Stop seven of the 2005 StarCityGames Power 9 circuit has come and gone with Canadian Ugo Rivard crowned as the champion. The event was awesome in nearly every respect, but I’ll get to that later…
The weekend started off for me on Friday morning when I woke up late and had to scramble to get all of my things together before Jacques and Liz showed up at noon. Being the awesome guy I am, I made great time and even had time to have some lunch before they got me. Before we left I took advantage of some of my Sub Club cards to get some subs at Subway. Yum. All full and happy, and with cookies in tow, we began our journey to Rochester, New York.
I had brought my laptop to do coverage for the event alongside JP Meyer and Ted Knutson and our ringers Ben Kowal, Rian Litchard, and Andy Probasco. With a few hours of battery life at my beck and call I decided to play StarCraft on the trip up. I abandoned that plan before putting the CD in because I remembered how bad single-player Starcraft is. So I just chilled in the back of the van, sipped water, ate cookies (yum), and took a very short nap.
Halfway from Rochester we ran into a huge thunderstorm. It literally came from nowhere. We had nice, cloudy skies one minute, then the next we were being slammed with sheets of rain which ground traffic to a crawl for almost half an hour. I called up the car from New Jersey filled with JP Meyer, Ashok Chitturi, Alex Crestfield, and Mike Roche to warn them of the impending doom. Despite having left multiple hours later than us, they managed to be a mere forty minutes behind us and were already stuck in the storm. How unlucky.
Another hour or so later and we had pulled into Rian’s driveway at around four o’clock, two hours before we were apparently supposed to go pick up Ted Knutson and Zvi Mowshowitz at the airport. We spent a while watching a friend of Rian’s white-border the cards for his deck of choice, Worse Than Fish. It was a very generic list which ran just beautifully in testing, but crapped out on him in the later rounds on Saturday.
Rian had decided to have a BBQ for his guests not going to the Dinosaur Bar and Grill later that night with Ted, his coverage team, and whatever Shooting Stars happened to be in town. We headed to Wegman’s to pick up lots of meat and beverages. If you’ve never been to a Wegman’s, it’s sort of like Wal-Mart in that you can pick up pretty much anything you want in its many different sections, though they aren’t a heartless, evil corporation like Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart: We rip off our employees to pass the savings to you, the customer!
In the Gatorade aisle Alex asked Roche to pick him up with one arm. He did, but he used his body too by leaning back, and that’s cheating in my book. I obviously didn’t say anything to Roche about it, lest he decide to eat me. I got to put my Algebraic skills to the test by helping to figure out how many 8-pack bags hotdog buns we needed for the thirty-two meaty wieners that Rian picked up (the answer is four).
I math so good.
More meat was collected, and JP tried to talk Alex into buying some three dollar bottle of fruit-water-garbage because he was trying to rationalize purchasing it to himself. Alex didn’t bite, and JP spent the rest of the trip moping around like a sad bloodhound. Hot and tired, I decided to find a retreat to rest my weary limbs.
Wegman’s was awesome if for nothing other than the fact that it had central air, something Rian regretfully was without all weekend, but we were grateful for his hospitality nevertheless. Ashok and Myself let everyone finish shopping while we sat on a bench under a vent and talked about his dad’s pharmacy. On the way out Liz decided to leave a nice comment for the cashier that rang us out (she’s a Wegman’s employee) before we clambered back into Jacques van to head back to Rian’s.
We got bored and eventually decided to get a game of Type 4 going. The first few turns were pretty uninteresting with the exception of Jacques getting smacked for thirteen by Alex’s Krosan Colossus. On his turn Jacques drew a new addition to my deck, Ring of Ma’Ruf, and squealed with joy. He insisted on reading the card’s text multiple times, stopping at the part where the card says “choose a card from outside of the game” and said the part in italics in a booming MC’s voice. It was amusing the first few times he did it, but luckily before it got too annoying he cashed it in for the absolutely broken Mist Dragon.
