Understanding In A MODO Crash: “Anything Less Than First Would Be A Disappointment.”

I had to play against the only competent person left in contention at the Ohio Regionals. The winner would be first after the Swiss and thus first overall, as the top 8 doesn’t get played out anymore; the loser would get essentially nothing….

One more round and I would have qualified for Nationals for the third consecutive year. One more round and I would have been first place in the last two Regionals I’d played in. One more round and I wouldn’t have to leave the tournament site a loser. One more round and I would still have believed that I was good.

“Anything less than first would be a disappointment.” – Geddes Cooper

One more round.

One more round and I would have qualified for Nationals for the third consecutive year. One more round and I would have been first place in the last two Regionals I’d played in. One more round and I wouldn’t have to leave the tournament site a loser.

(We all see the joke here. There’s no need for me or anyone else to make it. So shut up; I’m trying to make a point.)

One more round and I would still have believed that I was good.

Wait – what? Isn’t it a bit hasty to discount your skills based on what happened in one round?

Yes and no. I won Ohio Valley Regionals in 2001, which qualified me for Nationals and, via rating, Pro Tour: New Orleans. I also qualified for San Diego that same year. Since then, I’ve gone infinite on Magic Online. At one point, my Limited rating was 1997, and at another point, my Constructed rating was over 2000. These kinds of results tend to give one delusions of grandeur.

When I had my mild spell of success, it inflated my ego way past what my play skills would indicate. I rested on my illusory laurels, assuming I always knew what I was doing and playing on autopilot. I was good – and still am – but it’s time to re-evaluate what I know about my spellcasting prowess. I’m going to get better. I’m going to pay attention while I’m playing. I’m going to prove to myself and anyone else who cares that my past successes weren’t a fluke. Although to be honest, it seems that playtesting many hours a week in Type 2 only has a marginal effect on one’s success at the format. Wild Mongrel did for Type 2 what Rorix and Visara did for Limited: Any buffoon can believe, and rightfully so, that he has a chance of winning.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I can go on about everyone being awful at everything, I have some obligatory preliminary information to wade through.

I didn’t test much for Type 2, as the rambling in the last paragraph would lead one to believe. The format didn’t interest me as much as draft, and I was too lazy to figure out what was good. It seemed like a crap shoot with the typical”rock-paper-scissors” complaints that haunt many Constructed formats. I don’t like playing Constructed very much unless I think I can beat everything.

Fortunately, in the weeks preceding Regionals, attendance increased to the point where type 2 tourneys on Tuesdays were once again the norm at SS, the local store. This increased my interest a little and gave me some information.

And then came the Magic Online Worlds qualifier.

My brother told me a few days before the event that he wanted to play in it, and to get the cards together for Cunningham’s blue/green deck. I did as he requested, got bored one Friday before class, and played in a pre-qualifier myself. I lost. But I got bored again later that night and won. So I would be playing in the main event on Sunday.

But I hated the deck.

I looked at lots of versions of green/blue, including Matt Rubin’s version, which is by far the best because no one in the world is better at blue/green than him – even if he doesn’t have his own column – but I wasn’t satisfied with any of them. Then my good friend Lucas Glavin suggested I play Tog. I regretfully informed him I didn’t have the cards, but he said he would loan them to me.

This isn’t a report about the Worlds Qualifier, so I won’t go into too much detail. I will say that I lost the first game to Sligh before the tournament was postponed due to server problems, then started off 5-0. I quickly lost the next two to getting okut-topdecked and not having a counter for an opposing Upheaval. But I determined that I really liked the dec. After some mulling, during which time I was still contemplating playing blue/green (or”Mungrels,” as we call it on the IRC), I decided to run LCGtog at Regionals, with some slight metagame modifications.

And it was breathtaking. Lucas Glavin is a sheer master.

Here’s what I ran:

4 Psychatog

4 Counterspell

4 Circular Logic

3 Force Spike

3 Compulsion

3 Deep Analysis

2 Concentrate

2 Upheaval

2 Cunning Wish

4 Smother

3 Chainer’s Edict

4 Polluted Delta

4 Underground River

2 Darkwater Catacombs

4 Lonely Sandbar

9 Island

3 Swamp


1 Coffin Purge

1 Boomerang

1 Opportunity

1 Ghastly Demise

1 Mana Short

3 Hibernation

3 Duress

1 Chainer’s Edict

3 Engineered Plague

This deck can beat anything, although I imagine the matchup with red/green is a little rough. Sligh might be rough, too, if anyone played it, but the three Plagues in the board would be a big help. The sideboard was breathtaking as well, although I would take out a Hibernation for God knows what. Maybe another Wish target. Maybe that’s too hasty a decision, since I didn’t play any well-tuned red/green decks all day.

