A Scrub's Tale, Or: How Did I Get To 55th Place At Grand Prix: Helsinki?
This site is all about excellent players making the Top Eights of major tournaments so I opted to give an another view - that of a less-experienced player for whom it is a privilege and a matter of pride to make the second day of such an event. Until Grand Prix: Helsinki I had never played in high-profile tournaments or even anywhere outside our local shop and so was quite excited to play against the best players in Europe.
The trip to the Grand Prix was not entirely uneventful containing a car crash and yet another chat with the police - but more on that later if I have the energy to talk about it. Let's skip to the usual point where you register a much better deck than you end up playing which is exactly what I felt happened to me. I ended up passing Keiga five Soratami flyers Kabuto Moth and lots of white beef. What I got back looked something like this;
1 Yamabushi's Flame
1 Brutal Deciever
1 Burr Grafter
1 Feral Deciever
1 Hundred-Talon Kami
1 Kami of Ancient Law
1 Kami of the Hunt
1 Kami of the Palace Fields
1 Kitsune Blademaster
1 Kitsune Diviner
1 Kitsune Healer
2 Moss Kami
1 Orbweaver Kumo
1 Orochi Leafcaller
1 Ronin Houndmaster
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
As you can see there are no real game-breaking bombs except the Blood Rites which some people said was crappy and too slow. Say what you will but I think it's great; I can't see why it shouldn't be played if one has other playable red cards. Other than that the deck is really pretty horrible with three quite even colors and double red cards despite of this. However not many of the other cards had double anything on their casting cost so I thought that I could fetch red with the Elder each time (the Leafcaller also saved my ass multiple times during the day).
Needless to say eighteen lands was what I felt necessary for the deck. It felt consistent but I was probably just lucky.
I think I also made some mistakes constructing the deck. I opted to neglect Seshiro the Anointed because he was a) double green and b) a six-mana 3/4 without relevant abilities as I played no snakes. That was arguably correct but I also dropped black entirely despite Hideous Laughter Befoul and double Devouring Greed. The color just had nothing else and I thought that Red had more relevant creatures plus not all of its things were double-colored. I didn't think that my other colors could fill the gap well enough and black wasn't strong enough to be a main color. *sigh*
Round 1 - Max Sjblom
This guy has a very aggressive deck with Sosuke son of Seshiro lots of snakes and multiple two-mana black 2/1 creatures. He totally crushed me the first game - and for the first time this day I sided out a Lure and a forest for two Dripping-Tongue Zuberas which would hopefully provide blockers in the early stages of the game.
Game two I made every trade I could and aggressively spent both men and removal to kill Sosuke who made an appearance again. I eventually stabilized behind the Honden and some big creatures and won shortly afterwards.
Game three I got Honden down on turn 3 and pinged his X/1 guys to death. He either drew more and refused to play them or got only land but the rest of the game was pretty uneventful.
Round 2 - Sami Hggkvist
He said that his deck was total crap which might indeed be true as he played Kami of the Old Stone and Hankyu. Those two cards however worked nicely together at least with the help of Kabuto Moths and Blademasters. In the end I was gaining the upper hand - but he got Konda Lord of Eiganjo and Lure which devastated my board position.
He had a fast start in game two with Isamaru Hound of Konda and a similar situation ensued. With both a Moth and a Healer on board all combat was pretty lopsided and eventually I just didn't have enough guys despite the fact that I drew blood Rites.
Round 3 - Eero Tulppala
He had several Gibbering Kami and I having the amount of removal and flyers that I did was in a bit of a trouble. However I lucked out and managed to ping with Honden and trample him to death with my Feral Deceiver just before the turn he would have killed me. I don't know whether he made a miscalculation or hoped that I wouldn't get a land on top of my library but that's how it happened.
The second game was the same - except that he had Strength of Cedars which I didn't expect. Game over.
In the third game his deck didn't work out as well as before and I was able to get both the Honden and a good head start. He was forced to use the Cedars to keep a critical creature in play and the rest was easy as I still had resources left.
Round 4 - Marcus Hgert
One of my friends told me that he lost to a lucky guy with a complete set of Kumano Master Yamabushi Jugan and Kodama of the North Tree. This was him. Fortunately the guy had built his deck three-color despite of the extremely heavy mana base requirements and game one was over quite quickly. I managed to block and kill his Jugan with Yamabushi's Flame to avoid quite certain defeat.
