Grand Prix: Minnesota *14th Place*, Part 2
You can read part 1 here.
7AM rolls around and I am up and at'em! Man o man, do I feel like crap. 5 hours? Am I retarded? But we persevere. Jump in the shower, go down to the little hotel café to grab a coffee and a doughnut thing; We're on the main floor at 7:45. Let's do this thing!
Whoops, I was misinformed. Things start at 9, not 8. @$@#%. %#$@. So, grabbing a paper and sipping the coffee, we head back up to the room and peruse. Anyone hear about this new Harry Potter book? Apparently it was "highly anticipated". Who knew?
8:50 comes and we're back on the main floor. Let's do this thing!
Early on, someone had pulled down the list of the Day 2 players and had written their deck next to their name. Everyone at the table I was sitting at passed the sheet around and filled in any decks for names that didn't have them. I was there at 3rd place, "Noah Weil: WW/Patron". I admit I was tempted to cross off the Patron part, for surprise value, but it seemed so anti to what was trying to be accomplished. I filled in a couple names from people I had played yesterday and passed the sheet along. Throughout the day, Antonio DeRosa or someone else would have the cheat sheet, sitting on a chair next to the pairings. People would come up to see who they were play, then go to whomever and see what they were playing. It was fairly useful information, although its value waned as the day went on and who you would be playing was more and more apparent.
Round 9 - Sean Inlow (Mirror)
As we were the only 7-0-1s from the day before, I knew Mr. Inlow with the White. First game goes according to plan. His Jitte gets Manrikied, and our 8.5s trade. Made a nice move in the mid game by bluffing a Shining Shoal (the creature was about to get sacked for Patron anyway). Patron comes out and does his thing.
Game 2: This was one of the more frustrating games of the weekend. I've got Opal-Eye out and another guy holding everything off. Sean keeps laying creatures, which of course was the plan. With him at a near empty hand, I throw out the Final Judgment I'd been holding since turn 2. Sean does a satisfying slump and removes a lot of creatures from play.
Sean draws and plays a Celestial Kirin. I match it with one of my own, then lay a 2/2 and Jitte. Sean draws and says go. I equip, attack, and play another guy. Sean draws again, plays Kirin and Journey, wiping out some stuff. I play another Kirin, offing both of them, and some more creatures. Sean draws and plays another Kirin. I make a Jitte and a couple counters. Sean's Shoal for zero takes out those people and he attacks. I've drawn an awful lot of lands at this point, but still have enough left for a guy and 8.5, which will be the win if I get an untap. Still with an empty hand, Sean draws, attacks and then Journeys his Kirin, wiping away my board for the final time. At this point I start grabbing Plains like they're going out of style and succumb. How annoying.
Game 3: I was never really in this one. A mulligan on the play gives me a pretty weak, but playable hand. Unfortunately I can't make anything out of it and quickly get out carded.
It was an irritating way to lose but I wasn't really upset about it. I felt I played as best as possible and got Sean into a situation where he needed to go runner-runner. Then runner-runner. Then another runner. He did play for the opportunity though, and that's respectable. Magic, neh? Eh.
Round 10 Andrew Stokinger (Mono-Blue)
All I can say is, when Andy's name got called out for the Top 8, everyone booed! How savage is that? I myself kind of like the guy, but that affection didn't stop me from doing my best to crush him utterly. And failing...
Game 1: Isamaru + Jitte does good stuff for a while. It's pretty clear Andrew's got a bevy of counterspells in hand, so I try not to play anything unless he's tapped for whatever reason. I do manage to sneak an 8.5 out which is enough to make damage happen. Andrew makes a serious run at it with Mikokoro, the Center of the Sea. I'm drawing millions of cards but my mana is all tied up through the foxy wizard. Luckily the Howling Mine isn't quite enough and I finish the game before a massive Meloku makes the game unwinnable.
I side in some Hokoris and another Hand of Honor. Out goes the two Charges on the assumption that Andrew will definitely have counterspells by the time that card could be useful.
Game 2: Andrew goes with the turn 2 Scrollkeeper, turn 3 Paddle accelerating into Azami, Lady Of Impossible For White To Deal With And T4 GG Elemental. I actually make a game of it, in the sense that if my opponent drew land for his next 15 draws (5 turns), I could probably kill him. He does play another Scrollkeeper but my triple Bushido army is doing damage. Alas Meloku, who is a wizard, cursetheluck, joins up and I'm down and out. P.S. Hokori was in my hand the whole game doing less than nothing. Can't beat the Paddle.