The land is perfect; if you play it right, you almost never get flooded or screwed. I’ll say it again: LCG is the master.

We – my brother Mike, Joey Bags, and the King (Opalka, to the heathens) – had a standard trip up to Detroit from my house in Vermilion. This means that, since it wasn’t the normal site, we got lost and arrived at the site at about 9:50. Which was fine, except for the stress.

Mike: (after giving me bad directions because he didn’t know that a diamond with a 10 in it was the same as M-10)”This only ever happens when you drive.”


I made the statement at one point that at absolute best, only four”good” players would make the finals. I had no idea how right I was. The relative heavy-hitters in the room were EDT, myself, Big Johnny Wolbert, Andrew Gravlin, John Honea, Mark Herberheezy, Nick Little, and a few others. The field had several other solid players, but lots of chumlies. Lots of chumlies.

Round One: A nice small child with red/green

This particular individual probably plays more casual than competitive Magic. It showed in his deck, his play, and his hesitance to even cut my deck, let alone shuffle it.

Game One: He plays some Basking Rootwallas and Reckless Charges some Birds of Paradise. He also has some cards like Tranquility and Giant Growth. I stabilize, letting an occasional burn spell resolve, and I find myself at three life. This is no problem, as I have a lethal Psychatog, and he has no board and only one card in hand. I Concentrate, attack, and raise my ten-card hand in preparation to go for the jugular…

But before I can go through the formality of actually announcing that I’m going to pump the Tog, he plays Moment’s Peace. That was a close one. I find out after the match that he didn’t know he could Peace after I pump. I play a little more cautiously from here on in and pick up the pieces in a few turns.

Game Two: He plays a turn 1 Birds; I answer with a turn 1 Polluted Delta. He attacks and double-Giant Growths; I respond by sacking the Delta and Demising. Reminds me of a match I played almost three years ago when I pulled off the miracle”Bounty of the Hunt #2″ topdeck, but failed to yield priority in my excitement and lost to a masterful play that somehow involved my opponent pinging his own Phyrexian Negator with Masticore.

(Poll #1: Should I try to keep my sentences shorter? Why or why not?)

Anyhoo, he drops a couple of Ensnaring Bridges that I didn’t have to counter since I fortunately left in a few Deep Analysis and an Upheaval. I play cautiously to win with Upheaval.


Round Two: Andrew with U/G/B Squirrel/Opp variant

Game One: Andrew quickly establishes himself as quite a meticulous player by using such terminology as”generic mana” and by going through allllll the steps of combat every time, including”damage on the stack?” when he chumps my Psychatog with a squirrel. He never resolves an Opposition, and he plays Static Orb too early; he was more affected by it than I. Thanks to a hit or two from Tog and lots of painland damage, I Smother a squirrel before blocks and muster exactly the twelve damage I needed to win.

At this point, there were still thirty-one minutes left in the match… And I guess it’s time to make an aside about my play style.

I play somewhat deliberately, but nowhere near slow enough to be construed as”stalling” or even”thinking before I make a play.” I have a monotone with a hint of disdain when I speak, and I’m expressionless while I play – or rather, I tend to have my default”I’m pretty bored, but if I’m feeling anything, it’s that I hope I die” expression on at most times. I’m not intimidating, but damn if I can’t be unnerving. This point was driven home during game 2, at which time Andrew made a careless procedural error – the last thing I would have expected him to do.

Game Two: He leads off with a Birds. I Duress Opposition and see Braids, Naturalize, and something else. He Duresses me back, I Smother his Birds, and he plays an elf. On my third turn, I play Tog. He draws a land and plays Braids. That’s a little rough. I sacrifice a land and attack. He untaps very quickly and draws a card.

Notice something? So did I.

I called for a judge, who ruled that since it was his own Braids, he should really know better (which is standard procedure with forgetting Braids), and he got a game loss.

I’m sort of proud, sort of not. I’m happy that my demeanor presumably threw someone so off his game that he played completely differently than he would have; I’m unhappy that I had to be the scumbag and call a judge. Even though it’s the right thing to do, and it’s what you should do if someone forgets something like that against you, I won’t pretend like I wasn’t looking for an easy win. It just so happened that my shifty goal crossed over with what’s”right.” I won’t try to get easy wins in ways that are not recommended by the rules; for instance, I won’t try to distract my opponent during his upkeep so he’ll forget something.


