Amsterdam didn’t go particularly well for me. I think I was adequately prepared except that I couldn’t decide on a deck. Doran was getting a lot of hype the day prior to the event. That deck would have been a good choice, but cards for it were scarce (Treefolk Harbingers were impossible to find). My remaining options were Ad Nauseam, Living End, and RG Scapeshift. I had essentially eliminated other decks in testing and just had to make the final call. I abandoned Ad Nauseam and Living End, because I decided I didn’t want to fight through rivers of hate; I went with red-green Scapeshift, because it seemed the most resilient and consistent. Matt Nass and I had come up with a list for it that looked like this:
We came to the conclusion that Tarmogoyf was the worst card in the old list, so we ditched that, and shortly the Kitchen Finks and Bloodbraid Elfs followed. Prismatic Omen and Primeval Titan were added as alternative win conditions that did something by themselves. Prismatic Omen enables some fast wins as well as being able to win without Scapeshift. Primeval Titan doesn’t do a lot combo-wise without a Prismatic Omen in play, but it can still represent lethal with a pair of accompanying Treetop Villages or help you Valakut the hard way. We were both content with this deck but not particularly excited to be playing it.
I was having a hard time finding Primeval Titans. They were 50 EUR at the vendors, and that was pretty steep. No one I asked had them, so I resolved to buy them if I had to.
So while I was watching Matt test the deck and going over my remaining options for the PT, I hear someone mention “Ascension”; and that gets me thinking. Not of Pyromancers Ascension… but of Bloodchief Ascension! I realized that an active Bloodchief Ascension prevents both Scapeshift and Ad Nauseam from combo killing you, so I started brewing up a list (without the intention of actually playing it). The list looked like this:
shipit's the other-other Ascension
So how did I actually end up playing this list? The cost of the Primeval Titans, the illusion that I needed to be able to beat Doran, the fear of fighting infi hate cards (with the two combo options), and Gerry Thompson were the main contributors. I ended up building the deck with cards from my roomies and buying the last few before the event started. I also switched the Ascensions with the Thoughtseizes in the sideboard, because I realized that they’re only good against the two decks that had spawned the idea in the first place.
Round 1 vs. Living End
I realize that I forgot to include board cards for this matchup and fear a round one loss. The matchup is very bad for me, but I manage to win 2/3 games by Thoughtseizing all of the Cascade cards while he keeps drawing blanks. I don’t think my opponent was very experienced with the deck. He may have had a shot if he had played a little differently, but his inexperience led to my victory.
Round 2 vs. Merfolk
My manabase is already very unstable. Two Spreading Seas in G1 and three in G2 lead to my demise. This matchup doesn’t seem very good for me either. This is when I start regretting my deck choice…
Before the next round I play some games against Matt to get a better feel for my deck. This is when I find out that my deck can actually win on Turn 4 semi-frequently. It seems to happen a lot more in fun games on the side than in the main event though.
Round 3 vs. RG Scapeshift
My opponent is Pro Tour San Juan Top8er Jeremy Neeman. We both start off rather slow using Groves to gain each other life. We both have Tarmogoyfs and Punishing Fires, but I have a plan to knock off his Goyfs. Unfortunately, in my fatigue, I accidentally Bolt a Goyf that is a 3/4 (a pitfall of playing too much MTGO, apparently). I move past my mistake and try to focus on salvaging the game, but my deck just can’t beat him before he kills me with Scapeshift.
In the second game, I don’t see an Ascension, and he slows me down considerably with a pair of Kitchen Finks. I employ a Thoughtseize paired with Blightning to empty his hand, but he draws a few relevant spells and Scapeshifts before I am able to kill him.
Round 4 vs. UW Control
My opponent keeps some risky hands, and I Thoughtseize away his relevant cards. Now, I really feel my deck is so bad that I can only win game where opponents get screwed in some way. I just want to move on to draft, but I must battle one more time with the deck.