Down to a mere six life, he tried to cast the Dragon but was foiled by a Dissipate from yours truly. He got smashed out of the game next turn the game ended rather anticlimactically with me swinging over at Alex, Roche having died a few turns previous, to my Infernal Spawn of Evil equipped with a Sword of Fire and Ice.
The way we play when we use random stacks is that we take half of our deck and pass it to another player before beginning a game, then have the player who won go last. It’s a decent system, though we’re always open to new ideas. We got the next game started shortly after and I was fortunate enough to get passed Jacques half which contained the Ring of Ma’Ruf along with some of the more saucy counters in the stack like Desertion, Overwhelming Intellect and the like. I was able to activate the Ring and fetched something stupid broken, but before I got to use it the rest of the Team Meandeck contingent arriving from Columbus arrived; Joe Bushman, Doug Linn, and Kevin “Darksteel Colossus” Cron.
Myself, Liz, Rian, and JP have a nice Meandeck reunion before everyone starts admiring Rian’s pimpish white-bordered WTF deck. Not long after a few people disappeared to go fetch Zvi and Ted. We spent the time while waiting playing with Rian’s ridiculously cute dog and crazy cat.
Ted and Zvi showed up at around 6:30 PM and we spent a long time chatting about martial arts (Ted is a ninja, sort of like Rich Shay – oh man that would be an awesome duel!), the Pro Tour Hall of Fame voting system, and petting various furry animals in Rian’s house. Rian’s mom told us that we should leave very early if we planned on getting a table at eight o’clock like we wanted at the Dinosaur Bar/Grill. We had to split up into two cars because of the unexpected but welcomed members of our party, Liz and Ashok. Kevin, Zvi, Ted, and JP piled into Kevin’s car, leaving Liz, myself and Ashok to pilot Roche’s car.
Now, here’s where things go interesting. We were well on our way to Dinosaur thanks to some last minute MapQuest directions printed off courtesy of Rian, when Ashok noticed we were running on E. With another couple of miles still left to the restaurant and a respectable drive home to look forward to, we decided we needed to find a gas station. Shouldn’t be too difficult, right?
Apparently wrong. We spent a good twenty minutes driving around downtown Rochester before we finally asked a passing pedestrian where we could find a gas station. Our kindly guide informed us that there was one right up the road… and that he’d be more than happy to direct us while we dropped him off nearby. Ashok agreed initially, but when the good Samaritan went around back of the car to get in next to me, he yelled out to our new friend to tell him that we would be unable to provide him passage to his destination, despite his offer of taking a bus to get back to wherever he came from, I guess trying to reassure us that we wouldn’t need to give him a ride home: He could obviously fend for himself.
Well, one sketchy possible mugger later we found ourselves deep in one of the ghettos surrounding downtown Rochester. We decided to head in a straight line until we found a gas station. Shouldn’t be too difficult, right?
As you have no doubt expected, it was difficult. While stopped at an intersection waiting for an incoming swarm of police cars to pass we asked a kindly couple driving next to us to direct us to a fueling station. They gave us somewhat vague directions, but they were good enough seeing as how we found a Sunoco shortly afterwards. Ashok and Liz seemed a bit unsettled by our rustic surroundings, but after my experience of living on the West Side a while back, I felt perfectly at home. I was almost sad once we had finished refueling and finally found our way back into the city proper.
We drove around for a bit to get our bearings and eventually sighted our goal: The Dinosaur Bar and Grill! Ashok pulled off a decent non-New Jersey style parallel parking job before we went up to the gate to meet up with our party*. We didn’t see anyone at first, but then Ted came out of the entryway and that drew our attention to the rest of our group: Andy Probasco, Ben Kowal, JP Meyer, Zvi, Ted, and a gentleman I finally learned was the one known as “jeek” on IRC. We waited for a while which, had we been on time, would have been unnecessary because the restaurant wasn’t nearly as busy as I had expected. Oops.
