Good Game: In a Bigger Pond


Good Game: In a Bigger Pond
by Andrew Hanson


Left to Right: Luis Scott-Vargas, Nick Lynn, Dave Ochoa, Mark Herberholz, Gerry Thompson,
Michael Jacob, Jamie Park, Me, Kamui Kaye, Josh Utter-Leyton
Pro Tour: Kyoto. What a trip. I mean, first there's the whole traveling to Japan sort of thing. The country is really neat, but I've never been anywhere where people don't understand English. Sure, most Japanese people have a rudimentary understanding of the language, but they can't speak it, and though they may be able to sound out words written in the Roman script, they don't understand the written word either. Which made finding our hotel on our first night a little tricky.

While we were sitting in San Fransisco, waiting for out flight to Osaka (the closest city to Kyoto that has an airport), two things happened. First: we (being my wife and I) realized that we were missing a page out of her itinerary. Of course, it's the page with the telephone number and address of our first hotel. Well, we'd figure out what to do once we got there. Or so we thought. Second: a gaggle of guys walked in, all wearing backpacks, and they all looked like Magic players. It's a quality that's hard to describe, but impossible not to notice once you're familiar with it. Maybe it's the way they carry themselves. Maybe it's the minor details of appearance, but something about them just says, “I play Magic.”

Sure enough, I heard one of the guys say, “Do you want to play?” to another, and people started pulling deck boxes out of backpacks and playing right there in the terminal. A few minutes later, a face I recognize walked in. It's one of the few faces on the Pro Tour that I would recognize, too: Luis Scott-Vargas. He sat down with the other players, and I felt a little star-struck (nerdy star-struck, I guess), since I would be on the same plane with LSV. Would I get the chance to talk to one of the great Magic players? What if he sat next to me?

Oddly enough, one of those players did. As he was putting his bag into the overhead, I asked him, “You going to the Pro Tour?” He gave me a bit of a shocked look, then smiled and said, “Yeah, are you?” We introduced ourselves (his name was Kamui Kaye) and chatted for a bit. Then, he asked the question I was dying to hear, but too shy to ask. “Do you want to play?” We killed about a third of the 12 hour flight playing Magic.

Plus, Kamui had been to Japan before, and so he helped us a bit in finding our way through the airport, getting through customs, getting our baggage, and getting on the train to Kyoto. Plus, since he was traveling with a bunch of people, we were part of a big group, which made being bewildered and confused not scary but fun. My wife took the above group picture while we waited for our train.

But, you're probably not here for a trip report; you want a tournament report. Very well. Let us begin my first Pro Tour experience. First, my Standard deck choice: U/W Merfolk. It actually wasn't bad. I got in a lot of good last minute playtesting on the plane with Kamui (who ran R/W Lark, aka Boat Brew). For the first few matches, I was solidly beating him. Then, as he realized that Mogg Fanatic was better than almost my whole deck, it went downhill. By the end, he was winning most of the games (all pre-board).

This told me quite a bit about my deck that would be important in a room full of awesome players who have never played me before: surprise would be my greatest ally. Mogg Fanatics backed up by Ranger of Eos and Reveillark would destroy me if played correctly. Just to reiterate, I would be in a room full of awesome players. Who learn fast. Trepidation set in.

Here's my decklist, which included a couple of changes I made while in Japan:

My U/W Merfolk, aka MurmaiderMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Lands
4 Adarkar Wastes
2 Faerie Conclave
5 Island
4 Mutavault
4 Mystic Gate
1 Plains
4 Wanderwine Hub

Creatures
4 Merrow Reejerey
2 Reveillark
4 Silvelgill Adept
4 Stonybrook Banneret
3 Sygg, River Guide
3 Vendilion Clique
3 Wake Thrasher

Spells
4 Cryptic Command
1 Loxodon Warhammer
4 Path to Exile
4 Sage's Dousing



If you've been following the journey of my Merfolk deck over the last however many months, you'll notice a few significant changes. The Deft Duelists have been removed from the 75; Vendilion Clique has been added, and a miser's copy of Loxodon Warhammer was thrown in. Most of these changes were made to accommodate the advent of R/W Lark, and the decline of Monored Demigod. In fact, even the Monored decks have been switching their five drop away from the Demigod of Revenge to the powerful Siege-Gang Commander. Why? Because Spectral Procession can stop a Demigod for at least three turns, and new kid on the block, Path to Exile, screws over one of Demigod's biggest advantages—recursion.

