With All Due Respect to Scott Johns; No, I Suck: Less Than Stellar Times at a PT: New Orleans Qualifier

At this point, I really just want to hang a heavy stone around my neck, wander over to the Morrison Bridge, and just end my misery. Sweet Jeebus, I’m turning into Vern.

By God, I think I’m going to be known as the writer with the longest article titles at this rate.

Before diving into my sordid tale of events, I would like to congratulate Scott Johns over on Mindripper on his stand about publishing tournament reports alleging cheating. Coming from a journalism background, it has always bothered me that a website that would put up wild and often incorrect accusations about how Player X cheated in this situation with no facts to back them up. This constitutes libel, and the libeled in question can go to the courts to seek damages.

Sure, you might say, this is the wild and woolly World Wide Web, what are they going to do? Well, someone with enough money and enough of a grudge (say, someone on the Pro Tour with several thousand dollars in winnings, or someone just royally p.o.’ed enough to go through with it) decides to hire a lawyer and take the website that published said libel to court for the redress of damages to Player X’s reputation. Sure, Player X might not win his case, but odds are the cost of going to trial and proving or disproving Player X’s claim would probably bankrupt the owner of the website.

Better safe than sorry in my view. Keep up the good work, Scott, and I hope other editors take their cue from your lead. (And thanks for finally changing the site so that printing off articles doesn’t use up all the black ink in my printer, too)

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, a tournament report. I knew there was one in here somewhere. Well, I had been thinking of traveling up to Seattle for the qualifier on the 15th, but I had also made plans here in Bend (yes, I recently moved back from the Magic mecca – ha! – that was Eugene, Oregon, back to my hometown of Bend). I’m co-owner of a game store here and I’m looking forward to doing some work there – plus, I can go mooch off my parents’ cooking a lot more too.

But that all changed on the 11th, and I really didn’t feel much like traveling that weekend.

If you will forgive another aside, the events of that day have changed this country forever. Now, more than ever, heroism is called for. You don’t have to be at Ground Zero digging through the rubble. Heroism is not defined by the size of the act, but rather the performing of the act itself. Every little thing you can do will make a difference. Donate blood, or clothing, or even your time to the American Red Cross. Almost every store now has a change jar for collecting funds for disaster relief; drop your spare nickels and dimes there once you finish your grocery shopping or just when you stop in for a Big Gulp.

Small acts, yes, but a single whisper becomes a mighty roar when performed by a chorus of millions.

Back to matters at hand.

So, I thought I might go up for the Odyssey prerelease, but that would require getting up at 6 a.m. to drive to Portland, and the older I get, the less I like getting up early in the morning and driving for three hours.

But I then learned there was going to be a last-minute qualifier that Sunday… Yes, Sunday… On the 29th.

Well, damn, I’m there!

So the High Plains Drifters arranged to crash in Portland the night before (thus avoiding the dreaded early morning drive) and be fresh for the tournament.

For those unfamiliar with us, the High Plains Drifters are a loose team of the finer players in central Oregon (and, no, that is not an oxymoron). The team consists of:

Brad Irwin: Owner/President, Gambit Games, 2000 Oregon State Champion

Grey Anderson: JSS regular who has made a few grand in scholarship money, and frequently mocked for his unimaginative haircut (it may seem odd that I, bastard stepchild of Uncle Fester, would mock another man’s hairstyle, but I calls ‘em likes I sees ‘em).

Aaron”The Captain” Fitzgerald: Rogue player in every sense of the word; best finish, fifth place, Regionals 2000.

Dave Meddish: Part owner, Gambit Games, scrub-at-large, Internet writer with perhaps dozens of fans; best finish… Well, I made a top eight once…

Yeah, we’re no Potato Nation, but we are working on cooler T-shirts than the YMG guys have.

Back, again, to matters at hand, so what was I going to run?

I decided to go with the deck Jay Schneider had made a Top 8 with in Seattle – an R/B/U”Wavy” variant, with a few of my own tweaks. Someday, Jay will actually win a qualifier. I believe he’s currently oh-for-forty-three.

Then again, Jay’s got an entire archetype sort-of named after him. Me, I’m the father of”Dark Ponza.” You tell me who wins here.

Yes, I’m getting to the actual tournament report; I thank you for bearing with me so far. I may not be the best player or best writer, but by God, I’m the most long-winded. (No, I’m sorry, Rizzo’s got you there, too – The Ferrett)

Without further ado, the decklist:

“Wavy Gravy,” or Schneider R/B/U

4 Nightscape Familiar

4 Blazing Specter

4 Fire/Ice

3 Prophetic Bolt

2 Urza’s Rage

2 Yawgmoth’s Agenda

4 Fact or Fiction

3 Repulse

2 Lobotomy

3 Void

2 Terminate

3 Undermine

4 Shivan Reef

4 Urborg Volcano

4 Salt Marsh

5 Island

5 Swamp

3 Mountain


4 Gainsay

4 Emblazoned Golem

1 Void

2 Terminate

2 Pyre Zombie

2 Lobotomy

I hear a turn three Lobotomy is some good. So is a turn three Specter. And lo, though I walk through the valley of discard, I shall fear no Dodecapod, for I am packing the mighty Terminate.