*New Jersey parking apparently entails ramming into the cars in front and behind you to squeeze into a space the size of a small closet. How uncivilized.
A few short minutes later we were seated by a very pleasant woman who, after inquiring as to our purpose in Rochester, told us she was a gamer geek, having recognized the game of Magic: The Gathering when Ted told her about the tournament. From there on we had great dinner conversation ranging from beers, JP’s visual impairments, and 9th Edition, to my love of cornbread and the tower Isengard behind us. Personally, I had a quarter rack of ribs, some spicy shrimp, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and a hunk of cornbread. I made it through most of the meal which I’m pretty sure weighed more than I do, impressing Ted greatly. How dare he doubt my ability to consume vast quantities of food (I honestly have no clue how I finished as much as I did).
We were accompanied by JP for the ride home which went no more smoothly than the trip there. Our directions from Rian were missing a few important details which led us very far in the opposite direction we wanted to be going. A few (Four) missed turns later we finally found our way back to Rian’s. I watched the end of a game of Type 4 in the basement and traded foils and other things for our respective Type 4 stacks with Kevin before going to bed nearly dying from the stupid humidity that I had hoped I left behind in North Carolina.
So, um, yeah, I went to sleep. It was fairly comfortable in Rian’s guest bedroom thanks to the ceiling fan working overtime, so I got a decent night’s sleep. Apparently that didn’t stop the demons from trying to rip me apart from the inside the next morning. What is it with me, Demons, and large gaming events? I didn’t let them bother me too much, swallowing their bane, Pepto Bismol, to fend them off. It worked for the most part. Rock.
The trip to Millennium wasn’t too bad, and by wasn’t too bad I mean we got lost. Again. Sigh.
After a few wrong turns we eventually found our way, partially in thanks to an unfortunate accident involving some anti-Canada group and a visiting troupe of Canadian Magic players. Oh well, one group’s tragedy is our blessing. I think they did well in the tourney though, so I don’t feel too bad.
The event went very well in my opinion. We were inconvenienced a bit due to an unfortunate lack of Internet access in the tournament hall, but thanks to my trusty JumpDrive it wasn’t a big problem. I feel the coverage was very good and I think that the features turned out well. I need to work on remembering to take pictures of the competitors in Feature Matches. If anyone has any constructive criticism on the job I did, please let me know.
I don’t remember any controversy or drama coming up during the course of the day, though I did hear about some deck registration errors, something you really need to watch out for, especially in Vintage where the decks contain so many singletons. There were some amazing quotes and funny happenings that you can see for yourself on the event blog. Blogging is very amusing, though it can be at times difficult to get material for.
Later in the day we brought in Andy Probasco, who had already dropped from the event, to do a bit of feature match coverage, and after that one Rian Litchard who took care of the Shooting Stars decklists. As for the Shooting Stars, most of them seemed to enjoy themselves a great deal. Some even commented that they would very much like to play in another event if such an opportunity presented itself. Their successes were varied with only Osyp-replacement Adam Chambers making Top 8. His efforts earned him a 3-D Jester’s Cap and a Mox; not a bad day’s work.
The event concluded with a very lengthy final match which saw Mr. Rivard coming out on top, earning himself a Black Lotus and Timetwister for his success. After packing up everyone headed out. On the trip back we had decent directions to Rian’s house, so getting there shouldn’t have been too difficult, right? Luckily we actually made it on the first try this time… and by “first try” I mean we ended up at the airport and had to go in a big circle before we found the house. Rian was waiting for myself, Jacques, and JP so that he could close up the house for the evening. I went right to bed whilst JP and Rian checked the coverage to see how it turned out.
