Tuesday, November 28: 11:30 pm - Introduction
Hello, this is Craig Jones, and I'll be giving you a player's eye view of the 2006 World Championships over the next few days. Nominally I'm classed as a Pro Player, being Level 4 in the Pro Players Club, although my performances are a little on the schizophrenic side. If things go well I'll stay in contention for long enough to make it interesting, if not … well, I'll try and keep things interesting anyway.
Please feel free to cheer me on. All donations of karmic well-wishing gratefully accepted (And I really need all the help I can get!)
Tomorrow will see me at my fifth World Championships, fourth as a player. I am not on a National Team, although I will of course be cheering on the English team (and the Scots, Welsh and Irish). In the Player of the Year race I'm kind of in no-man's land. Even if I win the whole event I still won't be able to catch Shouta Yasooka. Reaching Level 5 is a valid target, although for that I'd need to reach the Top 8. Hmm… that might need a lot of cheering.
Paris, and the Louvre, is very nice. I got here yesterday, but it being right before a major tournament, there hasn't been much time for the sightseeing stuff. I've seen the Eiffel Tower from the distance, and of course there is the big glass pyramid in the Louvre. Apparently this was in the Da Vinci code, but as that film has a very low blood and chainsaw quotient I haven't seen it yet.
To be honest it's been the usual mad scramble to work out what deck to play. And that's just for Standard, I still don't have a clue for Extended. So it's the usual high standards of preparation. Hmm…
What, you want Frank Karsten?
Tough, you've got me. And I can't hear that cheering yet.
One of the unfortunate side effects of not deciding on a deck beforehand is it then means you have to bring all the cards you think you might play, or in my case every card I own that's Standard legal. That's a lot of cardboard, about 17kg worth, and the train station is about a kilometer away from my house. And people say playing cards isn't good enough exercise…
For this event I've been working with the English national squad and Stuart Wright. Generally what usually happens is I build some decks, find out they don't work, and then play whatever Stuart brings. My intention was to try and break some of the new storm cards in Time Spiral. Casting Empty the Warrens to put 8 little dudes into play on turn two or three has been giving me some very quick games on MTGO. Unfortunately, I couldn't get either the straight Goblins variant or a more interesting Japanese twist with Howling Mines and Ignite Memories to work with anything approaching consistency. The potential is there, and I won't be surprised if either the French or Japanese crack it. Actually the thought of what they might do with all the rampant mana acceleration and stormy brokenness is enough to give me nightmares.
I do now have a deck. It isn't the same as Stuart's, mainly because I couldn't figure out how to play it properly, so I've come with something tedious and dull.
Anyway, time to get a good night's sleep and be ready for action tomorrow.
Wednesday, November 29: 10:00 am - Opening Ceremony
Aah, so nice to be in a hotel in walking distance of the venue. All I had to do this morning is fall out of bed and then I'm there.
Normal Pro Tours kick off around 10 in the morning, but this is a little special as we're at the World Championships. A very long queue for the PTQ had to be displaced. Yes, shoo shoo, out of the room, it's time for the opening ceremony.
In the past there would be some form of opening entertainment that was either very interesting (Drummers at Yokohama '99, erm… very flexible circus dancers at Brussels 2000) or bafflingly incomprehensible (Toronto 2001 - no idea what that was about). But now Magic is a show in its own right.
After the speeches it was time for the flag bearing ceremony. I don't know how they managed to organise 50-odd Magic players, I imagine it's a task akin to herding cats, but that went off without a hitch. Afterwards there was the Hall of Fame induction ceremony introduced by the keeper of all things history related, Brian David-Marshall. The Hall of Fame is such an honour and a testament to the longevity of the game and it's great to see such faces from the past as Bob Maher and Gary Wise come back to the game.
But now it's time to go as round one is shortly about to begin.
Wish me luck (please!).
Wednesday, November 29: 11:00 am - Standard Deck - Dragonstorm
Okay, so it's probably late enough in the day, there's a scrum around the computers on site, so I can probably put out the decklist I'm playing today.
Here we go…
Okay, so it's not exactly original, but I did get a turn-two kill out of it last night.
