Worlds Report, Part 1: Cab Drivers From Hell and Not Another Audible!

In his last article, Paul shared the U.S. Team’s preparation for Worlds. Today’s follow-up deals with Day 1 of the main event itself. Paul audibled at the last minute to a new deck, and posted a positive result. Of course, that’s not the whole story… as with all tournament reports, there’s a healthy dose of humor and color to be had.

After all the preparation that took place before going into this event, I was feeling pretty confident in our chances of doing well. I was happy with my Standard deck, my understanding of Limited, and felt that I had two solid Extended decks to choose from. I also felt that we had pretty good chances in the Team Rochester portion and felt confident in our strategy. Unfortunately our coach, Tim Aten, didn’t go with us. We said our goodbyes, and it was off to Paris!

Normally people sleep during eight-hour flights at night, but I had the brilliant idea of forcing myself to get used to the time zone in Paris and fight the jet lag (not the best thing to do)! After arriving at the airport extremely groggy, we (Luis, Ben, and myself) met up with Sam Stein and caught a cab to our hotel. We grabbed the first cab that we saw and was greeted by what seemed to be a friendly enough cab driver…boy, were we wrong!

It was hard enough that we couldn’t communicate with him but this was the actual Cab Driver From Hell. As soon as we hit the freeway and there was a bit of traffic, he immediately started cussing to himself in French and possibly all the drivers on the freeway. Every time somebody tried to change lanes into his, he would accelerate and basically dare the driver to hit him. If the driver showed some gall and tried to move in anyways, he would accelerate even more and blare the horn. When somebody would cross the street in front of him, he would honk incessantly and edge closer to the people to try to scare them across the street.

There were several occasions where I feared that we would get into an accident. I was contemplating just asking the cab driver to stop, but due to his anger issues I had no idea what the consequences could have been. He also took a shortcut that had us going through quite possibly the worst neighborhood I’ve seen in my life. Although, I’ve never been to New York, I’ve heard about the crazy cab drivers there… and Ben (who’s from NY) said that there was nobody there close to this guy. Finally, we got to what we thought was our hotel and after dropping us off, the total was 52 Euros. None of us had change, so we gave him 60 Euros expecting some change back. He gave us change… in the form of 2 Euros. After that crazy experience, the man tipped himself 6 Euros and immediately drove away.

Off to a great start!

The name of our hotel was the “Residencia de la Concord” and we saw a hotel with the word “Concord” in its name and went in to check in. The hotel was very nice, and was what I expected because it was about 150 dollars a night. We saw Brian David-Marshall, Greg Collins, and the other members of the Magic Event Coverage staff. Luis went to go check us in, but apparently this was not the hotel that we reserved. They gave us directions to go to our actual hotel.

A little disappointed, but still hopeful that the hotel would be as good as this one, we followed the directions of the hotel employee and walked down a street for roughly thirty minutes in what was supposed to be a ten-minute walk. This is when we came to the conclusion that we were totally lost and started asking random people if they knew where this phantom hotel was located. After another fifteen minutes of wandering aimlessly, we came across a travel agency and they told us the location of the hotel. Turns out that the hotel employee had no idea where our hotel was and probably giving us directions so that we would leave.

We finally arrived at what we thought was our hotel. It said “Residencia de la Concord,” but it looked like some rundown apartment building and the lights to walk upstairs were turned off. Disappointed, grumpy, angry, and just plain tired, we started walking away when we caught sight of a map that said that the check-in was on the third floor. We walked up the creepy dark stairs and got the keys to our room. We went into our room, which had the sickening smell of a man who had not bathed in over a week. None of this really mattered because I was so tired I just wanted to sleep. I went to crash onto a bed only to have the pillow smell like the cologne of the last man who was sleeping there (or maybe the man before…). I also knew that in order for my strategy of getting used to this time zone to work, I would have to force myself to stay awake until night time…

So we all fell asleep around 4:00 pm and woke up around midnight. We went to look for some food and found a bar and bought a bunch of ham and cheese sandwiches. When I went to pay the bill, I expected 7 Euros in change but got only 2, and looked quizzically at the bartender expecting the rest of my change. He gave a loud sigh and put a 5 Euro bill on the table. We tipped him 5 Euros and went back to our hotel. Apparently it is customary for people to tip themselves in France. Japan was so much better because it is considered rude to tip people “doing their jobs.”