Round 5 vs. Ad Nauseam
My opponent is playing a subpar version of Ad Nauseam (that is noticeably slower), and I feel that I can win this match with help from my sideboard. In G1, I don’t draw a Thoughtseize, and he combo kills me after a few turns. In G2, I still don’t see a ‘Seize or Ascension but manage to kill him because he durdles around too much. Finally, I keep a rather weak Game 3 hand which contains 2 Bloodbraid Elfs and a Goblin Guide. I kept it, because I felt going to 5 wouldn’t yield much better. My opponent leads with a Leyline of Sanctity- not a bad card against me. If I draw an Ascension before he can kill me or am gifted with a Turn 6, I could still win this game, but neither occur and I die on Turn 5.
So here I am in the same position as I was in during San Juan. I just have to 3-0 the draft to make Day 2. Even though my Extended deck is pretty bad, I could really use the extra pro points. I am confident enough in my drafting skills that I think I still have a shot to Day 2. I draft a pretty sweet red splash black aggro deck and feel even better about my chances. The deck featured 4 Fiery Hellhounds, 3 Doom Blades, and 2 Lightning Bolts. A good player once said, “Just attack with your crappers,” and that’s exactly what I was going to do!
I manage to 2-0 and 2-1 the next two rounds and am moving on to the final round of Day 1. Once again, I find myself in the same position as San Juan where I need to win to make Day 2.
Round 8 vs. Ub Control
My opponent is the person who was on my right during the draft, but I’m not sure what to make of his deck. He passed me 2 Doom Blades so I couldn’t imagine how he still ended up black. Well it turns out there was a reason he passed those. His deck featured Jace Beleren, Frost Titan, and Royal Assassin (and somehow a Doom Blade as well). Suffice it to say that my “crappers” couldn’t get there, thus ending my PT plight. But a few mythic rares won’t keep me down- PT Portland, here I come!
After about 10 hours in the car, I arrived at Portland with just enough time to register for the event. After my roomies arrived (Matt Nass, Tom Raney, and Ricky Sidher), we went off in search of food. Had we realized that in Portland places either close early, or only admit 21+ after 10 PM, we would have went straight to Burgerville (a popular local franchise). After wandering the streets in search of food with the help of Yelp, I queried what kind of reviews we would have to read on Yelp for a place to be worth trying.
“I mean, what kind of place gets a review ‘PRETTY FREAKIN’ AWESOME’ anyways?”
About a minute later as we come to a bumpin’ night club, Raney asks the bouncer where we should eat at this hour. He points to a crowded lot across the street that has a few different food establishments.
“Volkswaffle, it’s pretty freakin’ awesome!”
We walk away laughing hysterically about the review we were just given, and we obviously have to eat at this place. The waffles were pretty good and if you ever find yourself in that area of Portland you should probably visit Volkswaffle.
Now on to the main event! The pool I receive contains 2 Mind Controls and 4 Sylvan Rangers. I scan the remaining colors for worthy cards and find that I am pretty much stuck in green-blue with an optional splash. The only card worth splashing was Lightning Bolt, and it ends up making the cut. Here is the final list I registered:
Sealed Deck, GP Portland
I think Hornet Sting is a bit underrated in this Sealed format. It answers a lot of cards from white and is rarely dead. That being said, it’s also an easy card to board out against some decks. Plummet is another card that should probably be rated higher. I maindeck it every time, and in this case I have 0 ways to answer flyers so it’s an easy decision. Alluring Siren might be the most underrated card in Magic 2011 Limited, but I felt it couldn’t make the cut here. I may be wrong on that though. Maindecking Redirect is pretty greedy- that slot could have gone to either Alluring Siren or Negate. I played 16 lands in this deck, and I think that’s fine, but I was winning just about all the games I didn’t get flooded so I started cutting either a land or Llanowar Elves as the tournament progressed.
