I’m going to be honest, this article was hard for me to write. Why? Because this weekend’s limited PTQ was the worst Magic tournament I have ever played in over ten years of playing tournaments. Was I unlucky? No. Was my pool bad? No. I played absolutely terrible Magic. There wasn’t even a game where I didn’t make some colossal punt or misplay. I threw away so many games I could/should have won, I’m almost ashamed to admit it in public. I do think writing about this has value, despite the limited season coming to a close, since my sealed pool was pretty interesting and provided me quite a few deckbuilding options. I also feel like this is a Fearless Magical Inventory of sorts. I hope by going over my recent bout of horrendous play, maybe others with similar experiences can help a brother out.
Let’s start with the PTQ itself. Your lovely and esteemed author and three friends piled into my ride and we drove the 30 miles from Tacoma to Seattle to get our sealed deck on. I had in my company three of the usual suspects, Ian Kendall (_ik), Matt Hague and Brandden McDoogle (I seriously can’t spell his last name. Everyone calls him Doogle, so just roll with it). The card ride up was uneventful; we talked about Extended, other people you don’t care about, and we had a contest to see who was a part of the most stacked PTQ top 8 (highest concentration of good players).
We got to the venue itself and the tournament was 180 players strong. I attempted to blend in and make small talk at the good player table. Everyone has one of these at their PTQs, right? I mean, all the highest rated players usually sit at the same table and there are few people who sit on the edges of the table and try to make it look like they are one of the cool kids. That’s me. 🙁
After standing around for awhile, the seatings were up and, while the player meeting was going on, I just played Dragon Quest IX and killed a few Liquid Metal Slimes (I’m up to 150 hours in this game, it’s insane) to pass the time. I registered an interesting pool with Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon and three other Black cards worth playing, and a Sunblast Angel with the next best White card being Kembas Skyguard. The judges enjoyed slowly torturing us by making us pass the deck we registered to the person on our right, then again and again and….again…and how about again?
I finally get my pool and nearly go to time building the thing. Here are the contents for your viewing/building pleasure:
I think we can all agree the Red is automatically out. There is not a single Red card I want to play in this pool. Next up is Blue. The Blue presents us with a gaggle of mediocre creatures and not much else. There’s nothing wrong with the Blue here, but it’s very average and wholly unexciting. I would only play this if the rest of my colors were really weak, although a Blue-based evasion deck of some sort might be possible.
The Green is the next consideration. Like Green in most Scars of Mirrodin sealed, it has a little bit of everything and a lot of nothing. It has the Slice in Twain which is obviously nice and Sylvok Replica is a solid removal spell. There’s also Untamed Might and Tel-Jilad Fallen should Infect be of interest.
The White here practically screams to be played, especially the foil Sunblast Angel, which is easily the most powerful card in the pool. Nothing says PICK MEEEEE! quite like a shiny bomb. Tempered Steel is also very strong provided we get enough support from our uncolored friends. Kemba, Kha Regent is quite powerful if you have the equipment to make her flood the board with kittens and Razor Hippogriff needs no explanation, you know it’s good.
Finally, we get to the artifacts. There are some interesting cards here, including one of each Myr (Captain Planet! He’s our he- ok, I’ll shut up) as well as two ‘Myr Lords’ in the twin Myr Galvanizers. There’s a Contagion Clasp, which is going to make the deck regardless along with a couple of Tumble Magnets . There’s also the powerful Trigon of Corruption and a duo of Trigon of Infestations for our insect making needs. We round out the artifacts with x2 Corpse Cur and a Necropede. Whew.
We were given 30 minutes for deck construction and I have recently gotten in the habit of trying to use as much of that as possible. This means that even if I think I know the right 40 card configuration immediately, I want to try a few different builds to see what other options are available. Since there seems to be a fair amount of Infect cards in this pool, I quickly constructed an Infect deck to see what it would look like:
Grasp of Darkness
Slice in Twain
Trigon of Infestation
Trigon of Infestation
Trigon of Corruption
….Yawn. One of the Myr could easily be a Bladed Pinions, but you get the idea. This deck is really, really average. No way to break through and by that I mean no Plague Stinger or Tangle Angler. No rare bombs and only a minimum amount of removal and power. This deck is ok but not great, and in this format, where everyone’s deck is awesome, this is definitely below par. Back to the drawing board.