In case you've been living under a rock for the last month or so, the object of the deck is to ramp up to nine mana as fast as possible and then bust out a Dragonstorm with a storm count of three. The three copies, plus the original, allow you to fetch four Bogardan Hellkite out of the deck, and that will be 20 damage to the face thank you very much.
To be honest I was reluctant to play it as I expect they'll be a lot of hate tomorrow, but it's hard to argue with the raw power. The deck kills on turn four with frightening consistency. That's too fast for most beatdown decks, and while control decks have counterspells, the deck can trump that by tapping all their land at end of turn with Gigadrowse.
After sideboarding things get a little more tricky as your opponent will come at you with all manner of hate such as Persecute and Shadow of Doubt. One option is to duck it all and transform into a different deck. Unfortunately I didn't really have time to test those options and so went with a very standard sideboard that aims to try and defend the combo.
The deck isn't original and most players will have tested against it, but it performed very well in testing and it can kill on turn one (although it needs an outrageously good hand). Hopefully it will hold up today.
Wednesday, November 29: 12:00 pm - Round One - Rematch with Big Oots (Rasmus Sibast)
Oh dear, that's one of the problems with going in with an obvious target deck. People are gunning for it.
This was kind of an odd pairing. I was paired against Rasmus for Round 1 of last year's World Championship. He won that one, so I at least had a shot at revenge this year.
Not to be. His black-white deck looks like it was custom designed to take Dragonstorm to pieces. Fast beats (Savannah Lion) backed up with both hand disruption (Castigate) and life gain (Martyr of Sands) is the last thing I want to see. Game 1 he Castigates away my Seething Song and the deck draws no other acceleration.
Game 2 I have hope when he mulls to five. Ignorant Bliss ducks a Castigate, but unfortunately this is one of the times when Dragonstorm doesn't go off turn four. I'm worried about hand disruption, so I try to go off too soon with a storm count of only 1. Rasmus easily handles the two dragons with Temporal Isolation and then Wrath of God.
I hardcast Niv-Mizzet. Wrath.
I try for a Hellkite. Third Wrath.
A Persecute takes out my means of fetching a fourth Hellkite, and then Hypnotic Specter and Knight of Holy Nimbus polish me off in short order. Now that's a nightmare matchup. Rasmus Sibast beat me last year after mulliganing to five as well.
Curse you Big Oots! I will have my revenge!
Wednesday, November 29: 3:00 pm - Round 2 vs. Darwin Kastle
Hmm, probably should have picked a faster deck. Round two I got to take on the Hall of Fame in the form of Darwin Kastle. This was in the feature match area out in the lobby.
Darwin was running Blinking Snake, which in theory should be a good matchup. I get to tap him out at end of turn and then go off without worrying about any Rewind malarkey. Unfortunately, my Gigadrowses decided not to come to the table. He did present me with the opening for the fourth turn kill, but the deck missed the window, and after that he had enough guys to knock me down and Mystic Snakes to stop me going off. Come on deck, wake up, dammit!
Game 2 was better. I went off turn four and he was unable to oppose me with the many land in his hand.
Game 3. Yep, still kicking myself about this one. At one point I felt I couldn't lose it as my hand was stock full of rituals, Dragonstorm and Gigadrowse. Grand arbiter appeared to complicate things, although it gave me an opportunity to resolve Niv-Mizzet. Unfortunately I couldn't stop his Glare, and the game got very interesting. I still thought I was in good shape but then preceded to make mistakes that ultimately proved my downfall.
The first was to go for Gigadrowse too early. He was able to counter one copy with Mystic Snake and then have guys available to tap my Lotus and prevent me from going off. When I did go off, he had a Voidslime to counter the storm trigger. The one Hellkite did allow me remove the Arbiter, but I then made another mistake: my forgetting to use Niv-Mizzet in concert with the remaining two damage to kill his Viper. With Glare out I really needed to kill as many creatures as possible. The game went into extra turns and got very tight. I was able to force down another Hellkite, but on the third extra turn, Darwin cast Supply for seven men.
