a Chromatic Sphere. I Purge the Disciple at the end of his turn, and a few turns later, he has the aforementioned second DotV and an Arcbound Ravager in play.
On his fourth turn, he’s taking a long time thinking. There’s plenty of time left in the round, and I understand his decision is probably rather difficult, plus once he makes a decision, the game will probably be over (probably not in my favor) within a few minutes, anyway. He proceeds to think for about three minutes before judge Jeremy Smith forces him to take action. I tell Jeremy that I’m not bothered by my adversary’s speed of play, so he lets Zhang continue to ponder. After three more minutes, I’ve had enough, and Zhang plays a bunch of stuff, including a Myr Retriever. He was a point or two off killing me. Several turns pass, and I add another Angel and a Relic Barrier to the fray. Somewhere during this span of turns, Zhang is a little late in catching a Disciple point, but I don’t appeal to the judge; I just let him have it. Because my opponent has spent a few more turns deliberating whether he could kill me for minutes on end, counting and recounting, the clock has dwindled to about two minutes. I attack with my Angels, putting me up to 25.
He has one card in his hand, a giant Ravager (around 10/10), a small Ravager, and a Disciple of the Vault. I do some very quick math, and I figure there’s no way he can kill me, especially since I can Mana Leak one of the potential artifacts he could cast. Because of this, and because I can fly over for the win the next turn, I opt not to take the safe route of Vengeancing the board away. I have no idea how long it will take me to draw another kill condition, and I didn’t want to bother trying to get a time extension. The odds of him killing me the next turn seemed marginal enough that it wasn’t worth my while to expend any effort. I pass the turn. He plays a Chromatic Sphere with three mana up. I let it resolve, but I probably should have Leaked it so that he couldn’t pop it. He cycles the Sphere into a land, which I also obviously cannot counter, and attacks. I tap one of his Ravagers, he makes the other one huge, and at the end of combat, I’m at one life. Then he sacks Ravager to itself.
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I can’t even fathom how all the things that had to go wrong, did. I made some errors in judgment, I was too lenient, I was too lazy. At some point in my match with Nakamura, he had announced his attack, I passed priority back to him without using a Relic Barrier, and then he activated a Nexus before he attacked. I didn’t bother calling a judge for that either because I figured he’d somehow circumvent an unfavorable ruling via the language barrier and it would be a lot of hassle for nothing.
What the Hell was I even thinking? This was Worlds. The Biggest Tournament In The Year. If I wasn’t going to have my game face on, then why did I even show up for the event?** There were still 14 rounds to go, so I had to find a way to become focused on what I was there to do: not lose money.
Wait a minute. I said I lost that round. Saoooooo…Bank Error In My Favor No Good?*** I couldn’t complain, though. I felt that I had deserved that win in just about every way you can deserve a win without actually getting it. Being a pragmatist, and knowing that even at PTQs, result slips don’t get changed after the pairings for the next round go up, I was not of the disposition to protest. Before you accuse me of anything, I would like to point out that my opponent filled out the match result sheet, and he filled it out correctly. His handwriting was a little messy, but it was obvious who had won the match.
Round Five vs. Tim He (U/R Obliterate/March)
Tim He seemed like a cool cat, albeit a little peculiar, even for an Australian. We didn’t exchange too many words over the course of the weekend despite the fact that we played within a few tables of one another for the next nine or so rounds.
Game One: He wins the coin flip. He plays an island and passes the turn. I play a land and pass it right back. He plays Serum Visions and passes the turn. Then he plays a Mountain. Then I call the judge. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care about such a thing, and I was sincerely apologetic to Mr. He when I did it, even if he doesn’t believe that. Coming off the Round Four debacle, I was not about to let anything slide, though. He admitted that he would have done the same thing to me. Regardless, I resolve an Exalted Angel and believe the game to be well in hand since I can float alottabuncha mana in response to Obliterate and cycle my Decree of Justice. He Obliterates. I float. I Decree. Two turns later, he Pyroclasms. Oh yeah. Yup, I lost that one.
Game Two: I have some mana issues early this game, and there’s not a lot of action before the first Obliterate. A few turns after that, it hits me to hold land back for after the second Obliterate. Despite some Darksteel Pendanting, He is unable to get past seven lands before an Eternal Dragon has knocked him down to two. I cycle a Decree for the win after he Truths my Dragon.
Game Three: He has trouble finding Blue mana this game, but there’s not a lot I can do to capitalize. I counter two Marches and several Ingots. Eventually he casts Obliterate without a March on the table. The game still looks bleak for me, but I figure I can deck him if I counter his third March, which I correctly surmise to be his last remaining win condition. For better or worse, time runs out before the game reaches its dramatic conclusion. I ask Mr. He if he’ll play out the rest of the game to see who would have won, but it wasn’t necessarily a fair representation, since he had no reason to be more guarded with his final March with nothing at stake. In short, I win the”fun game,” but it’s impossible to say who would have won if time had not run out.