I decided to try the next deck that jumped out at me and ultimately this is what I registered:
Wall of Tanglecord
Trigon of Corruption
Grasp of Darkness
You could run Kemba here, but besides the Ballista, I don’t really like the equipment in this deck. If I had something sweet like a Darksteel Axe, I’d be all over it. I’m not too excited about filling a deck with mediocre equipment just for a shot at running Kemba. Also I feel the Ballista and the Vampires could be Ghalmas Warden or Kemba's Skyguard, but in the end I like this configuration the best. I’m sort of on the fence with running the Corpse Curs and Necropede, but I figure I can chain them, recur them with the Hippogriff or turn them into monsters with Tempered Steel.
The last issue to address is whether or not to jam the Iron Myr into the deck and the Galvanizers and go all in on Myr/Tempered Steel. I agonized over this possibility right up to time, and we would probably take out the Infect creatures to make that happen. Maybe I was wrong and that was the right way to go, but without Palladium Myr or any Perilous Myr, I felt that wasn’t too exciting. There are plenty of artifact creatures as is and if they removed my Galvanizer, I would end up with a bunch of mana critters that don’t do anything. I may be wrong on this though, I would be interested to hear what people say in the forums. How would you have built this pool?
As for the PTQ itself, I won game 1 of round 1 by playing constant 2-for-1s. I Skinrendered a creature, got another with Contagion Clasp, and retrieved a Chrome Steed that fell on his sword with Razor Hippogriff while I slowly ground him out.
Game 2, I managed to throw away like a master. I killed his Golem Artisan with Skinrender and unintelligently ran my Necrotic Ooze right into his Vulshok Replica, not realizing if I hang back with it, I can use the Ooze to pump my other artifact creatures. This allowed him to get back into the game and overwhelm me, whereas I would have had him on his back foot otherwise.
Game 3, I continued Puntapalooza 2010 with him at 4 life. I had a 3/3 and a Gold Myr, but only one Plains. He had three tapped guys, an untapped Forest and Mountain, and 2 cards in hand, and I drew Sunblast Angel. I decided to just attack and win right there rather than wrath his board with the Angel.
Obviously he had the Galvanic Blast I didn’t see in either game as his last card. That didn't make my play any better because clearly wiping his board was right. He got back into the game, but I drew Contagion Clasp and two Tumble Magnets. I even managed to deplete all of the counters before trying to proliferate one on with the Clasp. Pro tip: that doesn’t work.
Eventually I drew a second White source, killed two of his guys, and proliferate away his untapped Acid Web Spider to just kill him. I felt really bad winning this match because I sure as hell didn’t deserve it. Oh well, time to buck up for round 2.
The next round the judge pulled me aside and I got my first deck registration game loss in my PTQ career. I forgot to register Fume Spitter so I had a 39 card deck. Wow. No excuses there... that is just unacceptable. The last thing I wanted to do here is tilt, so I quickly collected myself. Afterall, I only needed two games to pull this out, right? I elected to draw for game 2 since I feel my deck is better suited for control. My opponent snap kept and I kept a pretty good hand myself.
I died on turn 6.
He had turn 2 Leonin Shikari, turn 3 Darksteel Axe, equip, bash. Turn 4 Tumble Magnet, turn 5 Glimmerpoint Stag, reset Tumble Magnet and turn 6 Barbed Battlegear on the stack to get in for lethal. What a beating. He showed me his deck afterwards and he had no bombs and quite a few subpar card choices, so he basically nut drew me. I felt like I could take him in 3 games, but because of my sloppiness, I didn't get the chance.
With my head hung low in shame, I sauntered over to an Extended side event going on and see my buddy (and Wizards of the Coast employee) Dwayne St. Arnauld battling.
Expecting commiseration, I complain, “Dwayne, why am I so bad?”
“Because you don’t play enough”
That was a little more brutally honest than I was expecting. He was absolutely right.
“Also, you aren’t as good as you think you are, and you think your opponents are worse than they are.”
Ouch. Once again he’s right. I really haven’t been playing that much Magic lately and maybe that’s why I’ve done so bad in the last year. I basically only play PTQs, the occasional draft on MODO, and FNM where most of the players are not really competitive. I’m definitely making mistakes that I normally don’t make. I usually play better than this. Really.
I collected myself for round 3 of the PTQ where, after a repair, I’m playing against Gavin ‘The Aura’ Verhey. I lost game 1 to a solid draw from him and I flooded out and died to fliers. Game 2 hurts me to recount. He got Sylvok Lifestaff going early and we trade off creatures. I resolved Tempered Steel and played some Myr. I also got both Tumble Magnets online, but he suited up every guy with the Lifestaff before they died, and he was up to 30-some life.
