Recently, I had the good fortune to spend a would be lazy Saturday at the Magic BC (Bellevue College) Club’s Winter Tournament. I figure this is a day worth recounting; not only was it the most Magic related fun I’ve had in awhile, but hopefully the idea will catch on elsewhere and we can see more events like this in the future. Here’s the official announcement on our local Magic forum, Northwest Magic .
For those of you too lazy to click the link and read, it's 8-mans in basically any format you want, firing all day long in real life. That’s every bit as awesome as it sounds. As soon as you can get 8 people to sign up and pay, off you go to play a single elimination tournament. There were queues for Standard, Scars draft, RGD draft, 2HG sealed, Scars of Mirrodin sealed, Rise of the Eldrazi Draft, EDH and Legacy.
Adding to the fun, there was also a point system in place where you got 5 victory points for winning an 8-man queue, 3 points for second and 1 point just for entering (these were also the Scars booster pack prizes as well). The top 8 players with the most points by 6:00PM that evening got to do a free Urza’s Saga draft for more packs and prizes and places 9-16 got a free Ravnica-Guildpact-Dissension draft. The prize support for these events was very generous.
Now, the best way to take advantage of the system and be most likely to make money is to simply grind Constructed events all day. This is because all of the events had the same victory points awarded as well as booster packs for prizes. Since the constructed events were only $5, the drafts $15, and sealed even more, you could realistically spend $20-25 for a bunch of packs and a free Urza’s Saga draft. So if one were to look for maximum EV, then that’s clearly the plan.
I decided it would be more fun to mix things up and do some drafts, plus my column is supposed to mainly focus on Limited so I really couldn’t write about this if I played Standard all day. To briefly touch on the Constructed portion of my day, I simply played Valakut Ramp in two queues, splitting the finals of one and winning the other. I just recently picked up Valakut after being against playing it for so long (because it’s non-interactive, any idiot can play it, etc.). All I’m going to say is I haven’t won so much with a deck with so little effort.
As for the drafts, I did three Scars of Mirrodin drafts over the course of the day. In the first draft, I recognized 3 other drafters and figured the table was half inexperienced drafters. I cracked my first pack which contained Darksteel Axe, Arrest, Skinrender, Grasp of Darkness and, I believe, a Myrsmith. It was a very powerful pack to be sure, but I picked the Skinrender without too much thought. It’s a good thing I didn’t take the White cards, because White was cut hard from my right.
I took Cystbearer second out of a horrible pack and after that, the packs just got horrendously bad, and there were no more poison cards. We were all complaining good-naturedly to one another about the awful cards we were picking. The second pack had a Tempered Steel staring back at me in the rare slot. I had zero White cards at this point, so there was no way I was taking it. Ben Konrady, to my right, lit up like a Christmas Tree when he saw my little gift.
Early in pack 2, I took a Chrome Steed over a Furnace Celebration, figuring it might come back. In the coming packs I picked up a second Vulshok Replica, a Neurok Replica and a Culling Dais. When I saw a second Furnace Celebration, I took it. Sadly, the one I passed did not come back. But by the end of pack two, I had settled into a R/u Metalcraft deck.
I opened an Arc Trail to kick off pack 3, a welcome sight to be sure. Ben was agonizing over his pack and eventually passed it with a pained expression on his face. I looked at the pack and found a Hoard-Smelter Dragon staring back at me! I couldn’t windmill slam that one fast enough. Actually, I’ve been more careful with windmill slams since a few years ago, I showed up to a Champions of Kamigawa draft more than a little tipsy and accidentally windmilled the Kokusho, the Evening Star I opened back into the pack (instead of into my draft pile) and passed it.
Anyway, the rest of pack 3 was unremarkable, but I found myself at 21 playable cards because of the miserable pack 1. I decided to play two off-color Spellbombs because I needed the artifacts for Metalcraft, and I could also use them to fling with Barrage Ogre or to fire up Furnace Celebration.
None of the games I played were that interesting though. I played against fellow PTQ warrior Colin McCune round 1, who didn’t play any creatures in game 1, and in game 2 I just played the Dragon and it won the game by itself. In round 2, my opponent was playing R/B Aggro and was flooded out both games. I just played a Neurok Replica and his entire deck couldn’t get around it. Game 1 I went crazy with Furnace Celebration, and in game 2 Hoard-Smelter Dragon did what he always does and won the game for me. I split with Ben in the finals.
After taking down my first Standard queue, I decided to don the draft hat and battle with 40 cards again, Scars style. Ben also joined me in this draft (I faced him in the Standard 8 man also, I think I might have a stalker...) as well as Matt Hague, who had ridden up here with me. This deck was quite a bit better than my first one: I started with an Oxidda Scrapmelter over nothing, but the Red and the White were cut hard so I wound up splashing the Scrapmelter in a U/B control deck (with the help of a Blackcleave Cliffs). I had no rares, but my 40-card pile did feature the Red creature plus Skinrender, Volition Reins, x2 Grasp of Darkness, Darksteel Axe, as well as some Darkslick Drakes and Sky Eel Schools.
I built my deck next to Matt, and he showed me the Hoard-Smelter Dragon and Sunblast Angel he picked up. Obviously, we battled first round. I’ll make a long story short and just say I played terribly, punting both games. I threw away game one by attacking with my Moriok Replica. He blocked with a Perilous Myr and a 1/1 Myr via Origin Spellbomb. The attack wasn’t the mistake. What WAS a mistake was not sacrificing the Replica to draw two cards. Instead, I let him kill it and then the Perilous Myr took out my Palladium Myr. A couple turns later he played a Golem Artisan I couldn’t deal with and I lost.