Yes, they retracted my free win.
Round Six vs. Gareth Cosgrave (U/R Obliterate/March)
As you’ve read, it had been quite a day, but the fun was far from over. Apparently, Cack’s favorite Blindside song off the new album**** isn’t about Heaven, but rather Table 123. That’s right, I had the fortune of being seated at the table on which the sun was shining directly through the pavilion’s window. Gareth got to the table before I did, so I got to spend the match baking and trying to avert my gaze from the blinding luminance. Other than his choice of seating, for which I cannot fault him, Gareth was quite a gentleman, plus he had a bitchin’ brogue.
Game One: There were a couple of countermagic battles, but I forget exactly when they occurred, and they were incidental. I mulligan into a crappy two-lander, but a few expert plucks later and I’m swinging with a 4/5 Spirit Linked flier. I beat him all the way down to eight before he can Obliterate. I had been hoping he didn’t have the Obliterate, but he cast it on turn 7 with a March and Ingot in play. I assume I’m a goner, but I manage to get another Angel in play at two life, and after two more swings, I manage to snag game one. Of note is the fact that Gareth didn’t swing with his Ingot the turn he played March (even though I had no blockers), which ended up costing him the game.
Game Two: Gareth’s mana development is a little sluggish, and he can’t seem to find a way to deal with my Exalted Angel. He probably has an Obliterate in hand, so I need to kill him before he reaches eight mana. On one turn, he casts Thirst for Knowledge, which I have to double Mana Leak to prevent from resolving. I knew it was the right play, since I simply couldn’t let him find another mana source. On the last possible turn, Gareth flips up an Echoing Truth with Future Sight. Because of the Future Sight, I know he has countermagic, but it’s all useless against my cycled Decree of Silence.
Two, three, and one. Not an auspicious start. I was going to have a nice Barn Spotlight interlude here, but I want to collect more data before I proceed with it. Plus, I’m getting long-winded yet again. How can I go on for so many pages without actually conveying any sort of information? I’m blessed. I asked that same rhetorical question in a prior article. Or did I? You’ll never know. If I can’t remember such an irrelevant detail, there’s no way you’ll be able to know for sure. Unless you scour my archives, which I recommend doing anyway.
On Wednesday night, Gerry and I were both 2-3-1, so we assumed we’d be at the same draft pod. We looked at the standings, and he was somewhere between 193-200, and I was in 201st, so I figured we were safe, as draft pods are assembled by grouping places 1-8, 9-16, and so on. Well, there must have been some sort of snafu, as we were in the same pod Thursday morning. With my chances of making money on life support, I was hoping at least to not embarrass myself on draft day. If you’ve learned anything about me, you should know that that was too much to hope for.
Draft Deck #1
2 Myr Servitor
1 Myr Moonvessel
1 Blind Creeper
1 Grimclaw Bats
1 Neurok Familiar
1 Gold Myr
1 Elf Replica
1 Battered Golem
1 Cackling Imp
1 Flayed Nim
1 Cobalt Golem
1 Synod Centurion
1 Looming Hoverguard
2 Quicksilver Behemoth
1 Lose Hope
2 Leonin Bola
1 Viridian Longbow
1 Devour in Shadow
1 Darksteel Pendant
1 Wail of the Nim
I hope you readers aren’t shortsighted and ignorant enough to make statements like”Well, durf durr he had two Bolas and a Longbow, so his deck couldn’t possibly be that bad.” Those three cards ensured that I would have a chance of winning a match. Take those cards out of the deck for just a second, and look at it again. Clown. Shoes. In my defense, the packs were pretty weak. Strangely, the Longbow and one of the Bolas were each third picks, but other than those random instances of good fortune, I really didn’t see too many good cards. I passed two Terrors in the first pack (for Looming Hoverguard and Longbow), but I figured Darksteel was deep enough for me to consider drafting Black anyway. I really didn’t have anything pulling me strongly into any color after the first pack; part of the reason for this, I would find out, was that the two people in front of me (Dave Humpherys and Chih-Hsiang Chang) were drafting abysmal three-color numbers. The whole draft was a catastrophe.
I hate playing Darksteel Pendant more than anything. It’s one of the cards I’m most excited to have played against me, along with Ornithopter, Spark Elemental, and the like. I had a dangerously low artifact count, though, so I needed something to help my Quicksilver Behemoths and Synod Centurion. The crappy 1/1s were meant to serve double duty as Bola/Longbow targets and”mana sources” to power out the 4/5s. Look at the rest of the creatures in the deck. Aren’t they embarrassing? Of the seventeen creatures in my deck (what is this, Onslaught block?), only three weren’t embarrassing on some level: the Bats, the Creeper, and the Looming Hoverguard.
Before the exciting match coverage begins, I would like to point out my deck’s Mondo Combo in case you missed it.
1) Play Darksteel Pendant.
