Better Lucky than Good Part 2: PTQ: Valencia

After going 0-3 in the Grand Prix main event, Yakov signed up for a PTQ. Will his deck have the same lack-luster performance, or will he make it all the way to the Top 8?

Round 1 vs. Vincent Johnston playing R/G/W Zoo.

I won my first die roll of the day. Vincent suspended a Greater Gargadon on turn 1, and played a Saffi Eriksdotter and a Tarmogoyf on turns 2 and 3. I also had a decent start, with turn 2 Prismatic Lens, turn 3 transmutation of Tolaria West into Pact of Negation (for the Gargadon), and a turn 4 Teferi's Moat for green. Vincent had a Mystic Enforcer on his turn 4, and sacrificed Flagstones of Trokair to cycle Edge of Autumn. The Enforcer gave him some hope of answering my Teferi's Moat, which does not stop flyers. To make things worse, my deck refused to cough up either a Temporal Isolation, a Mystical Teachings (that could fetch Isolation), or a Careful Consideration to find one of them. My only removal spell was Damnation, and with Saffi in play it clearly would not fly. Cards piled up in Vincent's graveyard thanks to Dead on his Tarmogoyf and a Call of the Herd, but he still needed three more to give himself threshold. Rather than sacrificing two lands and Tarmogoyf to his Gargadon, he chose to sacrifice Tarmogoyf, a land, and Saffi. This, of course, immediately solved my problem - I was able to kill the Enforcer with Damnation, and ride Urza's Factory to the win. After that game Vincent pointed out that he needed his third land to be able to cast spells, thus he had to sacrifice Saffi. I suppose he had no way to know that my only answer to Enforcer was Damnation. I could easily have Teachings for Isolation, in which case Saffi does him no good. But I did not, and I would have been unable to deal with the Thresholded Enforcer had he sacrificed a second land instead of Saffi. Game 2 was a battle of Vincent's beaters against my removal. He brought in Krosan Grips and was able to kill a Teferi's Moat and a Temporal Isolation on a Tarmogoyf. But Damnation, Slaughter Pacts and the murderous Tendrils of Corruption slowed him down, a chain of Teachings made sure I never ran out of removal, and I eventually mopped him up with Phyrexian Totems.

This powerful defensive enchantment
carried me to victory in many games.
Round 2 vs. Edward Dunning playing G/W aggro.

Edward had a fast start with a Tarmogoyf and a Call of the Herd. However, I was able to play a Teferi's Moat on turn 4 with the help of Calciform Pools. He tried to get around that with a Griffin Guide, but I had Damnation. The Griffin token became a target for Tendrils of Corruption, and his offense now slowed to a halt. This gave me enough time to tutor for Teferi and Triskelavus and fly over his team for the win. In Game 2 Edward's Riftsweeper and a Call of the Herd token fell to Damnation. He then went for a Mystic Enforcer, but I had Temporal Isolation. He blew up the Isolation with a Seal of Primordium, but Mystical Teachings gave me another one. He flashed back the Call, and was able to hit me with it once before I shut him down again with a Teferi's Moat. His hand was apparently full of green guys, made useless by my powerful enchantment, and he declined to commit more creatures to the table. My Teachings chain again gave me a Triskelavus and Teferi, and later a Pact of Negation to counter his next Seal of Primordium. Edward's only answer to Trike was Temporal Isolation, and Triskelavite tokens finished him off.

Round 3 vs. Jeremy Kevis playing White Weenie.

Jeremy, who lost the die roll, suspended two Shades of Trokair on turns 1 and 2. I made them useless with a turn 4 Teferi's Moat, courtesy of turn 3 Phyrexian Totem. He made a Serra Avenger and hit me with it twice while I transmuted Tolaria West for Urborg and tutored for Tendrils of Corruption. When I played the Tendrils, however, he had a Stonecloaker to bounce his Serra Avenger. This enabled him to hit me for three again, dropping me to 11. I put an end to this nonsense with Damnation. He recast the Serra Avenger, and it was Taken Possession of. When he played another Avenger, I tutored for another Tendrils, and this time it resolved. With me at 18 life and clearly in control, Jeremy scooped. In Game 2 he suspended a Knight of Sursi on turn 1 and two Duskrider Peregrines on turns 2 and 3. I could not get a Teferi early enough to prevent them from resolving, and instead played three lands and a Totem. On turn 4 Jeremy's Knight fell to a Slaughter Pact. I untapped, paid for the Pact and played another land. He hit me for three with the first Peregrine. I passed the turn with Mystical Teachings mana up. He played a Celestial Crusader at end of turn, and attacked me for ten with two Peregrines and the Crusader. I was down to seven life, but was able to tutor for Tendrils at end of turn and then sweep the board with Damnation. Jeremy tried to make a comeback with a Sacred Mesa, but I had a second Teachings to fetch a Pact of Negation. From that point on, all his creatures died to a torrent of removal before he had a chance to turn them sideways, and I eventually beat him with a Triskelavus and a Phyrexian Totem.
Total matches 3:0.

