This is part 2 of my report.
For reference, this is the deck I played:
Round 1: Mono-Green Eldrazi
My opponent this round was Iyanaga, Jun’ya, who I seem to play against in every single premier event ever. The round started with him saying something about me being able to look at the cards while I shuffle, which didn’t make much sense to me because I actually make a point of looking the other way so I just kept doing whatever I was doing and he didn’t complain more.
Game one started well for both sides – I had Lotus Cobra and Jace, the Mind Sculptor in hand, and found out he was playing Eldrazi Green. The problem with my hand was that I didn’t have any blue sources – the moment I drew one I’d be able to resolve Jace, but we got to turn five and I still didn’t have any, though I had five lands by then. On turn five, I played Explore and hit a sixth land (another Mountain), but I decided against playing it, because I had Avenger of Zendikar in hand, and holding the land assures I can play it next turn (because of Cobra), which I think was a good play. I end up not drawing a land, and play my Avenger to match his Kozilek, Butcher of Truth. He attacks, I sacrifice four lands and take the damage – if I draw a fetchland, I can probably kill him before I die, and if I draw an Island I’m still game because I can play Jace. In the end I didn’t draw either, and died to his Kozilek.
I sided out the Flame Slashes because I hadn’t seen Overgrown Battlements or Oracle of Mul Daya, and had seen Ondu Giants and Kozilek’s Predators, so I figured he didn’t have those because there are so many cards you can have in a deck.
I shuffled his deck the same way and he complained something about it again, and I again didn’t really understand what he was saying. Then I picked up his deck to shuffle and he called a judge, and told the judge that I was shuffling in a bad way and I was looking at the cards. I told him that no, I am not, and he said, “BUT YOU COULD BE!“ Now if you’ve ever seen me shuffling (and you can do that in the videos) you will probably agree that I’d have to be nothing short of bionic to even attempt to look at the cards I’m shuffling from my opponent’s deck, but he still told the judge that I should be shuffling in a horizontal way, and not in a vertical way, so that I really can’t look at the cards. I inform him that I can’t really shuffle this way and offer my deck to the judge if he wants to shuffle, but the judge says that this is not reasonable and that he can’t just shuffle my opponent’s deck every round because he wants a specific kind of shuffling, which I agree with.
Anyway, game two it turned out he did have Battlements, but it didn’t matter because I had an insane hand – turn two Cobra, turn three Cobra, fetchland, Cobra, Jace bounce your Wall (which I think is an overlooked play – a lot of the times it’s good to bounce their Wall or Eldrazi Spawn), turn four Goblin Ruinblaster, turn five Comet Storm for 200. When I Jaced into the Comet Storm I triple-counted to make sure I was going to kill him – he was at 12 life. I conclude that yes, he is dying, and tap a bunch of mana (with my three Cobras) and announce Comet Storm, pointing at all his guys and him and saying “6 6 6 6 6″, but it turned out I had miscounted – I could only deal 5 damage to each target. He told me that, and I said I was sorry, that I could just play it for 5 and he was dead anyway because I had 8 power in play, but he still called a judge. Now I understand that he has every right to call a judge in this situation, but come on, it is clear that I am not trying to cheat, since he is actually dead even if I deal one less damage than I have the ability to do – he was somehow trying to mise a win, either by game lossing me or by trying to force me to pick one fewer target (which would just delay his death by one turn but whatever) and I didn’t like that very much – maybe I was already somewhat angry by the fact that he was accusing me of looking at his cards while I was shuffling. In the end I got a warning, and got to Comet Storm for the rightfully five, and then attacked to put him to -1 instead of -2.
For game three, I boarded in two Flame Slashes for two Comet Storms. I was somewhat tempted to leave in the Comet Storms, since I had just won the game with it, but I understand that this shouldn’t really matter – a lot of people make the mistake of overvaluing the cards that won them the last games, and that means they make unfavorable trades or go to great lengths to protect those cards when they shouldn’t – or, as I almost did, don’t side them out when they should.
Game three I kept this hand:
and two more expensive cards I couldn’t cast, and never played another spell past the Explore.
This round was pretty frustrating (I know, I know, I say that a lot, but hey, all the losses are frustrating!), and definitely not the way I wanted the tournament to start – an opponent accusing me of cheating, then a warning for game rule violation, then not drawing a single source of blue mana in two matches.