2) Use the Pendant to put Synod Centurion on top of your library.
3) Cast Neurok Familiar, putting Centurion into your hand.
4) Play Synod Centurion, secure that the indestructible Pendant will keep its sacrifice ability from triggering.
Round Seven vs. Chih-Hsiang Chang
I was a big fan of this guy’s demeanor and”look.” Basically, he was a Taiwanese Davey Havok (singer of AFI, for those not in the know). He was rather effeminate, had a somewhat elongated face and long hair in a ponytail, and he had a plush anime doll that he plopped on the table for the duration of the match. Later on in the day, I saw him reading some sort of girly anime comic book. I got a kick out of Thomas Rosholm Barbie backpack/Hello Kitty lifepad phase, and I got a kick out of this guy. I have no idea why I consider over-the-top girliness so damn cool in cases like those and so damn creepy in others.
Game One: Chang stalls on one land for a turn, grinning sheepishly as he plays a Paradise Mantle in lieu of his second land drop. For my part, I play Gold Myr and some crappy guys. On his third turn, he plays Arcbound Stinger, which quickly Loses Hope. On his fourth turn, he plays a Blind Creeper and equips it with the Mantle. I answer back with Bola, Moonvessel, and my own Blind Creeper to kill his, and he concedes.
Game Two: I don’t draw Longbow or Bola. I cringe when he plays a turn 3 Trinket Mage but heave a sigh of relief when he reveals Paradise Mantle. I chump block his Trinket Mage with a Myr Servitor before playing my second Servitor; he sacrifices an artifact land and the Mantle to Krark-Clan Engineers to kill it before my upkeep rolls around. Yes, our decks are nice. In addition to the Engineers and Mantle, Chang has platinum hits like Cobalt Golem and Goblin Dirigible. I don’t really have much room to talk about the quality of his creatures, and as such, perhaps I was a little too hasty to call him a”bye” when describing the match to friends. Looming Hoverguard on his Dirigible lets me force through enough damage to keep him from stabilizing.
Round Eight vs. Damien Reaubourg
Game One: Damien mulligans and is visibly frustrated to have drawn only Mountains for mana, and at some point he plays a Pentad Prism with one counter on it. My draw is pretty land-heavy, but I have lands and creatures. By the time Damien can make any meaningful contribution to the board, I’m swinging into him with about six guys. A Wail of the Nim with combat damage on the stack prompts the concession.
Game Two: I mulligan into Bats, Moonvessel, Bola, and Pendant. Obviously, Pendant is akin to another mulligan. What may not be obvious is that, if you mulligan, particularly with a deck as heavy in four-drops as mine, Bola in the opening hand is like a mulligan. It doesn’t provide mana, and it doesn’t add anything to the board on its own. Bola + Moonvessel to neutralize an attacker is two-for-one card disadvantage. I don’t draw very many lands and soon find myself in the unenviable position of having to re-equip Bola instead of playing creatures just to stay alive. I succumb to his decent squadron of Alpha Myr, Goblin Brawler, Oxidda Golem, and Hematite Golem.
Game Three: I mulligan into a nice land flood. I manage to deploy some fliers and a Bola, but Reauborg has me completely outclassed. He plays a turn 4 Vedalken Archmage (and is relieved that I don’t have the Condescend), Fireballs my Behemoth, and, with a”thank you,” Carries Away my Bola. I like the”thank you” there. It shows class. Despite all the extra cards he drew, and despite his X-spell, I still probably would have won the game if not for Bola changing teams. I don’t know why I was so upset with this loss; again, it’s not as though my deck were a Sunday stroll through the park with a big red balloon in one hand and a piece of peach cobbler in the other.
Round Nine vs. Gerry Thompson
So that’s the way it’s gonna be, eh? One of my best friends in the world and I pay several hundred dollars to fly halfway around the country and play in a tournament that I didn’t even really want to play in, and we get paired up against each other when I’m 3-4-1 and he’s 2-5-1. Neither one of us had a particularly good chance of finishing in the money at this point, but since Gerry would have to go 8-1, and I would”only” have to muster a 7-2, he decided to concede to me.
This was it. I didn’t turn things around after being slighted by Shuuhei Nakamura, or after the debacle of a match round four, or even with the switch to the Limited format. Starting off 2-3-1 was simply not enough of a wake-up call for me. If anything was going to motivate me to pull my head out of my ass, it was this. Failure was no longer an option. I couldn’t allow Gerry’s concession to be in vain…
Tune in on Monday for the startling conclusion of this inspirational tale of valor, redemption, and yes, clown shoes.
*Canada is their Mecca.
**I had already bought my plane ticket.
***Columbus lingo circa 2001, repazent!!!
****”Where the Sun Never Dies.” If you had to read the footnote, not only did it ruin any cleverness the reference may have had, but it indicates that you weren’t paying attention last article. For shame. And I’ve used up my footnote quota. That’s ALSO a shame.