For game 3 I take out the Hokoris and put in Terashi's Grasp, both for Shaku and Threads of Disloyalty. Those Threads do make an appearance in the third game, as does Azami again. I have one shot with Jitte, but Disrupting Shoal ends that plan. Azami goes out of control and that's the second loss of the day.
The best thing about the coverage was of course getting to show off those fantastic socks. As mentioned, they were knitted by the lovely Brianna. A few people did ask, so here's a pic. Please keep in mind she was a little younger when that photo was taken. I'm no
grave cradle robber!
Round 11 Greg Wolter (GW Control)
I apologize for this one but my notes are completely missing for the match. I know he was with control and I won 2-0, but I honestly have no idea how. I'll assume it was some Patron action, because as we know, this deck only lost a single game it ever cast Patron, and it wasn't this one. Greg Wolter finished 30th winning $250 + amateur money. Great games Greg!
Round 12 Jake Garber (Mirror)
Ah Jake. Jake Jake Jake. He's a really nice young man who had just a touch of fear from when we used to play in the Midwest. From our pre-game conversation, Jake had pretty much already conceded. Someone random, bless his heart, came by and proclaimed this pairing for myself "the absolute best matchup I could receive in the Top 64". Garber smiled the smile of a man who was facing sentencing for a crime he didn't remember committing. Ah, Jake.
Game 1: This game came down to Manriki-Gusari advantage. I put mine on a Bushido guy and just waited. Nothing much happened except (I imagine) equips being stuck in Jake's hand and our Kirins trading. Patron of the Kitsune was played sooner or later and it + Manriki + Eight + Tails did him in.
Game 2: This game came down to one serious error made on Jake's side. On the play Jake got the Jitte out and running pretty quickly. I had Kirin + Journey, but probably not the time to get to 6. So I played Kitsune Blademaster instead and let the Jitted creature through, hoping for the error. Sure enough, Jake immediately killed the Blademaster, perhaps fearing a speedy Patron that which done him in the game previous.
Unfortunately, Jitte being at zero allowed me an untap with my turn 4 Kirin. If Jake played his own here, I was probably sunk as well. Luckily he did not; instead he played a Manriki-Gusari. I of course swing in and then Journey my main man, getting Jake 4 life and a near-zero chance of winning. The notes are very clear here: 17 life -> 21 life. After that boost, his life falls rapidly, inevitably.
2-2 on the day, which is better than some outcomes but worse than others. Kind of in the middle.
We do the math and it looks like I can make Top 8, but only if I win out. A win and a draw just won't cut it, although that would get me pretty high in the Top 16 bracket and probably a Q. But F that; in it to win it baby.
Round 13-Eugene Levin (Gifts)
Ah yes, the best deck and probably worst matchup. Eugene was one of the 8-0s on the first day so his deck was well known to everyone. We had chatted a bit during Sunday. He seemed like a respectable and fairly intense guy.
Game 1: I'm in control for the entire game. Turn 1 Lantern, turn 2 Jitte, and turn 3 equip starts do the thing. The tough part is balancing doing extra damage versus keeping enough counters to either kill a creature or save my own. I believed the right play was to keep 2 counters on so you can kill Meloku if needed. That plan may or may not have given him an extra turn, but it's always a tough call. Regardless, this is the only game of the tournament where I do not take a single point of damage (although one or two games ended with me above 20).
Game 2: Probably the most difficult game played during the entire tournament. While the life points weren't in danger, there was a lot of inevitability going on. I'm doing the force-the-Wrath plan, but Top is definitely keeping Eugene in the game. After one such Wrath, I lay out Patron onto an empty board but Eugene calmly untaps and Hero's Demises it.
Later we get to a situation where a Gifts gives him 2/4 removal spells, including an Exile. Exile is perhaps slightly worse against this deck than normal WW, but it still isn't fun. However I'm able to delay the recurse of it by playing absolutely nothing and having 8.5 equipped with Manriki-Gusari. I know from a previous splice that Eugene has Wear Away in hand, but I'm hoping that he forgets about Eight's ability to save even the artifact. Eugene has a 3/3 Kagemaro in play as well, so it seems like he's going to Wear Away the equipment and then Kagemaro my guy. It looks even more likely when Eugene lays a land for the turn, keeping Kagemaro at 3/3
Eugene pulls back from this error and lets his hand build up before offing 8.5. He finishes his turn with a Reach splicing the Wear Away onto my equipment. On my turn I lay the Hokori I was holding onto for a while with Otherworldly Journey backup. Eugene untaps a land and says go. On my turn I attack with Hokori and Eugene makes the fatal error. Instead of going down to 1 life, Eugene Sickening Shoals the Hokori, discarding another Shoal (off of a Top draw). I of course Journey my Hokori away, basically sealing the match. Had he waited until my end step, Eugene at least would have gotten a full untap and possibly plucked a Meloku or something. Unfortunately the Dust Drinker came back too soon and ended things for good.
