Don't you hate those pretentious Magic articles by pseudo-famous Magic players who describe their latest Magic win? Articles packed with made-up test results, incorrect analyses and game tips that don't work? Ringing a bell, Bennie Smith? Well, this article is something completely different. This is a story of shame, humiliation and not top decking swamps. After enjoying psychological help for three weeks I am now ready to tell you the truth about my performance at the Betrayers of Kamigawa prerelease in Utrecht. It's an uncensored look at a bad day in the life of an average magic player. Or in this case: me.
Prerelease day: the Facts
A pretty decent bomb, amirite?
A pretty decent bomb, amirite?
I hate pre-release day. You might wonder why. Well, it’s basically because I’m without a doubt the worst sealed player in the world. No, really, I am. I’m not sure why, but I always fail harder at every Sealed event than when Ashley Simpson sings without a tape recorder. I have no problem playing Constructed or drafting B/R Devouring.dec, but I have never gotten a break during Sealed tournaments. This is why every time Bram Snepvangers puts a little carton box and two or three boosters on my table, a weird feeling of fear and anticipation goes through my body.
The bad vibe always starts right away. I hate getting up early, but I despise getting up in the middle of the night because my friends want to leave "on time." After standing under the shower for a half hour, I will need at least three cups of coffee to not fall asleep on the couch. My eyes hate me for bothering them with contacts after only a few hours of sleep and I spend way more time on my hair than I should for a Magic tournament.
Already behind schedule, I desperately search in the pile of trash I call my room for sleeves, lands and other things that I should have packed the day before. The bike ride in the rain to my friend’s house is a bit better than it should be because of the soothing sound of Blur’s Think Tank, but nothing can help with the eternally lasting car ride to the prerelease. You thought "On the road" was fun? Well I'm no Jack Kerouac and I'm certainly not traveling with Dean Moriarty.
When I finally arrive at the place and sit down I just hope that this time is going to be different. I cross my fingers, pray to the atheist god, and talk loving words to my unopened product. Obviously, none of it helps though. You can hear baby Jesus cry in the background as I slowly try to tear the plastic seal from my tournament pack. And don't get me started about the boosters; even a shot of Prozac will not make them look any better.
I’m sure they are making fun of me. And by "they" I mean the boosters and the boxes. I expect that Carta Mundi has a very special print sheet just for me. The bomb cards, if I am lucky enough to pull one, are always in colors with only filler cards. The removal, if there is any, is never in the same colors as the creatures. Sakura-Tribe Elder, Kodoma’s Reach, or any other decent manafixer always seems to take the day off to go to the zoo instead of making an appearance in my sealed pools. Basically, I have had a great record of bad two color decks without removal or three color decks without mana fixing. Most of the time when I’m writing up and sleeving my cards, 12 year olds will point and laugh. Reminding me once again why I hate prerelease day so so very much.
But there is still hope, isn’t there?
Maybe this pre-release is going to be different? I have drafted quite a lot of Champions of Kamigawa; I should at least know enough of the format to make something decent out of almost every pile of horse feces Wizards throws at me. Looking at this cardpool, it seems that it isn’t even that bad this time. I have some decent removal like Glacial Ray. I have a nice bomb, and although my deck is light on creatures, the removal should give me some time. The splashed flyers are hard to cast, but fat. Although the deck doesn’t look that great, I might be able to put the opponents straight who laugh at the pitiful Bile Urchins I have to play as "early treats." You have to have faith right? My friends assure me that my deck isn’t that bad and I might even have a chance. So, confidence is high when I’m walking to table 2 where my first opponent awaits.
I sit down and take some time to look around the tables. I find that world champion Julien Nuijten is playing on the table besides me. I also notice that I forgot to bring my Discman, an observation of obvious higher importance. How must I now spend the precious time between matches without The Smiths, The Velvet Underground, Bright Eyes or Tortoise? I mean, how can I now get into character, Mr. Strasberg? Anyway, my opponent(s) finally find(s) our table after coming to the brilliant deduction that table 2 is probably somewhere near the beginning of the hall. So let the showdown begin!
Genjus going commando
Big beatings in the bushes
Big beatings in the bushes
Did I say opponents? I meant a player and his mentor. Apparently, my opponent "hadn’t really played any 'real’ Magic yet… but had played a bit online... He isn’t very good… but his friend would help him out with shuffling and stuff… etc etc"
Holy bye Batman! These points are in the bag!! I might even make it in time to see the remainder of the Nuijten match. Confidence is consolidated and I start shuffling my deck as affectionately as a straight man possibly can. Somewhere during this, my opponent was taught how to pile shuffle, but I didn’t notice as I was already dreaming about the second round and wondering where the hell I left my Discman.
The first game starts off pretty boring until I play a Blademane Baku on turn 3. I start thinking about attacking with one of my useless crap weenies when I notice something between the bushes. Well technically they were mountains, but you understand my metaphor right? “What’s that under your pile of lands?” I ask as friendly as I can, while wondering if this sentence could ever be successfully used as a pickup line. “A Genju of the Spires, it’s a enchant mount….” He replies “I know what it does, where did that thing came from?” I cry out, forgetting about the pickup line issue. My opponent and his friend assure me he had played it last turn.
