I wasn’t planning to go.
(Fair warning for those wishing to get to the actual tournament report: Skip ahead a few paragraphs. What immediately follows will be the usual road trip anecdotes and whatnot.)
No, I was planning to skip the PT: Nice qualifier in Portland. Why? Well, for one thing, Scott Johns and I have a lot in common. We’re both highly qualified people who have been trying to survive at non-paying ventures, Scott over at Brainburst; me at being a freelance game designer. So I’ve been having to be a little bit tighter on expenditures.
Hopefully we’ll all see Scott back at Brainburst soon. And even more hopefully, we’ll find ol’ Dave here some steady employment as well.
And the other reason is that, simply put, my life for the past few weeks has been nothing short of a living hell. When you have a girlfriend who, if she was a Magic card, could best be described as”Braids, Cabal Minion” and a roommate who is two months behind on rent payments and is obviously not going to come up with any, ever (hence more financial problems). Top that off with unemployment woes here in the state of Oregon, and I’ve been feeling like prime material for Warren Zevon. Hell, I’ve dropped about thirteen pounds this month, so on the bright side, I’m under 200 for this first time in eons. Not a healthy way to do it, but maybe there’s something to the high-stress-can’t-eat diet.
I should write a book.
My Magic playing had also declined quite a bit, from nearly daily to maybe just the Friday draft. I haven’t even built a deck in nearly a week, so stressed out and just down in general have I been.
However, upon cajoling from the locals at Gambit Games, the fearsome High Plains Drifters, I decided money and depression be damned, I should do something for me that I’ll enjoy and will make me feel good for once this month. Plus, a good showing might move my rating above the vaunted 1800 mark for the first time ever. So off to Portland I go (hurrah!).
For once, the passes are quite clear and the drive is enjoyable, as opposed to the last time. Fueled by bad coffee and cheap bagels, I’m ready to go.
We now return to the tournament report as regularly scheduled.
Amazingly, my prediction of a turnout of eighty people is dead on. Of the contingent of five of the HPD, we like our chances of slipping one, maybe two people into the top eight. There really aren’t many of what I would describe as recognizable Magic players. A few people I know, certainly. Thankfully, no one has decided to apply those temporary tattoos they handed out at the Torment prerelease to the center of their foreheads, making them look like some kind of dorky cycloptic satanists (yes, I know, technically that would be”tricloptic,” but cycloptic sounds cooler, okay?).
The usual ritual of cracking the packs, registering the cards and then leaving to see what goodies you get ensues. What I get has no real sit-up-and-shout bombs, but solid nonetheless.
Pilgrim of Justice
Pay No Heed
Sphere of Truth
2x Cephalid Aristocrat
Face of Fear
2x Restless Dreams
2x Basking Rootwalla
Chatter of the Squirrel
As you can see, the green offered some good creatures and the bear-roken Bearscape, and black had scads of removal and a bomb in Carrion Wurm. Not enough to go two colors, though. What to splash? Red was unimpressive, as was white. Blue, however, offered some powerful card drawing spells that I otherwise lacked, and a few nice creatures – so blue it was, although six cards was a bit much for a”splash” color. There were times I was begging for an island, but all in all the deck tended to not have much in the way of mana problems.
2x Basking Rootwalla
Tainted Wood (Hey, where’d that come from? Dave’s cheating, Dave’s cheating! – The Ferrett)
Sideboard of note:
The deck seems a little counter-intuitive in spots, as there are cards that want me to be able to fill up my graveyard, like Nostalgic Dreams, and cards that want me to empty it out, like Bearscape. Despite this dichotomy, the deck performed pretty well, even if I only hit threshold twice all day.
Round 1: Anthony Sansone (G/B/r)
I must be playing Anthony’s evil twin. He’s not only clean-shaven, but surprisingly quiet. What have you done with the real Anthony, you fiend!?