It's always fun to play for a Top 8. You get such a crowd! I was definitely going to wow the audience with awesome deck technology and card finesse. Sweet!
Round 14-Dustin Marquis (Mirror)
Game 1: Oy, back and forth. The first few turns were sequential Manriki-Gusari killings, followed by successive Kirin killings. Patron came out as a surprise blocker which put me ahead on the body count and size department. Dustin did get out an unopposed Kirin that picked off a guy and an equipment. However, my Patron and freshly cast 8.5 were planning on wrecking house. Furthermore, I had the Charge in hand to either wipe the board in the case of some insane triple block, or outright win. With Dustin at one card in hand, it was looking good, despite the surprisingly low life I was finding myself at. Dustin untapped, drew, laid his 6th land and attacked again, down to under 10 life. I untapped drew and swung with just Patron, saving resources for Pro-Action or Charge, as needed. Very unfortunately for me, that final card happened to be a Shining Shoal, which not only offed the 5/6 via Kirin but did a decent chunk of damage to my face hole. After that, Dustin played the 8.5 twin and I was left near defenseless. Another attack and we were off to game 2. It was the only loss with Patron! What a good card!
Game 2: The minor victory this game was getting Dustin a warning for slow play (different judge from round 5). Besides the obvious plus of speeding his slow ass up, it also seemed to get him a little off his game. "Tick tick" noises got Mr. Marquis jumpy, especially during difficult decisions.
Despite destroying him in the mental war, I was not in a good place for the Round War, or The War That Actually Matters. My hand was quick but weak off of a mulligan, which meant I got Dustin down to 14 before my people were invalidated. Dustin's Opal-Eye was the main culprit, but Kirin and 8.5 weren't great either. Near the end of the game I'm holding absolutely nothing, but if I rip a Final Judgment I bring us way back into parity land. Probably better for me actually, because I had been getting flooded and Dustin was due. Judgment is obviously not in Dustin's calculations, as he just keeps laying more and more creatures. I lay just enough to maximize my draw steps/make him play more creatures, but the Wrath simply does not come. After Plains X (where X = a million), I shake his hand and wish him good luck in the Top 8. Since he's playing G$ in the quarters, I don't really mean it.
White Weenie is going to be a strong contender for the rest of the season. No other deck has that much power tied up with that much consistency. Your bad matchups aren't too bad, and your great matchups really are. However, the list I played with was not perfect. It was a metagame call, but I think we can see how the decks are flowing these days. Were I to run this deck again, here is how I would build it:
4 Lantern Kami
4 Samurai of the Pale Curtain
3 Kitsune Blademaster
4 Eight-And-A-Half Tails
3 Patron of the Kitsune
2 Hand of Honor
4 Umezwa's Jitte
4 Otherworldly Journey
2 Blessed Breath
4 Celestial Kirin
This version sacrifices a little speed for a lot more staying power. It's possible it's actually a land short now, but I think the extra foxes make the risk acceptable. I would bet on this version against almost any deck game 1. Speedy, protectable Patrons makes any deck in the format cringe.
Meloku is still the one card you don't want to see and that's no different. I think that one you have to take on the chin, although at least with Patron you have time to set up possible Jitte or 8.5 responses.
Charge Across the Araba is the most noticeable loss from this version and the GP one. While it's legit as a threat, it's a bit too random for my tastes. It's also pretty awful in the mirror and against anything with counterspells, if those decks are catching on.
Finally, despite it single-handily taking me out of the Top 8, I still say Shining Shoal is no good. It does look a little better with extra Patrons to pitch, but there's still no room. Breath is cheaper and does better than Shoal at protection, as its use doesn't trigger their Jittes.
So how did the GP end up? As the title clearly says, I ended in 14th place. It's good for 5 bills and a few points, which certainly is not bad. Better than all that was the invites passing down to exactly 14th place, which means I'll be attending PT LA. When will this devil game let me go?
Good luck and thanks for reading.
Questions and comments are always welcome:
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