In my last turn I had a very tough choice. As Darwin was tapped out, I could cast the third Hellkite in my hand to try and kill as many creatures as I could and settle for the draw. I calculated this wouldn't be enough to stop him from tapping my dragons and attacking for the win. My only out was to go straight to his head and then hope the top of my library would yield either the fourth Hellkite or one of the three Dragonstorm to fetch it (I had a lot of counters on storage lands). Telling Time gave me more hope, but alas, it was not to be. Oh well, can't topdeck all the time.
1-2 games / 0-2 matches
Round 3 vs. Lovro Gasparic
Finally managed to chalk up 3 points. He was playing Solar Flare and resolved a Persecute. Fortunately I was able to rebuild and then transmute Grozoth for a Dragonstorm and then go off for four Hellkites with two Angel of Despair breathing down my neck.
Game 2 was more of a formality. Gasparic mulled to five, and his CoP: Red was not enough to save him from four angry dragons.
Yay, the deck does work, finally.
2-0 games / 1-2 matches
Wednesday, November 29: 4:00 pm - Round 4 vs. Jan Reuss
Ah Boros, so sleek, so consistent, but sadly a turn too slow.
Boros will generally nail you turn five. Unfortunately for Jan Reuss, Dragonstorm generally hits turn 4. Although I was fairly fortunate in winning the dice roll this game as the Lotus Bloom I needed arrived on turn two, which gave me the kill on my turn 5, which was rather conveniently before his lethal turn 5.
Game 2, and I had a turn two kill. Or rather would have if I'd drawn a red source of mana. Sleight, Telling Time, c'mon dangnaggit!
A Shivan Reef finally appeared and I was able to storm for 5 right through his Honorable Passage.
This is not a good matchup for Boros. To be honest there aren't many good matchups for the little guys and burn spells. Hopefully Wizards will slip us Flames of the Blood Hand through the time streams when Planar Chaos shows up. Go ask nicely.
In the meantime frying an opponent to a crisp with a healthy dose of dragon breath will have to suffice.
Wednesday, November 29: 6:00 pm - Round 5 vs. Stuart Wright
Predictably, the British contingent is wallowing in mid-table mediocrity and even more predictably, we start to get drawn against each other. Stuart Wright is the genius deck designer I rely on for most of my tech. Unfortunately for him he got paired against me this round. I say unfortunate as we tested this matchup quite a bit last night. It's basically unwinnable for his Husk-Glare deck Game 1 and only improves to around 40% after boarding.
So of course I lost the first game. I mulled to 5 and made a procession of Lotus Blooms that got switched off with Glare.
Game 2 was also hairy. I had the turn-four kill off turn one suspended Bloom, two Seething Song, and Dragonstorm in hand. Unfortunately I had no hand protection and had to sweat out Stuart not ramping up to turn 3 Persecute. He had the Persecute (two in fact!), but no second black mana source.
Game 3 and Lady Fate really decided to turn the screw on Stuart Wright as he stalled on one land and Bird. He was able to Castigate my Dragonstorm and I realised just how out of sorts I was when I failed to noticed he'd missed a land drop and didn't Repeal his Bird of Paradise in my main phase. Bad Prof, pay attention to the board state.
It took one of my techy last minute changes to swing the game. Instead of two Hunted Dragon I'm running a Niv-Mizzet, as it still gives you game against Glare of Subdual when their life total is out of range of the Hellkites. I busted out Niv-Mizzet with a Lotus and machine-gunned his mana producers. It's a win, but it's not the best to beat a mana-screwed teammate.
2-1 games / 3-2 matches
Wednesday, November 29: 7:00 pm - Round 6 vs. Andrei Hayrynen
One more win and I'll manage to turn a very poor 0-2 start into a credible 4-2 finish. This round I was paired against Andrei Hayrynen from Finland.
Interesting factoid: The best ever English team performance was when we had a Finnish player as National Champion. Sigh.
Anyway Hayrynen was running a blue-red-white Angel deck. The good news is I don't have to worry about Persecute, the bad news is this color combination can indicate any number of possible cards / threats.
Fortunately none of those are particularly fast, so I can afford to wait until the way is clear (generally when all their land has fallen asleep because of Gigadrowse) and then smash in with roaring Dragons. This pretty much happened Game 1.