I liked the deck, as it played fairly well against Domain – especially once I bring in four Lobotomies – handled R/G/U with relative ease and testing showed that I was no worse than 50-50 against Lo-Mar, Verdicts or no Verdicts.

The night before, I did get to have dinner with a good friend from my former place of employment, who shares two traits with Elizabeth Hurley… One, she’s a fabulous babe, and two, she hates squirrels. I was going to bring her a whole bunch of squirrel cards from Odyssey, but I thought that might lead her to believe I was a bigger dork than I already am. That, and I’m sure if I tried to throw in a Nut Collector joke I’d get slapped faster than I could Twiddle a Bone Flute.

Well, she doesn’t hate squirrels all that much, but it makes for a good anecdote.

Actually, I thought the deck would be a good metagame call for an environment that may be filled with Dodecapods after the results of the qualifier up in Norway the week before, where six of the top eight decks were packing Gerrard’s Verdict.

Was Dave right? Let’s find out!

Round 1: Russell Linn (Domain)

I get what I think is a good start with a turn four Specter, forcing him to discard a Legacy Weapon. Turn five, though, he drops Collective Restraint, followed by Destructive Flow, and that’s pretty much all she wrote. I concede to try and have time for the following games.

In come the extra Lobotomies, Pyre Zombies, and Gainsays, out go the Fire/Ice, Urza’s Rage, and a couple of Specters. I concluded from his deck that he was not running Global Ruin – therefore, the Zombies would be an effective alternate kill mechanism.

Game two, I get this opening hand: Salt Marsh, Island, Island, Swamp, Nightscape Familiar, Lobotomy, Lobotomy.

Some good, right?

Russell is slightly mana screwed, with no blue mana by turn three. Oooh, dat’s bad. I go for the brain drain on turn three, snagging his Harrows. Turn four, the Collective Restraints go, all the while I slowly nibble away at his life total with the Familiar and a couple of Prophetic Bolts. I get a third Lobotomy, clearing out the Destructive Flows.

He has a chance to pull it out at one life, but he makes a mistake playing Yawgmoth’s Agenda ahead of the spell he needed to cast, ending his turn and the game prematurely.

We’re shuffling fast to try and squeeze game three in, but I won’t be too unhappy with a draw. I again get the turn three Familiar, but can’t follow up on it for a while. I eventually get a Specter into play but he’s being held off by an Ordered Migration for five 1/1s.

The Familiar keeps going and nibbling away at life totals, but my Lobotomies don’t want to come out and play. Time is called, with Russell at three life, me at nineteen, but he has an Overgrown Estate in play, meaning killing him is going to be difficult, but not impossible. I try Recoiling the Estate twice, but he drops a Collective Restraint on turn four of extra time, and I can’t overcome both the Restraint and Estate to deal the final damage.

This does mark the first time I have ever been 0-0-1 to start a tournament.

Dear Lord, not another side note: I just got the Special Edition Princess Bride DVD, and after watching it, I was inspired to create this spiel on Fact or Fiction splits lately.

“You bested my giant, so that means you are strong, so you would be counting on the powerful cards in your hand to protect you, so I can clearly not take the pile in front of you. But you also defeated my Spaniard, which means you must have studied, and in studying you would have learned that man is mortal, so you would have put the best cards as far away from you as possible, so I can clearly not take the pile in front of me.”

I would continue in this vein until someone would complain I’m stalling, at which point I could scream,”I’m just getting started!”

Everybody say it with me now:”I wonder why I’m still single.”

Round 2: Aaron Fitzgerald (R/U/W Metagame)

Don’t you hate driving a hundred and fifty miles just to play someone you drove with? Even worse, I know this matchup is almost a guaranteed loss for me. Aaron, at the last minute, decided to build a deck he called”I Hate IBC,” which has, main deck, four Gainsay and three Dodecapods.

Game 1, indeed, is anticlimactic. I roll over and die; I should have just conceded to save ten minutes. And I have absolutely no clue how to sideboard… Are the ‘Pods staying or going? Eventually, I decide to bring in Emblazoned Golems and Gainsay, taking out the Recoils and Specters.

