This is my Worlds 2011 report!
Even before I left home, Worlds gave every indication it was going to be an awesome tournament; first, it’s Worlds, and Worlds is always awesome. Second, we had agreed to meet in Oakland for the week before San Diego, where Luis’s dad had kindly offered his house for us to stay in and playtest, and that looked like it was going to be great.
By the time I arrived California, the house already had Kibler, Brad, Josh, Conley and Owen, as well as Web and Luis who drove there every day. Yep, that’s 8 people. We wanted to play constructed, we really did, but it was better to just go ahead and draft while we had 8, rather than make people wait in the future, right? Right?
So, we drafted, a little bit more than we should have. We took breaks to play constructed, but I feel their purpose was more to let us feel like we were doing something else rather than actually being constructive. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the drafts definitely had their uses – we had a pretty absurd draft record, with multiple 6-0s and 5-1s – but at some point drafting starts to give you diminishing returns, and we had no real clue where we stood in both Modern and Standard, so in retrospect we definitely should have played more of those.
At different points, other people started to arrive – first Eric Froelich (Efro) and then Shuhei, but then it turned out the other people in the group – Martin, Lucas, Ben, Matt Nass – would not be able to make it for personal reasons (except for Ben who was just lazy). We still did a lot more drafting than Constructed, but Shuhei for one actually had decks (!!!), so we played more than we had before. I find that having Shuhei in our group really adds a different perspective, since he has different preconceived notions than we do about decks, and he will build stuff we consider bad just so we can test against it, which is something we don’t do as much as we should – for example, for Philly, we all thought Twin was bad “and surely no one is going to play that” so we didn’t even play against it, and it ended up being the second most popular deck in the format (and winning the tournament, of course).
At some point, we spent the day at Superstars, the Channelfireball store in San Jose, and then we got more cards and built more decks, so we can say this was when our Constructed testing seriously began. Soon enough, we had the major decks in the gauntlet, and each person championed a different deck – Josh thought [card]Tempered Steel[/card] was awesome, but he always thinks that so it’s hard to say if it’s really good or if it’s just Josh being, you know, Josh. Owen thought [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] was the best thing you could be doing in Standard, fresh off his win at States, and the card did seem pretty powerful, though I didn‘t like the rest of the deck. Kibler started trying a UR [card delver of secrets]Delver[/card] deck that had good cards but was actually like 6 [card]Volcanic Island[/card]s short of a playable manabase, and Luis tried every sort of UW and UB control while Brad worked on Solar Flare.
As for me, I thought a tricolor control deck could work, and if it wasn’t Solar Flare, then maybe it would be Bant or RUG (I feel like we need a Shard for those colors, as I don’t really like calling it “Intet”…R&D, please do something). Soon enough, it became obvious that they weren’t really able to compete with the aggro decks, and I had to abandon them. We expected the tournament to be mainly Illusions, GW, UW, Wolfrun and assorted bad control decks, and I think that, by this point, Illusions was the best deck we had by a comfortable margin, to the point where Brad declared “we’re all playing Illusions, right?” – all we had to do was decide on the second color, if any, and on the sideboard details.
There were many problems with Illusions, the biggest of which being that the variance was very high – many games were decided by the fact that you flipped or didn’t flip a [card delver of secrets]Delver[/card] in a certain turn, and your cards work overwhelmingly better if you draw them in the right order. There was also the not irrelevant issue of everyone knowing every last thing about it and we having no clue how to win the mirror match. Still, that was less problems than with every other deck, and for a short while I also believed we’d end up playing Illusions.
Kibler kept changing his UR Illusions around, eventually just removing all the Illusions, and it became more of a Red deck splash Blue than the other way around, but the mana was still not good; at some point, he added [card]Merfolk Looter[/card]s, which comboed well with [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card], but I played a bit with it and felt like I didn’t like the control matchups as much anymore – your only guys were [card snapcaster mage]Snapcaster[/card], [card delver of secrets]Delver[/card], [card grim lavamancer]Lavamancer[/card] and [card merfolk looter]Looter[/card], and if they killed your [card delver of secrets]Delver[/card] then it was very hard to put them at low enough life that the burn spells started to matter – from my perspective, a Ur list with around 8 red cards would be the optimal build of that deck, but the mana just made it really hard, so I kind of settled on Uw.
