Do you have to finish Top 8 to submit a Tournament Report? Do you have to qualify? How about if you got some really good cards in a booster draft?
Actually, none of those things happened. But I did have a great time.
There were six of us when we left: Dean, Rosco, Dave, Nathan, my son Matt, and myself. I was driving, and we left from Harrisburg's Capital City Mall. Nathan eventually got voted out of the van, and we returned with only five.
Even as we were leaving, I wasn't feeling very confident about my deck. My big mistake was playing against Matt's deck the night before: He was playing an ordinary, but aggressive, Red/Green deck that had beat me four out of five games. As I recall, Matt spent about twenty minutes building his deck. On the other hand, I had been sweating over my deck, sideboard, and matchup strategies for a little over three weeks.
In preparation, I had done a great deal of internet reading. I was fairly well prepared for the various major archetypes that would be there, and had a pretty decent sideboard strategy for each. Getting routed by Matt the night before didn't help my outlook for the day. In fact, my results against Matt support my general rule that actual playtesting should be kept to a minimum. Not only does it hurt your confidence if you lose, I find it can stagnate your spontaneity of play.
Building the Deck
I was playing a cross between Enforcer-Go and Miracle-Gro. The win condition cards were Mystic Enforcer and Quirion Dryad. These creatures were supported by Mystic Snake and various counter and bounce spells. The"surprise" spell was a couple of Armadillo Cloaks.
In building my deck, I have to say thank you to StarCityGames for plugging some holes for me. Since our local store, Wizard's Citadel, closed, Harrisburg doesn't have a facility that really supports Magic. You can buy boxes and booster packs locally - but when I mean support, I'm referring to a place that not only sells bulk product, but also has singles available, will give deck advice, and will host area tournaments. Whenever possible, I tried to support Wizard's Citadel by making purchases through them.
Along those lines, without a local Magic store to support, I have selected StarCityGames as my first choice when purchasing product. This is not some gratuitous comment: In my opinion, StarCityGames really is the best Magic strategy site available, with good writing from a variety of authors. This article is the exception that proves the rule.
Anyway, in late March, I purchased four Adarkar Wastes and a couple of Mystic Enforcers. The Enforcers were $10 each and the Andakar Wastes $6 each. When ordering, I gave a moment's thought to mentioning that I was a contributing writer for StarCityGames. A single article posted in February (2002, of course) counts as"contributing," doesn't it? In the end, I decided to keep my celebrity to myself, in lieu of begging for a discount. I was so satisfied with this approach that I cheerfully offered to cover shipping and handling as well.
Getting closer to Regionals, I decided a little more mana smoothing/land pain was in order, and called to purchase four Brushlands. Wouldn't you know? I was speaking to the President of StarCityGames, Pete Hoefling. Modesty once again kept me from mentioning my"contributing writer" status, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that StarCityGames would be hosting a booth in Baltimore.
Great! Not only could I save shipping and handling, I'll be able to meet some of the folks on the other side of the web. So I gave Pete my name and my order, and he agreed to put them aside for me so I could pick them up in person before play started.
Knowing the set of Adarkar Wastes were $24, I was expecting the Brushlands to cost $24, as well. What could I do to save a couple bucks, without pulling rank...? What would my Mom do? You should see how many shirts she can get at a garage sale for a dollar. Some of that wheeler-dealer stuff's hereditary, isn't it? Then it hit me: I would say the StarCityGames' code word when making the purchase. Here's approximately how it went:
We arrived for the Tournament around 9:15. Went into the main event area and quickly found the StarCityGames' booth.
"Hi, are you Pete? Nice to meet you. It's me, Dan Murphy. You had set aside some Brushlands for me?"
"Oh yeah. Four, right?"
"Yep. And do I get a discount if I say the word 'nipple' when making a purchase?"
"No. That'll be $30."
What? That's no discount. In fact, that's $6 more than I was planning to pay for them. What happened? Maybe I should pay more attention to my mom at garage sales. Maybe Green-White's the hot color with the imminent release of Judgement. Maybe there's a surcharge when you say 'nipple' when making a purchase. Maybe I shouldn't use the words 'mom' and 'nipple' in the same paragraph.
"No problem, Dan. Anytime."
Match of the Day
Lost my first match to Ed Linskey. Ed was playing R/G/U.
Won the second match against Adam Poe. Adam had a G/U deck with lots of squirrel peeps.
Match three I won as well. Beat Ken Morrison from Norfolk, although he insisted on pronouncing it Nah-fohk. Ken was playing B/G with Braids and Shades.
Only caught the tail end of the Match of the Day. It was in another time zone at Table 1.
Opponent is Mono-Black. Mono-Black has no creatures to block. The attacking Mongrel and Rootwalla bring him down to four life. Mono-Black has a Phyrexian Arena on the board as well as two Engineered Plagues shutting down the bears.
G/R/U still has Meteor Storm on the board and could end the game except for one problem: G/R/U is at one life and his only sources of red mana were Karplusan Forest or Shivan Reef, and he can't activate that Meteor Storm unless he gets a basic mountain. Not this turn. G/R/U draws another Bearscape.
Mono-Black draws... Twice. Thanks to the Arena he's now at two life. Neither card was the finisher he was looking for.
Game three at Table 1 and we're into serious top-deck mode.
G/R/U again can't draw a mountain.