Round 2: Mono-Red
This round was against Tsuyoshi Ikeda, my Austin quarterfinals opponent. It turned out he was playing Mono-Red, but with Elemental Appeals. Game one I have Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Deprive in my hand, but no double blue (I swear in testing it was never this hard to come by), as well as Avenger of Zendikar. We get to a point where I am at five life, and he has two lands and two 3/3 Summons tokens. My hand is Jace and Avenger of Zendikar, but my seventh land in hand is one that comes into play tapped that I didn’t have the chance to play before, so I need to draw a land to be able to cast the Avenger next turn, if I survive. I play Jace, bounce his guy and pass. He has now two cards in hand. He attacks my Jace and plays a Kiln Fiend, with one card left in hand. I draw another Jace, and bounce his new 3/3. On his turn, he draws a card, plays Goblin Guide, attacks me and plays Burst Lightning on me. This leaves me kind of puzzled – after all, he had to have one of those cards in the previous turn, and both of them kill me – maybe he was just that afraid of Jace?
The only point I can see is that his previous card is Goblin Guide, and he is afraid that my one card is Burst Lightning, but it seems just wrong to not go for it – the way he played he is just dead if I draw an untapped land, and he is not in very good shape either if he doesn’t draw his instant for Kiln Fiend the following turn. If he was that scared of Burst Lightning plus Jace bouncing his other guy, he could always play Guide and attack the Jace with the 3/3, dropping me to 3, but I think he just didn’t realize he could have killed me.
The Deprive comes in because Devastating Summons/Goblin Bushwhacker is the way you lose the majority of the games you lose when you have all this removal for their early threats. I know I said Cunning Sparkmage was bad against Red in the Boros deck, but in game two it is better, since they have Goblin Ruinblasters sometimes; My opponent also happened to have Elemental Appeal, but I would have boarded in the Sparkmage anyway.
I kept a decent hand of two lands, triple one-mana removal and some other cards. He started with Goblin Guide, Plated Geopede, Guide + Geopede, and I killed all of them since I drew another removal spell, but no land. On turn four I still had two lands, and he played Goblin Ruinblaster. I finally found a third land, but he had another Ruinblaster and I died without playing another spell.
At this point, I was already thinking “this is Hawaii all over again” – for those who do not know, I went 1-4 in Hawaii, and quite honestly I didn’t play a spell in any match I lost. Granted, our deck was not very good, and our sideboard was terrible, but I never really had any chance to find out how bad my cards were, because I couldn’t ever cast any of them. I really hate losing this way, because I know I am very powerless – when I make a mistake and lose, then I know that next game all I have to do is not make the mistake and I have a higher chance of winning. When I don’t draw lands and lose, what am I supposed to do next game? Draw more lands? What can I possibly do to stop losing? It makes me think it doesn’t depend on me anymore, and I don’t like that. I went to the restroom, washed my face, which I always do when I lose a lot of matches in a row, and tried to pretend for myself that I was very confident for the next round.
Round 3: GW Eldrazi (I think, maybe with U)
When I sat to play this game, I got the usual “maan, I’m 0-2, I’m not supposed to be playing against you!”,”what are you doing in those tables”, etc. This always provokes mixed feelings on me – it is good, because it tells me people recognize me as a good player, but it is bad because it reminds me of how I am doing in the tournament, and whenever this happens, it is never a good reminder.
Both games were over pretty quickly, and in neither did my opponent play any relevant spells – most of his lands came into play tapped, which is not very good when you’re facing Goblin Ruinblasters; I had a couple of rounds against this kind of deck that were the exact same, so they are somewhat blurred on my mind and I don’t know which is which, but they all went something, Ruinblasters and Jaces (though I never actually bounced my own Ruinblaster with Jace – to be completely honest, I might have forgotten I could have done that, but it was clearly not necessary). I also remember killing an Eldrazi Spawn with a Flame Slash, for whatever it is worth.
I sided in the other Flame Slash because he was GW with Wall of Omens, so even though I hadn’t seen Overgrown Battlement yet I knew there was a very big chance he played them. Avenger of Zendikar seemed like it could go, since he had access to Day of Judgment.