Then, we started playing with [card]Tempered Steel[/card], and it felt sort of like Illusions, except better. They both shared the variance issue – sometimes, with Tempered Steel, you have five permanents in play by turn one, and sometimes you have a land. Sometimes you don’t even have a land! The difference was that Tempered Steel was simply more powerful – it had a better match against almost every deck, and a good match against Illusions to boot, so it was basically the strictly better choice in our eyes.
This sort of power does not come free – Steel is much more vulnerable than Illusions. In Block, Tempered Steel was the best deck because there was nothing you could do about it; now, if people want to beat you, the cards are certainly there – [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] or a combination of [card inferno titan]Titans[/card] plus [card creeping corrosion]Corrosions[/card], for example. The thing is, would people play Grudge? We didn’t think they would, and honestly, they should not have – Tempered Steel made for 5% of the metagame, so it was in everyone’s best interest to not play those cards – assuming everyone did what was correct for themselves, no one would be packing a ton of Ancient Grudges and Corrosions.
That does not mean we expected to have a “free ride”, but the hate we expected to find was the one directed at the creature decks, and not at us specifically – [card]Slagstorm[/card], [card]Arc Trail[/card], Gut Shot – and, against those, we were actually much better than every other creature deck. Basically, it would depend on whether our read of the metagame was correct or not – we thought people were going to be all over Illusions, UW and GW, the most popular decks of the past weeks, so we found something that beat those. If people actually went the next level and built something that would destroy those decks, they would probably destroy us too (i.e. Jun’ya Iyanaga), but at the same time they would be gambling on not facing a ton of control decks (which we thought were bad, but have no control over how other people think, and we knew some people would play it anyway – and they did, though much less than we expected).
In my mind, I settled on Tempered Steel fairly early, at least for my standards – in San Diego I already knew I was very likely to play it, which is easily the earliest I made that decision this year – for the last two Pro Tours, I hadn’t chosen my deck until the day before – that was how good it seemed to me. And that’s ME, mind you – I do not like to play this kind of deck, though my deck choices in the last Pro Tours might make you think otherwise.
Basically, there were two kinds of games – the ones with or without [card]Tempered Steel[/card]. If you have [card]Tempered Steel[/card], you’re favored against
This was the list we ended up playing:[deck]4 Etched Champion
4 Glint Hawk
1 Mikaeus, the Lunarch
4 Signal Pest
4 Vault Skirge
4 Glint Hawk Idol
4 Mox Opal
4 Origin Spellbomb
4 Tempered Steel
4 Inkmoth Nexus
2 Moorland Haunt
4 Seachrome Coast
1 Glacial Fortress
3 Hero of Bladehold
1 Oblivion Ring
4 Shrine of Loyal Legions
1 Timely Reinforcements[/deck]
As Luis said, every slot was pretty much locked, with the exception of the last 7, which turned out to be a [card mikaeus, the lunarch]Mikaeus[/card], two [card]Origin Spellbomb[/card]s, and the four [card]Etched Champion[/card]s.
The basic difference between this deck and the block version was that fliers were much better now. The competition for the ground was much better, with Titans trumping Heroes left and right, so those were not nearly as good anymore, and you also needed them less because artifact removal was less rampant. [card]Etched Champion[/card] proved to be an awesome addition, as kind of a 2/2 [card]Invisible Stalker[/card] that gets bonuses from Tempered Steel – if they manage to stop the early bleeding, the Champion will finish them off.[card]Moorland Haunt[/card] was also a sweet addition – it was rarely spectacular, but it rarely hurt either, and it won us all a couple of games, so I would definitely play it again. Other than that, I’d say the deck is pretty standard, and not much needs to be explained.
The sideboard is trickier, because there are not many good cards at your disposal; you’ll find that you often want to take out [card]Signal Pest[/card], since it’s much worse as your last man standing (which happens a lot more in sideboarded games) and also horrible against mass removal that they might bring, and [card]Origin Spellbomb[/card] is sometimes not very good, but one is always good when the other is not, so you very rarely have a ton of cards to bring in. Red is the exception, so we have a lot more cards for Red – and, again, there isn’t much else you can bring anyway.