Apparently I’m both deaf and blind, but I guess I’m probably not awake enough to look beyond the cards on my side. Still, it’s always nice when Genjus start falling out of the sky; that sort of thing can really add sunlight to a cloudy day. Anyway, I won’t bother with the rest of the game, because six chump blocks later my opponent was still drawing mountains and shortly after my last creature hit the dust he yet again had time to learn how to pile shuffle.
At this point I’m more then slightly disappointed by my own playing and more so by the irritating interruptions by my opponent's mentor figure. I watch him like a hawk for something which justifies calling a judge, but sadly nothing comes up. In an atmosphere that makes the Munich conference look like a good ol’ great time, the second game starts and my deck finally shows its real face. While my draw in the first game was quite decent, I was just a bit unlucky with the continuing beats from the Genju of the Spires. The second draw is typical for most of my draws for the remainder of the tournament: depressingly craptastic. I probably even mulliganed a bit for that game, but I couldn’t stop my creature-light deck from taking some early hits before Genju of the Fens (which by the way isn’t all that in a three color deck) finally stabilizes the game. It doesn't matter though as I fail to draw any other creature or removal spells and eventually his creatures take me down to zero.
Ok that was a bit of a disappointment
It’s now clear that my deck sucks major balls (Editors Note - Might reword that slightly. We might have young'ins reading. You know, like the opponents you lost to). My cards are evenly divided among the three colors. I don’t have enough creatures, and the good ones I do have are are splashed in and all cost two colored mana or more. These are all classic deck building mistakes which I probably should have avoided. Therefore I deserved the beating I had just received, although a look through the rest of my card pool doesn’t point to a better post-sideboard deck. I'm pretty unhappy with the deck, but If crap is all you have to work with you shouldn’t complain about the smell. After a short pep talk in the bathroom mirror, or the Magic synonym “a short lunch”, I pull myself together and decide that I’m still going to get a decent result with this mana-challenged deck.
Not to the fetus, dear God no!
My next match is at table 50 something and my spirit has recovered. This time around a few players I know are sitting in the chairs around me. My opponent is a bit late, but when he shows I don’t even care. It’s some eight year old kid two booster boxes tall who pile shuffles his cards face up. Call it naivety, call it arrogance, but I decide that I’m not going to lose to this fetus. C’mon, the “Curse of the Sealed Deck” has to end somewhere, and this seems to be the perfect time. Still although the guys next to me already want to high five, I’m not making the same mistake again. And to be frank I’m a bit afraid of the little dwarf. Children scare me, children playing Magic double so.
The game starts out pretty good for me and I do some early damage with my weenies. He gets some big beasts and things gets messy when he plays Tomorrow, Azami’s Familiar, which not only is quite huge, but also does creepy things when combo'd with card drawers like Petals of Insight. I manage to Ninjutsu an Ink-Eyes into play, but his card advantage and the creatures that follow as a result prove to be too much. He kills me with his creature flood. At the table beside me people try not to laugh out loud…
My kingdom for a Swamp!
I’m now getting a bit desperate, but my starting hand for the second game actually looks decent. I have some red burn spells, enough lands, and a lot of quality black creatures like Ink-Eyes and Nezumi Cutthroat. The prospect of a Fear creature in combination with a Ninjutsu bomb against a U/W deck seems enough reason to keep this hand. I use my early creatures and removal spells to stall a bit while the Fear Rat hits every turn. It’s all fun until my opponent's bigger creatures start trashing the party and I still haven’t drawn the second swamp I need for Ink-Eyes. To make the situation even worse, the rest of my hand also needs that second black mana. Gems like Hired Muscle, big black spirits and Ink-Eyes all are waiting to boogie, but can’t because of the stupid mana issue. In the meanwhile, I’m getting beat like Jared Leto in Fight Club, but I topdeck nothing even remotely similar to a swamp. With my head now placed firmly on the table, I flip my hand to the players at the table beside me who nod in understanding, but still have trouble not bursting into laughter while the kid opposite me almost dies of ADHD and forgets steps and phases left and right. I’m desperately yelling at my stack of cards and pray for a swamp, but the kid adds insult to injury and plays The White Dragon. I haven’t completely given up hope though. I have more than enough swamps in the deck and if I draw that second swamp I could Ninjutsu the Ninja and stabilize by stealing a flyer. I just need to find that second swamp before time runs out.
The turns roll by and I have one last chance. It all comes down to this final draw. Silence surrounds the table as I pray and whine for a swamp. One swamp isn’t to much to ask, right? C’mon I can’t really lose to this fetus! A swamp, a swamp, my kingdom for a swamp! With all my hopes and dreams depending on this draw I breathlessly put my fingers around the top card of my deck and in slow motion I turn it around. It is….
Well obviously it wasn’t a swamp, but three weeks later the wounds finally have healed and I don’t wake up in the middle of the night anymore. I’m almost able to leave the house again. Overall, the Utrecht pre-release was a lot of fun, notwithstanding the Sealed tournament experience of course.
After the fetus thing, I finished up playing a pretty decent match against a U/W deck and then 0-3 dropped to draft in a side event.
So looking back the prerelease was hardly successful for me, but please check back. Next time I will discuss my road to GP Eindhoven. It's a story about playtesting, or the lack thereof, questing the globe in search for a couple of Intuitions and whining to get the day off from work. Hooked yet? Well I’m not, but I’m still hopeful I will not 0-3 drop for the second time in a row.
For the tl;dr people:
Sneaky went 0-3 at the Utrecht pre-release and rants for 2.300 words about it.