Entries in Gaming (10)


Grand Prix Toronto (AKA Grand Prix Pearson International Airport AKA Grand Prix I'm So Tired)

A couple of weeks ago I played at Grand Prix Toronto, which will go down as the biggest darn Magic tournament I've ever played in (1616 players!)

In theory, I was supposed to play nine rounds on the Saturday.

In practice, I stopped after round seven with a 4-3 record, because it was 9:30 and it was late and I was tired and hungry. The delicious burger, beers, and conversation at Moxie's was way better, I think. Besides, I won my first three games, lost my next three, and then won my final one, thus allowing me to sit comfortably on the "yes" side of my "did I have fun?" flowchart.

I could devote pages and pages to the experience, but I think that it's more therapeutic to post my deck list, show what I kept, and indicate which cards I may have regretted not putting in.

My deck was a decent blue-green, evasion- and bestow-based deck, with a single white card in Daxos of Meletis. It was a little slow compared to the super-fast red-black or red-green decks, but I was often able to outpace my opponents with unblockable, super-enchanted creatures. It was also fairly light on removal.

Here's what I ran:

2 Plains
8 Forest
7 Island

2 Vaporkin
1 Leafcrown Dryad
2 Nimbus Naiad
1 Agent of Horizons
1 Nessian Courser
1 Daxos of Meletis
1 Opaline Unicorn
1 Thassa's Emissary
1 Karametra's Acolyte
1 Anthousa, Setessan Hero
1 Pheres Band Centaurs
1 Nemesis of Mortals
1 Mistcutter Hydra

1 Traveler's Amulet
1 Fade into Antiquity
1 Feral Invocation
1 Time to Feed
2 Griptide
2 Thassa's Bounty

Here's my sideboard:

1 Artisan's Sorrow (You know, in case some enchantments or artifacts showed up and I wanted more than one option...)

Here's what I thought about putting in but ended up not:

2 Leonin Snarecaster (I felt this messed up my curve too much, since I'd never want to play it on turn 2 and felt that any bestow creature was better than tapping a single guy once in the late game)
1 Heliod's Emissary (I didn't want to splash more than one white card, and opted for Daxos instead. This may have been my worst mistake. I really should have fit this guy in I think.)
1 Nylea's Emissary (I dithered for a bit between this and Thassa's Emissary, and opted for the card draw over the trample as the effect I'd rather have.)
1 Staunch-Hearted Warrior (I used the Nessian Courser instead of this to keep myself lower on the curve and ensure at least a 3/3 body. Sure, I could always follow this 2/2 up with a bestow creature on turn 5, but even that seemed more risky than having a 3/3 blocker on turn 3.)
1 Coastline Chimera (Even though the flying is nice, I felt the deck was too aggressive for a 1/5 flier that's designed to block)

Here are cards that I liked but could never realistically run:

1 Chained to the Rocks (Dang crap my best removal would need me to branch out into a fourth colour. Sure, it'd get me a Rage of Purphoros, but that's a lot of commitment for all that pain. And think about the Mountains I'd need!)
1 Steam Augury (Again, this is a cute card, but not so much in Limited and not in situations where I'd have to either commit to red as my third colour or seriously revamp my deck)
1 Cutthroat Maneuver
1 Read the Bones
1 Lash of the Whip
1 Whip of Erebos (These four come as a package, since they were the best in my black pool. But I think I'd rather have my green and blue together than dither over what to cut to make a four-card splash happen.

Obviously, there are more cards in my pool than just these things, but I've gotta stay salient or else I'll just start regretting my decisions more ;) I can hardly wait for Grand Prix Ottawa next year!


Theros Game Day Tournament Report (and a rudimentary flow chart)

From the almost two years that I've been back at it and playing in tournaments, I've learned that I'm not that competitive, but when there's something on the line I'll care more about winning.

I think that 95% of the people who play at Gamebreakers are Good Fun People who Aren't Jerks. As a result, the fact that I'm out playing the game is usually fulfilling enough; however, as my prospects improve, I get Spikier and Spikier.

I calibrate myself against a "fun flowchart" that goes something like this:

Have a blast just playing the game, BUT
If I win my first match, I'd like to win half my matches, BUT
If I'm at the top table and have a chance, I'd like to crush the competition and win all of the prizes.

That's why I get all wound up when there's a Game Day playmat at stake. What better way to prove your worth than having a gaming surface that is emblazoned with the word "CHAMPION"?

