A Good Time Was Had By All - GP:Oakland *10th*
Howdy everyone. I don't normally write up tournament reports, and I don't have particularly detailed notes of any sort. But my experience at Grand Prix Oakland involved a collection of truly hilarious and interesting Magic moments, so I thought I'd write them up.
First, a quick paragraph about who I am: I've been playing Magic since Ice Age, and I've qualified for the Pro Tour four or five times, with my best finish being 41st at Chicago last year. I'm certainly capable of doing reasonably well at a Grand Prix, but also more than capable of scrubbing out. With that out of the way, let me jump right into the flow of events from Grand Prix: Oakland.
So, we sit down to build decks. As we were taking our decklists out of the little boxes, I had but one thought on my mind."Please, God, let me get a Molder Slug." So I look down at the reg list, and sure enough, the Green column, is a little"1" right next to the Uberbomb. Boo-yah! But as I'm actually looking at the card pool, reality rears its ugly head... I do have the Slug, but my entire collection of playable green cards consists of:
...that's it. It's basically Slug and garbage, and the Slug is not synergistic with my deck, because I'm definitely playing Red (Shatter, Detonate, Spikeshot Goblin, Fireball, Pulse of the Forge, and more) and I have a ton of artifacts and artifact creatures, and very few non-artifact creatures. My blue consisted of approximately:
and is much more solid than my Green, goes better with my red, and is just generally the right choice.
So, sadly, I left the Slug in the board, prayed that the God of Molder Slugs would not deem me forever unworthy to have another slug, and built my U/R deck.
I had two byes, due to rating, and won my next three matches rather handily and unmemorably (I do remember that in round 5 I beat the guy who had the deck I'd registered, which was nuts... Solar Tide, Pristine Angel, Crystal Shard, Skullclamp). Round 6 I was paired against Mike Thompson, a solid player who ended up 19th, and I lost a close game 3 in which I made at least one definite error... he attacked with Spire Golem and I blocked with Hoverguard Observer. After combat, he Electrostatic Bolted the Observer, and his Spire Golem (with the help of Vulshok Gauntlets) went all the way. I should have waited a turn and equipped my guy with Leonin Scimitar before blocking.
So I'm 5-1. I now get paired against Dan Elitzer, who admitted that he had little experience with Mirrodin Limited... but I mulligan games 1 and 2, and don't cast a creature until turn 5 game 3, and that's all she wrote.
Now I'm 5-2, and I need to win the final round in order to make day 2. I'm paired against Brandon Curran. Game 1 I win in relatively unremarkable fashion. Game 2 he puts out creatures and removes my stuff and starts smashing me. It comes down to the following situation: He's at eighteen, I'm at one. He's just attacked me with Tel-Jilad Exile. My board consists of nine lands, Spikeshot Goblin, and Krark-clan Stoker. During his end step, I cast Pulse of the Forge. It comes back to my hand. I cast Pulse of the Forge. It comes back to my hand. I then shoot him with the Spikeshot Goblin. Then I untap and draw a card. I cast Pulse of the Forge. It comes back to my hand. I cast Pulse of the Forge. It comes back to my hand. I shoot him with my Spikeshot Goblin. Game over.
On to day 2 at 6-2 with reasonably tiebreaks, in 50th place. I need to 5-0-1 to have a chance at top 8, with 5-1 giving me an outside possibility.
My first draft table consists of no one whose name I recognize except for Phuong Tran, a local player who I draft with occasionally. My opening pack has Reiver Demon and Icy Manipulator, and while I respect the Demon a lot, Icy is too good and too colorless, to pass up. So I take it, and end up heavy White splash Black with multiple Skyhunter Patrols and Auriok Bladewarden. In my second pack I open up Soul Foundry, which is a risky card, but very powerful, and I end up getting a third Skyhunter Patrol, some Gold Myr, a Rustspore Ram, and two Altar's Lights.