But, onto some matches. As Day One of the Pro Tour began with four rounds of Standard Constructed, that's what I'll begin with.

Match One, 5CC

I won the die roll, but had to mulligan to five cards. Had I known I was up against 5-Colored-Control, I would actually have kept my six card hand. It was a bit slow, but full of permission with a savage beater as my only creature—a hand that gets demolished by R/W Lark and Faeries, but is decent against a slow control deck.

With my five card hand, I did get to make a turn two Silvergill Adept. Sadly, it got trumped a turn later by a Kitchen Finks. I did, however, make a Vendilion Clique drop, which saw a trio of lands, the Finks, a Wrath of God, an Esper Charm, and an Ajani Vengeant. As I didn't have a way to deal with the planeswalker post-Wrath, I had the opponent get rid of him. The Clique got there for a few turns while the opponent dug for more cards via Esper Charm and a turn two Courier's Capsule. Then came the Wrath.

I tried to mount a comeback from that, but a Volcanic Fallout swept the board a second time. Then my opponent dropped back to back Mulldrifters, which ended the game in short time.


Can't be countered. Good against Faeries.
Good against Merfolk, too.
Game one: loss.

Out of the sideboard, in came the other Larks and the Broken Ambitions. Out came the Path to Exiles (which may not have been the best choice, as Kitchen Finks are annoying), and one Vendilion Clique.

I went first again, and got to keep my full grip. Yah. I decided to play it a little risky, and made a turn two Sygg, River Guide. My opponent didn't have the spot removal ready that early. Sygg got in for 6 damage, then a Wrath took him out after I dropped a Wake Thrasher with Sygg-protection mana open. So I followed up with a Silvergill Adept that got in there with a Mutavault for a few turns, when a Fallout came down. My opponent tried to keep his life up with a Kitchen Finks, but I answered with a Reveillark. It was actually my second attempt at a Lark, the first one being countered.

This one stuck and started to wreck my opponent, who decided to kill it with an Ajani Vengeant. It was something I was hoping my opponent would do, as it let me bring back a Sygg and a Wake Thrasher, with lots of mana back to protect them. I could tell by the concealed anger on his face that my opponent had totally brain-farted there. At the end of the match, he mentioned as much, saying that he thought, for some reason, that the Lark would put them in my hand, not into play.

Game two: win.

This time, it was my turn to screw up. I opened with an Adept, he with a turn three Finks. I sent my Adept at his Finks anyways, and soon, it was 20 (me) to 24 (him). Then I started to play Merrow Reejereys. They died to Volcanic Fallout, but when the Lark came down, my opponent found himself stuck between a rock and a hard place. Kill the Lark, not kill the Lark? He killed it. The board, at this time, was myself with five or six lands in play (one of which was a Mutavault), two Reejereys, and a Stonybrook Banneret. He had a slew of lands and a Mulldrifter.

I thought to myself “If I swing out, he'll block the Reejerey and, after damage, play Volcanic Fallout. If he blocks, then, I need to bounce the Mulldrifter with my Cryptic Command before damage goes on the stack. That way, if he wants to play the Mulldrifter again, it'll at least tie up his mana and I can swing in force a second time.” Nevermind I could just not swing with my Reejereys and beat down with a 3/3 Banneret and a 4/4 Mutavault. So I swung out, and he blocked, and I didn't play Cryptic Command. What? Yup, you read that right. I did not play Cryptic Command. Why? Beats the hell out of me. Brain-fart, I guess. Sure enough, after damage resolves, he drops the Fallout.

My game deteriorated from there, with him dropping another Kitchen Finks and a Rhox War Monk, and kicking my butt. I was furious with myself after that (hell, I still am furious about that mistake), but I guess it was karma. I mean, I took game two off his mistake, so it only seems fair. But man, here I am at the Pro Tour, and I screw up something elementary like that.

Game three: loss.