The tournament neighborhood, Fisherman’s Wharf, turned out to be a sweet contrast to the god-forsaken area the other guys were staying in, despite being only a ten minute walk away. Overall, it was pretty awesome – we were walking distance from the site (even if half of that walk was like climbing up a mountain), and the area was just nice overall, with a ton of restaurants and the ocean that made it pleasant to walk around. It was a little colder than I expected, the equivalent of our winter, but I actually like it much better than when it’s overly hot.
Anyway, onto the tournament…
Round 1: GW
Round 1 is always very exciting, as it is the moment where you find out if your choices were truly good or if you just had everything wrong. Our game 1 did not disappoint; my opponent mulliganed and I started with [card]Signal Pest[/card] and two [card]Memnite[/card]s, and he passed his turn three very quickly, having made no play so far. Now that could be because he kept a horrible hand and got unlucky on top of it, or because he had [card]Midnight Haunting[/card], which I guess was not standard in GW but also not unheard of. I figured the blowout of me attacking [card]Signal Pest[/card] into it if he had it was not worth the two extra damage if he didn‘t, so I attacked with just the Memnites, and sure enough he had it and blocked only one. I still don’t know if it was the correct play (though it turned out to be good, obviously) – if his next plays are like Hero and Elspeth, those two damage could end up costing me, but I really thought he was up to something.
At some point, we got to a scenario where he had Hero and Township but I was racing him with an [card]Etched Champion[/card], and at one life he was forced to sacrifice a 4/5 [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card], a 3/3 Haunting token and a 2/2 Hero token to [card]Mortarpod[/card] away my 3/3 Origin Spellbomb token – the old four for one – and get me off metalcraft so he could block my guy. That gave me two turns to draw any artifact and kill him, or something good to buy more time, and I drew it on my second attempt.
[draft]3 Origin Spellbomb[/draft]
[draft]1 Oblivion Ring
We split the next two games, and they were not very interesting, other than the fact that I was completely blown out by [card]Mental Misstep[/card] on my [card]Dispatch[/card] in game two.
Round 2: Illusions
Round two I got paired against Illusions, and the game was all but over when he had to start [card vapor snag]Vapor Snagging[/card] my Signal Pest, which he did three times before succumbing.
[draft]3 Origin Spellbomb
1 Mikaeus, the Lunarch[/draft] [draft]2 Dismember
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Timely Reinforcements[/draft]
Game two was trickier, as I mulliganed to 5; mulliganing with this deck is a very real problem, because you have sooo many horrible hands – I think Matt Nass put it perfectly when he said that [card]Mox Opal[/card] counts as a land when you‘re flooded but not when you‘re having mana troubles, so you just get a ton of unplayable hands. In the end, I won because of my [card]Moorland Haunt[/card] coupled with some questionable plays on his part, such as attacking his 1/1 Delver into it my token, a Delver that would have flipped the very next turn.
Round 3: Illusions
My opponent was Swedish and I knew Anton Johnson was playing Illusions, so I put him on Illusions too. Not a very scientific ways of doing things, but hey, it worked. I passed turn 1 without a play and was met with [card]Phantasmal Bear[/card], which I had to think about Dispatching at the end of the turn. My pause obviously represented [card]Dispatch[/card] (and my opponent even commented on that), so I definitely should have thought about it prior, especially considering I had already put him on Illusions, but at that point I think not thinking about it is much worse than representing the card you have, and I decided to [card]Dispatch[/card] it anyway so there was no harm done. He was overpowered really quickly, and at some point he attacked his Lord into my 4/4, protection from all colors [card]Etched Champion[/card] – with him being so low and me being at like 19, I actually considered taking it, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what could possibly go wrong if I blocked (he already had guys in the graveyard if Drake was his goal), so I just blocked, he smiled and conceded.