The top tables featured a lot of Frost Titans and other bomb rares, but I am totally content with the deck I ended up with. I had a consistent deck with 2 Mind Controls and considerable sideboard options is what I like to have in Sealed.
After my 2 byes, I find my seat and get pulled away by a judge. It turns out I forgot to include Whispersilk Cloak in my deck on the deck sheet. I’m not too worried about the game loss though, because most players in the early rounds of GPs are not the best players.
Round 3 vs. Br
My opponent plays Duress on Turn 1. Now things are looking a little grim. I reveal Hornet Sting and Foresee as the two options. He picks Hornet Sting, which is absolutely fine with me. I don’t know why he’d pick that unless he has a Royal Assassin, but he never plays one and doesn’t do very much for the rest of the game either. In G3, he leads with Duress again, this time finding only a Cancel. He curves out pretty well and we eventually find ourselves in a stalemate of Chandras Spitfire versus a pair of 1/1′s and a 2/2. He draws a Prodigal Pyromancer before I see anything relevant and forces me to try to race him. I get him pretty low while he doesn’t realize he can kill me with Pyromancer + Spitfire. He gives me a few draw steps to find an answer or kill him, but I do not and eventually lose the game.
I am upset that I lost the first round of play, but I also realize how easy GPs are and don’t fear being knocked out this early. I battle against a few more opponents, generally outplaying them, as well as avoiding their bombs, until the seventh round.
Round 7 vs. Patrick Chapin with UR Control
I am a little worried about this match, but am also excited to be playing against The Innovator himself. I try to play as though he is just another player, but it is difficult. I make one notable mistake over the course of the match. I play a Water Servant leaving open green mana instead of blue (because it was via Llanowar Elves). This doesn’t end up costing me too much as he Fireballs the Water Servant and another creature (he has Fire Servant in play) with one mana left over. I put up a good fight, but his deck proves to be a bit better than mine. After trading a few cards, he finishes me off with a second Fireball and we move on to the next game.
I bring in Safe Passage for Game 2 for his Fireballs. I play carefully trying to avoid walking into any of the counter-magic he showed me in Game 1. On Turn 6, he plays a Harbor Serpent. I can’t really afford to let him untap just so that I can have Negate backup when I Mind Control it, so I do it right away. He ends up Fireballing the Serpent, so I still end up with a two-for-one. As I try to overwhelm him, he plays a Jaces Ingenuity, untaps and plays an Elixir of Immortality, uses it, and plays another Jaces Ingenuity! I have a good board presence, and he would need a few relevant cards to get out of this hole. He ends up playing Ancient Hellkite as well as an AEther Adept and is right back in the game. I don’t have an answer for the Hellkite yet. I have a Safe Passage, but I can’t figure out any good way to make it work against the Hellkite. I can use it at the beginning of combat, but if I let him attack I could do a lot of damage with a counterstrike. I play the Safe Passage after he attacks, and he is still able to kill my Water Servant, adding Prodigal Pyromancer to the board afterwards. I bring him down to 7 on my turn and pass again. He kills some of my creatures with the Hellkite as well as puts me to 3. He Bolts me, but I play my last card- Negate. I draw a crucial Foresee which gets me a Mind Control and a Garruks Packleader that will kill him next turn. Unfortunately his last card is Chandras Outrage, so he simply untaps and kills me with it and Pyromancer.
I am determined to break my Day 1 fail streak and won’t let this loss affect me. I win Round 8 handily and must play a clincher for Day 2.
Round 9 vs. UW
Seeing as I have very few ways to deal with flying creatures, I am more than a little worried about this matchup. In G1, I reach a point where I have to topdeck an answer to one of his flyers so that I can kill him next turn. I do not find it and succumb to flying damage. Not to worry! I can still win this. I board in the Combust and switch Redirect with Negate. In G2, I kill him rather swiftly before he has much of a chance to do anything.