Next I open up my Darksteel pack... I'm temporarily distracted by the Murderous Spoils before I find it, nestled in the uncommon slot, my own, my precious, Skullclamp! Which is, of course, an amazing card, and even better in a weenie-ish deck with quick creatures, Soul Foundry, and Myr Retriever. I take it, thankyouverymuch. Pack 2 offers up Death-Mask Duplicant, which is a solid big creature. Then in pack 3, I find... Skullclamp Number Two! What the? Can anyone explain that? The only even remotely plausible theory we could come up with is a pack with Pristine Angel, Fireball, and Skullclamp, but that's pretty unlikely. Anyhow, I'm sure not complaining, so I take a second Skullclamp. I also get some additional goodies out of Darksteel, including an Essence Drain, a Loxodon Mystic, a Pteron Ghost (good when you're tapping out to cast Soul Foundry), and a Leonin Battlemage.
I play against Jonathon Sonne, who has a slowish deck. I somehow do nothing useful game 1 and lose, but win games 2 and 3 rather handily. Game 2 he concedes when I have imprinted Myr Retriever on Soul Foundry with Skullclamp in play and another Myr in my graveyard.
I play against James Garritano and his aggressive White Equipment deck with a splash of Red. Game 1 he draws all of his Equipment and no creatures, and despite the fact that I get overconfident and fail to kill him the first time I have the chance (I attack for lethal damage, he casts Raise the Alarm, I don't bother Icy-ing one of them and Terroring the other) I destroy him eventually.
Game 2 I stall at three mana with Icy, Battlemage, and multiple Skyhunter Patrols in my hand. Game 3 is epic. I cast turn 4 Soul Foundry and imprint Skyhunter Patrol, with Pteron Ghost backup. But he gets out Auriok Bladewarden and various creatures, and starts applying pressure (for instance, he attacks with a 3/3, I double block with two patrol tokens, he Awe Strikes one so that his guy lives through the first strike damage, etc.).
Eventually, we end up in a situation in which he's at seventeen, while I'm at six. He has out a team of random ground dudes and a Granite Shard, I have five Skyhunter Patrols. I attack with one Patrol and reduce him to fifteen. I then tap out to cast Death Mask Duplicant and Myr Retriever. He pings my one-toughness dude and alphas in with his whole team, minus the Bladewarden. I block such that all of my Patrols will live and I'll go down to one (counting the Bladewarden and the Shard) if he has no tricks. He has no tricks. I untap, imprint Pteron Ghost on the Death Mask Duplicant and fly in for exactly fifteen. Phew!
I play against Phuong. Rumor has it that his deck is even more ridiculous than mine. Game 1 I start casting stuff and applying pressure, and he doesn't do much. The reason for that becomes clear when he casts and activates Oblivion Stone. Oops. I come close to recovering from that, but it's not enough. Game 2 I have to mulligan, but keep three land, Skullclamp, Icy, and a Myr, which is a pretty darn good draw. He imprints Electrostatic Bolt on Isochron Scepter (or"icecream scepter", as we like to call it), so I Clamp up my myr and the other random weenie which I'd just drawn. I draw four lands. Six turns later, I have cast no additional spells, have played a land every turn, and still have five cards in my hand. So he Mindslavers me. I reveal my hand of five lands. All the spectators have a good laugh. Dear lord, did I ever draw a lot of land. By the time he eventually kills me, I think I've drawn thirteen of my sixteen lands, or something.
So 2-1 with a nuttily good deck is a bit of a letdown, although 2-1 against players good enough to make day 2 of a GP is nothing to sneeze at. I'm probably out of contention for top 8 at this point, but if I 3-0, I'll almost certainly get an invite due to the number of pros at the top of the standings, and $500 for top 16 doesn't suck.
My second draft table features Bob Maher, immediately to my left and Noah Weil immediately to his left, along with two of my bay area buddies (Allen Sun and Alex"8-0 day 1" Alepin). My first pack has two possible first picks: Bonesplitter or Mindslaver.
