The Black Perspective: Shenanigans in our Nation’s Capital *2nd*
"Excuse me miss, but I just had to say that you look great tonight. In fact . . .."-Ted Knutson*
A friend of mine convinced me to go out on a blind date a little while back. The girl turned out to be an ex-girlfriend who was still upset about the fact that I dated her sister for a little while shortly after we split up. I was cursed at for a while then I had a cup of Mountain Dew thrown at me (in the middle of the student center mind you). Despite all of that, I can still say that prior to GP: D.C., that experience still ranks higher than all previous team events I've played in.
My team for this event was Adam Horvath and Patrick Sullivan. I've known these guys for quite some time now, and I consider them two of my closest friends. We live nearby, are able to practice together often, and I think this is the primary reason we did well at this event. In fact, I think if you really want to do well at a team event, you need to trust your teammates and be able to practice with them as much as possible. To prove this fact, let's take a look at some of my past teams and my abysmal record in team events.
Team $42 Ticket: Myself, Adam Horvath, and Eugene Harvey.
None of us were on the Pro Tour as of yet, this was just after Eugene made his first T8 at US Nationals. We had to either win a PTQ or qualify on rating in order to get to PT: New York. Our first event together was a GP Trial, which we managed to win. However, Eugene was playing piano for a musical (which he does most summers), and this caused us to miss a number of PTQ's together. We failed to win much and were forced to sit out the PT.
Team Togit Connection: Myself, Eugene Harvey, and Mike Turian.
This time around we actually were qualified on Pro Tour points, so no PTQ'ing was necessary. This turned out to be a negative however, as we were never able to play together as a team much. We played together at GP: New Jersey, but sadly, Eugene had a Chili-Cook off to judge and was forced to leave early, leaving Mike and I teamless for rounds 6-8. When the PT came around, we hadn't really practiced much as a team. I had done countless drafts with Slay, Pillage, Gerard and Team Togit, but Eugene and Mike were still in Pittsburgh, so I would just be drafting with locals on my side. We end up going 3-3, and I am forced to drink heavily on Friday night of the PT to compensate. I am comforted by the fact that I got to watch Jon Finkel strike out with over seven girls in a single night, a feat that has only been matched by a one Jose Barbero.
Team Barnes and Nobles: Myself, Antonio Derosa, and Morgan Douglass.
I felt confident with this team, although I knew since they lived far away, we probably wouldn't be able to get in much practice. We scrubbed out of both the GP and the PT.
As you can see, I can't really say I was looking forward to this event, but at the same token, once you've hit rock bottom, you can only go up.
Practice makes perfect.
Right after GP: Columbus my team started practicing for the team season. For one reason or another, my team tends to get more motivated to practice for this format than any other. I suppose it has to do with the fact that it's more fun than other formats, and they generally tend to do very well each season.
We didn't really have a plan for the Sealed portion, other than hope to open well. We had done several sealed practice runs, and the color combinations we were most pleased with were G/W, R/B and Blue-based Affinity. The hardest deck to build was the Affinity deck, because you wanted it to have artifact removal so it could deal with problem cards like Leonin Bola, but if the Black was deeper, then you would have to suck it up and go U/B affinity, which simply isn't as strong in sealed as it is in booster draft. If your card pool was really insane for Affinity, you could go mono-Blue Affinity, not having to split any of the other colors, but I would only recommend that if you have many evasion creatures and at least one Quicksilver Behemoth.
The initial strategy we implemented in draft was to put Black in the C (left) seat, Green in the B (middle) seat, and Blue in the A (right) seat. We figured this would be a common strategy, as you maximize the Green picks in Mirrodin and take advantage of the black in Darksteel. This plan seemed fine enough, but I was never happy with how the decks turned out. In Team Rochester, you generally want to have two good matchups minimum, and this strategy seemed to be creating a situation where the match would be defined by one of the seats, typically the B seat.