Round Three: Nathan Bramlett with W/G/r Slide

Speaking of Slide, I’m pretty sure I saw a blue/white deck with Choking Tethers next to me while I was playing the last round… The Ferrett may have to pay up! (Indeed he will… The Ferrett)

I had previously believed that Mr. Bramlett was a buffoon because of his demeanor, but he’s fairly skilled. My past encounters with him were a loss round one of a Grand Prix Trial in which he said”Yah!” whenever he turned a Wurm token sideways and an ID into the top 8 of a Limited PTQ. My past encounter with R/G/W Slide was the aforementioned MODO Worlds Qualifier heartbreaking sixth-round loss when my opponent successfully topdecked a one-mana cycler for the win. I was a little leery.

Game One: He got out a Lightning Rift, then another several turns later, but I was right on schedule with Upheaval and Tog followup to wrap things up.

(Poll #2: What do you think I wrote on one of my Upheavals? Answer to follow if I remember. This is more of a trivia question than a poll, but I already numbered the first poll question, insinuating that there would be more to come, so I felt obligated. I could have just gone back and backspaced over the”#1,” but that would take a lot of effort, now wouldn’t it? And don’t try to use your”Well, isn’t this pointless aside even more time-consuming than simply erasing a numeral?” logic on me. You want to use logic, get your own column, pally.)

Game Two: He played a turn 2 Rift when I had but a blue mana open, and he seemed pretty sure I had the Spike. Maybe I am a little intimidating. I tapped my Island and cycled a Sandbar as he was getting ready to put Rift in the yard.

I was about to Upheaval for the win again, but the bastard Boiled me on upkeep! I had to settle for a”Desperation Upheaval (TM)” to get Rift off the board, as I was at three life. In the post-apocalyptic turns, I played a Tog, leaving two blue open to counter Rift – but he had another Boil. I packed.

Game Three: Nathan had another Boil ready for my Upheaval turn, but this time I could simply afford to wait another turn. Both games when I cast the Upheaval/Tog combo, all he could muster was cycling a few cards at my dome.


Round Four: Lucky McSack with T2 Rock

Game One: I tapped out to Concentrate after he Living Wished for Braids, since I didn’t have a counter and didn’t expect him to wait to play it. Soon enough, in a flurry of Birds and Elves, the board was down to three lands and Braids on his side and one land and a Tog on my side. He sacked Braids and played a few men, like Rootwalla and Elf. I countered a Ravenous Baloth and blocked another with Tog. Eventually, I had to tap out (only two lands in play) to play Compulsion in an attempt to get more lands. When I Compulsed the next turn, he was ready with Smother. I played a second Tog when he was empty-handed, but he ripped Edict.

Game Two: Stuff happens, Braids doesn’t resolve, blah blah blah, I Upheaval and play Tog. He only had a one-mana creature and one card in hand, and I had Smother, so I figured I was in good shape. He topdecked a Bird, though, so I couldn’t kill him right away. Eventually, the board was down to my Togs against his Mongrel and Bird. I attacked with both nonlethal Togs, and he chumped one with the bird. He untapped, drew (two cards in hand now), and sent Mongrel.

I was a little confused until I checked my scorepad and realized I was at four. He had no choice but to attack, since he would lose next turn; if I had Smother, good beats; he would have lost anyway. I didn’t.

If I said I was tired, and that’s why I did something dumb, would you respect me more? Okay, then I was tired.

If I said I was hungry, and that’s why I did something dumb, would you respect me more? Okay, then I was hungry.

Now look – what it boils down to is this: I am good enough that I know you should leave a blocker back if your opponent has an otherwise-lethal attacker on the board. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred (okay, maybe ninety-eight) I would have noticed that. But I just wasn’t focused on my life total. I was focused solely on his. I got into a”He’s on defense, I just gotta push him over) mindset and ignored the facts.

Does this make me bad? No. (Again, keep your remarks to yourself, unless you’re Kai; I don’t even want Finkel or Baberowski or Polin or whoever to”lol” at that. But if Kai wants to put on a little chiffon dress and make fun of me with all his friends over tea and crumpets, I’m afraid I’ll have to allow it.) Was it a bad thing to do? Yes. Is there anyone to blame but myself? Should I blame the situation? Nope. It’s a paradox. Even though I shouldn’t be labeled as a chumly for life for one grievous error, I am still accountable.

(Poll #3: Thoughts on bringing back”chumly”?) (All for – The Ferrett)


Round Five: A nice guy with W/G/R beasts

Game One: I think this was the game where I had to play a Desperation Upheaval on turn 7 (the one without the ominous writing), stabilized after the storm, and finally Upheavaled again with Tog backup. He had played a turn 3 Genesis, which I countered, then eliminated through a turn 4 Wished-for Coffin Purge.