I think this is a philosophically interesting choice. Mindslaver is certainly more potentially powerful. But Bonesplitter is cheap and efficient. I think most good players would say that Bonesplitter is the right choice, but I disagree, so I took Mindslaver . Here's how I think about it: Suppose you have a deck with a bunch of reasonably good, quick creatures and four Bonesplitters. That deck is definitely going to beat the deck with a bunch of reasonably good, quick creatures and four Mindslavers. So Bonesplitter is better, right? Except that the deck with a bunch of reasonably good, quick creatures, three Bonesplitters and one Mindslaver is going to beat either of the first two decks. Sure, quickness and efficiency are important. But so is power. Games do go long sometimes, and cards that can win you long games are still valuable, even if they're worthless in the quick game. And Mindslaver comes very very close to being"spend 10 mana: win the game". Plus it's perhaps the single most fun card ever printed.
Anyhow, my next four picks are Shatter, Pyrite Spellbomb, Slith Firewalker, and Vulshok Battlemaster. So I'm starting out mono-Red. Then my colors get a bit muddled, as I pick up a Relic Bane, a Thoughtcast, and yet another Auriok Bladewarden. Pack 2 I open up Spikeshot Goblin, and then see a third pick Troll Ascetic. I'd passed some reasonable Green during pack 1, so the odds were good that I'd get some decent Green in Darksteel (despite Green generally being poor in DS). The Ascetic is just a nutty card, so I take it, and go into solid Red/Green. In Darksteel, I open up Fangren Firstborn, a fine addition to my deck, and get Viridian Zealot second. I also get various other random Green creatures, Spawning Pit (a big letdown, overall), Drill Skimmer, and two Echoing Courage. My final deck is super-heavy Green with just a few red sources for Shatter, Spellbomb, Spikeshot, and Battlemaster.
I'm paired against Noah Weil, who I don't think I've ever played before. Game I stabilize and kill him with Spikeshot plus Vulshok Gauntlets. His deck does nothing. Game 2 his deck feels bad for having done nothing in game 1, and casts Spire Golem turns 3 and 4. Oops. Game 3 he casts turn 2 Vedalken Engineer, which seems like a bad omen... and then he attacks with it turn 3. Wow. Not a great draw for him. But the game stretches out, he gets various fat artifact creatures, and things settle down. Eventually I get out Fangren Firstborn and attack with it. A Troll Ascetic with a +1/+1 counter is not the worst. Some time later, I overwhelm him, with a crucial turning point being when he doesn't realize that Tel-Jilad Wolf triggers for each artifact creature that is assigned to block it.
I'm paired against Robert Swarowski. Game 1 he gets out a fast start with turn 2 Raise The Alarm, turn 3 Skyhunter Cub. I get off to a slow start. The first creature I cast is a turn 5 (I think) Tangle Golem. He casts Crystal Shard, bounces the golem, smashes again. (Fortunately, he hasn't cast much else in the way of additional creatures). I recast the Golem, he bounces it with the Echoing Truth, smashes again. However, I keep drawing forests, so the Golem keeps getting cheaper, and now I can cast it and Spikeshot, and have mana to pay for Crystal Shard. I eventually stabilize, but I'm at three life, and he still has two Raise The Alarm tokens and a Viridian Longbow. However, I topdeck... Vulshok Battlemaster! I cast it and steal his Longbow. I then have my Battlemaster sit there, so when he pays 3 to equip his Longbow back onto one of his tokens, I can ping it in response. A few turns later, Spikeshot and Gauntlets do the trick.
His deck seemed quite fast, plus he had a splash of Red for Fireball, so I sideboard out Wurmskin Forger (way too slow), and bring in the controversial... Nourish. I think it's not always unreasonable to board in the Nourish in very specific situations, namely, a deck with good, slightly slow cards vs. a fast deck that's going to expend resources to send damage to the dome. In the long run, the fact that my cards are good is going to give me card advantage over his worse cards. I just need to survive to the long run, which six extra life might help with. Plus, I'd love him to try to Fireball me out when I'm holding six extra instant speed life.