Game two is much better, as I get mana flooded to begin but rapidly draw into my power spells. A 3/4 Emblazoned Golem is Bolted, and I follow by Terminating his Rakavolver (after attempting to first Gainsay it… oops… good thing I had a Familiar to dump the mana into). It turns into a race, my Golem and Familiar vs. his Angel, but I draw my eleventh land, which allows me to Rage him out for the win.

Game 3, it comes down to a Fact or Fiction split. I have four lands in play, none of which produce red, Aaron is tapped out from casting a Legionnaire and Meddling Mage, set to Terminate. I”foff” at the end of his turn, revealing Void, Void, Nightscape Familiar, Nightscape Familiar, Emblazoned Golem. Aaron puts the Voids in one pile and the rest in the other.

I’m at ten life, with only a single Familiar guarding the gates. And no red sources. I need defense or I get swarmed. So I take the creatures.

So, of course, I draw the Shivan Reef I needed four turns earlier. Had I taken the Voids, I would have won that game. Instead, I lose, and badly.

For those scoring at home (or even if you’re alone), I lose not because of a) mana screw or b) bad luck but because of c) general suckiness.

0-1-1. Well, maybe 4-1-1 can sneak in. Or at least I can win a nice door prize or something.

Game 3: Marcus Roberts (G/R beats).

Ever lose to a deck you should beat, and a player you know you can beat?

That sums up this game. He drops a turn two Titan, which I let live far too long, as I’m trying to not waste a burn spell on it when I can sweep the board with Void. What ultimately kills me is him drawing not one, not two, but three Ghitu Fires. With an empty hand and at two life, he draws his last Fire to kill me.

Game two is worse. I get stuck with a hand of Salt Marsh and two Shivan Reefs, and those are the only lands I ever see. The only creature I ever cast is a 2/3 Golem, which is just sad.

I should drop at this point, but I decide to soldier on in a feeble attempt to salvage my rating.

Which, as we should all know by now, is a tremendous error.

Game 4: Peter (missed the last name), Lo-Mar

Peter is the only player left in the tournament with zero points. Guess what, Peter! Your luck is about to change!

Game 1: Peter gets a good start with a turn two Verdict, followed by Vindicating a land (like I care in this deck, drawing land is usually the least of my worries). Unfortunately, he then casts a Spectral Lynx, and that thing just keeps beating on me for two a turn, and I don’t draw a thing to deal with it… Not a Familiar, not a Terminate, not even a bloody Fire/Ice, for crying out loud! I do manage to squeeze off a Void for five when he’s in range of bringing out Our Blessed Lady of the Armageddon, but I only get a Rout.

Ultimately, that single cat he cast on turn four goes the distance, as the lone Familiar I finally drew when I was at two life didn’t stick around long enough to make the difference.

Man alive, that was pitiful.

Peter tells me this is his first”big” tournament. His deck certainly isn’t bad; heck, I almost ended up running it. But I can tell he’s a little inexperienced, tapping out at inopportune times, countering things he shouldn’t counter, but he generally is pretty good about leaving the right three colors open to at least bluff Dromar’s Charm.

Game two, Peter has three Lynxes on the board by turn four! Ay carumba! He’s tapped out, if I draw the fifth land, I can Void and survive.

Of course, I don’t draw the fifth land until one turn two late.

He knocks me down to four, then I manage to bait him into tapping out by casting an end of turn Prophetic Bolt, which he counters. I then Void for two, getting two of his Lynxes. I’m hanging on by my fingernails, Raging out a Phyrexian Rager and Undermining his fourth (!!) Lynx, but he’s able to Vindicate my newly-cast Familiar when I’m at two life and win.

Dear Lord, I’ve been playing this game for over six years, and I never, ever, have done this badly at a tournament.

At this point, I really just want to hang a heavy stone around my neck, wander over to the Morrison Bridge and just end my misery. Sweet Jeebus, I’m turning into Vern.*

Who is Vern? Vern is a player at a store in Eugene who shows up for tournament occasionally. Vern loves the game. But, man, he sucks at it, at least when it comes to tournaments. The bye usually puts up a better struggle than Vern.

Am I this bad? Have my skills atrophied this much? Do I really want to keep writing about this (don’t worry, Mr. Ferrett, you won’t be rid of me that easily)?

I don’t know. But I’m sure as hell glad this is the end of IBC.

Although, on a curious side note, I end up winning two side events, both Odyssey drafts. I never win side events at these things. Ever. And yet I win two straight drafts with decks that I thought were pretty crummy.

So on the bright side, while my Constructed rating, my beautiful, once-vaunted Constructed rating that was oh-so-close to the magic 1800 number slides into the 1600s, I at least got a few points on my Limited rating.

Maybe there’s hope for me yet.

Or maybe I should start hanging out with Rizzo.


See you at States!

Dave Meddish

[email protected]

* – Names have been changed to protect the innocent, and to keep me from being punched in the snoot.