Another thing we noticed in testing was that specific matchups could be exploited if you drafted properly. I kept noticing that no matter how good my Affinity deck looked, I would lose to their RB deck. A combination of removal and speed was a problem for the Affinity deck, as its creatures were often very vulnerable to R/B's removal. One matchup that didn't mind R/B's removal though was G/W. Originally, we assumed that R/B would be able to walk over G/W, but a combination of large creatures and combat tricks showed us that G/W actually has a good matchup against R/B. So we decided that our best option would be to exploit the matchups and try and set ourselves up properly. After we decided what archetype had a good match up with what, we then had to figure out which seats to put them in. We decided to try putting G/W in the C (left) seat, because we thought that most players would try putting their R/B deck there. It also gave us as many chances to grab the Green and White golems as possible, as well as the White uncommons, which are all very good. We put the Affinity deck in B, because we felt Blue was one of the strongest colors across all three packs, so we would be able to get plenty of playable in that seat. That left us with R/B in A, which always ended up being very good.
So with a set plan, we felt good about going into the GP.
The Drive over.
With Virginia only being four hours away, I was excited about the idea of another road trip with the always amusing crew of John Fiorillo, Phil Napoli, Jon Sonne, and a random fifth tossed in depending on the trip. This time around it was everyone's third favorite Asian, Dave Chung. Chung took a bus from NJ to Staten Island to meet us, so we ended up being an hour behind schedule, which meant that I wouldn't be able to see Kill Bill v.2 on Friday night, leaving me quite upset. The car ride was fairly standard for us, arguing about the most inane things we could think of like, if you opened a Magic pack with both Mask of Memory and Sword of Fire and Ice, which would you take? I also let them in on the secret Ukrainian make-out move. If you're inviting a girl over to your place, bake some Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies beforehand and let the smell fill the house - you're guaranteed action that night.
We named ourselves Shenanigans, in honor of my failed attempt at a restaurant. Our first set of sealed decks were pretty average, nothing too spectacular. I end up with a mono-Blue Affinity deck, Adam takes R/B and Pat is settled with R/G, as our White is just too shallow.
Round 1: Reginald Cupcakes
Their team name left much to the imagination. I was paired against their U/B Affinity player and his deck seemed slightly better than mine. Pat had lost his match and Adam won his, so the match was all up to me. That's not a great position to be in when your opponent in game 3 casts turn 2 Myr, turn 3 Chittering Rats, and turn 4 Greater Harvester. I actually had never seen a Greater Harvester before, so I had to read what it did. I picked up the card, looked it over, put it back down, looked at my board of three lands, then picked up the card and read it again.
We lost, 1-2.
Next round we managed to win 3-0, although had Adam not had an answer to Scepter on Nourish, I could certainly see us losing one of those games.
Our second card pool was much better than the first. We ended up with a solid G/W deck and an insane mono-Blue and B/R deck. My affinity deck did have two Iron Myr, a Great Furnace, and a Chromatic Sphere, so I could board into some Red cards like Unforge if I felt I needed to.
We ended up going 4-0 with this card pool and here were some of the highlights.
It's game 2 and I'm up a game in round 5. My opponent is at seven from some early pressure, but decimates my board with a Grab the Reins. He's now in full control with a Tel-Jilad Archers, a Yotian Soldier, a Tangle Spider and five freshly summoned One Dozen Eyes tokens. My board is only an Iron Myr and some lands, three of which are artifact lands. I slam my deck for an answer and find my sideboard tech. I slam down Krark-Clan Shaman and wipe away the board. I manage to win after I top deck some creatures.
Eugene is sitting at the table and Craig decides now is a good time to put his feet up. This causes the table to shake, spilling a Coke all over Eugene's pant's. [I just thought Krempels wet himself. I'm not sure if the truth is more or less entertaining... - Knut]
I attack with a 10/10 Arcbound Crusher.
So we end the day with a 7-1 record and only need two wins to advance to the top 4. Everyone from CMU-Togit made day 2, but only Zabuton Nemonaut and Shenanigan's decided to use the strategy, while Gerard, Sonne, and Craig decided they didn't have enough time to practice the new strategy and opted to use the old one instead.