Match Results: 0-1-0

Match Two, B/W Tokens

My opponent won the die roll, and we both kept our starting hands. He opened with a fast Knight of Meadowgrain, and I opened with a Silvergill Adept. We plinked away on each other, with him having the clear advantage as not only did his dude have lifelink, but it was bigger because of a Glorious Anthem. But, I did make a Vendilion Clique play, yanking a Terror and leaving him with a Kitchen Finks and a Cloudgoat Ranger that he couldn't play as he was stuck on a low land count, and started getting there with my Clique and a pair of Mutavaults. He did drop a Tidehollow Sculler at one point, and eventually laid down the Finks, but I was able to overwhelm the board as he never got to five mana for his Ranger.

Game one: win.


This guy just wins races.
This boarding is kind of tricky. The deck plays a bit like R/W Lark, but it doesn't waste my board the same way, so those Wrath of Gods can be a little iffy. I don't want to annihilate all my stuff, too. In the end, in came three of the Wraths and the Pollen Lullaby two-of, out came the Paths and two of the Sage's Dousings. The Path is a good card, but against this deck, the only real targets are Knight of Meadowgrain and Tidehollow Sculler, and I don't want to kill those guys in the early game, as it can help tokens explode into early Cloudgoat Rangers.

I had to mull to six, but I'm not sure how much it would have mattered. He came out with a turn two Knight, and a turn three Sculler. Then, he dropped a Kitchen Finks. Grr. I played my Wrath of God. He answered with a Cloudgoat Ranger. I never even got in for a point of damage all game. It was a thorough beating.

Game two: loss.

Game three, he had to mull to four. He still made a game out of it, playing threats and what-not, but he just didn't have enough cards to compete against my full grip, especially when I led with an Adept. It's always a dirty way to win.

Game three: win.

Match Results: 1-1-0

Match Three, R/W Lark

I won the roll here, but had to mull to six. I came out with a normal start, but my opponent had Mogg Fanatics and an Ajani Vengeant. The board positioning was turning on me, as my guys were dying off and his were coming out. He had enough guys to finally activate his two Windbrisk Heights when something happened. He got a little confused after a complicated attack step on my turn and when I said go, he untapped, organized his lands, then drew. Only it wasn't the card from the top of his library, but the one sitting face down in front of him. The card removed from the game by the Heights. We called a judge over, and my opponent got a game loss for Drawing Extra Cards.

Game one: win. Not a very impressive one, though...

Out of the board came the two Reveillarks, the four Burrenton Forge-Tenders, and the four Wraths. Out of the deck came the Bannerets, the Vendilion Cliques (who just get owned by Mogg Fanatic), and three of the Path to Exiles, which just aren't that great against token-heavy decks.

He went first, and had to mull to six, but I got to keep all seven. He came out with a fast Figure of Destiny while I came out with Silvergill Adepts (two of them). His Figure got in for a fair amount of damage off of pumps, but my opponent was running on a painland, too, so his life was dwindling. Meanwhile, my Adepts were dying to trades and a Mogg Fanatic. Then I dropped a Reveillark. My opponent dropped his Spectral Procession and something else, trying to take over the board. I swung in with the Lark. He took it. I played Wrath of God.


Quite the Dynamic Duo.
This game perfectly illustrated the reason for wanting to run Wrath of God against this deck. It lets me clear a board after it turns against me, and then I rebuild with Larks (and hopefully keep their Larks off the board with counter spells). In this case, I resurrected two Adepts. Hello card advantage. He played an Ajani and shot me with it, knowing anything else would be futile. I didn't make the noob play though, and kill the Ajani right away. It only had one counter on it, so it could only do it's first ability, which wouldn't do much. I also played a Wake Thrasher that turn, who would be monstrous on my next turn.

He got down some blockers, one of which was a Ranger of Eos. I thought I was doomed, but he only found one Figure, and no Fanatics. Did he board them out against me? Was this that surprise thing I hoped for working for me? He kept one of my Adepts tapped with Ajani, but it didn't matter. I had a Cryptic Command in hand. With the Adept that could still swing, my Wake Thrasher was more than enough to kill.

Game two: win.

Match Results: 2-1-0

At this point, I was pretty excited. I just needed to win half of my next four matches to make Day Two.