I went into the guest bedroom and flopped on the bed, trying to get into a position which wouldn’t be too terribly uncomfortable in the humid room. No matter what I tried I was still unable to sleep. Why? Mike Roche! Roche snored very loudly which made Baby Jesus very sad indeed. It resulted in a very poor night’s sleep which was interrupted at around 8:00 AM by Rian’s cat licking my temple, followed closely by being assaulted by his little black fluff-ball of doom.
An epic battle ensued with me emerging as the victor, and just in time to get ready to leave, as Rian’s parents were having guests over in a few hours and needed us to clear out. After retrieving the sub that Pete had gotten me the night before and getting a few bites out of it, myself, Jacques, and Liz settled in for the relatively short trek to Syracuse for their Power 9 event.
We arrived an hour before the noon start time after getting turned around getting off of I-90. A parking spot presented itself to us when we finally arrived, and we went inside to meet up with the Meandeck crew and to mingle with those who were running the two-day Power event special. I went back and forth as to play or not and eventually settled on playing and running a slightly modified Meandeath list.
4 Death Wish
1 Burning Wish
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Demonic Consultation
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Wheel of Fortune
1 Memory Jar
1 Yawgmoth’s Bargain
1 Mind’s Desire
1 Darksteel Colossus
1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Time Walk
4 Dark Ritual
2 Elvish Spirit Guide
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Diamond
1 Chrome Mox
1 Lotus Petal
1 Lion’s Eye Diamond
1 Black Lotus
1 Mana Vault
1 Sol Ring
1 Mana Crypt
4 Gemstone Mine
4 City of Brass
1 Underground Sea
1 Tolarian Academy
Same list as usual, but the sideboard is quite different and I included a Darksteel Colossus in the main. Playing Gifts Belcher has shown me how stupid Tinker into Darksteel Colossus can be, and it’s a nice change from trying to figure out how to combo out once in a while.
A really quick n’ dirty report.
Round 1: U/W/G Fish
Game 1: I was mana screwed and I was forced to drop an Elvish Spirit Guide to hold off his Meddling Mage that he had set to Tendrils of Agony. He eventually got out a Mishra’s Factory and began his assault while using Crucible of Worlds and Wasteland to keep me in check long enough.
Game 2: I had boarded in my Swarms and Seal of Cleansings to take out any possible Chalices or Null Rods. I took a mulligan to five. My five-card hand was Black Lotus, Lotus Petal, Mana Crypt, and Timetwister. I decided to give it a go and attempted to play the Twister, but he had the Force of Will. He dropped a Root Maze on his turn and while I had drawn a Seal of Cleansing, I didn’t want to lose my Lotus to destroy it. I waited until I drew a Gemstone Mine and tried to cast it, forgetting about the Root Maze. Derf. On my next turn he had the Force of Will again, so I was forced to try a Burning Wish for Diminishing Returns and then tried to cast another Seal of Cleansing, but he had yet another Force of Will.
He played some dudes and was able to keep me from doing anything long enough to win.
I haven’t started off with a loss in a very, very long time, and much less a 2-0 loss. I told my tale of woe to a few people then fought my way into the round two pairings.
Round 2: Force of Will Stax
Game 1: I went off with little resistance from him.
Game 3: He started off with a land and some artifact mana followed by a Chalice of the Void for one. I led with Dark Ritual and cast Necropotence, but he had the Force of Will. Due to the Chalice I was unable to cast my Black Lotus to play Wheel of Fortune, so I was forced to wait until I was able to cast Seal of Cleansing on my next turn. I cast Ancestral Recall into a bunch of artifact mana and then cast a Brainstorm and set up my hand to cast Death Wish and then Yawgmoth’s Will. It was a great plan until I set my Death Wish as my second card down.
I was forced to wait two turns before I was able to make sure he couldn’t do anything, using Rebuild to shut off his Tolarian Academy, denying him access to the Blue mana he needed to cast the pair of Stifles in his hand. From there I finally cast my Death Wish and killed him with a Tendrils of Agony.
