A few weeks back, StarCityGames.com held the culmination of the first 6-months of their Open Series: the Invitational. Not only was I invited to play in the main event (which I liken to the old U.S. Nationals before the payout nerf: a small tournament with very high value per player), but I was also slated to stay in a room with three of the most awesome cubers I know: Adam Prosak, Dan Nosheny, and Usman Jamil. In addition to that awesome cubic room, I knew that a lot of sweet players/cubers/people would be in attendance and that there would be a fair amount to a metric ton of cubing to be had. How could I possibly miss it? (Ahem, Kranny.)
Travel Note: If it is Free Donut Day, be sure to stop at the first Dunkin’ Donuts you see because you may never see another in the next 200 miles of driving. I’m still grumpy about that. (And fat.)
I’m not going to give a huge breakdown and analysis of the main event. With the Standard bannings having hit, the whole format is going to change and anything I say about it will be out of date. As far as Legacy goes, I have been very disappointed with the printing of Mental Misstep, and have been rethinking my entire view of the format. Let’s just say that when tribal decks have to run an off-color, non-tribal card in the main deck there is something wrong.
Instead, I’ll just talk about a couple things of interest and provide a general breakdown before getting into the fun stuff.
The decks I took into battle:
Standard – U/R Twin: We took Flores’s TCGplayer-winning list and took out all the non-Deceiver Exarch three drops, then made some sideboard changes (most notably Mental Missteps and Combusts). I have been playing the deck since then with virtually the same list to pretty good success.
Round by Round:
Rd1 – R/U/G Twin, W – 127th
Rd2 – U/G Fauna Shaman, W – 110th
Rd3 – Monored, W – 8th
Rd4 – Mirror withSea Gate Oracle, L – 31st
Rd5 – Painted Stone, D – 59th
Rd6 – U/W Mystic, L – 7th
Rd7 – U/B Storm, W – 79th
Rd8 – U/W Mystic, D – 22nd
Rd9 – W/B Mystic, L
Rd10 – U/W Mystic, L
Rd11 – U/W/B Mystic, L
Rd12 – Vampires, W
Rd13 – Mirror with Oracle, L
Rd14 – Dropped to cube!
Points of Interest:
- I went 4-2 in Standard, the format I play the least, but went 1-4-2 in Legacy, the format in which I am most comfortable. That Merfolk matchup I was concerned about? Never played it.
- In Standard, I played against Stoneforge Mystic zero times. In Legacy? Five times. Nice card.
- I played two people on day one who wound up making Top 8. Both are awesome people and I’m glad I know each of them. My record vs. them? 1-1, with my loss coming at the hands of Celestial Colonnade. In Legacy. Awesome.
- I finished day one in 44th place, and thought I was in good shape to make Top 32 and take home some nice cash. After starting day two 0-3 I was in good shape to be cubing the weekend away.
- In round 4 I let my opponent take up too much of the clock and wound up losing 1-0 in the mirror match. The same thing happened in round 5, but I wound up drawing that match. I really am too nice when it comes to people taking too long to make decisions turn after turn; I just need to learn to call a judge once I ask people once to hurry up and make a decision. The worst part? I ended both matches with a Jace, the Mind Sculptor on double digit counters.
- Speaking of ties, I got a game loss in round 8 for registering my Counterbalance deck with ‘4 Counterbalance’ and ‘3 Counterbalance’ (instead of Counterspell). Oops, my first deck registration error for me since the Clinton administration. Good timing! I wound up winning a 45-minute game two in which my opponent was locked out of resolving any spells, but I couldn’t find a win condition. He probably should have conceded earlier in order to try to win game three, but oh well. Scoreboard: he finished in Top 32.
After the Invitational was over, we decided to do a Cube draft (shocking) but we had a small problem: we had ten people that wanted to draft. My cube easily supports ten drafters, but if we did a normal team draft it would likely take forever. Luckily, someone had a brilliant idea: Survivor Draft!
Survivor Draft is named after the reality TV series, and keeps in the spirit of the show. Once you draft and build (and have your teams), everyone plays their first round only. Here’s the catch: after the round, each team must vote someone off of the team! They may go to the loser’s table/redemption island/have to go on a food run, whatever you decide should be apt punishment for getting voted off.
As our group was ten people, we divided into teams of five each (after the draft, of course) and got our game on! Here is the cast of characters who were in this draft:
Anthony Avitollo: The hero of our story; all-around awesome and modest guy.