Round 4 vs. Elliott Tzaneteas playing Mono Red Aggro.

As soon as Elliott suspended a turn 1 Gargadon, I told myself that this time I just have to crush the red deck. However, his draw was utterly retarded, with a Mogg War Marshal on turn 2, a Pendelhaven on turn 3, and a second War Marshal on turn 4. I fought back as well as I could, killing one Marshal with a Teferi before casting Damnation. But even though his Gargadon got Slaughter Pacted, he had another one to render my Tendrils useless, and his surviving goblin token dealt me enough damage to bring me within burn range. In Game 2 I won in a long war of attrition, which is how this matchup is supposed to play out. Elliott had Keldon Megaliths and several times was on the verge of Disintegrating me out, but each time I was saved by a timely Aven Riftwatcher. Alas, in Game 3, I had to mulligan down to five and keep a hand with four lands and a Prismatic Lens. My deck then proceeded to give me seven more lands and a Damnation in the next eight cards. That was a shame, because Elliott was also badly mana flooded; his spells in the first six turns amounted to a Gargadon and a Magus of the Scroll. However, one of his lands was a Zoetic Cavern, and two of mine were Tolaria Wests. I transmuted the Tolarias into Slaughter Pacts and targeted his morph with one of them, saving the other one for the Gargadon. By the time I drew Damnation he was already down to only one card, and I had to cast it to kill the Magus. He finally topdecked a Tarox Bladewing, sacrificed three lands to Gargadon and attacked me with the two. I had to Slaughter the Gargadon and fall to five life, as his Morph, Magus and Megaliths had done me 11 damage by that point. I was now down to a topdeck, but instead of Damnation, Tendrils or even Mystical Teachings my deck produced a Plains. With no answer to Elliott's Megaliths and Tarox, I had to scoop.
Total matches 3:1.

Round 5 vs. Daniel Sim playing Mono Black Discard.

In Game 1, my Teferi's Moat rendered the two Nihiliths Daniel suspended on turns 2 and 3 useless. He never recovered from this setback, because both of his Tombstalkers deserted him due to a Take Possession. He had Damnation for the first one, but succumbed to the second before his Rack could finish me off. In game 2, I once again drew both of my Take Possessions, and this time used one of them to steal a crucial Urza's Factory. Daniel's offence, which consisted of Phyrexian Totem and Korlash, was stymied once more by a cruel Teferi's Moat - I had naturally brought in a fourth copy of the enchantment. He drew enough discard to make me hellbent, but did not have a Rack and was finally overrun by an endless wave of Assembly Workers. A highlight of this game was that I drew a Slaughter Pact, which I forgot to board out due to my absent-mindedness.
Total matches 4:1.

Round 6 vs. Adam T. playing Mono Blue Aggro-Control.