Match Four, Monowhite

He won the roll, and we both kept our opening seven. He came down with Figure of Destiny into Knight of Meadowgrain. My board was slow to build, my first significant play being a Vendilion Clique, which showed me a Path to Exile, a Knight of the White Orchid, a Burrenton Forge Tender, a Rise of the Hobgoblins, and an Ajani Goldmane. But, I managed to slow the game down enough to drop back to back Reveillarks, and managed to build enough of a board on the ground that it was safe to swing out with my air force (thankfully, he hadn't played a Spectral Procession yet). My next turn had to be a bit more conservative to survive his counter swing, and only one Lark hit him. But he couldn't kill me, and the two Larks with a Vendilion Clique finished the job.

Game one: win.

Now, he never played a Goldmeadow Stalwart or a Wizened Cenn, and he did play Rise of the Hobgoblins and Figures of Destiny. So, because I am an idiot and wasn't paying attention to his land base, I thought he was R/W Lark, while he was actually Monowhite Tokens. So I did the same boarding as I did for R/W Lark.


Wielding a warhammer under water? Seems awkward.
I had to mull to six, and I did not come out as quick as he did, playing two Knights of Meadowgrain. It was a beating for a while, but then I played Wrath of God. Over the next couple of turns, he rebuilt his board, and I swept it clean again, this time with a counter in hand to fizzle his next play. Then, on my turn, after I drew, we both had boards empty of creatures, and I had a Loxodon Warhammer in play. In my hand, I had a Sygg, River Guide and a Sage's Dousing, along with nine lands. What do I do? I play Sygg (smart) and equip it with the Whammer (dumb), leaving me four land open—enough to activate Sygg twice, or to play the Dousing in my hand.

On his turn, he plays Rise of the Hobgoblins. I think, “I really don't want to race with five tokens as he runs Ajani Goldmane.” So I played my Sage's Dousing (dumb), knowing he will pay the mana for the Rise. He does, but before he does, he plays Path to Exile. Goodbye, Sygg. On my next turn, I rip a Forge-Tender. Really, that card should have been nearly dead in this matchup, his only use being a wall against the Figure. But I managed to get him when my opponent only had white/red creatures in play. So I played the kithkin and equiped it. It eventually died to a white creature, but the second Forge-Tender I had drawn wasn't too bad.

But, all those turns with double Knight of Meadowgrain sent my life to single digits while sending his life to very high levels, and my four damage, eight point life swings weren't getting enough done as he got a couple of nice draws. Sygg, had he survived, would have done much better though, as my opponent could never trade with him. I may have even been able to steal the win. I should have waited a turn to equip him. Dumb dumb dumb.

Game two: loss.

By this point, I realized he was Monowhite, and pulled the Tenders out, putting the Bannerets back in (they can give me some explosive starts). Sadly, the Cliques stayed out, because I knew the Wraths could be necessary, and the Larks are great with the board sweeper.

We had very little time left in the round at this point—that last game was a grind—so we both tried to play as quickly as possible. I came out with a turn two Sygg, but sadly my game didn't explode. He came out with a Knight of the White Orchid, getting a land, and then played a Cloudgoat Ranger a turn early. Yeesh. So I laid down the Wrath. He came back with a second Ranger. I came back with a second Wrath. He played a third Ranger. I didn't have the third Wrath.

On my next turn, time was called, so I was turn zero. I didn't have much, so I passed turn. Turn one: he came in for what would be a lethal blow. I played a Pollen Lullaby, and won the clash. Oh man, if I took this to a draw, my opponent would be so ticked. He laid another guy and passed. Turn two: I laid down a creature and passed turn. Turn three: his guys didn't untap, so he played an Ajani Goldmane, pumped his dudes, and swung in with what he could. I chump blocked, and he passed. Turn four: this was it. My hand was empty. I needed to rip something to hold him off for one more turn, or I'd get the big L. I drew. Wrath of God.

I showed the card to my opponent. He cursed in Italian (at least, I think it was cursing). Then we shook hands and handed the slip to the judge.

Game three: draw.

Match Results: 2-1-1

I had bombed game two of that match, and got lucky to make game three a draw rather than a loss. But still: I needed 12 match points to make Day Two, and that draw was almost as good as a loss at this point. I would really need to do well in the limited portion.

But before we get into that, how about a quick intermission.