Game Two: I don’t really remember how I sideboarded, but I brought in at least one Hibernation. It took me forever to reach a Psychatog this game; all four were in roughly the bottom twenty cards. When I drew one, though, I Heaved – then he heaved. Lights out, Guerrilla Radio, from the top down and not the bottom up, gibberty gibberty rat-a-tat-tat.


Round Six: Guy with U/G/w control

This deck was somewhat interesting, but I don’t think it has what it takes to perform in this environment. He had Cunning Wish, Holistic Wisdom, Nantuko Monastery for the kill, no Mirari’s Wake that I saw, and a very shifty mana base. It probably wasn’t good for him that he had to read some of my cards, like Mana Short and Psychatog.

Game One: I keep a land-heavy hand, as I sat next to him round 4 and knew what he was playing. He keeps a land-light hand and compounds the damage by attacking Monastery into a Smother the turn he got threshold. Eventually, I Short/Heave/Tog for the win.

Game Two: He gets Holistic Wisdom/Counterspell up and running. He has Monastery, but no threshold. It takes me awhile to find enough counters to win, even though I only needed two; since he had four islands, I just needed one counter for every two islands to protect my end of turn Short. Short/Heave/Tog takes it again.

(Poll #4: The fifth repetition of”watching you burn” at the end of Hole’s”Best Sunday Dress” is the greatest moment in music of our lifetime. Why is that? Discuss).


Round Seven: Michael Paski with U/G Madness

Game One: He mulligans, then stalls on land. My Psychatog came out early and threatened to be lethal in a few turns, so my opponent expedited the process with the ol’ scooping motion. At this point, I tell myself,”All right, he’s going to play first game 2. This is your game to lose; you’ll just win the third.”

Game Two: This was my game to lose. He played first, Carefully Studying out a Rootwalla and a Deep Analysis. (Technically, he didn’t study”out” the Analysis, since it went to his graveyard, but it’s really hard to find one word to save the syntax of the preceding sentence. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, and it’s easier to talk in circles than get out the dictionary, even though I just did get out the dictionary of m-w.com to make sure I used”precede” correctly. Durr.)

So yeah, he played a Compost, and I stalled on three lands. I got out a Tog, but my whole hand was black removal. I couldn’t keep up with Compost.

Game Three: His first three plays are Composts, and I get a few Togs on the board. One turn he taps low to madness out an Arrogant Wurm with Merfolk Looter, so I Hibernation and Demise the Looter. It was hard for him to recover. My favorite part of this match was when he counted my graveyard and hand to ascertain that the Togs were lethal. He shook his head grimly when he realized they were… But he had lands untapped, and I wasn’t going to fall for his ruse. A few turns later, he was down to two cards, one of which was that same Arrogant Wurm. I showed him a counter for whatever his other card happened to be (it was Unsummon, of course) and that was that.


Round Eight: Travis Lee with W/G

This is the individual to whom Joey Bags lost in round 1. Bags was complaining about his four maindeck Reprisals, but I forgot alllll about them.

Game One: He tosses out threats, and I toss out answers. After a long while, the board is completely clear, and I’m at five. Soon enough, I topdeck Compulsion. The board gets more complicated with his Monastery and Llanowar Elves and my Psychatog. I have to counter a Glory, and the crucial turn arrived. Travis, empty-handed, drew a card. He activated Monastery, then activated Glory; this left him with Elf, Monastery, and Brushland untapped. I took a damage from Polluted Delta and Smothered in response. This would either tap him out so I could win next turn or force him to lose his Monastery. He chose the latter, but then he attacked with his Llanowar Elves. I swung for the fences next turn, with Travis cursing himself for tapping down to a single mana with Reprisal in hand.

Game Two: He came out far too fast, and my draw wasn’t that hot. He Seedtimed when I countered a Mongrel, and that was a little rough. I don’t know how much it mattered. I’m pretty sure a hardcast Glory spelled my downfall this game.

Game Three: I take a chance and rawdog Compulsion turn 2. Unfortunately, he has Compost in hand. Fortunately, he opted instead to play Anurid Brushhopper; I didn’t find out about the Compost until his friend made a comment after the game.

I was a little nervous, since he came out quickly. When he got around to playing Compost, I had the Force Spike. I Hibernated Brushhopper and Bird, leaving those as his only cards in hand, and Edicted a Mongrel to which he pitched a card. I gradually took control of the game, letting one Seedtime resolve (all it netted him was an extra draw) and countering another a few turns later. Upheaval sealed the deal.