Game two I had a slow hand that I might have made a mistake in keeping, and he led with Delver. I had a [card]Dismember[/card], and my plan was to Dismember it on his upkeep if it flipped, but when it didn’t I just let it live, which turned out to be a mistake because the very next turn he flipped [card]Mana Leak[/card] for it, which meant I could no longer kill it. My draws ended up being somewhat clunky and mana-light, so the non-instant Dismembering of the Delver ended up really costing me and we got to a scenario where I had to hope he didn’t have anything. Thankfully he didn’t, and I was able to block my way into a somewhat stalled board, and after a couple turns of draw go I ended up with three life but two Tempered Steels.
I had a Nexus, but I was not attacking, since he had one attacker less than me and that would put me dead to [card]Vapor Snag[/card] or [card]Dismember[/card] – I figured I ran a lot more creatures than he did, so at some point I would be able to find another. I also had a [card]Vault Skirge[/card] that I didn’t play, because it’d put me at one life, dead to Snag and Gut Shot. When he produced an extra creature and it turned out Vapor Snag would kill me anyway, I decided to ran the Skirge out there; thankfully he had neither Snag nor Gutshot and once I was able to get a 5/5 lifelink hit in the game was effectively won.
Round 4: UW
This round I played against Raphael Levy, and we were a fake feature match. Game 1 my draw was very good – by turn two I had two [card]Memnite[/card]s, a [card]Signal Pest[/card], a [card]Vault Skirge[/card] and a [card]Glint Hawk[/card] in play, or something similar – but I could still very easily lose to turn 3 [card]Midnight Haunting[/card] (which I knew he played) plus turn 4 [card day of judgment]Wrath[/card], or if he had been on the play. He did not have the Haunting, so I won.
[draft]3 Signal Pest
4 Etched Champion[/draft]
[draft]4 Shrine of loyal legions
2 Hero of bladehold
1 Oblivion Ring[/draft]
Normally I wouldn’t side in Hero against a control deck, but with him not playing Black there was a chance he wouldn’t have a lot of answers, plus [card]Signal Pest[/card] is not very good against [card]Midnight Haunting[/card], especially on the draw, so I boarded in two.
I started with two lands and some dudes, but his [card]Divine Offering[/card] + [card snapcaster mage]Snapcaster[/card] bought him a ton of time, and I wasn’t doing much with that time since I was somewhat stuck on mana. Once I got out of it, I wasn’t doing much either, to be honest – I played a bunch of [card]Tempered Steel[/card]s, but my creatures were all dead by then. Eventually [card gideon jura]Gideon[/card] killed me.
I believe I swapped the Pests and Heroes back for game three, since I was on the play and had seen O-Ring. If I didn’t do that, I think I should have done it…
Game three I mulliganed into a hand of[draft]inkmoth Nexus
Glint Hawk Idol
Shrine of loyal legions[/draft]
and I kept since a cheap artifact would be fine and a land would also be fine, so it seemed better than going to 5. I led with land Spellbomb and drew a couple bricks (a second Opal and a second Steel I think) and a [card]Glint Hawk[/card] that I did not immediately play. When I got to 8 cards in hand, I decided to act – my plan was to play [card]Mox Opal[/card] and then activate Nexus. If he has [card]Divine Offering[/card] and tries to destroy my Opal, then I can play another and then play the Glint Hawk, so that’s good for me. If he saves the [card]Divine Offering[/card] in an attempt to kill the Nexus, I can hope he lets the Glint Hawk trigger resolve (assuming I’m returning Opal) and then I can return Nexus and he can’t do anything about it anymore. If he saves it and responds to the trigger, then I am very likely dead, but at this point I am likely dead anyway, and it might even be better from his point of view to get rid of the Mox, so I thought I should try it. What happened was that he played Divine Offering on my Spellbomb and then Gut Shot on my Nexus, leaving me with exactly one Mox Opal in play. I then discarded three times, which is quite an impressive feat when one has four cards in hand by the end of turn 1 and one of them is a Mox Opal, and died to Haunting without ever playing another land.
Round 5: Wu Humans
This was one of our best matchups, so I was not overly concerned. A turn 3 [card geist of saint traft]Geist[/card] turn 4 [card]Angelic Destiny[/card] almost killed me g1, but I was able to race him with Champion and [card]Tempered Steel[/card] by Dispatching the Angel.