Then I had the tricky situation of wondering what to sideboard. I opted to bin Grozoth, Niv-Mizzet and a Telling Time to bring in Repeals as anti-CoP measure and general Signet irritant.
Game 3 was cagey despite Hayrynen stumbling on lands. I wasn't able to take advantage and saw two Lotus Blooms come in, to eventually be disenchanted. Hayrynen had hit me with an early Lightning Helix and was at an irritatingly safe 22 life, especially as I'd drawn one of my Hellkites. I again failed to draw Gigadrowse and went for it a little on the premature side (basically I was so pleased to see only one blue mana rather than two blue for Shadow of Doubt, I forgot about the equally sideboard-friendly Trickbind).
Fortunately, I got away with it and put three Hellkites and a Hunted Dragon into play. No responses from Hayrynen and he was down to 1 life. The Wrath that followed was unsurprising, but still suited me. With a Dreadship Reef I had enough mana to put my fourth Hellkite into play at any time for the coup de grace. The opportunity arrived a turn later when Hayrynen tapped out to put two Lightning Angel into play.
2-0 games / 4-2 matches
So I managed to turn an 0-2 deficit into a nice 4-2. This sets me up nicely for the draft tomorrow, but as my record in practise drafts last week is 2-7, it may be a fairly rocky day.
C'mon Let's Hear Those Cheers
Overall the Dragonstorm deck felt very powerful. There are some bad matchups (the Proclamation of Rebirth life deck immediately springs to mind), but that's true of every deck in Standard at the moment. In such a diverse field, playing the deck that kills on turn four or sooner isn't a bad call. Other versions run a Tron mana base, but I've been really pleased with Gigadrowse. I tend to keep them in even against the aggro decks.
The control matchup is very difficult, and you need to be very patient. Against Darwin Kastle in Round 2 impatience definitely led to my downfall.
Unless they attack your hand with cards like Persecute, the game becomes very cat-and-couse. Just sit back and accumulate the best hand. Although I never got to use him, I think Teferi might be a key threat and gives you more ways of forcing a fight in their end-step. The storage lands are obviously fantastic in this kind of situation.
I'll see you tomorrow, where I'll attempt to overcome my jinx of failing to lay land number three (absolutely, totally and utterly, can't ever win if you miss it) in Time Spiral draft.
Thursday, November 30: 7:00 am - Last Minute Draft Practise
So what happens at Worlds when the last round ends, the zebras (judges) have gone to their watering holes, and another batch of cleaning staff is left to be mystified by these odd cards sprayed across the floor like confetti? We go draft.
Well, after food (a chip and kebab meat wrap, hmm, so healthy) anyway. I'd normally also go drink until the small hours of the morning, usually with Scotsmen, but after only narrowly surviving Yokohama last year, I thought I'd default to the usual "Let's draft."
On the plus side we pulled together a full 8-man pod, complete with some of the random British travellers. Actually there's a fairly large British contingent here this week, which is fantastic for the game. Now if only those people would come to the GPs as well…
Anyway, back to drafting and a foolproof system for randomizing the seating (personally I was in favour of seating Stuart Wright next to Graham Ribchester and seeing them both fight to the death over the blue and white cards).
Craig S: "Let's roll a dice."
Me: "No, I've got a faster way."
Roots through box of land in search of two lands of each type. Realises it doesn't quite determine which player is seated first.
Craig S: "Okay, let's write one to eight on them."
Me: "No, don't deface the land."
Craig S: "I'll replace the land."
Me: "No, it's fine."
Searches through land box again, surely there must be a non-Mirrodin forest.
Me: "Okay, take a card. Plains is one and five, Island is two and six, Mountain is three and seven, Forest is four and eight. Earliest expansion is the lower number."
Craig S: "I'm Plains."
Ben Coleman: "Me too."
Craig S: "What set? I'm Ravnica"
Ben Coleman: "Ravnica."
Craig S: "Gimme those lands!"
The draft lapsed into further comedy when what was supposed to be a quick draft was delayed when a game between Ribchester and Brian Connolly dragged on forever and actually went to Game 5. The reason? Well Jaya does have a third ability, the Inferno one, that everyone forgets about. "Both take 6, start again." Sigh.