Game two I was getting ahead with Feral Deciever and he didn't have enough creatures. I tapped a creature with my Diviner on my own turn to force him into very low life and thus uneven trades - but surprisingly he didn't block and refused to kill my Deceiver. Crap.
When I passed the turn he showed me both Dance of the Shadows and Kodama's Might which gave him the thirteen-damage fearful alpha-strike he needed to win the game. I felt pretty cheated but such is life.
Luckily his deck crapped out in game three and I won easily.
Round 5 - Vincent Lemoine from Belgium; my friends told me that he was a big shot
This guy had a good deck too. Game one was even until he played Kokusho and slaughtered me. I had more than enough reasons to hate the dragons that day as I had practically no ways to kill them.
Game two I was ahead and in good board position with Blood Rites.... Until he played the f*cking Kokusho again. I would still win anyhow because I had three creatures in play one in hand and he had seven life - clearly in the range of Blood Rites. However knowing that every turn he had a chance to draw some kind of a solution I used my potential way to victory and attacked with all creatures. One made through and while damage was on the stack I threw them in his face forcing him to Rend Spirit his own Kokusho or whatever.
Actually he had a Fog effect and remained at one life.
That was perfectly okay as I still had a creature in hand and was in so high life totals that he had absolutely no way of killing me next turn. At this point the guy got absolutely furious... And I would soon know why. He attacked with everyone took me to seven and played Myojin of Cleansing Fire.
He had counted on me sitting behind my Blood Rites and playing cards in my hand until I didn't have enough mana to activate the Rites for all of them killing them and winning right there. He bitterly passed the turn and when I played the Zubera from my hand saying something menacing he panicked. The guy started shouting called Judge and Wrathed while the creature was still on the stack. Sigh. That drained me to two and himself to six. The zubera remained chumped and the token it created chumped at which point I drew another creature and won.
The guy yelled and fretted shouting "so lucky!" and "you play so bad you're so lucky" all the time. Why the hell should I know that he had not one but two outs exactly for that situation? Ironically had I waited and cast the Zubera he would surely have killed me as I really didn't expect a Myojin.
Game three was tight and he got the Kokusho yet again. I had the diviner however and beat two or four a turn with my Blademaster and Hundred-Talon Kami depending on what the situation required. He eventually got Painwracker Oni into play with an Ogre backing it up but was in so low life that my flyer and Yamabushi's Flame finished him off.
At this point the guy positively exploded - he was so bad that the judge got nervous and tried to calm him down. He kept on telling me how lucky I was and how badly I played and was generally so sad about his loss that I almost felt bad for winning. Just almost however. It's just a game for God's sake. If you can't stand the bad luck don't play. If you can't stand to lose don't play. And finally if you're more immature than the actual fourteen-year-old kids that played there grow up. Some of my friends were watching and after the guy left we shook our heads in disbelief.
What a jerk.
Round 6 - Pauli Jantunen
In addition to having a great deck this guy played well. He won by a big margin in game one with flyers and a ridiculous combo of plentiful arcane removal and two Hana Kamis. I fought valiantly and Lured his creatures to death to no avail.
Game two was tight but I had it in my grasp and knew I was going to win. He played extremely slowly and thought about his turns for ages even in quite obvious situations. I politely asked him to play faster as I was going to lose the match if the game ended up a tie - which he clearly was going for. He apologized for slow play but kept on tarrying. I didn't call a judge as nitpicking doesn't fit my image of good sportsmanship... But I think I should have. (Yes you should - The Ferrett)
With a little less than three minutes in the clock he was finally forced to concede before my army and the infamous Blood Rites. He wanted an another game but when we shuffled and mulliganed the time was already up.
He started cursing like a pirate and banged his head with his hands but there was nothing that could be done. I was beginning to lose faith in the game though. What was wrong with these people?
Round 7 - Marko Matinpalo a local with Yosei
Game one he got the dragon but little else. Whereas I had both the Diviner and the Cage of Hands.
Game two he had a slow start and seemed to draw only land while I had the perfect hand. It wasn't even close as the dragon came online far too late. Keeping the hand he obviously had kept he probably felt serious overconfidence about the dragon. But hell mulliganing hands with big threats is a difficult decision - especially as the first game probably displayed my deck as a pretty slow one.