After our hearty meal and with nothing to do in the night, we started testing some Standard. Sam came with a Zoo deck… and that was basically all of our testing. Luis and Ben played their Tron decks with Dragonstorm while I was playing out normal U/R Tron. The reason I didn’t want to play the DragonTron deck was because I felt that its game against aggressive decks wasn’t very strong. However, after the testing against Zoo, the matchup was actually pretty decent because you can outrace them a lot of the time with the Dragonstorm combo, and sometimes even a Seething Songed-out Bogardan Hellkite is good enough to win by itself. It also seemed to be a lot more consistent than I thought. At this point, I was still happy with my version of the Tron deck and was very intent on playing it. I didn’t want to audible at the last minute like I did at Nationals, but both Luis and Ben insisted that the DragonTron deck was better. I finally gave in and decided to run it with the other two. Besides, we should all be playing the same deck, created by the coach himself… right?

After deciding to audible into the DragonTron deck, we went for early registration to try to get some food and pick up the cards for the DragonTron deck. It sucked having to buy cards for a deck because my sponsor provided all the cards that I needed for Worlds. I guess that’s the price you pay for changing decks at the last minute. The food at the player’s dinner ended up just being twenty different variants of cheese dishes and other appetizers. I got full off of it regardless, because free food is free food.

Now onto the nitty gritty…Day 1 of Worlds! A brand-new deck with maybe three or four games of goldfishing and off I go! For those of you curious, here was the decklist for the DragonTron deck:

Round 1: Elisha Amir (Boros)
I don’t quite remember, but Elisha is either on the Israel National Team or the alternate. Game 1 he started with a Savannah Lions, which started going to work on my life total. I managed to accelerate out a Bogardan Hellkite with the help of a Lotus Bloom, and the race was on. Unfortunately, racing isn’t the best strategy against Boros, and he burned me out when I would have had him dead on the following turn with the dragon.

In: 2 Pyroclasm, 2 Repeal, 4 Spell Snare
Out: 2 Demonfire, 4 Remand, 2 Telling Time

Keep in mind I picked up the deck the day before so I wasn’t exactly sure what to take out. For Game 2, Elisha kept a very slow hand where he had no turn 1 play, and his turn 2 play was a Boros Garrison. This gave me enough time to try to draw out my combo, but unfortunately my Compulsive Researches gave me nothing but blanks. I did manage to play out a Bogardan Hellkite, which got him down to four before he used Seal of Fire plus Lightning Helix to burn it out. In the meanwhile, he was killing me with a lone Soltari Priest, and got me down to three life and a Seal of Fire in play. The only card in my hand was a Seething Song and my only out was to draw a Dragonstorm… Knock the deck and… there it is! On to game 3!

I felt that this topdeck would be a good sign of things to come…

I kept a hand of Izzet Signet, Lotus Bloom, Compulsive Research, Seething Song, and lands, figuring I would be able to draw into a Dragonstorm or a Hellkite. He leads off with a turn 1 and turn 2 Savannah Lions, missing his turn 2 land drop. I thought that this would be pretty good for me as long as I drew a Pyroclasm, Hellkite, or Dragonstorm off the Compulsive Research. Unfortunately I drew more lands and Seething Songs, and the Lions went all the way with the help of a Cryoclasm and some burn…

Record: 0-1 (It’s a bad habit for me to lose round 1 of big events, but Nationals also started off like this!)

I was feeling pretty down about losing round 1, and this is when I realized that the deck had way too many mana sources. 23 lands plus four Signets plus four Lotus Blooms plus four Seething Songs was a bit too much. With 35 mana sources, drawing business spells isn’t as likely. But no time to fret for too long, round 2 was about to start!

Round 2: Florent Mougenot (U/G Beats)
Florent is a local French player who qualified on Worlds through rating. He said that he did almost zero preparation for this event, and that he made this deck a couple of nights before. Needless to say, that made me a bit more confident in this matchup. He started off with a mulligan and thought long and hard and decided to keep. I started off with a land and passed the turn. He drew for his turn and immediately sighed and passed the turn back with no land. I continued to play lands and spells, and he had to discard for his turn 2. Finally he drew a Breeding Pool on his third turn and played a Birds of Paradise. Just when he thought he was stabilizing and playing creatures, I played a Hellkite to kill a Scryb Ranger, 2 Birds of Paradise, and a Llanowar Elves. That prompted a quick concession and it was onto game 2.

