I could sit here and tell you all about the CFB house and how we tested for modern up and down every day and how we broke it with Tempered Steel, but I have a feeling that if you visit this website regularly you will be up to your ears in articles on the topic. So for me I'll just write about my experience at GP San Diego and Worlds. We had done a ton of drafts in our Worlds prep, which I liked a lot; we usually have a good constructed deck for Pro Tours and mediocre records in the draft portion. So I knew going into the GP that if I could just scrape together a 7-2 on day 1 and survive until the draft portion then it would be smooth sailing.
If you would like to take a look at my pool it was posted here.
For those too busy, here is the deck I ended up building:
Just about every person I showed my deck told me it was the definition of a 7-2 pool. I mean Geist-Honored Monk and Manor Gargoyle (you decide!) are good rares and all, but can those alone really carry me to 9-0? Brain Weevil and Doomed Traveler were the worst cards in the deck by far, frequently getting sideboarded out for Stromkirk Patrol or Typhoid Rats, but some of the time I would just leave in the Doomed Traveler and hope to make him playable with Altar's Reap and Silver-Inlaid Dagger. When I showed Ben Stark my deck he was optimistic, pointing out that with 2 Dead Weights and 2 Smite the Monstrous I had removal for cheap and expensive threats so there wasn’t much that I would be drawing dead to. He already remarked that “going medium” in this format is totally acceptable. By that he means other sealed formats are dictated by aggression (m12) or by going big with bombs (Scars of Mirrodin) and that in this format having a deck with good spells and all 2/2s is totally fine because most of the decks you play against will also have mostly only 2/2s. To be honest he couldn’t have been more right. After I opened my product I knew my black was really powerful and aggressive with 2 Diregraf Ghouls, 1 Walking Corpse, 2 Ghoulraisers, 2 Abattoir Ghouls, and 2 Dead Weights.
In the middle of round 7 a match next to me got mid-round deck checked. When verifying the contents of one of the player’s pools they realized his deck box contained 98 cards! So they got his decklist and double checked, and sure enough the list recorded also had 98 cards. They eventually concluded that the source of this error was when the original person got their boosters to start the day they got 6, miscounted, told a judge they only had 5 boosters and needed 1 more, and the judge complied. So he registered a 7 booster sealed pool, had to pass across and then that person verified a 7 booster sealed pool, THEN they did another pass and the person who ended up with the pool just didn’t bother to check to see if it had the correct number of cards or not and built a deck from it. I believe this person also had no byes and was 6-0 with his super deck. Now I saw the guy playing and he seemed to be pretty casual, and he had no byes, so it is entirely possible that his mistake was unintentional.
Their fix for this situation? Lay out his entire cardpool sorted by flip cards, rares, uncommons, and commons and use a 20-sided die to randomly remove cards from his sealed pool equal to 1 booster pack. So, the judges were in a conference for a long time to decide what to do and they came out with dice rolling to fix the guys pool. The guy had to roll to randomly remove 1 flip card, 1 rare, 3 uncommons, and 9 commons. Then he got a short period of time to rebuild his deck and finish the round. Absurdity at its finest.
My day 1 was pretty uneventful. I quickly rattled off an 8-0 start on the back of really aggressive starts and manascrewed opponents. My toughest challenge came in round 9 in a feature match against Shuhei Nakamura. Little did I know he had opened a GW pre-con with Mikaeus, Mayor of Avabruck, Gavony Township, Elder Laurels, and Champion of the Parish. But luckily for me g1 I drew perfect with t1 Diregraf Ghoul t2 Walking Corpse t3 Chapel Geist t4 Brain Weevil t5 Manor Gargoyle t6 Geist-Honored Monk to pull it out against active Gavony Township + Mikaeus. Game 2 he just mulliganed to 5 and we played a somewhat long game where he flooded out and I took it down.
