South Dakota State Tourney *Top 8*
Well, I made it to another tournament, this time the South Dakota State Championships. How did I do? Well, you're going to have to read on to find out how I did - and to find out why Ferrett will be getting a new photo of me to accompany these articles. (Sorry, Michael, but I HAVE to tell 'em you made Top 8 in the title - you want as many people to read this as possible, don'tcha? - The Ferrett)
Getting Ready to Go:
October 10: Receive email notification of the time and location of the South Dakota State championships.
October 11: My first opportunity to play the Spectrum preconstructed deck.
October 12: My cards arrive, and Choronzon and I both open a box of boosters, showing each other all of the cool and nasty cards that we were finding. We decided that Magic was going to be fun again, and that we were going to put decks together for States. Less than three weeks to go and both Choronzon and I have jobs, wives, and I have kids to work around. Will we make it?
October 19: Start modifying the Spectrum deck and build a second deck. The second deck is a G/W Armageddon deck, since Patrick Johnson's article on StarCity about Armageddon in the new Type II convinced me it was the way to go.
October 20: My first chance to play these decks against real opponents. They suck (the decks, not my opponents); back to the drawing board.
I give up on the G5C deck ideas for now and decide to focus on a G/W 'Geddon deck and a G/R/W land denial (Fallow Earth)/land destruction (Stone Rain) deck with Armadillo Cloaks for the handful of smallish critters that populated the deck.
October 27, my new decks are ready for testing. They still suck. For the most part they are not consistent. The 'Geddon deck (with four Armageddons) refuses to cough up the 'Geddon for casting. In addition, I have a "cool combo" that seems like it should work, but doesn't.
The cool combo in question involves casting an Armageddon with a mana critter on the table and a land in hand, or two mana critters on the table. After the Geddon resolves, put the land into play cast Scouting Trek to put six (yes, count 'em, six) lands on top of your library. On your next turn, you draw one land, put it into play, and cast Clear the Land, which takes the top five cards off both players libraries and puts the lands into play tapped and removes the rest from the game.
The problem? This is a three-card combo (four if you count the mana critter) and having all of the pieces in place without some card drawing or card searching just doesn't happen all that often. The other problem is that your opponent also gets lands, and so they sometimes recover as quickly as you do, negating the effect of the 'Geddon. Need a new trick. Out go the Clear the Lands and Scouting Treks; in come Elfhame Sanctuaries (grab a land from your library instead of drawing a card) and a couple of Obsidian Acolytes.
The R/G/W deck is having mana development problems, and as much as I want the Armadillo Cloaks and G/W protection from black Knights in my deck, the Cloaks only work if you actually have critters in play. With a large fraction of the deck being land denial or destruction, out go the white cards and in comes more burn, a couple of green critters, and Turf Wounds.
November 1, Choronzon and I have the opportunity to playtest for about three hours. The 'Geddons in my G/W deck are still refusing to come out to play, although the Obsidian Acolytes' ability to give a target creature protection from black gives Choronzon's B/U/R deck some trouble. The Elfhame Sanctuaries aren't helping in this deck, probably because the 'Geddons won't come out to play. (I was typically seeing one 'Geddon every three or four games. Not adequate.) The Sanctuaries came out and Crimson Acolytes go in.
The R/G deck fairs better, but is still inconsistent. With four each of Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves for mana acceleration, Fallow Earth and Stone Rain for land disruption, Shock and Assault/Battery for burn, and some other assorted support spells, there just wasn't enough attack damage to bother my opponent. Out go the Stone Rains and Llanowar Elves; the two Turf Wounds in the deck are joined by two more. The Two Kavu Titans that I possess go in, the Flailing Soldier Count goes up to four, and a couple of random big red critters go in.
November 2: I have a newbie who wants to play some Magic; I hand him the current version of the Spectrum deck and he proceeds to pound both of my decks repeatedly. Yes, the decks I have are having some serious problems, and I am filled with visions of going to States and suffering straight losses. I work on my decks some more that evening.
November 3: Another testing session where my R/G deck wins a few games. The 'Geddon deck is still struggling, and so gets put away. Some more fine-tuning of the R/G deck is followed by some wishfulness... there will be no more deck testing before States.