In: 4 Spell Snare, 2 Repeal, 2 Pyroclasm
Out: 2 Telling Time, 2 Demonfire, 4 Remand

His deck seemed to function very similarly to Boros, except my Spell Snares seemed even more broken because he ran the full compliment of four Remands and four Mana Leaks. I mulliganed down to five in this game, but if I recall it was a pretty good five. He played a turn 1 Elves and attacked me down to three with the help of two Stonewood Invocations. Fortunately, I comboed out on the following turn for four copies of Dragonstorm for the win.

Record: 1-1 (comeback time!) I got a little boost of confidence in the deck and was figuring out all of its nuances. The problem I was starting to have with this deck was that no matchup felt very strong and the deck seemed a bit fragile. Normal Tron has more card draw and more business spells but it’s not quite as explosive as DragonTron.

Round 3: Morgan Dougless (U/R Tron with maindeck Annex!)
I recognize Morgan’s name from Magic Online and I believe a random feature match at U.S. Nationals 2005. He qualified for Worlds through rating and was playing a U/R Tron deck with maindeck Annexes. Game 1 we both just developed our mana on turn 2 with an Izzet Signet, until he Annexed my Urza land on his turn 3 completing Tron. This put me on tilt a little bit because he was so far ahead on mana from that point on. He had a ridiculous amount of mana and was casting Compulsive Researches and Telling Times. Unfortunately, he got ridiculously unlucky and drew absolutely nothing. I believe I played a Compulsive Research at one point in the game, and he tried to Draining Whelk it. With the coming into play ability on the stack, I cast a Bogardan Hellkite to deal one to the Whelk and four to him. He had no answers for the Dragon and quickly went down. I felt very lucky beating him this game, because he was just so far ahead in mana and drew nothing.

In: 3 Spell Snare, 2 Teferi, 2 Rewind
Out: 4 Mana Leak, 3 totally random cards (some combination of Lotus Bloom, Seething Song, and maybe Telling Time)

Sideboarding took me a while because I wasn’t totally sure what to board out aside from the four Mana Leaks. This game was similar to the first in that he Annexed to get Tron established early, but this time my hand was a lot stronger. I cast a Dragonstorm for two copies and both resolved. He almost stabilized by playing a Hellkite of his own to kill both of my Hellkites (five damage to one and block the other). Fortunately I had another Hellkite to finish him off.

Record: (2-1) We’re doing it! I thought that the matchup against regular Tron was strong because of all the storm enablers and Dragonstorm as the trump. Unfortunately, Annex is so strong in the mirror and I don’t know why I didn’t play it. I just hoped that I didn’t play against any more Tron decks especially if they play Annex because I felt pretty lucky to win the last match.

Round 4: Xuan-Ji Wang (U/R Tron… great)
Xuan-Ji is a real nice guy from China who qualified through his rating. Game 1 was quite the heartbreaker. I Dragonstormed out two copies of Bogardan Hellkite and that put him at seven life. He hit Tron and had a Hellkite of his own to kill both my dragons. I played another Hellkite and put him at one life after he manaburned off his Tron land. This game was looking pretty good for me because he just had two cards in hand. Unfortunately, they were Hellkite and Demonfire, which did just enough damage to put me from twenty to zero.

In: 3 Spell Snare, 2 Teferi, 2 Rewind
Out: 4 Mana Leak, 3 random cards again.

Losing that first game was very disappointing but hey, there are two more games to be played. This game was a total beating. A Hellkite resolved and got him down to seven life. Demonfire finished the job.

Game 3 was where I made the biggest and equally stupidest mistake of the tournament. We both shuffled up each other’s decks and I just grabbed what I thought were the top seven cards of my library. As I fanned them out, it was eight cards, and it was a doozy of a hand. It had everything I needed to win that game including, Lotus Bloom, Seething Song, Dragonstorm, Compulsive Research, and lands. I immediately had to mulligan down to a six-card hand that was horrendous, but I had to keep. Let’s just say the opener had two Dragonstorms in it… Anyway, this game was exactly like my game 2 except I was on the receiving end of the beating. I took a ton of pain from my two Shivan Reefs, and he Annexed one of my lands to complete his Tron, and he finally Demonfired me out.

Record: (2-2) After this loss, I felt like a total idiot. After all the testing that was done, to lose a game because of a procedural error is the worst feeling ever. Too embarrassed to tell my friends about what happened, I just kept my mouth shut as to how I lost and had to shake it off because round 5 was coming very soon.