Last week in practise drafts I went 2-7 (Olivier: "You actually won two?" Me: frowns). Not the best in terms of building confidence. It was also rather frustrating as I couldn't work out whether I was doing something wrong or was just the victim of spectacularly bad mana draws.
This was much better as I actually won (sort of. Stuart Wright had fallen asleep during the epic Jaya Inferno-fest and I won the final by default. Go me.) with a solid black-blue deck. Maybe this will be the herald of brighter things on the draft front.
Nah, be serious. I'll be happy if I crawl out of today with an even record.
Thursday, November 30: 7:00 am - Draft One - A Sliver Breakfast
And the moment of truth… Drum roll please…
Draft One - 2006 World Championship
Oops. That's the danger of cool rares. I opened Pulmonic Sliver and got passed an early Essence Sliver, and the small child in me kind of took control. Stupid small child, behave yourself.
I honestly have no idea how this will play. I'm kind of used to vicious tight mana curves in Time Spiral draft decks and running madly at people. This, well I have no idea what this is going to do. There's a lot of random power rares and a lot of random filler. Fortunately they happen to be Slivers, so I suppose they might be randomly useful.
I imagine I'll either draw the right Slivers and smash my opponent to bits or draw some bad cards and wrong mana and give my opponent a bye. So, yeah, a bit of a dog's or… Sliver's breakfast.
Oh and I left Ivory Giant in the sideboard. Yeah, there's two Momentary Blink. For some reason I was thinking it wouldn't be as good as I don't have that many white creatures (and I only had one blink in deck when I decided to change things at the last minute). Yes I am an idiot and yes it will be going in every game after boarding.
Predicted record: Probably bad.
Thursday, November 30: 11:22 am - Round 7 vs. Felipe Suarez (Smashing with Slivers)
You know how I said this deck might randomly smash people or fall flat on its face? Well that was an absolute kicking, and I got to dish it out for a change. Aah, satisfying.
Greenseeker was amazing. I mulliganed, kept a Forest/Greenseeker start, and then never missed a land drop. Quilled Sliver, Gemhide Sliver, Essence Sliver, Pulmonic Sliver, Fury Sliver!
Behave yourself, inner small child.
Game 2 I snuck down Teferi's Moat to shut down his green ground-pounders and then flew over the top with Pulmonic Sliver and friends.
Go random power rares!
2-0 games / 5-2 matches
Thursday, November 30: 1:00 pm - Round 8 vs. Harry Yarhas (Battle of the Big Kiddie Decks)
Round 8 and I'm paired against the current Greek National Champion, Harry Yarhas. It's his first Pro Tour and he's come with an excellent attitude. These games were a blast.
You know how Time Spiral draft is all speed, speed, suspend a guy turn one, play a bear, play a morph, race race? Well this match was a battle of the big kiddie decks. My deck is a small child Sliver special. Harry Yarhas had drafted the small child big green men deck. He had three Havenwood Wurm and plenty of ways to ramp them out, including Lotus Bloom.
The first two games weren't too exciting. Game 1 Harry missed his third land drop (fatal in this format, as I know from bitter experience) and I soared over with my flying slivers. Game 2 I mulliganed and then foolishly kept a five land, Witch Hunter hand. Stonebrow and Weatherseed Totem trampled me into the ground in fairly swift fashion.
Game 3 was really tight. I had both Might Sliver and Pulmonic Sliver in my opening hand, but my only play before them was a Spinneret Sliver. Meanwhile, Yarhas had a Durkwood Baloth ticking down and then busted out a turn four Havenwood Wurm. I took 5 and then 10 while racing through the air and then had a very tricky turn before the next attack. My Pulmonic Sliver hit to drop him to 6 and would give me the win if I could survive the next turn. I left Might Sliver on defence and added a Quilled Sliver and Greenseeker for support/chumping duties. I also had Momentary Blink as extra insurance, so I suppose I was reasonably safe, but it never feels that way when 10 power of Wurm (plus a sneaky Yavimaya forestwalker) is about to crash down on your head. Thankfully I weathered the storm and counter-attacked for the win.
2-1 games / 6-2 matches
Thursday, November 30: 2:30 pm - Round 9 vs. Przemyslaw Wolowicz
Okay, so reality had to come crashing in at some point. I finally met a proper blue-red deck.