The box of Invasion boosters that I ordered from StarCity comes in and I start opening Boosters, looking for anything that will make my deck better. I get a third Kavu Titan and my first Skizzik, along with a Wallop for my sideboard.
November 4: I put new sleeves on my cards, put the Skizzik and Titan in for two of the random creatures, and I'm trying to develop a sideboard when Choronzon calls (twenty minutes before I leave for the tournament). Creeping Molds have been forgotten... two go in maindeck. My potential sideboard is reduced to seventeen cards... I have an hour to think about it as I drive to the tournament.
I arrive at the tournament site, Dragon's Den in Sioux Falls, a few minutes before the registration deadline and get registered. After some trouble filling out my decklist, I go sit calmly in a corner and visit with Choronzon as we scope the room for players we know.
By this time I am so used to getting beat that I am just hoping to avoid straight losses. I mean really; how good can my deck be when I haven't even played the version I registered? Speaking of which, here it is:
4x Fallow Earth
3x Turf Wound
4x Birds of Paradise
3x Voracious Cobra
4x Flailing Soldier
3x Kavu Titan
2x Creeping Mold (added Saturday morning)
1x Skizzik (opened Friday night)
1x Urza's Rage (added late Friday the third)
1x Volcanic Geyser
1x Dust Bowl
3x Rishadan Port
3x Shivan Oasis
2x Karplusan Forest
2x Vitalize (because I desperately needed them the last tournament)
Let the Games Begin:
Round 1 against Charles playing U/W Ankh-Tide.
This is a deck I had never seen close up. Will Rieffer is clearly the one with a great passion for Ankh decks. While I had fiddled around with the Ankh decks a bit, it was clear to me that Will was much better with them than I, so I let Will worry about various Ankh decks while I went off in search of some other ideas to write about. I had glanced over a few of Will's articles, but I hadn't really processed the information deeply. After all, I wasn't sure I was still going to be playing Magic a few months ago. I was pretty sure any future as a tournament player was out. Why should I pay attention?
Well, I should have paid attention - because in the first round of my first tournament in well over a year, I run face first into an Ankh-Tide deck. I didn't see it coming the first game. When I finally realized what was coming, it felt like I'd gotten hit by a Mack truck.
Charles is playing U/W and pretty much letting me do as I want. Unfortunately I don't get a great draw, but I get a 2/2 on the board and start hitting him for 2 a turn early. A couple of turns later I get another 2/2 out and start to pound a little harder. He was finally stabilizing and started hitting me for three a turn, but I was ahead and was going to win the creature race, so no worries.
He plays an Ankh. Okay; no problem, I figure. I have plenty of land and a couple of Birds in play. He'll need to bounce at least three or four land before I even notice or care. Even if I don't get another critter on the board, I was way ahead and had started to draw my Shocks.
Then he played the Tide. He took all five counters off. I chuckled, I still had enough birds to cast two shocks a turn, with the little bit of creature beatdown I had going, I wasn't worried.
Then it began to dawn on me.... The Ankh didn't care where the lands came into play from! There were no fade counters on the Tide. Suddenly I knew fear.
Boom, ten points of damage... OUCH!
No problem; I still had some critters on the table and burn in hand. I just had to play them out now that I had my lands back.
That was before Charles showed me the second Tide he had been holding. I hit him for two more damage while I still could, and went down to another ten-point land boom.
I sided in Flashfires and Boils. I was not going to let him have enough mana to cast another one of those nasty Tide cards.
Game two, Charles had a mana development problem. He never got past one plains, and I kept that tapped with an early Rishadan Port. With some early Birds I managed to get a kickered Kavu Titan out on about turn 4 and hit Charles for ten over two turns before the Titan was joined by a Skizzik for the finishing punch.
Game three, Charles had a decent mana draw, but I had the Boils and Flashfires when I needed them. He never got enough mana on the board to do much of anything while I beat him down with critters and flames.
Match 1-0, games 2-1
Round two was against Steve, another grown-up Magic player. I had played him once just after Stronghold came out, when I was playing the first deck I had ever built in some casual games. This was our first game since.
Steve was playing a U/W control deck. I surprised myself by getting some early critters out on him before he could establish control in game one. He had started to establish control and I was down to hitting him for one point a turn while he had started to hit me for two with a flyer. I finally got another critter into play, hit him for four points, bringing him to one, and cast the Urza's Rage I had topdecked for three.
