This article is based upon the book The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon. The book itself tells the story of the 15-year-old Christopher Boone who has Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of autism. I am well aware that the writing style of this article is not what you guys are used to, but I felt like it fits well with the story I am trying to tell. Please let me know if you guys enjoyed the article and if you did, I will be writing a second part about the tournament itself.
The Curious Incident Of The Belgian Team Preparing for The World Magic Cup.
It was 7 past 8 p.m. I was playing against Heylen Maxime. I did not know this kid and I do not like playing against people I do not know. It makes me scared and frightened.
Maxime was playing WBR Humans. I remembered this deck winning Pro Tour Gatecrash, which made me even more scared.
So I put on my headphones and listened to Sigur Rós. It is what I do when I am scared. I put the volume right up so that it is all I can hear and then I am safe because I cannot hear anything else.
It seemed to work. I was not scared anymore and played my best game. I made a plan so I could beat Maxime. The plan was to board out my [card]Falkenrath Aristocrat[/card]s because they are bad after sideboard. Maxime did not know this so I had a big advantage.
The plan worked out. I won and the judge congratulated me. He said I could now play in the World Magic Cup. I was happy but also afraid. I remembered playing in the World Magic Cup last year and it made me very sad. The judge also said that I could not team up with Christophe Gregoir and Peter Vieren this year. He said he did not know yet who I would be teaming with and I was not sure if I liked this.
This is not a normal article. LSV said I should write a normal article but I do not like normal articles. Instead I will write a puzzle story about how I could have won the World Magic Cup. I write this puzzle story because I cannot solve it.
The sun was shining on the way back home. Sometimes people get happy because the sun is shining but it did not make me happy.
I said ‘I’m sorry Chris’ because Chris had to wait for me to finish the tournament.
He said ‘It’s OK. I am happy that you won.’ Chris said this because he is a good friend of mine and good friends are happy for one another if they win a tournament.
I said, ‘I am afraid Chris.’
And he said, ‘You should not be afraid. You will make new friends.’
I find people confusing. They say weird things like “Your deck is s–t.” or “You are SO lucky, I can’t lose this matchup.” but these things don’t make a lot of sense since:
1. A deck can’t be s–t because otherwise it would not be a deck but it would be poop and Rich Hagon told me I should never say the word s–t.
2. They always say “I can’t lose this matchup” after they lose which means they CAN lose this matchup so this is a lie and I do not like people who tell lies.
Vincent called me today. He said we should test someday and I agreed. I asked him who we would be teaming with and he said Xavier Vantyghem and Emmanuel Delvigne. I did not know these two guys so I got afraid. What if they would not like me and be mean to me? I would have to defend myself and hit them very hard and I would not have to go to prison because it would be self-defence. But this is only hypothetical so I decided I would not think about it.
I do not like strangers because I do not like people I have never met before. It takes me a long time before I get used to people I do not know. Usually I watch them play for a few weeks and don’t say anything to them. I just watch them until I know they are safe. Then I start asking questions like what color they like and what their favorite card is and how many cards they own and how long they’ve been playing. But Vincent said I should be brave and talk to Xavier and Emmanuel when we meet because otherwise we could not win the WMC.
It was a Saturday when we first tested. Xavier was wearing a red T-shirt so I knew this would be a Bad Day. Xavier was asking a lot of questions like “How are you?” and “What do you do for a living?” and “How long have you been together with your wife?” and “Where do you live?” I did not know why he was asking all these weird questions so I decided to be extra careful and make a plan to escape in case he wanted to hurt me. I looked around and decided the best way to escape was probably to just run out of the door but I would not start screaming because then people would want to help me and I don’t like it when people help me. After that I would call the police because that is what they do on television.
Kelly (my wife) once asked me why a red T-shirt meant it would be a Bad Day. I said it reminded me of my trip to Boston for my first Pro Tour. We were watching the Boston Red Sox and everyone was wearing a red T-shirt and they were all screaming so I was very afraid. It also reminds how I lost my sideboard during round 5 and Mats Claeys (my teammate at that time) was very mad and started screaming because I could not sideboard [card]Gempalm Polluter[/card] which would have won me the game.