Day 2 I started off with a mediocre BR deck with 3 Dead Weights. The most interesting part of the draft came in round 11 when I got paired against Michael Blonde. This guy was one of the goofiest people I have ever gotten paired against in a Magic tournament and it all started off turn 2 of game 1 when he played a Cobbled Wings announcing “here comes a lul card!” with a thick Dutch accent, then played a turn 3 Armored Skaab that milled a Blasphemous Act. This wouldn’t normally be relevant except for the rest of the match whenever he would play out an extra creature he would ask me “do you have the Blasphemous Act?” For the entire match if I would ever tap 4 mana and go to play a card from my hand he would say “Falkenrath Noble?” It happened three times and it was never Falkenrath Noble. The weirdest part of all was in game 3 when it was somewhat close but I was losing. In the middle of the game I asked him “how many cards do you have in hand?” He quickly replied “Two! Scourge of Geier Reach and Spectral Flight.” I really didn’t know how to react to this, so I didn’t really change how I played on that turn because if it was true it didn’t really matter and he could just be lying, but he had already cast both of those cards against me so it was possible. On his next turn he drew and played his second Mountain, tanked for a bit, settled on Scourge of Geier Reach and passed the turn. At this point I was dead to Spectral Flight no matter how I played, so I just put on a brave face and played how I normally would assuming he had nothing. I don’t think my deck even had a single card I could bluff to prevent him from even attempting it. Naturally on his turn he played Spectral Flight and killed me. He was 10-0 at the time with no byes.
I wrapped up that pod with a 2-1 which put me in a great position. My next win came against my friend James Gates. The games were really uneventful; g1 I blew him out with a Rolling Temblor and g2 he didn’t play any spells, and with that I had locked up Top 8.
The Top 8 draft didn’t go well at all. I first picked Manor Gargoyle then Silent Departure then Reckless Waif. The guy passing to me finished up the draft with a red blue deck so naturally I was getting the scraps and didn’t realize how bad I was getting cut off until entirely too late. I didn’t help much that my round 1 opponent opened Bloodline Keeper. In the end I was really disappointed and I could have drafted much better. The tournament wasn’t a total bust as I did get 5 more points inching me closer to Player of the Year.
Next up was Worlds, and as you all know by now we all ran Tempered Steel in the constructed portion and it was a pretty solid choice. I went 4-2 losing to a Delver of Secrets deck and Mono Red. Both had proved to be good matchups in our playtesting but I think they were both closer matchups than we gave them credit for. I beat a Delver deck and a Mono Red deck too, so maybe I just got unlucky in the matches I lost (or lucky in the matches I won). Who knows?
Day 2 I drafted a mediocre UB millyourself deck. I was definitely in the right colors for my seat and was getting really late picks like Victim of Night and Silent Departure topped off with an Evil Twin. I would post the list for it but I lost the deck and it’s just a textbook example of UB; it was all commons, nothing exciting, just very standard. I finished 2-1 with it.
My second deck was much more fun as I second picked Burning Vengeance in pack 1 and just moved in and never looked back.
The Skirsdag Cultists are a little awkward in here but they ended up being fine. My deck had like 16 perfect cards then a bunch of filler. My most exciting match came against Simon Gortzen who throughout the draft had been picking only double-faced cards. P1p1 he got Daybreak Ranger, then Gatstaf Shepherd, and also an Ulvenwald Mystics I believe, then rounded out pack 2-3 with a load of Village Ironsmiths and Villagers of Estwald. He also had at least two Civilized Scholars. It was hard for me to focus on my own deck and also keep track of all the flip cards he was taking. We both had pretty sick draws in game one but I eventually pulled it out, going extra deep with Burning Vengeance and putting a read on him early for a Moonmist as to not get blown out by it too badly. Game two was also pretty interesting. It felt like I just steamrolled him but as my blue curses were milling away his library there was some large number of turns where I could have milled his Feeling of Dread and I would have died. After the game he said he had regretted not sideboarding in Bump in the Night in hopes that it would get milled as well. He was RGu.
For modern I played the Tribal Zoo deck that put LSV, PV, and Wrapter in the Top 8. It was ok for me, but not great.
I finished 3-3 but I played against two decks that were heavily metagamed against Zoo, though that was to be expected since Zoo was roughly half the field on day 3. In the last round I got paired against Shuhei Nakamura. Neither of us could make Top 8 and we both had already locked up level 8 so we were only playing for cash. I wanted the points much more than him with PoY in the balance but I didn’t even for a moment consider asking him to concede and he didn’t offer. We both understood that this was something you needed to earn. He crushed me 2-1.
I left the site finishing in 33rd place overall. It was a solid performance and in my last 3 rounds I needed a 2-0-1 to make Top 8 or 2-1 for t16 so I had a very good record at multiple points but things just didn’t break right for me this time like they had all year in Grands Prix. I was happy to see HALF the Top 8 covered in Channelfireball shirts but it definitely left me conflicted. All year whenever anyone asked me about PoY I always told them I didn’t care and it didn’t mean that much to me, and that I would much rather have one of my friends win since they care way more about it than I did. For me it was just a big freeroll, as last year I made level 5 with all mediocre finishes so I had never really had big aspirations outside qualifying for the Pro Tour and maybe having a sick finish there. For me to win it all I needed LSV to lose his first round of Top 8 and I needed Wrapter/PV to not outright win Worlds.