While Whelk is always impressive,
it really shines when you are at 3 life
and your opponent plays a Triskelavus.
As soon as we shuffled up, a judge approached and informed us that we have been selected for a deck check. Naturally, I hoped to get a free win, and naturally, this did not happen - ten minutes later the judge brought the decks back, told us that everything was correct, that we should shuffle up well and that we have a ten-minute time extension. In game 1, Adam managed to get some damage in with two early Morphs. He succeeded in resolving his Ancestral Vision by knocking out my Teferi with a flipped Vesuvan Shapeshifter. When I tried to Extirpate his Shapeshifters, he flipped his other morph into a Willbender and redirected Extirpate to my Teferi. I informed him that I still control the spell, even though it is retargeted, so he won't see my hand and I don't have to find the copies of Teferi in my deck. Adam continued the offence with a Riftwing Cloudskate. He then dropped a Triskelavus, removing four counters from a Dreadship Reef. Once Trike hit the board, I went for a Damnation, and he had a Delay. I played a second Damnation on the same turn, he answered with another Delay, but I forced my spell through with a Pact of Negation. Situations like this, when the Pact saves you from certain death, make it my favorite card in Future Sight. Adam now went through a complex procedure to recover his Triskelavus. He transmuted Tolaria West into Academy Ruins, which was useless because I had one already in play, so his land would die to legend rule before he could activate it. He then bounced my Ruins at end of my turn with Venser, Shaper Savant. On his turn, he played his Ruins and activated it before I could replay mine. This gave him a Triskelavus on top of his deck, and he beat me down from 11 to 7 life with Venser and a Cloudskate which, in the meantime, had been unsuspended. On my turn, my delayed Damnation went off suspend, but he Delayed it yet again. I played a Careful Consideration and passed. He attacked me down to 3 with Venser and Cloudskate, and dropped a Triskelavus. The Trike could kill me on the spot, because Dreadship Reefs gave Adam enough mana to immediately make three Triskelavites. But on the previous night, I had decided to play Draining Whelk over Aeon Chronicler, and that decision now paid off. I countered the Trike with a Whelk in a dramatic comeback, which made my opponent somewhat lose his cool. After untapping, I flashed back Teachings, found Tendrils of Corruption, and killed his Cloudskate with it. That put me at eleven life. He was now unable to race the gigantic Whelk, and as he drew no bounce for it, he lost the game in short order.

In game 2, Adam complained several times about how my draw was absurd. I did have a good curve - turn 2 Lens, turn 3 Careful Consideration - but in my opinion, it was nothing to write home about. I was able to stop his early offensive with spot removal, and stabilized at about 14 life. I was already preparing to take the game with the usual Teferi-Trike sequence when he Took Possession of the blue wizard. This prompted me to sweep the board with Damnation. We now entered the midgame, and while I did have a Teachings in my graveyard to search for more gas, he began to put pressure on me with an active Urza's Factory. When I transmuted Tolaria West into a Factory of my own, Adam was already two workers up, which meant I would die quickly even if I started to produce workers to trade with his. But because both games were so drawn out, time in the round was called during his turn. This meant I would have turns 1, 3, and 5, and he had two more attack steps on turns 2 and 4. He had just attacked me with two workers down to four life (on turn 0). I had plenty of land in play, and a Pact of Negation in my hand. I quickly realized that I could make the game a draw (and win the match) by flashing back Teachings for Tendrils and killing one of his workers. That would bring me to 13, and he could only deal four more damage on turn 2 and six on turn 4. If he had any trick, my Pact would take care of it. So that is what I did. And indeed, I fell to nine on his attack during turn 2. On turn 4, realizing that he could not win the game in time, Adam furiously scooped his cards. He was annoyed beyond words, because victory had again eluded him by a very slim margin.

As we were one of the last matches in the round, a crowd of onlookers gathered around our table. One of them had played next to us during the round. He now reminded us that since we had a deck check, we had a ten-minute extension and did not have to go on turns when time was called. We suddenly realized that had Adam not scooped, we could continue to play and he would almost certainly beat me. (To my protest that I had a Phyrexian Totem to cut down the number of his Workers, he answered that he had a Take Possession in his hand and could steal my Urza's Factory.) To make it worse, the judge who gave us the time extension was sitting right next to us. But when Adam asked him what we are going to do now, the judge answered, "It's your slip, not mine." I'm not sure if he meant the result slip or Adam's error. In any case, he was not going to let my opponent take back his concession. Adam now accused me of cheating: he said I had known about the time extension all along, but deliberately misled him in order to win the match unfairly. I protested my innocence, but he apparently did not believe me. I had no way to prove to him that he was wrong, and he will probably think that I am a cheater for the rest of his life. Even if I cannot convince Adam, let me repeat it here: I completely forgot about the deck check when time was called, and I was as shocked as he was when we were reminded of it.
Total matches 5:1.

Round 7 vs. Sean Vandover playing U/B/r Reanimator.

Adam concluded our encounter by saying that he rarely wishes evil to other people, but that he sincerely hoped I lost. I assume he then went to complain to the judges - I did not actually hear his conversation with the tournament staff, but he talked to them for a while. He finally vented some of his spleen by approaching our table when pairings were posted, and telling my new opponent which deck I was playing. I tried to calm myself down and prepare for the deciding battle - the winner of this match would be able to draw into the Top 8. Sean would actually have a shot even with a loss, as his record was 6-0-1. I asked him if his draw was intentional, and he told me it was not - he had drawn in round 2 and won out since then. I took it as a poor sign, because control decks are the ones that draw most often. Sean probably had been wrecking control decks all day long, which was very unfortunate since I was playing one. In addition, Sean had a City Champion title to match mine - he had emerged on top of the competition in Baltimore, where he lived.