If you ever travel abroad, make sure you have a phone number and an address of the place you are going to. We didn't. We thought we could figure it out there, but, boy, were we wrong. Turns out, we can't read Japanese. Der. We couldn't look up our hotel in phone books, and we weren't sure who we could ask for help. We ended up dinking around Kyoto Station for a few hours while we tried to figure things out. The other players actually offered to hang out with us until we knew where we were going, but we didn't want to keep them on our account, so it was just me and my wife, lugging our furniture around while we floundered.

Then, as we tried to ask someone who worked in the bus station for help, he directed us to “policia.” Not sure why he said police in Spanish, but we followed the direction that his finger pointed and found a small office with a red light outside of it and the word “Koban” written above the door in both Roman script and in, er, Japanese script (I can't actually distinguish between Hiragana or Katakana, and sometimes not even Kanji). We walked into the station and a young man wearing a police uniform greeted us. We greeted back and asked him, in Japanese, if he could speak English. He kind of grimaced and made the universal gesture for “a little bit” (you know, a small space between the index finger and the thumb).


Our final destination.
We tried to ask him where our hotel, Ryokan Yamazaki, was, but either he didn't really understand our Japanese, or he had never heard of the hotel. So he started digging through some books while asking us questions we didn't understand, and we'd try to tell him things in English he wouldn't understand. Just a piece of advice: if you're in a country that doesn't speak your language, and you can't speak theirs, try communicating in one word sentences. Sometimes, they may actually know a piece of vocabulary, and they will be able to understand that one word.

After a bit, an older officer walked into the police box (I guess that's what they're called), and the younger officer must have explained to him our problem, or at least as far as he understood it, because the older officer began digging through books too. Eventually, the older officer got on the phone, made a couple of phone calls, one of which took a long time, then wrote down a bunch of stuff in Japanese. Then he wrote “Ryokan Yamazaki” across the top of the paper, and asked us “Takushi?” Thankfully, my wife understood it. It's Japanese for “taxi.” We nodded enthusiastically and said, “Hai,” and the officer escorted us outside, waived down a taxi, and handed the driver the slip of paper and explained everything to him (I assume).

About 15 minutes later, we made it to our hotel. Yah. So, the moral of this story is, if you are ever lost in Japan, look for the red light outside of a building that says “Koban” on it and ask an officer for help. Even if they can't understand you, they will be of amazing help.

Okay, enough of that, back to Magic. The draft. It was Shards/Shards/Conflux.

My pod was composed of a whole bunch of 2-1-1 players, which included professional Jaime Parke. If you don't recognize his name, he took second at Worlds. I came into the draft hoping to be able to draft an Esper deck, and that's what I did. Perhaps to my own detriment. As I thumbed through my opening pack, I came across, first, a Soul's Fire, which is good but not in the colors I wanted to be. Then I came across an Executioner's Capsule, which is really good, and it fit my desired deck. Then the rare: Cruel Ultimatum. Crap.


Not a bomb, but a solid threat.
Do I take the bomb rare? Or do I take the solid creature kill that can be recursed if get my hands on a Sanctum Gargoyle? I waffled over the decision until the judge calling the draft called time, and I grabbed the Capsule. As we went through the rest of the first pack, I got some decent stuff, some good utility cards like a pair of Call to Heels, and a pair of Cloudheath Drakes.

When I opened pack two, I saw my Sanctum Gargoyle. Woo-hoo. But, I thumbed through the rest of the pack, and the rare was a Vein Drinker. Hmm. Another bomb rare. But the Gargoyle would be huge functionality in my deck. And the Vein Drinker, for me, without access to R, would just be an overcosted Sengir Vampire. Again, I waffled until judge called time, and again, I went with the Esper card. The Drinker didn't table (duh!). This pack ended up being much better for me, giving me the core of my creature base, including a Welkin Guide that did table, and giving me my second piece of spot removal in the form of Resounding Silence. Not exactly good spot removal, but the best available to me. I was a little upset that I never saw an Oblivion Ring, though.

Pack three, the Conflux pack, gave me some great stuff. I picked up a Sedraxis Alchemist, two Parasitic Strixes, and a Sludge Strider, which single-handedly won me a game.

