TAKING ROGUE TO STATES
By now you’ve probably read at least Part One of Bennie Smith tournament report, in which he ditched the illustrious Borg-2K deck that we poured time and blood and sweat and tears and at least two good decks of playing cards into (I had to template, so sue me: they were only buck-seventy-five decks) in favor of playing some hackneyed three-color amalgamation of the Fires of Yavimaya / Blastogeddon decks. (In case you have no idea what he’s talking about, folks, many people save money in playtesting by using ordinary decks of playing cards and assigning Magic cards to specific numbers – as in, "eight of spades is Blastoderm #3" – The Ferrett) I thought I’d share a little bit more detail of the story with you all, since you know us both through this website, and obviously just LOVE to read our stuff.
Bennie and I spent two weeks emailing back and forth. Basically my job was to flesh out the metagame and provide some theory, while Bennie did most of the playtesting. In my neck of the woods (and I do mean WOODS – it is the sticks out here), there aren’t a whole lot of people who know you can make fire by rubbing two sticks together, much less that you can also take those sticks, make cardboard from ’em, and print on ’em to make some silly game. So Bennie and his illustrious playtesting group focused on the practical aspect, while I played against myself (note the ‘against’) to familiarize myself with the matchups.
Bennie did not go to work the Friday before States, so I was out of email contact with him. I called him Thursday night, we talked about some of the problems (including Borg’s nefarious losing streak to anything that says ‘Geddon’), and we also talked about a couple of decks that hadn’t been originally included in the metagame analysis: Fires, and the red burn deck that has 36 burn spells. Borg-2K loses to them too. But we were both still committed to playing the Borg, and Bennie also told me of another guy in the email circles who was also going to play Borg. I was excited to be playing a deck that was out of left field, stood a good chance to win, and was not my traditional style of deck. I was at least going to have fun on Sunday.
My phone rang Saturday afternoon, and it was Bennie, from the tournament site.
Dave: "So what’s your record?"
Bennie: "3-0-1 after four rounds."
Dave: "That’s incredible! I feel much better about playing Borg tomorrow!"
And it snowballed from there. While I was happy that Bennie was doing well, I started losing confidence in the Borg deck, and when Bennie relayed me his NEW decklisting, I realized it would take an Act of God (TM) or about two hundred bucks for me to be able to play that deck. Where I was going into Edison needing four cards for Borg, I would need around 25 to build the new deck. In fact, I believe my exact words when I hung up started with, "Where the heck am I gonna get four Ports?" and proceeded into sailor’s English once I started leafing through my binders.
Bennie called again after taking fourth place. "I’m sticking with Borg," I said. Bennie complimented me for having the intestinal fortitude where he had been sorely lacking. In retrospect, I may have had the balls, but Bennie had the brains of our little outfit, as evidenced by our respective finishes.
So on to the action.
I arrived in Edison early, as I always do. For some reason, the analytical portion of my brain just fails at 6:whatever in the morning, and I can’t count backwards from the 1-1/4 hour ride from 9 o’clock. I get there, this time at 8:30, and am walking in with Joe Amato and his girlfriend Sue and two of their friends (whose names escape me now, but I think they were Anthony and Jon, and I’m sure I’d never forget them again, especially if the guy with the red-and-blue hair was standing in front of me). They invite me to join them in the now-legendary deli for breakfast, and we all sit down and start playing, trading, and whatnot. I pick up a couple of the cards I need from them, and they get a nice Urza’s Rage from me, and we generally have a good time. We pay the bill at 9:20 and rush in to the hotel.
For some reason, Gray Matter is not privy to the main ballroom this weekend, and they are forced to take one of the smaller ballrooms, which offers MUCH less playing room. Evidently Jimmy Sikorski’s bar mitzvah was more important. (Please note that if you are the little kid with the bar mitzvah, I know your name isn’t Jimmy Sikorski; it’s called ‘poetic license’. I could have just pulled a Rizzo and called you ‘chieftain’.) To make matters worse, the staff’s printer isn’t working, and the one they bought to replace it has the drivers on CD, whereas their laptop has no CD drive. I’m not sure when we started, but it was muy late.
OK so now let me present you with the decklist.
3x Waterfront Bouncer
3x Vodalian Zombie
3x Greel, Mind Raker
3x Squee(zy), Goblin Nabob
2x Pyre Zombie
1x Evil Eye of Orms-by-Gore
4x Scorching Lava
4x Fact or Fiction
4x Accumulated Knowledge
2x Do or Die
4x Urborg Volcano
4x Underground River
4x Salt Marsh
Sideboard: 3x Tsabo’s Decree (for rebels and merfolk), 3x Chill (my only hope against Urza’s Rage), 3x Vendetta (spot removal rules against Birds and makes Geddon’ing less attractive), 2x Addle (against control), 2x Hammer of Bogardan (against anything that could board Cremate), and 2x Tsabo’s Web (more against Dust Bowl than Port, but either suck).
The game plan is two-fold: break Fact or Fiction by using nine cards that we don’t care if they go to our graveyard – and use Greel and Bouncers with recurring discards to strip our opponent of their permanents.
The Evil Eye was totally assimilated at the last minute. Talking to Bennie late Saturday night, he said, "You’ll never believe what I saw in the Top Eight – this guy playing Ankh/Tide had Evil Eyes in his deck! They were great!" And they really are – I mean, they hold off Blastoderm, Kavu Titan, kill Skizziks, hold off Jhovall Queen – and so I say, in my best Borg impression, "You will be assimilated," and go about taking them out of my box. Well, that’s not accurate; I say ‘them’ because I wanted it to be a ‘them,’ but really it was a ‘him’ (assuming a male gender for Evil Eyes). People gave me the funniest looks as I was wandering about looking for the last cards I needed: "Anyone have Underground Rivers? Squees? Evil Eyes?"