Adam Prosak: Winner of SCG San Jose, SCG writer, and person with whom I originally built my cube.
Dan Nosheny: Longtime Magic player, cube aficionado, and Sousaphonist extraordinaire.
Ben Weinburg: SCG Player of the Year runner-up in 2010, fan of blue cards, and vegetarian who has eaten at Fogo de Chao.
Mike ‘Auggie’ Augustine: MORTAL COMBAT!! That’s all you need to know.
Samuel Stoddard: Co-host of the In Contention podcast, @samstod on Twitter. Kicker of puppies.
Kenny Mayer: Battle of Wits master and attacker for 2; thinks kittens are ugly.
Usman Jamil: Co-host of The Third Power podcast, cube writer, and No-Fly list member.
Jake Meiser: Cincinatti resident, cube fanatic, and probably a Bengals fan.
Anthony Eason: US National Team 2010, even though he hates our country.
(Evil team member descriptions are not intended to be factual statements. But they might be.)
The draft went very well for me; for the third time in three cube drafts on the weekend I opened Upheaval.
Quick note on Upheaval: Some people still think that this card is slow and unwieldy because they think of the worst-case scenario in casting it (turn 6 with no mana acceleration as a defensive measure) instead of the game-restart-with-an-advantage that it truly is. As it turned out, I had cast Upheaval in the worst-case scenario vs. a Bitterblossom aggressive deck, and I was a savage topdeck by my opponent away from winning that game! If the worst-case scenario is stopping a sure loss and a second chance to turn the game around in your favor…well, there are worse cards you could be playing in your blue section. Like almost all of them. So play it. Go!
So with Upheaval in my deck again, I stuck to blue but also managed to pick up an early-ish Metalworker. Artifact Blue is one of my favorite archetypes in cube draft, so I don’t mind committing to it and trying to catch ‘em all with signets and relevant artifacts. During the third pack I remember hoping that I would somehow catch one of the Academy cards, and sure enough I got passed Tolarian Academy! The final result was probably the best version of this archetype I’ve been able to assemble in a booster draft; only a Tinker would have made it better. Here it is:
Bonus decks! I was able to reassemble these decks after the draft, but without the exact numbers of basic land in the multicolor decks. There are a couple of spicy ones…
Now onto the REAL tournament report!
Stod (Bant Ramp) defeated Ben (mono-blue control), as was evidenced by his ritualistic dance. Word on the street was that Stod cast a Treachery on his own creature with a Mirari’s Wake in play, and then did something absurd with the extra 5 mana.
Adam (U/B Stax) defeated Jake (B/R burn), even though Jake cast a turn one Dark Confidant, turn three Graveborn Muse, and turn four Bottled Cloister to bury Adam in extra cards in game one. Adam got his revenge in game three, however, as he was able to leave Jake without any permanents in play due to Smokestack. House rules dictate that a player with no permanents in play is not allowed to talk; Jake had a very silent final six turns of the match wrought with hand gestures.
Dan (U/B planeswalker control) defeated Usman (B/W control w/4-5 wraths) in a long match, with Mimic Vat doing some major work. One of the games featured a Misdirection’ed Vindicate onto Usman’s own Precursor Golem (before Usman cast the Vindicate, Dan flashed me the Slaughter Pact in his hand, laughing. “This isn’t very good versus that guy!”).
In the Anthony mirror, Eason (Naya aggro) obliterated me (U/r Artifact) because almost every one of his creatures destroyed an artifact/land when it enters play. Both games played out something like: turn one Taiga+Wild Nacatl, turn two Tin-Street Hooligan, turn three Duergar Hedge-Mage, turn five Goblin Ruinblaster for my only nonbasic land (with which I could have Upheavaled with a head start if I can untap). It wasn’t remotely close!
Elimination: Ben from the Good team (due to getting embarrassed by Stod so badly), and Usman from the Axis of Evil (for being the slowest player). Note that both players lost their first round, so neither could really complain (too loudly). Good 3, Evil 2.
Adam and Sam had an epic battle of early 2000’s Ohio mages that Adam won (albeit without the dance). I dismantled Kenny by Upheavaling into Lodestone Golem two games in a row. Dan got beat about the head and shoulders by Jake. And Auggie vs. Eason didn’t end well for the mono-red good guy. Adam and Eason were the lone remaining undefeateds at 2-0.