Game 1 Przemyslaw Wolowicz let the dream continue briefly by obligingly failing to draw a second mountain in the first game. Timely Slivers took that one.
Games 2 and 3 the difference in overall card quality showed as he bashed me with Dragon Whelps and other assorted fliers. Kind of what I expected.
1-2 games / 6-3 matches
I was still very happy to eke two wins out of the deck.
I showed it to some Pro players afterwards.
Frank Karsten: "I'd rather kill myself than play this deck."
Geoffrey Siron: "This is the worst deck ever."
2-1 seems pretty good to me. Okay, time to try and draft properly now.
Friday, December 1: 8:30 am - Extended Preamble
So today the Worlds format switches to Extended. Last year I played the Golgari Grave-Troll Dredgatog deck (after going out on the lash until 6 in the morning - not the best preparation). Since then I haven't played a single game of Extended Magic. This is sort of what usually happens with the Extended portion of Worlds. Everyone concentrates too much on Standard, decides to pick up small men and burn spells for Extended, and then loses to the Japanese because they've actually brought real decks.
Last night I headed off for a curry. (The French have a reputation for food, but sadly the noble art of the Chicken Vindaloo has not crossed the channel. I expect sweating gallons and the sudden requirement to down the water jug when I eat a Vindaloo; this was just tame) Afterwards at about 11 at night I thought it might be a good idea to try and build an Extended deck.
Some of the English lads had told me about an Extended version of Dragonstorm using sac lands they'd seen on MTGO. As this fulfilled my requirement for a no-nonsense big-boom combo deck to beat the expected hordes of red players we tried to build it up when we got back to the hotel room. Unfortunately we didn't have an exact decklist and our approximation was… lacking.
Fortunately Stuart Wright had done his homework and had a decklist he was happy with. Normally I'd take the Wright decklist (truly sorry, some of Rich Hagon's punnery rubbing off on me) without hesitation, but English team cap Craig Stevenson had been led astray in Standard and ended up with a 1-5 record. My main concern was it looked to play fair and I suspect today's Extended is going to be full of decks that don't play fair. However it does have the truly unfair play of turn-two Destructive Flow, and against a lot of decks that's pretty much a turn-two kill. It also has little men and burn spells, so it's a strategy I'm vaguely familiar with (although I'd feel happier if we could slip a couple of Helix in there).
This was always going to be my backup plan (or Boros) and I'd told Andy "Boomer" Clayton to pick up some Lavamancers before he came out. Unfortunately Boomer managed to leave all the cards he'd picked up in England, and then it got even more dicey when I discovered all the dealers had sold out after the first day. Thankfully Brian Connolly had some spare and I at least had a deck for today.
This differs from Stuart's original decklist in that I added a couple of extra Call of the Herd to beat up the other red players. This of course, by the rules of Magic deck construction, means I now get to claim the list as my own creation (just kidding Stu!).
As an interesting aside, since arriving here, I've been asked by about four different people if I had a spare Extended deck. With the dealers selling out of staples like Grim Lavamancer and even Silver Knight there may be a few people running their Standard deck today.
Friday, December 1: 11:00 am - Round 13 vs. Arnost Zidek
Okay, so I get to play my very first game with this deck. Preparation is over-rated.
This is the first time I actually get to play against Arnost Zidek, despite seeing him post a succession of solid finishes on the Grand Prix circuit. Like most of the people in the room today he's running Boros. I don't have any idea how this matchup goes, but I'm relieved I added the two extra Call of the Herd.
The elephants came out in Game 1, and that was enough to win despite Zidek's main deck Jitte. Destructive Flow was sort of useful this game. It ate some land, and Zidek even had one card in his hand at the end of the game.
Unfortunately, my mighty pachyderm army got shut off at the pass or something, as they didn't show up for games 2 and 3. Game 2 I mulliganed and probably should have mulliganed again as my hand didn't go anywhere until a Fledgling Dragon beat me up.
Oh yeah, I used to play red decks. Should have seen that coming. And that means… ulp… he'll probably have Flametongue Kavu as well. Oh dear, this doesn't feel that good a matchup any more.