Everyone who saw the deck loved it. I played a couple games with it, just to test it out against real opponents, and so I talked Sue into playing. She was playing a R/W deck with Glittering guys, Cho-Manno, and Task Mage Assembly. It was a neat little deck, definitely a rogue, and I think she went something like 2-3-2 in the tournament with it. I wrecked her, getting out Greel, bouncing the little guys to her hand, and just giving her a bad time. She didn’t think it was such a morale-booster to let me assault her like that.
ROUND ONE: vs. DISCARD-AVATAR
I took NO notes at this tournament. I knew it was either going to be fun or horrible, or maybe both, and really the story had already occurred, regardless of what happened from here on out. In the first game, the Evil Eye gets countered, but I get Greel on the board and start roughing him up, eventually adding a Pyre Zombie to the mix to hasten his defeat. I still had no idea what he was playing, as mostly all I saw were Chilling Apparitions and some minor discard. I should have known, as my opponent kept asking, "How many cards in hand?" Here I thought he was just curious. Second game he played smash-face with an Avatar of Will after asking that ominous question three or four times. He was just WAITING to see the look on my face. Smash, smash, smash, dead. Our third game timed out, with neither of us able to eke out the victory.
"0-0-1, That’s not bad," I try and convince myself. "I’m still undefeated!"
ROUND TWO: vs. RISING WATERS
Yet again, I almost call this deck "High Tide." Could Wizards please come up with three or four MORE cards that are so similar in name that I can’t keep ’em straight? (The scary thing is, I’d never mix up Albino Troll with Horned Troll, but that’s neither here nor there.) I hardly moved from my seat in round one, and my opponent from round one is sitting next to me. He didn’t move much either.
So in the first game, my new opponent gets out a few cutesy little creatures (two Chimeric Idols and a Troublesome Spirit) and plops down the Waters. I have a blocker I can recur, but it’s tough under the Waters, and I can’t find a bounce spell to get rid of the Waters (since I had to attempt to bounce the Troublesome to survive). I concede at two life, and it’s at this moment that my day starts going wrong.
My first-round opponent, still in game one of his match, draws a card, and the card below it is black-sleeved, where his deck is all covered in shiny blue sleeves. Play stops there, and they call a judge. I think by now you can guess who has black sleeves – yep, it’s me! I don’t know how, but apparently this guy preferred my Recoil to his own, or maybe after I busted four on him in one game, he wanted five in his own deck. ANYWAY, judge rules that we both get a game loss. No sweat for him, as he was under Waters lock and in the first game, and would probably lose that one anyway. Me, since we’re between games, this means that I effectively lose the match. Guh, that sucks.
"0-1-1. Okay, 5-1-1 can still make Top 8."
ROUND THREE: vs. R/G METEOR STORM
This weekend should have been subtitled, "Season of the Rogue," because I must have seen about twenty decks that were so far beneath the radar that they were practically underground. This was another one. Vodalian Zombies are nice against G/W, but not so against R/G, who can burn them out with little thought or effort. I lost two straight here, enjoying the novelty of the deck at least, playing a Chill in game two and continually bouncing his Storm before he could chuck cards at me. Even at 2RG, Meteor Storm is a bargain.
"0-2-1. When are they starting drafts?"
ROUND FOUR: vs. REBELS
One thing I was concerned about early on was that I didn’t test against Rebels enough. I didn’t really think it would be around in as large of numbers as it was. And Tsabo’s Decree, while pretty strong, is useless if your opponent can tuck his Rebels under his Parallax Wave. Both games my opponent played a Wave, then Tutored for a second one when the first was about to run out.
So at 0-3-1, I drop out and start looking for side drafts. I play in a couple, but I’m self-admittedly crummy at drafting. The first one I draft a strong R/B/u deck with Nightscape Master, a ton of fast red Kavu, good removal, and Goham Djinn. It really was missing only one thing: Void. The little kid to my left, playing green/white, opens his second pack, and the rare is: Void! Do I get it? No! He drafts it and puts one swamp and one mountain in his deck, and plays with it. I needle him the whole rest of the draft. "This deck is great! It’s only missing one thing! Void!" However, B/R is pretty bad when your first-round opponent goes G/W, drafting all the Acolytes and the Llanowar Knights, and even getting a Crusading Knight with which to smash you. The second draft I draft G/W with Dueling Grounds, but it never makes a difference, as Eric Ziegler is kind enough to wreck me in two straight so I can go home.
Jeez, I’m exhausted just retelling it all.
I wonder if Ferrett will put this up in the "Tournament Reports" section, and if he does, will it say "NJ STATES *B8*"? (Well, heck, if you insist… – The Ferrett)
Props: Bennie Smith, for creating the only deck that has effects during the opponent’s draw step.
Slops: Bennie Smith, for chickening out. Success can only take you so far! Er.
So now I’m faced with the Herculean task of deciding which Extended deck to play for the next wave of PTQs. Edison has one PTQ, one the weekend of PT-Chicago, and Philadelphia has zero, so I’m unsure if I’ll even get a chance to play, but time will tell. I already picked up some Mox Diamonds to play White Weenie again this year!
Until next week!