Theros playmat. Image courtesy of www.gamersgauntlet.net

So Theros Game Day had me worried—sleep-losingly worried, at times—about how well I could do and what deck I should bring. The rotation of Innistrad block hit me fairly hard. The deck with which I was most successful, Jund Midrange, lost almost all of its creatures, and some of its land, and Farseek, AKA the Mana Ramp to End All Mana Ramps.

The deck that had fallen out of favour with me, Boros Aggro, mostly just lost half of its creatures, but they included the biggest, splashiest, most game-winning ones (like Hellrider and Thundermaw Hellkite).

My final decision was that I had the cards to build Boros Aggro, felt comfortable with those sorts of decks, and didn't want to drop a couple hundred dollars required to build a different deck.

And, my goodness me, I won it all. First place, 4-0, with one game loss in the whole match. Play mat. Boom. Did you know that there's a Planeswalker Points achievement for going undefeated? I didn't until now!

Yes, of course I took a screenshot. Humblebrag, or genuine brag?

Ultimately, I used the RW deck Adam Jansen used in Pro Tour Theros. Based on his results I think he went 10-6-1 with it, which isn't too shabby. Regardless: it felt like a good fit for what I was used to, and it let me use some of the new cards that I'd picked up (Stormbreath Dragon and Chandra, Pyromaster in particular). Adding white to a fairly normal-looking Red Deck Wins shell gives this deck reach, as well as the ability to use your sideboard to answer threats that a straight red deck just can't.

13 Mountain
4 Mutavault
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Temple of Triumph

4 Ash Zealot
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Chandra's Phoenix
4 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Rakdos Cackler
3 Stormbreath Dragon

4 Boros Charm
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
4 Lightning Strike
2 Mizzium Mortars

1 Assemble the Legion
2 Burning Earth
4 Chained to the Rocks
2 Mizzium Mortars
3 Shock
1 Stormbreath Dragon
2 Wear // Tear

Here's how my four rounds broke down:

Round 1: versus Esper Control (Simon)

This was one of the matchups I was expecting to see quite often, and hopefully do well against. It went as anticipated: while Esper Control loves using Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, it's not a good card against my deck. I mean, what are you going to steal? A Boros Reckoner if you're lucky? I came out of the gates quickly and made sure I finished him off each game before he could stabilize. PROTIP: Save some creatures in your hand for when he kills all the ones you've got!

2-0 for me.

Sideboarding choices:
-2 Boros Reckoner
-2 Mizzium Mortars

+2 Burning Earth
+1 Assemble the Legion
+1 Stormbreath Dragon

Round 2: versus Junk Midrange (Dan)

I'd played against Dan a couple of weeks ago, when I was trying out Three-Colour Red Aggro Burn (AKA Burning CRAB). If I remember it correctly, it's mostly high-value creatures (Loxodon Smiter, Voice of Resurgence, Advent of the Wurm, Trostani, Archangel of Thune), with the Black being mostly for removal. It's a deck that you have to deal with quickly, before the life gain makes it impossible for you to win.

Luckily for me, the mana just wasn't there for him in game 1, and he didn't hit a green mana source until his last turn. In game 2 I was able to neutralize his key threats with removal and fly over his head with Chandra's Phoenixes and Stormbreath Dragons for the win.

2-0 for me.

Sideboarding choices:
-4 Rakdos Cackler
-2 Lightning Strike

+4 Chained to the Rocks
+2 Burning Earth

Round 3: versus Jund Monsters/Devotion (Mike L.)

Mike said that this deck got him playing Standard, since he had been playing exclusively EDH for years. This was a fun deck to play against, and one of the sorts of decks that I was worried about squaring off against, just because of the speed that he can cast giant creatures. His deck was built to bring out mana acceleration such as Voyaging Satyr or Sylvan Caryatid, lay down some creatures to build up devotion, and then use Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Voyaging Satyr to drop gigantic unstoppable beasts onto the board (Arbor Colossus, or Polukranos, or Reaper of the Wilds, or etc. etc. etc.)

It was a hoot to see it in action! I came out of the gates too quickly in game 1 for him to fight back. He had a slight misplay in game 2 where he attacked when he shouldn't have, I blocked with my Boros Reckoner, did massive amounts of damage to his face, and then finished him off with a Boros Charm.

2-0 for me.

