Saturday, May 19: 10:28 a.m. - Introduction
Welcome to your tournamently edition of the Professor's Field Journal. And yes this is on the correct page.
That's right, this weekend I'll actually be playing in Columbus, Ohio, USA rather than Strasbourg, France.
The more geographically inclined of you out there might be aware that Columbus is actually a wee bit further to travel to from England that France. So what am I doing out here rather than playing the European Grand Prix on my doorstep.
Erm, insanity probably.
I think my brain might have hatched one evil scheme too many and twisted itself into some horribly tangled knot.
It has a little to do with my rock bottom confidence in Time Spiral Block constructed and a lot to do with Strasbourg being both surprisingly expensive and awkward to get to from the north of England. After trying fruitlessly for a few weeks to sort something out I gave up and decided to book an even more expensive flight to Columbus instead.
Like I said, temporary insanity, or maybe too many fermented vegetable beverages.
Currently I'm thinking it may not be the best idea. My flight out of Manchester was delayed by four hours and after missing not one but two connecting flights I'm sitting at Philadelphia airport hoping the third time's the charm. With a bit of luck I might actually make it to Columbus some time this Friday, but this is not what you'd call a good omen to start things of with.
I'd like to claim I'm a Legacy aficionado and I made the trillion hour trip out of the love of the format and because WotC only puts on a Grand Prix once a decade. However that would be a lie. I'm a dirty pro and I'm swooping in like a vulture on the wreckage left over after the Hulk-Flash A-bomb went off.
The removal of power-level errata on formerly gash rare Flash has thrown the normally staid Legacy format into a state of massive upheaval. In fact it's likely to remain in a state of flux for the next few weeks as first Future Sight turbo charges the deck with pacts and then followed by the (probable) banning of Flash on June 1st.
While there have been plenty of Chicken Little's running round claiming the sky's falling in I actually think Columbus might be interesting, albeit not exactly the Legacy tournament most people, especially the specialists, were expecting. There are lots of different ways to build the Hulk-Flash deck and while it has rendered a lot of previous archetypes extinct, there are still plenty of aggro-control style decks that can smash it back just as hard. And if the field comes down too heavy on the hate, then the opening might be there for an opportunist to go after the hate decks.
I was initially going to run a smash-and-grab with Hulk, but I have to admit the possible level of hate has got me worried.
Have I said already I think this might have been a bad idea?
Oh well, at least I get to be all nostalgic over my dual lands and Force of Wills again. Providing I actually get out of Philadelphia airport….
Saturday, May 19: 11:11 a.m. - A dodgy gamble just got dodgier…
Okay, so travelling to the other side of the world when there's a perfectly good Grand Prix across the channel could be viewed as a bit of a gamble.
The original plan was to run the obviously broken deck in a greatly reduced field and sneak into day two.
That got a little more complicated when it became obvious that the right decks could smash Hulk right into the ground and the level of hate could reach epidemic proportions.
But hey, it still isn't too bad. At least there would be a lot less people than Strasbourg.
At least that's what I thought….
Where did all these guys come from!
900 players (or just shy of)! Yikes.
Now we have a complicated metagame and a large field.
Can I get a refund on my flight please?
Saturday, May 19: 2:22 p.m. - Round 4 vs. Michael Bernat
And we're off.
A first turn Duress from me reveals Bernat is running Flash-Hulk. In theory this should be pretty good for me.
We both set up our hands with Brainstorms and sac lands and I make the first aggressive move with a Meddling Mage. This surprised Bernat as he thought I was also running Flash.
He let the Mage resolve (and I ban Flash) and then we have a fight over Echoing Truth at end of turn which I win.
At this point I felt pretty good as his combo is switched off and a freshly cast Dark Confidant means I will run away with the game off card advantage.
Unfortunately for me Bernat had a second bounce spell in his deck. He cast Lim-Dul's Vault, found Chain of Vapor and then went off once the Mage was out of the way.
This is where I get tricky and dodge all the fish hate by morphing into Flash-Hulk myself. It's a nice plan, but isn't going to work if I mulligan to 5.
Saturday, May 19: 3:43 p.m. - Round 5 vs Rich Hoaen
I spotted Rich Hoaen was playing some form of Loam deck fairly early. The Exploration and Life from the Loam kind of gave it away. Did that mean I knew what to do?
Not a clue. That's one disadvantage of only testing two matchups for this tournament.
It didn't really matter. I set a Meddling Mage on Life from the Loam and then swung guys sideways. I was lucky enough to draw multiple Force of Will, but it was probably more to do with Rich being horrendously mana screwed.
Game 2 I got to see what the deck did up close and personal. I'd boarded in the combo, but took too long to find it and Rich went crazy with Exploration and Life from the Loam before wiping out all my lands with a recurring Wasteland.
Hmm, maybe should have Force of Will'ed that turn one Exploration.
Some guy next to us was doing silly things with Brand.
"I don't play enough Legacy", I said.
"I play too much," Rich replied. "This is the second match today."
This year is lean times indeed for one of the world's best limited specialists.
Game 3 I was quite excited as I had a turn two kill with the combo and Duress to protect it from everything….