In Game 1, I had a hand with lots of mana acceleration - turn 2 Lens, turn 3 Totem and Lens - and a Take Possession. As it turned out, that was all it took to win. Sean had a turn 3 Bonded Fetch and a turn 4 Dread Return for Akroma, Angel of Wrath. He hit me with her for six, but I Took Possession of her and hit him back for six. Short on useful spells, he played a Careful Consideration. I smashed him with Akroma and the Totem, down to 3. His reanimation targets at that point were all red, and he had no way to avoid dying to his own Akroma on my next attack. Game 2 was a long chain of one-for-one exchanges. Sean's Looter got hit by a Temporal Isolation, a Bonded Fetch took a Slaughter Pact, and his Dread Return and a Body Double met a Cancel and a Pact of Negation. His next Body Double also got Cancelled - I had seven mana already and could cast Teachings for the other Cancel in my deck. He now started to play draw-go, while I began to launch the Teachings engine. By the time he dropped another Bonded Fetch I already had Teferi and Trike and could gun down the Fetch with Triskelavites. Sean tried to save the situation with yet another Body Double, but I sealed the game with a Mystical Teachings flashback for the other Pact of Negation.
Total matches 6:1.

When standings after round 7 were posted, I found myself in the third place. I have a rule that says never draw if you're not sure of making Top 8 with a draw. But with my tiebreaks this high I was practically certain that I could afford to draw in, and my only concern was being paired down - also unlikely with high tiebreaks.

Round 8 vs. Tai Scharfe playing R/G Storm.

Tai was on top of the standings after round 7 - he was the only player with a 6-0-1 record, everyone else had at least one loss. I lost no time in offering him an intentional draw into Top 8. But he pointed out that he had no reason to draw, since his sky-high tiebreaks meant he would be in even if he lost to me. If I were his friend, he would draw, said he. But since this was the first time we met, he was going to start Game 1 and see what deck I was playing. If it was a good matchup for him, he would give me the draw, because then he would want me to be in Top 8. But if it was a bad matchup, he would try to knock me out, to avoid losing to me in single elimination. I had to admit that this was a sound plan, though it seemed very cynical from where I was sitting.

Tai opened Game 1 with a suspended Lotus Bloom, and a suspended Search for Tomorrow on turn 2. As soon as he saw my River of Tears and Prismatic Lens, he announced that the matchup was pretty bad, and he was going to play it out. I let out a sigh of resignation and played another land. On turn 4, the Search gave Tai five lands, and he played a Chromatic Star and an Empty the Warrens for eight goblins. But I had a Teferi's Moat for Red, nullifying his threat. He committed a Grinning Ignus to the table, paving the way for a huge storm count, but the fiery beast fell to Damnation. Tai then prepared to go off again, suspending a Bloom and a Search on consecutive turns, but both cards were locked in limbo by the mighty Mage of Zhalfir. He was now out of gas, and on a clock from my Urza's Factory, so he soon surrendered.

As we went for our sideboards before game 2, Tai suddenly announced that he did not want me to see his sideboard tech, in case it would help me in Top 8, so he was now willing to give me the draw. This did not make sense to me - he had nothing to lose by playing game 2 without sideboarding. But, of course, I did not argue. There was no point in me telling him that he'll have to win game 2 before we ID. As we both knew, he would make Top 8 no matter what and I stood to lose everything. We filled the slip as an intentional draw, and after making doubly sure that it was ok with Tai, I turned it in.
Total matches 6:1:1.

I was practically sure of making Top 8. Every time this happens to me I get extremely nervous, even though I had already top-eighted five PTQs. I kept pacing up and down the great convention center, and finally did ten push-ups right there on the floor to burn at least some of the adrenaline racing in my blood.

When final standings were announced, the judge started to read them from the bottom up, and I was pretty worried when he got to fourth place without reading my name. But that lasted only a brief instant - it turned out that I came in second. Of the eight people with 6-1-1 records, only one did not make Top 8. Elliott Tzaneteas, to whom I had lost in Round 4, fought his way to the Top 8. Tai, with his two draws, was in a predictable first place. I saw him just before the start of the quarterfinals, and pointed out that his Round 8 plan will probably be irrelevant. Since we were in different brackets, there was only one chance in sixteen that we would face each other again.

