Round 3 vs. Tim Aten w/ U/R/G (Loxodon Warhammer, Mindslaver, Shrapnel Blast)
OMG, Grudge Match. Time for a true test. Tim is obviously good, so the question was not”can I outplay him” but”can I play well enough to let my powerful cards take the win for me.” My goal for this match was to make no mistakes. I think I almost made it, but I know I screwed up at least once or twice.
Round 3 vs. Tim Aten w/ U/R/G (Loxodon Warhammer, Mindslaver, Shrapnel Blast)
Tim and I have an interesting relationship. When I first met him, I had no idea who he was, and assumed I was just as good as he was, which I wasn’t. The conversation we had was funny- Tim had recognized me from my writing on StarCity and we were talking about some of the players in the room, and he expressed the opinion that PTQ players weren’t actually as good as I thought.”There are probably only one or two players in the room that are better than me,” he said. I thought this was a little bit audacious (and of course, I had no idea who I was talking to, Tim Aten of money drafting fame) and told him so. Tim was undeterred and found some examples wandering by. He pointed at some scraggly, hippy-looking guy in headphones.
“I think I’m better than EDT”. Now, I’d heard of EDT but I’d never heard of Tim Aten, so I looked at poor Tim as if he’d just disgraced the name of the Virgin Mary.
“You think you’re better than EDT?”
Sacrilege! Better than EDT? The man won a GP! He ate his hat once! How can you be better than that? Who do you think you are, Mr. Tim Aten?
Tim just furrowed his brow, probably deciding I was a dumb scrub, and left it at that. Of course, since then I’ve learned a lot. Tim is very, very good. And EDT, well, I beat him at a Prerelease not long after, when he forgot about the existence of Boneknitter and let a bunch of his Zombies eat the ol’ dirt sandwich.
But I’m not better than Tim Aten or EDT. EDT would have the last laugh. (OMG Foreshadowi… okay, sorry, sorry.)
Tim got the Warhammer on a couple of artifact creatures including a Cobalt Golem, but only hit me once before I Oxidized it (or the creature on it – I don’t recall if his Warhammer was still out at the end of the game, but I think his main problem in this one was a lack of creatures). Moving the Warhammer and then having his man killed cost him a little time this game, but his draw wasn’t very threatening in any case, and all I had to do was”not die” until I could cast the One Dozen Eyes and Echoing Courage in my hand.
Eventually the board was my Wizard Replica and Insect tokens against his, well, nothing, and one hit brought him down to thirteen. The next attack I went for it, swinging with everything and casting Echoing Courage on my Insects. Tim had just tapped all but two mana to cast Mindslaver, and responded with the correct play of Shrapnel Blast on the token that I had targeted. Hilariously enough, I had my Darksteel Ingot in play (the only source of Blue mana in my deck) and sacrificed Wizard Replica to counter the Blast and take the win.
I richly deserved this loss, as I kept a three Forest hand (going first!) on the”strength” (ha!) of Soldier Replica and Sword of Fire and Ice. Of course, Tim cast either Shatter or Oxidize on the Sword and just pounded my face while I sat with uncastable spells in hand. It really was an abysmal play keeping that hand, but you’d at least figure I might be smart enough to try something that dumb against an opponent where I might get away with it. No such luck. This game wasn’t close, and my notes don’t have details but instead just one word:
Pretty much sums it up.
This was a long, involved game. Tim had the Warhammer again, but I nullified it with Leonin Bola and Loxodon Mystic. He’d reduced me to eight before I took total control, and I knew he had Shrapnel Blast in his deck, so I had to be extra careful not to let in any more damage. My board kept growing, and the tappers on my side were keeping his creatures somewhere between”irrelevent” and”ooh look, pretty!”, but I knew the devious Aten was formulating a plan. He had some giant trampling guys (thanks to Warhammer and Vulshok Battlegear) but none of them could ever attack (thanks to Bola and Mystic). If he could somehow sneak them into the red zone, he could steal the game.
The key was to always keep two tappers and even a blocker available, lest Tim kill my Bola-equipped guy and my Mystic EOT, and swing with a massive trampler who would probably fly just for the occasion (one of his guys was”Dupes” a.k.a. Death-Mask Duplicant) I tapped out on one turn, and Tim had been planning to get tricky with Electrostatic Bolt on my Bola’d Wizard Replica during end step (the Mystic was”shut off” for a turn since I had no White mana) but the reason I’d tapped out was to play Platinum Angel, and the Bolt was clearly needed elsewhere.
With the Bolt gone, Tim needed to draw two consecutive pieces of removal for the tappers and start swinging with his Warhammered guy, fast. He drew land and I added Razor Golem and Myr Enforcer to my board on the cheap, and took the game within a couple of turns.