I did make some mistakes in my deck building. I included a couple of cards that should not have been in there, but thankfully, they never cost me a game one, and I always boarded them out by game two for the cards that should have occupied their slots. Here's the deck:

My Esper Draft DeckMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Land
1 Esper Panorama
8 Island
5 Plains
3 Swamps

Creatures
1 Aven Squire
3 Cloudheath Drakes
1 Court Homonculus
1 Esperzoa
1 Faerie Mechanist
1 Grixis Illusionist
2 Kathari Screecher
2 Parasitic Strix
1 Sanctum Gargoyle
1 Salvage Slasher
1 Scavenger Drake
1 Sedraxis Alchemist
1 Sludge Strider
1 Vectis Silencer
1 Welkin Guide

Spells
1 Courier's Capsule
1 Executioner's Capsule
1 Gleam of Resistance
1 Resounding Silence



I also had another Esperzoa, but as I didn't have too many cheap artifacts, I didn't want to risk running into a nearly playable hand with two Esperzoas that block me up. I will admit, with great shame, that I did pass on two Kaleidostones, though the first one I passed on was to take an Esperzoa. The Esperzoa, though, probably would have tabled. That's how I got my second one. Oh, can you imagine if I had two Kaleidostones and two Esperzoas in my deck? It would have been so savage.

But, the Court Homonculus, the Salvage Slasher, and the Vectis Silencer should of all come out in favor of putting in the Call to Heels and, probably, the Excommunicate. All three of those cards, with the possible exception of the Homonculus, are bad, and the reason I put the Homonculus in there is because he's a terrible topdeck. On the other hand, the Calls and the Excommunicate can all be game-breaking topdecks. I guess, if nothing else, I can call my first Pro Tour a great learning experience.

Match Five, Jundish?

My first match was against Jamie Parke. Crap. Here, I need to win two out of three matches, and I get stuck with the pro right off the bat. Grr.

I won the roll and had to go to six, while my opponent kept his seven. We both had difficulties building up a board. I got to make a turn four Esperzoa play, while he Blightninged me on turn three. My Esperzoa got there for 12 though, before it was killed with a Soul's Fire. I still had a Cloudheath Drake out, though, while Jamie had a Carrion Thrash, an Algae Gharial with one counter on it, and a Blood Cultist out. He had the Cultist kill itself, which pumped up the Gharial to a 3/3. Then he played a Wretched Banquet, which killed my 3/3 (tied for the lowest), and made the gator a 4/4. I took eight in the face. The game ended very soon afterwards.

Game one: loss.


Makes for very swingy turns.
I fixed my deck by pulling out the bad cards and putting in the good cards, and I also got to keep my opening seven. I came out pretty fast, with a Kathari Screecher on three, a Sludge Strider on four, and a Welkin Guide on five that made the Strider fly in for 5 damage. He, meanwhile, was having problems developing a strong board, and was only able to ping at me with a Vithian Stinger. I flew in for four, putting him down to 7 life, then dropped a Parasitic Strix, which, along with the Strider, drained him for 3 life, putting me above 20 life. Jaime drew his next card, saw no hope, and scooped.

Game two: win.

By now, my heart is racing at about a million miles per hour. What if I win? How awesome would that be?

I had to mull to six, while he kept his seven and was on the play. My turn one Grixis Illusionist got in there for two points of damage, along with a Sedraxis Alchemist a few turns later. But he started to build up his board, getting down a Court Archers as well as a Beacon Behemoth that punched me for more than a little damage. But I was building too, getting out a Cloudheath Drake, a Kathari Screecher, and a Sanctum Gargoyle to all sail in. Of course, only two of them could sail in, as he also had a Blood Cultist down, which meant he could kill the Screecher if it tried anything cute.

We were both beating on each other, and on his turn, after an attack, I was down to 5 life, while he was at 8. He thought for a while, then decided he absolutely needed to overwhelm me on the board as soon as possible, so he played a Mycoloth, eating only the Cultist. Given two turns (one to make tokens, one to swing with them), he'd win. But, he did get rid of the Cultist, which meant my Screecher could attack again. So I swung out. He blocked the Drake, taking four and putting him on 4 life. I passed turn.

This attack, though, left me open to die to an alpha strike by him. I only had one blocker back (my lowly Illusionist), and he had one other creature (an Algae Gharial, I believe) in addition to his 5/3 Behemoth and his 6/6 Mycoloth. He knew he had to go for it, since my air force would be lethal next turn. In they came.