BettingRooting against Channelfireball isn’t usually the smart thing to do.
I showed up to the site on Sunday and the Top 8 had already started, all the chairs were filled and I was on the edge watching it. Paulo lost first and my friend texted me “one down, two to go.” Next they played Luis’ game 5 and it was a hell of a game. I couldn’t possibly do justice explaining it here so I’d recommend just watching it for yourself, it was really crazy. The whole game came down to one turn where Bland had (arguably) overextended himself a little too far and was dead from 15 life if Luis could draw a Plains, Memnite, or Mox Opal. After being stuck on 3 lands for what seemed like an eternity he revealed the Tempered Steel from his hand went to peel his top card slowly and it wasn’t there. He shuffled his hand for a bit studying the board and eventually shook his hand in defeat. Things all of the sudden were looking up for me.
All I needed now was for Wrapter to lose and it was all mine. They cut to his game and he mulling to 5, in a nightmare matchup, and his opponents hand was very good. The game didn’t last long as the Japanese players just rolled off 3 Inferno Titans after some ramp and a Viridian Corrupter. After Wrapter lost I got up to leave and everyone started clapping, I assumed it was for the match result so I tried to ignore it. Eventually I turned around and they were all clapping for me and my accomplishment. I stood there for a bit in awe, beaming. I don’t think I have ever smiled that hard before my face was starting to hurt. I turned around and started to cry. I couldn’t help it I had never been that happy before in my whole life. After countless disappointments in the GP Top 8's and coming up short so many times in Pro Tours I had finally done something really great. For the amount of time and energy I’ve invested into the game just to be recognized was something I had never imagined. Every single PTQ I have entered, every Grand Prix, every Friday Night Magic, every 8-4 on Magic Online, and every Pro Tour I played, for this? It was all worth it, every last bit of it. The respect of my peers and the countless congratulations I received really justified my dedication and passion for this game.
This year LSV’s finishes in pro tours were beyond absurd. He finished 8th, 8th, 10th, and 24th. Oh, he also won a Grand Prix and Top 8'ed Nationals. All that, and he STILL didn’t have as many points as me at the end of the year. That alone is crazy. As I mentioned earlier in 100% of my interviews leading up to Worlds I would say that I didn’t care about PoY and that just making level 8 was satisfaction enough. I always said I would root for my friends to win it more since it meant much more to them. But those were just lies. Make no mistake it’s not a lie that I want LSV or Martin Juza to win any tournament they enter, because I do. They are both great friends, excellent magic players, and there isn’t much more that I enjoy than watching them succeed. But I was merely lying to myself saying I didn’t care, saying it meant nothing to me, saying I wanted them to be PoY more than me. I was just trying to convince myself of that so if I lost it wouldn’t hurt as bad, since I had plenty of hurt already from losing in 7 straight GP Top 8's.
So many times this year people came up to me and asked me about Player of the Year “so what does that get?” they’d ask, “Oh really nothing? Damn.” One person even said “hey you’re doing pretty well in that PoY thing right, what’s first get, like $35k???” And admittedly it is a little foul that PoY gets a handshake and a pat on the back, with actual no monetary value, but I feel like wizards realized how bad that is and that is part of the reason for their changes to the system. I assume mashing Player of the Year and World Champion into 1 title is a way to fix that.
What’s next? I plan on attending every US GP (sounds good on paper) and hoping the new Pro Players Club makes it possible for me to continue living this lifestyle. They have said they don’t know what it will be and all the information isn’t out yet, so I’m not going to sit here and act like I know what they can do to fix it or pretend I’m smart enough to be making some of the decisions they have to make. If any of them are reading this right now all I can say is please think about people who are attempting professional magic and don’t screw us over.
Team Channelfireball is doing better than ever! 80% of the people on the team had their best year ever. I think 7 people on the team made level 8 this year, and that is unheard of. We are working better as a team than ever before and it’s full steam ahead. I hope to set the bar higher and higher and see just how great we can become. Just look at Conley, where he went from 0-5 with Chandra Ablaze in San Juan to 16-0 at Worlds this year. If that isn’t proof what a good team can do for you than I don’t know what is.
I’m thankful for the good times I’ve had and hopeful that it will continue in the next year.
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