Caught Between Days
By Peter V on November 30th, 2007 · Filed in Limited, General Magic · Comments not available just now
Wednesday, 8 am. I'm walking through the streets of Ghent. It's cold and I'm tired. I feel caught between days. Eight AM is a rather unusual time for me to be out. (I'm that kind of student, yes.) Every now and then the day has started by this time - most often for a PTQ, I have to admit. Every now and then, it's still the night before and I'm going to bed. Now, I'm not sure which it is.
They say when you're in mortal danger, you see your life flashing before your eyes. I am, of course, nowhere near mortal danger, but I'm feeling mildly discomfited. This proportional discrepancy taken into consideration, it seems only natural I'm reliving the evening before.
Setting: Outpost Ghent, game store. Action: Lorwyn draft (16K). Mission: assembling three points of Limited rating.
I've come from Leuven to Ghent to secure a third bye for Grand Prix Stuttgart, in mid-December. For that I need three more points, which, calculations have revealed, equals one win against a 1775+ player or two wins. I'm willing to drop as soon as I reach my target.
I open a rather weak pack featuring Silvergill Douser and Oona's Prowler as the clear best cards. Douser is easily the pick here. Next is a stronger pack with Eyeblight's Ending over Lash Out. Pick three I get a gift-wrapped Fathom Trawl, which signals to me that blue is open. The rest of pack one sends me into Merfolk. I get a decent amount of playables but nothing really exciting: Judge of Currents, Deeptread Merrow, Aquitect's Will, and some I don't remember.
The first two picks of pack two are really interesting. I open these three:
The Command is the first to be cut. As a rare it's harder to evaluate than the more known cards but I'm quite sure it's less powerful than the others. Also it doesn't really do anything my deck will have a particular need of; it seems better in Faeries than in Merrow because those decks naturally leave mana open on the opponent's turn.
I have no beefy creatures yet and I already have a Fathom Trawl, so I take the Hero over Mulldrifter. So at least there's a reasoning behind my mistake, as that's what I now think it is. Mulldrifter is most likely the correct pick, and I regret it as soon as I pass the cards.
The next pack quickly diverts my mind though. Staring me in the face as I pick up the cards is Silvergill Adept, but the booster also reveals Oblivion Ring and Surgespanner. The awesome two-drop is immediately outclassed as the removal is more crucial and Surgespanner is a bomb. I'm having a hard time choosing once again but in the end I make the correct pick of Surgespanner.
I get some more good Merfolk in pack two but it's pack three that really makes the deck as I open Summon the School and get passed its twin brother.
It's a very simple deck, with some clear strong and weak points. The merfolk engine is quite insane of course, and once it comes together this deck should easily win. The weak points are lack of removal, with only two pure removal spells, combined with a lack of defense. The glaring hole in this deck is at three mana, where you'd expect Streambed Aquitects, of which I unfortunately didn't see a single copy during the draft.
At the station, a friendly vending machine provides me with a bottle of water. You may find it silly to call a vending machine friendly, but ever since three consecutive machines ate my money without giving anything in return, I'm calling any vending machine that does what vending machines are supposed to do, friendly.
The platform is crowded with people going to their work in Brussels. I'm waiting for the train, and I see this huge, green monster . . .
Things weren't looking well before he dropped that, either. Dauntless Dourbark and Wren's Run Vanquisher are some powerful drops. I had a Judge of Currents and Fallowsage, and a Wellgabber Apothecary I was going to play this turn, to get some card draw and lifegain going, but it's all going to be much too slow in the face of the 6/6 trampler. I consider my outs, find none, and scoop game one.
At this point I've won the first round. This is round two and my opponent's rating is about 1890, and he's going to Stuttgart as well, so he needs the rating points for much the same reason as I do.
I realize people expect an epic game two and three now, where I come back against all odds in game two, and game three is so close and I either narrowly win or lose. Reality got in the way, I'm afraid. I keep a slow hand because I'm on the play; a hand which might be defendable in some cases but not against this deck. His deck is fast, making my decision absolutely horrible. My draws don't help me out and I lose to a Kinsbaile Balloonist I have no answer for.
My opponent apologizes for killing my bye, but he doesn't need to. That's just the way it works, of course. Besides, he has arranged a free, luxurious hotel in Stuttgart, so I owe him anyway.
Since it's a 10-man draft, there are four rounds. I end up going 3-1, but the net rating difference will be negative. However, all is not lost. Another draft is formed. I'll probably need to 3-0 it to reach the target. The downside of playing another draft is that I can't get a train back to Leuven tonight, and will have to stay with my brother for the night. This means sleeping on some large pillows, which have the annoying tendency to move away from each other while one attempts to sleep on them. Also, any body part I happen to lie on will become numb in no time.
So I'm sitting on the train, and for all of these people this is the beginning of the day. For me, I'm not sure. I've barely slept, and intend to get some more sleep when I arrive, but I'm not sure if that'll work out either. Tolkien has to keep me awake for one hour on the train, and, somewhat surprisingly, does so admirably.