Tim was unshaken.”Nice and fast,” said he.”Now I have time to eat my pizza.”
I can’t really complain much about this game, since I won, but there was one turn near the end where I tapped the wrong mana for my Razor Golem and ended up having no Red mana to use the Spikeshot Goblin I had on the table. As if to punctuate my mistake, Tim played a potentially chump-blocking Silver Myr that turn. When you beat someone who is a good player, it really sucks to make a mistake while doing it, even (especially) an irrelevant one. I tend to be proud of my wins against good players, even though I know that anything can happen on any given day in Magic. It really takes the wind out of your sails when instead of saying”I beat Tim Aten!” you have to say”I beat Tim Aten, but I made a bunch of dumb mistakes. Good thing his draws were bad.”
Oh well. I’ll take what I can get!
Next round. One trip to McDonalds later, of course.
Round 4 vs. Peter Jesuale w/ R/W/G (Leonin Abunas, Test of Faith, Leonin Bola)
I recognized this name, he T8’d U.S. Nationals one year. The last time I played Peter was at the Judgment prerelease where he had the sickest deck ever – two copies of Mirari’s Wake and an Upheaval. I saw him cast Upheaval and then drop Tunneling Wurm at least twice on that day. The report is somewhere in my archives if you want to read it – I think it was an installment of”The Daily Shot.”
This was a close, back and forth affair. The turning point of the match was when he played Spikeshot Goblin and I untapped, laid a fifth land, and cast and equipped a Sword of Fire and Ice on my Clockwork Condor, swinging for five damage, killing his Spikeshot, and drawing a card. He had Deconstruct for the Sword on his next turn, but the damage was done – I’d cantripped him right out of the game, and it finished with me on two life and Peter at zero – a flat-out race. Along the way, some interesting stuff happened with our respective Leonin Den-Guards and Leonin Bolas – some very complicated combat phases. In the end, I simply drew one more creature and my Barbed Lightning.
I thought I was in total control of this game from the get go with my powerful cards, but Peter wasn’t about to go down easily. I had Razor Golem with Bonesplitter on the table, but his weaker creatures were always positioned in such a way that a double block would result in an advantage for Jesuale. He was also threatening tricks, anything from Predator’s Strike to Unforge to Test of Faith, so I couldn’t be very aggressive at all. I was content to play a waiting game, though, because I had Grab the Reins in my hand.
For a while it looked like I wouldn’t even need the spell. I had Razor Golem, Bonesplitter, and Leonin Den-Guard. I attacked with a 5/4 Razor Golem and Peter blocked with his own Den-Guard and cast Test of Faith, turning his 1/3 weenie into a 4/6 monster. Nonplussed, I switched the Bonesplitter over to the Spikeshot and passed the turn, only to have Peter unload an Unforge and wipe out both cards! He was really putting the pressure on.
On his turn, Peter sent the DG in for four, knocking me to twelve, and played out Myr Enforcer. I was only able to muster an attack with Clockwork Condor and Wizard Replica, bringing him down to six. The Grab the Reins was still in my hand, but I only had six land. Peter compounded my problems by playing Leonin Abunas and sent in his Den-Guard again, keeping his Enforcer back to stymie the assault of my Razor Golem. Luckily, I drew the seventh land and cast Grab the Reins. The most logical play would be to take the Den-Guard and just throw it at him, but I was so excited about drawing the land that I screwed up and took his Abunas instead. Whoops.
Tim Aten, who was looking on, just shook his head in disgust. Of course, he always does that when I’m around, no matter what I’m doing. Playing Magic, baking cookies, no matter what I do it’s all the same to him.
Luckily, taking the Abunas and throwing the Razor Golem still provided lethal damage, so my mistake didn’t matter. Whew!
***Strategy Capsule: The Danger of Cool Plays***
I lost my head when I finally drew that seventh land for Grab the Reins, and very nearly gave away the game because of it. Sometimes it’s hard to really be calm and collected when you’re about to make a”cool play,” but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done, and you certainly can’t lose it and ignore the easiest course of action just for the sake of style.
What I should have done:
- Cast Grab the Reins with entwine, calmly announcing each part of the spell, with the correct targets (in my case, the tapped Leonin Den-Guard, and Peter)
- Once Peter has taken four damage from the Grab, attack with Clockwork Condor for the win
What I did instead:
- Slam down my 7th land, toss Grab the Reins into the play area
- Announce the spell targeting Myr Enforcer and get informed I can’t do that due to Leonin Abunas
- Hastily retarget the Abunas instead, which of course only does two damage when sacrificed
- Scramble to figure out a way to kill Peter despite this error
- Barely manage to do it by sacrificing Razor Golem and attacking with everything
All I managed to do was look dumb. Don’t let it happen to you.