Quarterfinals versus Eugene Poon playing R/G Big Mana.

Eugene said before his match that this was the first time he’d made Top 8 in a PTQ. He was very friendly, and I calmed down somewhat. In game 1, I kept a hand with five lands, Phyrexian Totem, and Damnation. Some people say that this is your dream hand in a control mirror match. I think it is terrific in any matchup, because Damnation will let you survive the initial assault, and by the mid-game you will have plenty of time to draw business spells. I would much rather be mana flooded with my deck than mana screwed. Considering what happened in the game, my opening hand was just perfect.

Eugene began by suspending a Search for Tomorrow. On turn 2, he had nothing, but on turn 3 he played a Mwonvuli Acid-Moss. I laid another land. He had a new Acid-Moss. I again played a land, unable to get to enough mana to cast the Totem. Fortunately, Eugene now gave me a break, playing Harmonize. I played a third land and was able to cast my first spell of the game, the Phyrexian Totem. But he got back to business, blowing up my Urborg with a maindeck Avalanche Riders (!) and Harmonizing once more. However, my deck produced a constant stream of lands and mana-producing artifacts. Not only did I play a new land, I also dropped a Prismatic Lens.

Eugene did not pay the echo, and now had another Acid-Moss and another Riders, bringing me down to four mana sources. I could only watch in amazement, but was still able to play a replacement Urborg on my next turn. He paid echo for his new Riders, and I pointed Tendrils at them, going back to 19 life. He then cast his third Harmonize and passed. I laid yet another land - I had not missed a land drop in nine turns - and now had a Draining Whelk ready to ambush whatever he played next. He had insane amounts of mana not only from his Acid-Mosses, but also from Fungal Reaches, which he was able to charge in addition to blowing up my lands.

Akroma put me on the brink of disaster.
Eugene now went for a mighty Spectral Force, and I responded with a Draining Whelk. He misplayed by not playing a Bogardan Hellkite with the Whelk's ability on the stack. Maybe he did not understand exactly how the Whelk is different from, say, Scab-Clan Mauler. In any case, he waited for me to attack with a 6/6 Whelk, and played a Hellkite only then, dealing 1 to the Whelk and 4 to me. At 15 life, I destroyed the Hellkite with a Slaughter Pact before it could block my attacker.

Undaunted, my opponent played a face-up Akroma, Angel of Fury. I untapped, paid for the Pact and considered my options. With no Damnation or Tendrils and only four mana open, I decided not to cast Careful Consideration. He had enough red mana to pump Akroma to lethal damage, but I hoped he would not do it if I left some lands untapped. On his turn Eugene smashed me with the Angel of Fury. My Draining Whelk and Temporal Isolation were both the wrong colors, and I had to take the damage. He had four Mountains, six Forests, a Fungal Reaches with three charge counters, and a Fungal Reaches with one charge counter. His correct play, of course, was to charge up one Fungal Reaches (tapping a Forest), and then use green mana to pay for the Fungal Reaches' ability. That would give him nine red mana, which he could use to pump Akroma enough times to deal lethal damage. He probably did not realize that he does not need to tap the Reaches to use its third ability, so he just pumped Akroma with four Mountains and one Fungal Reaches (the one with one counter), and dealt me only 11 damage. He then dropped a Wall of Roots and said go. I cast a Careful Consideration EOT, and found a Mystical Teachings. On my turn, I used the Teachings to find Tendrils and deal exactly 6 damage to Akroma. Eugene's new Spectral Force then got shut down by a Temporal Isolation, and a few more Draining Whelk swings gave me the win.

Game 2 was not nearly as epic: Eugene had only one land destruction spell (though he did have it on turn 3), and his Spectral Force and a morphed Akroma were answered by Damnation and a Slaughter Pact. His deck gave him an incredibly long stream of land, and by turn 6 or 7 I was already beating him down with a Phyrexian Totem and sitting on a Cancel and a Pact of Negation. The Searches for Tomorrow and Walls of Roots that he drew in the last turns did not help.
Total matches 7:1:1.

Semifinals vs. Adam Yurchik playing U/G Shapeshifter.