Flashfires and Boils go back into my deck. I should have put in the Tranquilities, but I hadn't seen any enchantments in game one.
Game two was a tough one. I did get a couple of Flailing Soldiers out. The first one hit for a few points of damage before Steve was able to tap enough mana to kill it. By this time Tsabo's Web was on the table on Steve's side, and my lone Port wasn't looking all that tough.
A second Flailing Soldier hit the table on my next turn and got in one attack before I saw a Teferi's Moat and Steve named "Red." He didn't even bother to kill my Soldier. He just left it there whining for its mommy.
But there were still two Creeping Molds in the deck. All I had to do was draw one and get it through the countermagic to begin attacking again. I held a Kavu Titan in my hand for three or four turns, knowing that it would be a must-counter spell for Steve and I had enough mana to cast both it and a Creeping Mold if I had them in hand at the same time. No luck. I even had a Vicious Cobra and a Skizzik on the table waiting for the Moat to die.
Eventually Steve got a Blinding Angel on the table and slowly, painfully, started beating me down two points at a time. I tapped my lone Dustbowl, not realizing that I had enough Mana to play Urza's Rage with the kicker. The Web kept me from untapping the Dustbowl, and I didn't draw another land to replace it with in time.
In my own defense, Steve was at twelve life, so the Rage wouldn't have killed him and I'm not sure I could have gotten past the Moat to deal the final two damage. I probably would have lost anyway. But, the ten damage might have rattled Steve enough for him to make a mistake and for me to win. I just don't know.
That was time. This match was a draw.
Matches 1-0-1, games 3-2.
My next opponent was Jacob, a younger player with a Rebel deck. Again, my absence from Magic over the summer left me with no experience playing against a rebel deck.
Game one I got out some early beats and was on my way to winning when I stalled out and Jacob got his rebel chain going. Before I knew what hit me, I was staring at a horde of angry rebels. I was overwhelmed and went down quickly.
Side in Flashfires and Tranquilities.
Game two, my notes claim that I won. I don't remember any details. According to my notes, I only took one point of damage from my own painland while Jacob's life total went 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, concede. I vaguely recall casting a Kavu Titan with kicker and having him joined by Skizzik, also with kicker on the next turn. I also seem to recall Jacob having poor mana development this game.
The second game I never saw a Flashfires, or anything else useful. The only damage Jacob took was from an Earthquake that I used in desperation to clear the board. He had a rebel recruiter in hand and got more of those nasty little rebels out before I could draw anything to defend myself.
The good news is that my first loss of the day went to the eventual winner of the tournament.
Matches 1-1-1, games 4-4.
At this point I figure I'm at about 14th place and need two wins, combined with some other players losing, to have even a remote chance at top 8. Oh well; I figured I'd be happy with a .500 record, and I only needed one win in two matches to pull that off.
Round 4 against Chris.
Chris is with a R/B deck. I can't tell you much about it, because I only saw him play two very, very, mana screwed games. There isn't a whole lot of challenge beating an opponent who can't get past two mana in two straight games. I even asked, and Chris told me that he had 24 land in his deck.
To add insult to injury, I ended up with kickered Kavu Titans both games and Skizzik even came out to play. It wasn't pretty, but at least I wasn't going to have a larger number in the loss column than in the win column.
Matches 2-1-1, games 6-4
Match 5 is against Thomas. (Note to Ferrett: Keep a lookout for this kid. He takes really good notes. If he can write you might have to nab him as a tournament report writer.)
Thomas is with a B/U beatdown deck, using the ever-annoying Nether Spirit. I think I killed that thing five or six times in game one, periodically taking a bit of damage from it. I did eventually get a bunch of critters on the table to win the game.
During the first game, this match was getting a lot of attention. I'm guessing that Thomas and I are somewhere around 9th and 10th place at this point. Turns out I was right. I was in 9th place, and a win would likely move me past the current 8th place player. A win for Thomas, and both Thomas and I get to go home early.
Game two was all Thomas. I had lots of green mana on the table and red spells in my hand. I got beat to death by that annoying Nether Spirit two points at a time.