[draft]3 origin Spellbomb[/draft]
1 Oblivion ring[/draft]
Game two I had a very good start, with [card]Glint Hawk Idol[/card], [card]Signal Pest[/card] x2, Skirge and [card]Tempered Steel[/card]. He O-Ringed my Tempered Steel, and then when I attacked he played [card]Marrow Shards[/card] (!), leaving me with just [card]Glint Hawk Idol[/card] and him at four life. I played [card]Etched Champion[/card] after combat, though, and even though he had [card]Angelic Destiny[/card] to block the Idol, the Champion killed him in two turns.
Round 6: GW
This round I played against GW, and I was totally destroyed; game 1, he played turn 3 [card hero of bladehold]Hero[/card] and then [card]Overrun[/card] and I died. Game 2, I mulliganed into a slow hand, and he kept something that seemed like a very bad hand, from my perspective – it is possible that he had cheap stuff in his hand that I never got to see, such as [card]Naturalize[/card] or Gut Shot. I could not punish him for his slow start, though, since my hand was also bad, and his turn 3 [card]Blade Splicer[/card], turn 4 Hero (Dispatched), turn 5 Hero were enough to kill me by themselves.
In all honesty, I was somewhat disappointed with my finish. I know 4-2 can’t really be considered
Plus, that looked like a wasted opportunity – our deck seemed very good, from people’s general records, and it felt like everyone had a better record than I did, or at least the same. Of course, that was not true – there were people at 2-4 for example – but, at the time, those people didn’t register (yay selective memory), and all I could see in front of me was Conley’s 6-0 record, which I kept comparing to my 4-2 and mentally (or verbally) wondering why I played Magic.
Regardless, tomorrow would be a new day, and 4-2 was not bad after all. Worlds is a very long tournament, and after a while I was already feeling a lot better about my chances. We went back, grabbed a quick dinner and a very lengthy dessert at Ghirardelli and then started playtesting Modern, since we didn’t have a clue what was going on – it was actually the first time I’ve playtested for a tournament during the tournament, but I guess with Worlds that is not so hard since it usually ends at around 5. We didn’t really get anywhere, but I’ll talk more about it when I get to Modern.
My draft table had mostly people I didn’t know. I seem to have forgotten my draft decks at the hotel, which is going to make this a lot harder than it otherwise would, but let’s try anyway…
I first picked a White card – [card]Bonds of Faith[/card], if I recall – and then got passed a pack with [card]Dead Weight[/card] as by far the best option. Since I favor GW but am not opposed to any specific color combination, I took the [card]Dead Weight[/card]. Black quickly dried up after that, and, so did White, but the Green cards kept coming. By the end of pack 2 I had a bunch of Green and my two first picks. Pack 2 I first picked a [card butcher’s cleaver]Cleaver[/card], and then there were no good Green or White cards so I picked a second [card]Dead Weight[/card], and followed that with a [card]Victim of Night[/card]. By the end of the draft, I was BG with a Bonds, looking like this if I am not mistaken:[deck]1 Blazing Torch
1 Markov Patrician
1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
1 Butcher’s Cleaver
1 Travel Preparations
1 Falkenrath Noble
1 Essence of the Wild
2 Dead Weight
1 Make a Wish
1 Victim of Night
1 Grizzled Outcasts
2 Orchard Spirit
1 Traveler’s Amulet
2 Diregraf Ghoul
2 Darkthicket Wolf
1 Bonds of Faith
1 Mausoleum Guard
1 Night Terrors
1 Prey Upon
[/deck] [card]Mausoleum Guard[/card] is not my idea of a perfect splash, and neither is [card]Night Terrors[/card] of a playable, but I really didn’t have anything else I could play. Overall, I didn’t dislike my deck – it was certainly not awesome, but it had creatures and some removal, so I was fine with it.
Round 7 I played against RG, and game one we both had a slow draw but I ended up winning by turn 17. Game two was more interesting, as I Night Terrors’ed him on turn five to see:[draft]Prey Upon
to match his Forest, Forest, Mountain in play. My board was an [card]Orchard Spirit[/card], and my whole game plan was basically [card]Essence of the Wild[/card] – I had it in my hand, and if I could survive and untap with it the game would be over, and if he killed it I would likely lose. For that reason, I took [card]Prey Upon[/card] – I figured Vampires + Prey Upon + Pyre could gang up on my Essence, and that was not a trade I was willing to make. In retrospect, I don’t think that was good, because I had [card]Dead Weight[/card] and could just kill his 3/2 so he wouldn’t be able to fight me, but that would take a whole new turn and what if he drew another guy to fight me the following turn also? The right play would likely have been to take the Juggernaut, but maybe I played well, I don’t know.