Surprise!
I played Gleam of Resistance, untapping all my guys and pumping them with a +1/+2. The Screecher chumped in front of the Mycoloth, while the Illusionist died to the Behemoth. My Sanctum Gargoyle, all buffed up, got in front of the Gharial (I didn't want to risk the drake). Only my guys died, but I didn't. Next turn, just in case he had some instant speed kill, I unearthed my Screecher, gave the Drake vigilance, and swung in. Jamie extended his hand.

Game three: win.

Match Results: 3-1-1

I couldn't believe I won. I was so excited. I needed whatever time there was between the next round just to calm down. I just beat my first pro. Yeah.

Match Six, Naya Exalted

I won the roll, and we both kept our seven. But I was about to find out that it would matter very little. I came out with a turn one Court Homonculus. He came out with a turn one Akrasan Squire. Then a turn two Sigiled Paladin. Then cluttered up the board a bit more, and dropped another Squire on turn six. I simply couldn't compete with that start, not without my Executioner's Capsule or my Resounding Silence. I did get him down to 10 life, though, before he steam rolled me with an alpha strike topped off with Sigil's Blessing

Game one: loss.

He came out a little slower this game, leading with a Valeron Outlander to counter my Capsule, into a turn three Paladin. Me, I came out slower than that. Even with the kill on the Paladin, he just made more exalted drops. I never really had a chance.

Game two: loss.

Match Results: 3-2-1

This sucked, but I didn't take it too harshly. I was bound to get a bad matchup, and this deck was my worst nightmare, since I was spot-removal light, and he was so fast. But I had to win my next match in order to make Day Two.

Match Seven, Five Colors

He won the roll and chose to draw. I had to mull to six, but I came out quick (for me) with an Illusionist, then a Screecher, and the Strider. He began to gum up the board, though, with Waveskimmer Aven and other beefy fliers that kept me from attacking. This, it also turns out, is a freaking hard match. But, Sludge Strider's triggered ability doesn't care about blockers. So I started playing Parasitic Strixes, swinging them into blockers, and resurrecting them with Sanctum Gargoyles, all the while draining life away with the Strider. The Sludge Strider got there, even when he dropped a Vein Drinker(!) near the end of the game.

I had to play smart, or else the bomb I opened, that I didn't draft, could come back to screw me over.

Game one: win.

I came out the same way in this one, and so did he, meaning he played a turn three Obelisk. Except that on turn four, he laid a Waveskimmer, and on turn five, the Drinker came down. It took a few turns for him to secure the board, but he did, and then he killed me. Drinker on turn five is a bit much for me to handle.

Game two: loss.


Not the same.
And he did the same thing this game. Really? I wanted to call a judge, and accuse him of cheating, but really that was just a manifestation of the impotent rage I felt at him getting that one card in his deck down a turn sooner than it should have been, and I knew it. But then I drew my Resounding Silence, and made the biggest noob mistake (or, maybe the second biggest, depending on how you want to rate putting Sygg in danger against the Monowhite deck). I swung in with some creatures, hoping he'd block. He did. I tried to Silence his Drinker. He got confused, and that's when I realized that Silence only hit attacking creatures. Damn. I felt pretty silly at that. Needless to say, he never risked the vampire on an attack until it didn't matter anymore, and he killed me with a Sigil's Blessing-enhanced alpha strike.

Game three: loss.

Match Results: 3-3-1

Well, that knocked me out of Day Two. How infuriating. The worst: I couldn't even blame it on luck, or on getting outplayed. There were a few mistakes I made throughout the day that contributed to me losing a game.

Stepping back, though, it's not all bad. It definitely drives home the point that I need a lot of work to be a competitor at the pro-level. Here, in Arizona, I may be able to play the way I do and still win (or do really well), but that kind play won't cut it in the big-leagues. It may be cliché, but it's still the perfect metaphor: I was a big fish in a little pond. If I want to swim in a bigger pond, I'm going to need to practice more.

Which is what I've been doing since I got back from Japan. There's a PTQ in Albequerque this weekend, and I want to qualify for Honolulu, damn it. I'll let you know how I did.

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