Game three was looking very bad for me. Thomas had gotten an early start hitting me with a Rishadan Airship and a Nether Spirit. I managed to kill the ship first, so that the annoying Spirit stayed dead when I was able to kill it. Another Airship started pounding on me for one point a turn before I got a kickered Kavu Titan into play. Thomas's life total goes 20, 15, 10, 5, 0. Whew!
Matches 3-1-1, Games 8-5
About fifteen minutes later, pairings for the top 8 are announced and my name was called.
I am happy. No matter what happens, I made top eight. I get a swell prize and some bragging rights.
TOP 8, MATCH 1 against Sean.
Sean is playing another of those annoying Ankh-Tide decks. His is better focused than Charles's was, and it gives me some problems.
Game one, I get slow mana development and the Ankh comes out early. Sean went down to twelve life playing lands. I thought that this had to be good for me. He takes eight damage before I do anything to him. I have a hand full of direct damage and two Flailing Soldiers. All I needed was a single mountain, or better yet a Kavu Titan, and I could finish the job he had started. Alas, the Ankh damage was the only damage Sean would take this game. I had a hand full of red spells and nothing but forests on the table. The Tide came out and I wasn't able to deal with it.
In come Boils and Tranquilities. Game two was going much better for me. I got a Flailing Soldier out early for a few points of damage. I let him die so that I could cast a Voracious Cobra and start the beatdown in earnest. I had Sean down to two life with the Cobra and was getting nervous that he was going to pull off some sort of bounce spell before I could finish him off, so I cast a Shock to get the game over with and in my win column.
Sean had a Misdirection in hand and used it to kill my Cobra. His 2/2 flyer then slowly but steadily beat me into submission as I desperately tried to draw an answer and get it past countermagic. I didn't. After the game Sean showed me what he had in his hand... not a bounce spell in sight.
If I hadn't sped up, I could have won this game and had at least one more game to tell you about. Who knows? Maybe I would have gone on to take it all. As it was, I had to settle for 8th place.
Although I have to admit that, all things considered, I was pretty happy making top 8. After two weeks of playing decks that were just losing to everything in sight, it was nice to have my deck finally working more often than not. And I did get a cool "Top Eight" playmat, plus a dozen boosters for making the top 8. If you're a regular reader, you can probably guess how happy I am to have a genuine, official, playmat in my possession.
So, that is my tournament report. I hope you enjoyed it.
What? What's that you say? Why is Ferrett going to be getting a new photo of me for the website soon?
Oh yes; I did promise to tell you. Well because after six rounds of play where the tournament director read my full name aloud each and every round, where I played six different opponents and talked to several others, not one person recognized me.
I know that a lot of the folks at the tournament don't follow the websites, and I expected that they would have no clue who I was. But from the eavesdropping that I did, it was clear that some of the folks did read the websites, at least occasionally.
I also know that I've been having a lot of fun playing games with partially hiding my identity. I figured it would be a blast to go into some card shop somewhere, play cards, and talk about Magic and the websites without the folks realizing who I was. That's why it took me so long to get a photo posted in the first place, and when I did send in a photo half of my face was covered by cards.
Yes, I've been playing games trying to be famous and anonymous at the same time. You know, sort of a "Magical Man of Mystery."
But you know what? I think that I'm the only one even remotely amused by this game. I think that if I were to get out more, if I started playing on the Pro Tour or something, this whole game might be amusing to a whole lot more folks.
But I don't travel that much. I'm not on the Pro Tour. I play almost exclusively in a couple of shops in small cities where most of the players don't surf the Magic sites. So what if the two that do recognize me? If they do, maybe I get to play celebrity for an afternoon. So, as soon as I can get a nice new photo taken I'll pass it along to Ferrett.
Props and Slops:
Props to Larry Kohlman, Owner of Dragon's Den in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for running a nice tournament and having a clean, well-lighted store.
Props to all of my opponents: All were pleasant and polite. In fact, I didn't personally hear any nasty trash talking all day. Admittedly, Charles was dressed kind of scary... old guys like me don't like that.... But he was a nice kid, so I can overlook the funny clothes.
Props to Choronzon for helping build, test, and rebuild my deck.
Props to my lovely wife for letting me run away for a full day, leaving her with the kids, so that I could play Magic.
Slops to me for not taking better notes. Some of the individual game details reported above are likely fictional, as I guessed what I couldn't remember.
Michael owns stock in Hasbro, Inc., parent company of WotC