When we last left our Elvish Champion, he was 7-2 and advancing to day two…
When day two started, I knew the stakes. The small size of Denver (841 people) meant that most X-5′s would make it and X-4′s would be a lock for top 64. Obviously, I still wanted to win out and Top 8, but I knew that it was more realistic to just get at least the one point I needed to train. Some people think this is a bad attitude to have going into a day two, but I tend not to believe in most psychological theory. I don’t think you are less likely to win a Top 8 if you are “satisfied” with Top 8ing and I don’t think I had less of a chance of running the table and Top 8ing even though my main focus was that one pro point.
The seatings went up and I had a quick chat with GP Atlanta winner Jason Ford. We asked each others records (both x-2) and asked who was in each others’ pod. Neither of us knew yet, so we just checked our pairings and went to our seats. I found my seat and then looked across the table surprised to see Jason. Jason was not the only player I was familiar with in my pod: I was in a nice little sandwich between the two other players whose names I was familiar with in my pod: Wrapter (to my right) and Brian Kibler (to my left).
I opened up a Black Sun’s Zenith and snapped it up, passing an Into the Core. The following pack gave me the option of Burn the Impure and Blightwidow. Burn the Impure is a slightly better card, but I had just passed BK an Into the Core and I feel more comfortable drafting infect than Black Red anyway. Unfortunately, the next pack made me look like a bit of an idiot as I was left with the option of Rot Wolf or a second Into the Core. At this point I was relatively committed to Infect and just took Rot Wolf. The rest of the pack had almost no infect cards, so I tried to take some off-color playables in case I opened a bomb and wanted to switch. I did get to pass Kibler a Blisterstick Shaman to add to his nutty red deck. Of course, Kibler would go on to 3-0 the draft with his nutty red deck and eventually Top 8 the GP.
In pack two, I opened a Hand of the Praetors. Then, I was fortunate enough to get shipped a Putrefax by Kibler. I got a Genesis Wave around fifth or sixth pick, which was a perfect fit for my nearly spell-less deck. I tried to pick up as many playables as I could since I knew pack 3 would probably be about as lousy as pack one was. I got my fair share of playables in pack two, and pack three was predictably bad, leaving me with a deck that had 4 bombs, (Zenith, Wave, Putrefax, and Hand of the Praetors) but barely 23 playables.
During deckbuilding, I decided to play a couple Vector Asps over a Viridian Emissary and a couple other cards to at least give my deck a high infect count. I regretted my decision pretty badly and almost always boarded them out.
Round one I was paired against Wrapter. As it turned out, Wrapter was also in G/B, although he was more Dinosaurs than Infect. I wasn’t too surprised considering the way the first and third packs had gone, but I figured his deck probably wasn’t that good since at least he had a weak pack two. Wrapter got mana screwed game one as I curved out perfectly. The game was pretty awkward for me as my perfect curve meant that my Vector Asp could never do poison damage. I snap boarded it out and got ready for game two.
Game two was a fairly drawn out affair. I fell pretty far behind and recovered to some degree with a Black Sun’s Zenith, but still ended up losing after he followed up the Zenith with a Morbid Plunder. Game three was another game where the board got stalled and the round clock began to become an issue. With the clock at a couple minutes left, I drew the Zenith. I went deep into the tank, which seemed awkward from Wrapter’s perspective. Wrapter asked me to hurry up as he was nervous about time, but he didn’t know I had drawn a card that involved so much thought. In the end I decided to pull the trigger. I knew I still had Putrefax in my deck that would easily finish off Wrapter who was at 7 poison counters. The game was still stalled out, and on the final turn of time I redrew the Zenith. I played it and also played a Rot Wolf. At this point, things got awkward. Neither of us wanted to draw, but it wasn’t really clear who was winning. A draw still left us both live for Top 8, so we decided to just accept it.