Train. Plane. Walker.
Two picks into the draft, and things are looking good. The person before me, I heard afterwards, picked Lash Out over Jace, which I guess is somewhat defendable, but still wrong in my opinion. I'm all for first-picking something splashable, but a Planeswalker is a Planeswalker.
The next three packs are particularly weak, and in all three, a white card jumps out as the best one. I have a strong distaste for white, which just proves how weak these packs were, as even the white cards weren't particularly bombs: Kinsbaile Balloonist and double Kithkin Greatheart.
Pick six, the clear best card in the pack is Woodland Changeling. However, I can't take it. At this point I'm only in white, and white-green is the ugliest colour combination. This can be helped with some splashing, but unfortunately, the white cards I have do not combine with green at all. The Greathearts are looking for Giants, so I'm turning towards red. I take Axegrinder Giant over Fire-Belly Changeling because I already have two 2-drops, and I'm hoping for Stinkdrinker Daredevils to enable them. Whatever my defense, the pick is wrong. (Not seeing a single Stinkdrinker didn't help of course, but regardless, the pick was wrong. You want to enable your Greatheart by turn three, not by turn six.)
At the end of pack one, I'm still unsure whether I'm white-red or white-blue. Blue has been totally cut off since the Jace, but Jace is still better than whatever I have in red at this point. I also got one late Wings of Velis Vel. Blue is deep enough that it might be worth stealing it in pack two, risky as that is.
As it turns out, blue doesn't come from the other side either, so red it is. The rest of the draft is rather uneventful. I seem to get packs with absolutely nothing for me and packs from which I want three or more cards. In the end I have several bombs, but almost no removal and not enough playables.
This is a generally weak deck that pretty much wants to win on its bombs. The curve is too high and as I said, I lacked playables. The splash for Footbottom Feast was definitely a good call. One mistake is certainly the Giant's Ire, which was absolutely horrible in this deck and should have been Hurly-Burly - not a card you usually want to maindeck, but this deck was desperate for removal. Shields of Velis Vel is very weak but it was justified in this deck, simply because it lacked any other trick, and it had some synergy with the Greathearts and Thundercloud Shaman.
Spinerock Knoll sucks too, of course, and should have been basic land, but I just wanted to try the card. It seemed that if there ever was a deck that could use it, it was this one. Normally it's always a win-more card, but here an all-out attack powered by Balloonist to deal the required seven, followed by a Ranger out of the Knoll to play defense, seemed like a possibility. That's the theory; in practice it never worked out, of course, and I only got overkill out of it once. Which is exactly what I really suspected before, but sometimes you just have to try out bad rares to get some experience with them and see if they might work out. (I suppose that's how people discovered Colfenor's Plans was playable.)
Round one I go Ranger, Ajani, Ranger. Twice. Sometimes, Magic is a really hard game, with difficult decisions to make.
Next, I'm up against Faeries. The three games are really close. I make my biggest mistake of the entire evening; it's quite embarrassing just to write it here. I've simply forgotten I have Hurly-Burly in my sideboard, and I am of course too lazy to check that. Since I don't even have enough playables, I just stupidly assume I have nothing in my sideboard either. And as I said earlier, I'll realize later that the Hurly-Burly should have been maindecked here.
So I lose. My opponent is kind enough to concede however, as he doesn't need the points.
I'm walking through the streets of Leuven. It's cold and I'm tired. I feel caught between days.
How many chances do you need?
It's the last round and I'm facing Elementals. Game one is over really fast as he gets a very aggressive start on the play. Game two, he is manascrewed and I have a strong curve. Game three he is manascrewed again but a Smokebraider allows him to play enough guys to stop mine, while I draw land after land. Eventually he gets out of the screw and plays out his hand, I need a Cloudgoat or Thundercloud to turn the tide but I draw dead.
Was this match informative? I thought not. I'm quite sure I could not have won this match. Things went bad for me, but objectively, I have to accept that his deck was simply better. But then again, I felt the packs came bad for me in the draft . . .
What I'm trying to say is, I was disappointed. But I've looked back on the entire evening and realized all those mistakes I made. Dare I admit that I did not deserve to win that third bye?
Deserve. That sounds like karma. I don't believe in karma. All the time, people think they deserved to win a match, because they played better, or even because they opened a better Sealed pool, or a matchup was in their favor. Sometimes, a clever soul even figures he didn't deserve to win.
There is no Magic deity. Random occurrences happen, because statistically, they have to eventually. There is no thing that was supposed to happen; there's only what actually happened. And through that all, all you have to do to get ahead is look at your mistakes, learn from them, and improve. It's foolish to spend more of your energy on things you can't influence than on things you can change.
Wednesday, 10 am. I go to bed, but fail to sleep.
By Peter V on November 30th, 2007 · Filed in Limited, General Magic · Comments not available just now
About Peter V
Peter is a competition beast and a Limited addict. Best achievement so far: second place at a PTQ. Goals for 2007 are reaching the Pro Tour and getting some kind of Constructed rating.