Game two, I started out strong again, but this time Matt had his little Red Dragon that could. I hit it with Skinrender to shrink it to a 2/2. My plan was then to sac Neurok Replica and return the Skinrenderto my hand and finish off the Dragon. I decided to wait until his end step to bounce it. On his turn, he played a post combat Flameborn Hellion. I don’t bounce my Skinrender as planned. Instead I untap, and send both my guys in; after all the 5/4 couldn’t block…right?
I just ran it right into his Hellion and he mulched my 3/3. Turns out it’s not Iron-Barb Hellion and, unlike his Mirrodin cousin, it CAN block. I can’t finish the Dragon off anymore and it took over the game and killed me pretty much by itself. Inexcusable.
One of my biggest weaknesses as a player is I think and process information very fast. I go with what ‘feels’ right. Most of the time, my instinct is correct. But I don’t slow down to consider other plays and sometimes, like a lemming, I march right off a cliff without thinking. Have you ever watched the pros do video drafts? They usually stop at key moments and walk through all possible options, and at times they even change what they initially planned to do based on this analysis. I don’t do this nearly often enough. Oh well, time to shake off the cobwebs and go do battle once more.
For the final draft, it was a $30 Scars of Mirrodin draft where the prizes were doubled and the winner got a box. I drafted a solid but unspectacular R/W Metalcraft deck. The only interesting choice was pick 1 pack 1 where I had to choose between Revoke Existence and True Conviction. In a vacuum, the rare is the better card, but I’m not too excited about first-picking a card with triple White in its cost. I conservatively drafted the removal spell and found a foil True Conviction for my fourth pick. Since I had an Arrest and an Origin Spellbomb at this point, I felt safe in taking it. Unfortunately, I lost in the first round to G/B Infect. My deck was a little slow game 1, and he killed me turn 6. Game 2 he curved out on me again and, once again, I was dead by turn 6. It wasn’t even remotely close.
The clock struck 4:15, and at 6:00 sharp the judges would count up all points and determine the top 16. At this moment I had 11 points, and I needed a few more to make sure I was in the top 8, as a lot of people had 12-13 points. I joined the next Standard queue with Valakut. By 5:20, I had won both my matches and made the finals. All I have to do is hope the other semi-final bracket finishes by 6:00 so I can offer the split and, barring that, just concede and get my 3 points for second place.
Instead of watching the semifinals match and agonizing over something I have no control over, I decided instead to farm alchemy materials in Dragon Quest IX. I can’t play the game for 2 minutes without glancing up at the clock and then at the two opponents, just having a grand ole time, playing SOOOOO SLOWLY!! I’m in my own personal hell at this point. I want to run over and scream to them PLAY FASTER YOU IDIOTS!
Of course they are perfectly nice guys and are not idiots at all, but at that particular moment those two guys were frustrating me to no end through no fault of their own. Yeah, I was taking this a bit too seriously, especially for an event that’s meant to be casual and fun. I got a little carried away in my mind.
Obviously, they finish at 6:05, so the victory points from this event doesn’t count. I play the finals while the judges are adding up the points and I beat my finals opponent in ten minutes. I ended up with the 15th most points, which got me top 16 and I got to draft Ravnica-Guildpact-Dissension. As I sat down, I realized all the ringers are in the Urza’s Saga draft and there are only three people in our pod who have even drafted this set before; me, Ben and Grant Bolanos.
This is easily my favorite block to draft and I could write an entire article on drafting this set, but to make this short, RGD is very hostile to players who haven’t drafted it. The set is slow and very card advantage based. Furthermore, the guild system demands you are three colors and most novices to this format will gravitate toward a two color deck. Since most of the best cards are guild based, they miss out on at least one pack’s worth of the best cards and their deck is often much lower quality.
Also, Blue is easily the best color, so I want to be any 3 color combination with Blue in it that has a guild in all three sets, with one exception. Red/Blue/Green doesn’t get a guild in Ravnica, but it’s generally considered the strongest three color combination. You don’t get a guild in the first pack, but the mono colored cards are good enough to get you through. When drafting with a table of people who know what they are doing, I try to avoid it and go into Grixis colors or Esper.
This wasn't one of those tables.
I started the draft off correctly. In my opening pack I see Compulsive Research, Last Gasp, Faiths Fetters and Tolsimir Wolfblood. The latter is easily the strongest card in the pack and is a veritable bomb. The problem is I don’t want to be Green/White since it is a pretty weak color combination and sets you up for disaster in the later packs. I think about it for three seconds and just take the Blue card. I slowly settle into a Blue/Black/White (Esper) deck.
The second pack saw me open these cards in the following order: Pillory of the Sleepless, Pillory of the Sleepless, Mortify, Orzhov Pontiff. I had forgotten that the Pontiff isn’t as good in RGD as it would be in Scars, since there are far fewer one toughness creatures in Ravnica. In the Dissension pack I picked up a bunch of fliers and a couple of Plumes of Peace to round out my deck. All told, it was an above average deck, but it could have been better.
I beat my first round opponent quickly. He was playing Green/Black. Even though I am stuck on four lands for awhile, he couldn’t put enough pressure on me before my fliers took over and just swarmed him. I got paired against Grant in the second round. Suddenly, I remembered why the Esper deck isn’t the strongest. I played Pillories and Plumes, but it didn't matter. He had Peel from Reality, Ogre Savant and Izzet Chronarch and he was able to return every creature that I enchanted to his hand, plus he slowed me down by bouncing my creatures. It was a complete rout. He and Ben split the finals.
Over all, I had a ton of fun and I am eagerly awaiting a second one of these. Everyone that went that I talked to has nothing but positive things to say about it. Congratulations to Greg Steffen and the rest of the Magic BC Club for putting on such a stellar event!