Game 3 was actually really close, and I didn't even draw Wild Mongrel until later on. Instead I played out two Dark Confidants (against Boros? Why not, living dangerous is fun.) and charged them in on suicide missions with Tin Street Hooligans into a Silver Knight. I tried to get Zidek down into burn range, but he was able to gain 3 precious life from a Lightning Helix. A baby Dragon came in fully fledged, and I was in trouble.
Zidek was unfortunately 2 points out burn range, so I had to throw 5 points at the Dragon. My angry Mongrel had already eaten through the rest of Zidek's team. Unfortunately for me, the last card in his hand was a Char, and being at 4 life, he didn't even need to look to the top of the deck.
The deck feels interesting anyway. I'm concerned Boros might be very tricky after boarding, especially as there's so many of them around today.
1-2 games / 7-6 matches
Friday, December 1: 12:22 pm - Round 14 vs. Duncan McGregor
So this is the clash between the converted coverage reporter and the converted judge. Duncan McGregor is the alternate for the Canadian team, and if information serves me correctly is usually seen spotting for the Top 8 of Pro Tours, although it is very early in the morning… check watch… afternoon for me.
Game 1 was pretty much exactly what Stuart designed the deck to do. After winning the die roll I opened with an Elves of Deep Shadow and then followed with a second turn Destructive Flow. A fairly mean ploy against a lone Hallowed Fountain.
Game 2, and Duncan put a stop to that plan straight away when he put Sacred Ground into play. Conveniently, my Destructive Flows remained hidden in my deck. Instead an early Bob found me a Cabal Therapy to pick both Fact or Fiction and Wrath of God from his hand. It also gave me enough cards to fuel a Wild Mongrel for the coup de grace.
2-0 games / 8-6 matches
(I may have used my own Pro Player card as an Elephant token and then pitched two extra cards to the mongrel because I thought it was a 1/1 but we won't talk about that. It's early in the morning afternoon.)
As the match was over fairly swiftly I got to see the brain-bending concoction Guillaume Wafo-Tapa and fellow French had brought to the party. Pierre Canali had told Rich Hagon yesterday that they were playing possibly the most complicated deck in the history of Magic. Wafo-Tapa's hapless Japanese opponent had to summon a judge just to ask what the cards in Wafo-Tapa's deck were. At the end he still didn't understand what the deck did as Wafo-Tapa fizzled both games.
Incidentally, Reshape to put a Lotus Bloom into play feels like some tech.
Friday, December 1: 3:00 pm - Round 16 vs. Channarong Sutthisakorn
A first-turn Skirk Prospector revealed exactly what Channarong Sutthisakorn was running. Goblins can be fairly scary for both players as you never quite know how the deck will play. Sometimes it will boil over and throw ridiculous amounts of goblins at you in the first couple of turns. Other times it falls flat on its face.
I wasn't taking any chances and Lava Darted the Prospector. A good choice (and better than laying a Kird Ape, as it happened) as Sutthisakorn followed with Mogg War Marshal. His deck then malfunctioned as land number three failed to arrive, and I slapped him down with Elephant tokens.
Although Goblins is an aggro deck, I boarded in three of the Cabal Therapy because the deck is actually more of a combo deck that happens to have creatures in it. I drew two of them in game 3. The first missed, but it revealed a very weak hand. I took the key Goblin Ringleader with the second before it had a chance to come into play. Without the explosive combo elements, Goblins measure up poorly to Elephants, Apes and Wild Mongrels, and it didn't take long to take the match.
Friday, December 1: 4:30 pm - Round 17 vs. Jelger Wiegersma
So a win would probably net me some cash and two wins would be a nice amount of cash. Unfortunately, I've got to get through Jelger Wiegersma, one of the best players in the world and just two wins away from enough points to make level 6. He's running Mind's Desire with sac lands and tons of rituals. Against normal aggro decks it should be a walk in the park for him, but my deck has a combo that can kill him on turn two if I lay Destructive Flow, and after boarding I can try and disrupt him with Cabal Therapy.
Game 1 I don't get Destructive Flow, and Jelger goes off with a low storm count but hits a second Mind's Desire off the fourth and last card.