Gavin resolved Steel Hellkite at some point, and I kept it locked down with Tumble Magnet. I finally decided to go on the offensive when his board consisted of the Hellkite, Sylvok Lifestaff, a Myr, and one card in hand. I attacked with a Skinrender and two 3/3 mana Myr. Obviously, the card in his hand was Dispense Justice and I sacrificed the Skinrender and my Gold Myr. To my horror, I realized that I only have one Plains and Sunblast Angel in hand.
This was bad on so many levels. I didn't draw the Plains for three turns, at which point he played a Rust Tick and locked down one of my Tumble Magnets. I hit brick after brick and he managed to connect with the Hellkite to blows up my board for 3. On my next turn I found a Plains and resolved Sunblast Angel to get his dragon. He had removal for my Angel and more removal for the Trigon of Corruption I played.
I then started resolving Corpse Curs, and now the plan is poison. I topdecked Razor Hippogriff to get back Trigon of Corruption instead of a Tumble Magnet. This plan soon became atrocious when he plays his own Sunblast Angel. The Angel killed me and I dropped in disgust.
I’m not trying to be negative, although I’m sure it seems quite the opposite. Rather than dwell on my failure, I played a couple team cube drafts with Canadians and failed to win a game in the first draft where I was not mono Red, then didn't drop a game in the second draft where I was mono Red. Go figure.
As the second draft was wrapping up, Dwayne approached me and invited me to his 30th birthday bash going on that night in Bellevue. I was hesitant at first, but the allure of drinking my problems away appealed to me. This wa all fine and dandy, until I realized I have two minors in my charge, Ian and Doogle. I figured Doogle will just crash at the party regardless, but _ik is only 16 and his mom kept texting him asking when he was going to be home. Awkward
Liquor carried the day and after the second cube draft, we piled into my car and went to Dwayne’s party. The place was absolutely packed and had an awesome view of downtown Bellevue. There were about 50-60 people present, mostly gamers, and there was all kinds of awesome food, cake, alcohol, cake and that’s all I remember. Yeah, I brought minors to a party with alcohol. No, I did not give them alcohol. I mean, I was drinking when I was 16-18, but I’m not going to get a minor drunk; even I have morals.
The gameplan at first was to just have a beer, hang out for an hour, then head home. Boring. After 2-3 beers and a couple hours of Apples to Eldrazi (think Apples to Apples, but using Magic cards instead. You make up your own topics, and most topics were not PG-rated. It was a blast), that plan went right out the window. Instead, I managed to pawn Ian off on Teddy Vitro who was also heading south and volunteered to drive him home.
What followed should have been me getting blitzed, but it wasn’t to be. Someone handed me a can of Keystone Light, AKA the nut low of beers. I tried to chug it and made it about ¾ of the way through when I got horribly sick. I didn’t touch a drop of alcohol after that. I was sober by midnight. Which worked out just fine since about 20 of us gathered round for a game of Mafia.
For those of you who haven’t played it, it’s the latest non-Magic, non-karaoke pastime that has infiltrated the Northwest Magic scene. Since this article is running long, I’ll very quickly summarize: everyone is dealt a card and is assigned to be either Mafia or townsfolk. The idea is for the Mafia to kill all the townsfolk or the townsfolk to kill all the Mafia. During the day (usually a 5-10 minute period), everyone interrogates each other and tries to figure out who is Mafia and who isn’t. At the end of the day, they collectively vote to lynch one person and that person leaves the game. Then everyone closes their eyes (nighttime) and the Mafia wake up to kill one person by pointing at them. In our two games of about 20 players, we had 4 who were Mafia. There are other specialized townsfolk roles as well, but you get the basic idea.
I hadn’t played this game in years and really had no idea what was going on. I was Mafia in both of the games we played and was quickly sniffed out in both. I hadn’t fully digested the more political points of the game or how to lie/dodge suspicion. I found it very entertaining and definitely plan on playing in the future, even if I was awful.
Anyway, I was sober at the end of the second game and drove our 16 year old friend home at 3am before proceeding to crash in my bed for twelve hours.
It appears I rambled a bit, but I hope I entertained you. I feel I have come to a crossroads of sorts in my Magic career. I’m clearly not playing enough Magic right now to be operating at full capacity, and the number of stupid mistakes I’ve been making is embarrassing. The question is, do I redouble my efforts and dedicate myself fully to the game, or do I ride off into the sunset of casual-competitive play, or do I find other pursuits? I think most people reach this decision point sooner or later, and the answer is different for everyone. I guess time will tell if I can get the fire back or not.
Thanks for reading and if I meet you at a holiday party, would you kindly spike my egg nog for me?
-Cheers and Happy Holidays,