The testing did not go very well. We were playing a lot but did not keep track of things so it was not very useful to play a lot. I mainly played with my white weenie deck, which I liked because I had made it myself. But when I played against UWR I could not win. Xavier and Emmanuel called the UWR deck “Patriot” but I found this weird because a patriot is a person who loves and defends his or her country or a U.S. Army anti-aircraft missile with a range of 37 miles and a 200-pound warhead. So I decided to not call this deck “Patriot” but call it “Bleu – Vert – Rouge” which means “Blue – White – Red” in French except that it does not mean “Blue – White – Red” but “Blue – Green – Red” but I did not know this because I am bad at French.
I like games a lot. They are like puzzles, which means there is always a solution except for when there is a piece missing. So if I try to solve a puzzle, I always make sure I gather all the pieces before making a decision. I will explain this with an example that happened to me at the World Magic Cup. It was round 13 and I was playing against Willy. It was my turn three and this was the puzzle:
This is what I thought of:
Willy had mulliganed this game and he did not seem very happy with his keep so his hand was probably bad.
Willy had played a Forest on turn one (without playing an Elf) and a [card]Stomping Ground[/card] on turn two, which meant he had drawn the [card]Stomping Ground[/card] this turn because otherwise he would have played it the first turn.
I had only one land in hand ([card]Stomping Ground[/card]) so I will definitely play it, but I need to decide my next play before playing the [card]Stomping Ground[/card] because I need to know if I should take 2 extra damage.
I do not have a fourth or fifth land and I will need those to play my [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card]s.
If I draw two lands in a row there is a good chance I will win because Willy’s hand is not very good which means there is only a small chance that he can beat double [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card].
If I play [card]Domri Rade[/card], I increase my chances of drawing a land on the next turn by 18.9%.
So with all this in mind I decided to play the [card]Stomping Ground[/card] (untapped) and [card]Domri Rade[/card]. The top card was a land, so playing the [card]Domri Rade[/card] did not make any difference but this does not matter since it was still the correct choice.
The next day was Sunday and we decided to test some more because testing on Saturday did not go very well. On this day I had a long discussion with Xavier, Emmanuel, and Vincent. We talked about the structure of the WMC and how we would divide the formats. We decided that it would be best for the team if Xavier would play S ealed and I would coach him during these rounds. We decided this because we all felt like Xavier was the least experienced player of the four of us, so he could use some help in his first big tournament. Xavier did not like this because he felt like he would only be holding cards. It was a very long discussion and I could tell Xavier was not very happy with what we decided. I understood why Xavier was unhappy but I said he should look at it as an opportunity to learn from some of the best players in Belgium.
I like puzzles because I like solving problems and there is always a way to work out the right answer. It is much different than life because in life sometimes decisions are made upon intuitions and intuitions do not always lead to the right answer.
The next week I tested a lot on Magic Online. I did this because it is always easier to solve a problem if you have all the information or if you have solved the problem before. I decided to concentrate only on Standard because this was the format I would be playing and it would be good to know all the decks in the format so that if there was a puzzle, I would have all the information I needed to solve it. I played a lot but most matches were playing decks like Naya and 5-color control and 4-color Reanimator but I knew that these decks would not be played at the WMC because the format was Unified Standard. In Unified Standard you can only use four copies of each card which means that Naya was very hard to play because you could not combine it with “Bleu – Vert – Rouge”, Jund, or Gruul.
One day I decided to make a scheme with all the decks in the format to look at the possible combinations we could play. It looked like this except that it was bigger and had more decks:
The scheme worked like this:
If two decks could be played together, I gave them a score = 1 (like Junk and Gruul)
If two decks could not be played together, I gave them a score = 0 (like Junk and Jund because they both need [card]Overgrown Tomb[/card] and [card]Woodland Cemetery[/card] which makes it so that you cannot play them together).
If two decks could be played together with a little adjustment, I gave them a score = 0.5 (like UWR Control and Junk because both these decks play [card]Restoration Angel[/card]. But if you really want you could play UWR Control with [card]Restoration Angel[/card] or maybe three in Junk and one in UWR Control).
After this I tried to find the combinations that did not have any zeroes. For example Gruul + Junk + UWR Control:
Gruul + Junk: 1
Junk + UWR Control: 0.5
UWR Control + Gruul: 0.5
So I knew that we could play these three decks if we adjusted them a little bit.