Round 4: Vampires
This round was very tricky. Game one I had a slow start and he had a couple of Bloodghasts. The turning point of the game was when he missed his fifth land drop, which let me play Jace. If he hits his fifth land and Mind Sludges me right away, I am very likely going to lose, but he took a very long time to find it, which gave me the time to set up Jace and good cards on top of my deck. In the end he had three Bloodghasts, but I had an Avenger and a Comet Storm and he couldn’t do anything.
I do not remember much of game two, except that I lost to multiple Bloodghasts after drawing the likes of four Flame Slashes.
After game two, I decided to swap a Flame Slash for the Mold Shambler – I figured that between the remaining Slashes, Deprive, Comet Storm, Hellkite Charger, Jace and Vapor Snare I had enough answers to Malakir Bloodwitch already, and the Shambler played the important role of blocking Bloodghasts. I have no clue if this is correct or not – we basically just ignored Vampires in our testing, and this was the only match I ever played against it.
Game three we both start slowly since he had double Inquisition of Kozilek, but I was able to get a Jace past his Vampire Hexmages, and was able to Brainstorm before he had mana to Mind Sludge, protecting my important cards – in that case, a Baloth. I wanted to wait until I had enough mana to play the Rampaging Baloths and another land, and he was stuck on four mana; Since neither of us drew a land for a while, we just played draw-go, which was great for me since I had Jace, and I wasn’t in much of a hurry at this point, because the Jace was protecting my relevant cards anyway. He finally found a fifth land and Malakir Bloodwitch was his choice of play, which I Vapor Snared (and he knew I had that, from the early Inquisitions). He played a Gatekeeper of Malakir and I finally found a land, so I played Baloth and made two guys, and he couldn’t recover from that.
I felt lucky to have won this match, though my opponent did draw a higher than average number of Bloodghasts in the first two games (5), he missed his fifth land drop for a while both times. While it is uncertain whether I would actually have lost if he had gotten it in game three (in fact, I probably would have won anyway, and I am not even sure he had the Sludge), I would most likely have lost game one.
Round 5: I think UW
This round I thiiink my opponent was playing UW; again, it was one of those rounds where not much happened, so it is easy to mix it with the other rounds where nothing happened. I know I played a match against UW that was like this – let’s just pretend it was in this round.
The first game started well, though I again needed to draw a second blue source. This problem was happily solved, though, when I played my first land and my opponent couldn’t play a Spreading Seas any faster. I remember we were arguing with the Czechs about whether Spreading Seas was good or not (they liked it, we didn’t), and one of my points was that sometimes you couldn’t even know if you were actually harming or helping them
One of the points is that, most of the time, people lead with the lands they have the most – i.e., if your hand is Mountain, Forest, Forest, Island, you will, all other things being equal, naturally lead with the Forest. Since most people act like this, playing Spreading Seas against a deck like UGR is a dangerous game – in this example hand, it will give your opponent the second blue he needs for Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Sphinx of Lost Truths and Deprive, while not actually harming them in any way because they had extras of the land they played anyway, and the only color that needs more than one mana in the deck is blue – in fact, you would often prefer having the fourth Blue source over the second green in the control matchups, so that you can play Jace and Deprive.
In my game, my opponent actually got a Raging Ravine instead of a Forest, which was good for him, but also good for me because it let me play the Jace and the two Deprives I was holding – neither of which actually bounced the Raging Ravine, to give you an idea of the situation. Other than this, not much happened, and my opponent didn’t really stand any chances of winning either game as he was just severely out-Jaced and out-landed both times.
So, I had ended 3-2 – not the result I was hoping for, but good once you accepted my 0-2 start. I liked our deck a lot, but I was also happy to go to draft, because I think we had a much better clue than the majority of the people on how this draft format works.
My first contact with this format was during DC, where we did some drafts during day 2. At first, I thought it was just a normal format – it turned out it was not. A lot of the basic concepts are still the same – in fact, the most basic concept of draft (that is, to draft decks, and not cards), is still there – but it is oh so much stronger than in the previous formats.