Draft 1 versus Thaaaat's Me!
I've played against Bill Stead before and I've talked to him at events in the past. I know a couple of things about him. One, he's a pretty funny guy, and two, he's one of the best and most underrated Limited players on the PT. I was familiar with Chris, but didn't really know Charles. They employed an identical strategy to ours and we ended up with three mirror matches. Throughout the day, I felt we made some small mistakes in the drafts here and there, although I felt we made a serious mistake in this draft. For some reason, we allowed Bill to get back an Annul in the Affinity mirror when I took a Seat of the Synod over it. It was a huge mistake, but at least we learned from it and it made us more aware throughout the day.
Despite that oversight, I think the draft went well for us, only because the packs opened a little better on our side. We out opened them in the C seat, netting better creatures and a Solar Tide, and they out opened us in the B seat netting themselves a Memnarch, Vedalken Archmage, and Crystal Shard, so the match all came down to the R/B mirror in A. We felt that Adam's deck was very good and he could easily win, considering how bad Chris' deck turned out. Chris did have one out though, and that was the Arc-Slogger he opened. If Chris was able to get that bad boy out, Adam's only answer was Grab the Reins - anything short of that would surely be game. Of course when anything can go wrong, it usually does, and Adam lost to an Arc-Slogger in games one and three.
The loss sucked, but I wasn't that torn up about it. I felt like we lost to a good team, that knew what they were doing.
Draft 2 versus Zabuton Nemonaut
Being paired against Mike Turian or Eugene Harvey in a tournament can make anyone a little nervous, but imagine being paired against both of them. Thankfully, the fact that Gary Wise was on their team took some of the edge off.
It appeared like we would have to endure three more mirror matches, and this time we were the ones who were out opened. I felt like the match would rest on my match this time, and although my deck wasn't as powerful as Gary's, I think I was slightly faster and could tempo him out. I also had a pair of Irradiates as the only creature removal available in our matchup, although they would have to be ready for his Spikeshot Goblin.
My match with Gary played out as expected, I get early pressure on him and his deck is too clunky to catch up. Adam won his match pretty handily, and it appeared as though I had overestimated they're decks. It seems like they just didn't get as many solid creatures as we did and it cost them. That was one problem I noticed throughout the day, people simply weren't getting enough quality creatures for their deck, and were forced to play hits like Elf Replica and Drill Skimmer. Going into the second round of packs, make sure your team has at least three to four solid creatures for their decks.
Draft 3 versus Uh-Oh Oreos.
We needed to win this round to have a chance, although we were still unsure if it would get us fifth or fourth. The draft went very well for us, and I think it was the one time all day where we made almost no mistakes.
We win 2-1 and wait for the standings to go up. Thanks to people drawing into the money, we are the only team with 27 points so we're assured fourth place.
Top 4 Draft versus YMG/Illuminati
This draft probably went better for us than any of the other drafts did. Part of this had to do with our openings, but part had to do with the fact that they let us get way too many cards they could've taken instead. We ended up with too many good wheels, and I think some of their card evaluations were off. I was getting Myrs way too late, and the biggest mistake of the draft was one of the last picks. Rob opened a Pulse of the Fields and all of us cringed. We knew Pat would probably lose to that card if it got cast, as in the G/W mirror that card is too good. Instead, they too the Emissary of Hope over it and Pat actually got the Pulse. I felt Pat's matchup was already good, but that was the icing on the cake.
I knew there was no way I could lose my matchup. I had double Icy Manipulator, Crystal Shard, and double Relic Bane, and in the Affinity mirror, any one of those cards can end your life. I won my match in two and we moved onto the finals.
Finals Draft versus Thaaaat's Me!