And finally we are at G3, a very close game. He doesn’t lead with quite as aggressive a start as Game 1, and I manage to get the aggressive opener. I deal with an Azure Drake and a Baneslayer Angel with Plummet and Combust. He has a Blinding Mage left over and plays a Harbor Serpent on Turn 6 that stops my assault. He has thee Islands and I have two, but I’m not sure if he can afford to attack and allow me to attack back. I wait a turn on casting Acidic Slime to see what he does. He plays a Stormfront Pegasus and attacks me for 5. I take the opportunity to Slime his Island and get some damage in. He takes his turn and makes a pair of crucial mistakes. He tries to attack with Harbor Serpent and Pegasus, and I tell him there are only four Islands in play. He wants to return to his Main Phase, but I insist that he has already entered the Combat Step. He attacks for 2 and passes. I can’t effectively get past the Harbor Serpent and Blinding Mage, so I pass. He plays Jaces Ingenuity on my end step and I Negate it. It turns out that is the reason he wanted to return to his Main Phase, but after he made his mistake he didn’t think enough to play the Ingenuity while I was tapped out, and it very well may have cost him this game. He doesn’t draw another Island for most of the game. He plays a Wall of Frost on his turn and attacking becomes very awkward for me. A few turns pass as we continue to trade topdecks, but I finally find an AEther Adept to help put me over the edge. I drew enough spells that I was still holding a Foresee when I managed to put him to 1. I cast the Foresee and found a Hornet Sting to finish him off. He is a good sport about losing and even asks for me to sign the Hornet Sting for him, but I need it for Round 10 of Day 2.
A lot of my group made Day 2 so we take the opportunity to eat at Denny’s and celebrate. Matt Nass is sitting at 9-0 ready to make a return to fame. Unfortunately for him, his luck ended that night when he lost to me in the credit card game. Victory has never been so sweet.
7-2, and 1-0 in credit card game
Unfortunately, Day 2 starts with me losing the last round of Sealed. My opponent is a nice guy, so I don’t mind losing to him. I mulliganed four times during the match, and in G3 we had quite an odd game. I’m down to five cards on the draw, miss my second land drop three times, continue to miss land drops for a few turns after that, but still come really close to winning it.
I am in a pod with two people I know, Kenny Ellis and Michael Peterson. I don’t want to have to fight Kenny, but if he gets in my way, I will. I open a pack with Garruk Wildspeaker and Jaces Ingenuity. I pass the Ingenuity to Peterson and am feeling good about the draft. I pick up a Shivs Embrace and a few other green cards. In pack 2, I open a… Garruk Wildspeaker. Yes! I can’t believe it, but I now have 2 Garruks! I get passed a Lightning Bolt that solidifies me in green-red. In pack 3, I pick up two more Lightning Bolts as well as another Shivs Embrace. My deck ends up being pretty sweet, and I know I can 3-0 this pod.
First Draft Deck
Round 11 vs. Kenny Ellis with UB
Unfortunately, I had to play against Kenny in the first round of this draft. His deck’s power level was considerably lower than mine, and as such, he quickly succumbed to my multiple Garruks.
Round 12 vs. Wr Aggro
My opponent was a nice guy, and he had me on the ropes on more than one occasion with Armored Ascension. I lost G1 to that card alone, and as such, thought I should bring in the War Priest of Thune sitting in my sideboard. I also brought in a Volcanic Strength which led to a quick victory coupled with Awakener Druid. I took a risk putting the Strength on the Druid, but I felt that he would have played differently if he had the Bolt.
Game 3 was another close game. A Giant Spider stopped his initial assault so that I could land a Garruk. But he Pacified the Spider and flew over to kill Garruk with Cloud Crusader. I add Acidic Slime to the board and brought the Spider back into the fight. I followed that up with a Shivs Embrace on the Slime to represent a lot of damage in the coming turns. He managed to draw a second copy of Cloud Crusader to put a stop to my attacks. We sat in a stalemate for a while until I drew a Lightning Bolt that would allow me to profitably attack. I eventually have him with too few guys to effectively defend himself, and he succumbs to the embraced Slime.