Anyhow, game 2 he gets a crazy flyer draw and locks me with Looming Hoverguard and Crystal Shard (which he drew again).
Game 3, I get turn 3 Ascetic, he gets flyers, I apply pressure, he (again!) has Crystal Shard. I put out my Drill Skimmer and Gauntlet it up to hold off his flyers. In a key moment, he attacks with a flyer. I block with Gauntleted Drill Skimmer. As I have no other artifact creatures in play, he sacrifices Soldier Replica to deal three to my Drill Skimmer. In response, I activate my Stalking Stones! Smack! The funny thing about this game was that I had drawn the Nourish I had sideboarded in, and this was a very long and slow game, so there were a lot of spectators gathered around. And everyone behind me saw that I was holding Nourish. They probably all thought I was a total chump. Oh well... Anyhow, I eventually draw Viridian Zealot, blow up Crystal Shard, and the combination of Spikeshot Goblin, Vulshok Gauntlets, Troll Ascetic, and lots of creatures does him in.
So now I'm 10-3. There's still an outside shot at top 8, but even without that, I'm pretty much guaranteed an invite and some cash if I win my final round. I'm paired against Peter Swarowski, brother of my previous opponent. Game 1 he gets out to a very aggressive start and is generally whomping me. I have no real hope, but I cast Mindslaver. He doesn't blow it up. I Mindslave him. The card he has just drawn is... Atog. He decides to Granite Shard himself and then sacrifice all of his creatures, plus one land, to his own Atog. He also kindly agrees to modular up my Rustspore Ram.
I win that game.
Game 2, I'm drawing first, and I keep one land plus a Myr. I do not draw additional lands. I lose.
Game 3, he mulligans, but gets a reasonable draw, and the board becomes somewhat stabilized. I Mindslaver him again. He has in play a 2/2 and a 3/3 modular creature. I have a Krark-Clan Grunt and a Leaden Myr, plus one other artifact. So I have him attack with his modulars. The Grunt blocks the 3/3. The Myr blocks the 2/2. I sac the extra artifact to the Grunt. The Grunt first strikes down the 3/3. After first strike damage resolves, the 3/3 modularizes my Myr. My 4/4 Myr then kills his 2/2, and becomes 6/6. Then he casts Test of Faith on my Grunt. Then he casts Electrostatic Bolt on my Grunt. Then he taps out. I win that game. Go Mindslaver!
So I end up 11-3, and my solid tiebreakers put me in 10th place, which is good enough for an invite to San Diego. Woo-hoo!
Best of all, my buddy and teammate Ian, with whom I prize split, had an even more dramatic weekend (albeit without any hilarious Mindslaver stories). He had a mediocre deck day 1, and almost dropped when he was 3-1-1. But he somehow won out the day. Then he drafted an good-but-not-broken deck draft one and just had that mojo where you always draw what you need. (Example: in one of his matches his opponent cast Mask of Memory turn 2 every game, and Ian cast Carry Away turn 3 every game) and went 3-0. (Not to say that he's not a good player, which he is, but still, you need the draws to be there...)
So he's at the top pod with Rubin, Turian, etc., and he gets a first-pick Pentavus, second-pick Icy Manipulator, gets a ton of good fast white flyers, and manages to 3-0 that pod. So after his 3-1-1 start, he didn't lose a match until Ken Ho beat him in the semi-finals. Which is fine news for me, since we prize split, plus we're both qualified now. Oh, and as icing on the cake, in the final draft, he raredrafted a Chrome Mox and I raredrafted a Glimmervoid (well, I thought I was going to play the Glimmervoid for a while, although I ended up not).
Additionally, many of our other Bay Area buddies (mostly members of Magic Online clan"Bay Area All Stars") did well. Allen Sun and Alex Alepin, as I mentioned, made day 2, although neither ended in the money. Eu-Ming Lee first picked a Molder Slug and then got booted out of Green but still managed to 3-0 his final pod to end up in 26th, with Bruce Lysik behind him in 29th... and since they were both amateurs, they both won hefty prizes.
So overall, a good time was had by all...