Round 3: Food Chain Goblins
Game 1: After a pair of Brainstorms, I was still stuck on only a City of Brass for land and he had a Wasteland to deal with it. His Goblin Lackey brought out a Siege-Gang Commander which helped finish me off.
Game 2: He played a Lackey after I cast a Duress on my turn to make sure the coast was clear. He also grabbed a Skirk Prospector and then passed it over. I cast a flurry of card drawing spells and Dark Rituals, then attempted a final Brainstorm which he Pyroblasted, putting me up to seven spells to net me a strong Mind’s Desire. It revealed a few spells and a Tendrils of Agony, which I then used to kill him.
Game 3: I was very frustrated with this game. I was stuck on one land after a pair of Brainstorms which left me with only a Mana Vault in hand. On his second turn he cast a Goblin Matron instead of using his Wasteland on my City of Brass and casting something else. He didn’t use it again on his next turn, which gave me an opening to draw a mana source to cast my Mana Vault and then Tinker it away for Darksteel Colossus, but instead I was forced to cast Demonic Consultation to try and grab my Black Lotus to enable my desired play. In case I removed my Memory Jar or Colossus, I would have still been left mana to cast a few spells and possibly kill him on a Time Walk turn.
As it ended up, my Black Lotus was my second from bottom card in my library. I still had a Burning Wish that could fetch a Tendrils of Agony, but I was a Dark Ritual or some other mana source or two short of kill him.
How disappointing. I was displeased with my finish, but other than my Brainstorm error in Round 2, I was satisfied with the deck and my play. Tired and hungry, I sought out Liz and Jacques so that we could go home. I found them by Ben’s buying table and we left soon afterwards.
The trip home was uneventful, save more rain and a short traffic jam. The first thing I did was check the coverage to make sure it was nice and pretty (it was), and then eat my sub… Only I had left it at Altered States. Oh well, at least I had picked up my trench coat that I had left there at the Saviors of Kamigawa prerelease.
There you have it, my weekend of Magicing in Rochester and beyond. I hope all of you enjoyed either the event or the coverage that we worked so hard to provide.
The Falling Stars and Vintage Illusions of Grandeur
Something I’ve noticed since SCG: Rochester finished with only one Shooting Star in the Top 8 is that people are overestimating the skill needed to compete in Vintage. The name of the game is Magic: The Gathering. Yes, skill is needed to succeed in competitive Magic, Vintage included. However watching events unfold at Rochester has shown me something very disturbing: Play skill, much more often than not, has nothing to do with the game.
People can make infinite mistakes, providing innumerable openings for their opponent to win the game, yet will still win on the back of cards like Wheel of Fortune, Balance, Null Rod, and especially Yawgmoth’s Will and Tinker. I’m not calling for the bannination of Will or Tinker, but I am asking everyone to step back and take a more realistic look at things.
Let me emphasize here that I don’t want anyone to take any examples I give personally, but these are things people either miss or just want to pretend don’t happen. Example: Finals, StarCityGames: Rochester. Games one and two went fairly quickly and were split. Game three, the eventual champion resolved a turn 1 Ancestral Recall with the Force of Will to back it up. The runner up tried for an Ancestral on his own turn, but the champion had a Mana Drain that he cast off of Black Lotus. On his next turn the champion could have all but sealed up the game by using his Mana Drain mana to cast Time Walk and then (or before, whatever) cast Vampiric Tutor to fetch Yawgmoth’s Will. On his Walk turn he could have resolved Will, Ancestral, and then Time Walk, leaving him with a nearly full hand, a fresh turn to start doing nasty things, and his opponent with one mana source and very few cards in hand.
This did not happen, instead I think like, a Thirst for Knowledge was played, something nowhere near the power level of the play I just suggested. The match went on for almost an hour with two Goblin Welders on the eventual champion’s side of the table. Turn after turn over the span of ten or more turns the Goblin Welders never budged. Not once. They didn’t even wiggle a little. The only time he touched them were when he topdecked an artifact which he would weld out for his Mindslaver.