Unlike my quarterfinals opponent, Adam had over twenty PTQ Top 8-s on his belt, and had played on the Pro Tour seven times. A friend of mine told me before the Top 8 that this was the only famous player in Top 8, and I was sorely disappointed to see him in my bracket. Game 1 went back and forth a number of times; Adam eventually ran out of gas, but sought to draw more cards by suspending two back-to-back Aeon Chroniclers. I used this opportunity to cast a Teferi unhindered, and was preparing to unleash an EOT Triskelavus when he stole Teferi with Take Possession. I played Trike next turn at sorcery speed, but it got copied by a face-up Shapeshifter. This prompted me to sweep the board with Damnation, drop one Phyrexian Totem and attack him with another one, which I had already in play. He now played a Venser and bounced one of my charged-up Calciform Pools. I sent the Totems in again, and he did not block - I now had ten lands and could easily afford to sacrifice two. On his next turn, he tried to defend against the Totems by playing a morphed Thelonite Hermit, unmorphing it when I sent the Negators in. But I had a Slaughter Pact (I could also tutor for it with a flashbacked Teachings) to knock out the Hermit and trample through for the win.

In Game 2, I had an early Damnation and a turn 5 Triskelavus, thanks to Pools and Prismatic Lens. But Adam's two morphs turned out to be a Hermit and a Shapeshifter, and though I shot them both immediately with Triskelavites, the eight Saprolings proved impossible to overcome. (I also made an error - I tutored for Tendrils, which did not give me enough life back even to survive Adam's next swing. I should have gone for a Careful Consideration instead, hoping to find Damnation. But since Adam had a Delay to protect his throng, my misplay was irrelevant.) However, Game 3 was a war of attrition, pure and simple, and my deck has an inherent advantage in such a war. Adam was also flooded with extra mana, and unable to put enough pressure on me. He had a minor success on his turn 5, when I tried to play Teferi on his upkeep to prevent a suspended Riftwing Cloudskate from being played. Adam had a Venser, Shaper Savant to bounce my spell. But from then on it went downhill for him. His Cloudskate, Venser and a Wall of Roots were swept away by Damnation, his Aeon Chronicler got Pulled from Eternity, and his three morphs - a Willbender and two Vesuvan Shapeshifters - were all Slaughtered in cold blood by my Pacts (with the help of Teachings). After drawing several lands he had two more Aeon Chroniclers to suspend. But by the time he suspended the second one he was already facing a Teferi, a Triskelavus and an active Phyrexian Totem. The extra cards he drew did not give him a way to stop this formidable team.
Total matches 8:1:1.

Finals vs. Tai Scharfe playing R/G Storm.

The player I faced in the finals was none other than my round 8 opponent. Even though there was only one chance in sixteen that we would actually face each other, he and I both came out on top of our respective brackets. Tai won the die roll, and his first play was a suspended Search for Tomorrow on turn 2. I spent the early game developing my mana. On turn 4, his Search resolved, giving Tai his fifth land. He then played a Summoner's Pact, finding an Essence Warden, then the Essence Warden, and finally Empty the Warrens for eight goblins. Unfortunately for him, I again had a Teferi's Moat to neutralize that threat.

Tai then proceeded to charge at me with the Essence Warden. After taking two points of damage, I ambushed the Elf with a Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. Teferi immediately died to a Rift Bolt from Tai, who also committed a Grinning Ignus to the board. I swept the Ignus and the goblins away with Damnation. His next Ignus fell to a Tendrils of Corruption, which sent me to a lofty 24 life. Tai then went into a draw-go mode for several turns. I used that breathing space to tutor for my other Teferi, play that Teferi, and transmute a Tolaria West into the Pact of Negation. In short, I took control of the game and was poised to finish him off in a few attack steps, in spite of him being at 29 life from the Essence Warden.

This centerpiece of the storm deck
let down its pilot in the final match.
But Tai was not done yet. He had access to plenty of mana, and he finally had drawn enough gas to go off a second time. He played a Wall of Roots, then a Summoner's Pact for a second Wall of Roots. He then dropped the second Wall and targeted me with four copies of Ignite Memories. My hand at that point was a Pact of Negation, a Take Possession, and Triskelavus, and I had nine mana on the table. I used that mana to flash out the Triskelavus. Since I was at 24 life, Tai would have to hit Take Possession with all four copies of Ignite Memories to kill me that turn, so there was only one chance in sixteen that he would succeed. I put my cards face down on the table, and Tai proceeded to roll a six-sided die. We agreed that an odd number represents the left card (Take Possession), and an even one means the right one (Pact of Negation). Then I watched in horror as Tai rolled three odd numbers for his first three copies of Ignite Memories, reducing me from 24 to a bare three life.