Time for Round 5!
Round 5 vs. Eric“Danger” Taylor w/ W/R (Icy Manipulator, Stir the Pride, Shatter, Altar’s Light, other stuff)
EDT and I are both undefeated at 4-0, and I don’t want to lose my one loss cushion, so obviously I’m hoping to win here. Yes, I know that’s pretty much the most obvious thing ever. But I need an introductory paragraph, and I didn’t feel like using this space to introduce EDT, since he really needs no introduction.
My Leonin Bola was a house in this game, allowing me to dominate combat. I also drew a lot of removal – enough to make his mid-game Blinding Beam pretty much moot. He’d planned to get a few big hits in, but Oxidize ruined his plans by taking out the Goblin War Wagon that was scheduled to do the smashing, and I got to untap without incident. He ended up getting me down to three life before I took total control with tappers, but after that it was just a matter of time before I knocked him low enough to tap all his men (with the help of Blinding Beam) and swing in for the win.
Up a game and feelin’ fine.
This game was a battle. With the life totals sitting eight to five in favor of Eric, I was starting to mount an offense after a flurry of removal (including my Platinum Angel getting killed with Altar’s Light). He seemed to be in a winning position and tried to seal the deal with a three-strong alpha strike and Stir the Pride to crush my team and gain him double digit life, but I was holding Grab the Reins and sent two of his men to the boneyard in response. The surviving Wizard Replica took me to two life on that attack, but I had a full two turns to draw something to kill it. Just when I thought I might be able to carry it through, though, EDT drew and cast Barbed Lightning to the face, taking the game.
This game was crazy. We traded card for card into the lategame, and eventually I had Platinum Angel with Bonesplitter and Myr Enforcer with Sword of Fire and Ice staring down EDT’s Icy Manipulator (which really put the screws to me this contest) and Leonin-Scimitar’d Arc-Slogger. Again, I had Grab the Reins in hand, and the life totals were seventeen to fifteen in my favor. Why not put the Sword of Fire and Ice on the Platinum Angel and prevent him from Shattering it? Well, I wanted to get through for some damage. There was no way that EDT could allow a Sworded Enforcer to hit him, so he would have to tap it. A 6/4 Angel would get through for damage. With the equipment arranged the other way around, he would tap the Angel and trade with (or possibly Slog to death) the Enforcer, leaving me with one creature again, useless against his Icy.
Anyhow, the Angel got one hit in, taking him to nine, before he drew a Shatter and killed it. We realized then that we only had one minute left in the round, and started playing really fast. I was in trouble – no question about it. His Icy was keeping my Enforcer at bay and the Slogger started beating down, knocking me to twelve before I used Grab the Reins on it and fired it at EDT’s head. Eric then ran a”draw…go” while I topdecked and played Wizard Replica. Then we went into extra turns.
On turn 1, EDT played Skyhunter Cub and had the option to either a) equip it and make it a 5/3 flier immediately, b) leave 3W open to entwine a Blinding Beam during my turn. He decided on the Blinding Beam and I, of course, topdecked Electrostatic Bolt.
“Is that guy equipped?”
“No, no he’s not.”
How lucky. As it turned out, EDT would have had exactly enough damage to kill me with an attack on turn 3 and an attack on turn 5 plus Stir the Pride, but I managed to topdeck my way out of it while he was trying to keep all his bases covered. Of course, if I’d just equipped my Platinum Angel with Sword of Fire and Ice, none of that would have mattered.
Current record: 4-0-1
Round 6 vs. Aaron Breider w/ G/B/U (Viridian Shaman, Crystal Shard, Clockwork Dragon)
Great – another round, another excellent player. Like I said before, Breider always beats me in sanctioned competition, so I was more than little nervous. Tim Aten was out of the running by this point, and so he was able to watch the match in its entirety. (How did Tim lose? It was pretty tragic – his opponent put Loxodon Warhammer onto a Yotian Soldier, then Forge Armored an Arcbound Bruiser onto the same Soldier, creating a 12/12 Spirit Linked trampler.)
Game 1 was all about sneaking through the shadows to deal the killing blow. Aaron and I traded some damage early on, but he got ahead in the race while my hand filled up with tricks for the final showdown. The life totals were at ten each on the final turn. After I let through an attack that took me down to three (and yes, Predator’s Strike was a very real possibility that he luckily didn’t have), I cast Raise the Alarm EOT, Blinding Beamed both of his untapped guys with Entwine, untapped, attacked with everything (Soldiers, Wizard Replica, 2/2 Clockwork Condor), cast Echoing Courage on my Soldier tokens, and then drilled him with a Barbed Lightning to take the first game.