I remember in DC I watched Gabe Walls draft, and he opened a pack and asked me what I would first pick. I thought for a while and said probably the Boar Umbra. He then selected 6 cards from the pack, many of which I didn’t really like, and said “I would pick this card, this card, this card, this card, this card, and this card all over Boar Umbra”.
At first, I thought he was a little bit delusional. Then, after watching the entire draft, I was sure he was delusional. I remember him saying, “it is so funny, every pick I make Paulo goes ‘I don’t get it!'” – I really didn’t get it. Skeletal Wurm. Essence Feed? Those cards were clearly unplayable – I mean, all you had to do was look at any other format ever, and you’d instantly know you could not possibly play those cards – I mean, you could, but you couldn’t be happy about it. After a few drafts, I learned that they were not really delusional, and I was introduced to the Ben Stark archetype.
For those who don’t know it, the Ben Stark archetype is the Gxx deck with a lot of ramp, a lot of big guys and a lot of removal from all the colors. I call it the Ben Stark archetype because he was its biggest advocate, saying it was simply the best archetype. I have doubts whether it really is the best archetype, but it turned out to be much better than I thought originally (I mean, Skeletal Wurm, really?)
We talked a lot about drafting during our stay in the beach house, but we didn’t actually do many of them. The day we got there, at about 10 PM, we decided to do one, and I ended up with an insane UW levelers deck, that went 2-1 losing to Luis’s average UW levelers deck – it turns out sometimes you’d rather be the guy casting Reality Spasm than the one casting Deathless Angel.
Then, the following day, a very bad thing happened – the worst thing that can ever happen to a house full of Magic players that want to playtest – we got our Internet fixed.
I remember bringing it up at some point before, and Luis laughing at me “haha, Paulo is scared everyone is just going to MODO all the time.” Yes, Paulo thought that! How silly of him! Owait
Anyway, to sum things up, we completely lost the Czech to Magic Online – I don’t think I would have seen either of them for the remainder of the trip if we had not being sleeping in the same part of the building. Every time I, or someone else, tried to start a draft, the response was always “just let me finish my MODO draft first” – and then no one felt like waiting, and by the time that person was done there were another two who were in round 1 of theirs.
As a result, I got to watch a couple of MODO drafts, but we did only one more the entire time we were there (and we could only get 6 people!), and I got to draft what would become my favorite archetype – Grixis full of removal and counters.
So, basically, what I learned is that there are three good archetypes – or at least three that I would like to draft:
The priority in this deck is to get removal, card advantage of sorts and counterspells. The way you kill is rarely relevant, and anything will do, from Frostwind Invokers, to Ulamog’s Crushers, to Sphinx-Bone Wand. Vendetta, Staggershock, Flame Slash, Heat Ray, Last Kiss, Induce Despair, Regress, Deprive, Mnemonic Wall, Sea-Gate Oracle, See Beyond are all cards I like a lot in this archetype.
The priority here is ramp, big guys and removal. This archetype is interesting because it is very deck-dependant, more than the others already – in the Grixis deck, for example, you will pretty much always pick Staggershock over Ulamog’s Crusher, because removal is just more important than finishers, and any finisher will do. In this deck, there are situations where you should pick Crusher, and situations where you should pick Staggershock, and situations where you should pick Ondu Giant – you are looking for a balance here; All ramp and your deck doesn’t work, all fatties and your deck doesn’t work, a mix of both and no removal and your deck doesn’t work (if you have all removal your deck probably works, but that’s just not going to happen most of the time). For this deck, it is very important to remember what you already have, and what you are going to table, since sometimes you know you can pick an acceleration or removal over that Crusher because you know that the Skeletal Wurm (!) is coming back.
Corpsehatch is very strong in this archetype, much more than in the Grixis one, since it plays double-duty and accelerates into Crushers, Pelakka Wurms and Artisans, the best fatties available. Joraga Treespeaker is also a card that is much better than I originally thought, though I still don’t think it’s as good as other people in my house claim it to be (we had a discussion, for example, where Ben said they would pick Treespeaker over Sarkhan the Mad p1p1. He then took it back next day, saying that at the PT he would pick the Sarkhan since it goes in more archetypes, which leads me to conclude that in this archetype he would pick the Treespeaker, and I will just never bring myself to do that).
There is also the BGx Tokens deck, which is a sub-theme of this one – you want basically the same cards, but you have more uses for your tokens that are not accelerating into big guys.