Round 5: Gerald C. Camangon (U/B Control maybe snow but not sure)
Gerald is a member of the Philippines National Team. He was playing a Blue and Black control deck with counters and the like. We both started off game 1 very slowly and played draw-go for the first few turns. The key play of this match was when I went for a Telling Time at the end of his turn leaving no Blue mana open. This is when he decided to run out his Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. It resolved, but so did my Dragonstorm for three on my turn. Needless to say, he couldn’t deal with three Bogardan Hellkites.

In: 3 Spell Snare, 2 Teferi, 2 Rewind
Out: 4 Mana Leak, 3 Random cards

I’m pretty sure those three random cards were the same as they were against my Tron matchups. This game played out very similar to the first in that it was draw-go for several turns. Then my suspended Lotus Bloom came into play and I had more than enough mana to bait counters with Seething Song and still play Dragonstorm for three Hellkites (I had one in my hand).

Record: (3-2) I had to win this next round to end the day with a respectable record going into Day 2.

Round 6: Agustin Seratti (U/R/W Solar Flare)
Agustin’s deck was very similar to the deck that Tiago Chan was playing. It is similar to Solar Flare because it runs Compulsive Researches and Careful Consideration to discard fatties like Akroma and Bogardan Hellkite. Then the deck runs Resurrection to reanimate these game winners. Agustin is a member of the Argentinean National Team, and I guessed that by seeing his Adidas soccer shirt in the colors of the Argentinean flag (I know I know my observational skills are extraordinary!). He actually beat my teammate Luis Scott-Vargas in the round prior, and I was hoping to exact some revenge for him. He didn’t do a whole lot game 1 and I cast a Dragonstorm for three copies of Bogardan Hellkite. He didn’t have the Wrath of God to deal with them.

In: 2 Teferi, 2 Rewind, 2 Repeal
Out: 4 Mana Leak, 2 Random cards (Lotus Bloom, Seething Song, or Telling Time)

I wasn’t totally sure how to sideboard in this matchup because I didn’t play against the deck too often. I took out Mana Leaks because against opponents who play around it, it isn’t very good. I also brought in the Repeals because I did not want to lose to random hosers like Circle of Protection: Red, and to a lesser degree Ivory Mask.

Game 2 saw him cast a turn 3 Compulsive Research discarding Akroma, Angel of Wrath, with Resurrection coming on turn 4. I got absolutely destroyed and died in three turns. It seemed that he didn’t really care about Mana Leaks and I figured he would run into them for game 3, so I boarded all of them in. I believe I took out 2 Demonfires, a Seething Song, and another Telling Time.

Remember how I told you earlier that this deck was capable of getting some explosive draws? If there was ever a time to get one, it was now. I cast a Compulsive Research on turn 3 only to draw into a hand containing three Seething Songs and a Dragonstorm with no Hellkites in hand. He tapped out on his turn to cast a Compulsive Research of his own, discarding a Bogardan Hellkite and an Akroma. The only thing I didn’t want to do was draw a Bogardan Hellkite for my turn, and it was twenty damage to the dome!

I drew quickly for the turn… please, this one time, don’t be there!

It was the Hellkite…


Is it possible for me to ever catch a break in this tournament?

Just kidding, it was a land.

I nut-drew him out of game 3: Seething Song, Seething Song, Seething Song, Dragonstorm for four Bogardan Hellkites… extend the hand!

Record for Day 1: 4-2. Respectable. As I went into round 2 of the tournament with a loss, I was pretty happy with the end result.

If I had to choose a Standard deck again, it definitely would not be this deck. I felt like for most of the matches I won, I was fortunate in doing so. Sittner’s mono-White Proclamation / Martyr of Sands deck seemed like a strong choice in a field full of Boros. He ended up going 5-1 on the day with a deck that we had not even considered in our gauntlet. Luis Scott-Vargas and Ben Lundquist both ended up going 3-3 on the day, and it seemed like this wasn’t the best deck choice for this tournament. The only other person who was playing the deck was Adam Chambers, who also went 3-3 on the day.

Day 2 was coming up, and we knew that if there was ever a format where the U.S. team can make up ground, it was booster draft…

That’s all for now. Part 2 of Worlds Report coming up soon!

Until then,

Paul Cheon