Except Rich starting with Leyline in play….
This game was so miserable I almost don't want to record it for the risk of forever tarnishing my reputation.
One of the problems with shuffling your sideboard into the deck before sideboarding is you always end up with one card left in the deck that shouldn't be there. In this case it was Unezawa's Jitte (although the game got so stupid Rich actually had to Duress it away) and the card that should have been in… Echoing Truth.
Hmm, okay so we may have a problem. Let's go to plan B.
Er, do I have a plan B?
I did sort of. Make Meddling Mage (Life from the Loam) and hope to get lucky.
I was, extremely. Rich had about a hundred billion outs (including drawing any red source for the Seismic Assault in hand), but drew nothing and I beat him to death with a Meddling Mage, Carrion Feeder and Body Snatcher.
It was that ugly.
Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. Now I'm going to have to take a shower because I feel dirty after that nonsense.
Saturday, May 19: 7:45 p.m. - Rounds 6 and 7
Although there may not be many turns in most Legacy games, they tend to drag out because there are so many decisions involved with each turn. Yep, it's brief catchup time and I might actually get the blog to BDM at some point.
Round 6 I was against Brandon something I think. Unfortunately the judge ran off with the paper with my life total and his name, so sorry if I remembered it wrong.
Basically he had mana problems both games. Game 2 was especially nasty as I cast Portent on him after Duressing him and set up a two turn Time Walk. Nasty.
Round seven versus Michael McGee and the weaknesses of trying to play two decks in one were painfully shown up by a gro-deck. Doesn't matter which way I turn in that matchup he's got me covered.
Game 1 looked okay but then his Dryad got out of hand and comfortably raced me to the line.
Game 2 I thought I looked strong again after boarding in the combo and setting up a third turn. Bob went out as a test spell and made it into play. I then went off with Daze backup only to run into two Force of Will. Hmm.
I still had Bob though, but unfortunately he turned traitor on me and revealed first Karmic Guide and then Kiki-Jiki to eat half my life total away.
Oh well, these things happen.
Two rounds left and I need to win both. I'm not too happy with the deck either.
Saturday, May 19: 8:30 p.m. - Rnd 8 vs Eric Caffrey
Yeah, the switcheroo worked! Caffrey was playing the multiple tutor version of Flash-Hulk, which is scarily fast, but runs out of puff quickly against disruption.
I had a couple of nervous turns where a top-decked Flash would have killed me, but then Bob made amends for the last round by revealing Stifle, Stifle, Meddling Mage.
Game 2 and I had Stifle and Force of Will in wait. Caffrey only had one land and an Elvish Spirit Guide after blowing a Petal to tutor for hulk. He lost another card tutoring for Flash and still couldn't risk going off.
Three Duresses from me left his hand in tatters and he went down to zero after I Stifled the combo.
I then Mystical Tutored for Flash, at which point Caffrey realised he wouldn't be getting any time to rebuild. This actually is the first time I've actually won by sending a million Karmic Guides into the red zone. So much for boarding into a combo deck.
Saturday, May 19: 10:18 p.m. - Rnd 9 vs Brian Demars
Yeah, I'm a wuss. But after x-hundred miles or however far it is I want to at least be playing on day two.
On one aspect of the gamble I was correct. A 3-2 record was good enough to get me into day two. However I'm going to have to work to earn my money and Pro Points as there will be 128 competitors through to Sunday.
Well at least I get to say come back and follow my progress tomorrow, and it's been a while since I've been able to do that.
If we're lucky I might even have time to put up my decklist.
Sunday, May 20: 9:00 a.m. - Day Two Introduction
It's been a while, but finally I can actually say welcome to day two. It's currently 9am, which is far earlier than I'd normally like to be out of bed.
We're now down to 128 players. After being a cowardly custard and ID'ing the last round yesterday I'm down in 89th place. There are another six rounds today. To have a chance of top 8 I'll need to 6-0. A more realistic target is to get the 3 or 4 wins I need to secure the pro point and cash of top 64 and then see where we get to.
This will be difficult as I think as I was a bit too clever with the two decks in one strategy and overall my deck isn't as strong as I would have liked.
Sunday, May 20: 12:00 p.m. - Rnd 12 vs Brian Fulop
More goblin molestation I'm afraid. Those little red guys are doing unprintable things to my body at the moment.
Back home I imagine Dan Paskins is nodding his head and thinking I told you so. Puny Fish never beats the little red guys.
I had a bit of hope as Fulop mulled to five and I stabilised against War Chief and Lackey with Serra Avenger. I dropped a Mage on Swords to Ploughshares, but a Vialed out Goblin King allowed Fulop to get some damage in with the War Chief. I had a Jitte in hand and felt I needed the Avenger more than I needed his War Chief dead.
I couldn't find the 4th land to drop Jitte and equip. I was probably a little greedy as I had three land in play and cast first Serum Visions and then Brainstorm. You'd have thought I'd have found a land in the top 6 cards, but sadly not.
This meant I couldn't cast Jotun Grunt this turn. The next draw step didn't give a land either and so I just made the Grunt. And then finally found land number four off Visions.