Sideboarding choices:
-4 Rakdos Cackler
-4 Lightning Strike (After all, I can't target Sylvan Caryatid with it, and most of his creatures were X/4 or larger)

+4 Chained to the Rocks
+2 Burning Earth
+2 Mizzium Mortars

Round 4: versus Five-Colour Maze's End Control (James W.)

Hilariously fun to play against. I was taken apart like a cheap watch in game 1 because he played two Saruli Gatekeepers, and then used Crackling Perimeter + Prophet of Kruphix to deal massive amounts of damage to me every turn. In games 2 and 3 his life gain cards just didn't show up, and I played a bit grindier a game by making sure I always held back either some creatures or a Boros Charm to address his Supreme Verdicts or other board wipes.

2-1 for me.

Sideboarding choices:
-1 Rakdos Cackler
-4 Lightning Strike

+1 Assemble the Legion
+2 Burning Earth
+2 Wear // Tear

I think that I had an easier time than I thought I would because everybody I played against was running three or more colours, so they were running many lands that came into play tapped. Since I'm trying to close the game out as quickly as possible, them setting themselves back a turn works to my advantage.

I never thought I'd ever write these words, but Firedrinker Satyr may have been Man of the Match. Before I played with it I severely underestimated how powerful the pump effect was. But after going through a couple of matches I really learned to appreciate how it smoothed out my plays. I found myself in situations on turn 2 where I didn't have an Ash Zealot in my hand, and I didn't need to cast any of my removal spells (all of which cost 2). So I'd use my mana to make the Satyr 3/1 and swing in for that ever-so-vital extra point of damage.

And, despite my love of Chandra, Pyromaster and Stormbreath Dragon, I'd have to say that the other key card for me was Mutavault. I may have consistently done more damage with Ash Zealots, and I may have been able to punch through some X/3 or larger creatures with Firedrinker Satyrs, but I never had a Mutavault die on me. They'd just stick around, faithfully hammering away at my opponents, through thick and thin, through Supreme Verdict and sorcery-speed removal. Because who wants to kill a 2/2 manland when there are Boros Reckoners and Stormbreath Dragons on the field?


M14 Game Day tournament report

I went to the M14 Game Day tournament at my FLGS and fluked my way into a 2nd place finish out of 14 people by going 3-1.

Why a fluke, you may ask? Well, there were only two undefeated players after three rounds, but one of them didn't want to intentionally draw to guarantee himself at least 2nd place. Ah, principles! Thanks for getting me a better standing!

I played a fairly standard Jund Midrange deck, still using Thundermaw Hellkite instead of Arbor Elf or Lifebane Zombie because I'm old-skool that way:

4  Blood Crypt
2  Cavern of Souls
2  Dragonskull Summit
2  Kessig Wolf Run
4  Overgrown Tomb
3  Rootbound Crag
4  Stomping Ground
4  Woodland Cemetery

4  Huntmaster of the Fells
3  Olivia Voldaren
3  Scavenging Ooze
4  Thragtusk
2  Thundermaw Hellkite

1  Abrupt Decay
3  Bonfire of the Damned
1  Dreadbore
4  Farseek
2  Mizzium Mortars
2  Putrefy
2  Rakdos's Return
2  Tragic Slip

2  Garruk, Primal Hunter

1  Deadbridge Chant
2  Gaze of Granite
1  Liliana of the Veil
1  Mizzium Mortars
2  Pillar of Flame
1  Rakdos's Return
2  Ruric Thar, Unbowed
2  Slaughter Games
1  Tragic Slip
2  Vraska the Unseen

Here's how my four rounds broke down:

Round 1: versus RWB Midrange (Eimantas)

I'm sure that there's a name for this kind of deck, because I've seen it fairly often. It's fairly light on creatures, and relies on planeswalkers (Liliana of the Veil and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad) to put pressure on before dropping an Assemble The Legion or two and rolling over with swarms of little dudes. I was able to (often just barely) sneak in lethal damage to planeswalkers when it counted, and got lucky enough to finish my opponent off with a trampling Thragtusk while two Assemble the Legions were in play. Whew!

2-0 for me.

Round 2: versus RG Aggro (John K.)

This is the match I expect to see more often than any, since I feel that a lot of people are running RG Aggro right now. He was using one of the configurations that runs Temple Gardens just to make sure he can cast Boros Reckoner at any time.