Here are some of the combinations I found:
Jund + UWR Control + Selesnya Aggro
Junk Reanimator + Gruul + UWR Control
Junk Aristocrats + Gruul + UWR Control
Gruul + UWR Control + BG Control
I have a very good memory. So when there is a puzzle that is hard to solve I can simple press Rewind and Pause till I find a puzzle which looks just like the one I need to solve. This is also how I know how to act in difficult situations when I don’t know what to do or how I recognize someone if I don’t know who they are. For example when I played against Willy I pressed Rewind to see if I had ever met Willy before or if I had seen him on television except that I don’t really press a button because this is all in my head. This way I found out that I had seen Willy on television the day before and that he likes to play with [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card] and [card]Domri Rade[/card] so I knew that there was a 73.8% chance that he would be playing Gruul.
It was the Sunday before the tournament and we decided we needed to test some more because we still did not know what we wanted to play. The only thing we knew was that Vincent would play “Bleu – Vert – Rouge” because he had played a lot with it and he would be able to solve all the puzzles no matter how difficult they were.
I decided to make a little scheme of the possibilities we had so that it would be easier for us to decide. This is what the scheme looked like:
After a lengthy discussion we decided that it would be best to go for OPTION 3 and not change anymore so that we could test the decks we would be playing. We decided this because:
Peter Vieren, who was there to help us, said his version of UWR without [card]Restoration Angel[/card] was very good.
Emmanuel was experienced with Junk Reanimator so if there was a puzzle that was hard to solve he would find the solution.
I hated mono-red and mono-white.
Gruul was better than mono-red and mono-white.
Vincent was wearing a blue T-shirt which made this a Good Day and this is a day where it is good to make decisions.
On Monday we decided to make a new plan because our old plan was very bad. We knew that it was very bad because Vincent had a hard time winning games without [card]Restoration Angel[/card] and Emmanuel had a hard time winning games with Junk Reanimator because people had found out how good [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] was.
Our new plan was to play “Bleu – Vert – Rouge” (with [card]Restoration Angel[/card]), Gruul, and B/G Midrange. We made this plan because:
I still hated mono-red and mono-white.
B/G Midrange put up good results at GP Calgary and at the SCG Invitational.
[card]Restoration Angel[/card] is very good because it is easier to solve puzzles if you can wait to gather all the pieces.
Vincent said that hating mono-red or mono-white was just being silly. And Xavier said that he shouldn’t say things like that and that everyone has a favorite deck. And Xavier was right. But Vincent was a bit right, too. Because it is sort of being silly. But in life you have to make lots of decisions and if you don’t make decisions you would never do anything because you would spend all your time choosing between the decks you could play.
On Tuesday I did not have to go to work so I played as much as I could so that I could find the perfect Gruul build. I was able to play a lot because my good friend Jan Van Nieuwenhove came to help me. It was not easy to find the best build but that was fine because I don’t like it when things are too simple. I played a lot against Jund and found out that the best cards in this matchup were [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card] and [card]Flinthoof Boar[/card].
I also found out that 3/3s are better than 2/1s and 2/2s because they don’t die to [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card]. I liked [card]Mogg Flunkies[/card] because it was a 3/3 and it did not matter that much that it could not attack alone because I had a lot of haste creatures like [card]Lightning Mauler[/card] and [card]Hellrider[/card], and I also had [card]Mutavault[/card] which is a land so it does not die to [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card] either. So I decided that it would be a very bad choice to play mono-red because you don’t have access to [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card] and [card]Flinthoof Boar[/card].
On Wednesday I had to work but it was very hard for me to concentrate because my head was full of questions and I did not have the answer to all these questions.
At 7 past 3 p.m. Vincent called me.
He said “Hey Marijn.”
I said “Hey Vincent.”
He said “We cannot play B/G Midrange, this deck is too bad. We tested it against UWR and it cannot win. We need to play Jund instead.”
And I did not know what to say. I wanted to say that this is not possible because I really needed to play green for [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card] and [card]Flinthoof Boar[/card] because they were the best cards in the deck but I could not say this because I was at work and my colleagues would hear it and find me weird.
So I said ‘OK.’ and I hung up the phone.
When I came home I was desperate. My head was hurting and I could not stand up because I’d get all dizzy and everything would go black. So I sat in front of my computer and fired up Magic Online.
I decided to try the mono-green Elfball deck and bought 4 [card]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/card] and 4 [card]Kalonian Hydra[/card]s.
Then I played one 8-man and one 2-man but lost both.
Then I played one 8-man with mono-red and lost as well.
Then I sold the [card]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/card] and [card]Kalonian Hydra[/card]s because I did not own any more tickets.
Then I played one 8-man with G/B Midrange and lost.
Then I played one 8-man with the Gruul deck from Brian Kibler and lost again.
And then I didn’t know what I was doing any more.