Anthony gets early beats with a turn 1 Nimble Mongoose; I answer with a topdecked Aquamoeba. However, I suspect he has a Crippling Fatigue by his willingness to continue attacking with my 1/3 holding the fort, so I take a few more hits before I bring out a Cephalid Scout, which Anthony uses the Fatigue upon. I decide to go on offense with a 3/1 Aquamoeba, and we race for a while, Anthony with squirrel tokens and the Mongoose. He generates four of the little buggers, while I conjure up an answer with a Springing Tiger and Afflicting a token.
Even though it’s only a Hill Giant, the Tiger starts forcing Anthony to chump with squirrels. Anthony, again, is curiously subdued.
Me:”Nostalgic Dreams, discarding two lands, return the Afflict and Elephant Ambush to my hand?”
Showing his hand of five land in a row he’d drawn, he scoops.
Round two, Anthony’s having some mana troubles. My turn 2 Mesmeric Fiend snags a Werebear from his hand, and a turn 3 Cabal Torturer ensures his squirrels won’t be pestering me. He does drop a turn 4 Chainflinger – some bad for me – but I have the Crippling Fatigue in hand and I’m able to dispose of it, much to Anthony’s chagrin. His deck keeps coughing up land after land while I beat him down with an Elephant token and unstoppable Leaf Dancer.
Now, if I keep true to form, I’ll lose round two and then win my next three.
Round 2: Aaron”The Captain” Fitzgerald (R/G/W)
Aaron’s deck is awful, we both admit, and he’s planning to drop after this round. He’s got a few decent weenies, decent burn with Shower of Coals, and one true bomb: Angel of Retribution. Round one, however, I’m totally mana screwed, having only an Island and Swamp early. Fortunately, I can topdeck the Aquamoeba to hold off Aaron’s weenie horde, but to get mana, I’m eventually forced to discard a Deep Analysis to the Aquamoeba, simply so I can cast it from the graveyard to get cards. Ah, that’s better. I’m able to cast the Ghastly Demise and Afflict shortly thereafter and regain control of the board. I’ve got Aaron down to two when he casts a Shower of Coals to sweep a few of my attackers aside, but I’ve got a Carrion Wurm out to carry the day, which should drain his graveyard shortly.
But then Aaron topdecks the one card I was scared of, Angel of Retribution, and thanks to a Moment’s Peace in his graveyard, Aaron is just – just! – able to deal ten to me to win before I get him.
Game two is a better story. I open with a Rootwalla, and Aaron’s first play, a turn five Arrogant Wurm, I’m able to deal with a double Crippling Fatigue. Aaron is desperately searching for a second source of white mana, which he never draws, and a Leaf Dancer ends up going the distance for the win.
Game three, I get slightly mana screwed again. Well, not that badly, but I have no play before turn 5. Unfortunately, Aaron drops a Mystic Penitent, Patrol Hound and two other weenies in that time, and he’s able to swarm me before I can even come close to putting up a good fight.
I wish, I wish I had a mana fixer in the deck. C’est la vie.
Round 3: Brian Kelley (U/B/W)
I get the ideal early hitter in a turn 1 Rootwalla; Brian’s answer is a less-than-impressive Escape Artist. I get in seven points of damage with the Rootwalla before Brian deals with it in the form of Ghastly Demise, at which point I drop Rootwalla #2. Man, I love being evil.
Rootwalla #2 eventually meets a Morbid Hunger, sadly, and Brian takes to the skies with Aven Smokeweaver and beats me about with it for a while before I hit it with a Demise of my own. I load up on cards with a double-Deep Analysis, which helps, and Brian can’t get to nine mana for the flashback cost on the Hunger. A Psychatog, which could be bad for me, meets a topdecked Patriarch’s Desire. Again, better lucky than good in this case.
The end comes when I drop both Whispering Shade and Bearscape, and Brian bear-scoops.