One thing I hadn't played against before this match was Burning Earth. Man, that shuts me down right proper. Luckily for me, I won the first game, and was able to close out the second game before his sideboarded-in Burning Earth could finish me. Playing two Thundermaw Hellkites over two turns will do that ;)

2-0 for me

Round 3: versus RG Aggro (Oskar)

I think this was close to Brian Kibler's build. I did not do so well. I lost the first match very quickly because I didn't have enough removal to deal with his creatures. I may have been able to drag the match out for a couple rounds longer than it went, but I misplayed and attacked with too many guys once and left inadequate defences behind.

You'd think that, based on my previous match, I'd be cognizant that Burning Earth would wreck me and I should sideboard in answers to it (Vraska the Unseen, in my case). NOPE I kept her at home and paid the price when the Burning Earth hit and I couldn't do anything except tap mana and die.

0-2 for him

Round 4: versus Jund Midrange (Lucas)

A mirror match! I got lucky and was able to get the jump in both games. In the first game I got some good acceleration and was able to Rakdos's Return away five of his six cards in hand before he could get a foothold (although his Scavenging Ooze got pretty big). In the second game I was the first to play a Huntmaster of the Fells, which let me kill any Huntmasters he played (due to the favourable flips into Ravager of the Fells.)

2-0 for me.

All in all, my deck performed pretty well, and it was mostly my own idiocy that lost me games. The more I use this deck, the more I love it. I hardly ever saw Rakdos's Return, but the times I did I was usually able to capitalize. My Scavenging Oozes didn't do as well as I thought they would, but I think that's a learning experience for me since I usually played them as soon as I could. In the future I'll try to be more willing to hold onto them until I can grow one to massive proportions the turn that it's played.

Since it was a 14-player field, I won four boosters, which I took in store credit instead of actual packs. What will my $12 buy me? Who knows!


Crashed; burned

I recently played in my first draft of M14.

It's a core set, so drafting it can't be that hard, right? There have been countless articles dedicated to what decks you should try to draft, so all you have to do is pick one and go with it, right?

So why did I immediately ignore the list and try to draft mono-red burn?

(It is because I am a doofus.)

I didn't win a single match. Heck, I think I may have won a single game all night.

Yup. Self-immolatingly bad.

I don't draft often, but I'm fairly certain this was the worst draft I've ever done, and I have nobody but myself to blame. For posterity, here's the trash deck that I assembled, and immediately went 0-3 with:

17 Mountain

1 Striking Sliver
1 Dragon Hatchling
1 Blur Sliver
2 Dragon Egg
1 Regathan Firecat
3 Sliver Construct
2 Canyon Minotaur
1 Marauding Maulhorn
1 Pitchburn Devils
1 Fleshpulper Giant

1 Barrage of Expendables
1 Shock
2 Thunder Strike
2 Volcanic Geyser
1 Chandra's Outrage
1 Shiv's Embrace
1 Lava Axe

Sure, it's got some decent removal, but what's more important is what was missing. Rares! I didn't draft any rares! And beefy creatures! I didn't use any creatures larger than 5/3!

Ultimately my key failing is that I passed up several great cards, just because they weren't red. It was awful, and I feel dirty just admitting how poorly I did.

Next time, I'm drafting Slivers. Or red-green aggro. Or anything.


Rediscovering my past

(Or: Magic: The Gathering: The Return: The Expensive)

I really wish I knew how I got into playing Magic: The Gathering. I mean, it's not like there was really an internet back then, right? Maybe I learned from the BBSes I frequented. Maybe I walked into a book store and saw the package, and thought it looked neat.

But it's lost to the sands of time. All I know is that I was 14. I bought a starter deck of Revised and pulled a Savannah and a Righteousness for rares. That was back when A) they sold starter decks and B) starter decks had only two rares instead of three.

The Righteousness I still own. It's worth about $0.75.

The Savannah I traded some time ago to somebody I can't recall for something I can't remember. It's now worth about $75.

I bit one of these once. Great story.

So I'm pisssssssed. But that's the economics of Magic! No matter how much they're worth, you know that in five years they're going to be worth more.

I return!

Which is exactly why now is as good a time as any to start playing again. Now I have disposable income to try things out without agonizing over them, and I never need to sell another card again.

This site could easily be dedicated to nothing but drinking, travelling, M:TG, or combining the three. For now, though, I'll be contented enough to talk about the crap I've learned while continuing to lose at competitive magic.

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