The next round was my most frustrating match of the day. Game one, my opponent cast turn 4 [card tezzeret, agent of bolas]Tezzeret[/card], and I just couldn’t win. The slew of card advantage and army of 5/5s was just too much. In the next game he began to draw his hand and said keep after drawing about five of his seven cards. At this point I basically new my fate was sealed. Sure enough, a turn 4 Tezz came down and I was dead.
While it didn’t end up costing him in this match, I do think it’s important to have some rhythm with your mulligan decisions. Don’t keep until you’ve seen all seven cards, and try not to vary the time you tank on hands too much. You don’t want it to be obvious when you made a sketchy keep as opposed to an easy keep.
Another thing that I noticed was the way my opponent played with Tezzeret. The first thing he would do was play the spell he wanted to from his hand, and then he would figure out what to do with Tezz. This meant that it looked pretty awkward when he used the Impulse ability and didn’t have mana to play the card that was often better than the card he already played. Make sure to figure out what to do with your ‘walkers before playing any spells.
In the final round of the first draft, I got paired against Jason Ford. Jason had a Red White deck with a bunch of equipment. I felt pretty comfortable with the matchup, but he did have a Mirran Crusader that was pretty tough for my Black Green deck to beat. In the end I managed to pull off a tough win.
My next pod contained Wrapter again as he also went 1-1 after our draw. The pod also had Alex West. I opened a Thopter Assembly and a Kuldotha Flamefiend. I went deep in the tank as this pick is really close. In the end I decided to take the card that is consistently good (Flamefiend) over the card that is almost unbeatable if they don’t have removal (Assembly). I didn’t mind going into red since I find it to be one of the more underrated colors. I asked a bunch of people about their opinions on the pick and the majority said Assembly, but almost everyone tanked for a while. In the end, I moved into Red Green dinosaurs. I ended up with a very solid deck. Here’s how I ended up building it:
The deck felt like a pretty solid dinosaur deck and had some mild synergy. I was pretty mad at myself for not taking an earlier Myr Galvanizer as it would’ve allowed me to go infinite and made Heavy Arbalest pretty absurd. Regardless, I did manage to have the Arbalest interaction come up in a game or two and it was pretty sweet.
I unfortunately lost round one to a very good aggressive infect deck. Most of the game was pretty boring, but there was one interesting spot. The board had just been nearly wiped in combat and I was left with just an Iron Myr. My opponent played Virulent Wound on the Myr which would put me to nine poison counters. I used my two lands to cycle Tel-Jilad Defiance since I was mana screwed. Then, I figured I might as well float a red with the Myr to bluff Galvanic Blast. My opponent took the bait and refused to play a creature that turn (hoping to make me have to keep up a red later, which was awkward because I was screwed). On the following turn, my opponent played a Corpse Cur. He had to decide whether to return Cystbearer or Plague Stinger. Since he still thought I had Blast, he returned the 2/3. I managed to stabilize and thought I was actually going to win due to my random bluff… until he ripped an Ichor Rats.
Next up was my rematch against Wrapter. This time, Wrapter had a much better G/B solidly Infect deck. My bigger creatures managed to trump his in game one. In the next game, the board was very close when I attempted to pull ahead with a Lead the Stampede. And Stampede I did. I hit a Scrapmelter, an Alpha Tyrannax, a Gnathosaur, and another creature. From that point, taking down the game was easy.
I was now X-4-1 going into the last round. A win would guarantee me the point I desperately needed. A loss would almost certainly put me out of the money. I was paired against Alex West who had a blue control deck. My threat dense Dinosaur deck had a very strong matchup against his counterspell based control deck. I managed to pull out game one, by just playing more threats than he had answers. In game two, I managed to stick an Aceticism on one of the few turns where he tapped out. From there, winning was fundamental as all of his removal was blanked and all of my creatures couldn’t die in combat.
In the end I got the point I desperately needed. I am now a Level 4 Pro for the year and am qualified for Nagoya, Philadelphia, and Worlds a 30 minute drive away in San Francisco. I was super excited to get the Level 4 monkey off my back. Now I can get to focusing on doing as well as possible this year and hopefully racking up more than just a 20 point total.