Game 2 and I get a near perfect draw. The first Cabal Therapy whiffs, but a second lands to take a Ritual. I then draw Destructive Flow and that, backed with Dark Confidant and flashbacked Therapies, makes it too difficult for Jelger to go off.
On the play it's considerably tougher. I have a very hard choice as my hand is perfect except it doesn't contain Cabal Therapy or Destructive Flow. I think about aggressively mulliganing, but it's hard to say no to a hand that includes Dark Confidant, Kird Ape, Elves of Deep Shadow, Firebolt, Grim Lavamancer, and the right mana. On reflection it was probably the wrong choice, as I didn't draw any disruption and was not able to stop Jelger going off the turn before I was about to kill him.
1-2 games / 10-7 matches
Jelger now needs to go on to win one more round for a big pot of cash as level 6, while I'll be battling in the next round for respectability and maybe a small pot of cash and hopefully improve that horrible median Pro Tour finish you may have noticed on my player card.
Friday, December 1: 7:00 pm - Round 18 vs. Erkki Siira
Well, I'm 81st or so going into the last round. A win should put me in the money. Whichever way it falls, it's nice to actually be in contention for something in the last round rather than just scrubbing out.
My first hand is tough. I have no idea what Erkki Siira is playing and I have multiple burn spells but only an Elves of Deep Shadow. If it's a beatdown deck it's probably good; if it isn't I'm in trouble.
He's playing blue-white control.
A Cloudpost is copied by a Vesuva and then another Vesuva, and he powers out Decree of Justices for far too many soldiers.
Game 2 is better as multiple Bobs allow me to overwhelm his land-light draw fairly rapidly. During the game I see a lot of problem cards. Phyrexian Ironfoot has a fat ass, as does Descendant of Kiyomaro. Descendant also has a potential built-in Spirit Link. Yes, could be tricky.
Game 3 and I get down Destructive Flow. Unfortunately it doesn't inflict too much damage as he has basic lands and signets (and Vesuva can copy basic lands to dodge the Flow). It turns out to be absolutely catastrophic for me as I lose my Stomping Ground. I don't mind this as I have Dark Confidant, and that should find me a red source fairly quickly.
Except Bob doesn't reveal a land and I don't draw a land for a couple of turns. The first land that does appear is a Blood Crypt. At least I have enough cards in hand to keep the Descendant small. A fetchland finally gets me a Mountain, and I can start playing out Kird Apes. A second and I can remove his blockers and start swinging.
C'mon Bob, Mountain.
That was unreal. I think I revealed/drew around 12 or 14 cards and only saw a couple of land. Meanwhile, Bob is picking away at my life total and I'm just not going anywhere as my hand is completely log-jammed.
I was also desperate for a Cabal Therapy. That would allow me to take out the Wrath Siira is sitting on and remove the Dark Confidant. But no, I can't draw that either. When a second red source finally appears about a billion turns too late, Siira finally decides to wipe the board with Wrath and then mops up with a second Descendant.
A bit of a disappointing end unfortunately.
1-2 games / 10-8 matches
Overall I think the deck is actually pretty good. I think my draws were very unfortunate in one match and the other two losses were very close. Stuart Wright managed to go 6-0 with the deck and finished 15th.
Overall the World Championships capped off a fairly good year for British Magic. On top of both mine and Quentin Martin's Top 8s, we had two GP wins and now a Welshman, Nick Lovett, is in the Top 8 of the World Championships. The Welsh team is actually riding pretty high. Could we possibly see a team final between Wales and Japan on Sunday?
(You will not believe how weird it is to type that.)
The sad thing is that even if the Welsh team do go the whole way they will not be able to defend the title next year, as the UK nationals are being amalgamated into one. It used to be a joke that there was no point in sending extra Welsh and Scots to Worlds as they only get thrashed in any case. It's nice to see Nick and co. having the last laugh.
I should also mention that another Welsh team member, Roy Williams, went 6-0 in the Extended. We Brits may not be able to draft, but we can sure as hell play Constructed.
Right, that's it from me. Jon Becker's been making too many disparaging comments about British Draft prowess lately. Honor must be restored and a right jolly thrashing on the draft tables is called for.
Thanks for reading.