3) UW or UB Levelers
This is the “backup” deck – if I can’t get one of the first two decks, I will move to this one. I like UB levelers more than UW levelers, since the Black ones interact much better with Venerated Teacher, but if I am able to go black then I would prefer just going control over levelers – this is really for the times I’m forced into white. This is the only archetype I find playable with white, so that means I tend to avoid this color. As for the cards, it is most of the time pretty obvious, the only problem being “do I take my fifth leveler or a Champion’s Drake“ and things like that, which again depend on how your deck is at the moment.
After this, there are the “tier 2″ decks – Aura Gnarlid, Kiln Fiend and Raid Bombardment. I didn’t really want to draft any of those (and I really hate the Raid Bombardment one), but I knew to keep an eye for cards that went into those archetypes – if I was sure I was going to table a Kiln Fiend and a Distortion Strike, for example, then the next ones become more appealing.
My first draft started well; I first picked an Emrakul’s Hatcher over I believe a Last Kiss, and I had a lot of removal, which is the way I like my drafts to start since removal is where both decks I want to draft overlap. As the draft progressed, though, I couldn’t really decide whether my deck was going to be a control deck or an aggro deck, and that is just really bad in this format. I had a lot of removal, a Mnemonic Wall, a Ulamog which pointed to control, but I also had two Lust for Wars and two Battle-Rattle Shamans for aggro, for example.
I went to deckbuilding and I still had no idea if I wanted to play aggro or control, or if I wanted to splash blue or not. Basically, I had two builds – one with a lot of BR creatures, and the other with a bunch of Walls, two Essence Feeds and a Ulamog. I don’t think I have ever agonized this much over deckbuilding; most of the time, I finish pretty quickly, since I already have an idea of what I’m playing as I draft, and when I take longer it is because I am undecided in one little thing, as my 23rd card or if I should play 7 or 8 Swamps; this time, I had no idea what I wanted my deck to do, and that was really bad.
In the end, I decided I would not play blue, or the Ulamog – my plan would be to ride my two Lust for Wars and two Bloodrite Invokers to victory, with the two Essence Feeds to stall and kill them faster. It was not the best plan in the world, but at least I had a plan. My deck ended up like this:
I thought my deck was terrible, and I wanted to kill myself for passing so many of the 2/1 flier. After the draft, I showed my deck to a couple people who said it was actually good – “A Vendetta short of being very good” was one of the things I got, which made me a little happier. After the first match I realized that my deck was a little bit better than I thought it was.
My first match was against a GUR deck. Game one he played a bunch of creatures, including a Vengevine, but not a single spell; I played my own creatures, which clogged the board (go Zof Shade) and then drained him to four life with Bloodrite Invoker before he finally found a way to kill it, but then Staggershock finished him.
I decided to board in the Ulamog for a random creature, since the game had gone very long.
For game three, I took out the Ulamog – it seemed the first game going that long had been somewhat of a fluke. I also chose to play, which is not what I usually like in this format – early enough, we had established that drawing first is better unless UW levelers is involved, since most of the creatures are just going to get removed. My opponent had a bunch of auras, though, and my removal was conditional, so I wanted to be able to Heat Ray his two drop before he could Umbra it up.
Game three he started with Runed Servitor, and I had Lust for War. Turn three he played Sporecap Spider, and I had my second Lust for War. He ended up Flame Slashing his own Servitor, but couldn’t do anything about the second one and just died.
Round two I played against a much better BR deck, with two Vendettas and TWO Eldrazi Conscriptions (that he never drew in either game). My opponent was not as good as his deck, though – he walked his two guys into my Staggershock and then tried to Vendetta my black creature.
One interesting point of game two was when my opponent had one card in hand, which I knew to be Akoum Boulderfoot because of Induce Despair, but his lands were 6 Swamps and only one Mountain. I had a Bloodrite Invoker and a Dreamstone Hedron, which put me at 9 lands. I could have played the Invoker, but I decided that it was better to just wait a little bit – I was sure he would play the Giant if he found a Mountain and then my Invoker would have been able to dominate. When I hit 11 lands he was still stuck at one Mountain (and had played all his newly-drawn Swamps), so I just played the Invoker knowing that I would at least be able to use it once if he drew a Mountain that turn. He didn’t, and some turns later just died.