I thought I had Game 2 in the bag, but things kept getting worse as I drew a couple of redundant land (I only really want seven, and my deck gave me ten) instead of the creatures I needed to keep Aaron’s growing army at bay with my Leonin Bola. I fought the good fight for a while, but I made some bad attacks and really couldn’t find a weakness in his defense. Some of the decisions were very complicated, too, and I was taking longer than I would have liked to figure out how to get my Bola’d Razor Golem and Enforcer through his Yotian Soldier, Arcbound creatures and Cobalt Golem. He also had Grimclaw Bats, and I had to decide which of my creatures to leave back with the Bola.
“A draw is bad for both of us,” prompted Aaron.
Yeah, don’t I know it! Eventually I made a decision – the wrong one. A couple of times, actually. Looking for a chance to sneak my own men through for an alpha strike win, I mistakenly tapped his Juggernaut twice during his attack phase. With the game going as it was, I should have just let the Juggernaut attack and spend my time tapping something that could actually block, but I blew it, and he eventually bled me down and cast Consume Spirit to take the game. I Shattered the Clockwork Dragon, but he didn’t need it.
With twelve minutes left on the clock, we shuffled up for Game 3. It was looking bad from the outset. I got Spikeshot Goblin on the table alongside a Soldier Replica, but Breider smashed the Replica with Viridian Shaman, which was looking mighty fine alongside the Crystal Shard he’d played and used on turn 4! If he drew anything to go with that combo, I knew I’d be in trouble, but Aaron could find nothing but land, while I played out Loxodon Mystic to put some pressure on. He did have a Grimclaw Bats, but they couldn’t race Spikeshot or live through too many shots from it, so little help there, and they eventually fell by the wayside.
The game was shaping up to be a draw or, eventually, a Breider win. He could kill any artifact I played, and block infinitely with the Shaman. The Goblin was pinging away, but it almost assuredly wouldn’t be fast enough. A glimmer of hope occurred when I drew Bonesplitter, though. With Aaron at seventeen life and my board loaded with Spikeshot and Mystic, the Bonesplitter would be able to force through a nice chunk of damage before being destroyed – three from the Spikeshot and five from the Mystic.
Luckily for me, Aaron made a rare mistake and allowed me to equip the Spikeshot Goblin with no responses. With a now 3/2 Goblin, I was all set to kill his Viridian Shaman should he ever tap his Crystal Shard again. Sure enough, I attacked with the Mystic and he blocked and tried to bounce, I killed the Shaman in response, and that was all she wrote. Even if Breider did start to draw out of his mana flood, I had removal and tapping already on the table, and it was more than enough to take the game as his deck continued to give him non-answers.
Woohoo, 5-0-1! Now I can draw into the Top 8!
***Strategy Capsule: Keeping Your Mental Game***
Everyone has an opponent that they’re a little bit intimidated by. For me, up until recently it’s been Aaron Breider. He beats me. He beats my friends. He beats my relatives. For all I know, he beat my ancestors. It’s important not to be shaken by a skillful opponent, and play well despite any nerves you might have. Every opponent is only human. I was proud of the way that I played this match because I think (for the first time) that I did a good job of keeping my mental game against Aaron, who has a very good track record against me. This sort of”mental loss” happens more than you might think.
I play guys in Sarnia all the time who are dead in the water before the match even begins. They keep awful hands and justify it by saying”Well, Geordie was probably going to beat me anyway.” If you just lay back and accept yourself as the likely loser in the matchup, you will probably lose.
On this day, I knew my deck was broken and that I was going to give Aaron a run for his money. It took some manaflood on his part and even a rare mistake – but I came out on top, and the spell was broken. Don’t be intimidated at PTQs – if you’ve studied and practiced, you’re as ready as can be, and even the most seasoned pro should look out!
Round 7 vs. Aaron”Cuts” Cutler
Intentional draw! The round was spent watching Tim Aten play DC10 against a random guy. I had myself a good laugh at his expense – Tim doesn’t topdeck very well in DC10.
I knew I was going to”Lashdraft” in the Top 8, and the thought was pretty comforting, actually – it’s nice to step to the table with a plan. Unfortunately, the cards didn’t really co-operate as much as I’d like. I stuck to my guns, though – thinking nothing of grabbing Irradiate over Looming Hoverguard and Iron Myr over Domineer. In the Darksteel pack, I actually opened Memnarch, but shipped him to take Emissary of Despair.