I was so glad this team made it to the finals. Not only are they a great bunch of guys, they also used a strategy identical to ours, which made us feel like our testing wasn't done in vain. In the finals, they decided to change their plan slightly. They knew what we were going to do, so they decided to try and switch the Affinity deck and the R/B deck. This would give them a good matchup in the B seat, but a bad match up in the A seat, in essence, putting the match in the hands of the C seat. With the match riding on Pat and the G/W mirror, we were quite pleased at how the draft ended. I felt like my matchup was rough, only because it was R/B against Affinity and he had the right tools to beat me, although had he not opened Furnace Dragon, I actually think the matchup would've been much closer, if not in my favor. Adam was going to win his matchup and I think Pat was a heavy favorite in his matchup, since he had Mask of Memory, Solar Tide and Stir the Pride, along with a solid creature base.
Adam's match went according to plan, but Pat parised to five and couldn't manage to win his match, so the tournament hinged on my game. I managed to take Bill to three games, and I feel like I could've won. The crucial turn was turn 5, where I could've cast a Gemini Engine, but opted to cast a Neurok Spy and hold mana up for Vex. Had I been more aggressive, I think I would've been in a much better position to win the match, but as it stood, I think I was too fearful of Furnace Dragon after getting wrecked by it game 1, and it cost me the match. It's one of those things where your mind knows what the right play is, but you make a judgment call that is affected by fear. Have you ever kept a bad hand after mulliganing the previous game? It's the same principal, a bad decision made out of fear, only this one cost me the match.
I'm not sure if I would've won, but I wish I hadn't been so cautious. Regardless, I was pleased with how we drafted throughout the day and worked as a team, and a mistake is only a lesson that will help you along the way.
Wow I'm really bad at Props, I should probably stop now.
Next time on the Black Perspective:
Sooooooooooooo . . . T2.
The truth about Tooth and Nail.
My Invitational card.
20 Questions with Jon Finkel
and some more Ask Joe Black questions like this one:
I am a judge and I was just wondering, do the Pros have any particular judges they like more than others, what about despise? Please hit me back.
Judge S. Mener . . .no wait that's too obvious, Judge Sheldon M.
Dear Judge Sheldon M.,
Well that's a good question S. Since us Pros do travel a lot and see the same people over and over again, we do tend to make friends with those people, players and judges alike. Judges are a valuable resource when it comes to knowledge, and I'd say there are three judges in particular I go to for different types of advice.
Whenever I need a rulings question on timing or priority I always go to John Carter. He is always on top of things like that and gives me a fast and accurate answer.
Whenever I need to know a penalty for a certain action, or am just curious on the specifics of a card text I go to Gis Hoogendjik. He's a streaming source of information in this area.
And whenever I need some advice on the ladies I go to the man himself, Judge Sheldon Menery. I'll never forget the times after an event Sheldon would sit all us Pros in a circle and tell us the"tricks of the trade," so to speak. I'll never forget hearing about his harrowing tales through puberty, or the time he once went out with Suzanne Sommers.
Hope this helps.
Osyp"Joe Black" Lebedowicz
*This little quote wasn't made at GP: D.C. but rather GP: Columbus. You see a bunch of us decided to go out on Saturday night and Ted was one of them. We went to a hick bar called the Toad, Goat and Wild Boar. It was quite the trip for us Yankee boys. There were cowboy hats as far as the eye can see, but the girls were very nice. One in particular walked into the bar wearing a low cut green top and skin-tight jeans. The whole night all of us were obsessing over this girl, except for Ted, who of course is spoken for. However, this girl was so hot that even Ted felt the need to simply give her a compliment. So as this young vixen was leaving the bar Ted walked up to her and proceeded with one of the worst lines in the history of mankind.
"Excuse me miss, I just wanted to say you look ravaging tonight, so much so, that if I were a curator of a museum, I would sacrifice all of my artifacts to you."
He then smiled and looked back at us with a wink. We just had this weird look on our face like we just witnessed a car accident. Not only was that an awful line, it would actually make no sense to someone who didn't play Magic. Hell, I play Magic and I'm still not sure what that meant. Needless to say, the girl didn't take to it to well and gave Ted one of the dirtiest looks I've ever seen a woman give a man before. I think I saw her face literally split open and leaving only a flaming skull there to tell our beloved editor off. Ted simply hunched his shoulders and walked back to our table like a man who just had his turn 2 Myr killed.