Round 8 - Asko Mtt
This guy was a good player. He had no mulligans and seemed to own no bombs yet had made it this far. I won the first game handily and we proceeded to sideboard for the second.
I again gained the upper hand and got him into near-death life totals. However a Sokenzan Bruiser mountainwalked sixteen damage through to me after he cast a Devouring Rage with three spirits plus a boost from Caged Moth.
Crap - I'm beginning to see a pattern here. That was clearly a fine combo though with many players splashing for red removal.
Game three he didn't seem to do much anything until I attacked with my creatures and he begun Hanabi Blasting them. He had about six cards in hand so my chances to pick the Blast were low. Unfortunately if I held back he could just hold back too play a threat and protect it with a ridiculously powerful Hanabi Blast array. I set up a poor man's soulshift chain (Burr Grafter and the Deceiver) and proceeded to waste his cards whether they were lands or the blasts. I had the option of using diversions until I got either Hundred-Talon Kami or Moss Kami into play as they could eat up more than one Blast and stay alive. The plan faced an early success as I got the blast on the second pick - great!
Unfortunately he had not one but two Blasts and the second landed four times (I never got it out of his hand). The Moss Kami was too much though and he died while sitting on his removal and one-toughness creatures. After the game I was informed by his friend that he played incorrectly. He held the Bruiser in hand and had a real chance of winning had he played more aggressively.
Anyway yay for day two!
Now this was already much much more than I could have hoped for. I also knew that on day two I would face people who could play really really well. Makes me pretty nervous the worrier that I am.
I went to sleep in my brother's dorm and chatted about the event with his roommates. They were also amused by the big crybaby and the cursing man and agreed that people like that deserved to lose. I slept for a healthy six hours and walked down to the tournament site again.
I ended up on a table with four foreigners and other people whose status and play skill I wasn't aware of. Considering how badly I drafted the deck turned out pretty well as I got double Kodama's Reach Sakura-Tribe Elder Strength of Cedars Uyo Silent Prophet Jugan and four Soratami fliers which I was really happy with. About halfway through the draft I was very worried of my creature quality and ability to control the board and went three colors for both white and blue removal (Mystic Restraints Cage of Hands and Reciprocate - which in hindsight I should have left where it stood and took a Moth). Probably my picks were so random that I ended up hurting many decks and made another very clear mistake picking an Indominable Will instead of Kodama's Might (screwing Da Costa Cabral in the process). Well shit happens.
Round 9 - Wiegersma Jelger
Game one we had both a low amount of creatures. I remember getting a very very early Uyo but unfortunately it was neutralized. Later in the game I fetched land and had the Strength of Cedars.
Game two there was a potential dangerous situation when I opted not to block his alpha strike but luckily nothing came out of it. I tried to kill him next turn with Jugan and Cedars and and seeing that I controlled a Rainshaper and was a total newbie he tried some bluff with one-point Pain Kami into my Jugan and left two mana open. I just let it resolve and he didn't have it.
By this far I had noticed that these people never give up. They always play until the very last point of life which is somehow respectable. On the other hand when I have nothing useful and the opponent is going to win next turn I scoop instead. Difference in mentality I suppose.
Round 10 - Da Costa Cabral Berna
This guy was rightfully irate about my picks in the draft and I admitted it. In the end I was happy about my deck however and that's what is important. My pile would have been worse without the white I was forced to cut him out of.
I don't recall achieving much anything on game one as my creatures were hiding somewhere deep. He had a Kokusho and won me in a game of attrition shortly after it entered the board.
Second game I had a shot at a fun victory with Cedars and Uyo. The lady was 20/20 when he smashed face but the belgian guy had first a fog then removal. Bummer. He and his friend laughed at the matter though. "It was big as a house" they said.
Overall this pro seemed a pretty jovial guy which helped offset my discontent with the fact that my deck seemed to underperform badly. I drew more than ten lands both games without seeing even nearly as many spells.
Round 11 - Jussi Salovaara
I lost my first game because I didn't leave the right mana open. Being the straight-up person I am I didn't even ask to take it back.
I thought I had the victory in game two because he had low life and I had Jugan but he kept drawing fliers and I kept drawing land. I lost the damage race to random removal.