He drew a land and played his 5/5, I played my Essence, and took it when he attacked. Next turn I attacked, and he played [card]Spidery Grasp[/card] (…), but I had my own Grasp to save my guy (or I wouldn’t have attacked before making a guy anyway as Pyre on my 2/2 untapping his Juggernaut + [card]Geistflame[/card] would kill my 6/6). I could have finished his [card]Juggernaut[/card] off with the [card]Dead Weight[/card] by then, but that would put a fourth card in his graveyard, which coupled with Geistflame + Pyre would be able to kill my Essence before I made a copy of it, so I just let it live and took five damage next turn. A couple turns later I won, but I really dislike how I played that game – I basically put myself dead to [card]Traitorous Blood[/card] for a couple turns, when I think there wasn’t any real need for me to do that.
Round 8 was against UB. First game I kept a bad hand that had two creatures – an early guy and an [card]Essence of the Wild[/card]. He played [card]Victim of Night[/card] on both, and had a third in his hand when I played [card]Night Terrors[/card] the turn before I conceded. Since I had also passed a lot of [card]Claustrophobia[/card]s during the draft, I boarded in [card]Altar’s Reap[/card].
Game two I was pressured early on, taking a hit from his 5/1 [card]Civilized Scholar[/card] and then a [card]Stitched Drake[/card]. We got to a point where I was sure he had something and I had lost, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it, so I just ran my [card]Essence of the Wild[/card] out there. He turned out to have absolutely nothing, and then I won, which was actually very surprising and made me feel very lucky, since his deck seemed much better and he had had a much better position at points, requiring a ton of bricks from him for me to survive.
Game three I drew perfectly, including a [card]Markov Patrician[/card] with two [card]Travel Preparation[/card] counters that made a mockery of all flavor by carrying a [card]Blazing Torch[/card] through his multiple Vampires and Zombies, and then [card]Altar’s Reap[/card] to sacrifice my [card]Mausoleum Guard[/card] after I blocked his Patrician, which coupled with [card]Falkenrath Noble[/card] were enough to kill him.
Round 9 was against a guy who I knew had [card]Daybreak Ranger[/card], from the draft. For that reason, I did not [card]Dead Weight[/card] his tapper on turn two, and sure enough he played the Ranger on turn three and I killed that one. He played a [card]Grizzled Outcasts[/card], which I used the unbeatable combo of [card]Dead Weight[/card] + [card]Blazing Torch[/card] + [card]Make a Wish[/card] on, and then eventually the Torch that came back killed his tapper and I overpowered him.
Game two he played a bunch of [card abbey griffin]Griffins[/card] and [card]Chapel Geist[/card]s and I died.
Game three I started with a good curve, with [card avacyn’s pilgrim]Pilgrim[/card], [card]Night Terrors[/card] (which was very very good in this match, since I didn’t have a lot of ways to kill big guys and he had a lot of them) and [card]Falkenrath Noble[/card], and I had [card]Victim of the Night[/card] in my hand, but no second Swamp. On turn 5, he surprised me by playing the [card angel of flight alabaster]4/4 Angel[/card] that returns Spirits instead of the [card]Grizzled Outcasts[/card] I knew he had, which let me hit him with my own 4/4 Werewolf (and would let me hit for a lot more if I had drawn Swamp). It seemed like every turn he would make the play that would leave him dead to my [card]Victim of the Nigh[/card]t, and every turn I would draw Forest and grow more frustrated, but eventually he just died to Noble pings despite me never drawing my second Black mana.
At this point, I was a lot happier than I had been the previous day (obv), but I knew there were still three more rounds to go – if I also won those, then that would put me in an awesome spot at 10-2, and god knew I needed an awesome spot since we actually had no clue what we were going to play in Modern.
I’m going to finish this here for today; next week, the second draft, Modern and the top 8. See you!