Naturally, my tiebreakers mandated that I play out the last round. Naturally, I had to play against the only competent person left in contention. The winner would be first after the Swiss and thus first overall, as the top 8 doesn’t get played out anymore; the loser would get essentially nothing. And so the epic struggle, the test of endurance, the battle of wits (heh – what a dork) begins…

Round Nine: John Honea with U/G Madness

Game One: I stall on two islands and start to discard.

Game Two: I mulligan a six-lander into a five-lander.


A perfect end to a successful day. Intentionally or not (safe money is on not), I got &*$%ing McCarreled. In the first game, I had a great hand including a Force Spike for his turn 2 Mongrel; all I needed was a black source.

Mr. Honea, if you’re reading this, I would like to reiterate that I was just kidding when I was accusing you of”rubbing it in.” I know you weren’t. I would also like to congratulate you on your win; It was well-deserved, and you’re probably better than me at Constructed, even if you needed mungrels to win. It was just unfortunate that we had to play the last round.

So school’s out for the summer now, and I vow to try, for perhaps my first honest effort, to not suck. We all say it, usually with a hint of incredulity:”I suck”;”I’m the worst”;”I don’t deserve to win”; the list goes on. I don’t suck. I’m pretty good.

But not good enough.

I’m gonna get better. I’m going to be as good as I thought I was. I need to start by seeing things realistically, realizing how much work I really need.

I’m not as good as Kai.

I’m not as good as Eugene Harvey.

I’m not as good as Christian Benafel Berger.

I’m not as good as Antonino.

I’m not as good as edt.

I’m not as good as Adam Prosak… At Constructed, anyway.

I am better than 87.5% of the top 8 at Regionals.

Only one or two of them have a remote shot of winning; that’s just the way it is sometimes. That may sound baggish, but 1) I am a bag and 2) feel free to prove me wrong,”Kyle Kanon” and”Chris Lepinski” and all the rest of ya.

It’s like this: If none of you does well at Nationals, then I was right; I was merely stating fact and am hence not a bag. If one of you does do well (and I’m excluding Honea, of course), you have my humblest apologies. I’ll write up a solid paragraph about how great you are – seriously! Then I’ll challenge you to a money draft. Then, when you win that, too, I’ll write another paragraph about how great you are, with how stupid and arrogant I am as a secondary motif.

A lot of people were thinking it, but I’ll take the responsibility of, and heat for, saying it while all of you who agree with me live through me vicariously but without the vicious yet warranted e-mails. I’m sorta like Eminem, except not at all. At all.

Ooooh, the official Scourge spoiler is coming soon. You know what that means: lists, lists, lists!! I can actually feel you all tremble with anticipation.


  • Myself: for sparing you all a”Slops” section

  • Adam Prosak: for keeping the dream alive. Expect big things at Nats.

  • Nick Little: great company at any Magic event, even if you don’t wash your hair; great sense of humor, loud and obnoxious, laugh that is itself humorous; all good things.*

  • Joey Bags: for driving home, among other things. Sometimes when I’m at my wit’s end with you, you pull through like no other.

  • MattR, LCG, and the rest of the ghetto: I feel like an honorary member of your little clan. ^_^

  • Big Johnny Wolbert, edt, and the rest of the Michigan people: always a pleasure to hang out with

  • Everyone who wanted me to win Regionals

  • Everyone who actually likes my articles

  • Everyone who actually reads my articles

Bonus Section: Sample Poll Answers

Question 1: Should I try to keep my sentences shorter? Why or why not?

Yes. Sentences that are too long make you look ignorant.

Question 2: What do you think I wrote on one of my Upheavals?

Well, Tim, let’s think about it: You’re obsessed with the Incubus”Warning” video and the little girl who screams at 10:24 and essentially ends the world. Upheaval is a world-altering effect. Yet”10:24″ itself is a little overdone. Plus the Upheaval itself isn’t the end of the world, and you think you’re pretty clever. So I’ll say”10:23:59.”

Question 3: Thoughts on bringing back”chumly”?

Mise, tings, beats, and gas!!

Question 4: The fifth repetition of”watching you burn” at the end of Hole’s”Best Sunday Dress” is the greatest moment in music of our lifetime. Why is that? Discuss.

This is an unfair question that’s really difficult to express in words. Music is something you feel, not really something you can talk about; the fifth repetition at the end of the song is delivered with such passion and perfect timing in a song that had at that point already perfectly been executed that one feels as though it has been made official; it’s at this moment when a person realizes how truly good the song is. Forgive my poorly-worded answer, but as I mentioned, this musical moment is worth several thousand words, and I don’t have the time to go into detail.

Tim Aten

The Scum of the Earth

[email protected]

* – No, I’m not in love with Nick Little.