Game two, Brian has a good start with a turn 2 Patrol Hound, but he’s stuck on two mana and can’t cast anything after that. I drop a Whispering Shade and Cabal Torturer, which takes care of the Hound with the help of an Afflict, and the Shade ends up going the distance.
Round 4: Curtis Frye (B/U/R)
A fellow internet writer who’s looking forward to seeing his name in print. Hey, I’m always happy to oblige.
I win the toss and drop that ever-fearsome turn one Druid Lyrist – ooh, scary! – and follow it up with an Aquamoeba and Basking Rootwalla. Curtis answers with the ever-annoying Skywing Aven. Try as I might (and I do try), I can’t kill the damn thing, as Curtis keeps bouncing it and re-casting it. I do eventually slide Bearscape into play and start making bears. The Rootwalla survives one Blazing Salvo, but not the second.
I’ve got control of the board, but Curtis has an active Cephalid Broker that’s cycling cards like mad for him, but my Springing Tiger and bears are overwhelming his defenses. He concedes once I respond to his attempt to cast Shade’s Form on his Skywing Aven with a Ghastly Demise.
Game two is marked early by a play mistake by Curtis, unfortunately. He gets the faster start with Aquamoeba and Skywing Aven, I manage to cast a Springing Tiger on turn four to balance it out. Turn five, I try to kill the Aquamoeba when Curtis goes to switch its power and toughness, he attempts to foil that with Circular Logic. Unfortunately, he has miscounted, as I have two mana free and there are only two cards in the graveyard. He could have thrown another card at the Aquamoeba in response, but he lost a lot of card advantage either way. He does end up re-switching the ‘Meba’s power and toughness again to keep it alive, so that’s three-for-one card advantage.
I cast a Carrion Wurm and feel like I’m in full control (ha!), but then he drops a foily Grotesque Hybrid… Which be some bad for me. I feel I made a slight error, as I then cast Nostalgic Dreams to get my Afflict back, then force Curtis to trade the Hybrid for the Wurm… I probably could have forced the trade, then gotten the Wurm back. However, I do manage a Whispering Shade shortly thereafter, and with lots of black sources available, I manage to finish him off while sitting at five life. A close affair.
Round 5: Tony Tsay
Whoops, someone screwed up, repair.
Round 5: Galen Fish
Round 5: Christopher Losta (B/R)
Are we sure now? Really? Really? We sure? Okay.
Chris beat me at the last round of the Torment prerelease a few weeks back, so it’s time for revenge!
I start with a Lyrist, and Chris has foolishly kept the one-land hand. Not like it hurts him too much, though. The Lyrist gets a Blazing Salvo, then a Leaf Dancer gets Firebolted… And he still can’t find land. I wheel a turn five Carrion Wurm, and he gets that elusive swamp for Chainer’s Edict! Aaaaugh!
However, Chris’s slow start comes back to haunt him, topdecking skills aside. I get a Tiger and active Cabal Torturer into play and start the beatdown, and Chris’s deck can’t deliver the answers this time.
Game two is a different story, although I apologize for spotty notes. I get an early start of the Rootwalla and a Mesmeric Fiend, but Chris has no mana problems and it’s just burn, burn, burn to the dome until I am dead, dead, dead.
Game three, again, falls in the”lucky than good” category. Chris drops Imps of Dusk and Fledgling, and I’m a wee bit mana shy in the early going, but I have defenses, a Puppeteer, keeping at least one of his beasties at bay.
Then Chris plays a fifth swamp… And the big bad voodoo daddy, Sengir Vampire, changes everything.
But still no mountains.
I have a Whispering Shade and a Bearscape sending a few guys into the red zone, but I’ve got a black air force I can’t entirely stop. A Moment’s Peace buys me just that – a moment – but I know that from Chris’s exasperated demeanor that if he draws a mountain I am very, very dead.
I make a big, big play error by forgetting to leave a blue mana open for my Puppeteer one turn, which results in me taking eight instead of four, putting me at five life, but with a Moment’s Peace in the graveyard if I need it.