Mono-Black draws... Twice again. He's at one life. Did he get it? He's tapping lands. Mono-Black plays Corrupt. Yep, he got it.
I realize that topdecking may not be the prettiest way to win a match. But what really impressed me was the manner by which these two guys conducted themselves. They knew the stakes; they knew the situation; and they were having the time of their lives. And when it was over, when Mono-Black had pulled off the win... They shook hands three times. Three times!! Both of them made comments along the line of,"That's the best match I ever played." Maybe they shook hands four times? By looking at their faces, it was hard to tell which one had just advanced to 3-0.
I'm sorry that I don't have their names so that I can give the proper credit they deserve. But then, perhaps there's a fitting irony to their anonymity. They are among the true ambassadors of the game. So am I. And so are you. You wouldn't have made it so far into this article if you weren't.
So I'm 2-1 and matched up against Chris Parsons in Round 4. Chris is playing Braids control, splashing white and green. With my opening deal, I kept a two-land hand: Brushland and Sungrass Prairie. After four turns I didn't see another land, let alone one with a hint of blue in it. I scooped after Chris Vindicated one of my lands on turn five.
No problem; I'm prepared for this deck. Turning my notebook to the Decklist and Sideboard section, I read my strategy notes on what to do against Braids control. Let's see: Two Shelter and two Beloved Chaplain out; two Squirrel Nest and two Divert in. The plan is for the Squirrel Nest to provide sacrifice creatures for Braids, and the Divert... Well, let's just see Chris Vindicate one of my lands now.
I put my notes away after sideboarding and Chris asks me what I was referencing. I reply, rather proudly for my preparedness, that I had specific sideboard strategies for the major archetypes. Chris indicated that notes of that type are illegal and that as penalty he gains access to all my notes including full decklist and sideboard.
Oh, what the heck. Let's get a judge. Fortunately, one was nearby, and Chris and I both signal him to come over. Meanwhile, I'm starting to get a dyspeptic feeling from the bottom of my stomach. Chris's certainty about this situation was a little unnerving.
Judge arrives. It's John Carter. Good. I know John. He's a very good judge. I have a lot of respect for him. If I made a procedural error, I know this will be resolved quickly and fairly.
I explain the situation to him about my list and notes. I have nothing to hide.
This is where I wish I were a spectator. This is where I wish I were Chris. What a spectacle he must have anticipated. I wonder what he was thinking..."The old man's about to melt down. Bet he throws his cards. Bet he tries to throw my cards."
Actually, I have no idea what Chris was thinking. I only know he wasn't saying much.
Chris is a big guy, reminding me a bit of Joe Black and John Popper. I believe Chris wins a lot of games with solid deck builds and smart, experienced play skills. I also imagine Chris wins a couple games with table presence. He makes direct eye contact, and initiates friendly conversation, not only with me but the players in our vicinity. I think being so close to my near implosion was the only thing that silenced Chris all day.
Incidentally, I did not melt down. Just grumbled a few inaudible words under my breath, and hurriedly excused myself from the area.
Chris later apologized for calling the judge on me. Said he hated winning like that. Even John gave a sort of judges-apology explaining that at this level of play, he really didn't have any choice but to make the ruling he did.
After my game loss fiasco with Chris, I wasn't really up for playing any more. Met up with Matt at the judge's station. He was there to report a match loss. He had just lost his second match in a row and was very disappointed after starting 2-0 and playing up to table 8. It was already 4:30 in the afternoon, and we were both going nowhere fast at 2-2. We saw there were exactly two slots open in the next booster draft. So we dropped to draft.
Matt and I do a lot of drafting, but it's usually one-on-one. We'll buy a box from a new set or expansion, and instead of just cracking packs, we'll draft against each other. It's a good way to learn the new mechanics and it forces you to play with cards you might not otherwise use.
Through all our drafting, I've noticed a tendency with Matt: He loves Green and Black. And although we've participated in a couple of eight-person store drafts, we've never been seated next to each other. Guess it had to happen sooner or later.
Matt is on my right and will be passing cards in my direction for two of the three packs. Matt will be playing Green and Black. Matt will be forcing Green and Black.
Looking for Blue and White, I open a Lieutenant Kirtar in my first pack. That works. Along the way I select a Second Thoughts, a couple Shelters, and some decent Blue and White creatures. Not a sniff of Green and Black.
Opening my second pack, a really wild thought popped into my head. Wouldn't it be cool if I open a Call of the Herd? And I pass it!!
Hey, Green's not my color today.
We all read Gary Wise's articles that rate the various cards for draft, don't we? Gary gives Call of the Herd a first-pick rating. First pick over Beast Attack and Overrun because he places a"paramount importance on the Limited early game."
Oh really? I give it a first-pick rating because despite three-plus boxes of Odyssey, Matt and I still only have three Calls between us. StarCityGames sells Beast Attack and Overrun for between $1.00 and $1.50 apiece. Call of the Herd is going to cost around $22.00 (although you can get if for $25.00 if you ask for it with nipples).
Well that's about it. Ken from Nah-fohk got his revenge by beating me in the draft. Nathan ended up going about 6-4, and got home around five in the morning. Although I will return for another try next year, the size and smell of Regionals makes me appreciate any opportunity to participate in a basic store tournament.
Just remember: Don't bring notes, do shake hands, and ask for nipples on the side. And if you sit down next to me in a draft, don't hold your breath waiting for me to pass Call of the Herd.