In the second draft I made a lot fewer mistakes (I didn't notice any obvious ones myself) and got a quality white-black deck with a bit heavy mana curve. I had the white and splashed for Honden of Seeing Winds as the only blue card which perhaps wasn't wise as it cost me a game but incidentally it also won one. I played Myojin of Cleansing Fire maindeck which was a really obvious mistake as games with this deck were much faster than others I played.
Round 12 - Harding Oyvind
This was the other black drafter in our table and he had a very good deck. I had hoped that I wouldn't need to play him even though two other guys had Kumanos and other insane stuff but I had plenty of removal and thought that I could contain them.
Game two I had a furious start and traded cheap guys for his Nezumis until I dropped Nagao Bound by Honor and it was downhill for him. After this he seemed really worried perhaps rightfully as I don't think his deck could match the start that I had there.
Game three I kept a mana-light hand because I had two lands and three two-mana creatures. However the third land never came and he got the lock again. Tough.
Round 13 - Andy Boyko
He was the other of the people who got Kumano and had a pretty nice black-red deck with demons and Blood Speaker. However double-Honden was the name of the game in this one and soon he just could not win.
Game two he won regardless of my white Honden because I just wasn't fast enough. I don't remember the details very well but basically each turn I had the possiblity to cast the Shrine and fall behind or make a creature and try to improve my board. I chose to cast it too late and lost.
Game three was one of the tightest games in the whole tournament for me. I had sided in two Distresses to potentially erase his worst threats before they entered play and luckily hit Kumano on turn 3. Unfortunately he had a Raise Dead variant and dug it up - but by then I had removal. The game culminated into a damage race with him digging through his deck with Sensei's Divining Top and me slowly forcing damage through. The guy was literally shaking the whole time but the game turned around when I got Eight-and-a-Half-Tails into play and won shortly afterwards. I assume he felt pretty unlucky as he had two turns to cast a spirit make his Bloodthirsty Ogre fearful and win. However the Top didn't dig deep enough to see through the land he'd accumulated over the previous turns.
Round 14 - Tomas Kresja
The guy suggested that we ID this round so that he could make money but I really wasn't sure if 1-2 1-1-1 would be enough even for the amateur funds. I pondered for a while and wanted to go count my chances but a judge said that I wasn't allowed to do that and we both got a warning for tarrying. Thus I had to play.
Things didn't look good when he crushed me in the first game. He had a really fine tricky deck with lots of zuberas Sire of the Storm and Devouring Greed. He also played accurately and fast which I think was highly respectable as almost all my other opponents thought for an irritatingly long time. I matched his speed but couldn't match his skill and lost.
Game two was a really long stalemate and even though we played really quickly it soon became apparent that there would be no time for another game. I got luck on my side as my white Honden saved my ass for about five turns in a row when he had a flyer and I didn't. The ground became cluttered and my Nagao was of no use while he finally got a bunch of Soratamis and forced me into a situation I could not win... Until I drew the oddly-tailed fox again.
Now I had a chance to win the game right there but I had read the card wrong and played it wrong for the whole day. It didn't take two mana to make his creatures white and one to add my creatures protection but the other way around. I strenuously pushed through his defences once and he hit me for eight clearly able to kill me next turn. He made a lot more guys and I thought for something like five minutes but couldn't find a way to push through. I was always either one damage or one mana short and so I conceded. We shook hands; my games were over.
Unfortunately had I the sense to read the card right and stack the effects correctly I would have had just enough mana to send two of my creatures into his face and win. He didn't get it (probably because he saw me tap the wrong mana and assumed that the card worked that way) and I didn't get it but both the judge and the audience of about fifteen people saw the option. Big bummer. This also explained why the previous guy was shaking as it probably was insanely frustrating to see me screw around my last turns for ages when I could have colored the board correctly and won easily. Ugh.
In the end I was 53rd - slightly off the amateur money. The last painful mistake cost me 250 bucks and a big chunk of my pride - but what the hell I was already swimming with bigger sharks than I had the right to. I had won three pros and lost to four and was generally happy with my performance especially about the fine decks I was able to draft despite the generous five seconds for each decision. I also placed highest of the twelve or so guys from my city which hopefully eases my shame a bit.
What I learned this weekend was that solutions exists more often than you think and that even good players can be beat if you play equally well. Everybody else is mortal too.
Good luck to the other scrubs out there!