There are quite a few things wrong with this course of action, not to mention multiple errors on the Mindslaver turns, but the most basic concept in Magic and the phase that accompanies it – Attacking with dudes and the combat phase – were never once utilized with the two Goblin Welders, or with any other creature for that matter as far as I saw. This gave the runner up turns and turns worth of potential topdecks, and he almost came back when he drew an Engineered Explosives, then resolved it with Sunburst one which wiped out both of the winner’s Goblin Welders.
As it were, the champion topdecked Demonic Tutor and then cast it to get Yawgmoth’s Will. He had Mindslaver on the table and opted to not use it before casting Will. I was informed that he knew what his opponent had in hand at the time, but I still believe that’s a very big mistake, barring something along the lines of the runner up having a Mana Drain in his hand and then drawing a Force of Will. So not only could he have potentially left himself open to a possibly game ending counter from his opponent, he didn’t take an extra “Time Walk” and had two less mana with which to use his Will. Granted, his opponent scooped, which the audience appreciated greatly and especially JP Meyer, and none of these perceived misplays ever came into play, so maybe I’m just making too big a deal out of it.
I heard reports of terrible play coming from all over the Top 8. Most of it I can’t or will decline to comment on, but the point is that with the right luck nearly anyone can Top 8 a large event. Personally, I think that’s a great thing! The power level of the cards, if you can get them, will help level the playing field against players like Rich Shay, Kevin Cron, or Stephen Menendian. Whenever a player walks into a tournament packing a deck containing Yawgmoth’s Will, Tinker, Mana Drains, and the Power 9 (sans Timetwister), they stand a very decent chance of snagging a piece of Power for their efforts. Proxy events are only making this easier and thus making the format more accessible to everyone: something some Vintage pundits have called for over the past few years.
Vintage is a great format. It is fun to play, the atmosphere is very relaxed (not to be confused with the general definition of “casual” that people affix to it) and the players are, for the most part, wonderful people and have over the years become very good friends. Waterbury, StarCityGames Power 9 events and the like are almost as much mini-vacation and social events as they are cutthroat, high stakes tournaments.
Don’t take this the wrong way, I am not accusing everyone of being awful and making dumb mistakes, but none of us are anywhere near some of the people that play on the Pro Tour and that qualify on a regular basis. Those players are on a level many of us will never understand or reach for that matter. That’s okay though. Thanks to the random element built into the game if you are a solid enough player and minimize your errors, you could have a decent shot of beating Finkel or Budde.
I’d just like everyone to take a closer look at their play. Write down notes during playtesting, or even during large tournaments, whether or not you plan on writing a report. Go back later and read those over. Win or lose, how could you have done better? Did you leave potential openings for your opponent to exploit? You need to learn to recognize these things and think ahead so that you can avoid those errors. Jamie Wakefield patented “Mistake Die” may also help you.
Once you are able to notice these kinds of mistakes you will recognize them while playing and possibly damage your morale. Don’t let it, just keep on fighting and put it in the past. Did you make a stupid misplay game 1 and don’t like your chances in game 2, much less a game 3? Learn from it, put it behind you, and don’t do the same thing again.
This isn’t for everyone, but for all of you who want to be competitive at this great game we all love so much, just give some thought to your play and your own thought processes. You will notice improvement very quickly and it will accumulate over time and lead to more game, then match wins, helping you to more easily win whatever you’re working at. Be it a casual match against your friend (or friends if you’re playing multiplayer), a Friday Night Magic draft, money draft, or the higher profile events that we follow so closely, you’ll win more often and feel all the better for it. Knowing that you’ve succeeded at something as a result of owning up to your own play and putting a little work into it feels much better than just topdecking Tinker and grabbing Darksteel Colossus.
Member of Team 0-2-Drop-and-do-Coverage
Member of Team Meandeck (same thing)