Turns out I don’t. I survive an attempt at an alpha strike and come back to finish Chris off next turn. No, Chris, don’t look at the top card, don’t do it…
Never fails, don’t it?
But I’m 4-1, with definite chances at finally making another Top 8. Win the next round, I’m in.
Side note: Actual, albeit brief, humorous exchange:
TO:”I wish I could do another Nice.”
Me:”Well, as long as you aren’t doing nephews, it’s fine by me.”
Round 6: Steve Glubetich (B/G/R)
Oh, wonderful. Why do I travel 150 miles just to play guys I play with in Bend? I don’t like my chances here. Steve is a good Sealed deck player (he plays at least six, seven games a week, he seems to practically live at Gambit) and he’s got a very, very solid deck, with double Deep Analysis and Holistic Wisdom.
Game one sees me get a decent start with Elephant Ambush and Bearscape, but his opposing Leaf Dancer starts whittling away my life total. Even my mighty Carrion Wurm is no match for his blockers and full, thresholded graveyard. If only my deck would cough up some removal… But it doesn’t, and Steve kills me with Rites of Initiation for an alpha strike kill.
Game two, I get a little mana screwed, and he punishes me with back-to-back Deep Analysis, then doubles up on Acorn Harvest, and I get gnawed to death. Not much else to that game besides that. My attempts to rattle Steve with my infamous inane banter fail miserably.
I decide, however, to play on, as there’s a chance that 5-2 might still sneak in, and my tiebreakers are excellent. Sure, my chances are slim to none, and Slim is on the bus out of town, but it hasn’t left the station just yet!
Round 7: Daniel Sakurai (R/G/W)
Daniel’s a young player, seemingly a little inexperienced, and I almost make my usual mistake of underestimating such a player, being a little sloppy.
I start with the Rootwalla beats, and Daniel’s first play is a turn 3 Far Wanderings, a card I think is highly underrated. And the beats continue, and his turn 4 Mirari scares me not, especially after I drop a Carrion Wurm.
Now, the turn five Cultural Exchange, stealing my Wurm… That does scare me a bit.
So even while I’ve gotten Daniel down to six life, I’ve got my own Wurm to worry about. I do manage to play a Puppeteer to maybe staunch the bleeding, but it dies to a Fiery Temper. Daniel is up to about twelve land now, and I can’t imagine what other evil things are forthcoming.
I wish I’d taken better notes, but I was kind of wrapped up in staying alive for a while here, scrambling like a third-string quarterback. I return the Puppeteer with Nostalgic Dreams (whew!), but the Wurm and other beatsticks have me down to one life. Daniel draws anything burn-like, I’m dead.
But he doesn’t. I manage to churn out a few bear tokens with Bearscape and actually manage to slip six damage, with no hand, no graveyard, and only a lousy Puppeteer keeping the dogs at bay.
I have no idea how in the hell I won that game other than sheer luck.
Game two is a much more one-sided affair. Daniel transforms his deck to B/U/W, and rapidly goes up to 27 life with back-to-back Teroh’s Faithful, and a curious Stern Judge; seemingly out of place in a deck with swamps in it. However, I again have the early Carrion Wurm and Puppeteer and I go aggro, fearing the Cultural Exchange. Using the Puppeteer aggressively, I keep tapping his blockers to prevent him from ever having enough to kill the Wurm, and he’s forced to gradually drain his graveyard, then his creatures, and the Wurm ends up sealing the deal.
I watch some other games in progress, hoping for a few draws in the 4-1-1 bracket, but it’s not to be. I end up finishing a still impressive 12th at 5-2 – once again within tasting distance of that Top 8, but it was not to be.
Aaron and Steve finish at 5-1-1 and we do indeed have two guys in the Top 8. Both lose in the first round, unfortunately, but it was a good showing from the scrubs from central Oregon.
And, for one day at least, I got to forget my troubles and have fun.
I’d almost forgotten what that’s like.