I thought I was probably okay. But then Fulop drew Ib Halfheart, Vialed it out, converted all his mountains into Goblins and alpha-striked for the win.
I boarded in the combo, but with a backup plan of Grunts and Avenger just in case I had to play round Crypt.
Fulop mulliganed, but found a very spicy six lander. Two Wastelands and a Port left my mana base in tatters. I only hit two mana at one point in the game, but didn't have the combo in hand and could only make a Dark Confidant that simply died to Mogg Fanatic.
My mixed strategy is getting bull-dozed by more focused decks at the moment. Sometimes being led astray by both the hype and fear can be a bad thing.
Sunday, May 20: 2:00 p.m. - Rounds 13 and 14
Ah, the perils of trying to be too clever.
Round 13 and Antonino de Rosa's Invitational special is sort of like my fish deck except he has Shadowmage Infiltrator instead of my erm… Benevolent Bodyguard and Lim Dul's Vault.
I sort of put up a fight, but his second Jotun Grunt kicks my head in.
Onto sideboarding and de Rosa has to try and guess which deck I'm going to run for Game 2. So my strategy sort of works in that their sideboarding options are restricted as they don't know what they're going to play against.
Because I don't have enough slots to really run both decks I have to make some sub-optimal compromises. Which of course means I'm not really gaining anything unless I catch somebody out completely.
Game 2 and I compound the Fancy Deck Syndrome problem with some Fancy Play Syndrome. I didn't Duress de Rosa turn one as I wanted to try and snag a sac land with stifle.
That didn't work out and then I drew lands while he drew creatures and went down without much resistance.
Round 14 and I managed to catch somebody out completely.
Cody Mannion was playing Faerie Stompy. Cloud of Fairies with a Jitte killed my entire hand, but then I boarded into Flash and combo'ed off in games two and three.
He looked surprised in Game 2 when Flash hit. That warmed my cold black heart up somewhat.
I'm still out of contention for money, but I'm having fun.
Sunday, May 20: 5:00 p.m. - Rnd 15 vs Justin Perdue
One round to play and absolutely nothing to play for but pride.
Justin Perdue was running fish and despite me being a fairly bad fish deck Game 1 I was able to win a very long first game.
We both made errors in naming cards with Meddling Mage. As neither player really knew the matchup there was a Meddling Mage running around with Flash written on it on both sides of the board.
I made a mistake in not naming a Force of Will which I knew was in hand in favour of Swords to Ploughshares which I knew Perdue had while I'm not running them. He had a second blue card in hand and was able to Force of Will Dark Confidant.
With a Jitte in play and looking dominant Perdue didn't name Jitte with another Meddling Mage. I was able to remove the Jitte by casting my own and then after we both rebuilt I pushed a Serra Avenger through a Mother of Runes protected Serra Avenger with the help of Stifle and then Benevolent Bodyguard.
Game 2 he spotted the switch and started with two Leylines in play. When a Meddling Mage came out naming Flash I had to give up on the combo plan and try pushing through Serra Avengers.
Playing with only half your deck is never recommended and while his Dark Confidant helped by taking half his life total with two Force of Will, eventually Jitte came out to pull him back from the brink of one life.
In extra turns he got his Mother of Runes to count and pushed through lethal damage to tie the match.
Taking aside the byes I finished with a flat even 5-5-2 record. Must try better I guess.
Sunday, May 20: 8:00 p.m. - Post Mortem
And finally we have the decklist:
GP Columbus Non-Top 8
At the time the idea seemed sound.
The plan is to start off with an anti-combo fish deck to beat the expected Legions of Hulk-Flash players, then dodge the sideboarding by becoming a different deck. I can also use a mixed strategy of flashing Hulk in to put two Serra Avenger and a Jotun Grunt in play if the Kiki-Jiki combo isn't viable because of Pithing Needle and other cards.
Trying to fit everything is a little on the tricky side so I had to throw a couple of sub-optimal cards (Bodyguard and Vault) in the main deck as they're not totally dead and needed for when I board into the combo.
Unfortunately trying to be excessively clever is not always a good plan, especially if people get wise to what you're doing.
My main problem was trying to fit two decks into one. Against dedicated fish decks I struggle as I don't have the Swords to Ploughshares and Mother of Runes. Even if I board into the combo they're still not that bad against me.
It's even worse against aggro decks like Goblins. The plan against them is to become the combo deck, but I ended up being savaged by the two goblin decks I played against because I don't have either the mana accelerants or the tutoring capacity to go off fast enough.
It was a cute trick but I think I'd have been much better off, especially in a more open field than expected, to play a well-tuned Flash-Hulk deck and dodge the hate with guys in the sideboard. I've seen a few players using Quirion Dryad after boarding and that seems a fairly good plan.
The gamble in coming here sort of worked in that I made day two, but the increased size of the field meant I ultimately missed out on both Pro Points and money.
It was fun to come over and play in my first US Grand Prix and meet a whole new bunch of people. Hope to see you all again over here sometime soon (when I might actually test the format a little better next time… )