Well, at least I was locked in day 2 – I didn’t know what was going to happen to me from there on, but I was happy to have avoided Honolulu #2.
Round 8: Simon Gortzen, with UG
I was a bit disappointed that this was not a feature match! He started game 1 better than I did, and the game pretty much ended when his Eel Umbra countered my removal spell, though I also got to see a Deprive.
I boarded in the Island, the Prophetic Prism and the two Walls, and I chose to play against him for the same reason I had played against the first opponent.
Game two was a bit tricky; At some point, I had a Bloodrite Invoker and an Emrakul’s Hatcher and he had a Snake Umbra’ed Halimar Wavewatcher (1/7) and a Daggerbask Basilisk. My hand was Lust for War, Induce Despair and Mnemonic Wall. Then, I decided to attack; I am not sure why I attacked – I think at that point I was under the assumption that if he blocked my 3/1 with his 1/7 it would die due to the Induce Despair, but that was not going to happen because I could only -5/-5. As it was, if he blocked I would have to end up trading my Induce for his Snake Umbra, which I didn’t want to happen. He could also double block the 3/1, which wouldn’t be very good for me – I trade with his guy, but my invoker is more important, even if I only have 6 lands. Luckily for me, my attack threw him off – he put me on the Induce Despair (which is really the only card that makes sense), but he assumed I had a 6 casting cost creature – which is very reasonable from him. In the end, he blocked the Invoker with the Basilisk, and I got to Induce that one after blocks – this way, he took three damage, which was the goal of the attack on the first place. I Lust for Warred his guy and chump blocked it with a token when it attacked, so he wouldn’t draw a card, and the enchantment + Invoker killed him.
Game three he started with Halimar Wavewatcher into level it into Wildheart Invoker, but I had Induce Despair + Bala Ged Scorpion to get rid of both. My hand had a Lust for War, but his next creature was an Aura Gnarlid, so I was a bit wary of playing them, deciding to just level my own Wavewatcher instead. I also had a Heat Ray, but I didn’t want to play it because I knew he had Deprive and Eel Umbra in his deck, so we kept trading damage – the Scorpion and the Aura Gnarlid. We got to a point where I wanted to play a creature the following turn, so I leveled my guy once and passed with 2R up; He attacked, I took and he passed with no play, and I played the Ray to bait the counter if he had it, and he of course had the Umbra. That was pretty bad from me – I knew he could have the Umbra, but I failed to realize that if I ray for 4 I am going to at least kill the Umbra, w, whereas by Raying for only 2 I let his guy become a 4/4 at the cost of one level up counter, which is just not worth it.
I draw a second Lust for War and play an Emrakul’s Hatcher, and he Domesticates my Wavewatcher, even if it is not going to Islandwalk me even once because I had played it off Prism and didn’t have any Island. I decide to just play my two Lust for Wars, and he has one turn window to draw a Drake Umbra that kills me; He does not, and on my turn I have Essence Feed to make sure that he is going to die even if he can deal with one of his creatures.
I was very happy to have won this game, as I think I played it pretty badly overall, playing around cards I shouldn’t and then not playing around cards I should when I had to, though I do think my deck was better than his. Remember when I wrote about some plays that only happen when the players are good and respect each other? The only reason my attack in game 2 turned out good instead of bad was that he is a good player, AND he also thought I was a good player – take out any of those two and I think he would just have blocked (which is not to say I was planning for this to happen, I just got lucky).
So, I had finished 6-2, which was awesome – I mean, most of the time, when you start 6-0 and finish 6-2 you want to cut your wrists, but when you start 0-2 and go 6-2 it is the complete opposite; It is like the feeling you go to sleep with is the last feeling you had, and the last feeling I had was of 6 straight wins.
I’ll end it here for today – next part is the last, I swear! I know it is a little bit annoying that I split it so much, but I just can’t write a 40 pages article in one week, so either I split it or I don’t talk as much, and it just wouldn’t flow as naturally as it does for me if I had to start controlling what I am saying because the article might get too big, so I prefer doing it this way, and I hope no one is tremendously opposed.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this, and see you next week!