Here’s how the deck turned out:
2 Iron Myr
Disciple of the Vault
Emissary of Despair
2 Echoing Ruin
2 Darksteel Citadel
Notable Sideboard Cards
Wail of the Nim
Quarterfinals vs. Ryan Lumpford w/ U/R (Vex? Neurok Prodigy?)
I beat down really fast in these two games. Neither game was close, as Ryan’s deck was just too slow to deal with huge Lashers and quick Slith Bloodletters.
This game is just me going first, and then casting turn 2 Slith Bloodletter. He had no answer and it went all the way. I did discover during this game that he was playing Vex, which seems very suboptimal to me. The knowledge that Ryan might not have a strong grasp of the format really helped my confidence.
The full extent of my notes from this game:
As I recall, young Ryan decided to try and race a Nim Lasher with Banshee’s Blade on it.
You can’t race Nim Lasher! It’s impossible! The Lasha aaaaaaalways wins! I asked Phil Samms once if anyone controlling a Nim Lasher had ever lost a damage race in the history of Magic, and the answer was”No, it’s never happened.” Nim Lasher fears no man, Nim Lasher feels no pain!
So I’m into the semifinals to meet up with Michael Jacob.
Semifinals vs. Michael Jacob w/ U/R (Skullclamp)
I see Michael every time I attend one of these PTQs, but we’ve never played. He’s a pleasant guy, but I doubt that’s what I’ll remember about this match when I look back on it in the future – I’ll probably just remember my loss, my grasp at the PT falling tragically short.
I rolled over the enemy this game when he stalled on land and I had a turn 2 Slith Bloodletter. He had Skullclamp, but I was drawing my removal and rumbling the Slith on in each turn. It doesn’t matter how many Skullclamps you have in play if you don’t ever have the mana to equip any of your guys. He spent a couple of turns on three mana without much of a chance to do anything, and by the time Michael finally got rolling, the Slith was unstoppable and backed up by some equipment and removal. A pretty good start to the semifinals, but it went downhill from there.
Oh, shut up.
I got pounded this game. Michael returned the turn 2 Slith favor, except his was a Firewalker and started growing immediately. I never drew removal the entire game, and was eventually forced to play out Greater Harvester to keep his then 4/4 Firewalker at bay. In a bonecrushing series of plays, Michael took me apart by wiping out Slagwurm Armor plus Grimclaw Bats with Unforge, and then playing out Myr Retriever and Soldier Replica. Faced with this dramatic increase in opposing permanents (one being a Myr Retriever, great enemy of Harvesters everywhere) and a corresponding decline in my own permanents, I proceeded to fold like a cheap tent.
A heartbreaker. In the end, I was able to get him to two with an Emissary of Despair, but he kept my only source of Red mana (Iron Myr) tapped down the entire game with Auriok Transfixer, stranding Echoing Ruin and Vulshok Berserker in my hand. The turn after I knocked him down to two, he unleashed an alpha strike and finished me off with Talon of Pain. Ouch. Pain is right. Geordie goes home with a Top 8 pin and a box, but no invite to San Diego.
(Congratulations, by the way, to EDT, who won the entire event despite passing Skullclamp in the Top 8 draft. Maybe he knows something I don’t!)
Well, what else is there to say? After you’re spent, it’s time to pile into the car, stop at Taco Bell (and the ones in the United States don’t even have fries… what’s up with that?) and trundle your way home. The next PTQ I’m attending will be March 6th in Waterloo, Ontario. I hope to see my good friend Josh Bennett there, though he rarely goes outside these days, I’m told – something about being a grouchy hermit. That said, I’m hoping he’ll make an exception and stop by the event site. I’ll be watching for the KMFDM shirt. If I’m unsuccessful there, there’s another PTQ in Garden City on the 20th of March. Finally, there’s always Columbus. Lots of Magic to be played, and in the best possible format – Limited! It’s a great time to be a Magic player.
-EDT, congratulations on earning your way to San Diego!
–Tim Aten and Aaron Cutler, for helping me with advice on Darksteel cards in limited
–Pandemonium, for maintaining a semi-tolerable and generally unclogged urinal for this event
–Tim Aten, for no longer writing
-some of the other players at the event, for declining to flush the aforementioned urinal
(Yes, the rumors are true – Tim has given up the writing game. If you find this as unfortunate as I do, you should tell him – maybe he’ll reconsider and pick up the pen again.)
Wish me luck next PTQ! Those wishes might just be enough to put me over the top. If you believe in that sort of thing.
FP_GLyM on MODO
GT_ in #mtgwacky