I now made my biggest blunder of the tournament. Even the smallest child knows that the storm copies of a spell don't resolve all at once. They resolve one by one, and I get priority in between the resolutions. With the fourth copy of Ignite Memories on the stack, the only right play for me is to counter it with Pact of Negation. This way I survive the turn for sure, otherwise I have a 50-50 chance of losing the game right there. But, tired as I was, I did not realize that, and let the fourth copy resolve. It is situations like this that make me realize how terrible I am at Magic. I'm sure there are plenty of better players who would have seen that play. And I'm also sure there are lots of worse players, who would not see the play even in retrospect, and who would later curse their bad luck - after all, their opponent had only a 1/16 chance to kill them, and did it - never realizing that they just threw the game away.

So, in short, I deserved to lose the game outright. But either my lucky star came online, or the curse of my Round 6 opponent backfired. Whatever the reason, Tai rolled an even number for his fourth copy of Ignite Memories, revealed my Pact of Negation, and dealt zero damage to me. I survived the barrage at a precarious three life. But Tai was now out of gas again, unable to deal me any more damage, and I quickly fetched a Tendrils to gain nine life by killing his Wall. A few turns later he succumbed to the beatdown of Teferi and Triskelavus.

Not surprisingly, Tai chose to go first in game 2. His first turn featured a suspended Lotus Bloom. On turn 2, he suspended two Searches for Tomorrow. He dropped a Wall of Roots on his third turn, while I played my first spell of the game, a Phyrexian Totem. On turn 4, Tai resolved the Bloom and two Searches, then played his sixth land. He now had access to ten mana. He used five of it to play and bounce a Grinning Ignus five times, and the remaining five to hit me with an immense Ignite Memories for nine. It only took six copies to drop me to a negative life total. Turn four wins are almost unheard of in Time Spiral Block Constructed, yet Tai managed to pull one off with his lightning-fast deck.

Going first in the all-important Game 3, I mulliganed to six, and kept a hand with a Slaughter Pact, Damnation, Phyrexian Totem and three lands. Tai played a Chromatic Star and suspended a Lotus Bloom on turn one, but he had no follow-up on turns 2 and 3 - his draw was not as absurd as in the previous game. I spent my turns 3 and 4 playing a Phyrexian Totem and transmuting Tolaria West into Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. On turn 4, after playing Lotus Bloom and a fourth land, Tai filtered his Star, played and replayed Grinning Ignus, and then targeted me with another Ignite Memories for four. But this time his deck's key spell was not as good as before. My hand was now Urborg, Damnation, Slaughter Pact and a Tendrils of Corruption, so he could deal me only 16 damage even in the best-case scenario. He actually revealed a Tendrils, an Urborg, and a Pact of Slaughter twice, and was able to hit me for only four.

At sixteen life, I fought back by attacking Tai with a Phyrexian Totem. He took a turn to Harmonize. My deck wouldn't produce any blue cards that give me card advantage - I had drawn a second Damnation and another land since Ignite Memories resolved. With little else to do, I attacked Tai with a Totem down to 10. Having refilled his hand with Harmonize, Tai proceeded to play a sixth land, a Wall of Roots, a Chromatic Star and an Empty the Warrens for six goblins. But I had the answer - I played my seventh land, swept the board with Damnation, and attacked him with the Totem down to five. On the ropes now, Tai filtered his Star and played a Search for Tomorrow, followed by Empty the Warrens for only four Goblins. But I dropped my other Damnation with a roar, and a fourth swing of the Phyrexian Totem earned me an invitation to Pro Tour - Valencia.
Total matches 9:1:1.

The moral of the story: first, luck reigns supreme in Magic. I lost several matches to less experienced players on Saturday, and won on Sunday in spite of making numerous blunders.

Second, don't judge your deck on a poor record from one tournament. Two or three matches are not a representative selection.

And third, a player who persists in the face of defeats and does not get discouraged will almost always get his reward in the long run.

I am very grateful to Jim Pirkey, Anthony Alario, Brian Siu, and Mike Visconti for waiting for me to finish single elimination. It cost them a night's sleep - we drove from 11pm to about six in the morning, arriving in Boston well after sunrise.


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