Round 13 vs. GB Fatties
This is the most depressing match of the tournament for me. We both handily took a game apiece and began the third. The game situation is depicted below, with me at 18 and him at 20.
The most obvious play is to cast Fire Servant, take some damage, and then Act of Treason the Yavimaya Wurm, attack and Fling the Wurm at his face, then Bolt him if necessary. The only excuse I have for not making this play was that I knew he had Gaea’s Revenge, and if he left back Specter and I didn’t draw a land, I would be in a bad spot. I made a play that could still be considered okay; I Slimed his Forest. The reason this play ended badly for me is because I blocked the Yavimaya Wurm. This play is so obviously wrong that I can’t really defend it. Leaving him with a Wurm in play (at the cost of 2 life) allows me to essentially be in control for the remainder of the game. I could kill him within two turns without much fear. Instead, he plays a Giant Spider this turn, I draw a land and play Fire Servant, and he plays Gaea’s Revenge. I still have the option of Bolting my opponent’s face to leave me with my two other Lightning Bolts as outs. I chose to Bolt the Specter and leave any creature or Garruk as an out. I draw a Lightning Bolt and die shortly afterward. It feels so bad to know that there were many different things you could do to win the game, but you threw it away instead. There are no excuses; I played badly and deserved to lose the game. Now, I just have to move on and not make any more mistakes.
Somehow, Kenny ended up in my pod again. Sigh.
My draft didn’t go quite as good for me this time around. I start off with a Doom Blade and soon commit myself to blue-black. I get passed a few nice red and white cards in the next few picks, but I pass them along. I end up on the Scroll Thief plan and pick up two to go along with a Merfolk Sovereign. I do love a good Scroll Thief deck!
Second Draft Deck
Not much is better than getting through with Scroll Thief, and this deck tries to make that happen. Like I mentioned before, Alluring Siren is underrated, and it makes an appearance in this deck. It’s basically the blue Blinding Mage after all! Call to Mind is another card that is slightly underrated. Doom Blade is still good at 3UB, and Call to Mind is even more flexible than that.
Round 14 vs. Sam Black’s roommate with RG Monsters
I try to aggro him out in G1, but without any removal, I can’t keep up with the monsters spilling out of his hand. Had I drawn a Doom Blade or maybe the Deathmark, I feel I could have won this game. Games 2 and 3 go differently, however; I draw removal. G3 my opponent also had to deal with mana issues.
Round 15 vs. Kenny Ellis with UW
Here we go again… It sucks that me and Kenny have to play again. He only needs one more Pro Point to reach Level 2, while I still need 3. If I had realized that I was only playing for Top 64 I would have scooped to him, but I thought I was still in contention for something better. This time Kenny’s deck is probably better than mine, but I draw a lot better than he does. I answer his guys, get in with Scroll Thief, and continue my earlier trend by answering a Vengeful Archon. He draws many lands and concedes. G2 goes pretty much the same. I topdeck Lilianas Specter at a point where he had only Serra Angel in hand and steal the game to seal the match.
Round 16 vs. Paul Reitzl
Paul convinces me that neither of us can Top 32 but drawing guarantees us Top 64. I trust him, because he’s five slots higher than me in the standings (meaning if he’s convinced he can’t Top 32, then I should be too).
Good enough for 47th place, $200, and 1 Pro Point! Not Day 2′ing Amsterdam was disappointing, but doing well in Portland helps to lift my spirits. Now, I just have to Q for Paris to see if I can keep the Day 2 streak going!
- Cheap + awesome food in Amsterdam
- Playing around Mana Leak whenever possible
- Volkswaffle for being freakin’ awesome
- Feeding time
- Beating Matt Nass in the credit card game
- The Magic name game for making car ride seem shorter