Elimination: Dan for the Good team, by virtue of his finishing the slowest and Kenny for the Evil team (who voted for himself in a mire of self-loathing after finishing 33rd in the main event). Good 5, Evil 4.
I lost to Jake in a tight three games, the last of which I almost won because Dark Confidant revealed, in order: Bottled Cloister, Graveborn Muse, and Hit // Run. Sixteen ya! Auggie also lost, this time to Stod’s engine of Reveillark + Crystal Shard/Momentary Blink. However, Adam defeated Eason in the battle of the undefeateds because of Smokestack/Braids, Cabal Minion. So the round wasn’t a complete sweep for the bad guys.
Elimination: Auggie from the Good team (who voted for himself as well), and Jake from Evil (by virtue of having the worst among remaining decks). As it turned out, both of those guys bounced from the event site after being eliminated to drive back to Cincinatti together, so it was another good set of eliminations. Good 6, Evil 6 – all tied up!
Adam got destroyed by Eason’s almost-constructed Zoo deck in a rematch (Adam later said he was lucky to beat him the previous round), and Stod and I had an interesting match. By interesting, I mean interesting for me to play and Stod to watch…
Game 1: I played a turn one Goblin Welder, turn two Signet, turn three Fact or Fiction (revealing two lands and three more signets; I took the pile of 2 signets and a land), turn four double Signet, turn five Mindslaver, turn six he Sower of Temptation’d my Welder, but I still activated Mindslaver. With the active Welder (if I can get it back) and 4 other artifacts on board (and more in hand), I proceeded to take Sam’s next 6 turns and do unspeakable things like:
- Cast Momentary Blink on his own Sower, targeting itself and getting my Welder back (and flashing it back)
- Crashed his Academy Rector into my Solemn Simulacrum, failing to find an enchantment
- Failed to find with a Farseek
- Evoked a Reveillark without returning anything
- Activated Knight of the Reliquary multiple times to Stone Rain his own lands
Even though I drew a lot of running lands and actually had to let Stod control a turn or two of his own, I was able to start taking his turns again until I found a win condition.
Game 2: I had a really fast start with a turn two Lightning Greaves, turn three Metalworker into attacking with Karn, Silver Golem, turn four attack with Karn and a freshly cast Signet, turn five attack and Upheaval into a concession with some mana floating!
Elimination: Sam and Adam, both for losing. Good 7, Evil 7.
Anthony mirror match rematch! This time, Eason played creatures that only attacked and I was able to win the first game mainly through cycling my Lodestone Golem and Solemn Simulacrum in and out using a Greaves-protected Welder.
In game two I was able to protect my creatures/artifacts with Spellskite and an active Welder long enough to Upheaval (Seeing a trend? Nice card.) into Tolarian Academy/Welder/Greaves/Sundering Titan, ready to bring back a Lodestone Golem the next turn (having Lodestone post-Upheaval is amazing, but I already did that a few times so I wanted to just blow up his first land with an instant-speed Sundering Titan). Once again our match wasn’t that close; judging by the amount of head-shaking and cursing about Spellskite, I confirmed that the 0/4 almost-defender had earned a long-standing spot in my Cube with his performance.
Good 8, Evil 7. It went right down to the wire, but we did it! Doing the Survivor draft was really fun (and I hope we can do it again soon), but I would suggest a few things before trying it yourself:
- Make sure everyone in your draft is OK with being very competitive, but not so much so that they would get upset about getting voted off. My recommendation is to use experienced cube drafters to play this format.
- The larger the draft, the better. I would suggest a minimum of eight people in the draft.
- Have some paper, writing implements, and a box of some sort available (you can use the cube box, likely), so people can cast their secret ballots. Feel free to read them dramatically.
- Don’t be afraid to take the theme as far as your players would appreciate. Maybe on ‘Redemption Island’ players play single elimination for the right to get back on. Maybe all of the eliminated players vote for the final champion. Maybe you play for some sort of fabulous prize to encourage people to draft/play/vote well. Maybe you could give an ‘immunity idol’ to the person with the coolest play/finished first and won/had the biggest blowout. You could also have two winners: the winning team, and the winning player (the ‘survivor’). Make it as fun and thematic as you want!
That’s all for now! If you are looking for some variation or a step-up in competitiveness in your cube drafts while taking the ‘team’ concept to the next level, give Survivor Draft a try!
May all your squares be three-dimensional!